Does proof deny faith? No.

I received a pleasant email from someone who asserted that offering evidence for God’s existence somehow would nullify the Christian faith.

I read some of your comment on this blog…

http://dawkinswatch.wordpress.com/2008/05/01/creatres-that-defy-evolution

pretty cool. most of the creationists I know can’t actually hold up a decent argument about their beliefs, but you held your corner pretty well. (granted, I don’t know that many creationists).

Its refreshing because I’m used to atheists throwing reason and evidence at them while they… just sort of try not to sin. 

and the other guy kept making spelling mistakes – (“grammer is actually grammar” hahaha). He didn’t really seem very tolerant. Lots of Ad “Hominium” as he put it, har har.

but then I went to this part of your blog

http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2008/04/23/hyperbole-gone-mad/

and i found something rather amusing…

you’ve probably read Douglas Adams, right?

Proof denies faith…

If the existence of God is proven (by whatever methods) then surely that makes religion redundant?

Isn’t the whole point of Christianity to accept or reject God’s love? On faith?

Being a Christian and trying to ascertain the existence of God sort of nullifies your faith doesn’t it? Regardless of whether you succeed, the very fact that you tried to do so undermines your faith, regardless of how strong THAT was.

 *Poof!*

The Christian disappears in puff of logic.

 Haha just kidding. Thoughts?

My response:

I haven’t read Douglas Adams, but Christianity heartily rejects the “proof denies faith” concept.  That is a common misunderstanding of the term faith, at least as it is used in the Bible.

As an example, read the book of Acts, which chronicles the early church.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is presented 13 times in various ways to various people.  It is never presented as “blind faith” or believing in spite of contrary evidence.  It is faith in something, or more particularly, someone – Jesus.  We have evidence and logic for the facts that Jesus really lived and died and that trusting in him is the only path to having our sins forgiven and receiving eternal life.

Consider this verse, where using reason and seeking validation is applauded: Acts 17:11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Hope that helps, and hope you keep visiting!

0 thoughts on “Does proof deny faith? No.”

  1. That’s ridiculous! God spoke directly to Abraham yet we find him in the in Faith HOF found in Hebrews 11.

    KNOWING God exists, and having faith in DOING HIS WILL are two different animals. This is simply a Darwinist attempt to say A) You can’t prove God and B) If you could then religion is irrelevant.

    That is as logical as 2+2 = 3.

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  2. And in the definition of faith in Hebrews, faith joins proof and belief in one continuum: “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”.

    It is not the “grasping at what might be if I wish for it hard enough”.

    Substance and evidence, two very concrete ideas. Possibly even stronger to an early-AD Jewish mind than they are today to our Western Culture.

    I have faith because I believe the proof I’ve encountered in my life: scientific, experiential, evidential, textual.

    It takes at best an ignorantly blind and foolish person to disbelieve in God.

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  3. LoneWolfArcher, please stop using the term “Darwinist”, and assuming that the theory of evolution has anything to do with God, religion, faith, or the origin of life. Evolution is about how life changes, not about how it came to be. It’s not about God, or the lack of existence of God.

    As for the question posed in the blog post, I don’t think that proof of the existence of God would destroy Christianity. From my understanding, the faith that Christians have is in what will be, not what has occurred.

    But this is a moot point, since the proof is not there. There is nothing scientific about the evidence I’ve heard here for the existence of God. Matthew, what is your proof (and what in the world is “textual” proof)? Keep in mind that scientific proof is something that can be tested. Let me know what tests I can perform, and I’ll let you know if I find the same results.

    If there was “scientific” evidence for God, then don’t you think that more scientists would believe in God?

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    1. Many scientists are believers. Look at the history of science as well.

      Regardless of the evidence, many people will choose not to believe:

      Romans 1:18-20 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

      Those who think they will use ignorance as an excuse with God will be sadly and eternally mistaken.

      In my experience, the demand for scientific evidence is born of a lack of awareness of the category error being made (seeking material evidence for immaterial issues) or disingenuousness. It also ignores the incredible scientific evidence demonstrating how remarkably fine-tuned the universe is.

      Scientists use all forms of evidence, not just scientific. Ryan, have you replicated all the scientific experiments you put your trust in? Did you create your own test equipment from scratch? Then how can you trust what scientists tell you?

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      1. I don’t believe one can “choose” believe. Based on experience, you can either believe something or not. You can choose to only look at certain types of evidence, which is what you have done, or you can try to look at everything, and let the cards fall as they may. I did not choose to “disbelieve” in God any more than I chose to believe that the sky is blue. Choosing to believe in something is what is disingenuous.

        Scientists use plenty of evidence to formulate hypotheses, and much of it can be simple intuition, or even wild ideas with little basis in fact. That’s fine, and I don’t begrudge you for your ideas about the world. But in science, the hypothesis must endure the scientific process, which does require material evidence. I don’t expect you to care about the scientific process because you do not have respect for it, or believe it works.

        The amount of scientists who believe in God is far lower than the general population. The fact that you need to look back to the history of science to find scientists who believe in God is a cop-out. Knowledge was not as easy to come by, and people had fewer reasons to challenge the indoctrination of the church. There are certainly some Christian scientists, but the amount of scientists who believe that Adam and Eve stood naked in the garden of Eden with a talking snake is probably far less than one percent.

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      2. Ryan,

        You are regressing. Implying that you know what I looked at and that you think I didn’t look at everything is simply false. Where do you find justification to make up things like that?

        I don’t expect you to care about the scientific process because you do not have respect for it, or believe it works.

        That statement is transparently false. I’m not sure why you offer such things as arguments.

        The amount of scientists who believe in God is far lower than the general population.

        Be careful not to confuse correlation with causation. Even if that is true statistically it proves nothing. None of these scientists disproved the existence of God. In fact, teleological arguments have converted people like Antony Flew.

        And when materialists use evolution to support their atheism they just display their ignorance. Even if macro-evolution was supported by the evidence it offers no explanation for the origin of the universe, the fine-tuning of the universe or the origin of life. They don’t bother to tell you that . . . “don’t look behind the curtain.”

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      3. Even if macro-evolution was supported by the evidence it offers no explanation for the origin of the universe, the fine-tuning of the universe or the origin of life. They don’t bother to tell you that . . . “don’t look behind the curtain.”

        Nobody who knows anything about evolution thinks that is offers an explanation for the origin of the universe. Scientists have not “disproved” the existence of God because it cannot be done, and most aren’t interested in disproving something that they don’t really care about. One is biology, and one is astrophysics/astronomy/cosmology. At my university, those were in different buildings.

        You proved my first comment (that you don’t believe in the scientific method) with your last (that there is no evidence for macro-evolution).

        That is a statement that requires an unprecedented amount of ignorance. You don’t even acknowledge that evidence exists? come on Neil, I know you’re smarter than that. The evidence for speciation (which I think is what you mean by macro-evolution) is one google search away, and you could spend a lifetime just reading the papers that have been written that demonstrate that it has occurred, and that it continues to occur before our very eyes.

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      4. Nice try, Ryan. “Real scientist = one that props up Ryan’s godless worldview.” You should watch the video links as well at the bottom (Mystery of Life / Privileged Planet).

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      5. So … no comments on the evidence in the link I offered you? At least I read (and watched the videos) the article you gave me. Doesn’t seem like you will listen to anyone who is not a Christian.

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      6. 1. I didn’t ask for reading material. I went to public schools and had a frothing-at-the-mouth evolutionist try his propoganda on me. I was a complete pagan at the time and still realized this guy was a little too zealous. I have read many atheist sites and can defend atheism better than most atheists (even though I know it is fatally flawed). I follow the MSM which drank the evolutionary Kool-Aid long ago.

        2. PZ Myers is an absolute joke. He was (unintentionally) funny in Expelled!

        3. I love when they use date ranges involving millions of years as if it is as precise as an Ironman watch. I’d love to see him debate some “real” scientists (your term).

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      7. Your argument about the Cambrian explosion relies on those very same geological measurements.

        PZ Myers is a bit of a character, sure. Are you saying he’s wrong? Tell me where he is wrong. That’s how science works.

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      8. Ryan, I understand how science works and how blogging works. You came here with some ridiculous comments and instead of retracting or defending them you are changing the subject. Please feel free to start fresh another time and leave the straw men at home.

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      9. Neil, what exactly were Ryan’s ridiculous comments? In my humble opinion, he’s been quite reasonable, He’s backed up his opinions and you’ve answered none of his questions.

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      10. Hi Ray,

        You can choose to only look at certain types of evidence, which is what you have done

        That is false and completely unsupported claim #1.

        I don’t expect you to care about the scientific process because you do not have respect for it, or believe it works.

        False and completely unsupported claim #2.

        Then there’s his “I only trust what can be proved scientifically” line of reasoning which I have demonstrated to be false many times.

        Hope that helps explain things. Great, now I have wasted even more time on these claims 😉

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      11. OK, fair enough, maybe he’s being a little bit rash, but with all due respect, I think it’s fair to say that you completely reject the views of almost allscientists on this subject.

        If you don’t mind wasting a bit more time on this, could I ask you if you do support the scientific process in learning about our natural world?

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      12. I disagree with the philosophical presuppositions of many scientists on the subject. Many of their facts are accurate, they just approach the facts with prejudices.

        I was an atheist / agnostic until I was 28 until I converted. That doesn’t make me right, but it does mean that the silly “blind faith, “anti-science” and other groundless ad hominem attacks don’t apply.

        Unless you have some gotcha sort of implication in your question, I would say that of course I support the scientific process.

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    2. I disagree Ryan. The whole idea behind Darwinian theory is to offer an alternative to the Bible’s version of creation. To try to embrace both is to try to embrace to contradictory ideas. I have met people that try to incorporate their belief in Darwinism and the Big Bang Theory with the Genesis account. It is a fruitless effort and entirely unnecessary.

      Darwinism IS about the lack of God. Don’t be deceived by the Deceiver on that point.

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      1. Well LoneWolf, I agree with you there. Evolution is an alternative to the Biblical story of creation – at least the part that deals with how life spread throughout the planet. The two certainly do not mix.

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      2. There is no question that many atheists use Darwinian evolution to pretend that God doesn’t exist. Consider poster boy Richard Dawkins: “An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume: “I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that God isn’t a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one.” I can’t help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”

        He doesn’t pretend to know where all this came from, but he’s sure it isn’t God. But he does view his “evidence” for macro-evolution (molecules to man / elephants / butterflies & caterpillars / etc.) to be evidence against God.

        I’ve yet to see an atheist disagree with Dawkins’ comment, and I’ve seen many hinge all their anti-God views on macro-evolution. They deliberately ignore the fact that even if their evolutionary views were true that they haven’t come close to explaining the origin of the universe, its fine-tuning or the creation of life. Not. Even. Close.

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      3. Evolution theory does not disprove God, and Dawkins admits that. It does, however, show that the Biblical account is wrong, or at least should not be taken as literal. People have always wondered where we came from, and the theory of evolution fills in one of the mysteries.

        How many times do I have to say that evolution does not explain the existence of the universe? Why do you guys keep tying the two together?

        I will concede that I don’t know where the universe came from. That does not mean that I automatically have to assume it was made by an invisible man that you call God. There’s no evidence for that at all.

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      4. Ryan, I think you are missing something. If creation is wrong (it isn’t) and Darwinism is correct (it isn’t) then that means the Bible is not the word of God. Which would mean the God of the Bible does not exist. Therefore the Darwinist need a way for the beginning of the universe.

        Thus the Big Bang Theory. Darwinism also needs a way for life to begin. Thus the primordial ooze hit by lightning.

        Are you going to deny that 99% of Darwinists also subscribe to the Big Bang Theory? And to spontaneous generation of life?

        You also have to concede, if you are being honest, that you do not know that evolution is anything more than a theory since there is no evidence for it at all.

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      5. I agree with everything you said except for the last line. I also don’t like being called a Darwinist. I have no allegiance to Darwin, and he was wrong about many many things. All he did was introduce the ideas that life evolved (and he was not the only one, and arguably not the first). His theory has been a work in progress ever since, as are all scientific theories. Over the last hundred years, it has become one of the most tested, and verifiable theories in science.

        You’re probably right that most scientists subscribe to the Big Bang Theory as well. What’s wrong with that? That’s what the evidence points to. To deny the evidence is to turn a blind eye to logic.

        The Bible is not, in my opinion, the word of God. That does not mean it’s up to me to figure out how the universe began. I really don’t know, and neither do you. If you say God made the universe, then, by your logic, it’s up to you to tell me how God got there.

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      6. People use Darwinist interchangably with materialist, naturalist, etc. I wouldn’t view it as a pejorative.

        Please spare me the “most test and verifible” blather. That always trades on the conflation of micro-evolution to macro-evolution. I don’t take people seriously who can’t see the difference.

        Re. the Big Bang (which just happens to agree with Genesis 1 — another lucky guess, right?) — I’ve seen many atheists try to dispute it. Seems that it is hard to reconcile with their worldview. Glad to see you aren’t in that camp.

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      7. Ahh, that tired old argument? How many times do we have to shoot it down? It is simple:

        Spirit is eternal.
        Matter is temporal.
        God is a spirit and always was/is.
        God made matter.
        Matter has a beginning and an end.
        God has no beginning, nor an end because God is eternal.

        I also find it funny that you don’t agree with my assessment that evolution is an unprovable theory with no evidence, then go on to say you aren’t a Darwinist. In the end Ryan it is all about where you choose to put your belief. I choose God, you choose Darwin.

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      8. Wolf,

        I believe in the theory of relativity as well. Does that make me an Einsteinist? That’s my point. I’m not a Darwinist either. I’ll believe the theory is supported by solid evidence. If new evidence comes up that there is a God, and the Bible is his word, then I’ll be a Christian.

        So God is a spirit, and is eternal? That’s what you believe because you read it in the Bible. You believe the Bible because God wrote it. You believe that God wrote it because it says so in the Bible. Ok, I get it.

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      9. Ryan,

        When the extent of your attempts to understand the Christian worldview are straw men it is hard to take your questons seriously.

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      10. Do you even understand what the term “straw man” refers to? All of the things I have brought up are direct reasons that I do not believe in God, or the Biblical versions of God.

        Do you want me to just shut up and believe, because I owe it to “God, my creator”? I don’ buy that, and every day there are more people on my side. You’ve got the Jesus blinders on, and there’s no point trying to make a point that does not agree with something written down in the Bible.

        I officially give up this argument. You win.

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      11. The straw man I was referring to you was your implication that our faith is founded on a circular reference: “You believe the Bible because God wrote it. You believe that God wrote it because it says so in the Bible. Ok, I get it.” You are attacking a claim I do not make, hence the appropriate label of straw man.

        Then you repeat the error: “You’ve got the Jesus blinders on, and there’s no point trying to make a point that does not agree with something written down in the Bible.”

        I never implied that you should shut up and believe, just that you might want to be more charitable and precise when characterizing our views.

        Even if more people share your view each day then that is irrelevant to what is true.

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  4. As JP Moreland has stated, If offering evidence and proof destroys faith, then the best thing that could happen to Christianity is for archeologists to find the bones of Jesus.

    It’s good that you point to the book of Acts. Also, it’s helpful to mention God’s activity in the Bible as a whole–in both the OT and NT, he seems pretty fond of giving signs and wonders, “so that you may know…”

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    1. Except he only gives signs in parts of the world that have lots of Christians. Has a Bible ever appeared in Tibet out of the blue? Why are people only getting healed at churches? It seems like salvation is only available for those that have chance encounters with Christians. If you live in the depths of the Amazon rain forrest, you’re out of luck.

      If God created all of mankind in his image, why has he selected certain regions of the world to receive the “Good Word”, and other regions have received the teachings of Buddha, or Vishnu, or Muhammad?

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      1. Ryan, I encourage you to get a good study Bible and take a serious read of it. If I thought you really cared about those answers I’d be glad to address them. Sadly, you typically come back with the next line from the Big Book O’ Athist Sound Bites and make silly accusations about how we don’t consider all the evidence, how we don’t respect the scientific method, etc. It isn’t a good use of time.

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      2. I’m putting arguments forward for my point of view. You don’t have answers for them, so you tell me to read the Bible. That’s not good enough. I have read the Bible, and I’m not about to read it again any time soon.

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      3. I didn’t say you were obliged to answer me. If you don’t feel obliged, that’s fair. My thoughts are not welcome amongst many of those who share your view.

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      4. You think only certain regions have received the ‘Good Word’? Really? I agree the Bible wouldn’t have appeared “out of the blue” in Tibet. But neither did it in America. Not even in Rome for that matter! He chose men to spread His word throughout world. Even in the darkest forests of Amazon.

        Since you brought up the Buddha-Vishnu thing. Buddha is never called himself God. He was in search of God. I hope you know that. As for Vishnu’s teachings, are you really so sure, that there were teachings from him?? I am from India, and the earliest scriptures of Hindus is not the Bhagavat Gita. It is the Vedas. And guess what? The Rig Veda speaks of Virgin birth and salvation through Cross and the supreme sacrifice of Son of Man. Pity most Hindus don’t even know it, ’cause most of them don’t understand Sanskrit and only a few of those who know it will willingly admit to it. The rest stay in a state of denial. So the last part of your doesn’t hold that strong now, does it?

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      5. Shalini,

        I never said Buddha was God, and I admit I know very little about the Hindu religion.

        I don’t think you got my point. I was trying to say that it does not make sense to me that if the Bible was the word of God, that he would not allow certain people in the world to even read it. There are still areas of the world that have had no contact with the western world, and therefore, no Bible. If there is a God that is a personal savior to all who walk the earth, then how can you justify the fact that we all must rely on another human being to reach him. This is one of the reasons I don’t believe, and I was trying to convey that to you.

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      6. As far as I am aware, the Western world is not the only place one can get a Bible, nor is it the only spot with evangelical Christians.

        I don’t agree with your point about needing someone else to convey God’s saving grace to us before we can believe God makes provision. Read ‘The Last Battle’ by C.S. Lewis for more details (yes, it’s a kid’s book however there are some profound theological truths contained within regarding your comment).

        God is perfectly just, and the Bible makes clear that no one is without excuse because God has revealed Himself to us through creation. God judges each of us fairly according to what we have been given and how we have managed it, and each of us who chooses to reject God does so out of our own free will.

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      7. Actually, I did understand you. But am afraid I didnt explain myself better. The reason why I brought up the Rig Veda thing was that, those who truly desired to seek God where always shown the truth. The Hindu scholars too knew about Christ and wrote about Him. It’s just that, the current day scholars like the High Priests during Christ’s time, reject the truth for their own personal reasons. They have set up some new laws which they find much more convenient than to accept the true God. The Word of God is not denied to His people by the Lord, but those people who willfully deny Him.

        And the Bible doesn’t actually come from the Western world to the Eastern world. As a matter of fact, it came from East to West. Remember, Christ was born in Bethlehem in Israel. I am not denying there are still parts of the world where the Word hasn’t spread, but don’t you think even America got to hear the word of the Lord much later than European countries. But now there are more Christians in America than in any single European country. Philippines, despite being an Asian country is a Christian country. In fact, Christianity came to India much before through St. Thomas, the Apostle. He was killed and buried here. I don’t think God is being unfair at all. It’s upto a human being to enlighten another human being’s mind, but it is God eventually who enlightens the soul. We are just His instruments. It’s been happening from time immemorial. I don’t see why that even needs any justification!

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  5. The whole idea behind Darwinian theory is to offer an alternative to the Bible’s version of creation.

    I doubt that was ever the intention. The fact that evolution is inconvenient to biblical creationism probably only occurred to people much later in the process.

    …have you replicated all the scientific experiments you put your trust in? Did you create your own test equipment from scratch? Then how can you trust what scientists tell you?

    Neil, I’m not sure where you are going with this. Of course we can trust what scientists tell us without having to repeat every experiment, but the fact that we don’t demand scientific evidence to be repeated before our very eyes is because we know that the experiments have been done before, by different people, over and over again with the same results.

    When I was in high school, our science teachers would demonstrate the volatile reaction of sodium, lithium and potassium with water. Most teachers will do this with pea-sized pieces dropped into a large container of water in a fume cupboard. We had one absolute nutter who used to hurl fist sized chunks of the stuff into the swimming pool. The resultant explosions resounded throughout the neighbourhood, and none of us ever forgot the names of those elements (sadly, an explosion-induced crack in the side of the olympic sized water-polo pool put an end to the practice, and to the use of the pool for that season). But I’m also sure I would have believed what my teachers told me even if they had never demonstrated it. If, however, they had said that lithium does not react at all in water, we might have asked them to demonstrate that it does not.

    None of us have ever seen an atom, but because atomic theory has been tested over and over again with consistent results, we have reached the point where it is impossible to deny that atoms exist.

    Can the same be said of God? The bible discourages testing God, other than in the area of finances. I always thought the ultimate test of God would be to give your entire salary away (without telling anyone else and with no back-up to pay your bills and buy food etc) and see what happens, but I never had the courage to go through with it.

    The teleological evidence for God is strong. I would prefer to say that the evidence that the universe is not just a complete accident is strong, because that’s the only conclusion we can really make with any certainty. On the other hand, we might discover one day that there’s only one way for a universe to exist, and what we might now perceive as “fine tuned” universal constants are actually no more able to vary than the law of Pythagoras. It’s the seeking of these sorts of answers that makes science really exciting for us non-scientists. Assumption of the Christian God is less exciting and, for me, rather smothering.

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    1. Hi Michael,

      I’m not sure where you are going with this. Of course we can trust what scientists tell us without having to repeat every experiment, but the fact that we don’t demand scientific evidence to be repeated before our very eyes is because we know that the experiments have been done before, by different people, over and over again with the same results.

      My point is to demonstrate that everyone chooses to trust in experts and in documenation they read, just like we trust historical writers who we deem to be reliable. The “I only trust science” line fails on multiple levels. Not everything can be proved scientifically. More importantly, if you don’t do all the experiments and create all the test equipment yourself then you are showing that you consider eyewitness evidence to be important and reliable. I have many reasons to find the human authors of the Bible to be more reliable than, say, PZ Myers or Richard Dawkins.

      Re. smothering — I guess if I was a scientist I could be just as excited if not more so knowing there is a God. We are “thinking his thoughts after him” and seeing how He put the universe together. I actually think it must be hard to be an atheistic scientist: Every day you would examine more and more design and complexity that mocks your worldview.

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      1. My point is to demonstrate that everyone chooses to trust in experts and in documenation they read, just like we trust historical writers who we deem to be reliable.

        Scientific studies and experiments are verifiable, if you have the equipment and the knowledge. Many simpler experiments can be and are done every day, such as lighting a match. What are your criteria for deeming a historical writer to be reliable?

        I guess if I was a scientist I could be just as excited if not more so knowing there is a God. We are “thinking his thoughts after him” and seeing how He put the universe together.

        That was un-charitable of me, I concede that belief in God could be just as powerful a motivation to study and enjoy science.

        Lastly, what happened to my green pattern avatar? is it because I used a different email address? I thought all the atheists got green!

        I have many reasons to find the human authors of the Bible to be more reliable than, say, PZ Myers or Richard Dawkins

        Why, because they’re better philosophers? Because they have a better insight into human nature? We still cannot verify any of the facts.

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      2. Scientific studies and experiments are verifiable, if you have the equipment and the knowledge. Many simpler experiments can be and are done every day, such as lighting a match. What are your criteria for deeming a historical writer to be reliable?

        Right. But you don’t verify them, do you? You rely on the testimony of witnesses and more. Re. historical writers: There are many things to consider, such as whether their factual claims are backed up by other sources (e.g., Luke was an incredible historian), their backgrounds, their reasoning, etc.

        Why, because they’re better philosophers? Because they have a better insight into human nature? We still cannot verify any of the facts.

        Yes and yes, among other things. And you can research many fulfilled prophecies.

        Lastly, what happened to my green pattern avatar? is it because I used a different email address? I thought all the atheists got green!

        Ha! Not sure about that — I don’t assign them!

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      3. Right. But you don’t verify them, do you?

        Neil. No, most of us do not verify them, but we know that there are many scientists out there who have the ability to verify them. It may be a stretch to simply trust any one scientist, but it gets much easier to trust the views of hundreds of thousands of scientists.

        And Mr. Boo – the avatar in WordPress is generated by an algorithm that uses your email address as a seed. It will change when you use a different address.

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      4. Sure I do, and I assume that’s why you believe the Gospel.

        I don’t think the two can be compared though. The scientific claims are consistent with all the knowledge we have gained over the past few hundred years. The claims in the gospel are quite contrary to the laws of our natural world (resurrection / magic / healing), and should require extraordinary evidence. I’ve read a lot about the evidence for the gospel, but it all boils down to trusting the written word of a few people. I hope you can understand that it’s not enough for me, and a growing number of people.

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      5. Neil, with respect, how can you believe that a man rose from the dead 2000 years ago based on the word of a few people, but you completely ridicule me for believing in evolution, the evidence for which is right in front of our eyes? In the post you link to, you use that fact that nearly 100% of historians believe the Jesus dies on a cross. Well, nearly 100% of biologists believe that we evolved from primates, and you think they’re all wrong. Keep in mind that the only written records of the life of Jesus were written over 30 years after he died, and those writings were largely based on oral accounts.

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  6. I didn’t have time to read all the comments, but Ryan (in my opinion) got off on the wrong foot in his very frst comment. If the followers of science only accept scientific evidence, then where is their repeatable, verifiable experiment that will disprove the existence of God? Otherwise they are proclaiming this belief based on faith not evidence! (and before you protest Ryan, it is perfectly possible to create an experiment to disprove the existence of something. The Michaelson-Morley experimant conclusively proved the non-existence of the ether. However, no modern atheist, not even the vaunted Dr. Richard Dawkins, has yet been able to devise an experiment which will do what those two nineteenth century scientists were able to do, create an experiment to disprove something)

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    1. Ivan, I honestly can’t think of an experiment that could prove the “non-existence” of God. To do that, you’d have to tell me what God is or where God is. The Bible makes no claim that could be proven wrong. Not all things can be proven wrong through scientific experiment. Very few people actually say they believe that God does not exist. I’m not even sure that I would say that. Most atheists believe that they have not seen enough evidence to believe that God exists. It’s not a requirement of atheism that one must be sure that God does not exist.

      I’m open to a suggestion though. I would be happy to participate in any experiment that would show if God exists or not. Honestly, I’d be interested in how that could be done. It won’t be easy.

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  7. Neil, with respect, how can you believe that a man rose from the dead 2000 years ago based on the word of a few people, but you completely ridicule me for believing in evolution, the evidence for which is right in front of our eyes? In the post you link to, you use that fact that nearly 100% of historians believe the Jesus dies on a cross. Well, nearly 100% of biologists believe that we evolved from primates, and you think they’re all wrong. Keep in mind that the only written records of the life of Jesus were written over 30 years after he died, and those writings were largely based on oral accounts.

    The oral tradition was very strong. It wasn’t like the telephone game. See “Can we trust the Gospels” for a good overview of how that process worked — http://www.amazon.com/Can-Trust-Gospels-Investigating-Reliability/dp/1581348665/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245242137&sr=8-1

    I don’t “completely ridicule” you for believing in macro-evolution. I think you are mistaken. I think those scientists see evidence of micro-evolution, but not macro. I’ve read countless quotes where they concede the gaps in their theories. I know how the media and academia work and how that plays into the veneer shown to the general public.

    I also know that even IF macro-evolution were true that it wouldn’t explain the origin of the universe, the fine-tuning of the universe and the origin of life. Therefore, I know that anyone who uses macro-evolution to prop up their atheism is fooling themselves and attempting to fool me.

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  8. “So God is a spirit, and is eternal? That’s what you believe because you read it in the Bible. You believe the Bible because God wrote it. You believe that God wrote it because it says so in the Bible. Ok, I get it.”

    Many philosophers over the centuries outside of Jewish or Christian theology have hypothesized about the eternal spirit. Without it we are no more valuable than grasshoppers. I find it hard to believe that our existence is that empty.

    So I would believe in the spirit, or soul, even without it saying that in God’s Word.

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  9. Neil, sorry I am late to this exchange. I just wanted to point out that my full list of arguments pro and con can be found here:
    http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/index-to-christian-posts/

    It includes a number of scientific arguments, which Ryan and the others may find valuable. In particular, I want to highlight the Kalam and fine-tuning arguments.

    One exciting thing about being a Christian for me is seeing atheists lose in academic debates. For this, you need look no further than debates with William Lane Craig. Perhaps your atheist commenters would like to consider what happens in debates when their worldview is tested:

    http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/debates-and-lectures/

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  10. By the way, the view of faith espoused by atheists may work for their faith, but it does not describe Biblical faith.

    Biblical faith works like this:
    http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2009/03/20/does-the-bible-teach-that-faith-is-opposed-to-logic-and-evidence/

    On the other hand, what do we find on the atheist view?

    The entire physical universe pops into being out of nothing uncaused. The universe is fine-tuned for intelligent life because we are one of an infinite number of unobservable universes. The origin of life is explained by appealing to alients who seeded the earth with life, but who evolved themselves. The Cambrian explosion is explained by appealing to a gradual chain of yet undiscovered fossils.

    The story is always the same: atheists underestimate the complexity of the universe in some way. Then the data arrives and they backpedal by appealing to untestable or unobservable entities, like aliens and the multiverse.

    Which of us is supposed to have the fact-free faith again?

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    1. Hey WK,

      Good points. I was just discussing things like this with my 16 yr. old, and pointing out the irony that if the materialist worldview is true then it is solely responsible for my “false” beliefs about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. I really have no say in the matter, right?

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      1. Nope! You dance to your DNA if materialism is true. It’s so strange that atheists talk about rational oughts and moral oughts. There is no free will if matter is all there is. So why are they judging us for being stupid and evil?

        (And by what moral standard?)

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      2. A while back I had a great debate with a strict determinist materialist.

        The guy was as 100% pro life as a person can be, from the very instant of conception

        He believed in no morals whatsoever, and no free will. However he recognized that if, at any stage of the development cycle, humans get in the business of saying “it’s okay to kill this life, that stage of the development cycle doesn’t deserve protection” that nothing stops those same individuals from making the same decision about other stages of the development cycle.

        It was really quite marvelous, since according to his beliefs it was a 100% consistent position. Since the first trimester is just one of many stages of human development, and since there is no morality, there really is no difference between “1st trimester” and “45-50 and going bald.” Just different stages on the human life continuum.

        It was a delightful conversation, though unfortunately I did not win him for the Lord.

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      3. That is always encouraging when materialists see the consistency and the science behind the pro-life position. Don’t give up on him . . . you may have planted some seeds there!

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  11. Ryan, what is your explanation for the origin of matter, energy, time and space at the creation? Was there a cause to the universe coming into being? Or was it uncaused?

    Secondly, atheist Astronomer Royale explains in his book “Just Six Numbers” that the physical constants specified in the creation event must be fine-tuned to an incredible degree to allow life. This is a fact admitted by atheists. What is your explanation for the fine-tuning of these initial conditions? The odds here are longer than the number of particles in the known universe (10^80). If you say chance, are you willing to commit to those odds?

    Also, have you got a specific argument that leads you to think that God does not exist?

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  12. Yikes. Okay. Ryan, and a few others– some of you seem to be sincere in trying to think about and dialog on this topic.

    I’m glad to dialog and discuss with any and all on this matter. I’d like to lay out some basics (if you disagree, of course, please feel free to say so).

    1) Belief (the act of having faith) is an act of the will. An individual makes a choice to believe or not. Evidence does not destroy faith because, ultimately, belief is a choice that takes place in the will.

    I think everyone can agree with this (unless you’re a strict determinist materialist… because then you believe the will does not exist).

    1a) As a supplement to this, it is important to reiterate that belief is an act of the will. A person need not “feel” God’s presence to believe.

    2) The scientific process & method, an amazing tool, can not prove itself. Therefore to consider the scientific process (and its results), we must use something other than material science. That is logic and reason.

    3) Science is incapable of making statements or answering questions that are metaphysical. A person may choose to believe “there is nothing beyond that which can be measured by science”, but that is making a statement that can not (and by definition never can be) proven using the scientific process.

    4) Concerning evolutionary biology and matters related to it, I find it curious that some of the fiercest proponents of the matter are unwilling to admit even the possibility that their chosen hypothesis is incorrect, perhaps even at a fundamental level. It strikes me that those individuals have an attachment to it that goes beyond the normal attachment to a scientific hypothesis.

    5) Finally, it seems there is an assumption that “Faith and reason are opposed to each other.” I’d like to suggest that they are not. The twofold argument goes like this:

    a) We Christians do not assert that our faith is the only logical possibility. We DO assert, however, that all articles of our faith (this time when we use faith we mean the content of our belief) are reasonable and rational. They may be unlikely. They may be improbable. But they are reasonable and rational possibilities. Logic at least allows for them.

    b) Part of the content of our belief is that God is reasonable and rational (infact, he is the author of reason and logic). We go so far as to say that God is truth. A reasonable and rational God has created a reasonable and rational world, and using the tools of reason and logic that world can be better known. Those same tools can be used (in different ways than the scientific method) to also know things about God. If God is reasonable and rational, than what we believe about Him must also be reasonable and rational.

    And it follows that what He has revealed in a special unique way (if he has infact done so) must also be reasonable and rational, since he is reasonable and rational. Infact, this claim can be used to test a belief to determine if it is true (or at least to determine if it is false), since all beliefs must be reasonable and rational.

    If faith and reason come to loggerheads, it is legitimate to look at both sides of the logjam to try and find the problem (it may be an error in logic, it may be an error in faith). However, the two need not ever be opposed. I would even argue that to say faith and reason must be opposed is an illogical statement.

    Ryan and others, sorry for the length, but if you are serious about dialog and discussion on this matter than I trust you will read my words. I sincerely look forward to your valuable and important contribution.

    -LCB

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  13. Wow, lots of questions to answer. I appreciate everyone’s opinions. This is going to be a long one, so maybe grab a drink 🙂

    Wintery Night, I honestly don’t know how matter/energy came to be, but using the theory of relativity, and quantum physics, it’s quite certain that the laws we are familiar with at a large scale completely break down, as does the concept of time, so it is quite possible that it is a question that does not need to be answered. The big bang happened – there is direct observable evidence of that, and given the radiation that exists (you can actually see it on your TV if you tune to an empty channel) the state of the universe at that time was such that the concept of time may not have actually existed at all. Given this fact, it’s difficult to determine what was happening, or what, if anything, happened before. I think it’s fascinating that we are actually getting close to an explanation for the state of the universe 15 billion years ago.

    As for the physical constants being exactly right, that’s a given, since we do exist, so the constants must be correct. It’s the same as me walking over to a beach., and asking you what are the odds that all of these grains of sand would be in a specific order. Those constants may be just the way things are. The evidence for multiple universes is not as “out there” as it seems, with the emergence of string theory.

    The reason that I do not believe in God? Well the main reason is that I’ve never seen anything that led me to believe that there could be a God. Other reasons include watching my son suffer through years of pain after his premature birth, and living in a hospital with hundreds of babies going through a hell that simply cannot be described. Another reason is that even though I once called myself a Christian, and read the Bible over and over, and read books on evidence for God (still have a box of them), and went to several churches, I never truly believed, even though I tried. I really tried. I went up to the front of the church and stood before everyone, and said I’d give my like to God, and I really really believed it. I said I felt something, but I didn’t. There was nothing. There never was. Looking back, I feel cheated. I feel lied to.

    God is said to have created everything perfect, and when you look at the features of most creatures, I admit that the structure is remarkably efficient. But that same structure is not perfect. Fish that have slowly evolved to lie flat on the ocean floor have obviously had one eye migrate to one side. Why would God have not just put two eyes on one side. Some fish (like a skate or a ray) are like that, but some (like a Halibut) are not. Tall trees are another example. Tall trees in a forrest have evolved over millions of years to be tall. Tall is certainly not the most efficient height for a tree. A group of trees in a forrest would be at the most efficient height when they are just above the ground. They are all tall though, because they have been completing with one another. The taller trees have become more likely to survive, and procreate. If all the trees had came from one designer, and were created perfectly, they would have remained smaller, and would be much more efficient. Evolution does not always improve a species for the better.

    And then there are reasons that I don’t believe in the Christian God. I will concede that I don’t know for sure that there is not a God. There really could be something out there that we humans cannot understand, and I suppose that thing could be a being that is far more advanced than us, and even has a role in our existence. I don’t think there is, but by definition, I cannot deny it. But even if there is such a being, I cannot for a second fathom that he would be as described in the Bible. I cannot understand why such a being would create us (in his image no less), and then subject some of us to torture, give some of us free rides, and starve some of us to death before we even reach maturity. I don’t understand why he would do all of this to us, and then insist that we “love” him or we will be tortured for eternity. He also made a significant portion of the population in such a way that they are attracted to the opposite sex, but doesn’t want them to act on what seems natural to them.

    I also think the idea of prayer is ridiculous. If God knows our thoughts, we should not have to tell him what we want. If he already knows what is right for us, what we want makes no difference. If he already has a “will”, then we have no right asking him to change it. I think the prayer lines advertised on TV are hilarious. Is God sitting at his desk tallying the amount of people praying for each sick or injured person, and as soon as it hits 20, “BAM”, they’re healed? Come on!! How can people pray for friends and relatives, knowing that there are millions of people out there for whom nobody prays? I realize that sometimes prayer is just an exercise in positive thinking, and I don’t begrudge those who participate in it, but I just can’t seem to wrap my head around it.

    The vast differences in the different denominations of Christianity alone is another thing that should raise some flags. The largest of those by a long shot, Catholicism, has beliefs that are directly in conflict with the Bible. They pray to saints and worship idols as a basic part of their sacrament. According to the Bible, these people are all going to hell. As are the evangelical ministries that preach the fact that God wants you to have earthly riches.

    LCB, your comments are very interesting to me, and I assure you, I am sincere in wanting to participate in a discussion about these issues. Where I disagree with you is that I don’t believe that we “chose” to believe. We may chose to look at certain things to formulate our decision, and yes, that plays a huge role. My next door neighbour (a lovely elderly Italian lady) thinks it’s a sin to even listen to something that might suggest that the Bible (or the Pope) could be challenged, and she spends almost all of her time at the church across the street. She never looks at anything else, so of course she believes in the Bible. I suppose that could be considered a choice to believe, but I don’t think it is an honest choice, and I’d hope you’d agree. She’s not born again – so despite being a wonderful old lady, who probably has never done a thing wrong in her life, she’s going to hell according to the Bible.

    I’d also like to challenge your comment that biologists are not willing to admit that their hypothesis is wrong. When absolutely everything you’ve ever studied points to the fact that animals evolved from lower life forms, you tend to get a little attached to the idea that it’s true. Mathematicians are also quite certain of the pythagorean theorem, Geologists are equally certain of plate tectonics theories, and Chefs are quite certain that sugar makes food sweet. If there was a study that proved evolution to be wrong, or even put some doubt in the minds of biologists, do you really think that collectively, the hundreds of thousands of published biologists in the world would all turn a blind eye? Scientists are looking for truth, and if a study points to a new truth, they will jump on it, and expand on it. With respect to evolution, the evidence just keeps piling up. I know most of the readers here think I’m an idiot for saying that, but in the scientific community, there simply no debate about this. There is no scientific basis that dissents from the theory of evolution. I spent about half an hour looking for a scientific paper that shows that that we did not evolve from a lower life form. I could not find anything. The only thing I found at all were not scientific papers, were not peer reviewed, and were published by one organization – The Discovery Institute. An organization funded and run by Christians who pretend to be secular.

    I’m probably starting to repeat myself here, and probably just continuing to offend. To wrap up, I think there are far too many things wrong with the Bible to think that it is the word of God, and there isn’t any direct evidence to show that a God exists, or ever existed. At least none that I’ve seen, and my eyes are wide open.

    regards

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    1. Ryan, thanks for sharing that. Just a couple quick thoughts and hopefully others will respond more fully.

      Re. the problem of pain: That is a timeless question that there are solid biblical answers to, though I concede that it is still a challenge. But I view it as a greater challenge for the materialist, because in his view the universe basically offers a response of “So what?” to the problem of evil and pain. It just is. There is no ultimate meaning to it. Evil might result in some justice in this life, but probably not. And there is no real reason to call call anything “evil” or “justice” as if there were such concepts in a deterministic universe.

      Re. Catholics & denominations: I think we’d all be happier with a more unified church, but the Bible isn’t surprised at all by false teachers and denominations. In fact, it explicitly says that people will distort teachings, worship false gods, etc. — http://www.4simpsons.com/doctrine_counts.htm

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    2. Ryan,

      Thank you for your most excellent reply.

      I sincerely look forward to discussing all the matters you brought up, and more (as will surely come up).

      It sounds like you have experience an exceptionally difficult challenge, with your son being born prematurely, and the incredible complications and challenges that flow from that. It is difficult to grasp the full extent of how hard that must have been, and must continue to be. You sincerely sought out the Lord, and yet did not receive an answer from Him. You found only silence and darkness.

      As we are both persons dedicated to the use of reason to achieve truth, I’m sure we both can agree that going in a logical and reasonable order of progression is a wise and good thing. I like to use bullet points (numbered), since it makes keeping track of things easy. So here. we. go.

      1) I feel it important to reiterate my previous statement that belief is, at its core, a choice. Beliefs are expressed via creeds (a statement of beliefs). All creeds begin with “I believe.” Being a believer in any faith (especially Christianity) requires free choice.

      Really, it is very similar to marriage. A person may not be able to resist the feeling of being in love, but ultimately an individual must choose to love their beloved. Their will decides, “Yes I shall love beautiful Suzy, as opposed to leaving her or some other option.” This is, of course, most fully expressed in marriage. When both persons stand and say “I do.” There will be many days when they do not feel in love, and they may (sadly) even choose to leave their spouse. But they entered into the relationship freely, and they can leave at any time. Emotional connections may make this difficult, years of built patterns and habits may make it difficult, social consequences may make this difficult, but the door is always an option.

      Often there are times in marriages where one spouse DOESN’T love the other, especially after infidelity. But many make the choice to continue anyways. Why? Because love is ultimately a choice, not a feeling.

      Why have I taken over a paragraph to make that point? Because it is an essential point to belief, especially when we discuss Christianity. The old italian woman (who I would highly recommend you get to know better, if for no other reason than that she is probably a marvelous cook and would view it as a religious obligation to feed you well… just trust me on that one, I know a thing or two about Italian Catholicism) has at some point in her life made a free decision to follow the Lord. She may never have felt His presence in any way, but she has decided “This is what I believe, and I shall do things X, Y, and Z because of my belief.”

      Belief is a choice. Not believing is also a choice. Our will has control over our opinions, and our desires, and our feelings. The darkness experienced when trying to follow the faith is incredibly difficult and troubling. Be it Victor Frankl or Mother Theresa, humans are free to choose what they will believe and how they will act because of those beliefs in any given set of circumstances.

      Your personal challenges have obviously been exceptionally difficult. I have been in similar shoes (though not with a child), and struggled with not experiencing the presence of God or believing in my heart. It is often the defining struggle of a person’s faith, and believers of all stripes undergo it in some fashion.

      It is at that juncture where we lose the faith we had as children, or as young idealists, or recent converts, and begin the long transition into a mature adult faith. And that is why the essential decision for faith takes place in the will, and not the heart or even the head. A man may no longer be in love with his wife. He may no longer think she loves him. He may even consider walking away. But he chooses to continue loving and doing the things that a loving spouse does.

      Obviously you may disagree, but surely you would agree having a discussion on belief and faith is almost impossible until we can agree firmly on what the words (in general) mean.

      2) I’m not convinced that denominational differences are an argument against Christianity, for two reasons. A) The deepest of core content remains almost always the same (eg, “Jesus Christ is Lord”) B) The primary focus of Christianity is not the people who are Christians, but instead the focus is on the founder of Christianity, that is, Jesus Christ.

      3) I’m sure both Neil and I and others would be glad to discuss those differences, but they are really secondary to the big picture. Denominational discussions really logically fit after a person has decided to believe, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” Then they ask themselves the question, “Okay… uh, now what?”

      4) Salvation is an important topic. But again, I think it logically comes after establishing what belief is.

      Direct questions– Often in these internet discussions, the issues can become so wide ranging that solid replies are a challenge. I like to finish with some concrete questions (the sort that naturally occur in oral conversations). Just so I understand your position:

      1) Do you acknowledge that it is as least logically possible that a god (not necessarily the Christian God) exists?
      2) Do you believe that there is some sort of objectivity morality, some right and wrong, outside of us that can be known by us?
      3) Do you believe, as science has observed, in the laws of causality in general?
      4) To briefly deal with the scientific issues discussed in our previous posts– is a straight line is the shortest distance between two points?
      5) And finally, do you believe that, naturally, something can come out of nothing at all?

      Thank you for taking the time to discuss these and other matters. i look forward to your reply and future posts.

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      1. all good points LCB, I’ll start with answering your direct questions, then I need to go to work 🙂

        1. Logically, sure, I guess God could exists, if only for the fact that I admit that something may exists beyond the current understanding of humans.

        2. No, I don’t think I do believe that there is an objective morality that applies to everything. That’s a really tough question though, and I have not dedicated a lot of time to thinking about it. I think that morality has come about because it is beneficial to everyone to live in a society where we generally work towards a common good for the species.

        3. I believe, generally, that everything has a cause, but quantum physics is blurring those ideas..

        4. A line is the shortest distance between two points as long as you are restricting the travel to the dimension in which the the points exist. Add one more dimension and a fold and you have a shortcut. (There’s a fantastic visualization of that concept here: http://www.tenthdimension.com/flash2.php)

        5. No, I don’t think that something can come out of nothing, as long as your “nothing” really means “nothing”. Matter and energy can be interchangeable, but I don’t believe there are any examples of something turning into nothing, or vice versa.

        Thanks again for your reply. I’ll try to answer more later.

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      2. Pre-Script: Replying to this might make the margin insanely narrow, so you may want to just do a fresh post instead of a direct reply for anything longer than a paragraph.

        Thanks for your reply. I hope you don’t mind me asking a few more questions– I just think discussions like this are interesting and I really enjoy them.

        1. Lots of folks use the word God in different ways (it’s rather unfortunate that English only has 1 word for God, makes things more confusing…).

        When you use the word God, what do you mean? I suspect that you and I may have very different ideas of who/what God is/isn’t.

        2. If morality is relative, doesn’t that mean that all concepts of good/bad are relative too, and just a matter of opinion? So when you speak about the “common good”, I’m unsure of what you mean. Also, why do you hold the opinion you hold?

        Would you call yourself a relativist– believing that truth and morality are simply matters of opinion?

        3 +5. If every THING has a cause (thing encompassing all that is material), then everything that exists now was caused by something else. This logically holds true for motion also, everything in motion was set in motion. And of course, logically, something can not come out of nothing.

        But there can’t be an infinite regress. All motion and matter can not go back infinitely, they must have a single starting point. If they did not have a single starting point they would never come into existence in the first place. But they do exist, therefore there must be a single starting point. And all things are dependent upon other things, which were dependent upon things before them.

        But, if by definition, everything in the material universe is dependent upon other things, then there must have been a time when nothing existed at all, and so nothing would exist now. But things clearly do exist now.

        That means that all matter, and all motion, must trace back to a single point where it came into being. At one ‘moment’ it did not exist, the next ‘moment’ it did exist. And since out of nothing can only come nothing, logic requires that the origin of these things be outside the universe itself. For the universe can not create itself.

        It seems that logic requires that everything in motion to have been set in motion by some unmoved mover, that everything that is caused to have been set into causation by some uncaused causer, and that both these things (being dependent on other things), this same mover & causer must also not be dependent upon anything at all (except, perhaps, himself/itself).

        I’m looking forward to your thoughts and insights on that.

        4. I don’t really have a dog in the evolution fight, but I bring this up simply to illustrate (as you clearly know) that a line is not always the shortest distance between 2 points. In space, for example, a curve is the shortest distance between 2 points.

        Yet for generations the greatest math and science experts insisted lines were the shortest distance. I simply like to point out that prevailing theories that contain overwhelming amounts of evidence can turn out to be wrong.

        There was a time when asthma was a closed case– psychological distress. Whoops. And eugenics was the future of the human race. Whoops. And scientists were sure– SURE– that bumps on the head gave information about the person.

        Either way, drawing theological conclusions from a scientific hypothesis is tricky business.

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      3. More answers follow. This is fun.

        1. When I use the word God on this website, I’m refering to the Christian God, since that’s what most of the people here are talking about, and although I was not brought up in a religious household, the population of the schools I attended was predominantly Catholic, so the God of the Bible is the first thing I think of when I hear the word. But to many people, God can be a very vague concept, which may or may not include the concept of him being omnipotent or omniscient.

        2. As for moral relativity, I think there are certain things which are close to universal, and that would boil down to the “golden rule”. I’m honestly not well versed in philosophy, although I have read a bit of Spinoza’s thoughts on this. As for truth, I can’t think of a concept which would demonstrate that truth can be relative, unless you ask Schrödinger’s cat.

        3. The idea that everything must have a cause, and the contradiction of that with a finite universe used to torment me as a child. I would occasionally feel like I was going insane trying to figure that out. It’s obviously a difficult concept which needs an explanation. I reconcile it in my head that time pretty much breaks down as a concept in the early stages of the universe, removing the need to even discuss a “before”, since the length of that very first moment is infinite But I agree that it all seems incomplete – it still feels like whatever existed must have had an origin of some kind. Adding the idea that God started everything, however, makes it a million times more difficult to understand for me. I don’t buy the argument that God could be a “spirit” and is somehow exempt from space or time. He must have come from somewhere, or sometime. Who taught him what he knows? It adds complexity to an already difficult mystery. If he is a spirit, then how did he set in motion something that is in the material world? He must have some sort of “interface” to the material world, and if that interface is at least part material, then it is subject to the very same “beginning” as the universe. God, if he is able to interact with the material, must be at least part material, and that part must not be separable from God, no God could not predate the material universe. I just thought that up now – sorry if it’s a little “out there”.

        4. You argument there is a good one, and I can’t argue that there have been times in history when we have been dead wrong, scientifically. We will be again as well. I don’t think that evolution has a chance of being one of those things. Scientists find out all the time that we are wrong about certain aspects of evolution, and about which path certain genes took in the tree of life, but they are now at the point now where a solid theory is just being fine tuned.

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  14. “The reason that I do not believe in God? Well the main reason is that I’ve never seen anything that led me to believe that there could be a God.”

    That is your reasoning? That is like saying you don’t believe in air because you’ve never SEEN anything that led you to believe that there could be air. You’d be denying all sorts of evidence that air exists, just like you are denying all sorts of evidence that God exists.

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    1. Air is a terrible example. There are obviously countless ways to show that air exists. When I said “SEEN” i didn’t necessarily mean with my own eyes. Anything will do. Let me know how I can see, hear, feel, touch, or even smell God, and I’ll give it a try.

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      1. Actually air is perfect. You can’t see it but you can see its effects all around you. Just like God.

        You can see Him in the creation that is the universe and earth. You can hear Him every time you hear a baby coo, or hear birds sing. You can feel Him when the warmth of the sun He created hits you in the face. You can touch Him by getting your hands in His soil and planting crops and flowers that He set in motion to grow, after their own kind. And you can smell Him when you smell a field of flowers, or the scent of cut grass, or the aroma of a fresh rain.

        He is all around you. You enjoy His handy work on a daily basis. Open up your heart and see, hear, feel, touch and smell Him. He loves you andd believes in you whether or not you love or believe in Him.

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      2. Lonewolf, those kind of arguments just don’t interest me. I know it’s how you feel, and you are certainly not alone. I love all of those things too, and I stand in awe of them, but none of them make me see God. you make it sound like everything in the world is wonderful. It isn’t. Starving children don’t see God in the dirt they sleep on.

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      3. Sin causes a lot of suffering. Suffering doesn’t disprove an all loving God.

        Most parents love their kids, but true love causes you to allow your kids to learn hard lessons sometimes. And I think you’d be surprised about starving kids. Sometimes those that suffer most are the most ardent believers in God there are.

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      4. This is anecdotal, of course, but in my trips to Kenya I was always impressed by the authentic joy and faith of the believers in the community. The weren’t starving, but they seemed to trust in God much more than in the U.S. where we are so spoiled and take things for granted.

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      5. You’re right about that. People there believe in God because of hope for a better deal in the afterlife. They also don’t have the benefit of an education, so they really can’t be expected to challenge the only information they have been given about the origins of the world.

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      6. Ahhhh! The old “only stupid people believe in God” line. Of course you didn’t say it but the implication sure was tehre. Would you like compare educations? 🙂

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      7. Judge my words however you like. I know some ridiculously intelligent Christians, and some atheists who are idiots, so I’m not about to generalize. I think though, it can be easily shown that the prevalence of believe in God and level of education in a society is inversely correlated. Whenever I bring that up to Christians, however, I’m always given some stupid line about how “liberal” universities are, and that they corrupt the youth. Funny how most educated people seem to come to “liberal” conclusions.

        I’d probably lose if I compared educations with you, since I never felt comfortable in a university environment, and I dropped out, only to become very successful in the field that I was studying at the time. I learn best by reading at my own pace, so I’ll continue to do that.

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      8. I was born and grew up in Africa. Trust me, EVERYONE is a believer. I won’t speculate on the reasons. other than to say Africans in general are great syncretists. If something works for them, they don’t mind adding it to the repertoire.

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  15. Ryan,

    YOU WIRTE:

    “More answers follow. This is fun.

    1. When I use the word God on this website, I’m refering to the Christian God, since that’s what most of the people here are talking about, and although I was not brought up in a religious household, the population of the schools I attended was predominantly Catholic, so the God of the Bible is the first thing I think of when I hear the word. But to many people, God can be a very vague concept, which may or may not include the concept of him being omnipotent or omniscient.”

    I REPLY: Alright, but what is the identity of this God you think of? What is he like, what are his activities? And perhaps most importantly, what do you say of Jesus? Who is He?

    YOU WRITE: “2. As for moral relativity, I think there are certain things which are close to universal, and that would boil down to the “golden rule”. I’m honestly not well versed in philosophy, although I have read a bit of Spinoza’s thoughts on this. As for truth, I can’t think of a concept which would demonstrate that truth can be relative, unless you ask Schrödinger’s cat.”

    I REPLY: Well, I’m sorry that you read Spinoza. He’s a real drag. I can think of a few books/authors I would recommend above him that would probably provide a great deal more clarity and peace of mind.

    If truth isn’t relative, then how can morality be relative? I think there are certain things, regardless of any considerations or circumstances, that are wrong. I’d like to discuss this more, as it’s one of my favorite issues– but I would certainly like to hear your thoughts on this, and you may have some questions about my view.

    To be perfectly clear, I am aiming for this conclusion: Metaphysical realities exist (meaning non material, or beyond material). Therefore, there logically must be a metaphysical author.

    YOU WRITE: “3. The idea that everything must have a cause, and the contradiction of that with a finite universe used to torment me as a child. I would occasionally feel like I was going insane trying to figure that out. It’s obviously a difficult concept which needs an explanation. I reconcile it in my head that time pretty much breaks down as a concept in the early stages of the universe, removing the need to even discuss a “before”, since the length of that very first moment is infinite But I agree that it all seems incomplete – it still feels like whatever existed must have had an origin of some kind. Adding the idea that God started everything, however, makes it a million times more difficult to understand for me. I don’t buy the argument that God could be a “spirit” and is somehow exempt from space or time. He must have come from somewhere, or sometime. Who taught him what he knows? It adds complexity to an already difficult mystery. If he is a spirit, then how did he set in motion something that is in the material world? He must have some sort of “interface” to the material world, and if that interface is at least part material, then it is subject to the very same “beginning” as the universe. God, if he is able to interact with the material, must be at least part material, and that part must not be separable from God, no God could not predate the material universe. I just thought that up now – sorry if it’s a little “out there”.

    I REPLY: By definition the length of the first ‘moment’ can not be infinite. If it were infinite it would still be going on now and we would all not exist, but we do exist and time moves forward, therefore the length of the first ‘moment’ is not and can not be infinite.

    You also write, ” it still feels like whatever existed must have had an origin of some kind.” Logically it must have an origin of some kind, and that origin must not itself be material, in motion, caused by anything else, or dependent upon anything else.

    In your reply here you touch on a lot of good and serious issues, and it is clear that you have thought about this extensively. If you’re up for it I’d like to go into this a lot more in depth, in which I would explain precisely how those seeming contradictions in the nature of God are resolved (and they really are quite troublesome, I struggled with for years myself).

    Is that something you’re interested in doing?

    Also, I don’t want to seem like an interrogator. Do you have any questions you’d like me to answer? You should be aware, however, that I am a Roman Catholic, whereas Neil is what I would call an Evangelical Methodist, so his replies and perspectives will differ from mine.

    However, I’m pretty sure that our starting points are 100% the same. Jesus died on the cross, his saving blood being shed for the salvation of man and for the forgiveness of sins. It is in and through that same Christ Jesus that we are saved, by turning our hearts and lives over to him and accepting his freely offered gifts of grace and salvation.

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    1. It’s hard for me to describe what I think God is, since I don’t believe one exists. I don’t time wondering what God is or whether he might be watching me. I used to wonder, but I’m at a stage now where I’ve become quite sure of my beliefs in that respect, and I probably won’t think about God unless I come across some evidence that he exists.

      Yeah, I didn’t say I “enjoyed” Spinoza 🙂 I’m not a moral relativist in that sense, but since I believe that morals come out of evolution, and how our species has learned (as a group) to survive. Different species, and different environments could, I suppose have caused slightly different morals to emerge, although I believe those differences would be slight. The golden rule is fairly absolute, since the violation of that rule on a large scale would be bad for the species in any case. Again, I’m not well versed in this, but I think that the Christian views of morality far overstep the bounds of morality. The idea that certain things, though they may not hurt anybody, hurt God, seems to contradict the idea that God cannot be hurt.

      Out of curiosity, what are some of the things that would be wrong, regardless of any circumstances?

      The first moment of time can certainly be infinite. Even if a piece of string in my hand has one cut end, the other end could go on infinitely. Mathematics shows that you cannot even say that a piece of string with two infinite ends is even longer than a string with one infinite end.

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      1. The golden rule is fairly absolute, since the violation of that rule on a large scale would be bad for the species in any case.

        That is an attempt to explain how it got here but it has no logical grounding. Who said it is a moral good to perpetuate the species?

        Out of curiosity, what are some of the things that would be wrong, regardless of any circumstances?

        A couple things come to mind:

        1. Torturing babies for fun.
        2. Torturing moral relativists until they admit that it is always immoral to torture moral relativists just for being moral relativists. 😉

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      2. I didn’t say it was a moral good to perpetuate the species. It isn’t, but when the desire to help another person is a desire that helps perpetuate the species, then those people with that desire are more likely to have children, and pass on the traits that include that desire. That, I believe, is where morals come from.

        The same things happen today. When a person is kind and helpful to others, that person is generally more likely to find a mate, have children, and teach those children to be good people as well.

        Of course torturing babies for fun is always wrong, but I think that “for fun” would be a specific circumstance, and we agreed that circumstances were not to be considered. I would consider dressing a burn wound torture, but it sometimes needs to be done to babies. It’s difficult to even discuss this without considering circumstance though.

        As for torturing moral relativists – I’ll concede that.

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      3. So, I just want to make sure I understand you Ryan…

        You assert that morality is evolved (and thus a matter of genetics).

        For the sake of argument I’ll concede the point, even though I disagree.

        But it certainly raises a few questions:
        1) If morality is evolved, why do all individuals act immorally? It would seem that immorality would be the exception, not the rule.
        2) What double-blind peer-reviewed scientific study has demonstrated this?
        3) Where, precisely, in our genetic code does morality reside?
        4) Does not this mean that, were a geneticist to modify a person’s DNA to remove the morality gene… that suddenly rape and murder would not be wrong for that person, since they lack the gene and now have no responsibility?
        5) And if it’s all about genetics, and morality is just genetic, then what is possibly wrong with eugenics?

        I’m willing to concede your point for the sake of argument. But it seems to me, Ryan, that your belief that morality is evolved lacks significant amounts of evidence and may even be logically contradictory. And further, I think it’s just what I called it… a “belief”, which is an act of the will.

        Finally,
        6) Do you believe that humans have free will?

        If all we are is a lump of genetics, in a material universe, where cause and effect accounts for just about everything, then really we have no free will at all. We’re just slaves in a process of moving matter that we are powerless to change or control in any fashion, who merely have an evolved illusion that we are in control of our own bodies. In reality we make no decisions at all, and everything is strictly pre-determined.

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      4. 1. The tendency towards morality has evolved, not necessarily absolute moral beings. Cats have evolved the ability to catch mice, but they don’t get each one. The points that they desire to catch mice, and are good at it. I think that we, as humans desire to be moral, feel good about it when we are, and in a huge percentage of cases, we act moral too. I think that immorality is definitely the exception. There’s a berry picking farm not too far from where I live, and the method of payment is a box at the end of the gate next to a scale. Patrons are asked to weigh their berries, and pay the appropriate amount. The owner there says everybody pays, usually more than required.

        2. I’m not going to look up the studies on evolution and morality, but there are countless published papers on it. One only need to observe packs of wild animals sharing food, and ants acting practically as one organism to show that animals act in moral ways – or at least in a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” type of way. All behaviors are evolved, since all creatures have evolved. It’s not a question in science that morality has evolved – the question is how and why, and there are some fascinating theories about that.

        3&4. I could not tell you where in our genetic code that “morality” exists any more than I could tell you where the code is that makes one a good driver. It’s in there somewhere, as are the genes that determine all of our behaviors. Brain injuries to certain parts of the brain have caused changes in the moral judgement of many patients. These studies are available as well, and show that there are parts of the brain that deal with these types of decisions, and if that is true, there must be a part of the genetic code that determines the structure of that part of the brain.

        5. No absolutely not. I’ve never met an evolutionary biologist (or anyone really) that advocates eugenics. Evolution is a natural process. Speeding it up, or trying to encourage it would make it an unnatural process, and I don’t think it would have any good effects on our species to do so.

        6. Free will? I honestly don’t know, but I think we do, for all intents and purposes. I feel as though the choices I make every day are my own, and I think that’s all that matters.

        I do believe that everything has a cause, but I don’t believe that the effect is predetermined.

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      5. If we apply the same standard of belief in God (in the absence of clear and compelling specific evidence that is easily verifiable) to the belief that morality stems from genetic coding, it seems we have a compelling reason for denying that morality stems from genetic coding.

        The far more simple explanation is that it is merely a social construct, just like some assert God is. Mostly used as a tool of oppresion to control actions of others.

        Once we remove morality from the metaphysical sphere, there really is no grounds to maintain its existence at all as anything other than a matter of mere opinion.

        As for your examples in the animal world, working for collective self-interest is not morality. Morality deals with things that are right and wrong, that are freely engaged in by rational creatures.

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      6. Whoops hit enter too early.

        How can we possible have free will if we live in a pure materialistic universe? if all there is is physical matter, ultimately every single action is part of the strictly determined chain of causality set in motion by the big bang.

        A purely physical universe excludes human free will entirely.

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      7. working for collective self-interest is not morality

        In my opinion, that is very close to what morality is. If something is not in the self interests of everyone, they what is the reason for doing it? Can you think of an example of something that is the best interests of society, but is immoral? Or vice versa, something that is moral, but is not in the best interests of society?

        The free will thing doesn’t bother me as much as it does others. Maybe we don’t have free will, but we do from our perspective, and that’s all that matters. Still an interesting topic, but if I found out tomorrow that our entire lives were pretty much laid out for us from the start, it would change the way I live one bit. Why would it?

        I still do believe we have free will. There is evidence in quantum mechanics that there is some pure randomness at a very small scale. String theory goes even further into this.

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      8. Randomness does not equal free will. If you hold to a materialist worldview then determinism is the most likely conclusion. Of course you believe in free will. You can’t deny the evidence, though the evidence contradicts atheism 24x7x365.

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      9. Neil said: Randomness does not equal free will.

        That’s true. If a decision is random it’s not will, whereas if there are reasons for it — one stronger than another — it’s not free. Free will actually strikes me as a logical impossibility, not just hard to reconcile empirically. But I don’t desire to be separate from the universe, independent of it, in the way that “free will” would grant me; I’m content to be “the journeywork of the stars,” the universe itself and not a lonely independent soul.

        The “illusion that we’re in control” (LCB) actually breaks down significantly with introspection. It’s a conceptual overlay on our experience. In reality every thought, feeling, impulse arises spontaneously in a complexly sensitive matrix, without any abiding self or soul anywhere on the scene to direct or control things. Matters are weighed deeply, feelingfully, tentatively in consciousness, but every instant in that consideration — every thought, feeling — arises spontaneously and suddenly. You couldn’t restrain a thought by will and you couldn’t produce a thought by will. (In clear awareness, however — moment to moment transparency without resistance or active judgment — thoughts and feelings don’t trigger conditioned reactions but die peaceful deaths. It’s also true enough that more helpful conditioned reactions can be learned, which is not to be despised, though awareness itself is the only always-reliable medicine without side effects).

        The only self to be found is the “self” of each moment, namely a self-conscious thought. Which, again, arises spontaneously, not through any agency.

        Every thought mobilizes bodily responses at once (larger or smaller). In many cases checks and balances restrain any immediate outward action from this mobilization, but still every action is the IMMEDIATE result of one thought or another. Sometimes this stimulus-response is more obviously unmediated — a reflex to grab a child about to run into the street — while sometimes the committee of impulses discuss much more complexly.

        Now I don’t find it particularly helpful to self-consciously tell myself all day, “it’s all determined! Even whether you determine it’s determined is determined!” I don’t find the merely intellectual conclusion helpful, but rather the direct nonverbal observation of non-self, of choiceless wholeness. If I’m carrying around some conceptual caricature that “I’m a puppet” — and almost any mental image of determinism will be a caricature, when we’re dealing with such a complex world as human consciousness — I’ll see the picture instead of the unutterably delicate reality of consciousness, and this will have inhibiting effects on my vigor. Choicelessness really has to be seen for oneself to be a liberating rather than dangerous doctrine. Said Krishnamurti endlessly, “the word is not the thing.”

        You may be thinking that however complex and beautiful determinism is in human consciousness, it still removes moral accountability — and yup, I can’t very well deny it. Not an insignificant point. There are real wrongs — there are real harms done — but the perpetrators of these wrongs are, perhaps, ultimately blameless. Society may forever require the illusion of guilt — indeed I’m glad remorse appears in my own consciousness, for how it ties me to others and deepens my carefulness — but I also find beauty in the great equalizing that’s implied if all are blameless and praiseless, all are one unified unfolding. Doesn’t mean altruism isn’t most beautiful to us and cruelty most ugly, doesn’t mean we don’t praise one and condemn the other — just that we realize that the enactors of altruism and cruelty are not, maybe, individually responsible. In an ultimate sense.

        In practice, watching my consciousness without praise or blame, without taking it personally or considering it “my” doing, evokes great compassion, great understanding. It brings entirely more compassionate behavior, spontaneously. And FREELY, joyfully, unlike attempts to be compassionate motivated by the dejected conviction that “I’m a sinner.” My incessant mortal goofiness is plain as day, but it’s just a fact. I don’t waste one second holding myself responsible for it, on my better days. My attention is entirely with its actual nature, wondering moment by moment, how do I respond most beautifully, given these facts? Tender and tragic and joyful and funny facts.

        With all that said. I haven’t come to a final conclusion about free will. I’m not sure I really know what it means, especially if my/our groping conceptions of consciousness or quantum weirdness fall significantly short, as they surely do. I’m certain at the least that we have much, much less free will than conventional wisdom, and most religions’ caricatures of the matter (allowances for Calvin, Balsekar), would lead us to believe.

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      10. seasofbrightjuice, you are a sea of information, and a sea of wisdom – in addition to the delicious juice of course.

        Thanks for the response, since I had no idea what to say. What you wrote is exactly how I feel about free will, but I would not have been able to express it so well.

        Neil et al, you constantly bring up the “evidence for God” but when I get you to give me the evidence, it’s merely evidence that things don’t make sense to you without adding God to the equation. I completely concede that some things don’t make sense to us, but in order to provide an explanation you need to have specific evidence that your explanation is true. God has been used by societies for the entire written history of the world, to explain that which we don’t yet understand. God used to carry the sun across the sky in a chariot when we did not know about our solar system. Those people believed the chariot theory as strongly as you do you creation theory.

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      11. Ryan, you are not reading carefully or deliberately missing the point. I’ve explained more times than I should have to that your demand for scientific evidence for immaterial things is born of ignorance or disingenuousness. And the “God of the gaps” theory is not what we’ve offered at all. If you don’t want to seriously consider the arguments, that is your call. But you are the one committing the “science of the gaps” fallacy.

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      12. Neil, I know you have an argument that you believe proves that the Christian God exists, and that Jesus dies on a cross for our sins. My opinion is that you believe that because you are deluded. It’s not because I’m not paying attention, or listening to your arguments. It’s because I think you are wrong, and because your arguments have not even slightly changed my mind. I think that says something about your arguments more than it says something about me.

        I’m willing to change my mind if you show me reason. I don’t think you are willing to do that, despite any evidence at all, since you willfully ignore the mountains of evidence stacked up against the Biblical creation myth.

        Scientific evidence is not tied to the material world. Scientific evidence is anything that:

        1. can be observed via any means at all
        2. can be used to form a hypothesis about a truth
        3. can be observed again to be consistent with the hypothesis

        Science, especially mathematics is full of all kinds of things that you would consider to be immaterial.

        If there is a God, show me one way that I can observe him.

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      13. Ryan, methinks thou dost protest too much. Take a break, buddy. I am not on commission. You don’t understand the scientific method that you continually misuse when playing your “prove God exists” game.

        I am many things, but I am not deluded.

        If you want to see God, look outside the window (Romans 1:18-20). I know why you don’t believe.

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      14. Ryan,

        Please check this post: http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2009/06/16/does-proof-deny-faith-no/#comment-31095

        As for your definition of (natural) science, you may want to reconsider it. (Natural) Science deals explicitly with the material world and material phenomenon. Or as wiki explains of the scientific method, “To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. A scientific method consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.”

        Natural science deals with the observable, empirical, measurable world.

        When we get outside the physical/material realm, we cross into the threshold of Philosophy, of which mathematics is a subset of.

        You use the word observe. Do you mean observe with your 5 senses, or do you concede that it is possible to observe things intellectually, via logic and reason?

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      15. Ryan, concerning your post @ 10:50 pm–

        You may want to reread Seasofbrightjuice’s post a bit more carefully. Most his words are rather empty, just pop-self-actualization cliches.

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      16. Yep. I don’t even read his comments any more. I ban offensive comments but those that are self refuting I leave. Saves time.

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      17. Hmm. If you truly didn’t read my comment Neil, certain schools of philosophy would deem it premature to agree that it’s crap

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      18. I don’t recall using that specific term, but I will say that trend analysis can be a great predictor, my friend 😉 .

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      19. You’ve thrown out a lot of words, but most of them amount to empty cliches and buzzwords. And you contradict yourself a great deal. Let’s just pick out a few gems:

        “Free will actually strikes me as a logical impossibility, not just hard to reconcile empirically.” Please demonstrate how free will is a logical possibility, and do so in conjunction with this statement– “In reality every thought, feeling, impulse arises spontaneously.”

        Logically, there is no such thing as spontaneity in a strictly materialist universe. In a material universe all things are strictly pre-determined. Spontaneity can only enter in if there are material actor that possess the ability for free will, to act independently from the material universe and chain of causality. To assert there is spontaneity is to deny that the universe is strictly materialistic.

        Again you assert, “The only self to be found is the “self” of each moment, namely a self-conscious thought. Which, again, arises spontaneously, not through any agency.” Please demonstrate the basis for your claim.

        A key foundation for debate is that logic and reason should be used. You’re making assertions that seem to fit with the pop-culture Oprah-is-Jesus school of thought, but have no rational basis what so ever.

        But, and please resolve this conflict, if everything is part of a strictly determined chain, how can you actually be sentient? Contained within a denial of free will is a denial of actually being sentient. Not only do you lack any moral responsibility for any of your actions, but you yourself don’t really exist.

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      20. Thanks for the encouragement, Ryan. I’ve had the same experience with e.g. your reply to LCB about platonic forms (the tree-falls-in-the-woods one), to Neil about material/immaterial science, to Adam on euthanasia. I was gonna have a go at the euthanasia one last night but thought I might have overstayed my welcome already, and then I was glad I’d left it alone when you hit the nail much more squarely on its head. Always a nice surprise.

        Hi LCB, please note that I called free will a logical *IM*possibility. A contradiction in terms.

        Yeah, I was quite aware that “spontaneous” has flaws, that iIn some ways it’s the opposite of what I hoped to convey. One meaning of spontaneous of course is something like “uncaused,” and I don’t want to assert that a thought/impulse is *metaphysically* (or physically) uncaused. I meant to describe the FEELING of the thing from the experiential side. I meant firstly, that a thought arises without agency, without a self; secondly, that it arises suddenly, fully formed; and thirdly and minorly, that some proportion of thoughts DO appear as if from nowhere and for no discernible reason — not so much in the case of links in a chain of thought, but in the case of wild thoughts from left field. Presumably unconscious workings prepare such eruptions before they make the scene, but phenomenologically speaking they’re spontaneous in every sense.

        Chiefly I wanted to evoke the suddenness of their bloom, like a parachute when the ripcord is pulled: where is there foothold for a self or a free will in these rapids of consciousness? (To egregiously mix metaphors). (…To split infinitives). (And now to boldly, go):

        LCB said: Again you assert, “The only self to be found is the “self” of each moment, namely a self-conscious thought. Which, again, arises spontaneously, not through any agency.” Please demonstrate the basis for your claim.

        Well, tell me where you DO find a self in the stream of consciousness, of which no part remains the same for longer than than one moment? The only thing unchanging is not a thing at all: the fact of awareness itself, which can never be an object to a subject. And whose character is the exact same in every sentient being — you could say with some justice that it’s ONE and not many — and without form, limit or measurement. Untouched by any of the thoughts, feelings, time, self-and-world that appear within it, even while they’re inseparable from it. The one thing you don’t have to worry about gaining or losing, or even seeing, since it’s precisely what looks. The only place of absolute rest. Forever silent; more alive and more dead than any bodily critter could be. And the feeling of it is exactly opposite the feeling of a “self,” which is defined by boundary, by something’s lying outside it. Just this, right now, is it. But that’s a story for another day.

        (I’m not claiming this awareness exists where there’s no body or brain; that would be beyond my pay grade, as my man so weaselly said. Talkin’ phenomenology. Phenomenologically, my body and the world and my knowledge of the brain appear within awareness, not the other way round).

        The whole play of mental suffering is one of shifting momentary identifications and limitations — believing I’m contained in this thought, this feeling, this perception, this fear, this self-image. And in this one as opposed to that one. In truth they’re all objects appearing and disappearing; the only subject is awareness itself, which is in one sense nothing. (In another everything).

        Re logic. In this case I was appealing, rather than logic, to something we can both see in our own experience. I was saying, run the experiment, do some meditative phenomenology with me, tell me if you see what I see. I trust my mind rather less when it’s performing a syllogism than when it’s simply observing quietly, in direct awareness of what is, without description. Our “logical” conclusions from premises so easily cut off a million alternative paths without ever noticing. The best remedy is to check back in regularly with not-knowing, temporarily abandoning all conclusions and premises and inquiring quietly into our direct experience. (When direct experience is an appropriate place to look, of course). My main point was that I DON’T find free will to be self-evident in daily experience, that my skepticism about it comes FIRSTLY from experience, only secondarily from what I know about physics or cognitive science or what have you. I don’t find “no free will” to be some laughably abstract notion that’s contradicted all day long.

        But my assertions have, anyway, not only rational basis but scientific basis. Cognitive scientists are forever saying the self is an illusion; and nearly as often, that free will is an illusion. You’ve heard of the experiment where they had people press a button whenever they chose, and measured both the brain activity associated with “conscious decision” and with the initiation of the process that results in pressing the button? The former, they found, came a good few seconds AFTER the latter. What test subjects experienced as the moment of decision was actually a moment of rationalizing and appropriating — of “me”-izing — something already set in motion. (Better google for an accurate account). I’m saying you can see the same sort of thing in first-person, through quiet contemplation. It can actually be rather exhilarating, ecstatic even, as walls break down between inside and outside and you sigh deeply to have no pawn on the board. And somewhat miraculously, any time you find yourself in that brightly transparent and easy condition, what flows through awareness (in terms of mental/emotional activity) becomes spontaneously (sorry!) more harmonious. Your responses have grace, many of the usual wrinkles spontaneously gone like in shaking out a sheet. (For the four seconds that transparency reigns, anyway).

        –Would be remiss not to mention, it usually takes some of the deepest somatic learning on earth to make a habit of this. The classical aid is meditation sitting. My main evangelical pet.

        You’ll have to connect some more dots as to why a causal chain denies sentience.

        And heh heh, where do you get “self-actualization” from? “Self-negation” would be nearer the truth. I preach not, “become all you can be! Manifest your desires!” I preach RETURN from all restless and futile self-improvement schemes, to the wholeness that is already, humbly, present, obscured only by one’s continual rejection of it in favor of something better. Or do you just view any interest in one’s inner world as a flaky self-indulgence? Any spiritual endeavor that starts with oneself instead of commands on tablets?

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      21. Enjoying the debate, LCB, Ryan. My two cents: although empathy may have evolved in us and similarly social species for capricious reasons, it still opens a window on an objective reality (as do eyesight, smell etc. — limited as they are regarding ultraviolet wavelengths or bombs in suitcases): the suffering of others. As I’ve said here before, when we understand that others suffer and enjoy as vividly as we do, care as much as we do about it, there remains no objective yardstick by which we can judge our suffering and happiness to be ultimately more important.

        LCB said: 1) If morality is evolved, why do all individuals act immorally? It would seem that immorality would be the exception, not the rule.

        Simple really, we’ve got “higher instincts” and “lower instincts,” both easily explained by evolution. We’re inexhaustibly sensitive to our own complaints and only flickeringly sensitive to others’. Through those flickers though, we glimpse a real and a wider world, whose demands won’t ever entirely leave us alone. And, happily enough, acting on those demands delivers the deepest satisfaction.

        LCB said: 4) Does not this mean that, were a geneticist to modify a person’s DNA to remove the morality gene… that suddenly rape and murder would not be wrong for that person, since they lack the gene and now have no responsibility?

        “Not wrong” and “can’t be blamed” aren’t the same thing. I don’t think my kitty can be blamed for toying with birds, but the suffering she inflicts is “wrong” — meaning, merely, “bad.” Bad for the sufferer.

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      22. I would not assert that the suffering inflicted by your kitty on birds is bad. I would not assert that for 2 reasons:

        1) Bad is a moral judgment and/or a value judgment. If morality and values are evolved, then we are not making an absolute claim, but merely a relative claim that says “According to my genetics, that is bad.” And since we are dealing with relative subjective and not objective absolute claims, that’s pretty much the same as asseting an opinion. Everyone has one, but it has no intrinsic value.

        2) I would assert that the suffering is evil. There are two specific types of evil, natural evil and moral evil. Moral evil is exactly what it sounds like, when moral agents do evil things (like me kicking children in the shin and then running off with their ice cream cone).

        The suffering of the bird is a natural evil. Which is another way of saying that it isn’t really evil at all. Let’s use two examples:

        Example A) Kitty is playing with catnip next to a high ledge. A boulder from that high ledge falls, 1000 feet (reaching the ironicly named terminal velocity), and crushes kitty. Though it is a natural evil in that a life has been lost which is valuable (more valuable than a rock, less valuable than a dog, much less valuable than a human), it is also in a sense good. Why is it good? Because the natural order works and continues to function as normal. Gravity is a good thing. Without it the planet would split apart, etc. Gravity worked as normal, the way it was intended to work by God. Unfortunatly that sometimes means kitties getting killed.

        Example B) (This example is akin to the suffering bird, but we’re changing it around since our kitty is now dead). A deer is in a forest. Perhaps its name is Bambi. A forest fire comes, the deer is severely burned, but does not die. It struggles onwards for days, brns covering huge amounts of its buddy. It is searching for water in the burned forest, but finds none. Eventually it succumbs to dehydration and infection from the burns. Its death took days, and was agonizing.

        The problem of evil in this story is very troublesome. Why must Bambi suffer so? Would not a just God prevent this suffering, or at least shorten it, precisely because it is needless and serve no purpose? At least the kitty was killed instantly. But if God merely struck this deer down, and ended its suffering, what difference would it make?

        To this serious problem I reply that it is, infact, good that the deer suffered like it did. As a product of God’s creation (and millions of years of evolution, I would assert) it has become a certain sort of creature, hearty and strong, beautiful and wild. The same good features that allow it (and other animals like it) to survive in the wild are precisely what prolonged its suffering. Its ability to resist infection, even when wounded. Its ability to go without water for a time. ITs ability to withstand burns for some time. Its stamina, etc. We could go on.

        This ‘natural evil’ was created by the greatness and nobleness of the creature called ‘deer’ in these circumstances precisely because everything that makes up the deer was working as intended. Further, that deer will likely serve as a catalyst for helping nature to regrow in the very spot where the die finally perishes.

        As we can clearly see, natural evil is not infact evil. There is no moral agent at work that is immediately responsible, and it is good and just for the natural order to carry on in a normal fashion.

        The only real evil that exists is moral evil. Suffering and death are part of the natural order.

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      23. LCB said: To this serious problem I reply that it is, infact, good that the deer suffered like it did.

        Don’t you just mean that it’s *necessary* that the deer suffered like it did, for the sake of various *larger* goods? Its suffering itself is still bad. Feels bad. Looks bad. Is bad. Affecting as that refrain in Genesis is (“and God saw that it was good”).

        Again, “bad” is something independent of questions of blame. (“Evil” and to some extent even “wrong” smuggle in absolute free agents, my attitude towards which I’ve made clear). Nothing is ever bad except it’s bad FOR somebody, FOR some end.

        LCB said: If morality and values are evolved, then we are not making an absolute claim, but merely a relative claim […] …since we are dealing with relative subjective and not objective absolute claims…

        Did you miss my first paragraph? Our capacity for empathy evolved, but the realm of others’ harm and happiness which empathy reveals is mathematically real and objective; in theory quantifiable. By any objective yardstick, since you suffer exactly as I do, my suffering has no more weight than yours. Subjectively, of course, I try to numb this knowledge at every turn, but I can’t fully succeed.

        I really am bemused by how endlessly religious apologists take this line of argument, and by how some atheist philosophers receive it ponderously, when it’s such very simple math that provides a first basis for morality. No supervisor or “transcendence” (in any mysterious sense) required. I know you suffer as truly as I do. I also usually care about my own suffering more, but that doesn’t change one bit my knowledge that an unbiased observer would weigh our suffering equally. Actually make it a telepathic observer, to help visualize the objectively real world on which empathy gives a partial window.

        It’s bemusing too because if you can’t establish an objective morality through reason, God doesn’t help a bit. It’s a non sequitur. See Euthyphro dilemma.

        I feel like people take it as a real argument because it’s so much talked about, but the answer has always been right there, in the very first step of our moral intuition, in child’s terms. “Not fair.”

        Granted ethics get extremely complex. But they’re all based on that first intuition of fairness.

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      24. As a side note:

        Ryan mentioned, “…and how our species has learned (as a group) to survived.”

        I find it terribly ironic that it is only in the West where we have become so “sophisticated” and “culturally advanced” that we decided to contracept and abort ourselves into oblivion.

        It seems that, if the evolutionists, relativists, and social darwinists are correct… it means that evolutionist, relativism, and social darwinism are evolutionary ‘bad’ and are now being wiped out of the gene pool… since those ideas result in the utter implosion of the culture that subscribes to them.

        What happened? in 75 years the West went from tremendous power, culture growth, and influence to a demographic winter, where everyone has essentially stopped having children, they abort the ones they have, and millions of immigrants are brought in of a different genetic stock to take over the land, wealth, cities, and nations that were built and made great by previous generations. This is more true in Europe than in America.

        Atheism, relativism, and liberalism seem to be ideologies of cultural suicide, and nature is wiping out the DNA of those that subscribe to them.

        Whoops.

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      25. Sorry, but what is bad about atheism, relativism, and belief in science from an evolutionary perspective? How does that make a person less likely to reproduce? I’ll concede that often religious people have more children (in some cases, way more children) for reasons ranging from feeling that birth control is wrong, to the fact that many religions advocate that members have as many children as possible (probably to increase the amount of people that subscribe to that religion). But even though some families may be having more children, I believe that smaller families have children that have more time with their parents, and more of a chance for nurturing. Now this is a big generalization, as I know of many large families where parents have done a great job with everyone.

        Atheists like me have kids too. We don’t just abort them. Studies have shown that abortion rates are no different among young women who are religious, and young women who are not. Abortion rates in the US are higher than in they are in scandinavian countries, where the laws are more relaxed, and the population much less religious.

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      26. “what is bad about atheism, relativism, and belief in science from an evolutionary perspective?”

        1 of those 3 doesn’t belong. Atheism and relativism are not connected to science per se, except that science is often abused by atheists and relativists to reach illogical conclusions.

        As for what’s wrong with atheism and relativism? It results in a dead culture and society. Europe is in a demographic winter, and the United States is approaching one. If you’re not familiar with this, a quick google search will blow your socks off. By 2050 the vast majority of native Europeans are simply gone (with the exception of the Polish). The entire continent is reproducing significantly under replacement numbers.

        When cultures embrace relativism, or tacit atheism (as our culture is), the culture dies. The people intentionally stop reproducing. For a variety of reasons, but the main ones are A) selfishness and B) loss of belief in the objective value of human life.

        In terms of reproduction and advancing the species, atheistic and relativistic worldviews have shown that, in the survival of the fittest, they are not.

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      27. This is getting a bit silly. You are making generalized statements about atheists that are completely untrue. I’d have to say that 90% of the people that I am close to (friends and family alike) are atheists, or at least non-religious, and let me tell you, they are reproducing like crazy.

        I really take offense to you stating that atheists value human life less. That is false, and completely illogical. Atheists believe that the life we have here on Earth is all we have. I would say that I value life far more than you, simply because I value it more than anything at all. You value your spiritual life more than your Earthly life. I think I’m fair in making that assumption, since it says that in the Bible.

        The stats about Europeans being gone by 2050 is pure propaganda by people who want to stop Muslim immigration to Europe. Think about that for a minute. 2050 is one or two generations away. The birthrate required for a population to disappear in two generations is about 0. The birthrate for most of Western Europe is just below 2 children per female currently. That is a bit low, but do you think what Europe needs is more people? Incidentally, the highest birthrate in Europe is in Norway and France, both in the top ten for non-believers.

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      28. Ryan,

        You may find it helpful to reread my post. I am speaking about the cultures that have embraced atheism and relativism, not specific individuals. And I believe my point holds true: the ideology of relativism and secular liberalism has lead to the cultural and demographic implosion of Western Europe.

        The ideology, when applied on a cultural and society level, results in the death of the culture and society.

        I’d be glad to discuss the moral merits and issues of atheism, on an individual level, if that’s something you’re interested in

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      29. I say that you have no basis for saying that atheist societies are destined to implode. I gave you an example that shows you are wrong.

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      30. For what it’s worth, Buddhist countries have survived just fine for thousands of years without God, and with unusual altruism in many areas.

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      31. Ryan, above you said

        “Can you think of an example of something that is the best interests of society, but is immoral?”

        Sure. Euthanasia is ‘great’ for society in that (according to it’s advocates) it humanely does away with those that are a financial burden on society. Old people with Alzheimers don’t contribute very much at all, and are quite expensive to maintain. Doctors and nurses taking care of people who have lived full lives could be taking care of burn victims, prematurely born babies, kids with cancer etc. Euthanasia is ‘good’ for society, if you’re a materialist.

        Further, different societies have different morals. Indians used to find it morally righteous to light widows on fire, in the tribal areas of Pakistan most towns find stoning or gang-raping victims of rape to be morally necessary.

        Burning women alive is not good for society. As morality has evolved their version of morality must be equal to yours and you cannot claim that one is superior to the other.

        So if you’re ever in the Swat Valley and are witnessing a gang-rape, you should not try to stop it because it encourages the Pakistanis to live in constant fear and what they consider order, which is good for society. Further, you would be imposing your morality on others, which I’m quite sure you would argue is wrong.

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      32. First of all, nobody advocates for euthanasia because people are burdens to society. Right to die legislation allows people to choose to end their own life if the pain of living outweighs the joy of being alive. If people were dispatched because they were burdens on society, then people would not go to the doctor, for fear of being “euthanized”. It would not be good for society.

        Neither are any of your examples. In fact most of them are societal problems that have arisen due to religion.

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      33. I think you are a little confused. Societal problems to you, moral justice to others. I cannot see where your rules are for judging their version of morality to be inferior to yours.

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      34. Perhaps you’ve never heard of Terry Schiavo. She didn’t exactly have a choice in the manner of her murder. Starving to death is definitely the way I would want to go.

        Try again.

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      35. Terry Schiavo died years before her medical treatment was halted. The autopsy proves what her doctors already knew, that her brain was not functional, and had not been for years. Her family claimed that she was responding to visual stimuli, yet her visual cortex was physically GONE, shriveled away.

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  16. Ryan et all,

    Please, after reading this post, let me know if my evidence is sufficient or not. If it is sufficient and my logic is sound, the only logical conclusion would be to acknowledge that at least some non-material things exist.

    Sorry for not responding to some posts earlier. i try to observe a Sunday blog-sabbath, so I fell a bit behind…

    I’d like to demonstrate to you that at least some non-material things exist. This can be done with pretty straigthforward evidence. My entire purpose here is to simply demonstrate that some non-material (i.e. meta-physical) objects exist.

    This is definitional. “Material” in this contest means something discovered through and only through the senses, which can be reduced to a measured magnitude.

    All phenomenal objects can be reduced to measurements of mass, length, time, current, temperature, amount, and luminosity. They can be expressed as magnitudes of meters, grams, seconds, amperes, degrees, moles, and candles. They are a posteriori. They can be seen, numbered and measured.

    There are certain objects in our experience, such as consciousness and self-consciousness, value judgments, acts of will, assent and dissent, impulses to action, and so on, which cannot be reduced to measurements of magnitudes. They are a priori. A priori thing are those which, while they might not occur if no sense impressions were present, clearly do not depend on a particular sense impression for their existence, and sense impressions would make no sense without them.

    Instead, these mental objects are judges according to standards of truth or falsehood, logical or illogical, beautiful and ugly, just and unjust, useful or useless. They are understood in terms of categories such as means and ends, symbol and subject, cause and effect, abstract and concrete, universal and particular. They cannot be seen, numbered or measured.

    1. Since all material objects can be reduced to mass, length, time, current, temperature, amount, and luminosity; and

    2. Since no mental objects such as truth and logic, self-awareness, justice, beauty, causality, willpower, impulse, means-and-ends, cause-and-effect, substance-and-accident and so on can be reduced to mass, length, time, current, temperature, amount, and luminosity; therefore

    3. No mental object is a material object

    This is a syllogism of three steps. This syllogism is both true and logical, and I am aware of it, ergo at least one of the mental objects mentioned in the minor premise must themselves exist in order for the syllogism to exist. Ergo these are mental objects that exist and that cannot be a material object.

    I do not see how anyone who understand the meaning of the words can disagree with the conclusion. Please explain the warrant for your disagreement.

    Now, you yourself say that material things are measurable. What do you make of things that cannot be reduced to a measurement, such as, for example, how sad the ending of a tragic story might be? I can say the end of OTHELLO is sadder than the ending of MALTESE FALCON, but I cannot reduce my sorrow to a measurement of the masses and location of brain atoms recording that experience.

    Please do not simply deny the minor premise. Give us your warrant for the minor premise.

    Show us how, even if you had a complete theory of the mind-brain relation, or the concept-word relation, the mind could be described in terms of the brain, or the concept in terms of the word.

    Just take one concept, such as cause-and-effect. What units is it made of? Perhaps we can measure degrees of causation in “humes.” Show me how to measure humes and reduce a unit of hume into units measuring mass, length, and duration.

    I suggest the ‘diogenes’ as a unit of truth. A false statement contains zero, and a half-truth contains 0.5.

    I suggest ‘ships’ as a unit of beauty. Helen had a face that launched a thousand ships, so a woman half as fair would launch 500.

    Logic, of course, is measured in ‘spocks’, or, if that seems frivilous, in ‘rands’. The statement that ‘A is A’ contains one spock of logic; a syllogism with an informal error, but which may be true in some cases, contains a measured fraction of logic.

    Here is the proof (I.15) from Euclid that opposite angles are equal. Let line AB cross CD at E. The whole angle formed by AEC and CEB is two right angles, as is the whole angle formed by CEB and BED. Removing the common angle CEB, it follows that AEC equals BED. QED.

    Now, I did not actually draw the lines mentioned, and yet, somehow, my conclusion is true. If logic is an emergent property of matter, and if truth is an emergent property of matter, then somewhere there is a bit of matter you can move, either in my brain or in a text by Euclid, which can make that proof false. But the proof is universal, and is true even if it is miswritten or wrongly remembered in any given man’s brain or any given mathematician’s library. The proof was true before life existed on Earth and will be true after the Earth is lifeless again. Every material atom in the universe could be whisked out of existance without influencing the truth of Euclid I.15.

    But if materialism were a true philosophy, a diabolical neurosurgeon delicately disordering my nerve tissues could make it so that Euclid I.15 itself was not true.

    And I do not mean that a neurosurgeon could make me forget the proof, or instill in me a false belief that the proof reached a different conclusion. You do not put out the sun by putting out Sampson’s eyes. A bottle of whiskey, if I drank it, could make me forget Euclid I.15, or, failing that, the bottle broken over my head. But even if everyone, and I mean everyone, in Oceania agreed with Big Brother that opposite angles were not equal, and every material book containing the proposition were shoved into the memory hole, and every mathemacian killed, would Euclid I.15 itself become false?

    (Sourced from http://johncwright.livejournal.com/254890.html kinda ironic, I was planning to lay out a similar argument here, but this one made it in my box this morning, saving me a bit of typing).

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    1. So, if a tree falls in the woods, and nobody hears it, you are saying it does make a sound?

      Again, this is way over my head philosophically. There are certain “truths” that are universally agreed upon, and Euclid’s example is a good one, and I suppose that truth has always existed. I can see how this would lead you to believe that there are “things” in the universe that are immaterial. I suppose that’s true in a way, but I also believe that the thoughts in my head die with me. Once my brain ceases activity, my thoughts are gone forever. Those particular “immaterial” things are gone.

      How is the idea that immaterial ideas and truths exist supposed to provide evidence for God? The only immaterial things you have presented are things that do not change, do not have thoughts. Are you saying that God is just an idea, or a truth?

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      1. Ryan,

        You’re more philosophical than you realize. You nailed it spot on 😀

        God is, among other things, truth. Further I am asserting that God does not (and never can) change. It is against His nature.

        Even without people agreeing on Euclid’s proof, it would still be true. Even if everyone disagreed with it, it would still be true. Even if there were no one alive, it would still be true. I’m curious, do you agree or disagree?

        If truth exists outside human beings, then there are things that exist that are not material (they are meta-physical).

        You ask, “How is the idea that [metaphysical] ideas and truths exist supposed to provide evidence for God?”

        For starters, if they do exist then it totally disproves pure materialists. There several ways to reach the truth on a matter. One way is to find the truth, another way is to eliminate the possibilities. This exercise eliminates the possibility of pure materialism. As a Christian my faith requires that I always search for truth (and even be open to the possibility that my faith is logically incorrect). Therefore when a materialist says “Materialism is the truth, and you are in error”, it is important to at least determine if Materialism is true.

        And as such, we have demonstrated clearly that Materialism is false.

        If you’d like to chat more about the nature of God, and how we can know tremendous amounts about who and what God is through logic and reason alone (without citing what He has revealed via Scripture in any way), I’d be glad to do a post on it. In such a post I’d be able to answer your question about how these things provide evidence for God’s existence. You seemed to find the previous discussion of God’s nature and the nature of belief interesting, so you’d probably like that too. So, let me know if you’d like me to type that up.

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      2. I would only add that it seems someway significant to me to ask, LCB, can you imagine a world in which math, or the law of non-contradiction, or similar abstracted principles of description, WEREN’T universal? If you can’t even imagine such a cosmos, it seems very suspicious to use these principles to try and argue for one cosmic mythology (God) over another (naturalism). Platonic forms, whatever their metaphysical status, are intimately related to the whole structure of the world we know: they’re in a category entirely different from “the supernatural.”

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      3. (whoops, meant for that to appear one comment higher, below Ryan’s and above LCB’s).

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  17. I think that I’ve learn one thing during this discussion. I can’t win, and I can’t sway opinion.

    Correct me if I’m wrong here, but when you come across something in the world that doesn’t seem at first to fit with the idea that God created the universe, what goes through your mind. Do you think “Wow, I might be wrong” or do you think “Wow, this is odd, I wonder how this fits with God’s plan”?

    If there is one thing that is true of all people who quest for the truth, it’s the ability to wonder if they are wrong. I admit I could be wrong. I think I owe it to myself to find out the truth, and I think this discussion has brought me closer to it.

    I don’t sense that any of the Christians here are open minded to the fact that the Bible may just be a book, and that’s too bad. It’s a real turn off for those looking for intelligent discussion.

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    1. A much bigger turnoff is anti-religious stereotyping and straw man arguments (as if we never asked the same questions you are asking or don’t still ask them).

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    2. Why, precisely, do you think that about me?

      I’ve offered on several occasions to discuss specific topics indepth. You haven’t responded.

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      1. LWA, my post of 9:26 am is a reply to Ryan, not Neil. Since Neil and I are evenly aligned, it means we are replying to the same person.

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      2. Sorry LCB! I am so turned around right now on these comments. Ryan seems likely to just keep repeating his talking points as opposed to engaging in honest debate.

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      3. So now I am dishonest?

        What you view as my “talking points” are actually my opinions. I’m not sure what the difference is. Why don’t you just admit that you think I’m guided by Satan, and it’s your duty to win me over for Jesus?

        Let’s get things straight about the debate. I’m not making a claim about the existence of God. All I’m saying is that there’s not enough evidence for me to believe that one exists. You can either 1) convinces me, 2) laugh at me and tell me I’m an idiot, or 3) agree to disagree.

        “And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence”
        – Bertrand Russell

        “I do not think it is necessary to believe that the same God who has given us our senses, reason, and intelligence wished us to abandon their use, giving us by some other means the information that we could gain through them”
        – Galileo Galilei

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      4. The first time the word Satan has been used in this thread is by you, Ryan. It appears no where else on the page. You may find that dialog is more productive when you do not assume people are saying things that they have not, and are not, saying.

        As for reasonable dialog and discussion of the precise matter which you have brought up, I’ve offered to discuss it in detail. You have not responded to my posts on that matter, Ryan.

        I’m more than glad to discuss such things, and answer all questions you have about the Christian faith, etc. But I can’t exactly do that when you stop replying to my posts and don’t let me know if you’re interested in discussing these things.

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      5. I’ve responded in depth to many of your questions, and if you have a more in depth response to my questions, I’ll take the time to read it and consider it.

        If you (any of you) are willing to say that God may not exist, then I will take back my comments.

        I’m getting a bit terse here because I’m really sick of Neil taking any criticism I pose about religion and calling it “anti-religion stereotyping”. Yeah – I’m anti-religion, everyone knows that. Lots of people are anti-religion.

        I’m willing to discuss the possibility of the existence of a supreme being from a scientific perspective, as long as my opponent is willing to accept what we have already learned through science. This continuing denial of obvious evidence is intellectually draining.

        Read this quick before it gets deleted.

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      6. If we can talk about the existence of a spiritual being from a scientific perspective, what is stopping us from talking about science from a spiritual perspective?

        Oh. Just that it entails making a category error. Woops.

        Not sure what the point of your claim that your post was going to get deleted was. Or the implication that you have to dumb-down to discuss your category errors.

        You are the one who denied and ignored LCB’s logic positing powerful arguments for God.

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      7. Ryan, stop whining. I’m not sure where you went off track but you used to be reasonable to converse with. Now you just lapse into your lame stereotypes about how Christians don’t reason, blah blah blah.

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      8. It is possible that God may not exist. It also is possible that none of us exist.

        However, both statements are logically absurd. The existence of God, if possible, is necessary. As it is possible (and probable) that God exists it is therefore necessary that He exists.

        I said it, and am waiting for you to take back your comments.

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      9. Adam, thank you, I take back my generalization.

        I honestly understand why you feel that the existence of God is necessary. I just wish one of you could understand why that same logic can be used to say that it is necessary that any god must have a creator as well. I don’t get why God gets a pass on the “everything must have a cause” thing.

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      10. The Kalaam Cosmological argument posits that all things that came into being had a cause. But if God is eternally existent then He did not require a creator.

        It is quite logical when you consider the infinite regress of going one step backwards forever. God is the most likely scenario.

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      11. So why can’t I say that the universe is eternally existent (which seems to be the case), and therefore did not have a cause?

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      12. A thing can not cause itself. The universe is a thing, and can not cause itself. Its cause must be outside itself.

        Further, its cause must be outside time and absolutely unchanging. I’ve offered to go extremely indepth on this topic, but you have not responded that you are interested in having me do so.

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      13. Simply because there is not single state of being in the universe. Whatever matter you find is in a state of constant change, and therefore not eternal. You are correct in asserting that within a Materialist worldview, the universe must be eternal. However, everything that we observe inside teh universe (ourselves included) are in a permanent state of change, and therefore not eternal.

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      14. LCB, I’m been pretty clear on what I believe. I’ve said specifically that if you’d like to go into detail, I’d be interested in reading it.

        The Kalam argument is really simplistic, and I don’t even agree with its premise that the universe necessarily had a beginning. The big bang theory is about how the universe started to expand (which many believe was when time started from the perspective of the universe), not when it started to “exist”.

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      15. Because you not only have no evidence but that runs counter to the evidence. Throwing out the phrase “string theory” doesn’t support your case. It doesn’t explain why that is more likely than a creator God, especially consider how the more we learn the more orderly the universe is and exquisitely fine tuned for life.

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      16. Neil said: But if God is eternally existent then He did not require a creator.

        Still requires a reason for his existence, an explanation. You haven’t escaped the “how” question, just shifted it from “how could God happen” to “how could God be?” This extraordinarily improbable and unwieldy critter. Motherless and fatherless, bored out of his mind until a few billion years ago. Or not bored, if you say his eternal existence doesn’t imply time in that time before he made time-space — which to me still more or less translates to, “he didn’t exist, *before* space-time.” (In the same way that cosmologists sometimes claim it doesn’t make sense to speak of “before the universe”).

        Or if by “eternal” you do mean “forever,” as opposed to “beyond time,” how did he ever reach the present? –Since with no beginning, he had to travel infinitely far to get here. And presumably heaven had its own time while there was no time yet (heh heh) anywhere else, according to some cosmologists’ interpretations.

        You’ve noticed I’m throwing potshots, not carefully supported arguments. That’s because the Kalaam C.A. and its ilk are transparent potshots to me, goofy dull-witted attempts to stake out an acre for common sense in a vast dark land where no possible solution makes common sense. A begun universe makes no sense and a beginningless universe makes no sense. An infinite universe makes no sense and a finite universe makes no sense. “No BEFORE the universe” makes no sense, yet we’ve observed things that suggest this interpretation; we haven’t observed God. Quantum fluctuations make no sense — absolutely causeless effects — yet we’ve observed them; we haven’t observed God. Wiser to let math do most of the work here in preference to, say, sophistry.

        (Science corrections welcome, cosmology’s all hazy).

        LCB, how is God not a thing? It’s a noun, to be sure. Not a *material* thing, but neither is the ice cream cone I’m visualizing now, in any obvious way. It’s still very much a thing.

        Awareness on the other hand! That’s not a thing. As soon as a thing becomes a thing — mental, physical, God, whatever — it becomes a thing *in* awareness. Awareness can never be an object. If my awareness snuffs out, God disappears right along with the heavens and the earth. Awareness is therefore more fundamental than God to my being or yours. God’s own awareness, too, would be more fundamental than himself if he had any specific nature whatsoever, if he were conscious *of* anything, even of perfection, love.

        Awareness-as-such is also, by the by, both outside time and unchanging, experientially. Though “unchanging” is already a time-based interpretation.

        Neil said: It is quite logical when you consider the infinite regress of going one step backwards forever.

        But an uncaused, eternally existing God goes one step backwards forever in TIME, without ever coming upon a reason for his existence.

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  18. I have another thought that I wanted to bring forward, if that’s okay.

    We’ve talked a lot about cosmology, and very deep philosophical arguments. I’ve studies astronomy and physics since I was very young, and I think it’s fair for me to say that I know more about the cosmos than the large majority of people. I actually have a good understanding of relativity, and that took me a long time. I still cannot wrap my head around the theories of where the universe came from. As for things like string theory, I think there are probably in the neighbourhood of 100 people worldwide with a deep understanding of that.

    I also find myself quite lost in philosophical arguments, relatively.

    So here’s where I’m going. I think I can speak for all of us in saying that we all probably have a better understanding up these arguments than most. Not necessarily because we are smarter than others, but probably because we have had the opportunity to learn and read, something that is unfortunately rare.

    If we can not come to a conclusion, and figure this whole thing out as a group, then what hope do other people have? I would say that the massive majority of people in the world who believe in God do so because they have never even considered that he may not exist. Many people are only exposed to one idea from birth until death.

    I think that if a God exists, there should be a way for me to make sure. Is that wrong?

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    1. God explained that many times in the Bible, if only you were truly interested in finding out. See Acts 17:26-27 as an example. See Romans 1. And so many more.

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    2. Ryan, this post is very revealing to me about your ego, and arrogance. I say that as gently and lovingly as it can be said. But to assume that you are 1 of 100 people that know something, and that since you are part of this group discussing these issues that the group is somehow more intelligent than any other group in existence, is nothing short of human arrogance.

      I believe this is the root problem with your denial of the existence of God. You have become a god in your own mind. Until you relinquish that, and learn from Socrates who said “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”, then you will never find the peace that passeth all understanding.

      At this point I must wish you well and depart from this discussion. I feel it would be the further casting of pearls before swine. I will pray for you, and please know that I say all this out of concern for your soul.

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      1. LWA, you don’t seem to have understood my point at all. I didn’t say we are the most intelligent group on earth. My point is that because we are all even literate, that puts us ahead of most, and that makes us LUCKY to be able to consume the thought of others on this issue. This includes the ability to read the Bible, and understand it first hand. Most people do not have that privilege. I can’t see how you tun that into arrogance.

        I laughed out loud when I read your Socrates quote. It’s a beautiful quote that sums up my point completely. How can you quote Socrates when it is YOU that is making the claim that you know the truth. I am the one saying that we don’t know where we came from. You are the one claiming you do know the truth.

        I read your blog post, and I have to say it in intellectually bankrupt. Your point is that, though atheists ask for proof of God, they wouldn’t believe it if they were shown proof? That’s just idiotic. Besides that, all your proof for the validity of the Bible lies within the Bible itself. How do you justify that to yourself, let alone me?

        If you say that the teachings of Christ say that some people will always deny God, then that means God created us, knowing a portion of us would be spending eternity in hell. Sounds like a nice guy.

        I know you’re trying to help me, and because of that, I feel bad for arguing with you. Many of you also seem to think that I’m not genuine, based on your responses. I will leave now, since I’ve gained no ground, and you all treat me like a spoiled child.

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      2. Your flip-flopping between believing in free-will and being predestined is ridiculous. God knowing what someone will do and “then that means God created us, knowing a portion of us would be spending eternity in hell” are two different things. Of course I think it would be lost on you to try and describe how it is different.

        And I am beginning you are disingenuous and all this discussion is simply your way of telling us all we are stupid for believing in God, as it seems that is the position you default to when pushed. LOL

        Again, I’ll compare educations with you if you’d like. 😉

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      3. DON’T YOU READ?

        You told me Jesus said that there will always be people that deny God. I’m not saying anything about free will. You are.

        You’ve also told me that I’m arrogant for implying that we are lucky to have above average access to information, and then, for the second time, you offer to “compare educations”. You are the arrogant one. You are also self righteous and condescending, but that will probably go unchallenged among this group.

        To be honest, I do think it’s stupid to believe in God, but I came here to listen to the opinions of others, and find out why so many people do believe.

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      4. LWA, you need to grow up a bit. No matter how intelligent and educated you may be, you do not debate intelligently. Ryan and LCB have produced a fine exchange of ideas here without resorting to emotional responses. You are the one who is constantly interjecting with snide, personal remarks. Ryan has been very patient with you, I’d have got so angry I’d not have bothered replying. Seriously, read back over your comments and try to get over yourself.

        Your “gentle and loving” rebukes are anything but, and making the “pearls before swine” comment is downright rude and insulting, despite it’s being quoted in the bible.

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      5. P.S. Maybe you missed the snide, condescending nature of Ryan’s very first response to me, talking down to me as if I didn’t know what the theory of evoluton was. Not my idea of patience.

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      6. I just read it and found it neither snide nor condescending. Guilty of jumping to a premature conclusion perhaps, yes.

        And I’m sure you’re aware that there is a difference between calling a person stupid, and questioning the intelligence of their ideas and beliefs, although I will concede that in these types of discussions that line can become blurred.

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      7. Lone Wolf, I do on occasion get defensive when I feel that science is being misrepresented, and I’m sorry if that came across as rude, but I object strongly to your direct assertion that Darwin’s theory exists to provide an alternative to the Biblical creation story. Darwin’s theory exists because scientific evidence points to it. My disagreement with you is not an attack on your intelligence.

        I am sure that you are an intelligent person, and you also seem to be sure that you are better educated than me (I am curious as to what that education must be, to be so sure that it is better than mine). I would also like to say, humbly, that I consider my knowledge of the theory of evolution to excellent. I’ve read more books than I could count, and if you are interested in the theory, I would be happy to share my insight.

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  19. This whole discussion with Ryan got me thinking about this claim by atheists that if God would reveal Himself through the miraculous, in an undeniable way, then they would admit to his existence. I don’t believe that would be true because of the teachings of Christ. I wrote a lengthy blog entry on this today at my blog:

    http://lonewolfarcher.blogspot.com

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  20. Ryan,

    I’m glad you’ve accepted my offer to continue discussing this. My full post will be a bit lengthy, but, before we go into the precise philosophical arguments, I’d like to bring up a few points.

    1) I do readily admit, as I do whenever I discuss this topic with anyone, that it is possibly that I am wrong. It is indeed possible that the Christian God doesn’t exist (I don’t think it’s logically possible for there not to be a god of somesort, the god of the deists perhaps, a clockmaker that set everything in motion and then abandoned his creation) and that I am mistaken.

    2) I hope that you will admit that it’s at least possible that some god of some sort exists, with one of those possibilities being the Christian God. Also, I hope that you will admit that it is at least possible that miracles can take place.

    3) I often like to use the Socratic method, and I hope this is okay. That is, narrowing down possibilities, and asking questions about things so we can A) better know what they are and aren’t and B) dialog so as to reach agreement and know truth.

    4) Before moving on it is important to make sure we are on the same page. I am working out of a mindset that metaphysical phenomenon (if they exist) are fundamentally different from physical phenomenon. They are an entirely different category. That means researching them (via logic and reason), and considering them, must use tools other than microscopes and test tubes. Is this something we can agree upon?

    5) I believe that logic and reason are real, and that humans use them quite well. That includes laws like the “law of non contradiction” (something can not be and not be at the same time, a square can not be a circle, etc). This also includes the reality that logic can not prove itself. This is quite important. We have to agree, as an act of faith (which occurs in the will, and thus is a choice) that logic and reason are real.

    Reasonable dialog is only possible when the two parties agree that reason itself exists.

    Finally, I’d like to start our dialog with this quote from GK Chesterton, it deals with miracles and the testimony that people make about such things. I believe it’s important to consider, and I think it ties into your criticism of what really amounts to “dumb foreign colored people” believing in God, which is a criticism that I find really quite bigoted (not trying to be inflammatory, just honest about my perception of the argument):

    Chesterton writes:

    But my belief that miracles have happened in human history is not a mystical belief at all; I believe in them upon human evidences as I do in the discovery of America. Upon this point there is a simple logical fact that only requires to be stated and cleared up. Somehow or other an extraordinary idea has arisen that the disbelievers in miracles consider them coldly and fairly, while believers in miracles accept them only in connection with some dogma. The fact is quite the other way. The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them. The open, obvious, democratic thing is to believe an old apple-woman when she bears testimony to a miracle, just as you believe an old apple-woman when she bears testimony to a murder. The plain, popular course is to trust the peasant’s word about the ghost exactly as far as you trust the peasant’s word about the landlord. Being a peasant he will probably have a great deal of healthy agnosticism about both. Still you could fill the British Museum with evidence uttered by the peasant, and given in favour of the ghost. If it comes to human testimony there is a choking cataract of human testimony in favour of the supernatural. If you reject it, you can only mean one of two things. You reject the peasant’s story about the ghost either because the man is a peasant or because the story is a ghost story. That is, you either deny the main principle of democracy, or you affirm the main principle of materialism — the abstract impossibility of miracle. You have a perfect right to do so; but in that case you are the dogmatist. It is we Christians who accept all actual evidence — it is you rationalists who refuse actual evidence being constrained to do so by your creed. But I am not constrained by any creed in the matter, and looking impartially into certain miracles of mediaeval and modern times, I have come to the conclusion that they occurred. All argument against these plain facts is always argument in a circle. If I say, “Mediaeval documents attest certain miracles as much as they attest certain battles,” they answer, “But mediaevals were superstitious”; if I want to know in what they were superstitious, the only ultimate answer is that they believed in the miracles. If I say “a peasant saw a ghost,” I am told, “But peasants are so credulous.” If I ask, “Why credulous?” the only answer is — that they see ghosts. Iceland is impossible because only stupid sailors have seen it; and the sailors are only stupid because they say they have seen Iceland. – G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

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    1. LCB, thanks for the post and your interest in my response.

      As for your points about possibly being wrong, I think we are somewhat on the same page. I view the possibility that there is some sort of supreme being to be somewhat unmeasurable. I don’t think there is any way to rule it out, and although I think that the existence is unlikely, I can’t really back that up with anything other than intuition. The Christian God however, seems to me to make so little sense that I would have to say I’m as close as one can get to complete disbelief. As for miracles, is it possible that there is a force beyond our current knowledge that could have an effect on our physical world? Maybe there is, but we would need adequate reason to believe that.

      I do believe that reason exists, if only for the reason that I cannot imagine a world without it. For the record, your idea that I think of anyone as a “dumb foreign coloured person” is very off base. I am not Ann Coulter.

      Now belief in miracles is where you start to lose me. What are these documented miracles? In medieval times, they probably thought rainbows were miracles. Medieval documents also attest to the flatness of the earth, and to many other things that we have learned to be untrue. The word is used to describe anything that cannot be explained. It doesn’t mean that something supernatural happened.

      It’s not that I don’t believe people who say they have witnessed miracles. They saw what they saw, or at least they think they did. It doesn’t mean they are right about it.

      If a metaphysical event can be seen to have happened, can it really be called metaphysical? If the supernatural exists, in my mind, then it is not supernatural at all.

      As for dogma, I’ll admit to a certain dogma against the supernatural. When I hear someone around refer to an unexpected recovery from an illness as a miracle, I roll my eyes. Belief in the supernatural really bugs me, and it has for a long time. Ghost hunts in my neighbourhood, miracle water sold on TV to poor old ladies, and worst of all, football players praying to God to make their team win, instead of the other team – who is also praying – all make me wish for a time when we might use reason to govern our lives.

      I’m not sure we can bridge the gap between my belief that all things relevant to our lives can at least be observed, measures and tested in some way, and your belief that some things are outside the physical world, yet still have meaning in our lives. Am I correct in assuming that you feel God is outside of the physical world? If so, by what mechanism could he possibly affect the physical world.

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      1. Just a quick reply as I’m heading to bed, will address things in a substantial fashion tomorrow.

        1) Vocabulary is important, because when people use words and mean different things, communication breaks down. I suspect we are using some key words in very different ways:

        Metaphysical– Literally, after physics. Whereas physics (today we would say natural sciences) studies the physical words and what occurs in it, metaphysics deals with transcending principles, abstracts, concepts, and most importantly, causes, first principles and knowledge itself. Because of this, metaphysics is actually the foundation of natural science, because it is metaphysics that deals with logic, understanding, causality.

        Supernatural– in modern jargon it has a lot of meanings, most of which come out to be “something that isn’t understood.” When I use “supernatural” I use its more exact meaning– Super meaning “more than” or “above”, natural meaning “the natural world” or alternatively “that which is covered by the natural sciences.”

        As an example, let’s take an Angel. It would be appropriate to refer to this being as “super natural” because, as an inmaterial being is not subject to the natural laws in nature, and is as such “above” nature.

        Super natural doesn’t mean “not knowable or understandable.”

        2) I think you may be letting misconceptions and sterotypes of medieval times and society get in the way. You’ll be hard pressed to find serious medieval claims that the earth was flat, for example, because it pretty obviously is round and some basic math has been able to nail down the approximate dimensions of Earth since the time of the Greeks.

        3) It sounds like your dogma against the supernatural causes you to make judgments without consulting evidence, since you aren’t free to believe in miracles if you believe in your dogma. I just find this ironic since, so very often, that’s what Christians are accused of, when it is actually Christians who are evaluating things on their evidence and choosing to believe or not.

        It seems that’s the opposite of the most rational position to take, which is openness to the possibility and evaluating case by case.

        4) That being said, Medieval Times themeparks are awesome, and everyone should go who hasn’t.

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      2. 1) I think we agree on supernatural, but with your explanation of metaphysical, I realize I’ve been using that incorrectly, almost interchangeably with supernatural. Thanks for the insight.

        2) Among the educated, and the very few who were able to read, you’re probably right. The ancient Mayans has astronomy figured out to an astounding degree on their own. I think, however, that the number of people in medieval times who never would have had the time to think about it is extremely high. I don’t think they were stupid at all, but they needed to rely on word of mouth information relaying for most of their information, and that can be easily inconsistent.

        3) I see my dogma against the supernatural as being different than Christian dogma. My dogma states that I do not believe something until I see some evidence. I have not seen the evidence of miracles, so I don’t (yet) believe it. Christian dogma often is based on believe without evidence. The quote “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” shows that it is a Christian virtue to believe without evidence, and that is contrary to my belief system.

        4) Absolutely they are.

        5) I like the numbering system

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      3. As a prescript to this, you may want to take a look at the book “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization” by Thomas Woods. (Don’t worry Neil, not plugging Catholicism 😀 ) It has a great chapter on how the “dark ages weren’t that dark”, and just deals with general misconceptions about medieval eras and Christian intellectualism. A lot of folks are shocked to find their misconceptions blown away when they find out things like modern education being a Christian invention, etc.

        Before we can go forward, and before I begin in a wordy and lengthy fashion, it’s important for us to have a few more agreements. If you disagree with any of these, just let me know and we can dialog on those matters. To that end:

        1) Can you agree, as per a post I made earlier in this thread, that pure materialism is not true and/or logically possible, since it has been demonstrated that there are some metaphysical objects and truths (All this means is that there are some metaphysical objects).

        2) I am presuming, since you indicated you agree elsewhere, that it is at least logically possible for a god of some sort to exist. It may be neither probable or likely, but it is at least possible.

        3) Can you join me in rejecting what is sometimes called “radical skepticism.” This is the sort of (obnoxious) skepticism that simply asks “How do you know? How do you know? How do you know?” in an ad nauseum fashion. There are just certain things that we have to accept (like the existence of logic and reason, like an agreement that you and I actually do exist, like an agreement that this isn’t all an illusion and we aren’t really brains in the jars of a mad scientist, or in the matrix, etc). If there are some things on that list that you don’t accept the existence of, let me know, because those are pretty foundational.

        I’m pretty sure you agree on those, but since others are reading this and may chime in, I like to have these things ‘set in stone’ so to speak. My full first post is ready to go, but logically it is pretty much 100% dependent upon those things, and so I wanted a foundation in place. If you can respond tonight/early tomorrow with 3 quick “yesses” I can put it up tomorrow morning, or if you have objections I can address them and then put up the post. If the materialism one is a real issue, just let me know and we can chat about that.

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      4. I can agree with all three points, but I’d like to add that for point #1, all the metaphysical things (ideas, concepts, constants) that exist are not dynamic.

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      5. I don’t follow. Ideas are not dynamic? I could be misunderstanding your definition of dynamic, but I am reading it to mean that ideas do not change.

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      6. I should have said that a little better, sorry. What I mean is that ideas need to be created by us, and although we can change them in my our minds, they don’t have the ability to evolve on their own. If we change our “idea” of something, then that old idea is gone, and we create a new idea, which is a new metaphysical object.. Everything that is not part of our material world cannot, as far as I know, change on its own.

        To show my hand, so to speak, what I’m getting at is that I have not seen any evidence that something that is metaphysical could have a mind of its own. Does that make sense?

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      7. Okay just want to make sure I’m understanding you.

        Let’s take Euclid’s proof as previously discussed.

        Is it correct to say that we are in agreement, that Euclid’s theory exists and is true even if no human beings exist at all?

        Or, are you saying that it’s only true because human beings exist and say it is true?

        (In terms of ideas that humans create, like, the idea of the Mona Lisa, I think we are in some general agreement there. I suspect you would also agree that, though our apprehension and understanding of Euclid’s proof may become more accurate and improved, the proof does not change based on our understanding).

        In my first post I’ll address metaphysical change (the key metaphysical objects are unchanging), and if there can be inteligent metaphysical beings. Just because there can be metaphysical objects does not mean that there can be metaphysical beings. So yes, that makes sense.

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      8. Oh really quick, you wrote,

        “I’m not sure we can bridge the gap between my belief that all things relevant to our lives can at least be observed, measures and tested in some way, and your belief that some things are outside the physical world, yet still have meaning in our lives. Am I correct in assuming that you feel God is outside of the physical world? If so, by what mechanism could he possibly affect the physical world.”

        I meant to respond to those last night, but then I didn’t, and I meant to respond to them today, but then I didn’t. Whoops.

        I think we can bridge the gap, and do plan on showing how. The other questions will get answered in my 2nd major post I have planned (where we will explore more fully the nature of god as understandable via reason alone. Quick answer: God is outside the physical world in in that he is not contained by the physical world, but the physical world is entirely contingent upon Him. As for what Mechanism, his will alone will be shown to be sufficient.)

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  21. The quote “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” shows that it is a Christian virtue to believe without evidence, and that is contrary to my belief system.

    I would encourage you to 1) read the verse in context (John 20:29), 2) read the verse in light of other scriptures and 3) read the link I posted previously — http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2007/07/13/exploring-christianity-part-9-open-mindedness/ .

    Does that verse really say to believe without evidence? When Jesus referred to someone not “seeing” something, what was the object in question? Was it evidence of any kind, or something more specific?

    You don’t have to go far to realize you have misunderstood John 20:29. Check out v. 31 for starters.

    When you read the book of Acts and its 13 presentations of the Gospel, did you notice any consistent themes? Did they say to believe without evidence and reason?

    Again I will ask: Do you replicate all scientific experiments with your own test equipment, or do you trust the testimony of others? Do you analyze results based on other information you know or do you re-do every single test yourself?

    If you haven’t seen the results of every experiment yourself aren’t you violating your belief system to trust in them?

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    1. Neil, I think this quote is fairly straight forward. I have read it in context many times, and I’ve spoken to Christians about the idea of faith. Most believe that the basis of faith is believing without proof, and many value faith for that reason. I know you disagree with that, and for good reason I think.

      I’m quite sure that the word “seen” is not referencing “sight” literally, since John 20:27 shows that the disciples not only saw him, but touched him. I think it refers to any one of our senses, and for that reason, I think it means that we should believe without having an experience that gives us proof.

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      1. Hi Ryan,

        Actually, in this case seeing did refer to sight, as well as touch. It is about Thomas literally seeing Jesus. Jesus then says that if you believe without seeing him — that is, Jesus in the flesh — then you’ll be blessed.

        The next two verses summarize John’s point for writing the book, which was to provide a foundation for belief. So under no circumstance should v. 29 be used to justify believing without any evidence.

        Again, Jesus was referring to seeing himself in the flesh and the next verses explain why the book of John was written.

        I realize that other Christians hold the view you claimed. I think they are mistaken and have demonstrated why in the link I provided, as well as the rather clear evidence in the book of Acts. I would love for one of them to justify their view using our common authority, the Bible.

        So you may be quoting them accurately, but to quote someone who is misrepresenting the Bible doesn’t disprove my view.

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      2. Just a quick chime in before getting back to work, that Neil is 100% spot on.

        The content of Christian belief, and the standard ways of interpreting Scripture, are often very different from the strawman that secular culture provides for consumption.

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