Faith in atheism

Well I finally got time to respond and it’s pretty long. You don’t have to post this right away take your time that’s what I’m gonna start doing. As for this one I hope you find the humor in it, you know it is always best to laugh at one’s self and take ourselves lightly. Enjoy.

“Time acts like a physical thing.” So it’s not really physical. When someone uses the word “like” this indicates a difference. For example we are like apes, there is a distinction because we are not apes.

“So far as I’m concerned, “eternal” is a measure of time — they’re not separate things. How would you define it?” How is eternal just a measure of time if it also implies the unchanging, or everlasting, or always existing.

“If I have a digital counter that shows a number which increases by one every second, I don’t need an unchanging counter to contrast it with” But you do need the rest of the numbers to stay the same. Besides this is not what I’m referring to what I mean is that there is something that is in us that links our thoughts to one another. We do have random thoughts but if that is all we had we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Like I mentioned before we are always in the moment, which in a way never changes, this is something the mind can pick up.

“I don’t see how a natural thing can exist without time.” I don’t see how anything can exist without eternal substance.

“I don’t see anything about the human mind that seems to be incongruous with nature.” That is because you refuse to see it. Look, let’s be hones, you chose this definition of natural thinking you would eliminate all the others but you can’t they still exist you just eliminated them in the context of this discussion which didn’t really do me any good as I’ve said. But if we take almost any other definition of natural we’ll see that the human mind really can’t be considered as natural as you’d like to consider it.

“As you indicate, given two supernatural choices, Occam’s razor can be used to select the preferable one.” I didn’t indicate a thing I just was saying that we can come to a supernatural explanation through Occam’s razor.

“You say you don’t see why it can’t be assumed that the creation of the universe was supernatural. I’d say that we don’t know enough about the subject to make such an assumption.” If this is the case then lets not make any assumptions this would include “naturalistic” theories.

“If evolution is wrong, then all of biology is wrong.” I would beg to differ. Though that is the popular view of things isn’t it. Even my atheist biology professor stated that this theory is the basis for all biology. I don’t think he was right then and I don’t think you’re right now.

“Evolution is not a little theory touted by a few high-visibility scientists, but a widely accepted one…” So this makes it right. Well you know Christianity used to be widely accepted. “…supported by evidence from many scientific fields.” I have yet to see such amazing evidence.

“the history of religious development is interesting, the more I learn about religion the more I understand human nature, and I find those religious people who seem to exhibit cognitive dissonance fascinating, and I am very interested in systems of ethics and morals” You really are starting to sound like a social scientist.

“The evolution of birds is still being researched, but nobody proposes that at some point birds had useless nubs that would one day evolve into wings.” As I recall the evolution of all things is still being researched.

Well let me tell you I’ve taken a biology course and they used this example of cetaceans to show and prove their theory was true and then they turned around and said it was still a theory which made me second guess it instead of just taking it on face value. So when they showed me the fossil evidence it didn’t really look like much of anything I could make out. In fact all the animals look well like different animals. It is easy to look at the drawings or portraits of what these animals might have looked like, which are mere speculation, and say “yhea evolution is real” but the drawings always vary. One drawing might show a water dominant animal while another shows a land dominant one. If scientist can’t make up their mind why should I trust them? If this is your proof I find it sorely wanting (inside joke). Maybe it’s because when I see bones that’s all I see I don’t have an agenda that I need to push.

“I’d say that the reason that most scientists treat evolution as true is not to get attention, but because there is a massive pile of evidence supporting it, and more evidence is found every day.” If there is so much evidence then again why is it still a theory?

“Pro-evolution scientists don’t have their stance to ‘stand up for something controversial,’ because it frankly isn’t controversial.” Well obviously you don’t know what controversy is but to be quite frank most Pro-evolution scientist don’t have a will (inside joke) and really can’t choose to take a stand for anything, this would be a reasonable answer. But really this massive pile of evidence I have yet to see. Need I point out that there are many that are willing to debate for intelligent design that aren’t just religious people but these people are kept out of schools and Expelled as Ben Stein puts it. (which is a pretty darned good movie if you haven’t already seen it)

“You are incorrect when you say that evolutionary theory cannot be tested” Which theory are you talking about, and what do you mean by evolution. If you mean change, well call me an evolutionist.

“But can you tell me, in a nutshell, what your beliefs are concerning the origin of life on Earth” Still learning and willing. But I’m a little skeptical that evolution can explain all that it is said to explain. Maybe a better response would be clueless. I do believe in dinosaurs and micro evolution and also am leaning toward intelligent design.

“I would say that a purpose gives your life meaning.” Then any purpose I assign to myself gives my life meaning. Well in Philosophy wills seem to contradict each other all the time meaning someone is right and someone is wrong.

“That can be philosophically consistent. The only “meanings” in this sense that I would say may be worse than others are those that do not fit into a valid moral system (to take an obvious example, “killing all the Jews” is not a morally valid way to give your life meaning).” You almost seem to contradict yourself here. First let me say this first when you’re using the “killing all the Jews” thing that is, I’m taking a wild guess here, a reference to Nazi Germany. So let me be Devils advocate on this, If you’ve done any studying you would know that the Nazi philosophy was based on the aryan race. You can trace this back to Madam Blavatsky (don’t think I spelt it right) who was a theosophist and if I recall a luciferien (id call satanist, she started Lucifer press, which turned into Lucius trust). Her work along with Nietzsche had a major influence on Nazi Germany. Their ideas where heavily influenced by Darwinism. In fact the whole point of bringing back the aryan race was to stop suffering, to create a utopia on earth by forcing the evolution of the superior race. And if creating a utopia on earth meant killing all the weaker species than so be it. This sounds like a valid moral system from what you’re saying. I almost think it to be a cop out when people use the Jew’s to prove that Hitler was wrong because they forget that the number of Polish Catholics rivaled that of the Jews that were killed in the concentration camps. It’s almost as to say that Hitler is bad for killing Jews not for killing people, as if killing a hundred cripples would have been a service. I blame Hitler not because he was crazy but evil not because he hated Jews but devalued life. He was willing to sacrifice people for this new utopia, that is evil.

“(with a few sad exceptions)”. Could I ask what they would be?

“If someone is going to kill me for not being a Christian, I think it’s safe to assume that they’re nuts, and dying to defend the truth in the face of insanity is, as you point out, stupid.” I think it would be safer to assume that they are either evil or Muslim (jk). A bike is much different no one that is sane would want you to confess to being a bike this wouldn’t make sense. Muslims from what I here want to kill Christians. Now let’s pretend that an evil “Christian” dictator ruled, ex a more powerful George Bush, and he wanted all atheists to die would you say your atheist and die hoping your legacy invokes some changes. If I were atheist I know I would.

“I assume you would deny that your mother is your parent in order to save your life. Why would you not deny God for the same reason?” Only if she were atheist, no I’m just joking. In fact even if she was atheist I would not deny her for my life unless it was something trivial.

“It is a virtue to run into a burning building to save a trapped person, but it is not morally required that you do so.” I don’t think so, it is heroic and virtuous but you could be mixing courage with recklessness. If you are clearly able to save some one than it is required you do. But if you’re risking your life for another than it really is just up to the person. But if you clearly see that you won’t make it out alive and neither will the other this might be considered recklessness.

“Now what if the gun were pointed out the window and a passing stranger was going to be shot every time you refused to deny God?” You’re making this easy almost telling me what I should say. I would of course say I don’t believe in God (but as you’ve said before you can’t force me to actually believe this). But the way you’re doing this you’re making me out to be a martyr, I’m sinning yes of course but I’m sacrificing myself for others, and I hope God would forgive my choice if it so happens to be wrong.

“As an aside, I’d assume that God wouldn’t want someone to keep Kosher if doing so would mean they would starve to death, or demand that they stay where they are in face of persecution.” For a person that doesn’t believe in God you sure have a lot of opinions of what he wants. I don’t claim to know what He wants in every situation but I think it is safe to say that he wants what is best for your soul. If this means facing death over one of his laws so be it, if it means running off over the minor ones so be it. I find what you’re saying here relevant.

“I think I understand what you mean about Jesus dying on the cross in the context of a parent letting a child go through tough times, but I don’t know if it’s a good example for two reasons. First, because if Jesus and God are in a sense the same person, the analogy becomes ambiguous. And second, because God wanted Jesus to be sacrificed in the name of justice, not to defend his beliefs.” In logic neither of these objections would stand. First, (again) just because something is ambiguous doesn’t mean it is not valid or true it means we’re just not able to fully comprehend. Second I don’t see how Jesus didn’t die for his “beliefs” and for his Father and don’t let me forget our sins.

You almost make a good point about Herod but one thing Jesus was a baby and they were looking to kill him in specific because He was the one they feared (idk maybe because he was God), they were also told ahead of time. Another thing Jesus had what I call Purpose with a capital P. This is why they left, because he had to fulfill the purpose. I assume no one would stay somewhere if they knew they would get killed. And another thing we never mentioned that our kids would be killed for our beliefs. Jesus was no longer a child when he died. I will say that I would die right along with my child if I needed to defend my beliefs like a “Jew” or “Polish Catholic” in Nazi Germany.

“then he is a physical being and natural, even if he is outside our universe. I’m with you there.” Well, obviously you’re not. I like the way you try sneaking it past me. I never said that he was outside our universe that is clearly your own opinion. I’m also not with you when you say, “God couldn’t have created it since we are positing that God is within it.” I’m saying He Is the fore mentioned dimension. As for removing God from this dimension I don’t see how that would be possible.

“I wasn’t trying to imply that the brain is like a computer and therefore has a creator. That would be silly.” This is my favorite part. ( : Let us talk seriously about silliness. Sure intelligent design sounds crazy and funny for those atheist and evolutionary biologist that take things at face value. But wait one moment let us look at the other explanations these evolutionary biologist have for life on earth. First that dust very slowly evolved legs and we’re really just a “disease of the dust”, that’s a 5/10 on funniness. Next that lightning struck a biological mud pool and created life by perfectly aligning around 250 or so proteins creating an organism that was not only able to sustain itself but replicate, that’s a 6/10. Next, life first formulated on the back of magical crystals, getting funnier and funnier but just a 7/10. Last my favorite is the beliefs of Richard Dawkins, of the entire Scientologist cult, and all the crazy delusional sci-fi readers. The belief that long before there was life here on earth there was life on a different planet that evolved much quicker and gained much more advanced technology and was able to start life here on earth, not to mention this leaves out their story on how they came about, this is a 10/10 in my book. Do you wish to add to this list?

“These people don’t want to know the truth; they want to believe that God exists, whether or not it is true.” Maybe they know that it is true and either don’t know how to explain it or aren’t smart enough to defend their beliefs either way it is more respectable to decline discussion for these reasons then denying your beliefs all together. I myself like to debate.

Next you said something about how the brain is not supernatural. Well of course not according to what you say natural is, thank God that is not the only way we can use it. Now if we allow natural to mean a much more natural meaning then you can see that we humans are in a sense unnatural. If you really want to compare man to the animals you’ll see that we are way more different then we are alike. This is my Chesterton coming out. In fact how can we say that the animals are “wild” when they are way more predictable then we are. If you want to be honest with yourself it doesn’t take much to see this. We truly are the ones that have broken out of nature and gone wild, we are the savages. Whether you want to discuss it in this sense or not it is undeniable. Airplanes don’t exist in nature neither does clothe. I could go on but I need to know what you have to say so as not to waste your time.

“(for example, brain damage can remove knowledge).” This explains that knowledge is a function really? So cutting off my arm proves that I can throw a football. I guess this makes some sense.

In reference to sum and parts: I have in fact read books and seen ink; I see your point here. But thought, I have thought and thought and have never seen one or seen how one can be so real. In fact the human thought I don’t think has ever been explained to me fully so I would have to say this is not even a good comparison for the whole explanation might include something supernatural or at the very least alien.

“Now thought is a state of the brain I thought it was a function.” Here I was just trying to point out how you seemed to have switched the context of the word you were using. You in a sense changed the sense of the word. What I was getting at is that you’re changing the sense of the word function and seem to not let me change the sense of the word natural, that’s all, no contradiction.

I find it fascinating that you believe that a “thought is a piece of information stored in a brain state.” You might be taking this on pure faith since I don’t see it at all. What exactly is a brain state anyway?

As for the evolution of language, if you mean the change of language I’m all for it, but I’d have to insist we quit using the word evolution since it creates ambiguity where it can be avoided.

“I agree that there are likely things that will never be fully explained, but how do we know what those things are unless we try to explain them and see if the explanations work?” I guess your right we should just randomly guess and which ever story makes the most sense we’ll hold to be true at least that is what we are doing now.

“that is why science has room to progress” Science does not grow or have room for progress. It is already perfect and we are just adding knowledge to it. It only has room for truth not for “progress” and what ever that might mean. And when I say, “God did it” it’s because he did, he told me and you. I am not trying to fill any gap that is what you in fact are doing when take all this so called “evidence” to be true. The gap this “evidence” bridging together is oddly enough in the shape of God, who would have thought.

“I don’t think social sciences propose that things that are right and good persevere” They don’t that is what I propose. Look at all the great cities or countries in our history and how they were founded or protected and then how they fell apart.

“I will agree that the Bible gives better reasons for loving God than I could, but all of these reasons assume that God exists in the first place, so they don’t do much for me.” I guess you missed the point because God and the good seem to be very closely related if not the same for God is the source of all good. And if it gives better reasons to love the good then you do then take that as proof.

As for how beliefs developed I in particular don’t care but I am reading Chesterton and he is talking about the origin of myths and he is comparing myths of savages to the metaphors of poets which I think to be reasonable. So when you use the word “correct” in a sense pagans and savage myths are more correct than Darwinism or dare I say atheism, because they were invoked by deeper feelings and in trying to describe the indescribable we get these myths that sound a lot like metaphors for something deeper, but I suppose that doesn’t get us anywhere.

“That sounds like an intellectually dangerous way to live.” How can someone live intellectually and not supernaturally according to what you’ve said about what is natural?

A true skeptic doesn’t know whether or not they are in a dream or awake. A true skeptic doesn’t know what they’ll find when they open the door to their house (could be a different dimension). A true skeptic truly doesn’t “know” anything. But I suppose this is the philosophical term for it. If you mean it to say you question then I to am skeptic. I am confident in my belief in Christianity and that is why I’m here discussing it with you.

“found it to be the best explanation available.” I would suggest looking up more on intelligent design. When I first looked at intelligent design I thought it was a joke but the more I think about it the more it fills the spots that micro evolution doesn’t explain and the more evidence that is shown through nano-technology. The slow process of evolution might not be part of your thinking but it is of Richard Dawkins, whom by the way is an avid atheist evolutionary biologist. Back to ID I think you should look at what they say about flagellum and their motor and you’ve probably already read about the concept of irreducible complexity. At first glance it doesn’t seem like much but it is a solid argument. I don’t see how evolution explains this.

“How do you know truth without evidence?” This assumes that you know that you can know. How does one know?

“I think you are doing yourself a disservice here. If the Gospels are intended as history, then you have to explain why their chronology is not identical. If they are not strictly history, then this isn’t that big of a deal.” I can easily explain this they were written from the memory of different men. They are eyewitness accounts that almost seem identical and were not written at the same time or place. We convict people on less. Can you please explain to me every piece of history that doesn’t make chronological sense or any court case in history were a man should not have been convicted due to such overwhelming eyewitness testimony, I doubt it. I’ve read that in these days memory was incredibly important and people, besides being incredibly smart, lived on a reliance of memory. (This goes to show that there is no such thing as mental evolution). Also it is said that a lot of scripture was memorized, I can’t say the same for me today.

As for Mathew 21:5 I read it in my Bible and both seem to be identical. But I still need to look into the Hebrew form and the tradition of repeating things so I’ll need more time on this.

“I am actually far more interested in whether people have valid moral and ethical systems than I am in whether or not they believe that God exists.” This in a sense is cutting off the real sense of morality. For I believe morality implies universal code and a God. And if God is real shouldn’t you find that to be the most important thing. Again if all good was derived from God then you couldn’t separate the two.

I appreciate your time and effort on the responses so thank you.

When I said “time acts like a physical thing” you picked up on the word “like”. I did not mean to imply that time is not a physical thing, and apologize if I was being inexact. (As an aside regarding your example, humans are scientifically classified as apes.)

You ask how eternal is just a measure of time if it implies unchanging, everlasting, or always existing. I’d say that “everlasting” and “always existing” are references to time (specifically, to how long something has existed). I wouldn’t say that “eternal” implies “unchanging,” although it is sometimes used in that sense in discussions of philosophy. If you like, we can use this definition of eternal, but doing so has implications for phrases like “Jesus grants you eternal life” which may or may not be acceptable to you.

I disagree that “there is something in us that links our thoughts to one another.” We can agree to disagree on that one if you like, or you can give me a specific example of what you mean.

You say that you don’t see how anything can exist without eternal substance. I agree that there must, in some context, be an unbounded period of time during which things exist. I understand that you use eternal to imply unchanging — why do you feel that something unchanging must exist? Also, are you agreeing that if God, by your definition, is natural that God exists within time?

You are saying that I refuse to see the human mind as not natural. I agree that this is because of my definition of natural. But by defining supernatural to include the human mind, we must include other things in the definition of supernatural that certainly do not belong there or make the definition so broad that it contributes nothing to the conversation. If you can give me an alternate definition of natural that doesn’t have these problems, I’ll happily consider it. But since everything I know points to the mind as a function of the brain, I can’t consider it supernatural any more than I can consider the beating of my heart to be supernatural.

You point out that if we don’t know enough about the creation of the universe to assume it was supernatural, then we can’t assume it was natural. I agree with that and I don’t assume it was natural. However, I’d say that natural theories currently have the advantage over theories involving the supernatural, in that they agree with the evidence.

Let’s see if we can find some common ground on the subject of biology. I agree that parts of biology, such as elements of the study of how an animal matures, could exist without the theory of evolution. Is that the kind of thing you are referring to when you disagree with the statement “if evolution is wrong, all of biology is wrong”?

I agree that evolution being widely accepted does not make it correct; I was responding to what seemed like your implication that evolution was not widely accepted among scientists. You say you have yet to see “such amazing evidence” of evolution. Let me ask first what reading you have already done regarding evolution. Once I know that, I can try to give you some examples that you have not already considered (so that I don’t waste both of our time by bringing up things you’ve already seen).

You say, “As I recall the evolution of all things is still being researched.” That’s true, but then pretty much everything in science is still being researched. That does not imply that some things, like bird wings evolving from useless nubs, have not been ruled out by copious evidence.

Let’s talk about the definition of “theory” for a moment. In science, “theory” doesn’t mean “unproven” or “speculative” or anything like that. Any group of propositions that accounts for the evidence is a theory to a scientist. For example, the theory of relativity has been massively corroborated by experimentation, but it’s still called a theory.

You ask, “If there is so much evidence then again why is it still a theory?” No matter how much evidence there is for evolution (or any other scientific explanation) it will always be a theory. For example, Newton’s law of universal gravitation is referred to as a law, but it’s part of gravitational theory. You can’t say that it’s referred to as a law because it has been proven to be true, because it isn’t true (it’s an approximation).

It sounds like your biology professor may have done a poor job of presenting cetacean evolution. It’s true that some of the animals in this evolutionary chain were land animals and some were sea creatures, but this doesn’t mean that scientists can’t make up their minds (as it sounds like you imply). The bones of these creatures make a logical evolutionary series — some characteristics of which scientists predicted before the fossils were found. Modern whales have some skeletal features that don’t make much sense except in an evolutionary context (such as vestigial leg bones “floating” in the bodies of some species). As an aside, occasionally modern whales and dolphins are born with miniature legs, and this makes complete sense in an evolutionary context.

Regarding whether evolution is controversial. I meant that it isn’t controversial in scientific circles any more than “the earth is more than 6,000 years old” or “humans have walked on the moon” are controversial in scientific circles.

I agree that there are many intelligent people who argue for intelligent design, and in fact I subscribe to a number of podcasts by such people and have read many of their books. They generally either misstate the case for evolution or agree with the bulk of it, up to the point that it disagrees with their religious viewpoint, at which time they throw Occam out the window.

Referring to Expelled — I was very disappointed by it. The examples of people expelled for their scientific beliefs were, in my opinion, largely weak (for example, I’d say that not getting tenure is a far cry from being fired). The movie also spent a lot of time poking fun and showing silly pictures instead of actually making arguments. I had honestly been hoping for something with a lot more meat to it.

You ask what theory I am referring to when I say that evolutionary theory can be tested. I’m talking about the theory of evolution in biology. This theory makes a number of testable predictions, for example regarding what will be found in DNA or in certain layers of strata.

You say you are leaning toward intelligent design. Given your context, that makes sense. I would encourage you to reconsider the Catholic church’s opinion on this subject (which you said you disagree with), since I think they do a nice job of marrying science and theology in this area.

You say, “Then any purpose I assign to myself gives my life meaning.” It gives it meaning so far as you are concerned, yes. “Well in Philosophy wills seem to contradict each other all the time meaning someone is right and someone is wrong.” So far as these purposes do conflict with one another (they do not always), this is true. For example, if one person’s purpose is to spread Islam and another person’s purpose is to spread Christianity, than at least one of them is wrong in the sense that their purpose is to spread a false belief. But I would not say that either of these people has a “wrong purpose” — their purpose gives their life meaning, even if it is based on a false philosophy.

I should reiterate that when I say “gives meaning” in this context, I’m talking about a purpose giving one’s self meaning. I do not intend to imply that it gives one’s life meaning in some global, metaphysical sense.

Let’s talk about Hitler for a moment. It’s true that there were many influences on Hitler’s philosophy (if we can even call it that), and that many have argued that Darwinism fed into it. That’s possible, but since Darwinism has to be pretty seriously abused to support genocide, I don’t think it’s a black eye on the theory of evolution. (I think we’d agree that abuses of a philosophy or theory don’t prove the philosophy or theory wrong).

You continue, “And if creating a utopia on earth meant killing all the weaker species than so be it. This sounds like a valid moral system from what you’re saying.” It’s a valid moral system if it doesn’t contradict itself (which I believe Nazi philosophy did), and it allows others to think in a similar way (which Nazi philosophy certainly doesn’t — to do so it would have to hold morally blameless any race that thought Aryans were inferior and deserving of death). So no, Nazi philosophy is not a valid moral system.

I agree that, in reference to the Holocaust, non-Jews often are forgotten in conversation and that this is wrong.

I mentioned that the formal morality and ethics of those forms of Christianity and Judaism I have investigated do indeed fit my criteria for valid systems, and you asked what the “few sad exceptions” I mentioned were. These would generally be small “cult” groups which are more at the mercy of a charismatic leader than in the service of a valid moral system.

Regarding death because of religion. You ask, if a dictator, “wanted all atheists to die would you say your atheist and die hoping your legacy invokes some changes. If I were atheist I know I would.” It depends on the circumstance. I think I’d prefer to stay alive and fight the system rather than die pointlessly. If I had a chance to be a high-profile martyr, that might be a different story (and that might be what you meant), but then I wouldn’t be dying because I refused to lie about my beliefs, I’d be dying for a greater good. I think the morally important question is whether you would refuse to deny your beliefs at peril to yourself even when there is nothing to gain.

You say that you would not deny your mother “unless it was something trivial.” I don’t understand what you mean here. For example, if someone wanted to kill anyone related to your mother, would you consider that trivial?

Regarding running into a burning building, you say you are required to save someone if you are clearly able to do so, but if you’re risking your life it’s a personal choice (I agree that if there’s no chance of success you’re being reckless). I would say that one is definitely morally required to help another where the personal cost (in terms of both real cost and risk) is insignificant compared to the risk to the other. For example, if I can save a life by pushing a button that is right in front of me and there are no additional circumstances, I am morally required to do so. I think we can agree on this. Where we may differ is I can’t think of a realistic situation in which “saving someone trapped in a burning building” entails insignificant risk. That’s why I say it would be virtuous to save the trapped person, but not morally required.

I agree that the problem of whether you should deny God to save others from being shot is easy (or, at least, that it should be). Can you explain to me why denying God with words in this context would be a sin?

You say, “For a person that doesn’t believe in God you sure have a lot of opinions of what he wants.” If God is perfect, then he is morally consistent. I can form opinions based on that. Since Jewish law supports my position on this subject, I’m glad we agree on my original point that God wouldn’t necessarily prefer blind obedience to death.

Talking about Jesus dying as an example of a parent letting a child go through tough times, I agree that something being ambiguous doesn’t make it untrue, but something being ambiguous may make it a poor example, and that was my contention.

Continuing, you say, “Second I don’t see how Jesus didn’t die for his ‘beliefs’ and for his Father and don’t let me forget our sins.” Just to make sure we’re talking about the same thing, I’m discussing why God wanted Jesus to be sacrificed, not why (in earthly terms or from Jesus’ point of view) Jesus was put to death. In this context, God sent Jesus to Earth to die so that sinners could enter heaven but justice could still be served. Given this, I would say that God didn’t let Jesus experience tough times, but rather God sent Jesus to be tortured and die. I think that’s a significant distinction in the context of our conversation.

Regarding Mary and Joseph fleeing to save baby Jesus: we agree that nobody would stay somewhere if they knew they (or their children) would be killed. You mention dying along with your child like a Holocaust victim and this is a good analogy. I would point out that some people sent their children away — sometimes to the point of having their children raised in a different faith — to save them from the Nazis.

Getting back to our original discussion, where is the point at which one is morally required to stand up for one’s beliefs when their child is at risk? We agree that Mary and Joseph didn’t have to make a show of faith when their faith would have endangered their child. So, dialing this way back, if a child is the only Christian in a class of Muslim children and will be shunned or otherwise hurt if it is known she is not Muslim, should the child’s parent make sure everyone knows the child’s religion if the subject does not come up?

Regarding my saying God was outside our universe, I was not trying to sneak anything by you — I honestly assumed that was what you meant since you hold that God created our universe. Let me try this another way. You say that God exists within a dimension and that this dimension is not outside our universe. Doesn’t this imply that this dimension, which is part of our universe, has always existed?

You want to talk about silliness and then misstate a number of scientific theories for the origin of life in mocking terms. Do I want to add to the list? Sure: Maybe a magic guy spent six days making everything and then took a nap. Can we discuss this seriously and politely, or do I have to get into how the magic guy wants people to drink his blood?

Regarding people who I say don’t want to know the truth, you posit that perhaps, “they know that it is true and either don’t know how to explain it or aren’t smart enough to defend their beliefs either way it is more respectable to decline discussion for these reasons then denying your beliefs all together.” That statement seems in conflict with your definition of “know” which includes truth. What if some of these people only think they know but are wrong? In that case, they wouldn’t want to know, right?

Back to humans being somehow not natural. You talk about airplanes and clothing not existing in nature. This sounds like you are defining natural as “not of human origin.” This is a valid definition when, for example, talking about a product’s ingredients, but it has no philosophical benefit that I can see in the context of our conversation. Wouldn’t you agree with me that airplanes are neither supernatural nor concepts? If they are not natural, then what are they?

You say, “If you really want to compare man to the animals you’ll see that we are way more different then we are alike.” By what measure? We are almost genetically identical to chimpanzees, for example. True, our intelligence is greater than that of other animals, but many animals have abilities greater than ours and that doesn’t put them in a separate class. A Portuguese man o’ war is massively different than a penguin, but I am not tempted to say that one is an animal and the other is not. That a beaver can build a dam does not put it outside of nature.

To put it another way, I agree that humans are vastly superior to animals in intellect, but to me this doesn’t imply that we exist outside of nature in any sense.

You asked for evidence that thought is a function of the brain and I pointed out that brain damage can remove knowledge. You replied, “This explains that knowledge is a function really? So cutting off my arm proves that I can throw a football. I guess this makes some sense.” I don’t see why, as we progress with our discussion, you are coming across as more and more of an ass. I’m glad you agree with my point, no matter how rudely.

You say that the explanation for thought, “might include something supernatural or at the very least alien.” I would add that the explanation might just be something we do not yet fully understand. I have no problem with you positing that thought might be supernatural; I have a problem with you insisting that it must be.

You say, “I find it fascinating that you believe that a ‘thought is a piece of information stored in a brain state.’ You might be taking this on pure faith since I don’t see it at all. What exactly is a brain state anyway?” A brain state would be an electric or chemical arrangement in the brain. I am not taking this on faith, but rather consider it to be the most likely explanation given my knowledge of the current state of research in the area.

To help me get a better grasp on your point of view, can you tell me what you think the brain does?

Regarding trying to explain things, you say, “I guess your right we should just randomly guess and which ever story makes the most sense we’ll hold to be true at least that is what we are doing now.” This is obviously not what I meant. (As with your earlier mocking statements, you’re coming across as an ass, and I’m sure you don’t intend that.) We use evidence to form theories, and those theories are refined over time as new evidence arises. There is no random guessing involved. But to get back to my original point, do you think that a story about God creating languages is in some sense a better explanation than the scientific theory that languages change and separate over time?

You say that, “Science does not grow or have room for progress. It is already perfect and we are just adding knowledge to it.” It is true that science as a process does not grow, but science as a field certainly does grow as new knowledge is obtained. It progresses in the sense that it answers more questions and finds new things to ask questions about.

You say, “And when I say, ‘God did it’ it’s because he did, he told me and you.” What exactly did God tell us? If, for example, the Bible is God’s word, then would you agree that Genesis is a straight-forward telling of how the world was made? If not, then how are you receiving this information? From my perspective, it looks like many religious people accept science as truth and the more things science explains sufficiently the less things they attribute to God. I’d say this is a characteristic of “God did it because I don’t understand it” thinking.

In reference to filling gaps, you say (again sarcastically), “The gap this ‘evidence’ bridging together is oddly enough in the shape of God, who would have thought.” Are you saying that scientific evidence is narrowing the field in which it is reasonable to use God as an explanation? I would agree with that, but I don’t think that’s what you meant. If you mean something else, please rephrase.

Regarding reasons for loving God, you say, “I guess you missed the point because God and the good seem to be very closely related if not the same for God is the source of all good. And if it gives better reasons to love the good then you do then take that as proof.” My objection to the Bible’s argument was that it assumed God existed. Your statement seems to also assume God exists. I think that if you could show that “good=God” is a logical argument and not a definition, this would help me better understand your point.

Turning to how beliefs are developed, you say that Chesterton, “is talking about the origin of myths and he is comparing myths of savages to the metaphors of poets which I think to be reasonable.” I also think that’s reasonable. This is how the Catholic church treats the Bible’s creation story — it’s a “poem” about creation, not the literal truth. I can go with that. But I don’t think these stories have any truth value.

You say that a true skeptic doesn’t know whether or not they are in a dream or awake, etc. That is the kind of skeptic I’m talking about. I say that I am awake because the theory that I’m awake is preferable by Occam’s razor. I can’t prove it’s true.

You suggest that I look up more on intelligent design. At this point, I’m going to have to ask for specific sources that you would point me toward. I feel that I’ve researched this pretty extensively. You mention Richard Dawkins (I know who he is) and say that he considers evolution to be a slow process. Is he specifically against punctuated equilibrium? I had not heard this.

Discussing irreducible complexity in particular, you are right that I’ve read the argument about the flagellum, etc. The problem with the theory of irreducible complexity is that it largely discounts the possibility a current function arising out of a prior, unrelated function. It’s true that a flagellum without one of its components wouldn’t work as a flagellum, but it might work as something else. Indeed, a number of possible evolutionary pathways for the flagellum have been identified.

When I ask how one can know truth without evidence, you respond, “This assumes that you know that you can know. How does one know?” You’re the one saying you can know. I’m saying we can use evidence to get as close to the truth as possible.

Regarding the Gospels, you say that they are not consistent because they were based on the memories of different people. If you are saying that the Gospels are intended as history but are subject to human fallibility, I think this is a reasonable position. But my point was that the Gospels were intended not as history but as arguments for Christianity, and I think that this point of view is supported by the fact that different Gospels appear to be targeting different audiences.

On to morality, you say that my not caring if people are theists, “in a sense is cutting off the real sense of morality. For I believe morality implies universal code and a God.” Then we (obviously) disagree on what morality is. You are saying that someone who does not believe in God cannot be moral, yes? Regarding a universal code, I might agree that there are certain moral concepts that all reasonable humans would agree upon, but I don’t think there are many of them, and I think they generally concern rare situations (not killing babies for fun, for example).

You ask, “And if God is real shouldn’t you find that to be the most important thing.” Sure. That’s why I’ve spent so much time on the subject. And (to beat a dead horse) if I thought a book was the word of God, I’d read it before I read anything else.

“Again if all good was derived from God then you couldn’t separate the two.” Agreed, but I don’t think that this is the case.

Posted on March 29, 2009 at 11:00 am by ideclare · Permalink
In: Bible, Discussion, Evolution, Morality

2 Responses

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  1. Written by George
    on March 30, 2009 at 6:44 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Evolution is just a theory !This isn’t just a problem of being misinformed about how “theory” as a scientific term differs from the colloquial equivalent of a mere guess. It’s hard for anyone without a close acquaintance with natural science to appreciate the role theories play in doing science. Without close interaction and mutual correction between theory and experiment, you simply do not have a mature science. Theory is not optional to scientific activity. It’s not something you can brush away if it doesn’t appeal to your religious sensibilities.

    It is especially galling that people who dismiss theory very often do so in favor of religious convictions that, by scientific standards, typically do not even rise to the level of being a respectable mistake.

  2. Written by Bony Yousuf
    on May 26, 2009 at 9:09 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    hey man i am an atheist myself. and i have to say i find ur website very resourcful. i gave a thumbs up….
    cheers!!!!

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