Show #572: A Missed Opportunity

What does it mean to say “God Exists”? That was what I examined Sunday afternoon on The Atheist Experience. The statement is brief–only two words. It should be simple, but for some reason, it’s always disproportionately hard.

What is god? Every theist seems to know. Yet no two theists seem to agree. And no one theist seems able to communicate it in a way that actually provides any real, informed data.

I think it’s safe to say a concept of god can exist in any mind. But most apologists put forward that god is not merely mental concept–an idea; god is, rather, existent outside the mind. Despite the often used refrain “god exists like love exists,” I have yet to meet the theist who will then declare that god, like love, is a mental concept with no external referent–solely an idea. God does not exist like love exists, to theists, when you explain how love exists, and ask them if this is what they mean by “god.”

I have been told on air that god is “ultimate strategy,” and tonight someone told me god is “the set of all [logical] possibilities.” What does this mean? I agree there is a set of logical possibilities–but how does that constitute a “god” any more than the set of all ipods constitutes a god? I’m less willing to agree there is such a thing as “ultimate strategy.” I have actually witnessed many times when there are equally efficient strategies for achieving any given goal. But even if there is a most efficient strategy–again, how is that a “god”? This might provide me some shred of information about an individual theist’s concept of a god–but it gives me no data about any god that exists outside this theist’s mind.

Without a god to compare to the theist’s idea, I must acknowledge no real information or data about a god has been provided to me. If a theist claims god is “ultimate strategy”, and I cannot examine god, then I understand his idea of god is “ultimate strategy”–but is there an existent god that actually is “ultimate strategy”? Telling me about an idea of god does not provide me with data about a real, existent god. And our argument is not about anyone’s concept of god. As I said, I fully agree that a person can have a mental model of a god. No one needs to convince me of that. But if a theist is claiming god is more than an idea, then providing me with more and more information about his idea of god helps me not at all. Explaining his idea of god does nothing to support the existence of a god outside his mind.

If his idea of god cannot be verified as correlating to any “god” in objectively verifiable, existent reality, then his idea of god cannot be said to be a god until some external referent can be provided with which to compare his claims. I don’t doubt the theist has an idea of god. I understand that he clearly does. What I doubt is that there is an external referent, “god,” to compare to his claims about his idea. I doubt that his mental model exists in any way outside his own mind.

Meanwhile, there are attempts to “define” god by putting god forward as the cause of particular effects. “God is the creator of the universe,” is one common example (but “the Bible” or “manifestation as Jesus” would work just as well). Ask this theist, “if we examine the universe to determine the cause, and it turns out to be a singularity–is that god to you?” You will find that is not god to the theist. So, “god” is not whatever the evidence asserts is the cause of the universe. God, to this theist is a preconceived concept that exists regardless of the actual cause of the universe. If a singularity turns out to be the best model of what caused the universe, but god, I am told, is not a singularity–then this helps me not at all to understand what it is this theist is calling god. And I am only confused now by his claim that god is what caused the universe. Going back to an earlier point, without a god to examine, I have no idea whether a god is at all connected to the production of any universe, holy books, manifestations of Jesus or prophets, miraculous events, or anything else we can drum up. What is this theist calling god, then? I have no idea.

There are also those who define god as “nothing.” God cannot be measured. Cannot be examined. Cannot be verified. Cannot be known or understood by mere mortals. God is transcendent, supernatural (and what does that mean?), outside time and space. In other words, god shares all the same attributes in objective existence as “nothing.” Except that god is “something,” insists the theist. God is exactly like nothing–except god is something. Not helpful.

In fact, definitions of “god” are as unhelpful as they are confusing. And the only external referents we are given are insufficient, to be kind. Intuition and instinct are often defined as evidence of “god” guiding believers. In my earlier post about Jung’s book “Psychology of Religion,” I discussed his reasons for pointing out that the subconscious mind is more than sufficient to explain why most people who believe in a god, believe in a god. Alternately, claims of miracles are sometimes provided. In fact, on the program, a woman claimed that several years back, she had an indeterminate mass in her chest one morning. She never went to a doctor, so we have no idea what it was. She prayed. It was gone the following morning. Ergo god. I feel no need to critique this “miracle,” as I trust any reader’s capacity to identify the problem here.

I don’t doubt such experiences. However, I’m highly dubious of the presumed interpretations and implications that people place upon them, unfounded.

In the end, I have no idea what any of these people mean when they say “god.” And explanations of what “exist” means only appear to cause more trouble.

Humans use the term “exist” in normal conversation to mean “manifest to humans”–to be somehow measurable in a way that is perceptible to human beings. If I say to you, “give me an example of an existent item,” you will, no doubt, point out something that clearly manifests. Certainly some things are more difficult to make manifest to us than others–but the things that we can measure–difficult or easy–are the only things we can legitimately toss into the group we label “existent.” And, again, just to clarify, I’m not referring here to the existence of ideas–but of the objectively verifiable items we think of as being existent outside our minds.

How do theists tell the difference between existent and nonexistent items? Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? We all are called upon every day of our lives to perform this task. People who can’t perform it are sometimes locked away–considered too defective as human beings to function properly in reality. But never, under any circumstances, underestimate the power of a theist to confuse the simplest of things if they conflict with his belief in god. Don’t get me wrong–existence itself is a real wonder. I’ll be the first to agree that I’m amazed at the idea that I am “here.” I’m confounded by the properties of light. I have no idea what causes matter and energy act on one another as they do. But as odd and wonderful as existence can be, is it incorrect to claim that we can tell the difference between that which exists and that which does not exist? If we can, how can we? If we cannot, then how can it mean anything to say that any item or entity exists?

This is a fair question–and one I was repeating often on the program. But at a pivotal point, with a caller on the line, I failed to address it. Alisha called to talk about “The Void.” Apparently god is a physics model called “The Void.” Alisha is going to send us some information so we can look into this for ourselves. “The Void,” according to Alisha, is the set of all possible items. Somehow, we reached a later consensus of “logically possible” items. But, when pressed as to whether she believed in a god or not, she said it was possible. “All things are possible,” she quickly added.

My first failing was in not pointing out that not all things are possible. As I had noted earlier, logical impossibilities can be formed. There are no married bachelors. I might have asked Alisha how much she believes her own statement. If I drop a lead weight off a building on a normal day–does Alisha think we can predict accurately whether the weight will float away like a soap bubble or fall to the ground? Or is she unsure what the weight will do–since all things are possible?

Carl Sagan once repeated a quote that it is fine to keep an open mind, but it may not be wise to keep your mind so open that your brain falls out. Did Alisha mean that at the singularity, we cannot say what is and is not possible? I don’t know, because she didn’t mention the singularity. Did Alisha mean that relativity and uncertainty and subatomic behavior wreak havoc with our physical “laws”? Perhaps. That was my initial assumption. But should I have to assume and guess at what someone means? If a theist expects to communicate an idea, and he is unclear about this idea–how can he possibly hope to provide an understanding of it to another human being? If a theist can’t explain what he means, he will sound as though he is saying he doesn’t understand what he believes. And if that is the message, how can he then ask me, not only to share that belief, but to even comprehend it?

But I missed a golden opportunity. We asked the caller if she believes fairies exist. Her response was “It’s possible.” OK, I understand her framework. No matter how farfetched I make the example, I am going to get “it’s possible.” While this may be an interesting philosophical thought, is it not the case in reality that we operate as though certain possibilities are not possible, and that others are so probable that one would be a fool to doubt them? For example, there may be an invisible, pandimensional vehicle in the middle of my lane as I’m driving forward on the highway. Should I swerve to avoid it–since it is possible the cars on either side of me will not be impacted by my car as the mass of my vehicle moves through them effortlessly? Philosophically, we can acknowledge this is possible. Realistically, however, will it work? Does anyone who holds to this philosophical claim walk the walk in their life outside of their god claims? Not that I’ve ever seen.

Did my brain lock up? I’m not sure. But the next question I should have asked was “is there anything you are willing to acknowledge does not exist?” At this point I can only wager a guess–since I didn’t ask. But based on her response about the fairies, I’ll wager that Alisha would not be willing to state conclusively that any item-X does not exist. I do not think that is an unfair characterization of her mindset during our discussion. All things, after all, are possible, to Alisha. She cannot, therefore, say they do not exist. Gods, fairies–sky’s the limit.

Alisha scores a brilliant gold star for consistency. However, she presents a major dilemma for the claim “god exists.” What does it mean to exist in a reality where nothing can be said to NOT exist? If we cannot differentiate between existent and nonexistent items–does it mean anything to claim that any item-X “exists”? Rhetorical as that could be, let me answer for clarity’s sake: No.

In order for Alisha’s god to “exist” requires “exist” to be redefined to include all items–whether they actually exist or not. In other words, it’s the same as defining “red” as “all colors–whether they are red or not.” If we accept that, does it then mean anything anymore to call something “red”? No. It doesn’t.

I missed my chance to exercise the point of my presentation live and on the air. And I couldn’t have asked for a more serendipitous opportunity. My only excuse is that when presented with claims that are unfamiliar, unclear, and that defy my experience with reality, it is sometimes difficult for me to wrap my brain around them in the present moment. And it is only later, after some consideration, that the bizarre contortions of logic that were used become clear.

“God exists.” Three callers later and I still don’t have a clue what I’m even being asked to believe.

Ray Comfort on WDAY AM 970

I’m listening to Ray Comfort spew nonsense on WDAY this morning and losing an IQ point a minute. You may recall that he was supposed to debate PZ Myers on today’s show, but there was a change of format. PZ will be on tomorrow at 10:00am, so I can regain my lost IQ points.

Some gems from the show include Ray’s agreement that the Catholic Church tortured people during the Inquisition, but “don’t blame that on Christians.” This was after a caller pointed out that the church imprisoned Gallileo for suggesting that the earth revolves around the sun. Just a few minutes before that, Ray had commented that “In a hundred years time we will laugh at what science believes.” The man truly has no sense of irony.

He also thinks there’s “absolute, 100% proof” that intelligent design is true. Well, we already knew that Ray, but where’s the proof? He had the temerity to use the old “no building without a builder” canard and to further demonstrate his misunderstanding of evolution by asking the host, “Can you make me a cow from nothing?”

No Ray, but you’re doing a pretty good job of making an ass of yourself from nothing. Aside from your gross misunderstanding of evolution, you have a habit of pretending you can’t hear the callers who disagree with you. Of course, your hearing miraculously returns for the YECs recommending Answers in Genesis as a source of science information.

In short, nothing new here. Same old creationist nonsense, same old intellectual dishonesty.

Why and How

Many years ago, a Krishna friend said to me, “People often ask ‘why?,’ when what they really mean is ‘how?’”

Initially, this statement confused me. But he explained it further. It made sense to me. And since that day, I have adopted his stance.

On Yesterday’s show, we had a Christian caller who told us that she believes in god because she has personally witnessed miracles. Matt asked her to give us an example of a miracle. She said there were so many to choose from it would take too much time to go into them. Matt asked her to just give us one example.

If you are an atheist who is ever engaged by Christians, you know that it’s important to get an example of a miracle, because Christians do not agree on what constitutes a “miracle.” Like most other religious terms, the word is meaningless, and pretty much self-defined, along the lines of something like, “love” or “freedom.”

The woman explained her “miracle” pretty thoroughly. But it didn’t take much time to see this woman defines miracle as “a natural/reasonable occurrence that I interpret as a sign from god.” Her definition is not unlike an autobiographical story I once read about a Christian woman who hated the color of carpet in her church. When it was changed out, she knew it was a sign she should marry her fiancé, because, prior to that, she had determined she must be married in that church, but couldn’t bear to be married on that hideous shade of aqua carpeting. Most atheists don’t think of these types of things as “miracles,” so it’s always good to check before assuming when a Christian uses a word that relates to the supernatural. Since none of it is available for examination/verification to anyone—we’re left with the reality that any such term has only the meaning that any individual Christian assigns.

The woman on the phone said her reason for believing in god was that she began asking questions such as “why is the sky blue?” And she prayed ardently to a god (that she didn’t believe in) to let her know if he was there. She also began to research different religions. And she found one that really spoke to her, and became a Christian. So, now, in her words, “I know that I know that I know [there is a god].”

There are some obvious issues with a claim of “not believing” a god exists while I’m repeatedly pleading to that god. But this is already going to be long, so let me jump to where it ties into another obvious problem: the problem of asking for signs from spirit beings to determine whether or not they exist.

In other words, any “sign” I receive as the result of prayer is only open to subjective interpretation, and not to any verification. Christians put forward that it’s wrong to ask for any sort of verifiable miracle or definitive sign. To do so would be “testing” god—a serious no-no. So a person making this sort of plea is open to accepting any sort of subtle influence or coincidence. They’re not asking for Earth-shattering, convincing evidence—just something “meaningful” to them, personally.

What’s the obvious problem? Well, ask them how this sounds to their ears: “If you wanted to know if Big Foot exists, and I told you that I know Big Foot exists because I prayed to god for a sign to let me know if they exist. And after a few days, weeks, and months, I got nothing. So, I started researching Big Foot online—reading all I could find. I also kept on praying and asking to feel assured and have a sign. I prayed and prayed and kept on praying, and reading about Big Foot, until I finally encounter a subtle coincidence—a better job offer, a feeling of euphoria/peace, (or even a video of Big Foot online)—that convinced me god was telling me that Big Foot do, in fact, exist. And so now, I know that I know that I know Big Foot is out there in the woods.”

Would they think I had justification for belief in Big Foot? Or would they think I wanted so badly to believe that I just drilled myself until I finally accepted anything as proof of Big Foot’s existence?

If I want to know if a god exists, why not check into it like I would check into the existence of anything else—of Big Foot? Clearly define what it means to “exist,” exactly what it is I’m seeking, and where it should be found manifesting, then check to see if it’s actually manifesting there in the way I expect. If it’s not, then what I am seeking doesn’t exist. That’s, honestly, the best anyone could do to make a determination of the existence of any item-X. Praying to item-X for assurance it exists makes no sense unless, on some level, I’ve already accepted all sorts of claims about the existence of this item and how it operates—even while I attempt to assure others I haven’t presupposed these claims to be valid. I’m certainly throwing out everything I have learned in life about how to determine whether or not something exists and how to determine truth value, and it appears I’ve also, to some significant degree, accepted all the terms laid down by superstition in my search. And if I was truly skeptical—is this really how I’d go about it? Would I see proof of the validity of a god on supernatural terms? Or would I go with what I know to be tried and true in existent reality?

But that’s a huge digression. Back to “why” and “how.” Definitions can change, I understand. And I will be the first to admit that people I know use “why” and “how,” often, interchangeably. I’m not writing to say “you’re wrong.” I’m writing to call out a subtle difference that may/may not speak to a difference in perspective that an atheist should be aware of when he or she is engaged by a Christian. When the Christian says, “I was asking myself, ‘why is the sky blue?’” I should already be wary, because the Christian is potentially starting off asking the wrong (and potentially very loaded) question. With my prior disqualifier regarding definitions firmly in place, I’m going to appeal now to Webster for a standard, accepted definition.

“Why” is listed as basically meaning: “For what reason, cause, purpose or motive.” “How” is listed as “in what manner, in what way, by what means.”

Can they be used interchangeably? I think so. However, consider this: In a discussion about whether or not the universe is the result of natural causes or intelligent purpose, doesn’t the term “why” carry with it the potential to muddy the waters with presupposition, whereas “how” is more unpresuming and more to the point? If a god did it, “how” will get to that. If a god didn’t do it, “how” will also get to that. But if a god didn’t do it, “why” may or may not get to that—depending on how we’re using it.

Depending on what the Christian means by “why,” the word comes preloaded to presume purpose and motive in creation. When I hear a Christian ask “Why X?,” where X is a natural function, I will say, “I think you mean ‘how’ X.” The less biased and more accurate question is “How is the sky blue?”

We use “why” rather than “how” so often that that last question may sound awkward to some. But I recommend getting used to it. And I recommend pointing out the bias that comes with a preloaded word like “why” when a Christian uses it. “Do you recognize that a more appropriate word would be ‘how’—since ‘why’ presupposes motive in natural functions and causes? You’re potentially already starting off with a bias that the universe has purpose. And since that is the very point of our debate, I have to declare that I don’t know if there is any reason ‘why’ the sky is blue—but I believe we can discuss something of how the sky is blue; and if it leads to a purpose, so be it.”

Am I being over-analytical here? I don’t think so. Consider that the Christian on the phone was responding to Matt’s question about what made her believe a god exi
sts. She answered that she was putting questions to herself, such as “Why is the sky blue?” What does that have to do with god unless you perceive a motive behind the reality that the sky is blue? If Matt had asked her a question about determining truth values or finding the cause of natural realities, then there probably would be no reason to consider the word “why” to have any ulterior meaning beyond it’s interchangeable use with “how.” But in the context of “Why do I believe an intelligent being is behind the natural universe?,” the idea that someone pondered “Why is the sky blue?,” takes on a whole new (pardon the pun) shade of meaning.

Make of it what you will. Draw your own conclusions. If you think I’m being too detailed in analyzing the language people use, then disregard my point entirely. But I find that definitions often are key source of misunderstandings in any discussion with a Christian. And, so, I see no reason to allow for more than will certainly already occur. “Why” has, over the years, become a red flag to me in discussions with Christians. I don’t know there are any “why”s for the things they want to know. But we can talk about “how”s, if they’re ready to investigate nature in an unbiased fashion.

Creationism in schools (a continuing thread)

People who read the regular blog posts but not the comments may not be aware of activity on old posts, which is why I’m starting a new thread. This is a continuation of a discussion with Lena, who first dropped in on a post from last November, in which we were talking about the new trailer for “Expelled.” I’m resetting the thread mainly so that the conversation doesn’t get lost to history.

Lena writes:

Kazim; I understand that there are people who believe in both evolution and God. However, current biology textbooks do not include references to the possibility of intelligent design; I am not aware of any biology or science textbook in mainstream public schools or universities that references the concepts of intelligent design.

That’s right, they don’t. And do you know why? Because “intelligent design” isn’t a scientific concept. It hasn’t been accepted into the scientific lexicon; it hasn’t achieved mainstream penetration into scientific journals. It isn’t testable, and with rare exceptions, it is almost universally regarded as nonscience by biologists everywhere.

Could this change someday? Sure it could, but schools don’t have the authority to make that change. Textbooks on science are written BY scientists FOR schools, not the other way around. If this were going to change, it would be by a major shift in the way that biology is understood. And while I understood that there are a lot of popular books, speakers, and 80’s movie stars who are gung-ho about Intelligent Design, it’s only fair to point out that this has barely registered at all in the scientific community. That’s why ID isn’t taught in schools.

You can argue that belief in God is the realm of religion, but really, we’re not talking about God. We’re talking about Intelligent Design – people don’t have to believe that is was a God that was the designer, do they? Teachers would never have to say who created the universe, just that there was evidence of design. It is atheists who make the assumption that intelligent design would be identifying God as the designer; why is that?

That’s an easy one to answer. It’s because ID comes at the tail end of a long history of deceptively trying to slip creationism into schools under false pretenses. In the case of Kitzmiller v Dover of 2005, one of the findings was that the major book being used to promote ID, titled Of Pandas and People, was really just a modified version of an earlier creationism textbook. The editors went through the text and did a search-and-replace operation to eliminate all references to “creationism” and replace them with “intelligent design” and so forth. But they didn’t do a very thorough job — in one place, the word “creationists” was sloppily replaced by the words “cdesign proponentsists.”

A number of years before that, something called the Wedge Document was unearthed, explicitly stating that rationale behind the existence of the whole “intelligent design” movement was to, and I quote, “replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.”

I don’t see why any of this should come as a surprise to you. You’re a theist, and so far as I can tell, the main reason you’re complaining about lack of ID in schools is because you think that failure to teach ID is tantamount to atheism. Have I missed something?

Certainly there are people out there who might have a different idea of “who” that creator or designer was? There are seriously people who believe space aliens created the earth, but in our society you don’t hear public outcry against them.

Yes, you do. Those people are crackpots. They don’t come out as regularly as do cdesign proponentsists, but when they do, they tend to receive about the same level of ridicule. Their views are not taken into account as part of mainstream science either.

Do you really think, Kazim, that if the vast majority of people who advocated ID’ism were believers in space aliens, that schools would have a hard time with it? I doubt it.

I do. It would have to have serious research and peer-reviewed publications backing it up before it could even be considered as part of a curriculum. Any teacher who made a unilateral decision to ignore the standards and start teaching about our alien designers would meet with the exact same kind of resistance that creationists experience now.

The search for alien life is actually accepted science. NASA spends unbelievable amounts of money to make machines to search for organisms on Mars. The belief in “alien” life is one that is no longer a subject relegated to science fiction, yet there do not seem to be people who object to including this new “evidence” in textbooks.

The SEARCH for alien life is accepted science. The factual claim that there actually IS alien life is not. Even Carl Sagan, who was in many ways the intellectual father of SETI, was very careful never to say that he conclusively believed that any aliens have been found, because he didn’t. It is a tentative hypothesis, remaining open to discussion until such time as evidence can be found. In the meantime, the search for hypothetical alien life has led to all kinds of real advances in science, such as improvements to radio telescopes, signal processing technology, and distributed computing algorithms. No such achievements can be pointed to in the search for intelligent design.

I still think teaching ONLY evolution in schools is advocating atheism.

And I still reply that you are objectively wrong, because evolution is not an atheist subject. Again, 11,000 clergymen and the pope aren’t atheists.

You and Martin keep telling me to go back to any basic biology or science textbook, and I have. You’ve said that I didn’t adequately understand cosmology or the atheist viewpoint, so I’ve researched them further.
I find no mention of the possibility of design in the Big Bang theory. The Big Bang cosmological model asserts that the universe expanded from dense matter, but never explains how the matter came into existence, so even if someone DID believe in God and evolution, or a designer and evolution, there is no indication in your “accepted” theories of origin.
Children who go to public school and are presented with only one possibility for the origin of the universe will accept that possibility, because they’re given no alternative. There is scientific evidence for the existence of God, it just isn’t welcome at school.

No there isn’t. Find me some. As soon as there is any kind of genuine, concrete scientific evidence for “a designer,” it might be considered as part of a school curriculum. Until that time, not so much.

I don’t just have a problem with biology textbooks, by the way. The textbook industry in general is a revenue-driven business that survives through sales. I read history from other countries because it yields some surprising bits of information that are not in our textbooks in America. Textbook writers leave things out for convenience, for sales, and for political reasons. It bothers me that our children are taught what is politically correct simply because it is what is popular.

I agree. There are lots of things to dislike about the current textbook selection process, especially here in Texas.

On the other hand, what you are demanding kind of comes down to a different question, and it’s this: Do you allow that there should be SOME kind of standards for what goes into science and history books? If so, who is responsible for those stand
ards? Is it elected officials, or scientists? Or may any person, regardless of credentials, propose changes to our textbooks? What about flat earthers? What about astrologers? What about holocaust deniers? Do you think that science standards should be set strictly based on what the latest people to win an election think?

If you object to the amount of time our posts have taken up ( I think it has been what, three weeks now?)

I don’t care. I’m a slow poster, but I can keep enjoying this all year, if you need. :)

If atheism and the supposed unveracity (yes, it is a word) are such important topics for you and your colleagues that you dedicate enough of your time to be a part of a show and a website, than what is the problem with continuing to converse with me?

There is no problem. I don’t disagree with your principles in fighting for what you believe is right. I just think it’s only fair to point out that the mainstream scientific literature is squarely against you, and not just a little bit.

Even if the conversation has strayed off the main topic ( and it hasn’t; the conversation has broadened because it is a broad topic) then what would be the problem with actually laying down the case for evolution for me, since it is either a part of your job or at least a serious hobby?

Earlier, you complained about the volume of stuff that you were being asked to read. I don’t like to just bog down people with links. People spend their entire careers studying and understanding the evidence for evolution. If you asked me to teach you calculus, it would take more than just some argumentative blog posts.

However, if you’re serious about understanding WHY evolution is recognized as solid science, you might start here:
29+ Evidences for Macroevolution

I don’t do this for a living, but if you have any questions about those pages then I’ll do my best to answer them.

I said before that I would be willing to provide scientific sources for the case for creation after you ( or Martin) were finished laying out your case. I haven’t done it yet because I’ve received no indication from you that you are finished.

The only thing I would ask, to begin with, is what you would consider to be a “scientific source” and why.

Though you said you have read the Bible, Kazim, the foundation of this discussion was not the Bible. I said I’d find documented sources outside the realm of religion, but I did mention one Bible verse:
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” (1 Peter 3:15)
I’m still asking if you’re willing to do something comparable, from an atheist perspective. You’ve given some explanation, I’m just listening and commenting occasionally on a few things that I have questions about.

I think I’m doing that. It’s just taking a while. As long as you’re patient enough to give me some time to finish each post, I’m here.

Question 1:
Lena said: How does evolution qualify as a well established framework for explaining observed facts?????

Maybe you should browse that link I just posted first.

Kazim, you said you wouldn’t expect anyone to individually refute everything on that website anymore than you would attempt to refute everything on answers in genesis.
I’m just asking that, when we make claims or references, we give specific examples. Martin disappeared shortly after that post without satisfactorily explaining or referencing WHAT geological, archeological, or paleontological evidence. Please don’t take this as antagonistic, but look at it from an outsiders viewpoint. Consider, when you have questions for believers about the Bible or related topics that they give a broad, sweeping statement and don’t satisfactorily explain the statement. I admitted that I did this same thing at the beginning of the conversation, as well, but that I was determined to do a better job with specifics. I’m just asking for the same thing from your camp.

We sometimes “tag team” responses, because there’s only so much time to participate in every thread. I’m pretty sure that Martin is still reading, but he’s decided to let me take over the participation. I think I’m a bit better read than he is on evolution — and I don’t mean that as a slight, since Martin is a very smart guy with a lot of expertise in other areas that I respect.

Martin, if you’re still out there, about leprechauns: I never said I didn’t believe in leprechauns. The question is not whether or not I believe in them, the real question is, can YOU prove they don’t exist?

No, we can’t prove that leprechauns don’t exist. So, DO you believe in them?

So what if “my” specific religious beliefs” don’t reconcile evolution and the Bible? Isn’t that what this discussion is about?

Not really. This discussion was about what’s appropriate to teach in school. And the thing is that, as per our constitution, public schools can’t actually care about pandering to anybody’s specific religious beliefs. Otherwise, they might have people lobbying them to teach that the sun goes around the earth.