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AC Grayling’s “The Good Book”

Here’s an interesting endeavour, something like a methadone clinic for the heroin addicts of religious dogma. AC Grayling, noted “velvet atheist” (in quotes in much the same way I always quote “New Atheist”, because these subcategories are ridiculous), has written what he calls “a lifetime’s work”. He’s compiled some of humanity’s greatest philosophers’ and thinkers’ works into a single tome with a narrative flow and dense language comparable to the Christian Bible. In fact, he’s gone so far as to crib some of their layout and structure in doing so, to ensure that people who feel those aspects necessary are comfortable with this end result.

Determined to make his material accessible, Grayling arranged his nearly 600-page “Good Book” much like the Bible, with double columns, chapters (the first is even called Genesis) and short verses. And much like the best-selling King James Bible, which is celebrating its 400th year, his book is written in a type of English that transcends time.

Like the Bible, “The Good Book,” opens with a garden scene. But instead of Adam and Eve, Grayling’s Genesis invokes Isaac Newton, the British scientist who pioneered the study of gravity.

“It was from the fall of fruit from such a tree that new inspiration came for inquiry into the nature of things,” reads a verse from “The Good Book’s” first chapter.

“When Newton sat in his garden, and saw what no one had seen before: that an apple draws the earth to itself, and the earth the apple,” the verse continues, “Through a mutual force of nature that holds all things, from the planets to the stars, in unifying embrace.”

The book’s final chapter features a secular humanist version of the Ten Commandments: “Love well, seek the good in all things, harm no others, think for yourself, take responsibility, respect nature, do your utmost, be informed, be kind, be courageous: at least, sincerely try.”

“Be informed”. How terribly elitist!

While I appreciate the effort to keep religious folks comfortable and to offer a fully formed, coherent synthesis of scientific knowledge and humanism, picking all the best parts of what humankind has had to offer in the past to serve as a guidebook for the future, I can’t help but wonder if the religious folks’ primary comeback will be “see, you had to rip us off to write that!”

The natural comeback is, of course, to cite just a fraction of the prior art for much of what’s “good” about the Bible.

Comments

  1. says

    Awesome! I want to pick this one up, being the wannabe elitist I am.

    Having just gone through several archived interviews with CFI founder and former Chair Emeritus Paul Kurtz on Point of Inquiry, this looks like a nice prospective addition to my book collection.

    Thanks for posting on this.

  2. terry the censor says

    > picking all the best parts of what humankind has had to offer in the past

    Don’t worry about the religious folk complaining. The bit I’ve quoted is not an accurate description of the Bible now, is it?

  3. James says

    So you’re not actually an atheist since you do believe in the god “nature”.
    The “…mutual force..that holds all things, from the planets to the stars, in unifying embrace.”
    So you’re actually closer to accepting a god than you realize. That’s a very good start.

  4. says

    James: to make that argument, first you have to define “God”. And in defining it such that it includes nature, you put your god out of the job.

    See, nature is what happens “naturally”, e.g., all by itself. God is, by most rational conversants’ definitions, SUPERnatural — e.g., outside of nature. My saying that nature is all there is, and admiring it for what it is, is not accepting of any supernatural creator deity in any way, shape or form. And especially not yours.

    But really, you’re just a hit-and-run asshole who isn’t looking for legit conversation — you’re just trying to score points for making some kind of “you’re a deist, therefore Jesus Christ” leap. I’ll be sure to send this response to your provided email address as well, so you know exactly how low regard I hold such argumentation.

    But thanks for stopping by! :)

  5. james says

    Thanks for the response Jason. Your judgement of me couldn’t be more off base.

    I guess my first question is, what are you so angry about?
    I left a simple comment in hopes of sparking “legit conversation” and you come back with claws deployed calling me names.
    You say defining “God” to include nature will “put your god out of a job” and later make reference to Jesus Christ.
    My second question is, since there are many gods in the world, why do you assume I serve the God of Abraham?

  6. says

    If you want legit conversation, you got it. However, for any conversation to work, I have to answer your questions, and you have to answer mine. Fair?

    I am not angry in the least. The use of the word “asshole” is frequent around here, and even used to describe myself. If you find that uncivil, I strongly encourage you to go elsewhere. Here, swear words are allowed, because there’s nothing special about them except the meanings we agree upon.

    95% of the people who make such comments are “hit and run”, meaning they post but never follow-up on any response. Additionally, the theists who directly argue against my atheism seem to do so from an Abrahamic standpoint — and in fact, I’m hard-pressed to think of a single Muslim or Jew among them. Ergo, making that statement has a very high probability of being correct. The fact is, because I live in an area (North America) where the vast majority of theists I might encounter believe specifically in the god of some flavor of Christianity, I am usually quite safe to assume that any new encounter follows the same tack.

    My questions for you, therefore, are:

    1) Can I fucking swear in this conversation without you bitching about it?
    2) Are you arguing for some other God than Yahweh? Whom? How do you define this deity?
    3) If 2 is Yahweh, then were you simply trying to score rhetorical points baselessly with your “why do you assume” gambit?
    4) How do you get from “nature is awesome” to “therefore supernatural creator exists?”
    5) What’s your best positive argument for your specific conception of a deity, excluding all negative arguments against my own philosophy?

    Afterthought: I disagree that there are many gods in the world. I believe there are no gods, and that everyone who believes in a god defines it differently than their neighbor in some way or another. It’s in these definitions that sects of various religions come into play. What’s yours?

  7. james says

    1) You can swear all you want. You can also try to minimize the true purpose of the words. I couldn’t care less.
    2) No
    3) N/A
    4) I was simply referring to the “force of nature that holds all things, from the planets to the stars, in unifying embrace.” I guess technically it’s not a defined deity but, I believe it would qualify as supernatural. I’m assuming your privy to dark matter and dark energy.
    5) Best positive argument is….the galaxies, the planets, their inhabitants, the stars, the intricate forces that hold it all together point to some sort of intelligent design.

  8. says

    Your answers to 2 and 3 confuse me, and it could be because I phrased them inartfully. Could you clarify:

    Do you believe in the Abrahamic God Yahweh, the god I assumed you were arguing for?

    I’m headed to bed now, so I’ll post further in the morning.

  9. james says

    I do worship the one true God, Yahweh. Ergo, “No” on #2.
    I misread #3. Now that I understand, Yes I was simply trying to score rhetorical points with my “why do you assume” gambit. In retrospect, I suppose my accumulation of points was baseless.

    So what are your thoughts to my answer of #5? Assuming were done with the pointless chatter.

  10. says

    My question is: Why does it seem important to disavow Jason of his atheism if the result is just to make him accept some ridiculously general and hopelessly obscure version of deism?
    All that and a bag of chips won’t make him accept the delusional lengths you mentally contort in order to affirm a stone-aged mythology.

    It just seems self defeating……

  11. gmg says

    Jthibeault – people like you cannot be “conversed” with, you argue to be heard not to have an intelligent back and forth. Your bullying tactics of aggressive language, disrespectful comments along with your goading phrases puts you in the light of a school ysrd bully, not a reflective intelligent open-minded person.

    Before you ask, no I am not a religious person in anyway but I do believe in civility and intelligent conversations/sharing of ideas.

  12. says

    Just so we are clear, by “conversed” with, he of course means “converted”, thus the quotation marks. And by “not a religious person” he means that he is a religious person who wishes to make his bias a non-issue.
    No reasonable person would read James’ first comment and assume that it was designed for or conducive to intelligent conversation or the sharing of ideas. Projection of an opinion that was neither expressed nor implied in order to make a personal dig at someones epistemology is hardly what I would call a “conversation starter”.

    What a joke…..

  13. gmg says

    George, you are too funny.

    I am an atheist, I am a Canadian female, i cannot stand the circles that some people of the religious faction seem to talk in (the more they do so the more I know my belief is correct) but no reasonable person would read James’ first comment and not feel his condescention, however i am new here so perhaps i am mistaking his “ascerbic wit”. Big voices and closed ears are always such a joy to hear/watch.

    “But really, you’re just a hit-and-run asshole who isn’t looking for legit conversation — you’re just trying to score points for making some kind of “you’re a deist, therefore Jesus Christ” leap. I’ll be sure to send this response to your provided email address as well, so you know exactly how low regard I hold such argumentation.”

    ….. sounds like a person who wants to talk rather than attack/judge and his following comments adds so much to the arguement.

    Also, isnt Jason doing the same to James in trying to sway his beleifs, trying to make his beliefs seem non-sensical compared to his own?

    I was under the impression that this was a forum for an exchange of ideas not to be put immediately on the defensive.

    …..but again, i could be reading everything wrongly as I am new to the blog.

  14. james says

    I appreciate your input gmg. Anyone can look at this thread and see the underlying aggressiveness. I also appreciate you pointing out the flaws in my original attempt at dialogue. I tried to word my comment very carefully so as not to initiate hostility but, now that you mention it there is an underlying condescension.
    Perhaps so many Christians hit-and-run Jason like a drive by in the hood that he automatically shows up with his armor and weaponry on the defense.
    I suppose I will need to carefully analyze each comment before posting. I can assure everyone my intentions are not hostile nor condescending.
    I also appreciate you speaking ‘normally’.
    When I have to analyze a sentence and re-read it over and again to comprehend what is being said, it reminds me of politician speak. I firmly believe a person can get their point across without having to consistently speak like a Harvard professor of Philosophy.

  15. james says

    For example George W….

    “….the delusional lengths you mentally contort in order to affirm a stone-aged mythology.”

    Can you give me the layman’s version of that statement? Perhaps if I understand what all that is really saying I can address the “self defeating” part. I really don’t want to have to think that hard.

  16. says

    I apologize in advance for not replying “in the morning” as promised, but it’s been a busy work week.

    Let’s not turn this into a polemic about civility, folks. I accept that James didn’t come here to hit-and-run me like so many others have in the past, and I explained why I said what I said. If you don’t accept that explanation, that’s fine, but trying to paint me as some sort of ogre for having claws unsheathed is ridiculous when all you have to go by are the words I’ve typed into this computer box machine that appear on your television glowy thing. If you have some sort of success rate at determining people’s motivations over text bordering on supernatural, that’s great, but not all of us do. (And I’d question your claims to any sort of supernatural abilities along those lines, considering how badly you’ve misinterpreted mine.) Anyway, we’re all (ostensibly) adults here, right? If I swear a little, big whoop. Again, if you don’t like it, there are plenty of other forums out there for you to have your clean and tidy little discussions. I’m not one for censorship, because I damn well like my freedom of speech. I reserve the right not to provide an unmonitored outlet for proselytizing, but I’m not going to change or delete anyone’s posts if they didn’t come here to spam.

    I have no intention of swaying any participant in this conversation. While some theists might have that specific aim in engaging in conversation with atheists, with a bit of experience under their belt they realize that they’ll never actually “convert” whomever they’re talking with. Rather, the conversation should serve as an object lesson to those who come along after the fact.

    George makes an excellent point in this — two atheists, both pseudonymous, both of whom I’ve never encountered before, show up to tell me I’m being too uncivil? On my blog? They have a name for that — “concern troll”. Someone who trolls by saying “I’m part of your group, and not an outsider at all, and I’m very concerned about how you’re handling yourself.” It’s disingenuous, and as far as I can tell, very rarely ever comes from actual members of the group in question.

    George’s shiv regarding “delusional lengths” is strongly worded, but wholly accurate, save for one thing — the Abrahamic traditions are Bronze-age, not stone-age. People willingly internalize any number of delusions — a belief that is in direct opposition to evidence — in order to justify or apologize for issues that others have found with their religion. For instance, look at how many people fully believe this universe was magicked into being six thousand years ago, and that their god must have only given it the appearance of age, for the purpose of deceiving rationalists. This particular flavor of delusion hurts your cause, since the saner approach is to assume the “historical text” on which your religion is founded, may have been flawed, being that it was written by human beings prior to the specific knowledge being available to us. Because you believe it was divinely inspired, you have to assume that evidence is wrong, rather than the text.

    All that aside, I’d like to return to our conversation, James. Having majored in English my words can get a bit flowery, but if you have trouble, ask. I respect someone who asks for clarification more than someone who makes wild leaps of interpretation.

    First, you’ll note that the specific wording that you pointed to is not my own, but AC Grayling’s. That’s fine, I agree with it, nature is pretty damned cool. Maybe I wouldn’t use the sweeping deity-invoking terms he used, but that was his point — to make a book talking about science and nature in a way that would appeal to those same people that think the Bible is good literature.

    Secondly, I don’t find “intelligent design” to be a compelling argument. I do see great complexity in this universe, but I see that complexity as being consequent of some prior, mechanistic state of being. Everything that has “evolved” (in the loose sense of the word) to be as it is today, because of the rules by which matter plays. All the elements heavier than helium were formed in a star, and seeded to the rest of the universe when that star went nova. Stars and planets self-arrange by gravity. Organic chemicals like arsenic and carbon can self-arrange into amino acids, and amino acids can in certain circumstances begin self-replication. Once self-replication kicks in, natural selection provides the guiding hand that leads to ever more complexity in life. Give it enough time, and you have the panoply of life we have today. The fact that some theists need to posit a creator god that individually created each and every aspect of the universe as we see it today, implies that these theists’ imaginations are limited — and very likely limited by the dogmas to which they adhere. They could have as easily created a religion wherein a creator god built a universe’s initial state and the rules by which it plays, and allowed the universe to self-arrange, but every religion we’re arguing about has both an initial creation for everything as it is today, and a special and unique place in the grand scheme of things for humankind.

    The scientific worldview both accepts that humans are a unique happenstance, and roots for the “home team” by trying to further humankind’s reach into the cosmos and improve our overall species fitness by ensuring our continued survival in the face of a universe that was definitively not created to host us.

    To sum up my arguments about intelligent design: look at a fractal. Realize that Benoit Mandelbrot did not author every curve and cranny of that fractal, but merely wrote the equation from which it emerged. If you can make your god like Benoit Mandelbrot, and be satisfied that that is the way the universe was created, then we’re much closer to agreement. If you need your special creation and unique place for humankind with the Son of God and redemption and blood sacrifice, then we are by no means in agreement.

  17. says

    In that wall of text I neglected to actually ask a question — which is horrible of me considering I spent so much time trying to show that just coz I have a potty mouth and I don’t suffer hit-and-runs well, doesn’t mean I’m incapable of conversation!

    James, part of why I was trying to find out exactly what god you served, is because I wanted to ask how you got from “this universe looks intelligently designed” to Yahweh. Why did you pick the Abrahamic God of the Bible over Ram, Vishnu, Thor, et cetera, et cetera? What prompted you to make that decision in exactly that way? Or was it ever a decision — were you simply brought up in the faith?

  18. says

    gmg:
    George, you are too funny.

    I am an atheist, I am a Canadian female, i cannot stand the circles that some people of the religious faction seem to talk in (the more they do so the more I know my belief is correct) but no reasonable person would read James’ first comment and not feel his condescention, however i am new here so perhaps i am mistaking his “ascerbic wit”.Big voices and closed ears are always such a joy to hear/watch.
    ………
    ….. sounds like a person who wants to talk rather than attack/judge and his following comments adds so much to the arguement.

    Also, isnt Jason doing the same to James in trying to sway his beleifs, trying to make his beliefs seem non-sensical compared to his own?

    I was under the impression that this was a forum for an exchange of ideas not to be put immediately on the defensive.
    …..but again, i could be reading everything wrongly as I am new to the blog.

    You are correct gmg, I am quite the wry wit!
    I am an atheist. I am a Canadian male, I apologize that I “jumped” to conclusions by generalizing an pseudo-anonymous commenters gender. Of course, this implies that my whole argument must not be sound. If it is really that necessary to the conversation at hand, perhaps I might suggest referring to yourself as “Ms. gmg” or “Her Royal Highness, Lady gmg” lest others fall prey to the gender trap.

    When Jason made his comment, it was predicated on the well founded assumption that unfamiliar commenters who passive-aggressively take shots at your beliefs in general tend not to want to engage in conversation. I don’t really see how that can be argued. Someone who wants a conversation usually asks conversation inducing questions, or points to evidence that might refute the post. James did neither of those things.

    I’m glad that you prefer sarcasm and passive aggressive communication to being frank and upfront about your feelings and motives. Really, I am. I think it speaks volumes about the kind of genuine person you are. I find it such a delightful trait in people!

    You will find that people on this blog get treated in exactly the same manner that they treat others. I know that is hard to grasp, and I know it is difficult to comprehend; “fairness” does not mean being kind and genuine to people regardless of their obvious motives. That is called benevolence, and neither I nor Jason seem to personify that virtue. We can’t all be perfect.

    Conversation is a two way street. It is a co-operative behavior. I’m surprised that that is not obvious to everyone, but I stand by that assertion.

    My whole point was that a valid “concearn troll” argument ought to be predicated by someone not being passive-agressively baited into the offending comment.

    You know….. like the ironic tone of this whole comment.

  19. says

    james:
    For example George W….

    “….the delusional lengths you mentally contort in order to affirm a stone-aged mythology.”

    Can you give me the layman’s version of that statement? Perhaps if I understand what all that is really saying I can address the “self defeating” part. I really don’t want to have to think that hard.

    Just so we are clear:
    No amount of saying “I think my God causes X, so anyone who acknowledges X also acknowledges God.” will make that statement true.
    Good so far? O.K then…
    Even if Jason accepted that God is nature or some such deistic belief, that still gets us nowhere near the Abrahamic God. The belief in THAT God requires James to either compartmentalize reality or be clinically insane.

    Is that easier to understand?

  20. james says

    Jason, I “came to believe” when I was in my early 20′s. I experienced a few supernatural events that made faith in the God of Abraham a very easy pill to swallow. Christ was a real man who walked the earth. There were thousands of witnesses to His existence. I could choose to believe that story which is “Good News”, or I could choose to believe the story of the Big Bang which leaves one asking still more questions that have no answers. As matter of fact, the entire big bang theory is now questionable with the recent discovery of dark energy. The way I look at it is this…if my belief is wrong I’ve lost nothing in this life. If my belief is correct, I’ve not only had a good life but I’ll have an even better afterlife.

    @ George…I guess it’s questionable as to who is compartmentalizing reality. Evolution is a theory not fact. First of all, the lack of a case for evolution is clear from the fact that no one has ever seen it happen. If it were a real process, evolution should still be occurring, and there should be many “transitional” forms that we could observe. What we see instead, of course, is an array of distinct “kinds” of plants and animals with many varieties within each kind, but with very clear and — apparently — unbridgeable gaps between the kinds. That is, for example, there are many varieties of dogs and many varieties of cats, but no “dats” or “cogs.” Such variation is often called microevolution, and these minor horizontal (or downward) changes occur fairly often, but such changes are not true “vertical” evolution. Of course, the other thing about evolution is that anything can be said because very little can be disproved. Experimental evidence is minimal. Even that statement is too generous. Actual experimental evidence demonstrating true evolution (that is, macroevolution) is not “minimal.” It is nonexistent! So one could say that folks who believe in evolution are the ones compartmentalizing reality.

    Jason, what made you turn to the Atheist religion? Did you have a bad experience with organized religion at some point, or were you raised in the faith?

  21. says

    James, I strongly doubt an historical Jesus existed, though I suspect his story may have been an amalgamation of a number of truly extant people (e.g. Saul of Tarsus). The “thousands of witnesses” could have, as easily, been stories in the Bible, since the stories are not correlated by any third-party history. The stories in the Bible do not correlate with any other traditions in other cultures — for instance, the idea that there was a great flood four thousand years ago and that every living human is descended from Noah is specious at absolute best, and disturbing in that only one cultural heritage remembers such an event at worst. I do not consider the stories of the Bible to be anything but fiction without corroborating evidence from outside sources, of which there are none that I know of.

    I do not choose to disbelieve the Bible, I merely do not choose to put all this lack of corroboration aside and make a “leap of faith” into a set of beliefs so directly controverted by the best available evidence. I was raised Catholic, but learned at an early age that the stories are easily and readily disproven by even a cursory examination of the world around us. For instance, just like there’s both a theory of gravity and the fact of gravity, there’s the theory of evolution (the explanation for how it works) and the fact of evolution (the ready genetic and physical evidence of unbroken lineages of many thousands of distinct species in the fossil record). There’s the fact that it’s easily demonstrable that existing species have changed over time, including finches et cetera. There’s the fact that the theory of evolution predicted that there would be a “fish with legs” — the first fish to become partly amphibious and crawl out onto land — and even told us where it might be found. Then we found it exactly where we thought we might. That’s right, we have a transitional fossil between fish and land-dweller.

    The theory of evolution no more expects a half-cat half-dog than I expect a half-you half-your-sister to prove you and your sister are related. Nor would the theory of evolution suggest anything about a half-rock half-fish. Or a half-peanut-butter half-chocolate. (Reese peanut butter cups notwithstanding.)

    There is a good deal of experimental evidence showing how evolution works. What part of the process would you like evidence for?

    Additionally, I’m more than a little annoyed that you call it “the Atheist religion” with a capital A, and the word religion at the end, as though we have a dogma, churches, prophets, unfalsifiable claims, really-old textbooks that must be held sacrosanct, or even a unifying philosophy. At its base, atheism is merely disbelief that one needs any god whatsoever in this universe to explain it all. As I said elsewhere, I know many atheists who believe in a metaphysical. Buddhists are a good example. They are atheists that believe there’s a higher plane of consciousness we can all achieve. They also believe that if the evidence shows their faith to be wrong, they have to change their faith. I have a lot of respect for them. I still think they believe in things with too little (e.g. no) evidence, but still.

  22. says

    Oh my James.
    Did you make the cosmological argument, Pascal’s wager, creationist drivel and the atheism is a religion gambit all together sarcastically? Because if you were trying the intentionally ironic angle, then you did a fantastic job! Well played my good man.

    I get it. I insulted you by saying that you “compartmentalized reality”, so as a joke you sarcastically post a diatribe that describes someone with no grip on reality. I’m on to your joke, sir! I think that’s hilarious.

    ROTFLMAO!

  23. says

    Sorry.
    I just realized that James might be serious. I just assumed so many bad religious claims in one post must have been a joke.

    Why would a different God, let’s say Allah, want to reward you when you die?
    What about Ganesh?
    Odin?
    I’m not clear on the logic of Pascal’s Wager….

    What evidence do you have that evolution is false?

    If you were serious in your last comment, do you think that your previous statement “I really don’t want to have to think that hard.” has any bearing on your opinions about these matters?

  24. james says

    Wow Jason I hate to burst your bubble, but there are no evolutionary facts.

    “The ready genetic and physical evidence of unbroken lineages of many thousands of distinct species in the fossil record”…
    The real fact is that the billions of known fossils do not include a single unequivocal transitional form with transitional structures in the process of evolving. Your fish with legs sounds like a prehistoric tadpole to me. Let me go ahead and humor you….let’s say your fossilized tadpole truly is an evolving lifeform. Don’t you think it would stand to reason that there ought to be more than one true transitional structure preserved in the fossils since there are, after all, billions of non-transitional structures there? The entire history of evolution from the evolution of life from non-life to the evolution of vertebrates from invertebrates to the evolution of man from the ape is strikingly devoid of intermediates: the links are all missing in the fossil record, just as they are in the present world. Since there is no real scientific evidence that evolution is occurring at present or ever occurred in the past, it is reasonable to conclude that evolution is not a fact of science, as you claim. In fact, it is not even science at all, but an arbitrary system built upon faith in universal naturalism.

    As far as atheism being a religion, my apologies. I didn’t think that as an insult.

    George, I’m unclear on how to answer your “why would a different god..” question. I would be speculating at best. If your not clear on the logic of Pascal’s Wager don’t feel alone…neither am I. I think that guy thought too much.

  25. james says

    Oh…I forgot to ask a question.

    Let’s assume for a moment (and with the lack of scientific evidence the assumption is not difficult) that evolution could never have happened. What other possible theories do atheists have for life on earth?

  26. says

    James,
    First I’ll address your “facts”.
    Every single species that ever existed is a transitional form. You are a transitional form. Many millions of years from now something vaguely similar to humans will exist on our planet as a direct result of the form you are now (hopefully, of course- assuming we don’t go extinct). You have been lied to. You have been lied to by people who have a vested interest in not accepting science or evidence. Yet you choose to project this credulity onto a discipline that only follows evidence.

    A complete fossil record is an impossibility. Your insistence that it be complete is as absurd as me claiming that we should find every body accounted for from the siege of Tyre, or that we should find an Egyptian crypt filled to the brim with firstborn children. Christians don’t require or expect either of those things, and science doesn’t require or expect a complete fossil record. Every single fossil we do find points clearly toward evolution, and many point clearly away from special creation.

    The problem with your “fact” is that Comfort, Hamm, and Hovind have bamboozled you into thinking that “transitional” means “dats” and “cogs”. I bet you even believe that evolution can’t be true because the first horse would have had no second horse to mate with! All your objections do is illustrate what a poor job we have done in educating people about what evolution should expect.

    I bet you get frustrated when atheists argue against the bible with things that betray their ignorance of Christian theology. Like arguing that you ought to kill your children if they disrespect you, or that you can rape single women as long as you pay their father a few sheckles. Guess what? That is exactly what you are doing with your argument. You are saying “evolution predicts X, and X never happens, therefor evolution is false”, when evolution has never predicted X. I don’t blame you. You have been indoctrinated to believe that science and facts are the worlds greatest and best protected conspiracy.

    Let’s assume for a moment (and with the lack of scientific evidence the assumption is not difficult) that evolution could never have happened. What other possible theories do atheists have for life on earth?

    The good news is that we don’t have to worry about that, since evolution is a fact. If it were impossible, then we would live in an entirely different universe with a bunch of very different facts. I imagine though, that science would still use the facts at hand to discover our origins, and religious people would still refuse to believe any evidence that contradicted their own mythologies.

    What I mean by that is if evolution were impossible, which it isn’t, then there would be some other explanation available (maybe even a supernatural one) and science would do what it always does: collect the data, extrapolate, formulate hypothesis, test the hypothesis, make conclusions, repeat. It would discover whatever happened to be our reason for existence. It would not throw up it’s hands, turn to a book of 3500 year old fables, and say “Well it’s obvious that this is how it happened.”
    Evolution was not dreamed up as a way to satisfy godless fantasies. Even if it were, it would be easily falsifiable. Science would have had to abandon it years ago, unless every scientist in the last 150 or so years were all conspiring to build on a lie. Even if that were the case, genetics would have put evolution to bed. Surely Francis Collins would have pulled back the curtain. Perhaps Micheal Behe? Yet both these scientists acknowledge common ancestry.
    You need more faith then I care to muster to believe these things.
    Your question is like asking “Let’s assume that the laws of physics and chemistry are wrong. What other possible explanations exist for the fact that water exists?”
    The answer will be: Then there is still a good explanation, but someone dogmatically insisting that the answer is “God” won’t except any answer save their own, regardless of how good the proof is.

    Again, I think your whole issue with evolution comes down to a single statement you made at the end of comment #15. It explains why you won’t examine evidence, why you won’t take the time to understand evolutionary theory, and why you accept the word of pastors over professionals:

    I really don’t want to have to think that hard.-James

  27. says

    I strongly agree with George on the merits of the evidence available for evolution. I can give you five links with layman’s primers on what evidence is available that proves the fact of evolution.

    http://anthro.palomar.edu/evolve/evolve_3.htm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence_of_common_descent
    http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/search/topicbrowse2.php?topic_id=46
    http://txtwriter.com/backgrounders/evolution/evcontents.html
    http://bioweb.cs.earlham.edu/9-12/evolution/HTML/live.html

    I have, at various junctures, read these pages and find the evidence presented to be compelling. All of these lines of evidence are interconnected and depend on a number of different independent disciplines to make their cases. In order to refute them, one would have to successfully refute a number of foundational facts in these disciplines, which would undercut much of the field of science today. That the field of science has been so successful in things like space exploration, medical research, and technology, indicates that there is no foundational flaw in these disciplines, and that it would take extraordinary evidence to refute even one pillar upon which evolution presently stands.

    All of that said, I am not an evolutionary biologist, so I can no more make a cogent argument for evolution outside of what I’ve picked up here and there than you can build a computer from scratch having had no electronics training. Even if you’re a prodigy, you’d have to put in years of experimentation to develop that level of understanding.

    Now, given the hypothetical that all these lines of evidence were insufficient, or that some discipline had actually DISproven evolution rather than lending credence to it, there are other scientific (and potentially supernatural, as a last resort) ways that the variation of life might have come into being. Before the theory of evolution by natural selection via genetic code, was the theory that creatures “evolved” by willing themselves to evolve, e.g. a giraffe stretched to reach higher branches and passed on the stretchedness to its offspring. Before that, was the idea that each creature had a “homunculus” — a tiny version of him or herself — in every cell, and that they passed that homunculus to their offspring either through the sperm or egg (but for some reason, not both). Before that was the concept of spontaneous generation — where if you had the right recipe of materials you could create life from non-life, like by putting out dead meat you could generate maggots, or by putting out wet hay you could generate rats.

    The only way, in absence of evolution, to find out what actually caused the variation of life, would be through scientific investigation. The endeavour of science is humankind’s unique ability, and to squander it by ignoring evidence and merely accepting a dogma handed down to you would fundamentally render humankind less unique on our planet.

    If scientific investigation yielded no clues, and if certain aspects of reality lent credence to an actual supernatural creator, those aspects of reality would provide me with evidence for said supernatural creator. It would not explicitly mean Yahweh or Jesus, but it would open the door for them. As well as for Ram, Vishnu, and every other supposed creator god.

    Pascal’s Wager has that as its flaw, by the way — you can believe in God and go to heaven, or you can believe in God and find out that it was actually Allah and you’re doomed to Gehenna. There’s more than two outcomes — it’s not a choice between “Yahweh and no gods”, it’s a choice between “some god(s) and no gods”, and those gods are all jealous.

    I realize and fully understand that those links are a lot of material to pore through, and I fully understand that you would be resistant (intentionally or unintentionally — you may refuse to even look at the material, or you simply try and fail to make it through what you’d find yourself describing as “propaganda”). I do hope you’ll look at the available evidence and judge it for yourself, putting aside the preconceptions spoon-fed into you by religious figures or proselytizers like Ham, Hovind, Behe, etc. I won’t fault you if you can’t bring yourself to do it.

    If you can’t read them, I have some questions to further dialog. What would it take to convince you that evolution is true (regardless of whether you continue to believe in Yahweh — for this question, you’re free to keep believing in him if you please)? And if you say “nothing”, I’m afraid this conversation should end, as I’m open to positive evidence for a specific deity.

    Also, I’ve noticed your understanding of what evolution predicts seems askew to what it does actually predict. Could you describe to me what you believe evolution is all about? And why do you think it a challenge to your god, so much so that we’ve hijacked a thread about nature and an AC Grayling book just to talk about it?

  28. James says

    Jason,

    One of the beliefs I try to live by is contained in a quote by Herbert Spencer, “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance – that principle is contempt prior to investigation”. With that being said, I know for a fact that the God Yahweh is real. As stated earlier in the thread, I’ve “experienced” Him supernaturally. Without that proof all of the religious spoon-feeding and proselytizing would not sway me. Nonetheless, I suppose without the “advertising” no one would be inclined to try the “product”.
    As for evolution, it’s not that I don’t believe in it. I intend to look at every link you attached in order to understand the theory. The thing I don’t believe in is that evolution explains the creation of life. You see, since I know for a personal fact that He exists, I can’t just pick and choose those things that fit into my intellectual comfort zone. There are things in the bible that are absolutely unbelievable. Nonetheless, since He is who He says He is, I have to believe even the things I find difficult to believe or am unable to fully explain.
    I am open to any scientific theory if it is based on factual evidence. However, I approach these facts from a different angle than you, George, et al.
    Since I know creation to be a fact, that tells me that any other “facts” regarding creation have to be fraudulent, either intentionally or unintentionally. So, I study the facts presented and look for the obvious discrepancy. Truth is always waiting to be found. We just have to be willing to see it. As far as I know, there is no way to prove creation by God. So, it stands to reason (at least for me) that science has no credible proof to counter the claim, even though they desperately desire to do so. Otherwise, they would be forced to acknowledge a god and the majority are too prideful and egocentric to concede that there is something more intelligent than man.
    I appreciate the opportunity to investigate evolution further and you allowing this original thread to be hijacked to do so. I’ll be back with more thoughts and questions when I’ve had the opportunity to review all of your information.

  29. says

    James,

    I’m sorry to add another question to the pile, considering there are still some outstanding, but what specifically about your supernatural experience led to Yahweh over any of the other deities that humankind has constructed over the millennia? What if one of those other deities was the “One True God” and was trying to lead you to him/her, and you failed to interpret his/her message correctly?

    I’m saddened by the quote you chose. It’s an excellent quote and it honestly betrays you when you say “any other ‘facts’ regarding creation have to be fraudulent”. I read the Bible with an open mind, and found it wanting after several rereadings. I hope you read the evidence for evolution with an open mind rather than to try to find holes to poke into it on behalf of your god, whom you still have not explained why THAT god instead of some other.

  30. says

    I would like to add the question “Where in evolution is creation posited?” What I mean by that, for those of us who don’t want to think that hard, is that evolution does not deal with origins, only change over time. A perfect God could have created life and evolution would still be true. The area of science that deals with the ultimate origin of life is “abiogenesis”, and it stands entirely independent of evolution.

    What I think James means to say is that evolution contradicts the creation account in Genesis,in fact, both creation accounts in Genesis. It doesn’t contradict a creator God, it contradicts fully-formed “special creation”.

    James, who told you that evolution has anything to do with the ultimate origins of life?

  31. james says

    Guys, conntrary to your assertions, evolution is simply egocentric man trying to come up with anything to disprove intelligent design (Creation) and deny a Creator. Without evolution, there must be a Creator…….bottom line.

    Since you guys enjoy scientific facts, chew on these for a bit…..

    http://benthamscience.com/open/toevolj/articles/V005/1TOEVOLJ.pdf

    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/03/28/1015948108.abstract

    In the following article the author states, “As morphologists with high hopes of molecular systematics, we end this survey with our hopes dampened. Congruence between molecular phylogenies is as elusive as it is in morphology and as it is between molecules and morphology….Partly because of morphology’s long history, congruence between morphological phylogenies is the exception rather than the rule. Hmmmm…
    http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.es.24.110193.001101

    In this article, beneath the veneer of a controversial peer-review process is a substantial debate over the very basics of evolution. Perhaps both sides are correct in their assessments of the opposing evolutionary ideas….neither explanation is sufficient.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=controversial-caterpillar-evolution-2009-10-29

    And these are just a few examples of how your evolution facts are simply erroneous.

  32. says

    If anyone is interested in seeing the completely scientific and unbiased sources James uses to find and critique those scientific papers, I invite them to Google “In this article, beneath the veneer of a controversial peer-review process is a substantial debate over the very basics of evolution. Perhaps both sides are correct in their assessments of the opposing evolutionary ideas….neither explanation is sufficient. “, in quotes, like that.
    James can’t even be bothered to string together an original idea, he just trusts creationist websites to do that for him…..

  33. says

    Mia Culpa.
    You’re right.
    I wonder if James has actually read any of these papers, or just recycled them as “proof” because a certain creationist site told him they offered proof?
    I bet he can’t even tell us what the two paragraphs directly following “As morphologists with high hopes of molecular systematics, we end this survey with our hopes dampened. Congruence between molecular phylogenies is as elusive as it is in morphology and as it is between molecules and morphology….Partly because of morphology’s long history, congruence between morphological phylogenies is the exception rather than the rule.” actually read.
    Can you, James?
    Because you don’t actually have anything other than an abstract in your link. I’d like that quote in context please. Give me the whole concluding paragraphs.
    Is context really that important? You betcha! Like me constantly bringing up a previous statement you made and applying it out of context to make you look silly.

  34. Angie says

    James, just a thought. What caused morning on says 1-3? Since you know that Yahweh created the earth, why didn’t He tell the writer of Genesis that the sun was created first and that our universe is heliocentric, not geocentric? Also, why did He not tell the writer that the moon is not lit, that it actually is a reflection of the sun? In addition, why did the author think that the “heavens” were a big wall of water, newly separated from the ocean instead of a vast expanse of the universe? Also, in numerous places, the Bible refers to the four corners of the earth, the length of the earth, and it being a solid object, set upon a foundation, or in other places, pillars of the Lord (which he shakes to cause earthquakes. Why did he not tell the writers that the earth is in fact a spinning sphere?

    Doesn’t that make Joshua 10 read just a little differently as well? Since we know that we don’t live in a geocentric universe, the sun and moon couldn’t have stood still; it would have had to be the earth standing still. Have you ever put on brakes in a car that was going 60 miles an hour? Everything in it slams forward rapidly. Imagine putting on brakes on the rotation of the earth, which is spinning exponentially faster. Everything on it would have gone sailing into the stratosphere at the speed of sound. This account cannot be true from a rational standpoint, and “God said it, so it must be true,” belies deliberate blindness to known principles of physics.

    You can argue about the presence or not of a deity all that you want to, but if “in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God and the Word became flesh and dwelled among us, full of grace and Truth,” and then you find that the very Word you stand on is riddled with inconsistencies, a rational mind must pause and reconsider your experience, and whether there might be another explanation for something that you are attributing to God.

  35. says

    Just getting briefly back to the original subject!

    I’ve made a website with daily quotes from The Good Book – a good way to get an idea of the kind of thing that’s in it.

    It’s at http://thgdbk.net

    Cheers

  36. HMC says

    This whole silly argument was based on a misunderstanding by James. This mysterious force holding all things together is not “nature” it is gravity! It was quite clearly explained and gravity is not supernatural.

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