In which I respond to optimism about the religious with cynicism


John Pieret quotes a religious apologist, about which I am rather conflicted:

For a Christian, when science is allowed to be neutral on the subject of God, science can only bolster faith. In contrast, and I imagine without realizing it, ID proponents have become professional Doubting Thomases, funded by Doubting Thomas Institutes. When advocates of ID use the vocabulary of science to argue for God’s presence in cellular machinery or in the fossil record, they too poke their fingers through Jesus’ hands. In so doing, ID vitiates faith.

This is the conundrum we face when we get a thoughtful Christian on our side, more or less. It’s great to see them criticizing ID advocates, and pointing out their bad theology; I wouldn’t mind seeing the Discovery Institute’s influence diminish. The problem, though, is that the paragraph above says good things about ID to my mind. Doubt is a wonderful thing, skepticism is a useful tool, and I think the story of Doubting Thomas is a great example, not a caution—if a guy I’d seen die in some grisly fashion showed up at my house, I wouldn’t stop with just checking his wounds, I’d be quizzing him to find out if he really was who he claimed to be while I was driving him to the hospital for a much more thorough examination. And if he tried to tell me, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”, I’d just reply “Blessed are the chumps? No way, pal, I want blood samples and an MRI.”

The real problem with the ID advocates is that they aren’t actually Doubting Thomases: they go through the motions, putting on a show of skepticism, while believing without question. If they poked a finger into the wound and found spirit gum and stage blood, they’d announce that they had scientific proof of a resurrection.

So when people claim that ID is conceding the inferiority of faith, I agree completely with them. When they act as if this is an unfortunate outcome, they lose me. ID’s failing is that it hasn’t gone far enough, and I won’t be praising or encouraging people who take a step further back and retreat into the acceptance of ignorance as a virtue. The story of Doubting Thomas makes clear that “faith” is nothing but a synonym for credulity and the avoidance of knowledge.

There’s another John with an interesting post on religion that is a bit weird from my perspective. Wilkins makes a series of suggestions on how conflicted Christian parents should raise their kids. It’s very subversive, I’m afraid, because it’s exactly how this confident atheist raised his kids, and I suspect it’s how that incorrigible agnostic raises his kids—it’s a recipe for undermining religiosity. It’s great! Even if it doesn’t produce atheists and agnostics, at worst it’s going to produce sensible Christians who don’t treat their faith as a tool for magical thinking, indoctrination, and eradicating thought.

That also means it’s a doomed strategy. The people who need John’s suggestions most, the Bible-thumpers and lunatics of the Religious Right, are going to rightly see that it teaches tolerance as a tool of the godless. Sorry, John, your prescription is far too optimistic—it’s only going to appeal to the ones who already practice it. It needs more dire threats, scapegoats, and self-righteousness if it’s going to become popular.

Comments

  1. Caledonian says

    The story of Doubting Thomas sends a message that is profoundly anti-scientific. It praises faith without evidence and explicitly rejects skepticism as an obstacle to salvation.

    Science cannot be ‘neutral’ towards the concept of a divine entity, as science is founded on reason and reason cannot be ‘neutral’. Can science and reason be ‘neutral’ on the question of whether Santa Claus exists? What about the Easter Bunny? What about Cold Fusion (with the experimental setup associated with the recent claims of such a phenomenon)?

    Science cannot bolter faith — its method is not compatible with it. (Of course, it’s possible to have faith in anything, so with sufficiently skilled doublethink anything can be considered to bolster it.)

  2. says

    You both raise good points, but I read the author here differently. I don’t think that he’s saying that Doubting Thomas is exhibiting an undesired phenotype by way of his use of doubt, per se. Such a take is starkly inconsistent with an affinity for science at all: how could one think doubt to be a universal vice and still like science?

    What the writer is doing – to put words in his mouth – is to criticize these people of weak faith whose beliefs had to be propped up by science. In Thomas’ case, his “faith” had to be bolstered by scientific (or at least tactile) proof. In the ID’ists case, it’s using the alleged failures of science to verify their God. In neither case, the author seems to be saying, is real faith involved. Real faith is making a decision that goes beyond the data, not one based on it.

    BCH

  3. says

    That’s exactly what I’m saying: the author is criticizing IDists for needing the prop of evidence, but I am saying that the idea that ” faith is making a decision that goes beyond the data” is a bad one. It’s basing decisions on pure fantasy and falsehood.

  4. Joe Shelby says

    reason cannot be ‘neutral’

    On this, I would disagree. the faithful, accepting that a God exists and helps guide and direct their lives, can make perfectly logical and reasonable conclusions about the causes of what they see around them.

    If they accept the axiom that God can perform miracle healing, then when someone is cured of a disease against the statistical odds, its a miracle. it is a perfectly reasonable conclusion, as is the equally reasonable conclusion of a skeptic that the patient simply was the 1 in 1000.

    the believer’s conclusions may not be entirely rational, based on an axiom that can’t itself be considered provable.

    even in pure Geometry, the basis of geometry is a set of axioms upon which the rest is derived. but one axiom can be changed leading to tremendously differing conclusions: parallel lines. if they never meet (Euclidian), always meet, or always diverge (the two 3-D possibilities), the conclusions one can make are different.

    if the axioms are agreed upon, the application of reason remains neutral to the axioms.

    hence, one aspect of ID is reasonable – the vulnerable state of DNA replication where errors and changes are introduced is a place where a “Designer” can influence the recombination and create a new “design”. It is reasonable. it is also based on a belief (“The designer can and does influence the replication process”) that can’t be proven. they continue to assert that their axioms (“there is a designer who was involved in the creation of life on this planet”) is a hypothesis that can be proved.

    forgetting of course that science is the practice of creating a situation where something can be *disproved* and then showing (through evidence and reason) that it held up to the test (which is then verified by peer review as being a legitimate test of the hypothesis).

    of course, their other axiom, “random actions over extended time can’t account for such statistical improbabilities”, is easily shown to be false, but as long as they accept (on faith in defiance of the evidence) that it is an axiom, some of their creationist conclusions can follow quite reasonably. it is *irrational* to continue to hold that axiom, but some of the conclusions they reach because of it aren’t unreasonable.

  5. caynazzo says

    It’s good, PZ, to see how efficiently you’ve analyized and hit at the far more interesting point and pitfalls in this apologist argument–somewhat similar to the show sharp-minded P.I’s put on at Journal Club.
    I think it’s also worth noting you’re making a Rationalist argument. Although it’s tangential to this post, not only does Rationalism discount faith as a way to find truth it also turns its nose up at tradition and emotion.

  6. Caledonian says

    If they accept the axiom that God can perform miracle healing, then when someone is cured of a disease against the statistical odds, its a miracle. it is a perfectly reasonable conclusion, as is the equally reasonable conclusion of a skeptic that the patient simply was the 1 in 1000.

    And the apologists come out of the woodwork…

    That is not a reasonable conclusion. Even if I accept as a given (not an axiom) that there is an entity that can produce miraculous healings, unusual recoveries from illness are not necessarily miraculous, and they are not necessarily the result of intervention by that being.

    Ockham’s Razor indicates that in the absence of evidence indicating that a healing is miraculous and that a specific being is responsible, we have no reason to leap beyond the default.

    You’re not arguing for reason; you’re not even aruging with reason. You’re arguing that we should abandon reason and use whatever rationalizations are necessary to “justify” the conclusions we desire.

  7. says

    I think you have misunderstood the point of the quote. ID is basically the use of the trappings of science for the advancement of religious belief. It can therefore be attacked as bad science and also as bad theology. The first sort of attack has weight with those who care about science, and the second sort of attack has weight with those who care about theology.

  8. BC says

    > “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”

    I can’t help but think that cult leaders (like David Koresh, Jim Jones) who probably uttered that same phrase.

  9. 386sx says

    What the writer is doing – to put words in his mouth – is to criticize these people of weak faith whose beliefs had to be propped up by science.

    I can’t see what’s wrong with propping up beliefs with science. Once you concede that beliefs can’t be bolstered by anything tangible then you’ve pretty much given away the game, but won’t admit it. The idea of jumping Jesus jumping up and down trying to get everybody’s attention but hoping nobody gets all “propped up” about it seems kind of silly.

    You both raise good points, but I read the author here differently. I don’t think that he’s saying that Doubting Thomas is exhibiting an undesired phenotype by way of his use of doubt, per se.

    Oh okay. If you say so, dude.

  10. Joe Shelby says

    You’re arguing that we should abandon reason and use whatever rationalizations are necessary to “justify” the conclusions we desire.

    No, i’m not. I’m saying that’s what THEY are doing.

    I find most of what they think to be full of it as well.

    And even “Occam’s Razor” is relative. The simpler explanation, for a believer, IS the belief that God did it, rather than “it beat the odds”. if looking at the many causality factors as there are, it overwhelms the believer’s imagination with all the complexity involved.

    hence, Dembski’s assertions that the “complexity” is “proof” of his designer axiom. most people of religion find the “God did it” as the simpler explanation. again, within the axiom of “there is a God who does these kinds of things”, it reasonably fits to them.

    Occam’s razor is best applied only when the competing conditions are still within the same realm of natural causality. when one condition implies “magic” of some sort, it will win the war of simplicity.

    and will, of course, be outside the realm of science.

  11. says

    Good for you, Giving up emotions even negative ones is a very hard prospect. Reading you post made me think about if there are any negative emotions that I need to shut out of my life.

  12. says

    “IF” there were a God/Creator, could we call “Him/Her/It” a loving God if he has duped all of you scientist into spending your entire earthly lives minutely examining His/Her/It’s Creation, while you not even receiving a comforting Cosmic pat on your collective heads in acknowledgment for doing all this labor for free while the non-scientist diddle their lives in cushy comfort while pondering the results of your free labor, without even acknowledging said labor, only because the results of your labor verify the existence of their Creator?

    I therefore propose: “Take a Scientist to Church Week” as a grand thank you to all scientist for your continuing free labor of which each new “discovery” only make us nonscientist gush (and blush) at the ever more intelligence of our grand designer — God.

    Shalom,
    Bro. Bartleby

  13. says

    Bartleby, this scrivener would prefer not.

    How is it a kindness to be subjected to the worship of a Super Duper who takes all the credit without showing any of the work?

    I understand that God is blamed for “It’s Hard Out There For a Pimp” but I’ve only ever seen (and never been impressed by) his posse.

  14. says

    Bro. Ken,

    God’s work is in the hands of the scientists, and with their glee for the love of discovery, they investigate it. To them, God has given much!

    Bro. Bartleby

  15. Sastra says

    I also agree with PZ here. The argument that “ID is bad theology because faith ought to stand on its own” assumes that faith is a wonderful thing which should be fostered and cherished as a sign of good character — and I have a lot of *ethical* problems with that.

    There’s hypocrisy involved. The faithful agree that people who are eager to believe nice things and do so because they want them to be true are wrong to do this — UNLESS the nice thing is really true. Then we’re into storyland, where the truth is known upfront as part of the background narrative, and the main character is clearly extra sensitive and honest, so that’s why he picks it out. Rules are no longer being applied evenly. Skepticism is reinterpreted from being the result of a rational process to being the result of a moral defect.

    Believing that God wants people to believe in Him on faith turns nonbelievers from mistaken into rebellious. It takes the existence of God out of the realm of theory (which imo is where it belongs) and into the realm of story, with good guys (using faith) and bad guys (not wanting God.)

  16. says

    The argument that “ID is bad theology because faith ought to stand on its own” assumes that faith is a wonderful thing…

    No, it assumes that for Christians, faith is a wonderful thing. It’s not an argument in favor of Christianity, it is an argument that if you are a Christian, then ID is bad theology.

  17. says

    For Republicans, pandering to lobbyists is a wonderful thing. For racists, whiteness is a wonderful thing. For criminals, lawlessness is a wonderful thing. For monkeys, a ripe pile of poop is a wonderful thing.

    The argument that “To Interest X, Y is good” shouldn’t be used to imply that Y is objectively good or true or worthwhile. It might be wonderful, it might be neutral, it may be a great flaw or even a great evil.

  18. b teta says

    personally, i don’t see religion as being relevent at all in the 21st century. if you have that much of a void in your life that you have to suspend disbelief in crap- then you really have a problem. i am not sure why anyone gives any credence to christianity, organized religion and especially ID. my question is why are the christians trying to become a part of the scientific community if they so dislike it?

  19. Mickey Mortimer says

    Joe Shelby- Occam’s razor is not the “simplest” explanation in the sense that the least steps are required, or else “magic/God did it” would be the winning explanation all the time. Rather, Occam’s razor calls for the least auxiliary or ad hoc hypotheses. Needless to say, God’s quite a collection of auxiliary hypotheses.

  20. says

    “assumes that faith is a wonderful thing which should be fostered and cherished as a sign of good character”

    Faith is what allows us to arise each morning and seat oneself behind the wheel of a Ford Explorer, faith that those assembly line robots did “their” jobs, that the mechanic that did the brake job did his job, that all others on the road “get” the symbolism of red octagon signs. Faith is having trust in something. Without faith, humans would be immobile, with faith humans make leaps that could not otherwisely be made if one were to abandon faith for certainty. Yes, faith is simply what we call those things that cannot be absolutely verified, yet through experience we “play the odds” and if our minds have gathered enough data on similar prior events, then the odds will be in our favor, or so we think.

    “For Republicans, pandering to lobbyists is a wonderful thing. For racists, whiteness is a wonderful thing. For criminals, lawlessness is a wonderful thing. For monkeys, a ripe pile of poop is a wonderful thing.”

    For an atheist, this is true, for morality is a fiction that we as clan/tribe/society have come up with that allows the most comfort for the many. Comfort in its broadest sense, as a pandering lobbyist would be comforted by pulling off a big deal, or a tiger ripping into the neck of a gazelle and tasting the comforting warm blood. Without a belief in a God/Creator, then comfort is paramount, and as you say, lawlessness can be a wonderful thing, for it provides an abundance of opportunities for the comfort seekers. A true atheist living a conforming life is either comfortable, or missing out on all the fun!

  21. says

    So when an insect bothers to chew on a leaf, or a bird lays an egg, or a squirrel gathers nuts for the winter, it does so out of faith?

    I don’t have faith. I get up and do those things (except for the Ford Explorer–how profligately wasteful) because experience tells me that it will be rewarding, and because foresight lets me plan ahead. Please don’t drag me into your little fantasies about the importance of faith, because I reject them all.

    Also, please don’t puke up that stupid “atheists think morality is a fiction” nonsense here. It is repulsive, hateful, and clearly contradicted by the evidence.

  22. cm says

    Faith is what allows us to arise each morning and seat oneself behind the wheel of a Ford Explorer.

    Yeah and Frontline is what allows us to know that Ford knew the Explorer was 2″ too narrow to prevent most rollovers but still didn’t change the design until 2002.

  23. says

    What is truly disappointing is that being right (um, correct) is not enough. One must also forget, for a moment, about noble doubt and curiosity and beat one’s opponent over the head with political strategies in order to protect truth.

    Good thing there are people like Barbara Forrester, Judge Jones, and PZ Myers.

  24. says

    Bro. PZ,

    Of course, for you, morality is a fiction, an evolved tribal fabrication that harkens back to any sundry life that you can jumpstart by a good sneeze into a petri dish. Have you ever witnessed “morality” while peering into a microscope? I think not. Life evolves, and evolves into what, complexity? Does complexity have value? If I were an atheist I would at least say that an amoeba has no more value, or less value than … than anything, including humans. So too is your use of terms such as “repulsive” or “hateful” or “stupid” or even “reject” as in rejection. You should at least acknowledge your place in a Godless Cosmos. Birth, life, death. So what? I admire your enthusiasm for science, for the thrill and adventure of the discovery. But … is that thrill any better or worse than the thrill of a wolf making dinner of a lamb? That’s the problem, “better” and “worse” are but value to the host that utters them in a Godless universe. Each bit of life writes its own rules for right and wrong, writes its own value system, writes its own moral codes. And these systems and codes are written into your DNA by evolution, and for one purpose only, so that you have ample chance to fertilize some eggs. And that is all, or as they say, that’s about as good as it gets.

    Shalom,
    Bro. Bartley

  25. Dustin says

    Yeah and Frontline is what allows us to know that Ford knew the Explorer was 2″ too narrow to prevent most rollovers but still didn’t change the design until 2002.

    If Frontline was a religion that enjoyed the popularity of most of the monotheistic tripe that has issued from the burning wastes of the middle east, the world would be a much nicer place. From now on, any time I’m asked to comment on my religion, I’m going to say “Frontline”.

  26. Dustin says

    For an atheist, this is true, for morality is a fiction that we as clan/tribe/society have come up with that allows the most comfort for the many.

    Fiction? Are you kidding me? That driving sense of morality has evolved to assist in the construction of those societies — not the other way around. Why? The benefits to be had by organizing into societies are obvious. If you don’t believe that the origin of morality is in its utility, just have a look at primates — their social structure is designed to reward altruistic and social behavior. Morals, to an atheist, are every bit as fictitious as an eyeball.

  27. says

    I admire your enthusiasm for science, for the thrill and adventure of the discovery. But … is that thrill any better or worse than the thrill of a wolf making dinner of a lamb?

    Implying, of course, that scientific thought (or, “discovery”) is, at its core, a haphazard mentality–like an instinct.

    Each bit of life writes its own rules for right and wrong, writes its own value system, writes its own moral codes. And these systems and codes are written into your DNA by evolution, and for one purpose only, so that you have ample chance to fertilize some eggs.

    Certainly, Brother Bartl[b]ey is aware that survival is NOT a morality. The implication here is that, because one does not believe in a deity, one’s moral life must necessarily be governed by the laws of nature. In other words, without theism, there is no humanity.

    Stupid.

  28. Emanuel Goldstein says

    We all know that evolution is used to promote atheism.

    But over at the Kansas Citizens for Science they are trying to deny that, because if would be politically disadvantageous to do so.

    KCFS does not want to be linked to atheist groups because they see that as hurting their position in legal fight coming up soon.

    Why don’t you all post over there and set them straight?

  29. says

    Notice there’s another epistemological worry of sorts with the story of Thomas. Thomas has to see (and touch, etc.) to be convinced, whereas we all know now that seeing is only a very tiny part of how we come to know. Of course, there are no experimental manipulations that will lead to Christianity … once again, though, I ask the religious about their epistemology …

  30. Joe Shelby says

    To repeat: if you already accept that a God exists and is willing and able to do these sorts of things, and more importantly, you believe he already has in other circumstances, its already an “entity” in your reality, one so real you can’t imagine a reality without it, especially if your “faith” requires you to call such imaginings “blasphemy”, as many of them called John Lennon’s Imagine when it was first released.

    To the believers’ view, looking at the combination of events that are required, in order, each with their statistical likelyhood (regardless of their scientific possibilities) for X to happen, Occam’s razor points to God.

    and please note i’m playing something of a Devil’s advocate here. These are not my views i’m trying to say here.

    from Skepdic.com: Because Occam’s razor is sometimes called the principle of simplicity some creationists have argued that Occam’s razor can be used to support creationism over evolution. After all, having God create everything is much simpler than evolution, which is a very complex mechanism. But Occam’s razor does not say that the more simple a hypothesis, the better. If it did, Occam’s would be dull razor for a dim populace indeed.

    […]most of our disputes are not about this principle but about what counts as necessary. […] To atheists, positing God and a supernatural realm is to posit pluralities unnecessarily. To the theist, positing God is necessary.

  31. Caledonian says

    That is not reasonable behavior. You might as well say that a person who is convinced that Elvis and the Grays are beaming mind-control waves at his head and that aluminum foil headgear will block them is acting rationally by wrapping his head in shiny food packaging material.

    Having a deity create everything is not a simpler explanation. It’s not an explanation at all, for one thing; intelligent entities are far more complex than unintelligent rules, regardless of the behaviors those rules describe; finally, saying that accepting a given is necessary because you’ve accepted it is circular, and those who make such arguments are (and I say this without hyperbole or exaggeration) mentally defective.

    Don’t give us this “they’re not my own beliefs” garbage. Your arguments are invalid, your reasoning flawed, and your objections doth protest too much. You may not be a theist, but you *are* philosophically incompetent.

  32. says

    What is puzzling to me is this use of science as a subterfuge from upon a Godless universe is built. When one waves the flag of atheism, then of course it is liken to one waving the flag of the cross, you take your stand and present your case. Yet the “case” that I’m reading here is fraught with what I suppose could be the debris of your post-atheist life. Bro. JD said, “In other words, without theism, there is no humanity. Stupid.” Well, in your world stupid is, or is not, depending on your want. Sartre says, “Existence precedes and rules essence” meaning there is no pre-defined essence to humanity, except that which people make for themselves. Let’s face it, if you wave the flag of atheism, then don’t get upset when “your guy” Sartre said what I’m only mouthing. “Sartre does not acknowledge the existence of a god, or of any other determining principle, human beings are free to act as they choose. Even if an individual believes that he has an essence — such as a soul or rationality or a psychological type — that essence is a choice that he is making rather than something pre-existing that is imposed on him.” If you are indeed an atheist, than at least have some warm feelings toward your beliefs and don’t be like Peter who denied even knowing Jesus when confronted with his beliefs.

  33. Caledonian says

    What is puzzling to me is this use of science as a subterfuge from upon a Godless universe is built.

    Can anyone parse this? I’m having a little trouble interpreting Bartleby’s demented ramblings.

  34. Joe Shelby says

    I *know* its a flawed argument. It also is not my own.

    I was trying to present (obviously, not successfully, even when including a version of the argument from another site) the flawed theistic argument that attempts to use Occam in favor of the deity/designer.

    I can round up plenty of sites, including the sketdic and wikipedia, that present this theistic interpretation of Occam and in most instances show its flaws (as you did).

    I wasn’t attempting to say that the believers are right (they’re not), nor that their argument was valid objectively (its not). I was trying to present that one simply can’t have an objective argument with the believers because they can’t take God out of their picture of reality no matter what the skeptic says, and the skeptic won’t let God into the picture of reality without itself having been supported by evidence.

    Wikipedia: While deductive reasoning can logically result in a definite conclusion, it requires as a starting point for human investigation, that there are generalizations which can not be questioned.

    That’s what I was trying to say when I was discussing axioms above. The problem in a debate with believers is that the axioms, the unquestionable generalizations, can’t be agreed upon (even among themselves, much less with skeptics/atheists). Most church philosophies believe and teach that you can apply reason to axioms of faith to reach deeper truths. Skeptics say that if the axioms of faith are false (or at least, themselves things that need to be proven through reason), then the religious teaching is still unreasonable. Objectively speaking, the skeptics are right.

    I think, looking back, that my issue was the use of the phrase “Science is founded on Reason”. Reason is a process; applied to objective factual evidence and an acceptance that causality is internally consistent, it produces Science. Applied to religious faith, it produces religious “truths” (or total garbage, depending on what you think of their faith).

    I don’t believe that believers are being unreasonable when they apply reason to their axioms of faith. I do believe that they are unreasonable when to hold onto their faith, they have to deny the physical evidence before them, or use the many logical fallacies they use in their debates to try to discredit the scientific conclusions based on that evidence.

  35. Caledonian says

    I *know* its a flawed argument.

    ‘Flawed’? A flawed thing can still have value. What you have there is an invalid argument — it has no predictive power, no utility, and no value except to those who will use it to pull the wool over unsophisticated people’s eyes.

    If you know it’s invalid, stop repeating it.

  36. Carlie says

    “Even if an individual believes that he has an essence — such as a soul or rationality or a psychological type — that essence is a choice that he is making rather than something pre-existing that is imposed on him.”

    Ok, so one person said that. Does that mean we all have to believe it? No, Satre or not. If one accepts that evolution has helped shape the human brain, then one also believes that morality IS in fact something pre-existing that is imposed on him/her, thanks to the wonders of non-kin altruistic selection. People who behave the nicest to one another reap the most social benefits, thereby passing on more of those all-important genes, including those that govern being nice to each other. Understanding where morality might have come from doesn’t mean claiming that there is freedom to reject it, or even having the desire to do so.

    I’d actually say that atheists might well have more morality than the hyperreligious. Both would rush into a burning building to save a two-year old (let’s not mention the petri dish for this scenario), but while the religious person only does it because God said to and he doesn’t want God mad at him, the atheist does it out of a sense of duty and caring for humanity, even though there are no afterlife rewards to be gained by doing so.

  37. D says

    Bartleby – what do you make of the Socratic argument against morality as divine commandments? Euthyphro, I mean.

  38. Torbjorn Larsson says

    “We all know that evolution is used to promote atheism.”

    Yes, in much the same way that conctraceptives are used to promote sexual safety. Ie, in the absence of contraceptives, there would be a problem with safety. Contraceptives produces a conflict because some side believes sexual safety is bad, because in their eyes it will promote sexual indifference.

    Applied to atheism, it’s the religious side that demands a creator and/or controller, and when abiogenesis and/or evolution finds that it’s not a requirement, they see that as a problem for them. In the absence of evolution, there would be a problem for atheism, or so the religious side assume unnecessarily. Evolution produces a conflict because some side believes atheism is bad, because in their eyes it will promote sexual indifference.

    If most religions hadn’t made a faulty assumption about their foundations, and a faulty assumption about atheism foundations, evolution would not promote atheism more than religion.

    “If you are indeed an atheist, than at least have some warm feelings toward your beliefs and don’t be like Peter who denied even knowing Jesus when confronted with his beliefs.”

    It seems you are confused. Atheism doesn’t involve making moral stands. There are several such stands compatible with atheism, where moral relativism is only one of them.

    “Reason is a process; applied to objective factual evidence and an acceptance that causality is internally consistent, it produces Science. Applied to religious faith, it produces religious “truths” (or total garbage, depending on what you think of their faith).”

    Most religions are based on scripture, which is a problem for reason if they are conflicted (they all are) or contrafactual (they all are).

    In principle you can clean out everything that is or can be contradictory. In practise that leaves you with several conflicts with reason. Such as lack of evidence to found a reasonable theory on, or that it’s not parsimonious if you insist that you want to be consistent with science as well.

  39. Torbjorn Larsson says

    “atheism is bad, because in their eyes it will promote sexual indifference.”

    Heh! Maybe they think that too, but it was supposed to be ‘atheism is bad, because in their eyes it will promote moral indifference’.

  40. says

    Evolution is not a problem. The problem is origins: what sparked the origins of “is” BEFORE matter, forces, and all other sundry laws of nature. If you wish to lump all religions in the file under superstition, fine with me. I’m not arguing those issues. I am arguing that a Creator (picture it a cosmic cloud if you wish) was behind that “spark” which from matter and gravity and magnetism and quarks and time and all burst forth. AND what we call evolution was a consequence of this brew that burst forth.

  41. Caledonian says

    The problem is origins: what sparked the origins of “is” BEFORE matter, forces, and all other sundry laws of nature

    A thing responsible for existence could not exist itself. So what do we care about a nonexistent entity?

  42. Torbjorn Larsson says

    “Evolution is not a problem. The problem is origins”

    That is another old and tiresome objection totally without foundations.

    I quote from a discussion on The Panda’s Thumb ( http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2006/03/john_west_attem.html ): “There has been a philosopical/theological idea of ‘a first causeÂ’. Newer cosmology theories uses other mechanism, starting from the random quantum fluctuation cosmology, I believe, through Hawking et al ‘no boundaryÂ’ proposals, multiverse/endless inflation scenarios, string brane cosmologies, Carroll et al symmetrical time scenario and doubtless many others. The later ideas embeds big bang in infinite time universes/multiverses without any ‘first causeÂ’.

    It turns out that when physicists come up with physical explanations for cosmology, a ‘first causeÂ’, or (signs of) gods, isnÂ’t usable as part of a theory of cosmology.”

    So there are no “origins” creationist question here, and none regards ID creationism either. It’s all empty and useless statements.

  43. says

    “A thing responsible for existence could not exist itself. So what do we care about a nonexistent entity?”

    Think God “outside” creation/existence.

    “Evolution is not a problem. The problem is origins”
    That is another old and tiresome objection totally without foundations.

    Again, “first cause” doesn’t preclude any of said theories, but it does mark for humans (the only ones that we know of so far that can ponder such things) a point when time/space/matter as we perceive it came into being. For all we know the time/space/matter universe may be a minute entity of any one of the theories that you mention. So I don’t think a belief in “some sort of intelligence” that we call God is in any way more or less of a stretch than we (or similarly evolved life forms in the universe) are the only intelligence in the universe.

  44. says

    Bro. Bartleby, you’re assuming that matter came into being. Why? Incidentally, it is reasonably safe to say that space and time also are eternal in that sense too, since relational approaches to understanding both seem to be well supported.

    (Don’t equivocate on “universe”, either.)

    And read your Lucretius. This has been answered very long ago.

  45. says

    Bro. Keith, Yes, why? Or why not? And what is eternal and eternity? And Lucretius answers the most honest of the atheists, that the “operations of the world can be accounted for entirely in terms of the purposeless motions of atoms through empty space” and thereby? A Godless world is “purposeless” and thereby a grand cosmic “so what”? It seems latter day atheists seem to want to ascribe “purpose” in their personal lives, yet are reluctant to fess up like either Sartre or Lucretius who face the void and acknowledge purpose is but a fiction. And if those scientists who wish to embrace “purposeless motions of atoms through empty space” as the terminus of their intellectual exploration of “eternal” matters, then so be it. Or perhaps they spend their lifetime calculating the purposelessness of atoms, and if it keeps them busy and some folks see fit to pay them for their work, then I suppose they have fulfilled their evolutionary destiny, they have put another meal on the table and have survived another day. Again … so what?
    Shalom,
    Bro. Bartleby

  46. Nomen Nescio says

    Think God “outside” creation/existence.

    think argle blurgle qadaff.

    to say that something has-property outside the set of things that has-property is not just illogical, it is semantic nonsense. it is pseudo-language that, while it can be parsed, cannot carry meaning.

    you literally might as well bang your forehead on the keyboard, and post what results as the great wisdom of your faith; it would mean as much.

  47. Torbjorn Larsson says

    “And what is eternal and eternity?”

    Keith gives you the answer, that an infinite old (ie eternal) universe isn’t created or imbued with a ‘first cause’. You say you don’t understand this, but I think you do; you say yourself that ‘first cause’ “does mark … a point when time/space/matter as we perceive it came into being” and if there was no first cause there was no such special point. And again as Keith says, you can’t equivocate on universe here by embedding your putative ‘first cause’ in somtehing larger, you must express your knowledge correctly.

    “those scientists who wish to embrace “purposeless motions of atoms through empty space” as the terminus of their intellectual exploration of “eternal” matters”

    Here you, in a similar vein as above, with excessive contortions avoid that not only is atheism not about taking moral stands, there are several of them that are compatible. So an atheist is free to make his or her purpose as he/she sees fit. Humans _are_ free to not make themselves slaves under a dogma. To choose to be a slave would be… purposeless.

  48. Torbjorn Larsson says

    “an infinite old (ie eternal) universe”

    Here I mean an infinite old (ie eternal) cosmology, to avoid confusion with those who doesn’t acknowledge big bang.

  49. carib says

    Phew! Atheists sure have misunderstand the story of Doubting Thomas!
    The point of the story is that he writer is commending the faith of those who believed in the tradition handed down by the EYEWITNESSES. thus is not faith in the absence of evidence. Its faith the the tradition handed down by the community.
    Of course, atheists discount such evidence on other grounds-BUT IT IS EVIDENCE!
    Its the same sort of faith in tradition, by the way, by which everyone believes in Socrates, Julius Caesar, or Confucius- people who none of us have seen . Yet no one doubts the existence of these persons.

    Anyway, as you were…

  50. says

    Carib, Thomas didn’t doubt the existence of Jesus (to parallel your mention of Socrates, et al.), but the continued, live existence of the resurrected Jesus after his death. If someone told me that Julius Caesar was autographing shields right now just down the road a piece, would it be a virtue for me to run off to the armor shop to get one for signing on just their say-so? I think the atheists here aren’t the only ones “misunderstanding” the story. Or at least “tradition.”

    As at least some commenters here have missed, “faith” and “trust” are not identical, particularly when we’re talking about religious faith.

  51. Torbjorn Larsson says

    “The point of the story is that he writer is commending the faith of those who believed in the tradition handed down by the EYEWITNESSES. thus is not faith in the absence of evidence. Its faith the the tradition handed down by the community.
    Of course, atheists discount such evidence on other grounds-BUT IT IS EVIDENCE!”

    Actually, such evidence is discarded by scientists, not atheists. It is called anecdotal evidence and is discarded as not trustworthy.

    You are perhaps thinking of witness evidence, as used by law, not science. There they test the testimony for reliability, mostly by verification with other sources. If no such sources are found, the witness testimony is afforded no or limited weight.

    Here we were discussing science.

    “Yet no one doubts the existence of these persons.”

    This is because there exists independent written accounts of these persons.

    Incidentally, since there exist none such on the Jesus character, it’s legitimate to think no such character existed.

    Someone on The Panda’s Thumb wrote a post pointing out the extensive similarities between the Jesus character and similar ones in about a dozen ancient major religions. If he is correct, the Jesus as archetypical myth theory is further supported. And it shows the dangers with anecdotal evidence.

  52. says

    We are a church made up of individuals who Welcome Everyone. Doesn’t matter what you wear, look like, the color of your hear, your orientation or identification. What matters to us is that want to share in our community!