Larry Moran has weighed in on the question, raised in yesterday’s post, about whether it is fair to criticize Richard Dawkins for lacking the theological and philosophical chops to discuss the topics raised in The God Delusion. I especially like his closing paragraph:

The onus is on believers to convince us non-believers to adopt their faith. I’m not convinced, and I think my opinion about the existence of God is just as valid as that of C.S. Lewis, Ted Haggard, or Francis Collins. Instead of whining about whether Dawkins has mastered the subtlety of the Eucharist or the relationship of the Prophet Muhammad to God, why not concentrate on showing where Dawkins went wrong in his rejection of the arguments for the existence of God?


Mike Dunford has also weighed in with these worthy sentiments:

The question of whether or not god/s exist/s, however, is not the only question Dawkins discusses in The God Delusion. Dawkins also addresses other topics, such as the various arguments that have been advanced in favor of the existance of god. The arguments in favor of gods existance have been discussed for quite some time. Rivers of ink (and in some cases blood) have been spent going back and forth over the arguments. Here, a background in theology and/or philosophy would be helpful, if only because it would provide some familiarity with the ways in which theologans and/or philosophers have answered similar responses in the past. Here, I think Dawkins does lack expertise, and I think that the expertise is very helpful, if not strictly necessary, in addressing those questions.

Fair enough. I would only add in reply that Dawkins’ book was not meant as an exhaustive, academic treatment of the subject. Rather, it was meant as a readable, trenchant intorduction, and I think Dawkins succeeds nicely in what he set out to do.

Comments

  1. #1 Blake Stacey
    January 19, 2007

    In all the brouhaha, it may have escaped notice that in all probability, Dawkins managed to raise at least a few points which philosophers and theologians have not yet considered. Questions stimulated by the most recent developments in biology and physics have probably not percolated into the theologians’ ivory cathedral. Russell Blackford has written,

    When the smoke clears, it will be apparent that this is an important book — sure, it may not make a terribly significant contribution to academic philosophy of religion (though I do not consider it negligible, even in that regard), but it has made a strong, clear, and thoughtful contribution to public debate on immensely important issues to do with how religion should now be viewed, and what its future ought to be.

    Its key message — that there is something horribly wrong, even creepy, about labeling a young child as, say, “Christian” or “Muslim” — is surely correct. Young children are in no better position to understand, and agree to, bodies of religious doctrine than to understand economic or political doctrine, but no one would point to some three year old and say, “Hey, look at that little libertarian girl” or “… at that Keynesian boy” or “… that Marxist kid.”

    [...]

    I suspect that real philosophers of religion are going to find TGD naive, or kind of argumentatively thin, but I haven’t seen anything from those quarters as yet. I’ve also been reading Graham Oppy’s much more sophisticated (and less accessible) Arguing About Gods, but haven’t had a chance to talk to Graham about either book. However, Dawkins’ discussions of fine tuning and the ethics of belief are worthy of philosophers of religion grappling with, IMO. His discussions of the more traditional arguments for the existence of God are fine for their purpose but don’t say anything new.

    Much of traditional theology and religious philosophy have nothing whatsoever to say about fine-tuning (although some Humean arguments against teleology are applicable).

  2. #2 Blake Stacey
    January 19, 2007

    An afterthought:

    Of course, it goes without saying that criticizing Dawkins for lacking experience in theology is tantamount to saying that the vast majority of religious people are ignorant of that which they worship. I find it difficult to resist the conclusion that the theologians are taking themselves to task for not teaching theology to the billions of people who need to understand all the details of their God.

  3. #3 Adrian
    January 19, 2007

    Theologians have made a lot of noise about Dawkins’ unscholarly treatment of theological arguments. In my mind this would carry a lot more weight if these theologians would spend some time pointing out what a load of dung the arguments for God really are. Wishful thinking tied up with circular reasoning. It doesn’t take more than an intro course into logic and philosophy to see they are fundamentally flawed. Until theologians do this simple thing, their intellectual dishonesty and cowardice pretty much nullifies any other complaints.

    How can they whinge about Dawkins ignoring subtleties when they ignore fundamentals?

  4. #4 ctw
    January 19, 2007

    I’d like to second blake stacey’s last observation, altho less eloquently and decidedly less tolerantly. the eagleton-mode reviews have annoyed the hell out of me, but it was only after yesterday’s comments that I understood clearly why: dawkins writes a book aimed at lay people refuting the primitive ideas they have gotten from whereever, then pompous asses criticise him for not addressing the subtle theology that most of his target audience undoubtably never heard of, nevermind mused over. just like one shouldn’t bother with milne since he didn’t address the intracacies of ursine studies in his books.

    novel concept for reviewers: consider target audiences. duh.

    -charles

  5. #5 Blake Stacey
    January 19, 2007

    Sweet. I get called eloquent and tolerant. If I could only come across as well in person as I do when I have an opportunity to revise my words, I’d be set for life.

    If you’d like a hefty dose of tolerant eloquence, I recommend Carl Sagan’s book from beyond the grave, The Varieties of Scientific Experience. I wrote a little about it in the comment thread here (hopefully, not starting a blog of my own and only posting comments in other people’s keeps me civil and courteous).

  6. #6 Ahcuah
    January 19, 2007

    How much do I really need to know about phlogiston to reject it? Do I really need to know how it relates to “calcination”.

    If you’ve never heard of “calcination”, are you even worthy to discuss the issue of phlogiston?

    There was a lot of sophisticated thinking by a lot of smart people that went into describing and justifying the theory. Are we to just throw that away? Surely it shouldn’t be good enough to point out that modern chemistry describes the reactions superbly, and leave it at that?

  7. #7 Roy
    January 19, 2007

    Who would require of Las Vegas oddsmakers that they first thoroughly understand all gamblers’ notions of luck before posting the odds for the next game?

    If someone did make such a demand, the proper response would be wholesale ridicule, not respectful discourse.

  8. #8 Henry
    January 20, 2007

    Jason:

    Sorry to ask this randomly, but what do you think of Alvin Plantinga’s review of The God Delusion (see http://prosthesis.blogspot.com/2007/01/plantinga-on-god-delusion.html)? I think dissecting Plantinga’s review and general epistemology would be especially beneficial since Plantinga has written extensively on the justification one has for holding to blind faith. Plantinga is interesting to me for two reasons: 1. He has argued in his book ‘Warranted Christian Belief’ that one is warranted (that is, rationally justified) to hold a belief without evidence that it is true and 2. He has argued that naturalistic evolution is an incoherent concept that is self-defeating. I do not think that it is, but I am curious to hear your opinion. Here are his comments:

    “Towards the end of the book, Dawkins endorses a certain limited skepticism. Since we have been cobbled together by (unguided) evolution, it is unlikely, he thinks, that our view of the world is overall accurate; natural selection is interested in adaptive behavior, not in true belief. But Dawkins fails to plumb the real depths of the skeptical implications of the view that we have come to be by way of unguided evolution. We can see this as follows. Like most naturalists, Dawkins is a materialist about human beings: human persons are material objects; they are not immaterial selves or souls or substances joined to a body, and they don’t contain any immaterial substance as a part. From this point of view, our beliefs would be dependent on neurophysiology, and (no doubt) a belief would just be a neurological structure of some complex kind. Now the neurophysiology on which our beliefs depend will doubtless be adaptive; but why think for a moment that the beliefs dependent on or caused by that neurophysiology will be mostly true? Why think our cognitive faculties are reliable?
    From a theistic point of view, we’d expect that our cognitive faculties would be (for the most part, and given certain qualifications and caveats) reliable. God has created us in his image, and an important part of our image bearing is our resembling him in being able to form true beliefs and achieve knowledge. But from a naturalist point of view the thought that our cognitive faculties are reliable (produce a preponderance of true beliefs) would be at best a naïve hope. The naturalist can be reasonably sure that the neurophysiology underlying belief formation is adaptive: but nothing follows about the truth of the beliefs depending on that neurophysiology. In fact he’d have to hold that it is unlikely, given unguided evolution, that our cognitive faculties are reliable. It’s as likely, given unguided evolution, that we live in a sort of dream world as that we actually know something about ourselves and our world.
    If this is so, the naturalist has a defeater for the natural assumption that his cognitive faculties are reliable—a reason for rejecting that belief, for no longer holding it. (Example of a defeater: suppose someone once told me that you were born in Michigan and I believed her; but now I ask you, and you tell me you were born in Brazil. That gives me a defeater for my belief that you were born in Michigan.) And if he has a defeater for that belief, he also has a defeater for any belief that is a product of his cognitive faculties. But of course that would be all of his beliefs—including naturalism itself. So the naturalist has a defeater for naturalism; naturalism, therefore, is self-defeating and cannot be rationally believed.
    The real problem here, obviously, is Dawkins’ naturalism, his belief that there is no such person as God or anyone like God. That is because naturalism implies that evolution is unguided. So a broader conclusion is that one can’t rationally accept both naturalism and evolution; naturalism, therefore, is in conflict with a premier doctrine of contemporary science. People like Dawkins hold that there is a conflict between science and religion because they think there is a conflict between evolution and theism; the truth of the matter, however, is that the conflict is between science and naturalism, not between science and belief in God.”

  9. #9 truth machine
    January 20, 2007

    Here, a background in theology and/or philosophy would be helpful, if only because it would provide some familiarity with the ways in which theologans and/or philosophers have answered similar responses in the past. Here, I think Dawkins does lack expertise, and I think that the expertise is very helpful, if not strictly necessary, in addressing those questions.

    This is just wrong; specifically, it is ad hominem. There is no reason whatsoever to study the various ways in which people have attempted to demonstrate that pi is rational, or to study the esoterics of astrology, in order to debunk them — the falsity of the claims can be demonstrated quite independently of the arguments that are put forth in their favor. In the case of the ontological argument, the notion that a mere claim of conceivability of something could require it to exist is ludicrous, and if some theologians and philosophers have spent a considerable amount of time thinking about it, so much the worse for them. I deny both that I can accurately conceive of the greatest possible thing, and that existence is an attribute, let alone one that confers more greatness, and having denied the premises, no amount of argumentation from the premises is of any consequence.

  10. #10 truth machine
    January 20, 2007

    He has argued in his book ‘Warranted Christian Belief’ that one is warranted (that is, rationally justified) to hold a belief without evidence that it is true

    Uh, so beliefs are warranted even if they lack warrant. Sure.

    Now the neurophysiology on which our beliefs depend will doubtless be adaptive; but why think for a moment that the beliefs dependent on or caused by that neurophysiology will be mostly true? Why think our cognitive faculties are reliable?

    Uh, because if they aren’t we’re liable to make mistakes about the world that lead to our prepubescent deaths. Just what the heck does Plantiga think “adaptive” means in this context?

    Example of a defeater: suppose someone once told me that you were born in Michigan and I believed her; but now I ask you, and you tell me you were born in Brazil. That gives me a defeater for my belief that you were born in Michigan.

    Uh, no; the belief that you were born in Michigan may still be correct, or even if not correct, still warranted — for instance, I may consider the person who said you were born in Michigan to be reliable, and have good reason to think that you are lying or self-deluded when claiming to be born in Brazil. Plantiga’s notion of “defeaters” is horribly bad epistemology, as opposed to the sort of inference to the best explanation that rational people use and that underlies science.

    So the naturalist has a defeater for naturalism; naturalism, therefore, is self-defeating and cannot be rationally believed.

    That’s ridiculous coming from someone who argues that beliefs are warranted in the absence of evidence. Even if Plantiga’s claim is correct (rather than being obviously absurd) that my beliefs are as likely to be wrong as right, that doesn’t make holding them irrational; I might as well hold them as not.

    The real problem here, obviously, is Dawkins� naturalism, his belief that there is no such person as God or anyone like God.

    But this belief is the consequence of an argument that Dawkins gives. It’s not enough for Plantiga to speculate that Dawkins’s cognitive faculties aren’t reliable and thus his beliefs might as well be wrong as right, he needs to actually give a counterargument, a refutation of Dawkins’s arguments, otherwise he’s indulging in pure ad hominem.

    That is because naturalism implies that evolution is unguided. So a broader conclusion is that one can�t rationally accept both naturalism and evolution; naturalism, therefore, is in conflict with a premier doctrine of contemporary science.

    Uh, no, even if one had no basis for accepting both naturalism and evolution, that wouldn’t make “naturalism and evolution” contradictory. Plantiga, like so many religious apologists, is a cargo-cult logician — he uses the forms, but he doesn’t actually understand their function.

    People like Dawkins hold that there is a conflict between science and religion because they think there is a conflict between evolution and theism;

    No, there’s a conflict between science and religion because science is based on a rational epistemology and religion is based on an irrational epistemology. Hume recognized that theism is irrational quite without evolution, but evolution helps along those of us who aren’t as brilliant as Hume to that realization.

  11. #11 truth machine
    January 20, 2007

    From a theistic point of view, we’d expect that our cognitive faculties would be (for the most part, and given certain qualifications and caveats) reliable. God has created us in his image, and an important part of our image bearing is our resembling him in being able to form true beliefs and achieve knowledge.

    How does Plantiga know that God is able to form true beliefs and achieve knowledge? I thought God was supposed to be omnipotent. What, then, do “form” and “achieve” mean here, and how could what we do in that regard possibly be in God’s image? And how in the world can Plantiga think that an adapative brain doesn’t give us the ability to achieve knowledge?

    Why is it that all apologists for religious belief, at least when they are justifying religious belief, seem so stupid?

  12. #12 truth machine
    January 20, 2007

    My apologies for (consistently) misspelling Plantinga’s name.

  13. #13 Blake Stacey
    January 20, 2007

    Plantinga seems to be falling, just a bit, for the “evolution is random” canard. It’s not: the course of natural selection is “guided” by the pressures of the environment. That’s why it’s fairly likely that “we actually know something about ourselves and our world” — those who don’t, die.

    (Brian Boyd had some interesting remarks along these lines, concerning what this means for art and literature, in “Getting It All Wrong“.)

    Thanks for the characterization of theologians as “cargo-cult logicians”. I like that.

  14. #14 Nigerian 419 spammer
    January 20, 2007

    [Plantinga] has argued in his book ‘Warranted Christian Belief’ that one is warranted (that is, rationally justified) to hold a belief without evidence that it is true

    Wayt to go Alvin! Keep up the good work.

  15. #15 Greg
    January 20, 2007

    “The onus is on believers to convince us non-believers to adopt their faith.”

    That may be true. However, Dawkins appears to be trying to convince believers to become non-believers. That is a different task, requiring different strategies and tools.

  16. #16 truth machine
    January 20, 2007

    Plantinga seems to be falling, just a bit, for the “evolution is random” canard. It’s not: the course of natural selection is “guided” by the pressures of the environment. That’s why it’s fairly likely that “we actually know something about ourselves and our world” — those who don’t, die.

    Having read up a bit more, it seems that Plantinga thinks that evolution gives us the ability to feed, fight, flee, and f … procreate, but that it doesn’t thereby follow that any of our beliefs are true. Odd. Here are a couple of interesting articles refuting his arguments:

    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/wesley_robbins/contraplantinga.html

    http://www.mirrorofjustice.com/mirrorofjustice/2006/02/brian_leiter_re.html

    Thanks for the characterization of theologians as “cargo-cult logicians”. I like that.

    Yeah, “I” was kinda pleased when the inner depths of my brain offered that to “me”. :-)

  17. #17 truth machine
    January 20, 2007

    Dawkins appears to be trying to convince believers to become non-believers. That is a different task, requiring different strategies and tools.

    There’s no need to deal in appearances; Dawkins states explicitly what he is trying to do and why he is going about the way he is.

  18. #18 Pseudonym
    January 20, 2007

    truthmachine:

    There is no reason whatsoever to study the various ways in which people have attempted to demonstrate that pi is rational, or to study the esoterics of astrology, in order to debunk them — the falsity of the claims can be demonstrated quite independently of the arguments that are put forth in their favor.

    I strenuously disagree. There’s no reason for Dawkins to do it in his book, that’s for sure. But there are some very good reasons for studying wrong answers.

    Not long ago we had another discussion on a variation of the Monty Hall “paradox”. To convince people of the correct answer to those probability problems, it’s often quite important to dissect the wrong answers in some detail.

    Probability is one of those things where a lot of peoples’ intuition fails utterly, and studying wrong derivations is a great way to work out exactly where that intuition fails. It’s partly thanks to this sort of work, remember, that we have non-classical statistical theory, like Bose-Einstein and Fermi-Dirac statistics.

    Philosophical arguments, especially wrong ones, have a way of being fairly subtle, and sometimes you can only work out what’s wrong with them if you examine them very closely. Take the ontological argument as an example. It’s easy to refute it using Gaunilo’s objection: the same argument can be used to “prove” the existence of a perfect island, even though such a thing obviously doesn’t exist. However, this doesn’t show what’s actually wrong with the argument, it just shows that it is wrong.

    Of course, Dawkins doesn’t really care why the argument is wrong. His point is just that it’s wrong. And quite right, too.

    However, that doesn’t necessarily equip you with what you need to refute the next wrong argument. In this case, the real problem is that existence is not a predicate. And it’s this very notion that turned out to be an extremely important step on the road to developing formal logic, which is the basis of a lot of computer science.

    No, this isn’t an objection to Dawkins’ book, which I haven’t even read. But I do strongly disagree that “there is no reason whatsoever” to study wrong answers to see why they’re wrong. You never know what you might learn.

  19. #19 Greg
    January 20, 2007

    “There’s no need to deal in appearances; Dawkins states explicitly what he is trying to do and why he is going about the way he is.”

    If he is attempting to convince non-believers to adopt faith, he has completely fooled me and everybody in ScienceBlogs who has commented on him. He is going about it the wrong way, too.

  20. #20 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    January 20, 2007

    If he is attempting to convince non-believers to adopt faith…

    I will take this as acknowledgment that you have not read the book upon which you are commenting.

  21. #21 Kevin
    January 20, 2007

    For all the talk about Dawkins not understanding the finer points of theology, I’ve yet to see any of these people explain exactly what they mean by this. What is Dawkins missing? Growing up a lifelong Catholic until my deconversion, I was never introduced to any profound justifications of my faith (this despite 18 years of Catholic schooling). What are Dawkins and Harris missing? What am I missing?

    Is this just another Deepak Chopra-like “he doesn’t understand religion because he doesn’t understand my vaguely defined concept of religion that I can’t fully share with you” thing?

  22. #22 J. J. Ramsey
    January 20, 2007

    Kevin: “What am I missing?”

    Probably nothing important, but you are not, AFAIK, writing a book with the hope that it will deconvert theists.

    Kevin: “For all the talk about Dawkins not understanding the finer points of theology, I’ve yet to see any of these people explain exactly what they mean by this. … Is this just another Deepak Chopra-like “he doesn’t understand religion because he doesn’t understand my vaguely defined concept of religion that I can’t fully share with you” thing?”

    Depends on which people you are talking about. With Eagleton, I’d say the answer is yes. In other cases, the point is that Dawkins’ lack of knowledge about the beliefs he is criticizing has led him to write weak or even strawman arguments.

  23. #23 ferfuracious
    January 20, 2007

    It’s obvious from the quoted passages that Plantinga does not understand Dawkins’ final chapter. The problem isn’t this though:

    “Now the neurophysiology on which our beliefs depend will doubtless be adaptive; but why think for a moment that the beliefs dependent on or caused by that neurophysiology will be mostly true? Why think our cognitive faculties are reliable?”

    I think it’s fair to point out that adaptive doesn’t mean true. You could have a true belief (‘if I swim in that river crocodiles will eat me’) and an untrue one (‘if I swim there bunyips with eat me’) that produce similarly beneficial behaviours which are based on the same neurophysical adaptation without any distinguishable difference. Dawkins actually writes about how our lives in ‘Middle World’, covered in a ‘physiological burka’ (if that’s what he called it) limit our ability to comprehend things like just how fast the speed of light is or just how enormous the universe is. Because we construct internal simulations of what the world is like we can’t see it as it actually is.

    The problem is Plantinga’s insistence that “one can’t rationally accept both naturalism and evolution; naturalism, therefore, is in conflict with a premier doctrine of contemporary science.” Dawkins’ point is that this ‘physiological burka’, which is left to us by evolution and influences everything we do, can only be overcome through science. He was poetic about the way science allows us to peek out of our human burka, for example to observe the rest of the spectrum of light.

    The difficulty is all Plantinga’s not Dawkins’.

  24. #24 Henry
    January 20, 2007

    Truth Machine:

    For what it is worth, I do not outright dismiss Richard Dawkins for not having expertise in philosophy and religion. In fact, I applaud his efforts for attempting to formulate valid criticisms of religion. Where the train comes off the tracks, in my opinion, is in the substance, the content of Dawkins arguments. One of the take home points of the book is that evidentialism is foundational to epistemology—the idea that one /must/ have reasons for the beliefs they hold in order to be rationally justified in holding those beliefs. If the belief in God is without support, without physical evidence, one is irrational for believing it.

    This is Dawkins main problem with faith. He thinks it one is violating their proper epistemological duties (ie evidentialism) in believing something without evidence. But in doing so Dawkins has taken evidentialism as a given and has not engaged in any serious criticism of opponents to this position. Enter Alvin Plantinga. Plantinga has at book length discussion taken up the topic of whether one is rational or justified in holding a belief without evidence that it is true. This is not to say that said belief must be correct in order for one to hold it. It is instead an argument that it is not /necessary/ to have a reason for every belief one holds. What, for example, is the reason that we must have a reason for us to be rational in holding a belief? Plantinga gives several examples of phenomenon in our everyday lives which we believe and are rationally justified in believing but for which we have no empirical reasons or evidence. A classical example is memory. Plantinga uses the following example. Let’s say that you remember having lentil soup and a doughnut for lunch two years ago while waiting on plane at an airport. Your belief that this is indeed what you had for lunch is /not/ based upon propositional evidence. Indeed, if it had been two years ago, there would probably be no evidence to confirm that your memory of this lunch is indeed reflective of reality. You do not derive this belief from other things you know or believe, like the fact that you always have this sort of lunch or that you have found and analyzed crumbs from the original food from the airport. You as well do not form the belief that your memory is reliable on the basis of anything like experience and imagery of the event. After all, the imagery associated with imagining the event can be indistinguishable from the imagery associated with remembering the event itself. Instead you hold that your memory is reliable not on an evidential basis, but on the basis of belief, and you are rationally justified in doing so.

    At least, this is Plantinga’s argument. Whether it stands or falls is another matter, but the fact is that his is a serious discussion of /faith/, and if Richard Dawkins is serious about adopting evidentialism (reason as opposed to faith) as the exclusive basis for one’s worldview, he most certainly needs to at least engage those who disagree with this position.

  25. #25 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    January 20, 2007

    For all the talk about Dawkins not understanding the finer points of theology, I’ve yet to see any of these people explain exactly what they mean by this. What is Dawkins missing?

    Ya see*, there are sound and thoroughly convincing theological arguments for the existence of God, but they are hidden away in dusty theology books where no one will ever see them. Don’t you have enough faith to believe that?

    * Off-topic, you can tell George W. Bush is lying whenever he starts a sentence with “ya see.”

  26. #26 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    January 20, 2007

    …if Richard Dawkins is serious about adopting evidentialism (reason as opposed to faith) as the exclusive basis for one�s worldview, he most certainly needs to at least engage those who disagree with this position.

    1) Your definition of evidentialism is off, and Dawkins’ position in not one of pure evidentialism. He is willing to accept logical arguments in addition to evidential ones. However, there are no convincing arguments for the existence of God in either arena.

    2) If you are going to question evidentialism, you should address the presumption of disbelief, i.e the teapot argument, which Dawkins commented on at length in his book. I will note that this is closely related to parsimony, i.e. Occam’s razor, which is a crucial component of the scientific method.

  27. #27 Henry
    January 20, 2007

    Mustafa:

    My purpose in posting is not to question evidentialism, but to point out that Dawkins has /not/ seriously engaged his opponents. There are those who question the presumption of disbelief. Alving Plantinga, for example, dedicated his book ‘God and other Minds’ to analyzing theistic proofs for and against God’s existence. He found that neither proofs for nor against theism were successful. What was interesting was that he found that the arguments for/and against other minds failed in a similar fashion. (eg since we cannot sense the thoughts or feelings of other people, how are we to know that they really are persons with emotions and thoughts, and not robots?) In the absence of convincing arguments for the presence of other minds, should we disbelieve, as we would disbelieve a teapot floating around Mars? Quite obviously not, but then why do we presume that we /must/ disbelieve theistic arguments if we are to be rational?

    Plantinga then went on to develop the idea that one can be warranted in holding a belief without evidence. It could be that belief in God is properly basic, in the same brute class of facts as 1 + 1 = 2, and thus can be taken as given without proof.

    All of this is to say that Dawkins in no way engaged the subject in anything like an objective or serious manner. Did he dissect any modern formulation of the ontological argument, such as Godel’s? No. Did he even attempt to engage anything but a caricature of faith, which was his take home point? No. His analysis, without mentioning Plantinga or similar authors and their contributions, must then be taking with a grain of salt.

    As a final side note, I’m not entirely convinced that Dawkins understands the implications of his argument against the anthropic principle. Let’s say that the relationship between the constants of nature is as locked in as a mathematical equation. What then? I personally think that if there were any evidence for God’s existence, it would be in the elegance and simplicity of Euler’s identity.

  28. #28 Henry
    January 20, 2007

    My final point is that if Dawkins book is primarily devoted to pursuing the theme that faith is opposed to reason, particularly in the case of theism, then he should accurately characterize faith. I don’t think that he can seriously do this without reading and reviewing the works authors like Alvin Plantinga.

    I have nothing more to say than this.

  29. #29 Jason
    January 20, 2007

    Henry,

    In the absence of convincing arguments for the presence of other minds, should we disbelieve, as we would disbelieve a teapot floating around Mars?

    Assuming disbelieve is intended to mean, or to include, “not believe,” yes. But we do have convincing arguments for the presence of other minds.

    Plantinga then went on to develop the idea that one can be warranted in holding a belief without evidence. It could be that belief in God is properly basic, in the same brute class of facts as 1 + 1 = 2, and thus can be taken as given without proof.

    There are at least two problems with this argument. First, beliefs about the truth of arithmetic propositions (1+1=2, 1+1=3, etc.,) are justified by the evidence of reason. The belief that God exists is not. Second, arithmetic is an example of applied mathematics, and arithmetic propositions are thus testable empirically. Again, the belief that God exists is not.

  30. #30 John B
    January 20, 2007

    Religions are the products of particular realities; historical, social, economic, etc… Dawkins is not, as far as I know, qualified to address any of these elements of human religious activity (memes and ethical genes aside).

    Getting stuck on the provability of religious claims about God is missing the point. Unfortunately, most of the evils, or privations, described by Dawkins in his ‘conciousness-raising’ book are human evils, not divine ones.

    I understand it is very comforting to an atheist to externalize bigotry, greed, ignorance, violence, etc… and make them the result of some abstract irrational worldview. Unfortunately, the abstraction never acts, never thinks, never teachs, only humans do those things. Demonizing religion, or religious thinking will not allow us to exorcise irrationality or evil from humanity. The cold light of rational unbelief can be just as inhumane, alienating, and stupid in its applications.

    Dawkins is barking up the wrong tree. Yes, there are a variety of inequalities and conflicts justified by some religious tradition or another. Debunking religion, even if universally accepted, is not the first step in addressing these issues.

    Historically, what has worked is making religion irrelevant, by promoting pluralism and recognition of shared human rights, obligations, needs, values, etc… regardless of their respective justifications among believe from different belief systems. This is the central idea of secularism, right? ‘freedom of religion’ with ‘freedom from religion’?

    Dawkins makes religion entirely too relevant, he invests it with powers and tendencies that more properly belong to all humans regardless of religious belief or lack thereof. By doing that he moves against the secularist trend and puts too much importance on the role of religious belief in good science, good thinking, and good living.

    As far as I can tell, his opinions about the evils of religion in modern society are as valid as the average creationist’s opinion of the significance of Darwin’s work, and have the same value.

  31. #31 Jason
    January 21, 2007

    John B,

    Since you assure us that, all appearances to the contrary, religion itself is harmless, you presumably have no strong objection to the promotion of religious doctrines such as “Homosexuality is a sin against God” or “Death to the infidels!” or “The world is only 6,000 years old.” Apparently, you think religious teachings such as these only appear to be harmful, and in reality they have no adverse consequences.

    I think your claim is absurd on its face.

  32. #32 truth machine
    January 21, 2007

    the idea that one /must/ have reasons for the beliefs they hold in order to be rationally justified in holding those beliefs. If the belief in God is without support, without physical evidence, one is irrational for believing it.

    One must for beliefs about empirical matters, and Dawkins treats belief in God as an empirical matter. Look, if you and Plantinga want to believe things for no reason, and put forth silly blather about a belief in God being like a belief that 1+1 = 2, go right ahead, but don’t expect rational people to think much of you. 1+1 = 2 is true by the definitions of the symbols — it’s an analytic truth. You might define God and existence in such a way that the existence of God is an analytic truth, but you would be redefining the words and wouldn’t mean by them what people normally do. It is, to me, a transparently dishonest enterprise.

    Your belief that this is indeed what you had for lunch is /not/ based upon propositional evidence.

    I’m sorry, but Plantinga is BSing himself and you. We know that memory is somewhat reliable, as we have numerous examples in which memories are independently verified — the claim that we have no evidence for the reliability of memory requires that we treat each instance individually and perform no inferences across memories. This is not something that any sane person, including Plantinga, does as a matter of course — it’s something that he only does as part of his Christian apologetics. It’s not a search for truth, it’s just a rationalization game in which he tries to come up with clever arguments to support his prior commitments. Serious analytic philosophers do not take Plantinga’s arguments seriously.

  33. #33 truth machine
    January 21, 2007

    I strenuously disagree. There’s no reason for Dawkins to do it in his book, that’s for sure.

    Since that’s the context in which I made my comment, your strenuous disagreement is rather silly. Of course one would have to study someone’s argument for the rationality of pi in order to explain where that person went wrong, but not in order to refute the claim of rationality. Dawkins’s book is not aimed at theologicians who have spent lifetimes crafting their apologetics, it’s aimed at lay people who might accept the theological arguments on authority without being very familiar with them.

    In this case, the real problem is that existence is not a predicate.

    Ah, so you don’t actually have to examine all these different arguments in great detail, you can toss them all with one basic observation — thanks for making my point. As I wrote, “I deny … that existence is an attribute” (which is more accurate; “existence” has the form of an attribute, “exists” has the form of a predicate).

  34. #34 truth machine
    January 21, 2007

    “There’s no need to deal in appearances; Dawkins states explicitly what he is trying to do and why he is going about the way he is.”

    If he is attempting to convince non-believers to adopt faith, he has completely fooled me and everybody in ScienceBlogs who has commented on him. He is going about it the wrong way, too.

    Non sequitur much? Who said anything about Dawkins attempting to convince non-believers to adopt faith?

  35. #35 truth machine
    January 21, 2007

    No, this isn’t an objection to Dawkins’ book, which I haven’t even read.

    Perhaps you should, since that’s what’s being discussed.

    But I do strongly disagree that “there is no reason whatsoever” to study wrong answers to see why they’re wrong. You never know what you might learn.

    Quote mine much? What I wrote was “There is no reason whatsoever to study the various ways in which people have attempted to demonstrate [...] in order to debunk them “. I never said that there’s no reason whatsoever to study them period. The discussion is about a criticism of Dawkins, and I responded to that criticism — which you agree is invalid.

    Sheesh.

  36. #36 truth machine
    January 21, 2007

    In other cases, the point is that Dawkins’ lack of knowledge about the beliefs he is criticizing has led him to write weak or even strawman arguments.

    This is bullshit. Dawkins presents the arguments for God that he is responding to, and they are not strawman versions, they come straight from Aquinas, Anselm, etc. And weak or not, his arguments are adequate to refute the given arguments for God, and none of his critics have shown otherwise — certainly you haven’t.

  37. #37 truth machine
    January 21, 2007

    My purpose in posting is not to question evidentialism, but to point out that Dawkins has /not/ seriously engaged his opponents.

    Since there are very few people who are aware of Plantinga’s arguments, let alone take them seriously, there’s no reason for Dawkins to seriously engage Plantinga’s arguments, any more than there’s a reason to engage any other fallacious argument that few people are aware of when you’re in the business of exposing those people to sound arguments rather than fallacious ones.

    What was interesting was that he found that the arguments for/and against other minds failed in a similar fashion. (eg since we cannot sense the thoughts or feelings of other people, how are we to know that they really are persons with emotions and thoughts, and not robots?)

    Plantinga, being a master of apologetics, seizes upon a particularly thorny philosophical problem, and utilizes it as leverage to rationalize his own beliefs; it’s a fundamentally dishonest enterprise. The fact that he doesn’t understand how our beliefs about other minds are justified does not mean that there is no justification, and certainly does not mean that all unjustified beliefs are, um, justifiable (“warranted”). The fact is that his argumentum ad ignorantiam not only isn’t warranted logically, but it isn’t warranted empirically because some people have actually figured out the answer to his question, as explained in a link I already gave (but I bet you didn’t read):

    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/wesley_robbins/contraplantinga.html

  38. #38 truth machine
    January 21, 2007

    It could be that belief in God is properly basic

    No, it couldn’t.

    in the same brute class of facts as 1 + 1 = 2

    1 + 1 = 2 is provable in PA.

    and thus can be taken as given without proof

    Poof!

  39. #39 ctw
    January 21, 2007

    some random comments/questions.

    based on henry’s quoted passage, plantinga seems to consider belief to be deterministic – you believe or you don’t and your belief is true or not. I view belief as statistical: you “believe” proposition X if the available evidence supporting X convinces you that acting as if X is true will have certain consequences with probability p. the more significant the prospective consequences, the larger you’ll require p to be, ie, the more evidence you’ll require before acting. note that this view avoids the touchy issue of whether one’s beliefs are actually “true” that seems to concern plantinga. if you “believe” in my sense, you act as if a belief is true while p reflects any doubts about its actual truth status, or equivalently, deficiencies in supporting evidence.

    given this view of belief, I can trust the possibly faulty evidence of my memory and “believe” that I had a doughnut for lunch at the airport two years ago because any action I take based on that is likely to have negligible consequences and a small value of p is acceptable. on the other hand, if I vaguely recall a proposition that it’s safe to eat a certain type of mushroom, I’ll require additional very convincing (large p) evidence before believing the proposition and eating a mushroom of that type due to the possibility of serious adverse consequnces if it turns out to be false.

    given this, I don’t know what “belief without evidence” even means, nevermind if it’s “warranted”. religious people sometimes say they don’t require evidence because they have “faith”, but I don’t see how that can be. their evidence may be scripture, theology, having experienced a “sense of god”, their parents/clergyman/guru saying it’s true, but in my view of belief, evidence is a requirement. of course, how one weights the available evidence is an individual matter. I personally weight evidence of the types suggested here for religious belief close to zero. “believers” presumably weight such evidence differently and come up with non-negligible values of p (implicitly, of course – not to suggest any actual calculations).

    “It could be that belief in God is properly basic, in the same brute class of facts as 1 + 1 = 2″

    I’m not sure what a “brute class of facts” is, and if it’s something like what I’d guess, I’m not sure propositions of integer arithmetic are members whether or not belief in god is. I view math as a set of human constructs, not “facts” of nature, although despite some efforts I’ve been unable to get confirmation or refutation of that view from credible sources.

    finally, I don’t know what it would mean to “empirically test” an arithmetic proposition.

    -charles

  40. #40 truth machine
    January 21, 2007

    As a final side note, I’m not entirely convinced that Dawkins understands the implications of his argument against the anthropic principle. Let’s say that the relationship between the constants of nature is as locked in as a mathematical equation. What then?

    You say that Dawkins doesn’t understand the implications, but what implications? You think “What then?” constitutes a logical inference? If you think that mathematical lock in implies that God exists, then it’s up to you to justify that inference; from here it looks delusional and stupid.

    I personally think that if there were any evidence for God’s existence, it would be in the elegance and simplicity of Euler’s identity.

    Then you understand neither evidence, God, existence, elegance, simplicity, nor mathematics. Euler’s identity is just a special case of e^(ix) = cos(x) + i sin(x), and it is a trigonometric identity just like any other trigonometric identity.

  41. #41 truth machine
    January 21, 2007

    Religions are the products of particular realities; historical, social, economic, etc… Dawkins is not, as far as I know, qualified to address any of these elements of human religious activity (memes and ethical genes aside).

    Nice ad hominem. In any case, he’s more qualified than you are, especially since you seem not to have read his book.

  42. #42 Pseudonym
    January 21, 2007

    Quote mine much?

    Nope. See below.

    What I wrote was “There is no reason whatsoever to study the various ways in which people have attempted to demonstrate [...] in order to debunk them “. I never said that there’s no reason whatsoever to study them period. The discussion is about a criticism of Dawkins, and I responded to that criticism — which you agree is invalid.

    Sorry, I missed out some of what I was going to say. I can see why you object to what I said. :-)

    What I was going to add is that there are two possible things you can do with a wrong argument. For the purpose of this post, I’ll call them debunking and disproving, though I’m not happy with those words.

    “Debunking” an argument (like the ontological argument) is showing that the argument is wrong. “Disproving”, for the purpose of this post, is showing why it’s wrong.

    I argue that for this kind of question, “debunking” doesn’t require a lot of philosophical background, but “disproving” does. I also argue that “disproving” is more valuable, because it gives you the tools to dismiss other wrong arguments.

    Often, the problem is as simple as trying to get the argument in a form that you can reason about. The JREF apparently runs into this problem all the time with its million dollar paranormal challenge. Most “applicants” fall out of the running during the process of trying to get them to actually formally say what they claim they can do. The ID movement has a similar problem; I’ve never seen their claims stated in a formal way that doesn’t boil down to “it’s not evolution”.

    Dawkins, being a scientist, is, I have no doubt, extremely good at formulating claims precisely, particularly if it falls within his field. I’m not convinced that he would be as good at doing the same formulation with arguments that are not scientific in nature, such as philosophical arguments.

    Now I’m not saying that debunking is a bad thing. I must say, it’s much easier to show that astrology doesn’t work than to study in detail why it couldn’t possibly work. But someone, somewhere, should do it. And that person need not be Richard Dawkins.

    BTW, yes, I’m going to read the book now that it’s out in paperback. (That’s the only reason why I haven’t read it yet.)

  43. #43 truth machine
    January 21, 2007

    based on henry’s quoted passage, plantinga seems to consider belief to be deterministic – you believe or you don’t and your belief is true or not. I view belief as statistical

    Indeed. See the link that I’ve posted twice before:
    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/wesley_robbins/contraplantinga.html

    finally, I don’t know what it would mean to “empirically test” an arithmetic proposition.

    Drop 1 coconut into basket.
    Drop 1 coconut into basket.
    Count coconuts in basket.

  44. #44 Mondo
    January 21, 2007

    @Pseudonym
    Your request is absurd. What purpose would there be in disproving the almost certainly infinite variety of fairy tales, if that were even possible?
    A simpler stance to take is simply to ask for evidence, as the burden as always is on the presenter.

  45. #45 truth machine
    January 21, 2007

    I missed out some of what I was going to say.

    Regardless of what you were going to say, you mischaracterized what I said. In any case, your further comments are off the mark in just the way I noted. When you talk about debunking or disproving (and radically redefining that word doesn’t help any) “the ontological argument”, you are doing no more than what Dawkins did — he addressed the basic argument, rather than thousands of esoteric versions offered by numerous theologicians, and he showed that it holds no force — why there’s no reason to be swayed by it. He referred specifically to Kant’s observation that existence does not confer greatness. That’s sufficient to refute the argument and all the ones that “come after”. Going on and explaining that “exists” is not a predicate adds nothing; the argument is already refuted.

    I’m not convinced that he would be as good at doing the same formulation with arguments that are not scientific in nature, such as philosophical arguments.

    Gee, I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that you haven’t read the book.

    Sheesh.

  46. #46 truth machine
    January 21, 2007

    Um, Mondo, what does that have to do with what Pseudonym wrote? The “presenters” (Aquinas, Anselm, et. al.) present purported logical proofs for God’s existence; they aren’t dependent on evidence, and Dawkins recognizes that (but he does note his trouble with “the very idea that grand conclusions could follow from such logomachist trickery”).

  47. #47 truth machine
    January 21, 2007

    Count coconuts in basket.

    Argh, I misformulated it with a circularity. Ok, try:

    Drop 1 coconut into basket.
    Drop 1 coconut into basket.
    Record number of coconuts in basket.

    (We can recognize 2 coconuts as being 2 coconuts without counting them.)

  48. #48 truth machine
    January 21, 2007

    As a final side note, I’m not entirely convinced that Dawkins understands the implications of his argument against the anthropic principle.

    Sigh. All these complaints from people demonstrably dimmer than Dawkins. Dawkins does not argue against the anthropic principle — talk about misunderstanding! Dawkins uses the anthropic principle to answer theistic arguments that the fact that we live in a Goldilocks world just right for our existence makes the existence of God likely.

  49. #49 Chris' Wills
    January 21, 2007

    < Your request is absurd. What purpose would there be in disproving the almost certainly infinite variety of fairy tales, if that were even possible?
    A simpler stance to take is simply to ask for evidence, as the burden as always is on the presenter.>>

    The prosecution must prove the accused guilty. The accused is assumed innocent.

    Dr Dawkins wrote the god delusion.
    Dr Dawkins is the prosecutor, he is the one accussing religion of being bad and saying that god(s) doesn’t/don’t exist.
    It is therefore up to him to make the case not upto any religion to refute him (remember innocent until proven guilty).

    Does Dr Dawkins claim to prove the non-existance of God? Well according to his book, suprisingly, no he doesn’t.
    He claims only that he finds the existance of God to be highly improbable.
    How he calculates this probability we aren’t shown, but I’m sure that he has done some sums and that he has convinced himself of the improbability of god(s).
    In this regard I tend to agree with him.

    Now the main thrust of the book is actually a diatribe against religions; religion is the source of all evil seems to be the general claim and he waxes lyrical on this claim, oddly enough when faced with the evil acts committed by those claiming to be non-theists/atheists he claims that it isn’t relevant or moot (original meaning of moot).
    Strange that, evil committed in the name of religion is worthy of discussion and condemnation, evil committed but not in the name of a religious belief set isn’t to be considered. One might think that he isn’t impartial nor weighing all the evidence.

    He also commits a “sin” (a sin against Science) in that he claims that supernatural acts can be investigated by Science.
    By its methodology Science investigates the natural world and interprets the world assuming no-supernatural acts (hypothesis, prediction, test, refine/bin hypothesis, repeat is a general summary of Science’s method) this is the way Sciences works and it assumes that nature follows understandable rules.

    So the methodology of Science is naturalistic. Why is sciences like this, why do we assume that reality follows understandable rules?
    Well it is not because the founders of modern Science followed a naturalistic/materialstic philosophy of life. I’m sure that the Philosophers of Science have an explanation, in fact they probably have a lot of explanations :o)
    Though to put it simply, if we didn’t assume this, learning about nature would be next to impossible.

    Yes; Science can and does say that, based on our present understanding of the laws/rules of nature as revealed by Science:
    A Female of the species Homo Sapien cannot produce a child without a male of the same species having supplied sperm.
    The dead cannot return to life.
    Walking on water and ascending into the air are impossible acts for a person to perform without mechanical assistance.
    ie. miracles do not obey known natural laws/rules.

    Well duh!! That’s what miracles are, things that Science cannot explain but people believe happened.
    Does Science ever claim absolute truth for its results? no it doesn’t. To quote Karl Popper “If you thought that science was certain � well, that is just an error on your part.” Sir Karl Popper, The Problem of Induction, 1953.

    Does Dr Dawkins make a good case; to my mind no he doesn’t. Forget the philosophy, it just isn’t up to the standard I expect from his writing and it seems that some of his quotes are mis-quotes.

    Dr Dawkins confuses nature as revealed by Science using a naturalistic methodology with his belief in naturalistic/materialistic Philosophy, and as with any other proselytiser knows that he is correct and that all who disagree with him are stupid (his words about believers in religion).

    His popular Science books are superb (not as good as Gould was, but that is just personal taste) but in this exposition he comes across as boorish and similair to the extreme religionists. One also detects a strong whiff of self-righteousness and arrogance.

    In summary: Could do better.
    The faithful will laud it
    It won’t convince the unbelievers

  50. #50 John B
    January 21, 2007

    Jason,

    Since you assure us that, all appearances to the contrary, religion itself is harmless, you presumably have no strong objection to the promotion of religious doctrines such as “Homosexuality is a sin against God” or “Death to the infidels!” or “The world is only 6,000 years old.” Apparently, you think religious teachings such as these only appear to be harmful, and in reality they have no adverse consequences.

    About the first two, if they violate human rights, or local laws about hate speech, then the people promoting those ideas should be held responsible for them, regardless of whether the teachings are religious or not.

    On the last one, I’m not sure who would be harmed by being mistaken about the age of the earth, but whatever, the point is that religion and the ‘God-belief’ are not the cause of the hatred, war, etc…

  51. #51 John B
    January 21, 2007

    Nice ad hominem. In any case, he’s more qualified than you are, especially since you seem not to have read his book.

    I have read his book. If I dismissed his argument simply because he has no credentials, that would be an ad hominem, but I don’t.

  52. #52 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    January 21, 2007

    In the absence of convincing arguments for the presence of other minds, should we disbelieve, as we would disbelieve a teapot floating around Mars? Quite obviously not, but then why do we presume that we /must/ disbelieve theistic arguments if we are to be rational?

    Why do you say, “quite obviously not”? Is it because you realize we have actual evidence that other people have minds? If so, then the teapot comparison is entirely inappropriate. You give Plantinga too much credit.

  53. #53 Davis
    January 21, 2007

    I personally think that if there were any evidence for God’s existence, it would be in the elegance and simplicity of Euler’s identity.

    Then you clearly don’t understand much about mathematics.

  54. #54 Jason
    January 21, 2007

    John B,

    About the first two, if they violate human rights, or local laws about hate speech, then the people promoting those ideas should be held responsible for them, regardless of whether the teachings are religious or not.On the last one, I’m not sure who would be harmed by being mistaken about the age of the earth, but whatever, the point is that religion and the ‘God-belief’ are not the cause of the hatred, war, etc…

    But if “religion and the ‘God-belief’ are not the cause of hatred, war, etc.” why do you strongly object to the religious teachings I described? According to you, they make no difference. According to you, the hatred would be there with or without the religious doctrines. So if these doctrines, and the thousands of others like them, are harmless, why oppose them?

  55. #55 impatientpatient
    January 21, 2007

    Plantinga uses the following example. Let’s say that you remember having lentil soup and a doughnut for lunch two years ago while waiting on plane at an airport. Your belief that this is indeed what you had for lunch is /not/ based upon propositional evidence.
    **********************

    Except that this is a bit silly. Wars are not fought over what you ate for lunch two years ago. Neither are children disallowed a competitive education. Women are not held in submission because of this.

    It is a stupid example, that angers me because of its inherent inanity. Religion is not inane in North America, and it causes people to support idiots who choose pretty words that make people feel good.

  56. #56 impatientpatient
    January 21, 2007

    I was trying to explain to someone who did not grow up with religion that religious ceremony and attendance and membership fit in with our need to be part of something bigger than ourselves. They could not understand, having never experienced it.

    This is how Dawkins seems to me. He cannot understand how people can choose to be part of something that essentially asks them to check a good portion of their mind at the door, in order to be part of a community. It makes no sense to him.

    That is why when I read Dawkins book I could understand why so many people would be ticked off. (though I think that he is right) I have been part of a religious community as well as later chosen to not be a part of it. There is a very real sentiment that when you are part of a church community that things make more sense- you have a framework by which to make decisions. When you leave that it means YOU are now responsible for the choices you make, and that is hard and frightening sometimes. If you have never had that “security” that religion seems to offer, I am sure it can be mystifying as to why you would need it. Especially if you are a moral and decent person who has made a successful life without having a god to judge you at every turn.
    The question of being good without god is moot. Of course you can.

    This is what seems to get the anti Dawkins people all riled up- simply that he cannot understand how people with a functioning brain can allow themselves to be led by those who would tell them what to do. The details are where god is and Dawkins doesn’t understand why people insist on debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, because it is simply irrelevant to him. If god is a figment, then why bother discussing the finer points. That to him makes about as much sense as writing a doctoral thesis on what color unicorns are.

    This is an instance in which the bigger picture is not being seen because of the insistence that one examine each tiny part first. Except everyone differs on which part is more important in order to understand the whole. And then you have the guy looking from a distance that sees that it is an extremely primitive and ugly painting even with the supposed subtleties that the parts lend.

  57. #57 Jason
    January 21, 2007

    impatient,

    I seriously doubt that Dawkins would deny that the benefits of belonging to a community and a supportive social network are a large part of the appeal of organized religion for many people. Why you think Dawkins would dispute this, I have no idea. I am constantly reading unsubstantiated assertions from Dawkins’ critics to the effect that he doesn’t understand such-and-such or doesn’t realize so-and-so, but I see nothing in his writings to support these claims.

  58. #58 Pseudonym
    January 21, 2007

    Jason, I’m so with you on that one.

    I get the strong impression that if “religion” concerned itself with philosophy (e.g. morals and ethics) and ritual, and dropped all claims that had to do with the natural world, and dropped all claims to hold moral authority (though, of course, any organisation is free to express an opinion) outside of those who have freely chosen to become members, and loudly distanced themselves from prejudice, especially against atheists, then Dawkins really wouldn’t have that much of a problem with it.

    My opinion (no idea what Dawkins’ is) that some modern liberal religions are almost there. (John Shelby Spong is one example; I think he’s mistaken on a number of issues, but at least someone is thinking creatively about the problem.) I also think that many thinking religious people already hold a similar opinion privately, but won’t talk about it for whatever reason. If religious people stopped looking at Dawkins as a threat, and instead asked him what they could actually do about his concerns, they might be surprised.

    But I don’t think it’s up to him to open up the dialogue. Dawkins is on a very noble mission to destigmatise atheism and promote science and critical thinking. Asking him to be a religious reformer as well would be perverse.

  59. #59 truth machine
    January 22, 2007

    If I dismissed his argument simply because he has no credentials, that would be an ad hominem, but I don’t.

    “not, as far as I know, qualified to address any of these elements” is about as ad hominem as it gets.

  60. #60 truth machine
    January 22, 2007

    I was trying to explain to someone who did not grow up with religion that religious ceremony and attendance and membership fit in with our need to be part of something bigger than ourselves. They could not understand, having never experienced it.

    This is how Dawkins seems to me.

    What makes you think Dawkins didn’t grow up with religion? He had, as he describes it, “a normal Anglican upbringing”.

    So many fools.

  61. #61 truth machine
    January 22, 2007

    “I personally think that if there were any evidence for God’s existence, it would be in the elegance and simplicity of Euler’s identity.”

    Then you clearly don’t understand much about mathematics.

    Gauss is reported to have said that, if Euler’s identity was not immediately apparent to a student on being told it, the student would never be a first-class mathematician.

    The notion that the simplicity of the identity might be evidence of God seems to rest on the belief that the symbols are some sort of magical incantations, rather than having any conceptual grasp of what they represent. The identity simply shows a relationship between pi and e — why should anyone be surprised that there is one that can be expressed simply? It’s not like these are random transcendentals.

    Personally, I’m far more impressed that one can get the Mandelbrot set out of z*z + c.

  62. #62 Dave S.
    January 22, 2007

    truth machine says:

    Argh, I misformulated it with a circularity. Ok, try:

    Drop 1 coconut into basket.
    Drop 1 coconut into basket.
    Record number of coconuts in basket.

    (We can recognize 2 coconuts as being 2 coconuts without counting them.)

    I’m not so sure.

    Imagine the coconuts are moved away from one another…so far that you cannot see both at the same time from your vantage point (its a very large basket). Can you now recognize that there are 2 without counting them? It depends on how close the coconuts match a given pattern to which we already know by experience represents a certain number. Another example might be the pattern of pips on a die. We can recognize the ’5′ immediately based on the pattern without counting each pip, but we can argue that the counting was already introduced and is implied in the pattern recognition. The counting was snuck in as it were. Move the pips far away so that we can’t see the whole pattern, and again we’d have to count.

  63. #63 John B
    January 22, 2007

    Jason,

    But if “religion and the ‘God-belief’ are not the cause of hatred, war, etc.” why do you strongly object to the religious teachings I described?

    Whether the teaching is religious or not is irrelevant, the people who choose to teach such things are responding to more than just an abstract ‘religion’ that forces them to run through some script mindlessly. There are millions of Christians who avoid homophobic ranting, or preaching genocide. When some chooses to engage in that activity they should be held responsible for spreading religious hatred or encouraging sectarian violence, not because it’s religious, but because it is hatred and violence.

    According to you, they make no difference. According to you, the hatred would be there with or without the religious doctrines. So if these doctrines, and the thousands of others like them, are harmless, why oppose them?

    Because religion should be irrelevant to morality. I don’t care what their motivation is, that’s an issue for their conscience.

    Re-read what Dawkins says about the Zeitgeist. What follows from that idea, and not Dawkin’s application of it to his condemnation of religion, is that a culture’s moral sensibility develops independently from religious conservativism. In my mind, this suggests the irrelevance of religion more than helping establish it as the ‘root of all evil’. Communities, more or less successfully, reinterpret religion to suit the spirit of the times, adapting traditions and ignoring inconvenient scriptural claims and dogmas.

    The progress of secularism depends on promoting non-religious civil doctrine people can assent to regardless of their background, and encouraging the freedom of private religion. The goal is to have people engage socially as citizens, not as Christians, Zoroastrians, or whatever…

    I don’t see any particular value in dragging every citizens’ gods/goddesses out into the village center and beating them with microscopes until they evaporate. Dawkins himself speculates on some natural source for religious experience, do you think debunking particular religions will remove that source?

    Dawkins is setting secularism back by attacking people’s private beliefs and demanding religious claims lose their ‘privilege’. It’s that ‘privilege’ that progressively moves them further and further out of the public sphere, so that issues of the civil good can be approached in secular terms, by all citizens regardless of religious or cultural background. By allowing religious claims that protection you move them out of the debate.

  64. #64 John B
    January 22, 2007

    truthmachine,

    The whole issue of ‘expertise’ is an Ad Hominem defense against Dawkins.

    My comments about his qualifications extends to the substance and direction of his argument against religion, not simply the fields in which he holds degrees. I don’t think anyone can look at the man’s accomplishments and contributions to the popular understanding of science and not respect him. He definitely has contributed more than I have to academia generally, so adopting an ‘argument from authority’ position here would be counter-productive, i would be negating my own comments.

    If you think my reaction to the points he raises in the God Delusion is unjustified, I apologize.

  65. #65 Blake Stacey
    January 22, 2007

    I suspect that a good percentage of the Dawkins-bashing sound-and-fury actually reflects a fundamental difference in approaches. See if this sounds reasonable:

    A theologian — by which I mean one who makes an academic study of a religion in which he believes — is naturally bound to authority. In the Western tradition, he must place all ideas in relation to divine authority, from which all truth radiates. He must also pay deep homage to human authorities: people like Augustine, Anselm and Aquinas who found their share of grace and wrote basically infallible books about it.

    Theologians may disagree among themselves as to which orthodoxy best channels the Word of God, but they’ll all say that there is a true, inspired orthodoxy. (If you meet one who says otherwise, that catechisms are merely covers for Chaos, look around for mirrors, swords and labyrinths, because you’re probably trapped in a Jorge Luis Borges story.) To a first approximation, theology is a discipline in which the game pieces and rules of play were set out centuries ago, and everything which comes after is just elaboration — fitting the irritating developments of a world which just won’t stay still into a medieval framework.

    But, to steal a quip from Carl Sagan, in science there are no authorities, only experts. There is a world of difference between these two categories! An expert knows her subject matter, but we don’t have to pay special reverence to her Word. Nobody gets distraught by the fact that the math Minkowski used to describe Special Relativity was more elegant than Einstein’s; we just say that Einstein had the right big ideas, and then we go ahead and teach Minkowski spacetime. A freshman course on physics includes topics of which Newton never wrote, vectors for example. Likewise, despite all the creationist braying over “Darwinism”, an introductory biology class leaves The Origin of Species far behind, even in all likelihood discussing findings in genetics which came years after Watson and Crick.

    Without really paying attention to it, science and science education have embraced Alfred North Whitehead’s motto: “Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.”

    Theology refuses to acknowledge this entire idea!

    Thanks to cheap books and the Internet, a well-read teenager can poke holes in all the ontological arguments ever offered to prop up Divinity. We really can demolish Anselm’s arguments in less time than it took Anselm to build them. This is called progress. But within the bounds of his profession, a theologian must find this attitude to authority not just anathema, but completely incomprehensible.

    In science, “authorities” are questioned, criticized, rephrased, amended, summarized and sometimes even discarded. In theology, they are illuminated with gold leaf.

  66. #66 Robert O'Brien
    January 22, 2007

    I personally think that if there were any evidence for God’s existence, it would be in the elegance and simplicity of Euler’s identity.

    Absolutely. (Among other things.)

  67. #67 Robert O'Brien
    January 22, 2007

    Plantinga seems to be falling, just a bit, for the “evolution is random” canard. It’s not: the course of natural selection is “guided” by the pressures of the environment.

    Mutations are a stochastic component.

  68. #68 Robert O'Brien
    January 22, 2007

    …a cargo-cult logician — he [used] the forms, but he [didn't] actually understand their function.

    This should be idiocy machine’s epitaph.

  69. #69 Robert O'Brien
    January 22, 2007

    Then you clearly don’t understand much about mathematics.

    Get over yourself, Davis. You are not the only one with a mathematics background here.

  70. #70 Robert O'Brien
    January 22, 2007
  71. #71 Robert O'Brien
    January 22, 2007

    He referred specifically to Kant’s observation that existence does not confer greatness. That’s sufficient to refute the argument and all the ones that “come after”. Going on and explaining that “exists” is not a predicate adds nothing; the argument is already refuted.

    Kant’s objection is vacuous:

    Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) criticized the ontological argument by stating that existence is not a predicate. That is, existence is not a property of individuals in the same way that being short or red is. It is certainly true that we have to be careful here. If we can arbitrarily add existence as a defining property for an individual, there seems to be no limit to what we can prove to exist. For example, we might define a unicorn as follows:

    Definition: A unicorn is a four-footed beast resembling a horse having a horn on its head and existing.
    Thus unicorns exist. By definition.

    However, this is a parody of Anselm’s argument, and doesn’t stand up under close examination. Any good mathematician will allow you (within reason) to define your terms any way that you like. So there is nothing wrong with the definition. Can we really show that unicorns exist using this argument? The answer is no. Our definition of a unicorn would only seem to imply that all unicorns exist, or equivalently, that for all x, if x is a unicorn then x exists. However, this statement is trivially true, because it is vacuously satisfied.

    Anyway, the form of the ontological argument that we have used does not explicitly assume that existence is a predicate. It assumes that the modal status of an individual (the Eiffel tower, say, or the number 17) can be regarded as a property. A number between 16 and 18 exists necessarily, whereas the Eiffel tower exists contingently, and the distinction between the two can be regarded as a property of each. The statements

    are both true in the domain of natural numbers because natural numbers are Platonic objects. (The latter is also true vacuously.) Both these statements are reasonable mathematically, and parallel to Axiom 2. Therefore Axiom 2 cannot be easily dismissed.

    source

  72. #72 ctw
    January 22, 2007

    “Drop 1 coconut into basket.
    Drop 1 coconut into basket.
    Record number of coconuts in basket.

    (We can recognize 2 coconuts as being 2 coconuts without counting them.)”

    I raised two issues re integer arithmetic. first, whether its propositions are members of “a brute class of facts”, which I take to mean “an aspect of nature”. I have doubts because nature doesn’t “know” about counting. in nature, your example is really:

    coconut drops
    coconut drops
    coconuts are on ground

    nature not only has no concept of “counting”, it has no concept of “1″, “2″, “+”, or “=”. these are human constructs. in nature, there are only “coconuts” (the reality, of course, not the word).

    the other was “empirical test”. the point of my question is the relationship between human-generated conceptual systems and “reality”. consider gravity, which exists in nature. a human can develop a concept called “the law of gravity” and then conduct an empirical test to compare the concept and reality – drop a ball off the tower of pisa. it isn’t clear to me what the analog is for the concept of integer arithmetic. your coconuts may be one, but I don’t see it.

    implicit in dave S’s argument is that “recognize” is also an aspect of humans. the essence of my question is: gravity exists whether or not there are humans to recognize and conceptualize it. is that true for “1+1=2″?

    one argument in support of “yes” is that intelligent agents anywhere will develop the same math since they will need to model reality. but is that true for all math? is there some level of abstraction that becomes analogous to artistic creation rather than tool discovery? all intelligent agents will presumably discover an equivalent to integer arithmetic because it’s an indispensible tool. but how about category theory?

    - charles

  73. #73 Jason
    January 22, 2007

    John B,

    Because religion should be irrelevant to morality.

    But you’re claiming that religion already is irrelevant to morality. You claimed that religion is harmless, that religion doesn’t “cause” any harm. So, according to you, when religions teach things like “The infidels must die!” or “Homosexuality is evil!” or “The earth is only 6,000 years old,” their not causing any harm. As I said, I think that claim is preposterous, but I also don’t understand why you would strongly object to those religious doctrines if you seriously believe they are harmless.

    By the way, given your claim that religion is harmless, I assume you also deny that it is beneficial, and therefore also deny that there is any benefit to religious doctrines such as “Turn the other cheek” or “Love thy neighbor.”

  74. #74 ctw
    January 22, 2007

    “Dawkins is setting secularism back by attacking people’s private beliefs … [their] ‘privilege’ … progressively moves them further and further out of the public sphere”

    but the essential problem for most non-religious people is that precisely the opposite is happening. I rather doubt that dawkins et al would find much of an audience in the absence of the recent public aggressiveness of the so-called religious right. none of the non-religious I deal with gave much if any thought to religion or the religious for several decades, but since then the “civil debate” has become markedly less secular, not more.

    if you want to blame someone for the heightened tension between secularists and the religious, look to dobbins and and falwell, not dawkins and harris. many of us wouldn’t bother with the latter if it weren’t for the former; we don’t care what looney beliefs people have until they start injecting them into the public arena and affecting political debate. (note that I am NOT equating “looney” and “religious”.)

    part of the reason the non-religious are seen as increasingly aggressive is their past passivity to the unwarranted “privilege” previously given religious belief (eg, prayer at essentially government-sponsored events). contrary to the complaints of those among the religious who want to retain or reclaim that privilege, the “activism” was inappropriately granting that privilege, not subsequently withdrawing it.

    -charles

  75. #75 ctw
    January 22, 2007

    “in science there are no authorities, only experts.”

    and I think this is where those who claim that beliefs like materialism, naturalism, or atheism are religious go wrong. because they are accustomed to “authoritative sources” for their beliefs, they don’t make that distinction and don’t account for the probabilistic nature of belief. presumably, no thoughtful scientist would say that a speculative theory – even if backed up by enormous amounts of evidence – is absolutely true; and dawkins is explicit in TGD that he is only claiming the extreme improbability of theism being true. ie, he assumes that if he acts in accordance with that belief, the adverse consequences predicted by theists will not occur with p (in the view of belief I described earlier) approximately – but not equal to – one.

    -charles

  76. #76 ctw
    January 22, 2007

    pseudonym (OT for others):

    you might find my last comment on the monty hall problem interesting. (or perhaps more likely – given my stumble on the three coin variant on that thread – wrong; altho my “belief” that it isn’t entails a pretty large p.)

    -charles

  77. #77 Blake Stacey
    January 22, 2007

    I think that if there were any real proof of Satan’s existence, it would have to be Gödel’s first and second Incompleteness Theorems.

  78. #78 John B
    January 23, 2007

    Jason,

    But you’re claiming that religion already is irrelevant to morality. You claimed that religion is harmless, that religion doesn’t “cause” any harm. So, according to you, when religions teach things like “The infidels must die!” or “Homosexuality is evil!” or “The earth is only 6,000 years old,” their not causing any harm. As I said, I think that claim is preposterous, but I also don’t understand why you would strongly object to those religious doctrines if you seriously believe they are harmless.

    Again, I’d object to any doctrine that was harmful, religious or not. I’m not sure how to make that point clearer… the moral character of the doctrine doesn’t depend on how religious it is.

    You’re right, I probably shouldn’t have used the word ‘should’, obviously the irrelevance of religion isn’t recognised by everyone, or we’d live in a fully secularized world. The ‘should’ was meant to indicate the progress of secularism.

    Ideally, everyone would have access to moral language divorced from any particular religious tradition, but we don’t, yet. It’s secularist’s job to promote formulations of moral arguments based on non-religious grounds. To the degree that we have failed to do that, people depend on non-secular language to support their ethical formulations.

    In my opinion, the individual’s reception of religious ideas still makes them responsible for what they say and do, not the religions themselves. Their interpretation, and their emphasis of particular elements of their tradition speaks to their morality not the religion’s.

    I’m surprised you find this so preposterous, is it your position that morality depends on religion? That two people with the same religion have the same morals? That there are no gay or pacifist Christians or Muslims?

    Where did the writers of religious scriptures get these moral positions?

    Of course, religious belief is used to justify moral positions, but it isn’t the source of hatred, violence or whatever, it’s the support. Do you really think the ignorant and violent wouldn’t be able to find other forms of support in the absence of religion?

    By the way, given your claim that religion is harmless, I assume you also deny that it is beneficial, and therefore also deny that there is any benefit to religious doctrines such as “Turn the other cheek” or “Love thy neighbor.”

    Yes, I agree with that reading. Individuals are responsible for the good things they do too, regardless of character (religious or non-) of their motivations.

    Does this have anything to do with Dawkins’ argument at this point, or are you just quizzing me about my understanding of secularism?

    Let me ask you a question about Anselm and Thomas’ logical proofs of God. It might help demonstrate my point about Dawkins’ strategic errors in constructing his argument:

    Given that both Thomas and Anselm were priests, trained and accepted in a social elite in which the existence of God was taken as axiomatic, an assumption that made their whole idea of revealed truth plausible, and additionally, was the foundation of their social standing and security: Why did they feel the need to construct arguments for a proof of God’s existence? and why philosophical arguments in particular?

  79. #79 John B
    January 23, 2007

    Charles,

    “Dawkins is setting secularism back by attacking people’s private beliefs … [their] ‘privilege’ … progressively moves them further and further out of the public sphere”

    but the essential problem for most non-religious people is that precisely the opposite is happening. I rather doubt that dawkins et al would find much of an audience in the absence of the recent public aggressiveness of the so-called religious right. none of the non-religious I deal with gave much if any thought to religion or the religious for several decades, but since then the “civil debate” has become markedly less secular, not more.

    I agree with your view of the situation, but my understanding of how it should be interpreted is a little different.

    In my opinion, the appropriate reaction to the incursion of a loud minority of advocates of religious values into the civil debate is a reinforcement of the line between public and private, education about the value of diversity, emphasis on citizenship or nationalism (public commitment)over and against religious affiliation (private commitment).

    As you noted above, an attack provokes solidarity, defensiveness. For that reason Dawkins can be blamed, he is reacting to the attack in precisely the way anti-secularists would like, helping them to reject the irrelevance of religion. Instead of two americans discussing gay marriage in terms of social ramifications, economics, child psychology, or whatever, you have an atheist and a baptist arguing about whether or not scriptural prohibitions on butt-sexery are valid.

    Take the declaration of human rights as an example, the document puts forward positive claims about human nature to which people either assent, and join the ‘rights community’ or don’t and remain outside it. The fact that some people might assent to human rights claims because of their religious beliefs, or non-religious beliefs, is not relevant to their membership. How far do you think that document would have gotten if it had opened with a long list of the violations of human rights perpetrated by religious people through time? or a list of doctrinal elements of different faiths that conflict with ‘rights language’?

    Anyway, that’s my interpretation of Dawkins’ impact.

  80. #80 ctw
    January 23, 2007

    john B -

    well, we disagree only at the margins, if at all. in particular, I totally agree that starting from a posture that “religion is the source of all evil” isn’t helpful – whether it’s true or not.

    because I read (actually skimmed – in my case he’s “preaching to the choir) TGD a while ago and don’t have a copy here, I’m shaky on what dawkins actually said re religious evils. my vague recollection is that he addressed that in the “can you be moral w/o religion” section. if so, the relevant argument wouldn’t be “religion is the source of all evil” but only that it doesn’t necessarily preclude evil. and since his ostensible target audience (other than people who agree with him and read the book for confirmation) is the thoughtful religious whose faith is shaky, if he actually does make the “source of all evil” argument, he’s being doubly foolish. dawkins doesn’t seem likely to be foolish, so I’m sceptical that he does make that argument. but to repeat, I don’t have the book and can’t support that position. if I’m wrong, then I agree that he’s off base.

    in tailoring reactions to “the opposition”, I think it’s very important to seperate the ignorant extremists on either end of the spectrum from the thoughtful moderates. I ignore the former in dialog and focus on the fight (by others – I’m not a lawyer, just an interested layman) in the legal arena, specifically establishment clause cases. the extremists can’t be reasoned with and have to be fought in the ballot box and in the courts. as you suggest, thoughtful moderates can be engaged in dialog, and I assume that’s what dawkins is trying to do.

    re the debate about gay marriage, I am pretty opinionated on who’s to blame for the low quality of debate. when the issue first came to the forefront, I eagerly awaited a serious debate about marriage as an institution and what acknowlegements thereof by government (via tax benefits) and business (via employment benefits) are “appropriate”. instead, from the opposition we got unmitigated BS which, no matter how eloquently disguised, almost always at base was simple homophobia. from the supporters, we at least got humor (“why not – let ‘em be miserable like the rest of us”). so, I think that’s another one – like abortion – that may have to be played out in the courts since widespread rational public debate doesn’t seem possible.

    -charles

  81. #81 Jason Rosenhouse
    January 23, 2007

    ctw-

    I think I inadvertently deleted one of your comments. Sorry about that. I assure you it was accidental. I was trying to delete a bit of comment spam but wasn’t paying attention to which comment I had selected.

  82. #82 ctw
    January 23, 2007

    “Why did they feel the need to construct arguments for a proof of God’s existence? and why philosophical arguments in particular?”

    my exposure to classical philosophical arguments is limited to a few exerpts from flew’s “western philosophy”. based on those exerpts, my guess is that the answer is partly a (much higher level) version of what motivates the dozens if not hundreds of comments every time the monty hall problem resurfaces: it’s fun to play logic games with yourself and your peers. as you suggest, their target audience couldn’t have been the society (mostly illiterate in addition to already convinced). that only leaves their intellectual peers and themselves. in short, it’s fun.

    another similarity to the monty hall problem is that for them, it was obvious what the “right” answer was; the challenge was to construct a supporting logical argument. and also similarly, the obvious answer is – definitely for the MH problem, IMO for the god problem – wrong. when you a priori “know” the answer, you can construct a logical argument to confirm it even if you’re wrong. (in the recent MH thread, to my regret I constructed several for the wrong answer to the variant). which is why I prefer equations to logical arguments.

    -charles

  83. #83 Davis
    January 23, 2007

    Get over yourself, Davis. You are not the only one with a mathematics background here.

    Someone’s touchy.

    I have no patience for people who try to make something mystical out of mathematics. They’re perilously close to people who use quantum mechanics as justification for new-age nonsense.

  84. #84 ctw
    January 23, 2007

    “I think I inadvertently deleted one of your comments.”

    potentially a tragedy – your readers could have thereby been deprived of that pearl of wisdom. fortunately (or arguably unfortunately), it was short and easy to reproduce.

    “It’s secularist’s job to promote formulations of moral arguments based on non-religious grounds.”

    I don’t think it’s the grounding – which is by definition non-religious – or necessarily even the formulation that is deficient; it’s the marketing. prime example: abortion. “pro-life” vs “pro-choice” which seems to pit a serious concern against a lifestyle choice. the grounding of the latter in women’s rights is fine and one can formulate reasonable arguments, but some help from madison avenue is deserately needed.

    -c

  85. #85 John B
    January 24, 2007

    I don’t think it’s the grounding – which is by definition non-religious – or necessarily even the formulation that is deficient; it’s the marketing. prime example: abortion. “pro-life” vs “pro-choice” which seems to pit a serious concern against a lifestyle choice. the grounding of the latter in women’s rights is fine and one can formulate reasonable arguments, but some help from madison avenue is deserately needed.

    You may be right, it may be the ‘marketing’ (could we substitute ‘education’ in there? desemination, popularization — ‘marketing’ sounds like an appeal to emotion) The problem is that the secularist language must encompass both sides of the argument, like you mentioned above re: gay marriage, the ideal situation would be a formulation of both sides of the argument in such a way that assent to either was not predicated on religion or its lack. The ‘marketing’ would have to be for the framing of critical issues in civil debate.

    Atm, it seems like secular language represents a side in the debate, so that ‘secularism’ becomes code for ‘pro-choice’, or ‘support for gay marriage’ to the religious opponents which allows them to elide their political and religious identities.

    We cannot rely on extremists to frame the discourse.

    you said:

    I eagerly awaited a serious debate about marriage as an institution and what acknowlegements thereof by government (via tax benefits) and business (via employment benefits) are “appropriate”.

    I think the current situation in America does seem to bare out fears of a decline in secularism. We had some pretty lively debate about gay marriage here in Canada, involving at first case-by-case proceedings on the grounds of constitutional law, and finally debate and free vote in our parliament.

    If interested, check out a brief summary @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage_in_Canada

  86. #86 ctw
    January 24, 2007

    “so that ‘secularism’ becomes code for ‘pro-choice’, or ‘support for gay marriage’”

    “marketing” was meant to be cute, and I agree there are better terms. my serious point was strategy, and your quote captures it. as you no doubt know, in US debate it is currently strategically effective to label your opponent as “liberal” because you will get a pavlovian negative response in a depressingly large fraction of the electorate. “secularism” is probably a little too high falutin’ for the type of person who is responsive to this strategy, but it’s the same idea: liberal -> godless -> pro-abortion.

    I intentionally use the last term rather than pro-choice because it has more (negative) emotional appeal. my objection to the abortion rights strategy is that it opens the door to that substitution by not being clear that the proponents – like any sane person – are anti-abortion. clinton’s formulation – “legal, safe, and rare” – captured the goal I think every reasonable person should share.

    “We cannot rely on extremists to frame the discourse.”

    unfortunately, extremists have a huge advantage in that they are trying to influence the ignorant (a label I try always to use in the literal rather than perjorative sense) and sound bites work with that segment (which in the US is shockingly large for any topic other than perhaps sports). knowledgeable and measured debate is appealing to a depressingly small fraction of our populace. I have personal experience with intelligent, well-educated people who rely on sources like fox cable and ann coulter for their “insights” into issues. god help us.

    thanks for the pointers.

    -charles

  87. #87 John B
    January 25, 2007

    Thank you, too. As usual, discussing an issue with Jason and others with similar perspectives/interests has helped me iron out some ideas i haven’t had to express before, and opened up some new areas of interest.

    I didn’t mean to sound like I had a practical solution to the state of affairs in the US. Every ex-pat American I know seems to mirror the frustration you’re talking about, and it seems like their feeling, from the few I see regularly enough to have discussed this with yesterday, is that the Religious Values crowd are a few steps ahead in inoculating the public against ‘secularist liberal’ language, a point you made above. I’m still thinking about what the appropriate response to that might be.

    Maybe your current situation with the influence of the right and the war will provide some kind of empirical evidence to people of the dangers of eliding political/civil and religious identity.

    anyway, we can only influence things so much.

  88. #88 rafael
    October 17, 2007

    AUTHENTIC RECORD AND GEOLOGY SCIENTIS CAN’T CALCULATE THE AGE OF THE EARTH.
    The subject of evolution among those who understand it, must be aware that there is the danger of excessive subjectivity concerning one owns knowledge. This is not healthy, is a means of cultivating the mind with vain thoughts, and be fill with self examination. Is better, to be objective. The subject of evolution is easy to refute but difficult for man to apprehend. Evolution was a psychological, economical, sociological, political, philosophical, atheist; theory that have gotten into the kosmos( world system) is thought everywhere. This theory is having its end in a microscopic world. Darwin called cells and his follower’s genes or DNA.
    Wiseman said: ‘even one who, like myself, has been for many years a convinced adherent of the theory of selection, can only reply: We assume so, but cannot prove it in any case. It is not upon demonstrative evidence that we champion the doctrine of selection as scientific truth; we base our arguments on quite other grounds’ (1870).
    Jacques Barzun In our century, said: Darwinism has triumphed as an orthodoxy, as a rallying point of innumerable scientific, philosophical, and social movements Mr. Darwin became the oracle, as Barzun suggests, and the Origin of Species the fixed point with which Evolution moved the world`(1930).
    Darwinism was accepted by eugenics which was Hitler idealism or dream, never accomplished in Germany but applied in North America, where is up to now working, nevertheless the biggest lied on humanity is ending microscopic world. Evolutionist as well those who support the design theory have fall into this category cells, DNA manipulation, little machines, it can get as little as the micro lenses can get. The fact is DNA manipulation does not exist. In plants where is the effects of manipulating a fruit plant by means of DNA? Why a blueberry is always small, big orange size would be nice. What about the clones like dolly, the fact is that never a clone has taken place.
    In the other hand Hawkins http://theatheistofdelusion.blogspot.com/
    and his theory that only get as far as the fact of the gap vers.2 of Gn. Chap 1 can get. Please pay attention to this.

    Rafael.
    Nee.
    We believe that the entire Bible is the Word of God, and every word of it is inspired. A very grievous thought in the mind of godly ones is that men have despised and opposed His Word. God’s children are grieved because men do not respect God’s statutes. Among the sixty-six books of the Bible, Genesis has been subjected to the most doubt. Those who oppose the Bible often try to overturn God’s clear revelation with geological ages and prehistoric discoveries. The evidences in geology prove to them that the earth has been in existence for tens of thousands of years, and that the record of six thousand years of history in the Bible is untrustworthy. In the name of science, the world hurls its attacks on the book of Genesis. Many dear brothers in the Lord are not that scholarly (the author being one of them) and become lost in this storm. Although geology does not form part of our meditation, for the benefit of all, we will study the Word of God by the Lord’s grace at the commencement of our meditation and will consider how perfect is His Word, so that we can silently behold His beauty in His presence. Genesis is God’s revelation, while geology is man’s invention. God knows the whole truth. As such, His revelation can never be wrong. Man only sees in part. As such, his conjectures are not accurate. When we place Genesis side by side with geology, we should follow Genesis and not geology, because it is God who stands behind Genesis. If there are any basic differences between Genesis and geology, the error must be on the side of geology. The authority of the Bible is undisputed. Everything that is contrary to the Bible is wrong. Thank God our Father that He has given us such a complete revelation. If there are any incompatibilities between God and man, we would rather give up man and accept God. If there is no incompatibility, should not feeble human beings all the more believe in the revelation from heaven? Men often laugh at the ridiculous stories of creation circulated among the Chinese, the Babylonians, and other countries. No scientist has to spend much effort to refute these myths. The reason is that there is not much weight to these traditions. This is why they have not attracted much attention. But men’s attitudes towards the Bible are very different. The very fact that they have tried their best to resist the Bible proves the power of the Bible. They cannot treat the Bible the same as the traditions of the nations because they have recognized the extraordinary nature of the Bible. All those who have read Genesis 1 cannot fail to marvel at the beauty of its record. How ordinary it is, yet how marvelous! It is a plain record and contains no theory or arguments to prove its authenticity. The writer of the book was not bound by the book, but was transcendent above its record. The true author of the book is the One who is far above the universe it describes—God. Had the recorder of the book, Moses, written this book according to his own learning and ideas, his thoroughly Egyptian-trained intellect would surely have been influenced by the Egyptian theory of creation. Yet who can detect a trace of Egyptian philosophy in Genesis 1? Why is this? It is because God was the One who inspired Moses to do the writing. Otherwise, how could Moses know that the land came out of the water? This is, of course, a fact established by geology and is a modern discovery. Had Moses not been inspired, it would be difficult to explain this fact. As to the development of life on earth, although the Bible does not support the theory of evolution, it does not altogether reject the fact that there was a progression. First, there were aquatic organisms, and then there was man. Would not a scientist marvel at the record of Moses? The omniscient God must surely have given inspiration according to facts; those who were inspired by such an omniscient God cannot be in error. Yet the Bible is not a textbook of science. Its goal is to guide sinners “unto salvation through the faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15). Nevertheless, the Bible does not contain any scientific errors. If there are any contradictions with science, it is either a misinterpretation of the Scripture or a misjudgment of science. Many of the definitive statements by geologists in the past have been overturned! Many of their assertions have been proven wrong. Cummings said, “Geology has made mistakes in the past. It is possible that it will be wrong again. The hasty and loud assertions by those who are not too familiar with its theories may be proved inaccurate again.”Since the Bible is not a science textbook, it only mentions the “what’s” of creation without mentioning the “whys.” Science is interested in the “whys.” Of course, in many cases it is successful in doing this. But one must not overturn the “what’s” with theoretical “whys” just because man’s finite mental research has come into conflict with God’s record. What God said are the facts because He knows everything. If the world wants to study what God has said and why He has said it, it must not hold on to its own ideas while rejecting God’s authority. It is a good thing to have wisdom, but there is one kind of foolishness which is more blessed. Among Christians, there is a popular theory that Genesis 1:1 is a kind of general introduction, and that the work of the six days is actually an expansion of the record of verse 1. In other words, they consider the words “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” as merely a subject of Genesis 1. They say that in the first sentence the writer wrote down a summary of what he was about to say, after which he went at length into an explanation of this sentence. After telling us that God created the heaven and the earth, Genesis goes on to tell us the condition of the earth after creation, and how He created light, air, the land, the plants, and the animals day by day. This popular theory considers Genesis 1 as a record of the creation of the universe, and that the universe was created out of desolation. If we study the first chapter of the Bible carefully, we will see the error in this supposition! This erroneous supposition, not the Bible itself, has put the church into a great debate with the world. This supposition gives men the excuse to say that Genesis is incompatible with geology and casts doubts in the minds of many young people concerning the accuracy of the Bible. In Hebrew, the original language, there are altogether seven words in Genesis 1:1. Each of these seven words has independent meanings. God’s inspired record does not say that at the beginning of time, God molded the heavens and the earth into being, or that He made them out of some elements. It says that the heavens and the earth were created. How clear is the word created! To create is to make something out of nothing; it is to create something out of void. It is not to make something out of some existing elements. The word create is Bara in the original language. “In the beginning , God Bara the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). The word Bara is used three other times in Genesis 1 and 2: (1) “And God created (Bara) great whales, and every living creature that moved, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good” (v. 21). (2) “So God created (Bara) man in his own image” (v. 27a). (3) “In it he had rested from all his work which God created (Bara) and made” (2:3b).To create is to make something out of nothing. The great whales and every living creature do not have an outward body only, but a life-element within them. The only way that this can be done is through God’s direct work of creation. This is why it says that God created the great whales and every living creature (1:21). There is a very good reason for the Bible to say “created” instead of “made.” In the same way, although man’s body was made from the dust, 2:7 tells us that man has a spirit and a soul which cannot be made from any physical material. This is why the Bible says that God created man according to His own image. In Genesis 2 there are three words for the act of creation: (1) Bara, which means to make something out of nothing. We have covered this briefly. (2) Asah, which means to make. This word is very different from the first. Bara is to make something out of nothing, while asah means that there is some raw material first, and then something is made out of the raw material. A carpenter can make a chair, but he cannot create a chair. In describing most of the work during the six days, this word is used. (3) Yatsar, which means to complete, has the sense of a potter molding a piece of clay into shape. This is the word used for formed in 2:7. Isaiah 43:7 shows the relationship between these three words: “Everyone who is called by my name, / whom I have created, formed, and even made for my glory.” To create is to make something out of nothing, to form is to mold into shape, and to make is to work from some material. Genesis 1:1 uses the word Bara. The phrase in the beginning is a further proof that God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing. There is no need of any hypothesis. Since God has said this, man should believe. If man wants to fathom God’s work in the beginning with his finite mind, he will only expose his own presumptuousness! “By faith we understand that the universe has been framed by the word of God” (Heb. 11:3). Furthermore, who can answer God’s challenge to Job concerning the creation? God created the heaven and the earth in the beginning. The heaven does not refer to the heaven that surrounds our earth but rather to the heaven of the stars. This “heaven” has not changed since the creation of the universe. Although the heaven has never changed, the condition on earth has changed! If we want to understand Genesis 1, it is very important to differentiate between the earth in verse 1 and the earth in verse 2. The condition of the earth in verse 2 was not the condition at the beginning of God’s creation. In the beginning when God created the heaven and the earth, His creation was perfect. God is not a God of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33). Therefore, the condition of void and confusion in verse 2 was not the original condition at the time of God’s creation. How could God possibly have created an earth that was void and without form? We can answer this question by reading one verse alone. “For thus says Jehovah, / Who created the heavens— / He is the God / Who formed the earth and made it; / He established it; / He did not create it waste, / But He formed it to be inhabited: / I am Jehovah and there is no one else” (Isa. 45:18). How clear this is! The word waste in this verse is the same as the word without form in Genesis 1:2, which thou are in Hebrew. Unfortunately, translators of the Bible have not used the same word in both places. “He did not create it [the earth] without form.” Why then does Genesis 1:2 say that “the earth was without form”? It is easy to find the solution. In Genesis 1:1, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth that God created then was not void and without form. Later there was a cataclysm, and the earth became without form and void. Verse 3 does not refer to the original creation, but to a restored earth. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and then during the six days, He re-created the world. The world in Genesis 1:1 was the original world, while the world in 1:3 is our present world. Genesis 1:2 describes the transitional condition of desolation after the initial world and prior to our present world. We do not base our explanation on Isaiah 45:18 alone (even though Isaiah 45:18 alone is sufficient as a proof). We have other evidences. According to Bible scholars, in Hebrew the first word in verse 2 is a conjunction, which should be translated as and. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, and the earth was without form, and void.”The “and,” according to Hebrew usage—as well as that of most other languages—proves that the first verse is not a compendium of what follows, but a statement of the first event in the record.
    For if it were a mere summary, the second verse would be the actual commencement of the history, and certainly would not begin with a copulative. A good illustration of this may be found in the fifth chapter of Genesis (Gen. 5:1). There the opening words, “This is the book of the generations of Adam,” are a compendium of the chapter, and, consequently, the next sentence begins without a copulative. — G.H. Pember, Earth’s Earliest Ages, 1942, reprinted 1975, p. 31.
    “Therefore, what follows in Genesis 1:2 is not a detailed explanation of the record in 1:1, but an independent, distinct, and later event”. The creation of the heavens and the earth is one thing, and the earth becoming without form and void is another. Later we will explain why the earth became void and without form. About a hundred years ago, Dr. Chalmers pointed out that the word was in “the earth was without form” should be translated became. Dr. I.M. Haldeman, G.H. Pember, and others also pointed out that this word is the same as the word became used in Genesis 19:26. “And she became a pillar of salt.” If the same word is translated became in 19:26, why should it not be translated the same way here? Even the word became in 2:7 is the same word as in 1:2. Therefore, it is not hypothetical to translate 1:2 the following way: “And the earth became without form.” When God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was not without form and void. Later it became such. Let us read a few more verses:”In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea,
    and all that in them is” (Exo. 20:11). Comparing these two verses, we can see that the world in Genesis 1:1 was very different from the world in 1:3. In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth, but in the six days, God made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them. There is a vast difference between create and make. One is to have something from nothing, while the other is to improve the things that are in existence. The world can make, but it cannot create, while God can both create and make. This is why Genesis says that “in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Later because of the cataclysm, the earth became desolate, and “in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is” (Exo. 20:11).Second Peter 3:5 through 7 says the same thing. The heavens and the earth in verse 5 are the heaven and the earth in Genesis 1:1. Verse 6 speaks of the world flooded with water, which is the earth that was without form and void and that was under the water in Genesis 1:2. “The heavens and earth now” in verse 7 is the restored world after Genesis 1:3. There is a clear difference between God’s work in the six days and His work of creation at the beginning. The more we read Genesis 1, the more we will see that our explanation above is the proper one. In the first day light was called into being. Before the first day there was already land, but it was “without form and void” and was buried in the deep under the water. On the third day God did not create the land; He merely caused it to appear. F.W. Grant said that the work of the six days merely put a new order to the earth; it did not create something out of nothing. The earth was there already. The Bible never says that the earth was created during the six days. Grant also said, “At which point did the first day begin? Some may think that it began from desolation. Yet this is not true. The `evening’ on the first day indicates light had been there since the beginning. `The darkness he called Night,’ yet the `evening’ is a darkness that is already under the control of light.”In the first day God did not create the light; He merely caused the light to appear on the darkened earth. In the same way in the second day, He did not create the heaven. The heaven there was not the heavens, but the atmospheric “heaven” which surrounds the earth. This was not created then. Where then did the atmosphere come from? Our answer is that it was created in verse 1. Therefore, there was no need now to create; there was only the need to restore.”In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” There is no detailed discussion here. We do not know if the primordial world was created in an instant or became what it was through an endless period of time. We do not know if it was completed in a few thousand years or millions of years. We do not know the shape and the size of it. All that we know is that “in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” We do not know how many years there were between verses 1 and 2 of Genesis 1. We do not know how long ago God created the heaven and the earth, and we do not know how many years after the creation of the primordial world did the desolation of verse 2 occur. But we believe that there was a long period of time between the perfect creation at the beginning and the later change into something that was without form and void.”In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” How much later was it that “the earth became without form and void”? We cannot tell. But we know one thing: there was a long gap between the two expressions. This long gap between the first two verses of Genesis covers the whole prehistoric period. But from verse 3 until now there are less than six thousand years. Since we have proved that there is a big gap between the first two verses of the Bible, all the years which geology demands to exist and all the geological periods associated with these years can fall within this period. We do not know how much time passed on the earth and how many changes occurred on the earth’s surfaces and in the atmosphere before there was the condition of void and formlessness; the Bible does not say anything about it. But we can say for sure that the Bible never says that our earth is only six thousand years old. The Bible only testifies that there are six thousand years of human history. If the Bible has not said something, science can conjecture all it wants. But science cannot form conjectures on what the Bible has already said. After we understand the first two verses of the Bible, we can be assured that there is no contradiction between the Bible and geology. All the attacks by geology on the Bible are beating the air. How wonderful is the Word God has written! We are not saying this to please science. God’s revelation never wavers before man. We do not give up the Bible’s authority in order to accommodate man’s inventions. If there are any contradictions between the Bible and science, (and we would expect there to be some, because fleshly man is always at enmity with God), we have no intention to reconcile and annul these differences. The above assertion was not proposed after some geological discoveries, in an effort to reconcile the Bible with science. There were men in the ancient church who spoke about this. At that time, geology was not yet in existence! When men like St. Augustus interpreted Genesis, the world did not yet have the term geology! A Christian does not trust in human wisdom, but in God’s Word. We need nothing other than the sure rock of the Bible. As long as we have the “it is written” (Matt. 4:6) in the Scripture, everything is solved. Unfortunately, many apologetics have forgotten their ground; they change the words of the Scripture to accommodate man’s teaching. An example is given by A.W. Pink, who noted that after the translation of a certain Assyrian tablet, the apologetics enthusiastically reported that much of the Old Testament history was verified! This turns things upside down! Does the Word of God need verification? If the record on the Assyrian tablet coincides with that of the Bible, it only shows that the Assyrian tablets have no historical error. If they do not agree, it merely proves that the tablets are in error. Worldly men and vain scientists will of course scorn at our logic. But this only goes to demonstrate God’s Word which says, “But a soul’s man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him and he is not able to know them because they are discerned spiritually” (1 Cor. 2:14). We must never lower ourselves to appease men. It seems like a good idea to change the Bible to suit man’s taste, but doing so changes the true nature of the Bible. How wonderful is Genesis 1! It devotes only one verse to the description of the first creation! It uses only one verse to describe the desolation of the world! This is far less than the thirty or so verses that describe the restoration of the world! Who can come up with a composition that matches the record of Genesis 1? The subject is difficult, yet the explanation is clear; the facts span a long time, yet the description is simple. It does not talk about science, yet it is scientifically accurate. Who except God can compose such writing? The reason God did not say more than this is that He only intended to show man His own relationship with man. J.N. Darby said: This revelation from God is not a history by Him of all that He has done, but what has been given to man for his profit, the truth as to what he has to say to. Its object is to communicate to man all that regards his own relationship with God…But historically the revelation is partial. It communicates what is for the conscience and spiritual affections of man…Thus no mention is made of any heavenly beings…Thus also, regards this earth, except the fact of its creation, nothing is said of it beyond what relates to the present form of it. — The Synopsis of the Books of the Bible, reprinted 1970, p. 9.Indeed, God’s revelation is not given to satisfy human curiosity, but to manifest His Godhead, the world’s sinfulness, the way of salvation, and the coming glory and judgments. The present worldly knowledge is indeed dangerous. Unless God bestows grace on man, man would boast in himself and use the knowledge he acquires as a basis to oppose God. How difficult it is for an intellectual person to humble himself! Man can search for knowledge as much as he wants. But God will not supplement this with His revelation. This is why He does not say much in Genesis 1. Our present need is not more science, but deeper spiritual fellowship. Only this will reap real fruit in eternity. We have to praise God the Father because He is full of love! He not only created us, but re-created us, and made us a new creation in the Lord Jesus. Lord Jesus! How sweet is this name! God has given us His Son. What a marvelous grace this is!
    THE ORIGINAL WORLD AND AFTERWORDS DESOLATION
    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth perfect. Later, after an unknown period of time, the earth which was originally good became waste and empty, without any life whatsoever. God then rose up to recreate the world; He restored the desolate world in six days. In the next chapter we will study the work of the six days. Now we will consider why the world became desolate. How could God allow the work of His hands to be destroyed? Why did such a catastrophe come upon the once beautiful earth? There is probably no other reason besides sin. The question we are considering has no perfectly clear explanation in the Bible. Nevertheless, we can find many shimmering lights in the Word of God which will enlighten us concerning this question and which will enable us to have a little more understanding concerning the former world and the cause of its desolation. Only the Word of God can guide us and our thoughts. The understanding of His Word, regardless of the question being discussed, always brings us edification. The greatest vanity is the reasoning’s in man’s mind which do not rest on the foundation of God’s Word. Although in reading Genesis 3 we cannot find Satan’s name, we all know that the serpent was Satan’s vessel and perhaps was even the embodiment of the devil. Revelation 12:9 say, “And the great dragon was cast down, the ancient serpent, he who is called the Devil and Satan, he who deceives the whole inhabited earth.” Genesis 1 gives no record of the creation of Satan. Where did he come from? This is a problem. Furthermore, we can see many evil spirits in both the Old and New Testaments; we meet them even more frequently in the Gospels. Where did they come from? We also do not see the creation of angels in the six days of work in Genesis 1. Where, then, did the angels who are frequently mentioned in the Bible come from? These questions are all related to our subject. Since the creation of the angels and the other supernatural beings is not recorded in Genesis 1, which covers the work of God during six days, we know that they were not created during that time. Since they were not created within these six days, when were they created? The only explanation is that they were creatures of the former world—the original, perfect world. As the fossil remains clearly show, not only were disease and death—inseparable companions of sin—then prevalent among the living creatures of the earth, but even ferocity and slaughter. And the fact proves that these remains have nothing to do with our world; since the Bible declares that all things made by God during the Six Days were very good, and that no evil was in them till Adam sinned…Since, then, the fossil remains are those of creatures anterior to Adam, and yet show evident tokens of disease, death, and mutual destruction, they must have belonged to another world and have a sin-stained history of their own, a history which ended in the ruin of themselves and their habitation. — G. H. Pember, Earth’s Earliest Ages, 1942, reprinted 1975, pp. 34-35.By reading Jeremiah 4:23-26, we see the reason why the earth became waste and emptiness. Verse 26 says that it was due to “His [Jehovah's] burning anger.” Why was the Lord so angry? It was probably because of the sin of the creatures at that time. Isaiah 24:1 says that “Jehovah now makes the earth desolate.” Why would the Lord destroy the earth of His original creation? Judging from the history of our own world, we can answer that it was probably because of the sin of the earth’s inhabitants which forced God to judge them. We have said before that when we read Genesis, we do not see the origin of Satan. As we look into the cause of earth’s desolation in the beginning, our mind will naturally think “an enemy has done this” (Matt. 13:28). Other than attributing the cause to Satan, it seems that we cannot find any other clues in the Bible. We will study a portion of the Bible which seems to tell us the origin of God’s enemy and thereby we may know the condition of the former world and the cause of its becoming desolate. Let us now read Ezekiel 28:1-19. These nineteen verses are divided into two sections: (1) verses 1-10 concern the prophet’s warning to the prince of Tyrus, and (2) verses 11-19 concern the prophet’s lamentations upon the king of Tyrus. The first section, a word to the prince of Tyrus, is easy to understand. He was exalted with pride, considered himself God, and thought that he was wiser than Daniel. Due to his progress in commerce, he became puffed up. Therefore God punished him, causing him to be slain and destroyed by the terrible of the nations. Soon after this prophecy, Nebuchadnezzar of the Chaldeans came and destroyed Tyre. Josephus believed that the prince of Tyrus was Ithobalus, who was called Ithobaal II in the history of the Phoenicians. Since we know that this prophecy has already been fulfilled, it is not difficult for us to interpret verses 1 through 10. But when we read on from verses 11 through 19, we find many places that we do not understand. Since this portion of the Word is very much related to the subject which we are studying now, we quote the text in full: Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God; Thou seals up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou was created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covered; and I have set thee so: thou was upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou was perfect in thy ways from the day that thou was created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty; thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffic; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more (Ezek. 28:11-19).This section is indeed hard to understand, for it contains many expressions which cannot be applied to any mortal man. If the “king of Tyrus” were only a mortal man, how could we explain the things in verses 11 through 15? How could the king of Tyrus have been in the Garden of Eden or upon the holy mountain of God? How could he have been the anointed cherub that covered the ark? None of the things mentioned here had been the experience of the king of Tyros’. We cannot explain this section simply by spiritualizing it. It is unfair if we spiritualize the interpretation of a section when we encounter difficulties in it. I believe that the first section (vv. 1-10) addressed to the prince of Tyros’ was a word spoken to King Ithobalus II, and the second section (vv. 11-19), the lamentation upon the king of Tyros’, denotes the coming Antichrist. Verse 2 of this chapter speaks of Tyro “in the midst of the seas.” By reading Daniel 11:41-45, we know that when the coming Antichrist will be in Palestine, perhaps he will dwell at Tyro. That is why he was called the king of Tyro here. Moreover, Antichrist is Satan incarnate; therefore, numerous expressions in this section refer to Satan himself. Mr. Darby said, “Verses 11-19, while continuing to speak of Tyro, go, I think, much farther, and disclose, though darkly, the fall and the ways of Satan, become through our sin the prince and god of this world.” Dr. A. C. Gaebelein also said that the king of Tyro is a type of the last great sinner (Antichrist), that behind this evil king, we see another power that is Satan; Satan was the power behind the king of Tyros’ then, and he still is the god of this age now, who rules the nations of this world. If we have studied the Scriptures carefully, we will realize that the justification for merging Satan and Antichrist in this passage into one being is not contrary to the general teachings of the Scriptures. We know that, although human beings have their own will, their walk is either directed by God’s operating (Phil. 2:13) or by the operating of the evil spirits (Eph. 2:2). Human beings are never totally free. Ordinarily, human beings are under the control of the evil spirits. Sometimes, in important matters, Satan himself, in addition to the working of evil spirits, will also participate in the work. Hence, we see him personally coming to tempt Christ in the wilderness. Later, in trying to hinder Christ from going to the cross, he personally used Peter. After that, in attempting to destroy Christ, he entered into Judas. Eventually, on the world stage he will be united to Antichrist. Scripture says that the works of Antichrist are “according to Satan’s operation” (2 Thess. 2:9); it is Satan who “gave him his power and his throne and great authority” (Rev. 13:2). Since Antichrist is the incarnated devil, the Holy Spirit speaks of him together with Satan in this passage. In these few verses, the superhuman aspects all refer to Satan himself, and the remainder to Antichrist. Since our purpose is not to study the question of Antichrist, but to know the creatures of the former world and the cause of its desolation, we shall put aside the verses in this portion concerning the Antichrist and concentrate on Satan, who is related to our subject. Now let us consider the words that refer to Satan. Ezekiel 28:12 says that Satan (Note: “Satan” is the name used after he had sinned; he was called the “son of the dawn” and also “Daystar” or “Lucifer” (Isa. 14:12) before his fall. “Satan,” which means “adversary,” is his name after the fall. For the sake of convenience, we shall call him Satan in the following paragraphs.) “Sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.” This depicts his condition before he had sinned. He was superior to all the other angels. Phrases like “sealest up the sum,” “full of,” and “perfect” reveal that he was the greatest of all the creation. God had put him above all the creation. Being “full of wisdom” probably refers to his understanding of God’s will; if this is true, he might have had the office of a prophet already. The first part of Ezekiel 28:13 says, “Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering.” When we read Genesis 3, we indeed see Satan there. However, he was not being covered by “every precious stone”; he was tempting Adam and Eve. Hence, the two gardens of Eden are not of the same time. In Adam’s Garden of Eden, Satan had fallen, whereas here, it clearly depicts the situation before his fall. Hence, the garden of Eden here must be earlier than the one at Adam’s time. If so, then it must not have belonged to the present world but to the previous one. This Garden of Eden, like the coming New Jerusalem, had many precious stones, such as sardius, beryl, etc. The Garden of Eden where Adam lived was not like this. The Bible focuses only on the trees and does not say anything concerning their being covered with precious stones. Hence, the Garden of Eden here must be different from that of Adam and is much earlier. His being covered with the precious stones reminds us of the precious stones on the priest in Exodus. He probably had been appointed by God to be a priest. The latter half of the verse says, “The workmanship of thy tablets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee.” In the Bible musical instruments are used by kings. We see how David played the harp for king Saul. When the king of Babylon was destroyed, the sound of his lutes were said to be brought down to Sheol (Isa. 14:11). And when the king of Babylon was pleased, various musical instruments were played (Dan. 3). Satan was a king at that time and these musical instruments were given to him by God. The first half of Ezekiel 28:14 says that he is “the anointed cherub that covered.” Anointed indicates that he is consecrated. The work of the cherubim is to lead men to worship the Lord (Rev. 4:9-10; 5:11-14). Therefore, his work in the beginning was also to lead the creatures at that time in the worship of God. This also refers to his priesthood. The latter part of verse 14 says that he was “upon the holy mountain of God” and had “walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.” The holy mountain of God probably is the place where God’s glory is manifested. As the priest of God, he would, of course, stand before Him to minister. What does it mean to walk “up and down in the midst of the stones of fire”? Ezekiel 1:26 reveals that the position of the cherubim is below the throne. Now when Moses took seventy of the elders of Israel up the mountain of Sinai, “they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness…And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mount” (Exo. 24:10, 17). The paved work of sapphire stone in the appearance of devouring fire probably was “the stones of fire.” This indicates that Satan enjoyed a very high place, right below the throne of God, and was very intimate with God. Verse 15 says that he was perfect in his ways from the day that he was created, but that later God found iniquity in him. All of God’s creation was perfect; God is not the author of sin. Iniquity was initiated by the archangel who sinned. He was created and given a free will by God just as we were. Unfortunately God’s created angel abused his freedom! And how many people are still following his footsteps! The first part of verse 16 says that by the multitude of his merchandise they have filled his midst with violence, and he has sinned. We may refer this word solely to Antichrist. During the end time commerce will be very prosperous (Rev. 18). Many sinful things will be brought in because of this. This can be proven by history.Nevertheless; the same clause may be applied to Satan. Mr. Pember points out that “the word translated `merchandise’ may also…signify `detraction’ or `slander’; and we know that the very name `Devil’ means `the slanderer,’ or `malignant accuser’” (Earth’s Earliest Ages, p. 52). Thus, we can find out the meaning here. We see how Satan accused Job and tried to destroy him with insidious acts. Also in Revelation 12:10 we read, “Now has come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ, for the accuser of our brothers has been cast down, who accuses them before our God day and night.” The casting down here probably corresponds to the casting of Satan out of the mountain of God in Ezekiel. The reason for the casting out in Ezekiel and in Revelation is one and the same, that is, accusation (or slander). Perhaps what was recorded in Ezekiel was the conviction of Satan by God and what was written in Revelation was the sending of Michael by God for the execution of that conviction. Then why would God still allow Satan to remain in the heavens? The reasons seem to be: (1) the time of God has not yet come, and (2) His own children need the furnace to purge away the dross still in them. Ezekiel 28:17 reveals the cause of Satan’s fall. His heart was lifted up because of his beauty, and his wisdom was corrupted by reason of his brightness. The king of Babylon as described in Isaiah 14:12-14 bears much resemblance to this verse. Many servants of God believe that the Holy Spirit is not only pointing out the king of Babylon, but in a deeper sense, the cause of the fall of Satan who was behind the king of Babylon. In my view, the record in Ezekiel reveals the cause of his pride, while in Isaiah it shows the manner in which he exhibited his pride. It is probable that after comparing himself with God’s other creatures, his heart was lifted up. In the end he tried to exalt himself to be equal with God and thus suffered God’s judgment. “How you have fallen from heaven, / O Daystar, son of the dawn! /…But you, you said in your heart: / I will ascend to heaven; / above the stars of God / I will exalt my throne. / And I will sit upon the mount of assembly / On the sides of the north. / I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; / I will be like the Most High” (Isa. 14:12-14). Since he was so proud, God punished him. His authority in the heavens was removed and abolished by God. The remaining part of the prophecy in Ezekiel is not relevant to our subject, and we shall stop here. From the prophecy contained in this passage in Ezekiel, if our interpretation is correct, we can see how God created Satan the fairest and wisest of all His creatures in the former world and made him their leader. God placed him in the garden of Eden, which was long before the Eden of Adam. The things in the former garden, if not altogether different from those of the latter garden, were at least more numerous than the latter. They resemble the future New Jerusalem. He was a prophet there, teaching all the inhabitants of the earth with his wisdom to know how to serve God. He was also there as the priest of God, directing them in the worship and praises of God. He was also the king among the creatures, having been placed in a position that was above all the creation. He must have been in such a condition for a lengthy period of time (v. 15), but because of his sin, he became the greatest enemy of God. So far we have covered the origin of Satan. We shall now proceed to cover Satan’s angels and demons, which are under him, and to investigate how they fell and how this affected the earth, causing it to become waste and void. From the New Testament we see that under the hand of Satan there are two living beings: (1) angels and (2) demons. Let us first look at the angels. Matthew 25:41 speaks of “the devil and his angels.” Revelation 12:4 says that the dragon’s “tail drags away the third part of the stars of heaven, and he cast them to the earth.” The stars denote the angels (Rev. 1:20). Therefore 12:9 says, “And the great dragon was cast down, the ancient serpent, he who is called the Devil and Satan,…he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast down with him.” These angels were probably the ones established by God in the beginning to assist Satan to rule the world. They were “the congregation of the mighty” and “the gods” in Psalm 82 (cf. John 10:35). When Satan fell, they either conspired or sympathized with him. Therefore, they fell together with him and became today’s “rulers,” “authorities,” “world-rulers of this darkness,” “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenliest” (Eph. 6:12). Note that the numbers are plural. These angels are not disembodied demons; they have ethereal bodies. This is why the Lord promises that the children of resurrection will be like the angels in the heaven. Satan has another class of subjects, the evil spirits. Demons and the evil spirits (or filthy spirits) are the same. We can tell this by checking with the translation of the Mandarin Bible. In Matthew 8:16, it firstly mentions the demons, then the spirits. But the Bible translators, seeing that the Holy Spirit used the words “demon” and “spirit” interchangeably, translated both into “demons.” In Luke 10:17 the word “demons” is in the original language, but in verse 20 the word “demons” should be “spirits.” In these two verses of the Bible we see the Lord Jesus acknowledged the “demons” and the “spirits” to be the same and thus the Chinese Bible translator again translated both as “demons.” Matthew 17:18 speaks of the Lord casting out a demon, yet Mark calls this demon an unclean spirit and dumb spirit (Mark 9:25). Demons and spirits are the same. These demons, or spirits, probably were the race who lived in the former world. They helped Satan in his sinning; or, perhaps after Satan sinned, they followed him rather than forsaking him and obeying God. Therefore, they were cut off by God and their bodies were removed from them. Hence, they became disembodied spirits. Although we cannot find any clear evidence in the Bible to confirm this theory, we can find some clues. In Matthew 12 we see the situation of a demon when he left the human body. He became helpless and wandered about. Besides the human body, he could not find another resting place. Therefore, he eventually returned to his original place, the human body. If they were not disembodied spirits, why did they have to enter into man’s body? As we read Luke 8, we see how the legion of demons was unwilling to leave the human body. When they had no way to remain in the human body, they even entered the bodies of the swine. Presently in the world they still cling to human bodies. Even some believers are unconsciously possessed by them. They are different from Satan and his angels who do not like to enter human bodies. Satan and his angels still have a spiritual body, but the demons do not. Their character and liking seem to prove that they are the disembodied spirits. Since they are disembodied spirits, where were they when they were disembodied? We know that the spirits of all the dead are in Hades. So, where do these spirits come from? They must have come from the former world. While they were alive, their habitation was probably the former world where Satan exercised his rule. In the Bible we can find another clue that tells us that there were inhabitants in the pre-Adamic world. Isaiah 45:18 shows that the world created by God in the beginning was not waste and empty. Since this verse speaks of the original world, one expression suggests to us the existence of mankind in the previous world. It says, “He is the God / who formed the earth… / He did not create it waste.” This clearly refers to the original creation. Following this it says, “He formed it to be inhabited.” This seems to clearly tell that the earth then was inhabited by some race. As we read the Bible further, we find clues which indicate that there is a detention place for the demons now. The legion of demons in Gadara must have known this. They were in great fear and begged the Lord that He would not “order them to depart into the abyss,” (Luke 8:31) because they would be tormented there (Matt. 8:29). Mr. Pember says that this “abyss” in the original language is abussos; and that “in some passages, such as the ninth chapter of the Apocalypse, this term is evidently applied to a fiery hollow in the centre of the earth: but it is also used for the depths of the sea, a meaning which accords well with its derivation” (Earth’s Earliest Ages, p. 60). In the future Satan will be detained in a bottomless pit in the center of the earth. This is revealed in the book of Revelation. The demons are also detained in an abyss now, yet some of them still have freedom. We must wait until God’s appointed time comes for them to be completely shut inside. This abyss is probably different from the one in the heart of the earth; it is in the sea. Furthermore, at the final judgment (Rev. 20:11-15) when all the prisoners will have been thrown into the lake of fire, there will be no more sea in the new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21:1). However, there may be only one abyss that is divided into two parts. There are other clues concerning the sea being the place of detention for demons. In the Septuagint Bible, the word “deep” in Genesis 1:2 is the same as “abyss” here. We have said that these demons are probably created races that lived in the first world. This corresponds to what we read in Genesis 1:2 because they originally lived on the earth. After sinning, their bodies were destroyed by God; their habitation was judged by God and became without form and void. The whole earth was covered by water and was characterized as “the deep.” It follows then that the spirits of the races at that time were in this “deep”! Finally, on the third day when God restored the earth, He commanded the earth to come out from the water and called the gathering of the waters the sea. This earth was prepared for mankind in the new world. Where then have the former demons gone? We can spontaneously answer that they went into the sea. As we read Revelation 20:13, we often do not understand why the sea will give up the dead which are in it. It is understandable to say that death and Hades will deliver up the dead which are in them, but why will the sea give up the dead who are in it? The common interpretation is that the sea surrenders the bodies of those who are drowned. If so, then the earth should also give up its dead because there are more bodies buried in the earth than in the sea. Yet the earth does not give up its dead. Therefore, the sea will give up the spirits of the imprisoned ones and not the bodies of the dead. Men’s spirits are in death and Hades; the Bible does not say that the spirits of man are kept in the sea. Then whose spirits will the sea give up? It will give up those who are from the other world, that is, the former world. The sequence here indicates this. “The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them.” Those who lived in the former world died first. Therefore, they will be the first beings to be given up; then, we who are of this world will follow after because every man will be judged in his own order. Thus far we have seen the probable origin of Satan, his angels, and the demons. As to how man lived on the former earth, this is something beyond our knowledge. However, we can see some hints in the Bible. Many Bible scholars, Dr. Scofield being one of them, believe that Jeremiah 4:23-26 refers to the condition of Genesis 1:2, in which the earth was without form and void. Although the context of this passage is the desolation of Judah, these few verses of the Scripture have a notably broader view, as if God caused the prophet to view the desolation of the earth in the beginning. If our belief is accurate, then we know that in the former world there was “the fruitful land” and “its cities” (v. 26). The inhabitants then dwelt in cities and some took up farming as an occupation. When they were deceived by Satan, the burning anger of Jehovah came upon them (v. 26) and the earth became “waste and emptiness” (v. 23).From these biblical clues we see the original situation of the earth, the races who dwelt on the earth, the paradise, and the princes, etc. If we are not mistaken in our meditation, we can draw a conclusion concerning the first world and the cause of its desolation as follows: In the beginning of “time” (as opposed to eternity) God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was not waste (Isa. 45:18) but very beautiful and perfect. On this earth there were inhabitants and the number of the inhabitants was great. Before God created the earth and human beings, He had created the angels (Job 38:6-7). He assigned Satan, whom He created, as the leader to be above all the angels. Satan, the most beautiful and wisest of all, the prime of all God’s creation, dwelt in the Garden of Eden. God made him the ruler of the world; therefore, he was called “the ruler of the world” (John 14:30). Many angels were under his rule, and these angels shared in ruling with him. Then, because of his position and honor, he became proud. Due to pride, he rebelled and lifted himself up to be equal with God. He was not satisfied with being a creature, but desired to be the Creator. Therefore, he slandered God before the people and accused the people before God. God found out his iniquity and condemned him. When the time comes, he will be cast to the earth. One third of the angels (Rev. 12) followed him in rebellion and, therefore, became the angels of the devil. God has prepared hell for them (Matt. 25:41), and when the time comes, Satan will be cast into it. In the former world, the inhabitants of the earth, being under Satan and his angels’ rule, were also deceived and filled up with sins. (We can readily understand this when we consider our world situation today.) Therefore, God’s anger was fierce, and He completely destroyed the earth and all the races therein and locked up many spirits in the abyss in the sea. These evil spirits, angels, and Satan himself formed the kingdom of darkness. We do not know how long this period lasted. Later, the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters again, and the Triune God began His restoration work on the world. After His restoration of the world, He created Adam and his wife and asked them to guard it, so that there would be man on the earth to cooperate with Him in heaven to stop Satan’s power. Perhaps God used Adam to test Satan to see whether he would repent. However, he came to tempt Adam; therefore, God cursed Satan. Because Adam fell, he could not bring the world which was under Satan’s rule back to God. On the contrary, the world Adam received from God’s hand was given anew to Satan. Since angels and mankind had failed, God came in the person of the Son to be a man, the last Adam. The Lord Jesus became God’s prophet, priest, and king. When He was on this earth, He was God’s prophet without blemish. When He was about to die, He was able to say, “The ruler of the world is coming, and in me he has nothing” (John 14:30). At His death all who are in Adam were crucified in Him. He was able to include all of the old Adamic creation in His crucifixion because He is God, and He is able to continue on as the new man. His human living had nothing to do with Satan. Through His death and resurrection, He regained the world lost by the first Adam. Every sinner, who is destined to die in the old Adam, can return to God and be saved if he rejects the first Adam through the death of the last Adam and joins himself to Christ in life. This is the meaning of believing in the death of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, whoever believes in the Lord Jesus becomes an enemy of the devil. In everything he attacks us, and in everything we resist him, his angels, and the demons. This is God’s purpose in saving man, and this is a real spiritual warfare. Satan was judged once on the “holy mountain of God,” and he was judged again on the hill of Golgotha. He has been convicted, yet his judgment has not yet been executed. When the time comes he will be cast down from heaven and when the Son of God returns to this earth, he will be cast into the abyss. After one thousand years he will forever suffer in the lake of fire. Now the Lord Jesus holds the authority which Satan had abused, and He will hold it until all traces of rebellion disappear. He has brought His own blood into the Holy of Holies and has cleansed the heavens; He is now a Priest of God. When He returns, it will be the time of the restoration of all things. He will be a King, ruling this world from heaven with all the overcoming saints, in the same way that Satan ruled with his angels in the former time. At that time He will teach the inhabitants of this earth to know God’s will and to worship God, in the same way that Satan did in the former days. The situation in the millennium will be like the situation in the world before Satan sinned. Christ will restore all things to the condition in the “beginning” in order to accomplish God’s original purpose. After this He will burn up the whole world, and there will be a new heaven and a new earth in which the righteous will dwell. Therefore, as God’s children we ought to have a deeper enmity for the devil. For thousands of years God’s only purpose has been for man to be joined with Him to destroy Satan’s authority. Our God is a law-abiding God. He will not take back by force the world which was lost through man. Therefore, He sent His Son to become a man in order to regain what man had lost. We, men who have been saved, ought to cooperate with the unique “Man,” the Lord Jesus. In our life, in our work, in our environment, in our dwelling, and in the world, we should resist the works of the devil. Our resistance is in firmness of faith (1 Pet. 5:9), and not by means of fleshly weapons (2 Cor. 10:4), which is the way of social reformers who are being utilized by the demons. Satan was wise and beautiful! But because of his pride, he ended up in complete ruin. It is dangerous for frail mortals to esteem themselves wise and beautiful! Beware, lest being lifted up with pride, you fall into the judgment of the devil (1 Tim. 3:6). Being self-exalted with pride is not a blessing to man; wisdom rests only with those who fear the most high God Jehovah.
    THE EARTH RESTORED THE RECOVERY OF THE EARTH IN SIX DAYS
    We have seen that in the beginning God created a perfect world. Later, because of the sins committed by Satan and those who dwelt on the earth, they and the earth were judged by God, and the earth became without form and void. Now we will see God’s work of restoring the earth. In the book of Job, Job mentions the failure of Satan’s rebellion in order to show that it is foolish to dispute with God. “He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered? which removed the mountains, and they know not; which overturned them in his anger; which shakes’ the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble; which commanded the sun, and it rises not; and sealed up the stars” (Job 9:4-7). When did God do this? When did He shake the mountains and the earth, and alter the position of the celestial bodies due to man’s stubbornness towards Him? Since the time of Adam, such an act of God in the world has not been seen. This passage must be a description of God’s judgment on Satan and on the earth under his dominion when he rebelled. At that time God shook the earth and overturned the mountains. The calamity came so swiftly that the mountains were overturned unnoticed. In addition to the earth, the positions of the celestial bodies were also affected. Because of God’s judgment, the sun disappeared completely and the stars did not shine. The world was plunged into darkness. There was no sun and no heat was produced. Consequently, this led to the glacial epoch on this earth. Then, after a long period of time, possibly due to internal heat at the earth’s core (Rev. 9:2), the ice gradually melted. However, the sun had not yet appeared and the stars were still “sealed up.” When the Spirit of God began to move, there was the deep, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. Job not only mentions God’s judgment, but also His work of restoration. He says, “Which alone spreadeth out the heavens, / and treadeth upon the high peaks of the sea; / which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, / and wonders without number” (Job 9:8-10, Heb.). The phrase “spread knows? / Or who hath stretched the line upon it? / Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? / Or who laid the corner stone thereof; / when the morning stars sang together.” No matter which earth is referred to here, whether the original created earth or the restored earth on the third day, one thing is definite: before the earth was formed, the stars already existed. As the earth was being formed, morning stars were there singing together, praising the work of God. In Genesis God was only rearranging the stars that were there before. After He had gathered the light into the sun and had made it the great light, He restored the stars and made them appear in the sky to meet the needs of the earth. The Holy Spirit inspired Moses to describe God’s work with human words because the Bible is written for man. He did not speak of the positions and functions of the sun, moon, and stars, but only mentioned their relationship to the earth and man. Although seasons, days, and years have to do with other creatures, the use of the celestial bodies “for signs” is specifically for man, since no one besides man is able to observe the motions of the celestial bodies in order to make signs. God only speaks about the positions and functions of the sun, moon, and stars according to man’s viewpoint. He does not mention other matters. In man’s eyes the sun is the greatest light, the moon is the second, and the stars are still smaller lights. Is it not wonderful that God has prepared such an immense universe for men as small as we? On the fifth day, after the dry land and the celestial bodies had been restored, God prepared to create living organisms to inhabit the earth. “Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven” (v. 20). God’s commandment expressed God’s purpose. “And God created great whales, and every living creature that moved, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind” (v. 21). God created these things out of nothing. We do not know what materials God used to make fish and aquatic life. As for the birds, 2:19 tells us that they are made out of the ground. Science tells us that living organisms first existed in the water, then on the ground. Aquatic organisms are the most primitive species among all the animals. Even today, the ocean is still home to the majority of the living creatures. Birds, on the other hand, are the most primitive species of all warm-blooded animals. We can see how closely science resembles the description in the Bible. Although science proves these words, faith believes without the help of science! On the sixth day God went on to create the beasts, the cattle, and the creeping things. Finally, He created man in His own image. We will discuss the creation of man in more detail in later messages. Here we will deal only briefly with the subject. Chapter one covers the creation of man in a brief way to show us man’s position among the creatures, while chapter two describes the origin of man in detail to show us man’s relationship with God. We should notice that man was “created” by God (v. 27). Man did not evolve from a lower class of animal. The word “creation,” as we have mentioned, means the making of something out of nothing. It is a special work of God and not a natural process of evolution. The Bible does not give credence to the theory of evolution, which will forever be a vain idea! On the third day God ordered each type of vegetation, the trees, grass, and vegetables, to yield seed after its kind. Grass cannot change into a tree, neither can one tree change into another kind of tree. On the fifth day aquatic life and birds were all after their kinds. On the sixth day the beasts, cattle, and creeping things were also after their kind. Every creature is after its kind. The Bible does not tell us how these kinds were classified, yet the words “after his kind” is sufficient proof that in those days every creature was of a different kind. Since God has said that everything was “after his kind,” the boundary of each kind was set by God. There is absolutely no possibility for one kind to evolve into another kind. Plants cannot change into animals; even one kind of plant cannot change into another kind of plant, neither can one kind of animal change into another kind of animal. We Christians believe in the Word of God. Anything beyond “thus saith the Lord,” we will not believe. How much less should we listen to a theory that is contradictory to the Word of God? The Word of God is sufficient to solve all the problems. The world may be scornful of our logic, but we are satisfied with God’s Word. Pitiful mortals do not believe in our God. As a result, they drift aimlessly and devise theories for themselves on which to base their faith! They think that it is too incredible for God to bring something out of nothing into being, and to make man out of the dust of the earth. To us, however, for a tiny embryo

  89. #89 oyunlar1
    October 18, 2007

    Posted by: rafael
    Ooo my good. :) write to comments 5 hours.

  90. #90 rafael
    January 5, 2008

    THE MEANING OF LIFE
    THE MEANING OF LIFE

    1. THE PURPOSE OF MAN’S EXISTENCE
    Who we are? Why are we in this world? Where are we going?
    Have you ever asked yourself why this questions and what the meaning of the human life is? No matter what type of person you are or what your profession is, there are a few things which you, like most people, would agree with, that is:
    Money cannot satisfy man; neither can education satisfies man, nor can
    Pleasure do not satisfy man, Nor can success satisfy man.
    WHY?
    Because you have not yet realized:
    2. GOD’S PLAN

    God has a plan. Which is to deposit his life into man his plan has everything to do with man? In the bible there are tree different words in Greek to designated the word “life”
    1. Bios referring to the biological life our body
    2. Psycho referring to the soul logical means study. The word Psychology means the study of the soul, emotions, mind and will.
    3. There is another word for life that is Zoe the highest life. Whenever the bible speaks of eternal life speak of Zoe. In a Greek dictionary you will find the distinction.
    This is the reason why, Gods plan with the man he created, in first place is not to bring him to heaven, neither to save Him from hell. But to receive the life that was not created. God’s life.
    His plan with man is complete, from creation, while living in earth, and the future.
    This is the reason why God created man different than the rest of his creation
    1. MAN HAS GOD’S IMAGE
    Please read the following verse:
    “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness….”Genesis 1:26a
    God’s creation of man is different from His creation of all other things. He created man in His own image. A glove is created according to the likeness of a hand with the purpose of containing the hand.Likewise, man was created in the image of God with the purpose of containing God.
    2. MAN IS A VESSEL
    Now read the next verse:
    God “should make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy…even us.”Romans 9:23-24
    We are vessels of God. God wants to be our content. As bottles are made to contain water, we are made to contain God.
    It is no wonder that knowledge, wealth, pleasure, and accomplishment can never satisfy you, for you were created to contain God!
    3. THE PARTS OF MAN
    Please continue by reading the next verse:
    “May your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete?”1 Thessalonians 5:23
    Man is God’s vessel. The Bible divides this vessel into three parts—the spirit, the soul, and the body. See diagram below:

    The BODY is simply the physical body, belonging to the physiological level, contacting the things of the material realm, and is the most superficial part.
    The SOUL is the mental faculty, belonging to the psychological level, contacting the things of the mental realm, and is a deeper part.
    The SPIRIT is the deepest part of man, belonging to the spiritual level, and contacts the things of God.
    For problems of the body one may see a doctor. For problems of the mind one may visit a psychiatrist. Yet only God can solve the problems of the spirit.
    4. THE MEANING OF LIFE
    God wants to enter into man’s spirit, to become his content and his satisfaction.
    This is the purpose of human existence! You are not merely created to contain food in your stomach, or to contain knowledge in your mind, but you are created to contain God in your spirit.
    1. THE TWO NATURES OF MAN
    Since man was made in the image of God, he possesses a good nature that matches God’s nature, with virtues such as truthfulness, goodness, loveliness, wisdom, kindness, and valor.
    However, there is also an evil nature in man which wars against his good nature. The Chinese met physicists refer to this war as a battle between reason and lust. Throughout history, both in the East and West, those who understand human nature acknowledge the existence of this evil nature which the Bible calls:
    2. SIN
    Because sin is in man, he is unable to carry out his good intentions.No one likes to be greedy, jealous, or murderous. No one likes to be boastful, arrogant, or deceitful. No one likes to be irritable, licentious, or lustful. No one likes to murmur, complain, or curse.
    Nevertheless, man cannot escape his evil nature. Please read the following verses:
    “For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but to do the good is not.”Romans 7:18
    “But if what I do not will, this I do, it is no longer I that do it but sin that dwells in me.”Romans 7:20
    This is a portrait of man.
    3. THE FALL OF MAN
    Sin entered into man and caused him to fall. See diagram below:
    (1) Sin caused man’s spirit to be deadened:
    “And you, being dead in your offenses and sins.”Ephesians 2:1
    (2) Sin caused man’s mind to rebel:
    “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by evil works.”Colossians 1:21
    (3) Sin caused man’s body to sin:
    “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body to obey its lusts.”Romans 6:12
    The fallen man is like: A damaged and untunable radio which cannot receive and play music, but rather meaningless noise. He is also like:A cup that has fallen into the gutter still having its original fine form but now covered with mud.
    4. MAN CANNOT SAVE HIMSELF
    Throughout history, man has tried every possible way to escape sin, but he has found that:
    Good works cannot save him from sin. Education cannot save him from sin. Ethics cannot save him from sin. Chanting cannot save him from sin.Religion cannot save him from sin.
    This picture of man simply depicts the battle between his good nature and his evil nature.
    1. WHO IS CHRIST?
    Christ is the Savior sent from God to the world to solve the problems of human life.
    He is the embodiment of the Triune God.
    “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”Colossians 2:9
    He is also God incarnated:
    “The Word was God…the Word became flesh and tabernacle among us…full of grace and reality.”John 1:1, 14
    Therefore, He is both the complete God and the perfect man. See the following diagram:

    He is more than a good man! He is more than a great man! He is more than moral man! He is more than a holy man! He is the God-man!
    2. THE DEATH OF THE GOD-MAN
    This God-man was nailed to the cross to accomplish the work of redemption. He died with three statuses:
    (1) As the Lamb of God, He died to take away man’s sin.
    “…the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”John 1:29
    (2) As the brass serpent that had been lifted up, He died to crush the old serpent, Satan, and to deal with the serpent’s poison within man—his sinful nature.
    “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.”John 3:14
    (3) As a grain of wheat, He died to release the divine life.
    “…a grain of wheat…dies, it bears much fruit.”John 12:24
    NOW:
    His death has taken away the sin which man has but should not have!His death imparts into man the life which he needs but does not have!
    1. THE TWO BECOMINGS OF CHRIST
    God became flesh, born as a man called Jesus. Please read the following verse:
    “The Word became flesh and tabernacle among us.”John 1:14
    The Lord became the Spirit called the life-giving Spirit by His resurrection from the dead. Read the following verse:
    “The last Adam became a life-giving Spirit.”1 Corinthians 15:45
    Since this Spirit is the life-giving Spirit, He dispenses God with His life into His believers.
    Hence, the Bible says:
    “He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.”1 John 5:12
    2. REGENERATING MAN
    In his first birth, man obtains a physical life.
    When man receives God’s life through Christ, he experiences a second birth, which the Bible calls regeneration.
    “God…has regenerated us…through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead.”1 Peter 1:3
    Jesus said, “Unless a man is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”John 3:3
    A pig cannot participate in the sheep’s kingdom and live a sheep’s life by education, improvement, or regulation; it must possess the life of a sheep.
    Similarly, man cannot participate in God’s kingdom and live a divine life by education, improvement, or regulation; he must receive the life of God!
    3. THE MEANING OF BEING A CHRISTIAN
    A Christian is one who receives God’s dispensing. God first dispenses Himself into our spirit and then spreads from our spirit into our soul. Finally, He fills and saturates our spirit, soul, and body with Himself. The Bible calls this final stage glorification.
    “And whom He predestinated, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”Romans 8:30
    Through this, we can be transformed and conformed to the image of Christ.
    “Because whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son.”Romans 8:29
    This is the purpose of human life! This is the meaning of being a Christian!This is what God has planned for you!
    WHAT MUST YOU DO NOW?
    Now that you have realized God’s plan, you should do four things:
    1. TURN YOUR HEART TO GOD—REPENT
    Repentance is not to be remorseful. Repentance is neither to turn over anew leaf. Repentance is to have a change in mind.
    Previously you had your back towards God. Whether you were doing good or evil, you were turned away from God. Your mind was turned away from God. Now listen to what the Lord Jesus said:
    “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.”Matt. 4:17
    2. BELIEVE—RECEIVE
    To believe is not to nod your head, nor to agree, nor merely to be appreciative.
    If someone gives you a watch, it is not enough for you just to nod your head in agreement and admire the watch. You need to receive it. Believing is just receiving. Read the following verse:
    “But as many as received Him, to them He gave authority to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”John 1:12
    3. CONFESS—CALL
    Being a Christian is an open matter. God requires that your heart believe and that your mouth confess.
    If your heart does not believe, you cannot be saved.
    If your mouth does not confess, neither can you be saved. But:
    “…if you confess with your mouth, Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from among the dead, you shall be saved.”Romans 10:9
    4. BE BAPTIZED—TESTIFY
    Baptism is a testimony before men. All believers should be baptized in order to be saved not only before God, but also before men.
    The Lord Jesus said:
    “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned.”Mark 16:16
    Through baptism, God transfers us from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God. For this reason, the Lord Jesus said:
    “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”John 3:5
    NOW PLEASE PRAY:
    “Lord Jesus! I am a sinner. I need You. Come into my spirit. Take away my sin. Fill me that I may have the life of God. I receive You right now as my Savior and life. I give myself to You. I ask this in Your name, Amen!”
    Now you are clear about the meaning of human life! May the Lord bless you and cause you to continue living in God’s plan!
    Now, pray often, read the bible, you are the church, the church is not a physical building, neither an organization is the body of Christ Ephesians 1:22, we are the house of God Hebrews 3;6 we are Gods temple I Corinthians 6:19 and in eternity we will be the bride of Christ Revelations 21:2 . But after Eternity we will return to the source and origin of all things God the Father, Colossians 3: “a renewal in which is not distinction between Greek and Jews, circumcise or uncircumcised, barbarian or Scythian, slaves or free man but Christ” Galatians 3:25 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave or free man, neither male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” This Christ Jesus is the new man Ephesians: 2:15 “ By abolishing in his flesh the enmity, which is the law of commandments contain in ordinances , the in Himself He might make of the two one new man” This new man said in John 20:17 “I ascend to my Father and your Father” By him we became the many brothers of Christ and He is not ashamed to call us his brothers Hebrews: “ for this reason He is not ashamed to call us brothers” He is our older brother Romans 8:“ That He might be the first born among many brothers” Our older bother Christ is our Wisdom, He is Our Physician , our Light, and the one whom together with us his young brothers He will give all the infinite universe even us to the Father so that God the Father ICo 15:29 “ God maybe all and in all” this means the in the infinite universe that we finite man will never reach, God the Father will be all everywhere and He will be in us therefore we will be with our Father everywhere we never get bored, we will never get tired in a universe that has not end, furthermore we will enjoy His love forever. This is the meaning of life. God the Father since has place in us the desire of have Him. Regardless you are a believer or unbeliever, moral or immoral, wise or fool, with Him or against Him. He is waiting for you and He will run to you as soon you come for Him.

  91. #91 erotik shop
    September 9, 2008

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  93. #93 sohbet
    March 5, 2009

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