The Trouble With Theistic Evolution

The current issue of The Philosopher’s Magazine contains a lengthy interview with philosopher Elliott Sober, a prominent philosopher of biology. Most of the interview focuses on the problem of reconciling evolution and theism, with Sober serving up the standard talking points. For me the interview is a reminder of what I find most frustrating about theistic evolution. Too often the defender of reconciliation acts as though his job is done as soon as he has tossed off a logically possible scenario that includes both God and evolution.

The interview does not seem to be freely available online, so I will transcribe a few sections. The first person pronouns refer to the interviewer, James Garvey.

The interview starts off acceptably enough, with Sober discussing the threat of religious extremism both in society generally and in science education. But things go wrong when Sober is asked to discuss the various views people hold on this subject:

I ask Sober to outline the opposing positions in the debate about evolution and God, and he does it in a nutshell. “Creationists think, `If God exists then evolutionary theory must be false. Of course God exists. Therefore, evolutionary theory must be false.’ A certain kind of atheist thinks, `If evolutionary theory is true, there can’t be a God. Evolutionary theory is true. Therefore, there is no God.’ I dislike both of these arguments.” He claims that the two main camps in the debate are both wrong. Both presuppose that conclusions about the existence of God tumble straight out of evolutionary theory, but Sober argues that philosophy is needed to from science to atheistic or theistic conclusions.

Even as a nutshell summary this is far too simplistic to be helpful. Maybe you can find a few atheists who argue in the way Sober describes, but most do not. From the other side, few creationists are really as simple-minded as Sober’s version of their argument suggests.

The argument from evolution to atheism, or from theism to no evolution, proceeds by looking at what evolution says about natural history, adding a few premises about God’s nature and goals, and then concluding that it is very unlikely that evolution and theism are both true. For example, evolution claims that natural history is marked by millions of years of cruel and savage bloodsport. This seems odd if we assume that God is all-loving and all-powerful. Likewise, evolution strongly suggests that human beings are just one more animal species among many. How do we explain this, if we assume that God created the world specifically so that humans could live? The parts where we insert premises about God’s nature and goals involve doing philosophy and not science, but so what? Labeling the argument “philosophical” does not negate its force.

If you want to avoid the unwanted conclusions of either “No God,&rdquo or “No evolution,” then you can certainly add other premises. You can argue, as many do, that God had creative goals that absolutely could not have been achieved through any mechanism other than Darwinian evolution. Or you can argue that human-like intelligence was an inevitable end result of the evolutionary process. These are the sorts of premises you have to add to reconcile evolution and theism, but good luck trying to make them seem plausible. The incompatibilist argument takes its premises from the traditional, centuries-old teachings of various religious faiths. The compatibilist argument, by contrast, simply invents premises for which there is no evidence, for no reason other than to avoid unpleasant conclusions.

There is an analogy here with the argument from evil, which comes in two forms. In the logical form of the argument we assert that there is a contradiction entailed in believing that God and evil both exist. This argument has had its defenders over the years, but nowadays most philosophers find it overly ambitious. The evidential form of the argument, by contrast, claims more modestly that the prevalence of evil and suffering are strong evidence against God. Many philosophers defend this argument, and rightly so, since it is very powerful.

And that’s my main beef with so many defenders of theistic evolution. They act as though their job is done when they have refuted the logical form of the incompatibility argument. The evidential form, however, is unimpressed by their efforts. Their refutations are inevitably based on premises that are logically possible, but highly implausible.

This becomes clear when Sober provides specific suggestions for reconciling God and evolution. His first suggestion is that God established the initial conditions of the universe and then allowed natural forces to do the rest. This is possible, of course. But what reason is there for believing it? And why would God create through savage natural processes when it certainly seems as though he had other options? And why would he employ a process that is not even assured of producing multicellularity, much less human-like intelligence?

Sober’s second suggestion involves God personally manipulating the mutations. He provides an analogy:

Suppose we’re going to examine gambles made on the outcome of coin tossing, and we want to know whether coins land heads more often when gamblers bet on tails. So let’s do the experiment, go to a casino, watch people make bets, and get the frequencies of heads and tails. We will discover, of course, that what’s good for the gambler has no causal relevance to how the coin behaves. It’s wishful thinking to think that the coin is going to land heads more often just because you bet on heads, just because it would be good for you. And that’s how mutations are according to our understanding of mutation. Whether a mutation occurs or does not occur is not affected by whether it would be good for the organism.

Go back to the coins. Suppose someone said, “Okay, you just got all the frequency data on heads and tails in your experiment. How do you know that on toss 342 God didn’t intervene and ensure that it would land heads?’ I think maybe you could have a reason for thinking that’s wrong, but the frequency data you obtained in your experiment is not that reason. Frequency data do not tell you anything about the causes of individual coin tosses, so it’s consistent with your perfectly reasonable view about coin tosses not being influenced by what would be good for gamblers, to think that occasionally in the history of coin tossing God reaches into the world and biases the coin. Not that it’s true, but it’s consistent with what you know.

It would be pretty remarkable if the experiments that biologists do on mutations would tell us whether divine intervention occurs. That’s not what science is about. It’s not about trying to test things like that. The theory of evolution is a probabilistic theory. It does not tell you what causes each and every thing that happens. Maybe there are hidden variables. Maybe some events happen for special reasons that are not described by the theory. The theory just doesn’t say anything about that. I see no reason to believe in these hidden variables — that’s me the philosopher talking — but the science understood correctly is silent on whether there are such hidden causes. (Emphasis added).

Notice just how tepid Sober’s conclusions are. Hypothesizing direct divine action in evolution is consistent with the science. Evolutionary theory cannot absolutely rule out such a thing. But for me those two statements I placed in bold face really give the game away. Near the end he notes that there is no reason to believe in the sorts of hidden variables he discusses. Earlier he tells us that there could be good reasons for thinking that God does not intervene to affect the outcomes of coin tosses. Presumably he is talking about theological reasons, since he emphasizes that empirical data is silent on such questions. Certainly, given reasonable assumptions about the nature of God’s interactions with the world, it becomes implausible to think that God is intervening in coin tosses.

But the same objection applies to God influencing specific mutations. If he is going to micromanage at that level, then why not skip the bloodsport by creating ex nihilo, precisely as the Bible says He did? Why does God operate in a way that seems tailor made to fool us regarding how nature works, by using what seem like random processes as a way of covering His tracks?

So, congratulations on showing that evolution does not flatly rule out the existence of God But by emphasizing that reconciliation entails believing premises for which there is no evidence, and which are strongly challenged on theological grounds, your victory seems Pyrrhic.

By this point in the interview I was getting pretty frustrated. But then, to my delight, Garvey made the correct point:

But doesn’t evolution suggest there’s no God? Doesn’t evolution really very strongly point towards atheism? You can agree with Sober and think that, all right, strictly speaking, there’s no incompatibility between the existence of God and evolution, but there’s a strange hollowness in the thought. It’s like someone defending the right to bear arms by pointing out that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Well, all right, strictly speaking, that’s true, but guns aren’t exactly neutral either. They point to something in our culture, they suggest a use. The theory of evolution, again strictly speaking, doesn’t say that God doesn’t exist, but it suggests atheism. For one thing, it knocks aside the idea that we need a Creator to explain life. The theory of evolution points to atheism, doesn’t it?

Bingo! That’s exactly right, and unless Sober has a good response his earlier harrumphing about where science ends and philosophy begins doesn’t amount to much. But he doesn’t have a good answer. In fact, his answer is jaw-dropping:

“It certainly suggests to some individuals that atheism is true,” Sober admits. “But I think that most of the impetus to that thought is just the old problem of evil. I don’t think the theory of evolution does anything to challenge theism beyond what the problem of evil does.”

Now, even if the problem of evil really were the only problem then, as we like to say at Passover, dayenu. In the interview Sober does not even hint at a solution to the problem, but instead gets sidetracked on a digression about Darwin’s religious views.

But come on! The problem of evil is the only issue? Garvey already alluded to a second problem, that evolution kills the best argument ever devised for God’s existence. A third challenge comes from evolution’s implications for the non-special role of humans within creation. And have we forgotten the Bible? Theism by itself may not entail an acceptance of what the Bible says, but since we are having this discussion specifically in the context of the American political and educational climate it seems like a mighty big thing to overlook.

It is when you start to appreciate the cumulative challenge evolution poses that you become distinctly unimpressed with the arguments made by theistic evolutionists. Sure, a skillful philosopher can go through each of my points and make stuff up in reply, just as a skillful defense attorney can poke holes in any piece of evidence the prosecution presents. But at some point, such efforts notwithstanding, the evidence just becomes too strong to resist.

Near the end of the interview we come to this:

And on the other hand, if he manages to persuade theists, he says, “maybe the reaction against evolution will be less extreme. Theists can accept evolution and believe in God. This compatibilist view is the least visible of the views out there in the public debate. Incompatibilism is the dominant idea whether you’re talking about creationists who reject evolution or evolutionists who reject theism. I want to insert this third idea into the discussion.

I very much doubt that Sober will have much luck persuading theists skeptical of evolution. Considering the detached, academic way he discusses this issue, with his emphasis on the need to accept evidence-free, theologically dubious premises to support reconciliation, I think he is more likely to drive them over to the incompatibilist camp. They will not hear Sober’s arguments, slap their foreheads, and realize that their skepticism is misplaced. Instead they will see only a confirmation of what they always feared.

Comments

  1. #1 AbnormalWrench
    February 12, 2012

    Underlying this entire piece is that there has been some effective answer to the problem of evil in relation to evolution. I just find this baffling, because I have never heard any. Loving god + powerful god + evolution = fail.

  2. #2 David
    February 12, 2012

    The theory of evolution doesn’t rule out God reaching down and fixing some specific beneficial mutations. But those same mutations may have happened without divine intervention, through the same random processes that triggered all the non-beneficial mutations. So while it can’t rule out God’s handiwork, it can make it irrelevant.

  3. #3 markus thompson
    February 12, 2012

    Brilliant post Jason – I have had to deal with these arguments every time I return home to visit my family. My father is a Baptist minister who has warmed up to the idea of theistic evolution over time – specifically the ‘Hugh Ross’ version. I find Ross even more painful to read than this Elliot Sober. Ross does at least attempt to reconcile his theistic version of evolution with evidence, but he really has to stretch the science to do so and quite often just plain makes things up. I would be interested if you had read any of his ‘work’ and what your reaction was.

  4. #4 elliott sober
    February 12, 2012

    My goal in the chapter of my book (Did Darwin write the Origin Backwards?) under discussion was not to convince those skeptical of evolutionary theory that it is true. Still less was it to convince agnostics and theists that they should believe in God. Rather, the point was to show that evolutionary theory, properly interpreted, is silent on the question of whether there is a God.

    Atheistic evolutionists often load up the theory with their metaphysical commitments. In this they have a lot in common with creationists. The theory needs to be understood properly.

    I agree that the problem of evil is a serious challenge for various forms of theism. It predates Darwin’s theory and was, I think, one of the main reasons that Darwin moved to agnosticism or atheism. You don’t need evolutionary theory to see this problem! If the theory somehow turns out to be false, the problem of evil will still be around to reckon with.

  5. #5 Herman Cummings
    February 12, 2012

    The evolution theory is an irrational falsehood, zealously embraced by atheists, that is a phony conclusion of the 600+ million year fossil record. There is no “valid supporting data” for evolution. In a court of law, or in a public forum, the same evidence that evolutionists would use to try to “prove” the validity of that theory, I would utilize to reveal the truth of Genesis. In order to believe in evolution, you have to purposely ignore certain facts of reality. For example, when you see illustrations of primates being pictured as evolving into humans, it can be shown in a court of law that such a premise is impossible, because certain human and primate traits are different, and could not have ever been shared. The only “common ancestor” that humans and primates share is God Himself.

    Current Creationism has refused to teach the truth of the Genesis text, and either teaches foolishness (young Earth), or false doctrines (non-literal reading of the text). Creationists thoughtlessly try to prove “Creationism”, rather than seeking and teaching the truth of Genesis. How can an untruth, ever prove another lie, to be in error? You can’t do it. That is why Creationism fails. It essentially is also a lie, and should be discarded, even by Bible believers.

    The correct opposing view to evolution is the “Observations of Moses”, which conveys the truth of Genesis chapter one.

    Those that imply that God used evolution are infidels at worse, or clowns at best, that refuse to learn the truth of Genesis. The truth has been available for more than 18 years. Such a discussion is currently silly, and shows stubbornness against learning the truth of God’s Word.

    There are no “creation stories” in Genesis. In fact, about all of theology and creationism have no idea what Moses was writing about. You can’t simply take an advanced book of math or science, and try to read from it on your own without personal instruction.

    For example, Genesis declares that mankind has been on this Earth, in his present likeness, for more than 60 million years. The “male and female” in Genesis chapter one was not “Adam & Eve”. Has modern science discovered that yet?

    Herman Cummings
    ephraim7@aol.com

  6. #6 Aaron
    February 12, 2012

    I think Plantinga’s free will defense resolves the problem of evil quite well, especially as it relates to theistic evolution. That doesn’t resolve most of the complaints you have, but it is notably important.

  7. #7 Jason Rosenhouse
    February 12, 2012

    Eliott —

    Thank you for stopping by. Respectfully, though, I think you missed my point. I don’t think it’s really at issue that it is logically possible to reconcile evolution with traditional Christian beliefs, or that evolutionary science by itself does not rule out the existence of God. I think you’re mostly going after straw men in suggesting that any significant number of atheists argue otherwise.

    But these points simply do not address the concerns that religious folks skeptical of evolution tend to have. They are not looking for an escape hatch that will permit them to cling to theism as a logical possibility even after accepting evolution. Instead they are looking at two different accounts of natural history, one from science and the other from their religion, and finding enough points of conflict to make them very uneasy. As an exercise in armchair argumentation it is trivial to summon forth ways of defusing the apparent conflicts. The harder part comes when you try to convince people that reconciliation is not just possible, but also plausible.

    As for the problem of evil, it is pretty clearly exacerbated by evolution. Explaining why God might create a world in which bad things can happen is different from explaining why God Himself employs savage and cruel methods in doing his creating in the first place. Moreover, evolution shows that any solution to the problem based entirely on human concerns is inadequate. Traditional theodicies based on free will or soul-making, for example, do not, without a lot of further development, help us make sense of evolution.

  8. #8 Patrick
    February 12, 2012

    I’ll take Plantinga’s free will defense seriously as soon as Christians do. Please note that taking it seriously requires denying the resurrection of Christ.

  9. #9 couchmar
    February 12, 2012

    “Garvey already alluded to a second problem, that evolution kills the best argument ever devised for God’s existence.”

    I’m not sure what you’re referring to here. There are several arguments for the existence of god: ontological, cosmological, design, moral, direct experience, pascal’s wager, etc. It seems to me that evolution is relevant to the design argument and not much else. But who says “this was the best argument ever for God’s existence”? You seem to be suggesting that evolution is central here, but my guess is that the moral argument has been more popular with the masses over the years.

    “A third challenge comes from evolution’s implications for the non-special role of humans within creation.”

    Yes evolution has implications for this, but notice that “the non-special role of humans within creation” was already evident from Copernicus’s view that the Earth is not the center of the universe (merely the third planet). This was in place hundreds of years before Darwin. I think Sober is doing something more important than you give him credit for, by making clear what is and isn’t properly related to the theory of evolution.

  10. #10 John S. Wilkins
    February 12, 2012

    I have a paper in press in Zygon where I argue that God could have chosen a universe in which the relevant random events occurred such that evolution delivered the outcome God desired (presumably the evolution of a species that could produce Simon Conway-Morris). This gets rid of all hidden variables and divine micromanagement. It also means that a theist can be a pure scientist, at least with respect to causation (evil is a whole other problem).

  11. #11 Brad
    February 12, 2012

    Rather, the point was to show that evolutionary theory, properly interpreted, is silent on the question of whether there is a God.

    But any God which is consistent with our understanding of evolutionary theory (and the rest of the sciences) is so non-interventionist as to be practically equivalent to a non-existent God, and certainly inconsistent with the core tenets of all major religions, which postulate an interested, interventionist God. I suspect the religious would not much like arguments for such a God, except as a salve for itching cognitive dissonance.
    And on the science side of the fence, this hypothetical God leads to no observable consequences, is neither verifiable or falsifiable. Why should science care?

  12. #12 James Sweet
    February 12, 2012

    As for the problem of evil, it is pretty clearly exacerbated by evolution. Explaining why God might create a world in which bad things can happen is different from explaining why God Himself employs savage and cruel methods in doing his creating in the first place. Moreover, evolution shows that any solution to the problem based entirely on human concerns is inadequate. Traditional theodicies based on free will or soul-making, for example, do not, without a lot of further development, help us make sense of evolution.

    Exactly. Sober is correct that the problem of evil still exists without evolution, but he is not correct to assert that they have no relation. Evolution makes the problem of evil more difficult by several orders of magnitude. Instead of having to explain a few thousand years of suffering — all of it occurring since humans appeared, thus leaving room for the free will defense — God is now on the hook for BILLIONS of years of unimaginable suffering, the vast majority of it predating anyone (besides Himself, of course) who could possibly have moral culpability for said suffering.

    Natural Evil has always been the toughest part of theodicy. And an evolutionary history has many thousands of times more natural evil than a biblical history.

    This does not even get into Adam and Eve, which, although a uniquely Christian problem, is a serious doctrinal liability when it comes to what molecular biology has told us about the (lack of) 2-person bottlenecks in human history.

  13. #13 AbnormalWrench
    February 12, 2012

    #10, the name for that theory is “deism”

  14. #14 Another Matt
    February 13, 2012

    This does not even get into Adam and Eve, which, although a uniquely Christian problem, is a serious doctrinal liability when it comes to what molecular biology has told us about the (lack of) 2-person bottlenecks in human history.

    Would you buy a story involving thousands of zombies? If so you can pay me in gum.

  15. #15 AbnormalWrench
    February 13, 2012

    #9 only far removed apologists think the ontological argument is a robust rationale for theistic belief. I would wager a very small percent of believers have any idea what the ontological argument is, and out of the people that even know what it is, would identify it as their reason for belief in god.

    The argument hinted at was the argument of design. Evolution definitely contradicts it.

  16. #16 Sam C
    February 13, 2012

    Hypothesizing direct divine action in evolution is consistent with the science. Evolutionary theory cannot absolutely rule out such a thing.

    Is postulating any sort of divine action consistent with a scientific theory founded in understanding the natural world? Would you say that biology cannot rule out the possibility of invisible nano-fairies arranging the bases on DNA like stringing beads on a necklace?

    Evolutionary theory must rule out divine action for the simple reason that no gods exist. I am all in favor of being tolerant of people and groups with religious or other beliefs, but the inconsistencies between modern science and ancient religions point to problems in religion, not in science.

    Without advocating an attack dog mentality, any good scientist must say that the problem of resolving inconsistencies between religious beliefs and scientific fact is one that must be resolved by the religious side, not by scientists engaging in Procrustean philosophy. The problem is to fix religion; the science is fine.

    As far as Christianity is concerned, surely now is a good time for their god to produce a new edition of his magnum opus for a modern audience, isn’t it? In science, we do that; religions need to develop a new maturity too.

  17. #17 tokerj
    February 13, 2012

    “So, congratulations on showing that evolution does not flatly rule out the existence of God But by emphasizing that reconciliation entails believing premises for which there is no evidence, and which are strongly challenged on theological grounds, your victory seems Pyrrhic.”

    I wasn’t aware any of this was a competition, but the apparent need for jabs at Sober are out of place and detracting.

    Although Sober’s made overly simplistic characterizations of (some) anti-theistic evolutionists and anti-evolution theists, I found the latent hostility towards Sober in this article a bit odd, seemingly driven by a desire for him to have made a more pronounced condemnation, of sorts, of theology (or perhaps just an existence of God) on evolutionary grounds. It is clear that Rosenhouse wanted Sober to be discussing something slightly different than was Sober’s intent in the first place, and then claiming he “missed the point” when he clarified his intent. Some misguided writings here, methinks.

    “As an exercise in armchair argumentation it is trivial to summon forth ways of defusing the apparent conflicts.”

    Not at all. It is most certainly important to recognize the problems with the conflict and, further, that there is not necessarily any conflict at all. Rosenhouse brushes this off as a trivial fact, but then it would seem he has not discussed with as many people – both religious and not – as I have who simply can not see the flaws in the conflict they hold so steadfastly to.

    “Their refutations are inevitably based on premises that are logically possible, but highly implausible.”

    Rosenhouse then proceeds to state that he doesn’t know why God would act in ways suggested as a possibility by Sober. Ignorance of divine reasoning isn’t much of an argument, though he might not see evolution as the useful process it can be.

    “But what reason is there for believing it? And why would God create through savage natural processes when it certainly seems as though he had other options?”

    Other options for what? This presumes to know exactly what God intended and the reasoning and ramifications of other “creation” possibilities. The fact is that we simply don’t know, so judging design/creation decisions from our standpoint is a bit naive. At any rate, why *not* through evolution? It is a great way of designing life such that it is able to adapt itself to a huge variety of conditions without the need for external input. As a computer scientist, I commonly make use of evolutionary algorithms for just this kind of purpose. And in fact used in conjunction with occasional external input on the process is usually even more ideal (in reference to the mutation manipulation idea).

  18. #18 John Wendt
    February 13, 2012

    “His first suggestion is that God established the initial conditions of the universe and then allowed natural forces to do the rest. This is possible, of course.”

    But is it actually possible, in the sense that physics uses? Anything that does not conserve energy is considered impossible. But for someone or something to influence the state of a system, as by “establishing initial conditions”, the agent must inject energy into the system, to change the trajectories that elements would otherwise take. Theistic evolution, like creationism, makes no attempt to identify a possible source for such energy. There are no experiments that could set parameters for Divine energy, in the way that multiple experiments set parameters for e.g. the Coulomb force. If there is no experimental evidence for the necessary energy, we have no reason to suspect that it exists, thus no reason to suppose that theistic anything is possible.

  19. #19 Richard Wein
    February 13, 2012

    Jason, I think you’re right. Sober seems to be conflating two issues: whether the theory of evolution flatly contradicts the existence of God, and whether it makes the existence of God less likely.

    I would say it’s not just TOE that makes the existence of God less likely, but modern science more generally. Modern science encourages us to adopt a more naturalistic and parsimonious picture of the world, without resort to supernatural entities. It’s not just coincidence or prejudice that makes scientists significantly less religious than non-scientists.

  20. #20 James Sweet
    February 13, 2012
    This does not even get into Adam and Eve, which, although a uniquely Christian problem, is a serious doctrinal liability when it comes to what molecular biology has told us about the (lack of) 2-person bottlenecks in human history.

    Would you buy a story involving thousands of zombies? If so you can pay me in gum.

    Yes, but only if you can explain to me how inheritance of the soul works. Are all children of at least one ensouled parent also ensouled? Or does it follow regular rules of Mendelian inheritance, and if so, is it a dominant or a recessive allele? Is there selective pressure in favor of ensoulment, or is it a neutral mutation?

    Oooo, the Zombie Version of The Compatibilist Fall perhaps has a hidden advantage in that it can salvage Biblical marriage: It is defined as between one man, one woman, and as many zombie chicks as you want. It was not a sin for Abraham to pork Hagar, you see, because Hagar had two copies of the recessive Zombie allele.

    I would say it’s not just TOE that makes the existence of God less likely, but modern science more generally. Modern science encourages us to adopt a more naturalistic and parsimonious picture of the world, without resort to supernatural entities.

    True as well, but evolution has a particularized role. To take an example: the success of relativity at explaining the precession of Mercury (and the complete failure of any faith-based explanation to make sense of it; indeed, the very idea is so laughable I’m not sure anyone was even trying) is a philosophical point against faith, but it has no particularized doctrinal difficulties, at least not over and above anything that was already known. No world religion depends on Newtonian physics for its central narrative to be true. But evolution throws a special “monkey” wrench in there.

    Heliocentrism (and to a lesser extent more modern models of cosmology) also have these characteristics, in that they are evidential problems for faith and not merely philosophical problems. But even those don’t compare to evolution.

    Our increasing understanding of neurobiology is going to be another one, though I can’t say if it is more or less severe for religion than evolution was.

  21. #21 Raging Bee
    February 13, 2012

    Deep philosophical question of the day: How many Timecubes does Herman Cummings get for #5?

  22. #22 SLC
    February 13, 2012

    Re John Wilkins @ #10

    The problem with this argument is the contingency of the asteroid collision that eliminated the dinosaurs. Absent that incident, we would not be here discussing the existence of god. Therefore, in order to accept this premise, we have to hypothesize that god was responsible for sending the asteroid to eliminate the dinosaurs and thus open the way for the evolution of intelligent bipeds. This is exactly the position taken by physics Prof. David Heddle of Newport Un. in response to a challenge of mine, I believe on this blog.

  23. #23 Wow
    February 13, 2012

    “This is possible, of course.”

    It’s also possible that the entirety of existence is merely your imagination and that not only is there no god, there is no universe, no life and no existence.

  24. #24 llewelly
    February 13, 2012

    Sober engages in the popular philosophical sport of hypothesizing a being almost, but not quite, entirely unlike god.

    Sure, it’s “compatible” with evolution, provided by “compatible” one means “only requires rejection of Occam’s razor”. But the rejection of Occam’s razor opens up an infinite set of notions “compatible” with evolution, ranging from invisible pink unicorns through garage dragons, and ancient aliens, each one more ridiculous than the last.

    There is very little about evolution which can be deduced without heavy reliance on Occam’s razor. To plead that it be set aside in this particular special case is to demand a vast inconsistency be inserted into one of the most important scientific tools.

    The implication is that a fundamental tool of science can be set aside if it tells us something uncomfortable about the universe in which we live.

    But, with few exceptions, it is precisely those findings of science which make us uncomfortable which have the most striking implications for how we live our lives. (Example: Human-caused global warming.)

    As long as evolution is little more than inspiration for cool dinosaur movies, lyrical rhapsodizing about the interconnectedness of life, and the occasional aid in curing some dangerous disease, hooray, “compatibility”. But when evolution tells us something really important, well, just set aside Occam’s razor, and ignore it.

  25. #25 JimR
    February 13, 2012

    My problem with any god picking a winner, is that it implies a loser. The winner receives good things and the loser suffers evil. In a zero sum game, it is better to have no god.

    I find it convenient to refer to a personal god (Christian, etc.) vs. indifferent gods of deism, because arguments are most often tilted at the personal gods. In the case of deism, who cares?

    I just find the fossil evidence of millions of years much stronger that the collected, re-edited (100s of times), written versions of supernatural accounts of beginnings. Especially since there are so many, conflicting origin tales. Another reason for enjoying evolution is working out all the pathways that have been followed. This should occupy another millennium or two.

    The next big study area, will be the rise and decline of religions. 2,000 years from now there will be people who will deny anyone could be credulous enough to have ever believed in a personal god.

  26. #26 cwfong
    February 13, 2012

    Adaptive mutation doesn’t need a God or a pair of dice. All it needs is a universe with a probabilistic system of causes and effects. Of course, this is not a site where self-regulated and self-engineering systems get much space or are assigned much credibility.

  27. #27 Calli Arcale
    February 13, 2012

    “Maybe you can find a few atheists who argue in the way Sober describes, but most do not.”

    In my experience, they generally congregate in the comments sections of Yahoo! news articles and get into flamewars with people who beneficently quote Scripture that generally has approximately zero relationship to the conversation. It’s a bit like watching a trainwreck.

    Trying to reach out to theists who are skeptical of evolution is challenging. I’m a Lutheran, and I do believe in God and that Jesus is his only begotten son, etc. But I think it’s ridiculous to believe that the things we see in front of us do not exist. One might as well revive the Cathare faith, which basically held that all flesh is evil and everything it does is to attempt to turn you away from God; under that belief, it would at least make a certain amount of sense to ignore the evidence before one’s eyes, because it’s presupposed to be the work of the Devil. And I think that’s completely in opposition to what God really wants of us.

    What I’ve been doing, at least, is to try to show by example that evolution is not something to be feared. I accept the near-certainty that evolution is how we came to be, but it has not made me immoral or turned me away from God. If it would have turned me from God, then I suspect I would have turned away anyway. On the contrary, in science I see the wonder, glory, and astounding *simplicity* of the Universe. I realize that what seems bafflingly complex to us is, at its core, the result of just a few simple principles, and how much more beautiful can anything be than that? If this is created, then what genius must that creator possess? Yes, I see the watchmaker argument complete backwards; the Creationists say the world is too complex to have been created, but I say that the world is simple, and if you expect complexity to prove creation, then you have a low opinion of God — Creationists think God would be like us, and that complexity is a sign of advancement. I’m not so convinced that it is. A car has way more moving parts than an atom, but an atom is so much more powerful than that car. We make things complex, not God. Take life. It naturally arises from just a few basic principles, yet we can fill whole libraries talking about it without ever managing to completely describe it — we make it complicated, so complicated we cannot understand it. Maybe it’s just because we’re on the inside, looking out.

    But I digress. Point is, I think a lot of Creationists are afraid of evolution weakening their faith. So I try to show them that it has not weakened my faith at all. Of course, I grew up with a solid science background, courtesy of my nerdy parents, and attended a Christian college known for the high and unflinching quality of its science education, so this is not at all unfamiliar to me. It’s strange to me that evolution is seen as a threat by some. So I hope that by being visible, I can reduce some of that fear for some of them.

  28. #28 Lenoxus
    February 13, 2012

    Sober, quoted by Rosenhouse, said:

    I don’t think the theory of evolution does anything to challenge theism beyond what the problem of evil does.

    If your theodicy is such that the addition of massive amounts of previously unknown evil does nothing to dent it, then that’s probably an unfalsifiable theodicy. A proper one would necessarily place some kind of discerable limit on the degree or quantity of evil permitted; otherwise, it makes just as much sense to suppose an omni-malelvolent diety.

    Herman Cummings said:

    For example, when you see illustrations of primates being pictured as evolving into humans, it can be shown in a court of law that such a premise is impossible, because certain human and primate traits are different, and could not have ever been shared.

    Even if this were true, it wouldn’t “cancel out” the evidence regarding the traits we do share. There’s absolutely no question that we share nearly all our DNA with chimps, including such parts as the broken vitamin C gene, best explained by straitforward reproductive cousinhood. Even if humans have some special feature that could never ever ever have arisen from evolution, and demands a God, well, you still need an additional argument as to why our obvious ape features are not really ape features.

    An odd analogy comes to mind. It is claimed that Jesus had miraculous powers. Suppose I were to accept this. Well, then clearly I would have to reject the idea that even one of his parents was human, right? Not matter how much Jesus looked like Mary, he couldn’t possibly be her son, never ever ever, because he could walk on water, a power requiring God’s intervention, and she could not. Is my point clear?

    (As it happens, I believe neither that Jesus walked on water nor that huhmans have any “unevolvable” traits, but that’s beside the point.)

    Ragaing Bee said:

    Deep philosophical question of the day: How many Timecubes does Herman Cummings get for #5?

    That’s a toughie! Saying humans have been around for sixty million years (which is well before primates evolved) is simultaneously more and less crazy than YEC. So maybe… three? I don’t actually know what the method of calculation is.

    Come to think of it, I would be deeply curious how he comes to the notion that the Bible clearly advocates such a view. Is it numerology of some sort?

  29. #29 RBH
    February 13, 2012

    John Wendt (Hi, John) wrote

    But for someone or something to influence the state of a system, as by “establishing initial conditions”, the agent must inject energy into the system, to change the trajectories that elements would otherwise take. Theistic evolution, like creationism, makes no attempt to identify a possible source for such energy.

    But, of course, at least one intelligent design “theorist” has tackled this problem. William A. Dembski suggested that

    … the energy in quantum events is proportional to frequency or inversely proportional to wavelength. And since there is no upper limit to the wavelength of, for instance, electromagnetic radiation, there is no lower limit to the energy required to impart information. In the limit, a designer could therefore impart information into the universe without inputting any energy at all.

    That is, the deity(ies) could transmit information into the material world via a zero-energy, infinite wavelength channel which has a channel capacity of zero. In other words, invoke a miracle and the deity(ies) can accomplish anything. The consistency between supernaturalism and materialist scientific accounts that Sober suggests requires just this kind of evasive mangling of the science on the supernaturalist side.

  30. #30 Michael Fugate
    February 13, 2012

    Anyone notice the same initials – Herman Cummings, Harold Camping? Coincidence or divine intervention? The claim that you are the only one who has studied the Bible correctly, how many time has that been made?

  31. #31 Kevin
    February 13, 2012

    The suggestion that god created mutations that led to the rise of mankind is easily dismissed by looking at the vitamin C pseudogene.

    Surely, any god that wanted to create humans would not have wanted to give such special creatures such a striking disadvantage. Does god hate sailors?

    And it’s not like the gene is absent. Nope: there it is in all of its evolutionary glory. Ready to create vitamin C from precursor molecules. Just inactive. God’s special gift to mankind was a present-but-inactivated gene for one of the most important substances in biology.

    It’s right there in front of you. The concept of god-directed evolution is irreconcilable with the evidence. Unless you go down the “god’s ways are mysterious” pathway — to which the natural reply is “not if god is a fictional character.”

  32. #32 Kel
    February 13, 2012

    I’ve never understood why the problem of evil is a big deal. To me, it’s like judging the validity of Santa on the criteria by which he gives presents. The whole “made up” thing seems the major concern.

  33. #33 Wowbagger
    February 13, 2012

    Kel wrote:

    I’ve never understood why the problem of evil is a big deal.

    It wouldn’t be if there weren’t people who liked to believe in a loving god. But there are, so it is. Of course, there are folks (like, say, heddle) who are happy to admit the fact their god is a vile, unjust monster.

  34. #34 Sastra
    February 13, 2012

    elliot sober #4 wrote:

    Rather, the point was to show that evolutionary theory, properly interpreted, is silent on the question of whether there is a God.

    The theory of evolution is not silent on the question of whether minds had to evolve, however. That’s an absolutely devastating point. The “question of whether there is a God” is a question which therefore requires that the concept of “God” be formulated and approached as a hypothesis.

    How do you think the hypothesis of a pre-existing disembodied goal-oriented Mind with no history or environment which shaped it stands up when considered in light of evolution and modern science?

    I think the fatal problems come in even before you get to the Problem of Evil. That’s just the coup de grace.

  35. #35 Jer
    February 13, 2012

    I find this whole thing amusing, because mostly these kinds of discussions seem to be about convincing open-minded believers that it’s okay to believe in evolution. The open-minded believers don’t need much more reassurance – they have plenty of practice reading the Bible figuratively and figuring out how to ignore the bits that are obviously Iron Age myths, or find a “metaphorical” reading of those Iron Age myths to make them relevant.

    It’s the dogmatic, fundamentalist creeds that need the push. And they don’t WANT reassurances – they know what the Truth is and it’s in their Bibles. Unless you have an iron clad Biblical rationale that requires “if you believe in God then you MUST believe in evolution” you aren’t going to convince them.

    And you’ll never find it. Because fundamentalist literalists can twist the plain text of the Bible into supporting whatever they want to say that it supports anyway. If you could find a passage in the Bible where Jesus said “And my Father created the world so that by the twin processes of genetic mutation and natural selection, eventually humans would evolve and attain intelligence” they would STILL find a way to ignore it. Look at how easily they ignore passages like “Sell all you have and give it all to the poor” when they want to.

  36. #36 Bilbo
    February 13, 2012

    Hi Jason,

    William Dembski (see his book, The End of Christianity) and C.S. Lewis (see his book, The Problem of Pain, especially the chapter “Animal Pain”) agree with you that evolution (or at least, millions of years of additional animal pain) exacerbates the problem of evil. Both suggested Satanic influence in natural history as the culprit. Each offered different reasons as to why God would allow Satan to have such influence. Since I’m a Theist and believe that Satan exists, I find their explanations plausible.

    I disagree with your view that evolution somehow diminishes the central role for humans. If God guided evolution, then He wanted humans to appear, as well as other animals. We rely upon revelation to know what role we have.

    And since I’m an ID proponent, I disagree with the view that evolution has diminished the argument from design, since I find unguided natural processes to be an implausible explanation for the origin of life or of its evolution.

    Would evolution mean an inconcistency in maintaining that humans have some sort of central role

  37. #37 Kel
    February 13, 2012

    The question is, Bilbo, can you demonstrate that implausibility, or are you just making an argument from personal incredulity?

  38. #38 footface
    February 13, 2012

    I still don’t see why the argument for theistic evolution is attractive to anyone.

    Sure, the Christian God could have created humankind’s busted vitamin C machinery. Just like he could peek in on every 666th coin toss and influence the outcome. But why the hell would he? And because one can always fall back on “we humans can’t be expected to understand God’s logic,” the whole mess nothing but a headache-maker.

    The argument just doesn’t seem to accomplish anything.

    Sure, God could exist alongside evolution and a naturalistic world, but that God hardly seems worthy of our worship.

  39. #39 Wowbagger
    February 13, 2012

    footface wrote:

    Sure, God could exist alongside evolution and a naturalistic world, but that God hardly seems worthy of our worship.

    I’m yet to encounter a god that would fit the criteria of ‘worthy of worship’ – it’s especially lacking in those of the various different Christian denominations, which paint said deity as a) incompetent, b) evil, or c) both.

  40. #40 leebowman
    February 13, 2012

    But the same objection applies to God influencing specific mutations. If he is going to micromanage at that level, then why not skip the bloodsport by creating ex nihilo, precisely as the Bible says He did?

    ‘Cause the Bible’s wrong in that regard. And the OMNI^3 is simply man’s reasoning about Gods purported powers.

    Why [would] God operate in a way that seems tailor[ed] to fool us regarding how nature works, by using what seems like random processes as a way of covering His tracks?

    ‘Random processes’ are our way of explaining genetic changes. If God used evolution [embryogenesis with the added mechanisms of genetic alterations] to alter taxa, it wasn’t a deception, but rather a sort of cut-and-try methodology.

    So, congratulations on showing that evolution does not flatly rule out the existence of God But by emphasizing that reconciliation entails believing premises for which there is no evidence, and which are strongly challenged on theological grounds, your victory seems Pyrrhic.

    Sober’s speculations are both supported on ‘theological grounds’ [by logic], and challenged as well by prevailing monotheistic views. Expect not just materialists but theists, TE’s included, to raise their eyebrows. But I agree on much of the points raised. At least tentatively.

    Garvey: “And on the other hand, if he manages to persuade theists, he says, “maybe the reaction against evolution will be less extreme.”

    Rosenhouse:I very much doubt that Sober will have much luck persuading theists skeptical of evolution. Considering the detached, academic way he discusses this issue, with his emphasis on the need to accept evidence-free, theologically dubious premises to support reconciliation, I think he is more likely to drive them over to the incompatibilist camp.”

    Depends on who ‘they’ are. Religionists/ literalists? No. But IDsts? Perhaps. For if two seemingly conflicting views both have validity, then some form of conciliation is requisite. Not accommodationism, however, since as Jerry Coyne has pointed out, hard-liners on both sides will never agree. But for true skeptics (like myself, but small ‘s’), and those willing to embrace reason, there may indeed be a middle ground.

  41. #41 eric
    February 13, 2012

    Eliott Sober @4:

    Rather, the point was to show that evolutionary theory, properly interpreted, is silent on the question of whether there is a God.

    But that is a very boring question, since “a God” is kind of like “a something.” It is such a general concept as to be irrelevant to actual belief and culture.

    Dr. Sober, I also think you need to realize (if you don’t already, which I find difficult to believe) that while YOU might not be drawing incorrect inferences from your argument, practically every believer happily goes about misusing your arguments to draw incorrect inferences. Outside of professional theologians and philosophers, believers take your argument and do an “underpants gnome” treatment to it:
    Step 1: Some conceptions of God are consistent with evolution.
    Step 2: …
    Step 3: My Christian conception of God is consistent with evolution.

    I think that to be honest and give this subject fair treatment, you really should point out explicitly in your writing that your argument provides no support for common Christian conceptions of God. Because people are going to assume that that’s what you’re arguing about.

    It is no good washing your hands of this issue. If a very few people misunderstood what you were saying, you could ignore it. But when practically every believer who reads your argument misunderstands it, the author bears the responsibility to clarify what they are saying.

  42. #42 footface
    February 13, 2012

    Wowbagger @ 33:

    It’s not only incompetent and/or evil. It’s also incomprehensible to the point of perversity. If I can believe that this god set up this incredibly complex system and turned it loose just so it could arrive billions of years later at something it could have made in the blink of an eye (i.e., humans), then why shouldn’t I believe that when this same god says “Thou shalt not kill,” it really means “Go ahead and kill everything”?

    Because I’m saying that this god is utterly unintelligible and there’s no way to understand its motives or desires or values.

  43. #43 eric
    February 13, 2012

    Bilbo @34:

    We rely upon revelation to know what role we have.

    That instrument has a serious precision problem. It appears to yield different answers every time someone different uses it. If your tire pressure gauge functioned as well as revelation, you’d throw it out. Not only that, but it appears to almost always yield answers in direct support of the user’s biases. This should make you seriously question whether there is any signal there to begin with, or whether you’ve just discovered another n-ray detector.

    Lastly, I would also say your methodology has an accuracy problem, but frankly, since there is no way of independently determining the reference value, its accuracy is not even measurable. The very concept can’t apply to your methodology.

  44. #44 Deepak Shetty
    February 14, 2012

    His first suggestion is that God established the initial conditions of the universe and then allowed natural forces to do the rest. This is possible, of course. But what reason is there for believing it
    This argument always irritates because these same people would also argue for miracles. Why would evolution be special? it seems to me if you accept a meddling God then he could meddle in evolution too. And if God doesn’t meddle – by only establishing initial conditions then why wouldn’t he follow similar rules for other natural events – like birth and death. But the theistic evolution defender must have his cake and eat it too. Virgin births/resurrections – Allowed! Intelligent Design – no way!

  45. #45 Verbose Stoic
    February 14, 2012

    Kel asked:

    “The question is, Bilbo, can you demonstrate that implausibility, or are you just making an argument from personal incredulity?”

    My question is: can Jason actually dmeonstrate the implausibility? Because he’s pretty much, as far as I can see, just asserting it as well. How would you deal with an answer to a question like “Why didn’t God ensure we had that Vitamin C gene?” or “Why did so many branches die out?” that was “Why not?”.

    Ultimately, you can’t use claims that there are flaws in creation to argue against the traditional Judeo-Christian God. Yes, God could have made a much better world. He could have made a perfect one. And, according to traditional theology, that would be the Garden of Eden. Whether you take that story literally or figuratively, this world ain’t that one. So there exists imperfection. There exists suffering. The question will come down to how much imperfection or suffering is too much to believe that there is a God. That’s a major philosophical/theological question. I don’t know, but I know that no one else knows either. So that’s what we have to work out.

    I also always find the “Look, things suffer! A lot! That’s bad!” argument amusing. Being Stoic leaning — who were pretty much good atheists — I always recall that they considered suffering an indifferent, neither good nor evil. So tossing out that suffering is bad builds in a presupposition that we need not accept, and if we toss that one away then that undercuts a lot of the arguments for it being so implausible.

  46. #46 Kel
    February 14, 2012

    My question is: can Jason actually dmeonstrate the implausibility? Because he’s pretty much, as far as I can see, just asserting it as well.

    Tu quoque…

    You do see the difference between the two kinds of inquiry, right? You can’t really do much more than Jason did with the God question for the same reason we can’t demonstrate how many angels dance on the head of a pin. A claim about natural processes, on the other hand, is something that can and ought to be held to account.

    Whether or not Jason is right in his argument above, it doesn’t stop Bilbo from making an argument from personal incredulity.

  47. #47 Verbose Stoic
    February 14, 2012

    Kel,

    I simply used your quote as a lead-in to wondering if Jason’s comment itself isn’t just an appeal to personal incredulity, because he relies an awful lot on a claim of implausibility that, I argue, isn’t anywhere near as well-supported as it seems to him.

    And I disagree. I think that we can do a lot more than either Jason or Bilbo have done, if we start analyzing the concepts and what the theories mean instead of just trying to look at direct empirical data. All interpretations depend a lot on what you’re talking about, and figuring that out is, as you’ll remember, what I think is the job of philosophy and theology. It would be quite disingenuous for Jason — not that I’m saying he’s done or will do this — to dismiss my comments on the basis that I’m making up objections in a manner akin to a defense attorney. To my mind, these are serious flaws in the arguments they are making, so serious that it casts the “this is just implausible” argument into serious question. To ignore that would be to refuse to properly consider the relevant arguments and evidence, in my opinion. But it’s not directly scientific and not prone to direct empirical test.

  48. #48 Raging Bee
    February 14, 2012

    Sure, God could exist alongside evolution and a naturalistic world, but that God hardly seems worthy of our worship.

    As opposed to what — a God who plants fake evidence of age and evolution all over his Creation, lets his people be deceived by that mass of compelling evidence, expects us to believe he’s always honest and truthful, and punishes us for eternity in the afterlife if we doubt him?

  49. #49 eric
    February 14, 2012

    VS:

    Ultimately, you can’t use claims that there are flaws in creation to argue against the traditional Judeo-Christian God.

    What do you see as the defining properties of the Judeo-Christian God? Because I suspect the God-concept you are claiming is compatible with flawed creation and evil is not the “three omnis” type of God many actual human beings believe in.

  50. #50 Verbose Stoic
    February 14, 2012

    eric,

    So you missed the reference to the “Garden of Eden”? Unless you can show that that story in and of itself is incompatible with a God of the three omnis, then that story itself states bluntly that we will be in a world that is flawed and where suffering exists.

    Surely you would agree that the God we are talking about is one that references the Garden of Eden, or else all of the comments about the clashes with evolution don’t even get off the ground.

  51. #51 Wow
    February 14, 2012

    “Unless you can show that that story in and of itself is incompatible with a God of the three omnis”

    Well, putting the apple of knowledge right in the middle of the garden was his FIRST mistake.

    Second mistake was the snake.

    Third one: punishing the snake with having to go round on his belly.

    He didn’t hear of the problem until he turned up and noticed a change in his servants. So he’s not omniescent either.

    He didn’t remove knowledge of Sin, so either vindictive or impotent.

  52. #52 eric
    February 14, 2012

    So you missed the reference to the “Garden of Eden”? Unless you can show that that story in and of itself is incompatible with a God of the three omnis,

    The two stories are incompatible with such a God. That god acts in ways that could only be called ‘irresponsible parenting.’ That God uses collective punishment, and a level of punishment that appears to be insanely inappropriate to the crime. That God does not even appear to be able to communicate effectively, since he communicated (1) two different stories about how he created the world, (2) in a format and style that is identical to the human-generated myths and legends circulating in the same time period, and (3) through vague allegory appears false when taken on its face.

  53. #53 Verbose Stoic
    February 14, 2012

    eric,

    If you really thought this as anything other than a quickly cobbled together attempt to dodge a response, why do you care about whether evolution and that sort of God are compatible?

  54. #54 footface
    February 14, 2012

    I think anger, disappointment, need, frustration, and surprise are all incompatible with a perfect being. But doesn’t the Christian God demonstrate all of those emotions and responses? For a perfect being, he sure seems a lot like an imperfect human.

  55. #55 Verbose Stoic
    February 14, 2012

    footface,

    What grounds do you have for saying that emotions mean that you aren’t perfect?

  56. #56 eric
    February 14, 2012

    VS:

    If you really thought this as anything other than a quickly cobbled together attempt to dodge a response,

    I do. And your response is, well, completely nonresponsive.

    why do you care about whether evolution and that sort of God are compatible

    Because the folks who believe in the collective-punishment, vindictive, etc… Judeo-Christian version of God are the ones trying to alter the school system and have the government promote their beliefs. To paraphrase Jefferson, I care most about the sects who are trying to pick my pocket or break my leg. I care least about the academic theologians who don’t do either.

    Which is why, in @41, I tried to point out that it is not Sober’s defense of ‘some consistent God’ that I take issue with (step 1 in that post). What I take issue with is the many many believers who insert steps 2 and 3 after it.

  57. #57 Verbose Stoic
    February 14, 2012

    eric,

    I do. And your response is, well, completely nonresponsive.

    For obvious reasons. See, we started with the evolution/imperfect world thing. You asked me if it was compatible with the three omni God, at which point I argued that it was the God we were talking about, and tossed in a throw-away line about whether you consider that God compatible with the three omni God. And what did you reply to? That throw-away line. Not the real content, the stuff most directly related to the original point, but that throw-away line. With asides that may or may not apply but would take a long time to analyze and discuss and reason about. Thus, a complete distraction from the actual issue, and so a complete non-response.

    To put it bluntly, you were nonresponsive first.

    Because the folks who believe in the collective-punishment, vindictive, etc… Judeo-Christian version of God are the ones trying to alter the school system and have the government promote their beliefs.

    And so those people aren’t the ones who would want to align the Garden of Eden story with evolution and allow for theistic evolution, which is what we started talking about?

    To paraphrase Jefferson, I care most about the sects who are trying to pick my pocket or break my leg. I care least about the academic theologians who don’t do either.

    The problem is that it is only those academic theologians who will be qualified to discuss if those people have even their own religion right. If you’re going to argue that a religion and science are incompatible, you’re going to have to listen to the people who study it to see if it is, without relying on the cop-out of “They’re making it up!” and “That’s not what the folk think!”. We don’t judge physics by folk physics, so stop judging religion by folk religion.

  58. #58 JF Fortier
    February 14, 2012

    God doesn’t use randomness to cover its traces, it uses it because it is the best efficient way to build good reliable self-aware organic machines…

    Now, is this still randomness if used on purpose? That question makes only sense (or no sense) from a dual mode of reasoning, a mode we are usually stuck with until we can experience a non-dual one. But our our dual mode of reasoning is not absolute and God is for sure not stuck with the binary logical mode of thinking (good vs evil, you know that damned fruit…) that is used to explain why God and Evolution can’t co-exist…

  59. #59 footface
    February 14, 2012

    Verbose Stoic @ 55:

    Anger is an irrational response to something unpredictable. And how can an omniscient being be surprised or disappointed? (Wouldn’t that being have known all along what would happen?) How can a perfect being have a need? Doesn’t having a need—or having a need that is frustrated—imply an imperfection? (Especially when the so-called perfect being exists in a universe that it created?) Can you need something if you don’t lack it? Can you lack something if you are perfect?

  60. #60 eric
    February 14, 2012

    VS:

    See, we started with the evolution/imperfect world thing. You asked me if it was compatible with the three omni God, at which point I argued that it was the God we were talking about,

    Which God? The three-omni God or the evolutionary world God? Or are you positing a “three omni who created the evolutionary world” God? That would seem circular; if Jason is arguing that such a God cannot be concluded based on theology + empiricism, it does not seem to me a valid response to say you posit he exists. You cannot start by premising the being you are trying to prove, yes? So perhaps we should start by not assuming a three-Omni-God-who-creates-via-evolution is a consistent and viable concept, but rather ask whether it is.

    The problem is that it is only those academic theologians who will be qualified to discuss if those people have even their own religion right.

    Oh ho? How do you know you have it right and they don’t? Did God reveal the truth to you?

    And where in Christian theology is your claim supported, that only acadamic theologians are qualified to understand it? It seems to me the vast majority of mainstream Chrisitian sects take the exact opposite tack; that normal people ARE qualified to understand it.

  61. #61 JF Fortier
    February 14, 2012

    Perfection is a human concept that is caused again by our dual mode of perception. Perfection vs imperfection isn’t a debate that is going on in a non-dual “sphere”.

  62. #62 Kel
    February 14, 2012

    I simply used your quote as a lead-in to wondering if Jason’s comment itself isn’t just an appeal to personal incredulity, because he relies an awful lot on a claim of implausibility that, I argue, isn’t anywhere near as well-supported as it seems to him.

    The way you wrote it gave the impression that you were saying there’s an equivalence between the kinds of statements.

    All interpretations depend a lot on what you’re talking about, and figuring that out is, as you’ll remember, what I think is the job of philosophy and theology.

    For the questions concerning God, yes. But what Bilbo brought up is a very empirically-laden question. There’s no way to test whether or not an omnibenevolent God is compatible with creating a process that causes much pain and suffering other than to look at it conceptually. It’s as stupid as looking at the metaphysics of unicorns, but that’s what theology is good for.

    The question about evolution, on the other hand, has a strong empirical basis to it. It’s at least in principle able to be quantified and studied. They are very different kinds of statements!

  63. #63 eric
    February 14, 2012

    (continuing…)
    VS:

    We don’t judge physics by folk physics, so stop judging religion by folk religion.

    What’s your independent, objective test for determining which religions are the folk religions and which religions are the correct ones?

    See, that’s a key difference between physics and theology. When Joe Rube and Dr. Physics both make a claim about how the world acts, we can go to the world and see who is right. The results then get termed “physics.” If Dr. Physics gets more deference, it is because she is right more often than Joe Rube, not merely because she has “Dr” in front of her name.

    But with theology, we can’t go anywhere for that info. There is no objective way to tell the real religion from the folk religion.

    There is nothing but folk religion, as far as independent, objective confirmation is concerned.

    So sorry, but if you want me to turn my attention from the socially active, politically threatening sects to your more academic sect(s), you’re going to have to better than just hurling the perjorative “folk religion” label at other sects. Either give evidence as to why your God-concept is more right than theirs, or lay the “my theology is more correct than theirs” argument aside altogether, and give me some other (social, political, etc.) reason to pay more attention to your sect and less to theirs.

  64. #64 footface
    February 14, 2012

    JF Fortier @ 61:

    I suppose God also knows married bachelors, enjoys prime numbers that are even, and concludes there are things that are both true and false at the same time.

    Theology looks easy, but I don’t think I have the stomach for it.

  65. #65 ildi
    February 14, 2012

    What is folk physics?

  66. #66 Wowbagger
    February 14, 2012

    ildi wrote:

    What is folk physics?

    The kind that involves someone playing a banjo – and, if you’re lucky, another with a violin – while you do it.

  67. #67 Bilbo
    February 14, 2012

    Kel @ 37
    The question is, Bilbo, can you demonstrate that implausibility, or are you just making an argument from personal incredulity?

    Two ways that we often identify design are by the materials that are used (are they synthetic?) and how closely they resemble things we know are designed. No one has found a plausible way that nucleotides or proteins could have arisen an unguided, natural process. All attempts have been found to be extremely implausible. This would suggest that they are synthetic materials.

    Meanwhile, J. Craig Venter claimed that “bacterial cells are software-driven biological machines.” In other words, nanotechnology.

    The reasonable (or default) view would be that someone designed bacteria.

    Meanwhile, Thornton’s group (I think at Oregon State University) discovered that Dollo’s Law applies at the singular protein level. In other words, a protein may not be able to evolve back into it’s precursor state. This becomes a significant piece of evidence, once one realizes that most proteins only function in complexes of six or more proteins. If it can be too difficult to evolve one protein into another, how much more difficult to evolve protein complexes?

    Again, the reasonable (default) view would be that someone designed most protein complexes, and that evolution was guided.

  68. #68 Deepak Shetty
    February 14, 2012

    @verbose stoic
    The problem is that it is only those academic theologians who will be qualified to discuss if those people have even their own religion right.
    So the Pope/Vatican get to define what being Catholic means? Or is it John Haught?

  69. #69 eric
    February 14, 2012

    Bilbo:

    No one has found a plausible way that nucleotides or proteins could have arisen an unguided, natural process.

    This is incorrect. Salt-induced peptide and polypeptide formation is actually a fairly well-developed research area. Jason’s filter holds messages with links, but just google “salt induced polypeptide formation” and you’ll find that the entire first page of hits are peer-reviewed journal articles…and I didn’t bother scrolling past that, so I’m sure there are plenty more.

    So, that’s proteins knocked out. I don’t know about nucleotides. But given that it took me all of 30 seconds to research one of your claims and find that it’s wrong, I don’t really have much confidence in your other one.

  70. #70 footface
    February 14, 2012

    Maybe you missed the part where Venter used a bacteria-are-machines metaphor because that clinches it. God made bacteria in his bacteria factory.

  71. #71 itchy
    February 14, 2012

    No one has found a plausible way that nucleotides or proteins could have arisen an unguided, natural process.

    You write this as if “and thus, a super magical being caused it” is plausible.

  72. #72 Septepenra
    February 14, 2012

    With respect to Darwin’s Theory, I wonder if one more versed in the “Theory” could assist me by perhaps providing clarification to what appears to me as a fundamental flaw in the ”Theory”. The fundamental flaws seem to come to light when I ask myself the following questions:
    Did the pre-homosapien evolve into a homosapien while in pre-homsapien child or adult stage? If so would not the new homosapien have died from a fatal encephalitic type malady as a result of the acquisition of the homsapien cerebral cortex, or was there a void space in the pre-homosapien’s cranium to accommodate the newly acquired cerebral cortex?
    or
    Was a homosapien child born out of the union of a pre-homosapien male and female? If so, who raised the newly created homosapien infant “species” and conveyed the mor-ethical laws that have been attributed to the “evolved” new species of homosapien? In other words, who civilized the child?
    In addition, would not an affirmative answer to either of the above questions imply that the pre-homosapien would have had to possess homosapien DNA, albeit perhaps in a dormant state?
    So as there are no preconceptions, let me first state that I am not a believer. Let me also state that I do subscribe to an ancient form of “Sacred Science”, the science of that which underlies the material world. “Sacred Science” of the antiquities places man at the fulcrum of the scale between the two extremes of matter (material science, Darwinism?) and anti-matter (theistic spirit, theology?), although, in the latter, there was no worship of deities. Also, isn’t this fulcrum also evident in the concept of good vs evil or creative vs destructive forces inherent in organisms (i.e. the destruction or digestion of nutrients required to create cells or muscles and vice versa)?
    Essentially, do not Theology and Darwinism mirror themselves as neither one can stand its own as fact?

  73. #73 Owlmirror
    February 15, 2012

    The fundamental flaws seem to come to light when I ask myself the following questions:

    Yeah, there’s a fundamental flaw in your thinking, all right.

    Did the pre-homosapien evolve into a homosapien while in pre-homsapien child or adult stage?

    Your question makes no sense, because it implies some sort of sharp demarcation between species, which does not actually exist.

    All the rest of your questions are similarly nonsensical.

    There’s a flaw in your terminology, too. The term is Homo sapiens. Two words. The first part, the genus, is capitalized; the second — the species — is not. Italics are generally preferred.

    So as there are no preconceptions, let me first state that I am not a believer.

    You may not be a believer, but you argue like someone who has never learned a single thing about biology, let alone palaeoanthropology.

    Let me also state that I do subscribe to an ancient form of “Sacred Science”, the science of that which underlies the material world.

    How do you distinguish this so-called “sacred science” from make-believe?

    “Sacred Science” of the antiquities places man at the fulcrum of the scale between the two extremes of matter (material science, Darwinism?) and anti-matter (theistic spirit, theology?),

    What is “theistic spirit”? How is it different from make-believe?

    Note that “anti-matter” usually refers to matter with opposite electrical charge. You don’t seem to understand even the vocabulary of basic science.

    Also, isn’t this fulcrum also evident in the concept of good vs evil or creative vs destructive forces inherent in organisms (i.e. the destruction or digestion of nutrients required to create cells or muscles and vice versa)?

    No.

    Essentially, do not Theology and Darwinism mirror themselves as neither one can stand its own as fact?

    Absolutely not.

  74. #74 Kel
    February 15, 2012

    So let’s see if I have your argument correct, Bilbo. The whole reason you think natural processes are inadequate is the current failure to have a naturalistic explanation for nucleotide formation?

    Two things. First, isn’t that just making an argument from ignorance? That scientists can’t explain something is no reason to throw in the towel. And second, how does that show evolutionary processes as being inadequate?

  75. #75 Septepenra
    February 15, 2012

    Owlmirror,

    Hard questions to answer so some must pick apart grammar, etc., instead of addressing the premises of the question.

    I’ve heard the demarcation argument before but that does nothing to answer my questions it just increases the number of so-called missing links and avoids the obvious. It complicates an already weak theory with answers that are void in pith and substance. Based upon a “demarcation” you should be able to find several iterations of the make believe missing link or “links” as you have now expressed through your demarcation argument.

    “Sacred Science” is beyond the understanding of most because most people live at the extremeties. I guess some would say that the pyramids in Egypt are make belief and that the proof of human spirit, DNA is make belief (not unlike why alcohol is referred to as spirits or the less dense aspect of the corporeal body of the plant or other being…having cast aside the arrogance and self serving ego that keeps humanity from truly evolving). Lets see who will wipe themselves out first, the so-called primate or the “evolved”??? modern human.

    Hopefully someone who is versed in the theory, as requested, can attempt to take the questions head-on without reverting to defensive religious style attacks due to an inbility to to present an adequate justification for a “belief” that is admittedly referred to as a “theory” a word which contains the same linguistic root as theology.

    Keep digging…

  76. #76 Owlmirror
    February 15, 2012

    Meanwhile, J. Craig Venter claimed that “bacterial cells are software-driven biological machines.” In other words, nanotechnology.

    J. Craig Venter is a biologist speaking loosely and metaphorically, and being deliberately misunderstood by IDiots.

    The reasonable (or default) view would be that someone designed bacteria.

    Nonsense. That is not Venter’s view, despite IDiots quote-mining him.

  77. #77 Owlmirror
    February 15, 2012

    Hard questions to answer so some must pick apart grammar, etc., instead of addressing the premises of the question.

    I did address the premises of the question. The premises were wrong.

    I’ve heard the demarcation argument before but that does nothing to answer my questions

    Sure it does. It answers your questions by pointing out that the questions are based on wrong premises. You’re fundamentally confused about biology.

    Is your problem that you cannot understand that you don’t understand?

    it just increases the number of so-called missing links

    There are no “missing links” . There are transitional organisms. Why do you think there would be a small number of transitional forms? What part of biology says that there must be a small number of transitional organisms?

    and avoids the obvious.

    What are you talking about?

    Based upon a “demarcation” you should be able to find several iterations of the make believe missing link or “links” as you have now expressed through your demarcation argument.

    You mean like the sequence of hominid fossils from early Australopithecus leading up to Homo sapiens, and the simply fact that it is arguable about where those at the transition between late Australopithecus and early Homo actually belong?

    “Sacred Science” is beyond the understanding of most because most people live at the extremeties.

    What does that even mean?

    I guess some would say that the pyramids in Egypt are make belief

    Why? They’re there, aren’t they?

    and that the proof of human spirit, DNA is make belief

    DNA is not proof of human spirit, nor is it make-believe. DNA is deoxyribonucleic acid; a chemical.

    (not unlike why alcohol is referred to as spirits

    What does alcohol have to do with the pyramids or DNA, or make-believe?

    having cast aside the arrogance and self serving ego that keeps humanity from truly evolving).

    This makes no sense.

    Lets see who will wipe themselves out first, the so-called primate or the “evolved”??? modern human.

    And this has what, exactly, to do with anything you wrote above?

    Hopefully someone who is versed in the theory, as requested, can attempt to take the questions head-on

    Next you’ll be asking us to take on the question of why people don’t fall off the other side of the Earth.

    “theory” a word which contains the same linguistic root as theology.

    “Theory” derives from “θεᾶσθαι”; “to look on, view, contemplate”, according to the OED.

    “Theology”, of course, derives from “θεός”; “God”.

    Not the same linguistic root at all.

    Your understanding of language is almost as poor of your understanding of biology.

  78. #78 Wow
    February 15, 2012

    “Now, is this still randomness if used on purpose?”

    Yes.

    A coin toss is still random, even though I’m using it to choose what to do next.

    Precisely BECAUSE it’s random.

  79. #79 Wow
    February 15, 2012

    “No one has found a plausible way that nucleotides or proteins could have arisen an unguided, natural process.”

    Nope, we’ve made several of the precursors and they are energetically predicated to combine into the forms we see. We even see these produced in the depths of space, where life has no energy to form.

    What you mean is that YOU believe that they haven’t been found plausible.

  80. #80 Wow
    February 15, 2012

    “Did the pre-homosapien evolve into a homosapien while in pre-homsapien child or adult stage?”

    And which came first: the chicken or the egg?

    Actually, this one is even easier. Since the individual doesn’t evolve, their progeny does, the first homosapien was BORN the first homosapien. Their parents were not homosapien.

  81. #81 Wow
    February 15, 2012

    Just noticed over at pharyngula that the “serpent” from the garden of eden had legs, therefore was in fact a lizard.

    But if God punished these lizards with having no legs, why do we still have lizards with legs?

    The interesting parallel with the “if we evolved from apes, why do we still have apes” was the amusing and interesting thing.

  82. #82 Raging Bee
    February 15, 2012

    Since I’m a Theist and believe that Satan exists, I find their explanations plausible.

    Notice how Bilbo had to adopt a certain supernatural belief — one that has absolutely no evidence to support it — BEFORE he could call Dembski’s “explanations” plausible? The religious underpinnings of ID are so obvious, the cdesign proponentsists can’t stop admitting it no matter how hard they try.

    Hopefully someone who is versed in the theory, as requested, can attempt to take the questions head-on without reverting to defensive religious style attacks due to an inbility to to present an adequate justification for a “belief” that is admittedly referred to as a “theory” a word which contains the same linguistic root as theology.

    And once again, a theist tries to pretend to be “just asking questions,” only to revert to nonsense and lies when us mean old science types don’t follow the script he was handed by his pastor.

  83. #83 eric
    February 15, 2012

    Sep @72:

    If so would not the new homosapien have died from a fatal encephalitic type malady as a result of the acquisition of the homsapien cerebral cortex, or was there a void space in the pre-homosapien’s cranium to accommodate the newly acquired cerebral cortex?

    New organs or substructures of organs do not suddenly pop into existence; they are modified versions of preexisting structures. So, ape-parent has a brain that fills its head. It passes on genes to ape-daughter which results in ape-daughter developing slightly different brain structure.

    The process you are talking about is not evolution, its called saltation. And you’re right, there are all sorts of developmental and rejection-related problems with the saltation hypothesis. Which is why science doesn’t think saltation is a credible process.

    Ironically, however, young earth creationists must posit saltation, as massive developmental change over a small number of generations is the only way to get from a small variety of animals on an ark to the diversity we see today in a few thousand years.

    So, you are really pointing out flaws in YECism, not evolution. Welcome to the overwhelming majority that rejects that religious silliness.

  84. #84 eric
    February 15, 2012

    More from Sep:

    Based upon a “demarcation” you should be able to find several iterations of the make believe missing link or “links” as you have now expressed through your demarcation argument.

    This assumes every species and subspecies gets fossilized. It doesn’t. Second, implying that we should already have this sequence is to imply we should already have dug up every different fossil there is. We haven’t.

    And I question whether you would be satisfied by anything less than us finding every single individual in a chain – a clearly preposterous demand. But maybe you can correct me about that. What level of representation would satisfy you? One fossil per hundred thousand generations? One per ten thousand? One per thousand? Something more?

    I’m justing giving a WAG here, but I’d say we may already have something on the order of 1 per 10E5: for 2.5 million years of homo evolution, we have about 15 subspecies. 1 per 10E4 might be achievable, if we wanted to spend lots of money on archaeology. Asking for any finer granularity is probably inrealistic (barring some unforseen technological advance).

    All of this is ignoring the larger point, which is that you (and Bilbo) have no better explanation for the pattern of life’s change over time on earth.

  85. #85 eric
    February 15, 2012

    D’oh! Facepalming math mistake! My previous post equated 1 generation with 1 year, which is obviously wrong. Its more like 10-20 years (depending on subspecies). So 15 subspecies representing 2.5 million years of evolution is actually more like 1 per 10,000 generations.

  86. #86 Verbose Stoic
    February 15, 2012

    ildi,

    I’ll answer your question first, since it relates to what eric is talking about.

    Contrary to what eric said and Wowbagger might have hinted, the term “folk” is a philosophical technical term that isn’t pejorative. It simply refers to the mechanisms of regular, everyday reasoning/investigation/thought in that field. The most common usage of it is in folk psychology, where it refers to the normal and non-technical ways humans go about learning about and predicting other people. Folk physics is everyday physics, the things that we learn without knowing the underlying technical details. So we learn how balls generally bounce and how things generally move and that things fall when we release them and so can make fairly impressive predictions about how physics works in the everyday world without having most of the underlying equations.

    So, things like folk physics generally work for most things, but they often get things wrong, especially when they start positing reasons for why things work that way. Once we get down into the details, the formal fields of study really should be better at it than the folk versions, and so when they clash the folk version should lose out. But no one generally wants to get rid of them completely, and they are always fairly impressive as far as they go.

  87. #87 Verbose Stoic
    February 15, 2012

    footface,

    Anger is an irrational response to something unpredictable. And how can an omniscient being be surprised or disappointed? (Wouldn’t that being have known all along what would happen?) How can a perfect being have a need?

    You’re behind on the work being done to work out emotions. Both Damasio and Prinz deny that anger is irrational, and Prinz argues for a moral anger that is a reaction to injustice, which God could have. You can be disappointed even if you know what the outcome will be if disappointment is simply a notion that you would have preferred another choice or outcome. Need depends on how it is defined; as a simple, potentially temporary lack, God could have it while working to actually fulfill it at a later “time”. Surprise is the hardest one, and I won’t risk semantic wrangling by taking it on here … but it’s also one that’s fairly minor and easily handwaved away if you’re not a precise strict literalist, which I’m not.

  88. #88 Tulse
    February 15, 2012

    Need depends on how it is defined; as a simple, potentially temporary lack, God could have it

    How can a perfect being have a lack, even temporarily?

  89. #89 Verbose Stoic
    February 15, 2012

    eric,

    Which God? The three-omni God or the evolutionary world God?

    The Christian God, that is referenced in the Garden of Eden story and is the one that people are claiming conflicts with evolution. It’s funny that you argue that you want to make reference to the God most people believe in and yet decided to privilege — and introduce — the “three-omni God” over the one referenced in the Garden of Eden story when the “three-omni God” is the philosophical/theological construction, not the Biblical one.

    So perhaps we should start by not assuming a three-Omni-God-who-creates-via-evolution is a consistent and viable concept, but rather ask whether it is.

    Which is what I’m doing. Or, rather, I replied to an objection that there is suffering in the world and that the world is not perfect which it is argued means that the concept is not consistent by pointing out that a pretty clear part of the God concept we’re talking about to even generate the problem with evolution also flat-out says that this won’t be a perfect world and it will contain suffering … a point that you have yet to even acknowledge, let alone address.

  90. #90 Verbose Stoic
    February 15, 2012

    eric,

    Oh ho? How do you know you have it right and they don’t? Did God reveal the truth to you?

    When I’m doing philosophy and theology, I don’t use revelation. And I don’t know — and have not claimed, you’ll note — that I’m right. I argue that it will be settled at the academic theological/philosophical level, not by an opinion poll. Which, you’ll note, is the same way physics gets settled.

    And where in Christian theology is your claim supported, that only acadamic theologians are qualified to understand it? It seems to me the vast majority of mainstream Chrisitian sects take the exact opposite tack; that normal people ARE qualified to understand it.

    It’s not a theological question. It’s a philosophical question, and I have never claimed otherwise.

    As for which ones claim that normal people are qualified to work out the details and decide in-depth theological questions, I don’t think that most of them really do that. It would only be non-authoritarian ones, where there is no authority from any source, including of priests and so no concept that any sort of instruction is required, which seems to be a short list to me. I know that Catholicism doesn’t, and as far as I know Anglicans don’t hold that either. I’m not sure about the bulk of Protestant views, though.

    It seems reasonable to assert that you can use revelation to get to a folk religion, a general it-works-out belief in God, which is probably what you mean by “understand”. But for the in-depth details and reasons, you need theology.

  91. #91 footface
    February 15, 2012

    Oh, of course. Prinz says there’s something called moral anger. Therefore, a perfect being who reacts to things exactly like a human would is a plausible proposition.

    I think you left out a few steps in your argument.

  92. #92 Wow
    February 15, 2012

    > The Christian God, that is referenced in the Garden of Eden story and is the one that people are claiming conflicts with evolution

    Since that god made things in the wrong order, reused parts and deliberately broke things that had, according to that canon, had no purpose in doing so, other than to fake people into thinking he didn’t exist (then getting REALLY pissed off when they don’t think he exists), then he’s absolutely conflicting with evolution and the evidence of our own eyes (assisted where necessary by machinery).

  93. #93 Verbose Stoic
    February 15, 2012

    Kel,

    For the questions concerning God, yes. But what Bilbo brought up is a very empirically-laden question. There’s no way to test whether or not an omnibenevolent God is compatible with creating a process that causes much pain and suffering other than to look at it conceptually. It’s as stupid as looking at the metaphysics of unicorns, but that’s what theology is good for.

    The question about evolution, on the other hand, has a strong empirical basis to it. It’s at least in principle able to be quantified and studied. They are very different kinds of statements!

    Well, yes, conceptual statements aren’t empirical and so can’t be empirically tested. But that doesn’t mean that they are all made up or stupid or something. For me, they all have truth values and we have ways to get at those truth values. I, in fact, argue that what philosophy does is conceptual analysis, and that’s what gets us things like science. It does work and we do get places. You don’t agree with that. Fine. Jason probably doesn’t agree either. But you don’t get to say that theology is stupid because you don’t like it but then feel free to make pronouncements on theology and what it can do/how far it can go. If Jason is going to argue that it is implausible that the thing thought of as God can exist given the concepts of God and evolution, then he’s going to have to demonstrate that or risk being accused of arguing from personal incredulity just as much as Bilbo is. And if you don’t think you can muster any such evidence, then you should not make those claims.

  94. #94 Verbose Stoic
    February 15, 2012

    footface,

    You asserted that a perfect being could not have anger, and then simply defined it as an irrational reaction. I pointed out credible work in philosophy that provides a credible alternative, and one that in fact you could even reference to see if you buy the arguments. Who is it that has left steps out again?

  95. #95 Verbose Stoic
    February 15, 2012

    eric,

    See, that’s a key difference between physics and theology. When Joe Rube and Dr. Physics both make a claim about how the world acts, we can go to the world and see who is right. The results then get termed “physics.” If Dr. Physics gets more deference, it is because she is right more often than Joe Rube, not merely because she has “Dr” in front of her name.

    Well, I’d say that isn’t quite true. Dr. Physics gets more “deference” because she’s part of an academic community that uses certain standards and methods designed to study physics, and they do so because that’s their field of study. She gets the same deference that a mechanic gets, or a carpenter gets, or even someone who has just worked on cars a lot. This is the sort of thing they do, and work at, which gives them preference over those who, say, hammer in a nail or add oil occasionally.

    The same thing applies here. If you want to know if God and evolution are really incompatible, why would you take the vaguely formed ideas of the people who might think about religion, at best, 1 or 2 hours a week over the views of those who spend their time and make it their work to study it?

  96. #96 Verbose Stoic
    February 15, 2012

    eric,

    But with theology, we can’t go anywhere for that info. There is no objective way to tell the real religion from the folk religion.

    There is nothing but folk religion, as far as independent, objective confirmation is concerned.

    Well, you’re using “folk” in a completely different way than I am. I went over this in a reply to ildi, which hasn’t shown up yet, so I’ll try not to repeat it too much. Suffice it to say that for me folk is not a pejorative nor is it a shorter way of saying “No objective test”. Anyway, what you’re doing here is conflating “objective way” with “empirically objective way”. And, yeah, you can’t do that for concepts. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t an objective way. Good philosophy/theology does attempt to get this objective way through strict conceptual analysis that relies heavily on logic and thought experiments and even intuitions to see if it makes sense. It also does a lot of textual analysis in cases where that’s relevant. I don’t think philosophy is subjective in a problematic way and think that all good academic theology is philosophical at least, if not empirical. And it is the products of that sort of technical analysis that I distinguish from folk religion, which is the religion practiced by the people with the vague, basic, it-kinda-works notions of religion. I don’t see folk religion as bad, but simply not rigourous enough to support these sorts of questions.

  97. #97 Verbose Stoic
    February 15, 2012

    eric,

    I have an answer to the middle part of the comment held in moderation. Moving on.

    So sorry, but if you want me to turn my attention from the socially active, politically threatening sects to your more academic sect(s), you’re going to have to better than just hurling the perjorative “folk religion” label at other sects. Either give evidence as to why your God-concept is more right than theirs, or lay the “my theology is more correct than theirs” argument aside altogether, and give me some other (social, political, etc.) reason to pay more attention to your sect and less to theirs.

    I hurl “folk religion” at ALL sects. That’s never been the issue here. When I talk about questions like this, I’m doing philosophy, not religion. And arguing, therefore, philosophically, and determining what each sect really is committed to and what the works really say. As for what it can do for you, don’t you think it could help with those things you’re worrying about if academics who study it in detail come out and say “You know what, doing this isn’t compatible and here’s why”? And many of the sects you worry about have their own theologians that set their official policy. Isn’t it better if they determined objectively and rigourously what these things mean? And, of course, my argument would be that I am actually describing their God concept, or what it should be. That’s what conceptual analysis is. So it’s not a dichotomy.

  98. #98 eric
    February 15, 2012

    VS:

    The Christian God, that is referenced in the Garden of Eden story and is the one that people are claiming conflicts with evolution.

    Jason (IMO) is claiming normal Christian beliefs about God conflict with evolution. And your response is to consistently demand that we ignore what normal believers think about God, and only consider what serious theologians and philosophers think about God. Even worse, you want us to only consider what the non-literalist subset of serious theologians think about God, which is a bit of a No True Scotsman move.

    To my way of thinking, it is you, not Jason or I, that is constantly dodging the main point. Because you refuse to engage in discussion about normal beliefs. You only want to discuss whether rarified, sophisticated, ivory tower conceptions of God are consistent with evolution.

    So okay, I’ll concede your point. Given your premises and how you set up the problem, it reasonably follows that there’s an evolutionarily consistent conception of the christian God. Your argument is valid. But I dispute your presmises and your set-up as overly narrow, politically irrelevant/naive, and somewhat circular insofar as you discount literalist theologians. IOW I think your argument is valid, but not sound.

  99. #99 footface
    February 15, 2012

    The fact that there is an anger (moral anger) it might make “sense” for a god to experience doesn’t mean that it makes sense for a god to have temper tantrums, to be vindictive, to be surprised by events it foresaw (and planned), to require things from others, or to be disappointed by events it caused.

    And the fact that we can think of anger as rational doesn’t render the injunction not to cry over spilt milk any less rational.

  100. #100 Tulse
    February 15, 2012

    Given your premises and how you set up the problem, it reasonably follows that there’s an evolutionarily consistent conception of the christian God.

    That is way too generous — I have yet to see VS give a philosophically consistent conception of his god, merely some handwaving.

  101. #101 Verbose Stoic
    February 15, 2012

    eric,

    Jason (IMO) is claiming normal Christian beliefs about God conflict with evolution.

    So, then, normal Christian beliefs don’t reference the Garden of Eden story? So, no clash with evolution, then. Honestly, I have no problem saying that when I talk about something that’s explicitly stated in Genesis and holds whether you take it literally or metaphorically I’m talking about normal Christian beliefs. In fact, you are ignoring that I pointed out that the “three-omni God” YOU introduced as a problem is far further from normal Christian beliefs than the God my argument relies on.

    nd your response is to consistently demand that we ignore what normal believers think about God, and only consider what serious theologians and philosophers think about God. Even worse, you want us to only consider what the non-literalist subset of serious theologians think about God, which is a bit of a No True Scotsman move.

    Never said that. Said the opposite, in fact, in my argument where I stated that it holds whether you take it literally or figuratively. So where in the world did you get THIS accusation from?

    What I mean, BTW, when I talk about ignoring normal believers is that you don’t go and ask them “Do you think God and religion are compatible?” and take that answer as meaningful and dictating whether or not it is. What you do is look at the theology that’s aimed at figuring out what the actual commitments of their beliefs are. As for the conceptions, again I want to discuss if the conceptions as they actually are are incompatible. You seem to be presuming that we can just make up conceptions. I deny that, and say that we have to discuss and argue for which conceptions actually do reflect the text and are what God really is. I fail to see why looking for arguments and a right concept is somehow verbotten.

  102. #102 Verbose Stoic
    February 15, 2012

    footface,

    Moral anger works just like regular anger, and whether that is rational may well be debatable. You will be interested to note that I actually disagree with Prinz about it, but you asserted that a perfect being couldn’t get angry, and I’m simply pointing out that it’s far more complicated than you think it is.

  103. #103 Verbose Stoic
    February 15, 2012

    Tulse,

    That is way too generous — I have yet to see VS give a philosophically consistent conception of his god, merely some handwaving.

    I’m sorry, I presumed that you were all talking about the normal Christian God, simplified down to the relevant details around creationism and ID versus evolution. If you don’t know what God you’re talking about, then I don’t see any reason to think that this vague God you were criticizing really is incompatible with evolution and so would have no reason to even worry about your purported arguments that make it implausible that that vague, undefined God is compatible with an evolved world. My mistake.

    When you all want to own up to the concept you’re talking about, or want to get into a detailed discussion about that concept without trying to prove it incoherent per se, give me a call.

  104. #104 eric
    February 15, 2012

    VS:

    Isn’t it better if they determined objectively and rigourously what these things mean?

    How do you plan on objectively determining what a revelation from God means? Do you have an outside, independent source of data on what God really meant?

    Now, I think the academy can contribute significantly to the historical questions of what was written down, when, who the human authors were, what they probably meant to convey by their word choice, and so on. It can contribute to our understanding of the bible as an historical document.

    But viewed as a message from God, the academy has no non-revelatory methodology with which to attack the meaning question, and no objective or independent data that would be relevant to it.

  105. #105 footface
    February 15, 2012

    VS @100:

    Maybe I shouldn’t have said “anger,” and should instead have said only “temper tantrum,” “vindictive,” and “bad sport.” These are all outward manifestations of anger that (I hold) are incompatible with a “perfect” being. Are temper tantrums rational? Is it rational to be vindictive toward someone who did what you set him up to do? Is it rational to fume when you don’t get your way (especially when your not getting your way was foreseen by you)?

    The Christian god sure doesn’t sound perfect. He sounds remarkably like a regular old human. (Hint, hint.)

  106. #106 Verbose Stoic
    February 15, 2012

    eric,

    How do you plan on objectively determining what a revelation from God means? Do you have an outside, independent source of data on what God really meant?

    I would presume, in that case, that the person having the revelation has a concept of God in mind. If it’s really personal, then I’d have to get them to describe it all out for me and then I can analyze that concept and how it applies to evolution. That’s NOT the sort of concept that most people who claim revelation claim, though. They claim to have revelations about the Christian God in general and the God of their sect in particular. And looking at the sources of that concept, I can indeed get an independent and objective view on what that concept means, defined as it is, and then on what the other concepts mean and if they are compatible or not. So, in most cases, we can make references to what the general concept is, as well as subordinate concepts. This is what, in fact, philosophy generally does.

  107. #107 Verbose Stoic
    February 15, 2012

    eric,

    I also think you’re conflating proving that the concept exists versus what the concept says. The former might required objective and independent and, in your case, broadly empirical data, but the latter need not. I can know what a vampire is even if none actually exist.

  108. #108 eric
    February 15, 2012

    VS:

    So, then, normal Christian beliefs don’t reference the Garden of Eden story?

    Of course they do. They also reference a lot of other stuff, which taken in toto very often leads to a conception of God inconsistent with Evolution. In the US, its about 45% of the time, in fact.

    Never said that. Said the opposite, in fact, in my argument where I stated that it holds whether you take it [Genesis?] literally or figuratively

    I’m going to ask you to clarify that: are you claiming that your argument for consistency between Christianity’s God and evolution holds even when Genesis is taken literally?

    You seem to be presuming that we can just make up conceptions.

    I don’t think I said that, but I would agree that the academy’s conception and the street believer’s conception have about as much objective evidence behind them, yes.

    And I see one group claiming their conception is more legitimate as just another sectarian fight. Evolutionary consistent Yahweh vs. evolutionary inconsistent Yahweh has all the trappings of Vishnu vs. Zeus.

    I deny that, and say that we have to discuss and argue for which conceptions actually do reflect the text and are what God really is.

    You sure about that? Given all the stuff in the bible, trickster/deceptive God seems to be a very good fit. Much better than the tortured logic that seeks to find good in divine genocide. Its hard for me to see any good non-circular reason to throw that conception out. We can of course throw it out of we assume the conception of God (good! non-deceptive!) we are trying to prove.

  109. #109 Wow
    February 15, 2012

    “I have yet to see VS give a philosophically consistent conception of his god, merely some handwaving.”

    Where did you see handwaving? I’ve not even seen THAT!

    “Even worse, you want us to only consider what the non-literalist subset of serious theologians think about God,”

    Nope, WORSE THAN THAT, he’s asking us to consider a non-literalist subset where the Garden of Eden is the literal truth. Remember: he said the god he was talking of was the Garden of Eden one.

  110. #110 JimV
    February 15, 2012

    Put a Stoic in the hands of one of Cheney’s enhanced interrogators and I’ll bet that Stoic would revise his or her conclusion about suffering not being evil. But if suffering itself is not evil, how about causing suffering? How about standing by and doing nothing when suffering is occurring which you could alleviate? It seems to me there are reasonable grounds for indicting the OT God on all those counts. (Okay, not grounds that would stand up in a court of law because they are all based on hearsay, like most of the claims in the Bible.)

    I also don’t like the argument that God is so many orders of magnitude smarter than I am that I have no right to form any conclusions about his or her actions, because, if so, whose fault is that? I reason with the smarts that God or evolution or both gave me. They were good enough to get me A’s in Calculus of Variations and Topology, and they tell me that the Christian God doesn’t make sense. Could there logically be a God whose intellect compares to mine the way mine compares to an ant? Sure, but in that case, what’s the big attraction for said God to human beings? It can’t be our intellects, and it certainly can’t be our good looks or personalities.

    I generally admire the way Verbal Stoic fights his corner and forces us to examine our more simplistic arguments, and am glad he comments here. The stoic-suffering concept does not go down well with me, however.

  111. #111 Verbose Stoic
    February 15, 2012

    eric,

    Let me remind you of the full paragraph of what I said that started this whole chain:

    Ultimately, you can’t use claims that there are flaws in creation to argue against the traditional Judeo-Christian God. Yes, God could have made a much better world. He could have made a perfect one. And, according to traditional theology, that would be the Garden of Eden. Whether you take that story literally or figuratively, this world ain’t that one. So there exists imperfection. There exists suffering. The question will come down to how much imperfection or suffering is too much to believe that there is a God. That’s a major philosophical/theological question. I don’t know, but I know that no one else knows either. So that’s what we have to work out.

    Read it and tell what it in is unclear.

    You sure about that? Given all the stuff in the bible, trickster/deceptive God seems to be a very good fit. Much better than the tortured logic that seeks to find good in divine genocide. Its hard for me to see any good non-circular reason to throw that conception out. We can of course throw it out of we assume the conception of God (good! non-deceptive!) we are trying to prove.

    It’s a concept that’s in play. I don’t happen to think it true, but feel free to argue for it, and we might have an interesting debate over it.

  112. #112 Tulse
    February 15, 2012

    When you all want to own up to the concept you’re talking about, or want to get into a detailed discussion about that concept without trying to prove it incoherent per se, give me a call.

    The god I am talking about is the traditional “tri-omni” Christian theological conception of a being that is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent. Such a god could not use a process that involves as much pain and suffering as evolution and not contradict at least one of those properties.

  113. #113 Verbose Stoic
    February 15, 2012

    Tulse,

    The thing is that you tie it to the Christian theological concept, which includes the Garden of Eden. Which, as I stated, includes the idea of a world with suffering and pain. So we end up with the question of whether or not some suffering is compatible with those qualities. It’s obvious that being benevolent can; loving parents sometimes let — and have to let — their children struggle and feel pain so that they learn from it and grow, even if it is in their power to make it so that they could avoid it. So, does this world contain too much suffering, or is the Garden of Eden suffering too much? Then we might be to say that when the “tri-omni” conception was proposed it was a clear misinterpretation; that sort of God is clearly not the sort of God that the Christians were talking about, and the theologians erred in saying it was. So, then, what kind of God is it? More work would need to be done on that.

  114. #114 eric
    February 15, 2012

    Ultimately, you can’t use claims that there are flaws in creation to argue against the traditional Judeo-Christian God.

    I can certainly use modern claims that were discovered after the traditional Judeo-Chrisian god concept was formed to argue that it can no longer be considered viable. Classic 13th century theodicy may not be a good argument against the 13th century God, because the priests took what they knew about the world into account when they formed their conception. But new 20th century discoveries can certainly be used to argue against the God conception that has traditionally held sway throughout the christian community for the last 2,000 years.

    Up until the 1850s, the traditional view was that God plopped the animals down, fully formed, on an earth that basically resembled the present. So on what basis do you claim your conception of a God who works through a process not even discovered until the mid-1800s is the traditional Judeo Christian one?

    And giving you the 1850s is being generous. It wasn’t until the 1970s and PJPII that the largest single denomination in Christendom accepted evolution. You are implying that the “traditional” Christian view of God is the one formed after the 1970s.

    Look, you have a conception of the Judeo Chrisitan God who works through the process of evolution. But will you stop trying to claim that your conception is the one we should take as the christian exemplar, the best representative of the religion? Your conception is a lot of things, but the traditional Judeo Chrisitan god, it certainly isn’t.

  115. #115 Verbose Stoic
    February 15, 2012

    eric,

    You didn’t get past the first sentence again, so what you said and your accusation about my having a specific conception is compeltely irrelevant to what I said. Read the whole paragraph and my whole argument, and then tell me if that isn’t the conception of God that normal Christian beliefs reference, and if it doesn’t address those specific arguments as referenced in it.

    Thank you.

  116. #116 Verbose Stoic
    February 15, 2012

    eric,

    Up until the 1850s, the traditional view was that God plopped the animals down, fully formed, on an earth that basically resembled the present. So on what basis do you claim your conception of a God who works through a process not even discovered until the mid-1800s is the traditional Judeo Christian one?

    You keep trying to refer to the beliefs of the average religious person and the traditional conceptions, and yet ditch them whenever convenient. Recall, for example, that a lot of religious people are Catholics who have said that the idea of them being plopped down fully formed is not in fact part of their concept , at least at the level of those in the hierarchy who makes those decisions. Jerry Coyne says that 27% of Catholics hold that view, but that’s not a majority. So, again, what concept are YOU talking about? You can’t hop around it until you find one you like.

  117. #117 eric
    February 15, 2012

    VS, let me try an analogy. Let us imagine that aliens land on earth tomorrow and show us how they bioengineered the first life. How they targeted a meteor at the earth because they didn’t like the way the whole dinosaur thing was going. How they intervened in other ways to bring about homo sapiens. They bring out video. Sample species that they seeded. They move meteors just to show they can do it. Definitive proof of what they say.

    Now let us imagine some Christian theologian responds to this incontrovertible proof by saying “creation by alien design is part of the traditional Judeo Christian view of God.”

    That would be ludicrous, right? Completely insane, right? But Darwin’s theory was the 19th century equivalent of an alien visit. It radically altered how people thought about God; his role, his relationship with the natural world, and so on. You can’t simply sweep 1800 years of Christian thought under the rug and claim that your radically new conception of God was the one the book always intended to communicate. That’s ludicrous. Its a Nostradamus-follower and bible-code level of stupidity: post-diction of the very worst sort.

  118. #118 eric
    February 15, 2012

    Read the whole paragraph and my whole argument, and then tell me if that isn’t the conception of God that normal Christian beliefs reference, and if it doesn’t address those specific arguments as referenced in it.

    It is not the complete conception of God that normal Christian beliefs reference. You sin by omission, because it is the other stuff that leads to many people to the three omnis conception, not just Genesis 1-10.

    And it doesn’t address the problems of evolution because there is absolutely zero, nada, zilch, zip biblical content that would support the notion of a conception of God that uses evolution as a method of species formation. Genesis very specifically gives a mechanism for species origin, which is not evolutionary. You can get around that by calling the story allegory, but that only negates the mechanism presented. It does not provide any support for a God-notion that uses some unmentioned mechanism.

    Your notion of God is informed by modern science. It is post-dicted. Thus, not the traditional Judeo Christian one. And almost certainly not the conception of God either the OT or NT authors intended to convey.

  119. #119 Verbose Stoic
    February 15, 2012

    eric,

    You still didn’t read my argument. I argued that the traditional concept of God included a non-perfect world, a world that contained suffering.. Which was, in fact, the arguments mustered against Theistic Evolution that I was replying to. If that’s the only arguments against combining the two, then I’d say they don’t do much. You, on the other hand, are arguing that evolution is completely incompatible with the “plopped down” theory that you claim is the only traditional one, and so incompatible that there’s no possible way to reconcile the two. Fine, argue that. It might actually be true. But kindly stop using that argument as a bludgeon against my argument and as an attempt to claim that i’m reinventing a personal concept and inventing a radically new one! I’m taking the updated theistic evolution one and defending it against specific attacks, since that’s what’s being discussed here.

  120. #120 Tulse
    February 15, 2012

    It’s obvious that being benevolent can; loving parents sometimes let — and have to let — their children struggle and feel pain so that they learn from it and grow, even if it is in their power to make it so that they could avoid it.

    A loving parent would never condemn their child to eternal infinite torture just because they engaged in an act of disobedience. Benevolence is incompatible with hell. There is no “learning” or “growing” possible for the eternally damned.

    we might be to say that when the “tri-omni” conception was proposed it was a clear misinterpretation; that sort of God is clearly not the sort of God that the Christians were talking about, and the theologians erred in saying it was.

    Wait, so we are supposed to toss out folk religious views except when we aren’t?

  121. #121 Verbose Stoic
    February 15, 2012

    Tulse,

    A loving parent would never condemn their child to eternal infinite torture just because they engaged in an act of disobedience. Benevolence is incompatible with hell. There is no “learning” or “growing” possible for the eternally damned.

    Ah, the retreat begins. Remember, your actual comment was about evolution, not hell. So, are you conceding my point? How many of these stacked arguments do you really expect me to go through here?

    Wait, so we are supposed to toss out folk religious views except when we aren’t?

    Why in the world do you think it is a folk religious view to say “Make sure you reference the original text.”?

  122. #122 Tulse
    February 15, 2012

    Remember, your actual comment was about evolution, not hell.

    The point also applies — if one is dead one cannot learn and grow, and no benevolent parent would let their child die if it were in their power to save them. (But I thought we were discussing the “sort of God that Christians talk about”, which certainly includes the notion of hell.)

    Why in the world do you think it is a folk religious view to say “Make sure you reference the original text.”?

    So now you are going to push for a more literalist view? Doesn’t he original text get the order of appearance of organisms incorrect?

    And are you saying that that tri-omni theological position is invalid? That would seem to go against a ton of traditional theological thought.

  123. #123 Kel
    February 15, 2012

    Well, yes, conceptual statements aren’t empirical and so can’t be empirically tested. But that doesn’t mean that they are all made up or stupid or something.

    Agreed.

    For me, they all have truth values and we have ways to get at those truth values. I, in fact, argue that what philosophy does is conceptual analysis, and that’s what gets us things like science.

    Yes, no disagreements there.

    But you don’t get to say that theology is stupid because you don’t like it but then feel free to make pronouncements on theology and what it can do/how far it can go.

    If theology is not stupid, then show its validity. The merits of science and philosophical analysis are fairly apparent, but what knowledge has theology given us? How is it any different from the “insights” of astrology? How is it anything other than unicorn metaphysics?

    If Jason is going to argue that it is implausible that the thing thought of as God can exist given the concepts of God and evolution, then he’s going to have to demonstrate that or risk being accused of arguing from personal incredulity just as much as Bilbo is.

    Neglect for a moment that Jason made an argument (the problem of evil) and Bilbo did nothing more than to express his incredulity at evolution working naturally, they are two very different kinds of things. Claims of a scientific nature and claims of conceptual consistency aren’t equivalent in any way. All it seems you are doing here is trying to use my words to make it seem like Jason is irrational for saying that mass suffering caused by the evolutionary process is incompatible with an omnibenevolent deity – something that’s been argued and defended by philosophers today. It’s not like Jason is making any statement on the same magnitude as Bilbo’s, nor did he make it without any attempt at substantiation.

  124. #124 eric
    February 15, 2012

    VS:

    You still didn’t read my argument. I argued that the traditional concept of God included a non-perfect world, a world that contained suffering.. Which was, in fact, the arguments mustered against Theistic Evolution that I was replying to.

    But you also said:

    The question will come down to how much imperfection or suffering is too much to believe that there is a God. That’s a major philosophical/theological question.

    Now, in the 19th century we discovered an extra three billion years of bonus suffering, not forseen by the Christian theologians who fashioned the traditional conception of God. That’s a 10,000-fold increase in the theodicy problem.

    If a 10,000-fold increase in suffering and misery isn’t “too much” to call the traditional conception of God into question, how much is?

    And faced with this nonchange, honestly why should I believe that your statement that there is some ‘too much’ limit at all? It certainly looks like no amount of suffering will shake your traditional conception of God. If this is the case, if you’re going to believe in a good God come what may, you might as well chuck all that deep philosophical apologetics out the window. Its just reasoning back from a preset conclusion, rather than forward from evidence as you pretend.

  125. #125 eric
    February 15, 2012

    VS @104:

    I can know what a vampire is even if none actually exist.

    This is an excellent analogy. Here’s your problem as I see it. You are trying to tell me that those Bram Stoker vampire supporters have it all wrong, and if I really want to understand what vampires are, I should read all the Twilight books. And the kicker; I should do this, you argue, because the Twilight books give the traditional, best-worked-out view of vampires! To which I would respond:

    (1) Stoker’s vamp-concept may feel outdated to modern readers, but it is absolutely ludicrous to claim the more modern interpretation of the vampire concept is the “traditional” one. You have a concept of God that has been modified based on a discovery made 95% of the way through Christianity’s history. If we plotted the literary history of vampires from Stoker onwards (a somewhat arbitrary point, but please can we not quibble about it), your vampire concept was the one invented 6 years ago. This is about as far from “traditional” as one can get.

    (2) Given that there is no evidence for vampires whatsoever, no vamp-believer really has any right to claim their vamp-concept is more “legitimate” than any other. My decision to pay attention to the torch-bearing vamp-believers and ignore the book-reading vamp-believers becomes even more rational. To wit: follower behavior is just about the best proxy criteria I can use to decide who to pay attention to until you come up with a way to tell which vamp-concept exists and which doesn’t.

    Not being undead, I doubt I can hold my breath waiting for you to make that discovery as it relates to God-concepts.

  126. #126 Owlmirror
    February 15, 2012

    When I’m doing philosophy and theology, I don’t use revelation.

    I don’t see how you can possibly do theology without relying on some claimed revelation; if not your own, then someone else’s.

    Isn’t the Garden of Eden story claimed to be revelation?

    The thing is that you tie it to the Christian theological concept, which includes the Garden of Eden. Which, as I stated, includes the idea of a world with suffering and pain. So we end up with the question of whether or not some suffering is compatible with those qualities. It’s obvious that being benevolent can; loving parents sometimes let — and have to let — their children struggle and feel pain so that they learn from it and grow, even if it is in their power to make it so that they could avoid it.

    Parents who are actually loving only “let” their children “struggle and feel pain” because they don’t know how to bring about “learning and growth” in their children without it.

    But they do still interact with their children, and try to help their children avoid excessive or useless struggling and/or pain. Which God has not been observed to do.

    So, you are arguing for a God that is as not just as or more ignorant than humans and/or just as weak or weaker than humans, you’re also arguing for a God that is less loving than human parents.

  127. #127 Anthony McCarthy
    February 15, 2012

    It wasn’t until the 1970s and PJPII that the largest single denomination in Christendom accepted evolution. eric

    Well, someone seems to have forgotten to tell the nuns who were teaching us about evolution back in the 1950s. Really, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    Cardinal John Henry Newman, as early as 1868, was provisionally open to Darwin being right about the origin of species. Considering how primitive Darwin’s theory was at the time, without the genetic substrate, provided by Fr. Gregor Mendel, and Newman’s position in the Catholic church, that’s a pretty strong indication that your idea is mistaken.

    The extremely conservative Pius XII explicitly said that evolution wasn’t forbidden in Catholicism.

    You know, it could be just a hard fact that God creates the universe and life in it in accord with evolution, in which case there is not a single thing that science could tell you about evolution that would refute God doing that. Given how much scientists have said about evolution over the past hundred sixty years that turned out to be wrong, that people have had wrong ideas about God would be expected instead of shocking. People have wrong ideas all the time about all kinds of things. I’d say that given what I read them say just about every day, an atheist’s place is in the wrong.

  128. #128 eric
    February 15, 2012

    AMC:

    You know, it could be just a hard fact that God creates the universe and life in it in accord with evolution, in which case there is not a single thing that science could tell you about evolution that would refute God doing that.

    In which case, your complaints that materialistic science is getting the wrong answer and needs to be changed would be unfounded, wouldn’t they?

  129. #129 Tulse
    February 15, 2012

    You’ve misunderstood the problem, Anthony, which is not scientific but theological. If your god created life via purely natural evolution, then that poses all sorts of very large problems for the standard Christian conception of their god.

  130. #130 Wow
    February 15, 2012

    “I can know what a vampire is even if none actually exist.”

    Heh.

    Really?

    I bet you’re thinking of the Dracula type of vampire, aren’t you. Did you know that the Japanese folklore has a vampire, and it doesn’t have a lot in common with that archetype.

    You also have the vampires in Blade, the ones in Underlworld (with Kate in it), or the ones in Twilight.

    So do you REALLY know what a Vampire is without knowing they exist?

    And you do know that that statement also supports the idea that just because you know what God is doesn’t mean he actually exists, right?

  131. #131 Owlmirror
    February 15, 2012

    I messed up that final paragraph. Tweaking it a bit:

    So, you are arguing for a God that is not only just as (or more) ignorant than humans and/or just as weak as (or weaker than) humans, you’re also arguing for a God that is definitely less loving than human parents.

    Fixing that for me.

  132. #132 Bilbo
    February 15, 2012

    Eric @ 69: Salt-induced peptide and polypeptide formation is actually a fairly well-developed research area.

    I’m sure it is well-developed. And I’m sure that all experiments used solutions of only amino acids (so that they don’t interact with other chemicals, as they would in the wild) in concentrations that wouldn’t be found in the wild. And I’m equally sure that no proteins were produced. No, the unguided process of producing proteins has not been found.

  133. #133 Bilbo
    February 15, 2012

    Itchy @ 71: You write this as if “and thus, a super magical being caused it” is plausible.

    I think the argument from biological design argues to the existence of an intelligence of some kind. Fred Hoyle (whom I think was the father of the modern ID movement), believed in ID of the first cells, though he certainly didn’t think the designer(s) was supernatural. I do think the designer(s) is supernatural. Is it plausible? I believe it is. I love your name, by the way.

  134. #134 Bilbo
    February 15, 2012

    Kel @ 74: Two things. First, isn’t that just making an argument from ignorance? That scientists can’t explain something is no reason to throw in the towel. And second, how does that show evolutionary processes as being inadequate?

    I think design arguments depend upon two things: Not being able to come up with an adequate non-design explanation, and showing that the thing being explained closely resembles known designed things. As long as they think there might be a way to explain something without design, I expect scientists to not “throw in the towel.” The question is what, as a layperson, I can conclude from their present level of progress. As a armchair philosopher, it appears to me that design is the more reasonable explanation, and should be accepted until future evidence might overturn it.

  135. #135 eric
    February 15, 2012

    Bilbo:

    I’m sure it is well-developed. And I’m sure that all experiments used solutions of only amino acids (so that they don’t interact with other chemicals, as they would in the wild) in concentrations that wouldn’t be found in the wild. And I’m equally sure that no proteins were produced. No, the unguided process of producing proteins has not been found

    You know all that without even reading the abstracts? Call Mike Behe, he’s got a challenger for the “I don’t need to read that stack of papers to know it doesn’t answer my question” award.

    Sigh. Last post you were sure no plausible mechanisms existed. Now you are sure the plausible mechanisms that exist don’t represent natural conditions. Makes me wonder…what’s the next fallback position that Bilbo will be sure of tomorrow?

  136. #136 King of the Patriotic Bible thumpers
    February 15, 2012

    You cannot beliee in both God and evolution. Choose one. You cannot serve God and deny His role in creation.

    Any church that celebrates Darwin is an apostate church and you should leave it immediately and sever all ties with it. It is a false church promoting a satanic ideal.

  137. #137 Roman Dawes
    February 15, 2012

    I and other theistic evolutionists can reconcile the existence of God with evolution if we can show that there is no other logically possible way to for nature to exist as we know it than by what we can observe today and in the record of natural history.

    First, it’s worth noting that evolution has not occurred strictly by cruel and savage bloodsport, but more often by species A averaging just four offspring maturing to reproductive age in a given environment as species B in the same environment averages 6. Over thousands of years, species A depopulates to a handful of individuals that do not come across mates and the sights or scents that trigger reproductive urges – the species perishing with its last members utterly unaware of it. Unspectacular stuff which does not serve as evidence against the possibility of the existence of God.

    Nevertheless, the natural history record dates the rise of predation with a marked acceleration in the complexity of life – including multi-cellularity and an explosion in the number and types of life forms. And as with every other kinds of so-called natural evil, the bad comes with a silver lining good. Predation preserves a homeostatic balance to ecosystems and, of course, made it possible for humans to come into being.

    So if you’re a theist and evolutionist, the argument that a good God wouldn’t have allowed the conditions that made it possible for humans to exist is, to put it mildly, not very compelling.

    Should God have created us or animals out of thin air? Belief in omnipotence is not a belief that absolutely anything is logically possible, and creating something from nothing is not.

    If an anonymous poll was conducted of evolutionary biologists, I think we’d find that most don’t like the problem of evil in nature – not because they prefer animals to suffer or be killed, but because without predation, life would not have progressed beyond colonies of single-celled organisms. Though nature would be safe and tranquil, it would not be better than the nature we have. Even if we were today to reduce animal life to the vegetarians at the bottom of the food chains, fewer of those species would need to exist because their populations would be larger. So it seems that the natural world could either exist in a way that guarantees the health of all life forms and contain nearly nothing in it, or it could exist in rich biodiversity, in part driven and maintained with predation.

    Even if God could just create plants and animals with which, I suppose, to decorate the planet and which didn’t do awful things like eat other animals, the question I’d ask is, how? If there’s a better, more divine way to create from inanimate chemical reactions a biodiverse animal kingdom which is also completely safe for every single animal, what is that way? If it can’t even be imagined, might it not be logically possible?

    Even more compelling than the question of how is why? What would be the purpose? Now, I believe the nature we have is better than the “safe” evolutionary alternative with a few creatures living in perfect health to old age (one week? five years?), but I don’t think that the enrichment that a few humans gain from studying and appreciating nature would justify God being a zookeeper for thousands of indestructible animal species. Or even hundreds. I’m having trouble coming up with an excuse for dozens. They’d presumably have to exist without any logical connection to their environments, since they couldn’t be allowed to suffer for want of food or water. What would be the point of that? To foster careers in zoology?

    Remove naturalist reasons for why animals exist – including predation – and you remove the reason for most animals to exist at all.

    For further reading on why animals should experience pain outside of predation, see the following. http://bit.ly/tyzezt

  138. #138 Septepenra
    February 16, 2012

    Eric @83

    I guess you are implying that the first single cell organism(s) or germ(s) that fell to earth (enshrouded in meteorites) did not pop into existence? I’m curious if you as an evolutionist believes that the genesis of all species from a single cell/germ or from single cell types/seeds for each biological species?

    If evolution theory accepts a sequential evolution then I assume that the sequence goes back to the first single celled organisms or germs that fell to earth during the coagulation(s). Would evolutionists then not have to agree that homosapien must have all the attributes of the single cell or germ, in a latent state or otherwise, awaiting activation by an external force such as a germ in a meteorite or a blast of cosmic radiation?

    The passing on of genes from ape dad to ape daughter resulting in a slightly different brain structure is implicitly a form of demarcation no matter how minimal the developmental changes appears to be.

    Also, in evolutionist theory, is cloning of a species part of the sequence of evolution? You’re probably aware that there is at least one ancient text which implies that homosapien is a product of cloning and not an evolutionary sequence from pre-homosapien. Why should I accept your theory over those that were there?

    I do not see religion as silliness; I see it as an illness. Religion provides a deity concept which ultimately man is supposed to be subservient to, and dependent upon. In many ways, modern science seeks to usurp religion in this role. Both diminish the intrinsic powers and potentiality of man. These powers and potentials will not be awakened by material science but by man himself.

    In reading some of the posts, it is clear that there are evolutionists “howling” at the “mirror” in a state of absoluteness similar to religious fanaticism.

  139. #139 Septepenra
    February 16, 2012

    Eric @84

    I do not assume that every species/subspecies gets fossilized, nor was I implying that evolutionists should already have this sequence, but you have implicitly pointed out that evolutionism can never complete the puzzle as the complete puzzle involves more than just analyzing fossils which appear to be the only physical evidence available to them.

    Evolution theory takes the feces (remains of species, etc. found on archeological digs) and on the basis of the feces reaches generalized conclusions. Evolution cannot and will not with certainty explain the full nature of the being or species from which the feces came from.

    For example, you walk through the woods tomorrow and come across some actual feces, you could take the feces to the lab, have it analyzed to determine that it is the feces of a deer, maybe you could determine that it was an old deer, you might find certain constituents in the feces that enable you to determine its diet and its migratory patterns. From determinations and probabilities such as this you may be able to extrapolate other conclusions about the deer. But what does it really tell you about the deer? Does it tell you anything about “purpose” of existence of a biological species such as the deer. Does it tell you anything about the “thinking” of the deer?

    I am more concerned about the “purpose” of the species than a physical evolution or mutation, which I guess is more of a philosophical approach. Evolution does very little or one could argue, nothing to explain this. Wouldn’t you agree that evolutionism primarily addresses the physical aspects of the species? Even if evolution science found all the answers which it appears to seek, would that stop the wars, would that stop the greed and thievery, would that stop the dishonesty which too many homosapiens display in their “evolve superiority?

    What value do you see created out of a theory of evolution? Do you really think that early America could have deemed an African as 3/5 of a man without Darwinian science? I guess the biblical curse of Ham myth was insufficient to justify slavery and scientific “theory” had to step in. The blatant bigotry of the bible also deemed all women as inferior, yet the same “evolved” men who wrote the bible were born of women!

    My satisfaction is irrelevant as evolution cannot find every single individual in a chain as you have already implicitly stated. The number of fossils over time does nothing to convince me as I have explained the feces analysis problem above.

    I cannot speak for Bilbo, but in my opinion a flawed “theory” of the pattern of life’s change over time on earth is only marginally “better” than the religious explanation. Any other characterization can only be based upon the arrogance of science and man. The difference is I admit that I don’t have the explanation whereas evolutionists pretend they do as if the theory is an absolute science. Evolutionism cannot reach a level of evidence to prove the theory based upon empirical data, the best it can hope for is a model (implies incomplete data), of which in the realm of modern science has led to oil spills, space shuttle disasters, etc.

    I guess that in looking at homosapiens, I do not accept the premise that man has evolved. Do evolutionists have any proof that “un-evolved” man ever beat their offspring, polluted their environment to their own detriment, injected others of the species with syphilis, etc?

  140. #140 FlyingApple
    February 16, 2012

    I agree that rationally, evolution and theism are incompatible. But there are many religious “mysteries” that believers are willing to suspend their disbelief for.

    The question is of the goal – is it to gain acceptance and wide-spread understanding of scientific knowledge among the public, or is it to root out irrational religious thinking? The first may eventually lead to the second goal, but the second goal can only be reached when each individual has personally decided that evidence and reason have more merit than what ever it is they have put faith in. Direct argument does not work – never has, never will. It just drives the faithful to more extreme viewpoints and defensive anger.

    The first goal, acceptance of scientific discoveries, can be achieved by welcoming and accepting the compatibilist view in society, even if it irks your own sense of reason. Even though the compatilibilist view is not purely rational, neither is thinking that people’s response to direct argument will magically change.

  141. #141 Owlmirror
    February 16, 2012

    I guess you are implying that the first single cell organism(s) or germ(s) that fell to earth (enshrouded in meteorites) did not pop into existence?

    There is no particular reason to think that the first cell fell to Earth at all.

    And no, no one thinks that the first cell just “popped” into existence. Cells are posited as being the end result of a chemical process.

    I’m curious if you as an evolutionist believes that the genesis of all species from a single cell/germ or from single cell types/seeds for each biological species?

    Common descent traces all multicellular species back to primordial eukaryotes, and it’s posited that eukaryotes and prokaryotes are also descended from a common ancestor, given that both use the same nucleotides for their DNA.

    If evolution theory accepts a sequential evolution then I assume that the sequence goes back to the first single celled organisms or germs that fell to earth during the coagulation(s)

    Coagulations?

    Where are you getting your science from, anyway?

    Would evolutionists then not have to agree that homosapien must have all the attributes of the single cell or germ, in a latent state or otherwise,

    Our cells do have much in common with single-celled eukaryotes. That’s because much of our DNA goes into forming the cellular structures that are in common with all eukaryotes.

    awaiting activation by an external force such as a germ in a meteorite or a blast of cosmic radiation?

    No. This is complete nonsense.

    The passing on of genes from ape dad to ape daughter resulting in a slightly different brain structure is implicitly a form of demarcation no matter how minimal the developmental changes appears to be.

    So what? If the changes are indeed minimal, then there will be no huge difference between child and parent. It takes many generations for large differences to accumulate.

    There’s a minimal difference between all parents and children, even now, which just goes to emphasize how slow the evolutionary process is.

    Also, in evolutionist theory, is cloning of a species part of the sequence of evolution?

    Species are not cloned. Individuals are cloned.

    You’re probably aware that there is at least one ancient text which implies that homosapien is a product of cloning and not an evolutionary sequence from pre-homosapien.

    Which ancient text are you talking about?

    And cloning from what, exactly? A clone is a copy. What were the originals?

    Why should I accept your theory over those that were there?

    Because there’s no evidence that ancient myths are true, and because we do in fact share 98% or so of our DNA with chimpanzees, and a similarly large percent with gorillas and orangutans.

    Religion provides a deity concept which ultimately man is supposed to be subservient to, and dependent upon. In many ways, modern science seeks to usurp religion in this role.

    It most certainly does not.

    Modern science tries to figure out what is true about reality by studying reality.

    Both diminish the intrinsic powers and potentiality of man. These powers and potentials will not be awakened by material science but by man himself.

    What does that even mean?

  142. #142 Owlmirror
    February 16, 2012

    Evolution theory takes the feces (remains of species, etc. found on archeological digs)

    Most remains are not feces. Why would you think they were?

    I am more concerned about the “purpose” of the species than a physical evolution or mutation

    What makes you think a species has a purpose?

    Do you really think that early America could have deemed an African as 3/5 of a man without Darwinian science?

    Well, it rather obviously did, because “Darwinian science” did not exist for about another 72 years after that particularly racist clause was included in the Constitution of the United States.

    Really, why do people persist in believing that Charles Darwin had a time machine that let him go back in time and give copies of his book to politicians who lived before he was born?

    My satisfaction is irrelevant as evolution cannot find every single individual in a chain as you have already implicitly stated.

    So what?

    The number of fossils over time does nothing to convince me as I have explained the feces analysis problem above.

    Your feces analysis is indeed full of feces.

    I cannot speak for Bilbo, but in my opinion a flawed “theory” of the pattern of life’s change over time on earth is only marginally “better” than the religious explanation.

    Because you don’t actually care about which one is true?

    The difference is I admit that I don’t have the explanation whereas evolutionists pretend they do as if the theory is an absolute science.

    The theory of evolution is indeed science. I’m not sure what you mean by “absolute”, though.

    Evolutionism cannot reach a level of evidence to prove the theory based upon empirical data,

    Sure it can. Indeed, it already has.

    the best it can hope for is a model (implies incomplete data),

    Data will always be incomplete. That’s why science keeps looking for more data.

    of which in the realm of modern science has led to oil spills, space shuttle disasters, etc.

    It’s also led to the food you eat, and to the computer you’re using to read this message and post your own wandering and confused thoughts here.

    I guess that in looking at homosapiens, I do not accept the premise that man has evolved.

    It’s not a premise; it’s a conclusion.

    And your acceptance does not change the fact that it’s the best conclusion given the evidence.

  143. #143 Anthony McCarthy
    February 16, 2012

    In which case, your complaints that materialistic science is getting the wrong answer and needs to be changed would be unfounded, wouldn’t they? eric

    My pointing out that “materialistic science” gets the wrong answer wasn’t a complaint, it was a simple statement of the clearest fact. The history of science is riddled with faulty ideas that were held as being valid and incomplete information taken as if it was a complete system. I think I’ve recommended the greatly useful blog “Retraction Watch” here before. It’s a great antidote for arrogant scientist syndrome, not to mention a cure for the sci-ranger delusion.
    People are fallible. Scientists are merely people. Therefore….

    If your god created life via purely natural evolution, then that poses all sorts of very large problems for the standard Christian conception of their god. Tulse

    First, Tulse, you assume I’m a Christian when I’m not. Second you assume that I wouldn’t assume that Christians are incapable of having wrong ideas about God when I don’t exclude them. Considering the huge range of thinking that is called “Christian”, everything from George Fox to the tire biters you can hear on the radio today, that wouldn’t be possible.

    That said, though, I look at both the Jewish Law and the gospel of Jesus and see a program of conduct for human beings to follow, not some grand cosmology or statements about biology. I’d take being governed by the gospel of Jesus than I would any atheistic scheme of ethics any time, however. Materialism is incapable of addressing moral exigencies.

    God is not “my God” or anyone’s God. No one’s conception of God is adequate, far more inadequate than the quite inadequate concept of the universe anyone holds.

  144. #144 Anthony McCarthy
    February 16, 2012

    I agree that rationally, evolution and theism are incompatible. Flying apple

    You can assert that all you want, the existence of religious evolutionary scientists is a definitive refutation of that.

    I’m wondering what is this emotional inability to just accept the clear fact that atheists are wrong about the existence of people who accept the idea of theistic evolution. The clear fact is that the vast majority of people who accept evolution are religious believers, most of whom believe in a creator God. You guys pretend that that phenomenon doesn’t exist when it’s about the most obvious political fact about evolution as it exists today.

    If what you’re calling “theistic evolution” wasn’t wide spread, there would be fewer than 10% of the population who accepted evolution as a fact. Atheists who accept evolution are a distinct minority in both those who accept it and the wider population who could be convinced of it. The new atheist agitation has done more to convince people to reject evolution than to accept it.

    I think the new atheism is a symptom of serious emotional problems, conceit being a good part of it.

  145. #145 Wow
    February 16, 2012

    “I’m wondering what is this emotional inability to just accept the clear fact that atheists are wrong about the existence of people who accept the idea of theistic evolution”

    I’m wondering what universe you’re reading this thread in, since it isn’t the one people here are posting in.

  146. #146 Anthony McCarthy
    February 16, 2012

    wow, if you’re going to serve as an illustration of my point I should point out that you do so voluntarily and unsolicited.

    The best conducted survey I’ve seen on the issue shows that 1.6% if the population in the U.S. identifies themselves as being “atheists”. It’s high time for the majority of people who accept evolution to stop putting up with the small fraction of obnoxious bigots among that 1.6%.

    http://zthoughtcriminal.blogspot.com/2012/02/we-are-16-percent.html

  147. #147 Wow
    February 16, 2012

    So where do I say these idiots don’t exist?

    You’re one of them, ferchissakes. Are you saying that I’m responding to someone I know doesn’t exist???

  148. #148 Verbose Stoic
    February 16, 2012

    Tulse,

    The point also applies — if one is dead one cannot learn and grow, and no benevolent parent would let their child die if it were in their power to save them. (But I thought we were discussing the “sort of God that Christians talk about”, which certainly includes the notion of hell.)

    And this thread and your comment that you started with were about evolution and the problems it poses, which you still go on about. Don’t engage in a Firewall Approach, where you set-up many positions one behind the other, unseen to the outside world, and then just retreat behind the other one when one is breached. I am here to talk about the impact of evolution. I have given my argument. Do you concede the point, so that we can put it aside, or not?

  149. #149 Verbose Stoic
    February 16, 2012

    Tulse,

    So now you are going to push for a more literalist view? Doesn’t he original text get the order of appearance of organisms incorrect?

    And are you saying that that tri-omni theological position is invalid? That would seem to go against a ton of traditional theological thought.

    I’m pushing that we consider the source of the concept we are discussing. I’ve said little about literalist or figurativist views at all. Again, stick with the arguments as made, please.

    As for the latter, it’s eric’s fantasy that we are limited to traditional theological thought, not mine (don’t worry about it, eric, I’ll explain that in some detail later, so don’t leap all over this statement [grin]).. But, again, my point is that if you go back to the source and introduction of the concept, the tri-omnis aren’t there. THEY are the philosphical/theological invention, and yet both you and eric want to insist that this is somehow what the folk Christian believes and what they ought to believe.

  150. #150 eric
    February 16, 2012

    Sep @139 and 140 – I mostly agree with what Owlmirror wrote in response. So if you want my reply to 90% of your individual points, just see his/her posts.

    I am more concerned about the “purpose” of the species than a physical evolution or mutation

    First you have to show that they have a purpose. On what evidence do you base the assertion ‘species have purposes?’

    I cannot speak for Bilbo, but in my opinion a flawed “theory” of the pattern of life’s change over time on earth is only marginally “better” than the religious explanation.

    If by “better” you mean “more philosophically certain,” then you are right, empirical inferences will never get you where you want to go. No scientific theory is “good” on this criteria.

    But the TOE is immensly better than religious beliefs in practical ways. When it comes to manipulating and predicting the behavior of the world around us, TOE beats creationism hands down. If I want to do practical things like find fossils, trace relationships, etc., etc., etc., its TOE all the way. No other idea is even in its league.

    Since science is a practical discipline, we teach TOE.

    Evolutionism cannot reach a level of evidence to prove the theory based upon empirical data, the best it can hope for is a model (implies incomplete data), of which in the realm of modern science has led to oil spills, space shuttle disasters, etc.

    You and AMC both need to learn this: mainstream science is about using the best theory to the available data. We do not wait for “proof.” Absolute certainty is not the goal, nor is it the bar a theory must meet before science accepts it. Theories are tentatively accepted based on the data at hand, and are revised if/when future data does not fit it. A good model is a spectacular success for science, not a failure.

  151. #151 Verbose Stoic
    February 16, 2012

    Kel,

    If theology is not stupid, then show its validity. The merits of science and philosophical analysis are fairly apparent, but what knowledge has theology given us? How is it any different from the “insights” of astrology? How is it anything other than unicorn metaphysics?

    The Problem of Evil is a theological argument. That evolution contradicts Christianity is a theological argument. Theology’s main job is to clarify the concept of God so that we can talk about it; are you really saying you find that stupid and invalid? Then toss out 90% at least of all atheist discussions about God.

    It’s not like Jason is making any statement on the same magnitude as Bilbo’s, nor did he make it without any attempt at substantiation.

    My point is this:

    You are right to point out that arguments from implausibility can be seen also as arguments from personal incredulity. Despite the arguments Jason puts out, I’m not convinced that he really has the former and not the latter. It doesn’t matter if Jason argues more if his arguments don’t rise to the required level, and I suspect that they don’t. That’s all I’m trying to say: that Jason may well be vulnerable to the same charge, as that’s always the risk when you rely on implausibility.

  152. #152 Verbose Stoic
    February 16, 2012

    eric,

    Now, in the 19th century we discovered an extra three billion years of bonus suffering, not forseen by the Christian theologians who fashioned the traditional conception of God. That’s a 10,000-fold increase in the theodicy problem.

    If a 10,000-fold increase in suffering and misery isn’t “too much” to call the traditional conception of God into question, how much is?

    And you somehow missed the part in what you quoted that I called is a major philosophical/theological question? How is that NOT calling it into question to say that it calls it into question?

    See, it seems to me that when you say “call into question” you DON’T mean “make you wonder or doubt or question” but instead mean “outright reject it without any further consideration just like I do”. Sorry, but I’m not ready to go there yet.

    And faced with this nonchange, honestly why should I believe that your statement that there is some ‘too much’ limit at all? It certainly looks like no amount of suffering will shake your traditional conception of God. If this is the case, if you’re going to believe in a good God come what may, you might as well chuck all that deep philosophical apologetics out the window. Its just reasoning back from a preset conclusion, rather than forward from evidence as you pretend.

    The problem is that you base the claim that this is so massive that you can’t believe that I, again, am not just agreeing with you on presumptions I don’t have. Being Stoic leaning, I consider suffering an indifferent for the most part, and thus it doesn’t have the strong impact logically that it has for you. Additionally, I’m not convinced that the total amount over years matters. That’s a Utiltiarian view and I — and the Christian faith in general — are not Utilitarian. Also, one can ask that if we could decide that every day living can be nasty, brutish and short in the natural world without causing a significant problem why simply extending living beyond this would be. The argument that it is supposed to be done to allow us to develop is the best shot, but it doesn’t work against the argument raised (imperfect world). Like I said, major philosophical/theological question. A lot to unpack here.

  153. #153 Raging Bee
    February 16, 2012

    The history of science is riddled with faulty ideas that were held as being valid and incomplete information taken as if it was a complete system.

    And who, exactly, proved those ideas faulty and offered better ones in their place? Other scientists doing better science, that’s who. Like the anti-rationalist bigot you are, you keep forgetting that part of the history of science.

    And in case there’s any doubt about the depth of Anthony’s bigotry, I’ll just re-paste his comment on the Jessica Ahlquist prayer-banner case:

    It isn’t the court case that is responsible for the bigotry, it’s the blog blather by obnoxious atheists that does that.

    Yep, he really did try to blame atheist bloggers for religious bigotry against (alleged) atheists. There’s really no point in trying to argue anything with someone like him.

  154. #154 Verbose Stoic
    February 16, 2012

    eric,

    So, finally, on your analogy. Let me use it to explain what I’m really doing.

    In the board game Fury of Dracula, Dracula can escape to the sea. Now imagine that someone says that that’s not compatible with Bram Stoker’s Dracula, because vampires can’t cross running water and a sea is that. I go back and point out that since Dracula came to England and had to cross the sea to do it, that the traditional Stoker version of Dracula has that ability. What I’m doing is going back to the source of the concept and saying that in that source — and therefore, in the traditional definition — the argument the other person made isn’t valid; Dracula could always travel by sea. Here, I say nothing about if the game uses the complete definition, or that part of the traditional definition was that putting a consecrated host in a city means the vampire can’t enter the city, etc, etc. When I refer to “traditional definition”, it is about that specific objection and that specific property. In the case of our discussion, that’s about whether this world should be perfect or not, and I say with exceptionally good reason that it should not be.

    That’s why I rather petulantly said that tying everything to the “traditional defintion” was your fantasy, not mine; I’m not tying myself to the traditional definition, but if I can refute an argument without contradicting more modern conceptions by appealing to the source of the concept, that’s absolutely bloody brilliant [grin]. But that doesn’t mean that I’m making any choice or making any universal claims about traditional, modern, literalist, figurativist, or whatever conceptions.

  155. #155 Wow
    February 16, 2012

    “The history of science is riddled with faulty ideas that were held as being valid and incomplete information taken as if it was a complete system.

    And who, exactly, proved those ideas faulty and offered better ones in their place? Other scientists doing better science, that’s who”

    I’m getting one HELL of a sense of deja vu here.

    And worse, I think it was RB and AMC that time, too!

  156. #156 AM
    February 16, 2012

    You and AMC both need to learn this: mainstream science is about using the best theory to the available data. We do not wait for “proof.” eric

    I don’t think I use the word “proof” in relationship with science, certainly not consciously because proof, in that sense of the word, is only possible in mathematics.

    Science is often not about using the best theory or the available data. As Planck famously said, progress in science is measured in funerals because science doesn’t escape the fact that it exists only in the minds of human beings and human beings are full of prejudices and intellectual inertia and other imperfections. Science, as it actually exists at any time, will have all kinds of commonly held holdings that will later be jettisoned and some that will be held for a long, long time before it gets dumped. There is no guarantee during the time that those ideas are held that they will eventually be discovered and junked. Some sciences have a better record than others in cleaning itself up but none of them have a clean record. And that record isn’t always reliable over time. I’ve talked about the problem that ideology plays in creating junk science, often based on no actual evidence and, especially today, the ideology that creates more of this phony substitute for evidence than any other is materialism.

  157. #157 AM
    February 16, 2012

    Raging Bee, go ahead. Paste my entire comments, though. You, as just about every neo-atheist I’ve ever encountered can’t avoid distorting comments dishonestly. New atheism is inherently dishonest.

    How about where I said that Alquist was within her rights to sue for the removal of the banner because of the necessity to maintain the wall of separation between church and state.

  158. #158 Verbose Stoic
    February 16, 2012

    eric,

    (2) Given that there is no evidence for vampires whatsoever, no vamp-believer really has any right to claim their vamp-concept is more “legitimate” than any other. My decision to pay attention to the torch-bearing vamp-believers and ignore the book-reading vamp-believers becomes even more rational. To wit: follower behavior is just about the best proxy criteria I can use to decide who to pay attention to until you come up with a way to tell which vamp-concept exists and which doesn’t.

    What you’re doing here is, in fact, either eliminating conceptual analysis altogther or invalidly tying it to empirical data. Take, again, Stoker-type vampires. I can indeed say that if you’re after a Stoker-type vampire, it will have certain attributes, and that vampires that don’t have those attributes aren’t that type of vampire. And if they aren’t that type of vampire, then we aren’t talking about the same concept. And then the question is what concept are we talking about and which one is more or less relevant.

    For this discussion, we are talking about the Judeo-Christian God at the most inclusive conceptual level, a level similar to the one where we can say that both Stoker-type and Whedon-type vampires are the same concept and Twilight-type vampires might not be. That includes, by necessity, the Garden of Eden story in Genesis. It does not include, by necessity, literal or figurative interpretations of that since there are beliefs that we think, at least, we could rightly call Christian that hold both of those views. So that may be compatible with both. But some things aren’t. And a perfect world, I argued, isn’t. If you want to claim that this world should be perfect you aren’t, in fact, referencing that concept at all anymore. This is perfectly valid, perfectly objective, and possibly debatable. And yet this is what you say I can’t do. To which my reply is “Why not?”.

    And if you just stayed out of the discussions, we’d have no problem. But if you’re going to argue that a certain God CANNOT exist then expect me to ask you to make sure you know what God you’re making that claim about.

  159. #159 Verbose Stoic
    February 16, 2012

    Owlmirror,

    I don’t see how you can possibly do theology without relying on some claimed revelation; if not your own, then someone else’s.

    Isn’t the Garden of Eden story claimed to be revelation?

    So what? I’m doing conceptual analysis and so relying on what they claim are the details and the source of the concept they are talking about. I don’t try to read the Bible and GET revelation, but deal with only what is said in there. Which means that whether they claim to get it from revelation or imagination matters nought to me.

    Parents who are actually loving only “let” their children “struggle and feel pain” because they don’t know how to bring about “learning and growth” in their children without it.

    But they do still interact with their children, and try to help their children avoid excessive or useless struggling and/or pain. Which God has not been observed to do.

    How do you give someone the experience of struggling and feeling pain without them doing so? Technically, it might be possible, but the only way I can think of is through massive direct mental manipulation that would have to implant the memory of it anyway. So what would be the point?

  160. #160 Verbose Stoic
    February 16, 2012

    Wow,

    bet you’re thinking of the Dracula type of vampire, aren’t you. Did you know that the Japanese folklore has a vampire, and it doesn’t have a lot in common with that archetype.

    You also have the vampires in Blade, the ones in Underlworld (with Kate in it), or the ones in Twilight.

    So do you REALLY know what a Vampire is without knowing they exist?

    You make the mistake of presuming that the natural language word always maps to one and only one concept. This, of course, is not true, which is why there’s something interesting in your comment to address. So, let’s take your categories. A first blush examination could give us these concepts for the word “vampire”: VampireS, VampireJ, VampireB, VampireU, VampireT and VampireW (for Whedon’s concept in the Buffyverse). There are differences between all of them, so we could do that. But as we analyzed the concepts, we would discover that some of them really are subconcepts of the same concept, like VampireS and VampireW. So they’re both VampireS. Perhaps the same thing could be said for VampireB and VampireU as well (I haven’t watched those movies). It likely could not be said for VampireJ and maybe not for VampireT. And so doing that we have VampireS, VampireJ, and VampireT left as concepts. And I can know, then, what those concepts are even if none of them exist, because I can outline their attributes that make them VampireS and not Vampire J.

    So, yes, still sure.

    And you do know that that statement also supports the idea that just because you know what God is doesn’t mean he actually exists, right?

    Absolutely. Where did I suggest otherwise?

  161. #161 Raging Bee
    February 16, 2012

    Anthony: if there’s anythying in your comments that justifies or excuses that blatantly dishonest scapegoating BS I quoted of yours, why don’t you quote it yourself?

    The answer is simple: you’re bluffing with an empty hand — not to mention an empty head.

  162. #162 AM
    February 16, 2012

    “Theory of Everything”

    AM: I’ll make a deal, if Sean will answer the question I put to him, I won’t post another comment here.

    Is there a single object that physics knows comprehensively and exhaustively?

    Sean Carroll: Anthony @ 21: “No.”

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2010/09/23/the-laws-underlying-the-physics-of-everyday-life-are-completely-understood/

    Physics doesn’t have a theory of everything about any single object, it’s not going to have one about “Everything” any time in the near future. I’d guess our species will be extinct before much more progress is made.

    I wonder how, since the basic laws of mathematics and logic cannot be absolutely closed how anything dealing with the physical universe will. I seem to remember Hawking saying something to the effect that a TOE was not possible, before he decided it was. It’s certainly a far, far more difficult thing to get absolute closure in physical science. Perhaps you should answer that question before making assertions about a “TOE” being in hand.

  163. #163 Raging Bee
    February 16, 2012

    …progress in science is measured in funerals because science doesn’t escape the fact that it exists only in the minds of human beings and human beings are full of prejudices and intellectual inertia and other imperfections.

    As opposed to progress in religion, which is measured…how?

  164. #164 Wow
    February 16, 2012

    “You make the mistake of presuming that the natural language word always maps to one and only one concept”

    Nope.

    I made the mistake that you were a single person, not a multitude. Multiple personality disorder wasn’t considered, but here you are saying that this is in fact the case with you.

  165. #165 Pierce R. Butler
    February 16, 2012

    wowbagger @ # 39: I’m yet to encounter a god that would fit the criteria of ‘worthy of worship’ …

    I would get down on my knees before Ishtar or Aphrodite or Freya in a flash.

    Unfortunately, I have yet to encounter any of them (though certain humans have come close enough ;-) …).

  166. #166 Raging Bee
    February 16, 2012

    Getting back to the original topic (that’s another hint for a certain threadjacking one-trick crank), there’s really no such thing as “theistic evolution,” any more than there’s a “theistic gravitation” or a “theistic heliocentrism.” There’s evolution, and there’s people (scientists and non-scientists) who have wisely adjusted their religious beliefs to accomodate the observable reality. (If you try to adjust the science instead, you’re not a “theistic evolutionist” anymore, you’re a creationist.)

    “Theistic evolution” is a theological exercise, not a scientific one.

  167. #167 Raging Bee
    February 16, 2012

    How about where I said that Alquist was within her rights to sue for the removal of the banner because of the necessity to maintain the wall of separation between church and state.

    Anthony, you lied about who was to blame for religious bigotry, and you lied with clear malicious intent. NOTHING ELSE you said will ever justify or excuse that. Take your bigoted lies, and your phony learned blather, and shove it back where it came from.

  168. #168 Anthony McCarthy
    February 16, 2012

    Raging Bee (is that a reference to the cheap handgun of the same name?), as Jason has asked that I not mix it up with you I’ll not answer. I think he asked something similar of you.

  169. #169 Jason Rosenhouse
    February 16, 2012

    Raging Bee —

    Last warning. If you can’t comment civilly then don’t comment at all.

  170. #170 Wow
    February 16, 2012

    Rather odd that you single out RB when AMC is footling around with num de plums to avoid censure for spamming and have NO PROBLEM WHATSOEVER with his vapid repeats of unsubstantiated bullcrap derailing whatever thread he sits on, which is one of the definitions of TROLLING…

    And guess what Trolling is done for?

  171. #171 eric
    February 16, 2012

    VS @152:

    See, it seems to me that when you say “call into question” you DON’T mean “make you wonder or doubt or question” but instead mean “outright reject it without any further consideration just like I do”. Sorry, but I’m not ready to go there yet.

    I mean: if your opinion doesn’t change based on such new data, I have no reasonable expectation that it will change based on any data. I’m not asking for a 180 degree flip; I see no evidence of any change at all.

    When I refer to “traditional definition”, it is about that specific objection and that specific property. In the case of our discussion, that’s about whether this world should be perfect or not, and I say with exceptionally good reason that it should not be.

    If your God-conception is data-based and not merely a conclusion looking for supporting evidence, the fact that the world isn’t perfect should eliminate some conceptions as unviable or less viable. Specifically, conceptions that combine absolute, power, knowledge, and desire for a perfect world.

    But the data doesn’t appear to eliminate that conception in believers. Instead what happens is a sort of defensive redefinition: ‘my God concept includes omnipotence, omniscence, benevolence, and an imperfect world. You must start there, and tell me why I should change that conception based on modern evolutionary discoveries.’

    The reply to that is: no, I don’t need to start there. Because starting there is irrational. Anyone who starts there is arguing circularly: they are assuming a conception is viable when the entire point of the theological discussion was to determine whether it was or not.

    Intead of premising that the Christian god-concept is consistent with an imperfect world because the bible claims it is, start with all those properties of god independent of the state of the world, and argue as to why those properties are consistent with what we see in the world.

    Look, “…and is consistent with the existence of evil” can be a premise, or it can be a conclusion. But if you claim it as a premise, you cannot tell me you arrived at it via rational argument. Citing the garden of eden story makes it a premise. If that’s what you consider it, you cannot then claim to have arrived at consistency via philosophical argument.

  172. #172 ildi
    February 16, 2012

    I’m surprised as to who you’re identifying as the primary problem child, Jason…

  173. #173 Raging Bee
    February 16, 2012

    Jason: I’m still waiting for you to tell Anthony to stop spewing bigoted lies about atheists and scientists. If you’re cool with that kind of trolling, and think lying is more “civil” than calling out liars, then I’ll be happy to bugger off and leave you to your own “Monument” thread. Your blog, your call.

  174. #174 Raging Bee
    February 16, 2012

    Oh, and your earlier warning was allegedly prompted by my violating a “no profanity” rule. Now you’re warning me again, even though I’m not using any profanity? Your operating rules are a bit unclear here.

  175. #175 Rev.Enki
    February 16, 2012

    Maybe it’s time to explicitly lay down some of the beliefs necessary to believe a maximally benevolent, omniscient, omnipotent god created the universe as it is.

    Note: one important premise for the following is that a lack of suffering is something that a benevolent diety would prefer. If your definition of benevolence includes the possibility of indifference to suffering, then we have a very deep schism on our hands, with respect to ethics, morality, and the english language.

    1. A maximally benevolent god would only choose to create the best of all possible worlds, with “best” defined as “most compatable with maximal benevolence.”

    2. The measure of the goodness of a possible world is a function of all the parameters relevant to god’s benevolence.

    3. The world we are in, if created by such a god, is necessarily a member of the set of best possible worlds, as described above.

    4. Since our world, being one of the maximally good possible worlds, contains suffering, some of the parameters used to measure the goodness of a possible world cannot be independently maximized. The typical defense of suffering in the world is that it’s necessary for the existance of a necessary amount/existance of another good. Usually this other good is said to be “free will.” It seems likely that there are other relevant parameters that might have similar interrelationships, and that the whole function is likely to become incredibly complicated. God, being omnipotent and omniscient, is able to find all possible exact solutions to the problem.

    5. Since there are parameters which cannot be simultaneously maximized, it is necessary for god to apply a weighting system to all relevant parameters such that the weighting of all parameters relevant to the goodness of the possible world are greater than zero.

    6. If this reality isn’t to fall onto one of Euthyphro’s horns and die an agonizing death, there must be an objectively best possible weighting scheme for all parameters possibly relevant to a world’s goodness. If there weren’t, then God could pick from all possible worlds (barring only those that were dominated by another with respect to *all* possible goodness parameters) and work backward to a weighting solution.

    7. If there is a best of all possible weighting schemes, there must be a non arbitrary system for the objective evaluation of the goodness all possible weighting schemes that is not circular with respect to the solution to the creation of the best possible world.

    8. …

    Arbitrarily large number greater than 8: profit!

  176. #176 Raging Bee
    February 16, 2012

    Look, “…and is consistent with the existence of evil” can be a premise, or it can be a conclusion. But if you claim it as a premise, you cannot tell me you arrived at it via rational argument.

    Technically, an assertion can be both: the conclusion of one argument can serve as a premise for another. And actually, citing the Garden of Eden story kinda makes it a conclusion — though a Bible story is such a weak premise that any conclusion based on it might just as well be a belief pulled from one’s nether regions. (See, Jason, I’m still in compliance with your no-cursing rule!)

    I’m not following this particular sub-debate, I’m just adding an importrant technical quibble.

  177. #177 Wow
    February 16, 2012

    “4. Since our world, being one of the maximally good possible worlds, contains suffering”

    Thereby not being maximally good possible to an omnipotent creator…

  178. #178 Raging Bee
    February 16, 2012

    If your definition of benevolence includes the possibility of indifference to suffering, then we have a very deep schism on our hands, with respect to ethics, morality, and the english language.

    Actually, benevolence CAN include a certain tolerance for suffering; as when humans protect ecosystems and endangered species while allowing individual creatures to suffer in competition so that only the strongest survive and reproduce. Also, a father who allows his kid to ride a bike, knowing he might fall and hurt himself, is generally not considered less than benevolent.

    It is possible for a benevolent God(s) to allow humans to suffer so that we might learn from collective experience. But that would be a God who values us as a species, not individually.

  179. #179 Wow
    February 16, 2012

    “Your operating rules are a bit unclear here.

    Posted by: Raging Bee | February 16, 2012 1:12 PM”

    This happens often on blogs and scienceblogs are not immune. Over at Casaubong’s Book the blogroll owner slags people off for slagging people off, if they’re not friends. But friends? That’s OK.

    Then getting really pissed off when the moral high ground doesn’t exist, ‘cos she’s just bulldozed it to make a nice wall of privilege.

  180. #180 Rev.Enki
    February 16, 2012

    Re Wow: well, it is if you use the Aquinas style definition of omnipotent: the ability to do all things that are logically possible. That’s the one I assumed here, because there really isn’t any other one that they could mean and be coherent at all

  181. #181 Raging Bee
    February 16, 2012

    Wait, there’s a cheap handgun named after me? Wow, just think how much more famous I’ll be after my novel gets published!

  182. #182 Wow
    February 16, 2012

    By that you mean “a definition of omnipotent that doesn’t exist, but is ret-conned to fit the required definition for me to be right!”.

    Right?

  183. #183 Raging Bee
    February 16, 2012

    Wow: Is Anthony a friend of Jason’s? That might explain some things, but if that were so, an honest admission would go a long way toward making things right. I have my own blog, and a certain small core of friends, and I can’t really pretend I’m equally fair toward everyone all the time, though I do try. It happens.

  184. #184 RevEnki
    February 16, 2012

    Well, if so, it was retconned a very long time ago. This is an argument the christian faithful have been having for as long as there were christian faithful. The definition I gave is the one favored by virtually all the semi-philosophical apologists, on the grounds that it’s the only one that can be evaluated at all and yet still mean “very powerful.” It comes down to this, and even most of the apolgists will say some version of this: just because you can put words together in such a way as to suggest a “thing” someone may or may not beable to do, that doesn’t actually mean it really *is* a thing you can, or can’t do. It might not be a “thing” at all. Can god have colorless green ideas? What would a colorless green idea be? Is it an actual thing, or is it just a grammatically correct, epistemologically unevaluable “thing?”

  185. #185 Rev.Enki
    February 16, 2012

    Anyway, all I’m really doing is saying that there is no non-arbitrary, non-circular, non- infinitely regressing solution to the problem of evil that doesn’t fall straight into the face of Euthryphro’s dilemma. What is “good” both respect to god, and with respect to his creation? If we arbitrarily define one or both of these to be “good” we’re just making the word good redundant and meaningless, at least with respect to them. If we say there is an external, discoverable “good,” then a maximally benevolent god is subject to it, constrained by it. This relegates god to a different sort of role. In that sort of cosmos, god isn’t an executive at all. He’s just a very good technician, at best. Though maybe you could still say that he could make a decision whether or not to create the world at all. But that’s only true if this universe, and no-universe are equally “good.” In which case, the question of “why is there something rather than nothing” is, for that sort of believer, just arbitrary. Could have gone either way. Doesn’t even matter.

    But in actually creating a world, a maximally benevolent god would have very little choice (except, possibly, between all equally maximized possible worlds).

    And nobody, no matter what they have claimed, has ever solved this dilemma for any god that’s much like the standard christian god. Not even William Lane Craig, whose definition of god as “goodness personified” is almost exactly equivalent to cramming one of the horns into a particular cavity up to the hilt and saying “what horn?”

  186. #186 Jason Rosenhouse
    February 16, 2012

    Raging Bee —

    I don’t know Anthony McCarthy from Adam. I don’t even know if that’s his real name. But I don’t see anything bigoted or line-crossing in his comments here, and they all seem relevant to the post. What I do know is that he’s been far more respectful of my wishes about not commenting excessively than you have been. So knock it off. You don’t have to answer every single comment that someone leaves, and I’m tired of having my Recent Comments bar filled with your ranting. Learn to let things drop. The next time Anthony says something you don’t like, just shake your head sadly and get on with your life.

  187. #187 Wow
    February 16, 2012

    “Anyway, all I’m really doing is saying that there is no non-arbitrary, non-circular, non- infinitely regressing solution to the problem of evil that doesn’t fall straight into the face of Euthryphro’s dilemma.”

    I guess that’s what we’re saying too. Except we then go on to the conclusion of that realisation and notice that evolution and the Christian God is incompatible.

    Now a god who ISN’T the Christian one might be there. The African natives have local gods that, though powerful, are not omniescent and many folk heroes cheat the gods to their benefit. Norse too.

    But a limited god isn’t the Christian one.

    PS Jason, The next time Raging Bee says something you don’t like, just shake your head sadly and get on with your life.

  188. #188 Flying Apple
    February 16, 2012

    Actually, benevolence CAN include a certain tolerance for suffering; as when humans protect ecosystems and endangered species while allowing individual creatures to suffer in competition so that only the strongest survive and reproduce. Also, a father who allows his kid to ride a bike, knowing he might fall and hurt himself, is generally not considered less than benevolent.

    I would argue that benevolence is relative to the choices available. Conservationists try to preserve endangered species in both zoos and in wildlife preserves because those are the best options available to them. Parents let their children get hurt playing because it is the best way they have to teach them the skills that they cannot protect them from needing later on in life. The choices involve suffering, but are benevolent choices because the agents believe they involve less suffering than the alternatives.

    It is possible for a benevolent God(s) to allow humans to suffer so that we might learn from collective experience. But that would be a God who values us as a species, not individually.

    This argument ignores the question at hand, which is whether a God that does not have better choices for creating people ingrained with the lessons learned from suffering is truly the creator of the entire system (ie, created all of the conditions and constraints that require suffering for a property to be acheived), or whether such a God is truly benevolent if it has better choices but chooses against them.

  189. #189 Raging Bee
    February 16, 2012

    The comment section is filled with MY ranting? That’s absolutely hilarious.

  190. #190 Rev.Enki
    February 16, 2012

    Anyway, with theistic evolution, it seems to me that the problems I see arise from the confluence of three ideas, as the original post already laid out pretty well.

    1. God is at least very, very powerful and creative, and could have poofed our bodies into existence in a well-engineered form.

    2. God didn’t do this. He evolved us in forms that are subject to more suffering than would be the case if we were better engineered virtual reality devices for souls.

    3. God cares about human bodily suffering, and minimizes it to the extent that it can be minimized.

    The argument goes away completely if you deny at least one of the above. If you hold all three to be true, you have to start throwing in some other, previously unconsidered premises to try to salvage your beliefs. And much ad hockery ensues. Above, I was implicitly assuming that this ad hockery is completely equivalent to the problem of evil as a whole, and that there is no solution to this problem for anything much like the Christian god. The premises you have to take on in the attempt get quite difficult to swallow, seem to have no basis other than their necessity for salvaging the christian god hypothesis, and might not work out anyway. I’m not so sure theistic evolution actually is compatable with the christian god at all.

  191. #191 Kel
    February 16, 2012

    The Problem of Evil is a theological argument.

    J.L. Mackie and Stephen Law are theologians now?

    Theology’s main job is to clarify the concept of God so that we can talk about it; are you really saying you find that stupid and invalid? Then toss out 90% at least of all atheist discussions about God.

    My question was to show something meaningful theology has contributed to knowledge. If you’re just going to use philosophy of religion as the marker for validity, then you’ve picked a narrow part of the discipline by which to push the entire one. Why can’t we just have the philosophical analysis?

  192. #192 Anthony McCarthy
    February 16, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy is my name, I have never met Jason, I’m sure he’s got enough troubles without anyone accusing him of being a friend of mine.

    And, no, you’re not likely to find anything about me online except my blog history because I am self-employed, keep my name out of the news and I do not conduct any business online. Though I’m aware that someone has tried before, a Republican troll who hates my politics.

  193. #193 Wow
    February 16, 2012

    “1. God is at least very, very powerful and creative”

    Then he’s not omnipotent and cannot create from nothing. Hence not the Christian God.

    His actions are circumscribed by all the things he doesn’t do. Since he doesn’t do anything, the things he doesn’t do is everything. Hence this God does exactly what a nonexistent god does. Nothing.

  194. #194 Rev.Enki
    February 16, 2012

    Ha. I think you think we’re arguing, but we aren’t. We believe basically the same thing. Maybe I’m being unclear, I don’t know. I’m being as clear as I can manage under the current circumstances, with circumstances fairly broadly defined (probably making the protestation meaningless, but anyway…)

    Anyway, I’m saying that theistic evolution isn’t a very good fit even for a not omnipotent god. And that’s a defense that some apologists, particularly the armchair version, very well might throw out at some point. Theistic evolution (and, really, all sorts of other untidy realities) is a problem for any god that’s at least powerful enough and knowledgable enough and benevolent enough to have done better, known better, and wanted to. No “omnis” are even required.

    When you try to throw “omnis” around, or anything even vaguely close to them, things get even worse, no doubt. But you don’t even need to go there. The questions are: 1) could he have done better? 2) did he know whether he could have done better? and 3) is there such thing as “better?” and 4) if so, does god care? The christian god clearly should answer “yes” to all four. Theistic evolution or otherwise. And that’s enough to get them deeply mired in the problem. All the problems.

    As for me, I just can’t help but get sidetracked by all the silly things you have to believe as a consequence of believing in a maximally benevolent god who can create universes, and heavens, and hells, and the like. Here’s one example, since I can’t seem to shut up about it. Sooner or later, a believer will throw out the idea that this life really doesn’t matter, except in that it determines whether you spend eternity in heaven (and/or sometimes in hell, if their theology includes it). The sort of questions and consequences that arise, for me, include:

    This world, then, should be maximized with respect to getting more people in heaven (and, possibly, fewer in hell). So, is this measured on a heaven/hell ratio? Or a heaven/annihilation ratio? Or is this an absolute value of heavenly happiness such that it’s dominated purely by the number of people who make it to heaven? If it’s the latter, then is there a finite maximum number of people who can enjoy heaven, or could god always create one more person and increase the expected value of the universe? Even if there is only a small probability of any new creation going to heaven, every single created person increases the expected value of creation (assuming somehow that human free will and all the omnis were actually compatable). It would seem that there would, then, never be a maximally good universe, but that it approaches infinite goodness as human population approaches infnity.

    If it’s the heaven/hell ratio, then we must assume that the ratio itself is affected by the number of people created, because otherwise there wouldn’t be much universal goodness to be gained by any given population increase. That is, unless the ratio is somehow constrained by universal laws, logic, etc. such that it is maximized over the particular timeline god chose from all possible timelines.

    It just gets sillier, from there.

  195. #195 Owlmirror
    February 16, 2012
    I don’t see how you can possibly do theology without relying on some claimed revelation; if not your own, then someone else’s.

    Isn’t the Garden of Eden story claimed to be revelation?

    So what? I’m doing conceptual analysis and so relying on what they claim are the details and the source of the concept they are talking about.

    But would you be doing this conceptual analysis if someone had not claimed that it was revelation?

    Would you be just as fulfilled doing conceptual analysis on the gods of the Greek and/or Roman and/or Egyptian and/or Hindu and/or Mesoamerican pantheons?

    I don’t try to read the Bible and GET revelation, but deal with only what is said in there.

    Obviously not, else you would not be trying to find metaphorical interpretations for the Garden of Eden story.

    Which means that whether they claim to get it from revelation or imagination matters nought to me.

    Hence the analogy between gods and vampires; sure. Would you say that vampirology and theology are fundamentally the same sort of thing?

    Is there any particular reason that you prefer theology to mythography, say?

    How do you give someone the experience of struggling and feeling pain without them doing so?

    Is the point the experience of struggling and feeling pain, or is it the learning and growth?

    Technically, it might be possible, but the only way I can think of is through massive direct mental manipulation that would have to implant the memory of it anyway.

    I note that the Garden of Eden story does not mention Adam or Eve struggling to learn how to walk, or how to speak. They were simply poofed into being with those skills.

    So what would be the point?

    Well, it could presumably be done with the minimum necessary amount of pain, rather than the typical excess observed in real life.

  196. #196 Bilbo
    February 16, 2012

    Eric @ 135: You know all that without even reading the abstracts?

    Yes, because if the researchers had succeeded in producing proteins in this way, they would have won the nobel prize and been celebrated above every known biologist in history.

    Sigh. Last post you were sure no plausible mechanisms existed. Now you are sure the plausible mechanisms that exist don’t represent natural conditions. Makes me wonder…what’s the next fallback position that Bilbo will be sure of tomorrow?

    I didn’t fall back. If the “plausible mechanisms” don’t represent natural conditions, then they aren’t plausible, are they?

  197. #197 Bilbo
    February 16, 2012

    Eric @ 135: You know all that without even reading the abstracts?

    Yes, because if the researchers had succeeded in producing proteins in this way, they would have won the nobel prize and been celebrated above every known biologist in history.

    Sigh. Last post you were sure no plausible mechanisms existed. Now you are sure the plausible mechanisms that exist don’t represent natural conditions. Makes me wonder…what’s the next fallback position that Bilbo will be sure of tomorrow?

    I didn’t fall back. If the “plausible mechanisms” don’t represent natural conditions, then they aren’t plausible, are they?

  198. #198 Septepenra
    February 16, 2012

    Eric @150

    Thanks for the method of your response. I won’t even dignify the person, “howling” in the “mirror” like a religious fanatic, with a response.

    Funny how my questions were cherry-picked to help disguise the obvious flaws in the TOE.

    You respond to my assertion that evolutionism primarily addresses the physical aspects of the species (the feces) as does modern science. Let me give you another example of what is meant by “feces” in “Sacred Science” terms. If you eat a piece of sugar cane, you do not get drunk, but if you strip off the bark (bagasse, squeeze the juice out of the inner pulp, boil the juice, ferment, separate the ferment and alcohol by distillation, you end up with alcohol (rum), spirits. The bagasse is thrown away, used for fertilizer, burnt, etc. The pulp and bagasse is the feces which tells you nothing about the rum spirit, just as the physical or fossilized remains of dead organisms is the feces which evolution science analyzes and uses to draw its incomplete conclusions.

    Modern science deviated from “Sacred Science” by moving from a holistic approach to a science that deals with feces alone, as evolution science does. Again, this is why evolution will always be an incomplete and flawed science.

    You contradict yourself in stating that science Darwin Theory came after the constitution of the USA as if Darwin lived in a bubble with no access to the writing (including) the bible that came before him. Darwin was just the tool who eventually spewed it from his mouth as a scientific theory.

    In terms of the shortfalls of modern science which you have admitted, if the Ancient Egyptians (Kemetics, Kemt meaning black land and Kem meaning black, the origin of Al-Kemi, Al-Chemi and Chemistry or the Kemt-mystery) would have used modern science, the pyramids would have collapsed upon them. Again, in terms of demarcation, modern science (as is modern religion) is a bastardization of the science used by the ancients: “Sacred Science”. Evolutionists put evolution science on the same pedestal as the science of physics but I do not have to believe in gravity, I know it exists, just as the “Sacred Scientists” knew of its existence. Through myth, as evolutionists have referred to it, gravity is the Neter “Set”, which later was corrupted into the religious Satan. Through the Medu Neter (hieroglyphics), “Sacred Scientists”, conveyed the wave-particle theory of light, millennia before modern science even existed. The “Sacred Scientists” and indeed all ancients, never considered the world to be flat, they knew the earth was spherical as again depicted in the Medu Neter. But evolution concludes that modern man (and apparently) modern science is the most “evolved” in the sequence. Bullocks!

    Mathematics (derived from the Neter Maat) also rests upon the scale’s fulcrum. Evolutionists’ use of mathematics to derive models and to calculate statistical probabilities is a corruption of mathematics, which is based upon proof. In mathematics, one divided by two is always one-half.. this is absolute, it can be proved, as compared to evolution science. In terms of sequence, religion and evolution science are the same, they both start counting at one, one god and one common ancestor respectively. “Sacred Science” as do I, count from zero, nothing and infinity at the same time.

    In terms of “purpose of species”, there is an ecological system in which each species fulfills its “purpose” in order to keep the ecological balance. For example, pesticide kills birds and the balance shits to an increase in insect population. Evidence?…I would think your “purpose” would be self-evident.

    You did not address my question regarding what “value” is created by evolution science. There is no “value” created by evolution science. By just stating that it’s better than religion or that AMC and I do not have a better explanation (water is healthier to drink than alcohol, but they both can kill you) is a distraction from the shortfalls and is not a justification for pursuit of the TOE. Evolutionists appear to worship modern science, in particular evolution science as religious person worships a god. I am a chemical engineer but I do not worship or put my full faith in modern science and certainly not in the TOE. I understand the limitations of modern physical science. TOE science can be viewed in the same light as classical economic science and we know how well it did with its theories/models in predicting the recent economic collapse.

  199. #199 eric
    February 16, 2012

    Sep @198: Thank you for explaining your thoughts. Should anyone unfamiliar with anti-evolution arguments stop by Jason’s blog site or ask me what the anti- side is like, I will strongly recommend they read your post.

  200. #200 JF Fortier
    February 16, 2012

    To Rev. Enki

    You’ll understand that for the sake of the argument, I’ll assume a different God than the one you imagine in order to prove he can’t exist. I’ll assume he exists and why we can still have an evolutionary process going on. It is not that it is complicated, but because we complicate things, I’ll have to explain in details why our reasoning fails to conciliate God and Evolution in a logical way.

    Basically, you are questioning why is everything not perfect since the beginning, why God would need to pass by a gradual evolutionary process if he is really God.

    First, the uncreated perfection you think God should care about, well God already had it. It is not necessarily perfection, it is what it is, but from our perspective, we would probably use the word perfection if we could see it… I use uncreated perfection in opposite to gradual evolution because evolution has NO choice to be caused by obstacles and to be gradual. You cannot have spontaneous evolution if there is nothing that forces you to evolve. And what forces you to do something is rarely a funny thing. So you rather evolve or you are born perfect. You suggest that we could have evolved in a softer way, but again, the idea of evolution doesn’t fit with softness. That is why God, because he is supposed to be all loving, he wouldn’t have tolerated such a bad idea. Therefore, he doesn’t exist.

    The problem with this argument is that there are a lot of disguised assumptions that are made about God. But I’ll comeback to this later because we first need to realize that if God exists, it means there are different planes of reality, that existence isn’t monorealistic and so is consciousness.

    Consciousness, when evolving on a material plane, processes information on a dual mode where reality is mostly grasped through opposites. A lot of implications come with that way of reasoning. The first one is that we cannot think outside the boundaries of that mode, and that brings a tendency to think our mode is absolute.
    Secondly, the concrete manifestation of the boundaries that come with a dual mode are the 2 ends of the spectrum of opposites we see everywhere such as day/night, left/right (in politics too), +/-, high/low, beauty/ugliness, man/female, good/evil, objective/subjective, finite/infinite, etc… . I know, it is hard to believe that those oppositions aren’t real by themselves. And that is not exactly what I’m saying. I’m saying that they are not absolute boundaries, that they are seen as such because of some mind disposition (dualism), the time/space plane in which we live and language.

    We think in terms of words. So when the concept of perfection comes to our mind, we believe that such a concept exists for real, even if only in our imagination. What I mean is that it doesn’t come to our mind that it is the product of a dual processing that has no reality outside the mind that is thinking about it. So when we imagine that God must be perfect, or if he is this or that, he should do this or that, we don’t realize that we are limited to a dual reasoning to which God isn’t subjected. That is what the myth of the fruit of knowledge of what is good and evil is trying to tell us.

    Now, I’m more eastern than western when it comes to God. So I don’t think that God is separated from its creation. In other words, we are borrowing right now our consciousness from God’s mind. We imagine we are separated from him because of time, space and our body. And because of that, we think that concepts like perfection, suffering and benevolent can’t co-exist within the same entity. But if the life that struggles hard to survive through hard conditions, if that life is itself God that remains simultaneously uncreated and beyond opposites, then the suffering is imaginary. It is only a bad moment that was caused by god to himself. By fragmenting itself through time and space, God plays seek and hide. That is why Evolution tends to increase more complexity and more self-awareness. Consciousness wants badly to know where it comes from and it does everything it can to achieve its goal.

    That is my belief and if science can dismiss something about it, I’ll adapt my belief. But we have to be honest and admit that evolution can’t reveal anything about wether God exist or not, especially not because of some moral arguments. That has nothing to do with science too…

  201. #201 Owlmirror
    February 17, 2012

    Yes, because if the researchers had succeeded in producing proteins in this way, they would have won the nobel prize and been celebrated above every known biologist in history.

    Ah! Thank you, Bilbo, for providing us with proof positive that so-called “intelligent design” theory must be false. For if any “intelligent design” proponents had succeeded in demonstrating that “intelligent design” theory had any science to it at all, they would have won the Nobel prize and been celebrated above every known biologist in history. This has not happened.

    Therefore, “intelligent design” cannot possibly be true.

  202. #202 Owlmirror
    February 17, 2012

    eric @199: I applaud your wisdom and diplomacy.

  203. #203 Owlmirror
    February 17, 2012

    Septicpenar, your discussion of feces, and of Darwin not living in a bubble with access to the bible (and time-traveling to before he was born, with or without the bible, to spew on the authors of the constitution of the USA), and of conflating Hamitic, Semitic, and Hellenic languages, and of zero being equal to infinity, and the purpose of species leading to balance shits… all these things, and many more besides, have convinced me that discussing anything at all with you is far, far beyond my abilities.

    I sincerely hope that “chemical engineer” only means that they let you clean the fermentation tanks and such. The idea of a mind such as yours being anywhere near where volatile spirits are being produced would lead me to fear for the safety of you, and your co-workers, and the surrounding area.

    You keep safe now, OK?

  204. #204 Verbose Stoic
    February 17, 2012

    eric,

    I think we’re in a major disconnect here, because to me it sounds like you’re saying that you have a specific concept in mind — specifically, one that you can refute with evolution and suffering and an imperfect world — and you will insist on using that concept as the concept of the Christian God no matter what anyone else tells you or demonstrates about the Christian God. I don’t think you intend to say that; I suspect that you are basically reacting to a feeling of having a moving target, where every time you try to refute concept A of God, it shifts to concept B and then to C and so on and so forth. Which is a concern, because some people — theist and atheist — do that sort of argumentation. But you’re also going to have that problem because a) the people you’re arguing with don’t all have quite the same concept of God (mine, for example, is eccentric but I consider it a subconcept of the Christian God concept since it doesn’t vary in essential properties) and b) people do get their own concepts wrong, adding in as essential properties things that are not essential or might not even be present.

    The real problem is that you are so focused on the target, so focused on refuting the concept that you aren’t looking at the path the moving target is taking, and so aren’t interested in clarifying the concept first and then trying to see if it could exist. You want to demonstrate that it doesn’t or, alternatively, want it clearly demonstrated that it does before we even figure out what it is we’re looking for. Now, such back and forths can be useful as long as people are willing to move back to trying to understand when ideas clash.

    In this case, when people stated that God and evolution are incompatible because the world is not perfect — we could, for example, be done better than we are — I went back to the source of the Christian concept — the Bible — and pointed out that right from the beginning the Christian concept includes an imperfect world. If that’s incompatible with the tri-omni God, then I think a really good case could be made that the Christian God is not, in fact, the tri-omni God. I don’t, however, think that’s necessarily so, but that’s a massively complex question and, frankly, we aren’t even at the level of SIMPLE questions yet. But I fail to see why it is invalid for me to go back to the source and point out what that source says in reaction to a refutation attempt. You really need to address that.

  205. #205 Verbose Stoic
    February 17, 2012

    Kel,

    Let’s put aside the questions of what counts as theology and who are theologians for the moment (since I know I have a broader definition than you do). If we limited it, as you say, to philosophical analysis, what do you think would change? While I hate to drag in old arguments, remember that Platinga’s argument that you dislike so much is, in fact, philosophical analysis, and interesting analysis even if it’s wrong. So what would be eliminated if we stuck to philosophical analysis? For me, all good theology JUST IS philosophical analysis …

  206. #206 Verbose Stoic
    February 17, 2012

    eric,

    Let me quickly address the “Start independently from the world” point. First, that’s exactly what people mean when they say that the fields make stuff up. Second, that does no good for a concept that’s already sourced, like the concept of God. Third, that isn’t how the ordinary person views God, and so you’re out on that demand you kept making of me. And finally, that isn’t, in fact, the Christian concept of God at all, since it did start with this passed down story that’s “world infected”. So, in this discussion, you’ve moved from insisting that I stick to a concrete, real-world concept to insisting that I start from an academic, detached concept. How in the world could I do both?

  207. #207 Wow
    February 17, 2012

    “Second, that does no good for a concept that’s already sourced, like the concept of God”

    Really?

    But there’s a concept of zero and we KNOW it doesn’t exist. However, that concept is defined (in mathematics) and the definition precludes it being any other number. It isn’t 1, it isn’t 2, and 3 is well off.

    So with this concept of God, what are the definitions.

    Well that’s where you seem to be making things up.

    ‘cos every time the one defined in KJV is shown to be incompatible by definition with evolution you claim something not in any bible I’ve read (and I’ve read three right through, and another two mostly).

    So where is your concept of God, pre-defined, defined?

  208. #208 eric
    February 17, 2012

    VS:

    But you’re also going to have that problem because a) the people you’re arguing with don’t all have quite the same concept of God (mine, for example, is eccentric but I consider it a subconcept of the Christian God concept since it doesn’t vary in essential properties)…

    I completely agree with this. Which is also why I disagree with you when you say I should ignore regular believers, folk believers, etc…

    …and b) people do get their own concepts wrong, adding in as essential properties things that are not essential or might not even be present.

    This does not make sense to me when it comes to religion. You can certainly argue that if other believers start with the exact same book+revealed truth you do, they should reach the same conclusions. But you have no right to claim they ought to start with the same book+revealed truth. This is the crux of sectarianism: people disagreeing about what the revealed truth (and the book) is.

    Put in philosophical terms, you can show when some other sect’s logic is invalid, but you can never show your own sect’s logic to be sound. In that respect, you cannot claim other (valid) believers are “wrong.”

    Second, that does no good for a concept that’s already sourced, like the concept of God.

    This sounds a lot to me like you’re saying “…and he’s consistent with the existence of evil” is a premise for you. A definitional part of your God-conception, rather than a conclusion based on reasoning from independent evidence. Is that correct?

  209. #209 Verbose Stoic
    February 17, 2012

    eric,

    I completely agree with this. Which is also why I disagree with you when you say I should ignore regular believers, folk believers, etc…

    Well, if you want to talk about a generic God — like the Christian God in general — you do indeed want to look at the original sources and the work of people whose job it is to work out what the concept is, just like you would with physics. As I have already said. Mine, for example, is indeed eccentric but I generally talk about the more generic one except in the specific cases where it is eccentric, point out, then, that it’s eccentric and present my evidence for it, which even if personal still puts it beyond what we’d call a “folk” interpretation. Did that comment on what I mean by folk every show up, BTW?

    This does not make sense to me when it comes to religion. You can certainly argue that if other believers start with the exact same book+revealed truth you do, they should reach the same conclusions. But you have no right to claim they ought to start with the same book+revealed truth. This is the crux of sectarianism: people disagreeing about what the revealed truth (and the book) is.

    But we can always have people disagree about the concepts and their essential and accidental properties, whether we have “revealed” truth or not. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a right way. Philosophically, I tend to ignore revealed truth except as a way of classifying their specific concept. I also don’t see all that many examples theologically of revealed truths that actually impact the essential properties of the concept, so I’d need an example of that before really weighing in. I don’t think what we’re talking about here is such a case.

    Put in philosophical terms, you can show when some other sect’s logic is invalid, but you can never show your own sect’s logic to be sound. In that respect, you cannot claim other (valid) believers are “wrong.”

    In philosophical terms, I don’t consider any sect when I’m figuring out the logic. My sect is just as open to challenge as any other, and taken that way I see no reason why I can’t say that they’re wrong, at least if they are starting from where they say they’re starting.

    This sounds a lot to me like you’re saying “…and he’s consistent with the existence of evil” is a premise for you. A definitional part of your God-conception, rather than a conclusion based on reasoning from independent evidence. Is that correct?

    Nope. I’m saying that if the concept already has a source, and that source is entangled in the world — remember, that was what you were talking about — then I can’t start from an unentangled perspective, since I wouldn’t be talking about that concept anymore.

  210. #210 eric
    February 17, 2012

    VS:

    Philosophically, I tend to ignore revealed truth except as a way of classifying their specific concept.

    If you don’t think Genesis is revealed truth, why reference it at all when developing a conception of God?

    How can you have decided to prefer the bible over the koran, the vedas, or the norse eddas, if not by premising that one faith’s claim to divine revelation is stronger than the others?

    I also don’t see all that many examples theologically of revealed truths that actually impact the essential properties of the concept,

    Holy cow. You have been going on and on and on about how the Eden story means the Christian conception of God must be consistent with evil. If that isn’t “actually impact[ing] the essential properties of the concept,” what is?

    I’m saying that if the concept already has a source, and that source is entangled in the world — remember, that was what you were talking about — then I can’t start from an unentangled perspective, since I wouldn’t be talking about that concept anymore.

    Please explain to me how this is different from taking it as a premise. It sounds awfully similar to “I start with what the book says and reason from there.”

  211. #211 Wow
    February 17, 2012

    Mind you, when screaming xtian fundies are dragged out from an auditorium shouting “Jesus loves you! Go to hell!”, the disconnect VS undergoes is really rather normal.

  212. #212 Verbose Stoic
    February 17, 2012

    eric,

    If you don’t think Genesis is revealed truth, why reference it at all when developing a conception of God?

    Again, we’re talking about analyzing an existing concept, not creating one from scratch. That’s the source for the description of the concept of the Christian God. Do you disagree with that? And if that is the source of the concept, then when talking about that specific concept I’m going to start there. Obviously. And when you or Jason or anyone else is claiming that that conception of God is incompatible with evil or evolution, I’m going to go back to that source to see if the conception really is incompatible. Why does this still escape you? I’ve only said this consistently through the entire subthread.

    How can you have decided to prefer the bible over the koran, the vedas, or the norse eddas, if not by premising that one faith’s claim to divine revelation is stronger than the others?

    You are mixing my belief with my conceptual analysis. When we are talking about the other concepts of god, then I’ll go look at their source books to decide what is and isn’t part of their concept. But here we’re talking about the Christian God, so why would I go to the eddas to find out about that concept?

    Holy cow. You have been going on and on and on about how the Eden story means the Christian conception of God must be consistent with evil. If that isn’t “actually impact[ing] the essential properties of the concept,” what is?

    I’m using the term “essential” in the conceptual sense, which means a property by which if the concept did not have it it wouldn’t be the same concept anymore. Since being consistent with evil or not is derived and is analyzed, it doesn’t qualify as a property at all, let alone one that defines what it means to be that thing. We answer that question by asking if the essential properties of the Christian God are compatible with evil, not by simply defining God to be compatible or incompatible.

    Please explain to me how this is different from taking it as a premise. It sounds awfully similar to “I start with what the book says and reason from there.”

    Except that what I’m saying is “I start from the source of the concept and analyze/examine from there”. Where is it that you propose starting from?

  213. #213 Verbose Stoic
    February 17, 2012

    eric,

    I missed this the first time:

    You have been going on and on and on about how the Eden story means the Christian conception of God must be consistent with evil.

    I never said that. I said that the God from the Garden of Eden story is explicitly compatible with a world that contains some suffering and is not perfect because the story explicitly states that this world will not be perfect. I do not conclude that it must be consistent with “evil” — whatever that means, since you’re changing definitions all the time — since I even explicitly stated that it’s a matter of degree, and that determining that degree is a big philosophical/theological problem. Could you please stop putting arguments in my mouth?

  214. #214 eric
    February 17, 2012

    That’s the source for the description of the concept of the Christian God. Do you disagree with that?

    Genesis is a source for a description of a Christian God. There are many such concepts. Philosophically you can determine their validity but not their soundness; in terms of soundness, all valid conceptions must be considered equally legitimate.

    I’m saying is “I start from the source of the concept and analyze/examine from there”. Where is it that you propose starting from?

    Start by asking whether the source’s concepts are consistent instead of assuming they must be.

    Look, if the Genesis 1 stated that God is both colorless and green, would you respond “we must start with the concept of a colorless green God and analyze from there?”

    Here we have a case of a suffering-permitting omnipotent omniscent benevolent God. For both (the real and illustrative) God-concepts, the right way to proceed is to assess whether the fundamental properties that believers attribute to them form a consistent set, rather than just assuming they must be consistent because believers claim they are fundamental.

    Most importantly, as philosophers we need to understand that “suffering is consistent with God’s properties because the story of Eden includes suffering” is the same as “colorlessness is consistent with greenness because the Genesis says God is colorless and green.” Both are circular and tautological counter-arguments not worth the electrons they take to type out.

  215. #215 Verbose Stoic
    February 17, 2012

    eric,

    Look, if the Genesis 1 stated that God is both colorless and green, would you respond “we must start with the concept of a colorless green God and analyze from there?”

    Yes. And then I’d point out that something can’t be colourless and green and so such a God couldn’t exist, unless someone came up with a very good philosophical argument for how something could have a colour and be green. What’s your problem with that?

    Here we have a case of a suffering-permitting omnipotent omniscent benevolent God. For both (the real and illustrative) God-concepts, the right way to proceed is to assess whether the fundamental properties that believers attribute to them form a consistent set, rather than just assuming they must be consistent because believers claim they are fundamental.

    But you’re forgetting a step, which is, in fact, figuring out what those properties are and what they have to be. If, say, in your example the colourless green part was based on a comment such as “He moved through the Garden and could not be seen against its green foliage”, I think I could make a pretty good case that colourless would make sense and you didn’t need to call Him green, since colourless would have the same property without making Him green. It’s also interesting that in this case you’re using properties that aren’t essential, but are accidental. It doesn’t really mean anything if you get the colour wrong of an object; it’d still be the same object and still existent no matter what colour it was.

    You are presuming the tri-omni God, which as I pointed out IS the academic interpretation that so scares you. Can we have the same concept if it isn’t tri-omni? That’s a fairly in-depth discussion, no?

    Most importantly, as philosophers we need to understand that “suffering is consistent with God’s properties because the story of Eden includes suffering” is the same as “colorlessness is consistent with greenness because the Genesis says God is colorless and green.” Both are circular and tautological counter-arguments not worth the electrons they take to type out.

    You keep forgetting — or, perhaps, ignoring — the context of the discussion. Which was: People argue that there is suffering in the world and so God can’t exist, and I point out that the whole story that originates the debate and defines the whole concept that you are talking about — since it’s the only concept that directly ties to the evolution debate — flatly and point-blank says that this world will have suffering. Again, if the actual source of the concept that we start from to derive everything else says that this isn’t to be a perfect world, that’s a big strike against being able to say “The world isn’t perfect” and expect to have proven the concept incoherent. And you refuse to move beyond that or defend your line other than by accusing me of, well, doing something invalid to the concept, God knows what.

    You started with the Christian God, the God of Genesis. Stop trying to weasel out of dealing with that God when the argument goes against you.

  216. #216 eric
    February 17, 2012

    You are presuming the tri-omni God, which as I pointed out IS the academic interpretation that so scares you. Can we have the same concept if it isn’t tri-omni? That’s a fairly in-depth discussion, no?

    Let’s take a step back. If you don’t think the Christian God is the tri-omni one, why don’t you tell us what the Christian God’s properties are. You can start with negatives: which of the tri-omnis is he not?

    I’ll put aside questions of how politically relevant your conception of God is, if you will tell us what other properties he has and how a world of suffering is consistent with them. No traps here; I’m perfectly willing to conclude that your conception is consistent with suffering, if it is. We can quibble later about how relevant your conception is to the overall believer community.

    Don’t even worry about citation or justification, since those can greatly expand a post; I won’t ask you how you came to the properties you did, initially I just want to know what they are.

  217. #217 Septepenra
    February 17, 2012

    Eric @199

    Still dodging the questions which point out the glaring flaws in the TOE but that is expected. i don’t know why religious folks and evolutionists have any quarrel with each other as they both are apparently unable to defend beliefs.

    Not sure what you mean by ant-side. If it’s my references to Kemt, as you know you can get and a plane, fly to Egypt and actually touch the acomplishments.

    My references to Kemt were merely pointing out that evolutionists posit that their is a sequence of evolution is flawed. Homosapiens have actually devolved in the last 20,000 years. Modern science can not even approach the accomplishments of the ancients.

    At least you are sufficiently evolved enough to have a civil discourse with. Your buddy, the angry old one “hOWLing” at the “mirror”, or rather grunting, will be a good candidate to lead the war against the non-believers of the TOE. he attacks those who do not share his belief with the same furvor and zealatry as a religious believer.

    He admits @77 that he knows nothing about “Sacred Science”, yet dismisses it as myth. I’m sure the chimp would be insulted to hear someone like

    Heck, you may even be able to form an alliance with religions, they could teach you quite a bit about persecuting those who do not accept a doctrine.

    You see, religious believers thought process is dominated by the right hemisphere of the brain, whereas the thought process of those who worship modern science is clearly dominated by the left hemisphere of the brain. As I stated in my original post, the thought process of the “Sacred Scientist” is between the two extremes or brain hemispheres, just as the capstone is at the top of the pyramid, reconciling the opposites.

    Thanks for the discussion as I’ve learned a lot about the mind and behaviour of evoutionists. I probably could not have gained the insight if I dug up Darwin and analyzed his corpse (fossil, feces). LOL

    Hotep

  218. #218 Verbose Stoic
    February 17, 2012

    eric,

    Let’s not take a step back. I have no interest in taking a step back. I am interested in discussing the specific issue here. I am not, in fact, talking about a specific concept of God that applies to me or whatever, nor am I claiming to be able to list all of the specific details of the concept in a single comment. That’s not what this is about. At all.

    Look, I do think that the Christian God concept includes the tri-omnis. I disagree with you that there being suffering is necessarily incompatible with it, as do a great many other people. That’s not what’s at stake here. What’s at stake is that the source that we derived the concept from, the source that started it all, explicitly says that we won’t have a perfect world. Thus, the Christian God spawned from there is compatible with a world that is not perfect no matter how you slice it. It may still be incompatible with this world. It may still be incompatible with other things stated in the Bible, like where you think the tri-omni God comes from. For the purposes of this comment thread I am not claiming either of those compatibilities and am not particularly interested in discussing it, at least not until we can at least get THIS argument straight.

  219. #219 Verbose Stoic
    February 17, 2012

    Apologies for screwing up the italics on the end of that last comment.

  220. #220 eric
    February 17, 2012

    Look, I do think that the Christian God concept includes the tri-omnis.

    I am glad to know I am “presuming” to argue against the god-conception my opponent actually holds. In your @113 response to Tulse you appeared to reject the idea of the tri-omni god. So you can perhaps understand our confusion about which god-concept you’re talking about when you say “the Christian God.”

    I disagree with you that there being suffering is necessarily incompatible with it, as do a great many other people. That’s not what’s at stake here.

    Really? I thought that was the entire point of Jason’s post.

    What’s at stake is that the source that we derived the concept from, the source that started it all, explicitly says that we won’t have a perfect world.

    I grant that the bible says this. I don’t concede the bible provides a singular conception of God, because it says many things and different believers give different weights to different claims. But you will get no argument from me about this being one of the things it says.

    Does that end your complaint?

    My issue is, I don’t see how acknowledging where you got your properties is relevant to the question of whether those properties form a consistent set. You cannot get from “bible says God permits suffering” to “suffering is consistent with benevolence, omnipotence….” without circularly assuming what you seek to prove.

  221. #221 NJ
    February 17, 2012

    septepenra@217:

    Thanks for the discussion as I’ve learned a lot about the mind and behaviour of evoutionists.

    Yes, you have learned that sane people (like eric & Owlmirror) cannot respond adequately to mentally ill people (like you) because their minds are not suffering from the same disease as you are.

    Remember, the doctors are there to help you not harm you…

  222. #222 Verbose Stoic
    February 17, 2012

    eric,

    I am glad to know I am “presuming” to argue against the god-conception my opponent actually holds. In your @113 response to Tulse you appeared to reject the idea of the tri-omni god. So you can perhaps understand our confusion about which god-concept you’re talking about when you say “the Christian God.”

    Context matters. Recall that there I was saying that it might be wrong, and in fact only suggesting that if the tri-omni God clashed with the “imperfect world” that maybe, just maybe, that translation to the tri-omni God was incorrect, that those who took it made a mistake. But that only applied IF we got to the point where they were incompatible. At best in that case — which I hasten to point out I am not claiming is the case — then I’d probably give preference conceptually to the “Garden of Eden” part than “tri=omni”, because I personally don’t see where tri-omni is required. But that’s all an aside from the point, which again is that the argument I gave is a pretty strong refutation to the idea that the Christian God is incompatible with an imperfect world. It seems to me that that concept includes it from the start and from the initial source. If you disagree, then you need to do more than what you did, which was essentially accuse me of defining my concept as compatible or relying on an academic concept and not what the folk actually believed. You continue to avoid doing any of that.

    Really? I thought that was the entire point of Jason’s post.

    Read 113 again, and note what I’m saying there. It seems to me to be easier to give up tri-omni than that flat-out statement in Genesis.

    I grant that the bible says this. I don’t concede the bible provides a singular conception of God, because it says many things and different believers give different weights to different claims. But you will get no argument from me about this being one of the things it says.

    Do you understand that I am saying that no concept of the Christian God that claims to have its source in the Bible can deny that statement of the imperfect world?

    My issue is, I don’t see how acknowledging where you got your properties is relevant to the question of whether those properties form a consistent set. You cannot get from “bible says God permits suffering” to “suffering is consistent with benevolence, omnipotence….” without circularly assuming what you seek to prove.

    I don’t care about the link to the tri-omni God at this point in the argument. I’m only saying that it is compatible with the Christian God as defined in the Bible, which is the source of the concept itself. If that’s incompatible with a tri-omni God, then so much the worse for the tri-omni God being the Christian God.

  223. #223 Verbose Stoic
    February 17, 2012

    eric,

    I don’t concede the bible provides a singular conception of God, because it says many things and different believers give different weights to different claims.

    In retrospect, I think this encapsulates the whole issue:

    I argue that my statement about this being an imperfect world is a statement that must be true of all concepts of God derived legitimately from the Bible and Genesis; you can’t claim to be derived from that source and not acknowledge that. Your response was to accuse me of defining my God so that it was exempt from suffering. But what’s really happening is that you seem to disagree that I can say that that statement or property must be part of any legitimate Christian God concept. But you will note that that isn’t what we are arguing about, is it?

  224. #224 Owlmirror
    February 17, 2012

    People argue that there is suffering in the world and so God can’t exist,

    Actually, that’s a rather unfair distortion of the argument — at least, as I understand it. It’s not that God can’t exist; it’s that God cannot exist with certain claimed attributes.

    Oddly enough, you seem to agree with this position, or at least accept that it is reasonable, since you concede a willingness to discard claimed tri-omni attributes.

    I note that Jason was careful not to write that the problem of evil is proof that God does not exist, but rather, “the prevalence of evil and suffering are strong evidence against God”. (emph mine)

  225. #225 ildi
    February 17, 2012

    You started with the Christian God, the God of Genesis.

    The God of Genesis is not the Christian God, though.

  226. #226 eric
    February 17, 2012

    I argue that my statement about this being an imperfect world is a statement that must be true of all concepts of God derived legitimately from the Bible and Genesis; you can’t claim to be derived from that source and not acknowledge that.

    Substitute “a young world” for “an imperfect world” and you will find many YECs that would make the same claim. That’s the problem with your argument: different believers use this same argument to arrive at different conclusions about what “all concepts derived ligetimately from the bible” must include. Why should I believe you and not them?

    Now I doubt either of us could find a believer who thinks this is a perfect world. Hopefully nobody is that deluded. So on a practical level, you are right: all currently circulating Chrisitian concepts of God include the property: “…a God who allows this imperfect world to exist without correction.”

    But contra your claim in @47 and other posts, it is certainly reasonable for a believer to think that Eden is an allegory, and that God did not create any such perfect physical, actual place. You’ve given up the talking snake, right? The only two people. The spontaneous formation. The rib thing. Probably the lion-as-vegetarian thing. The order and separation of species poofing. The poofing mechanism itself. Can the garden they lived in be that far behind? It seems extremely arbitrary to say no. How exactly do you pluck that single factoid out of the story, declare it literal, and then say all legitimate biblical conceptions of God must agree with that?

    And (2) yet again, saying “my conception encompasses the fact that the world is imperfect” does not in any way provide proof or evidence of an internally consistent conception. If you don’t want to discuss that point because it is outside your current focus, at least acknowledge this to be true so we can put it to rest.

  227. #227 Verbose Stoic
    February 17, 2012

    Owlmirror,

    Actually, that’s a rather unfair distortion of the argument — at least, as I understand it. It’s not that God can’t exist; it’s that God cannot exist with certain claimed attributes.

    Oddly enough, you seem to agree with this position, or at least accept that it is reasonable, since you concede a willingness to discard claimed tri-omni attributes.

    I think it’s a bit much to call it an unfair distortion, since that “God” there is short-hand for “the Judeo-Christian God”. So it’s a shorter version and will always concede that it’s a certain CONCEPTION of God that it goes after. It doesn’t, for example, go after Thor and Odin, but that seemed to go without saying.

    Now, is the Christian God the tri-omni God? That, as I have said, is a very interesting question. I think it is, but I definitely would give precedence to the actual text of the Bible than to those derived properties.

    I note that Jason was careful not to write that the problem of evil is proof that God does not exist, but rather, “the prevalence of evil and suffering are strong evidence against God”. (emph mine)

    That’s fine; my argument works against that, too. Which, BTW, is essentially what I mean by proof anyway; I don’t mean deductively proven, but proven to the level of knowledge.

  228. #228 Verbose Stoic
    February 17, 2012

    eric,

    Substitute “a young world” for “an imperfect world” and you will find many YECs that would make the same claim. That’s the problem with your argument: different believers use this same argument to arrive at different conclusions about what “all concepts derived ligetimately from the bible” must include. Why should I believe you and not them?

    If it comes down to a matter of who you choose to believe, then we’ve stopped doing philosophy/theology. We have to be able to argue for it by pointing to the text and how it is interpreted. I wouldn’t even claim that my claim is can’t be challenged; it may well be, but I personally don’t see all that many reasonable challenges to it. It’s not about “Hey, just believe me” when I’m doing philosophy/theology. It’s about arguing for it. I do, I think, try to do that. And as for YECs, I don’t see all that great an argument for that, but I haven’t examined it in detail and so can’t say.

    But contra your claim in @47 and other posts, it is certainly reasonable for a believer to think that Eden is an allegory, and that God did not create any such perfect physical, actual place. You’ve given up the talking snake, right? The only two people. The spontaneous formation. The rib thing. Probably the lion-as-vegetarian thing. The order and separation of species poofing. The poofing mechanism itself. Can the garden they lived in be that far behind? It seems extremely arbitrary to say no. How exactly do you pluck that single factoid out of the story, declare it literal, and then say all legitimate biblical conceptions of God must agree with that?

    Um, if you’ll recall what I said from the start, I said that whether you took it literally or figuratively you have to concede that. In my opinion, you don’t need a literal Garden of Eden to take what I take to be a clear message from the story, that the world we’re in isn’t a perfect one and isn’t intended to be. I argue for that on the basis that one of the main themes of the whole story is, in fact, leading up to that, and that we end up at the end of it all in an imperfect world. So I’m not taking it literally at all, and am quite confused at how everyone seems to be accusing me of that [grin].

    And (2) yet again, saying “my conception encompasses the fact that the world is imperfect” does not in any way provide proof or evidence of an internally consistent conception. If you don’t want to discuss that point because it is outside your current focus, at least acknowledge this to be true so we can put it to rest.

    I can’t parse that point, actually, and can’t align it to anything I actually said. My point, again, is specifically that you can just point to imperfections in the world to say that this counts against the Christian God. I was explicit that the Christian God might actually still be inconsistent with this world depending on how the suffering works out. So, really, I’m not sure what you’re trying to get me to acknowledge here; it doesn’t seem to be anything that I’ve ever said or even hinted at, if taken … ahem … literally.

  229. #229 Owlmirror
    February 17, 2012

    I think it’s a bit much to call it an unfair distortion, since that “God” there is short-hand for “the Judeo-Christian God”.

    Not necessarily. Note that the problem of evil was first posited by Epicurus, centuries before Christianity.

    So it’s a shorter version and will always concede that it’s a certain CONCEPTION of God that it goes after.

    But that conception need not be “Judeo-Christian” either.

    It doesn’t, for example, go after Thor and Odin, but that seemed to go without saying.

    I think it would, if anyone were arguing that Thor and/or Odin are powerful (orders of magnitude more powerful than humans), knowledgable (again, by orders of magnitude), and have sufficient benevolence to want to reduce, or remove, evil and suffering from the world.

    Now, is the Christian God the tri-omni God?

    I don’t see how it could be, but then, it might depend on how you define the Christian God.

    I think it is

    Have you given a definition of “God” in general, let alone the Christian one?

    That’s fine; my argument works against that, too.

    I don’t think it does. The problem of evil works against any god-concept that involves greater power, greater knowledge, and greater benevolence, than that of any human. Tri-omni is not required; it can even be tri-mega (or whatever prefix denotes a large-by-orders-of-magnitude amount).

  230. #230 Kel
    February 17, 2012

    If we limited it, as you say, to philosophical analysis, what do you think would change? While I hate to drag in old arguments, remember that Platinga’s argument that you dislike so much is, in fact, philosophical analysis, and interesting analysis even if it’s wrong. So what would be eliminated if we stuck to philosophical analysis? For me, all good theology JUST IS philosophical analysis …

    You still haven’t understood my objection to Plantinga’s argument, so I don’t see why you decided to drag it in again.

    My point about the philosophical analysis in the case of God is that there’s little else one can do other than conceptual analysis. It’s not like there’s any experiments we can run to determine whether or not a particular theodicy is able to surpass the threshold set by a particular evil. We’re stuck with philosophical analysis because there’s little else one can do. How far that conceptual analysis can go, or whether you’re left with anything other than logically-consistent nonsense, well that’s another matter. As far as I see the relationship between the conception of God with evolutionary theory, redundancy and the bottom-up design are far more devastating. If the horrors that exist in the world today aren’t enough to convince people that God cannot be all-loving, then what good does the fiery death of the dinosaurs do? ;)

  231. #231 Kel
    February 17, 2012

    And my distinction between philosophy and theology, generally speaking, is the distinction between conceptual analysis and looking into the scriptures / private revelation.

  232. #232 Septepenra
    February 17, 2012

    NJ @221
    Hey NJ, great to hear from you. That’s quite a contribution!

    In alliance with your two buddies, it appears that you know little of “Sacred Science”. In quoting R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz,

    “Sacred science starts from this mysterious but demonstrated reality which shows an energetic (spiritual) world preceding the material and quantitative world.”

    Clearly, you also cannot answer the question: What value is created by evolution science?

    As I mentioned, TOE cannot create any value (with the exception of feeding the racist doctrine of white supremists).

    Also, the pseudo-science of evolution will never be able to determine what caused the “supposed” evolutionary milestones. This could be of some value, but as your buddies have already admitted they will never reach a point where they will even have a complete sequence, let alone dealing with cause.

    I assume you are familiar with the classical image of the TOE. If not, it’s an image that starts with a primate and proceeds through to the homosapien. The classical TOE image depicts the skin colour of the bi-pedal primates getting less melanated until it reaches homosapien who is basically Caucasoid. This is the image of the TOE that the world is generally familiar with.

    You are mistaken, in stating that your two buddies are sane, quite the contrary. The TOE will never be accepted by the “majority” of the world population, who as people of colour, see themselves depicted as below the Caucasoid in the classical TOE imagery. If you wish to see the TOE as sane, then I am more than happy to unite with the insane people of colour!

    W.r.t. your comment about the doctors. If you know anything about medical science, you would know that modern medicine is a bastardization of “Sacred Science”. Today every doctor in the USA has to swear an oath to Aesculapius, the Greek god of medicine. Well, if you know anything about Grecian history/myth, you know that the Greeks claimed that Aesculapius is none other than one of the Grand Master “Sacred Scientists”, Imhotep, Thrice Great (having conquered the Pharonic Mysteries, a mystery to those who do not know, the Quickening for those who do… the lunar-medicine-husbandry-agriculture, the solar-architecture and the stellar-astronomy).

    You may have heard about the thief, Georg Ebers, who stole Queen Hapsetshut’s medical papyrus and assigned his name to it, now titled the Ebers Papyrus. Associated with her papyrus are depictions of an eye operation and circumcision (of a boy reaching puberty not the abusive practice of circumcising an infant). Also depicted are medical instruments, many of which are to this day used by surgeons.

    In quoting Rokatansky, “Those about to study Medicine, and the younger Physicians, should light their torches at the fires of the Ancients.”

    I light my torch at the fires of the Ancients; therefore I have little use for your modern petroleum based medicines or doctors. But thanks for your concern!

  233. #233 NJ
    February 17, 2012

    Me@221:

    Remember, the doctors are there to help you not harm you…

    Seprepenra@232:

    having conquered the Pharonic Mysteries, a mystery to those who do not know, the Quickening for those who do… the lunar-medicine-husbandry-agriculture, the solar-architecture and the stellar-astronomy

    QED.

  234. #234 Doug McClean
    February 17, 2012

    On the question of natural evil, I join in this objection to Plantinga’s free will defense, from the Wikipedia article:

    Another issue with Plantinga’s defense is that it does not address the problem of natural evil, since natural evil is not brought about by the free choices of creatures. Plantinga’s reply is a suggestion that it is at least logically possible that perhaps free, nonhuman persons are responsible for natural evils (e.g. rebellious spirits or fallen angels). This suggestion assigns the responsibility for natural evils to other moral actors.

    When someone shows me some evidence for the existence of a tsunami demon, I will revisit the question.

  235. #235 Septepenra
    February 17, 2012

    NJ @233

    It is obvious that you cannot answer the simple question: What value is created by evolution science?

    It’s not a riddle you know!

    Your grasp of linguistics and your buddies appears to be limited only to the past 2000 years, but you seek to provide answers to questions that are millenia upon milenia upon millenia old.

    Evolutionists are not unlike someone who is walking around a circle expecting to find the end. When you find it, be sure to let me know!

    Setau em hra NJ

  236. #236 eric
    February 17, 2012

    VS:

    If it comes down to a matter of who you choose to believe, then we’ve stopped doing philosophy/theology. We have to be able to argue for it by pointing to the text and how it is interpreted.

    Okay, let’s do that. Point to the textual indication that this is a divine inspiration/revelation and not a flawed book wholly of human manufacture.

    You’re a philosopher – do some induction. Empirically, we have an enormous number of cases of humans writing down made up s**t, and not one single confirmed example in all of human history of any divine spirit authoring or contributing to a book. So, when we encounter a book of indeterminant provenance but which claims to be inspired by or written by divine hands, what is the correct philosophical inference from this data?

    My point, again, is specifically that you can just point to imperfections in the world to say that this counts against the Christian God.

    We are not pointing to generic imperfection, imperfection as some philosophical concept, or imperfection ‘in principle.’ We are talking about a very specific instance of imperfection in fact: the extra 3 billion years of starvation and predation discovered since about 1850. How does this new data count against the Christian God?

    Or does it? Does the amount of suffering we observe not matter at all?

    Because it looks an awful lot to me like it doesn’t matter at all. That pretty much no amount of suffering is going to change this christian conception of God you’re defending. Which means it’s not data-driven at all, and your attempt to provide a philosophical justification for it is nothing more than post hoc reasoning.

  237. #237 Owlmirror
    February 17, 2012

    Septicpenar @217, since you seem more confused than usual, I just thought I would clarify for you. See, eric did not write “ant-side”, since he was not referencing arthropods, but rather “anti- side”. And “anti-” was just a short way of writing “anti-evolution”, which, since you are opposed to evolution, is the correct way of referring to your position on the matter.

    Hope that helps!

  238. #238 Owlmirror
    February 18, 2012

    I assume you are familiar with the classical image of the TOE. If not, it’s an image that starts with a primate and proceeds through to the homosapien. The classical TOE image depicts the skin colour of the bi-pedal primates getting less melanated until it reaches homosapien who is basically Caucasoid. This is the image of the TOE that the world is generally familiar with.

    That is not the “classical image of the TOE”. It is one depiction of evolutionary change, and, as you note, it is a very poor and overly-simplified depiction.

    I agree that it has very problematic overtones, and evolutionary biologists and palaeoanthropologists, who do actually care about getting a depiction of human evolution right, prefer not to use it, and try to promote depictions that actually map better to what is known about human evolution. And these depictions do emphasize that Homo sapiens first arose in Africa, and therefore had black skin in the populations on that continent.

    If you don’t like the picture, by all means, argue — along with evolutionary biologists — that the picture should be changed. But the theory of evolution is far broader than one stupid picture, and rejecting the theory of evolution because of a stupid picture… is not that smart.

  239. #239 Verbose Stoic
    February 18, 2012

    Kel,

    You still haven’t understood my objection to Plantinga’s argument, so I don’t see why you decided to drag it in again.

    I dragged it in for precisely the reason I gave in the comment: while you dislike the argument, it’s a philosophical argument and is conceptual analysis, and so if we limited these examinations to philosophical analysis it would still be there.

    And my distinction between philosophy and theology, generally speaking, is the distinction between conceptual analysis and looking into the scriptures / private revelation.

    But conceptual analysis, particularly of concepts that are held by people, doesn’t work in a vacuum. So while private revelation is out — I think we can agree that someone reading the Bible and saying “I had a revelation from God so I know this is true” would not be valid philosophically — examining scriptures still would be, unless you really want to make it so that philosophy is making stuff up. Since it doesn’t just do that …

  240. #240 Verbose Stoic
    February 18, 2012

    Doug McClean,

    Yeah, I think that answer is pretty weak. There are far better ones that you can use.

  241. #241 Septepenra
    February 18, 2012

    From the Instruction of Ptah Hotep (5th Dynasty)

    “Do not be proud of your knowledge, consult both the ignorant and the wise. For art’s limits are never reached, and no artists’ skills are perfect”

    I follow this quote as it addresses the developmment of respect, honour, equity, and good conduct in a student!

  242. #242 Verbose Stoic
    February 18, 2012

    eric,

    Okay, let’s do that. Point to the textual indication that this is a divine inspiration/revelation and not a flawed book wholly of human manufacture.

    You’re a philosopher – do some induction. Empirically, we have an enormous number of cases of humans writing down made up s**t, and not one single confirmed example in all of human history of any divine spirit authoring or contributing to a book. So, when we encounter a book of indeterminant provenance but which claims to be inspired by or written by divine hands, what is the correct philosophical inference from this data?

    Remember when I commented that you might have a legitimate fear of being asked to hit a moving target? Well, it sure seems like you’re trying to use that precise tactic against me. I never said anything about it being divinely authored or a human invention or something in between. That’s something else we have to work out, and is a completely different topic. But the book — divine or not — is indeed the primary source for the Christian conception of God. So when I’m trying to figure out what that conception really is or ought to be so that I can examine it for consistency and whether or not it could exist, I’m going to start there. End of story. Why do you think that’s not a valid way to proceed? What else would you do? Make something up? Dismiss it out of hand?

    As for your suggestion, what you suggest we do in assessing the divinity — or not — of the Bible is a classic example of the inductive fallacy, meaning that if you have not seen an example of it before you should believe that this case is not an example of it as well. That, of course, is absolutely invalid and philosophically will get you laughed at. So no, if we look at it philosophically we will not make the argument you made.

    We are not pointing to generic imperfection, imperfection as some philosophical concept, or imperfection ‘in principle.’ We are talking about a very specific instance of imperfection in fact: the extra 3 billion years of starvation and predation discovered since about 1850. How does this new data count against the Christian God?

    Please do recall that my starting point was actually cases like “We don’t have that Vitamin C gene active even though dogs and cats do”, not this one. As for the last question, you do recall my answer to that, don’t you?

    Because it looks an awful lot to me like it doesn’t matter at all. That pretty much no amount of suffering is going to change this christian conception of God you’re defending. Which means it’s not data-driven at all, and your attempt to provide a philosophical justification for it is nothing more than post hoc reasoning.

    Except that, of course, the last time you tried to bring this up I not only reminded you that from the start I conceded that there might be too much suffering in the world for the Christian God, that it was a major philosophical/theological question, and pointed out some assumptions that you were making that were not universally shared or justified. Again, it returns to this: you feel — and I actually do think it is emotional — that this suffering is unacceptable and so anyone who challenges that gets this sort of unreasoned response from you instead of an examination of what they actually said and a discussion of it. In short, you seem to be expecting everyone to just agree with you and when they don’t you are utterly baffled and retreat to “Well, you just don’t want to see it”. But that, of course, is utterly philosophically invalid as an argument.

  243. #243 Wow
    February 18, 2012

    “The God of Genesis is not the Christian God, though.”

    Nope, it’s definitely the Christian God. Christians believe in the Son of God (the one from Genesis, not the band, mind, that was Phil Collins, not God) AS WELL, but that’s their differentiating trait from, say, Islamists.

    Their God IS the Garden of Eden/Genesis god.

  244. #244 Kel
    February 18, 2012

    I dragged it in for precisely the reason I gave in the comment: while you dislike the argument, it’s a philosophical argument and is conceptual analysis, and so if we limited these examinations to philosophical analysis it would still be there.

    It’s not a matter of dislike, I gave reasons as to why I thought the argument was flawed. It wasn’t in opposition to conceptual analysis.

    But conceptual analysis, particularly of concepts that are held by people, doesn’t work in a vacuum. So while private revelation is out — I think we can agree that someone reading the Bible and saying “I had a revelation from God so I know this is true” would not be valid philosophically — examining scriptures still would be, unless you really want to make it so that philosophy is making stuff up.

    Of course, but that doesn’t mean that doing conceptual analysis on the scriptures is saying anything meaningful about the world. Only if scriptures then

  245. #245 NJ
    February 18, 2012

    Septepenra@235:

    Setau em hra NJ

    And a “Hab SoSlI’ Quch!” to you, too.

  246. #246 Septepenra
    February 18, 2012

    @ Three Amigos

    Excerpts from writings of LCDR. David Williams, Simplified Astrology for Astronomers, 1969

    “This series of articles is based on, and adapted from, the text so successfully used by the U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Maritime Academy, and the flying schools of the U.S. Air Force and of commercial airlines, in instructing the hundreds of thousands of young men, who with little or no knowledge of mathematics became navigators of our ships and planes during World War II.”

    “The foundations of our western civilations were laid in East, in the great river valleys of Mesopotamia and Egypt”

    Excerpt from Count C.F. Volney’s, Ruins of Empires, 1793

    In describing the ancient kingdom of Ethiopia, and the ruins of Thebes, her metropolis that, “There a people, now forgotten, discovered, while others were yet barbarians, the elements of the arts and sciences. A race of men, now rejected from society for their sable skin and frizzled hair, founded on the study of the laws of nature, those civil, and religious systems which still govern the universe.”

    Excerpt from Herodotus, The Histories

    “The names of all the gods have been known in Egypt from the beginning of time.”

    Excerpt from De Iside et Osiride

    “This much may be depended upon: the religious rites and ceremonies of the Egyptians were never instituted upon irrational grounds, never built upon mere fable and superstition, but founded with a view to promote the morality and happiness of those who were to observe them, or at least to preserve the memory of some valuable piece of history, or to represent to us some of the phenomena of nature.”

    Excerpts from writings Rosemary Clark, Exhibit leader for the Tutankhamun tour, Chicago 1977

    “The content of Egypt’s sacred literature covers the widest range of spiritual, mathematical, astronomical, medicinal, and magical writings ever produced by a civilization. However in modern times, when conscious international efforts were brought to bear in order to examine them, some assumptions were initially made that are in conflict with the Egyptian minds which produced them. Consequently, as minor prejudices appear to be, they contribute to our fundamental lack of understanding about Sacred Science, the body of ancient knowledge which could offer clues to past human accomplishments as well as our own future possibilities.”

    “A very real prejudice is based upon modern science’s rejection the ancient technologies could be superior to our own. “

    “But as we look at Egyptian metaphysical beliefs, we should resist assuming that those beliefs and practices entailed “EVOLUTION” of a personal, physical kind; higher levels of acuity following certain spiritual endeavors did not play a part in their mystical system, as far as that system can be understood. The popular view point that these practices induced a superior physical state (as expressed in modern metaphysics) continues to patronize DARWINIAN thinking in a completely inappropriate way. Contrary to this misperception, the idea of “EVOLUTION” is in fact alien to the Egyptian mind. The ancient goal of Sacred Science instead articulated the process of awakening pre-existing powers already resident in human life which are merely latent in expression.”

    “Egyptians believed that their country had been founded by spiritual beings from “the beginning of timeless time.””

    “But a highly sophisticated knowledge possessed by the Egyptians….is demonstrated in the construction of their sacred monuments, the use of a calendric system which we have inherited, and other technologies…”

    “The number ten in ancient Egypt was concerned with the process of delimiting and was a basis of common measurement-our own mathematical system is derived from this scheme.”

    “Neter also means “power” or “force” in the abstract sense. It does refer to the “high being” or “god” as we understand it, but not as an entity elevated from human life. “…”The Neteru represent a vast array of latent human powers associated with physical senses that serve as “communicating bridges” to supracorporeal realms. “

    “The eight phases in the creation myth of Hermopolis correspond to the formation of the basic eight familiar elements of chemistry: alkalis, nitrogens, alkalines, oxygens, borons, carbons, and noble gases contained in the universe. These are represented by the four pairs of prototypical Fire (Huh and Hauhet), Earth (Kuk and Kauket), Air (Djehuti and Maat) and Water (Nun and Naunet).”

    “A comparison of this ancient world view with our own shows the relationship between humans and the several levels of divine beings was most important, and that the human connection with nature was the means by which it was maintained. In turn, our materialistic, “sole-god” thinking promotes only a separation between the two (the “physical” and the “nonphysical”) and usually, a subjugation of the latter.”

    “There is no doubt that these spiritual aims correspond to the “resurrection body” of Christianity, but physical death is implied. In these doctrines, existence in the divine body occurs after discarding the material vehicle, but in Egyptian texts, death is presented as an opportunity for transformation, not a prerequisite.”

    “…Restorative powers were extended to the participants, who shared in the new life entered into by the person of “second birth”. This rite of communion can be seen as the foundation of subsequent religious concepts found in the Christian religion, which expresses the transformation of matter back to spirit through partaking of bread and wine.”

    Excerpt from Isha Schwaller de Lubicz, Her-Bak, The Living Face of Egypt

    “…the Egyptian Sages have established no rigid system for this hierarchy, because such a system would have revealed certain secrets about natural forces-secrets of dreadful danger, as recent developments of science have shown.”

    Excerpt from Libellus X:24b, “The Key”

    “For man is a divine being by nature; he is comparable, not to other living creatures upon earth, but to the gods in heaven. Nay, if we are to speak the truth without fear, he who is indeed a man is even above the gods of heaven, or at any rate he equals them in power. None of the gods of heaven will ever quit heaven, and pass it boundary, and come down to earth, but man ascend even to heaven, and measures it; and what is more than all beside, he mounts to heaven without quitting the earth; to so vast a distance can he put forth his power. We must not shrink then from saying that a man on earth if a mortal god, and that a god in heaven is an immortal man.”

  247. #247 NJ
    February 18, 2012

    Shorter Septepenra:

    All the old paintings on the tomb
    They do the sand dance, don’cha know?
    If they move too quick (Oh-Way-Oh)
    They’re falling down like a domino…

  248. #248 Septepenra
    February 18, 2012

    NJ @ 247

    Did you get that from an episode of Star Trek also? Like @ 245?

    This is my some of anti-side argument to your ridiculous TOE pseudo-science. Too long? Too much for the left hemisphere of your “highly evolved” brain to comprehend?

    I guess you should not even attempt to read “Anacalypsis, an Attempt to Draw Aside the Veil of Saitic Isis; An Inquiry into the Origin of Languages, Nations and Religions – by Sir Godfrey Higgins, 1836 (the TOC might be too much for you let alone the 800+ page contents)

    There is no difference between you evolutionists and a religious fanatic. You have a false doctrine and when someone questions you, due to your insecurities in your belief of your theory, you attack instead of defending the doctrine you initally so confidently espoused.

    Just like those who labeled Africans as 3/5 of a man, (they certainly did not give themselves that label), you evolutionists, without a clue of the tradition of “Sacred Science” (not available from analysis of fossils and corpses), feel you have the right to draw conclusions about the people and that period of time.

    The Egyptians know they came from a common ancestor, they did not have to wait for some “Johnny comely lately”, incomplete material science to make them aware of that fact. They also know that they originated from a primeval swamp, pre-cosmogenesis, not unlike your TOE assertion that all lfe came out of water. You don’t need to create a pseudo-science to figure that out, you came out of the watery womb of your mother, I assume!

    They do not however subscribe to your foolish notion that their existence is based upon a sequence of physical evolutions. I would have to support their claim as you are drawing conclusions on a culture and tradition you clearly know absolutely nothing about.

    Don’t hate, participate!

    See Me @241

  249. #249 Septepenra
    February 18, 2012

    I guess it is difficult to accept the realization that the TOE linear sequence is a failure as there was a more highly evolved civilization which was in full swing before modern materialistic science and the first Caucasoid was ever born. But as an evolutionist you should already know that the genome of an African or person of colour is more complete than that of a Caucasoid. Does it bother you…it does not bother me.

    Your acceptance of this fact does not make you a Hottentot if that is what you are concerned about.

  250. #250 NJ
    February 18, 2012

    Septepenra@248:

    Did you get that from an episode of Star Trek also?

    Dude, you like totally missed out on the 1980’s.

    There is no difference between you evolutionists and a religious fanatic.

    There’s a name for this phenomenon.

    you attack instead of defending the doctrine you initally so confidently espoused

    Ooooooo, so close…

    What I have actually done is bait you a little bit, and because of your fragile grip on reality, this has caused you to expound (at great length) on your Osterized version of science and history.

    The end result is that anyone who reads this thread realizes that you are mentally ill. It has required little effort on my part – I’ve let you do the work, after all – and from here on out, no one will even bother to try and deconstruct your word salad posts. The thread may get back on track or may get abandoned; our gracious host may close it or simply and quietly consign you to a non-commenting status.

    But make no mistake: Everyone here now has you figured out and will likely let you rant to your hearts’s content. They may even offer you a shiny new foil hat from time to time.

  251. #251 Kel
    February 18, 2012

    Just to elaborate a bit further, Verbose Stoic, I’m making the distinction between arguments like the cosmological argument and arguments about whether an all-good God could drown humanity.

    The latter argument it seems to me is fairly useless for telling us anything other than logical consistency in one’s view – that is, if one viewed God as all-God and the bible as the inerrant work of God, then that would raise an issue of logical consistency. One can either reject God is all-good, reject biblical inerrancy, or come up with a satisfactory theodicy. But all that’s really doing is showing an inconsistency in one’s belief. It’s useful at times to be able to do this, especially when there are people who won’t look at their beliefs any other way than as an insider, but it’s not really saying much about anything. Might as well talk about the healing properties of unicorn blood.

    The question is that of how it is we can see any justification in any of the theological premises in the first place. That one can perform conceptual analysis doesn’t mean that any of it is anything other than nonsense, just that you might be able to get logically-consistent nonsense. And to make sure you understand where I’m coming from, this is not denying the power of conceptual analysis – this is me saying that one needs much more than philosophy if they wish to establish what they are philosophising about. Theology, in this sense, is a waste of intellectual energy, which is not denying the power of philosophy – just applying philosophy to unicorns.

  252. #252 Septepenra
    February 18, 2012

    NJ @250

    Your comments are void of pith and substance, just like your TOE!

    You have as yet to explain what value your TOE creates.

    Setau em hra NJ

  253. #253 Owlmirror
    February 19, 2012

    I follow this quote as it addresses the developmment of respect, honour, equity, and good conduct in a student!

    When corrected on a simple matter of fact, like Darwin writing his work long after the US constitution was written, you reject the correction and repeat your nonsense.

    When corrected on what the theory of evolution entails, you reject the corrections and repeat your nonsense.

    When corrected on scientific terminology, you reject the corrections and repeat your nonsense.

    When corrected on anything to do with science, you reject the corrections and repeat your nonsense.

    I might address your other assertions about biology, but it’s obvious now what you would do: reject the corrections, and repeat your nonsense, again and again and again.

    Where’s that supposed “respect, honour, equity, and good conduct”? All you’ve demonstrated is hypocritical fanaticism. You don’t show any interest in actually learning anything at all.

  254. #254 Owlmirror
    February 19, 2012

    You have as yet to explain what value your TOE creates.

    What value does “sacred science” create?

    It occurred to me, after your rambling about “feces”, that that is what the pyramids are, by your own broad definition of “feces”. The pyramids are indeed wonders and marvels of engineering, but they are just big piles of stone moved from quarries to a plain. And they are giant tombs, that’s all. They don’t house anyone living. They produce no food. They do not heal anyone who is sick.

    They are the “feces” of a civilization, intended to hold the “feces” of humans. Large and geometrically impressive “feces”, but “feces” nonetheless — by your own definition.

  255. #255 Owlmirror
    February 19, 2012

    “The eight phases in the creation myth of Hermopolis correspond to the formation of the basic eight familiar elements of chemistry: alkalis, nitrogens, alkalines, oxygens, borons, carbons, and noble gases contained in the universe. These are represented by the four pairs of prototypical Fire (Huh and Hauhet), Earth (Kuk and Kauket), Air (Djehuti and Maat) and Water (Nun and Naunet).”

    Thus is nonsense, and bears no relation at all to actual chemistry, besides sprinkling in a bunch of chemical terms into a description of mythology.

    For man is a divine being by nature; he is comparable, not to other living creatures upon earth, but to the gods in heaven.

    Not just nonsense, but arrogant nonsense.

    This is my some of anti-side argument to your ridiculous TOE pseudo-science. Too long?

    Too long, and too meaningless.

    (the TOC might be too much for you let alone the 800+ page contents)

    800+ pages of nonsense is still nonsense.

    You have a false doctrine and when someone questions you, due to your insecurities in your belief of your theory, you attack instead of defending the doctrine you initally so confidently espoused.

    You certainly describe your own religious fanaticism very well.

    The Egyptians know they came from a common ancestor

    Did they? What evidence did they provide for this?

    They also know that they originated from a primeval swamp,

    Did they have evidence of this?

    pre-cosmogenesis

    This will probably astound you, but swamps did not exist before the cosmos did.

    , not unlike your TOE assertion that all lfe came out of water.

    Evolutionary biology offers quite a bit more detail than “primeval swamp”.

    They do not however subscribe to your foolish notion that their existence is based upon a sequence of physical evolutions.

    Why is it foolish? Because you say so?

    I would have to support their claim as you are drawing conclusions on a culture and tradition you clearly know absolutely nothing about.

    Or rather, you are drawing conclusions about science that you clearly know absolutely nothing about.

    And I kinda suspect that you don’t really know that much about ancient Egypt, either, as opposed to having read a bunch of old books written by silly pseudo-archaeologists, mystics, and spiritualists, who relied on then-current archaeological findings to spin up wads of meaningless bafflegab.

    Don’t hate, participate!

    Hypocrite.

    I guess it is difficult to accept the realization that the TOE linear sequence is a failure

    What “linear sequence”?

    as there was a more highly evolved civilization which was in full swing before modern materialistic science and the first Caucasoid was ever born.

    Nonsense. Europe was populated long before Egypt’s civilization arose.

    I agree that both came before modern science, but that should be obvious to anyone.

    But as an evolutionist you should already know that the genome of an African or person of colour is more complete than that of a Caucasoid.

    Since that is almost entirely meaningless, it cannot be “known”. All genomes of healthy living organisms are complete, otherwise, the organism would never have developed in the first place!

    I suppose that the genome of those with genetic defects might be considered “incomplete”, but it’s nonsense to say that that applies to entire continental populations.

    Maybe you’re thinking of the fact that African genomes are more diverse, because African peoples have lived on the continent for longer, and populations outside of Africa were founded from smaller groups, with necessarily less diverse genomes. But that does not mean “more complete”, and it cannot apply to “people of color” outside of Africa.

    Your acceptance of this fact does not make you a Hottentot if that is what you are concerned about.

    “Hottentot”? Why do you use such a derogatory term to refer to the ancient Khoikhoi people?

    Are you a racist?

  256. #256 Anthony McCarthy
    February 20, 2012

    TOE, I still want one of you true believers to tell me how, if, as I got Sean Carroll to admit, physics doesn’t know a single object in the universe comprehensively and exhaustively, how it can understand the effectively infinitesimal number of objects in the universe and the interactions of those. Of course, before I’ll believe you I’ll want evidence that you’ve got superior credentials to make your declaration than Carroll does.

    A TOE is a silly idea. Especially when, as mentioned, when it is known that even mathematics can never be complete.

    As tempting as it is to poke more holes in the threadbare hobby horses of the sci-rangers, I’ll just say that I’m working on a lexicon of ideas that indicate the person repeating them is merely a silly person.

  257. #257 NJ
    February 20, 2012

    Ummmm…Anthony?

    I’m fairly certain the looney using the ‘nym “Septepenra” is referring to the Theory Of Evolution, not a Theory Of Everything.

    Of course, their posts are so full of weapons-grade wack it could be hard to tell.

  258. #258 eric
    February 20, 2012

    VS @242:

    But the book — divine or not — is indeed the primary source for the Christian conception of God. So when I’m trying to figure out what that conception really is or ought to be so that I can examine it for consistency and whether or not it could exist, I’m going to start there. End of story. Why do you think that’s not a valid way to proceed?

    I think you’re being completely disingenuous. Of course you think there is a divine inspiration to this. You have admitted to being a believer. And, pragmatically, you have made the decision to spend a great deal of time defending this particular religion’s god-conception as viable.

    When I, or others, point out to you that self-consistency is not the full measure of the concept’s worth, you put that aside. You say you don’t want to discuss it. But you also claim to be sticking to philosophy. This is bullflop; good philosophy would not simply ignore the fact that there is no reason to believe in even a fully self-consistent concept that had zero evidence behind it.

    from the start I conceded that there might be too much suffering in the world for the Christian God,

    More dissembling. You seem to want to use the non-answer “might be” to deflect the question and avoid commiting to a ‘there is’ or ‘there isn’t.’

    Can you give me a straight answer? Does THIS new data change YOUR evaluation of the viabability of the god-concept you are defending, or not?

  259. #259 eric
    February 20, 2012

    (response to VS continued…)

    you feel — and I actually do think it is emotional — that this suffering is unacceptable and so anyone who challenges that gets this sort of unreasoned response from you instead of an examination of what they actually said and a discussion of it.

    I certainly think that there are god-concepts that are inconsistent with evolution. And I think the standard tri-omni one is one of them, because no proponent of it has yet to give a reasoned argument as to how so much extra bonus bloodshed is consistent with it. You have certainly not provided any argument here addressing this, the major point of Jason’s post.

    But more than that, I think your argument is just a very long-winded version of the folk believer’s last line of defense: “well, you haven’t proven beyond doubt that He doesn’t exist!” Your point seems to be: “some hypothetical god concept (VS won’t specify which one) drawn from the bible (VS won’t say how he’s eliminating the biblical interpertations he disagrees with) might be (VS won’t say one way or the other) consistent with evolution. Which, again, is just a complicated verison of ‘my opponents can’t eliminate my belief as a metaphysical possibility, so nyah.’

    Want me to concede you have an intellectual point? Then specify the properties of your god-concept. Show me those properties aren’t chosen arbitrarily or circluarly to give the answer you want. Then show me how this god-concept would lead a non-believing philosopher, employing reason, to an expectation of an old, evolving, ‘red in tooth and claw’ world.

  260. #260 Anthony McCarthy
    February 20, 2012

    Evolution isn’t a theory, it’s a fact. Natural selection is a theory. So is the Neutral theory. Evolution is the fact of natural history most massively supported by scientific evidence and theory.

    “TOE” I’ve never run up against that acronym used to mean “theory of evolution”. As for the rest of it, other than orientation what Septepenra says isn’t that much different in quality from the NAs who comment here.

  261. #261 Anthony McCarthy
    February 20, 2012

    I certainly think that there are god-concepts that are inconsistent with evolution. And I think the standard tri-omni one is one of them, because no proponent of it has yet to give a reasoned argument as to how so much extra bonus bloodshed is consistent with it.

    “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.” Isaiah 55:8

    I think I said somewhere above that people not being able to comprehend God is not surprising, given the description you mention. After all, people don’t have a comprehensive knowledge of anything else.

    I’d rather challenge materialist atheists to produce a belief in inherent rights, equality, justice. In fact, I have just been writing that up.

    Maybe This Has Something To Do With Why People Don’t Vote for Atheists

    http://zthoughtcriminal.blogspot.com/2012/02/maybe-this-has-something-to-do-with-why.html

  262. #262 eric
    February 20, 2012

    AMC:

    I think I said somewhere above that people not being able to comprehend God is not surprising,

    You don’t see the irony in using a quote about god to claim we can’t undertand God? If he’s that unscrutable, how can you claim to know the true meaning of the verse you quote? Conversly, if bible verses provide us with an understading of God, he’s not completely unscrutable, is he?

  263. #263 NJ
    February 20, 2012

    AMC@260:

    Evolution isn’t a theory, it’s a fact.

    Gravity is a fact. And a law. And a theory. It is common in the English language for words to have multiple meanings. Hence there is the observed fact of evolution and a theory of evolution (which includes natural selection).

    Yes, yes, I know. You want to argue. You make up your own definitions for things, like most cranks, then argue bitterly because nobody else uses your definitions. This has been hashed over in minute detail with your cargo-cult philosophizing on well, everything, it appears.

    The trail of text you have left at this blog doesn’t demonstrate that you have an unrecognized genius, just that you have unrecognized screws loose.

  264. #264 AM
    February 20, 2012

    If I say, “You’re not going to understand this”, the concept of not understanding something is understandable but the concept that I’m proposing won’t be understood, the ‘this’ at the end of the statement might well not be understandable. That’s true of things people say to each other and I’m fully prepared to not believe that any person is omnipotent, omniscient, or omni anything. If people have the ability to make that kind of statement I’d think God could.

    And you shift from my statement about comprehending something to turning that into a claim of partial understanding. There’s quite a difference as my comment above quoting Sean Carroll shows.

    You don’t understand what people who believe in God believe.

    Now, how about you telling me why I should believe that any materialist could believe that people possess inherent rights because I’m researching that issue and I don’t believe that they can be consistent in their materialism and believe that people possess inherent rights. I can guarantee you won’t like the post I linked to above. I wasn’t especially happy to have to come to the conclusions I did, myself.

  265. #265 AM
    February 20, 2012

    Evolution isn’t the property of science or scientists, it’s bigger than the science done about it, it is a fact of natural history. Evolution has a cultural and political existence and it has an ideological existence, at least two or three of those, actually.

    Evolution has a different status from theories due to its massive confirmation in actual, physical evidence in multiple disciplines. It has as much physical confirmation as many other facts, more than some of them. That makes calling it a fact more than justified. If people would stop kow-towing to the Darwinists who want to equate natural selection and evolution, it might make its cultural and political existence far less open to lies told by creationists.

    http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2011/02/dawkins-darwin-drift-and-neutral-theory.html

  266. #266 eric
    February 20, 2012

    AMC:

    If I say, “You’re not going to understand this”, the concept of not understanding something is understandable…

    True, but God telling us God is unscrutable is more like someone saying “you can’t understand me.” Its a self-negating statement.

    Now, if you want to claim the authors of the bible were not receiving any messages or inspiration from God – i.e. that the bible is a separate and independent speaker talking about God – then the statement loses its self-negating aspect…along with any claim to divine inerrancy. Do you want to claim that?

    Now, how about you telling me why I should believe that any materialist could believe that people possess inherent rights because I’m researching that issue and I don’t believe that they can be consistent in their materialism and believe that people possess inherent rights.

    The only answer I have is that theism or deism does not provide these rights, either. It suffers from the Euthyphro dilema. So your question might be better phrased as: “how does anyone justify a belief in inherent rights,” since we are all in the same boat.

    If you want my answer, I think ‘inherent’ is like ‘natural law’ – a shortcut term denoting something for which we don’t believe there are any exceptions…but recognize that, hypothetically, there might be some in the future. So most of the time I don’t think we actually mean “a right embedded in the metaphysical nature of reality” at all.

    But, other people have different answers than that. Kant’s categorical imperative may be an example: inherent rights and morality is what can be universally applied in a stable manner. Example: “killing is okay” is disqualified because it would lead to the people who believe such things being killed, therefore, its not a stable moral law. “Don’t kill,” OTOH, is stable.

  267. #267 Anthony McCarthy
    February 20, 2012

    True, but God telling us God is unscrutable is more like someone saying “you can’t understand me.” Its a self-negating statement.

    Oh, I don’t think so. Just think of all of those things that people who have mastered extremely difficult areas of mathematics or population genetics or musical analysis have to say about them to people who have not the slightest ability to understand why they are asserting what they do. Some person understanding something doesn’t mean that their pointing out that another person doesn’t understand them is “self negating”. God would be expected to have many thoughts that people can’t have. Not understanding things is pretty much the human condition.

    theism or deism does not provide these rights, either.

    Leaving aside the near-myth of deism, oh, yes it does. All human beings are endowed with rights by the Creator. Is the passage I’ve paraphrased unknown to you? Rights begin to be asserted on that basis as early as Genesis, Cain’s right to life despite his being a murderer, Rachel’s right to accept or refuse a marriage proposal, the denial of justice to Joseph on the basis of false testimony. Justice and inherent rights were pretty much religious innovations of Judaism.

    The concept of rights was almost certainly first articulated in those terms. Unlike materialism, that establishes their status as being real and effective quite unambiguously.

    I’m collecting instances of materialist-atheists denying the actual reality of free will, inherent rights, etc. It’s rather remarkable how freely the denial of the reality of rights is among materialists. I will be publishing lists of that denial.

    Up till I read Coyne’s post I link to I’d have never said I’d be reluctant to vote for someone just because they were an atheist- I’ve voted for at least two I know of in the past – but based in what I’m reading I’m beginning to think I’d want to ask some pretty serious questions of an atheist before they’d get my vote now. As I note in the piece I’ve heard many atheists say something like they’d never vote for people on the basis of their religious orientation, and there are some I’d certainly be unlikely to vote for on that basis. I’m not going to vote for anyone who doesn’t totally believe in inherent and equal rights for every person.

  268. #268 Calli Arcale
    February 20, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    I’d rather challenge materialist atheists to produce a belief in inherent rights, equality, justice.

    Not answering your challenge in any way, but you make me think of “Hogfather”, which has this fantastic bit towards the end, after Death and his granddaughter Susan have foiled the nefarious plot of the Auditors to kill the Hogfather (the Discworld equivalent of Santa Claus) and prevent the sun from rising in the morning:

    “All right,” said Susan, “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need … fantasies to make life bearable.”
    NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
    “Tooth fairies? Hogfathers?”
    YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.
    “So we can believe the big ones?”
    YES. JUSTICE. DUTY. MERCY. THAT SORT OF THING.
    “They’re not the same at all!”
    REALLY? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET YOU ACT LIKE THERE WAS SOME SORT OF RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.
    “Yes. But people have got to believe that or what’s the point?”
    MY POINT EXACTLY.

  269. #269 eric
    February 20, 2012

    Leaving aside the near-myth of deism, oh, yes it does. All human beings are endowed with rights by the Creator.

    This is no answer to the Euthyphro. If the creator created those rights, they aren’t inherent any more than some right I “create” would be. If the rights are independent of him, we didn’t need him to create them.

  270. #270 eric
    February 20, 2012

    AMC: As I note in the piece I’ve heard many atheists say something like they’d never vote for people on the basis of their religious orientation, and there are some I’d certainly be unlikely to vote for on that basis. I’m not going to vote for anyone who doesn’t totally believe in inherent and equal rights for every person.

    “Never vote for people on the basis of their religous orientation” seems to me to mean ‘I generally don’t consider a candidate’s religious beliefs when choosing who to vote for.’ IMO there’s nothing wrong with that at all. What do you find upsetting about it?

    If, however, you’re taking it to mean ‘I won’t vote for people who don’t share my theology,’ then I think you lie about your ‘hearing it many times’ story. Since you’ve heard it so many times, I challenge you to cite even just three examples of US atheists saying that to you. Practicaly all US candidates for major offices are religious; an atheist saying they wouldn’t vote for a religous person is tantamount to saying they won’t vote.

  271. #271 Owlmirror
    February 20, 2012

    theism or deism does not provide these rights, either.

    Leaving aside the near-myth of deism, oh, yes it does. All human beings are endowed with rights by the Creator.

    Funny that you should call “deism” a “near-myth”, and imply that you agree that deism does not provide inherent rights. The author of the words you paraphrase, Thomas Jefferson, was a deist.

    But there’s a problem with this claim: It’s just an assertion.

    What makes the assertion correct? Certainly not because Thomas Jefferson wrote it; that would be just an argument from authority.

    If just saying so, makes it so, well, in that case, an atheist can cheerfully rewrite Jefferson’s words:

      We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all humans are equal in legal status, that they inherently have certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    And, boom, just as good as Jefferson, with no silly appeal to antiquated superstition…

  272. #272 Owlmirror
    February 20, 2012

    Rights begin to be asserted on that basis as early as Genesis, Cain’s right to life despite his being a murderer,

    There’s no assertion made in the bible that Cain has a right to life.

    You might think that one is being implied, but I think the whole genocidal “flood” story pretty much negates the idea that anyone at all has any sort of “inherent right to life”.

    Life is magic gift that God grants, and reserves the right to remove, in Genesis. It’s not a “right”.

    Rachel’s right to accept or refuse a marriage proposal,

    What about Hagar, or Zilpah and Bilhah? Did anyone ask them if they wanted to be fucked by their respective mistresses’ husbands? Or, in Hagar’s case, banished to the desert later on because her mistress changed her mind and became jealous of her?

    the denial of justice to Joseph on the basis of false testimony.

    How about the denial of justice to Esau based on Jacob falsely testifying to being him?

    Justice and inherent rights were pretty much religious innovations of Judaism.

    Cherry-picking bible stories, and ignoring the distinct privilege implicit in most, if not all, of those bible stories, and also ignoring the entire history of legal codes, entirely fails to make your case for you.

  273. #273 Kel
    February 20, 2012

    I’d rather challenge materialist atheists to produce a belief in inherent rights, equality, justice.

    But rights, equality, and justice are not inherent. They are inventions (partially of the evolutionary process, partially of our own reflection) that help to make the most of our existence.

    The question is, why do rights, equality, and justice need to be inherent to be meaningful or useful? Can’t it just be a bad thing to do to cause harm to others because of their suffering than to try to find some built-in law to the universe?

  274. #274 Kel
    February 20, 2012

    I’m not going to vote for anyone who doesn’t totally believe in inherent and equal rights for every person.

    Why can’t one believe in equal rights without it being inherent? Surely working for equality is a good thing in terms of the implications it has for individuals living under it. Isn’t that enough? Isn’t that sufficient?

  275. #275 Kel
    February 20, 2012

    It’s funny that atheists, when they do speak out on issues of injustice and inequality, are almost always speaking against it. They are huge crusaders for liberal rights and fight for them to be extended as far as possible. I’m sure Andrew McCarthy is not ignorant of this, so is his gripe that they have no foundation to believe what they do? That he can vote for no atheist, not because atheists don’t believe in rights, justice and equality (evidentially they do), but because they believe it for the wrong reasons?

    I really don’t get your point, Andrew. Atheists are some of the staunchest supporters of rights and fighting injustice. How that relates to the philosophy of materialism is a different thing from the values that people hold. It would be like bringing up the evolutionary argument against naturalism to call atheists holocaust deniers (after all, where’s their epistemology?). If they aren’t denying the holocaust, it makes no sense to convict them for it on grounds of lack of justified epistemology. Likewise, if they are affirming the fight against inequality and injustice, what does it matter about that first-principles justification? It doesn’t, listen to what a person says and how they act – not judge them by your perceived notion of their philosophy.

  276. #276 Owlmirror
    February 20, 2012

    Why can’t one believe in equal rights without it being inherent?

    Would you be OK with equal rights being metaphorically inherent?

  277. #277 Septepenra
    February 20, 2012

    Owlmirror @ 254

    What value does “sacred science” create?

    Funny, you have admitted @76 that you do not know what “Sacred Science” means. I put the question to you and your two spars: What value does evolution science create” As yet none of the pro-evolutionists have been able to attempt to answer my question, but I will answer yours by referring back to my post @246

    … Consequently, as minor prejudices appear to be, they contribute to our fundamental lack of understanding about Sacred Science, the body of ancient knowledge which could offer clues to past human accomplishments as well as our own future possibilities.”

    The “key” to this excerpt being “our own future possibilities”. Also as LCDR Williams hasindicated as per Me @246, “The foundations of our western civilations were laid in East, in the great river valleys of Mesopotamia and Egypt”.

    W.r.t. your comments on the pyramids, I refer you to the first sentence of the above except. Firstly, the stones of the pyramids were not moved from quarries to a plain, they were grown onsite, just as you can buy a crystal kit and watch the crystals grow. Before you level your attack on this statement, you may want to do some research on new techniques nano-crystals which are purified) in use in the manufacture of the new composite materials (i.e. conductive ceramics, etc.). Further, even if you believe the contemporary simplistic view you have swallowed, you are lead to an even greater problem in explaining how the blocks were lifted and positioned so as a razor blade cannot fit between the blocks. Secondly, the pyramids were not built for the purpose of being used as tombs as all the tombs did not include mummies; in saying this you show your fundamental lack of understanding of the pyramids and “Sacred Science”. Thirdly, the pyramids are only one of the physical manifestations of “Sacred Science”. Have you investigated the large body of ancient Egyptian literature on astronomy, medicine, agriculture, mathematics, etc., obviously not! Your vague knowledge or understanding of the pyramids appears to be limited to just the geometry. The purpose of the pyramid constructions was not for food production, nor to heal people. The other aspects of their knowledge deal with those issues.The following website may assist you in expanding your knowledge of the pyramids if you are interested.

    http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/cosmic_tree/galactic-math.htm

    Yes, I agree that the pyramids, as taken alone, are “feces”, although the difference between your theory and “Sacred Science” is the ability to look into the mind, science, social construct, behaviour, etc. of these ancient people, which you have admitted cannot be done through the mere analysis of incomplete findings of fossils.

  278. #278 Septepenra
    February 20, 2012

    Owlmirror @255

    >In Me @232, third last paragraph, I referred to the “Ebers” papyrus. Did you research this medical works, since you insist in bringing one-dimensional arguments involving the pyramids as if the pyramids are the totality of the ancient Egyptian civilization?

    “The eight phases in the creation myth of Hermopolis correspond to the formation of the basic eight familiar elements of chemistry: alkalis, nitrogens, alkalines, oxygens, borons, carbons, and noble gases contained in the universe. These are represented by the four pairs of prototypical Fire (Huh and Hauhet), Earth (Kuk and Kauket), Air (Djehuti and Maat) and Water (Nun and Naunet).”

    Thus is nonsense, and bears no relation at all to actual chemistry, besides sprinkling in a bunch of chemical terms into a description of mythology.

    >If you read this except carefully, you will note that it states “…in the universe”, not your material based modern chemistry. Are you aware that up until the end of the 19th century and early into the 20th, British scientists referred to the chemical elements as “gods”, obviously not?

    >During my university chemical engineering studies many years ago, I was taught a concept called “infinite dilution”, the amount of a chemical that could be added to the ocean without detection. Today, based upon environmental studies we know that this concept of modern chemistry was a completely false notion.

    >Your modern science and today’s highly evolved homosapiens in their infinite wisdom, produce results such as this:

    >http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/17/us-birdlfu-who-research-idUSTRE81G1KC20120217
    For man is a divine being by nature; he is comparable, not to other living creatures upon earth, but to the gods in heaven.
    Not just nonsense, but arrogant nonsense.

    >How does this differ from your evolutionist theory? In your theory, is there an entity/being above man in your theory?

    This is my some of anti-side argument to your ridiculous TOE pseudo-science. Too long?
    Too long, and too meaningless.

    >You expect me to explain a fully integrated science (astronomy, medicine, agriculture, mathematics, etc. .) in a few paragraphs. That is why you it would be difficult, if not impossible for you to gain any understanding of “Sacred Science”.

    (the TOC might be too much for you let alone the 800+ page contents)

    800+ pages of nonsense is still nonsense.

    >Without reading this works, referring to it as “nonsense” is utter arrogance. Sir Godfrey Higgins was commissioned by the British monarchy to travel the globe and investigate the subject matter of this works. He was knighted for this works. How many other multi-disciplinary scientists in the last century do you know that have been knighted for their contributions to humanity?

    You have a false doctrine and when someone questions you, due to your insecurities in your belief of your theory, you attack instead of defending the doctrine you initially so confidently espoused.

    You certainly describe your own religious fanaticism very well.

    >“Sacred Science” is not a religion in modern terms as in our “arrogance”, we “Sacred Scientists” do not worship a god, nor do we accept the idea that someone/thing is coming back to save us. In addition, we do not distinguish between good and bad, as they are relative. There is no “devil” concept in “Sacred Science” as this is a product of European Christianity and Islam, and Judaism. We do not rely on a scapegoat to blame for any of our actions; we take responsibility for our actions.

    The Egyptians know they came from a common ancestor

    Did they? What evidence did they provide for this?

    >I have provided you with excerpts from a text by Rosemary Clark. Go and read it. Also among other texts, go and read the works of E. Wallis Budge, the keeper of the British Museum at the time when Egypt was pillaged.

    They also know that they originated from a primeval swamp,

    Did they have evidence of this?

    >Yes, I refer to the above works and many others. The pyramids and other works of “Sacred Science” are the physical manifestation of this knowledge. The columns of the temples symbolically represent the aquatic vegetation present in the primeval swamp. “Sacred Science” uses nature to convey its knowledge and secrets as nature was the common reference point for all ancient peoples.

    pre-cosmogenesis

    This will probably astound you, but swamps did not exist before the cosmos did.

    >This is a concept that your materialist, left hemisphere dominated mind apparently could never understand, at least during your current physical animation. In the first chapter of the biblical Book of Genesis, man was created within the first seven days of creation, but in a later chapter it states that no rain fell upon the earth and there was no man to plow the fields. In the first chapter the creations were not yet physically manifested just as when an architect conceives the design of a building, the building exists in his mind as thought, but it is not yet manifested physically

    , not unlike your TOE assertion that all life came out of water.

    Evolutionary biology offers quite a bit more detail than “primeval swamp”.

    >As you have no knowledge of “Sacred Science”, as you have already admitted @76, this statement is based upon your, and modern sciences supreme arrogance.

    They do not however subscribe to your foolish notion that their existence is based upon a sequence of physical evolutions.

    Why is it foolish? Because you say so?

    >No, because evolution “science” is founded on a series of non-sequitors. That’s why it does not create any value.

    I would have to support their claim as you are drawing conclusions on a culture and tradition you clearly know absolutely nothing about.

    Or rather, you are drawing conclusions about science that you clearly know absolutely nothing about.

    >Please see my previous answer?

    And I kinda suspect that you don’t really know that much about ancient Egypt, either, as opposed to having read a bunch of old books written by silly pseudo-archaeologists, mystics, and spiritualists, who relied on then-current archaeological findings to spin up wads of meaningless bafflegab.

    >Clearly you know nothing of the credentials of R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz (given the name of “de Lubicz by the then King of Lithuania), Sir Godfrey Higgins, Count C. F. Volney (commissioned by the French monarchy), E. Wallis Budge, LCDR David Williams and Isha Schwaller de Lubicz and Rosemary Clark (excerpts in Me @246 from book copyrighted 2000). The latter two are alive and rely on the latest findings and overstanding based upon a rigorous scientific investigation of the facts through the mind of an Egyptian, not from the mind of a materialist. Again, your calling these people “silly” without even read the works, is the height of arrogance and just shows your insecurity of your acceptance of your “theory”!

    I guess it is difficult to accept the realization that the TOE linear sequence is a failure

    What “linear sequence”?

    >Provide evidence that it is not implied within the theory!
    as there was a more highly evolved civilization which was in full swing before modern materialistic science and the first Caucasoid was ever born.

    Nonsense. Europe was populated long before Egypt’s civilization arose.

    I agree that both came before modern science, but that should be obvious to anyone.

    >Again, you have shown your complete ignorance of the civilization of Egypt and the continent as all cultures throughout the continent, every culture close to or below the equator (pyramids in central America, etc.) used “Sacred Science”.

    >Europe was not populated before Egypt’s civilization arouse, at least not by Caucasians. Again you are not qualified to speak of this civilization as you have admitted and shown you know nothing about ancient Egypt or the beginning of the civilization. Further even if someone was gullible enough to accept your assertion, where is the evidence of a “civilization” of any significant development prior to Greece?

    But as an evolutionist you should already know that the genome of an African or person of colour is more complete than that of a Caucasoid.

    Since that is almost entirely meaningless, it cannot be “known”. All genomes of healthy living organisms are complete, otherwise, the organism would never have developed in the first place!

    I suppose that the genome of those with genetic defects might be considered “incomplete”, but it’s nonsense to say that that applies to entire continental populations.

    >Does not a deficiency in melanin constitute a genetic defect? In the extreme case, what is the average life expectancy of an Albino?

    Maybe you’re thinking of the fact that African genomes are more diverse, because African peoples have lived on the continent for longer, and populations outside of Africa were founded from smaller groups, with necessarily less diverse genomes. But that does not mean “more complete”, and it cannot apply to “people of color” outside of Africa.

    >Please see my last answer.

    Your acceptance of this fact does not make you a Hottentot if that is what you are concerned about.

    “Hottentot”? Why do you use such a derogatory term to refer to the ancient Khoikhoi people?

    Are you a racist?

    >If you had any historical knowledge about how “Hottentot” was used during that period, you would have understood the context. When great European men like Volney, /Higgins and Gerald Massey and other truthful European of that period, wrote their works it was in opposition to the prevailing mindset and view of Africa in Europe and America. As such, they were labeled “Hottentots”, meaning, to put it mildly, they were accused of being lovers of Africans. Am I a racist? What is my race, and, a racist against what race?

    >You are drawing conclusions about the ancient Egyptians, their civilization, culture and traditions, although you have admitted you know very little or nothing about them.

    >Is that not the definition of racism?

    >In your cherry-picking of my questions and comments I trust you will address the above question!

  279. #279 Anthony McCarthy
    February 20, 2012

    Holy cow, Septepenra, and I think I can go on for a while.

    It’s funny that atheists, when they do speak out on issues of injustice and inequality, are almost always speaking against it. They are huge crusaders for liberal rights and fight for them to be extended as far as possible.

    Yeah, what happened? Actually, the history of modern atheism is more characterized by the denial of things like inherent rights than assertions of liberalism. When the atheism is founded in materialism it makes it impossible to assert the real existence of rights and other, necessarily metaphysical attributes of people. Considering how many have denied that consciousness is an illusion, that free will is an illusion, that we are “meat automatons”(Jerry Coyne’s phrase, not one I invented) mere conglomerations of chemical reactions, it’s no wonder that “meat automatons” are not really seen as the possessors of real rights.

    Of course, politically, whenever governments have been controlled by atheists the results have been bloody dictatorships, from the reign of terror right down to North Korea. That is consistent enough to constitute a cautionary lesson. I’m taking it seriously after reading Coyne et al.

  280. #280 Septepenra
    February 20, 2012

    Owl Mirror,

    If you know anything about American history you are aware that Benjamin Banneker, (a second generation African slave of the Dogon tribe of West Africa) completed the design and layout of Washington DC using “Sacred Science”. His founding (survey) was completed at night to align with certain stars in the heavens. The instrument that he used to site the stars was a seven pointed star, which is contained in the Neter Sheshet’s crown. Her crown and scepter directly represent the sacred measuring instruments of the temple astronomer and architect.

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dogon_people

    I am sure that you are aware that the US one dollar bill contains a pyramid. On the right side of the bill is an eagle with olive branches (peace) and arrows (war) in its talons, with the eagle’s head turned towards peace. The eagle was lifted directly from the “Sacred Science” of the ancient Egyptians and the Neter Mut, (depicted in the form of a vulture).

    http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=image+of+egyptian+goddess+mut&view=detail&id=8C1027523695FC45815DCF3DC22837F8F376A581&first=301&FORM=IDFRIR

    The difference between the two images is that Mut holds the symbol of the “Shen” in her talons. The “Shen” is the symbol for eternity, a sphere bound to a horizontal base not unlike the Grecian “ouroboros”. The circle represents the natural forces through cyclic periods while tied to the plane of manifestation and refers to timeless time, and endless periods. If you can see through your material mind, you will also notice that this symbol is the sun (or any other celestial sphere) rising and setting on the earthly horizon.

    America was founded based on Judeo-Christian beliefs???

  281. #281 Kel
    February 20, 2012

    When the atheism is founded in materialism it makes it impossible to assert the real existence of rights and other, necessarily metaphysical attributes of people.

    No it doesn’t. It’s just you have an impossible standard for what “real existence” constitutes. There are good reasons for fighting for equality, fighting against injustice, and working towards rights. But those reasons only make sense in a finite contingent sense, not in any imposed sense on the universe. If you can’t find it in your nature to be good to others, then what good does adding some new force do? What would make morality sufficient? Show me what your solution is to the problem you set materialism…

    Considering how many have denied that consciousness is an illusion, that free will is an illusion, that we are “meat automatons”(Jerry Coyne’s phrase, not one I invented) mere conglomerations of chemical reactions, it’s no wonder that “meat automatons” are not really seen as the possessors of real rights.

    Firstly, why are you going to Jerry Coyne for philosophical advice? Secondly, I don’t think Coyne would defend what you’re saying (see his NYT article on morality). And third, what makes for a “real right”?

    Of course, politically, whenever governments have been controlled by atheists the results have been bloody dictatorships, from the reign of terror right down to North Korea. That is consistent enough to constitute a cautionary lesson. I’m taking it seriously after reading Coyne et al.

    Do you think that Coyne would actually advocate something like North Korea? Seriously? Do you think any western atheist would desire a North Korea-type government? If so, show me examples.

    Do you think that all atheists who critique religion for their crimes against the individual are being hypocrites?

  282. #282 Septepenra
    February 20, 2012

    Anthony Carter @279

    When you are dealing with “meat automations” as you reference (a most excellent description), your arguments cannot be reduced to simple one-liners.

    Oh and by the way, the “holy cow” is none other than the ancient Egyptian Neter Het Her (the Grecian Hathor) and the root of the modern girl name Heather, just as the name “Sara”, in ancient Egyptian, means “Son of Ra”, which has been lifted by Christianity and used as “Son of God”.

    In Judeo-Christianity it is none other than the golden cow.

  283. #283 eric
    February 20, 2012

    Kel:

    Do you think that Coyne would actually advocate something like North Korea?

    IMO Coyne’s problem is exactly the opposite. He thinks non-free-will provides justification for liberal public policies (specifically on justice), when it provides no evidence for any social policy one way or the other.

    But I digress.

  284. #284 Septepenra
    February 20, 2012

    Do your single-celled eukaryotes contain melanin in their cell structure?

    In the evolutionist imagery of fish or sea creature coming out of water on fins or stubby legs, it apparently had gills to breathe air, but what protected it from the sun? Did it come out of the sea as a warm blooded species or cold blooded species? If came out warm blooded, how did it survive during its time in the sea as this I assume was pre-aquatic mammal (whale or penguin). If came out cold what caused the change/evolution to warm blooded mammal?

    Did birds evolve from flying fish? If so did they get their feathers while still a sea creature? If not while a sea creature, how could they survive the sun? Alternately, did birds evolve from butterflies or moths? Birds have a high concentration of copper in their feathers; did that come from the sea, air, or land?

    You indicated that homosapiens share 98% of DNA with chimps, and orangutans. Why did they all not evolve?

    In your theory, what causes a species to evolve? Is the evolution programmed in the DNA? If so, who/what did the programming?

  285. #285 Kel
    February 20, 2012

    Owlmirror, ‘metaphorically inherent’ sounds a good way of describing the view I’m putting forward. The problem I find is that notion of what could be meant by ‘inherent’, which I think creates an impossible standard, and isn’t really necessary to the concept. Notions like rights, justice, and equality only make sense in terms of their effect on sentient beings. Nothing beyond the human condition is needed – or even makes sense – to apply to morality.

    I don’t think it would be accurate to say what I’m proposing is literally inherent, nor do I think it would satisfy some theists as a sufficient morality. To them I ask what’s missing? What ought morality be? And can they put forward a conception of morality that satisfies those criteria?

  286. #286 Septepenra
    February 21, 2012

    Professor Rosenhouse

    As a Mathematician, (and if your schedule permits)I would be interested in your opinion of the soundness of the mathematics involved in the following analysis at:

    http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/cosmic_tree/galactic-math.htm

    Thanks

  287. #287 Kel
    February 21, 2012

    This is a much better telling of the view I’m trying to argue for.

    Philip Kitcher on the ethical project:
    “Ethical progress is a matter of problem-solving. It is not progress to something (a final complete ethical system), but progress from, and the evolution of ethics is always unfinished.
    [...]
    The ethical project is a venture in problem-solving that responds to deep features of the human condition – specifically, we are altruists enough to manage a particular sort of social life, but, without the technology of ethics, that sort of life would be fragile and difficult.
    [...]
    Ethics is our invention. Human beings do not discover ethical truths, except in the special sense that we work out together better ways of living together.”

  288. #288 Verbose Stoic
    February 21, 2012

    eric,

    I think you’re being completely disingenuous. Of course you think there is a divine inspiration to this. You have admitted to being a believer. And, pragmatically, you have made the decision to spend a great deal of time defending this particular religion’s god-conception as viable.

    Um, but my own personal beliefs don’t come into it when I’m doing philosophy. I’m trying to examine the arguments and see where they lead, just like people are supposed to do in science. And I very much do argue in defense of positions that are not my own. If you can’t go where the evidence and arguments lead regardless of your personal beliefs, then you shouldn’t do either science or philosophy. And yet you can presume to force me to defend a specific position that you THINK I have while ignoring that we do go where the arguments lead, and call me disingenuous when I want to talk about the original source of the concept. Nice.

    When I, or others, point out to you that self-consistency is not the full measure of the concept’s worth, you put that aside. You say you don’t want to discuss it. But you also claim to be sticking to philosophy. This is bullflop; good philosophy would not simply ignore the fact that there is no reason to believe in even a fully self-consistent concept that had zero evidence behind it.

    Specifics, please. I already conceded at least once if not more than that that having a self-consistent concept does not mean that it exists. In my view, I have never implied or stated otherwise. That being said, if you want to say that a certain concept is not instantiated — ie it doesn’t exist — you have to figure out what concept that is. That’s what I claim to be doing when I do philosophy. I have no clue what you’re doing period.

    More dissembling. You seem to want to use the non-answer “might be” to deflect the question and avoid commiting to a ‘there is’ or ‘there isn’t.’

    No, what I want to do is give the answer I’ve been giving this whole flamin’ time: I don’t know, and much more work needs to be done. Which, I believe, is claimed to be a virtue of science, and yet something you call “dissembling” when someone you disagree with does it.

  289. #289 Anthony McCarthy
    February 21, 2012

    Kel, the only people I’m aware of who would take Jerry Coyne seriously on anything except his narrow specialty in evolutionary biology are new atheists and the editors of The New Republic.

    I wrote about how someone could reasonably have problems voting for a materialist since the denial of the existence of free will, inherent rights, equal rights and a number of other essential prerequisites for democracy to exist is expressed by materialists and just about every atheist I’ve ever known is a materialist. I don’t think a materialist could believe those are any more real than any of the other metaphysical concepts that they routinely dismiss and the writing of materialists are constantly either denying they exist explicitly or trying to define them out of existence as they have tried to do with the concept of generosity. That and the history of officially atheist governments would make it very reasonable for people to refuse to vote for people holding those ideas.

    http://zthoughtcriminal.blogspot.com/2012/02/maybe-this-has-something-to-do-with-why.html

    I’ve asked several of the atheists I’ve heard whine about that survey that said atheists won’t be elected president because of their atheism if they would ever vote for a biblical fundamentalist. The answer in every case so far has been that, of course, they wouldn’t. Well, that’s as much a test of religion as the “won’t vote for an atheist” test. I’d imagine I’d never vote for a biblical fundamentalist either for what I think are good reasons. I wouldn’t vote for someone whose religion supported slavery or male supremacy. I wouldn’t vote for people who held any number of other anti-democratic denials of inherent rights, including materialists who, by their own words, don’t seem to believe that any of them really exist.

  290. #290 Verbose Stoic
    February 21, 2012

    eric,

    I certainly think that there are god-concepts that are inconsistent with evolution. And I think the standard tri-omni one is one of them, because no proponent of it has yet to give a reasoned argument as to how so much extra bonus bloodshed is consistent with it. You have certainly not provided any argument here addressing this, the major point of Jason’s post.

    Re-read 152:

    The problem is that you base the claim that this is so massive that you can’t believe that I, again, am not just agreeing with you on presumptions I don’t have. Being Stoic leaning, I consider suffering an indifferent for the most part, and thus it doesn’t have the strong impact logically that it has for you. Additionally, I’m not convinced that the total amount over years matters. That’s a Utiltiarian view and I — and the Christian faith in general — are not Utilitarian. Also, one can ask that if we could decide that every day living can be nasty, brutish and short in the natural world without causing a significant problem why simply extending living beyond this would be. The argument that it is supposed to be done to allow us to develop is the best shot, but it doesn’t work against the argument raised (imperfect world). Like I said, major philosophical/theological question. A lot to unpack here.

    To break it down:

    1) There are a number of philosophies that deny that suffering is in and of itself bad. The Stoics — whom I lean towards — allow that there can be a pretty much unlimited amount of suffering without impacting the good, or what it means to be good, as long as no one acts “badly” (viciously, in the technical Stoic sense) in generating it. So that suffering impacts good at all is not, in fact, a safe presumption.

    2) Even if 1) is conceded, it is a Utiltarian view to insist that the total amount determines all of it. Many other philosophical views and most Christian views are not, in fact, Utiltiarian, and so if suffering is okay then the amount usually won’t matter.

    3) Even if it is conceded that it matters, if it is determined that the average suffering of day-to-day living is acceptable, what is your evidence that simply extending the timescale longer and having more day-to-day living matters at all? Would it be more merciful to just kill all life forms after one lifetime than to bring new lifeforms into existence and let them suffer?

    4) The argument that a world that is nasty, brutish and short gives us reasons to develop is also still in play (although I did point out a problem with it).

    But I call foul here: if you really cared about this, you would have mentioned it when I first brought them up. But check out @171; you ignored it completely. The fact is that you keep ignoring what I actually say and then cycle through arguments that are not mine, and then get upset when I refuse to address them.

  291. #291 Anthony McCarthy
    February 21, 2012

    Hey, wow, eric, kel…. would you vote for a biblical fundamentalist for president?

    I’ll have to admit, I probably wouldn’t. I did vote for Mo Udall for the Democratic nomination in 1976 because he was the most liberal one running, but I don’t think he exactly qualified as a biblical fundamentalist. If it was between a fundamentalist who believed that inherent rights were real and a materialist who didn’t, I’d have a really hard time doing it but I’d probably go with the fundamentalist if forced to choose.

  292. #292 Verbose Stoic
    February 21, 2012

    eric,

    But more than that, I think your argument is just a very long-winded version of the folk believer’s last line of defense: “well, you haven’t proven beyond doubt that He doesn’t exist!” Your point seems to be: “some hypothetical god concept (VS won’t specify which one) drawn from the bible (VS won’t say how he’s eliminating the biblical interpertations he disagrees with) might be (VS won’t say one way or the other) consistent with evolution. Which, again, is just a complicated verison of ‘my opponents can’t eliminate my belief as a metaphysical possibility, so nyah.’

    Ah, you seem to be trying to use my “folk” distinction against me, but since you refused to ever really ask me to clarify it or read my clarifications you get it completely wrong. Why do you think that sort of argument isn’t one that could be used at the academic level and would at worst just be a bad argument? See why I’m getting a bit frustrated here?

    Anyway, the thrust here is that if you say that the specific God you’re talking about is inconsistent with evolution, and I can show how your reasons for that do not in fact prove that at all, then your argument is muted. Jason here tries to dance around that with an appeal to implausbility, but that runs into the same problem: taking my four counter-arguments, I don’t consider it anywhere near as implausible as he does. However, note that I’m not saying that your not being able to prove that the concept is incompatible and that God doesn’t exist means that everyone should believe He does. I am merely saying that if you can’t prove to the standard of knowledge that God does not exist then you cannot argue that everyone really should abandon that belief. I have no need to give up a belief I have based on insufficient evidence and argumentation, any more than you need adopt one.

    In short, I don’t know if God exists, but neither do you.

    Want me to concede you have an intellectual point? Then specify the properties of your god-concept. Show me those properties aren’t chosen arbitrarily or circluarly to give the answer you want. Then show me how this god-concept would lead a non-believing philosopher, employing reason, to an expectation of an old, evolving, ‘red in tooth and claw’ world.

    I’m sorry, but as I rather sarcastically said to Tulse, I presumed that if you were going to argue for this inconsistency that you knew what God you were talking about, specifically the Christian God. That God includes the Garden of Eden story, which is explicit about this world not being perfect so no “Why don’t we have that Vitamin C gene active” counters, which is where I started and no “We suffer!” simple counters either. You then try to insist that we should abandon that and focus on the tri-omni concept even if that concept is incompatible with the source of the concept. I find that insane, and accuse you of defining God so that you can refute it and being blind to any other argument. Defend yourself first.

  293. #293 Verbose Stoic
    February 21, 2012

    Kel,

    The question is that of how it is we can see any justification in any of the theological premises in the first place. That one can perform conceptual analysis doesn’t mean that any of it is anything other than nonsense, just that you might be able to get logically-consistent nonsense.

    I have already conceded that making it logically consistent doesn’t mean it exists. I hold that this is indeed true of all conceptual analysis and explains why conceptual analysis — even of things that we know exist — can’t be strictly empirical. However, I reply with saying that before you can go out and see if a concept is instantiated — ie that it exists in this world — you need to know what the concept is that you’re talking about and what are the essential and accidental properties of it. That’s what conceptual analysis is, and that’s what I’m trying to do here.

  294. #294 Anthony McCarthy
    February 21, 2012

    There’s no assertion made in the bible that Cain has a right to life. kel

    Look at Genesis 4:14-15. Of course it wasn’t expressed in the modern language of rights but, then, the modern language of rights isn’t so absolutely explicit about the right of a murderer to not be killed as that chapter of Genesis. If you want to point out that later books of the Bible weren’t so unambiguous about it or contradict it, go ahead.

    Utilitarianism is one of the artificial substitutes for morality that tries to get past the need for a metaphysical source of rights. It’s always been tortured and tenuous and it’s no less susceptible to denial on the basis of preferential dismissal by atheists than God. If you want to see what about the cleverest of atheists said to support my contention, Bertrand Russell made that pretty clear.

    Take, for example, a question which has come to be important in practical policies. Bentham held that one man’s pleasure has the same ethical importance as another man’s, provided the quantities are equal; and on this ground he was led to advocate democracy. Nietzsche, on the contrary, held that only the great man can be regarded as important on his own account, and that the bulk of mankind are only means to his well-being. He viewed ordinary men as many people view animals: he thought it justifiable to make use of them, not for their own good, but for that of the superman, and this view has since been adopted to justify the abandonment of democracy, We have here a sharp disagreement of great practical importance, but we have absolutely no means, of a scientific or intellectual kind, by which to persuade either party that the other is in the right. There are, it is true, ways of altering men’s opinions on such subjects, but they are all emotional, not intellectual.

    http://www.personal.kent.edu/~rmuhamma/Philosophy/RBwritings/scienceEthics.htm

    Given Russell’s breezy dismissal of many, many ideas that have the same, presumed, basis I’d go with someone who believed that they have a stronger existence which they were absolutely obliged to take seriously. I’ve got more confidence in their willingness to do without something they wanted in recognition to another person’s inherent rights, to, among other things, justice. After all, human history is an actual demonstration in real life of whatever “forces” that might be there working themselves out. And I’m entirely unimpressed by the history of atheism with political power.

    I wish I could find where Russell expressed himself on the instances in which genocide could be justified on the basis of utilitarianism. But I can’t find it online and I doubt anyone would believe it unless forced to. I’d never trust someone who believed that with political power.

  295. #295 eric
    February 21, 2012

    VS:

    Um, but my own personal beliefs don’t come into it when I’m doing philosophy.

    If your beliefs cause you to narrowly focus on only the validity of an argument while ignore problems with its premises, they most certainly do come into it.

    I’m trying to examine the arguments and see where they lead, just like people are supposed to do in science.

    In science we would question and test the premises you have before accepting your hypothesis as tentatively true, rather than just seeing where they lead. So no, you are not doing something ‘just like’ what people do in science.

    Otherwise you get stuck doing navel-gazing of the worst sort, asking whether pink flying unicorns graze on daffodils or only tulips. The only way to assess whether you have a pink unicorn problem or not is to look at premises and evidence. Which you seem loathe to do. Which leads me to conclude that you are somewhat aware that you have a pink unicorn problem.

    That being said, if you want to say that a certain concept is not instantiated — ie it doesn’t exist — you have to figure out what concept that is.

    what I want to do is give the answer I’ve been giving this whole flamin’ time: I don’t know [whether evolution makes a god-concept unviable], and much more work needs to be done.

    Since you compared philsophy to science, a little turn about is fair play: why don’t you be scientific and draw a tentative conclusion based on the data you have at hand. Or at the very least, tell me what additional data philosophy needs to resolve this question. If you don’t know the answer now, what will it take before you can know one?

  296. #296 eric
    February 21, 2012

    Response to VS@290 (no quote): I’m primarily concerned with mainstream Christian concepts of God, which typicaly includes a desire to minimize human suffering and an unlimited ability to do so. This concept is, for example, reflected in the mainsteam view of heaven as a very nice place to be. Or, as you pointed out, the earlier production of a garden without any human suffering.

    I’ll concede that there are an infinite number of other God-conceptions that are consistent with a lot of pain in the world. If that was your only point, we can stop arguing now. Otherwise, lets move on to discussing whether the mainstream Christian concept is consistent with a lot of pain in the world.

    Why do you think that sort of argument [you can't prove x doesn't exist] isn’t one that could be used at the academic level and would at worst just be a bad argument?

    At best it’s a bad argument. Like Pascal’s wager, it provides equal reason to believe an infinite number of contradictory things. Thus, its worthless as a guide to decision-making, belief-selection, or belief-evaluation. It can eliminate the logically impossible beliefs, but (a) that’s all it can do and (b) we don’t need this argument to do that.

    Jason here tries to dance around that with an appeal to implausbility, but that runs into the same problem: taking my four counter-arguments, I don’t consider it anywhere near as implausible as he does.

    Your 1 and 2 posit different conceptions of God than the mainstream one, so they are irrelevant to Jason’s argument and do not address it at all. 3 might be logically valid, but is unsound because its circular: 3 presumes consistency [between God's nature and current suffering] when consistency is the issue under discussion. 4 is the old ‘God couldn’t do it any other way/do it better/this is the best of all possible worlds’ argument, which even you have said you have problems with.

    So, as far as I can tell, you have 0 credible arguments against Jason’s point.

  297. #297 eric
    February 21, 2012

    VS @292;

    You then try to insist that we should abandon that and focus on the tri-omni concept even if that concept is incompatible with the source of the concept. I find that insane…

    I find it insane that you begin with the assumption that the bible’s god-conception must be consistent and insist we argue from that premise. Why do that? Why assume the author either understood or cared about whether statements A, B, and C about God squared with there being suffering in the world?

    As far as I can tell, your only justification for assuming the literary description of this character must be consistent with a world of suffering is because you make the a priori assumption that it is referring to a real being. IOW, despite your protestations, your personal beliefs are having a dramatic impact on your philosophizing.

  298. #298 Anthony McCarthy
    February 21, 2012

    your personal beliefs are having a dramatic impact on your philosophizing. eric

    To which the answer would be, and this is a surprise? I’ve got a lot more problem with the frequent examples of the personal beliefs (in the form of disbeliefs, most often) being injected into science and what passes as scientific discussion. Especially online.

    One of the best of the many Pauli jokes tells of [Wolfgang] Pauli’s arriving in Heaven and being given, as befits a theoretical physicist, an appointment with God. When granted the customary free wish, he requests that God explain to him why the value of the fine-structure constant, a = e2/( h x c), which measures the strength of the electric force, is 0.00729735….God goes to the blackboards and starts to write furiously. Pauli watches with pleasure but soon starts shaking his head violently…

    And it’s a heck of a lot more difficult to try to find moral values than it is physical constants. With science, that is. Many people seem to manage to find workable morals on the basis of personal experience and things like history with far greater success.

    Physics Today
    On the Calculation of the Fine-Structure Constant (p. 9)
    Volume 142, Number 13, December 1989

  299. #299 Calli Arcale
    February 21, 2012

    Kel:

    Why can’t one believe in equal rights without it being inherent?

    I believe equal rights *are* inherent — in the sense that when we’re born, we’re all equally without rights. Rights are a human invention used to create a common framework in which we can operate.

    Now, I’m a theist, and a Christian besides. This informs my opinions on what sort of common framework we should have, obviously. But I still maintain that rights are something we come up with to make sense of this vale of toil and sin and turn it into something where we can work together as a society.

    I would prefer to vote for a President who thinks that equal rights are something that *should* exist. They cannot exist if we do not want them to, after all; we create them. Equal rights are not inherent, and that’s actually a good thing — it means we have the opportunity to make the world a better place. How does that square with my theology? I think it’s what God wants us to do, and that he sent Jesus to help show us by example how to go about it. Help the weak; care for the sick; be kind to the imprisoned; protect the vulnerable; etc. Treat everyone as you would be treated, and the world becomes a better place. And the greatest thing about that is that it works whether you believe in Jesus or not.

    And that last part is why I will NOT vote for a fundamentalist, unless the alternative is worse, and possibly not even then. They believe it only really works if you *do* believe in Jesus, and believe in the correct way, carrying out the correct rituals, and behaving in the correctly righteous way, and especially making a really big show of trusting only in the Bible. (Never mind which one; to them, that’s a heretical question.) Those people scare me, big-time. I’d rather have someone who wants to *make* the world better than someone who thinks the world is already as good as it will get, so anyone who doesn’t get it can go hang.

  300. #300 Tulse
    February 21, 2012

    There are a number of philosophies that deny that suffering is in and of itself bad.

    But surely traditional Christianity doesn’t take this view, since the end goal is to get to unending bliss in the afterlife. Christianity may argue that suffering may be of assistance in attaining this goal, but clearly it is an undesirable state, since the most desirable state, heaven, has no suffering.

  301. #301 Verbose Stoic
    February 21, 2012

    eric,

    I’m primarily concerned with mainstream Christian concepts of God, which typicaly includes a desire to minimize human suffering and an unlimited ability to do so.

    The interesting thing is that you continually accuse me of beginning with the assumption that the biblical God is consistent with suffering, and yet here we can clearly see that the problem is the precise opposite: you start with a concept that is clearly incompatible with suffering in the world and refuse to budge from that concept, no matter how often I point out that the source of the concept actually explicitly claims that there will be suffering. If you had ever produced your evidence from the Bible that God had to be the tri-omni God, then you might have had a point, but you never did, instead relying on accusing me of assuming that God was consistent when I did not, in fact, do so, but returned to the source of the concept and pointed out that the concept, at the source, IS compatible. Where are your arguments that the mainstream Christian God must include a world with the sort of minimal suffering you describe? Where are your arguments that the Utilitarian vision you cling to is the right way to assess whether the amount of suffering in the world is more than could be allowed by the mainstream Christian God, especially in light of official apologetics that deny that?

    And thus, you can’t understand my arguments. None of them redefine God in any way:

    1) YOU define God as omnibenevolent (all good). This argument challenges the standard idea of good, pointing out that suffering and the amount thereof may not be relevant to that. You would need, then, to reply with an argument that the Christian God must use the “suffering counts” definition of good, and appealing to folk religion and that most people believe that will not do, as they can be wrong. You would need to go to the Bible for that.

    2) YOU argued that the amount of suffering is the sole determining factor. That’s a Utilitarian view. Even mainstream Christians are not Utilitarian, so it is reasonable to object that your view of determining how much or what suffering is too much is not, in fact, the moral view of even the people you’re arguing with, which is what this argument was aiming at. I reject the Utilitarian view and see no reason why we need to use it to judge this outcome. Again, you’d need to argue for why that standard is the one that must be used.

    3) YOU were the one who argued that the extra 3 million years of suffering should give me pause. This argument replies to that by saying that there is no reason to think that if the standard, day-to-day living is consistent — which YOU would have to concede to make the argument that an extra 3 million years of that would make it seem at least less consistent — then there is no reason to think that an extra 3 million years of it is somehow inconsistent. Again, YOU started from a position that at least concedes the possibility that the every day amount of suffering is consistent, and this argument merely takes that presumption and asks why in the world you’d think that the extra 3 million years would matter (Hint: For you it’s 2 that does that).

    4) That the argument is standard and has some issues does not mean that it is wrong. If I was claiming absolute disproof, you’d have a point with your dismissal, but I don’t, so you don’t.

  302. #302 Verbose Stoic
    February 21, 2012

    Tulse,

    But surely traditional Christianity doesn’t take this view, since the end goal is to get to unending bliss in the afterlife. Christianity may argue that suffering may be of assistance in attaining this goal, but clearly it is an undesirable state, since the most desirable state, heaven, has no suffering.

    There is a difference between “undesirable” and “morally bad”. The Stoics agreed that in some sense suffering was undesirable and that pleasure was desirable, as all indifferents were. However, the real point was to make sure that you only tried to acquire the indifferents in ways that promoted the good and avoided the bad. To use vicious ways — ie ways that included acting on a vice — to get the indifferents is wrong, no matter how much you desired the indifferent.

    So, virtuous action that leads to all the indifferents is good and in no way blameworthy, and thus one can have a suffering-less heaven while still not being forced to accept that suffering must be in and if itself morally bad.

  303. #303 Verbose Stoic
    February 21, 2012

    eric,

    find it insane that you begin with the assumption that the bible’s god-conception must be consistent and insist we argue from that premise. Why do that? Why assume the author either understood or cared about whether statements A, B, and C about God squared with there being suffering in the world?

    As far as I can tell, your only justification for assuming the literary description of this character must be consistent with a world of suffering is because you make the a priori assumption that it is referring to a real being. IOW, despite your protestations, your personal beliefs are having a dramatic impact on your philosophizing.

    My mind is boggled here.

    Please demonstrate that I am assuming that the bible’s god-conception must be consistent. I’m not. At most, I did say that if the Biblical notion of the Garden of Eden clashed with the tri-omni God, then so much the worse for the tri-omni God. I see nothing wrong with trying TO build a consistent concept out of it; that’s what conceptual analysis does. However, you could always do the same thing I’m doing and point to things from the source material that really leads us as strongly to the tri-omni God as you claim it is, and you did claim that the Bible led you do that. So hop to it. If you can prove that, then you might be able to prove an inconsistency. That being said, I will examine all purported inconsistencies quite carefully. I hope that won’t bother you.

    I really don’t get that last paragraph. I am assuming that concept includes the concept of some kind of being. I do not in any way presume that it is a being that really exists. I have no idea where you’re getting that from, to be honest. The only presumption I’m making is that the Bible is indeed the starting point and source of the concept, and going from there. Which, then, when the origin story says “Well, Eden was a perfect world and I’m kicking you out into a world with suffering and imperfection” I think it perfectly reasonable to say that you’d have to hold that this world will, well, have some suffering and some imperfection in it, barring better evidence otherwise.

    Again, you start from the tri-omni God that has the issue, and refuse to go deeper to see if that tri-omni God might be compatible with suffering OR that it might not be compatible with the source of the Christian God concept, but instead simply sit on that and insist that anyone who does go deeper is somehow reinventing the concept of God. I claim I am clarifying it. You can’t argue with me on that without referencing the source text. Which you pointedly refuse to do.

  304. #304 Verbose Stoic
    February 21, 2012

    eric,

    If your beliefs cause you to narrowly focus on only the validity of an argument while ignore problems with its premises, they most certainly do come into it.

    So list the supposed premises and the problems with them. Since the suffering thing is what we’re arguing about, it would seem that I’m addressing problems with the premises, and you have advanced no arguments against my responses.

    In science we would question and test the premises you have before accepting your hypothesis as tentatively true, rather than just seeing where they lead. So no, you are not doing something ‘just like’ what people do in science.

    Well, this is disingenuous, since you have switched to “testing the premises” from the original context, which was about my insisting on divine authority. I’m doing no such thing, and am just following the source of the concept. So you’re both not replying to me and are badly misstating my position. It would help things immensely if you could stick to the topic when replying to a quote of mine.

    Otherwise you get stuck doing navel-gazing of the worst sort, asking whether pink flying unicorns graze on daffodils or only tulips. The only way to assess whether you have a pink unicorn problem or not is to look at premises and evidence. Which you seem loathe to do. Which leads me to conclude that you are somewhat aware that you have a pink unicorn problem.

    Conceptually, that sort of “navel-gazing” is valid. It’s generally not interesting. But if someone was claiming that we know that unicorns can’t exist because they are purported to live somewhere where there are no tulips and since they only eat tulips they could not have lived there, figuring out if conceptually it really is the case that something properly called a unicorn can only eat tulips is relevant, interesting and even incredibly important to that argument. Which is what I’m doing for suffering. I have no idea what you’re doing beyond insisting that unicorns only eat tulips because some straw poll of uninformed believers think they do.

    Since you compared philsophy to science, a little turn about is fair play: why don’t you be scientific and draw a tentative conclusion based on the data you have at hand. Or at the very least, tell me what additional data philosophy needs to resolve this question. If you don’t know the answer now, what will it take before you can know one?

    Why should I draw a tentative conclusion?

    What additional data we need is, in fact, pretty much stated in the arguments you ignored. We need to determine what the relationship to good suffering has, whether good implies only moral good, what the limit of suffering in order to remain good must be, whether the tri-omni God must be the Christian God, what the relationship to the years of suffering and the good is, and if a world where we can develop is beneficial enough to outweigh the suffering. Deep philosophical issues that you are not, in fact, at this time — it seems to me — at all qualified to address.

  305. #305 eric
    February 21, 2012

    VS:

    The interesting thing is that you continually accuse me of beginning with the assumption that the biblical God is consistent with suffering, and yet here we can clearly see that the problem is the precise opposite: you start with a concept that is clearly incompatible with suffering in the world and refuse to budge from that concept, no matter how often I point out that the source of the concept actually explicitly claims that there will be suffering.

    I didn’t want to be accused of quotemining so I put the whole paragraph in – but just look at the phrase before the first comma and the one after the last comma. You are doing exactly what you say I “accuse” you of doing!

    As for me, no, I am not starting with a notion of incompatibility, but I do allow for it. I think the notions that God wants to prevent human suffering and that God has the power to do so are as well grounded in your literary source as the notion that God rules over a world that includes suffering. Sure you can reinterpret one to save the others. But that’s arbitrary and sectarian. Taking them all at face falue, the god-concept is irrational and self-inconsistent.

    You would need, then, to reply with an argument that the Christian God must use the “suffering counts” definition of good

    I think that in the mainstream christian god-conception, suffering counts, yes. I would even go further and say this is bleeding freaking obvious.

    Now, the stoics may believe something else. I’m fine with that. But the mainstream christian god-conception is not the stoic one you seem to prefer.

  306. #306 Verbose Stoic
    February 21, 2012

    eric,

    I didn’t want to be accused of quotemining so I put the whole paragraph in – but just look at the phrase before the first comma and the one after the last comma. You are doing exactly what you say I “accuse” you of doing!

    Care to point out where I’m beginning from an assumption? I worked backwards: the claim is that God is incompatible with suffering, I went back to the original concept and noted that the original concept said that this world would have some suffering. So we start from a world that’s supposed to have some suffering, according to the concept. I allow that maybe other things will demonstrate otherwise, but you haven’t demonstrated that yet.

    As for me, no, I am not starting with a notion of incompatibility, but I do allow for it. I think the notions that God wants to prevent human suffering and that God has the power to do so are as well grounded in your literary source as the notion that God rules over a world that includes suffering. Sure you can reinterpret one to save the others. But that’s arbitrary and sectarian. Taking them all at face falue, the god-concept is irrational and self-inconsistent.

    So, produce the examples, and we can work from there.

    As for the other part, again you just don’t know how conceptual analysis works. It is not at least supposed to be arbitrary and sectarian, but the best interpretation that allows for a consistent concept. If you can’t, you can’t. But if you can, then you do. You don’t have to take everything at what you call “face value” because “face value” isn’t that at all; there are always interpretations in that supposedly obvious “face value” reading.

    So, in a sense, the point of conceptual analysis is to in some sense presume that the concept is internally consistent, and interpret as best one can to get the best concept that is internally consistent. Then, you have the concept. But there are limits; you can’t interpret too broadly or drop too much. It isn’t always clear where those limits are, but because there are limits it is not arbitrary, and because it is believed philosophically that there is one right way to interpret a concept it isn’t sectarian either.

    I think that in the mainstream christian god-conception, suffering counts, yes. I would even go further and say this is bleeding freaking obvious.

    Now, the stoics may believe something else. I’m fine with that. But the mainstream christian god-conception is not the stoic one you seem to prefer.

    And philosophically, we don’t care what seems obvious, but about what’s right. And as far as I can recall, the most we get is:

    1) Suffering should be avoided and alleviated. The Stoic conception of good allows for that.

    2) It talks about “good” in general, and the Stoics have a conception of good that might be the right one.

    So, again, I am not redefining or challenging God, but challenging good. Which is a major philosophical question that already challenges the folk notion of good. It is no more invalid to challenge that than it was to challenge the folk notion of “atom”.

  307. #307 eric
    February 21, 2012

    VS:

    Care to point out where I’m beginning from an assumption?

    Right here:

    [conceptual analysis seeks to find] the best interpretation that allows for a consistent concept.

    And how about here:

    the point of conceptual analysis is to in some sense presume that the concept is internally consistent, and interpret as best one can to get the best concept that is internally consistent.

    Now, a brief web search on ‘conceptual analysis’ does not appear to support your claim that presuming self-consistency is part of the method(s). But let’s put that aside because I’m not an expert on it while you may very well be.

    Why do you presume that Jason, Tulse, I, or anyone else must be doing capital-C conceptual capital-A analysis? Why must we follow a methodology that presumes self-consistency? I see a book. It makes many claims about the properties of God. Taken together, they appear inconsistent. I do not have to presume there is a consistent concept secretly hidden away in there at all, any more than I must presume there is a consistent secret message hidden in the first few stanzas of the poem Jabberwocky. Doing so seems to me to introduce an entirely unwarranted premise into the argument.

    So, on what basis do you presume there must be consistency?

  308. #308 Verbose Stoic
    February 21, 2012

    eric,

    Interestingly, your “pointing out” referred to things I said AFTER you claimed I was starting from an assumption, and again you continue to be disingenuous in your quoting. I started from this:

    The interesting thing is that you continually accuse me of beginning with the assumption that the biblical God is consistent with suffering, and yet here we can clearly see that the problem is the precise opposite: you start with a concept that is clearly incompatible with suffering in the world and refuse to budge from that concept, no matter how often I point out that the source of the concept actually explicitly claims that there will be suffering.

    So, I asked you to show me where I was starting from that assumption, the assumption that the concept of God was compatible WITH SUFFERING. Now, your quotes were:

    [conceptual analysis seeks to find] the best interpretation that allows for a consistent concept.

    And:

    the point of conceptual analysis is to in some sense presume that the concept is internally consistent, and interpret as best one can to get the best concept that is internally consistent.

    Note especially the “internally consistent” in second part. The point of conceptual analysis is indeed to work to bring out of the various intuitions and source materials a concept that is not in and of itself internally inconsistent. This does NOT mean that it is therefore to be consistent with something specific in the world, in this case suffering. Which, you’ll recall, is what you accused me of doing, and which I am not doing. And you ignored this key part of the discussion:

    It is not at least supposed to be arbitrary and sectarian, but the best interpretation that allows for a consistent concept. If you can’t, you can’t. But if you can, then you do. You don’t have to take everything at what you call “face value” because “face value” isn’t that at all; there are always interpretations in that supposedly obvious “face value” reading.

    So I even here admit that if you can’t make a consistent concept, you can’t. So it starts by interpreting charitably to make a concept that can be examined and understood, while always keeping in mind that the conceptual analysis might fail and you’ll discover that this is an invalid concept. A far cry from what you accuse me of doing.

  309. #309 Verbose Stoic
    February 21, 2012

    eric,

    Why do you presume that Jason, Tulse, I, or anyone else must be doing capital-C conceptual capital-A analysis? Why must we follow a methodology that presumes self-consistency? I see a book. It makes many claims about the properties of God. Taken together, they appear inconsistent. I do not have to presume there is a consistent concept secretly hidden away in there at all, any more than I must presume there is a consistent secret message hidden in the first few stanzas of the poem Jabberwocky. Doing so seems to me to introduce an entirely unwarranted premise into the argument.

    So, on what basis do you presume there must be consistency?

    Charity, in terms of academic and intellectual work. The problem is that if you simply take a cursory look and see things that look inconsistent you will be doing nothing more than a shallow analysis. As I just said “face value” is anything but. So you have to look deeper before declaring “inconsistent” to make sure that it really is inconsistent. That means interpreting the sources as charitably as you can, allowing for as much latitude as possible, or else you aren’t being fair to your opponents, and instead are holding them to impossible standards of clarity and lack of ambiguity. When I read something that talks about a concept, I have to interpret as charitably as possible because we have to presume that in general the intention is indeed to produce a consistent concept, and so we work on the assumption that that is what they are trying to produce. And so we interpret in light of that attempt. Now, we may still fail. But we have to give it as good a shot as we possibly can, so that we can say that we interpreted it as fairly as possible and still couldn’t make it consistent. There is no downside to this, because as has been said umpteen million times just being a consistent concept doesn’t mean it exists. But our best chance at getting the concept right is indeed to find the best possible consistent concept; we would always have to wonder if we’re understanding it right if we come up with an inconsistent concept arguing against people who think it is at least internally consistent.

    Now, things are more complicated when we are dealing with things that are not carefully crafted philosophical arguments, but a concept gleaned from intuitions and vague stories passed down by word of mouth. But that should make us only more willing to interpret strongly charitably, since we know that some things might not have been written as clearly as they should have been to properly express the concept. Again, there is no downside to this; once we have the concept, then we can examine it against the world.

    Your arguments touch on many of the most complicated and problematic concepts in all of philosophy. Therefore, they won’t be settled with a shallow, simple analysis.

  310. #310 Tulse
    February 21, 2012
    surely traditional Christianity doesn’t take this view, since the end goal is to get to unending bliss in the afterlife. Christianity may argue that suffering may be of assistance in attaining this goal, but clearly it is an undesirable state, since the most desirable state, heaven, has no suffering.

    There is a difference between “undesirable” and “morally bad”. The Stoics agreed that in some sense suffering was undesirable and that pleasure was desirable, as all indifferents were. However, the real point was to make sure that you only tried to acquire the indifferents in ways that promoted the good and avoided the bad.

    The Stoics may indeed have held that, but I though the issue was what traditional Christianity says. In Christianity the “best” end state, the reward that the most moral receive, is complete lack of suffering, and what the “bad” receive is infinite pain. Suffering is indeed tied in the end to moral worth. No one suggests that, in heaven, the dead suffer in order to make them even better. I think it is agreed that a god that inflicted pain on those in heaven would be unjust, no?

  311. #311 eric
    February 21, 2012

    VS:

    So, I asked you to show me where I was starting from that assumption, the assumption that the concept of God was compatible WITH SUFFERING.

    Oh, sure, I can do that too. VS from @45: “you can’t use claims that there are flaws in creation to argue against the traditional Judeo-Christian God.” VS from @57: “See, we started with the evolution/imperfect world thing. You asked me if it was compatible with the three omni God, at which point I argued that it was the God we were talking about.” By which you mean: God-in-suffering-world is the one we must talk about, yes?

    And the money shot, @124: “I argued that the traditional concept of God included a non-perfect world, a world that contained suffering.” Included. You are including compatability-with-suffering in the concept of God you wish to discuss. Assuming as a premise that Jason is wrong, rather than giving an argument why he is wrong.

    You get to include the concept, or argue for it, but not both. Pick one.

    When I read something that talks about a concept, I have to interpret as charitably as possible because we have to presume that in general the intention is indeed to produce a consistent concept, and so we work on the assumption that that is what they are trying to produce.

    If you’re reading a philosophical journal article, I think that is a good approach. But I think it is wildly presumptuous of you to assume the author of a 3,000+ year old story from a stone- or bronze- age culture was as concerned about consistency as we modern folk are. You are imputing your own modern cultural values to a people who did not necessarily share them. You seem to recognize this in your second-to-last paragraph of your last post, but you don’t follow through to the natural conclusion: we ought not impute consistency to ancient myths merely out of some modern desire for it. You are not being charitable by reading an ancient text through modern cultural eyes. You are being myopic.

  312. #312 Kel
    February 21, 2012

    Hey, wow, eric, kel…. would you vote for a biblical fundamentalist for president?

    Depends on their platform. If they are anti-gay and anti-women, I probably wouldn’t – but that’s the rub. It’s what they say and what they do that matters. If it was a Christian who wanted better equality for homosexuals and women, I’d be much more inclined to vote for them than an atheist who wished to maintain the status quo.

    Show me western atheists who are pushing for inequality, injustice and the denial of rights. Come on!

  313. #313 Kel
    February 21, 2012

    I don’t think a materialist could believe those are any more real than any of the other metaphysical concepts that they routinely dismiss and the writing of materialists are constantly either denying they exist explicitly or trying to define them out of existence as they have tried to do with the concept of generosity.

    I’ve given my defence of a “materialist” concept of morality, which you’ve yet to address and instead continued your assertions of your assessment. Why do rights need to be anything other than a human invention to be meaningful? What does being inherent bestow philosophically? If you can’t answer that, then your complaints about materialism missing it is waffle. Substantiate yourself!

    That and the history of officially atheist governments would make it very reasonable for people to refuse to vote for people holding those ideas.

    But the problem here is your extrapolation. Atheists don’t affirm what you say about atheism, you are saying it follows which at best leads to an inconsistency. Materialism is a description of the world at a level very far removed from politics, so why the hell are you looking at materialism for political outcomes? This is just paranoid nonsense on your part.

  314. #314 Kel
    February 21, 2012

    I would prefer to vote for a President who thinks that equal rights are something that *should* exist. They cannot exist if we do not want them to, after all; we create them. Equal rights are not inherent, and that’s actually a good thing — it means we have the opportunity to make the world a better place.

    Agreed, Calli.

  315. #315 Anthony McCarthy
    February 21, 2012

    so why the hell are you looking at materialism for political outcomes?

    The denial of free will, the denial of inherent rights, the denial of equality, the denial of all of these and other things are inevitably and inescapably political. The belief in determinism is inescapably political. The denial of the reality of morality is inescapably political. Those things have real, political consequences when those things, essential prerequisites for the existence of democracy, equality under the law, justice, etc. are denied. They have been denied, in part or in total, by dictatorial governments. The denial of them has been a consistent feature of anti-democratic theory.

    Coyne, in the post that motivated what I wrote was explicitly political in an irrational and somewhat disturbing way. That kind of stuff has shown up over and over again when materialism addresses questions of government. I used to pretend not to notice that, I’m not pretending it isn’t there anymore.

  316. #316 Verbose Stoic
    February 21, 2012

    eric,

    Congratulations! You’ve achieved a truly monumental feat: proven that you don’t read what you quote and what your opponent says in the space of one sentence. Amazing.

    Let’s look at what you accused me of doing:

    You are including compatability-with-suffering in the concept of God you wish to discuss. Assuming as a premise that Jason is wrong, rather than giving an argument why he is wrong.[emphasis added]

    And what was your supposed money shot of quotes that was supposed to prove that I was doing that?

    I argued that the traditional concept of God included a non-perfect world, a world that contained suffering.[emphasis added]

    I am, indeed, arguing for my claim, and have since the beginning. You have continually refused to engage that argument, but accuse me of presuming as a premise that claim, which I’m not doing.

    I am claiming that the traditional concept of God is compatible with a world that contains some suffering, not defining God so that the concept is compatible with a world that contains some suffering.

    I am arguing that position, not presuming it.

    That you miss my argument is not my problem. I have stated it often enough, and you did address it half-heartedly at times, wondering why I can accept the part of the Bible I’m citing and not others. So, you continue to simply not read what I’m saying in your haste to find this supposed presupposition of mine that is, in fact, not there.

  317. #317 Owlmirror
    February 21, 2012

    Funny, you have admitted @76 that you do not know what “Sacred Science” means.

    What I wrote — @77, not 76 — was in response to you writing: “”Sacred Science” is beyond the understanding of most because most people live at the extremeties. “

    And I wrote in response to that was: “What does that even mean?”

    That’s an invitation for you explain. You’ve posted lots more about it, but you haven’t explained the statement you made.

    I agree that, in addition to that, I don’t know what “Sacred Science” means. I suspect that it means something like “pseudoscience and confabulation made up about Egyptian culture, based superficially on genuine Egyptian technical achievements and scientific knowledge”. So far, this suspicion has been supported by your own lack of clarity.

    I wrote @#141: “Modern science tries to figure out what is true about reality by studying reality.” I think that’s a fair summary, although it could be more detailed.

    Feel free to post a similar summation of “Sacred Science”. Or don’t.

    What value does evolution science create” As yet none of the pro-evolutionists have been able to attempt to answer my question,

    The answer to your question depends on what you mean by “value”. The simplest and shortest answer is that since evolution is true — or closer to truth than otherwise — and that truth is inherently more valuable than that which is not true.

    but I will answer yours by referring back to my post @246

    … Consequently, as minor prejudices appear to be, they contribute to our fundamental lack of understanding about Sacred Science, the body of ancient knowledge which could offer clues to past human accomplishments as well as our own future possibilities.”

    The “key” to this excerpt being “our own future possibilities”.

    This quote is grandiose and/or nonsensical. If there were any future possibilities that derive from “Sacred Science”, why are discoveries not being made with it, rather than simply asserted to exist?

    If you think that quotes answer the question of how a science creates value, well, there’s a good quote about evolution:

    “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” — Theodosius Dobzhansky

    Also as LCDR Williams hasindicated as per Me @246, “The foundations of our western civilations were laid in East, in the great river valleys of Mesopotamia and Egypt”

    This is overly-simplified history and/or archaeology. I don’t deny that it is a reasonable summation, but it does not demonstrates what or how “value” is created.

    Firstly, the stones of the pyramids were not moved from quarries to a plain, they were grown onsite, just as you can buy a crystal kit and watch the crystals grow.

    Nonsense. This just confirms my suspicions that you don’t really know much about ancient Egypt.

    The stones of the pyramids are mostly limestone, which is a sedimentary rock, not a single crystal. The quarries that the building materials came from are known.

      Ancient Egyptian quarries–an illustrated overview
    ftp://ftp.ngu.no/pub/quarryscapes/NGU%20Special%20Publication%2012/Low-resolution%20PFDs/02%20Harrell%20and%20Storemyr%20(2009).pdf

    Here’s the abstract of a paper (which isn’t freely available like the one above, sorry):

      Ancient Egyptian limestone quarries in the Nile Valley occur in six geological formations of Palaeogene age. Samples were collected from 23 of the 48 known quarries, and analysed by thin-section petrography and X-ray fluorescence spectrometry. Results of the analyses show that the geological formations can be identified from rock texture and allochem types, and a plot of SiO2/Al2O3 versus CaO/[CaO + MgO]. The application of these petrographic and geochemical parameters make it possible to determine the geographic provenance of limestone used in ancient Egyptian sculptures and monuments.

      HARRELL, J. A. (1992), ANCIENT EGYPTIAN LIMESTONE QUARRIES: A PETROLOGICAL SURVEY*. Archaeometry, 34: 195-211. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-4754.1992.tb00492.x

  318. #318 Verbose Stoic
    February 21, 2012

    eric,

    If you’re reading a philosophical journal article, I think that is a good approach. But I think it is wildly presumptuous of you to assume the author of a 3,000+ year old story from a stone- or bronze- age culture was as concerned about consistency as we modern folk are.

    You know, it’s really a shame that I didn’t think that there might be a difference between the works of the Bible and a philosophical paper or system, and talked about what it meant.

    Oh wait, I did:

    Now, things are more complicated when we are dealing with things that are not carefully crafted philosophical arguments, but a concept gleaned from intuitions and vague stories passed down by word of mouth. But that should make us only more willing to interpret strongly charitably, since we know that some things might not have been written as clearly as they should have been to properly express the concept. Again, there is no downside to this; once we have the concept, then we can examine it against the world.

    See, with carefully crafted philosophical arguments, we know that the intention was to have a perfectly consistent system or argument. That means that we can never drop something; we have to interpret things so they fit without simply dismissing part of an argument. When you get these looser conceptualizations, then we have to deal with competing interpretations of the concept. And so we might well find that part of it was just a wrong interpretation on the part of a later or earlier writer, and that has to be dropped entirely. It makes things more difficult, but again as I said we have to be even more careful not to place too much emphasis on making sure that every single piece of it works if interpreted “at face value”, which you will recall is what you asked we do, I trust?

    You are imputing your own modern cultural values to a people who did not necessarily share them. You seem to recognize this in your second-to-last paragraph of your last post, but you don’t follow through to the natural conclusion: we ought not impute consistency to ancient myths merely out of some modern desire for it. You are not being charitable by reading an ancient text through modern cultural eyes. You are being myopic.

    I simply presume that they are talking about what they take to be something, and that makes it a concept. All concepts, to be understood, have to be logically consistent. So in order to talk about God, we have to talk about what the concept is. This is not a modern desire or modern value, but is a simple fact of the conceptual universe, known from at least Plato and, in fact, long before it, as long as anything like philosophy or even intellect has existed. And so if you want to criticize God, you have to know what it is you’re talking about. And so at this point, I am clueless as to what you think you could have without a concern for consistency; again, I only refer to it as a concept with internal consistency, which means that it is a concept that is not internally self-defeating … and I don’t even promise that, at the end of the conceptual analysis day.

  319. #319 Verbose Stoic
    February 21, 2012

    Tulse,

    Essentially, I’m arguing that, in general, there is a difference between what you want and what is good and moral, which explains the problem you have with my argument. One can argue that in heaven no further development is required, and thus that benefit is no longer required, and so suffering is no longer required, which is perfectly consistent with Christian teaching. I mentioned the Stoics so much only because they have an exceptionally clear explanation of the difference, but you can see similar arguments in the NT, particularly with the demand to give up riches to follow Jesus.

  320. #320 NJ
    February 21, 2012

    Owlmirror@317:

    The stones of the pyramids are mostly limestone, which is a sedimentary rock

    IIRC, the limestones contain abundant foraminifera fossils that have a flattened morphology, which a Greek philosopher surmised were the flattened remains of the beans the builders ate as meals.

    I can’t say if this is apocryphal or not, and don’t really feel like searching to find out…

  321. #321 Kel
    February 21, 2012

    Andrew, stop being an idiot. Firstly, there are plenty of materialists who don’t think materialism is incompatible with free will nor moral responsibility. Secondly, there aren’t any materialists who are advocating throwing out any notion of civic rights on that basis. Thirdly, you are making the assumption that anyone’s political positions follow from metaphysics – it doesn’t work that way most of the time. Fourth, even Coyne says that notions like free will are useful – that he acts as if if he has free will. And finally, you still haven’t showed how inherent rights are superior (let alone necessary) to the conception I put forward.

    This is just a paranoid fantasy you have about materialism that you’re projecting onto all atheists. For the record, we have an atheist prime minister in Australia (not our first), and we haven’t even had an inkling of falling into totalitarianism.

  322. #322 Owlmirror
    February 21, 2012

    Further, even if you believe the contemporary simplistic view you have swallowed, you are lead to an even greater problem in explaining how the blocks were lifted and positioned so as a razor blade cannot fit between the blocks.

    Nonsense. I don’t have to explain anything to know that the blocks are not single crystals. Do you know what single crystals look like, when they are giant? Like this, not like the blocks of the pyramid.

      en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cave_of_the_Crystals

    I would infer that the blocks were lifted and positioned by humans, doing hard work. The blocks just have to be smooth enough to fit on top of one another. I’m no stonemason, but Egyptians had thousands of years to gain knowledge of how to smooth stones.

    Secondly, the pyramids were not built for the purpose of being used as tombs as all the tombs did not include mummies;

    Which ones?

    .The following website may assist you in expanding your knowledge of the pyramids if you are interested.

    Numerology is pseudoscience.

    Our understanding of where we are in the universe, and how the orbit of the Earth and the planets change over time, has only arisen in modern times with modern astronomy and modern telescopes. The Egyptians knew nothing of this, and obsessive mathematical cranks doing mathematical tricks to force results that vaguely resemble modern scientific knowledge is just numerology crossed with archaeology.

    although the difference between your theory and “Sacred Science” is the ability to look into the mind, science, social construct, behaviour, etc. of these ancient people

    It looks like “Sacred Science” is indeed about taking legitimate archaeological discoveries about Egypt, and making up pseudo-science and confabulated stories about them.

    @232, third last paragraph, I referred to the “Ebers” papyrus. Did you research this medical works

    I’ve read about this papyrus:

      neurophilosophy.wordpress.com/2006/07/10/pharaonic-neurosurgery-the-edwin-smith-surgical-papyrus/

    which does indeed have some fascinating examples of analysis, diagnosis, and treatments. But while the Egyptian doctors compiled medical knowledge that was impressive for their time, they were nevertheless hampered by the lack of modern tools and techniques, like microscopes, surgical steel, and modern chemistry.

    If you were sick or injured, would you only go to a doctor who only used Ancient Egyptian techniques listed in the various papyrus collections? Or would you go to a modern doctor using modern techniques?

    If you read this except carefully, you will note that it states “…in the universe”, not your material based modern chemistry.

    The excerpt is still nonsense.

    In the universe, hydrogen, the first element, resulted from the Big Bang. The first few chemical elements formed (and still do form) as the result of fusion of hydrogen in stars. It’s still all matter (and energy).

    Are you aware that up until the end of the 19th century and early into the 20th, British scientists referred to the chemical elements as “gods”,

    Which British scientists? And in what context? Do you have a citation for this alleged usage?

    And I don’t think it particularly matters if they did. The elements are not gods.

    During my university chemical engineering studies many years ago, I was taught a concept called “infinite dilution”, the amount of a chemical that could be added to the ocean without detection.

    Did you actually pass that chemical engineering course? I mean, I’m no chemist, but your description of the concept doesn’t look at all right.

      ehow.com/about_5459313_definition-infinite-dilution.html
    Infinite dilution is a test by extrapolation, not a physical concept. The solute is not actually reduced to zero concentration, for some practical reasons. Instead, an extrapolation, or limit, is determined from data points of various solute concentrations to see if some given property would vanish at zero solute concentration. If it does, then the property is caused by the solute. If not, it is taken as proof that the observed effect is due to something other than that specific solute.

  323. #323 Owlmirror
    February 21, 2012
    For man is a divine being by nature; he is comparable, not to other living creatures upon earth, but to the gods in heaven.

    Not just nonsense, but arrogant nonsense.

    How does this differ from your evolutionist theory?

    No aspect of evolutionary theory claims that humans are gods, or like gods, or came from gods, or have anything to do with gods.

    In your theory, is there an entity/being above man in your theory?

    Why should there be?

    Without reading this works, referring to it as “nonsense” is utter arrogance.

    You seem to be comfortable with dismissing evolution without actually reading works of evolutionary biology, which I agree is pretty arrogant.

    However, I concede that perhaps not all 800 pages are necessarily nonsense.

    But I am suspicious of a work titled “Anacalypsis, an Attempt to Draw Aside the Veil of Saitic Isis”, and reading this description and summary:

      en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anacalypsis

    Only worsens my suspicions.

    Among the many unusual theories presented in this book is that both the Celtic Druids and the Jews originated in India – and that the name of the Biblical Abraham is really a variation of the word Brahma, created by shifting the last letter to the beginning: Abrahma.

    OK, so Higgins makes stuff up about languages and names. Silly word games are not science.

    I am comfortable with not having to read all 800+ pages to dismiss his work as being mostly nonsense.

    Sir Godfrey Higgins was commissioned by the British monarchy to travel the globe and investigate the subject matter of this works.

    Really? As best I can tell, he almost never left England, even as a soldier. The only place he seems to have traveled to was Ireland, perhaps, shortly before illness forced him to leave the army — the text is unclear.

      burghwallis.com/village/articles/higgins.htm

    He was knighted for this works.

    Oddly, this alleged honour is not mentioned in the above summary of his life and works.

    “Sacred Science” is not a religion in modern terms as in our “arrogance”, we “Sacred Scientists” do not worship a god, nor do we accept the idea that someone/thing is coming back to save us.

    But you do defend the doctrines you hold with a fervour very like a religious fanaticism.

    If you were wrong, would you want to know?

  324. #324 Owlmirror
    February 21, 2012
    The Egyptians know they came from a common ancestor

    Did they? What evidence did they provide for this?

    I have provided you with excerpts from a text by Rosemary Clark. Go and read it.

    Your excerpt does not support your argument.

    Are you incapable of finding support in her actual words, I wonder? You have no problem dumping loads of text and dropping links, here, when you think you do have such support.

    Also among other texts, go and read the works of E. Wallis Budge, the keeper of the British Museum at the time when Egypt was pillaged.

    Since Budge’s works are in the public domain now, you should have no problem finding and citing a page or some text that supports your argument.

    The pyramids and other works of “Sacred Science” are the physical manifestation of this knowledge. The columns of the temples symbolically represent the aquatic vegetation present in the primeval swamp.

    I hate to break it to you, but Egyptians using “aquatic vegetation” (reeds) as a decorative motif does not mean that they actually came from “the primeval swamp”. Reeds grow all over the Nile delta, and while Egyptians may have had settlements in reedy locations on the delta, prior to the growth of the Egyptian civilization, they certainly existed as humans before arriving on the Nile delta.

    This will probably astound you, but swamps did not exist before the cosmos did.

    This is a concept that your materialist, left hemisphere dominated mind apparently could never understand, at least during your current physical animation.

    It’s true that I can’t understand it. But I bet you don’t understand it either. Nonsense cannot be understood.

    In the first chapter of the biblical Book of Genesis, man was created within the first seven days of creation, but in a later chapter it states that no rain fell upon the earth and there was no man to plow the fields.

    The first and second chapters of Genesis do indeed contradict each other regarding when man is created.

    In the first chapter the creations were not yet physically manifested just as when an architect conceives the design of a building, the building exists in his mind as thought, but it is not yet manifested physically

    This makes no sense.

    And I thought you didn’t worship a god. Why on earth are you defending Genesis?

    No, because evolution “science” is founded on a series of non-sequitors.

    No, it’s founded on facts. I’m sorry that you’re so ignorant of science that you think that facts are non-sequiturs.

    Clearly you know nothing of the credentials of [long list of puffery about people allegedly doing "Sacred Science"]

    I’m not impressed by any credentials that do not include real scientific recognition — and even there, I’m more than a little wary.

    Especially since you have no problem making stuff up, like Higgins’ commission and knighthood.

    What “linear sequence”?

    Provide evidence that it is not implied within the theory!

    The theory of evolution is not prescriptive, and does not say that there is any “linear sequence” that is followed. Indeed, populations that evolve actually diverge into branches of family trees. They do not follow straight lines.

    Again, you have shown your complete ignorance of the civilization of Egypt and the continent as all cultures throughout the continent, every culture close to or below the equator (pyramids in central America, etc.) used “Sacred Science”.

    Stuff and nonsense.

    Europe was not populated before Egypt’s civilization arouse, at least not by Caucasians.

    Where are Caucasians supposed to have come from, if not Europe?

      en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Out_of_Africa_theory

    Further even if someone was gullible enough to accept your assertion, where is the evidence of a “civilization” of any significant development prior to Greece?

    I didn’t say that the Caucasians were civilized, and I’d be willing to concede that most of them probably weren’t.

    That having been said, there are some interesting Anatolian sites, like this one:

      en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catal_Huyuk

    Does not a deficiency in melanin constitute a genetic defect?

    Not necessarily.

    The utility of skin colour being darker or lighter is dependent on the amount and wavelengths of light reached the particular latitudes that those who have the skin live.

    In the extreme case, what is the average life expectancy of an Albino?

    Caucasians are not albinos.

    You are drawing conclusions about the ancient Egyptians, their civilization, culture and traditions, although you have admitted you know very little or nothing about them.

    I can look up what the Egyptians actually knew, not what pseudoscientists pretend they knew.

  325. #325 Septepenra
    February 21, 2012

    Owlmirror @317

    Sep>What value does evolution science create” As yet none of the pro-evolutionists have been able to attempt to answer my question,

    Owlmirror>The answer to your question depends on what you mean by “value”. The simplest and shortest answer is that since evolution is true — or closer to truth than otherwise — and that truth is inherently more valuable than that which is not true.

    Sep>It took you how many days to come up with as an answer to my question: what value does evolution science create?

    What I mean by “value”? I’m not even going to play your game as based upon your answer; you’re still walking around the circle looking for its end, not unlike your evolution psuedo-science.

    I’ve shown you evidence of the contributions of “Sacred Science” to America in my post at 280, but of course, again, you only hear what you want to hear, and see what you want to see. I’m not here to convince you or to convert you to “Sacred Science”. You have a theory that you have swallowed whole that drinking copious amounts castor oil will not bring it back up.

    Sep>””Sacred Science” is beyond the understanding of most because most people live at the extremities. ”

    See Me @217, par 7.. You cannot even attempt to understand “Sacred Science” as you are dominated by the left hemisphere of your brain to the extreme (see Me @ 278-cosmogenesis).

    You espouse a “theory” of evolution, yet you hold yourself as less than a plant as a plant has a spirit which can be drawn out as alcohol, yet you clearly see yourself as spiritless and without a soul!

    Wow you are brilliant in respect of your knowledge of the pyramids. Just because there is a quarry, they moved the stones from there, another non-sequitor. This myth has been debunked long ago and by many as impossibility…try again. Your supposed “knowledge” of ancient Egypt appears to be limited to visiting one website!
    Your “highly evolved” modern mind assumes that the ancients used brute force as is used in your modern mechanical science. People with your mindset tried to build miniaturized versions and failed and none of those attempts included the inner shafts, chambers or attempted to the level of precision to which the ancients built, even though the moderns possessed, what they think are superior tools to the ancients.

    Now what is your explanation of the Temple at Abu Simbel? Go look for a website…you now everything you see online is true.

    I trust you will address my comments at 278, 280 and 284 regarding whether you are a racist and your pseudo-science.

    P.S. Perhaps you should put your ventriloquist dummy @321 back in his box.

  326. #326 Owlmirror
    February 21, 2012

    the limestones contain abundant foraminifera fossils that have a flattened morphology, which a Greek philosopher surmised were the flattened remains of the beans the builders ate as meals.

    Well, as long as I’m in research mode anyway

    You may be thinking of nummulitic limestone, which Don Prothero references here:

      After the dinosaurs: the age of mammals
      books.google.com/books?id=Qh82IW-HHWAC&pg=PA97

    Thick nummulitic limestones are the major building material in the Gizeh Plateau of Egypt, and most of the blocks of the Great Pyramids are made of them. When the Greek historian Herodotus visited the pyramids, [...] he noticed all the stone disks on the ground and thought they were the petrified lentils from the lunches of the slaves who built the pyramids.

    Oddly, searching through Herodotus’s history does not find a reference to the above detail, and it may be an apocryphal story.

    Searching through Google books some more, I note this page in Herodotus’ history, which mentions the nummulites-as-petrified-lentils in a footnote.

      The history of Herodotus, trans. George Rawlinson, Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson, Sir John Gardner Wilkinson
      books.google.com/books?id=6DINAAAAIAAJ&pg=174

    Ah, I think I see where the mixup occurred. The footnote references “the geographer”, and he’s referencing Strabo, not Herodotus.

      The geography of Strabo, vol. 3, trans. H. C. Hamilton
      books.google.com/books?id=0cZfAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA252

    And! I see that Strabo says that this is something he was told, which he personally says “is not probable”, and he references the lenticular stones of his homeland in Amaseia, which may well have been a different example of nummulites.

  327. #327 eric
    February 21, 2012

    VS@316 (quoting self; I’ve eliminated some editing marks but everything here is VS):

    I argued that the traditional concept of God included a non-perfect world, a world that contained suffering…I am, indeed, arguing for my claim, and have since the beginning.

    Well, I wouldn’t want you to repeat yourself, so perhaps you can simply tell me the post number wherein your argument lies. What I see is: we must consider consistency with suffering as implicit in the concept, since the bible recognizes that suffering exists.

    This is indeed an argument in a sense…you are arguing we should accept as a premise about this god-conception the conclusion we are trying to reach. Because its in the bible. But this is not a valid argument if your opponent questions consistency. It is like saying “you cannot demand I show all pink unicorns fly, because it says right there in my book that all pink unicorns fly.” Its not at all convincing.

    I’ve also given other counter-arguments, which you’ve never really addressed: 1. the bible says many things about God. You are cherry picking when you take this one property and give it priority. 2. The very Eden story you cite as evidence for consistency also mentions properties that are inconsistent with it – namely, that God desires a world for humans without suffering and has the means to produce it. So your one bit of evidence implies all three properties, and the set is inconsistent. 3. Your whole starting point of ‘charity,’ assuming a literary character must have consistent properties, in entirely unfounded. There is simply no reason to assume that.

    All concepts, to be understood, have to be logically consistent.

    Again you assume what you are trying to prove. There is simply no reason to assume that the multiple biblical authors telling multiple stories about a being none of them had direct experience of, across many generations, would or cared about creating a consistent set of properties. Maybe one author was trying to trump another. Maybe one hadn’t read the other – the bible itself was probably assembled decades or centuries after these stories had been circulating.

    Why don’t you start with the fundamentals and ask what independent evidence there is that the statements about God in the bible were intended, by the authors, to yield a consistent whole.

    Do not assume some master plan. Demonstrate it. Otherwise, you’re just analyzing pink unicorns.

  328. #328 NJ
    February 21, 2012

    Owlmirror@326:

    You may be thinking of nummulitic limestone

    Well, that’s what happens when a hard rock geologist only vaguely remembers sed pet.

    How long do you think the “Sacred Science” loon is going to stay on the ‘pyramids-as-giant-crystals’ kick? Following their last post, I went back and read comment 280. Wow! I can only guess that this nutter thinks “National Treasure” was a documentary.

  329. #329 Owlmirror
    February 21, 2012

    What I mean by “value”? I’m not even going to play your game as based upon your answer

    So you have no answer at all. OK. Be that way.

    I’ve shown you evidence of the contributions of “Sacred Science” to America

    You’ve shown nothing of the sort. You’ve offered some little folktales.

    Benjamin Banneker did not use “Sacred Science”. He used the science of surveying. Calling surveying “Sacred” adds nothing.

    I have no idea if the eagle used in the great seal of the US derives from or was influenced by Egyptian depictions of Mut, nor does it matter. Artistic decisions are not science, and they are certainly not sacred.

    And eagles are not vultures.

    You cannot even attempt to understand “Sacred Science” as you are dominated by the left hemisphere of your brain to the extreme

    I can’t attempt to understand something that doesn’t mean anything.

    You espouse a “theory” of evolution, yet you hold yourself as less than a plant as a plant has a spirit which can be drawn out as alcohol

    You’re drunk again, aren’t you? Sober up already.

    Why should I care that volatile chemicals called “spirits” can be distilled from the fermenting of plants? It’s just biochemistry during the fermentation process, and chemistry and physics for the distillation. There’s no “Sacred” involved.

    Just because there is a quarry, they moved the stones from there, another non-sequitor.

    I agree that your nonsense is a non-sequitur.

    This myth has been debunked long ago and by many as impossibility

    Nonsense. This is another non-sequitur.

    Your “highly evolved” modern mind assumes that the ancients used brute force as is used in your modern mechanical science.

    Why shouldn’t I believe that? Because you say so?

    P.S. Perhaps you should put your ventriloquist dummy @321 back in his box.

    Your drunkenness is causing you to hallucinate or something. Kel is not a ventriloquist dummy. He isn’t even talking to you, or about you.

  330. #330 Owlmirror
    February 21, 2012
    There’s no assertion made in the bible that Cain has a right to life. kel Owlmirror [Fixed. Why are people confusing me with Kel?]

    Look at Genesis 4:14-15

    Gen 4:14-15 — Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” But the Lord said to him, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.

    Of course it wasn’t expressed in the modern language of rights but, then, the modern language of rights isn’t so absolutely explicit about the right of a murderer to not be killed as that chapter of Genesis.

    It isn’t expressed as a general right at all. It’s clearly a one-off that God does for Cain. I even think it might be argued that it’s because Cain implicitly kills out of jealousy for God, as opposed to any other motive. Religious hatred and sectarian violence are what is being protected/forgiven. It’s not a general right for anyone, murderer or otherwise, to live.

    If you want to point out that later books of the Bible weren’t so unambiguous about it or contradict it, go ahead.

    It’s not in a later book; it’s two chapters later that contradicts it. The flood story demonstrates clearly that no-one at all has a right to life.

  331. #331 Septepenra
    February 21, 2012

    Owlmirror @326

    You need to address Me@278 and 280.

    I have already completed over thirty years of research, before the public had the ability to access the internet, which is not the best source on the subject of Ancient Egypt and “Sacred Science”.

    My knowledge of “Sacred Science” is the product of reading, (in many cases the same book several times), the well over 100 books that I have in my personal library. It also included attending lectures by some of the leading scholars in African Antiquities who teach or have taught at tier one universities in the USA, including Harvard which has been teaching a course about African in Antiquity since the early 1900s. So the elite class of America and the world know exactly what I am talking about. My research was not limited to ancient Egypt (Kemt), (where I spent time) I have also researched the other traditions of the Greece, the Far East and Central America, as well as travelled to the latter two.

    In the country where my father was born and lives, there is a tree bark called “Bois Bande”. It has been used for centuries to give a man an erection, and they say the treatment for overdosing was to either get the vein cut or to “buy a cow”. Modern science began aware of it recently. Viagra is synthetic Bois Bande which I know because my father’s physician was involved in conducting clinical trials of same.

    I thought my posting the info on Benjamin Banneker and showing you that both the major symbols on the US one dollar bill are of ancient Egyptian origin would give some credibility to “Sacred Science”, but even though it is before your eyes you do not want to believe because as one of the excerpts from Rosemary Clarks’s book, (which you incorrectly call quotes) indicates:

    “A very real prejudice is based upon modern science’s rejection the ancient technologies could be superior to our own.”

    They tell us we are only using 2% of the potential of our brain. As such an evolved species, why are we not taught more about the functioning of our brains and its potential? This is/was central in the teaching of the ancients, as the Neters’ crown, for example the crown of Maat, which consists of a single feather emerging from the fissure of the two lateral lobes of the brain; is associated with the combined use of intellect and intuition, the linear and circular perceptions. In one of her depictions, Maat is a blind-folded woman holding a scale. Sound familiar…it was lifted and used as the symbol of the US justice system, just as the scepter of Djehuti, the caduceus was lifted and used as a symbol in medicine. I could give you examples upon examples of images of “Sacred Science that you see every day right in front of you. Another example is the Egyptian symbol for the “Tuat”, a five pointed star in a circle, which is in one instance, the most powerful symbol of protection. Why do you think it has been lifted and used on every military transport in the world, including Air Force One!

    Through the initiations into “Sacred Science” those primitive people of Africa and others, were able to use 100%. I’m sure you agree that if you could use 100% of your brain in the service of man, you would be a God.

    This is the purpose and the value of “Sacred Science”.

  332. #332 Septepenra
    February 21, 2012

    Owlmirror @328

    I’m sorry, your ventriloquist dummy @320.

    My apologies Kel!

    Tell you what Owlmirror, after you complete a fews years of research, come back and talk to me.

    Owlmirror, you are drawing conclusions about the ancient Egyptians, their civilization, culture and traditions, although you have admitted (in doing your research on the fly) you know very little or nothing about them.

    That IS the definition of racism?

    Hotep

  333. #333 Kel
    February 22, 2012

    [Fixed. Why are people confusing me with Kel?]

    Both of us have a posting style of no-nonsense verbose continual posts that has come from years of commenting at Pharyngula? :P

  334. #334 Owlmirror
    February 22, 2012

    Do your single-celled eukaryotes contain melanin in their cell structure?

    Probably. Or something very like it. Pigments are ancient molecules.

    In the evolutionist imagery of fish or sea creature coming out of water on fins or stubby legs, it apparently had gills to breathe air, but what protected it from the sun?

    Pigments are ancient molecules.

    Did it come out of the sea as a warm blooded species or cold blooded species?

    Cold-blooded, obviously, since warm blood is a rather late development in evolution.

    If came out cold what caused the change/evolution to warm blooded mammal?

    The answer is not known, but one hypothesis is that warm blood has to do with balancing carbon and nitrogen.

    http://www.nick-lane.net/hot%20blood.pdf

    Did birds evolve from flying fish?

    No. Birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs.

    If not while a sea creature, how could they survive the sun?

    Pigments are ancient molecules.

    Birds have a high concentration of copper in their feathers;

    Do they? What makes you think so?

    did that come from the sea, air, or land?

    The question makes no sense. Obviously, any heavy elements like metals in feathers come from the bird’s diet.

    You indicated that homosapiens share 98% of DNA with chimps, and orangutans. Why did they all not evolve?

    They did. Or do you mean, why did they not all evolve into humans? Because evolution is not prescriptive. Populations form branches of related family trees, not linear sequences.

    In your theory, what causes a species to evolve?

    Mutations and selection.

    Is the evolution programmed in the DNA?

    No.

  335. #335 Septepenra
    February 22, 2012

    Owlmirror @326

    When you deny other peoples or a race’s contributions to civilization, you are a racist.

    When you draw conclusions about a people or a race without understanding their culture and traditions, you are a racist.

    When evidence of a people or race’s contribution to civilization is put before you and you still deny their contributions, you are a supreme racist!

    This is not surprising when you subscribe to a doctrine, the pseudo-science of evolution, that is clearly racist.

  336. #336 Owlmirror
    February 22, 2012

    I have already completed over thirty years of research

    And you couldn’t spare any of that time to learning anything about what actual science is and how actual science works. A pity.

    before the public had the ability to access the internet, which is not the best source on the subject of Ancient Egypt

    Actually, the internet is pretty good for finding out about ancient Egypt. I found that paper on the quarries of Egypt very quickly, and it has very good colour photographs.

    One of the photographs even has an abandoned rough statue. You can see that it’s been shaped into the form in the style of dynastic Egypt, and then left lying there, for whatever reason. There are other examples of stones and stonework that date to thousands of years ago.

    It’s quite fascinating.

    and “Sacred Science”.

    Perhaps that’s because “Sacred Science” doesn’t have anything in support of it to be put on the Internet.

    My research was not limited to ancient Egypt (Kemt), (where I spent time)

    Did you actually look at the blocks of the pyramids? Did you see that they are not single giant crystals?

    because as one of the excerpts from Rosemary Clarks’s book, (which you incorrectly call quotes)

    What are you talking about? The terms are synonyms.

    “A very real prejudice is based upon modern science’s rejection the ancient technologies could be superior to our own.”

    Are you sure you got that quotation (or excerpt, or extract, or citation, or selection, or whatever the hell you want to call it) completely correct? Because it doesn’t look properly grammatical.

    And why shouldn’t modern science reject that ancient technologies could be superior? If they were all that superior, wouldn’t they have lasted until modern times?

    Why didn’t Ancient Egyptians invent the printing press? The handwriting on the medical papyruses is beutiful, but if something is important, you should make lots of copies of it and disseminate the copies all over.

    They tell us we are only using 2% of the potential of our brain.

    “They” most certainly do not. The number is usually given as 10%, and it’s a completely bogus urban legend anyway.

      snopes.com/science/stats/10percent.asp

    I could give you examples upon examples of images of “Sacred Science that you see every day right in front of you.

    Symbols are not “Sacred Science”. If they’re anything, they’re art.

    Or, if “Sacred Science” is just symbols, it certainly isn’t much in the way of science. Symbols don’t actually do anything, except perhaps impress people sometimes.

    Through the initiations into “Sacred Science” those primitive people of Africa and others, were able to use 100%.

    Everyone uses 100% of their brain at different points.

    I’m sure you agree that if you could use 100% of your brain in the service of man, you would be a God.

    I absolutely do not agree, because that’s complete nonsense. No human is a God. Not even genius philanthropists.

    ======

    Tell you what Owlmirror, after you complete a fews years of research, come back and talk to me.

    Are you going to spend any time at all researching actual science?

    Owlmirror, you are drawing conclusions about the ancient Egyptians, their civilization, culture and traditions, although you have admitted (in doing your research on the fly) you know very little or nothing about them.

    I know more than to make false claims about what they knew or could do. It is you who know very little about the ancient Egyptians, if you think they did not quarry limestone (and basalt, and granite) to build the pyramids, and have this silly fantasy about them growing blocks from crystals.

  337. #337 Owlmirror
    February 22, 2012

    When you deny other peoples or a race’s contributions to civilization, you are a racist.

    Then I’m not a racist.

    When you draw conclusions about a people or a race without understanding their culture and traditions, you are a racist.

    Then I guess you’re a racist.

    When evidence of a people or race’s contribution to civilization is put before you and you still deny their contributions, you are a supreme racist!

    Then I’m not a supreme racist.

    This is not surprising when you subscribe to a doctrine, the pseudo-science of evolution, that is clearly racist.

    Nonsense. The theory of evolution is not racist and not pseudo-science. Your silly and simplistic questions demonstrate that you personally are deeply ignorant of biology, and of the theory of evolution, and of science.

    But that, in and of itself, doesn’t make you a racist.

  338. #338 Verbose Stoic
    February 22, 2012

    eric,

    Well, I wouldn’t want you to repeat yourself, so perhaps you can simply tell me the post number wherein your argument lies. What I see is: we must consider consistency with suffering as implicit in the concept, since the bible recognizes that suffering exists.

    Well, if you promise to read it carefully this time, I’ll summarize and expand on it, since it was dribbled out through a few posts. Your summary above, however, is dead wrong. The argument is essentially this:

    The Christian God is derived from the Bible, and from the Garden of Eden story. The Garden of Eden story explicitly states that the world that we are in will contain suffering and imperfection (as this world is contrasted with Eden which didn’t have any of that). Therefore, your argument that suffering and imperfection in and of themselves are incompatible with the Christian God ignores the source of the concept, and pretty much all Christian work on the concept includes the Garden of Eden in some way (not always completely literally). Since it seems to me that at least one of the main themes of the story is making this distinction between the worlds, so that the story makes no sense if that is dropped, if you want to make your argument about suffering and imperfection you need to take this into account and thus argue further than you’re currently doing.

    So, with that in mind, let’s look at your counter arguments:

    1. the bible says many things about God. You are cherry picking when you take this one property and give it priority.

    Well, as stated above, this is in all discussions a founding story of the concept, and both academic and folk conceptions do concede that it has importance. Now, it might be possible that we have to dismiss it, but it is a weak argument to simply accuse me of cherry picking without providing the competing passages that I’d have to abandon, and no one except atheists will consider dropping it because it SOLVES a potential problem for God. Thus, you give no reason for me to drop that story, and no reason why it is cherry picking beyond that you don’t like what it does to your argument.

    2. The very Eden story you cite as evidence for consistency also mentions properties that are inconsistent with it – namely, that God desires a world for humans without suffering and has the means to produce it. So your one bit of evidence implies all three properties, and the set is inconsistent.

    This would be like saying that if I say that I really like chocolate cake, have one in the fridge, and yet don’t eat it because I’m on a diet that I now have an inconsistent set of properties, which is absurd. Yes, the story says that God could make a perfect world and would rather we don’t suffer, but that due to other circumstances we can’t be in that world. Taken literally, Adam and Eve did a specific wrong and that’s our punishment. Taken less literally, our moral inferiority and original sin forces us to start, at least, in an imperfect world. Taken even more figuratively — and this is the interpretation I favour — our being moral agents means living in a world where we can develop as such. All of these are consistent interpretations of the properties.

    The third isn’t actually, in fact, a counter-argument to my claim, so I’ll address it when I talk about that part fo the discussion.

  339. #339 Verbose Stoic
    February 22, 2012

    eric,

    This is indeed an argument in a sense…you are arguing we should accept as a premise about this god-conception the conclusion we are trying to reach. Because its in the bible. But this is not a valid argument if your opponent questions consistency. It is like saying “you cannot demand I show all pink unicorns fly, because it says right there in my book that all pink unicorns fly.” Its not at all convincing.

    You’re getting the argument wrong because you are ignoring that my argument is a RESPONSE to someone, not an indepedent argument. So it’s really more like this:

    Someone watching a kids show, sees a pink unicorn fly. That person argues that it is clear, then, that pink unicorns can’t exist because it is impossible for them to fly. I then go back to the original legends that first sourced the concept of pink unicorns, and point out that in those legends it was explicit that pink unicorns can’t fly, and thus that contradiction is ruled out because the concept, from the start, accepted the supposed contradiction, and that thus the kids show concept is at best a bastardization of that concept. Why, then, is that not something that it is totally fair to do, and a totally fair response? Noting, of course that you can always challenge my interpretation of the original source or point out other things in tha source that contradict that.

    Your whole starting point of ‘charity,’ assuming a literary character must have consistent properties, in entirely unfounded. There is simply no reason to assume that.

    I think you’re getting confused on “consistent” here. As I argued in the section you quoted right below:

    All concepts, to be understood, have to be logically consistent.

    Before you can talk about whether something exists or not, you have to know and understand what you are talking about. We can’t understand, for example, what a square circle is, or a colourless green god is, so we can’t ask if those things are compatible with suffering. What in the world could we mean by that? It’s nonsensical. So, yeah, we do spend a lot of time coming up with what the concepts are and what they mean and thus trying to see if they are consistent logically, in the manner that square circles and colourless green things are not. My comment about charity, though, says that you should interpret things as broadly as you can to make the best consistent concept you can — that your opponents accept — so tha you aren’t simply interpreting their concept out of existence. It is shoddy, lazy and dishonest argumentation to always interpret the texts in a way that maximizes logical conflicts and contradictions, and it leads to never-ending debate as your opponent will never agree that that is what it really means. Instead, you allow “patch-ups” as far as reasonable and give them a shot with the strongest possible concept they can muster, since then if you take that on and refute it you’ve pretty much killed their best shot and there’s little room for dispute.

    So, in order to get criticisms like Jason’s or yours off the ground, we need to understand the concept, which means that we have to have one that’s basically logically consistent if we can arrange one. If we can’t get one, then that line of argumentation is pointless; if we can, then we can go to the world and ask if this concept can exist in this world.

  340. #340 Verbose Stoic
    February 22, 2012

    eric,

    There is simply no reason to assume that the multiple biblical authors telling multiple stories about a being none of them had direct experience of, across many generations, would or cared about creating a consistent set of properties. Maybe one author was trying to trump another. Maybe one hadn’t read the other – the bible itself was probably assembled decades or centuries after these stories had been circulating.

    I keep getting Justice League flashbacks here:

    It’s a shame that I didn’t think of that and talk about it in my comment. Oh, wait, I did:

    When you get these looser conceptualizations, then we have to deal with competing interpretations of the concept. And so we might well find that part of it was just a wrong interpretation on the part of a later or earlier writer, and that has to be dropped entirely. It makes things more difficult, but again as I said we have to be even more careful not to place too much emphasis on making sure that every single piece of it works if interpreted “at face value”, which you will recall is what you asked we do, I trust?

    In summary, that only means that we have to do more interpretation and rely less on “face value”, which is what you are insisting on.

    Why don’t you start with the fundamentals and ask what independent evidence there is that the statements about God in the bible were intended, by the authors, to yield a consistent whole.

    Well, here is my argument about that: I presume, not unreasonably, that they all thought they were talking about the same thing, and about a thing that they thought was a thing and not a literary character. All things are, in fact, logically consistent meaning internally consistent. Now, they thought that this thing was also a thing that existed, but since I concede that they might be wrong about that I’m not using THAT as an argument, but am arguing that they thought they were talking about something and thought they were talking about the same thing, which means that there’s a concept there, which means that if we can figure out what that concept is we can see if the thing pointed to by that concept exists or is just literary — and it’s amazing how quickly you drop the “folk” notions for more convenient ones when it suits you, because Christians don’t consider God a literary figure — and to do that we have to find a consistent concept to look at. If we fail that, then we literally do not know what we are talking about, but that day is, in my opinion, not this day.

  341. #341 Wow
    February 22, 2012

    ” You indicated that homosapiens share 98% of DNA with chimps, and orangutans. Why did they all not evolve?”

    When looking at these words (and the verbal diarrhoea of VS), I’m left wondering if the question ought to be “Chimps share 98% of DNA with humans and orangutans, so why didn’t we all evolve into chimps?”.

    Of course, the human-centric idea of self-godhood from all religious fundamentalists has that the human is the peak of evolution, that everything else is less evolved.

    WRONG.

    We are, if anything, LESS evolved than “simpler” organisms, since we’ve been “us” for so much less time.

    But if we consider “more evolved” with the facts of evolutionary pressures, we’re all equally evolved. The ones less well evolved have died out. We humans keep falling out of trees, our bit is pathetic and we’re practically unarmed. As far as “fit to survive” is concerned, we’re fluff.

    Our brain is highly evolved, though, and that’s given us an advantage. But put you in a cage with an angry male chimp and you’re lunch. Obviously he’s fitter to survive than you.

  342. #342 eric
    February 22, 2012

    VS @338:

    The Garden of Eden story explicitly states that the world that we are in will contain suffering and imperfection (as this world is contrasted with Eden which didn’t have any of that). Therefore, your argument that suffering and imperfection in and of themselves are incompatible with the Christian God ignores the source of the concept,

    I am not ignoring the source of the concept at all. I am saying you should assess the consistency of the source’s claims rather than just accept that the consistency must be there. “On what reasoning should I accept them” is philosophy. What you are doing, “given that we’ve accepted them, how do I interpret them to be consistent” is christian apologetics.

    no one except atheists will consider dropping it because it SOLVES a potential problem for God.

    I don’t see “the source book says it, so we ought to accept it” as solving the consistency problem at all. Genesis 1:3-5 says the sun was created on the first day. Genesis 1:14-19 says it wasn’t created until the fourth day. If your response to this data is to say “both must be true in some way because the book says both, so I will interpret them in a way that gives both meaning” then you are not donig philosophy, you are doing apologetics.

    This would be like saying that if I say that I really like chocolate cake, have one in the fridge, and yet don’t eat it because I’m on a diet that I now have an inconsistent set of properties, which is absurd.

    Dieting humans don’t eat cake because we are not omipotent; if we were, we would eat cake and lose weight simultaneously. So, should I draw from your analogy the fact that you think God is incapable of removing our suffering while fulfilling some other goal?

    And what is this goal? What is the “because” in the God case? Most importantly, claiming there must be one because God permits suffering is circular logic, so whatever justification you claim, you must derive it independently of the fact that suffering exists.

    to be continued…

  343. #343 eric
    February 22, 2012

    VS:

    Instead, you allow “patch-ups” as far as reasonable and give them a shot with the strongest possible concept they can muster, since then if you take that on and refute it you’ve pretty much killed their best shot and there’s little room for dispute.

    I can see that. The problem, however, is that your patch-up of this concept is rejected by the vast majority of the “theys” that promote the concept in the first place.

    Faced with this difference between academic patch-up and normal belief, outsiders like me come to what I think is a perfectly reasonable conclusion: we concede that your patch up is consistent (I’ve done this several times). But we reject your claim that it represents the “true” belief or concept as it was intended.

    If we can’t get one [a logically consistent concept], then that line of argumentation is pointless; if we can, then we can go to the world and ask if this concept can exist in this world.

    What do you do if the folks you are arguing against propose an inconsistent concept, you propose a variation which is consistent, and they reject that variant as not reflecting what they truly believe?

    Shouldn’t you, at that point, listen to them rather than making the quite arrogant conclusion that they don’t understand their own beliefs? Humans do believe inconsistent things, you know. We are not Spocks. If someone says they believe all the properties of God we’ve discussed even though the set is inconsistent, they may be accurately describing their belief. In which case, it is perfectly fair for Jason or I to say “such belief is irrational.”

  344. #344 Verbose Stoic
    February 22, 2012

    eric,

    I am not ignoring the source of the concept at all. I am saying you should assess the consistency of the source’s claims rather than just accept that the consistency must be there. “On what reasoning should I accept them” is philosophy. What you are doing, “given that we’ve accepted them, how do I interpret them to be consistent” is christian apologetics.

    You keep mixing up the arguments here. Here, the argument is that the Christian God’s source is the Genesis story, the story says that this world will have suffering, so from the source we know that this world will have suffering. Thus, you need to do more than simply say “There’s suffering, so God can’t exist”. You need to either demonstrate that there are other inconsistencies in the story, that the suffering is too great for that interpretation, or that we need the tri-omni God for the Christian God by citing that Biblical evidence you claimed existed and having us hammer it out. This is all debatable. So debate it, don’t just rant about my somehow doing something out of bounds. Because recall that my arguments about charity are all about you not simply taking an initial, shallow, “face value” view, finding an inconsistency, and then claiming that no other interpretation could possibly be valid, or that that “face value” view could not possibly be wrong.

    I don’t see “the source book says it, so we ought to accept it” as solving the consistency problem at all. Genesis 1:3-5 says the sun was created on the first day. Genesis 1:14-19 says it wasn’t created until the fourth day.

    I am not using that argument to claim that the whole concept or anything is totally consistent. At the risk of being a broken record, that’s your fantasy. My claim is that this resolves the suffering argument, the SPECIFIC argument that we are talking about. We can get into other issues when we settle this one, unless you are indeed aiming for a “moving target” approach.

    Dieting humans don’t eat cake because we are not omipotent; if we were, we would eat cake and lose weight simultaneously. So, should I draw from your analogy the fact that you think God is incapable of removing our suffering while fulfilling some other goal?

    And what is this goal?

    Look, this is getting incredibly frustrating, since it is clear that you don’t actually read the comments you reply to, making it impossible for me to every make you understand what I’m talking about so that you can say something sensible. Because right after that quote, I GAVE you the purported goals:

    Taken literally, Adam and Eve did a specific wrong and that’s our punishment. Taken less literally, our moral inferiority and original sin forces us to start, at least, in an imperfect world. Taken even more figuratively — and this is the interpretation I favour — our being moral agents means living in a world where we can develop as such.

    Now, all of these are debatable. You can deny that that specific wrong would justify that treatment, or that that specific wrong could never have occurred, and we could have a nice debate on it (I tend to agree in some sense with the latter argument, so it won’t be that great). You can deny that we are morally inferior, and again a lively and interesting debate could occur. You can even take me on directly and argue that moral agency doesn’t require this world. You can, indeed, debate these. So debate them. Debate everything. I really don’t mind, as long as you stop simply accusing me of making presumptions or some sort without actually looking at the arguments.

  345. #345 eric
    February 22, 2012

    VS @340

    [eric] Why don’t you start with the fundamentals and ask what independent evidence there is that the statements about God in the bible were intended, by the authors, to yield a consistent whole.

    [VS response] Well, here is my argument about that: I presume, not unreasonably, that they all thought they were talking about the same thing, and about a thing that they thought was a thing and not a literary character.

    This is a complete non-answer. Have you ever heard republicans and democrats argue about the properties of Obama? Ever heard a northerner and southerner argue about the civil war? Practically anything about that war which is not verified by some independent, empirical line of evidence is disputed…and in the God case, there is no property of God that is verified by an independent, emprical line of evidence.

    The various biblical authors could all think they were talking about the same real entity and still give contradictory accounts of it. Because they see it differently from the other authors.

    You cannot escape my question this way. It remains and unwarranted leap to assume that the various statements by various authors were intended to be consistent with one another.

  346. #346 eric
    February 22, 2012

    VS:

    the argument is that the Christian God’s source is the Genesis story, the story says that this world will have suffering, so from the source we know that this world will have suffering.

    If that is all you were saying, I agree.

    Here I thought you were saying that “from the source we know that the nature of God is consistent with human suffering.” Which is quite a different claim.

    Now, all of these are debatable. You can deny that that specific wrong would justify that treatment, or that that specific wrong could never have occurred, and we could have a nice debate on it (I tend to agree in some sense with the latter argument, so it won’t be that great). You can deny that we are morally inferior, and again a lively and interesting debate could occur. You can even take me on directly and argue that moral agency doesn’t require this world. You can, indeed, debate these. So debate them.

    I CANT debate them until you TELL me which justifications and arguments you are claiming support your point!

    I am simply not going to play whack-a-mole with you, knocking down one argument to watch you declare that that one wasn’t one you thought was very strong anyway, and I should instead pay attention to this mole over here.

    I’m not the one claiming suffering is consistent with my/a/the christian God-concept. You are. So YOU tell ME the philosophical basis on which YOU think suffering is consistent with the christian conception of God, and we will debate that basis. Not someone else’s basis. Not all the arguments ever presented for the consistency. Yours. Until you identify the actual and specific argument you actually want to debate, I would just be pounding on the ocean.

  347. #347 Verbose Stoic
    February 22, 2012

    eric,

    Faced with this difference between academic patch-up and normal belief, outsiders like me come to what I think is a perfectly reasonable conclusion: we concede that your patch up is consistent (I’ve done this several times). But we reject your claim that it represents the “true” belief or concept as it was intended.

    And you can. But since I — as seen in my argument about suffering — refer to sources and make arguments, you need to do far more than say “They disagree with you”, but go back to my arguments for why they’re wrong or why this is the better interpretation of the concept. All good conceptual analysis at the academic level does that, and so it leaves itself open to challenge. One problem with folk conceptions is that they often don’t do that. So, argue for it, recalling that in this case my specific claim is that to not accept my interpretation means you have to give up the Garden of Eden story entirely, and that then it’s hard for me to see how you could claim that that’s still the Christian God. But, again, that can be debated. So debate it. I’m all ears.

    What do you do if the folks you are arguing against propose an inconsistent concept, you propose a variation which is consistent, and they reject that variant as not reflecting what they truly believe?

    Well, I’d be making a claim that if they claim to be sourced from X, then this is what the concept really is, and that therefore if they believe otherwise they aren’t talking about it anymore. So, again, I’d argue for it. And then they can argue back. Or argue that the concept I’m referring to is not, in fact, the one they hold, while agreeing that, say, I’d be describing the Christian God. Again, my idea is that there is an objective, absolute “best” interpretation of that concept, that concepts are not arbitrary, and that we can have objective distinctions between them where we can say that these are the same concept with some minor differences in accidental properties and these are not the same concept. So if they disagree with my claimed concept, then we sit down and hammer out what case we’re in.

    Shouldn’t you, at that point, listen to them rather than making the quite arrogant conclusion that they don’t understand their own beliefs? Humans do believe inconsistent things, you know. We are not Spocks. If someone says they believe all the properties of God we’ve discussed even though the set is inconsistent, they may be accurately describing their belief. In which case, it is perfectly fair for Jason or I to say “such belief is irrational.”

    But here is where we need to draw a distinction between a global “Christian God” and a specific belief of a specific person. I will agree — and have not denied — that a God that wanted to eliminate suffering and was all-powerful could indeed do so and so would be inconsistent with this world. So if someone insisted on believing that, they’d be believing in a God that does not exist. But is that concept the Christian God? Well, that’s another story.

  348. #348 Anthony McCarthy
    February 22, 2012

    Kel, first, if you’re going to call me an idiot perhaps you might want to, at the very least, notice what my name is.

    Your knowledge of the literature of materialism can’t be very great because I’m researching those points and am finding the denial of the reality of free will, free thought (an irony I noted in my piece), rights, equality, etc. everywhere in the “scientific”, materialist wisdom about them. The denial of the reality of rights seems to be widespread among atheists and I’m finding very little in the way of a refutation of that denial among them.

    And, as I’ve pointed out any number of times, the history of “scientific”, materialist-officially atheist governments are the embodiment of that denial. It is entirely rational for people who value civil rights, equality and democratic government to sharply question and consider any materialist on whether or not they believe these things exist and what their understanding of them is.

    you still haven’t showed how inherent rights are superior (let alone necessary) to the conception I put forward

    The belief in inherent rights is superior because inherent rights are inalienable and they are held to exist independent of conditions. They aren’t dependent on the whims of individuals (such as judges), governments or societies. Your concept, held in the denial of that origin of rights for ideological reasons, is no less susceptible to rejection on the same bases that you reject that inherency of rights. Your scheme includes the actual unreality of rights and materialists have shown, especially when holding power, that brushing them aside is far easier. Often on the basis of expediency. Rights held to exist only on the basis of expediency are certainly vulnerable to the assertion that those conditions have changed and that some asserted “greater good” of any character extinguishes them. I’m prepared to argue the several issues I guess you’ll bring up at this point. Just to say.

  349. #349 eric
    February 22, 2012

    I was going to respond to several other points, but I think we have reached the crux of the matter here:

    I will agree — and have not denied — that a God that wanted to eliminate suffering and was all-powerful could indeed do so and so would be inconsistent with this world. So if someone insisted on believing that, they’d be believing in a God that does not exist.

    That is what I’m arguing. And I think that is what Jason is saying.

    But is that concept the Christian God? Well, that’s another story.

    It appears to me to be a very common god-concept among those that self-identify as “Christian.” Maybe you are right and that’s because they haven’t thought deeply about it, or don’t understand their own scripture. Maybe I’m right that they have done both and accept it anyway. But regardless, it is this prevalent idea that I am concerned about, not the white tower academic flavor of Christianity.

  350. #350 Kel
    February 22, 2012

    Kel, first, if you’re going to call me an idiot perhaps you might want to, at the very least, notice what my name is.

    Apologies for getting your name wrong, Anthony, but you were still being an idiot with your comment. I’m still waiting for you to show me the materialist politics, not your claim about free will, but how that claim relates to politics. Not your own interpretation, you say you are widely read on the matter so name names and quote quotes!

    Your knowledge of the literature of materialism can’t be very great because I’m researching those points and am finding the denial of the reality of free will, free thought (an irony I noted in my piece), rights, equality, etc. everywhere in the “scientific”, materialist wisdom about them. The denial of the reality of rights seems to be widespread among atheists and I’m finding very little in the way of a refutation of that denial among them.

    Even if that were true (there are plenty of materialists who say otherwise), it doesn’t follow that all atheists follow that politically. You’re making the extrapolation and prescribing the ought in your own head, meanwhile you cannot produce an example of anyone actually talking about how this applies to politics. The closest I can think of is David Eagleman who calls for the the elimination of retributive punishment. But in terms of values and what we should strive for equality-wise, I can think of plenty of “materialists” who try to fight against injustice and stand up for rights but I cannot think of a single person who has advocated what you say follows from materialism. If you can’t do that, then all you have is a paranoid misapplication of your own thoughts of consequences. Come on, you claim to be well read on materialism, so show me the authors calling for the erasure of rights politically on that basis!

    And, as I’ve pointed out any number of times, the history of “scientific”, materialist-officially atheist governments are the embodiment of that denial. It is entirely rational for people who value civil rights, equality and democratic government to sharply question and consider any materialist on whether or not they believe these things exist and what their understanding of them is.

    You’re taking the totalitarian states of the 20th century as the application of materialism? Not Marxism, nor fascism, but that we’re masses of particles? WTF?

    The belief in inherent rights is superior because inherent rights are inalienable and they are held to exist independent of conditions.

    How would inherent rights work? All I can see is that you’ve tacked the word “inherent” in front of the word of rights and called it a superior view. What makes it inherent – i.e. how does it form a part of this universe? How do we come to know of inherent rights? In other words, how is calling it inherent anything other than you extrapolating your desires on a universal level?

    Your concept, held in the denial of that origin of rights for ideological reasons, is no less susceptible to rejection on the same bases that you reject that inherency of rights.

    It’s held because it’s the only thing that makes sense to me. I’m not denying rights for ideological reasons (you’re being stupid again, don’t try to psychologise my position), I’m trying to understand what rights are. What would rights look like if it weren’t a rule governing human behaviour? How would we come to know them, come to reason about them, come to understand where we failed? If you want to say rights are inherent, then you have to show how it is that rights are inherent. Because my reckoning is that rights will come into existence with conscious social creatures and will die with them.

    Your scheme includes the actual unreality of rights and materialists have shown, especially when holding power, that brushing them aside is far easier.

    If you’re just going to bring up totalitarian states, then there’s no point in conversing with you. If you think I’m a modicum of power away from being Stalin on the basis that I’m an atheist, then I guess there’s nothing I can do than leave you to your paranoid fantasy.

    I’m prepared to argue the several issues I guess you’ll bring up at this point. Just to say.

    Given that you think my view is “Rights held to exist only on the basis of expediency” makes me think you haven’t understood a word I’ve said about my position. Rights are good things for our species, the only caveat I have is that this doesn’t extrapolate beyond our species. Where would they exist without us? My argument is only that to call rights inherent misses the point about what rights are. Since you haven’t engaged my view properly, perhaps you should take the time to understand what I’m saying about rights and not argue against what you think I am.

  351. #351 Kel
    February 22, 2012

    So perhaps, Anthony, instead of this pointless back and forth, how about you just link me to the political manifestos of the materialists and I’ll read them for myself? There’s no point in continuing this exchange if all you are going to do is bring up totalitarian regimes – how would you like it if I continually brought up Saudi Arabia as an example of the view your advocating?

  352. #352 Kel
    February 22, 2012

    If you want an example of expediency in the face of gross rights violations, look no further than the Catholic Church. When priests committed one of the worst possible acts to do – the rape of a child – what did the Catholic Church do? It bought off the children, and sent the priests to a new church where they were free to rape some more. An 11 year old girl who was raped by her step-father in Brazil was excommunicated for having an abortion (even though she probably would have died giving birth), but the rapist step-father wasn’t.

    Where were those inherent rights then? Or can we conclude from that Catholics don’t believe in inherent rights either?

  353. #353 Rilke's Granddaughter
    February 22, 2012

    Anthony claimed: “Your knowledge of the literature of materialism can’t be very great because I’m researching those points and am finding the denial of the reality of free will, free thought (an irony I noted in my piece), rights, equality, etc. everywhere in the “scientific”, materialist wisdom about them. The denial of the reality of rights seems to be widespread among atheists and I’m finding very little in the way of a refutation of that denial among them.”

    Where? Be precise.

  354. #354 Rilke's Granddaughter
    February 22, 2012

    And although the concept of inherent rights is a very appealing one, there is no evidence that such inherent rights exist.

  355. #355 Kel
    February 22, 2012

    I’m not sure that the concept is that appealing – it’s not very useful. If they are inherent, what makes for a good right? How is it we come to know these rights?

    It’s all well and good to say rights are inherent, it’s problematic to substantiate that.

  356. #356 Owlmirror
    February 22, 2012

    It occurred to me that rights are, in a sense, externalized morality or ethics, projected in the other direction, as it were. Perhaps someone has already made this point, but it seemed new to me.

    “All humans have a right to a fair trial” is thus equivalent to “It is {moral | ethical | the right thing to do} to give a fair trial to any humans accused of crimes”. And so on.

    So I suppose that it could be argued that rights come from the same place that morality/ethics does — empathy and a sense of reciprocity.

  357. #357 Wowbagger
    February 22, 2012

    Good luck getting a straight answer out of Anthony McCarthy; there’s a reason I’ve referred to him as having a facility for slimy slipperiness that is the envy of the hagfish.

  358. #358 Rilke's Granddaughter
    February 22, 2012

    Good luck getting a straight answer out of Anthony McCarthy; there’s a reason I’ve referred to him as having a facility for slimy slipperiness that is the envy of the hagfish.

    I have noticed that he is a very poor debater.

  359. #359 Kel
    February 22, 2012

    Owlmirror, I figured that’s what Anthony was talking about. There’s not much sense in trying to find the legal concept of rights in anything other than human thought, so I figured the question he was really asking is why we ought to value those legal obligations. My answer was that they follow from the human condition – that our nature, our desires, and our capacity to reflect on the world around us should be sufficient for any sense of the notions of rights and equality. That not only do they make sense this way – that they matter in so much as they are able to have outcomes for individuals – but they only make sense this way. Anything else is wishful thinking.

    In my view raping a child is wrong, not because of any inherent notion of wrong, but because of what it does to another agent. If you need some external notion not to rape a child or to protect and help proliferate child rapists onto new victims, then there’s already something wrong with you. That anyone could cover up child rape, let alone do so on a systematic scale is as big an affront to human dignity as there could possibly be. In terms of valuing human life, what could be better than putting human life as the grounding of that? But apparently that’s not enough, as the protectors of child rapists will assest to, and the notion of human dignity in and of itself can only count if it is somehow beyond humans. WTF?

    Wowbagger, I don’t expect to get anything out of Anthony now. At this stage I’d be happy if he could just share which materialists he’s reading, so that I can see what they are actually saying. Meanwhile Peter Singer is putting money and effort into fighting against injustice and inequality…

  360. #360 Anthony McCarthy
    February 23, 2012

    Oh, I give answers, they’re just not the ones that new atheists like.

    I’d say that the challenge would be to find a single officially atheist government that wasn’t a bloody, oppressive dictatorship. I can’t think of a single one that wasn’t. I don’t think that materialism can provide a sufficient deterrent to that kind of thing happening because it denies that the things that have deterred those tendencies are real.

    Rilke’s daughter, the difference in effect between those societies where inherent rights have legal recognition and those where it doesn’t is a real world demonstration that they are real and have real consequences. That they aren’t an absolute prevention of oppression and bloodshed is a consequence of their making requirements that people observe the rights of other people. That is something that the merely conditional, effectively pretended “rights” that materialists grudgingly allow under their schemes of pragmatic selfishness are even less likely to restrain. There is nothing about these phony substitutes for inherent rights that isn’t as susceptible to pragmatic, selfish “skepticism” as any metaphysical concept.

    The history of the various atheist regimes, starting with the botched results of the French Revolution and the various self-defined Marxist governments constitute the record of power in the hands of atheists, it’s uniformly bloody and oppressive, some of the most bloody and oppressive periods of human history. I think it’s absurd to expect anything else given the necessary results of their materialism. If you regard people to be merely objects, available for use, there’s only a lack of opportunity that prevents you from using them any way you want to. I used to pretend not to notice that out of leftist courtesy. Now I see that there is nothing liberal or leftist about it, it is a precursor to fascism with a bit of red paint on it. Materialism is inevitably a denial of rights.

  361. #361 Anthony McCarthy
    February 23, 2012

    Kel, I match your clerical child abuse with the ban on contraception and abortion in officially atheist Romania, the requirement for women to bear children, the resultant gulags for children and the use that children were put to there, and the horribly damaged lives and deaths of many of them. I can tell you exactly where the clerical pedophiles violated the morality set down by Jesus and the stated morality of the Catholic church, there is nothing in materialism or atheism that Ceausescu can be said to have violated.

    And today, in the very anti-religious, very officially atheistic North Korea it’s routine for young girls to be taken against their will and trained to be sex slaves for the officials of the government and military. Again, I can tell you what teachings of Jesus that violates but there isn’t anything in materialism that could tell you why it’s immoral. In fact, materialism can’t produce morality, so a society governed by materialism would, I predict, always, eventually, result in differences in power being the only real restraint on that kind of violation of rights. The Dawkins style artificial substitute based on mere predilection would never stand up to the force of selfishness.

    My assertions of inherent rights would require a legal bar to anyone violating children’s right to protection from that kind of exploitation, a right that doesn’t depend on mere conditions.

    When I look at the literature of materialism in regard to sexuality, I’m not at all reassured on that count. You might want to take a critical look at some of the relevant publications of America’s semi-official mouthpiece of atheism, Prometheus Books, in regard to this topic. Or you might not want to.

  362. #362 Anthony McCarthy
    February 23, 2012

    Has Peter Singer been widely imitated among atheists? I wonder how many of you folks are vegans (I am, by the way).

    Look around the atheist blogs. There are hundreds of admirers for the blood thirsty, amoral, Christopher Hitchens and Penn Jillette and the sleazy James Randi for one imitator of Peter Singer. The new atheism began in Sam Harris declaring the desirability of contemplating the nuclear incineration of tens of millions of Muslims in a single day (he said it, I’m just pointing it out) it’s hardly a rational consideration of various balance scales of utilitarian measurement. And Singer’s utilitarianism has certainly not been without serious moral ambiguity in its justification for infanticide, for example. But, then, utilitarianism puts “measurements” of “happiness” above all else, pretending that makes it more sciency and so less ambiguous than assertions of morality.

  363. #363 eric
    February 23, 2012

    AMC:

    I’d say that the challenge would be to find a single officially atheist government that wasn’t a bloody, oppressive dictatorship.

    That’s sort of a tautology. Any government that picks a religion (or ‘no religion’) and adopts it officially, suppressing all others, is almost by definition “oppressive.” I’m not religious, but I would still consider a state oppressive if it banned religion.

    The real question is whether secular governments are immoral, oppressive, and bloody. I.e., does a state which ignores religious laws or practices and doesn’t favor one over the other, but remains neutral, is it oppressive? The answer to that is no, they are not. There are many many examples of peaceful, prosperous, secular states. Ours plus most of Europe, for example. We do not need to incorporate religious beliefs or tenets into our government to be free and successful.

    Rilke’s daughter, the difference in effect between those societies where inherent rights have legal recognition and those where it doesn’t is a real world demonstration that they are real and have real consequences.

    What differences? You haven’t listed any, you just claim there are some. This goes part and parcel with your claim to be reading materialists but never actually telling us what you read, or to have read lots of bigoted comments by atheists on the Cranston prayer banner affair but never actually linkng to any.

    In all three cases, you claim these things exist, but you never provide us with the information needed to look them up ourselves or verify them. J’accuse: you are nothing but bluster. You have no examples, because they don’t exist. You never read any such posts about Alquist or Cranston. You aren’t reading any materialist books now that say what you claim they say. And you have no journal article or study backing up your claim that states that recognize rights as ‘implicit’ do better than states that just recognize rights without the ‘implicit’ label. If you want to prove me right, provide some links or titles. That would be trivially easy if you actually had any.

  364. #364 Anthony McCarthy
    February 23, 2012

    eric, Sweden has an official church, Britain does, most of the democracies in Europe do. Most of the secular states are not officially atheistic and they don’t tend to be anti-religious. The great idea of the wall of separation in the United States was the product of religious thinkers not of atheists.

    http://www.alternet.org/belief/154125/5_brave_religious_leaders_who_fought_christian_theocracy_in_america

    Good Lord, eric, I’ve given example after example of things. Beginning with Jerry Coyne’s blog post. It’s one of the tactics of the new atheism, one they share with their cousins among religious fundamentalists to pretend that their opponents haven’t made a case. I’ve never, once, written something critical of the new atheists, “skeptics”, or materialists that wasn’t distorted by the self-appointed champions of reason.

    I have been thinking of doing a series of posts attacking materialism and scientism, and so the intellectual foundations of ideological atheism. I’m still in the evidence collecting and assembling stages of that. I will, as I have done in the past, give numerous links and footnotes and citations which will, as in the past, be ignored by you guys.

  365. #365 Wow
    February 23, 2012

    “I’d say that the challenge would be to find a single officially atheist government”

    That *would* be a challenge.

  366. #366 Anthony McCarthy
    February 23, 2012

    The Soviet Union, the German “Democratic” Republic, Albania under Hoxha, Mexico under Calles… virtually every “Marxist” government has been a de-facto atheist state, in some cases with the thinnest veneer of “religious freedom , in every one with extreme coercion against religion, in many cases with mass murder. In each and every case they have been bloody dictatorships. I would say that Cuba is probably the closest to an exception to that rule, though it’s hardly a beacon of liberty and it’s got considerable blood on its hands.

    I’ve mentioned Corliss Lamont here, probably the foremost Stalinist in the United States, who is a constant and consistent presence in “Humanist” and other atheist organizations in the United States. I’d love to have the funding and time to research his relationship with organized atheism. Maybe someday I’ll retire and try to tease out the story from the written record. He was rather absolutely atheist, even another atheist, Max Eastman, became disgusted with his hypocrisy. That was before Eastman made the migration to the far right, his anti-religious atheism intact. In the meantime, many religious leftists didn’t turn.

    I now think emotional anti-religiosity is the primary motivation of most of materialism and not the other way round, which might figure in my series. Most blog materialists can’t argue for their position from anything but an angry, emotional assertion of hatred of religion and religious people. I suspect that was as true of Lamont and of his god(less) son, Paul Kurtz from whom so much of organized atheism comes.

  367. #367 eric
    February 23, 2012

    Good Lord, eric, I’ve given example after example of things. Beginning with Jerry Coyne’s blog post.

    Mentioning Jerry Coyne’s blog in multiple posts is not ‘example after example.’ Its one example, repeated ad nauseum. A personal website is not a book on materialist ethics. And while he does deny free will, to claim he denies rights or equality (@348) is to put words in his mouth that, frankly, he would very likely oppose. FFS, the man’s a social liberal. How in the world did you get a denial of human equality under law from anything he wrote?

  368. #368 Verbose Stoic
    February 23, 2012

    eric,

    It appears to me to be a very common god-concept among those that self-identify as “Christian.” Maybe you are right and that’s because they haven’t thought deeply about it, or don’t understand their own scripture. Maybe I’m right that they have done both and accept it anyway. But regardless, it is this prevalent idea that I am concerned about, not the white tower academic flavor of Christianity.

    Well, this is fair enough … as long as you aren’t trying to claim or expand on an intellectual basis for your atheism or, in fact, make the broad sort of claim that “God is implausible or doesn’t exist” that you, Jason, and others do. If you do that, then you run into these problems, which I think really do encapsulate the complaints of people saying that some atheists ignore or do not understand “sophisticated philosophy”:

    1) It looks like you’re dodging the really good conceptions and arguments for God, by focusing on the folk notions, which you may recall to me are vague, ad hoc, every-day good-enough sorts of conceptions. You here explicitly seem to be saying that you are going to ignore those who think long and hard about this and do all the studying in favour of those who simply take basic notions and follow them out. But surely you’ll agree that the better arguments would come from those who have studied it more and in more detail, with more direct criticism and examination?

    2) This actually goes against many of the religions you argue against, as they insist that study is required and you can’t merely work up these details as you go along, so theological work and instruction is required. So you then could not be said to be addressing any of those religions to do so.

    3) The arguments you are raising against God here are, in fact, white tower arguments. The Problem of Evil, and how the suffering of evolution plays into the academic arguments and details of things like omniscience, omnipotence and omnibenevolence — or even benevolence — are massive philosophical arguments. They are not folk theology. And so what you effectively do is take folk theology and criticize it using arguments that are not folk theology but are white tower arguments, and then note that it can’t handle them — which, since it isn’t a white tower methodology, is just obvious — but then back away when white tower theology comes in to address them. To return to folk physics, it would be like trying to refute common notions of physics with detailed experiments, and then getting upset when a physicist comes in to correct it and refusing to listen. It’s hardly fair to hold folk views to academic standards and then retreat from academic responses.

  369. #369 Verbose Stoic
    February 23, 2012

    Kel,

    Two problems:

    1) You appeal to our nature and use even your own personal nature as an example, but forget that a lot of your moral notions are, in fact, socialized. You, therefore, aren’t really sure what your nature is, and the fact that that socialization has in pretty much every society in the world — even the now seemingly non-religious European countries — makes it really hard to determine what that nature actually is. Thus, you don’t actually have reason to assert that human nature is sufficient, and seem yourself to have an external basis to your morality.

    2) You use child rape, say, as an example of something that you consider so heinous that we should all simply accept that it’s wrong. But the child rape you talk about is usually simply having sexual relations with someone under the age of consent. Ages of consent which vary radically based on society and even in Western society were much younger than they are now (it was 14 in Canada until very recently, when it was raised to the ripe old age of 16). Presuming for an instant that we aren’t talking about prepubscent children, but children who are physically old enough to sexually reproduce, what appeal to nature or what universal argument can you use to try to refute someone who disagrees with either the age of consent or even that the action is wrong? If you claim that it is all a human invention, then what grounds do you have for insisting that your human opinion is better than anyone else’s? And the instant you start to appeal to arguments, you have had to abandon notions of nature. And note that appeals to empathy can indeed be argued against as well, and may not always work out the way you think they should.

    To use a less inflammatory example — I hope that no one uses the above to accuse me of supporting child rape — it is considered that China is violating human rights by suppressing free speech. They, of course, disagree that that is a right; it is obviously not a right in their culture. Unless you can argue that we have inherent human rights simply by being human, and that free speech is one of them, on what grounds can you claim that they do, in fact, violate human rights, as opposed to simply having a different set of inventions than your culture does?

  370. #370 Kel
    February 23, 2012

    And today, in the very anti-religious, very officially atheistic North Korea it’s routine for young girls to be taken against their will and trained to be sex slaves for the officials of the government and military.

    Wait, you think North Korea is atheist? Wowbagger is right, you’re an irredeemable moron!

    When I look at the literature of materialism in regard to sexuality, I’m not at all reassured on that count.

    What literature? You either cite your sources or fuck off!

  371. #371 Kel
    February 23, 2012

    Two problems:

    1) You appeal to our nature and use even your own personal nature as an example, but forget that a lot of your moral notions are, in fact, socialized. You, therefore, aren’t really sure what your nature is, and the fact that that socialization has in pretty much every society in the world — even the now seemingly non-religious European countries — makes it really hard to determine what that nature actually is. Thus, you don’t actually have reason to assert that human nature is sufficient, and seem yourself to have an external basis to your morality.

    You’ve misunderstood me. I’m not saying that that individual human nature or even human nature as it is would be an ideal source of morality. I’m saying that morality ought to be grounded in the human condition – that morality as a conception can only be meaningful as a modifier of human behaviour and outcomes based on the desires of individuals.

    You use child rape, say, as an example of something that you consider so heinous that we should all simply accept that it’s wrong. But the child rape you talk about is usually simply having sexual relations with someone under the age of consent.

    Why does it matter what the usual case is? You know I’m talking about prepubescent rape, so this is you just changing the subject.

    Unless you can argue that we have inherent human rights simply by being human, and that free speech is one of them, on what grounds can you claim that they do, in fact, violate human rights, as opposed to simply having a different set of inventions than your culture does?

    Simply being human, I feel, is enough. I’m not talking about rights as a cultural invention, I’m talking about rights that stem from our needs and desires as humans. As I said to Owlmirror above, I think “metaphorically inherent” is a decent summation of what I’m arguing about. I’m not a cultural relativist, what I’m advocating is a grounding of values in the human condition. Not in any society, not in any individual, but in the reflection of what it means to be human.

    If that’s not enough, then by all means show me what you think is necessary for value. Because, to me, freedom of speech is only desirable in that it has better outcomes for people who live under it. To call it a right only makes sense if it is desirable and beneficial for people living under it. It wouldn’t mean anything to have grounding in anything other than the modification of individuals. What would it mean for freedom of speech to be a “right” irrespective of its beneficial outcomes for individuals? If freedom of speech led to horrible outcomes for most people, would we still want it as a right? My argument is that its desirable is what makes it a right – nothing inherent about it, but an outcome of its reflection on the human condition.

  372. #372 Kel
    February 23, 2012

    Any religious state has had negative outcomes for its people, Andrew. Look at the most religious countries in the world today – they are very undesirable places. Secular liberal democracies have led to the best outcome. Why should we say that atheists would lead to a totalitarian state any more than religious would lead to a theocracy? Should we see any religious person as being an Inquisition-in-waiting?

    Or do you think John Stuart Mill was a secret theist?

  373. #373 Anthony McCarthy
    February 23, 2012

    Kel, you can’t keep it straight can you.

    I will be writing my first posts next month.

    Mentioning Jerry Coyne’s blog in multiple posts is not ‘example after example.’ Its one example, repeated ad nauseum. eric

    Oh, don’t be so coy, this is hardly the first time we’ve crossed words. If you want a good list of some of the classic ones, read Absence of Mind by Marilynne Robinson. Though, as she said, she chose a relatively small number to represent the extraordinarily reiterative literature of materialists on these ideas. Most of those today parrot those from the 19th and early 20th centuries. I will be using others as well.

  374. #374 eric
    February 23, 2012

    VS:

    as long as you aren’t trying to claim or expand on an intellectual basis for your atheism or, in fact, make the broad sort of claim that “God is implausible or doesn’t exist”

    I don’t claim ALL gods are contradictory to what we observe, I claim this god is. The one most christians say they believe in. As you said: one who has the power to end human suffering and the desire to do so, but presides over a world of suffering.

    1) It looks like you’re dodging the really good conceptions and arguments for God

    Because practically nobody believes in those gods. If some philosopher has a really good conception of Newgodofhisinvention, why should I care?

    Look, there are an infinite number of such pink flying unicorns. I have neither the time nor resources to address them all. So I address the ones for which there is a real belief population.

    Maybe this is one of the cultural differences between scientists and philosophers: very generally speaking and I’m sure there are lots of exceptions, but you want to discuss philosophically interesting ideas regardless of their practical value, while we want to discuss practically important ideas regradless of whether they are philosophically interesting or not.

    2) This actually goes against many of the religions you argue against, as they insist that study is required and you can’t merely work up these details as you go along, so theological work and instruction is required.

    Some, yes. Many? I hardly see that. As far as I know neither the RCC nor any of the mainline protestent sects are as gnostic as you are. None of them claim “study is required” for a religiously sufficient understanding of God – i.e., salvation. These two groups – catholics and mainline protestants – make up something like 1.7 of the 1.8-2.1 billion christians.

    3) The arguments you are raising against God here are, in fact, white tower arguments.

    Baloney. Every sect has to deal with “why did grandpa have to get cancer” arguments from its members. And as much as I hate to go Godwin on you, you can’t credibly say the question of evil has been an academic one for Jews in the 20th century. Are you really claiming that the problem of evil is a white tower theological problem?

  375. #375 Anthony McCarthy
    February 23, 2012

    eric, I’ve not wanted to intrude on Verbose Skeptic’s interesting comments but you have the typical new atheist’s superficial and minimal knowledge of what some religious people think and, since you can’t deal with the diversity and complexity of what religious people think, you insist that they have to conform to your assertions because you think you can knock those down.

    You should listen to what Chris Hedges says about that on this video at about 30:00

  376. #376 Michael Fugate
    February 23, 2012

    CIA factbook on Romanian religion:
    Eastern Orthodox (including all sub-denominations) 86.8%, Protestant (various denominations including Reformate and Pentecostal) 7.5%, Roman Catholic 4.7%, other (mostly Muslim) and unspecified 0.9%, none 0.1% (2002 census)

    Atheist? You decide

  377. #377 Michael Fugate
    February 23, 2012

    Interesting that Barrett etal 2001 World Christian Encyclopedia report only 15% of North Koreans are atheists. 68% are noreligious, but they don’t really have a choice, do they?

    Phil Zuckerman 2007 in the Cambridge Companion to Atheism lists Romania as 4% atheist.

    Also Sweden dropped a national religion in 2000.

  378. #378 Owlmirror
    February 23, 2012

    To return to folk physics, it would be like trying to refute common notions of physics with detailed experiments, and then getting upset when a physicist comes in to correct it and refusing to listen.

    This analogy is confused. If the experiments are properly refuting the “folk physics”, then what is the physicist doing?

    If the the experiments are not refuting the folk physics, then isn’t the physicist actually changing the experiments so that they do refute the folk physics?

    Let me see if I understand your position:

    1) Folk theology claims that God is powerful, knowledgeable, and benevolent; and indeed, has the absolute maximum of those attributes.

    2) Atheists point out that the problem of evil is a strong argument against the existence of a God with those attributes, since it would follow that a God that had those attributes would strive to reduce or eliminate evil.

    3) Folk believers are flummoxed by this argument.

    4) You come in and pat both sides on the head and explain that both sides are wrong, because the problem of evil is equivalent to the problem of suffering, and Stoicism provides a way of possibly reconciling suffering with good (or something like that), and therefore God is not properly argued against using the problem of evil. And you’re willing to jettison the belief that God has the maximal amount of knowledge, power, and benevolence, if that’s what’s necessary for this putative Stoic reconciliation.

    Have I understood you correctly?

  379. #379 Rilke's Granddaughter
    February 23, 2012

    Rilke’s daughter, the difference in effect between those societies where inherent rights have legal recognition and those where it doesn’t is a real world demonstration that they are real and have real consequences.

    No, actually it doesn’t. The fact is that all societies accord their members certain “rights”. The fact that in some cases the society is a better place to live because of a certain set of rights in no way demonstrates that such rights are “inherent”. Merely that good results were produced in that society by according its members those rights.

    That they aren’t an absolute prevention of oppression and bloodshed is a consequence of their making requirements that people observe the rights of other people.

    Again, this is logically incoherent. No rights, whatever they may be, and however accorded are guarantors of freedom from oppression and bloodshed. America is an excellent example.

    That is something that the merely conditional, effectively pretended “rights” that materialists grudgingly allow under their schemes of pragmatic selfishness are even less likely to restrain. There is nothing about these phony substitutes for inherent rights that isn’t as susceptible to pragmatic, selfish “skepticism” as any metaphysical concept.

    Third time incoherent. An excellent set of materialists are the ones who set up the rights in America. And whether or not they are “inherent” is utterly unrelated to whether or not they produce good results.

    You need to think more clearly and frame your arguments in a more logical fashion. Just a suggestion. You seem to be incapable of presenting an actual syllogism.

  380. #380 Kel
    February 23, 2012

    Kel, I match your clerical child abuse with the ban on contraception and abortion in officially atheist Romania, the requirement for women to bear children, the resultant gulags for children and the use that children were put to there, and the horribly damaged lives and deaths of many of them.

    Catholic church has that covered, too…

    Besides: “Romania is a secular state, and it has no state religion. However, an overwhelming majority of the country’s citizens are Christian. 86.7% of the country’s population identified as Eastern Orthodox in the 2002 census (see also: History of Christianity in Romania). Other Christian denominations include Roman Catholicism (4.7%), Calvinism (3.7%), Pentecostal denominations (1.5%) and the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church (0.9%).”

    Over 97% Christian, yet it’s the atheism that is at fault! If only those poor oppressed Christians were in charge, then there would be free contraception and abortion on demand!

  381. #381 Wowbagger
    February 23, 2012

    Oh, c’mon people. You should know by know that facts and reality are to Anthony McCarthy what a bunch of grapes is to a bulldozer driven by a drunk monkey – he’ll either miss them completely or drive straight over the top without giving them a second though.

  382. #382 Kel
    February 23, 2012

    The funny thing is that I only jumped in when Anthony made a claim at the lack of materialist morality. I presented a position that I thought was a good case, and instead of tackling that case, Anthony is too busy trying to make tenuous connections between materialism and negative political situations. At least Verbose Stoic seems up for that discussion, Anthony seems incapable of any thought on the matter beyond ‘inherent is better’ without so much as explaining what inherent morality looks like or how it works. I can only conclude that Anthony’s inability to see a good materialist morality is that he doesn’t have the capacity to recognise what one would look like…

    Unlike what government constitutes atheist, the question of morality is actually an interesting one, so I’m glad there’s at least someone capable and willing to discuss it*. Anthony is just a paranoid distraction.

    * Though I would like to hear atheist critiques as well.

  383. #383 Wow
    February 24, 2012

    “that morality as a conception can only be meaningful as a modifier of human behaviour and outcomes based on the desires of individuals.

    Why does it matter what the usual case is? You know I’m talking about prepubescent rape, so this is you just changing the subject.”

    For an example of just exactly that humanistic morality: Bonobo Chimps would NOT have a problem with sex with prepubescent Bonobos.

    Cuckoos too would have no immorality laws banning the euthanasia of other chicks (neither would Storks who lay three eggs, two of which persecute the smaller sibling out of the nest, then later the biggest one does the same to the remaining sibling).

    We see no immorality in eating the flesh of pigs, but we do see one when eating the flesh of humans. The pigs would see it the other way round.

  384. #384 Anthony McCarthy
    February 24, 2012

    Kel, Fugate, I had assumed you had a knowledge of history that reached as far back as 40 years or, at least, the ability to look up what I was talking about based on word search. Though from my experience of both biblical fundamentalists and atheist fundamentalists that assumption was wildly charitable. The policies were those of an atheist dictatorship, they were overturned as soon as possible after he was overthrown and summarily executed along with his wife the “prominent scientist” of the period, of course I’m talking about the Ceausescus. And they have their analogues, though not quite as officially horrible, in other “scientific” “rational” materialist, atheist governments. I can tell you why those are immoral by using religious arguments. What they did can’t be held to be immoral under materialism or even science because they can’t tell you why it’s wrong to take free choice (which they more often deny exists) from people and to treat them not much differently than animals in a breeding program in a horrific factory farm. That is the history of atheism with political and military power. In much of the literature of materialism moral nihilism is explicitly asserted, power, typically excitingly violent, being the replacement for it. I’m finding that is increasingly being asserted in a primitive form on blogs where atheism is the house ideology. That a number of those mistake their materialist libertarianism with liberalism has distorted what used to be an assertion of moral positions into a wreck of libertarian indifference.

  385. #385 Wow
    February 24, 2012

    “and atheist fundamentalist”

    The number in that set being nil.

    Unless you use the AMC faitheist dictionary meaning which is “Someone who everyone knows therefore I don’t have to mention them, thereby proving everyone knows them!”

    His method of counting seems very reminiscent of Poptech’s methods.

  386. #386 Michael Fugate
    February 24, 2012

    So an atheist dictatorship is just one run by an atheist – not one where the majority of citizens are atheists? This is totally different than a secular democracy where the majority of the citizens are atheists. Which seem to score very high in measures of well-being.
    How are dictatorships run by Christians or Muslims different? Are they “moral” dictatorships?

  387. #387 Anthony McCarthy
    February 24, 2012

    Ah, denying that atheist fundamentalism exists won’t keep the large majority of people, including some atheists, from recognizing it. I didn’t know it existed until I started reading the blogs, it is the house religion on many of them.

    I certainly didn’t invent the term, it’s been used quite a bit. The denial of its existence reminds me of the denial of racism by some members of white supremacy groups. It’s not a good idea to display atheist fundamentalism even as you deny its existence.

  388. #388 Anthony McCarthy
    February 24, 2012

    So an atheist dictatorship is just one run by an atheist – not one where the majority of citizens are atheists? Fugate

    Well, I doubt there could be any other kind of atheist government since religious people are, by far, the majority of the population.

    You do understand that in most dictatorships that eventually the majority of the population stop supporting the dictator. And in the case of Romania under Communism, suppressing the religions that most Romanians practiced, eventually destroying the way of life of most people to herd them into horrible, neo-Stalinist dream compounds, what Andre Codrescu called “Ceaususchwitzs”, there was almost certainly never a single moment when he was supported by the majority.

    You do know there is a reason that dictatorships are violent, don’t you. It’s because they have to keep the people terrorized so they won’t resist effectively and destroy the dictator.

    You boys are as callow as they come.

  389. #389 Verbose Stoic
    February 24, 2012

    Kel,

    You’ve misunderstood me. I’m not saying that that individual human nature or even human nature as it is would be an ideal source of morality. I’m saying that morality ought to be grounded in the human condition – that morality as a conception can only be meaningful as a modifier of human behaviour and outcomes based on the desires of individuals.

    Well, the weak version of this is something that no one, not even Anthony, will deny: moral rules have to apply in some way to the daily lives of moral agents, which right now seem to be only us. Fair enough. But that last part is where you start to slide into something that’s far more debatable, and something that actually is more meaningful than that vague statement, but I’ll talk about that later.

    Why does it matter what the usual case is? You know I’m talking about prepubescent rape, so this is you just changing the subject.

    No, actually, I don’t, because your big reference was to the Catholic Church’s sex scandal, but a significant number — if not the majority, depending on what definition of “pubescent” you take — were post-pubescent, and by definition your 11 yaer old girl case was one where she was at least pubescent (because she could conceive, which is the definition of puberty). So don’t get mad at me if your rhetoric makes your positions unclear.

    Simply being human, I feel, is enough. I’m not talking about rights as a cultural invention, I’m talking about rights that stem from our needs and desires as humans. As I said to Owlmirror above, I think “metaphorically inherent” is a decent summation of what I’m arguing about. I’m not a cultural relativist, what I’m advocating is a grounding of values in the human condition. Not in any society, not in any individual, but in the reflection of what it means to be human.

    But then I fail to see how your “metaphorically inherent” is anything different than any notion of inherent itself, and even different from Anthony’s. Now, I only paid half-hearted attention to the debate, but it seems to me that you were the one arguing that what you had was different from the notion of inherent that he had, and yet I fail to see the difference here. Noting, of course, that you do still need a justification for the list of these values and why they reflect what it means to be human. At the risk of confusing Owlmirror again, I will point out that what Harris thinks does that and what I through my Stoic leanings think does that are completely different, and yet each have arguments that can be appealed to.

    What would it mean for freedom of speech to be a “right” irrespective of its beneficial outcomes for individuals? If freedom of speech led to horrible outcomes for most people, would we still want it as a right? My argument is that its desirable is what makes it a right – nothing inherent about it, but an outcome of its reflection on the human condition.

    So, if the exercise of a right left most people worse off but a small number better off, would you say that that exercise of a right is valid? You seem to be appealing to a limited “rule Utilitarian” approach here, but there is always an issue of majority rules; the right to freedom of speech exists mostly to give minorities the ability to speak up even if it would be better for the majority if they didn’t. You also run into issues trying to define it against needs and desires because needs and desires change and — more critically from my perspective — we all know that not all human desires are normatively valuable; there are things we ought not want. Unless you have an objective notion of right desire, you’ll run into massive issues … but any objective notion of right desire needs to be justified separately from what we DO desire, and so in some sense separate from humans and their direct “nature”. What method do you propose for working that out?

  390. #390 Verbose Stoic
    February 24, 2012

    eric,

    I don’t claim ALL gods are contradictory to what we observe, I claim this god is. The one most christians say they believe in. As you said: one who has the power to end human suffering and the desire to do so, but presides over a world of suffering.

    But are you risking attacking a strawman? First, we know that those people do not find that contradictory (more on that at the end of the comment). Second, we know that they also believe in some sense in the Garden of Eden story, which was my starting point for the defense that you ignored. So at best you can find a contradiction in their specific views, but you will have no idea what set of consistent beliefs they’ll settle on once that’s pointed out. But that no more makes that god contradictory than trolley cases make Utilitarianism contradictory. And finally, you conceded that I might be right that the Christian God really is the one I talked about, and that they are wrong. To retreat then to only considering that position does exactly what I accused you of doing: sticking to a perceived weaker argument that you think you can refute.

    Because practically nobody believes in those gods. If some philosopher has a really good conception of Newgodofhisinvention, why should I care?

    Because I presume that you are interested in refuting the actual conception of God, not the folk version of it. Remember, these are not invented god concepts, but discovered and argued for god concepts derived from the source of the god concept you are tring to attack through study and argumentation. It would be like you saying that you don’t care about the actual physcial definition of radioactivity because the one that includes people gaining superpowers is absurd and proves that radioactivity conflicts with reality.

    Maybe this is one of the cultural differences between scientists and philosophers: very generally speaking and I’m sure there are lots of exceptions, but you want to discuss philosophically interesting ideas regardless of their practical value, while we want to discuss practically important ideas regradless of whether they are philosophically interesting or not.

    So are you saying that knowing if the Christian God exists or doesn’t exist is not of practical value? I’m talking about how things are, not how people necessarily think they are. How is it, then, that I’M the impractical one? You might as well call all physicists philosophers as well, and leave only the folk physicists as scientists.

    Why should I care how most people think of God if I can argue that they are interpreting their own source at best vaguely and imprecisely enough to cause issues? Why should you sit on that one as opposed to trying to find out if that God-thing really does exist by looking at its clearest and best defined concept and set of attributes?

  391. #391 Verbose Stoic
    February 24, 2012

    eric,

    Continuing on …

    Some, yes. Many? I hardly see that. As far as I know neither the RCC nor any of the mainline protestent sects are as gnostic as you are. None of them claim “study is required” for a religiously sufficient understanding of God – i.e., salvation. These two groups – catholics and mainline protestants – make up something like 1.7 of the 1.8-2.1 billion christians.

    You are conflating understanding enough to have faith — and thus gain salvation — with understanding enough to decide how to act and how to answer arguments. The RCC is quite explicit that the latter is not something that you can do without study and teaching, which is why they have such a strict hierarchical approach even to their teachings. The RCC, as far as I can recall, has never, ever argued that simply praying can give you answers to questions like whether the amount of suffering involved in evolution is a problem for the Catholic God, or how to answer that question. Mainline Protestant views will differ, but I’m pretty sure Anglcians are pretty close to the Catholic view, and few will say that the average everyday person can answer that.

    Baloney. Every sect has to deal with “why did grandpa have to get cancer” arguments from its members. And as much as I hate to go Godwin on you, you can’t credibly say the question of evil has been an academic one for Jews in the 20th century. Are you really claiming that the problem of evil is a white tower theological problem?

    Ah, so it seems that your derisive remark was intentional despite the seeming reasonableness of the rest of it. It makes me wonder what you actually do for a living; likely it’s not in academics at all.

    When I talk about it being an “academic problem” in the context of a contrast between it and “folk problems”, I do not mean that it has no practical import or is just mental exercise. I mean “academic problem” in the sense that the work done in physics departments is. Thus, folk physics versus university physics, folk psychology versus psychology. All of these, of course, have an astounding impact on actual society and real issues, and I argue that really good philosophy and theology have the same, and in this case theology by answering your important challenge.

    And let’s look at the progression, and where you go out of folk territory into things that can only apply at the theological level:

    The person asks “Why did grandpa have to get cancer?”, and the folk reply is that it is God’s will. The only way you can answer and still stay in the folk realm is to ask why a loving God would allow that, but they’ll simply reply that it must be better for us or appeal to God’s good nature. You don’t have a move at that point, because those are all part of the folk definition. You’ll have to move on to arguing something like the definition of good not including allowing suffering if it can be prevented, but right there you get into philosophy, and technical philosophy at that. Why? Because philosophically it’s debatable whether suffering is the be-all-and-end-all of what it means to be good, and even at the folk level it’s shaky (few people take Singer’s argument to heart that if you do something with your money instead of helping the poor in Africa, you’re doing wrong). So now we’re knee-deep at least in moral philosophy. And we have to figure out what all the tri-omnis really mean: do they include the logically impossible or not? And then we split into two realms: psychological and conceptual. Why? Because we have to ask if those people really DO accept a tri-omni God. You can’t just ask them, because the tri-omni God has been tossed around by theology for ages and bled into their views, so you might end up with a case like the one Dan Ariely cited for financial planning: they ask people what percentage of their income they need to retire, and they say “75%”. When asked why they say that, they reply that that’s what people advise them to have. So you need to test it with thought experiments that trick them into answering without hitting that influenced thought. On the other side, you have philosophers and theologians asking if the concept they started with actually includes it, or if that was a wrong move that gained too much influence.

    All of this is NOT folk theology, and yet all of it is raised by your problem and is the only way to assess and answer it.

  392. #392 Michael Fugate
    February 24, 2012

    Why pick on atheist dictatorships only? Why pick on Ceaușescu and not Franco? How does this differ from the 16th c when catholic and protestant monarchs imposed religion on their subjects? Why does religion get a free pass? You won’t answer to religious abuse of power.
    How is imposing religion better than imposing no religion?

    You do know that when people are free from terror – they give up religion? This is something dictators don’t seem to understand – if they really wanted an atheist state, they would make sure the people have everything they need – then again maybe that’s not what they want.

    Can you agree that the best place to live is a secular democracy with complete freedom of religion – meaning that the state favors no one religion or religious sect over any other?

  393. #393 Verbose Stoic
    February 24, 2012

    Owlmirror,

    This analogy is confused. If the experiments are properly refuting the “folk physics”, then what is the physicist doing?

    If the the experiments are not refuting the folk physics, then isn’t the physicist actually changing the experiments so that they do refute the folk physics?

    Well, let me expand on the analogy. Let’s say that someone is checking their air pressure in their house, and notes that increasing the temperature doesn’t increase it. A physicist goes into a controlled room, increased the temperature, and notes that it does, and so concludes that that result is wrong. Another physicist then points out that it doesn’t work that way because houses aren’t completely airtight like the lab room, and so it won’t increase because there is someplace for the air to go. I’m claiming that what eric is doing is like the first physicist telling the second one that that argument doesn’t matter because it isn’t in the folk description of the event, and still claiming that the argument and the lab results are useful and important.

    Let me see if I understand your position:

    Spoiler: You don’t [grin].

    1) Folk theology claims that God is powerful, knowledgeable, and benevolent; and indeed, has the absolute maximum of those attributes.

    Actually, as I did point out to eric a long time ago that “absolute maximum” isn’t clear. If pressed, I suspect that folk theology would claim great quantities of those attributes, but not be too hung up on the tri-omnis, especially since what those things mean aren’t clear.

    2) Atheists point out that the problem of evil is a strong argument against the existence of a God with those attributes, since it would follow that a God that had those attributes would strive to reduce or eliminate evil.

    3) Folk believers are flummoxed by this argument

    It’s more than “flummoxed”. I argue that folk theology is incapable of addressing the argument because the argument already outside of the rough and ready, works for everyday living nature of folk desciptions. Mostly because of the issues with good and evil and suffering and the like that have major philosophical components.

    4) You come in and pat both sides on the head and explain that both sides are wrong, because the problem of evil is equivalent to the problem of suffering, and Stoicism provides a way of possibly reconciling suffering with good (or something like that), and therefore God is not properly argued against using the problem of evil. And you’re willing to jettison the belief that God has the maximal amount of knowledge, power, and benevolence, if that’s what’s necessary for this putative Stoic reconciliation.

    As I said to someone else — probably you, in fact — it isn’t the Stoic reconciliation that I’m using here, but I am instead using the Stoic disagreement to highlight the philosophical problem. Recall here that it was ERIC who talked about suffering, not me, and so made the argument about suffering and not evil. But then it turns out that eric is working on a specific conception of good, one that is broadly hedonistic and Utilitarian … which as a conception has been rejected by Christian religions. Pointing out the Stoic conception just highlights how controversial that presumption of that conception is, since they very clearly delineate it, but it is very similar to Christian views as well. Thus, we have a philosophical issue that must be resolved. Additionally, my main argument was that eric was ignoring the source of the concept, which is clear that this world contains suffering, and I argue that that trumps the tri-omnis. Eric can argue otherwise, and that can be debated, but it is not simply, again, a Stoic reconciliation that makes argue for giving up the tri-omnis, but an appeal to the source IF eric can stick that the tri-omnis ARE incompatible with a world that contains suffering. So the first argument says that eric needs to do more work on establishing his presumptive good to make the tri-omnis conflict, while the second points out that even if he can establish that he has to address the fact that the source of the concept explicitly states that this will be a world that contains some suffering and so might not actually be the tri-omni God that he’s relying on.

    Does that clarify things?

  394. #394 Kel
    February 24, 2012

    For an example of just exactly that humanistic morality: Bonobo Chimps would NOT have a problem with sex with prepubescent Bonobos.

    Cuckoos too would have no immorality laws banning the euthanasia of other chicks (neither would Storks who lay three eggs, two of which persecute the smaller sibling out of the nest, then later the biggest one does the same to the remaining sibling).

    We see no immorality in eating the flesh of pigs, but we do see one when eating the flesh of humans. The pigs would see it the other way round.

    A male lion, when he takes over a new pride, will kill all the cubs sired to the previous leader. Meanwhile male baboons will “stepfather” female baboons and raise them like their own.

    The view I’m proposing is not what is natural is right, but that any sense of morality must be grounded in the needs and desires of humans. It makes no sense otherwise.

  395. #395 Kel
    February 24, 2012

    No, actually, I don’t, because your big reference was to the Catholic Church’s sex scandal, but a significant number — if not the majority, depending on what definition of “pubescent” you take — were post-pubescent, and by definition your 11 yaer old girl case was one where she was at least pubescent (because she could conceive, which is the definition of puberty). So don’t get mad at me if your rhetoric makes your positions unclear.

    It would be missing the point to attack the norm of the cases involved in the Catholic Church (either way they did wrong – my illustration with the Catholic Church was to show that having absolute values isn’t a protection from expediency), but the notion of actually raping a child is horrendous. The rhetoric served more purpose than to just illustrate that one point, and that underlying point remained.

    But then I fail to see how your “metaphorically inherent” is anything different than any notion of inherent itself, and even different from Anthony’s. Now, I only paid half-hearted attention to the debate, but it seems to me that you were the one arguing that what you had was different from the notion of inherent that he had, and yet I fail to see the difference here. Noting, of course, that you do still need a justification for the list of these values and why they reflect what it means to be human.

    Since Anthony has been unclear how we sees inherent moral values work, it would be hard to say they are the same. The reason that I tried to distance myself from values as being inherent was that they are only to be found with our species, and that they are derived rather than existing as values on their own. My goal was to put forth a view of morality that was compatible with materialism; I think I have done just that, so whether or not you think “metaphorically inherent” (though I would prefer “pragmatically inherent”) has one unnecessary word in there isn’t really too much of a concern. The important thing, to my mind, is whether or not morality needs anything otherworldly. I contend it doesn’t because it can only make sense in light of its outcomes for people.

    So, if the exercise of a right left most people worse off but a small number better off, would you say that that exercise of a right is valid? You seem to be appealing to a limited “rule Utilitarian” approach here, but there is always an issue of majority rules; the right to freedom of speech exists mostly to give minorities the ability to speak up even if it would be better for the majority if they didn’t. You also run into issues trying to define it against needs and desires because needs and desires change and — more critically from my perspective — we all know that not all human desires are normatively valuable; there are things we ought not want. Unless you have an objective notion of right desire, you’ll run into massive issues … but any objective notion of right desire needs to be justified separately from what we DO desire, and so in some sense separate from humans and their direct “nature”. What method do you propose for working that out?

    I wasn’t proposing any particular metaethic as that wasn’t the question at hand. If you don’t have any objections to my formulation of a “materialist” morality, then I’d be happy to shift focus.

    For the record, I don’t subscribe to utilitarianism as I think it’s impractical for anything beyond the most basic calculation.

  396. #396 Wow
    February 24, 2012

    Re 394. Only human morality.

    No humans won’t have the same moral primature as humans, and even among humans we get different morality for different groups and different times.

    What ancient Greece thought moral we descendents of the Greek morality( ie western society) would deplore as horror.

  397. #397 Kel
    February 24, 2012

    No humans won’t have the same moral primature as humans, and even among humans we get different morality for different groups and different times.
    What ancient Greece thought moral we descendents of the Greek morality( ie western society) would deplore as horror.

    So what? The question is not about a descriptive account of morality, but what would constitute a prescriptive account? It might be completely acceptable in some societies to mutilate the genitals of a child, but what I’m saying doesn’t rely on any society’s view of the practice.

  398. #398 Anthony McCarthy
    February 24, 2012

    Why pick on atheist dictatorships only?

    Oh, you should read what I say about the other ones and the one that the Republican right is turning the United States into. Only I do that on political blogs and not on new atheist blogs.

    I’ve become convinced that the materialist-new atheist fad is a danger on several counts, one is that it has duped too many “science” addled people of the left into giving up the absolutely essential basis for democracy and liberalism to exist, the more important one that it allows the Republican right to paint the left with the false charge of being anti-religion and so makes it more difficult for relative progressives to win office and take power. It’s not any mistake that they have used the issue of religion against Democrats in every single lesson since the 1960s. They are evil, they aren’t stupid. They know that the vast majority of the population are religious, that most people take religion very seriously. That’s why as the Republican right and the Catholic conference of Bishops have misstepped into an attack on contraception (also almost universally used by Americans) that they have tried to turn Obama’s policy into an attack on religion. I take leftist politics very seriously and I think the unnecessary and counterproductive accommodation of the left with fundamentalist atheism since about the death of Eugene Debs has a lot to do with why we can’t manage to elect another liberal. FDR was the last real liberal American liberals managed to get into office. I’d like to elect another one and believe that another one would be as popular as FDR was. FDR said, “I’m a Christian and a Democrat, that’s all”. I think that would be a winning formula again.

  399. #399 Kel
    February 24, 2012

    I’ve become convinced that the materialist-new atheist fad is a danger on several counts, one is that it has duped too many “science” addled people of the left into giving up the absolutely essential basis for democracy and liberalism to exist, the more important one that it allows the Republican right to paint the left with the false charge of being anti-religion and so makes it more difficult for relative progressives to win office and take power.

    For fucks sake! In saying this, you’re expressing just as much anti-religious sentiment as any “new atheist”. The kind of things the new atheists are arguing against have to do with the way religion inhibits on individual liberty and causes personal injustice in the world. They are opposed to the Republican right for the same reason as you are. The only difference is that the new atheists think that non-fundamentalist forms of religion are nonsense too. But they are nonsense, so thinking that just makes one sane. None of the new atheists are calling for religion to be outlawed, none of them are working for religion to be outlawed. Most of them are fighting for the right not to have religion imposed on others. They do not want religious rule over another’s reproductive choice. They do not want religious rule over another’s sexual preference. They do not want religious rule over another’s dietary requirements. They do not want religious rule over another’s preferences in entertainment. They do not want religious rule of what gets taught in public school.

    That’s it! That’s all there is to it. They are antitheists where theistic rule infringes on personal liberty and is unjust to individuals. If you think that religion should have the right to dominate over other individuals, then your view is opposed by the “new atheists”. If you think that religion should be a personal matter and not be the basis of personal/societal injustice, then you are pushing the same platform as the “new atheists”. The only difference is that the “new atheists” think that your belief is silly, but they aren’t trying to take that away from you. Your gripes against materialism are all in your head!

  400. #400 Anthony McCarthy
    February 24, 2012

    In saying this, you’re expressing just as much anti-religious sentiment as any “new atheist”. The kind of things the new atheists are arguing against have to do with the way religion inhibits on individual liberty and causes personal injustice in the world. Kel

    This is total bunkum. As Hitchens and his adoring fans show, a new atheist can be anything from a pathological Trotskyite to a Bush II supporting neo con to far more adulation among the atheists than Peter Singer will ever have.

    The new atheism is libertarian about those things they don’t care to suppress, they aren’t about the reality of rights and the moral obligation to observe the rights of other people. I’ve had atheists on the blogs complain about the words “morality” and “conscience” as well as “inherent rights” on the basis that they were excessively supernatural.

    I recently read this passage from the atheist philosopher Jurgens Habermas:

    For the normative self-understanding of modernity, Christianity has functioned as more than just a precursor or catalyst. Universalistic egalitarianism, from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life in solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of a continual critical reappropriation and reinterpretation. Up to this very day there is no alternative to it. And in light of the current challenges of a post-national constellation, we must draw sustenance now, as in the past, from this substance. Everything else is idle postmoderntalk.

    The concepts of rights, justice, equality are all derived from religious ideas, most strongly derived from the Jewish tradition and the Christian and Islamic traditions that are developments of it. I don’t think it’s a mistake that the rigorous assertions of materialism have frequently been at the service of the denial or the definition of those things out of existence along with ideas like generosity and free will. I noticed that all along as I read the literature and its invasion into politics, restraining myself from perusing the discrepancies out of misplaced feelings of loyalty to fellow leftists and the inhibitions from criticizing the Marxist and anarchist splinters that were considered to be our allies. Well, the Marxists and, especially, the anarchists have done many times more damage to the left than they produced anything real and now that I’ve stopped feeling inhibited, thanks to the excesses of the new atheists, I’m not pretending that it was rational to expect anything else given their ideological foundations. I think that when Marx declared that he wasn’t a Marxist, he might have had a premonition that they were trouble. If he could see what’s been done in his name he would never stop throwing up.

  401. #401 Kel
    February 24, 2012

    As Hitchens and his adoring fans show, a new atheist can be anything from a pathological Trotskyite to a Bush II supporting neo con to far more adulation among the atheists than Peter Singer will ever have.

    A quick quibble. Hitchens, for all you taint with him, had a very strong moral focus in his writings and his position. His support for the Iraq War, while I strongly disagree with it, was done out of his opposition to the tyranny and oppression that was going on there. Whether or not this justifies his position is another matter.

    But if you just follow what you write here to its logical conclusions, being an atheist doesn’t mean anything about the political position one holds. The issue of political position is largely separate from one’s metaphysical view of the universe. And that is the point I’ve been trying to make. The materialism, which you assert can only mean bad things politically, is as much responsible for Hitchens as it is Singer – which is to say it isn’t much at all. That you’re trying to stretch the fact that we’re massive collections of particles to any political doctrine is completely unfounded.

    And for the record, Peter Singer has a huge number of fans. At the global atheist convention in Melbourne, Peter Singer was third only to Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers in terms of crowd response – both of whom are very politically liberal as well. Richard Dawkins has gone to great pains to oppose the message that some conservatives took out of The Selfish Gene, that it does not follow that because our genes are selfish that we are selfish or that selfish is desirable in any way. Even the reactions to some of PZ Myers comments about his work with animals showed that Peter Singer’s work has entered the hearts and minds of many people.

    I’ve had atheists on the blogs complain about the words “morality” and “conscience” as well as “inherent rights” on the basis that they were excessively supernatural.

    I’ve had arguments like that, too. Yet none of them, at least the ones I’ve talked to, meant it in the way that you imply. So if you’ve got examples of where people are backing up what you think they are saying, please share them. Because, otherwise, I think you’ve missed the point of what a lot of them are saying. I’ve had arguments with people who make those same denials, yet the motivation I’ve found is to stop the religious hijacking of those concepts on their life. If you sit down and discuss what they mean, it’s not what you say.

    But I’d be happy to be shown wrong. Show me the people who just want morality to fuck off so they can eat babies (or equivalent). I’m betting most of them probably should learn that the conversation is so fraught with idiots willing to misinterpret it, that a little more expediency with language might be wise.

    The concepts of rights, justice, equality are all derived from religious ideas, most strongly derived from the Jewish tradition and the Christian and Islamic traditions that are developments of it.

    Bullshit. If you don’t see the role of the enlightenment in modern thought, then you’ve missed something big. The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights is not a religious doctrine, the ethics of science isn’t a religious doctrine – it’s people getting together with no higher power in mind and thinking about what it means to do right. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong has more.

    It’s funny, you can easily see religious propagation of inequality. The bible, to take one example, was used to justify slavery. It was used to justify inequality for women. It was used to justify segregation. It’s still being used to justify anti-gay prejudice. It’s still being used now to justify intrusions into women’s reproductive choices. Yet all these hard fought societal victories towards ridding the inequalities of slavery, women’s rights, protection of the child, etc. have all come post-enlightenment. Why weren’t they there when the Catholic Church ruled supreme? Why aren’t they there in Islamic countries where the clerics have strong power?

    I don’t think it’s a mistake that the rigorous assertions of materialism have frequently been at the service of the denial or the definition of those things out of existence along with ideas like generosity and free will.

    The other thing, too, is that some of these people could just be mistaken. For example, why do you cite Jerry Coyne but not Dan Dennett when talking about free will? Why are you willing to say that unnamed people on the internet deny morality, but you won’t cite J.L. Mackie or Simon Blackburn? There are plenty of educated “materialist” voices out there who would not agree with your formulation of “materialism” at all, yet they don’t get a mention. I’d just contend that you’re not talking about the same materialism as most materialists would recognise.

  402. #402 Kel
    February 24, 2012

    As Hitchens and his adoring fans show, a new atheist can be anything from a pathological Trotskyite to a Bush II supporting neo con to far more adulation among the atheists than Peter Singer will ever have.

    A quick quibble. Hitchens, for all you taint with him, had a very strong moral focus in his writings and his position. His support for the Iraq War, while I strongly disagree with it, was done out of his opposition to the tyranny and oppression that was going on there. Whether or not this justifies his position is another matter.

    But if you just follow what you write here to its logical conclusions, being an atheist doesn’t mean anything about the political position one holds. The issue of political position is largely separate from one’s metaphysical view of the universe. And that is the point I’ve been trying to make. The materialism, which you assert can only mean bad things politically, is as much responsible for Hitchens as it is Singer – which is to say it isn’t much at all. That you’re trying to stretch the fact that we’re massive collections of particles to any political doctrine is completely unfounded.

    And for the record, Peter Singer has a huge number of fans. At the global atheist convention in Melbourne, Peter Singer was third only to Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers in terms of crowd response – both of whom are very politically liberal as well. Richard Dawkins has gone to great pains to oppose the message that some conservatives took out of The Selfish Gene, that it does not follow that because our genes are selfish that we are selfish or that selfish is desirable in any way. Even the reactions to some of PZ Myers comments about his work with animals showed that Peter Singer’s work has entered the hearts and minds of many people.

    I’ve had atheists on the blogs complain about the words “morality” and “conscience” as well as “inherent rights” on the basis that they were excessively supernatural.

    I’ve had arguments like that, too. Yet none of them, at least the ones I’ve talked to, meant it in the way that you imply. So if you’ve got examples of where people are backing up what you think they are saying, please share them. Because, otherwise, I think you’ve missed the point of what a lot of them are saying. I’ve had arguments with people who make those same denials, yet the motivation I’ve found is to stop the religious hijacking of those concepts on their life. If you sit down and discuss what they mean, it’s not what you say.

    But I’d be happy to be shown wrong. Show me the people who just want morality to fuck off so they can eat babies (or equivalent). I’m betting most of them probably should learn that the conversation is so fraught with idiots willing to misinterpret it, that a little more expediency with language might be wise.

    The concepts of rights, justice, equality are all derived from religious ideas, most strongly derived from the Jewish tradition and the Christian and Islamic traditions that are developments of it.

    Bullshit. If you don’t see the role of the enlightenment in modern thought, then you’ve missed something big. The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights is not a religious doctrine, the ethics of science isn’t a religious doctrine – it’s people getting together with no higher power in mind and thinking about what it means to do right. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong has more.

    It’s funny, you can easily see religious propagation of inequality. The bible, to take one example, was used to justify slavery. It was used to justify inequality for women. It was used to justify segregation. It’s still being used to justify anti-gay prejudice. It’s still being used now to justify intrusions into women’s reproductive choices. Yet all these hard fought societal victories towards ridding the inequalities of slavery, women’s rights, protection of the child, etc. have all come post-enlightenment. Why weren’t they there when the Catholic Church ruled supreme? Why aren’t they there in Islamic countries where the clerics have strong power?

    I don’t think it’s a mistake that the rigorous assertions of materialism have frequently been at the service of the denial or the definition of those things out of existence along with ideas like generosity and free will.

    The other thing, too, is that some of these people could just be mistaken. For example, why do you cite Jerry Coyne but not Dan Dennett when talking about free will? Why are you willing to say that unnamed people on the internet deny morality, but you won’t cite J.L. Mackie or Simon Blackburn? There are plenty of educated “materialist” voices out there who would not agree with your formulation of “materialism” at all, yet they don’t get a mention. I’d just contend that you’re not talking about the same materialism as most materialists would recognise.

  403. #403 eric
    February 24, 2012

    VS:

    But are you risking attacking a strawman?

    No, I do not think a conception of god that wants to end human suffering and has the power to do so is a strawman. I think its what the vast majority of Christians believe. It appears we have an unresolvable disagreement about that.

    Second, we that they also believe in some sense in the Garden of Eden story, which was my starting point for the defense that you ignored.

    I have not ignored it. I have continued to point out that just because the bible mentions a world with suffering does not automatically indicate that biblically-based conceptions of God are consistent with suffering. You are assuming that the conception of god it presents is consistent with the part of the story about suffering. I say there is no good reason to make this assumption.

    you will have no idea what set of consistent beliefs they’ll settle on once that’s pointed out.

    If Jason, Owl, and I get people to reject the currently common conception of God as irrational, I will be happy. Mission accomplished. However, the cynic in me says that most of the religious folk who understand the irrationality of their set of properties will choose to keep all of them, and use the “He’s inscrutable” defense rather than jettisoning any of the properties.

    It would be like you saying that you don’t care about the actual physcial [sic] definition of radioactivity because the one that includes people gaining superpowers

    If someone had an irrational understanding of radioactivity, I would certainly want to correct them and get them to change their mind. That part of your analogy seems to support my position. But overall, your analogy isn’t that great since we can appeal to an empirical, independent, objective reality to resolve disputes about radioactivity. There is no such way to resolve disputes about the nature of God. The nature of God is more like musical taste or aesthetics – there is no outside referent with which to check accuracy of an hypothesis
    To use your analogy: with God, its like everyone is claiming superpowers and there is no way to decide which set of superpowers actually exist, because empirically, none of them do. There is only separating the logically ridiculous from the (less) empirically ridiculous.

    So are you saying that knowing if the Christian God exists or doesn’t exist is not of practical value?

    But you aren’t knowing. Your entire argument separates the consistent sets of properties from the inconsistent sets, but that is all. You are still left with a near-infinite number of mutually contradictory set-consistent god-concepts with no empirical proof for any of them. As I have said before, you are testing for validity but you have no test for soundness. Mere validity is no indicator of truth, and validity is all you have.
    More later.

  404. #404 Anthony McCarthy
    February 24, 2012

    Christopher Hitches, who I read for the entire time he wrote for The Nation was an ideological hooker who had no morals what soever. Peter Singer as a major influence in the new atheism? And you guys are always the one bringing up pink unicorns. Peter Singer is most honesty marked “Tacit” in the new atheism. You really don’t believe that a convention being in Melbourne would sort of account for the enthusiasm for Singer? Third only to Dawkins and PZ, oh, yeah, I can see the influence of Singer on those two, especially PZ. How many new atheists are vegans? I’d guess he’s had more of an effect on non-atheists than atheists.

    The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights Um hum. Those were really in evidence during the Reign of Terror, including the mass murders of nuns and priests and tens of thousands of peasants and urban poor. I’m quite unimpressed by the French Revolution and the resultant mess it led to extending for the next hundred years of French politics.

    The enlightenment was a pretty mixed bag. You’d have to be more specific in what part of it you’re talking about. The “Founders” among the “enlightened” were mostly slave holding aristocrats who had a deep suspicion of common folks. The worst parts of the American Constitution and the enduring effects that blight our politics even today are products of those “enlightened” men. As I said, the wall of separation was a product of Baptists and others refusing to accept an established religion far more than it was the “enlightened” POV.

    I’m a lot more impressed with the anti-slavery agitation that began in religion than I am with the “enlightenment”. St. Patrick was probably about the earliest successful abolitionist, talking the Irish into abolishing slavery up till the English invaded and re-instituted it. Calvinists and Quakers were the major, early abolitionists in the 17th and 18th centuries, not the “enlightenment” figures.

  405. #405 Anthony McCarthy
    February 24, 2012

    Dennett talking about free will? I can’t think of anything I’ve read by him that supports the idea. Between his biological determinism and his superstitious belief in memes, I’d think he pretty much has no room left for free will. Has he expressed himself on the idea other than to do what he and his cohort do, define anything they don’t like out of existence so they can use the word stripped of its meaning to disguise the fact that they’ve asserted the real thing doesn’t exist? Quote him on free will.

    By the way, the belief that our ideas are the product of genetic determinism would pretty much preclude the idea that we can have an objective view of anything, including science, including atheism, that is a reliable representation of reality. When you put “memes” on top of that huge hurdle to science being a representation of objective reality, it only makes the idea that science, including Dawkins’ style ultra-Darwinism, being valid as open to refutation those ideas Dennett doesn’t like.

    I’d be far more open to the idea that science was more than an illusion, though. I would agree with Heisenberg when he said, “What we observe is not nature itself but nature exposed to our method of questioning.” When you subject nature to Dennett’s rather bizarre reductionism and ultra-Darwinism (Dawkins used the term so don’t gripe when I use it) the results you get will inevitably be determined by those methods, so they are not an objective recreation of nature. I rather think that the results are biased.

  406. #406 Kel
    February 24, 2012

    Dennett talking about free will? I can’t think of anything I’ve read by him that supports the idea.

    He’s written two books (Elbow Room and Freedom Evolves) and published multiple papers on the matter. He also actively tries to fight against those materialists who deny free will, saying that the way it’s taken misrepresents the abilities that we as humans have.

    Between his biological determinism and his superstitious belief in memes, I’d think he pretty much has no room left for free will.

    Question, do you ever read anybody you disagree with any sense of trying to understand where they are coming from?

  407. #407 Anthony McCarthy
    February 25, 2012

    How does Dennett define free will? As I said in my piece from last week, free will would have to originate free of causality because if it was the result of causality it would be determined and not free. If free will is free of causality then science couldn’t find it in an eternity of searching for it with the methods of science which depend absolutely on relationships within causality. Whether that causation is asserted to be atomic or subatomic or molecular doesn’t much matter, I’d guess, without having read the book, that Dennett’s ultra reductionist, ultra Darwinism would mean that he would think whatever he’s calling “free will” would be the result of the molecules that genes are. I’d like to see what verbal contortions he goes through to convince himself that he hasn’t, in fact, defined free will out of existence. His admirers among the new atheists take what he says on authority, in my experience of arguing him so I’d imagine the nonsensical parts of it wouldn’t register.

    Since you provide no quotations, have you read those books? I can’t see from Darwin’s Dangerous Idea that it would be possible to come up with free will that could be consistent with his determinism. Dawkins, his great hero, has explicitly said we were merely lumbering robots controlled by genes, that we were merely dancing the dance that they determine.

    No, materialism will always devolve into a struggle among the stronger and the weaker, the weaker always getting shafted by the “fitter” and so “better”(though the language used with be prettified a bit). It can’t do anything else because is chosen methods can’t see the world any other way. Free will escapes those methods so it doesn’t really exist. Inherent rights can’t exist, too spooky sounding, so what replaces those are only the product of mutual illusions. And in practice, imaginary “rights” don’t really supply any reason for someone who can get away with violating them for their own benefit, observing them. It will be sort of like what they did to “altruism” to shove it into natural selection, redefining it as just a more refined kind of selfishness and making up a host of creation myths to show why it’s the products of gene fitness.

    There is no rational reason or any reason based in experience to expect that the artificial substitutes for rights, morals or anything else that the more perfumed members of the materialist congregation will have a social or national effect in making life less hellish, first for the “unfit” then, eventually, for everyone. The depravity of the world isn’t the result of people following the teachings of the Buddha or the Jewish Prophets, including Jesus, they’re the results of people who live more in line with Herbert Spenser, Thomas Huxley and the more honest materialists. Materialism will always have that effect because it can’t generate moral restraints on selfishness. In materialism, greed enhances “fitness”, greed is good. It’s what it’s all about, even in its most refined and soft-handed and allegedly indirect forms.

  408. #408 Kel
    February 25, 2012

    How does Dennett define free will?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Utai74HjPJE

    As I said in my piece from last week, free will would have to originate free of causality because if it was the result of causality it would be determined and not free.

    So can you sketch an outline of how such a free will would work? What does it mean to be “independent of causality”? If it’s spontaneous, then in what way does spontaneity make it free? If it’s not spontaneous, then what is it? Methinks you are asking for the metaphysically incoherent.

    Whether that causation is asserted to be atomic or subatomic or molecular doesn’t much matter, I’d guess, without having read the book, that Dennett’s ultra reductionist, ultra Darwinism would mean that he would think whatever he’s calling “free will” would be the result of the molecules that genes are.

    This is the kind of thing that suggests you don’t pay any attention to anything people disagree with you say. Dennett’s “ultra reductionist, ultra Darwinism”? That’s not an argument, that’s not even a fair assessment of his position. Can you quote Dennett

    As far as I can

    Since you provide no quotations, have you read those books?

    The books? No. But here’s a lecture he gave:

    I can’t see from Darwin’s Dangerous Idea that it would be possible to come up with free will that could be consistent with his determinism.

    I see you haven’t provided a quotation for that. Can you show me where Dennett says this?

    Dawkins, his great hero, has explicitly said we were merely lumbering robots controlled by genes, that we were merely dancing the dance that they determine.

    Have you read The Selfish Gene? There’s a line right at the very end of the book about how our species is alone in that we can rebel against our genes.

    No, materialism will always devolve into a struggle among the stronger and the weaker, the weaker always getting shafted by the “fitter” and so “better”(though the language used with be prettified a bit). It can’t do anything else because is chosen methods can’t see the world any other way.

    At the risk of going off-topic, how does immaterialism help?

    Inherent rights can’t exist, too spooky sounding, so what replaces those are only the product of mutual illusions.

    At the risk of getting back to the original point I brought up, I notice you still haven’t addressed my argument about morality in a “materialist” universe in a meaningful way. That you’ve gone through lots of topics since then really does suggest to me that you don’t have the capacity to back up your assertions.

    It will be sort of like what they did to “altruism” to shove it into natural selection, redefining it as just a more refined kind of selfishness and making up a host of creation myths to show why it’s the products of gene fitness.

    This is interesting, because here you’ve already stopped the reduction to atoms and instead focused on a higher order. The question is, why can’t you go further? Why not see order in the development and structure of brains? Genes, after all, only play a part in brain development. Environment and experience both play a role in how brains form. No-one argues that brains are inevitably an expression of their genes. I really don’t think you understand the position that you deride…

    There is no rational reason or any reason based in experience to expect that the artificial substitutes for rights, morals or anything else that the more perfumed members of the materialist congregation will have a social or national effect in making life less hellish, first for the “unfit” then, eventually, for everyone.

    IS/OUGHT…

    In materialism, greed enhances “fitness”, greed is good. It’s what it’s all about, even in its most refined and soft-handed and allegedly indirect forms.

    Ha! You really are a paranoid fool. Actually learn what people are saying.

    “I am not advocating a morality based on evolution. I am saying how things have evolved. I am not saying how we humans morally ought to behave. [...] My own feeling is that a human society based simply on the gene’s law of universal ruthless selfishness would be a very nasty society in which to live.” – Richard Dawkins

    Or is Dawkins one of those less honest materialists?

  409. #409 Kel
    February 25, 2012

    How does Dennett define free will?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Utai74HjPJE

    As I said in my piece from last week, free will would have to originate free of causality because if it was the result of causality it would be determined and not free.

    So can you sketch an outline of how such a free will would work? What does it mean to be “independent of causality”? If it’s spontaneous, then in what way does spontaneity make it free? If it’s not spontaneous, then what is it? Methinks you are asking for the metaphysically incoherent.

    Whether that causation is asserted to be atomic or subatomic or molecular doesn’t much matter, I’d guess, without having read the book, that Dennett’s ultra reductionist, ultra Darwinism would mean that he would think whatever he’s calling “free will” would be the result of the molecules that genes are.

    This is the kind of thing that suggests you don’t pay any attention to anything people disagree with you say. Dennett’s “ultra reductionist, ultra Darwinism”? That’s not an argument, that’s not even a fair assessment of his position. Can you quote Dennett as saying what you attribute to him?

    Since you provide no quotations, have you read those books?

    The books? No. But here’s a lecture he gave:

    I can’t see from Darwin’s Dangerous Idea that it would be possible to come up with free will that could be consistent with his determinism.

    I see you haven’t provided a quotation for that. Can you show me where Dennett says this?

    Dawkins, his great hero, has explicitly said we were merely lumbering robots controlled by genes, that we were merely dancing the dance that they determine.

    Have you read The Selfish Gene? There’s a line right at the very end of the book about how our species is alone in that we can rebel against our genes.

  410. #410 Kel
    February 25, 2012

    How does Dennett define free will?

    Like this: youtube.com/watch?v=Utai74HjPJE

    As I said in my piece from last week, free will would have to originate free of causality because if it was the result of causality it would be determined and not free.

    So can you sketch an outline of how such a free will would work? What does it mean to be “independent of causality”? If it’s spontaneous, then in what way does spontaneity make it free? If it’s not spontaneous, then what is it? Methinks you are asking for the metaphysically incoherent.

    Whether that causation is asserted to be atomic or subatomic or molecular doesn’t much matter, I’d guess, without having read the book, that Dennett’s ultra reductionist, ultra Darwinism would mean that he would think whatever he’s calling “free will” would be the result of the molecules that genes are.

    This is the kind of thing that suggests you don’t pay any attention to anything people disagree with you say. Dennett’s “ultra reductionist, ultra Darwinism”? That’s not an argument, that’s not even a fair assessment of his position. Can you quote Dennett as saying what you attribute to him?

    Since you provide no quotations, have you read those books?

    The books? No. But here’s a lecture he gave:
    youtube.com/watch?v=aKLAbWFCh1E

    I can’t see from Darwin’s Dangerous Idea that it would be possible to come up with free will that could be consistent with his determinism.

    I see you haven’t provided a quotation for that. Can you show me where Dennett says this?

    Dawkins, his great hero, has explicitly said we were merely lumbering robots controlled by genes, that we were merely dancing the dance that they determine.

    Have you read The Selfish Gene? There’s a line right at the very end of the book about how our species is alone in that we can rebel against our genes.

    No, materialism will always devolve into a struggle among the stronger and the weaker, the weaker always getting shafted by the “fitter” and so “better”(though the language used with be prettified a bit). It can’t do anything else because is chosen methods can’t see the world any other way.

    At the risk of going off-topic, how does immaterialism help?

    Inherent rights can’t exist, too spooky sounding, so what replaces those are only the product of mutual illusions.

    At the risk of getting back to the original point I brought up, I notice you still haven’t addressed my argument about morality in a “materialist” universe in a meaningful way. That you’ve gone through lots of topics since then really does suggest to me that you don’t have the capacity to back up your assertions.

    It will be sort of like what they did to “altruism” to shove it into natural selection, redefining it as just a more refined kind of selfishness and making up a host of creation myths to show why it’s the products of gene fitness.

    This is interesting, because here you’ve already stopped the reduction to atoms and instead focused on a higher order. The question is, why can’t you go further? Why not see order in the development and structure of brains? Genes, after all, only play a part in brain development. Environment and experience both play a role in how brains form. No-one argues that brains are inevitably an expression of their genes. I really don’t think you understand the position that you deride…

    There is no rational reason or any reason based in experience to expect that the artificial substitutes for rights, morals or anything else that the more perfumed members of the materialist congregation will have a social or national effect in making life less hellish, first for the “unfit” then, eventually, for everyone.

    IS/OUGHT…

    In materialism, greed enhances “fitness”, greed is good. It’s what it’s all about, even in its most refined and soft-handed and allegedly indirect forms.

    Ha! You really are a paranoid fool. Actually learn what people are saying.

    “I am not advocating a morality based on evolution. I am saying how things have evolved. I am not saying how we humans morally ought to behave. [...] My own feeling is that a human society based simply on the gene’s law of universal ruthless selfishness would be a very nasty society in which to live.” – Richard Dawkins

    Or is Dawkins one of those less honest materialists?

  411. #411 Anthony McCarthy
    February 25, 2012

    Dawkin’s artificial substitute for morality is no less open to opportune pseudo-skeptical denial than any holding of any religion. It’s a fraud to cover up the logical necessity of his determinism being morally nihilistic, it has far less power to restrain people from perusing their desires no matter what those are, the only restraint would be the fear of not getting away with it due to victims ability to strike back.

    I read The Selfish Gene about thirty-five years ago and I’ve looked at it more recently. I’ve read quite a few things by Dawkins and Dennett over the years and I think I’ve characterized them accurately.

    The YouTube is, as I suspected, yet one more biological determinist redefining terms to avoid dealing with an idea that can’t be fit into their determinism. He avoids the central aspect of a person making choices and, specifically, the origin of choices. You can hear that habit explicitly at about 8:30. And shortly after that the interviewer pretty much lays out that he has redefined the issue of free will in order to shove it into his predetermined determinism. His blather is about predestination or fate, not free will and he summarily declares that the issue as it doesn’t suit him is meaningless and unimportant. It’s hard to decide if it’s more dishonest or arrogant, it’s certainly both.

    Materialism is morally nihilistic no matter how you try to disguise that fact. Eventually the Potemkin pose of “morality” will fall down, or, more likely be pushed down by someone who wants to do something selfish.

  412. #412 Anthony McCarthy
    February 25, 2012

    As to Dawkins calling himself an “ultra-Darwinist”, he explicitly does call himself that on about page 333 of “The Greatest Show on Earth” He has called himself that or the equivalent in other places, though I’ll have to go search down my other hard drive to find my notes of those and I’m not in the mood to play the typical new atheist game of no number of citations being enough.

    You might read that section of his book to see the kind of ideological blinders that he shares with Dennett. Nothing is to be allowed to become a rival to natural selection, no matter how much physical evidence supports it. From the comments on that YouTube you posted, it’s even worse among their acolytes who I doubt even understand the ideas discussed.

  413. #413 Kel
    February 25, 2012

    Dawkin’s artificial substitute for morality is no less open to opportune pseudo-skeptical denial than any holding of any religion. It’s a fraud to cover up the logical necessity of his determinism being morally nihilistic, it has far less power to restrain people from perusing their desires no matter what those are, the only restraint would be the fear of not getting away with it due to victims ability to strike back.

    Do you have anything positive to say about people who express a different position from your own?

    I read The Selfish Gene about thirty-five years ago and I’ve looked at it more recently. I’ve read quite a few things by Dawkins and Dennett over the years and I think I’ve characterized them accurately.

    Then surely you can quote both to the effect that you suggest they are backing you up. Because I’ve read both, I’ve listened to both talk, and I’ve listened to other people talk about them, and what you saying borders on a pathological caricature. It’s so full of your interpretation of materialism that the absurdity you attribute to them is really your own.

    “Serious argument depends on mutual respect, and this is often hard to engender when disagreements turn vehement. The social psychologist and game theorist Anatol Rapoport (creator of the winning Tit-for-Tat strategy in Robert Axelrod’s legendary prisoner’s dilemma tournament) once promulgated a list of rules for how to write a successful critical commentary on an opponent’s work. First, he said, you must attempt to re-express your opponent’s position so clearly, vividly and fairly that your opponent says “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.” Then, you should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement), and third, you should mention anything you have learned from your opponent. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.” – Dan Dennett

    I really wonder if you could adequately express either person’s position without putting your draconian interpretation of materialism into it.

    Materialism is morally nihilistic no matter how you try to disguise that fact.

    Then you should easily be able to deal with my argument. The fact that you won’t even try, though assert several times the a priori incompatibility, suggests you aren’t capable of it. If you would drop your conception of materialism and instead look at the conception that other people are putting forth, then maybe we’d be able to get somewhere. But as it stands, it’s you just ranting about how your conception of materialism is horrible and every materialist who says otherwise is either deluded or dishonest.

  414. #414 Kel
    February 25, 2012

    As to Dawkins calling himself an “ultra-Darwinist”, he explicitly does call himself that on about page 333 of “The Greatest Show on Earth”

    Actually, he says that he’s been called an ultra-Darwinist in his footnotes, and from the context “ultra-Darwinism” is referring to the role of natural selection in evolutionary theory. He’s talking about his acceptance of neutral theory in the context he used it. It’s got nothing to do with anything other than his thoughts of the role of NS as opposed to other evolutionary mechanisms.

  415. #415 Anthony McCarthy
    February 25, 2012

    I don’t suppose it will help but you might, might want to read this review.

    http://www.thenation.com/article/160236/same-old-new-atheism-sam-harris

    It does a good, short job of laying out how the ultra-Darwinists have been breathing air into the dead corpse of positivism. A lot of people mistake the movement for resurrection (that is if they’re aware that the foundations of positivism were pretty effectively killed off decades ago) but, then, they’re pretty much the same kind of 18th century mechanistic fetishists that the positivists were. If I thought it would help I’d link to one of my favorite pieces, Bertrand Russell’s gloomy review of Eddington’s The Nature of the Physical World more than eighty years ago. Old Bertie surely saw the writing on the wall but was unable to accept that his view of the universe and science was already dead back then.

  416. #416 Kel
    February 25, 2012

    Are you saying, Anthony, there’s a problem with putting too much emphasis of natural selection in the evolutionary process from a metaphysical point of view? “Ultra-Darwinism” is in contrast to views like the role of spandrels in design.

  417. #417 Anthony McCarthy
    February 25, 2012

    As Larry Moran pointed out, Darwin “accepts” the neutral theory only to pretty much minimalize its significance, though it has grown increasingly obvious that it is enormously significant. It’s a good example of the habit I pointed out in regard to Dennett and the video you recommended. They can’t overturn an idea so they dismiss it as unimportant. I will give Dawkins that, he goes through the motions of graciousness a lot better than his version of Huxley does.

    He is an ultra-Darwinist. They both are. Dennett’s bizarre attempt to apply natural selection outside of evolution is about as ultra-Darwinist as it’s possible to get.

  418. #418 Anthony McCarthy
    February 25, 2012

    I am more skeptical as time goes on that natural selection is as important as it’s traditionally been held to be. Genetic drift and other mechanisms are known to be very important so it’s impossible that natural selection is what it was traditionally held to be. I’m skeptical that it will hold together as an idea in the future as more is known. That wouldn’t be surprising. Evolution happened to trillions and trillions of organisms over a period of well over three billion years, we know it from a minuscule number of examples and the earliest period of life on Earth is entirely unknowable because there is no physical evidence of it. We don’t even know when organisms began to evolve. I think that the political cult of Darwinism is already a hindrance to progress. The man’s been dead for well over a century, the vast majority of information about evolution was unknown to him, he didn’t even know about the genetics that Fr. Mendel discovered (even as Thomas Huxley, Francis Galton and others in Darwin’s inner circle declared that the “priestly mindset” was capable of producing science, even as they missed what the Bohemian priest discovered).

  419. #419 Kel
    February 25, 2012

    He is an ultra-Darwinist. They both are.

    So what? What metaphysical importance does it have? The power of natural selection has what to do with anything beyond evolving systems?

    Dennett’s bizarre attempt to apply natural selection outside of evolution is about as ultra-Darwinist as it’s possible to get.

    Given that evolutionary algorithms have been able to work in engineering and computer science, it seems reasonable that natural selection has applications beyond the biological and works as an abstract principle.

  420. #420 Kel
    February 25, 2012

    Anthony, are you at any point going to deal with the moral case I outlined above, or is your goal now just to try to poison the well of atheism by attacking prominent atheist voices? I really don’t care whether or not you find any of them stupid and deluded or whatever. I think you’re misreading them and injecting your own conception of what they are saying into their writings and finding them absurd, instead of taking the effort to try to understand where they are coming from, but it doesn’t really concern me much.

    What does concern me is that you’re making charges against particular positions, yet when people try to engage you on those charges, you don’t actually put any intellectual thought into the matter. I’ve outlined a view of morality that seems to me is compatible with modern materialism and a sufficient form of morality. And yet despite numerous times bringing this up, you persist in saying there’s no way to resolve it. That’s intellectually dishonest!

  421. #421 Anthony McCarthy
    February 25, 2012

    There is not a single shred of evidence that natural selection happens outside of evolutionary biology. As Orr has pointed out, it’s only plausible within evolutionary biology because inheritance is genetic and particulate instead of blending. Without that basis natural selection couldn’t work, which is the reason that many eminent biologists didn’t accept it until genetic inheritance was glued to it in the 1930s.

    I haven’t been able to read his review but I have read that the tacit mechanism was one of the things that Bishop Wilberforce pointed out was a problem with Darwin’s idea in 1860. Contrary to the Huxley generated myth of the famous encounter that is nearly universally taken as gospel, Wilberforce was a competent scientist of his period. Darwin, himself, admitted that his review had found all of the shortcomings of his book.

    Without that kind of substrate, natural selection doesn’t work as an idea.

  422. #422 Kel
    February 25, 2012

    Without that kind of substrate, natural selection doesn’t work as an idea.

    But you don’t need biology to have those concepts. Again, it’s been put to use in engineering and computer science. As an algorithm, evolution works.

    But what does this have to do with anything?

  423. #423 Anthony McCarthy
    February 25, 2012

    Oh, dear. You forget what people so often do about computers. They are machines that are designed by people to do specific things, what they do they’ve been made to do. That they mimic some human theories of thought and knowledge is a product of human design, design that intentionally mimics some theories of thought and knowledge. It’s about as surprising that they can be made to mimic human ideas as that a careful copy of a drawing looks like the original.

    It’s not magic, you know. Your idea that NATURAL selection could be relevant to an entirely artificial system forces the diagnosis that you don’t quite get this natural stuff. It’s all a matter of unnatural choices and the ways that human beings have discovered to make those choices be expressed symbolically. It’s a common enough failing for human beings to mistake their symbols for the things symbolized, that’s been going on since the story of Pygmalion and probably before that. It’s sort of funny to hear how many of those who ridicule “bronze age goat herders” making such a hoary old mistake that they were clearly aware of back then and thinking they’re oh, so past that as they do it.

  424. #424 Kel
    February 25, 2012

    You forget what people so often do about computers.

    I’m a computer programmer…

    Your idea that NATURAL selection could be relevant to an entirely artificial system forces the diagnosis that you don’t quite get this natural stuff.

    That’s the dumbest objection I’ve heard! The explanatory power of the evolutionary algorithm has nothing to do with it being natural any more than selection has to do with conscious decision making (I’ve heard that one before too).

  425. #425 Anthony McCarthy
    February 26, 2012

    Kel, do yourself a really big favor and read Computer Power and Human Reason by Joseph Weizenbaum carefully. It might dispel some of the modern superstitions that you’ve clearly bought into, though it’s hardly a sure bet it can overcome such deeply ingrained faith.

    Exactly how do you believe natural selection works in computer programming and how does it manifest itself as a feature of nature instead of artifice? Be specific and put it in normal language instead of a stream of jargon. Then you can compare what you’ve asserted to the theory of natural selection as it is proposed to work within species and why your assertions have an actual, objective, physical existence instead of being a mere metaphor created out of mental habits drawn from the dominant enforced cultural POV of the educated classes in the English speaking peoples over the past forty years.

    I’ve got a strong suspicion that you metaphor would have been in line with behaviorism if it was given in the relatively recent past.

    I’m entirely opposed to the lousy standards that are routinely accepted within psychology, sociology and the other so-called sciences being accepted in the real sciences. That’s going to turn out to be the second worst thing that Dawkins and his school have done to the world. The worst will be their effect on politics, which have far more potential to do good or bad in the real world. The left followed materialism over the cliff in the early 20th century and it’s been an impotent force ever since.

  426. #426 Kel
    February 26, 2012

    though it’s hardly a sure bet it can overcome such deeply ingrained faith.

    Anthony, if all you can do is make snide jabs like this, then you’re not worth talking do.

    Exactly how do you believe natural selection works in computer programming and how does it manifest itself as a feature of nature instead of artifice?

    Check out this website for an overview: cs4fn.org/biology/evolutionsolution.php
    wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_algorithms
    newscientist.com/article/mg19526146.000-evolutionary-algorithms-now-surpass-human-designers.html

    It’s a brute fact that evolutionary algorithms have been used for engineering purposes.

    Be specific and put it in normal language instead of a stream of jargon.

    Why do you think that something analogous to DNA, mutation, and replication aren’t able to be simulated? All you would need is a means to test the success of some randomly mutated part of one instance of a code over another, then retry with that new instance as the starting point for random mutations.

    What makes the biology special? Not even Orr in his review of Dennett’s book claim that it’s special to biology – only that substrate neutrality doesn’t work in all possible biological cases.

    I’ve got a strong suspicion that you metaphor would have been in line with behaviorism if it was given in the relatively recent past.

    You really like to speculate about other’s positions and mental states, yet you spend very little time actually addressing the intellectual core of the arguments put forward. Do I need to remind you that you still haven’t seriously engaged with my pushing of a morality perfectly compatible with materialism?

    That’s going to turn out to be the second worst thing that Dawkins and his school have done to the world. The worst will be their effect on politics, which have far more potential to do good or bad in the real world.

    You’re being a paranoid fool…

  427. #427 Anthony McCarthy
    February 26, 2012

    Kel, please understand how amusing I find your charge that “all I can do is make snide jabs” by someone who has repeatedly called me an idiot in this discussion.

    Why do you think that something analogous to DNA, mutation, and replication aren’t able to be simulated?

    I said that things like that could be imitated symbolically, but that’s a far cry from natural selection governing the real life existence of computers, their designers and controllers. They can be designed to make an imitation of one or another interpretation of natural selection as Weizenbaum made a program that could imitate the rather brain dead concept of Rogerian therapy and, to his horror and as a lasting lesson in the ability of the very sophisticated to decieve themselves, the very sophisticated, many of them materialists believed that the machine was actually doing what a human being would do. Rogerian therapy is a program, of a sort, it’s hardly surprising that it could be imitated by a machine designed to do that. Whether or not Rogerian therapy is more than a means of getting people to focus on themselves in a way they find gratifying, of actually solving real life problems they have with real people is the farthest thing from being evidenced by science.

    As to your deeply held beliefs being the product of the current fashions in thinking, I said that I suspected if you’d made a statement like that in the relevant period, say, c 1960-1975, that it would also be the product of the, then, current fashion for behaviorism. Of course, by that time, Chomsky, Charles Taylor and others had already done quite a job of junking behaviorism. But, as is always the case, the secular theological systems of the social sciences were able to remain current in academic life and in the minds of the eager young people working in journalism and the other scribbling professions for quite a bit longer as they weren’t current with the actual situation. I think evo-psy and its related determinisms are at about the same stage that behaviorism was near the end of Skinner’s celebrity, intellectually. It will take a generation after the official fall for that to catch up in the general culture. Look how long positivism has held on among the mid-brow acolytes of that faith which was over intellectually in the 1930s. I recently heard a debate between an evangelical philosopher who I disagree with about just about everything and one of the minor celebrity atheists. It was so embarrassing to have the creationist refute the sci-guy on the fact that Ayer and Russell are hardly major figures in current philosophy. Both being well dead for quite a while. I think it’s their atheism that accounts for their pop popularity. I had a bit of that with Russell, though it was on account of his anti-nuke agitation and not his rather disappointing writing. And he was still very much alive when I was young. I’ve read more since then and I’m more open to the flaws in both his thinking and his honesty.

    You might want to listen to the first 35 minutes of that video of Chris Hedges on Book TV that I linked to above. He said that when he argues with new atheists that they can’t hear what he’s saying. That’s my experience as well, it’s why I am certain that they are fundamentalists.

  428. #428 Anthony McCarthy
    February 26, 2012

    Oh, and before I head off to work, you haven’t told me how you believe that computers, their designers and programmers are a manifestation of natural selection, without using jargon. The assertion that computers demonstrate natural selection could be a disaster in the politics of maintaining a wall of separation between creationism and public school science classes. You do realize that everything to do with computers is the product of design, don’t you? I would expect that a creationist would convincingly point to your assertions as an example of how natural selection required a designer. I’d never do that because I think any application of the idea of natural selection wouldn’t be more than an absurdly tenuous and ideological metaphor. Though not least because it misses the point that science can’t deal with the concept of a designer.

  429. #429 Rilke's Granddaughter
    February 26, 2012

    Though not least because it misses the point that science can’t deal with the concept of a designer.

    You speak from a position of ignorance. Science deals with designers all the time. We simply find no evidence of a designer of LIFE.

    If you wish to actually try to make arguments instead of word-salad, Anthony, you are going to need to pick up your game. Try learning something about science and computers first – then you won’t look quite so… silly.

  430. #430 Anthony McCarthy
    February 26, 2012

    Rilke’s Daughter, did you not understand that I was talking about the Intelligent Design industry and that the designer in question would be a divine one? Apparently because your comment couldn’t mean anything else.

    I’m going to declare one of those instantly created blog “laws” that the first person to say “word salad” proves they can’t deal with ideas of even moderate complexity. Or is that too complex? Should I just say “Fail!”. No, that’s too silly.

    Maybe, since Kel doesn’t seem to want to, you’d like to tell us how you would apply the concept of natural selection to computers. What constitutes “inheritance” in computer science? What is “inherited” does the design of the case constitute a phenotypic trait? I’d think that, as well as most of anything I know of to do with computers. Just what is a “species” of computer? Is that based on the processor? Go on, tell us just why we should believe that natural selection is a credible explanation of computers in the real world.

    And when you’ve done that, having dispelled the suspicion that the assertion of “natural selection” is a rather lazy and silly metaphor by an explicit demonstration that it does have actual, physical evidence in support of the contention, why, given the obvious relevance of undeniably intelligent design in the creation and existence of computers at every step of the way, how that couldn’t be used by the ID industry as an argument in favor of their ideological stand.

    Let me say one more thing, not everything in life fits into the attention span of the typical blog atheist. Most things don’t.

  431. #431 Anthony McCarthy
    February 26, 2012

    I forgot to mention that it would be very hard to think of a more obvious example of real world teleology than the creation, programming and use of computers. To find “natural selection” or any other feature of evolution in computers would also leave evolution open to a strong argument that it was reasonable to believe it also exhibited a teleological nature because of that. Though much of the protestations against teleology is just show. When you scrape off the coating denying it, even many of the materialist assertions of evolution have a distinctly teleological bent. Though that would be most distinctly a political argument in real life since science couldn’t deal with the issue.

  432. #432 Kel
    February 26, 2012

    I said that things like that could be imitated symbolically, but that’s a far cry from natural selection governing the real life existence of computers,

    You really don’t have any reading comprehension.
    “Again, it’s been put to use in engineering and computer science. As an algorithm, evolution works.”

    Learn to read, damn it!

  433. #433 Kel
    February 26, 2012

    He said that when he argues with new atheists that they can’t hear what he’s saying. That’s my experience as well, it’s why I am certain that they are fundamentalists.

    I don’t think you’ve adequately understood a single sentence that I’ve wrote, or if you have you are doing your best to twist my points into something I did not say. Just recently, my claim about the use of evolutionary algorithms in computer science (an illustration of the principle working abstractly) has been taken by you to say I think natural selection is at te

    Kel, please understand how amusing I find your charge that “all I can do is make snide jabs” by someone who has repeatedly called me an idiot in this discussion.

    You are being an idiot. Calling my position a faith, on the other hand, is just being antithetical to any discussion. You are trying to undermine the intellectual merits of my position by calling it a faith, and that’s unfair. You’ve been an paranoid idiot multiple times (and I’ve pointed out why), but that you’re not addressing my arguments yet have the nerve to say multiple times that they are doctrines of faith on my part is the height of intellectual dishonesty. Calling my arguments faith, insinuating I’m a fundamentalist – and I’m the one who is bringing arguments. Need I remind you that you still haven’t addressed the argument I put forward for a materialist morality? I’m not calling your position a faith, I’m not calling you a fundamentalist; I’ve said where you’ve completely misread people (since I’ve read Coyne, Dawkins, and Dennett, it’s easy for me to see where you’ve misinterpreted them) or misread me.

    Going for the psychological speculation is a low blow. It would be like me speculating that the reason you misrepresent me is that you secretly acknowledge that you have no case, but can’t ever concede in public so you lash out at anyone who puts forward any case to the contrary. I could say that you’re frightened and scared of the implications of the story understood from scientific inquiry that you publicly deride anyone who says to the contrary in terms such as “faith” or “dishonesty”. Or I could say that the whole thing comes down to you being a pathological liar, that you know damn well what Dawkins et al. are really saying, but you deliberately lie about it. But none of that would be useful to the propositions at hand. Even if it’s true, it’s irrelevant. And going after your psychology post after post would be little but a low blow. Surely you’re better than Mary Midgley…

  434. #434 Kel
    February 26, 2012

    Whoops, missed a sentence:
    Just recently, my claim about the use of evolutionary algorithms in computer science (an illustration of the principle working abstractly) has been taken by you to say I think natural selection is at the core of computing.

  435. #435 Anthony McCarthy
    February 26, 2012

    As an algorithm, evolution works Kel

    I was talking about natural selection, not evolution. I’d like you to state what you mean by evolution being an algorithm that “works” in engineering and computers. I’d suspect that what you really mean is that it’s a metaphor that can be made to work, sort of. If you’re willing to overlook a lot of problems with it.

    Since you are asserting that evolution is an “algorithm that works”, just what about computers do you contend “evolves”? A computer doesn’t beget another computer, a computer is designed and built by someone else who, I guess, would be the analog to one who “gives birth” to it, not out of their own substance but out of their own design. What of the person who designs a new computer or computer program or anything to do with computers can be said to originate anywhere except in the mind of the designers? I’d think that evolution is hardly the best metaphor for engineering. By a long shot. In regard to my suspicion that if you were asserting this forty years ago you’d be citing behaviorism, I recall there were lots of assertions about “social engineering” and other forms of “engineering” within behaviorist babble.

    I don’t think you’ve adequately understood a single sentence that I’ve wrote

    If by adequate understanding you mean agreeing with it, or accepting it without thought, I’d say you’re right about that.

    I’ve read Dawkins and Dennett and Coyne and Wilson, Harris, Atkins, Kurtz, Corliss, …. I’ll bet I’ve read more atheist polemics than you have, I’m just about certain I’ve read many times more of them than you’ve read religious writers. I’m certain I’ve read more of them than Dawkins has or he’d have cited more of them in his books on the topic. If I had a student who passed in a paper as badly supported I’d flunk him. I understand that in Hitchens’ great contribution to neo-atheist lit, he admitted to doing most of his “research” on Wikipedia. From the couple of chapters I read, I’m prepared to think that’s one thing he said that was true. Just as I’m prepared to believe that for you guys that level of research cuts the mustard.

    I think you’re sore because I correctly predicted how Dennett would try to frame free will so he could dispose of it while making believe he was addressing it and could point out that he wasn’t talking about free will at all but about the idea of fate and predestination. I couldn’t have done that without being familiar with his stuff.

  436. #436 Kel
    February 26, 2012

    You say you’ve read and understood me, but if that’s the case then why haven’t you taken that understanding as a basis of addressing the points and arguments I’ve made? Are you saying now that you’ve wilfully argued misrepresentations and non sequiturs despite knowing better? Even now, I bring up that I know the points you say some authors make isn’t true because I’ve read them, and you’ve turned that into a pissing contest. No matter how many authors you have read, you’re still misrepresenting the arguments and positions of the three I mentioned. Why is it, if you say you comprehend, that you can’t have a reasonable conversation about it? Why is it, in this conversation, that you can’t fairly argue on the arguments and points I’ve made? You say you understand, but you don’t converse like you do…

  437. #437 Anthony McCarthy
    February 26, 2012

    Kel, you can say that something represents a gene and something represents selection and that other things represent other aspects of natural selection, but that doesn’t make it natural selection. It makes it an asserted model of natural selection. Who does the selecting? The programmer who wrote the program? Who chose pre-existing routines from other programmers? If you say it’s the program that makes the selection then what does that mean except that the programmer wrote the program to do that?

    What will become of your assertions about “natural selection” outside of biology if, as I predicted, that with increasing knowledge, natural selection is overturned or modified away from your models?

    I admit that the last couple of comments have contained some teasing but, really, I’m having a hard time taking the idea that NS is applicable to computers seriously. And, yes, I looked at your proposed sites. I recall something I read about the Turing Test, that Alan Turing got his idea from a game of female impersonation in which a man would try to answer questions to trick someone into thinking he was a woman. But just as tricking someone doesn’t change someone’s sex and someone being duped into thinking a machine can think doesn’t make the machine think, calling something “natural selection” and convincing people that it’s natural selection doesn’t make it natural selection. Weizenbaum warned back in the mid-70s that scientists who begin by suspending their disbelief in order to do their work often ended up forgetting that was where they started and their skepticism turned to credulity. I think that’s what a lot of this stuff is.

  438. #438 Kel
    February 26, 2012

    At this point, Anthony, I think we’ve filled up enough of Jason’s blog with this pointless back and forth. The whole reason I replied to you initially was your comment about the problem of materialism with morality. I answered that challenge, presented an outline of my view, and that still remains unchallenged.

    If you want to have that conversation, and you’re willing to take the effort to understand me and make a thoughtful reply on the view that’s presented (as opposed to filtering it through your own notion of materialism and attacking it for what it’s not), I’m more than happy to join in that discussion. If not, then so be it.

  439. #439 Wowbagger
    February 26, 2012

    Kel wrote:

    At this point, Anthony, I think we’ve filled up enough of Jason’s blog with this pointless back and forth.

    Allowing Anthony ‘enough rope’, as you’ve done here, is never pointless, Kel; if nothing else it will have given anyone who wasn’t familiar with his style of cowardly, point-avoiding, profound intellectual dishonesty a better understanding of exactly what many years of lying (both to yourself and others) in defence of religion will do your mind and your character.

  440. #440 Wow
    February 27, 2012

    AMC has his own blogs. Several of them.

    If he really wanted to have a discussion, he could use one of the multitudinous blogs he registers to do so.

    A year later and AMC still can’t say what scientistic materialism is, who persues it, why it’s wrong and why he isn’t a fathiest fundamentalist.

    He’s a terrible two-year-old ignorant and whining.

  441. #441 Wow
    February 27, 2012

    “Try learning something about science and computers first – then you won’t look quite so… silly.”

    AMC doesn’t care about looking silly. He’s on a Holy Crusade against Scientistic Materialism, which probably looks like a Jabberwocky.

    He certainly doesn’t want to learn anything, or even get answers, they’re not supporting his Holy Mission To Stamp Out Scientistic Materialism Wherever It May Be Hiding (since the information he’s being given shows it doesn’t exist, and if it doesn’t exist, then he has nothing to fight against, therefore no purpose).

    And, since he knows as a matter of FAITH that Scientistic Materialism exists (else why would he be fighting it all the time?), then this must mean that any information that may make him out to be wrong must be a front to hide it.

    His methods are very much from the Church of Scientology. I suspect he’s one of them.

  442. #442 Anthony McCarthy
    February 27, 2012

    I don’t argue with new atheists because I think they’ll leave their fundamentalist faith, I argue with new atheists to see how they can’t refute much of any strong challenge to that faith.

    The proposal that human constructed machines can exhibit natural selection – especially on the basis that they can mimic contemporary assertions about natural selection WHEN THEY ARE PROGRAMMED TO DO THAT! – is as ridiculous an idea as the desperate attempts to explain Young Earth Creationism with science. Even as a metaphor it’s a really, really bad one. It’s a bunch of academics trying to jump onto the fashionable ultra-adapataionist mania that has taken over from the behaviorist conditioning mania in the common received POV. In the huge numbers of those just now, it’s hard to decide which is the most absurd but this could be among the most obviously absurd. I predict in the next ten years that ultra-adaptationist mania will implode just as behaviorism did.

    Evolutionary science will move on, though I’d hope they will finally learn something about ideology not being able to fill in gaps in knowledge any better than assertions of religious belief, though that seems to be a far harder lesson for materialists to grasp.

    It was, by the way, Henry Drummond, an evangelical preacher, who first warned about the folly of looking for God in the gaps, he invented the phrase. He also accepted evolution as being true, back in the late 19th century. I’ll take this opportunity to say that shoving materialism in the gaps is far, far more of a problem for science than creationism is.

  443. #443 Raging Bee
    February 27, 2012

    The Soviet Union, the German “Democratic” Republic, Albania under Hoxha, Mexico under Calles… virtually every “Marxist” government has been a de-facto atheist state, in some cases with the thinnest veneer of “religious freedom , in every one with extreme coercion against religion, in many cases with mass murder. In each and every case they have been bloody dictatorships…

    Yeah, and there’s plenty of bloody dictatorships that have not been overtly or officially atheist. Your point…?

    I’ve mentioned Corliss Lamont here, probably the foremost Stalinist in the United States, who is a constant and consistent presence in “Humanist” and other atheist organizations in the United States.

    Who the fuck is Corliss Lamont, and how “constant and consistent” is his “presence” exactly?

    I’d love to have the funding and time to research his relationship with organized atheism.

    So now you’re admitting you’re bloviating about something you’ve done no research on?

    And if this Lamont guy is such a “constant and consistent presence” in so many atheist organizations, then you probably don’t need any “funding” to learn about it.

    Once again, Anthony proves himself nothing but a bigoted troll, simultaneously pretending to be intelligent and making pathetic excuses for his ignorance. Like I said before, there’s no point in trying to argue with such a transparent lying bigot.

  444. #444 Raging Bee
    February 27, 2012

    I’d love to have the funding and time to research his relationship with organized atheism.

    So that’s why Anthony can never back up any of his assertions with specifics — no one ever gave him bus fare to go to a library.

    Seriously, fool, how much “funding” do you need to look up something in a library or the Internet? There’s homeless people more educated than you, so lack of “funding” is no excuse for your stupid fact-free bigotry.

  445. #445 Anthony McCarthy
    February 27, 2012

    Raging Bee, there’s this thing called “G-o-o-g-l-e” that can sometimes provide you with information if you type KEY WORDS into it and press “search”. As I’ve known about Corliss Lamont for, I’d guess, about fifty years. Perhaps twice as long as you’ve been around?

    There was a time, up till about 2004 when I assumed that atheists would know something about atheism. I think my last illusion about that died in 2010 when I had to correct a new atheist who said that poor old Maddy Murray O’Hair was murdered because she was an atheist. The truth is it was one of her employees at American Atheists, David Waters, an amoral atheist guy who brutally murdered her as part of a robbery. He also murdered his accomplice.

    But, now, I know that most blog atheists are as ignorant of atheism as they are of religion, materialism, scientism and science.

    Google, it’s remarkable what you can find if you look.

  446. #446 Raging Bee
    February 27, 2012

    So why do you say you need time and funding to do research about Corliss Lamont? Are you now admitting your excuse was bogus?

    And why can’t you refer us to the specific sites you’ve found that prove Lamont’s alleged perfidious influence on the atheist movement? Your failure to do so proves, once again, that you’re bluffing.

  447. #447 Anthony McCarthy
    February 27, 2012

    Raging Bee, this might come as a shock to you but serious research is not that easy to do and, especially, in the case of Corliss Lamont, it would require quite a bit of travel and translation. That is if you wanted to get an accurate picture instead of the “Humanist” Kurtzian propaganda, which is what I’d want to get. It’s not unusual for people to get funding to do that kind of research.

  448. #448 Wow
    February 28, 2012

    But you’re not DOING serious research, AMC.

    You’re completely happy KNOWING that materialistic scientism is atheistm and the cause of all the worlds woes, even if you can’t find any.

    And, since you can’t find any, that must be because it’s hidden!

    And, since it’s hidden, you’ll need to bribe access to hidden documents, and that requires sponsorship!

    And, since you’re NOT getting sponsorship, this PROVES that there’s a conspiracy to hide the truth about materialistic scientism!

    And, since that proves it, and you can’t find any evidence, that proves the evidence is hidden!

    And so your tiny mind chases its tail like a dog wondering whose tail that is behind it…

  449. #449 Anthony McCarthy
    February 28, 2012

    Wow, I’d leave it to an intelligent, unbiased person to decide the character of what I say, not an ignorant, bigoted sock puppet with a history of blatant prevarication and appeal to making absurd, unfounded associations of the kind that makes it obvious that atheism has as many Inquisitorial tendencies as established religion.

    The only thing that keeps atheists from practicing that is the absence of political power, as so many of the proposals of atheists to do things like making it illegal for parents to talk to their children about religion or to kick religious believers out of the science professions among the new atheists prove. In each and every case when atheists have held political power they have outdone the religious with power in brutality and blood shed. That’s one of the major themes of 20th century history. That’s real word evidence that is as valid as the fossil record and which is knowable in far, far more detail as being as real as reality gets.

    It feels so good to be able to finally admit that, for which I thank the excesses of the new atheism. If you guys hadn’t shown me now dangerous materialism is I’d probably still be choosing to ignore it out of mistaken notions that it served any good purpose.

  450. #450 Anthony McCarthy
    February 28, 2012

    Oh, I left out M. M. O’Hair’s son and granddaughter who were also murdered by her employee at American Atheists, David Waters. Apparently her son and granddaughter were the most innocent victims as they seem to have been entirely under O’Hair’s thumb and probably couldn’t have escaped her tyranny.

    I used to think she was a kind of amusing ideological huckster, a mirror image of the radio preachers of the time. The research I did around her murder convinces me that she was far more pathologically twisted than a lot of them, addicted to controlling people and with a fascination with murderers (her other son says that she liked hiring murders for some reason). If I’d read that twenty years ago I’d dismiss that as over the top fundamentalist propaganda, but, apparently, it’s supported by the record and her own private writings and among those who knew her. She was deeply awful, though she shouldn’t have come to that kind of an end. Her son and her granddaughter certainly deserved better.

  451. #451 Wow
    February 28, 2012

    You’ve not yet managed an intelligent post yet, AMC.

    If you have, it’s been a needle in a haystack. And those haystacks aren’t easy to wade through for the possibility of a needle.

  452. #452 Anthony McCarthy
    February 28, 2012

    Wow, the day I take your assessment of someone’s intelligence seriously will be the day it will be clear that I’ve become senile. And that day ain’t today.

  453. #453 Raging Bee
    February 28, 2012

    Raging Bee, this might come as a shock to you but serious research is not that easy to do and, especially, in the case of Corliss Lamont, it would require quite a bit of travel and translation.

    Make up your mind, moron — is the information about Lamont easily available through Google, or do you need lots of time and resources to get it? It can’t be both at once, so either way, we know at least one of your assertions is a lie; and we know you know it too. (Also, I’m not at all surprised to find you’re changing the subject to someone else after I question your BS about Lamont.)

    You’re a proven liar; you’ve never backed up any of your bigoted accusations even with specifics, let alone evidence; and your credibility is zero. Why don’t you just crawl back under your rock, or back to your hete-spewing megachurch, and stop pretending you have anything to contribute to an adult conversation?

  454. #454 Raging Bee
    February 28, 2012

    PS: I notice you start out by flinging mindless hatred at “new atheists,” but end up blithering about MM O’Hair, who wasn’t at all “new” and whom no atheists show any sign of taking seriously in the present day. If you can’t even recognize who is and is not in the category you hate so much, then you’re just too fracking stupid to be worth our time.

  455. #455 Wow
    February 28, 2012

    AMC is in what’s known as a rage spiral.

    Is angry at something, can’t find what, therefore gets angry at everything.

    It’s a common action amongst the believers of the Church of Scientology. And like I said earlier, AMC appears to be a member.

  456. #456 Wow
    February 28, 2012

    Note too, RB that when you attack him, that’s proof he’s right, because that’s persecution.

    And when Jason defends him (by attacking you), that’s proof he’s right because he’s being agreed with.

    This is extremely common in fundamentalist faiths that edge deep into cult territory. And being so successful at retaining in the face of all the reasons to leave the “faithful” is why LRH included it in his scam to prove a point to a fellow writer.

  457. #457 ildi
    February 28, 2012

    The only thing that keeps atheists from practicing that is the absence of political power, as so many of the proposals of atheists to do things like making it illegal for parents to talk to their children about religion or to kick religious believers out of the science professions among the new atheists prove. In each and every case when atheists have held political power they have outdone the religious with power in brutality and blood shed. That’s one of the major themes of 20th century history. That’s real word evidence that is as valid as the fossil record and which is knowable in far, far more detail as being as real as reality gets.

    That pretty much sums up Anthony’s position.

    …an ignorant, bigoted sock puppet with a history of blatant prevarication and appeal to making absurd, unfounded associations…

    That pretty much sums up Anthony’s character.

  458. #458 eric
    February 28, 2012

    AMC:

    In each and every case when atheists have held political power they have outdone the religious with power in brutality and blood shed.

    The UK had Atlee from 1945-51. He instituted universal health care. How bloodsheddy of him!

    India’s first prime minister (Jawaharlal Nehru) was an atheist. I always thought those Nehru coats were brutally oppressive.

    But why talk history when there is an atheist in charge of a modern 1st world country right now: Australia has had an atheist Prime Minister since 2010. When do you predict her brutal campaign of bloodshed will start, Anthony? March? April?

  459. #459 Anthony McCarthy
    February 28, 2012

    eric, Clement Attlee was an agnostic. I seem to recall that Nehru was as well. And, as heads of parliamentary governments, their power was dependent on the other members of parliament. In neither case did the parliaments they were members have anything close to an atheist majority. India has no official state religion, Britain does.

    Spiral rage? Is one of the symptoms of that laughing out loud because that’s what I was doing as I read your comments, wow, Bee, ildi.

    About Maddy Murray-O’Hair, I figured I was telling some of you atheists about your history. You guys are typically like lotus eaters in regard to history. If I’d wanted to be really mean I’d have gone into what a crook she was and it was the foolishly given donations of atheists that she stole, so there. I recall it was some lawsuit that she and an atheist group she was trying to hijack that her murderer used as cover for a year or two into her disappearance. Apparently lots of atheists didn’t think the idea she might have absconded with a huge bundle of money was unlikely. It was her disowned son who filed a missing person report – it was his daughter who was murdered with her – and not her good atheist buddies. They were, apparently, more interested in seeing what she’d left behind.

    Maybe I’ll write that up too

  460. #460 eric
    February 28, 2012

    as heads of parliamentary governments, their power was dependent on the other members of parliament. In neither case did the parliaments they were members have anything close to an atheist majority.

    There was no atheist majority in your negative cases either. Not China. Not the Soviet Union. Not any of the others. Seems like you change your criteria for what counts as an ‘atheist government’ to suit your conclusion: when some atheist in charge does bad things, its an atheist government regardless of how minority their viewpoint. When an atheist leader behaves normally, you don’t count it as an atheist government. Very nice No True Atheist Government argument you’ve got there.

  461. #461 Raging Bee
    February 28, 2012

    Wow, Anthony, you’ve shown us ONE atheist being less than honest. That’s one crooked atheist compared to how many religious cult-leaders and scammers who stay on as “leaders” of their flocks after their dishonesty, perversity and/or insanity is exposed?

    Seriously, little man, you’re fixating on one of the LEAST relevant people in the entire atheist movement. Is that the best you can do to validate any part of your stupid bigotry?

  462. #462 Raging Bee
    February 28, 2012

    Maybe I’ll write that up too

    You tried that “I’m gonna write this up at some other undefined place and time” bluff before. It didn’t impress anyone then, and it’s not impressing anyone now.

  463. #463 Raging Bee
    February 28, 2012

    Seems like you change your criteria for what counts as an ‘atheist government’ to suit your conclusion…

    That’s pretty much what the word “prejudice” means: make your judgment first (“pre-judice”), then admit only those facts that seem to support the conclusion. That’s all Anthony does, and he’s so incompetent at managing facts that he can’t even do that convincingly. Seriously, I’ve argued with all sorts of bigots who could cobble up fact(oid)s to make much more convincing cases than Anthony can, with fewer words and less effort.

  464. #464 Jason Rosenhouse
    February 28, 2012

    Anyone else think this particular discussion has gone on long enough?

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