Philosopher John Wilkins has responded to yesterday’s post about conflicts between evolution and religion. Sadly, he so grossly distorts what I said that I don’t think he has replied very effectively.

John quotes only a single short excerpt from my lengthy post:

So, after all, that, let us return to Plait’s argument. He tells us that the problem is too many people perceiving evolution as a threat to their religious beliefs. Indeed, but why do they perceive it that way? Is it a failure of messaging on the part of scientists? Is it because Richard Dawkins or P. Z. Myers make snide remarks about religion? No, those are not the reasons.

It is because these people have noticed all the same problems the scholars of Darwin’s time were writing about. It is because evolution really does conflict with their religious beliefs, but not because of an overly idiosyncratic interpretation of one part of the Bible. It is because the version of evolution that so worried the religious scholars of Darwin’s time, that of a savage, non-teleological process that produced humanity only as an afterthought, is precisely the version that has triumphed among modern scientists. And it is because the objections raised to that version of evolution in the nineteenth century have not lost any of their force today.

After a lengthy discussion, he passes judgement on what I said:

This is very like what Darwin said in the Variation: science addresses how things occur by natural law, not by God’s direct intervention. And note that this rather modern view is seven centuries before the Origin. So it is at best rather anachronistic to assert that “religion” could not adopt evolution, when the intellectual resources were not only there in theology, but were in fact the “default” opinion even since the “One Truth doctrine” had been asserted against the Occasionalists and Averroes in the middle ages. It is therefore somewhat disingenuous for Jason and Larry to assert that religion necessarily contradicts Darwinian evolution. The use of this notion has even become the standard Catholic approach to the issue. (Italics in original).

“Larry” refers to Larry Moran, who quoted me favorably in his own post on this subject.

John says it is disingenuous of me to assert that religion necessarily contradicts Darwinian evolution. But not only did I assert no such thing, I didn’t even say anything that could plausibly be misinterpreted to mean that.

Go look again at the part of my post that Wilkins quoted. How could I have been more clear that I was not talking about religion or religious people in general, but was instead talking specifically about those people who do have religious objections to evolution? And where did I say anything about necessary contradictions? I referred to “conflicts” between their religious beliefs and evolution. A conflict is not at all the same thing as a contradiction, and my reference to “their” religious beliefs makes it very clear that I was not making any kind of universal statement about religion in general.

In the post I was responding to, Phil Plait said this:

The people who are attacking evolution are doing so because they think evolution is attacking their beliefs.

But unless they are the narrowest of fundamentalists, this simply is not true.

My point was that this is flatly untrue. If you were uncertain that this was my point, I invite you to reread the title of the post. There are many people who are not fundamentalists who nonetheless have specifically religious problems with evolution. I think this is important, because it shows that people like Plait just completely misunderstand the nature of the problem. When he suggests that scientists only need to change their messaging, and that we just need to tell people that no one but hardcore fundamentalists has a problem with evolution, he simply is not taking seriously the actual objections that actual people actually raise.

Far from refuting anything I said, John’s post is a good illustration of my point. He devotes much of his post to a highly abstract and academic discussion about the difference between primary and secondary causes noting, correctly but trivially, that there is nothing anti-religious in suggesting that God might achieve his ends through secondary causes. But who said otherwise, and what does that have to do with any of the conflicts I raised? The issue isn’t secondary causes in the abstract, but the specific secondary cause of Darwinian natural selection. The issue isn’t whether God could, in principle, employ secondary causes. It is whether Darwinian natural selection specifically is the sort of cause He would employ.

I invite John to go to an ID conference, lecture the attendees about different types of causation, and then see how far he gets. His audience will inform him that he is not even addressing anything they care about.

It gets worse. Though I find it incredible, John actually wrote this:

It is true that much of the debate about Darwin in the latter half of the 19th century was focused on God’s agency and purpose. However, usually the folk doing the debating were public intellectuals rather than theologians. Often they defended a theological perspective that was at best questionable even within their own tradition (as Dewey said, we do not solve philosophical problems, we get over them. This is uneven and cyclical even within a doctrinal community).

He just made that up. Just to stick to the people I specifically quoted, Charles Hodge cannot be dismissed as a mere public intellectual. He was one of the most prominent theologians of his time, and he surely understood the difference between primary and secondary causation. The objections he raised in What is Darwinism? cannot be refuted with John’s preferred style of abstract handwaving. Moreover, his views were all but unanimously held by Protestant intellectuals of the time, as noted in the statement I quoted from historian Frederick Gregory. The view of virtually all Catholic authorities of the time were along similar lines. And most of the contributors to The Fundamentals were prominent scholars. They cannot be dismissed as casually as John would like.

In the final section of his post, John asks:

So when we read this comment by Jason, I am left wondering what the reference class of the term “religion” is for him and Larry, and others.

He then lectures me about the different forms of religion:

To aver that religion is necessarily opposed to evolutionary theory, when there are so many instances of it not being, is a category error. Jason and Larry might reject the idea that this view is “religion” as they understand it. That would be to put the folk definition in a privileged position, when even the scientists who study the phenomenon do not. But allow that these philosophically minded views are part of religion, at least historically, and you find the claim untenable.

What we need to do is to specify the degree of religion that finds evolution impossible to reconcile with belief, for there surely is some, and a lot of it. I think of a particular religion as a series of concentric circles. At the most broad, one’s religion is label and a set of rituals (including statements of belief) that includes anything that falls under that rubric. “Christian” includes folk beliefs in demons and spirits as well as theologically refined views like Drummond’s or Aquinas’. But folk religion is rarely what the more educated people think, and so the superstitions of religion fall away as you move inwards. The average educated believer knows that somehow religion and evolution are not at odds, but they probably do not know how, and take it on faith the two are consistent. More refined thinkers find ways to reconcile the secondary causation of science and the primary causation of God. A few theologians, not all by any means, give the arguments; the extent of their approach is restricted, but logically coherent.

But there is no need to speculate about how I understand the term “religion” in this context. This is something I have written about so often and at such length, that I’m not sure how John missed it. For example, in this post I wrote:

Now, the first question to ask of any book claiming to reconcile science and religion is, “What sort of religion are we talking about?” Even if we confine ourselves just to Christianity, there is quite a spectrum to consider. The sort of religion promoted by the young-Earthers is obviously incompatible with science, but they don’t get to define Christianity for everyone. By contrast, the very liberal versions promoted by people like John Shelby Spong can easily be reconciled with science, but only at the cost of discarding almost every major point of Christian theology. Go that route if you wish, but some will complain that you are thereby left with a version of Christianity that is scarcely distinguishable from secular humanism. The really interesting discussion takes place between those extremes.

Do I not have reason to feel John has misrepresented me?

Most of John’s argument here, though, is just so much condescending twaddle. The mind reels at the arrogance of suggesting that the community of Christians can be divided into those who adhere to folk notions about demons and spirits on the one hand, and the educated folks who understand, if only at an intuitive level, that evolution does not conflict with Christianity. There’s a reason that scholars have to write at book length in their attempts to defuse all the points of conflict between evolution and Christianity. The many, many people who simply find their arguments unpersuasive cannot be honestly dismissed as just uneducated folk religionists.

Let me close by noting how I summarized my views at the end of Among the Creationists. (The reference to “Ruse’s question” is to the title of his book Can a Darwininan Be a Christian?)

Though I have made my own sympathies perfectly clear, I do not propose to give a definitive answer to Ruse’s question. Instead I ask simply that we recognize it as a matter of opinion and not of fact. How you answer depends on what you believe is central to Christian faith and on what you consider it plausible to believe.

Ruse continued with, “Is the Darwinian obligated to be a Christian? No, but try to be understanding of those who are.” I would ask that the same understanding be extended to those who find the reconciliation too difficult to manage. Once you have acknowledged that evolution forces a profound rethinking of traditional faith — and how can you not? — why is it unreasonable to conclude our reappraisal with the finding that one of the two systems must simply give way?

There can be no question that John has attributed to me a view I have specifically abjured on many occasions, and which I came nowhere near expressing in the post under discussion. He owes me an apology.

Worse, though, is that his entire argument suffers from the ivory tower pomposity that so often afflicts discussions of this topic. His arguments are completely divorced from the concerns of actual people, and his tone is incredibly condescending towards anyone not up on the latest developments in professional theology.

Comments

  1. #1 Alex SL
    http://phylobotanist.blogspot.com
    February 8, 2014

    There is a simple way to argue that only fundies have problems with evolution: define fundamentalist as “somebody who cannot reconcile their religion with modern science.” Done!

    I find remarkable what you cite here about Wilkin’s view of religion as concentric circles, with unsophisticated everyday believers at the edges and the rarified, intellectual theologians at the core. That seems really off.

    Yes, it seems to make sense to view religion as a system of concentric circles, with a core and increasingly diffuse outer layers. But to me at least it seems clear that the core would be the full package while the fuzzy edges would be occupied by the people who only go through the motions but do not really believe in any particular dogma.

    In the case of Christianity, the core is something like the Nicene creed: there is a father god, and he has created all things; Jesus is the son of God but at the same time also God himself, and he was born to a virgin, and he rose from the dead. On the fuzzy outer circles are those who call themselves Christians but merely believe that there is some benevolent intelligence at work in the universe, or those who are basically atheists but think that Jesus was a great moral teacher.

    In other words, some part of the religious spectrum is potentially compatible with science, but it sure isn’t the core of the religion. Quite the opposite.

  2. #2 bad Jim
    February 8, 2014

    It’s generally supposed that God actually does something.

    There are conceptions of God which relieve Him of such responsibilities, but they don’t get people to church on Sundays, so they’re not attractive to people whose salaries are paid by those who show up, who think prayer changes things.

    The fine-tuning argument only makes sense if one supposes that we’re the point of it all, that the universe was created for our sake. We exist, therefore God exists, since it was God’s job to create us.

    Mark Twain already said it: “If the Eiffel tower were now representing the world’s age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man’s share of that age; & anybody would perceive that that skin was what the tower was built for.”

  3. #3 Qweet
    February 8, 2014

    Science and religion employ different modes of detection, and have different sets of speculations, which make them see different things. At some points they intersect, though otherwise, scientists, for the most part, do not see the supernatural, for instance. The question that needs to be raised here is what is really out there, and how can one see all of it. What method(s) should one use in order to enable themselves to see everything that the entire universe holds in store and what each individual sees personally, and what can possibly be outside the range of human capacity to detect?! And even if it cannot be detected, does it really matter?

  4. #4 MNb
    February 8, 2014

    “makes it very clear”
    Well, that wasn’t clear to me either. But misunderstandings like this happen all the time and I’m not particularly interested in the question who’s to blame. Thanks for settling.

  5. #5 Another Matt
    February 8, 2014

    Qweet,

    The starting point would be to find out how the supernatural interacts with matter, and via which of the fundamental forces. Is energy conserved? If the supernatural can’t be detected or observed directly, it should be detectable in virtue of its effects on the physical world.

  6. #6 Pete Attkins
    February 8, 2014

    @Qweet
    Does it really matter if your physician relies on the scientifically detectable evidence of medicine or simply relies on the scientifically undetectable evidence of, say, faith healing?

    If the patient recovers from their illness it may not matter to you which method was used, but if the patient does not recover it might matter a whole lot to the patient which method was used for their treatment.

    Fortunately, health and safety legislation is based on science rather than on religion. Does it really matter? Yes, solid detectable evidence really does matter.

    I implore you to read “The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark” by Carl Sagan so that you can discover why detectable evidence is of literally vital importance to human life. It’s an awesome book to read, even for readers who dislike science, because it contains so many highly amusing snippets of information.

  7. #7 John S Wilkins
    Australia
    February 8, 2014

    Jason, for a start I added a note, 6 minutes after the post first went up, that I was really disagreeing with how Larry had used your argument. Unless you wrote this reply in that 6 minutes, you are being somewhat disingenuous.

    Second, “the latest theological developments”, really? Drummond was in the 1890s, and I cited theological developments in the 13th century. I made no mention of Swinburne or Cupit or any modern theologians.

    Third, “Ivory Tower”, really? I cited Darwin, Gray and his contemporaries. I did so by giving people links so they could read the material I cited. I gave a clear counterexample to you argument. Is that Ivory Tower?

    Finally, I see your Hodge with Temple and raise you John Henry Newman, and a host of other contemporaries for the period you discuss. Basically, you can cherry pick history as you like and find historians who make undue generalisations as it suits you. I’d rather understand the actual history and situation, both then and now.

    I’m not denying, in fact I assert in my post, that there was a major dispute with Darwin because of teleological concerns, as you do. I am merely saying that it doesn’t thereby mean that evolution must be antithetical to “religion”. If you are not asserting that it does, perhaps you had better show that my counterexamples are somehow consonant with your own argument.

  8. #8 Alex SL
    http://phylobotanist.blogspot.com
    February 8, 2014

    John Wilkins,

    I cannot speak for either of course but the way I see it is this: Accepting evolution has a few implications, and relevant for religion are (1) humans are nothing special, and the universe wasn’t made for us, and (2) any god who employs a process as wasteful and cruel as evolution for their purposes must be evil or at a minimum completely indifferent to suffering.

    I really, really find it hard to believe that any significant number of people, even rarified theologians, would believe that.

    So what really happens is that religious people claim to accept evolution but in reality they don’t, actually. They either deliberately misunderstand it or construct their own wrong version of it; something teleological especially, which is just demonstrably wrong. I think that is also one of Larry Moran’s main points: God using evolution to create is merely another from of creationism because actual evolution is plainly known to be unguided.

    Again, a religion that accepts evolution is theoretically possible, but in practice how many people believe that god is a cruel monster?

    To all those who come up with “science and religion are not at odds because the former doesn’t deal with the supernatural”, can any of you explain to me what the term supernatural means?

    I have tried to figure it out and cannot come up with any definition that would not allow science to address supernatural claims. Either something behaves in a predictable fashion and has an observable effect, so science is all go, or it is utterly random and has an observable effect, which is not what the religous believe anyway but still science would be all go because we study random processes all the time, or it does not have any effects, in which science can invoke Occam’s Razor and tentatively declare it non-existent, like phlogiston or the Loch Ness Monster. What am I missing?

  9. #9 John S Wilkins
    February 8, 2014

    You write:
    “I cannot speak for either of course but the way I see it is this: Accepting evolution has a few implications, and relevant for religion are (1) humans are nothing special, and the universe wasn’t made for us, and (2) any god who employs a process as wasteful and cruel as evolution for their purposes must be evil or at a minimum completely indifferent to suffering.”

    In 1, you are confusing the moral issue, or providential issue (God has a Plan) with the factual or explanatory issue of secondary causes. According to theists of the kind I am talking about, God uses secondary causes to create an outcome that serves his purpose[s]. So an explanation in terms of secondary causes is, for them, simply whatever is best given by science. I have argued in print that a theist might be able to say that this universe, working according to its laws, was created (primary cause explanation) in order to generate (among other things) humans. This (Leibnizian) account takes God’s action to be the creation of the secondary powers that did, in fact, create us. From a scientific perspective, the universe doesn’t care (and I have argued also that the universe is massive overkill to just create humans, but that’s a theological problem), but God cares and that is not a topic science can address.

    As to 2, even a single evil event creates a problem of evil (so I note in my paper cited in the post), so why should any finite amount of evil greater than a single evil event cause greater problems. If God is infinitely good, any evil at all makes the problem exist. Wastefulness is just emphasising the point. Process theologians attempt to deal with this by arguing that God created a universe of becoming, which implies that until it has Become (whatever it is supposed by God to end up as), there has to be less effective states of existence. And they do argue this, quite sophisticatedly. I’m not saying they make their case (it smacks of special pleading to me) but they do attempt to make it, in full realisation of the facts of the matter.

    If a theist can reconcile their beliefs with the facts, then I don’t care about the rest of it. Hell, if they really want to, they can also believe their football team is the best ever, what do I care?

    I am not defending their position. That’s their job, not mine. But I am saying that we shouldn’t make broad generalisations that are, quite simply contrary to the facts about religious belief. Religions are plastic entities, and although they take their time (changing a religion is a lot like trying to run an obstacle course in an ocean liner), they do adapt to the science of their cultures eventually, most of the time.

    What are “religious people”? Just those who make a loud noise in your country, or anyone who claims to be a part of a religious community? If the latter, then generalisations like “religious people claim to accept evolution but in reality they don’t, actually” are simply false. So either you gerrymander the reference class, claim they are not all acting bona fide, or you are stating a falsehood, and one easily demonstrated at that.

  10. #10 Jason Rosenhouse
    February 8, 2014

    John WIlkins –

    Jason, for a start I added a note, 6 minutes after the post first went up, that I was really disagreeing with how Larry had used your argument. Unless you wrote this reply in that 6 minutes, you are being somewhat disingenuous.

    I did not notice your note when I wrote my post. But now that I have seen it, I am not moved in the slightest to moderate anything that I said. Since your note stops well short of apologizing for bluntly attributing to me a foolish view that I do not hold, have never held, have specifically abjured on several occasions, and which I came nowhere near expressing in the post in question, I fail to see how I have been disingenuous in any way.

    Incidentally, if it really was your intention to argue mostly against Larry, you chose a mighty strange way of expressing yourself. Your whole post is directed at something I wrote, and I don’t think there’s a single point in the post where you mention Larry without also mentioning me.

    Second, “the latest theological developments”, really? Drummond was in the 1890s, and I cited theological developments in the 13th century. I made no mention of Swinburne or Cupit or any modern theologians.

    I was referring to this statement from your post:

    But folk religion is rarely what the more educated people think, and so the superstitions of religion fall away as you move inwards. The average educated believer knows that somehow religion and evolution are not at odds, but they probably do not know how, and take it on faith the two are consistent. More refined thinkers find ways to reconcile the secondary causation of science and the primary causation of God. A few theologians, not all by any means, give the arguments; the extent of their approach is restricted, but logically coherent.

    A few theologians give the arguments, you say, and then strongly imply that the only ones who reject those arguments are uneducated folk believers who have not yet abandoned their beliefs in demons and spirits. Yes, I think that’s pretty condescending of you.

    Third, “Ivory Tower”, really? I cited Darwin, Gray and his contemporaries. I did so by giving people links so they could read the material I cited. I gave a clear counterexample to you argument. Is that Ivory Tower?

    First, you didn’t even address my argument, which was that many of the people who have specifically religious objections to evolution are not fundamentalists. This all started when Phil Plait claimed that only the most hard-nosed fundamentalists think that evolution conflicts with religion. I refuted that first by pointing to demographic data in the US (which was, after all, the country under discussion) that shows that there are nowhere near enough fundamentalists to account for the magnitude of anti-evolution sentiment in this country, and then by pointing to prominent people in the decades after Darwin who raised religious, but non-fundamentalist, objections to evolution. (I also pointed out that the Catholic Church is not as enthusiastic about evolution as Phil would have us believe.) None of the people and institutions I mentioned would have wanted anything to do with Ken Ham. Somehow you managed to twist that into a blunt statement that evolution necessarily contradicts religion, and spent your time arguing against that.

    Your argument was “ivory tower” because (a) you argued very abstractly about primary versus secondary causation without actually addressing the details that people are genuinely worried about and (b) you argued entirely at the level of what is logically possible and what is not, which simply is not going to provide any comfort to the people who think evolution conflicts with their religious beliefs. Accommodating science and religion would be very simple if all that was required were logically possible scenarios for maintaining traditional doctrines in the face of modern science. You act as though your job is done when you argue at that level. But since the average believer is more interested in “plausible” than “possible” I think you are going to have to work harder.

    Finally, I see your Hodge with Temple and raise you John Henry Newman, and a host of other contemporaries for the period you discuss. Basically, you can cherry pick history as you like and find historians who make undue generalisations as it suits you. I’d rather understand the actual history and situation, both then and now.

    Frederick Gregory, who I quoted, is a distinguished historian. His verdict came at the end of a lengthy survey of the major voices of the time, and it appeared in an anthology edited by Ronald Numbers and Donald Lindberg, for heaven sake, who are two people not at all sympathetic to anything like the conflict thesis. So perhaps I can be forgiven for thinking his judgment carries some weight. As for John Henry Newman, please. You give me one random cardinal. I gave you the Congregation of the Index and the dominant view of Catholic authorities, as described by the preeminent historians of Catholic responses to Darwin. Who’s cherry picking again?

    But this is all irrelevant anyway, since my argument had nothing to do with any sort of universal statement about what all religious people thought or how all religious traditions reacted. My point was simply that rather a lot of religious scholars who were not at all fundamentalist in the modern sense had strong objections to evolution, and that they cannot be dismissed as ignorant, uneducated fringe figures (or as mere public intellectuals). Responding to everything I presented with, “But John Henry Newman disagreed!” is not a refutation.

    I’m not denying, in fact I assert in my post, that there was a major dispute with Darwin because of teleological concerns, as you do. I am merely saying that it doesn’t thereby mean that evolution must be antithetical to “religion”. If you are not asserting that it does, perhaps you had better show that my counterexamples are somehow consonant with your own argument.

    Who the heck is claiming that evolution must be antithetical to “religion”? I certainly wasn’t, and since “religion” is obviously a very broad term I don’t think Larry was claiming that either.

    Look, there is no shortage of people today who defend the consistency of evolution with even very conservative versions of evangelical Christianity. They have their arguments to make, and those arguments are not logically impossible. If logical consistency is all you’re interested in then go argue with someone else. I happily concede the point.

    But the fact remains that you, like a lot of academics who address this topic, are playing the role of a defense attorney. No matter how much evidence the prosecution presents, you can always go through it piece by piece and summon forth some alternative explanation for it. Then you can go feel very good about yourself, since you have shown it is not completely impossible that the suspect is innocent.

    And so it is with evolution and Christianity. It is trivial to go point by point through the various conflicts that are pointed out, and make something up from your armchair that would reconcile the two. Maybe God is directing the mutations so that humans really are inevitable, and maybe the savagery of evolution was tolerable because it served some worthy purpose that could be attained in no other way. And maybe Adam and Eve were part of some preexisting hominid population and the Bible describes their moment of ensoulment. On and on it goes.

    The question is not whether such things are possible. It is whether the believers we are trying to reach can actually persuade themselves that they are true. And in response to this long litany of problems, which has nothing to do with a lack of education or fundamentalism, it is not much of a response to say, “Gosh, there’s nothing necessarily anti-religious in suggesting that God worked through secondary causes.”

  11. #11 Alex SL
    http://phylobotanist.blogspot.com
    February 8, 2014

    John Wilkins,

    Sadly I do not understand how your reply addresses what I wrote. You merely appear to reiterate the fact that there are, in fact, people who believe in theistic evolution and who manage to shut their eyes to the moral implications of evolution. Yes, there are, no dout about that.

    But theistic evolution is merely intelligent design, a variant of (old world) creationism, and guided evolution is not the kind of evolution accepted by science, and the moral implications still follow logically, so these people have NOT resolved the conflict but only pretend to do so by throwing out evolution in all but label.

    Religions are plastic entities, and although they take their time (…), they do adapt to the science of their cultures eventually, most of the time.

    Or, if they feel strong enough, they suppress the science. One of the two.

    And the problem is that no matter how liberal your local religion is now, as long as it has not gone extinct it still carries its holy book(s) with it. And at some point, be it a hundred years of happy tolerant co-existence down the track, some new generation will point at the book and say, “hey, you liberal priests taught me that this is the word of god and the foundation of our identity. But it says in here that you should stone homosexuals and that the world was created pretty much in the state it is in now. So you are actually not true believers because you cherry-pick our own holy book. And to demonstrate that I am a better believer than you are, I will now take this literally.”

  12. #12 eric
    February 9, 2014

    Wilkins:

    a single evil event creates a problem of evil (so I note in my paper cited in the post), so why should any finite amount of evil greater than a single evil event cause greater problems.

    Holy cow, really? Are you really saying that allowing one person to die unnecessarily is the moral equivalent of killing billions?

  13. #13 eric
    February 9, 2014

    Wilkins’ defense seems to me to lead to essentially lead to an amoral god. If any single evil causes the same problem as the greatest evil, then he’s essentially defending an omnievil or at least omni-uncaring god. Essentially, nothing God does is inexcusable if he let me tell a white lie today.

  14. #14 Blaine
    February 9, 2014

    Religion is as religion does. Under one interpretation, Islam is not a religion of violence, under another it is. One can defiine Christianity in such a manner that there is no conflict with religion as Plantinga does in his _Where the Conflict Really Lies_.

    In the end, the intent of all modern religion is to mask the realization that humans are JUST gene copying bio-robots, puppets of nature who think they have control of the strings, beings toward death. This is the implication of the theory of evolution. All humanity is just cunt shit. The earth will be incinerated by the sun 4 billion years hence; all the stars in the universe will stop shining in 100 trillion years; and eventually, one trillion, trillion, trillion years from now, all matter in the cosmos will disintegrate.

    That is why the believers rage and imagine a vain thing.

    Theistic evolution — mask.
    But god uses secondary causes teleologically — mask
    But there is a reason and purpose to my life — mask.
    Behind all this, there is a great mind — mask.
    I am more than cunt shit — mask.
    You are so cynical — mask.

    Ripe off the mask already.

  15. #15 Blaine
    February 9, 2014

    “One can defiine Christianity in such a manner that there is no conflict with religion as Plantinga does in his _Where the Conflict Really Lies_. ”
    Meant to say there is no conflict between Christianity and science.

  16. #16 Jason Rosenhouse
    February 9, 2014

    John –

    [E]ven a single evil event creates a problem of evil (so I note in my paper cited in the post), so why should any finite amount of evil greater than a single evil event cause greater problems.

    But it’s not evil per se that is a problem for religion. It’s evil that cannot be justified as necessary to make possible a greater good. It might be that evil committed by people against each other is a necessary consequence of free will. Or maybe it is necessary for “soul-making.” Perhaps the general savagery of nature is necessary to have a functional ecosystem.

    I don’t think very highly of any of those arguments, but they are all offered by serious, thoughtful people. But clearly none of those arguments explain why God would create by a brutal and savage method like Darwinian natural selection. So evolution clearly contributes something to the problem. It provides a class of evil events that are not justified by many of the traditional arguments against the problem of evil.

    There are plenty of possibilities for evolutionary theodicies, of course. But the point is simply that an evolutionary theodicy is necessary. You can’t just argue that it’s already covered because one evil event is the same as any other.

  17. #17 Qweet
    February 9, 2014

    @5

    [The starting point would be to find out how the supernatural interacts with matter, and via which of the fundamental forces. Is energy conserved? If the supernatural can’t be detected or observed directly, it should be detectable in virtue of its effects on the physical world]

    Before anyone tries to answer these questions, they should ask themselves and others a couple of practical questions. The first one would be why would anyone, who has experienced something, should share it with other people or worse yet try and prove it to others, particularly, if they act with the assertion that they have experienced absolutely everything everyone has ever experienced and have been everywhere at all times since the beginning of the universe, and, therefore, know absolutely everything. With this in mind, another question arises on why wouldn’t some people believe those, who share such experiences? Perhaps, they do not understand the MEANING of the point in my first question.

    As to why some religious people find it hard to accept evolution and not find it threatening as a theory, one should understand that these people think that evolutionists believe that evolution is something that SHOULD BE, as opposed to THAT”S THE WAY IT IS because religious people operate by the faith method, which largely stems from wishful thinking and trying to project the desirable onto the reality confusing it with the observable. In a sense, these people confuse religion with politics.

    As for the supernatural, it is quite possible that the reason why people, who have never encountered it personally, believe in it is because it is an observable phenomenon experienced and observed by at least some.

  18. #18 Lenoxus
    February 9, 2014

    John S. Wilkins:

    If God is infinitely good, any evil at all makes the problem exist.

    No disagreement here (except for the issue of potentially-justifiable small-scale suffering). However, humans (even atheists! ;) can make small mistakes in our interpretations. Therefore, additional evidence for additional evil is quite significant, and it significantly reduces the possibility of such misinterpretation.

    I would contend that anyone who opens a typical newspaper probably should logically conclude the nonexistence of an omnimax deity, on the basis of evil and perhaps for other reasons as well. That notion of mine doesn’t contradict an assertion that the evidence for evolution is analogous to trillions of such newspapers. So I’m not satisfied with an answer like “Meh, seen one inexplicable evil, seen ‘em all.”

    And if theodicy is to mean anything, it ought to be falsifiable — it should give us the means to distinguish between a universe created by a perfectly-good god and a perfectly-evil demon, as suggested by Stephen Law’s God of Eth argument. Otherwise we default to a null hypothesis that neither such extreme is the case (and further, in consideration of issues beyond the problem of evil, that the universe had no sentient creator). Evolution creates a problem here — you can’t just say “We have some perfectly good theodicies available for re-use upon the discovery of new forms of evil,” because you’re then saying your theodicies are truly all-purpose tools, and hence they are philosophically meaningless.

  19. #19 Pete Attkins
    February 9, 2014

    @Qweet #17
    A deeply profound (even a tangible) experience is only a personal experience that results from our plethora of cognitive biases, from which every human mind suffers (irrespective of their intelligence and/or profession):
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases

    The best means we currently have to delineate fact and fiction is the scientific method. Despite the hypothesizing of some scientists, there are no multiple versions of reality in our everyday lives on planet Earth, just as there are no multiple valid versions of Pi in our mathematics.

    If I had a vivid mental experience of being divinely informed that Pi equals 3.0 my experience would not invalidate reality, it would serve only to detach me from reality if I believed my experience to be true.

    If I stated that aliens had taken me to walk on Pluto would you be sceptical? If so, which methods would you use to determine if I was telling the truth, hallucinating, or lying? This isn’t a frivolous question, it is a fundamentally important question about how the human race acquires knowledge instead of building endless layers of incomprehensible and contradictory dogma.

  20. #20 eric
    February 9, 2014

    Qweet:

    why would anyone, who has experienced something, should share it with other people or worse yet try and prove it to others,

    I find it incredible to imagine someone wouldn’t want to share a profound, revelatory understanding of the world with others. But let’s put that aside. I’m fine with science ignoring all the supernatural experiences people don’t share with others. Almost by definition, science has to ignore them because science isn’t going to know about them. I”m perfectly comfortable with saying that science will limit itself to investigating the supernatural claims that individuals do share with others. Because there are plenty of those, and they’ve pretty much all been shown to be wrong.

  21. #21 Daniel Alkire
    West Virginia
    February 10, 2014

    Science and religion are both rather controversial topics and include many various types of speculation, which allow others to view them in different ways. Evolution has been a debated topic for years and I do not believe that there will ever be a clear cut answer. In my personal opinion, I feel that time causes many things/specimens to change or evolve. Some specimens can change so much over a period of time that scientists actually want to claim them as an entirely new species. In order to survive, creatures must adapt. So, while I am a firm believer in God and that religion is a key focus in many matters, I still feel that science plays a very large role in life.

  22. #22 eric
    February 10, 2014

    Evolution has been a debated topic for years and I do not believe that there will ever be a clear cut answer.

    The answer’s been clear cut (on the science side) for decades. Arguably over a century. The only folks who think it isn’t are the creationists themselves.

    Daniel, I suspect you’re getting your information about the theory of evolution from creationist sources. Those do not provide accurate information about it. I invite you to look at some mainstream sources of information about the TOE; I think you will find that the evidence and reasoning is much much stronger than you’ve been told by your local pastor.

  23. #23 Qweet
    February 10, 2014

    “Daniel, I suspect you’re getting your information about the theory of evolution from creationist sources. Those do not provide accurate information about it. I invite you to look at some mainstream sources of information about the TOE; I think you will find that the evidence and reasoning is much much stronger than you’ve been told by your local pastor.”

    If you cannot see evolution, do not strain your brain. After all, you are pretty much a domesticated primate, who may not have the kind of intelligence that would allow you to observe such a phenomenon. And that’s OK. Putting pressure on any primates, even human primates, is extremely cruel. It’s no different really than teaching a chimpanzee to write and understand complex issues in order to develop their intelligence and abilities.

    And if some try to convince you that this is what god wants, then the ultimate conclusion for that would be that we shouldn’t be so closely related to chimpanzees.

  24. #24 eric
    February 11, 2014

    Qweet:

    If you cannot see evolution, do not strain your brain.

    I disagree with Qweet. Daniel, exercise your brain! Everyone should. Try and learn new things, see new sights, understand phenomena which you currently don’t understand. I don’t find normal learning cruel at all. Nobody is asking you to lock yourself up in a skinner box until you can pass some test for bananas, we are talking about reading some nonfiction science books. IMO telling people not to read on science that may interest them is far more offensive than telling people they should try it.

  25. #25 Sean T
    February 11, 2014

    Daniel,

    I would agree with eric. The issue is clear cut on the science side of things. There is no real doubt about the theory of evolution. The theory of evolution is, without doubt, the best explanation we have for biodiversity.

    If, however, what you mean by “clear cut” is proof in the deductive sense, such as a mathematical-type proof, then the issue will NEVER be clear cut. Science just doesn’t work that way. Science strives to give the best explanation for known observations. The theory of evolution certainly does this. New observations, however, can invalidate any theory.

    In reality, this is not much different than what happens in religion, except that changes in religious doctrine tend to happen much more slowly and tend to be driven by outside forces, often by scientific findings. For instance, at one time heliocentric models of the solar system conficted with religious beliefs just as much, if not more, than evolution is seen to conflict with religious beliefs now. However, religious doctrines gradually were modified to accommodate heliocentrism. I suspect that eventually the same will happen with evolution eventually.

    Even the most strict fundamentalist Christians have modified belief to accomodate scientific findings. The Bible, read literally, claims that bats are birds, pi is equal to 3, and that the earth is a circle, not a sphere. Certainly, they will give justifications for why the literal word of the Bible doesn’t say what I just claimed it says, but those are rationalizations to bring the Bible in line with unquesitoned science.

  26. #26 Michael Fugate
    February 11, 2014

    I think Qweet is trying to claim common sense is more often correct than not, so we should trust it as more general than science. If common sense tells us that the earth isn’t moving, then who are scientists to tell us it is moving. If common sense tells us that species don’t change, then again, why are scientists trying to force us to think differently. Common sense is not always reliable, that’s why we need science to check to see if it is.

  27. #27 Qweet
    February 11, 2014

    @25

    “I would agree with eric. The issue is clear cut on the science side of things. There is no real doubt about the theory of evolution. The theory of evolution is, without doubt, the best explanation we have for biodiversity.”

    There is also a psychology trick that many people employ, which allows them to project or force certain speculations and desired views onto things. Therefore, there are multiple interpretations of events, phenomena and so on that lead to the fragmentation in their understanding. And to the adherents of each particular idea the imposed onto the reality view seems just as real as some opposing view that creates a different impression of the same phenomena.

    The example of how the geocentric model was replaced by the heliocentric one, is just one of many examples how religion is a no more than a compilation of observation-based speculations. If the Bible was a revelation from god, then people, who compiled the Bible, should’ve received the correct revelation right from the start. Science is reliable. Science got it right. You just have to trust scientists even if they act like obnoxious criminals.

    @Michael Fugate

    You seem to have chosen to attack my points of view for the reasons I do not understand. And you just wouldn’t let go… So I guess I can always think of you as scum.

    [I think Qweet is trying to claim common sense is more often correct than not, so we should trust it as more general than science. If common sense tells us that the earth isn’t moving, then who are scientists to tell us it is moving. If common sense tells us that species don’t change, then again, why are scientists trying to force us to think differently. Common sense is not always reliable, that’s why we need science to check to see if it is.]

    If scientists had the empirical proof of how the universe came into existence by accident that everybody would trust, then this would shut the mouths of religious people for good.
    I guess one thing is to prove something, another thing is to make people trust the evidence and make them see what you see.

    I wonder why atheist scientists always demand the evidence and proof of the existence of god and the supernatural. Hypothetically, if such evidence and proof were provided, in a perfectly concrete and tangible form, would this sit well with these people? Do atheist scientists want this kind of evidence because they find these phenomena so fascinating as too be too good to be true, or is it because they subconsciously do not want god and the supernatural to exist even it they are there?…Just curious.

  28. #28 Another Matt
    United States
    February 11, 2014

    Qweet, the proper answer to the origin of the universe, absent any evidence, is “I don’t know.” You aren’t required to have an opinion on the matter, and not really entitled to having your opinion taken seriously if you can’t produce the evidence.

    If there were incontrovertible evidence of God, I would believe. It would take more to convince me it was worth worshipping, though.

  29. #29 eric
    February 11, 2014

    I wonder why atheist scientists always demand the evidence and proof of the existence of god and the supernatural.

    We don’t treat it any differently than any other claim. When some guy named Pauli insists that there’s a particle nobody has ever seen emitted during radioactive decay (the neutrino), we demand evidence of that. When some guy named Paul (no i) insists that humans have a soul nobody has ever seen, we demand evidence of that too. God, Thor, telepathy, cold fusion, quantum mechanics, neutrinos…all treated the same.
    I would like to turn the question around, though, if you don’t mind. Why do theists insist on plucking one thing out of that last list and treating it differently than any of the others? What makes you go “Thor, check, evidence needed,” “Telepathy, check, evidence needed,” “Cold fusion, check, evidence needed,” “QM, check, evidence needed,” “Neutrinos, check, evidence needed,” “God…well, no evidence needed here!”

    Hypothetically, if such evidence and proof were provided, in a perfectly concrete and tangible form, would this sit well with these people?

    We’d accept God as real, yes. Frankly, I think a lot of scientists would like to ask him about quantum mechanics, because in terms of absurdity and oddness, one particle simultaneously going through two parallel slits in a paper is a heck of a lot more fundamentally absurd than the concept of some powerful creature engineering life on Earth. “God, I get the whole genetic code thing. But what’s up with the quantum eraser effect? What were you thinking?”

  30. #30 Pete Attkins
    February 11, 2014

    @Qweet to Michael Fugate #27
    “You seem to have chosen to attack my points of view for the reasons I do not understand. And you just wouldn’t let go… So I guess I can always think of you as scum.”

    If you had bothered to read the Sagan book and the other information I have suggested to you then you would be able to rise above the level of issuing insults.

    Insults are not “cool” in this 21st Century, especially on science-based websites. Indeed, insults are just an abusive ad hominem fallacy issued when one has no evidence to back one’s claims:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem

  31. #31 Qweet
    February 11, 2014

    [Qweet, the proper answer to the origin of the universe, absent any evidence, is “I don’t know.” You aren’t required to have an opinion on the matter, and not really entitled to having your opinion taken seriously if you can’t produce the evidence.]

    This explains why people, who believe(d) that the universe came into existence by accident, were/can be easily converted to Christianity and other religions.

    [If there were incontrovertible evidence of God, I would believe.]

    If there was perfectly tangible and concrete, obtained by any method(s) applicable evidence of god, even with god hiding itself, you would need to trust it. Such evidence need to lead to knowing. Believing or the faith method facilitates religion. But I see what you’re trying to say.

    [It would take more to convince me it was worth worshipping, though.]

    Knowing that there is god, might make you feel very bad about yourself. It means that there are certain things that you’re absolutely not in control of. Should we just stick to the science box? You can always figure out how to get rid of god, if there is such, including adapting in hell, again, if there is such.

  32. #32 Qweet
    February 11, 2014

    “Insults are not “cool” in this 21st Century, especially on science-based websites. Indeed, insults are just an abusive ad hominem fallacy issued when one has no evidence to back one’s claims:”

    Well, you can easily tell that I’ve been brutally bullied on this website. Yet, you didn’t do anything about it. You never pointed it out to the bullies. However, when I ascertained the fact that one of the bullies was scum, it offended you. This is called “double standard”. In case you didn’t know this, this is bad.

  33. #33 Michael Fugate
    February 11, 2014

    Qweet, of course we would accept it. That’s the whole point of doing science – to try to find out how the world works. If the world were designed by an intelligence, then we would need to rethink much of what we know. This is nothing new at all – just review any science-related field and you will see we need to change our understanding repeatedly. For instance, look how DNA sequence data has changed our understanding of phylogenetic relationships. Look at how medicine has changed in so many ways – diets, treatments, and so. We expect change.

  34. #34 Another Matt
    February 11, 2014

    You keep saying you’ve been bullied — could you cite, with quotes, some responses you’ve considered to be bullying? I don’t think anyone here has intended to do so, even when we disagree vehemently. So far you’re the only one using insults like “scum,” “idiot,” and “barbarian.”

  35. #35 Pete Attkins
    February 11, 2014

    @Qweet #32
    I respectfully suggest that you should’ve presented your complaint to the website owner and immediately desisted from commenting on this thread upon your first realization, rather than expecting other commentators to understand your insulting behaviour and to fight your battles on your behalf.

    Best wishes to you,
    Pete

  36. #36 Another Matt
    February 11, 2014

    Knowing that there is god, might make you feel very bad about yourself.

    Why should this be the case? I feel bad enough about myself when I fall short of my own ethical standards, or my standards of craft (I’m a composer). The other day I slid into a road sign on some ice and damaged my car. Why would god make me feel any worse about this than I already do?

    It means that there are certain things that you’re absolutely not in control of.

    This is true whether or not god exists. I wouldn’t have crashed my car if that were the case. We all live in an extraordinarily complex causal system, and we can control very little of it, even with the technology we developed. My uncle died of cancer last year – this kind of thing happens with or without god.

    Should we just stick to the science box? You can always figure out how to get rid of god, if there is such, including adapting in hell, again, if there is such.

    The existence of hell would be one reason to consider a god not worth worshipping, though one probably would try to appease the god in order to avoid an eternity of torture. There’s no reason to try to “get rid” of god — we haven’t any evidence of its existence, so as yet there is no good response but “could be — nobody knows — the probability is low based on the evidence,” just as we would with the assertion of a mosquito that plays jazz trumpet as long as no human or recording device is present to observe.

  37. #37 Michael Fugate
    February 11, 2014

    Hey at least I was called scum – perhaps he was referring to my ancestors in the primordial ooze – who by the way I am quite proud of; have their pictures on in my hallway.

  38. #38 Qweet
    February 11, 2014

    @36

    “There’s no reason to try to “get rid” of god — we haven’t any evidence of its existence, so as yet there is no good response but “could be — nobody knows — the probability is low based on the evidence,” just as we would with the assertion of a mosquito that …”

    What if god, if there is such, has laws, just like the universe does….(My speculation is that universal laws needed to be formed by evolution. Thus, there is a possibility that they have been constantly changing.)
    Millions of Christians and Muslims and adherents to other faiths have been warning of this possibility. There is also a warning in the scripture(s) on demanding and seeking the direct evidence of god’s existence. Supposedly, this might make god really cruel. What would be your speculation on that, and how can you be %100 sure that these warnings should be completely ignored knowing that there are other methods that can be used to obtain factual information.
    Another question is how little do you have to think of people in order not to understand why they believe in god’s existence and are convinced that the speculations in the books are quite probable.

    Another Matt, Pete Attkins and Michael Fugate, thanks for your attention

  39. #39 Another Matt
    February 11, 2014

    There is also a warning in the scripture(s) on demanding and seeking the direct evidence of god’s existence. Supposedly, this might make god really cruel. What would be your speculation on that, and how can you be %100 sure that these warnings should be completely ignored knowing that there are other methods that can be used to obtain factual information.

    I’m not really given to speculation on these kinds of things. I can’t tell what you mean by the first two sentences — do you mean 1. “God would be cruel to provide direct evidence of his existence,” 2. “If you ask for direct evidence, it causes him to behave cruelly,” or 3. That God’s warning against demanding direct evidence is cruel?”

    I’m not 100% sure about anything, so it’s really not a problem. “Fairly certain” is about as far as I’m willing to go most of the time, and on very few matters. Existence of god is one of those matters.

    BTW — of all of Jesus’s acts depicted in the Bible, to me one of the most noble is when Doubting Thomas asks for evidence and Jesus gives it to him even though he’d rather have faith. It could be that I’m missing the god detector other people seem to have, or that I have the same spiritual maturity as Doubting Thomas. For those of us unable to believe, direct evidence would be a kind of mercy.

    Another question is how little do you have to think of people in order not to understand why they believe in god’s existence and are convinced that the speculations in the books are quite probable.

    Oh, I understand why people believe what they believe — like I said earlier, I grew up in a mostly fundamentalist / YEC family, and was even a decent apologist, though I never had any of the “religious experiences” others around me said they had experienced. I didn’t have to think any less of anyone when my natural skepticism kicked in. I’m not sure why you would think “I don’t share your beliefs” equals “I think little of you,” but that could explain why you think you’ve been bullied here.

  40. #40 eric
    February 12, 2014

    Qweet:

    What if god, if there is such, has laws, just like the universe does…

    Hey, another hypothesis! Your system seems to run on the thing you say you don’t need.

    There is also a warning in the scripture(s) on demanding and seeking the direct evidence of god’s existence. Supposedly, this might make god really cruel. What would be your speculation on that, and how can you be %100 sure that these warnings should be completely ignored knowing that there are other methods that can be used to obtain factual information.

    My personal opinion is that the bible is completely inconsistent on this. God gives lots of direct evidence: burning bushes, pillars of smoke and fire, killing all of Egypt’s firstborn, creating mana from heaven. Jesus walks on water, produces food out of nothing, resurrects the dead, heals people. Heck, Jesus invites one of his disciples to put his fingers in Jesus’ wounds in order to confirm them.
    So, if God was happy to do these things before, I see no reason why he can’t do them now. Drop mana from heaven. Create a pillar of fire in the sky. Resurrect the dead. You cannot say that God would not give this sort of evidence for humans unless you are willing to deny that he did these things as recorded in the bible.

  41. #41 Sean T
    February 12, 2014

    Qweet,

    What scientist is acting like an obnoxious criminal? I want names and specifics. If you are correct, then I would gladly condemn anyone who fits that bill. What I suspect is that you are defining “obnoxious criminal” as someone who refuses to agree with you because you cannot present any real evidence why they should do so.

    Considering your assertion that you’ve been bullied on this thread, I don’t think this speculation is out of line. You seem to be considering any disagreement with you to be bullying. Attacking someone personally, such as calling them scum or idiots, would be bullying. Attacking someone’s ideas is not bullying; it’s debate. So far, I’ve only seen posts from one author that have referred to others as idiots or scum. If you look in a mirror, you will see that person.

    As far as your response to my post #25 goes, there is no psychological trick, and I have no desired worldview. I am only looking at what we can observe and looking at the best explanation for those observations. What else can we do? Why would you not accept the best possible explanation of observations, unless of course you have some other worldview that conflicts with that explanation? All science, evolution included, is subject to change if new observations are made. That is the nature of science. I will certainly accept that evolution is false if evidence is presented showing that to be the case.

  42. #42 Qweet
    February 12, 2014

    @40

    [So, if God was happy to do these things before, I see no reason why he can’t do them now. Drop mana from heaven. Create a pillar of fire in the sky. Resurrect the dead. You cannot say that God would not give this sort of evidence for humans unless you are willing to deny that he did these things as recorded in the bible.]

    If the Bible is an actual account of events that transpired, in which case it would be approximate records and treated as historical records as opposed to fiction, then Jesus, made a mistake by providing the empirical evidence of his acts only to a small group of people. Then left proving of his and god’s existence upto the direct witnesses, which was not very wise, because people are more likely to believe that you’re son of god or god, if you support your claims with empirical evidence in terms of your ability to exert extra influence on matter, which the direct witnesses did not possess. Although the direct empirical evidence, in a skeptical and open mind, can leave a lot of room for doubt as to the nature of such ability and the nature of the person themselves.

    Thus, if the alleged god decides to reveal himself in ways that concreticize his existence, it would definitely be better to do it to all people at the same time in the same manner. The only problem is that each person is different and, might require a different and individualized approach as many people do not trust empirical evidence, as is the case with the evidence for evolution. Therefore, there is still a possibility that religious beliefs hold water, and were indeed either based on inference or direct observation.

  43. #43 Qweet
    February 12, 2014

    @41

    “As far as your response to my post #25 goes, there is no psychological trick, and I have no desired worldview. I am only looking at what we can observe and looking at the best explanation for those observations.”

    I was not referring to science only when I mentioned psychology. If you have, at least, some knowledge in this field, you would know that the reason why there are so many different views on one and the same thing, is because people sometimes project their desired views onto the reality. And their speculations or views seem absolutely real to them, even if they are fundamentally different and contradicting one another… It has partly to do with perception.

    [.. What else can we do? Why would you not accept the best possible explanation of observations, unless of course you have some other worldview that conflicts with that explanation? All science, evolution included, is subject to change if new observations are made. That is the nature of science. I will certainly accept that evolution is false if evidence is presented showing that to be the case.]

    Well, why don’t throw saltationism, the inheritance of acquired characteristics and the mechanism of necessity in the theory of evolution as well because they seem absolutely real and plausible to me.

  44. #44 Qweet
    February 12, 2014

    @Eric

    [I wrote: What if god, if there is such, has laws, just like the universe does…

    You wrote: Hey, another hypothesis! Your system seems to run on the thing you say you don’t need.]

    Isn’t the scientific method the only language you understand? :)

    Commenting and analyzing ME is unnecessary. You can directly start commenting on my idea or hypothesis itself. Otherwise, you are in the realm of bullying. If you do not want to be accused of bullying, you do not need to do it and then deny it, or worse yet, ask for evidence for it.

  45. #45 eric
    February 12, 2014

    Qweet @42 – I pretty much agree with the first 90% of what you wrote. But I fail to see how any of it supports your “therefore” conclusion.

    You seem to agree that God could reveal himself. You seem to agree that (if the biblical stories are true), he already did this. And you seem to agree that revealing himself would be a good idea. And you conclude from these comments that a religion positing a hidden God could be true? The “needs an individualized approach” issue is irrelevant – he’s God. Y’know, omnipotent. An individualized approach to providing evidence is not a barrier.

    [Eric]Hey, another hypothesis! Your system seems to run on the thing you say you don’t need.]

    [Qweet]Commenting and analyzing ME is unnecessary

    I didn’t analyze you, I said quite clearly that *your system* uses hypotheses. I even bolded the words for you, above, in case you missed them the first time.

  46. #46 Qweet
    February 12, 2014

    @45

    [I pretty much agree with the first 90% of what you wrote. But I fail to see how any of it supports your “therefore” conclusion.]

    When I concluded that there was still a possibility that religious beliefs hold water, and were indeed either based on inference or direct observation, what I meant was that some people naturally arrive at the conclusion that there must be god. This conclusion is an inference -based conclusion, and not necessarily a view that these people were coerced into accepting.

    Speaking about the direct witnesses of different phenomena, such as the supernatural phenomena including god, they seem to represent a small fraction of the population, and are left with the dirty job of trying to prove to the rest what they witnessed, when god himself, if there is such, could do it much better to each and everyone. This precipitates a certain degree of unfairness. I guess it depends on each person’s exposure to things. Then you have to take into account that the written records of these accounts are an easily falsifiable evidence. Apply to that the flaws of human ability to understand and reiterate, and you might get a really skewed picture of what’s going on. Hypothetically, if you could isolate yourself and discard all the views and exploration methods that you currently possess, what would be the ultimate conclusion you will arrive at then. And if different people do arrive at different conclusions even under such circumstances, then, perhaps, each person lives in their own reality and doesn’t owe anyone anything.

  47. #47 eric
    February 12, 2014

    they seem to represent a small fraction of the population, and are left with the dirty job of trying to prove to the rest what they witnessed, when god himself, if there is such, could do it much better to each and everyone. This precipitates a certain degree of unfairness.

    It’s not unfair at all! If you propose an hypothesis, it’s up to you (not others) to show evidence for it. That goes for everyone – supernaturalist, scientist, free-energy crank, etc., etc. Everyone has to play by the same rules – if you propose it, you must demonstrate it.

    Apply to that the flaws of human ability to understand and reiterate, and you might get a really skewed picture of what’s going on. Hypothetically, if you could isolate yourself and discard all the views and exploration methods that you currently possess, what would be the ultimate conclusion you will arrive at then.

    Probably a wronger one than the conclusions science produces now. After all, the historic trend seems to be in the direction of scence’s exploration method producing more accurate models of phenomena the more it’s used, not less accurate models the more it’s used.

    And if different people do arrive at different conclusions even under such circumstances, then, perhaps, each person lives in their own reality and doesn’t owe anyone anything.

    In my reality, F=ma. Show me you live in a reality where F /=ma, and I’ll believe that you live an a different reality.

  48. #48 Ruese
    February 12, 2014

    @47

    So you’re basically implying that it doesn’t really matter what’s out there as long as there is no concrete scientific evidence that can prove to you its existence.

    That is why the scientific box provides protection and insulation from the phenomena that have been reported by different people, and it is safer to stay there than put on another method, and try and take a look at the world through its prism. I can’t imagine running into and seeing a ghost in my apartment, and knowing not what to do about it. At least, in the science box, I can always look at it as the product of my brain, and take some measures to prevent this from occurring. I can definitely hypothesize that this image can be external, possibly an emryan life form, existing outside my physical space, in which case I would require technology in order to expel this life form from my apartment.

    Until then, I have nothing to worry about. Science wins!!! See what’s going on?

  49. #49 eric
    February 12, 2014

    So you’re basically implying that it doesn’t really matter what’s out there as long as there is no concrete scientific evidence that can prove to you its existence.

    Nope, it matters. I’m implying that if you come up with an idea, it’s your responsibliity to make the case for it to others. I don’t really understand how that’s controvesial; my time and money has value to me. If you want me to use my time and money on something you propose – i.e., using some methodology you’ve developed – it’s up to you to make the case to me that it’s worth my time and money. Just like if I wanted you to become a lab scientist, it would be up to me to convince you to do so – I don’t get my way with your time and money by default. Likewise, you don’t get mine by default – you have to convince me.

    it is safer to stay there than put on another method, and try and take a look at the world through its prism

    I will be more than happy to try your other method…when you tell me how it works, and show me that it does work to provide useful insight into the world. But not before. The first step is yours.

    Science wins!!!

    I think you are imputing some fairly tribal or self-aggrandizing motives to scientists. Believe it or not, we really do honestly and truly want to discover how the world really works – not just protect our ‘idea turf’ or whatever. We really are interested in trying out new methodologies for investigation, and we very much hope that people out there (scientists or not) can figure out a way of doing discovery cheaper, faster, and better. At the same time, we have to guard against throwing away our own resources and those of the public on wild goose chases. The way we do that safeguarding is to use tried and tested methods, and switch to better methods for big-scale sciece only after they have been shown to work on a small scale level. So what we are asking you to do is show us how your method works and that it works on the small scale.

  50. #50 dean
    February 12, 2014

    Reuse, the point is that you shouldn’t assume what you’ve seen is a ghost until you have evidence for that. If you “detect” something and don’t have (at least) evidence for what you suspect it is, you got nothin’.

  51. #51 Qweet
    February 13, 2014

    @50

    “Reuse, the point is that you shouldn’t assume what you’ve seen is a ghost until you have evidence for that. If you “detect” something and don’t have (at least) evidence for what you suspect it is, you got nothin’.”

    Hypothesizing in a case like this could be futile as there are several existing explanations for this phenomenon that are already out there. You can try and fit this phenomenon into any of these explanations or theories, and see which one of them is the most suitable. Coming up with a new idea still doesn’t mean that you will know with absolute certainty what it is. You can simply allow yourself to see what’s going on without hypothesizing, speculating or labeling. There is always a chance that you might eventually NATURALLY arrive at a more definitive and accurate conclusion at to what it is.

    You are right, in a sense, that immediately jumping to the conclusion that it is a ghost is unwise as it is just someone else’s take on it. Hopefully, it does not abide by the worldview. I guess if you free yourself from the biases that these explanations create in the favor of the existence of something in particular, you might be able to see this phenomenon for what it exactly is. Unless, in order to be able to know what it exactly is, you need to know the ultimate truth first, and rate it against it. Seems that there are complications out there.

  52. #52 Ruese
    February 13, 2014

    Whatever it is that creates the impression of ghosts, or disembodied people, might be considered antimatter that do not need to be included in the science box. Unless, the interpretation of this phenomenon is a visual or auditory hallucination because psychology and psychiatry are scientific fields. But then again, there might be a differentiation between hallucinations and discarnate consciousness in the ultimate or even objective truth. There are also several other explanations as to the nature of this phenomenon.

  53. #53 Qweet
    February 13, 2014

    [At the same time, we have to guard against throwing away our own resources and those of the public on wild goose chases.]

    You are confusing replacing an existing method with devising a new method for the areas science cannot reach. It’s inevitable for science to reach a dead-end. Nobody is trying to destroy the scientific method. It simply has too many downsides, and has proven to be excessively harmful and resource consuming. After reading all your responses, I came to realize that you completely fail to understand what you read. You simply project your degrading assumptions onto everything and everyone.

  54. #54 deepak shetty
    February 13, 2014

    @Jason
    But the fact remains that you, like a lot of academics who address this topic, are playing the role of a defense attorney. No matter how much evidence the prosecution presents, you can always go through it piece by piece and summon forth some alternative explanation for it.
    Whistles loudly

  55. #55 Qweet
    February 13, 2014

    @Jason

    “But clearly none of those arguments explain why God would create by a brutal and savage method like Darwinian natural selection.”

    According to religious writings, evil exists as separate from god, and acts as a creator as well, and not just a destroyer. Based on this speculation, it’s quite possible that evolution was precipitated by evil. Thus, so many religious people want to be simply blinded to it. And it may not be because they don’t see that that’s the way things are, but because seeing evil is painful. Many people think that evil is redundant. It’s also possible, that in their minds, by means of the faith method, you can disrupt evil and make it nonexistent, by simply denying its existence.

    ” It might be that evil committed by people against each other is a necessary consequence of free will. Or maybe it is necessary for “soul-making.” Perhaps the general savagery of nature is necessary to have a functional ecosystem.”

    Supposedly, god allows evil to exist, in order to teach people the difference between good and evil, even if evil unleashes itself and starts propagating profusely. It’s up to each individual to make the right choices and figure out how to deal with it. But then again, anyone can come up with an explanation that fits, though this alone does not guarantee that is indeed the case.

  56. #56 eric
    February 13, 2014

    Reuse:

    Whatever it is that creates the impression of ghosts, or disembodied people, might be considered antimatter that do not need to be included in the science box.

    Antimatter is well within the science box. It’s well understood, well characterized, and any nuclear physicist or chemist can turn on a detector in their lab and show you the signal it makes as it impinges on the detector.

    Qweet:

    You are confusing replacing an existing method with devising a new method for the areas science cannot reach. It’s inevitable for science to reach a dead-end.

    What areas can science not reach? Where are the dead ends? There’s a lot of talk about ghosts above; the reason 19th century spiritualism, mediums, etc. are not prominent today is precisely because people did empirical studies of them, and it did not turn out well for the claims of the mediums.

    In any event, my criticism still applies even in the areas science can’t reach. You must still demonstrate your method is effective at studying these areas before someone is going to spend their resources to use it…which likely means you’ll have to demonstrate its effectiveness on some small scale.

    After reading all your responses, I came to realize that you completely fail to understand what you read. You simply project your degrading assumptions onto everything and everyone.

    I am sorry you feel that way – I really am trying to be nice. If you could point out an example of one of my degrading assumptions, I’ll re-read it, try and see it from your perspective, and try and revise it to better address your arguments.

  57. #57 Daniel Jordan
    Miami,FL
    February 18, 2014

    I feel that evolution is just saying that Adam did not give birth a genetically identical offspring, Whereas even if this was true.. Then this offspring would still possibly acquire epigenetic inheritance that would make him different from his parents” The argument for evolution does not disprove creation, in fact it is quite obvious that we produce offspring that are genetically different from us. However many scientist like to frame this idea in a way that is portrayed to “disprove” the existence of God

  58. #58 eric
    February 18, 2014

    @57: geneticists have looked at the distribution of genes in the human population and determined that the smallest reproducing group of humans, ever, was about 10,000 individuals. Homo sapiens sapiens was never ever just two people.