Pharyngula

All chance, no purpose

That friend to the Discovery Institute and creationist advisor to the Vatican, Cardinal Schönborn, has a new book out, titled Chance or Purpose?. I haven’t read it, but Michael Behe has, and Zeno finds a particularly delicious Behe blurb:

Science cannot speak of ultimate purpose, and scientists who do so are outside of their authority. In Chance or Purpose? Cardinal Schöborn shows that the data of biology, when properly examined by reason and philosophy, strongly point to a purposeful world.

Why should science be incapable of addressing the questions of an ultimate purpose? I hear this all the time: science can’t give us meaning, science can’t explain love, science can’t do this or that. It’s usually said by some clueless git who has his own ideological axe to grind, and wants everyone to line up in support of his or her own dictated decrees about the truth, which are usually obtained by revelation (i.e., whim) or dogma, and which are challenged by a process that actually tries to examine reality in search of a truth. And those ideologies, such as Catholicism, have no legitimate claim for better understanding than any other traditional nonsense.

I say otherwise. We have no other, better tool. If we’re going to discover an ultimate purpose, it will be through the process of studying our universe — through science. The only thing these putative other ways of knowing affect our reach is by impeding us.

As Zeno notes, Behe’s quote is beautifully self-contradicting. He starts by declaring that science can’t tell us anything about our purpose, and then he goes on to immediately declare that the data of biology lead to an understanding of purpose. Behe is an incredibly muddled thinker — he’s got the background that values science, but at the same time he’s bogged down in these peculiar presuppositions that make a mess of his brain.

The data of biology do not point to purpose, but to a history of accidents shaped by short-term utility to replicators. Schönborn is unqualified to assess it — he’s a blithering theologian — and both Schönborn and Behe are blinded to the overwhelming dominance of chance in our biology by their ideological predispositions.

Comments

  1. #1 ConcernedJoe
    December 31, 2007

    Purpose implies intelligence with method and means to design and cause specific actions that in turn cause specific desired results. My point is that one has to accept that there was and/or is an “intelligent designer” with SUPER powers to direct universes to some specific and intended end game. Conversely, take away purpose and you take away god’s “raison d’etre”.

    It frightens them so that science does not see any need for, or evidence of, design. Why wouldn’t god leave a trademark at least? If we are so important to this god why wouldn’t it in a real way reveal itself? The Wizard of Oz?

  2. #2 negentropyeater
    December 31, 2007

    “If we’re going to discover an ultimate purpose, it will be through the process of studying our universe — through science.”

    Absolutely.

    “The data of biology do not point to purpose, but to a history of accidents shaped by short-term utility to replicators.”

    Too fast.

  3. #3 truth machine
    December 31, 2007

    Science cannot speak of ultimate purpose, and scientists who do so are outside of their authority. In Chance or Purpose? Cardinal Schöborn shows that the data of biology, when properly examined by reason and philosophy, strongly point to a purposeful world.

    Whoa, nothing like rigging the game! People with “Cardinal” titles are somehow authorized to examine the data of biology with reason and philosophy but scientists aren’t even allowed to speak on the matter.

  4. #4 DaveX
    December 31, 2007

    Can the workings of the universe accurately be described as “chance,” though? I’m not supporting design or purpose– I’m just wondering if chance is the correct word here. To me, that seems to negate the many interesting laws and tendencies of natural behavior. It seems to me that given a set of natural laws, all universal actions of any kind would be rigidly fixed, even without a “god” etc..

  5. #5 truth machine
    December 31, 2007

    He starts by declaring that science can’t tell us anything about our purpose

    No, no, he declares that scientists can’t.

    and then he goes on to immediately declare that the data of biology lead to an understanding of purpose

    Sure, when interpreted by an authorized theologian. Who could have guessed what conclusion such a person would reach?

  6. #6 Molly, NYC
    December 31, 2007

    While it’s true that science doesn’t offer definitive answers to abstract questions, theologians often miss the fact that neither does religion.

    However, the answers that science does offer are solid, backed-up, factual, real–which can be genuinely comforting when you look outside of science and see wide support for unsubstantiated assumptions, pulled one after another, directly from some theologian’s, or politician’s, or other public figure’s ass.

  7. #7 heddle
    December 31, 2007

    As Zeno notes, Behe’s quote is beautifully self-contradicting.

    No, Behe’s statement on purpose and evidence is not inherently self-contradicting, beautifully or otherwise. In fact it is trivially self-consistent, unless you simply beg the question. For if the universe was designed by a transcendent being (God) and if God left evidence of his handiwork, and if in the future science completely discovers and explores all that evidence and eventually agrees that it points to a universe designed-for-life (purpose,) then we would be in exactly the scenario Behe describes: data, properly examined by reason, would point to a purposeful world. And science would have nothing to say about the purpose beyond the cold scientific fact that the purpose was life. This is the “weak” form of ID, the religio-apologetic form, and it is not demonstrably wrong, it is only demonstrably not science.
    The only way you can make Behe’s statement self-contradicting is, as I said, to beg the question (as you more or less do in your last paragraph), and assert that science will never reach the point where it concludes that the evidence points to design You can argue that it is a fantasy scenario, and that it is wrong, but you cannot legitimately claim that it is inherently self-contradicting.

  8. #8 truth machine
    December 31, 2007

    hi truth machine, for clarification re: “No, no, he declares that scientists can’t.” isn’t this what he said “Science cannot speak of ultimate purpose” ? and wouln’t that be in line with PZ’s statement of inconsistency. Just asking.

    Sorry, I’m under the weather and haven’t had enough sleep. Pretend I never wrote that.

  9. #9 Andrés
    December 31, 2007

    I thought the Catholics accepted evolution? Or has darth pope overturned that? If he has then I think Catholics are back to being even more nutty than the evangelicals.

    I live in a country where about 80% of the population is Catholic (nominally, at least), and yet many think the pope is a crotchety old man. I he were to declare that creationism is the Truth, I don’t think anyone here but a nutty minority would follow suit.

  10. #10 Peter McGrath
    December 31, 2007

    Pope Shakin’ Stevens the first did say that evolution was more than just a theory. Pope Rotweiler the XVIth has now made statements casting doubt upon same.

    And in other Dark Ages news, her has just launched a recruitment drive for exorcists:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;jsessionid=5WB043VEJ0SZ1QFIQMGSFFOAVCBQWIV0?xml=/news/2007/12/29/wexor129.xml

  11. #11 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    December 31, 2007

    It seems to me that given a set of natural laws, all universal actions of any kind would be rigidly fixed, even without a “god” etc..

    Processes that are described by such laws are path dependent, contingent on history, whether they are fully deterministic or not. Deterministic chaos is a prime example. And as for chaos that doesn’t mean that the processes are sensitive only to initial conditions, but to other factors as well.

    As a fully deterministic example, take gravitation. Drop marbles on a knife edge, and you will find that you will have to use statistical distributions to describe the paths taken, for example which side the marble drops on. [If it is a concern that it isn't a pure gravitational force problem, equivalently fling a mass on a trajectory through the small Lagrangian gravity balance volume between two large masses and observe the different paths.]

    Evolution as the process of life is of course also path dependent, more clearly so as statistics are required to describe populations, hereditary, the mechanisms of variation, selection, et cetera, even if AFAIU some such as selection can be more or less deterministic on their effect on the distributions. TR Gregory has an article on Evolution as fact, theory, and path that describes this.

  12. #12 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    December 31, 2007

    @ heddle:

    then we would be in exactly the scenario Behe describes: data, properly examined by reason, would point to a purposeful world.

    You make the same gap argument that John Pieret and Dave S made over at Laelap the other day (and which I have now answered). I see two problems with that.

    First and foremost, there is already a very small and diminishing gap in most sciences. Evolution is known to be path dependent and the data confirms this. So by your own claim, the data point to a purposeless world. (A purposeless designer is ruled out both by religion and by parsimony during testing.)

    Second, all gap arguments are falsifiable. A religious claim on evolution would be that humans, or possibly human equivalent intelligences, were a forced outcome. This will probably be testable in the future. One of the leaders of the exoplanet hunt has claimed that lifebearing planets will be detectable in a few decades. Whether we will detect technological civilizations on a small percentage of these by some means (say SETI, or detection of pollution perhaps) isn’t really critical as we have the one required example to model a likelihood.

    The way to bet of course is that the likelihood for human equivalent intelligences is small, which would nicely answer Fermi’s question. (“Where are they?”) Whether the ETI search is more or less independent of evolution, it is in any case an already quantifiable piece of data pointing to the falsehood of the religious claim.

    I have to ask the same question as I did at Laelap and still haven’t got an answer to; isn’t gap arguments considered to be too risky by theologians to entertain nowadays?

  13. #13 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    December 31, 2007

    @ heddle:

    then we would be in exactly the scenario Behe describes: data, properly examined by reason, would point to a purposeful world.

    You make the same gap argument that John Pieret and Dave S made over at Laelap the other day (and which I have now answered). I see two problems with that.

    First and foremost, there is already a very small and diminishing gap in most sciences. Evolution is known to be path dependent and the data confirms this. So by your own claim, the data point to a purposeless world. (A purposeless designer is ruled out both by religion and by parsimony during testing.)

    Second, all gap arguments are falsifiable. A religious claim on evolution would be that humans, or possibly human equivalent intelligences, were a forced outcome. This will probably be testable in the future. One of the leaders of the exoplanet hunt has claimed that lifebearing planets will be detectable in a few decades. Whether we will detect technological civilizations on a small percentage of these by some means (say SETI, or detection of pollution perhaps) isn’t really critical as we have the one required example to model a likelihood.

    The way to bet of course is that the likelihood for human equivalent intelligences is small, which would nicely answer Fermi’s question. (“Where are they?”) Whether the ETI search is more or less independent of evolution, it is in any case an already quantifiable piece of data pointing to the falsehood of the religious claim.

    I have to ask the same question as I did at Laelap and still haven’t got an answer to; isn’t gap arguments considered to be too risky by theologians to entertain nowadays?

  14. #14 ConcernedJoe
    December 31, 2007

    Truth machine – thanks for clarification I though I missed something you gleened. Have a good one

    general comment: love it that we are the higher purpose implementators (always implicit if not emplicit in Xian god view) .. love the arrogance and the pride (aren’t they sins?)

    My thinking: if the world were covered in cold ocean water wouldn’t you rather be a whale or something else — you know like some other organism far superior for living in cold ocean water than you?

    Atheist are humble I’d say — it is the godiots that are raging self-loving, self superior feeling in their warped philosophy.

  15. #15 CalGeorge
    December 31, 2007

    Behe Rule #1:

    Speaking outside one’s authority is forbidden.

    Okay. The Cardinal, being an authority on nothing, is hereby ordered to shut the fuck up.

    Actually, I think I’ve got what it takes to be an authority on God:

    God is good. He will save you. Don’t worry about a silly thing called death. There’s a heaven. Count on it. [Insert Bible verse here.] So, please, feel less ungood. Let us pray. Mumble mumble mumble. On a side note, before you go, please give me money. Thank you, thank you. [Lots of smiling. Cue organ.] Go in peace.

    Wooooooo! Authority! Wooooooo! Where’s my point hat? Send me a book deal. I’m ready. Wooooooo!

  16. #16 John Marley
    December 31, 2007

    While it is true that science cannot decide questions of value, that is because they cannot be intellectually decided at all, and lie outside the realm of truth and falsehood. Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know.
    – Bertrand Russell

    I would add that, as science progresses, even questions like “what is love?” are open to examination.

    If there’s anyone out there who thinks that “takes all the ‘Mystery’ out of it,” I say that I’ll take wonder over mystery any day. And reccommend that you read “Unweaving the Rainbow” by Richard Dawkins.

  17. #17 Schooner
    December 31, 2007

    “I say otherwise. We have no other, better tool. If we’re going to discover an ultimate purpose, it will be through the process of studying our universe — through science.”

    Full speed ahead then. Any thought of purpose or meaning that does not consider well-established scientific data in its premises is not at all likely to be true.

    Problem is, it’s difficult to test purpose or meaning in a laboratory under the supervision of the scientific method. Thus, when purpose is discussed, scientists, philosophers, theologians, and the man on the street are all in the same fix. Notice the subtle turn here: “The data of biology do not point to purpose, but to a history of accidents shaped by short-term utility to replicators.”

    This statement may be perfectly true, false, or otherwise, but once one switches from data to what the data points to, s/he has entered into the philosophic realm–a realm not easily subjected to rigorous scientific testing.

    Thankfully, the laws of logic and thought are the same for scientist, theologian, and philosopher alike.

  18. #18 CapitalistImperialistPig
    December 31, 2007

    …an inordinated fondness for beetles

  19. #19 Glen Davidson
    December 31, 2007

    Cardinal Schöborn shows that the data of biology, when properly examined by reason and philosophy, strongly point to a purposeful world.

    The trouble with this statement is that biology is already studied in light of both reason and philosophy, often quite properly. Hence the claim about “method” is redundant.

    And no, biology especially does not point to a purposeful world. At least the “fine-tuning” argument in cosmology brings up legitimate issues, if no legitimate answers. There is no “fine-tuning problem” in biology at all.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  20. #20 Richard Harris
    December 31, 2007

    truth machine, you say, “He starts by declaring that science can’t tell us anything about our purpose – No, no, he declares that scientists can’t, and then he goes on to immediately declare that the data of biology lead to an understanding of purpose.”

    Behe actually writes, “In Chance or Purpose? Cardinal Schöborn shows that the data of biology, when properly examined by reason and philosophy, strongly point to a purposeful world.”

    Considering your sobriquet, that’s glaringly disingenuous of you. Behe does not claim for theology an understanding of purpose, but rather, a suggestion of the existence of purpose.

    That makes him somewhat less of a crazy than you suggest.

  21. #21 Glen Davidson
    December 31, 2007

    Why should science be incapable of addressing the questions of an ultimate purpose? I hear this all the time: science can’t give us meaning, science can’t explain love, science can’t do this or that.

    First off, it wouldn’t be impossible that a question could be addressed properly without science, a question that science itself could not address (as is done in the courts in some cases, and in much scholarship).

    But secondly, there is nothing that suggests that science could not address ultimate questions (love probably is not one of these, however, since it seems mostly to be a means to an end, sucessful reproduction). It’s the old fallacy that IDists and creationists fall into, the fact that we don’t find purpose or “ultimate meaning” via science is supposed to mean that science cannot address either one. No, science doesn’t find design, purpose, or ultimate meaning, which at least implies that these do not exist (or at least that these are no more than human interpretations of phenomena).

    In fact there is much reason to suppose that if some god who purportedly is the ultimate meaning made this universe, that we would be able to discern this, possibly outside of science, more likely via science. Not, of course, if this “ultimate meaning” were simply an experiment to see what happens when sensitive intelligent beings are frequently tortured and destroyed most cruelly in a universe dominated by chance and accident, but if the “ultimate meaning” were something like “major religions” tell us (peace, harmony, love, and happiness to all) we ought to be able to use science to inform us that the universe conforms to such a meaning. And since the universe does not at all conform to the proclaimed “ultimate meaning,” I think we should consider the evidence to be against those claims.

    No, sorry, philosophy and science when followed according to our best intellectual standards do not find any “ultimate meaning” in the universe, and it is not because these are incapable of finding meaning, emotion, love, and purpose where these exist (“ultimate” anything is questionable as to meaning, let alone to discovery). Science incorporates the best of our investigative abilities (including philosophy and reason, of course) for matters not already constructed and decided by humans, and as such it should be considered to be our best tool for finding purpose or design beyond human/animal purposes and designs. Since it does not find meaning and purpose in the universe besides those that have non-teleologically evolved, our best conclusion at the moment is that meaning and purpose do not exist outside of evolved animal existence.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  22. #22 LeeG
    December 31, 2007

    Behe is an incredibly muddled thinker — he’s got the background that values science, but at the same time he’s bogged down in these peculiar presuppositions that make a mess of his brain.

    A creationist doing science is like a parrot reciting Shakespeare – no matter how well he does it, he will never really understand the message…

  23. #23 Ex-drone
    December 31, 2007

    Behe writes:

    Science cannot speak of ultimate purpose, and scientists who do so are outside of their authority.

    So discussion of purpose is a matter of authority? What is the chain of commad of that authority? Priest, bishop, cardinal, pope?

  24. #24 El Cid
    December 31, 2007

    Again, it seems our leading theologians want God to require our faith and at the same time He is leaving all sorts of evidence around that the Universe was his creation, and not a natural phenomenon.

    So which is it?

    Did God wish to prove his existence to us and thus make faith inapplicable, and for some reason is only capable of doing so in tiny, indirect ways (instead of, say, flaming letters hanging around in some nearby nebula)?

    Or was God simply unable to create the Universe without leaving all sorts of evidence of His Divine Intervention, thus implying that God is either weak or stupid?

    If creationists aspire to either (a) evidence of divine intervention in the cosmos, or (b) an attempt to rule out any non-divine form of cosmic or life creation, then it must be 1 or 2.

    EITHER God is lying about desiring our faith and leaving evidence of His magic around,

    OR God is stupid or incapable of creating the Universe or us without leaving evidence of His intervention.

    So which is it?

    Is God undermining faith, or is He stupid or weak?

  25. #25 Sastra, OM
    December 31, 2007

    Theistic evolution and creationism do an interesting little dance together as God both hides behind Nature and then pokes His head out long enough to show everyone He is not Nature after all, and then back again. People get confused because it is confusing.

    It’s the same dance Faith plays with Reason. It’s unreasonable to be an atheist, but belief in God is based on Faith, which it is unreasonable not to have, because everyone needs to throw out reason for perfectly rational reasons — but only in rigidly designated areas defined by God, and discerned by the select few who pass the ESP test.

    As hyperdeath astutely points out in #7,

    Religious apologists like this have two gods.

    So do religious believers. Nature is a miracle: violations of nature are miracles. If you want to have it both ways then your gods are dancing with each other.

    What if we all finally recognized God, and found its “purpose” disappointing — it turns out to have nothing to do with us? Would God still count as “God?” Or would we look to see what the hell the purpose of the universe being made by an uncaring God was?

  26. #26 Lee Graham
    December 31, 2007

    re #37
    Very well put, Sastra!

  27. #27 Sastra, OM
    December 31, 2007

    Stop the presses! Michael Behe Retracts!

    “Science cannot speak of ultimate purpose, and scientists who do so are outside of their authority. Therefore, as a scientist, I am henceforth going to shut up about finding scientific indications that there is an ultimate purpose to the universe. My deepest apologies to all concerned. I’ve no idea what the hell I’ve been thinking all these years. Mums the word from now on, you bet, and I’m off to church.”

  28. #28 heddle
    December 31, 2007

    Re: Torbjörn Larsson, OM #19

    I did not follow the discussion at Laelap, so you’ll have to provide a link, if you want. But is seems that you are arguing the Behe is wrong–and he may well be. That is not the point. I said he did not contradict himself, and he didn’t. It seems to me that (as far as you can tell from this blurb) all Behe is saying, extrapolating a bit, is that (1) he affirms methodological naturalism and that (2) MN might lead to a design conclusion and (3) if that happens, that’s all science will have to say on the matter. PZ, if I read correctly, is affirming philosophical naturalism–which is fine–but it doesn’t render Behe’s position self-contradictory. Other than that–well if I understand you I tend to agree. If by gap-risk you mean theologians should not point to scientific gaps as some sort of proof of God, then of course I would agree.

    El Cid #35,

    Again, it seems our leading theologians want God to require our faith and at the same time He is leaving all sorts of evidence around that the Universe was his creation, and not a natural phenomenon.
    So which is it?

    “Blind faith” is not a Christian virtue. Romans 1:20 does not say: because of creation, all men are without excuse, but woe to the weak-minded who take me up on the offer look at creation for evidence.” Or, to give another of many examples, Gideon demands multiple displays of physical proof before he will obey God, and yet Gideon ends up in the faith “hall of fame” (Hebrews 11.) You are making the mistake of assuming that Christianity calls for blind faith, and therefore should steadfastly avoid tainting itself by seeking evidence in creation. But on the contrary Romans 1:20 is properly seen as a call for Christians to fear-not evidence that is acquired through their senses–that is, through science. Apart from being unbiblical, it would simply make no sense if creation was merely a trap to see if we will keep our faith in spite of what we see. No, our faith is strengthened because of what we see–even if every little gap is plugged.

  29. #29 Schooner
    December 31, 2007

    “Nature is a miracle: violations of nature are miracles.”

    I recognize the weight of the problem, but it appears you are equivocating with the word miracle, Sastra.

  30. #30 CalGeorge
    December 31, 2007

    No, our faith is strengthened because of what we see–even if every little gap is plugged.

    An excellent example of the bullshit religious people excel at.

    No evidence. Evidence. Yup, everything strengthens my faith. It’s all good.

    Sounds like you are on autopilot.

    Faith is just another word for avoiding the cognitive dissonance that would explode your idiotic belief system.

    Wouldn’t want to go down that road. Safer to live in the fantasy world you’ve constructed for yourself.

  31. #31 Glen Davidson
    December 31, 2007

    One of the excuses for claiming that science “cannot speak of ultimate purpose” is that it deals largely in proximate causes. So the idea is that science doesn’t tell you why the world exists, but how it all works.

    The only proper analogy for this, however, is how forensics investigations and courtroom procedures operate. How do we find out what happened, and the purposes behind the alleged crime? Only by the methods of science, and the closely related criminal investigations, both of which determine intent and purpose by investigating proximate causes to discover the “ultimate” causes and purposes behind the crime. That is all humans are able to legitimately do to determine purpose, with all appeals to “ultimate causes” and “ultimate meanings” which are “beyond the evidence and science” only causing injustice and not catching the culprits.

    If Behe and Shoenborn actually had some way of getting to the “ultimate meaning” other than by following chains of cause and effect, that would be most welcome knowledge (as a philosophy prof noted, wouldn’t it really be great if we could gain absolute truth simply by reading a book?). However, since their own “ultimate meanings” and “ultimate causes” happen to explain nothing about the form and function of life, or of any incident on earth, I am not about to believe that some grand “revelation” is responsible for these supposed “ultimates”. Indeed, since we can tolerably well explain the evolution of religion, and the development of religious views in humans, I’m afraid that even their attitudes about science and “God” are already best explained by science itself (along with related scholarship, such as histories of ideas and of philosophy).

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  32. #32 Rick T.
    December 31, 2007

    El Cid,

    I like your point which reminded me to this cartoon, http://russellsteapot.com/comics/2007/omni-impotence.html

    ennui and Sastra,
    I agree completely. Is a slave’s purpose in sync with the slave holder? No. Do animals living in a zoo (if they could) identify with the purpose of the zookeepers? No.
    Why would we think that our purpose would be in line with God’s should he exist?
    Worship God for eternity? No thanks. That’s not the purpose I choose for myself.

  33. #33 June
    December 31, 2007

    The good cardinal may be less of a DI friend than the DI suspects. He does not take Genesis literally and writes things like: “It is nonsense to maintain that the world is only six thousand years old. An attempt to prove such a notion scientifically means provoking … the mockery of unbelievers.”

  34. #34 John Pieret
    December 31, 2007

    Torbjörn:

    I have to ask the same question as I did at Laelap and still haven’t got an answer to; isn’t gap arguments considered to be too risky by theologians to entertain nowadays?

    I didn’t know you had returned to the thread over there. I’ve responded in Laelap’s quieter confines (heddle, it is here). But the short answer is: not when the gap is really between empiricism and other philosophies.

  35. #35 Sastra, OM
    December 31, 2007

    Schooner #42 wrote:

    “Nature is a miracle: violations of nature are miracles.
    I recognize the weight of the problem, but it appears you are equivocating with the word miracle, Sastra.

    I think the equivocation is built into the concept. The fact that using the word in either sense makes sense may indicate where some of the fat might be settling.

    No, our faith is strengthened because of what we see–even if every little gap is plugged.

    When used in this religious sense, “faith” is a commitment to spin.

    Faith is another one of those religious words with alternate meanings which get equivocated with. Hope, trust, confidence, and assumptions can all be abandoned without abandoning a prior agreement not to do so. This commitment can’t be to God if the commitment is to believing in God in the first place. It’s a promise you make to you, out of reverence.

  36. #36 Kagehi
    December 31, 2007

    Hmm. The difference between ID and science, with respect to finding “purpose” is a) they are babbling about purpose in the sense of what we are supposed to *do*, not what we *are*, and the other can be explained thus:

    Science: Years ago scientists dug up a tomb with parts of a chariot in it. They spent years trying to reconstruct it, but where stumped at one little half moon like part, with a hook on one end and a loop on the other, in the remains. Some time later someone noticed a carving, or something, and noticed that the axle had a kind of indent on it, which ran around its circumference. Ah, ha! You put the half moon bit against the axle, then tie a bit of pelt between the loop and the hook, and that holds the wheel on.

    ID: Q: “Does this look designed too you?” A: “Well, gosh, I don’t know, its complex, so probably.” Q: “What’s its purpose do you think?” A: “Don’t be silly. The purpose of everything is to end up with us, so we will kiss gods ass!”

    See, the later is much simpler and hardly takes any time at all, unlike those silly scientists, who spend years trying to figure out the mundane purpose of some sad little bit of bronze, while completely failing to answer all those entirely man made “purposes”, which only exist in our heads, and that the religious find so important… Who cares after all how someone made a wheel stay one a now defunct chariot, or how some ancient people brewed beer, or how *anything* works? Its not like knowing stuff will win you brownie points with they imaginary friend. lol

  37. #37 El Cid
    December 31, 2007

    This weekend she informed me that scientists had tested the bread and wine used in mass and found that they contained the DNA of a 33-year-old man.

    You could probably end this discussion real quick-like by pointing out that there are a variety of rather nasty ways a ’33 year old man’ could contribute his DNA to communion wine or bread.

  38. #38 Moses
    December 31, 2007

    “Blind faith” is not a Christian virtue.

    Posted by: heddle | December 31, 2007 12:31 PM

    You’ve seen nothing of the events portrayed in the Bible and you accept them without challenge. Further there is absolutely NO historical evidence, beyond the forged Josephus mention, of Jesus or any of the events that surrounded him, besides the four (sometimes conflicting) Gospels and a bit of other fluff from the Bible.

    That’s the very practice of blind faith. Everything you believe comes from self-referential stories.

    What’s worse, is there is plenty of outside evidence to indicate it’s complete bullshit. Let’s just look at Christmas, today. Forget all the rest of the errors, problems and rip-offs of other mythologies. The whole Christmas story is a total rip-off of Mithras and the Winter Solstice celebration and Jesus is just a Jewish (Essene) version of Mithras with a bit of Krishna, Osiris & Dionysus thrown in for good measure. If you’d have ever studied these dying-God mythologies, with an open mind and willingness to accept the hard evidence, you’d see that.

    So, yes, you have BLIND FAITH, even if you think you don’t. Your only references come from your faith. Which, since they’re internal, do not present any outside, second-source confirmation. Hence, blind.

    Yet you will, sans evidence, profess them as truth and go off on your “fine tuning” arguments every time you get a chance. No matter how many times you get you bloodied when the fallacies are swatted across your nose like a rolled-up newspaper to a bad dog.

  39. #39 El Cid
    December 31, 2007

    …it would simply make no sense if creation was merely a trap to see if we will keep our faith in spite of what we see. No, our faith is strengthened because of what we see–even if every little gap is plugged…

    Actually, it would make perfect “sense” for creation to be a trap for keeping your faith, although that isn’t what I discussed. It would just not be a “sense” that you liked.

    Again:

    Is God aiming to leave evidence in His Universe such that its creation can only be explained through His Magical Intervention?

    If so, then God’s existence and power then becomes part of the scientific Universe, and dependent not upon human faith but upon the evidence He left behind for the thinking beings He created.

    Or you might be trying to suggest that some degree of evidence of God’s Magical Role in creating the cosmos or life is acceptable, but not too much evidence.

    So it was not a priority for God to create the Universe in such a manner that no evidence of Magical Intervention remains, nor was it a priority for Him to create it in such a way that too much evidence remained.

    Thus we come to the theological variant of the Goldilocks Universe — God must leave some evidence behind that the Universe wasn’t arrived at naturally so that Christians may find some evidence to bolster their Faith, but he must not leave too much evidence such that Faith is not needed at all.

  40. #40 negentropyeater
    December 31, 2007

    The problem is that most people don’t understand that one will not find the truth by assuming the truth beforehand.

  41. #41 heddle
    December 31, 2007

    Moses, #57
    I have studied (not exhaustively) the parallels between Jesus and god-myths–and the parallels are not striking–unless your source of materials are web pages devoted to exaggerating the alleged parallels. There was a great recent discussion of this on evolutionblog:

    http://scienceblogs.com/evolutionblog/2007/12/haught_on_science_and_faith.php

    between Rick T., who was making claims of parallelism, and non-Christian (I am pretty sure; 99% confidence) J. J. Ramsey who argued that the supposed parallelism is greatly exaggerated. I think if you follow that discussion it is quite clear who came out on top in that debate.

    Let’s just look at Christmas, today. Forget all the rest of the errors, problems and rip-offs of other mythologies. The whole Christmas story is a total rip-off of Mithras and the Winter Solstice celebration

    What is truly amazing is how often this gets trotted out as if Christians don’t know it. Every Christian I know knows that the Christmas celebration was co-opted from pagans. I suspect that part of the reason this is common knowledge among Christians is that at their church, just like every church I’ve attended, there is typically a Christmas-time sermon devoted, at least in part, to this very fact–if only to encourage the congregation not to get caught up in the secular aspects of the celebrartion. Yet people like you, Moses, act as if you are revealing something that Christians don’t know–and will be shocked, absolutely shocked to discover.

    Further there is absolutely NO historical evidence, beyond the forged Josephus mention

    That is partially true but like all such things (see Mithras comment above) the convenient extreme position is accepted uncritically. The truth is the references in Josephus to the resurrection are considered by virtually all scholars, including Christian scholars, to be a misguided redaction. There is much less unanimity, however, on the question of the authenticity of the simple reference in Josephus to a rabbi named Jesus.

    No matter how many times you get you bloodied when the fallacies are swatted across your nose like a rolled-up newspaper to a bad dog.

    If that happens so frequently, as you alleged, then it should be easy for you to provide a couple links where, indisputably, a reasonable person (as opposed to a mindless backslapper)would say that I couldn’t hold my own and got bloodied.

  42. #42 Steve LaBonne
    December 31, 2007

    Despite this, teleological language is routinely employed by practicing scientists to characterize their work or interests, especially in casual conversation. This raises particular problems in biology.

    When you catch somebody doing this, just report them to Larry Moran. He’ll set them straight. ;)

  43. #43 stogoe
    December 31, 2007

    I haven’t checked the new Mr Deity site for some time. I bet there’s a new one (or more) waiting for me after work. Yum!

  44. #44 Scott Hatfield, OM
    December 31, 2007

    Steve LeBonne:

    RE: #65

    Without a doubt! If Prof. Moran were a hockey player, he’d be an ‘enforcer’….:)

    (Though I have to wonder whether or not Moran, a Gould enthusiast, would cast as critical eye on some of the latter’s writings. I’ve often thought that some of the just criticism of the vagueries of theologians uttered here could be applied, with some modification, to some of the more obsfucatory passages of Gouldiana. As E.O. Wilson once remarked, Gould was like a squid. When anyone tried to pin him down, he would vanish in a cloud of ink.)

  45. #45 heddle
    December 31, 2007

    Carlie,

    I can assure you that at least 90% of them most assuredly do NOT know the origin of the Christmas celebration, or know anything about ancient mythology, or have any clue that there are a dozen other myths that are exactly like their special little Jesus.

    No, you cannot assure me of this. While I don’t know many current SBC baptists, I know some, and the ones I know, including two presently enrolled in a SBC seminary (in fact, WaD’s old employer) most decidedly do know the roots of Christmas.

    No, you simply want to believe that most Christians are inbred bumpkins who know nothing and will be shocked and awed should the dirty little secret of Christmas’s origins be revealed. Because aguing against a caricature is sho’ ’nuff easier than scholarship.

    I hope that you are underestimating the percentage that do not have a clue that “there are a dozen other myths that are exactly like their special little Jesus.” I hope it is 100%, because the claim is false. You should not believe everything you read on the internet just because it is convenient. That’s no way to go through life.

  46. #46 Ken Cope
    December 31, 2007

    I hope that you are underestimating the percentage that do not have a clue that “there are a dozen other myths that are exactly like their special little Jesus.” I hope it is 100%, because the claim is false.

    Heddle gets to claim this one, because of the mistake Carlie made in using one qualifier too many. No one myth is “exactly” like Jesus, because the Jesus myth is a pastiche of several others.

    And there’s no way I’d got through life like heddle.

  47. #47 Foggg
    December 31, 2007

    heddle says:

    …if in the future science completely discovers and explores all that evidence [of God's handiwork] and eventually agrees that it points to a universe designed-for-life (purpose,) then we would be in exactly the scenario Behe describes: data, properly examined by reason, would point to a purposeful world.

    And science would have nothing to say about the purpose beyond the cold scientific fact that the purpose was life.

    You assume the first sentence’s robust inference is possible without contracting the second sentence. You’re going to have to explain exactly how this would work.
    You have to know by now that this move (call it The Unelaborated Purpose Inference) is the core claim/strategy of the entire ID project. You could help them immensely if you were capable of fleshing this.

  48. #48 Rick T.
    December 31, 2007

    heddle says,

    “a great recent discussion between Rick T., who was making claims of parallelism, and non-Christian (I am pretty sure; 99% confidence) J. J. Ramsey who argued that the supposed parallelism is greatly exaggerated.”

    I suppose J.J. was arguing that the claims of parallelism are exaggerated although it seemed to me that he could not accept any proposed proponent of parallelism as being trustworthy. Other than that he offered no point of view as to why there could be similarities between the religions.
    My point was that there are too many similarities and scholars who do find Christianity to have borrowed from paganism to be smugly dismissed.
    Pagan myths show changes over time but so does the Jesus myth. His personal story was evidently not known by Paul, the earliest Christian author in the NT. Mark wrote nothing of the virgin birth and resurrection and ascension of Jesus. The later gospels included those but the prophesy predicting the virgin birth was mistranslated from Isaiah and the words “young women” were changed to “virgin”.
    I wonder if J.J. would find the biblical sources unreliable as he does Joseph Campbell. Also, parallelism can’t be explained away by saying pagans borrowed from Christianity. heddle, this discussion is like a stereo-gram, if you look at it just right you can see my point of view comes out on top. But curiously, a small percentage of people can’t see stereo-grams the way most do.

  49. #49 Ichthyic
    December 31, 2007

    While I don’t know many current SBC baptists, I know some, and the ones I know, including two presently enrolled in a SBC seminary (in fact, WaD’s old employer) most decidedly do know the roots of Christmas.

    so of course this is reflective of xians at large.

    can’t you EVER communicate without using projection as a filter, Heddle?

    *sigh* I suppose that question is rhetorical, since based on your history, the answer appears obvious.

    such a waste.

  50. #50 John Phillips, FCD
    December 31, 2007

    Heddle, actually I know a whole raft of xians from different cults and few, even the ‘leaders’, know how much xianity, like many religions before it, co-opted other religious myths or their holidays as their own. We don’t bring this up so much because we ‘want to believe that most Christians are inbred bumpkins who know nothing and will be shocked and awed should the dirty little secret of Christmas’s origins be revealed’ but simply as an example of how little the average xian knows about his religion and its history. You also forget that many of us atheists were, however nominally, xian ourselves at one time and generally have a better knowledge about it and the holy babble than most of those who still claim to be believers. After all, many of us only came to our atheism after fully investigating whether, among other issues, a belief in god or gods was rational or not and that the investigation wasn’t limited to only the cult of xianity. Though of course, you would probably argue that we obviously weren’t the right type of xians to give up our belief ‘so easily’.

  51. #51 DLC
    December 31, 2007

    What, you mean there isn’t any purpose to it all ?
    That Life, the Universe and Everything is just a random number ?
    Gee. I’ll have to go be depressed now.
    Or maybe I’ll just get on with my life and enjoy those moments I can while I can. Maybe I’ll just go on and not worry about the 42 things some theist thinks are important.

  52. #52 heddle
    December 31, 2007

    Foggg,

    You assume the first sentence’s robust inference is possible without contracting the second sentence. You’re going to have to explain exactly how this would work.

    I have no idea whether it ever will–but you can certainly imagine scenarios–the absurd/proverbial “made by God” written in a hundred languages including LOLcat on the side of the top quark. Once accepting that there is some discovery, albeit absurd, that would cause most scientists to agree that the best explanation was design, the question then becomes what is the threshold, short of something like the quark etching.

    Ichthyic

    can’t you EVER communicate without using projection as a filter, Heddle?

    I’ll stop when you explain how my saying “the Christians I know understand the origins of Christmas” is projecting, while Carlie stating something to the effect that “90% of the SBC doesn’t know the origin of Christmas” is not projection.

    Rick T.

    The later gospels included those but the prophesy predicting the virgin birth was mistranslated from Isaiah and the words “young women” were changed to “virgin”.

    This is the kind of mistake you are making, and what Ramsey called you on. While you can find some Hebrew scholars who say that Isaiah should have been translated “young woman” the majority do not. But as long as you can find some, you state with authority that Isaiah was mistranslated. (Some hint should be that Isaiah, real or fictional, would hardly feel the need to mention that the mother of the Messiah would be a young woman.)

    His personal story was evidently not known by Paul, the earliest Christian author in the NT.

    Ditto. There is no way to support this statement. Someone on the internet has a site that refers to some hypothesis about Paul and presto–truth is born in the form of definitive statements made with authority.

    C’mon man–there are scholarly ways to argue against, say, the authenticity of the gospels. Making unsupportable claims is not one of them.

    John Phillips, FCD

    You also forget that many of us atheists were, however nominally, xian ourselves at one time and generally have a better knowledge about it and the holy babble than most of those who still claim to be believers. After all, many of us only came to our atheism after fully investigating whether, among other issues, a belief in god or gods was rational or not and that the investigation wasn’t limited to only the cult of xianity.

    No, I don’t buy that at all. First of all I can also argue anecdotally–I have my own case where I was not reared in a Christian family and became a Christian after I was already a practicing scientist and after I had already learned quite a bit of theology. And I certainly knew that Christmas was co-opted from pagans since I was a kid–for crying out loud you can’t go through the Christmas season without reading it tens of times. And of course, I certainly don’t buy that you escaped the clutches of the cult of Christianity by the power of rational thought and that means you know more about Christianity than the average Christian. I’ll tell you what else most Christians are aware of: those rational arguments you can muster against Christianity. We’ve heard them all. I’ve made the challenge on here before that nobody has ever taken it up: tell me one novel argument against Christianity made by any of today’s atheist elite: Dawkins, Harris, whoever. Just one. I certainly see no evidence that Pharyngula commenters in general know more about Christianity that the average Christian. It is not that you don’t have arguments against Christianity, I know you do. But what you do not have, I suspect, are any substantive arguments against Christianity, or arguments concerning alleged parallelism, or arguments calling into question the authenticity of scripture, or the historicity of Jesus that would surprise me, and I am fairly representative of the level of knowledge found among the Christians I know.

  53. #53 Carlie
    December 31, 2007

    All right, heddle, congratulations, you have managed to make me more outraged than anything on the internet ever has, and I will most definitely be yelling a lot now, with copious use of profanity.

    Because aguing against a caricature is sho’ ’nuff easier than scholarship.
    You should not believe everything you read on the internet just because it is convenient.

    How dare you. How FUCKING DARE YOU. You know absolutely nothing about me or the people I know. I know you’ve been around this blog for awhile; I don’t expect you to follow the particulars of every commenter on here, but I’ve made no secret of my past or who I am, and have mentioned it several times. If you were to search through the archives for my comments, you’d find out that I know a decent amount about Christians. I haven’t just read about Southern Baptists on the internet, I don’t just know a few, as you do, I was fucking raised as one. And not just go to church on Sunday Baptist, either. I grew up in the heart of the Bible belt, in a place where my grandfather helped build the church I spent every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday evenings in, where I spent more than my share of Saturday mornings going out for to visit recalcitrant members, where my second cousin eventually became the pastor. I was baptized at age 7, re-baptized at 11 because that’s when I was really “saved” and felt terribly guilty that I had asked for it at 7 when I “knew what I was doing in my head, but not in my heart”. I sang in the choir. I was the substitute accompanist, and when I was older the substitute church secretary. I spent all of my high school socializing time with the church youth group, doing activities and mission trips and retreats. In college I spent every fucking damned minute of my free time with the Baptist Student Union, leading Bible studies, planning and executing spring break service trips, singing in a traveling gospel group. Most of my college friends are now either pastors, youth directors, or in the mission field. One is a curriculum writer for a Chicago nondeonminational mega-church, one is the children’s director for a Missouri mega-church, one is the head of Russian immigrant outreach at a Kansas City church. The college friends I spent this Thanksgiving with are Tentmaker church planters. I spent several years after college as a Children’s Church director, Sunday School teacher, church board member, and Vacation Bible School coordinator. You know that woman in Jesus Camp? I was her.

    So DO NOT FUCKING TELL ME I DON’T KNOW REAL CHRISTIANS OR WHAT THEY BELIEVE. I taught many dozens of Christians what they believe, from Illinois to Missouri to Ohio to New York. I chose the curricula. I can tell you the differences in approach and theology between Lifeway and Group materials, the distinctions between using the Discovering God series and the 40 Days series, the pros and cons of taking teens to Young Life versus Glorietta versus WorldChangers for summer trips. I know more about Christians, particularly Southern Baptists, than you ever could. So when I say a great number of Southern Baptists aren’t taught and don’t know the origins of their mythology, you can fucking believe that I know what I’m talking about. In fact, a good three-quarters of them don’t even know why there’s a Southern Baptist convention separate from the northern. They don’t even know the origin of their own denomination, much less the origins of their holidays. Hell, a decent number of them don’t even know what’s in the Baptist Faith and Message, or what kind of autonomy and latitude each church has and in which doctrinal points. Know what? I do. I even know enough to guess that if you do know Baptists who are more liberal in their theology, they are either not deep enough into it to know “what” to believe, or are over the age of 35 or so, because it was a little less than 20 years ago that the right-wingers started taking over the Convention from the moderates.

    Wow, I don’t think I have ever used as many capital letters, html tags, and the word “fucking” in all of my comments here combined. But the short version is heddle, shut the fuck up.

  54. #54 thalarctos
    December 31, 2007

    I’ll stop when you explain how my saying “the Christians I know understand the origins of Christmas” is projecting, while Carlie stating something to the effect that “90% of the SBC doesn’t know the origin of Christmas” is not projection.

    If you’re going to generalize from your experience to the larger population, you need some assurance that your sample is representative of that population. While there’s not enough information here to do so formally, we can take a first qualitative pass at it.

    Carlie wrote:

    I’ve known a few hundred in my life, and I can assure you that at least 90% of them most assuredly do NOT know the origin of the Christmas celebration, or know anything about ancient mythology, or have any clue that there are a dozen other myths that are exactly like their special little Jesus.

    And you wrote:

    While I don’t know many current SBC baptists, I know some, and the ones I know, including two presently enrolled in a SBC seminary (in fact, WaD’s old employer) most decidedly do know the roots of Christmas.

    Without knowing more about either sample, it’s hard to say of course, but since her sample is a couple of hundred times larger than yours, ceteris paribus, it’s much more likely from a power analysis point of view to be representative of the larger population of SB’s than your sample size of two is. So her conclusions provisionally have some corresponding degree more validity than yours do, pending more info, of course.

  55. #55 PZ Myers
    December 31, 2007

    People, this is Heddle you’re arguing with — he’s one of those demented fuckwits, with a theology so bizarre you shouldn’t even try to comprehend it lest it induce brain damage (case in point: Heddle). Ignore him.

  56. #56 thalarctos
    December 31, 2007

    Well, my post crossed Carlie’s last one, so I only have a couple of things to add.

    Just based on the sample size alone, Carlie’s conclusions were a lot more credible than Heddle’s were, and the longitudinal information she provided in the last post only added to that credibility.

    Additionally, Mr. thalarctos was raised in some Campbellite fundamentalist tradition rather than SBC, but he too has observed over many years how much the members of the denomination he was raised in do *not* know about the history of their church or its scriptures.

    All right, heddle, congratulations, you have managed to make me more outraged than anything on the internet ever has

    Carlie, in the couple of years I’ve been reading Pharyngula, you’ve consistently been a source of wise, kind, knowledgeable, and funny commentary, and I know for a fact that I’m not the only one who’s observed that. Please don’t let a tone-deaf golem like Heddle give you an aneurysm; he’s simply not worth it.

  57. #57 Carlie
    December 31, 2007

    And just in case I got a bit unhinged and incoherent, which I’m still too furious to notice if I did, my point was that I estimated high on the percentage of Christians who don’t know various origin myths not just because I know a lot of Christians, but I know a lot of Christian leaders and exactly what they believe. That means that for every Christian I know, that person is directly teaching and influencing a few dozen to a few thousand (not an exaggeration for the megachurch curriculum writer) others. I know what they’re teaching all of those people. And yes, I know that Southern Baptists aren’t the only Christians out there, but they’re still the largest Protestant denomination, so their influence in the realm of theology in general can’t be swept under the carpet.

  58. #58 Zeno
    December 31, 2007

    As long as we’re letting it all hang out: I was not only raised as a Roman Catholic and put in time as an altar boy, I even taught catechism to a group of 8th graders getting ready for confirmation. Thus I’ve been both on the giving and receiving ends of religious instruction. The Catholics I knew were not aware that major religious holidays like Christmas and Easter were borrowed wholesale from pagan antecedents. Most of them thought Christmas trees were invented by the shepherds or wise men to decorate the stable in which Jesus was born. (Yes, they really thought the wise men showed up in Bethlehem in time for Christ’s birth.) I’m not talking about all Catholics, of course, but it was certainly most of those of my acquaintance, including my family members.

    If you want to keep your faith for a long time, it’s best if you leave it largely unexamined. Much safer that way. And certainly the mainstream religion in America today: unexamined Christianity.

  59. #59 Tulse
    December 31, 2007

    PZ:

    If we’re going to discover an ultimate purpose, it will be through the process of studying our universe — through science.

    I loves me some PZ, but this statement seems muddled to me, because it seems to assume that the notion of “ultimate purpose” is even coherent. What could it mean? If we found out that the human race had been bred by aliens for food, would we be content with saying that exo-burgers are our “ultimate purpose”, and calmly go to the abatoir? If your parents tell you that they conceived you so you could become a doctor, would you be violating some “ultimate purpose” if you became a firefighter instead?

    “Purpose” only makes sense relative to a specific point of view — it is not an inherent property of anything. This is true even if there were an Ultimate Creator — what he/she/it/they/Azathoth might think was the purpose for creation is only true from that perspective. Unless you are willing to say that the only valid purpose is from the perspective of the Creator (and remember the alien abatoir before you agree), then the entire notion of “ultimate” purpose is meaningless.

  60. #60 Carlie
    December 31, 2007

    Thank you, thalarctos, and sorry for continuing it, PZ. I took awhile typing and missed your reminder not to engage. There are few things that reduce me to a ball of blind fury, but heddle hit one of them. It’s not just the implication that I don’t know what I’m talking about re:Christians that bothers me, but the implication that I’m making sweeping uninformed judgments about them, thinking off the top of my head that they’re all stupid rubes. Regardless of the fact that I’m an atheist now, that’s my family you’re talking about. It’s my mom, my dad, my siblings, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles and cousins and friends and neighbors. I might disagree with them, I might think the ideas they hold are stupid and dangerous, but I know where they’re coming from and how easy it is to believe in that environment. I do not in the least think that they are rubes and idiots, and I don’t want anyone thinking that I do.

  61. #61 PZ Myers
    December 31, 2007

    If you want some real fun with good ol’ American Christians, ask them to recite the Nicene creed for you. You’ll find pastors and Sunday school teachers who can do it, but the majority will just look at you and say “whut?” Then for even more fun, you can recite it to them and lecture them on what they believe.

    Tulse:
    I don’t know what the ultimate purpose is, if there is one (and personally, I don’t think there is). But if there is one, the only way we’ll find out about it is observation and experiment — by science. I’m pretty darn sure that some snake-handling weirdo having a prophecy come to him in a vision is not the way to find out, nor is it going to come from some dusty old theological pedant studying ancient Hebrew scrolls.

  62. #62 Carlie
    December 31, 2007

    There will be a large handful of American Christians of a certain age who could do it after a fashion, but only if you ask them to sing Rich Mullens’ song “Apostle’s Creed” for you, and a lot of them won’t have any idea of the connection it has with the history of their faith.

  63. #63 Ichthyic
    December 31, 2007

    But the short version is heddle, shut the fuck up.

    *ding*

  64. #64 windy
    December 31, 2007

    Thank you, thalarctos, and sorry for continuing it, PZ. I took awhile typing and missed your reminder not to engage. There are few things that reduce me to a ball of blind fury, but heddle hit one of them.

    Don’t be sorry, a good rant that’s also informative is a rare sight :)

  65. #65 heddle
    December 31, 2007

    Carlie,

    Actually, I will tell you again and again something you claim to know but which I state is absolutely wrong–that anywhere near 90% of the SBC do not know that the Dec. 25 Christmas celebration is adopted from paganism. You are just arguing against the stereotype of the ignorant Baptist. Show me any data backing your claim beyond the anecdotal. And if you actually believe that 90% of the SBC would be flabbergasted to learn that Jesus was not born on Dec. 25, then I don’t believe you do know what you are talking about, or more accurately in this particular instance I think you simply pulled it out of your butt with no supporting data. None. Zero. It’s a fantasy. As I said in every single church I have been in, Presbyterian and Baptist and non-denominational, there have been sermons mentioning the fact that all this gift-exchanging, Christmas trees, etc was not fundamental to Christianity. Some Baptist churches–you ought to know this but apparently do not–even teach or recommend that Christmas should not be celebrated at all (I was in one.) Do you suppose the instruction goes like this: Christmas is a fine Christian holiday, but I just don’t like all the crowds, so I recommend you don’t celebrate it or do you suppose that it might be more along the lines of Christmas is not really a Christian holiday, the bible instructs us to celebrate Christ’s death, not his birth. Well, sorry, but I don’t believe I had a three-sigma experience.

    Zeno is also wrong about Catholics not knowing, unless he is limiting himself to purely nominal Catholics. Although he did mention one common misconception–that the wise men showed up in time to meet the infant Jesus. But even that, which is believed far more than the pagan origin of Christmas is unknown, is still a minority error in my experience. Certainly the majority of Christians I know are aware of it.

    Do you people even think before you write? The pagan origins of Christmas are taught in schools, and are in plain sight all over the media at Christmastime, and have been for all my life, anyway. Does your stereotyping of Baptists extend to point where you don’t believe they read anything except Beetle Bailey?

    PZ,

    If you want some real fun with good ol’ American Christians, ask them to recite the Nicene creed for you. You’ll find pastors and Sunday school teachers who can do it, but the majority will just look at you and say “whut?”

    Bullshit. Or more accurately, that is a pretty dumb statement, because some denominations discount the creeds. Asking a member of an anti-creedal church to recite the Nicene creed and of course most won’t be able to, anymore than most Baptists would know the RC catechism. But go into, say, a Presbyterian PCA church and the will easily recite the Nicene creed, and furthermore most of them will know enough history to teach you a thing or two about the controversy in the church that led up to it.

    People, this is Heddle you’re arguing with — he’s one of those demented fuckwits, with a theology so bizarre you shouldn’t even try to comprehend it

    That’s also a stupid statement. I may be demented–but my theology is garden variety reformed covenantal theology, a doctrinal system that is comprehended by millions of proponents and opponents–it is not a complimentary admission to imply that that you or your readers couldn’t understand it.

    I remember reading that this blog has “the most consistently intelligent commentary of any blog” (of course I read that assessment in a comment on this blog.) Well folks, arguing against crude stereotypes isn’t measuring up to the lofty standards you have set for yourselves. But it sure is easy, and the backslapping sure feels great.

  66. #66 Ichthyic
    December 31, 2007

    But it sure is easy, and the backslapping sure feels great.

    we can’t commence with the backslapping until you remove yourself.

    so, uh…

    care to oblige?

  67. #67 Rick T.
    December 31, 2007

    heddle,
    Your a treasure.
    You say so nonchalantly that of course everyone knows that Christmas has many pagan components yet you can’t admit that Christianity itself is also full of pagan concepts and rituals. Nice

    “(Some hint should be that Isaiah, real or fictional, would hardly feel the need to mention that the mother of the Messiah would be a young woman.)”
    Hey, I didn’t write this shit. However, she could have been an old woman like Sarah or Elizabeth. Or she could have been an old virgin. Maybe the reason Isaiah wrote young women is because a virgin can’t give birth to a child since its IMPOSSIBLE.
    I wrote,
    “His personal story was evidently not known by Paul, the earliest Christian author in the NT.”
    You object saying, “There is no way to support this statement.” Well, I read it for myself and you know Paul talks about Jesus Christ but never mentions any personal anecdotes found in the gospels nor does he repeat his sayings. After all he could at least throw the almighty a bone once in awhile and act like he’s heard of the beatitudes or the greatest commandment. But he doesn’t. Didn’t Jesus say anything worth repeating?

    For the record, Raised a fundy. Went to church EVERY time the doors were open, twice on sunday and wed. nite. Also, every fucking time an evangelist or missionary came to town and they would stay a week or two, money grubbing bastards.
    And, I went into the ministry for a few years. I’ve studied the Bible.

  68. #68 Ken Cope
    December 31, 2007

    t is not a complimentary admission to imply that that you or your readers couldn’t understand it.

    heddle, you lying sack of crap. That’s not what PZ said; even you can’t be so far gone that you can’t imagine we can’t read. You do more work advertising for the relative sanity of atheism by sliming in here so often spewing bile and dementia that I’m beginning to suspect you’re just a parody intended to move even more people away from what you’re peddling.

    I’ve got yer dead and resurrected god motif right here, pal. If you had a shred of decency, you’d piss off after apologizing, but of course, you don’t.

  69. #69 Carlie
    December 31, 2007

    Actually, I will tell you again and again something you claim to know but which I state is absolutely wrong–that anywhere near 90% of the SBC do not know that the Dec. 25 Christmas celebration is adopted from paganism.

    Read the damn sentence again. “I’ve known a few hundred in my life, and I can assure you that at least 90% of them most assuredly do NOT know the origin of the Christmas celebration,”
    I never claimed that 90% of the entire SBC didn’t know it, I claimed that 90% of the ones I knew didn’t know it. It’s called reading comprehension. Try it. But even if you take it the other way, your statement that it is wrong does not make it wrong. Give me some statistics, give me some data. I can give you last week’s Lifeway (SBC produced, used in most of their churches) Sunday School curriculum, versions for all ages, that specifically teaches the absolute literal truth to every bit of the Christmas story. Nothing in there about Mithras, or any of the other gods. I was in church last week. I saw it.

    And you’re really shortening the goal area by now saying that you’re only referring to the date of Dec. 25 as not being Jesus’ actual birthday; you started off talking about all of the holiday trappings and stories surrounding Christmas and its links to specific pieces of mythology. Limiting it now to knowledge that Dec. 25 isn’t the actual birthday is backpedaling and disingenuous.

    I’m about at the point of channeling Dan Ackroyd. heddle, you ignorant slut.

  70. #70 Carlie
    December 31, 2007

    Well folks, arguing against crude stereotypes isn’t measuring up to the lofty standards you have set for yourselves.

    And again: stop saying that I’m making Christians into crude stereotypes. I know many of them intimately. I have most all of my DNA in common with a lot of them. I do not consider or treat them as stereotypes. You are the one stereotyping, thinking that just because you and your buddies are cosmopolitan enough to have read the Epic of Gilgamesh and noticed its similarities to the Bible that…

    Oh, my FSM. I’ve figured it out. heddle hasn’t developed a Theory of Mind yet. If he knows it, everybody else must know it too. His statements make so much more sense now, putting them in the context of the social interactivity abilities of a three-year old person. Or a four-year old chimp.

  71. #71 thalarctos
    December 31, 2007

    Oh, my FSM. I’ve figured it out. heddle hasn’t developed a Theory of Mind yet. If he knows it, everybody else must know it too. His statements make so much more sense now, putting them in the context of the social interactivity abilities of a three-year old person. Or a four-year old chimp.

    Makes sense, Carlie. I was going with the three-sigma experience idea, just the other way around–I didn’t think Heddle had ever had a *normal* experience–but the two explanations aren’t mutually exclusive, after all.

  72. #72 Ken Cope
    December 31, 2007

    I wonder if deep down inside, heddle knows that the nonsense he’s struggling to believe was pulled out of somebody’s butt with no supporting data. None. Zero. It’s a fantasy.

    Perhaps that’s what makes him so angry with us.

  73. #73 heddle
    December 31, 2007

    Carly,

    I can give you last week’s Lifeway (SBC produced, used in most of their churches) Sunday School curriculum, versions for all ages, that specifically teaches the absolute literal truth to every bit of the Christmas story.

    Which is totally irrelevant–I did not say that the SBC denies the Christmas story, I argued that nowhere near 90% is ignorant of the fact that the Christmas celebration is adopted from pagan festivals. Two different matters altogether. Try to restrict your rebuttals to what I actually said. And I am not referring to only the date, that was an example of the type of thing most Christians was adopted concerning celebrating Christmas. Is your strategy always just to make things up? That is as it appears to me. Let’s make something up and toss it out–since I’m preaching to the choir, who cares?

    I do not consider or treat them as stereotypes.

    Yes you plainly do. You wrote in #69

    Try going to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting and find anyone who can tell you the finer points of comparison between various aspects of the Christian Christmas and other cults. Not happening.

    Thousands at a SBC convention, but you are sure that not one is as knowledgeable as you about their own religion. That’s stereotyping, as good of an example that you are likely to find. So you were right, when I reread the comment you did say it was 90% of the SBC Baptists you knew–but as it turns out it was 100% of the Baptists at the SBC convention who are typecast as ignoramuses.

    Rick T.,

    “His personal story was evidently not known by Paul, the earliest Christian author in the NT.”
    You object saying, “There is no way to support this statement.” Well, I read it for myself and you know Paul talks about Jesus Christ but never mentions any personal anecdotes found in the gospels nor does he repeat his sayings.

    Give me a break. Paul not mentioning the anecdotes found in the gospels is at least plausibly because he wasn’t an eyewitness to the events, or because he had commissioned Luke to write that account. The bottom line is that not mentioning something is not proof that you are unaware of it. Geez, it ain’t rocket science. To be fair, you could use that as evidence in making a case that Paul didn’t know anything about Jesus’ personal life and ministry–but you go way beyond that and use it as proof-positive.

  74. #74 truth machine
    December 31, 2007

    I don’t know what the ultimate purpose is, if there is one (and personally, I don’t think there is). But if there is one, the only way we’ll find out about it is observation and experiment — by science.

    This is as muddled as the original statement. As Tulse pointed out, “ultimate purpose” is incoherent — there’s nothing it could mean, let alone be, because it’s semantically malformed. For “purpose” to be meaningful, there must be a designated agent whose purpose it is.

  75. #75 Ichthyic
    December 31, 2007

    still waiting for you to check out so we can all commence our backslapping session and properly celebrate the new year.

    can’t do it with you staring at us.

  76. #76 Zeno
    January 1, 2008

    heddle: Zeno is also wrong about Catholics not knowing, unless he is limiting himself to purely nominal Catholics. Although he did mention one common misconception–that the wise men showed up in time to meet the infant Jesus. But even that, which is believed far more than the pagan origin of Christmas is unknown, is still a minority error in my experience. Certainly the majority of Christians I know are aware of it.

    Look, asshole, don’t tell me I’m wrong. Okay? I was the freaking religion teacher. My students and their parents (and my parents) did not know the degree to which Christmas is a cobbled-together amalgam of earlier pagan practices. While I don’t know all Catholics (and specifically did not claim that, you reading-comprehension-impaired bastard, although my church community was probably pretty representative), you don’t get to tell me what I observed, since I was there and you weren’t. Good thing, too.

    I will now return to my sweet, equable self for 2008.

  77. #77 Carlie
    January 1, 2008

    Spelling my name wrong now, too. That’s a nice touch.

    And I am not referring to only the date, that was an example of the type of thing most Christians was adopted concerning celebrating Christmas.
    Then it was a spectacularly stupid example, because the point being discussed prior to that was the fact that most Christians don’t know that every piece of the birth of Jesus story and the holiday celebrations were cribbed from previous myths, not that isolated details might be a little off the mark. And my comment about the curriculum is not irrelevant, it’s entirely the issue: if it’s all entirely true, then it couldn’t have been borrowed from earlier stories.

  78. #78 Carlie
    January 1, 2008

    Ah, but see, Zeno, it doesn’t matter what the catechism actually states, or what confirmation classes actually teach. heddle met one Catholic once who doesn’t believe that stuff and knows there were other stories out there, so that means that no Catholics believe what’s in the canon and know all about the rest of mythology. QED.

  79. #79 Monado
    January 1, 2008

    I think that some people are arguing with undefined terms. While many Christians know that the exact official date of Christmas was chosen to correspond to pagan celebrations, far fewer know that the biography of Jesus is made up in large part from standard elements of the hero myth (descendant of royal blood, king tries to kill him because of a prophesy, flees to foreign land, confounds elders while still a child, executed in a high place, becomes a God or comes back to life, etc.)

  80. #80 Ken Cope
    January 1, 2008

    I have studied (not exhaustively) the parallels between Jesus and god-myths–and the parallels are not striking

    Only a witless fucktard like heddle could submit such an asinine remark.

    Where, oh where is the zombie corpse of Joseph Campbell, lurking behind the sandwich board for The Sorrow and the Pity to tell heddle he knows nothing of his work, then rip heddle’s screaming skull apart–only to find no brain to feed upon.

    Poor zombie Joseph Campbell.

  81. #81 Monado
    January 1, 2008

    Here’s the Nicene Creed. It has been too many years since I recited it every Sunday for me to remember all the words, but I remember large chunks of it.

  82. #82 Rick T.
    January 1, 2008

    You tell ‘em Monado,
    There is a lot to account for if you’re heddle.

    Buy the way you ignorant slut and you reading-comprehension-impaired bastard (I couldn’t resist joining the chorus) I didn’t say proof positive about anything. I think that your view has died the death of a thousand cuts because there is so much evidence of Christian influence by pagan religion that proof positive on one single issue is not necessary to maintain my view. Anyway, I’m no scholar and I have all the evidence I need.
    You should identify with me seeing how you have even less need for evidence for your contrived Calvinist predestination horse shit.
    Happy new year.
    Oh, and one more thing. If we are all predestined to be lost or saved, why the hell would you’re trolling behavior be of any consequence on this blog. We’re already lost. Go hang out with your fellow saved goobers please. Make it a new years resolution for our sakes.

  83. #83 Zeno
    January 1, 2008

    Gee, Carlie, you’re confusing me with those fancy Latin abbreviations. How is a poor dumb ex-Catholic math teacher like me supposed to understand “QED”? I’ll have to ask one of those brilliant and super-informed Catholics that heddle hangs out with.

  84. #84 Monado
    January 1, 2008

    Shades of Cain and Abel from the Sumerian religion: “The Dispute between Emesh and Enten”

    Enlil creates the herdsman deity Enten and the agricultural deity Emesh. He settles a dispute between Emesh and Enten over who should be recognized as ‘farmer of the gods’, declaring Enten’s claim to be stronger. (Kramer 1961 p. 49-51).

    –from Sumer FAQ
    (I popped over there to find out who was the original baby in the rushes–it wasn’t Moses.)

  85. #85 Colugo
    January 1, 2008

    Jack Chick’s “explanation” of similarities of pre-Christian pagan myths to Mary and Jesus.

    http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0040/0040_01.asp

    Not too convincing, but at least it addresses the issue. And as always with Chick Tracts, the Roman Catholic Church is the bad guy.

  86. #86 Rick T.
    January 1, 2008

    A new years parable for heddle.

    The Lord aproached heddle as he was trolling and said,
    “Why art thou trolling amongst those that I have not predestined to sport fishy bumper stickers? Cast thou thy comments on the other side of the blogoshpere that thy catch may be great”
    But heddle was stubborn and he refused.
    And God said, “It doth sadden me that I predestined heddle to be among the chosen but in the words of Homer (Simpson)what are you going to do?”
    So God said, “I will allow the evilutionists to smite thee about the ears and eyes with witty and profane comments.”
    But heddle was stubborn of heart.
    And God regreted creating heddle.

    The moral of the story is go away you bother me and you’re just pissing off God.

  87. #87 David Ratnasabapathy
    January 1, 2008

    Rick T. wrote:

    …the prophesy predicting the virgin birth was mistranslated from Isaiah and the words “young women” [sic] were changed to “virgin”.

    heddle replied:

    While you can find some Hebrew scholars who say that Isaiah should have been translated “young woman” the majority do not.

    Richard Carrier examines the merits of the “young woman” translation. heddle continues,

    …Isaiah, real or fictional, would hardly feel the need to mention that the mother of the Messiah would be a young woman

    But heddle, Isaiah wasn’t talking about the Messiah! The bible is perfectly clear on this. Look at the context, Isaiah chapter 7.

    The short version:
    1. King Ahaz of Jerusalem was frightened because an alliance of two kings was threatening invasion. God sent the prophet Isaiah to reassure him that the invasion would not take place. [Isaiah 7:1-7]

    2. Isaiah invited king Ahaz to ask for a sign from God. Presumably to prove Isaiah’s credentials as God’s mouthpiece. But Ahaz shrugged him off. [Isaiah 7:10-12]

    3. So Isaiah provided him with a sign anyway! [Isaiah 7:13-16]

    Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted. [emphasis mine]

    As the highlighted words show, the child was a sign to king Ahaz, 700 years before Christ, that the threatened invasion was not to be feared. The child was shortly to be born — that is the whole point of the sign. How then could this be a prophecy about Jesus, who was born 700 years later?

  88. #88 ConcernedJoe
    January 1, 2008

    Wow – come on guys – give heddle a cheer.. he/she added some excitement shall we say to the conversation I see.. heck nothing like gettin the old blood flowing

    Sorry but I was heddle ignorant (surprisingly), but once heddle answered my questions in 63 (kindly ignoring and not ridiculing my drunken miss-types) I knew it was fruitless to discuss anything about religion with heddle. Heddle I concluded is a deluded person who really believes (SELECTIVELY – note the `no transubstantiation – I’m not a RC` – I love it when they backhandedly admit it is all MAN made-up; though they`d never admit it directly – heddle that was a trick question BTW – I knew you`d be a SBC type and say no – if I suspected you’d be something else I`d have asked a different `I have my version of the Truth` question – they are so telling don’t you think).

    The conversations one could have with sane people about history of religions are very interesting. The conversations with people who cannot begin to see the absurdity of holding on to fairy tales are wastes of time.

    However enjoyed the entertainment returning to it .. and wish all (yup heddle and whomever too) wishes for a good year.

  89. #89 John Phillips, FCD
    January 1, 2008

    Heddle, Heddle, Heddle, why do we need to make any novel arguments against xianity when the old ones work perfectly well. After all, nothing much has changed about it, beyond xianity modifying itself to fit in with current societal mores that is. As to whether you buy it or not that I came to my atheism through rationality and know more than the average xian about xianity, I only have to go on the discussions I have with many, many xians, both in person and on the interwebs. But hey, of course you know all the people I know better than I do as you are the right kind of xian, as you keep telling us over and over and over. Heddle, one thing you prove time and time again on this site, is that you refuse to accept that your type of xianity is very much the minority, at least in the US, however often it is pointed out to you by former members of cults you claim to know so much about. I often wonder if your particular brand of belief comes with an even bigger set of blinkers than normal to any criticism of xianity, either by claiming that we are putting up strawmen or whether you are even aware of the type of xianity that many in the US espouse. You are aware, are you not, that the ‘moral majority’ or the dominionists are a very real group in the US and that the type of xianity you espouse is very much the minority among ‘active’ xians. Remember, that in a recent survey of nations the US only came above Turkey and below all other developed nations when it came to accepting issues such as evolution above out and out creationism.

    By the way, from 10 to 17 I spent my school years on a scholarship in a Church of Wales college and it was mainly the RE classes, which were actually more classes in comparative religion and philosophy, run by many of the priest who were teachers at the school that started me really thinking about all religions. So yes I do know quite a bit about most religions, though of course not the intimate details of every single cult. Additonally, until my health gave out a couple of years ago I spent a large amount of my free time doing voluntary work at a number of xian run organisations so have a relatively up to date knowledge of the lack of knowledge of the majority of members of various different xian cults. So please, don’t be so arrogant as to assume that only you know what members of different xian cults know and believe.

  90. #90 heddle
    January 1, 2008

    Rick T.

    Oh, and one more thing. If we are all predestined to be lost or saved, why the hell would you’re trolling behavior be of any consequence on this blog. We’re already lost.

    Wow, you must be the first person to use this construct: If we are all predestined… then why bother to…. Augustine and Calvin must never have considered such a rebuttal. This is indeed the blog with the most intelligent commentary.

    Zeno,

    You are wrong, although when saying:

    My students and their parents (and my parents) did not know the degree to which Christmas is a cobbled-together amalgam of earlier pagan practices

    You left yourself a nice big loophole–for all I am claiming is that (in effect) the majority of educated human beings, including Christians, know that the Christmas celebration has pagan origins. I never claimed that the majority knows the precise details or degree–it can be argued thatnobody knows the details–so apart from your escape clause, you are still dead wrong. If you were there teacher then I assume you taught them–or did you just let them wallow in their ignorance?

    Concerned Joe,

    I knew you`d be a SBC type and say no – if I suspected you’d be something else I`d have asked a different `I have my version of the Truth` question – they are so telling don’t you think

    And so flawed, apparently, since I am not a SBJ type at all but covenantal reformed. I have more differences with the SBC than I do with Roman Catholicism. The present series on my blog is an anti-dispensationalism series–that is it would be against the “Left Behind” theology (And what is behind it) of the majority of the SBC. You clever line of questions requires some fine tuning–it amounted to “are you a Catholic?”

    John Phillips, FCD

    Heddle, one thing you prove time and time again on this site, is that you refuse to accept that your type of xianity is very much the minority,

    Except when I have, on more occasions than I can count, stated that “Calvinism/Augustinianism” is the minority position among American evangelicals and dispensationalism/Arminianism is the majority position.

    You are aware, are you not, that the ‘moral majority’ or the dominionists are a very real group in the US and that the type of xianity you espouse is very much the minority among ‘active’ xians. Remember, that in a recent survey of nations the US only came above Turkey and below all other developed nations when it came to accepting issues such as evolution above out and out creationism.

    I am very well aware of theonomy, and although I argue loudly against theonomy and for separation, the intellectual heavyweights for theonomy come precisely from my niche–reformed/postmillennialists. That is a minority (theonomists) within a minority (postmillennialists) within a minority (Calvinists)–there really aren’t many theonomists–although from reading this blog you’d think they are everywhere. That’s because it uses theonomist as a synonym for anyone who draws the church/state separation line differently–like someone who calls anyone to thier political left a “commie.” I’m not sure what evolution has to do with this discussion, but for the record I label myself as a theistic evolutionist.

    Ken Cope,#107

    Only a witless fucktard like heddle could submit such an asinine remark.

    What exactly is wrong with that statement? Have you studied the myth parallels and have decided they have merit–which would put you in the same position that I’m in but having reached a different conclusion? Or have you not studied them and are content with parroting?

  91. #91 Carlie
    January 1, 2008

    Sorry Zeno, I forgot that Catholics generally don’t know Latin.
    Ok, I couldn’t even keep a straight face typing that. :)

  92. #92 ConcernedJoe
    January 1, 2008

    My dear heddle – with all due respect .. don’t you see that the mere fact that you have DIFFERENCES – be it more pronounced with SBC than with RC – is the point.. that the Truth you think you know is man-made and no more Truth than any blokes opinion.

    Rational people know there is no Truth (but there is a truth machine :-)) … science seeks truth (accepting what seems to work – never believing that whatever works is Truth – always trying to falsify if appropriate ). But you are lucky .. I am to tired explain.

    And BTW – why don’t you believe in the Hindu myths .. I mean like if you were born and raised in the back woods of India I suspect you’s consider that the Truth — no?

  93. #93 Carlie
    January 1, 2008

    I am very well aware of theonomy, and although I argue loudly against theonomy and for separation, the intellectual heavyweights for theonomy come precisely from my niche–reformed/postmillennialists. That is a minority (theonomists) within a minority (postmillennialists) within a minority (Calvinists)–there really aren’t many theonomists

    It’s amazing how much time and energy some people spend thinking, analyzing, and categorizing various arguments surrounding a position that is fundamentally as important and real as “What color is the Easter Bunny?”

  94. #94 heddle
    January 1, 2008

    ConcernedJoe,

    My dear heddle – with all due respect .. don’t you see that the mere fact that you have DIFFERENCES – be it more pronounced with SBC than with RC – is the point.. that the Truth you think you know is man-made and no more Truth than any blokes opinion.

    So the questions were designed to point out that there are substantive doctrinal differences among Christians? Is this another one of those things (like the pagan origins of the Christmas holiday) that we three-rows-of-buckteeth bumpkins don’t know about, but the elite commenters on Pharyngula do?

  95. #95 Carlie
    January 1, 2008

    Oh, heddle. nice to see you awake this morning. I hope you had a good New Year’s celebration?

    The point ConcernedJoe was making wasn’t just to say that there are substantial doctrinal differences among Christians. Of course there are, of course Christians realize it. He (or she) is simply trying to get you to the next level of comprehension, which is to realize that all of those many differences in interpretation and belief indicate that none of them have a superior basis to claim that they are “right”. If there is “One Truth” to God, then why is it that no one seems to quite get it? If a sentence can be easily interpreted and defended in a dozen different ways, then the reality is that it might not have been saying much of anything concrete in the first place.

    Or in other words, if God wants us to know and worship him so much, then why did he write such a crappy instruction manual that ever other group but yours has misinterpreted it?

  96. #96 heddle
    January 1, 2008

    Carlie,

    Thank you. I had a wonderful New Years with my beautiful bride.

    The substantive differences in doctrine are not ultimately important. Salvation is by faith–not by a passing grade on a theology exam. Like everywhere else–people think they are right in their doctrines–but I for one (and I suspect most others–but there I go projecting again) will not be surprised to find out I was wrong about many things. Somehow my certainty in my positions is often taken as a claim of doctrinal infallibility. On this site, where rational thought reigns supreme, I have seen many knockdown battles over the utility of torture, animal experimentation, appeasement with the Ken Miller types, etc. Apparently being wholly rational doesn’t guarantee unanimity. I am sure when rational person X argues with rational person Y, they both think they are right. But when a Christian (such as myself) thinks he is right in his doctrines, that is somehow “different.” But it’s rather like a genetic algorithm, if I didn’t think I was right I’d adapt until I did. Isn’t that what everyone does? In short, who holds opinions they think are wrong?

  97. #97 ConcernedJoe
    January 1, 2008

    Heddle – here is were you fail to take the next step — you just cannor grasp the points.. oh I suspect btw you are a very nice and good person and VERY intelligent – so nothing crass intended. But your delusion is so strong — your need to feel saved? (but from what?) — you just cannot believe others don’t in some base way think like you.

    THINK deeply about what we are saying..

    Try to see past your fixations. Let’s take a few examples. You say “In short, who holds opinions they think are wrong?” That is NOT the point — I think I am right at the time – it is a LOT different than thinking I hold the Truth. My opinion if I am rational – no matter how much at any one moment I thought I was absolutely spot on – will change (or should if I am true to myself) if facts and reason show me otherwise. You claim to know and hold the Truth… no SCIENTIST here should do likewise on any subject.

    Let’s take another … you blast use for pointing out doctrinal differences among Christians.. you again can see no further than the confines of your delusion bubble. You say all Christians believe in Jesus saves I think (in a Truth so to speak) and all else is fluff and no concern. OK – so what — what about among and between different delusion bubbles? Why isn’t Buddism the Truth? Or Hinduism?

    I don’t expect you’ll get it – I am not intending to be mean – but you believe in obvious fairy tales (hey if I was a Hindu I’d think your delusions are fairy tales wouldn’t I) — cannot hope that you’ll see beyond your own very keen but misused intelligence.

    Peace out

  98. #98 PZ Myers
    January 1, 2008

    PLEASE STOP ENGAGING HEDDLE.

    We’ve been through this before. The man is an absolute dogmatist committed to a bizarre theology, and these discussions always end up going on and on, with no one on the side of reason able to recognize how insane his beliefs are, so they keep trying to wrestle with them. You can’t. There’s no reason there.

    If you must babble with a lunatic, please do so on his blog.

  99. #99 John Phillips, FCD
    January 1, 2008

    Heddle said “I am well aware of theonomy etc…” then you are also aware of how much power and influence they wield, irrespective of their actual numbers.

    As to the point about the evolution remark, it was that I know you are a theist evolutionist, but and a big but, most American xians aren’t, and not just the most vocal and influential, as the survey shows. Think of the presidential debate for one such glaring example, and yes I know in some cases it is simply pandering to the gallery for their votes, but if the gallery had no power they wouldn’t need pandering to.

    Similarly, you defend these other xians, who even by your own standards are often not to be regarded as true Scotsmen, even when ex members of those cults who know them far better than you, tell you what they are really like based on their actual long term experience of living the life, rather than from just knowing a few. Thus you admit to belong to a minority cult yet expect us to believe that you can represent their views based on knowing a few. Yet when some here talk about knowing large numbers through having actually lived the life and walked the walk who say the opposite to what you claim, they must be discounted because they are only talking from their personal experience because your experience with a few outweighs their years of living it.

    And again, whether you like it or not, the majority of xians I meet, both on a personal level and on the web, really don’t know the history of their religion and that includes not knowing that xianity is a hodge podge of other religions. Oh they may have vaguely heard someone claim that xmas et al are only repackaged holy days from other religions, but few know any of the details, let alone accept it.

    Admittedly, in the UK, the lack of knowledge is often more a case of apathy toward religion in general, ironically, one of the advantages of a ‘state’ religion, unlike the US where the religion is often much more ‘packaged’ by an authority figure. However, even among the non apathetic active believer in the UK, the majority’s knowledge of their own religion’s history is at the very best, dim. Though that apathy toward religion in general is lessening, if only because of the elephant in the room, i.e. islam and to a far lesser extent, the US and GWB’s pronouncements about holy wars. Even then, the lessening of apathy in the UK doesn’t generally extend to finding out about religion beyond awareness of how it is being used by religious fundamentalists.

  100. #100 Carlie
    January 1, 2008

    heddle,
    Ok, now this is going somewhere interesting. Let’s take your proposition that most doctrinal differences are minor compared to salvation itself. Fair enough. Strip it down to the essence, since that was the whole idea of Protestantism before it got all mucked up with complexity. How do you ensure that you will go to Heaven when you die? That’s the major issue. The two major distinctions are faith versus works. Do you have to be a good person and do good things, or just believe the right things hard and deep and pure enough? On the one hand, by grace are you saved through faith, and that not from yourselves, it is a gift of God. On the other hand, there’s the parable of the vineyard where the one servant who doesn’t do enough work is banished, and the fact that works are pretty well emphasized through the whole New Testament. Those are two fundamentally different ways of going to Heaven, and most denominations take one way or the other.

    But let’s even brush those under the rug, and take the view that real faith reveals itself in works, so one is the evidence of the other, and if you have one you will have both. The good vine brings forth fruit, and the bad vine withers in the field and produces no fruit, and so on. So the works will just naturally follow. What does faith mean, then? When do you have it? How do you know you have enough? Walk into certain evangelical churches and ask about the “once saved, always saved” dilemma and you might see blood drawn faster than you can imagine. Am I going to Heaven? I did everything “right”. I believed with my whole heart that Jesus was the son of God and raised from the dead to cover all of our sins, and accepted that sacrifice and him as the lord and savior of my life. Then again, later I became an atheist. So what’s going on with my salvation? You’ll find just as many churches and Christians who believe that it’s a one-off declaration that covers my butt for eternity, so long as I was sincere when I did it, as you will find churches and Christians who say that it’s a dynamic process and that if you ever falter or renounce your beliefs, game over. And both of them have scripture to back them up on it. Does faith have to be continuous, or can it be discrete?

    And what about all those little tracts about salvation and what, exactly, you have to have faith in? I heard a pastor say something last year that really struck me (this was long after my deconversion). He said “Salvation is a very easy thing to understand, but if you read the Bible by yourself you might not get it.” And I thought, hm. Isn’t that kind of the most important main point of the Bible, without which the rest of it is entirely meaningless? Wouldn’t that be the kind of thing that God would be really clear on, even if nothing else? Shouldn’t there be one big “HERE’S HOW TO GO TO HEAVEN” chapter that lays it all out? And I started thinking about all of the tracts I passed out over the years, all of the verses I memorized, all of the step by step let’s take you through God’s Message of Salvation tutorials. The ABCs of salvation, the classic little blue booklet, the “let me ask you two simple questions” tracts. Every one of them is a set of verses, each taken from a different place. Even the Romans Road tract, so named because all of the verses come from the book of Romans, has all of the verses from different chapters, (and the fact that someone managed to find all appropriate verses for salvation in one book was feat enough to name the message after it, which kind of makes the point again). And it hit me. Quote mines. They’re all quote mines. Random sentences cobbled together from disparate parts of a book that was created by committee in the first place. No wonder there’s so much confusion on it.

    So even in the most basic, important, single doctrinal issue, there is enough schism just within Christianity, heck, just within Protestantism, to make the different views mutually exclusive. That’s a big part of the frustration with people who claim to be “right” about God.

  101. #101 Carlie
    January 1, 2008

    Oh, sorry again PZ. I couldn’t help it. Last word, I promise.

  102. #102 John Phillips, FCD
    January 1, 2008

    Sorry PZ, it is a slow lazy day and I had the time to spare, but your right, enough is enough. As they say, you can take a horse to water.

    A very Happy New Year to one and all, Heddle included :)

  103. #103 GDwarf
    January 1, 2008

    Heddle,

    First off, I find your request for a novel argument against religion to be odd. Why would we need new ones? The old ones work perfectly well. (I still haven’t seen a refutation to the problem of evil that didn’t remove God’s omnipotence.)

    As for what Christians believe, churches obviously don’t do surveys on this kind of thing, so at best we can use anecdotes. It’s far from perfect, but when it’s all you’ve got you may as well use it.

    In my case I taught Sunday School for a year and helped run a church summer camp for 3. At my church I’d say probably half of the church-goers know that the Wisemen didn’t show up on Christmas eve, while maybe 25% know the actual origin of the holiday.

    Is this conclusive proof of ignorance? No. But then, it doesn’t have to be. We’re showing that, contrary to your claim, not every Christian knows everything about every aspect of their faith. Most of the ones I know just remember what they were told in Sunday School, and don’t bother learning anything more. Why should they? After all, their Sunday School teachers wouldn’t lie to them, and the myths are much easier to remember if you keep them simple and don’t start adding in complications that are recorded in the bible.

    In addition, I’d argue (admittedly, with nothing more than anecdotal proof) that practically no Christians know that Christmas was originally Yule. It isn’t something that gets brought up in sermons or Sunday school. Nor is it something mentioned in the Bible. So they have no reason to ever find this out unless they do some research into the holiday, which not many of the ones I know do.

  104. #104 Ken Cope
    January 1, 2008

    Have you studied the myth parallels and have decided they have merit–which would put you in the same position that I’m in but having reached a different conclusion? Or have you not studied them and are content with parroting?

    –says the parrot of religious dogma. What does it mean to acknowledge myth parallels and decide they are meritless? Have you decided they are not myth parallels after all? Or have you merely chosen to ignore them, calling them not striking? What would constitute striking for you, anything less than a two by four to the head? What is so strikingly original and unparalleled about the miraculous portents attending the birth of the godhead in your favorite myth, just to begin with? First time ever trotted out in story form, or hoary old cliché, but not really parallel?

    What distinguishes your gospel from those myths?

    How many religious texts have you read? How many religious myths have you studied? How much analysis of mythic forms have you studied? How many courses in comparative religion have you taken? How many shelf feet of books on the subject in your personal library have you read? Any Joseph Campbell? How about Bullfinch? Those are a good start, but how much have you read about story telling and story forms? Have you looked at any other religion with anything other than scorn? Why am I bothering asking heddle? What basis could I possibly have for imagining heddle could ever be more than a pompous blowhard, bluffing and scarpering as usual?

  105. #105 Ken Cope
    January 1, 2008

    Sorry PZ, consider that my last response to heddle. It’s like punching at vacuum.

  106. #106 heddle
    January 1, 2008

    You should all listen to PZ and stop engaging me, this is his blog. But since I am not engaging myself, I’ll continue. First of all I want to address PZ’s rather indefensible comment:

    The man is an absolute dogmatist committed to a bizarre theology

    But in fact there is nothing bizarre about it–it is rather boilerplate. After all, all Calvinism (to use that term) is based on two simple precepts:

    1) That in man’s fallen state, he is unable to do anything to contribute to his own salvation and

    2) God will have mercy upon whom he will have mercy.

    That’s it. Point 1 may be wrong; the majority (American Evangelical) Christian position is that in man’s fallen state he is in dire straits, but he still has some vestigial goodness from which he can choose God.

    That, in a nutshell, is the difference. I don’t see how one view could be described as bizarre and not the other–so either PZ is saying all Christian theology is bizarre, in which case it is hardly worth mentioning and definitely not worth singling out Calvinism, or that the two points above are “especially bizarre,” which in my opinion is indefensible–unless the meaning of bizarre is much weaker than I thought. In short, he doesn’t have a clue.

    John Phillips, FCD

    And again, whether you like it or not, the majority of xians I meet, both on a personal level and on the web, really don’t know the history of their religion and that includes not knowing that xianity is a hodge podge of other religions.

    To this and other comments in the same vein–you are moving the goalposts. Of course I would not say they are aware that xianity is a hodge podge of other religions because, that is simply not true. Christianity is not a hodgepodge of other religions. Once again, what I have stated is that most Christians, like most educated people everywhere, know that the Christmas celebration has pagan roots. That’s the claim I have made.

    Carlie,

    Those are two fundamentally different ways of going to Heaven, and most denominations take one way or the other.

    Actually, that is not quite accurate. I know of no major denomination that teaches salvation by works. They all claim to teach salvation by faith. Now, one denomination might accuse another of teaching salvation by works, but I know of no major Protestant denomination that has it as a doctrinal position, and certainly the RCC would claim that it does not teach salvation by works.

    What does faith mean, then? When do you have it? How do you know you have enough?

    I can only speak for myself here–you have faith (as a gift) when (or logically, after) you are regenerated. That is, faith is given following regeneration. Many Christians, of course, believe the reverse: that faith precedes regeneration. Calvinism teaches you are reborn and then you believe; Arminianism teaches you believe and then you are reborn.

    You’ll find just as many churches and Christians who believe that it’s a one-off declaration that covers my butt for eternity, so long as I was sincere when I did it,

    Again, I would say sincerity has nothing or little to do with it. The bible has several instances (Matt 7) showing that people with sincere faith are not necessarily saved. And James tells us that even the demons believe. As for your salvation–that only thing that is certain in my mind is that if you were saved then you still are. The promise of eternal life is just that–if it can be revoked then you really didn’t have eternal life in the first place and God has been made a liar. John 3:16, while rarely used for the purpose, is a strong verse supporting eternal security.

    As for the Roman’s Road type tracts, then by now you will know that I disagree with them. They contain the “sincerely enough” clause. If I was of the belief that I had to be “sincere enough” in anything it would sure keep me up at night. To me, that would be bad news, not good news. As for assurance of salvation–that is too much to squeeze into these comments.

  107. #107 Rick T.
    January 1, 2008

    Rick T.
    I said to heddle,

    “Oh, and one more thing. If we are all predestined to be lost or saved, why the hell would you’re trolling behavior be of any consequence on this blog. We’re already lost.”
    heddle said,
    “Wow, you must be the first person to use this construct: If we are all predestined… then why bother to…. Augustine and Calvin must never have considered such a rebuttal. This is indeed the blog with the most intelligent commentary.”
    I didn’t ask Augustine and Calvin. I asked YOU. Why are YOU wasting your time on those who have made their decision. Could it be you are tempted to deconvert? Hang around in the guise of converting the lost but really subconsciously longing to give over to reason. That has to be it. No real Christian would waste time beating a dead horse instead of searching for the lost sheep if he really believed like you say you do.
    Sorry PZ, I thought I’d make one last try and use my psychology degree for something to see if it works.

  108. #108 katie
    January 1, 2008

    Didn’t we deal with this whole teleology thing way back in the day? Why do they keep recycling tired old arguments…? It makes my brain hurt :(

  109. #109 windy
    January 1, 2008

    Some of you might enjoy this quote from a Sophisticated Theologian:

    But it took 300 years before Christmas found its place. The winter solstice finally won over the spring equinox and Twelfth Night. This victory was not a historical reconstruction of the time of birth but a powerful pictorial meditation of the inner meaning of the birth of the Child. The sun wins over the darkness. Heavenly light finds its place among us. The light is now shining in the darkness, and the darkness has no power over it.

    -Martin Lönnebo, bishop emeritus of Linköping

  110. #110 Schooner
    January 1, 2008

    The historicity of Jesus, mystery religions, parallel myths, the origin of Christmas, etc. These tired objections possess as much ligitimacy as Rosie Ruiz in a marathon.

    To the trained theologian, these assertions are as worn out and as easily dispensed with as creationist claims trained biogists field here on a daily basis. How many times have we heard that the “Epic of Gilgamesh” or a similar text creates some horrid difficulty? Nearly as often as the contention that the Cambrian Explosion disproves evolution.

    Simply put, if there were a cataclysmic flood in antiquity, wouldn’t we demand that several myths abound recounting the event? If there were a Garden of Eden, wouldn’t we expect myths to flourish around it?

    Similarly, the principle holds for mystery and parallel religions. The problem for a belief holder, whatever the belief may be, is not the existence of similar concurrent thought forms, archetypes, of precursors, but the lack thereof. If something is a true account of the way things are, we should expect to see it arise within several thought-forms.

    Without characterizing evolution as a belief, we can note the identical principle at work: would it not be odd if humans did not have an uncanny notion that history moves forward, that things are progressing? It would be odd indeed if evolution is a true account of the world we live in that people by and large sensed that the world, or things in it, were not progressing. Evolution is constantly noted as being a theory that accounts for knowledge across a wide range of disciplines. Again, would it not be odd if truths posited by evolution did not resurface within physics, math, or geology?

    Therefore, the problem is never “there exist parallel accounts of something I hold to be true.” The problem is “there are not.”

    Regarding the historicity challenge posted in response 57, this is simply ignorance on the scale of “the world is flat.” It’s not 1875 anymore…

  111. #111 Carlie
    January 1, 2008

    Simply put, if there were a cataclysmic flood in antiquity, wouldn’t we demand that several myths abound recounting the event?

    Probably not, if everyone else on earth died because of it? Then there would be only one story, because only one small group survived? That is, unless you’re taking the angle that the Great Flood of the Bible referred to a regional flood, in which case there would be other areas with similar stories. But of course, then the Bible Flood story wouldn’t actually be entirely true, and we’re back to wondering what use it is. And the stories would be of similar ages, not that one is much younger than the others.

    If there were a Garden of Eden, wouldn’t we expect myths to flourish around it?

    Again, no, not if there were only two people to witness it in the first place. Kind of hard to create worldwide myths that way.

  112. #112 Foggg
    January 1, 2008

    I’m going to violate PZ’s request, since this is about PZ’s OP and not the finer points of myth&theology…

    heddle says:
    you can certainly imagine scenarios–the absurd/proverbial “made by God” written in a hundred languages including LOLcat on the side of the top quark.

    Your claim was this “would have nothing to say beyond the cold scientific fact that the purpose was life.”
    Instead, this scenario would not merely lead to the overwhelming inferences for the existence of a creator who understands and predicted certain human languages and that humans of those time periods were significant to this creator, but that the creator desired to communicate this to humans (if/when they had the tech to read quarks).
    This intended/purposed human-creator relationship goes far beyond “nothing except the purpose is life”, so for this scenario, PZ’s claim of contradiction was right and your’s of non-contradiction was wrong.

  113. #113 ConcernedJoe
    January 1, 2008

    Sorry PZ please don’t ban me for this transgression but I just have to…

    heddle — a mind is a terrible thing to waste – it is sad you are using your considerable grey matter to essentially build a case for the reality of fairy tales for yourself and others willing to believe in fairy tales.. it is both sad and laughable

    Good god heddle … there are many parallel myths and stories to all sorts of things NOT real.. fairies, gods, Santa Claus in various forms, witches, vampires, werewolves, etc. And yes we would expect primitives to draw similar inferences from experiences (the fire god comes to mind for those near volcano, or the various sun gods or etc etc). That is NOT our point .. our point is it is all imagination … most of us realize that the psychology of ignorance and fear and susceptibility to suggestion is pretty universal. You just hold your myth beliefs as the Truth. But I think Odin and his daughters and a well cast Wagnerian opera is a lot lot cooler and sexier!

    I know you are immutable when it comes to your beliefs .. but I have been listening to you and weighing what you say. But to be honest – if I wasn’t an atheist at the start of this tread .. largely thanks to you I’d sure be one now!

  114. #114 Ken Cope
    January 1, 2008

    Schooner, #137,

    I didn’t expect to see Velikovsky’s thesis advanced on Pharyngula.

  115. #115 Ichthyic
    January 1, 2008

    If something is a true account of the way things are, we should expect to see it arise within several thought-forms.

    incorrect.

    I give you the flat earth as an example.

    it isn’t always the case that parallelism connotes accuracy.

    human perception, based just on how sensory processing alone works, can result in entirely consistent, and yet also entirely inaccurate, conclusions across many disparate groups.

    that doesn’t make it “truth”.

  116. #116 Ichthyic
    January 1, 2008

    …my point being not that we shouldn’t expect something that is an accurate conclusion to be independently derivable, but that independent derivation isn’t, in and of itself, sufficient.

  117. #117 Rick T.
    January 1, 2008

    Carlie used clear logic to dismantle one point of yours.
    Let’s look at another.

    “Similarly, the principle holds for mystery and parallel religions. The problem for a belief holder, whatever the belief may be, is not the existence of similar concurrent thought forms, archetypes, of precursors, but the lack thereof. If something is a true account of the way things are, we should expect to see it arise within several thought-forms.”

    So it would be a problem if we didn’t see several dying and resurrection god men preceding Jesus. So, are these god men real, like Jesus, which would make him redundant and not so special, or are they mythological like Jesus? Or maybe, the myths precede Jesus and he turns out to be real. But why do you think we need all the imaginary buildup in order for the true event to be true? I think you’re full of crap.
    The early mystery religions recognized this early on and Christians came up with bullshit to counter it. For example, Satan knew of God’s plan beforehand (how, was he omniscient?)and devised a plan to discredit Christianity so people would perceive it as mythology. Is that what you expect us to believe? Or are you inadvertently correct in referring to Christianity as a “thought-form”?

  118. #118 Schooner
    January 1, 2008

    Ken: Never heard of Velikovsky.

    #144: “But why do you think we need all the imaginary buildup in order for the true event to be true?”

    I don’t. What I am saying is that if an event were true, the likelihood of parallel myths or accounts or data is greater than the absence of them.

    Your statement “The early mystery religions recognized this early on and Christians came up with bullshit to counter it” may be entirely true. So what. That is not what I am arguing. Settle down. Go back and read what I wrote. Relax.

    Moreover, why would I not think that Christianity is a thought-form? I fail to see why this is the insult you consider it.

    #142 “human perception, based just on how sensory processing alone works, can result in entirely consistent, and yet also entirely inaccurate, conclusions across many disparate groups.

    that doesn’t make it “truth”.

    Precisely, I agree. I am not arguing for the truth or falsity of the propositions above, just that citing parallel accounts is not an overly reliable method of falsifying someone’s claim.

    This is rather easy to demonstrate. In fact, it happens virtually everyday to the scientific community. How often has a creationist cited a questionable scientific hypothesis or truth claim to suggest that evolution is not true. Haeckel comes to mind. I am certain from your own experience you could cite better. Does this invalidate evolution? Of course not. But the similarity in argumentation above is noteworthy.

    Now for Carlie’s clear logic…

    I am not arguing that myths are true; however, assume that the worldwide flood is true, as the premise Carlie reasons from in #138:

    “Probably not, if everyone else on earth died because of it? Then there would be only one story, because only one small group survived?”

    But didn’t the nations of the earth arise from this one small group? To be consistent with Carlie’s premise, yes. Thus, multiple myths are exactly what we would predict under such circumstances. The same holds for the Garden of Eden objection as set forth by Carlie: if all arose from Adam & Eve, we would predict their descendants to carry an Edenic myth forward.

    Time for remedial logic, Rick :)

  119. #119 Ichthyic
    January 1, 2008

    Precisely, I agree. I am not arguing for the truth or falsity of the propositions above, just that citing parallel accounts is not an overly reliable method of falsifying someone’s claim.

    no, my point was the converse.

    that citing parallel observations is not a reliable way of confirming a conclusion about those observations. hence, when most thought the world flat, it obviously was not.

    This is rather easy to demonstrate. In fact, it happens virtually everyday to the scientific community. How often has a creationist cited a questionable scientific hypothesis or truth claim to suggest that evolution is not true. Haeckel comes to mind. I am certain from your own experience you could cite better. Does this invalidate evolution? Of course not. But the similarity in argumentation above is noteworthy.

    best i can say to that is…

    huh?

    Time for remedial logic, Rick :)

    show some, and i think you would be more credible.

  120. #120 Schooner
    January 1, 2008

    “that citing parallel observations is not a reliable way of confirming a conclusion about those observations.”

    This is nearly an identical statement to what I am arguing. Thanks for agreeing.

    If I read you correctly, your contention also seems to be that I am arguing that parallel accounts prove something true. I am not. I am arguing they are no cause for falsification.

  121. #121 Tulse
    January 1, 2008

    So it would be a problem if we didn’t see several dying and resurrection god men preceding Jesus. So, are these god men real, like Jesus, which would make him redundant and not so special, or are they mythological like Jesus?

    Exactly, Rick T. If the events of the Bible are real, then we shouldn’t expect to see similar accounts in other myths, any more than we should expect to see myths in other cultures about a tall man who wears stovepipe hats and frees slaves before being assassinated.

  122. #122 El Cid
    January 1, 2008

    Why is it simply impossible for so many faithful to imagine a God capable of creating a Universe, or life for that matter, without leaving the slightest bit of evidence for His role?

    They imagine that God can do all sorts of other impossible things — why not this? Why must God have to have this specific weakness?

  123. #123 Monado
    January 2, 2008

    Thanks, Zeno (#48). I have to be careful what I say because the Other GRandparentS have custody and they can be very touchy. I once once ordered out of their house for saying, “Let’s go home” instead of “Let’s go to my house” because her only home is their home. And naturally I’m not supposed to say anything that will disturb her religious beliefs or talk about what THEY believe. E.g., saying that if she’d given up pizza for Lent it was up to her if she maintained that at our house. That earned us a letter of reprimand. But apparently they can talk about ME – as the starter to our conversation was, “If you’re not a Christian, what ARE you?”

    I like the idea of asking her to come up with sources, though.

  124. #124 Tulse
    January 2, 2008

    El Cid, you miss the point. God could leave no evidence, or alternatively leave absolutely conclusive evidence, but according to the faithful He chooses to leave ambiguous evidence — He’s tricksy like that.

  125. #125 Monado
    January 2, 2008

    PZ, isn’t that just another version of “Don’t try to wrestle a pig: you get covered in mud, you can’t throw it, and the pig enjoys it”?

  126. #126 Monado
    January 2, 2008

    Some “logic” is completely self-referential. There used to be a woman who would stand on an overpass above the Don Valley Parkway, apparently blessing the cars. People used to wave and think, “How cute!” But I was out biking one day and stopped to chat. I asked what she was doing. “I’m keeping China and Russia from invading us.” “How does that work?” I asked brightly. She said, in essence, “I’m keeping them away by doing.” She was dead serious. I never did find out the mechanism but it seems to have worked. Evenually she disappeared, presumably into an insane asylum.

  127. #127 Rick T.
    January 2, 2008

    “But didn’t the nations of the earth arise from this one small group? To be consistent with Carlie’s premise, yes. Thus, multiple myths are exactly what we would predict under such circumstances. The same holds for the Garden of Eden objection as set forth by Carlie: if all arose from Adam & Eve, we would predict their descendants to carry an Edenic myth forward.

    Time for remedial logic, Rick :)”

    My special remedial logic works this way. If there are flood myths and Eden myths which PREDATE the Biblical events then I can assume that they were independent of and not derived from the Bible. That means they couldn’t have been referring to the Biblical flood or the Garden of Eden.
    My logic tells me that (1) the Bible MAY have borrowed from earlier tales or (2)arose independently or (3) that the flood actually happened.
    The first case is probable. The second is possible but not likely and the third has been disproved by scientific methods at least on a world wide level within the time frame creationists give for the event which makes the story a myth not a fact.
    That’s how my logic works.

  128. #128 windy
    January 2, 2008

    If the events of the Bible are real, then we shouldn’t expect to see similar accounts in other myths, any more than we should expect to see myths in other cultures about a tall man who wears stovepipe hats and frees slaves before being assassinated.

    You could imagine the John Frum cultists or similar having a spinoff Lincoln cult. Not very problematic until they start claiming that their Stovepipe-hat-man is the one true Stovepipe-hat-man, preceded the historical Lincoln, and that he invented stovepipe hats and the concept of freeing slaves. (Hey, it worked for the Christians.)

  129. #129 El Cid
    January 2, 2008

    You could imagine the John Frum cultists or similar having a spinoff Lincoln cult. Not very problematic until they start claiming that their Stovepipe-hat-man is the one true Stovepipe-hat-man, preceded the historical Lincoln, and that he invented stovepipe hats and the concept of freeing slaves. (Hey, it worked for the Christians.)
    Posted by: windy

    Yes, but then they would have to divide into debates on what he really meant by freeing the slaves, with plenty of people concluding that although it was the right thing to do to free those particular slaves, it was not a commandment against slavery in general.

  130. #130 Tulse
    January 2, 2008

    although it was the right thing to do to free those particular slaves, it was not a commandment against slavery in general.

    No, no, no, El Cid, the “slavery” has to be seen in allegorical terms. You simply can’t interpret it literally like all those simplistic fundalincolnists.

  131. #131 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 2, 2008

    Without characterizing evolution as a belief, we can note the identical principle at work: would it not be odd if humans did not have an uncanny notion that history moves forward, that things are progressing?

    You are confusing evolution with progress. Evolution is not progress. Evolution goes in whatever direction the enviroment happens to favor at the moment.

    Incidentally, progress in human history was not generally noted before the 19th century, when it was turned into an ideology (Marx’s “historical inevitabilities” and all that jazz).

    Evolution is constantly noted as being a theory that accounts for knowledge across a wide range of disciplines. Again, would it not be odd if truths posited by evolution did not resurface within physics, math, or geology?

    To the contrary. By definition, evolution requires entities that reproduce and inherit. There aren’t many such entities. Living beings are; languages are; universes might be according to Lee Smolin. That, AFAIK, is it. Rocks don’t evolve, stars don’t evolve, numbers don’t evolve…

    Besides, I wouldn’t use the word “truths”. The theory of evolution is science. It is falsifiable, but not provable; it is about reality, not about truth. Truth is for philosophers, if anyone.

  132. #132 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 2, 2008

    Without characterizing evolution as a belief, we can note the identical principle at work: would it not be odd if humans did not have an uncanny notion that history moves forward, that things are progressing?

    You are confusing evolution with progress. Evolution is not progress. Evolution goes in whatever direction the enviroment happens to favor at the moment.

    Incidentally, progress in human history was not generally noted before the 19th century, when it was turned into an ideology (Marx’s “historical inevitabilities” and all that jazz).

    Evolution is constantly noted as being a theory that accounts for knowledge across a wide range of disciplines. Again, would it not be odd if truths posited by evolution did not resurface within physics, math, or geology?

    To the contrary. By definition, evolution requires entities that reproduce and inherit. There aren’t many such entities. Living beings are; languages are; universes might be according to Lee Smolin. That, AFAIK, is it. Rocks don’t evolve, stars don’t evolve, numbers don’t evolve…

    Besides, I wouldn’t use the word “truths”. The theory of evolution is science. It is falsifiable, but not provable; it is about reality, not about truth. Truth is for philosophers, if anyone.

  133. #133 El Cid
    January 2, 2008

    No, no, no, El Cid, the “slavery” has to be seen in allegorical terms. You simply can’t interpret it literally like all those simplistic fundalincolnists.
    Posted by: Tulse

    Ah. So we should only free allegorical slaves? Or only end allegorical slavery? And what do alligators think of Emancipation anyway?

  134. #134 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 2, 2008

    There will be a large handful of American Christians of a certain age who could do it after a fashion, but only if you ask them to sing Rich Mullens’ song “Apostle’s Creed” for you, and a lot of them won’t have any idea of the connection it has with the history of their faith.

    That’s not the same. The Nicene Creed is much longer than the Apostle’s Creed (because it mentions a lot of things that various heretics had contested).

    and certainly the RCC would claim that it does not teach salvation by works.

    The RCC teaches that both are required (which is what Luther explicitely argued against: “sola fides”). Works are emphasized in several places in the NT, and there are various other verses that, while emphasizing the importance of faith generally, also emphasize it isn’t the whole story, most famously 1 Corinthians 13:2.

    You are probably right, though, that there’s no denomination that teaches salvation by works alone. Even though this view, too, is in the NT, e.g. John 5:29.

    I can only speak for myself here–you have faith (as a gift) when (or logically, after) you are regenerated. That is, faith is given following regeneration. Many Christians, of course, believe the reverse: that faith precedes regeneration. Calvinism teaches you are reborn and then you believe; Arminianism teaches you believe and then you are reborn.

    So instead of salvation through faith, it’s faith through salvation?

  135. #135 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 2, 2008

    There will be a large handful of American Christians of a certain age who could do it after a fashion, but only if you ask them to sing Rich Mullens’ song “Apostle’s Creed” for you, and a lot of them won’t have any idea of the connection it has with the history of their faith.

    That’s not the same. The Nicene Creed is much longer than the Apostle’s Creed (because it mentions a lot of things that various heretics had contested).

    and certainly the RCC would claim that it does not teach salvation by works.

    The RCC teaches that both are required (which is what Luther explicitely argued against: “sola fides”). Works are emphasized in several places in the NT, and there are various other verses that, while emphasizing the importance of faith generally, also emphasize it isn’t the whole story, most famously 1 Corinthians 13:2.

    You are probably right, though, that there’s no denomination that teaches salvation by works alone. Even though this view, too, is in the NT, e.g. John 5:29.

    I can only speak for myself here–you have faith (as a gift) when (or logically, after) you are regenerated. That is, faith is given following regeneration. Many Christians, of course, believe the reverse: that faith precedes regeneration. Calvinism teaches you are reborn and then you believe; Arminianism teaches you believe and then you are reborn.

    So instead of salvation through faith, it’s faith through salvation?

  136. #136 windy
    January 2, 2008

    Ah. So we should only free allegorical slaves? Or only end allegorical slavery?

    “End allegorical slavery”, hmm… slavery is about labor, allegories are sort of like metaphors… it obviously means “do not labor the metaphor”!

    Of course I could be wrong since I’m not an experienced linconologist and have not even read Brenner’s treatise on Abe Lincoln’s hat.

  137. #137 Schooner
    January 2, 2008

    #158-nice post.

    “You are confusing evolution with progress. Evolution is not progress. Evolution goes in whatever direction the environment happens to favor at the moment.”

    Yeah, I was sloppy. It’s obvious, now that you mention it. Thanks for the correction. The analogy to history was a particularly bad choice, but it’s the analogy that was bad and not necessarily the argument. Substitute change, or whatever makes sense to you and see if it works better.

    “Incidentally, progress in human history was not generally noted before the 19th century, when it was turned into an ideology (Marx’s “historical inevitabilities” and all that jazz).”

    No reason to quibble about this, although we could note in passing that Marx borrowed from Hegel, the Enlightenment and the Renaissance both reflected on the middle and dark ages, Hume and Kant postulated a progressive shift in Philosophy, the Magna Carta, Mohammedans thought they were the last improvement on Monotheism, the Christians realized a progressive revelation from Judaism, Euclidian geometry, Greek civilization posturing itself above the barbarous others, and the general tenor of ancient nation states arising from tribal clans–even Gilgamesh, which among others started this discussion, features a theme regarding the Sumerian advance from uncivilized nature. Mostly western, of course and non-monolithic, but the general trend seems to be progressive with those within each tradition considering themselves an advance on previous ages or concurrent cultures, whether they are or not in the final analysis from our perspective.
    I suppose that was a minor quibble, after all.

    “Evolution is constantly noted as being a theory that accounts for knowledge across a wide range of disciplines. Again, would it not be odd if truths posited by evolution did not resurface within physics, math, or geology?”

    “To the contrary. By definition, evolution requires entities that reproduce and inherit. There aren’t many such entities. Living beings are; languages are; universes might be according to Lee Smolin. That, AFAIK, is it. Rocks don’t evolve, stars don’t evolve, numbers don’t evolve…”

    OK, I acknowledge my weak definitions yet again; however, the theory in actual practice appears to claim more than just living entities, i.e., natural selection. For example, it is normative for the theory to postulate large stretches of time (from our perspective). This view resurfaces in geology and astronomy. It would be odd if it did not.

    “Besides, I wouldn’t use the word “truths”. The theory of evolution is science. It is falsifiable, but not provable; it is about reality, not about truth. Truth is for philosophers, if anyone.”

    Very perceptive on your part. No quarrel with substituting reality for truth in this instance.

  138. #138 ~C4Chaos
    January 6, 2008

    “If we’re going to discover an ultimate purpose, it will be through the process of studying our universe — through science.”

    i agree. but your view would be limited only by your definition of “science.” does your science include soft sciences or just the hard sciences? what are your views on “mysticism” as a form of soft science? (e.g. as Sam Harris proposes Contemplative Science)

    but for the record, i agree with your critique of Behe.

    ~C

  139. #139 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    March 25, 2008

    FWIW, catching up on old threads:

    @ heddle:

    I did not follow the discussion at Laelap, so you’ll have to provide a link, if you want.

    It was just a heads up to those other commentators, sorry. I repeated the argument here.

    The difference between PM and MN can be described as “the sum of gaps”, which is why it is a gap argument. You didn’t really explain why yours (or Behe’s) argument leads from MN to design – do you say that IDC is a tested science? But that is an unwarranted assumption. And as the appearance of design in biology is already explained by evolution, and the finetuning argument is a fallacy of probability, what remains?

    @ John:

    I will answer over there.

  140. #140 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    March 25, 2008

    FWIW, catching up on old threads:

    @ heddle:

    I did not follow the discussion at Laelap, so you’ll have to provide a link, if you want.

    It was just a heads up to those other commentators, sorry. I repeated the argument here.

    The difference between PM and MN can be described as “the sum of gaps”, which is why it is a gap argument. You didn’t really explain why yours (or Behe’s) argument leads from MN to design – do you say that IDC is a tested science? But that is an unwarranted assumption. And as the appearance of design in biology is already explained by evolution, and the finetuning argument is a fallacy of probability, what remains?

    @ John:

    I will answer over there.

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