I saw on Facebook that Richard Dawkins had summarily dispatched the God of the Bible. Not only so, but he did it in under three minutes. I found out about this feat of legerdemain because Ken Ham’s answer to this elegant business showed up in my feed, and so then I went and checked it all out. Now I must admit that watching this kind of thing does make me want to have a go at it myself, but nothing here should be interpreted as finding fault with Ham’s response. It was a good sturdy response to Dawkins, albeit somewhat solemn.
So I rise to contest the first thirty seconds or so of Dawkins’ homily.
First, Dawkins announced that the burden of proof is not on the atheist, but rather on the theist. Actually, the burden of demonstration lies with whoever makes a dogmatic claim — and this is not really dependent upon whether the claim is positive or negative. If I state dogmatically that there is gold in Alaska, I may, without being insulted, be asked for my reasons. If a man does in the other direction, and insists that there is no gold in Alaska, the same thing is going to happen to him. There will be a Q & A.
And in such a time, an interlocutor might go so far as to mention to our no-gold-in-Alaska dogmatist that proofs of universal negative claims are a bit harder to come by. A positive claim might be vindicated by the first venture of panning in the first brook you came to. But to vindicate a negative claim, one would have to dig up all of Alaska, all the way down.
This is why shrewd nonbelievers, among whom we do not count Richard Dawkins, usually retreat to a form of agnosticism. They seem to thereby avoid the burden of a universal negative claim, and don’t come off nearly so bombastic. But there is usually some dogmatic theology hidden in there somewhere. As Samuel Leith once pointed out, here are three kinds of agnostics. One says he doesn’t know, but wishes he did. The answer to him is the promise of Christ. Seek and ye shall find. He won’t be an agnostic long. The next is the agnosticism of someone who spends all his time in nightclubs cruising for sex. “I don’t know and I don’t care.” This guy doesn’t require an answer. It is not an intellectual stance.
But then there is the dogmatic agnostic. “I don’t know, you don’t know, and nobody can know.” But notice that this is not really a profession of ignorance. It necessarily contains within it a dogmatic claim about the nature of God. We don’t know if He exists or not, but if He does, He is the kind of being who cannot be known by us. But how did we learn that important truth about Him? When did we learn it? What branch of theology is this? What sacred book reveals this to us? When did we find out that this was among the attributes of God?
This third kind of agnosticism makes an astonishing claim, and so may reasonably be called upon to give reasons for it. In other words, this kind of agnosticism is just atheism in camo gear. But Dawkins has no camo gear. He is out there on the plains of battle shivering in his skivvies. Plain and simple — “there is no God.” So let us make some observations.
I do want to say in passing that Richard Dawkins began his reasoning by taking quite an ungentlemanly shot at fairies. Let us in charity overlook it. We don’t want to encourage him. He’ll be after the cherubim next.
But then wham. He allows that a universe with a God would be “a very different kind of universe than one without.” In this statement, Dawkins has been striding confidently down the avenue of his unbelief, head down and arms swinging, and he has walked into a telephone pole. In my little parable, the telephone pole stands for a tall, rigid, hard, brown, and creosoted truth.
Now I am quite prepared to grant that Dawkins’ articulation of this truth was entirely fortuitous — that is to say, inadvertent. It was unintended, and by this I mean unintentional. His discovery was unplanned, unpremeditated, and unwitting. In other words, the end result of his blind flailing actually resulted in a master stroke, in much the same way that the blind genetic yearnings of some little microscopic bits of matter floating in Atlantic foam eventually wound up as a sperm whale. A lot like that, actually.
Take heed to what the gentleman has now said. A universe with a God would be very different than a world without a God. For starters, a world with a God would be one in which non-material entities — like logical propositions — could be reasonably aligned with facts in the material world, such that we could call such propositions either “true” or “false.”
In a world without God, we have no reason for thinking that the chemicals churning around in Dawkins’ brain have any relation whatever to the affairs of the outside world, any more than the clouds in my coffee are doing shrewd stock market analysis. In a world without God, atoms bang away over here in this way, and some other atoms bang away over there in another way, and so we consequently have no reason to believe that our thoughts on the matter are in any way true, which then takes away from us our one remaining solace in the fact that any atoms are banging away at all. We know nothing. We can’t even know that we know nothing, for to know that we know nothing is a species of knowledge. But then, even a blank nihilism pursued for the sake of consistency is in fact an attempt at consistency, and all such attempts are self-contradictory. But trying to stop it is self-contradictory also. Atheism is a high and demanding calling, and someone should point out that no one has ever actually attained to it yet.
Look at it another way. Dawkins picks up a banana and acknowledges that it has the appearance of design. It is not designed, he maintains, but natural selection makes it look as though it were. That is only the appearance of design, you chump. Okay, let us take that picture of Dawkins dismissing the banana and zoom out, shall we? Now we are looking at Dawkins tossing a banana on the table, and doing so as though he were actually arguing something. But is he? It seems that he is also just part of these appearances. Dawkins’ argument has the appearance of design. There is nothing to it but blind chance, right?
Dawkins might try to reply that his argument has actual design and rationality because he is the one who designed it. He framed the argument, and so it is therefore designed — but by Dawkins, not God. But who is Dawkins? Excuse me, what is Dawkins? I have just learned from Dawkins that he is just a complicated banana, only less yellow. He is not arguing for atheism because atheism is true. Given his premises, he can no more do that than the banana can.
Given his assumptions, we cannot have atheism. We can only have the appearance of atheism. If it is true, then atheism collapses under its own weight. If it is claimed to be false, and an atheist wants to argue — as Dawkins wants to argue — that his atheism is more than merely the appearance of atheism, then he must give an accounting for real design, real purpose, real rationality, real correspondence, and a real telos. And in his world without God, he cannot have any of those things. This is because, as Dawkins noted, a world without God is very different from a world with a God.
Last comment. In trying to give an account of Dawkins’ behavior here, there are only two real possibilities. One is that Dawkins grasps the force of this argument, and he assiduously avoids debating people who would bring it. This would mean that he is being disingenuous — because the argument does require an answer. If the challenge is seen, intellectual honesty requires an answer.
The second possibility is that Dawkins does not have the intellectual chops even to comprehend the argument. His training was apparently too specialized and provincial, and he has no idea that meta-premises even exist. When you point out that any claims he makes about the world would have to include the maker of such claims as part of that same world, submitting of necessity to the same conditions, he just blinks and says nothing. Some philosophy major is playing word games. That doesn’t require an answer, does it?
Oh, but it does.
Well said. I have a thing for atheists because they always seem to inadvertently reason their way to God. They may not be able to see it, but when I attempt to follow their logic I always arrive there. This is something I hear quite often, “Dawkins announced that the burden of proof is not on the atheist, but rather on the theist.” People don’t realize it, but Who do they suppose they are arguing with in the first place? “God, the burden of proof for your non existence lies with you. I demand You prove You don’t exist.” Needless… Read more »
Of your two conclusions, Doug, I would opt for the former, with a caveat. Dawkins has actually “debated” someone who took on a few of these inconsistencies (and did so winsomely, see around 12:20, for instance), but by the end it seems that he has done so merely for the appearance of debating, which nicely brings us back to the dance you were introducing.
For anyone who cares to watch, it’s worth the time (Dawkins vs. Lennox):
I just started watching it. I am struck by the nature of the discussion between the two. The nature is of the sort that RandMan disparages here on this blog. The discussion is meta-physical.
UPDATE: at 34:10 the discussion between the two transitions to the exact same discussion I am having with RandMan on a different thread.
Fascinating stuff. thx
There are a few points in the debate where Lennox lets Dawkins off the hook, and a few points where Dawkins is unwilling to concede the logical consequences of his position (though he does so elsewhere with nihilism, for instance). In the end, neither debater pushes hard enough to truly draw the kind of stark distinctions necessary to press decision, but the back-and-forth is rational, polite, and elucidating nonetheless.
Glad you’ve found it profitable.
In the video, Dawkins repeatedly argued that “simple evolves into complex” and that “arguing from complex to simple” makes no sense. (I don’t know that I am stating that correctly) This line of thought is correct in scientific reasoning. We start with (create) simple truths and build complex things with them; A is A being one of the fundamental ones. Noting this truth does not negate the other way around (what is the logical term for this?). When we build things, we necessarily create things that are simpler than ourselves. Even our systems are less complex than our natural order.… Read more »
“In the video, Dawkins repeatedly argued that “simple evolves into complex” and that “arguing from complex to simple” makes no sense.”
Dawkins argumemt here is essentialy ‘assuming god doesn’t exist then god doesn’t exist’
Dawkins supposes that God must be complex because of His properties, and that this ought to present a complexity problem for Christians. On his side, Dawkins assumes that his materialism gets to start with simple things, which exhibit more complex things, over time. As in Conway’s Game of Life automata, Dawkins thinks he sees just a few simple rules which produce a glorious variety of complexity. He can’t have it both ways though. Why should a few simple rules produce such variety and complexity? Doesn’t this suggest something rather astounding about those rules? Why should rules of the universe be… Read more »
Sometime ago, a critic of this blog asked why anyone reads Wilson anyway? This is why!
Of course atheists are making no claim. Theists are. A usual semi-desperate first shot from christians like yourself to even the playing field in the hope that one will just idiotically gloss over it: “Oh you are right, the burden of proof must be on me to prove that there isn’t something!” Easily dismissed.
Who assigns the burden of proof?
Anyone listening to someone making a truth claim about the nature of the universe. Wilson and whoever else claims there is a god. They claim the know what he thinks based on faith and revelation. They hold the burden of proof. Fairly straightforward.
So the hearer assigns the burden of proof?
Are you really after something? If so, maybe don’t play coy. Shoot straight.
I put to you a clear and simple question, based on your statement beginning “Anyone listening to someone….”
Of course anyone listening to a truth claim can place the burden of proof.
“Of course anyone listening to a truth claim can place the burden of proof.”
And herein lies the error of answering the fool according to his folly: You implicitly affirm the one assumption that autonomous man truly cares about.
Dear Mr (?) RandMan,
You sound just like a student in an exam faced with a hard proof which he answers by stating the conclusion without supplying the intermediate steps. Sometimes it works. Mostly not.
Mr. RandMan, your statement is itself a truth claim (concerning the nature of the universe). Therefore, I must politely ask you to prove why “anyone listening to someone making a truth claim about the nature of the universe” has the burden of proof.
“Of course atheists are making no claim.”
But other than that, by coming on here and saying we’re all knuckle-dragging inbreds who refuse to see the universe as it *actually* is, you’re making a positive claim about what the universe *actually* is, and we missed it.
We just want you to tell us how you know that. Enlighten us if you will, or can.
And I again ask, since Dawkins brought it up, how would a theistic universe differ from an atheistic universe? How do you know?
I don’t recall making a truth claim about ‘what the universe actually is’ or referring to anyone as an ‘inbred’. Misrepresentation.
But if you wish I can drop some facts about ‘what the universe actually is’ and the evidence to support it? But I know nobody wants that… even me. And I will not ad hom anyone. So there’s that.
“Of course atheists are making no claim.” Then: “Just look at my mountain of evidence!” smh
I am making a claim that evolution is true. That is what I am referring to. Yes, look at the mountain of evidence.
The problem is that the mountain looks like it’s held together by a lot of speculation and assumptions.
That would be a misunderstanding of the nature of what evidence is.
I have. It is negligible. And what there is is unconvincing.
Don’t conflate atheism and belief in evolution, even though there is some overlap. Some theists believe in evolution; some atheists do not.
Gotta say that’s ballsy coming in here and exposing the nature of atheistic thinking; kudos to you. My prayer is that it is as a result of the Father drawing you to His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, (see John 6:44). You are of course welcome, but please know that you are demonstrating the truths of Psalm 14 and 53, please take the time to read them. Bottom line is that you must repent and believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved from that which you have earned, the justice of God, John 3:36, Romans 3:5. Please… Read more »
I do appreciate you earnestness there but you waste your effort. So you know, I was an evangelical christian for 20 years. I am an apostate. I understand the bible, the gospel and spent every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening of that in bible school studying in addition to services. I understand the gospel. Some here may find this dismaying, but I have even given a sermon (uncomfortably and not very well) from the pulpit before.
I am now liberated.
The term liberated suggests a previous sense of oppression. Can you look back and see in what way your previous religious beliefs were oppressive? Was it an overwhelming sense of sin, or an inability to believe as you felt you should? Were you aware of your feelings at the time, or was it only when you left that you felt you had been freed? Do you believe you would have reached the same conclusions regardless of the Christian denomination in which you had found yourself? These are very personal questions, so please feel free to tell me you don’t want… Read more »
Hi jillybean… I was a believer. I believed in sin and the redemptive power of the gospel. I took communion and viewed the world through the lens of the NT. But cracks began to appear and spread to other cracks. I realized one day that it took more and more of an extraordinary effort to get around the glaring contradictions in the bible. The mean-spiritedness of the way the gospel was practiced. The local nature of belief. The so-called ‘christian love’ that allowed people to commit some pretty awful transgressions and rationalize them away with a perverse pride. Not unlike… Read more »
I am now curious, how mean spirited do I appear to you?
You Christopher? Not at all.
RandMan – Very sad. You’ll find all those exact same human foibles — usually far worse, including the cultic stuff — out in the atheist world, but without any power to overcome them in yourself. It’s called sinful humanity. There’s no excuse for it either in the Church or outside of it. And you can find your intense responsibility and gratitude have an object in the God who loves you, holds you accountable, and offers you true grace, rather than an ultimately meaningless existence. I admire your courage but I think you’ll find you are just another kind of veal… Read more »
Well, you are correct in one respect. Humanity is humanity. I believe that. However, the part you are seeming to not understand or dismiss is the christianity part of my story! I found it to be untrue, historically inaccurate and the bible morally challenged in the end. There is no evidence for god and eventually the soufflé fell apart. You also make a rather large mistake assuming my existence is meaningless. I have a great many things that give meaning to my life: my family and child, my art, my old and dear friendships, my new ones, ideas, love, music,… Read more »
Yet that is not what Christianity teaches. Jesus does not want to condemn men, he wants to save them.
Well, he and his pop sure have a waiting list of people on their way yo hell. Apparently anyone not in the CREC. That’s conservatively 99.99999% of every human being that has ever lived. All burning in everlasting torment.
I mean, how dumb. Really, just stupid. I am so glad not to believe in that. And what an awful idea to teach a child. Not humanity at it’s finest.
So God should force men into heaven who don’t want to be with him?
“Apparently anyone not in the CREC.”
That is not even close to a reasonable claim.
I think the followers of c. darwin do have a lot of ethical explaining to do. Genocide and evolutionary thought seem to go together pretty well.
Ahh, that canard. You can look through my disqus (which is open) I and others have gone through that one about a half dozen times. You’re not doing yourself any favors.
But, even if I believed that genocide is the likely result of an acceptance of evolutionary theory, that doesn’t tell me whether the theory is true. I actually think that the human race has consistently practiced genocide from time to time regardless of people’s religious and ethical beliefs. But, if evolution is false, it is false because it does not comport with the evidence and for no other reason. One reason the Catholic church persecuted Galileo was their concern that widespread belief in a heliocentric system would deprive man of his special status within the universe. This, it was feared,… Read more »
No one has ever been able to explain to me the association between darwin’s followers and genocide.
Certainly genocide has been committed throughout the ages, it is just that darwinians are so good at it.
Does genocide make their faith untrue? No, but it does make fundamentalist darwinianism hard to accept.
The ancients thought the earth was lowly compared to the heavens, not central.
And Galileo was a jerk which is why he got into problems None of the other heliocentrists had the same problems.
Read this. If you find it interesting I link to something more substantive.
Yes, please, I did find it interesting. It seemed to me that Galileo did try to cooperate with the authorities to some extent. From what I have read, he largely obeyed the Admonition of 1616. But the church was not acting in good faith with him. Bellarmine okayed a limited dissemination of the theory as long as it was hypothetical, but once Galileo had the telescope he could not be expected to assert there was no evidence. Galileo followed the rules the church set down for publication of his work only to be thwarted at every turn. On the other… Read more »
David Bentley Hart has written a book titled Atheist Delusions. This is a chapter from it on Galileo. Here is a thesis on the issues concerning the Galileo affair. Francis Bacon who lived at the same time as Galileo has better claim to empiricism and the scientific method. Galileo got some things right (like heliocentricism). But he borrowed this from others. The science of the day couldn’t prove heliocentricism over geocentricism (though the latter aesthetically more pleasing). He wasn’t sympathetic to Kepler who was a much better (and humbler) scientist than Galileo. Galileo wouldn’t divulge evidence when requested. Galileo was… Read more »
“Apparently anyone not in the CREC.” Well there’s a response that I’m sure you have mountains of evidence for…. Just kidding. I know you were speaking rhetorically. But rhertoric usually uses words that can be parsed, literally, as not true, or not completely true. And they are used to point effectively, openly, and honestly (because both the speaker and listeners know the speaker is not trying to be literally precisely true) to a truth. This rhetorical throw-away line is completely in the wrong direction. Why would you say such a thing unless you are ignorant of the CREC, or lying,… Read more »
I of course do not believe that. But if you are a reformed calvinist (not making assumptions about you personally) how is it in the wrong direction? Who goes to heaven?
Those who believe in the ‘true’ religions with the ‘true’ doctrine the ‘right’ way.
Who is that to the mind of the Wilsons out there? Catholics? Anglicans? Baptists? Pentecostals, Christian Scientists? Unitarians Forget about followers of islam, sikhs, hindus, buddhists, jainists, scientologists etc. I guess it’s another mystery. We’ll have to wait for judgement day.
Thanks – I didn’t dismiss it. I’ve been a Christian for over thirty years and I’ve continually found it to be vindicated. So how can two reasonable people come to such different conclusions? Clearly, human reason is not capable of comprehending God. I’m not saying that my faith violates reason. I’m saying that human reason simply cannot see far enough, that the faculties in which you are trusting to find the truth are faulty and corrupted. The unconverted person does not have the faculty to perceive God, and will fall for delusions such as evolution (and from my experience, people… Read more »
Ok, first of all, please show me examples of the “balloon juice violations of demonstrable laws, self contradictions and wishful thinking” in evolutionary theory. As to the rest: you inadvertently serve me Pascal’s wager. No thanks for the obvious reasons. As to the circular logic- you don’t get to invoke god to prove god. Without god there can be no morality? Says who? Goodness and right action provides dividends to our little societal in-groups. We needed (need) those groups to survive as a species. It is simple. And yes we suffer the terrors of the night. We all do. Jung… Read more »
Thanks for the reply. I’m sure you already know all the arguments, but mathematics, information theory, the myth of abiogenesis, the lack of any workable ‘engine,’ jokes like punctuated equilibrium (i.e. miracles) and the habit of forcing all data to fit an assumed framework are some reasons I don’t believe it. My rejection of it is entirely reasonable and scientific. The evidence doesn’t bring us to the conclusion. The ‘conclusion’ interprets the evidence. Same goes with Creationism, which I find far more reasonable. On Pascal’s wager, I wasn’t making a value judgment either way, just pointing out that the truth… Read more »
Mike, I appreciate the detailed response. I have heard creationists try to co-opt information theory incorrectly to use as a reasonable-sounding attack on evolution. But is is a rare one to hear. Abiogenesis is is a hypothesis and an interesting one. But is not a theory. It one day might be? Who knows. Either way it is irrelevant to the truth of evolution which is a valid scientific theory. Darwin’s theory of natural selection is the main engine of evolutionary change. LGT is not an ‘either’ but an ‘and’. Forcing data to fit an assumed framework is unscientific and purely… Read more »
RandMan The basic problem is there is no explanation for the origin of information, just wishful thinking. Plenty of real scientists do understand the problems with the very fundamentals of evolution. It’s only in the past few decades that it has come to be defended as dogma because of its obvious problems. David Berlinski is fun on this count: https://youtu.be/S89IskZI740 Abiogenesis cannot be explained within natural processes, and must thus be supernatural, or outside of observed phenomena. Claiming it is something akin to a natural miracle is kind of cheating, isn’t it? Same goes for punctuated equilibrium, which is akin… Read more »
I am not claiming abiogenesis as anything other than an interesting hypothesis. So we don’t have to debate it. Evolution is a proven scientific fact. As a theory it has a tremendous amount of evidence. I don’t need to list it because one google search will bring it down on you like a landslide. To your young earth point, no one yet knows, with any precision, how fast proteins degrade under the conditions found in dinosaur fossil bones. So it is incorrect to claim that we know that it is impossible for soft tissue to survive in any form for… Read more »
“Either way it is irrelevant to the truth of evolution which is a valid scientific theory.”
“Evolution is a proven scientific fact. As a theory it has a tremendous amount of evidence.”
Only in a world where there are no such thing as Truth and Logic can statements like these make sense.
RandMan Abiogenesis violates all the known laws of nature. Your belief system hangs upon at least one miracle. I could claim that “We don’t know yet how Jesus rose from the dead, but we don’t have to debate it.” As for evolution being “proven scientific fact,” plenty of real scientists would dispute that. All it is is a philosophy – ancient paganism (a process of chaos, sex and death) dressed up as science. The processes observed (speciation) actually work in the wrong direction, and of necessity include many “miracles.” Speciation is not evolution. Mutations aren’t a workable engine. Actual evolution… Read more »
Hitchen’s comment would make more sense to me if every person who accepts evolutionary theory was a lonely, frightened person who wants to expel God from the cosmos. But this is demonstrably untrue. Clearly there are people of deep Christian faith and moral integrity who do accept evolution. There are entire Christian denominations who, while not mandating an acceptance of evolutionary theory for their followers, have gone on record as generally supporting it. I think we have to make a distinction between atheism and acceptance of evolution.
Hi jillybean – certainly, but most people I know who believe in evolution just believe what they are told because it suits them — just like some Christians. And all the Christians I know who believe in evolution are a) willing to take a knife to Genesis, b) willing to overlook the insurmountable theological problems theistic evolution causes (i.e. the redefinition of death because theistic evolution reinterprets death as part of the “creative process” rather than a curse upon the creation), c) are willing to live with some level of cognitive dissonance, because the two are irreconcilable, and d) are… Read more »
Hi Mike, I agree that the two are irreconcilable if one holds certain foundational beliefs such as no animal death before the Fall and if one sees animal death as a great evil. I also can see that an understanding of creation as involving billions of years is impossible if one believes in a literal six day creation. But would this be a problem for those fundamentalist Christians who accept a very old universe? Catholics are free to accept or reject evolutionary theory, even though it has been accepted by popes as far back as John XXIII. We are required… Read more »
Thanks jellybean – the two main reasons I reject are the text of the Bible, and basic logic. One simply cannot put death before sin without turning the rest of the Bible – including the resurrection – into nonsense. For instance, death came upon all flesh, which is why Noah, as a better Adam, took the animals into the ark. Theistic evolutionists are happy to play Jenga with the Bible, but it’s logically impossible – and it shows they don’t understand how integrated it all is. I’ve looked at evolutionary theory for over 30 years and not only seen no… Read more »
I would add that anyone can swallow a dumb idea, but it takes an academic to swallow a really big dumb idea.
I don’t know who said it, but the quotation “Hitler hatched the egg that Luther laid” is true when it comes to anti-Semitism. “On the Jews and Their Lies” is one of the most appalling diatribes I have ever read. I have never been able to find an absolute link between religious belief and conduct when it comes to oppressing one’s enemies. A mere thirty years ago in El Salvador there were Catholic death squads and Catholic revolutionary cadres killing one another. I don’t see Hitler as other than nominally Catholic, but I have to accept that General Franco was… Read more »
Apropos the Spanish Civil War, have you read Warren Carroll’s “The Last Crusade”?
Regarding Luther, Lutherans and NSDAP may I suggest Uwe-Siemon Netto’s “The Fabricated Luther”.
RandMan wrote: Goodness and right action provides dividends to our little societal in-groups. We needed (need) those groups to survive as a species. It is simple. Unfortunately, this line of reasoning proves far too much. Theism provides dividends to its in-groups too. Apparently nature “needed” those theistic groups to survive in far greater numbers than the atheistic groups. Nature clearly had much less need of those atheistic groups. Now what? RandMan’s argument, such as it is, actually demonstrates that theism is more valuable to survival in our species than atheism. So why isn’t Randman still theistic? Why doesn’t he adopt… Read more »
We may actually agree on one thing katecho… I believe you are right! The tendency in the human brain toward religion is likely an evolved survival strategy. Religion being a societal binding agent in small group like the ones we evolved in hastened community, answered questions (wrongly) and likely helped us get through the night. But so what? It doesn’t make it (religion) true. We have also at times believed the earth was flat, you had to bleed illness and (before ‘religion’) that we occasionally had to all kill and eat the totem animal to take it’s his power by… Read more »
“They believe in the abrahamic god.”
But not the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.
RandMan writes: The tendency in the human brain toward religion is likely an evolved survival strategy. Religion being a societal binding agent in small group like the ones we evolved in hastened community, answered questions (wrongly) and likely helped us get through the night. But so what? It doesn’t make it (religion) true. Evolved in-group behaviors are the alleged basis for RandMan’s sense of morality. RandMan’s sense of goodness and right action is based on the same accidental brain processes that produced religion. Yet RandMan declares that religion is wrong, and moral behavior is dandy, because it is beneficial to… Read more »
I am always surprised at the impressive new ways you can use the same old ingredients. It is like Project Runway of rhetoric. ‘Make it work people!’ Let’s make a haute-couture dress out of a garage bag. But in your case the garbage bag is always full of circular logic. You don’t get to begin with what you end with. It is that simple. You don’t have science. You don’t have evidence. You don’t have facts. You only have rhetoric, semantics and etymology. For you logic, morals, and science must presuppose theism. God must be the source of logic and… Read more »
You’re (based on my experience with your arguments, probably not by accident) conflating RandMan’s claim that morality has a plausible evolutionary antecedent with your claim that there is a supernatural god. The claims have nothing to do with each other. Let’s set aside for a second your ludicrous claim that evolution has proven theism is better for survival than atheism (nothing of the sort; the presence of a trait doesn’t mean it’s better than a supposed alternative trait, only that it made it to this particular point on a journey of cumulative selection; see my other comment about plausible explanations… Read more »
Kyle wrote: RandMan’s argument was never that “we evolved a sense of morality, therefore we must obey it because it is true.” So “we evolved a sense of theism, therefore we must treat it as true” is a preposterous counterargument. Indeed. RandMan didn’t argue that we should do something because it is true. Evolution has no regard for truth. Rather, RandMan argued that we evolved a sense of morality, therefore we should be moral. He simply fails to follow his own logic when it comes to theism. Man has evolved to be overwhelmingly theistic, therefore we should be theistic, according… Read more »
As expected, you persist in addressing fictional opponents. The argument for morality is that it’s functional. It’s demonstrably still functional without theism. Both this and your ridiculous third person posturing are exhausting, so I’ll be calling it a night after this clarification: First, my previous thoughts on a mechanism that could easily explain theism being popular, which you clearly didn’t read: https://disqus.com/home/discussion/dougwils/blog_mablog_55/#comment-2425442645 Second, just because a trait persists doesn’t mean it was selected for. It could be a harmless side effect of another trait (as I propose), or simply something that was never subject to selection pressure. For instance, many… Read more »
The argument for morality is that it’s functional. . And therefore disposable and subject to random mutation and selection. It is not a thing in itself that transcends men, but like man’s uvula, an appendage. We can, accepting your premises, reasonably entertain the idea that it will disappear one day; The question ‘What is ‘morality’ will garner as much response from men like you as it presently does from wolves and sharks”. The argument for morality is that it’s functional. . And therefore malleable to different ends and means. Since the same tool can be put to different uses the… Read more »
I may be wrong in my understanding of the above comment, but it seems to overcomplicate a reasonably simple point. If we treat the fabrication of historic, or even prehistoric, rudimentary theologies as a means, all be it a fractured means, of establishing a way for small “in-groups” to “get along” (for lack of a better term) internally, and assuage the fear in the existential dilemma of a budding human sentience as we see today. I think that could reasonably be likened to telling my child I’m giving her a special “monster blanket” when she says she is afraid of… Read more »
So, in evolutionism, morality is the atheist’s “monster blanket”?
Notice that the animals don’t argue theology or morality, so it’s not as if the atheist can argue that it matters for survival. Even if it did, morality and theology are just accidents of nature, like everything else. What I can’t understand is why atheists think they need to argue about anything, given that everything is an accident anyway. It’s not as if anything ought to be other than it already is. Lacking any oughts, morality arguments are meaningless. Whatever is, is.
I don’t agree with most of the reply above, but it doesn’t actually matter, you reminded me of something I’d forgotten, from my perspective, all these ramping debates mean nothing. You’re right, what is is. In all sincerity, thank you for your response.
“Yet RandMan declares that religion is wrong, and moral behavior is dandy, because it is beneficial to in-groups.”
RandMan thinks that people are evolving better in-group moralities, and that ‘gods’ were a superior sirvival trait for our primitive ancestors; but we have evolved beyond the need for them.
Christopher Casey wrote: RandMan thinks that people are evolving better in-group moralities, and that ‘gods’ were a superior sirvival trait for our primitive ancestors; but we have evolved beyond the need for them. RandMan may indeed think this very thing. However, he would be doing so in spite of the evidence. Based on historical and current demographics, evolution apparently has something against atheism and secularism. Atheism may flare up from time to time, but never enough to threaten the dominant fitness of theism. Even the modern secular states have, through imploding birth rate, rapidly and voluntarily created a demographic vacuum,… Read more »
I suspect (though certainly haven’t studied the issue) that religion itself is less an evolved survival strategy than an “unintended consequence” (settle down, I don’t mean evolution literally has intent) of a more generalized beneficial trait – the inclination to identify causes. In other words, I suspect it’s more likely that extrapolating conclusions loosely from observed phenomena is a skill so generally useful that it outweighs the risk of even fairly frequent false positives. (“My kin ate the red flower and died soon after, so I won’t eat red flowers unless I have no other choice” is likely to save… Read more »
“But so what? It doesn’t make it (religion) true.”
Katechos point is that you haven’t shown that brlief in God is not usefull.
I enjoyed your story because, in my broad experience of nuns–including my short time in a convent thinking I wanted to become one–I never met a nun who would have cried over your unbelief, other than tears of fury. My nuns would one and all have responded as follows: “Sister, I read a book by Bertrand Russell and he makes a good case for there not being a God.” “You march yourself to the front of the class so we can all look at you. We all want to gaze upon this prodigy who at the age of 15 thinks… Read more »
I enjoyed that story thank you! I feel less guilty about it. Jillybean, you are a catholic who has removed the burden of guilt from someone… wonders!
RandMan wrote: The part I am missing is the god who watches ever vigilant, judging me. Who will condemn those he would create, broken, to an eternity of eternal punishment. What wickedness. In other words… “There is no God, and I hate Him.” RandMan admits to a purposeless, meaningless universe, yet he imbues his own life with made up meanings: his family, children, art, friends, gods. Oh wait, did I say gods? He doesn’t fabricate deities. That would be wish-fulfillment of the worst kind, right? RandMan is all about being authentic and real while making up values for himself. At… Read more »
I do not hate god. That would be ridiculous. Do you hate Zeus?
Of course I do not admit to a meaningless universe, that is your rhetorical game.
I know you are afraid of the darkness that awaits us katecho. So am I. But I am unwilling to make up a story about it at the expense of my time here. Take comfort in the knowledge that you were not bothered with the darkness before your consciousness dawned. You will not be bothered once it has set either.
He didn’t say meaningless. He said “ultimately meaningless.”
Who do you suppose is better able to determine the real nature of “wickedness?” An infinite God, or a finite man?
That’s easy. The one that wasn’t invented from whole cloth (by finite men).
Thank you for explaining. It must have been very difficult, especially if your family was not supportive. I believe (as of course you don’t) that the unrelenting love and prayer of believers can return people to the faith. But I will never see that haranguing them will do anything except make them feel glad they left. Believe me, I am not innately good; I am innately good-tempered which, as priests have innumerably pointed out, is not a virtue!
You were not an evangelical Christian. If you truly were, you still would be. You can’t truly be a Christian in the past and then not be one now. You were a hypocrite. But at least you realized you were one and decided to show your true nature.
I disagree with this assessment.
Why? Good assessment. Straight out of the New Testament (1 John 2:19)
The fact that some who are not of us because they never were of us and thus went out does not mean that others could not be of us but abandoned us (as per other examples).
But you also need to be careful how you read John. He mentions a lot of dichotomies.
“The fact that some who are not of us because they never were of us and thus went out does not mean that others could not be of us but abandoned us (as per other examples).”
It is hard to parse this sentence. But I will hazard to interpret is as saying that Mr (?) RandMan has as good a shot at salvation as any. I agree with you on this specific case.
I think bethyada means that the specific people the apostle was speaking of when out from us, because they were not of us.
But it is not an absolutely logical conclusion of that, that everyone who goes out from us, goes out because they were not of us. There may be some who go out, yet were of us. It is possible that John’s words apply to whom they apply, but are not a universal rule covering all who “go out.”
Gregory, I believe this to be false. But if it’s true, it’s also irrelevant. What it would mean is that we cannot know whether you or any other living Christian on earth is an evangelical Christian either. RandMan believed he was a Christian, and so did those around him. What other basis do we have for knowing if someone is a Christian or calling them a Christian? If that is not sufficient basis for him to be a Christian, then it’s not sufficient basis for you to be a Christian either. A world with no-one knowing whether anyone (including themselves)… Read more »
Indeed. Being a Christian is like being a husband. It’s not necessarily a compliment. It means you are in a covenant relationship, but it doesn’t mean you are being faithful to it. For example, Thomas Jefferson was a baptized Christian, but he was also a heretic who denied all of Christ’s miracles. Paul refers to unbelieving natural branches being broken out of the covenant Olive Tree in Romans 11. They can’t be broken out of what they were never connected to. Jesus uses a similar analogy of branches being broken out of the Vine and gathered and burned up. Judas… Read more »
In fairness, the Romans 11 tree in context isn’t referring to individual believers disbelieving, but rather a changing of covenants between old (Jews only) to new (Jews and gentiles alike). Granted about the branches broken off in John 15, but one also has to engage other texts John wrote like 1John 2:19 “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.” This is the reason that reformed Christians (including, presumably, DW himself) believe in the “P” of tulip, perseverance of the saints. It may be… Read more »
I’m not familiar with the view that the branches in Romans 11 are covenants. Paul refers to wild and natural branches, plural; not to one natural branch and one wild branch. Paul also says that these natural branches were guilty of unbelief. I don’t understand how a covenant can be guilty of unbelief, but individuals and groups (made of individuals) can be. Paul says that wild branches should not boast, because they too can be broken out for unbelief. If the new covenant is the wild branch (an odd description) does that mean that the new covenant can be broken… Read more »
Thanks for your response. We are more in agreement than disagreement here, though either you misinterpreted my point on Romans 11, or I didn’t state it clearly enough (or both). I never meant that a covenant itself is a branch. I meant that the *people* defined under the old covenant (Jews, including converted gentiles) were the branch broken off due to disbelief, and *people* as defined under the new covenant (gentiles in Christ, without prior membership in old covenant) were grafted in. Of course people are comprised of individuals, as covenants themselves were ordained for individuals. I’m fully aware that… Read more »
Ah so, I couldn’t have been a ‘true christian’ if I was capable of changing my heart and mind? It must be very scary for you and others who think like you to ponder how that could be possible. I do see how you would have to find some way to convince yourself that it isn’t. Fear is a tough one.
Fear? Unfortunately, RandMan didn’t follow my argument at all. I said that even Judas was a Christian, and an Apostle, and that this was no compliment to him because he was an unfaithful betrayer. The same with RandMan if he continues in his apostasy. I have no trouble believing that RandMan was a real Christian before betraying the faith, just as I have no trouble believing that an adulterous man was a real husband before he betrayed his wife. The issue is faithfulness to one’s covenant commitments and oaths.
Fear of death katecho. I owe no allegiance to an idea or ideology. No one does. Reason and facts won out over superstition for me. You fear the unknown, having convinced yourself there is nothing outside of your particular sect of religion. You are among the ranks of a couple hundred other world religions, each with it’s own assuredness that they hold the one true key to eternity. I am sitting outside of your safe space right now with my (by your circular math, impossible) raisons des etres. I have to tell you, it is pretty great. When I die… Read more »
I wonder about your condemnation of Judas. May he not be seen as the real hero of Christianity? If Jesus had not been betrayed, not hauled up before the authorities, not condemned, and not crucified, wouldn’t we all be holding one-way tickets to Hell?
“If Jesus had not been betrayed, not hauled up before the authorities, not condemned, and not crucified, wouldn’t we all be holding one-way tickets to Hell?”
Likewise if Gandalf hadn’t been killed by the balrog he wouldn’t have become Gandalf the white and been able to overthrow saruman. So doesn’t that make the balrog the real hero of the LOTR books?
It’s not my condemnation. This was decreed even before Jesus came in the flesh. The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born. — Matthew 26:24 So we see that Judas was fully culpable, and we see that God is still the Author of history. And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Lord, it is You who made… Read more »
One can be sure of one’s own salvation. The sheep do hear the Shepherd and recognize His voice.
One cannot comment on another’s salvation unless that other person has deliberately repudiated Christ: as understood by Christians.
In case of Mr. (?) RandMan, the church he repudiated does not seem to have been a place where the Gospel is preached. In which case it thoroughly deserves repudiation and Mr. (?) RandMan, by acknowledging this truth, might very well be on the path to salvation.
Actually, to me John 10 reads as if Jesus knows who are following him correctly. I don’t see that it follows that everyone who thinks they are following his voice actually are. Nor that those who actually are following his voice will still be following it in ten years time. People genuinely believe themselves to be true believers, then later fall away. That is fact. It’s easy to say “Oh, they were never true believers”. But can you then really say “Like them, I believe that I’m a true believer of Christ. The difference is that I know I’m right,… Read more »
Dear Mr Morgan, I trust you will pardon me when I say that this sort of thinking is, in a real sense, damnable nonsense. If one is not sure of one’s salvation, one is not sure of the Lord. What kind of cruel trick would it be to assure someone of love, eternal life, a true home, a Heavenly Father, to say My grace is sufficient for thee, to offer the true Bread and Living Water only to realise that it was all a dream! To be assured of forgiveness only to realise that we are still in our sins.… Read more »
I will pardon you for thinking it is “damnable nonsense”, but it is merely applying both logic and scripture, not just emotion laden wishful thinking. This is a topic that has been an open debate for hundreds of years, so I don’t expect to have a decisive answer. But there is actually a lot of scripture suggesting that people can and do deceive themselves. Certainly we should try to make sure that we don’t deceive ourselves. But it is a big sweep of logic to accept that other humans are quite capable of deceiving themselves, but we are not. To… Read more »
Dear Mr. Morgan,
I must impose on your charity some more by standing by the “damnable nonsense” characterization. Would our Father in Heaven respond to a plea for bread with a stone? He would be well within His rights to do so. But not even evil earthly fathers behave that way, much less He who gave His Son that those who believe in Him may not perish but have life everlasting. Your line of thinking will end up in a doctrine of works, or worse, into Cowper’s tragedy. It is damnable nonsense.
Yes, I get it. You don’t want to engage with the scriptures I cite, because you’d prefer to override them with your own pleasant vision of God. I’m hoping that the “damnable nonsense” you allude to is my interpretation rather than the words of Jesus and Paul I quote? The Bible teaches a God of love, but also a God of truth, righteousness, and holiness. You are wanting the love to override the other attributes. Surely that reduces the greatness of God? You also call God “our Father” – but if we are talking about people Jesus will say he… Read more »
Dear Mr Morgan, But of course I meant your interpretation! And I am sorry you thought that I did not address your arguments. If you go up and see you will find that I did respond with Scripture. I deliberately did not engage in a point-wise refutation because that would have been a waste of time : generating more heat than light. But enough about me. If God is who He says He is, He will not behave in the way you have characterized. That is sheer logic. Hence you spout (begging your pardon) blasphemy. But the wonderful news is… Read more »
I acknowledge that you use scripture. However, I am concerned that you are using this scripture to explain away other scriptures and other facets of God’s character rather than to understand them.
However, if you are sure that God won’t act in the way I described, surely he shouldn’t have sent Jesus with that as one of his messages?
Dear Mr. Morgan, You need not be concerned. I am not explaining away any part of Scripture: just trying to show your analysis of it to be nonsense. And you should rejoice that it is nonsense! For instance, take the Scripture you cited out of the third chapter of Revelations. You left out a key verse at the end: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” (Rev 3:19). This pours (blessedly) cold water on your analysis: Our Lord is speaking to adopted sons, not to hirelings. So is Paul chastening his flesh because… Read more »
I’m unlikely to answer again as this discussion is going nowhere. Despite using the same Bible, our starting assumptions seem totally different. However, I think the verse you post is of the same cut as the rest. The Laodiceans were told they were in a bad position, and they needed to recognise it and repent. The love of God was not being offered as something that would keep them safe if they retained their confidence in their salvation. The chastening had to lead to them acknowledging their blindness in thinking they were safe, not to wish the blindness away so… Read more »
Dear Mr Morgan, If you don’t answer, I get to have the last word! If it is any help, I think I can put a finger on the source of our disagreement. Your analysis leaves no room for sanctification. The more I am healed by the Holy Spirit working in me, the weaker grows Sin’s power within me. Your characterization of my attitude as one of “let us sin that grace may abound” is utterly mistaken. I rejoice at His holiness and I am glad for His chastening. The people of whom Christ says that “I never knew you” are… Read more »
I think you are misusing the word hypocrite. If Randman, in his current state of disbelief, was preaching fire and brimstone from the pulpit in order to earn a living, it might be accurate to call him a hypocrite. If he was running a giant TV ministry for the purpose of collecting mansions and luxury cars while privately not believing a word he was saying, that would be hypocrisy. I hope you will not be angry if I point out that the lack of charitableness and lovingkindness in your response, if typical of Randman’s fellow parishioners, probably hastened his departure.
As soon as you’re not busy chasing your brothers out from amongst you for being insufficiently evangelical, you should make affix yourself with an “elect” pin, since you’re so sure.
Going apostate was one of the longest and hardest decisions I ever made, but people like you made it just a pinch easier. So thanks!
Thank you. Let me engage you please at the place of your ‘liberated logic’. To say I’m wasting my time you would need to know the mind of God – I trust that is not your claim for then you would likely be deranged. It is my business to preach Christ to all creatures, I have no idea who God decreed in eternity past to receive His mercy, again logically neither can you. I am sure that Stephen would have been told by Saul of Tarsus that it was a waste of effort to preach Jesus Christ to him, just… Read more »
Well consider me Pau turned to Saul then. :) A good thought experiment to run might be to think of what it would feel like to have someone who believed in the sun god Ra try and deliver the same message to you.
As far as sin debts go I have none. I do not believe in scapegoating nor would I tolerate human sacrifice on my behalf.
If you believe it necessary to abandon your atheism and posit a deity called Ra to defend your unrepentant position then I would be happy to address any claims your god may make.
I did not posit Ra. Ra was the ancient sun god of the egyptians. All life was created by Ra. He called each of them into existence by calling out their secret names. You can look him up.
You introduced Ra and claims about him. So what?
When you gave this sermon were you a believer in Christianity?
I cannot remember, It was late in the game, so I am guessing not really? I was kind of bullied into it anyway by the elders along with a few other younger men as some kind of test of public christian ‘manliness’. But ultimately, I let myself be railroaded into it. It is not my wheelhouse and I should never have been up there. I was tremendously nervous and terrified to be speaking in public in a scholarly way. I had no business doing that.
So, considering that is how I felt when I look back- probably not.
I find this an interesting phenomenon. On other sites I have interacted with people who were members of religious groups which had abusive elements within their ideologies, such as this Gothard group . I often want to ask them whether they believed what was taught, but these folks are often still hurt by it all and it is usually hard to ask certain questions without opening up old wounds. Do you mind telling me what denomination the church was? Did the others exert open pressure, or was it subtle? How old were you when you gave this homily? Sorry to… Read more »
I was a member of The Church Of Christ. Most of my family moved on to the CREC. I did not. To be clear, I am not claiming the ideology or version of the gospel where I worshiped to be any more ‘abusive’ than any other fundamentalist doctrine. The most important part of this is that I personally found the beliefs untenable. Once I began to look into the forbidden zone of actual knowledge, facts, and science, the jig was up pretty quickly. This was not defiance. I heard that a lot. I know the christian code. I was ‘defiant’.… Read more »
My goodness are you ever wrong. We do know God is up there (and here). It isn’t scientifically derived. It is knowledge of things unseen.
I don’t fake my faith. I don’t pretend that something is there that is not there.
God interacts with me daily. He is more real to me than reality.
You are under the delusion that we are lying to ourselves and have abandoned reason.
We don’t frequent this blog because we want to confirm ourselves in lies and delusion.
You claim to have been a Christian. Did you know the Lord?
Dear Mr (?) RandMan,
I must have missed the part where you accomplished this refutation. Your low opinion of the moral and intellectual weight of the Christian side came through very clearly. But I just could not see the refutation. Help me out here.
I am rejecting the rhetorical trick of Wilson’s the burden of proof does not sit on the shoulders of those making the truth claim. It is not up to me to prove that there isn’t something. Krycheck2 has done a fine job of explaining on this thread why that is empty, using leprechauns as an example. I can do no better than that. Read it. There is nothing to accomplish on my end.
I’ve read the rhetorical trick of equating the belief in the existence of God with the belief in the the existence of leprechauns.
What I have never read is anything advocating for or against the existence of leprechauns. There are no books like “The Leprechaun Delusion” or “Leprechauns are Not Great”.
It is not a trick. The point was about the burden of proof. You are literally going to have to disprove, every possible explanation imaginable that might explain god… or as krycheck wrote- leprechauns. Those making the claim hold the burden.
Please explain how the assertion
“There is no God” is not a truth claim.
I personally am saying that there is no good evidence for god. I can say that there is no good evidence for god with the same confidence that I can say there is no good evidence for Santa. If you are claiming Santa is real. The burden falls on you. I have no such burden until you provide evidence for your claim. I would be excited by that realization of a childhood dream. (Edit)
No Randman, there is no Santa Claus. But I won’t argue for his nonexistence based on scientific evidence, or that it is a childhood dream that we all grow out of. Rather that the myth of Father Christmas is a faint echo of what we all know, or long to know about the true meaning of Christmas.
I would file him under the counterfeit that proves the existence of an original. An original that I’m sure you would agree requires more serious refutation.
So resurrection from the dead requires more serious refutation than sliding down chimneys and giving gifts? Maybe, maybe not.
But I would have thought if you were looking for an original for Santa Claus, St Nicholas the gift-giver is a better candidate than a baby who gave no presents.
There are many manifestations of benevolent gift givers in many cultures. My point to Randman was rather than equate evidence for Santa Claus with evidence for God, that these legends actually point to the condition of the human heart that needs to give meaning to Christmas.
Jesus Christ is the gift the world is in sin and error pining.
“The baby” gave no presents? How about the free gift of eternal life, is that not a present?
Eternal life was not given by the baby. The baby was not in a fit state to be giving gifts, only to receive. Yes, you can read forward to Easter if you want to, but there is a lot of life experience and growth in between, and that life experience was necessary to make the gift possible.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,…” and Isaiah 9:6
Looks like a gift to me.
If the baby was the gift, then it wasn’t giving the gift.
But that’s all beside the point. If you exclude Santa Claus, the only gifts in the traditional Christmas narrative were given by the wise men to Jesus.
“The baby” is the same person who gives us eternal life. His appearance on Christmas was the initiation of that. He brought eternal life with Him upon His arrival, as was foretold. Remember peace on earth, good will toward men? I never denied there was time + growth + experience involved, but that’s irrelevant to whether “the baby” brings gifts. The outcome was assured even when He was a baby, and it’s all in the past for us anyway, so the time factor is really irrelevant to whether we regard the baby as a bringer of gifts. Really, it’s not… Read more »
The difference is that the life experience mattered for the provision of the gift, and our Christmas carol / nativity scene tradition emphasises the purity and innocence of the baby, which is totally against everything Hebrews tells us about how the saviour developed and was trained.
And, getting back to the original point, does Santa Claus point us to Christ? In our standard Christmas narratives of an innocent baby and a jolly Father Christmas, no, I don’t think he does. That’s all I was really arguing.
I am just saying that you cannot prove Santa is not real. You do not have to. There is no evidence for him. I would have to prove he is real. But what if I found a mummified reindeer corpse with a luminescent proboscis? Or a satellite took a grainy image of a North Pole workshop and what appeared to be tiny little bespectacled elves loading a sleigh? Then your responsibility might begin to disprove my evidence. Btw, according to the finest bit of internet questioning I did, Santa is not a counterfeit anything but a grab bag of mythology… Read more »
Merry Christmas Randman!
You are confusing the idea of making a claim with making a positive or negative claim. A negative claim is indeed a claim. It’s different in important ways, of course, but it is a claim. Doug pointed out that the agnosticism was logically problematic here, not primarily b/c it didn’t profess belief, but b/c in these types of cases (as opposed to “real” agnostics who just claim no definitive knowledge on the matter at all) cloaks itself in the dogmatism of atheism while “retreating” to the argumentative safe haven of agnosticism. On the one hand, they claim not to know,… Read more »
They also make dogmatic claims about the nature of evidence. “There is no evidence” means “there is no evidence that counts,” but it is a large claim that only certain kinds of evidence count.
No, I am not confusing that. I am rejecting that as rhetorical hogwash. The burden of proof is on those who make the claim. Period. Wilson knows this and is just a smart and dishonest debater. Thus the quick move into trying ti unseat agnosticism. You are an atheist with regard to Thor. Prove he does not exist. You cannot. As krycheck points out you would have to disprove literally millions of potential situations where he might exist.It is on me. However, If I presented you with a hammer that I claimed had magic powers and indeed seem to be… Read more »
That “atheist with regard to” line is fashionable, but ultimately sophomoric. An atheist is one who rejects the concept of deity, not one who believes that the deity has one specific identity but not others. You might as well claim that I’m someone who “doesn’t believe in human beings with respect to Randman”, because I reject the idea that you are me.
Shrug. It is more a conversational way to point out to the believer what it feels like to not believe. And to show them how easily they themselves dismiss other gods for lack of evidence- or whatever reason they have to toss them on the trash heap of history.
It’s not a conversational way of pointing any sense of feeling out. The subjective feelings of an atheist are entirely irrelevant to the point you state in your second sentence. And as for that second sentence, the legitimacy of that point depends on the assumption that Christians both accept their own religion, and reject others, entirely aside from any evidentiary analysis whatever. The assumption is that our blind rejection of other faiths are proof that the blind acceptance of our own is invalid. But this is a naked assertion – not an argument. All you’re doing is assuming the blindness… Read more »
Correction, near the end, meant to say I am *not* simply making an inverse claim.
You are correct. And sophomoric is generous! :)
I do not mean that you are unaware or unable to grasp the difference. But your conclusion has to conflate them to survive. If the rhetoric is hogwash, then it ought be sorted out and not just summarily dismissed as hogwash. You are running roughshod over Doug’s commentary regarding this: his point was very clear that there is a difference between an honest agnostic, who merely claims not to know and argues consistently with that, vs. one who wants to play the dogmatic Mr. Hyde alongside to their own agnostic Dr. Jekyll. Wanting to have it both ways does not… Read more »
I should clarify this sentence: “Wanting to have it both ways does not render Doug’s rhetoric as opportunistic.” I mean to say that *pointing out* that they (agnostic/atheists) want to have it both ways doesn’t render Doug opportunistic.
There is no ‘retreat’ to agnosticism. It is the only intellectually honest position to take. True atheists with any sort of ability to reason will admit that atheism is a way of planting the flag hard to the edge of the wide spectrum that is agnosticism based on lack of any evidence whatsoever. Yes you are also a complicated banana. Well said. We know how you came to be so after a long stretches of geological time. We have mountains of evidence for this. It is as uncontroversial as scientific position can be. Dawkins has the intellectual chops to recognize… Read more »
Which type of agnostic are you?
The kind that’s crying on the inside I guess…
Next questions. Why are you here? Why do you spend so much time engaging in this discourse? I find it ironic that you claim your life gets sweeter as it gets shorter. You spend a lot of your ever shortening life trying to point out that Christians are wrong and our God is wicked knowing full well that most will not change our minds on the matter. What draws you to discussions like this? What pleasure do you get out of this? Or is it duty that compels you?
I have answered that many times here. But let me pose my answer as a question that may answer yours. Why are you here? Why are you not taking your intellect and testing your christian ideas where the have to withstand the most heat? You should be on atheist websites. Why pat yourself on the ideological back with others who think exactly like you? I have never posted on an atheist website. For a reason.
Thanks for the response, I really appreciate it. I’m actually a first time visitor to the site. I found the link on my Facebook feed. I spend my time on Christian websites about the same amount as atheist websites (not much of either). From what I have seen, and I’m sure you know, even within Christiandom there is much debate that can be had beyond the existence of God. Have you seen how heated some discussions can get over Eschatology ? =) Take care.
Yes indeed. I see some esoterica here that does not concern me or my interests so I ignore it. Prob about 90%.
He has found a safe environment where Christians congregate and he can interact with them. It boils down to stroking his unbelieving ego. This egoism vitiates his Buddhism in theory but he believes he’s charting new cutting-edge ground in this dialogue.
I am not a buddhist. And where is the unsafe environment that christians congregate? I thought they ‘bit back’ here.
Oh, you just borrow parts of Buddhism that tickles you. Theology with a “bite” attracts you. I hardly doubt you interact with Osteenians? Why bother? Razor’s edge or nothing.
No, I do not borrow certain parts of buddhism. Rather I reject the specious metaphysical aspects- which are thankfully few. Ideas attract me.
I don’t know why Randman comes here, other than what he has explained several times himself. But suppose, for a moment, that there are additional reasons, perhaps reasons that Randman doesn’t even know himself. Perhaps, on some level, he misses contact with people who still believe as he once did. Perhaps he is not as intellectually and spiritually satisfied as he believes himself to be. Perhaps God is drawing him here. And, if the latter explanation is the truth, I would not want to be the Christian whose hostility drives him away.
If God is calling him, nothing you do will drive him away.
Let me ask you an honest question. What would be good evidence for the existence of God? You say “lack of any evidence whatsoever.” So then that dismisses ancient documents, word of mouth, the existence of a world. Ok, so be it. What then would demonstrate a creator? Would he need to live with us or regularly talk to us?
Because all ancient witnesses were a part of a massive conspiracy to subvert the ‘truth”.
I don’t like to be argumentative, but don’t some modern Christians made an identical argument? That the 99% of professional biologists who say they accept evolution are in a massive conspiracy to subvert the truth? That is why I never like arguments that assign motives.
It is supposed to be a little bit of humor. My point is only that we trust witnesses from antiquity all the time. We don’t assume that they are a part of a conspiracy.
I should also add that I suspect some who debate the pro-darwinian view so strongly really are motivated by their commitments regarding “truth”.
I’m not sure about that. I grew up with religious people who accepted the theory of evolution and pretty much took it for granted. I think that if you have not been taught that there is an unresolvable conflict between faith and evolution, you find it harder to dismiss the evidence for natural selection. I do not know enough science to evaluate evidence for myself. But if 99% of biologists, both religious and nonreligious, are assuring me that this evidence is reliable, I am inclined to believe them. If evolution is one day discarded for another theory, it really won’t… Read more »
Most of the science teachers I had in my youth were convinced of human evolution. I don’t recall any of them making statements which would indicate any sort of emotional commitment to the idea. None seemed to think that this theory provided any sort of ethical or philosophical guidance or framework,
I am not sure if that is the case today. It seems to have taken on a kulturkampf feel.
“I think that if you have not been taught that there is an unresolvable conflict between faith and evolution, you find it harder to dismiss the evidence for natural selection.”
Evolution is a minor problem for theology, Naturalism is what is contrary to christianity. The regection of evolution is in part due to people like Dawkins mixing naturalism with the science.
Excellent question. I have many answers to this question. But here is one. If you want more after this I am happy to oblige. Real efficacy of prayer. Not ambiguous ‘god works in mysterious ways’ stuff or ‘sometimes god’s answer is no’ junk. Real observable testable repeatable evidence. To quote Victor Stenger, from his book “god: the failed hypothesis”, if you can show in a double blind study that catholic prayer, but not Islamic prayer, is effective in controlling a condition that is otherwise unstoppable (let’s say ALS), I would have little choice but to admit there is some truth… Read more »
So basically answers to prayer that are confirmable, and not just someone BSing from church. Ok, that’s interesting. I would like it if you would list some of your other ones when you have a free minute.
How about a refutation of evolution by god himself? For example a section of planet earth that consistently reveals fossils of modern species and dinosaurs side by side in the same strata over and over again?
Or similarly and equally remote as Haldane himself requested: fossil rabbits in the precambrian.
Like crocodiles and ancient species, or coelacanths and ancient species, or the wollemi pine and ancient species?
There may not be rabbits per se, but there are the equivalent; and lots of them
Crocodiles and other ancient species that survived the extinction and changed little are not what I requested.
Which recently evolved modern species can be found in the precambrian?
Which is exactly the problem with rabbits in the Cambrian. Every out of order discovery is reworked into the theory. Pollen in the precambrian, grass in (dinosaur) coprolites, mammals that ate dinosaurs.
You’re looking for a fossilized liger aren’t you. :P
“Recently evolved modern species” are not found there because there are none “recently evolved.” Talk about circular reasoning!
“Survived the extinction and changed little” ….because….they don’t evolve….
Keep telling yourself that. And in the meantime you could do some research. You are online and a mouse click away. Try common ancestor for one.
Humans are a great example of a recently evolved species. Only some 200,000 years ago. A blip in geological time. Research that too.
Would you please enlighten me on the chemical composition of reason? Of what is it made? When did it evolve? From what did it evolve? What rule (knowing that the rule must also be material) dictates its hierarchical hegemony over so much of the other stuff? If you cannot materially identify it, why would you say true atheists are bound to it? While you’re at it, please also produce hard evidence (you know, atomic structures and all that “science”) for logic, circular logic, or any other logic that comes in the form of shapes.
So, are you inching up to the transcendental argument for god? If so, get to it without a list of non-sensical rhetoric hoops. Not interested in jumping.
Wait, what is sensical and why is that supposed to matter (no pun intended, unless…)? Add that to the list of things yet to be explained honestly by an atheistic worldview.
Honestly, what *do* they teach in these schools? It’s nice to cite “mountains of evidence.” Yay for you! But the problem is this: You yourself are a part of the “mountain of evidence.” Upon what lever are you able to pull yourself out of the pile and stand apart from it and see the evidence? Your own brain is a part of the pile. How in the world are we supposed to trust it to say, “Hey! Lookit! A pile!” Pointing at a pile is a claim, dear sir. How can you make it? That’s a Philosophy 101 question for… Read more »
That’s right! We are part of the evidence! Smooch! At what point were we able to pull ourselves out of the pile… great question! Probably about 200,000 years ago. Consciousness is another question entirely and unanswered and perhaps more interesting one to ponder.
Yes, how are we supposed to trust anything? How did we ever make it to the moon? Eradicate smallpox? Invent the computer? What a mystery!
So about this: “”There is no ‘retreat’ to agnosticism. It is the only intellectually honest position to take. True atheists with any sort of ability to reason will admit that atheism is a way of planting the flag hard to the edge of the wide spectrum that is agnosticism based on lack of any evidence whatsoever.”” For someone who dismisses Doug’s nuance as conveniently shrewd, opportunistic rhetoric, you sure are stretching your own pretty far. If an agnostic is merely making the observation that, best he can tell, he sees insufficient evidence for proposition x, and is not being dogmatic… Read more »
Dawkins himself includes a pretty good treatment of this subject in (IIRC) the first chapter of The God Delusion. It basically boils down to all honest skepticism is by definition non-absolute, so we’re “agnostics.” But the lack of evidence is so stark, and the promised evidence would be so extraordinary, that the silence speaks volumes. There’s also some (non-empirical) reasoning from probabilities that he uses to essentially arrive at the conclusion that one is 99.99% agnostic in the same sense that one is 99.99% sure leprechauns aren’t real; which is to say, I haven’t checked everywhere, but for all functional… Read more »
Interestingly, a person of great authority one said something about a broad road leading to destruction and a narrow one to salvation. Just came to mind as I was reading your excellent comment.
Enjoy that idea it if that makes you life feel structure that is satisfying to you. I respect your right to believe that if not the belief itself.
You might consider as some point that I could just as easily be a scientologist here, clucking at you about the ‘bridge to freedom’ with just as much evidence.
I see where you are coming from. It is more than an “idea” for me though. It would take a great deal of willful blindness for me to see it as anything else.
Speaking of which, I don’t think I can will enough blindness to not see the evidence. Perseverance of the saints, and all that. He does not lose any that have been given to Him.
I think it’d be good to re-post this quote from Dawkins which happened during a Q&A: We feel like blaming people for what they do or giving people the credit for what they do. We feel like admiring people for what they do. None of us ever actually as a matter of fact says, “Oh well he couldn’t help doing it, he was determined by his molecules.”… … when we punish people for doing the most horrible murders, maybe the attitude we should take is “Oh they were just determined by their molecules.” It’s stupid to punish them. What we… Read more »
How would Dawkins know a unit has a faulty motherboard without a pattern in mind to compare it to?
Oh, I’m sure he has a pattern in mind, more or less. The problem is how he can say his pattern is superior and someone else’s is faulty if they’re all just built on random chance and (he would say) evolution.
I hereby deem the exchange between David and Jigawatt to be entirely too civilized and logical for this blog’s comment section. You are both relegated back to the primordial ooze for evolution to take its course.
“This unit has a faulty motherboard that needs to be replaced.”
Wow! Dawkins has hit upon the problem of sin from independent arguments.
“I will put a new heart and a new spirit in you. I will take away your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh ” Ezekiel 36:26
The problem Dawkins articulated has been anticipated and a solution is available. Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
At least that tie is consistent with nihilism.
With Doug quoting C.S. Lewis left and right these days I’m surprised he didn’t give mad props for this quote. Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the… Read more »
If I understand correctly, Calvinists believe that God pre-ordains every thought we’ll ever have. How is the Calvinist, then, in any better position than a materialist? If all my thoughts are pre-programmed, I can never be sure they correspond to reality because there is no chance I could think other than as I’ve been built to think. How is this an improvement?
Leaving aside the faults in your understanding of what Calvinism actually teaches, Calvinists also believe that the mind that is endowed with grace will be led into the truth. So the regenerate, at least, have the hope of rightly understanding.
Please explain. How is my understanding faulty? Am I wrong that Calvinists believe all our thoughts are pre-ordained by God? Seems to me that, if true, it makes no difference what the content of my beliefs is. If I believe in special grace, it’s only because I’ve been designed to believe as such. I cannot know if my beliefs are reflective of reality because there is no way I could believe otherwise. I can only take a blind leap of faith and live as though they are, which Pastor Wilson seems to say is illogical — but only when it’s… Read more »
I said I intended to leave that aside, because it’s not relevant, really. Even granting that, your conclusion is a non sequitur, as I explained.
I’ve noticed often how Calvinists love to leave the sticky questions aside for hypothetical later discussions.
“If all my thoughts are pre-programmed, I can never be sure they correspond to reality because there is no chance I could think other than as I’ve been built to think. How is this an improvement?”
See Jonathan Edwards freedom of the will.
Thanks, I will have a look.
If I understand correctly, Calvinists believe that God pre-ordains every thought we’ll ever have. How is the Calvinist, then, in any better position than a materialist? The above really should be a top-level comment since it’s not specifically about Lewis’ quote – Lewis himself was not a Calvinist. But, it’s a good question. God’s sovereignty does not mean that our will is “pre-programmed” as if we were robots. (But some athiests will indeed own the metaphor – “moist robots” is exactly how the athiest Sam Harris described us.) We are supposed to work out our salvation, BECAUSE it is God… Read more »
I responded to your quote by Lewis because his question, “how can I trust my own thinking to be true?” seems pertinent in any deterministic system, whether materialist or one in which literally everything is pre-ordained by God.
I suppose Calvinists will object to my characterisation of their worldview as deterministic. But I honestly don’t understand why. Was there any particular thought or action of Pharaoh that God did not pre-ordain from before the creation of the world?
I responded to your quote by Lewis because his question, “how can I trust my own thinking to be true?” seems pertinent in any deterministic system, whether materialist or one in which literally everything is pre-ordained by God. Fair enough. I just want to let folks know that it goes along with what Doug wrote in the blog post as well. It’s been a while since I read Edwards on the subject, but I remember liking it. I would concur with Christopher Casey about reading Edwards. John Piper has written on the subject too and it’s more, as they say,… Read more »
Here is a link that includes some quotes from Jonathan Edwards (including one from his Freedom of the Will):
Is Edwards not considered an orthodox Calvinist? Your linked article deems at least some of his sermons heretical. The author of the article implies that God causes literally everything, but Edwards is ambiguous about this — at least in the given quotes. For example, discussing whether or not God is the author of sin: But if by ‘the author of sin,’ is meant the permitter, or not a hinderer of sin; and at the same time, a disposer of the state of events, in such a manner, for wise, holy and most excellent ends and purposes, that sin, if it… Read more »
Edwards is an orthodox Calvinist who empathizes with the Apostolic critic (Romans 9:19-20) and who is in league with the Assyrian king (Isaiah 10:5-15). Multitudes of Scripture passages reveal that God is absolutely sovereign and that creature-man has no freedom whatsoever relative to his Maker. Many Calvinists reason from the same faulty premise as Paul’s unbelieving critic. The premise is this: God cannot justly hold us accountable or responsible if He decisively and actively causes and controls what we do. Or, as the Apostle put the mutinous objection, “Why does He yet find fault?” Many Calvinists believe that moral responsibility… Read more »
Chris, do you agree with the “Heterodoxy Hall of Shame” at the website you linked? — http://outsidethecamp.org/heterodoxyhall.htm
For those unfamilar, these folks are not just saying that people like Calvin, Edwards, etc are incorrect in their theology. They are saying that because of their views they are unregenerate (i.e. not true Christians)
Thanks for the question, jigawatt. Yes, I agree with the Heterodoxy Hall of Shame — which is quite controversial to those who are respecters of men, and for those who care more for the glory of man than for the redemptive glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
John Calvin himself is on the list!
Is there an equivalent list of well known historical believers who are not in the Hall of Shame? Seems it might likely be a shorter list …
I can appreciate that God is entitled to do whatever He likes with His creations. But I find Calvinism disingenuous in its use of words like “justice”, “responsible”, “love”, and “good” in ways that are utterly divorced from any normal human usage. For example, to say that “God actively causes a man to sin specific sins and then holds the man responsible” seems contrary to any of the various human ideas of responsibility. When you disconnect these words from their dictionary definitions, you empty them of recognisable meaning. Your use of them in describing God becomes at best tautological, and… Read more »
Chris Duncan would not call himself a Calvinist. He beliefs are closer to what some people call “hyper-Calvinism”, but he doesn’t own that title either. And I agree with him that he’s not a Calvinist or a hyper-Calvinist. He’s something even more extreme. There’s a few different definitions of hyper-Calvinism – here’s one of them: if you think that Arminians are not saved, then you’re a hyper-Calvinist. Chris Duncan and his friends over at outsidethecamp say that if you’re not a hyper-Calvinist (by that definition), then you’re not a Christian. In other words, “Unless you agree with us that Arminians… Read more »
Just in case you missed it, I have not been presenting a positive case for Calvinism (cf. http://wp.me/plsW0-11f). You write: “For example, to say that ‘God actively causes a man to sin specific sins and then holds the man responsible’ seems contrary to any of the various human ideas of responsibility.” In the context of God’s authority to do whatever He likes with His creation, you wrote that it “seems contrary to any of the various human ideas of responsibility.” Are you basically saying that if this is how it is with God and certain humans, then God cannot find… Read more »
“Are you basically saying that if this is how it is with God and certain humans, then God cannot find fault with these humans, seeing they cannot resist His will to harden them” I can’t object to God doing whatever He likes — He is God, after all — I only object to the use of the term “responsible” to describe a human whose every thought and action has been pre-determined from before the creation of the world. I object to this usage because it flies in the face of any familiar human use of the term. You might say… Read more »
“So, then, to whom He desires, He shows mercy. And to whom He desires, He hardens. You will then say to me, Why does He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will? Yes, rather, O man, who are you answering against God? Shall the thing formed say to the One forming it, Why did You make me like this? Or does not the potter have authority over the clay, out of the one lump to make one vessel to honor, and one to dishonor? But if God, desiring to demonstrate His wrath, and to make His power known,… Read more »
Thanks jigawatt. Seems I have some reading to do. Honestly, at face value it seems a contradiction that God sovereignly plans our every thought and yet we retain ultimate responsibility. For the record, I am a materialist but not the dogmatic kind. I just don’t see any convincing evidence for gods, angels, spirits, psychic powers, etc. I certainly can’t explain how I came about as a sentient being from purely natural causes. But “purely natural causes” are all that I see in the world around me. Every time a child is born, a sentient being is created apparently by purely… Read more »
Thanks to you too, BillB. One realization that has really helped me is when I asked myself, “If God is real, and he’s really as grand and powerful and higher above us as his Word says he is, where do I get off feeling like I deserve an intellectually satisfying answer to every question I have about God?” Humility is one of the hallmarks of a Christian, and now that I have children, this is all the more evident to me. There are times when “Because Daddy says so” has to do, and those are times when my kids need… Read more »
I was brought up in an implicitly Arminian flavour of evangelicalism, so I’d have believed that God loves me and wants me to freely choose Him, and therefore that He’ll provide any required answers. Especially those likely to make the difference between my becoming (and remaining) saved — which God very much wants — or not. Lack of such answers was certainly a factor in my own eventual deconversion. I agree with you about humility, but there is a difference between admitting I don’t know (about much at all, in my case!) and accepting poor or paradoxical answers without good… Read more »
Again, thanks for the honest reply. I love my Arminian brothers and sisters in Christ, but many of them balk at Calvinism for this very reason. It’s kind of strange though, they’d gladly admit that the doctrine of the Trinity is something we can never completely understand, but we ought to believe it because it’s in the Bible. Then they turn right around and reject Calvinism, because they can’t completely understand the sovereign working of God in our lives as taught in the same Bible.
What he says must be true by the Ipse Dixit Principle of Guys with British Accents.
One fellar did pen: “Write down any notable phrases that occur to you, or that you have come across. If it is one that you have found in another writer, and it is striking, then quote it, as the fellow said, or modify it to make it yours.” Notable and striking, aye. As the same fellar as the previously quoted fellar above, sai — er…articulated: “If we were all sitting on a used car lot, and one of the F-250 trucks began questioning the existence of Henry Ford, we would all think it was a serious situation, but that is… Read more »
And btw Wilson- blind chance? Really? I know that you understand evolutionary theory enough to know that blind chance has nothing to do with it- random mutation yes. It is precisely the existence of the non-chance parts that allows evolution function so well. The process of evolution is driven by the engine of natural selection, a filter that extracts order out of chaos according to a fixed and non-random set of rules. So you are purposefully misrepresenting.
I think that people who have not been educated in the life sciences, including myself, struggle with the concept of randomness because in ordinary usage it suggests blind chance. I have been told that when my parents conceived me, the chromosomes were shuffled as I might shuffle a deck of cards. This sounds entirely random, and this randomness explains why if I had been conceived an hour earlier or an hour later I might be green-eyed like my sister or have the beautiful even teeth of my brother. I think also that non-biologists think in terms of generations we can… Read more »
Agreed jillybean. It is hard to look at the counter-intuitive and accept it without really evaluating the evidence. Indeed, valuing evidence at all. I know from my christian education that a certain stripe of religionist skips the evidence and moves right to refutation and tactics. My experience here shows me 90% of the time that means rhetoric and purposeful misdirection. As above. You make a good point, we cannot see natural selection operating in real time and it takes an inquisitive, open imagination to want to look at the evidence. Frankly the evidence takes more than a minute to understand.… Read more »
We can’t see natural selection operating in the present time.
Yes we can. No one really questions natural selection as an event. Though it may be less prevalent than many suppose (selection of the lucky at times). But plenty of examples of natural selection over our lifetimes. Blind cave fish, fish size shrinking (though really unintended artificial selection).
Uh. No he’s not. The only things that goes into that filter are the results of “blind chance”. In science, if the input to any system is purely random, then it is a random system. There is no predictability. And the output of the system is random, and if it is fed into a natural selection filter, it will be random as well. I understand that you think order can be produced from this, but it is an order driven by chance. Have ever taken biochemistry. Do you even understand the number of happy random events that must occur for… Read more »
You do not seem to understand evolutionary theory, unlike Wilson who is clearly just being dishonest about it. Do the smallest amount of research.
There is a ‘random’ element and that is genetic mutation, most of which are harmful. The rest is a purely algorithmic process. Natural (and obviously artificial) section is the opposite of chance.
You don’t get genetic mutations until you have genes which I’m sure you can acknowledge with nearly any amount of biological understanding. You need a lot of random, non-genetic inputs into your natural selection system before you even get to that point. You don’t seem to understand natural selection, or stochastic systems, if you think natural selection is the opposite of change. It is at best a semi-random process since the same random input of a beneficial change, may or may not result in survival to the next generation….or into the wider gene pool. Really, go buy a book on… Read more »
One relevant thing you mentioned is that genetic mutations need to happen to genes. Yes.
I did not write that natural selection was the opposite of change. I wrote that it is the opposite of chance. Selection acts on that variation of mutation in a very non-random way. Genetic variants that benefit survival and allow for reproduction are much more likely to become common than variants that don’t. Not random.
“This is why shrewd nonbelievers, among whom we do not count Richard Dawkins, usually retreat to a form of agnosticism.”
Um, no. I can neither prove nor disprove the existence of leprechauns, that does not mean I’m agnostic on the question. Not believing in something for which there’s no good evidence neither makes me an agnostic, nor the maker of a dogmatic claim. And the person claiming something does exist has the burden of proof. As you would surely recognize if this discussion were about leprechauns rather than God.
Leprechauns should be disprovable.
How? How would you prove that leprechauns don’t exist?
What are the traits they are supposed to posess? and do they appear in any historical accoint?
I have’t heard of any historical leprechans and their only traits are hiding gold at the end of rainbows and granting wishes. As far as I know it is impossible to hide gold at the end of a rainbow therefore there are no leprechauns.
That merely means nobody wrote about them in historical accounts, not that they don’t exist. And they do appear in folk tales, so maybe there is an historical basis for them, and if you want to know their traits, read the folk tales.
See, in order to disprove the existence of leprechauns, you have to disprove every alternative. Trust me, you’re not going to be able to do that.
Sure folktails may be rooted in truth so leprecauns may be based on actual creatures or events but that makes them a distortion and not actual creatures.
You’re missing the broader point. A person claiming that something DOES NOT exist has to disprove every single one of the infinite possible scenarios under which a leprechaun might exist, and you’re not going to be able to do that. Maybe they’re invisible, or hiding, or live deep underground, or have the power to change their shape so they appear to be something else; there’s literally a million reasons why they might exist but nobody has ever actually seen one. Maybe when someone does see them, they bribe that person to keep quiet. Maybe they’re too small to see. We… Read more »
Is this like trying to prove that there is no invisible cat on my rug?
Ah but when talking about leprechauns you are limited by the folktails about them, which are not infinite. If I disprove all those then leprechauns don’t exist.
I doubt you can disprove all of the folk tales; how are you going to prove that something didn’t happen? But even if you do, that doesn’t mean that the folk tales are complete. Can you prove that every possible thing about every possible leprechaun got recorded in a folk tale? Or that some of the tales weren’t lost over time?
What I do is define a leprechaun as described in the folk tales then prove that such a creature can not exist. Other fey creatures may still be possible but they will not be leprechauns.
OK, how can you prove that a leprechaun can’t exist?
Leprechauns are allegedly “always after me lucky charms”, but my lucky charms were never stolen. …………………So I ate them all!
Pink hearts, yellow moons, and yes folks all those green clovers! ; – )
Magical beings should not have a problem stealing Lucky Charms from kids,
yet I hear of no epidemic of missing lucky charms! This does demonstrate a lack of leprechaun activity! ; – )
Unfortunately you have it backwards the lucky charms are stolen from the leprechaun.
So……. this proves that I am a ……..leprechaun? ; – )
You still haven’t proven that such a creature cannot exist, which is a different claim than merely saying it does not exist.
What I mean by can’t exist is for example hiding gold at the end if a rainbow, which is impossible.
So is parting the Red Sea. We’re positing supernatural leprechauns.
“So is parting the Red Sea. We’re positing supernatural leprechauns.”
It is physicaly possible to seperate a body of water into two, it is not physicaly possible to reach the end of a rainbow. Therefore there can be no gold hidden at a point that doesn’t exist.
The difficulty in disproving leprechauns is that they are a subtype of elf.
Raising the dead
Healing the sick.
Giving the blind sight.
Walking on water.
5000 loaves from 5
i.e. miracles performed by God who is not of this world, but who did walk among us as Jesus.
“You’re missing the broader point. A person claiming that something DOES NOT exist has to disprove every single one of the infinite possible scenarios”
As a matter of local rhetoric, Dawkins, above, is the one claiming something, “God”, does not exist, and, that he does not have to disprove God. You are claiming the oposite re: leprechauns.
I’ll be munching on my Lucky Charms, while you sort this out, assuming that lucky charms exist! ; – ) (and they won’t, after I eat them!)
No, because you have an idea of what people mean by leprechauns. That is why Russell’s teapot is so silly, it is something we know, but is made by men, and not expected to be in space.
I don’t believe in unicorns because I know these are fantastical creatures. But a am agnostic on a claim for a newly “discovered” extremophile.
But the point of Russell’s teapot is the difficulty of disproving even things that people know to be silly. It’s completely silly to believe that Bill Clinton has conversations with Napoleon, but I doubt that you could actually prove the negative and conclusively show that he doesn’t have conversations with Napoleon. Which is part of the reason why the burden of proof is always on the person claiming something exists or that something happened, and not on the doubter. It’s why the prosecution has to prove you’re guilty rather than you have to show that you’re innocent,
But both sides don’t believe in the teapot. For one side to claim the other side’s claim silly when they do not believe it to be so is intellectual cowardice while ironically trying to own the moral high-ground.
The difference, however, is that there are known reasons a teapot *cannot* orbit the sun. Therefore it is improbable that all these reasons could be overthrown. There are no reasons that we know of, that a transcendent, omnipotent spiritual being cannot exist. Therefore there is nothing improbable about the possibility that such a thing exists, beyond our concrete powers of detection. The lack of concrete evidence is conceded, but there is no logical reason that the lack of concrete evidence is a good enough reason to be strongly prejudiced against the possibility of a thing’s existence, if the thing is… Read more »
Why couldn’t a teapot orbit the sun? I’ll agree it’s highly unlikely, but why would it be impossible? And there are lots of possible scenarios for why it might: Maybe a UFO alien accidentally dropped it from her spaceship, for starters.
Given enough time, literally anything *could* happen.
Krychek is right, you can get a teapot orbiting the sun. The reason Russell’s idea is so stupid is that we know that teapots are manmade and exist on the earth, so why would there be one orbiting the sun. When scientists predict (invent) the Oort Cloud orbiting the sun to save their theory no one bats an eyelid.
The existence of orbiting teapots and Irish fairies are arbitrary conjectures/hypotheticals. Arbitrariness is not justification. God has not revealed such existences — as there is no objectively revealed direct/explicit justification for them via Scripture, and we have no implicit revealed justification for them: that is, there is no inductive sensory perception justification for them along with no deductive justification (there is no logically necessary justification) for them. So man made in God’s image, has no need to be concerned with believing in their existence on such conjectural ground/sand of arbitrariness. The Christian, thanks to God, is consistently obedient not to… Read more »
The degree of consequence of a given idea or creature will uiltimately determine how far we will go in order to verify or dismiss it. Leprechauns may very well exist, but the entirely of existence does not depend on them.
Nor does the entirety of existence depend on God. At least I’ve never heard a good argument for why it does.
Believe it or reject it, that is what we are postulating when we say God. You got my point.
. Not believing in something for which there’s no good evidence neither makes me an agnostic, nor the maker of a dogmatic claim
Are you claiming that “The evidence for God is not good” ? Or are you moving the goalposts?
I’m not sure which goalposts you think I’m moving, but I think the answer to the question you’re asking is that I can’t categorically say there is *no* evidence for God, since that would require me to prove a negative. I think such evidence as there is, is weak, easily refuted, and mostly the result of confirmation bias. However, I’m sincerely open to looking at evidence if someone has some.
A Parable for our Time Once upon a time some scientists discovered the carcass of a deer. They also found wolf tracks next to the carcass, tooth and claw marks on the deer consistent with wolves, and wolf feces nearby that contained deer meat. They concluded that a pack of wolves had killed and eaten the deer. However, a group of people called Intelligent Wolfists disputed these conclusions. They had ancient texts that said that wolves do not kill deer, and for them that settled the matter. But because it did not settle the matter for the scientific community, nor… Read more »
If you knew the shenanigans that go on in the human evolution field the roles in your parable would be reversed.
Lets take this monkey skull off the surrounding skeleton and join it to this hip bone we found 50 metres down stream. And let’s construct an entire hominid with this (later to be discovered pig) tooth including his family and cultural practices.
Can you cite me an example of the scenario you laid out actually happening? Calling it a night now, so if you can I’ll respond in the morning.
Are you unaware of all the retractions?
Give me a citation to one of them.
Is that question one of curiosity or disbelief?
It is not that I mind sharing them, but I am surprised you are unaware of the vicious arguments and the false claims in the human evolution field.
It’s a request that you back up your sweeping generality of a claim, just as you would if someone make a comparable broad sweeping claim about Christians being hypocrites.
Scientists occasionally misinterpret data, and any field run by human beings will contain an occasional fraudster, but the scientific method is designed to weed out both and in my experience is generally successful. If you have specifics you’d like to talk about, fine; otherwise you’ve made a broad, sweeping generality that’s no more than that.
I picked the obvious ones, but the disputes and questionable methods in human paleontology are longstanding.
Nebraska man a pig, Java man a human leg and the surrounding human skulls were ignored for the ape skull several metres away.
Please re-check your facts: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/homs/a_nebraska.html
How does atheist apologists explaining away bad behaviour negate it. Yes the European anthropologists disputed Nebraska man because they were antagonistic to the Americans, but more than just the discover made claims for it. And Java man components were found distant. Your link concedes they weren’t the same creature. Combined with the nonsense reconstructions for various creatures; that every new find was put in the line to humans and previous finds relegated to outlier status; the fallacious claims that Lucy walked upright. The history is one of making up preposterous stories and when they are disproven there is minimal fanfare,… Read more »
One certainly could not prove a criminal case that way.
You can’t do science without God who gives the conditions to allow science. The God revealed in Scripture is the very precondition for intelligibility, without him you can’t make sense of your objection.
If I said, “There’s an invisible elf named Fred sitting on my shoulder, and you can’t do science without him. Fred gives the conditions to allow science and is the very precondition for intelligibility,” you would have no trouble seeing why that is an uncommonly silly argument, and you would laugh to scorn anyone who seriously made it.
The argument is not improved by substituting God for Fred.
If you believed an elf is the Creator revealed in his creation (the heavens declare the glory of God, Psalm 19), who gives you your conscience and self awareness (Hebrews 10:16), and sustains the universe by the power of his word, (Hebrews 3), I would consider you lacking fundamentals. You’d have no epistemological authority, theory of knowledge, scholarly foundation, historicity, or evidence. However, God who gives you life, reason and his revelation in word and creation will not be mocked. You have all the evidence you need, you do not lack and will be without excuse (Romans1:20). You are choosing… Read more »
Except that how those chance processes work and the results they produce are sufficiently well understood and supported by the evidence to give them credence; other than a much-discredited book you like to quote, where’s your evidence? For the rest of your post, if it makes you feel better to believe that, go ahead.
No they are not.
Given the Bible explains you have all the evidence you need, what more evidence in particular do you want?
And by the way, if you want to know how Mr. Trump managed to seize control of the Republican Party, look in the mirror. His “what do experts know about foreign policy/taxes/the economy” is simply a variation of “what do scientists know about evolution/climate change.” It’s another manifestation of the know-nothingism in which your ignorance of science is considered equally valid as the opinions of people who make their living studying it.
The weakest word salad I’ve heard in a long time.
You could’ve brought some better counter-dressing…
I agree with Victoryrider that Dawkins is pretty weak in this video.
At time 1:47 in the video, Dawkins makes two classic atheistic blunders in his attempt to dismiss Pascal’s Wager. First, Dawkins dismissively declares that Pascal’s Wager is a silly argument because, “if you bet on Yahweh and it turns out to be Ba’al or Thor, then you’re in trouble”. However, recall that Pascal’s Wager was not given by Pascal as a universal analysis against all competing worldviews and religions. Rather the Wager is Pascal’s special challenge to his atheistic friends, in particular. So, as an atheist, Dawkins’ response is of no logical use against the Wager, since, if it turns… Read more »
Dawkin’s “refutation” of the first cause argument is breath-takingly vapid. He says if God is the first cause, the where did God come from? Showing that he doesn’t really have a grasp on the term “first cause”. Nor does he apply that standard to the existence of matter, time, and whatever constitutes our universe, past and present.
I think you’re missing the point entirely. Dawkins fully understands that deists believe God is self-existent; the point of his refutation is that you’ll always arrive at something you just call self-existent, whether it’s the universe itself, a singularity, some infinite process of expansion and contraction, or a supernatural creator. The latter doesn’t explain the former in any way that the former don’t explain themselves.
Worst tie ever.
I took a Philosophy class my first year of college, back in Imperial County. I remember our Instructor talk about God’s existence in a form of a math equation. I don’t recall it exactly, but it went something like this…….. If there was a God (+) and you believed (+) = you were good. if there was no God (-) and you didn’t believe (-) = you were okay if there was a God (-) and you didn’t believe (-) = you were screwed something like it……….has anyone ever heard of this? I don’t remember who the author or the… Read more »
I don’t know what book you read it in, but you are describing is Pascal’s Wager. He was a seventeenth century French mathematician, physicist, and philosopher. The wager said that it is safer to believe in God because, if there is no God, you have lost nothing by believing; if there is a God, then you have lost heaven by not believing.
Brother Wilson, I like your style.