Greg Koukl: Christian workshops on “New Atheist Fallacies”

Richard Dawkins has posted some YouTube clips on his site of a talk given by a Christian activist named Greg Koukl.

Greg is attempting to arm his audience with a range of handy repudiations to spit out when faced with awkward questions from intelligent atheists, which he refers to as the “New Atheists”, e.g., non-believers who (by his questionable logic) may well think that they have thought about “it” for themselves, but are in fact merely regurgitating the misinformation given to them by the recent spate of best selling writers like Dan Dennett, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens; and that there is some wilfully disingenuousness agenda on the part of these authors and the slant they have put on what religion is and what it is not.

http://richarddawkins.net/article,2786,n,n

Koukl starts off by explaining what critical thinking actually is – and immediately gets it deeply wrong by using flawed assumptions to segue into deeply erroneous accusations that we (atheists) are entertaining in the way we ridicule Christianity, but only because it serves as a distraction from the question of ‘spirituality’ – the assumption on Koukl’s part being that this is because new atheism can’t answer anything which, by definition, can only “belong” to those with religious faith.

This was a great reminder to me to write more on the issue of human spirituality, because I think it has been out there as an unresolved question for some time, following various atheist threads I’ve started here and continued with some of you via email; also it might be handy for those of you who tune in to and read my RSS feed, but who don’t leave comments or email me directly, to know exactly where I stand on this theological point.

I hope we can agree, firstly, that religion does have something of an exclusivity deal on the use of certain words which refer to that inner mounting flame we all have in our hearts. Spirituality is merely one of those words which is used as a tag line, in the vocabulary of the religious (in the same way we describe ourselves as ‘professional’ on a job application form) simply to add more gravitas to something which really doesn’t need any more adjectives adding to it, to be perfectly well understood in the appropriate context.

Semantic minutia aside (this isn’t a cop out, I just want to make a solid point and don’t want to lose anyone) Koukl also reminds us that even the act of opening a dialogue on matters of spirituality is seen by many Christians as an act of “searching for Jesus”, which it should be seen as the duty of a Christian to reach out to us, in the darkness and guide us toward His light.

It is, from a certain twisted point of view, very generous of Christians to think this way (if they genuinely do) but it’s also a pretty impossible thing to argue against, without sounding ungrateful. It is, however, a stark reminder of the difference between how the world appears to be, from the perspective of someone who is blissfully certain they are ‘saved’ for (non) thinking in such a way and it highlights the difficulty in explaining to these people how much greater the beauty of the universe is, when seen through the lens of open-minded curiosity; that the deep blackness ahead of us all, is itself more than half the attraction to an atheist in their abandoning of such ancient and empty simplicities as Yahweh worship.

Falling neatly into Koukl’s trap, I stop at this point and note that if the bible really was the undisputed word of God (as to be a Christian you must insist that it is) it would not need any additional interpretation. It would stand on its own. It would make mention of, you would assume, the quantum mechanical world. It would, at the very least you would hope, list the elements in the periodic table. Yet it makes no mention of anything which was undiscovered at the time it was written; there is no genuine prophecy within its pages of any sort. No mention of radio waves, microwaves, photosynthesis.. I digress.

To be clear, Mister Koukl. These are my own words, they were not put into my head by a mischievous intellectual in devils clothing – who may well have arrived at the same conclusions as I and billions of other like me have, about the truly inconceivably complex nature of nature.

These thoughts and ideas arrived in my head on their own fruition, driven by a logical analysis of the irrefutable evidence in front of my wide open eyes, which stands in sharp contrast to the glaring lack of evidence for the claims of religion; that no-one reading this, ignoring this, agreeing with this or hating me for thinking like this can claim to be anything other than bronze age myths, given exaggerated credence by the mere passage of time. End of story.

If the religious want their definition of God to be more than that; if they want their special books to mean more than they actually do, it is not only futile for me to even attempt to stop them from think that way, I wouldn’t even want to do, even if I could.

It is not as great a concern to me to convert anyone into being an a-theist, as it clearly is for the religious to do the opposite and convince everyone they meet, as solidly and blindly as they have convinced themselves, that there is something super-relevant to our modern lives within the abstract thoughts and murderous actions of pre-industrialised middle-eastern tribesmen, with a political agenda as unchanged today as it was when the first drafts of the books they murdered their way through the known world to proliferate, where first scratched out.

And yet I am full of spirituality. I call “it” that not to draw religious fire, but because it is my word for “it”. Some call “it” ‘QI’, others ‘Karma’. For me, it’s not a bright light at the end of a tunnel, or any other kind of stimulation of the neurotransmitters over-producing dopamine in my brain. It’s not the words in a book or the sacrament of group solidarity in a dimly lit chapel or the rock concert style energy in a brightly modern super-tabernacle.

The human spirit inside of me, no matter what religion claims to hold over me and my brothers and sisters in truth, is the sheer laugh out loud joy of being able see all monotheistic faiths for the insignificant folly that they really are – against the awesome backdrop of the ever unfolding universe before our very eyes, which ‘requires’ not one single superstitious assumption about how it all works, how it came to exist and how it will probably come to an end, to nevertheless remain TRUE!

We really DO live on the crusty dried out husk on top of a giant ball of molten rock, floating around a thermonuclear reactor which is billions and billions of years old. We really ARE descended from every other living creature on the entire planet, which as far as we know is the only one of its kind anywhere in the entire universe, which itself may be within and without other dimensions of a wobbling grid of space, which is so elastic it gives us something we call time.

This is the awesome childlike wonder Mr Koukl claims to have found elsewhere; in the page of a badly translated Hebrew book of guess work, but which billions upon billions of his fellow species have already found in something far more beautiful than the wilful act of non-thinking; religious blind faith. All we are waiting for, to travel together, deeper into that incredible future, is for the Greg Koukl’s of this world to worry less and stop acting so frightened and intellectually embarrassed at having been proven time and again, completely wrong.

143 comments on “Greg Koukl: Christian workshops on “New Atheist Fallacies”

  1. I kept waiting for him to actually explain an atheist argument, or provide an argument against atheistic views for the confused and frustrated audience he was counseling (and likely taking lots and lots of money from). Oh, and I have to point out, that when he brings up Dawkins’ book “The God Delusion”, the graphic showed the book in grey and red… and I’ve never seen the book released in any color but gold. Or am I confusing that with Sam Harris’ The End of Faith? Hmm…..


  2. Okay, this is what the book looks like in my area, but I googleimage-searched and saw the red graphic, so, I’ll call my error. Still, to say Dawkins is ‘hostile’? America is in war against islamofascist jihad, but Dawkins is hostile? Sigh.

  3. Unfortunately I think the only point he was making is that “the Lord’s work goes on”, in the face of reason and reality.

    And yes, Dawkins gets that sort of thing a lot, I’ve noticed. Being able to string a sentence together which perfectly sums up the virus of religious faith is “aggressive”, but claiming tax exemption for the voices in your head is out of “respect”. The world is fucked.

  4. This guy is also playing semantics on the definition of ‘argument’ versus ‘opinion’. He wants opinion to mean only, ‘my uninformed gut reaction’, but that is only the unfortunate recent connotation of the word. Opinion also means, ‘my informed, researched conclusion’.

    Math has a good example of this. A quadrilateral is a shape with four sides composed of straight lines, with whatever bent, weird contortions you want. A square also contains four lines, but all of equal length and equal 90o angles. Now. A square IS ALWAYS a quadrilateral, but not every quadrilateral is a square.

    For example: If there was a television show that said dancing unicorns and leprauchans were the reason my mp3 player works, my ARGUMENT is that you’re wrong, that in fact electricity, a circuit board, and tiny pits in the form of 0-1 digital information is what makes my mp3 player work. My argument is neatly constructed, just like a house (gah, I tire of the house analogies), and all my reasons support it. Because my argument is correctly constructed, my opinion will have the same merit. Yet religious people dance upon the connotation of “Well, that’s just your opinion”, as if the reason any Atheist holds true to their ideas is because its fluff they whipped up like a vat of cool whip.

  5. After all the pontificating, arguments and super-informed opinions , can you atheists please simply provide a credible, scientifically-backed and proven answer to the following question: How do you get something from nothing? How, please? How does energy and matter come into existence from nothingness? If there was a Big Bang (which we all reasonably accept), who or what pulled the trigger? I’m not aware of any cases where an unloaded gun goes off by itself without someone loading it and pulling the trigger (let alone the gun going off absent an actual gun and bullet). Effectively satisfy me with a scientifically reasonable answer to this question and then perhaps my closed-Christian-mind might be open to other super-informed points-of-view. By the way, double helix DNA and all the information encoded manifesting from primordial soup does not satisfy (any soup I’ve ever tasted started with a farmer, ingredients and a chef…and dang it, there we go again, where did the farmer come from?!). To believe your point of view requires much too much faith, far beyond my small evolved Darwinian mind to grasp. I concede and admit, my faith is not as great as yours. Perhaps I’ll get there one day, but in the meantime, please answer my question with more than intellectually-greater-than-thou bullying bluster. Just the facts, ma’am. Thank you. And one last question, can you please direct me to the website providing evidence and proof that there indeed is no God. “The Google” just isn’t delivering the goods when I search. Sorry. In need of a super-informed atheist Googler, I guess.

  6. Todd:
    On the polite assumption you actually want an answer, instead of an argument, brace yourself for some facts.

    The big bang didn’t come from nothing. The singularity, no matter how improbable, is fully catered for in modern quantum mechanics. It is understood to within a certainty factor of a number with 56 decimal places. We know, through the deductive logic of scientific discovery, more about what happened 36 billionths of a second after the big bang, than we do about life at the bottom of the oceans.

    Furthermore, string theory shows that along a membrane of potential energy, many universes, or multi-verse, can, given the appropriate, not as yet fully understood circumstances, explode into existence, making a big bang not only more probable, but in fact more likely to have happened many times before and since the creation of the universe we happen to exist within.

    If you think that all sounds like faith by any other name, you don’t understand empirical evidence—and even if big bang did somehow turn out to be the wrong avenue of investigation, for how the universe came to be, that doesn’t automatically mean a supernatural creature from bronze-age myth is therefore a more likely cause.

    I’m a little confused by the wording of much of your question, but upon even further assumption, given that you mention DNA and something about not being satisfied with your own mind(?) please note that Darwin said nothing about and made no apologies for the fact that his proof of evolution by natural selection made no postulate about origins.

    However, in the 1920s, Aleksandr Oparin and J. B. S. Haldane, working independently of each other, proposed similar theoretical schemes for how life may have originated on Earth and devised the following experiment to prove it.

    Take two flasks, one above the other, connected by two tubes to provide a simple model of the Earth. The lower flask containing heated water, to model warming by the greenhouse effect of the primeval ocean and the upper flask to represent the primordial atmosphere, containing methane, ammonia and hydrogen, which is released from rocks by volcanic activity. Through one of the tubes the warm water will vaporise and condense on the top of the upper flask and fall again as a model of rainfall down the second tube.

    Pass an electrical current through this vapour, to simulate lightening. After a week you will have a yellow-brown goo containing seven amino acids and other organic compounds, the essential building blocks for protein. Three of the seven—glycine, aspartic acid and alanine, are the essential building blocks for RNA and DNA.

    A repeatable experiment, using nothing more than the available fundamental elements which have existed abundant throughout the universe since the big bang itself shows that with no magic words or incantations, no special robes and ceremonies, slaying of opponents, cash donations or promises which can never be fulfilled, just good old fashioned chemistry and a couple of billion years evolution can produce the vast array of life on Earth. And what’s more we can prove it by taking a sample of your blood and looking at the groups of protein strands in your DNA which you share in common with the 3 billion year old bacteria in the primeval oceans from whence we all came.

    If you think there is anything more beautiful or profound in a book written by two thousand year old nomadic goat herders, knock yourself out. I personally find the truth far more amazing and reminding of how fragile we all are, than fairy tales designed to answer questions we have always asked ourselves, to which religion was once an important part of our philosophical answer, but which is now surplus to requirements.

  7. Jim, not only was your response truly beautiful, and I mean that, but throwing in the nomadic goat herders at the end still has me laughing out loud. How good can it get – a poetic explanation with a good laugh at the end. Love that about you!

  8. Jim, I did want an answer…and was surprised and appreciative of your detailed response. You’re very articulate. Thank you. While I have a bit of a scientific background, it’s certainly not on a professional level.

    In thinking about the origin of the universe, I get hung up thinking “either the universe had a beginning or it did not.” If it did, then it was either caused or uncaused. If it was caused, then what kind of cause could be responsible for bringing all things into being? I just can’t wrap my mind around the universe coming from nothing by nothing. How can the universe constantly generate hydrogen atoms from nothing? Just seems to violate the law of causality, which I thought was a fundamental law of science.

    Regarding a multi-verse, to me this posit just pushes the question back one step: Where did the universe slot machine come from and who’s pulling the lever? I wouldn’t dare to dismiss string theory which, as you say, is not fully understood (the link to Dawkins was indeed weird – I would suggest not providing it as credible support for your point-of-view…Dawkins has done better). As I understand it, though, string theory tries to explain the origin of the “perceptible” universe, as not something arising from nothing, but something forming from something else, that has always existed, but is unseen and unknowable. From a physics standpoint, that seems to point pretty well to an intelligent supernatural primary cause-er (or, “decider” if you voted for Bush).

    You are right. Darwin said nothing about and made no apologies for the fact that his proof of evolution by natural selection made no postulate about origins. Sorry about my unintentional misrepresentation. Regarding Darwin’s theory, though, can you please opine on the Cambrian explosion? Most Paleontologists now posit that during a five-million-year window of time, at least twenty and as many as thirty-five of the world’s forty phyla, the highest category in the animal kingdom, sprang forth with UNIQUE body plans. In fact, some experts believe that “all living phyla may have originated by the end of the explosion.” (See: J.w. Valentine et al., “Fossils, Molecules, and Embryos: New Perspectives on the Cambrian Explosion.”)

    To put this speed into perspective, if you were to compress all the Earth’s history into twenty-four hours, the Cambrian explosion would consume only about one minute. This represents an incredible leap in biological complexity. Before then, life on Earth was pretty simple – one-celled bacteria, blue-green algae, and later some sponges and primitive worms and mollusks. Then without any ancestors in the fossil record, we have a stunning variety of complex creatures appearing in a blink of an eye, geologically speaking. This contradicts Darwinism, which predicted the slow, gradual development in organisms over time. I know Darwin admitted the Cambrian explosion was “inexplicable” and “a valid argument” against his theory, and thought he would be vindicated in the future, however, as more fossils were discovered, the Darwinian picture has only gotten worse. But I can still wrap my mind around an intelligent designer “thinking” the world’s forty phyla into existence…it’s a much easier leap of faith, for me.

    And not to leave your reference to Aleksandr Oparin and J. B. S. Haldane without a response, I would simply invite you to visit read: http://www.faithfreedom.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=56785&start=0&sid=fea5b380d83c83b4c87888f017675210

    Jim, for the record, I’m 44 years old and had a mindset similar to yours for 42 long years. Your personal experience is yours, and mine is mine. As for me, God stared me down, and I blinked. As He is prone to do, He brought me to my knees so that I might look up. When I did, I didn’t see a supernatural creature from bronze-age myth, but a no-kidding-around real, loving, knowable God. My first 42 years I would have rolled my eyes, too. However, after fully exploring the evidence with an open mind, I find science has actually discovered God. No sir, I wouldn’t wish my “brought to my knees” circumstances on anybody, unless it might help them discover the truth.

    Thank you for the friendly debate. Not that it will impact your point of view, but I will pray for you and all unbelievers. I’ll leave with the paragraph written by Robert Jastrow in the closing of his book, God and the Astronomers:

    “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.” ;D

    Todd

    P.S. Read Lee Strobel’s series on The Case For a Creator, The Case For Christ, The Case For Faith, and his soon to be released book, The Case For Nomadic Goat Herder Fairy Tale Writers.

  9. The idea of being prayed for actually annoys me a little bit. It’s condescending and unnecessary. If it gets you through the day, to feel better about yourself for having dedicated a private thought about someone to your own externalised ego, go right ahead, but it’s not through a lack of faith that I am certain nothing “out there” is listening to you—and if there was I’d actually prefer it if it left me alone and concentrated on the people who have needed His intervention for a long time, while he was busy palling around with Pat Robertson.

    You seem like a genuine guy and I’m glad my acerbic wit (read arrogant fucking British wanker) doesn’t detract from the point—although I do feel rather disappointed that all the prose and amusing similes in the world isn’t going to even make a dent in your unflinching ability to show a firm grip on the actual wonders of the world, while holding entirely made-up fantasies in higher regard. I’ll refrain from quoting Douglas Adam’s beautiful garden for the umpteenth time.

    I have to admit that, while I’m sure it’ll guarantee me forever branded a typical close-minded atheist, I probably won’t be reading Lee Strobel any time soon. Anyone who writes books which might as well be entitled ‘How to shoe-horn irrational nonsense into just about anything” is time spent reading fan fiction, when I could be reading books for adults.

    As for the article linked on faithfreedom.org—anyone who claims to be capable of refuting a mountain of irrefutable evidence by quoting bible verse and making blanket assumptions about what god is and is not capable of doing to influence the direction, potency and deliberation of the ejaculate on its way towards the female egg, terrifies me. I’d rather share a pitch black cell with Alister Crowley than subject myself to another second of such a miserable coagulate of unthinking dreck and self-satisfied shite.

    Don’t take that wrong.

  10. Thank you for not answering my questions.

    Not surprising. Once the truly difficult questions are posed (and mine were just a few), the atheist tact seems to be evoke bluster, intellectual self-elitism, swearing and the like. But predictably absent substance.

    No interest in true investigation seems to be an atheistic symptom. So much for your mountain of refutable evidence. And by the way, you seemed to miss the point that I was very similar in mindset to you and wielded the same tactics…BUT, I was willing to finally open my mind just enough to truly examine the scientific evidence for the existence of an Intelligent Designer. I think it’s just tellingly fantastic that you are so aggressive on your atheist pulpit, yet so non-willing to read a counter SCIENTIFIC point(s)-of-view. I have read the Bible, all of Strobel’s books, and more on “science and God” than most. Additionally, I’ve enjoyed reading Hitchens and Dawkins, for I am all about thoroughly investigating both sides. I also, by the way, read refutations to these books, including ‘God is No Delusion’ by Crean and ‘The Delusion of Disbelief’ by Aikman. You’d be more credible with your point-of-view if you’d do the same.

    And I must say, if pages 157 and 158 of Dawkin’s The God Delusion sums up the central argument for all atheists, you’re hopeless. (I’ll still pray for you…seriously).

    Oh, and regarding Douglas Adams, anyone referring to Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’ as a “bombshell” to God-believers certainly ‘credibly changes my mind.’ Good Lord. Answer my question regarding the Cambridge explosion and the multi-universe, will ya? Again, “the facts, ma’am, just the facts’ (read, intelligent response requested versus witty bullying bluster, please).

    I’ll keep my eye posted for your answers.

    In the meantime, I think I’m going to sit down with my Bible and read a bit of The Book of Revelation again. Man, the Great Tribulation is going to be a real “wanker.” While you’re experiencing it, just keep this friendly email debate in mind…and remember that all is not lost, you will still have the opportunity to accept Christ into your life. It’s going to really suck for a few years…but, at least the Big Guy upstairs gives you and yours one last out.

    Love ya,

    Todd

    P.S. Enjoyed the video on the fish. Now how exactly does that prove God does not exist? Isn’t He great? Absolutely amazing the more we discover, huh? What a sense of humor He has!!!

  11. One last comment, I checked with the Library of Congress, and the books ‘God is No Delusion’ by Crean and ‘The Delusion of Disbelief’ by Aikman are both in the “Adult” section. Just wanted to double check my facts…wanted to make sure that they weren’t in the fairy tale section as you will most likely counter. ‘The God Delusion’ was also in the “Adult” section, just for the record. Later.

  12. And I’ll assume my “tirade” didn’t. It’s so interesting to me, any time difficult questions are posed, clever atheists retreat with empty “Ha! Gotcha!” one-liners (such as yours) versus stepping up to the challenge of defending the (there is no God) faith. Guess I’ll look elsewhere for a substantiative debate. Adios, amigo.

  13. OK, ok. That’s not fair.

    Firstly, I don’t know what your question is, or what answer you would like me to give, other than the ones I already have.

    Secondly, Dawkins is a good read, but it’s not my bible. I’d already found Bertrand Russell and Dan Dennett’s ‘Breaking the spell’ before I read Dawkins’ ‘God Delusion’.

    Resorting to threats from your own imagination might frighten you, but they’re your hallucinations pal, not mine.

  14. I’ll be more succinct:

    1) Explain the paucity of fossil evidence for transitions between various species of animals.

    2) The multi-verse theory simply pushes the question back one step: How did life, or even the mega-universal-slot-machine, begin in the first place?

    And I’ll add one more:

    3) From Darwin: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, then my theory would absolutely break down.” The book Darwin’s Black Box by Behe shows how recent biochemical discoveries have found numerous examples of this very kind of “irreducible complexity.” Counter that, please.

    (The truth is that a one-cell organism is more complicated than anything we’ve been able to recreate through supercomputers.)

    Now, here’s my very real threat. Either I get a thoughtful, scientific reply to these specific questions, or I’m going to interrogate the walking fish. Please don’t make me do that…because I WILL make him (or her) talk.

  15. 1: It’s amazing that we have any fossils at all. They’re not easily made. This isn’t so much of a problem, however, because even without the fossil record there is enough information in the mitochondria of cells to show a protein sequence in common to several important strands long between all living creatures INDEPENDENT of the EVIDENCE in the fossil record.

    2: I don’t know. It was probably an intelligent life form of some kind, which is currently in orbit around Mars, shaped like a teapot and answering to the name of Yahweh. Then again, it could just as easily have been a predictable sequence of events arising out of the strange properties in quantum mechanics, or, indeed, ANY of the things we now understand about the natural world which aren’t mentioned, not ONCE in the bible—A.K.A. the perfect word of god.

    3: I can’t believe you’ve thrown me such a softball here. Behe’s Irreducible complexity was deemed BY A REAGAN APPOINTED EVANGELICAL JUDGE, to have “no basis in fact” when it was used in an attempt to force Intelligent Design into the Kansas board of education’s classrooms.

    The whole basis of Behe’s theory is that microscopic flagellum propel themselves around using modes which do not exist in simpler forms of life and that this therefore corroborates Darwin’s own statement on what would constitute a credible critique of his proofs. The problem for Behe is that there are BILLIONS of other SIMPLER forms of bacterial life which use EXACTLY the same means of propulsion and Behe knows it—but he continues to sell books to people like you because he’s in the same kind of denial you are about your simian ancestry and our distinctly un-miraculous origins.

    The walking fish e-mailed me earlier and he has a date with a crustacean. Although he did mention that his agent was answering all his calls from now on:

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=MYsnVMjG4lk

  16. Definitely what you presented exhibits the fingerprints of God. The idea that undirected processes could somehow be responsible for turning dead chemicals into all the complexity of living things is surely no more nor less than the great cosmogenic myth of our times. Sorry, evolution does not murder God. There are simply too many powerful clues – especially in the astounding intricacy of unseen atoms and the uncanny chemical language encoded on the double helix of DNA – to establish that the Creator is alive and well.

    You call it a byproduct of “strange properties in quantum mechanics,” I call Him God.

    I’ll place my bets on the One who gave you life.

    Enjoyed the debate. See you post-tribulation. (Or not)

  17. I appreciate your sincere concern. Don’t worry about me, though…I know exactly where I’m heading. Good luck, Jim.

  18. According to Darwin, Russell, Dennett, Dawkins and the like, the root of multicellular life was supposed to be the simplest, most primitive animal, right? Scientists now consider that the mother of all animals was a complex animal with a gut, tissues, a nervous system and amazing light displays: a comb jelly.

    “If the first animal was a predator, what did it eat? If Darwin’s tree fell in the falsification forest, and nobody cared, would it even make a sound?”

    http://www.apologetics.org/COMBJELLIESATTHEBASEOFTHEEVOLUTIONARYTREE/tabid/162/Default.aspx

    Seems to “Break the Spell” to me.

    Although it has been scientifically proven that not one single protein can form by chance, your heroes all maintain that life first emerged by chance in muddy water. (The probability of a function protein forming by chance is 1 in 10950, in other words, zero.) The cold, hard fact is, Darwinism and the theory of macro-evolution is a belief system based on fraud, deception and falsehood. Just admit, there are three critical flaws in the theory of evolution through gradual change: Dysfunctional change, the DNA code barrier, and natural selection removes DNA information but does not add new information.

    For the record, I believe in evolution, I really do. But please don’t mistake micro-evolution for Darwinian evolution. They are not related. When a Christian says they do not believe in evolution, it is not a reference to changes in specific traits. It is a reference to changes that require crossing the DNA limitations. When the facts stare evolutionists in the face, they are reduced to either insulting those who present the evidence or they must admit their world view doesn’t hold water. Evolutionists always call Christians and creationists non-thinkers because we question their illogical theories. Critical analysis is not un-intellectual, but it is unreasonable to refuse to honestly look at the whole picture painted when all the facts are presented. When someone builds their belief system around a godless world view, it leaves the realm of science and becomes a religious defense. Anyone who gets angry at the facts is not defending science, but is defending their hope that God does not exist and their hope that there is no God in which we are accountable. (Again I note – for any on the fence – you do NOT want to be around during the Great Tribulation…accept Christ into your life now!)

    Jim, check out this head-to-head debate…Dawkins vs. Lennox, Evolutionist vs. Creationist, Atheist vs. Theist: http://www.dawkinslennoxdebate.com/ Watched the entire debate last night, so that I would be fair and balanced in my assessment. Both are extraordinary debaters. What an unfair advantage, though, to have both truth and God on your side! Almost felt bad for Sir Richard, I really did.

    Just for fun, Jim, as believer in just science, I’m curious to your answers to the 5 areas that science doesn’t seem able to provide a scientific explanation of:

    1. mathematics and logic (science can’t prove them because science presupposes them),

    2. metaphysical truths (such as, there are minds that exist other than my own),

    3. ethical judgments (you can’t prove by science that the Nazi’s were evil, because morality is not subject to the scientific method),

    4. aesthetic judgments (the beautiful, like the good, cannot be scientifically proven), and , ironically

    5. science itself (the belief that the scientific method discovers truth can’t be proven by the scientific method itself)

    Science is helpful; but we should not expect it to answer everything and it certainly hasn’t proven that God doesn’t exist contrary to many claims being made.

    I’m just sayin’…

    And if interested, we can take the debate to an entirely new level, let’s talk about the historical Jesus, God incarnate, who actually weighed in His opinion. Let’s examine and critique all the evidence specific to the life of Christ and if He was indeed who the New Testament proclaimed Him to be. You back up your claim that the Word of God, the Bible, was just a fairy tale written by a bunch of nomadic goat herders and I’ll refute with a balanced argument for the historicity of the New Testament documents and the evidence for the life, ministry, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Ultimately, the debate rests there…either Jesus was, and is, who He said He was, or He wasn’t.

    I’m game if you are. You start…prove Jesus wasn’t who He said He was. Up for that challenge?

    Great!

  19. Todd:
    This is going to sound like a cop out, but although I would dearly love to reply to you on this as soon as possible, it isn’t going to be until after this weekend, because Lucy is coming to stay and we’ve got some urgent fornication and abominations of nature to be getting on with. That soul isn’t going to destroy itself!

    So please don’t think I’m ignoring you, but please check back with me on Sunday night, UK time.

    On a cursory glance of your middle paragraphs, however, I would suggest you read some books NOT published by The Discovery Institute, or associates of Kent Hovind, before you lay claim to having unearthed a gaping hole in every single one of the modern sciences. Although, with respect, I would have thought Nature might be a better place to publish these findings, than a blog chat thread in which so far you’ve failed to score a single hit and yet mysteriously keep coming back for more.

  20. ..and I would LOVE to debate the historical Jesus, but I don’t think you’re going to like it. AND – this is going to sound like a bad daytime talk-show plug, but many of the bullet points you mention above are covered in my up-coming book, entitled, “Why didn’t abstinence work for the virgin Mary?”

    Talk soon.

  21. And you’ve failed to answer a single question of mine sans witty deflection.

    Yours reminds me of other commentaries I’ve found from ‘elite thinkers’ who present brilliant arguments against creation with an intellect that I cannot match. Perhaps when I am enlightened I will fully understand their and yours. It is amazing that evolutionists make every effort to give the illusion of having higher intelligence, but they cannot spell, punctuate or offer a coherent sentence. Rarely do they use reason and address the evidence or present facts supporting their beliefs or refuting the evidence presented. Most lobs across the bow are merely emotional outbursts with no scientific rational whatsoever. Even though the posts I’ve seen usually claim an impressive title, it is doubtful these titles have any more merit than the comments presented. These comments are unaltered and posted in their full glory.

    Name: chris mankey
    Title: THE MOST HIGH I AM

    I love to see how creationis lie to themselves. Do you really believe That fact for fact evolutions is losing out? Are the world trade center standing in your world? Beneath a wonderous pink sky?

    Housemender, Inc. – AS a PHD in Behavioral Medicine Science, my collegues and I agree, that GOD IS DEAD and has ALWAYS been dead (This is a PhD that can’t spell or punctuate?)

    Name: Seppo Pietikainen
    Comment: The last prominent creatoid died in 1945! Even he was ignorant in biology. Explains a lot.

    Name: Shawn Turner
    Title: VP
    Organization: Investment Bank
    Comment: If you think dinosaurs and man coexisted you are a real ****ing idiot.
    JM DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE!

    Nicholas Golubev
    Your page is funny hehe.. are you for real?

    Now, to be fair, Jim, I wouldn’t put you square in their camp. But, you do seem to suffer from the disease of deflection.

  22. Okay, I have to admit…you got me thinking. I’ve been rethinking and reconsidering your point of view.

    Even though Neo-Darwinism has no answer as to how the first living cell came into existence (well, perhaps you did answer that above, sorry…”from the available fundamental elements which have existed abundant throughout the universe since the big bang itself.” Ummn, I won’t ask the unfair question “where did the available fundamental elements come from?”), I’m going to exude evolutionary faith and assume that “POOF, SHAZAM, HOCUS-OPARIN it magically “was.” Cool…we have our first cell…our first single, simple cell.

    Just for giggles, let’s rewind hundreds of millions of years and take a little peek inside this mother-of-all-life first cell:

    “Holy Haldane, Batman! That was more complicated than your Bat-Mobile! Crime Fighter, we must find the engineer who designed it or we won’t even know how to turn it on!”

    And Batman said (to quote you above), “No worries, my masked Tonto, for cell number two, just take two flasks, one above the other, connected by two tubes. Find a primeval ocean and a primordial atmosphere containing methane, ammonia and hydrogen released from rocks by a bunch of volcanoes. Then, through one of the tubes the warm water will vaporise and condense on the top of the upper flask and fall again as a model of rainfall down the second tube.”

    “Okay, Robin, do a dance and make lighting! Direct the lighting through the vapour. After a week or so we’ll have a yellow-brown goo containing seven amino acids and other organic compounds, the essential building blocks for protein. Three of the seven—glycine, aspartic acid and alanine, are the essential building blocks for RNA and DNA.”

    “Okay, we’re almost done, Boy Wonder! Drive the Bat Mobile to the corner store and pick up two congruent helices with the same axis, differing by a translation along the axis. They’re by the produce. Make sure that the brand is the DNA double helix that has a right-handed spiral polymer of nucleic acids, held together by nucleotides which base pair together…you know, the one where a single turn of the helix constitutes ten nucleotides. Be sure it contains a major groove and minor groove, the major groove being wider than the minor groove. Given the difference in widths of the major groove and minor groove, many proteins which bind to DNA do so through the wider major groove. One last thing, and don’t mess this up…VERY IMPORTANT, BAT BOY…the order, or sequence, of the nucleotides in the double helix within a gene needs to specify the primary structure of a protein.”

    Jim, thank you for your patience…I’m really coming around. If I would have known it was so simple, I would not have been so aggressive with my point of view. My apologies.

    Enlightened,

    Todd

  23. Todd. I like you, you’re harmless—and I don’t mean that to be condescending, I mean you’re just another of those perfectly ordinary folks who, through no fault or malice in your upbringing or family life, just happens to have been born in a socio-economic environment where it’s not only OK, but normal, to assume that scientific enquiry is antithesis to, or specifically designed to dispel, religiously derived group solidarity. It isn’t. Science has nothing to do with opinion, it is to do with fair measurement of the available evidence to make conclusions and predictions about cause and effect.

    Nothing in creationism, no matter how it is dressed up in terminology designed to sound wordy and therefore well considered by literate people, has any basis in fact whatsoever—and anyone who says that is does is either deliberately lying to you, or has such little incentive to enquire about the actual truth, that their cognitive bias has allowed them to lie to themselves for so long, the lie itself has become virtually indistinguishable from the truth.

    But ask yourself this. You’re marooned on a volcanic island, having survived an air disaster. The wreckage of the 747 is strewn everywhere. Do you get down on your knees and pray to God for the coast-guard to find you, before you starve to death, or fasten two lengths of wire to a battery and a coil of copper in a magnate and start tapping out dot-dash-dash-dot?

    From your above post, you said:
    1. mathematics and logic (science can’t prove them because science presupposes them)

    I really don’t mean to be rude, or arrogant or sound as if I am accusing you of being too easily impressed with words, rather than understanding their meaning, or any of the things anyone who disagrees with religious certainties about origins must de-facto be—but this statement makes no sense. I simply do not know what it means, or what kind of context you’ve taken it out of—but I prefer it when you don’t so much metaphorically cut and paste other people’s words and, instead, describe your questions to me in your own way. It shows trust and honesty, which is all I am trying to show to you and everyone else who reads my blog on these subjects.

    I could guess that what you’re asking me about are to do with the philosophical; about quantity and uniform values, which 11th century Islamic scholars codified by superseding the prevailing systems of value based on weight, for example—or the Euclidean geometry of the Greeks, based upon divisions by three within a pyramid; Pythagorean area and sum.

    Yes, these are measurements based upon arbitrary values, agreed upon by the needs of commerce for a unified system of calculation—but they aren’t presuppositions about proofs, they are methodology, not the evidence itself. You might as well ask why a potato knows nothing of carrots and peas and yet goes particularly well with both.

    You said:
    2. metaphysical truths (such as, there are minds that exist other than my own)

    When we both look at a London bus, we say that it is red because that is the label we’ve agreed to put on what happens to light when it encounters a surface which more efficiently absorbs light of a certain frequency than it does of another. Red is a shortcut to an understanding. Religion makes an assumption that because London buses are red, all busses must therefore be red. This is also known as inductive logic and I point you to my earlier suggestion that you read Carl Popper’s Logic of Scientific Discovery, for why this is a fundamental mistake and more on this area of truly beautiful philosophy, which, for my money, blows Christian apologetics clear out of the sky, in terms of being not just a bloody good read, but something that will literally blow your mind wide open.

    You said:
    3. ethical judgments (you can’t prove by science that the Nazi’s were evil, because morality is not subject to the scientific method)

    You can use scientific methods to determine why someone has become a sociopath. But I think your point is that old chestnut about only people with a fear of God’s judgement can be trusted to, almost, self-police their own behaviour.

    Personally I find it hard to think of anything more frightening, than the idea that the only threads of morality holding us back from total self annihilation, are the actions of people who have externalised their own ego to such an extent, they’re incapable of relating to it as belonging to their own mind any longer. There’s a field of psychotherapy concerned with projection of this kind, which is used to understand persecution complexes. All I can add to that, is the question I’m sure you’re aware of Christopher Hitchens having asked and to which he has so far failed to receive an answer.

    Name one act of kindness which could never have been performed by someone with no religious faith. You’ll struggle for a while and fail to come up with any. Now name one act of horrendous inhumanity and evil which could only have been performed by someone, because they believe their religious faith gives them the authority to act with impunity. You’ve got several examples of this in mind already, I’ve no doubt—and all too many more on top of that happening at this very moment, in areas of the world that, wouldn’t you know it, happen to still have a strongly religious influence over their populous.

    You said:
    4. aesthetic judgments (the beautiful, like the good, cannot be scientifically proven), and ironically [neither can] science itself (the belief that the scientific method discovers truth can’t be proven by the scientific method itself)

    I believe that the beauty of Frank Zappa’s music transcends explanation. You either get it or you fail to get it, there is nothing within the music itself which precludes it from being understood or enjoyed by anyone for anything other than someone’s subjective tastes and their willingness or unwillingness to embrace or reject the tastes of another person, or as Zappa himself put it, “Talking about music, is like fishing about architecture.”

    You are quite wrong to assert that aesthetics have anything to do with the anthropic principal, or that human impositions of meaning and purpose are, by the very nature of the fact we are capable of such an act, proofs that there is a meaning or a purpose, least of all one with a framework of understanding which presupposes that fundamentally flawed limitations of human imagination are, in fact, the result of divine prophecy.

    The scientific method, for one last time, is antithesis to subjective wishful thinking of this kind, precisely because hypothesise and prediction do not rely on one or the other to function methodically. If a hypothesis is proven incorrect by experimentation, all predictions about what should be seen to happen are irrelevant (in as much as what they tell us about the hypothesis may or may not be as predicted).

    Creationism, on the other hand, makes the presupposition that everything in the universe was created by Yahweh and sets out to prove it by discounting all but those selectively chosen predictions about what a divinely designed system, which magically sprang into existence, would look like.

    The fact that this can be shown to be exactly the kind of fundamental mistake which Behe and others have made does not help to give any further credence to their case, when they must further insist that flaws in the scientific method itself are the reason for this anomaly and their failure to impress anyone, other than themselves, with their demonstrably childish attempts to play hide and seek with their evidence.

    Meanwhile, the thousands of independently arrived upon facts about every area of sceptical endeavour from Ibn al-Haytham to Newton continue to work, despite a central function of the scientific method being to assume that proofs are not absolute; hence deductive logic.

    Stay tuned for my take on the Richard Dawkins clip you linked to, once I’ve fully recovered from a thoroughly enjoyable weekend spent in the divine presence of my own personal saviour, Lucy.

  24. Having now watched the Dawkins Lennox clip, I’m more than happy to stick to my above reply. Except to add that I dislike the debate format intensely. Neither of them seemed comfortable with it and by the end it was obvious that a more conversational approach would have worked best for a debate of this kind.

    I thought Lennox was a thoroughly entertaining person who certainly made Dawkins work for his answers—but I’m amazed to find that, yet again, he was allowed to make factual statements against unfalsifiable suppositions, such as “we know that God is..”, or “the bible tells us that..” and so on—and without any obvious embarrassment, which is curious for someone who is clearly, otherwise, very well read and well versed in the scientific method.

    Lennox, while I wouldn’t put him in the same league as many creationist I’ve heard, is nevertheless very firmly in denial about compelling, though incomplete, emerging anthropological evidence which suggests, not least because of the findings within the dead sea scrolls, that the bible simply can not be considered reliable as a historical document, having had so much of the original text destroyed or ruthlessly altered, hundreds of years after the death of its original architects.

    Overall, though, it was nice to finally see a creationist who understands the problem of superimposing irrational blind faith upon logical analyses—even though he hasn’t yet realised he’s on the wrong side of the fallacy. This is no-doubt thanks in large part to what he has seen in his work in communist countries, which has clouded his judgement; that atheism of one form is atheism of all kinds. The atheism I have arrived upon at my own free will, is rather different to the dogmatic evils forced upon a people by megalomaniacal despotism.

    Richard Dawkins doesn’t need me to defend him. I thought his retort on the bible just so happening to get a 50 / 50 question about point zero origins right, in its opening pages, was a brilliant reminder of why he is who he is—and an observation which even Lennox seemed forced to admit was one he’d been rather cheeky in trying to get away with—although I did want to leap into the debate at this point and remind both of them of the “is was and always will be” childishly obvious contradiction of later chapters in that same “infallible” book, is a greater reason still to question it’s authenticity, much less its worth as a launch-pad into any serious scientific discovery.

  25. Pingback: Prof. RIchard Dawkins debates creationist Dr. John Lennox « How good is that?

  26. Greetings, Jim. I’m glad you enjoyed your weekend with your Deity, Lucy (she’s a Christian, right?)

    I have to say, I like you too (although I wouldn’t classify you as “harmless” ;D).

    I do not consider you condescending, by the way…just British (but I think that’s actually a badge of honor for you and your peeps, right?)

    You do make me think, though. You challenge me to further examine the evidence. While I don’t sport the academic credentials of Dawkins and Hitchens (or yours, I’m assuming at this point), I do not believe I’d be the first to be voted off the “Island of Intellectuals” (perhaps mid-season).

    Indulge me for a second, okay? You’ve referenced that the “fallacy of the Bible” a couple of times. Obviously if this is a true claim, we Christians should redirect our tithes, perhaps buying more Frank Zappa CDs. But seriously, can you please back up that claim with proven facts (and please, it’s not fair to focus on slight changes, such as a misused “the” or “and”, etc.). I’m genuinely interested in your research.

    And since it’s most obvious that there will be a time when I ‘will’ be voted off the island, I wanted to create some alliances who might help me perhaps stay on an additional week or so. One such ally is Perry Marshall, who seems to have credentials and research that might even impress you (maybe not). Take a look at this and let me know your thoughts:

    http://cosmicfingerprints.com/ifyoucanreadthis1.htm

    He seems to have an open, scientific fact-seeking mind. He doesn’t foreclose on points-of-view like yours, he just invites co-examination. I suppose you’d call him an Evidentialist (I like that word…it’s what I hope to be when I grow up).

    Gotta run, Mr. Jim. Will check in with you later this evening.

    Thanks,

    Todd

  27. So that you don’t think I’m totally single-minded and focused, I do have to say I found some “gold” within your site…the music of Michael Hedges. Never heard of him. While I won’t redirect my tithes to procure, I will buy his collection with my allowance. Thanks!

  28. Thanks, Todd.

    For a quick primer on the reliability of the bible as a historical document, you might like Brian Flemming’s excellent independent film ‘The God Who Wasn’t There’. Brian was raised an evangelical Christian and his film features interviews with, among other people, Alan Dundes, author of ‘Holy Writ as Oral Lit’.

    Alan’s extensive but not exhaustive list of hero warrior gods—who were born to virgins, performed miracles, disappeared until their teens, until beginning their ministry, leading to them being tried and convicted of insurrection, only to be raised again from the dead after three days—are but one of the parts of the new testament which were patently stolen from Greek and Egyptian folklore simply to fulfil the prophecies of the old testament, which itself is pieced together from Egyptian myth largely found in the Book of the Dead (which I once saw with my own eyes in the British Library and almost died at its intricate detail).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_the_Dead
    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=xAPIngDjJVo&feature=PlayList&p=7FB048825B3D6CDE&playnext=1&index=1
    http://www.brianflemming.org/
    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=VJnvx07rdbU&feature=channel_page

    Not that Brian’s film is the only polemic in all literature to challenge the authority of the bible. I’m eagerly awaiting a friend of mine, who’s promised on his next day off, he’d help me to go through his library and loan me some books we’ve talked about with each other, over the years, which compare the Greek and Egyptian gods to the popular Jesus myth.

    This is interesting too…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mithras#Mithraism_and_Christianity

    I’ll keep you (and everyone else) posted on the books, once I’ve read them. Also, if you want to watch the whole of Brian’s film, I think he’s sort of OK about people downloading it from BitTorrent, so long as they don’t profit from it. So you might want to try thepiratebay.org for ‘The God Who Wasn’t There’.

  29. Jim, I hope you’re feeling better. You had asked me to follow-up with you as a reminder to review Perry Marshall’s work http://www.box.net/shared/h3el4tix00. He also sent out commentary regarding “why the Big Bang was the most precisely planned event in all of history.” I found it thought provoking. Your thoughts?

    From Perry Marshall:

    In your kitchen cabinet, you’ve probably got a spray bottle with an adjustable nozzle. If you twist the nozzle one way, it sprays a fine mist into the air. You twist the nozzle the other way, it squirts a jet of water in a straight line. You turn that nozzle to the exact position you want so you can wash a mirror, clean up a spill, or whatever.

    If the universe had expanded a little faster, the matter would have sprayed out into space like fine mist from a water bottle – so fast that a gazillion particles of dust would speed into infinity and never even form a single star.

    If the universe had expanded just a little slower, the material would have dribbled out like big drops of water, then collapsed back where it came from by the force of gravity.

    A little too fast, and you get a meaningless spray of fine dust. A little too slow, and the whole universe collapses back into one big black hole.

    The surprising thing is just how narrow the difference is. To strike the perfect balance between too fast and too slow, the force, something that physicists call “the Dark Energy Term” had to be accurate to one part in ten with 120 zeros.

    If you wrote this as a decimal, the number would look like this:

    0.000000000000000000000000000000
    00000000000000000000000000000000
    00000000000000000000000000000000
    0000000000000000000000000000001

    In their paper “Disturbing Implications of a Cosmological Constant” two atheist scientists from Stanford University stated that the existence of this dark energy term would have required a miracle…
    “An unknown agent” intervened in cosmic history “for reasons of its own.”

    Just for comparison, the best human engineering example is the Gravity Wave Telescope, which was built with a precision of 23 zeros. The Designer, the ‘external agent’ that caused our universe must possess an intellect, knowledge, creativity and power trillions and trillions of times greater than we humans have.

    Absolutely amazing.

    Now a person who doesn’t believe in God has to find some way to explain this. One of the more common explanations seems to be “There was an infinite number of universes, so it was inevitable that things would have turned out right in at least one of them.”

    The “infinite universes” theory is truly an amazing theory.
    Just think about it, if there is an infinite number of universes, then absolutely everything is not only possible…
    It’s actually happened!

    It means that somewhere, in some dimension, there is a universe where the Chicago Cubs won the World Series last year. There’s a universe where Jimmy Hoffa doesn’t get cement shoes; instead he marries Joan Rivers and becomes President of the United States. There’s even a universe where Elvis kicks his drug habit and still resides at Graceland and sings at concerts. Imagine the possibilities!

    I might sound like I’m joking, but actually I’m dead serious. To believe an infinite number of universes made life possible by random chance is to believe everything else I just said, too.

    Some people believe in God with a capital G.

    And some folks believe in Chance with a Capital C.

    Tomorrow’s installment: “If you can read this email, I can prove to you that God exists.” Sound a little bold?
    Tune in tomorrow – same time, same station.

    Respectfully Submitted,

    Perry Marshall

  30. Todd:
    The anthropic principal, which is what’s being very loosely (and a tad disingenuously) described here, when properly understood, is actually a very powerful argument against divine intervention. Shoehorning in the God of the gaps is a little naughty of the writer and, in any case, does nothing to enhance our understanding of a truly awe inspiring fact about how our universe really did form; what Richard Feynman called the inconceivable nature of nature.

    Postulating an exterior designer, as an explanation for the Goldie Locks effect of the universe being “just right”, simply pushes the explanation for this perfect balance (assuming there even is a “reason”) even further away from our understanding, because not only do we have to deal with the incredible complexities already involved in the maths and physics we are able to calculate, but we must additionally make allowance for something we can not calculate; God.

    Ah, but—you say, “We do know God, just read the bible”. Well, OK—let’s play it your way. Which parts of bible explain how fundamental particles gain mass? Does the holy ghost determine which side of the event horizon a positively charged electron will either fall into or escape from the gravity of a black hole, or is that an ecumenical matter? On which day, before resting, did He give up quarks such strange properties and why isn’t the reason for that mentioned in Genesis too?

    You do see the problem? The biblical God sells the reality of what we know is really going on far too short. Or as Einstein put it, “The real miracle is, there are no miracles”.

  31. ..also, there is no “chance” about it, in the sense that the author is offering a false choice between the tangible world explained in the standard model and the confusing and indeterminate world we are learning about from quantum theory. One does not exist “unaware” of the other. In a very real sense, the quantum world shapes the world of the standard model, but that doesn’t mean the physics of “big stuff” is subject to the same rules as those which govern the world at a subatomic scale.

  32. Crud is passing, yes. But I think I’m finally at “that age” where certain food just isn’t happening any more. Shame, I used to love a nice fried breakfast.

    As for the fantasy biology paper, linked above, I don’t know how the people who pump out this stuff sleep at night. I can only presume that their woes are calmed every time the cheque clears, form the parents of the students they indoctrinate with slight of hand like, “nothing complex ever formed from truly random mutations”, when Darwinian Evolution never tries to say that it did. Chaotic free radicals destroy cells, with something even religiously distracted biology must be familiar with, called Cancer. Healthy cells, on the other hand, are derived from genes which are naturally selected for their distinctly non-carcinogenic properties.

    When little Johnny and his class mates who learned this tosh get handed their look what I learned about how God made fossils, on proud parents night, I refuse to accept there isn’t at least one person in the room who isn’t nervously waiting for the whole scam to come crashing down around their ears, and find themselves sharing a cell with Kent Hovind.

    In short, my friend, I’ve never read a more deluded pile of cock in all my days. The author scares me on a level beyond any concerns about financial recession, or global terrorism, because I would have thought that anyone who is ostensibly capable of outlining a paper and adopting some kind of research methodology, in order to publish such a work, is supported by a vast network of literature and corroborative thinking, which never has to reach outside of the veil of tears, into such grubby realities as deductive logic, much less objective peer review or critical analysis.

    If there is anything to be gleaned from this, it should be a renewed vigour within the scientific community (which includes those who consider themselves Christian, Hindu, Muslim..) for explaining the natural sciences much more clearly to the general population from a younger age, before religious dogma takes ahold. We simply can not afford, on so many levels, to allow these private organisations, who devise ever more elaborate ways of contaminating the evidence at the scene of the crime, only to present the same fraudulent forensics as, Q.E.D., a magic man in a bronze age book must have made us.

    Can I ask. Are you being lied to by anyone in particular and are my answers ultimately going to them, or are you just genuinely curious? What is Todd’s ultimate goal here?

  33. Interesting question. No, nobody in particular…I’m research agnostic. I know “what” I believe, it’s simply my ‘want’ to investigate and understand the “why?” Thus, I move forward with full commitment to explore all the evidence: pro/con, theist/atheist, science/creation, Islam/Buddhist, Bat(man)/Cat(woman). Since engaging with you, I’ve “suspended my disbelief” of your world view. I think I’m approaching my search with balanced integrity…although, I know I do carry some bias (in the spirit of full disclosure). Most importantly, your style, tact and good wit has modified my view that all atheists are jerks who simply want to lob intellectual sucker punches and then retreat to their “ha, ha…did I ever get him good” corners. You’ve actually taken the time to reasonably answer many of my questions (not all, but many). At minimum, iron sharpens iron…you make me a better Christian because, if honest, I’m forced to recognize there are alternative opinions and alternative research to account for most questions we all must (or at least should) answer. So instead of taking all God-fearing “leaders” (and I use that term VERY loosely) “preaching” as true gospel, I choose to follow the evidence trail for myself. I do have to say, when you peel back the entire onion, it seems to me that God and evolution (of sorts) can play in the same sand box nicely. As for me, until there can be a true scientific explanation as to how matter manifests from nothing, how the big bang bangity-banged in the first place, it’s an easier leap for me to place my faith in a God-being versus the alternative. Then, adding back the layers to the onion, there seems to me to be so much more evidence supporting divine direction…evidence that I deem unconscionable to dismiss without equal open-mindedness. As an example, I’m reading a great book by Hugh Ross, “Why The Universe Is The Way It Is” and for the first time, I began to truly understand and appreciate exactly how extraordinarily fine-tuned this universe is (as a requirement to support human life). “If no other density factors influence the expansion of the universe, at certain early epochs in cosmic history, its mass density must have been as finely tuned as one part in 10 to the 60th power to allow for the possible existence of physical life at any time or place within the entirety of the universe. This degree of fine-tuning is so great that it’s as if right after the universe’s beginning someone could have destroyed the possibility of life within it by subtracting a single dime’s mass from the whole of the observable universe or adding a single dime’s mass to it.” I then consider, Jim, the fact there are 50 billion trillion stars in the universe a million miles across each (on average), and consider that these stars make up only 1% of the entire universe. I then bring, cognitively, the balance back to that one thin dime’s “make or break” mass. Awesome.

    Sure, I’ll place a wager here and there in Vegas, but those are odds that I’d never bet against. I don’t believe it’s being delusional, upon honest consideration, to believe there’s some intelligence behind such exquisite balance.

    So that’s my story, friend, and I’m sticking with it. Still very open-minded, because each new discovery, each previously unknown nugget of “a-ha,” creates utter awe within. So on the side of science, Master, Grasshopper is here to learn (did the series Kung Fu ever make it to Britain?). If it doesn’t exhaust your time or interest, I would love to continue to engage in this interesting (at least to me) debate. It’s funny, when I go back and read our friendly back-and-forth, I fully own up to my approach being “naaah, naaah-naaah, naaah-naaah-naaah.” Sorry about that…and thank you for your suffering patience. As a result, I’m now more “delicately fine-tuned” in my approach. Isn’t evolution great!!!

    Todd

  34. Okay. In the meantime, though, I referenced The Google on the internets. Does a cognitive bias look something like this?

    “I acknowledge that I have no argument for the existence of God. However, I have a great desire for God to exist and for there to be an afterlife. Therefore I accept that God exists.”

    If so, one can’t claim exclusive ownership to the argument…the knife cuts both ways: “I acknowledge that I have no argument for there being no God. However, I have a great desire for God not to exist and for there to be no afterlife where I might be held accountable for my life on earth. Therefore I accept that God does not exist.”

    Right?

    Todd

  35. Not quiet, no. Anti-deists have plenty of evidence to support their argument, despite the fact that the burden of proof isn’t upon them, it’s on the religious to provide extraordinary evidence for their extraordinary claims—but their cognition won’t allow them to step outside of their anchoring bias.

    Perhaps a better example is the bias of framing (there was another name for it, but I can’t find some links I kept on this). It goes something like this. “Every VW Beetle I’ve ever seen is red, therefore all VW Beetles are red”. That might seem simplistic, but if you extrapolate, it is in fact what many deists do, in order to justify a belief in something to themselves, which they would never hold, were it applied to any other area of sceptical enquiry. For example, “Human DNA is extremely complex, therefore it was designed”, makes perfect sense to someone who is incapable, and not in a small way, of determining between many other kinds of provable falsehoods, such as, “Nine of the twelve 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, let’s invade Iraq and watch Fox News”, et cetera.

    It’s the cognitive part of the bias which is the part it’s important to understand, because we’re not just talking about a bias which might shift, given alternative information coming to light, in an anthropological sense—we’re talking about neural pathways which the brain will always navigate down, following the path of least resistance, when it is faced with a fight or flight decision about survival, or a mate or date decision about reproduction, and so on.

    Our hard wired biases are, in other words, far more subtle than matters of taste or preference or opinion—they’re about how our brains, literarily, control the distribution of hormones and chemicals which influence our outer shell, which we laughingly refer to as our true personality. The BSD kernel to our OS X GUI, if you will.

    In other words, despite that we are incapable of being anything more than a bag of water held together by carbon—we continually tell ourselves that our data gathering senses are giving us the full picture, whereas everyone else is in some way being deceived and, in turn, seeking to deceive us.

  36. Ah, indeed, you complete me. Where do you come up with this stuff?! “Nine of the twelve 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, let’s invade Iraq and watch Fox News.” That’s just not fair. Your statement discriminates against us who watch MSNBC!

    So how am I anchored in bias when considering how extraordinarily fine-tuned this universe is (as a requirement to support human life)? To copy and paste what I wrote above, “If no other density factors influence the expansion of the universe, at certain early epochs in cosmic history, its mass density must have been as finely tuned as one part in 10 to the 60th power to allow for the possible existence of physical life at any time or place within the entirety of the universe. This degree of fine-tuning is so great that it’s as if right after the universe’s beginning someone could have destroyed the possibility of life within it by subtracting a single dime’s mass from the whole of the observable universe or adding a single dime’s mass to it.” I then consider, Jim, the fact there are 50 billion trillion stars in the universe a million miles across each (on average), and consider that these stars make up only 1% of the entire universe. I then bring, cognitively, the balance back to that one thin dime’s “make or break” mass.

    This puts a whole new perspective on “going to mass.” What an extraordinary lottery we won, with only a dime’s investment.

  37. But, surly and by your own words, you’re accounting for; attesting to a dawning upon something much greater than anything we’re supposed to think of as magisterial from within the bible?

    “Isn’t the garden beautiful enough, without having to believe there are fairies living at the bottom of it?” – Douglas Adams.

  38. By the way, can I ask you to fire off a blank e-mail to my private e-mail address again, please? I’ve misplaced yours after a reinstall which I forgot to back up Address Book. Thanks.

  39. Well, if you’re going to start lobbing famous quotes:

    “To do is to be.” Socrates

    “To be is to do.” Plato

    “To do-be-do-be-do.” Frank Sinatra

    Off to enjoy God’s garden! Have a great afternoon/evening.

  40. I didn’t find this exchange until it had been dead for more than a month, but for the sake of anyone finding it later, I would like to address a few of the points Todd raised here, as they are broadly representative of some of the more popular current challenges to atheism.

    (T) After all the pontificating, arguments and super-informed opinions , can you atheists please simply provide a credible, scientifically-backed and proven answer to the following question: How do you get something from nothing? How, please? How does energy and matter come into existence from nothingness?

    (N) A critical missing piece to your question is what you mean by nothingness. Does empty space count as something? Is time something? If this is an ultimate cause question, then it is a domain violation to ask what caused our universe, including the property of time, because causation has no meaning for us once you step outside a temporal domain.
    But this question is at least as much a problem for theists as it is for atheists. If you assert that everything had to come from somewhere, and then postulate that the universe came from a god, then referring back to the primary assertion, that god had to come from somewhere. If you eliminate that assertion and say that gods do not have to come from somewhere, then there is no necessity to suppose the universe had to come from somewhere either.

    (T) If there was a Big Bang (which we all reasonably accept),

    (N) I don’t. At least not yet. I’m not saying it didn’t happen. I’m just saying I have not seen a version of the Big Bang theory which gives me a rationally compelling reason to believe it.

    (T) And one last question, can you please direct me to the website providing evidence and proof that there indeed is no God. “The Google” just isn’t delivering the goods when I search. Sorry. In need of a super-informed atheist Googler, I guess.

    (N) There are many conceptions of godhood covered by the popular name God. Some of these conceptions contain self-contradicting attributes (how can an omnipotent god do anything other than what its omniscience establishes infallibly that it must do) or unsupportable attributes (how could a putatively omniscient god establish its own omniscience–how would it know if there is something outside of the set of all the things that it knows). It is reasonable to dismiss such gods pending resolution of the logical contradictions and incoherencies. For the vast multitude of lesser gods of finite nature, there can be no proof that they don’t exist, but the same can be said of the myriad thousands of other fanciful creatures humans have imagined. And for these, it is reasonable to suppose, pending evidence to the contrary, that they all have the same origin in human imagination.

    (T) In thinking about the origin of the universe, I get hung up thinking “either the universe had a beginning or it did not.”

    (N) By the same token, either God had a beginning, or he did not.

    (T) If it did, then it was either caused or uncaused. If it was caused, then what kind of cause could be responsible for bringing all things into being? I just can’t wrap my mind around the universe coming from nothing by nothing.

    (N) Is the origin of a god any easier to wrap your mind around?

    (T) How can the universe constantly generate hydrogen atoms from nothing? Just seems to violate the law of causality, which I thought was a fundamental law of science.

    (N) Laws of science are purely descriptive. What we have is apparent causality, which operates in systematic ways that we can describe and predict, and we assume that our view of causality is representative of an actual underlying phenomenon which bears a strong resemblance to our perception. But it could be that our reality is merely a sequence of nearly similar frames, much as you might see in a movie, where nothing in any given frame actually “causes” anything in the next frame. That, and other acausal scenarios, don’t seem likely to me, but they can’t be disproven.

    (T) Regarding a multi-verse, to me this posit just pushes the question back one step: Where did the universe slot machine come from and who’s pulling the lever?

    (N) And where did the lever puller come from?

    (T) Regarding Darwin’s theory, though, can you please opine on the Cambrian explosion? Most Paleontologists now posit that during a five-million-year window of time, at least twenty and as many as thirty-five of the world’s forty phyla, the highest category in the animal kingdom, sprang forth with UNIQUE body plans.

    (N) Not quite. They say they appeared suddenly in the fossil record. That’s something quite different. We do actually have many pre-Cambrian fossils (see Burgess shale) but a major reason they tend to be poorly preserved is that there were few hard body parts. This appears to have changed dramatically when life on Earth began something of an arms race between predators and prey.

    (T) To put this speed into perspective, if you were to compress all the Earth’s history into twenty-four hours, the Cambrian explosion would consume only about one minute.

    (N) Yes. Which is still longer than humans have existed on this planet. Doesn’t it seem almost comical that humans could think this water planet was created for them, when they only arrived in the last few seconds of that Earth-history day?

    (T) This represents an incredible leap in biological complexity.

    (N) Or it represents a thickening of skin into scales and plates on previous soft-bodied animals. Or it represents some change in the fossilization conditions.

    (T) Before then, life on Earth was pretty simple – one-celled bacteria, blue-green algae, and later some sponges and primitive worms and mollusks.

    (N) Seriously, check out the fauna of the Burgess shale. I think you will find it is every bit as complex-looking as the later Cambrian animals.

    (T) Jim, for the record, I’m 44 years old and had a mindset similar to yours for 42 long years.

    (N) You had a very advanced mindset at the age of 2.

    (T) Your personal experience is yours, and mine is mine. As for me, God stared me down, and I blinked.

    (N) This is something I don’t understand. I’ve heard many theists say that they used to be hard-bitten skeptical realists, thoroughly grounded in science and reason–until the day that path led them to God. Now, you would think that the actual rational discovery which caused this momentous conversion would figure prominently in their stories, and yet, it is amazing how consistently this pivotal moment of discovery is touched on only obliquely or vaguely (as in here, where the entire experience is summed up “I blinked”). If there really is any rational underpinning to these conversion experiences, then why the shyness? If these stories are to be believed, then these people previously had the ability to think critically and communicate logically, so what happened to that faculty? Why do they not lay out the rational steps they took to arrive at their god belief?

    (T) My first 42 years I would have rolled my eyes, too. However, after fully exploring the evidence with an open mind, I find science has actually discovered God.

    (N) A rational mind tends to be an open mind, but an open mind is not necessarily a rational mind. And if science truly has discovered God, it is odd that that hasn’t rated a headline somewhere.

    (T) “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.” ;D

    (N) Guessing is easy. A Magic 8 ball can do that. And with zillions of conflicting theological guesses, some of them might even turn out to be right. Doesn’t matter. They are all equally worthless without having some way to tell the good ones from the bad. What makes the scientific conclusion trustworthy and useful isn’t the content of the conclusion (the peak) it is the rigor of the process by which it was reached (the climb). When you skip the hard part, you skip the very part that makes the trip worthwhile.

    (T) I’ll be more succinct:
    (T) 1) Explain the paucity of fossil evidence for transitions between various species of animals.

    (N) There are no transitions between species (ie. lineages that show a progression from one species to another). What I think you mean is intermediaries between species (where if you trace two modern species backwards, there is a general convergence towards a common ancestor).

    (N) Are there gaps in the fossil record? Yes. Fossilization is a very inconsistent process. Is a gap in evidence evidence of a gap? No. Many times before, we have been able to anticipate what general form an intermediary should take, and have subsequently found it (showing one type of predictive power that evolution affords us).

    (T) 2) The multi-verse theory simply pushes the question back one step: How did life, or even the mega-universal-slot-machine, begin in the first place?

    (N) The God theory simply pushes the question back one step: How did God begin in the first place?

    (T) 3) From Darwin: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, then my theory would absolutely break down.” The book Darwin’s Black Box by Behe shows how recent biochemical discoveries have found numerous examples of this very kind of “irreducible complexity.” Counter that, please.

    (N) When Behe testified in court as an expert witness for Intelligent Design, the example he chose for irreducible complexity–presumably because he thought it was the most compelling, was the bacterial flagellum. But other biologists have shown that a bacterial injector has many, but not all parts of the flagellum–so even though it might not be usable for propulsion, it nonetheless performs a different perfectly usable biological function.

    (T) Definitely what you presented exhibits the fingerprints of God.

    (N) There is an invisible elf who lives on my head, and it is he who makes it rain. Want proof he exists? Well, whenever it rains, that’s his handiwork. (credits to George Smith, I think)

    (T) The idea that undirected processes could somehow be responsible for turning dead chemicals into all the complexity of living things is surely no more nor less than the great cosmogenic myth of our times. Sorry, evolution does not murder God. There are simply too many powerful clues …

    (N) This would have been a good place to illustrate with at least one such powerful clue.

    (T) Although it has been scientifically proven that not one single protein can form by chance, your heroes all maintain that life first emerged by chance in muddy water. (The probability of a function protein forming by chance is 1 in 10950, in other words, zero.)

    (N) When you throw a dart at the side of a barn, the odds are astronomically against it hitting the exact point it hits. And yet, hit there it does.

    (N) All calculations of probability are entirely built on foundations of assumptions. For the calculations to have any validity, not only does the math have to be correct but all the underlying assumptions must be correct as well.

    (T) The cold, hard fact is, Darwinism and the theory of macro-evolution is a belief system based on fraud, deception and falsehood. Just admit, there are three critical flaws in the theory of evolution through gradual change: Dysfunctional change, the DNA code barrier, and natural selection removes DNA information but does not add new information.

    (T) For the record, I believe in evolution, I really do. But please don’t mistake micro-evolution for Darwinian evolution. They are not related. When a Christian says they do not believe in evolution, it is not a reference to changes in specific traits. It is a reference to changes that require crossing the DNA limitations.

    (N) I don’t know what DNA barrier or limitation you speak of. Is this barrier identifiable within DNA?

    (N) If you are proposing that there is an objective dividing line between micro and macro evolution, then what is the objective basis of this line? Would you say it is impossible that a duck and a goose could have had a common ancestor? How about a raven and a magpie? A penguin and a flamingo? A moa and a hummingbird? If you say they are all of a common bird kind, then can we similarly say that apes (including humans), monkeys, and lemurs are all of a common primate kind?

    (N) How do you imagine that your God fiddles with the history of life as recorded in the fossil record? Does he periodically step in to create a new form here and there, ex-nihilo, which just happens to have a strong resemblance to previous forms in the record? Or did he start everything off with a handful of basic categories, hundreds of millions of years ago, and let it eventually develop into the humans which were the focus of his creation. And if your God had the capacity to make any given life form ex-nihilo, then why arrange his creations so that they give every appearance of being a long sequence of small transitions? Why did the process take hundreds of millions of years? Could he not have made humans earlier?

    (T) And if interested, we can take the debate to an entirely new level, let’s talk about the historical Jesus, God incarnate, who actually weighed in His opinion. Let’s examine and critique all the evidence specific to the life of Christ and if He was indeed who the New Testament proclaimed Him to be.

    (N) Fortunately, this is a simpler subject. It would be circular to use the Bible to corroborate the historical status of the Bible stories about Jesus Christ, and any attempt to do this opens the door to using any other holy book, myth, or made-up story to corroborate itself. But if we look outside the Bible for confirmation of the Jesus stories, the striking fact is that we have virtually nothing at all to work with. Basically, we’ve got a few bits of scant mention in Josephus and Tacitus. Are these eyewitness accounts? No. Are they contemporary accounts? No. The works they are contained in date to decades after Jesus’s supposed death. Are the reference sources for these passages documented? No. Do these passages confirm or even address all the various Bible stories about Jesus’s life and deeds? No. Do these passages even clearly refer to the Bible’s Jesus. In the Josephus’ Testimonium, yes, but the other passages aren’t so clear, and are open to alternate interpretations. Are we even sure these passages are genuine? Most scholarly opinion on the Josephus passage is that it is largely a fake, or that it is entirely a fake. The Tacitus passage isn’t so obviously a fake, but there are oddities of style and in neither case do we have any original copies. What I find noteworthy is that, for centuries after these passages were supposedly written, we don’t have a single reference to these passages from any of the early Christian fathers who would have been familiar with these works. It could be that by remarkable coincidence, we have lost every single comment they ever made, or it could be that every church father who saw these references to their lord and savior thought they were too unimportant and uninteresting to be worth commenting on. But the most obvious possibility is that these passages simply didn’t exist in the earlier versions of Josephus and Tacitus.

    (N) Aside from these two suspect passages, we’ve got basically no independent record of Jesus that dates from within a century of his supposed life. Somehow, it seems to have escaped virtually everyone’s notice that an almighty god was living among us for several years. Whatever his mission might have been, he seems to have slipped through his time on Earth in total obscurity, leaving behind nothing more substantial than footprints in drifting sand, and echoes of rumors that he was ever here.

    (T) Ultimately, the debate rests there…either Jesus was, and is, who He said He was, or He wasn’t. I’m game if you are. You start…prove Jesus wasn’t who He said He was. Up for that challenge?

    (N) What if Jesus deliberately chose for there to be no secular or historical record of his existence? And what if he chose to live a life which happened to resemble those of prior savior god-men? He supposedly had the power of a god, so both of those would have been possible, and it in that case it would be impossible to prove such a Jesus never existed. The best that can be established is that we have no more reason to believe the Jesus stories of Christian mythology than we do the various other magical being stories from other mythologies of that region.

    (T) From Perry Marshall:
    (P) If the universe had expanded a little faster, the matter would have sprayed out into space like fine mist from a water bottle – so fast that a gazillion particles of dust would speed into infinity and never even form a single star.
    (P) If the universe had expanded just a little slower, the material would have dribbled out like big drops of water, then collapsed back where it came from by the force of gravity. A little too fast, and you get a meaningless spray of fine dust. A little too slow, and the whole universe collapses back into one big black hole.

    (N) Highly doubtful, totally unsupported claims. As regards the formation of stars and galaxies, what would matter far more than speed of expansion is clumpiness. A slower, but totally homogeneous expansion could have failed to produce any stars while a faster but more heterogeneous expansion could have resulted in extremely fertile star formation.

    (P) The surprising thing is just how narrow the difference is. To strike the perfect balance between too fast and too slow, the force, something that physicists call “the Dark Energy Term” had to be accurate to one part in ten with 120 zeros.

    (P) If you wrote this as a decimal, the number would look like this:
    0.000000000000000000000000000000
    00000000000000000000000000000000
    00000000000000000000000000000000
    0000000000000000000000000000001

    (N) That would be a more impressive number if it weren’t totally pulled out of a hat–or based on sheer guesswork and gravitational assumptions. But current observations are tending very strongly in the direction of expansion which is not gravitational in behavior, so it’s hard to be too impressed with the accuracy of that calculation when one of the fundamental assumptions it rests on appears to be wrong.

    (P) The Designer, the ‘external agent’ that caused our universe must possess an intellect, knowledge, creativity and power trillions and trillions of times greater than we humans have. Absolutely amazing.

    (P) Now a person who doesn’t believe in God has to find some way to explain this.

    (N) Ah yes, human creations are amazing, but humans are even more amazing. By extension, if the universe is amazing, then God the creator of the universe must be even more amazing. And by even further extension, if God is amazing, then the creator of God must be that much more amazing. Right? This leads to an infinite regress of ever more complicated causes, or at some point, you must do an arbitrary cutoff.

    (N) Science operates by decomposing complex phenomena into simpler and more comprehensible component phenomena. But with god religions, you explain the difficult to understand by invoking the impossible to understand. Then you throw a cloak over it, put a crown on it, and get down on your knees and avert your eyes from it. That is not a rational path to understanding. That isn’t even a halfway decent example of curiosity. It is, in fact, nothing less than the veneration of ignorance.

    (P) One of the more common explanations seems to be “There was an infinite number of universes, so it was inevitable that things would have turned out right in at least one of them.” The “infinite universes” theory is truly an amazing theory.
    Just think about it, if there is an infinite number of universes, then absolutely everything is not only possible…
    It’s actually happened!

    (P) It means that somewhere, in some dimension, there is a universe where the Chicago Cubs won the World Series last year. There’s a universe where Jimmy Hoffa doesn’t get cement shoes; instead he marries Joan Rivers and becomes President of the United States. There’s even a universe where Elvis kicks his drug habit and still resides at Graceland and sings at concerts. Imagine the possibilities!

    (N) There are many Christians who believe that life neverending awaits them in the hereafter. I wonder how many of them have considered the implications of infinity in the same vein as Perry has here. If you had one eternal monkey type a key on a typewriter at random once a year, eventually, that monkey will inevitably type a character string which is identical to all the text in all the books in the library of Congress, exactly arranged in alphabetical order, and that will happen trillions of times totally by chance–after which, an infinite amount of time would still yet remain. Truly dreadful.

    (T) I’m reading a great book by Hugh Ross, “Why The Universe Is The Way It Is” and for the first time, I began to truly understand and appreciate exactly how extraordinarily fine-tuned this universe is (as a requirement to support human life).

    (N) Much like your leg length is exquisitely fine-tuned for walking. Any shorter and your feet would be dangling in the air and you’d get no traction. Any longer and your feet would be buried in the ground and immovable.

    (T) “If no other density factors influence the expansion of the universe, at certain early epochs in cosmic history, its mass density must have been as finely tuned as one part in 10 to the 60th power to allow for the possible existence of physical life at any time or place within the entirety of the universe. This degree of fine-tuning is so great that it’s as if right after the universe’s beginning someone could have destroyed the possibility of life within it by subtracting a single dime’s mass from the whole of the observable universe or adding a single dime’s mass to it.”

    (N) The key phrase is “if no other factors influence the expansion of the universe”. But the strongest indications are, that isn’t the case, so the rest is moot.

    (T) I then consider, Jim, the fact there are 50 billion trillion stars in the universe a million miles across each (on average)

    (N) We’ve got no idea what the actual number is. All the light that we can see in the universe originated less than 6 billion light years away from here, and the visual count in the HUDF image suggests about 100 billion galaxies within that bubble. But the actual size of the universe is probably at least one or two orders of magnitude larger than that bubble, and for all we know, it could be dozens.

    (T) and consider that these stars make up only 1% of the entire universe. I then bring, cognitively, the balance back to that one thin dime’s “make or break” mass. Awesome.

    (N) And bogus. The accuracy is implausible because we don’t know the total mass even to within five orders of magnitude (possibly much more), and even guessing an extreme lower limit to the total mass, adding or deducting a dime’s worth would have a gravitational effect on expansion that is proportional to the overall mass–as close to negligible as you can get. Nevermind that gravity is apparently not the only factor determining expansion. Not even the largest one.

    (N) And by the way, all such arguments for the existence of God based on these calculations of extreme precision must be predicated on a totally non-interventionist god. If God can change the game at any point with miracles, all the calculations mean nothing.

    (T) Sure, I’ll place a wager here and there in Vegas,

    (N) Which is a place where probabilities are projected, tracked, and monitored out to three decimal places or more. If God answers prayers in Vegas, he apparently does so in a way that is utterly indistinguishable from the operation of chance.

  41. Nick: You’ve actually come along at the right time, as myself and Todd have only recently resumed this debate via private e-mail. Since you’ve covered so much in the above reply I’ll digest it further before chirping up, but I rather suspect we’re going to be in broad agreement with each other, so perhaps Todd would like to pick it up first?

  42. I’m pleased to hear this conversation may be continuing at some point. And Todd, if you do resume posting here, you had another remark which I found curious:

    (T) I will pray for you and all unbelievers

    For me, this prompted a variety of questions:
    First, what is the function of Christian prayer? Is it intended to inform God on a matter on which he is presumed ignorant? Is it intended to induce him to do that which he knows infallibly he will do anyway, or is it supposed to change his mind? How does prayer have any efficacy whatsoever with an omniscient god who changes not? Or is prayer for God something akin to what clapping is for Tinkerbell?

    Second, what do you mean when you say you will pray for unbelievers? Was that meant in the same spirit as when Christians say they will pray for people who are sick, or lost? Do you mean you will pray in their stead, taking up the burden of prayer which they, as unbelieving slackers, are failing to carry? Do you mean you will seek to have God make some changes in their lives–whether they want these changes or not? Do you mean you are singling out unbelievers over others to receive your good wishes? If you pray for an unbeliever, and he subsequently has some good fortune, will you feel you deserve some of the credit for that? If nothing happens after your prayer, will you consider that your prayer protected him from some awful outcome? If there is an awful outcome after your prayer, will you interpret that as God sending a wake-up call in response to your prayer? If your prayer is followed by abrupt death, will you feel happy that the unbeliever is now either in paradise or receiving the torture he so richly deserved? Is there any conceivable scenario or outcome after prayer which would prompt you to regret having prayed, or does every possible outcome only reinforce prayer for you?

    And third, presumably there was some reason you needed to communicate to unbelievers what you intended to do–suggesting it was not enough merely to do it quietly. What did the announcement accomplish that prayer alone would not have? What did you want or expect the unbelievers’ reaction to be? Were they supposed to feel grateful that you would be doing something “for” them which they consider useless and pointless? (If so, would the appropriate response have been, “thanks for nothing”?) Were they supposed to have the nervous feeling that your spells and incantations might have some effect on them? Was this a ploy to come across as holier in a condescending way, so that if any unbelievers felt insulted, it would make them look bad to get testy over your innocent and harmless good wishes? Did you want it to look like you felt helpless and in need of divine assistance in confronting the dread specter of unbelief? (Or was that an unintended effect?) I can understand how it might make a Christian feel big to say “I will put in a good word for you with my close personal friend–the almighty creator of the universe” when dealing with others who believe similarly, but isn’t it just a little bit embarrassing to act that way in front of people who only see an adult talking to his imaginary friend.

    As an unbeliever, I really don’t know how I’m supposed to reciprocate to your saying you will pray for me. However, I do know a woman who purportedly worships Lucifer–the bringer of light. (As I understand it, she views him as an ancient Earth god who was later demonized–literally–by a deceiving religion with a false triple-god.) Now, I don’t see anything to suggest there is any efficacy to prayer, but apparently she does, so I’d be happy to ask her to pray for you. She would, of course, be praying to her god, and I realize it’s one you don’t worship, but that’s okay, right? I mean, if you’re going to pray for unbelievers to a god they don’t worship, doesn’t that mean you endorse the general principle? Or am I missing something?

  43. Nick, this is Todd Pitner…long time no type (within here anyway). As with Jim, I can see you’re very thorough and thoughtful in your responses/questions. I’d like to respond in kind. I so wish that someone would invent an eighth day of the week so that we’d all have more time…perhaps the patent office is backlogged, slackers. Can I pick up a discussion with you directly, off-blog? I personally find Q&A’s to be much more efficient that way (I can then employ the power of the personal Blackberry to respond more expediently). I look forward to hearing from you. Please send along your contact info to tp111@live.com and, to begin, we can drill down to a few manageable points of discussion. (Jim, hopefully you’ll attest that, while obviously our opinions have differed, I’ve engaged with a commitment to honest dialogue versus just trying to score debate points…you’ve engaged in kind, thank you). Later, guys.

  44. I have no way of knowing how much of what we’ve said via email has made a difference to your opinion, but I can certainly vouch for your persistence and good humour. From an open information point of view I’d prefer it if we could keep as much of the conversation public as possible, but if you do email each other back and forth please consider putting me in the CC field.

  45. Hi Todd. I definitely understand about the shortage of time, and I appreciate your offer to take this to private mail. But I contributed here because you posted your challenges to atheism in a public-access site which now has a fairly high Google ranking on keywords related to the supposed fallacies of so-called new atheism. So even though my answers had the general form of a response to your posts, they were not really intended as letters to you specifically. They were written primarily for the benefit of third party readers–especially those who might run across this site in the same way I did.

    I’m not out to change your beliefs here. It’s of no consequence to me if you are a Christian. And if you were to attribute your Christian beliefs to an act of sheer faith, or to direct revelation from God, or to some insightful mystical experience, or spiritual clairvoyance, or angelic alien abduction, or appeals to theological authority, or emotion, or tradition, or any other rationally inaccessible basis of belief, then I would have had nothing to say about it.

    But you did two things which prompted my response here. One is that you fell in line with certain recent Christian regressivists who have tried to usurp some of the prestige that has accrued to science and reason by claiming that the Bible stories of God and Christ are not just possible, not just plausible, not just defensible, not just reasonable, they actually claim that science confirms God and Christ–meaning they are *the* most rational conclusions based on the best objective evidence available. The implication is that all of us who have arrived at a very different conclusion about the Christian stories are being less rational than these Christians. There is, of course, some vanishingly small chance that they might be right, in which case I have badly misjudged the rationality of my position, and I have something important to learn. But if, as I expect, they are utterly wrong, then I would view the development and promotion of an alternate bad science to displace good science as a pernicious endeavor which needs to be countered. Either option gives me ample reason to engage this supposed rational Christianity head-on whenever I run across it.

    The second thing you did was to post your challenges in public and then suggest that your challenges were being dodged and avoided–however much Jim tried to respond. For anyone coming later to the discussion, if they were not already familiar with the issues involved, I could see how it might appear that you had, at least to some degree, found weaknesses and holes in the rational case for atheism. On a web page which had a high Google ranking, I was disinclined to leave standing even the appearance that your challenges had been unmet.

    So why do I care? When I left Christianity, decades ago, there was no internet, or usenet, or any such resource available for me. Back then, there was really no part of culture which was beyond the heavy influence of the multi-billion dollar religion industry, whose chief product–then as now–was self-promotion. Atheists were isolated, marginalized, and–aside from a few reviled cranks and objects of ridicule–almost entirely invisible.

    What some are calling the “new” atheism is really just new levels of visibility for rational atheism. With the internet, we now have a space where ideas and arguments can compete on their merits, and that has greatly offset the lopsided advantages in networking, organizing, fund-raising, and promulgation which religion has traditionally enjoyed. I see this as a positive development, and if I can contribute a little bit here and there, I do what I can to keep a good thing going.

    Given that context, there would, for me, be little point in taking this discussion private, because I’m primarily here as a counterweight to your position that the Christian story is the one which is best supported by science and reason. As matters stand, I am fairly satisfied your challenges have been answered. If you are satisfied that your challenges rationally withstand the answers given, then we can leave it there and let the readers decide for themselves. On the other hand, if you would like to advance additional support for your position here, I’d be happy to respond. I doubt you’ve got any arguments I haven’t seen before, so this is not something I need for my own benefit, but it would be good to see this page develop further as a potentially useful resource.

    But if you do decide to pursue this, I hope you have considered that the stakes for us may not be equal. In any rational test of my position, I cannot lose. If any of my arguments are bested, then I ditch my old position in favor of the winning one–as I have done numerous times before. My commitment is not to any particular conclusion, but to the process of reason itself, and that would remain the case even if you somehow succeeded in making a rational case for the gods of Christianity. On the other hand, you appear to me to be serenely confident that reason and God-belief are in total harmony, but what if that is not the case? If it turns out your God belief is not supported by reason, will you be able to sustain your belief on other grounds? And if it turns out reason comes into direct conflict with your commitment to your god, have you thought about which one you will have to give up? (I would not care about the consequences for you if I thought you were one of the liars for Christ which typify the leadership of the self-styled scientific Christians, but you appear to be one of the sincere–though I think misguided–followers.)

    I don’t know what to say about the Blackberry e-mail thing except to suggest that Jim is the host here, and you have already established an e-mail rapport with him, so perhaps he would be willing to let you route your contributions through him. And I see no reason to worry about expedience here. In a thread that has been ongoing for months, it seems to me the quality of the response matters much more than the speed.

  46. Nick, thank you for your post. No problem keeping the “debate” (I use this term loosely) going within this post. For me, going off-blog tends to take the edge off what I consider to be very important dialogue worthy of open and honest discussion. And by saying ‘honest,’ I’m not implying dishonesty has ever been in play, I just think we’re all guilty (within blogs) of writing to impress others versus necessarily peeling back the layers of the onion and “suspending belief” long enough to seriously consider the others’ view. With the blog posts above, I certainly found myself falling into that trap. That said, please remember, “You asked for it!” (In other words, don’t read on until your pizza arrives for this is going to be a long post…)
    What I appreciate most about your post, Nick, was your candor specific to the fact you cannot lose. I like that. Please note, I’m not trying to win, and at the same time know that I (too) cannot lose. It seems we’re both evidentialists, and that I’ve simply arrived at the Christian-God conclusion, reasonably so, prior to you. Not saying you ever will, but then again, I never thought I would either. Ninety-five percent of my 44 years has been that of an atheist, until I really thought through what being an atheist meant. I’ll spare you the “God brought me to my knees so that I might look up” part of the story; suffice it to say He did, and there will never be a human being who will convince me He’s not real, because I have come to know Him to be so. My operating reality is my operating reality, and I’m not delusional to believe it will in any way convince you to be of similar mindset. Based on your thoughtful post(s) prior, I already respect you too much to throw you that line.
    Okay (and Jim, forgive me if I’m drawing from some of our friendly back-and-forths), here’s the deal…or to be less off-putting, here’s my deal. Upon true consideration, I simply cannot find any evidence for the validity of atheism. There are no “proofs” that God does not exist. One can’t prove a negative position. Any attempted proofs or philosophical conjecture I’ve seen has thus far have been (to me anyway) intellectually insufficient. After all, how do you prove there is no God in the universe? By positing, as some have, that there is an imaginative multiverse slot machine out there? How do you prove that in all places and all times, there is no God? Besides, if there were a proof of God’s non-existence, certainly one of the Four Horsemen would have written a book about it by now, right? But no proof supporting atheism or denying God’s existence has been presented. Nick, if I have this wrong, please post otherwise.
    So, since there are no proofs for atheism’s truth and there are no proofs that there is no God, then you (professed atheists) hold your position by faith and faith alone. More faith than me, I submit for the God-Cause(r) is more plausible and reasonable than a multiverse slot machine, et al.
    In order to give intellectual credence to your position, what atheists tend to do (I’ve found) is to go on attacks (Jim’s at least done so in a nice way, I’ll confess) and try to negate or counter any evidence(s) I (or we Christians) have presented for God’s existence. Everything I offer seems to be minimized with degrading and condescending “nah-nah-nah magic sky man sent himself into the belly of a Jewish virgin Christians are just a bunch of mad-men naked emperors” grade-school banter. The following is typical of what I receive:
    “The symbolism and mythology of almost all ancient belief systems with a major following are transposed lyric by lyric into Christianity. Water into wine, Dionysus, 200 years before Christ. The only thing which is new about Christianity, is that we’re expected to take on trust that, in Jesus case, it’s all really true. Apollonius of Tyana, (3BCE) raised people from the dead.”
    Now, to the third party (blog) witness, on the surface it may seem like ‘ol Todd just got a badly needed “Check!”…ONE POINT FOR INTELIGENCIA. Ignorance to facts is frustrating, but aggressive and FALSE ignorance, unchecked, is dangerous. To address the claim above, because I am no New Testament scholar, I was willing to do some homework. I’ve always been willing to admit (and have done so) when I’m wrong. I’m not so full of pride that I can’t concede a point. But, when I came back with the following refutation backed by scholarly research…
    “What I learned while you slept was the following regarding Apollonius and Tyana
    (Accept No Imitations: Did the Stories of Apollonius of Tyana Influence the Gospels?). Sorry, he was born AFTER Jesus, not in 3 BC, and his bio was written much longer after that…same holds true with Dionysus. Don’t take my word for it, read the paper. And if you refute Holding’s research, let me know and I’ll bring him directly into the discussion.”
    …do you think I heard an “Oops, Todd, sorry, I was wrong and you were right?” Sadly, Nick, this wasn’t the case. My rebuttal went unanswered…all I heard was the sound of one hand clapping. Instead, a “next elephant” was simply hurled my way. Can you appreciate how frustrating that song-and-dance becomes, Nick?
    So I begin to wonder if the perpetual dismissiveness of Christian-provided evidence is just an attempt to create this evidential vacuum in which no theistic argument can survive just to make the atheistic position more intellectually viable. Seems so. It is in this negation (dismissiveness/avoidance) of the facts/research presented that brings self-justification to a self-proclaimed truth that there is no God.
    It seems to me there’s only one way that atheism is intellectually defensible and that is by evoking the abstract realm of simple possibility. In other words, it is possible that there is no God. But, stating that it is possible doesn’t mean that it is a reality or that it is wise to adopt that position. If I said it were possible that Hitler had it right and that the world would be a better much better place by enacting genocide against the Jews (as many Germans so believed), does that make it intellectually defensible or a position worth adopting merely because it is a possibility? No. So, simply claiming a possibility based on nothing more than it being a logical option is not sufficient grounds for a viable claim. You must come up with something more than “it is possible;” otherwise, the world could/would/should have jumped on the bandwagon and punched the genocide ball into the end zone because Hitler proclaimed (his lie the absolute) truth.
    But I think the atheist has a bigger problem. Refuting evidences for God’s existence (especially by calling upon bronze-age folklore, non-researched mythological arguments, Santa Clause and illiterate goat herders – see previous parts of this running “debate”) does not prove your view true anymore than refuting an eyewitness testimony of a marriage denies the reality of the marriage. Since atheism cannot be proven and since disproving evidences for God does not prove there is no God, your position is intellectually indefensible. At best, you can only say that there are no convincing evidences for God so far presented, right? You cannot say there are no evidences for God because you cannot know all evidences that possibly exist in the world. At best, you can only say that the evidence so far presented has been insufficient (which to me is playing ostrich). Therefore, since there could be evidences presented in the future (or “in the current,” read Gary Habermas’ book “The Historical Jesus,” or perhaps enjoy the debate between Dr. Habermas and the prior-atheist Anthony Flew http://www.garyhabermas.com/video/video.htm), you must acknowledge that there may indeed be a proof that has so far been undiscovered and that the existence of God is possible (and Christ Jesus, God-incarnate). This would make you and others frequenting this site ‘agnostics’ since, at best, you can only be skeptical of God’s existence. Will you at least give me that?

    This is why, I think, there is the pervasive need to attack Christianity – because Christianity makes very high claims concerning God’s existence and of Christ’s Deity, which challenges atheism and pokes holes in the vacuum. I think many professed atheist like this vacuum…it certainly dismisses accountability. You perhaps like having the universe with only one god in it: (_________)  insert your name here ;D
    Now, you requested our discussion to stay “on-blog” for the viewing pleasures of others who might find the blog later. As I stated, no problem. But to pay the bills, I want to take a commercial break for those who have yet to prove there is no God…and will be back to you atheists after these messages:
    • For all skeptics, agnostics, non-Christians, and even Christians who believe in God, but don’t necessarily have a relationship with Jesus, let me share that there ARE ANSWERS to attacks against Christianity from our atheist friends. They will want to attack the core of our very belief, the Bible. Guess what?! Just to give you peace of mind that you don’t have to check your intelligence in at the door when reading and believing in Scripture, the inspired Word of God, I’ve included many questions about (to begin) the New Testament as a document (e.g., authorship, dating, transmission, accuracy, etc.). Let’s head them off at the pass. Don’t take my word for it, FOLLOW THE EVIDENCE FOR YOURSELF. You don’t have to believe me, but then again, you don’t have to concede to atheistic attacks on your faith. So take the time to read these articles, and copy and paste these same articles and email them to your atheist friends who try to bully you into thinking you’re an idiot for believing in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit!

    o Did the evangelists/disciples invent the miracles stories of Jesus? …(series)
    o ‘Did Matthew invent the setting for the Sermon on the Mount?
    o Did the gospel writers make up the words of Jesus at will?
    o “Is the tomb story flawed because the term ‘rolled’ is used?”
    o Did John invent the story of the raising of Lazarus?!
    o How did the peasant apostle John write the book of Revelation in Greek?[ tiny]
    o Why was the New Testament written in Greek?
    o How does the memory research of Elizabeth Loftus on eyewitness testimony affect the credibility of NT documents?
    o Were the NT writers influenced by pagan religions? (Matthew)
    o Was Jesus Christ just a CopyCat Savior Myth?
    o An ex-Muslim’s question on the Persian Mithras
    o Is the Sermon on the Mount actually an ancient Essene prayer dating to hundreds of years before Christ?!
    o was Nazareth a mythical place (as SOME skeptics believe)?
    o Are some of the NT letters ‘pious forgeries’? (part 1)
    o Could the resurrection appearances be a case of GROUP Hallucination?
    o Did the Messianic Jewish Believers use the OT deceitfully or ignorantly in the New Testament
    o does Micah 5 speak about the birth-place of the Messiah, or only His birth-family?
    o Did Jesus/NT authors misquote the Shema when they used the phrase ‘with all your mind’?
    o Did the gospel authors simply rip-off stories from the OT and ascribe them to Jesus?
    o Series: interaction with James Still over NT composition and bias of authors
    o Series: responses to The Fabulous Prophecies of the Messiah”
    o Was the NT just an elaborate hoax? (58k)
    o Messianic Expectations in 1st Century Judaism–Documentation from Non-Christian Sources (I just got tired of answering this over and over and over…)
    o Does the ‘bias’ of the NT writers make it Unusable as evidence?!
    o A response to a believer’s question about “Was John’s gospel Anti-Semitic?”
    o …What about the Gospel of Thomas?!
    o Are 1st and 2nd Peter NOT by Peter, but by someone using his name?
    o Did the Christians simply invent the “pierced my hands and feet” passage in Psalm 22?
    o Should the possible addition of John 8.1-11 make us paranoid about other possible inauthentic ‘additions’?
    o Why does Jude quote from a non-canonical book, and we moderns not accept that book as scripture?
    o >Did the Jewish War eliminate all the possible counter-witnesses to the life of Jesus in the NT?;
    o Can the gospels (or the stories of the historical Jesus) not have been written (or invented) until 100-150 AD?
    Sorry, Nick…but had to get a Word from our Sponsor. (By the way, Nick, you seem like a very studied guy…I think it would be wise for you, too, to read these articles. Perhaps you may even be convinced enough BY THE EVIDENCE to modify your point of view…just a suggestion that may yield an eternal reward, or not.)

    Pride was the biggest sin. It’s what brought Satan down. I had it in spades. However, when I stopped playing donkey and opened not only my mind, but also my heart, to the truth, life changed. God makes the offer, you make the choice.

    I’ll leave you with one last point, even when all men (but a rare few) proclaimed the world to be flat, it never ceased being round. Readers, God is still God, and you’re still not. Open the door and let Him in. Dude Jesus (I’m on “Dude” terms with him now) really was really, really real and really was and is everything He claimed to be. He was and is God. Now, please, before piling on to this post and throwing stones because you think I’m wrong, read the articles and do some honest research into the facts. Then, if you’re still not convinced, I’m happy to continue discussions OFF BLOG. My email address is tp111@live.com. Thank you, and God bless.

  47. Okay, Sports fans…sorry the links I intended to include in my response to Nick did not copy over. Still getting used to what’s possible and what’s not in blogosphereland.

    So, to give you the keys to the seekers kingdom, just visit here to find papers addressing almost all the difficult questions atheists pose. Dare I say there isn’t a subject untouched…if you have one, I’m sure http://www.christian-thinktank.com would be up to the challenge.

    REFUTATIONS/ANSWERS:

    http://christian-thinktank.com/hway.html

    Todd

  48. Nick, you asked in a previous post “What is the function of Christian prayer?”

    If you’re interested in a thoughtful response, please review this article:

    http://www.tektonics.org/lp/prayfor.html

    I think it might help you better understand what prayer is for. And never end a sentence with a preposition.

    ;D

  49. Todd:
    You should see a list of short codes you can use for bold print, italics, URL links and so on above the text entry box. For me it’s saying I can use regular HTML to denote links, but that’s probably because I’m logged in as admin. If in doubt use BBCode, that is [ and ] to encapsulate the uppercase word URL to open and /URL to close.

    [URL]http://example.com/todd_hates_facts/[/URL]

    On prayer:
    There have been studies showing prayer having a positive effect on the person doing the praying, but having no effect beyond the expected placebo upon the recipient. Intercessionary prayer affects no more of a detectable change upon the sample group than upon the control group.

    You might say that it is impossible to apply a scientific measurement upon, for want of a better word, spiritual well-being—and, in the case where someone simply feels a lot better, in their sick bed, for knowing that loved ones are thinking positive thoughts about them, this may well be true.

    But when you say that someone physically gets better, in other words physiologically becomes healed, then you’re making a statement on properties which can be scientifically measured—blood pressure, metabolism, resting heart-rate and so on. If these physical properties can be shown to have been influenced by something other than medicine, then there is evidence upon which you can make a reasonable prediction about how that same treatment might have an effect, perhaps on someone suffering a similar ailment.

    Study after study has shown prayer has no effect beyond the placebo. Many studies, from highly reputable institutions of learning, have attempted to be as even handed as possible about sensitive detections within a reasonable margin of error on large groups of people. Some of them have enjoyed sensational headlines in the popular press, making radical claims which turn out to be rather less impressive once you dig a little deeper.

    http://www.amazon.com/Science-Latest-Results-Purpose-Universe/dp/1591020182

    The fact is, no one has ever grown back a severed limb from bathing in the waters at Lourdes anymore than a televangelists has ever cured cancer during a live telethon.

  50. I’m ordering Strenger and will read it. It would be disingenuous of me to comment on the book without giving it its’ day in the sun. I did, however, just complete the book, “Why The Universe Is The Way It Is” by Hugh Ross:

    http://www.reasons.org/about-us/our-people#hugh_ross

    Based on scientific data, it not only shows why the universe is as it is, it also gives insight about God and sheds light on the significance and purpose of human beings. Thoroughly scientific, Dr. Ross talks about the “why” of the universe, which we rarely see written about or discussed. It’s a great book for seekers, believers AND skeptics. Seems to me that both Ross and Strenger’s books should be part of any Christian or atheist’s library. Both sides present the evidence, the jury evaluates and decides based on the merits of each. I’m going to find Ross’ book tough to top, but, I’ll give Strenger his due. Will you do the same?

  51. Todd. In comment 58 I can’t find a single question which we haven’t privately discussed already to which you have paid exactly zero interest in the answer. Please try and keep your comments brief. When you swamp like that all that you’re doing is opening up yet more excuses to believe what you already believe if myself or Nick either fails to give a sufficiently thorough reply, or simply can’t be bothered re-stating what has already been said before and similarly ignored.

    The number one question you continually come back to is one of your own confusion between messiah myths and creation myths. There is no conceivable way anyone to whom you address these questions can know, from one paragraph to the next, to which you are referring.

    We went around and around in circles via e-mail and I accept that you brought the conversation back here because you wanted Nick to reply, but from what he’s said already, I can’t see how you’ve come to understand anything you didn’t already “know” before you started. I’m not saying this is a futile exercise—but I can point to any number of things, simply off the top of my head, you have completely failed to grasp, or you simply wouldn’t be asking about them again.

    To be clear:
    1: There is no independently verified, historical, anthropological or archeological evidence that Jesus of Nazareth ever existed. There is, however, sufficient evidence to support the existence of the Nazarene.

    2: Everything in the natural world, from Newtonian Mechanics to Quantum Theory, can be described without recourse to supernatural, mysterious or unidentified phenomena, with the exception of purely mathematical models which attain symmetry by falsifiable postulate.

    3: Hero / Warrior gods from antiquity, numbered in their hundreds, who were not born to virgins, who did not spend a life performing miracles before being either killed or abandoned by their former allegiances, are the exception rather than the rule. It is worth noting in this regard, that since the age of enlightenment, there have been exactly zero new Messiahs or anyone who claims to be the second coming who anyone has taken seriously—even those who are waiting, like you.

    Finally. Please do NOT address what you believe to be falsehoods in the above, without observing paragraphs 1, 2 and 3. In your inevitable reply, please remember that no-one reading this, either as it is added, or in the months and years to come, cares about subjective opinions. Neither mine, nor yours. What matters are the facts. Evidential facts.

  52. Whoa, back the truck way up, Jim. Just because we’ve discussed off-blog some of the questions posed to Nick does NOT mean I’ve paid zero interest to your answers. Not fair. I just haven’t been satisfied with them. In almost every case (post our entire off-blog dialogue if you wish, let others see for themselves), I responded with either theistic evidence refuting your claims or a request for proof backing your atheistic claims up. But since I have never received proof, only continued assertions and deflected arguments, I assume that no proof for God’s non-existence exists.

    To sum up our running debate, I believe in God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, the resurrection, sin, salvation, et al. You don’t. I’ve tried my best to defend my faith, and you have too. Unfortunately, truth and reality do not conform to your desire for there to be no God. I’ll now do what I’ve done throughout our entire debate, I will directly refute your claims with theistic evidence (below). You will then do what you always do and dismiss it and go on as though your self-assumed point is true. What can I do? (sigh) I at least try…

    Answers: TO BE CLEAR(ER):

    1. Visit http://www.garyhabermas.com/articles/articles.htm, and actually read his material. Perhaps visit http://www.4truth.net/site/c.hiKXLbPNLrF/b.2902063/k.67B8/Did_Jesus_Really_Exist.htm as well. Check out the Josephus and Jesus article there, too. After reading all this historical EVIDENCE, if you still hold onto such an empty claim, put up or shut up once and for all, please (you’ll know where to find me…see the end of this post)!

    2. So? I’ve got one better: God is still God; Jesus still is. He created Newtonian Mechanics, Quantum Theory, mathematical models, symmetry and the understanding of falsifiable postulates.

    3. Not this again…so irritating. Jim, you haven’t done a fraction of the homework needed to be a reputable commentator in this area, so please STOP with your “fake left, go right” already. NEVER bring this subject up again until you’ve actually READ this paper, a non-JV refutation which I’ve provided before: http://christian-thinktank.com/copycat.html. Or, bring it up again and again, and rest my case for me.

    Okay, I love you guys, but I think I’m done. All good things must come to an end.

    Please feel free to “pile on” after I leave…tout “you got me but good!”…”Slaughtered that lamb!” But, you know the rest of the story; on the third day, he rose again ;D. I’ll be over at http://www.theologyweb.com and would welcome continued debate there. My ID is ‘imtoddp’ …you’ll find me in the Apologetics area, I’m sure. Or, as posted previously within this blog, I can always be reached at tp111@live.com.

    Jim, debate-aside, and all heated discussions aside, I genuinely like and appreciate you. I thank you for giving me the forum and opportunity to express my side. You have my digits…stay in touch.

    God Bless. (or not)

    Todd


  53. Hello Jim,

    Regarding comment 66 (that I reproduce below), I guess you are not referring to my critique of Victor Stenger. Did I guess right? Anyway, there are very serious problems with many of the things that Stenger says, and also with things said by Dawkins, Shermer, Hyman, Wiseman (Richard), and Daniel Dennett (just to name a few…). To call these guys “rationalists” is to perform a little bit of unwarranted overstatement. It is true that religion has many problems. And they must be properly pointed out and dealt with. But, IMHO, atheism often belongs in this very same category, that is, it ends up qualifying pretty nicely as a religion too. That is not necessarily a vice. But, often it is.

    Well, I just watched the four parts of Greg Koukl’s video. There are problems in it, I think. But there are very good points (i.e. correct criticism towards “atheists”) too.

    Very Best Regards,
    Julio Siqueira
    site: Criticizing Skepticism
    ____________________________

    Jim Gardner said
    March 21, 2009 at 10:30 PM

    Reminds me of someone I know. A lot of ranting and, from a passing glance at this, very little by way of direct challenges to established fact.


  54. Yes. I will be giving a lot of careful attention to it.

    Stenger is just one chapter in my personal history of fighting pseudoskepticism (just by the way: pseudoskepticism can be found just anywhere; even inside me, obviously! That is why we must be open to criticim, and Stenger is a little bit open to it too. So, he also has virtues, as I duly point out). I ended up joining his forum (avoid-L – I left it some weeks ago) and I presented each and every one of my pieces of criticism directly to him (and to his peers). I will put the facts about it here in a concise and objective way. And I will try to show how these are relevant to what you are discussing here.

    I will be starting out tomorrow. Sorry for the delay, but this is almost midnight here in Brazil, and I have had very troubled days since the middle of the week.

    Best,
    Julio Siqueira


  55. Still Doing my “Homework.” Problems Everywhere…

    I am still doing my homework, that is, I read again carefully Jim Gardner’s text at the top of these several replies, I watched again video 4 of 4 of Greg Koukl where he “analyzes” “Dawkin’s page 188” (please note the quotation marks…), I got this page 188 (the actual one…) and took a good look at it, and I checked out the three links that come right below the initial text from Jim Gardner.

    Later on I will highlight some points that I think are good and bad in the material listed above. I will try to post in some half an hour from now the initial critical points against Victor Stenger.

    I took the trouble to detail this above to kind of depict the way I am trying to follow in this debate. This is, IMHO, important, because it might enable someone to remind me of something like “Hey, Julio, you just must not forget to do this other homework step too!”

    Bye for now,
    Julio


  56. I will try to be as direct as I can so as to make the discussion easier and more straightforward. This is just post # 1 about Stenger. Some others will follow.

    First, a brief background. Stenger is, I think, a nice guy in many regards. He seems to be a very nice family member (he is an active grandpa, and this is a highly honorable social position, I think), I bet he is a good neighbor, and he is a very competent scientist in his area of true expertise, namely physics. His “debatable side” (or Darth Vader-like side, if you will…) is his marriage with organized skepticism (including his engagement with CSICOP, the notorious skeptic organization). This is where and why I have confronted him. Now, the Stenger I have come to know in this respect is one that does not like to be criticized. But, to his credit, when you show him that he is factually mistaken, he tries not to make this very same mistake again (but don’t wait for any outspoken gratitude from him… Nor wait for any acknowledgement of error in his subsequent writings… Pride is also at play, as it seems). In 2005, I entered his forum, avoid-L, BEFORE writing a critical review of his book, “Has Science Found God?” (by Stenger 2003). I presented some factual mistakes of his. My stand, then, was a challenging one; but far from disrespectful. His reply was seemingly bitter and resentful. The initial link to a fuller account of it is the one below:

    http://www.criticandokardec.com.br/amazon_reviews.htm#stenger

    Now, to make things easier and briefer, just take a look of some of the bizarre problems that I found:

    1- Stenger ended up concluding that Science HAS ALREADY proved that God does not exist. (check out page 349 for that – Just to make my point clear: I am very much inclined to concluding that “God” most likely does not exist. But to claim that Science has already proved it not to exist is just non-scientific).

    2- Stenger reported incorretly the results of a parapsychological article on micro psycho kinesis. From what Stenger reported, it is clear that he did not read (or remember correctly, which amounts to the same…) even the very abstract of the paper!

    3- He reported, incorrectly, a “mistake” commited by parapsychologist Dean Radin in his book “The Conscious Universe” (by Radin, 1997), even though Radin had shown that this mistake simply did not exist. The alledged mistake was brought up by statistician Good, in the scientific journal Nature. Radin answered Good. I read the full exchange of messages, in Nature (actually I read it in Brian Josephson’s website). Good was wrong (though Radin’s writing did lead Good into this mistaken interpretation; that is, Good is not much to blame – but… Stenger is).

    4- Stenger reported incorrectly the conclusions of Sam Parnia et al (journal Resuscitation, 2001) because of faulty reading of the article. The impression we get is that he merely read the abstract… (let’s be a little bit optimistic: at least this time he read the abstract… :-) ) Just as with the article mentioned above (on micro psycho kinesis studies), Stenger said that the authors had said actually THE OPPOSITE of what the authors actually had said!

    Well, that is devastating enough… And that is just the beginnig of it! How did Stenger react to it when I confronted him with it. He said: “I have read this over. I will check out the one or two items that are matters of fact. The rest is simply your opinions with nothing to back them up.” Just as I said: attentive, but resentful.

    My reply to him at that time was: “You keep surprising me with your astronomical demands for precision from others and your over too lax standards regarding the things that you say… The “one or two” matters of fact actually amount to four! I will list them again (it is already the third time. Oh Lord, will this ever end??!!…) below:”

    The four actual mistakes are the three that I mentioned above (items 2, 3, and 4 – It is questionable whether item 1 is a factual mistake or not, so I left it out of the factual mistake list). The forth mistake regards “Susan Blackmore’s good reputation”… (she is a precious thinker, I grant it. Never miss on her writings; I myself don’t! But… as Rick Berger proved beyond any doubt, she is a cheater; a fraudulent researcher).

    So this is the very beginning of a story of a “rational man of science” who is using science to prove the “irrationality” of religion. Well, the first thing that comes to mind is the very first piece of argument that I heard Greg Koukl saying, that is, science men just get pretty much irrational when talking about (i.e. when waging war against…) religion.

    Should I say “I rest my case” now? That would be possible, and victorious. But actually it would self defeating. The modern rise of the sometimes called “New Atheism” has, let’s put it that way, honorable roots. Pretty much justified roots. I am not an atheist. But I deeply respect atheists and atheism (I like to call it atheist-materialism). Basically, I see it as a bold and quite healthy world view. I see the same way many other religions too. So that is my starting point. Plus, my conviction that these so called new atheism activists end up acting in a self defeating manner, especially this most irrational guy named Richard Dawkins. Having this attitude that I truly have, I must say I have always found it quite surprising that I have ended up having so many and so virulent fights with “skeptics” over the internet. Stenger guys included…

    Now, what do you think about it all, Jim? (and Todd)

    Very Best Regards,
    Julio Siqueira
    ___________________

  57. Very well and succinctly articulated. It’s nice to hear the sound of two hands clapping versus just one! Well done, Julio. I know this is just the beginning of some good back-and-forth dialogue (knowing Jim) and will look forward to seeing his response and more from you.

    Thank you for your post.

    Todd

  58. Julio. Thanks for taking the time to reply with great consideration to the details and lay out your stall.

    I have to say that, like yourself (having also read your site), I too share a healthy scepticism about organised scepticism. I think this is a rarely expressed opinion. Many of the things I have said here and elsewhere have often been assumed by the recipient to be cut and paste opinion, when more often than not it has been simple coincidence that something I have said has turned out to be very much along the lines of the thoughts expressed by more widely published authors elsewhere. The fact is, no-one can be held responsible for having read or not all of the books, written or read by both their detractors and supporters.

    By the very nature of the acceleration in mass communication, it stands to reason that intervals between true changes in the zeitgeist are becoming narrower. While I also think there is a fragmentation of the collective consciousness, analogous to the hippy movement of the 1960’s—which somehow “knew” or communicated through the music and art of the times, that kindred sprits were “out there” waiting to coalesce—so too there is a paradoxical groundswell among free thinkers, who seek better ways to think freely in the group solidarity of “new atheism”.

    Criticising anyone who seeks out these improved methods of finding proofs, by reading the work of others who are similarly searching, is like criticising someone for disagreeing with an opinion indivisible from their experience. I think that this is where genuine gaps in our knowledge becomes mistaken for wilful obfuscation and a perfect example of why even the word ‘atheism’ itself, falls way too short of describing the people to whom it is ascribed. It is, after-all, “their” word for “it”, not ours.

    Of those authors who are described as the leaders of this new movement, I have only read Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, specifically on religion. I have read Dawkins on biology, “The selfish gene” and “The Ancestors Tale”, but am perhaps one of the few bloggers on this subject who hasn’t read “The God Delusion”—although I did listen to the audio book version on a flight back to London, last year. Dan Denette is a hugely impressive thinker and I found “Breaking the spell” to be on a par with the best Russell.

    Victor Stenger is new to me. I am on the last chapter of “God: The Failed Hypothesis”. I couldn’t possibly comment specifically on the claims you have listed above, but I would say that I have enjoyed his work thus far and intend to read more, based upon references to his own work contained in the afore mentioned. I think, on the whole, he is doing an excellent job of describing the science behind the science, for a broad audience and equally as accessible as, say, Bill Bryson, Carl Sagan and David Attenborough.

    I am, however, not defined by the books I have or have not read. I am, of course, encouraged to think a particular way by those that I have, but only in as much as that the opposite of thinking critically is not thinking at all. This I leave to the fan fiction of Christian apologists, who assume ahead of the journey that the destination is where they expect to find it, even thought they’ve never visited it before and have no map.

    This differs from the approach of authors such as Harris, for example, who admit that they have no idea where the journey will end—but conclude through rational, deductive reasoning that it is unlikely to lead to greater clarity of vision, if in that search we focus the really difficult questions through an unfalsifiable prism of bronze-age myth, when the precision engineering of modern optics are so readily available—and proven to be more effective.

    As for the specific criticism of Stenger that he sets out with preconceptions, i.e., “Science HAS ALREADY proved that God does not exist” and that this is “just non-scientific”. This is not unique to criticisms of Stenger, but of all rational enquiry which, rather than stopping short of drawing conclusions, where simply making suggestions would perhaps be more persuasive of the author’s objectivity. I find this a frustration while acknowledging that it often arrises more as a pressure upon authors from publishers, than anything from the text itself. As an example, I find the confrontational titles of these books uncomfortable and distracting from the serious points they address—which also serves to push away the reader they are best aimed at.

    We could go back and forth over semantic definitions of words like ‘proof’ until we’re blue in the face—but the generally accepted definition of a proof, is that it is something which has not yet been disproved. That is not to say that there is an equal chance of something which is axiomatically accepted as fact become falsified as there is that it will remain unfalsified. That would be misleading.

    Giving 50/50 odds on something for which there is no proof at some point becoming true, fails to take into consideration deductive logic that proves it can not be true. It skews the argument in the interest of appearing to be even-handed, but at the expense of intellectual honesty—thereby invalidating it.

    This scenario completion syndrome, or confirmation bias, built into “the God answer”, isn’t going to go away. It is the elephant in the room which all Christian apologists must address, if we are to move on to other areas of logic in which it can be proven they are just as wrong.

    That is why, for all that criticism of the “new atheist” movement and organised scepticism is welcomed, I can not bring myself to be dismissive of the movement as a whole, when in the broadest sense it stands for freedom and humanity—in the face of dogmatic, anti-progressive politics from the incumbent, self-appoointed ruling classes. Dawkins, for example, might have his flaws, but I find his campaign of raising consciousness about child abuse, to be a truly noble aim.

    In conclusion, then, I don’t think we are likely to have anywhere near as much of a disagreement about sceptical enquiry methodology as perhaps Todd had hoped we would. He’s a well meaning chap, but still firmly following the yellow brick road in terms of his allegiances to tax exempt political parties, crouched behind the curtains singing happy clap hymns.

    Anyway, I hope this primer encourages you to contribute regularly to the blog. I look forward to debating you on areas where perhaps we don’t so much already agree.

    Jim.

  59. Great post, Jim. You had me at “hello,” and then you blew it. I was really following the logic-trail until you said:

    “As an example, I find the confrontational titles of these books uncomfortable and distracting from the serious points they address—which also serves to push away the reader they are best aimed at.”

    A bit disingenuous, wouldn’t you say, considering the book you just published is titled, “Why Didn’t Abstinence Work for the Virgin Mary?” Frankly, I find this confrontational title “uncomfortable and distracting from the serious points” that could be addressed.

    That’s quite a gift, typing out of both sides of your mouth! Still love ya, though!

    ;D

    Todd

  60. I edited out a whole paragraph on why I prefer confrontational titles to ones which ambush the reader into thinking they are one thing when they transpire to be another, once you’ve already picked them up. Which is also addressed in the first sentence of the first paragraph of my book.

  61. I stand corrected. Sorry. When I saw the title in the upper left corner of this blog, I didn’t have my X-ray glasses on to read the first sentence of the first paragraph of your book. I also missed entirely the paragraph you edited out. My apologies.

    Todd

    (Relax though, Jim…just busting on you. Trying to maintain a sense of humor through all the persecution.)

  62. Went back to the beginning of all this, post 6, and see some genuine questions asked by Todd, and Jim’s poetic answer about how we really do live as we are.

    Started to think about how amazing it is that, through organic chemistry, water + lightning + atmosphere led to amino acids, which led to RNA and DNA. My body is an organic machine that has evolved sensory organs that are unaware of their own cellular functioning. I exist as I am, because those are the building blocks that were available, and life adapted to survive. There’s no pre-destination required in this journey, there’s no ‘how did the early earth KNOW to make amino acids’, it just IS that way. Frankly, I get a chill of amazement just thinking about evolution and natural selection.

    I took organic chem in college because I was interested in researching cancer: I even had a working theory to develop DNA ‘shots’ to stop malignant cancer cells. I thought I could find a ‘trigger’ in the DNA of the malignant cells and insert a stop code or just an interruption code to keep tumors from spreading. What I learned about cellular reproduction made evolution at a CELLULAR level finally click… it was that little extra bit of knowledge, deeper than a biology class could deliver, that I could finally say, “I UNDERSTAND!”

    I still work on trying to understand at a QUANTUM level; string theory is something I get superficially but I can’t explain it nor do I understand how it is applied, but I seek out reading in those categories because knowledge about how the world works is something that I’ve thirsted for my entire life.

    So Post 6, Todd’s, I wish had been genuine, but subsequent posts show he’s not looking for answers, or new ways to understand or problem solve… more like shoving square pegs in round holes and saying “IT FITS!” Well, yes, when the Bible was initially written, it was a good fit, but even then, there were holes in it. Now that humanity has advanced in knowledge, biblical answers are insufficient.

    There are more reasons than just evolution, to take religion with a grain of salt, but I’ll stop there.


  63. My exposition of the problems that I have found in Stenger (Stenger as an atheist-materialist-skeptic activist) will have four parts.

    In part one, I already presented some (not all…) flaws that I spotted in his 2003 book, “Has Science Found God?”

    In part 2 now, I will present the problems in his following book, “God, the Failed Hypothesis” (year 2007). This is presented by me mainly in the two links below:

    http://www.criticandokardec.com.br/amazon_reviews.htm#stenger_went_bananas

    http://www.criticandokardec.com.br/victor_stenger_went_bananas.htm

    The first link is my review of the book. The second link is an extension of it.

    The third part of my exposition of Stenger problems will be the sequential presentation of each isolated problem that I found in this 2007 book, that is, my presentation of these problems to the avoid-L forum.

    The fourth part will be an exposition of additional problems that turned up during my stay in Stenger’s forum. Some will be hillarious. Some righteously infuriating. But all will be crucially informative to the very bones of modern atheism.

    So before addressing any comments regarding the first part, I would like to present this second part, which is a twin companion to the first one, I think. Just have in mind that this book from Stenger was part of the combined efforts of atheist-materialist-skeptic activists in the year 2007, together with Daniel Dennet’s book, Richard Dawkins’ book, and Sam Harris’ book. Stenger’s was not as popular. But it attracted a lot of attention too. And a lot of blind support to it too, from the part of the fans (just check out the votes for and against my review of it in http://www.amazon.com to get an idea of what I am talking about…).

    Problems in “God, The Failed Hypothesis” (year 2007):

    1- Stenger cites wrongly the study of Larson (1998, Nature). He says that Larson said things that actually Larson did not say in this article (this is just a two-page article…!!!). Among other things, Stenger ended up saying that 36.1% is an “overwhelming majority” !

    2- Stenger did not notice quite serious mistakes in this article from Larson, the most prominent of which is the fact that three out of his six tables sum up more than 100%!!! (Dawkins and Shermer also have cited this notorious article – I warned the guys from avoid-L never to cite it again, after exposing the numerous incorrections in it. Two-page article… Nature journal… cited by top skeptics, enlightened men of science… Hope Greg Koukl does not get to see it :-) ).

    3- Stenger used wrongly the term “epiphenomenon.” This is serious in its context because, 1, Stenger was talking about the philosophy of mind and, 2, Stenger had, not long before, taken a position as a teacher of philosophy in some university (probably in Hawaii). Philosophy teacher… Stenger’s reaction to it in his avoid-L forum was curious; he stated that his dictionary backed up his use of the term… I asked him what his dictionary was. He did not reply. He did not like to reply to me, and actually never did… (he only did back in the first time I entered his forum; not in this second time). Many dictionaries, perhaps most, give the definition for this term that comes from the medical sciences (“a side effect”). This is the usage Stenger applied. The Webster’s Dictionary, however, does give the correct definition used in the philosophy of consciousness/cognition field (and that is why I asked him which his dictionary was). The very same definition that Dan Dennett details and explains in his “Consciousness Explained” (1991 – believe it or not, Stenger includes this book in his bibliography… I just cannot believe he truly read this book and let go past this definition of the word epiphenomenon).

    4- Stenger did not use the feedbacks I provided to him regarding NDE (near-death experiences) cases (I provided this to him when I showed him, back in 2005, that he had understood incorrectly what Sam Parnia et al 2001 had actually concluded), and, instead, he relied on a book by Mark Fox that did not analyze such data. Stenger ended up presenting a faulty and unwarranted description of the NDE issue.

    5- Some other problems that I see are far less factual. For instance, Stenger says that modern science shows that we have no need for a ghost in the machine. This is highly problematic because consciousness is such a huge unresolved problem for modern science. At least many people (scientists/philosophers) think so. So, when talking about these matters, the right thing to do is to present the debate and the contenders, and not to pretend that there is no debate going on.

    6- The same as in # 5 can be said of Stenger’s distinction between matter and spirit. I see a problem in it, but far less factual than the items 1, 2, 3 and 4 listed above.

    So, this is a rather humble list that complements the preceding one. I will take a little bit more time to go through part 3, since I will have to get it from my messages from the avoid-L list. But I won’t take too long.

    Bye for now,
    Julio
    ________


  64. Hi Jim,

    Well I read your reply to my first text on Stenger and maybe there isn’t much disagreement between the two of us. Maybe I should then make a drastic summary of my further views regarding Stenger and just say (actually repeat) that I think it is very correct (i.e. acceptable and scientifically productive) that he says that “God is unlikely to exist” or something like this. The problem starts, IMHO, when he (and others) start to say that Science proves that it is impossible that God exists. It seemed to me that you kind of agrees with it. You said:

    “I find this a frustration while acknowledging that it often arrises more as a pressure upon authors from publishers, than anything from the text itself.”

    I see it that way to. And I must say this affects “spiritualists” too. There is lots of pressure leading almost all of us astray from the path we really think is the proper path. You also said:

    “That is why, for all that criticism of the “new atheist” movement and organised scepticism is welcomed, I can not bring myself to be dismissive of the movement as a whole.”

    I see a lot of social pressure against atheists in the USA and Britain. The situation down here in Brazil is very different, though far from being a paradise to atheists. I think that we, spiritualists, should fight for the division between state and religion; and fight against the oppressions to atheists. If I were an American, or a British, I would do that. Though I would remain very critic of the excesses of this so called “New Atheism.”

    “In conclusion, then, I don’t think we are likely to have anywhere near as much of a disagreement about sceptical enquiry methodology as perhaps Todd had hoped we would.”

    That may be so. Maybe Todd himself does not disagree from you as much as it seems. My position, for example, seems to be very similar to Stenger’s and Dawkins’, and yet I find myself more often than not in an almost Jihad/Crusade against them (and Stenger seemed to feel the same regarding me…). Could it be that this is what it is meant when it is said that “The Devil is in the Details”? By the way, let’s follow some details… You said:

    “Dawkins, for example, might have his flaws, but I find his campaign of raising consciousness about child abuse, to be a truly noble aim.”

    Well, talking about abuse, I found it a little bit abusive of him, in his article “Is Science a Religion?” that he addressed the views of a respectable woman astronomer (views that, as Dawkins depicted it in his article, had just no problem at all, IMO) with an “Up Your Anus” expression… He also had a criminal conduct in his article “The Misguided Missiles of Religion.” Further, he supported racist views when he decided to support Watson rather recently. So he doesn’t seem to me to be the good candidate for an honest fight against child abuse of any sort. Some of the things that he considers child abuse are just ridiculous (to me). The fact that parents teach children their religion or dress their babies with their religious dressing is far from abuse to me. But it is true that often things go much further than this, and the teaching of religion at home becomes very coercive. Dawkins is not completely wrong.

    Another point from you:

    “We could go back and forth over semantic definitions of words like ‘proof’ until we’re blue in the face—but the generally accepted definition of a proof, is that it is something which has not yet been disproved.”

    But wouldn’t we then conclude that the existance of God is already proved? After all, it has not been disproved. And finally:

    “This scenario completion syndrome, or confirmation bias, built into “the God answer”, isn’t going to go away. It is the elephant in the room which all Christian apologists must address, if we are to move on to other areas of logic in which it can be proven they are just as wrong.”

    I think I did not quite understand this paragraph above. What is this elephant?

    I will make some comments on the main text of this blog (from you, at the top of the page) tomorrow.

    Best,
    Julio
    _________

  65. Kaybee, out of the blocks, we agree on something and have immediate common ground…that Jim is poetic in his answers. I appreciate his wit and writing style as much as any. What you see in this blog pales in comparison to the off-blog running debate we’ve had. He’s of course as wrong off-blog as he is on.

    Now, before you take offense to that, know I was just kidding.

    I’m sorry if you felt my lines of inquiry have not been genuine. They have. You have faith in your God (the Almighty “just IS that way”) and I have faith in mine, the First Cause. With both, we can be equally in awe of nature. I simply give credit where credit is due, despite dissenting opinion(s). And just as an FYI, I’m not religious. I’m a follower of Christ and His teachings. Big difference. I’ll sign the petition voting “religion” off the island right there with you, but not Christ (it’s all His anyway).

    Let’s agree to agree that neither of us can prove, definitively, our respective Gods true or false (certainly not to each other). If either of us could, Jim’s blog would be rather dated. Blame it on the fact I inherited the God gene, and you didn’t…I don’t know. But it’s worth the debate to challenge each other’s belief(s) and to defend our own, right? Who knows, both of us might just learn something new from the other through the process. Even JIM has admitted he doesn’t know ALL (;D).

    Here’s what I do know: I’ve learned a tremendous amount thus far (yes, Jim, from you) and am super-excited this debate is expanding to guys like Julio Siqueira whom will educate us all further, in spades I’m sure. I LOVE that guy! I just hope that there are more of the same (contributors), as I hope that’s what this blog is all about.

    If it feels better to you that I say it, I will…you and Jim have a HOPELESS case with me. I’ll never check God in at the door, and I doubt you’ll “find Jesus,” but I respect your opinion(s) and will not knock that it’s eternally wrong (again, anyway ;D).

    Okay, that all said, I’d actually encourage you to NOT “stop there” (“There are more reasons than just evolution, to take religion with a grain of salt, but I’ll stop there.”). Again, I think you’re right about “religion” and “grain of salt”…but, if you have challenges as to whether faith and reason conflict, does God exist, is the Bible just a collection of fairy tales written by illiterate goat herders, are there errors within it, is there life after death, are miracles possible, did Jesus really live, die and resurrect, then let’s open it up! To me, it all centers on Jesus. Is there truly evidence He was and is who He said He was? Did He really perform miracles? On the third day, was He raised from the dead and did He hang with His boys (and girls) for 40 days after? If so, then I think we just might want to take what He taught with way more than a grain of salt.

    I’m just sayin’…

  66. Julio. In reply to your latest comment, 91.

    ‘The elephant in the room’ – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elephant_in_the_room

    I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree on Dawkins. I can completely see why his English-ness rubs a certain kind of person up the wrong way—it has a similar effect on me sometimes too, despite that I am English, but I find it hard to disagree with him on just about all of his main points. I also think, because of what he says and the way he says it, that he sets himself up as a target and that a lot of things are misattributed to him, such as quotes which when taken out of context might seem sexist or racist. To be clear, I am absolutely certain he is neither of those things and for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who actually reads what he says not just specifically on these matters, but through his work and understanding that we all look the same, not just with our clothes off, but underneath the flesh, bone and muscle too—in our DNA. His traversed history of humanity as described in The Ancestors Tale is as much a work of great research as it is a beautiful rebuttal of master race eugenics and male dominant socioeconomic political rhetoric as you could wish to find.

    I thought my views on scientific absolutes were pretty self-explanatory in my original reply and I won’t repeat them here. Suffice to say that the very abundance of evidence with which we describe natural phenomena stands in stark contrast to the entirely subjective opinions of the religious, who argue for the physical existence of Yahweh.

    In reply to your comment 88, specifically on Stenger, you seem to have somewhat mounted a rather personalised attack on him which I wouldn’t want to get into. As far as I am concerned the man is well meaning and an extremely capable thinker, writer and communicator. It is clear you have a number of major problems with some specifics, but the message I took away from the one book of his I have read (with more on my Amazon wish list) is essentially the same as that which we have already agreed we largely share in common. With regard to the future role of rationalism and scepticism in a better, religion free society, I think Stenger would make a much better spokesman than Hitchens, for example—much though I love his style. So, I have to say, while I’m sure you know what you want to say to him in critique, I don’t think saying it in a pithy tone will get you very far and I don’t share your views on him at all.

    Finally, you said:
    “But wouldn’t we then conclude that the existance of God is already proved? After all, it has not been disproved.”

    Assuming we mean Yahweh, when we say ‘God’, I think yes, it has been disproved. Logically and reasonably, there is no evidence whatsoever to conclude that the Judaeo-Christian Abba Father has ever existed in anything but the fruitful imagination of long dead kingships.

    As for the usual description ostensibly secular people project onto sky-hooks and call God, but which is essentially an externalisation of their own ego, I think for reasons that should again be obvious there is no reason to suspect either this, or the rather more sophisticated but equally unlikely “first cause” God ever existed in any other realm than the sort of wish thinking we’re all capable of dipping into—but only some of us are able to completely separate from reality.

    Thanks again for your comments. Jim.

  67. Jim, you wrote:

    “Assuming we mean Yahweh, when we say ‘God’, I think yes, it has been disproved. Logically and reasonably, there is no evidence whatsoever to conclude that the Judaeo-Christian Abba Father has ever existed in anything but the fruitful imagination of long dead kingships.”

    “…I think for reasons that should again be obvious there is no reason to suspect either this, or the rather more sophisticated but equally unlikely “first cause” God ever existed in any other realm than the sort of wish thinking we’re all capable of dipping into—but only some of us are able to completely separate from reality.”

    You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but what I read here are yet again a couple of big, bold, sweeping claims that are JUST your opinion (and we both know you’ve previously conceded, at least, “there may as well not be a God”). Back your claims up with facts, please. Stop making empty claims. Perhaps, one by one, you might take each of the following arguments for the existence of God head-on:

    THE ARGUMENT:

    1) from change
    2) from efficient causality
    3) from time and contingency
    4) from degrees of perfection
    5) the design argument
    6) the kalam argument
    7) from contingency
    8) from the world as an interacting whole
    9) from miracles
    10) from consciousness
    11) from truth
    12) from the origin of the idea of God
    13) the ontological argument
    Anselm’s version
    Modal version
    Possible worlds version
    14) the moral argument
    15) the argument from conscience
    Addendum on religion and morality
    16) the argument for desire
    17) the argument from aesthetic experience
    18) the argument from religious experience
    19) the common consent argument
    20) Pascal’s Wager

    Now, knowing you, perhaps you have answers to many of these (I doubt all). But within this blog, with there being another point of view present, your opinions are meaningless (to us) because that’s all they are, mere opinions absent a thorough, complete and convincing refutation to every single one of these arguments (and I’m sure there are more) brought forth from “our side.” Otherwise, your claim is baseless; empty. I know I’ve said it before, but while men were spewing their aggressive opinions that the world was flat, it never ceased being round. Present your solar eclipse, Aristotle. Take each one of these arguments (from our side) one-by-one and refute them to our satisfaction. Perhaps you’ll convince us. At least try…or please stop using blanket statements like that. Deal?

  68. For the record, I don’t know how the smiley face got on #8. Perhaps Yahweh wanted some particular focus on this argument. Or perhaps it was Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along!” ;D

  69. Well you can cut and paste statements I’ve made to you all you want Todd, but if you read what I actually wrote you’d understand that there is a vast difference between my opinion on God and my opinion on the logical analysis of God’s existence. Perhaps I blur the two more in my writing than I do in my head—but if you’re trying to highlight logical errors the words pot, kettle and black spring to mind.

  70. Just for the record, I don’t arbitrarily cut and paste without reading. (Just for the record.) That would be silly, Jim. Per your own admission (96), perhaps you do blur your opinions in your writing…that said, I don’t think it’s fair for you to judge me as not “reading” what you wrote, but better, clarifying what you wrote so that I may “understand.”

    It’s crazy, I issue an invitation to peel back the layers of the onion with suggested subject matter that I think most would agree to be central to the present debate (about the existence of God), and you don’t even acknowledge them to be worthy of discussion. One day I’m called a prick, the next I’m falsely accused for not reading. Hmmn, Jim. I respectfully submit these tactics cheapen the debate. Perhaps this is not the right forum to get serious. You tell me.

    I’m sorry I suggested transcending this blog from a written shoving match (of sorts) to one that deals with other central issues to the debate…ones beyond “I’m right, you’re wrong.” Just thought it might be both educational and enlightening (for me, anyway…I have no problem admitting I do not know ALL).

    Please advise.

  71. Todd. You have a lot of internal dialogue that would best left in your head. I’m genuinely sorry that I may have failed to impart whimsey into some of the things I’ve said, right alongside more serious matters—but you’re opening yourself up far too much. Stick to the topic. This isn’t the confessional.

  72. No THAT’S funny! “Stick to the topic.” That’s great considering post (96)…you indeed crack me up. I bet you were one to run to your mom when young crying, “Mumsy, he hit me back!” You’re great. Thanks for the course correction, Jim. Duly noted.

  73. By the way, just so that I’m crystal clear on the topic, what exactly is it now? Considering the claims within this blog, I didn’t know exploring the existence of God was off topic. Sorry.

    Off to Chicago…you’ll be rid of me for a good day or so. Enjoy the break. Next time I post, I promise to recalibrate and simply parrot, “Jim’s right! There is no God! There is no God!” Until then, ciao.

    On-topically yours.


  74. Hi Jim,

    I will comment on your post #93

    “The elephant in the room – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elephant_in_the_room

    I suspected the expression meant this; what I did not know is what “truth” you were talking about. So it seems that, if I understood you correctly, this “truth” is the nonexistance of Yahweh. Logically and scientifically disproved. Right? So the huge elephant in the room is: logically and scientifically, the idea that Yahweh ever existed is false.

    “I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree on Dawkins.”
    “…lot of things are misattributed to him, such as quotes which when taken out of context might seem sexist or racist. To be clear, I am absolutely certain he is neither of those things”

    Well, Jim, unfortunately I see that we will indeed have to agree to disagree on many things. But I think it is constructive to pursue “why”… (if not for our own sake, at least for the sake of our readers, rational ones and otherwise). One important initial point regards this “misattribution” described (or misdescribed) by you above. I did not come to my conclusions on what Dawkins meant by reading quotes from him out of context. It surprises me that you put it the way you did in the extracts above. It reminds me of the great concern you have for being depicted (unfairly) as someone who unreflectively picks fragments of what others say (as some Greg Koukl might stigmatize you). To make things clear: my views do not come through out-of-context words or quotes. Quite the opposite. And if you read correctly what I said, you will see that I did not say (nor think) Dawkins is sexist or racist. What I said, and what I presented was things, fully in-context, where Dawkins committed what I consider serious excesses that ended up being offensive (and not necessarily sexist, in the case of the woman astronomer) and racism-supportive (in the case of Watson). What you, Jim, reply is: “Ok, Julio, let’s agree to disagree. I don’t want to take a further look at it. I like the guy, he has virtues – and virtues in these very same areas where you are criticizing him – , so I will just disregard altogether any of the things you brought because they were not sexist-racist remarks from the part of Dawkins nor did they have any racism-endorsing effect on society whatsover. I did not analyze the issue further, but my faith tells me it must be the way I believe.”

    Now, imagine if I did the same that you are doing. Imagine if I, though being very acid against Dawkins, would play the ostrich and refuse to see his… virtues. Would that be rational of me? Would it be productive for my… aims? (whatever they might be). Don’t you remember that I myself here acknowledged that Dawkins is right in pointing out excesses in the “teaching of religion at home” by parents?

    So, Jim, when I say that Dawkins had a criminal conduct in such article, and that he had an offensive (not necessarily sexist) stand in such other article, and that he was either lying or being misinformative in that other article (“What is Wrong with the Paranormal?”), and that he was deluded by the article from Larson (1998), and when after saying all this you come up to us and refuse to look at the evidence… you are not being rational. You are being emotional and… faithful. You are asking Todd to let go of Moses, but you yourself won’t lose your grip on Dawkins! You are saying “Hey, people, lots of what Moses said lead to irrationality and brutality” but when I warn that the same (even, arguably, at a much smaller scale) is happening with Dawkins, you say “Ok, guys, let’s forget about it and keep walking.” Keep walking? It woudn’t surprise me if you end up reaching the Promised Land… As it seems, it is easy to change Yahweh’s name; but it is harder to truly let him go.

    Continuing commenting extracts from your message:

    “I thought my views on scientific absolutes were pretty self-explanatory in my original reply and I won’t repeat them here. Suffice to say that the very abundance of evidence with which we describe natural phenomena stands in stark contrast to the entirely subjective opinions of the religious, who argue for the physical existence of Yahweh.”

    I don’t quite know what you mean by “scientific absolutes,” and I don’t know which “original reply” you are referring to. But knowing deeply well this “very abundance of evidence” that you talk about (I dare say, possibly way more deeply than you do), I must say that I am not impressed with it as a source for “proving” that god (even Yahweh) does not exist. So this is part 1 of 2, of this passage from you right above. I want to be fully clear on this: to claim that the scientific knowledge _seems to indicate_ that god, especially Yahweh (which, by the way, is NOT the god of the catholics or of the muslims), does not exist is one thing. It is a scientific statement. It is a rational statement. To claim that this knowledge _proves_ god does not exist is unscientific and irrational. And I add: unnecessary. The war is not this, Jim. The war is: atheists may be right and they fully deserve to be respected. You do not have to twist scientific data to put down those who disagree with your theology. What you are doing is the same that your opponents are doing. That is why I have come to the conclusion that it is religion fighting religion, and I have decided to leave these matters for the contenders (though I might contribute to THIS blog a little further – I have left all forums in the internet where I previously debated these issues). Now we come to part 2 of 2 from your passage right above. You belive that the idea of god’s existance comes solely from subjective opinions. That, Jim, is merely an uninformed belief of yours (a blind belief). Should I present to you some objective reasons to consider the idea of god (in some form) possible? I have a feeling that you will end up doing the same that you did regarding Dawkins (“He is MY Moses, and I won’t let go of Him!”). Let me know if it is otherwise.

    Continuing:

    “In reply to your comment 88, specifically on Stenger, you seem to have somewhat mounted a rather personalised attack on him which I wouldn’t want to get into.”

    Obviously I have mounted a personalised attack; he is a person. I treat him as such. Should I treat him as an animal? But that is not the point. The point is the factual and specific issues that I show where he is wrong. The bottom line, Jim, is this: Stenger suffers from the very same defects that he condemns in his oponents. And he ends up being irrational.

    “As far as I am concerned the man is well meaning and an extremely capable thinker, writer and communicator.”

    Now I sense some plagiarism… Or better: I have already said these very same ideas that now appear in your writing just above.

    “It is clear you have a number of major problems with some specifics, but the message I took away from the one book of his I have read (with more on my Amazon wish list) is essentially the same as that which we have already agreed we largely share in common.”

    Not quite. My main point is: Stenger is wrong because he decided to do the same thing that the religious guys are doing (deja vu?… don’t look at the mirror). Some religious people are claiming that science shows that God exists. Well, that is just an irrational and unscientific assertion. Now comes Stenger saying that science proves God does not exist. And this is just an irrational and unscientific assertion too. Now comes Julio and says: “Could you please move your religious wars to other fields and let Science be!” What I want is to have religion out of science and out of the state. Both the spiritualist religions AND the atheist-materialist religions. That is it.

    “So, I have to say, while I’m sure you know what you want to say to him in critique, I don’t think saying it in a pithy tone will get you very far and I don’t share your views on him at all.”

    Not get me very far… I have come just as far as I could benefit from. It is Stenger’s unattentiveness to proper criticism that will lead him not only “not-far” but mostly astray. Some others might follow (as it seems). It is startling that you say that you do not share my views on him at all (at all!). Don’t you agree that Stenger is a good citizen? Don’t you agree that he is a good family member? Don’t you agree that he is a highly skilled scientist in his area of expertise? Don’t you agree that he is fighting for an honorable and highly worthy social cause? Where on Earth have you been?! Have you been reading Koukl and thinking you were reading Julio? As for Stenger’s mistakes and etc, it is surprising (or better, telling) that you do not grasp the relevance of his not spotting the problems in Larson’s article, and, far more importantly, that you do not grasp the deep meaning of his not using correctly the word “epiphenomenon” when talking about philosophy of mind and having included in his bibliography a book that defines and discusses this term ad nauseam. This, among other telling signs, leads me to sense severe flaws in your knowledge of the afore mentioned “very abundance of naturalistic evidence.”

    Your last point:

    “Assuming we mean Yahweh, when we say ‘God’, I think yes, it has been disproved. Logically and reasonably, there is no evidence whatsoever to conclude that the Judaeo-Christian Abba Father has ever existed in anything but the fruitful imagination of long dead kingships.”

    So take a look at these two statements from someone that simply does not care at all whether Yahweh exists or not: first, not a single human being on this planet believes in Yahweh. Second, Yahweh has not been disproved by science or by logic. As to the support for these two statements, they might be of interest for those who want to successfuly and constructively confront the Judeo-Christian-Islam extremists and help build a better, irrationality-free, society (with or without religion – I would abhor seeing atheism-materialism vanish from the face of the Earth, and more often than not atheist-materialism is a true religion in all the foundational senses of the word). If there is anyone around that qualifies, just raise hands.

    I have a feeling I do not have anything further to contribute to this thead. If I send another message, it will be regarding some incorrections from the part of Greg Koukl towards Richard Dawkins (me defending Dawkins!), and also some comments on religion causing things like 9/11 (as seems to have been suggested by Jim in some messages above).

    I respect your views, Jim. You are a man of faith, and a man of emotions. No one needs to be ashamed of it. We just have to KNOW it, and to CONTROL it. Then it becomes an enhancer. Otherwise it becomes a handicap. It is so for spiritualist believers. And it is the same for materialist believers.

    Best Wishes,
    Julio
    _____________

  75. FINALLY, AN ATHEIST WHO MAKES SENSE! As I enjoy doing, I love to try to understand the thinking of “the other side” and stumbled upon this article. It addresses many of the issues discussed so far in this thread, yet made things so clear to me. For the first time in my Christian life, I’m starting to truly “get” atheism…perhaps I might reconsider this whole “God” thing now. Almost feel guilty posting this for “your side,” Jim…but I want to be fair. So, read on…

    OUR SMEAR CAMPAIGN

    Congratulations, My Fellow Atheists; We Have Successfully Demonized Religion (However Speciously)

    by Leslie Sillars

    My dear fellow Brights, Beamers, Blazers, Brilliants, Gleamers, Incandescents, Resplendents, Radiants, Shimmerers, and Sparklers: Thank you all for being here tonight, and a special thanks to the Dixie Chicks for that heartwarming cover of “Imagine.” I choke up every time I hear those immortal words—“Imagine there’s no heaven.” Ladies, you are a credit to the cause, and . . .

    (What’s that? Well, of course they are. Why else would they be here? Listen; if Hitchens can argue with a straight face that Martin Luther King, Jr., did his work “as a profound humanist” and that his “legacy has very little to do with his professed theology,” then we can certainly draft the Dixie Chicks.)

    We’re here, as you know, to celebrate the two-year anniversary, give or take, of the rise of the New Atheists. We particularly honor Sam Harris for Letter to a Christian Nation, Christopher Hitchens for god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (by the way, Chris, you have a typo in there), and the always penetrating Richard Dawkins for his latest evisceration of idiocy, The God Delusion. Guys, outstanding work. America is the most oppressively theistic nation on earth, so you wrote books mocking and belittling the faith of millions—Christians, Jews, and Muslims—that became bestsellers and generated a ton of fawning media coverage. And you weren’t just preaching to the choir, no sir. Real atheists are as rare as transitional species, but your books dominated bestseller lists for months. You offered to slap the faith-heads upside their empty little noggins, and they lined up to pay for the privilege.

    Nothing has been more harmful to humanity than religion, as you have pointed out, and you framed the question so effectively. Even between the different monotheisms—let alone between religions—there are huge disagreements about everything from the nature of “God” to the nature of reality to what it means to be human. They’re mutually contradictory, in fact, and the failings of one say nothing about the truth of any other, and yet you brilliantly combined your attacks into an all-encompassing tirade against “religion.” “I am attacking God, all gods, anything and everything supernatural, wherever and whenever they have been or will be invented,” writes Dawkins. Well said.

    Hence, you guys can lump together Aztec human sacrifices, the jingoism of Judaism’s Yahweh, Islamic female circumcision, those absurd Christian teachings about hell, never mind the religious wars, and the only sane conclusion is that all those people are all crazy together. Assert that faith gives divine endorsement to any atrocity you can name, and you’ve tarred them all with the same brush. Practically everything bad that anybody anywhere has done can be tied, somehow, to religion, because most people in human history have been theists of one variety or another. It’s like taking target practice at the ground; you can’t miss.

    However, on this point, Hitchens, you nearly gave the game away when you wrote that “when we consider whether religion has ‘done more harm than good’—not that this would say anything at all about its truth or authenticity—we are faced with an imponderably large question.” That was an imponderably large gaffe. We’re trying to kill faith here, and we do that by explaining that religion is false because it’s bad. (What? No, there’s no logical connection—keep it to yourself.) The point is to discredit religion as a whole.

    Let’s just keep the focus on the evil that religion causes, and we’ll be okay. I’m pleased to see that none of you honored guests bothered to seriously address any of the good or charitable acts that supposedly arise from religion. Those aren’t worth considering, and besides, atheists could do the same—if we wanted to. So if you’re ever tempted to discuss how religious people give so much money, time, and effort to so many homeless shelters, orphanages, relief organizations, medical missions, and so on, just drop it. And please, let none of us be like British politician Roy Hattersley, who conceded in a 2005 column in The Guardian that the only possible conclusion is that faith comes with a packet of moral imperatives that, while they do not condition the attitude of all believers, influence enough of them to make them morally superior to atheists like me. The truth may make us free. But it has not made us as admirable as the average captain in the Salvation Army.

    There’s no excuse for that sort of candor.

    The Political Angle

    I’d like now to recommend to all of us some of the really useful themes that our honored guests have used to show “how religion poisons everything.” Our first and perhaps most effective gambit is the political angle: namely, the number of people killed in the name of religion. Start with the obvious: the Crusades, the Inquisitions, the Salem witch hunts, and the religious wars of the last century, from Bosnia to Rwanda. People are familiar with those. And don’t forget Islamic terrorism itself and the people killed recently in riots in Muslim countries. Then, following Dawkins, assert that no wars have been fought for atheism.

    This is a bit risky, because even the dullest faith-head might know that Nazism and Communism together killed far more people in the twentieth century alone—perhaps 90 million—than have died in all the religious wars throughout history. Even the pettiest Communist dictator killed more people than an average crusade (40 million for Mao alone), and the witch hunts killed only dozens. So, if religion is harmful because of all the people it has killed, what does that make atheism?

    All is not lost, however. Hitler might have been religious at some point, and Dawkins insists that most of the Nazi soldiers who actually committed the atrocities “were surely Christian.” That answers that. No doubt the Nazis were just continuing the Lutheran tradition of anti-Semitism, as Harris notes. All that research connecting Nazi ideology with Nietzsche, atheism, and Darwinism, such as Richard Weikart’s From Darwin to Hitler, is just so much propaganda. Ignore it. As for Stalin? Okay, he was an atheist, but Dawkins rightly points out that he didn’t order all those deaths because he was an atheist. He was irrational, says Harris. Problem solved.

    If somebody should suggest that Communism is an explicitly atheistic ideology and that murders were committed to further it, then move the discussion along, like Hitchens does, and suggest that a monster such as Stalin could rule because religion prepares people for dictatorship. The “solemn elevation of infallible leaders,” the “permanent search for heretics,” the “lurid show trials” with confessions extracted by torture, the attempts at Orwellian surveillance—“none of this was very difficult to interpret in traditional terms,” he writes. “All that the totalitarians have demonstrated is that the religious impulse—the need to worship—can take even more monstrous forms if it is repressed.” Brilliant. Hitchens blames religion not only for the things that it does, but for the things that it doesn’t do. None of this separates the atrocities from Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, or atheism itself, nor does it accurately characterize most religions or religious people, but if you focus on how churches sometimes cooperated with dictators, nobody will notice.

    Similarly, the slavery argument works well; religious people throughout history have justified slavery and oppression of all kinds. Even the Bible doesn’t condemn slavery in so many words. But I’ll warn you that people such as Dinesh D’Souza, author of a reprehensible tract called What’s So Great About Christianity (the very title makes me gag), are not going to fight fair if you bring this up in a debate. They will argue that concepts such as the right to dissent, the personal dignity of the individual, the equality of all humans (including the equal dignity of men and women), and antipathy to oppression and slavery all have Christian origins. That’s such garbage. Those are our Enlightenment ideas. Unfortunately, people such as historian Rodney Stark in The Victory of Reason argue that those who first articulated these ideas were, in fact, devoutly Christian, and they based many of their arguments on the Scriptures. We’re still working on a response to the fact that these ideas flourished, historically speaking, only in western, Christianized societies.

    The Science Angle

    The second thing to keep in the foreground is that religion impedes scientific progress. Science and religion are enemies. Pay no attention to religious scientists who say they’ve reconciled the two. They’re deluded. Rant on, like Harris if necessary, about the irrational, doctor-murdering pro-lifers (only a handful of abortionists have been murdered, but you only need one) who would ban life-saving research on embryonic stem cells. Don’t worry about the fact that research using stem cells from umbilical cords (which pro-lifers support) has produced promising results, and the embryonic kind (which requires the, ahem, use of an embryo) hasn’t. That’s not the point.

    Complain that creationist morons (as Dawkins rightly calls people who reject evolution: “ignorant, stupid, or insane”) are trying to force creationist myths such as “Intelligent Design” on unsuspecting schoolchildren. And never admit that evolution has any holes or weaknesses. There are just a few details we haven’t discovered yet, such as how one species evolved into another—and how life originated—but the basic outline is undeniable.

    The important point that you must drive home is that science has explained or will explain the world—the whole world—so there’s no need for religion. People believed religious myths for so long only because they didn’t know how the clouds cause lightning, for example, or where babies come from. Now we know better, and science will eventually explain everything, including this weirdly persistent “God delusion.”

    D’Souza, that stinker, would reply that Christianity made science possible in the first place. Most early scientists were Christians, he will say, and the whole western scientific enterprise at its beginning presumed that a rational God created a rational, predictable universe, governed by laws comprehensible in the language of mathematics. Without that foundation, empirical science—the idea that we know things because they are testable, measurable, and repeatable—would collapse. What hooey. Look for a detailed response in our next newsletter.

    The Sex Angle

    The third critical point is that religion represses healthy sexuality—to a dangerous degree. Sex is not sacred (because, obviously, there is no “God”), so people should live naturally, the way they want to. Harris is right—the only ground for morality is what causes happiness or suffering.

    So get into the details of female circumcision, and how religion makes schoolboys feel guilty for—well, you know—self-gratification. Many people will relate to this. Blame religion, particularly Christianity, for high rates in the U.S. (compared to Europe) of sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, and so on. Not that abortion is bad. And never mind that it seems odd to blame those who oppose promiscuity and support monogamy for the problems caused by promiscuity. Prudes are the problem.

    And don’t let them pull any of that “pro-family” garbage about how research shows that heterosexual married people are happier, live longer, have better sex lives, and so on. The point is that people are naturally inclined to do what is good and right for them. So if left to themselves to do whatever they want, they will be happy. Religion imposes restrictions, so if some people self-express themselves, sexually speaking, in anti-social ways, it’s because the restrictions made them unhappy, not because of innate “sinfulness” or any of that nonsense.

    And that brings us to the key problem with religion: It teaches things that are not true. Religion offers an answer to the problem of death, and as Hitchens so eloquently said in a recent debate, “it is the height of immorality to lie to people like that.” Few things are so repellant as the doctrines, particularly in their Christian form, of blood sacrifice, atonement, and heaven and hell. No thinking person could believe them. And if some smart aleck should say that lots of thinking people have believed them, get back to the evidence, because there is no evidence for God; therefore, there is no afterlife or spiritual reality beyond this life. Repeat that, loudly and often. (Eh? What do you mean, what if it is true? Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence? What’s your point? Why shouldn’t we demand empirical evidence for something beyond the natural world? How’d you get in here, anyway? Security!)

    Where was I? Ah, yes.

    Hitchens and Dawkins devote whole chapters to the idea that teaching such abominations to children is child abuse. Look at the clergy abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, for starters. Countless millions of young lives have been ruined by the threat of an eternal roasting, among other disgusting ideas. Dawkins, who unfavorably compares childhood religious education with childhood sexual abuse, thinks it’s high time we considered taking children away from religious parents. Amen to that.

    A Toast to Us

    So let us raise our glasses to us, the New Atheists, the Luminiferous who bravely light the way to the future. To the elimination of superstition, and the only sound basis for truth, morality, and happiness—altogether now—Natural Selection!

  76. What’s So Great About Christianity? Excellent question…

    The New Atheists maintain that “religion poisons everything” — that Christianity in particular is responsible for all that is wrong with the world and nothing that is right. Well, they may want to recheck their facts. Here are just a few of Christianity’s contributions to civilization: The rise of science that began in the sixteenth century can be directly attributed to Christian Scholasticism and the medieval Catholic universities. In fact, most major scientific advances throughout history stemmed from the belief that God had ordered the universe in such a way that its secrets could be discovered.

    • It was the Christian conclusion that slavery was an abomination in the eyes of God that led to its abolishment in the West.

    • Most of the great art of the past two millennia was inspired by Christianity. Artists such as Michelangelo, Donatello, El Greco, and even Dali—to name just a few — all took their cue from the Christian Scriptures and church tradition, as did writers such as Dante and Chaucer.

    • Prior to the Civil War, 92 percent of American colleges and universities were established by a branch of the Christian church, including Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale, William and Mary, the University of California, and Northwestern.

    • Every hospital that bears the prefix “St.” in its name evidences the foundational role that Christianity played in worldwide healthcare; and the world’s most successful charitable organizations, including the Red Cross, Catholic Charities, and the YMCA, all have Christian origins.

    • There are no predominantly Christian nations in the world that fail to ensure religious freedom. It is only in non-Christian countries, such as China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, that religious freedom is inhibited.

    • Due to St. Paul’s pronouncement that “there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” Christian women throughout the world fare much better than their non-Christian peers, experiencing statistically less gender-related oppression, violence, and dehumanization.

    ATHEIST ATROCITIES

    We’ll grant you the witch-hunts, the Inquisition, and some of the Crusades, but beyond that, organized Christianity can’t really be blamed for the killing of innocents. No, you atheists have pretty much cornered the market on murder and mayhem, bearing responsibility for over 259 million deaths around the world. In fact, atheist governments, which are also largely Communist, have killed more people than all the wars of the past century. The Soviet Union alone took 126 million lives, while Communist China has murdered 114 million people and counting. By way of comparison, note that during the 25 years of the Spanish Inquisition only 2,000 individuals were executed, while the atheist governments of Vietnam, North Korea, and Cambodia have killed 3 million people each. The most telling statistic? Try this: 41 percent of all deaths in the twentieth century were perpetrated by atheist governments—during peacetime, mind you, and against their own people. I know what you’re going to say—atheism didn’t kill these people; they were murdered by confused individuals who just happened to be atheists—but then that pretty much lets us all off the hook, now doesn’t it?

  77. Todd said: “I know what you’re going to say—atheism didn’t kill these people; they were murdered by confused individuals who just happened to be atheists—but then that pretty much lets us all off the hook, now doesn’t it?”

    I think there’s a pretty severe difference in intentions… Stalin didn’t say, “Hmm, I’m an Atheist, let’s kill these people.” He killed people because he was a power hungry dictator. As my psych prof loved to say, “Correlation is not causation.”

    Point to the Crusades however, and you found the reason for the killing was precisely because “you don’t believe in my religion/cult”.

    I’m actually more of a ‘quiet thinker’ and not the ‘avid debater’, so I’ll share my ideas and let you folks do more of talking:

    If I really thought that my after life was dependent on believing one choice dogma over all the other worldly choices, I truly would be out there proselytizing to try to save people’s souls. If there was an epic battle in the supernatural world, and my continued existence and existence of others I loved was dependent upon being ‘saved’, you bet your bottom $ I’d be out there mission working and all that.

    … but I’ve seen enough examples of faith fizzle.

    Prayer: Is about as dependable as wishing on a lucky rabbit’s foot. If prayer is answered, you deem it to work, if unanswered or opposite results, you ‘didn’t’ pray enough, or prayed incorrectly, or my favorite, you were undeserving. The far more likely reason is that prayer is wish-thinking.

    God is Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient: This well goes pretty deep, in that once you start asking yourself why an all-powerful, all-present and all-knowing being would bother with all the ridiculous dramatics present in the Bible. Why have sin? Why not just create a perfect world? Would it not be simpler to just cleanse humanity of its ‘sin’ with a snap of the fingers than to go through the long-winded business of impregnating a virgin (riiiiighht) to have a human/deity son to have him MURDERED in one of the most painful, gruesome ways of that time… I mean, the Bible reads more like a spell from a Harry Potter book than of a reasonable all-knowing creator.

    Why is human suffering a ‘virtue’? To have others learn through pain is sadistic, for example, the story of Job is a terrible one. That’s not love, that’s God winning a bet with the Devil and through horrible loss and pain. Are we God’s children or God’s antfarm?

    The story of Abraham ready to sacrifice his son is horrific. If I heard voices in my head telling me to murder my kid to show my religious devotion, I’d check into a mental institute.

    There are so many faiths in the world that claim THEY are the one true faith, with congregations who FEEL they have found the right one with the key to everlasting life. There’s a chance when I die that Muslims were the right religion all along, and I was too stubborn to accept Islam. Stupid Christians, jews, atheists, daoists, hindus — all going straight to hell. But dammit, I really thought Christianity was the one true faith! I mean, I’ve been raised in it since childhood, and I FELT god — how could I have been so wrong? And now I’m going to hell?! WTF!

    Likewise, there’s a chance Christianity is the right religion, but all the other groups, plus the muslims, are going to hell. How could an all-loving God let this happen? Like I said before, are we his children or his antfarm? This is just me applying my secular humanist values, but I would want all my creation to be able to join in me in the afterlife, and would never want to punish to hell those individuals who were indoctrinated into their religion from childhood, or those individuals who had only ever heard their one religion.

    The more likely reason is God is imaginary, stories were made up, and this life is the only one we have. So apply those secular humanist values, be good to your neighbor, fill the world with more creativity and healing, and leave it with less suffering so that your children may have a better life.

  78. Julio. I accept that you want to make your point by dissecting the work of others and I’m sure you feel as if you have some valid points—but I’m far more interested in what your opinion on these topics is, rather than how well you can disassemble the opinion of others.

    Dawkins doesn’t need me to defend him and I don’t. I just happen to agree with many of the things he has said and the way he has said them. Has he made mistakes—undoubtedly. Does that make him wrong on some things and right on others—absolutely. Would he be the first to admit that—of course. So, with respect, I’d prefer to not discuss the specific problems you feel you have found within the works of other free thinkers—but I’d be interested to know what you think about the issues instead.

    I think you’ve somewhat made my point for me, on scientific absolutism, in your rather confused understanding of what I actually said on this. It is not an equal game of odds between first cause deism and scientific logic. There is not the same amount of evidence for God as there is against. There are things which are proven to be true by deductive logic and there are things which can never be proven to be true or false.

    We say we have disproved the existence of God because science has described many of the “mysteries” which were once attributed to God, but which we now better understand to be a connected natural phenomena. The same can not be said in the opposite direction. There has never been a greater understanding reached about anything by inserting a prime mover. All this does is push back the line of demarkation between what is understood and what is not. It doesn’t actually answer the question of how something works—it simply ascribes its functionality to something which is, by definition, beyond rational enquiry—and therefore irrelevant to scientific understanding.

    I agree that this thread is somewhat played out. You have raised more questions about your method of thinking than I would care to address—but I’m happy to perhaps understand you better on a more focused topic. Pick your posting and comment away.

    Jim.

  79. Hi Todd. I’ll try to cut this down to focus on key points, but this still isn’t going to be short. And this may duplicate ground you already covered in private with Jim.

    (T) It seems we’re both evidentialists, and that I’ve simply arrived at the Christian-God conclusion, reasonably so, prior to you.

    (N) I accept that you believe your conclusion is rational and based on evidence. All that’s missing for me to agree is the evidence and reasoning.

    (T) (…) Upon true consideration, I simply cannot find any evidence for the validity of atheism. There are no “proofs” that God does not exist.

    (N) Do you believe everything you are told until it is disproved? What happens when you have conflicting propositions, both of which have not been disproved? If you believe both, then you are sure to accept at least one false belief, and maybe two. That is a guaranteed formula for error.

    The natural state of the rational mind is not one of indiscriminate credulity, believing any and everything until it is disproved. That is more properly called gullibility. The rational mind is critical and discerning, accepting only that for which there is robust support–and even then, accepting it only provisionally–pending a better-supported position. If you were once a rational atheist, then presumably you know, or at least remember, all this. And if you weren’t, then the fact of your having once been an atheist is irrelevant to my case, since yours would have been a very different sort of atheism.

    (T) One can’t prove a negative position.

    (N) At best, that’s only sometimes true. “There are no sperm whales in my closet.” Easily proved by simple inspection. “There are no omnimanifest gods.” Extremely easy to prove. If you don’t see one, then none exist. You can also get axiomatic negative propositions by logical derivation. From the principle “that which cannot exist, does not exist” can be derived, “there are no impossible gods” No demonstration or proof is needed because it is analytically true. Now, it might be impossible to prove that certain limited formulations of gods do not exist, but monotheists are in the same boat. If you say “only one god exists” that is the same as saying “one god exists, and all other gods do not exist”.

    (T) Any attempted proofs or philosophical conjecture I’ve seen has thus far have been (to me anyway) intellectually insufficient. After all, how do you prove there is no God in the universe?

    (N) Any god which has attributes which conflict with other attributes of itself, or with attributes of known reality can be disproved on that basis. I don’t know if your formulation of God has any such attributes, but most of the popular Christian conceptions of God do.

    (T) But no proof supporting atheism or denying God’s existence has been presented. Nick, if I have this wrong, please post otherwise.

    (N) If you can’t positively disprove the existence of Hera, are you, for that reason, logically compelled to believe she exists? (hint: two letters, rhymes with “no”) Humans have had thousands of gods which have not been disproved. In what way would it be rational to believe in all of them until they are individually disproved?

    (T) So, since there are no proofs for atheism’s truth and there are no proofs that there is no God, then you (professed atheists) hold your position by faith and faith alone.

    (N) Many atheists who belong to godless religions probably do hold their position by faith, but that would not be *because* there are no proofs of godly non-existence. But for rational atheists, refraining from belief when support for a proposition is lacking takes no act of faith. That’s just a reasonable default position. Now, in my case, I do go beyond mere lack of belief in gods. I have looked at the story-telling and fabricating nature of humans, and I have concluded that Zeus, Thor, Shiva, Mithra, Zurvan, Quetzalcoatl, Osiris, Gunnodoyak, Ixmucane, Tiamat, Wigaan, Kali, Hunab Ku, Pele, Yahweh, Shakuru, and all the other gods humans have worshipped have the same origins in human imagination as manticores, griffins, mermaids, centaurs, werewolves, dragons, hippocampi, elves, goblins, fairies, pixies, gnomes, ogres, titans, hydras, cyclopes, demons, trolls, brownies, bunyips, gargoyles, harpies, gremlins, satyrs, vampires, genies, chimeras, lamias, minotaurs, gorgons, nymphs, leprechauns, dryads, sirens, zombies, incubi, succubi, and snallygasters. I don’t have “proof” that all these fantastical beings never existed, but it is still vastly more reasonable to conclude that humans simply made all these beings up than that some people had actual contact with them at some point.

    (T) In order to give intellectual credence to your position, what atheists tend to do (I’ve found) is to go on attacks (Jim’s at least done so in a nice way, I’ll confess) and try to negate or counter any evidence(s) I (or we Christians) have presented for God’s existence.

    (N) Evidence is simply that which is given weight in forming a conclusion. Some forms of evidence rely on intuition, or emotion. What matters to me is whether the evidence is trustworthy, objective, and rationally supports the proposition in question moreso than it does any other.

    (T) Everything I offer seems to be minimized with degrading and condescending “nah-nah-nah magic sky man sent himself into the belly of a Jewish virgin (…)

    (N) Yeah, I know the stuff. Dialog by spitball. Neither side has clean hands in that department. And a little ridicule does serve a purpose in keeping either side from taking itself too seriously. I don’t think it wins many points in persuasion, but at least it’s fairly harmless. It sure beats what humans used to do to heretics and apostates.

    (T) grade-school banter. The following is typical of what I receive:
    “The symbolism and mythology of almost all ancient belief systems with a major following are transposed lyric by lyric into Christianity. Water into wine, Dionysus, 200 years before Christ. (,,,) Apollonius of Tyana, (…) etc.

    (N) It’s been a long time since I did comparative mythology, so I would have to dig out my old notebooks, but I think instead I’m going to just grant that there may be particular details in the Jesus stories which don’t exactly correspond to prior savior myths. But uniqueness establishes nothing, because every myth story has some distinctive bits. What remains to be seen is something which can transport any one of these stories out of the realm of myth.

    (T) So I begin to wonder if the perpetual dismissiveness of Christian-provided evidence is just an attempt to create this evidential vacuum in which no theistic argument can survive just to make the atheistic position more intellectually viable.

    (N) It is in the nature of being rational to have some rigor to one’s rules of evidence. The purpose of the rules is not to exclude any particular conclusion, but to minimize the possibility of believing in that which is not true.

    (T) Seems so. It is in this negation (dismissiveness/avoidance) of the facts/research presented that brings self-justification to a self-proclaimed truth that there is no God.

    (N) Atheists are equal-opportunity unbelievers. God is not singled out from all the gods for disbelief. Atheists lack belief in each and all of them.

    (T) It seems to me there’s only one way that atheism is intellectually defensible and that is by evoking the abstract realm of simple possibility. In other words, it is possible that there is no God. But, stating that it is possible doesn’t mean that it is a reality or that it is wise to adopt that position.

    (N) Sound principle. It works both ways. Even if you state that it is possible that a god exists, that doesn’t mean it is a reality, or that it is wise to adopt the position that it does exist.

    (T) So, simply claiming a possibility based on nothing more than it being a logical option is not sufficient grounds for a viable claim. You must come up with something more than “it is possible;”

    (N) Technically, atheism or godlessness isn’t a claim about reality. It’s a classification based on belief-status. Basically, an atheist is someone who can truthfully answer “no” to the question, “do you believe in the existence of at least one god?” However, I totally agree that there needs to be independent reasonable grounds of support for a claim about reality such as “a god exists” or “no gods exist”. (My conclusion that all human gods have been made-up by humans does, technically, still leave open the possibility that something like a god or gods could exist somewhere, but it is in the nature of science to leave open all possibilities until and unless they are positively foreclosed.)

    (T) Refuting evidences for God’s existence (especially by calling upon bronze-age folklore, non-researched mythological arguments, Santa Clause and illiterate goat herders – see previous parts of this running “debate”) does not prove your view true

    (N) There is no “proving true” in science. It’s a basic principle of science (an axiom, really) that we do not have direct access to truth. It is always possible we might be wrong, and we don’t have a way to prove contingent propositions true. We have pretty good ways to establish, to a high degree of confidence, that some such propositions are false, but in science, when we say something is true, what we mean is that it has proved very powerful (predictive) and robust against many tests which could have falsified it.

    (T) Since atheism cannot be proven and since disproving evidences for God does not prove there is no God, your position is intellectually indefensible. At best, you can only say that there are no convincing evidences for God so far presented, right?

    (N) Even less. I can only go so far as to say I haven’t found or seen any.

    (T) You cannot say there are no evidences for God because you cannot know all evidences that possibly exist in the world.

    (N) Quite so. Perhaps someone right now is secretly holding the crucial evidence of God. But we can only reason on the basis of the evidence we actually have.

    (T) At best, you can only say that the evidence so far presented has been insufficient (which to me is playing ostrich).

    (N) Were you playing ostrich when you said “no proof supporting atheism or denying God’s existence has been presented”? The ostrich metaphor usually refers to not seeing due to willful avoidance of seeing. I may reject the putative rationality of certain arguments for God (cough *Anselm* cough), but that is surely something very different from refusing to look at or consider an argument.

    (T) Therefore, since there could be evidences presented in the future(…), you must acknowledge that there may indeed be a proof that has so far been undiscovered and that the existence of God is possible (and Christ Jesus, God-incarnate).

    (N) Granted. (for all conceptions of God which are not demonstrably impossible) And when such proof is found, that could very well form a sound and rational basis for belief. But not before.

    (T) This would make you and others frequenting this site ‘agnostics’ since, at best, you can only be skeptical of God’s existence. Will you at least give me that?

    (N) Most people would call me an atheist, and Huxley definitely would not have called me an agnostic. In Huxley’s original formulation of agnosticism (when he coined the term) he used it to express his opinion that the matter of the existence of a god was not solved and further that he had a strong conviction that the problem was insoluble. Roughly speaking, his belief was that it cannot be known whether a god exists. He never clarified, though, whether he meant that it cannot be known in principle, or whether he meant it cannot be known given the information we presently have. But either way, it is an epistemic position about the possibility of knowledge. That is an independent matter from the question of theism / atheism–both of which pertain to status of belief. Both theists and atheists come in both agnostic and non-agnostic flavors.

    Personally, I think the term agnosticism demolishes itself. It is a claim about the impossibility of knowledge about the properties of any possible divinity–presumably based on knowledge about the properties of all possible divinities. My conception of godhood is entirely compatible with the idea of revelation, which means I see no necessary reason that it would be impossible for a god to reveal itself if it wanted to. I also think agnostic is a weasel word which, in modern parlance has come to mean, “I prefer not to talk about it” on the question of theism, and that clearly isn’t me.

    (T) This is why, I think, there is the pervasive need to attack Christianity

    (N) I might attack Christianity for having been a bad institution, but there are many believers in God and Christ who feel very much the same way, and I view the behavior and effects of the institution as a separate matter from the question of divine existence, and whether there is any rational basis for believing in it.

    (T) – because Christianity makes very high claims concerning God’s existence

    (N) High claims don’t concern me. What I’m looking for are the rational, substantiated claims.

    (T) For all skeptics, agnostics, non-Christians, and even Christians who believe in God, but don’t necessarily have a relationship with Jesus, let me share that there ARE ANSWERS to attacks against Christianity from our atheist friends.

    (N) Indeed, there are many answers, almost all of which boil down to faith. The point of contention is whether there are any rational answers.

    post 68 (T) [ 4truthnet link] Check out the Josephus and Jesus article

    (N) Most of the scholarly works on the Testimonium Flavianum agree that it is either partly inauthentic or wholly inauthentic. Origen was clearly familiar with the Antiquities, and writes about a far less significant brief possible allusion to Jesus via James, and yet he not only makes no mention of the Testimonium passage, he further characterizes Josephus as not believing in Jesus the Christ–totally inconsistent with the transcriptions of the Testimonium we now have. Indeed, we don’t have any reference at all to the Testimonium passage from any of the early church fathers until Eusebius, writing about three centuries after the supposed time of Jesus. So 1) the authenticity of the passage is highly suspect. 2) Even if it had been authentic, it would have been written decades after the time of Jesus, based on, at best, second-hand information taken from unreferenced sources of unknown reliability. And 3) As the story goes, the creator of a vast cosmos of (at least) a hundred billion galaxies comes to our tiny speck (after a few billion years) and actually lives among us for a while. Given the limitless power at his disposal, why are we having to scratch for a pathetic few highly-suspect crumbs of transcriptions of second-hand stories written long after the fact? Does that really sound like the modus operandi of a god? If he came to this planet to reveal himself, why did he do so in a secretive way that leaves behind the exact same lack of hard evidence that we typically have for personages of myth?

    (T) To sum up our running debate, I believe in God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, the resurrection, sin, salvation, et al. You don’t. I’ve tried my best to defend my faith, and you have too.

    (N) This appears to be the crux of the problem. It was never in contention that you believe. The question was whether you had a rational basis for your belief. But this passage reveals that your belief is really based on faith. You further seem to have the peculiar belief that science and reason itself is based on faith.

    So if you are saying that your beliefs are rational because your beliefs are based on faith, and faith is the basis of reason, I would say 1) that doesn’t follow logically and 2) if you are using a non-standard definition of rationality, then it is of no consequence to me if your beliefs are “rational” if by that you mean they are rational in some way that is different from what we normally mean by the word.

    There are more recent entries in this thread I’d like to get to, but this post has already gotten overly long, so I’ll try to come back to those later.

  80. This is all GREAT! Kim and Nick (and of course you, Jim), thank you for your posts. I’m on the road right now and do not have time to respond. That said, you both deserve thoughtful responses and I look forward to hijacking my recliner when I get home and fully absorbing all posts. Can’t say I can respond to all because, after all, who the heck am I…but, I’ll give it the ‘ol college try.

    Gotta admit, the exchange forces me to dig deep. So hang in there, please…

    Todd

    Jim, can I just respond to everything by saying, “Because the Bible says so!”? No? Didn’t think so. Okay, later then…

  81. Hi Jim,

    I wonder what your thoughts are on this subject, and maybe we could have a new blog centered around this thought:

    Theists are concerned about the afterlife and saving the soul, and make a priority to proselytize and spread the Good Word — most of them. There are several religions and sects of judeo-christianity that are moderate and try not to intrude too much on others. Given the epic supernatural struggle between god and satan for the souls of humanity, shouldn’t THEISTS have more zealotry towards converting everyone to their religion?

    Atheists are unconvinced there is an afterlife and are convinced that God is imaginary because the lack of evidence and the rational thought leading to that conclusion. Atheists see this life as ‘the only life you’ll get’. Given the misery caused by organized religion and the psychological harm done by a god delusion, shouldn’t ATHEISTS have more zealotry about disbanding religion to promote peace in the world?

  82. Nick!

    I’ve shied away from contacting you directly up until now, because a) reading and replying to Todd became an almost full time task and b) having only had time to skim read your above comments I saw that we were both largely singing from the same hymn sheet.

    Last evening, however, I had a chance to really sit down and read your latest reply and I have to say it is one of the most succinct and compelling explanations of free-thinking and rationality I’ve ever read. I was particularly amused and impressed with the way in which you reminded Todd of what it is he actually believes in, with no reasonable reason to do so.

    Most intriguing was your paragraph on the historicity of non-biblical references to Jesus. I was wondering if you would be interesting in having a post-enabled account on the blog, so that you might contrive an article on the topic? I have long wanted for the site to expand into having contributor articles and I can’t think of anyone an inaugural writer it would be wise to recruit in this endeavour than your good self.

    If you’re interested, please use the Mail Me button in the side bar to write to me from a valid e-mail address and I’ll send you the username and password to log-in and post.

    Thanks again. Hope to see more of you soon!

  83. Kim:
    I agree with what you’re saying, I just don’t agree that the best way to combat religious intolerance of free-thinking is to adopt an inversion of their methods. I speak from experience, having recently baited a Christian activist via Twitter, who despite that I was able to explain to him later, that my ensnaring him with sweeping generalisations about his creed, in the 140 character space of the micro-blog format, wasn’t indicative of the depth of my argument, he is able nevertheless to claim the higher ground because of this initially rather confrontational tact.

    Pots, calling kettles black aside, I do see his point and have reprimanded myself for it, with a vow to find a much less selfish way to witness the message of rational humanism. To that end, the above reply to Nick should give an insight as to where the blog is going next, in terms of widening the scope of the conversation. Stay, as they say, tuned.

    BUT CAN EVERYONE WHO IS READING ALL THE WAY DOWN THE END OF THIS PAGE ALSO BE AWARE, THAT THERE ARE OTHER POSTS ON THIS BLOG WHICH SO FAR HAVE ZERO COMMENTS!! :)

    Jim.

  84. Guys, blame it on my clinical impatience, but I’m not hard-wired to forever search. I confess, I’m addicted to Google (as Jim knows), to results, to answers. I’m not motivated by the intellectual exercise or the journey – I’m driven to actually KNOW the truth about the existence of God, outside faith alone (happy Jim?!). I want answers and I want to then confidently share them with others, PRO or CON. Perhaps I won’t like the answers if I’m being intellectually honest, but perhaps you won’t either (if you are too). Just to carry through a theme of sorts, the world never ceased being round when mankind believed it to be flat. I’m looking for the round truth.

    Since my last post, I’ve been thinking (that’s progress, right Jim?). If I could get to the bottom of just ONE thing relating to Christianity and its truth claims, what would that be? What would make a difference and be most convincing if I could find an answer (supported by solid Christian and non-Christian historical data)? Thinking it through, I settled on the Resurrection of Christ Jesus. If the Christian message was and is true, it all hangs on this pivotal claim, does it not? If Jesus was NOT raised from the dead, then there is no need to consider Christianity to be any more legitimate than Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Paganism, Mormonism, Islam or even your blessed atheism. If indeed it could be proven that Jesus was raised from the dead, it would distinguish Him from every other religious founder, none of whom were believed by their orthodox followers to have been raised from the dead. If Jesus was, he couldn’t have raised himself; dead men stay…well…dead. Somebody had to act upon Him, just as Jesus claimed to his disciples ‘Abba Father’ would.

    So, Jesus made certain claims: here’s who I AM, here’s what will happen, my Father will vindicate me, you’ll see me rise from the dead. Well, who could vindicate Him? Seems like only God. Wow, He then rose from the dead followed by multiple Resurrection appearances to multiple witnesses. What does that mean? That means what He taught was most likely true, so it just might be a worthwhile exercise to go back and examine His teachings. The New Testament writers provided just that, a first-hand credible eye-witness account for the life and teachings of Jesus. If He claimed Scripture to be the infallible, inspired Word of God, it seems to follow we’d be wise to take Him at His Word.

    Papa Jim, I respectfully submit we sharpen our focus within this blog to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and follow the evidence. If you don’t mind, I’d like to take the “pro-Resurrection” side. Deal? Not sure how big your biceps are, but I think you’d probably even let me win an arm wrestling match here.

    Sports fans, I seriously cannot think of a single better topic to debate that more pivotal. If you’re up to it, I am. If you’re not, why?

    Nick/Kim, I’m still working on responses to your earlier posts. This is just an incredibly busy week for me and the weekend’s going to be worse. But I will…promise.

    Have a great weekend, all.

    Todd

  85. Todd:
    I respectfully ask that you address the answer to this question I have already given you several times on this page and privately via e-mail before moving on as if I somehow failed to counter your false assertions. Both myself, Kim and the impeccably eloquent Nick have taken each of your questions head on and answered them–while you continue to echo exactly zero interest in actually taking any of our advice into consideration before proceeding under the assumptions you previously and dogmatically espoused.

    You don’t demonstrate understanding by thanking someone for their time to answer your questions by proceeding to ask yet more questions you would not ask if you have understood the original reply. Case in point is the historicity of the Jesus myth which Nick addressed in one of the most succinct and literary paragraphs I have yet to read on the subject.

    To that end and with respect to your request to broaden the scope of the debate, I am posting a new thread entitled Did Jesus Really Exist? Please move the debate onto that thread henceforth.

    Jim.

  86. Pingback: Did Jesus Really Exist? « How good is that?

  87. PLEASE DO NOT REPLY TO THE DID JESUS REALLY EXIST STORY IN THIS THREAD. PLEASE USE WHICHEVER BLOG POSTING LINKED YOU HERE TO COMMENT FURTHER ON THIS TOPIC. Thanks.

  88. Sorry, Jim. I didn’t realize I didn’t write the following:

    “Nick/Kim, I’m still working on responses to your earlier posts. This is just an incredibly busy week for me and the weekend’s going to be worse. But I will…promise.”

    My words must have been merely myth. Am I already a legend in your own mind?

    That said, Nick does indeed provide excellent thoughts and some pretty nice suppositions to boot…we’re not in agreement on most, but, that’s what debate is for, right? Just because Nick “opines” does not make his post immune to a dissenting one.

    I’m doing a lot of research on the subject of Jesus’ crucifixion, so I’m glad you’re opening up another post. Now if I may have your permission, I have work to do and cannot spare more time until the beginning of next week. If one could only make a living without customers or employees, wouldn’t life be great. Unfortunately, I haven’t cracked that code yet.

    Later.

  89. Hi Todd,
    Like I said before, I think quality of response matters more than speed of response, and I see nothing that needs urgent attention here. No-one is in a hurry here.

    And Jim, I hope this isn’t overloading the thread, but I’m putting this response here so it would be in proximity to Todd’s challenge. Feel free to relocate it or remove it.

    From Post 91
    (Todd) Perhaps, one by one, you might take each of the following arguments for the existence of God head-on:

    (N) Ah yes, spaghetti apologetics. If you throw an entire plate of pasta at the wall, maybe something will stick.

    (T)THE ARGUMENT:
    1) from change

    (N) summary: Nothing changes itself. Absolutely nothing can change unless acted on by things outside.

    response: Our sun is constantly changing into heavier elements. This argument claims it would be totally unable to change at all if it weren’t being continuously acted on from without by… what exactly?

    (T) 2) from efficient causality

    (N) summary:
    1. Everything has a cause.
    2. Causes cannot recede to infinity.
    3. There has to exist a first cause.
    4. That first cause is God.

    response: Item 1 is unknown (we have not found a cause for atomic decay, for example). And item three contradicts item one. This brings us to the more trenchant summary of Niall McAuley:

    1. Everything has a cause.
    2. No, I was wrong.
    3. Now I pull a god from my trousers.

    (T) 3) from time and contingency

    (N) s: All contingent beings come from somewhere or they never come into being, and only nothing can come from nothing, so if the universe began (as opposed to an infinite span of nothingness), then it must have come from some necessary being, and this we call God.

    r: This argument proceeds from the assumption that time is separable from the universe, but we don’t know that to be the case. Even if that were the case, this argument postulates an eternal god with a frame of existence extending infinitely into the past. But in that case, the act of creating this universe was preceded by an infinite amount of time–which means God, literally, never got around to it. Of course, the usual solution is special pleading, removing God from the realm of time, but still attributing causality to him despite the fact that causality is necessarily time dependent if it is to have any meaning to us. So this reduces to an argument that our universe was initiated from without by some phenomenon which does not partake of those properties of this universe which gave rise to this argument in the first place. And then we slap the label “God” on that incomprehensible phenomenon for no apparent reason.

    (T)4) from degrees of perfection

    (N) s: We think some things are better than other things, so there must be a purely perfect source of our sense of all the degrees of perfection that we recognize, and this source we call God.

    r: Perfection is conformity to a standard. A perfect diamond and a perfect breakfast omelet are not both at the pinnacle of the same scale. They are prime exemplars of two utterly different standards. So all perfection is relative. The notion of some sort of perfection which is independent of any standard against which to compare it is a violation of the very meaning of the word.

    (T) 5) the design argument

    (N) s: The universe exhibits regularity which is intelligible to us, therefore it comes from intelligence, and this we call God.

    r: The popular illustration for this is finding a watch on a beach. And if the design of the watch implies an ingenious watchmaker, then the vastly more complicated watchmaker implies a vastly more sophisticated watchmaker designer. However, (1 the strength of that metaphor lies in the striking contrast of the watch to its undesigned surroundings, but the argument is trying to establish that everything is designed, and there is no undesigned surrounding to compare the universe against. 2) most of the designed things we have experience with were conceived by teams of designers. 3) The metaphor progresses from watch, to watchmaker, to watchmaker-maker, but terminates abruptly before reaching the watchmaker-maker-maker. The metaphor has to terminate at some arbitrary point, or it winds up in an infinite regress of ever more complex designers. 4) The watch tells us something about its designers. It tells us that it serves a function, like a tool, and was made by means of tools, which means it was designed by tool users, which means that if they wish to bring about a particular state of affairs, they cannot accomplish it by direct means, so they have to contrive devices to accomplish it indirectly, using the limited set of abilities and resources at their disposal. And in the case of the watch, the chief purpose of the contrivance is to compensate for an innately imperfect sense of time. It is, in effect, a crutch. The implication of this metaphor is that God has deficiencies, and has need of tools and contrivances to craft remedies and solutions for his needs.

    (T) 6) the kalam argument

    (N) s: Minor repackaging of 3. Whatever begins to exist has a cause, and the universe began to exist, so the universe had a cause, and we call this God.

    r: The substrate for the universe appears to be space-time, but it is incomprehensible to talk of the cause of space-time because causality is time-dependent. We have nothing to support the idea that time was caused because that implies a causal event taking place in the time before time–a notion which has no meaning for us.

    (T) 7) from contingency

    (N) The universe exists, so there must have existed what it took to bring it into existence, and this thing must lie outside the universe, outside of space and time, and this thing we call God.

    More repackaging. Again, we have no notion of existence outside of space and time. Does God experience the passage of time? If so, then there was an infinite duration before creation. If not, then the notions of intention and action mean nothing to us when applied to God.

    (T)8) from the world as an interacting whole

    (N) s: Another design argument. We see interconnected dependencies in our world, and no subsystem can exist without the rest, so taken together, the whole system is irreducible, and the complexity of the system means it had an intelligent designer, and this we call God.

    r: The fossil record reveals a very long history of change of the Earth’s life system, with very many sub elements of the system coming into existence and going out of existence. So the total system clearly isn’t irreducible. And what sort of expression of design is it to have billions of years of competing life systems with millions of dead-end lineages?

    (T) 9) from miracles

    (N) s: There are numerous well-attested miracles, and miracles are the extraordinary direct intervention of God, so God exists.

    r: Calling this an argument is too generous. It is more properly a wad of assertions. Yes, there are many testimonies of miracles, but that doesn’t mean there actually are any miracles. And even if you define miracles as coming exclusively from God, that just means that miracles comprise only a small subset of the global set of supernatural or magical disruptions or interventions which humans have attested to in almost every place there have been humans, going back thousands of years. The miracles, like the magic, used to be somewhat more impressive (global flood, parting sea, halting or reversing the rotation of the planet, talking animals, resurrection of long dead, etc.) These days, miracles tend to consist of tortilla burns, surviving a bad crash, or winning a hundred bucks in a lottery. For some reason, the advance of science appears to be progressing lockstep with the retreat of miracles.

    (T) 10) from consciousness

    s: More design argument reruns. Our consciousness is complex, and it either came from pure random chance or it was the product of a greater consciousness. It did not come from randomness, so it came from a greater consciousness, and this we call God.

    r: The obvious problems here are 1) again, the regress to ever more complex consciousnesses until a point of arbitrary cutoff, 2) the false dichotomy between pure random chance and God, and 3) the fact we have abundant evidence of gradations of complexity in consciousness, and the most reasonable supposition from the fossil record is that the most complex examples of modern consciousness trace back to simpler forms–opposite the direction this argument tries to go.

    (T) 11) from truth

    (N) s: We see eternal truths about existence, truth resides in the mind, human minds are not eternal, therefore an eternal mind exists, and we call this God.

    r: An attempted Christian retread of Plato’s fanciful realm of forms. Truth, as a concept, resides in our minds, but the concept stands as a representation of something which does not reside in the mind. Truth is the state of being actual, and only the tiniest proportion of actualities in the universe are to be found in the human mind. The rest are not only outside of mind, they are only apprehensible to mind indirectly, with only partial reliability.

    (T) 12) from the origin of the idea of God

    (N) s: We have ideas of many things, all ideas being either created or apprehended. We could not have created the idea of God because we are limited and no effect can be greater than its cause, therefore the idea of God came from God.

    r: This is a not-so-deft substitution trick, starting with the idea of a thing, and swapping over to the thing itself. The effect being produced by human imagination here is the idea of a god, not an actual god. A god might arguably be a “greater” effect than a human mind, but the mere idea of a god is not. (And the relation “greater” is left ambiguous, probably deliberately, so that obvious counterexamples don’t spring to mind.) One merely has to consider the multitude of superbeing ideas humans have conceived to see that human imagination is easily up to the task.

    (T)13) the ontological argument

    (N) s: Boiled down to its essentials, this argument goes: the quality of existence is a necessary, implied component of the very definition of God. Therefore God exists.

    r: There have been many objections on the basis of whether the definition does necessarily imply existence (again, lots of hand-waving using the ambiguous relation “greater”) but the larger problem is that this attempt to bootstrap something into existence by wordplay has no actual effect on reality. We could similarly coin the term Realunicorn, and define it to mean a unicorn which actually exists. Would including existence as part of the definition make it real? No. It would merely give us a label we could use if we ever ran across one. We could even go so far as to make up the term Necessaryunicorn, and define it to be a unicorn which must exist. Will that be enough to make it real? Still no. Definitions do not impart properties to actual things. Definitions only describe and delineate the properties of concepts, and the existence of a concept is insufficient to ensure the existence of a counterpart in reality.

    But going the other way, it is possible, to have definitions which ensure there cannot be any counterpart in reality, and it would be easy to adapt the ontological argument for that purpose. If, for example, one were to define God as an *omnipotent* being greater than which one cannot be conceived, then the definition includes an insoluble self-contradiction (imposing an absolute limit on God’s limitless power to conceive) and thus this definition describes a concept which necessarily has no counterpart in reality.

    (T) 14) the moral argument

    (N) s: We are morally obligated to do good and avoid evil. Atheism is incompatible with moral obligation, therefore God exists.

    r: Again, argument from flat assertion. Good and evil only have meaning with respect to a standard, and have no independent, objective reality. An obligation is a self-imposed restriction, binding oneself to a pledge or promise, either directly, or implicitly, and no gods are needed for that. And even if you come up with some novel concept of morality which is explicitly incompatible with atheism, that doesn’t mean everyone has to accept that moral system, and the conclusion of that argument would still rest on a false dichotomy between atheism and one particular god.

    (T)15) the argument from conscience

    (N) s: Having a conscience means we have obligations, and we can only have obligations to something greater than ourselves, and that something is God.

    r: We can voluntarily undertake any obligation we choose. I can bring home a fish and accept the obligation to take care of it, for example. It may be that this argument supposes that an obligation isn’t real without a real threat of punishment to back it up, and such threat can only come from something with greater power, but mere compliance with threat is not moral conduct, and it is not the basis of our sense of conscience.

    (T)16) the argument for desire

    (N) s: Every “natural” desire corresponds to some real object which can satisfy it. We have a natural desire for something beyond Earth and time, and the something that satisfies this is God.

    r: We plainly have many desires which have no real object to satisfy them, so it was necessary to include the undefined qualifier “natural”. Presumably also, the term “real object” has a lot of squishiness, so that if I should have the desire for some peace and quiet, the lack of noise and distraction would be considered an “object”. But if an abstraction can be an object, then it is possible for an object to be an abstraction, and there is no necessary reason to suppose that whatever it is that we allegedly desire beyond Earth and time (and I’m unaware of any such desire in me) is anything but an abstraction.

    (T)17) the argument from aesthetic experience

    (N) s: There is the music of Bach, therefore God exists.

    r: I would point out the flaw in the logic there, except I can’t find enough logic there to wrap around a flaw. Todd, were you somehow under the impression that if you add up a large enough number of bad arguments, that would eventually be equivalent to a good argument? Would you similarly think that adding up a large enough number of zeros will eventually produce a one?

    (T)18) the argument from religious experience

    (N) Many people have had religious experiences. So many people could not have been wrong about their interpretation of their experiences. Therefore, these experiences reflect a divine reality, and this we call God.

    These religious experiences are to be found in pretty much every religion, and the interpretations vary wildly, usually according to whatever religion the people belong to. And mystical experiences–often regarded as the most intense of religious experiences–also happen to people who have no religion and who do not ascribe religious meaning to them. And as for the part about “so many people could not be wrong” I would simply point you back to your own words: “even when all men (but a rare few) proclaimed the world to be flat, it never ceased being round” The truth of a proposition is not determined by the number of people who believe it.

    (T)19) the common consent argument

    (N) Either all theists have been wrong about an element of profound importance in their lives, or they have not. It is more easily believable that they have not, therefore God exists.

    This is more properly called a fallacy than an argument (see ad numerum), and again, you’ve already rebutted this yourself. There are also a great many more people who are not Christian than who are, and presumably there used to be a time when there were hardly any Christians at all. Did you ever find this argument logically, rationally compelling? If so, that says nothing good about your capacity for reason. If not, then why did you put it out there for us? Did you think we would be bowled over by an argument which didn’t impress you? Or is it that we were not supposed to look at the arguments. Were we supposed to look at your list of argument names (cut-and-pasted from Kreeft) and conclude from that alone that you had a really big pile of rational ammo for your side? Or did you, perhaps, not even bother to examine these arguments yourself?

    (T) 20) Pascal’s Wager

    (N) If God exists, it’s better to believe than not, and if he doesn’t, then you lose nothing by believing.

    It is fitting that this is last on the list, because this is the little brown gem of last resort which Christians trot out when they find they’ve got absolutely nothing but rattling emptiness in their rational ammo box. This isn’t an argument for the existence of God, it is a game theory argument for the advantages of belief. But the basis of the argument rests on the Christian reward and punishment schedule, and you have to accept that first for the argument to have any appeal. I could invent a new god today with a different punishment and reward schedule which favors belief in that god over the Christian god, but that wouldn’t make my god any more real than yours. This argument also assumes belief can be an act of pure will, but many people do not have the capacity to believe a thing true simply because they wish it to be so.

    (T) Now, knowing you, perhaps you have answers to many of these (I doubt all). But within this blog, with there being another point of view present, your opinions are meaningless (to us) because that’s all they are, mere opinions absent a thorough, complete and convincing refutation to every single one of these arguments (and I’m sure there are more) brought forth from “our side.”

    Every one of these has been long-since demolished (in many cases, by other theists). But showing their rational deficiency has never made any of them go away. They get resurrected and recycled endlessly because the would-be faithful need them as a crutch to bolster the portion of belief which they cannot sustain by faith.

    (T) Take each one of these arguments (from our side) one-by-one and refute them to our satisfaction. Perhaps you’ll convince us. At least try…or please stop using blanket statements like that.

    (N) It doesn’t matter how many unsupported and/or illogical arguments you put forward, and it doesn’t matter how many refutations of those arguments you refuse to acknowledge. The standard for whether there is a rational case for a god remains independent of “your satisfaction”. Reason does not hew to your preferences.

    Again, my purpose here is not to convince you of anything. My purpose is to examine whether you have an objective, rational case to be made for the existence of a god. As the story goes, you spent the majority of your life as an atheist, until you came to Christian belief and, as you put it, “reasonably so”. If you really did take that path, and if it really did lead to a rationally compelling conclusion that God exists, then all that is lacking to open that path for all rational people to follow is a description of the steps you took to get there. No need for cut and paste from moldy, failed apologetics. No need to lay down a fog of unsupported assertions. All that’s needed is one, clear, rational argument for God.

    And if you don’t happen to have one, perhaps you could ask him for one.

  90. I’ve tried to post my reply several times, Nick. Apparently I am now Christian persona non gratis. Contact me by email if you’d like to receive my reply (tp111@live.com).

    Sorry for the hassle. Talk to the editor.

    ADMIN EDIT:
    For the last time, Todd, I’ll explain one last time. The way this wordpress installation chooses to reject comments containing more than two links is nothing to do with me. Read what has been explained to you several times already before making accusations to the contrary.

  91. Nick, I’ve tried and tried to post my response, but the blog keeps rejecting it. Perhaps it’s too large. I even tried splitting it…same result. Anyway, with the hope of at least providing a response to one of your refutations, I’m posting the following:

    9) from miracles

    (N) r: Calling this an argument is too generous. It is more properly a wad of assertions. Yes, there are many testimonies of miracles, but that doesn’t mean there actually are any miracles. And even if you define miracles as coming exclusively from God, that just means that miracles comprise only a small subset of the global set of supernatural or magical disruptions or interventions which humans have attested to in almost every place there have been humans, going back thousands of years. The miracles, like the magic, used to be somewhat more impressive (global flood, parting sea, halting or reversing the rotation of the planet, talking animals, resurrection of long dead, etc.) These days, miracles tend to consist of tortilla burns, surviving a bad crash, or winning a hundred bucks in a lottery. For some reason, the advance of science appears to be progressing lockstep with the retreat of miracles.

    (T) You’re wrong. I’ve not brought what I’m about to up before because of the nature of this blog, recognizing my personal testimony wouldn’t mean squat to Jim and other atheists. Hopefully the fact I have NOT offered it lends just a small bit of credibility that what I’m about to share is not embellished or manufactured, not in the least bit. If not anything else, Nick, I hope I’ve earned your (and other’s) respect that I have true conviction in what I believe and feel no need to make something up to earn a point. Not my style.

    I experienced a miracle, first hand…a no-kidding around bonafide miracle. Not the face of Jesus appearing in my grilled-cheese sandwich miracle, but a very personal one that was witnessed by my then agnostic wife. I was incredibly sick (full blown pneumonia symptoms) and made the collective decision with my wife to finally go to Emergency Admissions (local hospital). Knowing, in all likelihood, I was going to be there for a while, I decided to first take a shower. While in the shower I began to cough so badly that I literally just wanted to die. I started to cry…mostly out of sheer pain and agony, but also out of hopeless frustration. Nick, I was in so much pain…every time I coughed up half a lung, it brought me to my knees, literally. Perhaps you’ve been there. Anyone with full-blown pneumonia knows what I’m talking about. While on my knees sobbing like a baby, I prayed to God…pleading out loud for just SOME relief. ANY relief.

    Not only did I get relief, Nick, I was immediately healed. It was immediate, absolute and total. All my flem, head congestion, coughing, miserable aches, RAW sore throat, drainage…gone! You, nor Jim, nor any other nonbeliever who may be tempted to pile-on will take that proof away from me. There was, and is, no natural explanation. It was a prayer answered and I give credit where credit is do. Out of respect for me and this discussion, I ask that you refrain from lobbing a condescending dismissive reply back my way. It was a miracle, pure and simple…my very own. The furthest thing from being just one of all those “wad of assertions” you referenced.

    Okay…final post to this thread. I emailed Jim the rest of my responses. If he chooses to include them, great. Enjoyed the exchange.

    Todd

  92. Hi Todd,
    Happy to see you got at least a partial response through. Did you consider posting without the links? It’s not like your web links have been any help to you anyway. (Links are good when used like reference material, but when you say “go here and be convinced” that just looks like you lack confidence you can make the case for your own position yourself.)

    (T) …with the hope of at least providing a response to one of your refutations, I’m posting the following:
    [9) from miracles… Yes, there are many testimonies of miracles, but that doesn’t mean there actually are any miracles… For some reason, the advance of science appears to be progressing lockstep with the retreat of miracles.]

    (T) You’re wrong. I’ve not brought what I’m about to up before because of the nature of this blog, recognizing my personal testimony wouldn’t mean squat to Jim and other atheists. Hopefully the fact I have NOT offered it lends just a small bit of credibility that what I’m about to share is not embellished or manufactured, not in the least bit. If not anything else, Nick, I hope I’ve earned your (and other’s) respect that I have true conviction in what I believe and feel no need to make something up to earn a point. Not my style.

    (N) I fully accept that you are ardent in your beliefs. But Christians have a long history of affinity for the “noble lie”, so that sort of belief doesn’t help your credibility. Also unhelpful is inconsistency. For example, when you post: “Jim, for the record, I’m 44 years old and had a mindset similar to yours for 42 long years.” and “My first 42 years I would have rolled my eyes, too. However, after fully exploring the evidence with an open mind, I find science has actually discovered God.” and “Sorry, but you are deceived. It took me 42 years to figure out the truth.” there would appear to be some variance with this: “Remember, I grew up Catholic too…and left 10 seconds after my exit to college. Traditions, denominations, hierarchy, Hale (sic) Mary’s, an intercessor wearing robes…all that.”

    Most people who regard Catholicism and atheism as incompatible would consider those two stories incongruous. Myself, I’m not leaping to any accusation of deliberate lying, as you did with me, but I will grant it seems… peculiar, and peculiar things flag my attention. Deception has, of course, occurred to me as a possibility, but so has delusion, or perhaps some scenario involving multiple personalities (Jim seems to be favoring this theory). But maybe this simply means you think Catholics are in grave error and are every bit as doomed as atheists where God’s judgement is concerned. Of course, if you say there are people who sincerely believe themselves to be good Christians, who are also utterly mistaken and doomed, and if you also say you sincerely believe yourself to be a good Christian, then perhaps…

    And when you complain about the level of ridicule you encounter, that would seem inconsistent (or hypocritical) with your posting that piece of satirical ridicule by Les Sillars–whom you called an atheist, even though you knew better. And when you said you posted it out of wanting to be fair, that was, what, tongue-in-cheek? Something other than sincere, anyway.

    I do consider your credibility when trying to determine whether you actually have anything to back up your claims of having a rational basis for Christian belief, or anything which would establish the historical reality of Jesus–as described, infallibly, in the Bible–or same again for the resurrection story. But if you do have a rational argument, I would judge it on its own merits, because I think the character of the presenter should be irrelevant.

    (T) I experienced a miracle, first hand…a no-kidding around bonafide miracle. Not the face of Jesus appearing in my grilled-cheese sandwich miracle, but a very personal one that was witnessed by my then agnostic wife.

    (N) I’m not challenging that you sincerely believe it was a miracle, but 1) it was a miracle in private 2) which left no objective or independent evidence 3) and the event would not seem to be in proportion with the extravagance of the explanation and 4) it is not notably different from the healing miracle testimonies which abound in other religions and sects which you reject.

    (T) Nick, I was in so much pain…every time I coughed up half a lung, it brought me to my knees, literally. Perhaps you’ve been there.

    (N) With pneumonia–only once, but I have other recurring lung problems. For me, worse than the pain is the sensation of suffocation. (For what it’s worth, I’ve found that taking a hot shower sometimes helps.)

    (T) Anyone with full-blown pneumonia knows what I’m talking about. While on my knees sobbing like a baby, I prayed to God…pleading out loud for just SOME relief. ANY relief.

    (N) At the time you made this prayer, were you an atheist? If so, why would you be praying to God? If not, then presumably you arrived at belief prior to this.

    (T) You, nor Jim, nor any other nonbeliever who may be tempted to pile-on will take that proof away from me.

    (N) As I said early on, I have nothing to say pertaining to Christian belief based on faith, personal revelation, mystical experience, or any other rationally inaccessible basis of belief. Seeming personal contact with gods may be compelling to the individual, but it has no objective reality to make it rationally accessible to those who did not experience it. It’s like the sincere and heartfelt stories of alien abductions I’ve heard. Even if I accept that their belief is sincere, that doesn’t mean I’m impelled towards belief myself.

    (T) It was a prayer answered and I give credit where credit is do.

    (N) A very long time ago, I was out on my bicycle, struggling to make sense of the chaos my faith had become. At one point, I offered up a simple prayer asking God for a sign that he was a real and loving god who listened and cared. A few seconds later, a fluffy white dog ran out into traffic, was hit by a car, and it bounced and skidded across the street, kicking and thrashing the whole way, until it jammed under the wheel of an oncoming truck, with results I don’t need to describe. (When I asked you if there is any possible outcome from prayer which could make you regret having prayed, that question was at least in part inspired by this event.)

    So what do you think? Who gets the credit for that one? Was that an answer to my prayer? Was it a threat? Maybe it was the Devil. Maybe I prayed to the wrong god. Maybe there was some obscure hidden goodness in that gruesome manner of death. Or maybe the prayer had nothing to do with it, and out of the thousands of times I prayed over the years back then, that one stands out because it coincidentally happened in proximity to something dramatic–a possibility which is increased by praying in traffic, where dramatic things will happen.

    (T) Out of respect for me and this discussion, I ask that you refrain from lobbing a condescending dismissive reply back my way. It was a miracle, pure and simple…my very own.

    (N) I accept that you believe it.

    (T) The furthest thing from being just one of all those “wad of assertions” you referenced.

    (N) My response was directed at the failed attempt to mount an objective rational argument for God based on the mere testimonies of miracles. The fact it has no legs as an objective rational argument has no bearing on your personal interpretation of a private experience. But conversely, no personal interpretation of a private experience has a bearing on making an objective rational case for any god. All you have for anyone like me is the unsubstantiated claim that a god saw fit to favor you with a miracle. Would you find a similar miracle story from someone else, interpreted in favor of some other god, convincing? And the step for you, from one god to another, would be tiny compared to the step I would have to take to reach belief in any god.

    (T) Enjoyed the exchange.

    (N) I’m guessing that was also tongue-in-cheek.

  93. “It [the Bible] would make mention of, you would assume, the quantum mechanical world. It would, at the very least you would hope, list the elements in the periodic table. Yet it makes no mention of anything which was undiscovered at the time it was written;”

    I must totally disagree on this. Why should the Bible include the periodic table? What is wrong in leaving us to discover this for ourselves and use our own brains? Furthermore, what if we make an incredible scientific break-through in the future and revise the periodic table or sub-atomic theory? How do you know what the Bible “should” include based purely on your current understanding? The Bible is specifically about the world’s relationship with God – it doesn’t have to be a book of “all knowledge”. You may just as well ask why the Bible doesn’t have a recipe for a perfect pizza!

    And you say it has nothing to say of science, I must disagree. The very beginning of Genesis clearly states that the universe began to exist, and this has been powerfully confirmed by contemporary cosmology by people such as Hawking, Penrose, Bord, Guth and Vilenkin. When read according to the original Hebrew meanings of the words (such as Yom for “day” meaning a creative period of time) we find that the order of creation is also accurately captured from the point of view of the surface of the Earth: the thick stratosphere clearing for the sun to show through in the fourth order of events etc. This is completely consistent with the literature AND modern science!

    There are plenty of challenging objections to the Bible and Christianity, but I must say there are none to be found in this article.

  94. Of all the articles on this blog, this one generates most of the quality inbound links and jumping off points to other sections of the site, so I strongly disagree that there is “nothing” to be found here which raises valid challenges to the bible and Christianity. You might not necessarily agree with what has been said, but that’s what the comments box is for.

    As for the Semmelweis reflex shown almost consistently by Christians who have read the above, and who have then jumped off onto other parts of the blog, to read more opinion on the topics you’ve raise, all I can do is invite you to do the same and continue the debate. You’ll find a regular bunch here who enjoy debating these topics openly and honestly, but all I would add to that is, I wouldn’t expect to be taken too seriously, either by any regular Christian or otherwise, who comments here, if you intend to argue the bible is historically accurate and literally true. Nor is the bible unique in its allegorical treatment of the various creation myths which have persisted for thousands of years, most of which precede the Old Testament.

  95. I’m sure there are many extremely thought-provoking threads linked here, but I maintain that nothing has been raised in this article other than feather-weight objections and a lot of ad hominem about Koukl being “child-like” etc. Not good enough.

  96. ““It [the Bible] would make mention of, you would assume, the quantum mechanical world. It would, at the very least you would hope, list the elements in the periodic table. Yet it makes no mention of anything which was undiscovered at the time it was written;””

    This is a common retort and I have heard it many times before (I agree with Koukl that many atheists are merely repeating what they have heard from the mentioned authors). The problem with it is that the Bible is a historical account on matters of a faith and the life and teachings of Jesus Christ; the Bible is NOT a science textbook. To assume that if it were the true word of God that it would require irrelevant information about the universe to understand God’s message is such a logical mess that I can call it nothing other than malarkey.

    If you go to stand to reason’s site, Koukl has numerous videos about the God Delusion and other atheist books. I would encourage everyone to check them out and resist taking his arguments out of context on a blog.

    http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8139

    Hope that helps. God Bless.

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