Does prayer show a lack of faith?

I’ve been having a series of back and forth tweets with Christians on prayer. I was struck by how many contradictions people who believe in intercessionary prayer are able to turn a blind eye to.

For example, the belief that God is omniscient, omnipresent and omnibenevolent means that He is always going to do whatever He feels is in your benefit and that, as a person of faith in Him, despite that these ways might not immediately seem to be stacked in your favour, you should accept that He knows what is best and accept whatever is thrown at you, safe in the knowledge that the big guy is taking care of it.

Praying that He change these meticulously planned events in your life, just at the moment your puny brain realises you’re being screwed, seems like an awful lack of faith to me. It’s tantamount to politely reminding God that He’s been standing on your foot for the last 20 years, without wanting to sound ungrateful for the reinforced shoes.

Prayer also seems to assume that God is absentminded, with regard to events in your life which are important to you. The idea that He will somehow forget what you want in your life, during that important job interview, flat out contradicts the idea that He, “knows every hair on your head”.

Of course, a good test of prayer would be for the believer to try not praying at all, previous to an important event and then see if it turns out exactly as they would have hoped it would, regardless. Of course this too would be interpreted as His guiding influence, no matter what the outcome, such is the hermetically sealed faith in faith which we’ve talked about at length elsewhere on this blog–but I struggle to think of a better way to demonstrate to someone who is caught within this kind of non-thinking, just how close minded they have become, while believing they are acting in the complete opposite.

There’s no polite way to say this, but the objectivity which would be necessary for the believer to truly view their own spirituality as the misnomer for intuitive superstition that it is, is asking a little too much of the average Christian, but only in the same way it would be difficult to be confident of your results were you to ask for the same separation between influence and inspiration of an artist, or the difference between drive and passion in an athlete, for example.

These are merely labels we give to emotions; facets of our personality where the line of demarkation is our ego and our protective self interest. Prayer seems to float above these projections of our inner cinema, like a conduit between the projectionist and the actors in the movie. Prayer is the illusion of being in control of something for which there is, in reality, no control whatsoever, despite a wish so strong that this were not the case, that this very disconnectedness between our ego and the outside world, becomes an article of faith by which the believer reinforces their biases towards what is, in fact, a completely unrealistic set of expectations.

EDIT: I made a short animation on this topic. I’m teaching myself Motion 3D

34 comments on “Does prayer show a lack of faith?

  1. My few quick thoughts about prayer:
    * I struggle prayer, not only taking time to do it, but also in understanding how it ‘works’
    * I’ve been taught not to pray for my will, but for God’s will (Jesus prayed this exactly in the Garden in Gethsemane)
    * I shouldn’t ask for ask for God to change the world for me, but to change me for the world
    * That said, it is okay to express our desires to God in prayer (Jesus also prayed this in Gethsemane)
    * Prayer is more about changing us, then about changing God
    * Prayer is as much about listening as it about ‘speaking’
    * Prayer should also be filled with praise and gratitude for God, not just request / desires. (Most prayers in the Bible reflect this)

  2. Appreciate this John, but again (without wanting to sound obtuse) this doesn’t really answer the question of why pray in the first place, if God’s will is (from your perspective) entirely arbitrary?

    If by asking to be moulded you are asking for God to do what He intends to do regardless of your will, surely you are underscoring your fear that His will might run contrary to your freewill (which you presumably also say comes from Him)? Otherwise there would be no need to pray for the temporary suspension of physical reality to favour the will of the individual, merely that His will be done.

    I’m glad you see that there is a fundamental problem with the idea of requesting for the indulgence of that which is deaf to precisely these kinds of special appeals, if He is to remain omniscient, omnipresent and omnibenevolent.

    Logical paradox of these kinds are something of a cornerstone to so many aspects of religious faith, which the believer is required to ignore, I hope that by my genuinely asking (as opposed to blankly asserting) how, from a metaphysical point of view, the faithful get around these problems, day to day, that I make a valid point clear; that intercessionary prayer is, by definition, an admission of uncertainty.

    Again, I am aware of the various tracts in apologetics which elegantly side-step this problem, such as you point out with regard to gratitude and prayer as praise–but it is interesting to me that, despite the obviousness of the problem with regard to the importance placed upon prayer in every world religion, it never seems to cause pause for thought among those who genuinely seek spiritual togetherness, independently of the organised church religion they might happen to observe for traditional and cultural reasons, that prayer might in fact be the exact opposite of that which is to be observed, if the believer is to advance upon true self-awareness.

    Could it in fact be that prayer is so perfectly ineffectual as a means of internal contemplation, precisely because it so closely mimics a true communion with the externalised ego, that the only way to achieve what the religious seek, is to abandon all preconceptions about how that might be achieved, even if that means setting aside childish things, such as man in the sky father figures and other anthropomorphisations of what are in reality entirely natural phenomena?

  3. God’s complete will is unknown to me, that is different than arbitrary. God’s will isn’t without underlying principle or logic. It is only my understanding (or lack there of) that often makes God’s will seem or feel arbitrary. My wife has an excellent blog about this http://humjah.com/224

    One step in better understanding God’s will and making it seem less arbitrary is to understand that everything that happens in this world isn’t God’s will. God’s perfect plan in this world is only seen we choose to follow His will. Everything else is a consequence of living in a fallen world. (It rains on the just and the unjust). It isn’t God’s will that newborns die, and Joseph Kony lives.

    Through prayer and medication God can reveal his will to me, and when I love him I want to spend time with him telling him so. This is why I pray, not “to advance upon true self-awareness” I’m to self-aware as is. I don’t to focus more on me. I need to focus on God, and how it wants to use me to help his world.

  4. I know you’re only trying to be honest, John, but stating in your opening paragraph that you do not know God’s will, only to immediately assert in the following paragraph that you do, however, know what God does not want, is rather telling of the split personality inherent to religious close-mindedness I was attempting to illustrate.

    I am aware that no-one can know God’s will just as you must be aware of the compelling evidence which would suggest that this is because there is no God to show a clear will in the first place. If there were, on the evidence, it is increasingly obvious that He would appear to behave exactly like a God which does not care about suffering or the will of His creation, hence the assertion in my original reply that He is not omnibenevolent and therefore does not resemble the Jeudo-Christian definition of Yahweh. Therefore the bible is not inerrant.

    What you appear to be saying about His will, although I welcome any clarification of this you wish to post (including the typo of using the word Medication instead of Meditation) is that because you don’t know and can’t know what it is, it is better to assume that His plans revolve around the same Jeudo-Christian definition of Yahweh we’ve already established behaves exactly as if he does not exist, than it is to be truly open minded about the evidence which contradicts deism in favour of naturalistic causality–which just so happens to be the only kind of reality we can prove exists, without invoking unfalsifiable supernaturalism.

    I need to focus on God, and how it wants to use me to help his world.

    Again this perfectly examples the logical paradox I outlined above. Rather tellingly this is further demonstrated by your misunderstanding of what I meant by “self awareness”. It is not the personal self or the outward presentation layer of who you are to the rest of the world, that projects your inner desires onto the perfect blank canvas of infinite possibility and calls it God, it is your hidden unknown aspect which enables this externalisation of the ego to take place. You are God. That is to say, your definition of what God is ceases to exist at the moment a true understanding of yourself, on a sub-subconscious level, goes the way of all flesh.

    The continuation of a vague approximation of your definition of God, as realised by others of your faith, is as insignificant to me as it is to you. Religion simply papers over the cracks in this facade and calls that the true interface with a creator. It asserts on no greater authority than the privately revealed here-say of long dead kingships, that all attempts to explain spirituality in another vocabulary, outside of that which certain holy books say it’s OK to read from, is a path away from that which we all seek, regardless of our credulity towards the afterlife, or miracles, or books of plagiarised Pagan astrology myths, or folkloristic hero warrior gods, et cetera, etc..

  5. I didn’t say God’s will is unknowable, only his complete will for everything. We can know God’s will. He wants us to know his will so we can obey it.

    It is at times difficult, if not impossible, to know why God’s will is what it is. Because we don’t / can’t know why it may seem a arbitrary or even cruel.

    If God is all knowing, and I am not, then by definition I can not know everything He does. He can not explain everything to me. At some point I have to lean on faith to fill the gap between my limited knowledge and his full knowledge.

    Even if I could know everything, and thus understand why , under what rules or law does God have to reveal the why to me. If he expects me to obey, then he has to tell me his will, but he is under no obligation to explain why .

    My western upbringing must be giving me a difficult time understanding what you mean by “self awareness” That will take time to chew on.

    I do think, God will isn’t that we focus on self at all, he can take care of us. How does he take care of us? (I’m glad you asked;) ) He uses others in our lives to take care of us. So we should focus on being the ‘others’ in everyone else’s lives by allowing God to use us to take care of them. There is no self awareness here.

    This is why we use the term ‘Born again’ We’ve died to the old way of life, and be born again to a new life in Christ. We die to self.

    John

    PS Sorry about all the typos, I get too excited when I type sometimes.

  6. John, you do NOT need to “lean on faith to fill the gap between my limited knowledge and his full knowledge”. Because His knowledge is your knowledge. In the beginning man created God.

    You are as capable of understanding the true majesty of the universe, as revealed by a critical study of the evidence, as anyone else. You choose, however, to assume that without a framework for understanding based upon a certain kind of biblical literalism, there is no understanding to be had worth having; that without the social construct, the institution, the church, the people, the group solidarity, any interpretation of the evidence which leads to a description of natural phenomena that does not superimpose a design analogy, must be therefore be incorrect, regardless of the facts.

    Hence, you channel your understanding of everything which you believe to be true through a mechanism which, by definition, utterly suffocates true objectivity.

    I think you give an extremely generous definition of what being a born again Christian means in practical terms. If every evangelical in America truly believed in the teachings of Christ, they would kick the money lenders out of the temple quicker than you can say Intelligent Design is for ignorant lunatics. This does not happen. Nor is it likely to any time soon.

    The fact of the matter is, none of the politics which are played out in the name of the faith you and millions of honest hard working trustworthy people genuinely believe is based upon the truth, has anything to do with ending poverty, destroying weapons of mass distraction, educating the poor, decreasing dependancy on fossil fuels, preventing HIV AIDS, cancelling third-world debt or, indeed, doing anything even approaching what Jesus would do in the same situation.

    There are, I agree, many examples of people of good faith doing everything they can to help the poor and work with governments to bring about change in a system which made so much of the world subjugated with crippling debt, famine and an under-investment in health education. But these efforts are easily matched by organisations whose founding principals are entirely secular. There is no moral imperative which says that in order to be a good person doing the right thing, you must accept that the only way in which the creator of the entire universe can express his love for us is to instigate the blood sacrifice of His own son at the hands of bronze-age goat herders, after 4 billion years of complete indifference as to our fate.

  7. So you argument is that I’m some how biassed and you are some how are not?

    We are all biassed, I am, and so are you. We have to deal with that.

    Also, just as you said you weren’t Marxist or socialist, so I shouldn’t put you under the same atheist umbrella as Karl Marx. I too can apply sub-labels to separate myself from failures of Christianity you’ve listed. I try not to lump all atheist together, I ask you offer me the same considerations.

    I get my understanding of being born agin from http://bit.ly/xtpdI (Mark 8:34-35)

    To address the failures of people who have claimed the name of Christ.

    1) There is no requirement to claim the a theology (or lack there of), so it is easy for anyone to falsely do so for their own reasons. Noting stops me from claiming to be an atheist, starting a racist website, all just to give atheist a bad name, or just for fun, whatever

    2) What institution hasn’t failed at: ending poverty, destroying weapons of mass distraction, educating the poor, decreasing dependancy on fossil fuels, preventing HIV AIDS*, or canceling third-world debt

    3) The Church (Christianity, Christ followers what ever you want to call them) have never been perfect, or should ever claimed to be. Many of the New Testament books were letters written to address problems in the Church. Even the church leaders weren’t immune. When Paul wasn’t arguing with Peter, he is banishing John Mark and Barnabas from his trips, only to reunite with them later. When dealing with people (or institutions there of) perfection is the enemy of good.

    4) Individually Christians shouldn’t claim to be perfect either. We are fallen humans. This is why we need grace. Not only should we not claim to be perfect, we shouldn’t even claim to be better then anyone, including non-Christians. We’ve done nothing to earn God’s grace. I’m not better then you, you are not better then me. The only difference is I’ve accepted the grace God has offered. This grace is offered to everyone, including you. You can accept this grace, but that’s totally between you and God.

    Which leads me to my last point, I have no allusions I’m going to ‘convert’ you or anyone to believing in God. My instruction from the Bible is to ‘go and tell’ that’s it. It isn’t up to me to convert or win anyone over. Which is great because that frees me to discuss these issues with you without any stress of ‘winning you over’ I enjoy this debate and hope we can keep it up.

    Thanks for the forum.

    *abstinence until a faithful monogamous marriage would end all STD’s (but I don’t think that is likely to happen, just saying)

  8. Abstinence didn’t work for the virgin Mary, so I think it’s a bit much to expect anyone else to use it as a means of contraception, but I digress.

    This original post was on prayer and how, if it worked, famine, poverty, disease, suffering, America’s got talent and republicans wouldn’t be allowed to happen–therefore God either doesn’t exist, doesn’t listen to prayers or He behaves as if he doesn’t exist and doesn’t intervene where the moral obligation upon anyone capable of interceding is to do exactly that. Therefore He is not omnibenevolent, omnipresent or omniscient and the bible definition of Yahweh is simply wrong.

    The question, then, still stands. Why do you pray and who to? The first answer to NOT use biblical quotes or “what He tells me to do” unfalsifiable conjecture wins a weekend for two in Norway–the country with the lowest crime figures in the whole of Europe, less than 3% of the population below the poverty line, the lowest teenage pregnancy rates anywhere in the world, the highest full time employment in Europe and where less than 14% of the population regularly attend church.

  9. So prayer is only effective if it works like a genie in a bottle and we get what ever we pray for? Have you ever notice that all those fairy tales and movies* revolve around the moral ‘Be careful what you wish for’? What if I pray that God should use all the surplus of US funds to cure canner, and you pray for God to use all surplus US funds to feed the world? What should God do? Which will save most lives? How do we measure saved lives. Is saving the life of an infant worth more then saving the life of a octogenarian because the infant is likely to live longer? If we feed everyone or cure cancer do we run the risk of over population? There are a million more consequences that would have to be thought out.

    It is easy for us to ‘Monday morning quarterback’ and say God should do this or do that, but what are the consequences for each of those actions we choose for God to do.

    How do we know given all the possible outcomes that the way the world is right now is ‘as good as it gets’? We know we can’t see all possible outcomes, but an all knowing God could. Then by what standard do we judge how good things are?

    Can limited knowledge beings know what all this issues are, especially compared to an all knowing God. Maybe allowing free will is very important, more important then we can understand.

    This gets at the heart of why your argument is illogical. You claim that an all knowing God should know to behave better. You in your limited knowledge claim to know better then a God that has to be all knowing for you claim to work.

    Then you somehow where given or made a moral standard that is greater then an all knowing God. If you have a moral standard that is higher then an all knowing God, I would like to know where you got that standard.

    Keep in mind, I’m not the one saying the God in you example is all knowing here, you are. He has to be all knowing in your example in order for him to know better, but yet do otherwise.

    I’m not saying you believe in an all knowing God, I know you don’t. But that for you judgement against my God to stand, he must be all knowing, otherwise he can’t be held accountable for his mistakes.

    * Only 80% of my theology comes from movies like Bruce Almighty ;-)

  10. Maybe I’ve dodged your question. Sorry.

    I can answer you question about prayer, but it will get us no closer to answering the other issues you bring up. I’ve tried to stay on a ‘logical’ level, because I feel be both respect logic and it would be a common ground for us to meet. But truth be told there is a lot about my faith that is beyond logic. I hesitate to say illogical because that has the connotation of being irrational and I don’t mean that at all.

    Here is what I mean by ‘beyond logic’ There is little logical reason for a firefighter to risk his life to save another. He might save another’s life, but he puts both their lives on the line doing so. If the goal is to ‘save lives’ he could save he own life by not going into the fire. But the firefighter risks his life anyway. Surely why this might not be logical behavior, it isn’t irrational behavior.

    Why prayer might not be logical, it isn’t irrational.

    Ok enough dodging ;-)

    Why do I pray?

    I pray because I’m lost in this world without God. Praying is an excellent gift given to us by God. If you believed in a God that created everything, and that God loves you and wants to communicate with you, why wouldn’t you. I pray for the same reason I talk to my wife, I love them and they love me. I do not pray expecting anything in return. I don’t expect God to grant my wishes. However, when I do pray I do feel closer to God. I feel I understand his will for my life better. It is easier to put things into prospective.

    Why do I fail to pray as often as I should? (see my 1st post)
    It is easy not to. Sometimes I lack the faith to believe that my prayer makes any difference to me, anyone else or God. When I pray, I’m often convicted of my sins. Sins I would rather keep on committing then dealing with. Sometimes this causes a feed back loop. I don’t want to be convicted for not praying so (10) I don’t pray which makes me not want to be convicted for not praying (goto 10)… If most Christians were honest they probably say they fall into the same trap.

    Should I pray because God told me to?
    Not really. I should pray because I want to. When I realized how much he loves me, how awesome he is, what he has done for me, I should be egger to pray. “But alas, Horatio, my heart weighs heavy for the bloody acts sprung forth from my rage.” ;-) Or I just fail to live up to even my own expectations for myself.

  11. This is unfair to say this that video is directed at me. I’ve stated that I’m under no allusions to covert anyone to my beliefs. And I only state my belief here because I feel invited to do so. As soon as I’m unwelcome I will leave.

    I’ve also never said it takes as much faith to believe in science as it does in God. I’ve also never said that my view were superior because they require faith.

    I’m a student and fan of science, you should see my bookshelf and tivo now playing list. (Free plug for James Burke’s Connections series here http://bit.ly/GQlq0 )

    Thoughts from the video as I watch a second time.

    1) While I agree science doesn’t require faith, unless you world view includes a lot of of ‘I don’t yet know’s you are take some things on faith. I’m saying an agnostic view is more ‘scientific’ then an atheist because it says I don’t know if there is a god: it can’t be proved via empirical evidence. An atheist takes on faith there isn’t a god because science can’t prove it with empirical evidence. Another example is science can say ‘It is likely there is dark matter, but we don’t yet know for sure because we like the empirical evidence” Science can’t say dark matter exists because it is the only makes our equations work. To do so would be taking dark matter on faith. (For fun you can also replace the last one with higgs particle)

    2) At some point it seems to suggest us of organized faith are luddite, but maybe I’m just defensive at that point.

    3) Rednex – Cotton Eyed Joe is awesome, I forgot about that. I’ve got to find the mp3 now.

    4) Micro evolution (no bigger then a fruit fly) is a fact. Macro evolution is not. It lacks “empirical evidence through observation measurement and experimentation ” To believe in macro evolution is to take something on faith.

    5) Scientist are generally open minded until it comes to getting grants to fund their research versus someone else’s. To pretend that science happens in a vacuum free of politics, religion, and self interests is naive at best. This video makes the mistake of thing since the definition of science is “acquistion and application of knowledge …” that scientist have some sort of super power that frees them for their own biases.

    6) I have no problem with ‘counter intuitive’ I believe radiation that causes cancer can also cure it. I believe in loving a God that allows bad things to happen. I believe in a God that loves me even though I reject him every day. I believe that on one level it is okay to be a hypocrite (meaning I believe we should all strive to live a perfect life, even though I know I never will, to strive for perfection is a good thing) Do you have a problem with counter intuitive?

    7) The use of the word gullible is uncalled for. My faith isn’t without reason.

    8) I understand that my certainty of God is no evidence for you.

    9) The validity of the Bible is a rabbit trail all it’s own. 1 quick point. The Bible can’t be totally discounted because it is a book about faith, any more then we can discount what we know about the Aztec’s and Egyptions based on the religious drawings / writings. Just because a book is religious doesn’t mean it can be discounted as a source of historical knowledge.

    10) I feel there is some evidence for God, but not conclusive evidence.

    11) I believe what I believe is truth, and truth is a singular concept (I was born on May 15th 1978, it isn’t plausible me to be born on May 16th 1979). If what I believe is true and that truth is singular, then it is only reasonable that I believe my beliefs are the only plausible beliefs. However I can respect other peoples beliefs, and I think everyone should.

    12) I never claim to have conclusive evidence (to do so would remove free will) But to say my faith as NO evidence isn’t fair either.

    13) I like cake

    14) I don’t impose my belief on anyone. You are free to believe anything you want. I’m free to express my beliefs, just as you are. The best part is we don’t have to listen to each other unless we want to.

    15) I don’t have a problem with Macro evolution being taught in the classroom, but I’ll turn the question around. Why does expressing Intelligent Design in the classroom make some atheist angry? (I don’t know if it make you angry or not) Macro evolution is plausible to you, Intelligent design is plausible to me. Neither are backed by ” empirical evidence through observation measurement and experimentation ”

    Ok, I’ve got to get away from the itnernets before my wife disowns me. :D

    Good Night!

  12. John, John, John. Stop. Hammer Time.. what? No, I mean stop right there. You see what I did there? As soon as the word ‘stop’ came up, I recalled a familiar response. Why? Because I’m an M.C. Hammer fan? No. Because I have associated the word ‘stop’ with a familiar phrase from popular culture which usually follows it and at the appropriate time, without my pre-planned intention, it pops out right on cue.

    Don’t believe me? OK. Don’t, whatever you do, think of a black cat. Do not, repeat do NOT think of a black cat, purring on your lap, right now. You see the problem, John? You thought of a cat and I know you did, not on faith that you read my words in English, but because you are an endorphin machine waiting to be programmed with instructions. We all are.

    The video you found to be such an affront was meant as a demonstration of how we react to this call and response pre-programming, when the fact of it is explained to us. That you interpreted it as an insult to your intelligence, or that it was aimed at you specifically, as opposed to the other readers who follow these threads but do not comment until they feel they can add to the debate, is not intended to trick you, or fool you, or make you appear foolish, or scam you into inadvertently following “an atheist agenda”. There is no such thing. There is only that which can be proven to be true, regardless of opinion.

    It is not my opinion that Macro Evolution and Micro Evolution are subject to the same natural processes as those which are described in Darwinian Natural Selection. It is a fact. One which is backed up by a mountain of peer reviewed, unambiguous evidence. The suggestion that one is a fully explained phenomena and one is not is an illusion; a wedge driven into the scientific debate by people who want to sell more books to honest, ordinary, easily upset, faithful in faith, believers in belief, people like you.

    The Discovery Institute, who literally published a document entitled The Wedge Strategy, is one of many corporations you might like to find out about for yourself. Deliberately and wilfully planting utterly false ideas into the public arena and using the religious community as a shield from paying taxes on their assets and investments, to hide from the simple challenge of any truly scientific idea which is to present the facts for peer review. They have never published any scientific documents of this kind, despite an open invitation to do so of several years standing.

    Theme parks, movie deals, book tours, inspirational speakers. Distractions from the truth. Side-show freaks with nothing to back up their entirely embarrassing claims except folklore made real in the stultified imagination of their faithful followers.

    Lee Strobel, Ray Comfort, Ken Ham and the Answers In Genesis mob. Cleverly crafted products designed and marketed at a ready-made flock of sheep. 57 channels of good, clean, God fearing entertainment. Pay nothing for 6 months. 0% interest. The world’s favourite bank. Trouble sleeping? The Walmart Family. Haliburton. The Bilderberg Group. Fox News. Sky News. The Carlyle Group. 9/11. Iran. North Korea. Endless distractions from everything but the elephant in the room everyone has grown so tired of ignoring they’ve almost convinced themselves it doesn’t really exist–but I know it exists, because countless billions like me who are still clinging to the temperate chucks of vegetation left on this queer fucking lump of space rock are staring at it right in the face and we know it’s name is the truth.

    You’re not alone, John. None of you are. We care about you more than you know, but you have to wake up from this illusion for yourself. No-one can do it for you. Not Sarah Palin, not Deborah Drapper, Ron Paul, Rush Limbaugh, none of them. All we can do is share what we know–what we understand to be the unambiguous, cold, hard, unemotional, honest truth. The rest is up to you. If you want to believe that the most important scientific proofs we will ever learn about are, quote, “not backed by empirical evidence through observation measurement and experimentation”, that is your choice. The facts do not suggest you are right, but your capacity to believe whatever you want to believe in the face of evidence to the contrary was never in any doubt.

    What it is important to note is that you have not yet answered the original question. Why do you pray and profess in immediate contradiction of that appeal that God’s will be done? Does this discrepancy trouble you? Is it not, in your words, beyond logic that certain things are counter intuitive? Well then what is the metaphysical explanation for this lack of faith in His divine plan? Do you think I am the devil for noticing it? Is that what free thinking is to Christians? An evil perpetrated by the lost and the twisted? Homosexuals perhaps? Liberals? Old Europe? Socialists? Pick a label any label and stick it in the middle of my head–I don’t care, they’re not my labels.

    Why do you think that God would allow such creatures as I if he is all powerful? Wouldn’t he just rearrange my atoms until my cognitive framing biases towards rationalism became swayed by what the religious seem to think is a more compelling, more powerful truth? So powerful that a mere man can disprove it–and not just that, explain it to another of his breed, via a mechanical manifestation of those same scientific values you so readily question on one hand and accept as common place on the other. The very screen which you are staring at now would not exist, were the physical laws as described by Einstein as flexible as you suggest they are in regard to evolved life. Energy and entropy, John. E=MC2.

    Admitting you don’t know, is honest. Admitting you don’t know, but you know a creator of the universe who does, is arrogant and false. Religion fuzzes the lines between lies and reality so that anyone who follows it is utterly incapable of knowing who to trust, other than that which is by definition beyond their examination, of whom they are told to believe in more than anything else. Very convenient, wouldn’t you say?

    https://howgoodisthat.wordpress.com/2009/05/14/a-250-million-year-old-fossilised-tree-stump-in-the-grounds-of-a-church/

  13. Oh I’m Neo and you are Morpheus. I’m trapped in the matrix and don’t know it. This is your argument? You argument is again, that I’m some who biased, blinded, fooled, and you are not, that you are enlightened and I am not. Since I’m the biased blind fool, no argument I have is worth examining.

    Are you really open minded? Or is it easier to label be as a mindless shill for a ‘vast right wing conspiracy’ so my points can be easily ignored.

    If science and truth are on your side they should stand up to arguments, you shouldn’t have to hide behind putting me and my beliefs in a box/label.

    Please lead this this biased blind fool to your mountain of peer reviewed, unambiguous evidence for Macro evolution. This mountain shall be my salvation, it shall open my eyes and let me see. It will be my red pill.

  14. Again, if you think scientific proofs don’t stand up to scrutiny there is nothing I can say which would explain to you why you’re wrong. You have decided, have you not, exactly in the way I have already explained, that evidence which contradicts your preconceptions, no matter how compelling, will never satisfy you. You are so afraid of being wrong you’re afraid to learn why.

    It is not my job to explain why Discovery Institute sponsored fiction does not stand up to examination, it is your job to explain why you believe you have evidence which contradicts Darwinian Natural Selection. Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. You know that, Answers In Genesis know that as does every single actor in this charade, but you choose instead to erect straw man nonsense about those lefty atheists and their pesky “facts” and trouble making “logic” as if your not understanding something immediately makes anything you do say a valid alternative hypothesis.

    Just because you have had it repeated to you over and over again that Macroevolution is problematic does not make it so. It merely means that you have been told this is true despite that it is not. Unless, that is, you have compelling data which undermines the fields of palaeontology, archeology, anthropology and geology–each of which is supported by mutually corroborative and yet ENTIRELY INDEPENDENT evidence. In that case, as I have said, you are welcome at any time to present it for peer review. It’s as simply as that. Why does this not happen? If there is an alternative to evolution, why is it only revealed to those who do not understand how evidence is scientifically acquired?

    Please also read the link below and my reply to Andrew Drapper on the Stanhope Fossilised Tree which contains an extract from my book on Ernst Haeckel, as an explanation as to why the evolution denial movement has latched on to certain matters of fact, more than others.

    https://howgoodisthat.wordpress.com/2009/05/14/a-250-million-year-old-fossilised-tree-stump-in-the-grounds-of-a-church/#comment-3705

  15. I’m still catching up on with wiki article and video, but please let me know where I’ve sited Discovery Institute, or stated I was a young earth creationist?

    I ask you please to stop putting other people words in my mouth.

    You are quick to talk about how closed minded I am, but that isn’t true at all. Other the past few years, I’ve due to science I’ve changed my views on creation (I’m no longer young earth), and accepted micro evolution as fact. On the political front I’m no longer against gay marriage. On the social front, I’m fine with drinking alcohol (not to excess) I do change and adapt parts of my world view when I am convinced.

    When was the last time you changed your view on something?

  16. Hi John. I keep hearing references to “micro-” and “macro-” evolution, but I’m not clear on what these terms mean. They appear to be used as categories, and the implication seems to be that there is some sort of distinction between them, but I am unfamiliar with the nature of the dividing line. Do you know what property distinguishes one type from the other?

    You seem to know what these terms mean, so perhaps you could illustrate how this works. For example, do you have an opinion regarding which, if any, of the following pairs could not possibly have had a common ancestor within the confines of “micro” evolution?

    gerbil / chinchilla
    manx cat / bobcat
    woodpecker / parrot
    hummingbird / penguin
    chihuahua / panda
    orangutan / gibbon
    fish / frog
    opossum / kangaroo
    hippo / whale
    mouse / bison
    flamingo / box turtle

    Are all of those in the same category? If so, which? If they are a mix of micro and macro, how is it determined which is which?

  17. *Let it be known I admit when I’m wrong. I was wrong to limit micro evolution to the fruit fly*

    I’m sure you’ve looked them up on wikipedia, so I won’t quote that here.

    The short answer is I believe that that life can and does evolve. I don’t believe in a common descent. Just because fossils are found to be similar to two different species, doesn’t mean that is a ‘link’ between the two. They might be, but it doesn’t mean it is fact that they are.

    My main problem with with common descent is time. 550 Million years isn’t enough time for all the random genetic mutations in animals to form.

    Also I don’t have a huge problem with people who believe in common decent, but they need to be honest and say that it doesn’t answer the question of origin of life.

    Abiogenesis has it problems, and is a theory at best.

  18. (J)”The short answer is I believe that that life can and does evolve. I don’t believe in a common descent.”

    I don’t rule out the possibility of multiple points of origin for life on Earth. But I think it highly unlikely that independent lines could have, for example, both independently produced vertebrates. So for large groups with distinctive suites of characteristics like that, I think the odds strongly favor common descent, at least within such groups. But my position can be easily demolished by counterexample–like, for example, if you can think of any two vertebrates which appear not to have had any common ancestors.

    (J) Just because fossils are found to be similar to two different species, doesn’t mean that is a ‘link’ between the two. They might be, but it doesn’t mean it is fact that they are.

    True enough, as a general principle. And we know of many cases where the physics of an environment has selected for morphological convergences. Fish, reptiles, and mammals have all had streamlined aquatic forms with fin-like structures, for instance. But in cases where there are a large number of distinctive similarities, the odds strongly favor relatedness over convergence. It is, of course, physically possible that a very similar life form was genetically engineered from scratch by visiting aliens, or such, but unsupported, elaborate, ad-hoc explanations can be concocted for almost any state of affairs. What we know from past experience is that, as a group, such explanations have had an extremely poor track record. So we generally consider it more conservative and prudent to confine ourselves to the simplest and most mundane explanations possible in any given situation, going to the more exotic explanations only when forced to.

    (J) My main problem with with common descent is time. 550 Million years isn’t enough time for all the random genetic mutations in animals to form.

    Our best indications are that life has existed on Earth for billions of years. The last 550 million only represents the time since life developed the harder parts needed for somewhat decent fossil preservation. Life in the first three billion years or so was very poorly recorded, and probably had a slower rate of change. When you have only a small amount of genetic code to work with, survivable mutations will be very rare and beneficial mutations even moreso. But the more complex the organism, the greater the mutation rate, and the greater the survival rate across all mutations. It’s kind of like the genetic counterpart to technology. The more things we invent, the more building blocks we have with which to invent more things (hence the extremely rapid pace of technology today when compared to, say, 3000 years ago). So the past 550 million years probably represents only the tail end of an accelerating rate-of-change curve.

    Is an expansion of timeframe all that is needed to address your reservations, or do you feel there would not have been enough time to evolve certain aspects of modern biology, even given all the groundwork which preceded the Cambrian? If the latter, can you think of an example?

    (J) Also I don’t have a huge problem with people who believe in common decent, but they need to be honest and say that it doesn’t answer the question of origin of life.

    Speaking for myself, easily granted. In fact, at this point, I don’t even see how an examination of evolution can answer the question of terrestrial life origins.

    (J) Abiogenesis has it problems, and is a theory at best.

    I was not aware it was a theory at all. I have only known of it as a working hypothesis (a conjecture taken to be true for the purposes of examining the implications of that), but I’ve heard of multiple theories currently in development to try to come up with a plausible physical model for how it might have come about. There is also the spermogenesis conjecture that life on Earth came from elsewhere, but that one is harder to explore from here on Earth.

  19. Hey Nick,

    Welcome to the “Weren’t we talking about prayer? Oh well” Club

    Membership requirements: None ;-)

    (N). So the past 550 million years probably represents only the tail end of an accelerating rate-of-change curve.

    That sounds convincing and all until you realized that 550 million years ago = no animals. 250 million years later we have invertebrates to mammals and “everything” in between (fish, amphibians, dinosaurs). In the next 200 million years we only evolve more complex mammals and add birds.

    I admit I don’t know how to measure evolutionary change, but this sounds like a slowing down to me.

    Playing my own ‘devil’s advocate’ here I would say 200 million years is a rounding error on a 4 Billion year timescale.

  20. Nick,

    If you rate of evolutionary change is right, I can’t wait until my great grandkids give birth to teleporting super-babies ;-)

    j

  21. (J) Welcome to the “Weren’t we talking about prayer? Oh well” Club

    When prayer is based on belief which is based on reasoning which rests on a given understanding of facts, it isn’t entirely off topic to examine the quality of that factual foundation. Indeed, I thought that was the context of your challenge to show you the evidence for macro-evolution.

    But perhaps it would have been more orderly if I had first asked about the relationship between evidence and prayer. Does truth matter when it comes to prayer? Do you believe prayer is always harmless–irrespective of whether it has any efficacy, or whether it might be based on mistaken beliefs? In that event, the only justification needed for it is whatever enjoyment or benefit the praying person believes it has, and considerations of truth become academic (perhaps even quaint).

    Or do you feel that prayer is more than just feelgood meditation–that it relates to an actual otherworldly reality and that it has real and important consequences? Can a prayer do harm? Can you pray for the wrong thing, or pray in the wrong way, or pray to the wrong god? Because if prayer can be harmful if done badly, then the truth matters and I think that would be an important thing to know about prayer–which then goes to the question of how we can determine the facts about prayer. (Both with respect to establishing the reality of the system which gives rise to prayer, as well as the reality of the results of prayer.)

    So, does it matter to your belief system whether or not so-called macro-evolution is true? For millions of Christians, it’s a critical issue because they depend on humans having been specially created in their god’s image, in an actual paradise, with an actual fall from grace, for which an actual redeemer was needed. Such believers cling tenaciously to the hope and faith that they are participating in the unfolding of a divine plan–and it is hard to see any plan in the ramblings of the fossil record, with all its catastrophes and dead ends, and extravagant time-scales which reduce all human history to a tiny blip.

    [(N). So the past 550 million years probably represents only the tail end of an accelerating rate-of-change curve.]
    (J) That sounds convincing and all until you realized that 550 million years ago = no animals.

    The Stirling Range fossil tracks strongly suggest that something about 2mm wide was scudding around in the mud about 1.2 billion years ago. We haven’t found a corresponding animal, but fossilization of an animal with no hard parts would probably have been very rare, and very few rocks of that age are still intact and currently accessible to us. The fact we have not found a fossil animal from a billion years ago (yet) does not warrant the conclusion that no animals existed then, especially when we do have fossil indications of something moving around.

    (J) 250 million years later we have invertebrates to mammals and “everything” in between (fish, amphibians, dinosaurs). In the next 200 million years we only evolve more complex mammals and add birds. I admit I don’t know how to measure evolutionary change, but this sounds like a slowing down to me.

    What you are pointing out there is that the fundamental divisions came before the finer subdivisions–which is not really surprising. But those early divergences in simpler forms were probably functionally minor at first, gaining greater importance with the accumulation of later features. The life of Tribachidium (a trilaterally symmetrical bottom-dwelling pancake animal) was probably not greatly different from Dickinsonia (a marginally bilateral pancake animal with segments radiating from a central line). But the physics of locomotion would later come to greatly favor bilateral symmetry. From Dickinsonia to Pikaia, there is some elongation, better locomotion, a difference in segment arrangement, and a more pronounced central line, and some slug-like sensory appendages at one end, and that much development took 20 maybe 30 million years. Then to get from Pikaia to a primitive fish with no jaw took another 80-90 million years. Compare that to what happened with placental mammals since their last common ancestor, roughly a hundred million years ago. Starting with a little shrew-like animal–tiny in size, but already advanced in complexity–we got forms as diverse as porcupine, walrus, giraffe, bat, gorilla, whale, mole, moose, panda, armadillo, and elephant, to name a few. That, to me, looks like a much more dramatic pace of morphological transformation.

    But the critical point, which you noted yourself, is the proliferation of the “between” animals. That’s what you get when each new animal form is a minor modification on a prior form.

    (J) If you rate of evolutionary change is right, I can’t wait until my great grandkids give birth to teleporting super-babies.

    Is that what you want? Would it need to be by evolution? If we gain the ability to engineer super-babies for your descendants, would that not be even better?

    And when we’ve replaced ourselves with superior beings which really are the result of intelligent design, will they still have need of god-worship?

    One last prayer question. How did you find out what Jesus prayed when he was alone in Gethsemane?

  22. (N) Or do you feel that prayer is more than just feelgood meditation–that it relates to an actual otherworldly reality and that it has real and important consequences? Can a prayer do harm? Can you pray for the wrong thing, or pray in the wrong way, or pray to the wrong god?

    Great Questions!
    It is more then feelgood meditation. It is how I communicate with God. (but from I understand from your prospective it may only seem ‘feelgood’) Are you really asking what are the consequences of my prayer? I know they have consequences for me personally, but I have no way of knowing for sure if potential outcomes are changed because of my prayer. I’m not sure how we could know since we seam to be bound to one time line in one direction.

    I don’t think prayer is or can be harmful. Prayer (to me) isn’t wishing for something(s), or some magical invocation of supernatural powers to affect the world. Prayer is me, taking the focus off of me, putting them on God. It is me communicating with God. (no I don’t hear voices). But when I take time to pray, I become more aware of God’s prospective on things. Example: I’m mad at how a friend has treated me. I pray about it. I tell God, I’m upset and hurt. God reminds me, that I wont be mad forever, that he loves that person as much as he loves me. Just as simple as that. However simple, prospective like that can change the world.

    (N)That, to me, looks like a much more dramatic pace of morphological transformation.

    This dramatic pace of morphological transformation seems to be in a particular direction. If the mutations are random shouldn’t we also have increasing numbers of dead ends. If the rate of change is increasing, it should be increasing for the failures as well as the successes. We should be finding fossil records of all sorts of evolutionary dead ends. Not there isn’t some indications dead ends, but for every success there should be many more failures. I’m not saying we should find many examples of 1 particular dead end, but a few examples of many different dead ends.

    (N) One last prayer question. How did you find out what Jesus prayed when he was alone in Gethsemane?

    I assume he told the disciples after the resurrection. (No I don’t expect you to believe that)

  23. (J) It is more then feelgood meditation. It is how I communicate with God…. Are you really asking what are the consequences of my prayer?

    What I’m trying to get at is the question of whether prayer should be evaluated on the basis of pure relativism. Do all prayers have equal status irrespective of content or religion? Does prayer have any more legitimacy than wishing upon a star? If prayer is to evade pure relativism, then there needs to be some sort of objective standard against which it can be evaluated. If prayer has consequences beyond what you could get from alternate non-prayer mental activity (meditation, introspection, wish-casting, whatever), then that could be a way to get a handle on the evaluation problem–assuming the consequences themselves have an objective component (consequences to your soul in the hereafter only moves the problem somewhere inaccessible). I’m not saying consequences are the only way to get at objective evaluation. I just don’t happen to know of another way at the moment.

    (J) I know they have consequences for me personally, but I have no way of knowing for sure if potential outcomes are changed because of my prayer. I’m not sure how we could know since we seem to be bound to one time line in one direction.

    The part that bugged me when I was a Christian was the idea that we were not only bound to one time line, but we were bound to the particular time line God chose when he decided to create this particular universe–selected, with his perfect foreknowledge, from among the infinite number of alternative universes he could have created instead. In one of his other envisioned universes I might have chosen to do something different in a given situation, but he chose not to make that universe. So it was hard to see how he didn’t make all of my choices for me from the very beginning. (I did ultimately solve this problem, but I did it the same way I solved all the other Christian problems.)

    (J) I don’t think prayer is or can be harmful. Prayer (to me) isn’t wishing for something(s), or some magical invocation of supernatural powers to affect the world. Prayer is me, taking the focus off of me, putting them on God. It is me communicating with God. (no I don’t hear voices). But when I take time to pray, I become more aware of God’s perspective on things. Example: I’m mad at how a friend has treated me. I pray about it. I tell God, I’m upset and hurt. God reminds me, that I won’t be mad forever, that he loves that person as much as he loves me.

    This is apparently not that god who concocted eternal damnation.

    (J) Just as simple as that. However simple, perspective like that can change the world.

    Do you suppose another man praying to another god could derive the same benefit?

  24. Okay, this is off-thread, but these loose ends were bugging me.

    (J) This dramatic pace of morphological transformation seems to be in a particular direction.

    The pace of change itself varies a lot and the transformations themselves are in many directions (eg. the mammal diversification already mentioned) but if you are referring to genetic complexity in general, then yes. It appears to be much easier to add to the DNA code and retain viability than it is to subtract from it and retain viability.

    And morphologically, once a useful trait has been gained, natural selection does not remove it until it becomes useless (eyes in cave-dwellers), or becomes superseded by an incompatible trait of greater usefulness (losing a pair of limbs for wings, or losing wings or legs for flippers).

    Would it be morphologically possible to have a line of descent going from, say, a rhino to a burrowing worm-like animal? Yes. But it would require a very unusual succession of selection pressures.

    (J) If the mutations are random shouldn’t we also have increasing numbers of dead ends. If the rate of change is increasing, it should be increasing for the failures as well as the successes. We should be finding fossil records of all sorts of evolutionary dead ends. Not there isn’t some indications dead ends, but for every success there should be many more failures.

    Technically, every organism which dies without leaving offspring represents a genetic dead end of some length. It may be only one generation, or, like those Yangtze soft shell turtles in China, it could be end of a line thousands of generations old.

    Fossilization can only record the branches that have visible morphological changes in the parts that will fossilize, so it misses most of the dead ends. And if it looks like you’ve found one, there’s a caveat. Sometimes, entire populations experience gradual drift. If they drift far enough, their later fossils may appear different. If an earlier form becomes a different form, does that count as a dead end?

    But in general, yes, what you describe is largely what we see. Go back to the age of trilobites, and I think the shortest trilobite branch we’ve ever found (Bumastus Trentonensis, if I’m remembering that right) was here about 20 times as long as humans have existed (as such).

    The part that may need clarifying is the contribution of mutations. In complex animals with more genetic material, the likelihood of replication errors goes up, but the likelihood of any one error producing a fatal mutation goes down. Some errors will wind up on recessive genes, or in redundant code, or will affect a non-critical body part. And if you have an unusually high number of errors randomly distributed through your genome, then each of your kids will get half, and your grandkids a quarter, etc. (on average) so any spikes tend to disperse quickly down to background levels. The downside of this is genetic diseases and death when certain combinations come together. The upside is greater genetic variability for the group, resulting in greater adaptive versatility. (The eugenicist’s dream of species purity is a formula for adaptive brittleness.)

    What you see in animals like tetrapod vertebrates, and their descendants, is not so much morphological leaps by mutation as it is change by accenting some traits, suppressing others, and changing up a few dimensions on an existing plan, and presto, new animal. Mutations are part of the mix by contributing to the variability to be selected from, but most usable mutations are minor and already dispersed long before they come into play. There may never have been a case where a complex animal made a morphological leap starting with the spontaneous appearance of a suite of beneficial mutations all in one individual. (Possible, but staggeringly unlikely.)

    >I’m not saying we should find many examples of 1 particular dead end, but a few examples of many different dead ends.

    One other problem with fossilization: it’s rare. We’ve only found like 250,000 fossil life forms so far, and there are millions of species alive right now. On average, from any given time in the past, probably more than 90% of the life forms alive then never made it into the fossil record. So the shorter and less successful the branch, the less the chance there will be any record of it.

  25. I am impressed with some people’s utter, unflappable, un-derailable determination to stick to their guns despite every possible good argument that their ‘guns’ are actually not real.

    It is amazing!

    I do realise though that taking a good, long and real look at one’s paradigm and finding it false is an immensely scary prospect.

    It is, however, quite possible and ultimately desirable, John, to ask oneself WHY one is clinging to such fantastical beliefs. What would happen to you if, for instance, you believed in yourself and your ability to manage your life without the involvement of a floaty god thingie?

    I can tell you from experience, the world does not fall apart.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s