Sunday, May 13, 2007

Soul Searching

As I continue reading "The Demon-Haunted World," by Dr. Carl Sagan, I find more and more passages worth sharing. For today, the topic of discussion is the “soul.” Nearly every religion proclaims human beings possess a spirit or a soul, a “ghost in the machine” that animates our flesh. However, this extraordinary assertion is backed by essentially no hard, scientific evidence.

What causes people to believe in a soul for which there is no hard, scientific evidence? I propose two reasons:

1. Belief is prescribed by faith. For many people, religion’s claims are assumed true, even if no supporting scientific evidence is present.

2. Belief is comforting. Many people fear the end of their own existence (and the existences of their family and friends). The notion that death is the ultimate end frightens many, and belief in an immortal soul is comforting, whether that belief is supported by scientific evidence or not.

Here is Dr. Sagan’s take:


Thus, the idea of a spiritual part of our nature that survives death, the notion of an afterlife, ought to be easy for religions and nations to sell. This is not an issue on which we might anticipate widespread skepticism. People will want to believe it, even if the evidence is meager to nil. True, brain lesions can make us lose major segments of our memory, or convert us from manic to placid, or vice versa; and changes in brain chemistry can convince us there’s a massive conspiracy against us, or make us think we hear the Voice of God. But as compelling testimony as this provides that our personality, character, memory—if you will, soul—resides in the matter of the brain, it is easy not to focus on it, to find ways to evade the weight of the evidence.


Additionally, consider the famous case of Phineas P. Gage. Gage worked in railroad construction. As a result of a freak accident, Gage suffered an atypical traumatic brain injury that wrought severe damage to parts of his brain's frontal lobes. Astonishingly, Gage emerged from the incident just fine in terms of memory, motor skills, language skills, etc. However, of all things, his personality had changed – in a most dramatic fashion.

The following quote offers details as provided by Gage's physician:


[Gage was] fitful, irreverent, indulging at times in the grossest profanity (which was not previously his custom), manifesting but little deference for his fellows, impatient of restraint or advice when it conflicts with his desires, at times pertinaciously obstinate, yet capricious and vacillating, devising many plans of future operations, which are no sooner arranged than they are abandoned in turn for others appearing more feasible. A child in his intellectual capacity and manifestations, he has the animal passions of a strong man. Previous to his injury, although untrained in the schools, he possessed a well-balanced mind, and was looked upon by those who knew him as a shrewd, smart businessman, very energetic and persistent in executing all his plans of operation. In this regard his mind was radically changed, so decidedly that his friends and acquaintances said he was 'no longer Gage.'
J. M. Harlow, 1868 (Publications of the Massachusetts Medical Society 2: pp. 339-340)


As economically summarized by Answers.com, “According to Gage's physician...whereas previously he had been hard-working, responsible and popular with the men in his charge, his personality seemed to have been radically altered after the accident.”

Through the Gage case and myriad others, science makes it quite clear that the brain is the place in which one’s personality, character and memory are stored. In regard to the “mind” vs. “matter” issue, only one conclusion can be drawn from the available scientific evidence: “Mind” is merely a self-organized emergent property of matter. In other words, the product (consciousness) is greater than the sum of its parts (billions of neurons).

Three excellent references on this point are:

"Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul," by Dr. Francis Crick. The author is a Nobel Prize-winning biochemist.

"The Quest for Consciousness," by Dr. Christof Koch. The author is a California Institute of Technology neuroscientist.

"The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature," by Dr. Steven Pinker. The author is a Harvard University professor.

If personality, character and memory all are explicable in terms of the brain, then what purpose would a soul have, anyway? Moreover, even if a soul existed, how could one possibly consider it an “afterlife” if personality, memory, etc. do not make the journey, too? After all, upon death, the brain quickly dies (more quickly than most organs, in fact), all its properties and functions rotting along with it. If there are ghosts, they do not remember a thing and lack a personality.

For those who persist in believing in the soul, I pose two closing questions:

1. How does the immaterial (soul) interact with the material (flesh)? Is there any precedent for the immaterial interacting with the material? What is the process by which this occurs (with as much specificity as possible)?

2. Is the soul falsifiable? If a notion is not falsifiable, then it’s pretty much worthless, at least scientifically speaking. What is the process by which the soul claim could be falsified (with as much specificity as possible)?

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. This evidence must be scientific, as opposed to evidence of the soft variety such as anecdotes, personal testimony and feelings. The “feeling” that one has a soul does not constitute anything even approaching convincing evidence. Innumerable children “feel” the presence of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve night, in a way very similar to how most humans "feel" as though a ghostly soul inhabits our flesh. [Neurons really are the master illusionists ever to exist.]

The soul claim truly is extraordinary, on multiple levels.

I anxiously await a mere whisper of hard, scientific evidence for the soul assertion, as do my fellows in reason.

31 Comments:

Blogger Axinar said...

Perhaps it is just a "poetic" way of describing a notion that is WAY difficult to get one's hands around.

Of course it is quite difficult to figure out if there's anything like "reincarnation", but one cannot dismiss the possibility that the same forces that led to one becomming conscious in the first place might not, through some process we don't know about yet, lead to one being conscious again. However, I don't see HOW one could have any direct memories from a "former life".

However, setting the reincarnation bit aside, one need only fool around for a while with a little program called "VMware" to realize there is a kind of "soul" that exists independently of anything physical.

For instance, in VMware you can see something like Linux interacting with hardware that isn't there at all. As much as I hate to admit it, the very first thing I thought when I first started fooling around with virtualization was "this is disembodied 'soul' of Linux" ...

10:21 PM EST  
Blogger pgc1981 said...

Jolly,

Does science 100% prove everything in this world or universe? There are plenty of things science can't prove, probably because man came up with the principles of science and man is far from perfect and will never have all the answers. How does one fully study the sole or conscience of a human since I would bet every person has a different sole or conscience? How does won explain with scientific reason or proof someone like Hitler or Ted Bundy or the man that executed those girls in Amish country back in October after living a normal life (married with children, wife said he’s not the same man I married) or any other person who has committed hennas crimes over the course of history? These people are evil people and filled with evil and hatred beyond the measures of science, at least in my opinion. So how does science explain why they are so evil?

I've asked this once before and I will ask it again with a bit different approach. Do you have anything against Christians or people who believe in God? If you don't why do you feel the need to make this anti-Christian blog site? Why do you think Dawkins is spending all kinds of time and money trying to get Christian and Creation methods out of public schools here in America and in the UK? What's wrong with coexisting and letting people choose what they want to do? You don't believe in God and that's your choice and right, why do you feel the need to shed your light or Dawkins light onto others? Why not just let them live their own lives and choose what they feel like choosing? Because if Christianity is just a fairy tale like you and Tommy have expressed wouldn't you think people would find out on there own? Why should you really care what people believe overall?

3:51 PM EST  
Blogger Tommy said...

PCG writes "Because if Christianity is just a fairy tale like you and Tommy have expressed wouldn't you think people would find out on there own? Why should you really care what people believe overall?"

I believe I already dealt with this PCG, but to reiterate:

Until fairly recently in European history, it was heresy to espouse doctrines not approved by the Church. Look at the Inquisition, the trials for heresy, the extermination of the Cathars in southern France. In other words, it would have been impossible for a Richard Dawkins or even as lowly a person as myself, to publicly proclaim our beliefs.

(But PCG is like "where are your links Tommy? Where is your proof? Oh please, like I need to prove that the Cathars were exterminated or that such a thing as the Inquisition existed. You can easily look it up. I'm not going to spoonfeed you.)

But here is the difference between evolutionary teaching and Biblical teaching. Evolution merely seeks to explain how life on this planet came to be where it is today. Those who prefer to believe in the literal truth of the Bible believe that it contains the laws and commandments of a Supreme Being and that to not obey these commandments is to consign the unbeliever to an eternity of torment in the afterlife.

Evolutionary theory does not judge people. No one will go up to you, tap you on the shoulder and say to you "you can't do that, because of what it says in the Origin of Species." But people will tell you that you can't do this or that because it is a sin in the eyes of God.

7:24 PM EST  
Blogger Lui said...

"Does science 100% prove everything in this world or universe?"

No, not does it need to. Science has never been about 100 percent certainties; that seems to be the preserve of religious doctrine, which incidentally is devoid of any evidence and often of any logic.

"There are plenty of things science can't prove,"

Yes, but the point is to show that those things are things at all, instead of just made-up stuff.

"So how does science explain why they are so evil?"

Psychologists study the possible biological underpinnings of psychopathy, for a start. They also know that, under certain circumstances, many of us, perhaps even a majority, are capable of doing things that we would otherwise find utterly reprehensible. There is no objective scientific measure of evil as far as I know, just as there is no objective scientific measure of good. But we can still look for the causes of good and evil, and the conditions that are conducive to both.

"Why do you think Dawkins is spending all kinds of time and money trying to get Christian and Creation methods out of public schools here in America and in the UK?"

Because he's a scientist and an educator, and he's witnessing anti-science intruding where it shouldn't be made to feel welcome. Also because creationism is really annoying. Creationism should no more be taught in science classrooms than flat-Earthism should be taught in physics or astronomy.

"What's wrong with coexisting and letting people choose what they want to do?"

If only it were so. Theists indoctrinate their children, and I think that Dawkins rightfully sees this as child abuse, albeit of a variety that we've grown accustomed and apologetic to. He makes a compelling point, which is basically that we'd be scandalised if we heard about "Keynesian children" or "Postmodernist children". Why then should kids be indoctrinated with ideas that they HAVE NO WAY OF CRITICALLY ASSESSING? It's an open, and often celebrated, exploitation of their vulnerability and innocent credulity. I'm all for secularising EVERY SCHOOL so that the indoctrination faced by children can at least be weakened and they can learn to function as thinking, able people in the real world. Children should be taught HOW to think, and to the extent that they are ever taught what to think, they must be given accurate information. Children have the right to be free from their parents' ignorance and prejudices. No one owns their children; they aren't property that you can mould in any way you like. They are human beings in their own right, deserving of not only of care and nurturing and a good upbringing to give them opportunities in life but also of being armed with facts instead of propaganda. This goes for atheist parents too, and in “The God Delusion”, Dawkins alluded to the idea that children, regardless of their parents’ beliefs, be they Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or indeed atheist, must be protected in this regard. If those children later choose to become religious, then so be it. But at least they’d have gotten there by their OWN reasoning and introspection. If I had a son or daughter and they eventually chose to practise a faith, I would probably feel a tinge of regret and sadness, but I would still love and accept them.

"Why not just let them live their own lives and choose what they feel like choosing?"

Because they were never exposed to the full story, instead only receiving a narrow-minded, boring caricature of the splendour that is the real universe. They have been denied that great gift, largely through no fault of their own. No, we atheists aren't going to shut up just because you would have it that everyone keep to themselves, knowing full well that this is the perfect breeding ground for ignorance and superstition. The world has enough problems stemming from outmoded belief systems. The time has come for a reaction to irrationality.

"Why should you really care what people believe overall?"

I care passionately about what other people believe, largely because it affects my own prospects. If the religious lobby succeeds in getting religion taught alongside science in a science classroom, then I will lobby for genetics and ecology to be taught alongside religion in church. Why not? Why should religion have to creep into every aspect of our lives in the 21st century?

PGC, your post amounted to nothing more than a plea, and you provided no logical coherence at all to whatever argument you were trying to formulate. You mistake the atheist demand - that religion be scrutinised like any other field that claims to give us knowledge - as a form of bigoted intolerance. You wouldn't be so scandalised if I were to espouse views about politics, sports or gardening. But when it comes to religion: no, somehow that's supposed to be off limits to scrutiny, just by virtue of being religion. This is a totalitarian reflex. Religion is supposed to be untouchable, and we are supposed to be free to teach our kids to regard it as such. But this is really why religion is so prominent, after all. If people are being taught, from an early age, that God did this and that, and that, furthermore, questioning religion is a bad thing, then it's no wonder that most of the human race believes in some form of deity. This isn't how science operates. Religion has within it the seeds of its own proliferation, and they consist of indoctrinating from an early age, special pleading and intimidation. A virus of the mind, in other words, and emphatically NOT a methodology for arriving at the truth, at least not by that route (which has been the modus operandi for centuries).
Ours isn't intolerance as you see it, it's simply what a reasonable person would ask for, especially given the untold damage that blind faith is having on the world. No, it's NOT a good thing that people believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, and it's an outrage that impressionable young children are being taught myths in the age of the microchip and the gene sequencer. They are being robbed of so much, and the world is getting screwed up just because some people don't want to accept that the game is up. I suspect it'll end in tears for everyone (in the form of a mushroom cloud) before humanity is embarrassed enough to admit that it has been carrying on like a spoilt child, refusing to live in the real world like a grown up.

"Evolutionary theory does not judge people. No one will go up to you, tap you on the shoulder and say to you "you can't do that, because of what it says in the Origin of Species." But people will tell you that you can't do this or that because it is a sin in the eyes of God."

An excellent point. Many see evolution as somehow being "evil" because of what it says about our origins. But of course, whether something is "good" or "bad" as no bearing whatsoever on its truth.
As Richard Dawkins has said, “Evolution is a fact, and if you don’t like it that’s your problem.” This also applies to gravity, electromagnetism and the helical shape of our DNA. To be sure, evolution has implications for religion in that it gives a radically different take on how we came to be than does Genesis. But that, of course, does not stop it being true. The universe doesn’t give a stuff about what we think. The alleles aren’t going to stop shifting just because we feel ikky about our kinship with the apes. (I don’t feel that way, incidentally, instead finding it intriguing and beautiful in its own way. Take that as you will; it’s still a fact, in the same sense that the Earth revolves around the sun, that humans and chimpanzees share a common ancestor) Darwin wasn’t at fault; Genesis is at fault, and I have no intention of making that anything other than absolutely clear. I mean, it’s really starting to get ridiculous.

9:27 AM EST  
Blogger pgc1981 said...

Lui

Boy the heading said Jolly, but both you and Tommy chimed in. It's tough to swallow all that in one sitting.

I believe both evolution and creation should be taught along side one another in schools so kids can choose for there own because evolution has not been 100% proven only by man who doesn't believe in God is it taken as fact. Churches are separately funded private organizations that can make their own way and can choose what to teach. Just like Augusta National has the right to keep woman out of there club. Like it or not God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are real. It's not my fault that we have all been supplied a valuable piece of evidence to our history and coming about and you don't believe it and just see it as mere fairy tale or propaganda. The Bible doesn't explain all, it does explain enough. It says how old the earth and how humans are, it says how we got here and has the story of Jesus in it. If you want to call it propaganda or fairy tale that's your choice, I would like you to know that it talks plenty about that sort of thing throughout the Bible and especially in the New Testament. Evil is also talked about plenty in the Bible and everyday I wake up and turn on the tv or look on the computer news you see all kinds of evil, for some reason people want to blame God for all the bad things that happen in their life and in the world, ever try blaming satan instead?

What do you know about Hillsong their in you home country of Australia? Have you ever heard of it?

Look outside the box of science and religion's involvement or Christian involvement for a second. Do you see Christian as bad people? Horrible people? Or can you see them as people who for the most part want to help others and reach others who are in need? Last I checked I don't see true Christians as violent people or hateful, that doesn't mean it doesn't happen from time to time because we are all human and make mistakes.

The divorce rate is extremely high in the US over 50% last I heard. I bet if you checked the numbers the majority of people not divorced, but still in the same first marriage have a strong relationship or Faith with God and Jesus. And I bet if you checked the amount of the divorces you will see mostly people who divorced don't believe or don't have a strong relationship or faith with God. Now I know Christians get divorced and non Christians can be happily married but the majority of one time long standing marriages probably have a good relationship with God. My family is good example of this, my parents are still married and have been for 33 years or so and both are strong in their faith. My wife’s parents got divorced about 12 years ago shortly after they stopped going to church and fell away from God. My wife’s stepmother has been married three times and there current marriage was a bit shaky until my wife’s father started going back to church thus bring his wife with him and now they are stronger and doing well. I guess my point might be made clearer with the question of Hillsong and how much you know about it.

Until next time.

5:29 PM EST  
Blogger Tommy said...

PCG, I am an atheist and I have been married for more than seven years and have two beautiful young children. My marriage will stand the test of time as good as any Christian's marriage.

If you want to talk about divorce rates in the United States, America is probably the most religious of the major industrialized countries. And you have paragons of American conservatism like Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh have been married three times.

If you want to believe that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit exist, far be it for me to tell you not to. It's not my problem. And my atheism is not your problem. You are in no position of power to interfere with how I live my life or what I believe.

I have already been a Christian, just as Jolly has, and that path has no attraction or meaning for me.

7:51 PM EST  
Blogger pgc1981 said...

Tommy,

Like I said atheist can be happily married as well, and Christians do get divorced, I simply said to look at the overall numbers and see who has a stronger case. I believe marriage and the success has to do with one's willingness to give up selfish desires and be willing to work at something that can be difficult with someone who has to do the same as you. I believe that for marriage to be successful you have to have the same views going into marriage, i.e. Christianity or atheism. I don't believe in most cases that a marriage would work if one was a Christian and the other was atheist, but I’m sure in some cases it does. Marriage fails when people don’t want to give things up or are unwilling to meet the needs of their spouse. That’s just my opinion.

For your information I don't listen to Rush Limbaugh, I find him to be a bit harsh and too extreme even though he is conservative.

Did anyone see the press conference with Bush and Blair this morning?

11:04 PM EST  
Blogger pgc1981 said...

Tommy,

what made you change from being a Christian to an atheist?

11:04 PM EST  
Blogger Tommy said...

PCG, in answer to your question about my deconversion, it just so happens that the first in a series of posts on this topic is up on my blog.

11:20 PM EST  
Blogger Lui said...

"I believe both evolution and creation should be taught along side one another in schools so kids can choose for there own because evolution has not been 100% proven only by man who doesn't believe in God is it taken as fact"

And creationism hasn't been "proven" one iota, as well as not being a scientific theory. So why teach it in a SCIENCE classroom?

" Like it or not God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are real."

And I have little more than your say so to go by. You cling to the erroneous and unreasonable notion that just because science can't prove this or that 100 percent, that therefore a religious alternative - regardless of whether it has ANY evidence in its favour - should be treated as being on equal terms. They aren't on equal terms; they aren't even close. Evolutionary biology is science, creationism isn't. Period. A science classroom is a place to expose students to scientific theories and GENUINE controversies, not made-up controversies. The time has come for you to admit that your faith in God has nothing to do with science, and that you would sacrifice the sanctity and integrity of the latter to protect and nurture belief in the former. It amounts to lying to our children when we tell them that there is a controversy over evolution; there isn't, not in the scientific community. The public controversy has everything to do with ignorance and prejudice. And why should we teach YOUR creation myth? What about other creation myths? Shouldn’t they be included for the sake of “fairness”?

12:30 AM EST  
Blogger pgc1981 said...

Lui,

you didn't answer any of my questions that I asked in the previous post to you. I won't tackle this one until you do.

12:59 AM EST  
Blogger Lui said...

No, I don't think Christians on the whole are bad people. I have Christian friends myself, some of them creationists.

"Last I checked I don't see true Christians as violent people or hateful, that doesn't mean it doesn't happen from time to time because we are all human and make mistakes."

I don't know what you mean by "true Christians". Extremists who blow up abortion clinics and who call for the death penalty for homosexuals consider themselves to be the truest of Christians. George Bush considers himself a true Christian, and sees no contradiction when he orders the invasion of a country that posed no threat to his own. (God apparently communes with him and tells him to do these things. There are medical terms for these delusions but I shan't go into that right now, except to say that they ARE delusions and that Bush shouldn't be given command of anything) The Inquisitors saw themselves as doing the work of God by burning heretics. If I had lived at that time, I'd have been tortured and murdered for just having a theological disagreement with the Church.
Do you find these things abhorrent because they are abhorrent to you as a human being; or because you interpret the Bible differently to those who kill for God?

I don't deny that faith can keep a couple together. Nor do I deny that atheists can be jerks (I've known some). And I definitely don't deny that religion can lend comfort and strength to people when they are going through a hard time. But I also acknowledge that these benefits of religion have not the slightest bearing on their truth claims. As for the divorce rate, from what I've seen, atheists and Christians are the same. The prison population shows roughly the same representation of religious belief as among the general population. While it's true that SOME people need God in order to be good (which speaks more about their own lack of moral constitution than it does about the "good of religion") there are societies in which religiosity is far less than in American and those societies are far less dysfunctional. This doesn't mean "lack of religion equals happiness". It means that the premise that religion is necessary for a functional and stable society isn’t a given that we should accept without question as though it were self-evident. Similarly, the religiosity of America doesn't mean that "religion equals instability and unhappiness", it just gives the lie to the idea that a good dose of religion is going to fix things.

The Bible says lots of things, many of them absurdly and fantastically untrue. As you have already decided that everything the Bible says must be true, you shut yourself off from real world data that contradicts it. If reality contradicts the Bible, all the worse for reality! This is the very antithesis of an open mind, and is indistinguishable from extremism.

11:23 PM EST  
Blogger pgc1981 said...

Lui,

I have friends who are atheists, some of which find the thoughts of evolution to be a bit absurd, so basically they really don't believe in God because they find the Bible hard to believe and they don't believe in evolution because that too they find hard to believe, so what do we call those people? I guess my whole point with the evolution thing is that too much interpretation and personal views or thoughts of the present time are brought in to prove their theories to be correct. They develop mechanisms to make sure they will prove their theory, thus leaving any speculation out for a creator. I've read enough to understand the basics of Darwinian evolution and quiet frankly I find it hard to believe. You say you believe something somewhat different, I think you said that. To me I find it extremely hard to believe that a complete sea bearing creature(s) walked out of the water to become everything we see today and some in turn went back in the water as mammal fish. 1. Because no one today has ever witnessed it and was not around to witness it. 2. They have little to no evidence that proves that happened, just speculations and beliefs (fossil record) 3. The fossils they do find today are not 100% complete a lot of parts are missing thus bringing in speculation to what it entirely looked like. 4. Fossils can be faked. You and Tommy have both said scientists dedicate their lives or careers to prove this stuff, I don’t doubt that, but so do doctors and are they always right? So do lawyers are they always right? So do professional sports managers and are they always right? So do teachers of school are they always right? And so do Pastors or theists are they always right? Do these people have all the answers? The answer is no, so what makes you so sure that scientists have all the answers? What makes them more right than anyone else? Do you think they take ALL evidence into consideration? Or do they throw some out because it doesn’t go with their approach or view? Why can Creation Scientists with the same PhD’s and education see and prove different things? Simply because they are close-minded towards evolution? Or are their beliefs just a bit off the wall because they don’t align with the majority? The Bible doesn’t reveal everything, when it boils down to it you must have faith and that’s the bottom line, but you too must have faith in those scientists that they are providing all the right evidence and complete data to you. Because if they are not than they are robbing you of the complete truth, whatever that might be.

What I mean by “True Christians” is Christians who completely follow the word of God and obey His word from the Bible and believe 100% that Jesus Christ died and was risen by God for all sin. There are Christians that call themselves Christians who don’t completely follow the word of God, thus still living to their or the worlds desires or needs. Now that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do because it’s not. I struggle with that and I believe almost everyone today does as well because that’s the influence satan has. People who blow up abortion centers have their own agendas and those agendas are not from God, I promise that. God does not tell one to go blow up a building only satan. All sin is influenced by satan so we all have that influence. I’m not sure about the death penalty for homosexual’s thing because I have never heard that, that could be denominational belief, I’m not sure. I can tell you that no where did CHRIST tell anyone to kill homosexuals. Now I know that is talked about in the O.T. in Leviticus. That’s the O.T. and the old covenant. Christ is the new covenant and God sent Christ to die and save all man from sin, no more stoning or killing, no more death for sinning. We are saved by Grace because we all sin.

Now I don’t know why you hold so much against George Bush because you don’t even live in this country, thus you don’t vote for or against him so you really have no choice that he is in office. I really don’t know how much influence he has on Australia. I personally have no problem with the war. Yes, it probably needs some new direction and new ideas, but that does not mean we turn and walk away. Think about it this way, what about the people who live in Iraq or any other country, that don’t have a choice to government or leaders that rule their country. What about the people that don’t have enough power to change or don’t have enough courage to change or stand up for things that are wrong. What the extremist Islam’s do is wrong, they inflict their ideas on populations of people and if those people try to stand up against them or cross their line they kill them. Much like Saddam did by cutting off the tongues of those who opposed him. These people live under rule of not their choice. People in Africa have the same problems. These people have little or no choice because they are either too poor, too scared or don’t have enough resources to stand up for what is wrong. Now that doesn’t mean a democratic government will work in Iraq but at least Bush is trying to help the people who have no choice and are under the rule of extremist’s. After all that you might say ‘what does the problem in Iraq have to do with the US?’ The problem doesn’t just involve the US, it involves the entire free world. If extremist Islam’s get weapons of mass destruction in their hands they won’t be afraid to use them because of their religious beliefs on death and that will affect all, not just the US. It will affect first Israel and second the US, because they seem to have most of their hatred pointed there. If Bush and the US don’t do anything we know darn well the UN won’t do anything, they will just let them do whatever, probably because of oil reasons. And if these extremist do what ever they want they will affect everyone in the free world, so I praise Bush for stepping up and having the guts to stand up against the evil of this world has inflicted on the people who have little choice or power to do anything about it. Now I believe there is a huge difference between Muslims or Islam and extremist Muslims or Islam, because if there wasn’t you would have 1 billion Muslims trying to kill infidels. The non extremists are probably peaceful good people.

3:38 PM EST  
Blogger Lui said...

“I have friends who are atheists, some of which find the thoughts of evolution to be a bit absurd, so basically they really don't believe in God because they find the Bible hard to believe and they don't believe in evolution because that too they find hard to believe, so what do we call those people?”

Ignorant. Evolution is at first deeply counterintuitive and without knowing some of the relevant details it will remain baffling to many. When I say that they’re ignorant though, I don’t mean it in a negative, emotionally laden way. I’m ignorant about many things myself, including things that you’re probably knowledgeable about. I’m ignorant about sports, classical literature, and embroidery. It’s no wonder that many find evolution “a little absurd”, given that it has been so crudely caricatured.

“They develop mechanisms to make sure they will prove their theory, thus leaving any speculation out for a creator.”

This is another whinge. You seem to have the view that somehow scientists should be obligated to see a creator as a good explanation just because you do. It’s not a good explanation, and the mechanisms that have been formulated for evolution have nothing to do with trying to negate a designer. Don’t forget that religion is nothing BUT interpretation.

“To me I find it extremely hard to believe that a complete sea bearing creature(s) walked out of the water to become everything we see today and some in turn went back in the water as mammal fish. 1. Because no one today has ever witnessed it and was not around to witness it.”

Absolutely irrelevant. No one was around to witness God creating the earth, so it doesn’t at all validate your position either. This is nothing but a specious argument used by creationist propagandists to confuse the nature of the matter. Evolution is a largely inferential science. We INFER things based upon the evidence we find today, of things we would expect to find if certain processes were going on in the past. If inference weren’t allowed, then we’d have to abandon astronomy, anthropology, geology, and any other science that mentioned historical processes.
You also clearly DON’T understand evolution because no one ever talked about a completely sea bearing creature walking out of the water. The evolution of the tetrapod limb from aquatic ancestors has been neatly shown in the fossil record, with a sequence of clearly fully aquatic animals followed by creatures with limbs that could be used in locomotion on a surface followed by further changes in the bone structure of the limb that allowed the animal to lift its own body weight. This ancestral species (or a relative of it) became less and less dependent upon the water and diversified further, acquiring adaptations for life on land. And the process went on from there. This took millions of years; it’s not like some animal one-day decided to get out of the water so that it could evolve into terrestrial life and give rise to us.
Finally, look at the mudskipper fish. This fish actually comes out of water; and I don’t mean just peaks out of the water; it actually uses its flippers as limbs and interacts with other mudskippers above water on the beach.

“2. They have little to no evidence that proves that happened, just speculations and beliefs (fossil record)”

This delusion would be merely comical if it weren’t so tragically widespread. There is plenty of evidence that this happened, from fossils to genetics to living forms today. Of course there will be speculations, but that’s a necessity in any area (in other words, in any science at all) where all the answers aren’t yet know. Sorry if you don’t feel comfortable that the vagaries and difficulties of science are so far removed from the rigidly inflexible, dogmatically certain doctrines of religion. But that’s how the real world is, uncertain and fraught with difficulty.

“3. The fossils they do find today are not 100% complete a lot of parts are missing thus bringing in speculation to what it entirely looked like.”

Are you honestly telling me that a sequence, incomplete though it is, cannot count as evidence? Do you really mean to suggest that evolutionists must either provide an uninterrupted sequence of millions of fossils, all perfectly preserved and in unison, or else consign the whole of evolutionary palaeontology to “mere speculation”? This is the product of an absolutist mentality. If detectives were to haul someone up before a court of law, they wouldn’t be expected to provide the exact minute by minute movements of the suspect, his exact state of mind throughout, and so on. Would a creationist not find compelling the premise of guilt of a suspect if the detectives presented instead his DNA at the crime scene, letters of his own handwriting showing intent to murder, his fingerprints, a record of his purchasing of a firearm (the same one found later in his home) and other bits of evidence like that, all linking the suspect to the crime and the types of things we would expect to be the case if he’s guilty? Would that not be a compelling case? Similarly, is it not compelling that palaeontologists have found a sequence of aquatic to more terrestrially adapted organisms in the fossil record, living at the right time, and then to complement this with genetic data showing the phylogenetic relationship between living fish and other organisms? I don’t know what sort of evidence you want. The level of convergence between disparate fields that we see is statistically overwhelmingly unlikely to be due to chance, just as the criminal is statistically overwhelmingly unlikely to be innocent. (in statistics they talk about a P value, a probability that’s calculated according to where a value lies along a standard normal curve, and if it’s smaller than alpha, a pre-specified cut off point, it can be taken as strong evidence that the null hypothesis can be rejected in favour of the alternative hypothesis) Evolution isn’t just an illusion, a massive coincidence. You don’t get that sort of coincidence by fluke. There’s clearly something systematic going on, an underlying current.

“4. Fossils can be faked. You and Tommy have both said scientists dedicate their lives or careers to prove this stuff, I don’t doubt that, but so do doctors and are they always right? So do lawyers are they always right? So do professional sports managers and are they always right? So do teachers of school are they always right? And so do Pastors or theists are they always right? Do these people have all the answers?”

Of course there have been cases of fakery and fraud in the scientific community. Piltdown Man is one of the most famous such cases (and one of the most milked by creationists who want to provide is as an example of evolutionist fraud and “therefore” of the shaky foundations of all evolutions); but the point is, such frauds get exposed by scientists. Are we supposed to reject the whole of evolutionary theory, with its thousands of facts, just because a few scientists have produced fake fossils? Nice try; ain’t gonna happen. Maybe we should also reject the whole of medicine, or the whole of genetics for the same reason. Somehow, you don’t seem to apply that same level of “scrutiny” to religion, which has been mired in countless frauds and scandals, many of them far more damaging and reprehensible to the people affected than scientific frauds.

“The answer is no, so what makes you so sure that scientists have all the answers”

Statistically improbability, for a start, makes me sure that the scientists at least have many of the right answers. What makes you so sure that religion has ANY of the answers?

In short, none of your four points even came close to providing any reason to seriously doubt evolution. They are lightweights, refuted and refuted again, but eagerly seized upon by those with an eagerness to misunderstand.

“What makes them more right than anyone else?”

That’s too easy to answer, and I shan’t bother.

“Do you think they take ALL evidence into consideration?”

Genesis doesn’t count as evidence, if that’s what you’re getting at. This is strange, coming form someone who seems unwilling to take any evidence into account.

“Or do they throw some out because it doesn’t go with their approach or view?”

Hypocrisy doesn’t get much get to much dizzier heights than this. It’s almost pathetic.

“I struggle with that and I believe almost everyone today does as well because that’s the influence satan has.”

I think you mean biology, or, as Christian fundamentalists would have to admit, the way God made us. It has nothing to do with Satan. Satan is just an idea, not even a theory. The biological basis for sexual urges - that’s real.

“Christ is the new covenant and God sent Christ to die and save all man from sin, no more stoning or killing, no more death for sinning. We are saved by Grace because we all sin.”

That message seems to have been lost among a large portion of the American population, who would impose their religious beliefs on believers and non-believers alike.

“I personally have no problem with the war.”

What happened to “no more death…”?

“The problem doesn’t just involve the US, it involves the entire free world.”

The “free world” is free because of secular democracy – that is, freedom FROM religion. Bush hates such freedom, despite his rhetoric, and he hates it both at home and abroad. The war had NOTHING to do with freeing the Iraqi people from tyranny. That tyranny was itself aided and abetted by the United States when it suited it. The US has propped up repressive, murderous regimes for decades, resulting in the killing, torture, and displacement of million of innocent people. The current war has resulted in the deaths of some 600,000 Iraqis according to a comprehensive study by The Lancet. For all of Saddam’s brutality, it could still be argued that the Iraqi people were overall better off under his boot than under the chaos and mayhem that pervades Iraq today. The war and the occupations were not only illegal but also morally criminal. The US invaded to supposedly get rid of “weapons of mass destruction” (the whole world knew this to be a fabrication, so hold your fire); this was merely a cover for domination and control of the region’s resources and to set up a strategic stronghold. I don’t believe in Bush’s benevolence, and I doubt that you do either. Bush’s ineptitude and stupidity has only worsened terrorism. He shouldn’t be “congratulated” for anything; he should be impeached.

And please don’t insult my intelligence by claiming that Jesus was against violence and killing and then turning a blind eye to Bush’s violence and killing.

“The non extremists are probably peaceful good people.”

They are, as far as I can tell.

12:09 AM EST  
Blogger Tommy said...

Tell me PCG, why do humans have body hair?

You see, if we were intelligently designed by God, then why would God give us body hair? I mean, it's not like the hair on our bodies is thick enough to keep us warm like fur does on animals. Essentially, the hair on our chest, arms and legs (and between our legs if you really want to be frank about it) serves no useful purpose.

So, the choice is, did God create us and give us useless body hair, or are we descended from earlier forms of life that had thicker coats of body hair that did serve a purpose, and as humans evolved over time natural selection favored those early humans that had less body hair?

12:39 AM EST  
Blogger pgc1981 said...

Tommy

"Tell me PCG, why do humans have body hair?"

I beg to differ that body hair is useless. I bet since we now live in doors and when it is cold heavily dress ourselves in winter coats and sweaters and sweatshirts, I'm sure that makes a difference. We no longer live outside. I bet if you had a full head of hair and only covered your ears in the winter your head would be much warmer than if you shaved your head and only covered your ears. I bet more hairy people would beg to differ that they get hotter faster in the summer than less hairy people. I bet if you asked doctors they would say hair in the genital sections is important especially males to keeping the important parts warmer.
Most of our body heat is lost through the head correct? So you think it's just a coincidence that the place on humans with the most hair comes on their heads? God created man to take care and work for his family so that would explain why men have facial hair. If they worked outside in the cold they would be able to keep their faces warmer than they might otherwise be. We have the most hair on our head to keep the heat from escaping faster than it otherwise would. We have hair on our genital areas to keep our important reproductive organs warm to so we are able to reproduce. Also God dressed Adam and Eve after the fall of sin, people have been wearing clothes ever since that day in the Garden.

Hair does keep you warm just look at people who were born near the equator or Blacks for example they have little or no hair on their arms and legs. Than look at people who live in the northern lands and say Canada or Alaska, I bet they have much more hair than those who live near the equator. So again, I beg to differ that body hair is useless. As I said before I am no scientist this is just my opinion.

3:32 PM EST  
Blogger pgc1981 said...

Lui,

“Ignorant. Evolution is at first deeply counterintuitive and without knowing some of the relevant details it will remain baffling to many.”

Why are they ignorant? They don’t believe in either, they too see science as being waaaay too much speculation. Yes scientists are extremely bright people and two people can look at the same thing and see two completely different things so it’s left to the assumption of the scientists doing the work to present his side. That doesn’t mean its right does it? You say science is an ever correcting thing right? Or always changing to the new evidence? Isn’t this circular reasoning? Isn’t this saying that science can never be wrong because if you prove us wrong we will prove it right a different way? You know and I know science is a lot of speculation probably way too much, that’s why I don’t believe much of what they say. It’s simply just speculation that the world is 13 some billion years old from scientists who don’t believe in God and don’t want to.

“This is another whinge. You seem to have the view that somehow scientists should be obligated to see a creator as a good explanation just because you do. It’s not a good explanation, and the mechanisms that have been formulated for evolution have nothing to do with trying to negate a designer. Don’t forget that religion is nothing BUT interpretation.”

People can believe what they want science does not have all the facts despite what you believe. They have been proven wrong before only to create new ways to prove they are right. This world we live in just didn’t happen by mere and lucky chance, everything has been finely tuned to support life. My religion isn’t just interpretation, the Bible was written by man. It has been dated. Places in the Bible exist people in the Bible have existed and archeologists have dug up plenty of evidence to prove stories in the Bible to be accurate. It’s just that you don’t want to believe and I’m sorry you don’t.

Let me ask you this; what do you think the chances of me taking an ordinary quarter, heads and tails, flipping it fifty times in the air and getting 50 consecutive heads or 50 consecutive tails?

“Absolutely irrelevant. No one was around to witness God creating the earth, so it doesn’t at all validate your position either.”

As I said we have the Bible, it’s well trusted by billions (Jews and Muslims included) and has been well trusted by billions of the course of history. Man wrote down Gods words and how things came about, scientists who don’t want to believe in God wanted to find another alternative to life and used their wild imagination to do so, thus trapping many in the lie. Scientists make evolution of man sound so simple and fascinating that it’s hard not to believe. If the world is billions of years old as they say there is no other explanation other than speculation to how they came about everything they say. They did not physically see primordial goo turn to life in the ocean than to amphibian then to reptile than to bird and mammal (this is the evolution I’m talking about). They have no evidence of that one common ancestor to all living things, just speculation. They have fossils yes, probably very few complete, thus leaving only partial fossils and the rest of what it looked like to the imagination and assumption of an individual(s). Almost everything else in life requires evidence in life so why is science aloud to speculation so much? Why is there speculation aloud to be taken as fact when in the court of law speculation is absolute bunk, nothing, zilch, nada? Speculation doesn’t convict a hardened criminal, facts do.

The War thing

I’m not saying war is good and death is good from war. What I am saying is someone had to do something about the extremists. They don’t care about any life they will kill no matter what because they believe that’s their path to heaven. Death will happen no matter who is over their. Sadam murdered thousands of his own people for crossing his rules. The extremists kill anyway they can and with war over their right now they are fighting soldiers and the civilians of Iraq. So no matter what you think the extremists would find a way to wage war on someone and that would most likely be the Jews or Americans since they hate us two the most after they took Iraq back over with fighting. 911 did happen here in the US, the extremists took the fight here to America, and thus we had the right to respond. It’s unfortunate that innocent civilians are dying in Iraq because they deserve much better, they deserve freedom from terrorism and dictatorship. This conflict has been going on for longer then we can image. Fighting has always occurred in the M.E. It didn’t start to spread until the extremists spread it. What about wwII, do you think that war was pointless and shouldn’t have been fought by the US? The situation in the M.E. isn’t going to get better it’s probably going to get much worse, if we leave the fighting will spread despite what you think. They fight because that’s all they know how to do and they believe they go to heaven committing suicide bombings, which will not change. I’m just grateful that not all Muslims or Islamists are like the extremist or we would all be in trouble.

4:29 PM EST  
Anonymous Tommykey said...

Yes, PCG, it would make more sense that people living in cold climates would have more body hair than people who live in tropical climates. Congratulations, you just made an argument for Darwinian natural selection!

9:54 PM EST  
Blogger pgc1981 said...

No, I answered Tommy why God gives humans body hair and explained the differences in people about the importance of hair. Tommy said hair doesn't keep us warm, that's why I used that point. Hair would be a microevolutonary change. More or less hair doesn't mean a mutation.

3:37 PM EST  
Blogger Lui said...

People like you have a real problem with the concept of probability. You seem to think that just because there are two opinions available, that they are both equally valid (or, rather, the opinion of the person with no scientific training should count for more. Don’t quite get how that works). You benefit from science but then discard it when it hints at contradicting your cherished, irrational beliefs. You have your computer and television and car and what not, but when science goes against a literal interpretation, you only want to believe that it’s because the scientists themselves are “against God.” Talk about a self-glorifying, arrogant boast.
Despite all this, I’m the one who’s being “unreasonable”. This is hypocrisy at its very worst. I can tell you’re fundamentalist to the core. Your attitude is one of arrogance, moral chest-thumping, talking down to people who know more than you, and anti-science. You have no respect for anything unless it agrees with what you want to impose on others.

“You say science is an ever correcting thing right? Or always changing to the new evidence? Isn’t this circular reasoning?”

No, because science doesn’t presume from the outset that God has to exist or not. You, on the other hand, do. You leave no room at all for what science has found out about our origins. And you accuse me of circular reasoning.

“You know and I know science is a lot of speculation probably way too much,”

Again, this is still light-years ahead of religion, which isn’t even a theory to begin with.

“that’s why I don’t believe much of what they say.”

And yet you unquestioningly believe what Bronze Age nomads wrote in a set of documents. This is mind-numbingly hypocrisy. It’s stupid, childish, unbelievable hypocrisy.

“It’s simply just speculation that the world is 13 some billion years old from scientists who don’t believe in God and don’t want to.”

Ummmm, no it’s not. Genesis is mere speculation, not so modern geology. Most Christians accept that the Earth is 4.55 billion years old. Your world view, I’m sorry to say, is small-minded, petty, and boring in comparison. It’s a cartoon caricature of the beauty of the world, and it utterly cheapens everything. You can believe whatever myths you like, but please don’t patronise us by placing science into the “mere speculation” category and elevating religion (with no evidence whatsoever) to the podium of “Truth”. It’s like a virgin telling me how to have sex.

“This world we live in just didn’t happen by mere and lucky chance, everything has been finely tuned to support life.”

Whatever. We’ve been through this numerous times, and if wilful amnesia is the way you want to deal with it, so be it. But just know, you look like a spoilt child to everyone else. People are laughing at you, or else feeling very sorry and sad for you.

“It’s just that you don’t want to believe and I’m sorry you don’t.”

What a disgusting little boast. You talk about “proof”, yet nothing that science has uncovered about evolution, the universe, geology, or human beings is ever allowed to be counted as proof in your eyes. You’re beyond help. I’m sorry for ever engaging with you in a discussion.

“Let me ask you this; what do you think the chances of me taking an ordinary quarter, heads and tails, flipping it fifty times in the air and getting 50 consecutive heads or 50 consecutive tails?”

A hilarious example of you trying to sound clever, like as if you have a clue what you’re talking about. As if evolution is “all about chance”. I’m not even going to dignify this stupid question with an answer. That would be bestowing upon it a respect that it doesn’t deserve. If you haven’t gotten the clue yet, then read what I’ve written about natural selection and then come back and ask me that same question. Your short sightedness and complete inability to formulate a real argument is not only disturbing, it’s also pathetic.

“As I said we have the Bible, it’s well trusted by billions (Jews and Muslims included) and has been well trusted by billions of the course of history.”

Wow, how compelling. So the scientifically ignorant masses trust the Bible. And this is supposed to mean that it’s scientifically valid? Please don’t bother me with these lame arguments. I’ve already debunked this one, when I talked about the reasons people believe and why you can’t rely on them as an “authority” to validate what the Bible actually says. Being in the company of other ignorant people doesn’t make your beliefs any more true.

“They did not physically see primordial goo turn to life in the ocean than to amphibian then to reptile than to bird and mammal (this is the evolution I’m talking about).”

Do you ever get tired of making facetious, disingenuous arguments? Anyway, you obviously have absolutely no respect for science, because if you did, you’d know that it’s largely an inferential exercise. Can you understand what that means, or do you have to check it first in the Bible? Do you understand the nature of scientific evidence at all?

“Almost everything else in life requires evidence in life so why is science aloud to speculation so much?”

This is one of the most stupid, disgusting things I’ve ever heard. You’re beyond the pale. I wouldn’t credit this to a 13 year old child.

“Speculation doesn’t convict a hardened criminal, facts do.”

Pathetic. The evidence for evolution consists of FACTS about the world, facts that we would expect to be the case if evolution is right, just like a criminal can be tried if we find FACTS about his life that we would expect to be the case if that person is guilty. This is called “evidence” in a court of law, you know, and it’s called “evidence” in scientific discourse as well. Facts can be either evidence for something or against something. Get it?

Let me just say that I’ve given you more than sufficient respect and attention during these discussions. But it’s clear that you have learned absolutely nothing, and you have no intention of doing so either. I’ve carefully explained to you that evolution is more subtle than you suppose, I pointed out you errors (for example, when you talked about Stephen Gould) and I’ve explained why science is distinct from religion and other forms of non-reason. (while bending over backwards to acknowledge that it’s no infallible and does need a fair bit of interpretation when the facts aren’t all in) But I’m starting to think that you’re just beyond help; you’re now just a slave to your religion, a mere robot to be used and manipulated, a plaything of liars and charlatans who can now easily fill your head with any rubbish they choose, safe in the knowledge that you won’t be able to think it through. I’m not laughing at you, I feel sad and angry for you. A grown adult who can’t deploy even a modicum of rational thought when it comes to science. And this in the 21st century, in the Western world. The idea of God seems to short-circuit your critical thought processes, and you then spout the most ugly, ignorant nonsense imaginable. And to top it off, you’re proud of it. e don't patronise anyone here.

10:07 PM EST  
Blogger Lui said...

Isn't it pathetic when fundamentalists make out like they're "sceptical" by doubting absolutely everything that science says, and yet can't do the same for their Bronze Age text? Isn't it utterly revolting how they make out to be "open minded", and accuse others of being "bigoted" and "closed" when they don't go along with everything they say even though they haven't themselves opened their minds one iota?

10:12 PM EST  
Blogger Tommy said...

You said it Lui!

The ancient Hebrews were a marginal people who repeatedly got their clocks cleaned by their neighbors (Philistines, Assyrians, Egyptians, Babylonians etc.), they had no meaningful influence in terms of science, technology, literature, were unnoticed by 5th century B.C. historians like Herodotus, and yet were supposed to believe that they were the chosen people of the creator of the universe. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

12:19 AM EST  
Blogger pgc1981 said...

Lui,

How did life start if it didn't start from pure chance? What started it? Did it simply just happen? In my opinion life had to start for a reason.

8:19 PM EST  
Blogger pgc1981 said...

Lui,

Tell me in your words what science says about the start of life and how we are here today.

I find it funny that tommy asks me a ridiculous question I answer it in my opinion and I get ripped for it. It doesn't bother me that people think I'm stupid and may hate me because I'm a Christian. My intention was not to offend you or upset you, so if I have I'm sorry and I was wrong for doing so. My questions may be stupid, yes, but I hear too many variations of evolution I get confused. I turn on the National Geographic channel and they have a program on the big bang theory than darwin evolution and the scientists were just amazed by the chances of how everything happened, how the earth formed and how life just began and evolved. I read your posts and you say life didn't happen by chance. I'm sorry I simply find the theory of evolution to be hard to believe because I believe we started from something greater than premoridal goo. I find it hard to believe that all life as we see it today started from the sea. In my opinion that's sounds a bit crazy and hard to believe. I know God exists because of the changes I've seen in my life and the lives of people around me. I don't agree with evolution because it's the total opposite of God.

8:37 PM EST  
Blogger Lui said...

“How did life start if it didn't start from pure chance? What started it?”

Life itself didn’t “start by chance”. Even a simple bacterium is too complex to have come about by chance alone. The first entity capable of evolution and subject to natural selection was not a living thing but something simpler, like a self-replicating molecule. This entity eventually gave rise to the first living bacterium.

“It doesn't bother me that people think I'm stupid and may hate me because I'm a Christian.”

If people feel that way about you, it’s more likely because of your inflexible, fundamentalist outlook, not because you’re a Christian. A lot of fundamentalists seem to have a persecution complex about this, mistakenly thinking that everyone’s out to get them simply because of their religion.

“I don't agree with evolution because it's the total opposite of God.”

Why would you limit what God can do?

9:59 PM EST  
Anonymous still learning said...

neither argument can prove anything. it takes faith to be a thiest or an athiest. either way, one has to have faith (or hope) that they aren't wrong. but if the athiest is wrong, he will regret it. if the thiest is wrong, then he might have lived his life for a non-existent entity, but nobody will ever prove him wrong b/c they will cease to exist. i just can't understand how some people can hear only two or three points for either argument and base their lifestyle on that... they have more balls than me. i, persoanally, would love to hear intelligent arguments from either side b/c i haven't totally made up my mind after reading volumes of science and theology. i would definately prefer the christian worldview, but i'm about as objective and open-minded as they come, so i will continue to pray that God helps me understand while i study the sciences and listen to everybody's opinion. one day, hopefully, i will have my answer.

e-mail: cambro21@yahoo.com

thank you all

11:28 PM EST  
Blogger M said...

Good article. Thanks for the read.

Not sure what people are getting so bent out of shape for.

If people didn't believe in souls we would have a lot less bloodshed in the world from religious extremists of past and present.

But oh well, you can't change someone else's beliefs.

9:01 PM EST  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

RE: "1. You assume if it cannot be explained by science, or is contrary to science, it is not possible."

Nope. If something cannot be explained by science, I go with "I don't know." Or, there is insufficient evidence at this time to come to a conclusion.

It is more than likely that the theist, when confronted with insufficient evidence either for or against, will come to the conclusion of god.

9:05 PM EDT  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

Also, to add to the previous comments.

If something cannot be explained by science, I go with "I don't know." Also, what I don't do is believe in a supernatural explanation, just in case.

9:08 PM EDT  
Blogger Johnny5 said...

Jolly, I do admire you. Not many other people use logic as an argument for their beliefs, and I also like that you don't quote 'Biblical contradictions' as verses taken completely out of context. I agree with you in almost every area of this site (which, I must say, that blog about 'If America was Truly Free' was very amazing), but the difference is that I've taken the leap of faith. There have been a few points that I've seen differently on, though.

Virgin birth, possible with in vitro fertilization. It can allow a woman without having intercourse to give birth.

Literally, for nearly every hole you can poke in my beliefs, I can poke one in yours.

Look at history, the Romans, Greeks, Byzantines, Vikings, Egyptians, Chinese, Israelites, all the old civilizations had something in common; a higher power. They looked around and saw that something else was controlling their world, and that it deserved praise and worship. Now we get microscopes and telescopes and pulse monitors and all this technology and we have the audacity to think that we can explain everything ourselves? It seems fairly arrogant to me.

Also, if you do notice, Jolly, that many other religions mention the struggles of the one we call Jesus, including, but not limited to, the Torah, Koran, even Buddhism. the Bible is also very vague. Many people try to argue that out of all galaxies and planets available, God only chose one to make life on? I always argue that with no. The Bible never says that there can't be life elsewhere.

One last thing that I don't think helps a lot of people but helped me, was if you would rather have faith and be wrong, because worst case scenario, you're called a fool for living for something besides yourself, or not having faith and being wrong, which, if the Bible is true, means hell.

If you're ever up for a talk, email me at hicks.johnny@gmail.com or let me know if you have something more such as AIM or whatever.

4:41 PM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

Jolly, I do admire you. Not many other people use logic as an argument for their beliefs, and I also like that you don't quote 'Biblical contradictions' as verses taken completely out of context. I agree with you in almost every area of this site (which, I must say, that blog about 'If America was Truly Free' was very amazing), but the difference is that I've taken the leap of faith. There have been a few points that I've seen differently on, though.

Thank you for the kind words about my blog. I appreciate your compliments, especially since they are coming from a theist. This website is not meant to verbally assault Christianity so much as promote atheism and encourage skeptical and scientific thinking habits. Even though I have abandoned my former faith (Catholicism) entirely and never will return to it, I do not hate the religion and I do not hate Catholics. My extended family is almost entirely Catholic. Nevertheless, I think rationality sometimes needs a vigorous defender. I flatter myself I can help that cause.

Virgin birth, possible with in vitro fertilization. It can allow a woman without having intercourse to give birth.

True. However, these amazing medical marvels were not in existence during the time of Jesus and Mary. To judge a truth-claim’s veracity reliably, one must consider the truth-claim in its proper context. Are you putting forth the notion that in-vitro fertilization was in use during the time of Christ? Or, for that matter, any other type of artificial impregnation method? If you are a proponent of such a belief (and you would be the first one I ever have encountered), then I urge you to present the best possible evidence that such medical technology was available to Mary’s family. Otherwise, the point, while well taken, simply is not relevant to the given context.

Literally, for nearly every hole you can poke in my beliefs, I can poke one in yours.

Humbly, I do not think that is the case. Notably, I make no claims for the supernatural, divine or ethereal. All my truth-claims are based upon the best available evidence that science has to offer [Some examples: Brain death is irreversible in humans; donkeys and serpents cannot speak human language; human beings, in the past and in the present, are not physiologically equipped to live to be 930.] I do not explicitly make the claim that God does not exist. Rather, I say that, given the lack of evidence for any God, I assume that no God exists. I believe this assumption is a wholly rational one. Indeed, I also assume that there are no invisible garden banshees and no white-haired closet goblins. Why do I make those assumptions? Because, just like with God, the evidence is either weak, anecdotal or non-existent.

Look at history, the Romans, Greeks, Byzantines, Vikings, Egyptians, Chinese, Israelites, all the old civilizations had something in common; a higher power. They looked around and saw that something else was controlling their world, and that it deserved praise and worship. Now we get microscopes and telescopes and pulse monitors and all this technology and we have the audacity to think that we can explain everything ourselves? It seems fairly arrogant to me.

The widespread nature of theism is an interesting argument to use to support your belief in God. The question is this: When all those ancient civilizations took up belief in a deity, was it for good reasons? Looking around at the world and marveling at perceived design is not, in any way, a good reason for being a theist. The theory of natural selection—so elegantly simple—perfectly explains the diversity and wonder of life on this planet. No creator is needed to explain away flowers, caves, mountains, animals or any other natural wonder. Let’s also remember that, throughout the history of time, various Gods have been worshipped and various religions followed. One deity does not equal another deity; Gods are mutually exclusive. Therefore, I think it is a bit intellectually dishonest to lump all God characters together and say, “All these civilizations believe in God.” Which God? Based upon what evidence?

Also, if you do notice, Jolly, that many other religions mention the struggles of the one we call Jesus, including, but not limited to, the Torah, Koran, even Buddhism. the Bible is also very vague. Many people try to argue that out of all galaxies and planets available, God only chose one to make life on? I always argue that with no. The Bible never says that there can't be life elsewhere.

I’ll be brief on this one. The existence of a man named Jesus—and stories of his alleged exploits being spread around the globe over the centuries—does not mean he rose from the dead after three days, walked the earth for 40 days and 40 nights, and rose bodily into the cosmos. After all, there are well-known anecdotes about Big Foot, Loch Ness Monster, ghosts and alien abductions, too. How about some hard evidence?

One last thing that I don't think helps a lot of people but helped me, was if you would rather have faith and be wrong, because worst case scenario, you're called a fool for living for something besides yourself, or not having faith and being wrong, which, if the Bible is true, means hell.

This argument is essentially Pascal’s Wager, and it happens to be fallacious.

Before responding directly, I will quote two passages found on my blog’s homepage:

“I also find the concept of “God” useless since there are infinitely various God characters, with infinitely various skill sets, demanding infinitely various behaviors, promising infinitely various things. Why worship Yahweh and not Thor? Why worship Yahweh and not Enlil (Ellil)? Why worship Yahweh and not Hargazorn? [Hargazorn is a Scandinavian-region deity yet to be discovered by man.]”

“But isn’t betting on your pet superstition rather like playing the lottery one time and hoping to hit the jackpot? After all, the various God characters (and their inerrant, perfect, Holy texts) are mutually exclusive (i.e., Yahweh is not interchangeable with Zeus is not interchangeable with Enlil). What are the odds that every single God conception throughout the history of time was wrong—save your own? In fact, theists’ odds are far worse than playing the lottery one time. A real possibility exists that there is no God at all; thus, the religionist is betting on one character—of an infinitely large set—and hoping not just that his number will come up, but also that a drawing will take place!”

The problem with Pascal’s Wager is this: It presumes either the Christian God exists or no God exists. It forgets other God characters, entirely different from Yahweh. For example, what if the one and true God is Hargazorn? The only way to please Hargazorn is to drink goat’s blood thrice daily. If one does not drink goat’s blood, one is damned to eternal torture. Those who do drink the sacred fluid are given eternal paradise after corporeal death. What if the one and true God is Enlil? How about Ammon Ra? Zeus? Mithras? Thor? Apollo? There is no way to “be on the safe side.” The number of God characters, quite literally, is limitless.

Rather than waste my time trying to please infinite God characters, I treat the whole thing with apathy. When there is no hard evidence with which to substantiate a God character, each and every fantastical deity is equal in my eyes—equally pointless.

Thanks for commenting!

7:31 PM EDT  

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