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Does It Matter That Many Scientists Are Atheists?

Scientists

One fact that concerns some Christians and elates some atheists is that 93 percent of the members of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the most elite scientific organizations in the United States, do not believe in God. Atheist Sam Harris says that, “This suggests that there are few modes of thinking less congenial to religious faith than science is.”

Should Christians be concerned that so many of these intelligent people don’t believe in God? I don’t think so, and here’s why.

Check the numbers

 
First, the National Academy of Sciences represents a small number of scientists. The Academy itself comprises only about 2,000 members, while there are more than 2 million scientists employed in the United States as a whole. This means that the NAS only represents about one-tenth of one percent of all scientists in the nation. Using this statistic alone to prove scientists are overwhelmingly atheists would be inaccurate.

A more accurate description comes from the Pew Research Center, which reported in 2009 that 51 percent of scientists believe that God or some higher power exists, while 41 percent of scientists reject both of those concepts. In addition, while only 2 percent of the general population identifies as atheist, 17 percent of scientists identify themselves with that term.

But now we have to consider another important set of factors: Is it science that turns people into atheists? Or is it atheism that turns people into scientists?

Elaine Ecklund’s recent book Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think shows that scientists are more religious than we realize. In the course of her interviews she found that many scientists reject religion for personal reasons prior to becoming scientists (as opposed to rejecting religion solely on scientific grounds).

It is unfortunate that secular people feel more compelled to study the natural sciences than religious people, because some of our greatest scientific discoveries have come from people of faith (Gregor Mendel and Fr. Georges Lemaitre instantly come to mind).

Indeed, I have the pleasure of having a father-in-law who is a devout Catholic and a literal rocket scientist.

Who cares?

 
While it may dishearten believers to see that so many intelligent people reject the existence of God, we should ask a very frank question in light of this fact: Who cares?

The existence of God is not a scientific question, because science restricts itself to searching for natural explanations of observed phenomena. Since God is a transcendent being who exists beyond space and time, the search for God must primarily use philosophy, or careful reasoning, and not science (even though science provides facts which can be used in philosophical arguments for and against the existence of God).

Natural scientists (such as the biologists, chemists, and physicists that make up the Pew study) are no more equipped to make conclusions about God than they are equipped to make conclusions about economics, history, literature, or philosophy. Since the question of God is philosophical in nature, scientists who investigate it are just as equipped as laymen, and their opinions should be placed on the same footing as any other educated non-scientist.

At this point a critic may respond that if the existence of God is a philosophical question, then the theist still loses because 73 percent of professional philosophers are atheists. However, if one looks at the data more closely, one may find that such a conclusion is premature.

“I’m not bad, I’m just misunderstood”

 
Philosopher Edward Feser has written in his book The Last Superstition that many philosophers misunderstand the arguments for the existence of God and just take it “by faith” that they have been refuted. They might glance over Aquinas’s “Five Ways” and, without understanding the complex metaphysics behind the arguments, refute only straw man versions of them, just as Richard Dawkins did in his book The God Delusion.

When it comes to philosophers and God, it is interesting to see that the majority of philosophers of religion, or those who have extensively studied the existence of God, are theists (72 percent). This could mean that the most well-informed philosophers are swayed by the power of the arguments and embrace theism on philosophical grounds. Or it could mean these philosophers started out as theists and then bolstered their beliefs in their academic studies (just like the atheistic scientists I described earlier).

Of course, we can psychoanalyze people until the cows come home, but at the end of the day a belief isn’t true just because a lot of smart people hold it. A belief is true if it corresponds to reality. Both theists and atheists must refrain from the shortcut of saying, “My beliefs are true because smart person X says so” and be willing to follow the evidence where it leads (which may include testimony from someone like smart person X).

I have tried to do that in my own life and I hope my forthcoming book Answering Atheism (which will be published this fall) will be helpful for people who want to examine the arguments and move closer to the truth.

As St. Paul wrote, “Test everything; retain what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21).
 
 
Originally posted at Catholic Answers. Used with author's permission.
(Image credit: Open Lims)

Trent Horn

Written by

Trent Horn holds a Master’s degree in Theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville and is currently an apologist and speaker for Catholic Answers. He specializes in training pro-lifers to intelligently and compassionately engage pro-choice advocates in genuine dialogue. He recently released his first book, titled Answering Atheism: How to Make the Case for God with Logic and Charity. Follow Trent at his blog, TrentHorn.com.

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  • Rationalist1

    The survey of the American Academy of Science was done in 1998 (I believe). A more recent one of the British Royal Society showed that only 3% of the members of that body believed in God. While membership in these bodies is a small number of practicing scientists they typically represent the elite of both countries science community.

    The Pew pole did say 41% did not believe, 18% believed in a higher power (whatever that is) but not a God and only 33% believed in God, compared to 83% of the general public. It would be interesting to break down the age demographics of that scientist group and one will probably find that much of the belief is in the older age groups. A recent pole of British youth, 18 to 24, showed only 25% believe in God. Imagine what it's like for the science students.

    "When it comes to philosophers and God, it is interesting to see that the majority of philosophers of religion, or those who have extensively studied the existence of God" They sort of have a vested interest in believing in God if they are philosophers of religion but it's interesting that 28% don't.

    And Richard Dawkins may have given a cursory treatment if the proofs of God's existence in his book but he was writing a general book fr a general audience.

    For professional philosphers a 2009 survey showed a belief in God at 14% (http://philpapers.org/surveys/). And yes they've examined the arguments and even my old university philosophy teacher, a good Catholic nun, years ago, showed us all the flaws in the arguments.

    Theists have a lot to worry about. Belief is disappearing quickly.

    • 42Oolon

      The question should be "Do you believe that a transcendent being created and maintained the universe?"

      I am an atheist and I believe in a "Higher Power". The strong nuclear force for example. I believe that there is more to the world than what science has shown. Obviously! We learn so much every day!

      • Rationalist1

        Exactly. Or the universe itself is greater than any of us or all of us combined. It's so much more interesting exploring a higher power that we can interact with rather than a God who seems obsessed with being hidden.

        • Jonathan

          Don't mean to be rude but you might want to start by maybe just sitting on your bed for 2 mins before you go to sleep or after you wake up and open your heart to hearing the voice of this higher being we call God. You might find that this God who according to you is obsessed with being hidden may reveal something of himself to you. It's only a suggestion if you are interested in taking me up on this. Otherwise not a problem.

          • Ignorant Amos

            You are being rude. Do you put your teeth under your pillow? Do you send a letter to the north pole in December? Do you sacrifice birds or goats to your god for your misgivings? Nah, a didn't think so. Don't insult peoples intelligence with similar rubbish please.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            You are being rude . . . . Don't insult peoples intelligence with similar rubbish please.

            I am not sure where you come from, but I think many more people in the US and the UK (and the world) pray than don't pray. If you call the idea of praying an insult to intelligence, then you are claiming intelligence for yourself but ridiculing most of the rest of the world. You are the one who is being rude (and hostile).

          • Jonathan

            Thank you David. You articulated my thoughts very well.

            If saying that believing in God and praying is an insult to intelligence then I think that is rude because you are insinuating that I or anyone who prays is not intelligent. I may have different views than you Ignorant Amos but I don't think in the least that because you choose not to believe in God makes you anything less than what you are. And in response to your questions about sending letters to the North pole and putting my teeth under my pillow, I have tried those with absolutely no results at all(except when my mum and dad chose to play along with me) but when it comes to prayer I have tried and tried again and again, although sceptically at first, with results that were way beyond my imagination or reasoning. So I wouldn't classify or put them into the same boat and this is just from experience. Again as I said in my previous post you may choose to take me up on what I'm saying but if you think otherwise that's not a problem. I don't mean to insult you or your beliefs in the least bit.

          • Ignorant Amos

            >If saying that believing in God and praying is an insult to intelligence then I think that is rude because you are insinuating that I or anyone who prays is not intelligent.

            No, it's an insult to MY inteligence. You or anyone else should be free to believe whatever nonsense you like as long as it causes others any harm...unfortunately, it does cause people harm.

            It is called compartmentalisation...Google it, it is well documented...otherwise inteligent folk holding irrational thoughts is common.

            >I may have different views than you Ignorant Amos but I don't think in the least that because you choose not to believe in God makes you anything less than what you are.

            I respect that, and your right to have different views on all sorts of things, but I'm not obliged to respect those views. Your religion gets no more undeserved respect than any other...just like your politics or taste in music for that matter.

            >And in response to your questions about sending letters to the North pole and putting my teeth under my pillow, I have tried those with absolutely no results at all(except when my mum and dad chose to play along with me) but when it comes to prayer I have tried and tried again and again, although sceptically at first, with results that were way beyond my imagination or reasoning. So I wouldn't classify or put them into the same boa t and th is is just from experience.

            Whatever...annecdote is just that, annecdote. I assume you attend the doctor or hospital? Why? Your personal incredulity is just that. I'm sure with a bit of rationality your imagination or reasoning could find a better explanation than your prayers have been answered.

            >Again as I said in my previous post you may choose to take me up on what I'm saying but if you think otherwise that's not a problem. I don't mean to insult you or your beliefs in the least bit.

            Your not insulting my beliefs because when it comes to any beliefs I may or may not have, they are subjective and open to ridicule where applicable. But when you suggest talking to emptiness and waiting for a reply...you've moved on a bit to preaching. Atheists can't hold with being preached too...it's an insult to their intelligence. Pre-empting that with a "I don't mean to be rude, but..." doesn't cover it am afraid.

            I realise you meant nothing by it and no doubt you are likely to be a nice chap, but look at it from the other mans shoes.

            Any, I'll leave it at that...regards.

          • Ignorant Amos

            >I am not sure where you come from, ...

            Let me clear this up for you. I come from a part of the world where Christianity has been the underlying cause for why Christians have been tearing each other apart for 800 years. Not guessed it yet? ..........Ireland. Most recently, Protestant Christians and Catholic Christians, but prior to that, Catholic Christians and other Catholic Christians, so you'll forgive me if I don't buy into the brainwashing bollocks.

            >...but I think many more people in the US and the UK (and the world) pray than don't pray.

            Well you'll have a hard job proving that assertion, but since when did the logical fallacy of argumentum ad populatum ever win the day? Prayer does feck all but comfort the prayer. You don't consider the 1.2 billion and growing Muslims that pray FIVE times a day to have any more veracity when talking to invisable entities, do you? All those folk that firmly believed that the world was flat can't have been wrong, could they? The Earth centred universe? The human centred world? Of all the usually fairly astute commenters on here David, this is very weak from you.

            >If you call the idea of praying an insult to intelligence, then you are claiming intelligence for yourself but ridiculing most of the rest of the world.

            On the issue of prayer, yer darn tootin' I am. You may be an otherwise intelligent human being, but if you belive that talking to yourself has an impact on the material world other than the feel good factorimpact it makes the prayer have....you are open to ridicule. But that wasn't even my goal here. Jonathan's opening remark was, "I don't mean to be rude, but...", now unless one was expecting to be taken as being rude, why say that?have He had a predetermination than advising people who have no belief in gods, any gods, might be deemed as rude.

            >You are the one who is being rude (and hostile).

            No, I am not, and this typifies the attitudes here. As an atheist, suggesting that I should waste my time....all 2 minutes of it, searching for something that I've already decided is not there, is being rude. Let me demonstrate...

            >I Don't mean to be rude but you might want to start by maybe just sitting on your bed for 2 mins before you go to sleep or after you wake up and open your heart to hearing the voice of this higher being we call [Allah, Ganesh, Zeus, Mithras, The Force, etc., etc., etc.]. You might find that this [Allah, Ganesh, Zeus, Mithras, The Force, etc., etc., etc.] d who according to you is obsessed with being hidden may reveal something of himself to you. It's only a suggestion if you are interested in taking me up on this. Otherwise not a problem.

            Would that be any less insulting to the intelligence of a Roman Catholic than the original remark to an atheist? How would it go down if I suggested to Jonathan that he is wasting his time with God and should be devoting his two minutes to real gods like Ganesh? The important point being missed out by Jonathan and his ilk is that most of the unbelievers here come from a time when they did spend the two minutes listening for a god...but what they releaised is that the only voice they could here was themselves.

            As for ridicule, believers need to wise up and get over themselves. If they can't stand the heat, move away from the fire.

          • Matt Brown

            So now someone who belives God exist is not intelligent???

          • Michael Murray

            Hi Matt. Just for your info Ignorant, like most of the active atheists here, has been banned. You will find him and the others posting over here

            http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com.au

          • Matt Brown

            Hello Michael, thanks for the link:) I'm sorry to here that Ignorant can't be civil like you or any others..

          • Michael Murray

            No problem. I said he was banned mind you I didn't say he was uncivil. A lot of atheists have been banned here. Somehow I managed to escape the last big purge probably because I've given up posting here. Not just because of the moderation but the general lack of quality articles. I still glance every now and again as there are some interesting people posting comments.

          • Susan

            I said he was banned mind you I didn't say he was uncivil.

            No. Matt's new here and wouldn't be aware of the fact that being uncivil and being banned don't seem to be the least bit connected.

            I still glance every now and again as there are some people who post interesting comments.

            I agree. It's certainly not the articles. The opportunity to discuss things is what keeps me coming back as well. I have learned a lot, thanks to the sincere efforts by many of the commenters.

            I got a final warning a couple of weeks back and am probably not long for SN (though I've tried to make every effort to be civil in a place where "reason" is the ostensible goal and apologetics are the norm).

            The site Michael linked to is an excellent link to a place where we can have the same discussions without fear of being banned in the middle of the night without explanation or evidence or clear rules of engagement.

            But references to it are generally deleted here, even though it's a civil place and its existence should not violate the "snark" rules that can be arbitrarily administered here.

          • Jim Tibbits

            Jonathan. A heart is a muscular organ that pumps blood to itself and the rest of the body. It has no ears to hear with! There is no proof that it "opens" and communicate with undetectable phantom spirits ,metaphysical phantasms or gods. So your statement is childish.

    • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

      Didn't we break this down last time the study was posted on SN? And weren't younger scientists more likely to believe in a God, while older scientists were less likely?

      • Rationalist1

        That's right, I seem to remember something like that. Do you remember the reference?

        • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

          I can't find the conversation, but this was the page http://www.pewforum.org/Science-and-Bioethics/Scientists-and-Belief.aspx

          • Rationalist1

            Thank you. It shows 18 to 34 belief at 42% and 65% at 28%. It's the opposite of what is happening in the general public.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Right? Is it because the faithful feel more needed in the realm of science? Has science just not beaten down/converted the faithful (depending on your POV, of course)? If the former, I think it shows an encouraging trend away from fideism, which I would hesitantly put forward as a good thing for Catholics and atheists alike.

          • Rationalist1

            When I worked in research I knew quite of few believers (I was one at the time too) but most of the researchers I knew were mostly indifference to religion, so of what I see now in my friends and colleagues.

        • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

          The same page you just posted earlier, as a matter of fact.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Just google the Pew study and you'll find it.

    • Michael Murray

      Bear in mind to that we are talking about the US which is an outlier in most religiosity scores. See for example

      http://www.pewglobal.org/2008/04/01/americas-catholics-occupy-a-unique-spot-in-world-of-religion/

    • Christian Stillings

      They sort of have a vested interest in believing in God if they are philosophers of religion but it's interesting that 28% don't.

      Really? Have you ever heard of J.L. Mackie, Michael Martin, Graham Oppy, and Quentin Smith? They're all prominent and perfectly respectable atheist philosophers who focus primarily on philosophy of religion. Antony Flew was an atheist philosopher of religion until he went deist toward the end. Bertrand Russell may not have focused of philosophy of religion specifically, but he was a damn bright guy. In short, there's plenty of work for atheist philosophers of religion.

    • Norman

      "And Richard Dawkins may have given a cursory treatment if the proofs of God's existence in his book but he was writing a general book fr a general audience."

      No, he was not and the parts on Aquinas are an intellectual joke much like his inability to state the full title of Darwin's book after assessing Christians who couldn't do the same with each of the books of the bible really didn't believe or care about it. I read that book and laughed-- he's might be a great biologist but is a failed philosopher.

      Belief is disappearing quickly no doubt, and theists are well aware and unworried. What makes me worried is what follows; the persecution of the religious by the self righteous. There is a serious amount of that in and around the anti-religion establishment.

    • Matt Brown

      You're making the same faulty assumption that Trent pointed out in this argument. Most scientists still dispute God's existence. The NAS does not represent the majority of scientists on the question of God's existence. And besides, Scientists aren't philosophers. And second, 70% of philosophers of religion are theist. The question "Does God exist" is far more qualified for philosophers of relgion, then say, a philosopher of science, mathematics, or law,etc. And, 14% are not only theist. That survey was taken by half its respondents. 30% of philosophers are theist.

  • 42Oolon

    At the risk of beating a dead horse... I do not see why the existence of anything is not a "scientific" question.

    "The existence of God is not a scientific question, because science restricts itself to searching for natural explanations of observed phenomena."

    Accordingly, God restricts his manifestations to non-natural explanations of unobservable phenonmena? I do not think this is what Catholics believe, is it?

    • Rationalist1

      A deistic God is of no interest to science but a theistic one is. The universe would be quite different place if there was a God.

      I also wonder if there was evidence of God, say, answering prayers, would the same attitude prevail. All studies have shown no effect of prayers (the Columbia one doesn't count - for obvious reasons). But imagine if one did. Would believers still say science should restrict "itself to searching for natural explanations of observed phenomena." or would they be trumpeting it from the highest mountains?

      • http://www.facebook.com/percy.sledge.180 Percy Sledge

        How would the universe be different if there was a theistic God? More to the point what do you believe a theistic God to be?

        • Rationalist1

          A theistic God by definition intervenes in creation, a deistic God created the universe and left things running and doesn't intervene..

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Therefore God is theistic, since the deistic God is now a matter of scientific, as well as a theological, metaphysical, and logical, demonstration.

            Since He has not gone away and ceased to intervene- see "religion"- the deistic and theistic God is now an object of consideration for all, including the atheists who have yet to fully integrate the impact of the following:

            http://arxiv.org/abs/1204.4658

          • Jingle M Jimbles

            A theistic God with freedom of the will, by definition, intervenes in creation as he wills.

          • Susan

            A theistic God with freedom of the will, by definition, intervenes in creation as he wills

            Can you give me one good reason to believe that this "by definition" being exists at all? Without resorting to special pleading?

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12rP8ybp13s&list=PLYWWfpRD-hfwpsUVQ_UGMKiDGzGRBPO9Q

          • Michael Murray

            How does the "by definition" work ? Observation of the world suggests that if there is a theistic God He intervenes very rarely.

          • Susan

            Observation of the world suggests that if there is a theistic God He intervenes very rarely.

            How would we know if he ever did? How would we know it was this deity, not one of the other ones?

    • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

      Hey 42Oolon -

      I do not see why the existence of anything is not a "scientific" question.

      God is not a "thing" among other things, but the source of all things; not a cause among other causes, but the root of all possible causes. We can't beat this horse enough! An atheist friend of mine just yesterday was saying he found a "guy with a white beard in the sky" to be a bit ridiculous. And so do I - but this isn't what Catholics mean by God, and it can't be said too often.

      God restricts his manifestations to non-natural explanations of unobservable phenonmena? I do not think this is what Catholics believe, is it?

      Not at all! Catholics believe God became incarnate in history, after all. But notice that you're speaking now of God's manifestations, and not God's triune existence.

    • JL

      "At the risk of beating a dead horse... I do not see why the existence of anything is not a "scientific" question. "

      It depends whether by 'scientific' you mean 'rational', or 'subject to observation/experiment'.

      Science can't validate itself as a rational enterprise. It can't show us whether (for example) mathematics has any validity at all, or whether universals exist, or whether scientific 'laws' are descriptive or prescriptive, etc etc. Obviously we can ignore these questions if our goal is technological progress, but not if we want to come to a fundamental understanding about reality. Equally, we can decide to focus only on the scientific (material) aspect of reality for some reason or another, but we can't proceed from that to claiming that this is the the only aspect that exists.

      • Michael Murray

        What do you mean by "understanding". If we can write ddown a theory that accurately predicts all future behaviour is that enough? Or do you want to feel some intuition that you call understanding. The latter is becoming harder to achieve and thats not because scientists are just pursing technological progress. Or do you want to have answers to things like "why are we here"?

        • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

          "What do you mean by "understanding". If we can write down a theory that accurately predicts all future behaviour is that enough?"

          >> Don't hold your breath.

        • JL

          Unless I've misunderstood you, you're presenting a false dichotomy. You're suggesting that on the one hand there is the material universe, observable by science (at least I think that's what you mean by 'a theory that predicts all future behaviour'); and on the other hand, there is intuition (by which I presume you mean 'irrational thoughts').

          I think this follows from your conflation of 'that which is observable' with 'that which can be known rationally'.

          My point is there are things that can be known rationally, that can't be known through science. One of these is that science is rational, and leads to real, objective knowledge. Another is the validity and absolute truth of pure mathematics. Another is the existence of God.

    • Matt Brown

      Because you can't use the scientific method to prove or disprove God. Science restricts itself to the natural world. The claim "Does God exist" can only be testable through other fields(philosophy and theology).

      • Michael Murray

        See my comment about Ignorant.

  • 42Oolon

    One obvious question, maybe as a follow up, is how many reputable Cosmologists conclude that there must be a transcendent timeless, spaceless mind that caused the big bang?
    How many reputable physicists conclude that the fine tuning entails that a mind chose the constants that enable life to exist on Earth?

    These are supposed to be obvious conclusions for those who understand the science, but I never hear for example that the majority of physicists reach these conclusions.

  • Jonathan West

    The existence of God is not a scientific question, because science restricts itself to searching for natural explanations of observed phenomena. Since God is a transcendent being who exists beyond space and time, the search for God must primarily use philosophy, or careful reasoning, and not science (even though science provides facts which can be used in philosophical arguments for and against the existence of God).

    It depends on the variety of God you are talking about.

    If you are talking about a non-interventionist God of the Deist type, then you will not expect to see evidence of interventions by this God because your understanding is that he doesn't intervene.

    There is no means by which science can address the existence of a non-intervening God, because science starts from observation,l and you define god as leaving no observable phenomena.

    But if you believe in the existence of the Deist God, then you reject all the major organised religions, since without exception they believe in the existence of a theistic intervening God, and moreover claim to have reports of occasions where such interventions have occurred.

    Reports of observable events are meat and drink to scientists. That is their raw material. They look to see if they can replicate the observations, they build theories based on those observations, see what predictions those theories make, and then make other observations to see whether they agree with the theory.

    Even if God is as you suggest "a transcendent being who exists beyond space and time", if he intervenes within the universe in ways that are in principle detectable to humans (and as claimed by many religions have actually been detected by humans) those interventions are decidedly within the scope of scientific inquiry.

    Since I am pretty certain that the God you believe in is an intervening one, your claim that "the existence of God is not a scientific question" is incorrect.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      God's intervention in the Incarnation--if it is true and I believe it is--happened 2000 years ago. The Resurrection of Christ from the dead--if it is true and I believe it is--also happened 2000 years ago. What hypothesis or experiment could you ever devise to test for either of these interventions?

      • Jonathan West

        The question that you need to ask is what evidence you have for and against these hypotheses.

        Let's take the resurrection, - we can look at the incarnation separately later if you wish, but if the resurrection isn't true then theologically speaking there's not all that much point in believing in the incarnation.

        The evidence for the resurrection consists of the biblical accounts - if they are a true and accurate of events, and a correct interpretation of those events as having a divine origin.

        So the question is what weight can be put on those accounts. You can choose to believe them to be true by definition, following the doctrine of biblical inerrancy adhered to by some Christians. if you do that, then you are believing it wholly by faith and are not interested in evidence, and so there is no conversation we could have. This applies not only to strict biblical inerrancy but also lesser forms where you regard scripture as being inspired by Gd and therefore privileged to some degree or other as a source of truth.

        But if you are looking for evidence of their truth, then I think you stand on very weak ground. Let's look at what could be regarded as the items in favour

        1. The direct biblical accounts themselves

        2. The accounts in the Pauline epistles of lots of people having seen the risen Christ

        3. The subsequent spread of Christianity

        Against are the following

        1. The fact that we know that the biblical accounts were not written until decades after the event, being based on prior oral tradition. We know that oral tradition is an extremely unreliable means of transmitting facts.

        2. The fact that if you take the gospel accounts in the order they were probably written (i.e. Mark, Matthew, Luke, John) you see a progressive degree of embellishment of the stopry - exactly what one would expect to see if they were snapshots of an evolving oral tradition.

        3. Paul's accounts are of people supposedly having seen the risen Christ who are safely a thousand miles away from the people he is addressing. He could safely say anything if he thought it persuasive.

        4. The subsequent spread of Christianity is evidence only that the story was persuasive - that people wanted to believe it was true, not that it in fact was true.

        5. In addition, we know far more than the ancients ever did about the fact that dead people stay dead, and we know far more about why they stay dead. We also have the evidence of all the innumerable people who have dies and stayed dead in the intervening period.

        So, if we accept the Gospel accounts as being true, we have to accept not only that something happened which we know to be impossible according to all our knowledge and understanding of how the universe works, and we have to accept that the Gospel accounts have managed a quite improbable degree of accuracy in their record of events.

        On the other had, to accept that that the Gospel accounts are not true requires us to believe nothing more than that something impossible didn't happen, and that tall tales subsequently spread in a way that is very characteristic of human psychology.

        One belief is backed by the preponderance of the evidence, the other requires that you discount that evidence.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          If course if you stack the deck in your own favor your version of evidence will be in your favor.

          The more relevant point is that nothing you have said above is science.

          The only thing I can see that has a scientific bearing is that dead people don't come back to life, which everyone already knew and which is the whole point.

          • Max Driffill

            I don't think this is an adequate reply to JW.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It is *adequate* (meaning sufficient) because Jonathan claimed that if God intervened in life it would be a scientific question.

            I responded by asking how the Incarnation or Resurrection could be studied by science.

            He responded with non-scientific arguments.

            I responded by telling him that.

          • Max Driffill

            Actually Kevin,

            Your initial response was not adequate:

            God's intervention in the Incarnation--if it is true and I believe it is--happened 2000 years ago. The Resurrection of Christ from the dead--if it is true and I believe it is--also happened 2000 years ago. What hypothesis or experiment could you ever devise to test for either of these interventions?

            JW did not limit his scope to these two events. He framed his hypothesis much more generally. If gods intervene in the world, then they are in principle testable.

            This is not necessarily the case for other kinds of interventions by gods. In any event your two examples are well countered by JW who notes that they can probably rejected on the grounds that they violate what we know about biology and there is no good evidence that they occurred.

            You might try reading Hume on miracles and antiquity. I think he said all that needs to be said about them.

            We don't have to address the resurrection or the incarnation until someone has demonstrated with quality evidence that there are phenomena in need of explaining. At present it is just a story.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Right. If you can't win on one point, ignore and attack something else.

          • Max Driffill

            Kevin,
            Right. If you can't win on one point, ignore and attack something else.

            You have hit upon your own method! Because that is exactly what you did, when you first addressed JW's initial point.

            I'm not ignoring the Resurrection, or the Incarnation. They are not established facts. Until such time as those positing these hypotheses can produce quality evidence we just don't have to bother with them.

            I get the sense that you must think Diomedes actually did beat Ares' up, given that a rather detailed account of this event has been given. Or that Hercules really completed several labors that only a demi-god could perform, and that he was later raised by the gods for being the greatest hero ever?
            I mean why do you reject these powerful "evidences?"

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There is scientific evidence and there is historical evidence and there is general reasoning that goes to plausibility.

            The original topic was scientific evidence and I think I showed science is not relevant.

          • Max Driffill

            It isn't when you consider the biology of human beings, who don't generally resurrect. Or consider the idea of human parthenogenesis which is absurd. What are the odds that people who think, or claim these things have occurred are suffering from a misapprehension, or perpetrating a con? They must be infinitely better than the probability of the alleged events themselves. So the evidence for these events would have to be very great indeed before we granted their occurrence.
            Of course the evidence for them is miserable.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Miracles are not probable, but they are certainly actual.

            See the existence of the physical universe for one example.

          • Max Driffill

            ha ha ha ha ha ha, mere assertion. It gets funnier every single time.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That is an argument I've been noticing that atheists use.

            You must have an extraordinary level of evidence to establish an extraordinary event.

          • Max Driffill

            I think you would have to admit hearsay (which is generally rejected in US courts) is not good when you consider the veracity of the Haddith say, or listen to people tell you about their uncle's experience of UFOs. There are no shortage of messiahs today whose followers engage in hearsay. "Bob told me the Mahareshi levitated." "Levi told me that Bob told him that that the Mahareshi levitated." Do you find this kind of thing compelling? Compelling enough to overturn what you know about physics, and human hovering ability? No doubt you find that not very compelling at all. It is extremely improbable that this person levitated. It is much more likely that the reporters are suffering from a mis-apprehension, or were being dishonest.
            You would be right to demand better evidence. This is the evidence we have for the miracles of Jesus, and in fact it is worse than this.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            For believers, the concept miracle should not be a problem, and in fact the concept is a rather weak one. If there is a creator who created the natural world and natural laws, certainly she has total control over them. This is not a perfect analogy, but a miracle is a bit like an author who is writing a novel and decides to revise it. When a novel is in the works, the author can change it as she sees fit. In fact, once it is published, she can revise it for subsequent editions. There is nothing "miraculous" about making changes in one's own creations.

            There is a hilarious story by Philip Roth titled The Conversion of the Jews, which is not totally relevant here, because it is about one set of believers denying other believers' miracles. But the text is available on line (which it probably shouldn't be), and it's one of Roth's great short stories.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            It is a completely legitimate argument, I think.

            The extraordinary evidence in the case of the Resurrection is the existence and development in history of the Catholic Church- specifically, e.g., in fulfillment of prophecies concerning Her by Her Founder- and the astonishing empirical impact She has had on human history, which impact is impossible to account for under the contrary hypothesis:

            The Resurrection never happened.

          • Max Driffill

            Rick,

            The extraordinary evidence in the case of the Resurrection is the existence and development in history of the Catholic Church- specifically, e.g., in fulfillment of prophecies concerning Her by Her Founder- and the astonishing empirical impact She has had on human history, which impact is impossible to account for under the contrary hypothesis:

            The history of the Catholic Church is no evidence of the Resurrection. Not its influence, no prophecies have been confirmed filled.

            This argument, were it something we should take seriously would cause us to have to accept the contentions of the Muslims, and the Jews and the Buddhists and so on for several different powerful religious organizations.

            Since there is no compelling evidence for the resurrection, and plenty of reason to doubt such a preposterous event, the hypothesis The Resurrection never happened remains the only sensible position.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "The history of the Catholic Church is no evidence of the Resurrection."

            >> It certainly is evidence of the Resurrection, since the historical records affirm that the Church begins to evangelize because of it.

            The contrary hypothesis: there was no Resurrection, has no supporting historical evidence that explains why the Church began to evangelize in the first place.

            "Not its influence, no prophecies have been confirmed filled."

            >> To the contrary. The prophecies concerning the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and the overcoming of the Roman Empire by the Church, are both historical facts, which fulfilled prophecies cannot be accounted for apart from the fact of the Resurrection, and its subsequent effect on the early Christians.

            The prophecies concerning all generations calling the Virgin Mary blessed, and that the Church shall endure to the end of the world, cannot be definitively affirmed until that Day, but the Church is, now, the oldest continuously operating institution of the human race, and certainly all generations to date have affirmed the prophecy of, and concerning, our Blessed Mother.

            "This argument, were it something we should take seriously would cause us to have to accept the contentions of the Muslims, and the Jews and the Buddhists and so on for several different powerful religious organizations."

            >> Except they make no similar claims concerning a Resurrection, and none of them can point to fulfilled prophecies of Scripture, in history, concerning the universality and institutional continuity of their historical development.

            "Since there is no compelling evidence for the resurrection, and plenty of reason to doubt such a preposterous event, the hypothesis The Resurrection never happened remains the only sensible position."

            >> To the contrary. The Resurrection is an historically established event, confirmed both by eyewitnesses in hugely-well-attested historical documentation, and in subsequent historical events which cannot be accounted for on the contrary hypothesis that it never happened.

          • Max Driffill

            Rick,

            The following is simply ridiculous:

            >> Except they make no similar claims concerning a Resurrection, and none of them can point to fulfilled prophecies of Scripture, in history, concerning the universality and institutional continuity of their historical development.

            They do make similarly fantastical claims and try to convince people of their doctrine based on these ideas.

            The resurrection is not an established historical fact.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Please provide the specific prophecies advanced in the sacred writings of the Buddhists, Islamics, Hindus, etc which they claim to have been affirmed in history.

          • Max Driffill

            Also this:
            To the contrary. The Resurrection is an historically established event, confirmed both by eyewitnesses in hugely-well-attested historical documentation, and in subsequent historical events which cannot be accounted for on the contrary hypothesis that it never happened.

            You keep cracking me up Rick.

          • Max Driffill
          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            We can say a very great deal about Jesus indeed:

            http://www.drbo.org

          • epeeist

            There is scientific evidence and there is historical evidence and there is general reasoning that goes to plausibility.

            The thing about arguments from plausibility is that they have no direct evidence to support them.

            Is it plausible that there was an itinerant rabbi from the apocalyptic tradition called Jesus who was executed by the Romans for sedition at Passover?

            Given that there was an apocalyptic tradition, that there were itinerant rabbis, that Jesus was a common name (Josephus has I think some 14 of of them), that there were uprisings at Passover and that the Romans were not shy of executing people then yes it is plausible. But as you can see there is no actual evidence for the claim.

          • Max Driffill

            I would like to up-vote this twice.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            But as you can see there is no actual evidence for the claim.

            Of course there is evidence. You just don't find it sufficient to be convincing. Early Christian documents, such as the Gospels, are certainly evidence. I think most historians consider there to be sufficient evidence to conclude that someone named Jesus preached, had followers, said at least some of the things recorded in the Gospels, and was crucified. That there is not overwhelming or compelling evidence that can't be explained away is one claim. But that there is simply "no evidence" is quite another.

          • epeeist
            But as you can see there is no actual evidence for the claim.

            Of course there is evidence.

            You mistake me (or I didn't express myself as well as I had hoped).

            There is no evidence in the argument from plausibility.

            If you add in the gospels then this is no longer an argument from plausibility but from probability, how strong is the warrant? Now personally I think the evidence holds up for the scenario you present, though it is weak and lacking in consilience. But there again I am not a historian and I don't even play one on TV.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            There is some evidence for the existence of historical Jesus, much as there is evidence for any other historical figures of the time.

            The problem is when the historical evidence is commingled with the accounts of counter-intuitive events, and the one is treated as equivalent to the other.

            For example: suppose that in Caesar's The Gallic Wars he had claimed to be the true son of Jove, had several times resurrected dead legionaries, and that he fed his armies by miraculously replicating their rations.

            The dispassionate reader would then question with good reason whether the accounts of the battle of Lutetia and the character of Vercingetorix were sufficiently fact-based as to be convincing.

          • epeeist

            There is some evidence for the existence of historical Jesus, much as there is evidence for any other historical figures of the time.

            Yes, the gospels provide some evidence and the disputed passage in Josephus provides a measure of consilience. But it is thin. I wouldn't necessarily agree "any other" in the above, I think "some other" might be a better phrase.

            I used to live in Huddersfield, a town in Yorkshire in the district of Kirklees. The latter is derived from the name of a nunnery, Kirklea Abbey where Robin Hood was buried.

            Lots of documents about Robin Hood, Adam de la Halle even wrote some music about him, Le Jeu de Robin et Marion. Are you going to tell me that he didn't exist?

            Oh, and don't get me started on King Arthur...

          • BenS

            I used to live in Huddersfield, a town in Yorkshire in the district of Kirklees. The latter is derived from the name of a nunnery, Kirklea Abbey where Robin Hood was buried.

            I live just down the road from Huddersfield.

            Small world... but I probably couldn't eat a full one.

          • epeeist

            I live just down the road from Huddersfield.

            I used to live on the same street as Mona Siddiqui, not that I think that will do me any favours here ;-)

          • epeeist

            There is scientific evidence and there is historical evidence and there is general reasoning that goes to plausibility.

            And I should add that one of the most common types of argument from plausibility is argument from authority.

            And with that I am off to teach some 12 year olds to do broken time attacks.

            After that I may watch some cricket and gently prod an Australian friend of mine about wasting the new ball.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The original contention of Mr. West what that if God intervenes in the universe, we should be able to study that intervention scientifically, meaning with an established method of science.

            I have seen no support for that statement in this thread.

          • Jonathan West

            If course if you stack the deck in your own favor your version of evidence will be in your favor.

            In what way do you think I've done that?

            The more relevant point is that nothing you have said above is science.

            Of course it is. The study of living things, and how and why they die, is biology. The study of how people think, how well they remember, how their memories get distorted over time - that is psychology. And the study of how ideas are taken up by groups, how they spread among a population, how people communicate those ideas - that is the science of sociology.

            The only thing I can see that has a scientific bearing is that dead people don't come back to life, which everyone already knew and which is the whole point.

            Well yes, that is the strongest part of the evidence against the resurrection. So why do you think there was an exception in this case? What is the evidence? Merely referring to the gospel accounts isn't sufficient, unless you are prepared to explain what evidence you have that demonstrates that they are accurate.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Stacking the deck. You have not provided a balanced picture of two positions: the one you are against you give 28 words and the one you are for you devote 201 words. You give your own position almost ten times more play.

            You label your arguments psychological and sociological but these are conjectures and interpretations. Arguments can just as easily and soundly be made in favor of the Gospel and New Testament accounts of the Resurrection on the same basis.

            Your original claim is that an event like this ought to be detectable by experimental science. Except that people don't rise from the dead, which everyone already knew, how does science have a bearing? Your questions, are history question, unless you are asking how a dead body could come back to life in any form, let alone a glorified form.

          • Jonathan West

            You have not provided a balanced picture of two positions: the one you are against you give 28 words and the one you are for you devote 201 words. You give your own position almost ten times more play.

            I presumed that you were already more familiar with the arguments in favour (since you believe the events to have happened) and that it was therefore sufficient merely to offer a brief summary. I also presumed that you were that much less familiar with the arguments against.

            If you wish to state the case in favour at greater length, you are welcome to do so, and we can then see whether the extra words add any new element to the argument. I'm interested in getting at the truth of the matter, not in winning the argument.

            You label your arguments psychological and sociological but these are
            conjectures and interpretations. Arguments can just as easily and
            soundly be made in favor of the Gospel and New Testament accounts of the
            Resurrection on the same basis.

            Please go ahead and do that, and we can then assess the quality of the arguments.

            Your original claim is that an event like this ought to be detectable by experimental science. Except that people don't rise from the dead, which everyone already knew, how does science have a bearing?

            I think you are distorting what I said somewhat. I never used the word "experimental". Nonetheless, past events can leave a physical trace. the Chixulub metorite hit the earth far longer ago than Christ supposedly lived, but we can nonetheless perform experiments which provide sufficient evidence to allow us to determine when and where it hit.

            If you want to say that Christ rose from the dead, then in the face of the evidence that we have that tells us that we know that this sort of thing doesn't happen, i would want a bit more than a claim that there isn't scientific evidence that proves there was no exception in this case.

            So, please present your evidence, and tell me how and why you regard it as being so much more reliable than the medical knowledge we have that people don't rise from the dead.

          • Jonathan West

            Kevin, it looks like you have gone to Croydon on this one.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't know what that means.

          • Jonathan West

            epeeist has explained elsewhere on the thread.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            epeeist has explained elsewhere on the thread.

            Could you (or someone else) please explain again what "gone to Croydon" means? The thread is 784 messages long, which is a bit much to search through.

          • Jonathan West

            On the Guardian CiF Belief threads, there was one religious contributor who was in the habit of disappearing whenever he was posed with a question he had difficulty answering. On one occasion he said he didn't have time to answer as he had an appointment in Croydon.

            "Gone to Croydon" has since been used as a synonym for somebody who ducks out rather than continue a difficult discussion.

            By the way, I asked you yesterday why suggestions about God's behaviour when a trial of intercessory prayer was pure conjecture while the original assertion that God answers prayers is not pure conjecture.

            Do you have any answer on that topic?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Thanks for the explanation. I have gone back, found, and answered your question about prayer at some length, basically saying that if prayer is to be studied empirically, then it must be approached with the same scientific rigor as any subject, which means focus narrowly on the issue (does God answer prayers) and accumulate a sufficient number of well designed studies to give an answer to the question. Concluding on the basis of a handful of studies that

            • if there is a God, he is all-good
            • an all-good God would answer prayers
            • God does not answer prayers
            • therefore, God does not exist

            is not science!

            I have no problems with people believing there is no God. There very well may not be. But if people are going to take empirical studies of the efficacy of prayer seriously enough to cite them, they ought to approach them the same way they would approach any other empirical studies.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Actually, Disqus went to Croydon without telling me.

        • Rationalist1

          While one is on the subject of resurrection, don't forget the resurrection of many holy people (hundreds perhaps) prior to Jesus' resurrection. (Matthew 27:52). If Jesus was resurrected, then many more preceded him and one must explain that and why there was not an account of that elsewhere.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            How many accounts of *anything* do we have of events in Israel around the year AD 33?

          • Rationalist1

            A pretty good account of the great Jewish revolt of 66 to 70 CE.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Written by Josephus?

          • Rationalist1

            Josephus was probably the largest source for this revolt but also others plus archaeological evidence Titus Flavius Josephus (defected to the Romans) was a translator and eye witness of the events.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Same guy who wrote about Christ, but those passages are often questioned.

          • Rationalist1

            I know that. But he was born after Jesus died, wasn't an eye witness and has a handful of ambiguous statements about Jesus and other Jewish martyrs at the time (do we take thier claims seriously too). He didn't write and entire book on Jesus as he did on the Jewish revolt.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Our original consideration was your objection: "If Jesus was resurrected, then many more preceded him and one must
            explain that and why there was not an account of that elsewhere."

            And an answer is, we just don't have a lot of records of any kind from those days.

          • Max Driffill

            Even if the accounts are Jospehus' actual words, they do amount to extreme hearsay.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't disagree. But "hearsay" is sufficient. Most historians are not eyewitnesses but collect accounts.

          • Jonathan West

            They rely on eyewitnesses or on contemporaneous records or (more recently) archaeological or even scientific evidence.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Kind of like this?

            1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, 2 just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed. (Luke 1: 1-4)

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            And yet most modern scholars believe that Luke relied heavily on Mark and the sayings source known as Q. So whatever eyewitness he believes he is relying on, they are apparently not eyewitnesses he has spoken to and whose accounts he is relaying. They are the eyewitnesses he presumes Mark to have relied on.

          • Jonathan West

            Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us

            He's describing the fact that his account is based on oral tradition. We know that to be exceedingly unraliable.

            just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word

            Oral tradition passed through many people before he got to write it down. Credit Luke with honesty, even though he probably didn't realise the meaning and implication of what he was saying.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Could you cite some of the evidence for the unreliability of oral tradition in the ancient world?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Could you cite some of the evidence for the unreliability of oral tradition in the ancient world?

            What about the two completely different, impossible-to-harmonize, infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke? What about the account of the Last Supper in the Synoptics compared to the Gospel of John? What about Matthew's misunderstanding of Zechariah 9:9 as referring to two donkeys and changing the story so Jesus rides on two donkeys instead of one? That's not even evidence of unreliability of oral tradition. It's Matthew manipulating events to "fulfill" a prophecy?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Now I need a Ph.D. in Sacred Scripture, too!

            There are many questions which can be raised about the Gospels, some of which can be resolved based on how the authors and audience understood narratives of this type in relation to the actual events. For example, was it perfectly legitimate for them to compress events, or rearrange events, to tell their story better.

            In pondering seeming conflicts and contradictions or even impossibilities in the Gospels, I think it's important to bear in mind that the successors of the Apostles for the hundreds of years before the canon was firmly established were not a bunch of idiots who did not see the same problems we see, nor were they con men who wrote new versions of the Gospels to fix all the problems. Instead they left them the way they found them because they were convinced they were authentic.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Of course there are no contradictions in Scripture.

            Merely difficulties.

            As Kevin says, these have been very thoroughly examined by the Fathers and Doctors.

            Practically nobody reads them anymore, alas.

            Those who do will find resolutions adequate to answer the claims of contradiction in Scripture.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I call it the "moron theory of history." It begins with the assumption that everyone who lived in the past was a total moron.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            My only intent was to respond to your question: "Could you cite some of the evidence for the unreliability of oral tradition in the ancient world?"

            It would be amazing if oral tradition, including the oral tradition about Jesus, were 100% accurate. Even most people who believe the Gospels are the inspired word of God will cite evidence of the workings of the flawed process of handing down tradition orally. Also, evidence can be found in the Gospels of errors, additions, and deletions by copyists.

          • Jonathan West

            You might care to start with the Homeric Question, particularly the question of the historicity of the Iliad.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I looked over this link and I don't think it is very helpful.

            The question is, how faithfully can an original, set account be transmitted orally over time?

            People can memorize entire books and recite them orally. Can they teach these to others accurately? What actual studies have been done to show how notoriously unreliable oral transmission is?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Homer's entire corpus was recited from memory by him, and transmitted orally by those who heard him.

            I know guys who can play the entirety of Bach's published keyboard works from memory.

            Guys can recite the entirety of the Bible from memory.

            Monks used to be required to recite all one hundred fifty psalms from memory, *daily*.

            We are lazy compared to our forefathers.

            They were much smarter than us.

          • Jonathan West

            What actual studies have been done to show how notoriously unreliable oral transmission is?

            Did you ever play Chinese Whispers as a child? In telling a story you had heard, did you ever embellish it for comic or dramatic effect?

            The fact is that people repeat stories accurately not based on whether they are true but on whether they are easy to remember. They are easy to remember of the narrative fits with what they feel ought to be true. in other words stories get around if the people hearing them think they ought to be true.

            Once a story has been hammered into a form that requires no further embellishment and has a convincing narrative, then an oral tradition can probably transmit that story fairly faithfully through several generations. But the transmitted story is unlikely to have much relation to the historical truth, because quite frankly most history makes for a lousy story. There's more on this subject here

            http://blogs.ssrc.org/tif/2011/08/04/transmitting-secular-oral-traditions/

            And even in our literate days, stories that are untrue can spread remarkably quickly. We call them "urban myths". A few years ago, an American friend of mine, a keen proponent of the right to own guns, sent me a story that he had seen on a website. You can see a copy here

            http://www.cleveland.com/morris/index.ssf/2013/01/the_sensational_gun_story_abou.html

            I quickly established the story was fake, and Snopes took the same view within a few days, and I told my friend accordingly.

            His reaction was very interesting. He was angry, not at having been duped, but that I should doubt the veracity of the story. He continued to believe it to be true and for all I know believes that to this day. The reason he believed it to be true was clearly that (if true) it formed what he considered to be a powerful argument in favour of gun ownership. The narrative was more important to him than the history

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't follow your post. The first link was about the importance of oral tradition in understanding a written text, not on the unreliability of oral tradition. In the Catholic Faith, we have both written and oral tradition. Divine Revelation consists of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

            The second link is about people making up plausible stories which match a narrative certain people welcome. In the early history of the Church we have the many Gnostic gospels which the Church rejected as spurious.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            "Many have undertaken to compile a narrative"--why do you assume these are oral not written narratives?

            "As they were delivered to
            us [Luke and Theophilus] by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of
            the word" [the Apostles].

            Luke was a young companion of Paul who was the same age as the Apostles, so we are talking about some twenty years after Christ.

          • Jonathan West

            "Many have undertaken to compile a narrative"--why do you assume these are oral not written narratives?

            Because if he was telling the truth as he understood it, he would not have used those forms of words, he would have mentioned the authors of the documents he was relying on.

            "As they were delivered to us [Luke and Theophilus] by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word" [the Apostles].

            No. By saying "among us" it is clear that the "us" refers to the larger group of people who have accomplished what he is setting down, not to Luke and Theophilius.

          • Andrew G.

            On the contrary, we know that "Luke" was primarily using written sources, since over 40% of his text is actually copied from Mark, and another 25% from either Matthew or Q.

            This makes it a very interesting question why he did not mention who his sources were and what he did with them. The obvious possibility is that he didn't mention them because if he did so, it would weaken the authority of his own text. His treatment of sources is in fact fundamentally dishonest - he neither acknowledges when he is copying, nor when he edits his sources. We can also be pretty sure that he's not "correcting" Mark to match an independent oral tradition, because the pattern of edits isn't consistent with that idea and because he edits material that Mark almost certainly invented.

          • Jonathan West

            On the contrary, we know that "Luke" was primarily using written sources, since over 40% of his text is actually copied from Mark, and another 25% from either Matthew or Q.

            In that case, the opening verses are a lie, and that leads us to treat the rest of his account with that much more skepticism.

            By the way, Mark was not writing history, he was writing liturgy. Mark’s gospel (the first of the four to be written) fits extremely neatly as a set of readings to be used in synagogue worship through part of the Jewish liturgical year. The start of the Gospel fits the theme of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) has Jesus healing the sick, the Feast of Tabernacles coincides with Jesus telling harvest parables, and the transfiguration story fits the Festival of Dedication, in which Jews celebrated the time when the light of God was restored to the Temple. Mark (writing after the temple was destroyed in AD 70) offers Jesus as the new temple, the new meeting place between God and human life. The crucifixion and resurrection fits with Passover.

            Matthew expanded this theme so that the entire liturgical year could be covered with Christian readings. He provided additional readings (either by expanding Mark’s stories or providing entirely new material) to cover the period from mid April to early September omitted by Mark.

            The one major Jewish festival not covered by Mark’s Gospel was Pentecost/Shavuot, which falls within this period. Matthew has Jesus go (like Moses) up a high mountain. Moses returned with the Ten Commandments and the Law. Jesus made the Sermon on the Mount, which is an eight-part commentary on the Beatitudes, found in Psalm 119. For the Jews, Pentecost was a 24-hour liturgical celebration, and Psalm 119 was written in eight parts, each part to be read as part of each three-hour section of the celebration. Each of the sections of the Sermon on the Mount was designed to accompany it.

            Matthew fills out the period without major festivals by adding a genealogy, a birth narrative, an expanded baptism story, an expanded temptation story, and a more dramatic resurrection story, complete with earthquakes and the dead rising from their tombs.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Is this your own theory or someone else's?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            It requires a PhD in Scripture, apparently, to fail to notice that Matthew wrote first.

            Which demolishes the entirety of modern text critical bomfoggery.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            According to two of the traditional solutions of the synoptic problem:

            http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Synoptic_Problem.htm

          • Jonathan West

            I've paraphrased John Shelby Spong

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Right. After 2000 years of people devoting their entire lives studying the Sacred Scriptures, he's finally figured it out in a totally novel way.

          • Jonathan West

            Have you checked to see whether what he says is correct about it fitting the Jewish liturgical year?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No. It could be true but it would be ridiculous to reduce the Gospels to that.

            I read enough about the man to see that his agenda is to empty the Gospels of supernatural content to update it for "modernity."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'll just repeat what I wrote to Jonathan:

            You are assuming a thoroughly modern notion of authorship and scholarship and then criticizing Luke for not following it!

          • primenumbers

            Can you elaborate on that point more? What we see is vast copying among the three synoptics, and from textual analysis it looks like Luke is copying from Mark, not the other way around.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The synoptic problem is a every complex detective work.

            For example: http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Synoptic_Problem.htm

          • primenumbers

            That could have been so easily avoided with good documentation at the time, the kind of good documentation that historians use.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Like Herodotus?

          • primenumbers

            I should have said like good modern historians use. But even still, they're necessary but not sufficient conditions.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Is it fair to demand ancient historians do their work according to modern standards?

          • primenumbers

            It's not about what is fair or unfair, but about judging historians to standard of evidence that we would accept as reasonable. It's not like we're asking of ancient historians for photographs or something impossible for them to have done.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Right, but no one at the time expected the kind of documentation to be provided you think is reasonable.

          • primenumbers

            That's true enough or they would have done so. I think that means we have to treat historical sources from that period with a degree of skepticism in ratio with the historical methods used. We have to do this with all history books though - their value is only as high as the quality of the methods used.

            What of course this all means is we just don't have the quality of historical data from this period that we would like to have, and because of that you can fully understand why people are agnostic on many ancient historical issues.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Agreed.

            And when reading what historians say about these texts we have to be aware of our own biases and try to detect the biases of the historians.

          • primenumbers

            Absolutely bias is an issue. That is why we cannot just believe what is written. Even people who believe things to be true and accurately write what they believe can be wrong. That is why history is a rather uncertain science, and we have to be very careful. This is not to say we cannot ever know anything from history (we must not fall for the skeptical fallacy) but that there are limits to what we can know for any degree of certainty we wish to achieve.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Bias is also a big problem with modern scholars investigating the scriptures.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            I would just note here that the Gospel writers were not writing history. That was not their intention. To read the Gospels as historical documents is to misread them. This is not to say they contain no historical information, but the idea that the evangelists should have peppered their writings with footnotes to cite sources, name eyewitnesses, and so on is very misguided.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Agreed..except Luke...Luke is the only one to be claiming such, but the contents and method fail even by the standards of its time. When you say evangelists, what are you inferring?

            Not thee evangelists... http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Evangelists

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            When I say evangelists, I mean the actual authors of the four Gospels, not the people who are traditionally claimed to be the authors. I should probably avoid the word, since for the Gospel of John, at least, there may have been a number of hands at work, and so the concept of authorship is a bit blurred. This is also true of parts of the Old Testament, which were edited together from various sources.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Yes, evangelist in the general sense of the word, as a preacher of the faith. Cheers.

          • Ignorant Amos

            No. But then the scepticism in reporting should be directly pr

          • Kevin Aldrich

            > he would have mentioned the authors of the documents he was relying on.

            You are assuming a thoroughly modern notion of authorship and scholarship and then criticizing Luke for not following it!

          • Ignorant Amos

            Luke was a young companion of Paul who was the same age as the Apostles, so we are talking about some twenty years after Christ.

            But that isn't who wrote the gospel according to Luke or the Acts.

          • Max Driffill

            They are not sufficient to establish anything about the life of Jesus. Just that people were enamored of this person. One cannot use Josephus to argue for the veracity of the resurrection myth, or any of Jesus' other alleged miracles.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            By the way, I didn't mean "hearsay is sufficient" as evidence. I meant you didn't need to call it "extreme hearsay."

          • primenumbers

            Historians document sources. They prize primary evidence.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I wasn't advocating hearsay. I was saying Max was overdoing in calling Josephus' accounts about Christ "extreme hearsay."

          • primenumbers

            Hearsay being "I heard Joe down the Red Lion say that...." and extreme hearsay being "I heard someone down the pub say that...." ??

          • primenumbers

            They are indeed rightly questioned, not least because Origen who had copies of Josephus and used various quotes from Josephus against Celsus never once mentioned either of his two Jesus mentions, even though they would have been wonderfully useful in his arguments.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Argument from silence.

          • primenumbers

            But not an invalid argument from silence. Such arguments are only invalid when we wouldn't expect the author to mention, but in this case, reading Against Celsus, and reading the other Josephus quotes he makes, we would expect Origen to have quoted the suspect passages had they actually been in the copy of Josephus he had. This makes is a very strong and valid argument from silence.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            You would expect this.

            Origen clearly didn't.

            It is exactly the argument from silence, and it is invalid.

          • primenumbers

            Oh you are now in full possession of the mind of Origen then? But we can read Against Celsus, see him attack Celsus with arguments to support Christianity, and how he uses other passages from Josephus to do so. That is what makes this a very valid argument from silence, and your characterization as otherwise is false.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "Oh you are now in full possession of the mind of Origen then?"

            >> I am in possession of the mind of Origen to exactly the same extent you are.

            That is, we have Origen's arguments.

            Assertions about what Origen *didn't* write, are arguments from silence.

            Hence, logically invalid.

          • primenumbers

            You don't understand the argument from silence, when it is valid and when it is invalid, do you? I've explained above, but you don't choose to listen, do you?

          • Norman

            There are lots of people who get very interested in God after a technical death, or "near death experience", we hear about these all the time....

            http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/10/07/proof-of-heaven-a-doctor-s-experience-with-the-afterlife.html

          • Rationalist1

            People often take the religion explanation of those, the details depending upon their religious culture but science has very reasonable explanations for those.

        • Martin Snigg

          Scholarship has overtaken you somewhat. See 'Jesus and the Eyewitnesses' Richard Bauckham, winner of the $USD25,000 Michael Ramsay Prize for Theology.

        • Martin Snigg

          No the events are not impossible. A reasonable philosophy of nature, i.e. one not relying on Hume, doesn't rule out miracles ab initio. An argument is needed to justify bringing an atheistic philosophy to these Greek manuscripts. Plantinga and Nagel, and Aristotle/Aquinas and (Feser following them) show just how incoherent reductive physicalism is. Consistency demands a person doubt political establishment orthodoxy at least as much as we wish to doubt the deliverances of modern biblical scholarship on the reliability of the Gospels.

          • Jonathan West

            No the events are not impossible. A reasonable philosophy of nature, i.e. one not relying on Hume, doesn't rule out miracles ab initio.

            That may be so, but I think that nonetheless I would want a decent amount of evidence that one has actually happened. Some water getting turned into wine while scientists are pointing their instruments in the right direction would do very nicely. It is after all supposed to be Jesus' first public miracle.

          • Martin Snigg

            You're on the right track. Biblical faith is all about "God did x therefore you owe him basic human loyalty for goodness' sake" or "If God does this then I He will be my God" or "Their hearts are astray, God's people, they tested me [God] though they saw my work" or "God raised Jesus from the dead, we are witnesses, they are many more, this is how you should respond . . ." or "To prove to you that the Son of God has power to forgive sins . . . ."

            So faith is loyalty based on reasonable probability and past experience of God. Now I can tell you that prayer and asking God has proven God's goodness to me. John C Wright, that most atheist/stoic gentleman for decades writes how he first asked (honest with himself that he was genuinely inquiring) and he received a response. http://www.scifiwright.com/2011/09/a-question-i-never-tire-of-answering/ his story is in here too I believe.

          • Martin Snigg

            It really does come down to God wanting more people like Himself, more Gods. He is pure love, and cannot not give Himself away. So if there is even a slightest movement toward a loving response from His creatures, he comes running. It really is quite simple, he has no desire to hide himself, apart from its logical requirement in the human-God transformation, as the saints show, God is a lover. The one thing he will never do is be made an instrument, a tool for someone's ego, power seeking, political purpose, its analogous to romantic love. Would someone want their love treated as just an object to be manipulated? No. The lover wants ..... the person.

          • Jonathan West

            It really does come down to God wanting more people like Himself, more Gods.

            How can you tell?

          • Jonathan West

            Biblical faith is all about "God did x therefore you owe him basic human loyalty for goodness' sake"

            How can I tell that God actually did x? And even if he did, why does that mean I owe him my loyalty?

      • Rationalist1

        It's hard to test for those events. Better to look at the current world and see if there's any indication of the supernatural.

    • Christian Stillings

      Couldn't God intervene within the universe in ways which could be known by physical phenomena? Someone's case of terminal cancer remits; we can assume a cause for the remission. The physical means by which such a remission may happen are "meat and drink" to scientists of the pertinent disciplines. Whether or not the physical events leading to the remission are Divinely influenced is something which natural sciences are not equipped to study, nor is there any obligation on the natural sciences to study the issue.

      Since I am pretty certain that the God you believe in is an intervening one, your claim that "the existence of God is not a scientific question" is incorrect.

      If God intervenes in the physical world, the physical effects of Divine intervention can be studied by the natural sciences. However, whether or not a phenomena in the natural world is affected by an influence from outside the natural world is not something which the natural sciences are meant to or prepared to address. The existence and nature of physical phenomena are the field of study for science. The existence and nature of God are not primarily questions about physical phenomena; they are the field of study for philosophy, not for the natural sciences.

      • Jonathan West

        Whether or not the physical events leading to the remission are Divinely influenced is something which natural sciences are not equipped to study, nor is there any obligation on the natural sciences to study the issue.

        Why aren't they equipped to study this? Scientists look for causal connections. If looking for these leads them to evidence of divine intervention then why should scientists not investigate this? The religious claim is that physical phenomena have a divine cause. Is that not a claim that can be looked into by science?

        • Christian Stillings

          Why aren't they equipped to study this?

          Because that's not how they're set up to work. Why aren't geological dating formulations able to predict the behavior of an average six-year-old American male in a crowd at a shopping mall? Because the two subjects belong to completely different disciplines. You tell me how you think the natural sciences should be able to weigh in on "the God question."

          Scientists look for causal connections.

          They look for causal connections between physical phenomena. In cases where no probable natural, physical explanation is readily apparent for a phenomena in the physical universe (such as the anthropic principle), science may go for less probable natural explanations (such as the Multiverse theory). In principle, scientists can only propose natural explanations when doing science regardless of how plausible they do or don't personally find the natural explanations. A believer/scientist like Stephen Barr may propose the multiverse theory as "the only physics answer to the puzzle of the anthropic principle" while also harboring a personal intuition that the physical constants are a matter of Divine design.

          The religious claim is that physical phenomena have a divine cause. Is that not a claim that can be looked into by science?

          The Catholic claim (to speak for my own perspective) is that some past physical phenomena have had a Divine cause and that some future events will very likely have Divine causes. However, if science doesn't know precisely where to expect to see these causes (and Catholic theology doesn't make those kinds of specific predictions), it's going to be difficult for science to set up a good test for Catholic theology.

          • Jonathan West

            Because that's not how they're set up to work. Why aren't geological dating formulations able to predict the behavior of an average six-year-old American male in a crowd at a shopping mall?

            You misunderstand. A geologist and a behavioural psychologist may work in different fields and develop different experimental techniques., but they are both working according to the same scientific principles - the primacy of observation over theory, the attempt to eliminate confounding factors in observations, the attempt to confirm or disprove theories by comparing their predictions with further observation.

            If evidence of divine intervention were to be discovered, it would involve a whole new branch of science, which would develop new theories and observational techniques. It wouldn't be the first time that scientists have done that. But the principles of science would continue to apply.

            A believer/scientist like Stephen Barr may propose the multiverse theory as "the only physics answer to the puzzle of the anthropic principle" while also harboring a personal intuition that the physical constants are a matter of Divine design.

            But why does faith have to rely on something as vague and unreliable as intuition. Why not go and get some evidence?

  • Paul Rimmer

    Trent,

    Here's why some people care.

    Several atheists care because science is about understanding the rules that the physical world follows. If people who study these rules as a profession are generally atheists, then maybe theists are anti-science, and non-theists are pro-science. This is what Jerry Coyne argues ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ekc2Nn03IVM ).

    I care because there are probably a lot of Christians out there, and Muslims and Hindus, who would make excellent scientists. These believers possibly lose their faith when they go into science, or maybe they don't study science because of their faith. The result is that the scientific community misses out on the diverse perspectives that people of different faiths would supply.

    Science is a community activity (see http://www.strangenotions.com/science-together/ ). New and different ideas are the lifeblood of scientific progress. The exclusion of people of faith from science, whatever the reason, will be bad for science.

    And you know what else? Given the disproportionate respect that many people afford scientists and scientific work, the small number of Christians in science will probably mean that general receptiveness to the Christian message will be worse.

    Since you are an apologist, wouldn't you care about these things?

    • Rationalist1

      I think it's less that people of faith are excluded from science and more that the process of doing science can exclude faith from people.

      • Paul Rimmer

        Why do you think that is? What evidence supports your claim?

        Either way, it seems like a bad thing to me.

        • Rationalist1

          The prevalence of belief among scientists is markedly less than in the general population, even accounting for increased education (which also tends to affect belief). It's may be that people who go into science are predisposed not to believe, or, lose their faith when exposed to science. It would be interesting to see if there are studies on that.

      • The Catholic Science Geek

        My two cents....

        I'm a very devout scientist and I have been tempted to leave my field before...not so much because of the science...but because of the attitudes of some people in the field towards people of faith. I've had some pretty unfriendly and even outright hostile reactions to the fact that I happen to be a practicing Catholic...from people in my field and others. I've even had discussions with people who have had to hide their faith for fear of losing their reputation among colleagues, etc. It is attitudes such as yours that promote this kind of prejudice and, contrary to what you claim, it has been science which has strengthened my faith over time.

        • Rationalist1

          Is it that they are hostile to Catholicism or religious people in general. Many people now have a very negative view of the Catholic Church for the child abuse cover-ups and their attempt to restrict gay marriage to non Catholics. Is it Catholic opposition or religious opposition?

          I don't see what my attitude did to promote prejudice.

          • The Catholic Science Geek

            It is religious opposition. I just happen to be a Catholic, so that is the perspective I can speak from.

            You seem to have a very limited idea of what Catholicism is all about if those two things are the only things you can use to form an opinion....even if this is the same error of "many people."

            Have you ever considered learning the "why" behind Catholic beliefs regarding marriage? To truly be a rationalist, you must first dig through primary sources before you take an informed stance for or against their views. Primary sources are key when making any investigation. Have you done this or have you simply gotten your opinion from someone else's understanding/translation of Catholic teachings on sex.

            With regards to child abuse scandal (a favorite on threads, it seems)...do you always hold the actions of a few against a whole group? I don't hold negative views against Muslims over the actions of the 9/11 terrorists. I don't hold negative views against all gays over the actions of Mark Newton and Peter Truong against a young boy they adopted and then abused. I don't hold negative views against atheists for the deaths of tens of millions under Mao Zedong.

            I don't care what "many people" may do or think....but based on the wording of your comments here, you seem to speak for them. Pause to consider what YOU think about Catholics/other religious within the context of your previous comments. Try to see what others may understand of your attitude towards religious folk if their only reference was the comments you've shared.

            Now do you see how your attitude promotes prejudice?

          • Andrew G.

            Regarding the child abuse scandals, it's not a matter of holding Catholics responsible for the actions of a few, it's a matter of holding the Catholic Church responsible.

            And yes, it is appropriate to hold the actions of a few against a whole organization when those few constitute the leadership hierarchy of the organization. The scandal is not in that there were abusive priests, but in what the church leadership did in response.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I completely agree with Andrew here.

            It is unconscionable, even if it can be attributed to the generalized "diabolical disorientation" spoken of by the Fatima seer.

          • Rationalist1

            I was a Catholic for the first 40 years of my life. I know that Catholic faith quite well.

            I mentioned the scandal and opposition to gay marriage only to see if those topics were what was tuning off your colleagues (My opinion on the child abuse is not as much against the minority of priests who did the abusing ( <5%) but against the seemingly majority of bishops who covered it up.). No one seems, for instance, to get too upset with Episcopalians.

          • stanz2reason

            With regards to the child abuse and subsequent coverups, when you claim to be a moral authority, you're held to a higher standard. When there are violations of what are really the most basic of moral codes, it makes these events that much more shocking. The coverups, which were nearly as widespread as the abuse, were done by those higher up in the church, dragging both themselves and the greater church into what can only be described as partial complicity. It is not fair for this instance to be the one and only thing the church is judged for, however that does not in any way mean it somehow disappears. This is a stain that will be with the church from now to kingdom come.

            With regards to Newton & Truong, were their crimes due to them being homosexuals, or because they were pedophiles who happened to be homosexual? With regards to Mao, were his crimes due to his being an atheist, or was he a dictator who happened to be an atheist?

          • Corylus

            I'm a very devout scientist and I have been tempted to leave my field before...not so much because of the science...but because of the attitudes of some people in the field towards people of faith.

            I am always sad when I hear about people unhappy in their jobs and having trouble at work. However, some things about your second comment lead me to ask a question that I shall try to put as gently as I can.

            Have you considered the possibility that you would encounter the same response if you did choose to move into a completely different field?

            I ask because it may be that your work mates are getting grumpy with you; not due to your faith per se, but instead with how you choose to manifest it.

            For example, you say:

            Have you ever considered learning the "why" behind Catholic beliefs regarding marriage? To truly be a rationalist, you must first dig through primary sources before you take an informed stance for or against their views.

            Somewhat patronising, I have to say. I do note that you have not denied being against gay marriage. I also see that you go on to say:

            I don't hold negative views against all gays over the actions of Mark Newton and Peter Truong against a young boy they adopted and then abused.

            I see. So you have no negative views against them, but you nevertheless conflate homosexuality with paedophilia.

            Try to see what others may understand of your attitude towards religious folk gay people if their only reference was the comments you've shared.

            Now do you see how your attitude promotes prejudice?

            Do you see? People have become less willing to put up with judgmental attitudes toward what they - or their friends - do behind closed doors with other consenting adults.

            This is nothing to do with science - this is about not pinching up your nose at things that are none of your concern.

            Now, you might say that I am being unfair above, and if it is the case that you never discuss gay marriage / homosexuality or sexual morality generally with colleagues then I can only apologise. I do think I am justified in raising this as a possibility though.

            One way to test the above is simply for you to spend just a few hours a week doing a different job (maybe voluntary work) and see how you get on with your colleagues in this environment.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The hostility is way older then the ten or so years during which those two issues have been in the forefront of the media.

        • Paul Rimmer

          I worry about this possibly happening, but haven't seen any strong evidence of it, at least in astronomy. What field do you work in?

          I think that there are at least three social forces that may discourage people of faith from science. (1) The scientific community, especially popular scientists, communicate that it is impossible or very difficult to have faith and be a scientist. (2) The person's religious community adopts an anti-scientific attitude and (3) the intellectual support for this person's faith is full of positive references to intelligent design and anti-science advocates, such as Stephen Meyer and Michael Behe.

          This alone seems insufficient to explain the disparity, and I don't have strong evidence for the effects of any of these three forces. It's just an intuition formed from my couple of years as a "professional" scientist.

          • Geoffrey Miller

            Paul, I would agree that the reason many in the scientific community reject belief is primarily social. I really don't think there's anything in the scientific method itself that would militate against religion. After all, experimentation and the demand for empirical evidence to support one's claims is as old as humanity itself. Also, what constitutes solid evidence is rather dependent on various different philosophical assumptions.

            My theory for the rise of irreligion is that the process of globalization and the intersection of cultures has initiated a sort of mass extinction among memes. In some communities, new families of memes like humanism have taken hold, due to their relative simplicity and the ease with which they explain the existence of so many other conflicting ideas in the world. In other communities, religion has thrived by adopting elements of xenophobia and such to help orientate and comfort people in a chaotic and shifting world.

            Most present religions and philosophies, when compared to their predecessors, are not very complex or well-developed. Similarly, most creatures that survive mass extinctions are generalists, small and hard to kill.

            In any case, the best adaptive strategy for memes to survive in a globalizing world, at the moment at least, is to create closed communities. Since geographic isolation is no longer a viable option, we've got social isolation instead. That humanism took root in the scientific community is simply an accident of history. More and more, I predict social classes will coincide with people's professed belief systems.

            However, after the process of globalization is done, the remaining philosophies will become more complex and radiate outward to fill all the niches that were lost in the extinction. Unbelief is simply the evidence that many casualties are occurring in this widespread competition of cultural ideas.

          • epeeist

            Paul, I would agree that the reason many in the scientific community reject belief is primarily social.

            But to turn that on its head, how much belief is primary social? How many believers simply follow the belief of their parents? What percentage of believers have actually entered a belief system from outside it (and I don't mean moving, say, from the Church of England to Catholicism)?

          • Geoffrey Miller

            "But to turn that on its head, how much belief is primary social? How many believers simply follow the belief of their parents? What percentage of believers have actually entered a belief system from outside it (and I don't mean moving, say, from the Church of England to Catholicism)?"

            Undoubtedly, most people come to their beliefs first because of their social environment. Only much later do they develop rational justifications. And that goes for both the religious and non-religious alike.

            Conversion is rare and typically only happens to certain personality types or after major, life-altering events. We humans like to think that we are driven primarily by logic, but we aren't. The reasons people switch from, say, Islam to Secular Humanism or vice versa are often very mysterious. And reasonable people are capable of going either direction.

            Now, mass conversion, such as the present widespread abandonment of Christianity in the West, is an even rarer thing. Which is why a shift in the beliefs of less than 5% of the population is very significant. These mass conversions are caused by drastic changes in the social environment.

            If you subscribe to Dr. Dawkins' concept of memetics, which I do, we can think of modern times as a kind of mass cultural extinction of traditional paradigms caused by globalization. Unbelief is the evidence of the high causality rate in this clash of ideas, but I don't think it's permanent. Once society homogenizes culturally on a global scale, the surviving religions and life philosophies will radiate out to fill up the niches left vacant by the disappearance of other traditions.

          • epeeist

            Undoubtedly, most people come to their beliefs first because of their social environment. Only much later do they develop rational justifications. And that goes for both the religious and non-religious alike.

            Assuming they develop a rational justification at all.

            If you subscribe to Dr. Dawkins' concept of memetics, which I do, we can think of modern times as a kind of mass cultural extinction of traditional paradigms caused by globalization.

            This may be one cause, but are you sure it is the proximate one. Could, for example, better education, increasingly easy access to quality information, the development of science and the technological spin off from it, increasing leisure time and availability of other forms of activity also form reasons for the decline of religion in the developed countries?

            Once society homogenizes culturally on a global scale, the surviving religions and life philosophies will radiate out to fill up the niches left vacant by the disappearance of other traditions.

            I am with Neils Bohr on this:

            Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.

            To use a meme that seems to be popular on this site. Got evidence?

          • Geoffrey Miller

            "This may be one cause, but are you sure it is the proximate one. Could, for example, better education, increasingly easy access to quality information, the development of science and the technological spin off from it, increasing leisure time and availability of other forms of activity also form reasons for the decline of religion in the developed countries?"

            Of course. That's all involved in the process of globalization. People have more time and more access to conflicting ideas, so naturally, you're going to see a lot of traditional paradigms fall out of favor. It's like when different continents meet because of plate tectonics. Alien fauna and flora compete with the natives, and lots of creatures die out. New ones rise to replace them.

            I also think the recent history of religious wars in Europe is a contributing factor. Moral corruption of church leaders is a great motivator of defections. Moreover, religion in the West tends to be "historical," i.e., based on rather concrete historical claims. Just before globalization began, this historical perspective spread to western religions' cosmogonies, which left them vulnerable to other competing accounts of our origins. In my opinion, ancient Christianity, or Judaism, or Islam, would not have been as vulnerable in this area.

            I would also question what you mean by religious decline. Japan, arguably one of the most secular nations, is not the most irreligious at all. Instead of secular humanism, a syncretic form of universal spirituality has taken hold there that borrows elements from many different religions. And in China, you've got an interesting blend of communism and traditional confucian ideals. And India's pantheistic outlook seems to be doing just fine in the face of modernity. Only Abrahamic religions are taking a hit, and only in certain regions.

            Requiring a religion to include a belief in a personal God is rather like insisting that something be an animal in order to be considered life. But fungi and plants are life too. So are bacteria. In comparative religious studies, religion is defined as a unifying paradigm that integrates and orientates the various aspects of an individual's or a society's life. Please keep this in mind. Even secular humanism is considered to be a kind of religion.

            As for the evidence of religious diversification after a mass extinction of cultural paradigms, one need only look to the most recent occurrence of this: the decline of paganism.

            The Roman Empire put different cultic groups in touch with each other, resulting in widespread disenchantment with traditional religions and the flourishing of skepticism and pluralism depending on region. Just like what's going on today. And after the dust cleared, Christianity swept through, diversified, and filled all the niches. Even Islam was a variant of the Christian story.

          • epeeist

            Of course. That's all involved in the process of globalization.

            I rather think that gets the Humpty-Dumpty award ;-)

            You seem to have lost a whole pile of information by condensing everything down to a single word.

            I would also question what you mean by religious decline. Japan, arguably one of the most secular nations, is not the most irreligious at all. Instead of secular humanism, a syncretic form of universal spirituality has taken hold there that borrows elements from many different religions.

            I wonder whether you are using the word "secular" in the same way as I do. It is perfectly possible to be both religious and favour secularism.

            I wouldn't disagree with you that in places there has been a replacement of organised religions by more ad hoc practices.

            In comparative religious studies, religion is defined as a unifying paradigm that integrates and orientates the various aspects of an individual's or a society's life.

            By that definition being a fan of Yorkshire cricket could be considered as a religion to some. It is so wide that it could encompass almost any belief system.

            Even secular humanism is considered to be a kind of religion.

            Which only goes to confirm my argument. It certainly isn't a position the BHA would espouse.

            And after the dust cleared, Christianity swept through, diversified, and filled all the niches.

            Was that disenchantment or the military might of the empire after Christianity was declared the official religion.

            Even Islam was a variant of the Christian story.

            More a variant of the Jewish story don't you think.

          • Geoffrey Miller

            Islam claims to be the rightful successor of Christianity, the next phase of revelation after Jesus (Isa in Arabic). The Christian story is thus essential to its structure, not so much the Jewish story. For one, Islam doesn't recognize the Hebrew Bible as Scripture, whereas Christianity does.

            Anyway, I don't think the definition of religion I've given is too broad. And I think you're being unreasonable in insisting that even Yorkshire cricket could be considered as a religion. Does it impose a code of ethics? Does it suggest a politic for how a society should be governed? A teleology of human existence? A set of rituals and mythology to bind a people together over time? No? Then it is not a unifying paradigm that integrates and orientates the various aspects of an individual's or a society's life.

            In the field, nobody has problems recognizing religions unless they have some sort of agenda to make the matter look ambiguous when it's really not.

            Likewise, to clear away a likely misunderstanding in advance, atheism by itself is not a religion, but it is an element of many different, non-theistic religions. For example, atheism is an element of everything from Communism to Theravada Buddhism to Social Darwinism. These larger frameworks, concerned with ultimate purposes, are religions. The fact of the matter is that in practice, the definition of religion works very well, even if you want to take exception with some of its theoretical aspects.

            As for the British Humanist Society, they may say that humanism is not a family of religions, but they would be wrong. Either that, or they're using a definition of the word that is irrelevant to our present concerns. A lot of Christians have also insisted that they do not practice a religion, but rather a personal relationship with their Savior. No doubt you find that distinction as silly as I do. It's nothing but word games and semantics. In the eyes of the law and the academy, the phenomenon of religion is well-defined and well-understood.

            Regarding the military might of the Roman Empire spreading Christianity, that's just not good history. Neither, for that matter, is the claim that Islam spread primarily by the sword. The growth of both religions was overwhelmingly peaceful and gradual. Pop history is often just as misinformed as "creationist" science.

            If you'd like to learn more about history from an academic perspective, I'd recommend the blog Armarium Magnus by Tim O'Neill. He has very great book suggestions for lay people wanting to go deeper into the historical sciences. He describes himself as a "Wry, dry, rather sarcastic, eccentric, occasionally arrogant Irish-Australian atheist bastard," and is quite enjoyable to read.

            http://armariummagnus.blogspot.com/

          • epeeist

            For one, Islam doesn't recognize the Hebrew Bible as Scripture, whereas Christianity does.

            Islam doesn't recognise the Jews as "people of the book"?

            And I think you're being unreasonable in insisting that even Yorkshire cricket could be considered as a religion. Does it impose a code of ethics? Does it suggest a politic for how a society should be governed?

            No of course it doesn't. But it does meet the definition in your first post on the topic, before you decided to shift the goalposts.

            Likewise, to clear away a likely misunderstanding in advance, atheism by itself is not a religion

            Ah, I am glad that can inform me of what atheism is and is not.

            but it is an element of many different, non-theistic religions. For example, atheism is an element of everything from Communism to Theravada Buddhism to Social Darwinism.

            Social Darwinism, really? One never knew, nor that it could be conceived of as a religion.

            As for the British Humanist Society, they may say that humanism is not a family of religions, but they would be wrong.

            An interesting conceit, that you know what humanism is and the British Humanist Association do not.

            If you'd like to learn more about history from an academic perspective, I'd recommend the blog Armarium Magnus by Tim O'Neill.

            Who is, according to the blog, a "Human Resources Recruitment Manager".

          • Geoffrey Miller

            First of all, "people of the book" is not equivalent to notions of what constitutes Scripture in Islam. Muslims believe that the Hebrew Scriptures originated from a revelation, yes, but that they were corrupted over time and are no longer in any way reliable or authoritative. That is why in many Islamic countries, printing the Bible has been illegal. It would be awkward to say the least to ban your own Scriptures.

            As for accusing me of shifting the goalposts, it really isn't my fault if you're unfamiliar with the jargon used in a particular field like law or comparative religion. I feel like you're actively trying to read the most ridiculous and limited definitions into my terms, and frankly it's getting a bit annoying. Also, whether you think it's conceited or not for me to call humanism a religion, with all due respect to the British Humanist Society and "Christianity is not a religion" crowd, words once defined have an objective meaning.

            The academic community is not obligated to make everyone feel comfortable. We have to be conceited. We are obligated to categorize, classify, and analyze. Emotional objections to using the word "religion" are irrelevant. Call it a "social-structuring paradigm" if it makes you feel better, but speaking of religious freedom is a lot easier than talking about "protecting the autonomy of social-structuring paradigm manufacturing." If we demanded mathematical precision in discussing things as complex as history and religion, we'd spend hundreds of pages and never say a darn thing.

            And I'm really surprised that you would dismiss Tim O'Niell simply because of his current occupation. Especially when I recommended him because he has great suggestions about where to go for professional, academic information from leaders in the historical sciences. He does indeed have a postgraduate degree in the field, so he knows what he's talking about. One doesn't have to have a high profile job in a given subject to know it in depth.

            For example, I'm mathematician, but my research mainly focuses on teaching math and requires me to know a great deal about educational philosophy and psychology. In my undergraduate years, I also dabbled in sociology and comparative religion, as well as creative writing. I took a physics minor during my master's degree. There's no way I could reasonably work in all those fields simultaneously, but I can jump between them, and I think I am very qualified to give a birds-eye-view of different sorts of disciplines and how they interact. As a hobby, I've studied a great deal of theology too, and I can keep up with professional theologians easily.

            Saying, "Geoffrey knows nothing about optics because he's getting a doctorate in math education" would be an ad hominem. For my master's thesis, I helped in the creation of an apparatus for doing photolithography on non-flat substrates. So, I've actually had some pretty hands-on experience with optics and even mechanical engineering. And while the material may not be fresh in my mind, I know where to look the information up and in a week or so I could be back to where I was in terms of knowledge about optics.

            The point is, your curt dismissal of somebody by "argumentum ad current occupation" doesn't hold any water.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Neither, for that matter, is the claim that Islam spread primarily by the sword. The growth of both religions was overwhelmingly peaceful and gradual.

            Really? Can I make a reading suggestion?

            Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism, and Slavery

            M. A. Khan (Author)

            "The attacks of September 11, 2001, changed the way the world looks at Islam. And rightfully so, according to M.A. Khan, a former Muslim who left the religion after realizing that it is based on forced conversion, imperialism, and slavery: the primary demands of Jihad, commanded by the Islamic God Allah."

            "In this groundbreaking book, Khan demonstrates that Prophet Muhammad meticulously followed these misguided principles and established the ideal template of Islamic Jihad for his future followers to pursue, and that Muslims have been perpetuating the cardinal principles of Jihad ever since."

          • Jonathan West

            Conversion is rare and typically only happens to certain personality types or after major, life-altering events.

            I would qualify that statement. Religious conversion, either from one religion to another or from no religion to a religion, is rare amongst adults for the reasons you describe.

            But "conversion" (if you want to use that term) from a religion to no religion doesn't seem to require the same kind of life-altering event or personality type. It seems to me that a change from religion to no religion is a different kind of change from other conversions.

            And I suspect that many religious leaders instinctively recognise this and realise the threat it poses. Why else would religious leaders who can't agree on anything else get together to gang up on atheism or secularism? They know perfectly well that they aren't much of a threat to each other, but this growing movement is a threat to all of them.

          • Geoffrey Miller

            Jonathan, I wouldn't say that conversion from religion to no religion is different from any other sort of conversion. As somebody who has studied conversion accounts from an academic perspective, I would say they mostly exhibit the same sort of patterns.

            But current conditions in many locations in the West do favor a migration to Secular Humanism. However, this only applies to members of Abrahamic religions. More experiential based religions like Buddhism or Hinduism aren't taking any damage, even in the West, and are actually spreading and enjoying a new golden age.

            As to whether many religious leaders are ganging up to fight secular humanism, this usually only applies to the more liberal groups who are arguing for some grand, unifying Abrahamic religion.

            But it is unsurprising that a traditional Catholic and, say, a traditional Baptist would cooperate in their apologetic efforts. Such a Catholic would have much more in common with the Baptist than with the liberal member of his own denomination. This ecumenism is more a result of globalization, and was occurring long before the modern rise of non-theistic religions in the West.

            Have you by any chance read any Tocqueville? He was a French political observer way back in the 1800s who predicted a lot about contemporary American society, including the rise of atheism and our competition with Russia during the 20th century. You should really check out his book, Democracy in America. He was kind of a pioneer in what we're talking about here.

          • Jonathan West

            Jonathan, I wouldn't say that conversion from religion to no religion is different from any other sort of conversion. As somebody who has studied conversion accounts from an academic perspective, I would say they mostly exhibit the same sort of patterns.

            Is that really true? It seems to me that adult conversion to a religious viewpoint seems predominently to occur quite suddenly during some major life-changing experience, when the person's normal rational faculties are temporarily suppressed.

            On the other hand, the recent interview here with Chana Messinger gives a wholly typical example of a conversion away from a religious viewpoint. She has described a gradual process of moving towards an open acceptance of atheism based on the accumulating evidence available to her, all the while being in full possession of her rational faculties.

            As far as I'm aware, adult conversions are rarely brought about by the normal run of Christian apologetics. Apologietics exist in order to try and provide just sufficient rational
            justification to keep somebody on board who has (either as a child
            brought up in the religion or as an adult convert) come to the religion
            for emotional rather than rational reasons. Apologetics is an essentially defensive tactic of the religious organisations, to try and prevent people like Chana from drifting away. And from the figures on falling church attendance, in the West at least it seems that it isn't working all that well.

          • Geoffrey Miller

            I was converted by Catholic/Christian apologetics and scholarship. It happened to me gradually as an accumulation of evidence. I can think of several other people I know who had the same thing happen, but from a non-theistic background.

            There's Jennifer Fulwiler, my friend Allen, the guy who used to go by the screen name "The Raving Atheist" (yes, I've corresponded with him), several people in my young adult group, Leah Libresco, Thomas Merton, C. S. Lewis, etc. There's even a new book of recent, specifically Catholic conversion stories, "Atheist to Catholic: 11 Stories of Conversion." The majority are not dramatic and occur very gradually, with strong intellectual aspects.

            There's folks of all stripes.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_converts_to_Christianity_from_nontheism

            I think a whole lot of converts are being won over in ways where reasoned arguments form a primary component. A lot of the losses being sustained by Christianity are due to social conditions drawing those with mere cultural commitments to go elsewhere. If pressed to make a guess, I'd say adjusting for population size, the traffic between atheism and Christianity where apologetics is a significant contributing factor would be about equal.

          • Ignorant Amos

            There's Jennifer Fulwiler, my friend Allen, the guy who used to go by the screen name "The Raving Atheist" (yes, I've corresponded with him), several people in my young adult group, Leah Libresco, Thomas Merton, C. S. Lewis, etc. There's even a new book of recent, specifically Catholic conversion stories, "Atheist to Catholic: 11 Stories of Conversion." The majority are not dramatic and occur very gradually, with strong intellectual aspects.

            Ah, unfortunately for him, C.S.Lewis converted to C of E, which is Protestant, which means as far as your arguement goes, he is a heretic and is doomed to burn for eternity.

            There's folks of all stripes.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L...

            Yep, about 30 on that Wiki link....loads then.

            Here's a much more expansive list for ya...

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_converts_to_Catholicism

          • Geoffrey Miller

            "Ah, unfortunately for him, C.S.Lewis converted to C of E, which is Protestant, which means as far as your arguement goes, he is a heretic and is doomed to burn for eternity."

            Absolutely not. That's Feeneyism, which is itself a heresy. In fact, several Popes have had high praises for C. S. Lewis and his work. In regards to the salvation of non-Catholics, even atheism, if arrived at honestly and because of a genuinely perceived lack of evidence in favor of God, is not necessarily an imputable a sin according to official Catholic teaching (cf. CCC 2125). And that perspective on the matter has been around since the very beginning, and can be found in the writings of the Church Fathers.

            As the Catechism states in paragraph 1260: "Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery." Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Absolutely not. That's Feeneyism, which is itself a heresy.

            No I don't think it is, and the site authority on these things, Rick DeLano has had plenty to say about this subject on other threads.

            In fact, several Popes have had high praises for C. S. Lewis and his work. In regards to the salvation of non-Catholics, even atheism, if arrived at honestly and because of a genuinely perceived lack of evidence in favor of God, is not necessarily an imputable a sin according to official Catholic teaching (cf. CCC 2125). And that perspective on the matter has been around since the very beginning, and can be found in the writings of the Church Fathers.

            But Clive Staples Lewis was well versed on the scriptures and therefore did not have a "genuinely perceived lack of evidence in favor of God"...to the dismay of his good freind and staunch Catholic, JRR Tolkein.

            As the Catechism states in paragraph 1260: "Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery." Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.

            Lewis was baptized and raised Church of Ireland, so what's his excuse? Furthermore, when he returned to theism, it wasn't to C of I, but the Anglican flavour of Christianity, so he should've seen the light as an adult, even if we give him a bye-ball for childhood ignorance.

            Anyway, here is just one of Rick's assertions...

            "But I think the consensus is that people who have been given the chance to be Catholics and rejected it are going to hell"

            >> Consensus is always irrelevant on matters of dogma.

            Once a dogma has been defined by the catholic Church, then that dogma stands until the end of the world, and can never be understood in any way contrary to the sense which the Church intended when it was first promulgated.

            There are several statements of the dogmas relating to salvation, or damnation.

            This one is comprehensive, as to the specific means of *avoiding* hell.

            There is absolutely no way to avoid hell, except to be joined to the Catholic Church before death; that is, to be justified; that is, to be regenerated; that is, to be translated from the condition of original sin, contracted through propagation by every human person; and subsequently to persevere in faith, hope, and charity, so as to die infused with those virtues.

            There are no exceptions.

            Anyone who says that there are is either an heretic, a liar, or confused.

            Here is the dogma:

            Pope Eugene IV, Cantate Domino (1441, ex cathedra, de fide definita):

            "The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the "eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41), unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church."

            I wish you guys could get the details sorted out so us non-believers can get a grip on what it is we are arguing against.

          • Geoffrey Miller

            When investigating philosophies and other religions, Ignorant Amos, it is always wise to seek and trust official channels and documents. I am a catechist, so I have the knowhow and authority to speak about matters of doctrine, since I am actually appointed to teach doctrine.

            If you want to delve deeper into the issue of "salvation outside the Church," this article is a good place to start: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=674

            Please let me know if you have any more questions.

          • Ignorant Amos

            When investigating philosophies and other religions, Ignorant Amos, it is always wise to seek and trust official channels and documents over the opinions and "cut & paste Internet scholarship" of untrained laypeople.

            While I couldn't agree more...how is one to tell what is or isn't "opinions and "cut & paste Internet scholarship" of untrained laypeople"? Rick makes his argument very convincingly.

            I am a catechist, so I have the knowhow and authority to speak about matters of doctrine, since I am actually appointed to teach doctrine.

            So you say, and I have no reason to doubt your expertise, but I'm not privy to Rick's credentials, it might be that he is better qualified again to make such judgments.

            There is just one glaring problem too. I'm going to have to assume that everyone receiving the catechism is subject to the instruction of someone of your standing? So that would include Rick too? So why is there such diverse opinion then?

            If you want to delve deeper into the issue of "salvation outside the Church," this article is a good place to start: http://www.catholicculture.org...

            Thanks.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            It is always a very good thing to decline to be fobbed off onto private blog sites, when the question is the authentic magisterial teachings of the Catholic Church.

            These teachings are found not on blog sites, not in the opinions of the owners of blog sites, not in the opinions of theologians, but in the actual magisterial documents which express them.

            Ignorant Amos has, correctly, reproduced the de fide definita, ex cathedra dogmatic definition of the Council of Florence and Pope Eugene IV.

            It stands until the end of time and is irreformable.

            It is important to recognize the additional dogmatic definition of the Council of Trent, Session VI, Chapter IV, which has critical importance for correctly understanding how one is joined to the Catholic Church, which of course one *absolutely must be* in order to be saved:

            "A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE JUSTIFICATION OF THE SINNER AND ITS MODE IN THE STATE OF GRACE

            In which words is given a brief description of the justification of the sinner, as being a translation from that state in which man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace and of the adoption of the sons of God through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Savior.

            This translation however cannot, since promulgation of the Gospel, be effected except through the laver of regeneration or its desire, as it is written:

            Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.[18]

            :

          • Ignorant Amos

            For some reason this reply to Geoff disappeared in the space time continuum that is Disqus...I hope it was nothing more sinster than that...

            When investigating philosophies and other religions, Ignorant Amos, it is always wise to seek and trust official channels and documents over the opinions and "cut & paste Internet scholarship" of untrained laypeople.

            While I couldn't agree more...how is one to tell what is or isn't "opinions and "cut & paste Internet scholarship" of untrained laypeople"? Rick makes his argument very convincingly.

            I am a catechist, so I have the knowhow and authority to speak about matters of doctrine, since I am actually appointed to teach doctrine.

            So you say, and I have no reason to doubt your expertise, but I'm not privy to Rick's credentials, it might be that he is better qualified again to make such judgments.

            There is just one glaring problem too. I'm going to have to assume that everyone receiving the catechism is subject to the instruction of someone of your standing? So that would include Rick too? So why is there such diverse opinion then?

            If you want to delve deeper into the issue of "salvation outside the Church," this article is a good place to start:http://www.catholicculture.org...

            Thanks.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The very best place to delve into any question concerning what the Church teaches is to start with what the Church teaches *with the charism of infallibility*; that is, the formulations of Her teaching which are protected by heaven itself:

            18 And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

            19 And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.

            The dogmatic definition below is one such teaching:

            Pope Eugene IV, Cantate Domino (1441) ex cathedra:

            "The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not onlypagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the "eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41), unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church."

            Notice two things, Iggy.

            First, one must be joined to the Catholic Church for salvation.

            This is infallible and irreformable.

            It stands to the end of the world.

            Second, any interpretation of Catholic teaching which denies this Truth is false.

            We have now constrained the discussion to one exact point:

            " How is one joined to the Catholic Church?"

          • Ignorant Amos

            Rick, this issue is of some importance. I was baptized Church of Ireland so never took catechism and never made it to communion age. Now, there are many Atheists here that are fallen Catholics and did take catechism, so they will be better set to convey the method of teaching, but those Catholics that I have broached the subject with, claim rote learning and really haven't much of a grasp on the subject. Therefore, clearing up any discrepancy will likely benefit more than the ignorant Atheist here, as it seems that some who claim knowledge, may be wanting in at least some areas.

            The purpose of this site is for just such understanding after all, is it not?

          • epeeist

            The purpose of this site is for just such understanding after all, is it not?

            I don't know whether it is just me but is the number of posts and the number of posters declining?

            When I get up in the morning (UK time) I glance at the "Recent Comments" box, there rarely seem to be posts from theists. More usually the box is dominated by comments from atheists.

            The site may have been set up to foster some understanding between Catholics and atheists, but you have to wonder whether it is succeeding in its objectives.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Well you may have a point. The arguments seem to gravitate to the same old same old no matter what the subject of the OP.

            There is only so many ways to skin a cat. The site seems to have reached a bit of an impasse and it is no surprise, the theists wish only to address the favourite arguments with the more awkward questions being ignored or avoided..

            A good example is the brick wall poor Susan is beating her head against.

            At least with Rick it is entertaining and there is potential to learn from him.

            It also could be just a case of the majority of theists find themselves completely out of their depth in such high brow debating. You are well versed in such a scenario from other sites...."Gone to Croydon" was mentioned earlier }80)~

          • epeeist

            At least with Rick it is entertaining and there is potential to learn from him.

            I can't remember, you're a Northern Irelander aren't you? Not from around Dublin, the birth place of GBS with his characteristic pithy aphorisms.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Yip, Belfast, but residing in Spain at present.

            Protestant Christians and Catholic Christians will be beating the shite out of each other and the PSNI this Friday over religious, cultural, traditional and political oppositions. God works in mysterious ways.

          • Ignorant Amos

            It's not the first time you've offered the GBS advice, good advice it would be too if I wasn't also a pig.}80)~

          • cowalker

            . . . the theists wish only to address the favourite arguments with the more awkward questions being ignored or avoided.

            Or is it just that people who tend to be atheists enjoy arguing more? If one is the sort of person who finds satisfaction in accepting a body of authoritatively defined dogma, one might not enjoy dealing with objections to this dogma on a regular basis. If one wants and needs authority in organizing his/her life, one is not going to enjoy facing continual challenges to this authority.

            I've observed atheists (including myself) enjoying the argumentative process on theistic sites, but believers don't seem to turn up as freuently on atheist sites. I think it's predictable, then, that more atheists than theists will show up on a site like "Strange Notions."

            I suspect that, at least in the U.S., the average atheist tends to question everything, to be thick-skinned, to be comfortable with (maybe even revel in) being a non-conformist, to be well-educated and to hang out with the well-educated, and to enjoy having his/her ideas challenged. Because it would be tough to be an atheist in the U.S. without those traits.

            Believers have begun to strike martyred poses and contend that THEY are the nonconformists, but this is definitely not true in the U.S. If it ever becomes true, perhaps the personality types will someday be reversed.

            Sid Collins

          • Ignorant Amos

            Or is it just that people who tend to be atheists enjoy arguing more?

            Good point...a bunch of smart Alec's perhaps.

            If one is the sort of person who finds satisfaction in accepting a body of authoritatively defined dogma, one might not enjoy dealing with objections to this dogma on a regular basis.

            Especially when the average theist Joe knows next to nothing about the religion he adheres to...."belief in belief"

            If one wants and needs authority in organizing his/her life, one is not going to enjoy facing continual challenges to this authority.

            Especially when they don't know anything on the subject past what they heard at Sunday school.

            I've observed atheists (including myself) enjoying the argumentative process on theistic sites, but believers don't seem to turn up as frequently on atheist sites. I think it's predictable, then, that more atheists than theists will show up on a site like "Strange Notions."

            Yeah, but this place is populated by those theists with a bit of theology about them.

            I suspect that, at least in the U.S., the average atheist tends to question everything, to be thick-skinned, to be comfortable with (maybe even revel in) being a non-conformist, to be well-educated and to hang out with the well-educated, and to enjoy having his/her ideas challenged. Because it would be tough to be an atheist in the U.S. without those traits.

            Ya wanna try it in sectarian Northern Ireland...where the leaders in government are homophobic creationist.

            ,blockquote>Believers have begun to strike martyred poses and contend that THEY are the nonconformists, but this is definitely not true in the U.S. If it ever becomes true, perhaps the personality types will someday be reversed.

            In Europe they are all crying persecution and complaning about their civil liberties.

          • cowalker

            . . . the theists wish only to address the favourite arguments with the more awkward questions being ignored or avoided.

            Or is it just that people who tend to be atheists enjoy arguing more? If one is the sort of person who finds satisfaction in accepting a body of authoritatively defined dogma, one might not enjoy dealing with objections to this dogma on a regular basis. If one wants and needs authority in organizing his/her life, one is not going to enjoy facing continual challenges to this authority.

            I've observed atheists (including myself) enjoying the argumentative process on theistic sites, but believers don't seem to turn up as frequently on atheist sites. I think it's predictable, then, that more atheists than theists will show up on a site like "Strange Notions."

            I suspect that, at least in the U.S., the average atheist tends to question everything, to be thick-skinned, to be comfortable with (maybe even revel in) being a non-conformist, to be well-educated and to hang out with the well-educated, and to enjoy having his/her ideas challenged. Because it would be tough to be an atheist in the U.S. without those traits.

            Believers have begun to strike martyred poses and contend that THEY are the nonconformists, but this is definitely not true in the U.S. If it ever becomes true, perhaps the personality types will someday be reversed.
            Sid Collins

          • BenS

            The problem for me is that there's never any conclusion to these discussion threads. There's never any point where a question can said to have been answered.

            I see a lot of people essentially talking straight past each other and -worse - seemingly deliberately ignoring answers that are made to their points.

            I've seen the claim that 'god is outside time and space' rebutted time and time and time again on these discussions... only for it to be stated again, by the exact same people, whenever a new discussion is created.

            My own contributions in this regard are tailing off because I'm just getting sick of repeating myself.

            As for whether it fosters understanding, I can only speak for myself, but I have learnt a bit more about Catholicism from this site - including that my Catholic friends aren't considered Catholic by half the people on here - but what I have learnt hasn't led me to consider Catholicism in a better light than previously.

          • epeeist

            I've seen the claim that 'god is outside time and space' rebutted time
            and time and time again on these discussions... only for it to be stated
            again, by the exact same people, whenever a new discussion is created.

            To introduce another meme besides "Going to Croydon", this one is known as "pressing the reset button", essentially restoring the poster to factory defaults and eliminating any history of conversations where dogma has been countered.

          • BenS

            I had it happen to me once where I was arguing with some idiot creationist and a thread went to over 1000 posts as I explained to him how radiometric dating worked. I answered all his points, countered all his arguments and really drilled the subject down to incredible detail. I was like a dog with each point as well, pressing him to either admit his point was flawed or demonstrate it was true before moving on to the next one - and I kept a tally and summary of each point I'd corrected him on and a link to the post where he'd admitted that point was flawed. I largely considered it my finest hour (and, as a bonus, I taught myself an obscene amount about radiometric dating, too).

            Six months later, I caught him on another thread making the EXACT SAME arguments that he had ADMITTED were flawed and shown to be wrong in the epic thread of all time. I went scurrying back to link to my summary in that epic thread and found that, as he was the OP of that epic thread, he'd deleted his OP and the thread had been removed. I was fucking livid at such blatant dishonesty.

          • epeeist

            Six months later, I caught him on another thread making the EXACT SAME arguments that he had ADMITTED were flawed and shown to be wrong in the
            epic thread of all time.

            Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

            My particular favourite is a poster calling himself Bifocal on the Guardian web site. The Dunning-Kruger effect might have been invented with him in mind.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            I've seen the claim that 'god is outside time and space' rebutted time and time and time again on these discussions... only for it to be stated again, by the exact same people, whenever a new discussion is created.

            How can you claim that "God is outside of time and space" has been rebutted when nobody knows what time is? Many scientists don't even believe there is such a thing as time. "What is time?" is one of the great unanswered questions in physics. I think we do know that time (if it exists) is not absolute. It is not the same for everyone. It varies not only for those in motion relative to each other, but for those in different gravitational fields. So what time would God be in? Considering the twins paradox, would he be in the time as experienced by the twin who leaves earth traveling at near-light speeds and returns to find that much more time has passed on earth than has passed on his ship, or would God be in the time as experienced by the stay-at-home twin?

          • BenS

            How can you claim that "God is outside of time and space" has been rebutted when nobody knows what time is?

            Then how can you think the phrase 'god is outside time and space' even means anything if no-one knows what time is? If that's the case, I look forward to you taking up the mantle of squashing these ridiculous claims whenever they're made on this site. That'll save me a load of effort. Thanks.

          • Jonathan West

            Of course, the "God is outside of time and space" slogan is a convenient get-out-of-jail-free card to play when asked why they aren't prepared to have their ideas about God subjected to scientific investigation.

            The problem they have is that science has gained great prestige as a reliable means by which facts about the world can be discovered. It is for that reason that many religious dogmas these days are dressed up in pseudo-scientific language "intelligent design" and "theistic evolution" are two of the most well-worn phrases.

            But when we get to more immediate issues concerning God's supposed intervention in human affairs, such as an occasional apparent healing of a pilgrim to Lourdes, there is the great problem that the scientists might come up with the wrong answer. The best way to prevent that is to declare as a self-evident truth that science is unfit to investigate the matter.

            It is almost certainly for that reason that Georges Lemaitre, (both a devout Catholic and an accomplished scientist) went to such trouble to get Pope Pius XII to shut up about the Big Bang theory of cosmology. If no claim is made that a scientific discovery supports Christianity, then the undermining of that discovery cannot be used as a claim that Christianity is flawed or untrue.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "The problem they have is that science has gained great prestige as a reliable means by which facts about the world can be discovered."

            >> That is not a problem. The problem is that, just lately, atheists have decided to turn science into a religion, or, what is the same thing, to enshrine the contingent facts, instead of the reliable means, as the object.

            Popper has already shown us that every scientific theory has the same probability of being true.

            That probability is zero.

            Those committed to a given provisional consensus- the ones who want to make science a religion- are outraged to learn this reliable fact.

            The scientists rejoice and get back to work identifying and experimenting on the anomalies which will, inevitably, overturn the existing consensus and disclosing the false metaphysical assumptions upon which it relies.

            Science progresses funeral by funeral.

          • Jonathan West

            Popper has already shown us that every scientific theory has the same probability of being true.

            That probability is zero.

            I think that your understanding of Popper is somewhat defective. You might care to read the following series on Popper and his thought. The link to the first article is here

            http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/10/karl-popper-enemy-uncertainty

            We can be pretty certain that Archimedes will never be proved wrong about why things float in water, Copernicus is not going to be refuted about the fact that the earth orbits the sun rather than vice versa, Newton's laws will forever be an effective explanation of the behaviour of billiard balls, Benjamin Franklin's explanation as to the nature of lightning is not going to be contradicted, and we are not going to discover that Darwin was wrong about evolution by natural selection.

            All these scientific theories are falsifiable, in that a single confirmed contrary observation would refute them.

            But the numerical probability in each of the cases listed above that such a falsifying observation will never be made is not zero, it is undefined. You cannot make a numerical calculation of probability without a statistical dataset to work from, and all these theories can only be falsified in circumstances as yet unknown.

            The fact that a theory is falsifiable does not mean that it is false (which is another way of saying that the probability of it being true is zero).

            But I rather suspect that you will ignore all this and repeat the same misunderstandings next time the subject comes up. If you do, then I'll know that you aren't interested in learning, but only in winning.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            I don't think that Popper, or any philosopher of science, has shown us any "facts." That is not what philosophy does. If a philosopher demonstrates factual findings, those findings move outside of the realm of philosophy. I am by no means an expert on the philosophy of science, but it seems to me that while Popper is indeed one of the giants of 20th century philosophy of science, his star has faded, and Kuhn pretty much regarded as the most important 20th-century philosopher of science.

            Of course, that doesn't mean Kuhn is right and Popper is wrong, or that either one of them is right. But I am very wary of a statement such as, "Popper has already shown . . . [and] . . . the ones who want to make science a religion . . . [are ] outraged to learn this reliable fact." There is no fact to learn.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Except there is.

            Popper proposes a specific means of determining what the word *science* signifies.

            His proposal yields the excellent outcome, that it allows us to use the word *science* in a way that distinguishes it from all other ways of knowing.

            This excellent outcome protects science from those who would turn it into religion.

            Which is the only way to destroy it.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I prefer to read Popper himself, since it has been my experience that interpreters tend to interpret through their own metaphysical lens.

            Here is what Popper actually *says*:

            "A theory which is not refutable by any conceivable event is non-scientific. Irrefutability is not a virtue of a theory (as people often think) but a vice.

            Every genuine test of a theory is an attempt to falsify it, or to refute it. Testability is falsifiability; but there are degrees of testability: some theories are more testable, more exposed to refutation, than others; they take, as it were, greater risks.

            Confirming evidence should not count except when it is the result of a genuine test of the theory; and this means that it can be presented as a serious but unsuccessful attempt to falsify the theory. (I now speak in such cases of "corroborating evidence.")

            Some genuinely testable theories, when found to be false, are still upheld by their admirers — for example by introducing ad hoc some auxiliary assumption, or by reinterpreting the theory ad hoc in such a way that it escapes refutation. Such a procedure is always possible, but it rescues the theory from refutation only at the price of destroying, or at least lowering, its scientific status. (I later described such a rescuing operation as a "conventionalist twist" or a "conventionalist stratagem.")

            One can sum up all this by saying that the criterion of the scientific status of a theory is its falsifiability, or refutability, or testability."

            I affirm that the above words of Popper are the only means by which we can actually distinguish *science* from other ways of knowing, by means of identifying the crucial distinction of the scientific method: falsifiability.

            Let us apply these words to your profoundly unscientific assertions below:

            "We can be pretty certain that Archimedes will never be proved wrong about why things float in water,"

            >> Indeed we can. This assertion has been subjected to risky experimental test for millennia and stands unrefuted. It is refutable by a conceivable event.

            It is a valid scientific theory.

            But it is not *true*.

            We might one day conceivably identify an exception to this theory, which would, upon experimental confirmation, *falsify it*.

            If we could not, then the theory would not have been scientific in the first place.

            But we can.

            So it is.

            "Copernicus is not going to be refuted about the fact that the earth orbits the sun rather than vice versa,"

            >> To the contrary. This hypothesis has already been refuted, as a matter of direct scientific observation; that is, physics has alleged that it cannot establish any absolute motion by any means whatever, and as Einstein has tried for nearly a century now to tell you what this means:

            "The struggle, so violent in the early days of science, between the views of Ptolemy and Copernicus would then be quite meaningless. Either CS [coordinate system] could be used with equal justification. The two sentences, 'the sun is at rest and the earth moves', or 'the sun moves and the earth is at rest', would simply mean two different conventions concerning two different CS [coordinate systems]."

            ---"The Evolution of Physics: From Early Concepts to Relativity and Quanta, Albert Einstein and Leopold Infeld, New York, Simon and Schuster 1938, 1966 p.212

            "Newton's laws will forever be an effective explanation of the behaviour of billiard balls,"

            >> Completely false. Billiard balls obey Newton's laws only to a locally-serviceable approximation, and the laws fall apart entirely when we attempt to apply them to very large billiard balls- stars- on scales larger than a stellar cluster.

            "Benjamin Franklin's explanation as to the nature of lightning is not going to be contradicted,"

            >> How remarkable, then, that the nature of lightning is known to be a plasma, which state of matter was completely unknown to Ben Franklin.

            "and we are not going to discover that Darwin was wrong about evolution by natural selection."

            >> This one we agree on, since it has been conclusively demonstrated that evolution is not, presently, a scientific research program:

            http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/2012/02/marys-bones-part-iii-is-evolution.html

            Metaphysical research programs like evolution are not falsifiable, because they are not scientific.

            "All these scientific theories are falsifiable"

            <> Archimedes stands. Copernicus has been falsified. Newton has been falsified. Franklin has been falsified. Darwin is not being researched scientifically, but instead elaborated as a metaphysics.

            "But the numerical probability in each of the cases listed above that such a falsifying observation will never be made is not zero, it is undefined. You cannot make a numerical calculation of probability without a statistical dataset to work from, and all these theories can only be falsified in circumstances as yet unknown."

            >> As Popper has told you already. If it is not falsifiable, it is not science. If it is falsifiable, it is not true.

            Valid, maybe.

            True?

            Never.

            Not if it is science.

            "The fact that a theory is falsifiable does not mean that it is false (which is another way of saying that the probability of it being true is zero)."

            >> It means exactly that. A true theory is one which is not falsifiable by any conceivable event; that is, it is not a scientific theory.

            "But I rather suspect that you will ignore all this and repeat the same misunderstandings next time the subject comes up. If you do, then I'll know that you aren't interested in learning, but only in winning."

            >> The misunderstandings have been on your part, and I am obligated to point this out.

            Nothing personal.

          • Jonathan West

            "We can be pretty certain that Archimedes will never be proved wrong about why things float in water,"

            >> Indeed we can. This assertion has been subjected to risky experimental test for millennia and stands unrefuted. It is refutable by a conceivable event.

            It is a valid scientific theory.

            But it is not *true*.

            I suspect you have created your own local definition of "true", by getting mixed up between Popper's meanings of "falsifiable" and "false". A theory is scientific if it is falsifiable by means of observation or experiement. It is false if it has actually been falsified by this means. A falsifiable theory that has not been falsified is true to the best of our knowledge.

            All scientific knowledge is to some degree provisional and subject to revision in the light of future observation as as yet unknown. Unless and until such an observation happens, it is impossible to put a numerical value on the probability that such an observation will occur in the future. That is why the probability that the theory is true is not zero as you stated, it is undefined.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I am afraid the word "true" applies to no statement which has any probability at all of being false.

            This simple point established, we can see why Popper has it right, and you have it wrong.

          • Jonathan West

            In that case it is not true that your name is Rick Delano, even if your name in fact is Rick Delano.

            It has been my experience that people who deliberately redefined words so far away from their normally understood meanings are trying to obfuscate rather than communicate.

            Unless and until you provide contrary evidence that refutes that Popperian scientific hypothesis I shall take it to be true, even though by your definition it is not true by virtue of the fact that it is falsifiable.

          • GreatSilence

            I was experiencing the same thoughts. It could also be the topics. Personally I think there are too many "movie reviews" and NOMA /science type of discussions. Maybe some focused discussions on the effect of evolution on original sin / redemption, some resurrection debates, some discussions about the reliability of the NT, heaven and hell, the practice of revering Mary and so on could blow some life back into the machine. Maybe it is just my impression in any event, maybe the objective figures show otherwise.

          • epeeist

            I was experiencing the same thoughts. It could also be the topics.

            I think one of the other things might be Disqus. It really is a dogs' breakfast when it comes to presenting threads. I know, for instance, that there have been several responses to my post but at the moment I am only seeing yours.

            Is it the way that it is set up? Is the configuration wrong or caching set at too aggressive a level? I really don't know, but it does lead to conversations that are fragmented and difficult to follow?

          • Andrew G.

            When you follow a link to a specific comment, it doesn't show the whole thread, only the chain of posts from the linked-to comment back to the original reply, plus any other comments in the thread that were fetched as part of the original comment load. So you're not necessarily seeing the whole thread unless you load all comments (which is a bit tedious when there are hundreds).

          • epeeist

            When you follow a link to a specific comment, it doesn't show the whole thread, only the chain of posts from the linked-to comment back to the original reply

            The problem with this being that if I respond to a comment with a particular argument I can't tell whether or not someone else has made the same argument. And a person responding to the argument now has two choices as to which post they respond to. And so on.

            This isn't really a web site is it? It is really a prototype of a machine to test Everett's interpretation of quantum mechanics.

          • Andrew G.

            Those who do not understand Usenet are doomed to reinvent it ... poorly.

          • epeeist

            Those who do not understand Usenet are doomed to reinvent it ... poorly.

            Coo, Henry Spencer, haven't heard him mentioned for yonks.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Disqus nearly did for RDFRS...many regulars left, some only return from time to time and only fleetingly.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            I really don't know, but it does lead to conversations that are fragmented and difficult to follow?

            In many respects, this site works better as a chat room than as a discussion forum. I write one brilliant message after another—if I do say so myself—and most of the responses to them are by people who are currently online at the same time as I am. When I leave the computer to do something else and come back hours later, few if any people have responded to what I have said. If you are not online when a new thread is introduced, it is very difficult to follow it.

            Part of the problem is the success of the site. Most of the other forums I have participated in have far fewer commneters (or at least regular commenters). One possible solution is to "follow" (using Disqus) certain commenters and ignore the others, but then you are getting only part of the picture.

          • clod

            I'm hoping they're learning to treat non belief with a bit more respect rather than contempt or disdain or as an 'evil'. Even that would be something.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Rick DeLano makes a very powerful case for his interpretation of Catholicism, but it is his own interpretation, and he does not speak for the Catholic Church, any more than he speaks for contemporary physics, astronomy, or cosmology. Here is a statement (an excerpt from a longer document by Rev. Thomas Rosica) that I have posted before and that Rick DeLano has disagreed with. I contend that it is a much more accurate description of the Catholic position on salvation than the views Rick DeLano argues for.

            What is the meaning of the affirmation “Outside the Church there is no salvation”?

            This means that all salvation comes from Christ, the Head, through the Church which is his body. Hence they cannot be saved who, knowing the Church as founded by Christ and necessary for salvation, would refuse to enter her or remain in her. At the same time, thanks to Christ and to his Church, those who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ and his Church but sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, try to do his will as it is known through the dictates of conscience can attain eternal salvation.

            3) The scriptures tell us expressly that God wants everyone to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4); the covenant of peace which God made with Noah after the flood has never been abrogated: on the contrary, the Son of God himself has sealed it with the authority of his self-sacrificing love embracing all people. Pope Francis warns Catholics not to demonize those who are not members of the church, and he specifically defended atheists, saying that building walls against non-Catholics leads to “killing in the name of God.

            4) The great German Jesuit theolgian, Fr. Karl Rahner introduced the idea of “anonymous Christian” into theological reflection. Through this concept, offered to Christians, Rahner said that God desires all people to be saved, and cannot possibly consign all non-Christians to hell. Secondly, Jesus Christ is God’s only means of salvation. This must mean that the non-Christians who end up in heaven must have received the grace of Christ without their realising it. Hence the term – ‘anonymous Christian’.

            What is meant by this thesis of the anonymous Christian is also taught in “Lumen Gentium,” the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Vatican II (no.16). According to this document those who have not yet received the gospel and this without any fault of their own are given the possibility of eternal salvation...God ‘in the unknown ways’ of his grace can give the faith without which there is no salvation even to those who have not yet heard the preaching of the gospel.

            Catholics do not adopt the attitude of religious relativism which regards all religions as on the whole equally justifiable, and the confusion and disorder among them as relatively unimportant. God truly and effectively wills all people to be saved. Catholics believe that it is only in Jesus Christ that this salvation is conferred, and through Christianity and the one Church that it must be mediated to all people.

            5) There is always a risk in interreligious dialogue or dialogue with atheists and agnostics today that reduces all discussions to mere politeness and irrelevance. Dialogue does not mean compromise. There can and must be dialogue today: dialogue in genuine freedom and not merely in that ‘toleration’ and co-existence where one puts up with one’s opponent merely because one does not have the power to destroy him. This dialogue must of course be conducted with a loving attitude. The Christian knows that love alone is the highest light of knowledge and that what St Paul says about love must therefore be valid of dialogue.

            6) A non-Christian may reject a Christian’s presentation of the gospel of Christ. That however, does not necessarily mean that the person has truly rejected Christ and God. Rejection of Christianity may not mean the rejection of Christ. For if a given individual rejects the Christianity brought to him through the Church’s preaching, even then we are still never in any position to decide whether this rejection as it exists in the concrete signifies a grave fault or an act of faithfulness to one’s own conscience. We can never say with ultimate certainty whether a non-Christian who has rejected Christianity and who, in spite of a certain encounter with Christianity, does not become a Christian, is still following the temporary path mapped out for his own salvation which is leading him to an encounter with God, or whether he has now entered upon the way of perdition.

            8) The Scriptures teach that God regards the love shown to a neighbor as love shown to Himself. Therefore the loving relationship between a person and his or her neighbor indicates a loving relationship between that person and God. This is not to say that the non-Christian is able to perform these acts of neighborly love without the help of God. Rather these acts of love are in fact evidence of God’s activity in the person.

            9) As Christians, we believe that God is always reaching out to humanity in love. This means that every man or woman, whatever their situation, can be saved. Even non-Christians can respond to this saving action of the Spirit. No person is excluded from salvation simply because of so-called original sin; one can only lose their salvation through serious personal sin of their own account.

            In the mind of Pope Francis, especially expressed in his homily of May 22, “Doing good” is a principle that unites all humanity, beyond the diversity of ideologies and religions, and creates the “culture of encounter” that is the foundation of peace.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Yes David, but can you see the importance of having this dialogue. You, and many others think Rick is wrong on his interpretations. I like to think you are right, he is certainly of the conservative ilk, but he is not alone in his fundamentalism, that is the worrying thing.

            I was born into a world of Christian fundamentalism that breed sectarian bigotry to the point of a community murdering each other. This coming Friday will see the annual epitome of this bigotry manifest. If Rick and his support is so wrong, I want those that know better than I to put him in his box. He is doing the Catholic faith no favours.

            Thanks for the extensive post, there is a lot to take in there.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Exactly right, Iggy.

            I am personally convinced that if only the Catholic would tell the Catholic Truth about questions concerning...well, Catholic Truth.....

            We would have discharged our unshirkable obligation to correctly inform our atheist friends about what it is the Church teaches.

            The atheist has an absolute right to know.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "if arrived at honestly and because of a genuinely perceived lack of evidence in favor of God, (atheism) is not necessarily an imputable (..) sin.

            >> Exactly as true, as it is irrelevant to the question of salvation.

            No one is saved by ignorance.

            Invincible ignorance is neither a sacrament, nor does it remit original sin.

            Unless one is justified; that is, unless one is translated from the condition of original sin, to the state of justification by grace, then one is not joined to the Catholic Church, and one will be judged for all one's sins by a God Who makes no mistakes at all concerning which ones are culpable and which ones are not.

          • Geoffrey Miller

            I would also add, Jonathan, that I do not view atheism or any other religious perspective as a "threat." Whatever is true may or may not win out in the end, since cultural evolution like its biological counterpart is undirected. If theistic religion loses, then it loses. Most of its adherents believe it will lose anyway as a lead up to their apocalypse.

            Now, I don't subscribe to atheism, especially not of the Western, modern variety. And I have my reasons.

            But, what if some form of atheism is true, as in, corresponds to how reality actually works? Well, then it's true and I'm wrong. I spent a lot of time studying very interesting and inspiring texts that are wrong about the grand picture of the universe, but good literature nonetheless. I was kind and lived my best. I wouldn't have any regrets in such a scenario.

            Neither you, nor atheism, is my enemy.

          • Jonathan West

            As far as I'm aware, you aren't a religious leader and therefore don't have a position.of influence and authority to protect. So atheism isn't your enemy and I never suggested it was.

          • Geoffrey Miller

            I am a religious leader. I'm a catechist, and I'm about to be ordained as a subdeacon on my way to becoming a deacon. I also write a column for Austin Catholic New Media and give some spiritual direction. I've seriously considered monasticism and the priesthood, and I wouldn't mind being a bishop someday. But I'll go wherever the road takes me.

            My motivation is truth. I do have quite a large stake in the Church. I'm planning a book on the New Testament, in fact, at the moment. However, rejecting atheism just to keep my position would be flat out wrong. I couldn't in good conscience support anything I didn't think was true.

            I seriously doubt there's any grand collaboration between religious leaders to oppose atheism as a threat against hearth and home, so to speak. The ones who are involved in arguing against atheism have basically the same motivation as many scientists (both theistic and non-theistic) do who argue against creationism.

            I'm not equating atheism with creationism. My point is merely that both sides are most often well-intentioned. They are arguing against perceived falsehoods that they view as destructive to individuals and societies.

          • Jonathan West

            Well, in the case perhaps you could make an attempt to answer a question for me.

            Take a look at the following article. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/jan/13/religion-atheism-evidence

            The standfirst describes the question being addressed by the article "Should evidence of God should be held to the same standards as evidence of other things in life?"

            The final paragraph describes my answer, which is basically "yes". {EDIT: my earlier "no" at this point was meant to describe my view on whether something other than the scientific method should be used to investigate God.)

            But I'm always happy for others to attempt to persuade me that they have a way of gaining certain knowledge abut God that is superior to the scientific method.

            Is your knowledge of God based on the scientific method? And if not, what is it based on and how can you tell that it is reliable.

            It seems to me that all the debate between atheists and believers about the existence of God is basically pointless, because the two groups can't even agree on a common standard by which they will assess the evidence. It seems to me that it is the believers who are applying a special case to their knowledge of God, while the atheists are largely applying a common standard.

            If the debate is ever going to escape from its current circularity, then either this special case will have to be justified to the satisfaction of the atheists, or will have to be abandoned by the believers, so that we have a common metric to work with.

            So, would you like to set the ball rolling, and describe what you think is the justification for the special case applied by the religious to their knowledge of God? I'm especially interested in what weaknesses of the scientific method your approach is designed to avoid, and how you can tell that new weaknesses have not thereby been introduced.

            (edited for consistency of meaning)

          • Geoffrey Miller

            I'd be honored to undertake such a conversation with you, especially if we could get it published together. Because I'd want it to be a cooperative endeavor. Even if we don't arrive at a final answer, I think it would be helpful for a lot of people. However, this would have to be a long term project, since I'm working on my doctorate and my schedule is...terrifying. I'm preparing for a conference tomorrow, in fact.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Jonathan,

            I read you OP at the Guardian and would like the opportunity to point out it's fundamental flaw.

            Science is ONLY a way to understand and dominate the physical world. That is a lot, but it is far from everything.

            Your OP leaves out philosophy, which provides the concepts and understandings which make the scientific enterprise possible. Your OP is a philosophical musing on what form of evidence would be best for evaluating claims about God. You are standing above science, evaluating it and other forms of knowing; You are not *doing* science to evaluate ways of knowing.

            Your OP leaves out all values by which we decide what is important and what is not. For example, science cannot tell us it is better to live by the truth than not to.

            Your OP leaves out all morality, about which science in itself can tell us nothing.

            Your OP leaves out rationality, pure reasoning, whether it is metaphysical arguments or mathematics.

            Science is a lot. But these other kinds and ways of knowing are also vitally important.

          • Jonathan West

            Even if I were to concede your point that "Science is ONLY a way to understand and dominate the physical world", the fact is that this doesn't mean that issues of God are outside the purview of science.

            If God intervenes in any way in the physical world, then those interventions form part of the physical world that you yourself acknowledge is within science's areas of enquiry. And yet you have claimed that science cannot investigate this. Why not?

            But if God does not intervene in any way within the physical world, then how can you have any knowledge of what God is?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If God intervenes in any way in the physical world, then those interventions form part of the physical world that you yourself acknowledge is within science's areas of enquiry.

            Here is an area where science and religion do seem to coincide:

            http://www.economist.com/node/304212

            But if God does not intervene in any way within the physical world, then how can you have any knowledge of what God is?

            Two ways to have rational knowledge of God would be (1) philosophy, in which empirical findings from science are used as the basis of a philosophical discussion about God and (2) metaphysics, in which a concept derived from experience like contingent being and non-contingent being are used to build a philosophical argument.

          • Jonathan West

            Two ways to have rational knowledge of God would be (1) philosophy, in which empirical findings from science are used as the basis of a philosophical discussion about God

            Ah, in that case science is a valid approach to the study of God, for it is the finest way can you have of getting the reliable empirical findings that the philosophical reasoning would start from.

            It took us a very long time, but we got there in the end!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think we have spoken about the tenuous link that could ever be made between a purported miraculous cure and God's agency. Similarly, science could never establish that answered prayers were answered by God.

            I'm thinking more along the lines of a beginning of the cosmos via the Big Bang, the impossibility of an infinite number of Big Bangs based on the law of entropy, the statistical probability of an anthropic universe based on the fine tuning of initial conditions, even the argument from irreducible complexity.

            A whole second realm of study about God would be man's duty to live by the moral law, about which science can say nothing, either about the existence of a moral law or a human obligation to observe it.

          • Michael Murray

            So does your god exist in the real world or the world of ideas ?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Of course God is "beyond science." Your own ability to comprehend science is "beyond science."

            Because God is immaterial, science can never study him.

            However, Carl Sagan once made the audacious claim that Jesus Christ was as an extraterrestrial, but we won't hold that against the genius due to his youth.

          • Jonathan West

            I see you're till trying to have your cake & eat it.

          • BenS

            Of course God is "beyond science."

            Kevin,

            I'm afraid I've beaten this to death some time ago and you have provided no credible response to show otherwise. Please either respond to my posts or stop claiming god is beyond science.

          • Michael Murray

            Of course God is "beyond science." Your own ability to comprehend science is "beyond science."

            No it isn't. It follows from the fact that the universe exhibits regularities that can be studied and the fact that I have a reasonably amount of computing power in my head.

            Because God is immaterial, science can never

            study him.

            So God does not interact with the material world (i.e. the real world) so there is no God. Our job here is done.

            However, Carl Sagan once made the
            audacious claim that Jesus Christ was as an extraterrestrial, but we won't hold that against the genius due to his youth.

            The irony in your comment is that to claim that Jesus was a extra-terrestrial or a time-traveller from the distant future is vastly less audacious and far more plausible than what the Catholic Church claims.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No it isn't.

            Our ability to do science is due to our rationality. Experimental science depends on human rationality. It is a subset of rationality.

            So God does not interact with the material world (i.e. the real world) so there is no God.

            If this conclusion is true, you will have had to use metaphysics to reach it. Science only studies what can be observed in the physical world. To reason that something which is not detectable materially therefore cannot exist at all is "beyond physics," which is one of the literal meanings of metaphysics.

            Welcome to the world beyond the physical world.

          • severalspeciesof

            "Welcome to the asserted world beyond the physical world."

            There, fixed it... ;-)

          • Michael Murray

            If this conclusion is true, you will have had to use metaphysics to reach it. Science only studies what can be observed in the physical world. To reason that something which is not detectable materially therefore cannot exist at all is "beyond physics," which is one of the literal meanings of metaphysics.

            I should have said a little more but to be fair I have said this so many times on these boards I thought we might have moved on. Try

            So God does not interact with the material world (i.e. the real world) so we might as well assume there is no God because She has no consequences for the real world.

            By the way I don't have a problem using philosophy or metaphysics. I accept the world of human ideas. It's my day job. But the world of human ideas is not some immaterial place that god can live in outside of space-time. Are you sure you are not confusing the idea of god with god ?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes, I'm sure I'm not confusing the idea of God with God. I like ideas but I like real things more.

            Let me try to rephrase my critique of your claim.

            You say that if God does not interact with the material world in a physically detectable way, then God might as well not exist as far as we are concerned. This has to be a metaphysical conclusion, since science could never reach it. All science can say is, "my tools and concepts can't detect God."

            Your claim that 'God doesn't matter because experimental science cannot say anything about him' has to be open to metaphysical criticism and you have to be open to metaphysical arguments in general.

          • BenS

            You say that if God does not interact with the material world in a physically detectable way, then God might as well not exist as far as we are concerned.

            Pack it in, Kevin. You admitted this yourself in the post below, middle paragraph.

            http://www.strangenotions.com/atheist-scientists/#comment-958732897

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That paragraph began with the word "if."

          • BenS

            And if you're claiming there isn't a disconnect (i.e. that your god interacts with reality) then please demonstrate what the connection is and how it can be seen.

            I've asked you this before. You don't seem to want to answer.

          • Michael Murray

            Yes, I'm sure I'm not confusing the idea of God with God. I like ideas but I like real things more.

            Strange then you seem to keep arguing that your god is not real.

            You say that if God does not interact with the material world in a physically detectable way, then God might as well not exist as far as we are concerned. This has to be a metaphysical conclusion, since science could never reach it.

            But this is no different to saying my particle detector can't detect the recently postulated murrayon particle so we might as well assume it isn't there. That's how science works. Call it "philosophy of science" if you really have to.

            I'd rather not call it metaphysics because around here metaphysics is usually any form of reasoning that pulls undetectable rabbits out of undetectable hats and is used as way to limit science. "Science only studies the the material world, metaphysics studies the non-material world".

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Okay. So can we call it philosophy or rationality as a whole?

            Science is a particular form of rationality. We could never see the boundaries of science if we didn't have ways of standing above it. As you know, Popper posited falsifiability as the way to separate science from pseudoscience.

            Many philosophers say we can reason our way to the existence of God from empirical evidence or purely through concepts about being in itself.

            But you seem to be saying that only that which can be seen through the lens of experimental science and which can therefore be falisified can be allowed as evidence for God.

            This seems to me to be false on its face because something outside of science gives us the concepts which science uses, falsification for one. But falsification cannot be falsified by science since it is a concept and doesn't predict anything.

            Therefore there is at least one thing outside science that is true.

          • epeeist

            Science is a particular form of rationality.

            No it isn't. It is empiricist.

            As you know, Popper posited falsifiability as the way to separate science from pseudoscience.

            And it has been shown to be a not particularly good demarcation criterion. And if you want to be more exact about it he claimed that it was a method of separating science from non-science rather than pseudo-science.

            Many philosophers say we can reason our way to the existence of God from
            empirical evidence or purely through concepts about being in itself.

            Many philosophers? I think you will find that the phrase you are looking for is "some philosophers of religion".

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So basically, epee, we egree?

          • epeeist

            So basically, epee, we egree?

            I think you forgot the smiley on your response...

          • Michael Murray

            Many philosophers say we can reason our way to the existence of God from empirical evidence or purely through concepts about being in itself.

            That's my fundamental complaint. There is a real world and a world of ideas. You can't make things true in the real world just using ideas alone. "Being itself" is an idea. Does it correspond to anything in the real world ?

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            The actions of leprechauns, also can't be detected. What about them?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You didn't actually respond to (1) the dependence of science on reason or (2) my fledgling critique of what I'll call the "no material interaction no God" claim.

          • BenS

            my fledgling critique of what I'll call the "no material interaction no God" claim.

            In case you've forgotten, you're floundering in this current discussion with me. It's disingenuous to try and hit the reset switch when having the same conversation with someone else.

            You know full well, and have admitted, that a god that does not interact in any measurable way with the real world doesn't, for all practical purposes, exist in a meaningful way. Why are you now attempting to imply otherwise?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think I'm recovering from my flounderitude while simultaneously taking flack from three sides.

            I do have a real philosopher hot on this case.

          • BenS

            Fair enough. In which case, I'll stop riding you if you stop making the claim that god is 'outside space and time' or 'beyond the remit of science' - and that includes rewordings of those points - until the issue is dealt with.

            How's that sound?

          • BenS

            I do have a real philosopher hot on this case.

            Whilst I'm flattered that you've brought in backup to deal with me (as I'm just a humble peasant from the Northern Wastes of England who only recently discovered fire and learnt it was possible to communicate without using dung) perhaps it would save you some trouble if you just got them to chip in themselves rather than directing you from afar? :)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Ha!

          • BenS

            If this conclusion is true, you will have had to use metaphysics to reach it.

            This is why I use the phrase 'to all intents and purposes, does not exist'. You've ackowledged this yourself in a response to me. If god does not interact with the material world then it has no relevance and might as well not exist. Whether it actually exists or not is moot, it doesn't do anything we can see.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            The irony in your comment is that to claim that Jesus was a extra-terrestrial or a time-traveller from the distant future is vastly less audacious and far more plausible than what the Catholic Church claims.

            Sad, but true.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            As long as you "wouldn't mind being a bishop" I sincerely hope you will never become one!

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            He also does not hold the Catholic Faith:

            "But, what if some form of atheism is true, as in, corresponds to how reality actually works? Well, then it's true and I'm wrong."

            This is an explicit heresy, which p[laces the contingent conclusion of human reason above the dogmas of the Faith.

            God help us if he became a bishop.

            Please God, we don't need any more bishops who do not hold the Catholic Faith.

          • Geoffrey Miller

            [quote]This saying is trustworthy: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task (1 Tim. 3:1).[/quote]

            I should hope anyone who becomes a bishop would actually want to be one. While false humility may be popular in many circles, it stands in direct contradiction to Biblical teaching and the wisdom of the saints. The ideal worker is the man who both feels prepared and actually is prepared for the task at hand. That someone desires a given position should never be counted against his promotion to that position.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          That sounds just like Hollywood, academia, and the mainstream media.

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      Thanks for posting the video of the J. Coyne presentation. He covers all the bases very well.

      • Paul Rimmer

        The video alone is worth the comment. It would be nice to see a future response to the video, if nothing else.

    • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

      Paul, I'm still thinking about your question. You are right. I get email from parents and young people to this effect. They want to be scientists, but are afraid they'll have to compromise their faith, or make a choice. They don't know that in real life, it's like I described, pretty friendly. They fear it's like they hear in the media, totally antagonistic to faith. Maybe it is becoming more and more that way... and that would be sad. Like you said, it makes things worse for science and for religious people.

  • Rationalist1

    "Philosopher Edward Feser has written in his book The Last Superstition that many philosophers misunderstand the arguments for the existence of God and just take it “by faith” that they have been refuted." No they're read Hume and Kant and realize they been refuted.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      This is untrue and, if you read The Last Superstition, you'll see clearly why both men erred.

      • Rationalist1

        It depends whose argument one find more convincing, Kant, Hume or Feser.

        Also, are there any other Catholic apologists philosophers one can refer to except Feser?

        • Paul Rimmer

          There are many good Catholic philosophers.

          Apologist philosopher? Isn't that an oxymoron?

          • Rationalist1

            I meant apologist as modifying the word Catholic. I don't know of any apologist philosophers.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Socrates was an apologist philosopher. He defended philosophy as a way to understand life.

          • Paul Rimmer

            I meant Catholic apologist philosopher. It seems strange that any can exist at all. The goals seem to disagree: exclusively defending a specific belief vs. quest for truth guided by reason. In my opinion, when certain philosophers (Feser, Plantinga, Craig) start to do apologetics, they cease philosophy.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Wouldn't this be just as true for some atheist philosophers or at least popularizers?

          • Paul Rimmer

            I think so. There are definitely atheist apologists.

          • Erick Chastain

            eg Bertrand Russell "Why I am not a Christian" or much of Nietzche

      • Susan

        Could you give us your explanation of why both men erred?

        • Susan

          I've asked you a ton of questions over these weeks, Brandon and you've responded to none of them.
          They were all fair and honest questions.
          You did take offense to my immaterial snowflake fairy analogy and delete it without explaining why, just that it was offensive.
          It's highly unusual, and brings some troubling (though not necessarily intentionally dishonest) ethical issues.
          To take credit for a site, to moderate a site, to comment on a site and to have any sort of last word on how the conversation goes.
          That would go down a lot smoother if you responded to genuine questions about the assertions you disguise as legitimate premises.
          I do hope for instance that you never assert the idea that objective morality "exists" again without explaining what objective morality looks like and who among us could legitimately call it objective and how we could demonstrate that.

          • epeeist

            I've asked you a ton of questions over these weeks, Brandon and you've responded to none of them.

            You will find me posting on the Guardian blogs. There this behaviour has gained a name due to the behaviour of a particular poster there who was given some hard questions to answer. He suddenly discovered he had an urgent appointment in Croydon (not the most lovely of England's towns).

            "Gone to Croydon" has become, shall we say, an occasional meme on the site.

          • Susan

            "Gone to Croydon", it is then.

            Thank you Epeeist.

  • stanz2reason

    A more accurate description comes from the Pew Research Center, which reported in 2009 that 51 percent of scientists believe that God or some higher power exists, while 41 percent of scientists reject both of those concepts. In addition, while only 2 percent of the general population identifies as atheist, 17 percent of scientists identify themselves with that term.

    Perhaps, but maybe it'd be better to look a little closer at that study. True that 51% believe in a God or at least some form of higher power, but this is among Americans, who among western countries are far more religious on average than the others. For those who believe in God in the US, that same Pew Survey has the general public at a whopping 83% and scientists at 33%. Factor in the 'don't believe in God, but believe in a higher power and those numbers are 95% to 51%. That's a pretty staggering difference. 1 in 2 scientists is atheistic/agnostic compared to 1 in 20 for the general population.

    Is it science that turns people into atheists? Or is it atheism that turns people into scientists?

    I would imagine this would depend on the person, impossible to tell over all. A believer might study biology and find that the explanations we've come up with don't require a deity and becomes a skeptic. In this instance science turns a person into an atheist. On the other hand a skeptic looking for an explanation of the world might find theological explanations unacceptable and turn to science for firmer answers. In this instance atheism turns someone into a scientist. Perhaps for others there's no causal relationship between the two.

    While it may dishearten believers to see that so many intelligent people reject the existence of God, we should ask a very frank question in light of this fact: Who cares?

    I wonder if the numbers were reversed (say 50% of the general population was non-believeing & 95% of scientists were believers) how much you would be saying 'Who Cares'. This reminds me of the study of prayer done by the Templeton Foundation that found no change in medical outcome for people who were prayed over. The response from the believing community was essentially 'who cares?' As with that I couldn't help but think about how dismissive they might have been had prayer showed to be beneficial.

    The existence of God is not a scientific question, because science restricts itself to searching for natural explanations of observed phenomena. Since God is a transcendent being who exists beyond space and time, the search for God must primarily use philosophy, or careful reasoning, and not science (even though science provides facts which can be used in philosophical arguments for and against the existence of God).

    We can agree on this much. God transcends reality. If science can "provide facts which can be used in philosophical arguments for and against the existence of God", then at least partially it is a scientific question.

    Natural scientists (such as the biologists, chemists, and physicists that make up the Pew study) are no more equipped to make conclusions about God than they are equipped to make conclusions about economics, history, literature, or philosophy.

    ... which of course isn't true at all. Natural scientists tell you, if there is/was a God, how he worked, when he worked, what he worked on, etc. A natural scientist armed with a telescope & a microscope can tell you more about God than the college of cardinals.

    Philosopher Edward Feser has written in his book The Last Superstition that many philosophers misunderstand the arguments for the existence of God and just take it “by faith” that they have been refuted.

    ... so it's only the philosophers who are smart enough to grasp 'First cause... therefore Jesus' arguments?

    When it comes to philosophers and God, it is interesting to see that the majority of philosophers of religion, or those who have extensively studied the existence of God, are theists (72 percent).

    In a similar study it was found that a disproportionate amount of baseball & football players were also sports fans...

    A belief is true if it corresponds to reality.

    Yes... Yes it is.

    • Rationalist1

      Very good reply. Thank you.

      • stanz2reason

        TY R1.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      > If science can "provide facts which can be used in philosophical
      arguments for and against the existence of God", then at least partially
      it is a scientific question.

      Only insofar as it takes scientific knowledge to correctly understand and explain the scientific evidence used in the philosophical argument, but the same would hold true for history, sociology, or any other field from which evidence was drawn.

      • stanz2reason

        Which still means that the existence of God is still at least partially a scientific question. Were the scientific evidence & scientific knowledge to say one thing rather than another, this would of course alter the philosophical argument.

  • Max Driffill

    This piece seems like a slightly desperate attempt to not deal with a troubling fact for believers. Religious belief tends to be softened or eliminated entirely by increased education and intelligence.
    If I believed something, smart educated people thought was untrue, and thought was untrue in large numbers, I would certainly be troubled. In fact it was this very thing that made me look much more closely into questions of UFOs when I younger. I had taken them as given, so many reports, so many eye witness testimonies.

    However deeper investigation, and classes in astronomy caused me to change my mind about the frequency and likelihood that we were being visited by aliens.

    • Paul Rimmer

      Who cares what other people think? Maybe you worry when these very established people all disagree with you, but then again, maybe you are on to something. Worry is all it should be.

      Decisions should be made based on the available evidence, not on popularity or consensus or anything else. In science this is true, anyway.

      • Max Driffill

        Paul,

        Who cares what other people think?

        If I am to live a considered and thoughtful life, then I do. You will note, I did not change my mind based on this worry, I chose to investigate the question more deeply and examine the evidence.

        • Paul Rimmer

          I really don't care what other people think of my beliefs.

          I do care what they think of my actions. But my beliefs and my private life?

          Maybe this makes my life unconsidered or unthoughtful. It has certainly made it more interesting!

          • Max Driffill

            Nor do I particularly care what people think of my beliefs. I do care what people think, and I do care whether what I believe comports with the evidence. If large numbers of bright people believe something that isn't in line with what I believe, I am immediately curious about the strength of the evidence for my belief. Its always worth a look to examine one's notions.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Just speaking about the United States, when higher education is almost totally dominated by a progressive and anti-traditional values agenda and college campuses are venues of drunken debauchery (I say that with all respect), it is not surprising that "increased education" softens religious belief.

      • Rationalist1

        Gee. I went to the wrong university.

        • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

          Maybe its different in Canada?

          • Rationalist1

            All dressed up in parkas, chugging maple syrup straight from the bottle, while watching hockey in June. Can it get any better than that?

      • Max Driffill

        Kevin,
        You can't just speak about the US though.
        1. Drunken debauchery is not perpetrated by 100% of campus populations
        2. Are the Royal Society and the National Academy overly represented by drunken debauchers
        3. There is no anti-traditional values agenda on college campuses.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          1. True, not every college student is getting drunk and hooking up every night.
          2. Not relevant.
          3. Ha!

          • Max Driffill

            2. Is relevant if we are discussing how education and intelligence affect religiosity. As are other country data.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    Trent, In my view this is a very clear and reasonable post, but we'll see how well it survives the shredder!

  • severalspeciesof

    When it comes to philosophers and God, it is interesting to see that the
    majority of philosophers of religion, or those who have extensively
    studied the existence of God, are theists (72 percent).

    I'm surprised that in that particular question (God: theism or atheism?) that deism wasn't included, or that this possible response wasn't on the table: "The question is too unclear to answer")

    Glen

    • Andrew G.

      That response was indeed on the table.

      Details:

      God: theism or atheism?
      Accept: atheism 576 / 931 (61.9%)
      Lean toward: atheism 102 / 931 (11.0%)
      Accept: theism 99 / 931 (10.6%)
      Agnostic/undecided 51 / 931 (5.5%)
      Lean toward: theism 37 / 931 (4.0%)
      Reject both 16 / 931 (1.7%)
      The question is too unclear to answer 16 / 931 (1.7%)
      Skip 9 / 931 (1.0%)
      Accept another alternative 8 / 931 (0.9%)
      Accept an intermediate view 7 / 931 (0.8%)
      Other 5 / 931 (0.5%)
      There is no fact of the matter 5 / 931 (0.5%)

      • severalspeciesof

        Thanks, I didn't see it on the link...

        • Andrew G.

          You have to set the detail to "fine" to see all results.

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

    Anyone going into science is trained (or is supposed to be, anyway) in critical thinking with emphasis on doubting one's own beliefs. Any scientist must first be his or her own biggest skeptic, and that carries over into taking proper care to not accept the beliefs of others as true without supporting evidence. (And more importantly, rejecting beliefs for which there is reliable falsifying evidence.) For some who have grown up in religious families, this may be the first time they look back and reassess their religious beliefs from an evidence standpoint. I suspect this critical thinking requirement shifts the religion statistics for those going into science careers v. the general population.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Probably the biggest barrier to critical thinking is the death of liberal education in this country.

      I think it is also worth noting that before the student becomes a scientist he must learn and accept as given huge amounts of information about the physical world.

      • Rationalist1

        "before the student becomes a scientist he must learn and accept as given huge amounts of information about the physical world." And he must learn to criticize and find fault with some aspect of that information. Science only makes progress when fault is found. Religion makes new denominations when fault is found.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          >Science only makes progress when fault is found.

          You mean confirmation is not part of scientific progress?

          • Rationalist1

            Confirmation is part of science but it's not how you make your name. When I worked in the field I did experiments partly to confirm, but mostly hoping I'd find and error. All but one were confirmed. (also those papers are much harder to get published).

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            As Popper has wisely noted, corroborating evidence only counts as scientific corroboration if it is obtained as a result of a genuine test of a "risky prediction" of a given theory.

            This is exactly what the evolution research program adamantly refuses to do, in the face of anomalous fossils obtained all over the world.

            This shows us that Popper was right the first time in his controversial initial assessment of evolution as a metaphysical, *not a scientific*, research program:

            http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/2012/02/marys-bones-part-iii-is-evolution.html

        • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

          "Science only makes progress when fault is found. Religion makes new denominations when fault is found."

          >> I would have to vote this in the Top Five Atheist Comments I have ever read on SN.

      • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

        Yes, one has to learn a "huge amount" but that includes the intellectual tools to test the validity of what is learned. Science teachers are expected to be able to explain the backing for what is taught. If it is not backed by evidence, it's not science.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Yes. That is what makes natural science a science, organized and justified knowledge.

  • Ben

    This article is sort of all over the place. I summarize it as follows:

    Q: Should Catholics feel concerned that most scientists or atheists?
    1. Don't worry, not as many of them are atheists as you think
    2. And anyway, maybe it's just that atheists like to become scientists
    3.And anyway, science can't tell us about God
    4. And if its philosophers who can, don't worry about the numbers there because most of them just don't understand how great the philosophical arguments for God's existence are,
    5. And in conclusion, truth doesn't depend on who believes it, so who cares who thinks what?

    I think this meandering, shotgun approach betrays a bit of desperation. As someone else pointed out, does anyone doubt for a minute that Catholics would find it hugely significant if the majority of scientists were Catholics/Christian/or at least theists? The "20 proofs for God's existence" article tells you all you need to know on that score, as one of the proofs was the fact that the majority of people believe or believed in a God of some sort!

    If it would matter one way, it matters for the other side. In some ways I am a lot more interested in whether the Catholics here will acknowledge that general point more than anything to do with this specific instance of it, i.e. scientists and their beliefs. For my part, yes, I find it significant (not dispositive, but significant) that the people who best understand how our physical reality works believe in God in lesser numbers than the rest of the population.

    • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

      Unless, of course, you're looking at scientists aged 18-34 in the US...

      • Rationalist1

        But even that demographic has a much lower percentage of belief than the general public

        • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

          Granted. Unless your general public is young people 18-24 in the UK.

          But of course, like with everyone here, the numbers don't matter, unless I like them.

          • Rationalist1

            But we have to compare apples to apples. Belief in the UK is much lower than in the US. (I think the general public is about 50% belief in God), In this Pew study (http://religions.pewforum.org/pdf/report-religious-landscape-study-chapter-3.pdf) roughlty 75% in that age group the US believe in God.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I was being facetious, of course apples aren't oranges and Brits are godless.

            So, to cover the same ground we've covered in two posts now, the trends are reversed, with young scientists tending to be more religious than their older counterparts, but still fewer young scientists believe in God than young Americans, and all we can do is guess at why this is the case until we see another study telling us about the trending levels of belief/unbelief in those young scientists, or some other complimentary study.

            Personally, I think the whole "scientists all think this way so therefor its important" is a silly tack for either side to take. The numbers are fun to look at and conjecture about, but at the end of the day, so what? A lot of scientists might be terrible at geography, that doesn't put Bosnia in Asia.

          • Rationalist1

            I think scientists would be the first to say to go and think for yourself. In my science studies I was always encouraged to do that, but when I was trying to support an experimental result they were merciless is trying to find fault with it,

            I agree more studies are needed. But coming from a country where the most Catholic province Quebec went from overwhelmingly Catholic to almost no adherence in a generation (the quiet revolution) I would think Catholics should not take this without concern. But then again..

          • BenS

            ...with young scientists tending to be more religious than their older counterparts, but still fewer young scientists believe in God than young Americans, and all we can do is guess at why this is the case until we see another study telling us about the trending levels of belief/unbelief in those young scientists...

            I agree. I was surprised to see that younger Yank scientists are more religious - and I posted a reason why I think that might be, above - when the reverse is true over here in godless Britland.

            It very much is the case over here that the general youth are far less religious than the older generation; the only exceptions being those who are really brought up in religious households (muslims especially, but some others as well). Even those exceptions, once free from their family, begin the steady drift away from religion.

            Personally, I think the whole "scientists all think this way so therefor its important" is a silly tack for either side to take.

            It's important, but it's not decisive. It really does say something, though, that the more educated a person is, the less likely they are to be religious. This transcends countries, language, upbringing and other notions and holds true the world over. Statistically, the better your education, the less likely you are to believe in god.

            It's a very interesting observation and one that, I would imagine, should worry the religious.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Even saying "more educated people are atheists" I think would be a stronger point, especially if it's what everyone's really trying to say.

            Maybe I just object to the idea that scientists stand for all that is higher education these days. Where's the love for liberal arts?

          • BenS

            Maybe I just object to the idea that scientists stand for all that is higher education these days. Where's the love for liberal arts?

            Yeesh, you want to be careful there. The arts are full of ho-mo-sexuals!!

            I think it's more that education in the sciences is more applicable to the questions around the existence of a deity. Knowing every painter who ever held a brush or being able to play 22 musical instruments is all well and good but they don't really have any relevance to the 'god question'.

            Understanding prayer doesn't make people better, evolution kicks Adam and Eve into touch, cosmology has no place for a six day creation, geology shows an old Earth, rainbows are signs from god etc goes a long way towards eroding any need for a deity to explain anything.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Liberal Arts is also philosophy, and has at its core the idea of being trained to think critically. Not restricted solely to the scientific method, but logic etc. Also writing and speaking etc.

          • epeeist

            Even saying "more educated people are atheists" I think would be a
            stronger point, especially if it's what everyone's really trying to say.

            Even this is variable. Look at the statistics for the different states in the US. It probably is true for the UK and other European countries though.

          • Rationalist1

            I read a study a few weeks ago that only 25% of young Britons (18 to 24) believe in God. That's half of the 50% of the general public that do. I

          • epeeist

            I read a study a few weeks ago that only 25% of young Britons (18 to 24) believe in God.

            Yeah, table 12.5 in this survey

            Note also it is only the 55+ age groups where "No religion" drops below 50%.

          • Rationalist1

            Thanks. Amazing the change.

          • stanz2reason

            The age factor here is interesting in terms of keeping an eye on something, but I'm not sure you can point at one study at call something a trend. It does seem to be counter intuitive as younger people as a subset of the general population are typically less likely to subscribe to religious beliefs than older people and this appears to be the opposite. Interesting to be sure.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I didn't say it's a trend, I said follow-up studies might indicate a trend...

          • stanz2reason

            So, to cover the same ground we've covered in two posts now, the trends are reversed...

            Sounds a lot like you're saying it's a trend.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Ah, got me. Careless use of trend, I was saying elsewhere on this thread that we can't speak of trends until...

            You are right, I should say the tendencies are reversed, or some other word like that.

          • stanz2reason

            No worries. It was a minor point. Doesn't change the fact the the result of the survey seems counter intuitive. I'd be very interested to see followup surveys.

          • epeeist

            Belief in the UK is much lower than in the US. (I think the general public is about 50% belief in God),

            If you are referring to the latest census then the reported figure was 59.1%, but the question on the census form was "What is your religion", which somewhat begs the question.

            If you look at the British Social Attitudes survey they split into two parts:

            1. Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion?

            2. If YES, then which.

            In this case 50% claim to have no religion while 44% claim to be Christian with 6% belonging to other faiths.

          • Ben

            I think it's interesting you assume that *everybody* wants to just quote numbers they like, rather than try to arrive at true beliefs by looking at numbers.

            The rationalists here are trying to construct an accurate picture of scientists' religious belief in comparison to the general population. You are just cherry-picking restricted demographics that are even less religious than US scientists, as if that proves anything.

            I mean, why would the "general public" ever equal "young people 18-24 in the UK"? If young people in the UK are less religious than US scientists of all ages, does that make you think scientists are more religious than if you compare US scientists of all ages to US citizens of all ages? And if so, what is wrong with you?

            Then you retreat into relativism, saying that everyone is just as biased and self-serving as you are.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            It was facetious Ben, sorry about that. See my response to R1 below.

          • Ben

            So you do accept it's true that US scientists are less religious than the general population?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Of course.

      • BenS

        Personally, I think the age bracket here is quite large. There's a huge difference between an 18 year old, fresh out of uni and the shadow of his parents and a 34 year old who's been making their own way in the world for 16 years.

        I would imagine that, of that bracket, those with the highest belief will be the youngest - those with less experience and less time actually picking up the science and understanding, still surrounded on all sides by their religious family and peers.

        • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

          You may very well be right, but without a follow up study, or a more broken-down age bracket, we only guess whether its the same "Young people, Parent's shadow" phenomenon, or a new emerging trend.

          • BenS

            I agree. Without some proper studies my guess is just that; a guess. That's why I prefixed it with 'I imagine'. :)

  • Ben

    So, in summary, your argument is that

    1. it doesn't matter how many scientists believe in God because it's a purely philosophical question

    2. and also, Gregor Mendel and Georges Lemaitre and your father-in-law are totally religious AND scientists

    3. and also, successful scientists are less religious than mediocre scientists.

    I think both scientists and philosophers would agree that an argument has to at least be coherent before it's worthy of consideration.

  • ZenDruid

    Scientists are like other people in that they may or may not do interesting things over the weekend, whether hang-gliding, scuba diving, rock climbing, rodeo riding, internet surfing, or participating in the weekly family-tradition soap opera. My point is that science is a professional vocation, and religion is entertainment.

    • Christian Stillings

      ...and religion is entertainment.

      By golly, I never realized! Now I can sleep in on Sundays!

      You may count it entertainment; in the same way, I count Lawrence Krauss' continuous redefinition of the term "nothing" to be entertainment, though many atheists consider it to be Really Good Science That Totally Disproves The Existence Of God. Why not call each an honest belief in something which others regard as false?

      • ZenDruid

        I'm not a scientist, but I find it entertaining to read Wiki articles on quantum physics, simply for the humor of seeing the English language used in such a creative fashion, without really understanding the meaning of much of the terminology. I can accept the definition of 'nothing' as a state of equilibrium on the quantum level. BTW, I haven't read Krauss' book either....

        My honest belief about Abrahamic religions is that it is both sordid and deplorable to live one's life under the burden of guilt, shame, and fear. Feel free to disagree.

        • Christian Stillings

          Do you believe that there are any actions for which one should feel guilty? Do you think there are any actions for which one should be ashamed? Do you think there are any actions which, if one commits them, one should live in fear of retribution by some sort of authority? If you answer no to those three questions (particularly the last one), wouldn't it only be fair to characterize you as an anarchist? Would you really want to live in a society in which no such things as guilt, shame, or fear existed? If not, and if you agree that there should be at least some circumstances in which such feelings are appropriate, your disagreement with "Abrahamic religion" is about degree (the specific standards held) and not about kind (whether or not standards exist/ought to exist at all).

          I get the impression that you're a Nietzsche fan ("slave morality" and all), but I'll need you to be consistent about it. :-P

          • ZenDruid

            I object to automatically being guilty and ashamed just for being born human. Sound familiar?

            Of course, people do things all the time that may warrant some level of guilt or shame, but there is a difference between being guilty of doing something, and having the guilt built into everything.

            I've pretty much ignored Nietzsche.

          • Christian Stillings

            If I understand correctly, you don't disagree with the value of fear, shame and guilt, but you object to the idea that one should feel any for being human. Is that an accurate assessment of your perspective?

            If I'm not mistaken, you're referring to the doctrine of original sin. Would you mind sharing your understanding of the Catholic doctrine of original sin? Bonus points for citations.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Fear is rather important. Without it, our ancestors would have attempted things even more dangerous than they did, and you would not be reading these words.

          • Christian Stillings

            I appreciate your insight, but I'm not sure how it's specifically pertinent to the context of this conversation. Zen said that "it is both sordid and deplorable to live one's life under the burden of [fear]." I was pointing out that, in terms of societal ethics, causing people to fear consequences for committing certain actions is majorly conducive to any kind of functional society. If he meant to say "no human should have to experience fear", this would be a rather silly statement in certain conversations, such as those regarding societal ethics. It seems that he was talking about the doctrine of original sin, and it's his turn to respond in that conversation.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Well, I do agree with ZenDruid where he put:

            My honest belief about Abrahamic religions is that it is both sordid and deplorable to live one's life under the burden of guilt, shame, and fear.

            Because, I see the doctrine of Original Sin as hijacking our natural fear reaction, based on no evidentiary foundation.

          • ZenDruid

            If I understand correctly, you don't disagree with the value of fear, shame and guilt, but you object to the idea that one should feel any for being human. Is that an accurate assessment of your perspective?

            Nobody was born a sinner. Nobody was born a liar either, but it occurs to me that there is nothing more effective than the threat of eternal torment to inspire a child to become very good at lying.

            I 'value' fear, shame and guilt in the sense and to the degree that I value paranoid delusions.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Odd, Zen.
          The whole point of Christianity is to freed from guilt, shame, and fear.

  • robtish

    You're drawing the wrong conclusion when you say 71% of philosophers of religion are theists. Compare that to a 91% figure for Americans in general (Gallup, May 2011) and it seems more correct to say that being one of the "most well-informed philosophers" makes you LESS likely to be a theist than if you hadn't made yourself so well-informed.

    • MetMath

      It is quite a meaningless poll, especially when there are entire countries, Poland, Cyprus, San Marino, Iran, etc. where 98%-100% of the people are religious.

      • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

        Poland, Cyprus, San Marino, Iran, etc. where 98%-100% of the people are religious . . . .

        I think if you ranked those countries for their investments in science and achievements, they would not do well. Here is one ranking from Scientific American. Poland is 27th out of 40, and the other countries you mention don't even make the list.

      • Rationalist1

        Ireland used to be that way too. Church attendance has dropped from 91% to 46% in 40 years. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_Republic_of_Ireland#Church_attendance )

      • BenS

        Interestingly, when you look at countries that are predominantly religious or have a religiously driven government it's incredible how many people migrate to these countries from predominantly secular countries because the education system is better and the opportunities for advancement are far superior.

        People are flooding from the UK and US to countries like Poland and Iran in search of a better life and a better education for their children.

        ----

        This post was brought to you by the letter 'B' and the letters 'ollocks'.

    • Christian Stillings

      Sure, fewer philosophers of religion are theists than the general population in America. However, a substantial majority of philosophers of religion are theists or theism-leaning (as the poll showed), which was Trent's point. If "appeal to the experts" may consist of appeals to majorities of bodies of experts in pertinent fields, an appeal to the majority of philosophers of religion makes more sense than an appeal to a small group of elite scientists, since philosophy is more pertinent to the question of God-existence than science, which examines natural phenomena without regard to their potential relationship to Divine action.

  • Gerrard_Liverpool

    Why bother? Someone who is in the NSA isn't just a Scientist by profession, it consumes most of their, well, everything. Faith in anything isn't in any of the NSA handbooks, or any other scientific text. Faith is something isn't intended to be proven.

  • MetMath

    As a student of science myself, I appreciate the nice rational discussion on this topic. I actually treat the expansion of science as greater reasons for theists to be theists and atheists to be atheists as both are expanded continuously in the vortex as things become more understood while others become unknowable.

    • Paul Rimmer

      I would imagine the same, and wonder about why it doesn't seem to work that way.

  • Randy Gritter

    It actually does give people pause. It should until you interact with their arguments. Opinions among scientists are just like those of anyone else. There are trends. People follow fashionable opinions. The question is why has religion become unfashionable among scientists and philosophers. Is there a good reason? The short answer is No. I have talked to enough of them to know. People suppose there is a war between science and religion. If you are a young earth creationist there might be. As a Catholic I know there is no such war. There never has been such a war. There could not, in principle, be such a war. Yet you hear it all the time from those who should know better.

    So trends that are against you are discouraging. If they are not accompanied by good reasons they are not good sources of truth. They do influence people. Not everyone wants to think through the questions. Not everyone is willing to be counter-cultural. It is a price one must pay for being Catholic. You look foolish in some circles. So be it.

    • Rationalist1

      "There never has been such a war." People like me would have been executed for expressing my views on God and religion a few hundred years ago in Europe. It wasn't a war, it was an occupation.

      • Randy Gritter

        But are you talking about your scientific opinions or your religious and/or philosophical opinions? There was a problem with religion and violence. Science was actually a safer place to engage in academic skepticism. A novel opinion on plant growth was not going to get you in trouble nearly as quickly as a novel opinion on the trinity.

        • Rationalist1

          Actually in th Soviet Union the wrong theory on plant growth or evolution would get you sent to the gulag. ( see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysenkoism)

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            In that country renowned for it's dogmatic theism?

          • Rationalist1

            Dogmatic, but not theism. Lysenkism conformed to the Communist ideal better than conventional Evolution.

    • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

      There is a great deal of pure speculation in what you say. Are you implying that religious belief is not "trendy" in scientific circles, so religious people give up their faith to "fit in"? Or perhaps being around others who have no faith, they just drift away? There are many other explanations. Young people who tend to be religious may also tend not to be interested in a career in science. It may be because of their religiosity itself, or it may be that there is some overarching personality trait that influences people to have a religious bent but not a scientific bent.

      It would be interesting to see what kind of people gravitate toward careers in science when young and continue to follow up on them as they age? Do young religious people who pursue a career in science gradually become less religious over time than religious people who choose other fields of study?

      • Randy Gritter

        Mostly my opinions come from hanging around science guys. I know the ones who go to mass often keep quiet about it. The atheists in the bunch are loud and unchallenged. But it is all table pounding, no logic. You get them alone and ask them hard questions and there is no there there.

        • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

          You get them alone and ask them hard questions and there is no there there.

          Is that perhaps because you expect atheists to justify their atheism in Judeo-Christian terms? I watched Sam Harris debate William Lane Craig at Notre Dame, and my impression was that as long as you didn't expect Sam Harris to have mastered almost 2000 years of Judeo-Christian "lingo," he made a very strong showing. When someone like Sam Harris makes a perfectly good common sense point, someone like William Lane Craig says, "Aha! Now you're contradicting the ontological recapitulation of Aquinas's hermeneutical eschatology.

          So if you were an atheist, and you took the believers aside, might you not think there was no "there there," and they were just regurgitating something that perhaps sounded impressive but had little to do with reality?

          One of the premises of this site, it seems to me, is that unless you discuss the existence of God in the same terms and perhaps even the same philosophical system that the theists use, you can't really say anything meaningful to them, and there's no "there there." The response you get is, "I recommend you read Thomas Aquinas."

          Now, it may very well be wise to read Thomas Aquinas. My point is not who is wrong and how is right. My point is that I wonder whether it is fair to expect a person who rejects Christianity to have mastered 2000 years of Christian thought, philosophy, and apologetics. Christians certainly don't master Hinduism or Buddhism before they feel justified in being deeply committed Christians.

          Few people wander far from the religion they were born into. Why is it that people find the most convincing religion almost always to be the one they were raised in?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Aquinas is not impressive because of the name.

            Aquinas is impressive because of the argument.

            His Five Ways- especially the Third Way- have survived six centuries worth of philosophical, logical, and now scientific attempts at refutation.

            They have survived the attempts of the atheists on this site to refute them.

            I think that makes them quite powerful indeed.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            It seems to me that people who believe Aquinas's arguments think they have not been refuted, and people who don't believe them think they have been refuted. Logical proof compels belief.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            If logical proof compels belief, then there should be no person on Earth who believes that a thing which begins to exist, can exist prior to its own existence.

            Yet there are several people here who believe this.

            Therefore, it is quite possible to simply deny a logical proof which certainly compels assent- but only from those prepared to accept logic in the first place.

            The Catholic is required to accept logic, since it is a valid operation of human reason, and hence, comes directly from God to us.

            The atheist is required to accept nothing, since even logic does not compel them to belief in anything at all.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            If logical proof compels belief, then there should be no person on Earth who believes that a thing can exist prior to its own existence.

            I have not noticed anyone claiming to believe that.

            The Catholic is required to accept logic, since it is a valid operation of human reason, and hence, comes directly from God to us.

            First, in 12 years of Catholic education and a lifetime of reading, I have never heard that Catholics are required to accept logic. And of course if there are Catholic requirements for what one must believe, they are only binding on people who believe the Catholic Church to speak with the authority it claims. Also, some very important teachings of the Church are "above" reason, so logic does not come into play.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "I have not noticed anyone claiming to believe that."

            >> It has been explicitly affirmed by primenumbers and by Mike.

            "First, in 12 years of Catholic education and a lifetime of reading, I have never heard that Catholics are required to accept logic."

            >> This is impossible, since catholic schools require students to accept a pass on a correct arithmetic test, and a fail on an incorrect one.

            "And of course if there are Catholic requirements for what one must believe, they are only binding on people who believe the Catholic Church to speak with the authority it claims. Also, some very important teachings of the Church are "above" reason, so logic does not come into play."

            >> The Trinity is accessible only to Faith.

            That no thing can exist prior to its own existence is accessible to reason, apart from any Faith at all.

          • epeeist
          • Jonathan West

            I think that there is a further point. Scientists have a single commonly-accepted standard by which their ideas are measured and justified. Their theories are compared with observation, and if the observation isn't in accordance with what the theory predicted, the theory has to go.

            As a result, while there may be differences of opinion among scientists between competing theories for a time, when the evidence obtained by observation and experiment is in, they all accept the results.

            So science is a common system of thought across all nations and religions. We don't have Catholic and Anglican science with conflicting theories of evolution. We don't have Sunni and Shia science with mutually incompatible approaches to cosmology. We don't have Hindu and Buddhist science have approaches to quantum electrodynamics which are fundamentally at odds with each other. We just have science, with a common approach to the principles by which knowledge is obtained. A common epistemology if you choose to describe it in that way.

            But the religious, when talking of God, claim that the scientific approach is inappropriate or inadequate. they say things such as "Since God is a transcendent being who exists beyond space and time, the search for God must primarily use philosophy, or careful reasoning, and not science."

            I notice that they merely assert this supposed fact about God. They don' offer evidence for it. And they build a large edifice of reasoning based on this fundamental belief. But they neither justify the fundamental belief with evidence, they don't explain why scientific forms of knowledge acquisition are inadequate, they don't explain what supposed weaknesses of the scientific method are addressed by their alternatives, and they don't explain how they can tell that their alternative approaches don't have weaknesses that the scientific method was itself designed to avoid.

            So, between science and religion we have two different standards by which people claim to acquire factual knowledge of aspects of their environment.

            Are two separate yardsticks for assessing knowledge justifiable? if so, why?

          • Randy Gritter

            You are right that scientists do think as you suggest. It is precisely that argument that I find unconvincing. Science has a common method that has been proven. Philosophy and religion have much less agreed upon methods. So what? Does that make the questions of philosophy and religion unimportant? It makes them harder. It does not make them irrelevant.

            When you say people just assert something and don't offer evidence for it, do you men they don't offer scientific evidence? If so, then you are right. It is not a scientific statement. They do offer philosophical evidence.

          • Jonathan West

            Science has a common method that has been proven. Philosophy and religion have much less agreed upon methods. So what? Does that make the questions of philosophy and religion unimportant?

            I don't question the importance of philosophical questions. What i do question is the degree of confidence you can have in the answers, in the absence of an agreed means by which they can be assessed.

            When you say people just assert something and don't offer evidence for it, do you men they don't offer scientific evidence?

            I'm not particular. I don't think that we should arbitrarily categorise evidence into "scientific" or "non-scientific". let's just look at the evidence and assess to what extent each individual piece can be relied on.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            People who study religion do all these things you claim they don't.

            The object of science is the physical features of the world.
            The objects of religion (very broadly speaking because religions vary broadly) are human values, the ultimate meaning of things, and God.

            They are different things so we should not expect them to be able to be studied in the same way. If your null hypothesis is "Justice is not giving others their due" and you set up an experiment to find out if you can disprove this, you will be wasting your time.

          • Jonathan West

            The object of science is the physical features of the world.
            The objects of religion (very broadly speaking because religions vary broadly) are human values, the ultimate meaning of things, and God.

            They are different things so we should not expect them to be able to be studied in the same way.

            Why not? Either the ultimate meaning of something is what you think it is, or it is something else. The same scientific question arises of "How can you tell? What evidence can you bring to bear on the subject?"

            As for human values, are these not "physical features of the world" and so just as amenable to scientific study as any other physical feature?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So, try out your theory.

            How would you establish what justice is and whether people ought to be just using the scientific method?

          • Jonathan West

            I would start by noting that different people have different ideas about it, and that the question is therefore not meaningful unless and until a common understanding of it can be obtained.

            Some questions are not factual questions because they are too vaguely stated. I'm sure that you have a very precise idea as to what you mean by justice, but I could not accept that as a universal working definition since i observe that others differ. Observation is the the starting point of science.

            So the first issue that would need to be addressed scientifically, before even a start could be made on providing you with an answer, would be to look at people's different conceptions of justice, and to obtain some understanding of how much they vary and why.

            Its a well-known slogan in science "Never think what you want to think until you know what you need to know." You're getting ahead of what can be asked and answered with any significant degree of certainty. You are confusing opinions and facts.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In other words, one can't say what justice is using experimental science.

            But one *can* philosophically.

          • Jonathan West

            In other words, one can't say what justice is using experimental science. But one *can* philosophically.

            One can hold an opinion on it. One can choose a definition. One can form a line of reasoning based on the chosen definition.

            But this has an important difference as compared to what scientists do. In this case you are defining something to be true, whereas scientists are discovering things that are true about the world around.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Well, here are two non-trivial considerations.

            Justice is also a truth which is discovered. It is discovered in human nature and refined by definition.

            Justice is incredibly important for human life and it transcends mere opinion. It is one of the most important objective values.

          • Jonathan West

            Justice is also a truth which is discovered. It is discovered in human nature and refined by definition.

            That's a contradiction. it can't both be discovered and defined.

            Justice is incredibly important for human life and it transcends mere opinion. It is one of the most important objective values.

            The fact that we find it important (which can be established by observation) does not mean that it is objective. Observation suggests that much justice is extremely subjective, as evidenced by the fact that laws change over time as our concepts of justice change, and that different nations have different laws according to their local circumstances and conceptions of justice. Merely calling justice an objective value does not make it one.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            >Truth can't both be discovered and defined. That's a contradiction.

            Sure it can. Inductive reasoning moves from features which are discovered to forming a generalization about them. Experimental science begins with a definition and tries to discover evidence for it in physical phenomena.

            I would be careful that in my haste to avoid admitting the validity of metaphysical questions, I did not have to resort to trivializing human values out of existence.

          • Michael Murray

            Justice is incredibly important for human life

            And primates and dogs it seems

            An experiment on capuchin monkeys (Brosnan, S and de Waal, F) showed that the subjects would prefer receiving nothing to receiving a reward awarded inequitably in favor of a second monkey, and appeared to target their anger at the researchers responsible for the inequitable distribution of food.[12] Anthropologists suggest that this research indicates a biological andevolutionary sense of social "fair play" in primates, though others believe that this is learned behavior or explained by other mechanisms. There is also evidence for inequity aversion in chimpanzees[13] (though see a recent study questioning this interpretation[14]). Recent studies suggest that animals in the canidae family also recognize a basic level of fairness, stemming from living in cooperative societies.[15] Animal cognition studies in other biological orders have not found similar importance on relative "equity" and "justice" as opposed to absolute utility.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inequity_aversion

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Well, why not? The theory of perennial philosophy is that justice is a consequence of human nature, which is social. So why would it be surprising to find a form of animal justice, whether conscious (according to whatever level of conscious intelligence the species has), learned, or instinctual?

          • Michael Murray

            The objects of religion (very broadly speaking because religions vary broadly) are human values, the ultimate meaning of things, and God.

            God is usually understood to interact with the real world, aka the universe, if so science can study it. NOMA never worked.

          • Randy Gritter

            I am not a big fan of oral debate. I don't see it as a great way to arrive at truth. William Lane Craig seem to win these debates. I am glad he does. I am sure he uses some rhetorical tricks to do so. The kind of thing that makes his opponent cry foul. It is the nature of the business.

            Asking people to read an argument does help. You might know of an article that really responds well to his point. If he is willing to read it that might move the discussion forward a lot. Just telling someone to read St Thomas Aquinas is bad manners. There is a limit to what you should ask someone to read.

    • Sid_Collins

      So you are arguing that most scientists and philosophers are just following trends when they become agnostics or atheists? They aren't willing to think through the questions or be counter-cultural?

      I don't have any trouble believing that because I've talked to enough theists to know that most prefer not to think through the questions or be counter-cultural. They stick with a flavor of religious belief close to what they were born into, or they join an appealing church where their friends attend, or they go along with a spouse who is stronger-minded about religious belief.

      The truth is that most people are satisfied with some explanation for the origin of the universe that doesn't seriously cramp their style in dealing with day to day to life. Then they put it behind them and get on with it. People like us, who ponder and discuss the Big Questions on a regular basis, are the exceptions.

  • JL

    Good article. Not only can the process of scientific discovery not disprove God, but it can't even cast doubt on His existence. It simply has nothing to say either way.

    The fact that scientific laws exist at all - assuming they're prescriptive (and if they're only descriptive then it casts doubt on the rationality of the scientific enterprise itself) - is an entirely different matter.

    • Jonathan West

      Do you think that god answers prayers? If so, that is a hypothesis that can be tested scientifically. Science most assuredly does have things to say about God.

      • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

        Do you think that god answers prayers? If so, that is a hypothesis that can be tested scientifically.

        To do a really valid test of whether God answers prayers, you would have to find some way of keeping God from knowing that he was being tested!

        It certainly wouldn't be setting up a double-blind study with people in one hospital being prayed for and people in another hospital not being prayed for.

        • Jonathan West

          Interesting. So you think that God answers prayers except when scientists may be around counting up the answers?

          If so, you have done a classic philosophical trick known as the Retreat to an Unfalsifiable Proposition.

          If this is what you believe, then there is no evidence that could possibly be obtained - even in principle - that would allow you to determine the truth or otherwise of the hypothesis. It is designed so that it can't be falsified.

          There is another similarly unfalsifiable hypothesis that you might have heard of. it is called the "5 minute hypothesis". This hypothesis is that the entire universe, including us and all our older memories, sprang fully formed into existence 5 minutes ago, so perfectly created that we cannot tell the difference between our real memories of the last 5 minutes and our synthetic ones from before.

          You cannot disprove this hypothesis. There is no conceivable scientific test that you could run that would allow you to distinguish between the truth or falsity of the idea.

          But I bet you don't devote much effort to the idea that it is true. The very property of the idea that makes it impossible to disprove gives you no reason to take seriously the possibility that it is true.

          But your version of the unfalsifiable proposition has significant theological implications. If scientists can prevent God from acting to answer prayers merely by the act of attempting to count the answers, then God is not quite the omnipotent type the Christians claim he is.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            If scientists can prevent God from acting to answer prayers merely by
            the act of attempting to count the answers, then God is not quite the
            omnipotent type the Christians claim he is.

            But if God is compelled to grant a certain percentage of prayer requests when he knows the requests are being made for experimental purposes, he is not omnipotent either. He doesn't even have free will. If we take the conventional view, God answers prayers and grants requests because (a) people sincerely make requests and (b) God determines that granting those requests would be good. If a church prays for their sick pastor to recover, it is quite a different matter than if they pray for arbitrarily chosen patients in a hospital to recover. An experimental study takes the "personal" element out of the equation.

            Suppose we decide to do a study of a particular person who grants artists' requests for funds to work on projects. Do you really think that if the person knows he is she is being studied, that won't affect the outcome?

            Just because something is not open to experimental verification does not mean it is the equivalent of "the 5 minute hypothesis." You can't perform an experiment to determine if deductive logic works.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thanks for replying so reasonably to a comment I'd probably blow my top over!

            I'd personally be tempted to trot out my knowledge of an affirmation of the disjunct or the homunculus fallacy.

          • Jonathan West

            Go ahead and do that. Let's see whether what I've been saying really does contain a logical fallacy.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I thought Mr. Nickol's response was adequate.

          • Jonathan West

            OK, if you have nothing further to add, that's fine by me.

          • Jonathan West

            But if God is compelled to grant a certain percentage of prayer
            requests when he knows the requests are being made for experimental
            purposes, he is not omnipotent either.

            I'm not making the claim that he's omnipotent. I'm just asking whether he answers prayers - as the Bible says he does.

            I don't suggest that this would be an entirely easy subject to study. I'm just establishing whether in principle scientific inquiry could be brought to bear on the matter. It seems to me that the only means by which you can claim that science can't be broght to bear on the issue is by rephrasing your description of God's attributes such that there is not and cannot be any evidence of his interventions on earth.

            If that is so, then I have to ask how, in the absence of evidence, you know so much about God?

          • Christian Stillings

            I'm just asking whether he answers prayers - as the Bible says he does.

            The Bible (assumed for the moment as an accurate depiction of some of God's interaction in the world) depicts God as answering some supplicative prayers by granting man's request and some supplicative prayers by not granting the request. I think David's point is that Christian theology makes no specific predictions about any future supplicative prayer request being granted, which means that a predictive scientific study doesn't hold much water in the matter either way.

            If Catholic theology held that "one in three cancer patients who are prayed for by magisterially faithful Catholics will experience remission in the next month", a study could be conducted on, say, eighteen cancer patients who are prayed for by magisterially faithful Catholics to test this point of Catholic theology. However, as Catholic theology makes no claims about future acts of Divine influence in the natural world (which will have effects which are accessible to the senses alone), there can really be no such study made about Catholic theology specifically.

          • Jonathan West

            The Bible (assumed for the moment as an accurate depiction of some of God's interaction in the world)

            Why should we assume that?

            depicts God as answering some supplicative prayers by granting man's request and some supplicative prayers by not granting the request.

            That still gives you a falsifiable hypothesis. if prayers are answered sometimes, then you have a hypothesis which can be compared against the null hypothesis. You make lots of prayers, and count up the results. If the results are more favourable than random outcomes, then you have an indication that at least some of those prayers are getting answered.

            However, as Catholic theology makes no claims about future acts of Divine influence in the natural world (which will have effects which are accessible to the senses alone), there can really be no such study made about Catholic theology specifically.

            Catholic theologians have leaned to be canny about such things, and avoid making such direct claims. But there is still a big industry involved in pilgrimages to places such as Lourdes, and every so often a big fuss is made over some supposed miraculous remission following a pilgrimage. So the direct claims are being avoided, but the faithful are still being encouraged with a nod and wink to believe that prayers are answered.

          • Christian Stillings

            Why should we assume that?

            Goodness, I'm trying to set up a hypothetical situation. Anyone, yourself included, can work with propositions in a hypothetical setup without actually believing in the priors of said setup. I'm not presently asking you to actually assume that the Bible is an accurate depiction of Divine action in the world.

            That still gives you a falsifiable hypothesis. if prayers are answered sometimes, then you have a hypothesis which can be compared against the null hypothesis.

            In order for a hypothesis to be falsifiable, it must make specific testable predictions. Please hypothesize a test wherein specific claims of Catholic theology about future events can be tested. If you can't hypothesize such a test, don't say that Catholic theology proffers falsifiable hypotheses and predictions.

          • Jonathan West

            If you can't hypothesize such a test, don't say that Catholic theology proffers falsifiable hypotheses and predictions.

            If you can't hypothesize such a test, then Catholic theology consists wholly of unfalsifiable assertions which as a result have no more reason to be believed than the 5 Minute Hypothesis.

            And that seems to be your position. If so, then why do you believe? Why do you accept this fantastically elaborate assembly of unfalsifiable assertions?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            The "prayer" experiment seems too contrived, since the theistic view is that God *always* answers prayers, but prayers are not a way to simply get God to do what we "want" Him to do, and therefore they are not exactly scientifically measurable. What you would really be measuring (or attempting to) is "how many times do things turn out the way we pray-ers *want* them to? That doesn't seem a very helpful experiment....
            Why not test a different hypothesis? Such as the theistic claim that God not only created everything from nothing but also *sustains* the existence of everything He created. So do an experiment on "reality"--why do things continue to exist? What evidence could be gathered to test the theistic claim that God continues to will the existence of the material universe?

          • Jonathan West

            What you would really be measuring (or attempting to) is "how many times do things turn out the way we pray-ers *want* them to?

            The biblical claim is that prayers are answered. Moreover that they are answered in the exactly this way - that what is asked for is given. So I don't think it to be so unreasonable to convert this into a scientific hypothesis and to see if it actually happens.

            Why not test a different hypothesis? Such as the theistic claim that God
            not only created everything from nothing but also *sustains* the
            existence of everything He created. So do an experiment on
            "reality"--why do things continue to exist? What evidence could be
            gathered to test the theistic claim that God continues to will the
            existence of the material universe?

            If you want to do an experiment on this subject, you would need first to offer a suggestion as to differences in how the universe would behave if it were sustained by God as opposed to how it would behave if it were sustained by nothing. Unless a hypothesis offers a prediction of some kind it cannot be tested scientifically. "The universe is as it is, therefore God exists" is not a scientific statement, because the claim can be made whatever the state and behaviour of the universe.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            The biblical evidence is that God answers prayers according to what we truly *need*, not according to what we merely "want." And often what we need is different from what we "want". And often what is best for us is not discernable by us until we have a longer-term perspective on our past experience. God doesn't have that issue, obviously, which is why the answer to prayer from God is often seen as an immediate "not that" but is ultimately a much better answer. Prayer of petition isn't about conforming God's will to ours, but conforming our will to *His*.

            Regarding the proposed "existence" experiment, I'd be more interested in seeing evidence for things popping in and out of "existence" at the "particle" level observation and at the "normal" unaided level of observation. Does science hold that certain particles "wink" in and out of existence so to speak? How does that comport with the regular human observation that things don't just appear and disappear and re-appear?

            What is the cause for all this, as observed scientifically?

            You wrote: "If you want to do an experiment on this subject, you would need first to offer a suggestion as to differences in how the universe would behave if it were sustained by God as opposed to how it would behave if it were sustained by nothing."

            And yet the very existence of a universe "sustained by nothing" would *also* have to be established as a reasonable possibility to consider before seeking to do the experiment, seems to me. It seems much more incredibly extreme, even from a purely *scientific* view, to suggest that we consider the possibility that the material universe comes into existence without intentionality, purpose, or cause of any kind, when we stand ready to assert from a scientific perspective that we have not normally observed things randomly coming in and out of existence. Thus, scientifically, existence itself, as observable evidence, seems to at least strongly suggest *against* any theory resting on the idea that unaided "nothingness" can cause something to be...

          • Jonathan West

            The biblical evidence is that God answers prayers according to what we truly *need*, not according to what we merely "want."

            I disagree, look at James 5:15-17 for instance.

            The argument concerning the difference between what we want and what we need has developed in response to the slightly embarrassing fact that many people had noticed that prayer didn't give them what they wanted - in other words that it didn't actually work.

            The idea that we get what we need rather than what we want is another of those retreats into unfalsifiable positions that I've been describing. If it were true, then there would be no point in asking for anything at all when you prey, because God won't give it to you, he will only give you what you need.

            But nonetheless the Catholic church does still teach and practice intercessory prayer, and they wouldn't do that unless people believed it to have an effect.

            So what we have here is an interesting and complex situation. For the purpose of arguing with atheists the retreat to unfalsifiable positions is made, in order to have an argument which cannot be disproved. But the church, when talking to the faithful, still (quietly) asserts the efficacy of intercessory prayer and still practices it.

            Hmmm.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            But Jonathan--James 5;13-18 is not a negation of anything I say above--in fact it's the passage that refers to the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and also the healing power of Sacramental Confession. This is ultimately a "both/and" here--I would never say that God cannot immediately answer prayer with a "yes" to what we "want" (e.g., as James citing of Elijah indicates). I'm saying God always answers our prayer of petition according to what we need and in accord with what is spiritually best for us.
            Recently I've encountered this in atheist comments regarding what we theists believe: we are accused of, as you do above, "retreating" to post hoc reasoning because we've somehow been confronted by the failure of something we supposedly originally believed and are now compelled to rationalize the failure. This is of course untrue.
            I'm not trying to reach an "unfalsifiable" position. I'm trying to help you understand why a theist would find it strange to test the existence or non-existence of God based upon how we creatures judge Him to have responded to prayers of petition. There is a certain absurdity at work in conducting experiments like this. Why not just make it simple and focus, say, on baseball games in which members of *both* teams are praying to win. What's God supposed to do--make sure *both* teams win so as to keep atheists from doubting His existence?

          • Christian Stillings

            I don't think Catholic theology makes falsifiable predictions which are testable in a scientific way. Therefore, I'm not in any way obliged to hypothesize any test. You do seem to think so; thus, the burden is on you to hypothesize a test.

            ...then Catholic theology consists wholly of unfalsifiable assertions which as a result have no more reason to be believed than the 5 Minute Hypothesis.

            I'm not familiar with the "5 minute hypothesis", but no matter. The problem in speaking about "falsifiability" is that there are different degrees of "falsifiability" which I think you're ignoring (or at least missing) entirely. There are falsifiable predictions in, say, physics which can be tested in a pre-arranged lab setup. There are hypotheses about history which can't be assessed in the same way. Do you reject any information about history because it's not "falsifiable" in the same way as a hypothesis about physics? My reasons for being Catholic are not related to any specific hypotheses about events which will take place at any specific pre-determinable time in history. My reasons for believing in the existence of Alexander the Great are much the same. That doesn't mean that both sets of reasons hold no credence at all.

          • Jonathan West

            I'm not familiar with the "5 minute hypothesis", but no matter.

            Google is your friend
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omphalos_hypothesis

            There are hypotheses about history which can't be assessed in the same way. Do you reject any information about history because it's not "falsifiable" in the same way as a hypothesis about physics?

            I'm discussing principles, not degrees of difficulty in testing. If a hypothesis (on any subject) makes a prediction about some observable phenomenon, such that if the phenomenon is one way we can say that to the best of our knowledge the hypothesis is true, and if if it is another way then we can say it is false.

            The difficulty of obtaining evidence doesn't affect the matter of principle. It may be that with current technology we can't amass evidence sufficient to decide the question, or it may be that we have the technology but haven't devoted enough time and effort to the question to see whether there is enough evidence available to decide it one way or another.

            In other words, there is a distinction to be made between the unknowable and the merely unknown. I'm interested in the issue of principle as to which of these two categories you think God fits into.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It might be worth ten minutes to give the International Medical Committee at Lourdes a wink and nod.

            http://en.lourdes-france.org/deepen/cures-and-miracles

          • Max Driffill

            How many amputees have been healed there?

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            Why must "healing amputees" be the criterion for miracles? That seems arbitrary.

          • Max Driffill

            Brandon,
            It isn't.
            Many illnesses can get better on their own. This we can expect to see at Lourdes. Large numbers of ill people in fact mean we will some recovery from illness. Some really really sick people will turn around and beat their illness. This happens. Cancers remit, for instance, people recover. Also people are sometimes not as ill as they think, or their doctors initially thought. This happens a lot. What are the five year survival rates of people who are claimed to have been healed from very serious trauma from Lourdes?

            YOu also cannot attribute any healing to God at Lourdes. Most of the visitors there will also have been undergoing extensive treatments from their doctors. We cannot say that the cumulative effect of these treatments was not the cause of the healing. Some one who has just undergone rounds of chemo, who comes to Lourdes and then gets better has introduced a confounder to their test of the efficacy of Lourdes on medical outcomes. At Lourdes there is no experimental design that can help you figure out, what treatment did what to whom.

            Amputation is something that we don't expect recovery from, unless one is a reptile (limited) or an amphibian. It is an incredibly concrete injury that doesn't require doctors to have to do a lot of leg work to corroborate. This is not the case with other diagnoses, If a person heals, and grows a new limb that would make people get up and take notice. That would not yet demonstrate mechanism, but it would be something that would encourage researchers to investigate.

            The only evidence of miracles at Lourdes is the willingness to attribute miracles without justification.

          • primenumbers

            "EDIT: Amputees needn't be the only criterion by the way. But their absence among the miraculously healed isn't something one can ignore." - in other words such a healing would be unambiguous and not open to naturalistic interpretation.

          • Max Driffill

            We might also note that this is not an impartial body. And unexplained cure tells us nothing. It is, well, unexplained.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Here's a fairly balanced and relatively in-depth OP that you should take into account before dismissing this topic:

            http://www.economist.com/node/304212

          • severalspeciesof

            In the link you posted there''s this:

            "Indeed, the most recent cure to be declared “medically unexplainable”—a Frenchman paralysed with multiple sclerosis who was suddenly able to move after praying at Lourdes—was a difficult case for the medical committee to judge since there was no MRI (which the committee used in the 1990s to confirm his cure) prior to hisself-declared recovery in 1987. His diagnosis was based only on symptoms, which are open to misinterpretation. In the end, the committee decided to pass his case on to the diocesan bishop, in Angoulême, who avoided the m-word, declaring his sudden and complete recovery “a personal gift from God and a sign of Christ the Saviour through the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes.”

            Which really doesn't fare well for the authenticity of that 'miracle', the last 'attested' miracle apparently, which then pushes the last miracle to 1976...

            Maybe 'miracle inducing' places have expiration dates just like medicine?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You are misunderstanding the article. The bishop did not declare this a miracle but a "personal gift" the man received.

            Very few medically unexplainable cures are declared miracles because of problems like in this man's case: No MRI before his cure to compare with the MRI after.

            The most recent "certified" miracle was in 2012. (This article was written in 2000.)

          • severalspeciesof

            I don't think I am misunderstanding. See: http://www.miraclehunter.com/marian_apparitions/approved_apparitions/lourdes/miracles4.html

            From above: "Jean-Pierre Bély Born in 1926

            PARIS, DEC. 24, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The latest officially
            recognized miracle at Lourdes involves a Frenchman who was once paralyzed by multiple sclerosis, a newspaper reported.

            Le Monde dedicated an entire page to the scientifically
            inexplicable cure of an illness that began affecting Jean-Pierre Bély in 1972. He was classified by the French health system as a total invalid by the time he went on pilgrimage to Lourdes in October 1987, at age 51.

            Those who accompanied Bély did not think he would survive the trip. At the end of the pilgrimage he received the anointing of the sick in the shrine's esplanade. When he returned home, he was already able to walk. Today, virtually all traces of the illness have disappeared.

            Patrick Fontanaud, an agnostic physician who looked after Bély, said there is no scientific explanation for what occurred. It was Lourdes' 66th officially recognized miracle since the 1858 apparitions of the Blessed Virgin.

            See the "Cures and Miracles" section of http://www.lourdes-france.com/bonjour.htm. "

          • epeeist

            I don't think I am misunderstanding. See: http://www.miraclehunter.com/m...

            Not quite the same, but this cartoon is apposite, perhaps you could call it an argument from analogy.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Looks like you are right and the economist is wrong. Here's another write up:

            http://www.ewtn.com/library/mary/zlourdes.htm

            Sounds pretty remarkable to me.

          • severalspeciesof

            No one here has said these types of things aren't remarkable...

            Just that 'supernatural/miracle' doesn't need to be invoked, especially the one in question since, as it plainly pointed out in the Economist, MS is a tough disease to diagnose correctly to begin with... (and many have pointed out that the extreme rarity of the remissions
            at Lourdes would seem to indicate it's better NOT to go there if one
            wants a better chance for a remission)

            Glen

          • Max Driffill

            Kevin
            I'm sorry why is this useful? This article does not address the simply statistical expectations of large numbers. It doesn't address the fact that irrevocable medical conditions are never miraculously healed. It over praised the placebo effect, and doesn't care about key things like disentangling causation.

            Its time you and the champions of Lourdes get busy tackling the objections we have offered and quit deflecting.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Did your read the article? You think that commission has never thought of your objections?

          • Max Driffill

            Yes I read the article. Nothing in it leads me to think my stance on the fatuous claims surrounding Lourdes is the incorrect one.

            The Commission doesn't have to address much, as its criteria for miracle are the Pope's criteria. Which I find strange given that he lacks the necessary expertise to create such criteria.

            The article itself says that the Commission doesn't have to disentangle causation.
            From the article:
            Medical miracles are routinely assessed by two Catholic groups, for different reasons, but using the same set of guidelines.

            Hardly unbiased observers. But neither does the author appear unbiased, as he or she seem to accept other miracle claims. I'm left with no choice but to questions the alleged objectivity of which you spoke.

            More from the article:

            To be considered further by Lourdes' complex vetting process, such cures have to meet strict standards laid down by Pope Benedict XIVin the 18th century.

            Whew, I'm certainly glad to know this is the case, we certainly haven't learned anything new since this occurred.

            And again, the facts support natural explanations, and the jump to impute god's hand is wholly unwarranted.
            1. Large numbers
            2. Increasingly diminishing returns (fewer and fewer miracles are declared owing more and more to increased understanding of disease processes.
            3. As the article said most modern recipients are also receiving medical care before and after their visit to Lourdes. Was it Lourdes or medical care? or both? How could you tell? You can't you have no controls.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            To be considered further by Lourdes' complex vetting process, such cures have to meet strict standards laid down by Pope Benedict XIV in the 18th century.

            Whew, I'm certainly glad to know this is the case, we certainly haven't learned anything new since this occurred.

            Well, Max, since the actual ciritera is that for a recovery to be declared miraculous, it must be "complete," "instantaneous," and "durable" -- meaning the cured condition doesn't return -- as well as scientifically inexplicable, what exactly is your problem with it?

          • Max Driffill

            Kevin,

            I've explained my problems with it, repeatedly. You continue to fail, and fail miserably, to address them.You flop with a new link that doesn't address my concern. You offer a two reviewing committees that are not unbiased. You offer a soft ball piece from the economist (that also fails to address any significant objection I and others have offered.

            The cases on offer constitute no proof, whatsoever, of miracles. Being unexplained does not equal miraculous., You cannot disentangle what caused the recovery from extraneous non-contributing variables. And why not? Because the whole examination has been hopelessly confounded. People receive treatments prior to going to Lourdes. If they get better how can you say that it wasn't a product of the treatments they received or from the miracle cure of Lourdes (which, lets be honest, is also incredibly statistically unlikely to occur even if true, just look at the numbers). Also some people just heal after long battles with illness and injury. The subject mentioned with the damaged/injury vertebral disc may have healed, from simple time babying the injury and medical treatment. Again, there is no justification for claiming miracle.

            There are no controls.

            You also fail to address the fact that your god continues to crap on amputees? Why not heal them? Why not miraculously heal a spiral fracture? Or severe crush injury? Instantly and miraculously?

            EDIT: Sometimes a song is really what one needs to understand a thing.
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74SQ6w6LdU0

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There are no controls.

            There are controls but you don't think they are sufficient.

            Can you control your emotions enough to not say things like God "craps" on amputees?

          • Max Driffill

            What controls do you imagine there are?

            EDIT: I am not emotional. I am trying to emphasize a point you continue to ignore.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The criteria used to set aside the vast majority of healings.

          • Andrew G.

            According to them, there have been no "miracles" at Lourdes since 1987, and only four in the past 50 years.

            And notice, no amputees healed :-)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It would be good to read more carefully: 9 since 1963 and the last one was 2012. These are only the cures recognized by the Catholic Church.

            First a cure is reported (thousands). Then it is examined by a team of doctors to determine whether it was medically unexpected (hundreds). Then it is examined by the International Commission. Finally it may or may not be recognized by the person's bishop.

            Here is a outside take on the process of declaring a miracle:

            http://www.economist.com/node/304212

          • Andrew G.

            "9 since 1963 and the last one was 2012."

            Ah, now here you're just flat factually wrong, because those are the dates when the "miracle" was recognized not when it occurred. The four most recently recognized "miracles" occurred in 1976, 1987, 1952 and 1965 (that last one being the one recognized in 2012). One might almost be suspicious that without digging up and recognizing a few old ones, there might be concern that the miracles had dried up...

            The dates of occurrence tell a much different story, with the most recent "miracles" being 1987, 1976, 1970, 1965, 1963, 1959, 1958, 1954, 1953, 1952 (x3) and so on.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Did you get your figures from the Economist piece or the Lourdes website? There is also the difference between miracles from Lourdes and from all other places. The Lourdes miracles are examined for a long time with much follow up on the person cured.

          • Andrew G.

            My figures are from the Lourdes website; they are omitted from the English translations, you have to go to the French-language site to see them.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Can you provide the link, please?

          • Andrew G.

            There's a language selection at the top of the page, or just go here:

            http://fr.lourdes-france.org/approfondir/guerisons-et-miracles/liste-des-miracules

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I really didn't make those number up.

            Note to self, always include a link!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            First people demand empirical evidence.

            Then no curiosity about the empirical evidence.

            Then a curt dismissal that it's not the right kind of miracle.

          • Andrew G.

            I've read all of the Lourdes "miracle" accounts. None of the ones that are recent enough to be properly studied are outside the normal ranges of spontaneous recovery and/or psychogenic conditions.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Really? Because if there is a chance that the cure could be spontaneous or due to a psychological condition it is rejected.

          • Michael Murray

            How do they distinguish between spontaneous and non-spontaneous cures ? Medical science would really like to know.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spontaneous_remission

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The investigators would use whatever the current standard is based on medical knowledge.

          • Michael Murray

            Medicine is not going to label anything a miracle. So how do the investigators do it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            According to the Guardian, cancer is out for that very reason:

            http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/apr/02/religion.france

            Vatican rules demand that the illness healed must have been incurable and that the healing is sudden, instantaneous, complete and without any subsequent relapse. A further demand lies at the root of the current
            problem. The miraculously healed person must not have had any medical treatment or taken any medicine that can be shown to have been effective.

            'This means that it is impossible to recognise any cure
            of cancer,' said Perrier. 'It will be impossible to say in the end if the treatment had an effect or not.'

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            The miraculously healed person must not have had any medical treatment or taken any medicine that can be shown to have been effective.

            This certainly must not be the same standard for allegedly miraculous cures for beatification and canonization. Monica Basra was under treatment for her tumor. Also, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, who was allegedly cured of Parkinson's disease, apparently had a relapse, and one of the doctors who examined the case believes she may not have had Parkinson's in the first place. It is unclear if true Parkinson's disease goes into spontaneous remission, but other diseases that do are often misdiagnosed as Parkinson's.

            If I am elected pope, I will do away with the requirement for miracles and restore the devil's advocate function.

          • epeeist

            If I am elected pope, I will do away with the requirement for miracles and restore the devil's advocate function.

            You might like these guys

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "If I am elected pope, I will do away with the requirement for miracles and restore the devil's advocate function."

            >> If you are elected Pope, you will be miraculously converted to the Catholic Faith, and will hence restore the requirement for miracles.

            As for advocatus diabolicus, it seems the restoration of this position would be the very essence of ecumenicism.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thanks. The reporting I've seen about Monica Basra makes no sense in terms of the criteria.

          • epeeist

            Apparently some 67 "miracles" since it opened, all of them explainable by remission, misdiagnosis or reversion to the mean. Count that against the number of people who have been there (estimated at 100 million since 1860) and you get 99.999933% who left without a cure. In other words a
            success rate of 1 in 1,492,537.

            The best thing you can say is that the odds aren't as bad as winning the UK national lottery (1 in 14 million).

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No. They average one reported healing per week. Only 67 have been certified due to the level of scrutiny given.

            Where did you come up with 100 million have come to Lourdes to be healed? The Economist article says 80,000 per year *now* and it's unlikely that number has been visiting year in and year out since 1860.

            On what basis do you conclude that every healing can be explained away? An a priori assumption that they must be impossible?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Just discovered this about a guy I know whose son received a miracle healing at Lourdes:

            http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/column.php?n=2031

          • Ignorant Amos

            I'm always left wondering why your god would have a baby born with the affliction in the first place. Why are only a select few granted a miraculous cure? A greater miracle would seem to me to be all babies to be born healthy...but I guess that's just my heathen stupidity and there will be some philosophical mumbo jumbo excuse from the believers.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Interesting. So you think that God answers prayers except when scientists may be around counting up the answers?

            Shorter answer . . . No, I didn't say that. But there is no way to design an experiment that proves he either does or doesn't. If God is omniscient and omnipotent, there is no way to test him.

            What you could do—and even this wouldn't be foolproof—is try to collect good information about sick people who were prayed for and sick people who weren't, and see if there was a difference. But as for setting up an experiment to see how God will perform in the future, that is nonsense.

          • Jonathan West

            But there is no way to design an experiment that proves he either does or doesn't. If God is omniscient and omnipotent, there is no way to test him.

            That's still the Retreat to Unfalsifiable Propositions. You are designing a proposition (by invoking omniscience and omnipotence) that is immune to scientific inquiry.

            If omniscience and omnipotence does render the propositoion unfalsifiable (I'm not convinced of that, but we can take it as being true for the sake of this discussion) then you have no more reason to think it is true than that the 5 minute hypothesis is true.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            That's still the Retreat to Unfalsifiable Propositions.

            And since when did every proposition have to be falsifiable? You are the one who is claiming God (if he exists) can be tested scientifically. I am saying he can't be (if he exists). There are many things that can't be tested scientifically. If I were claiming God exists and prayer is efficacious and you demanded proof, it would be one thing. But I am making no claim at all other than the efficacy of prayer cannot be tested scientifically.

            Since you are claiming God and his actions can be tested scientifically, it is up to you to propose a test. I am saying you have come up with a bad test, because in order to test God, he must be studied in a situation in which he won't know about the test. The fact that he is God is basically irrelevant. If you claim you are going to test my future granting of favors, and I know you are going to do so, I can make the test come out any way I want to.

          • Jonathan West

            And since when did every proposition have to be falsifiable?

            I didn't say that it did. I'm merely pointing out that an unfalsifiable proposition can by definition have no evidence for or against it.

            You are the one who is claiming God (if he exists) can be tested scientifically.

            You have to read a bit more carefully. In responding to the contrary claim I started by pointing out that it depends on the kind of God you are talking about, and that the God of the major religions is one who intervenes in the universe in ways supposedly discernible to humans. In other words, all the major religions (including Christianity) believe a God who leaves evidence of his existence around.

            So, the claim that the God of Christianity is not a scientific hypothesis is untrue.

            If I were claiming God exists and prayer is efficacious and you demanded proof, it would be one thing.

            The Bible makes that claim and I do demand proof (or at least evidence).

            But I am making no claim at all other than the efficacy of prayer cannot be tested scientifically.

            I want to be sure we have a common understanding of this point. Are you merely claiming that none of the tests of the efficacy of prayer so far carried out are sufficient to decide the matter, or are you claiming that the question fo the efficacy of prayer is forever and even in principle beyond any kind of conceivable future study, irrespective of the technologies we might in future develop?

            Since you are claiming God and his actions can be tested scientifically, it is up to you to propose a test.

            I'm doing something rather less than this. I'm trying to establish whether a God hypothesis (supposing a sufficiently precise hypothesis could ever be agreed among Christians) is amenable in principle to scientific testing. In other words whether God is of the type who at some point or other in history does or did leave evidence of himself. What the test would be would very much depend on what God hypothesis we eventually came up with.

          • epeeist

            And since when did every proposition have to be falsifiable?

            To invert it, if you have a proposition that cannot be justified then it cannot be counted as knowledge.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            To invert it, if you have a proposition that cannot be justified then it cannot be counted as knowledge.

            Isn't the above, itself, a proposition that cannot be "justified"?

            It does seem to me that many here are often espousing scientism— and not just that, but oversimplifying the way science was and is done. Not everyone worships at the altar of falsifiability. Karl Popper isn't the only philosopher of science who ever lived.

            There's an interesting debate going on right now over whether string theory is falsifiable. While googling, I ran across this, which links to this. I have read the little essay "for dummies," but I have not had time to read the Smolin-Susskind debate yet.

            And of course applying the scientific method to science itself is one question, but applying it to religion or any non-scientific endeavor is quite another. There is an answer most people (at least most English-speaking people) would agree to about who the greatest playwright of all times was. It's not really open to proof or disproof, but certainly it qualifies as a kind of knowledge.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            And of course applying the scientific method to science itself is one question, but applying it to religion or any non-scientific endeavor is quite another.

            This can't be repeated often enough.

          • Jonathan West

            And of course applying the scientific method to science itself is one question, but applying it to religion or any non-scientific endeavor is quite another. There is an answer most people (at least most English-speaking people) would agree to about who the greatest playwright of all times was. It's not really open to proof or disproof, but certainly it qualifies as a kind of knowledge.

            It's not knowledge, it's opinion. If you want to categorise religion as opinion of the same kind as discussions about the greatest playwright, then I think most atheists will be quite happy, but many religious will profoundly disagree.

            That is because most religions claim God to exist objectively, independent of our opinions about him. Therefore God is a factual claim. Science deals with factual claims.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Science deals with factual claims about observable reality. It does not deal with *all* factual claims.

          • Jonathan West

            How would you make and justify a factual claim about something that is not observable reality?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The question should be, "How would you make and justify a factual claim outside the method of experimental science?"

            The criminal justice system does this every day.

          • epeeist

            The criminal justice system does this every day.

            You mean the criminal justice system does not make hypotheses (person X is guilty of crime Y) and test them to see whether there is evidence to determine their truth or not?

            Wow, who knew.

          • BenS

            To be fair, I think he's American. Quite often they'll lock people up for months without any credible evidence of wrongdoing.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The criminal justice system uses a form of rationality. It does not use the scientific method.

            You guys are practicing scientific imperialism!

          • severalspeciesof

            It does not use the scientific method.

            It should whenever it is possible, i.e. determining when a person was killed when there were no eye witnesses...

            Glen

          • Andrew G.

            Actually it should use the scientific method more generally, in the sense of reviewing its own procedures and standards of evidence according to their reliability in determining guilt. To the extent that it does not do so, that's a bug, not a feature.

          • Jonathan West

            There are significant parallels. For instance, the fact that an unsolved problem exists in physics is not evidence for God, any more than an unsolved murder is evidence that a ghost did it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Who said it did? That is "god of the gaps" which is not being asserted.

          • epeeist

            The criminal justice system uses a form of rationality.

            You are in the States aren't you? You're not likely to sit on a jury here in the UK?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            My knowledge of the British legal system is limited to "Rumpole of the Bailey."

          • epeeist

            My knowledge of the British legal system is limited to "Rumpole of the Bailey."

            Well you will know that we have this concept of "evidence" over here, we actually check to make sure that when someone says "I wasn't there at the scene of the crime, it wasn't my hair that was on the victim's clothes" that the statement corresponds with the empirical facts.

            Even Sherlock Holmes when he used "deduction" (which was actually induction) made sure that his hypotheses weren't contradicted by the data.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There's that imperialism again.

            The use of evidence ≠ the scientific method.
            The use of of induction ≠ the scientific method.
            Every use of valid logic ≠ the scientific method.

          • epeeist

            The use of evidence ≠ the scientific method.
            The use of of induction ≠ the scientific method.
            Every use of valid logic ≠ the scientific method.

            Did I say it was? What I intimated was that criminal justice is empirical, rather than rational.

            Oh, and there is no such thing as the scientific method.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Do you mean you can be empirical without being rational? You can get by without concepts, and theories, and logic?

          • epeeist

            Do you mean you can be empirical without being rational?

            An article for you.

            You can get by without concepts, and theories, and logic?

            As I said above, criminal justice makes propositions (person X is guilty of crime Y) and then justifies those claims or not (person X was not in the country at the time of crime Y, as evidenced by his hotel bill and pictures of him on the beach, therefore he could not have committed the crime).

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            It's not knowledge, it's opinion.

            So what is knowledge? Apparently knowledge consistes of falsifiable propositions. But what if a falsifiable proposition that is widely believed to be true is actually falsified? Was it knowledge when it was falsifiable but not yet falsified, and does it cease to become knowledge when it is falsified?

            And how do we know we have knowledge now? How much "knowledge" that we have now will be falsified? It would seem that we can't know what is knowledge and what is not, because if it is falsifiable, it is a candidate for being knowledge, but we can't know it is knowledge, because it may be falsified, at which point it won't be (and never was) knowledge.

          • epeeist

            Isn't the above, itself, a proposition that cannot be "justified"?

            If you want to take that line then you end up a radical sceptic claiming that nothing can be known.

            It does seem to me that many here are often espousing scientism

            I see a number of people effectively saying that science is epistemologically privileged but I am not aware of anyone specifically saying that science is the only way of acquiring knowledge.

            Not everyone worships at the altar of falsifiability. Karl Popper isn't the only philosopher of science who ever lived.

            Well no, but there again to my recollection I have mentioned at least Kuhn, Lakatos, Feyerabend, McMullan and Lange on these boards. The only mention I have seen of Popper is by your own Rick DeLano who seems to want to accept Popper's first claim on the theory of evolution but not his retraction of that position (Dialectica 32: 339-355).

            There's an interesting debate going on right now over whether string theory is falsifiable.

            Sigh, falsifiablity is only one attribute of a good theory and even then there is reason to believe that naive falsifiability is flawed anyway.

            I think the more interesting question is whether string theory is properly called a theory in the first place.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            your own Rick DeLano

            Earth to epeeist! Earth to epeeist! There is no one on this site I disagree with more than Rick DeLano! In the science-versus-religion debate, he is the only one who is completely wrong about both.

          • epeeist

            There is no one on this site I disagree with more than Rick DeLano! In the science-versus-religion debate, he is the only one who is completely wrong about both.

            ;-)

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            I think the more interesting question is whether string theory is properly called a theory in the first place.

            Its a nomenclature problem that I don't think is going to get fixed any time soon. The field of study we call "Theoretical Physics" is there to build theories that best fit the evidence. To do that, folks have to take some guesses ahead of evidence or they could not get started. There should be a sub-department of their field called "Hypothetical Physics" where things like strings would be explored until there was enough to make an actual theory. Not gunna happen, though.

          • epeeist

            If so, you have done a classic philosophical trick known as the Retreat to an Unfalsifiable Proposition.

            I would call it a self-sealing argument, but I don't think the terminology matters too much.

            The more important thing is that, whatever it is, it has no explanatory power whatsoever.

          • JL

            Jonathan: I quite agree with both you and David. Which is why I would never use prayer as a 'proof' for God's existence. I wasn't the one who brought it up!

            The efficacy of prayer follows from Christianity; it doesn't prove it, or imply it.

  • rae

    The Pew survey is not a survey of scientists in general. It is a survey of the members of a particular group, the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Current membership estimates are about 138,000 for this group (there are over 2 million employed scientists in the US), and the survey excluded those members that are school teachers. Stephen Jay Gould is the chair, and I suspect that membership may not be representative of scientists as a whole.
    We also can't forget that doctoral programs are filled with foreign students, and that this will distort statistics on religious belief as compared to the general population of the United States.

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      Stephen Jay Gould is the chair, and I suspect that membership may not be representative of scientists as a whole.

      Stephen Jay Gould was the president of the AAAS for a couple of years, but that was over a decade ago, as was his death.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Gould is quite talented then.

        • Michael Murray

          Just another Jewish guy who rose from the dead.

      • rae

        Mea culpa. I accessed an outdated page and was unaware of Mr. Gould's death.

        I still suspect that membership in the AAAS might be skewed. In general, I would suspect that AAAS membership underrepresents scientists in industry. Moreover, the AAAS advocates embryonic stem cell research. Would this policy impact the number of Catholics in the association?

        • epeeist

          I still suspect that membership in the AAAS might be skewed. In general, I would suspect that AAAS membership underrepresents scientists in industry.

          If you think this do you not think that the organisation who did the survey might have realised this as well and chosen the sample to compensate?

          • rae

            If you read the study methodolgy, first the Pew study completely excluded primary and secondary level educators. From there, the responses were weighted to match the AAAS member database. There was no discussion in the study of whether AAAS membership is representive of scientists as a whole.

            So, no, I would not think that the sample compensates.

  • Fr Hugh MacKenzue

    Who cares? We should. Philosophy relies on knowledge of nature. Meta-physics must follow physics -- Aristotle and Aquinas knew that and made efforts to be up with the latest knowledge about nature. As Ronald Knox said in God and the Atom if the language of the lab is different form the language of our metaphysics lecture we are in trouble. Science is just clever observation. We can never reenvangelise our technological culture if we ignore the latest observations of our world. We might build oases but will never fence in the spreading desert,

    • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

      The observations are not at issue, Father.

      Their interpretation, on the other hand......

      The irony is that modern science has reached dead ends in cosmology, in particle physics, and in biology.

      They are in desperate need of a good metaphysics.

      Because they have not been provided one, they are attempting to bootstrap it on their own.

      "A Universe From Nothing:, by Lawrence Krauss, is an example of the results.

      They are not pretty.

      • http://www.credobiblestudy.com/ Irenaeus of New York

        I would not say they are at a dead end, but they are definitely ill equipped to answer questions outside of the empirical domain which is what they have approached. However, mathematics can still provide clues about these realities.

        • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

          Dead ends.

          Cosmology: Dark matter/dark energy asserted, not demonstrated, and must comprise 96% of the total mass/energy in cosmos to salvage LCDM. Can't make the Big Bang work without inflation, but inflation can't have happened unless the universe starts out smooth in the first place (Steinhardt 2013, inflationary unlikeliness problem). CMB anisotropies predicted to be random- instead they are planar, mutually aligned on largest angular scales- and point at Earth!

          Biology: Soft tissue finds in Cretaceous fossils are "conventionalist twisted" away instead of being seized upon as anomalies providing opportunity for direct, experimental test of Darwinian timeline *with the intention of possibly falsifying it*- this is conclusive evidence that Popper had it right the first time- evolution *is* a metaphysical, not a scientific, research program.

          It seeks to preserve the theory from experimental falsification, rather than seek its falsification by experimental test of "risky" predictions.

          Particle physics: No supersymmetry partners for Higgs found at LHC- if they don't show up in next round, particle physics is dependent upon a multiverse, which cannot even in principle be an object of scientific observation...

          Checkmate.

          Dead ends.

          The models were great, but like all models, they will, ultimately, fail to survive their collision with observation.

          Popper tried to tell us.

      • Martin Snigg

        I'd go with both/and. Metaphysics is empty without the principles supplied by natural philosophy. So because we've retreated into metaphysics of a new kind, autonomous from natural science both have suffered. Natural science becomes groundless and desperately needs critical examination, and metaphysics has become ossified. http://www2.nd.edu/Departments/Maritain/ti99/ashley.htm#addendum

        • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

          Natural philosophy cannot exist unless provided its own first principles by metaphysics.

          Science emerges from Christian civilization, for the first time, as a *method of knowing*, a definite *system*.

          The Greeks knew how to employ hypothesis and experimental test- see Eratosthenes and his determination of the great meridian to 1% accuracy 26 centuries before its determination by direct sense perception- but they did not have the metaphysical basis upon which to elaborate the approach into a systematic method for obtaining valid knowledge of physical reality.

          Islamics- same. They had Aristotle.

          They didn't have the Logos.

          • Martin Snigg

            Rodney Stark showed how the Greek Logos couldn't survive under a Greek mythos. No question. But that is unrelated to the order Aristotle/Aquinas gives the sciences. It's true the principles derived from changeable things give rise to immaterial principles which then require a new science given the new subject and these then later regulate how natural philosophy proceeds. No question that without the Logos things eventually fall apart, but the fact remains St. Thomas
            says that knowledge begins in the senses and conclusions concerning immaterial
            things are in philosophy. Even the notions of God found in
            Theology are derived from sensible things.
            http://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/FR93202.htm

      • Martin Snigg

        This link Ralph McInerney Thomism and Science, http://www3.nd.edu/Departments/Maritain/ti/mcinerny.htm is a better intro.

      • Fr Hugh MacKenzue

        Thanks Rick, I like your drift. my point is preciselly that holistic interpretation of the new observations (which George Ellis is, falteringly in my opinion, attempting), to defend the reality of "human nature", is crucial for our new evangelisation of our reductionistic, de-natured, culture (which the reductionism of Strauss et al have fostered).
        The post-Carteisan neo-scholastic approach, from Descartes up to Feser and Trent's "Who Cares? above, has been in effect to suggest that the new sciences have hardly any effect upon traditional metaphysics. But that old holism (and hylomorphism) doesn't flow naturally from our new inter-relative observations. This has allowed modern science to be mis-interpreted by the reductionsisitic philsophy of science, undermining "human nature" and thus Christian culture in our technological age.

        • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

          "I like your drift. my point is preciselly that holistic interpretation of the new observations (which George Ellis is, falteringly in my opinion, attempting)"

          >> George is a very careful man. The advantage of having such a careful man publish his experimental evidence for top-down causation, is that it will get published in a peer reviewed journal, and carry the credibility of his brand.

          Which is to say, a very great deal of credibility indeed.

          " to defend the reality of "human nature"

          >> George is a scientist, and questions of human *nature* are metaphysical in nature. I do have him saying something quite remarkable in a recent interview that touches on the question, but only after it was explicitly requested of him that he give a philosophical, not a scientific, answer.

          George F. R. W. Ellis is a very, very careful man.

          If I were on trial for my life, *and were innocent*, I would want George Ellis to be the judge on the case.

          Were I guilty, God forbid he should be even on the same continent.

          ,"is crucial for our new evangelisation of our reductionistic, de-natured, culture (which the reductionism of Strauss et al have fostered)."

          >> No gentleman, that Strauss.........this new evangelization, by the way, is an unmitigated catastrophe, Father, pardon me for having the unpleasant duty in conscience to say so.

          We no longer have a very clear idea of what it is that we believe, and hence the new evangelization is predictably going nowhere.

          "The post-Carteisan neo-scholastic approach, from Descartes up to Feser and Trent's "Who Cares? above, has been in effect to suggest that the new sciences have hardly any effect upon traditional metaphysics."

          >> This neo-Thomist approach is exactly what was explicitly affirmed by Saint Pope Pius X, and exactly what has been explicitly dumped by the architects of the new evangelization.

          By their fruits you shall know them.

          " But that old holism (and hylomorphism) doesn't flow naturally from our new inter-relative observations."

          >> Huh? What observations? Quantum observations? Do you think quantum events are random?

          Would it interest you to know we have confirmed experimental demonstration of the contrary case; that is, radioactive decays are experimentally observed to be periodic, and the periodicities are related to the geometry of Earth wrt the local system?

          Citation upon request.

          "This has allowed modern science to be mis-interpreted by the reductionsisitic philsophy of science, undermining "human nature" and thus Christian culture in our technological age."

          >> Father, we have failed. We have tossed Thomism, and replaced it with bomfoggery.

          It has failed.

          The only question left is how long until we are prepared to admit it, and get back to what converted the world in the first place.

          Pardon me for speaking plainly.

          • Fr Hugh MacKenzue

            No problem with plain speaking :)

            Sorry I'm mixing him up with Brian Ellis, who is big in the philosophy of Emergence, which George also uses and writes about quite a bit. Apologies.

            I very much agree we must understand what we believe before we can reevangelise the culture -- still there are some very promising oases both sides of the Pond.

            "Inter-relative observations"? The whole of modern science has discovered, as per Emergence -- cf. Ellis' "True Complexity and its Associated Ontology" (that IS your George!) which I think applies across the whole Unity of the Cosmos.
            Aquinas founded a realist concept of human nature for a Greek culture - and thus founded the evangelisation of that culture, but scholasticism has completely dropped the ball concerning Enlightenment/scientific culture. That concept of human nature lacked the relationality which, as mentioned above, science has discovered. To speak plainly- I think it'd be a disaster for reevangelisation simply to go back to something that has manifestly failed to prevent the 20th century 'de-naturing', or 'individualising', of culture.
            Metaphysically I'd prefer to build upon the "Emergence" philosophy of science of both Ellis's to the 20th century neo-scholastics - though I like the latters' attempt to be faithful to basic Catholic doctrine such as the transcendence of God and the distinction of matter and spirit.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "There are some very promising oases on both sides of the Pond."

            >> I recall a recent observation about oases and deserts.....We have lost the clarity of Faith which converted the world, Father, because the decision was taken to abandon the Christian cosmos, which was only the Christian metaphysics.

            It all begins there.

            If the world is as the Endarkenment has lied it is, then we are nothing special. The cosmos is isotropic, homogeneous, there is no evidence at all of the Christian cosmos, where we are at the center of creation, where Christ is incarnated for the redemption of the exiled seed of Adam.

            *If the world is that way*, Father, then the Catholic Church was exactly what Voltaire sneered that it was: "l'infame".

            If the Endarkenment was right then the Church lied for centuries.

            In such a case the only honest, the only human thing to do, would be to get about the business of salting the ground so that nothing like the Catholic Church could ever arise again.

            But this is not what the progressivists have done.

            Oh, no.

            They believe- do you believe, Father?- that it is absolutely the case that the universe is not a Christian cosmos- that the universe is as old, and as cold, and as indifferent to humanity as the atheist believes.

            They believe- do you believe, Father?- that this is a matter of science; that Einstein has shown us there is no up, no down, no left, no right in this cosmos, it is not the Christian cosmos centered upon the place of blessing, upon the place of the Son of God's Incarnation.

            But the institution of the Church is so useful- perhaps we can wean it from its Catholicism and use it to feed the poor, or make peace among the nations, or stop global warming, or speak out for the rights of immigrants- all of these things the progressives wish to retain, since they have lost the Faith, but they wish to rule with the Endarkenment, to at least enjoy the privileges of a seat at the table.

            These progressives are infinitely worse than atheists, Father.

            Instead of having the courage of their convictions and leaving the Church, they seek to remake it in the image of their own disorientation.

            They have failed.

            Father, the universe is not isotropic, it is not homogeneous, it is anisotropic and the anisotropies are so arranged that the cosmological dipole- that is, the equinoctial plane of the Earth itself- defines a preferred direction across the entire cosmos.

            The dipole is evidenced in the radio sky at 5 sigma; that is to say, *the dipole cannot be attributed to the motion of the local system, as it has been lyingly attributed since its discovery*.

            The largest angular scales of the CMB are mutually aligned, and they define an axis aligned with the Earth's equinox and ecliptic planes.

            This is of course impossible.

            Science has already told us such a thing is a medieval fantasy.

            Their theories do not allow for this.

            But the universe is oriented on its largest scales, directly with Earth.

            The Church was right, Father.

            The Endarkenment has lied from the beginning, precisely to defraud humanity of its precious place in the Christian cosmos, to indoctrinate their children as animals, pitifully insignificant, lost in an infinite coldness, neither noble nor precious, neither necessary nor important, and the Church wonders why She has shrunk to "promising oases".

            It is grotesque.

            And we are now to be assured that going back is not an option?

            That we must continue to reinvent Catholicism so that it better comports with the utterly discredited falsehood of Endarkenment cosmology?

            No, Father.

            We have failed.

            But God will raise up his hardheads.

            http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/2013/05/toward-christian-cosmology.html

          • Fr Hugh MacKenzue

            >> “We have lost the clarity of Faith which converted the world, Father, because the decision was taken to abandon the Christian cosmos, which was only the Christian metaphysics.”

            We agree on much of the diagnosis, but hardly at all on the philosophical prescription. IMO the above happened because from Descartes onwards we refused to incorporate
            new knowledge into our metaphysics, Aquinas and Aristotle did that for their cultures – their metaphysics was built
            upon their physics .. like George Ellis is trying to do. Scholastic metaphysicians were holding the cultural ball. Since the Reformation and the following scientific revolution they have slowly let it slip into the hands of our enemies, where it is now firmly held.

            >> If the world is as the Endarkenment has lied it is, then we are nothing special.

            Humans have a spiritual soul (non-physical). This is ultimately what makes us central to the universe. We need to update our arguments for that. Do you believe that
            Rick?

            >> “If the Endarkenment was right then the Church lied for centuries.”

            The Spirit will lead us into all truth. Roman Catholicism believes in development. Evolution not revolution or pure
            conservatism. Christopher Dawson highlighted this 'drama of our times' when he wrote, concerning the French
            Revolution (in a manner akin to Pope Benedict): .... the “intellectual revolution that is responsible for the secularization of western culture … owed its dynamism to the resistance of a religious minority and its diffusion to the
            ill-judged and unjust, though sincere, action of religious orthodoxy." (Dawson, (Christopher Dawson, The gods of Revolution, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1972, p14-15 ).

            >> Progressivists “believe- do you believe, Father?- that this is a matter of science; that Einstein has shown us there is no up, no down, no left, no right in this cosmos, it is not the Christian cosmos centred upon the place of blessing, upon the place of the Son of God's Incarnation.”

            Geodesics do at least have a time arrow. I believe that this unified cosmos, centred upon and completed by the Annunciation, is the one being discovered by modern science. After all there is only One God, and One Logos made flesh.

            >> “These progressives are infinitely worse than atheists, Father.”

            Yes I agree, if they are Catholics and publicly dissent from magisterial Church teaching. No I don’t agree if you are talking about philosophers of science. The distinction is crucial for reevangelising our culture.

            >> “Father, the universe is not isotropic, it is not homogeneous, it is anisotropic”

            This is interesting, and I think being discussed. Should it be proven it will contribute to our new concept of the universe as a unified hierarchy of unities, immediately under the
            Mind of God. To suggest that such observations concerning the structured inter-relationship of things in the universe still allow us to go back to the old metaphysics seems a little eccentric to me.

            >>”And we are now to be assured that going back is not an option?”

            I really don’t see how you can join the restorationist neo-scholastics and yet so passionately support George Ellis’ thought (e.g.: cf. the paper of his I cited in my previous submission.)

            >>”That we must continue to reinvent Catholicism so that it better comports with the utterly discredited falsehood of Endarkenment cosmology. No, Father.”

            Your dichotomy between progressivists and conservatives leaves a missive gap. For example Newmans’ “Development of Christian Doctrine”. And here’s what he said in the introduction, way back in the 1850s. It’s time we listened to him:

            “…infidelity itself is in … - I am obliged to say in a more hopeful position - as regards Christianity. The facts of revealed religion though in their substance unaltered, present a less compact and orderly front to the attacks of its
            enemies now than formerly …. the assailants of dogmatic truth have got the start of its adherents of whatever Creed: philosophy is completing what criticism has begun: and apprehensions are not unreasonably excited lest we
            should have a new world to conquer before we have weapons for the warfare. (Sheed and Ward,1960, p 22, my emphasis)

  • http://www.credobiblestudy.com/ Irenaeus of New York

    It matters to me that there are many atheists who also happen to be scientists. If only for the reason that I want everyone to be saved. It also matters to me that there are many Christians opposing good and reasonable science out of religious fundamentalism. If God created the universe, then the observations of science should not be perceived as a threat by people who believe in God. Any discovery in science is a revelation that ultimately points to God's work. Truth is true no matter what discipline it was revealed in. I have seen bad science and I have seen bad theology, but what is most important is discerning an answer to the question.... Is it True?

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      ... but what is most important is discerning an answer to the question.... Is it True?

      I strongly agree. To do otherwise damages society. As an example, take a look at this article from yesterday about attempts to damage science education in our schools:

      http://www.salon.com/2013/07/07/5_ways_fundamentalists_are_trying_to_sneak_creationism_into_public_schools_partner/

      • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

        How awful!

        These kids are actually going to be taught critical thinking skills!

        Can't have *that*!

        After all, all the evolutionsists agree evolution is true- just ask them!

        Our children's future depends upon learning not to question this.

        It is going to be such a wonderful thing to watch this Stalinist edifice of thought-controlled Science As Religion crumble.

        Can't be stopped now.

        The greatest beneficiary of all?

        Science itself, of course.

        Freed from the iron rule of the existing paradigms, something interesting and new will have a chance to develop.

        Can't be stopped now.

        It's all over but the shouting.

        • severalspeciesof

          Rick, it seems to me that you're the one shouting, shouting into the echo chamber of 'evolution's imminent demise' that was even actually started before the 'Theory of evolution through natural selection' was formed...

          http://answersinscience.org/demise.html

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Actually, if I have been shouting, you have apparently not been hearing.

            LCDM cosmology faces imminent collapse.

            Evolution specifically *does not*, precisely because evolution is demonstrably *not* a scientific research program.

            It is a metaphysical research program, as Popper had it right the first time.

            Metaphysical research programs don't collapse.

            They simply shrink, in the face of superior metaphysical research programs.

            http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/2012/02/marys-bones-part-iii-is-evolution.html

          • severalspeciesof

            It is going to be such a wonderful thing to watch this Stalinist edifice of thought-controlled Science As Religion crumble.
            If that's not a very crude and rude way of saying that evolutionary theory is collapsing, I'm not sure what is...

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The stranglehold of the evolutionary metaphysical research program is certainly crumbling, but that is a political fact.

            The evolution research program will be able to manage its long slow retreat.

            After all, it still has the blue states :-)

          • Susan

            Hi SSO,
            I wonder why Rick isn't taking on the Stalinist edifice of thought-controlled science where it could have an impact.
            By arguing with physicists and biologists (just for starters) in an arena where he would be expected to bring it.

          • severalspeciesof

            I've already asked him about it (even directed him to Lawrence Krauss' website a while back)... I don't think he'll bite...

            Glen

  • mally el

    Let us not forget that scientists in Pakistan, India, the African and Islamic countries are mostly religious people.

  • Linda

    I've enjoyed following the comments on today's post, many of which speculate on whether scientific people are less likely to be religious or if religious people are less inclined to be scientific, which seems to assume that each is one or the other. I wonder if perhaps the disparity might be due (in some small part anyway) to the idea that people who are religious or have a religious upbringing are encouraged to seek a vocation or "calling" such as teaching, nursing, social or civic service. It would be interesting to see if there are other areas of occupational disparity between atheists and theists. (Besides, I suspect, the almost total lack of atheists in theology, of course. :) ). Maybe the theists aren't not choosing science so much as choosing something else.

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      Linda, there are atheists in the clergy, so I am quite confident there are some among the theologians, as well.

      • Linda

        Thanks, Q! I figured there must be. :)

        • Jonathan West

          I know an atheist theologian, trained by the Jesuits. Very good on Aquinas.

  • Mikegalanx

    "Elaine Ecklund’s recent book Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think shows that scientists are more religious than we realize."

    No, Elaine Ecklund's writings show how much she is willing to twist her own research to try and claim that scientists are more religious than her study actually shows

    stuhttp://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2010/06/28/ecklund-is-framing-again/dy

    http://scienceblogs.com/evolutionblog/2010/05/20/scientists-and-religion

    • epeeist

      No, Elaine Ecklund's writings show how much she is willing to twist her
      own research to try and claim that scientists are more religious than
      her study actually shows

      I hadn't realised where the funding for the research came from...

  • primenumbers

    "The existence of God is not a scientific question, because science restricts itself to searching for natural explanations of observed phenomena." - no, science doesn't restrict itself to natural explanations. It restricts itself to things that have evidence. If there is no evidence for something, science cannot study it. If there is no evidence for something, how can anyone study it?

    " Since God is a transcendent being who exists beyond space and time, the search for God must primarily use philosophy, or careful reasoning, and not science (even though science provides facts which can be used in philosophical arguments for and against the existence of God)." - this just reads like a rationalization as to why we lack evidence for God. The deliberate definition of a God in such a way as it can provide no evidence of it's own existence is clearly seen for what it is - a rationalization.

    I'd very much like a coherent explanation of "beyond space and time" as such a phrase sounds rather equivalent to nowhere to me.

    • mally el

      Though we cannot see, hear or touch gravity we know that this wonderful phenomenon exists only because of what it does. Creation is what the Creator has done.

      • Jonathan West

        Creation is what the Creator has done.

        How can you tell? How can you tell that there is a creator? How can you tell that the creator is the particular variety of God you happen to believe in?

        • VelikaBuna

          Using common sense, and logic.

          • Jonathan West

            Fine. Use some of it and show me how it is done.

          • VelikaBuna

            Life requires life to exist in the first place. Therefore life was created.

          • Jonathan West

            How do you know that life requires life to exist?

          • VelikaBuna

            Because life is not inherent to mere matter, and it cannot be constructed out of dead matter. One does not say that rock is alive.

          • Michael Murray

            So one we remove all the atoms in the human body explain to me where the life is hiding?

          • VelikaBuna

            I don't know what life is so i cannot give you the answer. Life does not appear to be material, but some other substance if that is the proper term for it?

          • Michael Murray

            Everything living thing I've ever seen is made of atoms. What makes you think otherwise ?

          • VelikaBuna

            Are atoms alive?

          • Rationalist1

            No, but atoms make up things that are alive.

          • VelikaBuna

            Sure.

          • Michael Murray

            Then there is your answer. Living things are just complicated machines. So life doesn't require life to exist. You could assemble a living thing if you were clever enough. It's just atoms.

          • VelikaBuna

            You are overreaching with your conclusion.

          • Michael Murray

            No I'm not. It is the simplest solution. I'm just following Friar William of Ockhams advice. Give me some evidence that suggests that this is not the answer.

          • VelikaBuna

            One cannot create life out of atoms alone.

          • Michael Murray

            You keep asserting this. Without any evidence at all. Even a vaguely plausible argument. Just assertions.

          • Rationalist1

            It happens all around us. What evidence do you have that life is made of anything but atoms?

          • VelikaBuna

            Because life cannot be created out of atoms alone, but preexisting life is a requirement.

          • Michael Murray

            You are overreaching with your conclusion.

          • VelikaBuna

            Tell me?

          • Michael Murray

            You are concluding that life can't be created from atoms alone because no-one has done it yet. Overreaching.

          • VelikaBuna

            Yes it is an overreaching statement that I should not have made.

          • Jonathan West

            So, are you now accepting that it may be possible to make a living thing entirely out of nonliving ingredients?

          • VelikaBuna

            No. There is zero evidence that this is possible. It would take a faith for me to say that life came from non life and that this is even possible, since all the evidence shows that life comes only from life.

          • Jonathan West

            We can try. With very simple forms of life, we aren't that far away from having the technology to assemble a living thing from inorganic ingredients.

            Then we will be able to find out whether you are right.

            And this is the key difference between scientific and religious thinking. You assert that "One cannot create life out of atoms alone", while a scientist will say "I don't know if one can create life out of atoms alone, let's give it a try and see what happens".

            You have decided what is true, the scientist looks to discover what is true.

          • VelikaBuna

            Science positively states that life came into existence out of non life. So I do not know why you are presenting science as so reasonable when it is not?

          • Jonathan West

            Science positively states that life came into existence out of non life

            Yes, because the evidence suggests it. There was a time when the earth had no life on it. And very simple forms of life first appeared some billions of years ago. We don't know the exact mechanism, but we do know that it happened.

          • VelikaBuna

            Oh boy. I envy your faith.

          • Jonathan West

            Come and share it! :-)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm not disagreeing with you except to question the narrative that "simple forms of life" appeared. My understanding of biology is that cells are incredibly complex but in their structure and in their activities.

          • Jonathan West

            Cells were probably not the first forms of life

          • Michael Murray

            What does "Science positively states that" mean ? Is there s a list of science Dogma I can consult or a science Catechism ? You are confusing the scientific approach with the religious one. Science always carries a proviso that says "to the best state of our current evidence it appears that …"

          • VelikaBuna

            Yes and the communism is a perfect peaceful coexistence among all peoples sharing and contributing to the collective to the best of each ones ability. Please spare me the utopia.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            And this is the key difference between scientific and religious thinking. You assert that "One cannot create life out of atoms alone", while a scientist will say "I don't know if one can create life out of atoms alone, let's give it a try and see what happens".

            This *isn't* a difference between religious and scientific thinking. In fact, your definition of "religious" is amazingly imprecise, since it would include every religion, all of metaphysics, and all ethics. There is no "religious" response to that question.

            However, I actually agree with the block quote above and predict that scientists *will* create life, unless it turns out to be too enormous an undertaking, since even what scientists used to call simple cells are anything but.

            I would ask this question, though. If the dynamism in a cell is based on the dynamism of chemical interactions, and the dynamism of chemical interactions is based on the dynamism of molecules, and so on, down to the subatomic level, why are subatomic particles so feaking dynamic! And I'm not claiming that's a theology question.

          • Jonathan West

            This *isn't* a difference between religious and scientific thinking. In fact, your definition of "religious" is amazingly imprecise, since it would include every religion, all of metaphysics, and all ethics. There is no "religious" response to that question.

            What i described covers all religions, and is a significant point of difference between them and science. So in what way was my point imprecise?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There is nothing in my Catholic faith, in perennial philosophy, or in natural law ethics that precludes me from saying about any question, "Let's see if it's true."

          • Jonathan West

            The point that I made when i first entered this thread was in response to a claim in the original article that God is not a scientific hypothesis, and therefore that "Let's see if it's true." is not an appropriate question to ask on the subject.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you ask the question, "Can God be studied by experimental science?" you can certainly answer, "Let's find out." And if the answer turns out to be no, then you can conclude that "God cannot be studied by experimental science."

          • Jonathan West

            But that isn't what the original author claimed. He was asserting a priori that God is not a scientific hypothesis.

            That's not a valid assertion if you are going to claim that there is evidence (for instance as recorded in the Bible) for God's existence and actions.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The original claim was "The *existence* if God is not a scientific question."

            The author is simply summarizing a line of reasoning which to me makes perfect sense.

          • Jonathan West

            Unless your understanding of "God" includes some properties, the claim that "God exists" in fact has no content.

            Since you would not go to such great trouble over a contentless statement, I think we can take it that your understanding of God does include some properties and characteristics that you believe God to have.

            Whether "God exists" is a scientific claim depends on what sort of God you think exists. And that is where we start having a problem, because whenever i ask I get very vague and slippery answers, and whenever i try to summarise what I'm told to see if a scientific hypothesis can be made out of it, I'm invariably told that God isn't quite like that.

            But I think that even though we cannot agree, you will agree that there are certain possible definitions of God which are amenable to scientific investigation, and some (which consist of wholly of unfalsifiable statements) which are not.

            It seems to me that the major religions very much went in for the intervening sort of God, whose manifestations are amenable in principle to scientific investigation.

            And science of course got on with investigating. And in the process of doing so, they learned that lightning is an entirely natural phenomenon and that a lightning conductor will protect the roof of a brothel just as effectively as the spire of a church. They have also learned that many diseases are caused by germs and can be cured by antibiotics irrespective of whether the patient is righteous or a sinner.

            These discoveries are at odds with what religion used to tell us. I say "used to", because be very assured that the religions most certainly used to treat disease as an outward sign of sin, and lightning as a sign of God's wrath. They stopped doing that when the evidence made it clear that this was not so, and God was progressively redefined.

            In essence, the entire history of theology these last 500 years or so has been one long retreat from claims of an interventionist God, a retreat carried out in the face of scientific advances. The retreat has gone so far into unfalsifiable propositions that religious people can now even keep a straight face when they say such things as "God is not some good thing, but Goodness itself; not some true object but Truth itself; not some beautiful reality, but Beauty itself."

          • severalspeciesof

            In essence, the entire history of theology these last 500 years or so
            has been one long retreat from claims of an interventionist God, a
            retreat carried out in the face of scientific advances. The retreat has
            gone so far into unfalsifiable propositions that religious people can
            now even keep a straight face when they say such things as "God is not
            some good thing, but Goodness itself; not some true object but Truth
            itself; not some beautiful reality, but Beauty itself."

            Nice summary...

            Glen

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The first thing I would like to point out is that your entire comment is not a scientific statement but observations made on the basis of general rationality.

            Second, you are again grossly over-generalizing about religions. I'm a Catholic and it has never been a doctrine of my faith that God hurls lightening bolts from the sky or punishes sinners by giving them diseases. (The Jews figured out the latter all on their own long before Christianity.)

            Third, Catholic theologians were asserting with straight faces long before the rise of experimental science that God is Being, Truth, Goodness, Beauty (and many other qualities) itself.

            Fourth, how would experimental science ever test an alleged intervention of God that occurred in the past? To quote Mariano Artigas, "Experimentation involves an active intervention in natural processes, with the objective of eliciting responses to hypothetically formulated questions. Experimentation is a planned activity observing what happens under controlled conditions." Science is done in the here and now. You have to be able to intervene in the (natural) process. Please explain how this pertains to a past intervention or how you could set up an experiment to test for God's intervention in the here and now?

          • Jonathan West

            I'm a Catholic and it has never been a doctrine of my faith that God hurls lightening bolts from the sky or punishes sinners by giving them diseases.

            Not in your lifetime, but it was certainly believed before. otherwise, why would Jesus have cured the leper by saying "your sins are forgiven"?

            Catholic theologians were asserting with straight faces long before the rise of experimental science that God is Being, Truth, Goodness, Beauty (and many other qualities) itself

            Even a thousand years ago, the shortage of recent miracles was beginning to get noticed. By now, the theologians have had lots of practice at keeping a straight face.

            Fourth, how would experimental science ever test an alleged intervention of God that occurred in the past?

            in exactly the same way as they would test for an alleged significant natural event that occurred in the past, for instance this one.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Point one, no answer.

            Point two. If you look at the passage in which Jesus cured the *paralytic*, the reason for him saying "your sins are forgiven" are given. You might look it up.

            Point three. A shortage of recent miracles to account for reasoning that God has transcendental properties is a weak and unevidenced assertion, especially considering how "credulous" people have been accused of being in the Middle Ages.

            Point four, no answer.

          • Michael Murray

            Nope. But all machines, including living machines are made of atoms.

          • Jonathan West

            So, let me see if I can understand how your common sense and logic has got you to this point.

            Your initial assertion was that"Life requires life to exist in the first place. Therefore life was created."

            On being asked to justify this, you said "Because life is not inherent to mere matter, and it cannot be constructed out of dead matter. One does not say that rock is alive."

            There are two objections to this. One is Michael Murray's objection, to which you offered the suggestion that life "does not appear to be material", without offering any evidence for this idea.

            The other objection is that even if a rock cannot be converted into a living thing, that does not mean that no other non-living item or combination of items cannot be turned into a living thing. For your objection to be valid, you need to do more than offer one example, you need to demonstrate that your example is an example of an invariant law. You haven't done that.

            The mere fact that we haven't yet created a living thing wholly out of non-living molecules is neither here nor there. That we haven't done it yet isn't proof that it is forever impossible, and it isn't proof that it never happened by natural causes in the distant past.

            In fact, we have gone some significant way along the route of creating life from non-life. We can create organic molecules (complex carbon-based molecules often found in living things) from inorganic ingredients. In due course, there is every reason to think that in due course would could in due course create a very simple life form (e.g. a virus) wholly from inorganic ingredients. If it acts in the same way as a natural virus with the same arrangement of atoms, then we can reasonably say it is living. if it acts differently, then the time will have come to start looking for your immaterial life-force component.

            Do you really think we will need to look, or do you think that the artificial virus will act like the natural one?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Assuming life is an emergent property of certain arrangements of matter, does that make life itself material?

          • Jonathan West

            Assuming life is an emergent property of certain arrangements of matter, does that make life itself material?

            It depends on how you choose to define the term "material". I've noticed a great tendency among people here to get mixed up between facts and definitions.

          • Michael Murray

            Sure. Why not ? Emergent properties are completely determined by the things that they are emerging from. It may be practically impossible to deduce them but not theoretically impossible.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Emergent properties are completely determined by the things that are emerging from surely.

            So assuming consciousness is an emergent property, is consciousness material? Is an idea material?

          • Andrew G.

            "Consciousness" is a process that is carried out by certain material constructs (and ditto for "life"). To ask "is it material" is a category error; it does not belong to the class of material "things" because it's not a "thing", rendering the "material" question meaningless.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            So in other words, when Michael Murray answered, "Sure, why not?" to my question, "Does that make life itself material"? he gave the wrong answer. Correct? And neither life nor consciousness nor an idea is material. And apparently a process is not material, either.

          • Andrew G.

            If your question is meaningless (or insufficiently meaningful), how could any answer be wrong?

            Some people may choose to regard a property of material systems as being "material" in some sense of the word; others might not. Once you get down to arguing about definitions then you have disconnected from the reality; you should reframe the question to be meaningful, rather than insisting on an answer.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            you should reframe the question to be meaningful, rather than insisting on an answer.

            Isn't there a kind of double standard here? If I ask a meaningless question of Michael Murray, and he answers it as if it were meaningful, he is exempt from being corrected, because you perceive him to be on "your side." So you dodged the issue of what Michael Murray said and instructed me to reframe the question.

            I think to demonstrate your integrity, you must take Michael Murray to task for responding to a meaningless question as if it were meaningful. :-)

          • BenS

            I read some time ago on RDFRS something which really stuck with me; someone described the mind (consciousness) as a process, as being like a running engine. I thought this was an excellent way of putting it. Especially as they then compared the notion of god, 'a disembodied mind', as being like a 'dis-engined running'. Even though you can put the words together, it doesn't describe something that makes sense.

            ---

            [Edit: Found it on the old RD site.

            http://old.richarddawkins.net/discussions/575332-william-lane-craig/comments?page=4#comment_582779

            It was Quine as well. That guy's a hero.]

          • Andrew G.

            Exactly. (I've used that analogy a lot, though I don't read RDFRS and don't recall picking it up anywhere specific; it just seemed obvious.)

            Partly it's a language problem, because we tend to reify abstracts by treating them as nouns rather than adjectives (there are conscious brains and non-conscious brains, and non-conscious rocks).

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            someone described the mind (consciousness) as a process, as being like a running engine

            Thanks for the link. I will try to read it soon.

            But of course the difference between a mind and a running engine is that a mind knows it is a mind, but an engine doesn't know it is an engine. So if consciousness is a process, it is a process that is aware it is a process. That makes it, at minimum, a very special process—a process unlike any other process. It kind of boggles the mind to think that a process can understand itself, or at least try to.

          • BenS

            The link's just a link to a post, nothing too exciting. More for my own reference to remind myself I hadn't imagined it.

            But of course the difference between a mind and a running engine is that a mind knows it is a mind, but an engine doesn't know it is an engine

            Only because of the definitions of the words mind and running engine currently. Currently, mind implies self-awareness and running engine doesn't.

            I can quite easily conceive of a time, fifty years hence, when - with the aid of a massive computing engine and a dehydrating manatee - a piece of software running on said engine (i.e. a running engine) believes it is conscious and considers itself a mind.

            Much in the way we do with our meat engines. No difference, just one's organic and the other isn't.

            I can also quite easily conceive of my estimate of 50 years being way out. When they're looking back at poor old primitive me and saying "Look at him with his idea of a 'massive computer'. My clothes are self-aware. I mean, if they weren't, how would they compete for my attention so I know what to wear out? What, did he just pick things at random? I bet they didn't even jump him out of the way of moving traffic!".

          • JL

            Ben, you might find the following article interesting:

            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/popper-contra-computationalism.html

            It's quite a long read, so if you don't have time, read the seven points that begin with '1. Materialism holds that'.

          • Michael Murray

            It's a particular arrangement of atoms. Do you want to call the arrangement material ? Is the software in your computer material ?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            It's a particular arrangement of atoms. Do you want to call the arrangement material ?

            A particular arrangement of atoms, it seems to me, is not a description of consciousness. At the very minimum, one has to included the electrical currents traveling around in the brain. An arrangement of atoms alone can't be a mind and can't give rise to consciousness. There has to be some kind of activity.

          • Michael Murray

            Yes I agree it's dynamic. So all the particles and their associated fields and their change over time.

          • Andrew G.

            What is "life itself", if it's not a fallacy of reification?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Interesting question. So is there no such thing as life?

          • Andrew G.

            Maybe there is no such thing in the sense of "object", while still being an abstract property.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Well, certainly the abstract property known as life is not material. Would you agree to that? Or are abstract properties material?

          • Michael Murray

            Probably just things that are alive rather than things that possess life.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I know some of you guys have the "idiots guide to fallacies" app on your smart phones, but could you not just toss them out but explain what you mean?

            What do you mean by life being a fallacy of reification?

          • Jonathan West

            There's a good list of fallacies here

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies

            Reification is one of the ones listed there

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I know. I had to go there to look up to of yours.

          • VelikaBuna

            Virus is just a information packet that needs a living host to unpack.

          • Jonathan West

            Not at all, a virus can exist independent of a host. Perhaps not for very long, but it can.

          • VelikaBuna

            It can exist for thousands of years if the conditions are right.

          • Jonathan West

            In which case your previous statement was incorrect.

          • VelikaBuna

            What is incorrect?

          • Jonathan West

            That a "Virus is just a information packet that needs a living host to unpack"

          • VelikaBuna

            Virus is dead. It is composed of DNA sequence, which requires a living organism to be unpacked and interpreted. It is analogous to a book. Book has no meaning in itself until someone intelligent reads it.

          • Jonathan West

            OK, then if you decide that a virus is not a living thing (a point on which most biologists would disagree with you by the way), then you will have to wait a bit longer until the technology allows for the creation of an entire cell out of nonliving ingredients. We can then see if that behaves like a living cell.

          • VelikaBuna

            Sure, one can keep going like that indefinitely.

          • Jonathan West

            So, we are agreed that what you have said is an assertion not backed by evidence, and that if and when the scientists manage to make a living thing, we will then have the evidence that allows us to decide whether you are right or not.

            So, if we don't have evidence now, how do you know you are right? You did seem very certain about your original claim that life can't be created out of non-life. What was the source of that certainty?

          • VelikaBuna

            That is called having faith that science will be able to do that. I would rather plead agnostic on that one.

          • Jonathan West

            But you weren't being agnostic. You were quite certain that it can't be done. Where did that certainty come from?

          • VelikaBuna

            From empirical science perspective I am agnostic on the issue, for that is all science allows in this case. On the other hand I do not believe that empirical scientific research is adequate and the only method of knowing things. So I do not understand what are the proofs that science has to say life emerged from dead matter?

          • Jonathan West

            So, what additional basis of knowledge do you have?

          • VelikaBuna

            What are the proofs that life can emerge from non life?

          • Jonathan West

            It happened. We are here.

          • VelikaBuna

            So let me get this straight. There are zero examples of life coming out of non life, on the other hand there are countless billions of examples of life coming from life, therefore the conclusion is life came from non life. That is hyper faith I have to say.

          • Jonathan West

            So let me get this straight. There are zero examples of life coming out of non life, on the other hand there are countless billions of examples of life coming from life, therefore the conclusion is life came from non life.

            But life, once started, is self-perpetuating. That's so true it is almost a definition of life. So it only needs to get started once, and evolution by natural selection takes over from there and increases the variety and complexity of life.

            These days, it would be almost impossible for new life to get started spontaneously. The non-living building blocks would get incorporated into living things because chance would give them time to the simplest possible life form.

            Moreover, even if the simplest possible life form were to manage to assemble, it would have a hard time competing against the life forms we have already which are the product of about 3 billion years of natural selection.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            .... it cannot be constructed out of dead matter

            Has been constructed out of dead matter: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=synthetic-genome-cell

          • VelikaBuna

            DNA sequencing would be useless outside the living organism. Again this is not example of creating life, but an example of messing with the preexisting life.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Dead chemicals were put together to make living cells that then went on to replicate and live on their own. It was a milestone in the total falsification of élan vital.

          • VelikaBuna

            You are obviously misunderstanding what was done. Did they make a cell, or they made DNA which they inserted into the cell?

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            They started with cells and removed the DNA which resulted in dead matter. They then synthesized their own unique DNA from computers instructions, which was then, itself, dead matter. They then put that dead matter into the dead matter (bags of cytoplasm) from the cell bodies, and the result was new living cells. Where they got the dead matter does not change the fact that when they started the assembly process, they were working with dead matter and ended up with life.

      • primenumbers

        So yes, we have good evidence for gravity and science has done a wonderful job of studying it. Even though, as you say "we cannot see, hear or touch gravity" we can still study it, so obviously they're no barrier to scientific study are they?? What is a barrier is lack of evidence.

        "Creation is what the Creator has done." - so there should be tonnes of obvious evidence for this creator, yet we see nothing but an utterly natural universe. And we know that lack of visibility or material form is no barrier (from your wonderful gravity example above) to scientific study if the thing actually exists.

        • VelikaBuna

          Gravity is a name given to an observable force for which we have no empirically based explanation. We can measure its effects locally but we do not know its origins and thus we cannot understand its effects on the whole, but only on the part which is accessible to us.

          • Jonathan West

            On the whole what?

            Also, the fact that at present we do not know its origins (whatever that means) does not mean that we will never find out. Don't make the mistake of thinking that things are unknowable when at present they are merely unknown.

          • VelikaBuna

            "On the whole what?"

            On the other locations and points of the universe.

          • Jonathan West

            if we have a phenomenon of gravity that appears to operate consistently over all the parts of the universe that we can observe, do we have any reason to think that it operates differently in those parts of the universe that we haven't yet observed?

          • VelikaBuna

            Yes, since we do not understand the modus operandum or cause or source of gravity. We do not know enough about it.

          • Jonathan West

            Well done. You have created your first scientific hypothesis. The next time the astronomers build an even bigger telescope and become able to view more distant parts of the universe so far unobserved, they will be able to test your hypothesis.

          • VelikaBuna

            What do telescopes have to do with gravity? i am not following your thought?

          • Michael Murray

            So far when we look at the universe though telescopes we see distant stars and galaxies behaving as if gravity for them is the same as it is for us. So bigger telescopes let us test the hypothesis that gravity behaves the same all over the universe.

          • VelikaBuna

            Things are calculated, such as masses based on the assumption that the gravity is the same everywhere. This is complicated, but it is a catch 22.

          • Michael Murray

            No it's not a catch 22. Physicists can deal with this kind of thing.

          • VelikaBuna

            Sure, it is called faith in mathemagic.

          • primenumbers

            If faith is such a bad thing that you say physicists have "faith in mathemagic", why do you rely all your religious knowledge entirely on faith?

          • VelikaBuna

            I am not. Why are you?

          • Jonathan West

            But we've been asking you what else you are basing your knowledge on, and it seems by your own account not to be on evidence, and when we ask you for more details you clam up. What alternative conclusion are we supposed to draw?

          • primenumbers

            You use "faith" above as a negative against physicists. I'm only picking up on your use of it. If faith is not a negative, please demonstrate it's positive qualities for us.

          • VelikaBuna

            After you. Explain why do you have faith in mathemagic.

          • primenumbers

            That's an un-evidenced assertion on your part against me. If faith is not a negative, please demonstrate it's positive qualities for us.

          • Michael Murray

            So what is mathemagic ?

          • VelikaBuna

            Mathemagic is an ability of math to propose things that cannot be reconciled with the observable reality. For example, Algebra allows for infinite dimensions. To conclude then based on this that there must be infinite dimensions would be called mathemagic.

          • Michael Murray

            Mathematics doesn't have abilities. I've never known anyone propose that every mathematical structure is a model for something real.

          • VelikaBuna

            Curvature of space is a mathematical model. Shrinkage of matter in the direction it travels is a mathematical model. Neither have been empirically observed, but math works, so the assumption is that space which is absence of matter can be curved. So nothing can curve. There are too many crazy things science expects people to believe, and the proofs are that you can do the math to show it.

          • epeeist

            Shrinkage of matter in the direction it travels is a mathematical model. Neither have been empirically observed, but math works

            Seriously?

            You might want to try this paper, or this paper amongst many others.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Ahem.

            You second source, which links only to the abstract- google the title and you can find the pdf- includes the following rather difficult words in its conclusion:

            "It is remarkable indeed that no direct measurements of the Lorentz contraction are possible, and it is very unlikely that 'any direct experiments can be found in view of the fact that a direct optical observation of the Lorentz contraction is impossible."

            It is humorous that you have advanced this as if it constituted evidence for your premise :-)

            Your first source, which I cannot find in pdf, and hence must go solely by the abstract to which you link, reports the electrodynamic pinching of a bound state of an IMMATERIAL MAGNETIC FIELD.

            The Lorenz contraction is alleged to occur when measuring a PHYSICAL MATERIAL OBJECT in relative motion.

            Score one for Velika.

          • mally el

            Religious is not about science but about who we are and of how we should behave. The Father of Modern Science said something about science studying how the heavens go and scripture tells us how to go to heaven. Get the difference now?

          • primenumbers

            Religion does indeed answer a lot of questions. It's a pity that religion doesn't demonstrate that it's answers are true or that the questions are valid first.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Of course it was not the Father of Modern Science who said this, but instead a Catholic Cardinal attempting to introduce a discontinuity into Catholic theology, based upon his personal and false conclusion that Galileo was right.

            Instead, we know that Galileo was wrong in each and every one of his assertions.

            The discontinuity was certainly introduced, however.

            In this way the Endarkenment was able to create an hermetic seal between Faith and Reason, and get about the business of shrinking the domain of Faith.

            The beautiful irony is that the scientists- excellent and honorable work, science!- have discovered that the Earth is indeed in a privileged, special location in the cosmos.

            Thus completely discrediting the novelty, unknown to Catholic Faith in Scripture, in Tradition, in the Fathers, in the Doctors.....

            That Scripture cannot tell us how the heavens go.

          • epeeist

            The Father of Modern Scienc

            A pity then that he had to live under house arrest after being found to be suspect of heresy.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Galileo was certainly suspected of heresy, and Galileo recanted the heresy, because Galileo, unlike his champions these days, eventually understood and acknowledged the truth of the arguments of St. Bellarmine and the Roman Pontiffs.

            If the atheist is seeking a proto-martyr, he will not find one in Galileo, but in Bruno.

            Bruno makes an excellent martyr, just so long as one does not read his actual words.

          • mally el

            What has his behaviour got to do with science?

          • epeeist

            What has his behaviour got to do with science?

            What, writing a book giving possible alternatives to a particular question in science? That's what foundational scientists do.

            It is the behaviour of your church in charging him with the thought-crime of "heresy" you ought to be questioning.

          • epeeist

            The Father of Modern Science

            Oh, and if anyone should be called the "Father of Modern Science" (a ridiculous term since as one of the foremost physicists of all time said, "If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of giants") it is probably Francis Bacon.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The Father of Modern Science is Isaac Newton, the first one who dared to attempt a Theory of Everything.

            It is the Theory of Everything that is the characteristic mark of *modern* science, as opposed to all earlier stages of development of the method.

            Very much like Eudoxus' promised quadrature of the circle, we are regularly assured that such a Theory of Everything is in the final stages of preparation and will be rolled out any time now.

            My advice:

            Don't hold your breath.

          • Michael Murray

            Rubbish. We know things like objects move in elliptical orbits if they are attracted by an inverse square law. It's not magic. It's just logic. I thought you like logic.

          • VelikaBuna

            I am not arguing against such things.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Brava.

            It has also been called the "fraud of algebraic causality".

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Physicists can deal with this sort of thing by inventing 96% of the mass/energy of the universe out of thin air.

            This is, of course, called "science", and wielded as a club against the theologians, you see, who fail to understand that only empirical evidence counts.

            But wisdom is justified of all her children.

          • mally el

            Why should only empirical evidence count? Why not logic? By the way, science only deals with the events that happen in the created world which has laws embedded in them, laws that we can see in action and also measure.

          • Jonathan West

            A chain of logic is only useful if it starts from valid premises. A valid premise is a fact that is self-evidently true or has been shown to be true by observation.

            You should be very wary of truths you regard as self-evident. It may well be that you have failed to think of an valid objection. The Argument from Personal Incredulity is a very common mistake which leads people to think things are self-evident when they are not.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            mally:

            Logic never discovered any new principle ("law") of nature.

            It never will.

            It never can.

            Only creative hypothesis can do that.

            This is a profoundly supra-logical form of thinking.

            Logic can check an hypothesis' power to adequately explain anomalous observations (crucial experimental test).

            Logic can develop deductively-consistent theorems if the hypothesis survives its crucial experimental test.

            We hypothesize gravity, as a means of resolving paradoxical sense impressions (gravity comes at the end of a thousands-of-years-long chain of hypotheses designed to answer the question 'how come Mars moves back and forth in the sky as seen from Earth?')

            The stupendous excellence of this theory bootstraps us a very great way up the mountain, perhaps.

            But the theory is wrong.

            Of course.

            It works within a given domain of sense-impression, and it stops working once we are able to bootstrap our way up to a larger domain.

            Another word for this process is "science".

            We stop doing science, once we use logic to invent patch-ups to our theory in the face of observations which disclose a flaw in our assumptions.

          • Ignorant Amos

            We hypothesize gravity, as a means of resolving paradoxical sense impressions (gravity comes at the end of a thousands-of-years-long chain of hypotheses designed to answer the question 'how come Mars moves back and forth in the sky as seen from Earth?')

            Coincidentally I was just reading about retrograde motion this morning.

            "The solution to the problem of retrograde motion is to realize that the Earth is moving more quickly around the Sun than Mars. Along its orbit, Earth will at some times lag behind Mars from an angular point of view. That is, if Earth is at the 3 o’clock position along its orbit, Mars may be at 1 o’clock. Since Earth moves faster along its path, Earth will overtake Mars as they both hit the 12 o’clock position at the same time. After passing Mars, Earth will reach the 9 o’clock position on its orbit while Mars only makes it to 11 o’clock. From our point of view on Earth, Mars will appear to move prograde on the sky when we are approaching it; however, as we overtake Mars (which you can see in the animation if you replay it and watch the relative positions of the two planets closely), it will appear to come to a stop and then begin to move retrograde. A good analogy to help clarify this concept is to visualize runners on a track. Imagine two runners, one moving quickly in an inside lane (Earth) and another moving more slowly on the outside lane (Mars). When both are on the straightaways, the Earth runner will see the Mars runner moving forward but slowing down as the Earth runner catches up. However, when both hit the turn, the Earth runner will pass Mars, who will seem to be moving backwards (or retrograde!) from Earth's point of view.

            https://www.e-education.psu.edu/astro801/content/l2_p4.html

            The parallax issue seems to have been a bigger problem at the time.

            Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler appear to have fixed it though.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Bravo, Iggy.

            Kepler and Brahe did indeed fix it.

            As this recent paper from the January 2013 European Journal of Physics, and its subsequent follow-up recently posted on the preprint site, show, Brahe's geocentrism is completely consistent with all observations, and completely consistent with Machian, Newtonian, and Einsteinian physics.

            In other words, the solution to Mars' retrograde is exactly and precisely obtainable from within Tycho's geocentrism:

            http://arxiv.org/pdf/1301.6045.pdf

            Excerpt:

            "According to Mach’s principle, the Earth could be considered as the “pivot point” of the Universe: the fact that the Universe is orbiting around the Earth will create the exact same forces that we usually ascribe to the motion of the
            Earth."

            http://arxiv.org/pdf/1302.7129.pdf

            Excerpt:

            "After the paper was published, the question was raised if that same potential can explain the motion of the distant stars that are not affected by the Sun’s gravity (unlike Mars), and if it can be used to reproduce the observation of the stellar parallax. The answer is found to be positive."

            http://arxiv.org/pdf/1304.7290.pdf

            Excerpt:

            "We have presented the mathematical formalism which can justify Mach’s statement that both geocentric and Copernican modes of view are “equally actual” and “equally correct” [3]. This is performed by introducing two potentials, (1) vector potential that accounts for the diurnal rotations and (2) scalar potential that accounts for the annual revolutions of the celestial bodies around the fixed Earth. These motions can be seen as real and self-sustained. If one could put the whole Universe in accelerated motion around the Earth, the potentials (3.1) and (3.5) would immediately be generated and
            would keep the Universe in that very same state of motion ad infinitum."

          • Ignorant Amos

            ...Tycho's geocentrism...

            Thought you would like that one...

            "It was chiefly through the influence of the Jesuit scientists that the Roman Catholic Church adopted the Tychonic system"

            Although the Tychonic System was more geo-heliocentric.

            " After the Galileo affair, which transpired early in the 17th century, Copernicanism was never officially forbidden to astronomers in the Roman Catholic Church but the Tychonic system was an acceptable alternative that matched available observations,..."

            As long as it fits the scripture, its good.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "As long as it fits the scripture, its good."

            >> Another word for the above would be "Catholic".

            It is of the essence of being Catholic, to understand that God is the Author of Scripture, and cannot make the kinds of mistakes Galileo made.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "Although the Tychonic System was more geo-heliocentric."

            >> Excellent point. Geocentrism is, rigorously speaking, a misnomer.

            "Center" implies relationship to a perimeter, and we do not necessarily know the perimeter of the universe (if all we can see is all there is, then of course we do know the perimeter, and we know that Earth is at the center).

            A more correct term would be geostatism.

            Tycho's system is a geostatic system, and Copernicus' system is a heliostatic system.

            Relativity insists both are equally valid.

            If Relativity is wrong, then the game is on in earnest again, as a matter of physics.

            In such a case, we begin with the circumstance that all of the *experimental* evidence supports geostatism, since it is only by Relativity that we are able to explain the failure of all optical and mechanical experiments to detect any absolute motion of the Earth.

          • Jonathan West

            No. If gravity were greater in some other part of the universe, smaller stars would be compressed and would shine more brightly than they do.

          • VelikaBuna

            Maybe so, but like I said we do not know how gravity emerges and where it comes from and how it interacts with matter so your statement may or may not be true. We need to know what effects gravity has on the properties on matter and on different scales. This is complicated again.

          • Jonathan West

            If and when scientists make observations that require a change in their theories, then they will do so. It won't be the first time that has happened, even specifically about gravity. But unless and until they get such observations, or they have to develop a theory of something else which makes other predictions about gravity, they will carry on working with the theories they have now.

          • VelikaBuna

            That is correct. They do not need to say more than evidence provides. I agree with you. Assumptions can be made, but these cannot be confused with science.

          • Jonathan West

            So what is the basis for your assumption about the existence of God?

          • VelikaBuna

            Logic. Science is not sufficient.

          • Jonathan West

            you've said that before, and refused to elaborate when asked. You're engaging in the the fallacy of the Argument from Repeated Assertion.

          • josh

            Physicists are looking for a consistent picture which accounts for all observables within the most minimal framework. Assumptions are regularly checked with a host of tests because that is how you make your name in science. This is nothing like a catch-22. That gravity is the same everywhere is a working assumption which seems to give consistent results. Nonetheless, there are plenty of people who try to build models with non-standard gravity and to think of tests for the current paradigm.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "So far when we look at the universe though telescopes we see distant stars and galaxies behaving as if gravity for them is the same as it is for us."

            >> This is completely false.

            The galaxies explicitly do not obey Kepler's laws, Newton;s laws, or Einstein's laws.

            It is already completely established- has been since the 1950's- that spiral galaxies do not obey the laws of gravity which apply on local scales.

            One can either add in the missing 96% by hand and continually reassure the public that we are sure to find it at some point, and even if we don't, it will just be because it is too hard to detect......

            Or one can look for the false philosophical assumption that has led us to the wrong turn.

            http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/2013/04/two-false-philosophical-assumptions.html

          • Jonathan West

            Newton developed his laws of gravity by observing the motions of the planets in the sky. He used a telescope in order to make accurate measurements of those motions.

            Larger telescopes have since been developed that have allowed us to make more accurate measurements, and measurements of more distant bodies. It was in part as a result of these measurements that the precession of the orbit of Mercury was discovered, which was eventually explained by Einstein's refinement of the laws of gravity in his general theory of relativity.

            As ever more powerful telescopes have been created, so more and more of the universe has been available for observation., and so we can see whether gravity works in those other places in the same way as it does here.

          • Michael Murray

            Was it Newton ? I thought Tycho Brahe did the observations, Kepler calculated his three rules and Newton invented the inverse law of gravitational attraction.

            I must add a Newton biography to my Kindle list of unread books.

          • Jonathan West

            I think Newton contributed his own observations as well. But he did of course have access to the work of Brahe and Kepler and acknowledged them

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            It was indeed the great geocentrist Brahe who did the dirty work for all the theorists.

            Without Brahe, Kepler cannot finally arrive at non-uniform elliptical motion.

            Wihout non-uniform elliptical motion, we cannot see the incredible genius of Ptolemy's equant, deferent, and epicycles, as nothing other than the greatest achievement of antiquity- the mathematical expression of elliptical motion fourteen centuries before Kepler, fifteen centuries before we had the math to express such motion apart from epicycles.

            Kepler derives the laws of planetary motion from an explicitly metaphysical- even theological!- premise; that is, the structure of reality is related to the Platonic solids inscribed and circumscribed.

            Newton derives the first true "physics", in the Principia, as a system of universal gravitation.

            As Velika correctly points out above, Newton has no idea what gravity *is*.

            He simply derives a mathematical formula to express what it *does*.

            The math requires absolute space.

            This fails, utterly, in the face of the Michelson Morley and related experiments.

            Enter Einstein, whose theory has managed to bootstrap us all the way to the horrifying truth that the universe is missing 96% of the mass and energy for Einstein's equations to work; that even if we abracadabra the 96% in, the universe declines to behave in the isotropic and homogeneous way the Friedman (FLRW) solutions insist it must, and (who says God has no sense of humor?) the triumphant keystone of the whole edifice- the cosmic microwave background itself- not only signifies the death knell for relativity by defining a preferred direction in the cosmos......

            The preferred direction happens to be pointing at us.

            http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/2013/04/two-false-philosophical-assumptions.html

          • mally el

            Gravity, whatever it is, is everywhere. We would not have existed if there had been no gravity. What a fantastic mind must have created it!

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Must? Or, it is a consequence of other things that must have been, naturally? How would you tell?

            Got evidence?

          • mally el

            All changes that take place are the consequences of laws built into the properties of materials. There is no chance of things going contrary to the laws that are fixed for all time.

          • epeeist

            There is no chance of things going contrary to the laws that are fixed for all time.

            Here is a simple question for you. The earth orbits the sun and the moon orbits the earth, this has been the case for billions of years.

            Does that guarantee that this will be the case for the next billion years?

          • Ignorant Amos

            The earth orbits the sun and the moon orbits the earth, this has been the case for billions of years.

            Further more, those laws were not fixed for all time, about 5 billion years or so.

            The Christians even believed in a flat earth.

            Matthew 4:8: "Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world"

            Luke 4:5: "And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time."

            Which fine and dandy 2000 years ago because only the well educated and scholarly might have been aware of such an error. But then that is a major headache for literalists, especially as by the middle ages, Aquinas among others was a proponent of the Earth's roundness. Still, nothing a wee bit of revision and reinterpretation couldn't put straight.

          • mally el

            Why is at error? Jesus and Satan have an awareness beyond earthly beings.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Why is at error? Jesus and Satan have an awareness beyond earthly beings.

            There it is, the "circle, triangle, square" rebuttal. Nothing more to be said is there?

            Except you've completely missed my point in your attempt to obfuscate the point about your claim that laws are fixed for all time.

            To begin with, if you accept the premise that the conversation took place, then Islam is in, Mormonism is in, Judaism is in, etc.

            But how do you know the conversation is historical?

            My point was, folk made stuff up...which is extraordinarily more probable than a fellow named Jesus actually met up with, and conversed, with a fallen angel called Satan who goaded him and in doing so, completely misrepresented what we know about the shape of our planet. Furthermore, based on this bit of ignorance, that same ignorance was perpetuated among the ignorant for centuries. But you keep clinging to the scriptures Mally, it's all you've got.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            You might reply to, "Jesus and Satan have an awareness beyond earthly beings," with the much beloved question here, "Got evidence?" The consciousness and self-understanding of Jesus is a subject of a great deal of conjecture. It seems preposterous (in my opinion), even if one believes that Jesus was God Incarnate, to claim that he was omniscient. I have read people argue that Jesus privately understood relativity, quantum mechanics, the laws of thermodynamics, and so on, and he just pretended he didn't. Try for a few minutes to imagine an omniscient human being. Was Jesus omniscient in the womb? Was he born knowing all language and had to pretend to learn Aramaic from his parents? Did he know exactly what was going to happen before it happened and what everyone was going to say before they said it?

            It seems quite reasonable to believe that Jesus understood most things, at least, in terms of what was generally believed to be true at the time.

          • Ignorant Amos

            You might reply to, "Jesus and Satan have an awareness beyond earthly beings," with the much beloved question here, "Got evidence?"

            Yeah, but his reply infered he hadn't, so pretty pointless.

            Did he know exactly what was going to happen before it happened and what everyone was going to say before they said it?

            It seems, according to the stories, he knew some stuff ahead of time. He knew the results of the miracles...he also knew of his impending doom, he declared such. If the person in the story had "an awareness beyond earthly beings", then the skies the limit. Anything goes. Acting simple to pander to the crowd is justifiable assertion in such a scenario.

            Still, your points make the whole nonsense even more ridiculous. Some claim Jesus' illiteracy as a reason why he wrote nothing in his own about his ministry, very unusual for a body that can turn water into wine. He could cast out demons but couldn't cast words onto papyrus....or better still, titanium plates.

            It seems quite reasonable to believe that Jesus understood most things, at least, in terms of what was generally believed to be true at the time.

            Even more so, especially if he was a magician, illusionist, mentalist, trickster and/or hypnotist. That's providing he was a real person.

            But the gospel authors were different though.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            If the person in the story had "an awareness beyond earthly beings", then the skies the limit. Anything goes.

            I don't think "having an awareness beyond earthly things" implies omniscience at all. To take a non-miraculous example, Einstein seemed to know almost by intuition things that lesser mortals had a terrible time grasping even when it was spelled out for them. That didn't mean Einstein was "omni-intuitive." Even on a purely human level it is not at all amazing that Jesus may have been aware that he was going to be executed. If you read the speeches of Martin Luther King, it's clear he had a sense he was going to be killed. There are numerous accounts in the Gospels of Jesus being in conflict with the authorities and even having to slip away (Luke 4:28-30):

            When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away.

            Also, remember that Catholics are not fundamentalists who read the Gospels as literal journalistic or historical accounts. Certainly Catholics would not accept naturalistic explanations for everything recounted in the Gospels, but as I have argued a number of times, the "atheist" critique of the Gospels (and the Bible in general) often consists of reading scripture as a fundamentalist would and then saying, "That can't be true." But that is, in effect, setting up a straw man. If you want to criticize the Gospels on a Catholic site, you have to read them the way Catholics do. And of course there is a tremendous diversity of opinion among Catholics on Biblical scholarship, so it is very difficult the criticize the Catholic position, which may not even exist.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I don't think "having an awareness beyond earthly things" implies omniscience at all.

            I guess not...that would mean the horny one would have had omniscience and that wouldn't do at all.

            Even on a purely human level it is not at all amazing that Jesus may have been aware that he was going to be executed.

            Yeah, but his prediction was a bit more than being aware that he was to be executed. If you believe the story, he proclaimed that it was to be one of his own. Anyway, poor Judas gets such a bad press and I've no idea why...the story relies on him doing what he did.

            Also, remember that Catholics are not fundamentalists who read the Gospels as literal journalistic or historical accounts.

            But David, the evidence doesn't support the assertion I'm afraid. If you'd said "not all Catholics"...or even a "a few Catholics are", it might have made better sense. If Rick isn't a Catholic fundamentalist, then I'll buy a hat and eat it.

            Catholic Fundamentalism

            "Some scholars describe certain Catholics as fundamentalists. Such Catholics believe in a literal interpretation of Vatican declarations, particularly those pronounced by the Pope, and believe that individuals who do not agree with the magisterium are condemned by God. Martin E. Marty described Catholic fundamentalists as advocating mass in Latin and mandatory clerical celibacy while opposing ordination of women priests and dismissals of 'artificial' birth control. The Society of St. Pius X, a product of Marcel Lefebvre, is cited as a stronghold of Catholic fundamentalism."

            So Catholic fundies are about.

            Certainly Catholics would not accept naturalistic explanations for everything recounted in the Gospels, ....

            So what is what? Because I've certainly witnessed Catholics believing in the absolutely absurd.

            ...but as I have argued a number of times, the "atheist" critique of the Gospels (and the Bible in general) often consists of reading scripture as a fundamentalist would and then saying, "That can't be true."

            At least the fundies are honest. How else do you propose it to be read and how do you know and why hasn't it?

            But that is, in effect, setting up a straw man.

            At least 38,000 strawmen I guess.

            If you want to criticize the Gospels on a Catholic site, you have to read them the way Catholics do.

            How many ways is that?

            And of course there is a tremendous diversity of opinion among Catholics on Biblical scholarship, so it is very difficult the criticize the Catholic position, which may not even exist.

            No shit Sherlock...It is all made up as they go along then? If you had started with the last remark first, how much time would that have saved.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            "Some scholars describe certain Catholics as fundamentalists. . . . .

            I am talking about biblical fundamentalists—those who believe that everything in the Bible is literally true. This is not at all the Catholic approach to the Bible.

            At least the fundies are honest.

            When the Catechism of the Catholic Church says the story of Adam and Eve is in "figurative language," and the fundamentalists insist every word is literally true, you give credit to the fundamentalists for being "honest"? It is not a matter of honesty and dishonesty. It is a matter of the reasonable interpretation of ancient texts. Certainly you don't consider yourself dishonest for not believing the story of Adam and Eve. Why should you credit fundamentalists with "honesty" and criticize those who don't take the story literally?

            How else do you propose it to be read and how do you know and why hasn't it?

            You want me to do the whole Bible right here in one message? :-) Speaking for myself, personally, I would say the Bible should be read in the same way as any ancient literature. I think that for Biblical scholars, that is a good starting point, and I think the best Catholic scholars do start there.

            No shit Sherlock...It is all made up as they go along then?

            If you read good Catholic Biblical scholarship, you will see it is very rigorous in detecting the original meaning of the text, the historical setting, the beliefs at the time the text was written, the degree that the text may have been corrupted in transmission, and so on.

            If you had started with the last remark first, how much time would that have saved.

            I am sure you are aware of the quote attributed (probably falsely) to Einstein, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” It applies here. Catholic Biblical scholarship is diverse and ongoing. You can find generalized principles in official Catholic documents about the Bible and its meaning, but they really don't tell you much about what Catholic Biblical scholars are actually doing. If the Catholic Church had an official position about what the Bible "says," there would be no Catholic Biblical scholarship. All one would need to do is read what the Catholic Church says the Bible says, and the Bible would be superfluous.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I am talking about biblical fundamentalists—those who believe that everything in the Bible is literally true. This is not at all the Catholic approach to the Bible.

            That's as well may be the case. I couldn't say what the church teaches with regards to the bible at any time. What I can say is that from my experience, there are Catholics that have taken the bible as literal. They are in good company.

            "Augustine... implicitly accepted the literalism of the creation of Adam and Eve, and explicitly accepted the literalism of the virginity of Jesus's mother Mary."

            That some Catholics adopt a fundamentalist approach is recognized in..."THE INTERPRETATION OF THE BIBLE IN THE CHURCH, Pontifical Biblical Commission".

            "As the 20th century comes to an end, this kind [fundamentalist] of interpretation is winning more and more adherents, in religious groups and sects, as also among Catholics."

            The paper is a bit of a struggle to get through, but here's a link if you wish to peruse... http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/PBCINTER.HTM

            When the Catechism of the Catholic Church says the story of Adam and Eve is in "figurative language," and the fundamentalists insist every word is literally true, you give credit to the fundamentalists for being "honest"?

            This is the confusing bit for me. Certainly some here don't accept it figurative. But if the story is figurative, what is the crucifixion all about?

            "390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man.264 Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents."

            Seems like an oxymoron to me.

            It is not a matter of honesty and dishonesty. It is a matter of the reasonable interpretation of ancient texts.

            Well it is a matter of honest or dishonest. Which is figurative and which is literal? How are we to know? The Fall, The big fish story, the great flood story of Noah, Lot and his incestuous Daughters, the Exodus from Israel, the resurrection, and so forth.

            Certainly you don't consider yourself dishonest for not believing the story of Adam and Eve. Why should you credit fundamentalists with "honesty" and criticize those who don't take the story literally?

            They are honest in they stand by the conviction that the books are to be read as a literal account, as has been the case for all those centuries after the books were stuck together. It seems that attitudes certainly have changed as noted from the "Bible Interpretation" paper. It's just that theologians can't agree with themselves and not many of them accept an interpretation from outside.

            You want me to do the whole Bible right here in one message? :-)

            Nah, just one or two of the more popular yarns perhaps.}80)~

            Speaking for myself, personally, I would say the Bible should be read in the same way as any ancient literature. I think that for Biblical scholars, that is a good starting point, and I think the best Catholic scholars do start there.

            I agree.

            If you read good Catholic Biblical scholarship, you will see it is very rigorous in detecting the original meaning of the text, the historical setting, the beliefs at the time the text was written, the degree that the text may have been corrupted in transmission, and so on.

            But then proceed to apply much of it to the present anyway. Slavery is a good example pre emancipation, homosexuality is a good example today.

            If you had started with the last remark first, how much time would that have saved.

            Catholic Biblical scholarship is diverse and ongoing. You can find generalized principles in official Catholic documents about the Bible and its meaning, but they really don't tell you much about what Catholic Biblical scholars are actually doing.

            I'm learning though. Someone needs to be teaching the man-on-the-street Catholics too.

            If the Catholic Church had an official position about what the Bible "says," there would be no Catholic Biblical scholarship. All one would need to do is read what the Catholic Church says the Bible says, and the Bible would be superfluous.

            That's the thing though. Take the books as is, and there are big problems, interpretation is required. Nearly 1700 years of interpretation, re-interpretation and further re-interpretation because advances in humanity have forced it. Granted, we are all better for it, but is only under pressure.

            The Bible is superfluous other than as ancient literature.

            I watched a Danish movie very early this morning. Very dark, but I fond it fascinating and found myself wondering how close to reality it must have been

            http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0036506/

            Thanks for the rebuttal, I've learned from it and had to go learn.

          • mally el

            It is wrong to conclude - as you did - that the passage you mentioned suggests that there was a belief that the earth was flat. Are you suggesting that if the earth was flat then all the kingdoms of the earth can be seen? This is why I say you are wrong in coming to that conclusion.
            Folk do make things up. They have recently been making up stories that what people genuinely believed to be true in the past is all made up. Is that all that you hhave got? That it is all made up?

          • Ignorant Amos

            It is wrong to conclude - as you did - that the passage you mentioned suggests that there was a belief that the earth was flat.

            You see, this is what is wrong here. One must put themselves into the sandals of the story inventor. The question should be, "was it wrong for someone 2000 years ago to assume that the Earth was flat?" No it wasn't. "Was there a common belief 2000 years ago that the Earth was flat?" It seems so. That the source of the story is alleged to be Jesus, who, according to you, had "awareness beyond earthly beings", then why say such a thing? Why have the religious taken the passage to mean the Earth was flat, up to and sometime after medieval times?

            Are you suggesting that if the earth was flat then all the kingdoms of the earth can be seen?

            Depends on how big the story teller perceived the world to be. Are you suggesting that the the story teller believed what he was writing was ridiculous nonsense, as we know it is today, yet wrote it anyway? Why? What do you think the story teller meant?

            This is why I say you are wrong in coming to that conclusion.

            I'm playing devils advocate. I want to know why it was written the way it was? What purpose did it fulfill? Why it was read the way it was for so long? Why it was heretical to proclaim scripture as errant, sometimes on pain of death? If you can answer these questions convincingly, I'll concede.

            Folk do make things up. They have recently been making up stories that what people genuinely believed to be true in the past is all made up. Is that all that you have got? That it is all made up?

            Because people in the past genuinely believed it true is the problem. You don't believe in Mo's flying horse? Why? You don't believe in Joseph Smiths golden tablets, magic hat and seer stone spectacles? Why? This list is endless.

            If you believe Jesus went up a mountain with Satan regardless of what they said they saw on the say so of who knows who, you have a problem, the flat Earth business is cursory. If you don't, we can take it from there.

          • mally el

            I have good reason to believe what I do believe.

            There have been some beliefs that have existed locally for short periods of time before being discarded. The Gospels have existed for two thousand years and were widely accepted as true.

          • epeeist

            But then that is a major headache for literalists, especially as by the middle ages, Aquinas among others was a proponent of the Earth's roundness.

            Only a couple of millennia after the Greeks had proposed it and even measured it then...

          • mally el

            Will the laws governing their movements remain the same - yes. If there is any change in their orbits then that would be in accordance with the laws that exist - not in spite of them.

          • epeeist

            Will the laws governing their movements remain the same - yes. If there is any change in their orbits then that would be in accordance with the laws that exist - not in spite of them.

            And you would be wrong on two counts. The first is the obvious one, your assumption is based on induction and as Hume showed the observation of some events does not allow you to justifiably extrapolate to future events.

            The second is that once one gets to three bodies then one is talking about non-linear systems, there are hints about this from Poincaré's work on the subject. And non-linear systems are notoriously sensitive to initial conditions. Making predictions about the future behaviour of non-linear systems is remarkably difficult.

          • mally el

            No doubt about that. Jus because we do not understand all the factors involved in any change it does not mean that the natural laws are not working.

          • epeeist

            No doubt about that.

            The fact that you are wrong? Good, I am glad you agree.

          • Michael Murray

            There are no natural laws. We observe that reality behaves in regular patterns. We invent theories about what these patterns are and call them laws. But our theories are sometimes incorrect or not accurate enough and need adjustment. So, for example Newton's theory of gravity is replaced by Einstein's. Meantime reality goes on as ever oblivious to our musings and invented laws. It isn't obeying anything.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Not for God.

            Notice how precisely the universe rotates around the Earth.

            Every 23 hours and 56 minutes and change.

            Significantly more than three bodies too.......

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Will the laws governing their movements remain the same - yes.

            No, we expect that to change when the rate of expansion of space-time gets too large for its impact on close orbits to be no longer negligible. That is the case, now for widely separated clusters of galaxies. Of course, that won't be any time soon at the solar orbit scale.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Whoever voted this comment down is probably beyond hope.

          • mally el

            Perhaps, we may never find out the origin of gravity but we stll believe it exists.

          • primenumbers

            "which we have no empirically based explanation" - what do you mean by "explanation"?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            What is perhaps even more relevant, is that our empirically based explanation for gravity is so drastically wrong on cosmological scales, that we must add in 96% of the mass/energy of the universe by hand, out of thin air, in order to bridge the otherwise-insuperable gap between our empirically based explanation for gravity, and our empirical observations of motions of bodies in the universe.

            In other words, scientifically and empirically speaking, our theory of gravity is drastically wrong.

            It can be salvaged only by inventing remedies out of thin air.

            The people who invent these remedies have very persuasive arguments for why they must exist.

            What they do not have, is any empirical evidence that they exist.

            This is highly relevant to consider, in the context of the typical atheist attack upon Catholic theology and metaphysics.

            It is even more relevant to consider, in the context of Karl Popper's identification of science as the method of experimental falsification of those things we are utterly certain that we know.

      • epeeist

        Though we cannot see, hear or touch gravity we know that this wonderful phenomenon exists only because of what it does.

        And we can measure what it does, and the predictions from our theories agree with these measurements to the parts per trillion accuracy. And each time we make a measurement we get consistent results.

        Now, do you want to provide similar evidence for the existence of your god.

        • mally el

          We can measure what effect it has on matter but we cannot measure the phenomenon itself. We do get consistent results because this phenomenon and all the other built-in ever reliable, ever-present characteristics - properties of elements, physical laws, chemical reactions etc - are designed to provide order and reliability. All this done by the wonderful Creator. You believe in Chance - no evidence that chance exists - I believe it is the work of a Creator whom we call God.

          • epeeist

            All this done by the wonderful Creator.

            And yet if we look carefully at the universe and create theories to explain the phenomena we see we find that we needn't factor in a "god" entity into our descriptions.

            You believe in Chance - no evidence that chance exists - I believe it is the work of a Creator whom we call God.

            And here you would depart from the large majority of physicists. Probability is no longer seen as an epistemic problem, but an ontological one.

          • mally el

            What theories are you talking about? Just because some scientists try to avoid factoring God does not mean that they have come up with well accepted theories.

          • epeeist

            What theories are you talking about? Just because some scientists try to avoid factoring God does not mean that they have come up with well accepted theories.

            Well let's see. For a start off shall we take a particular quantum field theory called quantum electrodynamics. As Feyman noted if you use it to calculate the dimensionless magnetic moment of the electron you get 1.00115965246,
            while the experimental value is 1.00115965221. This accuracy is equivalent to determining the distance from Boston to Pasadena to within the thickness of a human hair. QM and the field theories derived from it are pretty well accepted.

            Do you want to try for general relativity, if you look at this article you can see that back in 2003 its predictions had been verified to 20 parts per million. Other methods are being used to test it at higher accuracies. GR would count as a well accepted theory.

            Now the above fit in with my background, but one that falls outside of it would be the theory of evolution in its modern synthesis. Again, lots of evidence for example the commonality and specificity of DNA sequences. The modern synthesis would count as a well accepted theory.

          • mally el

            I believe in science and accept most of the theories.
            My point is that just because we do not factor in God does not mean that God is not involved.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            ... just because we do not factor in God does not mean that God is not involved.

            Malley, we don't factor in leprechauns, either. Those are cut away by Occam's Razor together with all other beings asserted without the benefit of evidence of actual existence.

          • epeeist

            My point is that just because we do not factor in God does not mean that God is not involved.

            But if you want your god in there then it is down to you to demonstrate why it should be included and what it adds to the explanation. Otherwise you are rather breaking the injunction of the good Friar William of Ockham (who was of course rather late on the scene, it was Adelard of Bath who said that one should seek natural causes for natural events).

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            You believe in Chance - no evidence that chance exists ...

            Oops. You forgot that you have the burden to present evidence to show that whatever you think is not happening by chance, is due to some force or being that you assert exists.

            Got evidence?

          • mally el

            Strange. If I say God created the universe you ask me to prove it. If I say these things did not happen by chance which, clearly you believe, I am asked to prove it. I think it is about time you prove that it all happened by chance.

          • epeeist

            If I say God created the universe you ask me to prove it.

            You are making an ontological commitment, the burden of proof is therefore upon you.

            If I say these things did not happen by chance which, clearly you believe, I am asked to prove it.

            You are making an ontological commitment, the burden of proof is therefore upon you.

            I think it is about time you prove that it all happened by chance.

            And this is an illicit attempt to shift that burden.

    • Andrew G.

      The only sane definition of "outside space and time" would be this: the assertion that there exists a manifold containing the observable 4-d spacetime manifold as a proper embedding.

      This is the sense implied by the idea of looking at a time-series plot on a planar graph from outside, or looking at a canister of movie film.

      There is of course no reason whatsoever to believe in the existence of such a thing.

      • VelikaBuna

        Exactly. It is an imaginary invention, nothing to do with empirical science but a matter of belief. You can either believe it or not, but you can not see it.

        • Jonathan West

          If you can't see it (by which I include indirectly measuring its effects, as in the case of gravity), then you have no evidence on which to base a belief. Instead you are inventing an entity and choosing to believe it.

          • VelikaBuna

            Empirical science is not supposed to state more than it can prove.

          • Jonathan West

            Which means that you are not being scientific in proposing the existence of an entity for which you have no evidence.

            So, if you don't know that you are right by the scientific approach (i.e. on the basis of evidence), how do you know that you are right at all?

          • VelikaBuna

            I am not using empirical science to conclude what I am concluding. I am using logic.

          • Jonathan West

            I realise that. What are you using?

          • VelikaBuna

            Logic

          • Michael Murray

            Please elaborate on how you deduce a god beyond space and time with logic.

          • VelikaBuna

            I am not going there. Don't have time nor patience to do that dance.

          • BenS

            Oh, well, in which case I'm the Queen of France, your father and have a part time job as the moon. I concluded this using logic.

            Don't ask me to prove it, I can't be bothered.

          • VelikaBuna

            Proofs can only go so far.

          • JL

            Have you read St Thomas, or a presentation of his ideas?

          • Jonathan West

            Do please elaborate. What is your chain of logic that allows you to make such a deduction?

          • Michael Murray

            What are you using then ?

    • JL

      "I'd very much like a coherent explanation of "beyond space and time" as such a phrase sounds rather equivalent to nowhere to me."

      Have you read about the theory of forms? Not just a materialist-atheist caricature of it, but in a book by someone sympathetic to the theory?

      If so, what did you find unconvincing about it?

      • primenumbers

        Perhaps you should convince me to read a specific article first?

        • JL

          What would convince you to read something? I'm no salesman.

          You asked for a coherent explanation of how something can exist 'beyond space and time'; I suggested the theory of forms, and gave you the name of a book which I think presents it pretty well; what more do you want? I can't give you a URL because I read it in a book. I'm happy to write an article, but I work 10-hour days and would need a few days to do it.

          It's definitely worth your while reading up on, though. The rational, Catholic case for God's existence (as opposed to the irrational 'faith alone', 'I know God's real because I feel it strongly' case) more-or-less depends on forms existing, so it would be worth your while getting the book. If you can show that forms don't exist, or that there is no good reason for supposing them to exist, you will have severely shaken the basis of my faith, probably to the point where I would have to admit it was irrational.

          Conversely, once I realised the existence of forms is necessary if we're to make any coherent sense of the universe around us, Aquinas's proofs, and thus the case for monotheism, suddenly seemed much, much stronger.

          • primenumbers

            Well telling more on why they're relevant would be a starting point, which I guess you've now done....

            Is this what you're referring to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_Forms ? If so, what I read there makes little or no sense. It sounds from above that if I was to read less sympathetic philosophers I'd get a picture that would lead me to think Forms in not a worthwhile philosophical direction. It therefore sounds to me that you should be convincing me that there are these Forms things, not me persuading you that they don't exist.

          • JL

            I wouldn't recommend Wikipedia to anybody. It's good for finding out the population of Rome, but pretty useless for understanding abstract questions like this one.

            The question of forms is an old one, and is also known as the 'problem of universals'. Every object that exists in the universe appears to bear similarities to other objects, such that they appear to be able to be grouped under certain headings.

            We could take any object that has more than one instance as an example - atoms, bananas, eyes, galaxies, humans - so let's take apples.

            Imagine two apples - two examples of the same thing. What do we mean by saying they're the same, or the same thing, or the same type or category of thing? Obviously they're not the same object: they occupy different positions in space, and biting into one apple won't affect the other. So what is it they hold in common? When we describe them using the same word, 'apple', we're clearly implying that they at least appear to have something in common, otherwise we wouldn't use the same word to describe them.

            Broadly speaking, two philosophical solutions to this problem have been presented: nominalism, and essentialism (also known as philosophical realism - which is distinct from 'realism' in the sense it's commonly used).

            The essentialist holds that apples hold some quality in common: something he might call 'apple-ness'. While there are many apples in the world, the quality, the 'apple-ness' that they share must be common to them all, and therefore one rather than many; because otherwise it wouldn't be a quality shared by all apples. The essentialist then goes one step further, and claims that this 'apple-ness' has an existence of its own, which is distinct from the existence of any particular apple. His argument for this is that it's incoherent to talk of apples sharing a quality, unless that quality exists. It can't be the same as each individual apple because it's shared by all apples. It's also common to each apple, and therefore the same quality (and the same thing) regardless of which apple it appears in. Individual apples, which are many, hold this same quality, which is one. Therefore the quality is distinct from the apple. Yet the quality exists, because the apples share some thing in common while remaining distinct apples. Therefore the quality of 'apple-ness', says the essentialist, exists objectively, and even (in some sense) independently of any apple.

            The nominalist denies all this. He claims that each apple is entirely unique, sharing nothing with any other apple. Any talk of their sharing a common quality is nonsense, something more apparent than real. By attaching the common word 'apple' to each apple, all we're doing is applying a label (or a name - hence 'nominalism') to it, for convenience's sake. Therefore so the categorisation of each individual apple under the label 'apple' is just something that we humans have done. It has no objective value.

            A third option, conceptualism, claims that 'apple-ness' exists in our minds only, while only individual apples exist objectively. But this is another way of saying that similarities between apples don't exist objectively, but in our minds only, so has much in common with nominalism as far as our debate is concerned.

            Essentialism supports rational theism. Nominalism and conceptualism make rational theism impossible to justify, and leave us in a 'faith alone' position and open to atheists' arrows. But I don't want to get ahead of myself.

            Makes sense so far? It seems to me that essentialism is essential (hahaha) if we're to make any sense at all of the universe around us, and thus if science is to have any meaning at all, but I expect you already have some comments by this point :)

          • Andrew G.

            Yet another example of why many people object to philosophy (at least in its academic forms) - all of those positions are obviously wrong. There are many cases where a group of things objectively form a natural category X (hence nominalism is wrong), but this doesn't imply that "X-ness" can meaningfully be said to "exist" (hence essentialism is wrong).

            One of the indications of the fundamental problem is shown by the question "is X really a Y?" applied to some object X all of whose relevant properties are already known. In another thread here a while back this came up in the context of asking, about a transgender person, "is this person really a man?". What does it mean for an X to be (or not be) "really" a Y if X has some properties strongly associated with Y and some associated with not-Y? Is it an atypical Y, an atypical not-Y, both, or neither?

            The essentialist position requires that such atypical objects actually have a hidden "I'm really a Y" tag that has no observable effects. Occam's Razor slices this off.

          • JL

            So they objectively form a category, but this category can't be meaningfully said to exist? You're trying to have it both ways, I think. Your materialist assumptions may be getting in the way!

            On your other question, you should read my reply to primenumber first.

            Once you've read that, the short answers:

            - No object in existence perfectly instantiates its form.

            - Y has no observable existence, but can be rationally proved to exist, so talk of the Razor is mis-guided.

          • Andrew G.

            They objectively form a cluster of significantly correlated inferences, almost always with no sharp boundaries. So when we stick a label in the middle of such a cluster and start calling things close to it by that name, we are doing something that is based in objective reality. (Sometimes the definition is subjective, when we decide to pick out certain properties by subjective salience when deciding whether there's a cluster there or not; but often not.)

            But that doesn't imply some mystical Essence-of-X-ness that objectively exists.

            Rather than me trying to refute all of Scholasticism in a blog comment, I suggest you read all of A Human's Guide to Words and come back when you think you can argue against it coherently.

          • English Catholic

            The 'cluster' must exist objectively in order for the objects to be objectively grouped within it, because something objective can't be grouped within something imaginary. But the cluster can't be material, obviously. Hence this would also refute materialism.

            Even ignoring this, to even know that objects objectively form a cluster, we need to be correct in thinking they're objectively alike (ie they have real likeness). Which leads to a) in my true dichotomy, above. If we are putting real objects with pretend likeness in a pretend cluster, then b).

            If we're going to start recommending books to each other, can I suggest you read Feser's Aquinas or The Last Superstition, rather than force me to try and prove the foundations of Scholasticism in a blog comment?

          • Andrew G.

            Did you even read the link? It's to a list of online articles, not a book.

          • English Catholic

            I'll print them off and read them in the bath tonight.

          • primenumbers

            Makes sense enough as you describe it, but what you describe is essentialism sounds nonsense to me. It appears to be a confusion of what is real and what is an abstract concept in our heads as part of our thought processes.

            "Further, the 'apple-ness' must be immaterial, because it isn't bound by space and time." - no, what apple-ness is is an arrangement in your brain matrix, but our thoughts contain the ability to abstract and although you can think of the abstract as immaterial and not existing in space and time, that's just an abstract of what the abstract is, not actually what the abstract is.

            When you say: "A third option, conceptualism, claims that 'apple-ness' exists in our minds only, while only individual apples exist objectively. But this is another way of saying that similarities between apples don't exist objectively, but in our minds only, so has much in common with nominalism as far as our debate is concerned." sounds perfectly fine by me. It's as if you had a tub of identical lego bricks - you could make a car, a house, a person, or even an apple, but actually what are they? They're all just a re-arrangement of lego bricks. You're confusing the abstract of a thing with the thing as it actually is.

          • JL

            I don't have time to respond tonight. Sorry. I'll do so tomorrow.

          • JL

            Having defined essentialism and contrasted it to nominalism, I'll go on to show why I think it must be true. I'll try and deal with the objections you raised as well.

            I should also say that this isn't a theory that we Catholics have invented. The Greeks first suggested it, and both Plato and Aristotle held it, through in slightly different ways. It was considered mainstream, for want of a better word, until the Enlightenment. (Why this changed is an interesting question, but need not form part of this discussion.)

            Consider two objects that we call apples sitting on a table.

            There are two possibilities:

            a) We are correct in thinking both objects are alike;
            b) We are wrong in thinking both objects are alike.

            If b) is true, we have, consciously or unconsciously, created an association between the two objects in our minds. It may be consciously held for convenience of labelling, or unconsciously held through ignorance, but either way, the association between the two objects exists only in the mind. This is nominalism/conceptualism.

            If the association is only in the mind, we have no rational reason for associating qualities which we know to be true of the one object with the other.

            For example, we might bite into the first object, and find it crunchy and juicy. If we believe the association to be in our mind only, we have no rational reason for thinking that the second object will also be crunchy and juicy.

            But we do know that the second object will be crunchy and juicy. It is (I assume!) a premise that we agree on. And the same is true for any other quality we associate with being an apple - being spherical, hard to the touch, etc etc.

            Therefore b) is false. Therefore a) is true. (Obviously, if b is true, science is irrational, whatever cool shiny things it gives us, since it must needs group objects into categories.)

            So both objects are alike, not just in our minds but in reality.

            Therefore, some aspect of the two apples - some part of what they are - some facet or explanation of their existence - is the same thing in each individual apple. Otherwise a) would be false. We could call this 'type apple', or 'apple-ness', or 'category apple'.

            Only real things can act as explanations, not pretend things, or things in our minds only. Therefore, type ‘apple’ must exist, and must exist objectively outside our minds. We can’t see or in any other way detect type ‘apple’, but logically it must exist if the similarity between apples is real, not just apparent. (To limit ‘existence’ to ‘that which we can see or detect’ is of course to beg the very question we're discussing.)

            'Type apple' must also be a different thing from any individual apple. If it were the same thing as any individual apple, there could only be one object that fell under type ‘apple’, because, as I said, there is only one 'type apple', as it is a facet shared by all apples. Therefore no other apple could fall under type 'apple', and so no two apples could be objectively alike, which would contradict a).

            Talking about the molecular make-up of an apple - which I guess you were referring to when talking about Lego bricks - changes nothing I've just written. These molecules are arranged in the same way in Apple 1 as in Apple 2 - that is, they're arranged in the form of an apple. But all this does is get us back to the start, to saying the molecules form objects that appear to be examples of the same thing - 'apples'. The molecules in Apple 1 are obviously different from those in Apple 2, so it isn't the molecules that are the same thing. So they can't serve as an explanation for the apples' being alike.

            The material make-up of an object, and its form (the traditional term for 'type') are both equally objective and equally true, though obviously different, explanations of its existence. (In Aristotelian-speak, these are described as the 'material cause' and 'formal cause' respectively.) The discoveries of science can, and have, described the material cause in greater and greater detail. But these haven't made the formal cause untenable as an explanation for similarity between objects. Nor has the Razor sliced off the formal cause: it's entirely necessary for understanding an object.

            I haven't yet answered your question about how something can coherently be said to exist outside space and time, but hopefully I'm getting there.

          • Andrew G.

            I must say, your explanation contains far too many cases of "it must be either (wrong thing) or (other wrong thing)".

            Many of those false dichotomies do in fact go back to Aristotle himself, who for all his logic knew very little about how the world really worked.

            The reasoning "X is an apple-resembling object" therefore "X will be crunchy and juicy when we bite it" is an inference that we make in our brains based on our experience of apples (and related fruits) in the real world. It's not irrational to assume that these inferences usually hold, because they reflect strong correlations that do objectively exist.

            The process of adding an intermediate step to the reasoning ("apple-resembling object" -> "member of category Apple" -> "crunchy and juicy") is a cognitive optimization; we need to be able to think fast, especially about threats vs. non-threats, and while brains are massively parallel they are actually quite slow. Contrary to your statement, we do not need categories in order to do science; we can (at the expense of a lot of extra effort) dispense with the intermediate steps and look at the raw correlations. This would be too much work to do routinely, but sometimes (as with biological classifications) we have to ditch the existing categories and re-form them from a re-analysis of the raw data.

            Once you start arguing that because there is a useful category Apple (with its associated inferences) that there must therefore be some sort of Form-of-Apple or Essence-of-Apple, though, you have descended into confusion.

          • English Catholic

            "I must say, your explanation contains far too many cases of "it must be either (wrong thing) or (other wrong thing)".

            Many of those false dichotomies do in fact go back to Aristotle himself, who for all his logic knew very little about how the world really worked."

            How can " 'we are right in thinking X (X is true)' or 'we are wrong in thinking X (X is false)' " be a false dichotomy?

            "The reasoning "X is an apple-resembling object" therefore "X will be crunchy and juicy when we bite it" is an inference that we make in our brains based on our experience of apples (and related fruits) in the real world. It's not irrational to assume that these inferences usually hold, because they reflect strong correlations that do objectively exist."

            Yes, the correlations objectively exist. Therefore "a) we are right in thinking both objects are alike" is true. So is everything that follows from it. Again, you're trying to have it both ways, by claiming that the correlation is objective, but the likeness is something that exists only in our minds.

            The final paragraph isn't relevant to the argument. You can describe brain processes in any way you like, but my logic either works, or it doesn't (a true dichotomy). And if I have descended into confusion, you must show where. Your post hasn't done that.

          • Michael Murray

            You can describe brain processes in any way you like, but my logic either works, or it doesn't (a true dichotomy). And if I have descended into confusion, you must show where.

            You descended into confusion when you said

            There are two possibilities:

            a) We are correct in thinking both objects are alike;
            b) We are wrong in thinking both objects are alike.

            What does "alike" mean ? How you can make a precise statement about two things being "alike" ?

          • English Catholic

            "What does "alike" mean ? How you can make a precise statement about two things being "alike" ?"

            By asking that, you're questioning the very foundations of science itself (which can only exist if we know two or more things are alike), and the possibility of our knowing anything at all.

            You made the point I was hoping to eventually get round to: materialism leads directly to radical scepticism, and so undermines the very possibility of our knowing anything.

            It seems we Catholics have reason on our side after all!

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            It is such a pleasure to watch a true professional at work.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            . . . . materialism leads directly to radical scepticism, and so undermines the very possibility of our knowing anything.

            Why do you claim this is so? It seems to me that materialism is the working assumption of the scientific method.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            How could materialism be assumed in a method that involves the hypothesis of immaterial principles governing the behavior of material bodies?

            Nobody ever touched or tasted gravity.

            Certainly not curved space-time.

            Not quarks nor leptons nor Higgs bosons.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            How could materialism be assumed in a method that involves the hypothesis of immaterial principles governing the behavior of material bodies?

            What would you say is the working assumption of the scientific method?

            Nobody ever touched or tasted gravity.

            Nobody ever touched or tasted a black hole or a neutron star, either. And if you have ever gotten a shock when touching a metal object on a cold, dry winter day, you have felt a lepton, since electricity is the flow of electrons, and electrons are leptons.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "What would you say is the working assumption of the scientific method?"

            >> That there exists a world "out there", and that world is organized according to principles which can be discovered by the application of human cognitive faculties.

            An crucial corollary follows:

            The human cognitive faculties are organized in such a way that the principles governing their application, are congruent with the principles governing the world.

            That is the crucial breakthrough- metaphysical breakthrough- which explains why the scientific method arises in Christendom, and no where else.

            "Nobody ever touched or tasted a black hole or a neutron star, either."

            >> Neutron stars are observed objects. Black holes have never been observed.

            "And if you have ever gotten a shock when touching a metal object on a cold, dry winter day, you have felt a lepton, since electricity is the flow of electrons, and electrons are leptons."

            >> Shocks are observed. Metal objects are observed. Cold days are observed.

            Electrons and leptons are inferred.

            They exist as mental objects, necessary and sufficient to account for the principles by which the world operates.

            But they are also falsifiable; that is, a complete physics might well dispense with both, as a consequence of a possible future, superior hypothesis, which would be able to account for the effects attributed to both electrons and leptons, under a single, unifying principle.

            The lack of supersymmetry partners for Higgs in the next LHC run will be decisive.

            No supersymmetry partners, no complete particle physics.

            We can either go through the multiverse looking glass and depart scientific method completely, or start looking for the error in assumption along the way.

          • severalspeciesof

            What does "alike" mean ? How you can make a precise statement about two things being "alike" ?

            IMO (Michael can correct me on this) I believe when Michael asked that question he wasn't 'questioning' science. He was actually 'using' science, knowing that to say two things are alike needs an explanation. A cue ball and an orange are alike in roundness but are obviously not alike in other areas. One needs more precision to establish a better 'alikeness'.

          • English Catholic

            "One needs more precision to establish a better 'alikeness'."

            Please see my latest reply to Michael.

            "IMO (Michael can correct me on this) I believe when Michael asked that question he wasn't 'questioning' science. He was actually 'using' science, knowing that to say two things are alike needs an explanation."

            My point is that, unless we accept a) in my true dilemma above, science isn't even something rational. Science doesn't show us that two apples (or two hydrogen atoms if it's easier) are examples of the same thing. It assumes it. It makes generalisations about apples or hydrogen atoms on that assumption.

            This is a rational assumption, but only if we accept a), one of whose consequences is forms.

          • Michael Murray

            No I"m questioning the foundations of the argument supporting your faith. Apparently. My point is that you want to make a precise dichotomy out of an imprecise word like "alike". You need to define your terms.

            Me I 'm happy with imprecision if I can estimate the error. While it is impossible to know anything with complete certainty. But most of us limp alone in our little world of atheist despair with 99.999% certainty, based on prior experience, that the sun will rise. It's a struggle to be sure.

          • English Catholic

            What if I offered option d) ('c' already exists, see above) to avoid the 'precise dichotomy'?:

            d) We don't know whether the apples are alike, because 'alike' is too imprecise a word to define.
            It follows that we can't define which features of the apple will be the same in another apple, and which will be different. Exactly the same consequences follow from this as from b). We would have no reason to expect one apple to behave in the same way as another, and therefore science is an irrational undertaking.

            The proof for forms' existences presented above relies only on the premise that apples are alike in ways that we can in principle define (I'm happy to add this to the definition of 'a)' if you like).

            When I say 'apple', you know I'm talking about something juicy and crunchy, because all apples have these features. They're included in form-of-apple, being common to all apples. But you wouldn't know whether the apple will be 3 inches or 4 inches in diameter, and so the precise diameter is an 'accident' of this or that apple.

            If it helps, try rehearsing the entire argument with something simpler and more fundamental than an apple - say, a hydrogen atom. The logic is exactly the same.

            How you live your day-to-day life has no bearing on the argument. Lots of people live contrary to the philosophy they profess -- Catholics perhaps most of all :-(. It changes nothing about the truth or falsehood of that philosophy. The point throughout this thread has been this: that accepting science also requires us to accept 'a)', and therefore accept forms. Or reject 'a)' and forms, and therefore reject science and the possibility of knowing anything at all about the world around us.

          • primenumbers

            What you are saying breaks on this line: "If the association is only in the mind, we have no rational reason for associating qualities which we know to be true of the one object with the other." You appear to be mixing the abstract concept of association with our perception of the properties of the objects that lead to the concept being formed in the first place.

            I think this is coming from your false characterization of things as a) or b). "alike" is one of our abstract concepts. And things can be alike or not alike depending on what level of abstraction we're looking at things.

            "Only real things can act as explanations, not pretend things, or things in our minds only. Therefore, type ‘apple’ must exist, and must exist objectively outside our minds." makes no sense at all. Explanations are things in our mind only. There are no real things that are explanations.

          • English Catholic

            "You appear to be mixing the abstract concept of association with our perception of the properties of the objects that lead to the concept being formed in the first place."

            No, I'm denying that association and 'alike' are abstract concepts in the first place, if by abstract you mean 'in our minds only'. (This is surely the very thing under discussion? Your response is assuming your philosophy rather than arguing for it.)

            If by abstract you mean 'not material' but not 'in our minds only', then I agree. But that would be to admit non-material and non-detectable things can exist objectively, which would be to admit essentialism, wouldn't it? :)

            But in any case, let's allow a third option:

            c) 'Alike' is a concept in our minds only.

            Exactly the same consequences follow from c) as follow from b).

          • primenumbers

            "If by abstract you mean 'not material' but not 'in our minds only', then I agree." - abstract and mind only. I see no evidence for your assumption that they exist objectively elsewhere.

            Your consequences from b) "If the association is only in the mind, we have no rational reason for associating qualities which we know to be true of the one object with the other." don't follow. We have rational reason as I explain above because the concept of alike is formed from the objects in question, therefore is is reasonable to associate objects that our senses perceive as alike.

          • English Catholic

            " "If by abstract you mean 'not material' but not 'in our minds only', then I agree." - abstract and mind only. I see no evidence for your assumption that they exist objectively elsewhere."

            Very well. You're saying the concept of 'alike' is in our minds only. So it follows the objects aren't alike in reality. So we only pretend (or delude ourselves) that two apples are alike. So b).

            "We have rational reason as I explain above because the concept of alike is formed from the objects in question, therefore is is reasonable to associate objects that our senses perceive as alike."

            But 'alike' is in our minds only. You just said so. So why is it reasonable to pretend objects are alike in reality?

            It might be necessary to pretend they're alike for the purposes of day-to-day living, but that doesn't make it true or reasonable.

          • primenumbers

            The are alike in our minds because we perceive properties of the objects that make us think they are alike. We would not be generating the abstract concept of likeness in our heads if there were not these perceived likenesses.

          • English Catholic

            So they're alike in our minds only. So they're not alike in reality. So it's unreasonable to think that the next apple you bite into will be crunchy and juicy; it might turn into a chocolate bunny instead; we can never know.

            Agree?

          • primenumbers

            We perceive the objects as alike and hence generate the abstract concept in our heads that they are alike.

            No I don't agree with you at all.

          • English Catholic

            Well chaps, I've genuinely enjoyed this discussion. Unfortunately I have to leave now, as my wife is telling me to get off the computer and take care of one of our 372 kids.

            I try and avoid the computer on the Sabbath, but I'll do my best to reply further on Monday.

            Best wishes to you all.

          • primenumbers

            :-)

          • Michael Murray

            Therefore, some aspect of the two apples - some part of what they are - some facet or explanation of their existence - is the same thing in each individual apple.

            When I was at Marist Brothers College in 1975 someone tried this line of if I say two animals are dogs I can only do this because they share some property of ideal doginess. I didn't buy it then. I still don't buy it. Two apples have some physical properties in common. End of story.

            It is a common thing we see in the world around us that various things have properties in common and we group them together for this reason. But we often have the experience of discovering new things that don't fit our categorisations which is a pretty good demonstration that there is nothing intrinsic that these apples have in common.

          • English Catholic

            "When I was at Marist Brothers College in 1975 someone tried this line of if I say two animals are dogs I can only do this because they share some property of ideal doginess. I didn't buy it then. I still don't
            buy it. Two apples have some physical properties in common. End of story."

            Well fine, but you, Andrew and Primenumber have so far failed to show me how this can be so. Simply re-stating your view gets us nowhere.

          • Michael Murray

            What do you mean "how this can be so". It just is.

          • English Catholic

            But the logic shows that it can't be unless forms have real, actual, objective, not-just-mental existence. Where does the argument break down?

          • severalspeciesof

            Further, the 'apple-ness' must be immaterial, because it isn't bound by space and time.

            I agree with the immaterial bit, but it is bounded by space time as it is subjective...

            Glen

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "I agree with the immaterial bit"

            >> That's a very large step, since it denies materialism.

            Good show.

            The unboundedness logically follows, since "apple" appears in space- one particular space- and time- one particular time, but apple-ness appears in all spaces which have apples, and in all times which have apples.

            So apple-ness is unbounded by the space and time of apple.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      [S]cience doesn't restrict itself to natural explanations. It restricts itself to things that have evidence. If there is no
      evidence for something, science cannot study it. If there is no evidence
      for something, how can anyone study it?

      You are arrogating to science every use of evidence. When I write literary criticism, I use evidence from the text to support my thesis. That is not natural science!

      Here are two good definitions of experimental science from Artigas' "Knowing Things for Sure":

      (1) A human activity in which we seek knowledge of nature to obtain controlled domination over it. (p. 10)

      (2) A knowledge-seeking activity whose theoretical contents are related in a logical and coherent manner to controllable data obtained thorough experimentation (p. 12)

      • epeeist

        Here are two good definitions of experimental science from Artigas' "Knowing Things for Sure":

        The fact that he uses "for sure" in his title should give you pause for thought. But the two definitions are, I am afraid, incredibly simplistic and narrow.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          That's odd. Artigas has both a Ph.D. in physics and a Ph.D. in philosophy and he is a philosopher of science.

          Maybe your definition is incredibly broad.

          • epeeist

            That's odd. Artigas has both a Ph.D. in physics and a Ph.D. in philosophy and he is a philosopher of science.

            The literature of the philosophy of science is rather wider than a single person. Why chose him as an authority and not, say, Michael Ruse who came up with this definition. Why not Hempel, Kuhn or Popper to name some of the well known people in the field? Or Devitt (if you are a realist) or Van Fraassen (if you are an anti-realist)? Why not take the view of a scientist, such as Feynman for instance?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't see anything controversial about the definitions Artigas offers. It is essentially the same as Ruse's. Feynman's is more a poetic rhapsody than a definition.

      • primenumbers

        Not it's not natural science, but your use of evidence in your literary analysis can be studied in a scientific manner.

        Science isn't limited to natural science though. And scientific studies can look at people and their responses to any kind of input, and that input can be literature and various criticisms of it.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          No. The older (Medieval) definition was organized and verified knowledge. By scientific manner, I just think you mean according to whatever standards are current in a particular field.

          We everyone means by science today is natural science which Artigas defines precisely according to its method and goals.

          • primenumbers

            No, I mean the methods of science can be applied to any field where there's evidence for those methods to work on.

          • Michael Murray

            I'm a bit of a Carrollaholic at the moment. So I offer up this

            http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2013/07/03/what-is-science/

            for an excellent discussion of "What is science". Maybe someone could ask him to write something for StrangeNotions. Now that would be a strange notion.

          • primenumbers

            Excellent link. Here's a relevant quote from it: " Short version: if a so-called supernatural phenomenon has strictly no effect on anything we can observe about the world, then indeed it is not subject to scientific investigation. It’s also completely irrelevant, of course, so who cares? If it does have an effect, than of course science can investigate it, within the above scheme"

        • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

          Science isn't limited to natural science though.

          Do you consider economics and sociology to be scientific disciplines?

          • primenumbers

            They can in principle be studied using scientific method.

  • Proteios

    Speaking as a scientist, I'd say the problem is not much different than in our government, media, corporate world altogether. There are well,financed, outspoken atheists who are active in the fight to scrub r culture of its Christendom and a group of secular and religious people who sit back and say...ok. This is an observation not a call to action. We all try to be nice and get along as we were raised to do. People with agendas, not limited to atheists, take full advantage of that.

    What bothers me is that secularism doesn't see itself as a religion, a set of values or a definition of a worldview and therefore sets itself as the "neutral background". Which makes it beyond question. Only those things contrasting against it can be questioned. Wisely...or deviously, corporate advertisers are accepted by the atheists, secularists with little more than a whif. So whereas a single crucifix will cause an atheists head to spin around and projectile vomit, being inundated with adverts seems to have little effect. S I suspect atheism is the new cult of corporatism, whether it knowingly is or not.

    • severalspeciesof

      Wisely...or deviously, corporate advertisers are accepted by the atheists, secularists with little more than a whif.

      What do you mean by this?

      So whereas a single crucifix will cause an atheists head to spin around and projectile vomit

      I know this was meant to be hyperbole, but really? Please explain...

      Glen

    • Andrew G.

      So whereas a single crucifix will cause an atheists head to spin around and projectile vomit, being inundated with adverts seems to have little effect.

      Everyone expects a corporation to advocate on behalf of its own products, to the extent legally allowed (and the extent to which it should be legally allowed is rather orthogonal to religion).

      What many atheists object to is when state bodies engage in religious endorsement, implying that only adherents of a specific religion are considered worthy citizens; or when businesses who provide public services, who are legally obligated not to be discriminatory, engage in religious discrimination.

  • JL

    Looks as though Feser himself has had a go at answering this question:

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/why-are-some-physicists-so-bad-at.html

  • Mary Kay

    I know that this probably won't be seen because there are so many comments, but maybe part of the reason is that believers shy away from science because of studies such as these in some sort of cycle. I myself am a little bit scared of entering science, even though I absolutely love it, because I'm scared of being discriminated against because I'm Catholic

    • Jonathan West

      All you need to do is realise that being a professional scientist is a job. It does not require you to have an all-embracing philosophy of life when you aren't engaging in your work as a scientist. So you think like a scientist 9-5 Monday to Friday, and then the rest of your time you can believe whatever you want to, with whatever standard of evidence suits your personal taste.

      If you bring your catholicism into the lab in terms of how you carry out experiments, you probably won't last long. instead, if you set religion aside and concentrate solely on your observations, then nobody will care in the slightest what your religion is.

      There are quite a number of religious scientists who work this way - they think scientifically during working hours, and then think religiously at other times. If you can compartmentalise your mind and know how and when to switch between those two modes of thought, then you will be fine.

      Of course, if you work as a scientist, the time may come when you decide that a single mode of thought should apply at all times, that you are no longer prepared to compartmentalise your mind. If and when that day comes, you will in all probability either stop working as a scientist, or you will stop being religious.

      There is one thing in addition. If you become a professional scientist, don't use the prestige and authority of science to publicly express views on subjects about which you do not have scientific levels of evidence. That doesn't mean you shouldn't talk in public about religion, it does mean that you don't say things like "As I scientist, I have certain knowledge of God's love for me".

      This issue isn't limited to religion, but also applies to such things as politics. Don't hijack the prestige of science to express unscientific opinions. It makes you unpopular among your peers if you do that.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I know from the experience of reading his comments that Jonathan has the best of intentions, but his advice is almost as wrong as it can be (except that he's right about not using your scientific prestige to make you look like an expert in something you know nothing about).

      If you want sound principles on how to be a faithful Catholic and a scientist (or work in any field), read what Lumen Gentium says about the role of the laity and study the Vatican II doc on the apostolate of the laity. Also read some of St. Josemaria Escriva's homilies, especially "Passionately Loving the World."

      Whatever you do, DON'T live a double life, compartmentalizing science from 9-5 and then being "religious" the rest of the time. There NEVER need come a time when science and your faith will require you to choose between them.

      • Jonathan West

        If Mary were to become a scientist, then the example of Georges Lemaitre is worth following.

        Lemaitre was a cosmologist and a Catholic, and one of the first proponents of the Big Bang theory. When Pope Pius XII claimed that the Big Bang theory provided scientific confirmation of Creationaism and catholicism, Lemaitre went to considerable trouble to get the Pope to stop linking catholicism to specific scientific theories, lest future discoveries provide contrary results which would then discredit catholicism. Pius XII made no further statements on the subject of the Big Bang.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          This is not to say that evidence from science cannot be used in philosophical arguments.

          • Jonathan West

            I never said it can't. It is just that if your philosophical argument is "Christianity is true" and you claim scientific evidence supporting it, you had better be prepared to accept that Christianity is false if the scientific evidence is contradicted by newer and better observations.

            It was in order to avoid that eventuality that Lemaitre advised Pius XII not to quote the Big Bang theory in favour of Christianity, and of course it is the reason many Christians claim that God is beyond scientific enquiry. They don't want science to come up with the wrong answers.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Science's glory consists in coming up with wrong answers. That is how it progresses.

            The Catholic Church's glory is in defending a revelation that proceeds from a Source that never comes up with wrong answers.

            From time to time, when She is Herself, confident, and aided by great theologians like St. Thomas Aquinas, She can aid science when it gets off into terrific thickets of illogic.

            Such as now.

          • Jonathan West

            The Catholic Church's glory is in defending a revelation that proceeds from a Source that never comes up with wrong answers.

            Is that statement falsifiable? if so, then according to you it isn't true. If not, then the statement is worthless.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "Is that statement falsifiable?"

            >> Of course not. It is a true statement.

            " if so, then according to you it isn't true."

            >> To the contrary. According to me it *is* true. Your confusion stems from a failure to understand that scientific statements are never true, only provisionally valid.

            "If not, then the statement is worthless."

            >> To the contrary. The following statement is not scientific, because it is true, and it is certainly not worthless:

            Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

          • Jonathan West

            "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."

            That seems to sum up your approach to inventing new meanings for words. We now have a falsifiable statement which is true - because you have have defined it as being not scientific. You definitely are not interested in communicating

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Actually, I have accurately communicated the reason "true" applies only to statements that have no probability of being false.

            This is a rigorous definition.

            It is also unfalsifiable by an conceivable event.

            It is true knowledge.

            Hence, it is not scientific knowledge.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I would be slow to conclude too much from a Wikipedia account.

            I reject the contention that Christians claim God is beyond scientific inquiry to avoid disproving God. Christians ought to claim that God is beyond scientific inquiry becasue he is!

          • Jonathan West

            I'm not depending on the Wikipedia account. the matter is addressed in much more detail in Simon Singh's book ""Big Bang"

            Christians ought to claim that God is beyond scientific inquiry becasue he is!

            You assert this but don't justify the assertion. It is special pleading.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It is not a mere assertion. I'm just repeating what I've said to you before. It is not special pleading.

            Science manipulates aspects of physical reality to understand physical reality better. Since God is outside physical reality, he cannot be studied through scientific investigation.

            You have claimed he can, but you have never justified your assertion!

          • Jonathan West

            Since God is outside physical reality, he cannot be studied through scientific investigation.

            In that case, by what means do you (who decidedly is within physical reality) gain any knowledge of God?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            By noticing those things that actually exist in physical reality, which cannot be explained from within the domain of physical reality.

            An excellent place to start, is the fact that physical reality has a beginning.

            It cannot have caused itself to begin to exist.

          • Jonathan West

            An excellent place to start, is the fact that physical reality has a beginning. It cannot have caused itself to begin to exist.

            This is not a truth established by observation. Therefore what is the basis for the statement.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            It is a truth established by reason.

            Nothing that begins to exist can have preceded its own existence.

            Therefore nothing that begins to exist can have caused its own existence to begin.

            The universe begins to exist.

            Therefore something outside of the universe- outside of space and time- caused the universe to begin to exist.

            Which is exactly responsive to your question above.

          • Jonathan West

            It is a truth established by reason.

            No it isn't. It is a belief based on the Argument from Personal Incredulity, in that you personally can't think of another way it could have happened.

            Nothing that begins to exist can have preceded its own existence.

            That's a tautology.

            Therefore nothing that begins to exist can have caused its own existence to begin.

            Another tautology.

            The universe begins to exist.

            You don't know this to be true.

            Therefore something outside of the universe- outside of space and time- caused the universe to begin to exist.

            You have missed at least three things.

            1. You have not demonstrated that the universe began to exist. You have not for instance eliminated the possibility of the universe having existed eternally.

            2. You have not demonstrated that nothing can come into existence uncaused.

            3. The line of reasoning assumes an invariant time reference, whereas our understanding is that time is contingent rather than invariant.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "It is a truth established by reason."

            No it isn't.

            >> It is now established that you deny that everything that begins to exist has a cause.

            You must affirm, therefore, that a thing can both exist, and not exist, at the same time (that is, the time before it begins to exist).

            But this is a direct contradiction, since no thing can both be, and not be, at the same time and in the same respect.

            In short, your assertion is falsified, and to deny this is to deny logic.

            To deny this renders further rational discussion impossible, since you deny reason and logic in the first place.

            " It is a belief"

            >> No. It is a demonstrated truth.
            "
            based on the Argument from Personal Incredulity"

            >> Based on the law of non-contradiction.

            ", in that you personally can't think of another way it could have happened."

            >> Based on the utterly certain truth that no thing can both exist, and not exist, at the same time.

            Rick earlier: Nothing that begins to exist can have preceded its own existence.

            "That's a tautology".

            >> It is not a tautology. A madman, for example, might assert the contrary. It could be shown that he was a madman, by pointing out that the contrary assertion is a violation of the law of non contradiction.

            Only a madman could continue to hold the contrary position, in the face of this demonstration.

            Rick earlier: Therefore nothing that begins to exist can have caused its own existence to begin.

            "Another tautology."

            >> Since it is instead a logical corollary of the previous premise, it is nothing of the kind.

            Rick earlier: The universe begins to exist.

            "You don't know this to be true."

            >> We know this to be certainly true, since the universe cannot have brought itself into existence.

            We know this to be scientifically valid, since the universe on average has expanded, that is, the universe satisfies the condition Hao > 0, and any such universe cannot be past infinite.

            So on both logical and scientific grounds, we demonstrate:

            The universe begins to exist.

            The contrary position involves madness; indeed, it involves the necessary assertion that logic and reason are themselves inadequate means of establishing valid scientific knowledge, or logical truth, in the first place.

            Atheism is much worse than merely a dead end in each and all of its applications.

          • Jonathan West

            >> It is now established that you deny that everything that begins to exist has a cause.

            You have not proved the impossibility of it. you have merely asserted it. I'm not asserting the contrary, I'm merely pointing out that you have not proved the truth of your assertion.

            You must affirm, therefore, that a thing can both exist, and not exist, at the same time (that is, the time before it begins to exist).

            Not at all. You're logic-chopping. The only conclusion is that something can come into existence uncaused. The rest of what you say is a non sequitur.

            I shan't bother going in detail into the rest of your answer, it contains similar kinds of logical errors, and you show no sign of any interest in learning from the debate with those who disagree with you.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I am satisfied that we reached the logical conclusion of our exchange.

            You deny the law of non contradiction, and hence rational discourse is an impossibility for you.

            Very well.

            I am satisfied with this outcome.

          • Jonathan West

            Saying that doesn't make it true, no matter how many times you repeat yourself.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            We know this to be scientifically valid, since the universe on average has expanded . . .

            There are two different meanings of universe (at least). I think in religious and philosophical arguments, the universe is "everything that exists." However, in physics and cosmology, the universe is not necessarily "everything that exists," but rather the "local universe" or the "observable universe." If there is a multiverse, then our universe definitely isn't "everything that exists." I don't even think there need be a multiverse for that to be true. So our universe has expanded, but that does not mean "everything that exists" has expanded.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Since science applies only to that which we can observe and experimentally test, the statement is a scientific one.

            It means that science tells us that the universe (a scientific object, not "all that is") necessarily has a beginning.

            The larger sense of the term "universe" as "all that is", is not a scientific object, since it includes actually existing things that cannot be scientifically observed- like logic, or hypothesis, for example.

            This larger sense of "universe" cannot have brought itself into existence either, since we observe that the part of it we can see is contingent; things come into and go out of existence in that part we can see, and hence the universe as a whole involves things that come into and go out of existence; that is, the universe as a whole- "all that is", cannot be accounted for apart the existence of One necessary Being; not contingent, not subject to the coming into and going out of existence which we observe in the universe- "all that is".

            So the universe- "all that is", includes the non-physical, non-contingent, and hence non-scientifically-measurable reality:

            Creator

            Who exists prior to the universe as a scientific object, and is necessarily the Source of the universe- all that is.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Since no ob servation is possible of the beginning of the cosmos, we see that observational evidence cannot provide us with the answer to all questions knowable by reason.

            Some questions can be answered by reason alone.

            For example, it is known by logic, and entirely apart from observation, that no thing can both exist, and not exist, at the same time.

            To deny this is to deny reason and logic, and to r4ender further logical discussion impossible.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Do you now agree that God cannot be studied by experimental science?

          • BenS

            The only way your god cannot be studied by science is if it has no effect on the real world at all. If it has no effect on the real world then, to all intents and purposes, it does not exist. If you claim your god DOES have an effect on reality - ANY effect at all - then it comes within the remit of science to measure and quantify it.

            I'm having this same damn discussion on this site seemingly every day. It's like banging my head against a wall. Time for a beer. Want one?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You are also not answering the question. Can you give us a concrete example of how you would study God using experimental science?

          • BenS

            Simple, does your god have an effect on the real world?

            If yes, what effect does it have?

            Measure this effect.

            Bear in mind that YOU are positing the existence of god so YOU have to say what effect it has on reality. Once done, we can test for it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That is very clever, BenS. You make the claim you can do something and then try to make me do all the work!

          • BenS

            Kevin, please don't be silly about this. YOU are the one making the claims about your god - i.e. that it exists and that it's not testable by the scientific method.

            Two claims, right there.

            The only claim I made is that if it isn't testable by science then it has no effect on the real world. I then asked you if your god has an effect on the real world.

            So, does it?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes it is silly.

            I made the claim that God cannot be studied through scientific investigation and I gave this reason:

            > Science manipulates aspects of physical reality to understand physical reality better. Since God is outside physical reality, he cannot be studied through scientific investigation.

            You and Jonathan West, to the contrary, are claiming God *can* be studied through scientific investigation.

            When I say, okay, show me how, you claim I must show you how!

          • BenS

            The problem, is this bit:

            Since God is outside physical reality, he cannot be studied through scientific investigation.

            If your god is outside reality and cannot be studied by science then it can have no effect on reality. It, to all intents and purposes, does not exist*. It's a simple as that.

            If it DOES have an effect on reality then it CAN be studied by science regardless of your assertion that it can't. If it has an effect, we can see it, we can study it.

            If you're saying your god cannot be studied by science then you're saying it effectively doesn't exist. If you're saying your god has an effect on reality then it CAN be studied by science. You cannot have a god that can have an effect on reality and yet cannot (in theory) be studied by science. It's a logical impossibility.

            So, which is it? Can your god have an effect on reality, or not? Please answer the question.

            ---

            * I'm seriously getting tired of typing this same phrase.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Notice that the question is not does God exist or how can we know about God, but what effect does God have on human life.

            Here is an example of how I think God affects me.

            I do more good because I have God's grace than I would if I did not have God's grace.

          • BenS

            Notice that the question is not does God exist or how can we know about God, but what effect does God have on human life.

            No, it's what effect does your god have on reality. What you've suggested as an example is the effect YOU have around you. Still, if we can determine a method where we can test people who have their god's grace for 'doing good' and those who don't have their god's grace we can get an idea whether this 'grace' does anything.

            You could test this as David Nickol has said elsewhere by making people think they have their god's grace when, in actuality, they don't. To make it double blind, you would also need to make those who grant god's grace think they were actually granting it without realising they weren't. For example, deliberately schooling a priest incorrectly without their knowledge so any of their god's grace they bestowed was invalid.

            To start off with, though, you'd probably need to describe a method whereby we knew someone had 'god's grace' anyway. If you can't tell whether someone has their god's grace or not then, again, it essentially doesn't exist. If someone 'actually' having god's grace is indistinguishable from merely 'thinking' they have god's grace then, to all intents and purposes, the grace does not exist - it would be the equivalent of a placebo.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You could never do this test both because it would be impossible and unethical.

          • BenS

            It would be considered unethical now, yes. It's not, however, impossible and it could be done if ethical restraints weren't an issue. The fact that it 'could' be done if we disregarded the ethics of the issue means your god is within the remit of science. Hence, I would you like you to stop claiming it isn't.

            How about, then, you put forward an effect you believe your god to have that wouldn't be unethical to test for? Or is the ONLY effect your god has that you do more good when you have his grace?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Ben, I'm claiming God himself cannot be tested by experimental science due to the nature of experimental science.

            Also, I highly doubt that experimental testing of the effects of God on human beings is either possible or ethical.

            So, I think if you want to do something like this, you need come up with your own ideas.

            This is not to say nothing can be said about God. Lots can be said, but not by experimental science.

          • BenS

            Ben, I'm claiming God himself cannot be tested by experimental science due to the nature of experimental science.

            I know what you're claiming, the problem is it's an entirely empty claim. Either your god has an effect on the real world or it doesn't. If it DOES have an effect then science can measure it. If it DOESN'T have an effect then it essentially doesn't exist.

            You can not put forward the idea that something can have an effect on reality and yet this effect cannot be measured. It's a nonsense idea.

            If your god DOES have an effect then YOU need to state what these effects are. If it doesn't have an effect or you've no idea what these effect are then we can disregard it.

            It really is as simple as that.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I will claim that God does affect human life in ways that can be detected but not by experimental science.

            If you will accept that claim, at least tentatively, I'll try to articulate some ways God affects the "real world," meaning human beings.

          • BenS

            I will claim that God does affect human life in ways that can be detected but not by experimental science.

            If you will accept that claim, at least tentatively, I'll try to
            articulate some ways God affects the "real world," meaning human beings.

            I'm afraid I won't, Kevin. Firstly, despite your narrowing of the issue, I specifically stated 'affects reality', not just 'human life'. Secondly, if it can be detected then we can bring science to bear on it; that's simply the nature of anything that can be detected.

            It also poses the question of 'If you're not using science to detect things, what are you using?'.

            I have the sneaking suspicion that you're not referring to your god at all, you're referring to 'faith'. This is a whole different ball game.

            By all means, though, provide your list of effects. I'll state in advance that I fully expect them not to be effects of god but effects of human belief.

          • Jonathan West

            I will claim that God does affect human life in ways that can be detected but not by experimental science.

            Describe some of these ways it can be detected

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Modern science arose in Christian Europe due to centuries of learned clerics investigating reality due to their Christian presuppositions that the universe has order, that we can know this order through reason, and that it is good to know this order. These presuppositions are consequences of belief in God's rationality and goodness.

            Thomas Aquinas even formulated a definition of nature that is very modern, consonant with the idea of dynamism and self-direction: He wrote,

            "Nature is nothing but the plan of some art, namely a divine one, put into things themselves, by which those things move toward a concrete end."

            Is this a claim you could test with a science experiment?

          • Jonathan West

            Modern science arose in Christian Europe due to centuries of learned clerics investigating reality due to their Christian presuppositions that the universe has order

            Let's accept for the sake of argument that this does in fact come from Christian presuppositions. But the fact that these presuppositions happen to be correct is not of itself that these presuppositions have come from God, nor that Christian presuppositions on any other subject are necessarily correct. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

            As you said "These presuppositions are consequences of belief in God's rationality and goodness." I note that even you accept that the presuppositions are based on belief in God's rationality, not on the fact of God's rationality. It is the belief which triggered scientific enquiry.

            "Nature is nothing but the plan of some art, namely a divine one, put into things themselves, by which those things move toward a concrete end."

            Is this a claim you could test with a science experiment?

            Its too vague to be a scientific statement. What is the concrete end referred to? How do you discern what it is? Do you infer the end from the behaviour of natural objects? If you do, then you're engaging in circular reasoning

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This whole discussion began with the rejection of the claim that "God cannot be the subject of a scientific test." So far that rejection does not seem to have any merit.

            Next, the atheists turned to the claim "if God exists he should empirically impact the universe in some measurable way." However, it is always possible explain anything that happens in another way:

            > I got the job I prayed for? You were the best qualified.
            > We prayed for the baby in distress who had no heartbeat for thirty minutes and he came back to life with no side effects? Spontaneous recovery.
            > There is marvelous complexity and order in the universe? Random mutations over enough time produce order-like appearances.
            > Jesus rose from the dead? They hid the body.
            > 500 people saw Jesus after his resurrection? Nobody in Corinth could fact check this.

          • BenS

            However, it is always possible explain anything that happens in another way:

            And THIS is why we do scientific tests to determine which of the two examples (god or other) for each event you've listed is true. That's the whole point.

            If there is no statistical benefit for these prayers then how can they be said to be working?

            If your god cannot be shown to be having any effect at all then in what way does it exist? If it's always possible to explain the events away using natural methods then why posit a supernatural one that there's no evidence for? There's simply no need for it.

            With us so far?

          • josh

            '...rejection of the claim that "God cannot be the subject of a scientific test." Next, the atheists turned to the claim "if God exists he should empirically impact the universe in some measurable way." '

            These two claims would seem to be equivalent.

            "However, it is always possible explain anything that happens in another way:..."

            That's why rationally minded people look for the best explanation and even hold that only conditionally. This is where Occam's razor / parsimony comes in. You don't rationally believe in extra stuff that isn't necessary to support the sum of the observations. The problem we have is that Christians keep trying to lump in an infinite amount of 'extra stuff' in the form of God, and when it is pointed out that this thing would imply all sorts of consequences we don't see, the theist turns to "there must be some explanation and you can't prove there isn't " to avoid the evidence.

          • epeeist

            However, it is always possible explain anything that happens in another way:

            Essentially a restatement of Quine's thesis on under-determination.

            One can raise any number of hypotheses to explain a particular set of phenomena. The aim is to choose the one that has the best justification.

            I got the job I prayed for? You were the best qualified.

            You prayed and you didn't get the job, god chose not to answer my prayers. A self-sealing argument.

            There is marvelous complexity and order in the universe? Random mutations over enough time produce order-like appearances.

            Two things about this one, marvellous complexity compared to what? Secondly, if you are just crediting this to variation (there are mechanism other than random mutation for introducing change in a genome) then it is really about time you learnt something about the theory of evolution.

            Jesus rose from the dead? They hid the body.

            Or he didn't resurrect because he wasn't dead, or it he did die and it was someone else who impersonated him.

            Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem.

            And they talked together of all these things which had happened.

            So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.

            But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.
            Luke 24:13-16

            500 people saw Jesus after his resurrection? Nobody in Corinth could fact check this.

            Because nobody seems to have taken any statements from these "500 people", and there were no reports either in temple or Roman records.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Since I have said "God effects" cannot be empirically tested how can I show you empirical examples of effects of God on the "real world"?

            The 1948 UN charter on human rights is largely the product of Catholic social teachings, which grows out of Catholic moral theology, which grows out of the Catholic faith, which was founded by Jesus Christ whom we claim is God.

            Does that real world effect count or is this in the wrong category?

          • BenS

            Since I have said "God effects" cannot be empirically tested how can I show you empirical examples of effects of God on the "real world"?

            Because, for about the thousandth time, if they cannot be tested for then they might as well not exist. If you cannot show me examples of the effect of god (as distinct from the effects of those who merely believe in god) then your god can simply be assumed as having no effect in the real world.

            The 1948 UN charter on human rights is largely the product of Catholic social teachings, which grows out of Catholic moral theology, which grows out of the Catholic faith, which was founded by Jesus Christ whom we claim is God.

            Does that real world effect count or is this in the wrong category?

            That's a dismal example and riddled with unevidenced assumptions. The UN charter on human rights is based on Catholic teaching? What, solely on Catholic teaching? No other non-Catholic governing body has ever had rules that tally in any way with the UN declaration of human rights? Sorry, but this is simply mock-worthy.

            For a start, the declaration of human rights was compiled by many humans, of many faiths and none.

            You're putting forward the idea of an omniscient, omnipotent super being that has a direct effect in the world and the best examples you can give of this effect are of you being good and a list of rights compiled by numerous people?

            If you can't separate out the effect of god from the effect of humans who simply believe in (any) god then your god might as well be written off as nonexistent. You might not like that, but it simply is the case. You need to start learning how to deal with that.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Despite your tone, I'm trying to establish what you consider a testworthy example of an effect of God on the real world.

            If this example is valid--which historically it is--would it be an example of God's action on the world to you?

            Excuse me if I sound stupid, but I really don't know what kind of effect you expect this Supreme Being to demonstrate. What are examples you would expect?

          • BenS

            Despite your tone, I'm trying to establish what you consider a testworthy example of an effect of God on the real world.

            My tone is because I'm getting fed up at the constant evasion and dodging of the issue.

            What do I consider a testworthy example of the effect of your god on the real world? Simple. An example of the effect of your god on the real world that can be observed. If it cannot be observed, there (to all intents and purposes) IS NO EFFECT. It's that simple.

            If this example is valid--which historically it is--would it be an example of God's action on the world to you?

            Which example? That the UN declaration of human rights is based on Catholic teachings? You'll have to excuse my tone again but only the word 'bullshit' can explain how pitiful I consider that claim. I sure hope you have evidence for it.

            Excuse me if I sound stupid, but I really don't know what kind of effect
            you expect this Supreme Being to demonstrate. What are examples you
            would expect?

            You're wiggling again. It's not ME that expects any effect, I'm not positing it. YOU are putting forward the idea of this god and, if it can be said to exist, it NEEDS to have some effect that distinguishes it from the natural workings of the universe. If you seriously cannot put forward any effect, any action at all god takes that shows it's not merely fictitious, then that's entirely your problem.

            Look at it this way. I can posit the existence of space ponies and say they're undetectable by science but they still influence the way YOU behave. It has exactly as much validity as your claim.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            For support for my bullshit claim, go to this page:

            http://www.pass.va/content/scienzesociali/en/academicians/ordinary/glendon.html

            and download the pdf

            The Influence of Catholic Social Doctrine on Human Rights (PDF) 2009

            The first section is sufficient to read: CATHOLIC SOCIAL DOCTRINE IN THE POST-WORLD-WAR II HUMAN RIGHTS MOMENT

          • BenS

            So your evidence that the UN declaration of human rights is based on catholic social teachings and therefore based on god is... an opinion piece?

            I don't think you understand what is meant by god having an effect in the world. Everything you've put forward so far is indistinguishable from god not actually existing at all but humans believing he exists. This is why medical trials test against placebo.

            Considering god is supposed to be all these wonderful and powerful things, you really are struggling to show that it actually DOES anything.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Let's back up.

            You said it was *bullshit* that the UN Declaration on human rights was based on Catholic social teachings and I referred you to an essay by in internationally recognized legal scholar to warrant that claim.

            Could you at least back off the judgment that it was *bullshit*, even to soften it to maybe *bull* or just *shit*? Or even to a "gosh, I never realized that's where those ideas came from--maybe Catholic doctrine isn't totally useless, even a broken clock is right twice a day"?

            I don't think you understand what is meant by god having an effect in the world.

            I don't. You won't tell me. You say I have to figure it out so I'm trying to come up with different categories of possible answers.

          • BenS

            Or even to a "gosh, I never realized that's where those ideas came from--maybe Catholic doctrine isn't totally useless, even a broken clock is right twice a day"?

            No, because, to be honest, this is such basic stuff it's painful to have to explain it. The vast majority of the rights in the UN declaration of rights already had existed in various places in the world at various times and normally long before the catholic church even existed. The whole idea that morality solely and only comes from Catholicism is laughable and has been beaten to death.

            Besides, and I say again, "Everything you've put forward so far is indistinguishable from god not actually existing at all but humans believing he exists. This is why medical trials test against placebo.".

            I want examples of GOD having an effect in the world, not human beings who merely believe in god. Do you not understand the difference? If a human being who believes in god is taking the action then it doesn't matter whether god exists or not, only that the belief exists.

            I want an example of GOD having an effect. If you can't think of one, you've got a real problem claiming god exists.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            And another thing (as Jimmy Stewart would say) you keep repeating this claim that makes no sense to me:

            If I cannot see examples of the effect of God in the real world then he has no effect and effectively doesn't exist.

          • BenS

            It's a really crucial one, Kevin. What is it you don't understand?

            I'll try and explain better but I'm tired and hot and ready for bed.

            If something, anything, cannot be seen to have an effect then it essentially does not exist.

            If I were to fire a 'glumpf' ray at a rock and then claim the existence of this glumpf ray, would you just take it as true that this ray exists? If you cannot see any effect on the rock at all, can the ray be said to exist? More importantly, to take into account the potential lack of tools you had at the time to make your measurements, if I then said that there was absolutely no possible way you could measure the effect of the glumpf ray, would you still accept the existence of the ray?

            If something has absolutely no possible measurable effect then how can it be said to exist? Even if it DOES exist, if it has absolutely no possible measurable effect then what does it matter if it exists? It doesn't do anything.

            As long as you claim your god has no possible measurable effect on anything then your god is a glumpf ray.

            That a bit clearer?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes. Have a good sleep.

          • BenS

            So, now I've explained it in a clearer fashion, do you agree or disagree with it?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm hesitant to agree in the way any defendant would hesitate to disagree with a prosecuting attorney because he has no idea where his adversary is going with it ;) but I think in principle I agree.

            If there is a *complete disconnect* between God and the universe, then for beings in the universe God's existence has to relevance I can think of.

            However, imagine a deistic universe. Rational beings exist who know that the deity exists outside his creation, that there is a moral law, that rational beings are free to order their lives according to it, and that they will be judged by this diety accordingly. This is all assumed to be the case by reason. In this scenario, is God as good as not existing or is his way of impacting the universe through human reason?

          • Jonathan West

            I'm hesitant to agree in the way any defendant would hesitate to disagree with a prosecuting attorney because he has no idea where his adversary is going with it

            Are you really thinking of this as an adversarial conversation? I'm not, I'm trying to understand your position and your justifications for it.

            If there is a *complete disconnect* between God and the universe, then for beings in the universe God's existence has to relevance I can think of.

            Would you also agree that if there is a complete disconnect between God and the universe, then this is a situation which from within the universe is indistinguishable from there being no God at all?

            However, imagine a deistic universe. Rational beings exist who know that the deity exists outside his creation

            How would they know? If the deistic God does not intervene in the universe, then the rational beings within the universe have no means of knowing this.

            that there is a moral law, that rational beings are free to order their lives according to it, and that they will be judged by this diety accordingly.

            This seems to be a very interventionist God by Deist standards.

            This is all assumed to be the case by reason.

            If you assume, then you aren't using reason.In this scenario, is God as good as not existing or is his way of impacting the universe through human reason?

            I think you have an awful lot of contradictory assumptions. You have a Deist non-intervening God who nonetheless has some means of getting rational beings to realise that there is a moral law and moreover that it has certain specific contents.

            Since the assumptions are mutually contradictory, the scenario you have described is incoherent and therefore its consequences do not require any comment.

            Moreover, the scenario you describe, if you were to believe it to be so, would require you to abandon catholicism, because you are describing a very different kind of God from the one taught by Catholic teaching.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The scenario was an attempt to recreate how people like Jefferson and Franklin actually viewed natural religion.

            They believed their view was entirely rational. I think they saw the deity's intervention in human life as happening through unaided human reason without any need for empirical traces of that deity (although they saw evidence of the deity's wisdom in natural physical laws which could be discovered and controlled for the betterment of life).

          • BenS

            If there is a *complete disconnect* between God and the universe, then for beings in the universe God's existence has to relevance I can think of.

            This is the key point and I'm glad you've picked it up. Now you need to see that if you're putting god outside space and time then you're putting it outside the universe (which is space and time). So, if you want to claim that your god is outside space and time then, to use your own words, its existence has no relevance that you can think of. Hence, best to stop claiming your god is outside space and time. :)

            Rational beings exist who know that the deity exists outside his creation, that there is a moral law, that rational beings are free to order their lives according to it, and that they will be judged by this diety accordingly.

            Problem with this is they don't know. They think they know. They cannot know because their god is outside the universe, has no effect on the universe and therefore they have absolutely no way of knowing if it exists or not. Everything they think they know is just belief. It's just faith, absent evidence. It's not knowledge at all.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If God created and sustains the universe in existence then he has enormous relevance for the things within space and time. Or rather, he has enormous relevance for the rational creatures within it.

            Faith is *not* belief without evidence. *That* is an unevidenced claim. :)

          • BenS

            If God created and sustains the universe in existence then he has enormous relevance for the things within space and time.

            Not if it has no effect at all in it. It can't have any relevance if it does not interact with the universe at all. If it DOES interact with the universe in any way, shape or form we can test for it with science. I've said this a dozen times. PLEASE try and wrap your head around the concept.

            Faith is *not* belief without evidence.

            Then you're using a definition of faith that I and most other people don't subscribe to. If there exists evidence to hold a belief then you don't need faith - you've already got evidence.

            All of which is just general swishing around in the water away from the simple point that, if god has no effect in the universe then, to all intents and purposes, doesn't exist. If god is outside space and time then it can have no effect in the universe as ANY effects in the universe MUST involve either time or space or both. Ergo, if god is outside space and time then it, to all intents and purposes, does not exist.

            Do you now agree with this?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            (1) I think I agree with the principle, if it were the case, but it isn't.

            God interacts with human beings in ways, shapes, and forms which cannot be subjected to a scientific experiment.

            For example, I interact with God all day long but the interaction happens inside me, even though (hopefully) the effect is there for others to see by my behavior.

            (2) Faith for the billion + Catholics means an assent to something revealed based on the authority of the one who does the revealing. Evidence exists that the doctrine of the Eucharist is true but nobody could ever get there using unaided reason and aspects of the reality of the Eucharist can never be fully understood using reason.

            I guess we're done for now.

          • BenS

            God interacts with human beings in ways, shapes, and forms which cannot be subjected to a scientific experiment.

            It's like you haven't been paying the slightest bit of attention. You keep restating this ad nauseum but you have NOTHING to back it up. It doesn't even make sense.

            HOW is god interacting with human beings?

            For example, I interact with God all day long but the interaction happens inside me, even though (hopefully) the effect is there for others to see by my behavior.

            How do you know it's your god? How is it distinguishable from only THINKING you're talking to your god? If believing you're talking to your god is indistinguishable from actually talking to your god then the existence of god isn't relevant, only the belief is.

            (2) Faith for the billion + Catholics means an assent to something revealed based on the authority of the one who does the revealing. Evidence exists that the doctrine of the Eucharist is true but nobody could ever get there using unaided reason and aspects of the reality of
            the Eucharist can never be fully understood using reason.

            You realise the argument from authority is a fallacy, right?

            I guess we're done for now.

            You mean you've realised your position is untenable and you don't want to discuss it any more? I've explained as best I can what being outside time and space means, what having no effect in the real world means, what effects having no distinguishable difference from the natural workings of the universe means and I've covered it all time and time again and had you clarify that you understand the points I've made.

            If you're now simply going right back to saying 'god cannot be detected by science' AFTER I've explained each step showing how, if he existed, he either could or his existence simply doesn't matter AND had you confirm your understanding of each point... well, then you're simply being intellectually dishonest.

            If you can point out a flaw in anything I've explained then do so, otherwise still saying that god can't be detected by science is just putting your fingers in your ears and / or lying.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I can't give you an example of how God would reveal himself empirically in a way that would satisfy you but I began with the position that it would be impossible to do so.

            You can't give an example of how you could test for God with a scientific experiment even though you demand one be produced before you will entertain the notion of God.

            I don't buy that your chain of reasoning that this state of affairs makes God irrelevant or meaningless.

            I'm not being intellectually dishonest or lying.

          • BenS

            I can't give you an example of how God would reveal himself empirically [in a way that would satisfy you] but I began with the position that it would be impossible to do so.

            [Bit in brackets is unnecessary. You know what empirical means, it's not me you need to satisfy.]

            And if I told you that something existed but it was impossible for you check that, would you believe it? I made a detailed post about a glumpf ray which was exactly that - impossible to detect. Have you forgotten? How is your god different from that glumpf ray (i.e. utterly irrelevant)?

            You can't give an example of how you could test for God with a scientific experiment even though you demand one be produced before you will entertain the notion of God.

            I can give loads of examples but you will just sit there going nah, nope, nuh uh so there's no point in me doing it. YOU are the one positing the effect so YOU tell me what effect god has. Again, for the unnumbered time, if god cannot be seen to have an effect then to all intents and purposes god doesn't exist.

            I don't buy that your chain of reasoning that this state of affairs makes God irrelevant or meaningless.

            Actually, yes you do. You've said it here.

            If there is a *complete disconnect* between God and the universe, then for beings in the universe God's existence has [no] relevance I can think of.

            If your god cannot be seen to have an effect then there is a complete disconnect between your god and the universe. If your god DOES have an effect then tell us what it is and we can test for it.

            I'm not being intellectually dishonest or lying.

            That remains to be seen. I'm actually repeating myself here so if you're not intellectually dishonest or straight out lying then you simply don't understand what I'm saying.... but you're not raising questions about my points or highlighting flaws so I have to assume you understand. You're simply repeating assertions which have I have either demonstrated to be false or shown they render god irrelevant.

            The logic is simple, has been explained numerous times and has not had any flaws shown in it. If you don't understand it, say which bit you don't understand. If you do understand then you're just ignoring it because you don't like it. Ignoring it because you don't like it is intellectually dishonest.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I start over tomorrow, Disqus willing.

          • BenS

            No problem, take as long as you like to sort it out in your head and compile a list of any questions or clarifications you want me to address. :)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            A first new question:

            Are you an empiricist? That is, do you only think facts which can be established through direct observation are to be admitted as true?

          • BenS

            I don't apply labels to myself because other people invariably tack other meanings on to them that I wouldn't use to describe myself.

            No, I don't think only facts observed by direct observation are to be admitted as true. For example, I can claim the character of Saunders is an organ dealer and a vegetarian. This fact is true because it relates to a character in stories I write that I made up and I declared the character to be thus. However, what this has to say about that character's existence as a real entity is nil.

            What I would say is that for anything that is claimed to be a real thing, as opposed to a concept or an idea, evidence for its existence must be shown. This doesn't need to be direct observation (bouncing light off it, weighing it), it can be shown through how it affects other things (gravity, for example).

            I think anyone who has to resort to only reason and logic to demonstrate something exists is to miss the whole point of what existing actually means. If it's not possible to provide evidence of a measurable effect that something has then in what way can it be said to exist at all?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If it's not possible to provide evidence of a measurable effect that something has then in what way can it be said to exist at all?

            That's THE issue.

            In your scheme of things, is it allowable to bounce ideas off things to arrive at knowledge?

            For example, in ethics, we take a concept like justice and bounce it off different kinds of human behavior to judge it just or unjust.

            In history, we bounce a concept like cause and effect off primary and secondary sources to study the Civil War.

            What about the way philosophers bounce concepts like "the good" off ordinary experience to arrive at another concept like "justice"?

          • BenS

            Kevin,

            We've been through this before. These are just concepts. Just ideas. They don't DO anything. You are positing a god that DOES things.

            If you want to claim your god is 'only an idea' and doesn't actually DO anything then that's fine by me. That what you're claiming?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm trying to see if you think we can see reality with the help of concepts. Both philosophy in general and metaphysics claim they are examining the real world in deep ways--not just ideas but actual reality.

            Is there a real way of knowing besides empirical science?

          • BenS

            Is there a real way of knowing besides empirical science?

            You keep asking the same question but worded differently each time.

            Knowing what? Whether something exists or not? I'd say no. Of course, there are other ways of knowing - like gut feeling, rolling chicken bones and faith - but they're all shit.

            The point, as always, remains that if you claim your god has an effect on the real world then science can be used to determine whether this effect exists.

            So, I ask again, for the thousandth time, knowing full well we're going to tread down the same old tedious path, stopping for the odd time where you try to run off into the bushes to avoid the inevitable destination.

            Does your god have an effect on the real world? If so, what effect does it have?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            To evaluate your position, I need to know what you admit as the parameters of reason.

            In other words, you reject metaphysics, philosophy, history, and all the humanities as ways of knowing anything about the real world, as well as, of course, any religion?

          • BenS

            I reject anything that isn't based on scientific evidence as a valid way of determining whether something exists. You don't need to 'evaluate my position', you simply need to answer the question I asked. I'll ask it again.

            Does your god have an effect on the real world? If so, what effect does it have?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm not ready to tackle those *three* questions, yet.

            (1) Can you prove God exists with scientific evidence?

            (2) Can you demonstrate that God effects the physical world in a way detectable by science?
            (3) Is there some other way to answer the first two questions outside empiricism?

          • BenS

            They're only actually one question, which is essentially number two but truncated.

            (2) Can you demonstrate that God effects the physical world

            If your god affects the physical world then it IS (theoretically) detectable by the scientific method.

            1) is rolled up in the truncated 2) and 3) is irrelevant because of the sentence preceding this one.

            It really IS that simple.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I am.

            (1) Can you prove God exists with scientific evidence?

            >> Yes.

            (2) Can you demonstrate that God effects the physical world in a way detectable by science?

            >> Yes. The physical world is expanding on average; that is, it is scientifically established that it previously existed in a smaller, hotter, denser state than it exists today.

            Any spacetime which expands on average cannot be past eternal.

            Therefore the universe began to exist as a matter of scientific, not merely metaphysical, certainty.

            Anything that begins to exist, has a cause.

            The universe began to exist.

            The universe, therefore, has a supernatural cause.

            (3) Is there some other way to answer the first two questions outside empiricism?

            >> Yes. Understanding the correct relationship of science to the superior knowledge domains of metaphysics and theology, allowed the first two questions to be answered eight hundred years before the confirming scientific observations of an expanding universe.

          • epeeist

            If God created and sustains the universe in existence

            Ooh, hypotheticals, can we all play?

            If the nestling from a pan-dimensional species created and sustains the universe in existence

            or

            If the god of the free-floating sentient gas bags on an unnamed planet in IOK-1 created and sustains the universe in existence

            or

            Well, you get the idea...

          • BenS

            Ooh, hypotheticals, can we all play?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Sarcasm and ridicule aren't appropriate on this website.

          • Susan

            Sarcasm and ridicule aren't appropriate on this website

            There has been plenty of sarcasm and ridicule from some of the catholic commenters on this site. Either point it out in every case or accept that we're all grownups and can deal with it.

            More importantly, there's no reason to think that epeeist's comment was made for the sake of sarcasm or ridicule.

            Why are his hypotheticals different from yours?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Either point it out in every case or . . .

            Susan you are not the goddess of this website who decides the rules. That honor belongs to Disqus.

            [And if you can't detect humor, that is an attempt at it.]

            I think at the very least it's rotten manners to make what another person loves and honors look ridiculous.

          • Susan

            Susan you are not the goddess of this website who decides the rules

            Darn it. I was hoping no one would notice that. :-)

            I think at the very least it's rotten manners to make what another person loves and honors look ridiculous.

            The fact that you are emotionally attached to the ultimate claims you are making does not place them above scrutiny.

            This site is supposed to be a "dialogue" between catholics and atheists.

            Now, what is the difference between epeeist's hypotheticals and yours?

            (I am heading out to work right now and will respond to your response as soon as I can. I'm not ignoring you.)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            scrutinize=look at something carefully
            ridicule=mock

          • Susan

            You haven't answered my question. What is the difference between epeeist's hypotheticals and yours?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            On the level of content:

            >The nestling of a species would be a corporeal being, a product of the cosmos, not able to create the cosmos.
            > A god . . . able to create and sustain the universe would actually be God.

            On the level of rhetoric, if you cannot recognize mockery, I count you an innocent and simple soul. You are blessed.

          • Susan

            >The nestling of a species would be a corporeal being, a product of the cosmos, not able to create the cosmos.

            > A god . . . able to create and sustain the universe would actually be God.

            Do you have evidence for your deity of choice?

            Can you define the "cosmos" and the "universe" for me?

            Then, explain what existence means "outside" of the universe and/or the cosmos.

            Then, explain what it is to create a cosmos and/or universe.

            Don't forget the evidence.

            It's important to keep in mind that I find many of the positions that are held here based on unevidenced beliefs deeply offend my love of reason, imagination and compassion.

            But rather than claim offense, I try to keep the conversation going.

            Your church's position on many subjects is deeply offensive to me and has consequences in the real world.

            Epeeist was playing the same games with hypotheticals that you take for granted as deserving respect ONLY on the subject of your deity of choice.

            If his one comment was that "offensive" to you, imagine what it feels like for people who are trying to have an honest discussion and are met with brick wall after brick wall of special pleading.

            If your Groundofallbeing is real, she can take it. She is, after all, above all this nonsense. Let her handle herself.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Susan, have I ever mocked you or any of your beliefs?

            Since the first half of your post basically demands, "Tell me everything," I'll refer you to my intellectual and spiritual superior, Robert Spitzer and his book "New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of contemporary physics and philosophy."

            It is completely non-religious but argues to both the existence and attributes of God and many fundamental human values and aspirations.

            You can actually read a lot of his work for free, on-line here:

            http://www.magisreasonfaith.org/encyclopedias.html

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Kevin, why wouldn't you want to answer her questions, yourself?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It takes Spitzer 300+ pages to answer those questions. I can't do it in a combox.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Start with something small.

          • Susan

            Hi Kevin,

            Since the first half of your post basically demands, "Tell me everything,"

            The first half of my post is asking you to support the claims you've been making repeatedly. That's basic to any discussion that involves claims.

            Why direct me to Robert Spitzer? Why not just answer the questions I asked?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            As I said below, it takes Spitzer 300+ pages to answer your questions rigorously. Since you want serous answers, I'm advising you to go to a serious source, rather than getting them from a amateur (or hack).

          • Susan

            As I said below, it takes Spitzer 300+ pages to answer your questions rigorously. Since you want serous answers, I'm advising you to go to a serious source, rather than getting them from a amateur (or hack).

            You can call him serious if you'd like. Nothing I've read by Spitzer shows any indication that he's a serious source.

            Now, I could be wrong. I often am. Could you point me to the heart of his best explanation of what "existing outside of timespace" might mean in real terms?

            If you take his philosophical ideas as seriously as you do, I think it's reasonable that you are able to discuss them on some level without insisting that I read 300 pages of the same old apologetics that have turned out to mean nothing no matter how much they are recycled.

            I've asked you the same question and I will continue to ask it. What does it mean to "exist" "outside of timespace"?

            It's so easy to say this but it means nothing so far.

            Honest thinking would see it as an honest question and take it seriously.

            If your beliefs are based on a mind existing outside of timespace, then it's incumbent on you to consider every nuance available to the questions of what mind, exist>, and timespace mean and what on earth you're asserting.

            Maybe you have something back there but you're not showing it. So, I have to assume you have nothing more than an unsupported belief in Yahweh.

            What specifically does Spitzer offer that takes those questions seriously enough that anyone (including you) should take his ideas on the subject seriously?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you are able to judge that Robert Spitzer is not a serious authority on philosophical theism then you should be able to figure out answers to all your questions yourself.

            I don't see *dialogue* on your part. It's all, "Tell me this, justify that, prove this . . . and if you won't there is something dishonest about you."

            Why don't you tell me something from Spitzer's writing which disappoints you?

          • BenS

            Well, putting to one side that plenty of atheists (myself included) don't even consider philosophical theism a 'serious' subject any more than they would philosophical space ponyism...

            And it's not really Susan's place to jump through hoops pointing out things from whatever writings you pour forward which disappoint her. She asked YOU some questions and YOU should answer them otherwise, as you say, it's not dialogue.

            If you're just going to say 'go and read a 300 page treatise and come back to me' then we can counter with 'go and get a doctorate in valid scientific discipline and come back to us'.

            If you're not going to answer the questions with your understanding of the subject then why are you here? It's your understanding we're interested in.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I might be going out on a limb here and I'm sure to be put straight if I'm over cooking it...but Kevin appears to be boxed into the proverbial corner. Either answer will result in a ballistic wound to the distal portion of the leg. Checkmate.

          • Susan

            I don't see *dialogue* on your part. It's all, "Tell me this, justify that, prove this . . . and if you won't there is something dishonest about you."

            I don't think I was that vague. I asked you specifically what it means for a mind to exist outside of timespace. That's your claim. You keep making it (as do many theists) and it seems to be nothing but words.

            If a person makes a claim (and a grand one at that), it's reasonable to ask them to support that claim. Why is that so complicated?

            Also, I wasn't implying that you are a dishonest guy. I meant that you have settled for an answer that you show no signs of having considered carefully. You haven't demonstrated that you've honestly investigated the claim's implications.

            As far as Robert Spitzer goes, he seems to repeat the same old arguments and has done no more to support them than do others who use them.

            Maybe you could pick his best argument and I'd be happy to read it and we could discuss it. Pick one from this page, for instance:

            http://magisgodwiki.org/index.php?title=Cosmology#Can_Science_Give_Evidence_of_a_Creation_and_Supernatural_Design.3F

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Fair enough, Susan.

            I don't know which argument is best, so why don't we start with the first? Bear in mind that this website was pretty much designed for high school and college students. It's not written at the reading level or level of detail of his book (which is fine for us).

            I saw one typo in scanning it. It says the amount of matter in the universe is 1055 kilograms. I checked with Wikipedia and I think that should be 10 to the 55th power kilograms!

          • Susan

            Fair enough, Susan.

            Hi Kevin. I thought I had a day off but got called in to cover a job about two minutes after my last post. Just got back.

            I don't know which argument is best, so why don't we start with the first?

            Sounds fair. By the first, do you mean "What enhances meaning and happinerss in life?" I want to make sure we're talking about the same link.

            Remember this is a side road, one down which I'm willing to embark in order to highlight what I said earlier about Robert Spitzer, that his arguments aren't new and they are no better supported by him than they ever were by anyone who relies on them.

            That doesn't mean you're off the hook for your assertion that your deity of choice exists and causes "outside" timespace.

            It would be better if you directed us both straight to the argument he makes on that subject. That was the point of the whole discussion.

            But I'm game.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Your link brought me here, not to an argument about happiness:

            http://magisgodwiki.org/index.php?title=Cosmology#Can_Science_Give_Evidence_of_a_Creation_and_Supernatural_Design.3F

            It's a straightforward argument for God's existence based on a beginning of the universe.

          • Susan

            Thank you Kevin. That's why I asked. I had lost the earlier link. I was pulled away unexpectedly.

            From the opening statements:

            We should begin by clarifying what science can really tell us about a beginning of the universe and supernatural causation.

            Agreed.

            First, unlike philosophy and metaphysics, science cannot deductively prove a creation or God.

            Science does not attempt to deductively prove anything, does it? . (I'll ignore the sneaking in of "creation" and "God". There are undefined terms there that have neither defined nor supported themselves before we've made it past the second sentence.)

            This is because natural science deals with the physical universe and with the regularities which we call “laws of nature” that are obeyed by the phenomena within that universe.</blockquote?

            Close enough for now.

            But God is not an object or phenomenon or regularity within the physical universe; so science cannot say anything about God.

            What is "God"? If science can't say anything about it, what can and why?

            Please show your work, even if just in a friendly discussion sort of way.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Spitzer means the words God and creation in their normal senses. They don't need any special definition. He's not assuming they are true. They are what the proof is going to try to prove.

            Science is not deductive the way philosophy, metaphysics, and even mathematics are. (This is not to say that science never uses deduction but it's primarily inductive.)

            >What is "God"? If science can't say anything about it, what can and why?

            This proof is going to show something about what God is. So what *can* is going to be philosophy!

          • Susan

            This proof is going to show something about what God is. So what *can* is going to be philosophy!

            By "philosophy", do you mean inserting a "superintelligent being" into the gaps without justification and without explaining the presence of a superintelligent being?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No. Why don't you just proceed with Spitzer's argument?

          • Susan

            That is Spitzer's argument, isn't it?

            When the evidence for a beginning (a Creator) is combined with the exceedingly high improbability of the above anthropic coincidences, a super intellect may be the most reasonable and responsible explanation because it avoids all the problems of a hypothetical multiverse. Thus, it is both reasonable and responsible to believe on the basis of physics, that there is a very powerful and intelligent being that caused our universe to exist as a whole.

            He inserts a superintelligent being as an explanation without justification and without explaining its presence.
            He uses a mishmash of "beginning", "nothing comes from nothing" and the "fine-tuning" argument, and sticks a mind in there.

            Where does he answer the question I've been asking you? He doesn't.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You are jumping ahead. The first proof is based on the universe having a beginning. After presenting evidence in physics for an absolute beginning, his conclusion is:

            In as much as a beginning indicates a point at which our universe came into existence, and prior to that point, the universe was nothing, then it is probable that the universe (and any hypothetical multiverse in which it might be situated) was created by a transcendent power outside of physical space and time.

            What do you think of this first proof? Spitzer is positing "a transcendent power outside physical space and time." It must be outside space and time because those things don't yet exist. It must be a power since it has the ability to cause the universe to begin. It is transcendent because it is other than the cosmos and able to cause it.

            Could you respond to this?

          • Susan

            In as much as a beginning indicates a point at which our universe came into existence

            What does that mean? Beginning? Universe? Came into? Existence?

            and prior to that point, the universe was nothing

            What does prior to that point mean? What does nothing mean?

            I'm serious. Define each and every one of those terms if you want me to respond to this.

            Not because I'm trying to be difficult but because we have wandered into territory where all of this language is vague, misleading and utterly inadequate to address the problems real cosmologists struggle with. It's easy for apologists to play tricks with language by cherry-picking physics.

            There is a point past which nobody knows.

            It must be a power since it has the ability to cause the universe to begin. It is transcendent because it is other than the cosmos and able to cause it

            A power? What does that mean? Transcendent? How is that a useful term?

            You said I jumped ahead but I was willing to grant for the sake of it, the whole ball of wax including the "fine-tuning" argument. There is no reason to do so except to cut to the chase.
            How on earth does Spitzer insert a "mind" "outside of time and space"?
            This is not philosophy or physics. This is apologetics and none of it is new.
            It's hot. I'm tired. Let's cut to the chase.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            We're done.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The multiverse certainly exists, just not in the physical order.

            It is a difficult thing to dialogue with those who do not inhabit the same cosmos.

            One of the crucial discernments of the signs of the times at the Council, was the decision to replace the proclamation of the Gospel, with a dialogue involving those who fundamentally reject it.

            This cannot have been permitted by the Holy Ghost on any grounds that it would bear fruit in itself.

            It manifestly has not, cannot, never could, never will, bear fruit in itself.

            It may bear fruit indirectly, in bringing the Church back to Her senses, and providing Her with the renewed certainty that every novelty (i.e., "Nouvelle Theologie") will, ultimately, have to be condemned and anathematized.

            We were called to a Digital Areopagus.

            We find ourselves faced instead with a Digital Lepanto.

            The Greeks believed in reason.

            The atheists are a different case.

          • Susan

            That's fine, Kevin.
            Somehow, I must have offended you.
            It would have been useful if you'd explained where I went wrong.
            It also would have been useful if you'd bothered to respond to one of my questions.
            All of this back and forth and you still have not explained what a mind existing outside of time and space could possibly mean.
            But I'm used to that.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            "What does that mean? Beginning? Universe? Came into? Existence? What does prior to that point mean? What does nothing mean? Define each and every one of those terms if you want me to respond to this."

            For crying out loud, Susan, Bill Clinton only asked what does "is" mean. You want the entire dictionary defined for you.

          • Susan

            You are calling this a philosophical proof.

            Every term must be defined. That's standard.

            Terms like "beginnings", "universe", "came into", and "existence" become impenetrable when you are discussing the hot, dense state.

            What we think of as time loses its meaning. None of the laws we have to describe reality are applicable. So those terms become highly questionable.

            He also makes the claim that there was "nothing" "before" and goes on to emphasize that this must mean metaphysical nothing. He has no business making this claim.

            If his argument is supposed to be deductive (a proof), then his premises must be impeccable and precisely defined or it won't work.

            I stated earlier that I am not being difficult for the sake of being difficult. He cherrypicks cosmology to manipulate our intuitive ideas about reality, ideas that become very scrambled at a certain point. Even all of the scientific models break down. Our intuitive, middle world concepts don't even make it that far.

            Unless Spitzer has solved quantum gravity, he has no business repackaging these hollow arguments and sticking anything specific "outside" of timespace, let alone a mind.
            That brings us back to the question I still haven't been given an answer for
            .
            What does it mean for a "mind" to "exist" "outside spacetime"?

            Is that what offended you? That I asked you to define every day terms that Spitzer is trying to apply to extreme conditions where our every day use of those terms can't possibly apply? And that I asked you to do it when you are asking me to discuss a "proof"?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "Terms like "beginnings", "universe", "came into", and "existence" become impenetrable when you are discussing the hot, dense state."

            >> Bad news, Susan.

            This particular bit of bomfoggery doesn't work any more.

            http://arxiv.org/abs/1204.4658

            Highly relevant excerpt:

            "We discuss three candidate scenarios which seem to allow the possibility that the universe could have existed forever with no initial singularity: eternal infation, cyclic evolution, and the emergent universe. The first two of these scenarios are geodesically incomplete to the past, and thus cannot describe a universe without a beginning. The third, although it is stable with respect to classical perturbations, can collapse quantum mechanically, and therefore cannot have an eternal past."

            So, *beginning* refers to that point where the universe, which did not exist before, begins to exist.

            It is a certainty that this universe began to exist, since it is a certainty that this universe satisfies the condition that it has expended on average (Hao >0).

            And:

            "Both eternal inflation and cyclic universe scenarios have Hav > 0, which means that they must be past-geodesically incomplete. We have also examined a simple emergent universe model, and concluded that it cannot escape quantum collapse. Even considering more general emergent universe models, there do not seem to
            be any matter sources that admit solutions that are immune to collapse."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you are this intelligent and learned (after presenting yourself as so naive), then you have the resources to read Spitzer's original arguments yourself in the book I cited and judge for yourself if he answers your objections and builds a valid argument. See for yourself is Spitzer is naive.

          • Susan

            If you are this intelligent and learned

            I'm neither, Kevin. I have made an effort to take arguments like Spitzer's seriously though, and that required learning a little bit about the claims on which they're based and what a "proof" means.

            (after presenting yourself as so naïve)

            I'm not sure where I did that. Whatever impression I gave you was just me trying to have an honest discussion. Maybe I'm naïve.

            read Spitzer's original arguments yourself in the book I cited and judge for yourself if he answers your objections and builds a valid argument.

            You'd have to explain to me what is different about his argument and why it's worth pursuing. It seems to be a mishmash of recycled apologetics that have failed to make their case.

            If you think they're convincing, you should be familiar enough with them that you could answer my questions about them.

            Also, you make me keep asking what it means for a "mind" to "exist" "outside spacetime".

            How does this make sense? How can there be evidence for this assertion?

          • Michael Murray

            Could you point me to where Sptizer explains how the large space-time god inhabits contains our four-dimensional space-time and it's standard Lorentzian metric? A link to a peer-reviewed paper would do.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            [H]ow [does] the large space-time god inhabits contains our four-dimensional space-time and it's standard Lorentzian metric?

            Sounds like you are blowing smoke at me.

            Being immaterial, God doesn't "inhabit" the cosmos. As I indicated to BenS elsewhere, the problem of how God or even a human mind can effect the universe is solved if we look at it as an open system.

          • BenS

            As I indicated to BenS elsewhere, the problem of how God or even a human
            mind can effect the universe is solved if we look at it as an open
            system.

            No, you copy pasted some guff from a friend of yours that doesn't answer the question. Considering the universe to be an 'open system' just means you get to posit things that are outside the universe. However, this doesn't help you as if the concepts of time and space don't exist outside the universe where your pet god arrives then how can it be said to exist at all?

            If there's no time, for example, how can it do anything - including think?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            I have no problem at all with people not believing in God, but it seems very strange (to me, anyway) to argue that if there were a God, he couldn't interact with the physical world. The people who believe in God believe that God created the physical world. If God created the physical world, why would there be a question about whether or not he could interact with it? Why would God create a physical world he could not interact with?

            The idea that God interacting with the physical world would break the laws of physics also seems strange to me. Those who believe in God believe he created the laws of physics. I don't even get why anyone would think that God can't suspend or break the laws of physics. Again, it certainly seems reasonable to me not to believe in God. But if you accept the idea of God, then you accept that God can do anything he wants with his own creation.

            From the viewpoint of science, physical laws aren't imposed on the physical world. Physical laws are descriptions of how the world works. There would be nothing preventing the creator of any system from modifying the system.

            The question of being outside of time is much more difficult. But as I have argued before, we really don't understand time. We all think we know what it is, but it is extremely difficult even to think about. (How long is the present, for example? What is the present? When you are reading this sentence, it takes a finite amount of time for the light from your computer screen to reach your eyes. So what you see on the screen is actually from the past. It also takes time for your brain to process is. It seems clear that we never see things as they are. We see them as they were. And of course two people moving relative to one another experience time differently. In fact, people living at different altitudes experience time differently, since time slows down in gravitational fields, and your altitude depends how strongly you feel the earth's gravity.) One of the things we are pretty certain of, though, is that there is no absolute time. In fact, according to Einstein, there are not two things—space and time—that exist. There is one thing—space-time.

          • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

            David, you would enjoy Alan Lightman's collection of fiction vinettes, Einstein's Dreams, if you haven't read it already. It's a beautiful little book in hardcover. http://www.amazon.com/Einsteins-Dreams-Alan-Lightman/dp/140007780X

          • BenS

            I have no problem at all with people not believing in God, but it seems very strange (to me, anyway) to argue that if there were a God, he couldn't interact with the physical world.

            And to me, which is why I've said previously that I think the argument that god is outside space and time is one religious people shouldn't use.

            If God created the physical world, why would there be a question about whether or not he could interact with it? Why would God create a physical world he could not interact with?

            They have missed a greater conundrum. Why would a god create a physical world at all...?

            From the viewpoint of science, physical laws aren't imposed on the physical world. Physical laws are descriptions of how the world works. There would be nothing preventing the creator of any system from modifying the system.

            I agree with the first part, about laws not being impositions but descriptions, but if they can be changed then it stands to reason that we also would be able to change them given sufficient understand of the methods the god used. Anyway, this is just idle musing.

            The point remains that, if god is outside time and space, then it doesn't - to all practical purposes - exist in any way that's relevant to us. If it DOES interact with the universe, then we can test for those interactions. If those interactions are not, even in theory, distiguishable from the natural workings of the universe then the concept of that god is moot. It simply IS the universe and deserves no further consider as a separate concept.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Could you offer a definition of "think"? It will help answer the question....

          • BenS

            Tell you what, sunshine, just put anything you like in there instead. Think, fart, play tiddlywinks, perform a miracle, create a soul, have a bath, torture a gay... whatever you like.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Sunshine?

            In any case, does this mean you don't want to give a definition of "think" to move the conversation forward?

          • BenS

            It means exactly what it says. I asked:

            "If there's no time, for example, how can it do anything - including think."

            You seem to have ignored the word 'anything' and latched onto the word 'think', presumably so you can prevent the conversation moving forward by bogging it down cocking around with definitions. I'm not interested in that game and it's a poor effort on your part.

            You want to move the conversation forward? Answer the question. If there's no time, how can your posited god do anything? It has no time in which to do it.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Let's try it this way--do you believe the universe had a beginning? Does time have a beginning? If you've dealt with this somewhere above, sorry for the repeat...
            According to your reasoning though, it seems to me, it's impossible for time to have a beginning since that would mean that whatever begins time can't begin time because "it has no time in which to do it." Is this how you see it?

          • BenS

            I believe I asked you the question first. I want to hear your explanation of how god manages to do things without time. Asking me to explain where the universe came from is, again, tediously trying to shift the focus of the discussion elsewhere.

            Third time now.

            If there's no time, how can your posited god do anything?

          • ZenDruid

            Does time have a beginning?

            I can fantasize on that question as well as anyone else, so here goes:

            Nothing much was happening, because nothing could happen, there not being any time or space for anything that was not nothing to happen anyway, when...

            A Chronon extruded itself from itself (a Chronon, possessed of the magical power of causing time to begin, to begin with, necessarily needs to be able to work outside time [here is the one and only deus ex machina necessary to the story line]), and subsequently decayed into a field. It created the space to decay into at the same time. All the rest follows pretty much per the principles of vacuum physics, QFT, et al.

            Could someone please explain how that Chronon managed to acquire a psychopathic humanoid personality in the process?

          • Andrew G.

            This is the kind of question that sounds simple but in fact is not.

            In fact, it's a question about the topology of spacetime, and if you bring "cause" into it, then it's a question about the topology of the causal structure of spacetime. Once you realize that, it becomes clear that "the universe has only existed for a finite time", "there is a single 'first' moment in time", "there are/are not causal chains extending into the past without a single first cause" are all independent questions - you can't answer just one and assume it applies to the rest.

            Quick example to illustrate the point: the closed unit interval [0,1] and the open unit interval (0,1) are both of finite length, bounded with diameter 1, and from a point in the middle they look locally identical. But the closed interval has a first point at 0, and is compact (every open cover has a finite subcover), while the open interval has no first point and is not compact.

            We do not at present have the ability to say what the early universe looked like in enough detail to settle this question; not because of lack of data, but because we know that our existing theories of quantum mechanics and gravitation are incompatible. Until we have a working theory of quantum gravity, we will not have a useful answer to this question.

          • epeeist

            Let's try it this way--do you believe the universe had a beginning

            Having just written a post about things being seen through a lens of belief you make my point for me.

            Do I know whether the universe had a beginning? I am prepared to take a Lockean position, no I don't. We can observe back to the recombination era, between 300,000 and 400,000 years after the big band, but before this the universe was essentially opaque.

            Our theories seem to hold up pretty well, which allow us to estimate the age of the universe in a number of ways. But they break down when one gets to the Planck time. And the concept of causality breaks down at this scale too.

            The best we can say therefore is that the universe was in existence after the Planck time. Before that (if "before" in this context has any meaning) we do not know.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Before that (if "before" in this context has any meaning) we do not know.

            I think this is the most truthful answer until (if ever) we have some way to get further data, and have a quantum theory of gravity.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Now that's got to be the most ridiculous thing I've read here...did I say "ridiculous"?...I meant HILARIOUS!!!

            In other news, the efficacy of prayer is tested...

            Around an hour after the verdict, Zimmerman's father tweeted: "Our whole family is relieved. Today... I'm proud to be an American. God Bless America! Thank you for your prayers!"

            ...and this...

            Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, tweeted "Lord during my darkest hour I lean on you. You are all that I have. At the end of the day, GOD is still in control. Thank you all for your prayers and support. I will love you forever Trayvon!!! In the name of Jesus!!!"

          • BenS

            Interesting. I've only been casually following that on the news. So... both sides are thanking god over the results of the Zimmerman trial?

            That's... weird.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you can't refrain from abuse, like "guff" and "my pet god" we can't have a dialogue.

            If you think what I have to say is so stupid, why do you reply at all?

          • Ignorant Amos

            Is Elvis about to leave the building and go to Croydon?

            Guff: synonym....nonsense, balderdash,...http://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/guff

          • BenS

            I'm guessing so. I've been anticipating it for quite a while.

          • BenS

            If you think that's abuse, you need to get out more.

            By guff, I mean it's devoid of meaning. It's hot air. And I've shown why.

            By pet god, I'm referring to your own pet god, as opposed to the gods of everyone else.

            Seems to me that you're complaining more about the perceived tone of my comments, rather than the contents - and you're doing it over some really pretty weak wording, too.

            That leads me to believe that you have absolutely no response to the content of my posts and you're looking for a way out that allows you to hold your head high and paint me as being the big ol' mean nasty atheist.

            I don't have a hissy fit when it's clear the church considers me a sinner and states I'm going to be tortured for all eternity - and that's far harsher than referring to an empty argument as 'guff'.

            Address the arguments, Kevin. If you can.

          • Michael Murray

            There is smoke being blown. But not by me. If your god is outside space-time explain to me how he interacts with the space-time we live in. Simple enough question.

            Did you read BenS' reply ?

          • epeeist

            Being immaterial, God doesn't "inhabit" the cosmos.

            So how does this fit with it being "omni-present"?

          • Ignorant Amos

            Ah, a new idea your pal has introduced for you, "if the universe is an open system", this is becoming a train wreck of epic proportions. I'll need to restock the popcorn supply.

          • Max Driffill

            I'm surprised that sarcasm, even if it was present bothers Kevin at all. Scalia's article on the atheist monument was positively dripping with it.

          • Michael Murray

            We free floating gas bags agree. We have not travelled light-years through deep space to be insulted like this. The destructor beams are being energised.

          • severalspeciesof

            "The destructor beams are being energised. "

            Are the poems going to be read too?

          • Michael Murray

            Are yes I forgot the poems. Thank you earthling. Poems will be read.

          • epeeist

            Sarcasm and ridicule aren't appropriate on this website.

            I think this quotation from Salman Rushdie is apposite:

            At Cambridge University I was taught a laudable method of argument: you
            never personalise, but you have absolutely no respect for people’s
            opinions. You are never rude to the person, but you can be savagely rude
            about what the person thinks. That seems to me a crucial distinction:
            people must be protected from discrimination by virtue of their race,
            but you cannot ring-fence their ideas. The moment you say that any idea
            system is sacred, whether it’s a religious belief system or a secular
            ideology, the moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from
            criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes
            impossible.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You've quoted this before--at least else some has.

            Nobody here has declared any ideas sacrosanct. Criticism is one thing, satire another (if it is not savage), but derision and contempt is disrespectful of persons.

          • epeeist

            Sarcasm and ridicule aren't appropriate on this website.

            But it wasn't either. It is a technique that is used in philosophy, replace one term in a proposition by another and see if it makes any difference to the proposition.

            Can you say that it does? Are my examples so different to your claim?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Can you say that it does? Are my examples so different to your claim?

            As the In Living Color guru put it, "Homey don't play dat game."

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            As I recall, that was when Homey was faced with a situation he could not rationally justify.

          • Max Driffill

            Kevin
            By this you mean, "I would really rather not entertain your examples because I have no answer."

          • epeeist

            As the In Living Color guru put it, "Homey don't play dat game."

            "Don't" or "won't"?

            I think the fact that you evade the point I made is sufficient answer.