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Sam Harris: The Language of Ignorance

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Posted on Aug 15, 2006
The Double Helix and the Cross
Illustration: Karen Spector

By Sam Harris

In this essay, the bestselling secularist author of “The End of Faith” delivers a scathing review of “The Language of God,” a new book by Human Genome Project head Francis Collins that attempts to demonstrate a harmony between science and evangelical Christianity.


Francis Collins—physical chemist, medical geneticist and head of the Human Genome Project—has written a book entitled ?The Language of God.? In it, he attempts to demonstrate that there is ?a consistent and profoundly satisfying harmony? between 21st-century science and evangelical Christianity. To say that he fails at his task does not quite get at the inadequacy of his efforts. He fails the way a surgeon would fail if he attempted to operate using only his toes. His failure is predictable, spectacular and vile. ?The Language of God? reads like a hoax text, and the knowledge that it is not a hoax should be disturbing to anyone who cares about the future of intellectual and political discourse in the United States.

Most reviewers of ?The Language of God? seem quite overawed by its author?s scientific credentials. This is understandable. As director of the Human Genome Project, Collins participated in one of the greatest scientific achievements in human history. His book, however, reveals that a stellar career in science offers no guarantee of a scientific frame of mind. Lest we think that one man can do no lasting harm to our discourse, consider the fact that the year is 2006, half of the American population believes that the universe is 6,000 years old, our president has just used his first veto to block federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research on religious grounds, and one of the foremost scientists in the land has this to say, straight from the heart (if not the brain):

As believers, you are right to hold fast to the concept of God as Creator; you are right to hold fast to the truths of the Bible; you are right to hold fast to the conclusion that science offers no answers to the most pressing questions of human existence; and you are right to hold fast to the certainty that the claims of atheistic materialism must be steadfastly resisted?.

God, who is not limited to space and time, created the universe and established natural laws that govern it. Seeking to populate this otherwise sterile universe with living creatures, God chose the elegant mechanism of evolution to create microbes, plants, and animals of all sorts. Most remarkably, God intentionally chose the same mechanism to give rise to special creatures who would have intelligence, a knowledge of right and wrong, free will, and a desire to seek fellowship with Him. He also knew these creatures would ultimately choose to disobey the Moral Law.

According to Collins, belief in the God of Abraham is the most rational response to the data of physics and biology, while ?of all the possible worldviews, atheism is the least rational.? Taken at face value, these claims suggest that ?The Language of God? will mark an unprecedented breakthrough in the history of ideas. Once Collins gets going, however, we realize that the book represents a breakthrough of another kind.

After finding himself powerless to detect any errors in the philosophizing of C.S. Lewis (a truly ominous sign), Collins describes the moment that he, as a scientist, finally became convinced of the divinity of Jesus Christ:

On a beautiful fall day, as I was hiking in the Cascade Mountains ? the majesty and beauty of God?s creation overwhelmed my resistance. As I rounded a corner and saw a beautiful and unexpected frozen waterfall, hundreds of feet high, I knew the search was over. The next morning, I knelt in the dewy grass as the sun rose and surrendered to Jesus Christ.

If this account of field research seems a little thin, don?t worry—a recent profile of Collins in Time magazine offers supplementary data. Here, we learn that the waterfall was frozen in three streams, which put the good doctor in mind of the Trinity?

It is at this point that thoughts of suicide might occur to any reader who has placed undue trust in the intellectual integrity of his fellow human beings. One would hope that it would be immediately obvious to Collins that there is nothing about seeing a frozen waterfall (no matter how frozen) that offers the slightest corroboration of the doctrine of Christianity. But it was not obvious to him as he ?knelt in the dewy grass,? and it is not obvious to him now. Indeed, I fear that it will not be obvious to many of his readers.

If the beauty of nature can mean that Jesus really is the son of God, then anything can mean anything. Let us say that I saw the same waterfall, and its three streams reminded me of Romulus, Remus and the She-wolf, the mythical founders of Rome. How reasonable would it be for me to know, from that moment forward, that Italy would one day win the World Cup? This epiphany, while perfectly psychotic, would actually put me on firmer ground than Collins—because Italy did win the World Cup. Collins? alpine conversion would be a ludicrous non sequitur even if Jesus does return to Earth trailing clouds of glory.

While the mere sighting of a waterfall appears to have been sufficient to answer all important questions of theology for Collins, he imagines himself to be in possession of further evidence attesting to the divinity of Jesus, the omnipotence of God and the divine origin of the Bible. The most compelling of these data, in his view, is the fact that human beings have a sense of right and wrong. Collins follows Lewis here, as faithfully as if he were on a leash, and declares that the ?moral law? is so inscrutable a thing as to admit of only a supernatural explanation. According to Collins, the moral law applies exclusively to human beings:

Though other animals may at times appear to show glimmerings of a moral sense, they are certainly not widespread, and in many instances other species? behavior seems to be in dramatic contrast to any sense of universal rightness.

One wonders if the author has ever read a newspaper. The behavior of humans offers no such ?dramatic contrast.? How badly must human beings behave to put this ?sense of universal rightness? in doubt? And just how widespread must ?glimmerings? of morality be among other animals before Collins—who, after all, knows a thing or two about genes—begins to wonder whether our moral sense has evolutionary precursors in the natural world? What if mice showed greater distress at the suffering of familiar mice than unfamiliar ones? (They do.) What if monkeys will starve themselves to prevent their cage-mates from receiving painful shocks? (They will.) What if chimps have a demonstrable sense of fairness when receiving food rewards? (They have.) Wouldn?t these be precisely the sorts of findings one would expect if our morality were the product of evolution?

Collins? case for the supernatural origin of morality rests on the further assertion that there can be no evolutionary explanation for genuine altruism. Because self-sacrifice cannot increase the likelihood that an individual creature will survive and reproduce, truly self-sacrificing behavior stands as a primordial rejoinder to any biological account of morality. In Collins? view, therefore, the mere existence of altruism offers compelling evidence of a personal God. (Here, Collins performs a risible sprint past ideas in biology like ?kin selection? that plausibly explain altruism and self-sacrifice in evolutionary terms.) A moment?s thought reveals, however, that if we were to accept this neutered biology, almost everything about us would be bathed in the warm glow of religious mystery. Forget morality—how did nature select for the ability to write sonnets, solder circuit boards or swing a golf club? Clearly, such abilities could never be the product of evolution. Might they have been placed in us by God? Smoking cigarettes isn?t a healthy habit and is unlikely to offer an adaptive advantage—and there were no cigarettes in the Paleolithic—but this habit is very widespread and compelling. Is God, by any chance, a tobacco farmer? Collins can?t seem to see that human morality and selfless love may be derivative of more basic biological and psychological traits,  which were themselves products of evolution. It is hard to interpret this oversight in light of his scientific training. If one didn?t know better, one might be tempted to conclude that religious dogmatism presents an obstacle to scientific reasoning.

Having established that our moral sensitivities are God-given, Collins finds himself in a position to infer the nature of our Creator:

And if that were so, what kind of God would this be? Would this be a deist God, who invented physics and mathematics and started the universe in motion about 14 billion years ago, then wandered off to deal with other, more important matters, as Einstein thought? No, this God, if I was perceiving him at all, must be a theist God, who desires some kind of relationship with those special creatures called human beings, and has therefore instilled this special glimpse of Himself into each one of us. This might be the God of Abraham, but it was certainly not the God of Einstein?. Judging by the incredibly high standards of the Moral Law ? this was a God who was holy and righteous. He would have to be the embodiment of goodness?. Faith in God now seemed more rational than disbelief.

I hope the reader will share my amazement that passages like this have come from one of the most celebrated scientists in the United States. I find that my own sense of the moral law requires that I provide a few more examples of Collins? skill as a philosopher and theologian…



Next page:  How does Collins settle the problem of theodicy—the mystery of why there is evil and misfortune in a world created by an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly benevolent God? He takes it very much in stride….


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Night-Gaunt's avatar

By Night-Gaunt, July 17, 2011 at 9:45 pm Link to this comment

Then first by using the correct nomenclature-theory is a hypothesis that has been proven to be accurate by the available data an numerous testing by many sources.* A hypothesis is an idea in search of supporting data. Right now science doesn’t accept the the so called ‘supernatual’ or beyond the natural. So that is the first hurdle for the Goddists or Supernatualists. They must cross that rubicon before Science has a need to confront them.

*See the Theories of Gravity, Germ caused disease, and Evolution to start you off on.

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By Udaybhanu Chitrakar, July 17, 2011 at 3:06 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

By proclaiming that there is no God, the no-God theorists have made God imaginary. So their no-God theory must have an answer to the following two questions:
Why should an imaginary God have to be spaceless and timeless? Why should an imaginary God have to be all-pervading, when He could have easily resided in His own heaven?
This is because in almost every religion we find that God has been said to be all-pervading, spaceless and timeless.
These are some of the basic questions that the no-God theory must be able to answer if it is really a sound theory. Otherwise we will have to think of some other theory in its place, as because no-God theory has failed to explain some most well-known facts. If this no-God theory is a correct theory, then it is a fact that there is no God. But it is also true that man believes in God. So we can say: it is a fact that man believes in God in spite of the fact that there is no God. It is also a fact that man believes in a God who is said to be spaceless, timeless and all-pervading. As no-God theorists have made God imaginary, not us, so it has become their responsibility to show that their no-God theory does really have answer to the above two questions. Otherwise how do they expect that we will accept their theory as a valid theory?

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By Czechmate, April 12, 2011 at 5:50 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Fuller Ming,
To have disdain for your thought process and to be insulted by your very existance does not mean I hate or am not in peace with you (or without you).Hate is not on the table.
Yawn
Back to the boogie man concept then folks?
Oh yeah, the creator/creatoress knows our prayers.

I prefer S. Hawkin’s model

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By Night-Gaunt, April 12, 2011 at 4:59 pm Link to this comment

After many times maybe into the millions by now it has shown to be correct. So much so that when such strata series are inverted it shows to be such as an anomaly.

It was guess work the first few times, after so many years (hundreds) it isn’t now. To call it such is to ignore the history of archeology and paleontology.

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By Mathys, April 12, 2011 at 7:40 am Link to this comment
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if A is buried under B, A is the ancestor of B. really? this is scientific? it is an assumption. just like asuming christains cannot make any scientific discoveries. it is not logical to asume this.

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By Night-Gaunt, April 4, 2011 at 5:05 pm Link to this comment

Once you are looking through everything through that theocratic prism it all follows you will interpret everything that way. You reasoning will be skewed to that way. It can’t be helped once the line is crossed and you have applied to it as your own way of doing things. It is only when you return to that threshold of doubt that you may go another way. It rarely happens but it has done so going both ways.

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By Liyhann, April 3, 2011 at 10:01 pm Link to this comment

Collins succumbed to what I believe keeps many of the religious closed to reason: A deep personal un-admitted to belief that he (or she) is really MORE “special” than the average Christian. After resigning from the Human Genome Project, Collins is alleged to have said,

“Gee, what can I conquer now?”
from bloomberg online, May 29 2008
—————————-
(Apparently, it’s “proving god”)
I wonder if he followed with,
“Oh Goody! And I don’t even need real proof for that!”

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By Night-Gaunt, November 24, 2010 at 5:36 pm Link to this comment

It is if the biological imperative imparted to you and most of humanity is to have that turn of mind it is. As to “primitive” maybe but it is essential to most humans. Pan-Atheism, unlike your selective Atheism, is a small wager in another basket by Evolution. In case such ways of looking at the world can be advantageous under altered circumstances. Ironic no?

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By Fuller Ming, Jr., November 24, 2010 at 8:36 am Link to this comment

@Czechmate - from 11/23 at 10:30 pm…
To disdain a theist (like myself) for having what you call “primitive thought” is sad.  What if I am totally wrong for believing that the faith system I accept as true is not only rational but reasonable:  Why hate me?  Why not, instead, build a positive relationships and then persuade or teach me?  Would you not do this for an Aborigine or a native Inuit? Is it because they don’t use cars and electricity that you are patient?  If a man is taught that women should be sexual objects, that man can have a PhD and still believe such a terrible lie.  I implore you, even beg you - please stop your disdain and at lease we can live in peace without hurting and hating each other, even though we fundamentally disagree.

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By Czechmate, November 23, 2010 at 5:30 pm Link to this comment
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Alas, I have no hope.

I only hope that the so called “faithful” are personally insulted by my disdain for their primitive thought process and meaningless thought content, as I am, by their very existance as human beings.

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By StaceyKlouse, November 23, 2010 at 3:06 pm Link to this comment

I hope the Apocalypse comes and wipes out all of the idiots!  Seriously!  I haven’t read The Language of God but after reading this post I doubt I will ... there is one thing that is troubling me,
“Faith in God now seemed more rational than disbelief.”
How can anyone think that faith is rational?  Believing in things you can’t see, touch, taste, hear, and smell goes against logic.  I read about nano silver for some clarity but I’m still on the fence.

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By StaceyKlouse, November 23, 2010 at 3:04 pm Link to this comment

I hope the Apocalypse comes and wipes out all of the idiots!  Seriously!  I haven’t read The Language of God but after reading this post I doubt I will ... there is one thing that is troubling me,
“Faith in God now seemed more rational than disbelief.”
How can anyone think that faith is rational?  Believing in things you can’t see, touch, taste, hear, and smell goes against logic.  I read this article for some insight:
http://www.fathersheartnyc.org/church/archive/senses of faith/nano silver but I’m still on the fence.

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By Night-Gaunt, April 5, 2010 at 12:40 pm Link to this comment

One way to look at it is all that is still unknown is the province of god (fill-in-the-blank) and that which is known goes to science. How does that work for you? I can live with it since it doesn’t contaminate science as it exists now. Essentially occult vs gnosis. The hidden vs knowing.

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By Fuller Ming, Jr., April 4, 2010 at 3:25 am Link to this comment

Bruce from March 27…
1. In your statement, “...you seem to believe…” who is the “you”?
2. [url=“http://www.truthdig.com/report/page2/20060815_sam_harris_language_ignorance/#314039”]
Your Comment[/url] implies that people who believe in a personal God, specifically the one in the Bible, are stuck and you are free from literalists, thus are not stuck. Is this what you are saying?  If so, please consider that one does not have to be stuck or anti science in order to believe in God.  However, naturalist have defined science to mean strictly that supernatural doe not exists.  However this is a recent re-definition of science.  Initially, scientist wanted to simply know God better by knowing how God’s creation functioned. Harris is prejudice - he and many others accept the re-defined science.  We may not know or understand all truth when it comes to God, but it is not unreasonable nor is it stuck to view science as Collins must in order to be consistent - that science helps us know and understand the creation and the wonder and majesty of God.

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By seasnails, April 1, 2010 at 8:42 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m usually not one to judge a book on its cover, but
you just got to love the title of this review.

The Language of Ignorance? BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

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By Bruce, March 27, 2010 at 8:31 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Like many Christians, or so called, you seem to believe that by tearing down those who advance questions that the scriptures don’t address you build up your own slanted interpretation.

I Knight you Sir Stuck in Place. Thank God I am free from literalists.

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By Chat, January 6, 2010 at 2:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

very n?ce

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By Silver Silviu, October 22, 2009 at 3:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sorry, but I think you are missing the point of this conversation (or are you trying to move it to a collateral, more comfortable field?). If you remember, we were talking about the logical sustainability of the arguments presented by Dr. Collins and by Mr. Harris. In my previous reply, I maintained that one personal experience described by Collins in his book (by the way, did you read the book? or are you just relying on Mr. Harris’ interpretation of its content?) , that Mr. Harris was so keen to ridicule, should be just regarded for what it is (i.e. a personal experience), because it plays no role in the strictly logical chain of arguments exposed by Collins throughout the book, concerning the compatibility between science and religious faith. Therefore, although Mr. Harris consumed a lot of ammunition trying to shoot the rainbow, the result was that the respective part of his essay is flawed and irrelevant. This conclusion that I made is based on pure logic and has nothing to do with the (otherwise fascinating) problem of brain functionality (which seems to be your favorite topic).
I also disliked the word “mystical” that you used, because it is not at all the word that I used in my previous message. “Mystical” is not the same as “spiritual”, in fact it is a subclass of it. For instance, listening to the Requiem (preferably not during preparing barbecue) can be a spiritual experience, but not necessarily a mystical one. Please try not to distort what I say, in the future.
About the “gross problems of confabulation the human mind possesses”, or the various syndromes affecting the brain, I admit they can constitute a fascinating topic, though collateral in this context. If you were somehow trying to infer or suggest that the most common explanation of the spiritual experiences can be found in confabulations and syndromes, then I maintain that such an assertion is simply not based on scientific evidence.

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By Night-Gaunt, October 21, 2009 at 1:56 pm Link to this comment

It is in the brain of the beholder so yes something as ephemeral as claiming all of the natural world exhibits your invisible god’s works is specious. Unlike winning the world cup which has some substantiability to it that others can easily correlate. That is it is more easily interpreted as a win as opposed to if a flower is a celestial creation of an invisible something. Can you see the difference?

I subject myself to rigorous skepticism of what I see for I know the gross problems of confabulation the human mind possesses.

You are less careful supporter yourself so be careful with your own sloppy designations to others. Yes there are limitations of language we deal with all the time. That doesn’t make them mystical, just not easily described. However I would recommend you study what has been found about the human brain and where some of those “mystical experiences” could easily come from. A little skepticism is a good thing. I use it all the time on myself. Do you?

Here are two problems of the brain that have been identified manifesting in some humans.

Cotard syndrome where the person believes they are the walking dead and may even be immortal.

Another syndrome, one where the percipient thinks that those around them are being replaced by “others” not human or not their family and friends, they can react violently to them. There are many others.

Just something to think about in your nice neatly ordered view of the reality we can barely see and hear.

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By Silver Silviu, October 21, 2009 at 1:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

How do you know that only I am exposed to that kind of error (of seeing just what I want to see), and you are not? In which situation do you think it is likely that people pay more attention to the arguments they read: when they agree with them, or when they don’t? Well, I don’t agree with Mr. Harris’ arguments, so I had to read them very carefully in order to be able to describe their inconsistencies.
For instance, he says: “If the beauty of nature can mean that Jesus really is the son of God, then anything can mean anything”, and then goes on about Italy winning the World Cup. But in my interpretation, by that passage Collins did not want to “prove that God is all around” (as you say), he merely described one of his own spiritual experiences, which of course does not prove anything to anybody except himself. If you (or Mr. Harris) have the first idea about “value” (and I am talking about things like human capacity of telling right from wrong, of loving goodness and hating evil, of sacrificing for truth, of praising friendship and understanding art, and so on), then you should know that, unlike the facts of science, events of that kind (which I choose to call “spiritual experiences”) are fundamentally non-transmittable by means of logic or verbal description (otherwise, you could just “describe” the Fifth Symphony of Beethoven or Mozart’s Requiem, without having to listen to the music; could you?). Therefore, the “inferences” produced by Mr. Harris in the above example, as humorous as they may be (for a careless supporter), are utterly flawed and meaningless.

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By Night-Gaunt, October 20, 2009 at 10:18 am Link to this comment

Seems to me you see what you want in what he says just as those who see certain things in their holy books and ignore other parts they disagree with. Mr. Harris took an excerpt and showed how easy it is to interpret the same phenomena using the loose way Dr.Francis Collins did to “prove” that God is all around. Didn’t you read that? Maybe you just glossed over it because it would interfere with you statement? Harris was correct and you simply didn’t want to see it. Humans have a tendency to do that if they aren’t careful.

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By Silver Silviu, October 20, 2009 at 7:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I read Mr. Harris’ essay named “The language of ignorance” patiently, hoping to find, at some point, any solid scientific arguments (or any solid arguments, for that matter) that would clearly undermine the line of reasoning used by Mr. Collins in his book “The language of God”. Unfortunately, it seems the only solid matter in Mr. Harris’ essay is the injurious language.
Mr. Harris ends his work with the words: “We should be ashamed that this book was written in our own time”. In a psychological interpretation, I think the real message Mr. Harris’ wanted to convey was: “If you (the reader) ever dared to take Collins’ book seriously, then you should be ashamed of yourself”. However, I would need some more compelling arguments if I ever was to take such a message seriously.
Sorry for my English, I am not a native speaker.

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By Night-Gaunt, September 8, 2009 at 9:24 pm Link to this comment

Both my observation and what science has found is that on a certain level a small amount of emotion can boos intellect but too much can shut parts of it down. Like anger or sexual ecstasy can do it. So we must be careful in how we use it. Hostile emotions are become too common place in our culture which is a danger sign of more escalations in the near future. As the anger grows and remains it allows the lower or earlier parts of the brain to gain dominance and leads to violent action. [I find myself acting as diplomat to try to cool the fires of anger and lashing out.] I don’t mind but I wish it wasn’t there. It is totally illogical and just an example of the R-complex and limbic system getting out and causing mayhem.

We do need to have the patience and cunning of a snake, or tiger but the heart of a dove. Like a warrior monk of the Shao Lin. Schooled in the martial arts but resorts to it only as a last resort and never to attack. Not something taught in our culture.

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By Bill Rohan Sr, September 8, 2009 at 1:33 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We humans seem to have a genetic program for finding certain persons, past or present, to be magical and deserving of special adulation, from Jesus to John Lennon! It’s about emotion not mind, I believe!

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By Night-Gaunt, September 8, 2009 at 12:04 pm Link to this comment

This is a busy year and it is easy to be knocked off the usual news wheel. Using a search engine on the internet could yield many results. Try it.

I am an Atheist, to me the idea of a god(s) or heroes or worshiping anything or anyone. That includes rock stars, TV stars are in that same kind of mind. they are related.* Mine is personal speculation but it seems to hold. I was never a believer from the beginning. I just don’t find being contemptuous of others to be fruitful in any way. Ridicule can be directed back and in far greater numbers. It is the way of the world and until there is a place for Atheism to flourish naturally it won’t be anything more than a minority of the world’s billions.

Building bridges is much better than burning down houses of worship and their Holy Books which do no good. Stalin and company simply forced that religious worship impulse to substitute the state and party for the church and creed. Like methadone for heroine. It had its own problems and leathalities.

*Chesterton‘s maxim about if you believe in nothing you will believe in anything does not fit me and those like me. I don’t have that impulse to believe in that way. No need to worship anything or anyone. It just isn’t there.

No gods, no masters, no force.

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By Bill Rohan Sr, September 8, 2009 at 10:26 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Night-Gaunt, thanks. I’m glad comments are back. Harris hasn’t been in (my) public eye recently. Has he even been on the main faux news channels? I imagined the media propaganda machine will try to ignore his issues and the discourse his ideas generate as long as possible. He was visible for a while and then disappeared. Hitchens isn’t as visible lately either. Or is it just me?

The mind set of Collins is remarkable. Compartmentalization is a very useful human talent!

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By Night-Gaunt, September 8, 2009 at 9:20 am Link to this comment

It was restarted and then went fallow again until someone thought they could advertise their stuff for free.

Mine are recent. It is still relevant. Just look at Texas at it again to bring religion into science classes and make the curricula Christian.

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By Bill Rohan Sr, September 8, 2009 at 9:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Is this site up to date or not? I can’t tell whether these are old messages to an old topic that goes back to 2006 or what!

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By Night-Gaunt, September 8, 2009 at 7:54 am Link to this comment

When you see it, click “report this” so they they are alerted and remove this advertisement. They are stealing because they are getting it for free.

By czechmate, July 12 at 6:09 pm #

Revelation I

Belief/Faith is necessary for that branch of the tree of humanity which is incapable of self reliance, self responsibility and self discipline while maintaining high regard for the universe and others who dwell in it.

The fallacy of “self reliance” we all need others to survive. We are a gregarious species. It is biological, evolutionary (irony) in its makeup to keep us alive since we know about death and our mortality. It doesn’t bother me enough to not live, I want to live as long and well as possible. Study evolution and it will make sense to you. We have followers, leaders and those who can do both at different times. It is easier to have a central leader dictating the serious and difficult aspects of free choice. It is tough.

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By Fuller Ming, Jr., September 3, 2009 at 2:35 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sam, your artical was intriguing and I appreciate it - I must read it again to fully get your point but I also must read Collins book before I can agree or disagree.

I do think Collins has not committed intellectual suicide. I also believe in God - maybe from your eyes, I too am simply superstitious and I need to wake up to reality.

I don’t know.  In fact, I am convinced that the complexity of life and death as we go about living our daily lives, making and having babies, working for 40, 50 or 60 years to make a living, reading and writing, fighting our wars, creating and using our weapon, building large empires of wealth controlled by the few, creating our toys and tools that we enjoy, etc… I am convinced that none of us really have a clue.

A good example of our complexity is the LA Riots in 1992.  Our existence as a species is really summed up in those now famous words that came out of that Riot by Rodney King, the man beat by police. 37 dead, thousands injured. He simply said, “I just want to say, you know, can we all get along, can we get along. Can we stop making it horrible for the older people and the kids”.

Yet, we attack with words and condemn ideas and people who have them - ideas that cannot really be proven or disproved. Or, if an idea can be proven, it requires a great deal of rigor and we all are too busy buying and selling, living and working - from the trash collector to the mayor, from the administrative assistance to the stay at home mom.

Both of you - Collins and Harris - cannot be right. But ultimately, what does it matter?  You both want to help humanity.  Neither of you want to kill the innocent or promote and encourage rape, robbery or child molestation.  So, write your ideas, your arguments, and prove or disprove each other - but keep it civil - stop the personal attacks, and accept that these issues are lost on most people anyway - they just want to live their lives in peace and half the world would simply like to eat a good meal and drink safe water.

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By czechmate, July 12, 2009 at 3:09 pm Link to this comment

Revelation I

Belief/Faith is necessary for that branch of the tree of humanity which is incapeable of self reliance, self responibility and self discipline while maintaining high regard for the universe and others who dwell in it.

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By Night-Gaunt, July 12, 2009 at 2:03 pm Link to this comment

“Lastly, Hitler was no Christian. He was demonic, if anything. His admiration of Nietzsche, who announced the death of God, is well known. He also admired Marx and Darwin. To suggest he held moderate Christian views is simply false, not to mention outrageous.”Amos_Hart

Hitler had far more in common with Calvin than Marx, Darwin or Nietzsche. They hated the idea of evolution, or the rights of the people or the slave mentality Nietzsche spoke of. So you managed to be wrong on four counts which shows me you are unaware of what any of these 4 men represented.

“Some atheists on this thread have attacked God by asking the rhetorical question, “If He is the creator, then who created Him?”  The implication, of course, is that there would have to be an endless string of gods that has no beginning, which is stupid, because there *has* to be the very first one—El Numero Uno.  And if there is, then the obvious question is, “Who created him?”  Thus the existence of God has been proven to defy logic, and the atheist asking the question smugly grins and nearly breaks his arm patting himself on the back for being so clever.”B.Hill

It is a problem of recursion coupled with <Occam‘s Razor you get this. It isn’t necessary to have an intelligence to create something in the Natural world. Adding intelligence to it makes it that more unlikely to happen. And you still have the problem of who created the Creator? Unless, using Occam‘s Razor you remove it to get the simplest answer. But much is still occluded or hidden from us but we can still learn. To render it illuminated by the light of inquiry. Hows that arm you broke after that back patting?

“The God of Abraham does not beleave in atheists, therefor they do not exist!”Lewis

Atheists you can find but God? Not so easily. Like trying to find the Grail or Xanadu.

DNA is made up of four amino acids that combine into 46 codons to make the language that is all of us on this biosphere. We don’t even use all of the amino acids out there! You can see that it was a build up over millions of years trying, using and extinction to get to where we are today. It is the environment that shapes us. It isn’t ‘random’ at all. Science is about approximates and what fits the available data. It changes as the information is up dated. That is a theory, a hypothesis is an idea without data to support it.

I will read it someday, get it from a $1 book bin, and see what he has to say.

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By Thomas, June 22, 2009 at 5:15 pm Link to this comment
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“You can if you wish seek to have the same ‘rights’ as those gained by conventional marriage. What you are trying to do is change the meaning of the millenuims old word MARRIAGE. “

I don’t think anyone is too worried about what the dictionary has to say about the word marriage. Any rational being would understand that it is a word—and nothing more. Your argument is that since it is old—it should be accepted? Sounds familiar.

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By Marlboro, February 19, 2009 at 8:15 am Link to this comment
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I don’t think people who assert religious claims know what evidence means or what logic impels. Take the word “god”. It is logically impossible for it to have a coherent meaning. Long term and deep conditioning in childhood by parents and educators, before the brain is developed enough to separate fantasy from reality, forces acceptance of the impossible variety of contradictions and incoherent meanings about an invisible god world beyond the real world. It makes it possible for adults in late life, for example, to accept the words “Eternal, All-loving

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By czechmate, February 10, 2009 at 11:20 am Link to this comment

typo sorry

...no, knowledge of Valentine’s Day….

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By czechmate, February 10, 2009 at 11:16 am Link to this comment

What fun to read all of this banter. I believe in Dog, because I know and see Dog

Consider this.
My dog does not know that it was Gound Hog Day February 2, and has know knowledge of Valentine’s Day.
His capacity to comprehend totality is limited.
So is that of man. Period.
Speculation and “knowing for sure” are two different parts of thought. Is there a boogie man? Apollo? Appalling thought. That is all pure speculation. Speculation is often faulty!
Is there a dog?
Yes. Period.
Simple Dogology.

Oh by the way I have reverence for the universe and I am thankful. Period.

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By Aaron, February 10, 2009 at 12:20 am Link to this comment
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Predictably, Sam Harris is showing little integrity in this review, both in the moral and intellectual sense of the term.

When Collins tells evangelical Christians that they “are right” to hold onto their faith in God and reject atheism, he goes on to write “But those battles cannot be won by attaching your position to a flawed foundation.” The flawed foundation is the literal, anti-science theology that Harris speaks of immediately before quoting him out of context.

I don’t understand Harris’ foaming at the mouth over Collins position that faith and science need not be mutually exclusive. Perhaps he felt slighted by the fact that he wasn’t mentioned next to Dawkins and Dennet when Collins described the two as “articulate academics… proclaiming that an acceptance of evolution in biology requires an acceptance of atheism in theology.”

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By Jon, November 8, 2008 at 10:27 am Link to this comment
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While I can appreciate Mr. Collins attempt to find common ground with faith and science, his arguments and conclusions ring hypocritical. He criticizes people of faith for believing in a “God of the Gaps” while at the same time rationalizing his own faith by the gaps of the unexplained “existence of the Moral Law” and the need we all apparently have to believe in God. A simple investigation into the documented observations of the behavior of feral children, who rarely demonstrate a knowledge of right and wrong, one can scientifically conclude that the “Moral Law” he describes is a product of nurture, rather than of nature or from an unseen spiritual source. If he would simply admit that he has chosen to believe in God because it makes him happy, I could respect that.

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By zacherystaylor, July 25, 2008 at 7:13 am Link to this comment

In order to understand why so many people believe in religion it is important to understand how they figure out the “truth”. Religious people don’t figure out the truth at all they just believe what they are told. Religious people are indoctrinated instead of tought how to think for themselves.
I made a list of some of the indoctrination tactics that they pass for education if anyone is interested
http://www.geocities.com/zacherystaylor/culttactics.htm
Also if there is really an advanced intelligence called God and he is a rational God if you want to understand him you have to be rational. I made an attempt to figure out what he could really be like assuming God exists and that he is intelligent and rational. This is not what religious people want to believe though since the Good God they choose to believe would never neglect the human race while they fought hundreds of wars in his name
http://www.geocities.com/zacherystaylor/therealgodmaybe.htm

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By Golding Kidd, July 21, 2008 at 6:37 pm Link to this comment
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Julian
Your message July 10.
I would hope I can credit you with a little more rational thought than to take that interpretation. By merely illustrating something surely cannot be construed as wishing you blindness. If I suggest you apply your brakes it does’nt mean I would hope you would crash ! Come on Julian ....please…......
Back to the issue of the merits of the tirade of Sam Harris on the excellent book by Francis Collins.

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By Tired, July 21, 2008 at 12:56 pm Link to this comment
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(1)  Reading Harris’ review of Collins’ book, I was struck by its angry tone.  I don’t get it.  Does Harris think he’ll coerce people into siding with him - is he afraid his points won’t be enough?  (2)  As someone who wishes for God to exist, and as a scientist, I was rather underwhelmed by Collins’ book.  However, I don’t understand why others feel threatened by it as Harris and various posters seems to be - I appreciate the man’s ideas and attempt to moderate two extremes.  (3)  Why do anti-religionists feel the need to list everything negative that has ever been done in the name of religion?  Understand that religion is only an excuse - look deeper and these wars and atrocities were committed for less lofty reasons: quest for land and material goods a.k.a. greed, jealousy, psychological problems, fears & insecurities, whatever.  If you think that all these problems will go away if we remove religion from society, you’re dreaming.

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By julian, July 10, 2008 at 10:41 pm Link to this comment

Golding please clarify.
Do you live in hope that I will be blinded?
Do you think I deserve physical injury?
Do you believe that if I was blinded I would start believing in god?

Thanks for your kind words. Very Christian of you.

PS - I withheld my full name because I need my eyesight for work.

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By Golding Kidd, July 10, 2008 at 3:59 pm Link to this comment
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In response to the phanthom ‘Julian’ July 10 2007
I see he is at it again on his hobby horse - the persecution of those who believe in God , The Great Architect, The Great Geometrician The Great God of the Universe. Could he come out into the light from under the cloak of ‘Julian’.
I recollect reading in the greatest book, with the largest circulation in the world,  of a Saul of Tarsus who caused great suffering to the followers of Jesus Christ - The Son of God. Whilst on the road to Damascus he was stricken and lost his sight. That story will be a witness for long after we ( me and Julian) leave this eathly body when the preacher says “earth to earth and dust to dust in the sure and certain hope of a resurrection in the last days” .  Could it be possible that ‘Julian’  would have to experience a similar type of incident to see the light ? ? ?  Stranger things have happened—- Sooooo do’nt tempt providence ! Saul changed name to Paul and became one of the great disciples - When can welcome Saint “Julian”..............!!
Golding Kidd, Dublin, Ireland

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By julian, July 10, 2008 at 2:40 pm Link to this comment

For a while when I was growing up I was confused and I believed there was a god because how else could <fill in the blank> happen / exist. I remember running across the road and narrowly escaping death by speeding car so I figured there must be someone looking out for me.

As I got into my teens I toyed with the idea that I was god or that god was an energy force in the air etc. I really wanted to know for sure, but I figured no one knew and that there was no explanation so no one could ever know. I always knew the bible was just a story written by primitive humans, so I figured I’ll settle for my own personal pretentious wishy washy new age construction.

Then I read “The Selfish Gene” and it all became clear. Instantly and devastatingly clear. That book absolutely demolished any doubt, by articulating the most beautiful and obviously right theory there ever was. The mechanism of natural selection explains all those “how could such and such exist?” questions.

So I can forgive anyone who has not had natural selection explained to them for still believing in religious clap trap, as I once did. But I can’t understand Francis Collins, the head of the HGP believing it. It is absolutely beyond belief.

j

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By Bill Rohan, July 10, 2008 at 9:42 am Link to this comment
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I experience the responses of those who profess a belief in a god as the protestations of someone who does not want to let go of childhood. It’s as if the person’s identity as a naive innocent dependent, comforted by a faith that the good loving parent will succor and protect hi/r, is too precious to abandon. Letting go of such an identity is not the task of logic and evidence, which the child cannot really understand. Reason and reality will have no effect because religion is lived as if it actual experience instead of wishful imaginings. (The ghost outside the window at night is real to the frightened person) Not being able to separate fantasy from reality is fundamental flaw of religious experience. It is more likely that such a personal identity would be outgrown by a therapeutic process of examining life experiences and seeing if there is a more honest and realistic way of living, or being in the world. To be able to see and feel the power of ones own existence separate from a parent, without clinging to the memories and world of the past child is ultimately exhilarating, more fulfilling, and a much more truthful mature self.

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By Anon, July 9, 2008 at 9:03 pm Link to this comment
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“What you are trying to do is change the meaning of the millenuims old word MARRIAGE.”

Assuming your minuscule brain can do it, go learn history - look at the ancient civilizations and you’ll find plenty of examples of same-sex marriage. The only reason not to support same-sex marriage is the bible, and the bible has as much value as Alice in Wonderland - no, even less.

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By Tola, July 9, 2008 at 8:17 pm Link to this comment
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Can any of you tell me how scientific method comes into play when someone imagines what happened “millions of years ago”?
Thank You

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By Bill Rohan, July 9, 2008 at 7:42 pm Link to this comment
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Statements of religious truths are mere declarations. Anything can be said without limits, and as long as it is believed by the faithful it is true. Such declarations have no substance because substance must pass the testing by logic and the support of evidence. I don’t think people who assert religious claims know what evidence means or what logic impels. Take the word “god”. It is logically impossible for it to have a coherent meaning. Long term and deep conditioning in childhood by parents and educators, before the brain is developed enough to separate fantasy from reality, forces acceptance of the impossible variety of contradictions and incoherent meanings about an invisible god world beyond the real world. It makes it possible for adults in late life, for example, to accept the words “Eternal, All-loving, All-knowing, All-powerful Participant in every detail of every instant of every human and natural event” as an aspect of reality, there to be talked to and asked for things, but of course, beyond the senses!!

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By gene@ixiacom.com, July 9, 2008 at 5:57 pm Link to this comment
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Hi Golding,

My apologies if I came off as confrontational – that is the least of my intentions. I just wanted to reflect on what I perceive to be why non-religious people are worried about the current state of affairs. And you’re right, in the comments section of a book review, we should probably talk about the book, and the review!

On the topic of suffering, it can be suggested that all suffering is not caused by religion, but religion can cause needless suffering. In the case of marriage, in these parts if you are not married to your partner you can be denied certain benefits regarding the affairs of your partner, such as medical decisions and property inheritance. That’s where the suffering and injustice comes in. The label *does* make a difference.

On the topic of nom de plume, it has nothing to do with sincerity or conviction. It’s kind of a whimsical choice – since it doesn’t really matter, what the heck. Besides, I have a loving spouse and beautiful children and I don’t want some internet whacko to open a jihad against me or something like that smile

On the topic of the book and its review, I have not read the book and I have read the review. In the review there are excerpts from the book, which are enough to tell me that I don’t really need to read it. I realize that sounds like exactly the kind of close-mindedness that non-religious people are opposed to, but tell me this: is the rest of the book pretty much along the same lines as the quotes provided in the review? I feel confident that it is.

I realize that trying to convince a religious person that they’re wrong can be viewed as somewhat impolite. Some of the other members of my family are deeply religious, even young-earth creationists, and at family gatherings I tend to refrain from discussions about religion because I love my family so much. Trying to undermine the foundation of someone else’s belief system is a difficult proposition. And the views I’ve expressed – do I actually believe them? Or am I just playing the devil’s advocate?

My intention is not to “convert” anybody. I just want to get people who are on the fence to think a little harder.

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By Golding Kidd, July 9, 2008 at 4:15 pm Link to this comment
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Firstly I do not deny you the right to express your views but to distort the facts and attribute all the “SUFFERING” to people who have a faith & belief the “religious” is something that will not go unchallenged. Same-sex marriage for instance is an attempt at usurption of the marriage of man & woman. You can have a ‘civil-union’ of same sexes. You can if you wish seek to have the same ‘rights’ as those gained by conventional marriage. What you are trying to do is change the meaning of the millenuims old word MARRIAGE.
Secondly I always suspect the sincerity of those who choose a nom de plume as I consider they are ashamed to disclose their name or do not have the courage of their convictions and be up front .
Thirdly The Question is WHAT DO YOU THINK OF Collins’  ‘THE LANGUAGE OF GOD’ and Harris ‘The Language of Ignorance’ . I have specifically given Collins the large print and Harris the small print ! As I have said in a previous post the ‘religious’ or Christian do not claim to have ALL the answers and like all humans have fallen short. BUT have the humility to confess their sin and seek forgiveness . Likewise the Scientist (whether Christian atheist)/agnostic or other) do not have all the answers and are still searching .  It would be rewarding if we could all re-read Helen Helgesen posts..December 30 2006, December 31 2006 & June 2 2007 in order to have an informed understanding .....I have not seen any better on there posts !
Golding, Dublin, Ireland 9/7/2008

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By justanothermeme, July 9, 2008 at 11:52 am Link to this comment
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One may ask the question - “why does it matter what people believe?”

I think many non-religious people can answer that question with some or all of the following:

There are religious people that vote for legislation that bans same-sex marriage. Since homosexuality is part of nature and the mandate against it from religion is false, such laws and discrimination cause unneeded suffering.

There are religious people that vote for legislation that bans stem cell research. Since fertilized embryos are just clumps of cells with no consciousness, and the “soul” doesn’t really exist, banning or restricting this research impedes medical progress that can be extremely helpful to many, and this causes unneeded suffering.

There are religious people that vote for legislation that bans abortion. Since fertilized embryos are just clumps of cells with no consciousness, and the “soul” doesn’t really exist, banning or restricting abortion causes unneeded suffering.

There are religious people that vote for legislation that bans the teaching of evolution in public schools. Since evolution is the fundamental driving force of all of nature, it should be taught in public schools.

There are religious people that don’t think that global warming is a real problem. Since there is evidence that it could be a real problem, we should take steps to reduce the contributing factors. Even if our understanding is insufficient and it turns out not to be a real problem, the risk is too great not to take action.

There are religious people that think that we don’t really need to be concerned with the environment or with the wars in the Middle East, since Christ is returning any time now and the Rapture is going to save them.

There are religious people that think that non-believers are infidels, and crash airliners filled with innocent people into skyscrapers. This causes a whole lot of unneeded suffering.

There are religious people that generally don’t use the scientific method or take things to their logical conclusion, which are much-needed traits in this complex world.

There are religious people that are prone to making strange decisions based on their faith, such as denying medical attention to their sick children, causing unneeded suffering.

And so on.

It has been said that atheism and agnosticism are religions themselves. I don’t get this. This is like saying that a completely disease-free person has a disease. It’s like saying that somebody who doesn’t follow any sports at all has a favorite team.

Religious people believe that our souls outlast our physical body and live on into eternity. What does it really mean to “live forever”? Doesn’t that mean “think forever”? Can you be “alive” in the human sense without thinking? Thinking is what brains do. If your brain stops thinking (which is medically demonstrable in dead people), how can you still be “alive”?

What about people with severe mental disabilities (read medical brain dysfunction)? Do they live forever as “normal” spirits? Would that not then be a different “soul”?

What about people that are born with normal brain functionality and get brain damage from an accident later in life, and then live the rest of their lives with that disability, gathering years of further experience and memories? Is their eternal soul the pre-accident one, or the post-accident one?

What about people who are blind or deaf from birth? Can their eternal souls see or hear?

It would be interesting to hear people’s points of view on these questions.

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By Scott, June 30, 2008 at 10:02 am Link to this comment
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Jesus said “Love”.

It breaks my heart to think how badly Christians have f*#ked that up…I have too.  I deserve that love less than most and yet it is still there if I want it.

I am sorry…often I have judged instead of loved.

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By The Pink Unicorn, June 30, 2008 at 1:32 am Link to this comment
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Excellent review.

Quoting from Steve:
“Yet, with a venomous-like attack, these men seem obsessed with their points-of-view.

Like the man who ruthlessly proclaims the evils of homosexuality, only to hide is own homosexual tendencies…”

And why is it that they want hide their own sexuality? It is because for millenia deranged and wicked prophets and preachers have taught people to fear and hate their own sexuality. It is amusing how some believers show crocodile-tears at the misery religion has instilled upon the LGBT community. How many men and women must commit suicide, due to the loathing of their own sexuality, before Jesus’ bloodthirst is satisfied? May be people like Harris and Prof. Dawkins want to attack because they want to end this sort of poison that is spread by religion.

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By James Moyer, June 15, 2008 at 1:17 pm Link to this comment
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I read Francis Collins’ book and while I was excited about the facts, I was not at all impressed with his conclusions. I am a Christian because no other system makes as much sense of the evidence. The evidence is available to us all. To pretend to have handled ALL the evidence would be silly. To claim to have handled enough evidence to make a rational decission about God should be easy. I can understand how impossible it might be to conclude that there is a God based on the actions of His followers. It doesn’t matter what title you put on us. We have acted and continue to act like idiots. That doesn’t void the reality of God. I have found truth many places that most Christians wouldn’t bother to look, but I want to understand people who don’t yet believe that Jesus is Israel’s Messiah. I understand why many Jews don’t believe it. But it is irrational and ignores the evidence. To the atheist I would like to say how sorry I am that you weren’t there when I met Jesus. He was at a McDonalds in southeastern Pennsylvania. He probably isn’t there anymore. He seems busy. We had a good talk. I talked to God and continue to talk to God. I would ask him to answer your questions, but I have many of my own. Why don’t you just ask him yourself. How crazy is that. You talking to someone who isn’t there. But what he is there. I get answers from who you say doesn’t exist. Who is the loser? Even if I’m a nut, then we’re both losers because you have no rational explanation for life or death or what happens after.

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By Danny, June 9, 2008 at 4:36 pm Link to this comment
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Clearly this stimulating debate has solved a lot of problems. 

While, at least that’s how it is with me.  Most of the stuff Harris, Dawkins, and the rest have problems with seem to me kinda lame and unimportant compared with my own difficulties with regard to the Bible, but that may just be my personal prejudice coming into play.  Two of my ish:  Believing in evolution, I have to believe that death occurred before any fall came.  And I have trouble imagining how an anencephalic fetus could have a soul, or if not why God would cause one to be born in the first place.  And on, and on.

On the other hand, I don’t really feel I have any moral grounding to stand on if there isn’t a higher moral law.  No, I don’t think that humans have no sense of right or wrong without the Bible, or that they really need to rely on it or any other book at all for that sense, but right and wrong is meaningless if it doesn’t stem from something deeper.  Humanism is a total cop-out.  Harris is right, in my opinion, to be drawn to Buddhism (much as I have to admit that non-Asians adapting Buddhism has always seemed kinda faddish to me—- kinda racist, I know).  He is right because without God, I can only see three ways to stay sane.  One is to never think about the “deep mysteries of life”.  The other is to recognize that you are just part of the universe, that your morality, your loves, your hates, even your intellect (the hardest for most atheists) are only yours in the sense that events beyond your control have given them to you.  And just kinda join in the flow.  The last one is to just kinda do as you feel, be a renegade, dare God or the Universe or whatever to stop you, ala Genghis Khan, the Biblical Nebuchadnezzar, Cortez, whomever.  People who embrace the humanist philosophy, and claim to be satisfied with it, seem to me to be doth protestesting too mucheth, or however it goes. That’s why we find so many of them on the internet, and they always come off as insecure.  That’s just me, though, maybe they are genuinely a happy bunch who have truly managed to find happiness and brotherhood watching skeptical magicians debunk crap and call Christians “xtians” cause that’s somehow a major burn.

Ultimately, when it comes down to it, for me; I think it worthwhile to try to ask God, in a sincere manner to reveal himself to you, beyond the point of personal doubt.  If he does, there you go, if he doesn’t, while, there you go.  I’ve never believed in interventionist miracles, after all, if there is a God He designed the universe, so if He wanted some kinda virgin birth or whatever to happen, all He had to do is work it in to the grand scheme.  But if He has any personal relationship with us at all, all we gotta do is really want to know, right?  To me, God is something, that, if he/she/it exists, can only be proved/disproved on the personal level, because it isn’t happening on a greater level then that to my satisfaction.  Maybe that sounds lame to all the atheists out there who have better things to do, but for fools like me who waste a lot of time on facebook and youtube (I just keep getting older, damnit!), might as well give it a go.

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By Golding, May 29, 2008 at 8:30 am Link to this comment
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I have been trying to analyse the comments on the two
books , ‘The Language of God’ so well crafted by Francis Collins and “The Language of Ignorance” which could not be considered a fair commentry on what the scientist & christian has to say. Some of the contributions from those who posted comments are not inspiring - suppose one could expect some frivoulous comments. So it would appear that there is nothing to be gained in suscribing to the conversation.

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By julian, April 14, 2008 at 7:37 pm Link to this comment

I agree, evolution has favoured in humans the thinking organ above fighting or fleeing organs. We have developed, through natural selection, a powerful mind with the capacity to think from another person’s (or animal’s) point of view, to imagine outcomes, to negotiate our way out of trouble, and to construct castles, airplanes and guns instead of growing shells, wings or fangs. Being smart seems to be a successful strategy. The number of humans born in a single day is equal to the total global population of great apes.

So, with this highly developed mind we have developed, as you say, the “capacity to believe in Christ”. Lets be clear, I’ll assume you believe in the supernatural, resurrected, water-walking, miracle-making Christ who still has some awareness of us, and not just the belief that a man named Jesus Christ once existed.

Now, here’s where we will differ. Believing in Christ is not an indication that we are getting smarter, or evolving to be more aware of the truth. Our highly successful human mind is successful because it has a powerful imagination. It makes up stories for itself to explore possible future events. It allows itself to go off on tangents. It builds simplified models to represent complex realities. It makes room for abstract ideas, and even false premises, just to see where they will lead. The mind is very creative, it’s good at making something from nothing. It imagines causes for phenomena that it can’t readily explain. At a later date, these placeholder causes can, in theory, be replaced by the real thing. For example, Thor was replaced by Precipitation as the cause for rain.

Now, many people still believe in the three monotheistic gods, but it does not follow that these beliefs represent fact, or are evolving to become more true. It is not even clear that these beliefs are useful to us as any more as explanations for unknown phenomena, or moral guidance even. As our minds get smarter, and science explains more of the world to us, religions mutate and evolve for their own benefit. They have become parasites in our heads, three strains thriving off our “highly evolved” brains.

Every adaptation has an associated cost. For example, we have evolved language, a very useful tool, but we pay the price by having our breathing and eating tubes shared so as to accommodate a larynx, thus increasing the risk of choking. As it turns out, its worth the risk. People still choke, but those deaths are outweighed by the benefits of speech. Similarly, I believe that the price we pay for having a fertile and otherwise useful imagination, is the capacity for belief in gods which are no longer helpful, and for whose existence there is no evidence. Religion is a side effect. So while there is room for Christ or Allah in our minds, there’s also room for Alzheimer’s. It doesn’t mean we want them. 

To an atheist, the only justification for believing in something, is to see evidence for it. An atheist can have a wild imagination and dream about things he can’t ever have, but he acknowledges that they are not real, just fantasies. There’s no confusion. I think this is where I have the biggest difficulty seeing things from a theists point of view. I am compelled to categorize something for which there is no evidence as “not true”. How else can I stay sane? The theist, by turning a blind eye to the relationship between evidence and reality, is ripping himself off.

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By Golding, April 14, 2008 at 2:45 pm Link to this comment
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Thank you Scott for your post. It has been good in a way that SAM HARRIS sounded off with his critical review on ‘The Language of Ignorance’ . You see it gives the ‘non believer’ some solace when the ‘believer’ is attacked . Anyway what does it matter ?  Sam Harris, Dawkins etc etc are transient creatures - here today & gone tomorrow. BUT the Word of God endureth from generation to generation - forever, for eternity ! .......“What is man that I should be mindful of him ? “.  God just laughs !

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By Scott, April 14, 2008 at 8:59 am Link to this comment
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Preface: I believe in evolution, the big bang, and Jesus Christ.

Here is an interesting thought for the Believers out there:  C.S. Lewis not only considered evolution, but considered the belief in Christ as the next step in evolution.  As the accelleration of the advances in evolution are due to enlarged capacity for reasoning and not so much physical advantages - you could deduce (by a large logical leap I admit) that the capacity to believe in Christ and have it change your life is evolutionary.  Belief systems as well as civilizations have become refined and advanced.  The basics of Christianity could be the next stage.

The problem with my reasoning is of course that Atheists and others could easily use that same argument against my thoughts.  It’s fun to throw it out there though.  Leaving room for Christ is more reasonable than to make every attempt to leave him out of the logic and arguments.  Like the gentleman below mentioned about the car engine: at some point everything becomes unexplained…

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By Sane1, April 13, 2008 at 6:15 am Link to this comment
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lymietony1:  Since you are so easily swayed by an idiotic book, I suggest you now try an intelligent one.  read anything by Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins and see if your imaginary friend really exists.  The arguments for him are vapid, and the arguments against areoverwhelming.

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By lymietony1, April 9, 2008 at 2:33 pm Link to this comment
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I just finished reading Dr.,Prof. Francis S. Collins book “The Language of God”. I came here to try to find a way of writting to him and saying this…

Thank God for you sir….and

thank you for God.

I am not as learned as some of you who have posted. I only know that for some time I have been pondering a way of telling my wife what was in my heart and mind. I was trying to give her an example of how God has created the universe and more importantly us. I was somewhere stuck on “stardust” as being the “clay” that He picked up to form us but just could’nt put what was in my mind and heart into words. I did’nt have the “key” or education to explain how the task of creation could have occurred.

See, I was told in 1980 that Darwin was no longer just a theory…in that there are scientific proofs of the existence of our world and how we all came about. Having been a catholic growing up, then becoming an agnostic perhaps because of the fact that the world seemed to me to be too messed up to have someone in charge. Mostly because He did’nt seem to be listening to me when I asked him to bring back to life a friend of mine when I was sixteen.

Then there was good ole Viet Nam and the absurdity of a country that tells lies, a couple of wives that did’nt work out and even Presidents that tell lies. Now we have actual people blowing themselves up because of what the people they respect have told them. NOT, necessarily because of religion or God but because there is something to be gained materialistically.

I was searching for WHY? HOW?

I believe I have now gotten my answers and I want to thank the author.

I read the book…and I understand it because I read the book. Some of you who comment on it especially Mr Harris, apparently have not read the book as it was intended to be read and have drawn false conclusions and find it necessary to jeer and poke that which you have not evolved sufficiently to understand.

Another few generations in your lines of evolution may render you a little more intelligent, careing and insightful…yea…perhaps worthy of the knowledge of God and his handiwork.

Just a little while ago I would not have had the where with all to read and comprehend this book or any book for I was somewhat ill with lyme disease and neuroborreliosis.

HE found out what I had and conveyed it to me.
HE then made it show up in my blood and be diagnosed.
HE humbled me because I needed humbleing and now he has lifted that illness perhaps for just a window of time for me to read and comprehend HIS LANGUAGE and the answer I asked for just a few days ago.

Co-incidence….“Things just happening that way” ?

I think not!

Perhaps someday, sometime we will all know the truth.

For me I believe I have found the truth…and the way.

tony

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By Golding, April 8, 2008 at 5:26 pm Link to this comment
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Hi Julian
You say you ‘have an open mind’ ...very generous of you ! To think that you might consider other views of a different hue that might convey a TRUTH. The God worshiped by Christians and others is the same God revered by many other faiths. The Bible teaches that ‘God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit & Truth”.  So each human soul has a choice to seek the Wisdom of the Creator & Sustainer of each one of us. It is NOT God who ‘causes unnecessary pain & suffering’ but He will guide and direct humanity to grow in wisdom and learn to cope with all that life may throw at them if they will have FAITH in His ways. .  Why are you trying to attribute blame to ?  Is’nt it one of humanity’s failings .......not to accept responsibility for their waywardness ?  Simple , when you think of it !

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By justanothermeme, April 8, 2008 at 12:15 pm Link to this comment
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Why is Atheism such a bad word? It’s just A- (as in not) -Theism (as in convinced there is a God). As in “not associating with any mystic belief system”. The word “mystic” here is not intended as an insult, but merely indicating reliance on an invisible conscious force.

What is wrong with asking for the evidence of somthing? In our court system, we use evidence. There’s testimony as well, but in the situation where tesimony contradicts evidence, evidence wins. Jurors trust evidence. It’s the central mechanism of our justice system. When we leave the courtroom, why does evidence go out the window?

A biologist or genetecist who doesn’t believe in evolution is like a car mechanic that believes that cars run by magic. We all know (don’t we?) that car engines really work by the force of expanding gas, from the release of pent-up molecular bond energy in a cloud of bond-breaking plasma we call flame. The expansion pushes a wall in a chamber and that wall is linked to a rotating shaft. Synchronized hatchways inject and remove the materials before and after the gas expansion. Many people don’t understand this, but it’s the way it is. Nobody seems to contest this. There’s plenty of evidence.

Similarly, many people don’t understand evolution because they don’t bother to read up on what evidence has been discoved, and what mechanism (DNA-based genetics) is behind it. It’s all out there. So now why do so many people contest it? If you get your head around the mechanisms involved, you can see how it can be the way things are. It’s not even a matter of belief - that would be like “believing” in nitrogen, the number 10, or Zebras.

Back to the car engine analogy: as with any understanding, as you dig deeper and deeper, there will eventually come a point where you can’t go any further. Car engine, yah, pistons, yah, crankshaft, yah, valves, yah, gasoline exploding, yah, molecular bond energy, yah, - wait! What is this energy thing? Is it not invisible, but real? Maybe there is something to this “cars work by magic” idea…

So could there be something mystical going on after all, behind the energy that drives all of existence? We just don’t know. We can have a gut feel that something is there, but we don’t have the right to push it on others. And, it doesn’t change the fact that car engines work. And it doesn’t change the fact that DNA-based genetics drives the adaptation and mutation of organisms that evolve over vast periods of time.

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By julian, March 28, 2008 at 11:26 am Link to this comment

Golding, I find great difficulty seeing or experiencing any God in the wonders of the world, or the horrors of the world. Do you see God daily in the horrors of the world? People are tortured in his name. They kneel and plead for forgiveness, like you expect me to. He doesn’t even grant a quick death. Why doesn’t he put a stop to it? Maybe he’s not powerful enough, so what use is he? A far more likely explanation is this: he does not exist.

Look at it like this: If he is there and he is all powerful, it follows that he willfully creates all the horrors of the world. Why does he create unnecessary pain and suffering indiscriminately to believers of all religions and non-believers? You talk to him right? Perhaps you can ask him that for me. Let me know what he says.

I have an open mind, but I expect his answer will be, “”

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By Scott, March 26, 2008 at 7:11 am Link to this comment
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Why does Atheism exist? (This is a sincere question, BTW) Merely to refute the Church and the damage done by religion?  If so, why?  Why does Harris burn against the “ignorance” factor?  Does an atheist see anything amazing about the extraordinary coincidences involved in our existence?  Do you allow for anything greater?  Is there any absolutes in the world of an Atheist?

Believers and Non-believers will never allow each other to frame the arguments as they want:  I will continue to be an idiot, blind to evidence or lack thereof….and the non-believer will continue to try to be the God of thier own world, blind to thier own aches.  I value my heart too much, they value their own too little.  Is an Atheist capable of compassion for me?  I have it for him…

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By Golding, March 24, 2008 at 6:58 pm Link to this comment
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Julian , your propositions are not serious - perhaps you are jesting. There is no difficulty in seeing and experiencing the existence of God daily in all the wonders of the world about us. God is Spirit and those who worship in Spirit and truth. Difficult for you to understand until you know of the Greatness of His Love for you and can kneel in humility and ask for forgiveness for your unbelief..

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By William L. Graham, March 23, 2008 at 12:03 pm Link to this comment
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Not at all—the biomolecules are almost inevitable (and are what “happened”) given the physical world and its energetics.

A good text on biochemistry would get you over this hurdle; you are just too lacking in understanding and too willing to jump to untenable conclusions, such as “a gad musta done it.”

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By Golding, March 20, 2008 at 8:21 am Link to this comment
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It is just amazing how all the ‘fireside’ theologians and experts try to find reasons and explanations and pretend to use philosophy and other means to make their point. Who was it said that “philosophy is the epitomy of demonic confusion”. Now I do not deny the contributors the right to have their say as long as their point is not solely based on ‘knowledge’ ( Agnostic ?). Have you heard ‘The fool says in his heart There is no God’. So in order to say something based on wisdom you need to be steeped in the Bible (both the Old Testament & New) , which has stood the test of much criticism over the centuries yet remains the most published and sold book in the world. So do us a favour and read mark and inwardly digest the Holy Scriptures so you will know the Divinity worthy of your worship…....The Immortal, Invisible, God only WISE , In Light inaccessible hid from our eyes,. Most blessed most glorious THE ANCIENT OF DAYS, Almighty victorious THY GREAT NAME WE PRAISE.
v 3 To all life thou givest, to both great and small; in all life thou livest , the true life of all; we blossom and flourish like leaves on the tree; and wither and perish but nought changeth thee.
W. Chalmers Smith (1824-1908) based on 1 Timothy 1:7 Psalm 36:6 . Profound words indeed.

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By jennifer, March 15, 2008 at 3:36 pm Link to this comment
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Yes religion is evil but has nothing to do with God. Man made religion not God, and the true meaning of religion is helping people, not forcing people to belive in what you belive. Do some history on religion

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By julian, November 27, 2007 at 6:12 pm Link to this comment

Logico, your reasoning reminds me of when my dad used to convince me he had 11 fingers by counting down on one hand, touching each finger: “10,9,8,7,6”, then he’d show the other hand and say, “plus 5 equals 11.”

When you need to use convoluted arguments, it should give you a clue that you are using deception.

Here’s a much simpler version. -
“There is no evidence for god, therefore god does not exist.”

And I would add this. -
“There is evidence that belief in god increases world suffering, therefore religion is evil”

So simple.

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By Logico, November 27, 2007 at 3:34 pm Link to this comment
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A skeptic or atheist is governed by two main principles: 1) all beliefs must be supported by observational evidence, and 2) beliefs that contradict observational evidence cannot be tolerated. However, strong atheism states that there is no god, even though observational evidence indicates that the universe has a cause that cannot be detected observationally. So despite the lack of observational evidence for a naturalistic cause for the universe, the strong atheist believes that the universe has a naturalistic cause and that there is no god, contradicting the tenet that all beliefs should be based upon observational evidence

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By Paul, November 27, 2007 at 2:47 pm Link to this comment
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Human DNA is probably the best evidence that there is an intelligent creator. Lets see, a 3 billion letter instruction book . We “map” it but still have relatively no idea how to read it. Seems to me that it takes a major leap of faith to believe it just happened by accident.

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By Charles Brandon, November 10, 2007 at 2:19 pm Link to this comment
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It is unfortunate that Mr. Harris ignores the basic proposition of Mr. Collins.
The title of the book implies DNA is the language of god. The whole question involves where did life come from. Atheists assume some climactic event stirred up the elements to produce life.
  Big problems emerge when around the definition of life. One of the key aspects of life is capacity to reproduce. The reproduction of life requires DNA, and few people are going to support the proposition that DNA was produced by some climactic physical event.
  In order for Mr. Harris to challenge Mr. Collins belief that a transcendental being created life, he must counter with an enlightened alternative. This should include evidence of a reproductive power without DNA.
  The same type of problem is posed by the Big Bang. Scientists tell us that prior to this event there was no time and no space. Some scientists have proposed the idea that immediately prior to the Big Bang there existed a particle of indescribable density without a clue as to where the particle came
from. According to Stephen Hawkin the equations used to to bring our knowledge of the universe to within 10 seconds of the Big Bang, do not work for the last 10 seconds.
  It is not conceivable to many scientists that prior to the Big Bang was an eternal god. The reason for this is that metaphysical answers are not in their tool box.
  Albert Einstein accepted the existance of a divine being. Steven Hawkin continually wrestles with the god issue.
  There are only five theolocical beliefs available to agnostics(the family of I don’t know”.
1. there is no god; 2. there are many gods; 3. there is a god indifferent to mankind; 4. there is a cruel god; there is a god who is interested in the affairs of mankind. Each of these possible beliefs require a leap of faith.
  One would assume anyone holding one of these beliefs could state the underlying evidence for such a belief.
  Mr. Harris has resorted to the ploy of most atheists-trash the believer. Ridicule and vindictiveness characterize the communication of atheists.
  Bertand Russell, the pre-eminent atheist, in one of his books summarizing his views on atheism concluded by saying, “therefore our soul’s habitation can be safely built only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair”.

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By Rui Soares, October 20, 2007 at 12:25 pm Link to this comment
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It’s painful to read Sam Harris. He screams too much. It’s not something you would expect from a scientist. But he’s also human.

About Einstein, read wikipedia.

quote:
“I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.”

quote:
In 1950, in a letter to M. Berkowitz, Einstein stated that “My position concerning God is that of an agnostic. I am convinced that a vivid consciousness of the primary importance of moral principles for the betterment and ennoblement of life does not need the idea of a law-giver, especially a law-giver who works on the basis of reward and punishment.”

I have to add:

quote:
Einstein championed the work of psychologist Paul Diel,[57] which posited a biological and psychological, rather than theological or sociological, basis for morality.[58]

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By czechmate, September 19, 2007 at 4:48 pm Link to this comment

Mal,
What has atheism to do with preventing personal development?
One could equally, argue that “belief” could bias personal development.
Discovery is independent. The complexity of the universe is a wonder, and it is tempting to invent an explanation, Tiki or taky.
I believe in Dog.

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By Mal, September 19, 2007 at 9:17 am Link to this comment
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I have just stared reading “The Language of God” and several points made out by Collins coincide with what I have ascertained in my own journey of knowledge.

To anyone that denies themselves the opportunity for greater understanding by closing their mind to the possibilities of discovery in our universe, you are robbing yourself of your, and humanity’s, potential.

There are many dangerous people who promote religions, just as there are many dangerous people that promote atheist views. Do not sell yourself short by blindly following one creed (including atheism) at the expense of personal development.

The universe is still largely a mystery which we’ve barely started to understand.

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By justanothermeme, September 11, 2007 at 2:27 pm Link to this comment
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The message from Harris, Dennett, Dawkins, and others is this: if we all indeed live in a physical world that is independent of ourselves, it seems logical that we should examine that world to determine the truths about it. If we do that examination, and integrate the massive amounts of observations, eventually we will end up at this:

Things just happen. They just happen to happen.

There does not appear to be any demonstrable sign of guidance behind the universe. Things just happen. Childhood leukemia happens. Birth defects happen. A dad backs over and kills his child in his SUV. Planes crash. Good things happen too. Things JUST happen. Look around. It explains everything. It explains war. It explains peace. It explains Murphy’s Law.

Biological evolution doesn’t violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics (and neither does anything else). There’s an old analogy about putting all the pieces of a watch in a box, and shaking it for a while, and having a complete working watch as a result. This analogy doesn’t have anything to do with reality. What would be better is to specify that each piece of the watch has little attractive surfaces on it, and the attraction is for the corresponding part that it would be connected to in a working watch. All the parts have the same type of attraction for their mating parts, and not for non-mating parts. Shake this box up for a while, and you eventually will get a watch. If you don’t, try again until you do. There is plenty of time.

See this: http://youtube.com/watch?v=mcAq9bmCeR0&mode=user&search;=

This is how chemistry works. The parts attract each other in complex ways. The shaking of the box is the thermal and photonic energy from the sun. If you want to blame all of existence on somthing, let it be the laws of nature.

About morality, it can be suggested that such a dismal and pointless outlook cannot sustain any moral system. There is really no reason that must be true. A person who thinks that morality must have a supernatural foundation might say “how dare you be so arrogant as to think that you can decide the difference between right and wrong without the creator’s influence?” Well, I can decide that I can move away from my parents and live on my own, start a business, make the rules, employ people, contribute to the local community, and vote in a civilzation based on free enterprise and liberty. How dare I? How can I think I can make my own decisions? Likewise, I can create a personal morality based on decisions that are common sense to me. Pain, suffering, deceit, theft, and other ills do not need supernatural edict to be on my list of sins. I can decide myself. All it takes is the courage to look existence in the face and take charge of your own life, both in your community and in your philosophy.

It’s a very heavy thought. Things JUST happened to happen. It flies in the face of what most everybody you’ll meet on the street believes. All these caring, friendly, community-oriented child-rearing people are philosophically exactly backwards in their thinking, if it’s true. It’s an abhorrent concept to them. But what’s does the physical evidence say?

If we are indeed on our own here, and we want our children to be happy, we do need to work towards an indefinitely sustainable society. This means doing just about everything that the politically-active Christian Right is opposed to. Stop global warming, end petrolium reliance, research the stem cells, global government, etc. Harris, Dennett, and Dawkins are trying to point this out. That, and the Islamic “inquisitionists from the 14th century armed with modern weapons”.

I think the message from these authors needs to be seriously considered.

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By czechmate, September 11, 2007 at 9:59 am Link to this comment

Keith and Les Sleeth,
I submit:
The only consciousness with awareness of the existance of the univese is the human mind. As far as we know. Period.
A dog for example does not know the speed of light or the fact that yesterday was my wife’s birthday i.e does not know the universe.
We then are the only “eye” of the universe. (As far as we know for certain.)
We can invent Zeus, Apollo, and the boogyman.
We postulate certain theory to explain that which we see with our eye. At times we learn our vision was incomplete. That does not support or refute any wider
issue.
But clearly, all that can be said and concluded with certainty is that which can be measured or observed. Some minds can measure the speed of light, or observe a calender to deduce a birthday.
Other than that we share with dogs, that which we cannot comprehend, that which is beyond our ability to measure or observe i.e. we have limits to fully understanding.
To postulate what is behind it all is therefore incomprehensible and entirely sbjective.
To suggest otherwise is to reinvent the boogyman i.e. to wallow in supertition and ignorance.
None of the above alters the fact that wonder and amasement cannot exist.
They are human feelings and subjective.
I gazed at wonder at the Yosemity Falls when climbing the Via Auqua route and stared between my feet to the ground 1000 feet below, realizing that here I stare into the face of something wonderful.
But that’s all folks.
Nothing more nothing less. No boogyman.

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By Les Sleeth, September 10, 2007 at 7:40 pm Link to this comment
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“Les Sleeth, I get your emotional reaction to Harris but does that really justify your claim that he is wrong. What, again, is wrong with his stance besides the fact that it makes you angry.”

What makes you think I am angry?  My answer to his points was far less “emotional” than everything, and I literally mean everything, that I’ve heard/read from him.

I look for reason, evidence, and impartiality from people whose opinions I hope to trust, but instead all I observe in Harris is a man so emotionally freaked about religion that he can’t stay logical, objective, or fair.  He is a “believer” every bit as much as the religious he is so down on . . . it’s just that he thinks his beliefs are “right” and that that perfectly justifies his blind faith in things that haven’t been proven.

I clearly stated “what . . . is wrong with his stance.”  Must I repeat it?  He, and all radical atheists I’ve read, go psychotic over religion’s irrationality, but have absolutely no problem buying science nonsense.  Physicalness has never, not once, been observed organizing itself past the few steps of the self-organizing behavior of crystals, autocatalytic reactions, Belouzov-Zhabotinsky and Brusselator reactions, Bernard cells and other limited physical self-organization.  Yet here he and other atheists are suggesting theists are deluded while they believe with all their being in physicalism!  Hypocracy to the utmost because Harris’ objection (on the surface at least) is believing so ardently before the evidence supports the belief.

The universe may be conscious, but science might not be the epistomology to determine that.  It’s only the “believers” in the infinite knowing abilities of empiricism who act like everything claimed not-empirical is bull.  Well, the incestuous little self-reinforcing group of scienctism fanatics may all agree that science can know all knowable aspects of reality, but the rest of the world isn’t yet ready to buy it.

Look, I don’t have the answer, but no one does.  Science seems to have all the answers about physical stuff, but that doesn’t mean all is physical.  If one uses a method to explore reality that only reveals physicalness (i.e., science), is one smart to conclude all is physical?  Or should one realize one’s skills, and the power it brings people today in our technological setting, may cause one to puff up with one’s own self-importance and overlook that reality to date has never been fully accounted for?

A better attitude is reflected by one my favorite thinkers, Richard Feynman, who says, “Each piece, or part, of the whole of nature is always merely an approximation to the complete truth . . .  In fact, everything we know is only some kind of approximation, because we know that we do not know all the laws as yet.  Therefore, things must be learned only to be unlearned again or, more likely, to be corrected.”

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By Bill Rohan, September 10, 2007 at 4:03 pm Link to this comment
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Les Sleeth, I get your emotional reaction to Harris but does that really justify your claim that he is wrong. What, again, is wrong with his stance besides the fact that it makes you angry.

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By Les Sleeth, September 10, 2007 at 3:23 pm Link to this comment
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Every few words Mr. Harris writes is an insult, a dig, amazement over believers’ stupidity, or sarcasm.  Very little of what he has to say is substantive in its own right, and none of it is original.  It’s the same old atheist complaints I’ve heard/read since I was a kid fifty years ago upon discovering Phillip Wylie’s “Generation of Vipers.”

Worse, Mr. Harris can’t seem to figure out that religion and the issue of whether or not the universe is conscious (and that some people have called that “God”) are two entirely different subjects.  Further, he attributes the evil acts done in the name of religion to religion rather than to the human condition.  Atheists Stalin and Mao killed or were responsible for the deaths of well over fifty million.  Are we to blame atheism for that, or is it just that humanity can still be barbaric, and so bad-intending people will latch onto any sort of “noble” justification they can to legitimatize their actions?

If Mr. Harris can’t manage sound logic, fair judgements, proper blame, and novel thinking, why should we listen to him?  I am so ready for objective, detached thinking I could scream, but I don’t expect him (or other prominent atheists like Dawkins or Dennett) to write free of their predisposition for religious hatred on one hand and their hopeful saviour of physicalism on the other; and that’s depite the fact that physicalism has as many holes in it as supernaturalism.

For example, why do physicalists reject the Biblical creation story (as I do) but then proclaim their faith in a run of propitious accidents spanning billions of years (i.e., the incredible “luck” mutation had to have had to get just the right changes for first abiogenesis, and then extensive organ building).  Nobody in the history of human investigaton has ever witnessed such luck in purely physical processes, but the athests’ hate of religion is so intense they will nonetheless accept ON BLIND FAITH that accidents can behave so.

The way I see it is, stupidity is stupidity . . . it’s just that the atheists prefer physicalist stupidity over supernaturalist stupidity. 

Me, I remain neutral, but not closed to the idea that the universe may exist within some kind of consciousness field.  Maybe the religious guys haven’t got it figured out, but then alchemists weren’t so hot at first either!  In any case, I wish atheists would confine their comments to either religion or the issue of whether the universe is conscious, and stop mixing up the two subjects.  They aren’t even remotely related.

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By Czechmate, September 9, 2007 at 2:56 pm Link to this comment
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Sam Harris is a perfect work of art, and like Jimmy Baker, belongs in a Smithsonian display case, with a waterfall in the background. Jimmy’s case would of course feature a cheap hotel room.

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By Keith, September 4, 2007 at 12:46 am Link to this comment
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Another thing that bothers me about Harris’ review is his mockery of Collins’ conversion experience. Having an epiphany while hiking is not, as Harris points out, a utilization of the scientific method. What of that? Collins never suggested that it was. Is that all there is to human understanding? Experimenting and conducting data analysis are not needed to interpret subjective truths like “I love my family” or “the beauty of my surroundings is helping me to be aware of God’s presence”. Collins’ book makes it quite clear that he undestands the difference between scientific thinking and spiritual thinking. It would be strange if such an accomplished scientist did not, yet here we have a, forgive me, smarmy grad student, with the nerve to suggest that because Collins is spiritual he doesn’t understand science! Collins does not suggest that science can prove God. He expicitly states that it cannot, and that faith is needed to reach that conclusion instead. He does point to scientific observations that support the confidence of the faithful, such as the fine tuning of the universe (an argument familiar to many of those interested in these matters), and the fact that the best current understanding of the big bang has a definite origin in space and time for all matter and energy.

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By Bill Rohan, September 1, 2007 at 10:32 am Link to this comment
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Once an individual “knows” there is a god, it is too late, in most cases, to change that person’s view of reality. To believe in the existence of a god is already to be afflicted by blindness.

Why is this so? Because if a person “knows” there is a god s/he already lives in a world where facts and knowledge do not count. Knowledge no longer serves as a basis for one’s view of reality. Facts are no longer persuasive, evidence is inconsequential. It is devastating to all religious beliefs to recognize they are not a kind of knowledge. They are a faux substitute for knowledge.

Knowledge is dictated by the facts and a believer must be able to dismiss facts and knowledge to maintain belief. Once a person is able dismiss evidence they are unable to “see” facts if they contradict belief.

A related equivalent example is belief in “intelligent design”. An overwhelming amount of consistent reliable information from many scientific disciplines over many years, are not persuasive to a person blinded by their belief in a god, the “theological” basis for dismissing evolution as fact.

The burden of the believer is to show why knowledge is NOT justified as the basis for one’s view of reality. Why is someone justified in making a claim about what is and isn’t real without evidence, by an act of the will so to speak? Religious” truths” become “true” if believed rather than believed because they are true i.e. confirmed a reliable interpretation of the evidence. Or alternatively, why it is justified to make a truth claim, that is to assert the nature of reality, without any evidence whatsoever?! But since reason and evidence play no role in belief formation this is an oxymoronic endeavor!

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By RAE, September 1, 2007 at 9:57 am Link to this comment

In #97898, Golding Kidd wrote “But I have nothing to comment on either favourably or unfavourably except to say that neither Collins or Harris have affected my undying belief in the God of all creation ........including -scientists, authors, journalists, commentators etc etc etc ad infinitum. Think about it!”

Well, GK, I took you up on your suggestion to “think about it” - by “it” I’m assuming you mean that your “undying belief in God” remains unaffected by anything anyone has put forward to date.

I’d like you to think about this: to proclaim an “undying belief” means you’ve already made up your mind. The case is closed. No further arguments need apply. No further evidence may be even be searched for let alone considered or submitted. Tried. Convicted. Sentenced. End of story.

Because of this I suggest your entire posting is just a tad disingenuous - by this I mean I infer from your words that while you did read the “Language of God” you did so with confirmed prejudice - you already determined before you read it that you would not allow anything in it to change your mind about your belief in a God.

I respect your views but please don’t pretend that you read on this topic to educate or enlighten yourself. You’re “attending classes” but have no intention of incorporating what you hear into what you already “know.” Frankly with this prejudice in place I’m puzzled why you bother reading on this issue at all. It seems quite a waste of your time.

There can be no rational arguments put forward for either the existence or non-existence of a God/Creator. It’s an EMOTIONAL issue and as such each person’s emotional “take” on it is as valid as any other person’s.

My major objection surfaces when EITHER SIDE attempts to put forward emotionally-based arguments as legitimate evidence - to imply or outright claim their view is the one and only truth. Sure, each of us is free to accept or reject these arguments but the reality is that MILLIONS simply do not have the mental skills to critically analyze these offerings - to sort the wheat from the chaff. These “sheeple,” when herded, indoctrinated, fleeced and focussed by charismatic experts can do a lot of damage to the psycho-social environment for everyone else.

That’s where I draw the line in the sand. When MY right to enjoy a life FREE FROM GOD AND RELIGION is infringed by political lobbying by the brainwashed masses please don’t be offended when I stand up and scream bloody murder.

Believe and publish what you will but just make damned sure nothing you DO in any way interferes with every other individual’s right to be FREE from your views. Thank you.

PS: And PLEASE, a little honesty - always add a disclaimer when proselytizing - that what you believe cannot be supported by legitimate evidence or fact.

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By julian, September 1, 2007 at 1:24 am Link to this comment
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Golding, you say:
“neither Collins or Harris have affected my undying belief in the God of all creation”

Nothing will, because your mind is closed. You will not even entertain the idea of thinking about it. The irony is, you end your post with the words, “Think about it!”

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By Dr. Reece, August 31, 2007 at 6:32 pm Link to this comment
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I thoroughly enjoyed “The Language of God”. I have also(with an open mind) read “The Language of Ignorance”. Religous views aside, I took Harris’ book to be nothing more than a failed attempt to capitalize on the breakthrough success that Collins has achieved through his ingenious findings with the HGP.

True ignorance to me is more apparent in these people, who constantly look down on other people with beliefs. You’re right, God can’t be studied or proven in a lab. But if these people(btw who always claim to have read the bible or the quran, when thats a very convienent claim to support their credibility, but is almost never true.)would just see that yes, in the past wicked men have done wicked things in the past in the name of God, but that is most certainly not what the bible nor the quran nor any other sacred text, save a few aboriginal religions endorse.

And yes “Gary” I have read Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Bennett. All of which make well played points. HOWEVER, when someone writes a book or an article, as in any subject or field, with such bias towards there personal view it is always scathed and twisted to be the truth to the ignorant reader.

I am a believer, and I have never once attacked an atheist for his/her beliefs. So to sit here and spout such random cruelty and redicule to an absolute stranger sounds like nothing more than an insecure rant about one’s personal beliefs. I do not blame any agnostic nor any atheist for there personal beliefs or lack thereof, you people need to see the big picture.

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By Philip Anthony, August 31, 2007 at 5:14 pm Link to this comment
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If I don’t believe in Athiests, does it make them not there?  If God created freedom for man and man messed that up by choosing evil, is God responsible for that evil?  Why do Athiests keep saying “If there is a God why would he allow…”?  They must think they are gods themselves. Why do Athiest say there are no absolute truths? Is that absolutely true? 

Just some thoughts to ponder.

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By Golding Kidd, August 31, 2007 at 8:38 am Link to this comment
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The Language of God .
Reading through all the comments and observations it is difficult to discern any sense or reason in the debate - each one trying to score on the other. It calls for a prescription of humility…. to appreciate and respect each ones point of view - and dispose of all the arrogance. Perhaps the we can see through the glass darkly searching for the truth.
Writing is an ‘art form’ and engaged in mostly these days for the purpose of gaining wealth ...paper never refuses ink. the Product may be enriching or worthless. Commenting on the product of course is grist to the mill for the authors !  But I have nothing to comment on either favourably or unfavourably except to say that neither Collins or Harris have affected my undying belief in the God of all creation ........including -scientists, authors, journalists, commentators etc etc etc ad infinitum. Think about it !

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By Bill Rohan, August 29, 2007 at 10:26 pm Link to this comment
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It is senseless to argue about the possible existence of a god. The word has no coherent meaning. Nothing is being said by the statement “I believe in God”. Religion belief is not knowledge.

However something is happening within the social area. Such a person is using language to make an unjustified claim. The goal is to gain authority or status. A declaration of belief is not a justified knowledge claim, yet it implies a knowledge, that is, it asserts what is real, though it is impossible for a god to be real. It is an intrinsically incoherent claim which proceeds from the will, and thereby denies that knowledge is the legitimate basis for social authority.

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By Next2Area51, August 26, 2007 at 5:01 pm Link to this comment
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Today, I heard Francis Collins in an interview, before reading this review. What struck me was (a) how disingenuous his Saul-to-Paul transformation seemed, (b) how readily he exploits his renown in science to promulgate religion, (c) how readily he accepts surveys that serve his purpose as sources of objective evidence, (d) that he has nothing new to offer, and (e) that, because the sub-title of his book includes the oxymoronic phrase “evidence for belief”, I can’t take him seriously.
Irrespective of what you believe, Harris’ review is stunningly sharp. And he’s completely spot-on about Collins conveying an esentially American view, one largely brushed aside elsewhere.

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By Steve, July 19, 2007 at 12:36 pm Link to this comment
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I really don’t understand people like Mr. Harris or Mr. Dawkins.  Collins book (and after only a scan) seems to offer the possibility of science and religion co-existing.

Yet, with a venomous-like attack, these men seem obsessed with their points-of-view.

Like the man who ruthlessly proclaims the evils of homosexuality, only to hide is own homosexual tendencies, I believe these two men are very lost, lonely individuals who cannot seem to accept that the search for God throughout all human history is something they just cannot logically understand…

I wish them well, and hope they can let this issue go.

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By richard mendoza, June 24, 2007 at 9:24 am Link to this comment
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i believe a significant number are christian visualise god as a caucasian with modern hairstyle.
the true features of jesus and his apostles are more likely that of the ancient semites.obviously not the muscular nordic.
how many passionate christians would there be if they realize they maybe worshipping someone who looks like yasser arafat or menachem begin.

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By Jonathan, June 21, 2007 at 2:47 am Link to this comment
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I read Collins’ book.  It had flaws, but I liked it. The thing I appreciated about it most was his call to turn down the rhetoric.  My intellect needs what science can offer - understanding, and truth.  But my soul needs something else.  There is a truth that our intellects cannot quantify, yet it still has the ring of truth, and that shouldn’t be dismissed.  When my son was born, my entire reality shifted.  I can’t explain why with my intellect, yet it’s true non the less.  I agree with the need to turn down the rhetoric and try to find the truth, which I believe lies somewhere in between the extremes of fundamentalist religion, and fundamentalist atheism.

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By Wen, June 11, 2007 at 10:58 am Link to this comment

I like the smile of Collins we see from the picture besides Mr. Harris’s essay. This is what faith can give people, a little “radiant”, reflects the warmth and hope of the life itself. I think the ture meaning of life is behind this kind of smile.

On the other hand, the “cool” feeling from Mr. Harris’s photo just give me the impression of “life is not that much”, or “life is too much”. I am not unfamiliar with this feeling, but I don’t like it. In fact, I think life is much more rich and could be much more beautiful than that(at the same time, I do admit that light has a brother who names dark).

And, people changes. What I said above have nothing to do with the judgement of people. Actually, I believe what Bible says, “Don’t judge, otherwise you will be judged in the same way.” No body is perfect, we all changed, but for which direction is a problem of lucky or unlucky.

if one can’t admit that some super power is existing in this universe, he is lying. Many people have mysterious experience that tell them something above, something supernatural existed.

But at the same time, I don’t think what Pope John Paul II said about spirit is right. If material world evolves, than the spirit evolves too. Give an example. Have you see the videos or movies that belong to the previous generations? You can see people in those videos or movies have the mark of that generation on their complexion. That is what a “group spirit” or “society spirit” giving people. But if you see the videos of babies, they are excluded from this rule, because they have no society mark on them yet(Some kind of spirit is more unlimited, more universal).

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By jaja, May 14, 2007 at 3:40 pm Link to this comment
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Basically, reviews are worthless. I’ve read the book, and there is no way you can take two pages of criticism and completely invalidate the value of something else.

I had my differences with Mr. Collins point of view, but they were mine, not fed to me my Mr. Harris. It’s helpful to get differing opinions, sure, but to disregard something out of hand simply on the opinion of someone else puts you in a pretty weak position.

Read the book, form your own opinion, or don’t bother, and don’t comment.

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By MorryB, May 12, 2007 at 12:40 pm Link to this comment
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Billy_Flynn.

Why I cannot respect religion is that there is absolutley no proof that there is a supernatural being. Given what we know about the natural and biological world (through science and NOT religion), it makes clear sense that mental illness is due to some aberration of brain chemistry and not due to demonic possession. On the other hand, had I lived two thousand years ago, demonic possession would be the only plausible explanation given the level of understanding existing at that time.

Science does not pretend to know the answer to everything but at least it advances through experiment and testing of hypothesis (that is evidence). Religion is just the perpetuation of ignorance and primitivism and reward systems after death. No big breakthroughs in religion…oh yes there was this image of the virgin on someone’s barn…she sure works in mysterious ways…LOL

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By gatogreensleeves, May 10, 2007 at 2:45 pm Link to this comment
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Ahhh, I did not say empirical evidence against the existence of a god(s), but empirically testable claims against Christianity and theism.  But if you really want to study that subject in depth, pick up something like “The Non-Existence of God,” by Nicholas Everitt.  As for First Cause, there’s still no good reason why the Multiverse (with many cosmologists believe “birthed” our universe) could not have always existed any more than a god(s) could have always existed.  There are many assumptions made when positing that one single being created everything intentionally, that it is alive, is accessible, has a plan(s), and wants to/does communicate with us.  Apply Occam’s Razor to both theories and see which requires more ad hoc explanations.  To posit a god is an Argument from Ignorance.  Still, I have friends who will go as far as saying that a vague “teleological force” exists (based upon Pre-Socratic philosophers and, later, Heidegger), which is fine- and again, that particular issue is difficult, if not impossible to test empirically IMO (though strong atheists may argue this with arguments like the “Argument from Physical Minds” [i.e. we have never observed consciousness manifest from anything but a brain, which, when altered, alters consciousness], etc.).  But to swallow the whole theology of one religion or another based on that First Cause assumption seems a bit reckless.  It seems we can only try to understand what we can test and weigh the evidence.  It’s theology that gets us in trouble, because its claims often clash with humanism and that is Mr. Harris’ main point.  Faith (as defined by Heb. 11:1-3) is not epistemologically viable, because it does not offer a system of determining what is true and what is false.

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By Steve, May 9, 2007 at 4:00 pm Link to this comment
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I thought the COBE satellite substantiated the idea that the universe, had a beginning.  Of course, the idea of a multiverse just brings in the problem in question, of infinite regression.  When I wonder about a creator, I can’t help but go back to the beginning.  Either there was a beginning or there wasn’t, no other possibility.  If there was, something made everything begin.  The idea of an infinite anything is impossible, in anything but theory and concepts.  Infinity minus every odd number(also infinite) is still infinity.  On second thought, infinity doesn’t even work well in theory sometimes.  It serves it’s purpose when called on, but nothing in reality is infinite.  So if time and matter had a beginning, it leads to the whole idea of first cause.  Nothing in all of the universe negates the possibility of God.  You are right when you say that we could just go back and forth.  But I guess I’m more interested in your empirical, testable claims denying the existance of God.  As a fairly well educated biologist and student of life, I find that there is more that we don’t know than what we do know.  I can say with great certainty that humans, even the most knowledgeable and scientific ones among us, will never know everything.

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By gatogreensleeves, May 9, 2007 at 2:09 pm Link to this comment
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There was no venom in my post, but there obviously is in yours, which perhaps you justify by being a “warrior of the spirit,” instead of acknowledging 1 Peter 3:15 and 2 Tim 2:24.  Who is calling themselves “intellectuals” here?  By El Numero Uno, do you mean “Elohim,” because that is the plural form of God translated as a singular form by writers trying to slough off their polytheistic roots.  There does not have to be an imposition of human linear mathematics upon the physics of curved space/time.  But if I had to try to answer your question mathematically in it’s absurd context, I would say “#-~,” that’s “#[number]-[negative]~[infinity].”  A more accurate system trying to number circular time would actually be something more LIKE the days of the week, which are cyclical, with no functional first.  The whole point of a response to that question is moot really, because either side can say that God or the universe (or Multiverse) just always was.  It appeals to the limits of our knowledge and is not really a part of the argument against Christianity, which focuses on the empirically testable claims.  Certain forms of mathematics work on certain levels of existence.  Just as Newtonian Physics breaks down at the atomic level, but is still valid on other levels, merely means that it requires qualifying parameters (there are similar forms of geometry in that respect).  It’s not nice to call people fools… and in fact, to do so may put you in danger of hellfire! (Matt. 5:22)

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