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Sam Harris: The Language of Ignorance

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

(Page 2)

On the question of why God simply doesn?t provide better evidence for his existence:

If the case in favor of belief in God were utterly airtight, then the world would be full of confident practitioners of a single faith. But imagine such a world, where the opportunity to make a free choice about belief was taken away by the certainty of the evidence. How interesting would that be?

One is tempted to say that it might be more ?interesting? than a world unnecessarily shattered by competing religious orthodoxies and religious war, only to be followed by an eternity in hell for all those who believe the wrong things about God. But, to each his own.

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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Science reveals that the universe, our own planet, and life itself are engaged in an evolutionary process. The consequences of that can include the unpredictability of the weather, the slippage of a tectonic plate, or the misspelling of a cancer gene in the normal process of cell division. If at the beginning of time God chose to use these forces to create human beings, then the inevitability of these other painful consequences was also assured. Frequent miraculous interventions would be at least as chaotic in the physical realm as they would be in interfering with human acts of free will.

But why was God obliged to make cell division susceptible to the perversity of cancer? And why couldn?t an all-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly benevolent God perform as many miracles as He wanted? There isn?t time to entertain such questions, however, as Collins must solve all outstanding problems in the science of cosmology:

The Big Bang cries out for a divine explanation. It forces the conclusion that nature had a defined beginning. I cannot see how nature could have created itself. Only a supernatural force that is outside of space and time could have done that.

It is worth pointing out the term ?supernatural,? which Collins uses freely throughout his book, is semantically indistinguishable from the term ?magical.? Reading his text with this substitution in mind is rather instructive. In any case, even if we accepted that our universe simply had to be created by an intelligent being, this would not suggest that this being is the God of the Bible, or even particularly magical.  If intelligently designed, our universe could be running as a simulation on an alien supercomputer. As many critics of religion have pointed out, the notion of a Creator poses an immediate problem of an infinite regress. If God created the universe, what created God? To insert an inscrutable God at the origin of the universe explains absolutely nothing. And to say that God, by definition, is uncreated, simply begs the question. (Why can?t I say that the universe, by definition, is uncreated?) Any being capable of creating our world promises to be very complex himself.  As the biologist Richard Dawkins has observed with untiring eloquence, the only natural process we know of that could produce a being capable of designing things is evolution.

Any intellectually honest person must admit that he does not know why the universe exists. Secular scientists, of course, readily admit their ignorance on this point. Believers like Collins do not.

The major and inescapable flaw of ? [the] claim that science demands of atheism is that it goes beyond the evidence. If God is outside of nature, then science can neither prove nor disprove His existence. Atheism itself must therefore be considered a form of blind faith, in that it adopts a belief system that cannot be defended on the basis of pure reason.

Is disbelief in Zeus or Thor also a form of ?blind faith?? Must we really ?disprove? the existence of every imaginary friend? The burden of producing evidence falls on those making extravagant claims about miracles and invisible realities. What is more, there is an enormous difference between acquiring a picture of the world through dispassionate, scientific study and acquiring it through patent emotionality and wishful thinking—and only then looking to see if it can survive contact with science.

Consider the following fact: Ninety-nine percent of the species that have ever lived on Earth are now extinct. There are two very different questions one could ask about a fact of this sort, if one wanted to assess the reasonableness of believing in God. One could ask, ?Is this fact compatible with the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient and compassionate God?? Or, one could ask, ?Does this fact, alone or in combination with other facts, suggest that an omnipotent, omniscient and compassionate God exists?? The answer to the first question is always, ?Well, yes—provided you add that God?s will is utterly mysterious.? (In the present case, He may have wanted to destroy 99% of his creatures for some very good reason that surpasses our understanding.) The answer to the second question is ?absolutely not.? The problem for Collins is that only the second question is relevant to our arriving at a rational understanding of the universe. The fact that a bowdlerized evangelical Christianity can still be rendered compatible with science (because of the gaps in science and the elasticity of religious thinking) does not mean that there are scientific reasons for being an evangelical Christian.

Collins? sins against reasonableness do not end here. Somewhere during the course of his scientific career, he acquired the revolting habit of quoting eminent scientists out of context to give an entirely false impression of their religious beliefs. Misappropriation of Einstein and Hawking, while common enough in popular religious discourse, rises to level of intellectual misconduct when perpetrated by a scientist like Collins. Where either of these physicists uses the term ?God?—as in Einstein?s famous ?God does not play dice??—he uses it metaphorically. Any honest engagement with their work reveals that both Einstein and Hawking reject the notion of Collins? God as fully as any atheist. Collins suggests otherwise at every opportunity.

In his role as Christian apologist, Collins also makes the repellent claim that ?the traditional lore about Galileo?s persecutions by the Church is overblown.? Lest we forget: Galileo, the greatest scientist of his time, was forced to his knees under threat of torture and death, obliged to recant his understanding of the Earth?s motion, and placed under house arrest for the rest of his life by steely-eyed religious maniacs. He worked at a time when every European intellectual lived in the grip of a Church that thought nothing of burning scholars alive for merely speculating about the nature of the stars. As Collins notes, this is the same Church that did not absolve Galileo of heresy for 350 years (in 1992). When it did, it ascribed his genius to God, ?who, stirring in the depths of his spirit, stimulated him, anticipating and assisting his intuitions.? Collins clearly approves of this sordid appropriation, and goes on to say that all the fuss about Galileo was, in the end, unnecessary, because ?the claims that heliocentricity contradicted the Bible are now seen to have been overstated?.? (And what if they weren?t overstated? What then?) It is simply astonishing that a scientist has produced such a pious glossing of the centuries of religious barbarism that were visited upon generations of other scientists.

If one wonders how beguiled, self-deceived and carefree in the service of fallacy a scientist can be in the United States in the 21st century, ?The Language of God? provides the answer. The only thing that mitigates the harm this book will do to the stature of science in the United States is that it will be mostly read by people for whom science has little stature already. Viewed from abroad, ?The Language of God? will be seen as another reason to wonder about the fate of American society. Indeed, it is rare that one sees the thumbprint of historical contingency so visible on the lens of intellectual discourse. This is an American book, attesting to American ignorance, written for Americans who believe that ignorance is stronger than death. Reading it should provoke feelings of collective guilt in any sensitive secularist. We should be ashamed that this book was written in our own time.

Sam Harris is the author of the New York Times bestseller, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason and Letter to a Christian Nation. He is a graduate in philosophy from Stanford University and has studied both Eastern and Western religious traditions, along with a variety of contemplative disciplines, for twenty years. Mr. Harris is now completing a doctorate in neuroscience. His work has been discussed in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Chicago Tribune, The Economist, The Guardian, The Independent, The Globe and Mail,  New Scientist, SEED Magazine, and many other journals. Mr. Harris makes regular appearances on television and radio to discuss the danger that religion now poses to modern societies. The End of Faith won the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction. Several foreign editions are in press. Mr. Harris lives in New York City.

His most recent book is “Letter to a Christian Nation” (Amazon)

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By B. Hill, May 8, 2007 at 2:10 pm Link to this comment
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After scanning this thread, I’m shocked at the venom that’s been spewed at Christians by incredibly arrogant “intellectuals” who worship at the altar of almighty science and fawn on Sam Harris like they’re teenyboppers who’ve just met their favorite Backstreet Boy.

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.

To those who have posed that question, I have a question for you: “What is the first number of all the numbers?  In other words, what is the smallest number of all—the very first one?”  You can’t answer?  Well, then, I guess I just proved that the whole concept of numbers is ludicrous and that the whole branch of knowledge of mathematics—which, of course depends on numbers—is a ridiculous farce.  That also means that science, which depends on math, is out the window.  See how easy that was and how foolish you look now?  ;^) 

Your arguments and attacks against Christianity are only slightly more sophisticated.

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By steve, April 24, 2007 at 5:59 am Link to this comment
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By Lewis, April 6, 2007 at 1:13 pm Link to this comment
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The God of Abraham does not beleave in atheists, therefor they do not exist!

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By Steve, March 30, 2007 at 12:54 pm Link to this comment
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I just spent the last two hours reading your blog.  Thanks for having this incredible discussion.  Why is it that those of faith think those who don’t are wrong, and those who don’t think that those who do are evil?

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By rohan, March 29, 2007 at 6:01 pm Link to this comment
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francis collins pisses me off. the debate with dawkins in time was laughable. his interview in [the increasingly conservative] national geographic set off alarm bells when he suggested that mother theresa was a perfect example of evolutionary inexplicable altruism. i didn’t realise how irrationally devout he really was however until i read this review. thank christ for sam harris.

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By j@Oz, March 22, 2007 at 3:20 am Link to this comment
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“survival and circumstance”. From cosmic-soup- electron to starving child scratching for food, to a smart bomb annihilating a school. It’s the same motivational force. All else is a distraction.  If you don’t like the scientists’ explanations, then please get off the internet, and go back to the cave where our journey started, and call God from there. I’m sure salvation will come if you yell loud enough…..  - I put this on a few months ago - can’t hear anyone yelling from the cave yet, just a lot of babble

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By gato, March 12, 2007 at 10:02 pm Link to this comment
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Why are Christians always trying to put Hitler in the atheist camp?  It’s either plain disingenuous or ignorant.  Hey Amos, match me as many quotes from Hitler about him favoring Nietzsche over the Lord- or better yet, favoring evolution over the Lord, or best yet favoring atheists over the Lord:

Whether he was actually a Christian is as irrelevant as any sinner’s morality.  There is none righteous, no not one, in God’s eyes anyway… right?  As evidenced by the quotes in the link above and his actions against atheists and Jews, Hitler clearly thought he was doing “the Lord’s work.”  It’s funny that just admitting that Hitler even THOUGHT he was a Christian is such a terrible thing for a Christian… they can’t even do it, as if there weren’t plenty of other horrific “Christians” in history.  Why not admit it I wonder… is it because of the bad tree bearing bad fruit parable?  Perhaps.

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By gato, March 12, 2007 at 8:56 pm Link to this comment
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Great review!  I’m wondering if Sam or anyone can give me the three actual sources for the studies alluded to in this quote, “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.)” THANKS!

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By Julian, March 12, 2007 at 5:24 pm Link to this comment
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Mr Harris and some posters seem surprised that Mr Collins, a respected scientist, should come up with such drivel. However it doesn’t surprise me one bit. Read “The Genome War” by James Shreeve. You will see that Francis Colloins is an insecure lying cheating bureaucrat who didn’t give a hoot about the science. He only ever cared about his ego and was quite happy to retard science in order to inflate it.

Collins has no credibility as a scientist in my view. If Craig Venter had written something like this then I would be worried.

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By loreen, March 4, 2007 at 11:30 am Link to this comment
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there’s a reason for simple childlike faith.

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By Ravenholm, February 26, 2007 at 5:31 pm Link to this comment
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The only thing that Collins’ book is good for is to counter creationism and intelligent design ignorance. 

I gave it to a very good friend of mine who is a christian and a old earth creationist, with this specific goal in mind.

Harris maybe misses this one thing that is good about “The Language of God.” If we can’t dump religion in the dustbin of history or into an obscure academic field where it really belongs, then at least the science-denying fundies can see the absurdity of their creation “beliefs” through Collins’ book.

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By Jen Ru, February 26, 2007 at 7:56 am Link to this comment
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“But wether or not some poeple come to a spiritual place means little to me.” I can’t spell but I do know with absolutely certainty the ultimate truths of the universe. Strikes me as a little odd.

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By T Hunter, February 23, 2007 at 2:01 pm Link to this comment
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I have not read Mr Collins book, but I do believe his credentials do at least warrant him a fair hearing. Like anything else second hand I will would approach it with a degree of scepticism. “His failure is predictable, spectacular and vile” seems rather a strong reaction to what is first and formost one persons personal journey of discovery. Science is not a religion, it is a tool. People who worship science live in a small and impoverished universe. But wether or not some poeple come to a spiritual place means little to me. I, with faith will convince you of nothing. And, armed as I am, with faith built on a foundation of a living relationship with a benevolent creator you will likewise convince me of nothing. For all of your eloquence. A relationship with God is a personal one and has little to do with churches or dogmas. And no, I don’t believe the universe is 6000 years old.

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By amos_hart, January 30, 2007 at 5:52 pm Link to this comment
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Not to quibble, but I know of no religion that doesn’t promote adherence to “rules and beliefs that defy common sense and reason.” But that’s not so surprising, is it, if God is a being who transcends the cosmos? Hugh Ross in “Beyond the Cosmos” argues that God must exist in at least eleven dimensions of space and time. Phenomena that are unimaginable to earthlings are in fact, explicable within a different frame of reference. For example, it would be possible for a six-dimensional being to pass unimpeded through a 3-dimensional barrier. Imagine yourself a 2-dimensional being living in a 2-dimensional world of height and width. You would be unable to perceive a 3-dimensional being as such. You could only perceive its two-dimensional aspects if it entered your world. Thus, common sense and reason would tell you that it was nothing more than a line, a circle, or some other flat object. Earthlings are in an analogous position relative to the transcendent creator. He may be no more than a nanometer away from us, but we cannot see him. I encourage you to recognize the limitations of our beings in deciding whether common sense and reason are the only guides to reality.

It’s difficult to imagine who is going to promote “moral behavior” if not “the Church.” Certainly entertainment, the media, the schools, and the government have abandoned the field. The churches must do the job, however badly. I suggest that Dominionists would have made little headway had not public and private behavior become increasingly shameful over the past 50 years. Those who fear the Dominionists might do well to consider the threat that soul rot represents to this republic. Rome succumbed to the barbarians, but not until it had lost its soul.

You mention gay marriage, stem-cell research, and abortion. One need not be a Dominionist to weigh in on these issues. The polls show that a large majority of Americans are opposed to gay marriage as such and that a majority favor reasonable restrictions on abortion. Only one state allows it. In view of the irresponsible positions taken by the ACLU on these and many other issues, I value the arguments made by those on the other side. And I do trust the American people to sort out the issues and vote wisely. Sam is wrong in saying that to be a “moderate Christian” validates the Dominionists. I am utterly opposed to any sort of theocracy in this country, IF that is in view. But the Dominionists have the same rights as the ACLU to express their views and work for their values. Personally, I am much more fearful of the later.

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.

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By Craigh, January 30, 2007 at 12:08 pm Link to this comment
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Thanks for the reply amos, I appreciate you making talking points.
My reply to #1:
Faith-based religions require belivers to ascribe to rules and beliefs that defy common sense and reason.Creationism, The Rapture, Believing that God actually wrote the bible as an owners manual to life.
Let me short-cut alot of debate by saying I do honor Spiritual religions. Which ones…don’t really know. I left the Episcopal church a few years ago, but my belief in God still exists. I believe each one of us can have a personal relationship with God if we want to. Read Neale Walsch: “Conversations with God”.
2: My objections come when The Church starts dictating “Moral Behavior” based on someones particular and narrow interpretation of the bible, claiming moral high ground and denouncing opposing views.
3: Here’s the dangerous part. Dominionists ARE in goverment and ARE now working as a well-organized team to impose thier brand of morality.
Ban Gay Marraige, Stop stem-cell research, Ban all abortion. Are these the kinds of things you consider smut?
The danger lies, as Sam Harris points out, that to be “moderate christian” is to give Dominionists validity. Kinda all or nothing. You either Believe or don’t right?
4: As soon as I sent that post I realized I was wrong about saying “all wars”. But you can’t deny that all wars have involved one kind of Fasctist wanting to extirminate some other society they have deemed “Evil”. Usually with religion on the dominating side. Hitler did embrace some of the doctrins of Christianity. See how dangerous it is to be moderate?
5: answered above. Read Neale Walsch.

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By amos_hart, January 29, 2007 at 4:30 pm Link to this comment
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I have a few problems with yor post.
(1) Don’t all religions require faith? If so, why qualify religions as faith based?
(2) Your notion of literal truth is disturbing. Some parts of the Bible are to be taken literally, and some are not. I know of no one who believes that God has wings. On the other hand, the resurrection is to be taken as a literal event. What specifically do you object too?
(3) Dominionists represent a small but vocal minority among Christians. There is no possibility that they could impose any sort of theocratic form of government, even if they wanted to. I am not one of them, but I believe their voices serve a useful purpose in counteracting the smut in American society today.
(4) You assert that all the world’s wars have been driven by religion. I can’t let this old canard pass. Certainly, WWII was not driven by religion. Rather, it was driven by a madman named Hitler.
(5) You castigate “religious dogma” as a basis for law. Immanuel Kant and others have pointed out the necessity for belief in God as a basis for morality. What foundation would you substitute? What dogma do you object to?

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By CraigH, January 28, 2007 at 12:34 pm Link to this comment
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Great dialoge Everybody,
We can debate details forever.
There are certain facts: Faith-based religions, which hold to the philosophy that the bible is LITERALLY true, are very dangerous.
They are exclusive cults, that seek to dismiss evidence and reasonable thought by invoking instruction from the bible.
Listen to evangelical radio and realize that many in this country get thier belief and meaning of life from these interpreters who definetly have an agenda.
A Christian Dominion. A nation of believers.
It’s great that people find thier way out of trouble or despair through thier church, but the trouble comes when the church is preaching “moral” behaviors beholden to “Biblical Law”.
These laws, interpreted by these Dominionists, are destructive, hateful and oppressive.
As Sam Harris so effectivly pointed out; All of the worlds wars have been driven by religion, and believers detirmination to “clean-up” humanity by insisting on total compliance to thier fear-based laws.
It’s got to stop. Belivers can certainly have thier faith, thier church, thier communities. Religion has helped many people out of despair and given us hope and purpose.(Myself included)
But to have these religious dogmas made into the laws that regulate our society; it’s wrong and again, dangerous.
We need to all start taking openly about this.
I’m getting a tee shirt made that says “Let’s talk Religion and Politics”.
Taboo ? Yes… Needed, Yes!

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By Ryan Blood, January 27, 2007 at 12:06 pm Link to this comment
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Yet another atheist wet-dream article. As lovely Sam’s polemical writing can be, he is perhaps the most dishonest writer I have ever read. Yes I am a devout Christian but ive been an agnostic and a deist so I feel I am speaking from a perspective that allows me to be neutral. Perhaps the biggest “sin of Sam” is that he himself takes things grossly out of context. Firstly in this essay he argues that Dr. Collins found Christ through “frozen waterfalls”. Of course this is not true, Collins decided there was something but it took much more soul searching (and book searching) before he committed to follow Jesus Christ. Secondly he argues that Collins claims that Einstein and Hawking believe in the Christian god… ah but as usual Sam is simply wrong. Collins makes it clear as glass that Einstein and Hawking were/are deists. Sam loves to argue that most scientists are atheists which is fine he can do as he wishes. It would be nice however if it was the case. Polls sugggest that 40% of scientists believe in a personal god, 20% are agnostic and 40% do not. The image of the atheist scientist has its uses, as Sam clearly shows. However one is forced to believe that Sam is simply trying to make comfortable his fellow atheists even as that hidden voice calls them to something greater than themselves.

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By paul, January 26, 2007 at 11:27 am Link to this comment
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What is the truth? 

Generally speaking, Christian skeptics (which predominate this libweral website) tend to have agendas—they are professors teaching beliefs at odds with Christianity or they are associated with, or stand to benefit from causes at odds with Christian beliefs, or they are malcontents with a need to pontificate.  There are a few without an agenda or cause, but not many.  Generally they resent religions(just read the previous 497 comments on this website).  That’s understandable, though, given the threat religions pose to the veracity of their agendas. In addition, those with non-Christian agendas tend (just read the comments) to be somehow, someway angry—not at peace with themselves.  They will say that they are, but just read their comments to Mr. Harris’ piece.  While they will never admit it (because it hurts their agenda), their lives are not fulfilled—they lack the great joy of hope in the afterlife that Christians have.

Generally speaking, Christians tend not to have agendas, other than the call by Jesus Christ to spread His word—the Truth.  They tend to take joy in their belief.  Their beliefs help them deal with life.  While there are exceptions, generally, Christians are not angry at the world.  Their beliefs give them inner peace. Obviously, their outlook for the future gives them great hope.  It changes their personalities.

The human species tends to adapt to those things that help it.  While anger can be constructive to a society in some cases, generally, it is not healthy to mankind.  Generally, hope and a lack of anger is healthy to mankind.

While many feel they they know the truth, there truly is only one truth.  Based upon studying what’s best for mankind, it is pretty obvious what that truth is.  That one truth can be found in John 3:16.  Period.  And that’s the truth?


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By amos_hart, January 26, 2007 at 12:48 am Link to this comment
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Probably not. But George never claimed to be God, so I wouldn’t expect him to do anything miraculous. Neither you nor I know enough about reality to rule out miracles. Physicists tell us that light seems to behave as a particle and as a wave. Neither I nor they understand that, but we believe it. They also tell us that dark energy exists, but they have no clue what it is. There are things that are probably beyond our human understanding. The great Dr. Einstein said the following:

“To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, mainfesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms - this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.”

No, he wasn’t a Christian, but he realized that even he was unable to penetrate the ultimate mysteries of the cosmos. Go thou and do likewise.

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By J@Oz, January 25, 2007 at 9:16 pm Link to this comment
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“survival and circumstance”. From cosmic-soup- electron to starving child scratching for food, to a smart bomb annihilating a school. It’s the same motivational force. All else is a distraction. Another good descriptor is “bread and circuses”. Politicians know that one well.  So do priests. And when you have bread, you want more, you want to keep it, so power comes into the equation. So good can easily convert to, or be interpreted as evil. If you don’t like the scientists’ explanations, then please get off the internet, find and go back to the cave where our journey started, and call me from there. I’m sure God will help if you yell loud enough.

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By dallas graham, January 23, 2007 at 5:57 pm Link to this comment
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Amos,would you believe the eye-witness accounts of George Washington if they included walking across Lake Michigan,turning water into wine at the white house or casting out demons at Salem???

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By Raphael Rafatpanah, January 20, 2007 at 7:54 pm Link to this comment
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What is this nonsense?  You say Collins’ arguments are hogwash? But what about this one on page 24?

“The conclusion that the Moral Law exists is in serious conflict with the current post-modernist philosophy, which argues that there are no absolute rights or wrongs, and all ethical decisions are relative. This view, which seems widespread among modern philosophers but which mystifies most members of the general public, faces a serious of LOGICAL catch-22s. If there is no absolute truth, can postmodernism itself be true? Indeed, if there is no right or wrong, then there is no reason to argue for the discipline of ethics in the first place.”

Ha! Oh wait, was that the most invalid arguement ever? Did Collins just change the meaning of truth from an ethical right and wrong to ALL FACTS? And if there are no facts, then the fact that Collins has the logic of a tiny insect is incorrect? 

Mr. Harris, please, pick on somebody your own size next time….

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By Daniel J Ward, January 20, 2007 at 1:16 pm Link to this comment
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Mr Harris,
    Thank you so much for this very important book. The mere presence of “fundamentalist suicide bombers” in the age of nuclear weapons should be reason enough for this to be required reading in every high school in America.
Daniel Ward

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By amos_hart, January 12, 2007 at 6:17 pm Link to this comment
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Yes, a theistic view does provide the advantages you have mentioned. But I would abandon it if I did not think there was good reason to hold it. The Christian variety of theism makes demands that I don’t necessarily like to meet all the time. And many Christians died painful deaths rather than deny their faith, so it’s not just a matter of maximizing pleasure. I believe the Christian gospel for the same reason that I believe in George Washington. I think the reports of eye witnesses and those who knew them are credible, as are the Biblical narratives. I see no reason to think that the Biblical writers are any less honest than modern historians, despite the so-called Higher Criticism. If you believe the Post-Moderns, the higher critics have credibility issues of their own. One can, like Sisyphus, push the rock up the mountain again and again and find some grim satisfaction in that, but, in the final analysis, it is futile. Or, one can make a serious study of history and come to a different conclusion, without jettisoning his or her intellect or integrity. I advocate the latter.

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By dallas graham, January 11, 2007 at 3:44 pm Link to this comment
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Amos,I am not one of those that says your position is indefensible..that would be as arrogant as saying that mine was indefensible,for in order to say categorically that god does not exist(atheism),one would have to know everything,and then one in fact would BE god,and denying one’s own existence!So i am not an atheist,but rather an agnostic,for the only honest answer to these questions is that we simply do not know..we are all fleas on an elephant’s back wondering what an elephant looks like..we can not(at this stage anyway) see the whole for purpose..well we have to create our own and it will be different for each person..and the theistic position is just as logical as any other,which is presumably how it arose as pple searched around for answers,and yes it is neat and tidy,it supplies an answer to everything even though many would argue that the answers are inadequate..the other big advantage to it is that it carries built-in purpose to life..we are all here by god’s will,and we dont have to think as hard about why we are here…plus it gives comfort to those who feel unjustly treated as they can rely on god putting things right in an afterlife..Dallas

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By amos_hart, January 10, 2007 at 6:02 pm Link to this comment
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Yes, the notion of presuppositions is associated with a particular kind of apologetic, although I don’t necessarily subscribe to it uncritically. Its adherents typically insist on arguing from their presuppositions. I’m not doing that.  I’m simply saying that a theistic world view is as least as rational as a non-theistic world view. I do that in response to the many posts that appear on this site denouncing the theistic view as unintelligent, irrational, superstitious, and the like.

For my purposes, it really doesn’t matter how we choose our presuppositions, whether they determine our behavior or our behavior (and its consequences) determines them.  The point is that they must exist. Otherwise, there is no way to criticize any one’s point of view. To argue that the theistic view is nonsense, one must presuppose God’s non-existence. If he does not exist, then Darwin is surely correct, and human life and the human mind have no purpose. In this case, one may assume that his mind perceives reality as it is and that it functions rationally, but those assumptions are not given or provable. So, while the species may survive, given an atheistic worldview, that doesn’t prove anything about ultimate reality. As we know, the species survived Ptolemy.  My argument is that assuming God’s existence justifies my belief that I perceive the world as it really is. The alternative, chance and survival of the fittest, provides no adequate basis for knowing. The question then becomes: Why assume God? That, of course, is a very large question with a very long answer. Suffice it to say at this point that a theistic presupposition is intellectually defensible.  It is certainly not less defensible than the alternative.

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By dallas graham, January 9, 2007 at 5:31 pm Link to this comment
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Dear Amos,thankyou for your thoughful comments..i remember going thru all this presupposition stuff reading Cornelius Van Tyll(who argued totally from presuppostion) and Francis Schaeffer(who also argued from presupposition but also relied on Thomas Aquinas type “reasoning as a way to spiritual truth”.)As regards presuppositions,i dont think we choose them in a purely theoretical manner,as in like “which toothpaste will i choose from the shop shelf-oh ill just choose this one at random”.Instead we choose our presuppostions because they seem to fit with our view of reality better than another“well ill buy THIS toothpaste because its worked for me in the past” But i grant you that everything is a step of faith yes-the toothpaste i buy may be poison,accidently put in a toothpaste tube,and my view of the world may be irrational,but i cant quite see that it is necessarily irrational,just because it does not presume god the creator.Why cant reason have evolved like everything else…ok its limited,but then so is our understanding of the Bible or god even to believers,hence the thousands of different churches even within eg.the Baptist denomination.Presupposing god,doesnt guarantee arriving at Truth with a capital T.Dallas

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By Amos Hart, January 7, 2007 at 1:32 pm Link to this comment
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I am talking about presuppositions, not probabilities. Probabilities arise if we know that we perceive reality as it is. That is precisely what we cannot know if our minds arose as a consequence of chance and natural selection. Charles Darwin voiced the same concern:

“But then arises the doubt, can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animal, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions?”

The theistic perspective provides a rational foundation for believing that we perceive reality as it really is. God created it and our minds. If mind arose by chance and is purposeless, there is no basis for assuming it can know reality as it really is. So, why should any one discount the possibility of a miracle if he has no basis for knowing reality in the first place?

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By dallas graham, January 5, 2007 at 7:55 pm Link to this comment
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To Amos Hart,you’re right that nothing is ultimately provable-we might all be part of an elephants dream..but science deals with probabilities,and so does history.The question always has to be “Which ideas are more probable than others?” Which is more probable:that the earth is 6,000 years old or 3 billion? Which is more probable:that we are being sent to hell,because we had two first parents who disobeyed god,or that we are not? Which is more probable; that although human beings cannot walk on water,one man in palestine did 2,000 years ago?? Yes he might have,but is it PROBABLE given what we know…(which is all we have to go on)

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By amos_hart, January 2, 2007 at 10:02 pm Link to this comment
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What I think wasn’t the point. I was speculating about what Francis Collins said. As to your question, whether there was an earth without a moon, no, (again speculating) from the vantage point of the earth, the sun may not have been visible until the material in the atmosphere cleared so that the sun was visible. I don’t know what the period of the earth’s rotation was at the time the sum became visible, and I suspect nobody else does. Sorry you don’t care for Augustine. My point was that the notion of a yom has been a matter of debate at least since the fifth century. That’s well known. Many Christian scholars do not hold to a 24 hour day.

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By amos_hart, January 2, 2007 at 8:33 pm Link to this comment
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I believe the notion of “survival of the fittest” was introduced by Mr. Darwin. At any rate, he is stuck with it. Ann Coulter pointed out in her recent book that the notion is tautological, and others have done the same. As far as I know, Neo-Darwinists have not jettisoned the idea. At any rate, I believe Richard Dawkins is insistent on the notion that there is no “purpose” in evolution other than survival, if he allows purpose in any sense. My point was that there is no reason to believe one’s mind functions rationally or that mental concepts reflect reality if the only purpose is survival. I won’t bother to define rationality or reality, because it really doesn’t matter. A geocentric view of the solar system worked just as well as the heliocentric alternative for many millennia. At least, homo sapiens survived for many millennia before Copernicus, Galileo, et al. Dallas asked why otherwise intelligent people believe in God. I am saying that it is at least as defensible as the notion that we are here by chance and have no purpose other than survival. I would argue that God is responsible for our coming into existence, however he staged it, and that he fashioned our minds to perceive reality as it really is, however he did it. So I am justified in believing that my mind does function rationally. How does one who rejects theistic creation justify his rationality if survival is all there is? If I believe in God, who is to say I’m wrong? After all, I’m just a product of blind chance and natural selection, or so the argument goes. Neo-Darwinists really do argue most vehemently that random variation and natural selection is all there is. Fit for what indeed.

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By Karen Helgesen, January 2, 2007 at 5:47 pm Link to this comment
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In my last post I expressed my interest in how one would measure darkness and addding that it probably was not germain anyway.  However, upon further reflection I think one can wonder about the measurement of darkness and the existence of God using the same sort of logic I, personally, would use.  I am not a scientist (although I did major in biology in college) I’m just a 52 year old lady.

I simply think that just as one cannot measure darkness (at least as far as I know, but I certainly could be wrong) so too one cannot “measure” the existence of God.  It seems to me that science is an ever expanding and changing entity.  We may never learn all there is to know.  Likewise, the only true way to measure the existence or non-existence of God is to die.  Both are too big for mere humans to ever completely know and comprehend.  My believe in God was born in my heart and not my brain.  Which is not to say I am a non thinking being.  All I know is my life is better with God.  Too many things and events have happened in my life that I can only attribute to God, while those who don’t share my faith would, no doubt, find logical explainations for these (to me) miraculous occurances.  I will say this, I give God the credit for 25 years of sobriety…. He was the only thing that worked, knowing I was loved by Him changed my life in ways that rehab never could.  I give Him the credit for restoring my daughter, who was a meth addict.  Rehab didn’t help… but two months in California with my Christian sister in law and husband did.  The night before she left she told me, “I’m going to die if I don’t leave here.”  Sobering words for any mother to hear.  We sent out a wacked out, bony, unhealthy shell of a young lady and got back our little girl.  Now her once empty eyes glow and, yes,  she loves the Lord.  Yes, I believe.  Not because it makes scientific sense or because I can “prove” it to anyone.  I believe because He loved me.  I believe because I see His goodness in my daughters eyes.  I believe because I see Him everywhere…. where some see molecules and atoms and physics at work I see the Hand of God directing all of it.  Karen

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By Karen Helgesen, December 31, 2006 at 9:42 pm Link to this comment
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Dear beepbeepitsme and warrengreen,

Indeed, you are both probably right…. I have no idea if my little story about Albert Einstein as a student is true or not. Very unscientific of me to post such material.  However, in my defense, I never claimed it was. I merely found it interesting.  Honestly, Albert Einstein had very little to do with it ( that being my interest.)  It simply made me wonder; how does one measure darkness?  Which, come to think of it, has nothing whatsoever to do with the this topic, which I believe is the illogical notion of the existence of God.

May I just suggest…. oh never mind. Ahh! I really want to!  I’m a mom! I’m a grandma!  I specialize in “suggestions!”  I know!  I’ll channel Albert Einstein. I do hope this is a correct quotation, if not, I offer my apologies in advance.

“We should take care not to make the intellect our god, it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality.”  Albert Einstein

In any event, I do hope you both enjoyed the holidays.  Ours was pure chaos…. but fun.  House still in a shambles. But, as Roseanne once said, “Excuse the mess, but we live here.”


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By beepbeepitsme, December 31, 2006 at 2:07 am Link to this comment
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RE karen H

And that Einstein story is an urban legend, or to be more plain, an urban myth.

Malice of Absence

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By warrengreer, December 30, 2006 at 8:36 pm Link to this comment
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Don’t be shy, Ms. H.  Your pedantry is every bit as good as others’ here. 
    I, a foolish non-believer, would wonder, though, the name of the stenographer who took down the exchange between Alfred Einstein, reputedly a very poor university student, and the name of the Professor, obviously a very poor teacher, who let themselves be enmeshed in such sophistries.  Could it be that we are dealing here with apocrypha for the un-initiated?
    It is said that Einstein also believed that quantum mechanics didn’t decribe the workings of the universe, because “god doesn’t play dice with the universe.” 
    Does god play dice with the universe?  Are quantum physics a legitimate way to describe the workings of the universe?

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By Karen Helgesen, December 30, 2006 at 4:19 pm Link to this comment
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This may not be very pedantic as so many of these posts are, but I, a foolish believer, found it interesting

Does evil exist?  Did God create evil?  .

The University professor challenged his students with
this question.

“Did God create everything that exists?”

A student bravely replied, “Yes he did!”

“God created everything?” The professor asked.

“Yes sir”, the student replied.

The professor answered, “If God created everything,
then God created evil, since evil exists, and
according to the principal that our works define who
we are, then God is evil.”

The student became quiet before such an answer. The
professor, quite pleased with himself, boasted to the
students that he had proven once more that the
Christian faith was a myth.

Another student raised his hand and said, “Can I ask
you a question professor?”

“Of course”, replied the professor.

The student stood up and asked, “Professor does cold

“What kind of question is this? Of course it exists!
Have you never been cold?” The students snickered at
the young man’s question.

The young man replied, “In fact sir, cold does not
exist. According to the laws of physics, what we
consider cold is in reality the absence of heat.
Everybody or object is susceptible to study when it
has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body
or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero
(-460? F) is the total absence of heat; all matter
becomes inert and incapable of reaction at that
temperature. Cold does not exist. We have created this
word to describe how we feel if we have no heat.”

The student continued, “Professor, does darkness

The professor responded, “Of course it does.”

The student replied, “Once again you are wrong sir,
darkness does not exist either. Darkness is in reality
the absence of light. Light we can study, but not
darkness. In fact we can use Newton’s prism to break
white light into many colors and study the various
wavelengths of each color. You cannot measure
darkness. A simple ray of light can break into a world
of darkness and illuminate it. How can you know how
dark a certain space is? You measure the amount of
light present. Isn’t this correct? Darkness is a term
used by man to describe what happens when there is no
light present.”

Finally the young man asked the professor, “Sir, does
evil exist?”

Now uncertain, the professor responded, “Of course as
I have already said. We see it everyday. It is in the
daily example of man’s inhumanity to man. It is in the
multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the
world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.

To this the student replied, “Evil does not exist sir,
or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is
simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness
and cold, a word that man has created to describe the
absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the
result of what happens when man does not have God’s
love present in his heart. It’s like the cold that
comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes
when there is no light.”

The professor sat down.

The young man’s name—Albert Einstein

Karen H.

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By warrengreer, December 30, 2006 at 12:50 pm Link to this comment
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“Survival is the issue, my friend, survival of the fittest, that’s all.”
    Whooooa, there, Amos!  WHAT is “all”?  If survival is the issue, as you say at first, it is an observable phenomenon and can be verified by the fact that we are here splitting hairs with each other over crap we ignore in our everyday lives, and must necessarily do so to survive.  BUT, “FITTEST”?  By whose—or what’s—standards?  That is a value judgement pronounced by some one who doesn’t have the confidence in his or her own worth and who must say “I exist, therefore I am fittest!”  I may not be fit to peck shit with the chickens today, but might be fit to be the savior of the human race tomorrow.  Fit for what?  Only time will tell.  The conservation of traits which may or may not be useful for survival at some future date is a characteristic peculiar pretty much to the human race.  And bonobos, god bless their horny little hearts!  Ok, survival of the survivors.
    Now, all b.s. aside:  do you REALLY believe the earth spun around in more and less than 24 hours before there was a sun?  What other truths did that old burnt-out rake-hell Augustine have for our thirsty intellects?  Are you a     serious correspondent?
    The world is in too dire a predicament today with a fascist murderer of children and nations who tries to justify his unworthiness and arrogance by throwing one of his own kind, yes, even an ASSOCIATE of his clan’s, to the gallows.
Yes, w, we know who and what Saddam was, and we know you will go down in the manure pile of our history along with Aaron Burr, the plutocrats who wanted to overthrow FDR with a coup d’etat, the
nazi collaborators, “Father” Coughlin, Lindbergh, W’s relative who took care of nazi property during WWII, and Saddam, himself.
    It would be SO pleasant to be able to think that if we just kissed the butt of some supernatural creature, (neat trick, that, how does one pull it off?) that he would take care of our plight, but that kind of thinking has bought many Brooklyn Bridges, and for a better return on the money.

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By amos_hart, December 30, 2006 at 12:17 am Link to this comment
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I would ask you why you believe that you are any thing but a brain floating in a vat. Can you prove otherwise? Anything you cite as proof might just as well be a figment of your imagination, or you might be just dreaming that you are reading this post. Your nonsense is their reality and your reality is their nonsense. In any case, according to Darwin, that part of the brain that is responsible for religious belief must have survival value, so who are you to question it? In fact, if Darwin is right, you have no basis for believing that your brain necessarily functions rationally at all. Survival is the issue, my friend, survival of the fittest, that’s all.

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By amos_hart, December 30, 2006 at 12:02 am Link to this comment
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I think Collins’ point was that, since there was no sun, there would be no way to tell night from day nor when one day ended and another began. There are other issues, but you didn’t raise them. In any case, Augustine didn’t insist on a yom of 24 hours and many after him have not. There is certainly room for honest disagreement on this matter.

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By Amos_Hart, December 29, 2006 at 5:01 pm Link to this comment
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I’m reading the book now. Collins quotes Stephen Hawking in “A Brief History of Time”:

“It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us.” (p. 75)

Collins also quotes Arnold Penzias, Nobel Prize winning scientist and discover of the Big Bang’s residual cosmic radiation.

“The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five Books of Moses, the Psalms, the Bible as a whole.” (p.76)

I don’t recall Harris’ refutation of Hawking or Penzias in his so-called review. Maybe he’s saving it for his dissertation: “Neuroproctology - An Insiders View of the Cosmos.” Look for it on this site soon.

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By Bill, December 28, 2006 at 5:19 pm Link to this comment
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I am currently reading Collins’ “The Language of God”, and was surprised to read that he thinks there needs to have been a Sun to have a 24 hour day.  He basically indicates, “How could we know how long a day was….if the Sun was not created until the 4th day?  Not that I am pressing for a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis, but you would think that a Scientist of such standards would know that the Earth rotates on it’s axis.  The Sun does not rise and set.  You do not need a Sun to have a “day” period that is based on the rotation of the Earth…. additionally, the Genesis Poetry says, there was an Evening and a Morning.  Sure sounds like whoever wrote the darn thing was indicating a “24” hour day.  Have a good Yom!

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By Steve Ramey, December 21, 2006 at 1:06 pm Link to this comment
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Hi Dallas.

I do hope you will search out The End of Faith as it addresses the points you raise in your post. Live and let live may be a recipe for the world’s destruction in his view and he offers cogent arguments to support it.

For my part I will read the Collins’ book with as open a mind as I can manage. My great social concern even before I happened upon Harris is that emotional belief provides powerful levers to those who would manipulate us. Time and again that seems to be true (and not just the religious lever, but also the levers of patriotism and even gender). A wonderful animal behaviorist, Richard Alexander gave a talk a few years back at which he suggested the greatest boon to humanity might well be to discover (and eradicate?) the gene that gives us the “we/they” perspective. Certainly it’s not so easy as that, but there must be some genetic basis for our tribalism (certainly there was survival value when survival mattered most to our development).

Anyway, Mr. Harris is obtaining a PhD in neuroscience and his area of interest is the neurological basis of belief.

Happy holidays to all. Thanks for such an interesting dialogue on these posts.

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By beepbeepitsme, December 21, 2006 at 5:23 am Link to this comment
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RE: Sam Harris

When Faith Is Dogma

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By dallas graham, December 20, 2006 at 11:17 pm Link to this comment
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I agree with both Harris and Dawkins but havent been able to get hold of their books yet.Can anyone tell me if they address the following questions? a)how come otherwise intelligent pple like Collins and C.S.Lewis believe nonsense?Where does religious belief originate in the brain?It would seem to be in some region other than reasoning..b)given that it is in some other (emotional?) area of the brain,what is the use in rational argument with fundamentalists? c)if we agree that rational argument is useless,and that religion brings comfort and purpose to millions why not let them believe these things? Yes the extremists are dangerous,but there are other reasons other than just belief,that make extremists fly planes into NY trade center and not some other country….

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By Jimbo, December 19, 2006 at 8:05 pm Link to this comment
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I was taken aback by the level of contempt and scorn in this review of Francis Collin’s book.  Clearly Collins (PhD Phys. Chem., MD, co- discoverer of the cystic fibrosis gene, head of the successful human genome project) is not an idiot.  But if his book is so bad, why not offer a dispassionate debunking on a scientific basis?  Instead, we are offered an irrational litany of condescension and contempt.  This would seem to derive from the war Harris is fighting with religion, religious belief, and all those who would harbor (or even tolerate) a faith in God.  Here, he is not trying to help with a thoughtful delivery of information, with the idea of letting the reader decide.  Rather, this denigration of the book is designed to keep you from reading it.  A preemptory strike, if you will.  I guess, to readers already in his Amen corner, this will work.  More thoughtful folks may want to read the thing and decide for themselves.

I actually did read the book.  Interestingly, some of the reviews in Amazon actually fault Collins with being too even-handed and timid.  I rather appreciated the author treating me like a grownup, giving me information, and sharing how he came to believe in various things (I view good science papers as doing this, too).

Collins states some logical objections he has to believing in atheism, and alludes to the fact the some (such as Richard Dawkins, and apparently now Mr. Harris) use supremely unscientific arguments in support of their supposedly rational viewpoint.    Collins also states cogent scientific objections to some of religious fundamentalist’s putative “science”, such as a literal interpretation of the Bible as an scientific document, “Young Earth” theory and Creationism, and irreducible complexity.  Unlike the book review, he states his objections and the reasons for those objections politely and asks the reader to consider those reasons.  I could go on, but I trust folks who read the book will decide for themselves if they are convinced that science and religion can rationally coexist.  Newton (who wrote more on religion than on science) certainly did.  Einstein did.  And I believe that Collins has supports a reasonable argument that we can, too.

I’ve read this review by Harris, and I’ve read some of Dawkins, and I’ve read Collins.  I think Collins is the best of the three at science and theology.  His writing is pretty good, too, though admittedly Dawkin’s wit is wicked.

Intolerance for belief in God and for religious thought and belief waxes and wanes.  We saw in Nazi Germany what official intolerance of one religion yielded (“the Holocaust”), and in the Soviet Union (“the Terror”) and China (the “Great Leap Forward” famine) what official intolerance of all religions yielded.  By my count, about 60 million human beings murdered or killed. We appear to be moving towards another high tide of intolerance for faith in this country and in the world.  Harris review is exemplary.  If his sentiments and approach are typical, I humbly suggest that those promulgating this irrational worldview and bigotry will lose the hearts and minds of those they wish to persuade early in the battle.  Deservedly so.

Best to all, and Happy Christmas or Chanukah to all those who celebrate these holidays.


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By Stephen Borkowski, December 5, 2006 at 6:00 pm Link to this comment
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Thanks Amos, but I don’t agree. For one. I first learned of Darwinism morw than 60 years ago, and most people I know agree that the word ‘Theory’ is a disclaimer. As for God talk not being ‘perilous’- it is the reason that I predicted back in 1983 that radical muslim suicide bombers would bomb New York. It is also the reason I spent about 2 years writing a journal in which I discuss the danger of God talk by wahabbi imams. As to opinion of lawyers, may I boast a little about my being invited by a famous woman international lawyer and her husband, ex-ambassador to Japan John Le Trec, to discuss my ideas to the Dalai Lama because thay liked it. My journal is about working as a dance
host on the SS Rotterdam’s 1993 100 Day World Cruise. I titled it ‘They Don’t Know They Don’t Know’. My idea is very basic, I want all to know that they and everyone else don’t know 1 thing about God.
  I will be getting off the net for a while. My home address is Steve Borkowski, 9940 A1A. Oceana One, Jensen Beach, Fl 34957
  If you like, I will gladly send you a disc of my journal. I might be wise to use a box address.
I wish Warren reads this and comes to my defense and also asks for a disc. Peace.

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By amos_hart, December 4, 2006 at 7:20 pm Link to this comment
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I would like to take a crack at your question re a disclaimer on “God talk.” Yes there certainly is a First Amendment issue and it is a whopper. You are correct that all freedoms entail responsibilities, and you cite the “fire in the theatre” example. You are, of course, reasoning by analogy. The problem is that the analogy is not close. God talk does not represent a clear and present danger to public safety, as does shouting “fire.” In fact, God talk is expressly exempted from government regulation by the First Amendment. I think you will find no support for your idea among legal scholars of any sort.

You say you wouldn’t object to talk about Santa Claus, so long as it wasn’t represented as factual. Would you object to talk about Darwinism without the disclaimer? How about string theory or the planetary model of the atom? How about Marxism or Freudian psychology? My point is that there is little agreement about what “truth” is, philosophically or practically speaking. Our liberal friends tell us it is a relative thing, dependent on culture. Post Modern’s tell us that history reflects the power motives of the writer. And scientists don’t know whether light is a wave or a particle. Truth is a most elusive category. To regulate it based upon whether it corresponds to one’s definition of truth is to disappear down the rabbit hole, where personal whim rules the day. Let’s not follow the example of the Queen of Hearts in declaring what is true and what is not.

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By roxy, December 3, 2006 at 7:17 pm Link to this comment
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You misunderstand me. I am not arguing that political system X is better than political system Y, although I do have my preference. I am saying that all human institutions are fatally flawed. If you disagree, please enlighten me.

You point out the Soviet Union’s “flip-flop with nary a shot fired.” It now appears that Russia’s dalliance with democracy is rapidly headed back to totalitarianism under the leadership of Mr. Putin. I would point out that there appears to be no queue forming in this country for immigration to any Communist state. On the contrary, it seems the “opressed” of the world see the U.S. as somehow preferable to their circumstances elsewhere. That’s like the slaves that prefer their chains, I take it. No, I think people vote with their feet when they have the opportunity.

Yes, the West has plenty to be ashamed of. As the poet said, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang oft a-glee.” You maintain your hope in Marxism, and I maintain my hope in The Prince of Peace. My question to you is: What ultimate difference does it make if you are right and I am wrong? If, given your world view, human kind is headed for total extinction in a purposeless universe, why do you care if the race survives? Sartre and Camus struggled unsatisfactorily with that question. I am waiting to hear your answer.

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By Warren Greer, December 3, 2006 at 3:28 am Link to this comment
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The final quotation from G.K. Chesterton alone was worth the effort of this exchange of messages, from which bitter-enders such as you and Stephen and I may find fruitless and drop out of sight. 
    My Marxism is not warmed-over.  It dates back to the time when my grandfather was a Populist over a century ago, my father a Debs Socialist almost a century ago, and I, more than half a century ago, found only one explanation for the social forces in the world we had just rescued from the same people who are bathing it in blood today.  I can’t defend many of the mis-applications to which Marxism has been put, any more than you could defend the blood baths of the non-Roman Catholics who were found heretical and expunged from Southern France.  Completely.  Or the Huguenots.  Or the witches burned in New England.  (“Hey, thou!  Not freedom for THAT kind of religion!”  Qouth the Pilgrimth.)  Or the millions of starved and murdered in Iraq by Talks-To-(Your?)-God-Whooosh- Booosh.
    There used to be a right-wing conversation-stopper which went,“No Communist country ever gave up power without bloodshed.”  Well, that old chestnut has pretty much faded out since the USSR and East Europe did their political and economic flip-flop with scarcely a shot fired, but now that the shoe is on the other foot, how do things stack up for the other team, the christian capitalists?  I guess you’ve seen all the receipts for Kim Jong Il’s luxuries he rolls around in, but I haven’t, so you’ll have to give me some ground to question the truthfulness of the charges, or at least the objectivity of the reporters.  We can agree, though, that North Korea has not been forcibly aligned with us as was Nicaragua,(remember Contras murdering and raping?) or thirty years of School of the Americas genocide in Guatemala, or CIA installing the fascist Shah of Iran (that was a real winner), or Sukharto kicking out Sukharno and killing two million Indonesians, and so on, ad infinitum.  I may not even like K.J.I., but neither he nor Fidel nor any Cubans or North Koreans have to kiss the rear of the War-Dodging Dictator of North KenneBUNKport!  That alone should be good for a Get-Out-of-Being-Bombed-into-the-Stone-Age Card!
    Loving others as one’s self is a survival characteristic, and is becoming more and more possible as globalization brings us to the knowledge that we’re all in this together, and that contamination is inescapable on an individual basis.  That is not necessarily religion, but it definitely is necessary.  And I say unto Roxy and Stephen and any others who have kept awake, “That for which ye hope blindly, I declare unto you.”  (Shamelessly stolen.)
    Stephen, give it up.  They won’t admit they are on shaky ground.  The best we can hope for is that they will be satisfied with the freedom of religion right and won’t takeout the ‘esablishment’ prohibition.  That at least lets us not have to be forced into any religion.  Religion is NOT a survival characteristic.  Atheism, (ahem!) is the flame which burns the superstition out of religion.  (I stole that,too.)
    Roxy, two things:
1.  K.J.I. is head of North KOREA, not, as you said, North VIETNAM.  No great deal—you just got your two bugabears confused.
2.  “The trouble with the French is they have no word for ‘entrepreneur’.”—george (which way did they go, george?) bush.  Back to Yale for his “English as a First Language” course.

        “all you have to offer is warmed over Marxism. “
” the twentieth century doesn’t bode well It was bloody beyond anything in previous history.”
  I cite the “Dear Leader” of North Viet Nam. He lives opulently off the backs of the Korean people, while the people suffer harshly.”
  to “love others as themselves,” as someone suggested long ago.”
“Nor do I entertain any such hope. ”

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By Roxy, December 2, 2006 at 4:34 pm Link to this comment
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I had so hoped for a non-dogmatic exposition of the evils of religion, but, alas, all you have to offer is warmed over Marxism. Still, you are clearly a man of faith, and there may be hope for you. I must say, however, that the twentieth century doesn’t bode well for any sort of theory based upon the perfectability of mankind. It was bloody beyond anything in previous history. If the species homo sapiens has been around for many millennia (as we think), why does its path become ever more savage and brutal, if indeed things are really looking up? What I have seen is that one gang of thugs is regularly replaced by another and that idealism quickly transforms itself into an intolerant ideology, with the advantage to the “in’s” at any given time. For example, I cite the “Dear Leader” of North Viet Nam. He lives opulently off the backs of the Korean people, in the name of Communism, while the people suffer harshly. I believe you spoke of “economic and political domination” as though it were implicit in capitalism alone. Come again? No, I am afraid homo sapiens has not evolved biologically or socially to the point that its members are able to “love others as themselves,” as someone suggested long ago. Nor do I entertain any such hope.  The fault, dear Warren, is not in our stars (or our economic circumstances) but in ourselves. Chesterton was once asked what the biggest problem in the church was. He responded: “I am.”  He recognized the world’s ills require a bottom-up solution, not a top down. Christ’s solution was the former. Unfortunately, men have all to often converted it to their own ends, as they do all ideologies.
“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” - Gilbert K. Chesterton

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By Steve Borkowski, December 2, 2006 at 9:56 am Link to this comment
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Hi Warren, et al. I enjoy your writngs and wonder how you would respond to a practice I have wished would be mandatory ever since the Lebanese bombing in 1983. If you have noticed, ‘dialogue’ has become the in word recently. The Pope has called for it between leaders of different religions, C-Span 1 & 2 have had many programs devoted to it; 100’s of books on religion have been weitten recently; and FRONTPAGE has on its site a dialogue or Symposium sbout Islam that I highly recommend.
Out of all this talk, I would like to see a policy that would mandate a disclaimer before any teaching about God. There are many examples of disclaimers, like those at the ends of most films as well as theatrical acts such as magic.
I have no qualms about expressions of Faith -you can say say there is a Santa as long as you don’t tell me it’s a fact- because I believe that Faith is an inherent part of the drive to survive and a I admit I can’t prove that as an illustration of practicing what I preach. I have been told that my policy would be counter to freedom of speech. I disagree because speech is subject to laws i.e. yelling “Fire” in a crowded theater as a hoax.
  (Right now as I write this, I am watching Martin Tolchin on C-Span and he mentioned suicide bombers) I want the disclaimer so that people like radical Islam imams would be prevented from creating religious suicide bombers. This applies to all Fundamentalists.
I croak whenever a Falwell avers, “God wants us….” My response is to yell at the tube, “How the hell can you know what God wants when you can’t prove there is one?” Young minds automatically accept what they say as fact. I know I did, and 1000’s of people I have talked with agree they didn’t question that the priest, rabbi, or whatever might not have known what they were talking about. I believe that the ‘mystique’ we endow upon religious talkers would be diminished with a disclaimer. Any Dialogue?

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By Warren Greer, December 1, 2006 at 12:28 am Link to this comment
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Dogmatic meets Snide meets Courtly

    “...organized religion has made egregious errors in the past or that it will make more in the future. That is entirely consistent with my view of human nature….”
    Don’t blame religion on human nature.  It’s not a question of nature, but of culture, which grows from the society and property rights thereof.  Religion is modified as society evolves, which is what I fear you have been doing in your revisionist view of Galileo!
    “ irrationally blame religion for the manifold ills of this planet….”
    Actually, at this point, I blame capitalism, and the unconscionable ways in which it subjects less aggressive people to economic and political domination. 
    “...waxing self righteous about your ancestors….”
    I do apologize for mmentioning the length of my family’s stay in the North American continent, (some were actually aborigines here,) but I have found it necessary to present my bona fides, or some, upon hearing my views differing from theirs, will invite me to leave THEIR country and flee to North Somewhere—I believe Korea is the bete noir du jour.   
    “ irrationally blame religion for the manifold ills of this planet, not recognizing or admitting its positive contribution….”
    Religion played a positive role in the survival of the species when it was organized in hunter-gatherer groups, and had little reason to believe in survival.  It gave people hope to carry on in circumstances that were almost hopeless.  Also,it had some amount of medical knowledge which it husbanded and dispensed.  Since that stage, it has served pretty much as an instrument of control of numbers of people by privileged minorities.
    “...that is simply foolishness. Scientific notions have also been used to serve base ends. I speak particularly of Darwinism as it was used to support totalitarian and racist agendas….”
    Very true!, but as totalitarian and racist regimes are replaced by more forward-looking societies, the “science” they espouse will cease to serve the ends of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries.  Can religion say the same, or is it locked into submission to rapacious ruling classes?
    Stephen, your friend need have had no shame, although he appears to have been a person of depth and sincerity.  In logical discourse,a negative proposition can not be proven or disproven—only stated.  Like facts, which are neither true nor false, a negative is outside the discourse.  Personally, my favorite positive proposition is that It Is Turtles, All The Way Down!

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By Kent Van Cleave, November 30, 2006 at 7:41 pm Link to this comment
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Sam, you are like a razor slicing through superstition. As a philosopher of science (MA Indiana U., and Ph.D. on the way) I’m more than delighted to see your crystal-clear rebuttal to this extremely sloppy presentation by a scientist who should know better. You deserve some major book award for clarifying an issue that has long slid by on biased credulence.

Go get ‘em!

Kent Van Cleave

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By roxy, November 30, 2006 at 1:04 pm Link to this comment
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Warren, I hardly recognize myself in your caricature. What I said, and supported, was that there was more at issue in the acceptance of Galileo’s views than religious faith. But I’ll not repeat myself. You have the sources if you wish to refute them. I don’t deny that organized religion has made egregious errors in the past or that it will make more in the future. That is entirely consistent with my view of human nature. Nor do I accept the notion of infallibility of any person, dogma, or creed, be it religious, scientific, or what have you. Where you and I diverge is that you irrationally blame religion for the manifold ills of this planet, not recognizing or admitting its positive contribution. That is simply foolishness. Scientific notions have also been used to serve base ends. I speak particularly of Darwinism as it was used to support totalitarian and racist agendas.

On to your next “point.” Was it I that wrote a derogatory piece slamming Francis Collins’ religious views, and, by implication, his right to hold them, or was it Harris? It is Harris’ intolerance of Collins and his views to which I take great exception. While you are waxing self righteous about your ancestors, you might recall that many settlers came to these shores in search of religious freedom. The founders held religious freedom in such high esteem that they guaranteed it in the First Amendment. I assert again that those who don’t respect the laws and traditions of this great country should find another home. I don’t apologize for being intolerant of intolerance. In fact, that is a liberal virtue, isn’t it?

Re your question: “Which religion is the enemy?” Does it matter to you? Any that I select will serve equally well as a launching point, I presume, for your proof of what I have in common with them generically. So, you pick the one that best suits your purposes in showing the superiority of democratic atheism.  Be sure to avoid dogmatism of any sort in your argument. After all, you don’t want to sound religious, do you?

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By Stephen Borkowski, November 29, 2006 at 5:57 am Link to this comment
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Warren,I wish more awareness of the role played by war profiteers was illuminated in the media.Rhett Butler and the ‘Fat cats’ mentioned in ‘A Separate Peace’ have somehow been forgotten.It appears that the red stripe in our flag represents the opportunity for blood money.
  As for shame, I fault any atheist for not opposing the Iraq war. My best friend for 51 years never disguised his atheism but apologized to me for realizing that he was no different than theists when he admitted that he could not prove empirically that a creator didn’t exist and he had been calling them idiots because they couldn’t prove there was one.Not a bad shame if you knew what a good person he was.

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By Warren Greer, November 28, 2006 at 8:30 pm Link to this comment
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The Stately Dance of Steve and Roxy
    “As for tact, I hardly think Harris’ diatribe is an example. Nor is it an example of tolerance, which the Left claims to value so highly. He is as intolerant as any one of Galileo’s day. Thank God, he doesn’t have the power of the state at his disposal. Perhaps he would indeed be happier elsewhere, say in North Korea.”
    Oh, oh, oh!  Diatribe!  If you can say in the face of all historical evidence that the mean, old, nasty scientists of the day kept the all-knowing and open-minded church from publishing the truth of the observations of Galileo, then the a.k.o.m. church
  1. has not forbiden birth control,
  2. did not try to crush a more advanced culture in the crusades,
  3. has not shackled the anti-imperialist arm of the church in Latin America, and
  4. is working hand-in-glove with their blood-soaked other-side-of-the-religious-coin brothers in Iraq to keep the human race from coming to an agreement for peaceful coxistence of all people.   
    He doesn’t have to go to North Korea or any other place in the world to be happy—if there are people who think “They should leave MY country to ME and get out!” then those people who are NOT happy with freedom of opinion should go to North Somewhere, the North Pole, possibly.  Just to prevent this kind of arrogant intolerance is what my ancestors fought here for in every war we’ve had, and maybe even some of Roxy’s ancestors, as well.  Don’t shame their memories.
    “...Yes, we are in a religious war, but it is not a war against religion generically. Harris knows perfectly well which religion is the enemy. For him to suggest it is Christianity or Judaism, or Buddhism for that matter, is a monstous lie. Hence, my disdain for him.”
    Tell us ‘perfectly well’, just which religion is your enemy and I’ll show you how much more you have in common with them than with any democratic atheist.  The anti-democratic elements in the world have us locked in a religious dance of death with one another while they bleed us of our wealth.  Rich muslims, jews, christians, hindus, buddhists—all were living well while we and our children were dying for whatever bloodthirsty god du jour.  Admit it.  One is no better than another.  The differences are all cosmetic and change with the fashion.
    What is a shame-faced atheist, Steve?

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By Roxy, November 28, 2006 at 2:10 pm Link to this comment
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I don’t understand your comment. Are you saying Collins is guilty of hubris? I think the “code” does explain “how it’s all supposed to work.” It (the code) just doesn’t explain where it come from. The code tells the cell how to manufacture the various protein molecules that are required for life. In this sense, it is a “how to” book. What do you mean by “how it’s all supposed to work”?

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By Stephen Borkowski, November 28, 2006 at 1:52 pm Link to this comment
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Hi Roxy and thanks for the info. I wish you wouldn’t be too harsh with Harris’s atheistic belief. I watched him on Book TV last year and watched a soft-spoken, gentle person talk about his book and who was very calm during the Q&A while some people seemed to be demeaning to him. As far as the war, which I am not afraid to call a war of Wahabbis vs. us infidels, I believe Sam is simply saying that if we remove the certainty of God, there will be less using of Faith for the sense of power by those who use religion as a tactic.
  I was aware that many in the Church respected Galileo’s mathematical proof of the orbits of the planets but I will not accept that he recanted because he changed his mind. I think it was the influence of those clerics that made him realize it would be better to lie so that he could live in the comfort they saw to it he would be offered as a bribe. I don’t think he believed that two and two was ten, and so he lied because he didn’t want to be killed.(That would have been a killing in the nae of ‘God’ so I question Galileo’s true relegiosity)Thanks Roxie, I hope I meet you dancing sometime.You have to be good.

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By ebv, November 26, 2006 at 9:40 pm Link to this comment
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It’s key that Francis Collins was a leader in the human genome project – the biggest reductionist science project ever (with no great scientific skills required).  They thought they could explain all of biology if they just had the “code”.  Unfortunately, the parts list doesn’t specify how it’s all supposed to work.  I guess hubris brought him to this state.

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By roxy, November 26, 2006 at 8:01 pm Link to this comment
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Steve, I’m happy to respond to your request re Galileo (and “tactfully”). There are several writers who have found more at issue than a simple confrontation between science and religion. Georgio de Santillana, whose book “The Crime of Galileo” is widely considered to be the best modern account, argues that the controversy was not a confrontation between “the scientist” and a religious credo at all. He notes that “the major part of the Church intellectuals were on the side of Galileo, while the clearest opposion to him came from secular ideas, i.e., from the academic philosophers”. According to philospher of science Philipp Frank, the reason Galileo’s attack on Aristotle was treated so seriously was that to many people at that time Aristotle’s philosophy was “regarded as necessary for the formulation of religious and moral laws.” (“Philosophy of Science,” 1957) Mary Hesse points out that Galileo’s ideas were put forward “dogmatically without sufficient evidence to support them at that time.” (Science and Human Imagination”) It was not until Newton that heliocentrism was given a physical mechanism. When evidence available at the time does not support a theory, resistance is neither unscientific or irrational. Historian Martin Rudwick sums it up this way: “Only Galileo’s determination to remain within his religious tradition seems an adequate explanation of why he tried so hard to persuade everyone from the Pope downward, and why he declined all chances to escape to the safety of the Venetian republic.” (“The Sciences and Theology”)

Yes, we are in a religious war, but it is not a war against religion generically. Harris knows perfectly well which religion is the enemy. For him to suggest it is Christianity or Judaism, or Buddhism for that matter, is a monstous lie. Hence, my disdain for him.

As for tact, I hardly think Harris’ diatribe is an example. Nor is it an example of tolerance, which the Left claims to value so highly. He is as intolerant as any one of Galileo’s day. Thank God, he doesn’t have the power of the state at his disposal. Perhaps he would indeed be happier elsewhere, say in North Korea.

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By Steve Borkowski, November 25, 2006 at 4:01 pm Link to this comment
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Please help me out, Roxy. I was was taught, erroneosly I guess,that Galilleo had to lie to the Inquisition about his heliocentric arguments against the geocentric position of the Church so that he wouldn’t possibly be burned at the stake as a heretic as evidenced by the fact that it took 400 years for a Polish pope to apologize to Galileo. Aristotle did make a few mistakes, I guess. And I propose that Copernicus kept his mouth shut about his book because he was afraid of the consequences of the Catholics in Poland.  We are in a religious war and I suggest we listen with open minds to what people like Sam are saying about God, religion, and Faith as opposed to what we know empirically. And tactfully.

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By Roxy, November 24, 2006 at 3:34 pm Link to this comment
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Harris says he wonders if Collins ever read a newspaper. Perhaps we, his lumpen American readership, may be forgiven if we wonder whether He has read a history book written since the 19th century. Harris sees religion as persecutor of scientists and an impediment to progress. Science writer Michael Eisley has another perspective. He relectantly concludes in “Darwin’s Century” (1958) that “it is the Christian world which finally gave birth in a clear articulate fashion to the experimental method of science itself.” Science is an invented cultural institution that arose in one culture, Western Europe, and no other. Indeed, Alfred Whitehead said that “faith in the possibility of science” came antecedently to the development of actual scientific theory. This faith rested on such notions as the lawfulness of nature-which in turn, he maintains, came from the Christian docrine of the world as a creation of God.

Harris cites Galileo as an example of scientists persecuted by religion. In fact, Galileo never repudiated his faith. On the contrary, he affirmed his Christian belief and maintained that he only intended to challenge the scientific framework inherited from Aristotelian philosophy. On the whole, the Catholic church had no argument with Galileo’s theories as science. Rather, the concern was that Aristotle’s philosophy was regarded as necessary for the formulation of religious and moral laws.

While castigating religion as impediment to science, Harris seems blissfully ignorant of the depridations done in the name of the latter. Darwin’s views justified eugenics, the use of forced sterilization and infanticide to eliminate those deemed unfit by the cultural elite. Many early twentieth-century eugenicists in the U.S., Britain, and Germany explicitly based there deplorable practices on Darwinism. Darwinism also provided a “scientific” basis for racism. Darwin clearly regarded white Europeans as more highly evolved than other races and predicted in the “Descent of Man” that “the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races throughout the world.”

The most reasonable conclusion to be drawn, having read Harris’ diatribe, is that he is sorely in need of anger managment. The disgrace is not Collins. Rather it is Harris. Since he finds the U.S. such a backward and repressive place in which to defend the honor of science, one hopes he will soon find a more comfortable home. Hit the road, Sam.

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By billy_flynn, November 23, 2006 at 4:52 pm Link to this comment
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Harris’ venomous tirade against Collins smacks of true religious fervor, something ordinarily not associated with the dispassionate approach of the scientist as seeker of truth. One must wonder why he is so incensed at the threat that Collins’ brand of religion poses for science in particular and the world in general. Absent theism and derivative morality, why does Harris suppose that it matters whether God and Christian morality or atheism and relativism prevail? Indeed, in his view, there can be no absolutes in the realm of morals. Therefore one system is as good as another.

Let me suggest three reasons that it matters to Harris and his ilk. First, to admit God is to admit that the scientist is not the highest authority when it comes to truth.  Second, to admit God risks financial security and professional admiration because there is tremendous pressure in the academic community to publish something that supports evolution. Third, to admit God is to admit that one doesn’t have the authority to determine right and wrong for himself. The late Julian Huxley, once a leader among Darwinists, admitted to Merv Griffin that “The reason we accepted Darwinism, even without proof, is because we didn’t want God to interfere with our sexual mores.” Perhaps Harris should root out all miscreants, such as Huxley, who fit their science to their libido, while he self-righteously persecutes Harris, who derives his ethic from his beliefs about nature and nature’s God

Harris goes to great pains to disparage the views of a man whom he credits as having participated in one of the greatest scientific achievements in human history. If, as Harris suggests, “a stellar career in science offers no guarantee of a scientific frame of mind,” perhaps it is equally true that a scientific frame of mind is no guarantee of important scientific advances. Indeed, Harris himself has yet to touch the hem of Francis Collins’ garment.

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By Stephen Borkowski, November 23, 2006 at 7:04 am Link to this comment
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Hi Ian. Proving or disproving God assumptions is such an interesting topic. I learned in science classes that what ‘is’ can be measured. For example, Time is what a clock measures. Stumped me for a while. Now it makes me assume that in order to prove God we must have something to measure God- a God-measurer,so to speak.You say I am assuming that God can’t be proven. That is why I am an agnostic Deist. I assume there is a God because of cause and effect and not because God has been demonstrated to exist. I use agnostic as an adjective to admit, as fact, that I can’t prove my assumption(Belief). I believe that by getting religious leaders-mainly Wahabbi imams today- to admit they can’t prove their politics/religion is the word of Allah, the holy war we are in would not be related to religion.
The war mongers would have to use a different tactic to gain their power. As an aside, watch for the spin being used to have a national draft
again, but that is a different topic and I want the comments on proving God to continue. Thanks.

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By amos_hart, November 22, 2006 at 5:10 pm Link to this comment
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One wonders why Sam and his ilk (Elton John, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett) believe (have faith that the world would be better off if all religions were prohibited. There is no evidence so far as I know to support that hypothesis. Indeed, the history of attempts to govern mankind without (traditional) religion is bloody beyond description. I speak of the Soviet Union, Cambodia, pagan WWII Germany, China, and Viet Nam in particular, though there are many other examples. To be sure, much evil has been done in the name of religion. The Inquisition and the violence in the Middle East come readily to mind. But, the time that has passed since the Inquisition strongly suggests that all religions are not equal, modern relativism not withstanding. And to condemn all for the sins of one is senseless. It is noteworthy that Nietzsche, who proclaimed the death of God, was revered as one of the Nazi’s founding fathers. And Post Modernist’s such as Foucault and Derrida owe a large debt to Nietzsche. Given the popular acceptance of moral relativism, how would those who wish to be rid of all religion arrive at any sort of consensus as to what constitutes ethical behavior? Camus and Sartre struggled mightily with that question and arrived at no satisfactory conclusion – because ethics sans religion is an illusion.

“When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one’s feet. This morality is by no means self-evident…. By breaking one main concept out of Christianity, the faith in God, one breaks the whole: nothing necessary remains in one’s hands.” -  Friedrich Nietzsche in “Twilight of the Idols.”

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By Ian, November 22, 2006 at 3:53 pm Link to this comment
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For Stephen #39220:

You are right Stephen, I am making assumptions, I should have maybe phrased it ‘how did these laws come into place?’ instead of using ‘who’.  But the question still stands.  How did these laws come into place that allow snowflakes to form and tornadoes to twist.

What would happen I wonder if we were able to put all of our assumptions aside and simply look at the evidence as it presents itself?  Would we accept the conclusions?

Since we are talking about assumptions, you say that God cannot be proven so far.  Is this not also a bit of an assumption?  Do you know that for sure?  Maybe we are incapable of not making assumptions.  Maybe the real test of wisdom is to acknowledge our assumptions and to be able to let them go when the evidence clearly points in another direction.

As far as religious fanatacism, I have already said that I don’t think religions have the corner on fanatacism.  I think it is something other than religion that drives fanatacism, maybe it is pride.  Certainly if we, myself included, followed the teachings of Jesus there would be no fanatacism.  So the problem is elsewhere.  Ian. 

Not a proof. An atheist said, “I don’t have to prove a negative.” Not a proof to me. I like best those who comment that God cannot be proven or disproven because that is the fact so far.
I wish all of you would read the Rand report that was issued last week dealing with the Wahhabi war we are in.The conclusion is that we can minimize radical religious al Quedas by confronting Islamic teaching of the Koran by radical imams and to arrest them or deport them for teaching hate as is done by England, thereby diminishing the fear of reprisal by those moderate muslims who denounce extremism which I think of as Wahabbism. If the conversation that you people have been carrying on could be carried on along with the Rand report, I believe dialogue about God can be had in the halls of all governments and the UN with a resulting law that would bring an end to killings in the name of an unknown.I thank you all for enlightenment.

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By Stephen Borkowski, November 22, 2006 at 6:08 am Link to this comment
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Dear Ian and all readers of the Comments. I am an agnostic Deist because of remarks made on the pro side for a God like ‘within the God given laws’ and ‘Who do you think put them there?’
We can measure the effects of the laws butyou are assuming, as fact in your mind, a God. Not a proof. An atheist said, “I don’t have to prove a negative.” Not a proof to me. I like best those who comment that God cannot be proven or disproven because that is the fact so far.
  I wish all of you would read the Rand report that was issued last week dealing with the Wahhabi war we are in.The conclusion is that we can minimize radical religious al Quedas by confronting Islamic teaching of the Koran by radical imams and to arrest them or deport them for teaching hate as is done by England, thereby diminishing the fear of reprisal by those moderate muslims who denounce extremism which I think of as Wahabbism. If the conversation that you people have been carrying on could be carried on along with the Rand report, I believe dialogue about God can be had in the halls of all governments and the UN with a resulting law that would bring an end to killings in the name of an unknown.I thank you all for enlightenment.

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By Warren Greer, November 21, 2006 at 11:13 pm Link to this comment
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(Mainly) for David J:
  We have a very special sense—or lack of
sense—of time in the US.  (I’m assuming all of us are US citizens in this cat fight.)  To us, most of the world started 200 years ago, with a faint pre-history a hundred years before that.  1620 and the Virginia settlements are like the Navajos’ creation stories to us.  300 years old?  Wow!  Ooold!  A few years ago, I took my wife and kids to England, France and Italy.  In England, we visited ruins of a church which had been first built by Jesus’s uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, about 80 C.E., if memory serves me right.  More than a few hundred years old???  Almost incomprehensible! I could feel my viewpoint widening by the moment! After that, we took a trip to Stonehenge which blew us clear back ANOTHER couple of thousand years!  When the sun was just right, the shadows would outline on one of the monoliths the markings of a double-headed stone axe from the Stone Age!
    This is the kind of thing we have a hard time relating to in the U.S., so to talk of evolution in terms of millions of years takes some kind of initiation to comprehend.  Hang in there!  I still believe as a matter of faith that reality and science will triumph over myth and superstition!

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By Ian, November 21, 2006 at 8:40 pm Link to this comment
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“Evolution does not violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  Didn’t the raw material that your truck was built of (iron, petroleum, sand) ‘progress’?  Do you think this violated the Second Law of Thermodynamics, or is that exempted because humans were involved?”

Sure it progressed but that is only because it was manipulated by intelligent people.  First by God and then by Henry Ford.  But when the manipulation was complete it began to break down, no offense Henry.

Davidj 39141:  The second law has has been thouroughly disproved has it?  There is enough energy from the sun to compensate you say.  Do you know this for a fact?  So if I leave my Ford out in the sun it will get better?  How exactly does the sun compensate for the Second Law?

And isn’t the sun breaking down too?  It also is subject to the Second Law.  SO what happened before the sun? 

As far as tornadoes and snowflakes, how do they compare to the complexity of a single cell.  On top of that they operate within the confines of God given laws don’t they?  Who or what put the laws into place that allow them to form the way that they do? 

The argument from the agricultural industry I feel is not a good one because you are starting with a complex human being and coming up with more complexity.

As far as the age of the earth, I realise that this may be the evolutionist’s ace in the hole, but all it really does is place the problem so far in the past evolutionists hope no one will notice the gaping holes in the rest of their evidence.  I don’t think that is very good science.  I think that you still need to prove the basic premise of evolution: that matter somehow caused itself to exist and then somehow manages to progress into complexity.  Good luck.  Ian.

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By amos_hart, November 21, 2006 at 4:14 pm Link to this comment
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I have a sneaking suspicion that you are baiting me. So I’ll not rise to it by citing any evidence for God at all. If you want to find him, you’ll have to search for him.

As to faith arguments, when was the last time you saw a quantum? Is it not an invisible entity that “explains” phenomena that are otherwise unexplainable? Quanta are known only by their effects, as are the “invisible beings” to which you allude. No one knows, not even you, what the nature of “ultimate reality” may be. Einstein said the universe appeared to him to be like a great thought. I think that’s gets very close to the notion of the Word as found in the Gospel of John.

As for your personal attack, I have offered no arguments at all for belief in God, so how do you know anything about my ontology? Another presumption? BTW, the fact that you have a seven-year-old daughter suggests that you are a bit of a whippersnapper. I say suggests, not proves, just strongly suggests.  Men of science, such as ourselves, can do no more.

If I acutally were the presumptious sort,I would suggest that you lifted most of your remarks from elsewhere, sans source - not that I mind. One must work with what he has, be it ever so humble.

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By DavidJ, November 21, 2006 at 4:12 pm Link to this comment
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For Ian #39100:

You keep bringing up the Second Law of Thermodynamics, but this argument has already been thoroughly dismantled by evolutionists.  The energy of the sun is MORE than enough to compensate for any entropy that naturally occurs. And things like snowflakes and tornadoes clearly show how nature can create order from chaos. Life isn’t nearly as fragile as you make it out to be. Besides, even if our bodies do naturally decay and break down over time, they DO last long enough to create offspring, which is all evolution really requires.

Frankly I get the impression believers don’t really appreciate the incredible timeframe involved in evolution. For us humans, 100 years feels like a freakin eternity. The concept of MILLIONS of years is just impossible for anyone to really grasp. But when you consider how much change our agricultural industry has created in a mere 100 years (not to mention how far our own technology has come in that time), how much more change do you think nature herself could create in 1,000,000 years? Or 100,000,000? That’s an AWFUL lot of generations being born and going through the process of natural selection over a VERY long time.

I just don’t know how anyone can look at the long history of this planet, and then human psychology and all the THOUSANDS of crazy superstitions and beliefs we as a species have ever held around the world, and NOT conclude that God was simply a construct of our imaginations. Take a step back and get some perspective! We are as much a part of nature as any other creature on this planet. The ego involved in believing we are somehow elevated from all the millions of other species on Earth, or that we have a “relationship” with the creator of the universe, is just astounding to me. Why don’t dogs or whales get to communicate or have a relationship with God too? I’ll tell you why—because they aren’t as “special” as us humans. Give me a break.

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By James, November 21, 2006 at 3:51 pm Link to this comment
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Ian: I think we can both agree that the guy with a mixing bowl on his head is being irrational.  The reason we can probably agree on that is because we can see no credible evidence to support his conclusion.  It gets difficult to discuss anything unless we ‘confine ourselves to observable, physical laws.’  How else can we try to comfort the guy with the mixing bowl on his head?  I guess you would tell him that his opinion about the martians can’t be disproved by science, but god will protect him from them.

Evolution does not violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  Didn’t the raw material that your truck was built of (iron, petroleum, sand) ‘progress’?  Do you think this violated the Second Law of Thermodynamics, or is that exempted because humans were involved?

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By Ian, November 21, 2006 at 3:03 pm Link to this comment
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Gary I agree that there is a problem with religious fanatacism and it is not confined to any one religion.  But I think that you can also have materialistic fanatacism as well.  Look at the militant communism in Russia years ago, as well as in China.  Look at what is going on in North Korea today.  These people deny the existence of God and they torture people who oppose them and some that are simply in the way (“The Eyes of the Tailless Animals” Soon Ok Lee.)  You don’t need to be religious to be a fanatic.  I think your generalizations about the religious are off the mark.  Ian.

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By Ian, November 21, 2006 at 11:53 am Link to this comment
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For James #39073:

“All arguments from faith seem to come down to assigning the imagined activity of an invisible being to any phenomenon we can’t otherwise explain.”

James what do you mean by faith anyway?  Is it the irrational belief that something is true even though there is no evidense to back it up?  Like the man who wears a metal mixing bowl on his head because he is sure that Martians are beaming harmful radiation at him?  Is that faith?  If that’s the case then wouldn’t a group of people who believe in something that is contrary to known observable data be faithful?  The theory of volution is contrary to observable data.  For instance the theory of evolution proposes that complexity arises out of simplicity.  That matter progresses.  The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that entropy increases with change.  In other words my truck rusts.  This is observable.  This is a fact.  But evolution asserts exactly the opposite with no evidense to back it up.  Who has more faith, the evolutionist or those who confine themselves to observable, physical laws?

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By Gary, November 21, 2006 at 11:41 am Link to this comment
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Ian and Karen

The religious pose god as this perfect being, omniscent, omnipotent; he/she created the planets and everything else.  One can only expect perfection from this being, and we don’t get perfection, or anything close on many fronts.  We get many faults and no help or guidance from this absentee parent. 

Why are many of us concerned with the religious in this world?  At least for me, I am concerned that your love of your particular god is going to be the cause of an untold number of deaths going forward in time.  Apparently there is no room for christians, catholics, mormons, muslims, protestants, evangelicals, scientologists, christian scientists, 7th day adventists, snake charmers, hindus, sunnis, shiites (or the myriad of other beliefs/gods) to co-exist with either each other or the rest of humanity that does not believe in your particular brand of god.

I am also concerned about a large segment of the population that ferverently believes in this supreme being, with absolutely no proof other than a book written some 2000 years ago, by persons unknown.  And they believe blindly that this document is the truth, and the word of this god. 

No one ele will change your minds, it would take courage on your parts to read documents that contradict the bible.  I have read the bible and quran, have you read Sam Harris?  Daniel Dennett?  Richard Dawkins?  Hugh Schonfield?

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By James, November 21, 2006 at 8:28 am Link to this comment
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Amos: I’ll bite.. what historical evidence do you have for god?

All arguments from faith seem to come down to assigning the imagined activity of an invisible being to any phenomenon we can’t otherwise explain.  Which would be harmless enough I suppose, except that when we do begin to explain said phenomenon through observation and experiment, indignant believers are usually slow to yield the intellectual field.. sometimes to the point of decrying rationalism and debating the nature of reality itself.  Sometimes they even become violent and revolt against the infidels who preach a perceived ‘religion of materialism’.

Speaking of logs in eyes, wouldn’t you say that you’re statement about ‘studying and contemplating’ this issue longer than I’ve been on the planet is the very definition of presumptiveness?  Since you’re arguments for a belief in god are on approximately the same ontological footing as my seven year old daughter’s concerning Santa Claus, what am I to infer about YOUR emotional maturity?

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By amos_hart, November 20, 2006 at 4:06 pm Link to this comment
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I have the feeling that you are ranting rather than thinking. Nevertheless, I shall respond.

One question requires another when the first is unclear. Alan asked two questions: 1) Does God exist? 2) How do you know? Undoubtedly, he would reject some types of evidence. If he is unimpressed with anecdotal evidence, it would be pointless to attempt to answer him on that basis. On the other hand, if he admits the value of historical evidence, it would be useful to provide it.  There is nothing “mystical” whatsoever in my response to Alan, On the contrary, it was an attempt to clarify the terms of the discussion.  Before seeing “irrationality” in others, you would do well to get the log out of your own eye.

BTW, I have come to my theistic point of view after many years of study and contemplation, probably longer than you have been on the planet. So don’t be so quick to jump to conclusions about why others believe in God. It makes you look very presumptious, i.e., not to be taken seriously.

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By Karen, November 20, 2006 at 2:13 pm Link to this comment
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Dear James,
  Why do assume, without knowing me, that I am irrational?  That I believe men are so fatally flawed that, unless they share my beliefs, they are destined (indeed, deserving) of eternal punishment?  That I cannot wait for the end of the world to occur because I then, selfishly, get to meet Jesus?
  I am not irrational.  I do not believe that those who don’t share my beliefs should suffer eternal damnation, and I don’t eagerly await the “end of the world.”
    I would think you would agree we all are, to one degree or another, flawed people.  It is flawed people who have created religion and it is religion that has inflamed such hatred towards their fellow human beings, that they are willing to blow themselves up in the name of “Allah”, or who will bomb abortion clinics. I don’t see God applauding such behavior.  We all make good and bad decisions, with some having devastating results. I don’t like it either. But, I don’t blame God, I blame men who exercise free will in such a despicable manner.
  I don’t paint you with such a broad brush.  No doubt, you are a decent and caring person.  So am I.  We just disagree about our reasons for being so.
    I am curious, though, how do you propose to end all this hatred and killing in the name of religion?  Do you believe that if all of us were humanists such atrocities would end?  That it is the sole fault of religion?  That men are all innately good until religion corrupts them?

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By Ian, November 20, 2006 at 1:57 pm Link to this comment
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Hey James, actually I am the only person in my family, as far as i know, who is a believer.  My mother raised us to atheistic, agnostic, and skeptical.  So your assumption is quite wrong.  Also I live in Canada, which can be pretty lean soil for faith to grow in.  I guess I just have a rare brain disease that makes me dissatisfied with a materialistic explanition of my existence.  I am just thankful that there are a few others like me who have the exact same problem otherwise it would be pretty lonely.  Ian.

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By James, November 20, 2006 at 12:06 pm Link to this comment
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Karen:  Why do rational people even care that a majority of the American population disagree with scientific principles that have been accepted by the rest of the civilized world?  Consider humans fundamentally flawed and deserving of eternal torment?  Anticipate the end of the world since it will hasten the fulfillment of a two thousand year old prophesy?  Why do we care if fanatics commit horrendous crimes to secure their passage to an imaginary land with 72 waiting virgins? 

To paraphrase Sam Harris, fanatics wouldn’t exist without a moderate framework in which to develop and thrive.

Ian, Amos et al: Instead of smugly answering questions with questions and trying to wax all mystical, why not just admit you believe in god because your parents and friends did, and now you’re afraid to let go of it.

The spaghetti monster is a silly device.. but try convincing someone who’s pretending to be a SM follower why they’re wrong, and you might gain some insight into your own irrationality. 

You keep trotting out the tired old arguments, invoking gaps, appealling to ignorance, incredulity (nice touch referring to Darwin as old Charley.. looks like something right out of a Jack Chick tract), fear, guilt.. but it’s starting to wear thin.  Jesus didn’t show up at the beginning of the new century.. the fanatics did.  In airplanes.  It’s 2006 and people are (finally) starting to recognize the dangers of organized superstition.

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By Ian, November 20, 2006 at 12:03 pm Link to this comment
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For Gary #38877:
Hey Gary, the mosquito is definately the strongest part of your argument.  But just because things aren’t working like they should doesn’t mean they weren’t designed.  My old Ford bears witness to that.  I can get mad a Henry all I want but that doesn’t mean he didn’t design vehicles.
What is interesting is that you have an idea of how things should work.  You feel competent to criticise the God you say doesn’t exist.  Where does that come from?
Yeah God does put His children in harms way, just like the US and Canada are putting their soldiers in harms way.  Maybe God is accomplishing something that we aren’t able to understand.  Maybe physical death and disfigurement is not the worst thing that could happen to us.
As far as the other things that you mentioned, well, I’ll have to take your word for it.  Ian.

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By Stephen Borkowski, November 20, 2006 at 5:58 am Link to this comment
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Alan, Warren, and anyone who thinks along their lines: The Rand Corporation has submitted a 340 page report on ideology being the Achilles heel of al Queda which will wither and disappear under its attack. (see Jihad Watch for Nov. 18) I hope that some of you will take the conversation about God and make comments to JW readers as a contribution to fighting the holy war we are in.In any case, please keep writing as it takes a lot of strokes to reach par on a 600 foot hole.

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By Ian, November 20, 2006 at 1:16 am Link to this comment
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For Warren 38843:  You seem to be saying that God cannot exist because there is evil in the world.  But since you say that God doesn’t exist then who is responsible for the evil in the world?  The only logical answer is that we are, as far as man’s inhumanity to man is concerned anyway.  So if we can be responsible for the evil in the world without God existing then why can’t we be responsible for evil in the world with God existing?  Are you saying that God, if He really was a God, would not allow us to exist?

Alan, am I brainwashed?  Maybe you are brainwashed?  Maybe we all are.  How can we know for sure?  As far as Allah and all that, it doesn’t really matter what name you give to God, He is who He is.  But consider this, if God doesn’t exist then I am brainwashed and go into oblivion a fool.  If God does exist though, where does that leave you?  Ian.

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By Karen, November 19, 2006 at 10:10 pm Link to this comment
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Why do those of you, who think as Sam Harris does, even care about those of us who do believe?  You won’t change my beliefs anymore than I will change any of your minds.  Unfortunately, in spite of all these posts, religions are here to stay.  Once you’ve converted all Christians to atheism, then you’ll have the daunting task of convincing all Muslims, all Jews, all Buddists, all Hindus etc. that atheism is the only way to go for those who have the ability to reason.  Satanists will need to hear the voice of reason as well. If God doesn’t exist, then neither does the devil. 

I do make a distinction between religion and spirituality.  But, so what?  I’m certain that doesn’t make me any less mentally ill, as some posts have called people of faith.  Which is insulting to both believers and the mentally ill. Now, that is the sort of compassion and kindness that is certain to save the world.

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By Gary, November 19, 2006 at 9:03 pm Link to this comment
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Hey Ian, “God exists because the world screams that it was designed by someone”?  Really?  You mean like birth defects, cancer, the ebola virus, mosquitos, mental retardation, polio, the black plague, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes, the crusades, the inquisition, tailbones, nipples on men, the appendix, the prostate, sinuses, tailbones, the tilted pelvis in human beings indicating that we should be on all 4’s, too many teeth in our heads…the list goes on and on.  I would have thought that an intelligent omnipotent being would have been smarter that this, especially to place his children in harms way.

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By Warren Greer, November 19, 2006 at 1:18 pm Link to this comment
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This has been posted before, but bears repeating because it has not been refuted.
“ excerpt from #18953 by Ed W.  on 8/18, which encapsulates the best of the ‘Science over Faith’ debate?

    “...what is so hard about accepting the idea that if god is all-powerful, he can do what he wants. There is nothing interpretive about this statement.  Assuming god exists, either one of the following holds:

1) god wants to expel evil, but can’t, in which case he is not omnipotent.
2) god doesn’t want to expel evil, but can, in which case he is evil.
3) god wants to expel evil and can, in which case there would be no evil….”

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By amos_hart, November 19, 2006 at 1:11 pm Link to this comment
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Alan, you are a harsh taskmaster. Not wanting to be lumped with the “spaghetti monster” crowd, I need you to clarify your question before I am willing to attempt a response.

You asked: “Does God exist and how do you know?”

Let me ask you a question. What do you mean by “know”? Do you require “scientific” evidence, i.e., repeatable observations? Would you accept forensic evidence, such as from history or anthropology? Would you accept “subjective,” experience, i.e., personal anecdote? Do you require deductive proof? Would you accept inductive proof, which by its nature can never be 100% certain? Or is there some other sort of proof that you require. Please do your homework and let your readers know what it takes to satisfy you. After all noboby loves a spaghetti monster.

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By Bernard, November 19, 2006 at 10:05 am Link to this comment
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To Ian 38791: You said “Jesus died so that a way could be opened up between us and God”  Oh, oh, you’re in deep trouble my friend. The Coran says that Jesus is not divine, so you are likely to burn in hell. I think the real question for you Ian is do you really want to know if Alah is real?  All you have to do is ask Him.  So ask Him…

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By Alan Birnbaum, November 19, 2006 at 10:03 am Link to this comment
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After reading Ian’s comment I realize I’m banging my head against the wall. There wasn’t one idea expressed that came close to logic. I realize Ian is brainwashed and spews total jibberish instead of ideas.

Who, for instance, “screams” that there is design in the universe. Only people who wish it. There is NO EVIDENCE indicating anything else.

I also realize there is nothing that will convince you of the folly of your thinking because you cannot be honest with yourself. If you even think Jesus is not devine, then you will rot in hell for eternity. That’s pretty strong stuff to overcome.

Consider this: Had you been born into a muslum family in Iraq would your belief in christianity be as fervent as you claim it to be now?

Now replace the word “muslum” with Jewish and the thousand other different religions and ask the same question and you’ll see the absurdity of your belief.

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By Ian, November 19, 2006 at 1:01 am Link to this comment
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For Warren 38768: You are right I shouldn’t have used “begs the question” I should have said “the questions that it raises for me are…”  or something like that.  Touche.

For Alan Comment #38753:

“Does god exist and how do you know?”

Yes.  I know that it sounds old and tired but I really haven’t heard a good argument against it, God exists because the world screams that it was designed by someone.  It was made with great wisdom and intent.  It was made to be appreciated.  How do I know that God exists?  I know it because I know Him personally.  You can too.  Do you want to know Him? 

As far as being created, God wasn’t created.  He is eternal.  This is baffling, to me anyway.  But it is logically necessary.  Someone had to create the universe and that someone could not have been created because then you run into the problem of well who created that person or thing.  Anyway I am kind of getting out of my depth here.  I think the real question for you Alan is do you really want to know if God is real?  All you have to do is ask Him.  So ask Him.  Jesus died so that a way could be opened up between us and God.  And He rose from the dead so that our faith that He died for our sins is sure.  Ian.

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By Stephen Borkowski, November 18, 2006 at 9:44 pm Link to this comment
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Alan, if you scroll down you will find other people asking the same bqsic question you ask. Some people have answered that God can’t be proven or disproven. I honestly believe that there would be no religious wars if everyone was taught that position and that religions are ideas built on a guess and that is called a faith. I wish there was an international law thatwould require a disclaimer before any teaching of God which would would include that what is said about god is not a fact. I don’t think you can find a religious suicide bomber who was convinced that god and heaven are not facts.

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By Warren Greer, November 18, 2006 at 6:32 pm Link to this comment
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For Ian 38725
“...The questions you are begging for me are how does matter produce complexity on its own?  How is beauty and thinking necessary for survival?  A lump of dirt survives pretty well on its own, why didn’t the world progress to dirt and stop there?....”

    Please don’t misuse ‘begging the question’ any
more.  It has fallen into disrepute by teen-agers
using it to mean ‘asking the question,’ ‘posing the
question,’ or ‘bringing up the question’, which it
certainly DOES NOT MEAN.
    ‘Begging the question’ is a fallacy of logical
discourse, e.g.,
    God is the source of all good.
    Life is good.
    Therefore, god exists.

Begging the Question: the truth of the conclusion is
assumed by the premises.

`    Warren

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By Alan Birnbaum, November 18, 2006 at 3:49 pm Link to this comment
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Amos knows malarkey when he sees it and so do I. With all the noise about god, the devil and the flying spaghetti monster I haven’t seen an intelligent response to the question I posed earlier. In fact, no one answered it. Here goes again.

Does god exist and how do you know?

If you can prove god’s existance, then who created god and how do you know?

So far, I’ve read the explainations of why people BELIEVE they know but no one has admitted that they DON’T KNOW.

It would be a great starting point to discuss the belief in the existance of god if and only if you(collective) can agree that you don’t know whether god exists or not.

Relating tales of the bible that god wrote some 2000 years ago is malarkey.

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By amos_hart, November 18, 2006 at 2:24 pm Link to this comment
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Either the Biblical account is literal or it is not. If I said it is, you would hoot at that idea. If I say it is not, you imply my answer is disingenuous. Catch-22? In any case, my reference to the Biblical narrative was more in the way of an aside. I am not trying to make a case based on Genesis.  Another straw man? Many theists accept the notion of an old earth, Hugh Ross, for example. Incidentally, the fact that the earth is 4 billion years old says nothing about when or how life began on this planet.

Now, on to epistemology. How does accurately deciphering reality provide a survival advantage for an amoeba? Indeed, why would Mother Nature go to the trouble of “creating” the species homo sapiens if survival is the only issue? I believe I would be viewed as an orthodox biological evolutionist if I asserted that one celled organisms preceded us “naked apes.” Would you accept the notion that one-celled organisms might more readily survive a world-wide nuclear cataclysm than would the rest of us? In any case, you seem to be willing to accept the unprovable - that your sensory apparatus is capable of perceiving the world as it really is. I see no reason, other than sheer epistemological bias, for rejecting my assumption that complex, specified patterns are indicative of intelligence. Micahel Behe would in fact accept that notion, but Wiliam Dembski has been perhaps its strongest advocate. Yes, you are surely correct that losing faith in God will not “lead to wandering the streets, convinced your brain is floating in a vat.” While you have no warrant for assuming you perceive reality as it is, you do in fact behave as though you do. Your epistemology and your behavior are incongruent. You deny the only basis on which one may assume he is capable of knowing reality, but you behave as though you were created to know it. What’s wrong with this picture?

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By amos_hart, November 18, 2006 at 12:50 pm Link to this comment
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I inadvertedly provided a cut-rate version of what Fred Hoyle said. More accurately, he calculated that the chance of obtaining the required set of enzymes for even the simplest living cell was one in 10 to 40,000 power. Since the number of atoms in the known universe is infinitesimally tiny by comparison (one in 10 to 1080 power), he argued that even a whole universe full of primordial soup wouldn’t have a chance.

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By Ian, November 18, 2006 at 12:42 pm Link to this comment
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For James 38625:

Can I ask what you are saying here James?

“And I would think a mind that was a product of biological evolution would be pretty good at deciphering reality, since accurately deciphering reality might present some advantage for survival.  Indeed, what use would we have for a reasoning mind if we, and everything around us, were the product of a special creation, our only purpose being to please god?”

You seem to be saying that any positive physical or mental characteristics that we have can be explained as the process of natural selection.  But you can’t explain how matter was able to produce these positive traits in the first place.  You argue this point from our existence today.  This is arguing in a circle isn’t it?  What you are telling me is that it is ok for you to endow matter with this incredible ability to progress into complexity but it is not ok for me to believe that God has ability to create.  The questions you are begging for me are how does matter produce complexity on its own?  How is beauty and thinking necessary for survival?  A lump of dirt survives pretty well on its own, why didn’t the world progress to dirt and stop there?

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By amos_hart, November 17, 2006 at 5:52 pm Link to this comment
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You point out that the Cambrian explosion my have occurred over a period of 20 to 30 million years and that we don’t know what jump started it. The point was that Darwin supposed a long and productive evolutionary history prior to the Cambrian. Even today, there is no such history. With respect to the notion of a jump start, Sir Fred Hoyle calculated that the chance of obtaining the required set of enzymes for even the simplest living cell was one in 1040,000. Since the number of atoms in the known universe is infinitesimally tiny by comparison (1080), he argued that even a whole universe full of primordial soup wouldn’t have a chance. He went on to say:
“The notion that not only the biopolymer but the operating program of a living cell could be arrived at by chance in a primordial organic soup here on the Earth is evidently nonsense of a high order.”
He compared the random emergence of even the simplest cell to the likelihood that “a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein.” Hoyle also compared the chance of obtaining even a single functioning protein by chance combination of amino acids to a solar system full of blind men solving Rubik’s Cube simultaneously.  Of course, some argue that chemical evolution and chance are not the same, that evolution greatly increases the likelihood of a given outcome. That, of course is what is at issue. To assume it is not to prove it.

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By james, November 17, 2006 at 3:59 pm Link to this comment
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amos:  I’m not impressed by the genesis story of the (necessary) order of creation.. besides, if it had wildly disagreed with observed reality, you would have argued that it was just another biblical allegory that couldn’t be taken literally.  I think it’s a stretch to say the creation story doesn’t preclude a four billion year creation.  Good grief.

And I would think a mind that was a product of biological evolution would be pretty good at deciphering reality, since accurately deciphering reality might present some advantage for survival.  Indeed, what use would we have for a reasoning mind if we, and everything around us, were the product of a special creation, our only purpose being to please god? 

Believe me, losing faith in god will not lead to wandering the streets, convinced your brain is floating in a vat.  Many have done it, and they’re fine.

Please define ‘complex, specified information’.  Sounds like Behe-speak.

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By Ian, November 17, 2006 at 2:56 pm Link to this comment
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“Those who cavalierly reject the Theory of Evolution as not being adequately supported by facts, seem to forget that their own theory is supported by no facts at all.”

No facts?  I don’t know man.  Is it not a fact that the cell is a very complex organism.  Is it not a fact that Darwin actually knew very little about the cell when he came up with his theory.  Can I not logically infer that because the various parts of the cell are necessary to its survival and function that they must have been created at the same time.  Is that not logical.  What exactly to you mean by facts?

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