Top Leaderboard, Site wide
August 21, 2014
Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines
Help us grow by sharing
and liking Truthdig:
Sign up for Truthdig's Email NewsletterLike Truthdig on FacebookFollow Truthdig on TwitterSubscribe to Truthdig's RSS Feed

Newsletter

sign up to get updates






American Catch


Truthdig Bazaar
Get Rich Cheating

Get Rich Cheating

Jeff Kreisler
$14.99 NOW $10.19


Henry James Goes to Paris

By Peter Brooks
$19.95

more items

 
Report

Sam Harris: The Language of Ignorance

Email this item Email    Print this item Print    Share this item... Share

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

By Sam Harris

(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:

Advertisement

Square, Site wide
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)


New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

By Ian, November 17, 2006 at 2:47 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

For DavidJ 38569:  Fair enough, you are right, every thing does look designed and that is exactly why I believe that it was.  You have given me no compelling evidence to think otherwise.  I have given evolution a chance.  While I was in school that was pretty much all they talked about.  I didn’t have a choice.  And for the most part I believed in evolution.  But my belief in evolution was driven by a pretty strong desire to suppress the reality of the Creator.  Funny how that is. Ian.

Report this

By amos_hart, November 17, 2006 at 12:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

James:

I know you must be very busy in the lab cloning those little straw men, so I appreciate your taking the time to write. But I would like to point out a few small defects in your productions.  First, whatever hydraulic sorting may or may not have occurred does not imply biological evolution, any more than does finding a 747 on top of a 707. Nor is biological evolution implied by age differences discovered by radiometric dating. As you must know, many theists do not take the Biblical 6-day creation story literally. Hence, we would not be surprised to see evidence that the various species appeared sequentially. In fact the Biblical narrative says precisely that.

Secondly, you raise some epistemological issues.  You say you could have been a believer if Darwin’s ideas had been revealed to him from God. I would simply ask you, once you rule out a creator, how you know anything. How do you know that you are not simply a brain floating in a vat and that the “real” world exists at all? One must start with some assumptions to make any sense of experience at all. What makes sense to me is that the God who created the universe also made my mind so that I do, in fact, perceive a real external world as it really is. Absent that assumption, you simply can’t be confident that you mind tells you anything reliably. If your mind is a product of biological evolution, what warrant do you have that it reflects “reality”? You allude to “reason run amok.” What makes you think that there is such a thing as correct reasoning if reason is a product of random variation and natural selection?

Lastly, you raise the notion of an anthropomorphic God, “giant,” “ghostly,” “human looking.” Theologians, notably Karl Barth, have striven mightily to debunk that idea, suggesting that God is “wholly other.” Sadly, would be satirists, such as yourself, still find them appealing. It would be more accurate to say that complex, specified information implies an intelligent source. I know of no evidence to the contrary. The information in the genetic code is complex and specified. Therefore it requires an intelligent source (designer, if you like). Theists call that designer “God.”

Keep turning out those straw men. They are amusing if nothing else.

Report this

By DavidJ, November 17, 2006 at 12:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ian, I think you’re a little too quick to dismiss the evidence for evolution just because it doesn’t meet your particular standards. There’s a quote I like by Herbert Spencer:

“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.”

Sure, evolution may not be 100% proven, but neither is the Theory of Gravity. Should we just dismiss that completely too until we are 100% certain? The problem with your theory is life only looks designed if you start out with the assumption that there was something out there to design it in the FIRST place. You’re imposing your own experience with what constitutes a “designer” onto the evidence. We’re so accustomed to the concept in our everday lives that we just assume everything around us was designed by some kind of intelligence. Anything that is REMOTELY complex automatically has to have been designed, we think. Hell, most believers I know can’t even look at a freakin flower without thinking it is so utterly complex it must have been created by God! If they’re so easily impressed by THAT, it’s no wonder they have a hard time with anything else evolution has to say.

Your problem is instead of looking at the evidence on it’s own terms, you’re trying to rationalize and twist the evidence to line up with your expectations of a designer. Science is about accepting the world on it’s OWN terms, and as it really exists. It tries to filter out all those human expectations and biases we naturally have. It’s very easy to get swept away by the granduer and complexity of the world around us, and let that influence our view of the evidence. Real scientists understand that, but those behind Intelligent Design apparently forgot that lesson. 

Somehow I get the impression you and other believers wouldn’t be satisfied with evolution until every last missing link was discovered. Sorry, but that’s never gonna happen. The conditions that must be met to create even one fossil are so tricky and rare that only a handful of species ever went through it. It’s amazing we’ve found as many as we have, and have pieced together as MUCH as we have.

And Amos, the Cambrian Explosion was only an “exposion” in the larger geologic sense. Most scientists think it occurred over a period of 20-30 million years, which is a pretty freakin long time when you consider we humans have only been around for 200,000 years. No we don’t know exactly what jump started it yet, but there are a lot of good theories for it, such as a change in the environment. Seriously, where is everyone’s sense of freakin CURIOUSITY? Why are people here so EAGER to stop investigating and to fall back on the God explanation? Should we just stop studying fossils altogether??? I get the feeling most believers would be perfectly fine with that. Which I think is really sad.

Report this

By Ian, November 17, 2006 at 11:54 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

For James 38524:  I suppose you are using an argument from antiquity in a roundabout way.  Since the Bible is ancient and its claims are fantastic it is outdated and irrelevant.  Darwin is much more recent so he must be right, unless he is wrong.  I think that without bringing the Bible into it the evidence is compelling that the world was designed.  As far as “evil-utionists” as you term them or yourselves, it is an interesting idea.  If there is no Creator then there really is no one to answer to, which means that anything goes.  Right?  What right does anyone have to say some one else is right or wrong if there is no higher moral law?  I guess if you have a big fist then you can tell others what is right, but sooner or later some one comes along who is bigger.  In this case you would not be an evil-lutionist you would just be some one among many who has an opinion about the meaning of life.  But if there is a God . . .anyway,

Report this

By james, November 17, 2006 at 8:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ian, Amos; We’re wasting our breath trying to convince these ‘evil’-utionists that there’s no evidence for their material religion.  Sometimes I wish God hadn’t allowed the skeletons of all creatures to be hydraulically sorted during the flood to give the appearance of incremental appearance of species, and that He hadn’t tinkered with the radioactive decay rates to cause radiometric dating techniques to be so wildly innacurate.  But He did. 

Heck, if Darwin had lived two thousand years ago and had his ideas revealed to him in a dream or a vision from GOD, I could have been a believer, but as far as I know he wasted his life traveling the world and studying plants and animals - just asking to be mislead by Satan. 

Only humans create things!  So the Creator of the universe must have been a.. giant, ghostly, perfect, all powerful, human looking thing who created us in his image!  How hard is that to understand? 

I for one don’t look forward to the day when atheistic humanists are allowed to run around our neighborhoods, killing and stealing and coveting, with no Christians in sight (selectively quoting God breathed scripture) to stop them.  Look at Hitler and Stalin!  See what happens when reason runs amock?  Reason will only get you so far.. then it’s time to stop the observing and thinking and discussing - and just believe what my pastor has to tell you about what some anonymous people wrote (preferably a long time ago) about what GOD wants! 

Or you can talk to Him directly!  If you hear a voice in your head, or have a dream, that’s Him talking to you!  Well, probably.  It could be Satan.  Or you could be insane.  Get’s a little tricky there.  I’d say it depends on what He tells you.  Like if he tells you to sacrifice your children, that’s probably not.. wait, that’s a bad example.  Just use your best judgement.

Report this

By amos_hart, November 16, 2006 at 4:31 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Alan, I’m glad you asked (why I called Darwin’s book malarkey). I’ll let the old gentleman speak for himself:

“If the theory be true, it is indisputable that before the lowest Cambrium stratum was deposited long periods elapsed…[in which] the world swarmed with living creatures.”

When Darwin wrote “The Origin of Species,” the oldest known fossils were from the Cambrian period. The Cambrian starts with the abrupt appearance of many fully-formed phyla and classes of animals. Darwin called this a “serious” problem which “at present must remain inexplicable; and may be truly urged as a valid argument against the views here entertained.”

Since that time, further exploration has turned up many fossil beds older than the Cambrian, so our present understanding of Precambian history is far better than Darwin’s. But this vastly improved knowledge of the Cambrian and Precambrian fossils has aggravated Darwin’s problem rather than alleviated it. Many paleontologists now are convinced that the major groups of animals really did appear abruptly in the Cambrian. Thus we have the “Cambrian explosion,” or “biology’s big bang.”  The now well-documented Precambrian fossil record does not provide anything like the long history of gradual divergence required by Darwin’s theory.

Darwin’s defenders have attempted to salvage his theory in the face of the Cambrian explosion, but, suffice it to say, the fossil record does not show that “the world swarmed with living creatures” prior to the Cambrian period. And the Cambrian remains a “serious” problem which “at present must remain inexplicable; and may be truly urged as a valid argument against the views here entertained.” The problem is so serious that the book and the theory deserve to be designated “malarkey.”

Report this

By Warren Greer, November 16, 2006 at 3:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

For:  #38245 by amos_hart
I apologize for bringing my world-view into the discussion.  Mentioning “commie (your word)-ism” is just a discussion stopper, and I should have known that trying to buck half a century of cold war hysteria to discuss another materialist view would fall victim to closed minds.  However, if you would like to tell me how North Korea could remain out of the tender hands of w. bush, and how the Cubans can remain as they are for just short of half a century when it would be so easy to reverse their condition, let’s leave this discussion of supernatural doings and talk politics on e-mail.  I am:
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Easy enough?

Report this

By yanqui, November 16, 2006 at 9:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

DavidJ, I don’t disagree with you. I think religious belief becomes disfunctional when it leads someone to give up the process of inquiry. But I don’t see, for example (and in particular) how it’s had that sort of effect on Francis Collins’ life (at least from reading through some interviews and so on available on the internet). I guess that’s one of the things that pisses off about Harris’s attitude. Rather than see a figure like Francis Collins as a potential good example for religious people, about how they might try to mesh rationality and religion, Harris just slaps Collins upside the head. One thing Collins clearly says in his book is that there is strong genetic evidence for the theory of evolution, and he even takes the time to explain that evidence. He sends the message to religious people that it’s OK to believe this strong evidence and that he himself cannot believe that his personal, loving God would try deceive him about this. I don’t have a problem with this at all, and I see it as something very positive about the book. On the other hand, I find some of the things Collins says in this book about human morality to be confused and perhaps even a bit disturbing. In terms of my opinion, I would say this review by Gert Korthof

http://home.planet.nl/~gkorthof/korthof83.htm

is much more to the point about the Francis Collins book, than Harris’s rant.

At rate, I don’t think religion is going away just because Harris thinks it should. And perhaps because of religion’s larger dependence (than science) on tradition and authority, many religious people are in dire need of good examples to show them how it might possible to live a religious life that meshes, rather than conflicts, with their “God given” rationality.

Report this

By Ian, November 15, 2006 at 6:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

For Davidj 38211: thanks for your reply.  So it is not a proven fact, I’m glad that you admitted it.  So that would mean that we would have to approach other theories with a bit more humility.

The mountain of evidence, actually just one piece of irrefutable evidence would be nice.  The things that you listed,

“common DNA and all mammals the same basic skeletal system, the many vestigal organs and limbs within our bodies (like our tailbones or the hind legs on whales) that no longer serve any useful purpose, the smaller animal brain at the base of our larger brain, and oh yeah, the fact that for being such an “important” part of creation, we human beings have only been around a tiny FRACTION of the time this planet has existed?”

these things are not necessarily interpreted as part of the evolutionary process are they?  Common DNA could mean a common creator as well as a common evolutionary past.  Vestigial organs, are they vestigial?  Do you know for a fact that these organs perform no useful function?  How do you know the tail bone doesn’t have a use?  Are you not making assumptions based on your belief?
As far as man being here such a short time that really doesn’t prove anything and there are other interpretations of the evidence. 

Is this is indicative of the mountain of evidence?  I wish someone would just prove the basic premise of evolution.  It is easy to see how the world we live in could have been created, it has design written all over it, it has never been proven that material progresses over time into complex biological organisms.  In fact the second law of thermodynamics suggests the opposite.  This is why I insist that evolutionists need to prove their theory.  It is, after all, a provocative theory.  It seems to fly in the face of what we know so there must be some weighty evidence to be back it up, or should be, I think.

There is on the other hand weighty evidence that the world was designed.  Look at the work that Michael Behe has done in his book “Darwin’s Black Box”.  This is very logical, compelling evidence I think.  Can I prove to you that the world was designed by God, no.  There is compelling evidence, much more so than evolution I believe, but you can’t prove anything to anyone who has made up their mind to believe otherwise.  My two bits.  Thanks.  Ian.

Report this

By amos_hart, November 15, 2006 at 6:26 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ah, Warren,
I appreciate your suggestion (that I get a copy of the commie manifesto). Fact is, I read it eons ago and wasn’t impressed. Let me make a suggestion to you. Take a tour of Cuba, then North Korea and let me know how it (Marxism) is working for those folks. Re the two Charley’s place in history, you have more faith than I do, and I suspect you spend considerably more time in worship than I do. I’m sure you’ll recognize yourself in the pages of “The Church of Liberalism.” No, I’ll stick with the Holy Scriptures. They’ve been around a bit longer than Marx and Darwin and the prospects are good that they’ll still “function” long after you’ve had to apologize for buying into your brand of religion.

Report this

By DavidJ, November 15, 2006 at 2:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ian: First off, no one is saying evolution is an absolute, 100% proven fact. But once you take all the emotion out of the argument, and simply look at the mountain of evidence we’ve gathered, evolution is the best and most reasonable explanation out there. Sure there are plenty of gaps left to fill in, but not enough to disprove the overall theory.

Secondly, whoever said the answers to life’s creation must be simple and easy to understand? That’s the mistake a lot of believers seem to make—they expect science to somehow provide explanations as short and sweet as those found in the Bible. Sorry, but evolution isn’t something that can be explained as easy as 2 + 2 = 4.

And as for the evidence, how about the fossil record, the fact all forms of life on this planet share common DNA and all mammals the same basic skeletal system, the many vestigal organs and limbs within our bodies (like our tailbones or the hind legs on whales) that no longer serve any useful purpose,  the smaller animal brain at the base of our larger brain, and oh yeah, the fact that for being such an “important” part of creation, we human beings have only been around a tiny FRACTION of the time this planet has existed? If you were to compress the entire history of the Earth into one day, we humans have only been around the last few minutes or so; civilization as we know it didn’t come around until the last few SECONDS. And these aren’t even things that are currently in dispute by scientists!

Again, once you take the EMOTION out of it and look simply at the evidence lying before us, evolution is the best possible explanation for all those things.

Report this

By Ian, November 15, 2006 at 1:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’ve got a question, since evolution is so obviousely true, and most reputable scientists know unequivocally that that is so, then it should be simple to prove it, right?  Even the average person should be in possession of some of the facts that would enable them to make an informed decision about the truth of evolution, right?  The teachers who faithfully teach evolution in school as fact should be able to give their students some proofs as to why evolution is true, right?  Isn’t that logical, sensible, if you are going to entrust yourself to some idea or theory, to ask for some facts?  Would’nt you think that I was an idiot if I did not ask for some proofs or facts that would substantiate a claim as widely held as evolution?

SO here is my question:  What are the facts that should lead me to know without a doubt that evolution is true?  I am not talking about assumptions or stories, give me some facts, because that is really all we are interested in isn’t it?  We are scientists after all, so give me the facts.  If you can’t give me any facts then why do you believe it?  Ian.

Report this

By Warren Greer, November 15, 2006 at 12:31 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re: #38069 by amos_hart
    While you’re in the bookstore, pick up a copy of the Communist Manifesto, if you can get off your knees long enough to get to the “ash bin!”  Old “Charley” Marx and old “Charley” Darwin will still function when you are apologizing for ever buying the line of some spooky religion!

Report this

By Alan Birnbaum, November 15, 2006 at 9:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Amos.

I’d like to know why you declared Darwin’s book “malarkey”.

Report this

By amos_hart, November 14, 2006 at 9:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hey, Sam.
If you would like some real malarky to review, try Darwin’s “Origin of the Species.” If you are half as critical of that as you are of Collins, why I suspect it will just about put old Charley out of business. And high time it is too that that old 19th century fossil joins Marx and Freud in the ash bin of history. What? “No way,” you say? Ah, I understand. When one is intent on ridding the world of religion, any and all means are permissible. Rave on dude. I wasn’t sure I wanted to read the book until I read your “review.” Now I’m gonna run, not walk, to my local book store and buy it. I just gotta have the other side.

Report this

By DavidJ, November 14, 2006 at 5:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Actually Yanqui, my problem isn’t even with religion, per se. If people have examined all the possibilities and determined religion is the most satisfying answer for them, then more power to them. But what frustrates me is how few people really seem to EXPLORE those other ideas in a really deep way, or even care to try. The understanding of even basic science is shockingly low in this country, let alone the critical thinking skills that go along with it. Just look how many people believe in ghosts and psychics! That’s the problem I think really needs addressed.

And it’s true science hasn’t discovered all the answers yet. But that hardly proves anything one way or the other. When we’ve ALREADY done such a great job of explaining so much about the universe we live in (and busted a ton of cherished, long-held beliefs along the way), it seems like a shame to just throw up our hands now and say “Well that’s it. We can’t go any further. Let’s pack up and go home!” Thankfully most scientists are too damn curious to ever want to do that.

Report this

By yanqui, November 14, 2006 at 11:09 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hi DavidJ, dialogue is cool. Actually, that was the hidden agenda behind my post. Speaking for myself, all this religion and God stuff does not seem to play an important role in my own personal life, in spite of the fact it may have deep evolutionary roots. This stuff does seems to live on in me in some sort of metaphorical sense, something like Einstein’s God, or perhaps as a possibility, which I cannot completely rule out. On the other hand, it’s very intense for a person like Francis Collins.

In the world of mathematics (where I work), the problem of true or false is pretty straight forward. In the real world, this truth business gets a whole lot trickier. Just look at the way physics has gone: after several hundred years of progress, physicists are actually questioning how many dimensions there are in the world, and how many universes really exist. Is it so clear that science has already spoken the final word on all this God business?

At any rate, I tend to define myself as a pragmatist. If someone’s religion opens up their eyes to the value and beauty of the natural world, because they see the miracle of God’s creation, then great. On the other hand, if it leads them to accept superstition and magic, or the perhaps authority of the Bible, in place of good, hard scientific evidence, then I have a problem with that. If their religion motivates them to run off and cure diseases in third world countries (like what the Carter Foundation did with Guinea worm), then great. On the other hand, if it leads them to a polarizing and xenophobic classification of human beings, then I have a problem with that.

This may sound strange, but I suppose I tend to look at religious people in a similar light as to the way I look at gay men. Why does a gay man need to have sex with another man, when he could have sex with a perfectly good woman? Doesn’t make any sense to me, but I’m willing to accept his need, depending on how it’s been integrated into the other aspects of his life. I’ve had some friends and acquaintances who were homosexual and they seemed like good enough, decent people. As long as there’s some kind of love and respect, what difference does it make that their sexual partners are male?

Report this

By DavidJ, November 13, 2006 at 5:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To Yanqui, yes it’s true that most people have a deep, profound need to believe in God. No one doubts that. The question is where does that need COME from? If—as it’s pretty well accepted within the scientific community—these primitive instincts evolved within us millions of years ago simply as a means of coping with a big, scary world, don’t you think we should QUESTION that need? How do we know we’re not just giving in to a bunch of primal impulses that have nothing whatsoever to do with the real world we live in?

Yes religion gives a lot of people’s lives meaning and purpose (it wouldn’t have survived this long if it DIDN’T do that), but just because it serves that function well doesn’t make it true. Most superstitions out there give people some kind of meaning and happiness. Are all those true too? At some point we as a species need to get out of our own heads and start exploring the REAL world for our answers. Even if those answers may not be as comforting as we’d like.

Report this

By Warren Greer, November 13, 2006 at 3:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

#37807 by Jon
“In the supposed beginning of life out of total non-life, there is no one to organize the materials.”
It was NOT organized.
“There is no life, no intelligence: nothing.”
In the beginning there was everything there for the developmment of life, or it wouldn’t have developed.
“...the void that existed at the time life supposedly occurred by accident….”
The earth existed for billions of years before life developed.
  “One resorts to a “it must have happened” attitude and then calls it “reasonable.””
It DID happen.  That we are carrying on this debate is evidence that life developed.
  “minimal information in its DNA? And, what told that first organism it needed to change and then how to change?”
It evolved or it perished.  Nothing had to ‘tell it’ not to perish.  Most of it did.  The Burgess shale in Canada has fossils of seven-legged creatures as well as other now-unheard-of ones which did not make it.
“Some people deny the existence of God only to deify “natural selection” as if a process could think.”
If you don’t like ‘natural selection’, try ‘natural result’.  A process doesn’t think, but it can have a result.
Since it is impossible to prove a negative assumption, and only a positive statement can be proved or disproved, what proof is there that a god exists?  Jove?  Odin?  Selene?  Yahweh?  Shambala?  Holyghost-father-christ trinity?  Fertility godesses?  Angel Moroni?  The god of a volcano?  Muslims, jews, and christians, all profess to worship the same god called Allah, Jehova, Yahweh.  Think on THAT one!
Warren

Report this

By james, November 13, 2006 at 11:47 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I would love to read Collins’ book.. I find the concept that science and religion address different aspects of life fascinating.  Does he indicate at what point to abandon a research project due to hitting the ‘miracle’ barrier?  It seems this would be helpful for scientists to understand, since considerable time and resources could be saved.  While dropping a beaker during an experiment would be an obvious sign of disapproval from the Creator of the universe (especially if it broke into three approximately equal pieces) what about burning a hand on a bunsen burner, or observing a sunbeam that creates a cross shape on the wall?  And if said Creator should reveal the nature of the phenomenon under study directly (via a dream or talking shrub) would it be a breach of faith to continue the experiment?  Finally, if a fellow scientist is misled by Satan into formulating a heretical theory, how should she be killed?

Report this

By Jon, November 12, 2006 at 7:20 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In the supposed beginning of life out of total non-life, there is no one to organize the materials. There is no system akin to the Web, a raffle or the lottery. There is no life, no intelligence: nothing. Therefore, no example whatsoever will suffice to remotely typify the void that existed at the time life supposedly occurred by accident. The chance that the right elements and conditions could produce life out of sheer barrenness is so infinitesimal, that it requires truly blind faith to accept. One resorts to a “it must have happened” attitude and then calls it “reasonable.” And, supposing this “miracle” of impossibility occurred, where did the new information come from to cause that primordial life to advance seeing there was minimal information in its DNA? And, what told that first organism it needed to change and then how to change? Some people deny the existence of God only to deify “natural selection” as if a process could think.

Report this

By morgan -lynn lamberth griggsy, November 11, 2006 at 3:24 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It sure will take emotions to get to theists. Science and philosophy alone won’t do it . It is emotionalism for them alright. They need a divine love and ultimate purpose when reality can only give human love and our transient purposes. They need a future state , which I never have thought about for me! If I were in a fox hole , I certainly would not convert! The saying is just plain malarkey .

Report this

By yanqui, November 11, 2006 at 7:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well I’ve never read anything by you (Harris) before, but I have to say this particular piece is spectacularly unimpressive. I mean, really, what is the point of all this ranting, except perhaps to get all the miltant athiests to stand up and shout “hooray!”?. If the point of your work is simply to root for the home team, then I guess you’re succeeding. Engaging in debate about sophomoric philosphical issues like “the argument from suffering”??? Please. Considerations like these will NEVER have any effect on the faithful, because they only address the rationalizations and they don’t address the existential NEED. Haven’t you neuroscientists ever heard of the subconcious? If you try to a liitle harder to understand Collin’s religious epiphany in that context, I think you’ll see it makes perfect sense.

I have never met Francis Collins, but if you are really interested in understanding who he is and why he thinks what he thinks, you might start with this:

http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/col1int-1

It’s clear that he is an intense and compassionate human being who forcibly experiences (I am speaking metaphorically here) a reality where each human being is a wonderful miracle of infinte value. He passionately wants to end suffering, but is unable to. He runs off to Africa to treat the sick and dying during the middle of a bunch of academic projects, because that seems meaningful and important to him. But then he feels: “My dreams of myself as the healer for this large population were lying in pieces on the floor.”

So here’s this big problem in his life. On the one hand his experience (speaking metaphorically, again) that each human being is a living miracle, a wonder of infinite value. And then his experience of his powerlessness to alleviate that suffering. What does his science give him? It gives him neither the power he so passionately desires or the language to describe the spiritual level in which he experiences other human beings. Evolutionary biology, for example teaches us that the human being is mass of selfish genes that fucks and kills and dies. What good is this description in terms of Collin’s need? How does it serve him with respect to the problem he needs to solve?

I find it extremely insightful that Collins refers to his religious epiphany as a surrendering. Indeed. The rest is just an attempt to balance his existential need to believe in God with his active, rational mind. You’re right, Harris, when you say this attempt is a bit thin. My point is that arguing with the rationalizations is only so much hot air, except perhaps to rally the atheists around your call. Unless the existential need goes away, the rationalizations Collins gives will only be replaced by others. I’m NOT saying here that rational discourse is impossible with religious people. Far from it. I don’t see why a mature and rational religious life isn’t possible. But I AM saying that all this hot air about science and philosophy, by itself, will not remove a religious person’s NEED to live a religious life. 

For the sake of argument, let’s consider this whole business from a functional point of view. The human being is like a big computer program that carries out certain functions with more or less success. Our beliefs determine the operating system of the program. We can measure the “truth” of those beliefs in terms of the success of the program. The kind of life Collins lived created the need to introduce religion into the program. The kind life Harris lived, didn’t. Collins cared passionately about the suffering of humans and tried to help them. And what about Harris? Is it really so clear that the program you’re adopting to solve the problem of life is so much more successful than the program Collins is adopting?

Report this

By Ian, November 10, 2006 at 7:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I already posted something like this, but it doesn’t seem to be coming up.  Please forgive the redundancy if it surfaces. 

For Bernard 37391: Thanks for your reply.  I beg to differ with your anology.  You are starting with a computer which is a complex machine designed by an even more complex machine, man.  Suffer me a story.

There was once a group of men and wome who, after years of labour, discovered how to generate life in a labratory.  Excited and emboldened by their discovery they decided to contact God and tell Him that they didn’t need Him anymore, they could handle things on their own.  When they made their discovery known to God He replied, “Oh really” and He asked for a demonstration.  The leader of the group smiled confidently and reached down with her shovel to scoop up some dirt.  “Ah, Ah, Ah!  No you don’t” God said, “Get your own dirt!”

This story, borrowed from someone else, illustrates my point.  You want to start somewhere between third and home, but you haven’t even stepped up the the plate and hit the ball.  The analogy about the lottery is the same.  It starts with complexity and then from there we get a randomly generated scenario.  But as was eloquently pointed out, it isn’t random chance anyway, someone is going to win.  The person who wins is decided in a random fashion. 

Thanks, Ian.

Report this

By Warren Greer, November 10, 2006 at 1:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

All this talk of gazillions (brazillians to w. bush) of odds to one is scientific talk.  Most people figure odds of evolution like they figure the odds of winning the lottery:  no matter how many people buy tickets, the odds are even.  “I will win or some one else will win”—one out of two.  Not bad!  Either a very complicated natural process occurred or a simple supernatural creation came about.  This makes evolution extremely unlikely, so according to St. Occam of the Razor, god made it all in six days!  And rested on the Seventh!  Does god need to rest after creating a universe?  Of course, dummy!—he’s only human, after all!

Report this

By Ian, November 10, 2006 at 11:27 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thanks for the reply, but I beg to differ.  There is absolutely no comparison to your little analogy and the claim that the material world aroze purely by chance.  You are starting with a computer, a complex machine which in turn is built by a much more complex machine, man, however competently you operate it.  Suffer me a little story.

There once was a group of men and women who figured out how to create life in a labratory experiment.  Excited and feeling emboldened they decided to tell God that they didn’t need Him anymore, they had figured it out themselves.  God listened patiently to the men and women as they made their discovery known to Him.  When they were finished God asked for a demonstration.  The leader of the group smiled and leaned over to shovel some dirt into a bag.  “AH! AH! AH!”,  God said, “get your own dirt!”

This story is borrowed from somewhere else but it illustrates my point here.  You guys want to start somewhere between third and home plate.  My point is that you haven’t proven the premise of evolution in the first place.  It is just a THEORY and you want me to chuck my brain out the window and just believe it and then start figuring out how chance over time has resulted in this amazing world we live in.  Thanks for your reply.  I appreciate it.  I really do.  Ian.

Report this

By Alan Birnbaum, November 10, 2006 at 8:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“They think that if something has an extremely small probability of happening then it cannot happen. This is completely false and I will try to demonstrate it with an example.”

Here’s another example of a gazillion-to-one chance being a certainty.

Suppose you initiate a raffle with a gazillion people. Each person has a gazillion-to-one chance of winning(an extremely low probability) but it’s certain that one of those people will win. So, just because we have an extremely low probability of an event happening, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it cannot happen.

Report this

By Bernard, November 9, 2006 at 6:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

For Ian 37344, you said: “All that I know of the world tells me that complexity does not arise by chance”. This is a very common misunderstanding among people who reject the evolution theory. They think that if something has an extremely small probability of happening then it cannot happen. This is completely false and I will try to demonstrate it with an example.

Let’s say I’m a software programmer (actually I am) and I want to create a spamming software that will send emails to all of you guys. The intelligent way to do it is to buy a database of email addresses and send my email to all of them. But I’m a lazy and stupid programmer, I have no idea what an email address looks like, I don’t know that some characters are forbiden, I don’t know that there must be only one ‘@’ and that it must be followed by a valid domain name… So I make a software that randomly creates strings of 10 to 60 characters (for example: “dsk836s/x,;c’;kdl4=$SjSIuJOKL/=J*-0Fc. J+7#”) and send my email using these character strings as email addresses. I know this is very stupid, but this is exactly what I want, no intelligence at all, just pure chance. I don’t care if 99.999999999999999….% of my emails will be rejected by the mail server. What happen if I let my software run in a loop for a long time? All of you guys will receive my email. Now from your point of view, if you don’t know how my software work, you will certainly think that there must be an intelligent programmer behind this who knows how to find your email address. You will think that it’s not possible that your email address could be created randomly. But this is exactly what happened.

I just did what evolution does, I randomly created a huge number of character strings without any knowledge of what an email address looks like. No intelligence involved.

This is the exact recipe of evolution: Chance + Natural Selection

In my case the (natural) selection was performed by the mail server that rejected almost all of my email addresses because they were either invalid or don’t exist.

Report this

By DavidJ, November 9, 2006 at 1:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It’s true, Ian, we don’t know what exactly initiated those earliest forms of life.  But we do know how those early forms evolved and became much more complex over time. And if THAT natural process is understood and agreed upon (at least by the vast majority of scientists out there), then why is it so hard to believe that what STARTED the whole process has a natural explanation too? Nature can evolve complex creatures such as us but not a simple microbe or amoeba? Somehow I doubt that.

Heck, if believers rested their case simply on the question of how those INITIAL forms of life could have been created, I’d have a lot more respect for their point of view. But the fact most of them basically refuse to accept anything WHATSOEVER to do with evolution, or the idea that complex forms could have evolved over millions of years of natural selection, just totally destroys their credibility with me.

Report this

By Ian, November 9, 2006 at 11:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

For Warren 37269:  Thanks for your comment.  You are right I did put words in the mouths of those who believe we arrived here by chance.  I assumed that they must think that matter has the inherent ability to progress.  You would prefer me to say that matter has the “ability to survive”.  I don’t know that there is much difference.  The very matter which composes the organisms you say have progressed by chance, is very complex.  Elctrons circling around protons and neutrons all in a delicate balance.  On another level the cells that make up the organisms are very complex, irreducibly complex, some would say.  These are facts.  To say that matter has the ability to survive is to say nothing about how matter somehow arranged itself in these complex patterns.  And it says nothing about why matter exists in the first place.  I didn’t set up your straw man you did. 

All that I know of the world tells me that complexity does not arise by chance, that design preceeds production and that Mind preceeds design.  So I thought the only possibility for someone who believes that we arrived here by chance is that matter possesses those qualities in and of itself, “the inherent ability to progress”.  Thanks, Ian.

Report this

By DavidJ, November 9, 2006 at 11:09 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Not only that, Bernard, but where did huge emphasis on faith come from in the FIRST place?  That’s right, the Church. Since the very beginning, it’s been in their best interest to have their flock be as unquestioning and uncritical as possible! Of COURSE they’re going to drill it into people’s heads that faith is important above all else and is a noble human trait. The idea has been around so long, most people just accept it as a given.

The funny thing is, in no other facet of the human experience does such a huge degree of blind faith play a role. When you buy a new car, aren’t you as cautious and skeptical as possible? Or when you buy a house? Yet when it comes to the most important question of human existence, people are perfectly willing to forgo logic and reason, and accept the idea of an invisible man in the sky who has magically willed the entire universe into existence.  Based on nothing more than the writings of a 2000 year old book and because everyone else they know believes the same thing.

Report this

By morgan -lynn lamberth griggsy, November 9, 2006 at 11:02 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

One expects me to agree with Bernard: faith is just the I say so of gulliblilty!“Occult powers wielded by an inscrutable way,” states Keith Parsons,” for unfathomable purposes just do not seem to be the basis for any sort of a good explanation.Theistic’explanations’ therefore only seem to serbe the purpose of hiding our ignorarnce behind a theological fig leaf.” The god notin is empty, a mere place holder! It is the tautology , God wills what He wills. When science explains the why and how of things, God is a Ockhamite redundancy . It is a placebo one can replace with other things.

Report this

By Bernard, November 9, 2006 at 7:54 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Let’s assume that God exists, we all agree that he must be extremely intelligent, far beyond any human intelligence. It does not require a lot of intelligence to observe that pure faith is extremely dangerous because it does not provide any distinction between reality and ideology. The amount of suffering (war, torture, burning, rape, murder) caused in the name of faith is astronomical. No doubt that faith has brought us way more bad things that good things so far. The people who crashed the airplanes on 9/11 did so because of their absolute faith. Bin Laden has an extremely high faith too, he is very rich yet he chose to live in a cave to better serve Allah.  It just doesn’t make any sense that an extraordinary intelligent God chose faith as the only way to be in contact with him, knowing that faith will cause so much problem and suffering.
The only explanation for me is that faith is an invention of man, it is the best way to control people mind. Don’t think, obey, and if you start to think or disobey, you will be punished. Does that remind you of something else? Yes of course, this is exactly how any army works, soldiers must blindly obey to any order and not think otherwise they are punished. Indeed if a soldier starts to think about what he is ordered to do, then he might think that killing civilians or dropping a bomb on a village is wrong. The good soldier must not be intelligent, on the contrary he must believe that everything he could be asked to do is right. If he has that faith, then he can kill, torture, rape and still think he is doing the right thing.
Faith is blind obedience, exactly the opposite of intelligence. What did God gave us a brain if he doesn’t want us to use it?

Report this

By Warren Greer, November 9, 2006 at 1:47 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

For IAN, 37213:  setting up straw men and knocking them down is not debating, or even really discussing a topic. 
“...the premise of evolution: that matter possesses the inherent ability to progress….”
No atheist believes that, nor does any evolutionist, theist or not.  Matter possesses the ability to survive, and if you would like to call that ‘progress’, you certainly may, but it puts a human value judgement value on a natural process.  Only humans have the ability to see that a characteristic which doesn’t necessarily contribute to survival at one time, may be valuable at some other time.  This, itself,is a survival characteristic.  The ‘inherent ability’ is to think, and those who think correctly for the circumstances, survive.  ‘Progress’is how we think about life after surviving.

Report this

By Ian, November 8, 2006 at 4:33 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I don’t believe that the Christian faith can be intelligently harmonized with evolution either,  but that is because I don’t believe in the premise of evolution: that matter possesses the inherent ability to progress.  I don’t believe this has ever been proven nor is it likely to in the future.  Sam Harris, typically, wields the principle of scathing condescension like a great, bloody broadsword “hacking, burning, gnawing” but I don’t think the truth is so easily scared.  Whooah?

Report this

By Gabriel Hochstetler, November 5, 2006 at 9:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In response DavidJ
  Perhaps someone should be able to write a book where every paragraph can stand all by itself apart from every ohter paragraph and make sense, but I can’t imagine any author who can have do this while presenting a valid case.  So this is why I said that Collins was being misrepresented, not mis-quoted.  Misrepresented means that in the context of the chapter and book you don’t see Collins declaring what Sam Harris says he does.
  In adition to that just because someone has emotion in thier argument doesn’t mean that thier argument isn’t valid.  If this was true than Sam Harris is the first one who should be considered without merit.  Christians speak from emotion and are trying to uphold thier ideal, while Athiests are able to start fresh.  Rubish.  It would be just as hard for an Athiest to even think of God in Christian terms as it would be for any Christian to think of a world without God.  We are creatures of emotion, and this goes as much for the scientist as for the philosopher.  What I have to say is that Collins seems to deal with “scientific” realities more than most people on either side of the argument.  And because of this I don’t think that it is just to scrutinize his personal experiences which are part of his Faith.  If this is true than the next time you tell someone you love them stop and realize that it is only a social construct which is part of process, and to be free from it saying you love someone is going in the wrong direction.

Report this

By DavidJ, November 2, 2006 at 9:31 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

How is Harris misrepresenting Collins, when there is a DIRECT QUOTE from Collins’ book telling how he “surrendered to Jesus Christ” simply because of the “majesty and beauty of God’s creation” he discovered during a hiking trip???  If that doesn’t illustrate how incredibly far off the tracks this scientist has gone, and how weak his intellectual arguments are going to be throughout the book, I don’t know WHAT would.

In every quote I read by Collins, I see someone who is arguing through emotion and passion and belief. There’s very little that is objective or scientific about it.

Report this

By morgan lynn lamberth, November 1, 2006 at 10:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Another wiseacre is Alister McGrath as evidenced in his book on Dawkins . He finds the redundancy of God as an explantion wonderful and faults Dawkins for defining faith as blind faith,but in his acceptance of redundancy , he shows blind faith! With Austin Cline !atheism about , I reckon that Collins problay wasn’t that much of an atheist ,since he makes the non-sequitur of seeing the waterfall as an indication of the truth of his religion . These         two and so many others do show irrationality in such matters as Cline avers.The religious indeed can be quite rational otherwise and some unbelievers are not so rational. I have to watch my temper so as not to be irrational!

Report this

By Stephen Borkowski, November 1, 2006 at 6:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hi Dave, I feel like Kerrey in a misundestood statement. Allow me to explain to save time.
Value of assertion in descending order:
  5. Natural Laws ex. Gravity, Inertia, etc
  2. Facts, ex. 2+ 2= 4
  1. Theories              
  0
  -1 hypothesis,beliefs,guesses,myth,mirages,etc
  Any order according to your value.  To El, Please don’t stop. Remember that it took Galileo 17 years before he had to lie to stop rear end diehards from burning him for blasphemy but he finally got his point accepted by billions of people.

Report this

By Gabriel Hochstetler, November 1, 2006 at 5:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“According to Collins, belief in the God of Abraham is the most rational response to the data of physics and biology, while “of all the possible worldviews, atheism is the least rational.” Taken at face value, these claims suggest that “The Language of God” will mark an unprecedented breakthrough in the history of ideas.”

To start your argument with a misrepresentation, while serving your purposes quite nicely, does not bode well for your credibility.  Francis does not say that evolution in and of itself is the reason to beleive in the God of Abraham, but rather puts the implication of evolution beside his evidence of human altruism, desire, and joy.  But as I read further in your article I saw that straw men burned in effigy are much easier for you to deal with than the flesh and bone of another intellectual individual.

Report this

By morgan-lynn lamberth skeptic griggsy, November 1, 2006 at 6:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Stephen, thanks. Dan, your parallels are quite telling.My comments in 34284 give my scientific view and mine in 28206,28807,and 29250 are also worth rereading .I am not superior in an absolute sense and find non-atheists can be quite sensible otherwise.My comments are to be challenged alright!I am not satisfied with my arguments ;I might be wrong!

Report this

By DavidJ, October 31, 2006 at 8:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

While I agree with most of your sentiment, Stephen, I’m afraid this idea that “all beliefs are equal in value” is something believers like to say but doesn’t really hold up to close scrutiny. Unlike believers and their faith, scientists don’t just “believe” in an idea or theory. Every idea has to be thoroughly tested and measured against the real world before it is accepted.

People can believe whatever they want to believe, of course, but those beliefs are NOT all equal. Just because we can’t disprove Bigfoot exists doesn’t automatically make him real either. It’s a faulty argument.

Report this

By El Paisa, October 31, 2006 at 8:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well Warren, our positions seem to have hardened.  Probably we cannot make any progress together.  Best to you, Alan, Morgan and the rest of you guys on the “other side”.

Adios

Report this

By Jon, October 31, 2006 at 7:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Alan,
You ask what I think about the existence of God. I believe He does exist.  But, I have not claimed that God can be proven in a lab study (See comment #28494). I contend that humans have more at their disposal than reason alone. We all have the capacity to tap our spiritual selves and exercise faith. Some choose to deny any spiritual realities and thus will never understand the strength of faith.  But faith in God is not to be confused with wishing or hoping. True Christian faith is a confident assurance in His existence and His interest in His creation. Christian faith is based on “General Revelation” (Creation) and “Special Revelation” (The Bible). I do not throw out science or reason, but neither do I feel threatened by them regarding my faith. Collins is a man of high intellect, excellent credentials and historic significance. He argues for belief in God as an experienced scientist and he is mocked and dismissed. I cannot argue the point as eloquently as he nor can I address the scientific issues as well as he has done. I won’t attempt to do so because I believe the “proof” argument is a cop out anyway. Ultimately, individuals will choose to acknowledge the spiritual realities of human existence or they will reject them. No argument will ever convince those who close their mind to all but material data. You may strongly disagree with my statements. So be it. But I have endeavored in all my entries to be honest in stating my beliefs.

Report this

By Stephen Borkowski, October 31, 2006 at 6:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Please keep writing,Zoe, Morgan, El, Jon, David, et al. In combo there is a lot of info based on broad backgrounds being exhibited. The important thing is that most people on either side of the belief street agree that a creator can neither be proven or disproven and therefore reflection will allow that no one has the answer and thus any belief is equal in value. I think of a number line with the non believrs on the left of zero and the believers on the right size, Of course the answer lies at zero which is akin to where the universe was at the beginning of the Big Bang.Anyway, conjecture is creative practice as long as no one is willing to go to war for it.

Report this

By Alan Birnbaum, October 31, 2006 at 5:20 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Jon

There are 3 possible answers to the question “Does god exist”?

1. Yes
2. No
3. I don’t know

I want you to tell me what you think, not what someone 2 millenia ago thought.

Report this

By Warren Greer, October 31, 2006 at 1:54 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Alan:  El Paisa is right—those questions have been answered centuries ago, but every time the answer is different.  The god of Moses and Abraham doesn’t look at all like the god of the Spanish Inquisition or that of John 23rd.  The Southern protestants want to memorialize the Ten Commandments, but there were over 100 commandments which would topple society were they to be enforced or even just observed today.  Don’t confuse Yeshua’s teaching with the superstitious hocus pocus the Roman Empire overlaid on a gentle Semite.  He did the best he could with the level of knowledge current in his time.  He was no Christian and would be crucified by the Christians if he were to show up today.  They’ve got a good slippery thing going and they are not about to let themselves be messed up by
a little thing like, “What you do to the least of them, you do to me.” Did we murder Christ a million times when we starved and killed Iraqis before and after the invasion? You won’t catch any Christians working on THAT little stricture in Iraq, Haiti, or Honduras, for example.  Let them be.  If they are right, Christ will enlighten and/or punish them, if they are wrong, life will punish or impoverish them until they learn.

Report this

By DavidJ, October 31, 2006 at 12:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Zoe, I’m afraid I could never be as eloquent as someone like Carl Sagan when it comes to talking about the meaning that can be found in science. smile  But when I think about the fact that we (and everything around us) are the culmination of billions of years of stellar evolution, and were formed from the stars themselves, and that we alone of all the millions of species on Earth were able to develop enough intelligence to study the universe we came from and contemplate our own existence … well, I find that pretty damn inspiring and meaningful. Not to mention incredibly profound.

No, we don’t have all the answers yet, but why should we? Religion is a desperate attempt to fill in all the holes in our understanding, but to me that’s like filling a pothole in a road with whipped cream. It might make the road LOOK smoother, but it doesn’t really solve anything in the long run. To me it seems like not only a waste of our time but a waste of a precious gift to not explore these questions with complete honesty as a species. Or to just throw up our hands and say “Well, the theologians say everything was created by a Higher Power and that’s good enough for me. What’s on TV tonight?”

As for the “possibility” of a God, sure, I agree there’s a slim chance. But when I already see plenty of meaning in what science and evolution tell us, the idea of an invisible being in the sky snapping his fingers and willing everything into existence just seems… boring and overly simplistic. I guess that’s what really gets me—this desire people have for simple and easy answers. There’s nothing REMOTELY simple and easy about the universe or this planet or the life upon it! Why should we expect the answers to be that way? I expect them to be complex and challenging and frustrating til the very end.

Report this

By fernán Jaramillo, October 31, 2006 at 11:32 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re:Comment #35244 by Alan Birnbaum
Humbug!  The problem is not my honesty, but your monumental ignorance, not to mention laziness.  You set such a low bar for the discussion it is not worth my ATP.  Why do you want me to do your homework for you?  Don’t forget it is YOUR soul man.  If you dislike the gospels read Athanasius, Augustine, and Jerome.  Maybe Plato too.  Then move on to Bonaventure and Aquinas, with a detour to Theresa of Avila.  Give me a call after you’re done and we’ll try to find where you’re getting stuck.  I’ve read the materialists/positivists/empiricists, et. al (heck, I used to believe them).  You should do at least the same for other side.

Report this

By zoe, October 30, 2006 at 9:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

TO David

Sorry, forgot one thing

Other than our physical presence in the universe, I see no role of science in establishing our place (purpose, significance).  To that end, I feel that *science* is woefully inadequate. 

OF course, this then begs the question of our significance and purpose and we are back where we started from.  However, all of the research articles I have read have never made me think of anything other than mechanics , wonderful as they may be.  (well, I probably have, but we have already established that I *don’t* live my life based on simple objective truth)

Again, I simply return to the limitations of empirical research.  How empirical research(ojective) plays a role in encouraging compassion, sacrifice, forgiveness, nobility, purity?  I’d love your thoughts on that.  The idea of rejecting God because of a lack of empirical evidence, limit yourself to living your life based on only what is REAL, and yet holding oneself to higher ideals (again subjective).  If you are not Spock and concede that you live in a world that requires subjective decisions, then what is your basis for those subjective decisions?  In other words, on what do you base your ethics (subjective)? 
 
Like to hear your thoughts
Zoe

Report this

By zoe, October 30, 2006 at 9:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Comment to David (and others)

Thanks for your response.  You were very thoughful and I appreciate you taking my spleen.  I try very hard to be thoughtful in responses and it does irritate me to be met with such limited willingness to discuss.  For my part, I wish the CHristian community would be less paranoid about science. 

Hopefully my point is that, for most Christians, our belief is more complex than just an emotional satisfaction.  I agree that my belief in God/Christ brings me intense joy and comfort, but it is a joy that also must bring to bear an intellectual basis (here, because this word is so emotionally laden in this forum, I am meaning a higher thought process involving more than just “Gee, I feel so happy”)  I must be able trust my God even in times of struggle and trials, when my emotions cry out “no!”

For all the thick-headed atheists who cannot get it through their head wink ... I will gladly concede that my belief (hello!? belief…faith!) is not going to be proven by any empirical data that satisfies your criteria.  THus, if your entire life if to be lived only through empirical evidence, you will never be able to consider anything beyond this.  So therefore, GOd is not a fact for you (Is that honest enough?)

To the quote concerning
“Occult powerw wielded by a transcendent being in an inscrutable way for unfathomable purposes just do not seem to be the basis for any sort of a good explanation. Theistic’ explanatons’ therefore only seem to serve the purpose of hiding our ignorance behind a theological fig leaf.” I will only say this:

Blinding flash of the obvious
Let’s just say there is a supreme infinite being out there (bear with me, here)
We are finite beings limited by physical observations.  IN what way can we fully understand the “inscrutable” and “unfathomable”?

The quote in essence seems to be a rather silly and fancy way of simply saying any God is naturally beyond our complete understanding, therefore we don;t understand it and therefore it can’t bear thinking about, therefore it isn’t a good basis. Hmm, rather reminiscent of a child’s reaction to a toy he/she cannot understand…can’t understand it…can’t be possible…I reject.  Oh, and anybody who attempts to understand it is stupid. 

Now saying all that, I am all for scientific research and love to read the literature.  I gladly welcome the challenge it provides and , to me, at least, does not cause me any panic in my faith.  My faith does not allow me to put blinders on (do I not trust my God?)...to me Genesis speaks on God’s power, His glory and might, but the actual process? For me, then, I rest on the fact that He orchestrated events, but the rest He left to us to uncover.  I am indeed saddened by my many in Christian circles who do like to hide from research and science.  I also don’t think God intended for us to rest in simply Genesis to explain things. 


Yes, yes, I know this belief is in what I trust to be true, I know, I know…all of us “Bible-thumpers” cannot trust a 2000 year old book yada yada…we’ve been over this…

At this point, I think I may say this…our faith is not without reason (you may not agree with it or like it) or rational thought (NOT empirical evidence). I may not be able to come to you with a controlled study proving God, but I may certainly talk rationally about it.  I am sorry that so many shut the door to the possibility of God, for whatever reason.  And yes, to me it seems a bit like someone holding his hands over his ears saying “I can’t hear you…lalalala”.  At the end of it…nothing *I* say will convince you

(after all, I believe in a *God* who changes hearts and minds wink

I really do like the exchange of ideas, here, and hope that we may retain a sense of discussion. Again, David, thanks for explaining further. (warm fuzzies)

Zoe

Report this

By Jon, October 30, 2006 at 8:50 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Morgan, you seem to delight in insult. When people disagree with you, you simply call them “Bible-thumpers” with “thick heads” who knowingly proclaim “fables.” We all could swap insults, but I see this as a distraction from the debate. Alan joins you in the club of those who deny humans any faculties beyond sterile reason. But, Christians do not discard reason, as you continually claim. But we do interpret much of the data differently as we add to empirical evidence spiritual, inner insights. The atheist, of course, cannot afford to acknowledge the spiritual because it brings into question their one-channel view of the universe. He/she will never hear the full symphony of life nor find a lasting answer to its purpose because their “stereo” is only playing half of the music. The atheist cries “prove God real” but can never be convinced because the spirit that would respond has been banished. All the attributes of the universe must fit into the atheist’s little box of limited human understanding or they are simply denied. “How dare God be Supernatural – beyond natural laws. We want a finite god with finite power and knowledge that we can study under a microscope.” In essence, atheism is as much an issue of not wanting a God as it is one of not proving a God. I wonder how many who have chosen atheism have done so because they got burned by churches or Christians? Perhaps that is what David is saying. Certainly many wrongs have been committed in the name of a church or even of Christ. Philip Yancey had such an experience and describes his struggle in his book, Rumors of Another World. He had a form of Christianity crammed down his throat. Thankfully, he lived to tell the tale and gets past his wounds without discarding his soul. Note to Alan: the oft repeated, much touted statement “prove there’s a God or you lose” is just an attempt to silence the weak in faith or the inexperienced. It is a one-channel question in a stereo world. I’m sorry you can’t hear all the music!

Report this

By Alan Birnbaum, October 30, 2006 at 8:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

El is disqualified for not answering honestly.

Any more stabs at honesty from the believing crowd.

Report this

By morgan lamberth, October 30, 2006 at 9:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Alan Birnbaum is so right! Bible -thumpers cannot get through their thick heads that we are not gullible to fall for those fables!Errantists are not much better. What ,as Dawkins wants to know , it the metaphor for the unjust Deluge- might makes right! With Keith Parsons , I state;“Occult powerw wielded by a transcendent being in an inscrutable way for unfathomable purposes just do not seem to be the basis for any sort of a good explanation. Theistic’ explanatons’ therefore only seem to serve the purpose of hiding our ignorance behind a theological fig leaf.” Back to errancy: a priest @Explore Faith avers that the compilers of the two accounts of creation just wanted to aver God’s creative act. But I wager that the compilers were literalists, thinking they could reconcile the accounts .Logic is the bane of theists.

Report this

By El Paisa, October 30, 2006 at 8:00 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sorry Alan but that question was thoroughly answered centuries ago.  Apparently you do not know the answer, and I suspect you would not like it either.  Maybe you should let it rest.

Report this

By Stephen Borkowski, October 30, 2006 at 6:12 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thank God-or whoever for the dialogue that is going on in the comments to Sam’s article. I hope it continues and that it spreads globally. I thank all those who have contributed and hope that Sam or someone will use their influence to get media people like O’Reilly, etc. to discuss the dialogue going on. Not enough people watch C-Span which had a show recently that had a dialogue such as this that had ambassador Holbrooke and Dennis Ross along with people of different religions on it. It is most important to get to the root of the problem of God as a fact since too many people have died because of Certainty which is in question.

Report this

By Alan Birnbaum, October 29, 2006 at 5:46 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To all the believers out there:

Answer this question with honesty.

Does god exist for sure and how do you KNOW? If you rant on about your BELEIF or the bible, then you’re disqualified-don’t bother trying to convince me that your BELIEF is tantamount to fact. Also, don’t philosophize about the meaning of FACT or any other word used above.

Report this

By DavidJ, October 29, 2006 at 12:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Zoe, thanks for the response. I don’t deny that emotion and belief are a key part of human existence and what makes life worth living. Of COURSE they are. But it’s also important to realize that those things are completely internal and subjective experiences. They have nothing whatsoever to do with the physical world we live in, and cannot be used to understand or
investigate the physical world for answers. The only tool we humans have for understanding the world around us and determining any kind of objective truth, is science. If people would rather make do with their own subjective, internal truth, that’s fine, but for athiests like myself, if this is the only life I get, I would want as many REAL answers as I can get. Does that make me more “right” than you? I guess if all that matters in life is achieving personal happiness, then no. But if it’s about discovering REAL truth and your REAL place in the universe, then I’m sorry, but belief and religion are woefully inadequate to the task.

I also understand that religion doesn’t insulate believers from pain or struggle or sorrow. But growing up in an intensely religious family, and living and breathing religion for 20 years, I also understand that if there WASN’T some ultimate relief or consolation to be gained from this belief, you wouldn’t bother with any of it in the first place. Belief in God doesn’t spare you from pain, but it does help you cope and deal with that pain just a little bit easier. I guarantee that if it DIDN’T do that, people wouldn’t waste nearly as much time believing in God. No matter how many other rewards that belief might give them.

Of course, no matter how many doubts you might go through in your life, what really keeps you holding onto your faith is something even greater—this fear that a world WITHOUT a God must be this completely cold and empty and meaningless place. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a believer state that, or heard it from the pulpit. The message that Harris and Carl Sagan and others have tried to get out (and feel is so crucially important to humanity that it’s worth being called “arrogant” or “superior” by some) is that there is PLENTY of meaning to be found in science and the physical world. You can have truth and meaning and purpose at the same time, without the trappings of faith. At least not faith to the extreme degree that’s required in religion. The problem is you have to give up the security of having an all-powerful being watching over you, which I can attest (along with other athiests and scientists) is a very hard thing to do.

Anyway, sorry if this all comes across as insulting or arrogant again. That’s not my intention, but like most people I tend to get really worked up whenever this subject comes up. smile

Have a nice day,
David

Report this

By zoe, October 28, 2006 at 6:32 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Your own claim that God cannot be involved in NAtural selection is based on what you empirically know to be true and yet that very operating system based on empirical evidence limits what you can conclude.  How can you push God aside based on finite empirical evidence when by definition, any GOd is outside simple empirical evidence?  If science cannot examine a God, then any conclusions about him based on simple empirical evidence is suspect.  A mouse in a cage may think he has choices in his food, but ultimately his choices are made by us. 

I criticize the ID movement because they presume to test GOd’s intentions towards creation, and yet here you are daring to proclaim that you know his existence based on what you presume to be his intentions.  “God must not be involved, because we know that he certainly couldn’t, wouldn’t do it *this* way”  Hmm, same argument…

ZOe

Simply because *we* don’t know the course of selection does not exclude the possibility that the course is not known.

Report this

By morgan lamberth, October 27, 2006 at 6:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Jon,no faith,just evidence I have trust based on previous experience. I am an empiricist . Victor Stenger has a new book coming out in January showing precisely that science indeed shows no god! Natural selection itself is contradictory to any teleology . Selection acts sequentially, one process enabling another to come about .Teleology posits a predetermined outcome whereas selection has no goals.That is what science shows . It is the new Omphalos argument to argue for a predetermined outcome against a non-predetermind outcome tantamount to stating that God deluded us in thinking selection has a real function but He is the power , not selection that counts. No, one cannot conflate the two despite the efforts of Kenneth Miller and Francisco         Ayala as Amiel Rossow shows in his essay @ Skeptic Society library on Miller. Thanks.

Report this

By zoe, October 27, 2006 at 5:24 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To David

Can you even assert that you live your life in a purely rational manner (purely)?  To do so ignores the fabric of life.  There are plenty of times in life where you make decision based on emotions.  It would be my guess that (if you are married) you didn’t sit down and convince the love of your life to marry you simply because it was a rational, scientific thing to do.  If you are not yet married, then I would predict that any proposal would not start with “Gee honey, all logic and objectiviy demands that I ask you to marry me”.  Anybody who watches the news about a person willing to sacrifice their own life to protect someone they don’t even know even praises their “emotional decision”.  The world is not so objective.  Scientists may use objectivity to discover the what and how of life’s mechanics, but in the end, offers little consolation to the griefs and sorrows of the world.  (I will gladly discuss any demands of the problem of pain…but thought I would focus my comment)

Good grief, how patronizing…you really think we believe because of the “warm fuzzies”.  How dare anyone presume to know our reasons for believing.  Do you think that we don’t struggle with fear, doubt, grief, sorrow, and loneliness?  Anger towards God?  Even after believeing and trusting our life to Christ?  Our beliefs don’t exclude us from struggles, nor do we walk around wrapped in a bubble of denial or wrapped in a coccoon of comfort.  If you want to satisy yourself in this regard, simply ask any Christian of your aquaintance if believing in God has removed all trials and emotional struggles from life, read the multiple hymns written dealing with grief, read any number of the Psalms where the writer expresses anger and loneliness, questioning God.  (have you even asked anyone to explain why they believe? ...being so objective yourself, I hardly think you would condemn an entire group simply because of an emotional prejudice grin )  If following Christ was supposed to guarantee the “warm, fuzzies”, then many of us would have ditched the faith long ago. 

Believe me, I think we do “get it”.  You think you are completely objective and right and that we are complete idiots swayed by emotions, running around all day with great big smiles on our faces and praising God, uttering platitudes and cliches (my apologies if this is your experience).  I think your assertion that you don’t believe yourself to be any “better” than us a complete and utter joke.  Of course you think you are better than us.  YOur entire message exudes superiority.  A polite veneer of “it’s ok if *you* believe in God” (Gosh, thanks a bunch, now I’m relieved, whew!), over your own platitudes of rationality and logic. 

Most of us are writing simply correcting the gross assumptions and ignorance of our beliefs that are being discussed.  If you are going to discuss Christian doctrine, get it *right*.  You want Christians to get science right…get our doctrine right and discuss it intelligently (and, dare I say, without emotion?).

With warm fuzzy regards grin
Zoe

Report this

By Jon, October 26, 2006 at 8:44 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Morgan, science has not disproved God nor has it identified first cause for the beginning of all things. Collins lists a number of renowned scientists who, in the process of research, have concluded that a Supreme Being must exist. A few years after the Hubble telescope went into orbit, I heard an interview on NPR with two very reputable scientists. When asked about their conclusions after viewing the stunning images, both, having been skeptics, reasoned that there must be a Creator – not common content at NPR. You are a person of substantial faith. You just choose to believe that science will some day figure everything out. I’m sure you might accept that it will happen years from now, perhaps after you have died, but you have faith scientists will prove how life started from a hodgepodge of chemicals or something. In the mean time, you deny any spiritual realities or personal need and wage a little war as an “anti-theist.”

Report this

By Jon, October 26, 2006 at 8:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Morgan, you have brought up something that is not part of my Christian belief system and I believe is not taught in the Bible. The idea of the bread and juice literally becoming the body and blood is not biblical. We take communion to remember the sacrifice of love that Christ made for us of His own will. It is “in remembrance.” As to religions, I do not advocate choosing a religion based on my preferences. I have accepted the teachings of the Bible and the redemption of Jesus because I believe that the Scriptures are true. As to “hard data for a god,” I submit that all creation is evidence of the true God. But, I sense that no “data” would ever satisfy those who use the “hard evidence” argument. It is its own kind of excuse to not deal with the tough questions that demand allowing God into the realm of possibility. If only we just shout loud enough our skepticism, perhaps we can drown out that nagging sense that all is not just a cosmic accident and that there is a Source for purpose in life and hope beyond life. Finally, have you even read Collins? He once stood where skeptics and atheists are and simply tells how his views were challenged.

Report this

By Jon, October 26, 2006 at 6:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Gary, are you referring to translations? Many other ancient books have been translated into a number of languages and few complain. There are thousands of Scripture manuscripts in their original language available for those who translate the Bible and the degree of agreement is extremely high. But I do not expect to convince you of Divine preservation of the Bible as you appear to espouse an “all truth is relevant” philosophy. The Bible represents absolute truth and therefore is relativism’s foe. Many have waged war on the Scriptures and prophesied its doom. It abides still.

Report this

By zoe, October 26, 2006 at 5:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The discussion of of eucharist/communion is exposing a lack of knowledge.  I know that some church denominations do still believe that the bread and wine do change, however, many do not.  Most see it as a symbolic act of remembering how we accept Christ’s sacrifice for us, the sacrifice of his body and his blood (“do this in remembrane of me”).  In scriptures, the bread and blood are symbolic of this sacrifice.  How this is comparable to murdering and slaughtering a human and eating his flesh and drinking his blood and celebrating evil while doing so is simply ignorant.  Also, there are many parallels to the Feasts celebrated in the Old Testament representing atonement.  Using food would have been a clear comparison for the disciples, as they could draw conclusions from these comparisons…Christ is our atonement, etc. 

Whereas other religions actually called for drinking blood, Christianity uses symbols to emphasize the significance of our relationship with Christ, using our very life blood to signify the importance.

Just communicating what our beliefs are, although it sounds as if people are locking on extreme comparisons and refusing to engage. 

zoe

Report this

By DavidJ, October 26, 2006 at 4:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As an athiest and a big fan of Harris’s new book, I gotta say it’s interesting to read all the hundreds of responses below. At the risk of offending anybody, I don’t think many people here really get it.

There seems to be very little objectivity or critical thinking here. Instead it’s pure emotionalism. You guys are so wrapped up in your own heads, and so blinded by this emotional need to have a God figure in your life, that you fail to see anything beyond that.  Instead of trying to find meaning WITHIN a real, objective world, you’re trying to fit the world INTO your belief system—a belief system founded on warm, fuzzy feelings and emotions and a 2,000 year old book. What kind of solid foundation is that for a belief??

Before you say it, I’m not saying I’m “better” than you. If people want to have faith in God, that’s their business, and their life. But don’t pretend that there’s anything remotely rational or scientific about that faith. That’s the point Harris is trying to get accross.

Report this

By morgan lamberth, October 26, 2006 at 9:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Then it is a resonable premise to state that the Eucharist is vampiric cannibalism! Christians just refuse to accept reality . But as Victor Stenger argues in his forthcoming book , science indeed shows no god! Natural selection contradicts teleology , thus showing no god. Theists love obfuscation . “The God Delusion ” shows no god, but theists misinterpret the book as Dawkins will show in his comments on reviews @ his web site . We anti-theists have strong authors in Dawkins ,Harriss and Stenger among so many others. When I started collection of atheist books there was only Walter Kaufmann’s two. Thanks to Paul Kurtz there are so many now.

Report this

By zoe, October 25, 2006 at 7:23 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

My apologies for any misunderstanding.  (I said I was tired!)

When I mentioned that Collins brings to his book hard data, I was referring to the scientific data he presents from various sources.  I merely want readers to be aware that his book is not simply posturings and creative prose.  He strives to bring to readers a culmination of genetic and evolutionary research.

As I said before, science is limited to observable, repeatable, and controllable phenomenon and cannot be used to verify and prove God’s existence…at best we can simply observe our finite results and ponder their significance.  If some of us ponder the significance in relation to the existence of an infinite God and His role in the universe, then good grief, how horrible, what monsters we are!!  I suppose the operative word here is ponder. 

And certainly, Collins makes no claims of rejecting much of the significance of the scientific data.  He has rejected (reiterating my previous points) YEC and ID thinking, especially with regards to their being valid scientific processes. 

MAny scientists have struggled to remove their biases in their research, secretly hoping the data supports their hypothesis.  THe majority have done very well with looking at their data and, when necessary, rejecting their own hypothesis, yet the realistic ones must own that they all have hoped for certain results.  And really, isn’t this the basis for creating the scientific thinking process?  To ensure the validity of our results, devoid of biases and extraneous variables?  Collins, in presenting theistic evolution, accepts much of the scientific research at face value, rejecting what many Christians might hope for, data supporting young earth…etc.  Quite frankly, he is a bit of fresh air, when one considers some of the data that is rejected by YEC and ID thinkers because they propose they know God’s mind and intentions.  (if one wants examples, I will gladly expand on this)

Collins very correctly rejects ID and YEC thinking, in my opinion.  ID proposes that God and his intentions are testable hypothesis, that we can predict His intentions.  I find this very extemely silly, daring to predict God’s purpose. 

Anyway, hope I cleared my previous statement
zoe

Report this

By Steve M, October 25, 2006 at 6:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Has anyone read Sam’s “Letter to a Christian Nation?”  I’m about halfway through it and I would love to hear any rebuttals from religionists out there.  Reasonbale ones that is.  Please no lengthy sermons.

Report this

By El Paisa, October 25, 2006 at 5:12 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well, I committed the same typo twice in the same posting: I typed relieve, instead of believe.  I can’t relieve it!

Anyway, I wanted to cite this posting as the worst nonsense of the week:

Comment #33046 by Gary Chefetz on 10/24 at 1:35 pm:  Truth is what a person chooses to believe at any given moment.

Report this

By El Paisa, October 25, 2006 at 10:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re #33371 by Morgan.

Well, nice to be back.  Work has been a bit hectic…

So Morgan, I see you welcome reasoned comments.  That would be much easier if you started with a reasoned premise.  Part of the problem with your entry is the word “symbolize”, which by virtue of its various meanings, renders your posting ambiguous.  Now, if you mean symbolize in its most common form, “to represent through symbols”, then the holy Eucharist does not do what you claim, regarding cannibalism etc.  There are simply some common elements, but that is all.  It would be like me saying that cars symbolize living beings because they are both powered by fuels derived from plants.  That would be silly, don’t you think?

Now, at the heart of the Eucharist are a man’s claims:  This is my body and this is my blood.  How you interpret a man’s claims depends on what you already think of the man.  If you see me wearing a crown and you ask me why I do it, and I answer, because I’m the king of Spain, how you interpret my wearing the crown depends on what you think of me.  If you have reason to relieve I’m the king of Spain, then you might think that wearing a crown is entirely reasonable.  So, you must first try to answer His question “Who do you say I am?”.  Then you can analyze claims and their meaning.  If you are on the outside, they cannot make sense.

BTW, I heard Richard Dawkins on NPR yesterday, plugging his most recent book, “The God Delusion” (whose delusion??).  He is very unlike Harris in two important regards: he knows something about science, and he is not a superficial thinker (this forum is just a little excuse for chatting.  I can’t really relieve that anyone really takes Harris seriously).  But as a professional biologist I take Dawkins seriously.  I am not sure I’d like to cross swords with him.  He strikes me very much as the maniac described so well in Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, and that’s a man one might not want to argue with:  ”If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment.  He is not hampered by a sense of humour or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience.  He is more logical for losing certain sane affections.  Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one.  The madman is not the man who has lost his reason.  The madman is the man who has lost everything, except his reason”.
I see this insanity not only in Dawkins, but in many atheists.  As a natural skeptic and a bit of a cynic (I was an agnostic for 25 years) I cannot fathom people’s certainty.  And atheists exude certainty.  Unbelievably, they accuse us Christians of certainty, when anybody that knows Christians or Christianity at all knows that what characterizes Christians is doubt.  For that our Lord rebuked us many times.

At any rate.  It is tragic to see the madman everywhere trying his reason pirouettes to justify or deny the “logic” of God.  Once again, to paraphrase Chesterton, they try to get heaven in their heads, and their heads crack.

Report this

By morgan -lynn lamberth griggsy, October 25, 2006 at 8:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Another wrong I see is the Eucharist. It symbolizes cannibalism and vampirism. Other religions have redemption without a sacrifice .Without special pleading, why not one of them for you, Jon? I imagine that Collin’s hard data are irrelevant . There can be no hard data for a god ! I appreciate reasoned comments. Thanks.

Report this

By zoe, October 24, 2006 at 7:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

One other comment

Another review of Collins book is at the the following website

http://home.planet.nl/~gkorthof/korthof83.htm

MUCH more information, less emotional, and very clear on Collins position.  From HArris’s review, one would suppose Collins wrote only about frozen waterfalls and dewy grass, yet he presents quite a bunch of hard data.

What’s amazing is that COllins is one of the most “liberal” thinkers with regards to creation/evolution.  Collins criticizes YEC and intelligent design (both of which I also disagree with) and reject these as poor science Yes, he proposes a form of theistic evolution, remember that this is something that both YEC and ID groups oppose.  He is managing to offend those in both Christian and scientific circles. grin

Quite honestly, all of the viciousness, vitriol, and quick judgments on Collins book seem extreme when one reads Collins positions.  When you compare the two reviews, Harris indeed comes across as a petty, whiny, angry child.

Whatever your views, there are professional means of criticisms.

ZOe

Report this

By Gary Chefetz, October 24, 2006 at 1:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Truth is what a person chooses to believe at any given moment. If the bible had been written by God or God’s designated agents, one could only imagine that it wouldn’t have required so many rewrites.

Report this

By Gary Chefetz, October 24, 2006 at 1:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To Paul White, on the far right: Despite the efforts of talk radio hosts on the AM dial, the words “liberal” and “secular” are not dirty. Arrogance is ugly, but not as ugly as sanctimony.

Report this

By Stephen Borkowski, October 24, 2006 at 11:08 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

And a happy day to you Jon. I wish you could have watched CSpan last night.They presented a forum that was exactly what I believe we all ill be seeing a lot more of in the coming months. It had about 8 participants as well as people in the audience making comments. I only can remember Dennis Ross and ex ambassador Holbrooke as 2 of the participants in this example of the type of dialogue that I have been hoping for.
Religion was a very large part of the discussion.If you can search CSpan, I recommend you look it up to read a transcript or to see if it will be shown again as we are in very dangerous times, enough so that Mr. Holbroke commented that he is frightened about the future if true leaders don’t come forward to prevent a looming catastrophe.

Report this

By Jon, October 24, 2006 at 4:51 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hello Stephen. Our dialogue, along with the input of others, is stimulating and has been profitable for me. As for the Bible, I stand by my assertion that it is a supernatural book. Of course, in our day, many who identify themselves as biblical scholars have made it their goal to de-mystify the Bible and all things supernatural. Example: if I speak of Scriptural prophecies fulfilled in history, many liberal theologians will counter with why they aren’t so by rejecting conservative dating of prophetic books and dating the books after the events. This basically calls the human authors liars who were out to deceive. And, why would they write such things knowing that contemporaries could easily prove their falsehoods? The Bible was physically penned by people, but God guided them to such a degree that we read of “inspiration” in 2 Tim. 3:16 that literally means “breathed out by God.” There are a number of scriptural passages that reinforce this principle. Of course, one must believe the Bible to be truth to accept its teachings about itself or anything else. In the Bible I see unity and a central theme of God bringing about His plan of redemption for people. But, an understanding of this is started by engaging one’s spiritual nature. Please indulge a quote: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1Co 2:14) As I mentioned in an earlier comment, we worship and seek Him in “spirit and in truth (sincerity).” By way of clarification, I do have certainty in my beliefs by faith in their validity through reading the Scriptures and living as a Christian. My faith is not empty, or merely a hopeful leap, but it is still faith. As to evangelism, the Bible term means to declare good news. That is exactly what I am trying to do. I am not trying to make converts as if to raise my “score.” But, I truly believe the message of Jesus is the best news there is and that accepting His salvation is the source of lasting peace and joy. I can give the message, but each person must choose to believe or not believe. Best regards!

Report this

By zoe, October 23, 2006 at 9:39 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hello all, 

yes, I am a Christian (IN this site, I feel that this is akin to admitting one has leprosy… suddenly all draw back and hiss grin  don’t touch!!)

Many demands on proving God’s existence…

The proof depends on your what you consider valid evidence.

Many of you want there to be only physical evidence, only what is “real”.  Many arguments against God stems from the fact that we cannot see, hear, touch…etc. 

By those standards, of course you cannot prove God.  I agree that by our finite ability to observe the physical world, we cannot prove the existence of a supernatural, infinite being.  It is silly to even suggest such a thing. (How can you test God?  By what experimental design can you empirically state, “oh yes, my hypothesis about the existence of God is correct”.  What would be your controls?)

If you limit the scope of your evidence, then, quite frankly, there can be no appeasing your demand.  We could not prove God’s existence to you at all.  Scientific evidence, by its very own definition, is limited to observable phenomenon.  (deliberate use of the word limited)  Science has its limitations.

THis is, of course, why faith is used to describe a belief in God.  Of course we can examine philosophical arguments and bicker back and forth over who is more logical and who is more rational.  At the heart of it, there are plenty of intelligent CHristians who have examined the evidence.  It is insulting to many of us who have thought through our beliefs. 

(If I may rant and rave for a quick moment…how dare people insult so many people who have thought through this?  Your picture of us as pathetic little three year olds believing in, hmm, let’s see…
sky-pixies, tooth-fairies, unicorns and assorted child’s play does an injustice to the people I know who have studied exhaustively and thought through this.  You have such a warped view (and unfortunately, many of us have not helped unwarp the view)of Christians.) 

Ok, I am done ranting grin

Our faith does not exclude our examining that faith.  For many of us, there is overwhelming reason to bolster faith.  Faith tempered by reason.  I am sorry that many here do not agree.  I will gladly engage in any discussion from this, but quite honestly, most have made it quite clear that any discussion would not sway any thinking.   

I will say one more thing about how God has been described in the forum.  Many arguments that GOd is a man-made entity, and yet by the descriptions of their idea of GOd, people are defining God by our conception of Him.  He must cater to our demands, be swayed by human whimsy,  pathetic in His power (sky-pixie?!), limited.  “God must do what we want Him to”  “God should follow our reasoning”  This is defining God by our standards.  Our finite understanding. 

I will admit that I am writing this (especially the end) when I am tired and probably not at my best.  I felt led to write. My apologies…If anybody writes in response and critiques my arguments, know that I will gladly respond and hopefully when my mind is better (I am definitely not a night owl!).  (my secret hope, of course, is that it is my exhaustion that may be responsible for any weakness in my argument grin

Zoe

Report this

By Stephen Borkowski, October 19, 2006 at 3:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hi again Jon. This is the dialoguethat I have hoped for for mqny years. We agree on many points. I will reiteate my position as an agnostic Deist again. I,too, believe that our universe had a creating entity as you do. I too understand that no one has proven a ‘creator and like you I don’t believe we can understand what, who, or how. The difference is I believe the Bible was written by man and for man for a variety of reasons. I stand with Voltaire and I don’t agree with Sam saying that Faith will come to an end. He doesn’t KNOW that either. It is because of Cause and Effect that leads me to think (I said Think) that the universe is the effect and there is a Cause.But I am only guessing. You have your right to believe as you do and I have mine. From what you say, we both agree that we don’t profess Certainty of our beliefs. We are not dangerous to others. If we could only get spiritual leaders to have a dialogue as we have (especially Wahabbis) we might bring to an end the making of religious suicide bombers. Thank you for not evangelizing

Report this

By Jon, October 19, 2006 at 4:50 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Stephen, I refer to the Bible, not because I think you accept it, but because it gives you some point of reference as to what I believe and why. I have actually sited few verses. I do believe in some things by faith, which I view as valid. I believe that the complexity of the universe demands a God. You, no doubt, will refute that based on current theories of how such complexity could have come about by mere chance over long ages of time. I believe that, regardless of the processes that brought us to this place in time, there must have been God to start it all out of nothing. Some believe that there was no beginning, while others believe that the universe materialized out of nothing all by itself. Some say the creation of universes is an endless cycle. Other theories abound. We don’t know how it began, so faith in the theories also abounds. The chances of life starting on this planet all by itself are infinitesimal. Yet, many believe it happened without divine intervention and yet they have no proof of how . I believe God created all life. This is an old debate and, in my opinion, many others have done it better. I submit that humans cannot arrive at all relevant truth by their faculties of reason alone. We have more within us and we must search with mind and spirit. Forgive the quote, but “God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” The search for God necessitates calling on our spiritual selves in the endeavor.

Report this

By Warren Greer, October 19, 2006 at 2:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Jon, why are you in this discussion at all?  It is obvious that you didn’t read the article by Sam Harris, or didn’t understand what you read.

Report this

By Jon, October 18, 2006 at 3:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Morgan, I’m sorry you did not perceive my answer about human sacrifice. I meant to relate that Christianity was founded by Jesus, Who gave Himself as a sacrifice to take upon Himself the sin of the world. Christians believe in the merit of this, not because we are bloodthirsty, but because we believe the Bible which tells of the sacrifice and the motive of love that brought it about. There have been a number of religions that practiced human sacrifice. Christians have opposed these. You seem to be saying that I compared the Nazis to scientists. I have not said anything like that. But, eugenics was embraced by many of that day who were respected in the scientific and political world.  Some, like Hitler, chose to use that pseudo-science to justify atrocities. We condemn all such acts. I am not a promoter of all religion. I believe in true Christianity as found taught in the Bible. The concept of sin is not foreign to humankind. Consequences to wrongdoing are also not new. God has provided in Jesus a route of forgiveness and restoration. Acknowledgement of sin is a first step to receiving forgiveness. Denial of sin or the need of forgiveness is to fool oneself. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,” 1 John 1:8. There is much in the Bible about the merits of doing good and the joy one can experience in the Christian life. But the goodness of the New Life given in Jesus naturally prompts thanks to the Giver of that life.

Report this

By Steve M, October 17, 2006 at 8:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Jon,
Some comments/questions for you:
“I believe God determined to create humankind with true nobility beyond lesser creatures.”

I have met some humans that have no nobility and met some “lesser creatures” that are noble.  What makes us better than animals?  Our ability and zeal to wage war?  Our ability to waste the resources of our environment?  I could go on for a long time but I think I’ve made my point.

You quote the bible and scripture about the qualities of God and his (it’s ?) intentions.  Tell me this, why does God need to print things on paper?  Illiteracy was and is a big problem for many people on this planet, more so in the past when these were written.  Why didn’t God set up schools to teach everyone to read his book?  It makes no sense unless you believe that books are written by other humans.

I wouldn’t want to see you test your Ivander Holyfield theory.  I’m missing your point here.

Your comments to Stephen seem condescending.

I agree with your comments to Morgan that humans may be imbued with some natural desire or need for God but that doesn’t prove God’s existance.  It only proves the need.  Only God could prove God’s existance and I haven’t seen him yet.  If God did appear I think people would then start studying him (or her or it) and investigate (being curious).  How can God be studied and known through a book or feelings?  How is that different than studying oceanography or anything else from a book?  I guess you fill in the gaps with imagination.

I don’t mock good deeds done by people but why does the religion get the credit?  Didn’t the people actually do the good deeds?  Aren’t good deeds done every day by people who know nothing of Christianity?

Report this

By Stephen Borkowski, October 17, 2006 at 5:22 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hi Jon. I would like to get down to the simplest of ideas. Simply put: Unless a creator can be proven, I can’t accept as fact anything anyone says about that God. I will reiterate that NO ONE knows more about God than I do and I know NOTHING about God.Prove me wrong and please don’t use the Bible since God can’t be proven ergo how can you prove an unprovable something wrote it.

Report this

By morgan -lynn lamberth griggsy, October 17, 2006 at 4:56 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Of course ,one does not answer my point about human sacrifice!Other religions have redemption without that sacrifice . It is absurd to state that such a sacrifice is moral: it is just sociopathic sacrifice . No moral agent would have such. Now sure religion can help some overcome addictions; so can other things . The secul ar group SOS does so without a higher power.[ Mine is my computer!] People just eat up all that talk about being such a sinner ! People love to give credit to a god for their own doings ; no god helps those who help themselves! And what utter stupidity to equate the Nazis with honest , decent scientists; the former did not use reason and facts, but their whims and lies . For more shallow thinking , read Alister McGrath’s book on Dawkins and “I don’t have enough Faith to be an Atheist” or anything by Mc Dowell or Strobel. For rational thinking see Talk Reason and the library @ Skeptic Society .

Report this

By Jon, October 17, 2006 at 3:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Your thoughts are interesting Stephen. It sounds like your idea of a Creator is that He could only create beings that would be devoid of free will. We would be a robotic race indeed if we could not make a legitimate choice between the good and the bad. We would also be an inferior creation. I believe God determined to create humankind with true nobility beyond lesser creatures. He made (the human) “a living soul” with the ability to fellowship with God, make freewill choices, exercise thought and devise language. I believe that man made a choice to depart from his Creator and that his decision severed the “flick-of-a-finger” close relationship between them. Simply put, sin separates. But God brought to completion a pathway of restoration through Christ which we must choose to follow. You also seem to view God as more of an impersonal spiritual force rather than a personal Spirit. The Bible describes Him as having personality, intelligence and emotions. While our likeness to Him is not a physical one, we do share His likeness in these “inner” areas which are created to endure beyond the death of the mortal body. On a final note, I find in Scripture that God is also described as patient and desiring that humans be restored to fellowship with Him. When a man or woman shakes their fist toward heaven cursing to God a challenge to strike them down, God’s silence does not indicate impotence. Quite the contrary. If I challenge Evander Hollyfield to a fight while shacking my fist in his face, it is not impotence that makes him refrain from punching my lights out – it’s mercy, patience, and perhaps, pity. God doesn’t want to “zap” you, Stephen. God wants to help you see His love that can endure your skepticism as He extends His grace.

Report this

By Jon, October 17, 2006 at 2:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Morgan, Christianity does not demand a human sacrifice. Jesus sacrifice founded Christianity. He fulfilled God’s eternal plan of redemption by willingly giving His life for our restoration to God. He is called the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” in Revelation 13:8. We do not mock the person who endangers or even loses their life in an effort to save others. Why do we belittle the sacrifice Christ made to show the Father’s love for mankind and provide for their redemption? All who behold such love can and should rejoice. Not in the barbarism of Roman crucifixion, but in the love that culminated in that sacrifice! In your previous entry, you said I was asking people to abandon reason. I am not. My point is that reason should be coupled with all human faculties in our search for truth. You seem to be asking us to abandon all else but sterile reason alone, but people throughout the ages have recognized in their heart that mankind has a spiritual dimension that calls us to seek a Creator. Billions still witness to this longing as they practice their faith. You may not have or acknowledge any such tendencies. That’s fine. But that does not mean that those who do seek God are inferior to you or other skeptics. Your inability to have faith does not invalidate their exercise of it.  Finally, your assertion that “one does not become a drunkard, drug addict, etc. if one dispenses with a god” does not bear out in reality. You appear to be attempting to blame these vices on belief in God. Check with AA and a number of other recovery programs and you will find a key step in that recovery is acknowledgement of God or a Higher Power. While all things done in the name of Christianity are not good, true Christianity is at the root of countless deeds of giving, caring and loving for our fellow human beings.

Report this

By Warren Greer, October 14, 2006 at 8:58 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As an innocent bystander, I would be overjoyed to see the comments of El Paisa on Jon’s two msgs,
numbers 28704 and 28705.  Are you there, El?

Report this

By morgan -lynn lamberth griggsy, October 14, 2006 at 6:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I find it strange that Judaism gave up animal sacrifice whereas Christianity would demand human sacrifice! To rejoice in such is morbid to me . Why not give credit to oneself and others instead of an unknown deity when she who helps herself , helps herself period without benefit of a god .That is rational pride, not hubris .One engages in paradeilia - projection of anthropomorphism - in seeing something that is not there- the man in the moon, for instance.We skeptics see natural selection whereas others see purpose behind the occurrences of the world . We see natural results whereas others see miralcles. We see what is there whereas others just have to have a friendly being to give them meaning . We find that our transient purposes and human love and no future state suffice whereas others just have to have divine purpose and love and a future state .One does not become a drunkard, drug addict ,etc. if one dispenses with a god.One uses reason and facts to get ahead. Pol Pot did not use reason and facts , just his evil whims . Hitler had no reason and facts for his anti-Semitism and eugenics ,just his whims and lies . Some live on the paranormal and swear that it helps them through the day whereas I find such nonsense. Paul Kurtz’s “The Transcendental Temptation” shows the supernatural and the paranormal to be illusions of the new failure of nerve as his mentor Sydney Hook put it. Anyway,if religion helps , one believes. I suggest that one eschew the hurtful by seeing what is good or bad for humans , other animals and the enviornment, then one does better .That we can debate. But stoning for any reason is cruel!  Oh, do read “The God Delusion” for Richard Dawkins’s take on a god ,especially errancy and theistic evolution.

Report this

By Stephen Borkowski, October 14, 2006 at 5:36 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thank you Jon, I respect your having thoughts about your God. Now to my guesses. I don’t believe a creator, if there is one, has human traits such as Love, Hate, Fear,thoughts, etc. I believe the Creator is interested in what we have done with the Earth because if he did we wouldn’t be able to do it. In other words, I don’t believe the Creator would make laws that we could break. The fact that we have Laws of Nature that we we cannot break, such as Gravity, Inertia, Magnetism,etc. is my reason for believing that since Man’s laws can be broken.
I also don’t believe my Creator needs to send me a messenger for any reason as I believe I would know anything to be known with a ‘flick of ‘His’finger.( I don’t believe we are in our being in ‘His’ image either for obvious reasons.) As for religions, I believe Sin is a transgression defined as such by humans so that ther would be a better chance of survival of society. To me, there are no acts of sin by a person living alone and having no contact with other human animals. As to a loving God, I have stated that I believe Love is something built into brain tissue which my Creator wouldn’t have. As to certainty. Yes, I am concerned, especially when it comes without Factual knowledge. So much so that when I was a dance host on a ‘93 world cruise of the Rotterdam and I was able to visit Agaba, Jordan, I said to 2 muslims,“I am not afraid of your God. I can say anything I want to him and never get a response. You know why? Because he needs you to kill me.” I also said something similar to an Israelite on top of the Mt. Carmel Hotel in Haifa where I gave my ‘sermon on the mount.’ As to the Bible, it is a book written by men(with womanly wisdom) for many reasons. Finally, I ask you. Would you create a playground for children about 5 yrs. old in the middle of the Indianapolis Speedway while a race of 100 cars is going on 24 hrs. a day, and then give them instructions (Laws) not to cross the road (eat the apple)? Most respectively, Stephen Borkowski, Jensen Beach, Fl

Report this

By Jon, October 13, 2006 at 8:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thanks Stephen for your honest, courteous reply. I believe in God and that He is interested in what we have done with the world He provided for us. I also believe such a God would not leave us without witness to His existence or guidance to help us seek Him. Thus, my friend, I am not a deist as you describe yourself. Still, we can have an honest conversation and it’s my turn! smile  It seems that within the religions of the world we find an concept of transgression. Some call it sin, bad karma, etc. It would appear that two basic formulas have arisen to deal with these missteps: 1) A system of redemption through determined, though often flawed, self effort. 2) Redemption that is provided by the efforts of a substitute. As I have evaluated these two, I have concluded that as a flawed individual I will always fall short of fulfilling the requirements of the self-effort system and, even when I seem to succeed, I have that old vice of pride lingering about. In the world of religion, I find that Christianity stands out because in it I find a loving God providing a Substitute Who received willingly the penalty for my wrong-doing and restored me to my Creator. Morgan calls Him the “dead Galilean”, but His death was purposeful. This message is, of course, founded in the Bible. Some believe that the Scriptures are no more than a product of man without any supernatural influence. I believe that it is the work of a Supernatural God speaking to us in words we can understand so that we might know Him. I assume this degree of certainty is unsettling to you. While there is much I do not know, I am confident that God is, that he loves mankind and that He has shown us the way to know Him. “Herein I stand.”

Report this

By Jon, October 13, 2006 at 8:44 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

One individual on a rather small planet within an average galaxy among billions of galaxies has examined the data and reasoned away the possible existence of God! My Eric, what great faith you have! What if your faith is misplaced? What if your logic is slightly flawed? We see order in the cosmos and at times amazing good from feeble man. Your faith says all is born of chance. My faith sees evidence of a Creator. True, we have fallen short of His noble purposes for us, but we still bear glimmers of His likeness and He calls us to full restoration in His Son.

Report this

By Randy, October 13, 2006 at 10:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is my first visit to this site, and I have a comment/question for those who are in my camp on the issue of God and religion.  (I am an agnostic, leaning heavily to atheism.)  I read The Language of God by Collins, and while I wasn’t persuaded at all by the arguments for theism, I did appreciate the fact that someone was putting forth their position in a reasonable, non-inflammatory way.  I’ve also read more than one thing by Harris, and find that while I agree with his underlying points, I get frustrated by his intolerance.  Fundamentalist Christians can be jerks, but it seems the spokesmen for “our side” just try to be equal and opposite jerks. 

Isn’t the cause of rationality better served if we respond to the points and arguments of others in a calm and rational way?  We seem to feel compelled to say that we not only disagree with somebody, but that they are necessarily idiots spouting nonsense.  Is this ultimately consistent with values that we’d like to see adopted universally?  Is it remotely likely to actually “win” this debate?

Report this

By Stephen Borkowski, October 12, 2006 at 7:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thank you Jon for saying no one can prove that there is no empirical evidence to prove a creator. If only we could get everyone on earth to agree. I hope the day comes when the word agnostic is used as an adjective describing every person’s belief or guess concerning the creation of this universe. For example, I say I am an agnostic deist because I think something created it but gladly admit that I don’t know whether or not my guess is right because I haven’t any empirical information to prove my guess. Likewise, I am hoping that you would say that you are an agnostic Christian. I especially wish that Sam Harris would say he is an agnostic Atheist. The value of this is as follows: I am not afraid of any believer killing me or being a suicide believer so that he can go to heaven or meet a God or Allah as long as he knows he doesn;t know they really exist. I would like to add that I have talked to many religious people and to who I say that I am not afraid of their God but I am afraid of them because their God needs them to kill me. Just an addendum to my plea to get help in preventing stupid holy wars. Pleased to be able to talk to you and want you to know that anyone who knocks your belief doesn’t know anymore than you and I about God, and that is, Nothing. Steve Borkowski, Jensen Beach, Fl

Report this

By morgan -lynn lamberth griggsy, October 12, 2006 at 5:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Gee, a gulllible person wants us to jettison our use of reason for gullibility . Why not believe in Buddhism? Buddhists could tell why it helps them so much . Come on ! One acknowledges no support for her beliefs,but wants others to believe anyway is asking them to buy the Brooklyn Bridge.Such is at bottom the pitch for Christinsanity!If that is the best one can do, one needs counseling! Reason saves, not a dead Galilean!

Report this

By eric, October 12, 2006 at 2:36 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Jon #28494, since when does unbelief require faith? As you are obviously a christian I assume you don’t believe in the gods Zeus or Poseidon or Osiris? Does this require faith on your part to not believe in them? How about not believing in Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny or dragons or unicorns? This unbelief requires faith? Nope. There’s no proof that any of these things exist therefore there’s no reason to believe in them. It’s not faith it’s simply logic.

Report this

By Jon, October 12, 2006 at 1:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Stephen,
My Dad was a physician. In our discussions about God and eternity he often would say that, as a scientist, he could not accept supernatural events. This was a major roadblock for him as he made his own search. Then, after marrying a sincere Christian lady, he began to see God living through her faith and life. During this time he began to realize that God is known by faith, even if we cannot prove His existence empirically. The story of a loving God Who revealed His care for people by sending Jesus started to make sense to Dad. He chose to believe in Christ. No one has ever been able to prove the existence of God in all of human history. Each of us must chose to exercise faith. A choice to not believe is still an exercise of faith - that there is no God and no consequence to unbelief. I urge you to answer the call of Jesus, “Come unto me. . . and I will give you rest.”

Report this

By Stephen Borkowski, October 11, 2006 at 3:34 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hello-oooo-oo Out there. Is anybody listening? I want to know if God can be proven. God, Can you hear me? We are in a religious war down here on Earth and everybody talks about it, dies for it, and is costing me a bundle. It’s between the Wahabbis and the rest of us infidels or apostates and yet, nobody knows a God(?) damned thing about what they are talking about. I wish the religious motor mouths would have Dialogues about God as the Pope has called for, and then maybe we will hear from someone who can answer my query. Help! I just turned 78 and you can guess why I want to know.

Report this

By Paul, October 11, 2006 at 2:26 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hi Eric, thanks for your reply. Unfortunately,I didn’t get away scott free either. I was born with a malformed vertebre in my lower back that causes me constant back problems. I also have shoulder and knee problems.
We all have some kind of ailment in this world, some as you have very well pointed out, much worse than others. But, that doesn’t stop us does it?
Our brains are amazing aren’y they? They can make us feel bad,happy,sad,depressed,elated, the list goes on and on. We also have a choice on how we can use them, positively or negatively.
Both of those ways also have a direct physical effect on the body, positive or negative. Since I have that choice I’ll choose positive and beleive there is a loving, living God who cares for me and loves me and has a plan for my life no matter what physical or mental condition I am in. Just knowing that helps me enjoy my life through good times and bad.
Just for the heck of it, check out this web site: http://www.joniandfriends.org. I hope you will enjoy it. May God bless you, Paul.

Report this

By morgan -lynn lamberth griggsy, October 11, 2006 at 3:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Paul uses paradeilia - seeing what is not there such as the man on the moon - to project anthropomorphism onto the cosmos.He begs the question of a god in thinking it had us in mind , when what is there ,natural selection- the anti-chance agency, worked on the characteristis that were there to form new life forms.And his god implies a goal whereas selection has no goals,just releasing one set of affaires , permitting others to go forth sequentially.No being had us in mind, but we are not random events,just the result of sequencing.Setting goals puts the effect before the cause,negating time. And, thus selection and goal selection are contradictory . It won’t do then to aver a two category classification as that would beg the question of the second category. Logic is the bane of theists. Skeptic Griggsy naturalist.

Report this

Page 3 of 7 pages  <  1 2 3 4 5 >  Last »

 
Right 1, Site wide - BlogAds Premium
 
Right 2, Site wide - Blogads
 
Join the Liberal Blog Advertising Network
 
 
 
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
 
Join the Liberal Blog Advertising Network
 

A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion   Publisher, Zuade Kaufman   Editor, Robert Scheer
© 2014 Truthdig, LLC. All rights reserved.