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Einstein and God

Albert Einstein

It was recently revealed that, toward the end of his life, Albert Einstein wrote a letter in which he dismissed belief in God as superstitious and characterized the stories in the Bible as childish. During a time when atheists have emerged rather aggressively in the popular culture, it was, to say the least, discouraging to hear that the most brilliant scientist of the twentieth century seemed to be antipathetic to religion. It appeared as though Einstein would have agreed with the Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harrises and Richard Dawkins of the world in holding that religious belief belongs to the childhood of the human race.

It just so happens that the revelation of this letter coincided with my reading of Walter Isaacson’s wonderful biography of Einstein, a book that presents a far more complex picture of the great scientist’s attitude toward religion than his late career musing would suggest. In 1930, Einstein composed a kind of creed entitled “What I Believe,” at the conclusion of which he wrote: “To sense that behind everything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense...I am a devoutly religious man.” In response to a young girl who had asked him whether he believed in God, he wrote: “everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe—a Spirit vastly superior to that of man.” And during a talk at Union Theological Seminary on the relationship between religion and science, Einstein declared: “the situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

These reflections of Einstein—and he made many more like them throughout his career—bring the German physicist close to the position of a rather influential German theologian. In his 1968 book Introduction to Christianity, Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, offered this simple but penetrating argument for God’s existence: the universal intelligibility of nature, which is the presupposition of all science, can only be explained through recourse to an infinite and creative mind which has thought the world into being. No scientist, Ratzinger said, could even begin to work unless and until he assumed that the aspect of nature he was investigating was knowable, intelligible, marked by form. But this fundamentally mystical assumption rests upon the conviction that whatever he comes to know through his scientific work is simply an act of re-thinking or re-cognizing what a far greater mind has already conceived.

Ratzinger’s elegant proof demonstrates that, at bottom, religion and science ought never to be enemies, since both involve an intuition of God’s existence and intelligence. In fact, many have argued that it is no accident that the modern physical sciences emerged precisely out of the universities of the Christian west, where the idea of creation through the divine word was clearly taught. Unhappily, in far too many tellings of the history of ideas, modernity is seen as emerging out of, and in stark opposition to, repressive, obscurantist, and superstitious Christianity. (How many authors, up to the present day, rehearse the struggles of Galileo to make just this point). As a result, Christianity—especially in its Catholic expression—is often presented as a kind of foil to science, when in fact there is a deep congruity between the disciplines that search for objective truth and the religion that says, “in the beginning was the Word.”

What sense, then, can we make of Einstein’s recently discovered letter? Given the many other things he said about belief, perhaps it’s best to say that he was reacting against primitive and superstitious forms of religion, just as St. Paul was when he said that we must put away childish things when we’ve come of age spiritually. And what of his dismissal of the Bible? Here I think we have to make a distinction. A person can be a genius in one field of endeavor and remain naïve, even inept, in another. Few would dispute that Einstein was the greatest theoretical physicist of the last century, but this is no guarantee that he had even an adequate appreciation for Sacred Scripture. The “infantile” stories of the Bible have been the object of sophisticated interpretation for two and half millenia. Masters such as Origen, Philo, Chrysostom, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and John Henry Newman have uncovered the complexity and multivalence of the Bible’s symbolism and have delighted in showing the literary artistry that lies below its sometimes deceptively simple surface.

So I think we can say in conclusion that religious people can, to a large extent, claim Einstein as an ally, though in regard to Scripture interpretation, we can find far better guides than he.
 
 
Originally posted at Word on Fire. Used with author's permission.
(Image credit: Majzooban)

Bishop Robert Barron

Written by

Bishop Robert Barron is Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He is an acclaimed author, speaker, and theologian. He’s America’s first podcasting priest and one of the world’s most innovative teachers of Catholicism. His global, non-profit media ministry called Word On Fire reaches millions of people by utilizing new media to draw people into or back to the Faith. Bishop Barron is also the creator and host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, 10-part documentary series and study program about the Catholic Faith. He is the author of several books including Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master (Crossroad, 2008); The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path (Orbis, 2002); and Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith (Image, 2011). Find more of his writing and videos at WordOnFire.org.

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  • Mark Hunter

    From the first Chapter of The God Delusion ( http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/22/books/chapters/1022-1st-dawk.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0)

    "An American Roman Catholic lawyer, working on behalf of an ecumenical coalition, wrote to Einstein:

    We deeply regret that you made your statement ... in which you ridicule the idea of a personal God. In the past ten years nothing has been so calculated to make people think that Hitler had some reason to expel the Jews from Germany as your statement. Conceding your right to free speech, I still say that your statement constitutes you as one of the greatest sources of discord in America.

    ...

    The president of a historical society in New Jersey wrote a letter that so damningly exposes the weakness of the religious mind, it is worth reading twice:

    We respect your learning, Dr Einstein; but there is one thing you do not seem to have learned: that God is a spirit and cannot be found through the telescope or microscope, no more than human thought or emotion can be found by analyzing the brain. As everyone knows, religion is based on Faith, not knowledge. Every thinking person, perhaps, is assailed at times with religious doubt. My own faith has wavered many a time. But I never told anyone of my spiritual aberrations for two reasons: (1) I feared that I might, by mere suggestion, disturb and damage the life and hopes of some fellow being; (2) because I agree with the writer who said, 'There is a mean streak in anyone who will destroy another's faith.' ... I hope, Dr Einstein, that you were misquoted and that you will yet say something more pleasing to the vast number of the American people who delight to do you honor."

    -------------------------------

    If Einstein believed in a God it was the God of Spinoza, a deistic sum total of the cosmos God, so far different from even the weakest of theism, And if Einstein sinned in the science/religion area it was using the word God when he meant nothing like the conventional idea of God.

    A new generation of scientists is growing up without belief in a society that is increasingly non believing. Fewer now use the older language. They have less reliance on the old terms and are retasking religious word. As a case in point Richard Dawkins (in the above reference) describes himself as a very spiritual person.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Dawkins is to spirituality what "Gobots" are to robotics science.

    • agadofive.leti

      You should read the the book "Answering Atheism," and "The Godless Delusion."

      • There's no need to read stupid and dishonest books.

        • You mean like those written by "New Atheists " who are really just promoting the errors of the late 1960s?

          • No, moron, I meant the ones cited.

          • You're the idiot. You have zero wisdom and zero ability to think for yourself, you just keep parroting the New Atheists- who are themselves morality-free idiots who don't know how to live.

          • treeman

            Who is the angry little atheist turd then?

          • Stupid and dishonest non sequitur, which is all that theists have.

          • treeman

            LOL aww are you angry?

          • Michael Murray

            But StrangeNotions.com is different. Our goal is not to defeat anyone, embarrass them, or assault their character. Our goal is only the Truth, and to pursue it through fruitful discussion.

        • treeman

          But you have already

      • Jen Savage

        LOL Is the book blank?

    • Hasnain Mohammed

      God destine matter and energy to be dissolve into time. He so arranged and consolidated these factors - matter, time and space that the intensity of their diverse and opposing properties was reduced....., to have their existence relative to and dependent upon time, thus giving matter time, and therefore,space a continuum that one cannot exist without the other two.
      God made every part of universe and everything in it dependent upon others, so that none could exist without the other ; time cannot exist without space or matter, similarly space cannot exist without time and matter and matter cannot exist without space and time and this triple alliance or triangle or interdependence is the *general relativity.*

      Ask Albert Einstein!

      • Typical incoherent godbot drivel.

        • treeman

          Well there is no need for you to even be here I guess seeing as you are just another degenerate angry atheist.

    • treeman

      Actually the majority of humanity believes in a deity of some sort. You are a minuscule minority of blithering idiots.

  • Dcn Harbey Santiago

    "Pope Benedict XVI, offered this simple but penetrating argument for God’s existence: the universal intelligibility of nature" To me as clergy and as man of science (Truth be told, I'm an Engineer but close enough :-) this has always been the strongest argument for deism. Why should the universe be self organizing in such a way that beings like us are able to understand, model and predict its organization? The only possible answer the atheist could provide for the conjunction of the universe self organization with the human capacity to understand it is random chance. But the probabilities for this conjunction is so low it is difficult to take this claim seriously. What then? A Flying Spaghetti monster? Hardly. Any deity, the human mind could conceive to explain this would be limited by the same human understanding which created it. How about a being beyond human understanding(and hence by definition outside of this universe)? An intellect so vast, a being with such "actuality" (To use Aquinas language) that it could direct the evolution of primordial events to the point in which we are siting here discussing these things? This is the possibility which satisfies my scientific as well as religious curiosity. I believe this is what Einstein meant every-time he used the word "God".

    "Viva Cristo Rey!!"

    Deacon Harbey Santiago

    • Mark Hunter

      Einstein did not believe in a personal God. He was quite clear on that. He did, unfortunately, use the word God alot in his statements (God does not play dice, etc.) but clearly states on several occasions that the God he believed in was a Spinoza God,

      " "I believe in Spinoza's God, who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind." In other word his view of God was not a God that cares how you pray (God isn't listening), how you worship (God doesn't need constant praise) or who you sleep with (that's a human obsession).

      • Dcn Harbey Santiago

        Never said he did, and I can not find where in my post I imply this. In fact this is why I edited my post to differentiate between Deism and Theism.

        "Viva Cristo Rey!!"

        Deacon Harbey Santiago

      • TheodoreSeeber

        Deleting comment.

      • Hasnain Mohammed

        Exactly!

        God destine matter and energy to be dissolve into time. He so arranged and consolidated these factors - matter, time and space that the intensity of their diverse and opposing properties was reduced....., to have their existence relative to and dependent upon time, thus giving matter time, and therefore,space a continuum that one cannot exist without the other two.
        God made every part of universe and everything in it dependent upon others, so that none could exist without the other ; time cannot exist without space or matter, similarly space cannot exist without time and matter and matter cannot exist without space and time and this triple alliance or triangle or interdependence is the *general relativity.*

        Ask Albert Einstein!

    • "The only possible answer the atheist could provide ... is random chance."

      That's incorrect. There are scores of atheist accounts for that topic. They span a diverse range of approaches, so I'll mention two that are roughly at either extreme.

      At one extreme is the view that the question is wrongheadedly backwards. As we are organisms that manage to survive and grow in this world, it is our patterns of thought that are adapted to understanding the world, not the world that is adapted to be understandable by our patterns of thought.

      At another extreme are variations on the Mathematical Universe Hypothesis. It seems to most mathematicians that mathematics describes a kind of abstract reality independent of physical facts about our world, composed of objects that must be the way they are and cannot not be the way they are. There is even some empirical evidence for this, in that we can write mathematical proofs about the characteristics of how any computer would solve as-yet-undeveloped algorithms regardless of the physical principles by which the computer works -- and that fact is best predicted by the notion that mathematics is a deeper reality than physics. Then it would be the case that a mathematical object exists corresponding to the statement "Given mathematical laws X and null properties Y, a universe will pop out without need for a pre-existing substance" for some X and Y. And then since X and Y are given within that abstracta and are sufficient for a universe, there's a universe, too. Furthermore, it nicely matches Vilenkin's mathematical model of our universe expanding from a spherical volume of zero radius (i.e. having only null properties like "no volume", "no energy", etc.). And if there are whole sets of valid (X,Y) pairs, then we'd have a multiverse composed of the whole range of possible universes, each with slightly different properties from the next. So the set of real universes would be those describable by continuous lawful evolution from null initial conditions, and on that account they'd all necessarily be intelligible.

      • Fr.Sean

        Noah,

        I was watching National geographic when they had a
        special on hippo's. the narrator mentioned that previously biologists believed hippo's were related to pigs, but that recent DNA studies revealed they were much closer to whales. having heard that it made me realize how often scientific theories turn out to be false when future evidence becomes available. Realizing this it's apparent that when confronted with evidence of a designer of the universe it often appears that scientists come up with some pretty elaborate theories that have little factual evidence in reality. the multiverse is an explanation of the fine tuning of our universe i think is a pretty good example of this, as is the various theories purposed as the source of the natural law, or that love, conscience and the like are noting more than chemical reactions in the brain? those theories have little factual basis and yet it almost seems like an atheist will indeed believe anything as longas it doesn't include a designer? I'm not saying that theories to explain things we don't understand should not be put forth, they should, but perhaps doing so with the understanding that there is a possibility of a designer is being much more objective. i certainly can respect an agnostic position as being a more honest position, but when one stands
        on an atheistic perspective, and adheres to so many theories that have little evidence to support it makes you wonder what takes more faith to believe, an atheists position in the god of chance, or a theistic position?

        • "when confronted with evidence of a designer of the universe"

          That's the problem. There is no known evidence of a designer of the universe. Evidence favors one theory over another when that evidence has a higher probability of existing in the first theory than in the second theory. You mentioned the fine-tuning problem. The apparent fine-tuning is evidence that our current consensus theory of physics is incomplete. That's fine; physicists are well aware that it's incomplete. The problem is that fine-tuning is equally probable under alternate theories like a multiverse, a designed universe, or undiscovered physical constraints. Therefore the fine-tuning problem, as evidence, cannot discriminate between those theories, and so isn't evidence for or against them. More evidence is needed before we can say that one theory gives better explanations.

          Scientific theories do infrequently get toppled by new evidence. All scientists hope to be the lucky one who finds that new evidence and can topple the old theories. :) Merely recognizing that theory-shift might happen, however, does not constitute evidence that it will happen, nor evidence for what the new best-evidenced theory will be.

          Until we have that future evidence, Bayesian hypothesis selection doesn't require us to choose between the possibile explanations. Nor is any faith necessary. We can accept each possible explanation as having a certain level of confidence (e.g. like saying "I'm 50% confident this flipped coin will come up heads."). The confidence levels are set by the likelihood ratios of the evidence and of the prior odds. If we want to choose reasonable prior odds, it's clear that "the universe's characteristics were set by ineffable processes during deliberate creation by an ineffable God" is a much more extraordinary theory than "the natural processes that gave rise to the universe determined its characteristics", so the prior odds should favor the natural theory over the supernatural theory proportionally to the difference in how extraordinary they are.

          BTW, an agnostic is someone who believes they can't know for certain whether God exists. It's not an "undecided" platform in between "theist" and "atheist" platforms. Agnostics don't know, but they still either believe or don't believe, so they can be agnostic theists or agnostic atheists. Likewise a gnostic theist believes he can know that God exists, and a gnostic atheist believes he can know that God doesn't exist.

          • Fr.Sean

            Noah,
            I suppose when it comes to "evidence" there's most likely various categories of how true or substantial certain evidence is.  i'm 99.99 % sure that you are looking at some form of a computer right now.  i can also be sure that you love certain members of your family.  you can prove beyond doubt that you do have a computer but you cannot prove that you love members of your family, i simply have to take your word for it.  Furthermore one of the best proof's i have that you love your family is the love that i feel for my family.  Thus there are different levels of evidence.  certainly God, if he exists does not fall into the first category i mentioned.  i think it's accurate to say that scientists can put a certain probability on various questions of the universe.  when it comes to the fine tuning of the universe there are three possibilities that i know of (there may be more) 1. the multiverse. 2. a creator 3. the multiverse and a creator.  Now first of all, I once heard a lawyer say; "when your client's innocent, stick with the facts, when your client's guilty try to confuse the jury."  we all do that when we discuss various topics.  if we feel our position may be false or perhaps not all that defensible it's natural to change the subject on to some other topic, instead of acknowledging our position isn't all that strong yet.  when i look at the multiverse vs. creator as a possibility i can see that there is a certain amount of mathematical chance.  i believe Dr.Hawkings said something to the effect of if the original expansion was one millionth of a second faster, or slower the universe wouldn't have existed to support life (paraphrasing naturally).  i can look at that observation and see chance, indeed we were lucky, but then when you get into the other variables where we just happened to be lucky i have to ask myself is it really mathematical chance?  or is it guided mathematical chance? (i'm sure you're familiar with many of the other variables).  if i said to you, "Noah, i just got a job at the lottery, why don't you go play" and you did and let's say you won, a million dollars.  you might think, "well, it's possible that Sean had something to do with me winning, but it's also possible that i simply just got lucky, but i can't be sure without definitive proof."  Now let's say you continued to play the lottery every day, and for an entire year you won the lottery for a million dollars every day.  there would certainly be a chance that you just happened to get that lucky, but wouldn't be more likely that i had something to do with it?  i think the evidence for God can certainly fall into that category.  even if there were a billion of other universes, the astronomical chances of the fine tuning is still much greater than trillions? (i can't be sure of that just an estimate) Furthermore, when you look at the origin of the natural law, or the universal principle of a creator and i see the theories proposed, wouldn't it least seem to make sense that some of those theories are created with little evidence to support them but we assume them to be true as if we are indeed making a leap of faith?  if we find ourselves always coming up with an explanation for what might appear to be obvious isn't it natural to think that our explanations are a bit of a leap of faith in believing there is no Creator?
            Certainly something worth considering?

          • Hi Fr. Sean,

            > I suppose when it comes to "evidence" there's most likely various categories of how true or substantial certain evidence is.

            Different pieces of evidence have different likelihood ratios, but they all have the essential feature of likelihood ratios that aren't 1:1. Anything whatsoever can count as evidence so long as it has a not-1:1 likelihood ratio, i.e., that under one theory it is expected with higher probability than under the other theory.

            > i'm 99.99 % sure that you are looking at some form of a computer right now.

            Correct. You knew this because the prior probabilities. The most common alternative would be to have someone read it to me instead of me looking, and you know that happens very rarely. There was no evidence specific to this case, but the odds were already highly favorable, so you went with the least extraordinary explanation.

            > i can also be sure that you love certain members of your family.

            Correct again, again because of the prior probabilities. You know from long experience that nearly everyone loves at least one of their family members, so you assumed the least extraordinary explanation, which is the one with the best odds, which is the one that is most common.

            > but you cannot prove that you love members of your family, i simply have to take your word for it.

            What people say counts as evidence. We successfully take people's words for things all the time. The prior probabilities are good: most people are honest most of the time. And we can often get specific evidence by asking follow-up questions or asking multiple people and comparing the responses. If a person told you some dark, horrible story about her family history, and spoke ill of her family presently, you might well consider it proven that she had no special love for them anymore. People's words can prove things when they are much more likely to say them if the thing is true than if the thing is false, and if the prior odds weren't too low.

            > when it comes to the fine tuning of the universe there are three possibilities that i know of (there may be more)

            Indeed, there are many more. I mentioned one earlier: undiscovered physical constraints.

            > Now first of all, I once heard a lawyer say; "when your client's innocent, stick with the facts, when your client's guilty try to confuse the jury." we all do that when we discuss various topics.

            Oh dear! I never do that. I hope you don't, either. If it's true I want to know that it's true; if it's false I want to know that it's false. I've been Catholic, I've been atheist, and I won't be ashamed to change my mind again, or even multiple times. I'm not a lawyer for either side. If anything, I'm a lawyer for clear, consistent, charitable, and evidentially-grounded thinking.

            > when i look at the multiverse vs. creator as a possibility i can see that there is a certain amount of mathematical chance.

            That depends on which multiverse theory we're talking about. If it's Tegmark IV, for example, then there's zero chance involved. Our universe would necessarily exist if that theory is true. The same is true for John Leslie's theory of axiarchy, despite that it's utterly different from Tegmark IV. And there are many other possible explanations.

            > if i said to you, "Noah, i just got a job at the lottery, why don't you go play" and you did and let's say you won, a million dollars. you might think, "well, it's possible that Sean had something to do with me winning, but it's also possible that i simply just got lucky, but i can't be sure without definitive proof."

            Actually, I could be virtually certain without any more proof. The Powerball odds are about 175 million to one. So the likelihood ratio tells us immediately that it would be 175 million times more likely than not that you rigged the lottery, which equals 99.9999994% confidence that you rigged the lottery.

            > i think the evidence for God can certainly fall into that category. even if there were a billion of other universes, the astronomical chances of the fine tuning is still much greater than trillions?

            Under theories such as ones I mentioned (Tegmark IV or axiarchy), the number of universes is at least an aleph-C sized transfinite number, so the chance of fine tuning would be 100%.

            > wouldn't it least seem to make sense that some of those theories are created with little evidence to support them but we assume them to be true as if we are indeed making a leap of faith

            Of course theories are invented before they are proven. But theories aren't assumed to be true until after they are proven. Before that, they are assigned a level of confidence proportional to the evidence (the likelihood ratios of observed facts). No faith is needed.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Noah,
            i accidentally sent your replay down below.  but i was trying to find info on the tedmark and axilary's discriptions of the multiverse as well as the other one's you mentioned.  could you recommend a website on those various theories?  thanks for your time.

          • Hi Fr. Sean,

            Tegmark's theory has a Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mathematical_universe_hypothesis

            Here's a video where John Leslie talks a little about his thoughts on axiarchism (and several other topics): http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/1367

            I'd like to reiterate a caution: Neither of these theories has enough evidence behind them that we should simply believe them. At most, it's reasonable to give them some tentative, moderate level of confidence.

            I think you find may Derek Parfit's article here to provide provide much more food for thought: http://www.naturalism.org/parfit.htm I'd recommend it instead of the other two if you're short on time.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Noah,

            I read both theories and indeed they are both thought
            provoking but I couldn’t help but to think it was still grasping for straws a little. what I mean by that is if God has left certain bits of evidence that are intended to have people ponder about the divine, such as the fine tuning of the universe, the natural law, the interior question about a creator, then the only way to dissuade one from pondering such truths is to bring confusion into the whole issue. For example, if Dr.Hawkings was right, the original expansion of the universe had to be within one millionth of a second
            in either direction, lest say that at least at the beginning there was one in two million chances that the original expansion was the correct timing, then lets assume there are just 2 other variables (although I suspect there are
            more) that also had to be that precise, let’s say the odds were one in a million for the sake of argument. Than that number would ultimately be 2000000 x1000000x1000000 which would be 2000000000000000000. So the odds would be one to the 2 to the(I think it’s) 18 power. And that’s before you even reach all of the odds of the perfection of physics and variables of our planet. To such odds one can only bring in some kind of confusion to distract one from the overwhelming evidence that it was indeed designed. (as you had mentioned about the certainty of me fixing the lottery for you) Thus we have the multiverse theory which in and of itself postulates a billion other galaxies (where they get that number is indeed a mystery) or perhaps Tegmark's
            theory or axiarchism theory. Or simply reducing it to a theory that “we just happen to be in a perfect universe on a
            perfect planet that can support life to ponder such realities.” Each one of those theories simply serve to
            distract one from the overwhelming odds, since they have little to no evidence that they are real. Indeed they all
            entail a great amount of faith in chance. Reading them reminded me of one of the screw tape letters (if you know
            the concept screwtape is a demon who is teaching another demon how to keep their subjects from conversion) the demon’s subject is a professor at a university. at one point the professor starts to ponder the notion of good, where the notion came from, perhaps it has a source, the demons, seeing his subject is going in the wrong direction
            injects a thought about it’s almost lunch time and he needs to eat. The professor shelves the thought and decides
            to come back to it after lunch. When the professor is about to return to his thought about the source of good a young
            student walks by and the demon reminds him of how difficult the young man’s early life was, that if there was a god he wouldn’t have had such a difficult life etc. with the professor distracted, he lets go of the thought of the notion of good and the demon succeeds and keeping him from pondering what is obvious. I couldn’t help but to think these various theories only serve to distract one from the truth? All of them are based in theory with little to no evidence, and it also seems like they barely scratch the surface of the overwhelming odds that our planet and life is as it is. Nevertheless, I will readily admit that I am not educated enough in physics to comment on how plausible they
            are.

          • "t I couldn’t help but to think it was still grasping for straws a little. what I mean by that is if God has left certain bits of evidence that are intended to have people ponder about the divine"

            You're the one grasping for straws, godbot. There is no God or evidence of God.

          • Hasnain Mohammed

            Absurdity of Atheism
            If abiogenesis (spontaneous creation without specific design) can be admitted under such conditions of regularity, then purposeful generation and definitely balanced creation can be the result of error ad perplexity, since these two are opposed to abiogenesis.

            Such a statement is highly absurd that order and rectitude should come about without a Creator, and disorder and impropriety of design and fate should suppose a Creator. He is an ignoramus who says this, because anything produced without design will never be exact and proportioned, while disorder and contrariness cannot co-exist with orderly design. Allah (swt) is far above what the heretics say.

            http://www.al-shia.org/html/eng/page.php?id=1640&page=6

          • Funny how all you godbots of different sects have radically different views that totally contradict each other ... but are all based on ignorance and intellectual dishonesty.

        • Susan

          >Realizing this it's apparent that when confronted with evidence of a designer of the universe it often appears that scientists come up with some pretty elaborate theories that have little factual evidence in reality

          Show me where science has been confronted with evidence of a designer. If you are going to continue to claim that science uses "the multiverse" (do you know how many "multiverses" are under consideration and why?) in order to avoid the obvious designer, you should really look into the science.

          This is important. The universe is a stranger place than most of us know and "multiverse" ideas are legitimate trails that are implied by much of the evidence. More importantly, no one is claiming that there IS a multiverse without evidence. Science doesn't work that way. Theoretical physics is a necessary part of looking for the next step and finding ways to LOOK for evidence. Without evidence, it is not science. You have been listening to apologists whose mantra is that "atheistic scientists will look for any way out of MY god". This is nonsense and any investigation by a curious layperson will show that to be nonsense.

          The fact that that accusation is coming from people who claim that their god among the tens of thousands of gods throughout human history is the ultimate explanation for reality and includes a virgin birth and a blood sacrifice to save us from a sin that two non-existent people inflicted on all life forms forever and that these claims are BEYOND evidence for no apparent reason except that it makes them feel right makes that accusation even more ludicrous.

          >I'm not saying that theories to explain things we don't understand should not be put forth, they should, but perhaps doing so with the understanding that there is a possibility of a designer is being much more objective.

          You're ignoring the fact that science expected to find a designer centuries ago, particularly YOUR choice of designer, that it was a given then that that designer was behind everything, but that as more and more evidence comes in about the cosmos, about our planet, about life, about mind, the more incoherent our designer notions appear and the less substantiated by evidence they are.

          "Gods" are generated by human brains and yours is no more special than any of them. If yours was special and obvious to science, scientists would be clamouring to describe its properties and win a Nobel prize. Is this what they teach you in the seminary? That scientists are looking for any excuse to pretend that Yahweh is a figment of our imagination and that they are trained to ignore that evidence? Why would you believe that? Because the church says so?

          >when one stands
          on an atheistic perspective, and adheres to so many theories that have little evidence to support it makes you wonder what takes more faith to believe, an atheists position in the god of chance, or a theistic position?

          What theories do I "adhere" to that have no evidence? You are parroting ancient propaganda that has been refuted countless times.

          I am an "atheist" in the sense that I don't believe in Yahweh. I'm pretty sure that you don't believe in Thor, Manitou, Krishna, Shiva, Tetzcaticopla, and thousands of other gods. There is no evidence for any of them and the evidence we do have counts against them. Yet you have bought into the myth that people who don't accept Yahweh need excuses to reject your particular god. All we're asking for is evidence.

          I am "agnostic" about many versions of a multiverse as there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the strangeness of reality might imply one or more of them but I don't "believe" in them as there is no evidence for them.

          I am not "agnostic" about Yahweh or Jesus. The "evidence" that has been laid out on this site is of the lowest standard, it attempts to strengthen itself by contrasting its superstitious assertions to ridiculous strawmen of atheism (like the"faith" in the multiverse that no atheist, let alone any scientist with whom I'm familiar ascribes to) it is incoherent, it relies on special pleading (supernatural, which has never been explained or justified, just asserted as justification) and in that respect, it is no more useful to escaping our tendency to fool ourselves than any other superstitious belief.

          >it makes you wonder what takes more faith to believe, an atheists position in the god of chance,

          Atheists by definition don't believe in "gods" for a very simple reason. The evidence doesn't support any of them. What is a god?

          And what do you mean by "chance"? This is a very important question and I expect you to define that term. What do you mean by "chance"? The people who have been using it to make their arguments for Yahweh haven't ever explained it, have they? They are relying on your intuitions that without Yahweh, things are topsy-turvy and completely chaotic, chaotic in a sense that science and math can't make sense of and make no claim to. They are counting on you to not question the terms their unevidenced positions rely on.

          >or a theistic position?

          Show me a theistic position with evidence to support it. Every time an honest person from outside the compound tries to have an honest discussion with the catholics, they are met with an appeal to "supernatural" a vague term that expects to be free of all demands for evidence.

          Which is it? Evidence or not? I get the same line when I try to remain open-minded to god claims.

          "Any idiot can look at the evidence and see Yahweh"

          (or Allah or Chopra's deity or a "higher power" or thousands of other claims)

          , but when it comes down to the nitty gritty... when I ask for evidence and when I see countless others ask for evidence, I get the same answer, "MY god is beyond evidence."

          No one CLAIMS multiverses exist. Even if they did, you are a very black kettle appalled at the blackness of the pot.

          You need to either address these things or drop them. You've used them too many times and ignored the responses you've been given. In that sense, you are behaving like a pawn. And my brief exchanges with you have suggested to me that you are better than that.

          • Stellar comment, Susan!

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Susan,

            Good to hear from you. you do make some good points.

            "Show me where science has been confronted with evidence of a designer. If you are going to continue to claim that science uses "the multiverse" (do you know how many "multiverses" are under consideration and why?) in order to avoid the obvious designer, you should really look into the
            science."

            well, if you look at the variables involved in fine tuning they are quite astounding. the original expansion of the big bang, the energy it takes for neutrons to keep protons connected, as opposed to the gravitational pull, the rate of entropy at the beginning of the universe and change shortly after the original expansion are just a couple of examples of fine tuning. if we take those first three (i don't have the numbers in front of me) i believe they were 10 to the 50 power, 10 to the 75 power and 10 to the 125 power to the 125 power (no i didn't double type). so if you're looking at the odds of any particular universe being fine tuned enough to support stars and planets you would take those numbers and multiply them. thus 10 to the 50 power, X 10 to the 75power X 10 to the 125 power to the 125 power. (these numbers came straight from the physicists who calculated them, whom are mostly atheists ,not from a theist physicists.) thus your product would be something like 10 to the trillionth power (or a trillion zeros behind it). Ponder that for a moment, that is the astronomical chances our universe would be able to support simply stars and planets, and has nothing to say yet of our planet. Even Dawkins acknowledged fine tuning is one of the theists best arguments. to address the possibilities of things beings so perfect there really are only three options. 1. we were just extremely lucky but really one in 10 to the trillionth power? 2. in terms of chaotic inflation there is a possibility that there are 10 to the trillionth power number of universes, which again is bordering on science fiction. our universe is 20 billion light years across. we're now going to postulate that there are 10 to the trillionth power number of universes that we have no evidence exist? 3. there is a fine tuner who fine tuned the universe and left those numbers to be discovered so we could discern his existence. (i'm not saying the Christian God right now, just a fine tuner at this point)

            I think a good analogy might be this; if i got a job at the lottery and said, "susan, i got a job at the lottery, why don't you go play i think you have a good chance." so you did, now lets say the next time the powerball jackpot was avilable, you played and you won. you might think, "Sean could have had soemthing to do with it. now, lets say you played the powerball jackpot for the next thirty times and you won every time. you may have no physical proof that i cheated for you but the sheer odds at you winning every single time would almost guarantee that i did cheat for you. that perhaps is an accurate analogy to draw up an evidence of a fine tuner. specific evidence, we can put our hands on, well no, but the odds of everything being so perfect almost guarantees the cosmic lottery was fixed.

            "The fact that that accusation is coming from people who claim that their god among the tens of thousands of gods throughout human history is the ultimate explanation for reality and includes a virgin birth and a blood sacrifice to save us from a sin that two non-existent people inflicted on all life forms forever and that these claims are BEYOND
            evidence for no apparent reason except that it makes them feel right makes that accusation even more ludicrous."

            Lets not confuse issues, i'm not saying at this point that my god is the right one, just that there is evidence that there is a fine tuner.

            "You're ignoring the fact that science expected to find a designer centuries ago, particularly YOUR choice of designer, that it was a given then that that designer was behind everything, but that as more and more evidence comes in about the cosmos, about our planet, about life,
            about mind, the more incoherent our designer notions appear and the less substantiated by evidence they are.

            i think we'll have to respectfully disagree, i think the more evidence science has put forth the more evidence that there is a designer. years ago when people had a basic knowledge of our solar system and our universe people didn't know how "perfect" everything had to be to support life? as we have learned more it's amazing to see how perfect everything is. think about it, if you simply change one variable by the tiniest fraction in our universe and more specifically in our solar system, the result would be there is no life on the planet. the response to this is to simply postulate there are 10 to the trillionth power of other universes, but again doesn't that seem like science fiction? the more we learn i believe the more it points to a designer, but in order to offset that, hypothesis are created that have no grounding in scientific observation? is that not a faith issue?

            ""Gods" are generated by human brains and yours is no more special than any of them. If yours was special and obvious to science, scientists would be clamouring to describe its properties and win a Nobel prize.
            Is this what they teach you in the seminary? That scientists are looking for any excuse to pretend that Yahweh is a figment of our imagination and that they are trained to ignore that evidence? Why would you believe that? Because the church says so?"

            I think it's important to stay on the subject at hand, otherwise you just end up jumping from issue to issue and nothing get's accomplished. i have plenty of reasons why i feel Jesus is the Son of God, but if we can't at least stay on the topic that it just turns into a mindless argument of various issues and we can't make progress on any of them?

            "Atheists by definition don't believe in "gods" for a very simple reason. The evidence doesn't support any of them. What is a god?"

            I would respectfully disagree with this statement. i think there is evidence, but it not the kind of evidence i can pull out of a box and hand to you. Just like the analogy of the lottery i used earlier. if Chaotic inflation turns out to be false, the idea that our universe just happen to be as fine tuned as it is would completely appeal to the lottery analogy i used earlier. the "god of Chance" applies to the idea that there are really only three possibilities of how things came about. 1. pure mathematical chance, 2. guided mathematical chance. 3. design in nature. number 2 and 3 indicate a fine tuner. so the "god of chance" phrase was meant to indicate a notion that things simply came about by chance which when you look at the evidence starts to appear to be absurd. i really didn't mean to offend you but i was just trying to convey how one may hold the notion being so unbelievably lucky in such high esteem.

            there is plenty of evidence but it's of a second nature. like love, you can tell someone you love them, but you cannot prove it in an empirical way. yet you know it exists because you've experienced it yourself.

            Think about it like this; when one looks at the fine tuning of the universe and design in nature, it naturally leads to the proposition that there is a designer, a fine tuner. with such overwhelming evidence it naturally points to a designer. but if i have presuppositions of a designer i have to distract myself from the evidence. one way to distract myself is to create a hypothesis of multiuniverse, without a shred of evidence. thus i'm left with three choices. 1. we just happen to be extremely extremely extremely lucky. but that position seems absurd. 2. there are 10 to the trillionth power of other universes that we haven't discovered. okay i'll admit that is a possibility, but without any evidence we have to remember this is science? 3. there is a fine tuner. if you assume for the sake of argument that there is a God, and God wants you to make a choice to beleive in him/her because he doesn't want robots. than the fine tuning appears to be almost a language that only very bringht people knowledgeable in physics would be able to discipher. furthermore, all of the other variables, the unmoved mover, uncaused cause, design in nature, the natural law, lead one to make that choice to believe in him, only later to discover he is a personal God. i'm not trying to convey Christianity at this point, just that there is a fine tuner, a creator that becomes evident to see when one opens their eyes? it's certainly with reflecting on. we make decisons all the time that aren't based on 100% empirical data. so why insist that i need 100% empirical data when it comes to God? Thank you Susan for your comment, if at some point you want to discuss why Jesus i can discuss that with you, but it might be more helpful to say on one topic at a time. By the way i have to drive out to visit my sister and help her move so i may not have time to reply, but i will when i can! if you live in the U.S. have a good memorial day!

          • Andrew G.

            well, if you look at the variables involved in fine tuning they are quite astounding.

            That really isn't the case, or certainly not as much as has been claimed. For example, this bandying about of numbers like 1 in 10^50 has no basis whatsoever in actual physics.

            We have good theoretical reasons to expect some of the observed values, such as the expansion rate and energy density of the early universe, which are exactly equal to the critical values predicted by inflation to within the limit of measurement. Other values for which we have no theoretical predictions, such as the force coupling constants, turn out to allow a substantial range of potentially life-bearing universes provided you allow them all to vary, rather than looking at only one at a time. Yet other values claimed by some apologists are actually the result of physically conserved quantities; electric charge is conserved, therefore the universe as a whole must be electrically neutral.

            Accordingly there is no need to appeal to multiverses to justify rejecting fine-tuning claims.

          • severalspeciesof

            Sean, You say:

            "3. there is a fine tuner who fine tuned the universe and left those numbers to be discovered so we could discern his existence."

            Well, I followed your logic about why you feel there is a fine tuner using the incredible odds argument, but shook my head when you said this in your third point "...and left those numbers to be discovered so we could discern his existence."

            Even if one agrees with the odds argument, one cannot possibly know that the designer 'left' those numbers to be discovered so that one could know of its existence. That has multiple assertions built in. It asserts it is somehow conscious like us and that it has an ego (wants to be known). No one could possibly know that. Some might like to believe it, but they can't know it.

            Apologies for barging in...

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Severalspeciesof,
            Sorry i didn't get back to you sooner, i was away for a couple of days. you make a good point and i should have developed a little more what i was attempting to convey. Agustine who was a little more theoretical than Aquinas had an interesting observation about a "proof" for the existence of God. he said when someone sees a beautiful scene in nature, perhaps the sun rising over the ocean, or setting over mountains, or perhaps viewing a billion stars at night when one is away from artificial light. views like that fill the observer with an "aweee" moment, "like wow, how could something be so beautiful", then that compels one to think of how something in nature became like that, thus there must be a designer meant to compel observer to seek out it's source.

            Now, if we pause right here we may discern a pattern. (if there is a God) God reveals signs in nature that compel one to ponder his existence. one searches with an openness for God's existence and thus God revels himself to the observer in some internal way.

            Now, views in nature are not the only way this occurs.
            there are other observations in nature that do the same thing. i've read many biologists when viewing the intricacy of life, or smaller more minute aspects of cells and organs often compel biologists to realize these cells, organs, and life itself had to have a designer. Nature compels the biologists to ponder God's existence and thus the biologists gains an internal knowledge of God. Physics in the universe has the same effect. observing the fine tuning, or how perfect atoms form, light moves, the original expansion of the big bang etc. all cause someone in physics to ponder, "wow, what are the chances?" in other words if there was a God he could have made it that the universe would not be so fine tuned, that things would speak of a more randomness. but if there was a God and he made it so that he would know people would learn the laws of physics that they would also come to the same "awe ha" moment that the biologists or observer of nature came to. thus the physicists had learned a language originally designed by the creator (again assuming the creator exists) that perhaps only a few would understand, or in other words, very intelligent people knowledgeable in physics would understand, that would speak of God's existence, that would compel you to seek him out as it did the other two examples.

            you winning the lottery every time for an entire year, compels you to think i rigged it for you even though you may not have definitive proof.

            so, this kind of a proof is not going to mean anything to mrs.cabrizi sitting in the front pew at church, she's going to think your crazy for not believing in God to begin with. if you tried to explain it to her she wouldn't know the language to understand, but you would. a language that you understood led you to seek the creator, just as something more simple, like the sun rising over the ocean when she was young compelled her to seek out the creator that gave her internal knowledge of God's existence.

          • severalspeciesof

            Don't worry about not responding right away. Such is the life of the internet... First, to make things a bit clearer, I said I followed your odds logic, but that didn't mean I agreed with it. I don't. I failed to mention that from what I understand, the odds are actually much much smaller than you suspect. It's been a long while since I have read about this idea, so unfortunately I cannot tell you from where it came. Possibly someone else who might come across this comment will know what I am speaking about...

            When I have more time I'll try to get back to you about the notion of beauty and great intricacy being a 'window' to god (is that a decent way to paraphrase your thoughts above?)

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi severalspeciesof,
            I did originally look up that number but i'll have to look into it again. one little nuance into my brain for a sec, if you don't mind me digressing. i'm sure as you know that most of us Catholics and other Christians believe that our goal is simply to get you to think, pray genuinely look at the God question from a "what if he does exist" point of view. subsequently i've noticed a lot of atheists and agnostics are outnumbering us on the site, which i am really grateful to see (again just assume that i have some innate knowlege that i can't physically give you, i.e. my perspective) because (as deluded as i may be) it means your searching, you want to know. i have the feeling that if i asked every atheist on this site an honest question all of them would confess that a small part of the reason they are here is because they do want us to give you some definitive proof so you can put the question to rest. but we can't, all we can do is get you to do the same thing we have done in one way or another, pray, ask, look at the question from the positive perspective than we believe you will know (and then you too will be frustrated by the fact that you can't physically prove it to someone else). nevertheless, with the odds the way they are, more atheists than Christians i feel i have a responsibility to give you answers as best i can, but i really didn't realize how much time i was going to have to wedge in trying to write something coherent and thought provoking. my pastor (i'm an assistant) thinks i'm wasting my time because faith is a gift one has to ask for and you can't talk anyone into the faith. but i am hampered by my lack of knowledge of physics as well as the adequate time to address various questions. so it takes me a while to get back to people and i hope i'm not conveying that their questions aren't important. anyway, finished digressing. i am still trying to get my head around the specifics of the fine tuning. John Lennox lists a couple of the variables for fine tuning, i'm not going to describe what they are to keep the post from becoming a book but i can give them to you after if you want and these are just a couple of them there are many more(and almost all of these numbers were arrived at by physicists who are atheists)(furthemore to get the odds ratio you multiply the variables). ; 10 to the 40th power X 10 to the 55th power X 10 to the 10 power to the 123 power (no i didn't double type, that is the number). thus you multiply all those numbers and you get an enormously fine tuned accuracy for the universe simply to have stars and planets. those are just three of the variables so whether the final product was 10 to the trillionth power or 10 to the 500 billionth power you get the picture, the odds become so great that the number begins to become irrelevant. i suspect the final odds would be greater than you winning the powerball jackpot every time it was played for a year ,or in other words you would have a greater chance of winning than a universe randomly being able to form stars and planets. if you are an above average intelligence and have a basic knowledge of physics that is (if there is a God) certainly something you can sink your teeth into that you would appreciate and be awed by that mrs.cabrizi sitting in the front pew of church may never be able to truly appreciate. Furthermore, i think you do understand Augustine's idea of beauty leading to questions of a creator. the same beauty that caused mrs.cabrizi to look at the God question from a positive perspective perhaps might be the same type of phenomenon of you appreciating the fine tuning that could also cause you to ponder the question, that is if you don't end up getting confused by some other physicists trying to confuse you with some inane distraction to get your mind off of the truth you are observing.

          • David Egan

            "i'm sure as you know that most of us Catholics and other Christians believe that our goal is simply to get you to think, pray genuinely look at the God question from a "what if he does exist" point of view"

            Have you given the same consideration to any other gods? If not, why? What if they exist? Don't you want to find out?

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi David,
            That's a good question and naturally implies if you asked a member of another faith the same question they would also give you an answer that there's was the correct one. i suppose if you narrow it down a little you could say, if there was a God chances are good he would have revealed himself sometime around when people started to record events and there would be some evidence of his presence in that religion. Thus you would most likely have hinduism, buddhism, islam, Judaism and Christianity (specifically Catholic in this case.) Hinduism has so many gods it seems to contradict it's self a little simply because it would imply that an uncreated God created them and how could a god be a god at all if it had limitations. secondly Buddism points to a creator but doesn't get as specific, which if there was a God he might get a little more specific. thus you have abraham who the three main religions claim as one of their fathers of the faith. Perhaps a good idea would be to pray to the God of Abraham and ask him to show you which is the clearest expression of his revelation. you'll have to read and reflect upon it yourself but i would think Mere Christianity would be a good book to help answer the question of whether or not Jesus was the Son of God. i believe an honest and open search will lead you back here but that is a journey you will have to make yourself. if you want more questions on why catholic i would be happy to answer them for you, but trying to convince you why i believe the Catholic faith is the right one will circle you back to your original question. i have enough faith to believe if you honestly look and pray you will find yourself here. if you are going to be assured of my prayers.

          • severalspeciesof

            Sean, while trying to find where I got the idea that the odds could be much smaller than you cite, I came across this: http://www.talkreason.org/articles/fined.cfm

            It's not what I remember (it had something to do about 'weighted dice') but it points out that odds making on this subject is fraught with unknowns that make these calculations suspect...

          • severalspeciesof

            Sean, while trying to find where I got the idea that the odds could be much smaller than you cite, I came across this: http://www.talkreason.org/articles/fined.cfm

            It's not what I remember (it had something to do about 'weighted dice') but it points out that odds making on this subject is fraught with unknowns that make these calculations suspect...

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Severalspeciesof,i read the article and he does make a good
            point. but i don't believe it negates fine tuning. Lennox used an
            analogy of the creator having to shoot an arrow so perfectly though
            space that there would be no room for error. in that analogy if someone
            had to make a shot so perfect, 80% of the area would not be a
            consideration because it wouldn't even be a consideration for the shot.
            Let me use his analogy to explain. he used the analogy of the human
            body temperature at Kelvin of 310 degrees. thus out of a possibility lets just say 600 degrees. thus it would have a one in 600 possibility of being the right temperature of 310. Naturally, no human being would really be even close to the possibility of 200 to 400 which basically means it's one in 200. But what i feel the author glosses over is HOW fine tuned it has to be. in our following exampe we might posit that the human being's temperature needs to be 310.987654345 to 310.987654346, and as it would turn out the actual body temperature of every human being is 310.9876543455. Now naturally, the fine tuning isn't necessarily saying it's one in 10 to the 1023 power and thus one in 10 to the 1023 power of being right, but it is still so astronmically high that when you multiply the variables it literally would have to be 10 to the 500 billionth to 10 to the tillionth power of other unknown universes's that have not been discovered yet simply for ours to come about by random chance. his article did show thought that the number's probably closer to 10 to the 500 billionth power.

          • Susan

            >1. pure mathematical chance

            What does that mean? .

            >2. guided mathematical chance

            What does that mean?

            >3. design in nature.

            What does that mean? Seriously, I expect answers. Define your "three possibities" and explain why there are only three.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Susan,
            sorry i didn't get back to you sooner. i suppose if you
            look at the universe and our world one may glean that there are only two
            possibilities; 1. there is no God things just came about by chance, and
            we find ourselves in a very fortunate situation of living in a perfect
            universe with laws of nature perfectly set up to allow for life. with
            the possibility of so many universes and so many solar systems there's a
            reasonable chance that at least one universe and at least one solar
            system would be set up by pure chance to afford life.

            2. there is a God or an intelligent entity that is able to control
            the universe and our solar system to allow the possibility of life. the
            entity is the source of life as well as the source of matter and the
            laws of nature.

            thus there are three possibilities of how this came about. if
            there is no God than the only rule of measure is chance (#1). perhaps it
            would be like taking 16 chess pieces and setting them up on a book shelf
            with a chess board below them on the ground. if you pushed them off of
            the book shelf on to the floor there would be a chance that they would
            all land on the board perfectly(in the starting position) in their
            perfect places, but the chances that they would all land perfectly would
            be almost slim to none. yet if you pushed them off of the book shelf a
            couple of trillion times eventually the chance that they would land
            perfectly at least once would increase until it became an almost
            certainty. nevertheless, if you look at the universe, the perfection
            brought about on our planet, and universe is much more like pushing a
            hundred chess pieces off of a book shelf that all had specific squares to land on, with them all landing
            perfectly. nevertheless,if there are roughly 10 to the trillionth power
            of other universes that we have not yet discovered evidence of, the
            chances that one of them would be perfect would pretty soon become a
            certainty.

            the other two possibilities would entail an entity (God) to guide
            things. i suppose you could say a Christian fundamentalist would most
            likely appeal for 3. design. but the other possibility would be a bit
            of a mixture of the two. i think 2. guided mathematical chance seems
            like the one most reasonable. let me explain. guided mathematical
            chance implies two similar ideas. 1. a robin lays three eggs, two of
            them die but one grows to adulthood. thus was there chance, yes, but
            it perhaps appeared to be guided towards the possibility that at lease one robin would grow to adulthood. 2. any individual law of nature or
            law of physics boils down to chance, and luck, thus each one
            individually cannot prove definitively the existence of an intelligent
            entity but when you put them all together it becomes almost a certainty. take water for example it forms a hollow when it
            freezes. most liquids don't do that, but if water didn't' do that it
            would float to the bottom and the seas would be almost entirely frozen,
            thus no life on the planet. is there chance, yes, but we just got
            lucky. water evaporates and condenses in the atmosphere, is that
            chance? yes, but we just happened to get lucky. other factors- distance
            of the planet is perfect, the planet oscillating, perfect, size of the
            planet perfect, fact that some organisms turn carbon dioxide into oxygen
            and some organisms vise versa, perfect, mixture of gases in the
            atmosphere, perfect. as you can imagine i could list enough variables
            to match the bible. in everyone of those variables there is chance, but
            things just happened to be perfect. thus the "chance" just happens to
            be perfect. thus, laws of physics, laws of nature, characteristics of
            our planet all perfect. there is chance in every variable but they all
            just happen to be perfect, or rather guided. guided implies a guider,
            or intelligent entity. thus when we face the laws of nature and laws of
            physics we are fundamentally left with two choices. an intelligent
            entity guiding things, for which we do not have empirical (or physical)
            evidence of, or 10 to the trillionth power of other universes of which we
            also do not have any empirical evidence of. in the first case we have
            other pieces of evidence that he/she/ it exists, if it's the latter the
            only evidence is suggestions by various physicists attempting to explain
            very difficult coincidences through a theoretical possibility.

          • Susan

            Thanks Sean. I apologize if I haven't gotten back to you. This format means things get buried easily. Thanks to SSO for helping me find it again.

            (Nice comment by the way, SSO.

            >1. there is no God things just came about by chance, and
            we find ourselves in a very fortunate situation of living in a perfect
            universe with laws of nature perfectly set up to allow for life. with
            the possibility of so many universes and so many solar systems there's a
            reasonable chance that at least one universe and at least one solar
            system would be set up by pure chance to afford life.

            But this doesn't make sense. Life is incredibly rare in the universe. You are suggesting that because we are here to wonder about why we are here, that the universe is fine-tuned for us. The evidence continues to point to the idea that we are fine-tuned for the universe. The universe made perfect conditions for black holes, gamma rays and fleas as well. Does that indicate intelligence? If there is intelligence behind it, there's no reason to think it made us special. We're just another raindrop in the Shenandoah in terms of the universe. But you still haven't shown me

          • Susan

            Sorry. My comment got cut off. That should be a sign for me to keep it short on this one.
            You still haven't shown me intelligence. You haven't defined it or shown me how the universe requires it.
            There's nothing "perfect" about reality. It's mostly deadly and empty and very strange outside our intuitive perspectives of things. And most of it doesn't seem to give a hoot about us.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Susan,

            I'm sorry i seem to be getting more questions and am trying to fit them into my day. i just has Mass and now i have a children's Mass. could you do me a favor and simply read my reply to "severalspeciesof" because it's sort of the same question. i will try to give you a more detailed explanation when i have an opportunity. here my reply; https://strangenotions.com/einstein-god/#comment-913215913

          • GeezyHamilton

            Thank you very much for this eloquent and informative response Sean. It helped me out alot!

          • Fr.Sean

            No Problem GeezyHamilton, i'm glad i could help. Let me know if you have any other questions.

          • Roder51

            There is no evidence for a God. That's why they call it faith.
            You need it to believe in all Gods. No evidence required.

          • Hasnain Mohammed

            Oh, really? Even if *half* the universe and what it contains were found to be *disordered and disorganised*, it would *ill* become reason and knowledge to regard it as *without* Purpose and Design, since the *second half* is in a state of *perfection and order*, which *obviates* at once such a *postulate.*

            How can such a *postulate* be admitted seeing that everything in the universe is found on scrutiny and observation, to be in the most organized orderliness, so much so that *nothing* can be imagined which has not a superior counterpart among the actual *Divine Creation*. Know that the universe is called by the name of 'Cosmos', which means embellishment in the Greek language, by the philosophers and the *scientists*. It is named because of the *perfection* of organisation.

            Why did they not then call it Divine Ordinance?
            The name Cosmos shows that the orderly dispensation is based on exquisite gracefulness
            I *wonder* at those *atheists* who overlook the errors in medical knowledge, which is so *faulty*, but call in to *question* the universal order, which is *flawless*. I *wonder* at the conduct of the claimants of *SCIENCE* and philosophy, who have **no** knowledge of the sublimity of creation and **yet** question the grandeur of the almighty GOD.

            I particularly wonder at the deluded and duped atheist who claim an understanding of the mysteries of knowledge while they are quite ignorant of the argument of the profundity of creation, and they thus calls into question the Omniscience of the Almighty God in the matter of creation.

          • Typically moronic comments from you.

          • " you do make some good points."

            She runs rings around your intellectually dishonest BS.

          • Max Driffill

            Aww..why do you have to be down on Thor? I mean, that one, that one has to be a little reasonable. Right....?

          • Justin Brkovic

            So, lets say, harnes Gods power and claim it for yourself. So, it is still Gods property. If you want to talk about intelectual property. However, evidence or not, the only way to remove misery is by allowing for self-filtration of information. If you are one of the unfortunate few who really knows what is going on, then God bless you. If one wants to sit throught the tourture of anti-Humanist un-LOCKing of the mind it does not make sense. Groups can be benificial, however a percivable level playing field without the need to compete would be apleasurable existence. I am sure a happiness scale study-would show evidence of that. Also, the need to express yourself in mastery of at least one writen language would be benificial.
            Mental Abuse destroys the soul, thus killing the person! Sometimes it is hard to forgive. But filters are definitely not a bad idea.

          • You're illiterate and incoherent.

          • Roder51

            ..

          • Hasnain Mohammed

            Without doubt, one of the factors in the emergence of anti-religious ideas and a phalanx of deniers of God, has been the false teachings, the inadequacies and the intellectual perversions of the followers of some religions. The peculiarities and separate characteristics of each religion must, therefore, be individually examined when studying the reasons that have led men to adhere to that religion.

            http://www.al-islam.org/god-and-his-attributes-sayyid-mujtaba-musawi-lari/lesson-1-development-beliefs-through-ages

        • Michael Murray

          having heard that it made me realize how often scientific theories turn out to be false when future evidence becomes available.

          Yep. It's called doing science. More evidence, adjust the theory. Mind you you need to bear in mind the obsession the media have with reporting science as a series of great revolutions over turning the science of the past. They seem to thing it makes for better viewing. I imagine in this case there were a few shots of cute baby hippos as well.

          yet it almost seems like an atheist will indeed believe anything as longas it doesn't include a designer?

          If you mean we will opt for the simplest of two explanations then for sure. Isn't that what Friar William of Ockham told us to do? Surely you aren't going to complain about atheists taking advice from a Franciscan ?

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Michael,
            what i was trying to say with the observation of scientific theories turning out to be false is that one is prone to believe many of those scientific theories as if they were already proven. but if they're not yet proven yet perhaps we might need to hold them in a little more suspicion.
            2. i certainly would agree with the notion of OcKham's razor, but i think where we may differ on is that one might be more than willing to believe a physicist's theory, but one is more prone to outright reject evidence of God's existence since it isn't empirical. Nevertheless, i think we might be closer to agreeing!

          • "what i was trying to say with the observation of scientific theories turning out to be false is that one is prone to believe many of those scientific theories as if they were already proven. "

            What you were trying to say is stupid, intellectually dishonest, and shows no understanding of science.

        • "Realizing this it's apparent that when confronted with evidence of a designer of the universe it often appears that scientists come up with some pretty elaborate theories that have little factual evidence in reality."

          The intellectual dishonesty of godbots has no limit.

      • "...mathematics describes a kind of abstract reality independent of physical facts about our world, composed of objects that must be the way they are and cannot not be the way they are. There is even some empirical evidence for this..."

        Just a random thought:

        Mathematics is based on the operation of the world, not the other way around. Nor are the two independent. How else would we know if we got the math right or not?

        If I told you that two and two make five, you would say I am wrong, but how do you know? Using the proper formula, you can calculate the volume of a sphere given it's radius. But how do you know if you used the right formula or not? How do you TEST these mathematical conclusions?

        Is it not by applying them to the physical world, to see if they coincide with the evidence of our senses? And if they do not coincide, do we deny our senses? Or do we change the math? Thus, physical reality determines mathematical concepts. It is not determined by them.

        Or to put it another way, math describes the world, but it does not cause it.

        • Fr.Sean

          Hi Noah,
          Thanks for the insightful reply, i suppose in a sense i realize that i'm out of my element a little, although i've always had more of an analytical mind more so then a creative one so i do enjoy pondering various aspects of physics.  i had not really studied to much on apologitics, or physics until reading a little of Leah's blog.  Prior to this i had imagined most atheists were either people who were angry at God, or people who didn't think God existed so really didn't bother about the issue but i was pleasantly surprised to see how much they enjoy debating about the issue.   i glanced a little at Richard Dawkins site and i went on the internet to see a couple of debates between William Craig and Lawrence Krass.  i found the debate frustrating because it seemed like Krass kept changing the subject, diverting the issue to some detail that didn't seem to have much relevancy to what they were talking about.  i also went to see Dawkins debate Lennox.  i felt that Dawkins did a better job, he didn't keep changing the subject but i felt his answers were theories that had little grounding in empirical data.   i read the dawkins letters and a little bit of dawkins book the God Delusion and felt Robertson was on to something when he said that Dawkins would believe anything as long as it didn't include a creator.  at some point it dawned on me that most atheists are usually people constantly dealing with science, measuring things or observing material data and so they grow to appreciate their trade, which they should, but appreciating theoretical truths simply don't make sense to them or appears to be childish.   Yet i was still puzzled as to why they would subscribe to a theory that had so little empirical data to support, (in other words, we've had the hippo to observe and yet until recently the theory on it's origin was largely false, so what other theories in science also may be flawed?)  in other words, i realized that atheists are atheists because they really don't think there is such a being as a God, it simply doesn't make sense to them.  reflecting on it i realized that in a sense i didn't always believe in God.  i was raised in a Catholic home, went to church and even prayed, but it was largely so that i would go to heaven and because i felt it was what i was supposed to do.  when i was in my teens i realized i can't just go to church because mom and dad want me to go i need to go because i wanted to go, so i read Mere Christianity and the bible and developed a little bit of a more active prayer life.  sometime when i was around 20 my dad was going on his yearly retreat, so i went, thinking i would learn something.  on the first night there i went in to the chapel to pray and had one of the most profound experience of my life.  it was as if something opened at the top of my head and poured into me, i felt almost hyper aware of everything around me, a profound sense of joy, peace and love.  it lasted for about five minutes.  thing was, i wasn't expecting anything, i think i was even daydreaming when it happened, but it cemented into my heart, that God isn't this abstract deity wanting me to "obey the ten commandments" so i would go to heaven one day, but he was person, wanted a relationship with me, wanted my heart, my love. funny thing was, i wasn't even a very good catholic nor was i living a very good life.   since that initial event it's happened about 7 other times, always when i was praying.  a few years ago i realized that every time it happened except for once i was praying in front of the blessed sacrament.  sometimes i tried to force it, or to have God do it again, but that never seemed to work which seemed like it was a gift that God would give me from time to time.  to be honest, i've had so many smaller experiences, or prayers answered, the idea that God doesn't exist at least for me is like thinking perhaps the world is flat, the idea makes no sense.  
          reflecting on all of this raises a question; if God does exist, why doesn't he reveal himself in an empirical way, why do we first have to have faith?  the answer is, i don't know, but when i look at the world, our universe, the natural law, i think it naturally compels one to think; how did everything become like this?  the evidence seems to be of a secondary nature, like love.  is there an intelligence in the universe that began all of this?  that question compels one to think or to ponder. if one is open and objectively searches, it leads to a possibility of faith, then, as one prays to a God their not entirely sure exists, reads, and does things that a believer does, eventually (assuming God exists) the gift is given.  we talked about love we experience for our family members.  love for them that both of our common experiences help us to understand the other's experience.  knowledge of God is similar, i can't give you my experiential knowledge, but i can encourage you that if you do the same thing i believe it will also make sense to you. i suppose that's why i was frustrated with Krass and to some extent Dawkins.  when it comes to the profound beauty of the earth, the human person, or the universe, some potential theory that had little empirical evidence was introduced to deaden what was intended to lead one to ponder a divine creator.  almost reducing life to sarts, "myth of sisyphus."    

        • Hi Mark,

          > mathematics does not describe an "independent reality" at all - it describes this physical reality.

          Here are three famous examples of the kind of evidence that leads me to disagree:

          1. Euclid proved in about 300BCE that there are infinitely many prime numbers. There's no way to check this by observing our world.

          2. Chaitin's constant has a clear mathematical definition but is uncomputable (by any physical process or algorithm whatsoever). There's no way to check this by observing *any* physical world.

          3. Goedel's first incompleteness theorem proved that for every internally consistent logical system that has computable axioms and can describe arithmatic, there is a statement that is true in that system but cannot be proven in that system. There's no way to check this by observing any *possible* world!

          The intuitions that lead to basic math are based on the operation of the world as we observe it. But math goes far beyond that.

          • Hi Noah,

            > "Here are three famous examples of the kind of evidence that leads me to disagree"

            It appears to me that the "kind of evidence" you are referring to is logical proofs that deal with infinity. And specifically symbolic logic, which is important, because symbolic logic is simply an extension of mathematics. Or rather, it is a field of mathematics.

            If I'm wrong about that, please correct me. I want to deal directly with this "kind of evidence" of yours - exploring mere examples of it will get us nowhere (I bet there are infinitely many possible examples!). So let me start by saying that, as I see it, it is "on you" to define and present this evidence in a form that we can analyze together.

            In the meantime, if the problem really is just mathematical infinite, then the answer to that is simple. You said it yourself:

            > "The intuitions that lead to basic math are based on the operation of the world as we observe it. But math goes far beyond that."

            In order for math to go "far beyond," it has to be grounded in reality. It has to be "accountable" to something, so to speak. Your proofs need a solid foundation in order to be real proofs. And the foundation for this "higher math" is precisely the "basic math" which you concede is "based on the operation of the world as we observe it."

            And if the "operation of the world" is in turn based on higher math, then you are reasoning in a circle.

            In other words, the fact that math can get extraordinarily abstract and complicated (infinitely so, actually) does not change the fact that it is still just plain old math. And, once again, matter and mathematics cannot be the mutual causes of each other. One of 'em has gotta give.

            As an aside, though, I will concede that us finite creatures living in a finite world with such a natural intuition of infinity is a fact that has rather profound philosophical implications....

        • TheodoreSeeber

          If I take two clouds, and add them together, I get one cloud. Without units of measure, math is worthless, just as without God, science is worthless.

          • Max Driffill

            Nah, Science is fine with out gods.
            Science gets done all the time without gods. My computer works fine without gods. Evolutionary biology needs not even one god. Shocking I know, but....there it is.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            "Nah, Science is fine with out gods. "

            If that is true, why didn't the stoics develop electronics?

            "Science gets done all the time without gods. My computer works fine without gods. Evolutionary biology needs not even one god. Shocking I know, but....there it is."

            None of those would have been developed without the philosophy that the universe has rules.

          • Michael Murray

            You mean the observation that the universe behaves as if it had rules.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Which came first because of the observation that God behaves as if he had rules.

          • Michael Murray

            There are no gods.

          • Things behave they way they do, and we notice regularities. The idea of "rules" is an anthropomorphism. It is the job of the physicists to construct models, and in those they model the regularities with what they call "rules" or "laws" as a shorthand, but the Universe cares, not a bit. When an electron tunnels through an energy barrier without going through the space along the path, the Universal cops don't pull it over and write a citation.

          • ""Nah, Science is fine with out gods. "

            If that is true, why didn't the stoics develop electronics?"

            That is retarded and deeply intellectually dishonest.

            "None of those would have been developed without the philosophy that the universe has rules."

            It's not a "philosophy", it's an observation ... and it has nothing to do with God.

          • Without intelligence, godbots are worthless.

          • If by intelligence all you mean is "memorize the answers to get an A on the test" then I suggest you don't know the meaning of the word.

          • By intelligence I mean a quality that you clearly lack.

          • From that you would be wrong, but that is not surprising seeing as you only know how to parrot your betters and have zero ability to be creative yourself. Especially if you do not know that without unit labels, mathematics is a worthless waste of time that predicts nothing.

          • "tgat ypu"

            Like I said.

            "Especially if you do not know that without unit labels, mathematics is a worthless waste of time that predicts nothing."

            Mathematics isn't physics, imbecile. And of course mathematics doesn't predict anything; people do, using mathematics.

          • Anything that does not deal with eithe the physical or supernatural world is a meaningless waste of time

          • "Mathematics isn't physics, imbecile. And of course mathematics doesn't predict anything; people do, using mathematics."

            Oh, BTW, thanks for making my original point. It's funny how somebody supposedly so intelligent, can't recognize when he is being treated exactly the same way he treats others, but such is atheism I suspect- major blind spots when it comes to wisdom.

            The original quote I was responding to 4 years ago was:
            "Is it not by applying them to the physical world, to see if they coincide with the evidence of our senses? And if they do not coincide, do we deny our senses? Or do we fix the math? Thus, physical reality determines mathematical concepts. It is not determined by them."

            Mark Neal understood my point, you apprently do not- thus my comment about you just parroting your betters.

        • Michael Murray

          Using the proper formula, you can calculate the volume of a sphere given it's radius. But how do you know that you used the right formula? How do you TEST these mathematical conclusions?

          You don't test the formula is right using reality. Once you have set down some axioms for real numbers and defined your sphere and set up integration the formula just follows.

          If you want to know if that mathematical model is a good fit for reality then you test some real spheres. That's not a test of the mathematics though it's a test of your model.

          Michael

        • "Mathematics is based on the operation of the world, not the other way around. How else would we know if we got the math right or not?"

          This is a radical misunderstanding of mathematics, which is based on axiomatic systems. The axioms, which are givens, entail various statements. We know whether a statement is "right" through proof -- logical inference.

  • stanz2reason

    I believe that reverence for the world & deity worship are two distinct things. It seems clear that Einstein was the former and not the latter. In addition, you need not be a biblical scholar to comment on christian truth claims any more than you need to be a comic book scholar to comment on spiderman truth claims.

    With regards to Ratzinger's "proof", he's simply trying to put his own spin on the same "proofs" that have been demonstrated to be equally silly. That something is intelligible is not evidence for deity existence (especially one as specific as a judeo-christian god). Take a pot hole in the street. I can describe it's depth & it's width. I can describe what is in it. I can explain how it formed, how it differs from the rest of the street and from other potholes. None of this requires that the pothole was formed or designed by some intelligence. None of this shows that even if for some reason we could show that the pot hole was designed by an intelligence, that that intelligence was still there, ultimately making this pothole entirely indistinguishable from one that was designed by un-intelligent means.

    • Dcn Harbey Santiago

      "Take a pot hole in the street. I can describe it's depth & it's
      width. I can describe what is in it. I can explain how it formed, how
      it differs from the rest of the street and from other potholes. None of
      this requires that the pothole was formed or designed by some
      intelligence."

      I think you are missing B16's point. His "proof" is not dependent on the necessary conditions for your pot hole to be formed. Regardless if it was rain, traffic, a construction worker or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Why it seems our brains are configured to understand its formation? Why can you and I understand the mechanisms which created it? If you think about it the material in the road and your brain at it most basic levels are composed of the same stuff. Are we just cosmic dust trying to understand itself or have we been directed to be the way we are? Either way there seems to be a mysterious intelligence behind it all.

      "Viva Cristo Rey!!"

      Deacon Harbey Santiago

      • stanz2reason

        the universal intelligibility of nature... can only be explained through recourse to an infinite and creative mind which has thought the world into being.

        Why must the universal intelligibility of nature be any more reliant on an infinite & creative mind than my pot-hole?

        No scientist, Ratzinger said, could even begin to work unless and until he assumed that the aspect of nature he was investigating was knowable, intelligible, marked by form.

        Which seems fair to say... but then:

        But this fundamentally mystical assumption rests upon the conviction that whatever he comes to know through his scientific work is simply an act of re-thinking or re-cognizing what a far greater mind has already conceived.

        Two things...

        First, there's nothing mystical about this assumption. To say anything about anything you must posit a few things as assumptions to make a case. This is reasonable, not mystical. In an effort to learn about the universe, assuming that it is actually knowable and understandable is a fair place to start, otherwise what's the point of trying?

        Second, whose conviction is it actually that scientific discovery is simply re-thinking what someone else has already conceived? In learning about my pot-hole from above, did a greater mind have to conceive of it before I measured it?

      • Dcn Harbey Santiago,
        "I think you are missing B16's point. His "proof" is not dependent on the necessary conditions for your pot hole to be formed."

        Precisely! Understanding that the prior probability of the hypothesis, 'God created the pothole', is exceedingly low reveals the inherent flaw in Stranz2reason's analogy, whilst the prior probability of the hypothesis, 'God created the universe', is exceedingly high (given our best scientific evidence).

        Stranz2reaon,

        I'd recommend familiarizing yourself with Richard Swinburne's Fine Tuning argument, which addresses this issue. If anything, it will reveal to you why your analogy is lacking.

        Pax,

        Tim

        • stanz2reason

          Tim, I mentioned some of the following in my response to DHS. Also, full disclosure, I'm not familiar with B16's work, and my response was towards the summary which was offered in this article:

          ...Pope Benedict XVI, offered this simple but penetrating argument for God’s existence: the universal intelligibility of nature, which is the presupposition of all science, can only be explained through recourse to an infinite and creative mind which has thought the world into being. No scientist, Ratzinger said, could even begin to work unless and until he assumed that the aspect of nature he was investigating was knowable, intelligible, marked by form. But this fundamentally mystical assumption rests upon the conviction that whatever he comes to know through his scientific work is simply an act of re-thinking or re-cognizing what a far greater mind has already conceived.

          I'm sure Benedict's work goes into more detail than this, but as I read this summary, it appears the crux of his argument as described here is that natures innate ability to be understood can only be the result of having been created by god. To this I offered my pot-hole analogy as evidence of something that was created, that is understood, but that is not the result of a deliberate willful act of creation. If there are subtleties to the former popes argument that haven't been covered I'd be happy to hear them.

          Understanding that the prior probability of the hypothesis, 'God created the pothole', is exceedingly low reveals the inherent flaw in Stranz2reason's analogy, whilst the prior probability of the hypothesis, 'God created the universe', is exceedingly high (given our best scientific evidence).

          On what grounds do you attribute different probabilities to these two events? Why would either probability be high or 'exceedingly high'? Which scientific evidence are you referring to that supports such claims?

          • physicistdave

            stanz2reason quoted:
            >Pope Benedict XVI, offered this simple but penetrating argument for God’s existence: the universal intelligibility of nature, which is the presupposition of all science, can only be explained through recourse to an infinite and creative mind...

            I'm a scientist, and I do not presuppose the "universal intelligibility of nature" at all. I merely hope that the particular problem I am currently working on may prove to be intelligible to me. Sometimes it is, sometimes not.

            There is a world of difference between "presuppose" and "hope."

            You guys keep wanting to assume that we scientists have just as dogmatic of presuppositions as you True Believers™ do.

            But we don't.

            Dave

          • stanz2reason

            I agree Dave. For the record I was quoting the original article which I had previously criticized at length.

          • physicistdave

            Oops, sorry, the perils of deeply nested threads!

            Dave

          • stanz2reason

            No worries Dave!

        • "the prior probability of the hypothesis, 'God created the universe', is exceedingly high (given our best scientific evidence)."

          This is a lie.

    • somebigguy

      I have long found it curious that those persons considered (and those who've considered themselves) the most enlightened, if not intelligent, among us cannot accept what I consider the simplest proof of God's existence: Aquinas' "uncaused cause."

      And despite the press releases, the most recent claims that the latest discoveries in theoretical physics have eliminated the need for a deity are no more convincing than the old Steady State theorists' claim that the universe had no beginning.

      No deity or no beginning. Both, to the common man, are nonsense; both appear as painfully contorted paths around an inconvenient truth: the existence of Truth Himself.

      Christ touches on such pridefulness in Matthew: "...unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven..." Needless to say, he's not calling us to be childish, but to be humble, open and honest. Only then do scales fall from eyes.

      • stanz2reason

        First Cause arguments ultimately say nothing. Let's ignore the most obvious issue that attributing first cause to god simply begs the question of who created god, and who created gods god, and who created gods gods god, etc. It does not say if the universe was caused by a 'what' or a 'who'. Were we to make the unwarranted leap that it was a 'who', it does not say if creation was a deliberate willful act on this beings part. Were we to make an even more unwarranted leap that it was a 'who' that created everything and that this act of creation was a willful act, it does not say if that 'who' is still around. Were we to make a final most unwarranted leap of all, that it was a 'who', that said 'who' created everything on purpose and then remained around to tinker with his creation, this says nothing that this being is the christian god you (and Aquinas) speak of. These problems seem so painfully obvious, the fact that first cause still gets thrown out there at all, let alone as 'proof' is simply puzzling.

        We're able to explain the universe from the smallest fraction of a second after the big bang, and have suggested a few models for prior to that have as much empirical evidence as you do making your position, at best, a draw.

        No deity or no beginning. Both, to the common man, are nonsense; both appear as painfully contorted paths around an inconvenient truth: the existence of Truth Himself.

        I'll point out that there being no deity is comprehensible. The rest is just gibberish disguised to be profound.

        • somebigguy

          You've illustrated my point beautifully, albeit unwittingly, stanz2reason. May the scales one day fall.

          • stanz2reason

            Im afraid ive missed your point entirely then. Care to elaborate??

          • "You've illustrated my point beautifully, albeit unwittingly, stanz2reason. May the scales one day fall."

            You have illustrated the stupid arrogance and intellectual dishonesty of godbots.

        • Guest

          It's important to recognize, with regards to causation, that God does not need a cause.

          The First Cause of the universe was necessary because our universe is ruled by causation. If you deny the First Cause then you suggests that the creation of the universe contradicted the laws of set universe and in doing so you imply the universe is the result of a paradox.

          Since God, the creator of the Universe, is not OF the universe he is not bounded by the Natural Laws of the universe which include this idea of causation.

          So while the omnipotent God is capable of creating causation, he is not restricted by it.

          • somebigguy

            Exactly, Guest. This is but one of many reasons that it is unreasonable not to believe in God. Curious that those who claim to be reasonable are so obstinately unreasonable when it comes to something as self-evident as the existence of the uncaused Cause.

          • AshleyWDC

            What's really curious is how easily people miss blatant errors in such arguments. In addition to the one I mention above, there's the obvious question-begging with the unsupported claim in the statement "Since God, the creator of the Universe, is not OF the universe he is not bounded by the Natural Laws of the universe which include this idea of causation.". An argument that assumes one of its conclusions as a premise does not prove that conclusion.

          • " This is but one of many reasons that it is unreasonable not to believe in God"

            And yet millions of those who aren't as stupid and intellectually dishonest as you are quite reasonably do not believe in God.

          • "God does not need a cause."

            Is there an explanation why, or is this simply taken for granted?

            The First Cause argument, if it is sound, would prove the existence of something uncaused. But it's a non-constructive proof. It doesn't give us any way to understand why that particular thing does not need a cause. There are a variety of atheist accounts featuring constructive arguments about why it might be that there is something rather than nothing. See Jim Holt's popular book, "Why Does The World Exist?" for a delightful overview of the most popular possible explanations.

            The only theistic attempt I've seen at a constructive argument about why God necessarily exists used a Berkelian model of God defined as the perceiver of all possibilities. But that whole argument was predicated on a variant of the mathematical universe hypothesis, and if we're going to use a MUH, then we don't need one with the extra complexity of a step including God -- we could equally well pick a MUH that makes our universe necessarily exist.

          • mmurray

            But the first cause argument is not sound. If we run time backwards we get to the Planck epoch where everything is a quantum soup and most likely our everyday notions of causality no longer work. To discuss further you need to understand the physics and mathematics of modern cosmology. "First cause" is no longer a subject you can discuss as a matter of logic or philosophy or theology if you don't have that requisite knowledge. You don't get that knowledge from watching youtube videos or reading popular accounts of science however well done they are (and some are excellent). You get it from a postgraduate degree and quite a few years of postdoctoral research.

          • AshleyWDC

            Exactly wrong. Our universe is not ruled by causation, it is ruled by statistical behavior. You cannot cause a photon to be emitted on demand, you can only affect the probabilities.

            Causation is at best a concept of middle-world physics where the vast number of particles involved averages out the statistical behavior and creates the appearance of simple cause and effect. Unfortunately, pre-modern philosophy takes this apparent behavior and elevates it to a first principle (as you did above) when in reality it is a misleading observation.

            This sloppiness is one of the central flaws of Aristotelian and therefore Catholic thinking, and it appears frequently. The Unmoved Mover argument on this site makes the same mistake by treating the motion of objects at our physical scale as a universal principle when it absolutely is not.

            You cannot logic objects into existence. Logic is a mere tool, and it has limits. Logic follows directly from your premises, directed by the specific logical rules you have chosen. If those premises do not match an observation, and those rules do not match observed behaviors, you can have no idea whether your result models some aspect of reality. Logic is a game, and not all games accurately represent the world.

          • somebigguy

            This is laughable. As I suggested in my first post, the atheist will go on, ad infinitum, creating objections-- no matter how tortured-- to deny the existence of the uncaused Cause.

          • AshleyWDC

            Great response. "This is laughable" is a hell of an argument. Next time, I suggest a "uhh uhh", another classic.

            Things aren't true just because you want them to be. In four or five comments on this thread, you've yet to even try to make an argument. All you've given us is the equivalent of "it's right because I say so".

          • somebigguy

            "This is laughable" never was intended to be an argument; it is an observation. That this isn't clear to you might explain your confusion on the matter of an uncaused Cause.

          • AshleyWDC

            I hope you understand, somebigguy, that you're not going to convince people of your position merely by being snarky and prideful. You haven't offered a single argument, and you are dragging the level of this discussion down.

          • somebigguy

            Prideful? Snarky? And you're not? I merely suggest you overlook-- or intentionally avoid-- the straightforward and logical.

          • "Prideful? Snarky? And you're not?"

            Tu quoque is the fallacy of assholes.

          • ""This is laughable" never was intended to be an argument; it is an observation"

            You have no arguments. You're just a stupid and vile dishonest godbot asshole.

          • QuanKong

            Equally laughable are theists who will go to all eternity to believe there is God. If God can be uncaused Cause why can't the Universe and everything in it be also uncaused? I supposed this can be torturous for you to accept?

          • somebigguy

            No, QuanKong, not tortured thinking at all. It's not only intuitive, it's simple logic. Nothing comes from nothing; all things come from something. Atheists, certainly those who take pride in their rationality, are the most irrational of all; circumlocution is all they offer.

          • QuanKong

            It is certainly torturous to be stuck in uncaused Cause. If something come from something, where does God come from? It is so intuitive and simple.
            I don't think atheists take pride in their rationality in as much as theists take pride in their irrationality.

          • "No, QuanKong, not tortured thinking at all. It's not only intuitive, it's simple logic. Nothing comes from nothing; all things come from something."

            Except, apparently, for God. You godbots are such stupid dishonest wankers.

          • stanz2reason

            Why should we not object to poorly reasoned arguments that don't then support anything you claim?

          • somebigguy

            Come now. Is it "poorly reasoned" to conclude that an uncaused Cause exists, but perfectly reasonable to believe that the universe came into existence spontaneously?

            Your attitude calls to mind a statement of astronomer Robert Jastrow's: "For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."

            And I'm quite certain this eminent and particularly eloquent scientist used the word "faith" in this context intentionally.

          • stanz2reason

            Is it "poorly reasoned" to conclude that an uncaused Cause exists...

            Yes. You're positing causality as an absolute law of the universe and then you're immediately breaking your own rule by asking for an exception be made for god. No empirical evidence to date has been found to adequately describe the conditions prior to the big bang (if such a thing is even comprehensible). While theoretical physicists and cosmologists might still be able to still formulate a compelling best-guess model, it seems likely any direct information or at least our access to it is lost for all time which ultimately makes absolute statements about such things at best inconclusive, at worst flat out false but in either case irrelevant. You're either diving into an infinite recess of who/what caused god and who/what caused that (etc.) or you're making an unsupported plea for an exception to your own rule all in a framework of not having any empirical data to support such a plea. I've noted earlier additional issues even were I to grant such a thing. Long story short, your position is poorly reasoned.

            but perfectly reasonable to believe that the universe came into existence spontaneously

            Our understanding of physical laws allows for such things, on an unfathomably small scale for an unfathomably short time. It's not unreasonable to suggest that this phenomena, might be in some way related to the creation of the universe.

            Prior to technological improvements and adequate observation many scientists, including Einstein, favored a steady state universe with no beginning rather than one that had a specific moment of creation. That in some ways religious believers were closer to the truth is a fair statement to make in this case. We can speculate on whether or not this was by chance or through some sort of revelation by comparing additional specifics in Genesis (or other creation myths) with what is actually observed.

            Genesis 1:1-3 - 'In the beginning God created the heavens & the earth... and God said 'let there be light'...' From the get-go this is incorrect as our sun predates the creation of the earth.

            Genesis 1:6-8 "6 Then God said, “And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water... God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day."
            First, the differentiation of the sky & the water is a natural consequence to the creation of the world and didn't require additional work on gods part. Second, this separation between the too looks eerily like how you'd describe a flat earth, which would also be incorrect. Third, how was god able to have a first day (this is the second) without a separation already between the waters & the sky? You could say 'even science says the universe existed prior to the formation of the earth (which is not what the bible says), so there were periods of time prior to the earth and therefore prior to what we might view as the sky... but of course in this story the earth already explicitly exists.

            Genesis 1: 9 'And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.”
            The ground of the earth (which on a primordial earth was hot enough to immediately boil water) predates oceans, lakes, rivers, etc.

            Genesis 1: 14 “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years"
            The stars in the sky predate the formation of the earth.

            Etc. etc. etc. etc.

            The accounts of Genesis (and those of every other myth I've heard) are not consistent with even the most basic of observations. While impossible to say conclusively, it appears highly likely that the fact that they got the 'universe was created' question correct in a very general sense was the result of good fortune rather than revelation.

          • somebigguy

            Perhaps you believe I'm a creationist; I'm not. I'd be better characterized as a Thomist. The Bible is not a science book; people are wrong to consider it such. Its contents are useless if not properly interpreted; as a Catholic, I look to the Magisterium for that. The Bible is a book of ultimate truths. Yes, God created the universe; the question of how He created it should be left to science.

          • stanz2reason

            You noted a statement made by an astronomer regarding scientists arriving at a conclusion that theologians had arrived at centuries earlier. In the context of this discussion (and what it appears the author of that quote was referring to), it seemed clear we were referring to the universe being created, though in fairness perhaps you were referring to something different (though I'd be curious to note what that might have been).

            The Bible is a book of ultimate truths.

            I noted a few points that were simply false. Are you referring to the acceptance of literal factual truth? This seems impossible in the light of a laundry list of utter falsehoods between the two covers. Are you referring to an allegorical truth or value lessons, like those learned from Aesop's fables? I can accept that to a point, though there are numerous lessons & values worth considering, there are numerous others worth throwing away and serving as examples about how we should not behave. Still, this hardly seems like enough to quality it as an ultimate truth.

          • somebigguy

            Without going into great detail (I'm pressed for time), yes, the Bible is a book of "ultimate" truths: God created the universe; there are three Persons, but one God; there is eternal life, etc. But the Bible is an assemblage of works written over a period not just of centuries, but millennia, written in a variety of styles for a variety of readers in various cultures. Some of it is literal (the Eucharistic bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ), some of it is allegory (the story of Job), some of it is metaphorical (the world created in six days).

            Sure, much of this-- perhaps every bit of it-- depends on faith. Christianity is full of mystery. But that doesn't mean it's not true.

          • stanz2reason

            "God created the universe; there are three Persons, but one God; there is eternal life"

            Please cite non-biblical empirical evidence to support these claims.

          • Diogene 66

            @somebigguy:disqus

            GOOD SHOT !

            In other word, if we all got your point... you "god-worshipers" spurt out the most absurd, unproven and surrealistic concept you can ever figure out in your smoke-filled brains, and then...

            whizzzzz !

            You pass the hot potato to the rational, scientific sector, up to it to unravel your incredibly lunatic blabbering, and to straighten it out for it to make sense ???

            You must be joking !

            Did you ever hear that, when someone comes up with an hypothesis that has anything to do with our Universe —this is a real science, , you know, which is called "cosmogony"...—, this is up to that person to "explain" ( = demonstrate) this hypothesis, preferably in such a way as to be comprehensible, and clearly understood by the average folks ???????????

            Well... If you didn't, here are the last news for ya !

          • "Perhaps you believe I'm a creationist"

            I believe that you're a stupid dishonest asshole.

          • "This is laughable. "

            You are laughably stupid and vilely dishonest.

          • stanz2reason

            It's important to recognize, with regards to causation, that God does not need a cause.

            So you're setting the ground rules for your worldview with the admission that they do not apply to you. At the very least you must realize you're doing that.

          • somebigguy

            In a certain sense, you're right. The "rules" don't apply to God. He is supernatural, beyond the rules. But why should that eliminate the possibility of His existence from this discussion? It appears you won't admit the existence of the supernatural and I cannot see a way around it.

            I can understand this. And I don't begrudge the unbeliever his opinion, especially when he has not had the benefit of supernatural experience, as I have. What does irk me, however, is the attitude many have that believers are simpleminded or deluded.

          • Diogene 66

            somebigguy
            You seem to be a calm and poised guy. You postulate the existence of a "supernatural" being, but for whom "natural laws don't apply".
            Very bizarre, but even though... let's admit it.
            Then.... apart from being a very handy way ( and above all, the laziest one ! ) to "fill the gaps" for about everything we don't understand YET.... tell me : what on earth is "it" helpful or useful for ??
            I don't know if you noticed it, but.. starting from the cavemen's worrysome thunderbolt, all the way down to the existence of recently-found quanta, everything that has been unveiled —and duly demonstrated—, has been discovered, strangely enough, at the very moment when Man stopped seing the world through the eyes of religions, mythologies and other kinds of "magical thinking" ! ! !
            But I guess that it won't make you move a millimeter away from your beton-clad beliefs in an omni-everything god...

          • somebigguy

            Why, Diogene, is it bizarre that natural laws do not apply to the supernatural? God created nature; how could He be subject to the laws He established to govern it?

            And, really, is it any "lazier" to admit the existence of God Who created the universe than to simply deny His existence?

            Also, your notion that "everything has been discovered... at the very moment when Man stopped seeing the world through the eyes of religions" is manifestly wrong. As a matter of fact, many of the greatest advances in science were made under the auspices of the Church and by faithful Catholics (both clergy and lay) who include Copernicus, Pascal, Mendel, Becquerel, da Vinci, Pasteur, Bacon, Galileo and Roentgen. There are myriad more, of course.

          • Diogene 66

            You state : "God created nature; why would He.. etc"

            1) "God created nature" is a gratuitous statement, flapping its wings, all by itself, far above the clouds.

            2) [ "SO" ] why would He etc... :
            First, you put your conclusion in place of the first premise ; THEN, out of your brain, you draw an anthropomorphic consequence... from your own first statement !

            THAT'S what logic calls "circular reasoning".
            But that is NOT with that kind of reasoning that Crick, Watson and Chase discovered the double-helix structure of the DNA.
            Sorry...

            Dealing with the second part of your post, you make the everlasting mistake that I find everywhere, over and over again : you confuse the SOCIAL STATUTE of the "scholars" —as they were called in these days—, and WHAT'S GOIN ON IN THEIR BRAINS !

            Up to the 19th century, indeed, you couldn't find practically NO researcher in "natural philosophy" (the name of materialistic sciences by then...) who wasn't a cleric !

            Sometime, they even climbed up the hierarchy of the local church of their country —Raymond of Toledo being a famous example—, in order to gain more power, thus enabling them to realize what they wanted to bring forward (in this case, the Toledo translation center he had in mind)...

            That has NOTHING to do with the legend saying that the catholic church, as a global institution, have had anything to do with what we could call "tha advancement of experimental, materialistic science" !

            Can you catch that ??

          • Diogene 66

            About this "laziness" paragraph : I'm wondering if you can grasp the meaning of an argument...

            Where did I say that it was "lazier" to « deny the existence of God [...] than to admit his existence » ??

            I said that, WHEN confronted with an unknown phenomenon, it is a VERY LAZY attitude to say : «Well... the explanation to this unknown phenomenon is... simply "god", and that's it»... than to move one's arse, carefully examine the said-phenomenon, and start working hard, for several years sometimes, in order to solve, practically, this "strange mystery" ! ! !

            Can you catch that (bis) ???

          • "I can understand this. And I don't begrudge the unbeliever his opinion, especially when he has not had the benefit of supernatural experience, as I have. "

            And yet you said that it was unreasonable not to believe. You're an utterly dishonest sack of disease and lack of scruples, "big guy".

          • "It's important to recognize, with regards to causation, that God does not need a cause."

            It's important to recognize that godbottery is deeply based on intellectual dishonesty.

      • somebigguy,

        I am no expert on Aquinas, but on the matter of whether the universe had a beginning or not, I believe he had no problem with the concept of a universe that had existed from all eternity. Also, the creation account in Genesis does not describe the creation of the world (or universe) from nothing, but rather the bringing of order out of preexistent chaos.

        For example, the translation of the opening lines of Genesis from the Jewish Publication Society Study Bible is as follows: "When God began to create heaven and earth—the earth being unformed and void and a wind from God sweeping over the water—God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light."

        A note to verse 2 says: "This clause describes things just before the process of creation began. To modern people, the opposite of the created order is 'nothing,' that is, a vacuum. To the ancients, the opposite of the created order was much worse than 'nothing.' It was an active, malevolent force we can best term 'chaos.' In this verse, chaos is envisioned as a dark, undifferentiated mass of water."

        In contemporary physics and cosmology, "the universe" no longer necessarily means "everything that exists." It may mean something more along the lines of "our local universe" or "the observable universe."

        I am not sure what this has to do with whether or not Einstein was religious.

      • QuanKong

        "No deity or no beginning. Both, to the common man, are nonsense; both appear as painfully contorted paths around an inconvenient truth: the existence of Truth Himself."
        I am a common man. Contrary to what you alleged, I think I've more common sense than you.
        If God's existence can be "uncaused cause" why can't there be "no deity or no beginning"?

        • somebigguy

          Q: "If God's existence can be 'uncaused cause' why can't there be 'no deity or no beginning'?"

          A: Because we wouldn't be having this discussion.

          • Longshanks

            Terrible answer. "A: Because we wouldn't be having this discussion."

            Why does god exist?
            Because if he didn't we wouldn't exist.

            Are you familiar with a phrase, I'm going to coin it right now, are you watching?

            Begging the question.

          • "Because we wouldn't be having this discussion."

            You're an imbecile.

      • "I have long found it curious that those persons considered (and those who've considered themselves) the most enlightened, if not intelligent, among us cannot accept what I consider the simplest proof of God's existence: Aquinas' "uncaused cause.""

        That you find this curious is simply a manifestation of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

    • mephis

      " In addition, you need not be a biblical scholar to comment
      on christian truth claims any more than you need to be a comic book
      scholar to comment on spiderman truth claims."

      This way of thinking sometimes becomes a problem though and can turn into arrogance. One sees this in how some scientists (or popular science writers) imagine that somehow because they are well-versed in that area, they're suddenly qualified to write books on religion and theology. Sometimes I come across this in everyday conversations as well: when it comes to christianity, a lot of people think of themselves as experts without actually having had any education on the topic. The result is that you get a lot of people talking about how idiotic christianity is, but that when you listen to them they have a totally distorted and absurd understanding of christianity. It often makes me think: "No wonder you reject this God and religion - I would, too!"
      I'm not saying I disagree with you though - I agree, you don't have to be a biblical scholar to comment on christian truth claims. But I thought I'd point out (to clarify) that you can't be wholly ignorant of the details and background of these claims either. To comment on christian truth claims you have to understand what they really are, and in my experience a lot of people, who might otherwise be educated and intelligent, don't really.

      • I think we can be almost certain that when Einstein referred to the Bible, he was referring to the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh, Old Testament, or whatever you want to call it). Once he put the Jewish religion behind him, which he did in his youth, there is little reason to imagine he would have read the New Testament.

      • stanz2reason

        You need only a level of scientific knowledge taught to 10 year olds to be able to address certain religious claims. Were the scientific community making historical claims about places and events in religious texts without the slightest familiarity with the subject matter then id agree that this is inappropriate... but again thats really not what we're talkjng about. We know that should an ear be chopped off, that it wont reattach simply by someone picking it up and putting it back on. You need not have attended seminary school to say so.

        • mephis

          I don't think it's actually a christian claim that ears usually grow back in that manner. One important thing to remember is that the Bible is not the Koran, a science textbook or even a single book. It wasn't dropped out of the sky or dictated, but has been influenced by the times it was written in. It wasn't written to describe the "natural world" but the invisible world behind it. Most importantly, it is not a book, but a library, filled with a variety of literary genres from poetry to history. In order to even begin to understand the Bible, one must first know what type of text each part of the Bible is. (Not something you pick up in a fourth grader's physics class.) It wouldn't make sense to interpret poetry or allegory the same way you would interpret an eyewitness report.

          And I can't agree that a 10 year old's scientific knowledge is enough to determine if, for example, God exists, or if humans have a soul. I don't think even a 100 year old's scientific knowledge would be enough. These things are quite beyond what the natural sciences are about. The natural sciences are limited to the natural world. Now, one may decide to believe that only that aspect of reality exists. But most people don't - most people have found reasons to believe that there are other aspects to reality as well, that the world we can measure and observe is just one part of the world. Someone may choose to disagree, but he cannot claim that the natural sciences can say anything about this other dimension of reality, unless he either misunderstands the natural sciences and their limits or the claims various religions make.

          • stanz2reason

            Luke 22:49-51. This is specifically what you claim. Are the supernatural portions of the Bible to be understood as simply an allegory or a gross exaggeration of events? Whether it was 1 book or 60 books or 600 books doesn't mean things that are patently false such as healing an ear that was lobbed off (you can insert any such 'miraculous event' if that makes it clearer) and can be explained so by a 10 year with a little education.

            The existence of god isn't quite so far outside the realms of science as you think. By studying the world we have a picture of how god would have worked, what was created and roughly when this would have been done. While incomplete, this alone still gives us far more reliable information for any description of god than we've gotten from any of the religious traditions. And again, much of this information can be successfully taught to a 10 year old. Now should you wish to comment on who god is or perhaps why he did what he did, let alone whether or not he actually exists, you're free to speculate, but you, nor anyone else speaks so with any real authority on such matters.

          • Randy Gritter

            Luke relates the story of the ear precisely because he knows it is a miracle. Luke was a doctor. There is no claim that ears in general do this. Just that Jesus has the power to do this and chose to save this man's ear rather than to save his own skin. In fact, if someone read this as though all ears that are cut off can easily be restored by just placing them back where they belong then they would entirely miss the point Luke is making. The point of a miracle is never to deny a scientific principle. It is always to assert that a supernatural power must have been present. The difference is a refutation of the science must be repeatable. A miracle is never repeatable.

          • >"Luke was a doctor."

            Really? What medical school did he attend, and where did he do his residency? Even if Luke was real person (no way to know) and even if what was written about him is true (no way to know) the idea of "being a doctor" is so far away, today, from whatever was going on in the fist century, as to undermine any conclusions to be drawn from said usage.

          • mephis

            Thank you for giving the context of the quote! :) So actually, seeing where that comes from makes me agree with you: while catholics need not believe in most miracles, those Jesus did are ones that the whole Church accepts as true. I'm still not sure how science comes into this: we're talking about a miracle, which by its very definition is something that doesn't naturally happen. If one believes that Jesus is God, then I see 0 problems with accepting that he could override the usual laws of nature and grow back someone's ear just like that. So the real question, in my eyes, is not if ears can grow back in the way described, but if Jesus Christ is who he claimed to be.
            And I agree with you again: science studies God's creation and as such gives us some information about God (what he created and a little about the 'how'). Still, as you say, it does not touch the real person of God nor any other possible aspects of his creation (like angels) that are not part of our "natural" world. I do think that some more of God's nature/existance can be understood through philosophy and theology and that people who're skilled in those fields have more authority on the matter than others.

            To be entirely honest, I feel like I'm a little out of my depth commenting here - sorry if my responses have been muddled! :) Still learning & thinking things through. All the best.

          • stanz2reason

            :) We're all out of our depths here. I always liked the old adage that a lot of hydrogen atoms, given enough time and the right conditions will eventually start becoming aware of themselves. It wouldn't behove this recently self-aware collection of atoms to pretend I have a better grasp on things then another. I can only offer an argument and consider the arguments of others. You're free to accept, augment or reject what I have to offer.

            Were I to grant god's supernatural existence & christ's position as son of said god who also has supernatural abilities, then yes it would follow pretty cleanly that miracles (like real impossible miracles, not like a good catch in sports) were possible, and make the christian teachings that much more probable. My problem is, why would I ever grant such things without sufficient (or any) evidence.

            In addition I'm fairly sure your reasoning for believing such things wouldn't hold in any other aspect of your life. Were I to tell you I saw a man die, who spontaneously came back to life days later and flew up into the sky, you'd probably think I was a crazy person. But that's what christians believe. Were you to find a child standing next to a broken cookie jar and the child said 'angels knocked it over', would that explanation be at all acceptable to you? But that's a possibility for christians. Have you ever witnessed a miracle, something for which there is not any possible reasonable explanation, something which requires the breaking of natural laws that are very clearly established? I have not. Perhaps there are events that don't have a clear explanation, but this doesn't automatically open the door to the miraculous while reasonable non-miraculous options are still on the table. It's funny how no one with an iPhone has been able to document such events.

            When you look at religious myths as simply myths, they say more about the people who created them and their understanding of the world at that time, then they do about god. While science can give you more information with regards to gods works (which doesn't imply his existence, just that if he existed this is how he created stuff), a little bit of observation of the world can tell you a little about gods personality as well.

            The idea of infinite benevolence does not seem consistent with evil and suffering in the world. Apologists might suggest that this is the result of 'free will', or that suffering has it's own rewards. See if these arguments hold for you when considering a rape victim or a kid with cancer.

            The idea of an infinitely just god does not seem consistent when bad acts are rewarded and good acts are not. It might seem pleasing to pre-suppose gods judgement in the afterlife, but is there any transaction in your life where you'd accept such terms? All the money upfront with zero guarantee of service and a track record of being highly unreliable.

            This doesn't imply that things like benevolence & justice don't exist in the world, just that they are the result of human action and decision which begs the question why we'd give the credit for such admirable traits to someone else.

      • "This way of thinking sometimes becomes a problem though and can turn into arrogance. One sees this in how some scientists (or popular science writers) imagine that somehow because they are well-versed in that area, they're suddenly qualified to write books on religion and theology. "

        Anyone who isn't a stupid ignorant intellectually dishonest godbot is more qualified to write books on religion and theology than stupid ignorant intellectually dishonest godbots.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Under a Catholic definition of God, reverence for the world implies deity worship- and deity worship implies reverence for the work of that deity.

      Good straw man though.

      • stanz2reason

        Which definition is that?

        You can hold something in high regard (ie. reverence) while saying absolutely nothing about deity worship or deity existence. There is no straw man in suggesting that.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          True reverence for creation, would imply worship of the creator. Under Catholicism, you can't separate the two that easily.

          • stanz2reason

            I'm not going to be drawn into one of your nonsensical semantic arguments about 'reverence' vs. 'true reverence' or why I should care that you feel catholics can't tell the difference between reverence and deity worship. I guess I think higher of the average catholic that you. I feel the average catholic is bright enough to acknowledge that someone can appreciate something without having any implication of deity worship. You do not. Agree to disagree.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            And this is why I can't respect atheists very highly- they don't know what they are talking about, and can't be bothered to learn.

          • You can't respect atheists because they don't share your delusions or cater to your intellectual dishonesty. You can't respect atheists because you are vile.

  • I know how much many religious people hate this concept, but I think Einstein is the quintessential example of a person who was "spiritual but not religious." I have read the Isaacson biography and highly recommend it. As Mark Hunter points out, Einstein did not believe in a personal God. He went through a deeply religious phase when he was a young teenager, but he totally abandoned it after a brief while. It is impossible to imagine Einstein praying, or attending Jewish or Christian worship services. When there was a news report depicting Einstein as "conventionally religious," he wrote to someone who expressed disappointment, "It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."

    Father Baron says, "Given the many other things he said about belief, perhaps it’s best to say that he was reacting against primitive and superstitious forms of religion." Einstein was a great friend and supporter of Israel (he was even offered the presidency, which he declined), and it seems to me absurd to believe he was not acquainted with many highly intelligent men whose religious beliefs were not "primitive and superstitious." Certainly Einstein would have been capable of rejecting "primitive and superstitious" religion without rejecting all religion—but he did reject all religion. He comes across in the Isaacson biography as something very much akin to a saint, but a saint who is deeply spiritual (in his own way) but not at all religious. I can see why religious people would want to claim him as one of their own, but after his religious period as a boy he engaged in nothing that could be considered religious practice. I think if any religious figure like Fr. Barron had tried to expropriate Einstein as an ally during Einstein's lifetime, he would have unequivocally rejected the attempt.

  • Aesop tell us the story of a fox who wanted some grapes that he could not attain. In frustration the fox postulates that the grapes were sour, anyway. Many religious writers have wanted to claim Einstein for their own "side" and have resorted to taking clips out of context to try to build such a case. That having failed, you see comments pointing to Einstein's lack of theological sophistication.

  • DoctorDJ

    "A person can be a genius in one field of endeavor and remain naïve, even inept, in another."

    So, on the one hand, we've got science and medicine, and all the wonders that they have brought to our modern world. On the other, you've got ancient/medieval/victorian philosophers arguing about angels on a pin.

    Which of these endeavors has most benefited mankind?

    • Perhaps they are attempting to determine an answer to the biggest question of all - Why do we exist?

      • Perhaps they lack the intellect, knowledge, and intellectual honesty to make any headway on that question. OTOH, science has answered it in intricate detail ... it just isn't the sort of answer that shallow stupid people expect or want.

  • I love this article so much! Especially Fr. Barron's concluding point regarding Einstein's qualifications to comment on sacred scriptures. It always annoys me how often something is seen as the absolute truth if a prominent physicist says it, even if they are completely distant from their field of expertise. Why is the scientist seen as the decisive and inndisputable thinker in modern society?

    • I have no quarrel with what Fr. Barron statement that "a person can be a genius in one field of endeavor and remain naïve, even inept, in another," and I have no problem applying it to Einstein's alleged dismissal of the Bible. But I don't think it is a very important point. I have never heard an atheist or anyone from any other point of view arguing that we ought not take the Bible seriously because Albert Einstein didn't. I have never heard anyone quote Einstein in a discussion of the Bible or claim that Einstein's opinion of the Bible was in any way important. It is only because Fr. Barron is trying—quite illegitimately, in my opinion—to claim Einstein as an "ally" for religious people that there is any need to try to discount Einstein's comments about the Bible.

      Of course, Einstein was a great humanitarian, and he was in no way hostile to religious people. He just wasn't religious himself and was unapologetic about his own lack of religiosity or his opinions about religion.

      • I cant comment with any decisiveness on Einstein's actual discussions of the Bible or any other religious concept since I quite simply don't know, however if he really did acknowledge "...a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe—a Spirit vastly superior to that of man..." , in particular relation to his pursuit of science, surely this makes him somewhat of an ally to an argument for the existence of a God.

    • Vicq_Ruiz

      Personally, I think that everyone, scientist or no, is qualified to comment on the "sacred scriptures", provided only that he has in fact read that upon which he is commenting. for the reason that those scriptures assert far more authority over how I live my life than does any scientific work.

      No one has ever claimed that my eternal destiny is contingent upon whether I believe that dinosaurs have feathers, or whether I continue to hold the heretical opinion that Pluto is in fact a planet.

      • I think I misused the word 'qualified', since yes, everyone has read them is certainly entitled to give comment. My point (which I think supports somewhat your second paragraph [correct me if I'm wrong] ) was that expertise in science doesn't legitimise comments on scripture in itself, since, although they can be related, they are also radically different.

    • Longshanks

      You know nothing, Jon Snow.

      " It always annoys me how often something is seen as the absolute truth if a prominent physicist says it, even if they are completely distant from their field of expertise."

      If a prominent physicist says something, especially in their field of expertise, it is immediately taken and dissected and questioned and ripped apart and stood on it's head.

      And if it's not, it should be.

      Sell your strawman-science-sheeple somewhere else.

    • Because scientists aren't stupid ignorant intellectually dishonest bumpkins like you.

  • Ok, that's fine if Einstein wrote that letter about his beliefs (not proofs) on the Bible. Except, well, I'm not sure why credence is even being given to these beliefs of his. Why should they? If I need expert advice on a matter, say, emotional, then wouldn't a see a counselor/psychiatrist? or designing a house, then an architect? So when I study physics, don't I ask a professor of physics or read on Einstein's theory of relativity, or Hawking's,etc? Why would I even lend crediblity to anything Einstein might have to say about religious (Jewish or Christian) or spiritual matters?

    • Nick Corrado

      What intelligent people like Einstein say can be used in Arguments from Authority (i.e. " thought religious belief is great/silly/weird, therefore it is). It's disappointing that rather than point out the fallacious nature of an argument from authority and be done with the matter, Fr Barron instead construes Einstein as an ally of the religious, which the totality of the evidence suggests is really not the case.

      • Nick Corrado

        Whoops, I did not mean to use a "smart" html tag--I meant it as a placeholder for the smart person of your choice.

    • mmurray

      Mainly I think because theists traditionally got very excited by Einstein's metaphorical comments about God and have dragged him out on many occasions to bolster theism by appeal to authority.

      How exactly would you prove anything about the Bible ? Proof is for logicians and mathematicians. Scientists gather evidence. But I digress -- sorry.

    • Who you you go to for expert knowledge of Nazis ... Nazis? What about expert knowledge of criminals ... criminals? Godbots are the last people you should go to on questions about God or God's existence.

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    I think it's pretty clear that Einstein was evasive about his non-belief in public, but more open about it in private, like in the letter. Given the way people have historically reacted to non-belief, this isn't unusual, particularly for public figures.

    In any case, Einstein was human and fallible. (Even within science where he couldn't accept quantum mechanics.) I don't base my non-belief on his and if I were religious, his non-religion wouldn't change my mind.

  • physicistdave

    Bob Barron,

    Was this really news to you????????

    The fact that Einstein made clear that he did not believe in any sort of personal God has been public knowledge for many decades.

    You really did not know this????

    Einstein did of course use the word "God" in rhetorical or metaphorical senses (e.g., "God does not play dice with the universe") as do many atheists, the rough equivalent to saying ?By Jove!", which certainly does not imply belief in Roman paganism.

    Do you also not know about the Larson/Witham study which showed that over 90 percent of top American scientists today do not believe in a personal God?

    I frankly am stunned that you did not know the facts about Einstein's beliefs concerning religion.

    Dave Miller in Sacramento

    • Fr.Sean

      I've heard it said that there are three possiblilties of how things came about;
      1. Pure Mathematical Chance
      2. Guided Mathematical chance
      3. Design in nature put forth by a designer involved in everything

      having heard this discription i think that number 1 and 3 take a great deal of faith to believe in because you have so many blanks to fill in or to assume. Guided Mathematical chance implies a designer who left his imprint. one would naturally be a pure athiest and 3 would be a fundamentalist.

      Could it not be that Einstein was simply reacting to number 3, but that he subscribed much more to number 2 as evidenced by his earlier writering? one and threee simply take to much faith to take seriously.

      • "I've heard it said that there are three possiblilties..."

        And what reason do we have to suppose that these are the only possibilities? Why not any of the other popular atheist or philosophical accounts? I still think Jim Holt's book "Why Does The World Exist?" does a lovely job of surveying the most popular options. And none of them are those three possibilities.

        • Hi Noah,

          What other possibilities are there? As far as I can tell, there is only Chance, Design, or some combination of the two.

          • Suppose the universe has always existed. Which combination of those two ways applies?

            How does evolution work? (These religious discussions always go on as if the participants had never heard of it or no know nothing about it -- which is generally true.) Part of it is random, but the other part is not "design", it's iterative scaffolding, hierarchical self-organizing systems ... things known to science but not to godbots or philosophers (for the most part).

      • AshleyWDC

        You've left out the many possibilities, such as:

        4. Mathematical Chance directed by some automatic process in an analogous way to the direction of evolution by natural selection.

        And the most important choice of all which is studiously ignored in all apology:

        4. Something else.

        Since we have little or no data on how "things came about", we can only speculate about the actual events. We cannot eliminate any possibility, including ones we have never thought of or are incapable with our limited brains of even understanding.

        • "4. Mathematical Chance directed by some automatic process in an analogous way to the direction of evolution by natural selection."

          No, Fr.Sean is right. The possibilities are Chance (naturalism), Design (special creation), or a combination of the two (progressive creation). All the multitudes of theories and explanations are only variations on one of these three possibilities. Allow me to explain.

          By "automatic process" I assume you mean purely natural forces acting on natural objects, where every effect is the natural effect of a natural cause. Everything is nature - no Designer involved.

          This, of course, is the philosophy of Naturalism. How then is an automatic process supposed to "direct" development? Chance! You even used the analogy of "evolution by natural selection," and the very heart of that theory is that random events accumulate over time, and are able to "simulate" Design.

          Some people call it "design without a designer." But the point is that it is Chance that is invoked as the alternative to a Designer. It is Chance that is postulated as the fundamental principle and driving force of existence. So your #4 is in actuality an argument for Fr.Sean's #1, not an alternative to it.

          So that being said, I am wondering if you could explain how Chance can produce order from chaos, since the forces of nature appear to have the exact opposite effect: they produce chaos from order.

          "[5]. Something else."

          Well, actually, this isn't a true possibility - it's the absence of one. The underlying premise that makes this whole discussion worthwhile is that Truth is actually attainable. We may not know exactly how to attain it, but we just instinctively assume that it must somehow be possible. Without that assumption, all science and all religion and all philosophy becomes a complete waste of time.

          If you can think of another possibility, then by all means, state it. Otherwise, if you cannot think of one, you have no way of knowing if there is in fact a "something else."

          • Mark, it is a common misconception that the Theory of Evolution depends on order coming out of chaos. In fact, for Evolution to happen, energy must flow through a system from greater order to greater chaos (entropy). The cells in your body do this all the time; they take concentrated energy from sugar in your food and burn that while assembling the complex and ordered molecules that are their parts, and then lose waste heat (chaos) to your environment. Light from the Sun has supplied this ordered energy to our planet, energy which has driven the Evolution of all life, and then been radiated as chaotic waste heat into the cold of deep space.

            Also, Evolution does not accumulate just any chance mutation. Those changes that are advantageous to their own propagation become more numerous in a population than those that are not. Competition among individuals and species together with changing environments induce this process to build complexity over time.

          • physicistdave

            O. Quine,

            I just want to endorse your point: very clearly and very succinctly put.

            I assume you have some scientific background?

            Now, if only we could get all of the science textbooks in the schools to explain the matter this clearly...

            Dave

          • Thank you, Dave. I have had much experience explaining these things to my friends and neighbors, and to communities on-line. So much conflict could be avoided if our education system did a better job. I try not to hold that against people, but instead try to make it a bit better where I can. You can read more on my blog: quinesqueue.blogspot.com

          • Quine:
            You bring up two points that I want to address, and I will do it in two separate posts.

            First of all, my post wasn't about Evolution per se, but rather about Chance itself. Specifically, I want to know how Chance (i.e. blind natural forces) can produce order from chaos. And I'm not talking about just Biology, but rather the entire universe.

            If everything originated by Chance, then there should have been universal Chaos at the beginning of time. Where did Order come from? But if the universe was Ordered at the very beginning of time, then only Design can explain that Order.

            Or to go a little deeper, we might say that Chance is that which turns Order into Chaos, and Design is that which turns Chaos into Order. If these definitions are legitimate, then the presence of Order in the universe implies the action of Design (intelligence, that is).

            On the other hand, if we want a universe with Order but without Design, then I see two possibilities:
            (1) We devise a way in which Chance can produce Order from Chaos by itself, or
            (2) We define a "third way" alternative to both Chance and Design.

            #1 was the point of my previous post: can Order come from Chaos by Chance?

          • Hi Mark. You are asking a very basic question which generates a long answer. I don't know if it is too far off topic for this thread, but I can try to get started. The word "order" has several meanings so I am going to pick one and we can go into others later. From an energy standpoint the very hot early Universe is considered of high order from the physics standpoint. But structurally, it was very uniform and only changed into different parts, and things, as it expanded and cooled when the different particles and forces emerged to cause shaping of early matter. Gravity worked on tiny variations in density from quantum fluctuation to pull clumps of matter together forming stars and galaxies.

            By the time you get to stars and galaxies, the disorder of the expanding Universe has increased, even though inside the stars you would see what looks like local order as pressure and heat produce heavier elements out of lighter elements by fusion. Eventually, extremely disordering events happen when stars run down to explosion in supernova, but that makes more local ordering by making heavy elements past iron. The take-home message is that you always need to waste a huge amount of energy into chaos to get a little spontaneous local ordering.

            Perhaps that is why we see the Universe as being so very big. If you start with a large enough initial energy, these undirected natural processes will make planets and complex molecules that can combine and uncombine to start what we see as life.

            Think about snow flakes forming as the heat energy leaves the water droplets falling through the atmosphere. Chance tumbling of water molecules against each other while freezing in place, and sculpting of interaction with air, produces the flakes that look so ordered to our eyes. We can't see all the disordering the larger system of the atmosphere had to go through for that order to be an undesigned byproduct.

            This order from phase transition processes is a whole branch of physics, and I have just scratched it here. I hope it is a place for you to start.

          • Hi Quine,
            > "From an energy standpoint the very hot early Universe is considered of high order from the physics standpoint. But structurally, it was very uniform.."

            Your error is right here at the beginning, my friend. I have two questions:

            (1) Isn't "structurally uniform" the very definition of chaos? Of maximum entropy? The exact opposite of order?

            (2) But assuming it was in fact ordered, where did the order come from? Chance or Design?

          • (1) No. The milk in the carton in your hand is more structurally uniform (less chaotic) then after it slips out and finds more chaos all over the kitchen floor.

            (2) The low entropy (using that definition of "order") is from the high energy level and lack of larger space to expand into (the carton of milk was still in your hand).

          • Hi Quine,
            > "The milk in the carton in your hand is more structurally uniform (less chaotic) then after it slips out and finds more chaos all over the kitchen floor."
            - My friend, your milk carton is an open system. The universe is a closed system.
            - Initially, nothing has changed in the milk other than it's overall shape (other changes occur gradually over time). The shape of a milk carton has more structural irregularity than that of a puddle. The increase in disorder from spilling it is accomplished by an increase in uniformity, not a decrease in it.
            - The increase in entropy of the milk occurs primarily because it heats up to room temperature, again, because it is not a closed system. Generally speaking, high entropy is associated with high temperature.

            Perhaps we should speak of "equilibrium" rather than "structural uniformity"? I think we are using some of the same words in different ways.

            > "The low entropy (using that definition of "order") is from the high energy level and lack of larger space to expand into (the carton of milk was still in your hand)."
            - If the universe at the beginning of time was "structurally uniform," which I take to mean universal thermal equilibrium, as well as universal dynamic (or chemical) equilibrium*, then that means maximum entropy, whether high energy or not.

            *I realize that actual chemicals were not there yet. But I assume the particles that were there were evenly distributed.

            My question, which your answer does not even address, has nothing to do with the relationship between entropy and energy transfer. It has to do with where the universe came from in the first place.

            Fr.Sean presented three possibilities, and nobody has of yet presented a fourth that is substantially different from one of those three. At the beginning of time, it cannot have been #2, Guided Chance (what I called progressive creation), because that has to happen over time. That leaves us with pure Chance or pure Design.

            You have postulated that the universe started out in a state of High Order / Low Entropy. HOW?? Chance or Design?

          • Mark, I am glad you worked on your fridge analogy. By now I suspect you have looked up the entropy definitions and understand that it is a system property that means somewhat different things in different contexts. In the context of energy, entropy is about the energy that is NOT available to do useful work. In the context of order and disorder at a constant temperature, it is about the measure of the disorder. As I mentioned, free energy (the kind that does work) flowing through a system can cause local decreases in entropy, even though the whole system moves to larger entropy.

            We have taken up a good part of this thread (that is supposed to be about Einstein and religion) talking about thermodynamics, and I am happy to continue to delve into the details of that and get much more technical if you want to take this to a thread elsewhere. I am willing to copy our conversation to a thread on my own blog and we can continue there if you wish.

            Getting to the final point of your comment, we have natural explanations for the way we find the world, and we can step those back in time. We know how the energy from the Sun powers the process of Evolution. We are working on the natural processes that could have brought molecular building blocks together to go from proto cells to actual abiogenesis. We can step back farther to processes in stars making the atoms such as carbon that later became these molecules. We can keep going back to when gravity brought clouds of hydrogen together and started stars and galaxies. Because the Universe has been expanding and cooling all this time (temp going down, entropy going up) we keep extrapolating back to states of higher temp and lower entropy until we get to quantum sizes and energy levels where the statistical ideas from the thermodynamics of our world on earth, break down.

            People are working on theories of where that earliest state came from. We don't know, and won't know for sure any time soon. Our most distant (in time going back) data point is the microwave background from about 300k years after extrapolated time zero. We have to go on models before that observable data point. Someday we may get more from gravity wave observations, perhaps not. The possibility that the Universe arose out of nothing but quantum fluctuations, is covered in this lecture: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjaGktVQdNg

            The bottom line is that nothing we know excludes the Universe starting and developing from natural processes. That means the false dilemma technique from rhetoric can't be used to force a supernatural conclusion.

          • For those interested in getting a good understanding of entropy without having to do the math, I suggest this very good presentation on exactly that subject by Prof. Sean Carroll: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFEeHC6UIdU

          • "Your error is right here at the beginning, my friend."

            It's sad and tragic when arrogant ignorant imbeciles reject excellent summary explanations of basic science.

          • This is my second response to Quine's post above.

            > "...for Evolution to happen, energy must flow through a system from greater order to greater chaos (entropy)."

            Granted. Although I would rather say that energy doesn't really "flow" from order to chaos. Rather, it is changed from one form to another, and when it does, the total entropy of the system increases. Some of the energy always transforms into useless "waste energy."

            > "The cells in your body do this all the time; they take concentrated energy from sugar in your food and burn that while assembling the complex and ordered molecules that are their parts, and then lose waste heat (chaos) to your environment."

            Again, granted. But this is not Evolution.

            > "Light from the Sun has supplied this ordered energy to our planet, energy which has driven the Evolution of all life, and then been radiated as chaotic waste heat into the cold of deep space."

            Ah, but you see, the Sun does not supply "ordered energy." It supplies thermal radiation, a form of energy that is quite useless. After all, is there any substantial difference between the Sun's radiation and that which is "radiated as chaotic waste heat into the cold of deep space?"

            The only way that useful energy can be harvested from sunlight (i.e. bring about a local decrease in entropy) is by way of a specialized system designed to do just that. And the only thing in nature with that capability is photosynthesis. Earth cannot acquire useful energy without plants. Thus, the energy to make the first plant cannot have come from the Sun.

            > "Also, Evolution does not accumulate just any chance mutation."

            Wait a second. Does that mean it only accumulates specific chance mutations?

            > "Those changes that are advantageous to their own propagation become more numerous in a population than those that are not. Competition among individuals and species together with changing environments induce this process to build complexity over time."

            So, does Evolution require Chance, or Design, or both?

          • Mark, the photons arriving at the Earth from the Sun are high energy compared to the black body waste heat photons that leave the Earth. This increase in entropy (disorder) is why I called the sunshine high order. I mentioned the difficulty with "order" that comes from multiple meanings, and this is one of those examples. Physicists just speak in terms of entropy from the start, but I was trying to keep to simple language for this thread, when possible.

            The sunshine does not need life to make pockets of local order. Long before there was life the sunshine was driving water from the oceans into the sky where it fell as rain to make rivers that cut the land into patterns of canyons and deltas and other structures that can seem to be designed, but are local artifacts of the bigger system becoming more chaotic. Also see my comment about snowflakes, below.

            As you seem to be interested, I am going to recommend the book "The Origins of Order" by Stuart A. Kauffman. That will give you an advanced view of the subject. As for the origin of life, here is a great video on that subject: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6QYDdgP9eg

          • Hi Quine,
            My friend, your understanding of the relationship between entropy and energy is backward.

            If we are treating heat, entropy, and the like in the context of thermodynamics, then you have to use them in a way that is consistent with known thermodynamic systems. And in that case, high energy = high energy.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enthalpy%E2%80%93entropy_chart

            A refrigerator accomplishes a local decrease in entropy by removing energy from the (open) system, not by adding it. Adding energy raises entropy. The sun cannot lower entropy anywhere. It raises the entropy of ocean water by turning it into vapor (phase change). When it condenses back to liquid water, the entropy of the water itself goes down a little, and that of the atmosphere goes up by more. The earth as a whole sees an increase in entropy throughout.

            Again, in thermodynamics, high energy = high entropy. I can appreciate that you have a scientific background and a blog. So do I (nuclear power plant technician). But I'm telling you flat out that what you are saying does not make sense.

            Mark

          • After rereading my previous post, I realize that I was arguing two separate points, and I should have made the distinction between them more clear.

            POINT ONE: The Refrigerator Analogy

            If the local entropy drop in your fridge is likened to that of the evolving earth, then electrical energy is analogous to sunlight, and the temperature drop is analogous to biochemical metabolism.

            The fridge can "harvest" electricity to reduce it's internal temperature, while raising that of the space outside, but only because it has specialized machinery in place to accomplish that effect. Electric energy cannot produce a refrigerator.

            Likewise, a green photosynthesizing cell can "harvest" sunlight, bringing about an internal drop in entropy, and storing the energy as a sugar molecule. Plant cells also have highly specialized "machinery" in place to accomplish this, and they are the only thing on earth that can do it. But sunlight cannot produce the cell.

            POINT TWO: The Weather Cycle
            Outside of photosynthesis, the Sun's energy causes an entropy rise in everything else it touches. The only drop in entropy that occurs in the weather system is when water vapor condenses back to liquid. But the entropy drop only occurs in the water itself - that of the atmosphere goes up by a greater amount. Thus, earth's entropy goes up as a result, not down.

            Furthermore, condensation does not occur ON ACCOUNT OF the sunlight. It is actually a result of the relative LACK of sunlight on a cloudy day (the clouds reflect it away), and the resulting temperature/pressure drop.

            I realize that the earth radiates some energy back into space, but this doesn't change anything. If you shine a spotlight on a rock, the rock's entropy goes up. Even if it is a wet rock.

            Even if it is a really big wet rock!

          • physicistdave

            Actually, Mark, some of the thermal energy of the sun is converted into (lower-entropy) kinetic energy in the weather system (tornadoes and such).

            Of course, total entropy must increase, as it always
            does. But that is also true for evolution.

          • Hi Dave,

            Look, energy comes in, entropy goes up. Not down. Ever.

            The Sun's energy is converted into higher-entropy kinetic energy when the wind blows. Always. Not lower.

            Local entropy decreases in the weather system when energy is radiated into space. Not when it is absorbed from the Sun. Ever.

            You are contracting the Science of Thermodynamics.

            Furthermore, tornadoes have nothing to do with Evolution.

          • physicistdave

            Mark Neal wrote to me:
            >Look, energy comes in, entropy goes up. Not down. Ever.
            >The Sun's energy is converted into higher-entropy kinetic energy when the wind blows. Always. Not lower.

            Mark, all I can say is that if you ever did take a thermo/stat mech course, the professor did you a disservice if he passed you!

            You are wildly, crazily wrong about wind: ordered kinetic energy has essentially zero entropy: that is the whole point of heat engines, Carnot cycles, and all the rest of it.

            I know you have no intention of actually learning the relevant physics, but if anyone else does, I recommend Reif's Thermal and Statistical Physics: carefully work your way through Reif and actually understand it, and you can avoid Mark's profound confusion.

            You are very wonderfully illustrating the point I keep returning to: what guys like you mean by "Reason" vs. the reasoning employed by actual scientists are as different as astrology and astronomy.

            A point you may wish to respond to: If you are right about entropy, evolution, etc. wouldn't all competent scientists recognize that evolution violates the Second Law? Shouldn't there be millions of physicists, chemists, etc. loudly shouting out that evolution is obvious nonsense because it violates the Second Law?

            Seriously, why do you think that is not happening?

            Quine and I are trying to explain to you that it is because when physicists and chemists refer to the Second Law, we mean something very different than what you think.

            Can you see that this explains why physicists and chemists do not denounce evolution as an obvious violation of the Second Law?

            Dave

          • Dave,

            > "You are wildly, crazily wrong about wind: ordered kinetic energy has essentially zero entropy: that is the whole point of heat engines, Carnot cycles, and all the rest of it."

            I don't think you're even reading my posts. Where does ordered kinetic energy come in? The Sun's heat energy, when absorbed by the air, becomes kinetic energy, and increases the entropy of the air. Ordered (or low entropy) kinetic energy has nothing to do with it.

            > "You are very wonderfully illustrating the point I keep returning to: what guys like you mean by "Reason" vs. the reasoning employed by actual scientists are as different as astrology and astronomy."

            Couldn't agree more, my friend! But again, "scientists" isn't the right word. What you mean is "atheists."

            > "If you are right about entropy, evolution, etc. wouldn't all competent scientists recognize that evolution violates the Second Law?"

            All COMPETENT scientists do!!! But of course, our definitions of "competent" are as different as our definitions of "reason." Methinks that's never gonna change....

            > "Can you see that this explains why physicists and chemists do not denounce evolution as an obvious violation of the Second Law?"

            I think I understand perfectly well why atheists do not denounce it - they can't, no matter what! They're stuck with it! That's why they have to dream up scientifically absurd concepts like a "high energy, low entropy, structurally uniform" early universe.

            Or how about tornadoes that absorb the Sun's energy while reducing their own entropy, thus enabling living things to harness Sunlight without photosynthesis?? According to my definition of reason, this is gibberish.

            Chance or Design? Nature alone, or helped from above? Einstein did not have these problems because he knew how to reason.

          • One more thing I forgot to mention. You brought up heat engines and the Carnot cycle, and I'm glad you did. Walk around the box: temperature goes up, entropy goes up, temperature goes down, entropy goes down.

            Exactly, Dave!

          • physicistdave

            Okay folks, we seem to have found a bona fide anti-evolutionist, Second-Law-of thermodynamics-fallacy Creationist on our hands, and I had thought this blog had a higher than normal standard of commenters. (sigh)

            Dave wrote:

            > > "If you are right about entropy, evolution, etc. wouldn't all competent scientists recognize that evolution violates the Second Law?"

            Mark Neal replied:
            > All COMPETENT scientists do!!! But of course, our definitions of "competent" are as different as our definitions of "reason." Methinks that's never gonna change....

            Mark, I trust you agree that the majority of chemists and physicists are not denouncing evolution. So, you are saying that the vast majority of chemists and physicists are incompetent.

            The prosecution rests.

            Remember, folks, this guy claims to be involved with nuclear-power plants!

          • Hi Dave,

            This website does have a reasonably high standard, as evidenced by the fact that arguments from authority are specifically disallowed by the rules.

            I will state the problems again:
            --- Life on earth cannot harvest the Sun's energy without photosynthesis. You need to come up with a different energy source for the origin of life. Using the weather cycle is ridiculous: photosynthetic life forms do not evolve from wind and rain!
            --- Original order in the universe, I mean at the very beginning of time, can only have been put there by Chance, or by Design. "Structural uniformity" and maximum entropy are identical, and no theorist is ever going to change that.

            > "Okay folks, we seem to have found a bona fide anti-evolutionist, Second-Law-of thermodynamics-fallacy Creationist on our hands..."

            I'm not arguing for dragons on Noah's Ark. I'm arguing that order in the universe can only have been put there by design. The two examples above demonstrate that (at least scientifically). If I'm wrong, prove it.

            Once again, when energy leaves a system, the entropy of that system goes down. The entropy of the system that the energy enters goes up by more. Show me a known, real world example where it is otherwise, not a merely theoretical one.

            ANYBODY can hypothesize. Theories don't prove things.

            Mark

          • physicistdave

            Mark Neal wrote to me:

            Nope, no argument from authority, Mark. I am just making clear what you are implying about your knowledge vs. that of most Ph.D. chemists and physicists.

            Our conversation on this is now at an end.

            I think you have too little knowledge of basic science to make it worth my while discussing it with you without me being properly remunerated: I expect to be paid for teaching science, and I do not expect you want to pay me.

            Since you bring up the argument from authority, I will point out that while I, and nearly all scientists do indeed reject the argument from authority, there is a related argument that I think is valid:

            Physicists and chemists, unlike, say, astrologers, philosophers, or theologians, have created some very, very surprising, sometimes horrifying (e.g., the nuclear bomb) things. It is difficult for almost anyone to imagine that we were able to do these things unless we possess significant knowledge about how nature operates that non-scientists do not possess.

            Note that I am not arguing that scientists are intrinsically better human beings (believe me, they’re not!) or even that they have necessarily done more to better the condition of the human race – that is, after all, a mixed bag: nuclear bombs vs. penicillin, nerve gas vs. the polio vaccine, etc.

            I’m, merely pointing out that the Bomb, integrated circuits, nerve gas, and all the other nifty or horrifying things created by physicists and chemists does convince almost everyone that we know things about reality that non-scientists do not know. No such claim can credibly be made for astrology, theology, or philosophy: there is no result from those fields that compels even critics to acknowledge that they must have some real knowledge of reality in the way that the Bomb and nerve gas do compel non-scientists to acknowledge that scientists really must know something.

            You, on the other hand, have very clearly claimed that you are in a position to judge that most of the world’s chemists and physicists are not competent and that you understand thermodynamics better than we do.

            That claim is very damning.

            You also wrote:

            >Show me a known, real world example where it is otherwise, not a merely theoretical one.
            >ANYBODY can hypothesize. Theories don't prove things.

            Mark, I hold multiple patents on computer hard disks and satellite-communication systems. I’ve worked on the design of analog and digital integrated circuits: I am not merely a pie-in-the-sky theorist. I have a huge experience in inventing and creating physical hardware that actually does work.

            I am pretty sure you don’t.

            Now, you will no doubt dismiss that as “ad hominem.” Except that you are the one who announced that almost all of us physicists and chemists are incompetent, you are the one who keeps implying that Quine and I are incompetent theorists without real-world experience when in fact I have multiple real-world inventions to my name, substantially more than you seem to. You seem to be merely a technician.

            You have repeatedly insulted me and most of the world’s physical scientists, but when I point out what you are doing you accuse me of engaging in ad hominem arguments?

            I do admire your chutzpah.

            Dave

          • Hi Dave,

            > "You seem to be merely a technician."

            True. But irrelevant.

            > "...no argument from authority, Mark. I am just making clear what you are implying about your knowledge vs. that of most Ph.D. chemists and physicists."

            My friend, that's the very definition of an argument from authority! What if I told you that God exists because all the world's top Theologians agree that He does, and since you have no "qualifications" in that field, who are you to question it? Would that prove anything?

            Life harnesses the Sun's energy via photosynthesis. The weather cycle produces kinetic and potential energy (wind and rain). Living things require chemical energy. Tornadoes do not evolve into plants!! You are arguing from authority because you can't get around that fact.

            My friend, you've been bested.

            Mark

          • "My friend, you've been bested."

            What an idiot and ass ... a typical godbot.

          • physicistdave

            Mark Neal wrote:
            > high energy = high entropy.

            Mark, that is simply false.

            You should not trust Wikipedia on technical subjects: it has been hacked even in my own specialty field of elementary-particle physics.

          • Dave,

            The Wikipedia article I referenced was correct on the relationship between entropy and enthalpy. This is part of my own specialty field of nuclear power plant operations. I don't know where you learned about thermodynamics, but the descriptions and processes you have given have nothing to do with real world applications. And if you are unwilling to deal with real world systems, then I'll hold up my "impoverished" education all day long.

            When energy is transferred into a substance, the entropy in that substance goes up. Entropy can only go down by transferring energy out of that substance.

            Mark

          • physicistdave

            Mark Neal wrote to me:

            >The Wikipedia article I referenced was correct on the relationship between entropy and enthalpy. This is part of my own specialty field of nuclear power plant operations.

            Hoo, boy! Please tell us the name of the plant at which you work – this is really dangerous. They need to be informed of your lack of technological knowledge immediately and you need to be pulled off the job.

            I will try googling you to find out the information, but it would be simpler if you would just post it here.

            I’m not kidding.

          • The USS Theodore Roosevelt, CVN-71, Newport News, Virginia.

            U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier

          • Andrew G.

            Maybe a bit late to comment, but here goes anyway:

            Mark, you do realize I hope that it's possible to construct a refrigerator that runs only off heat? (Oddly enough, Einstein patented one with Szilárd, though theirs was just a refinement on existing designs that were around at the time).

            The equipment required is not even specialized - no moving parts, just static plumbing.

            This principle has even been applied to produce solar-powered refrigerators that don't involve conversion of the solar energy to electricity or mechanical energy first; a concentrating mirror is used to simply heat up the "hot" side to a sufficient temperature above ambient.

          • Mark Neal

            Hi Andrew,

            I actually did not know about the Einstein/Szilard refrigerator. I looked it up briefly, and it looks interesting. However, it still requires a source of energy (heat), and that energy source cannot by itself produce the fridge. That was the point of my "Refrigerator Analogy" above.

            You said:
            > "The equipment required is not even specialized - no moving parts, just static plumbing."

            There are no moving parts, but the equipment is most definitely specialized. The static plumbing has to be arranged a certain way or the system will not function.

            As an aside, though, the "absorption refrigerator" (is that right?) is a fascinating idea, as is the "solar-powered air conditioner" that I also saw mentioned. If you know of any good websites, I'd love to read more about them!

            Mark

          • Andrew G.

            You overestimate the complexity and specialization required. The Einstein-Szilárd design has fairly complex plumbing (and three fluids) to maximize the efficiency, not because it's needed for the principle to work.

            The minimum requirement is simply two overlapping convection cycles - the refrigerant fluid evaporated off from the absorption fluid at the hot side and condensing at ambient temperature before flowing to the cool side, and the absorption fluid circulating between the hot side and ambient temperature. You don't even need two different liquids - you can use a solution of some convenient solid in the refrigerant fluid as the absorption fluid. (A freshwater/saltwater system can be used for air conditioning, for example.)

            Any time you have two cycles like that you have a potential heat-powered heat pump. The source of energy is the flow of heat from the hot side to the ambient side, of which a fraction (not a large one, since even the best absorption refrigerators are inefficient, hence the widespread use of compressor-based designs) goes to power the reduction in entropy at the cold side.

            You really think these kinds of cycles don't occur naturally?

          • " I can appreciate that you have a scientific background (and a personal blog). So do I (nuclear power plant technician)."

            BWAHAHAH!

            "But I'm telling you flat out that what you are saying does not make sense."

            What an arrogant ass.

          • "Ah, but you see, the Sun does not supply "ordered energy." It supplies thermal radiation, a form of energy that is quite useless. "

            What an imbecile.

            "> "Also, Evolution does not accumulate just any chance mutation."

            Wait a second. Does that mean it only accumulates specific chance mutations?"

            Of course, you scientifically illiterate godbot.

          • "First of all, my post wasn't about Evolution per se, but rather about Chance itself."

            Well that's your mistake ... you're assuming the conclusion and ignoring the very thing that falsifies it. You entire comment is scientifically illiterate ... for FSM's sake take a science course.

          • "No, Fr.Sean is right. The possibilities are Chance (naturalism), Design (special creation), or a combination of the two (progressive creation). All the other multitudes of theories and explanations are only variations on one of these three possibilities"

            No, you're an ignorant git who knows nothing of evolution, self-organizing systems, and other *scientific* concepts.

            "How then is an automatic process supposed to "direct" development? Chance!"

            So computers operate by chance, you ignorant git?

            "since the forces of nature appear to me to have the exact opposite effect: they produce chaos from order."

            They appear that way to you because you're an intellectually dishonest git. All around you, you see self-organizing systems -- just look at the grass on the ground -- but you ignore it or deny what it is.

      • physicistdave

        Fr, Sean wrote to me:

        > I've heard it said that there are three possiblilties of how things came about;
        >1. Pure Mathematical Chance
        >2. Guided Mathematical chance
        >3. Design in nature put forth by a designer involved in everything

        Well, as a scientist and an atheist, I can only say that I doubt that too many scientists or atheists would agree with your trichotomy!

        Frankly, I am not even sure what “pure mathematical chance” means in a scientific context, and it most certainly is not the scientifically-inclined atheists’ picture of reality. We know that there are natural laws that govern reality, and the results are far from random.

        I know that this is hard to convey to those who are utterly ignorant of science. I’m afraid that all that I can say is that the successes of science are so obvious and so spectacular that they make a strong prima facie case that we scientists actually have some idea of what we are talking about. That does not mean that you should just take our word on everything, but it does establish a strong case that you yourself really do have to learn science if you want to have opinions on such subjects that are not just utter nonsense.

        Theology and philosophy have failed to make such a prima facie case: the utter failure of philosophers (and theologians of competing religions) to come to substantial agreement on almost anything is very telling and is, I think, the reason that religion has been collapsing in most advanced nations.

        Dave

        • Dcn Harbey Santiago

          Dave,

          As a Scientist I find your answer quite astonishing.

          You do no know what Pure Mathematics mean in a scientific context????

          Wow.

          "Viva Cristo Rey!!"

          Deacon Harbey Santiago

        • Hi Dave,

          > "Frankly, I am not even sure what 'pure mathematical chance' means in a scientific context..."

          My friend, I agree with you completely! Possibility #1 is absurd. That leaves us with Guided Chance (progressive creation) and pure Design (special creation).

          Now, I am being 100% honest with you when I say that I really, truly cannot think of any other option. Every other possibility I have ever heard of, has, upon closer inspection, turned out to be just a more elaborate version of one those three that Fr.Sean posted.

          Several people have stated, rather emphatically, that there are more possibilities. But they don't say what they are!

          And if there really are no others, then Reason compels me to abandon pure Chance, and I must conclude that the universe was produced, at least in part, by Design.

          • physicistdave

            Mark Neal wrote to me:

            >That leaves us with Guided Chance (progressive creation) and pure Design (special creation).

            >Now, I am being 100% honest with you when I say that I really, truly cannot think of any other option. Every other possibility I have ever heard of, has, upon closer inspection, turned out to be just a more elaborate version of one those three that Fr.Sean posted.

            Well, Mark, I am just guessing here, but I strongly suspect that you do not have a serious training in natural science.

            There are other options: for example, there can be laws of nature that do not allow pure randomness (if that means anything at all, which I doubt) but which do allow quite a bit of apparent randomness.

            Any competent scientist knows lots of examples: from classical mechanics to statistical mechanics and on to quantum mechanics.

            Now, I realize of course that you will probably say that the laws of nature (and I know of few scientists who would deny that there are laws of nature) are themselves proof of Design.

            Well, most top scientists disagree with you on that, and, if you want people who are scientifically literate to take you seriously, you have to actually lay out a case, not just assert the claim.

            I know you can point to some philosophers who agree with you on this, but there are also numerous philosophers who disagree. The failure of philosophy to reach any significant consensus on any issue of substance for more than two millennia prevents most scientists from taking philosophers very seriously. (Again, I know you can cite scientists who say that philosophy is important: however, by and large, those same scientists do not take philosophers very seriously when those philosophers talk about real issues concerning nature. When they say philosophy is important, they basically mean important as intellectual decoration, rather like jewelry.)

            Sorry to be so blunt, but when you say things such as that you can think of no significant alternative possibilities, my response is that this is because of your lack of education in any area of substance: i.e., natural science. Your imagination is impoverished by your lack of education.

            I know many religious believers will say the same about us scientists, due to our (relative) ignorance of theology. Except, again, there is obvious, compelling evidence that we scientists know some very significant things about reality. There is no such prima facie evidence that theologians have significant knowledge about reality: indeed, the radical disagreement among theologians of different religions suggests the opposite.

            You also wrote:
            >then Reason compels me to abandon pure Chance

            I am afraid that what seems to be “Reason” to you seems to have nothing to do with the sort of reasoning that has succeeded in natural science. This is, I think, responsible for much of the “flame wars” on the Web concerning science/religion: you seem to think that what we scientists view as serious reasoning is much the same as your “Reason.”

            It isn’t.

            Dave
            .

          • Hi Dave,

            > "Sorry to be so blunt..."

            No worries! It's good to be blunt. I wish more people were. By all means, keep it up!

            > "There are other options: for example, there can be laws of nature that do not allow pure randomness (if that means anything at all, which I doubt) but which do allow quite a bit of apparent randomness."

            Well I sure am glad to hear that you have doubts about this one. You are right about pure randomness being a silly idea - that would be an example of option #1: Chance.

            On a side note, what does it mean when a scientist says that "there CAN be laws of nature" that do such-and-such? Does that mean they're just making it up as they go along?

            > "Well, Mark, I am just guessing here, but I strongly suspect that you do not have a serious training in natural science."
            > "Any competent scientist knows lots of examples: from classical mechanics to statistical mechanics and on to quantum mechanics."
            > "...when you say things such as that 'you' can think of no significant alternative possibilities, my response is that this is because of your lack of education in any area of substance: i.e., natural science. Your imagination is impoverished by your lack of education."

            Oh, come off it! If you're gonna be that way, then I'll just come out and say it: there are NO other alternatives. Nobody can think of any. Not one of you has!

            > "...you seem to think that what we scientists view as serious reasoning is much the same as your 'Reason.'
            It isn’t."

            Well Dave, you sure got that right! But do you really have to use the word "scientists?" Can't you just be honest and say "we atheists?"

            NOBODY has a monopoly on science.

            The order in the universe can be explained by:
            (1) Chance (naturalism)
            (2) Design (special creation), or
            (3) Both (progressive creation)
            All other alternatives are merely variations on one of these three. Evolution is a version of #1. In real science, nature cannot produce order from disorder.

            Einstein was smart enough to figure this out! THAT is why he believed in God. Perhaps it was a Spinoza God, but he was no atheist. He rejected the Bible, but he didn't reject God. Father Barron is absolutely right, as is everyone else, to continue to insist that reason had compelled Einstein to conclude that Design produced the universe.

            He knew what the universe was: the work of a Great Artist.

          • physicistdave

            Mark Neal wrote to me:

            > On a side note, what does it mean when a scientist says that "there CAN be laws of nature" that do such-and-such? Does that mean they're just making it up as they go along?

            Well, I thought it was pretty clear in context that I was saying there "can" be such laws because there actually are such laws! "Is" implies "can," you know.

            Markl also wrote:
            >Can't you just be honest and say "we atheists?"

            No, I actually did mean what I said: I have talked to numerous people well-trained in science (not just Ph.D.s in science -- I have in mind also a guy with a doctorate in pharmacy) who just shake their heads at the kinds of "reasoning" employed in philosophy, theology, modern literary studies, etc. and wonder why on earth the same word, "reasoning," is used to apply to that sort of "reasoning" and to scientific reasoning.

            It would be as if we used the same word to apply to both "astrology" and "astronomy."

            Mark also wrote:
            >Albert Einstein knew that he was looking at the work of a Great Artist.

            That's just not true, as you can find out with a modest amount of googling: Einstein made emphatically clear that he did not believe in any god who had purposes, intentions, etc. He simply used the word "God" in a metaphorical sense, as many atheists do.

            Mark repeated:
            >The order in the universe can be explained by:
            >(1) Chance (naturalism)
            >(2) Design (special creation), or
            >(3) Both (progressive creation)
            >All other alternatives are merely variations on one of these three. Evolution is a version of #1. In real science, nature cannot produce order from disorder by itself.

            And, I will repeat that you are just again revealing your ignorance of science here and your inability to reason as scientists reason.

            As others have tried to explain to you, scientists in technical works do not generally use the ambiguous word "disorder" but rather the technical term "entropy": "entropy" means very specifically the logarithm of the number of microscopic states that correspond to a given macroscopic specification of the system. Sometimes, that more or less corresponds to what ordinary people mean by "disorder": very, very often, it does not.

            If you carefully translate your statements above into technical language, they just fall apart. The superficial plausibility to your ideas is due to your using ambivalent non-technical language and sliding between different meanings of those non-technical words.

            This would be avoided if you would actually learn the details of the science and speak precisely.

            Bit, I cannot make you do that.

            All I and other scientists can do is honestly say that if anyone wishes to learn the relevant science they will discover that you are confused (and I do mean "scientists," not "atheists," here -- no competent scientist disagrees with what I am saying about "disorder" vs. "entropy" -- this is textbook Stat Mech 101).

            Dave

        • Fr.Sean

          Dave,
          Thanks for the reply, i have a chess club for the kids at the school and enjoy teaching them various concepts and watching them learn and appreciate the game.  i suppose when it comes to  physics i'm a little like the kids, i understand how the pieces move but i'm ignorant when it comes to the finer concepts.  thanks for your patience with me. 
          i've realized at at some point our ego's always get involved in a discussion because although we may want to convey what we feel is true, we also want to "win" the argument if you will.  subsequently it's natural to change the subject when our point isn't that well thought out or when we feel as though our point may be false.  one way we change the subject is to take a personal critique of our opponents character, that way instead of dealing with the issue at hand it's now whether or opponents is ignorant or has some other negative characteristic.  having said that i have a question and an attempt to clarify a former statement.  
          1.Mark's statement about entropy is something i have pondered on but don't exactly know the all the details of entropy.  as a lay person when it comes to physics i can see some of the basic truths (how the chess pieces move if you will).  Suns burn out, stars become black holes, or energy from the sun ends up becoming fuel in my car but cannot return to the original state.  i can see our universe is going to a state of (i think it's high entropy) where the energy will have run it's course.  thus something powerful (i'm not saying it's God) had to initiate the whole chain reaction.   if you don't mind, try to explain in laymen's terms (and without morphing the subject into some incidental subject about physics) would this observation be false in your opinion or if not why does this observation not indicate something powerful had to initiate the chain reaction?  thanks for your patience with me. 
          2. our universe naturally indicates that much of it entails mathematical chance.  i've noticed that it seems like when most atheists argue with Monotheists they seem to have argue against the notion of God as a creator and someone who's always involved in everything.  thus, in one way or another they point to mathematical chance, and natural selection (not only with living thing but almost a "natural selection" of physics in a sense aka. certain physics characteristics allowed for the formation of stars and planets.)  in my opinion it appears that mathematical chance is part of our reality but it isn't simply pure mathematical chance, it seems to be guided, or that we have always just gotten very very lucky.  Dr.Hawkings said if the original expansion of the universe after the big bang had been one millionth of a second faster, the stars and planets wouldn't have formed, one millionth of a second slower, the universe would have collapsed in on itself (paraphrasing of course).  we were very fortunate, but when you look at the other laws of physics, they just appear to be almost perfect, thus if you take some of the other variables and include them into the equation of just how fortunate we are the idea that this all just came about by random chance begins to seem absurd. for example if you take chance entailed in the original big bang of 1 in 2 million, and multiply that (take note you don't add it) against the next apparent chance variables, (we' just stop at three but i would imagine there are more)  say they would be one in a million you would have 2000000 X 1000000 X 1000000, the number you would have with just those first three chance possibilities would be one in 2 to the 18th power.  those kind of odds, being so perfect speak of something guiding the mathematical chance (i've read some of the hypothesis of why our universe is so perfect but find that they are all purely hypothetical and stand on little emperical data, even if you did subscribe to the multiverse theory and if it was true, that's only 1 in a billion, far smaller number than 1 in 2 to the 18 power. )  other explanations i've read all seem to be an attempt to change the subject from the issue at hand, how were we that lucky?  then you have the other physical variables of our planet that all just happen to be nearly perfect?  again, the idea that we were just that lucky appears to be absurd.  then we factor in other variables of humanity such as the natural law, the common notions of God etc. it begins to appear much more likely that a creator is guiding things than simply pure chance.   i hope that clairfy's what i mean by pure mathematical chance and guided mathematical chance.    

          • Hi Fr.Sean,

            > "Mark's statement about entropy is something i have pondered on but don't exactly know the all the details of entropy."

            I realize you addressed your post to Dave, but I can attempt to explain the concept if you want me to. Entropy isn't that difficult once you get your head wrapped around it.

            Don't know if you're interested in hearing it from me or not, but I thought I'd offer.

            Mark

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Mark,

            Thanks for the input, i have a rough idea how it works but if you could make it in layman's terms i'd appreciate it. I think it has has something to do with energy being guided towards disorder, which would naturally imply it took something to order it in the first place but i don't understand it well enough to develop the idea as a support for a prime mover, first cause or Guided chance but i do think it supports an intelligent and powerful force within the universe.

          • Mark Neal

            Hi Fr. Sean,

            Sorry I've been away for so long. We've just finished moving and I haven't had internet access. I will reply to you tomorrow.

            Mark

          • Fr.Sean

            Thanks Mark,
            Ironically i was just moving my sister as well, and just got back. I hope everything went well with your move.

          • Fr.Sean

            Mark,
            By the way, my brother was in the naval academy in the late 90's.  he was in the supply core until about 05 or so.  How long have you been in?  I always appreciate and try not to take for granted what our service men and women do for our country.  anywho, if you want to make it easier just respond to the question on my site.  it's 2fish.co just click the "ask a priest" tab. 
            pax,
            Fr.Sean

        • Rick DeLano

          I had to chuckle, Dave, at the really ridiculous notion:

          "the utter failure of philosophers (and theologians of competing religions) to come to substantial agreement on almost anything is very telling and is, I think, the reason that religion has been collapsing in most advanced nations."

          You clearly have not been reading the preprints at arxiv.org lately.

          You certainly have not rerad the hilarious, direct contradiction concerning non-Gaussiantiy between the abstract of Paper I of Planck 2013 and Paper XXIII of Planck 2013.

          So you are probably able to get away with such ridiculous handwaving, assuming as you safely do, approximate scientific illiteracy on the part of most of your interlocutors here.

          But it really is a hollow sort of "victory", isn;t it- to capitalize on the ignorance of your interlocutors?

          Let us instead address the fact that Planck has now provided observational confirmation of a preferred direction in the cosmos, oriented with the ecliptic and equinoxes of Earth, and that this same Earth-oriented directionality is observed in:

          1. Galaxy spin direction
          2. Quasar photon polarization
          3. "Dark flow" of galaxy clusters on a scale inconsistent with FLRW assumptions of isotropy'homogeneity
          4. Anisotropic cosmological expansion as interpreted by Type1a Siupernovae observations
          5. Distribution of quasar and other radio-sources on a great circle lying about a plane intersecting the equinoxes of Earth.

          Sounds positively medieval to me :-)

      • "I've heard it said"

        From whom? Other godbot know-nothings?

  • AshleyWDC

    It's interesting that the author quibbles with Einstein's characterization of the Bible but ignores the much greater problems in his more religiously flattering statements.

    Consider “To sense that behind everything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense...I am a devoutly religious man.”.

    This particular quote reveals an assumption of beauty in the underlying workings of nature that was the root of Einstein's greatest weakness as a scientist. This led him to reject many of the findings of quantum mechanics, the science he helped created. Fortunately Einstein was the greatest abstract thinker the world has known, so his attempts to discredit QM were so powerful that they led to many advancements in the theory and are important in research today.

    The problem with assuming that nature at its core is beautiful is that beauty is not an inherent property of anything. It is a human judgement, and different humans judge differently for reasons we don't yet understand very well. There's no clear way to objectively say that for example QM is beautiful or not beautiful. Many physicists disagree with Einstein and believe it is beautiful. But can a theory that requires such a broad and deep understanding of mathematics (a subject that many people find vile) that maybe only one in a million people can even comprehend it be beautiful? Is the particle zoo beautiful? Personally, I think it's a mess, but the makers of this chart probably disagree:

    http://www.pha.jhu.edu/~dfehling/particle.gif

    • Hi Ashley,

      I'm not being facetious, so please don't take this the wrong way. This really is a serious question.

      You supported your argument with a chart. The first thing I noticed about it was that the many colors and the layout of the many parts of it all come together in a way that is aesthetically pleasing. In other words, it possesses a certain degree of beauty.

      Why do you suppose that is?

      • LOL! Deacon Santiago asked this question a lot better than I did...

      • AshleyWDC

        Sorry, I missed this question for a couple of days. What I meant by that was simply that some people find QM beautiful. As I stated, others do not, which is a problem for those who like Einstein believe the underlying workings must be beautiful. I was inferring the state of mind of the chart makers from the beauty of the chart, which was probably unjustified.

        • Hi Ashley,

          > "...from the beauty of the chart..."

          Well, yeah, that's what I was getting at. Does the chart actually possess beauty?

          > "...beauty is not an inherent property of anything. It is a human judgement..."

          You said that, but then you put the chart up knowing that people would find it attractive!

          I think that beauty is an inherent property of everything (to a greater or lesser extent), AND there's a human judgement involved. The two are not mutually exclusive. Most people think sunsets are beautiful, though maybe not everybody. Most people don't think the city dump is very beautiful, though I suppose somebody could. So there is a subjective element involved, sure, but it is also natural to treat certain things as possessing some degree of beauty in themselves.

          Did you see Lord of the Rings? What did you think of New Zealand?

          Mark

          • AshleyWB

            > "...beauty is not an inherent property of anything. It is a human judgement..."

            "You said that, but then you put the chart up knowing that people would find it attractive!"

            Yes, because I know from experience that many people like that chart (I also know that some people look at it and say "What the hell is that thing?". Not mentioning any names, sis.). I didn't measure or discern any inherent beauty, because I know of no way to do so. How do we detect it, or separate it from the subjective element? If we can't do so, then the concept is useless.

            If we assume you're correct, and beauty is partly inherent and partly a subjective judgement, we still need to avoid using beauty as a guide to truth (scientific or otherwise) unless there's a way to separate the inherent and personal parts.

          • Hi Ashley,

            > "I didn't measure or discern any inherent beauty..."

            Well, imagine that same chart, with the same layout, and the same information, but hand-drawn in pencil on a piece of paper that was torn out of a spiral notebook. Would that not look sloppy, messy, uninspired? Would that not produce a different reaction in the average viewer?

            You said you "know from experience that many people like that chart" (the nice one). Is it safe to say that many people would not like hand-drawn one, at least not as much?

            Beauty cannot be "measured." But I don't think we can go so far as to say that it cannot be "discerned."

            > "If we assume you're correct, and beauty is partly inherent and partly a subjective judgement, we still need to avoid using beauty as a guide to truth (scientific or otherwise) unless there's a way to separate the inherent and personal parts."

            True. But let's not assume that quite yet.

          • AshleyWB

            "Would that not look sloppy, messy, uninspired? Would that not produce a different reaction in the average viewer?"

            Almost certainly. We wouldn't have graphic design and advertising industries if we didn't have a limited ability to predict what people find beautiful or appealing. We'd still have art, but it would be a much different profession, I think. So can we make predictions because there's inherent beauty, commonality among people, or both?

            We could say that the fact that most people find Notre Dame beautiful while most find the inside of a slaughterhouse ugly a sign that Notre Dame is more inherently beautiful. The problem I have is that turns beauty into a popularity contest, and we now have to agree that Transformers 2 is a more inherently beautiful movie than Les Miserables.

            If beauty is inherent, what is it exactly? Where is it? If we can't detect it, aren't we just pretending to know it's there?

          • Hi Ashley,

            Sorry it took me so long to get back to you.

            > "we ... have a limited ability to predict what people find beautiful or appealing."

            This is exactly what I'm getting at. Why do we have this ability at all? Does the fact that we have it (however limited it may be) mean anything?

            > "...we now have to agree that Transformers 2 is a more inherently beautiful movie than Les Miserables."

            Well, I think a lot people saw Transformers to simply be entertained, rather than appreciate good art. Kind of like rock music vs. classical music. And, once again, you've presented an example, Les Miserables, and assumed (predicted?) that I would agree that it has beauty! Good prediction!

            > "If we can't detect [beauty], aren't we just pretending to know it's there?"

            I guess what I'm trying to say is that there has to be an explanation for this "ability to predict." I don't think the evidence of our everyday lives allows the possibility than beauty is completely undetectable. Again, it cannot be "measured," but if we can "predict" it more or less accurately, then there must be something that our predictions are being based on.

            > "So can we make predictions because there's inherent beauty, commonality among people, or both?"

            I think "inherent" is a more intellectually satisfying answer. When we notice things regularly happening in a certain way (Notre Dame considered beautiful vs. slaughterhouse) that's an indication that there is a principle of some sort at work.

            > "If beauty is inherent, what is it exactly?"

            Well, I would like to settle the question of "is it inherent?" before trying to "study" it directly. I don't if what I'm saying makes any sense at all - forgive me if it does not. I know what I want to say, but I'm more of a "science" guy - art isn't really my cup of tea.

            Mark

    • physicistdave

      Ashley wrote:

      >Personally, I think it's [quantum mechanics] a mess, but the makers of this chart probably disagree:

      Ashley, as a physicist who is pretty good at quantum mechanics, I think QM is a mess!

      Curiously, I just got hold of Nobel laureate Steve Weinberg's new book, Lectures on Quantum Mechanics, and Steve says, "My own conclusion (not universally shared) is that today there is no interpretation of quantum mechanics that does not have serious flaws, and that we ought to take seriously the possibility of finding some more satisfactory other theory, to which quantum mechanics is merely a good approximation." (p. 95)

      I took quantum field theory from Steve in grad school, and he is known as a nuts-and-bolts, hard-nosed theorist, not the kind to engage in idle speculation, so I am pleased to see he shares my dissatisfaction with QM.

      Dave

      • AshleyWDC

        Interesting, I'll look that up.

      • Dcn Harbey Santiago

        The most a amazing thing about Ashley, Steve Weinberg and Phisicsdave statements is that they all expresses the same sentiment. "There is something "off" about the current state of QM". Deep inside there is a "certain order" expected from nature that somehow we have not been able to understand.

        What B16 does is ask the simple question "Why?". Why can we understand it in such a way that we have an expectation for this understanding, To which I would add the questions: Why are we expected to be able to understand? or in other words: What is the reason why this universe in which we exists, invites us to understand it? Where does this expectation and desire to understand comes from?

        "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
        Deacon Harbey Santiago

        • physicistdave

          Harbey Santiago wrote to me:
          >What is the reason why this universe in which we exists, invites us to understand it?

          HS, it's a real stretch to say the universe "invites" us to understand it! That is clearly false in any literal sense, and, giving you the benefit of the doubt that you mean it metaphorically, it would be too tiresome to try to untangle exactly what your metaphorical meaning is.

          HS also wrote:
          >Where does this expectation and desire to understand comes from?

          That I can answer: humans are monkeys (yes, I know, technically we are descended from monkey-like creatures). Monkeys are inquisitive. Humans are the most inquisitive of all.

          Why?

          That's our niche -- we fool around with things and, often enough, doing so has a useful result, so that the genes that encourage inquisitiveness have spread in our species (and indeed the order primates) via natural selection.

          I hear someone thinking, "Yes, and sometimes inquisitiveness gets your fingers burned!" Indeed, and most humans are not as inquisitive as we physicists. We are off towards the end of the bell curve.

          Dave

        • physicistdave

          By the way, Harbey, you said, "Deep inside there is a "certain order" expected from nature that somehow we have not been able to understand."

          It would probably be more accurate to say that we hope for order than that we expect it. There are some good (atheistic) reasons to have that hope: First, we actually have uncovered a lot of order in the natural world already.

          Perhaps, more important, it is not clear what it would mean for anything to be completely "disordered." Look into the literature on "randomness": it is rather difficult to figure out what complete randomness could actually be.

          And, mathematicians are in the business of studying (logically consistent) possible structures. So, we can have some hope that whatever order there is in the real world might actually be similar to one of the hypothetical structures mathematicians have considered. And, of course, if we scientists discover some structure that mathematicians have not yet discovered, they are happy to get to work on it.

          But, still, there is no guarantee that we can understand everything about nature. For example, right now, superstring theory, which once seemed so promising, is beginning to look as if it is just too hard for us to understand.

          But maybe we just need a young genius to come along. Who knows?

          There are no guarantees in science, but it is a fun game.

          Dave

        • AshleyWDC

          Actually, I don't claim or have the sentiment that something is off about the current state of QM. Sorry if I conveyed that. I think QM is incomplete, but what we do have is remarkable though not all of it is lovely. I was really trying to make the point that using beauty as a guide to understanding nature is probably unjustified and something even a talent such as Einstein should be careful about.

        • Remember that just a few thousands of generations ago, the Universe was not understandable at all. If we keep going back, thoughts were not possible at all because not enough neural infrastructure had evolved to support them. If our decedents are around a few thousand generations from now, we have no clue as to what will become understandable to them.

          The idea of "understandability," or lack thereof, has no explanatory value in itself, because it is so dependent on the capability, time, place and subjectivity of any given observer.

  • QuanKong

    Einstein is quoted as saying this: “science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” Honestly, the statement doesn’t make any sense. Science doesn’t need religion nor is it concerned with religion. What science seek to know and understand does not depend on knowing God’s existence in the first place. If so, why bother. Everything can be explained by God! And God should have created Google or Wikipedia! Religion as we all know is a belief-system and without doubt began as blind faith. Whether it was Einstein who said that or his biographers, the statement is nothing more than just to pacify the on-going debate between science and religion.

    Neither can I make this statement “Ratzinger’s elegant proof demonstrates that, at bottom, religion and science ought never to be enemies, since both involve an intuition of God’s existence and intelligence.” to be anything more than just to close the science versus religion debate.

    • ZenDruid

      According to A.C. Grayling, religion and science began at the same point, the position of ignorance. Religion, not constrained to (and by) natural phenomena, won the race for the first "answer", and devoted centuries of apologia to shoehorn every natural thing into its imaginary framework.

      Science needed to wait for Thales (ca. 600 BC) to propose the axiom that every natural phenomenon has a natural cause. And to wait yet longer, for the Renaissance and Enlightenment in Europe, to develop the appropriate methodologies and instrumentation.

      Science is alive, ever advancing, ever improving, incrementally refining human wisdom. Religion is stagnant, irrevocably bound to old myths and traditions.

      • QuanKong

        For that matter, everything begins from the position of ignorance. Only God believers think otherwise - there was a Tree of Knowledge.

        Almost every religion requires both belief and faith. Science does not. You can’t say I have faith that ice will not melt. Belief is not required because science seeks to explain phenomena. That means basically that religion is just hocky-pocky, wishy-washy. Both words – belief and faith just simply mean NOT real, not true, and not actual.
        No one ever tells me to believe there is a sun. But many have asked me to believe there is a Son of God.

        • If you're going to use the Tree of Knowledge (of Good and Evil) at least use it consistently. We weren't allowed to eat it in the garden, so there too we began from a position of ignorance!

  • physicistdave

    I don’t see that anyone here has laid out why we scientists tend to be
    skeptical of religion, so I will try to do so briefly:

    1) On the face of it, the various religions make various claims that seem, prima facie, a bit unlikely: after all, nobody would talk about the Virgin Birth, Creation, Resurrection, etc. if such events were a dime a dozen! The fact that these are not common events is the point of these events.

    2) Prior to the rise of modern science and critical history, there seemed nonetheless to be good reasons to believe that some of these surprising events really had occurred. E.g., the “Argument from Design” seemed to show that living organisms were designed by some Intelligent Designer, presumably God. The testimony of the Bible (and the handed-down traditions of the Church) seemed to offer serious witnesses for the Virgin Birth, Resurrection, etc.

    3) But science offered a very credible explanation for apparent design in living things that did not require God. And, critical history -- comparative religion, the Higher Criticism of the Bible, etc. -- offered explanations for religious scriptures in general (not just the New Testament) that accounted for the New Testament without the need to assume that the mythical events related therein really occurred.

    4) This may not logically prove that the miraculous events related in the Bible did not occur, but with the supposed evidence for those events demolished, we were back to square one: these events are, prima facie, very unlikely, and very unlikely events probably did not occur, unless there is evidence for them.

    5) The failure of "God of the gaps" arguments, such as the Argument from Design, has made scientists doubtful of more recent "God of the gaps" arguments, such as the "fine-tuning argument": i.e., arguing from current scientific ignorance seems a losing game given that scientists keep coming up with naturalistic, atheistic explanations for problems that were once mysteries.

    6) Philosophy offered various props to religion, but those props have been yanked away as philosophy itself has sunk into disrepute. Old philosophical issues, such as "Does change in an entity always come from external sources, or can change be caused purely internally," just seem silly to modern science. E.g., when an object is moving, is the change in its position caused externally or internally? That seems a bizarre question to a physicist: indeed, whether its position is changing depends on the frame of reference of the observer.

    7) What science has learned about reality, the whole mechanistic, cosmological, quantitative way of thinking of modern science, fits very badly with the teleological, anthropocentric, purpose-driven worldview of religion. We see this in this thread where the religious contributors keep trying to make points that simply seem nonsensical to scientists.

    8) Most of us scientists are well-aware that most of our fellow citizens are caught between pre-scientific worldviews and modern scientific ways of thinking. But, most religious believers really do seem to think that what they consider to be "Reason," the way of thinking characteristic of John Calvin, Thomas Aquinas, et al., really is more or less similar to scientific reasoning. It just isn't, as earlier exchanges on this thread (and throughout the Web) demonstrate.

    ________

    Note that my description above focuses on what we skeptical scientists actually do think, not on proving that we are right, though I make no secret that I think we are right . I'm just trying to describe, as clearly as I can, why most top scientists are non-religious. I know that Ed Feser, for example, at least partially agrees with some of the points above, even though he and I are on opposite sides of the debate.

    Does anyone think I have missed any major aspect of how so many scientists view religion?

    Dave

    • Dave, there is also the history from anthropology in which humans have made up thousands of deities over thousands of years, only to have them slip from active worship and into mythology. The idea that someone has got it right this time is a bit like the boy who cried "wolf," we want to see some objective testable evidence, and it is not being given.

      • physicistdave

        Yeah, I guess anthropology falls into the same general category as comparative religion, etc.

        By the way, I just added a new point (now number 7), about the current
        subjectivist turn that is now so widespread around the Web (e.g., “I
        just know that religion works for me.”). It seems to
        me that this is now very prominent among non-fundamentalists (both
        Catholics and mainline Protestants), and it was an oversight for me not
        to mention it.

        Dave

    • mmurray

      Nice summary Dave. Related to 5) is an interesting video

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vrs-Azp0i3k

      by Sean Carroll who makes the case that the success of the Standard Model means we know all the interactions that can affect the brain. This removes any remaining gaps. But perhaps as someone elsewhere on the internet said to me it's "just reductionism".

      Michael

      • physicistdave

        I actually suspect that consciousness may be a big problem: I find some of the arguments of, e.g., Colin McGinn and Dave Chalmers fairly compelling.

        However, it is interesting to note that both McGinn and Chalmers are atheists, the point is that even if we do not understand consciousness (and no competent scientist claims that right now we fully understand consciousness), that does not prove God exists. It merely proves we do not yet know everything, which I suppose no sensible person disputes.

        Similarly, I do not know whether superstring theory is true (or even if there is a mathematically consistent quantum version of superstring theory). Again, that merely proves that I and other physicists are not God: it does not prove God exists.

        At a more mundane level, no one knows who the next five Superbowl winners will be, but no one takes that fact as proof that God exists. It's an interesting question why no one tries to use the "Superbowl gap" to prove the existence of God, but so many people feel that the (temporary) ignorance of scientists is evidence for God.

        Dave

        • mmurray

          People don't seem to understand degrees of evidence or how it accumulates. I was just reading an article about all the interesting new types of solar systems (hot jupiters etc) that Kepler has discovered. and how it was changing theories of planetary formation. Quite a lot of comments along the lines of "scientists wrong again - anything might be true etc, etc". Partly it's a media thing I guess "scientists wrong -- revolutionary overturning of old theories" makes a better headline than "interesting new facts - interesting modification to theory".

          Michael

        • Dave, I don't find anything from McGinn or Chalmers compelling. Our own consciousness seem so mysterious for the same reason it seems so difficult to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.

          When you think about the problem, always remember that it has to come about gradually along the history of our ancestors, just as it did in your own development from a single cell.

          • physicistdave

            O. Quine wrote to me:

            >When you think about the problem, always remember that it has to come about gradually along the history of our ancestors, just as it did in your own development from a single cell.

            Well, yeah, I suppose it has.

            What bothers me is simply the matter of how consciousness can be completely reduced to physics as we now know it: after all, the goal of current science – chem, bio, geology, and astronomy – is to reduce all natural phenomena ultimately to physics. (Some people deny this, but if you look at what contemporary scientists actually try to do, this is it.)

            And, for the last four centuries, going back to Galileo, who explicitly wrote about this, physicists have resolutely excluded from consideration the interior phenomena of consciousness: this of course has proven to be a wise decision.

            But, that leaves us with a situation similar to Hume's proof that you cannot derive an "ought" from an "is": if there are no statements in current physical theories that make any reference at all to interior properties of consciousness, then how, logically speaking, do you get to the first step in your deduction that does mention those interior properties?

            As far as I can see that argument is just as airtight as Hume's proof about "is" and "ought." Incidentally, this occurred to me back around 1970: quite a few philosophers and physicists seem to have independently stumbled upon the same argument.

            Of course, all this proves is that there will have to be some statement added to the existing laws of physics in order to talk about consciousness, and perhaps that statement will be rather minimal: e.g., in such-and-such an arrangement consciousness just does appear -- voila!

            That could be. However, most people who have thought about this, rigid materialists as well as skeptics, tend to think that such a statement must be phrased in functionalist terms (i.e., something about processing information), and it is surprisingly difficult to describe functionalist ideas in purely physicalist terms.

            But, maybe this will turn out to be easier than I think: if you know about the "holographic principle," Seth Lloyd's work on the ultimate limits to computation, etc., there do seem to be some hints that physics itself will be reformulated in terms of information. (I'm skeptical of all that, too, but I could well be wrong.)

            I had a chance to briefly discuss this with a senior neuroscientist at MIT a year ago, Gerry Schneider, and Prof. Schneider strongly made the point that it is simply premature scientifically to seriously discuss the "hard problem" of consciousness.

            So, I'll accept his admonition and merely say that there will have to be some addition to the laws of physics, even if a minimal one, because of the Humean logical argument. Beyond that, I'll wait and see.

            Dave

          • Dave I like your curiosity about these issues. There are plenty of interesting parts to dig into, and years of on-line discussions. No, there is no new physics (contrary to the "just fizzing" argument) to be found about this, just as there is no new physics to be found about the behaviors of hurricanes. As in that case, it is more of a question of what tools to use to analyze emergent behavior of feedback systems on successive levels of organization. It is easier for the hurricanes because we can get the sensors directly into them.

            No, it is not like the is/ought gap from Hume. We can show why that gap exists, vs. something that we just don't know, yet. Also, the big mystery is really about your own attempt to understand your own consciousness, which is what I was getting to about the bootstraps. Visualize the chain of your ancestors going back millions of years, and ask about the problem of understanding how the signals in their neurosystems generated their behavior. Now, maybe you need to take that back to fish (or even worms) to feel confident, but moving forward in time, it is a matter of increasing complexity, not new physics, that makes it progressively more difficult to keep that analysis going through the generation until you get people who are professing "consciousness." (I will leave it to you to visualize the corresponding argument in terms of someone developing from a single cell through successive cell divisions all the way to someone we recognize as "conscious.")

            If you did not have to solve your own consciousness, as in the fictional view of a (non-human) anthropologist from Mars looking at humans that Oliver Sacks has used, you would only have to come up with a explanation of what humans say and do, such saying and doing that is in any way observable. As a Martian you would not be projecting your feelings about your inner life (if Martians have such) on the humans you are studying, you would be looking at the evidence. When humans talked to you about their inner experience of consciousness, you would be looking for causes of that report before you accepted that the report represented something you had to explain. This is why it is necessary to take the heterophenomenological position to (like Archimedes trying to lift the world) have any place to stand. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heterophenomenology

          • physicistdave

            O. Quine wrote to me:
            >Now, maybe you need to take that back to fish (or even worms) to feel confident...

            On the contrary, I am much less confident about fish and worms than I am about humans. I’m not sure whether or not fish are conscious, and I certainly do not know whether or not worms are conscious!

            As far as I can tell, no one does. Indeed, there seems to be no consensus at all on fish and worms even among those who share your own view.

            At least, most of us do agree that other humans are conscious (though I have a sneaking suspicion that there are indeed some "zombies" out there, to use the technical term of art!).

            O. Quine also wrote:
            >Also, the big mystery is really about your own attempt to understand your own consciousness..

            Exactly. That is the mystery I was talking about. See, we agree.

            O. Quine also wrote:
            >If you did not have to solve your own consciousness, as in the fictional view of a (non-human) anthropologist from Mars looking at humans that Oliver Sacks has used, you would only have to come up with a explanation of what humans say and do, such saying and doing that is in any way observable.

            But, if you did that, you would be ignoring an obvious element of reality: i.e. the interior facts of consciousness.

            It seems to me that all you are saying is that if we agree to ignore and not to talk about the interior properties of consciousness, then physics explains everything else, including our externally observable behavior.

            Maybe it does.

            But, personally, I and, it seems, most human beings do not wish to ignore our interior consciousness -- indeed, it is awfully important to most of us, probably the most important thing in the world, and so we are curious about it.

            Telling us we should not be curious about it does not make it go away.

            You tell all of us we should just stop insisting on taking the interior view and settle for whatever can be learned from the exterior, behaviorist, functionalist view. We reply, no thanks: we are interested in that interior view and want to know everything we can about it. And, based on the obsession that so many of our fellow citizens seem to have with every tiny aspect of their subjective life (ever tried to watch an entire episode of the old Oprah show or looked at the best-selling self-pity/self-indulgence books in the bookstores?), I am pretty sure that when I say “we,” I am referring to the vast majority of our fellow citizens.

            If you do not want to understand how and why you have that interior perspective (I am assuming you are not a so-called “zombie” and that you do have that interior perspective), that is up to you, but it is rather odd for you to try to convince the rest of us that we should not be curious about it ourselves.

            As far as I can tell, what you are advocating is a form of epiphenomenalism in which physics is self-sufficient and consciousness just goes along for the ride. Maybe that is true -- I don't know. But, even so, I would like to know in what physical situations there is in fact a consciousness that does go along for the ride. Fish? Worms? Amoebae?

            Simply knowing in exactly which situations consciousness actually does “supervene” on physical facts would be additional knowledge about the natural world that we do not now possess, additional, that is, to currently known physics.

            That is all I am saying. You may think that such additional information about when and how consciousness “supervenes” on physical facts is trivial or uninteresting. Perhaps. But I would like to know about it, and it is more than can be produced by existing physics.

            Personally, I do very much doubt that the epiphenomenalistic perspective that you seem to adhere to is true. As you know, there have been multiple telling criticisms of epiphenomenalism over the centuries. But, more than that, when I look at the history of science, solutions to outstanding problems rarely seem to come that cheaply.

            But who knows? Maybe your epiphenomenalistic perspective is right. But, if so, I would still like that additional information on when and where consciousness does happen to “supervene” on physical reality. That’s all I was saying.

            Dave

          • ??? What epiphenomenalistic perspective? When did I mention epiphenomena?

          • physicistdave

            Hmmm... Do you know what epiphenomenalism means? It is the longstanding term in philosophy for the idea that physics is uninfluenced by subjective consciousness but that subjective consciousness is just an offshoot of the physics. That is your view, isn't it?

            Sorry, I assumed you would know the term.

            Dennett's term, heterophenomenology (as in the Wikipedia article you link to) is a novel term he seems to have invented that of course has not been used for long in the literature.

            There is a standard taxonomy of terms for different positions on the mind-body problem: eliminative materialism, dual-aspect theory, epiphenomenalism, substance dualism, etc.

            I'm probably between dual-aspect theory and Cartesian dualism, though, in truth, I suspect that the reality is something no one has yet thought of. That is how real scientific progress tends to occur: quantum theory, relativity, plate tectonics, natural selection, etc. were all ideas that no one had really considered as possibilities until they were actually discovered.

            My guess is that understanding consciousness will take a similar path.

            Google epiphenomenalism and see if I correctly understand that this is your position. Maybe you mean something else and I am misunderstanding you. (Maybe you are actually an eliminative materialist, for example.).

            Dave

          • Hi Dave,

            I started following Chalmers when he came to UCSC in 1995, and read his papers and "The Conscious Mind" back in that time. By 2005 I had studied the subject quite a bit, realized that Chalmers and the New Mysterians had nothing but a bag of words amounting to a "gap" argument, and came out of the closet as a p-Zombie. I am close to an eliminative materialist, but unlike the phlogisten example, I think we are just generally wrong about consciousness; I think it falls into the company of things Richard Feynman warned us about when he stated that the purpose of science is to keep us from fooling ourselves.

            We had a very long thread about this on the Richard Dawkins site that might interest you: http://old.richarddawkins.net/discussions/555814-nihilism-absurdism-consciousness-and-free-will

            You can still post on that thread, if you want to discuss the subject over there.

          • physicistdave

            Well, we will probably just have to agree to disagree: to me the Humean argument is simply conclusive, and I cannot understand how anyone can fail to see that.

            On the other hand, there are probably reasons for this: I've been interested in mathematical logic since the late '60s (about the time that I thought of the Humean argument, in fact) so, for me, thinking in terms of what deductions are possible comes naturally. I.e., I am not focused on what research methods are likely to be fruitful, what the end theory is likely to be, etc. -- I most assuredly do not know the answers to any of those questions and do not pretend to.

            I do think the Humean argument about deducing the interior perspective from current physics is absolutely conclusive, but I get the feeling that this simply does not interest you.

            Dennett's perspective seems to be a matter of what research program is most likely to be fruitful. As someone with decades of experience in real science, I am very skeptical that even other scientists, much less a philosopher such as Dennett, can predict a prior which research program will pan out. I.e., I think he is wrong simply because I think anyone, including me, is likely to be wrong in predicting which research approach will be successful.

            Which is why I do not try to make such a prediction and merely focus on the Hueman argument based on the structure of deduction.

            It's interesting that many people find the Humean argument obviously compelling, as I do, whereas many other people keep insisting that those of us who make this argument should just stop making it because they themselves know more about consciousness than, I think, anyone really does.

            I expect neuroscience will resolve this question in my favor when the physicalist program clearly fails. Of course, this is a testable prediction that can be refuted if and when the physicalist program succeeds.

            Dave

    • mmurray

      Interesting paper on philosophers and consensus re your number (6).

      http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/the-consensus-of-philosophers/

      Michael

    • Fr.Sean

      Dave,

      I felt your article was concise and to the point, I regret that you did not recommend this to be perhaps a summary of what many atheist and agnostics believe. Perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad idea to contact them and attempt to develop a summary that you could agree on to be an article on this site?

      I would like to comment on your points, but I must confess I am not an expert on science and or physics so I may be a little out of my element at times.

      1) "On the face of it, the various religions make various claims that seem, prima facie, a bit unlikely: after all, nobody would talk about the Virgin Birth, Creation, Resurrection, etc. if such events were a dime a dozen! The fact that these are not common events is the point of these events."

      I would certainly agree with your premise that if everybody is claiming to be the sole authority on an event or theoretical event that cannot be proven it may very well be that nobody’s right. Where I may differ though is that I don’t believe most religions inherently believe every other religion is wrong. The Catholic Church teaches other faiths have various amount of revelation but she holds to the belief that she has the fullness of the truth. Islam believes there is one God and he is the creator, we believe that’s true, thus we would not consider them to be entirely wrong. The Jews adhere to the Hebrew scriptures as revealed by God, as do we,
      they aren’t “wrong”, other Christian denominations also believe Jesus is the Son of God, thus we believe they have revelation. Even eastern philosophies according to the Catholic Church have some truth, in the sense of the overcoming of self, that desire can often lead to suffering and
      suffering to unhappiness. We don’t necessarily believe they are by nature false.

      Based on this it may posited that the notion of God is a question given by the creator, and because many religions have similar truths that they may be guided by a metaphysical truth. Thus in this notion religions may in fact
      support each other instead of nullify each other’s beliefs.

      "2) Prior to the rise of modern science and critical history, there seemed nonetheless to be good reasons to believe that some of these surprising events really had occurred. E.g., the “Argument from Design” seemed to show that living organisms were designed by some Intelligent Designer, presumably God. The testimony of the Bible (and the handed-down traditions of the Church) seemed to offer serious witnesses for the Virgin Birth, Resurrection, etc.

      3) But science offered
      a very credible explanation for apparent design in living things that did not
      require God. And, critical history -- comparative religion, the Higher
      Criticism of the Bible, etc. -- offered explanations for religious scriptures
      in general (not just the New Testament) that accounted for the New Testament
      without the need to assume that the mythical events related therein really
      occurred.

      4) This may not
      logically prove that the miraculous events related in the Bible did not occur,
      but with the supposed evidence for those events demolished, we were back to
      square one: these events are, prima facie, very unlikely, and very unlikely
      events probably did not occur, unless there is evidence for them."

      2, 3 and 4 seem to focus on several questions and you may correct me if I am wrong but I feel I can address all three together. i.e. prior to modern science the bible offered explanations for how things came about that
      perhaps fulfilled humanity’s needs. People could see there was a design in nature etc. so they deemed there may be a designer. However modern
      science has offered explanations for nature thus proofs such as design in
      nature are no longer needed. I would disagree that science has disproven design in nature but I would agree that it has helped us to understand that design if in fact there is a designer. If you were a Yankees fan, and you had heard they beat the Redsocks, but you didn’t watch the game, you may have an idea how it took place. But after you watched a replay
      of the game you would be more aware of how, but it still wouldn’t have changed what had occurred in the game? Gravity was always a part of life, even when we weren’t aware of its existence. After Newton discovered it we became more aware of its effects which helped us to understand our world a little better. I believe some of the inherent designs in nature are taken for granted because we are so accustomed to them, but I believe they still speak of a designer? I know Dr. Hawking said if the original expansion of the universe was one millionth of a second faster or slower (paraphrasing of course) the universe wouldn’t have existed as we know it. we may discern that as chance, but the truth is there are many variables that are similar to that, where we just happened to be so lucky? If I worked for the lottery and encourage you to play, and you played and lets say you won, a million dollars, that could still be chance. but if you won a million dollars every day for a month, wouldn’t that be pretty close to a guarantee
      that I rigged the lottery in your favor? Take Hawking’s first observation, 1 in 2 million, multiply that by the next two variables in the universe(take note you don’t add them but multiply them), say they are one in a million than you would have 2000000 X 1000000 X 1000000 = 2 to the 18th power.
      Thus with the first three variables alone the chances of everything
      being perfect are 1 in 2000000000000000000. Now with those first three variables it certainly does entail chance, but with those odds? it’s much more likely that it was guided, or designed rather than just random chance. In terms of the lottery it would be an almost guarantee that I rigged the lottery for you. Thus in my subjective opinion science does more to support design not detract from it. I’ve read the various theories proposed as to how it is possible for the universe to support stars planets and life, from the multiverse to tegmark theory, but most of them have almost no empirical data? Remember what we said earlier, that if a bunch of different people are claiming to know how an even took place than it’s more likely that none of them are right? Simply because I’ve studied physics or astronomy does not indicate I may know how something took place if I have almost no empirical data? It does appear at times that you may confuse “faith” with “science” but I will agree both are important. Knowledge of how a black whole formed deals largely with science because I can observe things within the universe, but subscribing to the various theories that our outside our own universe is steeped in theory and is thus a faith issue.

      Furthermore, the idea that much of the miraculous events in
      the bible did not occur falls once again into the subjective, or faith
      realm. The bible (if there is a God) is intended to teach faith, not science, or history verbatim. Thus stories like Adam and Eve, or Noah may indeed
      be myth, but that does not equate to being untrue. It would be ridiculous to assume Noah had two animals of every species around the world on his boat and that there was a great flood that covered the entire earth because we know that is physically impossible. I remember reading that
      science has shown that there was perhaps a great flood in the middle east some ten thousand years ago or so. if the people had become so evil that God was going to put an end to a people in a certain area, and inspired one man to build a boat, etc. that event may have actually occurred. But the truth conveyed is that God will go to great extent to give people the opportunity to repent, and he will still preserve those who attempt to remain faithful?
      Furthermore, miracles that occurred in the New Testament may be doubted
      by some very liberal theologians (the Jesus seminar) but if the majority of
      scholars who do utilize the historical critical method (as I do) believe that
      they occurred, should we then conclude that they definitely occurred? We cannot prove miracles of the past occurred but we also cannot prove they did not occur, so it still remains in the faith realm no matter which side of the issue we may fall on?

      5) The failure of "God of the gaps" arguments, such as the Argument from Design, has made scientists doubtful of more recent "God of the gaps" arguments, such as the "fine-tuning argument": i.e., arguing from current
      scientific ignorance seems a losing game given that scientists keep coming up with naturalistic, atheistic explanations for problems that were once
      mysteries.

      The notion of the “God of the gaps” argument I feel is a
      misrepresentation of what theists believe. As I said earlier about the baseball game, knowing what occurred in the game does not nullify the outcome of the game, or minimize the talent of the athletes, it simply gives me a deeper appreciation for what actually occurred. I suspect some scientists misunderstand believers in this notion, thinking as I believe Dawkins postulated, “we can’t explain it, therefore God did it”. Science gives many theologians a deeper appreciation for science and therefore for the creator? We don’t posit the idea; “now that we know how it happened, we don’t need God anymore?”

      I may further posit an “atheist of the gaps” theory that goes like this; something in nature points to an intelligence, or points to a very powerful force in the universe. Instead of acknowledging perhaps a powerful creator, I’m going to fill in the gap with the idea that; “science doesn’t have the answer yet, but will eventually come to it.” thus I’ve relegated the apparent creative genius, or power to some future date when the god of chance will provide the answer? That I believe is also a “faith” in science argument.

      "6) Philosophy offered various props to religion, but those props have been yanked away as philosophy itself has sunk into disrepute. Old philosophical issues, such as "Does change in an entity always come from external sources, or can change be caused purely internally," just seem silly to modern science. E.g., when an object is moving, is the change in its position caused externally or internally? That seems a bizarre question to a physicist: indeed, whether its position is changing depends on the frame of reference of the observer."

      7) The experience both of human history and of natural science shows that subjective feelings, inner intuition, one's interior voice, personal desires, spiritual messages, etc. are very poor avenues to learning about external reality unless confirmed by external objective evidence.. The problem of course is that different people hear different interior voices and spiritual messages, have different intuitions and deepest desires, etc. Skeptical scientists therefore do not take seriously the subjectivist turn in modern religion, often taking it as further evidence that religion is simply fantasies that people find personally comforting.

      I think this may once again be confusing science and faith. If I’m having heart problems I’m not going to go to a theologian to adjust the problem, I’m going to go to a heart surgeon. However if I’ve just lost a loved one, and am attempting to find a way to move on, to make sense out of the situation, the theologian may have more to offer than the heart surgeon?

      "8) What science has learned about reality, the whole mechanistic, cosmological, quantitative way of thinking of modern science, fits very badly with the teleological, anthropocentric, purpose-driven worldview of religion. We see this in this thread where the religious contributors keep trying to make points that simply seem nonsensical to scientists."

      Again, I think this falls under the notion of science has all the answers. The analogy John Lennox used in his book; “has science buried God” is a good description to understand the difference. If Mrs. Murphy baked a cake, a biologist may be able to tell you how the yeast reacted with the ingredients,
      a physicist may be able to tell you how the heat effected the development of the cake, a doctor may be able to tell you how the sugar will effect one’s
      taste buds, but none of them will be able to tell you why she baked the cake. Nevertheless, the motivation of why she baked the cake is still a truth that science cannot address. There are simply some questions that science cannot answer, but that does not mean that those questions aren’t
      important.

      "9) Most of us scientists are well-aware that most of our fellow citizens are caught between pre-scientific worldviews and modern scientific ways of thinking. But, most religious believers really do seem to think that what they consider to be "Reason," the way of thinking characteristic of John Calvin, Thomas Aquinas, et al., really is more or less similar to scientific reasoning. It just isn't, as earlier exchanges on this thread (and throughout the Web) demonstrate."

      I would agree that Aquinas and Calvin were both very rational thinkers as are scientists. Where I may disagree is that I believe a scientist who is also an atheist has faith alongside their understanding science. A believer, who may or may not be a scientist also has faith alongside their understanding of science. An atheist has faith in things they cannot prove, that God does not exist, that various physicists are accurate about a theory when they
      have little empirical data, or that the design in nature is really just chance
      in nature. Those are all faith proclamations that cannot be proven. Thus
      both the atheist and the believer have faith alongside their knowledge of
      science.

      • physicistdave

        Hi, Sean.

        It is late, even out here in California, and it will probably be a day or two before I have time to deal with your detailed comments.

        I’ll try to reply briefly to your opening questions, though.

        You wrote:
        >I regret that you did not recommend this to be perhaps a summary of what many atheist and agnostics believe.

        Well, I did intend my points to summarize what I think most atheistic scientists and scientifically-inclined atheists think about religion. One of the reasons I posted it was to see how guys like O. Quine responded: it sounds as if he does more or less agree with my summary, which I think is significant since he and I do differ on, for example, the mind-body problem.

        Incidentally, I did not include some of the strongest reasons why I myself am hostile to Christianity, since I am pretty sure they did not apply to Einstein or to many other scientists and so are not relevant to the topic of the above posting.

        My strongest personal reasons are what I see as the enormous moral hypocrisy of nearly all Christians, who are actively hostile to the distinctive moral teachings of Jesus (e.g., non-resistance to evil) and what I see as the deeply immoral worship of a god who is supposedly condemning billions of innocent people to eternal torment in Hell.

        You also wrote:
        >Perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad idea to contact them and attempt to develop a summary that you could agree on to be an article on this site?

        Well, as many of us atheists have said, atheism is simply a negative position, and it is hard to really find much consensus among atheists. Probably the best that can be done is the sort of informal discussion that has occurred here among atheists of somewhat similar views.

        If Brandon is ever interested in my expanding it into an actual posting, I'd be willing to give it a try.

        By the way, I do not think the reasons I listed provide a conclusive refutation of any sort of theism, simply because I do not think a conclusive refutation of theism in general is possible. I think it is more likely than not that there is no god of any sort, but I do not think the weight of the evidence is all that strong.

        Most atheists I have discussed the issue with have a similar view.

        I do think the evidence against traditional dogmatic Christianity is overwhelming, however.

        Dave

      • physicistdave

        Sean,

        It's been a busy weekend, and I think this thread has sort of died, but I will try to reply briefly to some of your comments as I promised.

        You wrote:
        >I would certainly agree with your premise that if everybody is claiming to be the sole authority on an event or theoretical event that cannot be proven it may very well be that nobody’s right. Where I may differ though is that I don’t believe most religions inherently believe every other religion is wrong.

        I fear you missed my point: I was simply making the quite obvious point that the whole reason Christians talk about the Virgin Birth and Resurrection is that these are surely not common events! If they ever occur at all, they have been very rare, so to justify them, Christians need convincing evidence. They lack such evidence, since handed down oral testimony is notoriously unreliable, the New Testament is horribly self-contradictory, and "spiritual experience" provides whatever called by the tradition of which the spiritualist is a member.

        Sean also wrote:
        > I would disagree that science has disproven design in nature but I would agree that it has helped us to understand that design if in fact there is a designer.

        Again, I fear you miss my point: Before Darwin, theists thought they had a good argument for a designer. Post Darwin, we have a perfectly plausible alternative hypothesis. That does not prove there was no designer, but it does kill the argument that claims there has to have been one.

        Sean also wrote:
        >f the majority of scholars who do utilize the historical critical method (as I do) believe that they occurred, should we then conclude that they definitely occurred?

        I do not think there is any such scholar.

        Sean also wrote:
        >I think this may once again be confusing science and faith...

        No, "faith" is fantasizing, guessing, or simple make-believe. I know that Christians have filled thousands of pages trying to come up with some more arcane and incomprehensible meaning of "faith," but it always boils down to that.

        Sean also wrote:
        >I would agree that Aquinas and Calvin were both very rational thinkers

        Again, I fear you misunderstood me: by the standards of reason employed by scientists, Aquinas and Calvin were not rational at all, but merely bizarrely superstitious and dogma-ridden fools. (Yes, many scientists are too polite to say thin in public and are instead just quietly thankful that Aquinas and Calvin no longer have the influence they once had.).

        In general, Sean, I am afraid you are horribly underestimating the dramatic gap separating most elite scientists (e.g., as surveyed in the famous Larson-Witham study) from people such as yourself.

        You seem to think we view your beliefs as semi-plausible, having some reasonable degree of evidence, etc.

        We don't: we view your beliefs as far goofier than, say, astrology.

        We do not think we need to disprove your beliefs any more than we need to disprove the existence of the Tooth Fairy. Both sets of beliefs are so extraordinarily improbably that there is no reason to consider them seriously at all unless there is some pretty strong and convincing evidence for your beliefs.

        But, nowadays, even many Christians are not willing to make that claim: at most, they try to argue that your beliefs are not logically impossible.

        The Tooth Fairy is not logically impossible, just highly implausible, just like your beliefs.

        I'm not trying to be mean, but just to frankly explain how most elite scientists view your beliefs.

        Dave

        • Fr.Sean

          Hi Dave,

          Sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner, I had a busy weekend
          etc. I agree that I think this post has
          died but I still enjoy talking about it and learning from your perspective.

          “ I fear you missed my point: I was simply making the quite obvious point that the whole reason Christians talk about the Virgin Birth and Resurrection is that these are surely not common events! If they ever occur at all, they have been very rare, so to justify them, Christians need convincing evidence. They lack such evidence, since handed down oral testimony is notoriously unreliable, the New Testament is horribly self-contradictory, and "spiritual experience" provides whatever called by the tradition of which the spiritualist is a member.”

          Sorry I misunderstood your point, I would agree that it’s
          pretty difficult to go back in time to prove something in an empirical way if you don’t have physical evidence. It falls
          into a faith issue I suppose that is largely based on human testimony as you said. I suppose if one may assume for
          the sake of argument that if there was a God who originated the laws of nature etc. that that God could violate the laws when he saw fit to, but since we can’t
          prove it in a material way we simply have to leave it as a faith issue.

          “Again, I fear you miss my point: Before Darwin, theists
          thought they had a good argument for a designer. Post Darwin, we have a perfectly plausible alternative hypothesis. That does not prove there was no designer, but it does kill the argument that claims there has to have been one.”

          I agree that Darwin has shown there is another possible
          alternative. Prior to reading about apologetics
          and focusing on evolution I had never realized how often some scientists see faith as almost antagonistic to science and reason. I know there are some Christians who don’t
          believe in evolution but I would imagine most scientists don’t think we’re all young earth creationists. It’s evident
          to see that at the very least the evolutionary theory points to natural historical events, you’d have to be blind or ignorant of reality to ignore that. But prior to reading a lot about this I had always assumed you could just about prove God existed in an empirical way. I realize that I was wrong, but I still think the laws of nature and physics certainly point to a designer. Incidentally, I was reading about the fine
          tuning of the universe. That to me almost appears to be and obvious indication of a creator. But what I read from came from various theists (there interpretation not the data specifically) could you recommend an atheist article on the explanation or refutation of the fine tuning of the universe? I would like to hear what they have to say on the subject?

          “I do not think there is any such scholar.”

          When I was in the seminary we studied the “historical
          critical method” which is a method used to scientifically evaluate scripture if you will. One such Scholar we studied
          was a German scholar named Rudolf Bultman.
          Bultman was known for developing the idea of “source criticism” which I will spare you the details of. The other
          thing Bultman was known for was connecting the miracles in the Gospels to the notion of “myth” . Bultman did not think
          they actually happened. We studied countless other scholars, and while most, if not all of them would put things
          like Johna being in the belly of a whale for three days is the “myth” category I had never heard of a another scripture scholar besides bultmann putting the miracles of Jesus into the same category. I would not waste any of your time trying to find another scripture scholar who does not believe the miracles of Jesus had a historical occurrence to
          them because most scholars take that to be a given (other than bultman and the Jesus seminar).

          “No, "faith" is fantasizing, guessing, or simple make-believe. I know that Christians have filled thousands of pages trying to come up with some more arcane and incomprehensible meaning of "faith," but it always boils down to that.”

          I would respectfully disagree. This is not my faith. My faith is based on a historical person that has led to certain experiences in my life to help me to know God exists. I would be dishonest if I did not say I was 99.99% sure that he exists so I would just say my faith is based on something I firmly believe is real, but I cannot convey it to you unless you were to tread a similar path. Nevertheless, I think we
          may just have to agree to disagree on this topic. However I do often think when people subscribe to the various explanations of the perfection of the universe as the
          idea that there are other universe (multiuniverse, Tegmark or axims) that this is a faith issue in that there’s almost no evidence to support they are true. One would believe in a physicist’s theory simply based on faith in his understanding. I’m not saying they definitely are not true
          but I think it does need to fall into the faith category.

          “You seem to think we view your beliefs as semi-plausible,
          having some reasonable degree of evidence, etc.
          We don't: we view your beliefs as far goofier than, say, astrology. We do not think we need to disprove your
          beliefs any more than we need to disprove the existence of the Tooth Fairy. Both sets of beliefs are so extraordinarily improbably that there is no reason to consider them seriously at all unless there is some pretty strong and
          convincing evidence for your beliefs.”

          Again, I think this may be confusing the issue. The best thing to study our physical material universe is science. Science cannot comment on faith issues because it simply isn’t in it’s realm. The elite scientists you mentioned is your
          subjective opinion which I respect, but I certainly would not appeal to their expertise or opinion if I was going to have heart surgery, or was attempting to discern what was wrong with my car. Similarly I would not appeal to a scientists if I was attempting to discern theology or how to grow in my faith etc. having said that I do very much appreciate and value their opinion when it comes to science. They do give me a deeper appreciation for the universe and for the natural history of our world, which I value as someone who is a layperson on the subjects.

          Again, if you could recommend an atheists discussion on the fine-tuning of the universe or a refutation that it is fine-tuned I would like to read it to see their perspective.
          Please don’t feel the need to apologize for being mean, I do enjoy discussing this with you because I know you have a great deal more knowledge one physics and astronomy, and I like to hear what you have to say.

          • physicistdave

            Sean wrote to me:

            >I would not waste any of your time trying to find another scripture scholar who does not believe the miracles of Jesus had a historical occurrence to them because most scholars take that to be a given (other than bultman and the Jesus seminar).

            No need to waste any of my time: I can name many off the top of my head:

            Bart Ehrman is an obvious example: look in his books and you will find numerous others.

            Gerd :Ludemann is another.

            And, of course, Bultmann had countless students.

            I'm sorry, Dean, but they lied to you in seminary if they told you that critical historians generally believed in the miracles.

            Dave

          • Michael Murray

            According to Dan Dennett the protestant seminaries pretty much tell an accurate story on biblical history. Somewhat to the surprise of the seminarians. I guess the Catholic Church doesn't do that.

            http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/Non-Believing-Clergy.pdf

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Michael,

            i suppose you could say there are various ways one can examine scripture. the most scientific, and critical method is called the historical critical method, which the church recognizes as a tool to understand scripture. When it comes to scripture study the top scholars don't get overly concerned about whether or not one is Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish, they simply attempt to do a scientific annalysis to get to what actually happened, how one should understand the connotations of various words etc. Scholars like Raymond Brown, Joseph Fitzmeyer, C. H. Dodd, Rodolf Schnackburg, and Herman Gunkel, and Rudolph Bultmann have been very influential in the development and understanding of scripture. of all of the influential scholars, only Bultmann placed the miracles in the "myth" catagory, every other Christian exegit believes in the miracles. Bart Ehrman and Greg Ludmann don 't believe God exists so how can one consider them to be a credible voice on the subject? we were always encouraged to see prayer as an important part of one's life. Faith is like a muscle so if you don't pray it becomes week. Luke Ch. 8 reveals this phenomenon.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Dave,

            Thanks for your reply. I realized after i sent that last response last night that i had made a mistake but didn't feel like responding simply just to correct a mistake. when i was in the seminary we studied scripture scholars who naturally contributed a great deal to the development and understanding of Scripture. Rudolph Bultmann was naturally one of them. He was known not for "source" criticism but for "form" criticism, which basically entails that Jesus said and did certain things. many of the things he did were remembered and circulated around in the oral tradition. so basically when an evangelist was comprising his Gospel narrative he would take a specific event, not knowning exactly the details around the event and compile a story to created the rest of the narrative. perhaps a good example would be when Jesus says "render on to Cesar what is Cesar's and to God what is Gods". Bultmann would say that Jesus almost certainly said that but much of the material surrounding it would be developed from others memories and from his own style of writing. another example perhaps would be the story of the Good Seminarian. Bultmann's contribution was important for two reasons 1. the first one was that it gives us a window if you will into the historical person of Jesus, and what actually occurred.

            2. because Bultmann put most of the miracles occurrences in the myth category what he was trying to do was to get the readers to focus on what Jesus would say. in other words, if one believes this Jesus was the Son of God and one believes he talked about things, and performed miracles, the miracles at this point really only give credence to what Jesus would say. one can perhaps take a scientific analysis of the reaction of the hearers to determine if he did in fact perform miracles, but still since we don't have a time machine it will always be a bit of a stalemate if you will. But what he SAID will be important. if this historical figure was the Son of God, you can imagine that you really would want to hear what he said; about life, eternity, etc. (Jesus was fully human as well as fully divine so he didn't have unlimited knowledge, aka, didn't always know what would happen the next day because he was human as well) so if i go through the scriptures and focus on what he said, what would i learn about life, about faith, etc.? Bultmann gave us perhaps another lens though which to look at scripture but almost every other scripture scholar would disagree that Jesus did not perform miracles? Secondly, i looked at Wikipedia on the two scripture scholars you mentioned because i had never heard of them. Now, if i had taken two physicists, and held them up for the common mind and thought pattern of modern physics but these two physicists largely disagreed with the common understanding of physics, would that be a fair assessment of the science? if you do want to research some of the more prominent and influential Scripture scholars besides Bultmann i would recommend Raymond Brown, Joseph Fitzmeyer, C. H. Dodd, Rodolf Schnackburg, and Herman Gunkel.

          • physicistdave

            Sean,

            This thread has gotten so deeply nested that it is getting confusing, so I have posted my reply at the end.

          • If they believed in miracles, they would not be critical historians.

            An excellent reason to proceed with rapid and long-overdue weeding out of critical historians from Catholic seminaries.

            After all, they can find plenty of employment opportunities elsewhere, without being given the imprimatur of the Church in their axiomatic rejection of the foundational premise of the Faith itself- that God exists and that He has taken human flesh and blood, died, and risen from the dead for our salvation.

            No scholar who rejects this axiomatically, on the basis that his scientific discipline rules it out in advance, ought to have any place at all in the formation of priests, except perhaps as an assigned reading as part of a thorough and excellent preparation for his refutation,

          • physicistdave

            Sean wrote to me:

            > Incidentally, I was reading about the fine tuning of the universe. That to me almost appears to be and obvious indication of a creator. But what I read from came from various theists (there interpretation not the data specifically) could you recommend an atheist article on the explanation or refutation of the fine tuning of the universe?

            My fellow physicist and atheist Vic Stenger has written at some length on this in various places, and I suppose I should mention my old professor Lenny Susskind's popular writings on the "Landscape.". But, in all honesty, the whole "fine tuning" thing is very, very flaky: blind men groping about in the dark -- the multiverse and the landscape, the anthropic principle, etc. It is all just chattering away about stuff beyond the limits of current science, more sci-fi than science. It is likely that when we eventually understand all this better, it will all seem pretty silly.

            Dave

          • There are certainly many scientists who consider the fine tuning arguments anything but "flaky"- I have talked personally to several of the more prominent among them.

            One reason we hear so much talk about the multiverse of late (we will start to hear much less, I predict, now that Planck2013 has essentially put a loaded gun to the head of the inflation hypothesis itself)- is that the alternative is so indescribably horrifying for the atheist.

            The alternative to the multiverse is a universe with large scale structure oriented to Earth, in a universe extremely fine-tuned for life, which has failed to produce any evidence of other intelligent life despite breezy assurances back when SETI was rattling its cup that it were a mathematical certainty we should have obtained such evidence long since......

            Drake's equation having gone to the special place reserved for mathematical certainties that aren't- call it the Parson Malthus Hall of Shame- we are left with a state of play that is more profoundly threatening to the entire edifice of New Atheism's long-enjoyed cosmological supremacy, than has been the case at any time within the last hundred years at least.

          • The models made by physics are fine tuned to match experimental observation so that they can make accurate predictions. The idea that that implies that reality is "fine tuned," makes the error of mistaking the map for the territory. (Here is my blog post about that from a few years ago.)

          • "The models made by physics are fine tuned to match experimental observation so that they can make accurate predictions"

            >> OK. So the models must be fine tuned in order to match the reality they describe.

            "The idea that that implies that reality is "fine tuned," makes the error of mistaking the map for the territory."

            >> This does not seem to follow. If our models must be exquisitely fine-tuned in order to map the reality they describe, then it is reasonable to propose that the Designer of the reality being described is as superior to the mapmaker, as reality is to the map.

          • Fr.Sean

            Thanks Dave,

            I agree, i tried to read Tegmark's as well as i think it's axiom's multiverse theories as well as a few others but i couldn't really understand the theories entirely because i don't have enough of an education in physics. I also had the same questions you did. i wondered why eminent physicists would find something so plausible a theory that had so little grounding in actual scientific observation? I also felt that the anthropic principle seemed more like a distraction because it still didn't answer the fundamental question? it did make me think though, i heard Dawkins say once that the universe's Darwin hasn't come to light as of yet? but Darwin had the galapagos islands, fossiles and other material to observe. i can't imagine how one will ever be able to answer some of those fundamental questions without such data? i do think had Darwin not been around someone else shortly there after would have made the same discoveries, because the observable material was right there? I suspect some questions about the formation of the Universe are always going to remain unanswered?

          • i can't imagine how one will ever be able to answer some of those fundamental questions without such data?

            Yes, that is a tough question. We get direct observational data in cosmology going back to about 300k years after extrapolated time zero, when the Universe cooled down enough to become transparent to photons. The cosmic background microwave signals we see today are a "fossil" of that time. In the future our descendants (if they exist) may be able to construct gravity wave receivers that may get data from even further back.

            Also, remember that "ever" is a long time. If our descendants go even a hundred thousand years in the future, they are going to be far more different from us than we are from our ancestors of a hundred thousand years ago. We can't possible imagine what these future beings might know.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Quine,
            I think you're right, in fact it really is astounding to think how much we've learned in the last 100 years. i watched Krauss's video on the universe which he did an amazing job on explaining it for lay people. it certainly makes you appreciate advances in physics and astronomy. we will get some answers but i can't help but to think a lot of questions will always remain unanswered? but to think how much they've learned simply based on what we can observe from telescopes and observable material data is overwhelming.

          • Indeed. :-)

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Quine,
            thanks for suggesting that video, it was very interesting and informative. it gave me a deeper appreciation and understanding for the universe and for entropy. do you have any idea what would happen if earth was one one of the outer galaxies? would we just see mostly a black sky on one side of the solar system? i thought i remember seeing from Krauss's video that basically the universe is expanding like a bubble, with most of the planets and stars on the outside? if that's true i don't quite seem to understand why you see relatively the same number of stars no matter what direction you look in?

          • Hi Sean,

            I am glad to hear that you got something out of that presentation by Dr. Carroll. Two things that are hard to picture are the world of the very very small, and the world of the very very large. We have to use analogies that do not carry the kind of accuracy that the mathematical models do (that's because the models are continually corrected if they don't). In the case of Universal expansion, the physicists like to analogize to expanding bread with raisins it. As the 'space' expands, the raisins get farther apart, but don't get larger themselves. In the case of galaxies that is because their gravity holds them together as the space expands. The raisins are not all on the outer surface of the bread so it is not exactly like the surface of a "bubble." It is theorized that, in the future, when the space expansion rate gets large enough, the gravity in galaxies will be overcome by the expansion and they will be torn apart.

            I do not know how to answer your question about the "edge" of space. You can read through this article about the Shape of Space to see that it is not so simple. Some theories say that because of the accumulated gravity of the whole Universe, the light from anywhere is going to circle around, so everywhere you are going to see something in all viewing angles. I am not a cosmologist, so I can't give you a "best current understanding" answer. But if you search around you may find articles from qualified cosmologists that directly address your question.

            I hope that helps, at least somewhat.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Quine,
            that explanation does help. i was thinking like you said if it was really like a bubble there would be one area of space where there wouldn't be as many stars because that would be in the direction of away from the original singularity. He said you can pretty much see uniform stars in any direction. so then i thought any light going out from galaxies, if they were going by our solar system perhaps would get pulled in by gravity so it would appear that there are more stars on the "darker" side than appeared. But then that would mean that you would basically see the same galaxies from different angles, or you see them twice. but i noticed he didn't say anything like that. i noticed that sometimes studying physics or astronomy you sometimes get your questions answered, but at a cost of getting more questions.

          • :-)

        • Fr.Sean

          Hi Dave,

          Sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner, I had a busy weekend
          etc. I agree that I think this post has died but I still enjoy talking about it and learning from your perspective.

          “ I fear you missed my point: I was simply making the quite obvious point that the whole reason Christians talk about the Virgin Birth and Resurrection is that these are
          surely not common events! If they ever occur at all, they have been very rare, so to justify them, Christians need convincing evidence. They lack such evidence, since handed down oral testimony is notoriously unreliable, the New Testament is horribly self-contradictory, and "spiritual experience" provides whatever called by the tradition of which the spiritualist is a member.”

          Sorry I misunderstood your point, I would agree that it’s
          pretty difficult to go back in time to prove something in an empirical in terms of the virgin birth. But I would say
          perhaps the resurrection does have some evidence in that all of the disciples (except for Judas whom had taken his life out of guilt) courageously went out to the places where they knew they could get apprehended to boldly proclaim
          that had seem arisen. One might make the case that one or two decided to risk losing their lives for someone whom didn’t rise from the dead, but all eleven? And the
          death that they incurred, crucifixion (except for John of course). I don’t know about you but it would take a lot for me to go to a cross to die in such a way, yet all of them did? What compelled them to be so courageous, that had to witness something. Thus, if the resurrection occurred it wouldn’t be to far of a stretch to assume the virgin
          birth. I suppose if one may assume for the sake of argument that if there was a God who originated the laws of nature etc. that that God could violate the laws when he saw fit to, but since we can’t prove it in a material way we simply have to leave it as a faith issue.

          “Again, I fear you miss my point: Before Darwin, theists
          thought they had a good argument for a designer. Post Darwin, we have a
          perfectly plausible alternative hypothesis. That does not prove there was no
          designer, but it does kill the argument that claims there has to have been
          one.”

          I agree that Darwin has shown there is another possible
          alternative. Prior to reading about apologetics and focusing on evolution I had never realized how often some scientists see faith as almost antagonistic to science and reason. I know there are some Christians who don’t believe in evolution but I would imagine most scientists don’t think we’re all young earth creationists. It’s evident to see that at the very least the evolutionary theory points to natural
          historical events, you’d have to be blind or ignorant of reality to ignore that. But prior to reading a lot about
          this I had always assumed you could just about prove God existed. I realize that I was wrong, but I still think the laws of nature and physics certainly point to a designer. Incidentally, I was reading about the fine tuning of the universe. That to me almost appears to be and obvious indication of a creator. But what I read from came from various theists (there interpretation not the data specifically) could you recommend an atheist article on the explanation or refutation of the fine tuning of the
          universe? I would like to hear what they have to say on the subject?

          “I do not think there is any such scholar.”

          When I was in the seminary we studied the “historical
          critical method” which is a method used to scientifically evaluate scripture if you will. One such Scholar we studied
          was a German scholar named Rudolf Bultman.
          Bultman was known for developing the idea of “source criticism” which I will spare you the details of. The other
          thing Bultman was known for was connecting the miracles in the Gospels to the notion of “myth” . Bultman did not think
          they actually happened. Bultman was particularly known for this. We studied countless other scholars, and while most, if not all of them would put things like Johna being in the belly of a whale for three days is the “myth” category I had never heard of a another scripture scholar besides bultmann putting the miracles of Jesus into the same category.
          I would not waste any of your time trying to find another scripture scholar who does not believe the miracles of Jesus had a historical occurrence to them because most scholars take that to be a given (other than bultman and
          the Jesus seminar).

          “No, "faith" is fantasizing, guessing, or simple make-believe. I know that Christians have filled thousands of pages trying to come up with some more arcane and incomprehensible meaning of "faith," but it always boils down to that.”

          I would respectfully disagree. This is not my faith. My faith is based on a historical person that has led to certain experiences in my life to help me to know God exists. I would be dishonest if I did not say I was 99.99% sure that he exists so I would just say my faith is based on something I firmly believe is real, but I cannot convey it to you unless you were to tread a similar path. Nevertheless, I think we
          may just have to agree to disagree on this topic. However I do often think when people subscribe to the various explanations of the perfection of the universe as the
          idea that there are other universe (multiuniverse, Tegmark or axims) that this is a faith issue in that there’s almost no evidence to support they are true. One would believe in a physicist’s theory simply based on faith in his understanding. I’m not saying they definitely are not true
          but I think it does need to fall into the faith category.

          “You seem to think we view your beliefs as semi-plausible,
          having some reasonable degree of evidence, etc.
          We don't: we view your beliefs as far goofier than, say, astrology. We do not think we need to disprove your
          beliefs any more than we need to disprove the existence of the Tooth Fairy. Both sets of beliefs are so extraordinarily improbably that there is no reason to consider them seriously at all unless there is some pretty strong and
          convincing evidence for your beliefs.”

          Again, I think this may be confusing the issue. The best thing to study our physical material universe is science. Science cannot comment on faith because it simply isn’t in it’s realm. My faith is based on historical events that simply cannot be proven the way many historical events
          2000 years ago also cannot be proven. The elite scientists you mentioned is your subjective opinion which I respect, but I certainly would not appeal to their expertise or opinion if I was going to have heart surgery, or was attempting to
          discern what was wrong with my car. Similarly I would not appeal to a scientists if I was attempting to discern theology or how to grow in my faith etc. having said that I do very much appreciate and value their opinion when it comes to science. They do give me a deeper appreciation for the
          universe and for the natural history of our world, which I value as someone who is a layperson on the subjects.

          Again, if you could recommend an atheists discussion on the fine-tuning of the universe or a refutation that it is fine-tuned I would like to read it to see their perspective.
          Please don’t feel the need to apologize for being mean, I do enjoy discussing this with you because I know you have a great deal more knowledge one physics and astronomy, and I like to hear what you have to say.

          • "I had always assumed you could just about prove God existed. I realize that I was wrong"

            Oh, my.

            Dear God, help our priests.

            First Vatican Council

            Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith

            Canon 2

            DE FIDE DEFINITA

            1. If anyone says that the one, true God, our creator and lord, cannot be known with certainty from the things that have been made, by the natural light of human reason: let him be anathema.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Rick,

            Thanks for your reply, i suppose it deserves some clarification. in
            order to clarify i need to establish a couple of perhaps guidelines.

            1. we (you and I) don't convert anyone, God does. all we can do is get
            them to think. no one ever wins an argument, all we can do is get them
            to think. if you get someone to the point where they are genuinely open
            and honest and search for God in a humble manner i believe God will
            reveal himself to them. so try to get them to honestly look at the
            Gospel, pray and ask God to reveal himself to them.

            2. i read that a lot of atheists became atheists because they have been
            hurt, or offended by people of faith, thus trying to push to hard is
            going to push them away from the faith not towards it, you still have to
            push a little to get them to think but if you push to hard, pride gets
            involved and they're gone.

            3. there is no one so blind as someone who refuses to see. i believe
            aquinas's five proofs as well as fine tuning and the natural law are
            definitive proof, but it's not the kind of proof one can pull out of a
            box and say , "here it is, okay, believe now?" if someone refuses to see
            you have to be patient and respectful with them.

            4. i once heard a lawyer say, "if your client's innocent, stick with
            the fact, if guilty, confuse the jury." we all do that when we argue or
            discuss things. if we feel that are particular point is not all that
            well thought out, or perhaps even faulty it's natural to change the
            subject (confuse the jury) instead of acknowledging our particular point
            isn't that strong. in discussing things with atheists i've noticed
            that whenever moving to an obvious conclusion they simply change the
            subject every time you're moving towards the obvious conclusion. one
            way they change the subject is by being insulting or negative towards
            the person their discussing things with. now instead of discussing the
            subject at hand, it's now whether their opponent has some negative
            quality, aka, they're off the topic. i've also noticed it with other
            discussions on this site. when that happens in a discussion try to gently get them back to the subject, don't respond to negative comments they may say about you just try to return to the topic at hand. subsequently we have to remember that it
            isn't winning the argument that's going to get them to think, it's our
            disposition, being respectful, kind but somewhat insistent on our
            particular perspective that will get them to think, not "winning an
            argument" or making their perspective look faulty.

            5. i once read a psychological description of how one comes to modify
            their positions, or how one comes to believe anything (not just faith
            issues) that goes like this;

            1. outright rejecting of an idea

            2. ridicule and dismissiveness.

            3. acceptance of belief

            thus, if this pattern is right than i think a lot of the atheists, if
            not all are on number 2. being respectful and kind has a better chance
            of moving them on to step three. remember Rick, they are here, they are
            discussing the issues. why? if they were simply happy atheists,
            content to do their own thing, they wouldn't be here. we have to lead
            them along not force them or attempt to make their positions look
            foolish.

            6. i have some questions about physics that i don't know and i can't
            find and answer on. i was going to ask dave but i was afraid if dave
            knew where i was going i wouldn't get an objective answer (no offense
            dave if you are reading this). if you've studied physics i was thinking
            perhaps you could answer them for me. if you wouldn't mind could you go
            to my website at 2fish.co
            . go to the "contact" button. then go to the "ask a priest" tab and
            send me an e-mail. i'll e-mail you my questions. if you don't have an
            education in physics don't worry about it. i do have to say thought
            i've read your posts and i wish i had your knowledge of science, because
            i feel hampered by my lack of education on the subjects.

          • Michael Murray

            2. i read that a lot of atheists became atheists because they have been hurt, or offended by people of faith,

            Sorry to step into the middle of your conversation but that's life on the internet !

            In my experience of reading http://www.richarddawkins.net for some 5 years there are definitely a lot of people who have had bad religious experiences. They seem to be predominantly from the US. Read some of them here

            http://www.richarddawkins.net/foundation_articles/2012/12/31/facebook-what-fears-you-faced-based-on-religion

            There are also a of people who just don't believe in any kind of god. Either like me they were raised religious and left it because they didn't believe in any of it or, like my wife and children, they were just raised without reference to any religion and just find it unbelievable and illogical.

            There are also another bunch who self-identify as Christian and would no-doubt reject atheist but hardly believe anything you might expect an atheist to believe.
            Have a look here are a careful poll down for the Dawkin's site on what people who say yes to the Christian option on the UK Census really believe

            http://old.richarddawkins.net/articles/644941-rdfrs-uk-ipsos-mori-poll-1-how-religious-are-uk-christians

            http://old.richarddawkins.net/articles/644942-rdfrs-uk-ipsos-mori-poll-2-uk-christians-oppose-special-influence-for-religion-in-public-policy

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Michael,

            Thanks for your response, and i appreciate you chiming in.

            if you wouldn't mind, just for the sake of argument so you can see things from my perspective, just assume God exists, and that i have some innate knowledge that he does, that i cannot simply just give to you ( again for the sake of argument and so i don't have to repeat it). i had always thought atheists were atheists because of several different reasons, either, a person of faith was mean to them, something unfortunate happened in their life so they were venting their anger at God by taking a position that he didn't exist, or because of pride that they didn't like the idea of appealing to a higher power. furthermore, i had thought that everyone has a relationship with God it's just that for some people it was dormant. a few years ago i was reading some guy's article on religions in the u.s. and it dawned on me, this guy really doesn't believe there is such a thing as God. He think's the only place God exists is in the minds of people. it sunk in that there was another type of atheist, or at least a source of atheism that i had not thought of, that for many atheists, their source isn't some bad experience, it's just that the whole thing doesn't make sense to them.

            subsequently, i suppose my goal and perhaps most Catholic poster's goal is to get people to take an honest and objective look at the faith and to be open to the possibility that God exists and that Jesus is God's son. but i certainly don't think a single atheist will do that because i've won an argument or made his or her's position look faulty. perhaps plant a seed and hope they think about it. i noticed that most atheists are always looking at the particular doubts to Christianity, which i fully understand, there are times that you have to investigate your doubts. but i also think their may be wisdom in reversing that. it might be wise to investigate your doubts, by asking yourself the question, "what if Jesus really was the son of God?" what would that mean? well, it would most likely mean that the same spirit that raised him from the dead would have something to do with how the Gospels were formed, so looking at them with an objective view might not be a bad idea? then, prayerfully and humbly asking God that if he is real to reveal himself to you? now, i know you might say, Fr.Sean, why don't you do the same thing?; indeed it's a valid point, i don't really know how else to say this, so please don't feel offended. but looking at my "doubts" and thinking perhaps i am wrong would be like trying to convince me that the world if flat and i have been lied to my whole life. is it possible the world if flat? well, ya, but it is so unlikely based on everything i have read and experienced that doing so would sort of be frustrating.

            i read the articles you posted, and I can see your points as well. i suppose if you look at the Old Testament, to the life of the Israelites. when they came out of the desert they had noting in a material way, as God had blessed them and they began to root themselves in Israel their prosperity grew. subsequently their faith became weak, and eventually they went back into exile. if you look at Eastern Europe, or perhaps anywhere where materialism and prosperity isn't that great, the faith is much stronger, because people learn to rely on God and not on what they have. When Materialism goes up it always has a negative effect on one's dependence on God because in a sense money has become at least partly their god (in terms of on what they depend for for life and security)
            anyway, as to your original question, naturally there are a lot of atheists who do not believe because it simply doesn't make sense to them, that is true, but despite what the source of their atheism is, in my opinion people of faith should always be respectful, patient and kind no matter how hostile, rude, the atheist may nor may not be.

          • Thanks, Sean, for telling us about coming to understand that some non-believers are the way we are because we have simply concluded that religion is only in the minds of the religious. Also, thanks for the call to be "respectful, patient and kind no matter" which I try to encourage on both sides.

            You can get an even better idea if you read some books by former clergy or missionaries who have reasoned their way out of religion from the inside. I suggest: Godless by Dan Barker and Why I Believed by Kenneth Daniels as starters. (You can read Why I Believed free on-line here.)

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Quine,

            Thanks for the response. i didn't intend on offending people because attempting to convey a message to Rick. anyway, several aspects to your critique of people who've left the faith etc. one is that i read at least from the story you sent that he eventually had to leave his mother's faith etc. the one thing i can identify about his account is that i too remember when i was you pondering the faith and thinking something to the effect of; "i can't just go to church because mom and dad want me to go, if i'm going to go to church i should go because i want to go. so i read mere Christianity, the bible (actually started at the beginning then went on to read the New Testament. That naturally led me to a more consistent prayer life until Jesus went from being a mythical person from way back when whom i might meet some day, to a real person whom i seemed to have come to know. or in other words, religion went from being, "obey all the rules so you can make into heaven," to something that gave me peace hope, joy, etc. when i was in the seminary a lot of the guy had entered thinking they were called to be preists whom had made a mistake, they realized they weren't called and left. some guys after ordination simply couldn't deal with celibacy so they would leave and get married. In that article you cited the guy didn't say anything about feeling called to be a priest, he just seemed like it would be a good idea and it be a good religious thing to do. but if your not called to it, it's not a good idea and your going to find it frustrating. The Catholic church teaches that everyone has a specific vocation and it's in that vocation that you will find the most fulfillment. I'm not sure i would use someone who went into the wrong vocation as an example because he was bound to become disappointed. if you do want an idea of why some people abandon the faith at least from our perspective Jesus spoke about that;Luke ch. 8, When a large crowd gathered, with people from one town after another journeying to him, he spoke in a parable.*
            “A sower went out to sow
            his seed. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path and was trampled,
            and the birds of the sky ate it up. Some seed fell on rocky ground, and when it grew, it withered for lack of moisture. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some seed fell on
            good soil, and when it grew, it produced fruit a hundredfold.” After
            saying this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”d...This is the meaning of the parable. The seed is the word of God.hThose on the path are the
            ones who have heard, but the devil comes and takes away the word from
            their hearts that they may not believe and be saved. Those on rocky ground
            are the ones who, when they hear, receive the word with joy, but they
            have no root; they believe only for a time and fall away in time of
            trial. As for the seed that
            fell among thorns, they are the ones who have heard, but as they go
            along, they are choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of
            life, and they fail to produce mature fruit. But as for the seed
            that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the
            word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through
            perseverance.

          • I am more specifically interested in the stories of people who did not just leave the clergy, but reasoned their way completely out of faith to become atheists. Many such stories are coming out of the Clergy Project which is there specifically to help church people put together a new life in the secular world.

            I am also not particularly interested in stories from people who just found themselves in a religion in which they did not have deep beliefs. Those would be trivial cases. I more want to know what triggers the kind of working past cognitive dissonance that allows people of faith to hold faith above fact. Sometimes it seems to be very tiny things that start the unraveling, or it can be a long term struggle with something like the problem of evil and suffering (a common 'deal breaker' for many).

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Quine,
            You raise some interesting questions, certainly thought provoking? certainly if someone who was committed to an ideology enough to become a leader walks away from it, it may bring doubt into the ideology to begin with?
            When i was in the seminary we had a Priest give a homily that revolved around a little saying; "if you don't pray you won't stay." that was kind of a common motif that if you felt called, wanted to do it, prayer had to be a part of your life to reach the goal or you may lose your motivation. thing was he said people think that only applies to seminary days, it doesn't. one needs to continue to commit to prayer as a Priest. Prayer gives you motivation, fills you with God's grace, bringing out the idea that you have to be rooted in prayer to be an effective Priest. a few years later i was reading a book on prayer written by a nun. she talked about how sometimes you feel God's presence in prayer, sometimes you may be inspired by a certain scripture passage, etc. sometimes she said, you'll feel dry and empty as if God isn't present. while i won't bore you with all the reasons one might feel dry i'll just say that if discovers the joy and peace that comes from prayer they may start to pray only for the joy and peace, thus sometimes God appears to be absent, thus one commits to it for more selfless reasons. (one of the goals of the Christian life is to become Christ-like or selfless, which again i won't bore you with). but what she said next was important. she said no matter what you feel in prayer something ALWAYS happens. you'll notice it as you go about your day, in how you minister to others, in how you treat others, prayer has an effect on you. now, i remembered her words and realized how true they were. when i am committed to prayer as a priest i do feel more motivated, or enlivened and i can't tell you why, i just am.

            a few years ago we had a priest give us a talk who came from St.Lukes institute which is an institute that is set up to assist priests or other religious who are having problems, either burn out, or alcoholism, or other emotional issues. he said he always asks this one specific question and always get's a relatively similar answer. the question is; "when did you stop praying". the respondents always acknowledge that they DID stop praying. during some time period when they became too busy, or lost interest in it, or stop praying during a dry period. we're always talking about logic and reason vs. faith. they stopped praying, they had problems. cause and effect. now when you were talking about these religious leaders who lost their faith, how do you think they would answer that question; "when did you stop praying"? my guess is that most, if not all would answer as those priests did.

            since you read my earlier post with rick, that is why i was telling him, we can't talk you into the faith. but we can encourage you to PRAY to a God you are not sure exists and ask him to reveal himself to you. read though the gospels, read Mere Christianity, spend some time in prayer. if you do it simply to prove to me that nothing will happen that won't be in a humble manner. but if you pray, humbly, read though the Gospels i'm confident you'll find something? what do you have to lose?

          • Hi Sean, thanks for taking the time shown in your reply. The subject of prayer is also very interesting. Many accounts of reason displacing faith contain passages where the subjects relate "praying about it" extensively to no avail. In some cases, prayer definitely has an impact on the person doing the praying. Prayer and meditation have been shown to have strong self hypnotic or suggestive effects requiring no need for supernatural explanations. You can find that in every cult that springs up in which the devotees experience the "nectar of devotion." Nothing mysterious, our brains can release endorphins during meditation or prayer, and we like them (or even become habituated to them). Perhaps the power of reason lead to seeing prayer for what it is, not the other way around.

            As for me reading scripture, yes, I have done that, which lead me to research where that scripture came from, who were the authors, the history of those times, and how it was copied and changed on its way to our times. I suggest you do the same. Also I suggest you look into the scriptures of other peoples from around the world to see how common it is for people to construct deities, and stories around those deities.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Quine,
            i hope you'll be patient with me, but i'm going to have to wait until tomorrow to read the article. but I would simply say that if we delve into reason and logic we can see a cause and effect relationship. Religious that pray seem happy, contented, Religious that don't pray lose their faith. Remember, all of those Priests i mentioned answered the question the same way, they stopped praying. had that not have some indication of divine assistance or effect it wouldn't be such an accurate cause an effect? if there was no God and prayer was just a self-help thing, many of those priests walking through the door would have said they were still praying. what is it, or what was the source of the assistance in emotional well-being? how would evolution cause the effect on chemistry of the brain to effect their well-being? by the way, i would just say in terms of the accuracy of scriptures etc. If Jesus was the Son of God, and everything he said about the Holy Spirit was true, do you think that same holy Spirit could have had an effect on how the evangelist compiled his Gospel account? If Jesus was the Son of God perhaps one can have confidence when reflecting upon them. Don't get me wrong, i know there are errors, but i also believe the spirit influenced the human writer.

          • That is the theology of presupposition. You have assumed the validity of the scripture to show the validity of the scripture. That is not very persuasive in the eyes of those who don't believe it in the first place.

          • Fr.Sean

            Quine,
            i think we might be misunderstanding each other a little. i'm saying if Jesus really was the son of God, or in other words, if the Person was exactly who he says he was, then he could have affected how the written word was formed?

          • Even if Jesus did live, we don't know what he said he was, we only have what handed down scripture says about him. Before you get to considering some supernatural attributes, you need to establish evidence for belief in the supernatural, at all. We are not going to believe scripture is supernaturally endowed with truth just because it says it is supernaturally endowed with truth. I am sure you don't accept that in either the Holy Quran or Book of Mormon.

          • Andrew G.

            A man goes into a psychiatrist's office with a duck on his head.

            Psychiatrist: "Why do you keep a duck on your head?"

            Man: "It keeps the
            lions away."

            Psychiatrist: "But there are no lions in Manhattan."

            Man:
            "See how well It works!"

            In a deliberately absurd example like this it's easy to see the fallacy. But in more common cases it's harder to spot. Without going into the mathematics, the best rule of thumb is this:

            The value of a piece of evidence is determined primarily by how surprising its existence would be if the hypothesis is false, not on how expected it would be if the hypothesis is true.

            Accordingly, any examination of evidence has to consider the case where the hypothesis is false. It's no good responding with "but what if it's true?" because that leaves the important part of the issue unexamined.

            So, the value (or not) of the gospel accounts as evidence is found in the answer to the following question: "Assuming Jesus was no more than an ordinary human preacher or similar, what are the chances that we would have these kinds of accounts?"

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Quine,

            I was thinking about what you said about prayer benefiting one's life. if there was no God, than it would stand to reason that somehow evolution had guided the development of the human being to release chemicals in the brain when they would pray that would ultimately benefit the human person and increase the chances of ultimately propagating their DNA. Now, i've read the various hypothesis of the source of the natural law proposed by various Atheist. Do you know of any potential theories as to why evolution would guide human beings to benefit from prayer, or do you have any potential theories of your own?

          • Andrew G.

            That would be the fallacy that biologists call "pan-adaptationism" - the false belief that every single feature of an organism - whether toenails or appendices or recurrent laryngeal nerves - is specifically adapted to some purpose rather than being a side effect, or the result of drift, or just a legacy feature.

          • Thanks for that question, Sean, it is a tough one that I have not considered. Always remember that Evolution does not "guide" anything, it just propagates what happens to work. There are people working in a new field called Evolutionary Psychology, where some selection basis is sought for our drives and motivations. However, that kind of study is just starting, and they have a really big problem with gathering evidence to establish cause and effect.

            We would love to know how the organization of our brains evolved.Language had a big impact when it came along, and our ancestors' brains changed along with the development of language in a kind of co-evolution [ref]. (Dan Dennett also mentioned this in a recent talk at Google.) It's another big subject, but at least it has been going for a while and there is widespread effort.

            I am going to think about your question and will let you know if I get anywhere. I know that hearing some words makes our brains (especially the limbic system) put out more chemicals than other words. Children are moved to say words of supplication to parents who are sometimes moved to respond. At the minimum I could envision a mechanism in which the chemicals of emotion from the child-parent communication selected by Evolution, get keyed into if someone makes a mental "parent" by way of a deity, and then gets the brain chemical production through prayer to that parental stand-in. That is just off the top of my head speculation for which I have no supporting evidence, but that is how I would start to think about it.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Quine,
            That sounds good, i'll wait for what you think it might be. i have to drive out to help move my sister so i may be away from the computer for a day or two. if you live in the U.S. have a good memorial day weekend. i guess if you don't then have a good weekend!

          • Thanks, same to you.

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks for the reply Sean. I've come rather late to your discussion with Quine which probably covers what I would have said but I think your comment below is an excellent summary of my position

            this guy really doesn't believe there is such a thing as God. He think's the only place God exists is in the minds of people. it sunk in that there was another type of atheist, or at least a source of atheism that i had not thought of, that for many atheists, their source isn't some bad experience, it's just that the whole thing doesn't make sense to them.

          • Michael, I am trying to learn from the exchange. Sean's comment is as much of a surprise to me as the realization seems to be to him. I thought we had stated all that from the start.

          • Michael Murray

            Yes I thought phyicistdave set it all out nicely in his list of points.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Michael and Quine,
            i do agree, it is rather interesting to see how we both (theists and atheists) have something we feel is so ingrained that we have difficulty understanding the other perspective. this has been a learning experience for me and i appreciate your insights on various aspects of the God question as well as physics and philosophy. by the way as a side note, Mike, i thought i remembered reading you are from Australia. A few years ago i made my first trip there for world youth day. it is an absolutely beautiful country and i really appreciated see the various trees and animals of your continent. one little oddity was that i was looking forward to seeing the sun in the northern hemisphere (i know it's probably weird) but my brain wouldn't do the translation. it just kept appearing that it was in the southern hemisphere and looked like it was rising in the west and setting in the east. i couldn't get my brain to make the adjustment. but it was a fascinating trip!

          • Michael Murray

            Yes I'm from down under. Glad you like it. I know what you mean about the sun. I did my DPhil at Oxford and I soon found my naturally good sense of direction was hopeless in the northern hemisphere. Presumably it was relying unconsciously on where the sun is.

          • Dear Fr. Sean:

            First off may I humbly thank you for every baptism, for every Mass, for every absolution, for every penance, for every anointing, for every sacrifice you have made in the pursuit of the most noble vocation of the human race.

            Please consider my mortification to have offended you, since I have begged God, and received from Him, one simple grace, only this:

            That I would rather die than allow a defined dogma of the Catholic Faith to be undefended should it come to my attention.

            I humbly beg pardon for having offended, and I humbly beg you to consider, prayerfully, whether my intervention might not have been the best that I could do under the circumstances.

            I fully receive every syllable you have addressed to me above, and consider it best to reply privately.

            May God richly bless, keep, strengthen and console you, and THANK YOU.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Rick,
            No problem, you were right i do need to be carefully not to post something i feel is false just to find common ground. when i originally posted it i had said, that "i realize there is no empirical proof that God existed". but i took out empirical because i was trying not to distract from what i was trying to say, but i didn't realize how soft that statement had become. i think one could certainly make a case that their is even empirical proof but that kind of argument is just going to fall into a discussion of semantics. Thank you for correcting my mistake!

          • "we (you and I) don't convert anyone, God does."

            You can't treat the existence of God as a fact in a discussion with atheists ... doing so is dishonest, stupid, and vile, as all godbots are.

            "all we can do is get them to think"

            You're a stupid arrogant asshole with a low IQ.

          • physicistdave

            Sean wrote to me:
            > One might make the case that one or two decided to risk losing their lives for someone whom didn’t rise from the dead, but all eleven?

            Joseph Smith, who was convicted in a court of law of being a con artist (before his greatest con, Mormonism) was martyred. And, a huge number of Germans died following Hitler. Martyrdom has little connection with truth.

            One important point: as Smith shows, martyrs often do not start out planning on getting killed!

            Besides that, we do not know what James the Just actually believed: maybe he considered Jesus to be the equivalent of Isaiah – there are some hints of something like that in Paul.

            Sean also wrote:
            > Science cannot comment on faith because it simply isn’t in it’s realm.

            Well, whether there is something beyond the realm of nature is what is under dispute, isn't it? Your saying such a realm exists is just a fantasy unless you have actual evidence. And, your personal conviction just is not evidence: insane people are often the most sure of themselves.

            More importantly, claims about faith are indeed the subject of history and social science: there have been a huge number of such claims that contradict each other, and that fact cries out for explanation. And there is an explanation: humans are prone to delusion, unless they follow the very strict discipline of the scientific method (which, as you point out, Tegmark's work does not -- Max is doing sci-fi, not science).

            My main point is not that science contradicts faith (though it does) but rather that on historical grounds alone, we know that most faiths must be wrong, most miracle claims must be wrong, etc.

            I think this may be the biggest point on which scientists differ from religious believers., As my own mentor, the Nobel laureate Richard Feynman pointed out, in science, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”

            Assume you are wrong unless there is overwhelming evidence that you are right.

            Whereas,. true believers tend to have the exactly opposite attitude: "Well, you can't absolutely prove I'm wrong, so I can hang on to my beliefs."

            Given the historical experience of human beings coming up with so many mutually contradictory beliefs, that attitude will almost certainly lead you into false beliefs.

            That is the key reason I am sure you Christians are mistaken, despite (indeed, because of) your strong personal conviction.

            Dave

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Dave,

            1. I suppose my point about whether there was a virgin birth, and proving emperically is not possible unless we had a time machine. but i don't think that applies to all of the miracles. Now i can't prove the resurrection beyond doubt but i can speak of historical occurrences that give credence to the idea that it occurred (in other words, if it occurred it could be more likely that the virgin birth occurred as well, but i feel we're falling into a discussion on semantics). if we assume that it is indeed a possibility that the Gospels referred to historical occurrences than we may assume that after the crucifixion that all of the apostles, except for Judas were hiding in locked rooms, afraid they would meet the same fate. something occurred that made every one of the change course. Now, i know there have been other martyrs of other faiths as individual occurrences. But all of the apostles changed course? all of them went out into the streets and put their lives at risk knowing what a brutal death crucifixion is? is certainly suggests that something (the resurrection) at least happened that changed their course?

            your second and third points i would for the most part have to agree. my subjective experience is not science and cannot be used as empirical evidence. and the contradictions of various religions do reveal that most of them have to be wrong. i suppose the one way i would disagree is that my faith isn't just a faith on a story that has no concrete evidence? it is based on a historical person that did and said many things. beyond that i suppose it falls largely into the faith realm. With respect to the quote from Feyman, i would agree that you should
            reject something unless you have concrete evidence. but i think he was
            talking about doing science. we make other decisions that are based on
            faith. who we will marry, what kind of job we will take, where we will
            go on vacation, etc. these are all decisions that impact our lives that
            aren't based on certain or concrete data, their based on instincts,
            data and hope. but then we see those decisions have results, or they
            turn out to benefit our lives or detract from them.

      • The usual shoddy, ignorant, intellectually dishonest reasoning of godbots.

    • articulett

      Awesome post.

      I want to add a couple more things. Religion has no error correcting mechanism... it's just constant confirmation bias. It doesn't help us uncover objective truths-- the kind that are the same for everybody no matter what they believe. Science takes the known ways humans fool themselves into account and devises ways of guarding against such errors (see double blind studies, chi square values to determine statistical significations, replication of studies, testing the null hypothesis, etc.) Scientists want to know if they are wrong, because we can't find out more if you are on the wrong path. We guard against confirmation bias; whereas, religions exploit it. Faith is not a virtue in science. Of course, religionists don't really feel that faith in general is a virtue-- just their brand of faith. I doubt that Catholics see Muslim faith or Scientology faith as a virtue. And I suspect belief in witches and demons is no longer considered a virtue in most cultures even if religious texts support such beliefs. In facts, gods seem necessary to fight of the invisible bad guys that religion created. Religion creates problems (an eternal souls that can suffer forever... evil demons tryng to garner souls, etc.) and then proffers allegiance to their faith (and tithing) as the solution-- share the good news! And go forth and multiply.

      Science,on the other hand, gives us much more than manipulative memes that can't (mustn't) be tested. Science gives us airplanes that fly whether you believe they can or not. And it shows us that Venus exists and existed even before humans did and before humans discovered it. So did germs and DNA. Science gives us tools for finding out more. Religion gives us stories that constantly turn out to be false. It turns out Thor is not responsible for lightening afterall... and humans did not descend from a single pair of people poofed into existence... and there never have been talking snakes. And despite eons of belief, there still isn't an iota of evidence that consciousness can exist absent a material brain.

      Religion makes excuses... these things become metaphors... "mysteris beyond our understanding"-- their gods keep getting vaguer. If orignal sin is a metaphor-- then how do we know Jesus is not a metaphor too? If god isn't made of anything then how did all those people who thought they were talking to gods distinguish the from voices in their head and the like? There is no method of separating the truth from myth/metaphor/misinterpretation and the like in religion. Science has developed such a method, but religionists have endlesses excuses as to why their gods cannot be tested.

    • "I don’t see that anyone here has laid out why we scientists tend to be
      skeptical of religion, so I will try to do so briefly:"

      >> "We scientists"?

      Please.

      I can tell you what *Christian* scientists have *actually discovered*, beginning assuredly with Galileo, Kepler, Newton, but including also Curie, and Max Planck (as well as Leibniz and Euler among the mathematical discoverers)....

      _
      So.

      Christian scientists *discovered* the laws of planetary motion, the relativity principle, the theory of universal gravitation, nuclear energy, and the Planck constant.

      For starters.

      These scientists were not skeptical of their Christian religion, but that is perhaps because they were too busy discovering the scientific truths which created our modern world, to be skeptical about the religion which gave them the metaphysical assurance that science could discover valid principles in the first place.
      ***
      1) On the face of it, the various religions make various claims that seem, prima facie, a bit unlikely: after all, nobody would talk about the Virgin Birth, Creation, Resurrection, etc. if such events were a dime a dozen! The fact that these are not common events is the point of these events.

      2) Prior to the rise of modern science and critical history, there seemed nonetheless to be good reasons to believe that some of these surprising events really had occurred. E.g., the “Argument from Design” seemed to show that living organisms were designed by some Intelligent Designer,

      >> The Argument From Design still shows that, only stupendously more persuasively, now that we have had a chance to see the astonishing specified complexity- information content- involved in DNA.

      And as far as an *originator* (one of the giants, not one of "we scientists") is concerned:

      “As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind.”
      ― Max Planck

      ***

      presumably God.

      >> Bingo :-) Now you're starting to think like a real scientist again.......

      ***

      "The testimony of the Bible (and the handed-down traditions of the Church) seemed to offer serious witnesses for the Virgin Birth, Resurrection, etc."

      >> They much more than "seemed to" offer serious witnesses for that. They *in fact* offer serious witnesses for that.
      ***
      3) But science offered a very credible explanation for apparent design in living things that did not require God.

      >> Apparently someone forgot to tell the scientific discoverers mentioned above, like Max Planck.

      ****

      And, critical history -- comparative religion, the Higher Criticism of the Bible, etc. -- offered explanations for religious scriptures in general (not just the New Testament) that accounted for the New Testament without the need to assume that the mythical events related therein really occurred.

      >> In other words, by dismissing axiomatically and a priori the possibility of miracles, these geniuses claimed to have proven that nothing miraculous in the Bible can be historical.

      Circulus in probando- but then again dave, you have already affirmed that your education- unlike the educations of Newton, Kepler, Galileo, Curie, Planck, Liebniz, Euler, and Planck, did not include classical logical fallacies.

      Hmmm....

      Maybe that's part of the reason so many of the great discoverers were Christian?

      They got a Christian Classical education?

      Just asking......

      ***
      4) This may not logically prove that the miraculous events related in the Bible did not occur, but with the supposed evidence for those events demolished,

      >> Demolished? Oh, my. Circulus in probando arguments demolish nothing except the scientific credibility of those who deploy them........

      ********

      " we were back to square one: these events are, prima facie, very unlikely, and very unlikely events probably did not occur, unless there is evidence for them."

      >> The evidence, never having had a glove laid on it in the first place, remains exactly as it did in the first place.

      We have oral eyewitness accounts reduced to writing within the lifetimes of the witnesses, which involve specific predictions of events which had not then occurred, but which subsequently did occur (that is indeed miraculous).

      So far it is not hard to see why Newton, Kepler, Leibniz, Galileo, Curie, Planck, and Euler did not find themselves swayed by the habits of thought which produced the "historical critical" school of biblical eisegesis.

      They were too busy discovering the principles of Design which the hoodwinked victims of the "higher criticism" swindle insist cannot be present in the first place.

      Which may explain why they didn't discover them....

      *****

      5) The failure of "God of the gaps" arguments, such as the Argument from Design, has made scientists doubtful of more recent "God of the gaps" arguments, such as the "fine-tuning argument": i.e., arguing from current scientific ignorance seems a losing game given that scientists keep coming up with naturalistic, atheistic explanations for problems that were once mysteries.

      >> Since the Argument from Design is stupendously affirmed in cellular biology, it is unsurprising that the "fine tuning" argument in cosmology is now answered by "we scientists" with appeals to a multiverse (which cannot itself be- even in principle!- the object of scientific observation/experimental test)...................

      "We scientists" seem to have a positive aversion to the *actual* scientific method- the one that yields *actual, fundamental discoveries of principle*.

      "We scientists" might profitably go back and study the methods of the *real* scientific discoverers above, *all of whom* assumed that science consisted in the detection of the Principles by which the Designer had composed His universe.

      ****
      6) Philosophy offered various props to religion, but those props have been yanked away as philosophy itself has sunk into disrepute. Old philosophical issues, such as "Does change in an entity always come from external sources, or can change be caused purely internally," just seem silly to modern science. E.g., when an object is moving, is the change in its position caused externally or internally? That seems a bizarre question to a physicist: indeed, whether its position is changing depends on the frame of reference of the observer.

      >> Now notice of course that this latter is a philosophical *assumption*, and one which carries along with it certain logical consequences, which are themselves susceptible of scientific evaluation.

      For example, if the frame of reference of the observer is the only frame by which motion can be determined, then it follows that there can exist no special place, location, direction in the universe, which would allow us to construct a coordinate system valid for *all* observers.

      This is simply the Copernican/cosmological principle- yes, both of which are *philosophical* assertions.....

      And both of which have now been falsified by direct scientific observation of the largest-scale structures we have ever measured.

      Yes, indeed, "we scientists" are in for a rough patch of road.

      It'll be good for them.

      Time they got back to the method that actually yields *progress* in physics, rather than the elaboration of ever-more stupendously complex epicycles by which to patch up the *philosophical* errors that underlie their theories.

      *****
      7) The experience both of human history and of natural science shows that subjective feelings, inner intuition, one's interior voice, personal desires, spiritual messages, etc. are very poor avenues to learning about external reality unless confirmed by external objective evidence..

      The problem of course is that different people hear different interior voices and spiritual messages, have different intuitions and deepest desires, etc. Skeptical scientists therefore do not take seriously the subjectivist turn in modern religion, often taking it as further evidence that religion is simply fantasies that people find personally comforting.

      >> Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

      That is an historical assertion.

      It is not subjective.

      It is not personally comforting.

      It is a reported historical event which, if true, involves empirical grounds upon which to accept the Christian religion.

      Just as Newton, Kepler, Galileo, Leibniz, Euler, Curie, and Planck did.

      ******
      8) What science has learned about reality, the whole mechanistic, cosmological, quantitative way of thinking of modern science, fits very badly with the teleological, anthropocentric, purpose-driven worldview of religion. We see this in this thread where the religious contributors keep trying to make points that simply seem nonsensical to scientists.

      >> Ahem. Max? Oh, Max? Could you help Dave out here once more please?

      “There can never be any real opposition between religion and science; for the one is the complement of the other. Every serious and reflective person realizes, I think, that the religious element in his nature must be recognized and cultivated if all the powers of the human soul are to act together in perfect balance and harmony. And indeed it was not by accident that the greatest thinkers of all ages were deeply religious souls”
      ― Max Planck

      Does anyone think I have missed anything in pointing out the tremendous gap between physicist dave's worldview, and the worldview of the *scientific genius* Max Planck?

      • physicistdave

        I have replied at the bottom, since this thread is getting so deeply nested as to be getting confusing.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    The Bible, especially the common Protestant version that nobody reads but everybody likes to quote out of context, is to theology what "Bill Nye the Science Guy" is to science. It is childish. I actually, gasp, agree.

    But I don't see what that has to do with destroying faith.

    • physicistdave

      Well, Ted, as usual,, it is more than a little difficult to see your point.

      But, I'll try.

      Christians usually give four sources for their beliefs:

      1) The Bible

      2) Traditions (e.g., for Catholics, the Magisterial authority is partly based on tradition)

      3) Personal spiritual experience

      4) Philosophical and theological reasoning

      If, as you say, the Bible is "childish" and, as I would put it, it is stunningly unreliable because of internal contradictions and contradictions with external sources, then point 1 is gone.

      Traditions are, prima facie, unreliable unless backed up by other sources (vide the party game of "Telephone"), so 2 is out.

      Personal spiritual experience causes jihadists to be jihadists, Hare Krishnas to worship Krishna, Catholics to venerate Mary, etc.: again, in general, it is clearly unreliable. (Doesn't it at least lead to monotheism? Nope, Hinduism is polytheistic.)

      And, philosophy or theology? Be real. Materialist philosophers refute idealist philosophers, Muslim theologians refute Catholic theologians, etc. There is no there there, to quote Gertrude Stein.

      Nope, nothing at all.

      Now, of course the response of True Believers is to say that I have merely brought into serious question their proposed evidence for Belief: I have not actually proved Belief to be wrong.

      The problem for Christians is that, on the face of it, the Virgin Birth, Resurrection, etc. are highly unlikely: they're supposed to be. That's what makes them surprising, startling, newsworthy, etc.

      If there were strong evidence for these very unlikely claims, then we'd have to acknowledge that they are more likely than we would have thought.

      But, since all of the proposed evidence dissipates on inspection, we are back where we started: these claims are pretty certainly not true.

      Christianity is more certainly false than the geocentric theory of the solar system, Ted.

      Face up to it, Ted.

      I know you brag interminably about being autistic, but that should not affect your ability to understand this.

      Dave

      P.S. I am not claiming to show that theism is false: I don't know. I have good reasons to doubt that theism is true (the problem of pain and the hiddenness problem), but I certainly do not consider those conclusive. But, it is morally certain that Christianity is false.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        I said the Protestant Bible- which in fundamentalist terms, consists of perhaps 30 prooftexts and a worldview of creationism- is indeed childish. Unfortunately, in America, most people never get beyond it- either theist or atheist.

        I have yet to meet an atheist who can even discuss the real Bible intelligently, let alone take into account Tradition enough to understand the *value of pain*. But that is beside the point. I see no reason to abandon faith over the Fundamentalist Protestant interpretation of the Book of Genesis.

        • physicistdave

          Ted Seeber wrote to me:

          >I have yet to meet an atheist who can even discuss the real Bible intelligently, let alone take into account Tradition enough to understand the *value of pain*

          Well, Ted, the only way to intelligently discuss the realBible is to view it for what it is: a weird collection of myths and fairy tales mixed in with some very garbled history (anyone who doubts the garbled history point should carefully compare Samuel/Kings with Chronicles). Not to mention the repeated endorsements of genocide (e.g., the Book of Joshua, which belongs on the same shelf as Mein Kampf: just count the number of innocents that the evil Yahweh orders slaughtered!).

          Lots of atheists are happy to have that sort of discussion.

          But, somehow, I’m betting that by “intelligent” you mean “willing to play the same silly word games that Catholic interpreters have disingenuously played for two millennia.” Right?

          As to “Tradition,” well, it was “tradition” in America for over three centuries to hold black people as slaves. I am not impressed by “Tradition.”

          And, we understand the “value of pain”: it evolved by natural selection to warn us of damage to our bodies.

          As to the pain that your evil God Yahweh imposed on the human race, fortunately Yahweh is no more real than Lord Voldemort.

          Dave

          • TheodoreSeeber

            That isn't intelligently. Intelligently is understanding that the Bible is a library of evidence of the supernatural, not a history book or a science textbook.

            The rest, is just bigotry and prejudice of a modernist.

          • physicistdave

            Ted,

            Suppose you were a juror dealing with an auto-accident case, and one witness put the accident in the wrong year, mixed up which state it happened in, and thought it was two pick-up trucks when it was really a sports car and a mini-van. Would you trust that witness on anything else?? At all???

            You’ve conceded that the Bible is all bollixed up on matters of history and the natural world, matters which are relatively objective and relatively easy to check. But, then you want people to trust the Bible on supernatural matters, matters which are surely more dicey than history and science?

            Doesn’t pass the laugh test, Ted.

            Dave

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Bible alone? No. But Bible Plus Tradition is as much truth to morals as gravity is truth in physics. The only reason to be an atheist is because you want to be a bad person.

          • physicistdave

            Ted wrote to me:

            >The only reason to be an atheist is because you want to be a bad person.

            Ah, Ted! That would hurt the feelings of all us atheists if we did not know that you are only saying it because we are showing you how false and evil your misbegotten religion is and this is upsetting you.

            Now, first, Ted, you did not reply at all to my point about your being a juror. Have you ever been a juror, Ted? Would you believe a witness who was as confused or lying as the one I mentioned?

            You have admitted yourself that the Bible is wildly wrong concerning history and the natural world, Ted. So, you can see -- can't you, Ted? -- that the Bible is a false witness?

            You mention Tradition, Ted. But we have already established that Tradition is what preserved slavery for over three centuries in America, Ted. So you don't want to be deceived by the evil wiles of tradition, now do you, Ted?

            Now, let's move on with your lesson: Why reject Christianity?

            Because it is evil, Ted. Have you read Exodus 32 recently, Ted? That is where Yahweh orders Moses to murder three thousand of the children of Israel because they chose a different religion than Yahweh and Moses wanted -- the so-called "Golden Calf."

            Now, Ted, do you agree with the lesson taught in Exodus 32 (the lesson is clear whether or not the narrative is historically accurate) that it is good to actually kill those who turn away from Yahweh?

            Because, you see, that is really what it is all about: Either you are able to condemn Moses for murdering the three thousand who turned away from Yahweh or you actually approve of murdering thousands of people for holding the wrong religious beliefs.

            Do you see?

            And, if you make the latter choice, you are just like the 9/11 terrorists, and, of course, the Crusaders, the Catholics who murdered the Albigensians, etc.

            Catholicism truly does have a long tradition: can you denounce the lesson of Exodus 32 or do you want to stay in the darkness of your Tradition?

            I know you are upset, but one way or another, you will have to make this choice.

            Dave

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Dave, I've been a juror. Yes, I would believe even that confused of a witness- because the witness believes their own testimony.

            But you still are not skeptical enough about your own skepticism- and you keep spreading lies rather than even attempting to learn the truth.

          • physicistdave

            Ted wrote to me:
            > you keep spreading lies rather than even attempting to learn the truth.

            Well, Ted, you once again violated the posting rules, but I think we are making progress. Your anger indicates that you are doing a fine job of freeing yourself from Christian shibboleths like "Turn the other cheek"!

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            The only reason to be an atheist is because you want to be a bad person.

            Mr. Seeber:

            This is probably the single most offensive thing that can be said to an atheist. And you are of course far from the only person who has ever said it.

            Should you desire that the atheist who you are talking to slam his mental door on you and walk away, I know of no comment more guaranteed to produce that result.

            And since you have already said upthread that -

            I can't respect atheists very highly- they don't know what they are talking about, and can't be bothered to learn.

            - I think it's reasonable to conclude that that is your intention.

            I wonder why you even desire to participate here. Certainly there must be Catholic blogs, at which atheists are unwelcome, where you would feel far more comfortable.

          • mgcruss

            Vicq_Ruiz, I think you'll find if you frequent any blogs where Catholicism is a topic, that ignoring Ted's posts is the best thing for everyone's sanity.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            I'm sure you know the old saying that ends with "but the pig likes it".

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I was hoping it would be different for once- that I'd find an atheist open minded enough to examine their own motives. I was wrong.

          • Susan

            Theodore,

            Stop it.

            An open mind is willing to consider new evidence and/or new ideas that better explain the evidence or at least ask better questions. .

            You've provided none of these things.

            You can accuse "atheists" of being "close-minded" until the cows come home but the records don't show you producing any new evidence or new ideas. Just accusations and smug assertions. .

            When was the last time you examined your own motives or presuppositions?

            Make a case or fling poo. It's up to you. Either way the record will speak for itself.

            Bear in mind that many of the "close-minded atheists" you're addressing are ex-catholics.. Is it possible that they aren't rejecting your ideas because they don't understand them but because they DO understand them and find them lacking?

            The world looks different outside of the compound.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            An open mind, doesn't take an entire classification of evidence and claim it is not evidence. An open mind doesn't deny that the supernatural exists.

          • Susan

            It seems to be frustrating point for you that non-catholics aren't enthusiastically embracing this idea, but I would suggest we are confused.

            First of all, what is supernatural? What are the limits of nature past which we could agree that something is "super"natural? This word seems to be key to your position and no one has explained what it means.

            When you say "classification of evidence", does that fall under the term "supernatural"?

            It's hard to sort out questions as your claims are so vague and I feel like no matter what I do, I'll miss some kind of invisible point but I will do my best:

            Your first point is that there is an "entire classification of evidence" that is being dismissed. Please explain.

            Your second point is that there is something called the "supernatural" which, based on my experience here and with anyone else who uses the term, suggests that evidence is not relevant and that their claims win by default.

            Please connect A to B.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Actually, no. It is more of a disappointment. You claim to be rational, but then show yourself to be irrational in the extreme.

            The Truth finds Man, Man doesn't find Truth.

            You claim you don't dismiss evidence in one paragraph, then spend the entire next paragraph dismissing evidence you personally have a bias against.

            It is not sneering. It is merely pointing out that your reasoning is not reason and not rational.

            As I have stated from the start, I have grave doubt that the purpose of this site is even possible. In my experience, atheism is all about denying the evidence already presented, in the most insulting way possible.

          • Diogene 66

            No Ted !

            I agree with you that «An open mind doesn't deny that the supernatural exists » ! !

            By coïncidence, NO atheist will ever "deny" that the supernatural exists !

            How do you get that ?

            All atheists are saying, is that YOU are the ones who claim, urbi et orbi, for thousands of years, that it exists !

            I will even grant you with a good point : this trick of yours... worked fantasticaly for several thousands of years !

            But since the Renaissance, billions of people have noticed that, each time you claimed something was supernatural —or "god's will" or "god's wrath", whatever you called it—, rational examination of that so-called "supernatural" phenomenon... revealed that it was just a blunt, trivial, natural process, with absolutely NO mystery behind it ===> thunder, lightnings, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, fire, northern lights, all the way to diseases, and even these terrific epidemics.

            Then... can't you understand, at least once, that, since all these refutations piled up in front of them, people are beginning to become a bit weary when they hear the whole bunch of you still claiming : «everything that we don't understand is, THUS, evidently supernatural» ??

            Listen. To cut short, I will tell you something : if you bring up the faintest piece of evidence that ANY phenomenon that you claim as being real in your theogony, turns, calmly, to become observable by anyone, and reproducible in all same conditions... I swear on anything you want that everybody will ackowledge that you were right since the beginning, and convert to your creed by millions !

            It's as simple as that !

            We can't think of a more open-minded way to honestly give you the opportunity to make your point, can't we ???

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Richard Dawkins, the God Delusion, denies that the supernatural exists, but like you, had the wrong definition of the word supernatural.

            Reproducible is a ridiculous argument. There are tons of events that are real, but are not reproducible.

            Hint: Everything that is natural, is also supernatural. But not everything that is supernatural, is natural. Do you really need a Venn Diagram?

          • Diogene 66

            Please... I can't wait to read YOUR (precise) definition of "what is supernatural" ! !

            If you study the real History of mankind —the one based on facts supported by irrefutable evidence, not on irrational, vaporous theories that you can find here and there—, you'll learn that, throughout the ages, virtually ALL ancient civilisations have actually called the examples I gave you (thunder, epidemics, etc) "the Supernatural".

            This is an undeniable fact.

            Then, you can give the term ANY definition which pleases you, as there is NO way to test if this or that definition is the real, true one...

            Well anyway..."Try your luck, Guv' !", as would bawl the old Three Cards trick' s MC...

            PS : Your last paragraph is, again, a complete gratuitous statement, which isn't rooted on anything...

            Why utter, in such a puffed-up way : « Everything that is natural, is also supernatural. But not everything that is supernatural, is natural » ??

            I could as well say «Not everything that is natural is supernatural, but everything that is supernatural, is also natural»...

            Then... after that brilliant passing shot, where do we go from there ?? Answer : absolutely nowhere !

            Thanks for the pepperonis...

          • virtually ALL ancient civilisations have actually called the examples I gave you (thunder, epidemics, etc) "the Supernatural"

            How can that possibly be true? In order to call something supernatural, you have to divide phenomena into "natural" and "supernatural." Of course "primitive" peoples may have attributed thunder to the gods or some such thing, but that is quite different from saying it is "supernatural."

          • Andrew G.

            Yet another reason to adopt Carrier's definition for the supernatural: something is supernatural if it involves ontologically basic mental phenomena, such as mental causes and effects that are not mediated by physical interactions.

            By this definition, lightning bolts caused by charge separation in convective air currents are "natural", while lightning bolts caused by an angry Zeus are "supernatural".

            This definition has the following advantages:

            1. Simple.

            2. Not vacuous or circular.

            3. Does not prevent science from examining supernatural phenomena (though anything demonstrated to be actually supernatural would then have to be further studied via psychology or theopsychology rather than physics).

            4. Captures the extension of existing usage of the term well; essentially everything that people normally tag as "supernatural" fits it, and essentially nothing else does.

            5. Captures the intension of existing usage of the term tolerably well, even if not in an immediately obvious way.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Apparently you don't understand sets and supersets. Since I am not being paid to be your math instructor, I am done with this conversation.

          • Diogene 66

            Susan

            My experience with almost all believers —be they christians, muslims, hinduists or whatever—, is that they litteraly can't get along with the simple idea that, to be a trifle credible when confronted to a thought-pattern other than your own, you have to turn up, somehow, with that strange thing that people call... evidence, if you want to strenghten the assertions that you claim to be true ! !

            Here, with "Ted", we have a magnificent specimen.

            After all those numerous, close-minded, back and forth arguments, I'm beginning to doubt that it would still be possible to have a basic, logical exchange any further...

          • Michael Murray

            What makes you think we would be open minded ? We've all made the vow of allegiance to our Dark Lord to spread his message through out the internet. Burnt into our forearms is his Dark Mark. He calls us with his wand .... oh sorry I'm on the wrong forum. I thought this was deatheaters.com

          • TheodoreSeeber

            All that stuff about rationalism, I suspect, made me think for once I'd run into an atheist who was reasonable.

          • physicistdave

            The funny thing, Ted, is that now and then I actually agree with something you post. I think that materialism is false, for example.

            But, contrary to what you have claimed, humans are complex enough that there are many different reasons for people to be atheists. Yes, here and there, there probably are some who want to reject any sort of moral restraints, though, in my experience, that occurs more with liberal Christians than atheists.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            No, you are looking for an atheist whose self-image fits the model that you have constructed of what it must be.

            In much the same way, I could say that I'm looking for a Christian who is willing to "examine his own motives" of being afraid of oblivion after death. But I would not do that because (a) it's insulting and (b) I have no way of knowing what his motives are.

            You appear to suffer from no such restraint.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            You have proven that you fit my model. Next time, try to exceed that.

          • Susan

            No Theodore. Nothing has been proven except in your own mind. That doesn't count for anything.

            I wonder if you've even bothered to make
            the effort to grasp Vicq's point which seems to be a warning about any of us fooling ourselves.

            It's an excellent point and if we can't all agree on something as fundamental as that, I'm not sure sure why catholics and atheists should bother trying to have this dialogue.
            If his appeal to restraint and objectivity is a problem, perhaps you could explain why.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Bye, Ted.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            You fit the model, whether your self-image (a subjective construct if there ever was one) does or not.

            Start with objective and open minded view of the data, rather than a subjective and skeptical view of the data, and see where it takes you.

          • sk3ptik0n

            Funny, there was a time when I was conditioned to choose my business alliances by giving preference to those that were the most religious. While I have always been an atheist, I had bought into the myth that religious people had the moral high ground. If nothing else because of the lake of fire that awaited them in the next life if they didn't behave.

            Now that I am over 50, I have had a chance to do business and interact with a lot of people. Consistently, the most immoral, treacherous, conniving and dishonest people I have ever done business with were also invariably the more religious.
            It is not a coincidence that the vast majority of inmates in US prisons are, or claim to be religious. With atheists failing to reach a fraction of a percentage point (where outside of prisons they represents several percentage point of the US population)

            So, I don't know where you get the idea you have some sort of authority in judging the intention of your fellow man, but the evidence shows that you have absolutely no idea of what you are talking about and choose to demonstrate your ignorance and maliciousness in the most offensive way you could.

            Furthermore, if I am not mistaken you just committed the sin of pride with your post. You may want to go and take care of that.

          • Diogene 66

            Theodore !

            Can't you understand that your answer falls exactly into what "physicistdave' predicted that you would reply ??

            For you —you made the brilliant demo of such circular thinking—.. "intelligence" is a "library of evidence of the supernatural" (wow ! no less !).
            And zzzap ! It so happens, that it's JUST what you think about it ! ! Strange coïncidence, isn't it ??

            So please... don't make yourself look more foolish than you really are ! You know pretty well that your answer is a caricature of what everybody would have expected from a stubbord "low forehead" bloke.

            More seriously... I'm sorry to tell you that, contrary to what you proudly asserted, your bible PRETENDS, unfortunately, to be a "science book", as you say ! !

            When it swaggers around, claiming that it "knows" how the Universe has formed, or how Man appeared on the surface of the Earth, etc... it deals with perfectly well described, MATERIAL FACTS ! Hence, it acts as if it WAS a science book, claiming that it teaches "The Ultimate Truth" to all these poor, illiterate people !

            Your big problem, you followers of this "sacred book", is that EACH TIME it tries to say something which can be scientifically examinated... science completely WRECKED these pityful assertions...

            NO, the oceans, the mountains, the plants did not appear BEFORE the sun was formed..... [ Gen.1 – 7, 9, 10 & 11 ]

            NO, the human species WASN'T made out of ground dust... NOR the woman out of the mythical "first man's" rib [ Gen.2 – 7, 21... ]

            Hard times, huh ?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I suggest you read John Chapter 1. You don't even know who the Word of God is.

            Or who edited the Bible, or who wrote it.

          • Diogene 66

            Ted
            «You don't even know who the Word of God is»

            PLEASE... For goodness' sake, STOP bragging around as if YOU were the one who knows everything —and the ones who oppose your "enlightened" thoughts... are just no-good, illiterate dumbos, OR QUIT THIS SITE ALLTOGETHER OK ?

            We are all —yes, I "speak for others" !— more than weary with your "superior attitude" !

            Just, start with the basic assumption that your opponents know AT LEAST as much as you do in matters of religion, theology, bible exegetics, and even in catholicism and catholic church's REAL history ok ? OK ?

            Even, probably, much more than you know !

            So please.. don't 'SUGGEST' that I read "John Chapter 1". Just, kindly, state your point as an articulate answer to my arguments, but stop refering to your "sacred texts", as do ALL stupid brainless "believers", who cannot even IMAGINE thinking by themselves, and cannot answer any question any other way than by refering to some "Sura 299 / Verse 354" —yes, I've got the exact same behaviour with fanatic muslims when I cross iron with them...

            Even more, let me tell you that, given my "very old" age, it's most likely that I have known "John Chapter 1" by a time when you weren't even born !

            All that this surrealistic text shows, is just that the people who INVENTED the christian basic theory (conventionally called "John", "Peter", "Paul", etc)... had a very clear agenda : set a strong barrier between the "old-style" stories of the OT ("In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth", —which is a very materialistic statement) ....and what they deliberately intended to do : establish a mere "mystery religion", modeled after the Eleusinian Mysteries and/or the egyptian Isis cult (""In the beginning was the Word [ λόγος ], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" —which is a complete mystical, redundant and puffed-up pabulum...).

            Does my reply suits you ? —Of course not, given that you already proved, hereabove, to be neurologically incapable to take the MINIMUM step back from your beton-clad, pietist certitudes...

          • Am I ever going to hear back from you, Dio?

            Yesterday you were in proud full sail, so to speak.........

          • TheodoreSeeber

            "We are all —yes, I "speak for others" !— more than weary with your "superior attitude" !"

            I've only given you what you've given back. Maybe first you should look in a mirror.

          • Your big problem, you followers of this "sacred book", is that each and everytime it tries to say something which can be scientifically examined... science completely WRECKED these pityful assertions...

            Since even the most recent parts of the Bible were written more than 1500 years before the concept of "science" and the idea of scientific verification, I hardly think you can blame the Bible or its authors for not being scientifically inclined enough.

            Also, while you can certainly fault fundamentalists for claiming the creation accounts are literally true, I don't think there is any way to know if the authors of Genesis actually thought they were writing something literally true. I would suspect that in part they didn't think they were writing about something that was literally true, and in part the idea of literal truth didn't even have much meaning for them.

            You seem to be angry at the Bible, which is strange. It is a collection of very ancient literature, and as such, it can't make any claims about itself at all.

          • Diogene 66

            David
            I'm not angry at all ! ( just a bit passionate.. eventually '_^ )
            .....
            Of course, the chroniclers and diarists who produced the bits and pieces assembled into what people, today, call "the bible"... didn't have the faintest idea of what "linear thought" even meant !

            As the most beautiful intellectual productions of the Orient have shown, they wrote in a way far above our "modern", occidental concerns with dissections between poetry, trivial literature and scientific reports !

            But if you read carefully the beginning of the quote you opened your post with, I was not "talking" to the original authors of these texts, 2600 years back... I adressed the (quite contemporary) followers of this "sacred book" !

            Well... THEY are the ones pretending 1) that the book is inerrant (!), and 2) that it is still perfectly valid and accurate... even in our days !

            [ Nota : Until now, no one have had the guts to engage in a debate about the "REAL" accuracy of those materialistic... er... "discrepancies". ]

        • sk3ptik0n

          I am currently slogging through the Polynesian mythology. As soon as I am done I'll be happy to look into this Bible you seem to hold in so high regard. From my point of view, I fail to see the difference. Yet you seem to think that there are only two positions: non belief or your belief. I disagree.

        • Diogene 66

          Your problem, Theodore, is... that, by writing what you wrote... I'm afraid I have bad news for you : you're a heretic ! ! !
          (sigh)

          'Cause :

          — either you don't know very much about your own religion
          [ 1– The bible is inerrant ; 2– It's supposed to be the actual word of "god", so you CAN'T throw awy a part that doesn't please you ! ], or :

          — either... you know all these things, but you don't give a damn about it, and you believe only what YOU decided to be worth deserving, or what pleases you, or what you want to cherry-pick out of it !

          ==> in any way, when you said that you deny what YOUR book says about genesis... as being "fundamentalistically" (!) interpreted, you just tore apart the alpha and the omega of your own creed ! !

          How do you get out of this contradiction ???
          (and PLEASE don't tell me, as most deep believers usually do, that "there is absolutely NO contradiction"... Thanx !)

          • TheodoreSeeber

            John Chapter 1, read it.

  • Howard Richards

    "Few would dispute that Einstein was the greatest theoretical physicist of the last century, but this is no guarantee that he had even an adequate appreciation for Sacred Scripture." He was like Michael Jordan. "Few would dispute" that Jordan was the best NBA player, but even fewer would claim he was the best baseball player of the last century. His insight into relativity was amazing -- and, incidentally, did immense damage to the public understanding of physics, since he seemed to show that physics could proceed based on pure philosophical reflection without recourse to experiments, which is completely untrue. There were other giants who exceeded him in other areas of physics, though, even during his lifetime. In theology, though, he was no better than Jordan was at baseball.

  • physicistdave

    Rick DeLano wrote to me:

    >I can tell you what *Christian* scientists have *actually discovered*, beginning assuredly with Galileo, Kepler, Newton, but including also Curie, and Max Planck

    Ah, Rick!

    When I said we scientists, I thought everyone would understand that since I said “we,” I meant we the living.

    Prior to the twentieth century, before the ideas of Darwinism and modern molecular biology (and, indeed, before research on the fabrication of the Bible and on comparative religion was as widely known as today), there were indeed many Christian scientists. We could debate the reason: at least to some degree, it no doubt had something to do with the fact that in the early days non-Christians could be executed.

    But, since the early twentieth century, it is just a fact that the vast majority of elite scientists have rejected Christianity and, indeed, the idea of any sort of personal God at all.

    The classic study of this is the famous Larson-Witham study published in 1998 in Nature: if you are too lazy to go to the library and find the copy of Nature, you can read it online at http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/news/file002.html . They cite a 1914 survey showing that the rate of disbelief was similar early in the twentieth century among top scientists.

    You may bemoan the fact that most top scientists for a century have rejected Christianity or you may applaud it, as I do.

    But, it is just a fact.

    As to the numerous mis-statements about science you make in your post, I have neither the time nor the interest to point out your errors.

    Think whatever you wish about science. I simply do not care.

    Dave Miller in Sacramento

    • "Ah, Rick!"

      >> Ah, Dave!

      "When I said we scientists, I thought everyone would understand that since I said “we,” I meant we the living."

      >> Remarkably ill-advised assumption, as it turns out.

      The assumption makes no sense at all.

      You said "we".

      Not "we living".

      And of course it is completely illogical for you to have said "we" in the first place, absent further identification.

      You speak for *you*, Dave, as far as the evidence contained in your post goes.

      But let's examine this fascinating "living scientists" gambit, shall we?

      It is usually worth further-unravelling an argument which has already been walked back in its very first assertion :-)

      ***

      "Prior to the twentieth century, before the ideas of Darwinism and modern molecular biology (and, indeed, before research on the fabrication of the Bible and on comparative religion was as widely known as today),"

      >> Ooops. Max Planck, could you stand by please? It appears Dave is going to need to hear from you again; apparently he thinks you were just a bit too primitive to have encountered the genius of Darwin which otherwise would certainly have rescued you from your abject stupidity concerning things like, you know, discovering quantum physics and all, and saying that these discoveries *necessitated* the existence of God.......yes, yes, Max.

      I know.

      Dave is a little arithmetically challenged here right off the bat- after all you were born fifty odd years *after* Darwin but let's let him run a bit further with this remarkable "we scientists" thing, shall we?
      ***
      "there were indeed many Christian scientists. We could debate the reason: at least to some degree, it no doubt had something to do with the fact that in the early days non-Christians could be executed."

      >> Actually non-Christians can be executed today too, Dave. So can Christians. I believe the logical term applicable here is "non sequitur", since, of course, non-Christian science could have arisen in, say, China, or Borneo, or Damascus, where non-Christians abounded, and Christians were *certainly* in peril of their lives, should they expound their Christianity......

      But it didn't.

      The modern scientific method- the modern scientific *world*, Dave- arises in Christendom.

      This is a very inconvenient truth for your argument.

      But it is a truth nonetheless.

      ***
      But, since the early twentieth century, it is just a fact that the vast majority of elite scientists have rejected Christianity and, indeed, the idea of any sort of personal God at all.

      >> Let us suppose this were true (it isn't. The elite scientists are the discoverers, not the theorists and blackboard scrawlers who give us multiverses and dark energy and associated entities which exist only as fudge factors plugged into their equations in order to bridge the gap between theory and observation).

      What would this demonstrate, other than that some terrible thing had befallen the poor scientists of the twentieth century?

      These scientists have discovered nothing.

      They have stood on the shoulders of the giants, and have elaborated this and tweaked that, theorized this and postulated that.

      The great discoveries of modern science are made by *discoverers*, as noted above.

      The most recent- and perhaps the single most important of them all- was the derivation of the Planck constant, made by a scientist who was fully aware of Darwin, fully aware of the rise of Bultmann and his historical critical school, and who yet concludes that the physical science he has spent his life pursuing has led him to the conclusion:

      "All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force... We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter."

      So, Dave, even your walked-back premise is falsified, and let's see what is left of it.

      "We, the majority of twentieth century scientists, who have *not* made discoveries comparable to those of Christian scientists who laid the foundations of our scientific method and world, do not believe in the God which they did."

      Not exactly a ringing endorsement for atheism there, Dave.

      PS: I understand completely that you are just to busy to address the science which has blown the doors off the Copernican Principle (and hence the FLRW solutions for Relativity).

      It's OK.

      I don't care what you think either :-)

      After all, I can simply smile and recall to mind that the scientific experiment which confirmed these observations, was named after.....

      Max Planck.

      • physicistdave

        Rick deLano wrote to me:

        >The elite scientists are the discoverers, not the theorists and blackboard scrawlers who give us multiverses and dark energy and associated entities which exist only as fudge factors plugged into their equations in order o bridge the gap between theory and observation).
        >What would this demonstrate, other than that some terrible thing had
        befallen the poor scientists of the twentieth century?
        >These scientists have discovered nothing.

        Whatever.

        Look, Rick: you have been spewing out contempt for living scientists for quite a while.

        I must admit that I have, on occasion, vented my own contempt for both philosophers and theologians. But, there are two huge differences:

        First, in expressing my lack of confidence in philosophers and theologians, the most compelling testimony I have is from their fellow philosophers and theologians: the most damning indictment of the idiocy of the bizarre musings of individual philosophers comes from the bitter attacks by their fellow philosophers, and there is a reason, based in the behavior of theologians, for the phrase “odium theologicum”

        Second and more important is the fact that philosophers and theologians, over two millennia, have failed to reach a common ground that is convincing to most of their fellow philosophers and theologians, much less to intelligent people outside of their intellectual guilds, nor have they shown any independent way by which we can assure ourselves that there is some objective, independent validity to their theories and pronouncements.

        In both respects, science is radically different: there is a huge amount of scientific knowledge on which there is near unanimity among scientists.

        But, even more important, anyone who thinks that science is generally bunk can easily and personally show himself that this is not true: We scientists have created marvelous, useful, and, sometimes, terrifying inventions based on our knowledge of reality. If our claimed knowledge of reality were simply a fraud, it is not plausible that we could do this. ( I myself, for example, hold several patents based on applying my knowledge of math and physics to the real world.)

        If you sincerely disbelieve this, prove it to the world: next time North Korea has a test of their nuclear bomb, volunteer to stand next to the bomb to prove that we physicists are full of bunk. Pretty much nothing works in North Korea, except for physics, but North Korean physicists have chosen to employ the same physics to develop their Bomb that we physicists utilized in the West. And physics works, even in North Korea!

        You are free to continue spewing out you contempt for living scientists for as long as Brandon chooses to tolerate your obvious violations of his posting rules.

        Certainly don’t let me dissuade you: to me, you are an excellent example for the world to see of what Christianity is truly about.

        Dave

        • Certainly don’t let me dissuade you: to me, you are an excellent example for the world to see of what Christianity is truly about.

          Also, my view.

        • Susan

          Another excellent post, Dave.

  • physicistdave

    Sean wrote to me:
    >Now, if i had taken two physicists, and held them up for the common mind
    and thought pattern of modern physics but these two physicists largely
    disagreed with the common understanding of physics, would that be a fair
    assessment of the science?

    Einstein himself faced a situation much like that: the Nazis published a book with a hundred or so scientists who “refuted” his work. He replied that if they had been right, a single scientist would have sufficed.

    So, my answer to your question is that I would automatically go with the two physicists against the entire physics community if they had the evidence to back their claims.

    This has happened again and again in science: to quote Galileo, “In matters of natural philosophy, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual” (I put that at the front of my Ph.D. thesis).

    A competent scientist does not believe in authority: one of many respects in which scientists differ from religious believers.

    Although, your point is moot anyway: Ehrman and Ludemann are not outliers: they are in the mainstream among Biblical scholars who employ the methods of critical history.

    That was my point when I wrote earlier:
    >I'm sorry, Sean, but they lied to you in seminary if they told you that critical historians generally believed in the miracles.

    Critical historians treat their sources the same, whether the historians share their source's perspective or not. For example, my sympathies are with Jefferson over Hamilton in the great split that defined American political history. But, if I run across a document by Jefferson saying nasty things by Hamilton, I still have to consider the possibility that Jefferson was biased and that the facts were different than he alleged.

    All modern historians, when they run across claims of miracles in pagan writings (.e.g, the supposed divine paternity of Alexander the Great) dismiss those claims as certainly false. It would take incredible, overwhelming evidence to cause them to accept such claims.

    Critical historians approach the Gospel claims in the same way. I.e., they demand the same incredible, overwhelming evidence to back up Gospel claims of miracle as they would demand for similar pagan claims.

    And, the evidence just is not there: The Gospels contradict each other in very obvious ways. They disagree with secular history, and with what we know about geography (e.g., the mountain from which Satan showed all the kingdoms of the world). It is unclear what their sources were and debatable who their authors were.

    When dealing with pagan sources like this, historians are very, very skeptical, especially skeptical about claims of miracles.

    I am afraid that the major debate between the two sides here is that you Christians think you have defended your beliefs if you can argue that they are not altogether logically impossible.

    Well... it is not logically impossible that Obama is from the planet Vulcan (look carefully at those ears, very carefully!). It is just very, very unlikely.

    In particular, you Christians tend to look at testimony for and against the Gospel miracles, the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, or whatever, and argue that the pro testimony is at least comparable to the con testimony, and you think you have therefore proven a point.

    But you haven't. You ignore the fact that even you yourselves do not behave that way when approaching miraculous claims outside Christianity.

    The factually correct claim that there is no significant testimony that Obama is not a Vulcan or that Alexander was not of divine paternity misses the point: both claims are so outrageously unlikely prima facie, that there would have to be incredibly overwhelming evidence for either claim to be credible.

    And, the same is true of Gospel miracles: the point of impressive miracles is that they are so rare as to be impressive. But, that very rarity of miracles makes claims of miracles prima facie rather unlikely.

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And, it is not there.

    This, I think, may be the main point on which scientists, critical historians, and atheists differ from Christians: we insist on applying the same standards of judgment to Christian claims as to pagan claims.

    You don't.

    Dave

    • Michael Murray

      I'm always amused by the fact that the Catholic Church requires 2 miracles to make someone a Saint. Wouldn't one real miracle be enough ?

      • We enjoy an embarrassment of riches in the miracles department, Michael, and hence reserve sainthood for the recidivists.

        One miracle gets you beatified, however :-)

        • Michael Murray

          Yes but even your Church understands the dangers of self-delusion.

          • So.

            You accept our embarrassment of riches in the miracle department- this is good!

            You acknowledge the wisdom of requiring two miracles, since, after all, we ought not run any risk of self-delusion.

            Excellent!

            What remains a bit puzzling is that you commence with the comment:

            "I'm always amused by the fact that the Catholic Church requires 2 miracles to make someone a Saint. Wouldn't one real miracle be enough ?"

            And proceed to answer yourself!

            Quite amusing. indeed.......

          • Michael Murray

            No I said I agree it's embarrassing:

            Well we are agreed on the embarrassment.

            The reliance on miracles and saintly relics is embarrassing. I would guess many in the organisation think this as well. It's dangerous to place the faith on things that can be overturned like that.

            The reason I find the two proofs amusing is that it's an admission by the church that miracles can be fake. Once you admit one can be fake then two can be fake as well.

            You should be pleased. It's not often I find the church funny.

          • Embarrassing?

            It is a fact of life, Michael.

            Miracles exist, they happen all the time.

            Your worldview suffers from the drastic defect that it refuses to deal with these observational facts.

            The Catholic Church, having established Europe, and having tutored it in the magnificent wisdom which produced the scientific world, is far too wise to join you in your selective and illogical view of reality.

            You should certainly rejoice in this, since you are typing back and forth on a device which exists precisely because the Catholic Church taught the tribes of the European forests how to think.

          • Michael Murray

            Sure. I'm grateful to all the Greek scientists as well. No reason for sharing their superstitions and mistakes though. That's how we progress. Take correct bits and leave behind the mistakes. Superstition is a mistake. Religion is mistake.

          • Except that doesn't work either, Michael.

            The Greeks were unable to take their occasional remarkable brilliance of insight and recognize in it a *method*.

            That fell to the Christians.

            And it had everything to do with the religion itself- the Catholic Faith taught the Europeans that the cosmos was the product of an Intelligent Design; and even more powerfully, that the Designer had so constituted reality that our minds could, by bringing themselves into conformity with His (the "imago Dei") actually discover the universal principles which He had embedded in His creation.

            That was the difference between the fortunate Europeans and even the best of the Greeks.

            The Greeks did not have Christian theology to guide them.

            But let us not forget to give credit where credit is due:

            the modern world begins with Kepler employing the inscribed and circumscribed Platonic solids in order to bootstrap his way toward what eventually became the laws of planetary motion, and after that Newton's gravity.

            Metaphysics from Pythagoras, plus theology from the Catholic Church, were the guides of this great scientific discoverer Kepler.

            His definition of science, by the way?

            "Thinking God's thoughts after Him."

          • Michael Murray

            Sure. I don't have a problem with thanking the church for whatever it contributed to rationalism if it did. So what? It doesn't mean the church is right about god.

          • It does mean, however, that the argument that religion is somehow deleterious for science is falsified.

            I thank you for the acknowledgement.

            It also means that the atheist is now required to supply an answer:

            why did Catholic theology supply the correct formation for the intellectual breakthrough which occurred in European Christendom- the *scientific method itself*?

            This breakthrough occurred in no other civilizational/theological matrix.

            The Greeks were brilliant, the Arabs also, the Chinese.........

            But it was Catholic Christendom that nurtured the mind of man in a world view which unlocked the secrets of the universe in a *method*.

          • Michael Murray

            I acknowledged nothing. I said "if it did". Not a period of history that particulalry interests me so I don't really have an opinion. My atheism is based on as clear and simple fact. There are no gods.

          • There is conclusive evidence for God, understood as Necessary Being.

            That conclusive evidence is the existence of a cosmos, which cannot have preceded itself in existence, and hence cannot have brought itself into existence; our inhabiting of which, during this present conversation, providing the observational confirmation.

            See Arguments #1, #2, and #3 in the "20 Arguments" article linked at the top of the page.

            I will be happy to consider any possible refutations you might care to venture.

          • physicistdave

            There is conclusive evidence for Mickey Mouse, understood as Fantasmic Being.

            Makes as much sense.

          • physicistdave

            Rick deLanowrote:
            > I will be happy to consider any possible refutations you might care toventure.

            You assume that anyone takes your “arguments” seriously enough to bother with a refutation.

            Just as soon “refute” the “post-modernism generator”: http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo/ . Makes as much sense.

          • Diogene 66

            Rick...
            I'm quite willing to accept a certain amount of funny statements from religous people —it always guarantees a good pint of laughter...

            Well... as long as you kept repeating that "miracles are for real / I swear !", and that the catholic church has too many of them, piling up, poor things, in some vaticanese backyard... it was just part of "internal catholic good jokes".

            But now, when you start claiming that IT IS BECAUSE of the "spiritual enlightenment" pouring down from the catholic church into a poor, obscured world, that the experimental, modern scientific blossoming of the western civilisation has been historically "allowed" to unfold... you passed the limits of decency ! !

            Rick... Please... I know that, for a decade or two, it has become "most fashionable", in certain catholic circles, to put forward that new mythology, but Pity...

            Try, at least, to study REAL historical FACTS before indulging into such a lost (new) intellectuel war ok ???

            If you just take a short blink into ANY peer-rewiewed encyclopedia, you will quickly understand that your endeavour in making such fable gullibly accepted by any sound person... is merely hopeless :

            The catholic church as an institution —and its highest-ranking representatives— became the revengeful, dogmatic and repressive dominant power, in the midst of a degredating Roman Empire, by february 28, 380 CE.

            Since that very day, IT NEVER SPARED ANY EFFORT to pound, crush, burn, behead and otherwise menace EVERY attempt by (first) underground, then out-in-the-open rationalists, to promote advancements in universal empirical science, in secular philosophy and in humanist thinking ! !

            The history of the human endeavours leading to the scientific civilisation that we all enjoy today happens, unfortunately, to calk, event after event, the lengthy, painful and inglorious history of the permanent fighting against the obscurantism of the christian churches.

            Now if you want to engage in a seriously argumented debate over that subject (as... continuing in this page would unduly "hijack" the present thread), I suggest that you trigger the setting-up of a new thread, specifically dealing with that topic, by sending a (detailed) "question" in the 'SUBMIT A QUESTION' section on top of the screen ok ?

            I would be much pleased to "get down to it" —peacefully, of course.

          • "I'm quite willing to accept a certain amount of funny statements from religous people —it always guarantees a good pint of laughter..."

            >> I can warmly reciprocate for the case of atheists, Di :-)

            "Well... as long as you kept repeating that "miracles are for real / I swear !", and that the catholic church has too many of them, piling up, poor things, in some vaticanese backyard... it was just part of "internal catholic good jokes"."

            >> The miracles of the Catholic Church are fully documented, and include the extraordinary account of a Nobel Prize winner in Medicine, Professor Alex Carrel of the Lyons Medical University:

            "'If a truly organic cure took place, that would be different. If Marie Ferrand was cured I would believe. But she will not be!' The woman had been in the same compartment of the Lourdes pilgrims' train that Carrel had traveled in from Paris. She was in the last stages of tubercular peritonitis, the hard mass of fluid in her stomach bulging ominously. Several times on the train journey she passed out and Carrel had given her morphine injections. He angrily jotted in his notebook that religion became fanaticism when it dragged dying patients like Ferrand halfway across France in the heat of midsummer - only for them to die in greater misery! At Lourdes he tried unsuccessfully to prevent the unconscious woman being taken to the outdoor blessing of the sick. By now half-dead, she was carried to the procession, the bishop blessed her with the Eucharist, and Carrel thought the hot sun was playing tricks with his eyesight! The death pallor had left her face! When the swollen stomach flattened out, he later wrote, he thought he was going mad. He accompanied Ferrand back to the hospital, where several other doctors examined her carefully and declared that the pathetic patient of several hours before was now cured."

            http://uk.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080706072708AAtyohL

            Marie Biret's withered optical nerve was restored- but only a month *after* her sight was recovered at Lourdes:

            "Madame Biré, a French woman, became blind in February 1908. Medical examination showed blindness was due to atrophy of the papilla; in other words, the optic nerve was withered at the point where it enters the eye. Obviously, there was organic reason for her blindness. No one can see with a withered optic nerve. She was taken to Lourdes, the great shrine at which it is reported the Blessed Virgin appeared in 1858. On August 5, 1908, Madame Biré received Holy Communion at the Grotto of Lourdes. At 10:15 a.m., the priest who was carrying the Blessed Sacrament in procession passed beside her. Madame Biré at once saw the statue of the Blessed Virgin.

            She was taken at once to the permanent Medical Bureau at Lourdes where doctors are always available. In fact, any doctor, even an atheist, is permitted to go there and examine cases to his heart's content. (One of these, Dr. Alexis Carrel, came to scoff, but left a convert.9) Dr. Lainey, an oculist, examined her. What he found was even more astonishing than a miraculous cure: She could read even the smallest letters of a newspaper, but the optic nerve was still withered! A month later another eye examination by three specialists found that the nerve had been restored.10 No possible suggestion nor any natural means can make a dead, withered optic nerve functional!11"

            http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/most/getchap.cfm?WorkNum=212&ChapNum=3

            So, yes, we do possess an embarrassment of miracles in the Church, and Lourdes is only one example.

            *******

            "But now, when you start claiming that IT IS BECAUSE of the "spiritual enlightenment" pouring down from the catholic church into a poor, obscured world, that the experimental, modern scientific blossoming of the western civilisation has been historically "allowed" to unfold... you passed the limits of decency ! !"

            >> Well, Dio, since it is simply the empirical truth that scientific civilization commences in Catholic Christendom, I suppose we must conclude that you find the truth indecent.

            Oh well.

            "Rick... Please... I know that, for a decade or two, it has become "most fashionable", in certain catholic circles, to put forward that new mythology, but Pity..."

            >> It is not mythology, but instead historical fact, that the modern scientific method, and scientific modernity itself, arises from within the intellectual climate of precisely one civilization; that is, Catholic Christendom.

            "Try, at least, to study REAL historical FACTS before indulging into such a lost (new) intellectuel war ok ???"

            >> I do agree that intellectuel wars are ill-advised things upon which to embark.

            Intellectual wars, however, are an ancient and honorable tradition within the Catholic Church, which has a remarkably excellent record of winning them.

            "If you just take a short blink into ANY peer-rewiewed encyclopedia,"

            >> Ahem.

            Encyclopedias are not peer-reviewed publications.

            Here are testimonies of Hobbes and others, including Ernst Mach, concerning the Catholic scientist Galileo Galilei and his crucial involvement in the development of the modern scientific method:

            "The dialogue known as Two New Sciences, which was the culmination of more than thirty years of work and thought, was published during this period. His reputation was
            firmly established throughout Europe; his discoveries and opinions,declared one of his visitors, Thomas Hobbes, ‘opened to us the gate of natural philosophy universal’ (Hobbes 1839: vol. 1, viii). He died, early
            in 1642, in his villa— ‘The Jewel’ —at Arcetri near Florence, and is buried in that city’s beautiful Santa Croce.
            Hobbes’s view of Galileo as a pioneer was shared by his
            contemporaries and has since been widely endorsed. A Paduan colleague described him as ‘the father of experiments and of all their exactness’
            (Drake 1978:367), and the eighteenth-century French philosophe Condorcet declared that he ‘founded the first school...where all methods other than experiment and calculation were rejected with philosophical
            severity’ (Condorcet 1955:115). In the nineteenth century the Austrian philosopher-physicist Ernst Mach attributed to Galileo the introduction of experimental methods in physics. ‘Only when Galileo...investigated the motion of falling experimentally,’ he said, ‘could the laws of the
            uniformly accelerated motion of falling appear in a purely quantitative form’ (Mach 1960:167). And in our own century Mach’s view remains prevalent: an introductory textbook of physics castigates the Ancient Greeks for their supposed reliance on ‘reason and faith’, and identifies
            Galileo as the first to recognise ‘the importance of doing experiments as a way of testing hypotheses’ (Krane 1983:12).

            So, Dio, it appears that you are faced with a great deal of indecency indeed.

            Over to you then........

          • Diogene 66

            Hello Rick !
            No, I didn't leave you "high and dry"... But I don't want to become a slave to any blogging or commenting trap !

            I want the writing of posts to be an agreeable passtime —not a ball-and-chain affair...
            .....
            First, I must tell you —just to frustrate you a bit ;-p — that you shouldn't have spent so much time and energy with all that "miracles justifying" bizness !

            1) Because, to start with, I never intended to enter into another "shunt topic" on this thread, battling with you about the authenticity of such and such "miracle"... and

            2) Because YOU'RE the one, in the first place, who said that « the catholic church was "embarrassed" with "too many miracles" in its fob », to the point it didn't know what to do with a good part of 'em ! ! ...I was just (gently) making a little game with it. Nothing more...

            Now, to the real thing.

            As I don't want to spend too much time on each connection, I propose to send my replies "argument after argument" ok ?

            But "fear not" ! We'll see the end of it !

            Number 1 —
            « >> Well, Dio, since it is simply the empirical truth that scientific civilization commences in Catholic Christendom, I suppose we must conclude that you find the truth indecent. » ??? Do you really think that ??

            Rick... You seem to behave like a taut and well-groomed person.. How can you be so pretentious as to state, without coughing, that "scientific civilization commences in Catholic Christendom" ?? Either there is an unknown black hole in your "humanities", or.. you must be out of your gourds !

            Have you ever heard of Thales of Milet ? Around 600 BCE, that cat just... cast the BASIS to literally every single subsequent human endeavour put forward to discover how things work IN REALITY !

            In the centuries that followed, Aristarchus of Samos, by the mere force of deductive logic, produced the first known modelization that placed the sun at the center of the —then— known Universe, and the Earth revolving around it ! He also placed the planets (in the right order !) revolving around the sun as well... and all that, about 1800 years before Copernicus !

            Of course, you've heard about Democritus, who first stated that everything that composes the actual Universe is made of minuscule, invisible, quite material particles (nothing supernatural in that) —something which was absolutely unimaginable around 300 BCE...

            I don't even mention Euclid... Pythagoras... Archimedes... then, the arab mathematicians, astronomers, etc.. who made experimental sciences flourish in the Middle-East, at a time when our European ancestors were stuck in a survival economy, couldn't travel much farther than the narrow limits of their poor county (no more practicable roads —and anyway, they were plagued by freebooters)...

            Maybe you had just forgotten that.... all —I mean ALL of our western, rational, materialistic civilisation actually "commenced", as you say, in Ancient Greece ??

            Unfortunately for you, that "enlightened christendom" of yours... wasn't even in its infancy by that time...

          • "Hello Rick !"

            >> Hello Dio!

            "No, I didn't leave you "high and dry"... But I don't want to become a slave to any blogging or commenting trap !
            I want the writing of posts to be an agreeable passtime —not a ball-and-chain affair..."

            >> Completely understood.
            .....
            "First, I must tell you —just to frustrate you a bit ;-p — that you shouldn't have spent so much time and energy with all that "miracles justifying" bizness !"

            >> Aw shucks, it's OK. Always happy to present the astonishingly well-documented embarrassment of riches the Catholic Church is prepared to present on the question of the miracles which have accompanied Her from Her inception, and which continue to this day :-)

            "1) Because, to start with, I never intended to enter into another "shunt topic" on this thread, battling with you about the authenticity of such and such "miracle"... and"

            >> May I say that I completely understand your wish not to challenge the authenticity of the Lourdes miracles referenced :-)

            "2) Because YOU'RE the one, in the first place, who said that « the catholic church was "embarrassed" with "too many miracles" in its fob », to the point it didn't know what to do with a good part of 'em ! ! ...I was just (gently) making a little game with it. Nothing more..."

            >> An embarrassment of riches, as I said :-) Our riches in the miracles department are quite unique in the history of the world, and this is of course a very powerful reason why we were able to create the civilization which ultimately brought forth the scientific method- we were able to provide the proofs of our supernatural inception to the satisfaction of those pre-scientific minds- just as we were subsequently able to educate those tribesmen and forest dwellers in philosophy, metaphysics, and theology in such a way that the ground was prepared for what is, in reality, only another in the many miracles of Catholic civilization:

            the civilization of the Europoean tribes into the nations which brought forth the Keplers, the Galileos, the Leibniz', the Newtons and Pascals and Bernoullis and Eulers and Cauchys and......

            Well.

            As Carl Sagan is alleged to have said concerning J. S. Bach, when asked what music ought to be put aboard the "Voyager" before it was sent off to its appointment with ET....

            "That would be bragging".

            "Now, to the real thing."

            >> Indeed.

            "As I don't want to spend too much time on each connection, I propose to send my replies "argument after argument" ok ?
            But "fear not" ! We'll see the end of it !"

            >> So long as you apply the stricture to your own self, be assured I, your obedient servant, will comply with your entirely reasonable stipulation here.

            "Number 1 —
            « >> Well, Dio, since it is simply the empirical truth that scientific civilization commences in Catholic Christendom, I suppose we must conclude that you find the truth indecent. »???

            Do you really think that ??"

            >> Answer Number One:

            YES.

            "Rick... You seem to behave like a taut and well-groomed person.."

            >> Even were I flabby and dishevelled, I should be disposed to thank you for your courteous words!

            "How can you be so pretentious as to state, without coughing, that "scientific civilization commences in Catholic Christendom" ??

            >> Asked and answered above, my good Dio.

            "Either there is an unknown black hole in your "humanities", or.. you must be out of your gourds !"

            >> I truthfully report that no black hole inhabits my humanities. It is possible I might be out of my gourd (though I am informed by some who are alleged to be authorities on the question that the true crazy people are the ones who steadfastly refuse to consider the possibility that they are out of their gourd, so.....)

            "Have you ever heard of Thales of Milet ? Around 600 BCE, that cat just... cast the BASIS to literally every single subsequent human endeavour put forward to discover how things work IN REALITY !"

            >> Remarkable. So Thales of Milet, around 600BC, established the scientific method, as a mere hors d'oeuvre, apparently, to his subsequent establishment of the template for all subsequent real knowledge.

            I must admit a certain degree of skepticism here, Dio.

            You see, scientific civilization does not arise in the Greece of 600BC, and this fact ought not be particularly controversial to those who have noticed the development of scientific principles in Christendom circa 1600-2000, as compared to the development of scientific principles in Greece, circa 600-200 BC.

            A moment's reflection will serve to establish a rather distinct empirical differentiation between the two epochs and civilizations.

            So I just decline to agree, for the present, with your bold hypothesis here.

            "In the centuries that followed, Aristarchus of Samos, by the mere force of deductive logic, produced the first known modelization that placed the sun at the center of the —then— known Universe, and the Earth revolving around it ! He also placed the planets (in the right order !) revolving around the sun as well... and all that, about 1800 years before Copernicus

            >> Yes, what of him, Dio?

            "Of course, you've heard about Democritus, who first stated that everything that composes the actual Universe is made of minuscule, invisible, quite material particles (nothing supernatural in that) —something which was absolutely unimaginable around 300 BCE..."

            >> Neither was the hypothesis a scientific one, neither was it experimentally demonstrated, and in fact we now know it to be completely false.

            Other than that I am sure he was a good philosopher.
            "I don't even mention Euclid... Pythagoras... Archimedes... then, the arab mathematicians, astronomers, etc.. who made experimental sciences flourish in the Middle-East, at a time when our European ancestors were stuck in a survival economy, couldn't travel much farther than the narrow limits of their poor county (no more practicable roads —and anyway, they were plagued by freebooters)..."

            >> Now Archimedes is a great progenitor of what ultimately became the scientific method, second, perhaps, among the Greeks, only to the immortal brilliance of Eratosthenes, in establishing the curvature of the Earth to within 1 degree of accuracy 26 centuries before that curvature became an object of direct observation.

            Alas, neither of these men established a school which yielded a comprehensive program for the systematic acquisition of scientific knowledge.

            This is because they themselves did not possess such a systematic method.

            They were brilliant natural philosophers, and occasionally managed to employ important aspects of the method....

            But again.

            We must notice that scientific civilization does not commence with the ancient Greeks, as a comparison of the systematic conquest of natural physical principles by that civilization, as compared to the Christian civilization circa 1600, has done.

            The difference, of course, lies in the lack of the Greeks to develop a systematic scientific method.

            Only Catholic Christendom created the conditions from which Her civilization could accomplish that.

            "Maybe you had just forgotten that.... all —I mean ALL of our western, rational, materialistic civilisation actually"commenced", as you say, in Ancient Greece ??"

            >> To the contrary, Dio. Instead what has occurred is that you have failed to grasp the essential difference, the key distinction, between the methods of Galileo, of Newton, of Liebniz, of Kepler, and of their successors, and those of the great ancients.

            One system yielded scientific civilization.

            The other did not.

            "Unfortunately for you, that "enlightened christendom" of yours... wasn't even in its infancy by that time..."

            >> It wasn;t unfortunate for me, dear Dio. It was, however, most unfortunate for the geniuses like Eratosthenes, who lacked the crucial metaphysical foundation without which their genius was doomed to spark and fade, rather than translate into a systematic conquest of nature.

            That systematic conquest begins in Catholic Christendom.

          • physicistdave

            There is in fact evidence that many of the prelates of the church knew (and, I suppose, still do know) the truth:

            from David Hume’s “On Miracles” ( http://www.bartleby.com /37/3/15.html )

            “There is also a memorable story related by Cardinal de Retz, which may well deserve our consideration. When that intriguing politician fled into Spain, to avoid the persecution of his enemies, he passed through Saragossa, the capital of Arragon, where he was shewn, in the cathedral, a man, who had served seven years as a doorkeeper, and was well known to every body in town, that had ever paid his devotions at that church. He had been seen, for so long a time, wanting a leg; but recovered that limb by the rubbing of holy oil upon the stump; and the cardinal assures us that he saw him with two legs. This miracle was vouched by all the canons of the church; and the whole company in town were appealed to for a confirmation of the fact; whom the cardinal found, by their zealous devotion, to be thorough believers of the miracle. Here the relater was also cotemporary to the supposed prodigy, of an incredulous and libertine character, as well as of great genius; the miracle of so singular a nature as could scarcely admit of a counterfeit, and the witnesses very numerous, and all of them, in a manner, spectators of the fact, to which they gave their testimony. And what adds mightily to the force of the evidence, and may double our surprise on this occasion, is, that the cardinal himself, who relates the story, seems not to give any credit to it, and consequently cannot be suspected of any concurrence in the holy fraud. He considered justly, that it was not requisite, in order to reject a fact of this nature, to be able accurately to disprove the testimony, and to trace its falsehood, through all the circumstances of knavery and credulity which produced it. He knew, that, as this was commonly altogether impossible at any small distance of time and place; so was it extremely difficult, even where one was immediately present, by reason of the bigotry, ignorance, cunning, and roguery of a great part of mankind. He therefore concluded, like a just reasoner, that such an evidence carried falsehood upon the very face of it, and that a miracle, supported by any human testimony, was more properly a subject of derision than of argument.”

            I’ve learned from numerous sources (including older male family members who attended church with the womenfolk) that, in some segments of traditional Christianity, the men are expected to figure out the truth that religion is a lie, but they are supposed to keep quiet about it for the sake of the women, rather as adults in our society are expected to stay mum about the truth about Santa in the presence of young children.

            Unfortunately, this site seems to indicate that some men, unlike Cardinal de Retz, never manage to figure out the truth. Or maybe they are just exceptionally zealous in protecting the tender feelings of the womenfolk.

            If anyone objects that such behavior is sexist, it most assuredly is, and I have contempt for it.

            I won’t lie about Santa “for the children’s sake,” either.

            But, this despicably sexist behavior seems, alas, to be rather traditional in certain segments of society.

            Dave

    • Fr.Sean

      Hi Dave,

      Sorry i didn't get back to you sooner, i was away for a couple of days. Thanks for your detailed reply.

      "So, my answer to your question is that I would automatically go with the two physicists against the entire physics community if they had the evidence to back their claims."

      You're assessment is accurate, if someone has better proof the number does not matter. nevertheless, what we're discussing was the connection between miracles and the opinion of the most qualified scripture scholars in the field. Since Miracles, if they occurred two thousand years ago, cannot be proven in an empirical way we're left only with the opinions of the top scholars. The only leading scholar who questioned the occurrence of miracles was Bultmann. Even in that he didn't give any doubt as to the historical occurrence of the Resurrection? Nevertheless, if you can produce evidence that in fact the top scholars in the field, whom i listed before have said anything about miracles not occurring i am more than happy to listen. i think you're search will be frustrating though, since i have a reasonable amount of commentaries and haven't ever read a single one asserting that the miracles didn't occur. When i was trying to think of any, and i've read most of the books several times, the only thing i could come up with was an isogesis interpretation of the miracles of the loaves and fishes. in order to elaborate on this i need to define isogesis and exogesis. Exogesis is taking out of the text what is there to get a fuller understanding of the text. isogesis is reading into the text. an example would be the story of the woman at the well (John Ch.4). the woman was a Samaritan who had lived with 5 different men, she wasn't married and had gone to the well to draw water. exegesis would be concerned with what a Samaritan is, how the people formed, how they interacted with the Jews. all of those things would shed light on the story of her encounter with Jesus. An isogesis interpretation of the story would be like if a woman had been divorced and thinking God was upset with her, but then she reads the story and sees how compassionate and kind Jesus was with her. this may make her feel that Jesus is also compassionate with her no matter how bad she thinks she's sinned. anyway, the story of the loaves and fishes (Jesus multiplied a boy's simple offering to feed app 15,000 people) one isogesis interpretation would be that Jesus had simply inspired all of the people to offer what they had and thus there was enough. again, this isn't exegisis, it was simply a theological interpretation but i've never read a commentary where it said he did not actually perform a miracle.

      "Although, your point is moot anyway: Ehrman and Ludemann are not outliers: they are in the mainstream among Biblical scholars who employ the methods of critical history."

      Well, i read a lot of commentaries as well as publications on scripture and this is the first i've heard of them, so we will have to respectfully disagree. at least in modern biblical scholarship they are practically unknown.

      "All modern historians, when they run across claims of miracles in pagan
      writings (.e.g, the supposed divine paternity of Alexander the Great)
      dismiss those claims as certainly false. It would take incredible,
      overwhelming evidence to cause them to accept such claims."

      Has any of those apparent pagan miracles workers had an effect such that they have well over a billion followers today? simply because some people claimed to perform miracles does not negate whether or not Jesus performed miracles.

      "Critical historians approach the Gospel claims in the same way.
      I.e., they demand the same incredible, overwhelming evidence to back up
      Gospel claims of miracle as they would demand for similar pagan claims"

      If you could provide evidence besides Ermann or Ludemann, more specifically noted influential scripture scholars i would be happy to read it?

      Most of the rest of your post seemed to be a little more filled with emotionalism so i don't feel the need to respond to it. what i will say is this; when you outlined reasons atheists believed there is no God, your points were concise, well thought out and gave the readers something to think about. even though i disagreed with them i enjoyed reading an intelligent outlay of your positions. i think one of the secondary reasons we enjoy discussing things is we all like an intelligent discussion. when you write like you did before, outlining your beliefs devoid of emotionalism your a good writer, deep thinker and i enjoy reading what you have to say.

      having said that i think i may need to address Ermann and Ludemann to give you a possible insight into why they think the way they do (remember i'm not saying this is definitely, just a possible theory). about 5 years after i was ordained a priest friend of mine said something i thought was insightful. he said that one of the "occupational hazards" of priesthood is that with doing theology all the time, reading commentaries, or other theological publications there's always the tendency to think reading such things makes up for prayer, or spending time with the Lord. it doesn't. a priest still needs to take time out every day to be alone with the Lord, to talk and listen, to reflect on scripture (letio devina) and to nurture his own spiritual life. Jesus said, "i am the vine and you are the branches, he who abides in me will bear much fruit, for without me you can do nothing". thus, through prayer and the eucharist a priest, actually all catholics stay connected to the vine. if a theologian thinks reading commentaries makes up for prayer they will soon be detached from the vine and the branch will wither. having read about Ermann and Ludemann is it not possible that this is what happened to them? is it not an ironic coincidence that these two not only think that Jesus didn't perform miracles,but they've lost their faith all together? i can only attest to my own experience. when i'm committed to prayer i have an energy and enthusiasm for ministering to people, when i don't have enough time for prayer priesthood becomes more like a job. i could certainly imagine that whole phenomenon taking place with someone who becomes so engrossed in another activity that prayer falls by the wayside?

      • Diogene 66

        Sean...

        I just come across your (amicable) "dispute" with 'physicistdave'. The first thing that immediately stroke me, is that you replied to his comment... as if you hadn't even read it ! !

        When he said, for example : « to quote Galileo : “In matters of natural philosophy, the authority of a thousand is not worth the HUMBLE REASONING of a single individual” (emphasis' mine), ...all you found acute to reply, is : « Since Miracles, if they occurred two thousand years ago, cannot be proven in an empirical way we're left only with the opinions of the top scholars » !

        Which proves : 1) either you didn't read David's quotation of Galileo, or : 2) you didn't understand its meaning. When Galileo uttered these words, ALL "authorities" (Claudius Ptolemy and his followers, christian astronomers, even muslim astronomers —the same ones, in his day and age, that you call now "top scholars") claimed that the geocentric view of the Universe was the ultimate, god-blessed, therefore undisputable truth.

        And, however, contrary to their profound "opinions"... they were f***ing WRONG ! !

        On the other hand, we should remember that, by the time Galileo elaborated his views —derived, as everybody knows, from Copernicus's views—, he had only a scanty, primitive reFRACting telescope at his disposal (the reFLECting telescope will be invented much later).

        SO... part of his statements were derived from actual observation, but MOST of them were buit-up from.... "humble reasoning".

        The very two words that I capitalized in the hereabove quotation ! ! Howhow... How strange...

        I don't know if you realize the difference between REASONING, and "HAVING AN OPINION" ??

        The claims of all those "scholars", backed-up by the highest-ranking clerics and theologians, were merely based on their... "opinions".

        Mmmh mmh... They had..."opinions"...
        How good... ( I mean : good for them !)

        Galileo, for his part, had reasoning.
        And... oddly enough, HE was the one who was RIGHT !

        I will not be insulting by advising you to fetch the definition of 'reasoning' in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

        But then again, when you try to "explain" the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, you know damn well that it is physically impossible to produce 15,000 of 'em... out of ONE. So, here you're getting into a very slippery slope : you just postulate that "theologians" INTERPRETED that myth by saying that it was, indeed, a metaphor about the need for people to SHARE what they have with their neighbours...

        Well...
        Do you REALLY think that all the above examples have anything to do with pragmatic, experimental modern science ??

        Do you really think that it is by applying this kind of thinking, that Einstein found the General Relativity system, or that Watson, Crick and Martha Chase (let's not forget her)... discovered the double-helix shape of the DNA ??

        NO.
        Then tell me.. What discoveries, inventions or scientific theories, specifically based on religious "reasoning", have ever produced ACTUAL knowledge, or practicalimprovements, beneficial to the whole of mankind ???



        QED.

  • If there is an andrew g on this thread, or if anyone knows how to find him on any thread, I would like to make his virtual acquaintance.....

  • One good bump deserves another- here is the initial response to Dave's "we scientists" contribution, Dave goes first:

    "I don’t see that anyone here has laid out why we scientists tend to be
    skeptical of religion, so I will try to do so briefly:"

    >> "We scientists"?

    Please.

    I can tell you what *Christian* scientists have *actually discovered*, beginning assuredly with Galileo, Kepler, Newton, but including also Curie, and Max Planck (as well as Leibniz and Euler among the mathematical discoverers)....

    _
    So.

    Christian scientists *discovered* the laws of planetary motion, the relativity principle, the theory of universal gravitation, nuclear energy, and the Planck constant.

    For starters.

    These scientists were not skeptical of their Christian religion, but that is perhaps because they were too busy discovering the scientific truths which created our modern world, to be skeptical about the religion which gave them the metaphysical assurance that science could discover valid principles in the first place.
    ***
    1) On the face of it, the various religions make various claims that seem, prima facie, a bit unlikely: after all, nobody would talk about the Virgin Birth, Creation, Resurrection, etc. if such events were a dime a dozen! The fact that these are not common events is the point of these events.

    2) Prior to the rise of modern science and critical history, there seemed nonetheless to be good reasons to believe that some of these surprising events really had occurred. E.g., the “Argument from Design” seemed to show that living organisms were designed by some Intelligent Designer,

    >> The Argument From Design still shows that, only stupendously more persuasively, now that we have had a chance to see the astonishing specified complexity- information content- involved in DNA.

    And as far as an *originator* (one of the giants, not one of "we scientists") is concerned:

    “As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind.”
    ― Max Planck

    ***

    presumably God.

    >> Bingo :-) Now you're starting to think like a real scientist again.......

    ***

    "The testimony of the Bible (and the handed-down traditions of the Church) seemed to offer serious witnesses for the Virgin Birth, Resurrection, etc."

    >> They much more than "seemed to" offer serious witnesses for that. They *in fact* offer serious witnesses for that.
    ***
    3) But science offered a very credible explanation for apparent design in living things that did not require God.

    >> Apparently someone forgot to tell the scientific discoverers mentioned above, like Max Planck.

    ****

    And, critical history -- comparative religion, the Higher Criticism of the Bible, etc. -- offered explanations for religious scriptures in general (not just the New Testament) that accounted for the New Testament without the need to assume that the mythical events related therein really occurred.

    >> In other words, by dismissing axiomatically and a priori the possibility of miracles, these geniuses claimed to have proven that nothing miraculous in the Bible can be historical.

    Circulus in probando- but then again dave, you have already affirmed that your education- unlike the educations of Newton, Kepler, Galileo, Curie, Planck, Liebniz, Euler, and Planck, did not include classical logical fallacies.

    Hmmm....

    Maybe that's part of the reason so many of the great discoverers were Christian?

    They got a Christian Classical education?

    Just asking......

    ***
    4) This may not logically prove that the miraculous events related in the Bible did not occur, but with the supposed evidence for those events demolished,

    >> Demolished? Oh, my. Circulus in probando arguments demolish nothing except the scientific credibility of those who deploy them........

    ********

    " we were back to square one: these events are, prima facie, very unlikely, and very unlikely events probably did not occur, unless there is evidence for them."

    >> The evidence, never having had a glove laid on it in the first place, remains exactly as it did in the first place.

    We have oral eyewitness accounts reduced to writing within the lifetimes of the witnesses, which involve specific predictions of events which had not then occurred, but which subsequently did occur (that is indeed miraculous).

    So far it is not hard to see why Newton, Kepler, Leibniz, Galileo, Curie, Planck, and Euler did not find themselves swayed by the habits of thought which produced the "historical critical" school of biblical eisegesis.

    They were too busy discovering the principles of Design which the hoodwinked victims of the "higher criticism" swindle insist cannot be present in the first place.

    Which may explain why they didn't discover them....

    *****

    5) The failure of "God of the gaps" arguments, such as the Argument from Design, has made scientists doubtful of more recent "God of the gaps" arguments, such as the "fine-tuning argument": i.e., arguing from current scientific ignorance seems a losing game given that scientists keep coming up with naturalistic, atheistic explanations for problems that were once mysteries.

    >> Since the Argument from Design is stupendously affirmed in cellular biology, it is unsurprising that the "fine tuning" argument in cosmology is now answered by "we scientists" with appeals to a multiverse (which cannot itself be- even in principle!- the object of scientific observation/experimental test)...................

    "We scientists" seem to have a positive aversion to the *actual* scientific method- the one that yields *actual, fundamental discoveries of principle*.

    "We scientists" might profitably go back and study the methods of the *real* scientific discoverers above, *all of whom* assumed that science consisted in the detection of the Principles by which the Designer had composed His universe.

    ****
    6) Philosophy offered various props to religion, but those props have been yanked away as philosophy itself has sunk into disrepute. Old philosophical issues, such as "Does change in an entity always come from external sources, or can change be caused purely internally," just seem silly to modern science. E.g., when an object is moving, is the change in its position caused externally or internally? That seems a bizarre question to a physicist: indeed, whether its position is changing depends on the frame of reference of the observer.

    >> Now notice of course that this latter is a philosophical *assumption*, and one which carries along with it certain logical consequences, which are themselves susceptible of scientific evaluation.

    For example, if the frame of reference of the observer is the only frame by which motion can be determined, then it follows that there can exist no special place, location, direction in the universe, which would allow us to construct a coordinate system valid for *all* observers.

    This is simply the Copernican/cosmological principle- yes, both of which are *philosophical* assertions.....

    And both of which have now been falsified by direct scientific observation of the largest-scale structures we have ever measured.

    Yes, indeed, "we scientists" are in for a rough patch of road.

    It'll be good for them.

    Time they got back to the method that actually yields *progress* in physics, rather than the elaboration of ever-more stupendously complex epicycles by which to patch up the *philosophical* errors that underlie their theories.

    *****
    7) The experience both of human history and of natural science shows that subjective feelings, inner intuition, one's interior voice, personal desires, spiritual messages, etc. are very poor avenues to learning about external reality unless confirmed by external objective evidence..

    The problem of course is that different people hear different interior voices and spiritual messages, have different intuitions and deepest desires, etc. Skeptical scientists therefore do not take seriously the subjectivist turn in modern religion, often taking it as further evidence that religion is simply fantasies that people find personally comforting.

    >> Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

    That is an historical assertion.

    It is not subjective.

    It is not personally comforting.

    It is a reported historical event which, if true, involves empirical grounds upon which to accept the Christian religion.

    Just as Newton, Kepler, Galileo, Leibniz, Euler, Curie, and Planck did.

    ******
    8) What science has learned about reality, the whole mechanistic, cosmological, quantitative way of thinking of modern science, fits very badly with the teleological, anthropocentric, purpose-driven worldview of religion. We see this in this thread where the religious contributors keep trying to make points that simply seem nonsensical to scientists.

    >> Ahem. Max? Oh, Max? Could you help Dave out here once more please?

    “There can never be any real opposition between religion and science; for the one is the complement of the other. Every serious and reflective person realizes, I think, that the religious element in his nature must be recognized and cultivated if all the powers of the human soul are to act together in perfect balance and harmony. And indeed it was not by accident that the greatest thinkers of all ages were deeply religious souls”
    ― Max Planck

    Does anyone think I have missed anything in pointing out the tremendous gap between physicist dave's worldview, and the worldview of the *scientific genius* Max Planck?

    • Newton was a heretic! He didn't believe in the Trinity or the divinity of Jesus.

      • Yes, Newton was an heretic, as well as an occultist (not surprising, considering his action-at-a-distance metaphysics).

        When Keynes purchased a chest containing Newton's papers at auction, he opened it up to discover an extensive trove of black magic and alchemical experimentation, rather than the hoped-for developmental stages of the calculus:

        "Newton was not the first of the age of reason. He was the last of the magicians, the last of the Babylonians and Sumerians, the last great mind that looked out on the visible and intellectual world with the same eyes as those who began to build our intellectual inheritance rather less than 10,000 years ago.”-- J. M. Keynes, "Newton, The Man"

      • MEMORYHOLE REMEDIATION:

        Yes, Newton was an heretic, as well as an occultist (not surprising, considering his action-at-a-distance metaphysics).

        When Keynes purchased a chest containing Newton's papers at auction, he opened it up to discover an extensive trove of black magic and alchemical experimentation, rather than the hoped-for developmental stages of the calculus:

        "Newton was not the first of the age of reason. He was the last of the magicians, the last of the Babylonians and Sumerians, the last great mind that looked out on the visible and intellectual world with the same eyes as those who began to build our intellectual inheritance rather less than 10,000 years ago.”-- J. M. Keynes, "Newton, The Man"

    • physicistdave

      Oh, you're a genius, Rick.

      If all of us scientists who wasted all of those years getting our Ph.D.s had only met you when we were in high school, why, just think of all that hard studying we could have avoided!

      No need to study science at all. Just read the Word of Rick.

    • Diogene 66

      All I can see, out of your lenghty endless post, quoting Planck's NAME again and again, is that it's justs a mere, failing attempt to pull this old Max on YOUR side, in order to desperately "demonstrate" scientists are faithful followers of YOUR god...

      Unfortunately, when, right at the (far away) beginning of your post, you pasted the original Planck's quotation about that famous, mysterious "force" he evoked (not only in that instance, but in other ones as well)....... I DON'T SEE THE WORD "GOD" WRITTEN ANYWHERE ! ! !

      So... making him say, again and again, that "IT" meant "god" when actually he was talking about a scientific complexity that seems to escape your mental comprehension... could be called limit-playing intellectual dishonesty.

      • So, if I can distill your objection, it appears to boil down to:

        "Max Planck did not include the word "God" in his assertions".

        Let me remedy this quibble immediately:

        “Both religion and science need for their activities the belief in God, and moreover God stands for the former in the beginning, and for the latter at the end of the whole thinking. For the former, God represents the basis, for the latter – the crown of any reasoning concerning the world-view.” (Max Planck, Religion und Naturwissenschaft, Leipzig: Johann Ambrosius Barth Verlag, 1958, 27).

        • Phil Rimmer

          The church did rather spin his new agey deism.

          "...Church spokesmen could scarcely become enthusiastic about Planck's deism, which omitted all reference to established religions and had no more doctrinal content than Einstein's Judaism. It seemed useful therefore to paint the lily, to improve the lesson of Planck's life for the use of proselytizers and to associate the deanthropomorphizer of science with a belief in a traditional Godhead."

          J. L. Heilbron (1986). The Dilemmas of an Upright Man: Max Planck and the Fortunes of German Science.

          • The Church didn't spin anything at all with respect to Max Planck, Phil.

            Planck was a Christian, subject to the typical retreat from the supernatural characteristic of German Protestantism at the time.

            The Catholic Church certainly never claimed him as one of Her own, and for good reason.

            So.

            If your argument is that Max Planck was not Catholic, then your argument is correct.

            If your argument is that Max Planck was an atheist, then your argument is incorrect.

          • Phil Rimmer

            New agey deism. Black and white. What on earth are you talking about?

            From wiki on Planck

            "Later in life, Planck's views on God were that of a deist.[25] For example, six months before his death a rumour started that Planck had converted to Catholicism, but when questioned what had brought him to make this step, he declared that, although he had always been deeply religious, he did not believe "in a personal God, let alone a Christian God."[26]"

          • As for Planck's views concerning atheism, I think the record is quite clear:

            "Under these conditions it is no wonder, that the movement of atheists, which declares religion to be just a deliberate illusion, invented by power-seeking priests, and which has for the pious belief in a higher Power nothing but words of mockery, eagerly makes use of progressive scientific knowledge and in a presumed unity with it, expands in an ever faster pace its disintegrating action on all nations of the earth and on all social levels. I do not need to explain in any more detail that after its victory not only all the most precious treasures of our culture would vanish, but — which is even worse — also any prospects at a better future."

            Max Planck lived and died as a professed Christian, though one who did not accept certain fundamental Truth of the Catholic Faith.

            It is utterly certain that He both believed in God, and considered atheism to be a deadly scourge upon every civilization in which it spread.

          • Phil Rimmer

            "Max Planck lived and died as a professed Christian"

            Got evidence?

          • Sure:

            http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/1985/JASA12-85Seeger2.html

            Relevant excerpts:

            1. He lived a professed Christian:

            "Planck believed in a supernatural being, omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent. "Religion is the link that binds man to God"-resulting from "the respectful humility before a supernatural power, to which all human life is subject and which controls our weal and woe." Questions of ethics are outside the realm of natural science. He believed in the absolute values of ethics, e.g., "truthfulness [except for conventional, social morality] is the noblest of all human virtues."

            The existence of God is solely and exclusively a matter of faith-a religious faith. He was favorable to all religions, but he himself chose Christianity."

            2. He died a professed Christian:

            "At seventy-two Planck became President of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute Society. In 1945, at the age of eightyseven, an American car brought him from his estate on the Elbe to Gdttingen, where I met him that fall. He died two years later; a eulogy was given at the St. Albani Church by Max von Laue (1879-1960), a former student"

          • Phil Rimmer

            Direct evidence, Rick. Not this thinnest of circumstantial stuff...

            Not..."He died two years later; a eulogy was given at the St. Albani Church by Max von Laue (1879-1960), a former student".

            Someone from the time describing the man like his former pupil and later assistant Lise Meitner-

            "It is certain that Planck did not believe in any
            specific form of religion; but he was religious (in the sense of Spinoza and Goethe) and repeatedly pointed it out. And since he was one of the most truthful of persons, there must have been a profound feeling behind his words that was a strong aid to him in the tragic vicissitudes of his life."

            Lise Meitner, 1958

            And that KWI presidency is a bit iffy. You really don't want him on your team....Eugenics, Mengele...? Most of the records were lost or permanently classified when it was turned into the Max Planck Institute.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaiser_Wilhelm_Institute_of_Anthropology,_Human_Heredity,_and_Eugenics

            But enough.

          • "Direct evidence, Rick. Not this thinnest of circumstantial stuff..."

            >> He says, just before presenting the thinnest of circumstantial evidence- actually, not evidence at all, merely the hearsay opinion of a third party:

            ""It is certain that Planck did not believe in any specific form of religion"

            This assertion is *directly contradicted by the facts*:

            "Planck, who from 1920 until his death was a churchwarden at Berlin-Grunewald, professed his belief in an almighty, omniscient, beneficent God, although he did not personify him."

            The empirical facts must trump the suppositions of third parties.

            The empirical fact is that Planck occupied an office in a Christian church from the 1920's *until his death*.

            I am afraid the atheists will be able to harvest no joy at all from Max Planck, who lived and died a professed Christian, and whose dim view of atheism is eloquently expressed in his own words, above.

  • Sage McCarey

    I, as an animal lover, must disagree. Why would a good god create a world in which the only way some animals can survive is to feed on other animals? I love the beauty of lions and tigers and panthers but why do they have to destroy other beautiful animals to live? To me this is a huge design flaw. There are many, many others.

  • Diogene 66

    I couldn't believe my eyes when I read the article of this "theologian" !

    He must have found his theology diploma as a "surprise" winning prize in a jelly beans' packet ! [ Relax ! I'm only bantering ! ]

    Now.. seriously : what really worries me is.... that immense capacity of DENIAL —not only showed here by this guy, but, more generally, by an overwhelming majority of theists, be they catholics, protestants, muslims or whatever...

    When something, finally, is blatantly demonstrated as being in COMPLETE OPPOSITE to their faith, creed, ideas or convictions —as it is evidently the case in this Einstein affair—, they have this incredible skill to pirouette it into something that (in their own eyes) REINFORCES their standpoint !

    I just can't believe it !

    Here we have this newly-discovered WRITTEN material (not a simple rumour, propagated by word-of-mouth), authentified as emanating directly from Einstein, stating firmly : « [ I ] dismiss belief in God as superstitious and [ I ] characterize the stories in the Bible as childish »... which is exactly what atheists have been saying for several centuries by now....

    And in the end, what do I read ?

    When talking about his "dismissing god as supersition" :
    « he was reacting against PRIMITIVE and superstitious FORMS of religion, just as St. Paul was » ! !
    Ooooh... Awright.... In other words : even in writing this explicit ANTI-RELIGIOUS letter, Einstein is as religiously fanatic "as Saint Paul was" !
    Good shot...

    Then... what about his complete rejection of the [fairy tales] in the bible as "being childish" ??

    Oh oh... This one cannot easily be twisted, to "fit" in the catholic's rightful-thinking...

    So now we have : « HERE I think we have to make a distinction. A person can be a genius in one field of endeavor and remain naïve, even INEPT (!), in another... »
    — And even worse, in the following sentence : « This is no guarantee that he had even an adequate appreciation for Sacred Scripture » !

    Again, in other words : when Einstein, at a certain phase in the evolution of his thoughts about god and religion, said : « Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe », he was, then. in the eyes of this theologian, a very keen genius... But when, later on and toward the end of his life, after mature reflections, he revised his standpoints (thus, as common sense infers, CANCELLING all previous statements), he came to the conclusion that all this is just childish attitudes, he "suddenly" becomes a mere no-good, INEPT (!) intellectual thinker when dealing with the deep reality of our Universe ! !

    That's what I call a very worrisome example of bad faith.

  • Andreas Geisler

    The argument from intelligibility is a complete failure.
    In fact, what it uses as a premise is the main reason to NOT believe in any form of creator.
    Why is the universe analyzable? Because it is NOT created by any arbitrary volition, because it is objective and spontaneous, not someone's subjective creation.
    It is necessarily as it is, because its form is dictated by simple properties, each set spontaneously and independent of any choosing agent.

    It's fairly easy to see this. If you are asked what you favorite color is, you can give an answer, but if asked why it is so, you might be stumped. Or you might rationalize something that sounds credible, but you might not know if it is actually the true reason.
    You have chosen your favorite color. It is subjective. It is not objective, because it is not dictated by any natural state of affairs. So you know what it is, but it is not, as such intelligible.

    So, the argument from intelligibility is just an example of how wishful thinking can make people believe the exact opposite of the truth.

  • Ear to44

    So, Can a person "Turn to god" or "Be alone with god" without believing in god?
    I don't think so. One needs to either say, I am here alone with my cat, and continue from there, or to include "god" . Here is an example. A person learns his daughter has died, and then writes to a friend, and tells the friend " I just received word that my daughter has died, and I am sitting here all alone under gods expansive universe"
    Would you say, this person, at this time did not believe in god ? Or at this time, this person did believe in god? It's really not complicated. This person, at this time, did believe in god, and included "god" in his letter to his friend to share his sorrow. There's also no reason a person can't change his or her mind 21 years later, and simply dismiss "god" I know, for a fact, A.E. believed in god, even if it was for one day.

  • Frank M

    I believe what Einstein was expressing, and forgive me for going so far as to conjecture a possible quote if he were alive today, would be "I just don't know what I don't know".

    Most people would grant that he knew quite a lot but he may agree that he really knew very little. I humbly agree.

  • Brendan Ward

    he did not have to believe in a god or not i say he was not sure of himself

  • Troy Slocum

    Barron chose to edit the Einstein quote at the beginning of the article in this way: "In this sense...I am a devoutly religious man.” But the text he excluded actually alters slightly the meaning of the quote, which in full is, "In this sense, *and in this sense only*, I am a devoutly religious man.” [my emphasis]

    By leaving out that phrase, Barron makes it seem as if Einstein might be open to a more traditional conception of God. This strikes me as a bit disingenuous.

  • Do you have a source for this letter? I must be missing the link in your article.

  • cakibanget
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  • "It was recently revealed that, toward the end of his life, Albert Einstein wrote a letter in which he dismissed belief in God as superstitious and characterized the stories in the Bible as childish."

    It's not recent, it wasn't just toward the end of his life, and it wasn't just in a letter. Einstein repeatedly warned about folks like you who ripped his statements out of context.

  • Gellie

    This has been called a "failure" of Einstein, but, it was his willingness to lie for the "establishment" that was no mistake, but a down right lie. Globally bent timespace doesn't cause gravity. Gravity causes globally bent timespace; just as does velocity in mechanics, current in electricity, and entropy production rate in thermodynamics, which is identical to polarity cancellation rate .. The entropy of the universe having been defined to be the proportion of photons to nucleons, and nucleons of opposite polarities cancel out into photons, shows that polarity cancellation rate is identical with entropy production rate. The Philadelphia Experiment showed that such current, which bent timespace below pi, causing probability transduction travel, didn't cause any gravity.
    The universe is like a shaken bottle of water. The water represents energy as the one substance. The bubbles represent the differentiations of energy in energy, in closed circuitry, that there be something to move out out of the way and fill in behind in the one substance, energy. The air represents energy as probability. The bottle represent the limitation of impossibilities. The shaking is the infinitesimal point nothingness, . , rastered by time into timespace, U, which exerts its oneness in one direction, /, thereby stirring closed circuitry, O, allowed by the rising value of pi from zero up, that all going the same way repels, X, forcing confluencies, =, thereby allowing undifferentiations back into nonexistence. The friction is facilitated by the Planck's volumes. Nothing can be smaller than Planck's volume. The infinitesimal point nothing is nothing.
    It can be seen here that that which has been called the "pull" of attraction is actually the pressure of all the repelling circuits, X, pushing into confluencies, =. This is the one force. The real opposite polarities are counterclockwise and clockwise. Counterclockwise, vO^, face to face, on clockwise, ^Ov, are confluent. The unions and thereby cancellations of opposite polarities are circuits merging to be undifferentiated, losing their individual existences, into individual nonexistence.