Man v. God

What a match-up, eh?

The Wall Street Journal asked two authors to respond to the question “Where does evolution leave god?” Karen Armstrong and Richard Dawkins were those two authors. I suspect that the Dawkins response is culled from his upcoming book, “The Greatest Show On Earth“, being published later this month. Since I generally agree with Dawkins’ take on Evolution, and how it affects the concept of god, I’ll comment on his response only peripherally. However, Karen Armstrong’s’ response evokes a response from me.  I’m not sure I completely follow her thoughts, so I will try to do so here, and come to some conclusion at the end.

Initially I thought the title, and the two separate responses, one from a confirmed scientist/atheist and one from someone not so antagonistic towards religion, was a set-up for a dichotomy on the subject. The two independent headings to the respective essays seems to point to a difference in conclusions.

Karen Armstrong says we need God to grasp the wonder of our existence

and

Richard Dawkins argues that evolution leaves God with nothing to do

but I’m not so sure. She starts off agreeing with Dawkins:

Richard Dawkins has been right all along, of course—at least in one important respect. Evolution has indeed dealt a blow to the idea of a benign creator, literally conceived. It tells us that there is no Intelligence controlling the cosmos, and that life itself is the result of a blind process of natural selection, in which innumerable species failed to survive. The fossil record reveals a natural history of pain, death and racial extinction, so if there was a divine plan, it was cruel, callously prodigal and wasteful. Human beings were not the pinnacle of a purposeful creation; like everything else, they evolved by trial and error and God had no direct hand in their making. No wonder so many fundamentalist Christians find their faith shaken to the core.

All well and good, except for the assumption that god actually exists in the phrase “and God had no direct hand in their making”. She appears to be trying to hang on to the idea of a deistic god, one who started the process but then abandoned it.

But Darwin may have done religion—and God—a favor by revealing a flaw in modern Western faith…

Here’s where she starts to lose me.  The implication here is that religion is valid, civilization has just been going about it all wrong. And she’s now going to show us the right way, with the help of Darwin. How neat and tidy! How reconciliatory!

Despite our scientific and technological brilliance, our understanding of God is often remarkably undeveloped—even primitive. In the past, many of the most influential Jewish, Christian and Muslim thinkers understood that what we call “God” is merely a symbol that points beyond itself to an indescribable transcendence, whose existence cannot be proved but is only intuited by means of spiritual exercises and a compassionate lifestyle that enable us to cultivate new capacities of mind and heart.

OK. Now she’s abandoned reason and slipped effortlessly into the realm of theistic apologetics. What she’s saying is that our understanding of god up to this point in time is all wrong. In fact, god is so complex, and so unknowable, that we’ve been worshiping only a “symbol” of god, (the symbol itself being a creation of man)  not the real thing.  That last clause, about “indescribable transcendence” and a “compassionate lifestyle” and cultivating “new capacities of mind and heart” are just the kind of apologetics theists revert back to when their god is challenged. It’s what Christopher Hitchens calls “white noise”. It is totally meaningless blather designed in flowery phrasing to hide the inability of the writer to pin down her god. It’s an appeal to emotion, when the question of the existence of god is a question of fact. To her credit, she’s not arguing in favor of that type of god; she’s only pointing out the type of god many believers put their faith in – an ephemeral god.

I suspect that theists have always felt rather than known their god. Their faith feels good, but in the end they cannot rationalize it. That’s the nature a faith, and most purveyors of apologetics freely admit it. Karen Armstrong seems to be doing just that. She recites a short history of religious thought as it came up against scientific facts, and acknowledges that progressively, religion had no choice but to fall back with each advance of science, until

…finally, Darwin showed that there could be no proof for God’s existence.

She also acknowledges this faith/reason conflict historically.

Most cultures believed that there were two recognized ways of arriving at truth. The Greeks called them mythos and logos. Both were essential and neither was superior to the other; they were not in conflict but complementary, each with its own sphere of competence. Logos (“reason”) was the pragmatic mode of thought that enabled us to function effectively in the world and had, therefore, to correspond accurately to external reality. But it could not assuage human grief or find ultimate meaning in life’s struggle. For that people turned to mythos, stories that made no pretensions to historical accuracy but should rather be seen as an early form of psychology; if translated into ritual or ethical action, a good myth showed you how to cope with mortality, discover an inner source of strength, and endure pain and sorrow with serenity.

First, Greek mythology is not something  any modern person believes in, other than as a source of literature. Second, Armstrong acknowledges that in all day-to-day dealings with life, we are inherently rationalists, operating in the world of the logos. Only in times of crisis and stress (human grief) do we seek solace in the mythos, an “early form of psychology”. So, when confronted with realities that are hard to handle, humans’ natural reaction is to retreat to a fantasy for comfort. Eventually, given the comfort that religion actually brings to people, it stops being a fantasy, and becomes reality. Our brains have an amazing capacity of fooling ourselves in order to protect our sanity. It is common knowledge that the mind can actually erase memories of severely traumatic events in order to prevent a total psychological breakdown. So, why not this milder form of trauma therapy? Armstrong agrees.

In the ancient world, a cosmology was not regarded as factual but was primarily therapeutic; it was recited when people needed an infusion of that mysterious power that had—somehow—brought something out of primal nothingness: at a sickbed, a coronation or during a political crisis.

So where does this leave us in our quest to determine whether god actually exists?

Religion was not supposed to provide explanations that lay within the competence of reason but to help us live creatively with realities for which there are no easy solutions and find an interior haven of peace; today, however, many have opted for unsustainable certainty instead. But can we respond religiously to evolutionary theory? Can we use it to recover a more authentic notion of God?

In other words, god doesn’t exist, other than in some poetic sense in our minds. Those that insist that god exists outside of ourselves are deluding themselves, by seeking “unsustainable certainty”. It seems then that Karen Armstrong actually agrees with Dawkins, yet the danger is that in reading her essay, many will still cling to their notion that god exists, independent of their belief that he does, because she couches her agreement in the language of apologetics. In the end, however, she and Dawkins are on the same page.

Apparently, the flaw in Western religious thought – her initial premise –  is the idea of a real god, one with sustainable certainty. God really doesn’t exist, in reality. Only in the hearts (a muscle, no less) and minds of the faithful.

add to del.icio.usdel.icio.us Digg itreddit Stumble It!

134 thoughts on “Man v. God

  1. There are lots of people I’ve encountered who will rant against the evils of religion, and its dogmatic motivations to oppose reproductive rights and equal rights, yet grow hostile at atheists who suggest notions of the supernatural and of a god are silly and unwarranted to accept. I hear again and again them cite some sense of wonder, of awe, and claim that is god (or proof of him at least). Some say the same about love. I’d call that taking solace in mythos. Those people I don’t have much trouble with, but then they’re also likely to stink of petuli I think. Blech!

  2. Amen, Brother Philly!

    I can’t get my mind around whether this woman is trying to make nonsense pay tribute to sense or the other way around, though.

  3. I did read somewhere last week where Christians thought this debate was bullshit, even calling it a debate between atheists! They’re probably not that far off though, since I see those nebulous god types as being people who can’t quite let go of the god thing.

  4. SI – who is Karen Hughes?

    Karen Armstrong’s concept of God is so fuzzy that I honestly can’t see why she bothers holding on to it. A deistic deity makes more sense than her symbol of indescribable transcendence.

  5. SI – who is Karen Hughes?

    HA! There’s a brain fart for you. Her name is right there in front of me and I still had Karen Hughes on the brain. Karen Hughes was, IIRC, some kind of counselor to George Bush in his first administration. I have no idea how I confabulated the two.

    It’s fixed now.

  6. Good post. Though I dont see any problem in thinking that there could be a creative starting point. In fact evolution could even have a design and purpose to it. The only time “faith” or “belief” becomes an issue is when you try to hoist it on to others. I still firmly believe that it is rational and logical to suppose an intelligence behind our start. Also, maybe the delusion of believing these things keeps us trucking in our evolution. 😉

  7. Good possibility. Afterall even Einstein believed in multiple universes as a possiblity. Who knows where it starts or stops. My brain is as limited as yours on this matter. So long as you and I stay away from the “Absolute” of knowing one way or another, I would be more than willing to sit down and let you buy me a beer.

  8. “In the ancient world, a cosmology was not regarded as factual but was primarily therapeutic; it was recited when people needed an infusion of that mysterious power that had—somehow—brought something out of primal nothingness: at a sickbed, a coronation or during a political crisis.”

    That’s highly revisionist. I can’t believe she’s implying that ancient people didn’t actually believe what they said they believed. Many people were killed because they disputed the “primarily therapeutic” beliefs that their culture held as fact. If she’s going to make an appeal to tradition, it helps if it’s actually a real tradition…

  9. So long as you and I stay away from the “Absolute” of knowing one way or another…

    Without turning around to look at it, do you absolutely know there’s still a wall behind you?

    Observation and experience are evidence we rely on to make judgments. If you’re sitting at home for instance reading this, you probably have considerable experience of never seeing that wall behind you disappear or change form. Compound that with experience of never seeing any wall do that, understanding that without that wall, your ceiling might collapse, items on the wall would have fall, and you would hear such things happening behind you. So you don’t absolutely know it’s still there, or absolutely know it hasn’t turned into a super chicken which can maintain the structural integrity of your home as well as hold up the items which were on the wall before, however what’s reasonable to assume, the wall still being there or the super chicken?

    So when you start going down that road of supposing, lack of absolute knowledge is not a free license for supposing gods, disappearing walls or even super chickens. Suppose responsibly.

    And that’s One to Grow On (and shame on you Uncle George). 😉

  10. To suppose intelligence at the beginning is not irresponsible, it is perfectly reasonable within the framework of my intelligence. If you wish to talk about disappearing walls and super chickens, well , thats altogether another thing. I guess you already got started on the beers without me eh? 🙂

  11. So some lady has a warm and fuzzy concept of God… not very interesting.

    TitForTat,

    To suppose intelligence at the beginning is not irresponsible, it is perfectly reasonable within the framework of my intelligence.

    That’s correct, yet we still have countless atheists who claim zero epistemic justification for belief exists.

  12. For the epistemic justification for belief: there is NONE. Here’s the definition of epistemic for you and everyone else who cares to look it up: “Of, relating to, or involving knowledge; cognitive.” Zero, nada, etc. epistemic justification exists for belief. There is no knowledge of the supernatural so there is no knowledge based reason to believe in the supernatural.

    Does that mean there is no reason to believe? I don’t see one. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a reason to believe. People can concoct a multitude of reasons for believing in one thing or another and it’s the type of reasoning that matters, rather than whether or not you have a reason. Reason alone is not enough to believe in something.

    I hope that actually made sense. It’s been another one of those long days for me at school (and it’s yet to end).

  13. There is no knowledge of the supernatural so there is no knowledge based reason to believe in the supernatural.(Writing shadows)

    I think my supposition isnt based on the supernatural. What I am supposing would be completely natural, its just that we havnt found a way to quantify it yet. Thats where science comes in. Its Just a matter of time.
    If the atheist wants to believe its all just random, then thats their choice. My choice is that it isnt.

    Philly I would still like that beer though. 😉

  14. I think my supposition isn’t based on the supernatural. What I am supposing would be completely natural, its just that we haven’t found a way to quantify it yet.

    Interesting. Then you agree with the post that there’s really no basis for “gods” as we usually imagine them, since by definition, gods are supernatural. They fit within the realm of mythos. You’re more in the “higher intelligence, perhaps superior aliens” camp? And you’re there because it’s hard to believe that the universe didn’t come about except by an intelligent force?

    Is that fair?

  15. Thank you for the clarification, WS.

    To suppose intelligence at the beginning is not irresponsible, it is perfectly reasonable within the framework of my intelligence.

    That’s the nerdiest version of self-deprecating humor I’ve ever read, and worthy of a beer. 🙂

  16. TitForTat,

    Regarding “countless atheists who claim zero epistemic justification for belief exists,” see Writing Shadows’ comment for a perfect example of what I’m talking about.

  17. Are we confused about what the concept of God is? Because it seems to me that people are presuming that the supernatural can be quantified in the natural plane of existence. Supernatural = beyond natural. Meaning that no matter how far science goes, it will never be able to quantify something outside of the natural, if such an existence actually is.

    I thought this was why no matter what argument any atheist or scientist offers in counter of the belief in God, people could always say, and do usually say, “God operates outside our own laws.”

    And TitforTat, I wasn’t responding to you on that first post, but to cl.

    Though, I would like to say that it isn’t exactly random for two (or more) chemicals/particles/what-have-you to react with each other to produce a new product. There are random variables but nothing is completely random. Reactions occur based on what we know of elements, their properties, and how they respond to each other. Hence, it being, at least in part, non-random. I could even explain the evolutionary aspect being non-random with random variables if you want. We could even integrate mathematical equations into this to show it.

    Just because we don’t know the exact and intricate details of the universe, or how something works, does not mean it’s ‘random’. It means we don’t know… as of now.

    As for the God thing… I really don’t see how something which operates outside the laws of the universe can be quantifiable. But maybe I’m missing something.

  18. The problem is although god claims usually say a god is in this other realm, this supernatural space outside of space and time so it can’t be detected by regular means, they usually also claim interaction with this realm, the natural world. They can’t have it both ways, yet that doesn’t stop them from demanding it.

    The objection by the theist to saying there’s no epistemic justification for god belief is due to what they consider knowledge. They consider “what they know in their heart to be true” as knowledge, much like how Stephen Colbert knows in his gut what’s real truthiness, and when you point out how that’s not knowledge, that giving testimonies of such feelings and other claims of personal revelation aren’t evidence, they’ll simply say something ridiculous like “not evidence you’re willing to accept”, plus claiming we’re closed-minded.

    The whole matter of dealing with these nutters is utterly frustrating. I understand why, back in the day, psychiatrists used to give shock treatments. At a certain point you get so frustrated you simply don’t know how to get through.

  19. SI

    Anytime someone claims God did it, is an absolute. I can see how that would drive you guys nuts. I am only supposing that it is possible that there is a creative intelligence behind the origins of life as I see it. For all I know that could be aliens. As far as my supposition being “fair”. What the hell does fair have to do with this conversation. Its not like there are absolute rules to how we should all think, is there? Afterall even Philly has strange suppositions. He supposes the KC Chiefs will eventually win the superbowl. 😉

    • You didn’t get Philly’s chicken/wall metaphor did you?

      The whole point is that you can create suppositions for anything. Do you want to live your life believing a Super chicken is keeping your house up when your back is turned, just because I can suppose it?

      The correct answer is no.

      Same for this creative intelligence. I’m not going to live my life as if their is a creator just because someone supposes it. Give us a good reason to live our lives as if he exists, and I’m sure we would.

      Of course, cl will say that he won’t do that because we’ll reject it, but really, all he can say is that we’ve rejected everything in the past. That doesn’t mean we will do so if something convincing comes along. It just means that everything so far sucks as a good reason.

      • Give us a good reason to live our lives as if he exists, and I’m sure we would. Of course, cl will say that he won’t do that because we’ll reject it, but really, all he can say is that we’ve rejected everything in the past. That doesn’t mean we will do so if something convincing comes along. It just means that everything so far sucks as a good reason.

        For Pete’s sake, do you think about me in your sleep, too? It’s funny how people call me a narcissist, but they’re always talking about me.

        In truth, there are two reasons why, barring some indication of change in your attitude, I will no longer attempt to give you good reason to believe God exists:

        1) Last time I tried to even begin, you rudely accused me of “avoiding” while you naively misunderstood my plainly-stated argument for hundreds of comments, and you know in your heart this was the case;

        2) I can’t give you a good reason to believe God exists because your eternal destiny is not my responsibility. If you would believe in God simply because you saw an arm regrow or a photograph of heaven, you’re a fool (cf. PhillyChief 22 September 2009 at 9:34 AM).

  20. As for the God thing… I really don’t see how something which operates outside the laws of the universe can be quantifiable. But maybe I’m missing something(Writing Shadows)

    Now there is an absolute truth. Yep, we are all missing something. Tell you what, when you have all of the Universal laws down pat, give Philly a call. Im sure he will buy you a beer.

  21. I really don’t see how something which operates outside the laws of the universe can be quantifiable.

    I really don’t see how one would know or have reason to believe said unquantifiable thing exists then. There are claims of said thing affecting the universe, and such so-called affects should be quantifiable, but then we’re right back to asking why those affects should be attributed to the act of that entity.

    And “eventually” is a wonderfully unquantifiable time frame, so suck it.

  22. In the world of all theoretical possibilities, certainly there might be realities we don’t understand. Maybe even the kind that we’ll never understand. Who knows? But why God? I find gods to be perfectly understandable in terms of human psychology and societal evolution. When you look at religion like you would any other naturally occurring phenomenon, it suddenly all makes sense. There’s no longer any esoteric mystery to get worked up over.

  23. I’d like to support TitForTat in his claim that the idea of a creative intelligence is 100% reasonable and logically sustained. Aristotle called it the Argument from Motion and although no proof of any particular God, it really does constitute sound epistemic justification for belief in a Creator.

    Writing Shadows,

    Are we confused about what the concept of God is?

    If you’re asking me, the answer is no. If by your assertion that the supernatural can’t be quantified in the natural plane of existence you mean only to say that God is not amenable to the scientific method, then I’ll tend to agree with you.

    Supernatural = beyond natural. Meaning that no matter how far science goes, it will never be able to quantify something outside of the natural, if such an existence actually is.

    Although I get the gist of what you’re saying, I would take issue here. Fire used to be thought supernatural whereas today it seems quite natural, so I opine that we need better definitions.

    There are random variables but nothing is completely random.

    I like that line of thinking and play with it often. Still, whether we say evolution is random or not, would you agree that without God life is ultimately an accident (as TitForTat seems to have implied)?

    I really don’t see how something which operates outside the laws of the universe can be quantifiable.

    If all you’re saying is that we can’t prove God scientifically, I agree, but this all hinges on what you mean by quantifiable. If we mean reproducible on command – as in the type of hard evidence science generally prefers – then of course God isn’t going to be quantifiable. If we mean in a philosophical, logical or religious context based on one or more previous descriptions along with our own experiences (if any), that’s different and I’d say we can quantify God in a way that is sufficient but certainly incomplete. You took issue with the “epistemic justification” part of my comment; epistemic justification is not the same thing as quantifiable proof. As far as God goes, my opinion is that we have the former but certainly not the latter. I’d say only God can provide the latter.

    jim,

    There’s no longer any esoteric mystery to get worked up over.

    To me, life itself is an esoteric mystery to get worked up over, one science has barely even began to apprehend.

  24. Well, I had written quite a lengthy reply to this but the connection went out when I went to submit it. Oh, well. Let me be brief then.

    “Although I get the gist of what you’re saying, I would take issue here. Fire used to be thought supernatural whereas today it seems quite natural, so I opine that we need better definitions.”

    While this example is decent, it’s entirely different in nature, and let me explain that: it was once generally thought that the world was flat yet, many philosophers dating back to long before Aristotle, proposed in arguments that the world was in fact, a sphere. So, while fire may have been mystically explained for a good amount of time, it’d be extremely surprising to hear that there weren’t a large group of these philosophers who thought there was a more reasonable explanation for fire.

    “I like that line of thinking and play with it often. Still, whether we say evolution is random or not, would you agree that without God life is ultimately an accident (as TitForTat seems to have implied)?”

    No, I wouldn’t agree with that. Not because I disagree with the statement that life is an accident (nor do I necessarily agree with it either) but because I don’t know, and science hasn’t been able to find an adequate explanation for what happened before the Big Bang occurred. Does that mean I’m going to chalk it up to a God? Absolutely not.

    I never understood why theists would love to claim that someone had to create this universe but no one had to create God. As one person said (it might’ve been Nietzsche but it’s been a while): Do we lack the imagination to not think that the universe always existed? I paraphrased and the person who originally said it, probably said it better, but the point should remain clear.

    “If we mean in a philosophical, logical or religious context based on one or more previous descriptions along with our own experiences (if any), that’s different and I’d say we can quantify God in a way that is sufficient but certainly incomplete.”

    That’s not a sufficient case for God. I’ll explain why: while philosophical arguments are good for self-exploration, they aren’t much good at convincing people of anything, and for good reason because they have nothing aside from their theoretical arguments (that is, arguments derived from imagination, such as the universe having always existed). As for logical, I can come up with a perfectly logical argument (even one that relies on much of science), and philosophical argument, for the existence of leprechauns or any other such thing… and it still wouldn’t mean a damn thing.

    Now, as for personal experience, this has to be the crown of all foolish reasons to believe in something (even more foolish than SI or Philly claiming that they’d believe in God if a spontaneous limb regeneration occurred and this statement stands even if you combine the three types of ‘arguments’ you propose are sufficient). Considering that we can create our own memories:

    http://faculty.washington.edu/eloftus/Articles/hoff.htm

    And we can create false memories (which are similar in vein, but I think there’s a distinction between the two):

    http://faculty.washington.edu/eloftus/Articles/sciam.htm

    I hardly think personal experience counts for much of anything, let alone knowledge of a supernatural being such as God (or a ghost… or a leprechaun… or any number of things).

    “To me, life itself is an esoteric mystery to get worked up over, one science has barely even began to apprehend.”

    This part of my diagreement with you will be purely from emotion: life itself is not an esoteric mystery (esoteric means that is meant for a select few). I think it is a mystery, as do just about every scientist you will ever talk to. That is exactly what drives me towards science. The more I learn the more of a mystery I find. Science manifested and has been driven because of this mystery and people’s insatiable desire to solve a few mysteries while creating new ones. Read almost any scientists writings or listen to their lectures and you’ll see that this is their apprehension of the mystery is what urged them towards this field (Albert Einstein was a prominent voice to this feeling).

    Note: I refer to mystery only in a sense that there are things unsolved and/or unknown.

  25. I just realized how long that turned out. My intention was to be brief anyway, but I get carried away when discussions take place.

  26. I concur strongly with your thoughts on “personal experience”, WS. One of the greatest forms of personal enlightenment one can come to is the acute recognition that what I am *sure about* can be wrong and, to swipe the old adage – the more incredible my personal experiences are, the more they require me to gain independent confirmation.

    Further, honest appraisal of more extreme personal experiences require that, even if confirmed, I reject the opportunity of drawing wider conclusions.

    For instance, if we had an earthquake here in Los Angeles and all of the family pictures on our mantle came tumbling off and all landed upright on the floor in the same posture they had maintained on the mantle – I would be flabbergasted. But I wouldn’t conclude that god, or any other invisible entity must have had a hand in it.

  27. ..while fire may have been mystically explained for a good amount of time, it’d be extremely surprising to hear that there weren’t a large group of these philosophers who thought there was a more reasonable explanation for fire.

    The point was, “supernatural” is just a euphemism for that which we don’t understand. “Can you prove the supernatural” is a silly question; if you can prove it, it’s not “beyond the natural.” Your position is to draw a line between the supernatural and the natural, and I’m saying that’s not a veridically useful distinction because we’re constantly uncovering new information.

    No, I wouldn’t agree with that. Not because I disagree with the statement that life is an accident (nor do I necessarily agree with it either) but because I don’t know, and science hasn’t been able to find an adequate explanation for what happened before the Big Bang occurred.

    I respect people who say they don’t know. That’s what I say to quite a few questions. Yet, whether or not life is an accident seems a Boolean question: if no God or form of higher Consciousness is responsible for life on Earth, then all these chemical reactions just happened in succession from a Prime Reaction of some sort. Wouldn’t you say?

    I never understood why theists would love to claim that someone had to create this universe but no one had to create God.

    While certainly not proof of any particular God(s), when properly understood, Aristotle’s Argument from Motion seems a rather cogent explanation of why nobody had to create God. Further, God(s) aside, what reasonable grounds do we have to deny the existence of uncaused objects? Is there anything logically impossible about them?

    That’s not a sufficient case for God. I’ll explain why:

    You didn’t have to explain why because I didn’t offer that paragraph as a sufficient case for God. I was responding to your remark about whether God and/or things supernatural were quantifiable.

    Now, as for personal experience, this has to be the crown of all foolish reasons to believe in something (even more foolish than SI or Philly claiming that they’d believe in God if a spontaneous limb regeneration occurred and this statement stands even if you combine the three types of ‘arguments’ you propose are sufficient).

    Again, I wasn’t proposing arguments for God’s existence; I was responding to your remark about God being quantifiable.

    My whole point was, yes, I agree with you that there is no scientific proof for God, but your assertion that “there is zero epistemic justification for belief” is not correct.

    This part of my diagreement with you..

    What do you disagree with? You agreed life was a mystery. Lastly, I really have no idea why you assume I don’t read scientist’s writings or listen to their lectures.

  28. Sorry Evo, I missed your comment while posting..

    One of the greatest forms of personal enlightenment one can come to is the acute recognition that what I am *sure about* can be wrong

    I agree.

    ..if we had an earthquake here in Los Angeles and all of the family pictures on our mantle came tumbling off and all landed upright on the floor in the same posture they had maintained on the mantle – I would be flabbergasted. But I wouldn’t conclude that god, or any other invisible entity must have had a hand in it.

    Although it’s unclear if that’s a sneer at me or not, all I’d like to clarify is that in a scientific sense, I’d never drawn a firm conclusion that God or any other invisible entity must have had a hand in the video game incident. I don’t offer the video game incident as proof or evidence of God. I offer it as evidence that consciousness can affect and experience reality outside of the body.

    There was no earthquake in San Francisco that night.

  29. cl – you unnecessarily tilt what I was doing towards a confrontation by wondering if it was a “sneer”. It *was* with your example in mind. I wasn’t sneering.

    I offer it as evidence that consciousness can affect and experience reality outside of the body.

    Can you put this into more personal words? What was its affect upon you? Did you conclude this demonstrated anything?

  30. cl – one other thing:

    Evo: “One of the greatest forms of personal enlightenment one can come to is the acute recognition that what I am *sure about* can be wrong

    cl: “I agree.

    Had anyone asked me ahead of your answer, I would have had little doubt that you would. I’d be more interested in your agreement (or not) with the remainder of that sentence, and the next one.

  31. cl – you unnecessarily tilt what I was doing towards a confrontation by wondering if it was a “sneer”.

    Right, because you guys NEVER sneer at me…

    Can you put this into more personal words? What was its affect upon you? Did you conclude this demonstrated anything?

    I wrote an entire post about it. Read it, then as SI would say, “Put up or shut up.”

    Had anyone asked me ahead of your answer, I would have had little doubt that you would. I’d be more interested in your agreement (or not) with the remainder of that sentence, and the next one.

    Sure:

    “..the more incredible my personal experiences are, the more they require me to gain independent confirmation.”

    I’d say any personal experience requires the subject to gain independent confirmation.

    “..honest appraisal of more extreme personal experiences require that, even if confirmed, I reject the opportunity of drawing wider conclusions.”

    If by this you mean ‘keep things in scope,’ of course I agree. That’s why I felt you’d taken the video game incident out-of-scope, because the analogy you gave was not in scope.

  32. cl – “You didn’t have to explain why because I didn’t offer that paragraph as a sufficient case for God. I was responding to your remark about whether God and/or things supernatural were quantifiable.”

    I phrased that incorrectly, it seems. My point was that the things you listed (logical and philosophical arguments) are not sufficient reason to believe in nor sufficient to quantify God. All for the reasons I listed and there probably are more that I’m not thinking of. There have to be standards for quantification and those wouldn’t suffice. That was my point.

    “If no God or form of higher Consciousness is responsible for life on Earth, then all these chemical reactions just happened in succession from a Prime Reaction of some sort. Wouldn’t you say?”

    That would be it exactly. But it’d be no accident for a reaction to run to completion while producing new products. Life, our life that is, would be considered a product of a reaction. As opposed to an ‘accident’ or even a Gods creation.

    “Further, God(s) aside, what reasonable grounds do we have to deny the existence of uncaused objects? Is there anything logically impossible about them?”

    I never denied them. In fact, I went on to state that I don’t see why the possibility of the Universe having always existed, uncaused, in some shape or form was not more likely than a being which operates outside of everything known. To me, it seems more plausible to believe in the former (that is, the Uncaused Universe) than it is the latter (God). And the argument from motion, as I understand it, can apply to this as well.

    As for the last comment: I disagreed with your statement that science has only just begun to apprehend the mystery of life. They have only just begun finding answers to the mystery of life. And I also disagreed with your use of esoteric for the aforementioned reason (that esoteric means it’s available to a select few rather than everyone).

    I also didn’t assume you hadn’t read or listened to scientists. You assumed that was my position. I stated that when you read or listen to scientists you would find a certain result. That goes for everyone. Not just you specifically.

    Hope that made more sense.

  33. . My point was that the things you listed (logical and philosophical arguments) are not sufficient reason to believe in nor sufficient to quantify God.

    And my point was that you interpreted an explanation of classification as logical and philosophical arguments for God. I was just noting that yes, while we can’t “quantify” God in the sense of scientific proof, we can “quantify” God for the purposes of discussion in a way that is veridically useful.

    There have to be standards for quantification and those wouldn’t suffice. That was my point.

    I wasn’t saying they were standards that should suffice; I was saying we can quantify God philosophical, logical or religious context – quantify as in deduce in a veridically useful manner – not quantify as in prove.

    Life, our life that is, would be considered a product of a reaction.

    Well, that’s just a fancier way of saying, “effect of an accident.” When it gets down to it, an accident caused life, or something purposeful caused it.

    I never denied them.

    I know, I wasn’t saying you did. Me asking what reasonable grounds we have to deny the existence of uncaused objects doesn’t mean I’ve claimed you’ve denied them.

    I disagreed with your statement that science has only just begun to apprehend the mystery of life. They have only just begun finding answers to the mystery of life.

    It sounds like I say ‘apprehend’ where you say ‘just begun finding answers’ but we’re essentially saying the same thing.

    I also didn’t assume you hadn’t read or listened to scientists. You assumed that was my position. I stated that when you read or listen to scientists you would find a certain result.

    Well, you said,

    Read almost any scientists writings or listen to their lectures and you’ll see that this is their apprehension of the mystery is what urged them towards this field (Albert Einstein was a prominent voice to this feeling).

    That sounded like a, “If you do X, you’ll understand Y” type of statement, but perhaps there’s more than one way to read it. Although it sounded like you were making said assumption, I’ll take your word for it that you weren’t. I do read scientist’s writings. Quite a bit, actually.

  34. As for logical, I can come up with a perfectly logical argument (even one that relies on much of science), and philosophical argument, for the existence of leprechauns or any other such thing… and it still wouldn’t mean a damn thing.(writing shadows)

    Ok, here is my question.

    Is it Logical, reasonable, rational to suppose that there could be an intellingent and creative force at the origin of the Universe that we see????

    Fuck the Leprechanuns, thats too absolute.

  35. TitforTat – I don’t think so myself. Forget meshing with the way the universe works and the absence of any sort of evidence (which is probably my biggest issue with it) but, disregarding all that, I don’t see why we need to add such a complex variable to an equation. Keeping things simple usually is both more accurate and easier to deal with.

    Leprechauns are too absolute though? Then surely an intelligent and creative force is too absolute. Actually, I don’t know where you’re going with the whole ‘too absolute’ thing. Unless you mean that leprechauns are too concrete of an idea.

  36. TitForTat,

    Is it Logical, reasonable, rational to suppose that there could be an intellingent and creative force at the origin of the Universe that we see???? (to WritingShadows)

    I say yes, it is, and anyone who maintains otherwise either misunderstands logic, reason and rationalism, or is responding to a different question.

    Crap………please dont label me a theist.

    Was that for me? If so, where did I?

  37. Unless you mean that leprechauns are too concrete of an idea.(Writing shadows)

    Exactly, Intelligence behind the universe that we see isnt absolute, its a supposition.

  38. Forget meshing with the way the universe works and the absence of any sort of evidence (which is probably my biggest issue with it) (Writing shadow)

    How does the Universe work, by the way?

  39. cl – “Right, because you guys NEVER sneer at me…

    see, there you go again. When I profess my goodwill, can’t you just accept it as such? I could point to more times that I’ve addressed you in an *at least* satisfactory manner, than you can point out sneers. All I’m saying is that if I were less of a person than I am, it would have been so easy for that query to take on a life of its own. Who needs that?

  40. By the way, cl… if I might point out to you what others find infuriating about what we call “word games” on your part? This is, on the surface, harmless enough. But when it continuous, it tends to take the entire conversation down Big Foot trails, rather than sticking to point.

    You quote TitForTat: “Is it Logical, reasonable, rational to suppose that there could be an intellingent and creative force at the origin of the Universe that we see????

    Then respond: “I say yes, it is, and anyone who maintains otherwise either misunderstands logic, reason and rationalism, or is responding to a different question.

    Yet if he had said “…rational to believe there is an intelligence” instead of the “suppose there could be”, you likely would have passed on addressing the point altogether. Which is fine. But you know what he was trying to convey and, at the very least, you could have pointed out to him (and any other reader) *why* you made such a steadfast claim. Instead, it just hangs out like a fat worm on a hook.

    And, see, I know you already are aware of this. And *that* is what makes it a bit annoying when a discussion get sidetracked by such interjections.

  41. TfT

    Unless you mean that leprechauns are too concrete of an idea.(Writing shadows)

    Exactly, Intelligence behind the universe that we see isn’t absolute, its a supposition.

    And little Irish men who live in the glade and hide pots of gold at the end of rainbows is not? I fail to see the distinction.

  42. I fail to see the distinction(SI)

    Really? If you cant see the disntinction between supposing an intelligence of some sort(not claiming knowledge of it) and Leprechauns(concrete). Then I guess you arent as logical as I believed.
    It seems to me you guys are so hung up on Theists that you disregard all other possible options.

  43. T4T:

    I’m not quite clear what you’re saying. Are you supposing an intelligence, or supposing the hypothetical possibility of an intelligence? Either way, since intelligence requires certain ‘concrete’ attributes to contrast it against non-intelligence, why is it different from supposing Leprechauns, or even hypothetically possible Leprechauns? Untied from actual evidence, the existence of either seems equally, logically possible.

  44. TitforTat – Leprechauns are a supposition. There has been no concrete proof of their existence or non-existence. A lot like God. They are a supposition. Unless you’re using a different definition for the word.

    Supposition

    1 : something that is supposed : hypothesis
    2 : the act of supposing

    cl – I forget what fallacy it’s called but you used it in saying that “anyone who maintains otherwise either misunderstands logic, reason and rationalism, or is responding to a different question.”

    Someone could give you the proper fallacy, I’m sure.

  45. T4T:

    Going back to your original question-

    “Is it Logical, reasonable, rational to suppose that there could be an intellingent and creative force at the origin of the Universe that we see????”

    If you mean, in the world of all theoretical possibilities should we leave the door open to THIS particular one as well, I’d say yes. But in that sense, we also have to leave the door open to leprechauns, to be logically consistent.

    But if you’re asking if there’s enough credible evidence to give your supposition some coherent substance…well, naturally each of us interprets the evidence in the light of our own understanding of the world. For me, so far the answer is no. This is where reasonableness comes into play. I’m curious as to what evidence leads you to your conclusions. What makes you believe in this larger intelligence, to the degree that you actually do believe?

  46. T4T

    Then I guess you aren’t as logical as I believed.

    That was a helpful comment. Are you sure you’re not one of cl’s sock puppets?

    Jim has pretty well explained why you’re not making sense, so I won’t repeat it, other than to say that when I asked you to explain the distinction you make between a creative intelligence and a leprechaun, you simply attack my logic, as if it was self-evident.

    I must be a real dunderhead, because it wasn’t self-evident, and still isn’t. So why don’t you explain your rationale to us?.

  47. John Evo,

    There’s no “see, there you go again.” It’s, “You’re known to run your mouth and say sneering things about me.” Because of that fact, I had some uncertainty as to whether your earthquake reference was intended to be a sneer or not. Instead of assume either way, I expressed that uncertainty in a non-accusatory way. Such is intellectually responsible. I accepted your goodwill. Giving the reason for my initial uncertainty (that you often sneer at me) does not mean I’ve rejected your goodwill. I wouldn’t even wonder if you didn’t say those things in the first place. As for whether you’ve given me more “respectful” vs. “disrespectful” comments, I dunno John, from my vantage point it’s really hard to say – but it doesn’t really matter. What happens today, tomorrow and onwards is open.

    As far as this issue goes, the last word is yours. Oh – I got back to you on that DefCon thread, if you’re still interested.

    By the way, cl… if I might point out to you what others find infuriating about what we call “word games” on your part? This is, on the surface, harmless enough. But when it continuous, it tends to take the entire conversation down Big Foot trails, rather than sticking to point. You quote TitForTat: “Is it Logical, reasonable, rational to suppose that there could be an intellingent and creative force at the origin of the Universe that we see???? Then respond: “I say yes, it is, and anyone who maintains otherwise either misunderstands logic, reason and rationalism, or is responding to a different question.” Yet if he had said “…rational to believe there is an intelligence” instead of the “suppose there could be”, you likely would have passed on addressing the point altogether. Which is fine. But you know what he was trying to convey and, at the very least, you could have pointed out to him (and any other reader) *why* you made such a steadfast claim. Instead, it just hangs out like a fat worm on a hook. And, see, I know you already are aware of this. And *that* is what makes it a bit annoying when a discussion get sidetracked by such interjections.

    Unfortunately, you’re off here, Evo; the question is why. Why would you assume you’d know what I’d think or how I’d react if TFT had said, “…rational to believe there is an intelligence?” Why would you say I would have likely passed on addressing that point altogether? Why didn’t you think to ask, “cl, what would you have said if TFT said…” or something similar? Assuming you’d know what I’d do, then judging me based on said assumption, seems like it would have a really high margin for error, no? If TFT had said the alternative, my reaction would be the same. I don’t use empirical and rational as synonyms.

    As far as the “fat worm on a hook” think, so what if you find that annoying? I made a claim. If anyone has a problem with it, they can speak up. If they don’t want to, they don’t have to. Things only get sidetracked when people can’t resist.

    Writing Shadows,

    I forget what fallacy it’s called but you used it in saying that “anyone who maintains otherwise either misunderstands logic, reason and rationalism, or is responding to a different question.”

    Well, it could be the “either/or fallacy” (false dichotomy) if there was a viable option between those offered. If you can show me that I’ve missed something, please do.

  48. TitForTat,

    Really? If you cant see the disntinction between supposing an intelligence of some sort(not claiming knowledge of it) and Leprechauns(concrete). Then I guess you arent as logical as I believed. It seems to me you guys are so hung up on Theists that you disregard all other possible options.

    I’ve tried to point this out, this peculiar expression of atheist Fundamentalism which is most common amongst the deconverted, many of whom simply redress the same intellectual impediments in Scarlet A garb. The Fundamentalist of any sort can’t see anything besides the walls of the mental box they’re in. It’s really too bad, because this knee-jerk reaction obscures the productive discussion that could be going on in a more intellectually encouraging environment. Maybe it will just take more people to speak up. People that aren’t labelled trolls, like yourself. But don’t speak up too loud, or for too long, else you’ll find yourself in the back of the troll police’s squad car.

    SI,

    That was a helpful comment. Are you sure you’re not one of cl’s sock puppets?

    I thought you were going to take jim’s advise, and ignore me? Why are you so focused on me? Why do you feel such a need to inflict damage? You’re a big boy; big boys can take’em to the chin, especially if they claim their ideas are here to be tested, right? Refute TFT’s logic with better logic, if you can.

    Jim has pretty well explained why you’re not making sense, so I won’t repeat it, other than to say that when I asked you to explain the distinction you make between a creative intelligence and a leprechaun, you simply attack my logic, as if it was self-evident.

    From what I read, jim asked for clarity and for TFT to explain more of the reasoning and/or evidence behind his position. I say that TFT’s within reason to attack your logic on this point – your “leprechaun” retort is about as ludicrous and misplaced as the “Santa Claus” retort you tried to hand me a while back. TFT’s justification here is not merely the assertion that, “God is logically possible, therefore I believe.” If it was, then your leprechaun retort would be appropriate. If you can’t support your argument without appeal to denigrating your interlocuter by comparing their claims to something categorically asymmetrical, perhaps you’re not cut out for intelligent debate? Unless we wish to dance with an infinite regress, something like what TFT proposes is logically required. This doesn’t prove any particular God or even a personal God; it just disproves the common atheist claim that “zero epistemic justification for theism exists.” If you think you can refute the logic, by all means go for it, and bring some closure to this discussion that’s been raging since Aristotle and beyond.

  49. I thought you were going to take jim’s advise, and ignore me?

    Perhaps you didn’t notice that my comment wasn’t addressed to you? Why are you addressing comments to others?

    Refute TFT’s logic with better logic, if you can.

    I will, once he replies, unless he satisfies my request.

    …your “leprechaun” retort is about as ludicrous and misplaced…

    ummm…That wasn’t my retort.

    If you can’t support your argument…

    I haven’t made any argument. I simply asked a question, and am waiting for a reply. Why don’t you ask T4T to support his argument? He seems to think that leprechauns are absolute yet creative intelligence is a supposition. Frankly, I haven’t the foggiest idea what distinction is he’s making. Do you? Seriously. Maybe you can explain what he means by “leprechauns are absolute”.

  50. “Well, it could be the “either/or fallacy” (false dichotomy) if there was a viable option between those offered. If you can show me that I’ve missed something, please do.”

    I was referring to your statement, as I quoted, that if a person doesn’t see the logic/rationale/reasonableness of a creative intelligence behind the universe they automatically “misunderstands logic, reason and rationalism.” It’s as if to say: “If you disagree with me (or this point), you don’t understand.” Although, you did leave another option. That we’re not answering the question the questioner asked of us.

    I don’t know if that’s actually a fallacy or what you would call that (something akin to an ad hominem argument).

    Anyway, I don’t agree that it’s rational, reasonable, or logical to presume the existence of a creative intelligence (hence, why I’m an atheist). If I saw that, I would be in a different camp, wouldn’t I? But, I think that you’re assuming that I deny the possibility of a Gods existence, which I don’t. That would be illogical, irrational, and unreasonable.

    And it’s just as irrational, illogical and unreasonable to rule out the existence of a leprechaun.

    Remember the question?

    “Is it Logical, reasonable, rational to suppose that there could be an intellingent and creative force at the origin of the Universe that we see?”

    I answered that it wasn’t because it’s adding an unnecessary and extremely complex variable to what could be a simpler equation. Occam’s Razor is the term I’m lookin for. I find that far more reasonable, rational, and logical.

  51. Perhaps you didn’t notice that my comment wasn’t addressed to you? Why are you addressing comments to others?

    SI, it doesn’t matter who the comment was addressed to; you jabbed at me in said comment. If you’re going to ignore me, well by all means please do, but don’t claim you’re going to ignore me on one website then continue to taunt and insult me on another. Unless you don’t care about being a man of your word, I guess.

    That wasn’t my retort.

    It was a retort you were using, and it’s pathetically inadequate bearing no import to Aristotle’s Argument from Motion which is essentially what we’re discussing here whether you realize it or not.

    [TFT] seems to think that leprechauns are absolute yet creative intelligence is a supposition. Frankly, I haven’t the foggiest idea what distinction is he’s making. Do you? Seriously. Maybe you can explain what he means by “leprechauns are absolute”.

    Well, thanks for just asking in a straight forward way that doesn’t involve an insult. Perhaps there’s hope for us yet. To answer you, that’s only one of the positions TFT’s advanced and not necessarily the strongest one he’s advanced IMO. I agree more with his previous comments, you should go back and read them along with my responses to them if that’s unclear (not sneering there, being serious – there’s no sense trying to debate or discuss if we’re on different pages).

    Now, TFT can correct me if I’m wrong, but I think what he’s alluding is the fact that leprechauns have been quantified and are to some degree falsifiable – we know absolutely what the claimant is looking for and/or describing. OTOH, the supposition that a creative Intelligence or Consciousness of some sort caused life to begin doesn’t have the same level of precision or quantification. Further, I think TFT feels that although unproven and scantily quantified, the supposition of a creative Intelligence is epistemically and/or rationally and/or logically justifiable – and I agree with him.

    Writing Shadows,

    I was referring to your statement, as I quoted, that if a person doesn’t see the logic/rationale/reasonableness of a creative intelligence behind the universe they automatically “misunderstands logic, reason and rationalism.”

    I knew that.

    It’s as if to say: “If you disagree with me (or this point), you don’t understand.”

    No…

    Although, you did leave another option. That we’re not answering the question the questioner asked of us.

    Yes, and I’ve since thought of another: the disagreeing party might also have a sufficient reason to deny the acceptability of the Argument from Motion. I could most certainly be wrong.

    I don’t know if that’s actually a fallacy or what you would call that (something akin to an ad hominem argument).

    An ad hominem argument occurs when we suggest the unacceptability of a given premise based on what we claim is some negative character attribute of the interlocuter. I’ve not made any ad hominem argument, here, nor do I see whatever fallacy it is you allude to.

    Anyway, I don’t agree that it’s rational, reasonable, or logical to presume the existence of a creative intelligence (hence, why I’m an atheist).

    Then give us your refutation of the Argument from Motion in a nutshell.

    But, I think that you’re assuming that I deny the possibility of a Gods existence, which I don’t. That would be illogical, irrational, and unreasonable.

    Correct, and that wasn’t what I assumed. I assume if you don’t think it’s “rational, reasonable, or logical to presume the existence of a creative intelligence,” then the burden is on you to either explain why the Argument from Motion fails, or to introduce another option, or to convince us of the acceptability of an infinite regress.

    And it’s just as irrational, illogical and unreasonable to rule out the existence of a leprechaun.

    I disagree, because you presuppose a leprechaun and Creator to be on equal epistemic footing. The former lacks a persuasive logical argument for its existence; the latter lacks a persuasive logical argument for denying it’s existence.

    Occam’s Razor is the term I’m lookin for.

    Given the immense improbability of the conditions required for our existence arising so symetrically on their won, my position is that Occam’s Razor suggests a Creator. I would also add that Occam’s Razor supports the conclusion Aristotle derived from his argument. The simplest possible response to the observation that every effect has a cause is that there is something uncaused from which things flow. That’s a shoddy paraphrase of Aristotle’s argument, but we could get into it if you’d like.

  52. “Frankly, I haven’t the foggiest idea what distinction is he’s making. Do you? Seriously.”

    SI,

    Not addressed to me, but I think Tat speaks true on this one in that there appears to be a valid distinction between a posited maximally great being and a leprechaun. It’s not all that difficult to trace the historical genesis of leprechauns, a historical genesis within a distinct culture that endows leprechauns with creaturely properties.

    I’ll grant you that the God concept might indeed have a historical genesis, albeit it appears to be universal and not restricted to a specific culture and time. Nevertheless, the concept of God–supernatural intelligence as Tat puts it–possesses properties not applicable to unicorns, leprechauns, or Santa Claus, not to mention philosophic and perhaps scientific support.

    For instance, no one attributes arguments from contingency to leprechauns. If they were in fact to do so, “leprechaunness” would then be equivalent to the concept of a maximally great being, which is tantamount to Tat’s supernatural intelligence. Likewise, if we are to consider that the universe actually has a cause, the abstract concept of a leprechaun, as traditionally understood, is blatantly inadequate to fulfill the requirement of the first cause agent that Tat supposes might be worth mulling over.

    Similarly, cosmological arguments, ontological arguments, and the like are the purview of a maximally great being, not a leprechaun or any such creation. The force of reason simply precludes the comparison by virtue of the inherent requisite properties functioning with the thought itself. I’ve no quarrel with you if you find the arguments for God unconvincing, but to acknowledge no distinction between the concepts–even if they function solely as abstract objects–or to conflate them to oneness seems purely unreasonable to me.

    Tat can feel free to correct me if I’ve misread him, but that’s how I understood him.

  53. MS Quixote,

    What a banger of a well-reasoned comment that was. Bravo, friend.

    Not addressed to me, but I think Tat speaks true on this one in that there appears to be a valid distinction between a posited maximally great being and a leprechaun.

    LOL! It shouldn’t take such effort to get this point across, one wouldn’t think.

    The force of reason simply precludes the comparison by virtue of the inherent requisite properties functioning with the thought itself. I’ve no quarrel with you if you find the arguments for God unconvincing, but to acknowledge no distinction between the concepts–even if they function solely as abstract objects–or to conflate them to oneness seems purely unreasonable to me.

    Echoed, LOUDLY… as in, U-N-R-E-A-S-O-N-A-B-L-E.

  54. MS Quixote:

    “supernatural intelligence as Tat puts it–possesses properties not applicable to unicorns, leprechauns, or Santa Claus, not to mention philosophic and perhaps scientific support.”

    And unicorns, leprechauns and Santa Clause possess properties not applicable to traditional gods. Your attempt at categorical differentiation’s first step seems pointed in an arbitrary direction, the way I see it.

    “For instance, no one attributes arguments from contingency to leprechauns.”

    So what? No one attributes Jehovah with a buckled green hat, or a magic shillelagh, or a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Even if we grant the distinctions regarding attributes (God’s way ontologically bigger than Seamus), that isn’t the distinction in question. Why is the belief in a god more reasonable than the belief in leprechauns? The recognizable historical genesis question turns and bites you in the butt, as you’ve already sort of conceded. You can try the philosophic and scientific supports; the lining up of god belief with those two has been an ongoing endeavor. But that seems like begging the question to me, investing hypothetical attributes and supposed scientific contingencies upon an imaginary creature in order to necessitate that creature’s existence. Ontology in a nutshell. I don’t buy it.

    I’m reading down the rest of your post, and it seems to be more of the same thing. You’re positing differences in attributes to better posit the existence of one thing over another. It’s as if I were to say that the existence of a tree is more probable than the existence of a stone, due to the more complex nature of the tree. And it seems you’re assuming a ‘maximally great being’ is the most likely of all! Again, I don’t buy it. In fact, looking around the universe I’d say the opposite holds more true. Relative complexity is much the rarer thing, while free hydrogen atoms are ubiquitous.

  55. Not addressed to me, but I think Tat speaks true on this one in that there appears to be a valid distinction between a posited maximally great being and a leprechaun.

    Notwithstanding cl’s kudos, what you say makes sense, but doesn’t answer my question. If you look at the exchange above, T4T differentiates leprechauns from creative intelligence (we’re not talking gods here) not in terms of relative attributes, but by saying one is a supposition and the other an absolute. He’s not clear on what this absolute status entails.

    Actually, cl probably came closest to deciphering T4T, but only in terms of what the query is. From the questioner’s viewpoint, leprechauns’ attributes are well defined by the limited cultural descriptions that MSQ talks about, and are hence easy to dispose of from an existence point of view. Creative intelligence, not being defined, or perhaps being defined by so many cultures as to be beyond quantifiable description, has no known attributes (such as green buckles, pots of gold and magically delicious cereal).

    But boiled down, all you’re saying is that leprechauns are minor suppositions and creative intelligence is a major supposition – but they are both suppositions within the same state of existence, i.e unknown, unproven and/or non-existent.

    • “Notwithstanding cl’s kudos…”

      I’m glad someone else noticed that… though I’d go a step further and say that the only thing more tiresome than certain choice comments from cl are the times where he goes out of his way to offer a simpering pat-on-the-back to anyone who agrees with him.

  56. cl – In regards to your Argument from Motion, I said that could just as easily apply to an Uncaused Universe earlier in this discussion. I find that both more simplistic and more plausible than a creative intelligence at the core of the universe.

    At least as far as an Uncaused Universe goes, we can learn about it, decipher it if you will, and come to some agreement. Whereas we can do no such thing for a God.

    MS Quixote – That’s a good explanation of it. The way I see it is that God does have a genesis (every version of him and each being distinct to the culture which manifested it). Just as leprechauns have a genesis and that goes for every other fairytale creature. But which God are we having in question? The Christian God? In which case, there are attributes we can ascribe to it. Same for any other religious deity from every country in history. Which means that it too is a concrete idea. Unless the only difference is the power which the creation holds and that alone separates the two.

    Then, there’s the whole issue of distinguishing whether or not every one of this suppositions have equal rationality. Because I can certainly suppose a new creature, with all the functions of God and more. Would that be equally logical, rational, and reasonable to suppose?

    That’s how I took it and why there is this dispute.

  57. Ok Gentlemen

    Firstly I would like to apologize for my comment to SI

    “Then I guess you aren’t as logical as I believed”

    I got caught up in the moment and my sarcasm was ill advised. Sorry.

    Well it seems I have made a few Theist friends(that wasnt my intent). Funny how things turn out. 😉

    I thought cl did a pretty good job of explaining some of which I was trying to explain. I realize you guys are well above my pay grade when it comes to intellectual discussions of this sort, but I will try my best to get my point across. I feel when it comes to the discussion of the roots of our Universe that there are only 2 choices available to me. One is that it was completely by chance, the other that there was an intentional cause. Unfortunately the only evidence that I can use for the latter is the design that I see in nature. From my perspective it seems to have pattern behind it. That view may be unjustified but it seems logical and rational to me. The idea of chance just doesnt make any logical or rational sense. As far as Leprecauns go I think it is pretty evident that there is no gold at the end of the rainbow so it must be false. lol. 🙂

    I will make this clear though, I believe all Theism falls under the same category as Leprecauns.

    Atheism and Theism just seem like bookends to me.

  58. Now that I’ve posted and seen the other two responses before mine… both SI and Jim say it better.

    Obviously, I need to take more time to write my responses.

  59. You know, we could just as easily take this conversation another step, and posit that logic is also contingent on MY God, but that MY God transcends logic, and therefore cannot even be logically talked about. Except, well see, He’s revealed Himself to me through my ‘inner witness’ which isn’t open to logical scrutiny. It all gets pretty damned goofy when you follow the threads.

  60. T4T:

    I see your point, when you say…

    “One is that it was completely by chance, the other that there was an intentional cause.”

    But doesn’t it seem at least as weird to posit a super-being, or super-essence, or whatever you want to call it, so utterly powerful and all-encompassing, who exists for absolutely no reason at all? Just because? If this is the case, then why should it be strange for others to see the universe, exhibiting patterns here and no patterns there, as simply existing ‘just because’?

    In other news, I just now finished my rough draft, and sent it off to my publisher. A year in the making…sigh. I think I’ll get drunk. Cheers!

    • In other news, I just now finished my rough draft, and sent it off to my publisher. A year in the making…sigh. I think I’ll get drunk. Cheers!

      Copies to everyone in Team Scarlet A?

  61. “And unicorns, leprechauns and Santa Clause possess properties not applicable to traditional gods”

    Exactly.

    “Your attempt at categorical differentiation’s first step seems pointed in an arbitrary direction, the way I see it.”

    Fine with me, but they are clearly differentiated.

    “So what?”

    So what? The numbers three and four are abstract objects, yet they function in logical ways the other cannot. The concept of God and the concept of leprechauns function in the same manner, which is to say differenty, logically.

    “Why is the belief in a god more reasonable than the belief in leprechauns?”

    That’s an altogether different question, although the answer should be obvious.

    “But that seems like begging the question to me, investing hypothetical attributes and supposed scientific contingencies upon an imaginary creature in order to necessitate that creature’s existence.”

    For a good example of begging the question, note your use of the word “imaginary” in the sentence above 🙂

    “Again, I don’t buy it. In fact, looking around the universe I’d say the opposite holds more true.”

    I get this, Jim. You’re a smart guy, and like I said above, I’m fine if you find the rationale for your belief compelling, or find mine lacking. No worries…we’re not going to agree here. But conflating leprechauns with God is just plain silly.

  62. S.I.:

    Sure thing! It’s scheduled for May, and I think I get a lot of copies. I’ll keep you up to date. The subject matter is, believe it or not, more controversial than religion vs. atheism, I think. If you want a taste, check out my blog at antinatalism.net.

    Also, and if you’re curious, my drink of choice tonight is 7 Crown and grapefruit soda. Feel free to join in, one and all. Cheers!

  63. “Because I can certainly suppose a new creature, with all the functions of God and more.”

    The reference to a creature notwithstanding, I’d actually be interested in reading what you have in mind here, WS, and I promise I won’t criticize it.

  64. “That view may be unjustified but it seems logical and rational to me.”

    It is both logical and rational, Tat. Justification is another matter that’s not necessarily in play here.

    Sorry to embarrass you in front of your atheist friends 🙂

  65. SI,

    It’s very possible I answered a separate question. If so, no harm no foul. You did say this, as I see now: “He seems to think that leprechauns are absolute yet creative intelligence is a supposition.”

    But I was more responding to this:

    “Jim has pretty well explained why you’re not making sense, so I won’t repeat it, other than to say that when I asked you to explain the distinction you make between a creative intelligence and a leprechaun”

    I think the distinction between a creative intelligence, assuming you mean God, and a leprechaun is readily apparent.

    “But boiled down, all you’re saying is that leprechauns are minor suppositions and creative intelligence is a major supposition – but they are both suppositions within the same state of existence”

    No, I don’t think so. I’m saying the two concepts, regardless of existence, function differently logically and are distinct concepts that cannot be linked rationally in the way so often they are. If you usher the question of existence, it’s another argument.

    Your blog is very enjoyable, and frequently engaging, btw…

  66. M.S. Quixote:

    “Fine with me, but they are clearly differentiated.”

    But not differentiated in a way that addresses the question.

    “The numbers three and four are abstract objects, yet they function in logical ways the other cannot.”

    Do you mean here that 3 functions differently than 4, or are you comparing numbers to something else? If the former, as in ‘3 and 4 are both abstract objects, but 3 functions differently than 4’, then I’d agree. But that’s begging the question. The question in this vein would run something along the lines of ‘Is it more reasonable to believe in 3 than in 4’? To which I would answer ‘no’.

    ““Why is the belief in a god more reasonable than the belief in leprechauns?”

    That’s an altogether different question, although the answer should be obvious.”

    It’s a different question, but unless the other is to simply be answered by a blank assertion, a necessary one.

    ““But that seems like begging the question to me, investing hypothetical attributes and supposed scientific contingencies upon an imaginary creature in order to necessitate that creature’s existence.”

    For a good example of begging the question, note your use of the word “imaginary” in the sentence above.”

    Would you prefer if I’d used ‘abstract’ or ‘conceptual’, since the actual existence of the creature being discussed is part and parcel of the discussion? 🙂

    “I’m fine if you find the rationale for your belief compelling, or find mine lacking. No worries…we’re not going to agree here. But conflating leprechauns with God is just plain silly.”

    I don’t see where that’s been established as yet. So far, it’s just an assertion embellished with some ‘yeah, buts’. Leprechauns are creatures most folks believe are mythic. Localized expressions of magic, as it were. Gods are creatures that more and more people are finding mythic everyday. I’d say that belief is Thor is more or less equal to belief in leprechauns amongst the planet’s populace (might be off there a little bit…not sure). Jehovah might occupy the same seat some day.

    Admittedly, gods become harder and harder to refute as more and more of their attributes are consigned to arcane philosophical notions, and the gaps between what methodological observation tells us about the world. In this sense, I suppose belief in God becomes more reasonable the more actual definitions are erased away. Perhaps the ultimate proof of God will come when he becomes wholly indefinable, then, as there will no longer be any footholds for logical interrogation.

    Phew, I’m toasted! Hope some of that made sense…LOL!

  67. I think the distinction between a creative intelligence, assuming you mean God, and a leprechaun is readily apparent.

    Oh, yeah. Like peanut butter and vodka. But they are still both mental constructs, something that exist, so far, in the brains of man, and no where else.

    Of course, there are more books written about the latter than the former, but that just means man’s mind finds the latter more interesting.

    Jim

    Also, and if you’re curious, my drink of choice tonight is 7 Crown and grapefruit soda. Feel free to join in, one and all. Cheers!

    And speaking of vodka, mine tonight is straight, frozen and by the shot.

    Anti-natalism? I new concept to me. How do you find the time to write a book, between all the blogging, commenting and sheep-fucking?

  68. “But they are still both mental constructs, something that exist, so far, in the brains of man, and no where else.”

    Pretty rash claim, SI. If you can disprove the existence of abstract objects, you’ll be Earth’s top philosopher…

  69. Pretty rash claim, SI. If you can disprove the existence of abstract objects, you’ll be Earth’s top philosopher…

    Well, now you’re getting into that age old rhetorical area, burden of proof.

    As an atheist, I don’t contend that either exists. Others do. You for instance. In argumentation, then, it’s your burden to prove they exist, as the proponent of their existence. As you admit, abstract objects can’t be proven. Therefore, as far as I’m concerned, abstract objects, until proven, exist in one place, and one place only – the human mind.

    And actually, in that sense, gods do exist – in my mind. I can conceptualize them. I can give them attributes. I can also make them non-existent. Mental constructs are like that.

    I also can create, in my mind, the “new creature” you challenged WS to create. It would probably be different than his, but it would be new, and it would be a creature. Those people who created the Flying Spaghetti Monster did just that, to prove a point, but they created out of their brain cells a whole new creature with godlike attributes. I think they succeeded admirably in proving their point. The FSM doesn’t exist (I think).

    Do you really want WS, or me, to create another one?

  70. “But that’s begging the question.”

    Please show me where I’ve assumed something in a premise and then concluded it. Based on your repeated usage of this phrase, you’d accuse me of begging the question if I said “Russell’s teapot.”

    “Would you prefer if I’d used ‘abstract’ or ‘conceptual’, since the actual existence of the creature being discussed is part and parcel of the discussion?”

    I’d prefer that you wait until existence is being argued before assuming it.

    “I don’t see where that’s been established as yet.”

    Then you’re not trying. Explain to me how the concept of leprechaunness can exhibit maximal greatness without being identical to the concept of God. And once it does, then it’s no longer leprechaunness.

  71. “As an atheist, I don’t contend that either exists.”

    So, you’re retracting this statement, then: “But they are still both mental constructs, something that exist, so far, in the brains of man, and no where else.”

    “I also can create, in my mind, the “new creature” you challenged WS to create.”

    I didn’t challenge WS. I said I’d be very interested in what he came up with, and I still would. You’ll notice that your offer of the FSM fails to fulfill the requirement. WS said he could offer a construct that “suppose(s) a new creature, with all the functions of God and more.” It was the *more* I was interested in…

  72. MS Quixote:

    The question, as I understand it, is why it is more reasonable to believe in God, than in leprechauns. So far, your attempts at delineation have addressed some categorical attributes, but none that address the actual question (as SI also pointed out). Thus, ‘begging the question’.

    ““Would you prefer if I’d used ‘abstract’ or ‘conceptual’, since the actual existence of the creature being discussed is part and parcel of the discussion?”

    I’d prefer that you wait until existence is being argued before assuming it.”

    Once again, since the question on the table is ‘is it more reasonable to believe God EXISTS than that a leprechaun EXISTS, actual existence is part of the discussion. Or would you like to change the question to ‘is the abstract conception of God more reasonable than the abstract conception of leprechauns?’ To which I would reply with the same ‘no’ I’d use for the actual question.

    ‘Explain to me how the concept of leprechaunness can exhibit maximal greatness without being identical to the concept of God. And once it does, then it’s no longer leprechaunness.’

    Again, the attribute of ‘maximal greatness’ when attributed to an agent which hasn’t been established yet, doesn’t speak to the original question. It’s literally a non sequitur. Oh, and as an aside, you could just as easily turn that statement of yours around and say that when you attribute maximal greatness to Gods, your just making gods identical to leprechauns. It just depends on who’s distributing the magic powers.

    Anyway, keep believing that I’m just not trying. The way I see it, you’re simply not addressing the actual question. Maybe I’m wrong.

  73. Ask yourselves what happens when we remove both: if we remove the creative Intelligence, it seems we’re left with either an infinite regress or something that is neither creative nor intelligent that gave rise to life. If we remove leprechauns, nobody even notices. There is no cogent argument that firmly identifies leprechauns as 1 of (what appears to be) 3 possible truths.

    MS,

    I’m sure he’ll disagree, but from what I can see, SI’s argument thus far seems to focus on the fact that he believes in neither leprechauns nor God, therefore the two are categorically comparable. But as you point out, that logic certainly doesn’t hold up.

    SI,

    Creative intelligence, not being defined, or perhaps being defined by so many cultures as to be beyond quantifiable description, has no known attributes (such as green buckles, pots of gold and magically delicious cereal).

    Not quite; I said a creative Intelligence “doesn’t have the same level of precision or quantification,” not that it has no known attributes. A creative Intelligence requires certain attributes.

    But boiled down, all you’re saying is that leprechauns are minor suppositions and creative intelligence is a major supposition

    I don’t think that’s what MS has said at all. I don’t think you’re thinking his argument all the way through. Remember: no cogent logical argument establishes leprechauns as potentially true, whereas a cogent logical argument establishes a creative Intelligence as potentially true – 1 of (what appears to be) 3 possible options (with ‘infinite regress’ and ‘something neither creative nor intelligent as cause of the universe’ as the other two).

    That Other Guy,

    I’m glad someone else noticed that… though I’d go a step further and say that the only thing more tiresome than certain choice comments from cl are the times where he goes out of his way to offer a simpering pat-on-the-back to anyone who agrees with him.

    Of course you’d chime in to berate, and what a surprise you’d pop in with nothing else to do than blather your own opinions about me. Contribute an argument, if you can. In the past two months the only argument I’ve heard you make was that the Bible contradicts itself on how Judas died and when challenged on it you didn’t support your claim.

    Writing Shadows,

    In regards to your Argument from Motion, I said that could just as easily apply to an Uncaused Universe earlier in this discussion.

    Well, explain how

    I find that both more simplistic and more plausible than a creative intelligence at the core of the universe.

    I’m sure you do, but our personal opinions don’t mean anything if we’re talking logic and cogency, right?

    jim,

    But doesn’t it seem at least as weird to posit a super-being, or super-essence, or whatever you want to call it, so utterly powerful and all-encompassing, who exists for absolutely no reason at all? Just because? If this is the case, then why should it be strange for others to see the universe, exhibiting patterns here and no patterns there, as simply existing ‘just because’?

    For the past few years, my traditional position on First Cause arguments has been that they all fail, and I followed the line of reasoning you describe above for a long time, thinking that’s why Russell’s (and Mill’s before him) response to First Cause arguments sufficed. It would seem that whatever attribute we allow for God must also be allowed for the universe. Today, I’m not so sure about that. No thing can simultaneously be in potency and in act for the same attribute, and the more I grasp the Argument From Motion and work out its conclusions, the closer I get to abandoning my traditional position.

    Anyways, I believe this was the direction Writing Shadows was headed with the “apply the Argument From Motion to the universe” remark.

    • “Contribute an argument, if you can.”

      I see no reason to. Other people are already articulating my thoughts, why should I contribute something that’s already been contributed? That would be useless, and as much as you might attempt to disagree, being useless is not a good thing.

      “In the past two months the only argument I’ve heard you make was that the Bible contradicts itself on how Judas died and when challenged on it you didn’t support your claim.”

      Uh… except the part where I did, on the thread where you recently tried to say I didn’t. Try paying attention.

  74. cl:

    Firstly, I tend not to conflate creation with cause. To my mind, causation is simply a description of state changes from an isolated pov. I simply have no need for the idea of creation, or for ‘first causes’.

    Secondly, I have no problems with actual infinite regresses, only logical ones.

    I’ve worked out a somewhat metaphorical account of how I see things in my series ‘shapes in the clouds 1-5’. I think I’m done here for tonight, so if you’re interested in how I see things vis-a-vis this subject, go there.

    Niters, one and all. Take good care.

  75. MSQ

    “As an atheist, I don’t contend that either exists.”
    So, you’re retracting this statement, then: “But they are still both mental constructs, something that exist, so far, in the brains of man, and no where else.”

    I’m sorry, but I don’t see how the latter follows from the former. Please explain.

    Are you contending that I merely have to construct something in my brain, and, ipso facto, it exists? Is that why Gideon thinks Jim’s a sheep-fucker, because he has a mental image of it? And if that’s the case, does the FSM then exist?

    It was the *more* I was interested in…

    Well, I’ve always understood theists to say that god cannot do that which is logically impossible, such as creating a square circle. Or causing an irresistible force to move an immovable object. So, I have in my mind a god who can do both of those things. Does that work for you? I can construct such a creature in my mind. Does such a creature, therefore, exist?

  76. cl – I’m sure you do, but our personal opinions don’t mean anything if we’re talking logic and cogency, right?

    It’s less a personal opinion than a judgement of complexity. The universe, if uncaused, doesn’t consist of intelligence. A God would obviously have an intelligence, one superior, vastly superior to even ours (which are the most superior that we know of). I’m sure you’ll agree that something which has a superior intelligence against an existence that doesn’t have an intelligence is more complex. That is, God is more complex than an Uncaused Universe. Adding one more complexity to an already complex equation muddles things. Which is why I concluded that God was a more complex variable. Hence my mention of Occam’s Razor and taking the simpler solution.

    • “A God would obviously have an intelligence, one superior, vastly superior to even ours…”

      Why is that, exactly? I don’t see why, if we’re setting pre-existing assumptions aside, a god would be “obviously” anything.

      • The “hypothesis,” for lack of a better term, is that a God (or creative intelligence as was the original term) created all of the universe. I find it hard to think that anything of average intelligence could ever defy the laws we’ve never seen defied and create something as intricate in detail.

        That’s probably badly phrased but I hope you get the gist of it.

  77. Well, for fucks sake! I give up.

    I think I’ll give up trying to figure out if it’s rational and logical to contemplate the possible existence of some entity that we could call “god” as the primary cause of the universe also.

    I do kind of wonder how high up that same ladder you’d have to climb to determine if some human named Jesus of Nazareth ever lived at all and if he did whether he was some form of said “god” incarnated for our benefit, died, revived, returned to some alternate dimension and is waiting there to receive us if only we accept that all the above is true, sans the forms of inquiry we’ve come to find the most reliable for everything *else* here in this particular dimension.

    OK. my mind has now boggled twice on this thread. Dare we hope for the metaphysical mind hat-trick? I think we do!

  78. “I’m sorry, but I don’t see how the latter follows from the former. Please explain.”

    Sure. The following statement of yours is a positive claim that abstract objects exist nowhere outside of the human brain:

    “But they are still both mental constructs, something that exist, so far, in the brains of man, and no where else.”

    Thus, if you’re wishing to maintain an agnostic view of the existence of abstract objects, you’d need to retract the claim that they exist nowhere outside the human mind.

    “So, I have in my mind a god who can do both of those things. Does that work for you?”

    Not particularly. To say that God has done the logically impossible is equivalent to saying God has done nothing, unless, of course, you think the logically impossible is in actuality not logically impossible to perform. So, your statement does not add anything to the standard God concept.

    It’s a good problem, I think. If you happen to think of anything else, post it. I’d be interested…

    “Does such a creature, therefore, exist?”

    This is not the ontological argument defeater you seem to think it is:) Incidentally, you guys appear to drive all questions to the existence question. I generally do not argue the existence of God, frankly because its a thoroughly trod argument that yields little in terms of the time and effort required. Nevertheless, if y’all are determined to argue it, choose one champion from your side and we’ll set up a formal debate structure in which to argue. Otherwise, I’m fine with not doing it at all.

    Cheers.

    • “I’m sorry, but I don’t see how the latter follows from the former. Please explain.”

      Sure. The following statement of yours is a positive claim that abstract objects exist nowhere outside of the human brain:

      “But they are still both mental constructs, something that exist, so far, in the brains of man, and no where else.”

      Thus, if you’re wishing to maintain an agnostic view of the existence of abstract objects, you’d need to retract the claim that they exist nowhere outside the human mind.

      Why? Until someone shows me evidence that they exist outside the human mind, I’m perfectly comfortable assuming they don’t. I don’t need to retract that which is essentially the null hypothesis.

      Sorry. Perhaps I still don’t follow you. Either I’m dense or you’re abstruse, or some combination thereof.

      To say that God has done the logically impossible is equivalent to saying God has done nothing

      Well, to turn a theist argument on it’s ear, god purportedly created the universe out of nothing. That is logically impossible. Are you saying that it didn’t happen?

      unless, of course, you think the logically impossible is in actuality not logically impossible to perform. So, your statement does not add anything to the standard God concept.

      One of the common attributes of god is that he exists outside logic, having created it. So if that’s allowable as an attribute for a supposed god, why can I not conceive of a god that stands outside what we know as logic, and accomplish what we think is illogical? Christians do it all the time.

      So, in all practicality, as Christians like to say “All is possible with god”. If that’s so, I can create an abstract creature with all the usual god like qualities and more.Including the ability to create a square circle.

      Incidentally, you guys appear to drive all questions to the existence question.

      You know, frankly, that’s the only question that really interests me. Resolve it, and there are no other questions worth discussing. Without existence, the rest of so called theology is just meaningless talk.

      I generally do not argue the existence of God, frankly because its a thoroughly trod argument that yields little in terms of the time and effort required. Nevertheless, if y’all are determined to argue it, choose one champion from your side and we’ll set up a formal debate structure in which to argue.

      I’m not interested in debate, though it seems we’re skirting the boundaries of the issue.

      This started with your contention that I was trying to disprove the existence of an abstract object, and all I was pointing out is that the particular abstract object in question, creative intelligence, was not my concept to prove or disprove. Others believe it exists in reality, usually (in America) in the form of the Christian god. I don’t. I’m an atheist. So the burden is on those others, of which I count you, to show proof. Not in some abstract way that I can envision in my mind, but in a real, falsifiable way. Until then, I can rationally say it doesn’t exist except in your mind.

      And that’s all I was saying. (In a thousand words or less.) 8)

  79. “So far, your attempts at delineation have addressed some categorical attributes, but none that address the actual question (as SI also pointed out). Thus, ‘begging the question'”

    This is not what *begging the question* means, Jim…

  80. Yes, but you’re limiting reality to just things which don’t solely exist in one’s imagination SI. Can’t you see how closed-minded that is of you? CLEARLY the burden is on you to open your mind and accept make believe as part of reality, you silly goose.

    • Sometimes I wonder. Maybe I should just move into a padded room and count my toes.

      I don’t understand this whole discussion about something that clearly doesn’t exist, except, as you say, in a vivid imagination. SHOW ME THE MONEY! for fucks sake.

      • Can’t you just picture it, SI? If you can picture it, you can spend it, or so most of our country believes. Of course why shouldn’t they? Our fucking culture is saturated with believing in things which don’t exist and following rules set forth by those things which don’t exist or else you’ll be sent to a place which doesn’t exist so why not spend money which doesn’t exist, detain people whose guilt doesn’t exist, invade a country for weapons which don’t exist, and watch news on a channel whose fairness and balance doesn’t exist.

  81. “I don’t need to retract that which is essentially the null hypothesis.”

    Redefining the statement to a null hypothesis–if there is such a thing–works for me.

    “Well, to turn a theist argument on it’s ear, god purportedly created the universe out of nothing. That is logically impossible. Are you saying that it didn’t happen?”

    Something beginning to exist on its own from nothingness is logically impossible. Creation ex nihilo is not. Obviously, there was a *something* there.

    “Christians do it all the time.”

    You’re right. It’s embarrassing when they do, too.

    “One of the common attributes of god is that he exists outside logic, having created it.”

    I’ve heard this argued before, but never as an attribute of God.

    “why can I not conceive of a god that stands outside what we know as logic, and accomplish what we think is illogical?”

    Again, because accomplishing the impossible is equivalent to accomplishing nothing, since it’s a nonsense statement. If you jettison reason, what could we even talk about, actually?

    “So, in all practicality, as Christians like to say “All is possible with god”. If that’s so, I can create an abstract creature with all the usual god like qualities and more.Including the ability to create a square circle.”

    The problem with that is that the one discussing this with you has denied that God can do all things. You and I both can do things that God cannot do…Come on, SI, I could just as easily cite atheists that disagree with you.

    “Without existence, the rest of so called theology is just meaningless talk.”

    For the most part, I agree with you. Take the OP, for instance…

    “This started with your contention that I was trying to disprove the existence of an abstract object, and all I was pointing out is that the particular abstract object in question, creative intelligence, was not my concept to prove or disprove.”

    Internet is a sorry medium sometimes, ain’t it? Following Jim’s lead, thanks for allowing me to comment.

    MS

  82. MS Quixote – You’re assuming SI believes that the universe came from nothing in the first place. Which, I don’t believe, he has ever said. He can correct me if I’m wrong. I might’ve missed it.

    “Something beginning to exist on its own from nothingness is logically impossible. Creation ex nihilo is not. Obviously, there was a *something* there.”

    Creation out of nothing isn’t logically impossible? Law of Conservation of Matter. Matter cannot be created or destroyed. So, a God or creative intelligence would have to step outside of logic to create life.

    “But they are still both mental constructs, something that exist, so far, in the brains of man, and no where else.”

    You might be misunderstanding SI here, Quixote. Note the “so far.” It’s simply a rational position he’s taken rather than one which assumes a great many things. He’s waiting for the evidence to point towards a creative intelligence before he makes the claim there is one. Until there’s evidence that it exists, outside of the mind, he’ll continue thinking that it’s something created within man’s mind.

    Seems reasonable to me.

  83. As I believe I have written before on another thread here, I have no problem with conceding the possibility that there might be some higher intelligence that created our universe. So, in that regard, I have to plead agnosticism.

    Now, when I consider the possibility of a higher intelligence (which could be a singular god or a multitude of entities), I have to ask myself, what can we possibly know about it? Well, first off, I consider the known universe. It’s filled with billions of galaxies like our own, each filled with billions of stars like our sun. Since we know of the existence of planets around other stars in our galaxy, it is probably safe to assume that planets exist in vast quantities in other galaxies as well.

    Now, if some higher intelligence created all of that, it would have to be a being of immense power and intelligence. That probably represents the limit to what I, or anyone else, can know about this higher intelligence, assuming it really does exist.

    A favorite example that proponents of ID like to use is a painting. They will point out the obvious fact that a painting must have had a painter, ergo, the universe must have had a creator. But a painter can only paint what he or she knows. True, an artist can create an abstract work, but the inspiration for an abstract work still originates from the artist’s interaction with the natural world. Therefore, in response to the claim that god created our universe, I would have to ask, where did this god get its ideas from? If a theist, particularly a Biblical Literalist, will answer the question as to why certain rocky bodies in our solar system show evidence of massive impacts by saying “God did it.” But even if that were the case, before making the planet Mercury or our own moon, this god would first have to have a conception of planetary bodies and asteroids that could collide with them to create the appearance of impacts.

    Now, I’m a “form follows function” kind of guy. When I look at the claims of Christianity, I don’t see the need for a universe that is, for us at least, virtually infinite. Barring some possible discovery of a way to travel many times faster than light, space travel beyond our solar system is probably not going to happen for centuries, if at all. The only analogy I can think of is the expansion of the Polynesians in the Pacific. A group of them would sail away from one island and find another hundreds of miles away, and then some years later, a bunch of them would leave and find some other island chain hundreds of miles away. There was no back and forth traffic between the newly discovered and settled islands and those who were left behind. But enough of that, I will pick up in the next comment, to break this down into smaller parts.

  84. In short, Christianity posits that the creator of this vast universe impregnated a virgin Jewish teenage girl in the Galilee, and that the son who resulted from this union between the human and the divine preached, performed miracles, died for our sins and rose from the dead. At some unspecified time, this Jesus as he is known to us will return to Earth and there will be some titanic clash between the forces of good and the forces of evil, with God and Jesus of course winning in the end and there will be a final judgment and everything we know will come to an end.

    For me at least, the form of the universe does not follow the function postulated by Christianity. Now I know one response to my skepticism in this regard is that the rest of the universe must exist for some divine purpose that we don’t know about that God hasn’t revealed to us for some reason. But that is much too slender a reed for me to hang my suspension of doubt.

    Another problem I personally have (I stress personally, because I am not saying that theist commenters here, such as cl and MS Quixote should be vexed by them as well) is the notion that we have this being of immense power, and yet its message of truth and salvation relies on human word of mouth to spread. Today we can send packages around the world via Federal Express in two or three days. We can communicate via e-mail with people around the world virtually instantaneously. And yet it takes God’s vital message of salvation, without which knowledge and acceptance of, one will burn in hell for all eternity, some 1,500 years to circumnavigate the globe. Furthermore, there are multiple versions of this message of salvation, each claiming that the other one is wrong. There’s Catholic, there’s Eastern Orthodox, there’s a whole host of Protestant denominations. Which one is to be believed? Or does it not matter?

    Okay, my lunch break has run over (don’t tell anyone! 🙂 ) so I have to pick up later. Again, to reiterate to the theist commenters here, I am not implying that you are wrong for believing what you believe because of what I wrote above. Rather, I am describing to you the barriers that prevent me from believing what you believe.

    Regards,

    TK

  85. I generally do not argue the existence of God, frankly because its a thoroughly trod argument that yields little in terms of the time and effort required.

    As a philosophical argument I, too, find it unproductive and tedious. A little bit disingenuous, too; every theist has a particular god in mind, not some generic ontological argument. How about starting off with arguing the existence of the Christian god of the Bible?

  86. ildi, We let them get away with far too much and, for that openness to any debate, we get called close-minded and irrational. I’ve tried to engage cl in the particular discussion you call for. He admits to being a theist, but won’t tell much more than he is talking about the NT god. He maintains that it is either unimportant for the purposes of these discussions or that I just don’t need to know.

    Word games aside, there just isn’t any reason for me to believe in god(s) in general, and many reasons for thinking that, if there are any, it sure ain’t the guy of the 2 testaments. Same goes for the Koran, Bhagavad Gita, etc.

    Whatever. I’m willing to play by their rules as long as it stays interesting. I’m just pointing out that you are technically correct.

  87. I haven’t read through the entire thread since my last comment, but I did catch this:

    I’ve tried to engage cl in the particular discussion you call for. He admits to being a theist, but won’t tell much more than he is talking about the NT god.

    That’s not quite fair, Evo. Yes, my personal beliefs are none of your business unless I choose to make it that way. However, you make it sound like my disinterest in full-disclosure is a mere cover for inability to argue a particular position.

    I say that’s not true, and if you want to engage me in discussion, by all means stop by.

  88. I wasn’t barking up your tree, cl. Just trying to state the facts as best I know them. It *seems to me* that you haven’t wanted to engage in a discussion of your specific theistic beliefs in the past. If you’re indicating a willingness to do so, well… that’s new, as far as I remember the discussion.

    As to whether that was because you felt you *could not* defend a specific god position or simple did not want to tread into that territory for another reason, I left without prejudice.

  89. I wasn’t barking up your tree, cl.

    I know you weren’t.

    As to whether that was because you felt you *could not* defend a specific god position or simple did not want to tread into that territory for another reason, I left without prejudice.

    You told ildi you “tried to engage me in the discussion [ildi] called for.” Your comment made it sound like you tried arguing “the Christian God” with me, and that my lack of full disclosure somehow obscured that. I just wanted to add that I didn’t feel that was the case.

  90. Intelligence is divine, perhaps, but that’s just semantics of course. Divine is a theistic word that presupposes an intervener. The only thing that intervenes in the natural world is nature, intervening with itself. Henceforth nature is divine and intelligent, assuming one can redefine the word “intelligent” to mean that which makes predictions. Ergo predictions are divine, however that is where divinity breaks down since no prediction can ever be 100% certain and hence only predictions that are correct are divine. But still, there are predictions that are correct that are based on false premises, those predictions aren’t divine either, only the ones that are based on true premises that conclude the correct outcomes are divine. Intelligence, even the best intelligence, can’t make such divine predictions however, this is due to the fact that nature is indeterministic via the quantum uncertainty principle and the butterfly effect. Henceforth, nature is not divine since it cannot make perfect predictions about what it is going to do next, but the next best thing is predictions that fall within the allowable tolerances. So, in conclusion:

    Accurate predictions based on objective data and precise logic are next to divine so long as the outcomes are within the accounted for uncertainties.

    Anyhow, there must have been intelligence in one form or another at the beginning of the existance of what we now consider to be our universe, however that intelligence wasn’t divine though, perhaps alien or some manner of intelligence that we don’t yet know of, such as an artificially intelligent computer, yet non-divine though since it intervenes with nature to make predictions of nature 😉

  91. “Anyhow, there must have been intelligence in one form or another at the beginning of the existance of what we now consider to be our universe, however that intelligence wasn’t divine though, perhaps alien or some manner of intelligence that we don’t yet know of, such as an artificially intelligent computer, yet non-divine though since it intervenes with nature to make predictions of nature.”

    Thanks for that admission, Mr. Dawkins. As long as it’s not anything to do with Yahweh, it’s okay to think that Intelligent Design had to play a part in our origins.

    Now… where did THAT intelligence come from?

  92. For the answer to that and any other inexplicable questions that rely on Darwinistic thought, see here.

    Psst… it’s near the end of the discussion.

    😉

  93. As long as it’s not anything to do with Yahweh, it’s okay to think that Intelligent Design had to play a part in our origins.

    Good point, Gideon. It’s quite the double-standard when viewed from that angle. The more I learn about Intelligent Design, the more I realize how little most of its detractors actually know about it.

  94. I think all that use of the divine just destroys any real meaning for the word, like when theists stretch the definition of faith to encompass too much. You end up like Smurfs and a smurfy language.

    ID is a shit even if you remove the god element which, as we all know, is the only reason for anyone promoting it. You want to say we were designed by aliens instead of a god? Fine, but that doesn’t help answer anything. It’s still offering a mystery to explain a mystery.

    At best, ID is something for philosophy class, not a science class.

  95. The more I learn about Intelligent Design, the more I realize how little most of its detractors actually know about it.

    I needed a good morning laugh!

  96. Math, in all its abstraction, is divine. Nature emulates Math, the divine, but never quite so perfectly due to quantum uncertainties and the butterfly effect. Technology is the fruit of understanding nature and math, and then applying it. The more technologically savy our society becomes, the more divine, the more moral it has the capability of becoming but also the more immoral it can become too since the powers of technology can be used or abused.

  97. Quiff, algebra deals with unknowns and uncertainties, just as any philosophical discipline does, and it’s considered a higher-powered tool than standard arithmetic. Just as faith is a higher form of awareness over a ‘show-me’ attitude, which definitely curtails any advancement, socially and intellectually, it enables us to understand what isn’t readily observable, but, makes itself apparent in clues left around the universe and on Earth.

    “ID is a shit even if you remove the god element which, as we all know, is the only reason for anyone promoting it.”

    Sorry, Chief, I was part of the Von Daniken crowd long before I took Bible in hand. In fact, his teachings drove me to a higher awareness of reality – Christianity.

    There are no mysteries for the Christian, only atheists wander around in a perpetual haze of uncertainty. For every theory they espouse or prove, a thousand others pop up in it’s place. Being from the “show-me state” isn’t an asset, it’s a detriment. Atheists are like the papists of the Middle Ages, continually hindering any kind of social and scientific development, because, they can’t see past the ends of their noses.

    Oh, and yes, ID should be a separate class. That’s more than it gets, now, in our heavily-biased, humanist-run institutions. Give people a choice. Ask Dick Dawkins how he feels about giving people a choice!

    Ildi… next time, just take a look in the mirror, it’ll save you the walk over here.

  98. cl – do you mean you’re finding out how little lay-persons know? Or do you mean you’re finding a lot of biological scientists just don’t “understand” what intelligent design is all about? Do you suspect Dawkins, Coyne, Myers, et al of misapprehending ID? If so, can you point out your evidence?

    If you are talking about people as in “the people here”, all I can tell you is – that’s about as relevant as anyone here not understanding what String Theory really is.

  99. Math encompasses the subjects of arithmetic, geometry, algebra, calculus, differential equations, complex functions, matrix spaces, etc, basically all possible numerical and geometrical relations. Math is divine in that it is a perfect abstraction of logic. Nature mimmicks math, but no designer is necessary for nature to do this however, math is the alpha and the omega.

    I don’t know what it means to think that math, the set of all possible numerical and geometrical relations, had some kind of designer, no it didn’t. Nature has no designer either, nature came from nature and has been around for all eternity too, when astrophysicists talk about The Big Bang, what they are refering to is the origins of the observeable universe, however the universe is vastly greater than what we can observe, and I hope you realize how absurd it is to think that it could have been designed, the joke is on you for believing that nature has a designer.

  100. You have to be careful when you use the term “divine”. I know what you’re saying, but Christians will latch on to that in a heartbeat, and use its alternate, more common definition, dealing with the nature of deities.

  101. Evo,

    cl – do you mean you’re finding out how little lay-persons know? Or do you mean you’re finding a lot of biological scientists just don’t “understand” what intelligent design is all about?

    Both. Most lay people I hear – believers and atheists – are really pretty ignorant about ID. Although I’ve got nothing I can point to right now, I know I’ve hear quite a bit of ID ignorance come from Team Scarlet A. If you care to press the issue, I’m game.

    All I meant was, there is a healthy subset of laymen and professionals in science, media and education that disseminate substantial misinformation about ID, and who have not properly objected to it. Of course, there is also a healthy subset of laymen and professionals in science, media and education that understand ID and can properly object to it as well.

    Do you suspect Dawkins, Coyne, Myers, et al of misapprehending ID? If so, can you point out your evidence?

    Same deal: nothing specific from those mentioned right now, but I’ll see if I can oblige you in an upcoming post. I’ve seen Coyne misapprehend the Argument from Change before, so I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point he merely repeated an anti-ID trope as opposed to thinking objectively.

    PhillyChief,

    I think all that use of the divine just destroys any real meaning for the word, like when theists stretch the definition of faith to encompass too much. You end up like Smurfs and a smurfy language.

    I agree, provided I’ve understood you right. If so, your position is actually the biblical position. That’s where Gideon and I part ways; I think that by some odd means, you actually understand part of what the Bible has to say. Makes me wonder about the full extent of your religious background. Save for maybe three trips to church with grandma, I had none.

    You want to say we were designed by aliens instead of a god? Fine, but that doesn’t help answer anything. It’s still offering a mystery to explain a mystery.

    Well you need a better argument than that you don’t like ID because it leaves us with new questions, Philly. That’s silly.

    At best, ID is something for philosophy class, not a science class.

    I say it would be appropriate to discuss ID in both philosophy and science class – any science class where causal mechanisms for the information encoded onto the human genome are being discussed. ID is a valid scientific inference; that it leaves us with further questions cannot be our strike against it. Most, perhaps all science leaves us with new questions.

    QF,

    I like the extent to which you esteem mathematics, but..

    Nature has no designer either, nature came from nature and has been around for all eternity too,

    Hey, everyone has their own opinion and to that I can agree, but what makes this anything more than your opinion that I should acknowledge it? If you could support it with evidence or a cogent argument at least, that’d be one thing, but without those it’s just natural preaching.

  102. “Nature has no designer either, nature came from nature and has been around for all eternity too.”

    Nope, sorry, Quiffy, it don’t work that way. That’s Dawkins talking, again. He won’t accept the idea of an eternal Yahweh, but, he’s ready to concede there was some other mode of being responsible for creation. Just as long as it isn’t the Guy he hates, anything else will do. There’s your ‘scientific’ mind for ya!

    And, he does hate God, as that mile-long vitriolic diatribe he spewed all over Ben Stein proves. He was literally shaking with rage even having to mention his favorite whipping post.

    Matter had to come from somewhere. And, as for the term “divine” being overused, it’s merely another subtle turn-about by atheists, like their position on apes and humans. They discover a flaw in their thinking, then surreptitiously change it to align with their opponent’s thinking, and claim it’s been what they’ve been saying all along. Like humans once supposedly coming from apes, well, like “climate change” was once “global warming”, now humans are suddenly a parallel branch along the evolutionary tree, from apes. Dawkins is probably the one responsible for this realignment, certainly famous for denying there’s been any change!

    Infidels are sneaky, because they know their logic stinks, and, to admit being wrong is tantamount to being placed in the stocks and publicly humiliated. Dawkins will never jeopardize his lofty status in the academic world, nor risk losing $$$ in royalties on his books over something so insignificant as truth!

    cl… I’ve definitely done more than three trips to church with Grandma, and I’m here to tell you that El Rotundo isn’t coming from any biblical perspective. If he wants to redefine the term “divine”, then I’ll do the same with the word “obese”… guess what proper name I’d substitute it with?

    Yeah, right!

  103. “I hope you realize how absurd it is to think that it could have been designed, the joke is on you for believing that nature has a designer.”

    It bothers me about as much as it bothers you to believe that space flotsam suddenly had a better idea… like Ford.

  104. No experiment has ever created or destroyed momentum and energy. Since nature works with a conservation of energy and momentum that means that the energy and momentum of the entire universe could not have been created nor destroyed either, hence it must have been around for eternity and will continue to be around for eternity.

  105. Oh, it will be around for eternity, alright, with God and Christians ruling over it!

    Here’s my mathematical equation to prove it, too…

    Eternal God + Creative Works + Redeemed – Satan & Sinners = BLISS!

    Any questions?

    • Yeah: where’d you get what you’re smoking, and can I have some? Seems to throw you for one hell of a loop.

Comments are closed.