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Quest for the Simplest Explanation

The history of the abolition movement in the West isn’t complete without William Wilberforce. His drive was instrumental in abolishing in Britain the slave trade in 1807 and then slavery itself in 1833. There’s much more to the story than just Wilberforce, of course, but the story wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging his work.

Martin Luther King has a similar position within the U.S. civil rights movement. The story doesn’t begin and end with him, of course, but the story wouldn’t be complete without noting his substantial contribution.

Or Gutenberg in publishing. Or Einstein in physics. Or Shakespeare in English literature. Or Charlemagne in the history of Europe. Perhaps their fields would now look to us roughly the same without them; perhaps others would’ve stepped in. No matter—these great leaders were central figures in their fields. You can’t explain the facts of the history of their fields without them. A history book without these figures would have holes, like a jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing.

Wait—how did the Slave Trade Act get through Parliament with so much opposition? Who gave the “I have a dream” speech? Who developed the theory of relativity? Did the printing press just poof into existence?

There aren’t partisans here, with some historians of science acknowledging Einstein (or Darwin or Newton) and others saying that these figures never existed. Historians might rate their importance differently, but that they were important isn’t questioned.

Now that we know what a central figure looks like, consider God, the central figure in reality. He’s behind life, the universe, and everything. No historical figure so dominates their field as God dominates reality—or so we’re told.

Imagine God removed from reality, like the story of abolition without Wilberforce, or an Einstein-less history of physics. Beyond a superficial summary, we simply can’t explain abolition without Wilberforce or the history of physics without Einstein. So what of reality can no longer be explained without God?

Nothing!

Admittedly, we have riddles at the frontier of science. How did abiogenesis happen? What caused the Big Bang? What causes consciousness? But surely the Christian’s argument is more than, “Science doesn’t have all the answers, therefore God.” And, of course, Christianity doesn’t have any better answers. It can repackage a scientific puzzle with “God did it,” but that explains nothing. Science continues to deliver while Christianity continues to not deliver, but even if science delivered no more, that would say nothing about God’s existence.

Have you heard about the recipe for making boiling water? First put a pot of water on a hot stove, then stir with a magic spoon (just once, clockwise), and then wait for the water to boil.

God is the magic spoon. He’s not necessary. He only complicates the explanation.

Invoke Occam’s Razor and drop both the magic spoon and God.

The problem with quotes on the internet
is that it is hard to verify their authenticity.
— Abraham Lincoln

Photo credit: Will Culpepper

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Greg G.

    Excellent point!

    God is the magic spoon. He’s not necessary. He only complicates the explanation.

    It not only complicates the explanation, but it blocks the explanation. Just like the demon theory of disease prevented people from looking for real causes, “In the beginning” keeps people from considering what happened before the Big Bang, as if the time we experience is anything like the overall space-time continuum.

    The Big Bang could have created the continuum we are in or our Big Bang may be a pocket universe in the space between super clusters of previous Bangs that have accelerated past light speed.

    • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

      “In the beginning” keeps people from considering what happened before the Big Bang, as if the time we experience is anything like the overall space-time continuum.

      The mere fact that God is the primary cause does not prevent there being an indefinite number of secondary causes.

      The Big Bang could have created the continuum we are in or our Big Bang may be a pocket universe in the space between super clusters of previous Bangs that have accelerated past light speed.

      And at some point you must accept there is a First Cause, unless you want to accept uncaused events or an infinite regress of causes.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

        Jayman:

        And at some point you must accept there is a First Cause, unless you want to accept uncaused events or an infinite regress of causes.

        Why? In your cosmology, God has always existed. I’ll invent a cosmology, too. In mine, the universe always existed.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          Why? In your cosmology, God has always existed. I’ll invent a cosmology, too. In mine, the universe always existed.

          By “always existed” are you saying the universe is in time or are you saying it is outside of time?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Jayman:

          I dunno. I don’t even know what I’m talking about when I hypothesize a universe that always existed.

          How about you? Where is the science behind your hypothesis?

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          I dunno. I don’t even know what I’m talking about when I hypothesize a universe that always existed.

          Shouldn’t you figure that out if you’re going to act as if you have a rational alternative to theism?

          How about you? Where is the science behind your hypothesis?

          I find the question wrong-headed. The nature of causality is a metaphysical question, not a scientific question.

        • Compuholic

          Shouldn’t you figure that out if you’re going to act as if you have a rational alternative to theism?

          Why? The honest and correct answer is: “We don’t know”. God is a pseudo-rational non-explanation. It is effectively the same as if I offered magic as explanation. The only difference between god and magic is the elaborate rectum-derived story surrounding it.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          Why? The honest and correct answer is: “We don’t know”.

          Because Bob presumably has a desire for the truth. He is not saying, “I don’t know.” He is saying he knows God does not exist.

          God is a pseudo-rational non-explanation.

          Can you point me to your refutations of all the cosmological arguments?

        • Compuholic

          Because Bob presumably has a desire for the truth.

          That is probably true. And that is exactly why we don’t pull answer out of our asses.

          He is saying he knows God does not exist.

          I was not aware that he said that god definitely does not exist. That is usually not the atheist position. I don’t want to speak for him but I think he means that there is no evidence to assume that there is one.

          When I say that something does not exists I usually mean that in the colloquial sense. Like with unicorns. I would say unicorns don’t exists. Do I know for sure that they don’t? Of course not. But I would laugh a anybody who claimed that they exist. It’s the same with religious people.

          Can you point me to your refutations of all the cosmological arguments?

          I don’t even know if a “first-cause” as a concept is even a coherent idea (and from my laymans understanding of physics I strongly supposed it is not).

          And why is that even relevant? Even if those “arguments” turned out to be correct it means exaxtly nothing. I could replace god with a meta-physical unicorn that miracled the universe into existence and the argument would work just as well. All those arguments are ultimately an exercise in post-hoc rationalization since nobody became a believer because of them. It is just an unsuccessful attempt to make the initial story sound less stupid.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          That is probably true. And that is exactly why we don’t pull answer out of our asses.

          Bob initially wrote: “In your cosmology, God has always existed. I’ll invent a cosmology, too. In mine, the universe always existed.” When pressed he responded with: “I dunno. I don’t even know what I’m talking about when I hypothesize a universe that always existed.” To me, it sounds like he’s pulling something out of his ass.

          I was not aware that he said that god definitely does not exist.

          He does not say God definitely does not exist. But his tone is far more strident than what would be expected from an agnostic. And your “colloquial sense” of the language further implies that you think you know something.

          But I would laugh a anybody who claimed that they exist. It’s the same with religious people.

          Laughter is not a counter-argument.

          I could replace god with a meta-physical unicorn that miracled the universe into existence and the argument would work just as well.

          Actually you couldn’t since the arguments generally point to a First Cause with a specific type of nature.

          All those arguments are ultimately an exercise in post-hoc rationalization since nobody became a believer because of them.

          You’re wrong about no one becoming a believer because of such arguments.

          Also note that the last section of your comment seems to be an example of you pulling answers out of your ass.

        • Compuholic

          I don’t even know what I’m talking about when I [...] I’ll invent a cosmology, too. In mine, the universe always existed.hypothesize a universe that always existed.

          He probably meant to say that if you can claim that god always existed he can as well claim that the universe always existed.

          But his tone is far more strident than what would be expected from an agnostic.

          Agnostic and atheist are not mutually exclusive terms. You can be an agnostic atheist which is probably what most atheists are.

          Laughter is not a counter-argument.

          So you would take someone seriously who claimed that unicorns exist? That explains a lot.

          Actually you couldn’t since the arguments generally point to a First Cause with a specific type of nature.

          This is getting better and better. Not only can you show that a first cause is a sensible concept and actually has existed. No, you can also determine its properties. I am impressed. Have you considered writing some papers? I’m sure the physicist would greatly appreciate it if you could point them in the right direction.

          You’re wrong about no one becoming a believer because of such arguments.

          Ok my mistake. I always forget that there are actually people who fall for this.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Jayman:

          his tone is far more strident than what would be expected from an agnostic.

          I am an agnostic—I don’t know. Also an atheist—I don’t believe.

          Laughter is not a counter-argument.

          Laughter is the response to someone with the burden of proof imagining that the other guy actually has it.

          Actually you couldn’t since the arguments generally point to a First Cause with a specific type of nature.

          Not a problem. That unicorn has those properties, too.

          You’re wrong about no one becoming a believer because of such arguments.

          A quibble. I agree with what Compuholic probably meant–almost all apologists use arguments that didn’t bring themselves to faith. Rather, they came to faith for the mundane reasons—it was just part of their culture, for example—and then use their intellect to rationalize the “decision” as being intellectual.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          Not a problem. That unicorn has those properties, too.

          Except he doesn’t Bob. If you took the time to understand theism you wouldn’t make such mistakes. For example, a unicorn is material while the First Cause is immaterial.

        • Reginald Selkirk

          Also, a unicorn is Biblical.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Jayman: You have a stunted definition of “unicorn.” I’ve since redefined it to mean “a white horse with a horn on its forehead that is immaterial but that can also interact with the material world.”
          I can make up stuff, too.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          You have a stunted definition of “unicorn.” I’ve since redefined it to mean “a white horse with a horn on its forehead that is immaterial but that can also interact with the material world.” I can make up stuff, too.

          A logical deduction is not making something up. And your redefinition still fails since your unicorn is composed of parts (among other problems). You can keep redefining unicorn but you’ll get to the point that you are no longer speaking of a unicorn as commonly understood.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Jayman:

          So you’ve deduced God’s properties? From what evidence?

          And your redefinition still fails since your unicorn is composed of parts (among other problems).

          Oh, please. If you studied unicorns as much as Thomas Aquinas, you wouldn’t sound so foolish.

          Yes, a unicorn has parts. It also doesn’t have parts. It’s like the Trinity—one but not three and three but not one.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          So you’ve deduced God’s properties? From what evidence?

          I already outlined the First Way. No horse with a horn is going to be an Unmoved Mover.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Jayman:

          [Bob] is not saying, “I don’t know.” He is saying he knows God does not exist.

          Bob is precisely saying, “I don’t know.” I most certainly do not know that God does not exist and have never made such a claim (though that is indeed where the evidence points, so that’s my working hypothesis).

          Can you point me to your refutations of all the cosmological arguments?

          Huh? Why is the burden of proof now on Compuholic’s broad shoulders?!

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          Huh? Why is the burden of proof now on Compuholic’s broad shoulders?!

          Because he claimed “God is a pseudo-rational non-explanation.” So what does he make of the arguments that God is a rational explanation? Or do atheists never have to defend their beliefs?

        • KeithCollyer

          So what does he make of the arguments that God is a rational explanation?

          the only rational explanation for god that stands up to scrutiny is that god is a construct of people. So if there is no rational explanation for god as an actual entity rather than a construct, then there can be no argument that god is a rational explanation

          Or do atheists never have to defend their beliefs?

          logically, of course, atheists do not have to defend their beliefs, it is incumbent on those who proclaim that they know that there is a god to prove that. The null hypothesis of there being no god is just as explanatory.

          Practically, atheists do have to defend their beliefs (strictly, lack of beliefs), mostly from people who think might makes right

        • Kodie

          What arguments that god is a rational explanation?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Jayman:

          Shouldn’t you figure that out if you’re going to act as if you have a rational alternative to theism?

          My hypothesis is the null hypothesis. The burden of proof is yours.

          If your point is that science has unanswered questions, you’re quite right. Maybe it always will. I don’t see that that changes the previous paragraph.

          The nature of causality is a metaphysical question, not a scientific question.

          I think you’ve brought a pop gun to a knife fight. Science is the discipline that will tell us what caused the Big Bang (etc.).

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          My hypothesis is the null hypothesis. The burden of proof is yours.

          And what is the “null hypothesis” concerning the metaphysics of causality? There is no such thing as cause and effect? Everyone will have to defend his viewpoint. In order to say that God is unecessary to explain the world you must have some beliefs about causality that lead you to this conclusion. Those beliefs need to be defended.

          If your point is that science has unanswered questions, you’re quite right.

          My point is that certain metaphysical truths need to be true for science to be possible.

          Science is the discipline that will tell us what caused the Big Bang (etc.).

          Metaphysics and science are not in competition. And here you are making a metaphysical assumption: that something caused the Big Bang.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Jayman: You’re right that I wasn’t precise enough. The Big Bang could be causeless.

        • Reginald Selkirk

          By “always existed” are you saying the universe is in time or are you saying it is outside of time?

          Jayman, what does it even mean to be “outside of time”? Can you give us an example of one thing that is “outside of time” so that we may understand this strange collage of words?

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          Jayman, what does it even mean to be “outside of time”?

          To not be subject to time. If you think of space-time to be a four-dimensional block then something outside of time would transcend the confines of that block.

          Can you give us an example of one thing that is “outside of time” so that we may understand this strange collage of words?

          If you are looking for garden variety objects you won’t find one. This should not be surprising since God is unique.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          This
          should not be surprising since God is unique.

          Or invented.

        • KeithCollyer

          This should not be surprising since God is unique.

          no, there are lots of other things that have been conceived of that are non-existent and explain nothing

        • Kodie

          Outside of time (and space – is there an outside-of-time Home Depot?) is an abstract concept. Abstract concepts reside in ideas, i.e. the imagination. Heaven is a place like Emerald City is a place. The words form a picture in your mind, but it’s not real.

      • Logan Blackisle

        A First Cause has, in fact, been accepted widely among scientists – it’s called the Big Bang.

        If you ask about something that happened before the Big Bang, then you don’t understand what the Big Bang is, and you should do some research.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          A First Cause has, in fact, been accepted widely among scientists – it’s called the Big Bang.

          But the Big Bang isn’t viable as the First Cause since the universe in its initial state contained the potential to become the universe in its current state. Something in a state of actuality must have “unleashed” the Big Bang (note I am not saying something must have existed temporally prior to the Big Bang).

        • Logan Blackisle

          “But the Big Bang isn’t viable as the First Cause…”

          According to Quantum Mechanics, it is.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          According to Quantum Mechanics, it is.

          I doubt the average quantum physicist knows the difference between act and potency. We are dealing with a metaphysical issue, not merely a scientific one.

        • Greg G.

          We are dealing with a metaphysical issue, not merely a scientific one.

          How do you know that? Or minds are presented with sensations that we interpret as reality. Whether these perceptions are related directly to this reality or a metaphysical reality, we can’t interact with the metaphysical reality. We can only interact with the reality presented to us.

          You can only speculate that there is a metaphysical reality. You can’t actually know anything about it. It’s appealing if you need a place to stick a First Cause who thinks but it’s really in your imagination.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          How do you know that?

          As you go on to say, we interpret and reason about our observations. The nature of causality is something we infer about reality. Reality does not politely inform us that A caused B.

          You can only speculate that there is a metaphysical reality. You can’t actually know anything about it. It’s appealing if you need a place to stick a First Cause who thinks but it’s really in your imagination.

          Why stop at metaphysics? If we’re going to follow this argument to its logical conclusion we should embrace solipsism. Physical reality is just as much a part of your imagination as metaphysical reality. I find it strange that atheists can speak of cause and effect all day long in the normal course of things but when the God question comes up we suddenly know nothing about causality.

        • Greg G.

          Why stop at metaphysics? If we’re going to follow this argument to its logical conclusion we should embrace solipsism. Physical reality is just as much a part of your imagination as metaphysical reality. I find it strange that atheists can speak of cause and effect all day long in the normal course of things but when the God question comes up we suddenly know nothing about causality.

          Solipsism is just another metaphysical speculation. Whether solipsism or metaphysics is true, we are presented with one reality. We don’t have any real choice to not play the game.

        • Nox

          Potentiality and actuality were how we explained motion when we had no understanding of motion. We now know that these are not concepts which accurately describe reality.

          Natural forces are often the first in a chain of causes. No one needs to step in and command things which are demanded by natural conditions.

          That the Cosmological Argument is vapid, asserts conclusions which do not follow from its premises and relies on a simplistic understanding of causality, should be obvious to anyone upon a cursory reading of the argument.

          It is true that some things cause others, but it would be foolish to conclude from this that anything which is caused has only a single cause, or that cause necessarily equals intention.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          Potentiality and actuality were how we explained motion when we had no understanding of motion. We now know that these are not concepts which accurately describe reality.

          Suppose I have an ice cream cone in my hand now. The ice cream is actually in a solid state. It has the potential to be in a liquid state. What is wrong with this description?

          That the Cosmological Argument is vapid, asserts conclusions which do not follow from its premises and relies on a simplistic understanding of causality, should be obvious to anyone upon a cursory reading of the argument.

          I outlined one such argument. You can start by stating why you find the argument logically invalid.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Jayman:

          I doubt the average quantum physicist knows the difference between act and potency. We are dealing with a metaphysical issue, not merely a scientific one.

          It’s always hilarious when philosophers imagine that they’re the cavalry coming to save the beleaguered scientists. Do you imagine that they breathe a sigh of relief that you’re coming with metaphysics and they can forget about the LHC and mathematics and all that?

          I’m trying to think of a similar example where something at the frontier of science was discovered by philosophers rather than scientists …

        • Reginald Selkirk

          I doubt the average quantum physicist knows the difference between act and potency

          I doubt that the Jayman could tell the difference between phlogiston and caloric.

        • KeithCollyer

          that’s a turtles all the way down argument and about as valid

      • Greg G.

        Hi Jayman

        And at some point you must accept there is a First Cause, unless you want to accept uncaused events or an infinite regress of causes.

        It’s not a matter of what I want but a willingness to follow the evidence wherever it leads.

        What causes something to begin to exist? A cause acting on nothing does not yield an effect. Things we think of as being caused to exist are causes acting on parts that already exist that are merely reformed. No thing actually begins to exist except the mental symbol we use to think of it.

        There are quantum events that can be self-caused because Planck time isn’t driven by the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

        Positrons are antimatter and electrons are the matter equivalent. Mathematically, a positron is equivalent to an electron traveling backwards in time. If there are as many antimatter universes as matter universes, then time is neutral.

        Time can be thought of as another dimension where our universe is four dimensional instead of three dimensional. Theorists have hypotheses that there could be more dimensions. Other universes could have a different dimension for time.

        As Lawrence Krauss explains in A Universe from Nothing, the superclusters of galaxies are accelerating away from each other because the space they are in is expanding due to what they call dark energy. The speed of light is not a barrier for space itself. Eventually they will be traveling away at faster than light speed and no longer visible to other galaxies. Other scientists think there can be pocket universes in another universe. These would be most likely to occur in between superluminal superclusters. What if a new universe is just a lot of simultaneous quantum events? Given enough time, it is inevitable no matter how unlikely.

        The First Cause needn’t be a conscious entity. There would be no time so it couldn’t decide to make a multiverse before it made it. Maybe afterward it could rationalize having done it.

        If the First Cause is not outside of time, the infinite regress is still a problem. What was the First Cause’s first thought?

        Just some food for thought.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          Greg G.:

          What causes something to begin to exist?

          At the metaphysical level an efficient cause brings something into existence.

          Things we think of as being caused to exist are causes acting on parts that already exist that are merely reformed.

          This view seems to assume that an object is just the matter it is composed of. But even if we run with such a view we still need to ask what is changing this matter from one form to another.

          No thing actually begins to exist except the mental symbol we use to think of it.

          So the universe did not begin to exist? How about the mind of Greg G.? Has your mind always existed or did it begin to exist? But even if we grant that matter-energy is eternal the theist still has cosmological arguments (e.g., from Aristotle and Aquinas) at his disposal.

          There are quantum events that can be self-caused

          The interpretation of quantum events is debatable.

          If the First Cause is not outside of time, the infinite regress is still a problem.

          I agree. But this seems to conflict with your earlier statements about nothing actually coming into existence.

          What was the First Cause’s first thought?

          The first question is whether he thinks in the same way we do.

        • Greg G.

          Hi Jayman

          At the metaphysical level an efficient cause brings something into existence.

          The metaphysical level is a philosophical construct, not an entity. A real efficient cause is related to change or movement. It would need something to move or change.

          This view seems to assume that an object is just the matter it is composed of. But even if we run with such a view we still need to ask what is changing this matter from one form to another.

          The matter is an essential part of any object. Otherwise it doesn’t exist. The change is the efficient cause which is from other matter or energy.

          So the universe did not begin to exist? How about the mind of Greg G.? Has your mind always existed or did it begin to exist? But even if we grant that matter-energy is eternal the theist still has cosmological arguments (e.g., from Aristotle and Aquinas) at his disposal.

          Material objects interact with each other in various ways. My mind is the interaction of its physical parts, a process. It began when the parts came together. It is not a thing that can exist without the material interactions. We call the interactions a mind, a label we give this sort of interaction.

          The interpretation of quantum events is debatable.

          The interpretation is debatable but their existence is not.

          I agree. But this seems to conflict with your earlier statements about nothing actually coming into existence.

          Our linear thinking about time doesn’t seem to be extrapolatable to these questions. Einstein shows that we can’t determine with certainty which events happened first.

          The first question is whether he thinks in the same way we do.

          The first question would be “why think there was a first cause?” and the second question would be “why think the first cause thinks?”

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          The metaphysical level is a philosophical construct, not an entity. A real efficient cause is related to change or movement. It would need something to move or change.

          But there’s nothing logically incoherent about an entity bringing something into being without moving or changing something else.

          The change is the efficient cause which is from other matter or energy.

          I’m afraid I see this view leading to an infinite regress of matter-energy effecting other matter-energy.

          Material objects interact with each other in various ways. My mind is the interaction of its physical parts, a process. It began when the parts came together. It is not a thing that can exist without the material interactions. We call the interactions a mind, a label we give this sort of interaction.

          So your mind did begin to exist then? If that’s the case then your mind cannot be reduced to its parts. And you avoided the question about the universe itself.

        • Greg G.

          But there’s nothing logically incoherent about an entity bringing something into being without moving or changing something else.

          Well, if magic is possible is one of your premises, then it’s not logically incoherent. It’s just that you can’t show the premise is true.

          The change is the efficient cause which is from other matter or energy.

          I’m afraid I see this view leading to an infinite regress of matter-energy effecting other matter-energy.

          Not in a self-caused universe.

          So your mind did begin to exist then? If that’s the case then your mind cannot be reduced to its parts. And you avoided the question about the universe itself.

          The mind is not an actual object. It is an interaction of things that existed already.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          Well, if magic is possible is one of your premises, then it’s not logically incoherent. It’s just that you can’t show the premise is true.

          Note that even if we accept your premise the argument still goes through. The First Cause acts on ever-present matter-energy.

          Not in a self-caused universe.

          If we’re speaking of efficient causation then it is incoherent to say the universe brought itself into existence.

          The mind is not an actual object. It is an interaction of things that existed already.

          Wow! So it would be correct to say that you do not have a mind? Why go to such extreme lengths to remain an atheist?

        • Kodie

          It’s an interaction. The mind is not a physical entity. What word there was too big for you?

      • RichardSRussell

        “And at some point you must accept there is a First Cause, unless you want to accept uncaused events or an infinite regress of causes.”

        All 3 are hypotheses, but only 1 of them contains an internal contradiction, and only 1 of them (a different one) has actual observable evidence supporting it. Figuring out which is which is left as an exercise for the student.

  • http://www.facebook.com/norman.donnan Norm Donnan

    The problem with quotes on the internet is its hard to prove their authenticity…AL
    I like that….. except its not relevant .When so many people do have a relationship with God personally, Hes not some person from the past but like the man next door,not so misterious.

    • trj

      Strange how all those people in a personal relationship with God can’t agree on what he’s like. Maybe their relationship is not that personal after all.

      Not yours, though. I’m sure you have a genuine personal relationship with him, unlike those other people who also claim to have a relationship but disagree with you what God is like.

    • Greg G.

      Hes not some person from the past but like the man next door,

      Next door? Heck, he’s inside your head.

    • Kodie

      Norm, what is your problem with reading again and having anything to say about the topic? If it’s not relevant to you, and you have no other argument except you believe god exists, then you are the irrelevant one to the discussion.

    • RichardSRussell

      Once again, the “deep, personal relationship with Jesus”. To save having to repeat myself, I wrote an essay about it which I cite whenever the topic resurfaces.

      • http://www.facebook.com/norman.donnan Norm Donnan

        Richard,this isnt an essay,its like a primitive persons understanding of the internet,short and ignorant.

        • RichardSRussell

          You’re too hard on yourself, Norm. You just made a comment, that’s all. Nothing at all unusual about it. A great many comments on the internet are short and ignorant.

    • smrnda

      I kind of wonder about this personal relationship with Jesus people talk about. What I see doesn’t seem to meet the criterion for ‘deep personal relationship.’ If I have a deep personal relationship with someone, the test is that if I send them an email, call and text, they’ll respond to me within say, 12 hours max, and I mean really respond, not offer me some cut and paste message that 1000 other friends are getting at the same time.

      If I told someone that I had a deep personal relationship with my PhD adviser, I’d probably be lying since I really haven’t talked to the guy in a few years… and I’d just be one of a lot of students… and even that seems to offer more than what people say they get with Jesus.

      It’s one thing to admire Jesus. It’s another to believe that Jesus rose from the dead and all. But pretending that there’s a relationship with Jesus you can get today that’s PERSONAL is a little strange, and is an idea which is even pretty new in Christianity.

      • http://www.facebook.com/norman.donnan Norm Donnan

        With God as with any relationship,you get out what you put in.What atheism doesnt accept ,which is right is religion.You see the pointlessness of going through the motions out of habit and guilt,but thats not how it should be and certainly not how God wants it. Personal is how it has allways been with God right from the start, religion is mans invention..Religion is like an arranged marriage,not a choice to be with the one you love.

        • Nox

          If you have a relationship with someone you’ve never met, who died two thousand years ago, and you know nothing about them except what others have told you, how is that a relationship?

          If the nature of the relationship is that he makes all the rules and you always obey without thinking about it and sometimes speak to him inside your own head and imagine he can hear you, how is that different from a religion?

          The origin of the “it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship” meme is the christian church trying to distance itself from the reputation they built for themselves. The reason “religion” has all this baggage you are trying to distance yourself from, is mostly because of christianity. People in our society see “religion” as being about blind submission to artificial rules because christianity has always been about that.

        • smrnda

          I’ve seen plenty of churches full of on-fire believers willing to talk about their personal relationship with Jesus. These are people who sound just like you, emphasizing the difference between their ‘personal relationship’ versus other people’s distant worship. I’m telling you that I’ve seen what you’re talking about, and it’s as absurd to call that a ‘personal relationship’ as it would be for me to claim a personal relationship with Hypatia of Alexandria. If I jumped up and down enough, I’d be doing the same thing.

        • http://www.facebook.com/norman.donnan Norm Donnan

          So what your saying is youve observed something therefore you know .The frustration is through fear,pride or something else(you think is reality) that faith has to be on your terms or else you reject it,thats why its called faith.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Norm:

          thats why its called faith.

          Yes, very true. So are you saying that you just believe this stuff on faith and that you have no evidence to convince the rest of us to follow your lead?

        • http://www.facebook.com/norman.donnan Norm Donnan

          Well Bob,l guess you will need to experience the spirit realm for yourself. This is why,once you have ,people who dismiss your experience as delusional ,drug induced,euphoria,you will just smile politely and say,”yes l used to think that as well”.You will also have grasped a concept that they will resent you for,but there is not much you can say.Truth is that it really is the gift of God,given freely to everyone for a time. What you did with that in your past may be very hard to retrieve again .Humble yourself and you will see an out pouring of His grace to help you see,pride is the biggest barrier to faith,especially pride in your own ability.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Norm:

          Humble yourself

          Yes, that’s what I keep telling my friends about Scientology, Shintoism, and the worship of the great god Quetzalcoatl (I like to cover my bases). If they would only drop their presuppositions and just accept the truth as I see it!

          My friend, I think we’re birds of a feather.

        • http://www.facebook.com/norman.donnan Norm Donnan

          Ha,love you Bob,have an awesome day

        • smrnda

          No. People have claimed to have a personal relationship with Jesus. Willing to investigate this claim, I decided to go and observe these people in person. Upon observing this, I did not see any evidence of a personal relationship that rests on anything aside from vague, subjective reports of an emotional high. That is not evidence, and I’ve seen exactly the same type of ‘evidence’ presented for other deities. Since these religions make mutually exclusive claims, personal relationships with Jesus, Wotan, Apollo and Osiris cannot all be possible. Seeing similar evidence for all of them makes me think that the best explanation is none of them are real.

          If I told you that I had a personal relationship with the band Radiohead, and I told you that if you went with me to a show you would see, and all you saw was the same evidence for a personal relationship that I’m seeing for Jesus, you’d tell me I was making it up. You’d want clear evidence that members of the band knew who I was, and that I knew something about them that went beyond what is generally known. You’d at least expect that we’d hang out after the show. Jumping up and down and being excited just means I like the music.

          There’s no frustration on my part. It’s clearly a mix of suggestion, placebo effect and group pressure.

          On faith being on one’s own terms – isn’t that the essence of a personal relationship with a god? That a god communicates in a customized, individualized fashion with each believer?

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

        smrnda:

        I kind of wonder about this personal relationship with Jesus people talk about.

        Seems to me that this is just an attempt to sidestep the problem that Christianity is just one of thousands of religions, so why imagine that (by good fortune) you grew up in the only one that’s correct? It’s because Christianity isn’t a religion; rather, it’s a relationship, and we know that they exist, right?

        • smrnda

          I always thought it was a way to distance True Christians from fake ones. Real Christians have this ‘personal relationship’ that involved highly emotional worship, jumping up and down and swaying, and long, intense prayers. It’s really just knocking other people for having a more subdued worship style, and a way that you can make an argument that an anti-intellectual borderline primitive folk level faith is superior to a more intellectual one.

    • Greg G.

      When so many people do have a relationship with God personally,

      I have a deep personal relationship with my lucky nickel. It keeps me safe. I talk to it and it talks to me inside my head. It even told me it created the universe.
      Would it sound more sane if I told you my lucky nickel was invisible, too?

  • Lewis C.

    From our friends on wikipedia:

    Begging the question (Latin petitio principii, “assuming the initial point”) is a type of informal fallacy in which an implicit premise would directly entail the conclusion.

    Implicit premise here: God played no causal role in history because we all know God doesn’t exist.

    Conclusion: God is not necessary to explain history; therefore, he doesn’t exist!

    Can you try your argument again without committing a logical fallacy?

    • Logan Blackisle

      Nice straw-man! Superbly done.

      The actual argument closer to this:

      P: God played no causal role in history.
      P: God can be removed from any field of study, with the field of study all the better for it.
      C: God is unnecessary for life.

      If you actually read the post, you’ll see that God’s existence isn’t argued, his relevance is.

      Again, though, nice straw-man.

      • Lewis C.

        We’ll use your wording then….

        P: God played no causal role in history.

        Still an implicit premise that directly entails the conclusion. And perhaps worse, this isn’t a premise that is going to be scientifically verifiable.

        • Logan Blackisle

          “We’ll use your wording then….”

          Actually, I copied that from your first post…

          “Still an implicit premise that directly entails the conclusion.”

          OK, let’s clarify a bit. God is unnecessary in history. What this means is that any discovery, any invention could have easily been made without God.

          Isaac Newton was very religious – could Calculus have been developed by a non-religious?

          That is what’s being argued here. If God was unnecessary in history, is he not unnecessary now?

        • Greg G.

          I would simplify the argument to this:

          P: God can be removed from any field of study without reducing the field’s explanatory powers.
          C: We have no need for the God hypothesis.

          We can assume we don’t know everything. It would be ridiculous to assume anything we make up exists as we have fertile imaginations. We can discover some of the things we don’t know by observation. We infer dark matter by the observation of the rotations of galaxies which imply more mass is there than we can detect but it doesn’t absorb and emit electromagnetic radiation because that would blur out the stars. We can infer dark energy because superclusters of galaxies are accelerating so something is pushing them and the required energy can be calculated but it is not being emitted electromagnetically.

          The God hypothesis was used to explain wind, rain, and lightning by people who didn’t understand the atmosphere. Now that we understand it, the God hypothesis is unnecessary and should be discarded until we have observations that can be explained precisely by a God hypothesis.

          When Einstein’s equations predicted that light could be curved in a gravitational field, it was testable. Astronomers realized that if his theory was accurate, a certain star would be visible from certain places on Earth during a solar eclipse. Not only was the star visible, they saw it precisely where the equations predicted it would be seen. When a God hypothesis can make such a precise prediction, we could then accept it as a model for our understanding of the universe.

        • Lewis C.

          Do tell, what is the God hypothesis that we no longer have a need for? Who hypothesized it?

        • Greg G.

          Do tell, what is the God hypothesis that we no longer have a need for?

          Every theistic religion ever conceived.

          Sam Harris: Religions Are Failed Sciences

          Who hypothesized it?

          People with no scientific understanding of the world throughout history.

          “Religion was the discourse we had when all causes in the universe were opaque.” –Sam Harris

        • Greg G.

          Where did that picture of Harris come from? I didn’t put in any code for that.

        • Kodie

          Must be the thumbnail for the link you put in.

        • Lewis C.

          Oh, so Harris said it, therefore it’s true. My bad for being a doubter.

          Isn’t it a little funny that all your early scientist heroes (Bacon, Newton, Galileo) were very religious people who all produced serious work on both religion and science? Didn’t anyone tell them religion was just a failed hypothesis they could go ahead and discard? Or what about the Muslim scientists a few centuries before them?

          Awfully strange that a “failed science” kept being practiced, proclaimed, and preached by the very people who “disproved” it. I can’t think of many other examples in history where that happened, can you?

        • Kodie

          Compartmentalizing is something you don’t seem to grasp? A person who doesn’t let their religious beliefs (reported) interfere with their discoveries, and neither who let their scientific discoveries refute absolutely their beliefs (reported). Is your point that because relevant scientists were also believers, that we ought to fall for the fallacy of believing? I mean, that’s what theists do – if you find someone you trust, you believe everything they believe. Do their scientific discoveries withstand scrutiny? Why must their belief be held to a standard based on their scientific discoveries if they don’t withstand scrutiny? That is a really stupid argument, you know. Your mother might have told you the correct way to fold towels but does she know how to pick the right girlfriend for you? It is like you can’t fathom learning something from someone who was also wrong about other things.

          By the way, if the Muslim scientists made a lot of great discoveries and pointed you to the right direction, why aren’t you a Muslim then? I mean, if they knew one thing, they must have had a lot better insight than you or I into who the real deity is.

        • Greg G.

          Oh, so Harris said it, therefore it’s true. My bad for being a doubter.

          A perfect example of an ad hominem?

          Isn’t it a little funny that all your early scientist heroes (Bacon, Newton, Galileo) were very religious people who all produced serious work on both religion and science? Didn’t anyone tell them religion was just a failed hypothesis they could go ahead and discard? Or what about the Muslim scientists a few centuries before them?

          Galileo was put under house arrest because his findings disagreed with his church. Newton proved that planets weren’t pushed around by angels. They all contributed to show the failures of their religions.

          Awfully strange that a “failed science” kept being practiced, proclaimed, and preached by the very people who “disproved” it. I can’t think of many other examples in history where that happened, can you?

          Ever hear of compartmentalization? Francis Collins is a first rate scientist. He is religious because he saw a frozen waterfall with three streams. Kurt Wise says he would not reject his religion even if he knew science disproved it.

        • Lewis C.

          Galileo and Newton died God-fearing men who held a high view of Scripture and divine revelation. You haven’t told me why they kept professing a “science” throughout their lives you claim they “showed the failures” of. Again, give me an example of scientists who “disproved” a false science and then kept publishing major works professing that false science. A little odd, isn’t it?

          It’s almost as if your view of religion as failed science is completely anachronistic to how most eras and people thought of religion, save a few intellectuals in the 19th century.

          (Which, since you may take your history lessons from a guy who has a PhD in looking at colors on brain scans, may not be all that surprising.)

          If you are arguing for compartmentalization, then you’re conceding religion may not be a failed science after all but something else that exists alongside science. That’s not Harris’s argument at all. Do failed sciences get compartmentalized? Or are you abandoning Harris now?

        • Greg G.

          Have you not noticed how slowly technology, medicine and the understanding of the world while religion dominated? When science stopped trying to reconcile everything to religion, science has progressed in all fields. That’s because religion based understanding was failing and holding back humanity.
          Even human freedom and morality have progressed because religion has not been the driving force it once was.
          Compartmentalization is when a person holds conflicting beliefs in different areas of their mind. A religious person believes in the power of prayer but still takes their medicine. At least one is necessarily false so, yes, failed sciences could be held in one compartment. A person could be wrong in both compartments too.
          A person can be very knowledgeable in certain areas but they can never have actual knowledge in religion. Religious claims have to be unverifiable because all their verifiable claims have been refuted.
          Do you fear Harris? You keep ranting about him with ad hominems but you don’t address his arguments.
          You keep subscribing to the demon theory of disease if you like. See the most religiously advanced witch doctor you can find to chant and pray away the illness. That’s a failed science but you don’t have to believe me.

        • Lewis C.

          You keep telling me how history and science and religion work, but your generalities fail to explain the very crucial points in history I’ve presented you with.

          Your inability to engage the historical record on this matter suggests your beliefs on this matter may not be open to rational discussion or negation by evidence. For shame.

          Again, perhaps you should stop learning history from a guy who has no education in it.

        • Greg G.

          You keep telling me how history and science and religion work, but your generalities fail to explain the very crucial points in history I’ve presented you with.

          You haven’t mentioned any crucial points in history. You mentioned a few men who did some good science that left out the God hypothesis or contradicted the church position. Newton is famous for his science. He is known for some biblical research such as an interpolation in the first phrase of 1 Timothy 3:16, and he was a leader in the field of alchemy. He was shown to be correct up to the point where relativity becomes significant and he was wrong in alchemy because he had no clue about nuclear physics. His religious beliefs had less evidential support than his alchemy.

          Your inability to engage the historical record on this matter suggests your beliefs on this matter may not be open to rational discussion or negation by evidence. For shame.

          Religions are ways to understand the world and humanity’s place in it. There are many ways to be wrong and one way to be right. The fact that there are thousands of religions and one science is evidence that religious methods are unreliable for approaching the truth while scientific methods achieve a convergence no matter what your starting point. Science tests its hypotheses against reality. Religion does not do sanity checks.

          I am open to rational discussion and evidence. Your failure to present either is not a reflection on my abilities.

          Edit: (I wanted a line return and got a post.)

          Again, perhaps you should stop learning history from a guy who has no education in it.

          Drop the ad hominem or answer his point.

          All you have done is mention three scientists who were religious. If they had all the knowledge we have today, they would likely become atheists just like most of the other top scientists. Tell how religions are successful sciences.

        • Lewis C.

          Is it an ad hominem attack when you think reading bible-beating pastors shouldn’t be trusted to tell us the origins of the universe? No, it’s a matter of expertise; they don’t have the education or training in biology or cosmology, therefore we don’t trust them.

          Harris is in the same way over his head with history and philosophy, as are Dawkins and Hitchens. You’re essentially promoting a lay person’s take on the history of religion here. Thanks, but can’t we do better?

          “…who did some good science that left out the God hypothesis”

          Let me make this as clear as possible: there is no “God hypothesis” that needs to be “left out” of science. Again, that conception of religion was invented in the 19th century and no one in previous centuries would even understand such a belief. Few people believe it today who have ever opened a history book on science. We owe a great percentage of our most significant scientific discoveries to heavily religious eras when religious people explored the natural world without inhibition, fear, or any perceived conflict with their devout religious beliefs. Bacon, Newton, and Galileo were among these thinkers.

          You’re too smart to fall for revisionist history, my friend. You can be an atheist without lying to yourself about history.

        • Castilliano

          “Harris is in the same way over his head with history and philosophy…”
          Yeah, those Stanford degrees in Philosophy are so, ya’ know, overrated.
          /snark
          Also, he spent years in the East studying major religions there.
          If you’re going to attack somebody’s academic cred, you really should know what their academic cred is.

        • Lewis C.

          He has a BA in philosophy. I know many undergrads who major in philosophy; Aristotle they are not.

          Would you trust a pastor with a BA in biology to relay a fair and intellectually rigorous take on the discipline? What if he/she made his entire living propagating a particular interpretation of biology?

          I think we can do better than Harris on history and philosophy.

        • Greg G.

          He has a BA in philosophy. I know many undergrads who major in philosophy; Aristotle they are not.

          OTOH, I doubt he would have been accepted into graduate school if he was a C student.

        • Greg G.

          Is it an ad hominem attack when you think reading bible-beating pastors shouldn’t be trusted to tell us the origins of the universe? No, it’s a matter of expertise; they don’t have the education or training in biology or cosmology, therefore we don’t trust them.

          Yes, that is the definition of an ad hominem. Kent Hovind argues that planets spinning in the opposite direction of other planets in a solar system disproves the Big Bang. Saying he’s a tax cheat, a creationist, or has a faux PhD are all ad hominems because it’s about the man and not about his argument. It’s a fallacy. You could address his argument by pointing out that he confuses the Big Bang with the formation of galaxies or solar systems. That’s a legitimate response.

          If it is just expertise that is lacking, it should be simple to point out the error.

          We owe a great percentage of our most significant scientific discoveries to heavily religious eras when religious people explored the natural world without inhibition, fear, or any perceived conflict with their devout religious beliefs. Bacon, Newton, and Galileo were among these thinkers.

          Copernicus sat on his discoveries for 30 years and only published them on his death bed for fear of the church. Giordano Bruno was burnt at the stake in Galileo’s lifetime for promoting Copernican ideas. Galileo was put under house arrest because his Copernican ideas conflicted with the ideas of the church. We’ll never know how many came before Copernicus but never published or was erased from history as Bruno nearly was.

          In Who Wrote the Bible, Richard Elliott Friedman gives a history of the Documentary Hypothesis and how it developed within two decades around the beginning of the 19th century. He tells of many people who questioned whether Moses wrote the Pentateuch and their fates as far back as 1000 years ago. The church suppressed that line of questioning for at least 800 years.

          The Church was a dominant political entity during all of the Dark Ages. When it lost power, the Age of Enlightenment began. Science and technology has been growing ever since.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Greg:

          Saying he’s a tax cheat, a creationist, or has a faux PhD are all ad hominems …

          Well … saying that he is something bad that has no relevance to the topic at hand is certainly an ad hominem. But if his credibility (say) is relevant, and you cite examples where he has not been honest (say), that would be relevant even though it might besmirch his character.

          A good ad hominem might be “Hitler was a vegetarian, so what does that say about vegetarianism?!”

        • Greg G.

          Any time the person is attacked instead of his argument, it is an argumentum ad hominem fallacy. He could be accidentally right that one time.

          An ad hominem may in some cases not be a fallacy. Take Titus 1:12-13:

          12 One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” 13 This saying is true.

          This is referring to Epimenides. We could point out that Epimenides is a Cretan and the paradox is emerges so the argument falls because it can’t be true.

        • Lewis C.

          Galileo was part of a vibrant community of priests and scientists who had an ongoing, open dialogue about the makeup of the universe. Galileo’s science didn’t get him in trouble as much as his personal attacks and mockery of the Pope: many priests and scientists were quite open to his scientific views. And he maintained his strong, devout faith to the end. Many historians have lamented just how poorly informed many people are on Galileo’s life; you may want to pick up a book on it sometime.

          But I”m still waiting to hear: what part of this “God hypothesis” failed for Galileo? And if the God hypothesis is a failed science, why did he die a religious man still professing faith in God?

          Augustine was already questioning literal readings of Genesis in the 4th century. He didn’t quickly get shuffled off stage by “The Church” for questioning; he WAS the church, probably it’s most influential theologian to ever live post-New Testament. Your telling of a unified authoritative church perpetually warring with free scientific enquiry and dissenting questioning for centuries is a nice little story. Many people believe it. But historians know better; they know history.

          Again, check the facts, pick up a history book, stop trusting a neuroscientist to teach you history.

        • Greg G.

          Galileo was part of a vibrant community of priests and scientists who had an ongoing, open dialogue about the makeup of the universe. Galileo’s science didn’t get him in trouble as much as his personal attacks and mockery of the Pope: many priests and scientists were quite open to his scientific views. And he maintained his strong, devout faith to the end. Many historians have lamented just how poorly informed many people are on Galileo’s life; you may want to pick up a book on it sometime.

          Galileo was accused of heresy first. He was not allowed to teach it. Even though many in the Church agreed with him, the Church decided that heliocentricism was heretical.

          Later, Galileo wrote a book with three debaters arguing geocentricism. The fool happened to espouse the same arguments as the Pope. He was convicted of heresy for having held opinions that the sun didn’t move. He was sentenced to prison but commuted to a life sentence of house arrest. He was forbidden to write anything else.

          So the “personal attacks and mockery” was writing the arguments the Pope embraced and showed why they were wrong. To say it was not about his views on heliocentricism is a word game and a whitewash of the facts.

          But I”m still waiting to hear: what part of this “God hypothesis” failed for Galileo? And if the God hypothesis is a failed science, why did he die a religious man still professing faith in God?

          The Church argued that heliocentricism contradicted the sense of the Holy Scriptures. They made it a heresy. He was punished for it. The Church apologized to him in 1992. That’s a major FAIL.

          Augustine was already questioning literal readings of Genesis in the 4th century. He didn’t quickly get shuffled off stage by “The Church” for questioning; he WAS the church, probably it’s most influential theologian to ever live post-New Testament. Your telling of a unified authoritative church perpetually warring with free scientific enquiry and dissenting questioning for centuries is a nice little story. Many people believe it. But historians know better; they know history.

          I’m not sure what your understanding of Augustine is but his questioning about the six day creation was that he thought it was way too long. He favored an instantaneous creation. He still believed Adam & Eve, the Flood and all that stuff.

          Again, check the facts, pick up a history book, stop trusting a neuroscientist to teach you history.

          Every time I check the facts, I find that I am right and you are wrong.

        • Lewis C.

          I like the part where your telling of the Galileo affair doesn’t really challenge anything I said.

          When are you going to explain to me why all these scientists disproved religion as a “failed science” and yet remained religious? Again, what was Galileo’s “God hypothesis” that failed him?

          Or have we abandoned that little Harris sermon you were propagating earlier?

        • Greg G.

          You still don’t understand what Harris meant by the term. You may be trying really hard to miss the point.

          When I say religion is a failed science, it’s not about any individual’s beliefs. People wanted to understand their environment. They didn’t have much to go on. They didn’t understand air. They could feel their breath but they couldn’t see it. They could blow out small fires but it could help them get a fire started. They could move small objects at a distance. When a person stopped breathing they died. In the pre-scientific world, that seemed like breath was magic. The also saw wind moving things. They interpreted that as breath of a god.

          They didn’t understand lightning so that was the doings of a god. They thought the gods kept water in the sky.

          They thought they could manipulate the weather by begging the sky, sacrificing animals, and even people in some cultures.

          We could go on and on coming up with various beliefs and superstitions of culture after culture that were attributed to deities.

          These were all wrong. They failed as science because they didn’t use a systematic method to eliminate error or validate hypotheses. Many did come up with systematic methods to eliminate disagreement, though, so the orthodoxy tended to remain until they had to give up the beliefs by force.

          When scientific methods were applied, even if the results were wrong, they were still closer to the truth than the religious beliefs they conflicted with.

          Science is putting robotic science labs on other planets. Religions are still debating if it’s sinful to eat a bacon cheeseburger.

          BTW, your version of the Galileo story is popular on apologetics websites. And you have the nerve to criticize Harris?

        • Lewis C.

          You’re so certain of what “religion” is, but you haven’t told me

          a) why we owe the invention of these high-minded scientific methods you speak of to very religious thinkers completely committed to a religious worldview,

          b) why those religious thinkers experienced nothing even close to the sort of “de-mythologizing” process you’re so certain science brings about, or

          c) why these thinkers didn’t even detect a tension between religion and the scientific methods they invented to explore the natural world.

          Again, your notion of religion is largely anachronistic (and developed by agenda-driven lay people rather than historians) and your understanding of science as the naturally-developing deterministic refutation of religion is a nice myth, but not one that is historically supported.

        • Greg G.

          a) why we owe the invention of these high-minded scientific methods you speak of to very religious thinkers completely committed to a religious worldview,

          We learn from the mistakes of those who came before and we adopt the methods that are effective. It’s not as if religion is always wrong about everything. A blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then. It’s kind of like evolution where natural selection maintains the good mutations and eliminates the bad.

          b) why those religious thinkers experienced nothing even close to the sort of “de-mythologizing” process you’re so certain science brings about, or

          I’ve explained compartmentalization to you. People put their religion in a brain compartment where they don’t have to apply their logic and understanding to it.

          c) why these thinkers didn’t even detect a tension between religion and the scientific methods they invented to explore the natural world.

          How do you know they didn’t? They lived in an atmosphere where the church could imprison them for heresy if they didn’t at least act like they believed. There are many atheists today who aren’t open about their beliefs and they don’t even have to fear prison, torture, and death from the church.

          Again, your notion of religion is largely anachronistic (and developed by agenda-driven lay people rather than historians) and your understanding of science as the naturally-developing deterministic refutation of religion is a nice myth, but not one that is historically supported.

          I’m not writing a book. I’m just chatting with some dude on the internet. I gave a sketchy outline of some possible origins for religion. The breath/spirit is from the Bible but it looks like the Egyprtians had the same myths.
          I do not say that science refutes religion. It refutes certain claims made by religion but religion adapts to the time. They will change their position to accomodate their followers if necessary. Other religions continue by ignoring science and refuting a strawman. They are selling a product. As long as they avoid testable claims, they can get away with a lot. If you say Jesus is coming during this generation, you can repeat it for thousands of years. The current generation believes it while the dead generation never complains. If you say Jesus is coming on May 21, you run into problems.
          You keep saying I get information from the wrong people but you never provide correct information. You seem to get your information from apologetic web sites.

        • Lewis C.

          It’s not as if religion is always wrong about everything.

          It’s kind of like evolution where natural selection maintains the good mutations and eliminates the bad.

          I do not say that science refutes religion. It refutes certain claims made by religion but religion adapts to the time. They will change their position to accomodate their followers if necessary.

          Nice response. It’s now clear that you don’t believe in a single “God hypothesis,” nor do you believe religion was simply a casted-off “failed science” at a particular point in the 17th century, nor is religion even uniform enough or static enough to be boiled down to a particular causal hypothesis or set of hypotheses that could be reduced to such a role.

          You’ve defected from the doctrine of Harris. You are a wiser man than he. I’m proud.

        • Greg G.

          Hi Lewis

          While you’re patting yourself on the back, congratulate yourself for starting to get the point. It’s not brain surgery.

          When I say religions are failed science, I never said they were cast off. They just use a poor methods to understand the world. They have no self-correcting mechanisms or reality checks. If they did, they might then be cast off. Even people who use such methods in everyday life won’t apply them to their religion compartment. They will use those methods on other religions but not their own.

          If you used the scrutiny on your own religious beliefs that you do for other religious beliefs, you could put yours in the same heap you put the others on. Over 70% of the world reject your beliefs no matter what they are.

          If you apply the same scrutiny to science, it’s verified by it.

        • Lewis C.

          Greg,

          They have no self-correcting mechanisms or reality checks

          Is this something you can cite a course for, or are you taking it on the authority of what an uneducated layperson told you? I thought earlier you were telling me that religion is cleverly adaptive to changing environments, which would suggest it self-corrects.

          I’d lean more toward cleverly adaptive myself, which means there are self-corrections and reality checks. For instance, Mormonism was pretty clever to suddenly discover a new revelation on African Americans when their racist views were getting them into hot water after the Civil Rights movement.

          You don’t get it both ways: you can’t reject religion for being both strategically adaptive and dynamic AND stubbornly dogmatic and close-minded to change. Which is it going to be?

        • Greg G.

          Hi Lewis

          Good point. I’ll give you that one. When the dogma was made up to start with, they can change it to suit the customers. The Catholic Church has put Limbo in limbo a few times and it took them less than 400 years to apologize to Galileo.

          The Jews had harsh punishments for picking up sticks on the wrong day and such. The Romans had bloodsports and public executions but even they blanched at the stonings and required the Sanhedrin to get permission before carrying out those sentences. I don’t think the Jews ever went back to the stonings but other religions have adopted them.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Lewis:

          if the God hypothesis is a failed science, why did he die a religious man still professing faith in God?

          Better question: if Galileo lived today, with the voluminous amount of science has given us (with religion pouting on the sidelines), would he still be a religious man?

          Augustine was already questioning literal readings of Genesis in the 4th century.

          Imagine such a theologian during the Middle Ages. Ouch!

        • Lewis C.

          This is rich! The Middle Ages loved Augustine. He was THE church father and central theological figure. Even the Reformers loved him. Aquinas did little other build on Augustine’s work.

          As for your first question, interesting thought experiment. I can only guess you’re raising it because you haven’t figured out how Harris’s “religion as a failed science” argument is viable either, seeing what we know about Galileo/Newton/Bacon, so we’re pushing on to a new argument.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Lewis:

          The Middle Ages loved Augustine.

          That’s nice. Now: let’s get back to the point. Are you saying that an upstart like Augustine who “[questioned] the literal readings of Genesis” would be embraced during the Middle Ages?

          I can only guess you’re raising it because you haven’t figured out how Harris’s “religion as a failed science” argument is viable either, seeing what we know about Galileo/Newton/Bacon, so we’re pushing on to a new argument.

          Bad guess. You seemed to be arguing that smart Galileo gave two thumbs up to Christianity, so we should do the same. I doubt, however, whether a smart scientist like Galileo would be as Christian if he lived today, when science has overturned countless claims of “God did it.”

        • Lewis C.

          Bob,

          You’d be surprised to learn the doctrine of scriptural infallibility was almost completely invented in the 20th century. Origen and other early church fathers in the 2nd and 3rd century were arguing for allegorical interpretations of Scripture and pointing out inconsistencies. Many new atheists think they themselves are the first people in the world to notice inconsistencies; they are only thousands of years late to the discussion. Most significantly, inconsistencies until the 20th century were not perceived as much of a problem because the doctrine of scriptural infallibility or inerrancy hadn’t been invented yet.

          If you can find someone in the Middle Ages who was silenced, tortured, or killed for challenging scriptural inerrancy, I’d be greatly impressed since, again, such a doctrine didn’t exist back then. The Reformers of the 16th century started moving more in that direction, but inerrancy was a product of late-Enlightenment thinking that no one articulated till very recently.

          No, I am absolutely not arguing Galileo’s belief of Christianity somehow speaks to the credibility of the tradition itself. I am pointing out Harris’ view of religion as a failed science doesn’t hold up to history, particularly in this case where the people who gave us science held onto their religious beliefs. Galileo was wrong about many scientific things; he could have very well been wrong about religion. But that’s not the present argument.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Lewis: I guess we’re quibbling over how much of a questioner Augustine was. But you raise a good point: infallibility is a new doctrine. I heard that first from Karen Armstrong and it should’ve come to mind for me. Thanks.

          I also agree that many important scientists were Christian, but this is like saying that they were European, drank wine, or ate meat. While we do see Christians in the list of important scientists, I don’t see Christianity as a cause.

        • Neo

          Wrong. The Reformation and Enlightenment are two peas in a pod.

        • Greg G.

          Not quite. The authors of the Enlightenment period hardly referred to the authors of the Reformation except in disagreement. The Renaissance may have spurred both but I think the thing that opened the door to all of that may have been the Black Death. The Church’s inability to prevent the disease made people skeptical. The experienced clergy was replaced by the less educated. By the time Europe had recovered, the printing press was a game changer for the spread of ideas.

        • smrnda

          I think a better example would be that a good scientist from any era, our own included probably held some false beliefs, since at the time there wasn’t adequate evidence against them. There’s also the notion of cultural prejudice as well – a scientist from the past might be spot on with their astronomical observations and be say, phenomenally racist because even very smart people are the products of the culture they live in. Scientists in a racist culture may not apply the same scrutiny to racist claims stated in ‘scientific’ sounding language as they would other claims since their culture has predisposed them to believe them.

          The other thing is there are many branches of science. A good computer engineer may lack knowledge of biology, and as a result, may believe in ineffective ‘alternative medicine.’ A mathematician isn’t exactly a scientist, and may approach science in a way that is too axiomatic. People in all physical sciences often find certain mathematical concepts difficult (like the idea that there are an equal number of integers and perfect squares) since mathematics isn’t a description of the physical universe, but of a formal axiomatic system.

          If Newton was religious, it doesn’t make religion true or false, but his belief has to be examined alongside the reasons why he held it. If we found as good of reasons for belief in religion as mechanics in Newton, then it would be relevant. Otherwise, not so.

          I mean, I’ve read Euler’s religious writings, and don’t find them particularly persuasive, even by the low standards of Christian apologetics. Why was Euler religious? It might be bolstered since he got made fun of by Voltaire, a skeptic. Donald Knuth plays organ at church last I checked, but I don’t know if Knuth has put as much thought into religious beliefs as he has in computer programming. I’d listen to him on algorithms, but perhaps less so on religion. Turing was an atheist, but I’m not an atheist because “Turing was amazing with maths and computers, therefore his opinions on religion must be just as awesome’ – no, I don’t believe since the reasons don’t seem persuasive.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          smrnda:

          If Newton was religious, it doesn’t make religion true or false

          Linus Pauling had two Nobel prizes, but that doesn’t mean that his idea that megadosing on vitamin C would increase lifespan must be true.

        • smrnda

          Good point. Each claim made by a person needs to be subjected to scrutiny. 2 Nobel prizes don’t mean you can’t be wrong.

          A good project would be to list people who were high achievers in science, along with the most ridiculous and false things they believed.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          A good project would be to list people who were high achievers in science, along with the most ridiculous and false things they believed.

          I’ll go first: Isaac Newton believed in alchemy. (Admittedly, that wasn’t so nutty back in his day.)

        • Greg G.

          Dr. Peter Duesberg does great work in studying cancer but is an HIV/AIDS denialist.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

      Lewis:

      The null hypothesis is that God doesn’t exist (and Zeus and Quetzalcoatl and Xenu). But let’s be open minded about it—I’ll consider evidence that God does exist.

      You’re worried about circular reasoning? No, I don’t think that’s a problem here.

      • Lewis C.

        So how does this argument work if you don’t presuppose a materialistic, closed-system universe where all causal forces can be reduced to and explained by scientific explanation?

        The answer: the argument fails.

        The problem here is that what you presupposed isn’t explicitly stated, nor is it even a scientifically-verifiable statement in the first place. You can go on believing it if you want, but you need to start acknowledging your beliefs explicitly to avoid logical fallacies like the one committed above.

        • Compuholic

          I don’t even know what a non-materialistic universe is supposed to mean. Can you elaborate on the properties of a non-materialistic universe?

          [...]causal forces can be reduced to and explained by scientific explanation?

          What other kinds of explanation could there possibly be? Magic?

        • Lewis C.

          Next time you go to Barnes and Noble, go to your sacred New Atheism book section and take one step to the immediate left or right. You’ll find something called philosophy. Give that section a try. It may be scary at first, but I think you can do it.

        • Compuholic

          I take it that this means you don’t have an example for me. That’s what I thought…

        • Kodie

          I think he is saying this is all a dreeeeeam.

        • http://profiles.google.com/david.mike.simon David Simon

          The snark is strong with this one.

        • Kodie

          God gets talked about an awful lot but nobody has seen him. As far as history goes, all it means is the person doesn’t know, and is superstitious and arrogant.

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

    So what of reality can no longer be explained without God?

    Everything. Without a First Cause there can be no subsequent causes.

    But surely the Christian’s argument is more than, “Science doesn’t have all the answers, therefore God.”

    Science works because of certain metaphysical truths. Those truths logically entail the existence of God.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

      Jayman:

      Yes, you have resolved the problem of the infinite regress. And you’ve created the problem of who the heck created the First Cause®.
      Doesn’t sound like an improvement.

      • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

        Yes, you have resolved the problem of the infinite regress. And you’ve created the problem of who the heck created the First Cause®.
        Doesn’t sound like an improvement.

        So you admit that an infinite regress of causes is problematic? Do you also admit that an uncaused event is problematic (you wrote “Did the printing press just poof into existence?” as if that’s an absurd idea)?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Jayman:

          So you admit that an infinite regress of causes is problematic?

          No. I admit that it’s an unanswered question.

          How about you? How do you sleep at night knowing that you’ve got the problem of where the First Cause came from?

          Do you also admit that an uncaused event is problematic

          Certainly not. Quantum physics doesn’t have much of a problem with uncaused events (and the early universe was a quantum particle).

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          No. I admit that it’s an unanswered question.

          How about if we limit the causal series to essentially-ordered/instrumental causes? Then it seems it is logically incoherent to speak of an infinite causal series.

          How about you? How do you sleep at night knowing that you’ve got the problem of where the First Cause came from?

          I sleep fine since any decent cosmological argument explains why the First Cause does not have a cause.

          Certainly not. Quantum physics doesn’t have much of a problem with uncaused events (and the early universe was a quantum particle).

          Seeing as quantum physics has many interpretations we can’t point to it as an example of uncaused events. And if you seriously think it’s possible for uncaused events to occur then there’s nothing inherently strange about a printing press just poofing into existence.

        • Lewis C.

          Quantum Physics seems to be playing the “god of the gaps” role here.

          God doesn’t need to exist because there’s a causal explanation for everything.

          Oh wait, that’s not always true?

          That’s when we play our “quantum physics” card.

        • Compuholic

          Quantum Physics seems to be playing the “god of the gaps” role here.

          Not at all:
          Quantum physics is demonstrably real (1). The very fact that you can type those lines on your computer is one of the many pieces of evidence for the accuracy of quantum physics.

          Quantum physics also has immense explanatory (2) as well as predictive (3) power.

          Whereas the god “explanation” lacks at least 2 of those 3 things. He/She is not demonstrably real and has absolutely zero predictive power.

        • Lewis C.

          The very fact that you can type those lines on your computer is one of the many pieces of evidence for the accuracy of quantum physics.

          You’re on dangerous ground here, Compuholic. If you posit that there are concurrent causal forces allowing me to type lines on my computer, some observable to the naked eye (force exerted by fingers on keyboard), some deducted from more theoretical principles not immediately observable to me, some immediately measurable, some not so measurable, some reducible to Newtonian physics, some not reducible to Newtonian physics…

          …you may end up getting kicked out of Bob’s positivist reductionism club.

        • Compuholic

          Ok if you want an example specifically for concurrent causal forces: Quantum computers

          The fact that you can build quantum computers shows that this is possible as a quantum computer can actually be in multiple states at the same time.

        • Lewis C.

          A lot of Christian apologists are very attuned the absolute incompatibility between quantum mechanics and the more reductionist, closed-system, empiricism-grounded, universal-law-generating science of previous centuries.

          Unfortunately most strands of new atheism hitched their wagons to the latter way of thinking. That gives them a real headache trying to incorporate contemporary science within a worldview straight out of the 17th and 18th century.

        • Compuholic

          Erm what? Quantum physics is not reductionist and not empirically grounded?

          Quantum physics has massive experimental support and technological applications. It is pretty much responsible for all the technology we use day to day. From transistors over fibre optics to lasers and flash drives.

          It demonstrates once more the success of reductionist approaches as it continues exploring on the same long proud history of reductionist approaches which helped uncover it.

          And quantum physics has gotten us closer than ever to discovering a universal theory.

        • Lewis C.

          No, quantum physics demonstrated the failure of an earlier “universal” reductionist system. We thought the whole world could be reduced to Newtonian physics. After several decades of expelling guys like Einstein from scientific organizations, we finally had to admit we weren’t nearly as smart as we thought we were.

          But now I suppose we have secured the complete, reductionist account about how things work. You and I are lucky to live in the age where scientists finally got everything figured out. Universal theory, here we come.

        • Compuholic

          Failure of Newtonian physics?! WTF? Pretty much everything in mechanics is still calculated using Newtons works. Not exactly what I would call a failure. The only way you could call that a failure is if you have a very wierd understanding how science works.

          Your wierd understanding of science is further demonstrated by your description of Einsteins role. It is not like Einstein was this lonely poor misunderstood genius. Many of the ideas he used were not new and well known by other scientist of his time. But he was the first one who put them together.

          But scientists are always cautious. So although Einstein’s theories made sense, many scientists were reluctant to accept them. That changed pretty quickly when experiments confirmed the predictions. It is kind of like string theory nowadays. It is a nice mathematical framework (that does not completely work out yet) but unless there is experimental verification it is like Philosophy. Nice to contemplate but so far no connection to the real world.

          But now I suppose we have secured the complete, reductionist account about how things work.

          Not complete but pretty damn close to it. Now that the Higgs has been confirmed we have a complete model that (given enough computing power) can explain every single experiment done on earth so far.

        • Lewis C.

          You misread what I said: Newtonian physics didn’t fail as physics, it failed as a complete, universal account of how things work.

          In other words, if we look at history, science isn’t exactly at its strongest when it posits a universal, complete theory of how something works. Generally this happens because we tend to forget science can only explain things within “closed system,” and we can only postulate that any case we examine is actually a closed system.

          “…can explain every single experiment done on earth so far”…I have no idea what this means. Do you really put your faith in this happening? Wow.

        • Compuholic

          it failed as a complete, universal account of how things work.

          And who ever expected it to be? Not even Newton himself. Again you seem to have a very strange understanding of science. Even if we had an account how everything worked. We would never know for sure. And science never claims to have “The Truth™”. But what science does claim is to offer the best currently available model to make predictions about reality.

          In other words, if we look at history, science isn’t exactly at its strongest when it posits a universal, complete theory of how something works.

          Exactly the opposite is true. The history of science has been a history of unifying theories that worked here and there to a more powerful theory.

          The first one was electricity and magnetism: Two at first sight completely different forces could be explained by a single force the: electromagnetic force. Over the last 60+ years even the weak and the strong interaction could be incorporated into a single framework: The standard model.

          Generally this happens because we tend to forget science can only explain things within “closed system,”

          I don’t really know what you mean by “closed system”. We already know how it is at least plausible for the universe (meaning space and time) to come into existence spontaneously.

          I have no idea what this means. Do you really put your faith in this happening? Wow.

          It already happened to a large part. The standard model describes all of the forces of nature except gravity. With the discovery of the Higgs all predicted particles of the standard model have now been confirmed. And there are already several (still speculative) ideas on how to integrate gravity into the family as well.

        • Lewis C.

          Even if we had an account how everything worked. We would never know for sure.

          Ah, so you’re saying perhaps we shouldn’t be so certain the current ruling scientific theory of the day, or even worse, the “simplest explanation” of the day (which would have been Newtonian physics a century ago), is necessarily the absolute complete explanation for how things work.

          We’re on the same page. And Bob’s certainty that the “simplest explanation” thereby is going to rule out any concurrently working but yet-to-be-theorized or yet-to-be-observed forces looks all the more foolish since, as you say, we can never be sure.

          If you don’t know what a closed system is and you think the history of science is a “history of unifying theories that worked here and there to a more powerful theory,” you might want to add some philosophy of science to your summer reading list. Just a suggestion.

        • Compuholic

          Ah, so you’re saying perhaps we shouldn’t be so certain the current ruling scientific theory of the day [...] is necessarily the absolute complete explanation for how things work.

          Correct to a certain extent. What I was trying to say is that while scientific knowledge is always tentative and it is always possible that a more powerful theory will replace the current one.

          But I also said that science offers the currently best explanation for any set of phenomena. So it would be completely and utterly idiotic to dismiss it. The time to accept new theories is when there is evidence presented in favor of them and not earlier on the vague notion that there could be more complete theories.

          If you don’t know what a closed system is and you think the history of science is a “history of unifying theories that worked here and there to a more powerful theory,” you might want to add some philosophy of science to your summer reading list.

          I know what a closed system is. I just have no idea what you mean with it in this context.

          As for philosophy: I could not care less for philosophy. Philosophy is largely a useless discipline. It’s mental masturbation. Fun but ultimately unproductive. And in those rare cases when a philosopher actually comes up with a concept that is useful in the real world, like temporal logic which genuinely was a great idea, it is quickly taken over by the mathematicians and computer scientists and don’t need the philosophers any more.

        • Lewis C.

          Glad we agree.

          I would like to know where many atheists got their conception of philosophy. They seem either scared of it or convinced it has nothing relevant to say to their beliefs. Kind of like how Christian fundamentalists view evolutionary theory.

          Karl Popper, Michael Polyani, Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerbend.They are absolutely nothing like your preconceptions of philosophy. Read them. Do not fear them.

        • Compuholic

          Nobody fears philosophy. It is just incredibly boring and unproductive. While I was studying I had to take two introductory philosophy courses of which I vaguely remember the contents of one. It was about epistemology and it was the most monumental waste of time of all the course I ever had to take. Bullshit bingo at its finest.

          As for your reading suggestion: I read a bit of Popper and was not terribly impressed although certainly better than my epistemology class.

          What about this: You tell me what I could learn from the recommended authors (and by learning I mean anything that is applicable and useful in the real world) and then I decide whether I’m interested.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Lewis:

          If you posit that there are concurrent causal forces allowing me to type lines on my computer…

          My interpretation was that Compuholic was referring to effects like quantum tunneling, which are used in the semiconductors that run your computer.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Jayman:

          How about if we limit the causal series to essentially-ordered/instrumental causes?

          I don’t know what that is. How does this deal with the uncaused events that quantum physics posits?

          I sleep fine since any decent cosmological argument explains why the First Cause does not have a cause.

          The only explanation I’ve heard is “just because” or “because my theology dictates it.” I must not’ve heard any decent cosmological arguments. Give me some of yours.

          Seeing as quantum physics has many interpretations we can’t point to it as an example of uncaused events.

          Of course we can. If you’re saying that quantum physics isn’t certain, sure, I’ll agree. But your saying “all things have a cause” is still obviously undercut by quantum physics.

          And if you seriously think it’s possible for uncaused events to occur then there’s nothing inherently strange about a printing press just poofing into existence.

          Nope. Quantum physics explains why two virtual particles can have no cause; it doesn’t help you with the printing press.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          I don’t know what that is.

          In short, an accidental cause does not have to be in existence when its effect occurs (e.g., a father could die before his sperm impregnates his wife) while an essential cause is in existence when its effect occurs (e.g., a train engine pulling cars along the tracks). The gross over-simplification of the matter is that an infinite essentially-ordered causal series is as incoherent as a train with an infinite number of cars but no engine moving down the tracks. This then points to a First Cause at least of essentially-ordered causal series.

          The only explanation I’ve heard is “just because” or “because my theology dictates it.” I must not’ve heard any decent cosmological arguments. Give me some of yours.

          Here’s an outline of the First Way of Thomas Aquinas:

          1. Evident to the senses is motion. (Premise)

          2. Everything in motion has its motion sustained by another. (Premise)

          3. Either an Unmoved Mover exists, or else there is an infinite regress of sustaining movers. (Implied by 1 and 2)

          4. There cannot be an infinite regress of sustaining movers. (Premise)

          5. Therefore, an Unmoved Mover exists. (From 3 and 4)

          The existence of the Unmoved Mover is logically deduced and if (2) is true then you can’t ask what caused the Unmoved Mover (without demonstrating you don’t understand the argument).

          But your saying “all things have a cause” is still obviously undercut by quantum physics.

          I’m not saying all things have a cause. See (2) above. In fact no well-written cosmological argument says all things have a cause. Quantum physics no more undercuts the metaphysical truth than the orbit of the planets undercut the metaphysical truth prior to the discovery of gravity. I leave it to you to search out other material on Thomism and quantum mechanics as I will only bungle it.

        • Kodie

          I guess you’d need quantum physics to explain-explain this, but I do not. I find it very easy to believe there is such a thing as gravity. Without any help from a thinking being, water carved the Grand Canyon. Water is not alive and neither is the earth. It wasn’t always there, but no one made it. You are thinking of the universe like a clock and someone had to wind it up and set the pendulum in motion for the clock to work. I get frustrated every time this “first cause” excuse comes up as if there is no way for nature to respond to itself without a conscious intention. I find it incredibly easy to think of the first cause as a natural event as opposed to a deity-initiated event. That only makes more questions, like what for? For you to breathe and eat and poop and die? He has some glory in mind for humankind and the only way he could make a life-supporting planet was to set the universe in motion billions of years before single-cell life on earth began, or that people was the “goal” in abiogenesis? Even though we don’t know how life began, I don’t find it very hard to think how chemicals react. This or that causes an explosion. That and another thing makes water. And for people to be so arrogant as to say this was all a favor for us, so we owe a favor to the great and powerful mastermind is a joke.

          I mean, there is always room for improvement on god. Reality is the way it is. If I had the materials for life, why go about it the very long, hard way? Just make an island and cook up some people, tell them I said hi, and see if they do their little dances for me.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          You are thinking of the universe like a clock and someone had to wind it up and set the pendulum in motion for the clock to work.

          You’re thinking of a Paley-style argument whereas I am coming at it from a Thomistic perspective.

          I get frustrated every time this “first cause” excuse comes up as if there is no way for nature to respond to itself without a conscious intention.

          Thomists hold that natural objects can have unconscious teleology.

          I find it incredibly easy to think of the first cause as a natural event as opposed to a deity-initiated event.

          And can you provide an outline of an atheistic cosmological argument? Which premise, specifically, do you object to in the First Way?

        • Kodie

          I don’t know what Paley or Thomistic means, I admit. Well I have a few questions for you – why do you cling to your Thomistic outlook, and why do you randomly capitalize random phrases you use, like “Pure Act” and “First Way”?

          I don’t think about the beginning of the universe a lot more than I told you. I don’t find any conflict anywhere that necessitates a “first cause” or things poofing out of absolutely nothing. If I knew more about quantum physics, or if someone could explain it to me simply, I still would find no conflict. If someone couldn’t, I still would find no conflict. I don’t base my existence on, nor worry especially about, exactly how the universe began. I find that best left to scientists to tinker how they do and find out when they know. I don’t firmly cling to a Paley view or a Thomistic view that you seem to (I have no idea). I just find you rigid and dying on your hill. “First Cause” is a favorite argument for theists. i.e. only a magical, consciously intentional being could have pulled nothing from his supernatural wizard sleeve, yadda yadda yadda, Jesus died for your sins. I’m’a go with Amy Sedaris: “no wizard sleeves.”

          In context with Bob’s blog, the simplest explanation is that events occurring billions and billions of years ago having everything to do, eventually, with why your father and mother got busy, is unknown and “god” is a word that means “I have no fucking clue.” Perhaps it is a fascinating scientific question exactly what, but I don’t think that’s why you are clinging to your worldview. Unless you are immersed in scientific inquiry and knowledge, why is it so hard for you to admit what your belief is might be misguided? I mean, since I don’t know so much about quantum physics, I find it plausible that the beginning of our universe began when another one collapsed. There’s no evidence, per se, but there’s no evidence of god either. There’s more evidence of natural cycles than there is of god. I don’t find it urgent to find one position about this subject and stick to it.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          why do you cling to your Thomistic outlook

          Who says I cling to it? I find it a plausible metaphysics that covers topics such as causality, ontology, the mind, and ethics in an integrated manner. It has roots back to Aristotle, meaning it has been subjected to 2500 years of critique and refinement.

          and why do you randomly capitalize random phrases you use, like “Pure Act” and “First Way”?

          Pure Act is capitalized because it identifies God (also capitalized). The First Way is a title to an argument that someone might want to look into further. The capitalization also serves as a sociological experiment. Why do atheists comment on such matters far more than theists?

          Unless you are immersed in scientific inquiry and knowledge, why is it so hard for you to admit what your belief is might be misguided?

          I admit my beliefs might be misguided. However, the fact is I find the arguments for theism far more convincing than the arguments for atheism.

        • Kodie

          It has roots back to Aristotle, meaning it has been subjected to 2500 years of critique and refinement.

          And I understand why that doesn’t mean it’s true. It doesn’t mean it’s not true. It just means you are impressed by credentials and not modern sets of newer information that might finally pose a problem for previously longstanding beliefs of scientific truth – that’s what science does. It is like you don’t understand that we can carry the internet around with us, you’d like to go back to instruments used before there was even such thing as a telegraph. Until someone invented a microscope, you could have 2500 years of esteemed bloodletters curing all the diseases. Aristotle is not infallible just for being Aristotle, and he wasn’t privy to current knowledge or technology. Science doesn’t linger in the past, admiring its accomplishments and shutting the books on certitude from 2500 years ago. It continues to test what we think we were certain about with newer instruments and refines or discards outdated thinking.

          Pure Act is capitalized because it identifies God (also capitalized).
          The First Way is a title to an argument that someone might want to look
          into further. The capitalization also serves as a sociological
          experiment. Why do atheists comment on such matters far more than
          theists?

          Thank you for answering this set of questions honestly. I don’t capitalize “god” unless I have it at the beginning of a sentence. Your god is a god, and although you call him “God” like it’s his name, I don’t feel like capitalizing it. If you mean “Pure Act” to mean “God” why do you specify? I mean, a noun, “act” and an adjective “pure” do not make me think of the deity. It certainly defines what you think you mean by “first cause,” to be the conscious act performing the existence of something from nothing. It is not similar to or reminiscent of other natural cycles or occurrences. You believe in the supernatural, and we already know you and what you believe from before, but you find it difficult to believe the beginning of the universe occurred any other way than something coming from nothing at all. This is your full argument. If we don’t believe that god caused the universe, this is your appeal to turn around our thinking to suddenly realize how impossible anything else would be without a “pure act”.

          Yet, you cannot prove this. You still are basing this entirely on a rigid way of thinking, impervious to being educated about quantum physics if it at all would conflict with what you would rather be true. You just have one model of the universe’s birth that you prefer to believe in. “First Cause,” or “Pure Act” is a rather unconvincing argument.

          Why do atheists talk about this more than theists? I mean, it just comes up, like you brought it up. We can fathom a lot of things, if we don’t know, that can still be true and not disturb anything or require a god to intervene. Often enough, apropos of nothing, theists insist there is a “first cause”. To them, it is like all the damning evidence they need to contradict anything an atheist might propose. It’s weird that theists don’t know what kinds of arguments atheists regularly face, it’s this really dumb one – that you can talk about anything critical against religion and someone will come out from the sides and ask, “but what about ‘first cause’! Checkmate, atheists!” It happens irrelevantly so often, so why not just address it as a topic on its own?

          If you still find the arguments for theism more convincing than the ones for atheism, I don’t know what else to tell you. I don’t find the arguments for theism at all captivating as you seem to have planned. Really the only reason for theists to come up with “first cause” is a vague recognition of “Big Bang” (I see now why you capitalize stupid catchphrases – touché). You seem to have researched this a little more then, having come up with name-dropping to support your argument (a logical fallacy). I base most of my observations of there being no god on actual currently-alive humankind and how like animals they are but don’t seem to realize. I am not a scientist or even science-y as a person, I just know that thinking an invisible mind created the universe seems patently absurd on the face of it, and doesn’t need to exist for everything to be the way it is. I conceive of chemical anomalies creating life, and life as not as different as not-life as you seem to comprehend – a star, for example, has a “life cycle”. I commonly (but not constantly) become aware that I live on a planet hurdling through space, I don’t seem to have this bucolic, myopic view that we are living in a dollhouse and maneuvered around by a control freak whose mercy we have to abide.

          To believe in god, to me, is the warped idea that humans are the most relevant creature in the universe, and the “first cause” argument brings that to the forefront. It’s not any more scientific than creationism. To be aware at all of the vast universe (and not actually averse to acknowledging this as young-earth creationists tend to be) and reconcile this with a god who loves you and created you especially is to believe that the creation of the universe was intended to lead to you – that’s some balls. You are no more worthy on this earth to a deity than a mosquito. Do you think if you and a mosquito share time-space proximity that the universe wasn’t also created for the mosquito? Of course not, people don’t get along with mosquitoes.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          It just means you are impressed by credentials and not modern sets of newer information that might finally pose a problem for previously longstanding beliefs of scientific truth – that’s what science does.

          Except modern science doesn’t pose a problem.

          It is like you don’t understand that we can carry the internet around with us, you’d like to go back to instruments used before there was even such thing as a telegraph.

          That’s humorous since I program computers for a living. But let us briefly analyze the computer in light of Aristotle’s four causes. The computer has a material cause in the silicon, plastic, and metal that it is composed of. The computer has a formal cause in that its parts must be configured a certain way for it to work. The computer has a final cause in that it can carry out certain operations. And the computer has an efficient cause, the factory where its parts were made and assembled into the whole. Do you see how science and technology pose no threat?

          Aristotle is not infallible just for being Aristotle, and he wasn’t privy to current knowledge or technology.

          We don’t need to believe he was infallible to think he got a lot of things right. The truth is the truth in any age.

          Yet, you cannot prove this.

          I offered an outline of one argument. You still haven’t stated which premise is wrong.

          If you still find the arguments for theism more convincing than the ones for atheism, I don’t know what else to tell you.

          To start with, it would be nice if an atheist laid out her view of causality and then showed how this view is (1) a plausible account and (2) does not lead to the existence of God by some version of the cosmological argument.

          Really the only reason for theists to come up with “first cause” is a vague recognition of “Big Bang”

          Except cosmological arguments pre-date the 20th century. In fact, the arguments of Aristotle and Aquinas work even if the universe is eternal. So whether the universe has always existed or started to exist is irrelevant to whether a First Cause exists.

        • Compuholic

          That’s humorous since I program computers for a living.

          I can only hope that you are not working in the field of formal program verification or as a programmer on safety critical systems. That thought really scares the shit out of me.

        • smrnda

          I’m also wondering what this guy thinks of ‘genetic algorithms’ since we can get algorithms without a conscious creator that do a great job.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          I’m also wondering what this guy thinks of ‘genetic algorithms’ since we can get algorithms without a conscious creator that do a great job.

          Who do you think programs the genetic algorithm?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Jayman:

          Who do you think programs the genetic algorithm?

          Who programs natural selection? No one. It just happens. It’s natural.

          Evolution shows us that we can get complicated adaptations without a man behind the curtain.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          Who programs natural selection? No one. It just happens. It’s natural. Evolution shows us that we can get complicated adaptations without a man behind the curtain.

          A genetic algorithm is a computer algorithm. Someone wrote the algorithm.

          As to natural selection, that is an example of unconscious teleology, which Aquinas uses in his Fifth Way to also demonstrate God’s existence. In fact, he wrote (Summa theologica, Part I Q73 A1 reply 3): “Species, also, that are new, if any such appear, existed beforehand in various active powers; so that animals, and perhaps even new species of animals, are produced by putrefaction by the power which the stars and elements received at the beginning.” So new species arising naturally was predicted by Aquinas to be a very real possibility.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Jayman:

          A genetic algorithm is a computer algorithm. Someone wrote the algorithm.

          Which shows its incompleteness as an analog to how things work in nature.

          new species arising naturally was predicted by Aquinas to be a very real possibility.

          If you’re saying that Aquinas was a smart guy or ahead of his time, sure, I can accept that. But I make it a point of getting my science from scientists. I’m funny that way.

        • smrnda

          They are produced through blind chance and a form of selective breeding.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          They are produced through blind chance and a form of selective breeding.

          I thought you were referring to the group of computer algorithms known as genetic algorithms.

        • smrnda

          Aristotle’s labels are pointless and arbitrary, and very clunky for explaining computers. Grab your intro to CS book and you’ll find better labels and categories for explaining computers. You’re forcing them into these ‘X Cause” things that aren’t really relevant.

        • smrnda

          You seem to have force-fitted a computer into descriptions of its functioning that bear no resemblance to anything in any computer engineering textbooks I’ve ever seen. They talk about hardware, software, and such. Your using ridiculous language of ‘formal causes’ and such when these terms say nothing useful about computers.

          Any set of terms that can describe too many different things must be too vague to be useful. Seriously, dig up your old Operating Systems textbook (did you use the one with the knight and the dragon on it?) and note that they do not explain how computers work this way.

        • Greg G.

          It has roots back to Aristotle, meaning it has been subjected to 2500 years of critique and refinement.

          Wow! 25 centuries of philosophy without making a single prediction that could verify it. If I was basing my worldview on something like that, I want to keep it under my hat.

        • trj

          P2 looks highly dubious to me, although I’m unsure what the formulation is supposed to mean exactly.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          Motion refers to change. While this includes moving from one location to another it also includes changing from one thing to another or the changing of a thing’s characteristics.

          So if we see ice cream melting we hold that its melting (change) is sustained by, say, the warm temperature of the air. The air is “another” distinct from the ice cream itself.

        • trj

          I thought as much. However, the random events of QM (example: radioactive decay) show P2 to be false – at least to some degree. I’ll agree that even though the specific dynamics of the event is random, it is still contingent on the existence of something prior.

          But the conclusion drawn from the argument is specious. Nowhere in the premises is it justified that the First Mover must have intent, yet this is the singular conclusion Christians draw from it. Sorry, it doesn’t follow.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          I thought as much. However, the random events of QM (example: radioactive decay) show P2 to be false – at least to some degree. I’ll agree that even though the specific dynamics of the event is random, it is still contingent on the existence of something prior.

          A radioactive atom has a material cause (the matter it is made out of), a formal cause (the configuration of the matter), and a final cause (e.g., the subsequent particles). It seems the radioactive atom is in some sense the efficient cause of the subsequent particles. P2 seems to stand as long as we don’t think causation implies determinism.

          But the conclusion drawn from the argument is specious. Nowhere in the premises is it justified that the First Mover must have intent, yet this is the singular conclusion Christians draw from it. Sorry, it doesn’t follow.

          My conclusion says: “Therefore, an Unmoved Mover exists.” Where is intent mentioned? That the Unmoved Mover has intent (in some sense) might come from the Fifth Way but not the First Way.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Jayman:

          A radioactive atom has a material cause (the matter it is made out of), a formal cause (the configuration of the matter), and a final cause (e.g., the subsequent particles).

          So then what’s the frikkin’ cause?! You’ve given us two dozen causes without actually giving us a cause.

          This is why people get annoyed at these kinds of philosophical games. Shouldn’t Philosophy be used to illuminate? You’re simply using it to obfuscate. You take the production of an alpha particle (say), handwave, give us a “Ta dah!”, and yet the question hangs in the air still, unanswered.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          So then what’s the frikkin’ cause?! You’ve given us two dozen causes without actually giving us a cause.

          I just gave you three kinds of causes. We don’t know exactly what the efficient cause is but that is not a reason to believe there is none (see my earlier comment).

          Shouldn’t Philosophy be used to illuminate? You’re simply using it to obfuscate.

          I think the problem is with you. If a scientist said a radioactive atom was in an unstable state you wouldn’t object. But when I say this state is a formal cause you complain.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Jayman:

          I just gave you three kinds of causes.

          Can it be that you really don’t understand my question? Or does the question simply cause you discomfort?

          You hit an egg with a hammer (cause) and the egg splatters everywhere (effect). You raise ice to 32F at ordinary conditions (cause) and it melts (effect). You do [thing that Jayman will explain to us] (cause) and a radioactive nucleus spits out an alpha particle (effect).

          Fill in the blank.

          If a scientist said a radioactive atom was in an unstable state you wouldn’t object. But when I say this state is a formal cause you complain.

          We’re talking about physics here, right? Atoms decaying and all that? Given that, I’ll get my information from science. I don’t think I need to apologize for that.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          Can it be that you really don’t understand my question? Or does the question simply cause you discomfort?

          Can it really be that you ignore my answer? I’ve already pointed to quantum vacuum fluctuations as an efficient cause. Greg G., who I take to be an atheist, agrees on this point.

          I imagine you will now try to find another example that lacks an efficient cause. But this is nothing more than an atheism-of-the-gaps approach.

          We’re talking about physics here, right? Atoms decaying and all that? Given that, I’ll get my information from science. I don’t think I need to apologize for that.

          We’re talking about both metaphysics and physics. You can’t just ignore the metaphysical implications of science.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Jayman:

          I’ve already pointed to quantum vacuum fluctuations as an efficient cause.

          Doesn’t answer the question for me. What’s an “efficient” cause? And why should I care since I asked for the cause?

          Greg G., who I take to be an atheist, agrees on this point.

          Good for you. Doesn’t help me, I’m afraid.

          I imagine you will now try to find another example that lacks an efficient cause.

          No, radioactive decay is plenty. I don’t need anything else to defeat your “2. Everything in motion has its motion sustained by another.”

          You can’t just ignore the metaphysical implications of science.

          Sorry—I’m not following. Are you simply labeling a subset of what comes out of physics as “metaphysics”?

          If it’s in a philosophy journal, I doubt I’m much interested. If it’s in Scientific American, that’s a good source for both the scientific consensus and the leading-edge thinking.

        • trj

          A radioactive atom has a material cause (the matter it is made out of), a formal cause (the configuration of the matter), and a final cause (e.g., the subsequent particles).

          It doesn’t help the discussion that you conflate cause and state. Please apply some rigidity to your definitions.

          My conclusion says: “Therefore, an Unmoved Mover exists.” Where is intent mentioned?

          I think you’re being less than honest here. You’ve previously had no problem with using the First Cause, the Unmoved Mover, and God as synonyms.

        • Greg G.

          A radioactive atom has a material cause (the matter it is made out of), a formal cause (the configuration of the matter), and a final cause (e.g., the subsequent particles). It seems the radioactive atom is in some sense the efficient cause of the subsequent particles. P2 seems to stand as long as we don’t think causation implies determinism.

          AIUI, the configuration of the nucleus is constantly being shuffled due to random quantum effects. The alpha particle is a Helium nucleus or a Helium+2 ion. At some point it will attract a couple of electrons. The radioactive nucleus becomes a decay product and is an ion until it loses two electrons.

          The efficient cause would be the quantum fluctuations which could also be the First Cause.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          The efficient cause would be the quantum fluctuations which could also be the First Cause.

          It is my understanding too that quantum fluctuations are the efficient cause of an atom decaying. However, since flucutations involve movement/change I cannot agree that it is the First Cause, the Unmoved Mover.

        • Greg G.

          Have you considered the natural nuclear fission reactor at Oklo, Gabon? There are 16 sites (I’m not sure if it was one originally) that had a sustained fission reaction for a few hundred thousand years. It would have taken one radioactive decay to start the chain reaction. One quantum fluctuation would have caused it.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Jayman:

          I haven’t thought much about Aquinas’s arguments, so I’ll give some naive reactions.

          2. Everything in motion has its motion sustained by another. (Premise)

          By “motion,” I think Aquinas meant “change” in a broad sense. But quantum physics suggests that events can be uncaused.

          4. There cannot be an infinite regress of sustaining movers. (Premise)

          Seems premature to me. Maybe the Universe (the natural material and forces that include our own universe and the Big Bang as a subset) is infinite in time.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          By “motion,” I think Aquinas meant “change” in a broad sense. But quantum physics suggests that events can be uncaused.

          It merely suggests events are not determined. A radioactive atom, for example, clearly has a material cause, a formal cause, and a final cause. It is the efficient cause of the particles that exist after decay occurs. As noted earlier, other Thomists can explain the intersection of quantum physics and Thomism better than I can.

          Seems premature to me. Maybe the Universe (the natural material and forces that include our own universe and the Big Bang as a subset) is infinite in time.

          Aquinas can accept an infinitely old universe and his argument still works. This is where essentially-ordered causes comes in. He is speaking of continuous causes acting through the present and not causes and effects stretching back through time. The First Cause is first in the chain of causes not because it is first chronologically speaking.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Jayman:

          A radioactive atom, for example, clearly has a material cause, a formal cause, and a final cause.

          See that atom over there? It just decayed and spit out an alpha particle. That alpha particle as a separate entity is a new thing. What caused it? Was it because the parent atom was hit by a hammer? Got to over 250 degrees? Was hit with a photon?

          The point is that there are (possibly) no “causes.” Your “efficient cause” doesn’t need a lot, it seems to me.

          Aquinas can accept an infinitely old universe and his argument still works.

          How? The beginning-less infinite series is no longer a problem.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          See that atom over there? It just decayed and spit out an alpha particle. That alpha particle as a separate entity is a new thing. What caused it? Was it because the parent atom was hit by a hammer? Got to over 250 degrees? Was hit with a photon? The point is that there are (possibly) no “causes.” Your “efficient cause” doesn’t need a lot, it seems to me.

          When you state that an atom “spit out an alpha particle” it sounds like you are already hinting that the parent atom caused, to some degree or in some fashion, the alpha particle to appear. It is (logically) possible that an alpha particle has no efficient cause but it seems doubtful. We know the alpha particle won’t come into existence without an unstable atom. The unstable atom may be disturbed by quantum vacuum fluctuations and then decay. So it’s reasonable to see some causal relationship there even if it is not deterministic or (fully) known to us.

          How? The beginning-less infinite series is no longer a problem.

          Aquinas is speaking of essentially-ordered causal series in the present. This requires are First Cause existing in the present.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Jayman:

          you are already hinting that the parent atom caused, to some degree or in some fashion, the alpha particle to appear.

          You know all about causes, apparently. What is the cause of the alpha particle coming out? Why now instead of a minute ago or a minute from now?

          It is (logically) possible that an alpha particle has no efficient cause but it seems doubtful.

          Based on what? Is philosophy your tool here?

          I don’t think Aquinas stands up well in the world of quantum physics. He had a good run, like Newton, but I think his naive, pre-scientific musings must give way to science.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          What is the cause of the alpha particle coming out? Why now instead of a minute ago or a minute from now?

          I mentioned the vacuum fluctuation. Greg G. seems to agree.

          Based on what?

          I went on to write: “We know the alpha particle won’t come into existence without an unstable atom. The unstable atom may be disturbed by quantum vacuum fluctuations and then decay. So it’s reasonable to see some causal relationship there even if it is not deterministic or (fully) known to us.”

          You completely ignored that.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Jayman: I thought you were schooling us on cause and effect. Do I now have to do it to you?

          I want the specific cause, like God speaking the earth into existence.

          We don’t know the cause and physics says that there may well be no cause. That’s all I’ve been saying.

        • Greg G.

          And if you seriously think it’s possible for uncaused events to occur then there’s nothing inherently strange about a printing press just poofing into existence.

          When I audited a college course in quantum physics, I could calculate the wave function probability of something like that happening. Such a thing is not ruled out by quantum physics but it’s so unlikely that it would be inherently weird.

    • trj

      Any system will have rules governing it, since they are what defines the system in the first place. Not only is it impossible for a system to exist without rules, the system is the rules.

      If a system exists it will have rules. That simple fact hardly predicates a god. It’s like saying that the fact that A = A requires the existence of God.

      • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

        If a system exists it will have rules. That simple fact hardly predicates a god.

        That depends on what the rules are. Some rules will entail a First Cause.

        • Greg G.

          But what was the First Effect®? A cause acting on nothing has no effect.

          The universe could be self-caused. Positive charges are mathematically like negative charges traveling the other direction in time.

          Time stops for a photon when it is traveling through space. To the photon, being emitted by a star in another galaxy and being absorbed by a pigment in a cell of your retina is the same instant even though it took a hundred million years to get here.

          The time we experience is measured by our awareness which is driven by chemical reactions in our brains. Each chemical reaction is driven by the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is driven by the probabilities of quantum events.

          So you may have to reconsider applying your understanding of time to your understanding of the multiverse.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          But what was the First Effect®?

          My position is that the First Cause is Pure Act. Whatever the first effect was was a mixture of act and potency.

          A cause acting on nothing has no effect.

          Perhaps, but you seem to be assuming that an effect only comes about when a cause acts on something else.

          The universe could be self-caused.

          But the universe is a mix of act and potency. Something in a state of actuality would still need to exist for the universe to undergo change.

          So you may have to reconsider applying your understanding of time to your understanding of the multiverse.

          I doubt it. Whether time has an origin or not does not effect all the cosmological arguments. Likewise, whether time is relative or absolute does not effect all the cosmological arguments.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Jayman:

          My position is that the First Cause is Pure Act. Whatever the first effect was was a mixture of act and potency.

          If you’re content with that kind of made-up answer, you should be happy where the scientists are, saying “I don’t know; maybe we’ll find out” about puzzles in science.

          Something in a state of actuality would still need to exist for the universe to undergo change.

          I don’t know what this means. I get a vague sense of Wm. Lane Craig, who likes to appeal to common sense for things at the edge of understanding. Unfortunately, quantum physics shows us that common sense is a very poor tool to use here.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          If you’re content with that kind of made-up answer, you should be happy where the scientists are, saying “I don’t know; maybe we’ll find out” about puzzles in science.

          It’s a logically deduced answer Bob. Are you familiar with the works of Aristotle and Aquinas?

          I don’t know what this means.

          Study the metaphysics of Aristotle and Aquinas. At worst, perhaps they will help you clarify your thinking about causation.

        • Greg G.

          Study the metaphysics of Aristotle and Aquinas. At worst, perhaps they will help you clarify your thinking about causation.

          Just because we can think of a perfect circle doesn’t mean it has to exist somewhere. It’s just a mental image. We can conceive of buildings in Escher’s art but it’s not necessary for them to actually exist for us to think about them because we know they can’t really exist.

          Perhaps your confusion is that you take them too literally.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Jayman: I look to physicists for how causation works, not philosophers.

        • Greg G.
          But what was the First Effect®?

          My position is that the First Cause is Pure Act. Whatever the first effect was was a mixture of act and potency.

          A Pure Act does not imply an actor. A quantum event would qualify for that.

          Perhaps, but you seem to be assuming that an effect only comes about when a cause acts on something else.

          Nothing acting on nothing has an effect?

          But the universe is a mix of act and potency. Something in a state of actuality would still need to exist for the universe to undergo change.

          A stable nothingness would require something to maintain the stability but the something would not be nothing. There for the nothingness must be unstable. That means quantum events which would allow the possibility of a universe. It’s simpler than inferring a potent agency that exists without even thinking of explaining its existence.

          I doubt it. Whether time has an origin or not does not effect all the cosmological arguments. Likewise, whether time is relative or absolute does not effect all the cosmological arguments.

          I agree that the issue of time is not a factor for the failure of all cosmological arguments.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          A Pure Act does not imply an actor. A quantum event would qualify for that.

          I’m not concerned with whether the First Cause is an actor. And a quantum event is not an example of Pure Act because the event itself implies change from potency to actuality.

          Nothing acting on nothing has an effect?

          Something creating without acting on another object can have an effect.

          A stable nothingness would require something to maintain the stability but the something would not be nothing.

          I assume you are not speaking of true nothingness.

        • Greg G.

          I’m not concerned with whether the First Cause is an actor. And a quantum event is not an example of Pure Act because the event itself implies change from potency to actuality.

          Then I don’t comprehend what a Pure Act is.

          Something creating without acting on another object can have an effect.

          A virtual pair can create one another within the Planck time limit. But they interact with its antimatter twin.

          A stable nothingness would require something to maintain the stability but the something would not be nothing.

          I assume you are not speaking of true nothingness.

          I am speaking of true nothingness. It has nothing to control it. The philosophical nothingness is an imaginary state that cannot exist except in the mind.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          Then I don’t comprehend what a Pure Act is.

          Fair enough. In short, it is an entity that does not change (its nature).

        • Kodie

          I am glad you defined yourself because no one knows what the words you say mean. They are your construct or your shared construct having heard it somewhere else. If I was to define “Pure Act” for you, I would have said it’s distinct from scrambled eggs, for example. You have a stove, a pan, some butter, eggs, a bowl, a fork or whisk of some kind. For your scrambled eggs to exist, you need fuel and oxygen, some kind of foundry or factory, some chickens and some cows and a churn, etc. And for scrambled eggs you would need to invent teflon or just mine some iron, know about fire, have learned how to separate milkfats and how to physically turn what’s left to butter, and domesticated chickens and cows. And so on and so forth. All those transitions require human beings.

          A “Pure Act” (why is this phrase capitalized?) on the other hand would serve you scrambled eggs from absolutely nothing. It must know all that shit to make ‘em (omniscient), and it must keep its materials somewhere, or does it matter where the first causer solidified its imagination of scrambled eggs and they appeared? I mean, my cat knows it’s me who feeds her, but beyond that, I don’t know where she thinks I get the money to buy her food at a store, processed and bagged at a factory supplied by a … wherever they get the excess meats that are fit for cats but not people. She has the mind that I imagine a theist has. All she has to know is who the wizard of filling her food dish is, and she knows everything she needs to know to get by.

    • Kodie

      Why do you believe the first cause has consciousness? It is like saying god causes rain to fall and we know nothing about the cycle of precipitation. God made the universe expand at first even though we have no reason to believe that, is what you’re saying – you find it hard to think of any other way the universe could have started, and why? Because you believe it ALL has to do with human beings on one pebble in the vastness of all that was caused, like, there was just no other way god could have created human beings the way Christians usually believe they were created. The myth is not big enough to cover reality, even if we don’t know what cause it, it wasn’t with humans in mind, or from a mind. Theism is puny-brained thoughts. I will say this – against Bob’s thesis – “goddidit” is the actual simplest explanation. It is the short-circuiting of inquiry, and it’s so satisfying for some reason, to stick with the first analogy you can think of:

      What makes things man doesn’t make? Man makes things so someone must have thought to make all this other stuff that was already here! And all the crazy stuff that happens when we don’t appease it… Done! Done thinking and done questing for answers. Have to figure out what rules it wants us to follow, for we are now at the mercy of something invisible that seems to strike without warning. Yes, it was invented. It is a myth. It seems to shut people up and make them easy to control. Only a theist would think the first cause of the universe was about them.

      • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

        God made the universe expand at first even though we have no reason to believe that, is what you’re saying – you find it hard to think of any other way the universe could have started, and why?

        That’s not what I’m saying at all. The rest of your comment makes it clear you don’t even know where I’m coming from.

        • RichardSRussell

          Oh, we know exactly where you’re coming from. You already have your conclusion, now you’re desperately searching for evidence to support it.

        • JohnH2

          Richard, Oh, we know exactly where you’re coming from. You already have your conclusion, now you’re desperately searching for evidence to support it.

        • Kodie

          Borrowing tactics from the nearest sassy 4-year-old, JohnH2 wins the debate.

        • JohnH2

          Kodie,
          My response applies equally well to you as well. No one here is a disinterested party, and no one pretends to be except when it is very convenient to do so in order to make the other party look bad. I can guarantee that everyone that comments here already has their own conclusion and is attempting to present evidence that supports it; it is disingenuous to pretend otherwise; none of us are neutral third parties and no one reading our comments is either.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Translated: “Well, … OK … I am biased. But, but … you are, too! And you’re a poopy head.”

          I do hold out the hope that we can try to keep our biases in check. I imagine you’re right, technically, that we all have biases that pollute our thinking, but I think there’s a big difference between someone who is blatantly biased and doesn’t care vs. someone who’s gone to some lengths to eliminate biases and who is willing to follow the evidence where it goes.

        • JohnH2

          “And you’re a poopy head.””

          Where do you get the implication of that? (and what makes you think I would use those terms?). I am saying that claiming that one has the “default position” isn’t being honest. If one had the default position then they would have no opinion on God whatsoever, the assumption would be that God doesn’t exist, but not for any of the reasons that are given here.

          This isn’t in reference to biases but to partisanship.

        • Kodie

          Thanks for not understanding anything and explaining it so it’s so easy even you could understand it.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          JohnH2:

          what makes you think I would use those terms?

          ?? I can’t imagine that you would. It was a caricature.

          I am saying that claiming that one has the “default position” isn’t being honest.

          I’m referring to the null hypothesis. When someone claims that unicorns exist, he has the burden of proof because that is different than the null hypothesis.

        • RichardSRussell

          Exactly backwards, John. I have the default position that applies to all propositions on any subject whatsoever: No reason to believe it until its proponents give me a reason. I’m not engaged in a search for evidence, I’m still waiting for you guys to come up with any.

        • Kodie

          You have a problem with the “simplest explanation” excluding god, and you have been stopped in your tracks by the magnificent “first cause” argument. We’ve already had a go-’round, so despite your best efforts to act like this is a neutral or scientific argument on your part, nobody doesn’t know it’s not.

  • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

    At first I thought you were going to address the fact that these men are often held up by theists and particularly Christians as examples (omitting many non-Christians and nonreligious people who also contributed in those fields, while some, like Einstein, were not Christian to begin with).

  • KarlUdy

    So what of reality can no longer be explained without God?

    Nothing!

    Admittedly, we have riddles at the frontier of science. How did abiogenesis happen? What caused the Big Bang? What causes consciousness?

    So actually we have quite a few things that cannot be explained without God. You mention a few here, although you are of the opinion that science, given enough time, will find answers to them. I’m not so sure, but your faith in science must be commended.

    To your list, you could add religion ie “Where does the concept of God come from?” (or “transcendence” if you are inclined to quibble about definitions of God.)

    And you could also add “meaning”, as without the foundation of God it is difficult to establish a foundation for why anything at all has meaning.

    When you have some good scientific research for where “transcendence” and “meaning” come from, please do share it with us.

    • Kodie

      I have to ask why “god” is an answer, an acceptable answer, when no other answer is apparent. I don’t find it an answer at all; I find it a dodge.

      It’s a non-answer. If you asked two Christians why anything, one would say god grieves with us, and one would say god has wrought punishment for such and such sin. It’s not an actual answer. It doesn’t supply any information, just foul guesses. To suppose there is a god is to assume you have a reason for being here, like an essential version of the world that could not exist without you. And to suppose this epic needs you as a character is to go seeking answers in blind alleys such as “why” and being satisfied with bland answers like “god.”

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

      Karl:

      So actually we have quite a few things that cannot be explained without God. You mention a few here

      You’re not getting it. “God dun it!” doesn’t explain anything. It’s just a repackaging of “I don’t know.”

      Let’s imagine that in 100 years, these questions have scientific answers. Would these still be “things that cannot be explained without God”?

      “Where does the concept of God come from?”

      You tell me. What do sociologists or anthropologists say about the origin of ideas about the supernatural in Africa or Borneo? Do you object to their conclusions?

      • KarlUdy

        You’re not getting it. “God dun it!” doesn’t explain anything. It’s just a repackaging of “I don’t know.”

        I don’t think they are a repackaging of “I don’t know”. Consciousness, for example, seems to be best explained as more than a merely physical phenomenon.

        Let’s imagine that in 100 years, these questions have scientific answers. Would these still be “things that cannot be explained without God”?

        If the proposed “scientific answers” that you suggest I imagine don’t include God, then all you have suggested is that I imagine that science has answers for things I believe are beyond the capacity of science to answer. Classic question begging.

        You tell me. What do sociologists or anthropologists say about the origin of ideas about the supernatural in Africa or Borneo? Do you object to their conclusions?

        I am aware that there is a school of thought that polytheism precedes monotheism, which I have questions about. But what I am more interested in is where did the concept of the transcendental come from? How could it have been invented? Who invented it? When? There’s a hole in your jigsaw puzzle for you.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Karl:

          Consciousness, for example, seems to be best explained as more than a merely physical phenomenon.

          Is that the scientific consensus? That’s all I care about.

          If the proposed “scientific answers” that you suggest I imagine don’t include God, then all you have suggested is that I imagine that science has answers for things I believe are beyond the capacity of science to answer. Classic question begging.

          I can’t parse this. Retry?

          what I am more interested in is where did the concept of the transcendental come from? How could it have been invented?

          Add this question: Why was it independently invented in myriad places through history? The only instance that you accept as real came from Abraham. All the rest were what … invented?

        • KarlUdy

          I can’t parse this. Retry?

          Imagine these questions have scientific answers in 100 years

          -> these questions do not need God as an explanation

          ->they would not still be “things that can’t be explained without God

          But it all rests on your asking me to imagine this scenario. You have provided no evidence that such a scenario is likely or even possible.

          Add this question: Why was it independently invented in myriad places through history? The only instance that you accept as real came from Abraham. All the rest were what … invented?

          Good question. But you’ve pegged me wrong. I don’t believe that true religion began with Abraham. If that were the case, why would Abraham make an offering to the priest Melchizedek? The concept of the transcendental obviously precedes Abraham, and also seems to be universal. Where did it come from? Scientific inquiry?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Karl:

          You have provided no evidence that such a scenario is likely or even possible.

          You don’t see the blizzard of answered puzzles from science and think that it’d be foolish to bet against science doing it again with these three in 100 years?

          why would Abraham make an offering to the priest Melchizedek?

          Well done. You’ve asked a good one there yourself.

          The concept of the transcendental obviously precedes Abraham, and also seems to be universal.

          Or almost so.

          Do we agree that most of these “discoveries” of transcendence are indeed manmade inventions? Can we agree that the religions in India, Africa, and Central America are false?

        • KarlUdy

          You don’t see the blizzard of answered puzzles from science and think that it’d be foolish to bet against science doing it again with these three in 100 years?

          With science all things are possible?

          Do we agree that most of these “discoveries” of transcendence are indeed manmade inventions? Can we agree that the religions in India, Africa, and Central America are false?

          While they may have man-made elements I do not believe they are entirely man-made or entirely false. I believe they derive from a universal sensus divinatus which may be corrupted in many different ways and means but still possessing a kernel of truth.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Karl:

          With science all things are possible?

          Certainly a lot more things than with religion! Science delivers. Religion delivers … empty promises (or at least unverifiable ones).

          While they may have man-made elements I do not believe they are entirely man-made or entirely false.

          You can believe whatever you want, but is that where the evidence points? Since I assume that we both favor the natural explanation over the supernatural one (where a plausible natural explanation exists), doesn’t “people just make up religions” explain things nicely?

        • KarlUdy

          Since I assume that we both favor the natural explanation over the supernatural one

          Sorry, but I have no prejudice for natural explanations over supernatural ones per se.

          doesn’t “people just make up religions” explain things nicely?

          Some are made up in toto (eg Scientology), some are in likelihood made up in part, some may be corruptions of previously true religion.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Karl:

          I have no prejudice for natural explanations over supernatural ones per se.

          So it’s a prejudice now, is it? Just a blind evidence-less dogma?

          Let’s explore that. Say I find a rock on my sidewalk. I’m trying to weigh two hypotheses: (1) that it’s there by a natural process (someone put it there, a lawnmower kicked it there, it’s been there for ages and I’ve just not noticed, etc.) vs. (2) it’s there by a supernatural process (a ghost is messing with me, Jesus put it there, it just appeared because of evil spirits, etc.). How do you weigh these options? Which one do you favor and why?

          Some are made up in toto (eg Scientology), some are in likelihood made up in part, some may be corruptions of previously true religion.

          That doesn’t answer the question. Doesn’t “people just make up religions” explain things nicely? What’s left unexplained?

        • KarlUdy

          So it’s a prejudice now, is it? Just a blind evidence-less dogma?

          Let’s explore that. Say I find a rock on my sidewalk. I’m trying to weigh two hypotheses: (1) that it’s there by a natural process (someone put it there, a lawnmower kicked it there, it’s been there for ages and I’ve just not noticed, etc.) vs. (2) it’s there by a supernatural process (a ghost is messing with me, Jesus put it there, it just appeared because of evil spirits, etc.). How do you weigh these options? Which one do you favor and why?

          By prejudice, I mean that you prefer bad natural explanations over better supernatural explanations simply by virtue of their being natural or supernatural.

          That doesn’t answer the question. Doesn’t “people just make up religions” explain things nicely? What’s left unexplained?

          A whole lot. Where, when and by whom was the concept of the supernatural or transcendent “made up”? That’s one for a starter.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Karl:

          By prejudice, I mean that you prefer bad natural explanations over better supernatural explanations simply by virtue of their being natural or supernatural.

          Did you not read what I wrote? For your convenience, here it is: “I assume that we both favor the natural explanation over the supernatural one (where a plausible natural explanation exists).”

          Problem? Does prejudice still exist? If not, perhaps you can respond to this new understanding of my proposal.

          Where, when and by whom was the concept of the supernatural or transcendent “made up”?

          You mean “made up” as in deliberately invented? Who said that?

          I’ve written about hyperactive agency detection here. That’s one relevant hypothesis.

          But you seem to imagine that the burden of proof is mine. If I can add information that strengthens my position, I’ll do it, but where I come from, the guy arguing for the supernatural is the one with the burden of proof.

          Suppose we have nothing on the natural side—no hypotheses either for or against a natural development of a sense of the supernatural. The natural wins by default.

        • KarlUdy

          Did you not read what I wrote? For your convenience, here it is: “I assume that we both favor the natural explanation over the supernatural one (where a plausible natural explanation exists).”

          The issue is that your meaning of a plausible explanation boils down to “possible, however unlikely or contradictory to the evidence that we have”.

          You mean “made up” as in deliberately invented? Who said that?

          Um. Didn’t you talk about people making religions up?

          But you seem to imagine that the burden of proof is mine.

          Darn it. I forgot. It never is, is it?

          However, in a world where most people are supernaturalists, and anti-supernaturalism is actually a very recent phenomenon, surely H0 is the reigning hypothesis, which is that the supernatural does exist. Is it not?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Karl:

          The issue is that your meaning of a plausible explanation boils down to “possible, however unlikely or contradictory to the evidence that we have”.

          Not very plausible is it? No, I meant plausible.

          Didn’t you talk about people making religions up?

          Nope, not in the sense of fiction or a hoax or otherwise being the product of a deliberate process. Yes, in the unintended sense of the game of telephone or the evolution of a story through oral history.

          Darn it. I forgot. It never is, is it?

          Maybe an example will help cement the concept in your mind. If I propose that a dinosaur or dragon or leprechaun exist, I have the burden of proof. The null hypothesis is that these don’t exist, though the open-minded person will listen to evidence that (despite the well-founded null hypothesis) this thing actually exists.

          Of course, if I really got silly and proposed something magical or supernatural—a wish-granting genie, a ghost, a god, or that sort of thing—then the burden would be far greater and the amount of evidence to overcome the null hypothesis would likewise be greater.

          Hope that helps.

          in a world where most people are supernaturalists

          Are you proposing that there is consensus on what this supernatural is? I’m pretty sure there’s not. There’s no consensus on a body of evidence that would point to any supernatural thesis. There may be a consensus that no evidence is needed for supernatural claims, but this, unfortunately, takes this entire domain out of contention for the kind of reality I’d care to talk about. Reality as wish fulfillment isn’t a reality that I have much to say about.

        • KarlUdy

          Not very plausible is it? No, I meant plausible.

          What? You mean plausible in the sense where you prefer the explanation the text of 1 Corinthians 15:3-6 is corrupted despite their being no evidence for and an abundance of evidence against the possibility, because it would have implications for the existence of the supernatural?

          Nope, not in the sense of fiction or a hoax or otherwise being the product of a deliberate process. Yes, in the unintended sense of the game of telephone or the evolution of a story through oral history.

          OK. How did the concept of the transcendent develop in that manner, then?

          Maybe an example will help cement the concept in your mind.

          Are you, or are you not proposing the existence of a self-existent, self-creating universe? If you are, then you have a burden of proof. (Or alternately, if you are proposing the existence of an eternal universe, then you have the burden of proof to defend that.)

          Are you proposing that there is consensus on what this supernatural is?

          No. But tell me, is consensus on how sub-atomic physics works necessary before it can be agreed that sub-atomic particles exist?

          There may be a consensus that no evidence is needed for supernatural claims, but this, unfortunately, takes this entire domain out of contention for the kind of reality I’d care to talk about. Reality as wish fulfillment isn’t a reality that I have much to say about.

          I’m not sure what you’re talking about here, but there is a school of thought that belief in God is properly basic. To call this wish fulfillment is a little hypocritical, especially as you’ve made it abundantly clear that you would regard the existence of the God of the Bible to be something you would not want.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Karl:

          You mean plausible in the sense where you prefer the explanation the text of 1 Corinthians 15:3-6 is corrupted despite their being no evidence for and an abundance of evidence against the possibility, because it would have implications for the existence of the supernatural?

          In the first place, your hilarious definition of “plausible” was taken from another word. That’s not what plausible means, so what I meant was plausible.

          I’m missing the context of 1 Cor. 15. Seems out of left field. Sure–it might be corrupted and it might not be.

          “despite their being no evidence for and an abundance of evidence against the possibility”? There’s no direct evidence for rejecting that, but who would expect there to be? There’s no direct evidence against the claim that Merlin could shape shift. Do we then gullibly accept the claim?

          How did the concept of the transcendent develop in that manner, then?

          Didn’t read my comment on Hyperactive Agency Detection, did you?

          Are you, or are you not proposing the existence of a self-existent, self-creating universe?

          Not.

          But tell me, is consensus on how sub-atomic physics works necessary before it can be agreed that sub-atomic particles exist?

          A scientific consensus that sub-atomic particles exist is indeed necessary before we can agree that they exist. Same for the supernatural.

          there is a school of thought that belief in God is properly basic.

          A topic that I find interesting. I haven’t read up on it enough to post about it, however. That’s off topic, but if you want to summarize your views on why God belief is properly basic, I’d read that with interest.

          To call this wish fulfillment is a little hypocritical, especially as you’ve made it abundantly clear that you would regard the existence of the God of the Bible to be something you would not want.

          It’s not fulfillment of my wish but Christians’ wishes.

        • KarlUdy

          In the first place, your hilarious definition of “plausible” was taken from another word. That’s not what plausible means, so what I meant was plausible.

          You’re right. It was taken from my observation of how you treat supernatural and natural explanations. I figured if that’s how you do it, that must be what you mean by plausible. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time you have your own definition of a word that differs from general accepted usage.

          I’m missing the context of 1 Cor. 15. Seems out of left field. Sure–it might be corrupted and it might not be.

          And the chances of it being corrupted are, as I demostrated, miniscule, yet you still prefer to believe that it is corrupted.

          How did the concept of the transcendent develop in that manner, then?

          Didn’t read my comment on Hyperactive Agency Detection, did you?

          Your proposal of Hyperactive Agency Detection, if it were true, could possibly explain us attributing agency to physical things that we observe, such as storms, earthquakes, etc, but it still does not explain how any idea that there exists something that is “other” to the physical universe could develop.

          Not.

          So eternal universe, then?

          A scientific consensus that sub-atomic particles exist is indeed necessary before we can agree that they exist. Same for the supernatural.

          So we need to agree that something exists before we agree that it exists. Thanks for telling me nothing. Do we need to agree with how something works before we can agree if it exists?

          It’s not fulfillment of my wish but Christians’ wishes.

          If you claim that God does not exist, and also claim that if he did exist it would be bad, how can you show that your belief that he exists is not wish fulfilment?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Karl:

          You’re right.

          I’m glad we finally agree. This could’ve been wrapped up a couple of comments ago if you’d just read and accepted what I wrote.

          it still does not explain how any idea that there exists something that is “other” to the physical universe could develop.

          I’m kinda batting zero for your understanding my explanations lately, aren’t I?

          (1) You have the burden of proof. If you don’t find my explanation compelling, that’s a shame, but it doesn’t much change the burden of proof.

          (2) The thinking on HAD is that it extends beyond just the rustling in the trees (wind or tiger??) to the supernatural (is that illness natural or caused by a demon?). That’s the hyperactive part.

          So eternal universe, then?

          Dunno. When science has a consensus, we’ll all be enriched.

          Do we need to agree with how something works before we can agree if it exists?

          Despite your impressive efforts, it’s really not that hard. We need to agree that something exists, and then we can worry about the hows and whys.

        • KarlUdy

          We need to agree that something exists, and then we can worry about the hows and whys.

          Therefore, your objection that:

          Are you proposing that there is consensus on what this supernatural is? I’m pretty sure there’s not.

          carries no weight. Up until very recently there was general consensus that the supernatural existed (despite various different explanations of how it worked, what it was, etc). The concept that there is no supernatural is a relatively new concept. If someone is arguing for a new explanation, then the burden of proof is on those promoting the new explanation to prove it to displace the existing explanation.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Karl:

          Up until very recently there was general consensus that the supernatural existed

          From the standpoint of how we know things today, modern science (the only tool that has proven that it delivers good approximations of reality to us)? I don’t think so.

          Your view that the thousands of incompatible beliefs are actually some sort of group hug is attractive, with minor and insignificant differences separating them, but I don’t think it works. When one religion says, “The supernatural is like this” and another says, “No, it’s like that,” and this and that are completely incompatible, the fact that they share the claim that the supernatural exists seems trivial. When “the supernatural” can be molded like clay to take on myriad incompatible shapes, that gives us no confidence that “the supernatural” is a useful concept.

          There were incompatible views of alchemy long ago. That gives us no confidence that alchemy, at bottom, actually works.

          I’m probably approaching this from too scientific a standpoint for your liking, but it seems to me that that’s the only way we understand things.

        • KarlUdy

          When one religion says, “The supernatural is like this” and another says, “No, it’s like that,” and this and that are completely incompatible, the fact that they share the claim that the supernatural exists seems trivial. When “the supernatural” can be molded like clay to take on myriad incompatible shapes, that gives us no confidence that “the supernatural” is a useful concept.

          There were incompatible views of alchemy long ago. That gives us no confidence that alchemy, at bottom, actually works.

          So incompatible views undermine confidence in a whole field? What does this have to say to Big Bang cosmology? Or sub-atomic physics? You may not agree that the supernatural exists, but to posit a variety in understandings of the nature of the supernatural is no argument against the existence of the supernatural. That you bring this up again, despite agreeing in principle a few posts ago seems disingenuous.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Karl:

          What does this have to say to Big Bang cosmology? Or sub-atomic physics?

          OK, so we’ve changed subjects. Now we’re in the domain of science. That’s fine, but let’s just acknowledge the change.

          I don’t know what you’re saying about cosmology. But let me try to strengthen your question: What if Steven J. Gould (proponent of punctuated equilibrium) and another biologist (who rejected that hypothesis) were arguing. Would that put the field of evolution in doubt?

          My answer: It wouldn’t since that’s not the topic under consideration, but that’s because we’re in the domain of science. Evidence drives everything. That’s not the case with the supernatural (obviously, since believers in the supernatural don’t have strong evidence; if they did, it would be science, not religion).

          That you bring this up again, despite agreeing in principle a few posts ago seems disingenuous.

          I have no idea what I’m lying about now.

        • KarlUdy

          That’s not the case with the supernatural (obviously, since believers in the supernatural don’t have strong evidence; if they did, it would be science, not religion).

          Believers in the supernatural may not have strong scientific evidence. It is perfectly possible to have strong evidence that is not scientific.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Karl: What strong evidence that’s not scientific are you thinking of? Historical maybe?

        • KarlUdy

          Among others

        • Kodie

          A general uneducated consensus is going to stick with what they know, huh? You are the guy who says that theists have other avenues to knowing things, well, they have their faulty mind and they tend to get it wrong because they don’t (a) have enough information, (b) don’t ask the right questions, (c) go along with what the consensus seems to think, and (d) are happy with those answers. A few go with actual curiosity and find out the consensus believed a myth, brings what they have found to the masses, and we don’t actually have to believe mythical stories anymore if something explains it a lot more clearly and with facts, not guesses and stories. Did not a consensus used to believe the earth was flat? They were happy with that answer and fearful of exploration. The idea here is, once we realized the earth isn’t the center of the universe or the solar system, there is no reason to believe there’s a god who created a far more complex system, there is no reason to adjust the former understanding of god to the current understanding of science. We are animals on a planet, and this planet has properties – one of them being regular rotation and revolution around the sun such that agriculture can be regulated so we don’t have to survive by hunting alone.

          You would take that transition as a revelation, still believing god reveals our best survival strategies to us, agonizingly slowly; meanwhile, that’s not the simplest explanation – that’s a more and more complicated rigid belief that has to compete with things we can see and figure out. When people had discovered farming, they still had to suffer things that weren’t “revealed” yet, and died without knowing those things. What kind of bullshit strategy is this, Karl? Why do you apply this kind of thinking preferable to humans actually take generations of information to go forward. It takes all of us to figure out a few things that help the most. It’s not revealed to you, it’s not revealed to me. I’m not a scientist, and I’m guessing you’re not either. It’s “revealed” to the people who go looking for it and testing it, and then they share that information with the rest of us. Not god. You would both accept things as you believe them to be, and believe that information we need to survive is revealed to people along the way – complacence as you describe is the opposite to seeking.

          Believing demons cause diseases is something you’re willing to entertain, but you can somehow be appreciative that people actually dismiss the demon hypothesis in search of actual remedies because you think these remedies are revealed by god to them for us? Why not before? Nothing you believe in is coherent or consistent.

        • Kodie

          I’m not sure what you’re talking about here, but there is a school of
          thought that belief in God is properly basic. To call this wish
          fulfillment is a little hypocritical, especially as you’ve made it
          abundantly clear that you would regard the existence of the God of the
          Bible to be something you would not want.

          Let me help you with this concept – the god of the bible does not exist. It’s a myth. If the god of the bible were real, how could we deny something on the basis that we don’t want it? That’s pretty stupid. We don’t want cancer, but we can’t deny that it exists; we don’t want earthquakes, but we can’t deny that they happen; we don’t want shitty people shooting up schools and harming children, but we don’t turn away and deny that that happens. Praying for those events does nothing. Helping people, finding cures, guarding children, and examining our social culture on why people go on violent attacks does something. We’re not the ones in denial that bad things happen. Theists want to pretend there’s a very good reason! That’s denial, and it’s the opposite of caring for your fellow humans. Tell me what possible way you discern that bad things happen and good people help, that god is good because you can’t figure out what else could make people selfless in times when their efforts are needed. You can’t figure out how that happens organically! You’re the one who wants to live with these things “showing us” how to be better to one another. God is ruining lives to feed your fucking ego, that’s what you’re saying. That’s what’s important and true for you, because your mind tells you this. You are contained in a shitty cartoon of life. You can’t handle reality, so you draw up a pleasant outcome and it makes it all better.

          Or else, you know, evidence and reasoning why you think that’s true instead of no god and only us. It’s a story. You want to contend that if you consider it plausible, everyone just better leave you alone with your fantasy – I will tell you it doesn’t make you a better person than Bob. So what is the point of believing it.

        • Kodie

          But it all rests on your asking me to imagine this scenario. You have
          provided no evidence that such a scenario is likely or even possible.

          Shouldn’t let lack of evidence keep you from imagining a scenario. That’s not like you.

        • Kodie

          Do you believe demons are the best explanation of diseases? That is a classic “I don’t know” non-answer. You can’t seem to eliminate some spirit world who programmed you to receive thoughts from the ether instead of how scientifically, it aids in your and your species’ survival.

  • MNb

    @Jayman: first of all the mainstream interpretations of Quantum Mechanics are firmly probabilistic. Bohm’s interpretation fails for two reasons: it needs extra unmeasurable quantities and when expanded to cover the area of Quantum Electro Dynamics it becomes probabilistic too. Dieter Zeh’s version “only” (it’s highly complicated; I have a hard time to understand him) offers a different interpretation of statistics.
    So causality is highly questionable, though I’ll admit that the matter is not settled yet. You are the one on the fringe though. Also note that accepting causality should prevent you, if you want to be consistent, to use arguments of the “science can’t explain everything” type (like love, art). Causality can’t explain everything either. Brownian movement for instance, while deterministic, is far better described by a probabilistic model than by a causal one.
    Second fans of the cosmological argument never tell us why causality has to be linear and not circular. The pulsating universe – where Big Bang and End Crunch coincide – hasn’t been completely ruled out either. It’s fringe at the moment, sure; but no more than causal interpretations of QM.
    Third fans of the cosmological argument never tell us why there only has to be just one first cause. As the fine-tuning argument is connected and there are 20-30 natural constants to be fine-tuned or caused, so to say, the cosmological argument rather shows polytheism instead of monotheism. You say the first cause has to be metaphysical. Fine, a hindu will say the first cause of every single natural constant has to be metaphysical. Frankly I find the latter at least as plausible as soon as I accept your assumptions. Though I still have to meet the first monotheist to convert to hinduism or another polytheism for this reason. This shows why apologetics – ie the art of formulating cheap excuses – is intellectually dishonest. You are not a believer because of the cosmological argument. You accept it because you are a believer.
    Fourth the cosmological argument doesn’t explain why we should accept your personal version of a monotheistic god iso another. Given the deficiencies of our Universe – like the very real chance of some meteorite causing havoc – I think the Flying Spaghetti Monster more likely than every single Abrahamistic version.
    Fifth the cosmological argument doesn’t explain why the Universe is so huge, that more than 95% of its size – and that’s a highly conservative estimation – doesn’t bare any significant relevance to the Earth. Once again pastafarians have covered this issue – otherwise FSM gets bored. But I haven’t heard of any Abrahamistic god having issues like that.
    Sixth the cosmological argument takes something for granted that upon a closer look is highly dubious – that some bodiless spirit can interact with a material Universe (namely at least by creating it). It doesn’t explain how that interaction takes place.
    Seventh you should show what relevance the concept of act and potence has for modern physics before using the cosmological argument. I don’t find it back in QM nor in Relativity. Or is it just a one trick pony, which you only use to describe the first metaphysical cause causing the first physical event? That would be an ad hoc – another cheap excuse to hide that you explain nothing.

    Finally you keep on misinterpreting BobS’ argument. I don’t think his phrasing is ideal, but it boils down to:
    1. Science works;
    2. Science doesn’t need a bodiless spirit as a metaphysical assumption;
    3. Hence we don’t have any reason to believe – Occam urges us to abandon god.

    I would go a step further (in fact two, but soit). Because of my sixth point I think the entire concept of god meaningless. As an example I offer you a question: many christians say “god loves homo sapiens”. I assume you do too. Now god being bodiless, which means does he have available to express that love? Not verbal language, not body language, not facial expression, not behaviour as they are all one way or another connected to a physical body. So what does it mean that “god loves me”? I understand what “BobS loves me” means as he has ways available to express himself. At the other hand “god loves me” is as incomprehensible as “the chair loves me”.
    As long as that point isn’t solved I think a 7 on the scale of Dawkins is justified (with my thanks to my compatriot Herman Philipse). The only way to believe remaining is a la Kierkegaard (believing despite science), which means we can abandon natural theology.
    In short: before accepting the cosmological argument you first have to show that god has any meaning; then you have to show that the concept of god can make any testable prediction; finally you have to show that the cosmological argument (and fine-tuning and a couple of others) make better predictions than atheism.
    I think you’ll stumble at every step.

    • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

      first of all the mainstream interpretations of Quantum Mechanics are firmly probabilistic.

      I don’t deny that. Where we seem to differ is that you think a causal model implies determinism.

      Second fans of the cosmological argument never tell us why causality has to be linear and not circular.

      It has to do with an essentially-ordered causal series. It is logically incoherent to speak of a circular essentially-ordered causal series.

      Third fans of the cosmological argument never tell us why there only has to be just one first cause.

      Aquinas concludes that the First Cause is Pure Act. If there were more than one such being then there would be some way of telling them apart. One would have something that the other lacked. But something of pure actuality has no unrealized possibilities and so lacks nothing. Hence there can’t be more than one such being.

      As the fine-tuning argument is connected…

      You might point at some similarities but I think the cosmological argument is clearly distinguishable from the fine-tuning argument.

      This shows why apologetics – ie the art of formulating cheap excuses – is intellectually dishonest. You are not a believer because of the cosmological argument. You accept it because you are a believer.

      And what about people who come to believe in God through such arguments? Why do atheists routinely need to smear those they disagree with?

      Fourth the cosmological argument doesn’t explain why we should accept your personal version of a monotheistic god iso another.

      I didn’t claim the cosmological argument proves Christianity. What it proves is the existence of a deity that is consistent with Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (and perhaps other religions too).

      Fifth the cosmological argument doesn’t explain why the Universe is so huge, that more than 95% of its size – and that’s a highly conservative estimation – doesn’t bare any significant relevance to the Earth.

      It isn’t intended to do that.

      Sixth the cosmological argument takes something for granted tha t upon a closer look is highly dubious – that some bodiless spirit can interact with a material Universe (namely at least by creating it). It doesn’t explain how that interaction takes place.

      It concludes the First Cause is immaterial after a deductive argument. You need to point out a flaw in the premise otherwise the conclusion logically follows. Your personal incredulity doesn’t change that.

      Seventh you should show what relevance the concept of act and potence has for modern physics before using the cosmological argument.

      We’re interested in truth not relevance. A simple everyday example shows that things are in act and have potency. Let’s say you have an ice cream cone in your hand. At this point in time the ice cream is actually solid. But it also has the potential to be a melted mess. Now a scientist may not use the terminology of act and potency but I think he’d agree that the ice cream actually exists and that it has the potential to melt. Basically, act and potency are evident wherever something exists and wherever change can occur.

      Finally you keep on misinterpreting BobS’ argument. I don’t think his phrasing is ideal, but it boils down to:

      1. Science works;

      2. Science doesn’t need a bodiless spirit as a metaphysical assumption;

      3. Hence we don’t have any reason to believe – Occam urges us to abandon god.

      Premise 2 begs the question. The Thomist would counter that:

      (1) Science works.

      (2) Science makes metaphysical assumptions that logically entail God’s existence (check the most recent post on my blog for links to the outline of such an argument).

      (3) Therefore, we must believe in God.

      As an example I offer you a question: many christians say “god loves homo sapiens”. I assume you do too. Now god being bodiless, which means does he have available to express that love?

      God’s love is expressed through actions.

      In short: before accepting the cosmological argument you first have to show that god has any meaning; then you have to show that the concept of god can make any testable prediction; finally you have to show that the cosmological argument (and fine-tuning and a couple of others) make better predictions than atheism.

      The cosmological argument is a deductive argument. It is more analagous to a proof in mathematics than a scientific hypothesis. Your whole reasoning process here is wrong-headed.

  • Caleb G.

    I’m currently listening to the Teaching Company Course entitled the Rights of Man, taught by Professor Paul Lauren. He makes some interesting points regarding the contribution of religion to the progression of the rights of man. Bob mentions the unique influence of William Wilberforce on the cause of abolition and Martin Luther King, Jr., on civil rights. For both Wilberforce and King, Jr., one must take their religious convictions into account to help explain their actions. Their religious convictions are perhaps not the exclusive explanation, but any explanation that leaves out their religious convictions is truncated. This does not argue for or against the existence of God, but it does argue that any story about civil rights and abolution that leaves out religion is incomplete. If one assumes that God works through people, then leaving God out would make Wilberforce and King, Jr.’s stories incomplete, and thus the abolition and civil rights stories incomplete.

    For those who are chomping at the bit to jump in and raise the objection that the Bible condones slavery and racism, yes, I am well aware of those objections. Those are important issues, but are different than the issue at hand.

    • trj

      If one assumes that God works through people, then leaving God out would make Wilberforce and King, Jr.’s stories incomplete…

      If one assumes that God works through people, then I see two possibilities:

      1) God interferes with their free will, which is a big no-no to Christians (let’s just disregard how Christians on the other hand simultaneously claim that God regularly performs miracles and intervenes in our world). So that’s probably not what is meant.

      2) More likely the Christian will claim the people who God works through are volunteers. Their beliefs and actions coincide with what God wants. But in that case at most God inspires people. Saying he works through them is somewhat of an overstatement.

      If the only way God intervenes is through inspiration, then that doesn’t make him much of a god, since inspiration can come from any source, divine or secular (and it’s not like it’s difficult to find secular literature which is a better inspiration for morality than the Bible, thus trumping God’s power under this scenario).

    • Kodie

      Let’s talk about Jane, for example. Jane brings food to pantries that supply needy people with food. Jane attributes her generosity and charity to god, and she believes without god, she would shop only for herself and let the needy people starve. She sees that she is helping people and that feels good to Jane, and she thanks god for making her so generous so that these people would get some of the help they need.

      Does anywhere in that story mean god actually exists? Jane believes deeply and is motivated by an emotion about god – she frames her existence around god – and believes god has motivated her to do good works around her community to reveal more of himself to her and to the needy people who come to the pantry. Now, the people who come to the pantry know Jane is the one who does the shopping, and they are glad she helps out, and they thank Jane. Jane has evidence therein that what she is doing has a positive effect on other people. Where is god in this equation? Just because Jane can’t seem to motivate herself or even with the encouragement of making others feel better without believing there is a god.

      Jane’s religious convictions that god exists and motivates her is not the same thing as knowing god exists. Some people firmly believe god exists and so use this information to withhold medical attention from their children and then they die. There is still no evidence that god moves through people, only that people claim that they would not have the motivation to achieve some end without god moving through them. Helping people feels good and being encouraged to keep going on that feels good. Make a chore or sacrifice personally fulfilling and they will naturally find an excuse to keep doing it. It’s like getting paid to do it.

      You actually cannot insert the character of god as responsible for human’s achievements, no matter how much those people personally believed in and were convinced that it was god who moved them to do what they did. They were influenced and motivated by their own thoughts. No more than you can say it’s god who makes it rain can you say it’s god who thrust Martin Luther King Jr. into the leadership position of the civil rights movement. Even if King believed it was! Objectively unproven and irrelevant.

  • smrnda

    I had to say, I’ve encountered “Thomist” dreck before, and it’s just jargon defined in terms of more jargon so that the process never bottoms out, and the proponent of “Thomist” terminology just keeps saying you “don’t get it” without really saying anything, since jargon needs to be defined in terms of clear, unambiguous things ,not defined in terms of more and more jargon. If the words don’t have precise meaning, they imply nothing since they are no more meaningful than random sounds being produced by a malfunctioning machine, but they’re impossible to argue against since you’re arguing against a fog that can mean anything.

    I think a problem with quantum physics is that that words like ‘time’ are used in ways that go against our intuitive notion of them, but what matters is the numbers, not the words.

    I agree that science does not currently have a perfect theory of everything. We’ll probably someday find that our current theories aren’t perfect, and that there are cases where we need new theories, but like Newton’s mechanics, we’ll know that this isn’t because we were totally wrong, just that we’d missed something. The difference between me and religious people is that I expect science, not religion, will as usual provide the new answers.

  • MNb

    @Jayman: a few short remarks – a more detailed reaction will follow tomorrow.
    1. My female counterpart is a muslima, so I don’t feel any need to sneer at any believer.
    2. I am not any more responsible for other atheists than you are for Ken Ham and Bill O’Reilly. It’s typical, in my personal experience, that you like all apologists, fall back on rethorical questions like ” why do so many atheists …?”

    3. For someone who claims that the cosmological argument is purely deductive you use a remarkable amount of observations of material reality (like why do so many atheist …?”), ie empiry, ie induction. So you are disproving yourself.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

      MNb: Good to have you back commenting! I hope the Disqus dystopia hasn’t set you back too much.

  • Msironen

    Since Thomists seem to be take philosophy very seriously, I would like to hear Thomist response to the fact that most cosmological arguments lean on the A-series (the “Moving Now”) philosophy of time, where as modern physics seem to support the B-series (“Block Time”) model.

    Also the “Kalam” argument additionally requires absolute relativity which is a problem since relativity of simultaneity is a basic result of Special Relativity. This might not be insurmountable since leading Kalam proponent W.L. Craig has apparently put some work into developing a version of SR that preserves absolute relativity, but needless to say it hasn’t overthrown Einstein’s SR quite yet.

    In short, all your “First Something Something” and “Something Begins Something” arguments aren’t anywhere near “purely deductive”, since empirical science has quite a bit to say what concepts like “first” and “begins” mean (and whether they are even strictly speaking coherent concepts).

  • Rowdy Piper

    Christianity sprung out of Palestine 2000 years ago. Some may say from a small town rabbi arose a legend. Others would say it is a power grab that was accomplished through edited manuscripts.

    Here is how NOT to start a new religion if a power grab of some sort is the reason why:

    1) Begin in the very center of Monotheism. To a group of people that abhorred the idea of idolatry and considered the very notion of God as a man as such. Yes, dont start with the Greeks and their mythology or the Romans and their pluralism. No, go to the believers of Yahweh and claim to be His son.

    2) Once you do that, change major fundamental tenets and aspects of said religion. For exammple, take the Passover and state it no longer means that but now means this.

    3) Make it all about yourself. I am the Passover. LOL.

    4) When making records, ie the Gospel of Luke, use as many references of specific names, locations, and dates as possible. So that people who are alleged witness of the account (as Paul says in 1 Cor 15) can be interrogated by anyone interested in making the couple days journey from anywhere in the Roman Empire to Jerusalem and Galilee.

    That how not to start a fraudulent religion.

    • Castilliano

      Nicely done, but rather lopsided. Let me balance that for you as it appears built for a youth group study on self-congratulating back slaps rather than a serious look at cult development.

      1. Don’t start with the Greeks or Romans with their efficient communication systems and history of rhetoric. Avoid them because even if you are a messiah figure, you’ll be low on the totem pole and might actually have to prove yourself in front of notable politicians and historians, not just spread rumors and stories. Also, Roman gods will go away because the Romans have been too specific about their traits. Go to a more intangible (therefore unassailable) god, like Yahweh. Yep, start with the mostly illiterate monotheists who, despite their teachings, have had lots of recent ‘messiah’ figures appear and rise to significant power. There’s good soil there because they’re oppressed and seeking a leader. And there’s a spot open! It’s even mentioned in their holy books and all the buzz is about when he’ll come.
      And, if you play your cards right, you can use Roman roads and infrastructure to spread your word faster than naysayers can keep up with. After we have the masses, we’ll look at expanding to other peoples too. Heck, bag an important Roman and you just might change the world.
      Note: Beware Romans. They killed the other guys too. If killed, make it dramatic and on behalf of others. They’ll adore that gesture.

      2. When you change the tenets, make sure to make them ‘nicer’ and reasonable, also act as if you’re clarifying or improving the old ones more than actually changing. Also, say something about how important and unchanging the tenets are, so that both your bases are covered. Switch between the two as necessary, sometimes in the same speech even.
      Remember oscillation works on specific tenets too. Keep ‘em guessing what you really meant, it keeps them talking, and gives them choices so they can always choose one that makes them happy.
      Note: They don’t have to agree with each other, only with you.

      3. Though it’s all about yourself, as most cults of personality are, add an inner circle for that extra-culty feel. And, of course, encourage your followers to leave their families and friends behind because that’s what successful cults do. (Or will do, but you’re omniscient, so you know that.) Encourage communal living, and kill those who don’t contribute all their funds, but make sure to say Yahweh did it! (You may not be around by then, so have your followers do that.)

      Oh, and if people start to notice it’s a cult about you, make it really about you being there for them, and how they need you because they’re incomplete and/or tainted. Oh, and threaten eternal torture too, just in case. Nothing like basing their worth around you to keep them loyal.

      4. Appeal to the poor because they have the worst fact-checkers, and can’t afford to travel for days, nor can they spend time hunting down strangers with common names. Oh, and make sure the Romans have few if any of those names on record, for extra hard finding. Speaking of which, make certain to add historical facts and dates (several, please) that completely conflict with Roman records, that way you can say the Romans are conspiring to hide the facts. Everybody hates the Romans, and loves a good conspiracy. Two birds…just sayin’.

      Wait, who am I kidding. Fact-checking? Is that even a thing yet? Skepticism is more a Greco-Roman thing anyway, (see why we avoided them?) Who’s actually going to follow us around and correct all of our lies? Maybe when there’s some sort of world-wide communication gizmo they might catch up. But, is that even plausible? Hah.

      5. (Because you forgot some stuff) Don’t forget to draw on popular myths of the time, like that Homer guy’s epics. People like that. Throw in some other stories from other myths, but don’t forget, make them about yourself instead. That’ll give the listeners a sense of familiarity, making the story easier to digest and remember. This might (will) cause some of the early leaders of your church to feel you’re a myth too, but lay low until new ones think you’re real and are working with old texts without the original writers there to clarify. Be sure to have those written decades later, so they can adjust the story to fit the audience. Heck, wait 2000 years and they might think all the other Yahweh myths preceding you are literally real too! (But, really, you’re going to need to bag that important Roman to pull that off.)
      Good luck.
      /silliness

      Admittedly, this still doesn’t make for a good power grab, at least not for the inventors. But when the killing began among Christians (as early as 2nd century, if not before) that’s when the real power started getting juggled. Splinter groups formed, and grew, looking little like Christianity today. The only reason the core orthodoxy of Christianity is so strong now is because most of those other Christians were killed off. By a Christian minority that levied more military and political force.

      Ugly business, and Christianity was only a fraction of its current age.
      Add Constantine, and BOOM! Tie secular power to religious positions, and wow, a lot of important people converted over. People doing so for power, not faith. Immediate tainting of bishop pool. And Christianity has never exactly been a democracy, so one could argue it never recovered from this early power-grabbing phase. And think of all those centuries Christianity was shaped by these people, slaughtering opponents and destroying alternative writings.

      Sad.

      Read “Pagan Christianity?” by Viola & Barna for a good, Christian, viewpoint on much of the post-Constantine corruption.
      Read Bart Ehrman for the earlier years.

      So, Rowdy Piper, Christianity actually did have all the elements needed to succeed, with or without Yahweh’s existence.
      And it’s still outnumbered by people who believe in other gods.
      Or no gods. Like me. :)

      Cheers, JMK

      • Castilliano

        Apologies on length. :)

        • Rowdy Piper

          Re: length. No problem. I’ve found the less certain one is the more words they resort to.

          So I’ll keep this brief: Ehrman’s work sucks.

        • Castilliano

          That’s cool. I guess with experience you’ll realize length is more a matter of editing than certainty.
          Me, I’ve found the less reasonable one’s position is, the more personal attacks they resort to. It’s as if they avoid the issue.
          Cheers.

        • Neo

          Ehrman cornerstone argument isfound in Mark 1. The New Testament reads, depending on your specific translation, “Jesus had compassion on the leper”. He states that is a mistranslation and should read, “Jesus was angry with the leper”.

          Okay. I can see the significance there when it pertains to that moment and even to something of Jesus’ persona as it was portrayed by the writer rather than based on real events.

          Erhman hangs his entire view that the New Testament cannot be relied upon on that scripture. That is his “go to” verse, his main example.

          To think that one would question the New Testament’s reliability based on something that has no impact on the Christian faith or core doctrine is absurd. It has nothing to do with the “biggies”; Jesus’ death, resurrection, ect. But rather was Jesus nice or mean to a leper who was in violation of Mosaic Code.

          Btw, I (wrongly?) perceived the “youth group” comment as an insult, as good natured as it was.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Neo:

          I’ve read several of Ehrman’s books. Yes, I’ve heard that
          angry/compassion verse used as an example of the criterion of embarrassment. And it’s a good example.

          And you see that as the cornerstone of Ehrman’s point?Perhaps you’ve only read a paragraph of Ehrman. That’s certainly not the impression I got. As I read it, his various books make a cumulative case that the evidence points to the New Testament as just another ancient book of mythology and legend, just like all the others.

        • Neo

          Bob. I’ve heard hours of him in debates. If you were to point blank as him, “What is the worst case of scribal error/editing in the New Testament?”, he will always point to that verse. There is nothing in the Gospel accounts that deal with resurrection or the miraculous in his works to prove the unreliability of the New Testament. It stands to reason if the whole thing was invented or sensationalized then those would be the key texts. Not just something about Jesus’ mood as the crux of his argument when it pertains to the Gospel account.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Neo:

          If you were to point blank as him, “What is the worst case of scribal error/editing in the New Testament?”, he will always point to that verse.

          What is the worst known error, you mean.

          OK, maybe that is the worst known one.

          There is nothing in the Gospel accounts that deal with resurrection or the miraculous in his works to prove the unreliability of the New Testament.

          The NT accounts are incredible right out of the gate. The burden of proof is on the NT proponent and (long story cut short, obviously) I find that burden not carried.

          It stands to reason if the whole thing was invented or sensationalized then those would be the key texts.

          The only ones hypothesizing that it was invented are Christians.

          As for sensationalizing, we have decades separating events from documentation and centuries separating those from our best copies. That makes a very weak foundation on which to place some very large supernatural claims.

        • Castilliano

          Neo, fair enough, re: youth group statement.
          It arose from recollections of my own youth group experiences. We often had handouts full of scientific and historical data re: pro/con Christian arguments.
          And that were lopsided to the point of ridiculousness, but allowed us much backslapping. “We win!”
          I recognized Rowdy’s paragraph as being of the same nature to the point of thinking “OMG, did he pull that from a youth group lesson? Wait, it’s very likely he did.”
          Apologies if mentioning that connection went beyond good natured jab.

          As for Ehrman, he was tagged on as an afterthought as an accessible source re: matters at hand.
          But I don’t mind discussing him.
          Isn’t his go-to argument the one about the resurrection scene and how all the gospels disagree on who, how many, who reported, et al?
          Or how Mark was added to.
          Those are the two first salvos I best remember from half-dozen or so of his talks/interviews.
          The example you gave though is a good one on a how a version can reverse a meaning.

          His argument doesn’t appear to be:
          non-core error =flawed core doctrine
          but rather
          many blatant non-core errors = flawed source of knowledge = perhaps flawed knowledge on core doctrine

          The presence of errors (esp. reversals) does break that veneer of ‘god-inspired’, allowing us to better scrutinize the rest. Whether or not the core doctrine is internally consistent or translated accurately becomes secondary when you realize that, if imperfect in several regards, the Bible might be as imperfect as the religious books of
          others.
          Which is to say…mythological.

          His other main arguments seem to be:
          1. The Problem of Evil. (Which I believe led to his own agnosticism.)
          2. Since so many people disagreed on the nature of Christianity (hence, all the splinter groups and non-canonical texts) how can we deduce Yahweh is an existing god leading us down a clear path?

          Which ties to Rowdy’s original argument, written as if there had been only one Christianity, thriving unchanged against all odds. It was really dozens of Christianities, with three major branches and huge differences in opinions on the nature of god (or gods). The winning branch was the one that killed the others and attempted to purge all their texts.
          Not very Christian of them…
          Unless one looks at history and realize how common that was, and perhaps then realizes how many alterations Christianity has gone through.
          It saddens me. :(

          On that happy note…
          Cheers.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Piper: Yes, very brief! But we need specifics about why Ehrman’s work is poor scholarship; otherwise, it only looks like he’s offended your religious sensibilities, which (as you can imagine) I don’t much care about.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

        Castilliano: Nice rebuttal!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

      Piper:

      1) Begin in the very center of Monotheism. To a group of people that abhorred the idea of idolatry and considered the very notion of God as a man as such. Yes, dont start with the Greeks and their mythology or the Romans and their pluralism.

      They did start with the Greeks! Every word in the New Testament is Greek. It was written within a Greek context to people immersed in the Greek stories of many gods.

      take the Passover and state it no longer means that but now means this.

      New flavors of old religions change lots of stuff (otherwise they’d be the old religion). We see other religions as (1) variations on a theme and (2) heretical from the standpoint of whatever religion they came out of. Why be baffled when Christianity does it?

      When making records, ie the Gospel of Luke, use as many references of specific names, locations, and dates as possible.

      That the Bible has accurate names of people and places is the very minimum we demand of a document that claims to be history. Sorry—no bonus points here.

      So that people who are alleged witness of the account (as Paul says in 1 Cor 15) can be interrogated by anyone interested in making the couple days journey from anywhere in the Roman Empire to Jerusalem and Galilee.

      I’ve seen no one except Christians bring up the straw man of Christianity as a deliberately invented religion. As a legend, however—that’s a different story.

      As for the naysayer hypothesis, I’ve spanked that here.

      • RowdyPiper

        They started in Jerusalem. With Jews. And paid bitterly for it. C’mon, now.

        My point is not to build a straw man. My point is that whether it is true in my interpretation or true in yours…. something happened.

        No other religion has had an effect on every continent like Christianity. Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism are limited to geography, by and large. Judaism is the root but still has not impacted the world as far as sheer numbers like her offshoot has.

        No one who has claimed to be “The Way” has left a human footprint in history and certainly not to the extent Christ has. Some have impacted history by claiming to show “The Way” and some have had negligible impact by claiming be so; but only One has claimed this and changed even our very timeline.

        Yes, I know, it will be said that words were put in Jesus’ mouth by editors who sought to form a religion over the subsequent centuries. I’ll grant that to a very small extent, with the caveat that it was never out of intention or purposed for power or persuasion.

        Even still, no one can deny….put the absurdity of claiming to be the “Son of God”, risen from the dead, in an idol abhoring culture unparalleled in ancient history and one has no choice but come to the conclusion….

        Something happened. Something supernatural. Something absurd and beyond explanation in Scientific terms.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Piper:

          They started in Jerusalem. With Jews. And paid bitterly for it. C’mon, now.

          Or so the stories tell us.

          So you’re going to tell a story to Jews and write it in Greek? Yes, I understand that there are Greek-speaking Jews, but the inner circle of Jesus was Aramaic speaking.

          My point is that whether it is true in my interpretation or true in yours…. something happened.

          Expand on that. Did “something happen” with Mohammed? With Buddha? With Hercules? With any supernatural person whose story is set in real places that we can point to today? What is your criteria for winnowing out the nonsense from reality?

          No other religion has had an effect on every continent like Christianity.

          So what? Is your point that the #1 religion must be true?

          it will be said that words were put in Jesus’ mouth by editors who sought to form a religion over the subsequent centuries.

          And when you remember the vast number of Christian writings that didn’t make it into the canon and the huge time span from autographs to our earliest manuscripts, you can appreciate that there was a lot of room for hanky panky with the story.

          I’ll grant that to a very small extent, with the caveat that it was never out of intention or purposed for power or persuasion.

          I disagree, but forget that for now. You can appreciate that the decades-long oral period can cause an unintentional, agenda-less modification of the story?

          Something happened. Something supernatural. Something absurd and beyond explanation in Scientific terms.

          I can’t conceive of a set of words on paper from thousands of years ago that would convince you that another religion were true and Christianity false. What could they possibly say that would be compelling? What could they say that you wouldn’t have a rebuttal to?

          If you agree that that’s impossible to imagine, you can see my issue with Christianity.

    • Nemo

      I doubt the earliest Christians were interested in a power grab, but you cannot deny that a power grab did eventually take place. Had Europe not been forcibly converted by the Church, I doubt you would be so loyal to the idea of Jesus.
      If you have to change major fundamentals of the religion, then either that religion was never right, or your new one isn’t right.
      The Epistles and Gospels were written well after the fact, when most of those involved would have been dead. Paul at one point claims that 500 people saw the reborn Jesus. But Paul saying that 500 people are saying something would be laughed out of any court. As one Muslim apologetic website put it (I feel dirty for having visited a Muslim website): will the 500 anonymous witnesses please stand up?
      There is ample evidence that the Jewish deity evolved over time, having started out as the war god in the Canaanite pantheon. If Judaism was not divine, then Jesus was not divine. Magic is not necessary to explain someone having vast influence after death. Every nation idolizes their historical leaders. A nation which is required by said leader to expand over the whole Earth would be no exception.

  • MNb

    @Jayman: You haven’t addressed all my objections. Each one of them suffices to defeat the cosmological argument (CA). So you have implicitly admitted that it fails. Now the answers you do provide aren’t that good either; I already gave two examples. First I’ll dwell on one of them.

    “The cosmological argument is a deductive argument.”
    As a teacher math and physics I know what deduction means. As you already wrote yourself

    “You need to point out a flaw in the premise”
    the conclusion of a deduction is just as strong as its assumptions. I attacked several of them, so this remark is superfluous. It even suggests the intellectual dishonesty I described an my first post.
    Math, as Euclides brilliantly has shown first, is only about constructing coherent and consistent logical systems. Change one of his axioms (ie assumption, ie premise, ie presupposition) and you get an entirely different system. Philosophers were a bit slower, but since Descartes we know that the same applies to all deductive logical systems. So if you’re serious about the CA being purely deductive you can’t claim that

    “We’re interested in truth”
    as pure deduction fails to provide it. If you were intellectually honest you would reject the CA for this reason alone. You don’t; you accept its assumptions exactly and only because it seems to confirm the conclusion (god) you desire a priori. Even worse, to make the CA look plausible you bend the rules for yourself and refer to all kind of observations, ie you do use induction, but want to prevent me from doing so.

    A) “And what about people who come to believe in God through such arguments? Why do atheists routinely need to smear those they disagree with?”
    B) “Your personal incredulity.”
    C) “A simple everyday example …”
    D) “God’s love is expressed through actions.”
    Correct or not, these are observations. So the question is: why do you want to deny me the option of using observations? Obviously, intellectual dishonesty. As I got interested in the thought world of believers already five years ago I’m not surprised. You’re not the first one who wants it two ways to your advantage.
    Btw B) is an ad hominem as long as you don’t show how my objections are nothing but incredulity ánd are personal. It shows your intellectual dishonesty again – you have the hidden desire not to take me seriously.

    1. Either you admit that the cosmological argument can’t prove anything by removing all your observations and allowing atheists to simply reject one or more premises (eg causality).
    2. Or you allow me as well to use induction, ie arguments derived from observations. Let me assume the latter. Then you enter the realm of science; not surprising, as cosmology is a field intensively studied by those physicists who call themselves cosmologists. Sean Carroll is a prime example.

    Ad A) I already addressed the second half. As for the first half the answer is simple: their arguments are wrong and even contradicting modern science. Edward Feser is a good example with his “analysis” of the arm, the branch and the tree. You are an example too as I’ll show next:
    Ad C) A simple everyday example suffices to illustrate how a theory works; it doesn’t say anything about the validity of this theory. This is called the problem of induction by simple enumeration. I can give you a simple everyday example that illustrates that the Earth is flat. When riding my bike to school and calculating the average speed I assume a flat Earth and get highly accurate results. Still you would laugh at me when I stated that the Earth is flat indeed. In the same way I laugh at your icecream example and Feser’s arm, branch, tree analysis.
    You’ll have to show that your model of act and potency is valid for at least all the empirical data correctly described by modern natural science and preferably more. Preferably you also have to derive some testable predictions from your model. I’m waiting, but not holding my breath.
    Ad D) The same applies to this. Show me which actions, show me how they are the expression of god’s love and show me how this describes the well known data better than atheism does. Show me how these actions are meaningful in the first place and how a bodiless spirit is capable of performing those actions.

    “Where we seem to differ is that you think a causal model implies determinism.”
    No, where we differ is that you need causality to make the CA work. I have shown that probability is far more likely, which should urge a honest thinker to reject the CA. That doesn’t imply abandoning faith; my female counterpart doesn’t care at all about it. She is Kierkegaardian, even if she has never heard of him.

    “essentially-ordered causal series”
    Typically apologetics = bringing up cheap excuses. You “solve” one problem just by attaching another. First define what essentially-ordered means. Then, because of the scientific method, show how it describes/explains what we observe in our material reality at least as successfull as modern physics. If you can’t I’ll just shrug it off as another highly limited concept made up for the purpose of proving what you already believed in the first place.

    “If …. there would be some way of telling them apart”
    Intellectual dishonesty again. This is about metaphysics, in which there is by definition no way to find out if one coherent and consistent logical system or another is to be preferred. So if we want to find out we have to turn to observations again and see how they match. Guess what? We perfectly can tell all the natural constants apart. Polytheism, ie many first causes, stands as firm as monotheism, if you want to follow this line of thought.

    “some similarities”
    They are not just similar, they are closely connected. Without at least one cosmological creator there can’t be fine-tuning. At the other hand someone accepting the CA has to explain how that creator or those creators fine-tuned the natural constants or the very act of creating becomes empty. I just apply your own philosophy of act and potence here.

    “I didn’t claim …”
    No. But I argued that your argument made a) polytheism more likely and b) if monotheism, that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is the most likely. Must we assume that you’ll reconvert to pastafarianism pretty soon? Or become a hindu?

    “It isn’t intended to do that.”
    So it lacks predictive power, while atheism doesn’t. It can predict that science will show up with some materialistic explanation. So can pastafarianism btw.

    “Premise 2 begs the question.”
    Nope. It’s a testable statement. Just give me one common theory of the natural sciences (as we are discussing cosmology) from one book or one scientific magazine that includes some supernatural entity interacting with our universe. If you can’t your Thomist premise 2 is flawed.

    “Your whole reasoning process here is wrong-headed.”
    Your whole reasoning is ambiguous and self-contradictive because you only accept observations which suit you and want to ignore those which don’t.
    Thanks for the nice conversation; I have nothing to add and strongly dislike repeating myself. I don’t foster the illusion that I can convince you. Neither am I interested in “winning” debates, only laying out my points. I just did.
    One final note: as a Dutchman my philosophy of science is thoroughly continental and thus my understanding of ideas like truth, proof and evidence (the latter are both translated as “bewijs” in Dutch) might slightly differ from yours, if you’re American or something.
    Bye, till the next time.

  • Niemand

    Beyond a superficial summary, we simply can’t explain abolition without Wilberforce or the history of physics without Einstein.

    While I agree with your overall point, I think you’ve underestimated people’s ability to erase certain figures from history. For example, there was a biologist active in the early to mid20th century named Ernest Everett Just. He made a lot of very substantial discoveries about cell cytoplasm and how it works. Yet his name doesn’t come up much in biology classes, unlike, say that of Watson and Crick. Instead, sentences like, “It was discovered that environmental factors X, Y, and Z affected fertilization” rather than “EE Just discovered that X, Y, and Z affected fertilization” appear in biology texts. Why? Well, probably two reasons. First, he was black. Second, he was a cytoplasm biologist in the first age of the gene. Epigenetics wasn’t a buzz word yet and everyone thought his work was boring, even though his work was at least as sound and revolutionary as Watson and Crick’s.

    And speaking of Watson and Crick, who exactly did the x-ray crystallography that allowed them to refine and ultimately prove their model of DNA? Oh, just someone or another. No one important.

    So while I agree that god is completely unnecessary for the universe to form and be maintained and that trying to understand the beginning of the universe and the extremes of physics is far more fascinating if one doesn’t start invoking a god of the gaps, I don’t think that the ability or inability of people to explain same without invoking god is, in and of itself, proof of a lack of god.

    Or maybe I’m just using this as an excuse to rant about sexism and racism in science.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

      Semmelweis in germ theory and Mendel in genetics are also people who
      didn’t have much of an impact in history because their work was ignored, but they did have priority.


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