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“God Did It” Explains Everything … or Maybe Not

Apologist Greg Koukl is the gift that keeps on giving. In his “Is Consciousness an Illusion?” podcast, he talked about Daniel Dennett’s 2006 book Breaking the Spell.

Let me first seize the opportunity to agree with something. Koukl says, “Reality is the kind of thing … that will injure you if you don’t take it seriously.” It’s good to see us sharing the goal of seeing reality clearly.

Unanswered questions within science

But we don’t agree on everything. Koukl said:

[Dennett has] made a claim in this book about something that is very, very difficult for a materialist to deal with that makes sense completely within a Christian worldview.

The “something” is consciousness. So Koukl says that the scientist has a tough time explaining consciousness, but it’s easy for the Christian.

While it’s true that science has much to discover about consciousness and how it works, I don’t see anything in particular that ought to keep the naturalist up at night. Science has an unanswered question—big deal. Science has lots of unanswered questions. It also has a marvelous track record for answering them.

But what trips me up here is the idea that the Christian worldview adds to the discussion. How does God explain anything?

Let me make clear that I can never prove that God didn’t do something. For example, let’s consider a few claims about God by Pat Robertson. He said that God is “lifting His protection from this nation” to allow terrorist attacks (2001). And that Hurricane Katrina might be God’s doing (2005). And that the people of Haiti made a pact with the devil, in response to which God allowed the earthquake that killed 300,000 (2010). These are assertions without evidence (and, in the case of Haiti in particular, of much contrary evidence), but I can’t prove that “God did it” is false.

The uselessness of the Christian’s ultimate explanation

The fact is, “God did it” can explain everything. As a result, it explains nothing.

“God did it” is simply a repackaging of “I don’t know.” It tells us nothing new. I’m no smarter after hearing “God did it” than before. It tamps down one set of questions, but others pop up: Who is God and how does he act in the world? Is he one of the thousands of gods that humans have already formed religions around or someone new? Why did God do what he did? What natural laws did God use to do it, and what laws did he suspend? How can we communicate with him? And, most importantly: how do we know that there was a supernatural cause and not a natural one?

The Christian must ask: What would falsify my position? If it’s unattainable or if you’ve so protected your belief that nothing could perturb it, you’ve left the domain of evidence. When your God belief is supported no matter what happens, be honest with yourself and admit that you just believe and drop the pretense that you’re following evidence or being scientific.

Contrast that with this observation from Marvin Minksy:

As scientists, we like to make our theories as delicate and fragile as possible. We like to arrange things so that if the slightest thing goes wrong, everything will collapse at once!

Not all claims are equal

Think about the size of various claims. The claim “1 + 1 = 2” is not controversial. The claim “I had a sandwich for lunch” is unsurprising, and thorough evidence could be provided to back it up. But the claim “There is a being that created the universe” is without scientific precedent—that is, science knows of no supernatural anything, let alone a being that could create the universe. I can think of no bolder claim than “God did it.” It’s baffling to me how apologists can toss out that immense claim and simply let it hang there, supported by nothing more than wishful thinking and tradition.

“God did it” doesn’t do it. It satisfies only those who want their preconceptions affirmed.

But let me take a step back for a moment. I’m treating this claim with the dignity due those that make testable pronouncements about reality. Perhaps that’s my mistake—if it’s simply a theological claim divorced from reality, fine. In that case, it’s a claim to be taken simply on faith, with no pretense of evidence or verifiability, and I have no use for it.

Supernatural vs. natural explanations

Let me end with a song, “Tell Me Why” by Pat Benatar*, which nicely makes the “God did it” claim.

Tell me why the stars do shine,
Tell me why the ivy twines,
Tell me what makes skies so blue,
And I’ll tell you why I love you.

(refrain)
Because God made the ivy twine.
Because God made the stars to shine.
Because God made the sky so blue.
Because God made you, that’s why I love you.

This Christian explanation is poetic, but for those of us who prefer to actually understand the world, Isaac Asimov has a new and improved refrain:

Nuclear fusion makes stars to shine,
Tropisms make the ivy twine,
Rayleigh scattering make skies so blue,
Testicular hormones are why I love you.

I’ll stick with the discipline with the track record for explaining reality.

The man who prays
is the one who thinks that god has arranged matters all wrong,
but who also thinks
that he can instruct god how to put them right.
― Christopher Hitchens

(This is a modified version of a post that originally appeared 12/28/11.)

Photo credit: Wikipedia

*Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, EMI Music Publishing.

About Bob Seidensticker
  • ElderMusician

    As usual, Bob, your writing is specific and goal oriented. It’s always a pleasure to read your arguments, and I walk away feeling I’ve learned something new. g

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

      Thanks, Gene!

      • avalon

        “I’m no smarter after hearing “God did it” than before. It tamps down one set of questions, but others pop up: Who is God and how does he act in the world?…”

        The typical apologist answer to these questions is, “It’s a mystery!”. In the field of science, a mystery is something where a great many people are working to find answers. They dedicate their lives to the task; coming up with theories, proposing experiments, building equipment to test those theories, etc… But in theology, a mystery is an awe-inspiring wonder, a fragile thing of beauty. It would be a sad thing to actually solve the mystery because then there’d be one less awe-inspiring wonder in the world and the theist’s life would be a little less magical as a result.
        There’s actually a great deal of good information about consciousness available to those who are interested. But theists aren’t interested in solving mysteries, they wish to maintain them.

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

          What bugs me is the Christian saying, “Oh yeah? Well what about [insert unanswered scientific question here]?? Answer that, smart guy.” And when, 20 years later, that question is well understood, Mr. Christian is off worrying some other issue at the frontier of science, not even aware of the shallowness of his thinking.

        • avalon

          That’s IF Mr. Christian accepts the answers of science. Young Earthers still deny geology and a great many Christians still deny evolution. (btw, evolution is not a theory, it’s fact. the theory is natural selection caused evolution).
          These are fairly simple concepts compared to consciousness, so I don’t have much hope for Christians to be interested enough to actually take the time to understand it.

  • Kodie

    http://i.imgur.com/87J5h2g.jpg toothpastefordinner.com

  • Nemo

    I…. have nothing to add to this. Very well said.

  • lunaticus

    It seems to me now, several years removed from finding myself and atheist, and a decade and a half since I was an ardent Christian, that your point is a centrally important reason to doubt all theistic religions: everything that God apparently does in this universe, from creating it, to guiding evolution, to answering prayers, to guiding history, to performing miracles, he apparently and strangely does in ways that are always fully consistent with him not having done them at all.

    Christianity has followed the pattern of pretty much every religion that had its birth during historical time: while in it’s youth, it made bold claims about reality and people’s lives – testable claims about the coming end of the world, healing, miracles, prophecy, etc. – and then slowly backed off, obfuscated, and eventually reinterpreted its entire theology in such a way that now, the more sophisticated and educated a Christian philospher, theologian, or apologist is, the less likely they are to make any falsifiable claim about the religion they propose. You’d think that the more expert a person became in a field, and the more mature the field itself became, the *more* one would be able to make profound and yet fragile predictions about the world.

    A few other fields of inquiry come to mind that once made bold predictions, but now have retreated into consistent-with-anything vagary, and the association is not kind to theism.

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

      In a logical world, you’d think that the clear declarations of the End in the lifetimes of the hearers would’ve been enough. When that failed, people would walk away. It’s amazing how self-healing beliefs can be.

  • KarlUdy

    Even if the mechanics of consciousness were fully explained by science, it would still be a pointer to the supernatural. Our consciousness is our own directly experienced evidence that it is possible to transcend the pure physical.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      A disembodied consciousness would do that. We do not have, and have never seen, any disembodied consciousness. You haven’t transcended anything.

      • KarlUdy

        Do thoughts exist?

        • GubbaBumpkin

          Do waves exist?

        • KarlUdy

          Are thoughts and waves the same sort of thing, or different?

        • Itarion

          Thoughts=brainwaves.
          Every thought you have ever had is measurable using the proper methodology and instruments.

        • KarlUdy

          Itarion, I have a Philosopher’s Stone you may want to buy

        • Itarion

          Alchemy is a discredited science, so I definitely don’t.

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

      We experience non-physical things all the time–courage, anxiety, frustration. These things don’t have mass. They’re abstract.

      But from these, we don’t conclude that the supernatural exists.

      • KarlUdy

        In a universe that consists solely of matter-energy, how do you propose the existence of the abstract? If it does exist, then surely it follows that that things that are not simply matter-energy exist

        • Kodie

          Ooooo! Checkmate, Bob!

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

          surely it follows that that things that are not simply matter-energy exist

          Like ideas and abstract concepts. Yes, they exist.

        • Itarion

          Courage, anxiety and frustration, as experienced by humans, are actually an experience of hormones produced into response to stimuli. And, as hormones – chemicals – are measurable and have mass (are mattergy).

          Abstract ideas do exist, though – peace, freedom. Language. Mathematics. Legends and histories, fabricated or real.

          KarlUdy, the point is that abstract nonenergy concepts are not automatically supernatural.

        • KarlUdy

          Itarion,
          Ah, but they are certainly extra-natural, and thus unable to be explained by science.

        • Itarion

          Explain.

    • smrnda

      I’m not sure why it would be a pointer to the supernatural. If I showed a primitive human a computer, they might think it was supernatural just because the explanation of how it works requires knowledge they don’t have – they wouldn’t look inside and see ‘mother board, power supply, hard drive’ – they’d just see things that look inert, while the computer seems to be behaving in a way that seems almost alive.

      In the sense that our consciousness allows us to ‘transcend’ (not a word I use if I can avoid it) the purely physical; if I take that to mean “we can think up things that are not in our immediate physical environment” – our thoughts are still based on the activity of the physical brain, we just don’t have the best understanding of it at present, but we are getting better thanks to new techniques that allow us to examine the brain in action.

      In the ‘do thoughts exist’ I’d say they exist because they are an emergent property of a real, physical system.

  • busterggi

    Goddidit explains everyting except how, why and which god.

    • Itarion

      By causing it.
      Do not question His Way.
      There is only one God.
      respectively.
      Am i far off?

  • GubbaBumpkin

    The apologetic line insists there is a distinction between how and why questions. Well ‘God did it’ answers neither, it is a response to who. But consistently we find that if they could tell us how God did it, we could discard the who.

  • Y. A. Warren

    I LOVE your poetry.

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

      Do you mean the quotes at the end?

      Whatever it is, I’m glad you like it!

      • Y. A. Warren

        I love the parody of “Tell Me Why”.

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

          Ah–of course. Sorry I missed it the first time. Yes, Asimov is pretty clever.

  • MisterTwo

    When I was seriously trying to accept the 6-day creation, I would not just say “god did it”, but worse, would come up with a hypothesis and say “god COULD have done it this way.”

    I never tried to prove the hypothesis, because if god can do anything, then all I needed to “justify” my belief was one possible way I thought he could accomplish it. In that case it was “god could have created an ancient universe and started the clock 6000 years ago.” Most Christian apologists create hypotheticals that the solar system can’t possibly be more than 6000 years old, while allowing the creation of “light in transit” to explain why we can see stars that are beyond 6000 light years away, never seeing the inconsistency. I knew better, so I had to come up with my own “maybe he did it this way” that allowed me to ignore the facts.

    Not sure why I bothered to explain that, but maybe it is something that needs to be added to our knowledge of the way the believer thinks. That kind of thinking allowed me to remain a believer into my 50s, even though my ideas were at odds with those of most fundamentalists.

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

      I recently wrote a post in which I try to confront that problem.

  • Brian P.

    The other day, helping my HS freshman daughter with homework, I was trying to help her get out the formation of the earth related to plate tectonics and continental drift and things like that. She’s often a B / C student. I asked her why the plates move. She had a God-did-it answer. My reply? “That explains everything and nothing.” I don’t think she’s ever understood how the earth was formed. In fact, I wonder if she actually has intrinsically a static understanding of the universe. I need to inquire more helping with more homework. I’ve read a few of Dennett’s books. I don’t think I’ll be engaging this child on Dennett’s content, especially about consciousness. She has more practical matters about her grades.

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

      Good luck with that. Does she not live with you all the time? Finding the balance between her views and your own sounds tricky.

  • Grant Feltis

    Great post. I especially liked the topic of “God did it” as trying to understand that answer is what sparked my own realization that there could be no God because otherwise God would do everything. After all if there is a being of such force that they can do things as purposely arrange an earthquake to cause mass damage across Haiti, why leave it up to the life on the planet to reproduce? Why not simply create more of everything from nothing? Some theists I know suggest God simply decided to leave things alone after a certain point, which sounds like we are simply subjects in some test and would invalidate any reason to pay attention to this supposed being.

    I still thought on the “mysterious” nature of life though and couldn’t immediately reconcile an absence of God with reality. Once I researched what science had actually discovered though it quickly became obvious that anyone actually looking for the answers, instead of listening to others who had never searched at all, would find, as I did, that the only way God Did It could ever be an acceptable answer is to live in complete and utter ignorance of what the universe is actually capable of on its own.

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

      And “God did it” is such a shallow claim. You want wonder? Look at reality through science.

    • SaraiEnRose

      “God did it” is simply an excuse no matter if you are Christian or not…good, we know god did it, but what can we take from that? Why? Can we learn from it? And that is right, God created everything NOW. So, even if you are Christian, obviously God did it…everything was not created from nothing, everything allowed for nothing. Everything already exists right now…all versions of you…the different frames we experience as movement and time…your beliefs that you hold will determine which frames you go to…when you believe something you don’t see it as a belief, but as the truth…this is why people argue…they both think they are trying to convince the other of the truth…both of them are true, they don’t allow for that to be possible…everything is fundamentally neutral but our beliefs dictate how we take what we receive…most people don’t even appreciate uncertainty that they are given by life because they cannot find certainty within themselves…I do know that God exists, however I have no reason to argue that with you because I realize we just have different definitions for what the definition of “God” is…your definition includes an idea of it not existing and so I accept your idea, because that which does not exist, does not exist. If I defined a “screwdriver” as an old man that stands in the clouds that is not real, when I come to you and say “screwdrivers” are not real, you are happy to say, indeed they arn’t…even if you use a screwdriver at work, you know my meaning because I am a friend, we will say…I would allow you to believe whatever you liked, have you considered the ramifications of beliefs? If we believe we must do a thing, we must!

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

        I do know that God exists, however I have no reason to argue that with you because I realize we just have different definitions for what the definition of “God” is…your definition includes an idea of it not existing

        A god that doesn’t exist? Sure, there are lots of them. That’s not part of my definition of the Christian god, however.

        Are you a Christian? Do you have evidence for your supernatural beliefs that you’d like to share?

        • SaraiEnRose

          I am not sure that I would properly be defined as “Christian” but again, neither would most Christians. Religion is just a set of beliefs…in reality, there are as many religions as there are people…you are asking me if I have evidence to support MY beliefs? Do you? I am free to choose my beliefs just like everyone else and because they are in no way based on your beliefs…you need not provide evidence for your beliefs…also, no belief is supernatural…what the hell does that even mean? Can you please explain to me what exists that is not “natural”?

        • SaraiEnRose

          You believe that the Christian God exists is what you have indicated, btw.

        • SaraiEnRose

          You need not hold the same beliefs as me I guess is what I am saying…it sounds like you want me to give you evidence for my beliefs so that you can accept them as your own…fuck off! Is my answer to that…make your own beliefs.

        • SaraiEnRose

          I did not mean that “fuck off!” in a hostile way. :) haha

        • SaraiEnRose

          What is this supposed to mean:
          A god that doesn’t exist? Sure, there are lots of them.

          Things that do not exist, do not exist.

        • SaraiEnRose

          I kinda wish I could rephrase my responses so that they do not come off as so hostile, because that is not my intention at all…I guess I just got wrapped in the “passion” of the moment…haha…I only take actions that feel good to take, so that sometimes happens. :)

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

          I am not sure that I would properly be defined as “Christian” but again, neither would most Christians.

          In your mind, perhaps. In their mind, I’m sure that most Christians think of themselves as Christian.

          you are asking me if I have evidence to support MY beliefs? Do you?

          Aren’t you making the claims here? If so, I invite you to show the evidence, if any, that supports them.

          I am free to choose my beliefs just like everyone else

          Well … I agree with the freedom part, but I disagree that beliefs are choosable. I can’t choose to believe that leprechauns exist. When someone provides strong evidence, then I have no choice.

          no belief is supernatural…what the hell does that even mean?

          ?? Beliefs are natural. The supernatural is not natural.

          Can you please explain to me what exists that is not “natural”?

          Are you puzzled about the definition of the word “supernatural”? The dictionary helps.

        • SaraiEnRose

          From bottom to top. :) Yes, that was exactly the issue, as such a thing seems nonsensicle. However, it appears we are using the word “Supernatural” to mean “Unexplained.” per the dictionary here….I’m not sure why we don’t just use unexplained, but whichever is fine by me.
          Why do you think that the “unexplained” is not natural? it seems as though it naturally occured to me…
          Why do you think that you are not free to choose your beliefs? they are just beliefs…Of course you are free to think yourself unable to do a thing…as you wish, but that seems like a rather limiting belief that you hold…you see how that too, is just a belief?
          Yes, I am making the claim but I am not asking that you accept it. Why do you need evidence? Why do you want evidence?
          Yes…they all call themselves Christians and then argue amongst themselves because in reality they have differing beliefs…I try to be more precise than that. Enjoy!

        • SaraiEnRose

          Oh, I guess you want me to give evidence of God…I was trying to figure out what evidence you were ever asking for…haha…well, really…I will say this…a lot of the “scientific” folk like to assert that evolution is not intelligent design…but it is….because there is intelligence….because there is intelligence…because there is intelligence…because there is intelligence…has that gotten through?(we are the evidence…if you can’t see the evidence, how can I make you?) because there is intelligence…would you make the assertion that, that which is not intelligent caused that which is intelligent? How does that work? Doesn’t it seem more likely that…I have become bored with this and I am moving on…haha enjoy! You are the winner of this game, my friend! I have changed my beliefs and I now agree that life does not
          exist.

        • SaraiEnRose

          What you want is certainty…but if you had certainty, you would certainly be dead…you need the uncertainty…it is life…it is zest…You should not try and fulfill your need for certainty, by trying to turn the uncertainty into certainty…cause you would certainly be dead…once you can be certain of yourself, and who you are, then you will appreciate the uncertainty that life has to give to you…you will have so much fun it is incredible.

        • SaraiEnRose

          I actually don’t care if you believe in “God” or not…as long as each of your moments is more joyous than the last, that is all that matters.

        • SaraiEnRose

          Your Science actually shows these things that I am saying as well….soon enough Science and Religion will merge…what are your thoughts on the discovery that the observer influences the result of the experiment? How scientific…haha

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

          I have no idea what you’re talking about.

          Sure, I want certainty, but I humans know nothing for certainso I’ll settle for our best guess. It works in science, so it’ll work for me.

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

          evolution is not intelligent design…but it is….because there is intelligence

          There is intelligence driving evolution? I’ve seen none. Show me.

          ….because there is intelligence…because there is intelligence…because there is intelligence…has that gotten through?

          Nope.

          would you make the assertion that, that which is not intelligent caused that which is intelligent?

          Yes.

          How does that work?

          If you actually want to know, read a textbook on evolution.

          I have become bored with this and I am moving on

          There is a god!

        • SaraiEnRose

          evolution is not intelligent design…but it is….because there is intelligence

          There is intelligence driving evolution? I’ve seen none. Show me.
          You…and we are still evolving.

          ….because there is intelligence…because there is intelligence…because there is intelligence…has that gotten through?

          Nope.
          Good. :)

          would you make the assertion that, that which is not intelligent caused that which is intelligent?

          Yes.
          This would seem to conflict with your previous assertion with regard to evolution…It seems as though the problem is you are(from my perspective.) overlooking things, or taking things for granted. I don’t see how non intelligence causes intelligence…I don’t deny evolution…or science…and I don’t have quacky “religous” beliefs…I am more a “scientist” than I am a “reglion fanatic” but I can just see that the two are the same, but there are misunderstandings on both sides so as to cause conflict…science has relatively recently observed that the observer has an affect on the experiment and so I am fairly sure that the two will merge soon.

          How does that work?
          If you actually want to know, read a textbook on evolution.
          I have read them. (Not all, but more than one. :)

          I have become bored with this and I am moving on
          There is a god!
          That last part made me laugh…haha…there IS hope for you godless savages, yet! :)

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

          This would seem to conflict with your previous assertion with regard to evolution

          I missed that conflict.

          I don’t see how non intelligence causes intelligence

          So therefore the people who actually understand the evidence (the biologists) must be wrong? I suppose since you don’t understand quantum physics as well, physicists must be wrong, too.

          I have read them.

          Cool. I suggest those textbooks as a source for your questions about evolution. They’ll do a better job than I will.

        • SaraiEnRose

          This would seem to conflict with your previous assertion with regard to evolution

          I missed that conflict.

          I’m certain you did.

          I don’t see how non intelligence causes intelligence

          So therefore the people who actually understand the evidence (the
          biologists) must be wrong? I suppose since you don’t understand quantum
          physics as well, physicists must be wrong, too.

          This was not meant to be a statement, so much as a question as to how something so silly sounding could be…I was asking for more info on that one…so, no…I am not indicating that anyone is wrong, so much so that I am indicating I do not understand how that could ever be the case…not making sense and all…. Are you a biologist? Because if Biologists are the only ones who understand the evidence, I am curious as to how you understand it? We will have to assume you are a biologist. Nobody understands the evidence because there is none…non-intelligence doesn’t even exist…everything is energy…the “matter” that you are thinking of as non-intelligence is largely an illusion of our senses…slower vibration. Again I have made no indication that anyone is wrong, but I do understand quantum physics and I do not believe that physicists are wrong. Wow…awesome!!…Do you believe that Physicists are wrong? How could that be?

          I have read them.

          Cool. I suggest those textbooks as a source for your questions about evolution. They’ll do a better job than I will.

          Well, I guess the implication was that those books have already given me the answer to those questions. I am expressing them currently. Have a nice day.

        • SaraiEnRose

          It also sorta seemed like you were under the impression that I deny evolution…almost like it was because your usual debate partner inherently does. :)

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

          Is there a misunderstanding? Correct it then.

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

          (Your comments would be clearer if you’d mark the quoted bits somehow.)

          a question as to how something so silly sounding could be

          Then you can take my earlier reply as an observation that, however silly evolution sounds, quantum physics is far sillier. You don’t seem to be attacking the science in order of silliness but in order of how it offends you—not a very thoughtful way of approaching reality.

          I do not understand how that could ever be the case

          Fair enough. Good for you for making plain your limitations. There are lots of introductory books on evolution, I’m sure. Perhaps the Wikipedia article would be a good place to start.

          if Biologists are the only ones who understand the evidence, I am curious as to how you understand it?

          I’m not a biologist. No, I don’t thoroughly understand it (the basics, yes). That’s why I accept as provisionally correct (just like scientists themselves do) every scientific consensus. I mean, on what grounds could I challenge them??

          Nobody understands the evidence because there is none…

          You both admit your ignorance of evolution and yet state that it has no evidence to support it?

          non-intelligence doesn’t even exist…everything is energy

          And energy is not intelligent.

        • SaraiEnRose

          (Your comments would be clearer if you’d mark the quoted bits somehow.)

          THANKS FOR THE POINTER, SIR! HOPEFULLY NO ONE IS ACTUALLY OFFENDED BY CAPS. :)

          a question as to how something so silly sounding could be

          Then you can take my earlier reply as an observation that, however silly evolution sounds,

          i HAVE IN NO WAY MADE THIS IMPLICATION. EVOLUTION, IS CLEARLY NOT WHAT I AM CALLING SILLY. IT WOULD APPEAR YOU ARE CONFUSED, I THOUGHT I ADDRESSED MY OBSERVATION OF YOU, FOR WHATEVER REASON, ASSUMING I DENY EVOLUTION PREVIOUSLY, BUT YOU MAY HAVE OVERLOOKED IT. I AM NOT SURE WHY YOU CANNOT UNDERSTAND THAT I DO NOT DENY EVOLUTION. WE ARE OBVIOUSLY STILL EVOLVING.

          quantum physics is far sillier. You don’t seem to be attacking the science in order of silliness but in order of how it offends you—not a very thoughtful way of approaching reality.

          HAHA…THIS IS BUT ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF WHAT I STATED PREVIOUSLY! I THINK THIS IS HAPPENING BECAUSE YOU ARE USED TO SPEAKING WITH THE TYPICAL RELIGIOUS FANATIC. PLEASE STOP MAKING THESE OFF THE WALL ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT ME. IT IS PREPOSTEROUS TO PRESUME I AM OFFENDED BY SCIENCE. SCIENCE HAS GIVEN ME AT LEAST AN EXTRA TEN YEARS WITH MY MOTHER. I LOVE THE SHIT OUT OF SCIENCE, IT IS AWESOME AND I HAVE WON AT LEAST 1 SCIENCE FAIR PROJECT IN SCHOOL! :) I AM PRETTY MUCH A NERD AND YOU ARE TELLING ME THAT i AM OFFENDED BY SCIENCE…FOR NO REASON? WHAT WAS YOUR EVIDENCE FOR THIS, OUT OF CURIOSITY? HAHA…REALLY, i DONT EVEN CARE TO RESPOND TO WHATEVER FURTHER YOU HAVE TO SAY….I AM NOT SURE HOW I CAN TAKE YOU SERIOUSLY HENCEFORTH. YES, HOW THOUGHTFUL OF ME, INDEED.

          I do not understand how that could ever be the case

          Fair enough. Good for you for making plain your limitations. There are lots of introductory books on evolution, I’m sure. Perhaps the Wikipedia article would be a good place to start.

          AGAIN, NOT TALKING ABOUT EVOLUTION. APPARENTLY YOU HAVE NOT BEEN PAYING ATTENTION TO MOST OF WHAT I SAID…OR SOMETHING, i CANNOT BE SURE BUT…I GUESS IT WORKS FOR YOU, AND…YOU KNOW, YOUR INCOME BRACKET. YEA, PLAIN AS DAY…ITS HARDER TO CORRECT FLAWS THAT ARE HIDDEN…I THINK OF IT AS A BONUS..

          if Biologists are the only ones who understand the evidence, I am curious as to how you understand it?

          I’m not a biologist. No, I don’t thoroughly understand it (the basics, yes). That’s why I accept as provisionally correct (just like scientists themselves do) every scientific consensus. I mean, on what grounds could I challenge them??

          SO, YOU ARE TELLING ME THAT YOU ARE MORE OF WHAT YOU WOULD CALL, “RELIGIOUS” THAN YOU ARE SCIENTIFIC, BUT, YOU JUST CALL YOUR RELIGION, “SCIENCE”? IT SEEMS THAT WAY BECAUSE THESE ARE BELIEFS YOU ARE ACCEPTING(PROBABLY WITH LITTLE ACTUAL EVIDENCE VIEWED ON YOUR PART…HAHA…I COULD BE WRONG.) DO YOU HAVE ANY SORT OF PRIESTS? I GUESS THOSE WOULD BE THE “SCIENTIST” YOU BELIEVE… RELIGION IS A SET OF BELIEFS…THAT IS NOT WHAT SCIENCE ACTUALLY IS…BUT, IF YOU ARE NAMING YOUR RELIGION “SCIENCE” THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT, I SUPPOSE.

          Nobody understands the evidence because there is none…

          You both admit your ignorance of evolution and yet state that it has no evidence to support it?

          NO. IN FACT, I ADMIT MY DEEP APPRECIATION AND UNDERSTANDING OF EVOLUTION. ALSO, THE STATEMENT, “IT HAS NO EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT IT.” IS A RIDICULOUS CHILDISH ONE, WHERE DID YOU EVER COME UP WITH THAT?, IT IS IT’S OWN EVIDENCE…JUST LIKE YOU, DO YOU NEED EVIDENCE TO PROVE YOU EXIST?

          non-intelligence doesn’t even exist…everything is energy

          And energy is not intelligent.

          ENERGY IS NOT INTELLIGENT…WOW…BEST DISCUSSION I HAVE EVER HAD…JUST LIKE CHEWING RAZOR BLADES, HAHA…YOU BASICALLY MADE A BUNCH OF STUFF UP ABOUT ME RATHER THAN ADDRESSING MY POINTS, BUT IF THAT WORKS FOR YOU, I AM GOOD WITH IT…IF GAY IS YOUR WAY, THAT’S OK.(OBVIOUSLY, I AM NOT CALLING YOU ANY MEANING OF THE WORD GAY, SO MUCH AS DISPLAYING MY ACCEPTANCE OF YOU NO MATTER HOW YOU CHOOSE TO BE. :)

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

          I AM NOT SURE WHY YOU CANNOT UNDERSTAND THAT I DO NOT DENY EVOLUTION.

          Doesn’t much clarify what you are objecting to, unfortunately.

          PLEASE STOP MAKING THESE OFF THE WALL ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT ME.

          Please clarify what you’re objecting to.

          I AM NOT SURE HOW I CAN TAKE YOU SERIOUSLY HENCEFORTH.

          Godspeed.

          AGAIN, NOT TALKING ABOUT EVOLUTION.

          I keep hoping that one of these all-caps comments will tell us what you are talking about. No such luck this time…

          SO, YOU ARE TELLING ME THAT YOU ARE MORE OF WHAT YOU WOULD CALL, “RELIGIOUS” THAN YOU ARE SCIENTIFIC, BUT, YOU JUST CALL YOUR RELIGION, “SCIENCE”?

          No.

        • SaraiEnRose

          I AM NOT SURE WHY YOU CANNOT UNDERSTAND THAT I DO NOT DENY EVOLUTION.

          Doesn’t much clarify what you are objecting to, unfortunately.

          *****The assumption was that the information is already here and that you are a competent individual.*****

          PLEASE STOP MAKING THESE OFF THE WALL ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT ME.

          Please clarify what you’re objecting to.

          *******No. At this point I am merely responding to you for fun, as always, and I just don’t feel like it…the information is already available here and it isn’t even like we are having a vocal conversation so that you may reasonably ask me to repeat myself…just scroll back up…or don’t…whatever works for ya.*******

          I AM NOT SURE HOW I CAN TAKE YOU SERIOUSLY HENCEFORTH.

          Godspeed.

          ***********Haha…this made me laugh…and so considerate, too! touche! :) *****************

          AGAIN, NOT TALKING ABOUT EVOLUTION.

          I keep hoping that one of these all-caps comments will tell us what you are talking about. No such luck this time…

          **********Sorry, I had hoped that the all caps would not be construed as yelling or, in fact, anything other than a way to help distinguish my responses. That is why I pointed it out at the very start of my response. Perhaps you may have overlooked that part as well, I can’t be certain..I was attempting to add value for all parties by seizing the opportunity that you pointed out. Thanks again, by the way I have changed to these stars for your convenience…oh yea, to address the other concern…when I start having to repeat myself during a conversation, I tend to lose interest really…because I am able to hold my focus and would prefer to discourse with someone who can do the same….in this case, repetition does not seem necessary beings that it is in print and so asking that I necessarily repeat myself just makes me lose that much more interest in the discourse…seems like the potential for me taking something meaningful away from the exchange is significantly diminished.************

          SO, YOU ARE TELLING ME THAT YOU ARE MORE OF WHAT YOU
          WOULD CALL, “RELIGIOUS” THAN YOU ARE SCIENTIFIC, BUT, YOU JUST CALL YOUR
          RELIGION, “SCIENCE”?

          No.

          ************Well, that is what you said. So, when you say: no…what are you meaning by that one? Are you attempting to say that…I can’t even think of a reasonable thing you might be saying off hand…haha…maybe you can shed some light. Take care!****************

          PS Do you use a single dictionary for all of your words or a mish mash of different dictionaries? Just curious…seems like it would be hard to keep strait if you don’t use just the one.

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

          just scroll back up…or don’t…whatever works for ya.

          OK. I won’t.

          when I start having to repeat myself during a conversation, I tend to lose interest

          Ah, if only that were the case.

          Take care!

          Bye.

        • SaraiEnRose

          just scroll back up…or don’t…whatever works for ya.

          OK. I won’t.

          (Haha…your responses make me smile. :) You must have a proper sense of humor. Fine choice, sir!)

          when I start having to repeat myself during a conversation, I tend to lose interest

          Ah, if only that were the case.

          (Haha…once again, touche, my friend! I suppose you are right as evidenced by my response here.)

          Take care!

          Bye.

          (Thanks for your feedback, take care!)

        • Kodie

          because I am able to hold my focus and would prefer to discourse with someone who can do the same

          You are so funny.

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

          it appears we are using the word “Supernatural” to mean “Unexplained.”

          You could say that seeing through opaque objects was supernatural until x-rays in 1896. Then they became natural.

          Why do you think that you are not free to choose your beliefs?

          Choose “I believe in leprechauns” to show us how it’s done. Sure sounds hard to me.

          Yes, I am making the claim but I am not asking that you accept it. Why do you need evidence?

          Because claims need evidence? Or is this a trick question?

        • Itarion

          Someone who has no beliefs needs no support. Someone with purely secular beliefs needs only secular support (and so has the entirety of the scientific community backing them up).

          Supernatural: beyond the natural order/law. In most instances, a deity is considered supernatural because they both precede and exceed the natural law.

        • SaraiEnRose

          I tend to view everything as natural…because I am not sure how it could be otherwise. The difference in our thinking is a subtle difference. I think that: You believe that consciousness came from matter and I believe that the idea of matter is experienced by consciousness and is thus an effect of consciousness…you believe that matter is the cause of consciousness and I believe that consciousness is the cause of matter. Matter is only being experienced by consciousness…with noone around to experience anything, does it exist? You belief that there is a fixed “truth” that you can align your beliefs with and I believe that their are only beliefs…all are true…we have certain shared beliefs that are more fixed than our personal beliefs…like, fire…hot!

        • SaraiEnRose

          *your *there

        • Itarion

          That is not a subtle difference.
          subtle: fine or delicate in meaning or intent; difficult to perceive or understand.

          Causal inversion is not a subtle difference, it is fundamental. Matter causes thought requires that matter existed prior to thought, which precludes the notion of a god. Thought causes matter requires that thought existed prior to matter, which implies some form of deistic entity.

          The implications of giving all beliefs a truth value 1 (on the binary 1/0 scale, it can be more complex than that, but this will work for now) prevents lies from existing, as – if you look at it from the right angle – everything is true is true. Something like this: http://xkcd.com/1115/. And then the world become unanalyzable because EVERYONE is right. Up to, and including, people who hold mutually contradictory beliefs.

          As a further explanation, this allows for unverifiable claims which contradict each other to both be correct, and allow claims that are contradicted by externalities to be correct. Do things – on the large scale, quantum mechanics is a little odd – cease to exist when they stop being observed by intelligences? When you close the door to a room, does that room literally disappear from existence until you open that door again?

          Allowing everyone their beliefs is all fine and well, and I am for it. However, it makes little sense to allow everyone to also be correct, when they believe things which don’t make sense in and of themselves, and things which are actively contradicted by the external shared world.

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

          When
          you close the door to a room, does that room literally disappear from existence
          until you open that door again?

          And when you close the refrigerator door, does the light go out? Perhaps we’ll never know …

      • Itarion

        “If we believe we must do a thing, we must!”

        I believe I must eat my shorts. Therefore, by the above, I must eat my shorts.

        Just because a believe is firmly held does not make it valid. There are a great many beliefs that have been proven invalid.

        Definitions are not just arbitrary. If they were, we would not be talking, because my words strung together like this would have literally no meaning to you, in much the same way that ancient Egyptian kludged with Cantonese and sprinkled with native Australian dialects mean nothing to anyone except for the person who strung them together.

        • SaraiEnRose

          Why is it the case that we seem to have different definitions for what it means to “believe” a thing? You obviously do not believe that you must eat your shorts…that is the whole reason your example makes sense…but that doesn’t make sense at all…obviously you believe that you do not have to eat your shorts…but you are just saying that you DO believe that…you are lying about your belief because you DO believe that what I have said is wrong, and so it is…for you. I have said nothing that indicates it is not possible to lie. I believe I am a giant batwinged elf. SO I MUST BE ONE!! “Oh, how stupid you are Sarai!…don’t you see you are so stupid!?” but, alas…I don’t believe that at all.

        • SaraiEnRose

          Do you like how deftly I have approached the final segment of your response? Displaying that you and I clearly have different definitions for “believe”…I am pretty much a badass like that. :) You appear to think it doesn’t really have a solid definition and I think that it means to, well…believe.

        • Itarion

          To be fair, though, your statement is ridiculous. There are lots of people who believe things which cannot be so. These people are confined to asylums until such a time as they can prove that their beliefs are true, or no longer hold them.

          We might have different definitions, but I am willing to hear yours, and share mine, such that we might come to a mutual understanding. I have no doubt that both of our definitions will be plastered all across this page before either of us gets the point. It’s happened before. On this page. If you’re incredibly bored, read some of the exchanges between me and JohnH2, then let me know who’s got the thicker skull.

        • SaraiEnRose

          I am a rediculous person…that’s how I do. :)
          I lied. Previously I told you I was going to
          read everything and respond accordingly. I
          had full intentions to respond on a point
          for point basis, but instead after reading through it all
          I just don’t feel the need. You seem like a perfectly
          reasonable man and I do not disagree with
          the things that you have to say. I will
          just leave you with this, there is
          something to the idea of God. I will
          also say, that it is perfectly reasonable
          to not accept the childish ideas that
          the typical religious fanatic has about “God”
          for those folks are also not understanding
          what is meant by “God”…when you come
          across a person who really “gets it” they
          will be extremely fun, happy, and they
          will not talk about God or try and “convert”
          you…they will be too busy pursuing their
          happiness to assume that other people
          are not as able as themselves to do the same. Ultimately
          everyone is right where they need to be and
          nobody needs “saving”.

        • SaraiEnRose

          ridiculous.

        • Itarion

          I have had a personal experience where a friend of mine did, in fact, need saving from a very dangerous situation that was dependent upon information and beliefs, so I will have to disagree with you on that point.

          I’m glad you think I’m a reasonable person, but who said I was a man? (Prior to me, here in this post)

          Just answer me one or two last questions. You’re deist, aren’t you? As in, there’s a God, but none of the formal religions have him.

          Oh, and you can edit your comments inside the comment.

        • SaraiEnRose

          I am happy to answer some questions…I meant to imply “Human” but that seemed too…well, too impersonal so I cut it down to man…I believe in consciousness…I essentially believe that all are one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively…and the statement about the formal religions is not quite precise enough for me….ALL of the formal religions have the information, it is just that they have largely been used as a tool of control rather than what they were intended to be for…so, it is possible for a person of a certain “religion” to understand what is actually meant, but very rare. Just like it is possible for a man of “science” to understand what is meant by religions…but very rare…typically successful people are successful because they get it…they don’t actually have to say they believe in “God” to understand the principles of happiness. People all have “him”…ALL people have “him”, otherwise they would not be conscious at all or exist at all…but they hold beliefs that allow them to think of themselves as less than what they are…Paradox exists..

        • Itarion

          Consciousness is the divine. We are all fragments of God.

          Formal religions are not wrong, exactly, merely imprecise or inaccurate.

          How close are these to your beliefs?

        • SaraiEnRose

          Very close…though classifying all consciousness as the divine takes a little depth away from divine (Dreams are different than the waking state for example.) which is fine for our purposes here.
          Formal religions are largely misunderstood. I know exactly what the words of Jesus mean, for example.

        • Itarion

          And yet, in dreams, too, you are conscious, in that your brain is active and you’re aware of your “surroundings,” that is, the dream environment.

          I shall have to say that very close is close enough for me. Thank you for your thoughts.

        • SaraiEnRose

          I will further clarify…it is too hard for me to discuss these things when you have the belief that you “know” things for certain in that way. I think of “knowing” as “at one with”…so, you can “know” peace…you can “know” love…you can “know” anything that you can be at one with so to speak…anything that you can “feel” I suppose is a way to explain it…but, from my perspective all information based “knowledge” are beliefs…you can “know” you have 80 bucks in the bank…but you don’t actually know that, you believe it…maybe the bank got robbed. I don’t mean to change your beliefs so that we can further discuss that which is not necessary to discuss. :) Take care and enjoy the rest of your day! I have enjoyed our discourses here.

        • Itarion

          No, I see the different meanings. And this is part of the reason that language, as a method for transferring abstract ideas, falls rather short. It is hard to use something to discuss that which you are using for the discussion! Telepathy is often shown as just silent speaking, but I imagine that it would be used to transmit emotion, images, and similar. Rather than trying to describe a sound, just transmit your memory of the sound.

          And yes, I suppose that all knowledge exists as beliefs, but the difference is that – with most knowledge beliefs – there is a verification method. You put the money in the bank. The bank told you they received the money. The government insures that the money will still be there in the instance of a bank theft.

          Thank you very much for the discussion, and if you ever post anything on any more CrossExamined articles, I might just say something.

        • Itarion

          It seems I must apologise. It looked like this post had disappeared, as though you removed it. I couldn’t find it at all. Naturally, I blame something besides myself. (Seriously, though, I could not find it, and apologise for my harsh words in a prior post.)

          A suggestion: respond to my posts, rather than your own, such that I can get a notification that a response has been made.

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

          It looked like this post had disappeared, as though you removed it.

          I don’t remove comments. What you’re seeing is a “feature” of Disqus. If there are lots of comments (enough so that the Load More Comments button at the bottom shows), you may not find your old comments.

          Either (1) just enjoy the mystery that is Disqus or (2) keep clicking on that Load button until all comments are showing. Then you can find your old comments by searching.

        • Itarion

          They can be edited away, though, by the poster. Which is what I had thought when I couldn’t locate the comment.

          By the way, how are you indenting when you quote? I can’t figure how you are accomplishing this feat.

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

          Put [blockquote] in the front and [/blockquote] in the back. But use angle brackets (less than, greater than) instead of square brackets.

          Also, you can use [i] and [/i] for italics. (There are more, but those are the ones I use.)

          Because you can edit, you can go back and fix something if you mess up (which I do frequently).

        • SaraiEnRose

          What things do you ACTUALLY believe you must do? Mine, are: Breathing, Eating, and things of this nature.

        • Itarion

          The previous comment, which I received as an email notification and was later edited into oblivion, is one that I find more interesting. I have it recreated it here:

          “SaraiEnRoseWhy is it the case that we seem to have different definitions for what it means to “believe” a thing? You obviously do not believe that you must eat your shorts…that is the whole reason your example makes sense…but that doesn’t make sense at all…obviously you believe that you do not have to eat your shorts…but you are just saying that you DO believe that…you are lying about your belief because you DO believe that what I have said is wrong, and so it is…for you. I have said nothing that indicates it is not possible to lie. I believe I am a giant batwinged elf. SO I MUST BE ONE!! “Oh, how stupid you are Sarai!…don’t you see you are so stupid!?” but, alas…I don’t believe that at all.”

          We have different definitions for “belief” because we read different dictionaries. Also, I have found that while the definition of a word, its literal meaning, is set and unchanging and can be replaced with a number of synonyms that literally mean the same thing, the connotation, the emotional charge, the feeling and the flavor of even the closest synonyms changes. In the same manner, the definition (denotation) of a word is the same for every person, but the connotation, the flavor, of a word can vary from person to person. The reason that we have different meanings for words is not because each word literally means something different, but because it evokes a different set of emotions in each person who hears it.

          I said something that I don’t believe to make a point: believing that something must be done does not mean that the believer does or has to do it. And again, I am “lying” about my “belief” for comedic effect to make a point: Belief in the necessity of an action does not translate directly into action.

          The beliefs you mentioned – eating, breathing, etc. – are all actions that you have seen evidence for the necessity of. There is, or so I have been told, a difference between believing and knowing. In religious terms, beliefs are held with faith, in the absence of evidence. You don’t believe you have to eat and breath, you know it. The necessity of eating and breathing is something that you have almost certainly felt firsthand: if you hold your breath, or don’t eat, pain and weakness quickly follows. Evidence of something precludes it from being a belief, and so you cannot believe something for which you have had proof. I contend that it is foolish to believe something for which there is no evidence, so I literally have no beliefs in the religious sense defined above.

          As for “screwdriver” (I didn’t address it before, but will now): an old man who is not real, and who stands in the clouds. Umm… what? Why not just use the term illusant? The word you use doesn’t matter if the definition is meaningless, and redefining a extant word as an imaginary thing for the express purpose of declaring it imaginary is just as pointless. When I say, “I don’t believe in God,” I’m not creating a new word which means “An imaginary entity which, if it existed, would be in all ways exactly like your God.” I’m literally saying “There is no existing definition of god for which I have a positive belief count.” My disbelief in godfigures is my own, and you have no right do define it – my disbelief – away into something meaningless.

        • SaraiEnRose

          We have different definitions for “belief” because we read different dictionaries. Also, I have found that while the definition of a word, its literal meaning, is set and unchanging and can be replaced with a number of synonyms that literally mean the same thing, the connotation, the emotional charge, the feeling and the flavor of even the closest synonyms changes. In the same manner, the definition (denotation) of a word is the same for every person, but the connotation, the flavor, of a word can vary from person to person. The reason that we have different meanings for words is not because each word literally means something different, but because it evokes a different set of emotions in each person who hears it.

          I said something that I don’t believe to make a point: believing that something must be done does not mean that the believer does or has to do it. And again, I am “lying” about my “belief” for comedic effect to make a point: Belief in the necessity of an action does not translate directly into action.

          I understand that, but you can’t make your point by using an example of something that you “don’t” believe in and simply saying it is something that you “do” believe in…that actually proves my point, not yours. If you do not take an action, it can only be because you believe it is not necessary…would you choose not to breath?

          The beliefs you mentioned – eating, breathing, etc. – are all actions that you have seen evidence for the necessity of. There is, or so I have been told, a difference between believing and knowing. In religious terms, beliefs are held with faith, in the absence of evidence. You don’t believe you have to eat and breath, you know it. The necessity of eating and breathing is something that you have almost certainly felt firsthand: if you hold your breath, or don’t eat, pain and weakness quickly follows. Evidence of something precludes it from being a belief, and so you cannot believe something for which you have had proof. I contend that it is foolish to believe something for which there is no evidence, so I literally have no beliefs in the religious sense defined above.

          What do you mean “in the religious” sense? We have established that religion is just a set of beliefs…how are you separating “religious” beliefs and “beliefs” if religion is a set of beliefs? What do you believe will happen if you do not breath? It seems you are confused because you separate beliefs and religious beliefs…but, your idea of religious beliefs is something that you haven’t really defined…perhaps you think the “religious” connotation means not real…I’m not quite sure…religion is a set of beliefs, nothing more….when you consider that religion is just a set of beliefs, what implications does that have with regard to the first amendment?

          As for “screwdriver” (I didn’t address it before, but will now): an old man who is not real, and who stands in the clouds. Umm… what? Why not just use the term illusant? The word you use doesn’t matter if the definition is meaningless, and redefining a extant word as an imaginary thing for the express purpose of declaring it imaginary is just as pointless. When I say, “I don’t believe in God,” I’m not creating a new word which means “An imaginary entity which, if it existed, would be in all ways exactly like your God.” I’m literally saying “There is no existing definition of god for which I have a positive belief count.” My disbelief in godfigures is my own, and you have no right do define it – my disbelief – away into something meaningless.

          I know, valid ideas. My point was to convey the idea, that it is not so much that you do not believe that God is real as it is the case that you do not understand what is meant by God. Obviously you cannot have a positive belief count for an existing definition of that which cannot be defined…the closest that you could get is “all that is” we already know that, “all that is” includes consciousness…are you saying that you do not believe in “all that is”?

        • SaraiEnRose

          AH! I think I get it now…you think of a belief as “knowing” I am so glad I noticed this! Yes, I said it earlier…you do not think of your beliefs as “beliefs” you think of them as the truth!! So, what I am calling a “belief” you are calling “knowing” haha

        • SaraiEnRose

          I have realized that the rift between “science” folk and “religious” folk is largely one of communication…it is important to note, that everyone has faith…doubt is just faith that the worst will happen…what they call “faith” is just faith that the best will happen…actually, if you look into Napoleon Hill and his principles of success, not only will it make you a better person professionally and in all ways but it will help you to understand what is actually meant by the “religious” books…it will be a good place for a man of science to go to, to see what is beyond him…because, it is scientific and you can see results…it is based on the most successful businessmen of the day…but, these same principles line up with what the religious man is supposed to know, but typically doesn’t…I can understand your disbelief in the non-sense that the typically “religious” person spews…

        • Itarion

          The rift from communication is the most visible, certainly, but it comes from a deeper difference, the vastly different views sciencey and religious folks have. I can’t quite put my finger on the difference, but I know that it is there and can sometimes tell when I am talking with a deeply religious person. It has nothing to do with the assertions of a higher power, though those are good hints, and more to do with understanding. Deeply religious people have a different way of trying to understand the world than does everyone else.

          Self empowerment and the power of the mind to effect changes on itself is by no means new information to me, and really is a concept that I hold near to my cortical pleasure centers, I mean heart. And yeah, a lot of the “fallen man” stuff really grates on me, along with the “everything you do is done through you by [insert godfigure].” It removes the responsibility for all actions, good and bad, from the committer, and that runs contrary to nearly every justice or economic system in the world.

        • Itarion

          Close, but not quite. This:

          The two forms of beliefs are these: those held without supporting evidence, and those held with such. I use the word belief formal to denote the former, and knowledge to denote the latter.

        • Itarion

          I wasn’t attempting to “prove” anything, I was being an ass. Your remark struck me as ridiculous, and thus ridicule.

          I would not. But I do not believe that I should breathe. I know that I should breathe. The critical difference between these words is defined lower in the comment.

          This is a quote from my last comment. Please try to read all of my comment. “In religious terms, beliefs are held with faith, in the absence of evidence.”

          The two forms of beliefs are these: those held without supporting evidence, and those held with such. I use the word belief formal to denote the former, and knowledge to denote the latter.

          I hold to no facts without support. In that sense, I do not “believe” things, I “know” them. This is the difference between “religious” and “not religious” beliefs. Religious, or faithful, beliefs need no facts to support them. I will use “know” to identify thoughts with factual support, and belief for others.

          I don’t believe that anything will happen if I stop breathing. I know that I will, after about a minute or two, begin to suffer pain and muscle – diaphragm – spasms in my chest. If I manage to not breath for ten minutes, I will suffer some level of permanent brain damage, and not long after that, death. Hypoxia is a well studied condition.

          Please do not mix confusion with a different worldview. I am not confused. I see the world differently. To call me confused for holding to a different view is demeaning, and patronizing.

          I separate assertions of fact – regardless of truth value – into supported or unsupported. Supported is labelled as knowledge, unsupported is labelled belief. Unsupported is then discarded, because – regardless of its truth value – it cannot stand on its own. Knowledge is then analyzed for truth value. False assertions are discarded.

          Religion is not merely a set of beliefs. It is a set of beliefs held by faith. Thus, the religious are the faithful. “Faith: 2: Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.” thefreedictionary.com

          The First Amendment – presumably of the United States Constitution – states that people can believe what they want, and the US won’t suggest what to believe, say what they want, talk to whom they want, can ask the government to right wrongs. The fact that I think those beliefs are unsupported has nothing to do with your right to hold to them anyway.

          The idea you convey is false, in that I do not understand what anyone at all means by “God”. However, for the sake of discussion, please, by all means, define your god. If He cannot be defined, then there is no point in either discussing or believing in Him, because the definition is the starting point.

          If you wish to use “all that is” as your definition, then I am indeed saying that I do not believe in “all that is.” I know that “all that is” exists, and furthermore wish to study some small fraction of “all that is” such that the sum total of human knowledge becomes some small bit larger than it was prior to my life.

          And again, you are insulting me, though probably not intentionally. Telling me that I do not understand is fine, IF you then go on to explain to me what it is that I do not understand. I am not an idiot, though you’ll have to take that on faith, until I have shown you such. However, UNTIL I have shown myself an idiot, I would appreciate it if you would not treat me as such, and explain to me what it is I do not understand. In all likelyhood, it’s not been explained to me as you would explain it.

          And please, read all of, and respond to as much of, my comment as you can, as your questions on one part of it will likely be answered in another section.

        • SaraiEnRose

          Please do not mix confusion with a different worldview. I am not confused. I see the world differently. To call me confused for holding to a different view is demeaning, and patronizing.

          I have stopped at this to respond…I have a bunch more emails, so I have yet to finish reading, but I just want to say, “Agreed.” with regard to this. I did not intentionally mean confused in a negative way…I think the crux of the matter is that we were using the same word for different meanings…I use “believe” and you use “know”…I will respond further when I am done reading.

        • SaraiEnRose

          I did not mean to insult…I will respond with a comprehensive reponse once I check my other messages to be sure that I cover it all…I hope you don’t take offense…I would advise exploring the difference between “believing” and “knowing” further…what I call an “Idea” you seem to call a “belief” and what I call a “belief” you call “know”. I think of a belief as that which you believe to be true. I did not mean to offend, I simply meant to say something to explain that: 200 years ago, You could say that you do not believe in Oxygen…but that is just because you misunderstand what is meant by Oxygen…because, obviously we know that you require Oxygen now.

  • JohnH2

    Asimov doesn’t answer, not really, the why of any of the questions, just a little tiny bit the how. If Hormones are the entire extent of love then pumping everyone full of Serotonin and Dopamine as Soma would seem to be unobjectionable, as this is the answer the most clearly shows how he changed why to a limited view of how.

    Depending on the setting “1+1=2″ can be quite controversial and even wrong.

    I quite seriously doubt that Kould was giving God as the proximate explanation of Consciousness; most likely he was referring to the soul. The question of whether there is a soul is quite a different question of whether there is a God or of whether God made (or can make) souls.

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

      Where does 1+1=2 not make sense?

      • Itarion

        I dunno… When the units change? 1 thing + 1 thing = 1 couple of things? 1 thing + 1 thing would hardly make 2 couples of things.

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

          1 apple + 1 orange = 2 things

          1 apple + 1 idea = ?

          I’m trying to think of some arithmetical equivalent of non-Euclidian space in geometry but am coming up empty.

          I imagine John can clear this up for us.

        • Itarion

          1 apple + 1 orange = 1 rather sparse fruit salad.
          1 apple + 1 idea = 1 hunger pang.
          There are some algebraic equations of non Euclidean geometric spaces, for example a 3bola, a tri-dimensional hyperbola. The 2 dimensional surface of which is non Euclidean. Unfortunately, for the equation to work, 1+1 has to =2 so…

          [/joking] Really though, 1+1=2 is a very basic concept that is required to progress anywhere in mathematics or a quantitative examination of the real world. Further, it will continue to be so regardless of any philosophical Klein Bottle arguments that try to refute the fact, simply because numbers are defined as multiples of existing numbers.

        • JohnH2

          Itarion,
          You need to take more math classes.

        • Itarion

          Considering my chosen fields of study, I agree.

          Freshman college student, Phys/Chem major, taking Calc III.
          Yourself?

        • JohnH2

          I suppose I could say Post-Doc except I don’t actually have the Doc part but just a Master’s in Mathematics.

        • Itarion

          Well, I’ll not argue math with a mathematician. I will, however, state that, in any everyday instance in the life of an average person, 1+1 will probably equal 2.

        • JohnH2

          Actually not: In any everyday instance in the life of an average person 1+1 will likely not equal two as we haven’t defined what 1 is representing, which should be obvious based on your earlier statements to that effect. The correspondence of the real world objects (or sets of objects) hasn’t been clearly stated and in practical experience quite rarely leads to 2. Also relevant is what ‘+’ in this case corresponds to as to whether it leads to ’2′.

        • Itarion

          Now you’re just bsing me. I ceded the point, get over it.

          I admit that it is possible, in extraordinary, constructed circumstances, for 1 and 1 to combine for 1. I will not admit that 1 and 1 will rarely combine to yield 2.

        • JohnH2

          Put a cup of sugar into a cup of milk, stir, do you have two cups?

        • Itarion

          yes. Two cups of a very sweet milk, assuming that all of the sugar dissolves. Solutes contribute their volume to that of the solution.
          It won’t all dissolve, so you’ll end up with more than cup of sweet milk and less than one cup of sugar, but still two cups.

        • JohnH2

          By volume, not weight? You tested this? Should be slightly less then two cups in volume.

          http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/chem03/chem03838.htm

        • Itarion

          Volume is weird. First because that happens, but also because it is a non-constant value which is dependent upon temperature. If you measure by mass, which doesn’t change by temperature or by this odd aspect of volume, 1 kg of milk + 1 kg of sugar = 2 kg.

          However, if you were to separate out the component materials, you would still have a cup of sugar, and a cup of milk.

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

          Put a cup of sugar into a cup of milk, stir, do you have two cups?

          What is your point? That Whitehead and Russell were wrong when they famously stated “From this proposition it will follow, when arithmetical addition has been defined, that 1+1=2″ (page 379 of their Principia Mathematica)? Or is this just a curiosity that’s outside the domain of mathematics?

        • JohnH2

          How is it outside the domain of mathematics? I already provided three cases under the commonly used axioms which show that 1+1 does not always equal 2 when as usually considered in math it does. Another standard example is modular addition and also additive identity.

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

          So then you haven’t overturned Whitehead and Russell. OK, I’m still wondering what your point is.

        • JohnH2

          With 1+1=2? you said that was always the case, I pointed out that it wasn’t at all the case always. As in, you keep making claims that are correct only in a certain limited domain and applying those results more generally is wrong.

        • Itarion

          So, a warning against using absolutes? gee, thanks.

        • JohnH2

          Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. Making outrageous claims by taking knowledge outside of its rightful domain is a past time for theologians, philosophers, and physicists; and all tend to be shown to be wrong in doing so.

        • Itarion

          And mathematicians.

          I, however, am willing to admit when I am shown to be wrong.

        • Itarion

          That’s an awfully nice way to say sit down and shut up. However, I object. If one is silent when one does not know, however is one supposed to learn? Moreover, if merely told to shut up, how is one supposed to learn why one is wrong, and what is right?

          In a different sub thread, you appeared to be slow walking me to a conclusion, but I had some trouble in following. So, what is the conclusion, if there was one to which I was supposed to go?

        • JohnH2

          No, it is a famous quote by a philosopher and is quite a bit different from talking about asking questions, but is about giving answers where one doesn’t know the answer.

          The conclusion that you should draw is that metaphysics is not answerable by physics. Simplistic reductive materialism gets on by ignoring questions and pretending they don’t exist, making debates about religion quite uninteresting because one side doesn’t even appear to be aware of what is being discussed but is making blind assertions that are way outside of the correct domain of knowledge and pretending they have said something clever. One can debate using reductive materialism but in doing so one needs to address the actual problems being discussed.

        • Itarion

          Which means you proceed from the premise that metaphysics exist, among others.

          I proceed from the premise that physics, or at least a scientific study, is capable of explaining everything that does exist, among others.

          If I draw the conclusion that metaphysics do not answer to a scientific study, then I must continue that to the conclusion that metaphysics do not exist. As I have seen nothing that contradicts my premise “Rigorous scientific analysis can determine the cause of everything”, I will keep it. If I accept the premise you have suggested, “Metaphysics is not explainable in physical terms”, I must reject the notion that metaphysics exists, because physics is the root – perhaps a very distant root – of all scientific study. Thusly, there is nothing metaphysical, up to and including a god.

        • JohnH2

          gah, the statement that “Rigorous scientific analysis can determine the cause of everything” is a metaphysical statement not itself grounded in science, as is the principle of induction upon which science depends.

          I am not sure you have a clue what metaphysics means based on this answer and your next one.

        • Itarion

          Metaphysics denotes philosophical inquiry of a non-empirical character into the nature of existence.

          Physics denotes inquiry of an empirical character into the nature of existence.

          My statement, “Rigorous scientific analysis can determine the cause of everything.” is a statement which is capable of being nullified. If, for example, there was an event which existed outside of the standard laws of physics – a “miracle” – rigorous scientific analysis would be proved incapable of explaining everything. Violations of entropy, of thermodynamics, spontaneous conversions of large quantities of matter into a radically different form of matter, literal creation or destruction of energy, and a whole slew of other examples that come directly from the Bible, like burning water and turning people into pillars of salt.

          As this statement is empirically falsifiable, it sits just within the bounds of scientific inquiry, and every new discovery confirms it just a little more.

        • JohnH2

          Things outside the standard laws of physics have happened all the time and lead to new laws of physics. Per my scriptures matter/energy can not be created nor destroyed just rearranged. I believe a river in Ohio caught fire within the last century and no one seems to have a problem with that.

          It is a metaphysical statement, which Wikipedia is your friend in helping you start to gain a more correct understanding of what that is.

        • Itarion

          A river in Ohio caught fire because of vast quantities of flammable liquids floating on top of the water.

          “In addition, large quantities of black heavy oil floating in slicks, sometimes several inches thick, are observed frequently.”

          Neither oil floating nor oil burning are in direct contravention to any known physical laws.

          Metaphysics versus physics just philosophy versus science. Any metaphysical statement should be empirically testable, otherwise it an unreliable thought.

          Btw, I have very little respect for philosophy and philosophers , as they can just make crap up and never have to prove their assertions. Another meta- thought from me: not all assertions are equally viable. Incidentally, this, too, is an empirically measurable assertion.

        • JohnH2

          What makes you think that God must, does, or can operate in direct contravention of known physical laws?

          Again, you don’t seem to realize that you are making metaphysical statements about the nature of reality in your response. You don’t have to respect philosophers, and very few philosophers agree with each other, but if you are going to make such statements then you should probably be familiar enough with the subject to know that you are in fact making metaphysical statements and not natural philosophy (science) statements

        • Itarion

          I expected that because that is the definition generally used by the religious, and because it happened in your Good Book.

          It would seem that we are operating off of different definitions of both God and metaphysics. Give me your definitions, and I will be happy to refine my position to suit them.

        • JohnH2

          I assume you are referring to the Bible? and what makes you think that the miracles are contraventions of known physical laws and not working within those laws?

          I already stated that I do not believe in the God of the philosophers, repeatedly.

          On God: http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bd/god?lang=eng
          with the important note of D&C 93:33 that the elements are eternal making creation a process of organization and not what is traditionally understood, as explained in the King Follett Sermon also.

          Metaphysics is a collection of topics including “being as such”, Modality, first causes (or their denial), things that do not change (or their denial). It can be thought of as the foundational assumptions upon which all other knowledge is built, such as the assumption that observation can lead to knowledge (or that only observation leads to knowledge), or that statements should be empirically provable (how do you empirically prove that statement exactly?).

        • Itarion

          See, LDS is very much different from most other Christian denominations, to the point that it is not always considered such. The tangible bodies, specifically for the Father, I have never run into before.

          Clarifications:
          Are these bodies immortal?
          Can their appearance change?
          Can the Holy Ghost effect physical changes on the world?

          I will say that this explanation of the Godhead given is much clearer and more self-consistent than other deities.

        • JohnH2

          I realize that it is quite a bit different from all other Christian denominations.

          1. Yes.

          2. I don’t know

          3. Yes.

          This explanation, at least on the face of it, violates all of the creeds of Christianity and all of the philosophy coming from Plato and Aristotle upon which the creeds are built.

        • Itarion

          Wouldn’t a pair of immortals running around the Earth spawn a great many myths and legends? Throughout entire world, there should be savior legends of a mysterious stranger who came to the world and effected great changes upon it. There should be common names strung through history – Jesus and Elohim – and transliterations and bastardized prononciations of the names that just don’t show up.

          Does that make any form of sense to you?

        • JohnH2

          Well, neither are on earth currently, I am not sure where Jesus is but per the Book of Abraham God lives in a place called Kolob, which per the underlying Egyptian-Hebrew worldview of that may be Sirius I believe it is, being the governing “fixed” star for that region of the world. I am less certain that it actually is Sirius, and the subject is tangential to the actual point which is God dwells in a particular place.

          The book of Moses, also in the Pearl of Great Price, says that God has made worlds without end and that innumerable of these are inhabited.

        • Itarion

          Of course, but as omnipotent immortals, in humanoid flesh or not, both Elohim and Jesus would be capable not only of living perpetually on all worlds concurrently through some sort of time or space bending power or another, but also be capable of communication between every one of their individuals sub-selves throughout time and space. Being hyper-intelligences, they would know this, and being absolutely good, would do so.

          Thus, the legends would still exist here, because They would have been here, throughout all of human history.

          Have I made an error?

        • JohnH2

          No one can see God the Father in the flesh and live, unless the Spirit first translates the person, would appear to be one thing that you are missing. Another is that while time certainly appears to be experienced differently by God there appears to be the restriction of a singular place at a singular time for God and Jesus.

        • Itarion

          So… Is He omnipotent or not? omni=all, potent=powerful. If He is all powerful, then there is literally no restriction on his abilities. Don’t place limiters on omnipotence.

          And Jesus can be seen without translation, yes or no? If yes, there should, at the very least, be legends from all civilizations of a hero Jesus, or a Gezu, or Gehus, or Hesu or something similar.

        • JohnH2

          It would be Joshua most likely.

          Omnipotence in this case means having the ability to do all that is possible to do. There are already logical restrictions on Omnipotence even for the classical conception of God, there are additional ones for the LDS conception of God; things which are impossible to do.

          If Bob hasn’t done a post on Gods that die and come back to life and virgin births of Gods he probably should; they are all over the place, from the Mayan Hero Twins to ones in Greek and Egyptian Mythology.

        • Itarion

          Which name it would be would depend on language conventions of the civilization in question.

          Time warping, and reverse time travel, is allowed by the mathematics of the physical laws. So, He could live until the end of time, live backwards, and then repeat unto infinity, because his lifetime is not constrained.

          If omnipotence has constraints, it is not omnipotence, so you cannot use omnipotence to describe your god.

          Actually, people coming back to life is not at all difficult, depending on the definition of dead. Heart stopped, for instance. Absence of breathing for a about 10 minutes should result in permanent brain damage. Hearts are restarted regularly, and the current world record for breath holding is 22 minutes. Restoration of life after three days is a bit more problematic, though. Virgin births (parthenogenesis), as well, have occurred in small animals, most famously in a species of all female lizards, but not been shown to happen in humans, and would definitely not result in a male.

        • JohnH2

          Omnipotence always has logical constraints, the whole unstoppable cannon ball to an unbreakable wall question.

          Excluding the whole separation of the blood thing evidenced by the spear wound there is hibernation or suspended animation. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6197339.stm

          I really don’t understand why atheists never go straight to artificial insemination for the virgin birth; that makes quite a lot more sense then Brigham Young’s hypothesis on the subject to me.

        • Itarion

          Omnipotence has logical constraints, sure, but concurrent existence is not one of them. Time travel in the inverse direction – towards the past – is not prevented by any sort of mathematical construct. Thus, your omnipotent Godhead is capable of existing for xy years, where x is the number of planets inhabited by thinking entities, and y is the lifespan of the universe.

          So my question: If He is capable, as I have said, why hasn’t He? Why is there not a common myth-thread across all, or even most, civilizations?

          The suspended animation just contributes another potential natural explanation for the so-called resurrection. Fascinating though it is, I don’t think we disagree upon the nature of the resurrection: he seemed dead, but he wasn’t. This was actually so common in medieval times that coffins would have alert systems. Also, the wake was literally waiting for the person to do just that.

          Because worship of a 2000 year old premarital sex cover story is just too titillating. I mean, a billion odd people believe there is a god, and his only story is that his parents couldn’t wait? Priceless!! But really, there has been no proven case of human parthenogenesis, regardless of the countable but repetitive myths to the contrary.

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

          separation of the blood thing evidenced by the spear wound

          Why is this startling? Wouldn’t people familiar with executions know about such things?

          I really don’t understand why atheists never go straight to artificial insemination for the virgin birth

          Because atheists don’t typically imagine that a story is actual history up to a point and then puzzle over what happens afterwards.

          It’s a story. You say it’s history? Great–give us reason to agree with you.

          Anyway, the Jesus virgin birth story is so full of holes that confronting it directly is the most satisfying (for me, anyway).

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

          Dying and rising gods here.

          Virgin birth precedents here.

        • Ron

          “Omnipotence in this case means having the ability to do all that is possible to do.”

          By that definition humans are also omnipotent, since we too possess the ability to do all that it is possible to do.

        • JohnH2

          Potentially yes, currently no.

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

          what makes you think that the miracles are contraventions of known physical laws and not working within those laws?

          ‘Cause that’s how everyone defines miracles? Or is this a trick question?

          Imagine a rock rolling downhill. Now imagine that God stopped or steered the rock. That’s a miracle–God interacted in our world. And he contravened the laws of physics–the rock would’ve gone here, but God made it go there.

          A big example would be an earthquake: physics says it should happen on day X, but God intervened and dribbled the energy out over many days or delayed it or whatever.

        • Ron

          Kindly explain how Joshua’s commanding the sun and the moon to remain stationary in the sky for an entire day (so the Israelites could finish slaughtering the Amorites) works within the known laws of physics.

        • JohnH2

          One important point to make is that it does not appear that we have a complete understanding of the laws of physics.

          Assuming the story in Joshua is real and not a propaganda piece written hundreds of years after the fact based on prior records and oral tradition (which it almost certainly is) then clearly something not understood such as a space time bubble with a day to a thousand year equivalence, perhaps, is going on. More mundanely if we assume that the sun and moon didn’t stop but that it still remained light at night then a supernova would be a decent explanation.

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

          You’d have a hard time fighting a battle with a full moon, and a supernova is much less bright. I prefer your first option: that it’s just legend.

        • JohnH2

          That would depend on the location of the supernova relative to earth at the time of the event, a supernova close enough to earth could have effects ranging from the brightness of the full moon to brighter then the sun at noon to frying the entire planet (while still being light years away).

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

          So you’re positing a nearby supernova? The Crab Nebula is the result of a supernova from 1054. I think we’d see the remnants of Joshua’s Supernova, and I think that the brightness would’ve lasted more than the few extra hours he got.

          Let’s stick with legend.

        • Ron

          Here’s what the texts say:

          On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:

          “Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on[b] its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. (Joshua 10:12-13)

          And when they were smiting, the day was declining toward evening, and Joshua said in the sight of all the people, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon, and thou moon in the valley of Ajalon, until the nation shall have revenged itself upon its enemies. And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Joshua, and the sun stood still in the midst of the heavens, and it stood still six and thirty moments, and the moon also stood still and hastened not to go down a whole day. (Jasher 88:63-64)

          There can be no equivocation here. The authors describe a stationary sun and moon. Either they intended this to be taken literally, or they were BSing.

          Pick one.

        • JohnH2

          That is a pseudo-epigraphical book of Jasher, as there are other books of Jasher and the very site that you link to says in the index that it is not the actual book of the just.

          Since the actual book of the just was a book of poetry then the line about the sun stopping in the middle of the sky is quite likely artistic license about the prolonged nature of the battle. A reasonable course of events is that Joshua had a long battle that lasted all day; the battle was commemorated sometime later (perhaps during the time of David) with the poetry, the artistic license in the poetry gets morphed into an oral tradition of the sun actually standing still, the poetry and oral tradition are compiled during the time of Josiah into something similar to the current form. In fact given Josiah’s editors desire to place Josiah as a new Joshua and to promote a particular form of the religion it even seems likely that oral tradition may not have contained the sun actually standing still and the editors just used the book of the just’s artistic phrasing as literal for the pure propaganda purpose.

          Another potentially plausible form of events is that the battle took place during a somewhat nearby supernova’s peak intensity to give enough light to continue the battle during the night. As Bob correctly notes, such an event would give significant amounts of light at night for some time afterwards as well. The light at night then gets commemorated (again probably during the time of David) in the poetry of the book of the just and Josiah’s editors again take it more literally then what actually happened (as to them it may have appeared more plausible that the Sun stood still then that a star changed in the unchanging heavens, quite likely not having a concept for supernova).

          Meaning their is plenty of room for equivocation and the authors (who weren’t there) were relying on a piece of poetry by an author who also wasn’t there but was relying on either other records or oral tradition. The poetry author may or may not have been intending to be taken strictly literally. Besides the case of some exotic occurrence there are plenty of possible cases of what happened with none of them having the authors strictly BSing and intending it to be taken literally.

        • Itarion

          You do understand that a nearby supernova would destroy a significant fraction of life on the planet, right? A star as many times bigger than the Sun as the Sun is bigger than you, exploding close enough to light the night sky would also have high energy EM waves that would irradiate the Earth’s surface. Beyond that, a significant mass of relativistic stellar debris would engulf the Earth some time later – dependent on the distance the star is from us – and once again cause a mass extinction. Neither of those have happened – we’d have noticed a break in the world’s history, oh and wouldn’t have recovered and progressed to the current level of technological advancement – so we can conclude that there was no supernova within our stellar neighborhood.

        • JohnH2

          Itarion,

          All of that completely depends on how close the nova is to the earth. It is quite possible to have supernova be brighter then the moon or even as bright as the sun and have that not cause too many problems for earth. There are actually quite a decent number of supernova remnants within a few thousand light years of earth and dating supernovas is, as far as I am aware, not a fully completed task as the Chinese records only go back so far and other methods are limited in their usefulness. The major danger appears to be being hit by a directional gamma ray burst from a nearby supernova.

        • Itarion

          The sun illuminates the Earth with 1000~ Joules/meter^2/second. To match this for a day from a thousand lightyears, a supernova would need to cast 1000 joules on every square meter of a 1000 light year radius sphere for one hour.

          3.14*(10^3 light years)^2 = 2.81*10^38 meter^2
          Times energy output necessary
          10^3 joules/meter^2/second*2.81*10^38 meter^2

          2.81*10^41 joules/second times a day 24hr*60min/hr*60second/min=
          2.43*10^43

          This is about ten or twenty times the EM energy output of any supernova you want to name.

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

          Since we have a mutually acceptable interpretation (legend), I’m surprised you’re still flogging this supernova hypothesis.

        • JohnH2

          I am not completely certain that it is just a legend and even legends usually have some core element of truth in them and coming up with alternatives is interesting. But yes, subject to further information, this instance appears most probably to be a legend based on probably a core of a long battle.

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

          What is your view on the literal accuracy of the Bible and the BoM? It seems that you’re about as quick as I am to call OT supernatural stuff a legend.

        • JohnH2

          In regards to the creation: the point of what God has revealed on the subject is not supposed to be detailed scientific account of the subject; All evidence points to taking the word behind what was translated as ‘day’ more literally as period of time. Most likely the author, who I think was probably Moses (with edits and revisions), was shown the creation and then attempted to write it down, placing it into words and a frame of reference that he could write it down and understand it. Much of the rest of Genisis I feel did happen in some form, but between the Fall and Abraham has the quality of Oral tradition: while likely a fairly accurate account of what happened the time frame seems all wrong meaning that between say the flood (the nature of which I am not sure) and the tower could be tens of thousands of years and between the tower and Abraham could be quite a bit longer.

          Exodus is certainly based on a real occurrence and, with note that editing and revising has happened, is I think accurate, as with the rest of the books of Moses.

          Deuteronomy has some parts which are much more very heavily edited and appears not to have been had by both Israel and Judah (which allowed for more editing, I think) but is also largely correct.

          Joshua is probably based on actual history and largely accurate records, but has also been edited. Judges likewise while it probably has a decent degree of accuracy has some very blatant editing to promote a certain image of the religion, people, and government. Ruth is a literary work but also probably based on a real event, I imagine that David probably did have such an ancestor.

          Samuel was certainly real and the history from that point on gets more accurate, if also heavily skewed towards Judah. While David may have moved the capital to Jerusalem, possibly for religious and defensive reasons, and set up the building of the Temple, Samaria was certainly bigger as the text actually indicates. It seems quite certain that Hezekiah started instituting reforms and the combining (or at least accepting of) the religious records and scribes from the Northern Kingdom. Josiah appears to have promoted those scribes to capture the religion, making it more centralized and monarchy centric; Lehi (whose family was from the Northern Kingdom) appears to have been on a side that resisted part of this, so part of an internal struggle over the religion among those whose, probably, grandfathers left the Northern Kingdom which determined the course of Judaism during and after the exile (and takes a set of the records with them). Isaiah is largely accurate, Jeremiah and Ezekiel as well. Daniel has some editing that appears to have happened to it. The rest of the Old Testament appears in many cases to be small fragments of larger works, but largely accurate.

          The New Testament I am more comfortable with accepting all of it, even if there are parts missing in terms of epistles. I certainly don’t think that the dating must be after the destruction of the temple. I mean if that is the case then the prophecy on war in the D&C should be quite a bit more convincing then atheists find it to be because it prophecies the civil war, and has it starting where it did. If seeing that happening prior to the event isn’t surprising because of the politics what forces the destruction of the Temple by the Romans to be unpredictable? They had already razed other cities and places which were hot spots of revolt and given the commonality of ‘messiahs’ then I imagine that it really shouldn’t be too difficult to accept that even without prophetic sight one could have predicted the destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem. Which once realized removes nearly all the arguments against the validity of most of the books of the New Testament.

          The Book of Mormon is a summation of what is largely the prophetic and royal records of the Nephites. Unbiased in its history it is not. Meaning it is almost certainly accurate in what it says in terms of history; but what it doesn’t say and the way it says things is quite important and can tell someone interested in the state of society and the history quite a lot. Obviously, in terms of doctrine I believe it to be true and this from God.

          I am quite certain that it is not a record of pre-classic Maya, which is contrary to what I think is the prevailing view among the Mormon apologetic community. I am not a part of that community and don’t really follow it so I am not sure. I think that it is more likely that the Nephites were some really small as yet undiscovered group further south in Central America. To me the talk of metal screams that they were probably on the northern periphery of the South American cultures, and somewhat to the south of the Meseoamerican cultures, which I think the Jaredites were part of. That the group that the Nephites were hasn’t been discovered isn’t surprising to me given the state of Archeology in the region, even if the group was discovered I do wonder how it would be positively identified as the Nephites or negatively for that matter.

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

          the point of what God has revealed on the subject is not supposed to be detailed scientific account of the subject

          Just to be contrarian: how do you know? Yes, that’s one interpretation, but the Bible literalists have a point—when you pick and choose which parts are just simple stories for simple people and which are actual fact, you risk deluding yourself.

          And what about the BoM? Is that an accurate history book (where it mentions historical events)?

          All evidence points to taking the word behind what was translated as ‘day’ more literally as period of time.

          You’re seriously saying that the original hearers of the Genesis 6-day creation story (which is a variation of the Sumerian myth that preceded it) would all agree that it wasn’t actually 6 literal days?

          Exodus is certainly based on a real occurrence

          You mean that the exodus from Egypt with 2 million people actually happened? And they hung out in the desert for 40 years? Is there evidence to support this?

          You talk about the bits that are likely historically true. For the parts about who attacked whom and who was king when, that might well be true, but what makes you think that the supernatural parts are accurate?

          I certainly don’t think that the dating must be after the destruction of the temple. I mean if that is the case then the prophecy on war in the D&C should be quite a bit more convincing then atheists find it to be because it prophecies the civil war, and has it starting where it did.

          About all I know about the D&C is that it stands for Doctrine and Covenants.

          Tell me more about why it gives a remarkable prophecy. This is about the American Civil War?

          If you’re saying that a vague “bad stuff’ll happen!” in the gospels could’ve preceded the siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, I agree. I don’t understand the argument behind the conclusions that the gospels all followed 70CE, but it’s the scholarly consensus as I understand it.

          Even if the gospels did precede the destruction, that’s not much of a prophecy.

          Which once realized removes nearly all the arguments against the validity of most of the books of the New Testament.

          Whoa. Maybe you need to restate this bit in more depth so I understand your point. By “validity” are you saying that the claims made, including the supernatural ones, are historically accurate?

          Meaning [the BoM] is almost certainly accurate in what it says in terms of history

          When it talks about horses or weapons or whatever (I don’t know much about this debate), you’re saying that, yes indeed, people came over from the ANE and brought horses and weapons?

          To me the talk of metal screams that they were probably on the northern periphery of the South American cultures

          And to me it screams fabrication. Why work to find some missing link within modern archeology in which we can slip the Nephites to justify your preconception instead of simply saying that modern archeology does not recreate independently the BoM and, in some ways, contradicts it? Since we know about fiction and invented stories, why not just put it in that bin? Isn’t that where the evidence points?

        • JohnH2

          God hasn’t ever seemed to be primarily concerned about giving what could be considered scientific accounts of things. There are things in the D&C which science now says is accurate which were considered wrong at that time but those things were given to teach a point.

          The word doesn’t mean day, but period of time. The original hearers then probably didn’t think of it as days.

          2 Million, almost certainly not. They could have hung out in a desert for 40 years.

          I dislike the term supernatural; everything happens within the natural universe. Miracles are then just an operation of natural laws, even if those viewing the miracle don’t understand those laws or how they operate.

          D&C 87 is the prophecy on war, 87:1 says that the civil war will start in South Carolina. Given in 1832.

          I am saying that logically a specific statement like the Temple at Jerusalem will be destroyed by the Romans within a generation, as is found in scripture could have been made without prophetic foresight given the geopolitical realities of the Jews and the Roman Empire. The only reason the consensus is after the destruction of the temple is because of the default assumption that prophecy can’t be real. Dropping the forced view that any prediction of destruction of the temple must be postdated from that event lets the New Testament books have their more traditional authors and dates. Whether one believes in the content of the New Testament is a different question entirely.

          How are horses history? I don’t know how weaponry is a problem. Steel as hardened bronze gives no one a problem with the Bible, why should the same usage give a problem in the BOM? The was bronze forging in South America at the time, hence why it seems likely to be closer to South America.

          Following the advice given in Moroni 10:3-5 has provided me with additional evidence to me that is convincing to me on the subject. You are free to follow that advice as well.

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

          There are things in the D&C which science now says is accurate which were considered wrong at that time but those things were given to teach a point.

          Is this an evidential argument that you think is powerful evidence for your position?

          The word doesn’t mean day, but period of time

          … despite the fact that it means “day” in many places. I guess I’m unconvinced by your argument.

          2 Million, almost certainly not

          Agreed. And yet that’s what the Old Testament claims (Ex. 12:37). Weird, huh?

          They could have hung out in a desert for 40 years.

          Since the Jews buried their dead, we’d find at least some evidence of the 2M bodies that had to die so that none of the previous generation could enter the Promised Land.

          Miracles are then just an operation of natural laws, even if those viewing the miracle don’t understand those laws or how they operate.

          Huh? A ball rolling downhill is an operation of natural laws. So that’s a miracle?

          D&C 87 is the prophecy on war, 87:1 says that the civil war will start in South Carolina. Given in 1832.

          Be bold. Make an unambiguous claim here. The D&C probably says lots of nutty stuff that you’re not going to push forward as powerful evidence of God’s omniscience. Since it’s more than a pamphlet, you can also find something that does look impressive. Are you saying that the D&C is unexplainable except as something divinely inspired?

          The only reason the consensus is after the destruction of the temple is because of the default assumption that prophecy can’t be real.

          Yes, that is the default position. No, this isn’t the only reason scholars place the books after 70.

          Dropping the forced view that any prediction of destruction of the temple must be postdated from that event lets the New Testament books have their more traditional authors and dates.

          You’re not saying that the gospels are eyewitnesses (or recorders of eyewitnesses) and that we have compelling evidence that the authors were Matt, Mark, Luke, and John, are you?

          How are horses history?

          You know the controversy better than I do. I don’t know much about LDS. I’d heard that the BoM talked about horses in North America brought over from Israel when we know that equines were extinct here and were only reintroduced with the Spanish in the 1500s.

          Steel as hardened bronze gives no one a problem with the Bible, why should the same usage give a problem in the BOM?

          Steel is not hardened bronze.

          Again, I don’t know the controversy, but I’d heard that the BoM says that iron was worked as weapons in N. America, but archeology says that this was true only after the Europeans arrived.

          Following the advice given in Moroni 10:3-5 has provided me with additional evidence to me that is convincing to me on the subject.

          Why go down that path? Why not down the path of belief in any other religion? If I were a Mormon, that would make sense. Since I’m not, that sounds indefensibly partisan.

        • JohnH2

          It is evidence, but was not given as an argument because ones relationship with God should not be of something proven but as a personal relationship.

          I don’t believe the Bible to be infallible so mistranslations and propaganda don’t bother me. .

          Why go back to the propaganda if we have determined that it is propaganda? Since there weren’t 2 million Israelite why would I remotely expect that there would be 2 million dead?

          For John there is decently compelling evidence that it may have been written by John. For Luke there is decently compelling evidence that it was written by Luke, who was not an eyewitness but interviewed some.. Matthew fits with what we know of Matthew.

          They don’t appear to have rode horses. Neither the Nephites nor the Jaredites are said to have brought horses and neither appear to have been in a position to have been able to bring horses with them and keep them alive on the journey. So it seems we are looking for an indigenous beast of burden which has some resemblance to a horse of which there are options.

          The Bible talks of steel during the bronze age, and what is been talked about is hardened bronze. Full metalurgy did exist in South America (and much later in Meseoamerica. The stone working however was much more developed in the Americas making metal weapons to be in someways worse than stone weapons and metal armor to be pointless.

          I don’t think you read Moroni 10:3-5. It suggests reading the Book of Mormon, thinking about it, and praying about it asking God if it is true with the promise that God will respond via the Holy Ghost. These are actionable items leading to, potentially, direct confirmation from God. Generally most other religions don’t have similar actionable items and those that do or where others have suggested actionable items has not for me led to any similar experiences.

        • Kodie

          Hey, ask god if it is true! Sounds like a great idea. It involves the power of suggestion, self-hypnosis, and a heap of wishful thinking. Ka-blammo!

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

          ones relationship with God should not be of something proven but as a personal relationship.

          What does this mean? We think very little of the evidence of someone’s existence because it is so obvious. I have never said, “OK, I’d like to have you as a friend, but how do I know you really exist?” Yes, that’s a bit obnoxious, but it’s also ridiculous.

          The God claim is ridiculous because there’s so little evidence. Don’t lump this into the “personal relationship” bin. This isn’t remotely close to any relationship you or I have with anyone.

          I don’t believe the Bible to be infallible so mistranslations and propaganda don’t bother me.

          The resurrection? That’s just “likely true” in your mind but could easily be just a legend, and you don’t care?

          And the BoM, too? That’s also fallible?

          Why go back to the propaganda if we have determined that it is propaganda?

          The Bible says 600K men. That means 2M people. So you say that’s wrong, but this doesn’t bother you because lots of stuff in the Bible is wrong?

          For John there is decently compelling evidence that it may have been written by John.

          And what is this evidence? Does it involve Papias? I find his evidence for Mark quite unconvincing.

          They don’t appear to have rode horses.

          Does the BoM say anything about horses or iron weapons?

          The Bible talks of steel during the bronze age, and what is been talked about is hardened bronze.

          What is “hardened bronze” and why do you refer to it??

          Full metalurgy did exist in South America

          By what date did they have iron working?

          I don’t think you read Moroni 10:3-5.

          I did indeed.

          It suggests reading the Book of Mormon, thinking about it, and praying about it asking God if it is true with the promise that God will respond via the Holy Ghost.

          Sure, I could do this, but why would I take this action before I took a similar leap with any of a thousand other religions?

          These are actionable items leading to, potentially, direct confirmation from God.

          God knows how important it is that I understand his existence and his message. He cares for me, his child, more than I care about my own. Right? So it’s inconceivable that he would let me bumble through life without making this message clear to me. If he exists, that is.

          Generally most other religions don’t have similar actionable items and those that do or where others have suggested actionable items has not for me led to any similar experiences.

          I participated in the Atheist 40-Day Prayer Experiment. Yes, I’ve tried the Kool-Aid.

        • JohnH2

          For you there appears to be little evidence for God. I have a personal relationship with God and so your constant claims of demands for evidence seems silly.

          I have quite a lot of additional witnesses to the Resurrection besides just the Bible.

          The Book of Mormon contains correct doctrine but is otherwise fallible.

          I was thinking more of the Apostolic Fathers and other early Church Fathers from Catholicism in regards to John.

          Yes there are mentions of horses as my statement should have made plain, as also mentions of metal.

          Bronze must be properly worked to become better then plain copper in terms of weaponry. Wikipedia is your friend. I refer to it because that is what the Bible refers to as steel prior to the iron age.

          Why are you fixated on iron working?

          “So it’s inconceivable that he would let me bumble through life without making this message clear to me”

          What makes you so special? Regardless of which religion was correct there is every indication that the majority of humanity for all time has been following one that is (at minimum) at least not as correct. Correct action in regards to what one knows to be right is much more important to God then a correct knowledge of God (reference, yet again, to that scripture in Alma). .

          If you wish to go through the entire search space then go ahead. I know my faith (noun) to be true and have given you an actionable item to do, as well as some things I find to be evidence in favor of my faith (noun).

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

          I have a personal relationship with God and so your constant claims of demands for evidence seems silly.

          I’m 55. As you can imagine, I have an excellent understanding of and experience with the concept of “personal relationship.” Neither my relationship with God nor yours is that … unless you actually see him and converse with him like Jimmy Stewart engaged with Harvey the 6-foot-tall rabbit.

          I have quite a lot of additional witnesses to the Resurrection besides just the Bible.

          Who do you have in mind?

          The Book of Mormon contains correct doctrine but is otherwise fallible.

          How is that possible? Joseph Smith was prevented from erring when he was transmitting doctrine but God was distracted watching TV when it came to the history part? I can’t see how the process that transmits perfectly accurate fact can also transmit crap.

          I was thinking more of the Apostolic Fathers and other early Church Fathers from Catholicism in regards to John.

          If you’re saying that the early church tradition affixed John’s name to the fourth gospel, yes, I understand that. I’m just wondering what warrant you and I have for making that claim. Could it have been John? Sure. How likely is that? I see no reason to imagine it being particularly likely.

          Of course, the name of the actual author isn’t that interesting. What’s interesting is the evidence behind the claim of eyewitness testimony. If you make a serious claim of eyewitness testimony—that is, you actually rely on it as important evidence—you must show beyond any reasonable doubt that this is the case. That it might’ve been makes that claim worthless.

          Yes there are mentions of horses as my statement should have made plain, as also mentions of metal.

          Then you need to address the point that I raised: that there were no horses in North America before the Spanish introduced them in the 1500s and there is no evidence of iron working.

          Bronze must be properly worked to become better then plain copper in terms of weaponry.

          I’m confused. Maybe you don’t know what bronze is. It’s an alloy of copper (common) with tin (rare). It’s said that the Greeks or Phoenicians (or someone from that area) went as far as Britain for tin.

          This has nothing to do with iron, which is a superior metal but much harder to work (it must be smelted at much higher temperatures).

          Wikipedia is your friend. I refer to it because that is what the Bible refers to as steel prior to the iron age.

          Then use our friend to show me this.

          Why are you fixated on iron working?

          As my statement should have made plain, some of the concerns that I had heard about the BoM are that it claims iron working in North America in contradiction to what archeology tells us.

          What makes you so special?

          I’m a child of God. Sorry to brag, but there you have it. He loves me more than you can imagine loving anything, and he wouldn’t let me miss out on his plan by not telling it to me.

          there is every indication that the majority of humanity for all time has been following one that is (at minimum) at least not as correct

          True. We know for a fact that humans make up crazy religious claims. Your challenge is to show why the obvious explanation (LDS is yet one more) is incorrect.

          If you wish to go through the entire search space then go ahead. I know my faith (noun) to be true

          How? I assume we both know how embarrassingly fallible the human brain is. We deceive ourselves. I’m happy to accept your claim that you have great confidence that you’re right, but who cares? Confidence and accuracy are two very different things. You’ve probably seen examples of this disparity with human memory (the Challenger Memory Experiment comes to mind).

        • JohnH2

          It is more like I have a relationship with Bob then with Harvey.

          You mean besides the Book of Mormon and D&C and the current Twelve Apostles?

          I have already explained both horses and “iron” and you appear to have missed the explanation. Go back and read them and we can discuss the merits of what I said.

          This one discusses the hardening of bronze: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blacksmith

          This one discusses metallurgy in pre-columbia americas http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metallurgy_in_pre-Columbian_America

          Whether you like it or not you are and always will be part of God’s plan and eventually every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ and God’s judgements are just. That judgement is based on how one lives according to what one knows and if, when given the opportunity, one seeks God, repents of what one does wrong, and accepts more from God, this can happen when dead as well. You miss out on nothing for not knowing God, unless you know, of yourself, that you should seek God and refuse to do so. Knowledge of God is dependent on your actions, not Gods.

          Why is that my challenge? As I have said, I have given evidence here and previously but the intent is not to prove, but suggest that you may want to know more.

          My confidence has been proven accurate, at the very least in the minimal terms of tangible benefits to my life.

        • Kodie

          Whether you like it or not you are and always will be part of God’s plan
          and eventually every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus is the
          Christ and God’s judgements are just.

          Why? He’s your imaginary friend.

        • Itarion

          Actually, Harvey is a rather good representation, as only you are the one who can detect the precise idea of what you name God, in the same way that only Jimmy Stewart – and the audience, who doesn’t really count – could detect the rabbit Harvey.

          To my eyes, you don’t explain the “horses” and “iron” so much as explain them away. Something like, “I know it SAYS horses and iron, but we now know that neither of those actually existed then.” This doesn’t really address the fact that the BoM says horses and iron, unless you can show a missed translation from the source material.

          “Whether you like it or not you are and always will be part of God’s plan and eventually every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ and God’s judgements are just. That judgement is based on how one lives according to what one knows and if, when given the opportunity, one seeks God, repents of what one does wrong, and accepts more from God, this can happen when dead as well. You miss out on nothing for not knowing God, unless you know, of yourself, that you should seek God and refuse to do so. Knowledge of God is dependent on your actions, not Gods.”

          So, if I know, to within reasonable doubt, that there is no god, live that way, but speak often, honestly, and openly with religious people, accept responsibility for mistakes and errors, and continue to live life without giving up, then I will have fulfilled the letter of the task without ever having found God. If I have lived my entire life in this manner, how will I be judged upon my death?

          “My confidence has been proven accurate, at the very least in the minimal terms of tangible benefits to my life.”

          The placebo effect, as well, provides tangible benefits to life, and does so without any real agent affecting one besides the desire to improve and a mental release of inhibitions.
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfDlfhHVvTY

          The people in this video saw a real and tangible improvement in their lives, without any form of chemical agent effecting the change. Watch this video, and then tell me that lies have no power.

        • JohnH2

          Me, and at least a dozen million other people.

          I am not even sure missed translation is correct, seems more like where European settlers labeled animals somewhat different from their old world counterparts with that name.

          That depends on if you accept the gospel when it is offered and you know what is being offered and that you should accept. Assuming that you would accept the reality of God and etc if you had reason to do so then you could be just as much headed to heaven as anyone else. Everyone has some knowledge of good and evil and if one chooses the good that one knows and accepts more when presented to one (and one recognizes it as good), then by the grace of God that one will be saved.

          Also, final judgement doesn’t happen at death, but after resurrection.

          Confident trust (faith) in the power of medicine irregardless of the actual effectiveness of the medicine does have power, as faith is a principle of both action and power.

        • Itarion

          Almost, but not quite. If everyone who had a personal relationship with God had a personal relationship with precisely the same God, then Christianity would have been a single unified organization throughout its history, rather than splintering into sects that barely even recognize each other as fellows of the same religion.

          “I am not even sure missed translation is correct, seems more like where European settlers labeled animals somewhat different from their old world counterparts with that name.”

          I am having trouble parsing this, could you please rephrase it for me?

          Final Judgement
          So, if I live my life as above, but after death see there is a God, and thus have faith in Him, I am saved, regardless of my position prior to my death, and thus will not be judged harshly upon the resurrection and judgement? Sounds good to me.

          Exactly my point. Faith in anything can grant “tangible benefits to [your] life” regardless of the truth of whatever it is that you had faith in. Improvements to your life because of your beliefs are not necessarily an endorsement of your faith, rather being statements of the efficacy of the placebo effect.

        • JohnH2

          That assumes that everyone has the same relationship and has gotten the same knowledge about God and same thoughts about what knowledge they do have, and that all thoughts about God come from God.

          When Europeans came to the Americas they called animals and plants according to names of old world animals and plants that they thought looked somewhat similar. I expect that this is true in the Book of Mormon as well meaning that they may not be mistranslations on Joseph Smith’s part.

          If your position is honest and you are never given honest reason to seek further but would honestly seek God rather than avoid doing so if you came to know that doing so was good then yes your position prior to death in terms of belief is not that important. However, refusing to seek God because you believe or think it possible that doing so will force a change of lifestyle or belief, for instance, may change the situation. Also, how you act given what you, yourself, know to be right is still supremely important: How can you serve God when you don’t know how to serve others, to mangle Confucius.

          To an extent in terms of the placebo effect, or faith in something potentially false. Beliefs also lead to a change of action and behavior which can and should provide positive benefits to both oneself and those around one. Those are also tangible benefits which are not directly related to the placebo effect. Between the two though the difference in outcomes is great enough and noticeable enough that if a person were optimizing strictly on expected happiness, health, and wealth then they would be religious, especially if intergenerational effects are accounted for. Even with my religion being one of the best in terms of those factors though the question of truthfulness is still important and I don’t see how that is answerable outside of seeking God.

        • Itarion

          Truly He is fickle, if He is so different to everyone.

          That makes sense, and would be forgivable, except that no beasts of burden that were found in the New World were ever capable of carrying a human rider. Thus, ass would be a much more realistic name to call them by, because asses were beasts of burden that only rarely carried human riders.

          That’s… refreshing, actually. I appreciate that you don’t condemn me to eternal torment and suffering. Could I have the original quote from Confucius?

          Basically, because of the established validity of the placebo effect, I will not accept personal experiences as evidence for any god. As for religions making people generally happier – one of the benefits you yourself profess – I say this: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/barkercarrier.html#depression

          A question. Did you watch the video I suggested? I will say, it was rather thought provoking.

        • JohnH2

          Itarion, I know you only from this debate online. I know only the smallest part of who you are or what you are like. I am quite sure that your fellow classmates would have a very different idea of what you are like, and your mother would have a different idea of what you are like than either.

          “While you are not able to serve men, how can you serve their spirits? Chî Lû added, “I venture to ask about death?”
          He was answered, “While you do not know life, how can you know about
          death?”” – The Analects Book 11

          I don’t know what the infidels link is referring to, but the effect of religion making people happier and healthier and so forth is actually well established. So well so in fact that Camels with Hammers has a recent blog post on atheists forming their own “churches” to try and capture some of the benefits of religion.

          Watched the video, the placebo effect is strongest in cases of disorders like fear.

          How do you know that I exist?

        • Itarion

          Despite only knowing a fraction of what I am, if you were to talk about me with my associates, friends, and family, much of what you would be able to say about me would be confirmed by what they know. God or gods don’t work this way. People disagree more about religion and politics than anything else, because both are – at their core – a method of governance, rather than any sort of relationship. “God”, or the idea of Him, exists to make sure that adherents to the faith follow a code of laws. When people disagree on which religious laws should be enforced, the sects splinter. The different groups of people that I hang out with should all recognize aspects of me that are shown to other groups.

          Thank you.

          Let’s try this link: http://www.politicususa.com/2013/02/17/religious-red-states-consume-antidepressants.html
          It’s the same idea. Let me know your thoughts on it.

          From what I understand, the benefits of religion that atheist organizations are trying to get are those that come with a support group. From the secular perspective, a church is just another circle of close friends, a circle where one feels safe to share life events, problems, etc. Also, churches offer an outlet for humanitarian aid efforts, and there is a wonderful woman, Rebecca Vitsmun, who is trying to organize a humanist humanitarian organization. Look up wolf tornado, and you’ll see exactly who she is.

          A presentation she has done on the topic is here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/09/04/oklahoman-who-told-cnns-wolf-blitzer-im-actually-an-atheist-speaks-about-the-disaster/

          My point is that the placebo effect has power. Things work because you think they will. Your faith works because you think that it will.

          Because I have been conversing with you. I don’t know what you are, or where you’re from, or even your name, but I’m guessing it’s John, and that your middle and last names both start with H. I know nothing about your nature, besides that you claim the Mormon religion, and that you know a lot about it. Also, you claim a mathematics Masters, which means you are intelligent and educated, and at least 25. But you also browse internet forums, which means you are likely still relatively young, so let’s put the cap at 40. As a Mormon, you’re probably from Utah. After that, all I have is very biased stuff, and I’ve really started into that already except that the Utah bit is backed up with facts.

          And whether I can suppose all of this stuff is beside the point, because it is easier, in the face of an independent record of our conversations, to believe that they happened without regard for whether they did or didn’t.

        • JohnH2

          Wrong about Utah, and middle name, JohnH was taken, but was what I was using before moving to Discus.

          Backed up with facts, but you could have been debating yourself, or a bot. I don’t think the independent record counts for much in proving my existence as it was created by a biased actor (you and supposedly me). Also, you are basing this off of your personal experience of this conversation, which seems highly suspect given the placebo effect. I do wonder how one conducts science in a world where personal experience is discounted.

        • Itarion

          One conducts science in two ways. The first is to answer all of the post that one is responding to. I’ll tell you the second once you have responded to the entirety of my previous post.

        • JohnH2

          The sects splinter over a knowledge of God seems to say a lot more about people then about God. It is quite possible to view those of other religions as followers of God, as being “People of the Book”, or as having the law of God written in their hearts, to give examples from scriptures of various religions.

          Mormons don’t drink, meaning that option of self-medication is out. Depression is quite a bit different from not being happy, you seem to not be aware of what a mental illness is I guess, nor does the author of that piece. In fact given that highly religious people drink less than others a large portion of the effect may even be simply explained by differences in self medication through alcohol.

          Cohort studies are pretty much the gold standard for scientific research, and Mormons perform very well in such studies having equal or greater than any other population group included, my faith doesn’t seem capable of influencing the outcome of 30 year long studies.

        • Itarion

          Very well, but that still does not explain the proliferation of “false” religions, which is to say religions which are clearly in direct contravention of “the Book.” Prior to the beginning of time, as described in the Biblical account found in Genesis, numerous polytheistic pantheons had sprung up across the world. I do not presume to know the mind of God, but I do know that it is a poor marketing decision to start an advertising campaign only after your competitor’s campaign has worked.

          I am very aware of what a mental disorder is, thank you very much. I just happen to think that, while the chemical composition of the brain can affect one’s personality, a structured outlook with the proper aid can affect an equal change on the chemical and biological processes in the brain, and this is evidenced by the Derren Brown video.

          “A growing body of work examines links between religious involvement and alcohol use patterns. Most studies in this vein have relied upon generic measures of religion such as affiliation, service attendance, or overall salience. This study contributes to the literature by developing refined measures of domain-specific religious salience, and exploring their links with the frequency of alcohol use in a diverse sample of college students. Results confirm the importance of domain-specific religious salience in shaping alcohol choices, but at the same time, also show that overall levels of such salience in this sample are relatively low, indicating that other influences (e.g., peers, parents) are also important. The effects of other religious variables (e.g., religious tradition, attendance, prayer) on drinking frequency are largely indirect, serving primarily to heighten the salience of religious convictions in the domain of alcohol behavior. Implications, study limitations, and directions for future research are discussed.”

          So, adjusting for other factors like socioeconomic status, race, gender, etc, religion has only a mild effect on excessive alcohol consumption and alcoholism rates.

          Also, “self-medication through alcohol”?! Really? It actually seems to work the other way. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130212075432.htm Rather than drinking because of depression, alcoholism has depression as one of its symptoms. Therefor, religious persons who abstain from drink should have a LOWER incidence of depression diagnoses. As for Mormonism having a lower depression rate: not quite. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/MindMoodNews/story?id=4403731&page=1

        • JohnH2

          Happier on average and healthier, not less depressed sorry if that was unclear. That just says that Alcohol can lead to depression, not that people do not self-medicate with Alcohol.

          I don’t see how having a mild effect contradicts what I said?

          Please get to know more people with metal disorders.

          You just switched, again, from everything coming from the first humans in Africa to God not doing anything prior to the Bible (the people of the Book doesn’t actually always refer to the BIble, fyi).

        • Itarion

          You have the numbers to back up your assertion? Let me see them.

          Because a mild reduction of heavy drinking would have an even milder effect on reduction of depression due to heavy drinking. The numbers do not show a slight drop in depression occurrences, they show a significant increase in depression among religious individuals, especially the 70% Mormon population of Utah.

          I’m dating a girl with depression and anxiety. I know a little about how much both of them absolutely suck.

          Sorry, I’m trying to keep straight two different timelines. Something like this:

          Members of the earth’s earliest known civilization, the
          Sumerians, looked on in shock and confusion some 6,000 years ago as God, the Lord Almighty, created Heaven and Earth

          According to recently excavated clay tablets inscribed with
          cuneiform script, thousands of Sumerians—the first humans to establish systems of writing, agriculture, and government—were working on their sophisticated
          irrigation systems when the Father of All Creation reached down from the ether and blew the divine spirit of life into their thriving civilization.

          “I do not understand,” reads an ancient line of pictographs depicting the sun, the moon, water, and a Sumerian who appears to be scratching his head. “A booming voice is saying, ‘Let there be light,’ but there is already light. It is saying, ‘Let the earth bring forth grass,’
          but I am already standing on grass.”

          “Everything is here already,” the pictograph continues. “We do not need more stars.”

          Historians believe that, immediately following the biblical
          event, Sumerian witnesses returned to the city of Eridu, a bustling metropolis built 1,500 years before God called for the appearance of dry land, to discuss the new development. According to records, Sumerian farmers, priests, and civic administrators were not only befuddled, but also took issue with the face of God moving across the water, saying that He scared away those who were
          traveling to Mesopotamia to participate in their vast and intricate trade system.

          Moreover, the Sumerians were taken aback by the creation of the same animals and herb-yielding seeds that they had been domesticating and cultivating for hundreds of generations.

          “The Sumerian people must have found God’s making of heaven and earth in the middle of their well-established society to be more of an annoyance than anything else,” said Paul Helund, ancient history professor at Cornell University. “If what the pictographs indicate are true, His
          loud voice interrupted their ancient prayer rituals for an entire week.”

          According to the cuneiform tablets, Sumerians found God’s most puzzling act to be the creation from dust of the first two human beings.

          “These two people made in his image do not know how to
          communicate, lack skills in both mathematics and farming, and have the intellectual capacity of an infant,” one Sumerian philosopher wrote. “They must be the creation of a complete idiot.”

          So I’m here hop skipping and jumping trying to address both your view and mine. Sorry if it’s a little bit confusing. Let me try saying that a different way. Prior to the beginning of the history recorded in the Bible, numerous polytheistic pantheons had already sprung up across the world.

          And I know, People of the Book is really any one or more of the three Abrahamic religions, depending upon who you ask.

        • JohnH2

          If you aren’t going to debate in good faith then I will tap out here; I already covered extensively that entire subject. Also, you are quite wrong as to the People of the Book. It comes from Islam originally (and always) referred to the Jews and Christians as well as Islam but also refers to the Zoroastrians and Hindus (at least to an extent).

        • Itarion

          You explained the proliferation of extra-Abrahamic religions as alternative revelations given by God, which is not an explanation which makes any form of sense to me. The blind men and the elephant, I believe, is a related parable used to explain how a single object might seem many different things to many different people. (One grabs an ear, one a leg, one a tusk, one the tail, and the last the trunk. Each feels something different, but it is all the same thing.) My problem with that parable is that it doesn’t allow for further exploration of the animal. These men don’t think, “Oh, there’s something more. We should inspect the whole thing.”

          When you explore and compare the religions across the world, the specifics don’t match up. There is no crossover. They all exist separately from each other, except in the instances of adoption between cultures. There is NO SINGLE THREAD common to all religions, which is why I do not believe that any of them have a basis in truth. As I have said. And said. And said.

          You tell me that there is a common thread. Without recourse to something general like ‘they are aspects of the Godhead’, what is the common thread that leads you to believe that your religion is right, and all other religions are facets of it?

        • Kodie

          That assumes that everyone has the same relationship and has gotten the
          same knowledge about God and same thoughts about what knowledge they do
          have, and that all thoughts about God come from God.

          No, actually it assumes you are all deluded.

        • Itarion

          It assumed nothing, it extrapolated from available data. It just so happened that delusion is what the data showed…
          But please, be nice. JohnH2 has taken time out of his day to converse with us, and bring a different viewpoint.

        • Kodie

          You give your answers, I give mine. If JohnH2 takes your comment:

          If everyone who had a personal relationship with God had a personal
          relationship with precisely the same God, then Christianity would have
          been a single unified organization throughout its history, rather than
          splintering into sects that barely even recognize each other as fellows
          of the same religion.

          and comes up with:

          That assumes that everyone has the same relationship and has gotten the
          same knowledge about God and same thoughts about what knowledge they do
          have, and that all thoughts about God come from God.

          then I am just pointing out that he’s walking in the wrong direction. It is not a commentary on what your statement assumed.

        • Cake

          Yep, JohnH2 is either saying that people have different relationships with god and they come away from that relationship with different knowledge (which makes god dishonest) or people are making stuff up.

          How does john tell the difference between them.

        • Itarion

          I will freely admit that he understood precisely the wrong intent from that argument, along with more than a dozen others of mine alone. I just think that it makes for an interesting study of psychological disorders, specifically delusions and delusion behavior.

          “Grandiose delusions (GD) or delusions of grandeur is principally a subtype of delusional disorder that occurs in patients suffering from a wide range of mental illnesses, including two-thirds of patients in manic state of bipolar disorder, half of those with schizophrenia and a substantial portion of those with substance abuse disorders.[1][2] GDs are characterized by fantastical beliefs that one is famous, omnipotent, wealthy, or otherwise very powerful. The delusions are generally fantastic and typically have a supernatural, science-fictional, or religious theme. There is a relative lack of research into GD, in comparison to persecutory delusions and auditory hallucinations. About 10% of healthy people experience grandiose thoughts but do not meet full criteria for a diagnosis of GD.”

          In the words of JohnH2, Wikipedia is your friend. And in my nonprofessional opinion, religious beliefs fall under Grandiose Delusions, a legitimate psychotic disorder.

        • Kodie

          And I should maybe add a little bit here to point out that JohnH2 unironically takes a lot of the same evidence we have that religious people have personal relationships with and actual god and discards them because they don’t match up with his personal experience, but without really giving anyone a good reason, his is totally different and we should take him seriously. Rather than go ’round the mulberry bush with John with you and Bob, I don’t have to read any more to find faults to point out.

        • JohnH2

          I don’t believe I have discarded anyone else’s personal experience with God. Philosophical arguments then sure, but that is quite a bit different then a personal experience.

        • Kodie

          Then how do you explain why their experiences tell them vastly different things than your experience? That is the part you gloss over. I already said that you have taken the power of suggestion, and that’s all it is, and you didn’t address that as a possibility. I do not doubt you have personal experiences, I just doubt that you’re receiving regular signal from anyone but yourself inside your brain.

        • JohnH2

          I don’t believe that generally their experiences are telling them vastly different things. A common thread in nearly all religions of the world is that of serving ones fellow men being nearly the highest good and the injunction to be moral. Violent jihadist and other similar fundamentalist groups don’t act the way they do because of experiences with the divine or because they confidently trust in the divine but rather out of fear, often of the divine.

          I didn’t address it because it is not true but I am also aware of how anything mildly related to a personal experience will be received and responded to by you. I would rather not cast the sacred before the profane.

        • Itarion

          Yeah, well… My mulberry dance partner left. I think it was this article on The Onion from a few years back that did it.

          http://www.theonion.com/articles/sumerians-look-on-in-confusion-as-god-creates-worl,2879/

          Expert level trolling: get involved with the conversation, seriously interested. Just long enough to find their hotbuttons. And press them. Hard.

          Somehow, “Prior to the beginning of time, as described in the Biblical account found in Genesis, numerous polytheistic pantheons had sprung up across the world.” translates to me switching between two alternate histories, rather than juxtaposing them to display the ridiculous nature of one versus the other, I may have overreacted, but I have no regrets.

        • Cake

          “Whether you like it or not you are and always will be part of God’s plan
          and eventually every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus is the
          Christ and God’s judgements are just.”

          It sounds like you’re utterly wasting your time then.

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

          It is more like I have a relationship with Bob then with Harvey.

          When you talk to Bob in English, he talks back, in English. Not in feelings or intuitions. If we lived near, we could have coffee and haggle over some of these issues in person.

          I’m having a hard time imagining your relationship to God being like that.

          You mean besides the Book of Mormon and D&C and the current Twelve Apostles?

          Are these witnesses to the resurrection?

          Whether you like it or not you are and always will be part of God’s plan and eventually every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ and God’s judgements are just.

          Evidence is not optional, I’m afraid. Yes, I know that this is your belief, but this isn’t convincing.

          unless you know, of yourself, that you should seek God and refuse to do so.

          I know of lots of God stories and refuse to take them seriously. I think I’m hosed …

          Knowledge of God is dependent on your actions, not Gods.

          God couldn’t make it easier? God couldn’t appear to me? He appeared to Abraham. He couldn’t do me a solid and just show up? Just show me that he’s not who he looks like (yet another nonexistent and ridiculous supernatural belief)? It’s not like it’s hard for him.

          I have given evidence here and previously but the intent is not to prove, but suggest that you may want to know more.

          Why should your argument rise above anyone else’s argument? Why is yours at the top of the list? Maybe I should evaluate religious claims alphabetically. Or randomly. Surely, going through them based on familiarity (giving priority to the ones that happen to be popular in my culture, which is simply an accident of birth) is indefensible.

          My confidence has been proven accurate, at the very least in the minimal terms of tangible benefits to my life.

          There are Branch Davidians even after Waco. I guess they feel that their religion has delivered. Should I put them on the list as well?

        • JohnH2

          I don’t drink coffee.

          They are witness of Christ, I suppose none of them saw his death and resurrection though they have seen Christ.

          Knowing the stories is quite a bit different from knowing God.

          It would likely be Jesus Christ and not God the Father that would appear to you should that be deemed necessary by them for you. I would think that Saul would be one that you could better identify with then Abraham.

          I would suggest seeking some form of optimization strategy if you are going to go through all religions. It is really up to you as to whether my argument is any better than anyone else, and it is not argument that converts.

          That you are asking seems to suggest that you have already ruled out the Branch Davidians. I am not sure on what basis you did so. Personally, I’d go with the direct contradictions on who is and isn’t a prophet internal to Mrs. White’s writings, but that just might be me, perhaps a Seventh-Day Adventist would be able to adequately explain that as well as the Great Disappointment. If you are committed to doing an exhaustive search then it seems prudent to put that group further down on the list as you want to avoid a brute force search as much as possible.

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

          It would be helpful if you’d quote the fragment that you’re responding to. A collection of context-less answers can be hard to figure out.

          I don’t drink coffee.

          Ah, I see. Then I guess your not drinking coffee means that having a relationship with God is precisely like having a relationship with me.

          They are witness of Christ, I suppose none of them saw his death and resurrection though they have seen Christ.

          Tell me more. Joseph Smith saw Jesus? The current Apostles all did? Can you point me to a summary or fill me in on when, where, how, etc.? I hadn’t heard this.

          It is really up to you as to whether my argument is any better than anyone else, and it is not argument that converts.

          Why make it then? Why go door to door? Since missionaries’ efforts are pathetic given the actual cause of conversion (the action of the Holy Spirit®), all that seems like wasted effort. It’s not like missionaries could do anywhere near the proper job of conveying the message that God himself could do. Or does God simply insist that you spin your wheels in useless activity?

        • Itarion

          Well… He won’t have a latte with you, or a cup of joe with God.

        • JohnH2

          Then I guess your not drinking coffee means that having a relationship
          with God is precisely like having a relationship with me.

          Largely from my perspective.

          “Joseph Smith saw Jesus?”

          http://josephsmithpapers.org/site/accounts-of-the-first-vision

          https://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/110?lang=eng

          “Why make it then?”

          You do realize I do this for my own personal enjoyment and not connected to the church, right? As in, I enjoy learning about and debating with others over their beliefs.

          “Why go door to door?”

          Because I had a companion that thought despite all evidence to the contrary that going door to door is the way to do missionary work. Or later because I was requested to spend some time doing so and so planned to kill time between appointments to go door to door. The Church has, yet again, said that going door to door probably shouldn’t be done and is supposed to put the missionaries on facebook sometime soon.

          ” Since missionaries’ efforts are pathetic given the actual cause of conversion (the action of the Holy Spirit®), all that seems like wasted effort.”

          With God no effort is wasted, though the efforts intended purpose and God’s purpose for that effort don’t always align. Also, Romans 10:14-15 suggests that preaching is useful in converting people as the Spirit testifies what is heard to be true.

          The gospel blesses ones life and leads to the desire that everyone have it. In it one learns that the worth of souls in great in the sight of God and that Christ died so that everyone, even complete strangers, can be saved through obedience to the gospel.

          “Or does God simply insist that you spin your wheels in useless activity?”

          God does have a twisted sense of humor, but not that twisted. God intends for actual faith to increase, which is by no means the same thing as belief. It is also different from being successful at leading to conversion as one can increase in faith and say, go back to ones previous church or something. It also leads to theological changes in other churches (usually uncredited). It serves as a testimony against those that knowingly reject the message.

        • BobSeidensticker

          Largely from my perspective.

          Yes, and unfortunately it’ll stay that way since you simply assert that your relationship with God is very much like your relationship with others and don’t explain how this is possible to the rest of us who, it seems to me, are quite justified in finding this incredible.

          You do realize I do this for my own personal enjoyment and not connected to the church, right?

          Spreading the good news isn’t important for Mormons? I wonder then why they do all that door-to-door stuff.

          The Church has, yet again, said that going door to door probably shouldn’t be done

          So face-to-face missionary work by the LDS will pretty much stop in the near future?

          With God no effort is wasted

          I told people that trying to change the sun’s energy output with my mind wasn’t wasted effort, but they didn’t believe me! O ye of little faith, eh?

          God intends for actual faith to increase, which is by no means the same thing as belief.

          What difference are you referring to?

        • JohnH2

          Obviously it is important but I am no doing this connected with the church and want to make that clear.

          No, they will do face to face, but they won’t knock on random doors. They will still deliver free material to those that request it, visit people that members have requested they visit, and other similar activities which lead to teaching people the gospel. Going door to door on random doors is terribly ineffective at sharing the gospel.

          See: ” though the efforts intended purpose and God’s purpose for that effort don’t always align.”.

          “What difference are you referring to?”

          The Devils also believe and tremble, and works demonstrate faith even when the person doesn’t believe. Meaning if the effect is getting people to be better people, even if they don’t believe in any of it then faith (trust in what is right) has increased.

        • Itarion

          A supernova close enough to illuminate the light sky would likely by close enough to irradiate it, too. Supernovae are also primarily material explosions, and one that close would also send clouds of debris in all directions, including towards the Earth, so a nebula of significant size would be quite near us. We don’t see one, so there isn’t one within the distance required for it to have formed within the past few thousand years a few thousand light years away. So, supernova didn’t happen.

          Time manipulation. Excellent. So it is theoretically possible for your deities to manipulate time, assuming that they exist?

        • JohnH2

          Time to God appears to be an interesting subject as it is clear that He doesn’t experience it in the same way we do. My hypothesis on the subject is referencing a verse in 2 Peter and yes to me it seems that God is able to manipulate time.

        • Itarion

          If He can, then would he not have existed for all civilizations at least once during their history? After all, if He can bend time, then he can move effectively instantaneously anywhere. And, if a god visited a civilization, it would be remembered, not necessarily as a god, but certainly as a hero. Thus, there should be legends of your god, recognizable by name, in a significant portion of civilizations across history. There are not, ergo He is not.

        • JohnH2

          You mean that : “For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according to that which is just and true.”

          Meaning that we can find parts of the truth in every religion and among every nation? Like how the Popal Vuh is quite obviously from the same source as much of the Pearl of Great Price despite being separated by centuries and thousands of miles with no cultural contact at all? Or how, again, there are legends or myths among nearly all people, despite similar separation of a dying and rising god or hero that saves the people? I find it so incredibly odd that you feel the need to add in “recognizable by name” as it is painfully clear that is out of place and is there only so that you can deny the obvious. Considering that the name of Lord was considered unspeakable by the Jews and that the Lord’s name when he would be on the earth was not given to the Jews then I don’t know why you think the Lord would provide those names universally.

        • Itarion

          You mean to say the Buddhist reincarnation, the Greco-Roman pantheon, native African animism, and the Hindi Brahma are anything at all like your Godhead?

        • JohnH2

          I am saying that there are parts of Buddhism which are right and true, and parts of Greco-Roman religion, and parts of animism which are true. The scripture quoted clearly states that that they receive “all that he seeth fit that they should have” so I don’t know where you get off on the idea that is supposed to mean that they receive everything from God and that God has revealed everything to everyone.

          It is best when trying to disprove something to not take the superficial approach of attacking every statement without first attempting to understand what the statement is saying. Creating strawmen of beliefs, while quite popular among atheists, never serve to actually attack the belief but to just make the atheist feel clever for knocking over strawmen. You also continue to operate under the assumption that God wants everyone regardless of belief or action to know of God completely, despite repeated explanations that this is not the case. Again, it is best to attempt to understand what a religions view of the purposes of God is rather then attack what you think God’s purpose is or should be.

        • Itarion

          While how I said it may have come across rather harshly, it was a question for clarification. You will note the “?” at the end.

          If all religions have echoes of the true religion to them, as you have said, how is it that your religion has all of the truth? Presumably you believe that it does.

          Further, creation myths are old on a scale that is hard to comprehend. Humans all originated from the same area in Africa if you trace the line back far enough, so to say that two cultures have never had contact is false. They had contact an incredibly long time ago, and then left. It is also possible that an early form of it – the world was originally water, and then the gods created land – was generated prior to the proto-human dispersion and kept because religious beliefs have incredible staying power.

          As for me attacking every statement individually, if you would look you would notice a consistent drive towards an attempt to disprove the Godhead by lack of stories besides the LDS canon, by way of the Godhead can and so SHOULD HAVE existed in all civilizations at some point and left traces.
          He did not leave traces, thus he was not there. This, despite theological allowances, and necessity by His own nature. Because His existence would necessitate universal legends of Himself which are absent, He does not exist.

          Where am I wrong?

        • JohnH2

          “how is it that your religion has all of the truth? Presumably you believe that it does.”

          An article of faith in my religion contains the phrase “and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” which pretty clearly means that we do not have all truth, as otherwise there would be nothing to reveal.

          I fail to see how a claim that Adam had the gospel and taught it to his children who dispersed and corrupted it is supposed to attack my position or be controversial to it?

          I realize what you are trying to do, hence the statement in the last post. You have kept up with the assumption that 1) God should have revealed Himself completely to all civilizations and 2) there are no traces of this happening despite my repeated statements that 1) is false in the sense that God has explicitly stated in the Bible and elsewhere to not have revealed everything to everyone and 2) there are traces in all civilization and nearly universal legends which correspond to what has been revealed. As in, you keep attacking the superficial features while ignoring the rest and failing to understand what is actually being said in favor of what you think “should have” happened.

        • Itarion

          You misunderstand me. I do not mean that God would have revealed completely to everyone. I mean that there should be legends of him and his exploits throughout all civilizations.

          There should be more stories of Jesus than just the story of Jesus. There should be similar stories of a man who came in a time of great trouble and called himself Jesus. The details of what happened cease to matter, as long as the story of a savior Jesus is there. Never have I said that every civilization ever should have been given the Bible. But an powerful immortal would leave traces of his path across the histories he treads upon, and if he did not tread upon them, so to speak, then either he did not willingly, or could not. If He did not willingly, then He is not the active God you worship, and if He did not because he could not, the he is not the active God you worship.

          The legends of His actions do not exist ubiquitously, thus He did not exist ubiquitously, and thus He does not exist.

        • JohnH2

          Right, there are legends of God throughout all civilizations, which for some reason you haven’t addressed and keep pretending I haven’t pointed them out.

          Further, have you read the Bible and/or Book of Mormon? How often do you see God intervening in the way that you suggest in either, even assuming that Genesis’s time frame is remotely correct (which quite obviously doesn’t appear to be at all) and we are dealing with ~7000 years of history? To how many Israelites prior to the incarnation did the Lord reveal Himself in person that is recorded? Given that the Israelites are a chosen people of the Lord we can assume that God had more dealings with them and revealed more then what happened on average elsewhere. We must also consider the likely case that the Lord would reveal to an individual of great faith, as in Abraham, or perhaps Thomas Aquinas, while not having that person share what knowledge was given generally.

          You really seem fixated on the name, again despite the very valid point that the Lord has actually rarely revealed His name, even to those to whom He visits personally. So say the Lord visits personally (rather then sending an angel) someone in India and tells them to share that knowledge, what are the chances that either the person or the people that person shares the knowledge with will assume that the Deity that visited the person is Jesus and not say, Vishnu?

          Since you have yet to even determine what the purposes of God is then I fail to see how God choosing willingly to only reveal that portion of His word that He sees fit to each people (the scripture again…) makes His actions inconsistent with the same scriptures (which contains that one WHICH I KEEP REFERENCING (for a reason, which you seem to ignore)) which provide the majority of the information about God.

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

          Creating strawmen of beliefs, while quite popular among atheists, never serve to actually attack the belief but to just make the atheist feel clever for knocking over strawmen.

          I’m sure atheists misunderstand the Christian’s position often, as happens from time to time in ordinary discourse, but the deliberate part (necessary for actually making it a strawman) is rare, in my limited experience. The same is true for twisting our long moustaches and cackling with delight at the mayhem we cause.

          it is best to attempt to understand what a religions view of the purposes of God is rather then attack what you think God’s purpose is or should be.

          I haven’t been following this conversation closely, so this may be tangential, but I think that figuring out the logical properties of or actions of a god with this or that property can make sense. The obvious example would be thinking along the lines of: if God is supposed to be loving, then what’s the deal with the genocide? And so on.

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

          Why did Joseph Smith “translate” the plates through King James English? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to give the most literal and authentic interpretation without a noble-sounding gloss?

          Re the similarities across cultures, are you saying that your god hung out with and introduced religion to many cultures, not just the ancient Jews?

        • JohnH2

          It isn’t exactly King James English, but close enough. I think Joseph Smith was most familiar with King James-ish English, especially in terms of reading, so translated it that way. Certainly in a lot of ways it would have made more sense to have it be translated more literally especially in some places. However, the point for God doesn’t seem to line up with that desire.

          It is based on the royal record of the Nephites and compiled by those that must be considered as being somewhat nobility. The most accurate translation would still likely have a noble-sounding gloss to it.

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

          How do you respond to the hypothesis that the best explanation for why the BoM is the way it is is that Joseph Smith just made up the translation? Is there anything that that explanation doesn’t explain well?

        • Itarion

          I have looked through a rather significant list of mythological figures from civilizations across the globe. “Wikipedia is your friend.” In this list, found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_culture_heroes, only one, Janus, was close in both name and SOME traits to either Jesus, Elohim, or Yahweh. Also a possibility is I’wai, from Aboriginal Australian myth, but I couldn’t find enough information on him to make a call.

          So, out of 39 (40, but one listed was Abrahamic, which is disqualified because that it the one we are judging) listed mythos, only one or two might have a mention of what is your god. This leaves a 96.1% plus or minus 1.3% majority of cultures that did not see your god, so I am reasonably satisfied that He does not exist by the argument that I have outlined above.

          Finally, please explain to me why a god who wishes to be known – which God clearly does, as he has revealed himself – would change his name across the cultures to which he reveals himself, as this would invariably lead to confusion and conflict when the cultures then meet? In essence, Why is “recognizable by name” out of place?

        • JohnH2

          Jehovah is title as much as it is a name, being one that has existence in himself. Elohim as well is a name, title, and group, being the chief of the council of the gods. Jesus should probably be Joshua, or deliverer (ie. Savior). Since God the Father and Jesus Christ appear to primarily be using titular names then it would seem that even if one expects God to use the same name throughout the world then one should be looking for corresponding titular names, such as Heart of Sky in the Popal Vuh, for instance, or Brahman (The Absolute or Eternal) from Hinduism, as another possible example.

        • jason

          “it is clear” ?? Physics and empirical science are “clear” since we can document our observations and experiments. How is God’s experience of time clear to you?

        • JohnH2

          God reveals things, from such revelations one is able to draw some limited conclusions. Such as God saying that all time is before Him and that He knows the end from the beginning strongly suggest that God has a different view or experience of time differently then us, as I am not able to view all of time and I imagine that you can’t either.

        • Jason

          Do you rationalize all the miraculous events in the Bible or just some of them? Would you also offer scientific explanation for the resurrection of Jesus? Perhaps he just looked dead. Just curious.

        • JohnH2

          I believe I just answered this below. Resurrection was real but God does operate within nature and not outside of it. This means that all miraculous events have scientific explanation, or rather would if science were more complete.

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

          Do you rationalize all the miraculous events in the Bible or just some of them?

          I’m baffled by people who have it together enough to realize that the Old Testament stories are legends that are far, far removed from any historical kernel, and yet maintain that the Jesus story is pretty much spot on–raising Lazarus, water to wine, the resurrection, and all that.

          Why not just go the whole way? But if this describes JohnH2, he’s got company. John Dominic Crossan and Karen Armstrong seem to me to fit in this bin as well.

        • JohnH2

          Bob,

          I responded at length to that.

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

          If you’re thinking of the Cuyahoga River, we should be more precise and note that it was the fuel on the river that caught fire (13 times).

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

          metaphysics is not answerable by physics

          And astrology doesn’t answer to astronomy (though maybe it should).

          Yes, metaphysics exists. We’ve yet to establish what it brings to the table.

        • JohnH2

          You can’t have science with out resorting to metaphysical assumptions.

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

          You circle a set of things and call them metaphysics. Got it. And what does metaphysics bring to the table? Is it simply that we have some static ancient history that’s foundational? OK, got it.

          If instead you’re saying that metaphysics is a dynamic and fruitful field, frequently throwing off significant discoveries that scientists and even educated laypeople need to be aware of, that’s a different matter. Tell me more–this isn’t my field.

        • smrnda

          I guess I fall into that category in that I think questions about god and such are outside the realm of systematic knowledge.

          Note that I added ‘systematic’ – if someone I know tells me they had a vision from a god, I can’t necessarily fault them for taking their own experience at face value, but I just don’t think they should expect me to be persuaded.

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

          You’re still losing me. I think you need to pretend you’re talking to a child.

          Yes, those are interesting examples with 1 + 1 = 2. Now, let’s return to the Cross Examined blog. What point are you making? That every argument is wrong? That one argument is wrong? For the third time, what’s your point?

        • Itarion

          Umm… that the most obvious and logical answer is not always the correct one, and sometimes we need to let go of our intuitions and let truth have a chance to speak.

          … I think.

      • Ron

        “Where does 1+1=2 not make sense?”

        There are 10 types of people in the world: Those who understand binary, and those who don’t.

        • Itarion

          so…. outside of the base ten number system. I will accept that.

          1+1=10.

    • Itarion

      Nuclear fusion is why the stars shine. It’s about as complete an explanation as can be fit to the music. Tropism is more of a what than a why, stimulus would be a better term, but again, artistic license. Because an artist is what Asimov was. He’s a freaking novelist, and to deconstruct his comedic works as if they should have scientific merit is ridiculous.

      [Edit (10 min after post time)]
      Suppose 2x=x.
      Separate the left side into an addition of x’s, as so: x+x=x.
      Divide by x: 1+1=1.
      Look, 1+1=/=2!!
      (Spot the error)
      [Edit]

      A soul is not God. According to popular beliefs, everyone has a unique soul, so individual souls do not explain the feats that are claimed as God’s.

      • JohnH2

        Why Nuclear Fusion? Why gravity? Why does “Nuclear Fusion” make a start shine? Why “stimulus”? If you think I am critizing Asimov’s artistic license and not the entire post and the entire idea behind both the post and Asimov’s usage then you have missed the point.

        Let’s stick to standard ZF+C and consider infinite sets. Suddenly addition is no longer the successor function, 1 countably infinite set + 1 countably infinite set makes precisely one countably infinite set and not an uncountable set. Or we could extend to statistics with non-measurable sets kept in. Or for a fun one the Banach-Tarski Paradox.

        Bob used a clever bit of misdirection to get a bunch of atheists fixated on “God”, while never even beginning to address the actual point that Kould was likely trying to make.

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

          And what was the point that I deflected the readership from?

          I fear that your “clever” compliment was inappropriate since I slipped in no deliberate misdirection.

        • JohnH2

          I haven’t read Kould’s book (and have otherwise never heard of it) but unless Kould was an utter idiot then he almost certainly did not mention God as the direct explanation of consciousness.

          You ignore this point and ignore that it is not God but the soul (which there are religions that believe in God and not the soul and others that believe in the soul and not God) which is being referenced.

          You even in a hand-wave-ium ignore the man behind the curtain kind of way concede the point and immediately move onto something that was not mentioned in at least the part of Kould quoted or referenced. As in Kould says something, you essentially say that is a good point, look Squirrel! except in this case it wasn’t Squirrel but God but the effect is the same.

        • Itarion

          Kould is a Christian apologist. Using God as an explanation is very nearly everything he does.

        • JohnH2

          Yes, but not likely at the point of discussing the soul.

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

          You’ve set a pretty high bar here. You demand that i’s must be dotted and t’s crossed.

          Fair enough, but then if this is actually an interesting question, I suggest you listen to his podcast and figure out what he was actually talking about instead of speculating.

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

          So you’ve dropped the question of whether Koukl is an utter idiot or not?

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

          I haven’t read Kould’s book

          It’s “Koukl.” And it’s a podcast, not a book.

          If you’re curious to hear that quote, it’s at 3:05 in the podcast. I’m pretty confident in my transcription, but that might give more context.

          His point, as I recall, was that the Christian has no problem explaining consciousness. He’s not saddled with “I don’t know” as the atheist is.

          Nope, I’m missing the (blundering, since it wasn’t deliberate) misdirection.

        • fsda

          John, you haven’t even defined what you mean by “God”, nor have you revealed how you came about this knowledge. You are claiming to know more about reality than any human who has ever lived. Don’t you think that’s a bit narcissistic?

        • JohnH2

          Later I do give the definition of God.

          Clearly I am not claiming more about reality then any human that ever lived as I am largely following teachings of two people that claimed quite a bit more then I have and I can think of more than a dozen people from the past that provided teachings that also claim quite a bit more then any thing I have suggested.

          I am terribly sorry that my poor attempts at explaining what many others have laid down in the past seems revolutionary to you. It appears you have been deprived of the basics of any kind of education. May I suggest that you obtain one and that perhaps a decent starting point is the Great Books of the western world with the added classics of the east?

        • fsda

          You give the definition “later”, as in “in the future”? If so, I apologize for not being clairvoyant. Did you also explain how you caim about this knowledge of the definitionally unknowable?

          “I am not claiming more about reality then any human that ever lived”

          Then why do you ask the ‘why’ questions with such narcissistic pomp in a way that “science can’t answer these questions but I can because I make up absurd bullshit and live in a fantasy land!”

          Quite ironic that someone who believes in magic feels qualified to criticize another person’s level of education. Can you also read minds now?

        • JohnH2

          As in I had already given it down below prior to you commenting.

          I don’t believe there is anything which is definitionally unknowable.

          As I explain below, I am not claiming I can answer those questions necessarily, but that they shouldn’t be ignored.

          What does reading minds have to do with anything? You appear to be completely unfamiliar with even the existence of other people that ask and attempt at answering such questions, meaning you are uneducated on the subject as otherwise you would be aware of those people, hence what I said.

        • fsda

          The supernatural is (if it even exists, which is highly doubtful) definitionally outside of our field of knowledge. Even if it did exist, we couldn’t know about it. You (and other egomaniacal theists) claim to know that which it is impossible to know.

        • JohnH2

          What do you mean by supernatural? And where do I claim that it exists?

        • fsda

          Supernatural, as in, outside of the natural universe. I’ve never met someone who claims that the god that they’ve been raised to believe in exists within the universe ‘he’ supposedly created, but you could be a first. (Who needs logic when you’re a theist?)

        • JohnH2

          You clearly haven’t read the entire discussion. I do believe that God exists inside the universe, being the set of all that is which is not necessarily what physics currently calls the universe (but could be). God organized creation from pre-existing elements of energy and matter subject to preexisting laws to which God is also bound.

        • fsda

          Admittedly, I couldn’t get through the entire discussion due to your numerous use of presenting astounding claims with no evidence to support them. Your position is extremely unique, and surprisingly more plausible than most theistic beliefs, but still pretty insane. Do you reject the Big Bang? If not, did “God” exist in the point from which the Big Bang expanded from? If “God” is bound by pre existing laws (such as gravity), then its existence is completely superfluous; gravity can organize matter just fine without some infinite hyper being pushing it along. Why do you even call it “God” when it has none of the attributes commonly associated with gods?

        • JohnH2

          I don’t see why I would need to reject the Big Bang? God exists eternally, what that means in relation to the point from which the Big Bang expanded from isn’t something that I know. Anything I say would be mere speculation on my part.

          God does have the property of Omniscient, a limited version of Omnipresent, and just as restricted version of Omnipotence as what is attributed classically to the philosophical ideal of god. A God that exists is greater then one that doesn’t, and God is the greatest possible being but I am not sure why philosophical necessity is supposed to be a good thing. I don’t believe or follow God because of philosophy but because of experience which leads to faith, God being personal and not an abstract.

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

          A God that exists is greater then one that doesn’t

          Is this a deliberate nod to the Ontological Argument?
          And if so, are you saying that it doesn’t mean much to you? I’m not sure what relationship you have with that argument.

        • JohnH2

          Yes, that is a deliberate nod to that argument and yes I am saying it doesn’t mean much to me.

          The comment I responded to asked why call God as God if the attributes are different from those that Greek philosophers ascribed to God. Ayn Rand was right in stating that conception of God is a confusion of the simple fact that existence exists. If you notice the attributes and description of the creation lead to pantheism (the universe is God) which is avoided only by postulating a being that exists outside of existence (or is existence which should make the error obvious but for some reason doesn’t seem to). The only way to get a statement that something exists outside of existence to make sense is by first splitting up existence into the set of all objects that have existence and the set of abstract ideas, claiming that the set of abstract ideas has existence independent of the objects and then placing “God” into that set. Making God to be an abstract ideal and further one that can’t actually do anything *for* anyone; The unmoved mover can’t be moved by anything, and there can only be one rather than many because of a quote from Homer.

          How you get from that to a God that spoke face to face with prophets and loved the world to send His son, and how we are supposed to be in the image, likeness, or form of that abstract ideal is not something that is ever answered. If you look at Thomas Aquinas when he talks about the subject all the challenges are drawn straight from the Bible, and all the answers are drawn straight from Aristotle and never address the points the Bible appears to make. Or look at the creeds which attempted to formally weld the active personal God of the Bible to that abstract ideal, many of them are actually contradictory and apparently it is their own saying that they aren’t which allows people not to notice that.

          So yeah, I don’t believe at all that the god of the Greek philosophers, which has captured Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and parts of Hinduism, is the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Ishmael. Paul was right in saying that “the world through wisdom knew not God”.

        • Itarion

          So, you understand the explanation for stars, but are unsatisfied with it? It’s really hard to explain the fundamental laws of the universe, but I’ll try. First, energy exists. Then, by E=MC^2, particles exist. These particles, by existing, cause distortions in the fabric of spacetime which cause other moving particles to have their paths bent closer to the each other, such that particles move towards particles. If enough particles gather together, the combined distortive effects cause them to overcome the electric charge repulsion – a basic property of the particles – and combine, releasing a percentage of their masses as energy, specifically light and heat. This continues to happen, with the released energies finally causing the entire mass to glow in the visible light spectrum by blackbody radiation. Blackbody radiation, of course, is emitted by all masses based upon temperature, and is a sum of the emissions by electron excitation. Electrons – one of these fundamental particles – are excited by the heat, and then, because this excited state is unstable, release the energy as a photon. Thus, starlight.

        • JohnH2

          Why energy? Perhaps more relevantly why E=MC^2?

        • Itarion

          What, are you 3?

        • JohnH2

          Is that the best answer you can come up with?

        • Itarion

          No, it’s the best answer I’m going to. Continuing to ask why about a subject, while potentially useful, is very often not, very often done by small children, and very often done with the express intent to irritate the askee.

        • JohnH2

          In this case it is an attempt to point out what is apparently a huge blind spot for you.

        • Itarion

          I don’t like being walked/led to an epiphany. What am I missing?

        • JohnH2

          Think about it, what point led you to annoyance? What are you failing to address?

          Why are there “laws” in the universe? Why is there “energy”? Where do they come from? What purpose (if any) do they have? Science appears quite capable of telling me the what and how of the laws of the universe, but once it starts addressing why there are laws then we have moved into metaphysics. I will assume that you are a naturalist, or reductive materialist, as your comment on thought leads me to believe, in which case the question is are the laws themselves material objects?

        • Armanatar

          Laws of the universe are just explanations of the properties of various components of the universe; they’re a description of material objects and how they behave, neither prescriptive rules nor material objects themselves. Electromagnetism is derived from the behavior of electrons, which follow from the behavior of the subatomic particles comprising them, and so on. Eventually, you get down to quantum mechanics, which I have only a layman’s understanding of, but which I know behave in counter-intuitive and bizarre ways (for example, at the quantum level causes don’t necessarily precede their effects, and some events even up to the subatomic level can be completely uncaused). There are enough things down at the lower levels of physics that need no cause to get things rolling, and everything stacks up from there. I’m not a physicist, so I can’t really explain in more depth, but it’s certainly a better supported hypothesis than unfalsifiable, unobservable supernatural phenomena like God or souls.

        • JohnH2

          Why those properties? As in, any explanation which remains within the realm of science leads directly to a questioning of the why of both the thing and a questioning of the unfalsifiable unobservable axioms that underly either the model or science itself.. Regardless of ones position it is important to recognize that one does in fact rely on such axioms

        • Itarion

          This is true. Why those properties? Because they have been discovered. The axioms have to be chosen in order for anything to be derived from them. A misfortune, because a lot of people stick to axioms, and attempt to derive a working model from them, when the axioms themselves do not reflect reality.

          Your argument is approximately: “The universe exists, therefor it must have had a beginning.
          It must have had a beginning, therefor something generated it.
          Something generated it. This thing was a god.” no?

          Fine. Current scientific model for the generation of the universe is inflation. Outside of our universe exists a sea of infinite potential universes that sometimes begin to exist. By any reasonable definition, this inflationary field is a god. A vast, impersonal god for which we humans are impossible to notice, and so a god for which there is no reason to worship.

        • JohnH2

          See my response to Bob, I don’t believe in the God of the philosophers, nor do I believe in a set of everything that exists that has a beginning.

          There has been a conflation of universe as used in philosophy with universe as used in physics.

          Where do the normal laws of thermal dynamics fit in with this model?

          Is a model that includes “infinite potential universes that sometimes begin to exists” actually scientific? Or just scientific sounding? What experiment could be done (in this case even in theory) to test this hypothesis? What observation could falsify it?

        • Itarion

          At the very least, one could move energy between universes. The apparent destruction of energy, which cannot be destroyed, would at least prove the existence of universes outside of our own.

        • Pofarmer

          Search “Quantum Gravity” if you are actually interested in the answers.

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

          I don’t believe in the God of the philosophers, nor do I believe in a set of everything that exists that has a beginning.

          Is your role here that of the jester, just making sure that we’re considering all possibilities? Or are you making a point?

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

          Are you headed toward, “Well, if you can’t explain the fundamental laws of physics, I can!”?

        • JohnH2

          No, I don’t even believe in the god of the philosophers; but not recognizing that ones explanations are built off of useful but also unobservable, unfalsifiable axioms just as much as anyone else is silly and throwing rocks in a glass house. Also, trying to answer questions by changing the question is also silly as it depends on others not recognizing what one has done.

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

          What axioms are unobservable or unfalsifiable? If “1 + 1 = 2” were such an axiom, for example, that is tested countless times a day.

          Also, trying to answer questions by changing the question is also silly as it depends on others not recognizing what one has done.

          Clarifying and cutting to the chase can be laudable where I come from. I guess we come from different places.

        • Itarion

          Fortunately for us, scientific studies of glasses have allowed us to create much stronger forms of glass free of weakening impurities. I throw what I want.

          Less metaphorically, the scientific method of exploration of reality results in much sounder explanations of the reality we inhabit. Thus, scientific theories confirm each other’s results, and many times can be used interchangeably to reach the same answer. Which is why I am comfortable throwing rocks, because my accepted worldview is unlikely to suffer a gratuitous total existence failure. As a mathematician, you should know as well as anyone that the proper selection of axioms is heavily important to finding the solution to a problem, AND that all axioms are not created equal.

        • JohnH2

          The Scientific method is not necessarily contrary to religious experience, or belief, or philosophy. I and many other religious people are quite happy to better come to know the mind of God by way of the scientific method, and suffer from no fear that the method will cause “a gratuitous total existence failure” of our worldview.”

        • Itarion

          Only because such a belief is in a write protected section of your mind. Very few religious persons are willing to admit to anything that will change their mind about His or Her existence, and there is a vast array of arguments designed expressly to reconcile a belief in a godfigure with the experienced world.

          Science needs no such arguments, because it has no such beliefs. And by Occam’s Razor – approximately: a less complex theory that explains and predicts more phenomena is to be preferred – scientific theories are to be preferred.

        • JohnH2

          Having had a conversation with you online, what should change my mind about your existence? Your existence is not an axiomatic truth for me but it would take quite a bit to convince me that you didn’t exist and I am not entirely sure what evidence would convince me of your non-existence.

          If belief in God holds an axiomatic position then that is a pretty poor belief. It is because of experience with God, both personally and on many other levels, that I know God is real and not due to argument or axiom.

        • Itarion

          In that case, if all of said experiences were shown to have come from a wholly natural source, would you then reject your belief in God?

          And, while a godfigure might not have an axiomatic position for you, it holds such a position in the minds of a great many people.

        • JohnH2

          So prophets are natural actors. The temple at Jerusalem was a physical object that was destroyed by physical beings and the Jews were persecuted for centuries by physical beings with the holocaust being unique as the most industrialized instance. The British mandate occurred with in nature, the 6 day war was also conducted by physical actors. The result though is that statements made thousands of years earlier by the prophets actually ended up happening. “As surely as the Lord liveth that brought up the children of Israel from all the countries He had driven them”.

          God is an omnipotent and omniscient being so is quite capable of using the independent choices of free natural actors in order to accomplish what He wills. He acts within nature so I don’t know how natural sources disproves the actions of God when individually those natural sources were not intending or attempting to accomplish a thousand years movement nor were most aware of it. Yet taken together the evidence of God is quite clear.

          The existence in the brain of areas dedicated to sight which when stimulated can create the sensation of light does not disprove that sight is real, not even to those who are themselves blind.

        • Itarion

          So, you would not?

          So, is a scientific study capable of finding evidence for or against god? Here, it appears that it is, as historical evidence. Yet above, you suggested that metaphysical or supernatural events are inexplicable by physics.

          Does your idea of a god exist within or without the physical realm?

        • JohnH2

          Scientific studies may eventually be able to find evidence of related subjects to God. You are conflating metaphysical and supernatural, the two are not at all the same.

          According to revelations which I believe God exists within the physical realm, which is in a non-reductive sense is the only realm that exists.

        • Itarion

          Which means that He is falsifiable under purely physical means.

          So, if physical sciences were to conclusively disprove God, would reject belief in Him?

        • JohnH2

          Just as much as if physical sciences were to conclusively disprove your existence then I would reject my belief that you exist.

        • Itarion

          Interesting. Few of the religious I have talked to have said such.

          Do you subscribe to the view that the absence of proof is not proof of absence?

        • JohnH2

          If you are talking about it in reference to God you are making the assumption, which I have already demonstrated to be false, that I have an absence of proof. You also need to realize that you are talking about attempting to prove an hyper-intelligent being of immense power that has a preference that people act rightly because it is right over acting rightly because He says so. God isn’t some law of physics which one can design an experiment and expect him to behave in a mechanical repeatable way but a being that may find it highly amusing, or potentially be annoyed, at such attempts.

          The absence of proof in the Higgs Boson was certainly not proof of absence of the same but the absence of proof of lake monsters is evidence of absence.

        • Itarion

          I made no such assumption about your beliefs. I assumed that the facts that you chalk up to God could be proved to have come from a much more mundane sort.

          For example, your burning river. Holy crap, a river on fire, it must be a sign from the heavens! Well, no, the river was actually full of burney type pollutants, which were also less dense than, and so floated on top of, the water in the river. Thus, the fire wasn’t burning water, but oil.

          My question is: if someone could, and took the time to, show that all of your evidence for God was actually from a non-divine source, would you recant and disbelieve in Him?

        • JohnH2

          The burning river was not evidence in favor of God, just evidence that rivers can burn without you having to freak out about it, terribly sorry if that was unclear.

          If it were possible to do so definitely then sure, just as if someone could and took the time to show that you are a computer bot then I would recant and disbelieve in your existence as an intelligent being.

        • Itarion

          I knew that, but from the context it appeared that you intended it as a violation of extant laws.

          Hey man. Artificial intelligence is potentially real.

          More seriously, I’m curious as to what you have seen that makes you believe. What is the single biggest, or top however many if you can’t pick one, that leads you to believe that there is a God.

          Also, if you would, please define your god so that I don’t assume the wrong aspects of Him.

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

          if someone could, and took the time to, show that all of your evidence for God was actually from a non-divine source, would you recant and disbelieve in Him?

          Wm. Lane Craig has made it clear that he would not. His belief is beyond the reach of evidence.

        • Ron

          A real prophecy would be unambiguous, i.e, provide precise dates, times, places and events that could not be influenced by man.

          Example: a magnitude 9.0 (Mw) undersea earthquake off the coast of Japan will occur at 14:46 JST (05:46 UTC) on Friday 11 March 2011, with the epicentre approximately 70 kilometres (43 mi) east of the Oshika Peninsula of Tōhoku and the hypocenter at an underwater depth of approximately 30 km (19 mi).

        • Itarion

          This, of course, would be especially impressive if the dating system, measurement systems, and language did not actually exist at the time of the prophecy, but were of the system that would be useful to the people who would need it.

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

          statements made thousands of years earlier by the prophets actually ended up happening.

          This is the “prophecy” in Daniel?

          I’ve slapped around a few other prophecies in this blog, but not that one. I’m not holding my breath, but if you have a good online source supporting this claim, I’ll be sure to read it before I wrestle with this one.

        • JohnH2

          I am more thinking of Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Deuteronomy, and Leviticus then of Daniel.

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

          Again, if you have a concise summary of this prophecy and how it comes reliably from the Bible, I’d be interested in hearing it. This prophecy is the last biggie that I have on my list and I’d like to take into account your information.

          As an aside, Ron is correct that a serious prophecy would be agreed to by all. You’re bringing up would be like pointing out that the sun sets every day. Duh.

          That this prophecy is not obvious screams out that it’s built upon special pleading. But I’m still interested in reading a summary.

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

          So you have evidence of God that convinces you, but you have no evidence that others would find compelling?

          And which god are we talking about here?

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

          not recognizing that ones explanations are built off of useful but also unobservable, unfalsifiable axioms just as much as anyone else is silly and throwing rocks in a glass house.

          You’ve done nothing to respond to my point that axioms are in fact tested all the time. When they’re found flawed, they’ll be discarded or used in a constrained context. I presume we’re on the same page then?

        • badgerchild

          There are laws because anything that works has to work some way, and the so-called laws are an explanation of how they do in fact work. In this universe, certain physical laws apply because if different laws applied, there would be a different universe, or no universe. At the risk of being flippant, it’s like the old nonsense joke about whether your grandfather would have been your grandmother if he had been female. No metaphysics required for that or for any other emergent property of physics such as the complex functioning known as “consciousness”.

        • Jason

          JohnH2, just because the deepest questions in life are hard to answer doesn’t mean ‘god did it’. I think that’s the point of Bob’s post. Itarion is trying to show you that science has provided us with a ton of answers. When you say ‘why’, you’re trying to show that his answers are incomplete, but unfortunately for you, that doesn’t prove the existence of god. Actually, it doesn’t even tentatively suggest god. It suggests that science and human knowledge are an ongoing process. Before Einstein, we couldn’t even give the E=MC^2 part. So according to your reasoning, 100 years ago the formation of a star in space would have proved the existence of god since no one knew how that worked yet. Silly, don’t you think?

        • JohnH2

          And I have yet to use any of this as an argument in favor of the existence of God, quit reading into what I write what I don’t say and things will be more interesting.

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

          quit reading into what I write what I don’t say and things will be more interesting

          Let me offer my suggestion for how to make things more interesting.

          There are lots of personalities commenting here. Keeping things straight between comments (interspersed with comments from other people) makes it hard to keep a single thought process clear. What would make things more interesting would be if you would make a clear, complete, and succinct statement of the point that you’re driving at here.

          Are you just a gadfly, keeping us honest by pointing out small but unimportant flaws? Are you saying that our entire worldview is rotten to the core? Have you found a specific error that we need to correct in one argument? Make yourself clear.

        • Joseph O Polanco

          And “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” -Maslow

          That is to say, your Scientism or Radical Positivism is too parochial and small-minded a theory of knowledge. After all, on this view there is nothing good or evil, right or wrong, beautiful or ugly. But is it tenable to think that scientific truth is the only truth there is? That no aesthetic, moral, metaphysical or otherwise putative truths exist?

          On this view, for instance, there’s nothing wrong with raping a little girl to death. Why should we accept such a conclusion simply because of an epistemological constraint? Isn’t this a signal that you need to open up the ambit of your theory so as to assimilate other categories of truth?

          Withal, the principles of Gödel’s Second Incompleteness Theorem absolutely gainsays Radical Positivism’s fundamental philosophy. After all, Science is suffused with suppositions that cannot be scientifically substantiated. The epistemology of radical positivism, thus, abrogates science itself. For instance, the principle of induction cannot be scientifically justified. Trying to provide a good inductive argument for radical positivism is hopeless since it necessarily begs the question by presupposing the validity of inductive reasoning in the first place!

          Even more fatal is that radical positivism is self-refuting. At its heart, this pernicious philosophy tells us that we should not accept any proposition that cannot be scientifically proven. But what about that very premise? It cannot itself be scientifically tested much less corroborated. Therefore we should not believe it. Your Radical Positivism thus asphyxiates itself.

          Or, as Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem revealed, ‘Whatsoever can be bounded cannot explain itself without referring to that which is without itself – some postulate whose certainty is unobtainable.’

          This is what renowned Physicist and Mathematician James Clerk Maxwell alluded to when he concluded, “Science is incompetent to reason upon the creation of matter itself out of nothing. We have reached the utmost limit of our thinking faculties when we have admitted that because matter cannot be eternal and self-existent it must have been created.”

          Demonstrably, then, your contention with and distaste for the notion of God’s existence is not evidentiary but purely philosophical. It is your philosophy – and only your philosophy – that occludes the path to knowing your Creator’s truths.

          Nevertheless, the day you finally decide to open up the confines of your epistemology of truth is the day the bounteous ken of God will at last be within your grasp. Then, with great shock and piercing regret, you’ll realize you’ve been needlessly depriving yourself all this time of staggering and precious truths.

        • Itarion

          Set theory: suppose you have the set of all positive integers that are divisible by two, resulting in another integer. Call it set E. Then you have set notE, the set of all positive integers not in set E. Add them to get set P, the set of all positive integers, a countable infinite set which is twice as big as either set E or set notE.

        • JohnH2

          um, Itarion check your math, or better yet check into Hilbert’s hotel.

        • Itarion

          Familiar with it. Infinite, full hotel capable of accepting any number of full, infinite carriages.

          Set P contains both set E and set notE, and so contains more than either of them. Despite all three sets being infinite, set P is a larger infinite than either set E and set notE.

        • JohnH2

          Then spend some more time there, all three are the same ‘size’

    • Jason

      In the ancient world (i.e the original setting of most Juedeo-Christian traditions), consciousness (i.e. self-awareness) and soul (i.e. incorporeal self within the body) are indistinguishable. In Greek, both were ‘psyche’. With the advent of modern science, soul is pretty much out the window and psychologists (i.e. those who study the ‘psyche’) are not studying the soul but consciousness. JohnH2, if you or Kould is going to propose that only God explains the soul, then you have to prove that soul exists first before you can get to the god question. But really, neither have a scientific basis.

      • JohnH2

        When have I mentioned God on the subject? You are exactly going for that which I said was wrong about Bob’s post.

        Precisely for the rest? Consciousness is something that has been problematic for science, come up with a disprovable testable hypothesis on the subject of how it exists.

        • Jason

          Problematic for science does not = ‘god did it’. And it’s not that soul is problematic for science because it’s too complicated. It’s that science is grounded in empirical evidence and there isn’t any for souls. However, modern science actually has a lot to say about consciousness, so I’m not sure why you’re trying to insist that it’s some major failing of the scientific method.

        • JohnH2

          We appear to be using two different words for the same thing, and science really has quite a lot of trouble with consciousness despite what you claim.

          I also haven’t said “god did it”, so quit making that claim please. In the case of ones consciousness God didn’t do it, at least not some of the most important parts.

  • Ron

    “So Koukl says that the scientist has a tough time explaining consciousness, but it’s easy for the Christian.”

    If it’s so easy, then the Christian should be able to explain the following:

    8.2 Injuries to the nervous system

    Traumatic brain injury (TBI)

    “The story of Phineas Gage illustrates a dramatic instance of personality change.19 Gage was the foreman of a railway construction team in the mid-19th century. On Sept. 13, 1848, an accidental explosion blew a 20-pound metal rod all the way through Gage’s head, from below his left cheekbone to just behind his right temple (Figure 13). Amazingly, Gage never lost consciousness. However, the injuries he sustained resulted in a complete reversal of his personality. Before the accident, his calm, collected demeanor and level-headedness made him one of the best foremen on his team. After the accident, his demeanor was characterized by rage, impatience, and gross profanity. Though physically capable of work after a few months’ of recovery, he was not the same man mentally. He never worked as a foreman again. He spent his remaining days as a farmhand until he died while having a seizure in 1921. Gage’s case was the first to draw attention to the effect of brain injuries on personality, and it remains one of the most dramatic cases of personality change due to TBI.”

    If humans possessed a “self that is separate from the body” — as Koukl maintains (~9:40) — then one would expect our personality (emotions, moral dispositions, etc.) to remain unaffected by such brain injuries.

    • JohnH2

      If the operating system of a computer remains the same but faulty components are placed in the computer does the computer still behave the same way?

      • Itarion

        Yes, up to the point where such components are used. At this point, one receives an error message. Faulty components outside of the hard drive and CPU, that is. A faulty hard drive or CPU renders the computer effectively dead.

      • Ron

        No. Which is my point: there are no metaphysical components required to explain the functioning of a computer or a biological organism.

  • MNb

    “something that is very, very difficult for a materialist to deal with that makes sense completely within a Christian worldview.”
    Crap, my first thought was that Koukl referred to superconductivity at high temperatures. The methodological materialists (also called scientists) have a very hard time to deal with it (in fact they don’t have much of a clue) while it makes sense completely within a pastafarian worldview.
    In others words: how is “science can’t explain consciousness” any better than “science can’t explain superconductivity”?

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

      It is helpful to remind us of the universal explanatory power of the Pastafarian worldview. Thanks for keeping us grounded.

    • Itarion

      Take bets that Koukl doesn’t actually understand what superconductivity is and why it cannot occur at room temperature (25 deg.C)?

      “Science can’t explain consciousness” is better than “science can’t explain superconductivity” because Koukl has a passing familiarity with consciousness.

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