F-ing Magnets—How do THEY Work?

The hip hop band Insane Clown Posse created an interesting meme with its 2010 song “Miracles.”

Well, not so much interesting as bizarre. Here’s a bowdlerized version of the verses in question:

Water, fire, air and dirt.
F**kin’ magnets, how do they work?
And I don’t wanna talk to a scientist.
Y’all motherf**kers lying and getting me pissed.

You really want to know how magnets work? Here you go:

These are Maxwell’s equations, the foundation of our understanding of electricity and magnetism. They were published in 1865. A deep understanding would obviously take some effort, but the point is that this question is no mystery to science.

The song’s not all bad, but it wanders from justifiable wonder at nature (“Oceans spanning beyond my sight / And a million stars way above ’em at night”) to conflating wonder with ignorance.

Saturday Night Live did an excellent parody video. The lyrics in their song “Magical Mysteries” include, “Where does the sun hide at night? / Did people really used to live in black and white?” which isn’t too far from denying our knowledge about magnets.

Maybe Bill O’Reilly is a Juggalo (a fan of Insane Clown Posse) because he has sounded a lot like them. In a 2011 interview with David Silverman, president of American Atheists, O’Reilly said, “I’ll tell you why [religion is] not a scam, in my opinion. Tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication. You can’t explain that.”

(Or you could just look it up in Wikipedia.)

And were there no consequences to O’Reilly for being this confused about reality? He’s been lampooned for these statements (and a later defense, which was equally ridiculous) by people who weren’t his fans to begin with. But doesn’t his fan base care about reality? Can they possibly cheer on this willful ignorance?

Despite the contrary opinions of O’Reilly and Insane Clown Posse, learning about how things work can make them more amazing. Actually understanding how magnets work doesn’t ruin the magic trick, it turns mysterious into marvelous.

Here’s an experiment: go outside on a clear night. Hold out your hand, arm extended, and look at the nail of your little finger. That fingernail is covering a million galaxies. Not a million stars, a million galaxies. Each galaxy has roughly 100 billion stars. That’s 100,000,000,000,000,000 stars under just one fingernail. Now see how vast the sphere of space is compared to that one tiny patch.

And how does the Bible treat this inconceivable vastness? “[God] also made the stars” (Gen. 1:16). That’s it.

The god of the Old Testament is little more than a dictator with the wisdom of Solomon, the generalship of Alexander, and the physical strength of Hercules. But science gives you the vastness of the universe, the energy of a supernova, the bizarreness of quantum physics, and the complexity of the human body. The writers of the Bible were constrained by their imagination, and it shows. There is so much out there that they couldn’t begin to imagine. If you want wonder, discard the Bible and open a science book.

And this is not groundless myth, it’s science—the discipline that makes possible your reading this across the Internet, on a computer, powered by electricity (and governed by Maxwell’s equations).

Carl Sagan said, “We are star stuff” to suggest that we are literally made from the remnants of stars. Two adjoining carbon atoms in a molecule in your body might have come from different exploding stars. Science gives us this insight, not religion.

Second-century Christian author Tertullian is credited with the maxim, credo quia absurdum (I believe because it is absurd). In other words, no one could make this stuff up.

If you believe things either in spite of evidence to the contrary or because of it, science may not for you. But if you want to understand reality to the best of humanity’s ability, rely on science. C’mon in—the water’s fine!

Science does not make it impossible to believe in God, 
but it does make it possible to not believe in God.
— Steve Weinberg, Nobel Laureate in Physics

Photo credit: mutantMandias

Yet More on the Bible’s Confused Relationship with Science (2 of 2)
The Bible’s Confused Relationship with Science
The Bible’s Confused Relationship with Science (2 of 2)
Yet More on the Bible’s Confused Relationship with Science
About Bob Seidensticker
  • MNb

    Yes, this is basically why I proudly call myself a scientismist. Though as a counterweight you might have mentioned that science also enabled the Holocaust and gave us the nuclear bomb – which is even more reason to embrace science, because no way religion is going to prevent us from things going very wrong.

    • Itarion

      Scientismist? What are the principles of scientism, and how is that different from scientifics?

      • MNb

        Scientism is a word used by theists meant as an insult and used as a reason to handwave arguments against belief systems. To me scientism means the idea that science provides the very best, if not only way to gain knowledge. Other ways of knowledge are either failures or vastly inferior to the scientific method. So I have turned it into a compliment.

        • smrnda

          I agree as another person who has been told I was promoting ‘scientism.’ Science isn’t a perfect tool, sometimes because we don’t have all the tools we need : some psychologists earlier on rejected internal mental and emotional states as things that could not be investigated scientifically, but they just didn’t have the tool we do now.

  • R Vogel

    Just curious how you would place someone such a Johannes Kepler into your framework. In addition to developing the model of planetary motion, he was also a well known practicer of astrology and firmly believed in a religious foundation for his work?

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

      And Newton was well-known practitioner of alchemy.

      I’m not sure what your question is. Are you asking, How can you laud these guys when they held false beliefs?

      • R Vogel

        I wasn’t trying to sounds confrontational, sorry if I came across that way. Truly interested in your thoughts. You said “If you believe things either in spite of evidence to the contrary or because of it, science may not [be] for you. ” I was wondering where someone like Kepler fits into that – who clearly believed in things in spite of evidence but still made tremendous contributions to science?

        • Pofarmer

          Kepler was what, 1600? Really, what choice did he have? What’s amazing is that these guys came up,with what they did in a world absolutely ruled by superstition.

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

          I’m missing where Kepler believed things in spite of the evidence. He didn’t have access to 21st-century science, as I’m sure you’re aware.

          Astrology is laughable today (at least, to most of us). Not so in the early 1600s.

          [Edit: what Pofarmer said.]

        • R Vogel

          I would think it is the height of contradiction for someone to believe that the movement of celestial bodies somehow held the secret to your future while at the same time believing that the celestial bodies were guided by rigorous mathematical laws. I don’t think they had any better evidence to believe in astrology as we do today, or religion for that matter. David Hume wasn’t that far behind Kepler and he followed the line of reasoning to the logical end. Going back to Greek philosophers we find those questioning the role of the gods in people lives.

          But I am apparently being less than articulate – your conditional statement seems to leave little room for people who can make great contributions to or at least not be at odds with science, yet also hold irrational beliefs. Just interested in your expounding on that.

          Thanks

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

          You raise an interesting point, and I don’t know that there’s much disagreement here. Obviously, someone believing nutty thing A doesn’t mean that they can’t also discover fabulous thing B.

          Sometimes in such situations, they reconsider A and reject it (atheists reject religion, for example), but not in all cases.

          I hadn’t heard this about Kepler, but Newton is well known for his fascination with alchemy (maybe it was breathing all that mercury?). Indeed, one biography said that it was because of his belief in crazy stuff that allowed him to propose gravity as a pulling force that acts across space and through all things in between (which is pretty darn crazy).

        • Kodie

          Might I suggest that it’s because we have imaginations. Beliefs kind of stick, but the reason we’re so creative (the art and poetry and stuff) is the same reason we are also inventive. We can imagine things that aren’t true as a way to process information and then sort it out as we go along. We can make up realistic stories with fantasy elements or fantasy stories with realistic (in the pretend universe) elements. I think some ideas are attractive even if they’re not true, so clinging to them is a form of wishful thinking.

          I don’t know how far-fetched alchemy is supposed to be in Newton’s time or astrology in Kepler’s time. I take it as an attractive hypothesis mixed in with wishful thinking. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could actually look at the stars and calculate some prediction based on the arrangement of stars the day you were born? People still like that stuff, and they should know better but they still think it’s true, and psychics and ghost mediums and things. Wouldn’t it be nice to communicate with the dead. Keep trying, maybe one of these methods will unlock the gate. As far as alchemy goes, same thing. If you want something to be true, and you think it should work if you hit on the right combination, and you haven’t exhausted all the possibilities, why not?

          Since I was not really brought up an atheist (or skeptical, not from my parents), and I also didn’t have a religion, plus I dropped science as soon as it was no longer required, I went through a period where I was fascinated by all kinds of traditions and pseudo-science. I wanted to try astral projection and biorhythms, and things like gems having certain powers to energize or calm. I also liked symbolism and stuff. I want good luck in my life, I want to repel bad things, and I want to know if it’s going to be ok. I want instant results, I don’t want to change my habits to attract friends who don’t suck and wealth, I just want to wear a necklace forged of materials that guarantee success, it says so on the handwritten tag, and costs less than $50.

          I can’t fault scientists for trying to make gold out of more common materials. There ought to be a way, and finally, they can make diamonds in a lab. I don’t think alchemy is magic, it’s pseudo-science, and pseudo-science has scientific elements. Alchemy and probably astrology were necessary steps in pushing the imagination out to the other side and actually getting some progress.

          I had a friend who is also an atheist, and he wondered to me one time what is up with astrology, and not really having any official knowledge on the subject other than knowing my sign (even if you don’t believe in it, you know your sign, right?), I came up with the idea that the pictures in the stars and the stories were important. You have to know your constellations and stories, because otherwise, it’s a little difficult to know what time of year it is, or nautical stuff. Some civilizations were pretty good at getting calendars, but stars are pretty handy to go by. They don’t look like anything they say they’re supposed to, but they noticed arrangements, and if you tell someone a story about a particular arrangement, they’re going to remember what it looks like, so they know if it’s still too early to plant or too late to go on a sea voyage or something like that. Horoscopes, similarly, seem to be tied to one’s date of birth, and I can plausibly believe being born at certain times of year meant you were fed better and got more attention than others, which might have affected one’s personality. It wasn’t that they were guided by the stars to develop traits, but certain traits may have some link to the time of year you were born. Maybe someone noticed this pattern and then attributed it to the stories, which is false, but stuck as a tradition even in modern times when people aren’t farming their own sustenance on a yearly cycle. So horoscopes are more of an old wives’ tale.

        • R Vogel

          Interesting book called Kepler’s Witch (James A. Conner, HarperCollins) about his life and, interestingly, his mother’s trial for witchcraft. Great read.

        • R Vogel

          Right. People have a pretty well developed ability to compartmentalize things, and I think we see lots of examples of people who hold irrational beliefs in one box and rational truth in another and never the twain shall meet. I think this was rather more the norm in the past than in the 20th century, which explains how religion and science could have coexisted for so long. My only point was, and I think you acknowledged it (correct me if I am misinterpreting you), is that holding irrational beliefs is not a sufficient condition for you to be hostile or anti-science.
          Thanks appreciate your thoughtful replies, as always.

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

          Right. We must avoid the genetic fallacy, which might say, “Francis Collins? He believes in Iron Age deities! What of value could he bring to science?”

    • MNb

      OK, I jump the bandwagon, just because I have a nasty internet character and love to ask difficult questions. What about these guys?

      http://www.cracked.com/article_18638_4-nobel-prize-winners-who-were-clearly-insane.html

      • R Vogel

        HA! This is awesome – my favorite line (given that I’m in the biz):

        In the 1970s, economists Myron Scholes, Fischer Black and Robert Merton came up with the Black-Scholes Model for Equity, a name that Robert Merton was no doubt just fucking delighted about.
        Poor Robert Merton!

        How great is the Nobel prize in economics (I know it is not one of the original prizes) – this year 3 people won it whose work all contradicts each other!

        • smrnda

          I think a problem with economics (I say this as a person who does lots of mathematical and statistical modeling) is that economists get to sort of *control* what assumptions their theories are based on, and will simply hand-waive problems that their theories can’t explain. In the most extreme case, you had the Austrian economic school which was pretty much all argument by axiomatic assertion with the notion that (according to von Mieses) that the theory was not open to empirical falsification. That means (of course) that it is not science. (Note – I don’t think all economists are that bad.)

          I think economics should focus on empirical data – economic policies and what happens, not theoretical models about how *hypothetical ‘rational’ beings* will behave under certain conditions. A reason why I don’t think this approach has taken off is that economics kind of requires subjective assessments about what are good or bad outcomes – it’s simply very ideological.

          Perhaps economics is where psychology was back with Jung and Freud and such.

      • R Vogel

        Just for (hopefully unnecessary) clarification, if your irrational beliefs make you a dick (ala Kerry Mullis) then all bets are off. But in the case where someone’s irrational beliefs are either (a) harmless or (b) actually cited as a source of inspiration for their work in advancing science, then what?

        • Itarion

          But in the case where someone’s irrational beliefs are either (a) harmless or (b) actually cited as a source of inspiration for their work in advancing science, then what?

          Then, you listen patiently to their argument, and recognize that they have authority in one, maybe two fields of study, and when those fields are unrelated to what is CURRENTLY happening or being discussed, then you can ignore them like you would any average idiot.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_authority#Fallacious_appeal_to_authority

          I’ll listen to Michael Vick about football, but not about dog training regimens, because he knows what he’s talking about in football. I’ll also not listen to Mr. Vick about insurance, politics, baseball, engineering, and a variety of sciences and pseudosciences, because those aren’t what he does. He does football, and he does it well. In football and related fields – strength training, healthy eating, and similar – I would defer to his experience. In everything else, he’s likely a fairly average person.

  • R Vogel

    Read this recently and your Bill O’Reilly quote immediately made me think of it:

    http://allthingsareyours.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/insidious-attack-on-the-word-of-god-by-a-meteorologist/

    • Itarion

      Fox did a science bit? *reevaluating

  • Kodie

    Here’s an experiment: go outside on a clear night. Hold out your hand,
    arm extended, and look at the nail of your little finger. That
    fingernail is covering a million galaxies. Not a million stars, a million galaxies. Each galaxy has roughly 100 billion stars. That’s
    100,000,000,000,000,000 stars under just one fingernail. Now see how
    vast the sphere of space is compared to that one tiny patch.

    I want to suggest that this is still true even in a city where you can’t see a lot of stars, or in the daytime. Even when the sun is out, there are galaxies in outer space. Try realizing during the day that you are on a planet, that the deep angles of the sun in the afternoon remind you that the earth rotates every day, and even though you can’t see them, there are stars in the sky.

    Secondly, the link there doesn’t work. 404′d.

  • RandomFunction2

    To Bob the broken, yet somehow fabulous, atheist,
    You’re speaking as if the Bible gave little to Wonder at. But a historical study of the Bible actually shows how revolutionary the teachings of the Bible were in some respects. Modern readers no longer feel the power of the Bible because millenia of Christian tradition have made some brilliant insights obvious. But back in the Antiquity, there were a lot of crazy beliefs and insane practices around the Bible committed to depart from.
    Let’s study an example.
    You can find fault with the first chapter of Genesis for its scientific inaccuracy and naivete. But don’t forget that this chapter was meant as a critique of babylonian religion, which was FAR more nonsensical than Genesis. The Babylonians used to divide time into seven-day cycles and believed that the seventh day was ominous. Jews turned that belief upside down and hallowed the seventh day. And that’s why they constructed an entire creation narrative which lasts six days plus a seventh day of rest. Fundamentalists who claim that the six days of Genesis 1 are actually geological times cannot be further from the track.
    Genesis 1 is as rational as a creation myth could be in 500 BC. Sure, God could have spoken telepathically to the writer of Genesis 1 and told him about the big bang and evolution by natural selection, but the writer would not have understood due to the historical constraints on his ability to make sense of the world.

    • Kodie

      Those poor stupid ancient people just wouldn’t understand! Our poor modern stupid people think it’s literally true.

      I am rolling my eyes at this justification.

      • RandomFunction2

        You appear to be lacking some historical awareness.

      • Eljo

        Trust me ma’am, you are dumber than 90% of stupid ancient people.

    • Itarion

      Is there a reason for “Bob the broken, yet somehow fabulous, atheist”? It seems a bit inside-jokey from here, or else just backhanded complimenty.

      • RandomFunction2

        I don’t think there is a reason. Bob is actually LESS broken than most of the atheists I’ve met on the internet. But as I am broken myself, I suppose I project it onto other people.

        • Itarion

          What do you mean by “broken”?

        • RandomFunction2

          Someone Fallen, a bit nuts, entangled in personal issues he or she can’t overcome, someone who can’t get a grip on himself or herself.
          Something like that. Richard Dawkins beautifully fits with that idea. When one reads Dawkins’s attacks on religion, one senses that Dawkins is not serene in his mind, that he is struggling against secret personal issues as he appears to have not recovered from past traumas. But of course, Bob is not like that. Bob shares Dawkins’s views minus the psychological bugs.

        • Andy Anderson

          So…a human?

          What an incredibly compelling wit you have.

        • smrnda

          I will attest that, by your own standards, I am actually not broken.

          Fallen? Well, I did fall down a few years ago when I slipped on some ice, but I find the Christian notion of ‘fallen’ to be either absurd, or so vague as to be meaningless. Most of my personal issues are nice and drama free. I have few past traumas. I do have psychiatric problems, but they’ve been under control with proper medication for years and are entirely biological in origin. Been with my partner for years and the relationships is quite stable. Religion doesn’t actually step on my toes much, so my only hostility towards it is that other people, not so fortune as myself living in a nice secular place, have it step on their toes.

        • RandomFunction2

          If we strip the concept of Fallen human nature of its link to an outdated view of the origins of our species, there remains the fact that there is something evil, rotten, stinking and ugly within each of us. A dark spot on our hearts. Something that is stuck there whatever society might do to uproot it. I think sociobiology and evolutionary psychology beautifully confirmed an old Christian insight. Some modern thinkers, who viewed the Bible as below them, have been shown to be wrong. It’s just not true that people are fundamentally good and it is society that corrupts them. They have it backward. People are born with selfish, nepotic, sexist and xenophobic tendencies, and it is society that teaches them to be decent people. Of course people are also born with empathy, altruism and a sense of fairness. So the challenge is to draw upon these good traits to inhibit those evil ones.

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

          Humans sometimes do terrible things and sometimes incredibly beautiful things. The natural explanation for why this is remains the best one.

          What’s left unexplained? What points to Christianity?

        • RandomFunction2

          All I’m saying is that Christianity has proven to be more realistic than some modern philosophies which attempted to replace it. Descartes is dead. Leibniz is dead. Rousseau is dead. Marx is dead. Skinner is dead. But Christianity lives on.
          I also think that the next head to fall will be gender feminism. And Christianity will have won another victory thanks to its balanced anthropology.

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

          I’m missing your point. Marx is dead, but his ideas are not.
          Likewise, Christianity isn’t a person but a set of ideas (or philosophy or something else mind-centered).

          Yes, Christianity lives on. So what? Scientology lives on.
          Hinduism lives on. Must then all three be true?

          That a nonscientific belief is widespread isn’t much of a
          statement. Astrology is widespread. Superstitions are widespread. Christianity is just one more widespread meme.

        • Kodie

          Christianity did not invent, nor holds the title to being a better person.

        • Kodie

          Oh yeah, there was that bit where you want to retrain women to want babies because they don’t and they should, according to you and your “philosophy”. Fuck you, you’re the one who is broken. Not fabulous.

        • Kodie

          People are animals.

        • Itarion

          there remains the fact that there is something evil, rotten, stinking and ugly within each of us.

          I reject this. I reject this completely and totally, as a statement that is intrinsically wrong. Humans are not, for the most part, inherently evil. Unless there is a strong reason, the majority of people will not go out of their way to cause harm to someone else. By that same token, humans are not, for the most part, inherently good. The majority of people will not, unless there is a strong reason, go out of their way to help someone. Most people, in most situations, are neutral.

          In US law, there has been defined a trio required for an action – specifically a crime, but the action could be anything, really – to be taken. Means, Method, and Opportunity. However, that fails to take into account another key aspect, motive. Without a strong reason to do anything, whether that reason be internal or external, no action will be taken. Most people do not have a strong internal reason to commit crimes.

          Why doesn’t every person kill someone every week? Why do people who don’t hold to your beliefs not go around slaughtering indiscriminately? Because people are not vile, twisted, blasted engines of desolation and destruction by their nature. Removing absolutes from morality – which is what you mean, presumably, by this soulblight – actually makes the subject make more sense. It makes it more complicated, yes, but it makes it more explainable.

    • Itarion

      You’re speaking as if the Bible gave little to Wonder at. But a historical study of the Bible actually shows how revolutionary the teachings of the Bible were in some respects. Modern readers no longer feel the power of the Bible because millenia of Christian tradition have made some brilliant insights obvious. But back in the Antiquity, there were a lot of crazy beliefs and insane practices around the Bible committed to depart from.

      The Bible may have given a lot to wonder at, but I still contend that the Hubble Deep Field Image is – given the scale context – the most universally inspiring bit of man generated stuff. [There's supposed to be word play in there. Can you find it?]

      You can find fault with the first chapter of Genesis for its scientific inaccuracy and naivete. But don’t forget that this chapter was meant as a critique of babylonian religion, which was FAR more nonsensical than Genesis. The Babylonians used to divide time into seven-day cycles and believed that the seventh day was ominous. Jews turned that belief upside down and hallowed the seventh day. And that’s why they constructed an entire creation narrative which lasts six days plus a seventh day of rest. Fundamentalists who claim that the six days of Genesis 1 are actually geological times cannot be further from the track.

      And I do, of course. I learn so much about the cultural relationships of the literature to the world it originated in hanging out on this blog. A critique of the Babylonian religion, you say? Actually, that makes a lot more sense, and I’ll be the first to say that, however cool the swords and sorcery of polytheism is, it’s all fairly silly at its core.

      The six days = six geologic times is indeed silly. There are indeed six geologic times, but at least the first day happens before geologic time, that is, Earth time, even existed. And then the stars are out of order, cause those should have happened on the second day, since the first is generally equated to the Big Bang. Generally, there are holes in the justification large enough to park a sun in.

      Genesis 1 is as rational as a creation myth could be in 500 BC. Sure, God could have spoken telepathically to the writer of Genesis 1 and told him about the big bang and evolution by natural selection, but the writer would not have understood due to the historical constraints on his ability to make sense of the world.

      Which is to say, still rather irrational from a modern viewpoint. Sure, he could have, and it would have been much more impressive to us here in the future. If I was an undying power player, delayed payoff would be my stock in trade. A drawing of atomic orbitals on a cave wall? I’d be laughing my ass of in a thousand years. And getting prayers from a lot more of the sciencey types.

    • MNb

      Eeehhh, it’s you who seems to lack some historical awareness.
      Those silly Babylonians could predict lunar eclipses far better than the authors of the OT with their brilliant insights. Also their estimate of pi was far more precise. Your god apparently did not think it necessary to advance Hebrew knowledge in these respects.

      • JohnH2

        MNb,

        God appears to have done a great job at having the Jews advance knowledge in all spheres of study, for instance 20% of Nobel Lauretes are Jewish who account for less than 0.2% of the worlds population.

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

          How do the achievements of modern Jews salvage the nonsense in Genesis?

        • smrnda

          As a person who is Jewish, MNb’s remark doesn’t seem to say anything about contemporary Jews, just about the Hebrews of the OT.

          Given that most of the great Jewish intellectual achievements occur well after any sort of divine revelation would have been finished (to the extent that anyone thinks it’s divine), I’d say it’s more the Jews themselves.

        • MNb

          That’s why used the word Hebrews indeed.

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

      You can find fault with the first chapter of Genesis for its scientific inaccuracy and naivete.

      And I do. I’ll grant you that simple fables might be the best way to communicate to simple people long ago, but we see nothing in the OT that separates it from the mythology of other ancient religions. That doesn’t prove that God doesn’t exist, but it at least shows that he took no opportunity to show us moderns that the Bible is different.

      But don’t forget that this chapter was meant as a critique of babylonian religion, which was FAR more nonsensical than Genesis.

      So the Sumerian story that we see in Genesis was better than the Babylonians’? Uh, OK. I’m not sure that advances your position.

      The Babylonians used to d ivide ti me into seven-day cycles and believed that the seventh day was ominous. Jews turned that belief upside down and hallowed the seventh day.

      Oh, snap! I can imagine those Babylonians thinking, “Dang! Why didn’t we think of that? Those Jews totally pwned us!”

      Sure, God could have spoken telepathically to the writer of Genesis 1 and told him about the big bang and evolution by natural selection, but the writer would not have understood due to the historical constraints on his ability to make sense of the world.

      Since Genesis was a written version of oral history, God could’ve used those 10 or 20 generations (say) to educate them. We could’ve had the Industrial Revolution in ancient Israel. That would’ve been some good evidence. That Judaism looks pretty much the same as the other religions around it is good evidence in the other direction.

      • Kodie

        I had a funny idea where god worked really hard on his creation, and decided he might become a successful author if he wrote a book about it, so he sent the manuscript to his editor. He really did tell the truth about the big bang and how life started, but they decided to construct a pandering adaptation for popular consumption. “God, you really don’t know what people like, and if we’re going to sell it, we’re going to have to make some changes.” And that’s how religion started. God got so upset that they fucked with his book that he hanged himself and that’s why we never heard from him again.

        • R Vogel

          Brilliant! G*d wrote out Maxwell’s equations and the editor said “Too technical, try ‘Let the be light’”

          Reminds me of my favorite political cartoon where Gouvernour Morris is writing the Preamble and the text says, “We the White, Male, Landwoners….” and someone behind him says “Too long!”

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

          I like it. That’s as plausible as taking the Christian story at face value, anyway.

          Vaguely related Mitchell and Webb bit where the author gets some unhelpful advice from his agent:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sifESist1KY

        • Itarion

          That took a dark turn at the end, didn’t it.

          I’d have gone with, “So God tried again and again with different editors, and that’s where all the religions came from. Finally, he decided to make an intelligent editor, and we’ve not heard from him since. Presumably, he’s still working on it.”

        • Kodie

          God’s really moody and, I thought about it from the agonized artiste’s perspective. Believe me, I thought, geez, can I really say that? And I said, why be wishy-washy. He drowned the whole world, of course he would kill himself if his publisher ruined his work.

        • Itarion

          But what if drowning the world was just something his editor stuck in? I just have a hard time imagining a hyperintelligent creator as a “tortured artist”. Not the Biblical god, mind you, just some arbitrary omniscient entity.

        • Kodie

          You have a hard time imagining a hyperintelligent creator as a tortured artist?

        • Itarion

          Ummm… Yes? Is that my own failure of imagination? I mean, a hyperintelligent reality writer would just need to spend a few minutes rewriting the life of the editor, in order that the editor does what he wants. I see less “tortured artist” than “bored trickster”. Think Loki, but without any oversight or restraint.

        • Kodie

          Why don’t you write one then? If you don’t see the credibility in mine, which is fiction and imaginary, by the way, come up with your own story idea.

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

          So Yahweh is like the Van Gogh of the supernatural realm? Kinda brilliant but kinda weird?

      • Itarion

        Wait… Industrial Revolution in ancient Israel. In some 300 years, we’re on the edge of interplanetary travel. If we had 10 or 20 times the time since the Industrial Revolution, and with technology following an exponential growth… I see three scenarios, barring catastrophe. We’d be slaves to our robot masters, we’d have worked it out and are allies with an independent AI nation in our galactic empire, or humans and AI have taken over significant parts of the galaxy and are currently at war, or very hostile.

        Either way, far far far beyond current technological levels.

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

          With Yahweh at our side, of course, this story would have a happy ending, so no problem.

        • Itarion

          Um. Actually, yes, because this scenario assumes he exists. So we rule the whole galaxy.

  • Itarion

    My favorite supernova is the pair-instability. Most supernovae leave the core of the star intact, but this one…. doesn’t. The process of detonation is rather complex, but it involves conversion of some of the energy generated in the core into mass, such that gravity overwhelms the radiative pressure. The star collapses inwards, and the fusion reactions then occur much faster, and the star just disintegrates. http://www.skyandtelescope.com/news/78344612.html

    Magnets are cool, too. Those are an expansion of fundamental quantum effects, explained here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFAOXdXZ5TM

    In conclusion, I agree with the premise of this post. Science is way more awesome when you have more than a half-assed SWAG about what’s going on.

    [Scientific Wild Ass Guess]

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

      Great video.

      • Itarion

        Thanks.

        By which I mean, I accept your compliment for the absent maker, a Mr. Henry Reich. Author of that, and several other videos.

        I recommend his videos as Minute Physics and Minute Earth, as well as similar channels Veritasium, Smarter Every Day, Sixty Symbols, and Periodic Table of Videos.

  • KarlUdy

    And how does the Bible treat this inconceivable vastness? “[God] also made the stars” (Gen. 1:16). That’s it.

    Wrong. The Bible says a lot more about the vastness of creation. Psalm 19 and Job 38 are probably the most obvious places to start.

    • Itarion

      Kind of, but the point is that the Bible, for the most part, glosses over the enormity of the universe. The heavens cry out the glories of god, you say, but I ask this: what about the glories of the heavens? The enormity of the cosmos is not addressed in the Bible, because the enormity wasn’t know.

      The Hubble Deep Field is probably the best example of this. http://webodysseum.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/universe_hubble.jpg That red square next to the moon is the part of the sky that the telescope was aimed at, with the moon there for scaling purposes. Each splotch of color is a different galaxy, likely on par in size with the Milky Way. Each and every galaxy, then, contains more stars than are comprehensible on a meaningful scale. To borrow from the good book, grains of sand at a beach might be comparable to stars in a galaxy. Genesis 26: 4 shows just how empty the authors of that passage thought the universe, because they couldn’t see – due to insufficient instruments – the vast, vast number of stars.

      TL;DR: The universe is big on a scale that most people today can’t even comprehend, and to expect such an understanding from a millennia old piece of literature is foolish.

      • KarlUdy

        Itarion,
        I don’t know what kind of book you or anyone else here expects the Bible to be.

        It’s a given that the main point of the Bible is not to marvel at how amazing the sky and everything in it is. In fact, a major point in the Bible was to move people from worshipping the sun, moon, stars, etc to the one who made them.

        Although the Bible does agree with us on a very important point: The vastness of the universe is beyond our comprehension.

        Abraham knew he could not manually count either the stars he could see or the grains of sand he could see. (And neither can we.) You seem to think the Bible is inadequate because Abraham is not asked to count the stars he can’t see?

        • Itarion

          I don’t know what kind of book you or anyone else here expects the Bible to be.

          I expect the Bible to be a rather quaint, and also horribly violent, book from the history of our species, which is interesting from a historical standpoint concerning how its influence spread across the world, and also how the effects of its influence changed based on the cultures in which it was accepted. I do not think that the Bible is worthy of study based on its own merits, but rather is worth studying for the same reason as any fragment of far historical evidence is worth learning about. Can’t speak for anyone else.

          It’s a given that the main point of the Bible is not to marvel at how amazing the sky and everything in it is. In fact, a major point in the Bible was to move people from worshipping the sun, moon, stars, etc to the one who made them.

          Personally, I prefer to marvel at what I can see. It’s all very well to say that all glory goes to the creator, but motifs, ideas and images can be found in art that was never intended to be there in the first place. Moreover, there are “art forms” which just celebrate randomness. Anything found there would NOT belong to the artist, but be a reflection of the viewer. That’s how I see the universe, what I can see of it. Any beauty is a reflection of what is in the viewer.

          Although the Bible does agree with us on a very important point: The vastness of the universe is beyond our comprehension.Unfortunately, the Bible is also used to cement a horrible hubris: that the universe is vast beyond thought, and it is ALL FOR HUMANS. Beyond that, the Bible also fails in conveying the scale to which the universe exceeds comprehension. The universe is so large that, not only can you not imagine how large it is, you can’t even realize just how far from imagining it you are. Any comparison fails because the relative scales are just that extreme. They fail to mean anything.

          Abraham knew he could not manually count either the stars he could see or the grains of sand he could see. (And neither can we.) You seem to think the Bible is inadequate because Abraham is not asked to count the stars he can’t see?

          It is inadequate, but not for that reason. Indeed, there is no way to count – one by one – the number of stars within the universe. But that’s no reason to say, “let’s just ignore that”. No, there are ways, using probability and statistics to estimate the number of stars in a galaxy, to within the proper order of magnitude. The Bible is inadequate because it asks humans to not ask questions, to just accept what it says. Abraham just accepted that his descendants could be as numerous as the stars. The current estimation of all humans who have ever lived is around 100 bil. The estimation of the stars in JUST the Milky Way is between 100 and 400 bil. But Genesis 26:4 doesn’t read “all humans”, it reads your descendants. Nor does it read “stars in the Milky Way”, it reads “stars in the sky”. Stars in the whole universe. Galaxies like the Milky Way are common. My first thought [beyond incredulity or dismissal], were I to be approached by someone saying this, would be an expectation of apocalypse and interstellar travel. But that’s preempted by “all nations on Earth”. Abraham is just like “Alright, sure. Sounds good.” The Bible teaches – subtly, underneath everything else – to not think, to not question, to not wonder. THIS, and nothing else, is the reason that the Bible is inadequate.

        • Andy Anderson

          “Abraham knew he could not manually count either the stars he could see or the grains of sand he could see. (And neither can we.) ”

          At least regarding stars, that’s simply not true. From astronomycafe:

          How many visible stars can you see from the Earth?

          The number of visible stars you can see with your eye on the clearest possible evening if you observed from both the north and south hemispheres on the Earth is about 9100. Astronomers measure the brightness of stars by their apparent magnitudes. The faintest stars we can see with our eyes is about an apparent magnitude of +6.5. On a night where you can just see the stars in the Big Dipper or Orion, this magnitude limit is about +5.0 and there are about 1466 stars that you could see in the north and south hemispheres combined.

          Star atlases such as Norton 2000.0 show all the stars brighter than +6.5. The Uranometria Atlas, published in 1988, shows all of the 332,556 stars brighter than a magnitude of +9.5. Meanwhile, the Hubble Space Telescope Guide Star Catalog lists all of the 20 million stars brighter than a magnitude of +15.0 and the Palomar Digital Sky Survey will provide a list of all stars brighter that a magnitude of +20.0 for which there are several BILLION. The total number of stars in the Milky Way is something like a few trillion by the way.

          The point is that the number of stars we can see from the Earth depends on what we use to view them with. They eye can see up to perhaps 9000-12,000 give or take, and depending on local atmospheric conditions and your vision quality. If you use a pair of binoculars, you would see probably 10 times that number.

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

          I don’t know what kind of book you or anyone else here expects the Bible to be.

          I expect it to be not the same as all the other holy books. I expect early Judaism to have no similarities with the other religions of the region. If early Judaism was in fact the worship of an actual god, God’s disguising this fact in a mundane book that looks like all the rest means that we must follow the evidence and conclude that there is no god.

          Although the Bible does agree with us on a very important point

          Please. Let’s not try to shoehorn the Bible’s view of the cosmos into our modern scientific view. The modern view is nothing like what the ancients thought.

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

      Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
      or seen the storehouses of the hail,
      which I reserve for times of trouble,
      for days of war and battle?

      This bit from Job 38 was mentioned in a blog post recently. It observed that fundamentalists may need to worry about meteorology more than biology since this actually isn’t how snow and hail work.

      But you raise a good point. I meant that “that’s it” in the creation account. I should’ve clarified.

  • Eric Sotnak

    When Galileo looked at the Milky Way, he wrote that it was, in fact, made up of stars. He also noted other instances where the telescope revealed stars that had been previously unobservable to the unaided eye. One response to Galileo’s claims to have seen “new stars” was that if this was true, God would have made the universe much larger than it appeared to be, and that the stars were not (as was the standard view at the time) embedded in a sort of outer shell enclosing all the planets. But surely God would not have created such a vast physical universe, since it simply doesn’t need to be that big. What God cares most about, after all, is what goes on here on Earth, and even there his concerns are really about preparing us for what really matters — the afterlife. Making a massive and content-rich physical universe would be inconsistent with a theology that downplayed the importance of the physical world in preference for a spiritual world.

    Notice how theology has generally responded: Instead of downplaying the physical world, it has instead taken the view that the richness of the physical world is actually evidence of the richness of the supernatural world: “Just think how great God must be if he has created such a massive and rich universe.”

    There are arguments that life is so vastly improbable that we must appeal to divine causation to explain it. That is, the rarity of life is evidence that God exists. But if it should turn out that there are many instances of life throughout the universe, the argument will surely be made that this is evidence of divine causation because if God exists and values life, then we should only expect to find lots of it. That is, the commonality of life would be evidence that God exists.

    Something is surely fishy with the theological reasoning here.

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

      Agreed. As a similar example, I’ve heard apologists respond to the challenge, “What would get you to change your mind?” with “Finding the bones of Jesus.”

      A good answer at first glance, perhaps. This is proof that the resurrection never happened. Let’s ignore that it would be impossible to find evidence that everyone would agree to. Even if all historians did agree, millions or even billions of Christians could easily be holdouts and simply refuse to accept it.

      But imagine that they did. Would Christianity die away? I’m sure not. Christianity is unfalsifiable.

      • MNb

        “This is proof that the resurrection never happened.”
        Really? Doesn’t the resurrection mean that Jesus had abandoned his earthly body and returned in a spiritual form, hence proving duality? As for the empty cave – all kinds of scenario’s are possible.
        The whole point of believing is to hold “truths” which are unfalsifiable. It’s the main selling point of religion: offer certainties in an uncertain world.

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

          That would be an easy fallback position for the Christian determined to hold on to his faith–”Bodily resurrection? No, I meant just resurrection.

          But I believe the bodily resurrection is an essential Christian doctrine.

        • avalon

          “That would be an easy
          fallback position for the Christian determined to hold on to his
          faith–”Bodily resurrection? No, I meant just resurrection.”

          But I believe the bodily resurrection is an essential Christian doctrine.”

          Bob,

          Don’t you know by now that the bible can say whatever you want it to?

          1 Corinthians15:50 “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God;…”

          1 Cor 15:42-44 ‘So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.”

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

          Oh, yeah. It’s a sock puppet. They have an easy fallback if they’re determined to salvage their religion.

          But how many modern denominations will say that Jesus had a spiritual resurrection, not bodily?

        • MNb

          I predict all the big ones. That’s what they have theologians for. And these guys are smart. Preparations are already made: “it’s all about the meaning of the stories, not about the question if they are literally true.”
          Unless some hard facts show up which can be used to confirm their belief system – then they are the first to cheer: “I told you so! My belief system is true!”

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

          Yes, good point. Evidence isn’t particularly important … unless it supports their viewpoint. Then they become empiricists.

        • R Vogel

          This seems uncharitable. I would think this would be right in your wheelhouse. They are using a working theory and as information becomes available, they adjust the theory to adapt to the new information. If scientific evidence contradicts something in the bible, they hold to the primacy of science and discard it as literal truth. You would prefer they all be fundamentalists? (I know you would prefer them all to be atheists, but that is unrealistic)

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

          But this isn’t scientific. They have an unfalsifiable belief, and they reject facts that don’t support their belief and celebrate those that do.

      • RandomFunction2

        Unfalsifiable?
        If, I don’t know how, free will were shown to be a sophisticated delusion of the brain, then mainstream Christianity would die away. It may take some décades, because Christian thinkers would try to resist the scientific evidence. But at the end, truth would prevail.
        There would remain only some ignorants led by dishonest pastors and a bunch of crazy Calvinists who never believed in free will.
        But then, ethics would have to go as well, as most ethical systems rest upon free will.

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

          Truth will prevail? That sounds quite naive, I’m afraid.

          Pick a religion that you think is nonsense. Mormonism, Christian Science, Scientology, whatever. As time progressed, these silly religions would continue to get battered by the seas of reason until they were nothing more than historical footnotes, right? Of course not. Remember the Map of World Religions? Truth works for science, not religion.

          As for free will, I don’t remember that being a central tenet agreed to at the Council of Nicaea, or indeed any other early church council.

        • RandomFunction2

          Christian ethics rests on personal responsibility, which requires libertarian free will. And ethics is vital to Christianity.
          Remove free will and Christianity collapses.

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

          “There is no free will! You can stop being a Christian now” sounds like an incredibly uncompelling argument.

          This argument wouldn’t make a dent in Christianity. “There is free will” is a brick in the foundation of very few Christians’ worldview. Remove it and nothing happens.

        • RandomFunction2

          Still, that’s what a consistent Christian should do.

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

          Granted. And how many Christians, when faced with with a choice between consistency and their religion and worldview, will not choose religion? Some, granted, but a minority, I imagine.

          Consider the Millerites and the Great Disappointment. How much more evidence do you need that your founder is a charlatan? He makes a prediction and the prediction fails–case closed, right? And yet, many stayed on. How could Hal Lindsay or Harold Camping fail in their predictions and still remain relevant players?? By rights they should’ve been laughed at, most by those whom they’d duped.

          It don’t work that way.

        • RandomFunction2

          Ok, I’ll grant you that much. But at least Christianity will lose its appeal to the intellectual elite if it rests on an insuperable inconsistency like the absence of free will versus the existence of sin.
          I do think something like that is going on in the case of Islam. Because Islam as a system of beliefs is far stiffer than Christianity and has a hard time with modern ideas like the Church-State separation, scientific exegesis, modern science and human rights. My bet is that in some decades, Islam will have become little more than a quaint superstition for ignorant masses without much credit in the academic. Either that or Islam will be reformed beyond recognition. Actually, there may be a schism between “neo-Muslims” and “traditional Muslims” along the lines of how to fit into the modern world.

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

          I’m surprised that you think free will is any meaningful
          component of 99% of Christians’ worldviews.

          But at least Christianity will lose its
          appeal to the intellectual elite if it rests on an insuperable inconsistency like the absence of free will versus the existence of sin.

          Will a bit of turbulence shake away some believers? I
          suppose. But keep in mind that the intellectuals are the
          most capable of cobbling together a reason for why they’ve been backing the right horse all along.

          I’d love to see Islam become more a cultural aspect than a religion that governs politics and policy. It has embraced science in its past. I confess that I have no sense of where it’s going.

        • R Vogel

          Calvinists don’t really believe in free will -they will tell you they do, but they don’t – and they are some of the most fervent (ala Mark Driscoll, Westboro Baptists, etc)

        • RandomFunction2

          Calvinism is nonsense. Christianity (or Judaism, or Islam) without free will is grand nonsense.

        • R Vogel

          It may all be nonsense, but the fact that Calvinists don’t really believe in free will, and Calvinism is the foundation for many of the fundamentalist strains of Christianity means that a denial of free will is not a death blow.

        • RandomFunction2

          I think that within Protestantism there is a debate between Arminians and Calvinists.

    • Scott_In_OH

      This is a great description of just how theological reasoning works. Thanks.

      The belief system is retro-fitted to accommodate new observations (which is NOT the same as modifying a scientific theory in light of new evidence) or changes in social mores. Furthermore, adherents typically claim they’ve always really believed [this current interpretation of the holy texts].

      It’s a massive, institutionalized case of living by confirmation bias.

  • SparklingMoon-

    science gives you the vastness of the universe, the energy of a supernova,
    the bizarreness of quantum physics, and the complexity of the human body.
    ——————————————————————————————-
    God Almighty has divided His wonderful universe into three parts. First,the world which is manifest and can be felt through the eyes and the ears and other physical senses and through ordinary instruments. Secondly, the world which is hidden and which can be understood through reason and conjecture. Thirdly, the world which is hidden beyond hidden, which is so imperceptible that few are aware of it. That world is entirely unseen, cannot be reached by reason and is pure conjecture.It is disclosed only through visions and revelation and inspiration and not by any other means….. The wonders of the third world are numberless and in comparison with the other two worlds are like the sun in comparison with a grain of poppyseed.To insist that the mysteries of that world should be wholly revealed through reason would be like shutting one’s eyes and insisting that visible things should become perceptible through the sense of smell.

    As God has invested man with the faculty of reason for the understanding to some degree of elementary matters, in the same way God has vested in him a hidden faculty of receiving revelation. When human reason arrives at the limit of its reach, at that stage God Almighty, for the purpose of leading His true and faithful servants to the perfection of understanding and certainty, guides them through revelation and visions. Thus the stages which reason could not traverse are traversed by means of revelation and visions,and seekers after truth thereby arrive at full certainty. This is the way of God Almighty,to guide to which Prophets have appeared in the world and without treading along which no one can arrive at true and perfect understanding….. reason cannot carry a burden beyond its strength, nor can it step forward further than its capacity…. to carry a person to his desired excellence God Almighty has bestowed upon him not only the faculty of reason but also the faculty of receiving revelation. It is the height of misfortune to make use of only the elementary means out of those that God has,out of His Perfect Wisdom, bestowed upon man for the purpose of recognizing God, and to remain ignorant of the rest. It is foolish to waste those faculties through lack of use and to derive no benefit from them. http://www.alislam.org/books/essence/chap2/chap2.html

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

      Shouldn’t we decide first if God exists or not?

      • SparklingMoon-

        As the Being of God Almighty, despite its brightness, is hidden beyond sight, the physical universe is not adequate for its true
        recognition.This is not a cup which could quench the thirst of
        complete understanding which is inherent in man’s nature. So long as God Almighty does not affirm His Existence by His word, as indeed He has done, the mere observation of His handiwork does not afford satisfaction.

        It is a great mistake to imagine that God is like a corpse which has to be brought out of its grave by man. If God has to be discovered through human effort, all our hopes of such a God are vain. Indeed God is the Being Who has ever called mankind to Himself by announcing: I am present.It would be impertinence to imagine that man has laid Him under an obligation through his understanding of Him and that if there had been no philosophers He would have remained unknown.

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

          Moon: On a different topic, what are your thoughts about translations of the Koran? Can it be properly understood in English, or must one learn Arabic and read it in the original language?

        • SparklingMoon-

          Yes,I think so that it can be properly understood by translation. My mother language is also not Arabic but I have understood its message through translation and by some explaining books of its verses.

          It is not necessary to learn Arabic for its understanding Muslims learn its wordily Arabic reading,considering it a blessed language of God’s revelation otherwise mostly are unaware of the meanings of its arabic words.

          There is a book of the Quran free online to read in English translation(Translated by Mirza Tahir Ahmad) and is mostly used by me.

          http://www.alislam.org/quran/search2/

          There is a book very helpful to understand the inner message of its verses is also available free online to read
          (Philosophy of the teachings of Islam by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad).It deals with many interesting topics; relation of body and soul and how physical action improve human nature to turn it into a spiritual one,the reality of Heaven and hell etc.

          http://www.alislam.org/library/browse/volume/Ruhani_Khazain/book/Islami_Asool_ki_Philosphy/?l=English#page/3/mode/1up

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

          Have you seen the Two Hour Koran? The abrogated verses are gone, as are the redundancies. I wonder if any Muslim has critiqued it.

        • SparklingMoon-

          No,I have not seen it before but just now.The writer has tried to explain the Verses by his own point of view. He has raised a lot of objections.I would like to refer him the same website of book of Quran I had already you:
          http://www.alislam.org/quran/search2/
          The very interesting and beneficial object of this website is that here Quran provides its readers a possibility to read the explanation of its verses at the same time thats meanings seem difficult to understand.There are two options for a English reader to select ‘short English Commentary ‘or ‘Detailed English Commentary’ by clicking a place(exists just beneath of each and every translated verse. For Example:
          [1:1] In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful.
          Read:Short English Commentary|Detailed English Commentary
          [1:2] All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds,
          Read: Short English Commentary | Detailed English Commentary

          An other book INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF THE HOLY QURAN”also available free online to read :
          http://www.alislam.org/library/books/Introduction-Study-Holy-Quran.pdf
          it deals with many many critical issues of religion but very unique in its style Some topics are:

          Religion, not a Product of Human Imagination– Islam Teaches Oneness of God and of Humanity– Meaning of Civilization and Culture–Different Periods of Civilization and Culture–Contradictions in the Old Testament– Contradictions in the New Testament-Contradictions in the Vedas- God’s Promise to Abraham–The life sketch, personalty and Character of Prophet of Islam etc.

          I think this book alone would be enough for Mr Bill Warner to remove misconceptions about Prophet of Islam and misunderstanding about the Verses of the Quran.

        • SparklingMoon-

          The abrogated verses are gone,as are the redundancies.
          ————————————————————
          Abrogation is needed in humans’ writings as their knowledge changes and improves by the time but Quran is a revelation of that God who is All Knowing about past, present, future therefore it is against His attribute to reveal a contradictory verse or to repeat uselessly a massage in a revelation which,later,He has to abrogate.

          There is a repeated evolution of seven thousand years both in religious and physical world. Time between Prophet Adam to prophet of Islam is four thousand years. All previous revelation (in their original form) with some new teachings has been assembled in the Quran.God has informed all mankind”This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favors upon you and have chosen for you Islam as religion.”(5:4) As it is a Final Law for His people therefore also also promised to safeguard the integrity of His Word for all times to come “Verily,it is We Who have sent down this Exhortation, and most surely We are its Guardians.”(Quran 15:10) In the existence of this promise of God, nothing can be abrogated in the Quran.

          There is a verse in the Quran that is cited in support of this allegation usually:”Whatever Sign We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring one better than that or the like thereof.Dost thou not know that Allah has the power to do all that He wills?”[2:107] It is mistakenly inferred from this verse that some verses of the Qur’an have been abrogated. This verse is about previous Revelations as they contained two kinds of commandments:
          (a) Those which,owing to changed conditions and to the universality of the new Revelation, required abrogation. (b) Those containing eternal truths which needed resuscitation so that people might be reminded of the forgotten truth.

          It was, therefore,necessary to abrogate certain portion of those Scriptures and bring in their place new ones, and also to restore the lost ones.So,God abrogated some portions of the previous Revelations,substituting them with new and better ones, and at the same time re-introduced the missing general spirit of the religious teaching.

          There is no verse in the Qur’an which clashes with any
          other verse of the Book and which may therefore have to be regarded as abrogated. All parts of the Qur’an support and corroborate one another.

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

          I’m not following. Mohammed said some stuff that he later abrogated with later verses, right? What explains this change?

          It almost sounds like a human-created book that was tweaked over time, y’know?

        • SparklingMoon-

          Mohammed said some stuff that he later abrogated with later verses, right? What explains this change?
          ——————————————————————
          Prophet of Islam has abrogated nothing.He had given further to mankind what God Almighty has revealed to him. This allegation is based on the thesis that verses of the Holy Quran revealed late in the ministry of the Holy Prophet of Islam abrogate the verses that he received early in his ministry.Thus, it is argued, that all that is said about Islam being a religion of peace is just a charade since such statements are always based on verses that were revealed early on. What people are not told, it is said, is that these ‘peace promoting verses’ are no longer valid. So people need to be made aware that the true and permanent stance of Islam is the one based on the later revealed verses that call for violent Jihad and the killing of all infidels etc.

        • SparklingMoon-

          It almost sounds like a human-created book that was tweaked over time, y’know?
          ———————————————————
          The Holy Quran declares itself to be perfect at the outset [2:3] and says again and again that no one would ever be able to compile even a single Chapter like any of its Chapters .More than fourteenth hundred years ago this challenge was given by God to all people who considered it a human created book:
          [2:24-25]”And if you are in doubt as to what We have sent down to Our servant, then produce a Chapter like it, and call upon your helpers beside Allah, if you are truthful. But if you do it not — and never shall you do it …..

          Prophet of Islam was a human being and if he could create such a book then any other could also. But no body has accepted this challenge till now. The reason is that its each and every verse is consist of truth as is revealed by a God who is All knowing and second,to fulfill its all descriptions.are in the hand of a God, who is All Powerful.

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

          So the Koran declares itself perfect. So what? An imperfect book could make the same declaration.

          each and every verse is consist of truth as is revealed by a God

          So it’s consistent with itself? Big deal. It’s consistent with a “truth” that it declares a truth. I’m unimpressed.

        • SparklingMoon-

          So the Koran declares itself perfect. So what? An imperfect book could make the same declaration.
          ——————————————————
          This declaration of perfection of the Quran is based on proved truths. There are countless description in the Quran to prove this claim but today I have selected a topic the person of Jesus that is much related to your blogs. Fourteenth hundred years ago, God had warned the followers of previous revelations by saying:”you would think it is a part of the Book, but it is no part of the Book; and they say,”That is from Allah,” but it is not from Allah.(Quran 3:78)The person of Jesus and his teachings as are described by his followers of Christianity, (in the form of ”Trinity”) is a clear proof of Quran’s truth.This human invented doctrine of Trinity in later times after Jesus;God is three,distinct persons in one being, and that these three persons are eternal and equal in nature, authority, and knowledge,is totally against the teachings of Jesus.

          As Jesus in the Bible always affirmed the Unity of God: ”The first Of all the commandments is, Hear O Israel, the Lord, our God,is One Lord.”(Mark 12:29) He referred himself as a messenger in the Bible:”This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent (John17:3)He had used the word of son of God for all believers:”Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us,that we should be called the sons of God.”(John3:1)and the followers of the Christianity had turned its meaning and posed him as a physical son of God. Jesus never claimed to be a universal Prophet but:”I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.(Matt.15:24)He never claimed to be law bearing prophet but a follower of Mosaic law and always adhered to it: ”Think not that I am come to destroy the law,or the prophets:I did not come to destroy,but to fulfill.(Matt.5:17) and said:”whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven”(Matt.5:19)

          The Quran has described the reality of Jesus and his revelation by describing :And when Allah will say, “O Jesus, son of Mary, didst thou say to men, ‘Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah?’”, he will answer, “Holy art Thou. I could never say that to which I had no right. If I had said it, Thou wouldst have surely known it. Thou knowest what is in my mind, and I know not what is in Thy mind. It is only Thou Who art the Knower of hidden things.(Quran5:117-119)

          The Quran confirms his mother as a pious and righteous lady and affirms the fatherless birth of Jesus by saying: ”Surely, the case of Jesus with Allah is like the case of Adam. He created him out of dust, then He said to him, ‘Be!,’ and he was.”(Quran3:60) and his fatherless birth is not interpreted as he was a Divine Being or a part or son of God but still is described as human being who had need of food and other necessities of life like human beings:”The Messiah,son of Mary, was only a Messenger; surely, Messengers like unto him had indeed passed away before him.And his mother was a truthful woman. They both used to eat food. See how We explain the Signs for their good, ”(Quran5:76)

          Jews had tried to bring Jesus to cross to prove him a cursed person and Christian believed him to be died on the Cross but Quran confirms his life after Cross: ”And their saying, ‘We did kill the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah;’ whereas they slew him not, nor crucified him,but he was made to appear to them like one crucified.” (Quran: 158) God had saved him from this cursed death according to His promis:”O Jesus, I will cause thee to die a natural death and will exalt thee to
          Myself,and will clear thee from the charges of those who
          disbelieve.”(Quran3:56)

          These truths in the Quran ,about the reality of Jesus,had not been revealed a long time after the going of his followers astray(as was revealed in the end of 500 C.E) just after the time of Nicene creed. In short ,God never leaves His people in darkness but people reject His guidance.

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

          You and I have different definitions of “proof.” Yes, the idea of the Trinity is ridiculous. That doesn’t mean that Islam has it all figured out.

        • SparklingMoon-

          That doesn’t mean that Islam has it all figured out.
          ——————————————————-
          Quran has figured out only the part where the followers of Jesus had made a mistake in understanding of their religion and has guided them otherwise Christians are always praised by God in the Quran:
          “…and nearest among them in love to the believers will you find those who say, ‘We are Christians,’ because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not proud. (5:82).
          “Surely those who believe,and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians — whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord. And there will be no fear for them, nor shall they grieve” (2:62,) (5:69, and many other verses).
          God has presented the good example of the companions of Jesus before other believers to follow: “O you who believe! Be helpers of God — as Jesus the son of Mary said to the Disciples, ‘Who will be my helpers in (the work of) God?’ Said the disciples, ‘We are God’s helpers!’ Then a portion of the Children of Israel believed, and a portion disbelieved. But We gave power to those who believed, against their enemies, and they became the ones that prevailed” (61:14).

          God had made promise fourteenth hundred years ago that the believers of Jesus would always remain in power in comparison to other disbelievers and they would have always an authority over all other nations and we see that christians and Muslims (who both are believers of Jesus)have rule over this world from next centuries to Jesus . Jews are, because of their rejection of Jesus had been made deprive of, and after that time neither has appeared a prophet among them nor a king.

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

          You know that just because you say stuff doesn’t mean that anyone is likely to believe it? People outside your religion need evidence to conclude that it’s real. When you have none, they think that it’s just another made-up religion.

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

          1. Do I understand you right? You’re saying that you approve of violent jihad and the killing of infidels?

          2. How can the Koran have both abrogated verses and not. I’m not following you. I’ve heard that the Koran has no contradictions because if there are any, that’s only because a later verse has superseded an earlier one. So there is abrogation in the Koran, right?

        • SparklingMoon-

          Do I understand you right? You’re saying that you approve of violent jihad and the killing of infidels?
          —————————————————————-
          First,my personal approval or disapproval in the matter of religion has no value.I always try to describe religion Islam in the light of the teachings of the Quran as it is the only reliable source to find truth about religions.

          I have described in my previous post in reference of abrogation that some people of other religions (because of their misunderstanding or biased attitude) make a wrong propaganda against Islam that peace related verses of the Quran had been abrogated by the verses that are described about the rules of war.

          Some misguided cruel Muslims also who kill other people and then try to prove it legal by some verses of the Quran (in the light of their own explanations).When their inhuman activities are condemned and called against Islam and their attention is converted to other peace promoting verses of the Quran then a lame excuse of abrogation of these verses is presented by them .
          .
          God,in the Holy Quran is mentioned ”the Source of peace and the Bestower of Security” (59:23). Every pursuit and activity which disturbs peace is severely condemned in Islam:”And create not disorder in the earth after it has been set in order…. (7:57; 11:86; 29:37)

          As Quran claims to be final Law of God therefore it nurtures all natural instincts of mankind for getting spirituality,as the use of all human instincts is vital to perfect spirituality.Quran neither promotes to take revenge in every condition (eye for eye…)nor stops to take revenge (having a slap on one side turn face for other one)to show great humble ( as it was a temporary teachings of Jesus for Jews of his time to reform their extreme hardness of attitude).Quran gives permission of both to practice,as forgiveness is better if reforms others,otherwise take revenge to stop cruelty.

          In Islam there is no concept of fighting with infidels.The Quran speaks of fighting only against those who first attack Muslims and this is the very condition laid down in other verses of the Holy Quran as well. The so-called verse of the sword in the Quran is often taken out of context as if it inculcates an indiscriminate massacre of all unbelievers. The Quranic words such as kill whatever you find them apply only in cases of war where the enemy has first attacked Muslims They do not apply to unprovoked wars and battles.To interpret these verses in any other manner would be a travesty of the lofty ideals of Islam.

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

          First,my personal approval or disapproval in the matter of religion has no value.

          Obviously, it does. If your evaluation of the rightness of a position had no value, how could you trust that you’re backing the right horse. Only after you decide that the Koran is fabulous do you then decide to follow it and abdicate all judgment to Allah. But at that first step, you must admit that you’re the boss.

          When their inhuman activities are condemned and called against Islam and their attention is converted to other peace promoting verses of the Quran then a lame excuse of abrogation of these verses is presented by them .

          Why is it lame? The later verses abrogate any contradicting earlier verses, right? Isn’t that how it works?

          Every pursuit and activity which disturbs peace is severely condemned in Islam

          But I don’t know if that verse has been abrogated by a later one.

          You said, “So people need to be made aware that the true and permanent stance of Islam is the one based on the later revealed verses that call for violent Jihad and the killing of all infidels etc.” So this is not your view?

        • SparklingMoon-

          Why is it lame? The later verses abrogate any contradicting earlier verses, right? Isn’t that how it works?
          —————————————————
          In religious books there exists always two kind of verses as the Quran also has informed about it:”He it is who has revealed to you the Book in which are Muhkam (clear) revelations, (that is, verses whose meaning is immediately clear and which Muslims use for guidance).They are the substance of the Book and others which are allegorical. But those in whose heart is doubt indeed follow the allegorical seeking dissension by seeking to explain it. None knowest its explanation except God and those who are of sound instruction say: We believe in it, it is all from our Lord.(Quran3:7)

          Muhkam (clear)verses are called Law bearing verses and base of a religion and their messages never contradicts to one another and the meanings of allegorical verses are according to their meanings .As it is described above that people who have inner ill intentions ignore the Law bearing verses and try to follow allegorical verses (in the light of their own explanations) to use them for their own purposes as some Muslims also do the same.

          The Law bearing verses are clear and have no need of explanations but allegorical verses needs explanation and can be explained in the light of Law bearing verses. If an explanation of a person of these allegorical verses is against the message of these Law bearing verses then it would not be accepted.

          The literary meaning of Islam are’ peace’ and this name is given by God Himself to this Final Law and Prophet of Islam Muhammad is introduced by God Almighty as:”And We have not sent you forth but as a mercy to mankind” (Anbiyaa’:107)There exist many verses in the Quran about the safety of human life,for example:”if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole humanity: and if any one saved a life,it would be as if he saved the whole humanity. Then although there came to them Our messengers with clear (guidance), yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land. (5:32)

          When ill intentioned people,who are fond of killing others, in the existence of these Muhkam (clear) verses (about the message of peace in the Quran),find no other option to continue their programs then try to misguided their followers by saying that these verses had been abrogated by other verses (that are about different situations of war) therefore now are not practicable.

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

          (I was hoping for a simpler answer.)

          And what do we do with Muslims who don’t have the peaceful interpretation of the Koran that you do?

        • SparklingMoon-

          And what do we do with Muslims who don’t have the peaceful interpretation of the Koran that you do?
          ————————————————————–
          The use of the same method for Muslims also what you are using for Christians by making them to realize again and again their mistakes. In previous centuries the condition of Muslim was not different to the followers of other religions as mostly have no sources for personal knowledge and they were always behind other people to follow them but the people of this time are lucky to have such sources to get first hand knowledge about all matters and to decide right from wrong.

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

          The Muslim world eclipsed Europe for 500 years. I’d love to see a rebirth of Muslim science and math.

        • SparklingMoon-

          The ink of a scholar is more holy
          than the blood of a martyr
          — attributed to Mohammed
          ————————————–
          It is really an inspiring and eloquent reference.He always motivated to learn and enlighten others also by the knowledge.On another occasion he said: “A learned one is as much above an(ordinary)worshiper as I am above the least of you” and he added:”Allah,His angels and all those in the heavens and in the earth, even the ants in their holes and the fish in the water, call down blessings on those who instruct people in beneficent knowledge.” (Related by Tirmithi)

    • MNb

      “God Almighty has divided His wonderful universe ….”
      In case we will decide that he might exist I’d like to know: how did god not too almighty do this job and which means did he use to divide the Universe? Did he cut it with an imaginary knife or something? And how do you know how he did it and which means he used? Did you receive some revelation aka hallucination?

      “.It is disclosed only through visions and revelation and inspiration and not by any other means.”
      These are notoriously unreliable sources of information. If I ask Papua’s from New Guinea or indegenous people from the Surinames-Brazilian borderlands I get wildly different stories than I get say from you. So why should I not trust them but you? Or better still – trust none? What control mechanisms do you have to check if any disclosure of yours is correct and not polluted by your personal biases?

      • SparklingMoon-

        how did god not too almighty do this job and which means did he use to divide the Universe? Did he cut it with an imaginary knife or something?
        ————————————————————
        When we study physical world and its causes and effects, we find observations leading to a world small in size, particles leading to sub-particles, all of it invisible to our eyes. Solid matter changing to gases and even more ethereal in nature, and finally, it is said, the matter changing to energy, and sources of these energies are the angels.

        God is a Spirit and highly spiritual in His Person. He created everything from nothing( Physical) by His spiritual attributes and the countless particles of this universe are the physical manifestation of his countless Attributes.

        The Sanctity and Holiness of His Spirituality stops Him to make a direct communion with physical particles of this universe therefore has created Angels as a middle source to transfer his attributes to physical objects. Angels are spiritual in their nature, therefore have an ability to communicate with spiritual God and on the other hand to communicate with His creature because of their being a creature (as have been created by God like other creature) They infuse the sustenance of everything after taking it from God.

        God provides constantly the sustenance of everything according to its need through angels. Different particles of this universe are manifestation of His different attributes and each kind of particle get its sustenance from that attribute that has composed it.

  • Austin Loomis

    “The god of the Old Testament is little more than a dictator with the wisdom of Solomon, the generalship of Alexander, and the physical strength of Hercules.”

    And the power of his fellow sky-father Marduk.

  • Tayglas

    Atheists seem to believe that Christianity and Science are direct contradictions, yet Christianity does not refute that the galaxies are vast, or that the human body is complex; it simply ask why to the explanations offered up by science.

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

      Who cares what Christianity has to say about stuff it couldn’t even dream up? When Christianity parrots questions that science itself comes up with (“What came before the Big Bang?” for example), of what value is that?


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