The Christian Poses Tough Questions to the Atheist (3 of 3)

A Christian apologist has given ten questions so tough that atheists are unable to respond. (See my responses, part 1 and part 2.)

So far, the ferocious problems haven’t been hard to unravel. Perhaps the final questions will be more challenging.

8. Why Do Transcendent Moral Truths Exist?

“We have an intuitive sense of moral ‘oughtness’; we recognize that some things are right and some things are wrong, regardless of culture, time or location. We understand that it’s never morally ‘right’ to torture people for the mere ‘fun’ of it. … These moral vices and virtues are objective in the sense that they stand above (and apart from) all of us as humans; they are not simply creations of our liking. Instead, they are independent and transcendent.” Transcendent law requires a transcendent Law Giver.

I’ll use William Lane Craig’s definition of objective morality: “moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not.” I doubt Wallace would object.

Now, back to the question: Wallace asks why objective moral truths exist.

They don’t.

Take, for example, our response to an adult abusing a child. What could explain that moral revulsion? Wallace says that we tap into objective moral truths, but he doesn’t explain where they’re stored, how they got there, how we access them, or if we access them reliably. He confuses a universal response or a deeply held response (which it is) with an objective response (which it isn’t). A far more plausible explanation is the natural one: all humans share the same moral programming.

Wallace also raises the is/ought problem: how do you get an ought (a moral prescription) from an is (a fact of nature)? You can say, “When someone is injured, you ought to help,” but what grounds this demand?

His error is in imagining an objectively grounded ought. I’ve seen no evidence that such things exist, and Wallace provides none. An ordinary ought works just fine here. Our moral programming gives us this ought, and most other people, being of the same species, will share the opinion.

Another way of seeing the problem: if morals don’t come from what is—that is, reality—then where do they come from? Where could they come from? Don’t point to the supernatural before showing compelling evidence that it exists.

Finally, note how morals change with time. We are horrified at the slavery and genocide in the Old Testament, for example, and congratulate ourselves to the extent that we’ve erased them from Western culture. Objective morals that change over time aren’t particularly objective.

(I’ve responded more thoroughly to another of Wallace’s arguments for objective morality here.)

9. Why Do We Believe Human Life to be Precious?

We kill weeds and pests, and we eat livestock, but we’d never consider this for a fellow human. How do we justify this if we’re all just the results of evolution?

Are “it’s wrong to kill a human” or “it’s okay to kill a rat” objective moral statements? Nope. There is no difficulty if there is no objective moral truth to align with. We value our own species more than others because of our biological programming.

Wallace characterizes the naturalist position: “In the true scheme of things, we are no more important (nor any more precious) than the thousands of species that have come and gone before us. Biological life has no intrinsic value and the universe has no purpose.” I agree—life has no absolute value and the universe no absolute purpose. You think it’s otherwise? Show me some evidence.

Wallace also characterizes the naturalist position as saying that only the strong survive.

And here he’s wrong. This is the “nature, red in tooth and claw” caricature. It’s not the strongest that survive, as any high school student who’s studied evolution knows, but the fittest. The fittest for any particular evolutionary niche might be the best camouflaged or the best armored or the fastest. In the case of humans, cooperation and trust can make a stronger society which, in turn, helps protect the people in it. And we don’t see cooperation just in humans. Think of any social animal—wolves, monkeys, or bees, for example.

10. Why Does Pain, Evil, and Injustice Exist in Our World?

“People are capable of inflicting great evil on one another and natural disasters occur across the globe all the time. More importantly, no matter what we do as humans, we seem to be unable to stop evil from occurring.”

Correct. That’s not strong evidence for an omniscient, loving god.

“Atheists often point to the presence of evil as an evidence against the existence of an all-loving and all-powerful God, but all of us have to account for evil in the context of our worldview. Both sides of the argument have to explain the existence and injustice of evil, consider what role it plays in the history of the universe, and come to grips with why justice is often elusive.”

Wrong. The atheist has no Problem of Evil to resolve. That’s your problem.

The Problem of Evil wonders: how can a good god allow all the suffering that we see in the world? Wouldn’t he stop more of it—at least the gratuitous suffering? Wallace acknowledges this problem on the Christian side, but when you drop the god presupposition, this problem vanishes.

“Whatever worldview we adopt, it had better offer a cogent response to the young child who is dying of an incurable disease. Which worldview offers the most satisfying and reasonable explanation for the evil and injustice we see in our world?”

“Satisfying”?! Is that our goal? I thought we were trying to figure out which worldview is accurate. If Wallace wants to rank worldviews based on how happy a story they have to tell rather than how accurate they are, he can do that on his own. I have no interest in participating, but I doubt that Christianity is at the top of the list.

“Christian Theism offers an explanation that naturalism simply cannot offer.”

As does Pastafarianism. Do I care? I’ll focus on reality.

Summary

For each of his questions, Wallace has explained nothing. He has given us his theology, not evidence. His answers often distill down to nothing more than, “Science doesn’t have all the answers, therefore God.” He has brought a squirt gun to a gunfight.

Sure, science has unanswered questions. It always has. But it has a startling ability to find the answers. If we can look back and see how poorly “God did it” answered “What causes drought and earthquakes?” centuries ago, why continue to apply this discredited answer to the latest series of questions? (More here.)

By being unfalsifiable, “God did it” could explain anything. In so doing, it explains nothing. (More here.)

I’d love to see an apologist show some courage in their claims. Is the riddle of abiogenesis or human consciousness or the origin of the universe so intractable that God is the only possible answer? Will you rest your faith on that claim? Will you say that God must be the answer and, if science does eventually resolve it naturally, you’ll abandon your faith?

Of course they won’t. Unanswered questions aren’t the reason for their faith. So if they aren’t primary evidence pointing to Christianity for them, why should they be for the rest of us? When one of these questions becomes answered (and, given science’s track record, that’s a safe bet), they’ll abandon it and retreat to whatever new question catches their fancy.

Science boldly pushes into new territory and gives us new insights. Religion follows and says, “Oh yeah, I knew that.” Religion is the dog that walks under the ox and thinks that he is pulling the wagon.

The universe is a deadly place.
At every opportunity, it is trying to kill us.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson

Photo credit: StormchaserMike

About Bob Seidensticker
  • RichardSRussell

    To get some insights into the rock-like mind of a religionist on the subect of “objective morality”, check out this extended conversation I had with one in the comment section of the comic strip “Bizarro”:

    http://www.azcentral.com/thingstodo/comics/king-comics.html?feature_id=Bizarro&feature_date=2013-11-05

    Notice the total imperviousness to language, logic, and evidence.

    As to the “contentment with life” argument, I don’t think it’s ever been rebutted more effectively than by George Bernard Shaw: “The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact than a drunken man is happier than a sober one.”

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

      Great quote by Shaw. I should’ve used it.

    • James Stevenson

      Fun exchange. Totally should have asked him if his ‘objective’ reality demanded he do something generally immoral (ie eat a baby) whether he would be all for that. As of yet I’ve never got someone to unequivocally say yes, even if the ‘right’ answer if there was an objective morality stemming from God would be to immediately answer to the affirmative. Ah morality as obedience…

    • Nemo

      Let me get this straight: Lot’s wife takes a look at the town she grew up in. BURN FOR YAHWEH!!!!!! Someone is gay. DEATH BY ROCKS!!!!! Old Testament figures take multiple wives, often through means which would send them to the electric chair today. “Well, I don’t really approve, but I don’t want to tell them not to. That’d be rude” Proverbs 72:286

      • http://batman-news.com Anton

        At least God was watching out for Isaac. Or someone working for God was, it’s tough to say.

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

          When God says, “I want you to sacrifice your son,” the correct answer is, “No!”

          It was a morality test, not a loyalty test. Abe failed.

        • Castilliano

          And yet people always seem to forget that guy who sacrifices his daughter to Yahweh, and Yahweh doesn’t intervene. Nor punish.
          Face it, by modern standards, these are psychotic actions.

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

          Judges 11:29-40

  • Balboa

    I was excited when i read the title of this article. I like actual discussion and tackling of big ideas. But this was just another one of those soft-ball, strawman affairs so popular online amount our crowd. We need to up our game. There are actual strong arguments made by believers that atheists can and should address. But if we insist on only taking the low hanging fruit to show others how smart we are, that isn’t discussion, it isn’t even debate. I remember being a first year philosophy student, who went in with exactly these kinds of arguments only to have my butt handed to me by professors who believed in god. You dont do atheists any favors by fighting a caricature of the other side. Seek out the genuinely good arguments from believers (they may be wrong, but they are not all idiots) and respond to those. This kind of backslapping “say aren’t we smarter than those who believe” non-sense ensures we lose the debate, because are arguments get weaker and weaker till they’re nothing but snark.

    • avalon

      “There are actual strong arguments made by believers that atheists can and should address”

      OK, you have my attention. Can you provide a few examples?

      • Balboa

        I am no an christian, so I wont presume to speak for them. But yes, good arguments exist on that side. I have certainly encountered them, and had to content against them in various philosophy courses. Some of the stronger arguments made from the christian point of view were by Peter Kreeft. But if you go outside christianity to general belief, there are more. They are still arguments with incorrect conclusions. But this article is a response to questions by a former cop, not a philosopher, scientist or religious studies professor. All i am saying is, if you want to do an article where an atheists fields TOUGH questions from a believer, then invite Peter kreeft or someone of that caliber to send in some questions. These were not tough questions. When you do your first course on the subject, those initial statements and the authors basic responses are what you encounter on day one. Arguments about the existence or non existence of god, are much more involved than that.

        • avalon

          “Some of the stronger arguments made from the christian point of view were by Peter Kreeft.”
          I’ve read many of Kreeft’s arguments. They didn’t impress me. Kreeft (along with nearly every apologist) counts intuition as accurate knowledge. An intuition is more like a hypothesis. It may be proved right or wrong.

        • Balboa

          First, i never said his arguments are convincing. I in fact said he is wrong. I only said they are strong arguments. Certainly intuition isnt very persuasive, but if you’ve truly read kreef then you know he makes multiple arguments for the existence of god. Now, you can dismiss him and again not respond to his actual points, or you can respond to what he actually says. Try taking each argument point by point, as i was forced to do in college, and actually offer a counter argument. Look i agree with you, you shouldn’t be persuaded by kreeft because i think he is wrong, but you should be able to respond with more than just “he believes in intuition so he’s pointless”. That isn’t an argument

        • avalon

          “Now, you can dismiss him and again not respond to his actual points, or
          you can respond to what he actually says. Try taking each argument point
          by point, as i was forced to do in college, and actually offer a
          counter argument.”

          OK, here’s a few of the tougher one:

          PK: “Now ask yourself: Are all things caused to exist by other things right now? Suppose they are. That is, suppose there is no Uncaused Being, no God. Then nothing could exist right now.”
          avalon: Assumes an infinite timeline. Contrary to Time itself having beginning.

          PK: 3. The Argument from Time and Contingency
          avalon: (Assumes an infinite timeline. Counts this intuition as accurate knowledge.)

          PK: 6. The Kalam Argument
          avalon: Plays upon the inability of the human mind to imagine no space and no time.

          PK: 7. The Argument from Contingency
          4.What it takes for the universe to exist cannot exist within the universe or be bounded by space and time.
          5. Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist must transcend both space and time.

          avalon: What it takes for the universe to exist can exist within the universe if we consider our perspective of space and time. That is, the effect on the perspective of space and time caused by mass and motion. Consider the perspective of a photon traveling at light speed and compare it to our own sub-light speed. Now consider that space itself expands faster than the speed of light (from our perspective). Clearly, our perspective of space and time is not objective. An objective view of the universe (space and time) could be ‘self-contained’ if we consider our view of space-time as skewed.

          These are parlor games. Our minds cannot imagine no space/no time. All intuitions include some space (even if it’s empty) and some time (moving faster, slower, forwards, backwards, or frozen). Try this: imagine the primordial atom ‘before’ the big bang. Do you see it sitting in empty space? Do you see it changing over time to expand into the Universe? Then, you’re wrong. There was no space and no time. Grasp the impossibility of imagining this. Our intuition is limited by imagination, so intuition is worthless here.

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

          I’m happy to find Christians that have interesting arguments, but I fear that I’ll find quite a bit of something that I’m allergic to, philosophers trying to be physicists.

          I see Wm. Lane Craig ask lots of common sense questions (“Why is there something rather than nothing?” and so on) in the domain of quantum physics where common sense is obviously unhelpful. My guess is that the only useful philosophy done within physics today is done by physicists, not philosophers.

          Philosophers who feel the need to put on a lab coat and pretend to be physicists should lie down until the feeling goes away.

          PK: “Now ask yourself: Are all things caused to exist by other things right now?

          No. Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics.

        • avalon

          “I fear that I’ll find quite a bit of something that I’m allergic to, philosophers trying to be physicists.”

          It’s far worse than that. It’s philosophers with assumptions that contradict physics.

        • smrnda

          Maybe you could take some of his stronger points and summarize or steel-man them someplace?

          I’m not always convinced ‘point by point’ refutations are the best practice. A lot of the time, people with weak arguments try to make a *LOT* of them just since then it looks like nobody has refuted all of them, and it’s also a convenient way to hide your weaker points between stronger ones, or to make points that are kind of redundant.

        • Balboa

          Also, all I was ever saying is, how about taking on some actual christian inellectuals like kreefts, rather than soundbites from a former cop just issuing pale imitations of the arguments kreeft makes. The writer acts as if no one has ever responded to these points before, when that just isnt the case. If he truly wants a back and forth where he is CHALLENGE by a believer who can hold his own, why not invite prothero or kreeft to do some back and forth? Ultimately we are harming ourselves if we insist on only fielding softball questions from a person who can’t even respond. This article is a performance piece, nothing more.

        • avalon

          “Also, all I was ever saying is, how about taking on some actual
          christian inellectuals like kreefts, rather than soundbites from a
          former cop just issuing pale imitations of the arguments kreeft makes.”

          I see your point. Bob’s quoted Kreeft before in limited ways.
          Maybe he can take on anything new in the Kreeft page.

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

          Balboa: My ongoing quest is to find tough arguments, but as others have noted, these don’t look to be much better. Looks like the same empty crap simply wrapped in a more sophisticated package. Indeed, you make an odd argument for this yourself, seeming to say that these arguments are better even though you don’t find them convincing.

          Since you’re familiar with this stuff, point out the several that are actually good.

          And clarify if by “good” you simply mean “hard.” I remember the first time I heard the Transcendental argument (while being interviewed on live radio). Now that I’ve had lots of time to think about it, I see its weaknesses. My prediction is that this is all I’ll find with Kreeft’s stuff: arguments that stump you at first, like a puzzle, but that dissolve when analyzed in the right way.

          Indeed, that apologists have to go to this kind of obtuse argument to prove God’s existence is an enormous clue that the entire project is stillborn. Why should the existence of the omnipotent being who desperately wants a relationship with us be so much in question?

        • KarlUdy

          This amazing confidence you have that any argument for theism or Christianity will be able to be seen through when looked at the right way betrays your inability to approach the issue fairly.

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

          And where does that confidence come from? Is it a dogma that I start with? Or is it simply the result of many examinations of flabby Christian apologetics?

          Show me good, convincing evidence that God exists, and I’ll turn on a dime. That I remain an atheist is no indication of intransigence.

        • KarlUdy

          Show me good, convincing evidence that God exists, and I’ll turn on a dime.

          Or will you squirm and say, “that may be convincing for that sort of atheist, but I’m not that sort of atheist”?

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

          Show me an atheist who has been converted for intellectual reasons and show me those reasons. Give me something. Give me anything. The “evidence” that has been presented to date is so poor that it shouldn’t be hard to exceed. That is, if this dude really exists.

        • KarlUdy

          We’ve been here before, but for a quick list to start off: CS Lewis, Alister McGrath, Peter Hitchens.

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

          And the intellectual reasons that converted these atheists are what I find most interesting. Feel free to point out reasons that I’ve missed, but in my experience, these reasons are either emotional or poorly informed.

          I think of Antony Flew’s childlike acceptance of deist arguments from the evolution deniers. If he had tried to explain to me the intellectual reasons behind his conversion, I would’ve found them laughably underwhelming. These 3 you mentioned may well have better arguments than I’ve seen. If you want to point me to any summary, I’ll take a look.

        • Kodie

          Yeah, where are all the amazing arguments? Why don’t Christians seem to have any?

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

          why not invite prothero or kreeft to do some back and forth?

          Uh … because I’m a nobody and not worth their time, and debating an atheist online would not be productive for them? Or is this a trick question?

          But, hey, convince me that there’s any chance of them accepting, and I’m on it.

        • Balboa

          I am glad you responded to my comment rob. I think you’d be surprised. I have had email queries from kreeft replied to. It is worth trying to contact him or someone like prothero. Even if you cant get big names, trying to secure a back and forth with a member of a reputable philosophy or religious studies department would be a worth a try and fascinating to read. I am sorry if i laid into too much, i think i was guilty of cruelty in the way i phrased my comments and succumbed to the online temptation of getting snarky. I guess i am just growing tired of seeing my fellow skeptics go for the soft targets. I just think we can do a lot better than guys like Dawkins. The problem, as i see it, is you have too many folks seeing this as an opportunity to do victory laps because they dont take the other side seriously enough to respect their arguments. But the other side is busy coming up with responses to our critiques. Even those who are wrong, can make good arguments and sound right. It just feels like we have actually fallen behind in recent years as we’ve grown too enthusiastic with out own perceived victories. In a lot of places we are losing the debate. And given what is at stake, thats a dangerous develpment.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          I just think we can do a lot better than guys like Dawkins.

          I’m a Christian, but I’ve always been very impressed with Dawkins’s writing. I think Unweaving the Rainbow was a brilliant defense of the naturalist perspective; Watchmaker and Climbing Mount Improbable were excellent treatises on how humanity unfortunately approaches empirical inquiry to reinforce its prejudices about “design” and “purpose.”

          I’ll admit The God Delusion was kind of a letdown, but only because Dawkins was applying his intellect to religion in its most unsophisticated form: as literal claims about reality, or faulty deductive proofs. Dennett’s Breaking the Spell was a much more probing and insightful look at contemporary belief.

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

          I plan to approach apologists to encourage them to have online debates (easier than in-person ones). I’ll keep this in mind, thanks—I’ll try Christian philosophers as well.

          Can you summarize a couple of Kreeft’s strongest arguments?

          I guess i am just growing tired of seeing my fellow skeptics go for the soft targets.

          I go for the toughest targets I can find. I attended John Warwick Montgomery’s 2-week Apologetics Academy in Strasbourg a couple of years ago. I read Christian books and listen to their podcasts, and if you have any tips, point them out. I don’t much enjoy wading through a complicated argument only to find it nothing but cleverly worded smoke, as you can imagine.

          Even those who are wrong, can make good arguments and sound right.

          Yeah, see, you’re not making this endeavor sound very worthwhile. Sounds like yet more bullshit to wade through.

          In a lot of places we are losing the debate.

          Where? Convince me that there’s a new argument or idea that needs responding to, and I’ll pursue it.

        • smrnda

          Just wanted to add, I’ve actually looked at Kreefts list. He might be a slightly better writer than your run of the mill apologists, but quite a few of his points seem to be rather weak. Most of them seem to just be appeals that if a lot of people *feel something to be true* then it’s more conceivable that it’s true than that it’s not. All said, human history shows that the vast majority of people can be wrong on almost everything much of the time.

          His argument from desire is largely based on creating categories (which I consider kind of artificial) of ‘natural’ and ‘created’ desires, and then keeping the Big Desire that Must Point to God as vague as possible. He makes this rather odd claim:

          ‘No one has ever found one case of an innate desire for a nonexistent object. ‘

          Given that these words are hopelessly vague, they can mean anything. I think artistic expression is pretty much an innate rather than an ‘acquired’ desire – it’s certainly been part of human life for a very, very long time and given that I believe humans evolve, their desires would evolve and change over time. There may have been some point in time when we didn’t care about artistic expression, but it gets selected for and now people are different. I also think we have a desire to improve things – we think ‘well, it’d be great if there was a better way to do this’ and much of the time, no better way currently exists – it’s an innate desire for something that doesn’t actually exist, yet.

          For anyone who studies cognitive psychology, his ‘argument from personal experience’ is laughable. We have lots of cognitive biases that would suggest that it’s quite possible for most people to be mistaken, but also to be totally honest about what they *think* is going on while being totally deluded at the same time. Our perceptions aren’t always so good and reliable, which is why it’s taken so long to figure out how some things work.

          A lot of his arguments seem based on making an assertion, and then saying ‘it is inconceivable that X.’ You can’t just *say* something is inconceivable, you have to prove it. I could suggest that it is inconceivable that people who are members of a minority group could display, under some conditions, a bias towards members of their own group, but we’ve found (through social psychology) that it does happen because negative stereotypes affect everybody. I could say ‘it is inconceivable that a person could be a heroin addict and keep it a secret from their family’ but I would wager one could find an example.

          His point 4 is just the usual “Catholic argument from capitalizing the world Being.” If I think of something like heat, I can indeed imagine objective limits – there is such a thing as Absolute Zero. However, what is the ‘most French film?’ the ‘most German philosopher?’ the ‘most Tuscan food?’ In some cases, better and worse really is subjective. The idea that there must exist a ‘best’ seems kind of silly to me. I like coffee, but I think the idea of a ‘best coffee’ is absurd, since taste is subjective, and sometimes, you hit a tie.

          A few of his ideas are based on a Platonic understanding of the universe, which I reject. (I am a former mathematician and a mathematical formalist philosophically, since I’m also a materialist.)

          I guess on his list of 20, it just seems like the same things everybody else is saying, but a little bit more concise. If you thought any were stronger or that I didn’t look at the right ones, let me know.

        • Balboa

          Those are basically the main philosophical arguments for the existence of God. However he elaborates more on point and countee

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

          I’d still like to get your summary of the best of Kreeft’s points.

        • Balboa

          A lot of the classic arguments in defense of god are simply bad. But this is a starting point from a Christian apologist who is taking seriously and, importantly, knows how to respond to our counter points. That is why I said invite someone like him. A person who can hit back. Other wise, I am telling you guys, you’ll lose a debate you are correct about.

        • Kodie

          I’m not so sure why you’re so impressed with this guy in particular.

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

          What I hear Balboa saying is that these arguments are crap but that Christians have better. I certainly agree about the first part, and I spend a lot of energy tracking down leads to ensure I’m always addressing the best arguments.

          So we’re on the same page in wanting to address the best arguments. I’m not holding my breath about these, but Balboa could help by giving us a summary of the good stuff. Regardless, I’ll try to get to them.

          (I do want to write about the Transcendental argument soon. That one is quite popular these days.)

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

          I’ll try to read his 20 arguments thoroughly in the near future. My prediction: the cleverness will be used in repackaging an old, tired theory or in baffling the opponent. I’d prefer wisdom being used to clarify and enlighten, but I’m pessimistic.

          At your encouragement, I just sent an email to his organization with a polite request.

          On a different topic, I also sent an email to J. Warner Wallace, the author of the questions that I’ve been wrestling with here, asking for an online debate. He politely declined, citing too much work. Perhaps in the future.

          Wallace in particular has little excuse. His entire ministry is in presenting powerful arguments that are effective against atheists. How could he know unless he wades into the fray?

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

          I just received a reply from Kreeft’s organization. Apparently, he’s no good with technology and won’t do anything online. At least it was prompt and direct–I expected silence.

        • Balboa

          He is getting on in years and commands a hefty fee to speak or give appearances, which is unusual for philophy professors. But he was simply the biggest name that leapt to mind. I think if he contacted the chair of a reputable philosophy department, you could get someone worth conversing with in the format. I still suggest contacting Prothero, even though he is becoming a big name too.

      • Balboa

        Here are some arguments by Kreeft. Again, i think kreeft is wrong, but if you just dismiss them off hand without responding to his individual points, then you are not really engaged in debate. And many of these are good arguments even if i dont agree with their conclusions (and this is just a starting point): http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm

        • GubbaBumpkin

          I took a quick look. His list includes Pascal’s wager. And you expect us to take this guy seriously?

        • GCBill

          Over on Strange Notions, someone referred to the Wager’s inclusion as “damning by faint praise.” I’m inclined to agree.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          19. The Common Consent Argument

          This proof is in some ways like the argument from religious experience (18) and in other ways like the argument from desire (16). It argues that:

          1) Belief in God—that Being to whom reverence and worship are properly due—is common to almost all people of every era.

          2) Either the vast majority of people have been wrong about this most profound element of their lives or they have not.

          3) It is most plausible to believe that they have not.

          4) Therefore it is most plausible to believe that God exists.

          1 – Wrong. This proof must have been originally written by a monk who didn’t get out much, and didn’t realise that there are actually other religions in the world. Polytheistic religious cultures were, and are, quite common. So all those people who believe in gods don’t all believe in the same one. To claim that Zeus worship is evidence for the existence of a Christian God is not just wrong, it is perverse. What a freakin moron to even suggest it.

          2 – Destroyed by counter-argument to #1. There is at least a third option; some of those people could be right and some of them wrong. The false dichotomy makes the power appear to have limited cognitive powers.

          3 – “Most plausible” – nope. Appeal to popularity. Really, this guy hasn’t even studied the basic logical fallacies?

          4 – Nothing left to build this one on.


          Balboa, I disagree with you that “many of these are good arguments.” Would you care to pick out one or two that are more worthy?

        • Dorfl

          Polytheistic religious cultures were, and are, quite common. So all those people who believe in gods don’t all believe in the same one.

          Can’t this be taken even further? Even polytheists who believed in the same gods didn’t necessarily revere and worship the same gods. The authors of the old testament seem to have accepted the existence of Baal, Moloch, etc, but believed that their own god was jealous and had forbidden worship of them. And didn’t the city-states of ancient Greece usually have their own Gods, that they would worship without expecting the other city-states to pay much attention to them?

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

          This is the distinction between polytheism and henotheism.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          9. The Argument from Miracles

          1) A miracle is an event whose only adequate explanation is the extraordinary and direct intervention of God.

          2) There are numerous well-attested miracles.

          1- Is a definition, not an argument.
          2 – False. The evidence for miracles is very poor. No need to list the additional points, that’s a killer right there.

        • smrnda

          I don’t have a problem with this definition of a miracle. If I’m going to have a discussion where the word gets thrown around, an agreed upon definition can be helpful. Some people will say getting a job offer after applying or 30 jobs is a miracle. The definition in 1. at least agrees that those are not miracles.

          The useful thing is, if that’s the definition of 1, then 2 *is* false, because the standard for “miracle” is higher.

    • avalpert

      I don’t think you understand what a strawman is – these questions where direct quotations of ‘big’ questions offered by an apologist as the ones that should convince one to choose the Christian worldview

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

      I’m not fighting a caricature but (since this was a soberly presented set of arguments) responding to some of the best they have to offer.

      Am I missing the good stuff? Share.

    • Kodie

      If people keep using these lame arguments, and people are still convinced they are rock-solid arguments, then why shouldn’t we discuss them? It’s not as if we live in a world where people are convinced and move on. These are terrible arguments, but theists keep using them.

      As for your “stronger” arguments, theists keep threatening to bring it, but they don’t. Also, is it only Kreeft who stumps you? Why don’t you take apart Kreeft’s arguments and show us, you’re into tackling big ideas.

      I have already read ahead, and they don’t look substantial at all, but every theist contends their favorite apologist has the tough questions we’re too afraid to address. I would like to see you say something other than you’ve already done the work and conclude Kreeft is wrong – tell us in what way. Demonstrate for the audience what a strong atheist counter-argument to Kreeft, the Stumper, looks like.

  • avalon

    “Why Do We Believe Human Life to be Precious?”
    Because most people would rather not die (at least not right now) and they project that feeling onto others.

    “We kill weeds and pests, and we eat livestock, but we’d never consider this for a fellow human.”
    History shows we’d eat each other to stay alive. It’s even in the bible: “So we cooked my son and ate him. The next day I said to her, ‘Give up your son so we may eat him,’ but she had hidden him.” 2Kgs 6:29

    “Whatever worldview we adopt, it had better offer a cogent response to the young child who is dying of an incurable disease. Which worldview offers the most satisfying and reasonable explanation for the evil and injustice we see in our world?”
    Seems like apologists always get to this point in any debate. Why is a feel-good answer more accurate than an unbiased one?

    • http://batman-news.com Anton

      “Why is a feel-good answer more accurate than an unbiased one?”

      It might not be more accurate, but it’s more persuasive to someone narcissistic enough to pray for the safe return of his Lexus keys while thousands of people are dying in a typhoon. This kind of believer expects religion to soothe his bad conscience, not to give him an incentive to recognize and/or remedy the injustices in our world.

    • Kodie

      You know, whatever the purpose of religion is, it seems to be to comfort those who are dying, or loved ones of someone who is dying. A feel-good answer seems to be the point of addressing something so otherwise uncomfortable for people to confront. Just like morphine is not a cure for dying, but it is comforting and satisfying. A blanket, faraway loved ones coming to visit, none of these things actually helps the situation, but it helps feelings feel better.

      Which worldview offers the “satisfying” answer, I don’t think we mean “comforting” exactly. Satisfying answers are answers that make sense and don’t make you ask more questions. But I don’t think satisfying is equivalent to false.

      The problem is that people live their lives by this comforting lie. What purpose do I serve? Why am I here? Religion gives them something to focus on, because life can be pretty hard and decisions are hard to make, it gives them the comforting order out of chaos – of choices, lifestyles. It gives them a sense that things make sense when they don’t. When there is no sense that humanity evolved.

      And yet it is the source of so much discomfort. It doesn’t put their minds at ease unless they can proselytize. One’s comfort interferes with another – if gay people get married and can hold hands in public and adopt babies, they gotta bitch about it and interfere. And if it helps them understand they are going to hell otherwise, pounding the pavement to convert souls seems to be a way to help, but why? The purpose of religion is to make money for the church.

      Theists live their lives in different compartments, where they don’t know how to cope without god, and they also have to get in everyone else’s way, because they are threatened by their own ministers, threatened what a life without god is “really” like. God’s love is fickle because he’s an abusive parent. The juvenile manipulation to do whatever or else, how does this comfort them ultimately? How is this a satisfying answer?

      “Hello, child dying of an incurable disease, I hope it comforts you to know that you’re getting out of a lifetime of obedience to and fear of absolutely nothing. Had you been cured and lived a long life, you would constantly be looking over your shoulder and checking yourself, and bothering people for no good reason.”

  • Y. A. Warren

    I am simply puzzled at the apparent attempts by atheists to lump atheism with cynicism. Because i don’t believe in an anthropomorphic supreme being doesn’t preclude me from believing that beings evolve into more multi-facted, multi-able beings on our earth, and that those most multi-faceted may have some special-ness in the hierarchy of humanity’s policy making input.

    • Kodie

      Every animal evolved to have special-ness in the hierarchy from its perspective. They have to kill another animal to eat, or they have to flee another animal to avoid being eaten…. or disguise themselves, or any number of interesting evolutionary strategies. We don’t really have any natural predators other than each other, so our evolutionary strategy is to get into a good college.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    8. Why Do Transcendent Moral Truths Exist?

    This is the same as with free will. He appeals to one unproven concept (free will, objective morals) in defense of another (God). Dumbth.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    9. Why Do We Believe Human Life to be Precious?

    Same thing I said the other day. This one is very anthropocentric. Why do cattle consider cattle life to be precious? Duh.

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

      And if cattle had gods, I suspect they’d look like cattle.

      • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

        But if cattle and horses and lions had hands
        or could paint with their hands and create works such as men do,
        horses like horses and cattle like cattle
        also would depict the gods’ shapes and make their bodies
        of such a sort as the form they themselves have.
        Ethiopians say that their gods are snub–nosed and black
        Thracians that they are pale and red-haired.-Xenophanes

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Both sides of the argument have to explain the existence and
    injustice of evil, consider what role it plays in the history of the
    universe, and come to grips with why justice is often elusive.

    He’s correct in that much, both sides have to be able to explain it. It’s just that it’s dead simple when your explanation doesn’t include an omni-deity.

  • Reverend Robbie

    I love the moral argument. First of all, it’s an appeal to consequences. Second, it amounts to no more than stating your opinion and adding, “… and God agrees with me,” on the end.

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

      I’m still waiting for a Christian to say, “Y’know, as far as I can tell, same-sex marriage hurts me not one bit. But my hands are tied, and my reading of the Bible says that it’s wrong.”

      Given the many different interpretations of the Bible, God always seems to agree with people.

      • Castilliano

        I have heard this.
        It’s not worth waiting for as it’s actually quite depressing.
        (Unless, as in one pastor’s case on national media, he then says that doesn’t give him the right to dictate his religious ‘wrongs’ onto non-Christians. Blew me away.)
        I know a few Christians who are friends with gays (not just token, but really friends) and just get sad when the topic arises (rather than toughen up and take a stand). Of course, they’re not “True Christians” because they think the gay person might achieve heaven anyway, and are friends with them in the first place.
        I’m sorta hoping the discrepancy between their moral compass and their “moral” book will eventually break them from Christianity. *crossing fingers, but not holding breath*

        Cheers.

        • smrnda

          I think that quite a few Christians probably don’t really believe everything that their religion teaches them. It’s like any other type of group you belong to – there end up being competing loyalties at some point, and it feels bad to get caught up in that.

      • Nemo

        Funny thing about that. In college, I was in a Bible study group even after I deconverted (I was very quiet after that, but I never really told them I was an atheist). One of the other members said at one point that there was some stuff in the Bible he didn’t like, and he wasn’t comfortable with that. He added afterwards that his solution was to pray for guidance. This individual was not some book burning fundie either. While I suspect his religious views would fit the dictionary definition of fundamentalist, he was fun to be around for everyone, very social, and he never mentioned Hell in his beliefs at all.

  • smrnda

    I’m not sure that transcendent moral truths exist. Torturing people for fun was considered okay in some times and places. I don’t think it’s right, but obviously people don’t share a completely universal set of morals. In general, we prefer not to be pissed and shat on, but for a long time the way to achieve this was to form some tribal group and hope to have the power to piss and shit on other tribal groups – the idea of a social contract and well-defined rights and such are kind of new notions people arrived at because the other way didn’t work so well. It’s really not that different than humans across the globe transitioning from stone to bronze to iron to steel.

    • Kodie

      I’m not anthropologist with a good memory or anything, but aren’t there tribes where they do the practical thing and send out the children with birth defects to starve in the woods and get eaten by animals? I’m not saying that’s right, but there are people in the world who have practiced and/or still practice eugenics as a matter of survival, of cutting off resources to the weak who would likely die in their society without medicine, they agreed amongst themselves that this handles their (immediate) problems. It in no way allows them to progress, but on an austerity budget, you can hardly expect them to.

      Yes, I would say they are barbaric, and not helping their society thrive and grow, but survival will make you recount your priorities.

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

        But is it barbaric if there’s simply not enough food to go around, and they need to focus on just the healthiest children?

        The Spartans are said to have done this sort of thing.

        • Kodie
        • Kodie

          Spartans suck. I know someone who idealizes them and hero worships how tough they were, but the main thing it seems in every culture that has some kind of ritual suicide is honor and shame. My friend keeps telling the story of the test where the guy is supposed to run some distance with a mouthful of water, and he trips and spills the water, so he bites his own tongue off to fill his mouth with blood, and to my friend, this is a totally cool thing. I said, you know, why didn’t his mouth just fill up with spit when he was running? Being too ashamed to go home that you have to maim yourself to prove yourself worthy is a barbaric way of handling things.

          The ritual suicide seems to be a feature of many cultures, but instead of everyone accepting this to be the way things are, they make it so you are unacceptable to others and you have to feel bad enough to kill yourself. The shame and dishonor are themselves painful enough to motivate someone to do it. Maybe it came from economic rough times, but the way they go about it is cowardly and harsh. They won’t kill a person, they will make that person kill themselves instead, or constrain and abandon them. Human “morality” seems to need to see the good vs. evil in everything. Killing is bad, but if it has evil spirits, it’s ok to neglect them, or hound them with insults and shun them until they leave on their own and/or kill themselves.

          We can’t and won’t confront our absolute cruelty, for as long as nobody kills anyone, we can revise the situation as good vs. evil. We can do anything short of murder and that’s kindness. That’s god’s example, isn’t it? God punishes people and lets us suffer, alone, poor, unhealthy, or whatever, rather than striking you dead on the spot out of disgust with whatever sin you have, you get to have a long life to think about it and repent.

          And everyone knows this is cruel, nobody wants to be shunned. Everyone knows what happens to you if you’re kicked out, everyone knows it’s not good, so everyone values belonging to the group under a constant threat of shame and dishonor, suffering, loneliness, and death, so everyone just does whatever they need to do to stay in, even if it’s weird, stupid, ridiculous, or cruel to others. It’s like in high school, when you want the attention of the popular person and they find out you are friends with an outcast, so your loyalty to a real friend gets thrown away in order to gain status.You may tell your friend something insanely awful, like, we’re still friends, but not when we’re in school, or be goaded to join in bullying your friend, and you act like there’s no way out of the bargain, because you don’t want to be bullied and have things thrown at you. For that matter, why do people think bullying is something that kids do at school and then grow out of it and become mature adults?

          Religions for sure like to hang onto it. God’s a bully, and we’re his favorite species of bully. The more we bully others, the closer we are to god and keeping things straight and narrow down here by threat of exclusion and that’s why theists hate atheists most of all – cognitive dissonance. Being sent out of their circle is one of the cruelest outcomes possible, they hate us because they’re afraid of being one of us. They distrust us because they’re trained to. They’re not listening, they don’t learn anything, because if their faith cracks from starting to understand what we’re talking about, it would be a social disaster, a shame, a dishonor.

        • smrnda

          On ritual suicide and bizarre rituals, it’s probably easy to *admire* such a society from the comfort of your chair when you don’t have to live in it. “Man, those Spartans were tough! And what a sense of honor!” People who say these things aren’t going to have to *live* like Spartans, so it’s all a bunch of hot air.

        • Kodie

          Well the rituals and honor still exist. It’s not that they want to live like Spartans, it’s that they admire the qualities of Spartans insofar as it fits into our culture – largely a culture where people, they observe, are not honorable or respectful, are lazy whining complainers, or whatever. So attempting to affect the machismo of the Spartans, to perhaps mindfully call on them for their power when you want to quit, and worrying about who you’ll disappoint if you fail to win at your bullshit hobby. Some people have this attitude more than others, they are afraid we are too soft on children and damaging them, making them vulnerable to a life where nobody finds their apron strings attractive and they never leave the basement.

          And so for some reason, we must think of the Spartans and how well all that turned out in the end.

          There is a cost to humanity when you manage to rig up such a rigid code. I have my own code, and some lives aren’t worth living, some circumstances are not worth living in. I don’t know how well this goes, but I’ve quit a lot of jobs. Some people might say, but that’s not going to last forever, you can find something else like a normal person. Not if it’s eating me alive from the inside out. Existence is no biggie. That’s not living, so I don’t live like that, period. I try, but I can’t make it. And you don’t know, if you get too used to something terrible, it never does end, and it does last forever. So if I were a Spartan, I would probably be all gung-ho for that shit because they would have trained me from birth, but in my mind, I’m like, well kill me and get it over with, because I don’t want to be here. I’m not really all about enduring bullshit like that.

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

        • smrnda

          Morally, I tell people that I am a rational hedonist, just because I find that outlook makes it harder to justify brutality.

  • Nemo

    The Problem of Evil is a pretty weak argument to use against most world religions, including Christianity. The Bible fully acknowledges that evil exists and says why it exists. It also says that Yahweh himself sends misery and disaster (Isaiah 45:7 and Amos 3:6). Trying to use it to advance religion is flat out ridiculous. This guy just characterized the naturalist world view as violent, and now he claims that it doesn’t account for the existence of suffering?

    “Whatever worldview we adopt, it had better offer a cogent response to the young child who is dying of an incurable disease. Which worldview offers the most satisfying and reasonable explanation for the evil and injustice we see in our world?”

    In response to this hypothetical kid, I’d like to add that he and his parents are devout Shinto. Or they were before they died of the same disease an hour ago. Now, do tell me what beautiful comfort the Bible can give the kid now.
    As for objective morals, bring up anything nasty in the Old Testament (too easy) and apologists will scramble to talk about how it was different back then, which pretty much shoots the idea of transcendent morals in the face. Or they can use Ray Comfort’s circular “God is perfect because he says you are imperfect and cannot judge him because he is perfect” masterpiece.

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

      Yes, the Bible acknowledges that evil exists, but that’s not the point. The point is that evil exists and God is more than able to stop it but won’t.

      That’s the clash of ideas that the Christian alone has to explain away. The problem doesn’t exist for an atheist.

      • Nemo

        I realize the Problem of Evil doesn’t exist for atheists. However, I don’t think it’s a good argument to use against Christianity. The Christians have their answer to it: “evil is all your fault for being such a rotten sinner. God doesn’t have to fix it, you aren’t entitled to anything. But he’ll fix it anyway. Later. Don’t ask when”. Some may not take comfort in such an answer, but my rejection of the supernatural is not based on what I find comfortable.

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

          Yes, they have an answer, and it’s a sucky answer.

          When Bambi is injured in the forest and dies a slow, painful death over the course of days, why does God allow that to happen? No possible human good could come of it. Why does the Christian use the free will defense (“God allows humans to exercise their free will; to do otherwise wouldn’t be loving”) when God clearly doesn’t give a damn about the free will of the rape or murder victim?

          When the world looks like a natural place where sh** happens, and life is sometimes good and sometimes bad, how can the Christian inject the idea of God? It explains nothing!

          How can the Christian say, “Well, that’s a puzzle, I’ll admit, but I’ll just have to give God the benefit of the doubt” about some things, but about abortion and same-sex marriage, he’s absolutely convinced what God wants?

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          Bob, come on now. You can’t still be surprised that believers coincidentally share all of their chosen Almighty’s bigotries. Tillich called that idolatrous faith, but I’d argue that even idolatry takes more balls than that.

  • KarlUdy

    Bob,
    I don’t think you have adequately provided counters to these arguments. For #8 (Why do transcendental moral truths exist?) you assert that people’s responses> are universal and deeply held, but not objective, which I think misses the point. Our reaction to breaches of morality betray our deeply held belief that morality is supernatural and that none of the natural explanations for morality are sufficient.

    For #10 (Why does pain, evil and injustice exist in our world?) you are correct in some sense that the problem of evil is not an atheist problem to solve – at least not in the same way as for a theist. But you conveniently ignore the fact that if atheism is true then pain and suffering should be no cause for concern. The problem of evil is not a concern for atheism, but that anyone should consider evil a problem (or even have a concept for evil beyond “detrimental to me/us”) – now that is a conundrum specific to atheism

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

      8: What is left unexplained by “morality is natural”?

      But you conveniently ignore the fact that if atheism is true then pain and suffering should be no cause for concern.

      It concerns me. I guess I’m not doing it right?

      • KarlUdy

        What is left unexplained by “morality is natural”?

        You faulted Warner for not explaining the mechanics of objective morality. How do you explain “morality is natural”?

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

          Yes, I did fault Wallace for giving no evidence for objective morality. It’s a claim that needs evidence. The null hypothesis is that morality is natural.

          Let me try again: what in our world can’t be explained by morality being 100% natural?

        • KarlUdy

          Always so quick to claim the null hypothesis for your viewpoint. One wonders why you don’t actually provide arguments for your point of view. Your reluctance to do so makes it look remarkably like you don’t have any good ones.

          Let me try again … How do you explain “morality is natural?”

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

          So my question is too tough to address so you’d rather dodge that and reframe the question your way?

          OK: the natural explanation is always the default. History shows that the supernatural explanation always falls to the natural one, never the other way around. Further: “morality is natural” doesn’t leave any aspects of human morality unexplained.

          But I think I repeat myself.

        • Castilliano

          Say again?

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

          **&$%# !!!

          :-)

        • KarlUdy

          So my question is too tough to address so you’d rather dodge that and reframe the question your way?

          No, I just want to respond to how you explain morality, as opposed to how another atheist might. You’re asking me what your model can’t explain, but you’re not willing to explain your model?

          OK: the natural explanation is always the default.

          If someone subscribes to materialism or atheism this may hold. If someone does not, then your assertion does not hold.

          Further: “morality is natural” doesn’t leave any aspects of human morality unexplained.

          Again you assert this, but seem unwilling to show how.

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

          If someone subscribes to materialism or
          atheism this may hold. If someone does not, then your assertion does not hold.

          Wait—you’re saying that there are people who always assume the supernatural as an explanation first?

          Perhaps we can just put them to the side as a bizarre
          curiosity to be examined later so we can make some progress here. Surely this doesn’t apply to you.

          Again you assert this, but seem unwilling to show how.

          Again, I don’t see the problem. I am asking you to respond to my statement. If you find it flawed, you show me how it’s flawed.

          Are you saying that “morality is natural” is so foreign a
          concept that you can’t even understand the sentence?

        • Kodie

          Wait—you’re saying that there are people who always assume the supernatural as an explanation first?

          Oh, absolutely there are.

          Perhaps we can just put them to the side as a bizarre
          curiosity to be examined later so we can make some progress here. Surely this doesn’t apply to you.

          Don’t you remember that Karl believes that diseases could be caused by demons just as easily as anything else?

        • KarlUdy

          I’m saying that it is not the case that any natural explanation is preferable to a supernatural explanation.

          Furthermore, in the case of testimony, the default position is normally to accept the testimony as true. IN such a case, if the testimony attests to the supernatural, it would be the default to accept the supernatural, and only reject it if there is good reason to believe the testimony is not true.

          As I explained before, I want to know more about how you believe morality is explained by natural means so that I can respond to what you believe, instead of my likely inaccurate guesses at what you believe.

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

          I’m saying that it is not the case that any natural explanation is preferable to a supernatural explanation.

          Nor am I. We could imagine a natural explanation so bizarre that its probability drops below that of a supernatural explanation.

          But since science has recognized zero explanations for natural phenomena, anticipating yet another natural explanation is a time-saving assumption.

          Furthermore, in the case of testimony, the default position is normally to accept the testimony as true.

          There’s no amount of crazy that would make you start off with the assumption that the testimony is false?

          Charles Manson says something, and you just give him the benefit of the doubt? The Scientologist explains his worldview, and you assume it’s correct until proven otherwise?

          I want to know more about how you believe morality is explained by natural means so that I can respond to what you believe, instead of my likely inaccurate guesses at what you believe.

          I don’t even know where to start. Where’s the puzzle? We see morality in other animals, and we’re animals. We get it from evolution, just like they did.

          Your turn to come back with the same question.

        • KarlUdy

          There’s no amount of crazy that would make you start off with the assumption that the testimony is false?

          Just because someone is crazy, doesn’t make everything they say false. And people airing their opinions is not the same as testimony. I think that Charles Manson and Scientologists deserve their testimony to be taken at face value based on what they have seen or experienced. That doesn’t mean anyone need pay attention to their opinions about anything.

          And thanks for finally giving me a bone on why you think morality is natural. I’ll get back with a response on that shortly

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

          Just because someone is crazy, doesn’t make everything they say false.

          Obviously. And just as obviously off topic.

          I think that Charles Manson and Scientologists deserve their testimony to be taken at face value based on what they have seen or experienced.

          So they are correct until proven wrong—is that right?

          That doesn’t mean anyone need pay attention to their opinions about anything.

          And now I have no idea what you’re saying. Perhaps you’re just hedging your bets—saying that we should both accept testimony and be skeptical at the same time.

          (I think you have to pick.)

        • KarlUdy

          So they are correct until proven wrong—is that right?

          We should treat their testimony regarding their experience as being true until we have good reason to disbelieve their testimony.

          If a Scientologist believes that there are super-beings living in volcanoes based on their personal experience of these beings then there should be a presumption of truth on their claims until it can be falsified. If they make that claim based on what they were taught, then their testimony amounts to little more than the fact they were taught such things, and we are under no obligation to presume the truth of their teachings.

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

          We should treat their testimony regarding
          their experience as being true until we have good reason to disbelieve their
          testimony.

          Yeah, and when they talk nutty stuff without evidence, we have good reason.

          So basically you’re saying the same thing that I am.

          Back to my claim that the plausible natural explanation
          always trumps the supernatural: you’re determined to disagree with me, but your latest statements are so fuzzy that I have no idea what your point it.

        • KarlUdy

          No, we’re not saying the same thing.

          Just because you think someone’s testimony sounds nutty is not good enough reason to presume it is false. If their testimony is self-contradictory, or is contradicted by other evidence then you can cast doubt on their testimony. Otherwise we should give people’s testimony the benefit of the doubt.

        • Kodie

          Some things sound preposterous – even scientific fact – and we are well within the realm of sensible acts to doubt things until we can learn more about how they are true. Global warming is a good example: to some people this is a big panic over nothing, and to some people, this is a serious issue that could gravely impact human life as we know it in the not-too-distant future. Bible-based end-of-the-world prophesies are similar. Should we just believe the world is ending because someone says that it is, or should we examine the facts? Global warming=real; Apocalyptic Judgment=not real. The Cold War, as I experienced it, was a real threat of nuclear annihilation, and yet, we lived our lives, with about 3 days’ worth of canned goods in the basement (because corn and soup is always going on sale), no bomb shelter.

          Edit: I mean, I think it’s called critical thinking. Assuming people have many good reasons to lie or be mistaken, there is no good reason to believe they are telling the truth or correct, just as there’s no good reason to automatically insist the opposite thing is true just because they say something absurd. Many absurd things can be true, after all, but none of them, so far, are supernatural, just novel.

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

          You want to have it both ways. You want to give yourself license to believe your supernatural claims, but of course you’ve got to have an option to reject the other guy’s supernatural claims. That’s why you referred to “good reason to disbelieve their testimony” as reason to reject.

          But let’s look at just this comment and let me try to understand your point. If someone makes a supernatural claim, you must assume that it’s true. If it’s nutty (admittedly, I haven’t defined this), you also must assume that it’s true. You can only reject it once you’ve identified a specific flaw—it’s self-contradictory or is contradicted by stronger evidence, for example.

          Do I have that right?

        • KarlUdy

          The only caveat is that this only applies to claims about their own personal experience.

        • Kodie

          I know this has been explained to you before, but people tend to have a really skewed perception of their own experience. It has to do with a really faulty way of understanding statistics first-hand and being self-absorbed. Our memories suck also, and I know you seem to think first-hand accounts of Jesus are credible and that legends take several generations to alter significantly from fact, but there, you have been demonstrated wrong. Your perspective gives you the feeling that your experience is that you’re correct, but science and history and my personal experience are against you. My personal observation of human nature says that it takes minutes for a legend to gain strength over what really happened. I almost think you don’t live among humans, since you have an almost uncannily poor grasp of human behavior.

        • KarlUdy

          So, what you’re telling me is that I should immediately be skeptical about your accounts of your personal experiences with abortion because your perception is undoubtedly skewed, you have a faulty understanding of statistics, and you’re self-absorbed. Oh, and your memory sucks too.

          Did I get that right?

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

          Don’t forget that she comes to a supernatural conclusion!

          Oh–wait a minute. My bad. She doesn’t do that. Never mind!

        • KarlUdy

          Kodie’s reasons for not trusting testimony (skewed perspective, faulty understanding of statistics, self-absorption, bad memory) have nothing to do with whether a supernatural claim is made. If these are valid reasons to distrust accounts of personal experiences, then all accounts, supernatural or not, are subject to the same skepticism.

        • Kodie

          It has to do with how much weight it holds too. I’m only trying to tell you my experience to add to your perspective and give you information you might be lacking – that might or might not change your mind.

          Your method is giving every conflicting claim equal weight, or so you say. You demonstrate something very different. You demonstrate assumptions and the way you think things work that they really don’t. You don’t know how they work, so you go with a system that appears to work in your experience. But most people do. I am not trying to convince anyone to have an abortion, but I would try to convince people who are swayed by emotional thinking and myths and propaganda to at least allow people the choice, and admit it’s not up to you to decide what someone else does with their life.

          So what if you believe my account from personal experience? I’m not telling you I got a sign from god. And you might even believe that I did? I told you what I felt, and what my situation was, in order to demonstrate that it’s not just some cut-and-dried perspective that you observe from afar, or even reading other people’s personal accounts. I recollect that you thought the poor women were being forced to have abortions from their boyfriends, and you might read accounts that speak from a position of regret for having let a boyfriend dictate one’s choice. So what are the stakes for believing my account? You might have to alter your position a little or take other people’s experiences into consideration? Abortion when you don’t really want to is rough, but a life with a baby and nobody to support you is also rough.

          The fact always is: babies need money and attention. No matter how much money or time you have to give, they require it. Coercion can come in the form of denial of support, but what is the other option? Being ok with abortion in general makes the decision to do the necessary step less exhausting and regretful.

          So I’m wondering why this issue has to resurface, as Bob did a series of posts about abortion not too long ago, and you were notably missing from the discussion. You, and others, contend that abortion is a thing no woman really wants and is forced to get by someone in power. And I believe people who say that is their experience, because it sounds like a plausible mix of feelings someone who isn’t me might have.

          Did I say anything implausible to make you suspect I made up the whole thing just to fuck with you?

          EDIT: ps. Try to stay on topic, as per why you might believe some claims and not others, i.e., whether they sound plausible or not, or whether it makes a difference if you believe it or not. Believing my claim that you refer to costs you little, and is plausible. Believing someone’s claim that their talking dog told them to shoot up a shopping plaza, I will call for emergency restraints because that’s implausible and costly. Believing you have an elephant is only slightly plausible and is more likely some lie you think might impress people, but costs little. Your whole world won’t collapse if I don’t believe you have an elephant even if you really do, and neither will mine. Believing that the climate is getting warmer and will cause doom and destruction to coastal cities costs a lot not to believe, if it’s true, so I might be inclined to think it’s a dramatic panic over nothing, but it’s plausible, so I will check into it. Believing I’ll go to hell because I had an abortion is implausible and costly. I will suspend belief, and you will tell me all about your religion, and the longer you talk, the sillier and more imaginary it sounds, so it costs me nothing to discard your testimony. I can understand why some people are threatened by it, but I’m not going to say “I can’t prove it’s not true, so there’s a really good chance it is true.” It’s never been true before. You don’t know what causes diseases, so imaginary demons make it onto your list of plausible causes, just because you think belief is the null hypothesis. Belief in global warming is not even the null hypothesis. Belief in evolution is not even the null hypothesis. “I don’t know, let’s find out” is the null hypothesis. ID can be analyzed for bullshit and evolution can be analyzed, even in real time, as a model that works. Let me just say that ID has a huge mountain of articles labeled “evidence” but they are worked backward from the conclusion, fairy stories that, for some people, agree with their observations and beliefs, but do not meet the standard for evidence.

        • KarlUdy

          So I’m wondering why this issue has to resurface, as Bob did a series of posts about abortion not too long ago, and you were notably missing from the discussion.

          I bring this up, not to talk about abortion, but to talk about how we should treat people’s personal accounts of their experiences.

          You say that we should be skeptical because:


          people tend to have a really skewed perception of their own experience.


          a really faulty way of understanding statistics first-hand


          being self-absorbed


          Our memories suck also

          I want to know if you think I should be skeptical of your personal account of your experience because of these reasons, or if I should not, why these reasons that you gave to me do not apply to you?

        • Kodie

          Put it into your decision-making device and consider the cost of believing or disbelieving, as well as the plausibility of the claim. Claims that I am going to hell, for example. That is obviously costly, but I have already determined the plausibility to be greatly deficient. I don’t need to spend a lot of time suspending my decision unless you bring me new evidence that suggests I ought to listen to you.

          Consider the mysterious mental illness and the demons that may be causing it. Likewise, we are stupid to ignore a possible avenue of disease causing. Maybe my mother ate too much processed food while she was pregnant. Maybe she didn’t shower often enough. Maybe it was the vacuum cleaner or maybe it was bad genetics or bad parenting. I mean, if the cause is mysterious, the cause can be any stupid thing you can think of. Literally, any stupid thing, even demons. The cost is great, and many suggestions are far-fetched. We don’t hold demons responsible, why? Because it’s least likely. It is more likely to be present in the environment. It is literally more likely to be a correlation between baloney sandwiches and mental illness than demons, and we would be wise to hunt in the real world because we are looking for a real cause. It sounds stupid to suggest baloney sandwiches as the culprit, but we already know that chemical additives can affect health negatively, and we know pregnant women should avoid certain foods.

          That’s not the same thing as saying it is baloney sandwiches or introducing a panic. But that’s what people do all the time.

          For the case of global warming, well that’s costly to ignore, but it is also not a claim to believe just because it sounds really bad. We should not believe every panic, but we should investigate. The cost of ignoring it is high, but the cost of believing something if it might not be true is also high. The deniers do not like the cost of believing it, and mount counter-claims to persuade people not to panic, and not to adjust their lifestyles.

          The cost of not believing evolution is really not as high, not at first glance. If evolution doesn’t sound plausible to you, for example, so what. What is costly is the campaign to steer the minds of children away from things they might be interested in – children who aren’t even theirs. The cost of believing evolution is too high for people whose salvation rests on biblical truth, but I don’t think it’s that huge a deal. We’re curious where we came from, and the information is a foundation for many scientific careers, but it’s not really that big a deal. Knowing as much as I do about evolution is in no way what I would consider useful. But the high cost of depriving schoolchildren from learning it is a future of scientific retardation. If your worldview comprises the US being the best country in the world, then it’s suicide to ignore scientific reality and steal that knowledge from children and feed them garbage instead. Believing in something imaginary costs all of us a lot more than just letting them be wrong on the internet.

          Notice how many theists use the “first cause” argument, and atheists really don’t know and it doesn’t matter? It doesn’t cost us anything not to have the information, but that is no reason to posit a deity, and then layer that deity with all kinds of other unevidenced and contradictory and implausible qualities.

          TL;DR version: you can’t believe every claim, and you don’t have to, and it’s ok to suspend belief pending more information, more reliable sources, and watch out for tricky persuasive language that is full of logical fallacies. It’s also ok to dismiss supernatural claims if you’ve heard them before and already discussed it a thousand times.

        • Kodie

          You have a pretty poor understanding of a lot of things, but I will try to illustrate to you here – if you tell me you have a dog named Sparky, I don’t have a reason to doubt you. If you tell my your dog Sparky told you, in English, to go out and buy him a Big Mac, I have no reason to believe you.

          If you said you had an elephant named Sparky who spoke to you in English and told you to call up his sister at the Bronx Zoo and invite her for Thanksgiving, let’s start with the you just said you have an exotic animal for a pet. Not implausible, but certainly strange. I would not believe you had an elephant without more information, like you work at or own a wild animal preserve, or live in India or wherever, that use elephants like Americans keep horses. It might be helpful to make your case to add these pertinent details or nobody will believe you – and you can still be full of shit, urban, office-dwelling American who invents an elaborate lie regarding why he had an elephant in the first place. And that would be sad.

          A lot of things that might be untrue or details may be different or memory distorted can sound true enough. It depends on what the impact is also. You have no reason to doubt me because what I said is plausible, and it might offer you another perspective to aid in adjusting yours – your opinion or whatever. Huh, people feel like that, people have these difficult situations that I’d never considered before.

          And then there are things that affect you. If your dog Sparky, you insist, spoke to you in English and told you to go out and buy him a Big Mac, whatever dude. If your dog Sparky told you to buy an automatic weapon and start shooting at a crowded mall, I would highly doubt it, I would highly urgently doubt that that happened. I would urgently suggest you are having some kind of hallucination. Perhaps I should have paid attention when he ordered the fast food burger that you might need a little intervention.

          Would you believe someone who said they had a talking, murder-commanding dog, or said they had an elephant without asking many other questions (or calling authorities)?

          All of the examples where your dog Sparky speaks to you in English are not plausible. I will not consider or accept them as true. All of the examples where you have a dog named Sparky, period, might be a big lie or a distortion of the facts, and it’s not really worth a debate, because your pet and its name are plausible enough that I don’t care.

        • KarlUdy

          If you think someone’s testimony is false, then demonstrate it. Until then, it deserves the benefit of the doubt. It’s kind of like “innocent until proven guilty”.

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

          Unhelpful. Let’s walk through this.

          I’ll imagine some sort of insane claim. “I was abducted by aliens and visited their home planet at Alpha Centauri!”

          I’ll demand that this is also innocent until proven guilty.

          You’ll say that we analyze the claim and quickly find that it’s likely false because we have prior evidence that alien claims are false.

          Which, of course, is exactly how I’d do it. (Did I get it right?)

          But we can’t take that path with your religion. I wonder why.

        • KarlUdy

          You cannot find a particular claim false because other claims have been shown to be false.

          You could find an alien abduction claim false because other evidence (either from witnesses or physical evidence) is contradictory. Or you could find it false because the testimony of the abduction has inconsistencies in it.

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

          You cannot find a particular claim false
          because other claims have been shown to be false.

          No one claims that. What I’m (obviously) saying is that if
          the last thousand claims for UFOs or astrology or alchemy have been shown to be false, then next one is likely false as well. Doesn’t prove that it is—we would want to analyze this one as well—but that is the null hypothesis.

        • KarlUdy

          I disagree with your conclusion that these claims of personal experience are false should be the null hypothesis because previous claims were found to be false.

          Such an approach will of course, correctly identify false claims, but it will also inevitably incorrectly identify true claims as false.

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

          You’re a curious person. Most people would say, “I’ve let this ball go a thousand times, and each time, it fell toward the floor. I’ll bet that’s how it will work the next time.”

          But not you. You’ll say, “OK, it’s true that the last thousand ‘eyewitness’ accounts of UFO abductions have shown a natural explanation based right here on earth. Now we’ve got yet one more–but let’s not be closed minded, folks! If I had to bet, I’d say that this one was true. Heck, we heard the story from the eyewitness in person, right? Only after we’ve investigated and found a boring explanation will I assume such a thing.”

          Whatever. I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one.

        • Kodie

          Guilt is the positive claim in this case, and it’s necessary to prove it in a court of law. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, no less. “Seems plausible” is not even good enough. A preponderance of evidence and a consensus of the jury is required before that positive claim is considered validated for the purposes of justice.

          Innocence is the null hypothesis. We suspend judgment on the positive guilt claim until all the facts are together and the requirements are met.

          But just like everything else, you have it backwards. You have “guilt” as the nothing and “innocence” as the positive claim. The perpetrator would not be on trial if innocence was a positive claim and guilt was neutral.

        • KarlUdy

          I did say it is kind of like “innocent until proven guilty”.

          What should we do when people testify in court as witnesses? Should we default to believing or disbelieving their testimony?

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

          Are we allowed to judge their testimony at all?

          If so, then clarify how your position is different from mine or Kodie’s.

        • KarlUdy

          Yes, we can judge, but what is our default position?

          You and Kodie seem to say “disbelieve their testimony”, I say “believe their testimony”.

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

          ??

          I say judge their testimony. This will shock you, but most of us have warning bells that go off when we hear testimony that’s sufficiently outside the realm of ordinary experience. I know you’re totally cool with claims of Bigfoot or Scientology miracles or UFO flights and assume they’re correct until we have strong evidence to think otherwise. But you don’t have much company here. Sorry.

        • Kodie

          That’d be stupid.

        • Kodie

          Swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you god is not a magic spell, Karl.

        • Kodie

          Why do you think that? Why should we believe something that sounds like a hallucination without evidence? Why should we put the effort in to falsify a shitty claim? So basically, it goes like this – you will take a personal testimony from anyone and simply believe they wouldn’t have a reason to lie or be mistaken?

          And you would disregard what people were taught, because they were only taught something and didn’t experience it firsthand. Like, say, science. I can just read about why sunrises are so colorful on the internet, and that doesn’t count as facts to you, and you’re under no obligation to believe me when I explain that it’s not evidence of god?

          You are really messed up in your truth-seeking methods. And you have the gall to continually suggest that there’s a revelation just waiting for mankind to discover about objective morality? You have a perspective and base your opinions off your perspective, but objectively, you are wrong in your conclusions and wrong in your methods.

        • KarlUdy

          Kodie,
          You have just told me that I should abandon my approach to truth and adopt yours, which based on your comment means prejudicially rejecting testimony because it doesn’t match my experience, and blindly accepting dogma.

          No thanks :-)

        • Kodie

          It’s just called critical thinking. If you don’t want to try it out, I guess that’s your choice.

        • KarlUdy

          Blind acceptance of dogma is called critical thinking? You should do a stand-up routine with this material.

        • Kodie

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2013/03/magic-vs-technology/#comment-876435664

          Actually we don’t know anything of the sort. Yes, we understand that
          bacteria and viruses are the direct cause of some diseases. Other
          diseases have less discernable causes eg cancer, mental illness where we
          can identify contributing factors but often not exactly how the disease
          takes hold.

          In any case, no one has proved that demons have no power over viruses
          and bacteria, or are not one of the yet to be ascertained factors in
          diseases like cancer or mental illness.

          -Karl Udy

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

          Ouch! Damn the internet(s) for having a long memory.

        • KarlUdy

          Evolution can no more be responsible for the concepts of right and wrong than it can be responsible for the existence of numbers. Evolution may offer some explanation of how an adherence to the concepts of right and wrong is
          advantageous to survival, but this does not explain the existence of the concepts.

        • Kodie

          “Right” and “wrong” are human labels. Notice that what’s right for humans is often wrong for another living thing. Notice what’s right for some humans is wrong for other humans. There is no objective “concept” of right and wrong. We all have a sense of what is right and wrong – they are actually our own rules and they don’t necessarily avoid conflict – i.e. for someone to say it’s wrong to have an abortion but it’s right to economically discourage people from having children if they can’t afford to feed them by cutting social services. That’s an opinion, an assessment, one (or many) person’s “moral compass”, their gut feeling.

          For some the right way is the hard way, and for some, the right way is the most efficient way. People do make up their rules, their outlook, their structure, and often compound it in numbers, like a church or a community, to resolve that this things is bad or this thing is good. If it’s good to raise funds, like in a church, and collect donations to feed hungry people, why is it wrong if we pay our taxes and let the government distribute the handouts to the needy? That’s a kind of extortion and I think it’s wrong, but people who belong to a church are suspicious of the government and want to be face-to-face with their beggars to see if they’re worthy. And they’re judgmental about the kinds of people who seek assistance from the government because they see a faulty agency who is not doing the lord’s work of deciding who should eat and who can die of hunger.

          You want to tell me there’s a perfect morality and that it can be revealed to be the one and only true good or true evil, that is always right or always wrong? What world do you live in, man?

          You’re as judgmental as anyone. Right and wrong are opinions, and influenced by the group, arbitrary laws and systems. We do things “this way” so that is right, and anyone who complies is right and anyone who does it another way is wrong. What we don’t like is pain and suffering, but our moral ideals are relatively biased. Most people care about their social circle and less so or not at all or completely against some other social circle. “They don’t blah-blah like us, so it’s ok if they don’t eat – they don’t deserve part of my wealth or compassion.” You are judging people’s situations from afar and summing up whether they are worthy based on limited information.

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

          Morality is simply that category of thought having to do with how we treat our fellow humans. Sounds like precisely what evolution would give us.

        • KarlUdy

          Did numbers exist before modern humans evolved?

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

          Probably, but I don’t know for sure. Numerals certainly didn’t.

          Gravity did, but the law of gravity didn’t. Does that help?

        • KarlUdy

          I’m not sure if that helps or not, because I’m not sure exactly what you mean by “the law of gravity”.

          Do you believe that abstract concepts exist independently or are simply constructs of the human mind?

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

          F = G m m/r^2.

          Why? What else would I mean?

          I have no idea what your last question means, little interest in puzzling over it, and much perplexity at what you’re getting at.

        • KarlUdy

          F = G m m/r^2.

          Why? What else would I mean?

          Well I won’t argue that that formulaic expression did not exist before modern humans.

          The question is whether that formulaic expression is the law of gravity or merely represents the law of gravity. I would argue that the truth that the formulaic expression represents existed before modern humans.

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

          Uh, yeah, like I said. There was gravity before humans, but no law of gravity. Gravity acted in accordance with that law, of course, but Newton’s Law of Gravity didn’t exist before Newton.

          After getting scolded by Kodie for being obtuse about your point, I’d have thought that you’d be clearer after I asked you to tell me what you’re getting at.

          I guess not? Pretty please?

        • KarlUdy

          Uh, yeah, like I said. There was gravity before humans, but no law of gravity. Gravity acted in accordance with that law, of course, but Newton’s Law of Gravity didn’t exist before Newton.

          If there was no law before humans, what compelled gravity to act in accordance with that law?

        • Kodie

          What compelled gravity to act in accordance with the law of gravity? Are you, as slowly as possible, asserting there is a law of morality? If so, please blink twice.

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

          So, are you unable somehow to tell me what your point is? Is this just some sort of psychological issue on your part? Or perhaps it’s part of a cunning plan?

          I need a road map.

        • KarlUdy

          I’m confused how you can say that gravity acted in acccordance with a law that you say didn’t exist at that time. I was hoping you’d explain how that works.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          I predict Bob’s next blog post will be titled The Christian Poses Picayune and Irrelevant Questions to the Atheist.

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

          No, it’s, “Why do I keep wasting my time with irrelevant questions? There’s gotta be a 12-step program for that.”

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

          And I was hoping to understand what you’re getting at.

          I guess there’s a lot of frustration going around today.

        • Kodie

          Can you cross the street without a crosswalk?

        • Kodie

          If you are claiming there is a force of morality that resembles gravity, I have to just laugh. Gravity existed, of course. Where is the scale of morality? It’s in human evolution. There is no scientific morality that exists outside of life. A rock can fall on your head – that demonstrates both gravity existing and a lack of objective morality.

        • Kodie

          Name an abstract concept.

        • Kodie

          Things that could be numbered existed before modern humans evolved, and I suppose things that could do something we would call “counting” existed also. What does that have to do with morality? What we would call examples of morality certainly existed before modern humans evolved, but it’s an internal system – part custom and part self-preservation through social bonds. Animals who have their own morality do not share ours. I still don’t know what is confusing or wrong to you about the explanations you’ve been given, except that you already believe something else and you’re sticking with it.

          What I think about humans and morality is that tribes were systems and people helped their tribe, but everyone else was scary and might attack or compete for land or resources. Think about it like… football. People love football, but they really love their own favorite team. When they’re team is crushed, they feel crushed, and when their team wins, this boosts morale. Nobody seems to love it when a different team or an outright rival team does well in the sport they enjoy watching. Nobody just roots for the best team to win.

          Their tribe is their tribe and everyone is after the win. And they even invoke god, as sports team fanaticism and tribalism is similar. In ancient civilizations, a rival tribe could very well be after your optimal spot of land, and rather than join together, I imagine a lot of fighting among humans. The more progressive we get, the more we are aware that other people are people, and there is no real excuse for war or any kind of othering.

          Why doesn’t socialism work, though? A little socialism exists in every community, but capitalism is a way of othering. You don’t want a rival company to beat you to the patent that makes the money, or the campaign or the sales, or whatever. It’s just like there isn’t enough money to go around, and to feel better, more moral, more righteous, people who do awful things justify them.

          Tribal ancient humans were justified in othering a neighboring tribe because lives were on the line. Someone is coming to attack your family and friends, so what do you suppose your reaction will be? To fight for the survival of the people you know, and kill everyone who is not in your social group. We’re social, and communal with a small group, but beyond that, we’re competitive and self-interested. That is human morality.

        • Kodie

          So which god is the right one? Nature obviously exists. Natural causes explain everything so far. Where is god? Where can we find god? And what god? So many have obviously been made up, so which one is actually true?

          Or do you not know what a null hypothesis means? Explain how “god exists” should be the null hypothesis and how it’s our job to explain your superstitions away?

        • Kodie

          I don’t know, Karl, how do you explain it just exists whether we agree or not when it’s a humongous point of contention over history and culture? I’ve been reading Bob’s blog a while, and he explains it several times a month, at least (I haven’t actually counted, it just feels like it comes up often enough for you to get the gist already and stop playing stupid).

        • Pofarmer

          Karl may not be playing.

      • Bender

        But you conveniently ignore the fact that if atheism is true then pain and suffering should be no cause for concern.

        Non sequitur. Why should the non-existence of a deity make me not concern about pain and suffering?

        You faulted Warner for not explaining the mechanics of objective morality. How do you explain “morality is natural”?

        There is no such thing as “objective morality”. And it’s natural because as Bob explained, cooperating with other human beings gives us an evolutionary advantage.

        • KarlUdy

          Why should the non-existence of a deity make me not concern about pain and suffering?

          If there is no God then pain and suffering is not a “problem” that needs to be explained. It is just the way things are.

          And I don’t find your explanation of morality persuasive. Do you equate morality with co-operation?

        • Bender

          If there is no God then pain and suffering is not a “problem” that needs to be explained.

          Exactly. It doesn’t need to be explained. It needs to be solved.

          Do you equate morality with co-operation?

          No. Cooperation is the reason we live in society. To live in society we gave ourselves a set of rules. That’s morality.

        • KarlUdy

          Bender,
          If what you say is true, why do we not always consider the set of rules given by different societies valid?

        • Pofarmer

          If nothing else’ your own statement here disproves the idea of objective morality. Different socities have sifferent moral values, and, it should be obvious, that moral values have changed over time.

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

          Karl’s fallback position could be, “well, objective moral truths still exist, but we humans are imperfect at perceiving them.”

          In other words: this concept is useless. I could claim abortion is fine and Karl could say that it’s not, and each of us could claim that we correctly perceived the dim objective truth.

        • Pofarmer

          I don’t remember if it was Thomas Paine, or Mark Twain, or both, and probably more, who noted that Men generally use Theistic arguments to bolster their own Authority. Something that would never be excepted if John told somebody, is accepted if God told him to say it. And it has the added benefit of closing off the minds of those accepting it to any changes in the position, although the Mormons have been able to pull it off by having more “divine revelations.” I think that often the hardcore believers really lack any historical perspective for how beliefs have evolved. For instance, all of Israels early rulers being considered “Son’s of God” upon their coronation. Therefore, Mark considering Jesus a “Son of God” upon his baptism wasn’t anything terribly remarkable in those years. It’s only through the modern lense, where our govt has been cleansed of the idea, and even largely our churches, that we look back and see this as something awesome. Divine agency was literally all over the ancient world. see this as something awesome. D

        • Kodie

          People who say abortion is wrong tend to have a “right-and-wrong” aversion to interfering with human life, like being alive or dead. There doesn’t seem to be an issue with interfering in how well or not someone lives. It’s kind of shitty to push someone out of the way, but there are circumstances that do not allow for the time it takes to think whether or not that is wrong, like if it’s an emergency, people will rush and possibly hurt (but not fatally) some people. It seems like it’s ok to allow people to starve because you’re not the one responsible for their hunger. It seems like it’s ok to fuck with people a little if you can get a more and someone else loses.

          Morality positions constantly bear on the major life-and-death issues: slavery (ownership), war, genocide, euthanasia. Morality is something we have every day, and every day throws situations where some things are ok, and some things are not. We never question the little things, but they add up. How do we know war is wrong? It’s not always wrong! How do we know taking a bite out of a cookie and putting it back on the plate is wrong? “It just is” is not the correct answer. Some cultures do not have the custom of “once you take a cookie, it’s yours.”

          How do we know we’re on the right side of a war? We don’t. We want our government to stay in place because it’s ours, and not have to live under a new regime. We pick a team we think agrees with our general system, and oppose the radically different one. If someone has a greed for power and land and threatens violence and destruction, we are generally in favor of pushback, reduce their power and minimize the harm they can cause to people who don’t want change or to be harmed or have their stuff or their lives taken away. It’s generally ok if some countries want to govern a certain way, but not ok if they want more than their share, and to a point, we can decide not to do business with them. Just like you can be on unfriendly terms with a neighbor, and decide not to lend him your lawnmower or let your kids play with their kids. In some situations, a violation is clear and someone is to blame, but most of the time, it’s just a difference of opinion. I’m in the right because I’m me, and I’m protecting my space, and so-and-so is in the wrong because what they’re doing upsets me, but obviously makes themselves very happy – to them, it is “good” and they disagree strongly when someone calls it “bad”.

          Christian purity culture may decide that paying for birth control and sex ed is condoning sexual promiscuity in teens and they have themselves on a leash, and condemn everyone who wants to have premarital, non-procreative sex. They set up “right” and “wrong,” “good and “bad” behavior. People who are not under this morality find sex usually to be good (as a general concept, if nothing else), and if given the information, can be especially responsible with no dilemmas or non-ideal outcomes. To Christians, sex within marriage is awesome evidence of god’s favor of procreation, and everyone who does it outside of marriage is merely lustful fornicators and doing it wrong. To me, I could judge their system for being destructive and unrealistic, and they could counter with examples of it working really well. I can’t say it doesn’t work really well for the people who want it that way, i.e., I can’t say it’s “bad”, it’s just “bad” for most people, and there are other options. “Good” is revealed to them through punishing everything else – there is a real cost to being a fornicator in their village, so threatening people with this outcome works to generate “good” behavior, and agreement that it is “good.” Having a lot of other choices makes for people picking the one that gives them the least downsides.

          So whatever you prefer is “good” and the other choices are “less good for me” and “probably fine for someone else”.

          Genocide, not so much. I mean, let’s use an animal for example. Exterminating termites is “good” because we prefer our houses not to be eaten. Eating wood is “good” for the termite and dying is “bad.” So, we live in a world where we go to battle with destructive (to us) insects. We also live in a world where bees are ok. Bees are ok, over there, not in the attic. Bees are ok, except some people are allergic and will die if stung. So we’re mostly not at battle with bees. People, different situation. It can be completely possible for an entire population of people to be considered as destructive to our way of living as a termite – or moreso, probably. It is not ok to genocide people on xenophobic fears, but it seems pretty ok to some people to round up Muslims and torture them. I mean, they want to destroy our way of living, and if we don’t send the message, they won’t back off. Do we have that right, or should we just play fair and let people who believe they are the “good” ones take over? They are the termites from my perspective, and it’s possible to repress with murder someone who is trying to kill us. Murder in self-defense is generally given a pass in the US. What if it’s millions of them? Is it wrong just because they’re people preferring their own customs with no regard for what I prefer, actively destroying and murdering to signify their intent?

          I am being mostly hypothetical, because I don’t believe millions of Muslims are intent on destroying democracy, en masse. But it’s hypothetical that a campaign can be waged to overtake select parcels of land with no regard for the standing government there or the population that derives its preference for freedom there. So how can genocide be always wrong if self-defense is wrong? In the bible, I’ve heard, there are similar situations – one tribe attacks another tribe, just belonging to the tribe means you have to be exterminated. You are a kind of pest to the attackers as if tribal affiliation is the cause of your preferences that disagrees with the attackers preferences. We tend to think of people as individuals and not culture-formed or culture-bound, but good is always what I prefer, and if some people who don’t really deserve to die have to be killed, at least we’ll be sure none of them are left. War victims are always “look what they’re doing to us,” and not what did we do that they don’t like that made us worthy of attack, because we prefer ourselves and not them; we prefer peace and health and life, and they prefer to agitate us from maintaining it.

          And does the universe actually care? No.

    • avalon

      Karl,

      “Our reaction to breaches of morality betray our deeply held belief that
      morality is supernatural and that none of the natural explanations for
      morality are sufficient.”

      I assume by “reaction” you mean emotional reaction? So here’s the question: ‘Do we somehow discover moral facts which supernaturally elicit an emotional response?’ or ‘Do we have an emotional response and then attach a moral label to it?’

      Compare this to other interactions. A child can experience the color red long before they know the label for that color. Likewise, a child can experience positive or negative emotions to certain experiences long before they’re aware of the labels “moral” or “immoral”.

      The same is true of non-human species. They act in certain ways based on emotional responses but have no concept of morality. They experience the emotions, but don’t have the label.

      That’s not to say that morals don’t exist. Just as “red” exists as a human concept of our eyes interacting with certain wave lengths, “morality” exists as a human concept of certain interactions with others. The concept of morality is no more supernatural than the concept of red (or any other color), it (morality) just carries more emotional motivation.

      • KarlUdy

        Avalon,
        I’m not talking about simply an emotional reaction. I’m talking about how we think about such breaches, how we act in response, as well as how we feel.

        • avalon

          So you think we have an emotional reaction, then think and/or respond? I agree.

          But you still haven’t answered my question of where objective moral facts play a part.

          ‘Do we somehow discover moral facts which supernaturally elicit an emotional response?’ or ‘Do we have an emotional response and then attach a moral label to it?’

        • KarlUdy

          I believe that there are objective moral facts that are discoverable. I don’t believe this means that people do not attach moral labels in response to an emotional reaction.

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

          Can we reliably see these objective moral facts, or do we perceive them only dimly?

          If the latter, I don’t think your hypothesis explains much.

        • Kodie

          But why? Why do you believe that?

    • http://batman-news.com Anton

      you are correct in some sense that the problem of evil is not an atheist
      problem to solve – at least not in the same way as for a theist. But
      you conveniently ignore the fact that if atheism is true then pain and
      suffering should be no cause for concern.

      Why shouldn’t it be any cause for concern? If anything, the believer who sees suffering as God’s will is more likely to trivialize suffering. If it’s the will of God, after all, who are we to say it’s a tragedy?

      I’m a Christian, but I don’t ascribe the will of a deity to suffering and tragedy. Pain, evil and injustice exist, and I feel it’s our duty as concerned humans not to be indifferent to the effects (or the causes) of these ills.

      • Pofarmer

        “If anything, the believer who sees suffering as God’s will is more
        likely to trivialize suffering. If it’s the will of God, after all, who
        are we to say it’s a tragedy?”

        That argument has been used a lot, actually. It was used to argue against the adoption of vaccines, among other things. It was used to oppose dissection and other medically useful procedures.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          My point exactly. Calling it part of some ineffable divine plan doesn’t ennoble the suffering of the innocent, it trivializes it.

      • KarlUdy

        Anton,
        I think you have inferred meaning to my statements that wasn’t there. My point is that without a deity, pain and suffering are just the way things are and there is no logic to protesting their presence. Therefore there is no problem of evil for the atheist, but the atheist instead needs to explain why, if there is no deity, people protest the existence of evil and injustice.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          Karl, I don’t think you’re asking the right question here. You seem to think that nonbelievers have no cause to feel regret or outrage over the existence of evil and suffering. Regardless of whether or not we affirm the existence of a deity or transcendent reality, the suffering of the innocent should be the source of grief and outrage for us.

          I’m a Christian, and it’s statements like yours that cause people to assume that we completely lack understanding when it comes to nonbelief. The notion that people whose cognitive models of reality don’t include God can’t think or act ethically, or that they’re indifferent to injustice and suffering, is truly insulting.

        • KarlUdy

          Anton,
          I agree with you that suffering and evil should and does cause any normal person (atheist, Christian, or otherwise) grief and outrage.

          My point is that the atheist worldview does not adequately account for why this is so.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          So my point stands, Karl, that your question is little more than a taunt to nonbelievers, a display of the level of your misunderstanding of people who don’t share your belief. And as a Christian, I’m not surprised when nonbelievers are justifiably insulted by statements like yours.

          Not for nothing, but I already pointed out that the belief system that truly trivializes suffering and dodges responsibility for its source is the one that professes belief in an active deity who rewards and punishes, answers prayers, and intervenes in human endeavor. If he’s being consistent, such a believer must accept that his deity either refuses to intervene and spare the innocent from the typhoon in the Philippines (for example), or that their suffering is a part of some ineffable cosmic plan. Either way, such a believer is avoiding the why, and allowing himself a cozy measure of indifference to tragedy and suffering instead of empathizing with its victims.

          Personally, I couldn’t live with such a faith.

        • KarlUdy

          Anton, so you’re a Christian who doesn’t believe in

          an active deity who rewards and punishes, answers prayer, and intervenes in human endeavour

          ?

          If I’m reading you right, you probably need to explain what sort of a Christian you are, because it doesn’t sound like what most people mean by Christian.

          And I am not “taunting” anyone. I think Bob has not dealt adequately with a point in his article where he seems to think he has slam-dunked the best that Christian thinking has to offer. I’m not saying that atheists can’t tell wrong from right. I’m not saying that they don’t care about evil in our world. I’m just saying that atheism doesn’t adequately explain it. If anyone gets offended by that, it’s more their problem than mine.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          If I’m reading you right, you probably need to explain what sort of a Christian you are, because it doesn’t sound like what most people mean by Christian.

          I guess you’ve never met a Christian who didn’t think the only way to conceptualize divinity is the way our ancestors did thousands of years ago: a surrogate chieftain who laid down the law and expected total obedience. You’ve never met a progressive Christian who believes more in the spirit of Christ’s love inspiring people and communities to be more forgiving and inclusive? You’ve never encountered the existential Christianity of Tillich? Miguel de Unamuno could have been describing my faith when he said, “My religion is to seek truth in life and life in truth, all the while knowing I may never find it during my lifetime; my religion is to do battle tirelessly and incessantly with the unknown.”

          I’m not saying that atheists can’t tell wrong from right. I’m not saying that they don’t care about evil in our world. I’m just saying that atheism doesn’t adequately explain it. If anyone gets offended by that, it’s more their problem than mine.

          But your big-chieftain religion doesn’t explain it either, it just gives you license to ignore the why questions and feel superior to your enemies. And you don’t mind offending nonbelievers, because their anger will just reinforce your feeling of certainty and superiority.

          How immature.

        • KarlUdy

          I guess you’ve never met a Christian who …

          I’ve come across people like that before. I do believe in the Spirit of Christ’s love inspiring people and communities to become more forgiving and inconclusive. Of course, if Christ was not God incarnate, and did not die and rise again, then any inspiration we take from his story is nothing more than sentiment in my opinion. And to label someone “Christian” who denies the incarnation and resurrection renders the label rather meaningless, don’t you think?

          But your big-chieftain religion doesn’t explain it either, it just gives you license to ignore the why questions and feel superior to your enemies. And you don’t mind offending nonbelievers, because their anger will just reinforce your feeling of certainty and superiority.

          How immature.

          I find it amusing that you somehow think you know how I feel, and yet accuse me of feelings of superiority. And I try my best not to offend people needlessly, but if people are offended simply because I disagree with them, then it is they who are immature.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          Of course, if Christ was not God incarnate, and did not die and rise again, then any inspiration we take from his story is nothing more than sentiment in my opinion.

          Each to his own sentiment then, Karl. We can’t know whether the Resurrection actually happened, so what it means to us and what Christ inspires us to do in our world is a matter of faith. I thought that was what faith meant.

          And to label someone “Christian” who denies the incarnation and resurrection renders the label rather meaningless, don’t you think?

          No more meaningless than if we apply the label to someone who makes no effort to understand or empathize with people of a different philosophical bent. You’re all about the dogma, aren’t you, Karl? But how about the spirit?

          if people are offended simply because I disagree with them, then it is they who are immature.

          I’m reminded of a saying: When I hate people, it’s because I recognize their flaws; when people hate me, it’s because they resent my virtues.

          Like I said, it’s not that you’ve merely said something atheists disagree with. You made an insulting statement about atheists and acted disingenuous when called out for the statement. I think nonbelievers have every reason to be offended when a Christian impugns their integrity and says that there’s no basis for atheists to have concern for the pain and suffering of the innocent.

        • KarlUdy

          Like I said, it’s not that you’ve merely said something atheists disagree with. You made an insulting statement about atheists and acted disingenuous when called out for the statement. I think nonbelievers have every reason to be offended when a Christian impugns their integrity and says that there’s no basis for atheists to have concern for the pain and suffering of the innocent.

          What was my insulting statement?

          How did I act disingenuously?

          And yet when you sum things up, you are saying that atheists should be offended, not because I accuse them of having no concern for the pain and suffering of the innocent, but because I say that atheists have no basis for their concern (ie their worldview doesn’t adequately explain why anyone should be concerned.) Now this would only be impugning their integrity if I was also claiming that they knowingly and willingly persisted in such a view while in full knowledge of this problem for no good reason. Which I don’t claim.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          you are saying that atheists should be offended, not because I accuse them of having no concern for the pain and suffering of the innocent, but because I say that atheists have no basis for their concern (ie their worldview doesn’t adequately explain why anyone should be concerned.)

          Like I said before, Karl, it would be easy enough to claim that it’s the Christian who has no basis for concern: if his active, all-powerful God didn’t deign to prevent this suffering, then who says the suffering is a bad thing in the first place?

          I’m done with this now.

        • KarlUdy

          And I would say that that is a question the Christian worldview must answer. But that doesn’t mean that the atheist worldview should be immune from criticism.

          I’m happy to finish this exchange now too, if you are.

        • Balboa

          There is such a thing as christian deism. Some people categorize thomas jefferson as one.

        • Kodie

          You’re saying the atheist worldview does not adequately account for why people are bothered by suffering?

          OR

          You’re saying the atheist worldview does not adequately account for why there is suffering?

          Like a lot of times before, you take a lot of teeth-pulling before you ever actually explain what you mean. Use exact precise words to draw a picture for us, not use words like “this”, as in “why this is so.” What does “this” mean?

        • KarlUdy

          More the first sentence.

        • Kodie

          You think without god, people don’t have emotions? Or that you can’t figure out why it might be evolutionarily advantageous to have emotions? Since all your questions to Bob, the answer boils down essentially to “empathy” explains it (every single time he’s answered it but you are never satisfied with it as an answer), but you are still convinced our empathy has to have come from a deity. Why? (And am I even warm?)

          Do you not notice that empathy is a good survival strategy? Lots of animals express it.

        • KarlUdy

          Ice cold, sorry :-(

        • Kodie

          Then say what you mean. Say it in specific words not “this” or “it”.

        • KarlUdy

          Let’s try it with a case study. How can the conducting of the Nuremberg trials be justified by atheism?

        • Kodie

          There is no hell?

        • KarlUdy

          And if there is no hell? So what?

        • Kodie

          So what? If the Germans won the war, they would not put themselves on trial. Who knows what would happen after that. I can’t quite figure out what you’re insinuating, but we’re not getting anywhere until you spill it.

        • KarlUdy

          If the Germans would not have put themselves on trial, what justification was there for the Allies to do so?

        • Kodie

          If we put them on trial, what justification would the Germans have for skipping it if they had their way?

        • KarlUdy

          That the Allies had no justification to put them on trial

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

          No justification? They had no absolute or God-given justification, but they obviously had a justification (even if you didn’t find it compelling).

        • KarlUdy

          OK. No valid justification

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

          Huh? What’s a “valid” justification? Again, is this just a synonym for “absolute”?

          Is your preference for chocolate over vanilla “valid”?

          Is your support for (or rejection of) abortion valid? Sez who? Who died and left you god? Who are you to have an opinion on abortion?

        • KarlUdy

          Which, if the Nazis had power to do so, would be exactly the sort of response I would expect they would make at the prospect of being put on trial for the crimes they were tried for in Nuremberg. (Substituting in “Jewish question”, and “German domestic matters” as the relevant issues, of course.)

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

          It would help if you’d quote
          what you’re responding to. I need your comment to be clearer.

        • KarlUdy

          I was referring to the entire comment.

          Why should any justification the Allies had to put Nazis on trial Nuremberg hold jurisdiction over them? Kodie says it’s because the Allies held the power at the time. Do you agree?

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

          My position really isn’t that difficult. It’s like yours, except drop the idea of any absolute/objective morality.

          Clumsily stated, it’s might makes right. The Nazis didn’t put the Allies on trial because they had no power, remember? The Allies did have power, since they won.

          The Allies didn’t win because they were in alignment with some cosmic power or force or deity. They won for natural reasons. As a result, their view of right and wrong guided legal proceedings afterwards.

        • Kodie

          Some people decided they liked Europe one way and some decided they liked it another way. In order to preserve Europe the way some people liked it, and avoid future disruptions in its general settlement, we kind of had to do a little roundup of our own. Did you read my thing about tribes? Politics? Governments? Dictatorships? People don’t like it when some new dog comes to take what little they have and start ordering them around, or especially rounding them up and exterminating them.

          Do you really think it’s normal human behavior to walk away from it? God’s not in control, people are. Hitler obviously had the power to command. He had some kind of idea that appealed to people, and they worked to try to make his world vision come about. The godless thing to do is take that power away from them before they could do any more damage to a preferential way of living for the winners.

          I don’t understand precisely why you think atheists should just not care what happens to ourselves or other people. You are still being evasive.

        • KarlUdy

          So the Allies justification is that they had the power. Which is also a justification for the Holocaust. And thus you have placed the Nuremberg trials and the Holocaust as morally equivalent. Do you find this problematic at all?

        • Kodie

          I guess we just disagreed? Does the universe care what humans are up to?

        • Balboa

          Because we didn’t like what they did. We regarded it as uncivilized. But the universe doesn’t care. It sucks. I wished the universe cared. The fact is, it doesn’t. Personlly i value life, believe killing is wrong. I try to come up with good reasons for this position, but the truth is, its just my opinion because I want to live in a world with peace where suffering is greatly reduced. Me wanting there to be a cosmic ought, isn’t a good reason to conclude god exists.

        • KarlUdy

          Balboa,
          Thanks for your honesty. I believe your position is consistent with atheism. The only thing I would differ with you on, is that I think your desire for that cosmic ought is good evidence for the existence of God.

        • Balboa

          As I said to the others I don’t take issue with you concluding god exists. If you look at something like the Big Bang or the organization of the cosmos and see an intelligence behind that , I don’t think it’s an unreasonable conclusion (hardly proof but it is certainly reasonable speculation). But I do not see how one can use the existence of a desire for a cosmic ought as evidence of gods existence. I have a desire to vacation in middle earth, that isn’t evidence that middle earth is real. I also have a desire to hire an honest accountant for my business, but sadly it seems no such creature exists :). I just do not find this argument a compelling reason to say one believes in god.

        • KarlUdy

          Balboa,
          I am sure you are familiar with CS Lewis’ argument from desire. He explains why some desires necessitate the existence of a fulfilment, and others don’t.

          PS I would love to vacation in Middle Earth too :-)

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

          I strongly desire peace on earth. Anything else just seems wrong.

          And then I open my eyes and … dang!

        • KarlUdy

          Bob,
          Are you familiar with CS Lewis’ argument from desire? And if so, what would be his response to your comment?

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

          He’d say, “Ah, but that desire isn’t a fundamental desire. We might want to have a million dollars or fly like Superman, but those aren’t in my special set (food, drink, sex, and not much else).”

        • Balboa

          The argument from desire is not very compelling. There are compelling arguments for the existence if god but this one isn’t.

        • Balboa

          And to be clear here, I see what you are saying . I think a world where objective morality exists would be peer able, I just don’t think it’s the case (as much as I would love for the universe to bend all its energies to judging the nazis). By the same token I am not one of these atheists who rejoices there is no god or no afterlife. I would certainly prefer eternal life to dirt and a pine box. I just don’t buy that these things are real (even if you were to prove conclusively that god existed, I would consider afterlife and souls unlikely). So I see the beauty of a world with a loving god who cares for our souls when we die, I just find the likelihood that such a thing exists to be wanting.

        • KarlUdy

          Thanks Balboa,
          It is all too rare on discussions like these to feel like your point has been heard and understood, even if it is not accepted.

          Peace.

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

          Dirt and a pine box sound pretty good compared to slow roasting over a fire for a trillion years.

        • Balboa

          Agreed. But if we accept the premise that god exists and that we can live forever in heaven by following his rules, and these rules were revealed in scripture, then absolutely I would follow those rules and choose heaven over a pine box (even if hell exists as a possibility for those who don’t follow the rules). Now that is a lot of ifs, and i think its obvious scripture is condradictory and not reliable, but i am saying if those things are true, i would vastly prefer the possibiity of heaven to the certainty of non-existence. At the end of the day, as much as I prefer heaven, i just dont see any compelling reason to believe in it (i would even argue that the existence of god is more plausibe, though stil extremely unlikely, than the existence of heaven).

        • Kodie

          I want to contradict you here. I have no desire for the universe to bend all its energies to judging Nazis. Is my lack of desire for a cosmic ought evidence that there isn’t any god? I have long since come to terms that not everyone gets what I think they deserve, and then they die anyway. Nazis as people are not “bad” in the sense I’m about to describe – they are symptomatic but viral. A person who has done wrong will die, but the world is not rid of them unless their philosophy dies. I don’t feel like an eternal punishment is necessary for dead criminals (or live ones). The mindset, the abstract mindset, is the poison, it’s in the atmosphere. They did not grow the idea for genocide or eugenics. Punishing them for eternity for espousing ideas I find heinous doesn’t really satisfy anything.

          I’ve also thought or wished for a god to exist. Thing is, I’ve heard he does exist and he doesn’t really help like a Candyman. His offerings are more esoteric and subtle and abstract. I don’t see a whole lot of peace for believers either. I can understand a lot more about god than some people think, and the bible contains some nuggets of good advice, but the advice is not married to a deity, or that specific deity. Human behavior and human pain and human distraction can cause distress. Being alive is a lot of insecurity to cope with, but that doesn’t mean there’s a god. It just means there are methods of coping, that are psychological manipulation. Train your brain to accept and relax a little. What I mean is that religious people like to co-opt general human concepts like love, family, morality, etc., so they think they own relief and security as well. Not knowing how brains actually work can make the process seem like it’s coming from outside.

        • Balboa

          Kodie, I was not arguing that god exists or that desire for a cosmic ought demonstrates his existence.

          Simply saying that, while i do not believe, i think if most people are honest with themselves, they’d want there to be an all loving god and for their souls to live for eternity after death. That doesn’t make god exist, but see way too many atheists act ss if they would choose a finite 75 yess of life over 75 years plus an eternity of bliss if they had the choice.

        • Kodie

          I think what most people want is more time to do the things they’re not doing now, and good health that they’re not busy taking care of themselves now so they can add 20 years to their lives. The pop culture version of heaven as an extended retirement at a resort where they can fulfill their hobby interests and hang out with their other dead friends is what people really want. How disappointing is the real heaven as real Christians describe it.

          I know a few atheists don’t ever want to die because of all the future they’d miss. They want to know what it will be like, or they want to live long enough to study every subject and learn everything there is to know. They want to go live on or explore other planets as we work out the details of space travel. Dying is like not being able to get to the end of the book. And heaven, by pop culture again, describes an afterlife where we can observe the future from heaven and not really miss how it all turns out for our children or grandchildren. As far as I can tell, because we’re obviously not without our own fantasies (science fiction, fantasy genres), it would rock to know our grandparents’ grandparents and ask them questions. In reality, we know that all the genealogical research brings us a thin story or just a name, and they have slipped away, never to be known again, and we are afraid of a world that doesn’t know us. If people are being honest, what we want is, if we can’t actually live forever, not to be forgotten.

          But that doesn’t mean there is evidence of god. I don’t really want any of that. When I was younger, I had a lot of existential angst. Atheists talk a lot also about their one and only life, and filling your life with everything you want to do before you die because heaven doesn’t exist or allow you the leisure time to accomplish things you had in mind. That is just culture. Lists of 100 books you should read before you die, or 20 places you should travel before you die, or whatever. I no longer have an urgency to chase these goals. Experiences are good, the “I’ve always wanted to try this,” bucket-list style. But it doesn’t actually matter. You’re not going to remember it when you’re dead.

          Long story short, I would not choose heaven as it’s been described by Christians. I would choose reincarnation, if anything. The fantasy in reincarnation is that you get to start over, and you think, for no good reason, that you’ll carry over some wisdom. Life is like striking out at bat and getting kicked off the team, and reincarnation is like, give me another chance to swing, I’ll be more coordinated, wise, and awesome.

          I don’t know what Karl really believes, he just really believes a lot of weak arguments. As far as I have been able to tell, he believes that the ability to imagine things that aren’t, period, is evidence of a god who prefers humans and have given us this amazing ability. It’s not that our imaginations are evidence that our visions are true, it’s that we have them at all, so something must be true. And if we can’t disprove any version of heaven, having had not contact from a dead person in the afterlife to tell us what it’s like, any of them might be true.

        • Balboa

          Again, in no way am i suggesting that god exists or the existence of the idea of heaven implies gods existence. I am merely saying, that the idea of heaven is an attractive one and more desireable to most people than termination of mind at death.

          Keep in mind, there is no one christian heaven. Different denominations have different ideas about what heaven is. I suspect you have the more mainline American protestant heaven in mind. I was thinking of the catholic take.

          Certainly i would take reincarnation over non-existene. But over “ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness”? I will take ultimate happiness over rebirth any day of the week. Also, it is interesting to reflect on the buddhist cosmology and its take on reincarnation, where the endless cycle of rebirth (and e suffering it entails) is deemd undesirable and the final goal is to escape that by attaining nirvana.

        • Kodie

          Sure, sure. Religions basically handle speculative fiction. It comes from a perspective of “why did a boulder roll down the mountain and crush my hut with my family inside, was it something I did?” Or, “that boulder missed my hut by inches, sparing my family, god must prefer me.” The indifference of nature to us seems to be painful and confusing for some people. Most people like to think they’re a good person – it’s true.

          I keep saying and wanting to say more about how morality is in the daily lives. It’s not murder vs. charity. Those are extreme. People justify taking shortcuts out of convenience and entitlement. I do not believe there is such a thing as bliss. If you ask a religious person why there is suffering, the answer usually involves gratitude for the brief moments of joy. Without suffering, we cannot know joy. How blissful could eternal heaven be if there is no more suffering? How could we recognize it and how could we emotionally sustain it?

          It’s a gimmick. Everyone likes to be happy. Sell them a situation where they can be happy all the time? But when you ask them, the suffering exists so that we can experience joy. In heaven, how do we rid our selves, our souls, of pride and jealousy? How do we rid ourselves of the constant nagging problems we have while we’re alive? Take, for example, someone who protests abortion. They get wrapped up in a cause and it’s very meaningful to them. They feel pain about the innocent souls being exterminated every day and it motivates them to care about something. Dying takes them off the cause, doesn’t it? How can they be in a state of eternal bliss while the thing that upsets them the most hasn’t been resolved in the way that they worked so hard for? How can they suddenly not care? How are they still themselves in heaven if a huge concern of their life is out of their hands?

          I admit reincarnation has its faults, but life, to me, is pain. It’s ok, it’s just also oppressive, it’s obligatory. I struggle to do all the things that people do, time management, being late, not having enough time, things that shouldn’t take a long time take a lot longer for me to do, generally, and often come with surprise complications instead of having a somewhat easy resolution. To that end, I eliminate caring to do many of the things people do, like wearing make-up or cooking things that take a lot of preparation, getting married, having children, etc., the latter two I’ve decided are too complicated especially, people needing me for more than I can do just seems like it’s not worth it; I don’t see the lifestyle as rewarding as I did when I was younger and making a family is the assumed order of things. So starting over doesn’t sound like a good deal after all. I envision a different sort of life where I can not start out warped and late, but then again, it’s sort of like your job is to dig a really big ditch and when you finished the ditch, the foreman comes over and assigns you another ditch. You just want to go home and have a cold beer and soak your feet with some soothing Seinfeld reruns, but it’s ditch-digging forever.

          We can imagine all kinds of fantasy outcomes. Cinderella gets to be a princess and live in a castle. “The End.” We don’t find out what happens after that, but it’s supposed to be exceptionally good. I like to watch my soap opera, and it’s always kind of funny to me that the characters who stay in town have all the drama, while the characters who leave settle down and have normal lives (unless they are being held captive and presumed dead). It’s kind of like the soap opera town has some major effect on an increase in outrageous drama, why do people stay? And there are extras in the background, presumably we are just watching the same limited group interact with strange dramas, but of course this doesn’t involve the boring people in the background. The regular characters have such weird problems, over and over and over, but they never leave because it’s too interesting and they prefer upheaval lurking around every corner.

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

          The fact that the Old Testament makes clear that Yahweh isn’t this teddy bear of a god. Christianity, even if true, wouldn’t provide a just and loving afterlife.

        • Balboa

          Well, I think that would be debatable depending on ones view of what the New Testament means (whether it does in fact signal a reinterpretation of Yehweh as a more loving god). I would argue that by the Gospels at least, what you ultimately have is Jesus acting in the same capacity as say Mohammad, where he is essentially saying “our interpretation of God has been wrong all these years, its about love, compassion and forgiveness”. But even so, let’s say OT god is the badass he’s made out to be, I would posit that if he were truly an all powerful God who can grant you access to eternal life if you follow his rules, why wouldn’t you follow the rules and take the reward? To me, that’s silly moral posturing to say “take your afterlife and stuff it Yehweh, cause I don’t like your rules”. If he really is real, then the rules would in fact make sense. And even if you don’t like them, living eternally beats death. It’s that he isn’t real, that brings all those rules into question. Again it is all bunk. I don’t buy the OT or the NT. I am just saying imagine these are true. Imagine a world where Jesus really is God and he is saying, all you have to do is accept me, live by some of these rules, and you can have eternal blissful life. Wouldn’t you take that if it were true? Not taking it, because you think it is false, that I get. That is rational. What isn’t rational, in my opinion, is believing it to be true and rejecting it.

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

          Well, I think that would be debatable depending on ones view of what the New Testament means

          It’s not debatable. We’re talking the Bible here, the word of God. The OT makes clear what kind of guy Yahweh is.

          Sure, we can dress him up nice all we want, but then we’ve entered the world of make-believe. (Of course, we probably agree that we were in the land of make believe with the OT, too, but never mind.) This idea that the New Testament refurbishes this guy can’t be maintained.

          why wouldn’t you follow the rules and take the reward?

          Sure, if he’s a malevolent bully (Dawkins’ term) and you could kiss his ass to get goodies in the afterlife, I’d probably do that.

          But then hell didn’t exist back in OT times, so there was nothing to avoid.

          To me, that’s silly moral posturing to say “take your afterlife and stuff it Yehweh, cause I don’t lik e your r ules”.

          “It’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees.” Going to the nice place by compromising who you are in life is a high price to pay.

          If he really is real, then the rules would in fact make sense.

          Not in the sense of being fair.

          Imagine a world where Jesus really is God and he is saying, all you have to do is accept me, live by some of these rules, and you can have eternal blissful life. Wouldn’t you take that if it were true?

          Uh, yeah, that’s not what he’s saying. You’ve got to believe stuff. That makes the Christian route closed off to me. And to you, too, I would think.

          Though perhaps you’re saying, “Imagine if you will that you believed the Jesus story.”

        • Balboa

          How can the idea that the new testament changes god’s nature not be maintained, if the very text of the NT seems to contradict much that came before?

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

          Yes, the NT does change God’s nature. I’m simply saying that when the Christian plays that card, they’ve admitted that the Bible is made up.

        • Kodie

          The question is, who would fall for that? The truth is, few do. They pick and choose which parts of both books are true and required to heed.

        • Balboa

          Surr, they pick the parts they like. I am not denying that. I am just saying,lets give an honest description of what they believe and not paint them as this monolithic ideology when they simply aren’t monolithic. Biblical literalism and embrace of OT thinking is something that you find mainly in places like the bible belt in the US. Go outside that and you encounter all kinds of diffrent views about what the OT and NT mean. For many of them, the old trstament is viewed as innacurate, less aligned with god’s intentions than the NT.

        • Kodie

          Is that supposed to be meaningful? I find biblical figurativists (or whatever you want to call it) irritating that they are actively inventing a new religion and they don’t recognize that selective interpretation is taking an experience they had and making up a story about it. I don’t find that admirable at all, I find it even more ridiculous than people who believe the whole kit.

        • Balboa

          Most religions are figurative to a degree bause the text rarely lines up perfectly and you have to reconcile it. You also have to choose what is intended to have most emphasis. And most faiths go beyond the text to an extent. I don’t know why yuo would want the figurativists to be more literal, i frankly prefer a world where people don’t believe every word of the bible is the word of god. Personally I find the people who think the bible is the written word of god to be substantially more ridiculous than those who see it as divinely inspired and flawed, or just a book with bits that are true,

        • Kodie

          No, you know what, they don’t have to reconcile it. The little parts they use work for them, and the rest of it doesn’t. They don’t have to reconcile it because they suspect that it just does. It’s like, going to the doctor, you don’t know how the medicine works, it just does, and the doctor knows how it works (maybe or maybe not).

          You can’t really educate them out of this position even if they don’t know how it all works together. To them, it must, because the parts that they use do.

          Converts to religion are made by taking people who need to be shown a little. They don’t have perfectly blind faith with no “evidence,” none of them. Take something Jesus preached and practice it in your life, and wow, it actually works! The whole bible must be true and Jesus is wise and also died to save my soul! It’s psychological manipulation, i.e. parlor tricks. The bullshit becomes figurative lessons that don’t need to make literal sense. The problem of evil doesn’t need to be reconciled, nor does it seem to bother any Christian, because it can be waved away, god must have his reasons, and they’re good reasons, and who are we to question god or tie ourselves up looking at the problem like an atheist would.

          People who don’t literally believe every part of the bible are easier to get along with, sure, but they are not unaccountable. “We’re not all like that” is the common response. You sound a lot like that.

        • Balboa

          You are confusing trying to understand people and see them for what they are, with defending the validity of their pos ion.

        • Balboa

          Maybe people say “we are not all like that” because you paint with too broad a brush and they are not all like that. It doesnt make them right, but it means you need to learn more about their beliefs if you want to level a criticism that will resonate with them. Otherwise you just come across as ignorant of their actual beliefs, if you lump all christians into one pool.

        • Kodie

          No, they just don’t understand the criticism isn’t directed at them. Instead of agreeing that some people use bad arguments and teaming up, they get defensive and provide cover and distraction.

          I told you I’m from the Northeast US, I know there are liberal Christians who are not science-deniers and gay-haters, and all that. Why would I paint Christians with the brush I’m not even familiar with? Because people come to the blog and post, and I address the individual and their arguments. You are mostly saying those issues are stupid and all settled and we can just ignore dummies and focus on the literate, progressive ones.

          I don’t see two different sets of arguments; I don’t see one literate approach to Christianity and one ignorant approach. I don’t see valid, intellectual arguments from anyone who even claims to be intellectual. Karl certainly sounds like he went to school. Wlad does not. But their arguments and senses of logic do not differ by all that much.

        • Balboa

          Yes, it is a thought exercise. I am saying imagine if you believed the Jesus story. This is one of my issues with some of my fellow atheists.

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

          Hmm. You seem to have a lot of issues with your fellow atheists.

        • Balboa

          I do, because I believe we do a terrible job of marketing the truth. Science is behind us. Reason is behind us, yet we are losing ground in places like the states. It isn’t entirely our fault but we should be making way more headway than we are. I think guys like Dawkins make things worse because they are so negative and so nasty, they strengthen the belief of religious people rather than convince them to re-evaluate what they believe. There is a palpable anger among many in the atheist community (both towards believers and towards a god they don’t believe in). The place to start isn’t anger, but a desire for truth and to share that truth.

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

          You’re not saying that anger is unjustified but that that’s not the way to make new friends. Is that right?

        • Balboa

          In some cases the anger is justified, in others it isn’t. But that is besides the point, which is it is entirely unproductive. This isn’t about making friends, its about persuading people to the truth. What guys like Dawkins do, just makes skeptics feel better about themselves, causes them to approach the world with the same swagger and destructive rage as a bible thumper screaching about fire and brimstone. Sure there is a lot of stuff deserving of anger that comes from religion, but if you dont find the good and use that to connct people to the truth, you’ll lose in the end, or maybe you will win, but the result will be just as bad. Truth should be out ideology, not anger.

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

          I’m persuaded by the “let a thousand flowers bloom” approach. Some insights you can only get from an aggressive person like PZ Myers.

        • Kodie

          I think approaching a problem with a single solution is bound to fail overall.

        • Kodie

          Thanks for the prescription, Dockturr. The problem in the states is not atheists like Dawkins making it worse. People fear a change and they circle their wagons. You’re not getting in with a truth that sounds foreign to them, even if you are nice about it.

        • Balboa

          The problem in the states is two fold: lack of science education and wide spread ignorance, and people on the other side who refuse to speak the language of the folks they are trying to convince. If you want to improve the situation, the solution is not to adopt dawkin’s tone. That merely increases wagon circling. What dawkins does feels good and makes us feel smart. It doesn’t make a dent in the bible belt, but does quite the opposite.

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

          And yet you have the examples of Dawkins and (in particular) Hitchens deliberately giving lectures in the Bible Belt and getting sellout crowds. Finally, these closeted atheists could see someone speaking their language.

        • Balboa

          Sure, there are plenty of atheists in the bible belt. But Dawkins is just preaching to the choir with those folks. I spent six years as a kid in one of the most religious and conservative areas of the country. I’m talking a place where me having a Jewish father was considered a problem. A guy like Dawkins going in isnt going to inprove things for the better, it will just heightn tensions. More effective would be a guy like prothero going in, who seems to be a believer but believes in science and being open to other ideas. Or skeptic who isn’t in the dawkins mold.

        • Balboa

          Actually being nice goes a long way. I have convinced many believers to my view over time. If you slap people they wont listen, its really that simple.

        • Kodie

          I don’t know what purpose this would serve.

        • Balboa

          “Sure, if he’s a malevolent bully (Dawkins’ term) and you could kiss his ass to get goodies in the afterlife, I’d probably do that.

          But then hell didn’t exist back in OT times, so there was nothing to avoid.”
          Sure, but in this thought exercise, we are taking Christianity as being true. We are not worried about the coherency of the bible because that isn’t the point. It is an incoherent mess. But imagine the Christian interpretiation of the text is correct. That is our starting point. If you want to talk about the old testament versus the new testament and how obviously in conflict they are, I would agree. If you want to talk about how the god painted by the old testament is far from loving, then I would also agree. But again, that isn’t the point here.

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

          OK.

        • Balboa

          “It’s not debatable. We’re talking the Bible here, the word of God. The OT makes clear what kind of guy Yahweh is. ”

          But if you are a Christian you have to take them both and make sense of them. The old testament says an eye for an eye, and Jesus says “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a] But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” Clearly if you believe in the Divinity of Jesus, it is totally reasonable to conclude that he is reframing the Old Testment. Either saying people had it incorrect all along or God has changed his character. It is like Mohammad as the seal of the prophets. He is coming in and saying, no this is wrong, here is what god really wants you to do.

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

          Sounds like we are roughly in agreement. I’m simply saying that the Christian’s job is a tough one. He’s got to imagine that the unchanging, ever-perfect God of creation is giving us a new spin on unchanging reality.

          Neither of your 2 options (the OT gives an incorrect view of God or God changed) is palatable to the honest Christian.

          Granted, over a billion Christians lose little sleep over this. I’m just saying that it’s impossible to put Humpty back together again.

        • Balboa

          I think your view of christians may be limited then. I know many christians where I live in the north east who are devout but seriously believe the OT is largely incorrect and overwritten by Jesus. Christians come in all shapes. There are some who only believe in the words attributed to Jesus himself. Most christians don’t take the bible literally but rather view it as the inspired word of god.

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

          I’m familiar with the enormous breadth of “Christianity.” My primary focus (because they’re the loudest target?) are the literalists.

          As for those who accept that the Bible is largely fiction, I wonder how they maintain their belief. Perhaps they’re more cultural Christians rather than devout.

        • Balboa

          Excluded middle. There is a huge swath of people betwee those two extremes.

          If your target is mainly christian literal sts, perhaps you should b more precise then and not equate Christian with christian literalist,

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

          “Ah, well I’m just not a literalist” doesn’t get the Christian off the hook. He still has to explain why there’s polytheism in the OT, why Yahweh looks just like all the other Canaanite gods, why Yahweh is a genocidal maniac, and so on.

          If they say that they’re just cultural Christians and don’t believe any of the mythology, great. Anything else and they’ve got some splainin’ to do.

        • Balboa

          Again, there is a huge middle ground between “literalist” and cultural christians. If you are concerned about how they blance the henotheism of early OT with later monotheism, i suggest asking some of these non literalist types.

        • Kodie

          It still doesn’t reconcile. I have lived my whole life in the Northeast US, and Christians seem mellower than the stories I hear on the internet. They don’t open their mouth a lot and it seems you can safely assume anyone you’re talking to is not a literalist. But it doesn’t reconcile. Their arguments for hanging onto the parts they believe do not reconcile with their arguments for discarding the parts of the bible that a sensible person would not believe anyway. And I still don’t see the point in being a Christian. I don’t see anyone acting any differently when they are Christian or living a more peaceful life or have any security or peace about going to heaven. It doesn’t seem to affect their lives for the better in any way that I can see, but still, admitting you’re an atheist is shocking. They still live in a world where they assume everyone else is probably Christian, unless someone dresses from another culture (and that’s cool too*) or has a Jewish last name (and that’s cool too).

          *not necessarily true in other parts of the country.

          Atheism is still an offense to them that they can’t understand. The only thing they really have is magical thinking about a few coincidences and stuff, and it never bumps up against how ridiculous that is because they don’t actively give it any thought. “How can you believe in nothing?”

        • Balboa

          That isnt my experience with the north east (and am not saying you should reconcile ot and nt and believe in jesus, i am saying understand how they reconcile them). People here dont care what you believe. It isnt like the south or west at all (places i have lived as well). If anything they dont want to know what others believe or dont believe because they dont care. There are lots of jews here p, lots of catholics, episcopals, protestants,buddhists, atheists and even pagans. The north east identity is tethered to christianity by a thread, if at all. Heck, where I live there is a mosque down one road, a unitarian church down another, a catholic church on every block and a bunch of atheist organizations. I could go outside scream “jesus is a lie!” At the top of my lungs and the only person in my block who’d care would be the guy who just emigrated fom El Salvador and hasn’t assimilated yet.

        • Kodie

          People still definitely care when I’ve told people I’m an atheist, and they recoil (or in one case may have gotten fired for it). I grew up thinking I lived in a society that valued diversity and diverse beliefs, that being an atheist was maybe novel but interesting as meeting your first Hindu. It doesn’t come out like that after all.

          But I don’t see people affected by their beliefs in general. Maybe sporadically, when something comes up to evoke religious thoughts. Surviving an accident, watching the news report a typhoon or tornado wreckage, or when someone protests a religious banner in a public school, but not generally. In general, PEOPLE need to get from A to B, and they’re constrained by the minimum amount of customary manners, but breach the social contract as often as they can get ahead.

          If anything they dont want to know what others believe or dont believe
          because they dont care. There are lots of jews here p, lots of
          catholics, episcopals, protestants,buddhists, atheists and even pagans.
          The north east identity is tethered to christianity by a thread, if at
          all.

          I don’t know where you live, but it’s still mostly Christian. Most of the Northeast communities are not urban or diverse. They avoid living in the city because it is urban and diverse. If you were to ask someone what religion they are, they’d give you an answer like, “I’m Christian, what else would I be?” They don’t ask not because they’re not interested, but because they normally don’t have to ask.

        • Balboa

          Then you and i live in very different arts of the north east, because i have never been met with negativity when I tell people I am an atheist (unless its like an old man who faught in WWII or something). I even told an episcopal priest, and he was curious more than anythign else. He even had a good discussion with me about problems of the synoptic gospels under textual analysis (he knew greek and latin).

          Never said the north east wasn’t predominantly christian, just that its diverse (i live in a very jewish area for example) and that being christian is amuch smaller piece of its identity than say th south. I honestly have just not encountered that many people who are intolerant of other religious viewpoints or a lack of belief.

        • Kodie

          So we get to the KarlUdy method of “why should I believe your testimony?” It doesn’t agree with my experience and I have never lived anywhere but NY and MA. The few times I’ve confessed to atheism, I am met with shock, disgust, fear, not curiosity. It sounds like you live in a big city and are not familiar with the suburbs. I don’t actually disbelieve your testimony, it’s just not complete. People have a tendency to compete over anecdotal evidence, but you can’t make a blanket statement about the Northeast US because you feel free to admit you’re an atheist and have friendly conversations with people. It is true that nobody asks what religion you are mostly, or cares if you go to church every week.

        • Balboa

          I am saying where i live, i do not see what you are describing. I have lived all over northern massachusetts. But never in boston. I have attended religious services of all kinds, been friends with muslims, jews, buddhists, catholics, episcopals, and none have cared that i am atheist. The closst i have come to recoiling was suprise, and this was from a very devout muslim. But even he was
          Happy to engage me and ask why i believed what I believe and maintain a respectful tone. Today he is a good friend of mine.

          I spent most of my time in the suburbs but have also lived in cities. I have lived in Salem, Revere, Arlington, Andover and the boonies up north. What you are describing is simpky not an accurate charcaterization of the boston area. Perhaps out in western mass. But that is practically another state.

        • Kodie

          I live in Boston, and it must just be my bad luck to meet people who actually call me Satanist, or who get suspicious and find some reason to fire me a day after I said it, after having worked for a year. It was a situation that valued multiculturalism and everyone was sharing their diversity. I’m a white, natural-born American godless person, and that’s not acceptable. Downtown fucking Boston. I’ve had friends who are fine with me and then stop having time to meet up because I’m an atheist. While I live in Boston, closer to a mosque and two Jewish temples than the nearest church.

          You are shitting me that it’s totally fine in Massachusetts. It’s certainly not fine anywhere in upstate, western or North Country NY.

        • Kodie

          I still don’t understand how they reconcile them. I understand they compartmentalize. Two contradictory truisms never have to conflict with each other because they don’t come up in the same situation. Times change, culture changes, and Christians adapt and become unrecognizable but adamant when pressed.

          Just like humans behave, people come up with different solutions to different problems, or different people having the same problem. Oftentimes, however, they see everyone should have the same solution as they would. Christians will judge others for being immoral, but when it happens to them, it’s totally different and defensible. No matter what, they don’t seem to be concerned with Jesus on a daily basis, but what is efficient.

        • Balboa

          I have to be honest, i think you just carry around a lot of anger toward christians, which may be justifiable on a limited scope, but your extending it to all christians which is a problem.

        • Kodie

          I don’t have anger toward Christians. I have anger towards people. In many cases, these categories overlap, but I don’t see how Christianity makes a difference in anyone’s life for the day-to-day interactions. I don’t have to ask anyone who has wronged me if they’re a Christian. As I described in another post, most people are Christians, and if they’re not, have some other religion that would serve the same purpose. People are just animals, competitive animals. Social, but with limits.

        • Balboa

          But different religions create very different people. Culture is shaped by religion. Try interacting with folks who were raised buddhist, then go to some people whi were raised christian, then jewish amd muslim. They are not the same. They behave differently because they have very different fundamental assumptions.

        • Kodie

          I’m not talking about people I know, I’m talking as someone who notices what people “in the wild” do. People are tribal and care about their group, but when they are relatively anonymous, their beliefs do not carry with them. I don’t find religion to be a predominant or noticeable feature of humans. Maybe they talk about it if you know them, and introduce you to their family or welcome you into their group. OF COURSE!!!! I am talking about driving or going to the supermarket or interacting with co-workers, and you are talking about people when they talk about themselves to you.

        • Balboa

          You seriosly dont think belief shapes how people act? I know religious people who are harsh and judgmental because they think that’s what god wants and I know religious people who are pacifists and help the homeless because they believe that is what god wants. They may be wrong, but belief definitely informs their actions.

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

          But which came first? Seems likelier to me that the pacifist finds a peaceful Jesus in the Bible while the judgmental person finds a savage Yahweh in the Bible. The Bible becomes a mirror.

        • Balboa

          I don’t think you are right here. In some case sure that probably occurs, but i know too many people who change due to belief to agree with your assesment. Otherwise, we wouldn’t care all that much that people believe. One of the reasons we are motivated to dispute religion is becuase belief motivates people to do good things, but also to do bad things. People don’t oppose evolution in schools because they are naturally averse to the idea of natural selection. They oppose it because it contradicts what they believe. They are motivated by belief.

          My own father began life as a Jew, and lived according to Jewish principles, but he became a christian and the the type o pf christianity he followed led him to be a pacifist. Certainly some folks look at the bible and see what they wish to see, but many are shaped by the principles and beliefs of their faith.

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

          Are people led, kicking and screaming, to a new set of actions simply because that’s how they interpret their religion? Sure, I imagine.

          I bet the opposite (God coincidentally says exactly what they wish he’d say) is far more common.

        • Balboa

          I am sure many start out by believing because they see things they agree with. But i have just seen too many people change through belief to agree with you. I’ve seen muslims grow more extreme because they were convinced by belief, i have seen jehovah’s witness give up friends and activities they loved because of belief, i have seen conservatives become liberal and liberals become conservative because of belief. And this isnt always a good thing, its often bad.

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

          Yeah, I agree that people change. I’m simply wondering what causes what.

          Perhaps you’ve done the deep and error-prone analysis to figure out if Mr. Muslim who’s become more extreme got there because Islam told him to or because politics told him to and he reinterpreted the Koran to fit. And so on for your other examples.

          I’m sure there are believers who do something new through gritted teeth simply because they think that they must, not because they want to. For example: they freely admit that they can see absolutely no social harm from same-sex marriage, but they feel obliged to vote against it because their honest reading of the Bible says that it’s clearly and unambiguously wrong.

          Yes, I realize that some people like this exist. I’m simply saying (1) that they’re a small minority and (2) to know for sure that they are like this would take some research (you couldn’t just look at their superficial actions or listen to a brief summary from that person to know for sure).

        • Kodie

          I think there may be very few people who have a set idea what they’re looking for in a religion. They know what they’re turned off by, perhaps, and walk out to look for a new one. But it acts like a cult, and some people are vulnerable. Just look at the Mormons’ method of easing people into it before they get to the weird stuff. By the time you are that far in, you are a believer, so the weird stuff is not off-putting, or you don’t make it that far. The people themselves are appealing, and you want to belong to a group like Mormons, just based on what I know about the personality stereotype. People join for community and when the community accepts them, then they accept a lot more than they otherwise would.

          Just think of the Catholics, for example. Many Catholics are not believing or practicing all of it. They are not turned off by the politics and the crime cover-ups because that is not their experience. No one has shunned them for premarital sex or divorce. It doesn’t seem to shape their lives or shock them enough what it means to be Catholic, that they don’t agree with. The found a comfortable community and don’t feel threatened by the strict rules. They find comfort in Jesus, but they are not fearful of going to hell. Why not? What does having a religion even mean if you’re not going to bother following it? What does holding a few things sacred and ignoring the parts that inconvenience you mean for a believer?

          One would think that you could believe, you could seek, and you could find a church you feel deeply is the correct one, and then upon assimilation, you’re either going to agree with things you wouldn’t normally agree with, or you are (I would) going to get up in the middle of the sermon and say “this is not what I thought it was”. If you believe X, and the religion says X and Y, then you are going to bend your beliefs to include Y, even if you disagreed beforehand. Or you are going to complacently go along with it just for the perk of belonging to that church, and going along with some of it satisfies your own minimum requirement for getting into heaven. It doesn’t concern you that the church you belong to teaches something you disagree with, and god’s cool with it too.

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

          Good point about the cults. I could seem them bending newcomers.

          My thought was more for less-stringent denominations (your example of Roman Catholicism in America is more what I had in mind). Lots of Nones (“none of the above”) go to church because they’re cultural Christians, for example, not because they actually believe the mythology.

        • Kodie

          I think the group they belong to has more influence than their beliefs. If their beliefs influence them, then it is because the group shares the same beliefs.

        • Balboa

          And where does the group’s beliefs come from?

        • Kodie

          I don’t know. Like, if you join a book club of other women, presumably, you all like to read, but there’s a social aspect that considers it a good time to drink wine and complain about your husband too (or whatever). If that’s what you’re looking for, you can probably find that in a book club, and if that’s not what you’re looking for, it’s sad because you really wanted to join a book club and actually talk about books. Join in, immerse yourself to the culture of the group and not just the superficial activity that brought you together. Seems to me also, if someone is looking for a good group to drink wine with other women, and vent about her husband, she might be put off because it involves the pretense of reading books, or she might consider taking up the reading of books.

          I don’t know where the group’s behavior came from, I just know that groups have behaviors that are part of the package and not necessarily why you came. You might love to learn about Jesus from a guy who knows a lot about that, but you hate the hypocrites who go to church, so you’re not going to join a church or you’re going to look for one with more sincere congregation.

        • Kodie

          Clearly, if you believe in the divinity of Jesus, you are free to pick and choose. There are plenty of Christians who refer to eye for an eye.

          Let’s take the OT and the NT, suggest god changed his nature. God fucked up big time, and finally came up with the Jesus system. “Eye for an eye” tends to be interpreted by people as “you took my eye, I will take your eye and some teeth.” Let’s just say humans are a kind of animal and we’re looking for something that works, and escalation doesn’t work, but it’s a primal urge and religion doesn’t do a lot, Christianity – the people, the believers – doesn’t do a lot to overcome that.

          Honestly, though, you sound like an atheist who wants to believe but can’t. At best. What kind of “strategy” is it to point out that the bible can’t make sense so let’s try to think like a Christian and hammer something out of it anyway. Being contradictory is the problem, and I don’t see a need to think like a Christian and attempt to smooth those contradictions out. You are, like, if only it made sense, it would be perfect! Let’s work on it so it can be made into something I can believe!

        • Balboa

          “Honestly, though, you sound like an atheist who wants to believe but can’t. At best. What kind of “strategy” is it to point out that the bible can’t make sense so let’s try to think like a Christian and hammer something out of it anyway. Being contradictory is the problem, and I don’t see a need to think like a Christian and attempt to smooth those contradictions out. You are, like, if only it made sense, it would be perfect! Let’s work on it so it can be made into something I can believe!”

          Not at all. I am trying to understand christians, to examine the different kinds of christians, to wrestle with the contradictions they surely wrestle with. I find them interesting, in the same way buddhists or hindus are interesting to me. I seek to learn what they believe on their own terms, so when i discuss belief with them, or make general discussions about the non-existence of god, I am referring to an accurate portrayal of believers rather than a straw man. I can also recognize the rationality of their conclusions, within the underlying assumptions they start with.

        • Balboa

          . “Eye for an eye” tends to be interpreted by people as “you took my eye, I will take your eye and some teeth.”

          Except Jesus specifically says in the New Testament that this isn’t what it means. And that is an important point.

        • Kodie

          I’m not talking about Jesus at all. Why would I talk about Jesus? I tend not to criticize what the bible says, but more how the people who say they believe it actually behave and react. Jesus can talk to a brick wall, and that’s the world I live in.

        • Kodie

          Desire is evidence? Please, for the love of sandwiches, please, do not answer me with more questions for once, and explain in great detail HOW.

        • Balboa

          What I find interesting is that you can look at the holocaust and see evidence of god. We are talking about the systematic extermination of millions of Jews. Why would an all loving and all powerful god allow that? Certainly one could say free will, but then, god could intervene on behalf of the millions who suffered and still let people make their own choices. Why allow hitler to procede so far? The only conclusion i can reach from that is either: god doesn’t exist, god exists but is indifferent or evil, god exists and is loving but isnt all powerful. I think the holocaust itself is a far more compelling argument against god than the trials that happened later are an argumefudin support of god.

        • Kodie

          God is just playing army men.

        • KarlUdy

          Balboa,
          Have you read the book of Job?

        • Balboa

          Yes, and i don’t think it is a good argument for the existence of evil. Six million jews were killed in the holocaust. If god were good and all powerful, he’d put an end to that level of suffering and bloodshed. You cant be all poweful, all good, but then do nothing to prevent or stop murder and suffering. Either god isnt all good, or he is all powerful (or both), or he doesnt exist.

        • KarlUdy

          What do you think the book of Job’s argument for the existence of evil is?

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          By my reading, it appears the Almighty was insulted to hear anyone have the presumption to question it.

          What do you think?

        • KarlUdy

          And yet he came down to give Job his audience. And Job was satisfied with that despite none of his questions being answered. Why?

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

          God says, “I created the world. What you got to compare with that, bitch?”

          God’s point is clearly that might makes right. He can jolly well do whatever the heck he pleases, and if Job doesn’t like it, he should push back. (If he can, that is.)

          Not a loving or wise portrayal of God, I’m afraid.

        • KarlUdy

          Bob,
          So you’re saying that Job wasn’t satisfied, just bullied into submission?

        • Kodie

          Because Job’s a chump.

          But what choice does Job have? He’s a character in a story, he’s a puppet for whatever the author wants to talk about.

        • KarlUdy

          And the author spends 80% of the book exposing the flaws of theodicies. What do you think his point is?

        • Balboa

          If you feel it offers a strong argument that I may have missed, feel free to share it.

        • KarlUdy

          I don’t know how strong you think the arguments are, but here are some relevant things I think the book of Job says about the problem of evil …

          1. No theodicy measures up.
          2. It is a theophany, not a theodicy that we really need.

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

          “God created you and he can do whatever the hell he likes with you” is the theodicy in Job. According to Job, it measures up just fine.

          Yes, a theophany (appearance) is nice, but I don’t see how Job makes this mandatory. I would certainly like to see as much evidence as possible, however.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          I don’t know how strong you think the arguments are, but here are some relevant things I think the book of Job says about the problem of evil …

          1. No theodicy measures up.
          2. It is a theophany, not a theodicy that we really need.

          These don’t even seem like arguments. Would you care to elaborate?

          Like I said before, I don’t think the Book of Job ultimately explains the existence of evil. The Almighty simply berates Job for having the temerity to pose the question in the first place.

        • KarlUdy

          No argument or explanation of why is going to be satisfactory for anyone who is really struggling with the problem of evil.

          But knowing God’s presence in the midst of that struggle is enough. As Job said, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5)

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          No argument or explanation of why is going to be satisfactory for anyone who is really struggling with the problem of evil.

          But knowing God’s presence in the midst of that struggle is enough.

          Like I said, this isn’t demystifying the existence of evil or giving it meaning. As plenty of nonbelievers have rightly pointed out, knowing the presence of God only makes us wonder whether God is willing or able to prevent the suffering of the innocent. Considering how vehemently Job’s angry-chieftain-God reviled him for his presumption, maybe the suspicion is warranted.

        • Kodie

          It’s not enough. God’s a mafioso.

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

          Compare (1) God’s presence during struggles; (2) a friend who’s a good listener; and (3) no God at all but just the (false) belief that God is there.

          How would you rank these in terms of their value?

        • KarlUdy

          (1), then (2), then (3).

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

          But 1 and 3 are indistinguishable. How could you know which is which to rank them separately?

        • KarlUdy

          I don’t think they are indistinguishable.

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

          You know something I don’t. Give me a reliable way of telling them apart.

        • Balboa

          You’ll have to elaborate because I am not seeing how “we a theophany” at all answers the problem of evil.

        • Balboa

          I do not understand this argument carl. Things we don’t want to happn to us, that are unpleasant are painful, we dislike. This just demonstrates that we like pleasure, dislike pain, and can empathize (a trait that has numerous evolutionary advantages). God is not needed to understand why.

        • KarlUdy

          Balboa,
          I understand that an atheist can believe that we have attitudes towards pleasure and pain, and also that we can empathize.

          What I don’t understand is how an atheist can refer to tragedy, evil, and injustice around the world as a problem, as if the world should be different.

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

          Balboa can speak for himself, of course, but if I may jump in: are you determined to find atheists believing in absolute or objective oughts, morals, or purpose?

          Because I doubt that any here do.

        • KarlUdy

          Bob,
          In the discussion about the Nuremberg trials, you, Kodie, and Balboa have all seemed to say that you think the justification came down to who had power. This is consistent with atheism although it does render morality somewhat arbitrary. (If the Nazis had won then they would be right.)

          Although I find this position internally consistent, I do find it extremely troubling, to the point that I cannot hold such a view.

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

          The Nazis lost, but they presumably still thought that they were right. Rightness is an opinion; it’s not a single shared idea that’s common among all people. The Allies can think that they’re right along with the Axis thinking they’re right.

          Not a hard concept, right? Who could disagree?

        • Kodie

          Should be different if god is real and god is good, as claimed. You keep forgetting that part.

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

          Huh? You’re wondering why people don’t like injuries, pain, injustice, and all that?

          Can you rephrase this so that it makes sense?

        • KarlUdy

          Not simply “don’t like”, but argue that such things are problematic. As I said elsewhere, the atheist worldview has a problem with a concept of evil that is beyond “detrimental to me/us”.

        • Kodie

          Can you please get to the point instead of dancing?

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

          Right. Evil could be said to be that which is detrimental.

          Am I arguing for anything more?

        • Kodie

          Without a god, we can actually do something about it ourselves, or try to. Are you fucking kidding me, Karl? For theists, this is just the way it is, the way god planned it, or he has his unknowable reasons and we’re powerless.

          Your question is as ignorant as when theists ask atheists why we’re mad at god or how can we be mad at something we don’t even believe in? It’s the people. We can’t change god, if god existed. The problem of evil is a problem for theists because you have a god you can’t change and only struggle to explain. Atheists know there’s no god and we have to take on these problems that affect us ourselves.

          Theists pray to god to stop things they don’t like, they ask god to stop it, they beg god to do something about it, and when he does not, they figure it must be some kind of lesson to learn or sign of end times, or the victims are being punished as a warning for us to behave. Theist solutions include barring marriage equality to avoid violent hurricanes or earthquakes. This is equivalent to making it rain from dancing. You want to end a drought, you have to go up and seed the clouds. Atheists don’t say well “drought is just the way things are.” Your assessment is absolutely way off.

        • Balboa

          I think what is true, what theists point to but often misundertsand, is without the existence of a deity or similar power, there is no such thing as objective morality. This is true. But just because they desire the world to be morally objective, that doesn’t bring god into existence and it is a terrible argument for believing in god (reject reality because its too bleak).

    • Kodie

      But you conveniently ignore the fact that if atheism is true then pain
      and suffering should be no cause for concern. The problem of evil is not
      a concern for atheism, but that anyone should consider evil a problem
      (or even have a concept for evil beyond “detrimental to me/us”) – now
      that is a conundrum specific to atheism

      What? Without god, how should pain and suffering cease to be a concern? That makes zero sense. You really can’t put yourself in an atheist’s shoes to save your life.

    • smrnda

      On the problem of suffering, human beings are kind of united by our desire *not* to suffer too much (well, some masochists want to suffer under specific conditions, but even they have limits.) The problem, to me, is like an engineering problem. Let’s say everybody in a city wants running water, electricity, wireless internet and trains that run on time – we use various engineering disciplines to deliver this. On suffering, we use social engineering.

  • Pofarmer

    I suppose on number 8,I’ve yet to see proof that transcendental moral values actually exist in the way apologists claim they do, which ties into 9. Show me a species that doesn’t cooperate with and value it’s own species? Even the most aggressive and violent generally give their own kind a pass, which, when you think of all the conflict and killing of human on human throughout history, may actually be less true of humans than some others. Which feeds into 10. Evil is what occurs when some of us step outside of our normal moral standards, and it’s purely a human construct and the definition of what is and isn’t evil is somewhat fluid. Suffering? A simple byproduct of being alive and fragile in a world that is largely hostile.

    • Kodie

      I think “evil” and “immorality” .. I mean to bear on what you said, that some of us step outside our normal moral standards, it comes from stepping outside our normal moral standards on a regular basis. Minor infractions and transgressions. Competition, risk, entitlement, etc. People suck, in minor ways, all the time. And this gets by on rationalization and personal priority. It seems absolutely normal that it gets out of hand once in a while.

  • Ilan

    Bob wrote, “I agree—life has no absolute value and the universe no absolute purpose. You think it’s otherwise? Show me some evidence.”

    For the believer, the beauty and complexity of existence is sufficient to prove that there is purpose in the world. If I were to be walking on a beach, and come upon a beautifully crafted sand castle, I would immediately conclude that an intelligent agent purposefully constructed it. The atheist would conclude the same way. It would be preposterous to contend that the wind was responsible for it. We would not go searching for any other justification.

    When it comes to the metaphysical realm, however, the logic suddenly changes for the atheist, and the evidence becomes unconvincing. This is because of the implications that the existence of a supreme Being has.

    • http://batman-news.com Anton

      If I were to be walking on a beach, and come upon a beautifully crafted
      sand castle, I would immediately conclude that an intelligent agent
      purposefully constructed it. The atheist would conclude the same way

      I agree. But the only reason we’d be justified in concluding that is because there’s no natural process we know of that creates sandcastles. Natural processes, depending on unguided, mechanistic forces, are what create the wonders of the biosphere. Concepts of intention and purposeful design don’t appear to be useful when we’re trying to understand natural phenomena.

      I’m a Christian, and it just seems to me that when we decide to see intent in natural phenomena. we’re defining God in a petty way. If God is necessary to sort right-handed amino acids from their left-handed forms, or pull chromosomes apart during mitosis, we’ve got a God concept that is little more than a cosmic tinkerer. And let’s admit that crediting a God for natural phenomena means we have to assume this deity is responsible for trypanosomes and retroviruses as well as the nice things. Like I said, I’m a Christian, but I’m not so callous that I would shrug and say “God moves in mysterious ways” to the parents of a child born with birth defects, or the victims of a horrific typhoon.

      • Ilan

        Anton,

        In fact, there is no independent evidence confirming that natural processes are responsible for the complexities of natural phenomena. This is rather an assumption rendered necessary when one uncompromisingly requires that natural phenomena be explained exclusively by natural causes. There is actually nothing necessary about requiring that natural causes account for natural phenomena. This is a prior assumption that one chooses to employ, rather than the product of a logical argument or of the evidence.

        The argument for intelligent design does not require that the intelligent designer continuously intervene in every natural process. It could be – and I would argue – that the designer put into place natural mechanisms.

        But even if one were to assume that natural processes are responsible for the complexities of natural phenomena, this does not alleviate the necessity of ultimately presupposing an intelligent agent in order to account for the putting into place of these supposed natural laws. The necessity of accounting for complexity does not disappear by inserting an intermediary cause.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          In fact, there is no independent evidence confirming that natural processes are responsible for the complexities of natural phenomena.

          Evidently your definition of fact differs vastly from mine. Isn’t the cause of thunderstorms air pressure and atmospheric polarity? Don’t microbes cause disease through hijacking the host’s cellular infrastructure? Doesn’t a zygote develop into a living human through a staggeringly complex process of cell division? As a Christian, I believe I have the same understanding of these phenomena as anyone else who investigates how they work.

          But even if one were to assume that natural processes are responsible for the complexities of natural phenomena, this does not alleviate the necessity of ultimately presupposing an intelligent agent in order to account for the putting into place of these supposed natural laws.

          Except that the laws themselves are merely the physical conditions that obtain, and there’s no more reason to assume that the conditions need to be “put in place” than the processes that depend on the conditions. How exactly does an intelligent agent account for the inexorable material functionality of the universe? Or the bleak uncertainty that obtains at the subatomic level?

        • Ilan

          Anton,

          Forgive me if I misinterpreted your initial response. I thought that you were defending the merits of Darwinian evolution, which claims that blind, unguided forces are ultimately responsible for the complexity that we witness today.

          I would not contest the fact that natural causes account for natural phenomena today. What I contest is the assertion that exclusively natural causes must have been responsible for causing – or rather, setting into place – the natural causes that we are able to witness and experiment with today. In other words, I don’t see any reason to exclude on a preliminary basis a supernatural cause. In fact, I see every reason to posit one. The presence of purposeful complexity logically requires an intentional agent; there is no reason to set aside this intuitive reasoning simply because we are entering the realm of the metaphysical. The presence of disorder and uncertainty does not detract from the necessity of an intentional agent, in the same way that one cannot conclude that a workeable computer program with glitches could imply that the program itself came into being without purposeful direction.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          The presence of purposeful complexity logically requires an intentional agent; there is no reason to set aside this intuitive reasoning simply because we are entering the realm of the metaphysical.

          Technically, we’re not in the realm of the metaphysical when we’re talking about the physical universe. But what we see in nature isn’t what we could consider purposeful complexity anyway, it’s a dizzyingly redundant complexity that indicates countless iterations of purposeless processes and the jerry-rigging of previous creations much more than it indicates deliberate design or creation de novo.

          To use your analogy, if we saw a computer program that was outrageously complicated, with long stretches of useless code and completely unnecessary series of subroutines, we’d have every reason to assume the program was the product of umpteen generations of a program-writing algorithm and not deliberate design.

          You said before that you consider the “natural laws” of the universe indicative of intelligent agency of some kind, but I disagree. The fact that there are physical constants at all, or that they exist in the form they do, is no more reason to suspect intelligent design than the processes and complexity we see evolve and develop in the universe.

        • Ilan

          The issue that I have with your reasoning is that it assumes that complexity (and you will admit that there is complexity in the universe) could have developed from unguided forces. Not only do we have no experimental evidence of this, but it is counterintuitive.

          And the presence of superfluous information in DNA, and general disorder in the universe, does not obviate the necessity of accounting for the complexity that is present, inasmuch as such complexity could not have arisen from the disorder, whereas the disorder could have resulted from external factors acting on the complexity (such as sin, which might be something that you are willing to contemplate, given your professed faith in Christianity).

        • Castilliano

          1. Thank you, Ilan, for posting. I like your tone.

          2. Snowflakes are complex, even orderly, yet unguided. As are crystals. Weather is even more complex, and also unguided.
          Also, I find myriad forces clashing together to form a mix of complexity, redundancy, void, and chaos quite intuitive.
          Beautiful even.

          3. You seem to imply that ‘sin’ (Adam eating a fruit?) caused disorder in the whole universe, which is a bit silly.
          Disorder & redundancy with Yahweh in charge implies Yahweh isn’t omnipotent, or is a weak designer.

          Not to mention, declaring a ‘designer’ doesn’t lead to Yahweh, Jesus, nor any religion’s revelations. At best it leads to a complex entity that, being even more complex than the universe, would in turn need an even more complex entity to create it. (Turtles all the way down…)
          Any attributes given to said ‘designer’ so as to make it the first thing ever, can equally be applied to the universe itself, saving a step.

          As for Darwinian evolution (is there another kind?), it’s the ongoing theory because all evidence points toward it and it has proven predictive power.
          It’s better established than the theory of gravity or germ theory or the theory of relativity which brought us the atomic bomb.

          There is zero evidence against it, otherwise it’d be dropped (or adjusted, i.e. Newtonian physics). Unanswered questions are not said evidence.
          Being puzzled by millions of years of incremental changes leading to big changes is also not evidence against it.

          Cheers, JMK

        • Kodie

          Adam and Eve were already sinners before they ate the fruit or they wouldn’t have even contemplated it.

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

          If they were morally naive (which they’d have to be, since they’d not yet eaten of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil), I don’t see how they could be charged with sin, let alone a sin so bad that it would affect every one of their billions of descendants.

        • Castilliano

          And reality, Bob.
          One snack >>> A universe filled with disorder
          See?
          It’s that easy.
          (Never mind that anybody who’s helped parent a toddler would see the folly in placing a snack so temptingly.)

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

          Yeah, but God was new at the parenting game.

        • Castilliano

          Fair enough. He does exist.

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

          Who could read Genesis and think anything else?

        • Castilliano

          After further thought, this is more than a timely joke.
          This is a useful response to anybody proposing Yahweh’s existence. (Or Allah, Jehovah, etc.)

        • Kodie

          I thought they were perfect creatures. They hadn’t fallen yet, so they were unfallen. Like, how we’re supposed to be when we get to heaven. Being told not to eat from a particular tree should have been good enough for them. No amount of temptation should have gotten to them. They were not perfect, they were already human. Humans having a conversation with a snake.

          And for this, we get Christians telling us and believing themselves to be the worst, the dirtiest, most disgusting, horrible creatures. And it’s all our faults for existing, even though none of us ever asked to be. And we’re supposed to make more babies all the time, I don’t know why we don’t sterilize ourselves and take our lot and just go extinct. Why Christianity keeps promoting being a human alive is a mystery. They know they’re the worst, why do they keep making more, and so many?

        • wtfwjtd

          Yea, taking a bite out of an apple–who could even think about committing such an atrocity? Just like with the “Great Pumpkin”–one little slip, and he’ll pass you right by…or in the case of Yahweh, one little slip, and he’ll kill you and make all your billions of descendants miserable for the rest of time.

        • Kodie

          Only about 4,000 years before he rigged up the Jesus idea. Can you imagine failing for 4,000 years before you came up with the perfect remedy for all society’s ills? And all those poor Christians, trapped down here with the rest of us for the rest of their lives, or until Jesus comes back, whichever comes first? Since I’m not up on my bible studies, I don’t really know what happens in the first part, but I imagine it’s only been about 2,000 years since humans started to feel spiritually unclean to the point of paranoia. The invention of hell and a way out of it sure made everyone more normal!

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

          Can you imagine what God felt like when he remembered that he’d forgotten to send Jesus down and had the Jews carrying out the draft plan?

          Doh! I guess we all have our forgetful moments.

        • wtfwjtd

          I believe the whole hell thing came from the Zoroastrians(who preceded Christianity by at least a few centuries) , and of course Bob has written about how nearly all of the other elements of the Jesus story were cobbled together from other nearby cultures. I guess God wasn’t smart enough to figure it out sooner, and the Jews just had to bumble and fumble their way around until it all (magically) came together. Luckily for the rest of us filthy heathens, we still have the Christians around to remind us of just how unclean we really are, and just how easy it is to wind up in hell! .

        • Nemo

          Interestingly enough, some philosophers (I think Jewish moreso than Christian) think that Adam and Eve were supposed to eat from the tree, which would represent either them becoming self aware, or them being ready to stop being children and take on the burden of knowledge. Mainline churches wouldn’t like that spin, though, since that implies no original sin.

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

          it assumes that complexity (and you will
          admit that there is complexity in the universe) could have developed from unguided forces. Not only do we have no experimental evidence of this, but it is counterintuitive.

          Why counterintuitive? To Castilliano’s list, I’ll add
          crystals. Simple rules can make very complex things.

          Dissolve sugar in water and let it evaporate. You get order
          from disorder.

        • Ilan

          That’s exactly it! Rules. The existence of these rules shows the mark of purpose and intelligence. Chaos does not create rules. These rules can interact in a disorderly fasion, and produce unplanned results, but this does not constitute “order from disorder”, inasmuch as these “orderly” results depend on the interaction of rules and constants which themselves require order.

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

          So “We have discovered laws that underlie nature; therefore God” is your argument?

        • Pofarmer

          we interpret things as rules. They are a concept if the human mind. Gravity, for instance,a function of mass. Or atomic bonds. Or light, and the speed of light. All of these things are complex and necessary, yet function simply upon the makeup of their constituent parts. There is no reason to posit a “god did it” in there. It makes the situation less, not more, clear.

        • Kodie

          The “counterintuitive” claim is theistic arrogance. We make things, therefore everything is made, therefore there’s a god, and therefore we’re his favorites. It is not counterintuitive if you actually look at things and at least try to comprehend, hypothetically, there is no maker. If there was a god and he made a tree, why is it ok for humans to cut down that tree so we can build a house or put up electric lines, or whatnot? What right do you have to blast a tunnel through a mountain so a road might go through it? Ain’t your mountain, is it.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          The “counterintuitive” claim is theistic arrogance.

          In Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Dennett claims that even scientifically literate people have trouble conceptualizing the creative power of mindless processes. The notion that complexity can emerge without a pre-existing mind is something the human imagination has a lot of trouble with.

          That said, I agree that magic man dunnit is a lame explanation for any natural phenomenon as well as an embarrassingly primitive view of divinity.

        • Ilan

          Indeed, there cannot be complexity without a pre-existing mind. Thus the necessity of positing one.

          Alongside the mindless processes are purposeful processes (such as reproduction), which reflect the mark of intelligence. Atheism cannot account for this.

        • Kodie

          Ilan, you are making shit up out of sheer ignorance.

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

          Huh? Convince yourself that your see the hand of an intelligent creator if you choose, but don’t pretend that this is convincing to science. Physics and biology (for example) have no holes that “God did it!” fills.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          Indeed, there cannot be complexity without a pre-existing mind.

          Except people here keep pointing out that there can, and have presented examples of such. This is the third time I’ve brought up fetal gestation, where a single cell develops into a human baby. I’m wondering why you keep ignoring what we’re telling you.

          Heh heh, I’m just kidding. I’m not wondering that at all.

        • Ilan

          The issue, Anton, is that the process of fetal gestation follows a process that reflects the mark of purpose. The process by which a sperm and an egg end up developing into a human being could not have come about without the intervention of an agent that has purpose. It needed to have been guided by something that can provide guidance; it could not have come about through blind chance. Labelling random chance as “mutations” does not solve the problem.

        • Kodie

          You want to start making supporting arguments or do you want to continue making baseless assertions?

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          The process by which a sperm and an egg end up developing into a human being could not have come about without the intervention of an agent that has purpose.

          Ilan, all you’re doing is making the same claim over and over and over: you think complexity can’t arise without intelligent agency. But you’re supporting your claim with examples from nature, which only demonstrates the material functionality of undirected forces. Your syllogism goes like this:

          Major premise: Every example of increasing complexity is the result of intelligent agency.

          Minor premise: Fetal gestation is an example of increasing complexity.

          Conclusion: Fetal gestation requires intelligent agency.

          You’re assuming what’s supposed to be proven here. Your major premise simply takes for granted that complexity requires intelligence, even when the complexity is the result of undirected natural processes.

          If you don’t see the flaw in your logic, maybe you need to examine the argument a little closer.

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

          “The mark of purpose”? That’s the kind of thing we use to infer that God exists? How about if he just show himself?

          It’s almost like he’s not even there.

          It needed to have been guided by something that can provide guidance; it could not have come about through blind chance.

          What do you mean by “blind chance”? You do realize that evolution isn’t random, right?

          If you’re taking the evolution-denial position, you’ll need to provide some actual evidence, preferably some that most of us haven’t seen and laughed at before. (Denying evolution as a non-biologist—correct me if that’s not the right label for you—is pretty ridiculous.)

        • Ilan

          So explain to me how the theory of macro evolution is not random. From what I understand, the idea of “natural selection” is a description of the process by which the more “fit” organisms survive the weaker ones; the genes of these fitter organisms find ways to adapt in order to survive.

          But this assumes that an enormous amount of new information found its way into the genomes of living organisms, causing them to develop into completely new organisms. What gives the genes this information? Are there built-in mechanisms in the genes which allow them to develop this new information? Or is there some sort of force which acts on the genes and somehow bestows upon them this information?

          What has been proven is that genes modify aspects of information already present in order to better adapt (ex, colour of the organism). But my question concerns new information. How do the genes acquire this information?

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

          the idea of “natural selection” is a description of the process by which the more “fit” organisms survive the weaker ones; the genes of these fitter organisms find ways to adapt in order to survive.

          Yep. Not random. You answered your own question.

          But this assumes that an enormous amount of new information found its way into the genomes of living organisms

          Yep. Mutation.

          We could continue this Evolution 101 discussion, but I’m not the best teacher (not being a biologist). If you’re actually interested in learning about evolution, that’s great. Wikipedia is probably the next step. Better: a biology textbook.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          But my question concerns new information. How do the genes acquire this information?

          The phenomenon of gene duplication is well known in genetics: an entire gene is duplicated, and can then acquire new functions in the organism.

          So explain to me etc. etc.

          I get a bad conspiracist-vibe from this kind of demand, especially from someone who has been deaf to correction throughout the discussion. Are you asking questions because you truly want to know about the theory of evolution by natural selection? Or do you just want people to jump through hoops and provide you with answers, which you can then mock as inadequate because they don’t jibe with what you already believe about the subject at hand?

        • Ilan

          Just for the record, there has been a lot more mocking and haughtiness on your part, Anton. You are a proud man.

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

          That’s debatable, but I’ll let that go.

          At a meta level, let me just congratulate people for (more or less) keeping the conversation civil and the focus on the facts. That makes things more pleasant for everyone.

          I like having Christians around to avoid the echo-chamber effect. Christians, tell your friends.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          Just for the record, there has been a lot more mocking and haughtiness on your part, Anton. You are a proud man.

          First I’m civil and co-operative, Ilan. But when people just make the same erroneous statements over and over again, and resist all efforts to explain things to them, I start to get kinda flippant.

        • Kodie

          It’s partially for this reason I don’t think humans are all that smart. A few people are, and the rest of us are building whole worlds of information we think is true just because it seems that way. Gambling, for instance. Anything statistical, and things that are anecdotal. I know someone who has a very warped understanding of racism and sexism – I can’t even explain. It’s not the usual. It’s not all based on his experience, but on his crude understanding of what it means to be sensitive and culturally aware. He’s older and so he’s shoehorning PC with good intentions into his personal experience of the way things used to be. And when I try to correct him, he just sort of whines back at me that I’m wrong. And then we get to the part where I hate having face-to-face arguments with people because they just resist having a conversation and everything has to turn into an argument where I’m automatically wrong because I spoke up.

          As it is, many people’s understanding of sexism is that women ruined everything and we have to infantilize, sexualize, and objectify everyone with a vagina because women love shoes, blah blah blah, it’s true or why would so many shows have women shopping for shoes? Experience makes it true, and people do fall into roles prescribed by society so you can’t exactly say no, women don’t love shoes. That’s the mild stuff.

          I heard something the other day from someone (not directed at me) that makes me wonder why I should spend any effort trying to appeal to men. This is another bias I have. People tell me all the time not all men are like that, but I don’t seem to know any of them in real life. All the men I know laughed like I wasn’t there – these are the creepy serial killer things men say when they are with other men, when they like to get together where women are not, and why they get mad when they’re not allowed to exclude women from their private men-only clubs. And they all laughed like it wasn’t totally disturbing. I almost threw up on the way home. I can’t wait to talk to my therapist, and sometimes I just don’t want to live on this planet anymore. Grown men over 40, in my literal presence, not teenage boys on 4chan trying to be shocking.

          Anyway, the more I look around at people, I see people as animals, not as far from monkeys as they like to think. And I conceptualize mindless processes all the time. I’m no scientist, but I have spent a lot of time contemplating nature and lifeless objects and how they operate. Like, flooding. Flooding is an easy one.

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

          (Dark. I wish life were easier. I certainly have no easy answers.)

        • Kodie

          Sorry I got personal and sort of windy and off-topic. Thanks.

          But I mean it to illustrate just how easily one’s experience can become their whole assessment of the situation. When everyone is telling me there are decent human beings in the world, I encounter unavoidable awfulness. The world is supposedly some beautiful place if you surround yourself with the right people, you will have a great attitude and a great outlook on life, but I am constantly disappointed by the people I end up with.

          People are pattern-seekers, so just about any human is going to arrive at faulty conclusions based on not enough data. The more people I meet, the more people I don’t want to meet, even if meeting more people, I might find some that aren’t totally disgusting.

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

          Have you tried Meetups? Atheists are often shortchanged with social outlets. I’m part of a bunch where I live.

          Atheists/freethinkers/skeptics have their share of oddballs, like any group, but I’ve met some great people.

          Just a thought.

        • Kodie

          I don’t really miss the company, but I can’t avoid certain people. It is how it is.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          The issue that I have with your reasoning is that it assumes that complexity (and you will admit that there is complexity in the universe) could have developed from unguided forces. Not only do we have no experimental evidence of this, but it is counterintuitive.

          Let’s not get silly here. I already used the example of a baby developing from a fertilized egg. Mom doesn’t consciously sequence her baby’s genome or code every step in the staggeringly complex series of cell divisions in the fetus’s development. The process is just DNA recombination, biochemistry in action. There is no shortage of examples of complexity arising from algorithmic processes, particularly in biology.

          And I already said I acknowledge the complexity in the universe, but I explained that it’s not the kind of complexity that indicates intelligent design. Bringing a religious concept like sin into a scientific discussion is hardly the way to further the dialogue. I’m a Christian but I don’t expect science to pander to my religious beliefs.

        • Ilan

          However, just assume for a moment that your religious beliefs are TRUE – i.e., that they relate stories which actually took place. (For if you do not assume to, why adhere to the faith?) This would have a huge bearing on science. If God is able to, and in fact did perform miracles, this should change your primary assumptions when considering empirical evidence. You are suddenly not bound to confine yourself exclusively to the natural realm when attempting to explain the creation of natural phenomena.

          For some reason, you choose to so confine yourself. Not only does this a priori assumption limit the scope of your inquiry, but it in fact places you at the risk of completely missing the picture!

          Regarding the issue if design, you actively choose to not see design in the equation. Scientific naturalism has resorted to ridiculous arguments (like the multiverse thery) in order to account for the sheer improbability of

        • Kodie

          Missing what picture? What is missing from the picture? Maybe you are inserting some imaginary thing into the picture. If you think living in the natural world is confining, then you must not know too much about it.

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

          Ah, it’s actually the Christian who is the open-minded one. Right.

          The multiverse has been discussed in this blog series. Respond to it directly and tell me where the mistake is. “That’s ridiculous!” tells us nothing.

        • MNb

          “it assumes that complexity could have developed from unguided forces”
          This is not an assumption, this is an empirical fact. Have you studied BobS’ picture of a snowflake above? The crystalline structure of a sand molecule? The pattern of the Grand Canyon? Of cave systems? We can observe their complexity and perfectly know how unguided forces have developed them.
          You’re simply wrong, thanks to the prejudices of your particular belief system.

        • MNb

          “I would not contest the fact that natural causes account for natural phenomena today.”
          You do. You contest the fact that natural selection accounts for the diversity of species (a very natural phenomenon) today. You’re violating the 9th commandment and don’t even realize it yourself. The last time I read them it was not an excuse according to your god. Fortunately for you I’m an atheist and can forgive your ignorance.

        • Pofarmer

          “There is actually nothing necessary about requiring that natural causes account for natural phenomena. This is a prior assumption that one chooses to employ, ”

          Did you actually type that.?

          “The necessity of accounting for complexity does not disappear by inserting an intermediary cause.”

          What the heck.? GOD is the intermediary cause. What kind of buffoonery is this.

        • Ilan

          God is the intermediary cause between what two things?

        • Pattrsn

          Ego and ignorance?

        • Ilan

          Indeed, the two things that keep one from having faith in God.

        • Pattrsn

          I bet that sounded a lot more clever in your head. Anyway I was just making a joke on the narcissism of claiming that the entire universe was created just for you by an omnipotent being that has the same opinions about everything that you do.

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

          And lack of evidence that God exists. Don’t forget that one.

        • Pofarmer

          You are inserting God as the intermediary, yet you accuse others of inserting natural processes and calling them intermediary. It’s a passive aggressive changing of definitions. A miracle or divine intervention is always the least likely event to happen, at least William of Ockham thought so. If you can explain an even tby natural means, then you don’t insert the supernatural into it. The one doing the presupposing is you. The naturalist argument is the ne following the facts, and also the one who will come up with testable hypothesis and repeatable predictions. Appeals to the divine give us neither.

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

          when one uncompromisingly requires that
          natural phenomena be explained exclusively by natural causes.

          Who does this? I’m happy to accept supernatural causes. Don’t delude yourself: the problem isn’t closed-minded scientists but the lack of evidence.

          :-(

          This is a prior assumption that one
          chooses to employ

          Since the last bazillion things that scientists have
          investigated have all had natural causes, that’s a safe bet going into the investigation of something new.

          The necessity of accounting for complexity does not disappear by inserting an intermediary cause.

          Science has had no need to insert a supernatural agent. Is there evidence that would point one in that direction?

        • MNb

          “that’s a safe bet”
          Like I described above there is even a perfect philosophical explanation why it’s a safe bet.

        • Kodie

          That’s an unnecessary amount of explanation of things. You don’t understand, and that makes it easier for you to believe, but don’t insult everyone else’s intelligence. God is an unnecessary addition to the facts.

          Let me ask you this: if god made everything work the way it does, then why are there so many environments? Why do things adapt constantly? Is he just bored? I mean, what purpose is there to earthquakes? Wouldn’t god just put everything around the earth in the place he wants it to be and just leave it there? What are all the cracks for?

          Your answers just make more questions, and if you just don’t lean on god for an excuse, it makes a lot more sense.

        • Pattrsn

          n fact, there is no independent evidence confirming that natural processes are responsible for the complexities of natural phenomena.

          So we have no evidence independent of reality that reality is a product of reality then we can’t assume that reality is a product if reality?

        • Ilan

          I don’t get it.

        • Pofarmer

          obviously.

        • Nemo

          Off the top of my head, I can think of a number of things which were once believed to have supernatural causes, but are now universally agreed to have boring, scientifically verifiable, natural causes. Rain, rainbows, lightning, diseases of all types, etc. Now, find me one thing that was once believed to have a mundane, natural cause but is now universally agreed to be supernatural. I won’t hold my breath.

        • Kurt Smith

          Our intelligent designers do not argue for their existence, man does. If they don’t even believe in their own existence are we really so smart if we do?

          Our gods have no clue, that we demand them to exist.

          The argument that the universe is complex and thus needs to be product of magic is unsatisfactory. A more complex wizard solution is ultimately flawed.

          We can however prove without any doubt that creating literary beings with super powers is a complete doddle for those with a bit of literary skill.

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

        If I were to be walking on a beach, and come upon a beautifully crafted sand castle, I would immediately conclude that an intelligent agent purposefully constructed it.

        Right. Because we know for a fact that humans build
        sand castles and we’ve probably all built them ourselves.
        Sand castles (or Mt. Rushmore, the other common example) are a terrible example because we already know the answer.

        • Ilan

          Bob, try to look at the bigger picture here. The fact is that when we see complexity – no matter how it is manifesting itself – we assume purposeful intelligence behind it. Why suspend this intuition when it comes to natural phenomena not created by humans?

        • Kodie

          We can examine the intuition and find it totally bullshit. Manifestations of your limited scope of thinking have to “posit” a creator because you’re uneducated and that’s all you could come up with. Science actually looks into it and finds the answer wasn’t magic, literally thousands and thousands upon thousands of times.

        • Ilan

          What is the answer that science comes up with, Kodie? Random, unguided mutations over millions and millions of years? This answer does not solve the issue of the sheer improbability of complexity arising by unguided forces. That is why you will sometimes hear the naturalists explaining evolution in vague terms of “aggregate intelligence”; even they are slaves to their intuition and cannot escape the necessity of inserting intelligence into the equation.

        • Compuholic

          This answer does not solve the issue of the sheer improbability of complexity arising by unguided forces

          Actually, it does. That’s the whole point of Evolution: It provides an explanation for complexity without resorting to chance.

        • Kodie

          It’s called ‘natural selection’. Look it up.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          What is the answer that science comes up with, Kodie? Random, unguided mutations over millions and millions of years? This answer does not solve the issue of the sheer improbability of complexity arising by unguided forces.

          As Kodie already mentioned, a deterministic force called natural selection acts on the variation produced at random. Really, how impressed are we supposed to be by amateurs making pronouncements on how improbable these emergent phenomena are?

          That is why you will sometimes hear the naturalists explaining evolution
          in vague terms of “aggregate intelligence”; even they are slaves to
          their intuition and cannot escape the necessity of inserting
          intelligence into the equation

          I’ve never heard a scientist refer to evolution using the terms aggregate intelligence. It seems like a bad analogy, something a pop writer like Howard Bloom would use.

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

          I’m behind in my comments, so you’ve probably acknowledged this already, but evolution isn’t random. That’s kind of an embarrassing, elementary error that you’ll want to stop repeating.

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

          I don’t. We see boatloads of complexity in nature.

          You point to yet more (in the human cell, for example)? Not a problem–we have a well-evidenced natural explanation for that, too.

        • Pofarmer

          It’s called agency detection. When we don’t understand something, we figure somebody must have caused it. Yet, as kodie states, science blows up these assumptions time, after time,mafter time. Is evolution a kind of aggregate intelligence? Maybe.

        • Kurt Smith

          The magic wizard argument is just basic anthropomorphism.

          Again, not surprisingly we lack any gods to actually back up any of our claims. Fickle things our gods.

      • MNb

        ” crediting a God for natural phenomena”
        All phenomena in our Universe are natural so exit your god too.

      • TheNuszAbides

        “…means we have to assume this deity is responsible for trypanosomes and retroviruses as well as the nice things.”

        don’t worry, scientology popped up to remind the ancient faiths of the old saw “things that have unpleasant effects are anti-angels doing anti-god’s work” or some such…

    • Nemo

      So, what are the unfortunate implications of the Mother Goddess existing that causes “atheists” to pretend not to believe she exists? That is what you meant, yes?

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

      For the believer, the beauty and complexity of existence is sufficient to prove that there is purpose in the world.

      When the believer sees natural evil, why does he not conclude that Satan is actually in charge and that he lied to us the he’s the good guy?

      • Ilan

        In fact, Bob, Satan is described as the prince of this world. God gives him a certain degree of autonomy in this world.

        But I don’t really see this issue as having any impact on the argument from design.

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

          If we’re going to say, “Golly, it sure looks like …” and then infer design, we can just as well infer Satan as the guy in charge (like the apocalyptic thinking that was popular in Judea during the time of Jesus).

        • Ilan

          I can’t really understand your analogy. in any case, the design argument is actually empirically-based, inasmuch as it draws its conclusion from the empirical evidence.

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

          And it concludes what no scientific hypothesis concludes, that the supernatural exists. Sure, it could be, but you’ve got a big burden of evidence to show us.

        • Ilan

          Bob, why doesn’t the scientific hypothesis conclude in favor of the supernatural? Is it because it has examined the question, drew inferences from the empirical phenomena? No. It simply chooses to exclude the supernatural on an a prior basis. There is nothing in the empirical evidence to suggest that the supernatural does not exist.

          This is the issue: Man wants to UNDERSTAND. Science as it exists today has lost its initial role, which was simply to examine empirical phenomena. Now it is used a tool for Man to take possession of the phenomena, to give it an explanation, to make it enter into the purview of Man’s understanding. However, in trying to so hard to give an explanation, modern science refuses to admit of the possibility that Man cannot explain it.

          The idea to exclude supernatural explanations because science only deals with empirical explanations is not an argument at all. It is defining what science can be, and then simply excluding everything else. This argument can only appeal to those who do not want to accept the metaphysical.

          A supernatural agent cannot be disproven on the basis that it cannot be proved it in natural terms. The most that we can expect to do is to witness natural signs or indications of its existence. Which is exactly what we have.

        • Compuholic

          There is nothing in the empirical evidence to suggest that the supernatural does not exist.

          True. There is also nothing in the empirical evidence that the Superdupernatural or the hypernatural does not exist.

        • Kodie

          In any instance where your intuition or knee-jerk conclusion may say “it must be supernatural,” this conclusion can be discarded upon analysis. It was always something else.

          Nobody is really just saying that it can’t be supernatural from a prior position – the way you must assume because that’s the faulty information you’re feeding on – it’s just that it can be quickly dismissed after you discover how silly it is. When it’s time to find a serious answer, it just has no place and obscures actual truth from being discovered.

          Think of it like this: you want to find out why water is wet or how to cure cancer, whatever. Supernatural conclusions will only put up a wall between you and the real answer.

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

          It simply chooses to exclude the supernatural on an a prior basis.

          If we say that the supernatural is simply that outside of our definition of the natural at the moment, then seeing through opaque objects was supernatural before x-rays in 1896.

          As for science and supernatural things like ESP and the paranormal, that’s been studied by science for decades.

          This strawman of the closed-minded egghead, seeing but refusing to acknowledge evidence of the supernatural, is a problem in your mind only. Talk to Francis Collins or Kenneth Miller, both biologists and both very Christian.

          There is nothing in the empirical evidence to suggest that the supernatural does not exist.

          More to the point, there is no evidence that it does.

          What should we conclude from this? What should be our working hypothesis, that the supernatural exists or not?

          in trying to so hard to give an explanation, modern science refuses to admit of the possibility that Man cannot explain it.

          You gotta get away from the Creationist web sites. Seriously.

          Modern science is quite happy pointing out the things that it can’t explain and never claims that we ever will.

          The idea to exclude supernatural explanations because science only deals with empirical explanations is not an argument at all.

          No one’s making it except you. If you stop, we’ll all be happier.

        • Ilan

          Regarding the paranormal, this misses the point. I am arguing that science deliberately excludes supernatural causes in trying to explain the emergence of natural phenomena. This is not the same thing as science’s willingness to study empirical manifestations of alleged supernatural phenomena (ex, the paranormal). Science may be willing to admit that the supernatural might exist (inasmuch as it studies the possibility of the paranormal), but it is unwilling to admit of the possibility that the supernatural is the cause of the emergence of natural phenomena.

          Big difference.

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

          I am arguing that science deliberately
          excludes supernatural causes in trying to explain the emergence of natural phenomena.

          Have there been cases where there’s been clear evidence of the supernatural and science deliberately ignoring the building pile of evidence? I can think of none. This is why I fear that this concern is in your head only, not the heads of the scientists.

          Anyway, I’m happy to go where the evidence points. You, too? High five!

        • Pofarmer

          The design argument is typical sloppy theology. The proponent gets to a place they don’t understand and inserts “because God.”. The circle is getting smaller and smaller.

        • Kurt Smith

          The design argument is based entirely on wishful thinking and assumption. I don’t think you understand the word “empirical”.

        • Kodie

          in any case, the design argument is actually empiricallyassumption-based, inasmuch
          as it draws its conclusion from ^leaping over the empirical evidence.

          FTFY.

        • Balboa

          I agree. If you are persuaded that god exists by the design argument (which certainly isnt a scientific argument for the existence of god, but it is an argument that i think has some merit to it) then once you examine the final product, you have to conclude that if god exists, either god is not all powerful or god is evil (at least by the human understanding of the word). The judeo-christian god does not flow from the teleological argument at all. It simply can’t connect.

        • MNb

          Ah – you’re not even a monotheist. You believe in at least two supernatural agents. God giving an evil version a certain degree of autonomy quite sucks, I think.

      • Balboa

        I think believers have two arguments basically worth paying attention to. These arguments I believe are ultimately wrong, but i do think they are not as silly or illogical as people on our side often like to think (there are solid responses to them, but that doesn’t make them silly arguments). The argument from design and the cosmological argument (both when properly made) are strong. I think a lot of more mainstream christians weaken the design argument in the way they make it (tray parker of south park actually summed up the arguments potency quite well when he said “the universe happened ‘just because’ simply didn’t seem a likely explanation for the universe). Again, i think these arguments are wrong, but i can see how people would encounter them and be convinced and i wouldn’t feel like being dismissive of them. Taking the argument from design or first cause and saying “okay maybe something intelligent made the universe” isn’t crazy. What is crazy is going from that conclusion to “christianity is therefore true”.

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

          I certainly agree with you that we need to respond to the best that the apologists have to offer.

          I don’t think much of the design argument. here’s my response. Tell me what you think.

          I agree that “just because” isn’t much of an explanation for why the universe is here. That’s not the sense of science’s answer that I get, however.

          Yes, maybe something intelligent did make the universe. Is there compelling evidence to think so? If not, why treat that argument with much respect?

          Do we simply disagree on when the derisive laughter is appropriate? I do my best to seriously treat any Christian argument given seriously. That seems to be as much respect as anyone can ask for.

        • Balboa

          I think the design argument deserves serious consideration actually. Ultimately I conclude it is wrong but i not see it as silly or something to be derided. When you combine the teleological with the cosmological, to me that is a fairly strong case and not one I would ridicule. Neither side has offered much substantially new on the latter (one size says “god did it” and the other has some variation on “its turtles all the way down” or dismisses the argument in a way that actually agrees with the underlying unmoved mover premise (they just it with something else “it’s a quantum event!”). I think at the end of the day, the skeptics are right. But it’s a close call on those two points. If you truly don’t, then it shouldn’t be troubling at all to see how the unmoved mover and teleological are compelling. One group looks at them and sees an intelligence, the other sees chance and chaos. Those are really

          Thank you for sharing your post on it. I do intend to read it, but must say on my initial skim (granted just a skim) it looks like you are conflating intelligent design with the teleological argument, or at least greatly simplifying it. In your lead paragraph you characterize it as saying life appears designed. This is misleading. There are numerous variations of the teleological argument, but the serious, philosohical ones, are more about the intelligibity of the universe and nature, than arguments that life itself was designed. I look forward to reading it, i hope you go over individual thinker’s takes on the teleological argument starting with aristotle, rather than lump them all together.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          I think the design argument deserves serious consideration actually. Ultimately I conclude it is wrong but i not see it as silly or something to be derided.

          I don’t think it’s silly per se, but believers use it to rationalize a conclusion they didn’t arrive at rationally.

          We’ve all heard the design arguments, like the watch in the desert. A guy in one church group I attended used the analogy of a Van Gogh painting. Whatever the artifact, it’s a lousy analogy if it’s being applied to things (everything from the bacterial flagellum to the physical constants of the universe) that we’ve never seen created by intelligent agents. It’s using some property (functionality or irreducible complexity or whatever) as prima facie evidence of intelligent design, when the fact that we observe it in nature refutes the assertion that it indicates intentional design.

          It’s like saying that since we’ve observed little red wagons being manufactured, the color red is evidence of intentional design; therefore we can conclude that red roses are products of intentional design. It’s just deductive reasoning with a faulty major premise.

        • Balboa

          I think the important thing to keep in mind with the teleological argument is it doesn’t prove anything. But its conclusion is not unreasonable especially when paired with the cosmological argument. It also doesn’t require belief in a christian deity. Aristotle and other early philsophers were not thinking of Yehweh when they talked about the unmoved mover. I don’t happen to be persuaded to belief in an intelligent creator by these arguments, but i can see how an intelligent person would. Where I take issue with guys like kreeft is the leap from this reasonable premise with which i disagree to the conclusion that “therefore jesus”. I am content to let people believe in the god of the philosophers if they wish. Because those who embrace it are speculating in the same way many of us speculate about things which we don’t know the answer to (and the two obvious possibilities when you contemplate existince is 1) the universe was created or 2) the universe was not created). Harm rarely arises from bel ef in the philosopher go and while i can argue against i cannot disprove it. Jesus and Yahweh however, can be disproven. So i guss what i was hoping to see in this sort of debate, instead of rejecting the teleological or cosmological arguments out of hand (which are really just speculation anyways) is to ask these folks ho on earth they godfrom that to specific claims about the unmoved mover. And then very specific challenges to

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          the important thing to keep in mind with the teleological argument is it
          doesn’t prove anything. But its conclusion is not unreasonable

          No, it isn’t, which is why so many believers still find it persuasive; like I said, they’re just using it as a pretext for believing what they want to believe.

          But that’s not to say it’s justified. It’s bad reasoning, based on a faulty syllogism and bolstered by a poor education in relevant scientific disciplines.

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

          I think the important thing to keep in mind with the teleological argument is it doesn’t prove anything. But its conclusion is not unreasonable especially when paired with the cosmological argument.

          You’re saying, “If we focus just on these two, we can make a case,” but you ignore the many failed arguments plus the many arguments in favor of atheism. Even if I agreed with your point (I don’t), why would you focus in like this rather than seeing the big picture?

          Aristotle and other early philsophers were not thinking of Yehweh when they talked about the unmoved mover.

          We’re struggling with cosmology and quantum physics, and you think Aristotle will help us out?

          Where I take issue with guys like kreeft is the leap from this reasonable premise with which i disagree to the conclusion that “therefore jesus”.

          Yes, that’s the jump from a deist argument (which these are) to a Christian argument (which requires yet another argument that, as you correctly point out, they often don’t make). But can you possibly be saying that they make an effective deist argument?

          Because those who embrace it are speculating in the same wa y many o f us speculate about things which we don’t know the answer to

          If you’re saying that we need to pick our battles, you’re right, of course. If you’re saying that there’s not much harm here, I may agree as well. But I disagree with your specific point. When science has shown that the evidence points to evolution + Big Bang, a layman giving himself license to conclude otherwise isn’t doing it right.

          while i can argue against i cannot disprove it.

          Of course—you’re in the domain of science. No one proves/disproves anything.

        • Balboa

          You’re conflating the teleological argument with the modern day intelligent design argument. The latter is in conflict with evolution, occassionally it rides it as dead weight. The former isn’t except in cases where its used to say life is designed (there are many teleological arguments that merely posit design in the universal laws that give rise life). The cosmological argument isnt at odds with the big bang at all. You can assert that but it sinply isn’t the case. Again, i agree with your conclusion that there is no god, that the universe wasnt created. But you are overstating what science demonstrates here and frankly you are fighting caricatures. I am also not pointing toward deism. Deism is a specific concept of god. I am not even saying the çosmological argument can take you that far. It can take them as far as the unmoved mover. That’s it. Either way, the snarkiness here is overwhelming. I dont even disagree with your conclusions, but you get all aggro because I suggest the other side isnt com
          Ke

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

          The cosmological argument isnt at odds with the big bang at all. You can assert that but it sinply isn’t the case.

          No, I don’t assert that.

          But you are overstating what science demonstrates here and frankly you are fighting caricatures.

          Who cares what science demonstrates? I say that the natural explanation for the origin of the universe is compelling, but forget that. The question is: what evidence does the Christian argument bring? Nothing, as far as I can tell. Their burden of proof isn’t met.

          Either way, the snarkiness here is overwhelming. I dont even disagree with your conclusions, but you get all aggro because I suggest the other side isnt com

          Ke

          (Seems to be an incomplete thought here.)

          I don’t know how many more ways I can praise the underlying point you’re making, but whatever. You want to argue for the value of a Christian argument? Great—I’m going to ask for specifics. If that comes across as insanely snarky, enjoy.

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

          I think the design argument deserves serious consideration actually. Ultimately I conclude it is wrong but i not see it as silly or something to be derided.

          We’re on the same page. Your advice is aimed in a good direction.

          But, frankly, I’ve read this argument so often that derision springs to mind quite easily for me. You’ll say that that’s no way to convince people, and you’re right, of course. But I don’t have much respect for, “Go-o-olly! Look at the complexity of the cell. I can’t even figure out how that works, let alone make it myself. If that ain’t evidence of the supernatural, I don’t know what is!”

          We have evolution, and we have the Big Bang. They’re well evidenced, and they’re the scientific consensus. There’s your natural explanation (not that it’s our burden to provide one). You’re saying that the rebuttal is not a slam dunk? What am I missing?

          some variation on “its turtles all the way down” or dismisses the argument in a way that actually agrees with the underlying unmoved mover premise (they just it with something else “it’s a quantum event!”).

          Again, if there’s a gaping hole (where there shouldn’t be one), I’m missing it.

          For starters, the natural explanation is the null hypothesis. (We can go into why that seems obvious to me if you’d like. Karl, for example, seems to refuse to grant that, though as far as I can tell, there’s no justification behind that.) Science has plenty of puzzles left to solve, but that is no evidence for the God hypothesis.

          There is no consensus view for what happened before the Big Bang. Are you saying that that’s a problem of some sort? I’m not seeing that. “Science has unanswered questions; therefore God” is no argument.

          Any attempt to bring schoolyard philosophy (“Well, ya gotta have a starting point somewhere, right?”) is to bring a pop gun to a gunfight. Quantum physics has continually shown that this kind of thinking is unhelpful or completely wrong. Quantum physics confounds our common sense; get over it.

          i hope you go over individual thinker’s takes on the teleological argument starting with aristotle

          Huh? Of what possible use is Aristotle in the questions of modern cosmology and quantum theory?

        • Balboa

          Dismissive snark. Suit yourself. I am only trying to help you fix what is frankly a feeble column.

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

          … or you could just dismiss my comments instead of responding.

          I’ve brought my honest response to your critique (which I appreciate). If I’m mistaken, I’ll need something specific to get me back on track.

        • Balboa

          I didn’t respond to the points because I largely agree with them. I am with science. I just think we don’t have to begin with the position that people who see the Big Bang and conclude an intelligent creator was behind it are ignorant , insane or worthy of ridicule. Like I said, that kind of speculation isn’t unreasonable, but it is just speculstion.

          Let me put it this way, are you hoping to concern Christians to your way of thinking with this column? Because if you are, you at least need to meet them somewhere. Why is it you think gay people don’t convert to right wing Christianity? If you start with snark, judgements that they are ignorant, and refuse to see any merit in what they say, you have no hope of converting believers and you are simply preaching to the choir.

        • Balboa

          That should say ‘convert Christians ‘

        • Kodie

          There is more than one way to reach people. Some clamp down because they can’t handle criticism at all, and some actually are reached with harsh words. Some need the loving caress of an atheist’s logic in pleasing non-threatening tones. We’re having a discussion with many voices and if some people are turned off and run away, so what. Some of us lack the patience for people who are confident they have the one winning argument and act like total pricks about it too. You seem to think there is an elevated, intellectual discourse that Christians enjoy, and maybe they learned some vocabulary and grammar, but it’s just dressing.

          I don’t find ID compelling in the least. It’s a leap, and most people’s so-called scholarly arguments are heaps of words that fool people who are fools, but they’re not smarter arguments.

        • Balboa

          Enjoy preaching to the choir then. Seriously, with that attitude it’s as if you don’t want to actually convince anybody. I am just suggesting you not fight a caricature of your opponents and you use effective dialogue, ridicule will not work. That you claim logic smokey for atheism says z lot . Sadly the irony of your post is probably list on you.

        • Kodie

          Why do you insist they are caricatures? JT of WWJTD is snarky and he keeps all the emails thanking him, maybe years later, from people for whom he has initiated the thinking process.

          I think it’s ok for people to be nice if they are that way or find it more effective, but you ignore that social stigma actually does get to some people, and the so-called caricatures, or as I experience them, real Christians who think they bring real arguments – some of them are downright gluttons for abuse. I don’t think Christians are nice, maybe some of them, some of the time, in their real life, but they only refrain from swearing (most of them) and put on that sanctimonious Christian air about the conversation. Not too deeply hidden in their messages about love and salvation are the ugliest things a person could say to another person. I find that offensive, and if anything else, I’m going to point that out. Convert? I don’t know. Try to get them to listen to what they’re actually saying? Yes. I’m not arguing with a caricature, I’m arguing with the individual who says the thing they’re saying (or in the case of KarlUdy, weaving and dancing around his point instead of getting to it, and making us guess what the argument is).

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

          I think I’m quite reasonable (compared to JT, for example), but Balboa seems to think I’m hateful.

          I’m a “let a thousand flowers bloom” kind of guy. I’ve got my style, and I can’t really be honest to anyone else’s.

          Even the harshest atheists can have an impact. Telling a Christian, “Y’know, that argument is stupid, and you’re an idiot for proposing it!” will definitely make an enemy in the short term. But no one likes to be an idiot, and, while most Christians will blow that comment off, it will stick with a few. That might send them down the road to deconversion.

        • Kodie

          It’s important for some people to realize I’m not the blogger here. I’m attracted to your style of argument and article, but atheism isn’t my life’s work. I don’t feel “attached” to the community like some are. I don’t feel like moderating myself to the demands of a tone troll. You get a lot of criticism for arguing with the softball arguments no literate person would use, but I think the scholarly arguments are the same, and perhaps more convincing to the self-assessed scholarly theologian, but it’s transparent to me. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t raised with a religion, but attempts to portray superstition as a serious subject are not getting to me like they got to Balboa. He says of course the arguments are also ridiculous, but they are more substantial – several people have read the Kreeft link and responded, with quotes, in a way that doesn’t demonstrate Kreeft’s intellectual prowess to me any more than Wlad’s arguments or Norm’s.

          But you get more than average amount of criticism in the vein of “these Christian arguments are of course dopey, try something scholarly next time!”

          I wish Balboa would be more of a friend to you and instead of complain like your free reading material hurts him in some way, take this scholarly argument that has him stumped and demonstrate an intellectual opposition to an intellectually difficult Christian argument. He would rather keep asserting it’s wrong, of course, he’s definitely an atheist, for sure, really really is. I am skeptical; protesting is easier than showing your work.

          I like your blog, Bob. I think your tone sounds playful, you’re generous and kind and an active poster, and you don’t even mind repeating yourself every time someone new uses the same old tired arguments. I don’t know why people like Balboa think those arguments are over and settled if people keep using them and find them convincing enough to try you with them.

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

          You get a lot of criticism for arguing with the softball arguments no literate person would use

          Yeah, weird. When apologists stop using those arguments, I’ll stop slapping them silly.

          but I think the scholarly arguments are the same, and perhaps more convincing to the self-assessed scholarly theologian, but it’s transparent to me.

          In my (limited) experience, most “scholarly” is simply veneer over the same old crap. Just because Wm. Lane Craig of Plantinga or Kreeft have impressive credentials and good reputations within their circles doesn’t mean that they necessarily have anything useful to say. Perhaps there are some cogent arguments in there yet, but I’m withholding judgment until I see them.

          I wish Balboa would be more of a friend to you and instead of complain like your free reading material hurts him in some way

          :-). As if he’s not getting his money’s worth!

          take this scholarly argument that has him stumped

          I’d welcome seeing the best Christian arguments aired here and, as a crowdsourcing thing, we could all chime in on what’s good about it and how to respond. I would think most commenters would enjoy that.

          And many thanks for the kind words.

        • Balboa

          I doubt it. You may get a handful down that road, but calling people idiots rarely motivates them to change. Just like cosmologial argument = proof of god is bad logic, what you propose is bad rhetoric. Calling others idiots is great for the choir, it strengthens the home team’s sense of us versus them, but it doesn’t persuade people.

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

          I just think we don’t have to begin with the position that people who see the Big Bang and conclude an intelligent creator was behind it are ignorant , insane or worthy of ridicule.

          Honey vs. vinegar. Yes, I agree.

          If you start with snark, judgements that they are ignorant, and refuse to see any merit in what they say, you have no hope of converting believers and you are simply preaching to the choir.

          There’s a lot of truth here, but now you’re on to a different point. You first said that we need to address the best of apologists’ arguments, not the crap. I agree.

          And now your point is that this 3-part post series is judgmental and snarky? Do I understand you?

        • Balboa

          I think this provides an even-handed overview of argument from design in its various forms: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/teleological-arguments/#Con

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

      When it comes to the metaphysical realm, however, the logic suddenly changes for the atheist, and the evidence becomes unconvincing. This is because of the implications that the existence of a supreme Being has.

      Those atheists with their double standards, eh? Whatcha gonna do?

      Actually, I disagree with this characterization. Let’s not confuse complexity with design.

      • Ilan

        I am not confusing the terms, but rather stating that the one necessitates the other.

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

          Complexity necessitates design? Take a look at frost or any other delicate and complicated crystal and see if you want to reconsider that hypothesis.

          http://www.alaska-in-pictures.com/data/media/9/frost-crystals-close-up_369.jpg

        • Pattrsn

          That’s why god never gets around to answering prayers, he’s too busy fashioning snowflakes.

        • Kodie

          I did that for about 5 hours once.

          http://snowdays.me/

        • Pattrsn

          That is ridiculous, have to hook up my wacom.

    • Kodie

      There is no metaphysical realm. When you see a sand castle on the beach, obviously people made it. When the sand castle is destroyed, we cannot say it was a person who destroyed it, though it may be. Maybe an animal did it. Maybe the ocean did it, or maybe the wind. We can use clues based on the pattern of destruction – footprints or the waterline, or whatever. You seem to be concluding unevidentially that a metaphysical creator is also the destroyer. Sand castles are not built to be permanent, we always know the sea will claim it if nothing else does. But we build regular houses. So do birds and rodents and other animals. Some of our homes are destroyed, even by the same ocean that takes a sand castle. Water is not a live thing and yet, without mind to its destruction, it goes ahead and erodes the land, sand castles melt and houses fall into it.

      Where is your evidence for the metaphysical that created the oceans to hunt the shore for sandcastles? It’s a property of nature, and by the way, so are humans.

      • Ilan

        Kodie, firstly, how can you posit with such certainty that there is no metaphysical realm? You cannot. Your bias comes out.

        Neither can I prove with empirical certainty that one does not exist. But I don’t seek to. Ultimately, it is a matter of faith. Atheists choose to preclude its existence. This is a prior assumption, rather than the result of empirical inquiry or logical argumentation.

        • Kodie

          Of course you don’t seek to prove there is no metaphysical realm, because you assert one exists. Your job is to prove that one exists. Start by figuring out how the metaphysical realm cannot be detected but continually makes some kind of contact with physical objects. I am not biased, I am living in reality. You are living in fantasy land.

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

          So you think it’s just a matter of cobbling together whatever beliefs one fancies and then just believing that hodge podge on faith?

          That there is no evidence of the supernatural is very good evidence that it doesn’t exist. ESP? The paranormal? Spooks? As far as we can tell, they don’t exist. You and I are not just allowed but obligated to assume that they don’t exist–that’s the best hypothesis that we have at the moment.

        • TheNuszAbides

          “So you think it’s just a matter of cobbling together whatever beliefs
          one fancies and then just believing that hodge podge on faith?”

          great habit for roleplaying gamers.
          and yet we too have been vilified as alleged satanists… coincidence?

        • smrnda

          I disbelieve in a supernatural realm (whatever you want to call it) because I don’t see the evidence. I believe in things that I can find empirical evidence for. In the absence of empirical evidence, I’m going to disbelieve until the evidence shows up.

          Believing in something before the evidence comes in seems rather reckless to me. If you think something *might* exist, then you find a way to try to find out, and then you go out looking for evidence.

        • Pofarmer

          I’ll echo smrnda. I am currently reading a compendium of articles titled ” A history of the warfare of science and christendom”. You should try it. You should also wonder, with all of the things about the physical world that religion has clearly gotten wrong, why would we assume that religion would be correct about any metaphysical world?

        • MNb

          “Ultimately, it is a matter of faith.”
          Granted. But like I argued a few times before your faith requires an immaterial agent interacting with our material world without you having any idea how exactly he/she/it does it and which means he/she/it uses.
          There is no difference between your god and the fairies in my garden tending my flowers to blossom beautifully. How can you posit with any certainty that there aren’t such fairies? Still you don’t believe in them. Your bias comes out. You choose to preclude their existence. Still maintaining that your disbelief in the fairies in my garden is not the result of empirical inquiry and/or logical argumentation?
          If you take your belief system seriously you should belief anything and everything. You don’t, so it’s incoherent and random.

        • Pofarmer

          I don’t think I would assume that Ilan doesn’t believe in fairies, given the rest of the thread.

      • MNb

        “When you see a sand castle on the beach, obviously people made it”
        Yep, almost forgot that one. We have quite a hunch how that sand castle was made and why human intervention was necessary. We have no idea how some supernatural agent crafted whatever the theist comes up with and which means that agent used. That’s why Paley’s watchmaker is a non-sequitur.

    • Pattrsn

      So if beauty and complexity are proof of the existence of god then simplicity and ugliness must be proof that god doesn’t exist.

      • Ilan

        Wrong. Firstly, because there could be complexity in both simplicity and ugliness. Secondly, because the existence of complexity, even alongside simplicity, necessitates and intelligent agent. The same cannot be said of simplicity (or non-order) alone.

        • Pattrsn

          So now your claiming simplicity and ugliness too. I guess that means that evidence for the existence of god is whatever you say it is. Why am I not surprised.

        • Rain

          Yeah that goal post moved pretty fast! Wow. They should try out for the hundred yard dash instead of football.

    • Kurt Smith

      Of course man has been repeatedly proven to be equally skilled at creating sandcastles as we are at creating gods, or any other supernatural fictional beings for that matter.

      A god is no more complex to create than a Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.

      • TheNuszAbides

        less complex, even, because it never needs more than one name (though it inevitably ends up getting them) nor necessarily any employment narrative or family history (though someone may tack on an earthly child at some point to get people’s attention)…

    • MNb

      There are many, many beautifully crafted phenomena with 100% percent natural (ie non-human and non-divine) explanations. I happen to live in the tropical country Suriname; sometimes I see a hummingbird in my garden. It never fails to impress me with it’s beauty and complexity of existence. The same with the photo’s of Mars I have been lucky to admire last two years or so. Still it would never occur to me that an intelligent agent purposefully constructed these and many other phenomena.
      There’s nothing metaphysical about them, so your last paragraph is completely wrong. In fact you show it’s exactly the other way round. As a believer you need teleology (ie purposeful thinking) in the metaphysical realm so you’re desperately looking for the same in our materialistic Universe. It’s quite pathetic, when thinking about it soberly.

      • Ilan

        You claim that there are phenomena with 100% natural explanations. You then mention the hummingbird. Tell me, then: what is the “100% natural explanation” regarding the hummingbird? You fail to provide it, and then proceed to simply state that it does not “occur” to you that an intelligent agent purposefully created the hummingbird. You then tell me that I am “completely wrong”, and call me pathetic. Interesting.

        The reason why it does not “occur” to you that there is an intelligent designer is not because you have a “100% natural explanation”,for natural phenomena, but rather because you adamantly require that there be one. You intentionally choose to exclude the metaphysical realm based on a presupposition – a starting assumption that itself remains unproven. This is as much dogmatic as any other religion.

        • Compuholic

          Tell me, then: what is the “100% natural explanation” regarding the hummingbird?

          Aside from the fact that the question is ill-formed: Do you have missed the last 100 years of scientific progress? What more than Evolution do you require for an answer?

          You intentionally choose to exclude the metaphysical realm based on a presupposition – a starting assumption that itself remains unproven. This is as much dogmatic as any other religion. […] This is as much dogmatic as any other religion.

          Well I have loads of evidence for this realm and I don’t even know what a “metaphysical realm” is supposed to mean. And “dogmatic” would mean that I absolutely exclude the possibility of anything beyond our realm. I’m not and I don’t think anybody here does. We just don’t believe without evidence. Feel free to provide some evidence anytime (and please include an explanation of what a metaphysical realm looks like)

  • Eric Sotnak

    I’ll play. Let’s consider the claim “Child abuse is bad.” I agree. Ok. So now let’s ask WHY child abuse is bad. I’ll give my answer: Because it harms the child. Does the theistic moralist agree, or hold that harm to the child is irrelevant and that what really matters is some relation to God?
    Suppose the theistic moralist agrees that child abuse is bad because it harms the child but then asks, “Why is harming the child bad?” My answer: “Because being harmed interferes with a natural human goal of seeking qualitatively positive conscious experiences over the course of one’s lifetime.” Does the theistic moralist agree, or hold that harm to the child is bad (instead) because of some relation to God?
    Suppose the theistic moralist agrees but now asks whether such natural human goals are objectively good. My answer: It is an objective fact about humans that we have such goals and that we do value them. This is as much of an answer as we should want. I expect at this point the theistic moralist will insist that we should want more, and will champion some principle that the things I value are not genuinely valuable unless God does something with respect to them. But what is that? Does God APPROVE of the things I value? Does he DECLARE that they are valuable? Does God WILL that I have and value those goals? Why does it matter that a given set of human goals and values stand in relation to God, rather than to someone or something else?
    On my view, it is wrong to bash infants against rocks. On the view of the theistic moralist, this is only wrong if my natural revulsion for such an act stands in the right sort of relation to God, and in fact, quite a few theistic moralists hold that it might be objectively obligatory for me to overcome such a natural revulsion and bash some infants.
    So remind me again exactly how theistic morality is supposed to be preferable?

  • Y. A. Warren

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the only qualification for calling oneself an atheist is that one not believe in one or more supreme beings? I don’t think it infers or requires cynicism about all things that one does not have in one’s individual experience and/ or areas of expertise? I also don’t believe it infers or requires no accetance of hierarchy in the evolutionary process of reason.

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

      I have no god belief. That’s why I call myself an atheist.

      I’m not sure what larger issue you’re referring to, however.

      • Y. A. Warren

        There seems to be some blow back from some responding to atheist posts regarding seeing anything as sacred or awe inspiring. There also seems to be resistance to hierarchy in species from some. Is this common to mainstream atheism?

        • Castilliano

          People tend to lump a lot of non-religious topics under “Religion” (or worse, “relationship”) which they equate with “Belief in (my) God(s)”:
          Morality, community, nationalism, sense of wonder, et al
          They don’t seem to understand (most) atheists are merely removing the superstitious elements, and keeping the better, more humane & human aspects.
          So, when we mention morality, they argue we can’t have any because we don’t have belief in god(s).
          Ditto for “sense of wonder”, “charity”, “love”, “honor”, etc.
          We see it as removing one piece. To them it’s a cornerstone.

          In brief, if they source their religion for some aspect of themselves, our lack of religion means we can’t share that aspect. Sadly, this trend runs from the simplest to the brightest of theists.

          Cheers.

        • MNb

          Speaking for myself the word sacred is meaningless. Awe inspiring? The whole story as told by science, beginning at the Big Bang and ending at me here typing these words in an entirely other country than where you, the reader is. If that’s not awe inspiring I don’t know what is.

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

          Yes–awe comes from science. Imagine asking a Jew 3000 years ago for his best example of awe inspiring, and he’ll breathlessly tell you about how Yahweh created Mesopotamia and put the sun in the sky and made some pretty little dots we call “stars.” That’s it. That’s the extent of their religiously derived imagination.

        • Y. A. Warren

          It is easy for older siblings to laugh at their younger siblings for being stupid when in actuality they younger siblings simply haven’t advanced enough in their thinking and experience to know what is known by their younger siblings.

          It is also easy for those who have superior intellects to scorn the motivators of those with less intellectual acumen and access. Fear is a huge motivator for those who cannot reason. My problem with religion is that they promote bullies as deities and then give total control of the community over to selected high priests and other despots.

          I look to educate past the fear, not with snark, but with reason. Some commonality of language is used by me to find points of connection. Awe may feel like fear to some, but I object to the translation of awe into “fear” used in the books considered Judeo-Christian “sacred” scripture. There is no room for fear and awe in simultaneously in the same brain. Awe seems “sacred” to me; fear does not.

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

          It is easy for older siblings to laugh at their younger siblings for being stupid when in actuality they younger siblings simply haven’t advanced enough in their thinking and experience to know what is known by their younger siblings.

          What’s stupid is to maintain a child’s view of nature when
          the evidence points elsewhere. I agree that this isn’t the best way to change someone’s mind, however.

        • Y. A. Warren

          Fear has been the prime motivator for humans, apparently since the beginning. Fear makes people stupid. Mockery simply turns people off to any message that may otherwise get through the fear.

        • TheNuszAbides

          the closest i can get (these days) to considering something ‘sacred’ (in the sense that ‘those who corrupt it have proven themselves unworthy of authority’) is the transmission of knowledge, particularly to children (insofar as their brains and all attached systems are at peak (developmental) plasticity…)

  • Rain

    “Atheists often point to the presence of evil as an evidence against the existence of an all-loving and all-powerful God,

    Great plot twist. Win them over with irony. Nobody expected our hero to point to evil as evidence for an all-loving and all-powerful God when atheists say it’s evidence against it! Total opposites! Cool story.

    but all of us have to account for evil in the context of our worldview begging the question.

    Fixed…

    Wow this guy asked a lot of questions. Did he ever hear of google? He could have saved himself a lot of trouble lol.

    • TheNuszAbides

      “could have saved himself a lot of trouble”

      only if he didn’t have such a sterile relationship with incompatibility (i.e. outright dismissal on the terms of Received Wisdom).

  • MNb

    8. Why Do Transcendent Moral Truths Exist?

    This is not a good question. First of all you have to show that they exist. They don’t. Just look at other animals. Ants for instance are perfect communists. Their ethics is completely based on “good is what benefits the colony”. So a single ant doesn’t hesitate a split second to sac it’s life. Cats at the other hand are almost perfect individuals: “good is what’s good for me”.

    The paradox of Homo Sapiens is that he/she is both an individual and social animal. There is an eternal conflict between the two. That’s why Homo Sapiens needs to think about ethics.

    So values are dependent on the very nature of Homo Sapiens.

    “We understand that it’s never morally ‘right’ to torture people for the mere ‘fun’ of it.”

    Who are we? Even now in the 21s Century it isn’t too hard to find people who think it is. Just read some stories about the concentration camps in North Korea. The guards working there don’t think they are morally wrong. Apparently the transcendent Law Giver has forgotten to give them correct understanding of ethics, the misfit. Want a concrete example? Try Paul Blobel, hanged in 1951, who until the very last moment of his evil life denied he had done anything wrong and only showed pity with the people who had to do the hard work of killing off jews.

    And what has christianity exactly contributed in this respect? Let’s take a look at the Cathar Crusade of the early 13th Century. The christians involved did not understand it wasn’t morally right to kill off people just because they had a different worldview. What’s more – they even did not understand that it wasn’t morally right to kill of the accidental christian either as colleteral damage. “God will decide who deserves to go to heaven and who not” was the excuse.

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

      only showed pity with the people who had to do the hard work of killing off jews.

      This bit about Blobel hit me. This is exactly what Wm. Lane Craig says about the killing of the Canaanites–it was only the Israelite soldiers whom he pitied. Everyone else either deserved it or was going to a better place.

      Do you have a reference? I wouldn’t mind noting this connection between Craig and a Nazi criminal. Ouch.

      • MNb

        Yes, but once again in Dutch:

        http://www.go2war2.nl/artikel/1560/Blobel-Paul.htm

        Blobel toonde gedurende zijn proces geen berouw en had enkel medelijden met de daders die belast waren geweest met dit zware werk. “Als soldaat heb ik me aan de discipline en trouw gehouden,”, zo verklaarde hij nadien. “Die discipline en trouw hebben me nu aan de galg gebracht. Ook vandaag weet ik nog niet hoe ik anders had moeten handelen.”

        Blobel didn’t showed remorse during his process and only felt pity for the offenders who had had to do this hard work. “As a soldier I stuck to discipline and loyalty,” he explained. “This discipline and loyalty have led me to the gallow. Even today I don’t know how I should have acted differently.”

        If you want to know where the author Kevin Sprenger got this from you can contact him by clicking “geef ons uw feedback” in the column at the right. He will certainly answer as I know from experience.

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

          Great stuff. Next time I write about Craig as an apologist for holy genocide, I’ll use this quote.

      • MNb

        Here is some more:

        http://www.go2war2.nl/artikel/2610/Einsatzgruppen.htm?page=13

        Alas it’s too long to translate, but it’s the same idea. Killing off people day after day is too hard work for the executioners.
        I think I already wrote that Dutch orthodox-protestants tended to be very active in anti-Nazi resistance. You probably can imagine that WLC’s Divine Command Theory is a bit painful in those circles.

        PS: I’m linking you to so many articles in Dutch these days that it might pay off to learn to read the language?

        http://www.learndutch.org/
        http://learnpractice.com/learn-dutch

        (this is not meant seriously)

      • MNb

        It will take you some serious research, but I feel there is an anti-WLC article here.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Einsatzgruppen

        Is there any relevant difference between the Einsatzgruppen and those Israelite soldiers? Does WLC defend the latter in the same way as Himmler and the main culprits did in their trials? Here is a list of names:

        http://www.go2war2.nl/artikel/2610/Einsatzgruppen.htm?page=16

        It might be interesting to find out how they defended themselves during their trials.

  • MNb

    “9. Why Do We Believe Human Life to be Precious?”

    Because I’m a human and think my own life to be precious. Golden rule, which does not need religion.

    Note that in the past lots of people, including christians, did not think human life to be precious at all, especially the lives of non-christians. Also there are enough examples of christians who starved themselves to death.

    “Wallace also characterizes the naturalist position as saying that only the strong survive.”

    I already have referred to the research of Piotr Kropotkin, who proved him wrong.

    “Both sides of the argument have to explain the existence and injustice of evil,”

    Correct, but atheists easily can. Existence of evil? Homo Sapiens is stupid (ie incapable of long term thinking), lacks empathy (who can feel pity 24/7, now for the victims of the Philippine disaster again?), is a hypocrite (when the other inflicts some harm, especially when I’m the victim, it’s unforgivable, but if I do exactly the same I have excellent and valid reasons). Some are mentally ill (psychopaths) or are addicted. Injustice? Because many people actually are capable of empathy and are smart enough to recognize mutual interest. An example is Michael Bakunin, who said that “I can only be free if all people around me are free as well”. Isn’t it weird that the christian god forgot to tell his followers such a profound idea some 19 centuries before?

  • MNb

    “Science doesn’t have all the answers, therefore God.”

    Yes but there is more to it. How comes? BobS may not like philosophy too much, but it gives a perfect explanation.

    The christian worldview uses two methods in the human quest for knowledge: deduction (ie rationality in the narrow meaning of the word) and revelation.

    It has the first one in common with science. It was fully developed by the Ancient Greeks and because of their spectacular successes for a long time it was thought to be a reliable one. Christian theologians – at least as early as Augustinus of Hippo – took it over. It only got criticized after Descartes, many centuries later.

    One of the earliest and finest examples is of course Euclidean Geometry. Who disputes Pythagoras’ Theorem? It can be proven so elegantly and convincingly. The problem is that it totally depends on its axioms. Change one, like Riemann did, and Pythagoras’ Theorem becomes completely nonsense.

    The nice thing of deduction though is that it’s objective indeed, ie not depending on the individual. Pythagoras’ Theorem, including the axioms it rests on, means the same in Alaska as in Zambia as in Inner-Mongolia as on this website.

    This applies to every single method that uses deduction, including science (ie philosophical naturalism) and the christian worldview.

    The other method used by the christian worldview is revelation. Sure, far from every christian ever had even one. But as soon as he/she refers to his favourite Holy Book as the divine word (a favourite term here is Logos) he/she is relying on revelations of other peoples. My simple question is why? Why not rely on the revelations of Indigenous Australians? Now if they were largely the same I would not have to ask this question. The very fact they aren’t suggests that revelation is subjective, ie depends on the individual in his/her specific circumstances.

    The other method philosophical naturalism uses is induction. That one is not reliable either as David Hume seems to have realized as first. See the problem of induction by simple enumeration: the fact that we have thrown a six with our dice for a couple of times no way guarantees it will happen the next time.

    Still induction is objective as well. When I jump off a bridge I experience I fall downward. When BobS tries the same he will experience the same.

    Now both brains (needed for deduction) and senses (needed for induction) are fallible as well. When the results of both methods agree though (ie we have a theory and we have the observations) we can have solid confidenc we are right. Moreover the right mixture of competition and cooperation will quickly weed out many, many errors.

    So philosophical naturalism has two objective methods which can be used for cross examining. The christian worldview has one objective method and one subjective one without any cross examining. It’s a no brainer which yields the most reliable results and offers the best explanations.

    Sure philosophical naturalism isn’t perfect. I already mentioned superconductivity at relatively high temperatures. Deduction gives us BCS-theory, induction tells it is wrong. How inconvenient. Now if all spiritual and religius guys could explain that and their explanation, on which there has to be largely consensus, results in testable and correct predictions plus preferably some nice applications for our daily lives then we’ll talk again.

    Isn’t it telling that Wallace and their likes never ever try something like that? Oops, my bad. Sylvia Browne did. In The Netherlands Jomanda. The first was almost alway wrong. The advice of the latter resulted in the death of Sylvia Millicam, something that easily could have been prevented.

    The name of Wallace’ site is Pleaseconvince me. I think he doesn’t want to be convinced at all.

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

      A thorough evaluation. Thanks.

    • TheNuszAbides

      “deduction (ie rationality in the narrow meaning of the word) … was fully developed by the Ancient Greeks and because of their
      spectacular successes for a long time it was thought to be a reliable
      one. Christian theologians – at least as early as Augustinus of Hippo –
      took it over. It only got criticized after …”

      thanks; this is what i try to remember whenever i see a clumsy nonbeliever flinging around “logic” (as in “you’re wrong because you’re being illogical” as though it is the totality of the scientific method. plenty of thomists are still using relatively impeccable logic (it’s just easy for them to gloss over the first principles because so few humans (proportionally speaking) are conversant with formal logic anyway (myself included, as i’ve probably already made a misrepresentation)…

  • MNb

    Ah, god exists. Look here, five fine examples that clearly demand an intelligent designer.

    http://www.cracked.com/article_20667_5-mind-blowing-things-you-wont-believe-were-built-by-nature.html

    Or rather they are pranks by the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Because unguided forces? No way possible!

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

      These are better fodder than things that we know were human designed, like sand castles.

  • Paul

    “A far more plausible explanation is the natural one: all humans share the same moral programming.”
    Why must the explanation be a natural one? With the words you used, one could rightly ask “Who programmed the moral code?”

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

      The plausible natural explanation trumps the supernatural one.

      • Paul

        How did you come to that conclusion?

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

          I’ve seen no counterexamples.

  • Paul

    “The atheist has no Problem of Evil to resolve. That’s your problem.
    The Problem of Evil wonders: how can a good god allow all the suffering that we see in the world? …but when you drop the god presupposition, this problem vanishes.”
    Are you saying that from your perspective that there is no such thing as good and evil? That things simply just are?

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

      I see no absolute good and evil. The dictionary agrees–you don’t find “absolute” or “objective” in the definitions.

  • Paul

    Wallace: “People are capable of inflicting great evil on one another and natural disasters occur across the globe all the time. More importantly, no matter what we do as humans, we seem to be unable to stop evil from occurring.”

    Your response: “Correct. That’s not strong evidence for an omniscient, loving god.”
    It sounds like you are admitting that there is in fact evil in the world. How do you determine what is evil or not?

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

      Probably the same way you do–I consult my experience, my training, and my instincts.

  • TheNuszAbides

    “Unanswered questions aren’t the reason for their faith.”

    rather, they’re the reason (excuse?) for our reasoning! thank you for that insight.


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