Why Is the Universe Comprehensible?

equations

Neolithic man 10,000 years ago had no use for calculus.

We have pretty much the same Stone Age brain and, with effort, we can understand calculus. And physics. And chemistry. And economics, math, literature, and other complicated topics for which primitive man had no use. These particular skills couldn’t have been selected by evolution.

As Einstein observed, “The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.”

The Christian has a ready answer: God did it. Our brains are able to understand the universe because we’re made in God’s image, and he wants us to understand.

A related example: skin

Let’s consider another marvel, animal skin. It can heal after being burned, but it’s possible that getting burned was such a rare event that natural selection didn’t have the chance to select animals for skin able to recover from burns. Worse, evolution has had no time to prepare us for modern injuries such as skin burns by nuclear radiation or from concentrated acids or other nasty chemicals.

And yet human skin does heal after injuries from fire, chemicals, or radiation—how is this? Evolution selected for general-purpose skin that responds well to general injuries like cuts, bites, and scrapes, and it’s able to repair after the new injuries as well.

In the same way, it seems to have also selected for a general-purpose brain that could make tools and coordinate hunting parties—and understand calculus and physics. So the quick answer to, “Why did evolution give us a brain that could understand calculus, physics, and the universe?” is, “Why not?”

The Flynn effect is a startling recent example showing how our brain adapts to environments that would be novel not only to the humans of thousands of years ago, but even to the previous generation. For the last century, new stimuli have driven up average IQ scores in the West by three points per decade. This new stimuli might include new media like movies, TV, and the internet; broader education; or new work challenges.

The evolution connection becomes clearer when we consider some of the new fields we’ve entered in the last century or two. We’re comfortable with the everyday physics we see around us—gravity, buoyancy, air pressure, centrifugal force, and so on. But we live in a medium world, and the world of the tiny (cells, atoms, quantum physics) and the enormous (galaxies, black holes, the universe) are described by science that is well validated but often violates our common sense. As physicist Richard Feynman noted, “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.”

But is the universe comprehensible?

Before we congratulate ourselves too much on how much we can understand, keep in mind that we understand only what we’re capable of understanding. There could be enormous reservoirs of scientific fact that we’re inherently unable to perceive, let alone understand, because of our limited brains—like a red-green color distinction to a color blind person or a joke to a lizard.

The part of the universe that we comprehend isn’t that surprising, and much of what we don’t comprehend may be forever beyond our grasp.

I expand on this thinking at this post: “A Universe That’s Understandable Points to God,” but How Understandable Is the Universe?

Tide goes in, tide goes out.
Never a miscommunication.
You can’t explain that.
You can’t explain why the tide goes in.
— Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, 1/4/2011

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 1/31/14.)

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  • Sastra

    Our brains are able to understand the universe because we’re made in God’s image, and he wants us to understand.

    … and our brains are also NOT able to understand other parts of the universe because God’s mind is higher than our own, and he doesn’t want us to understand.

    Any answer which explains different results wasn’t derived from the question.

    • https://allowlive.com/floyd-mayweather-vs-conor-mcgregor-live-stream/ watch mayweather vs mcgregor

      Let’s consider another marvel, animal skin. It can heal after being burned, but it’s possible that getting burned was such a rare event that natural selection didn’t have the chance to select animals for skin able to recover from burns. Worse, evolution has had no time to prepare us for modern injuries such as skin burns by nuclear radiation or from concentrated acids or other nasty chemicals.

  • skl

    “And physics. And chemistry… and other complicated topics …These particular skills couldn’t have been selected by evolution…

    Let’s consider another marvel, animal skin. It can heal after being burned, but it’s possible that getting burned was such a rare event that natural selection didn’t have the chance to select animals for skin able to recover from burns. Worse, evolution has had no time to prepare us for modern injuries such as skin burns by nuclear radiation or from concentrated acids or other nasty chemicals.”

    But physicists and chemists helped make skin salves and SPF 30 sunscreen and
    NASA heat shields and EPA hazmat suits to protect or heal our skin and bodies.
    So maybe physics and chemistry COULD have been selected by evolution.

    • ORigel

      I don’t get what you’re saying.

    • Chuck Johnson

      So maybe physics and chemistry COULD have been selected by evolution.-skl

      Genetic adaptive evolution has been creating generally programmable (educable) brains for humans for hundreds of thousands of years.

      Cultural adaptive evolution has been creating software (information to be learned) for one hundred thousand years, at least.

      Physics and chemistry are mostly cultural artifacts (software).

      But the hardware (human brains) must be available so that the operating system and apps (education) can be installed and booted up.

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      Melanin, dude…learn it.

  • Anthrotheist

    we understand only what we’re capable of understanding

    An interesting example of this that has occupied my attention recently is complexity. It seems to me that human attention is extremely limited: we can only keep track of a very small number of things, and only a couple of steps into the expected future. Most areas of science that I have studied reflect this, they are based upon experimentation dependent on very limited variables; increasing complexity is increasingly uncertain and incomprehensible to us.

    I would conjecture that in evolutionary terms, this was a benefit: better to have a laser focus on the one or two things that are a threat or a benefit than to waste limited brain-power contemplating the larger picture. Unfortunately, the modern world is dominated by the larger picture, and our previously beneficial tight-focus attention is becoming a great liability. (consider the uncertainty and lack of predictive results in the social sciences, which necessarily have way too many variables to limit as you would in a chemistry lab; meanwhile, chemistry is solving little problems while things like economics is producing enormous problems)

  • skl

    “There could be enormous reservoirs of scientific fact that we’re inherently unable to perceive, let alone understand, because of our limited brains…”

    I sometimes wonder when I hear people say things like ‘I trust only in evidence, in scientifically demonstrable things.’
    It seems they’re saying that the only things that are real are what science can show.

    But who knows? As you say, maybe there is reality which science will never be able to touch.

    • Anthrotheist

      I’ve wondered the same, and have ended up being pragmatic about it. If something exists that we cannot perceive, and which has no perceptible effect on us or our environment, then having knowledge about that thing would be an amusing bit of trivia. While it wouldn’t be bad to know it (if it could be known with certainty, which comes back to “if you can’t perceive it or its effects how can you know it with any certainty?”), we also haven’t lost anything by never knowing it at all.

      • Dus10

        Exactly, if there is a realm that can’t be detected and has no effect on that which we can detect then functionally it doesn’t matter if it is there or not. At that point it is an unnecessary and unjustified complication.

      • skl

        “If something exists that we cannot perceive, and which has
        no perceptible effect on us or our environment, then having knowledge about that thing would be an amusing bit of trivia.”

        That seems to be two different things:
        1) Something, which could be a SOURCE of effects or
        other things, which may exist but which is imperceptible to science, and
        2) The EFFECTS from that source, which may exist but
        which are imperceptible to science.

        For instance, someone might say they had an inspirational dream
        years ago (and let’s say he really did) which he attributes to his god and
        which is one of the reasons for his phenomenal success at something.
        For his practical purposes, his dream and his god are real,
        but science wouldn’t be able to confirm either one.

        • Anthrotheist

          Actually, I was describing one thing with two characteristics: 1) no perceptible presence and 2) no ability to produce perceptible effect.

          As for your example, just because the cause of dreams is not yet fully understood does not mean that science cannot confirm that the dream is real. A person’s mind, their thought process, creates perceptible effects on the environment. What science could not confirm is that a dream is from a god, unless the god’s presence or effects can be perceived.

          And just to be clear about the distinction between a god’s effects and a person’s mind’s effects, the person’s mind can be added or subtracted from a situation and the difference is apparent. If a god is omnipresent, then it cannot be added or subtracted and it is impossible to conclude that any effect is or is not from the god.

        • skl

          “If a god is omnipresent, then it cannot be added or subtracted and it is impossible to conclude that any effect is or is not from the god.”

          I think I would agree that it’s possible that could be the case and that it would be impossible for science to so conclude.

      • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

        If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

        • Michael Neville

          But forests are full of critters who can hear. Just because no human may be around doesn’t mean there’s no sound.

        • Greg G.

          If a deaf elephant makes a subsonic* rumble and there are no other elephants around to hear it, does it make a sound?

          * subsonic is human-centric

        • Michael Neville

          I don’t know but I suspect that elephants pass a lot of gas. I know horses and cattle do, so it’s reasonable to assume another large herbivore would. Is that what you mean by a “subsonic rumble”?

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

          I’ve heard it’s voiced communication.

        • Greg G.

          I recently saw a video on Facebook where an elephant farted and its best friend walked away but that is not what I mean.

          I have read that elephants can communicate at frequencies lower than humans can hear.

        • grasshopper

          Prolific proselytisers are a bit like elephants. They are just as thick-skinned, but communicate at frequencies higher than humans can bear.

        • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

          Oh, of course. Anthrotheist’s comment about not knowing anything with certainty just reminded me of that. We rely on general principles to help us understand the world better, and I’m sure they’re correct. But things will keep going on just as they are even if we don’t see or understand them.

        • TheNuszAbides

          now there’s a philosophical/metaphysical tweak I hadn’t stumbled over before: an extra meaning to the phrase “as we understand it” … if humans [and thus human perception] went extinct, reality “as we understand it” might likewise cease – while all other versions [per a potential breadth of the Observer Effect] continued, of course – unless sufficient records of our understanding persisted long enough to be accurately interpreted by another species.

        • Anthrotheist

          My old physics teacher answered this one to my satisfaction.

          He argued that by the way we define “sound”, 3 things are required: a source, a medium, and a receiver. Remove the receiver and you may have vibrations or air disturbances, but not technically “sound.”

        • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

          Nice. It is true that in many things we rely on personal experience, and I guess our language sometime reflects that – but we want to be able to generalise the universe so that we can make inferences about things outside our personal experience.

    • Sastra

      It seems they’re saying that the only things that are real are what science can show.

      Not exactly. It may depend on what is meant by “real.”
      Science is a method which tries to eliminate subjective bias in order to help us get at what’s true in an objective sense. Are only objective facts “real?” What about subjective things like emotions, preferences, values, and so forth? I’d say they’re “real” too … but not matters of science unless they’re being measured or explained in a particular way.

      There’s being “beyond science ” as a practical matter (our skills are too limited) — and then there’s being “beyond science ” in principle, which I think indicates something which isn’t objectively true, but more a matter of choice, like preferring one style of music to another, or holding a particular virtue above all others. Does this make sense?

      • skl

        “There’s being “beyond science ” as a practical matter (our skills are too limited) — and then there’s being “beyond science ” in principle, which I think indicates something which isn’t objectively true, but more a matter of choice, like preferring one style of music to another, or holding a particular virtue above all others. Does this make sense?”

        I’m not sure it makes sense according to what Bob S. said:
        “There could be enormous reservoirs of scientific fact that we’re inherently unable to perceive…”

        By “scientific fact” I assume he meant a reality which is objectively true but which science will never be able to confirm whether in practicality or in principle.

        • Sastra

          I don’t know. It’s possible that something like the particular elements of the multi universes in string theory could be both objectively true but, due to the inherent nature of such universes and ourselves, inherently beyond the confirmation capacities of science, practically and in principle. But they wouldn’t be subjective mental choices or states of mind, either.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          You keep putting limitations on science, when, across time, it has demonstrated an AMAZING ability to transcend whatever boundaries are put on it.

          *Religion*, on the other hand, has been self limiting, and has provided NO improvements that it didn’t poach from the natural world, EVER.

        • TheNuszAbides

          poach!! interesting formulation. another way to underscore just how ego/culture-centric religious implications cannot seem to avoid being/becoming. not to declare individual scientists immune to such -centrisms of course, but ‘science itself’ – set at a high bar [necessitating occasional recalibration, unlike so many religious conceits] of bias-mitigation …

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

      Yes, there may be questions science can’t ever answer and other questions it can’t even ask. But it’s not like you have anything that will do better.

    • Michael Neville

      “Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.” –J.B.S. Haldane [emphasis in original]

    • Jim Jones

      > It seems they’re saying that the only things that are real are what science can show.

      It seems like you don’t understand what science is. It’s a process, in particular the process of looking for repeatable things.

      If you strike a box of matches one at a time and all, or almost all, light, that’s science.

      If you try to cast a spell to light a fire and it doesn’t ever work, that is not science, execept in the negatives sense.

      • skl

        “It seems like you don’t understand what science is. It’s a process, in particular the process of looking for repeatable things.”

        Then my congratulations to everyone.
        Everyone is now promoted to the position of scientist.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Yes, children especially.
          Until it’s educated out of them.

        • Jim Jones

          Everyone is a scientist whether they know it or not. After all, at what age do you learn how to turn a doorknob – and that prayer doesn’t open doors?

        • TheNuszAbides

          well said – it’s not necessarily just the curious specimen of Theist Scientist that compartmentalizes their application of scientific method.

        • MR

          Science is just a more disciplined form of how everyone of us interact with the world every day. You don’t go wandering in the middle of traffic because experience has taught you that bad things happens when two bodies meet at speed. This is something that can be demonstrated, you don’t even need to apply the “scientifically” label to it. If something can’t be demonstrated, how do you distinguish it from fantasy?

        • TheNuszAbides

          with a substantive caveat on “demonstrated”, since wishful thinking, Other-fear, in-group rhetoric et al. are so capitalized-upon by cynical manipulators.

        • MR

          ?? Not sure if you’re misreading me?

          You don’t go wandering in the middle of traffic because experience has taught you that bad things happen when two bodies meet at speed. < < This is something that can be demonstrated….

          Scratch all that. You were referring to the second “demonstrated.”

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      Two words:

      SO FAR.

  • RichardSRussell

    Jock was walking on his favorite beach in Queensland when he spotted some shiny metal sticking up out of the sand. On inspection, it turned out to be an old oil lamp. He picked it up and brushed it off, and in doing so he released the genie who’d been trapped inside.

    “Hi, there”, said the genie. “I’m an ancient genie who’s been trapped for way too long in that tiny little lamp, and I want to thank you properly for freeing me. May I grant you a wish?”

    “Um, isn’t that supposed to be three wishes?”, asked Jock.

    “Come on, dude, don’t be greedy. I was just an apprentice genie in the first place. That’s how they trapped me so easily in this crummy little lamp. Smash the crap out it if you would, by the way. God, I hate that thing! Anyway, all I’ve got in me is one wish. What’ll it be?”

    Jock paused a bit in thot. “Well”, he finally said, “I’ve always gotten on real well with me mate Bob. He’s my brother, y’know, but he up and took off for America nearly a decade ago and now he lives near Hollywood. Wanted to break into acting and all, but it hasn’t been going well and he can’t afford to fly back and visit. I myself am terrified of flying, so I guess what I’d like most is a big long highway from here in Brisbane up to Los Angeles so I can drive my Holden up there to surprise him.”

    “Are you deaf, man? Didn’t you hear me say that I was only an apprentice genie? Do you know how much work a highway like that would be? It would be a challenge for the greatest genies of all time! Now get real and ask me for something reasonable.”

    “Oh, OK. Sorry. Umm, how about if you can let me understand women?”

    “So, would that be a 2-lane or 4-lane?”

    • Michael Neville

      That’s a very old joke.

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

        It wasn’t when Richard first told it.

      • Jim Jones

        Those are the best jokes. That’s how they get to be so old.

  • Paul

    “The Christian has a ready answer: God did it.”

    And the naturalist/materialist has a ready answer: It all happened by natural processes.

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

      And the naturalist/materialist has a ready answer: It all happened by natural processes.

      But they don’t say that, do they? Rather, they say that natural explanations have an excellent track record (compared to explaining nothing in the case of religion) and that future answers will likely be natural (delivered by science) rather than supernatural (delivered by religion).

      • Herald Newman

        I can’t imagine a supernatural explanation ever being more coherent than assuming that some unknown natural process is/was at work.

        We don’t know that the supernatural exists, and we don’t seem to have any way to investigate it. Given that, I don’t understand how we could ever be justified to accept a supernatural explanation!

        Until somebody can invent methodological supernaturalism, supernatural explanations are useless, and unfalsifiable nonsense.

        • Chuck Johnson

          We don’t know that the supernatural exists, and we don’t seem to have any way to investigate it.-Herald

          If we put the supernatural into the category of “ideas invented by humans”, then we know it exists, and we have means of investigating it.

        • Herald Newman

          Maybe so, but that’s not what the supernaturalists mean when they say that “the supernatural exists.”

        • Chuck Johnson

          Yes.
          Supernatural, faith, spirit, trinity, all are words custom-made to promote the equivocations that religionists rely on. When they don’t understand something, they will promote confusion to try to sweep it under the carpet.

        • Paul

          “I can’t imagine a supernatural explanation ever being more coherent than
          assuming that some unknown natural process is/was at work.”

          At least you can admit that you’re making assumptions.

        • Herald Newman

          At least you can admit that you’re making assumptions.

          It’s an assumption like the null hypothesis is an assumption. We can never prove that the supernatural doesn’t exist, but until we have confirmed that it exists, we’re well justified in assuming it doesn’t.

      • Paul

        “But they don’t say that, do they?”

        The honest ones will. But they really don’t have to since naturalism is a philosophical position that presupposes only natural processes. And since they presuppose natural processes, they would never even come to a supernatural conclusion.

        • Michael Neville

          So do you have any evidence that supernatural forces or beings exist? Show us supernaturalism and we’ll accept that it does exist. Until then, we’ll go with naturalism because we have ample evidence for its existence.

        • Paul

          The universe and everything in it is evidence. We all have the exact same evidence. Everyone has a worldview and interprets the evidence through their worldview. Like I said, if one has a worldview of naturalism, they’ll never come to a supernatural conclusion.

          Bill Nye was wrong when he said, in the debate with Ken Ham, that evidence would change his mind. If given evidence, he would just interpret it a different way.

        • epeeist

          The universe and everything in it is evidence.

          No, the universe and everything in it is evidence for the existence of the universe and everything in it. That this shows the existence of the “supernatural” is an inference.

          Everyone has a worldview and interprets the evidence through their worldview.

          How very Nietzschean of you:

          There are no facts, only interpretations

          And since facts are truth-makers for propositions then that means that there is no truth, only perspectives.

        • Paul

          I disagree with Nietzsche. There are facts.
          For example: humans exists, animals exists, plants exists.

          But what one believes about their origin is not a fact, it’s an interpretation of factual evidence.

        • Michael Neville

          So what are the facts you use to show that the supernatural exists? Be specific.

        • Paul

          As I’ve said before: EVERYTHING is evidence. How one views the evidence is based on their worldview.
          No one has been able to show that naturalism/materialism best explains the evidence. I had to reject naturalism/materialism because it fails logically.
          I had to explore worldviews until I found one that could best explain the evidence.

        • Michael Neville

          You still haven’t shown what your evidence is to support your supernatural “worldview.” Vaguely waving at EVERYTHING is not even close to actual evidence for supernaturalism.

          I had to reject naturalism/materialism because it fails logically.

          So you reject the real world for your dreams and wishful thinking. That doesn’t sound sane to me.

        • TheNuszAbides

          it’s a functional* degree of insanity insofar as the typical argumentum ad populum, and/or “life would be so much simpler/better if everybody just did things Our Way”, bolsters in-group confidence, shelters immaturity and squelches curiosity.

          *however flimsy the ‘function’

        • Rudy R

          As I’ve said before: EVERYTHING is evidence.

          Your “everything is evidence” is a canard. Evidence is, by definition, the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid. Is finding a a single straight horn on the ground evidence for a unicorn? Most people would not agree that the horn is information that would indicate the belief in a unicorn is true.

          No one has been able to show that naturalism/materialism best explains the evidence

          I agree. And Michael Neville is correct when he states there’s no available body of facts or information indicating whether a supernatural event is true or valid. By most definitions, the supernatural would be some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature, so could not be examined by natural methods, ergo, could not have evidence to show its truth or validity.

          I had to explore worldviews until I found one that could best explain the evidence.

          In other words, since empirical evidence did not prove your a priori belief in a god, you had to use a less relable method to determine a pathway to truth to prove your presuppositional belief.

        • TheNuszAbides

          By most definitions, the supernatural would be some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature, so could not be examined by natural methods, ergo, could not have evidence to show its truth or validity.

          which is why the most perniciously unfalsifiable Gap is that infested by ~received wisdom~, special status, gnosticism, prophecy groupies, etc.

        • Michael Neville

          The universe and everything in it is evidence that the universe and its contents exist.

          The reason why scientists rely on material naturalism is that it answers questions. GODDIDIT answers every question and so answers no questions. Why is the sky blue? GODDIDIT. Why is the sky brown? GODDIDIT. Rayleigh Scattering answers why the sky is blue and not brown.

          When supernatural explanations answer questions then we’ll start using it along with naturalism. So far supernaturalism doesn’t answer anything.

          Consider this. Thousands of years ago there were supernatural answers to all sorts of questions. Thunder was caused by Thor beating mountains with his hammer. Earthquakes were caused by Namazu thrashing around underground. The winds were caused by the Anemoi blowing. Nowadays these supernatural explanations have been replaced with natural explanations. Can you name a single natural explanations which has been replaced by anything supernatural? Of course you can’t, because that’s never happened.

          Bill Nye was wrong when he said, in the debate with Ken Ham, that evidence would change his mind. If given evidence, he would just interpret it a different way.

          You can read Bill Nye’s mind? What’s his favorite flavor of ice cream?

          At least Nye admitted the possibility of changing his mind. Ham said that nothing would make him change his. Which one of these people is closed minded?

        • Greg G.

          Why is the sky blue? GODDIDIT. Why is the sky brown? GODDIDIT. Rayleigh Scattering answers why the sky is blue and not brown.

          The Clean Air Act also plays a role. We don’t hear the word “smog” as often as we used to.

        • Michael Neville

          Excellent, Greg. I didn’t even think that the sky used to be brown. It still is in places like Lianyungang, China.

          https://libertyblitzkrieg.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Screen-Shot-2013-12-11-at-11.44.18-AM.jpg

        • TheNuszAbides

          Why is the sky brown? GODDIDIT.

          unless it’s brown in a bad way, in which case The Devil did it, or We Wretched Sinnerz did it, or The Devil made us do it. /BuckPass

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Your hypothesis has ZERO evidence, but you’re trying to decry the method that is statistically almost CERTAIN, instead.

          Post-modernism ill-suits you, and would’ve been decried by your forbears.

        • Paul

          “Post-modernism ill-suits you”

          Of course it does. I completely reject post-modernism. In fact, It ill-suits everyone.I don’t understand why everyone won’t reject it.

          “…but you’re trying to decry the method that is statistically almost CERTAIN, instead.”

          Naturlism’s “certainty” is circular.

          “naturalism is the “idea or belief that only natural (as opposed to supernatural or spiritual) laws and forces operate in the world.”
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturalism_(philosophy)

          If you start with ONLY natural process, you won’t come to any other conclusion than natural processes.

        • Michael Neville

          Your “worldview” certainly sounds postmodern to me. The anti-science, the idea that your opinion trumps facts, the vague handwaving to cover up the lack of evidence. Richard Rorty and Jacques Derrida would be proud of you.

          As an aside, I agree with John Searles and Willard Quine that Derrida’s philosophy was composed of “tricks and gimmicks similar to those of the Dadaists.”

        • epeeist

          I think it was Searle who accused Derrida of giving bullshit a bad name.

        • Michael Neville

          You’re right. I misspelled his name.

        • TheNuszAbides

          Richard Rorty

          my brain just threw up in its mouth a little.

        • TheNuszAbides

          I don’t understand why everyone won’t reject it.

          perhaps because you don’t [care to?] understand how to differentiate useful components from not-so-useful components – and/or how to seek competent assistance in exercising methods of differentiation. PoMo is not an all-or-nothing monolith requiring 100% swallowing or 100% denial, any more than theism or Marxism or any other conceptual filter.
          (though you’re evidently just dandy at differentiating what presses your Belonging-To-Something-Greater-And-More-Pure buttons from what doesn’t – like most humans, which really isn’t saying much.)

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

          Bill Nye was wrong when he said, in the debate with Ken Ham, that evidence would change his mind. If given evidence, he would just interpret it a different way.

          Atheists become Christians, so Nye converting isn’t out of the question.

          (However, I don’t think that well-informed atheists ever convert for non-emotional reasons.)

        • MR

          That excuse just sounds so lame to me. Like we’re talking about whether some mysterious event has a supernatural origin. “Was it ghosts? Ooooh…. We may never know.” I mean, we’re talking about the freaking Master of the Universe who supposedly moves and acts within the world and who supposedly loves us so much yet can’t even be bothered to give unequivocal evidence. What evidence would someone like Paul need to believe that Shiva is the true creator god, or that any other religion that he doesn’t currently believe in is the one, true religion? Should he just accept someone saying, “Well, everything is evidence,” or would it be reasonable to request a higher bar of evidence for such an incredible claim? What evidence would he require for Shiva and does he apply the same bar for his god?

        • Scooter

          You may want to consider the story of former atheist J. Budziszewski at http://www.undergroundthomist.org/sites/default/files/EscapeFromNihilism.pdf

        • Greg G.

          Atheism is not nihilism. Budziszewski got off on the wrong foot.

        • MR

          Yeah, and I think one of Bob’s observations includes “well-informed” atheists. I see a number of holes. He conflates the objective and subjective, ignores social evolution, and then talks about “sin,” which is strictly a religious concept…! I didn’t even make it through the whole thing. That last one belies his claim to atheism right there.

        • Greg G.

          You waded in deeper than I did.

        • Michael Neville

          I’ve never met an atheist who was a nihilist. I’ve met one Buddhist and one Christian who could be described as such, but probably both of them suffered from depression.

        • MR

          “I’ve never met an atheist who was a nihilist”

          Actually, that fact made me question the sincerity of the piece. I hate to call the guy a liar, but the language is not from any atheist I’ve ever known.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i don’t suppose it’s realistic to expect the bogeyman-slippery-slope spin on various [conclusions which may or may not be informed by some aspect of atheism] plausibly lending themselves to [one nihilism or another] to transcend P.R.aT.T. status any time soon.

        • Greg G.

          I think there’s a Bible prophecy of that be a sign of the Apocalypse.

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

          tl;dr

          If you have a brief summary, you’re welcome to share that with us.

          Are you giving this as a counterexample? If so, please read my argument at the link below and then tell us why this guy is a counterexample.

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2012/10/i-used-to-be-an-atheist-just-like-you-2/

        • epeeist

          You may want to consider the story of former atheist

          You want to characterise all atheists based on one example? Hasty generalisation.

        • Pofarmer

          Another muddle headed philosopher wanna be. What a surprise.

        • Herald Newman

          I took a quick glance at this. It’s complete and utter crap that is littered with unjustified assumptions. I can’t believe I wasted five minutes of my life on that tripe. None of these reasons are the reasons why I’m an atheist!

          I have one, and only one, reason why I’m an atheist: I find no credible, objective, evidence to conclude that any god(s) exist.

          Now, I think there are plenty of good reasons to believe that Christianity is false, and there are even more reasons to be skeptical of Christianity. Let’s remember that the only evidence in favor of Christianity is the say-so of first century Christian authors almost 2000 years ago. That really isn’t anywhere close enough to convince me that Christianity is true.

        • BlackMamba44
        • Paul

          Nice try. That wasn’t even in the debate.

        • Michael Neville

          It goes quite well with your rejection of the real world for something that lives only in your head. At least LaRuffa is talking about something outside of him.

        • BlackMamba44

          You’re just interpretating it differently.

      • Paul

        “they say that natural explanations have an excellent track record
        (compared to explaining nothing in the case of religion) and that future
        answers will likely be natural (delivered by science)”

        If that’s what they say, then it’s a “naturalism of the gaps” argument.

        • Herald Newman

          If that’s what they say, then it’s a “naturalism of the gaps” argument.

          Yet we know that nature exists, and we can demonstrate
          natural explanations. Can you demonstrate that anything but nature exists (edit) without resorting to fallacies?

          If somebody has a method to confirm the existence of the supernatural, and a way to confirm a supernatural explanation, I’ll start to change my assumptions.

        • Paul

          Looks like you have the same erroneous thinking as Michael Neville. I’ll repeat part of my answer to him here:

          The universe and everything in it is evidence. We all have the exact
          same evidence. Everyone has a worldview and interprets the evidence
          through their worldview. Like I said, if one has a worldview of
          naturalism, they’ll never come to a supernatural conclusion.

          My question to you is: Can you demonstrate that the universe and everything in it came into existence through purely natural means?

        • epeeist

          Can you demonstrate that the universe and everything in it came into existence through purely natural means?

          No, and all this means is that we cannot provide such a demonstration. What it does not do is provide any evidence for something other than the natural.

        • Paul

          “What it does not do is provide any evidence for something other than the natural.”

          Exactly. If you have a naturalistic worldview, you won’t come to any conclusion other than natural. It’s circular reasoning.

        • Michael Neville

          So it’s circular reasoning to accept what we know exists and reject what we don’t know exists. I suggest you use another argument because that one is just plain silly.

        • Paul

          No, it’s circular reasoning because you’re concluding exactly what you started with.

        • Michael Neville

          I assume that naturalism explains a great deal about the universe. I further assume that supernaturalism doesn’t exist because there is literally no evidence that it does exist (no, EVERYTHING is not evidence for your wishful thinking). There are questions about the universe that aren’t answered yet and may never be answered. But given naturalism’s track record in answering questions about the universe and supernaturalism’s complete and utter failure to answer any questions at all, I’ll remain a naturalist.

          As I said before, your comment about me having a naturalistic viewpoint means I have a naturalistic viewpoint is just plain silly. It’s true but it’s so trivially true as to be silly.

        • Herald Newman

          Like I said, if one has a worldview of naturalism, they’ll never come to a supernatural conclusion.

          Nonsense.

          First, start with giving me a definition for what the supernatural is. I don’t even know what it is, and I’ve found any definition of it incoherent, or insufficiently vague.

          Second, show me a method that reliably tells us that your “supernatural” exists, and that it’s able to cause things in our universe (or is somehow empirically verifiable)

          Do that and I’ll accept the supernatural. It has nothing to do with worldviews.

          (Edit)

          My question to you is: Can you demonstrate that the universe and everything in it came into existence through purely natural means?

          No, but so what?

        • Paul

          It has everything to do with worldviews. If one believes that nature is all that there is, they’ll only come to a natural conclusion. If you have a naturalistic worldview, the onus is not on me to show you that the supernatural exists. The onus is on you to show that, in deed, nature is all that there is.

          If matter and natural processes are all that there is, then what caused everything to come into existence? The answer would have to be matter and natural processes. But they would have to exist in order to cause them to come into existence. Since this fails logically, the naturalistic/materialistic worldview must be rejected.

        • Michael Neville

          We reject the supernatural because there’s no evidence that it exists. When you or any other supernatural aficionado can demonstrate it’s existence, then we’ll accept that you’re not just indulging in wishful thinking and pulling shit out of your collective asses.

          If matter and natural processes are all that there is, then what caused everything to come into existence? The answer would have to be matter and natural processes. But they would have to exist in order to cause them to come into existence. Since this fails logically, the naturalistic/materialistic worldview must be rejected.

          We don’t know what caused the universe to come into existence. Neither do you. If you say that the cause is something supernatural then you have to provide evidence you’re not pulling shit out of your ass. So far all that evidence is very brown and quite stinky.

          I know that natural processes exist. I don’t know that supernatural anything exists. So I’ll go with what I do know exists and you can continue to produce Brown 25, another fine product from Uranus.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRPQSxp25z4

        • Paul

          “We reject the supernatural because there’s no evidence that it exists.”

          Everything is evidence. You are interpreting the evidence through your own worldview. When you say there’s no evidence that the supernatural exists, that tells me you are view the evidence through a naturalistic lens. I’ve pointed out a few times already how the naturalistic/materialism worldview fails. If you want to say “We don’t know what caused the universe to come into existence.”, then you can start by rejecting naturalism, because naturalism only presupposes natural processes. So the cause of the existence of the universe could only be natural processes in a naturalistic worldview. IF nature is all that there is, nature would have to be the cause of nature’s existence. This fails logically. Do you understand now?

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

          I’ve pointed out a few times already how the naturalistic/materialism worldview fails.

          You could always switch from “natural answers are the only possible explanations ever ever ever” to “look at the track record–natural answers deliver and supernatural ones don’t, so natural answers are the way to bet.”

          Or do you not want to address the actual argument?

        • Michael Neville

          You’ve asserted that the ” naturalistic/materialism worldview fails” but you’ve given me no reason to accept that assertion other than your vague hand waving at EVERYTHING.

          We don’t know what caused the universe to come into existence but that includes not knowing if the cause was supernatural. If you can give me a good reason why the universe might have a supernatural cause then I’ll change my mind about supernaturalism. You haven’t even come close to giving me that reason.

          IF nature is all that there is, nature would have to be the cause of nature’s existence. This fails logically.

          Why can’t nature be the cause of nature’s existence? There’s no reason why the universe couldn’t have created itself. There are cosmologists who hypothesize exactly that. You reject that idea because of incredulity. Sorry, your incredulity is not a good reason for rejecting something.

          Do you understand now?

          Yes, I understand that you don’t like naturalism and want to replace or at least supplement it with something that literally has no evidence of any kind to support its existence other than your wishful thinking.

        • lady_black

          There is no evidence for the supernatural. Zero, zip, nada, none.

        • Chuck Johnson

          If matter and natural processes are all that there is, then what caused
          everything to come into existence? The answer would have to be matter
          and natural processes. But they would have to exist in order to cause
          them to come into existence. -Paul

          You are assuming that first nothing existed, and then the universe existed. This is miraculous thinking, the sort that the Bible promotes.

          Empirical observation shows us that everything comes from something previous. Matter and energy evolve over time.

          So, matter and energy came into existence from earlier matter and energy. – – – No miraculous creation event.

          This would hold true back into the infinite past.

        • Matt Cavanaugh

          Just because you haven’t bothered to inform yourself in the slightest about cosmology or the beginnings of the universe, doesn’t mean we have to indulge in your consequent inanity.

        • Klapaucius

          “If matter and natural processes are all that there is, then what caused everything to come into existence?”

          If there is a “supernatural” realm (whatever that means), what caused _it_ to come into existence?

        • epeeist

          If there is a “supernatural” realm (whatever that means), what caused _it_ to come into existence?

          Don’t be silly, as every fule kno the supernatural realm doesn’t need to come into existence since it is eternal…

        • Klapaucius

          “since it is eternal”
          Citation needed!

        • epeeist

          Citation needed!

          Waves hands in convincing manner.

        • Klapaucius

          OK, I’m convinced.

          BTW, got any Nigerian unclaimed inheritances you’re trying to get out of the country?

        • Michael Neville

          No citations needed for a special pleading.

        • Joe

          If matter and natural processes are all that there is, then what caused everything to come into existence?

          The answer would have to be matter and natural processes.

          Or, just a natural process and energy.

          But they would have to exist in order to cause them to come into existence.

          Not necessarily. You only need one natural process to exist.

          Since this fails logically

          How? You seem to have skipped that part.

          the naturalistic/materialistic worldview must be rejected

          Must? Hold your horses there, Skippy. You need to show how a natural process ‘fails logically’.

        • TheNuszAbides

          You need to show how a natural process ‘fails logically’.

          pshaw. when he plays by the special rules of received wisdom, all that is needed is for the assertion to feel good.

        • lady_black

          Nope. The burden is clearly on you, because nature clearly exists. The “supernatural,” not so much.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Your worldview disdains science.

          Start by getting the fuck off the Internet, which is one of the most fecund fruits of science.

          Yell from a streetcorner, or be known as a hypocritical, sanctimonious piece of shit.

        • petergkinnon

          I agree. Even more amusing (or irritating, depending on how you look at it) is the fact that solipsists, who deny existence of external reality, persist in using said realities for communicating their views. For them, even yelling from the street corner makes no sense.

        • Greg G.

          Who do solipsists think they are communicating with?

        • petergkinnon

          Exactly!

        • TheNuszAbides

          they’re cleaning house in their ownly mind. (or something)

        • Klapaucius

          Clearly the time for my favourite solipsist quote ….

          “As against solipsism it is to be said, in the first place, that it is psychologically impossible to believe, and is rejected in fact even by those who mean to accept it. I once received a letter from an eminent logician, Mrs. Christine Ladd-Franklin, saying that she was a solipsist, and was surprised that there were no others. Coming from a logician and a solipsist, her surprise surprised me.” – Bertrand Russell

        • petergkinnon

          Yes, reminiscent of my own rejection of Rene Descartes’ most famous quote “I think, therefore I am”.

          Simply because the statement is a logical proposition and thus presupposes the existence and validity of logic.

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

          Can you demonstrate that the universe and everything in it came into existence through purely natural means?

          No, but so what? I fall back on the null hypothesis; in this case, that’s the assumption that everything is natural. You have a supernatural hypothesis? That’s fine, but the burden of proof is yours.

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

          Yes, and? I don’t see how this informs the conversation.

        • Chuck Johnson

          When we compare the past and the present, the null hypothesis tells us that unless we can show good evidence to the contrary, the processes that we see now should be assumed to be the processes that existed in the past.

          Uniformitarianism is specific to the history of matter, energy and processes in our universe.
          So uniformitarianism can be seen as a subset of the null hypothesis when natural history (or miraculous history) is being considered.

          So on this topic the null hypothesis and uniformitarianism point to the same conclusion. The way things happen now are the way things happened in the past.

        • lady_black

          What in the world is “miraculous history?”

        • Chuck Johnson

          The history that religionists assert.
          This history is operated by miracles instead of natural laws.

        • lady_black

          LOL. Sounds like nonsense and woo to me.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Can you demonstrate that the universe and everything in it came into existence through purely natural means?-Paul

          The principle of uniformitarianism says that the natural processes we now observe operated in the distant past.

          This principle is based upon empirical observation.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uniformitarianism

        • Klapaucius

          “Everyone has a worldview and interprets the evidence through their worldview”

          My “worldview” makes predictions that can be tested against the evidence in multiple forms and in multiple locations.

          Does yours?

        • lady_black

          You’re sort of ignoring that coming to a conclusion involves interpretation of data, aren’t you?
          Where is the data that leads one to reach a “supernatural” conclusion?

        • Michael Neville

          Good luck having Paul answer that question. I’ve asked him to provide evidence for the supernatural. All I got was “EVERYTHING” and “your worldview rejects the supernatural.”

        • Michael Neville

          Can you demonstrate that the universe and everything in it came into existence through purely natural means?

          Everything in the entire universe is natural. There is not a speck, not an iota, not the teeniest bit of supernatural stuff in the universe. Ergo nothing supernatural was involved in the creation of the universe.

          If you claim otherwise then show me some supernatural whatevers.

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

          Uh, no. I’m talking probabilities. If I said that I was certain that science would answer that question, that would be “naturalism of the gaps.”

        • Paul

          You said that’s what “they” say, not what “you” say. Are you now saying that you hold to a naturalist worldview? As I pointed out, naturalism is a philosophical position that presupposes natural processes. It would be impossible for a naturalist to come to any other conclusion.

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

          You said that’s what “they” say, not what “you” say.

          That’s what I say, too.

          No, there is no fallacy here.

        • epeeist

          As I pointed out, naturalism is a philosophical position that presupposes natural processes.

          Which isn’t what science is about. Those doing science (or any empirical discipline) are practising methodological naturalism which can be regarded as saying that natural effects can be investigated using natural methods. It isn’t an ontological commitment to monadic physicalism.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          This is some really ambitious apologetics. “Not accepting my argument from ignorance is itself an argument from ignorance!” It takes some real courage – or lack of self-awareness – to present something so brazenly ridiculous.

          What makes this even worse is that “supernatural” is just a label slapped on certain unexplained phenomena to imply knowledge that doesn’t exist. If a currently supernatural force were ever demonstrated, it would simply be absorbed into our then-expanded understanding of the natural world.

          When presented properly, the question becomes, are scientists willing to concede that some phenomena might have causes wholly unknown to us at the moment? Yes, of course they are.

        • TheNuszAbides

          “Not accepting my argument from ignorance is itself an argument from ignorance!”

          well paraphrased!
          the least imaginative theists seem to have two sides to their ‘trick’ coin: that one, which is various forms of “NO U”; and the irritating habit of appropriating popular styles to spread mush-mind propaganda (“NO, US”).

    • http://musingsfromacorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/ Michael

      They have more than that-an actual mechanism for it.

    • Joe

      One of those answers is backed by observational analysis and carries great explanatory power.

      The other doesn’t.

      • JustAnotherAtheist2

        Oh! I know which one! Pick me! Pick me!

  • Bob Jase

    I understand quantum mechanics better than it understands me.

    • hisxmark

      Your first mistake is to think that you are not quantum mechanics. it is all quantum mechanics. All of us! And some instances of quantum mechanics do understand you better than you understand yourself.

    • Chuck Johnson

      That’s because a physicist is just an atom’s way of looking at itself.

      • Chuck Johnson

        Not mine – – – Bohr’s comment.

  • Tony D’Arcy

    Seeing as the human brain is the most sophisticated and complicated piece of known evolutionary biological development, and that humans are the most sophisticated predators on Earth, it’s hardly surprising that we, humanity, have made massive insights into how nature works. OK I have never had to stalk and kill an antelope, or known which berries, and buried gourds I can safely eat. But the nature of the skills for survival has changed. More or less the same brain as 50,000 years ago, but the nature of our environment, especially socially, has changed. Bring on the science !

  • aikidaves

    Lizards don’t have senses of humor? Does that mean Geico has been misleading us for all these years?

    • Michael Neville

      I hate to break it to you but the Lucky Charms® leprechaun is actually a midget named Fred Moscowitz.

      • Greg G.

        But C3PO is real.

        • TheNuszAbides

          the truthiest of true myths.

  • Jim Jones

    > The Christian has a ready answer: God did it. Our brains are able to understand the universe because we’re made in God’s image, and he wants us to understand.

    And that’s how we understand evolution.

    “If the Bible and my brain are both the work of the same infinite god, whose fault is it that the book and my brain do not agree?”

    — Robert G. Ingersoll

  • Chuck Johnson

    Tide goes in, tide goes out.
    Never a miscommunication.
    You can’t explain that.
    You can’t explain why the tide goes in.
    — Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, 1/4/2011

    And it’s just like the ocean under the moon
    Oh, it’s the same as the emotion that I get from you
    You got the kind of lovin’ that can be so smooth, yeah
    Give me your heart, make it real or else forget about it.

    Santana – Smooth Lyrics

    • Matt Cavanaugh

      The tide is high but I’m holdin’ on
      I’m gonna be your number one, number one.

      • Chuck Johnson

        In the Santana song, “The emotion that I get from you”
        Is attraction.

    • Joe

      Sexual harassment suits come in, compensation goes out.
      You can’t explain that.
      – Former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, 2017

  • Scooter

    Your idea that…“Why did evolution give us a brain that could understand calculus, physics, and the universe?” is, “Why not?”… is a far less acceptable reason than “God did it” is it not? Show me the evidence that the evolutionary idea of time plus chance is the cause of your brain?

    • Michael Neville

      Start with a Scientific American article How Has the Human Brain Evolved>. If you need more information just ask.

      • Scooter

        I need more information on this: How did blind chemistry create mind/ intelligence, meaning, altruism and morality? If everything evolved, and we invented God, as per evolutionary teaching, what purpose or meaning is there to human life?

        • Michael Neville

          How did blind chemistry create mind/ intelligence, meaning, altruism and morality?

          I don’t know, I’m not an evolutionary biologist. You need to ask one of them this question.

          If everything evolved, and we invented God, as per evolutionary teaching, what purpose or meaning is there to human life?

          Don’t tell me you’re going with “evolution robs life of purpose and meaning.” I’m disheartened that an intelligent person would use a ridiculous charge fit only for the likes of Ken Ham and Kent Hovind.

          I find purpose and meaning in my family, my friends, my work, my hobbies and all the little things that make life interesting. If you only find purpose and meaning in an imaginary being then I pity you. Your life must be drab and dreary, you must drag yourself through each day, hoping and praying that you’ll die soon so you can be united with the sole thing that gives your life meaning.

        • jamesparson

          That is an interesting way to summarize religion.

        • Two Americas

          How did blind chemistry create mind/ intelligence, meaning, altruism and morality?

          Mind, intelligence, meaning, altruism and morality? Where are you seeing those things? I certainly don’t see those things from the self-described Christians who are arguing against evolution.

        • Joe

          Or those that fabricated creationism as a science in order to try and get religious messages taught in science classes.

        • Chuck Johnson

          I need more information on this: How did blind chemistry create mind/ intelligence, meaning, altruism and morality? -Scooter

          When organisms are able to self-replicate, then their chemical evolution is not blind.

          The mutation process tends to be blind.
          But selection pressure is not at all blind.

        • Chuck Johnson

          If everything evolved, and we invented God, as per evolutionary teaching, what purpose or meaning is there to human life?-Scooter

          The appropriate meanings to life are the various ways that we can find to survive (ourselves), to help our fellow humans to survive, and to help life on Earth to survive.

        • MR

          What is your purpose/meaning?

        • Greg G.

          If we don’t have meaning and purpose without God, what is Scooter’s God’s purpose and meaning?

        • MR

          If you ask a random person (including Christians) on the street that question, they’re going to say the same things as MN: family, friends, work, etc. Now, we could talk about objective purpose and meaning. What purpose, what meaning could we possibly have/mean to the universe…, let alone God? if one of us were missing, would God or the universe suffer?

        • TheNuszAbides

          i was raised in a vaguely unassuming Protestant tradition, throughout which and well into adulthood i was obsessed with cultivating humility; i’ve had my intensely submissive and passive streaks and various lacks of ambition; i reckon that i’ve had at least brief apprehensions of what could be spun as ‘selflessness’; but i have never quite identified with what seems to be a desperate dependence on the assurance/presumption that EVERYTHING requires Someone [benevolent or otherwise] To Be In Charge.

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

          Being the adult is hard for some people. For some, I fear that it’s an accomplishment to wipe themselves.

        • MR

          While I was still a Christian I began reading Stoicism. Stoic philosophy (and other philosophies) clearly influenced Christianity and the parallels between the two made it acceptable to some degree to my Christian mind. But through Stoicism I also was introduced to this idea that whatever is, is, that things change and that there is no use in lamenting change, that things cease to exist and that there is no use in lamenting that; that we all die and we simply don’t know what will happen after we die but whatever it is, whether an afterlife or we simply cease to exist, it is what it is, and it is all part of the natural order of things.

          Who am I to demand or even desire that I must have an afterlife, damn it, or that every aspect of my life is watched over and directed like some kind of film that I will later review over and over in some afterden, crying at the sad parts, laughing at the funny parts, fast-forwarding through the embarrassing parts and having all the mysteries and unknown plot lines of my life revealed to me? The vast majority of my life is known only by me for me (and largely forgotten by me) and no one really cares or will ever care and that’s. all. right.

          “But life has no meaning value or purpose!” And how does that change anything?

        • Greg G.

          Blind chemistry is not perfect. Some mistakes are so bad, the cell never reproduces. Some are so bad that the cell reproduces but fails later on as a miscarriage. Some cause death after birth. Sometimes a mistake is minor but it puts the recipient at a disadvantage. Natural selection eliminates those. Most mistakes are neutral as most DNA is junk. But sometimes blind chemistry makes a mistake that is beneficial. Natural selection favors the beneficial mutations. Mistakes can make better minds. A chemical mistake that enables altruistic and “moral” actions that benefit the cousins who also have that beneficial “mistake” promotes the reproduction of it.

          You don’t need to pretend there is a god to give your life meaning. That is your job. Enjoy the fraction of a century you get.

        • Herald Newman

          If everything evolved, and we invented God, as per evolutionary teaching, what purpose or meaning is there to human life?

          First of all, evolution doesn’t say that we invented God, although that seems quite likely given that we’ve invented plenty of other gods in the past.

          Second, I don’t know if life has any “purpose” other than to survive, and try to reproduce. Life seems to be very good at these two things.

          I’ll leave you with this:
          Asking “if there is no God, what is the purpose of life?” is like asking “if there is no master, whose slave will I be?” If your purpose in life is to submit as a slave, then your purpose comes from flattering the ego of a person whom you should detest” — Dan Barker

        • Matt Cavanaugh

          Who said there had to be a purpose?

        • Joe

          I need more information on this

          Then why are you here and not looking at the relevant material?

        • lady_black

          The purpose of your life? That’s for YOU to decide.
          On a universal scale, there really isn’t much purpose or meaning. Consider that the overwhelming majority of species that have ever existed have gone extinct. One day, the Earth will shrug us off, too. If we don’t manage to off ourselves in the meantime…

        • Scooter

          Yes, if you as an atheist find yourself cast into a mindless universe with no apparent purpose or hope of deliverance from ultimate extinction, then I suppose the temptation to invest one’s own petty plans and projects with objective significance in order to find some purpose is almost irresistible.

        • Greg G.

          Yes, if you as an atheist find yourself cast into a mindless universe with no apparent purpose or hope of deliverance from ultimate extinction,

          That means we should enjoy the fraction of a century of life while we have it. Pretending that life will somehow be infinitely long seems childish.

        • Matt Cavanaugh

          My plans and projects aren’t petty, thank you very much.

        • Joe

          Yes, if you as an atheist find yourself cast into a mindless universe

          Then there would be at least one mind, by definition.

        • MR

          As opposed to your selfish desire to live forever?

          What is your purpose and meaning?

        • hisxmark

          Scooter: “Yes, if you as an atheist find yourself cast into a mindless universe…”

          But I’m not in a mindless universe, because my mind is in it.

          “… with no apparent purpose …”

          I am not a separate thing, and I have, in fact many purposes (or as I call them, intentions). Just as my brain allows me to be conscious of my self, so I give the universe, the reality, consciousness of itself.

          “… or hope of deliverance from ultimate extinction,…”

          So, consciousness is useless if it is not endless?

          “… then I suppose the temptation to invest one’s own petty plans and projects with objective significance in order to find some purpose is almost irresistible.”

          Why assume my plans, as the consciousness of the universe, are petty? Perhaps it is because you cannot think beyond your “self”?

          Crystal Cabinet
          by Julian Huxley

          The world of things entered your infant mind
          To populate that crystal cabinet.
          Within its walls the strangest partners met,
          And things turned thoughts did propagate their kind.
          For, once within, corporeal fact could find
          A spirit. Fact and you in mutual debt
          Built there your little microcosm – which yet
          Had hugest tasks to its small self assigned.

          Dead men can live there, and converse with stars:
          Equator speaks with pole, and night with day;
          Spirit dissolves the world’s material bars –
          A million isolations burn away.
          The Universe can live and work and plan,
          At last made God within the mind of man.

        • lady_black

          Sorry you are dissatisfied. But that’s all you have. So, make the best of it.

        • Otto

          Umm….atheists don’t typically give their plans and projects objective significance… that is something theists do.

          Why would you project that onto us?

      • Scooter

        And from another magazine….
        Dr Marc Kirschner, chair of the Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School, stated: “In fact, over the last 100 years, almost all of biology has proceeded independent of evolution, except evolutionary biology itself. Molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, have not taken evolution into account at all.” As quoted in the Boston Globe, 23 October 2005

        Evolutionists often use flexible story-telling to ‘explain’ observations contrary to evolutionary theory. NAS(USA) member Dr Philip Skell wrote, “Darwinian explanations for such things are often too supple: Natural selection makes humans self-centered and aggressive—except when it makes them altruistic and peaceable. Or natural selection produces virile men who eagerly spread their seed—except when it prefers men who are faithful protectors and providers. When an explanation is so supple that it can explain any behavior, it is difficult to test it experimentally, much less use it as a catalyst for scientific discovery

        Dr Skell wrote, “It is our knowledge of how these organisms actually operate, not speculations about how they may have arisen millions of years ago, that is essential to doctors, veterinarians, farmers … .” Evolution actually hinders medical discovery.

        Skell, P.S., The Dangers Of Overselling Evolution; Focusing on Darwin and his theory doesn’t further scientific progress, Forbes magazine, 23 Feb 2009;

        • Michael Neville

          Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution is an essay by evolutionary biologist and Eastern Orthodox Christian Theodosius Dobzhansky,

          What do these biochemical or biologic universals mean? They suggest that life arose from inanimate matter only once and that all organisms, no matter now diverse, in other respects, conserve the basic features of the primordial life. (It is also possible that there were several, or even many, origins of life; if so, the progeny of only one of them has survived and inherited the earth.) But what if there was no evolution and every one of the millions of species were created by separate fiat? However offensive the notion may be to religious feeling and to reason, the anti-evolutionists must again accuse the Creator of cheating. They must insist that He deliberately arranged things exactly as if his method of creation was evolution, intentionally to mislead sincere seekers of truth.

        • Matt Cavanaugh

          Skell is a nobody, but is your token creationist scientist (a chemist, btw). If you’re gonna commit an Argument From Authority fallacy, you really ought to find yourself an actual authority.

        • Klapaucius

          “Dr Philip Skell wrote, “Darwinian”

          And that’s where Dr Philip Skell lost any credibility ….

    • Greg G.

      Look at the evidence of the brain sizes of humans from about 1.25 million years ago and how the size gradually increased by 200 cc over the next million years, even as the line diverged into Neandertals and our line a few hundred years earlier. Then the brain size of both Neandertals and our line increased by 250 cc in 200,000 years.

      The larger brains allows more flexible mental abilities for doing things never done before. Perhaps they needed more memory capacity.

      Taking over a million years to do that is the speed that random mutations and natural selection work at. Why would an omnipotence even need a large brain? An intelligent designer should be able to get a much smaller brain to work with less weight that required less fuel and oxygen. The earliest computers required a whole room. Thirty years ago, I had a calculator I could hold in my hand that was many times more powerful than the computers that existed thirty years before that. Now I have a phone that can do many times more things than my old calculator that wouldn’t fit in my pocket.

      The evidence favors that evolution works and God doesn’t do anything.

      • Scooter

        I actually asked about what caused the brain?

        • al kimeea

          Ganesh

        • Michael Neville

          Here’s the Encyclopedia Britannica article on evolution and development of the nervous system

        • Chuck Johnson

          Sensory organs, nerves and muscles caused the brain.

          When an organism senses something, nerves carry a signal to the muscles to help the organism deal with what has been sensed.

          The brain is an enormous collection of nerves which work together to make sophisticated decisions concerning sensory input. Those decisions are then acted on by the muscles.

        • Jason

          Wrong answer, Chuck! Only “God did it” will suffice! 😉

        • Greg G.

          Jellyfish have survived a long time with no brain. Their sensory nerves make them react.

          But some creatures that form a tube would have sensory organs to detect something they can consume. The concentration of nerves in that area could interact. The concentration of nerves increase in size to handle more senses and actions.

          Mutations happen and natural selection preserves and promotes the good ones while eliminating the bad ones. The good ones increase like compound interest. A concentration of interacting nerves is a rudimentary brain that can be optimized by natural selection. Natural selection is very good at optimization for a particular environment.

    • Chuck Johnson

      Show me the evidence that the evolutionary idea of time plus chance is the cause of your brain?-Scooter

      Time and chance would not have created creatures with a brain.
      Time, chance, and selection pressure did create human brains.

      Don’t forget about selection pressure.

      • TheNuszAbides

        Scooter [seems to think he] has zero incentive to remember pertinent details that don’t feed his motivated reasoning.

        • Chuck Johnson

          And Scooter may have gotten his understanding of evolutionary biology from a religionist who prefers the selection-pressure-free version.

          For practical religious reasons.

    • Matt Cavanaugh

      “time plus chance” isn’t the ‘evolutionary idea’ of anything. Get back to us when you actually know what natural selection is.

      • disqus_4oa5swUhvD

        Everyone accepts Natural Selection, EVERYONE, but NS doesn’t explain where the animal that is being selected, by virtue of being best able to survive, came from. NS doesn’t apply until the animal, or improved animal, is already present. NS doesn’t address anything else, just survival of what already exists. And EVERYONE accepts that. On the other hand, unguided, random mutations in the code – (if not in the code, they are not passed on), now that’s a different ‘animal.’

        One day a group of scientists approached God and said, “We think we can make a better cell. Are you up for a challenge?” “Sure,” was God’s response. So they made an appt at some university lab. God showed up first, naturally, and as he scientists filed in, God said, “Uh uh! Bring your own dirt.”

        “You” ask us to accommmodate so many ‘rescue devices’ you have to assume are true, without having to address them. I realize we have one huge rescue device that covers them all, but I think “ours” (Anthony Flew, Francis Collins, Stephen Meyer, Doug Axe, Behe, Tom Bethel…) better explains the “apparent” design, beauty, fine tuning of the universe, and exponential random, unguided mutations that all appear to have gotten it “right” every time. Who has more faith?

        • Matt Cavanaugh

          You do realize that it’s the genes inside the animal that are being selected, right? No, of course you don’t.

        • disqus_4oa5swUhvD

          You’re incorrect, because I do know that some claim that natural selection, random, unguided, purposeless mutations occurs in the genes and the results appear to have been designed. -Dawkins

          You have to arrogant because you’re threatened? Why, if you are correct? Ken Ham (AIG) makes me vomit because of his arrogance. So you, on the other side, act like him because????

          “Selected” implies intelligence and purpose as opposed to randomness. If materialism is all there is, and you assume it is, genetic mutations must be random and unguided, not selected, not nudged or ordered.

          I have more faith? Here’s Berlinski’s take on faith:

          * Has anyone provided a proof of God’s inexistence? Not even close.

          * Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here? Not even close.

          * Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life? Not even close.

          * Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought? Close enough.

          * Has rationalism in moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral? Not close enough.

          * Has secularism in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good? Not even close to being close.

          * Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within the sciences? Close enough.

          * Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational? Not even ballpark.

          * Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt? Dead on.

        • Joe

          Matt is correct in this case. I don’t think he’s deliberately being being arrogant. I may be wrong, but that’s not the point.

          “Selected” implies intelligence and purpose as opposed to randomness.

          It does not.

          If materialism is all there is, and you assume it is, genetic mutations must be random and unguided, not selected, not nudged or ordered.

          Again, you’re simply incorrect.

        • disqus_4oa5swUhvD

          Why not? You act as though this is Bio 101. And it is. eEven evolution.berkeley.edu in their most basic explanation of mutations, using words easily understood, says “Mutations are random. Mutations can be beneficial, neutral, or harmful for the organism, but mutations do not “try” to supply what the organism “needs.” In this respect, mutations are random — whether a particular mutation happens or not is unrelated to how useful that mutation would be. (quotation marks are in the original.)

        • Joe

          The mutations are random, but the SELECTION is not.

          That is what Matt is saying. He never even mentioned mutations in his post:

          You do realize that it’s the genes inside the animal that are being selected, right? No, of course you don’t.

          So why did you bring up mutations? Do you agree with Berkeley that mutation is random? If not, why did you quote them as evidence?

        • Matt Cavanaugh

          … genetic mutations must be random and unguided, not selected, not nudged or ordered.

          Not even good enough to be wrong.

          I said get back to us when you understood what natural selection was. Really, this shouldn’t be hard.

        • Joe

          I realize we have one huge rescue device that covers them all,

          Or multiple devices:

          Anthony Flew, Francis Collins, Stephen Meyer, Doug Axe, Behe, Tom Bethel…

          Lots of different designers out there. Must be design by committee?

          better explains the “apparent” design, beauty, fine tuning of the universe, and exponential random, unguided mutations that all appear to have gotten it “right” every time

          How do you explain random mutation then? What did they get ‘right’, and what did they get ‘wrong’? What do those subjective terms even mean in this context?

          Who has more faith?

          You do.

        • Michael Neville

          The universe isn’t fine tuned for humans, humanity is fine tuned for the universe. Actually humanity is fine tuned for the African savanna of half a million years ago, with a bit of tweaking since then.

          Over 99.99 recurring percent of the universe is hard vacuum at 3K, which is not hospitable for life as we know it. So it appears the universe is not fine tuned for us.

        • jamesparson

          I have never hear it put that way, but I like it.

    • Joe

      Show me the evidence that the evolutionary idea of time plus chance is the cause of your brain?

      Show me one model for the evolution of the brain that is based around “time plus chance.”

      • Scooter

        Now surely you understand that we all speak in short form at times don’t you? I’m sure you wouldn’t be interested in a long dissertation on the theory of evolution.

        • Joe

          There’s “short form”, and there’s “mis-characterization”.

          I’d be interested in using the correct definitions in future.

        • Matt Cavanaugh

          Evolution can be accurately described in a single sentence; natural selection in a second sentence.

          Give us your one-sentence descriptions of the two.

        • Scooter

          Professor D.M.S. Watson one of the leading biologists and science writers of his day back in 1929 wrote a single sentence which demonstrated the atheistic bias behind much evolutionary thinking: “Evolution is a theory universally accepted not because it can be proven by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible.” Watson, “Adaptation,” Nature, 1929

          The immediate criticism will be, “But they didn’t know as much about evolution back then!.”
          So a more up-to-date and quite revealing quote from professor Richard Lewontin, a geneticist, one of the world’s leaders in promoting evolutionary biology:
          “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” “Billions and Billions of Demons,” The new York review, Jan. 9, 1997

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

          I’ve already replied to this out-of-context quote by Lewontin. Here’s what I wrote:

          Aha! Have the scientists finally admitted their biases? Not at all, if we read what comes next (which Bannister omitted):

          . . . we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.

          Lewontin isn’t saying that we must conclude beforehand that the supernatural isn’t possible but rather that using science with a God option is like blowing up a balloon with a hole in it. You can’t get anywhere since everything must have a God caveat. It’s “F = ma, God willing” or “PV = nRT, if it pleases God.” When you make a measurement in a world where God messes with reality (that is, you “allow a Divine Foot in the door”), what part of that measurement is the result of scientific laws and what part was added by some godly hanky panky?

          Read the entire quote, please. If you find the most delicious quote from a Christian source, know that they often make deliberate or inadvertent mistakes like this and check out the original source.

  • http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/ed_babinski/babinski-bio.html EdwardTBabinski

    Complexity is how the cosmos flows. No great mystery. And math is a model of reality, at least the parts we have observed via senses and instruments. With new discoveries we will create additional mathematical models of regular patterns. https://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2015/06/complexity-is-how-cosmos-flows.html

  • Loren Petrich

    I think that the Universe has been much more difficult to understand than what some of us seem to think. It may not seem that way because we have conceptual tools for doing so that previous generations have had to invent — and sometimes invent with great difficulty.

    Consider mathematics. Many of us seem to find it almost impossibly difficult, though some of us find it very easy. I myself find even very advanced math rather easy, but I seem to be VERY exceptional.

    Yet some parts of math have been very difficult to accept. In the Western tradition of math, zero and negative numbers became fully accepted as legitimate numbers only a few centuries ago.

    Likewise, theoretical science more generally has been difficult to get started. It required large-scale societies, something that happened several times in the Holocene, but not before. I’ve seen a speculation that the climate was too erratic in the last Ice Age to permit persistent domestication of plants. It also required writing, something that was apparently independently invented only 2 or 3 times. Abstract science got started in ancient Greece and continued into the Roman Empire, but it was pretty much snuffed out by the strife of the Crisis of the Third Century. It would only get restarted a millennium later, though this time it stuck.

  • petergkinnon

    The comments so far mostly revolve around the “creationist” vs “science” issue.
    Which can be expressed fairly succinctly in this way:

    Biological evolution by natural selection is an observable reality rather than a theory, as are all the contiguous evolutionary processes with which it overlaps.

    At least as far back as the beginning of the stelliferous era and the formation of chemical elements in stars.

    The many and varied “creation” myths dreamed up by primitive people, in contrast, are pure hearsay and have no evidential support whatsoever.

    So all this really boils down to is: Would you rather believe accounts derived from various primitives peoples in antiquity who had very little understanding of the workings of nature? I live in New Zealand where, for instance, the indigenous religion asserts that a deity called Maui pulled that land up out of the sea with a fishing hook. I must admit I really don’t know any way of disproving this :>)

    Or would you rather accept the evidence provided by millions of observations in recent centuries that support the reality of evolutionary processes?

    Observations now enormously enhanced by means of the telescope and microscope and myriad other instruments that extend the input from our senses.

    With such facilities as world travel and the printing press, which have enable such observations to be widely garnered and shared.

    The burden of proof rests with theists, not atheists.

    Be sure to check out my latest book “The Intricacy Generator: Pushing Chemistry and Geometry Uphill to widen understanding of such matters.

    • MR

      Science is hard. I’m going with Maui.

      • Michael Neville

        I saw a movie with Maui in it. He had fantastic tats which showed him pulling islands out of the sea.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79DijItQXMM

        • MR

          Holy shit, he’s much more fun than Yahweh! I’m sold!

    • Chuck Johnson

      Biological evolution by natural selection is an observable reality
      rather than a theory, as are all the contiguous evolutionary processes
      with which it overlaps.-Peter

      Don’t fall into that trap.
      There are definitions of “theory” which make evolution both a theory and an observable reality.

      Creationists like to play with the fact that “theory” has more than one definition. – – – It’s the politics of equivocation and deceit.

      • petergkinnon

        Precisely! This is exactly why you should stick to observable realities rather than allowing creationists to use specious arguments to suck you into into the semantic swamp-lands of “theory”.
        That ALL sciences have certain theoretical aspects is of no relevance.

        • epeeist

          That ALL sciences have certain theoretical aspects is of no relevance.

          Theory is the major part of science, otherwise one is simply stamp collecting. The ability to make predictions and provide explanations comes only from theory.

          This is not to denigrate the practical aspects of science which provides the data to corroborate or falsify theories.

      • lady_black

        When speaking of science, the only meaning of the word “theory” is the scientific one.

    • epeeist

      Biological evolution by natural selection is an observable reality
      rather than a theory, as are all the contiguous evolutionary processes
      with which it overlaps.

      I would go further than Chuck Johnson, biological evolution has been observed both in the wild and in the laboratory. As such it is a fact.

      However the description of the mechanism(s) behind it, which would include natural selection, is a theory. It is a theory with masses of evidential support and has been critically tested but it still remains both tentative and provisional.

      • JustAnotherAtheist2

        Also noteworthy is the fact that all theories remain tentative and provisional. Creationists like to contrast evolution with gravity, but they completely miss the point when doing so. Even granting the distinction between what is observed and the theorized cause, the same gap exists for gravity. No matter how many times you drop your pen, it won’t ever make bent spacetime any more than “just a” theory.

        • Dhammarato

          new research pending

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          No idea what point this response is trying to make.

        • David Cromie

          ???

  • petergkinnon

    The actual subject of the article, however, is not the “science vs deity” issue but the question of comprehensibility of the universe to we snoutless apes.

    Remarks which very cogently address this are

    “Before we congratulate ourselves too much on how much we can understand, keep in mind that we understand only what we’re capable of understanding. There could be enormous reservoirs of scientific fact that we’re inherently unable to perceive, let alone understand, because of our limited brains—like a red-green color distinction to a color blind person or a joke to a lizard.

    And yet human skin does heal after injuries from fire, chemicals, or radiation—how is this? Evolution selected for general-purpose skin that responds well to general injuries like cuts, bites, and scrapes, and it’s able to repair after the new injuries as well.”
    In the same way, it seems to have also selected for a general-purpose brain that could make tools and coordinate hunting parties—and understand calculus and physics.”

    But that is not the full story. Because, in contrast to the universal property of skin repair. frogs do not understand jokes and no other creature has evolved technology!

    Our own most significant adaptations happen to derive from an unusually high level of innervation of the hands and vocal apparatus.

    A feature which is ultimately attributable to that stage in our evolutionary history in which the primary food acquisition and pre-processing functions were transferred from the snout to the hands. And, in general, the obligate use of tools. which ultimately enabled the co-evolution of the extensive import, export and external storage of imagination.

    The feature that we identify as language.

    Originating in the requirements for the hunter gatherer niche and particularly this substitution of the hands for food processing rather than the far more common snout. A trend greatly enhanced by that crucial tool, the control and use of fire.
    This co-evolution of the remarkable expansion of the nervous system laying the ground for the extensive imagination transfer and storage facility that we call language. A complete game-changer!

    It is the sharing of imagination by means of language which has endowed this snout-less ape with behaviors that uniquely include the implementation of a vast array of technologies.

    Furthermore, the language-enabled evolution of technology in the medium of our shared imagination can be seen to be contiguous with the broader evolutionary process (of which biology is but one phase) that can be traced back at least as far as the formation of chemical elements in the first stars.

    As part of the mechanism of our universe that favors this observed evolutionary process there must inevitably be a feature that allows a certain degree of comprehensibility to we humans (and equivalent instances that presumably occur elsewhere) such that the evolution of technology will proceed.

    Check out “The Intricacy Generator: Pushing Chemistry and Geometry Uphill”. for more detail on all these issues.

  • Chuck Johnson

    Question: Why is the Universe Comprehensible?

    Answer: Because the ability to comprehend the universe is a strong survival adaptation.

    • Kevin K

      Except if you’re a Republican.

      • Chuck Johnson

        Graphing human progress will give a chart with both straight lines and circles.

        • David Cromie

          That is the way of science, and will probably be ever so. But for Repugs, the graph would show a straight line descending into a primeval abyss, due to a hatred of science, and an anti-intellectualist mindset. This descent into Bronze Age thinking is being propelled by the current Trumpists, and other assorted retards and religiots.

          Then there are those conspiracy addicts that believe the moon landing was actually filmed in the Nevada desert. Do they also believe that the current Space Programme is a giant hoax.

          Yesterday, I learned that someone had paid >$1M for a bag of moon dust. What does this person hope to do with a, by now, contaminated bag of dust. How does one display it? Or is the plan to put a notice on the front lawn, proclaiming; ‘Buy your Moon Dust here, only $15,000 a gramme’ (I don’t know the total mass of the purchase, so adjust accordingly), hoping thereby to make a killing!

    • petergkinnon

      To PARTIALLY comprehend it, that is.
      “What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean.” Isaac Newton.

      • David Cromie

        Newton would be absolutely bowled over, with bewilderment, if he came back to life today! Can you imagine the conversation he would have with, say, Einstein, among others?

        • Chuck Johnson

          A kid in a candy shop !

      • Chuck Johnson

        The more answers we get, the more questions are suggested.

    • JustAnotherAtheist2

      Forgive the nitpick, but your answer is more about why humans can comprehend (some) of the universe, not why the universe seems intrinsically comprehendable.

      Apologists target both angles, of course, but there is a distinction to be made and my anal retentive self couldn’t help but make it. :)

      • Chuck Johnson

        Forgive the nitpick, but your answer is more about why humans can
        comprehend (some) of the universe, not why the universe seems
        intrinsically comprehendable.-JustAnotherAtheist2

        No, it’s about both.
        “seems intrinsically comprehendable” is a human thought.
        As such, this thought flows from biological evolution.

        No seeming of any kind could exist without biological evolution to provide the minds where seeming takes place.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Wow, and I thought I was being pedantic! “Seem” is inconsequential to my statement, it stands equally well if you substitute “is” instead.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Wow, and I thought I was being pedantic! “Seem” is inconsequential to
          my statement, it stands equally well if you substitute “is” instead.-JustAnotherAtheist2

          So we change it to:
          “. . . why the universe is intrinsically comprehendable.”

          Same answer as before.
          The universe is intrinsically comprehendable because of the kind of chemical reactions which are possible.

          Some of these chemical reactions produce self-replicating molecules. When this happens, biological evolution can begin.
          The present state of human evolution includes our minds which are able to partially understand our universe.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Well this isn’t the same answer as before. Your earlier response was entirely based on the survival advantages of comprehension, which doesn’t address the issue of intelligibility. They are related in the sense that the latter must be present for the former to emerge, but not in the sense you initially implied.

          The more recent comment gets more to the heart of the issue. A universe capable of what you describe must have a baseline level of consistency and, as far as I can tell, it is consistency that intelligibility depends on.

          A theist might ask why a natural universe is consistent, to which I would ask, “why not?” Even a less consistent universe would form patterns given enough time, so the only way intelligibility could be theoretically eliminated is if the universe were completely random…. but how likely is that? And could a universe even form – naturally or otherwise – in a completely random domain? It seems to me that any apologetic that tries to utilize this arena would be self-serving.

          I wasn’t expecting a conversation to spring from my admittedly not picky initial post, but I’m not disappointed that it did. ☺

        • Chuck Johnson

          Thanks for your reply.
          Your answer reminds me that billions of years of unchanging natural laws have been validated by the existence of DNA-based life on Earth.

          DNA replication systems are so chemistry-specific that life on Earth could not have evolved as paleontologists have discovered unless the nature of atoms, molecules, matter and energy weren’t consistent and stable over billions of years.

          This is related to uniformitarianism.
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uniformitarianism

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Yeah, it’s really quite astonishing. I bore my kids to tears sometimes rambling about how majestic the natural world is. :)

          The “chemistry-specific” note makes me think of the information trope. I have some thoughts on that that are probably unoriginal, but I’ve yet to encounter them in rebuttals. I delve more into it if/when Bob does a post on the subject.

          BTW, my earlier post was typed on a phone and had several typos. They’ve now been fixed (with one exception that I glanced past and I’m now hesitant to repair since multiple edits often get my comments tossed into the ether.)

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

          Tell me more about the chemistry point. Is this “DNA is a program, and programs require a Programmer”? I’ve written a response to that here:
          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2017/03/dna-program-programs-demand-programmer-response/

          Or is it more that DNA is marvelously complicated and so demands a Designer?
          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2015/11/argument-from-design-busted-2/

          And if I’ve misunderstood your point, tell me more.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          I’ll check out those links, Bob, and let you know if I have any ideas you haven’t already elucidated.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Neither post touched on my ideas, Bob. It won’t be this weekend, but I’ll type them up when I get the chance.

        • TheNuszAbides

          bump?

        • Chuck Johnson

          A theist might ask why a natural universe is consistent, to which I would respond, “why not?”-JustAnotherAtheist2

          That we should expect consistency is empirically supported by much diverse scientific observation.

          Newton’s First Law of Motion states that a body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it, and a body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force.

          The Null Hypothesis and Uniformitarianism also tell us to expect nature to be uniform and consistent.

          When a lack of consistency is then found, we expect that it is due to specific causes which we can then investigate and learn about.

          Religionists too often take the “divine mystery” approach to understanding our universe.

  • Matt Cavanaugh

    NB: the Flynn Effect is caused by changes in how we think about things, not increases in raw intelligence.

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

      I agree, though this leaves undefined “raw intelligence” vs. “how we think about things.”

      • Matt Cavanaugh

        Raw intelligence, or g, is seen as the prime mover behind all cognitive endeavors.

        • David Cromie

          Is ‘g’ some formulation of the deus ex machina?

  • Brad Feaker

    As physicist Richard noted, “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.”

    Ain’t that the damn truth :)

    Yet people like Deepity Deepak Chopra invoke quantum mechanics all the time to try and explain their woo. Pretty damn funny.

  • Frank Berghaus

    The same counts for God: “Si comprehendis non est deus” (Augustin) 😀

    • lady_black

      Which one?

      • Eliz Matez

        Since Augustine said it and god is written with a capital G,
        I suppose this refers to the Christian god.

        • lady_black

          “God” is not a name. It’s a job description. The Christian god has a name, and it isn’t “God.”

  • Eliz Matez

    And we must not forget that our environment has been changing again for the last couple of centuries: in the information age our minds are dealing with highly complex structures such as computers and cell phones that did not even exist two hundred years ago.
    These are all things that stimulate the higher evolved parts of the brain, the Neo Cortex. We do share the oldest parts of the brain such as the brain stem and the Amygdala with our ape-like ancestors, but the Neo Cortex is unique to the homo sapiens.

    That’s why ancient stories about god and gods that created everything and interfere in human affairs, superstition and ‘miracles’ become less and less attractive, because they mainly stimulate the brain on a “lower level”

  • onlein

    No easy answers. Philosopher/cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett, for example, maintains that our consciousness is an illusion, a happy and fortuitous illusion . So is science also part of our illusion? Dennett, an atheist, certainly thinks that religion is part of our illusion.

    • Joe

      Is science part of our consciousness? No.

      • onlein

        That settles that.

        • Joe

          It was never up for debate.

      • David Cromie

        When ‘doing’ science, the scientist is conscious of that fact, I would hope.

        • Joe

          So would I. I’m not sure how that relates to my post though?

    • JustAnotherAtheist2

      You seem to be accusing Dennett of solipsism, which makes me think you are misunderstanding his point.

      • onlein

        Just saying that if consciousness is an illusion, everything we come up with, including religion, science, philosophy and the arts, would seem part of that illusion.
        I may well be misunderstanding Dennett’s point; he can take many convoluted paragraphs and pages to get to a point.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Can you provide a link to where he elucidates his thoughts on consciousness?

        • onlein

          The latest I read was in the March 9 New York Review of Books: Thomas Nagel reviewing Dennett’s recent book, “From Bacteria to Bach and Back.” And in the June 8 NYRB letters section, “How to Imagine Consciousness,” a letter from Roy Black, with a reply from Thomas Nagel.

        • epeeist

          The latest I read was in the March 9 New York Review of Books: Thomas Nagel reviewing Dennett’s recent book

          So this was actually what Nagel was saying about Dennett’s position rather than what Dennett was actually saying.

          My understanding is that he is an eliminative materialist and rejects the idea of a single place where conscious experience occurs in favour of it occurring at multiple places within the brain.

  • King Dave

    If god created man in his own image, then in what image did he create cows?

  • Charles O. Slavens

    It annoys me when learned people speak of “The Universe”. It is a
    symptom of our inflated hubris to think that we, at this primitive
    stage in our evolution, can state that what we perceive around us
    is “The Universe”.

    With nothing more than the principle of Occam’s Razor to support
    my claim, it is my opinion that the universe is infinite. And that given
    our present primitive state we have a limited ability to differentiate
    between what is real and what is perceived. The Big Bang is just a
    convenient interpretation of so-called “facts” that matches our
    flawed perception of what is real.

    When scientists currently refer to the “big bang”, and the beginning
    of the existence of “everything” they should explain that they are
    talking about just the limited universe that we see around us.

    It is most likely that the TOTAL universe has always existed and will
    continue to exist for an infinity of time. And that there are an
    unending number of “universes”, all in their turn experiencing their
    own “big bang” moment.

    Our solar system, our Milky Way, our galaxy, our “universe” all exist
    in an infinite soup of “universes”, just a mote, in time without end.

    We are but a primitive species, trying our simple best to understand
    the little bubble that surrounds us. So, let’s stop talking about “the
    universe” and substitute “our local universe”.

    How about it?

    Charles O. Slavens

    • Greg G.

      I see your point but I am OK with using “the solar system” to mean “our solar system”, “the galaxy” to mean “our galaxy”, and “the universe” to mean “our universe”. I use “multiverse” to refer to all universes that I think probably exist. “Cosmos” can apply to either our universe or the multiverse.

      The prefix of “universe” does indicate a singular entity but it was coined to refer to our galaxy and expanded to its present meaning when other galaxies were shown to exist. When other universes are empirically shown to exist, then I expect the meaning of “universe” will shift again.

      PS: I propose that “Cosmos” be used to designate what we now call the universe as a name analogous to “The Milky Way” to designate our galaxy.

      • JustAnotherAtheist2

        I think you are reversing what scientists generally mean by “cosmos”. “Universe” means our universe and “cosmos” means everything, whether we currently can observe/know it at this point. IMO, it would be best to maintain that usage.

    • Max Doubt

      “It annoys me when learned people speak of “The Universe”. It is a symptom of our inflated hubris to think that we, at this primitive stage in our evolution, can state that what we perceive around us is “The Universe”.”

      What is this “primitive stage in our evolution”? Compared to what? More primitive than tomorrow? Sure. More advanced than an hour ago? Sure. It’s not a useful distinction.

      “With nothing more than the principle of Occam’s Razor to support my claim, it is my opinion that the universe is infinite.”

      So you claim the universe is infinite because it feels right.

      “And that given our present primitive state…”

      There you go with “our present primitive state”. There is no more advanced state as a basis for comparison. If you mean we haven’t reached the future yet, so what? We never will. Yeah, today is today not tomorrow. So what?

      “… we have a limited ability to differentiate between what is real and what is perceived.”

      Nonsense. Sure, you may be a brain in a vat, a pawn in a giant matrix, an atom on the ass of a giant god-like being who is also an atom on the ass of a yet bigger thing. But seriously, you have no grounds for believing – other than pulling a wild guess out of your ass – that there are any such limits on our ability to perceive.

      “The Big Bang is just a convenient interpretation of so-called “facts” that matches our flawed perception of what is real.”

      If we have a flawed perception of what is real, you’re unable to reasonably suggest our perception is flawed. Or have you been endowed with some special secret knowledge that the rest of us aren’t privy to?

      “When scientists currently refer to the “big bang”, and the beginning of the existence of “everything” they should explain that they are talking about just the limited universe that we see around us.”

      They do. If you missed the explanations maybe you should go take some junior high science classes to bring you up to speed before expressing those sorts of uninformed opinions.

      “It is most likely that the TOTAL universe has always existed and will continue to exist for an infinity of time.”

      Most likely based on what? Based on that guess you’ve pulled out of your ass? You don’t have the slightest idea what you’re talking about, do you?

      “And that there are an unending number of “universes”, all in their turn experiencing their own “big bang” moment. […] Our solar system, our Milky Way, our galaxy, our “universe” all exist in an infinite soup of “universes”, just a mote, in time without end.”

      Put down the bong. Get outside and get some fresh air. You’re babbling nonsense.

      “We are but a primitive species,…”

      We are as advanced as we have ever been. There is nothing more advanced. There is no species more advanced than an amoeba. There is no species more advanced than an oak tree. There is no species more advanced than humans… today… as we are right now.

      “… trying our simple best to understand the little bubble that surrounds us. So, let’s stop talking about “the universe” and substitute “our local universe”. […] How about it?”

      How about you add a layer of qualifiers to everything you talk about if you choose. The universe, as we know it, is the universe until we are aware of other universes.

    • JustAnotherAtheist2

      As far as I can tell, scientists are cognizant of and careful to include every qualifier you seek to add. Color me confused as to what you hope to see that isn’t already being done.

  • Dhammarato

    it seems that the author has not had a high school course in calculus let alone graduate level math or physics classes. Christians work hard to put mystery and magic back into every thing we scientist figure out using experimental methods. surely primitive man cut and shared an apple together, that’s calculus, “but is the apple cut in to exactly even peaces? that requires a just barely better version of calculus”. the whole process from primitive man to now is just finding better ways to measure how the apple is cut. Please Bob go back to school and learn before you blog. This post uses the word ‘calculus’ and shows you have no clue as to what it is. To you its just magic.

    • Greg G.

      That would be funny if you put a smiley at the end of it but I am not sure how serious you are.

      “Calculus” has many definitions but none are about cutting apples into “exactly even peaces”. Primitive man used sharp rocks which are not good for cutting apples nor for precision cutting. Sharing an apple would pretty much be taking turns taking bites of the apple.

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

      Where I come from must not be as cerebral as where you come from. We use “calculus” to refer to “the Calculus,” also known as differential and/or integral calculus.

    • TheNuszAbides

      Christians work hard to put mystery and magic back into every thing we scientist figure out

      1) All the other religions are just lazy about that sort of project?
      2) Did you skip the part where practically every scientific discovery, raises further questions and avenues of inquiry? Nobody has to work hard to “put mystery back into” anything – unless they’re nostalgic for the world being a more ignorant place, and/or eager to be puffed-up gatekeepers.