An Exercise in Perspective

If you’re not familiar with the HubbleSite, you should be. The official website of the Hubble Space Telescope is rich with scientific background, news releases and announcements of new discoveries, and of course, jaw-dropping imagery of the cosmos, taken by one of humanity’s most justifiably famous scientific instruments.

One of Hubble’s newest images has left me feeling inspired, and I’d like to say a few words about it. But first, the picture itself:

This stunningly gorgeous image is a view of the spiral galaxy M81, one of the so-called “grand design” spiral galaxies due to its intricate and sharply delineated structure. In Hubble’s view, the spiral arms of the galaxy are clearly visible, a vast whirlpool of stars, nebulae and interstellar dust revolving around the galactic core. M81 is about 12 million light-years from Earth, in the direction of the constellation Ursa Major, and is one of the brightest galaxies that can be seen from our planet (although it is just slightly too faint to view with the unaided eye, though easily seen with a telescope). M81 has lent its name to the cluster of galaxies in which it can be found, the M81 Cluster, sister to the Local Group of galaxies that contains our own Milky Way. Both the M81 Cluster and the Local Group, in turn, are part of the larger Virgo Supercluster, a group of galaxies spanning 150 million light-years.

M81 is similar in many ways to our own Milky Way. The galaxy’s central disk contains relatively older, cooler reddish stars, while the spiral arms are home to hot, young blue stars, created by the rotation that sends waves of gas and dust sweeping across the galaxy like ripples in a pond, triggering bursts of star formation. At the center of M81, unseen, lurks a monster: a black hole with the mass of 70 million suns, sending out jets of radiation as raw starstuff swirling into its maw is churned and heated by the acceleration. Though the black hole itself swallows light and thus is invisible, in ultraviolet imagery we can see the white-hot accretion disk surrounding it, the last cry of matter falling into the abyss and out of our space-time continuum. (The Milky Way, too, has a central black hole, though ours has consumed all the gas and dust in its vicinity and has therefore become quiescent.)

Look again at that striking Hubble image. As beautiful as this picture is, I don’t mind admitting that I feel a tremor of fear when I view it, especially at the larger resolutions. I feel this way because I know what that image represents: something so breathtakingly vast – something cosmic, in the truest sense of the word – that it beggars the imagination and overwhelms the ability of the mind to truly conceptualize it. Before the intricacy and scale of even a single galaxy, all of humanity and in truth the Earth itself is reduced to infinitesimal size, infinite insignificance. Compared to M81 or the Milky Way as a whole, we are not even a glimmer, not even a speck of dust. The cosmic forces that operate on the very largest of scales utterly determine our fate, beyond the ability of any person to resist or escape, and yet they are utterly incognizant of us. We could be brushed out of existence by them tomorrow, and in the grand scheme of things, the universe would never know that we had even existed. That, I think, is awe in the truest sense of the word: to stand before that which is so much greater than the self, and know yourself to be humbled by comparison.

Now, I’d like to propose an exercise in perspective. We inhabitants of Earth are embedded within the Milky Way, and cannot see it from outside. But if we could travel the staggering distance required to view our galaxy from the outside, from intergalactic space, it would probably look very much as M81 does.

Imagine, therefore, that this picture is of the Milky Way. In that case, our own sun, our solar system, our tiny and humble Earth would be located on the outer fringes, in one of the galaxy’s spiral arms. On an image of the scale of this one, of course, they would be utterly invisible. This picture contains billions and billions of suns, and from this distance they are not distinguishable as individuals. Their light blends together into a hazy, glowing cloud, occasionally swirled through with dark lanes of dust. On the scale of this image, our mighty Sun would dwindle to a dust speck, just one of the thousands of stars whose light contributes to each pixel on your screen. The Earth itself, a tiny pale blue dot next to the Sun, would be as a dust speck to a dust speck. And humanity and all our mighty works, a thin, fragile skim of life on the surface of our world, would be even less altogether.

Consider the cosmos from this perspective, and then ask yourself: Do you believe that all of this was made just for us?

On our world today, there are still representatives of ancient religions who hold that the entire vast universe was created solely for man and placed under our governance – that the natural laws that apply on every scale across the cosmos and govern the origin and future evolution of billions of galaxies and trillions of stars were fine-tuned for humanity’s benefit – that our tiny planet is the only place God cares about, the only place he is interested in – and that on our judgment day, all the stars and all the galaxies will be rolled together as a scroll and will cease to exist.

The presumption, the sheer arrogance of this belief boggles the mind. It would make as much sense for a single atom within your body, if atoms were conscious, to declare its dominion over you and assert that you exist only as a vessel for the drama of its individual salvation. Some other believers, though they do not go so far as this, still assert that the laws of nature single out humans as special, treating us as different from everything else that exists.

We are such a small, such an infinitesimal part of the cosmos as to utterly destroy any ridiculous claims that it was all crafted for our benefit. Next to even one galaxy, we are less than nothing. And M81 is not all there is, but rather only one galaxy among billions, one tiny part of a tableau so grand that even magnificent spirals like this one shrink to insignificance in comparison. When we peer deeply into space, we see a fractal-like scene, with even the tiniest possible patch of the night sky turning out to contain thousands of galaxies. The hierarchy of scale runs beyond anything we can visualize or comprehend. How could anyone believe that it was all put here for our sake?

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://stupac2.blogspot.com Stuart Coleman

    I hope you include something like this in the book. Communicating the awe that the atheist feels toward nature is one of the more important parts of our message.

  • http://stupac2.blogspot.com Stuart Coleman

    I hope you include something like this in the book. Communicating the awe that the atheist feels toward nature is one of the more important parts of our message.

  • http://spaninquis.wordpress.com/ John P

    You use the word “arrogance’ to describe the religious belief that it was all created for us. Given the sheer size, the sheer magnitude of what we are talking about, I’d have to say that “arrogance” is an inadequate word. I would go step further and say that the English language, my language, has not come up for a word , yet, to describe this.

    It should.

  • http://spaninquis.wordpress.com/ John P

    I would go step further and say that the English language, my language, has not come up for a word , yet, to describe this.

    And of course, once I’ve mastered the English language, I’ll be able to write intelligible sentences. I’ll try again… :)

    I would go one step further and say that the English language, my language, has not come up for with a word , yet, to describe this.

  • TheMightyThor

    John P: Well said. I’ve discovered in my encounters with christians
    that many of them have a dysfunctional irony meter–they claim to be
    among the most humble of humans, yet, they don’t get that the idea of a
    god great enough to create a universe on the scale of the one which we
    inhabit would not only be concerned about us, (getting a job, passing
    a test, finding me a christian husband, etc.), they don’t get that
    that idea is egotistical beyond measure or words!

    TheMightyThor

  • CalUWxBill

    If it was created all for us. I’d be rather horrified. Despite the majesty of it all, to not create others to share and bask in the glory of it according to all it’s depth and mystery would be sad.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    I couldn’t agree more, John P: we need a new word for this sort of behavior. You’re right that “arrogance” doesn’t do it justice – it just doesn’t capture the sense of towering cosmic hubris required to assert that all the distant galaxies were made only as a backdrop for one’s individual life. Anyone care to suggest one?

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  • http://badnewsbible.blogspot.com XanderG

    Totally true TheMightyThor, it is something they never seem to pick up on. The idea that this, absolutely gigantic, ancient universe, was created solely for the benefit of mankind, which has only had civilisation for a few thousand years, is absolute madness. David W over at Atheist Self, had a good post about this, including a link to this page, which I absolutely love. It shows the size of the earth in relation to other celestial bodies, starting with the rocky planets like pluto, reaching up to the supergiant suns like Antares. Truly we are tiny.

    And though I’ve said this now on two other blogs, the words of Carl Sagan always retain their power:

    “I look at that dot and I think that’s here, that’s home, that’s us. On that dot everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human-being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joy and suffering thousands of confident and mutually exclusive religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love every mother and father, every hopeful child, every inventor and explorer, every revered teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena.”

    The whole speech can be found here.

  • http://badnewsbible.blogspot.com XanderG

    For a word suggestion, the already existant supercilious seems appropriate. Or we could have a portmanteau of egotistic and supercilious and get egocilious. Just my humble suggestions.

  • http://everydayatheism.wordpress.com Everyday Atheist

    I can remember a time when I would have found this outlook to be bleak in comparison to my Christian beliefs. Today it was exactly what I needed to hear. I don’t take as much time as I should contemplating the vastness of the universe, and putting things into perspective. Excellent post.

  • http://dominicself.co.uk Dominic Self

    Looking at the photograph of many galaxies together, it’d be deeply sad to think that we’re the only planet with life in the huge vastness of it all. I hope we’re not :-)

  • http://spaninquis.wordpress.com/ John P

    Looking at the photograph of many galaxies together, it’d be deeply sad to think that we’re the only planet with life in the huge vastness of it all. I hope we’re not :-)

    I’ve come to the conclusion that even if we aren’t, absent a radical change in what we know of physics, we’ll never know if there is life elsewhere. Or at least, we’ll never connect with it. It’s too far away, even if it’s in our own galaxy. That fact alone hints at the size of the universe.

  • TheMightyThor

    Thanks, Xander G, for fleshing out my point better than I could have done.

    To Everyday Atheist: I also ran into a ton of christians who felt as you did upon viewing the vastness of the universe i.e., small, incredibly insignificant, and therefore bleak outlook. I never shared that view because I felt that in a universe this huge, God had to have created others if he had indeed created us. But now, the fact that this life is all there is gives me not a sense of gloom, but on the contrary, it fills me with even greater awe and appreciation for the fact that creatures such as we exist to experience life and sentience!

  • Jim Baerg

    I have a T-shirt, which I bought at a science fiction convention. It has picture of a spiral galaxy on it & an arrow pointing to one of the white dots, & a label ‘YOU ARE HERE’.

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    John, if you by that you mean intelligent life, then I doubt that we will ever encounter such beings if they live so many light years away.

    But in our own solar system, there is at least the possibility that life existed or might continue to exist, if only in microbial form, on Mars, and Jupiter’s moon Europa. Europa is especially interesting because it is believed that liquid water exists beneath Europa’s icy exterior. With the discovery of life existing near thermal vents at the bottom of our oceans, it is plausible that if there are thermal vents warming the water on Europa that life forms might exist there as well.

    Since the universe is so vast as to be essentially infinite, what is the point of having created it if Jesus is supposed to come back again in the next 50 years and we will experience the “End Times”? God could have just made the Earth, the moon, and the sun and kept humanity in a permanent Bronze Age existence if all it really cares about is having us worship it and obey a bunch of laws.

    If humanity can survive the 21st century, I firmly believe that our descendants will be colonizing space in the 22nd century and that it will be the death knell for religious fundamentalism.

  • Adviser Moppet

    This past Lent, I pulled a fast one on my mother. It was Friday and during Lent you can’t eat any hoofed animal on friday. We had ordered Chinese food and my mother had wonton soup, the soup is traditionally served with pork wontons but my mom didn’t know that at the time, so I told her. The reaction was an “oh well” and she ate the soup anyway. Later on I had thought about how if a god really existed and created all the cosmos and galaxies, why would that god give half a rats ass what one of his followers ate on a friday? The more I look at religion, the more I’m convinced that it’s nothing but the ridiculious petty concerns of primitive men.

  • James Bradbury

    I’ll have to have a proper look at that Hubble site later, thanks for pointing it out.

    Here’s Monty Python’s take on the scale of the Universe.
    http://www.gecdsb.on.ca/d&g/astro/music/Galaxy_Song.html

  • Michael

    Adviser Moppet,

    I hold similar views. Things like not mixing fabrics, not eating shrimp, cheese with meat seem so insignificant when you consider the vastness of the solar system let alone the galaxy or the universe. while I am not an atheist, I lean so far to the left in my beliefs that I am not sure what I am anymore.

  • Polly

    it just doesn’t capture the sense of towering cosmic hubris required to assert that all the distant galaxies were made only as a backdrop for one’s individual life. Anyone care to suggest one?

    “Pananthrohegemomania” – ’nuff said. :)

  • Polly

    it just doesn’t capture the sense of towering cosmic hubris required to assert that all the distant galaxies were made only as a backdrop for one’s individual life. Anyone care to suggest one?

    “Pananthrohegemomania” – ’nuff said. :)

  • http://ellis14.wordpress.com evanescent

    Great post. Just opening one’s eyes and allowing a bit of common sense to seep in just destroys the strong anthropic principle. On a smaller scale you see the arrogance and self-centredness of it all when theists claim the earth was specially designed for man, yet we can’t live on over 85% of its surface! And even the parts we can live on require constant maintenance and technology to give us a high standard of living. How blinkered can you be?! And the size of the galaxies and universe just leaves me lost for words. Like an atom is to the earth, so the earth is to the universe, and then some. It’s awe-inspiring, it’s staggering, it’s beautiful. But made for us? Give me a break.

  • http://ellis14.wordpress.com evanescent

    Great post. Just opening one’s eyes and allowing a bit of common sense to seep in just destroys the strong anthropic principle. On a smaller scale you see the arrogance and self-centredness of it all when theists claim the earth was specially designed for man, yet we can’t live on over 85% of its surface! And even the parts we can live on require constant maintenance and technology to give us a high standard of living. How blinkered can you be?! And the size of the galaxies and universe just leaves me lost for words. Like an atom is to the earth, so the earth is to the universe, and then some. It’s awe-inspiring, it’s staggering, it’s beautiful. But made for us? Give me a break.

  • Entomologista

    I’ve never understood why this world isn’t enough for people that they have to go making shit up. The universe is amazing. That’s why I’m a scientist.

  • Jonathan R

    Well written, Thank you.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    I like pananthrohegemomania. :) I’ve got to remember that one.

  • http://spaninquis.wordpress.com/ John P

    I like it too, though someone needs to break it down into its component parts and explain it so that I…err…I mean…everyone else can understand it. Yea, for all your readers. That’s it. :)

    Let’s see.

    Pan: All
    Anthro: relating to humans
    Hegemo: relating to dominance or power
    Mania: An exaggerated desire or enthusiasm for

    So, in short, An all encompassing exaggerated desire or enthusiasm for human dominance or power. Good job Polly

    Beats out arrogance in my book. :)

  • http://spaninquis.wordpress.com/ John P

    Oh. And this explanation was brought to you by the letters “P”, “A”, “H” and “M”.

  • http://dominicself.co.uk Dominic Self

    I’ve come to the conclusion that even if we aren’t, absent a radical change in what we know of physics, we’ll never know if there is life elsewhere. Or at least, we’ll never connect with it.

    Oh I agree – especially considering the tiny time-frames in which life is likely to exist in, as well as the vast distances. I wouldn’t rule it out altogether though.

  • http://dominicself.co.uk Dominic Self

    I’ve come to the conclusion that even if we aren’t, absent a radical change in what we know of physics, we’ll never know if there is life elsewhere. Or at least, we’ll never connect with it.

    Oh I agree – especially considering the tiny time-frames in which life is likely to exist in, as well as the vast distances. I wouldn’t rule it out altogether though.

  • http://badnewsbible.blogspot.com XanderG

    Yeah, I like pananthrohegemomania too, but there’s not a chance in hell of me remembering it. Only problem is if you use it, you’re gonna have to spend a while explaining it.

  • http://badnewsbible.blogspot.com XanderG

    Yeah, I like pananthrohegemomania too, but there’s not a chance in hell of me remembering it. Only problem is if you use it, you’re gonna have to spend a while explaining it.

  • Marco

    I´m a Christian.

    My friend, You are so Right!! Really, I had never heard a such deeply description of the Cosmos. But that´s exactly God´s promise, HE LOVES YOU!!.

    If creation is so vast and magnificent, imagine the magnificense of it´s creator! My friend, DO YOU REALLY THINK that all this made itself?

    What´s harder to believe, that the Mona Lisa painted itself, or that an artistic genious painted it?

    What´s harder to believe, that a loving Father like God made this entire perfection for us and our delightment BECAUSE HE IS SO GRAND, SO INCREDIBLY POWERFUL, SO MIGHTY AND SO SUPER, MEGA, MASTER, ULTRA, HYPER OMNIPOTENT THAT HE COULD HAVE CREATED A QUINTILLION OF MAGNIFICENT UNIVERSES IN BILLIONS OF DIFFERENT DIMENSIONS EACH BEING A TRILLION TIMES MORE BRILLIANT THAN OUR UNIVERSE (TRY TO IMAGINE THIS GUYS GLORY)JUS BECAUSE HE CAN, BECAUSE HE IS PLEASED TO DO IT FOR US, or that a Self Creating Big Bang brought everything into existence? COME ON!!!!! EVEN THE QUESTION IS FOOLISH!! HOW COULD “NOTHING” HAVE YIELDED “EVERYTHING”??!!

    “Well, if you give “nothing” enough Time”, that´s the usual response, but think about it, it takes much faith to believe “Nothing” will eventually create “everything”, even if some consider that faith to be missguided. Besides, Christopher Hawkin, in one of his public lectures, says that matter and time begin to exist at the same exact moment. How can you measure time before everything exists? So at the moment matter began to exist, there was time to measure how long it took it to develop, etc. Which invalidates the Big Bang theory that states time existed long before matter.

    Could it be that atheists don´t want to acknowledge the existence of a superior being that interacts with its creatures because they refuse tu surrender their will to that of a supreme Lord?

    Do you reject the idea of God having authority over you because tyou fear if you believe in him, you´d have to stop doing certain things you like to do?

    Thanks.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    My friend, DO YOU REALLY THINK that all this made itself?

    Yes, I do, and all the capital letters in the world won’t convince me otherwise. If you want to persuade me, you need to present evidence. That is what scientists have done, showing in precise, quantifiable detail how the facts we see in the cosmos around us match what we would expect if the universe began with a Big Bang. No theist has yet presented any evidence of comparable quality for the existence of their god.

    As far as your self-congratulatory and arrogant analysis of atheists’ motives, I might as well say that people like you become Christians because it gives them a feeling of smug superiority above others and a perceived license to boss others around. Has it occurred to you that if you want to make converts of atheists, it might be best to not start by insulting us and claiming to know our own minds better than we do?

  • Alex Weaver

    I´m a Christian.

    I think a few Christians I know would take issue with that, based on the following.

    My friend, You are so Right!! Really, I had never heard a such deeply description of the Cosmos. But that´s exactly God´s promise, HE LOVES YOU!!.

    “I’M SIGNIFICANT!!!!!!! …screamed the dust speck.” -Calvin and Hobbes

    If creation is so vast and magnificent, imagine the magnificense of it´s creator! My friend, DO YOU REALLY THINK that all this made itself?

    What´s harder to believe, that the Mona Lisa painted itself, or that an artistic genious painted it?

    What´s harder to believe, that a loving Father like God made this entire perfection for us and our delightment BECAUSE HE IS SO GRAND, SO INCREDIBLY POWERFUL, SO MIGHTY AND SO SUPER, MEGA, MASTER, ULTRA, HYPER OMNIPOTENT THAT HE COULD HAVE CREATED A QUINTILLION OF MAGNIFICENT UNIVERSES IN BILLIONS OF DIFFERENT DIMENSIONS EACH BEING A TRILLION TIMES MORE BRILLIANT THAN OUR UNIVERSE (TRY TO IMAGINE THIS GUYS GLORY)JUS BECAUSE HE CAN, BECAUSE HE IS PLEASED TO DO IT FOR US, or that a Self Creating Big Bang brought everything into existence? COME ON!!!!! EVEN THE QUESTION IS FOOLISH!! HOW COULD “NOTHING” HAVE YIELDED “EVERYTHING”??!!

    What’s harder to believe has no relevance. Do you really think the Universe is obliged to work in a way that makes sense intuitively, without training or study, to your punier-than-most mind?!

    If something that complex must have a creator, then whatever created it must be more complex still. So what created the creator? Oh, the creator doesn’t need a creator of its own? Then why does the universe?

    Also, your argument would be more persuasive if you weren’t apparently getting your ideas of the present state of physics from saturday morning cartoons.

    “Well, if you give “nothing” enough Time”, that´s the usual response, but think about it, it takes much faith to believe “Nothing” will eventually create “everything”, even if some consider that faith to be missguided. Besides, Christopher Hawkin, in one of his public lectures, says that matter and time begin to exist at the same exact moment. How can you measure time before everything exists? So at the moment matter began to exist, there was time to measure how long it took it to develop, etc. Which invalidates the Big Bang theory that states time existed long before matter.

    The Big Bang theory doesn’t state that, and you obviously have no idea what you’re talking about. See previous comment about your argument being more persuasive if you weren’t clearly grossly ignorant of science.

    Could it be that atheists don´t want to acknowledge the existence of a superior being that interacts with its creatures because they refuse tu surrender their will to that of a supreme Lord?

    Do you reject the idea of God having authority over you because tyou fear if you believe in him, you´d have to stop doing certain things you like to do?

    No. As we have repeatedly explained. As common sense should tell you.

  • Alex Weaver

    I´m a Christian.

    I think a few Christians I know would take issue with that, based on the following.

    My friend, You are so Right!! Really, I had never heard a such deeply description of the Cosmos. But that´s exactly God´s promise, HE LOVES YOU!!.

    “I’M SIGNIFICANT!!!!!!! …screamed the dust speck.” -Calvin and Hobbes

    If creation is so vast and magnificent, imagine the magnificense of it´s creator! My friend, DO YOU REALLY THINK that all this made itself?

    What´s harder to believe, that the Mona Lisa painted itself, or that an artistic genious painted it?

    What´s harder to believe, that a loving Father like God made this entire perfection for us and our delightment BECAUSE HE IS SO GRAND, SO INCREDIBLY POWERFUL, SO MIGHTY AND SO SUPER, MEGA, MASTER, ULTRA, HYPER OMNIPOTENT THAT HE COULD HAVE CREATED A QUINTILLION OF MAGNIFICENT UNIVERSES IN BILLIONS OF DIFFERENT DIMENSIONS EACH BEING A TRILLION TIMES MORE BRILLIANT THAN OUR UNIVERSE (TRY TO IMAGINE THIS GUYS GLORY)JUS BECAUSE HE CAN, BECAUSE HE IS PLEASED TO DO IT FOR US, or that a Self Creating Big Bang brought everything into existence? COME ON!!!!! EVEN THE QUESTION IS FOOLISH!! HOW COULD “NOTHING” HAVE YIELDED “EVERYTHING”??!!

    What’s harder to believe has no relevance. Do you really think the Universe is obliged to work in a way that makes sense intuitively, without training or study, to your punier-than-most mind?!

    If something that complex must have a creator, then whatever created it must be more complex still. So what created the creator? Oh, the creator doesn’t need a creator of its own? Then why does the universe?

    Also, your argument would be more persuasive if you weren’t apparently getting your ideas of the present state of physics from saturday morning cartoons.

    “Well, if you give “nothing” enough Time”, that´s the usual response, but think about it, it takes much faith to believe “Nothing” will eventually create “everything”, even if some consider that faith to be missguided. Besides, Christopher Hawkin, in one of his public lectures, says that matter and time begin to exist at the same exact moment. How can you measure time before everything exists? So at the moment matter began to exist, there was time to measure how long it took it to develop, etc. Which invalidates the Big Bang theory that states time existed long before matter.

    The Big Bang theory doesn’t state that, and you obviously have no idea what you’re talking about. See previous comment about your argument being more persuasive if you weren’t clearly grossly ignorant of science.

    Could it be that atheists don´t want to acknowledge the existence of a superior being that interacts with its creatures because they refuse tu surrender their will to that of a supreme Lord?

    Do you reject the idea of God having authority over you because tyou fear if you believe in him, you´d have to stop doing certain things you like to do?

    No. As we have repeatedly explained. As common sense should tell you.

  • scott

    This is a fun discussion board to read. We are the only planet in our galaxy that can observe the universe. This mathematical calculation, not to even mention the mere chance of life is impossible. Sorry guys.. Sir Thomas Frick wins the debate. The brightest minds on our planet>> futile in knowledge(as we can all observe from the statements above, stand at a 50/50 belief in creation/non-creation view, in fact more and more leaning towards a creator as more knowledge is gained. Then you just simple break it down and look at the facts of this broken world we live in-that’s the easy part. Way do men do evil things? Why do men to good things? What’s the gut wrenching feeling you have when you lie, cheat, steal, or do something against someone else? Why is there so much order–even in disorder? Pulling back the heavens, looking into mirror, and dealing with the laws of absolutes literally shake people in there boots. There is something out there.. and its bigger than we are..that is a fact. The question you should be asking yourself.. is what–and it’s not vapor.

  • scott

    This is a fun discussion board to read. We are the only planet in our galaxy that can observe the universe. This mathematical calculation, not to even mention the mere chance of life is impossible. Sorry guys.. Sir Thomas Frick wins the debate. The brightest minds on our planet>> futile in knowledge(as we can all observe from the statements above, stand at a 50/50 belief in creation/non-creation view, in fact more and more leaning towards a creator as more knowledge is gained. Then you just simple break it down and look at the facts of this broken world we live in-that’s the easy part. Way do men do evil things? Why do men to good things? What’s the gut wrenching feeling you have when you lie, cheat, steal, or do something against someone else? Why is there so much order–even in disorder? Pulling back the heavens, looking into mirror, and dealing with the laws of absolutes literally shake people in there boots. There is something out there.. and its bigger than we are..that is a fact. The question you should be asking yourself.. is what–and it’s not vapor.

  • OMGF

    We are the only planet in our galaxy that can observe the universe.

    How do you know that?

    This mathematical calculation, not to even mention the mere chance of life is impossible.

    What mathematical calculation? You didn’t present one. And, if life is impossible, then how are we here? Perhaps you meant life is impossible without god? Well, I’d like to see you prove that. Please, please, please show some evidence or prove it.

    The brightest minds on our planet>> futile in knowledge(as we can all observe from the statements above, stand at a 50/50 belief in creation/non-creation view, in fact more and more leaning towards a creator as more knowledge is gained.

    Sorry, but where do you get your information from? The National Academies of Science here in the US have a makeup of about 93% atheists.

    Way do men do evil things? Why do men to good things?

    Let me guess, the answer to both of those is god? How laughable. If your hypothesis can explain everything and anything, then it explains nothing.

    Why is there so much order–even in disorder?

    Why do Creationists make statements that are contradictory?

    Pulling back the heavens, looking into mirror, and dealing with the laws of absolutes literally shake people in there boots.

    Here we go; another Creationist who thinks that atheists are atheists because we don’t want to face reality. Has it ever occurred to you that you are projecting?

    There is something out there.. and its bigger than we are..that is a fact.

    Yes, we are miniscule compared to the vastness of the universe. Why, it’s amazing that god made so much space that will never been seen or utilized by humans, although I can’t figure out why she would do such a wasteful thing.

    The question you should be asking yourself.. is what–and it’s not vapor.

    And, if we are going to find out, it is through science, not through prayer.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Sorry guys.. Sir Thomas Frick wins the debate.

    I confess, I’ve searched the internet in vain to find out more about this “Sir Thomas Frick” and his devastating reasoning powers. The closest I’ve come is this IMDB entry, but somehow I don’t think this commenter meant to cite the director of Eure Ordnung ist auf Sand gebaut as his authority on refuting atheism. :)

    This comment reminds me of the time in graduate school I attended a talk given by a Christian group about creationism. The speaker cited the arguments of Chandra Wickramasinghe, but referred to Dr. Wickramasinghe as “her”. Apparently he couldn’t be bothered to look up even the most basic facts about a scientist before dropping that scientist’s name in support of his claims. After all, if some random Christian apologist website says that scientist’s work refutes atheism, why bother to look any further?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Sorry guys.. Sir Thomas Frick wins the debate.

    I confess, I’ve searched the internet in vain to find out more about this “Sir Thomas Frick” and his devastating reasoning powers. The closest I’ve come is this IMDB entry, but somehow I don’t think this commenter meant to cite the director of Eure Ordnung ist auf Sand gebaut as his authority on refuting atheism. :)

    This comment reminds me of the time in graduate school I attended a talk given by a Christian group about creationism. The speaker cited the arguments of Chandra Wickramasinghe, but referred to Dr. Wickramasinghe as “her”. Apparently he couldn’t be bothered to look up even the most basic facts about a scientist before dropping that scientist’s name in support of his claims. After all, if some random Christian apologist website says that scientist’s work refutes atheism, why bother to look any further?

  • darren white

    hi guys, i just came across this site, i really like it. i would like to point out how people who follow science or scientists themselves don,t go door knocking and try to convert people to religion, yet some religious people do? if those guys believe in religion and god then fine but please don,t knock on our doors. everyone to their own i say. to me religion comes across that it is something convinient to believe in, so we construct a fairytale “heaven” to ease and comfort ourselves.so that when we die we can believe we go somewhere wonderful? i do not wish to offend anyone but i just cannot find any logic in religion! and if their is a god who cares about us then why are all the different religions so against each other? even if i did decide to follow god, what religion do i follow? what one is right and what ones are wrong? how can anyone tell?science is proven, religion is not

  • darren white

    hi guys, i just came across this site, i really like it. i would like to point out how people who follow science or scientists themselves don,t go door knocking and try to convert people to religion, yet some religious people do? if those guys believe in religion and god then fine but please don,t knock on our doors. everyone to their own i say. to me religion comes across that it is something convinient to believe in, so we construct a fairytale “heaven” to ease and comfort ourselves.so that when we die we can believe we go somewhere wonderful? i do not wish to offend anyone but i just cannot find any logic in religion! and if their is a god who cares about us then why are all the different religions so against each other? even if i did decide to follow god, what religion do i follow? what one is right and what ones are wrong? how can anyone tell?science is proven, religion is not

  • Nurse Ingrid

    And who, exactly, is “Christopher Hawkin”? I think this poor Marco sap has managed to conflate Christopher Hitchens, Stephen Hawking, AND Richard Dawkins. No wonder he’s so confused!

  • Nancy

    I am one of those who believe in a ancient religion which believes The Bible. Your question is, “How could anyone believe that it was all put here for our sake?”

    If I believe God requires sacrifice for sin, and He gave His only son to be that sacrifice….why would I have trouble believing that it was all put here for our sakes?

  • James Bradbury

    Hi Nancy,

    If I believe God requires sacrifice for sin, and He gave His only son to be that sacrifice….why would I have trouble believing that it was all put here for our sakes?

    All of which makes me wonder why He couldn’t just forgive us if that was the plan. Why did someone have to die? Why set up a situation in which all newborn humans are automatically sinners, then say they can’t get to heaven because they’re sinners, then make them torture and kill a human manifestation of Himself so that He’d be willing to forgive us?

    You’re right, compared to that, the idea that the universe was all put here for our sakes is quite easy to believe. ;)

  • Tomas S

    James,

    I imagine the answer to your question will be something like “without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins”, at which point you could reasonably ask why. I don’t know why, but if I had to put myself in the position of answering this question (as devil’s advocate, pun unintended), I’d try something like “you may as well ask why for every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Remission cannot be tested empirically, but I thought I’d point out that there is an answer to your question, even it might ultimately lead to a dead end.

    (I just finished reading God; the failed hypothesis, and I was surprised that the author didn’t discuss the notion that God doesn’t answer prayers or do anything else empirically demonstrable in this life, but he does hear prayers and sees actions and takes them into consideration in the afterlife – not that I believe that.)

    The pastor of the church I used to go to believed that the planets were for the resurected saints (believers) to play on through eternity. It might sound goofy, but it’s at least somewhat internally consistant.

  • Alex Weaver

    If I believe God requires sacrifice for sin, and He gave His only son to be that sacrifice….why would I have trouble believing that it was all put here for our sakes?

    I take it I’m not supposed to read this as a variant of the insanity defense?

  • James Bradbury

    I’d try something like “you may as well ask why for every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Remission cannot be tested empirically, but I thought I’d point out that there is an answer to your question, even it might ultimately lead to a dead end.

    Yes, I guess you’re right. To which the best response I can think of is Tobe’s “How do you know that?”

    Which probably leads us to faith, a strongly-believed guess. The ultimate cop-out.

    In other news:
    Moon made of cheese?   :)

  • theistscientist

    Mr. Darren White, true, scientists dont go door to door, but they designed and detonated hydrogen bombs and still build them. Some of them are experimenting with human cloning, euthanasia, genetic mixing, etc. They can do the math but they cant answer the most critical life and death “why” questions. Quite a number of german scientists worked on the project to specifically develop a gas which could quickly kill large numbers of people, called Zyklon gas. I am glad theologians continue to guide western civilization.

  • hb531

    @theistscientist

    I am glad theologians continue to guide western civilization.

    Perhaps our world would be better if we had no scientists and theologians guided and governed us? We would not even need counties! Wait…. this sounds like the Taliban’s aspirations.

    … they designed and detonated hydrogen bombs and still build them.

    This effort requires a bit more than some rouge scientists. Perhaps you should read about the military industrial complex.

    Your willful ignorance and permanent suspension of disbelief is pathological.

  • Ironsides

    Consider the cosmos from this perspective, and then ask yourself: Do you believe that all of this was made just for us?

    Yes, lets consider this. I have grown up digesting every variety of Sci-Fi book and movie for the past 50-years. I have whole collections of DVD’s in my entertainment center, yet I firmly believe that there is no other intelligent life in the Universe besides our own. I believe this this because I am not one of you, I believe this because I believe that God created the Universe for the enlightenment of mankind.

    Just for a single moment – suspend your disbelief – and consider this thought. If the human race believed that we were all alone in the Universe would that make us consider our own lives so much more important than to waste destroying in wars?

    We go to great lengths trying to find signs of intelligent life beyond earth but what is the real reason this is done? Are those who search trying to prove how unimportant they are?

    Yes, history has told us that the stars were used to teach mathematics to ancient cultures. And the thirst for discovery to reach the planets has increased the level of technology in our society. We all enjoy the benefits from that technology from the fields of medicine to entertainment.

    Ironsides

  • goyo

    The stars were first used for astrology after they figured out they weren’t fires in the sky.
    Here’s a question for you Ironsides: If god wanted us to learn science and technology from studying the universe, why didn’t he give us a manual?
    Why did he let us waste so many thousands of years dying from simple diseases and superstitious beliefs?
    The only medical writing god gave us was how to cure leprosy by sacrificing some doves. (It doesn’t even work!)
    If someone from your family gets cancer or heart problems, do you anoint them with oil and pray? Or do you head for the doctor?
    The anointing technology is from god. It doesn’t work either.

  • Ironsides

    First of all, God did give us a manual, he gave us our brains. Second, like any good parent He waited until his children grew up and matured. The night sky would be a dark and intimidating thing if we didn’t have the stars to look at. The stars taught us how to measure and predict the seasons so we could plant food. We explored the world using stars for navigation. But there is still one unending mystery that we will never be able to prove and that is the mystery of non-terrestrial intelligence. I personally don’t think we will ever find it but maybe there is some good in people who want to keep looking for it. We will all benefit from the exploration and discovery.

    Ironsides

  • Alex Weaver

    Just for a single moment – suspend your disbelief – and consider this thought. If the human race believed that we were all alone in the Universe would that make us consider our own lives so much more important than to waste destroying in wars?

    You have absolutely no idea how ironic this statement is, do you?

  • lpetrich

    Ironsides: First of all, God did give us a manual, he gave us our brains.

    Me: That’s not exactly an instruction manual. And how did you figure that one out? And why make the Universe so that it is so difficult to discover and comprehend? Try to get a good understanding of Newton’s laws of motion without understanding what differential equations are, and you will see what I mean.

    Iron: Second, like any good parent He waited until his children grew up and matured.

    Me: That is VERY insulting and condescending. There is no reason why an omnipotent being cannot get it right the first time — otherwise that entity would not be omnipotent.

    Iron: The night sky would be a dark and intimidating thing if we didn’t have the stars to look at.

    As if it isn’t already dark and intimidating. Why not have 24-hour daylight?

    Iron: The stars taught us how to measure and predict the seasons so we could plant food.

    But why don’t we have better built-in timekeeping?

    Iron: We explored the world using stars for navigation.

    With stars that are more-or-less randomly scattered and not arranged on convenient coordinate lines.

  • Ironsides

    Ironsides: Just for a single moment – suspend your disbelief – and consider this thought. If the human race believed that we were all alone in the Universe would that make us consider our own lives so much more important than to waste destroying in wars?

    Weaver: You have absolutely no idea how ironic this statement is, do you?

    Well, Mr. Weaver, the point I was trying to make was that the one common attribute of every human culture on earth today is that no country shows any respect for life. In the United States and in Europe killing the unborn through abortion is commonplace. In Africa and Asia killing human beings of all ages is commonplace.

    We place high value on things we treasure – like gold and diamonds – and we protect them. If human beings were raised to believe they were very special I just wonder if more people would be less inclined to murder and we would have no wars.

  • OMGF

    Ironsides,

    We go to great lengths trying to find signs of intelligent life beyond earth but what is the real reason this is done? Are those who search trying to prove how unimportant they are?

    We do it because we are curious. Tell me, if we did find extraterrestrial life, would it devalue your life?

    First of all, God did give us a manual, he gave us our brains.

    Sorry, but our brains don’t come with the information in them as a manual would. We have to fill our brains with that information.

    But there is still one unending mystery that we will never be able to prove and that is the mystery of non-terrestrial intelligence. I personally don’t think we will ever find it…

    Make up your mind. Will we never be able to find it, or do you simply find it highly unlikely?

    Well, Mr. Weaver, the point I was trying to make was that the one common attribute of every human culture on earth today is that no country shows any respect for life.

    That depends on your definition of “respect for life” doesn’t it?

    In the United States and in Europe killing the unborn through abortion is commonplace.

    Oh here we go.

    If human beings were raised to believe they were very special I just wonder if more people would be less inclined to murder and we would have no wars.

    If you are a Xian, then I suggest you buy a new irony meter, because this should have broken any one you have. Xianity teaches that we are all vile, evil, sinners that are not worthy. It doesn’t teach us that we are special, nor that life is special. It teaches us that this life is a test that we must pass in order to earn god’s grace and get to heaven where the real party is.

  • Alex Weaver

    Consider the cosmos from this perspective, and then ask yourself: Do you believe that all of this was made just for us?

    Yes, lets consider this. I have grown up digesting every variety of Sci-Fi book and movie for the past 50-years. I have whole collections of DVD’s in my entertainment center, yet I firmly believe that there is no other intelligent life in the Universe besides our own. I believe this this because I am not one of you, I believe this because I believe that God created the Universe for the enlightenment of mankind.

    Make up your mind. Do you believe that there is no other intelligent life in the universe, or do you believe in god?

    Just for a single moment – suspend your disbelief – and consider this thought. If the human race believed that we were all alone in the Universe would that make us consider our own lives so much more important than to waste destroying in wars?

    How does the fact that humans have been killing each other in wars for thousands of years and have even thought about alien civilizations for less than two hundred fit into your hypothesis?

    We go to great lengths trying to find signs of intelligent life beyond earth but what is the real reason this is done? Are those who search trying to prove how unimportant they are?

    What logical connection is there from “there are other intelligent species” to “we are unimportant?”

    Even including illogical connections, though, what possible connection is there that would not be even more true for an omnipotent god than for another sentient species?

    Yes, history has told us that the stars were used to teach mathematics to ancient cultures. And the thirst for discovery to reach the planets has increased the level of technology in our society. We all enjoy the benefits from that technology from the fields of medicine to entertainment.

    Your point?

    Ironsides: Just for a single moment – suspend your disbelief – and consider this thought. If the human race believed that we were all alone in the Universe would that make us consider our own lives so much more important than to waste destroying in wars?

    Weaver: You have absolutely no idea how ironic this statement is, do you?

    Well, Mr. Weaver, the point I was trying to make was that the one common attribute of every human culture on earth today is that no country shows any respect for life. In the United States and in Europe killing the unborn through abortion is commonplace. In Africa and Asia killing human beings of all ages is commonplace.

    And my point was that even if your idea that humans would be more inclined to preserve themselves if there were no other sentient species were true, even if your implicit premise that wanting something to be a certain way means it actually is a certain way were true, then your argument would be even more applicable to god-belief than to belief in other sentient species.

    Additionally, while it is certainly true that many cultures have committed and even sanctioned appalling acts of violence and atrocity, the fact that every society that we know of has laws against murder, the fact that most societies today deplore war and see it as a sometimes-necessary, but usually-intolerable evil, the various international humanitarian and peace organizations, etc. leaves your claim that “no culture has any respect for life” straddling the line between hyperbole and delusion.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Here we are looking at the same amazing universe. One group looks at it and says “Wow, In the beginning God created …”

    But created what? The entire universe and everything in it – for the sake of us tiny humans down here on Earth?

    Go back and read my post again, Ken. On an image of the scale shown above, our sun would be just one of tens of thousands of stars whose light contributes to each pixel of the photo on your screen. And that galaxy is, in turn, just one of billions of galaxies throughout the universe. And all of that, you say, was made just for us? What monstrous arrogance that is! Your position is like a single drop of water claiming that all the oceans were made just for its own sake; a single grain of sand claiming that all the Sahara was made just for its own sake.

    It takes a huge amount of faith to believe either position. Moreover, neither side can prove their position. Believers cannot prove there is a God nor atheists that there isn’t. So here we are in a discussion working from assumptions and presuppositions we cannot prove. We can only say “I believe …”.

    Clearly, Ken is another of the Christian relativists I discussed earlier this month who don’t believe there’s such a thing as objective truth.

  • Ken Bird

    Here we are looking at the same amazing universe. One group looks at it and says “Wow, In the beginning God created …” The other group says “Awesome, in the beginning Nothing went bang and made everything”. It takes a huge amount of faith to believe either position. Moreover, neither side can prove their position. Believers cannot prove there is a God nor atheists that there isn’t. So here we are in a discussion working from assumptions and presuppositions we cannot prove. We can only say “I believe …”.
    The moment we say “I believe …” we are no longer in the field of science but religion. The atheist who says there is no god is just as religious as the believer who says there is.
    Personally it makes more sense to me to believe in an intelligent cause for the universe and life than the god of time and chance who can make “nothing” go bang and make everything

  • Jim Baerg

    “Wow, In the beginning God created …” The other group says “Awesome, in the beginning Nothing went bang and made everything”.

    It would be more accurate to say the the 2nd group says “I wonder how things came to be”, & looks for evidence rather than *assuming* goddidit.

  • DamienSansBlog

    Ebon, that may not be the case. I wonder if Ken is assuming that atheism is trying to prove a negative; as “Believers cannot prove there is a God nor atheists that there isn’t” seems to imply. In which case, of course, the thing to do is to convince Ken that we aren’t proving a negative, which he rightly considers to be impossible, but that we are dismissing the positive claims of theists, because of a lack of evidence.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    I don’t know about that. It seems to me that Ken’s declaration that both positions are a matter of faith puts him firmly in the camp of believers who say that we can’t know what’s true and so we might as well pick whatever position we like.

  • Ken Bird

    It is interesting to see you guys trying to find what label to put on me or which box to put me in. I am not sure that will help us work our way through this subject.

    I don’t believe the notion that the “whole universe was made for us”. I guess there are those who take that position but suspect they have not had much of a look at the universe. On the other hand this could be a straw man, a caricature of those who take a different position.

    I have no problem with honest inquiry -the 2nd group who says “I wonder how things came to be” except when they rule out the possibility that maybe goddiddoit. Honest inquiry has to allow that as a possibility, and even to ask, “How would we know if such was the case?”.

    We all have the same evidence. The trick is in the interpreting of the evidence. Everyone does that through the glasses of their assumptions, but not everyone declares their assumptions.

    With the question in hand – “I wonder how things came to be”, we were not there, in fact a lot of time has gone by since then. All that we have is what is (or what was a long time ago when the light etc left its part of the universe).

  • Alex Weaver

    I have no problem with honest inquiry -the 2nd group who says “I wonder how things came to be” except when they rule out the possibility that maybe goddiddoit. Honest inquiry has to allow that as a possibility, and even to ask, “How would we know if such was the case?”.

    We wouldn’t. Such a proposition, for a sufficiently loose definition of ‘god’, is at least in principle compatible with any conceivable state of affairs, therefore it has no explanatory power. It is also unparsimonious, in that it incorporates an extra asumption that does not increase its explanatory power over competing models – that ‘god’ even exists. So far, this has not even approached being demonstrated – and furthermore, it makes things worse, because it introduces the question of what caused or created this ‘god.’ And if this ‘god’ does not require a cause/creator, then why does the universe? In other words, honest inquiry has asked, and the result is the reason honest inquiry does not concern itself with the prospect now and will not unless some firm evidence of the existence and involvement of something recognizably answering to the label of ‘god’ turns up.

    (There is good reason to believe, however, that it is overwhelmingly implausible that certain concepts of ‘god’, such as the Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnibenevolent being imagined by Abrahamic religions, could have created the universe as we see know it.)

    As for the unsupported assumptions of scientists, these are mostly in the vicinity of “there is a world external to my mind”, “my senses, while imperfect, tell me something useful about this world”, the basic concepts of cause-and-effect, etc.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Ken,

    I have no problem with honest inquiry -the 2nd group who says “I wonder how things came to be” except when they rule out the possibility that maybe goddiddoit. Honest inquiry has to allow that as a possibility, and even to ask, “How would we know if such was the case?”.

    To add onto alex’s response, why are we only dealing with the idea that one god did it? I don’t remember much human achievement ever created by one being, so maybe several thousands, or millions, of different beings created the universe (even though this idea still suffers from all the problems alex mentioned, I never hear anyone suggesting it). After all, according to you logic, we can’t know for sure, so it’s probably equally as valid. Do you rule out the ideas of scientology? Do you really know for sure that those aren’t correct?

    Except there’s no reason to believe that with no evidence whatsoever, so until (if) any gets provided that’s convincing, we’re perfectly justifed in ruling the idea out.

  • spaceman spif

    Dennis Miller, back in December, made the comment on his radio show that atheism is the result of arrogance and narcissism. A friend of mine made such an excellent response, that I have to link it here. He discusses how the faithful, versus the skeptical, view the universe…and which is truly the arrogant view.

    http://www.merryatheist.net/blog/?p=43

  • Ken Bird

    Interesting reflections. I think we all struggle with the question “Where did that come from?” “What was before that?”

    Its like looking into the universe and asking “Where does it end?” “waht’s beyond that?”

    Human minds aren’t very good at grasping infinity / eternity

    We all get to the point where the only answer is dunno.

    When it comes to the question of “Where did it all begin?” it seems to my mind we have to begin in one of three places:
    Eternal nothing became our universe
    Eternal matter
    Eternal mind

    All are equally difficult to comprehend

  • OMGF

    Mr. Bird,

    Human minds aren’t very good at grasping infinity / eternity

    We all get to the point where the only answer is dunno.

    Yet, that’s not what you are doing is it? You are saying that you do know, and that the answer is “god”. The problem for you is that you haven’t presented any evidence to support the god idea, so until you do (and the burden of proof lies on you) I can rationally say that I do not accept your idea. And, no, this does not make my position one of faith. My position is born of not simply accepting stories without evidence. This is the opposite of faith in fact. So, your assertions that atheism takes faith are completely wrong and backwards.

  • Alex Weaver

    So, your assertions that atheism takes faith are completely wrong and backwards.

    In his defense, they make perfect sense if one subscribes to the woefully common and spectacularly wrong view that all propositions default to “maybe” and must subsequently be proven true or false…

  • Ken Bird

    OMGF
    I think you are misrepresenting me. As I review my few posts the words I used were “Personally it makes more sense to me to believe …” yet you accuse me of saying I do know.

    Your postion of not accepting stories without evidence is in fact the process of faith. Faith is not a substitute for information but an extension of it. On the basis of information a person may say “I believe …” The more evidence we have the more strongly we may believe

    But to say “I know …” requires absolute knowledge and I dont think you have anymore of that commodity than I do.

    In the absence of absolute knowledge, the statement “There is no god” can be no more than a faith statement.

  • DamienSansBlog

    It is interesting to see you guys trying to find what label to put on me or which box to put me in. I am not sure that will help us work our way through this subject.

    No, it certainly wouldn’t! For my part, I was just trying to clarify exactly what you were saying, and I’m sorry if I gave the impression that I was itching to pigeonhole you.

    Your postion of not accepting stories without evidence is in fact the process of faith.

    “I do not think that word means what you think it means.” You seem — and again, I could be wrong! — to be claiming that the verb “to know” can only be applied in the case of omniscience. To put it mildly…this is not any definition of “to know” that I’m familiar with.

  • OMGF

    Mr. Bird,

    I think you are misrepresenting me. As I review my few posts the words I used were “Personally it makes more sense to me to believe …” yet you accuse me of saying I do know.

    My apologies. I figured that since you accept one interpretation of one religion, that it was because it held some sort of significance for you. Perhaps you feel it is only a faith? In that case, why that one instead of any others? Why one god instead of many, as I believe someone else has already asked you. Why this particular god? Also, you do realize that you are basing your whole entire argument off of an exercise of begging the question, correct?

    Your postion of not accepting stories without evidence is in fact the process of faith.

    No, no, no, no, no. A thousand times no. It is the antithesis of faith to reject your claims if you can not provide the necessary evidence to support your claims, as I’ve already explained. What faith does it take for me to say, “You’ve made some positive claims that I will remain skeptical of unless you can provide evidence?” I have made no positive statement with which to have faith in.

    The more evidence we have the more strongly we may believe

    And what evidence is that? The only “evidence” you have put forth so far is “it makes more sense to me” which is neither an argument nor a piece of evidence.

    In the absence of absolute knowledge, the statement “There is no god” can be no more than a faith statement.

    1) Most atheists will claim that the theistic position has not been proved, so there is no need to believe in god. This is not the same as active disbelief in any said god. You would to well to note the difference and stop making bad arguments.
    2) It’s quite parsimonious to observe that there is no evidence for god and that the world works quite well without that extra baggage, thank you very much. My model of the world does not include a god, so from that sense I could say that there is no god, and I would be perfectly rational to say so, and not expressing a faith. When I extend that to say that there is no god in the absolute sense, then I am expressing a faith, but this is not a position I hold or the vast majority of the atheists that comment here. It’s quite possible that one can conceive of a god that is wholly beyond our ability to understand and to detect; a god that can have no evidence for it, but yet exists. The chances of said god, however, are pretty small, and it is still irrational to believe in said god without any evidence in favor of said god.

  • Ken Bird

    Gentlemen
    Thanks for your patience with one who is coming from a different world view which seems to include different nuances on some key words. I would hate for our dialogue to be pointless because we had not taken the time to understand where each other was coming from, and the baggage certain words carry. I don’t want us to be arguing over semantics because we have not heard where each other is coming from.

    OMGF, I thank you for spelling out how an atheist understands the term “atheist” – if I am understanding you correctly it is a world view which sees neither need for nor evidence of god, rather than making an absolute dogmatic statement. This is different from how the term is understood on my side of the fence and I apologise for having made statements before I understood.

    We still seem to be having trouble with know and believe

    I tend to use “know” and “prove” very sparingly. There are very few things one can prove in the absolute sense. There have been too many times in the history of science and religion when people have thought they knew something only to discover it wasn’t really so. I like to work on weight of evidence and to understand the arguments and evidence appealed to by both sides of a position.

    When it comes to “faith” / “believe” – I do not use these terms in the sense of a substitute for evidence – as in “I don’t have any evidence so I just believe”.
    Instead, on the basis of the weight of evidence I have before me I take a position – “I believe …” There are some things I believe quite strongly and others more cautiously.
    I want to be neither gullible accepting stories uncritically nor blind, refusing to look at evidence that doesn’t agree with my position.

    I am happy to share the reasons why I believe the world view that I have, but just want to make sure that we are understanding each other first

  • OMGF

    Mr. Bird,

    I tend to use “know” and “prove” very sparingly. There are very few things one can prove in the absolute sense. There have been too many times in the history of science and religion when people have thought they knew something only to discover it wasn’t really so.

    In the absolute sense, we can never “know” anything to 100%, but I think we can agree that we can be certain enough of certain things in order to “know” them, right?

    When it comes to “faith” / “believe” – I do not use these terms in the sense of a substitute for evidence – as in “I don’t have any evidence so I just believe”.
    Instead, on the basis of the weight of evidence I have before me I take a position – “I believe …” There are some things I believe quite strongly and others more cautiously.

    My definition is that one has faith when one believes in something despite the evidence. Your definition is the one that is usually held by theists according to them, but I’ve found that once I delve down into their beliefs that they actually hold to something closer to what I described. Perhaps you are different? Let’s find out.

    I like to work on weight of evidence and to understand the arguments and evidence appealed to by both sides of a position…I want to be neither gullible accepting stories uncritically nor blind, refusing to look at evidence that doesn’t agree with my position…I am happy to share the reasons why I believe the world view that I have, but just want to make sure that we are understanding each other first

    No offense intended, but I’ve never met an argument for god that didn’t beg the question or commit some other egregious logical fallacy. I’ve never encountered any actual evidence for god that didn’t do the same. You may have other evidence, and I would love to hear it, but god has failed every empirical, verifiable test. The weight of logic and evidence is against a god that interferes in our personal lives, or that has any action at all in the world. Your first statements on this thread were also rather troubling in this regard. That said, I would love to hear your evidence, but I would like for it to actually be evidence. Evidence that begins with, “The Bible says…” will not count for obvious reasons (If it isn’t obvious, I can explain in more detail). Evidence that starts with, “The universe is so complex…” are also not likely to count as that type of evidence relies on begging the question. Hopefully these guidelines will help you to formulate a good argument on your behalf.

  • http://www.sirthinkalot.wordpress.com Sir-Think-A-Lot

    You know I’m half convinced that the claim that religious people believe the entire universe was made for us is a strawman. There might be some who believe this, but I dont know of any.

    I for one believe God has a plan for the entirity of the universe, to include the microscopic dots on a microscopic dot that we are. I cant say what that plan is, but I dont think we need be any more important than the rest of the universe.

  • steve bowen

    I for one believe God has a plan for the entirity of the universe, to include the microscopic de to itots on a microscopic dot that we are. I cant say what that plan is, but I dont think we need be any more important than the rest of the universe

    Which leaves us exactly where? The kind of god you propose is as irrelevant to us as we are to it. Could’nt give a flying f what the plan is under those circumstances.

  • Sir-Think-A-Lot

    “Which leaves us exactly where? The kind of god you propose is as irrelevant to us as we are to it. Could’nt give a flying f what the plan is under those circumstances.”

    How is either ‘irrevelent’ to the other. Just because God has a plan for the entirity of the universe doesnt mean that it doesnt include us.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    If we are no more or less special than the speck of dust that sits on my tv screen, then that god is irrelevant to us, as that god is neutral towards us, not the supposedly personal god that we keep hearing so much about.

  • heliobates

    I for one believe God has a plan for the entirity of the universe, to include the microscopic dots on a microscopic dot that we are.

    If believing were enough to make it so, I’d–right this instant–have my own Beer Volcano, instead of having to wait for the afterlife, like every other schmuck.

  • Brad

    I imagine most plans about what to do with the rest of this universe would be worthless. What could God possibly want with all that useless stuff out there? (Well, effectively useless to him, anyway!)

  • Brad

    I imagine most plans about what to do with the rest of this universe would be worthless. What could God possibly want with all that useless stuff out there? (Well, effectively useless to him, anyway!)

  • Adele

    So beautiful… so unbelievably uncomprehensible. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Adele

    So beautiful… so unbelievably uncomprehensible. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • PocketWatch

    It is a much more difficult and challenging prospect to do the right thing in this world when faced with the realization that we each are less than an atom of a molecule of a microbe on a grain of sand on an infinite beach, than it is to do the right thing because we are supposed to follow precepts of religion and society (many times the same thing). When faced with the reality that we are so small in such a vast place, we all have one of two choices: Hedonism becuase what we do simply doesn’t matter, or ethical behavior because we care about ourselves, and, by extension, the rest of the universe. I respect someone who chooses the right thing knowing all about their physical insignificance versus someone that follows rules because they might get a reward after they move on to another plane of existence.

    As for vast spaces and connecting, there is a repeatable experiment in quantuum physics that goes something like this: If you split a quanta of light, you get two equal and opposite quanta. One spins one way, the other opposite. One is “positive,” one is “negative,” etc. The fly away from each other at the speed of light in opposite directions. Here’s the spooky part… If you influence one in any way, the other reacts INSTANTLY (no time lag no matter how far apart they are) in the opposite way. In other words, if you tickle one, they both laugh. Hmmm… FTL may be impossible, but what is happening here? No one knows, but it sure makes me think there is more than one way to connect, and emphasizes the idea that we are all connected, and what we do affects everything.

    Just some thoughts…

  • PocketWatch

    It is a much more difficult and challenging prospect to do the right thing in this world when faced with the realization that we each are less than an atom of a molecule of a microbe on a grain of sand on an infinite beach, than it is to do the right thing because we are supposed to follow precepts of religion and society (many times the same thing). When faced with the reality that we are so small in such a vast place, we all have one of two choices: Hedonism becuase what we do simply doesn’t matter, or ethical behavior because we care about ourselves, and, by extension, the rest of the universe. I respect someone who chooses the right thing knowing all about their physical insignificance versus someone that follows rules because they might get a reward after they move on to another plane of existence.

    As for vast spaces and connecting, there is a repeatable experiment in quantuum physics that goes something like this: If you split a quanta of light, you get two equal and opposite quanta. One spins one way, the other opposite. One is “positive,” one is “negative,” etc. The fly away from each other at the speed of light in opposite directions. Here’s the spooky part… If you influence one in any way, the other reacts INSTANTLY (no time lag no matter how far apart they are) in the opposite way. In other words, if you tickle one, they both laugh. Hmmm… FTL may be impossible, but what is happening here? No one knows, but it sure makes me think there is more than one way to connect, and emphasizes the idea that we are all connected, and what we do affects everything.

    Just some thoughts…

  • Alex Weaver

    It is a much more difficult and challenging prospect to do the right thing in this world when faced with the realization that we each are less than an atom of a molecule of a microbe on a grain of sand on an infinite beach, than it is to do the right thing because we are supposed to follow precepts of religion and society (many times the same thing).

    Um, why, exactly?

  • Vishnu

    Your comment “On our world today, there are still representatives of ancient religions who hold that the entire vast universe was created solely for man and placed under our governance – that the natural laws that apply on every scale across the cosmos and govern the origin and future evolution of billions of galaxies and trillions of stars were fine-tuned for humanity’s benefit – that our tiny planet is the only place God cares about, the only place he is interested in – and that on our judgment day, all the stars and all the galaxies will be rolled together as a scroll and will cease to exist.”

    Is a bit misleading. Within a section of extreme Judo-Christian belief systems this may be the view. However, there are other trains of thought in religion that does not hold this view. Furthermore, there is no reference in the Bible that God only cares about life on earth.
    WIthin Hindusim, I am hard pressed to think of any sect that shares the view you ascribed to religious thinking. In fact, central to Hindusim is the belief in other worlds with Beings, that God (the Supreme Being) cares about. Over 8000 years ago Hinduism proposed the existence of an infinite number of universes, create from the Mind of Maha Vishnu in an instant.

  • Jim Baerg

    Over 8000 years ago Hinduism proposed

    Quibble – Since nobody was writing things down that long ago, I wonder what basis you could have for claiming that was a Hindu belief then or that anything that could reasonably be called Hinduism existed that long ago.

  • Jim Baerg

    Over 8000 years ago Hinduism proposed

    Quibble – Since nobody was writing things down that long ago, I wonder what basis you could have for claiming that was a Hindu belief then or that anything that could reasonably be called Hinduism existed that long ago.

  • Aaron Soutar

    My friend, I am a Christian and I agree with you that we are less than specks on the grand scale of things. I must point out though that we as Christians do not believe that the entire universe was created for our benefit for, as you say, that would be arrogant and preposterous. We rather believe, at least those of us who have thought about it, that the entire universe was created by God in order to bring glory and honor to Himself. What craftsman does not create things, in part, just to show them off? God crafted and designed the universe to show his power and glory and to show, just as we are infinitesimally small, He is astronomically huge. Realizing this fact then brings new meaning to what the Bible says in Psalms 8:3-4, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man that thou visitest him?”
    You see we can not understand why God, being so BIG, would love man who as you say is nothing really. It goes beyond our human minds, just like the sheer vastness of the universe blows our minds. Yet God’s love is just as real as the beautiful, vast universe that is all around us.

  • Aaron Soutar

    My friend, I am a Christian and I agree with you that we are less than specks on the grand scale of things. I must point out though that we as Christians do not believe that the entire universe was created for our benefit for, as you say, that would be arrogant and preposterous. We rather believe, at least those of us who have thought about it, that the entire universe was created by God in order to bring glory and honor to Himself. What craftsman does not create things, in part, just to show them off? God crafted and designed the universe to show his power and glory and to show, just as we are infinitesimally small, He is astronomically huge. Realizing this fact then brings new meaning to what the Bible says in Psalms 8:3-4, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man that thou visitest him?”
    You see we can not understand why God, being so BIG, would love man who as you say is nothing really. It goes beyond our human minds, just like the sheer vastness of the universe blows our minds. Yet God’s love is just as real as the beautiful, vast universe that is all around us.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    Aaron Soutar

    God crafted and designed the universe to show his power and glory and to show, just as we are infinitesimally small, He is astronomically huge.

    So why does this god then choose to reveal itself only to a parochial little middle eastern tribe who at the time had no concept of the true vastness of its “creation”? Why choose as a method to do this a flawed and ambiguous document which subsequently became so bowlderised few people agree on its original meaning? and why not put a bloody great signature on this masterpeice somewhere where we can all see it so there is no doubt which deity’s responsiblity it is?

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    Aaron Soutar

    God crafted and designed the universe to show his power and glory and to show, just as we are infinitesimally small, He is astronomically huge.

    So why does this god then choose to reveal itself only to a parochial little middle eastern tribe who at the time had no concept of the true vastness of its “creation”? Why choose as a method to do this a flawed and ambiguous document which subsequently became so bowlderised few people agree on its original meaning? and why not put a bloody great signature on this masterpeice somewhere where we can all see it so there is no doubt which deity’s responsiblity it is?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    I must point out though that we as Christians do not believe that the entire universe was created for our benefit for, as you say, that would be arrogant and preposterous.

    The Scottish Xians?

    We rather believe, at least those of us who have thought about it, that the entire universe was created by God in order to bring glory and honor to Himself.

    So, god is a show-off? For a supposedly perfect being, god sure does have a lot of failings. I don’t see why a perfect being would need to show off or bring glory and honor to himself. Shouldn’t a perfect being have maximal glory and honor? How does this bring glory and honor to god anyway?

    You see we can not understand why God, being so BIG, would love man who as you say is nothing really. It goes beyond our human minds, just like the sheer vastness of the universe blows our minds. Yet God’s love is just as real as the beautiful, vast universe that is all around us.

    How do you know that’s true then?

  • mike

    I’m a few years late for the debate on new vocabulary for hubris, arrogance, pananthrohegemomania… But how about hyperlomania (like megalomania, but bigger)?

  • mike

    I’m a few years late for the debate on new vocabulary for hubris, arrogance, pananthrohegemomania… But how about hyperlomania (like megalomania, but bigger)?


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