Bob Cornwall, Worshiping With Charles Darwin

Bob Cornwall‘s new book, Worshiping With Charles Darwin, offers a compelling account of one Christian and clergymember’s attempt to not let go of either science or faith. Explaining why he thinks Darwin could have sat quite happily alongside him in church (however much he may have had doubts or changed his mind about many point of Christian doctrine), and why he finds pseudoscience like young-earth creationism an unsatisfactory approach, and the voices from opposite poles of atheism and young-earth creationism claiming that they are the only options to offer a false antithesis, the rest of the book consists largely of sermons, some of which were delivered on past Evolution Sundays/Weekends connected with the Clergy Letter Project. There are also “essays” which might sound likely to be a less enthralling section of the book, but these include op-ed pieces, blog posts, and other such offerings, and so, while they are not “sermons,” neither are they inaccessible pieces of highly technical writing.

While many of the chapters focus on science in general and evolution in particular, the theme of creation extends to concern for the environment as well.

The entire book is written at the level of a general audience, and would make a fantastic contribution to a church library. It also includes at the very end some liturgical resources, consisting of prayers and responsive litanies that can be used by congregations to celebrate creation without rejecting science.

We live in an era when much harm has been done to not only the public understanding of science, but also to religious traditions themselves, by proponents of misinformation about topics like evolution. It is a sheer delight to have such an accessible collection of what a well-informed member of the clergy has written and spoken on the subject, as evidence that the wedge some drive between religion and science is not only unnecessary, but easily removed, leading to a more vibrant, compelling, and meaningful worldview.

I trust that Christians interested in the intersection of religion and their own faith will find the volume not only interesting, but personally helpful and inspiring.

The book is available from Amazon.com as well as directly from the publisher’s website.

  • theot58

    I think Cornwal is making a big mistake and not scrutinizing the evidence adequately.

    The evolution battle is often MISrepresented as science against religion – this is baloney!

    The real battle is between good science and Darwinism. When Darwinian/Macro evolution is scrutinised using the scientific method, it crumbles.

    The scientific method demands: observation, measurement, repeatability. Darwinian/Macro evolution has none of these, all it has is circumstantial evidence which is open to interpretation. Ask yourself: What evidence is there that our great …. Great grandfather was a self replicating molecule?
    I have examined the so called “mountains of evidence supporting Macro evolution” and found that it was mountains of cow dung.

    Go to the Academies of Science website and examine the evidence they put forward supporting Darwinian/Macro evolution – see how pathetic it is.

    Read Darwins book Origins… then ask yourself what observable scientific evidence does it put forward to support the core assertion that all living things had common ancestor.

    Making the ambit (but falacious) claim that there is “mountains of evidence” supporting Darwinian/macro evolution DOES NOT MAKE IT SO.
    “Evolution” is a vague word. The main definitions in the text books are:

    1) “change over time”, this is silly as it is stating the flaming obvious.

    2) Micro evolution is minor changes within a species, this is real and observable and uncontested.

    3) Darwinian/Macro evolution (where the conflict is) which asserts that:

    a) All living things had a common ancestor. This implies that your great….. great grandfather was a self replicating molecule.

    b) The observable world has come into existence by totally natural, unguided processes and specifically WITHOUT the involvement of an intelligent designer.

    Have a look at this link for details http://youtu.be/fQ_h-S7IuaM

    • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

      Ah, Mr Life Coach is back to further educate us on what constitutes sound science – are you planning to back up your claim that it is obvious that information can’t be created with random processes? Do you have a workable definition of information for us where information isn’t trivially created by a random process? I mean, we can move on to another topic, I responded point by point to a previous one of your enumerated screeds. But why not get to the bottom of one? Let’s consider the information theoretic implications of evolution that you’ve previously been very keen to characterise as a very obvious way that ‘macro’ evolution is impossible. Come on, pony up, you’ve made a claim I’ve refuted, so back it up. I’m not even asking you to show you’re correct, just to show any calculable definition of information where information isn’t trivially created by random processes.

      I have examined the so called “mountains of evidence supporting Macro evolution” and found that it was mountains of cow dung.

      Given what you said was ‘obvious’ about information theory, it doesn’t surprise me in the least that your scientific abilities are so low that you can’t differentiate between science and fecal matter.

      • theot58

        Ian your arguements are self evidently silly.

        You want me to prove the information is not produced by random processes – are you for real.

        Simple get a bag of balls; through them on the ground – do you get a map of America; do you get a face? to you get any recognizable pattern?

        For an intelligent man you are making really silly, unintelligent comments.

        Dr John Sanford (Geneticist and inventor of the GeneGun) said :

        “The bottom line is that the primary axiom [of Darwinian/Macro evolution] is categorically false,

        you can’t create information with misspellings, not even if you use natural selection.”

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          Why not try an experiment of that sort, but which actually replicates what DNA is like? DNA does not make faces or maps. It consists of a four-letter “alphabet” and a system in which all words are three letters long, and every popssible combination of letters means something. It isn’t clear how, with such a system, rearranging them will do anything but produce new information.

        • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

          Wow, how badly can you miss the point. Let me break this down really simply.

          Shannon’s information (the standard definition of information) is given by

          -log P

          it trivially creates information with misspellings at a rate dependent on P. You can see this by inspection, since probability is part of the definition (as it is in most information measures). This is information theory at its most basic. At the level of its wikipedia entry, or the first ten minutes of the first lecture of your first course in it.

          So what I’ve done is shown you that your claim “you can’t create information with misspellings” is untrue for the standard definition of information. So you’re either plain wrong, or else you are using some alternate definition of ‘information’.

          That would be fine, there are several definitions of information in information theory. But none of them have the property that information can’t be created with misspellings. So, this is the question I’m asking: please give your definition of information and show that information can’t be quantitatively increased by misspellings.

          Its that simple. You claimed it was obvious. It isn’t obvious for the standard definition of information, in fact it is untrue, so please show us the math where it is obvious.

          You made a claim about information theory, which is just one small contributing part of evolutionary theory, but one you claim disproves it, and one I claim to have spent years studying. So i think this is indicative of your whole approach. You made a claim that one bit of science disproves evolution, to someone who’s done actual scientific research in that field, so let’s see if you are actually talking nonsense.

          If you think this is a silly, unintelligent or unscientific request, I think it shows everything necessary about your grip on science.

          • theot58

            I think you are complicating the simple and creating confusion in the process.

            Are you asserting that a simple organizm will become a complex organism by the imple application of energy?

            You seem to be implying that it is impossible to distinguish between a intellengtly designed object and the natural unguided forces. This is patently wrong

            If you are walking on the beach and see an ething on the sand “john loves betty” – what are you going to conclude?

            Are you going to think that the waves created that intelligent pattern?

            Dr. Wernher von Braun (NASA director and father of the American space program) said:
            “Manned space flight is an amazing achievement, but it has opened for mankind thus far only a tiny door for viewing the awesome reaches of space. An outlook through this peephole at the vast mysteries of the universe should only confirm our belief in the certainty of its Creator.”

            • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

              I’m not complicating anything and not implying anything. I’m being very specific. You made a claim. Either it is true, and you can back it up, or you’re lying. You claimed to have examined the mountains of evidence and come to this conclusion about information. So which is it, can you back it up, or are you bluffing?

              You can wriggle off the topic all you like. And go handwavey and back to Paley’s watch and other tropes. But that’s not how science works. You made a claim, either withdraw it or back it up, or else keep on with repeating the same nonsense and let everyone see what your version of science looks like.

              When we’re done with this topic, we can pick another. I’ve responded point by point to you before and you’ve just ignored the responses and made further handwaving claims.

              So until we can actually work through even one topic, all you’re doing is flinging mud around and hoping some will stick. So let’s stay with this particular bit of mud.

              Information (under the standard definitions of it) is trivially created in a random process. Do you agree? If not, please give a definition of information that we can actually calculate, that shows it is ‘obvious’ information cannot be created by random processes.

              • theot58

                OK Ian you are on.
                I cannot give you a precise defintion of “information” but I can say that something which is intelligently designed is qualitatively different and discernable from something that is made by random processes.
                If the Mars rover beams back a picture of a single bolt and nut – what would you conclude? That it was made by “evolution” – I don’t think so.
                When multiple components worktogether to achieve a specific purpose/function that is a pretty good indication that it is intelligently designed.
                The onus of proof is on evolutionists to show that from simple beginings (self replicationg molecule) complex organs like a heart, brain etc developed by unguided, unintelligent, natural processes. Please tell me what or where that proof is.

                • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

                  That’s still vague. We’re talking science. Now perhaps you simply can’t understand the science, but that’s a different matter. You claim to understand the science enough to see it is wrong. So if that is the case, let’s stick to the science and have you show me, specifically where.

                  Either information can be created by random processes or not. Can it?

                  I contend that it can, trivially, and have shown that it is an expected biproduct of the way we understand information. You claim that it is ‘obvious’ that information cannot be created.

                  What do we make of that claim then, in the light of the fact that I’ve backed up my claim with the standard calculation of information, and you’ve given a bunch of analogies, and attempts to change the topic, but no actual science?

                  You’re now simply restating the idea that we can infer design. Well that’s a different matter (perhaps overlaps, but isn’t the same thing). And I’m not going to let you squirm off into kibitzing on some other topic you don’t know until you actually answer the one we’re talking about.

                  Having seen the math (and I hope understood it), do you now agree that random processes trivially create information? If not, again, please show your definition of information so we can do the math and figure out whether, and at what rate, information is created under your scheme.

                  The onus of demonstrating a claim is always on the person making it. You made a claim, back it up.

                  See, I think you have literally no idea about information theory whatsoever. I think you struggle to even comprehend the implications of Shannon’s information – the most basic kind of information metric there is. I think your whole objection to evolution is based on the fact that you don’t actually understand any science at all.

                  I know you *claim* to understand. And you claim to understand it well enough to be able to see that it is ‘obvious’ that those of us who’ve done this science for a living are wrong. But it is easy to sit there and say “I know better than you, you’re wrong, anyone can see it.” Its quite another thing to demonstrate that you have any clue. Do you have any clue what you’re talking about, or are you just screaming your ignorance around the web? This is about you, not about some philosopher or doctor you can quote-mine, but you. Can you credibly say that you’ve considered the evidence?

                  I don’t know. But you’re continual lack of willingness to either drop your assertion or demonstrate it is very telling.

        • Susan_G1

          58,

          There are many wonderful examples like your balls to “disprove” evolution. One of my favorites is, Shake a jigsaw puzzle long enough in a big enough box; will you ever open the box to find the puzzle completed? These are invalid arguments; they disprove nothing. The truth is, no one knows how the first macromolecules were formed. No one really knows how the first amino or nucleic acids were formed. There are not even theories; there are hypotheses, but, honestly, they’re just guesses.

          Well after that hurdle, however, things become clearer, cleaner, less hypothetical, and indeed more theoretical and therefore reproducible. By the time you get to comparing the genetics of animals (indeed multicellular eukaryotes even), we are getting reproducible results in seeing evolution, and how micro-evolution leads to macro-evolution. It’s really quite fascinating.

          • theot58

            It may be fascinating but it is NOT supported by observable science. It is only supported by the imagination of evolutionists.

            Consider just a small number of fundamental scientific problems with Darwinian/Macro evolution

            1) Where did the information come from to build the DNA molecule?

            – it contains over 4 Gigabits of programming data; we have never observed natural forces creating programming data

            - a building is proof of a builder, a program is proof of a programmer, a design is proof of a designer

            2) How did genders “evolve” from asexual organisms?

            - Consider some of the challenges, have a look at this video http://youtu.be/Ab1VWQEnnwM

            3) How do you explain symbiotic relationships while holding to gradual “evolution”?

            - eg. The bees need the flowers, the flowers need the bees – they both MUST exist together, how could this occur slowly or gradually

            - What came first the Chicken or the egg?

            4) Where are all the myriad of transition fossils that Darwin predicted?

            - They were missing then and they are missing now.

            - How can the Cambrian explosion of millions of fully formed organism appearing abruptly be explained by Evolution?

            5) Which “evolved” first, the vagina or the penis?

            - how did one “evolve” from the other?

            • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

              That is exactly the cut and paste screed I responded to in detail previously, where I gave references to many textbooks and published science to answer each question (in the vain hope you were asking in good faith). But no, here it is, repeated again without modification.

              So you make claims, but can’t back them up. You post ‘questions’, but don’t listen to answers. You lie for rhetorical effect. And you cut and paste the same comment over and over. All evidenced on this blog.

              What an amazing advertisement for creationism.

              • theot58

                The typical “answers” I get from evolutionists are devoid of scientific credibility. They are just plucked out of thin air and stated with such credulity that the ignorant accept them with out question.
                You did not provide real answers – just assertions that I do not accept.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  OK, I have decided that you are a troll. It was clear well before now, but I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt. You have asked questions, been provided with answers, and yet say your questions have not been answered. You have been asked questions and either shown your ignorance or have either not answered while pretending that you have, or have copied and pasted misinformation from web sites and even your own comments.

                  You are no longer welcome here, since you are doing nothing but wasting people’s time. This is a blog for serious discussion. If you wish to repent and change your behavior, please e-mail me and I will give you another chance, expecting you to bring forth fruit worthy of repentance.

                • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

                  I’ve given you lists of resources: books that would help you get past your misunderstandings; formulae that directly show you are wrong in your claims.

                  But these are not real answers, they are mere assertions, plucked out of thin air?

                  The fact that you do not accept them, yet claim to be an authority of what constitutes credible science, is the very definition of invincible ignorance.

            • Susan_G1

              You just copy and paste your answers from previous answers! That’s unbelievable! – but wait… I see it with my own eyes… it doesn’t make sense, but it’s happening… I can’t deny it, even though I don’t want to believe it… it must be true, regardless of what I *want* to believe.

              • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

                Oh, I don’t know, Susan, I think we can conclude ignorance in both senses of the word now… ;)

                • Susan_G1

                  without a doubt, I’m afraid.

              • theot58

                What difference does it make if I type a comment as opposed to pasting the comment?
                As long as the comment is pertinent to the issue at hand I do not have a problem with it.
                There is so much BS about Evolution on the net that I have to be efficient with the use of my time.
                Can I suggest to you that you look at some debates where the evidence actually gest scrutinized and challenged.
                Google Debates on evolution.
                I have seen dozens of debates and after seen the evidence being scrutinized from both sides; I have conlcuded that the Darwininian/Macro evolution myth is only propagated by propaganda in the school system and mass media.

                • Susan_G1

                  Ah, 58, this is an old response to your cut-and-paste. I have a newer response, kinder, which you have ignored. Would you go to that one?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      theot58, If you consider evidence that the world’s experts in a field find compelling to be “pathetic” in your eyes, that is a sure sign of your poor judgment or poor understanding or both. Holocaust deniers and Jesus mythicists say the exact same sort of thing. Are they correct?

      • theot58

        James your comments are irrelevant to the issue at hand. Your comments about holocaust deniers etc is a total disgraction to prevent the dying Darwinian/Macro evolution myth being scrutinized.

        Even atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel recognizes that Darwinism is not true. In his book “Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False ” he said
        “My skepticism is not based on religious belief, or on a belief in any definite alternative.

        It is just a belief that the available scientific evidence, in spite of the consensus of scientific opinion, does not in this matter rationally require us to subordinate the incredulity of common sense. That is especially true with regard to the origin of life. … I realize that such doubts will strike many people as outrageous, but that is because almost everyone in our secular culture has been browbeaten into regarding the reductive research program as sacrosanct, on the ground that anything else would not be science” (p. 7).

        Why don’t you stand up for the truth and not a myth

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          That is what Holocaust deniers and mythicists say when they are compared to young-earth creationists, too.

          Are you saying that atheist philosophers are always trustworthy? That seems bogus to me. Or are they only trustworthy when they agree with you? Far more Christians working in the natural sciences find the evidence for evolution not merely persuasive but overwhelmingly so, than there are atheists who find Intelligent Design persuasive. So what exactly is your point?

        • Kevin S.

          I’m pretty sure somebody ripped that Nagel quote apart when you popped up with it a few months back. I couldn’t find that comment, but I did find a review of Nagel’s book elsewhere on Patheos:

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2012/10/06/nagels-mind-and-cosmos-reviewed-by-michael-weisberg-brian-leiter/

          The review contains this interesting quote:

          Nagel, by his own admission, relies only on popular science writing and brings to bear idiosyncratic and often outdated views about a whole host of issues, from the objectivity of moral truth to the nature of explanation.

          In other words, he uses a shallow understanding of the science derived from mass media, and his argument depends on views on many fundamental questions of philosophy that are out of step with the consensus in the field. These points don’t necessarily mean he’s wrong, but they do mean that quoting him isn’t a slamdunk argument that evolutionary theory is wrong.

          Nagel,
          by his own admission, relies only on popular science writing and brings
          to bear idiosyncratic and often outdated views about a whole host of
          issues, from the objectivity of moral truth to the nature of
          explanation. – See more at:
          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2012/10/06/nagels-mind-and-cosmos-reviewed-by-michael-weisberg-brian-leiter/#sthash.78g3k8RE.dpuf
          Nagel,
          by his own admission, relies only on popular science writing and brings
          to bear idiosyncratic and often outdated views about a whole host of
          issues, from the objectivity of moral truth to the nature of
          explanation. – See more at:
          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2012/10/06/nagels-mind-and-cosmos-reviewed-by-michael-weisberg-brian-leiter/#sthash.78g3k8RE.dpuf

          • theot58

            Kevin; What or where is the scientific evidence which proves beyong reasoable doubt that Darwinian/macro evolution is true?
            Nagel is being demonized because he is speaking out against the Evolution myth.

            For too long evolutionists have been harassing and bullying anyone who questioned the sacred cow of Darwinian/macro evolution.

            See “Expelled no intelligence allowed” or the Kansas Evolution hearings of 2005 (Available for free download from audible.com).

            Teachers and scientists have been sacked and their careers shattered simply because they QUESTIONED the Darwinian/macro evolution myth. For a country that values freedom, this is nothing short of disgusting.

            • Kevin S.

              Kevin; What or where is the scientific evidence which proves beyong reasoable doubt that Darwinian/macro evolution is true?

              Either you’re being disingenuous or you don’t understand the scientific method as well as you claim to. Nothing can ever be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” using the scientific method. All that can happen is that a hypothesis can be repeatedly validated by failing to be falsified in repeated observations and experiments. Evolution has been repeated validated by the failure to find things that would falsify it. To use a famous example, we’ve never found Richard Dawkins’ proposed counterexample of fossilized rabbits in pre-Cambrian rock formations, or anything else radically out of place in the evolutionary timeline. Since ID can’t provide anything that would falsify it if that something was observed, it doesn’t even qualify for scientific testing.

              Nagel is being demonized because he is speaking out against the Evolution myth.

              This is an ad hominem argument that doesn’t address the claim that Nagel is arguing against a straw man.

              For too long evolutionists have been harassing and bullying anyone who questioned the sacred cow of Darwinian/macro evolution.

              How? By disagreeing with them? By pointing out their logical fallacies and poor understanding of the scientific method? Are you feeling harassed and bullied by the discussion in this thread?

              See “Expelled no intelligence allowed” or the Kansas Evolution hearings of 2005

              I know you’ve been exposed to the critiques of “Expelled” in other threads. Suffice it to say, intelligent readers of this blog are likely to take you less seriously because you reference that film as a credible source. And what new information is there in the Kansas hearings? I’ve read enough about the evolution/creationism “debate” to be familiar with the basic arguments of creationists and their spurious claims of persecution.

              Teachers and scientists have been sacked and their careers shattered
              simply because they QUESTIONED the Darwinian/macro evolution myth. For a
              country that values freedom, this is nothing short of disgusting.

              Teachers and scientists have been fired for trying to teach non-science as science. As mentioned above, ID/creationism doesn’t qualify for scientific consideration because it can’t possibly be falsified by any observation. Therefore, teaching it as a scientific theory on par with evolution is just lying to students, and there is no First Amendment right to lie (well, unless you’re Fox News, according to a certain appellate court).

    • Susan_G1

      “This implies that your great….. great grandfather was a self replicating molecule.” Well, it’s still kind of true, even though you don’t believe it.

      The creationist position has taken a huge hit with the evolution of modern genetics. The human genome project and genetic studies are mapping out Darwin’s theories quite nicely.

      Closing your eyes and blocking your ears while yelling, “NOT TRUE”, does not make it untrue.

      • theot58

        Do a YouTube search on “Kansas evolution hearings” to hear real, credible scientists, present powerful scientific arguments which debunk the dying Darwinian/Macro evolution myth.

        The scientific method demands scrutiny of the evidence, not blind acceptance. Debates are a good way to scrutinze the evidence.

        Do a search on YouTube on “debates on evolution” to scrutinize the evidence. Try http://www.fishdontwalk.com/ for a start.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          Or you can read things by serious scientists. Perhaps theot58 should try Googling Dover instead of Kansas. :-)

          • theot58

            What or where is the evidence which proves beyong reasonable doubt that Darwinian/macro evolution is true?

            Lets not talk rubish.

            Show us the evidence instead always inferring that it is there.

            Even David Raup (evolutionist) agrees that our science text books contain deceptions. He said:

            “In the years after Darwin, his advocates hoped to find predicable progressions. In general, these have not been found – yet the optimism has died hard,

            and some pure fantasy has crept into textbooks”

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              Indeed, let’s not talk rubbish. And so that includes not pretending that you are aware of mountains of evidence and yet giving indications that your knowledge comes from wikis and creationist propaganda, and failing to actually discuss the details of the evidence which you claim you are familiar with. And it includes not quote-mining. There are some howlers in textbooks in every field, and that is an issue with the textbooks, not the fields themselves. So if you want to discuss the topic, then please offer detailed explanation of the scientific evidence not in vague generalities and superficial dismissals, but at the level of detailed scientific research and argument. I assure you that I and my readers are up to the task.

        • Susan_G1

          Theot58,

          I don’t get my scientific information from Youtube. It mystifies me when people try to make intelligent arguments, then refer to Youtube. If you want to see funny cinnamon challenges, Youtube is your site. If you want to read about science, you ought to go to a scientific site. If you want science from thoughtful Christians, you can work your way through Reasons to Believe, Biologos, and the American Scientific Affiliation, the latter two are written by the Christian scientists themselves.

          • theot58

            I have examined the so called “mountains of evidence supporting Macro evolution” and found that it was mountains of cow dung.

            Go to the Academies of Science website and examine the evidence they put forward supporting Darwinian/Macro evolution – see how pathetic it is.

            Read Darwins book Origins… then ask yourself what observable scientific evidence does it put forward to support the core assertion that all living things had common ancestor.

            Making the ambit (but falacious) claim that there is “mountains of evidence” supporting Darwinian/macro evolution DOES NOT MAKE IT SO.

            The evolution battle is often MISrepresented as science against religion – this is baloney!

            The real battle is between good science and Darwinism. When Darwinian/Macro evolution is scrutinised using the scientific method, it crumbles.

            The scientific method demands: observation, measurement, repeatability. Darwinian/Macro evolution has none of these, all it has is circumstantial evidence which is open to interpretation. Ask yourself: What evidence is there that our great …. Great grandfather was a self replicating molecule?

            • Susan_G1

              Did you just copy and paste your answer from a previous answer? Ok, well, that’s one way not to discuss ideas. That *is* also akin to sticking your fingers in your ears, tightly closing your eyes, yelling, “Never! Never!”, and maintaining your ignorance. Please understand I mean ignorance in it’s fundamental sense, not in it’s negative connotation.

              • theot58

                Susan; I do use some selective cutting and pasting to save my fingers. However I have and am serious investigating this issue for many years. Your assertion of “Never ! Never!” is totally incorrect.

                Jesus said “and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” – this is my primary guiding verse.

                The key question that I want to address is: Is there adequate scientific evidence to support Darwins key assertiong that by purely natural forces and slow and gradual change the prevailing life forms emerged?

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  Focusing on Darwin is silly. He was an important figure, but he didn’t have the genetic evidence we have now and so evolutionary biology in its present form is what you need to interact with.

                  But you claim to have looked into this for many years, and have not yet grasped that Darwin’s explanation was about the main mechanisms driving the development of life on this planet, and not about its emergence or origin? You either have not done the reading you claim, have read bogus sources, or have not understood what you read. you cannot do honest and serious research for years in a field and not even know what the field is!

                  • theot58

                    Your dismissal of Darwin is very interesting.

                    Your assertion that I am ignorant or do not “understand” is something that I get all the time.

                    It is patently NOT TRUE.

                    You infer that you know – but do you really?

                    What is your source of evidence?

                    What evidence can you put forward to support the wild assertion that our great ……… great grandfather was a self replicating molecule (which I assume you believe).

                    Do you believe in the “slow and gradual” mechanism that Darwin proposed or don’t you?

                    Please clarify

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I often have students in my class who think they know the Bible well. If they get very basic things wrong, should I believe their insistence that they know the Bible well and regard it highly? Or should I conclude that they perceive that they know it well when in fact that is not the case?

                      Do you believe that your body developed as a result of self-replicating molecules that were provided by your parents? I am trying to figure out whether you are using the wrong terminology, and in fact what you reject are genetics and embryology.

                    • theot58

                      You have not answered any of my questions – but I will answer yours.

                      You also introduce the Bible here – I have not mentioned the Bible.

                      My core assertion is that the SCIENTIFIC evidence CONDEMNS Darwinian/Macro evolution.

                      “Evolution” is a vague word. The main definitions in the text books are:

                      1) “change over time”, this is silly as it is stating the flaming obvious.

                      2) Micro evolution is minor changes within a species, this is real and observable and uncontested.

                      3) Darwinian/Macro evolution (where the conflict is) which asserts that:

                      a) All living things had a common ancestor. This implies that your great….. great grandfather was a self replicating molecule.

                      b) The observable world has come into existence by totally natural, unguided processes and specifically WITHOUT the involvement of an intelligent designer.

                      Have a look at this link for details http://youtu.be/fQ_h-S7IuaM

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      OK, so where you think the conflict is is where you get things wrong. And your reading comprehension skills are orobably the issue, since you didn’t grasp the point of my analogy in the previous comment. In my experience, students who copy and paste answers are not merely commiting academic dishonesty, but also do not actually understand the things they copied and pasted.

                      Let us begin with living things, as Darwin did, since you seem to like to focus there, and since he did not answer the matter of abiogenesis. Can a population of organisms over time lose some old traits and develop new ones? Darwin did not yet know about the self-replicating molecule which observably drives development from a single cell to a full-grown organism. Is that what you disagree with?

                    • theot58

                      My core disagreement is the core of Darwinian/Macro evolution, which asserts that from simple and chaotic beginings the prevailing world emerged WITHOUT the involvement of an intelligent designer.
                      Ie chaos + natural selection + billions of years = hugely complex systems.
                      This is not observable science – it is pure fiction.
                      We do NOT observe order arising from chaos until an intellegent being gets involved and creates the order.
                      Are you supporting Darwinian/Macro evolution?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      But why are you talking about chaos, rather than about what evolutionary biology is actually talking about? Are you confusing modern biology with Genesis, which has chaos in the beginning?

                    • theot58

                      Are you not familiar with traditional evolutionary theory which asserts that ALL living things are related. Hence from siple beginings (self replicating molecule or simple cell) all thing “evolved”.
                      Hence originally there was little or no order / design; yet if we look around us we see incredible order and design (eg DNA molecule).
                      How did that order come about?
                      Who did the designing of the complex systems such as heart, lungs, brain etc?
                      A building is proof of a builder; a design is proof of a desinger

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      If you are referring to the origin of self-replicating molecules, then that is a question that science has not answered, and it is a challenging one. But we can trace the history of life on this planet, and the development of new features, not merely across time in the fossil record, but through genetic comparison of organisms. I would encourage you to read a book about the subject – perhaps something by Francisco Ayala or Sean Carroll (the biologist working on Evo-Devo, not the cosmologist).

                    • Nick Gotts

                      We do indeed observe order arising out of chaos without any intelligent intervention: in crystallisation (or do you believe God handcrafts every snow crystal?), in sorting processes like that maintaining the gradation of pebble size along Chesil Beach, in the separation of oil and water after mixing.

                    • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

                      Your assertion that I am ignorant or do not “understand” is something that I get all the time.

                      It is patently NOT TRUE.

                      ‘patently’ means ‘obviously’ or ‘readily visible’. I’m sorry to say, to all of us here who’ve actually studied this stuff it is very obvious that you don’t know or understand what you’re talking about.

                      If people, including the Christians on this blog, are regularly telling you that you are ignorant or do not understand, then perhaps its time to figure out why they keep coming to that conclusion.

                      Now I suspect you’ve got a whole fantasy that all these people hate God and its because you’re telling the truth that you are hated. Well, fair enough, I’m sure nothing anyone can say can change your mind on that. But perhaps in a moment of doubt…

                      What you specifically seem to be ignorant of is why scientists claim the things they do. The ignorance does not lie in your lack of belief in evolution, but your lack of awareness of their actual reasons.

                      So you claim that real science disproves evolution, but — as we’ve seen with your grasp of information theory — you can’t even discuss the basic foundational principles of relevant science, because you’re simply unaware of them. Surely at some point you have to see the mismatch there between your opinion of your knowledge and what you can actually demonstrate.

                      If you are genuinely interested, then go and learn some actual biology, or informatics, or one of the fields you claim to have studied. You don’t have to agree with the conclusions, but you do have to go to the scientists to learn why and how they come to their conclusions, in their own terms.

                      Why is it, for example, that every textbook on information theory (even those nothing to do with evolution – those concerning cryptography or telecommunications or linguistics) use formulae for information which show that information can be created by random processes? That can’t be evolutionary bias – the same math is used to make the internet work. So how about finding out why so much science and engineering can be based on something you see as obviously false? Surely that strikes you as an interesting mismatch. At the very least, I’d think it should motivate you to learn enough information theory to be able to clearly state the mathematical error. It would do for me: particularly if I enjoyed roaming the internet putting people right about it.

                      So go and find out some science. If information theory seems a slam-dunk argument against evolution, go and learn enough information theory to be able to at least understand why folks like me, who did doctorates using it, think it actually supports evolution, rather than disproves it. You might think you know that we’re all secret god-haters. Okay, but why do *we* think it supports evolution?

                      If you can’t accurately summarise what your opponents think and the reasons they have for thinking that, then you are too ignorant to have the discussion. The same goes in any discussion.

                      If someone wanted to find out about what Christians believe and why, I wouldn’t send them to Richard Dawkins to learn more. So forget the creationist refutation sites and books if you actually want to learn anything about the science. You’ll no more get good scientific information from Answers in Genesis than you would find the Gospel at the Richard Dawkins Foundation website.

                      If you show no desire or evidence that you’ve looked at any of this in good faith, and simply continue to just copy and paste the exact same comment over and over and over, regardless of the response; or if you continue to insist you understand and have studied fields for years, despite being unable to answer the most basic questions in them; then what other conclusion can anyone come to than that you are unhinged?

                • Susan_G1

                  I am sorry, 58, but I have read your comments, and how you respond to serious questions. I have ascertained that it is a waste of time to try to argue with you. If you want honest debate, you must act with more integrity than to circumlocute and cut-and-paste.

                  • theot58

                    Susan, lets agree to disagree.
                    You accuse me of lacking integrity – but you do not identify how you come to that conclusion.
                    Integrity is very important to me – that is why I am questioning the Evolution myth.
                    Happy Day

                    • Susan_G1

                      i’m sorry, 58, i don’t mean to be unkind. Please don’t be offended. i don’t like to debate with people who don’t stay on point, at least to some degree. I believe people are sincere when they answer you; cutting and pasting is an insulting way to answer. You may be sincere in wanting to discuss things, but you make what appear to be outrageous claims. Tackling small points where understanding can be reached is sometimes more important than all caps yelling about big ones.

                      OK, let’s start with a small item. Do you believe that Ben Carson knows more about genetics than Francis Collins? If so, why do you believe that, because Francis Collins would never interpret Neurosurgery to Ben Carson.

                    • theot58

                      I read Francis Collins book and I respect him as a person but frank I do not agree with his conclusion that Darwinian/Macro evolution is a scientific “fact”. I noted that Collins does not give a credible scientific defence of Darwinian/Macro evolution (at least from what I can recal, it has been a few months since I read it).

                      I have no idea if Ben Carson or Francis Collins know more about genetics – it does not matter. I quote Carson because I believe the point he is making has scientific merrit.

                      The issue to me is not on of personalities – rather it is one of science. If we teach Darwinian/Macro evolution as a scientific fact in the science classroom it is totally reasonable that we ask – What is the scientific evidence supporting it?

                      I have been asking that question for a long time and frankly the answers I have been getting have been very UNSATISFYING. Typically I get machine gunned with sciency sounding gibberish that would intimidate and satisfy only the ignorant.

                      So I ask you. What or where is the authoritative document which puts forward credible scientific evidence to prove Darwinian/Macro evolution?
                      I am in the process of going through the Berkely Evolution website and also Talkorigins 29 reasons. Is this what you would recomend or is there another?

                    • Susan_G1

                      58, you will not like this answer, but the authoritative document which puts forward credible scientific evidence to prove Darwinian/Macro evolution is DNA. Indisputably, DNA is a document.

                      Back to one bit at a time, you state, “I have no idea if Ben Carson or Francis Collins know more about genetics – it does not matter. I quote Carson because I believe the point he is making has scientific merrit.” OK, the problem with this statement is that either you aren’t being reasonable, or you don’t understand what genetics is. Ben Carson is a pediatric neurosurgeon. He went to medical school, then did a very long residency where he studied neurology and surgery in children. One needs to know very little about genetics to do that work. Surgery requires manual dexterity, hand-eye coordination, good spatial skills, and lots of knowledge of neuroanatomy. Yet because he said something you agree with, you quote him to support your view.

                      On the other hand, Francis Collins, got a BS in chemistry. Then he got a PhD in chemistry. Then he got an MD (like Ben Carson, but also with an equivalent degree in Chemistry.) Then he did a residency in Internal Medicine, which requires at least a working knowledge of a fair amount of genetics. Then he did an additional 3 years of some mind boggling studies of genetics- research mapping DNA, inventing a research method of gene hunting. After that, he became a professor of internal medicine and genetics. A star was born. He found the genes responsible for a number of genetic diseases like Cystic Fibrosis. He became the head of the National Human Genome project. All the genes in the body were his field. Then he became director of the NIH. During all this, he became an evangelical Christian, which got him some flack from atheistic scientists. His position,Theistic evolution, has been described as the position that “evolution is real, but that it was set in motion by God”.

                      Now, can you make a reasonable guess at who knows more about genetics, Carson or Collins? I ask this because you need to be honest with yourself if you are to find answers.

                      You want to jump into issues you show no comprehension in: Darwinian Macro-evolution. Hold back. We can get there.

                      You might question my qualifications to speak with authority on these subjects. I have a BS in biology, did several years of Molecular Biology research towards a PhD, (ironically where the Human Genome project took place), then became an MD, with a residency in Family Medicine, slightly less demanding of genetic knowledge than Internal Medicine. Since then I’ve kept up somewhat in both fields, because my first love was molecular biology.

                      You ask a question repeatedly: how did random molecules go from a less complex order to a more complex order. The answer to this no one really knows. It may have been the hand of God. But when you look at our genome, the whole of it, there is a mind boggling fact: 37% of human genes (not our genome) have homologs in bacteria and 28% “originated” in unicellular eukaryotes. (Proceeding of the National Academy of Science, January 17, 2013.) This suggests that we are indeed descended from very early life forms. Some Christian Scientists believe God had a lot of direction in this process, others think some. For me, it’s hard not to see God’s guidance. For me, that moment came when the genome of a very simple virus was decoded, and that something was happening which we had never heard of before: that both strands contained information for the production of it’s different necessary proteins. And in that moment all the atheistic scientists I worked with were saying the same thing; this had to be the hand of God. We were on a God high. This has never left me.

                      I looked briefly over the two sites you mentioned and found them to be good. So read on!

  • Susan_G1

    “It is a sheer delight to have such an accessible collection of what a
    well-informed member of the clergy has written and spoken on the
    subject, as evidence that the wedge some drive between religion and
    science is not only unnecessary, but easily removed, leading to a more
    vibrant, compelling, and meaningful worldview.”

    And it is a sheer delight to bring this view to our attention! Thank you!

  • bobcornwall

    Thanks James for sharing news of my small book, which I hope will stimulate conversation across the faith community and the scientific community as well. I don’t write as a scientist. I write as a pastor trained in theology, who welcomes the input of the scientific community to my own exploration of a doctrine of creation. I hope to invite fellow believers to recognize the severe problem presented by a “God of the Gaps” theology, wherein we fill in the “holes” in science with God. As Bonhoeffer reminded us, when we do this we leave ourselves open to watching as God continually recedes from the scene. When this happens, there’s not much left of God to worship!

    • theot58

      Bob, with all respect, I think you are making a mistake in concluding that the scientific evidence support Darwinian/Macro evolution. My analysis is that it seriously condemns it.

      Dr Ben Carson; Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at one of the world’s greatest hospitals (Johns Hopkins), a groundbreaking surgeon, best-selling author, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom said”
      “I think one of the most damning pieces of evidence against evolution is the human genome.
      You can see that you have very complex, sophisticated coding mechanisms for different amino acids, and various sequences that give you millions of different genetic instructions — very much like computer programming, which uses a series of zeros and ones in different sequences, but gives you very specific information about what that computer is to do.”

      • http://bobcornwall.com/ Robert Cornwall

        With all due respect to Dr. Carson,
        Francis Collins is the former director of the human genome project and knows quite a bit about the issue — probably much more than Carson — would beg to differ. He’s a Christian and an adherent to the dominant scientific understandings. I’ve been following this issue for a long time, and while not a scientist, I long ago gave up these “God of the Gaps” fixes.

        • Susan_G1

          Even one of the most brilliant Neurosurgeons in the world should not make assertions with authority on subjects far afield. I am quite sure Dr. Francis Collins would not comment with authority on Neurosurgical technique.

      • David_Evans

        If Dr.Carson took a closer look at the human genome he would see:

        Most of it is the same as that of the great apes.

        We and the great apes have broken copies of a gene which enables other mammals to make vitamin C, which we can’t.

        We have one fewer chromosomes (23) than the apes (24). Our chromosome 2 shows clear signs of having formed by the fusion of two of theirs.

        These facts (and many, many others) are hard to explain by separate creation of us and the animals, but pose no problem for evolution.

  • Nick Gotts

    evidence that the wedge some drive between religion and science is not only unnecessary, but easily removed, leading to a more vibrant,
    compelling, and meaningful worldview.

    No, I don’t think this is true at all. People who claim to remove this wedge differ vastly among themselves as to where the wedge is and how to remove it: compare your own views with those of the BioLogos crew, for example – who encourage “scholarly work” on whether Adam and Eve are historical figures.

    • newenglandsun

      I think what he means is as to how whether there is a conflict or not. This is easily removed. Not whether or not there was an historical Adam and Eve.

      In other words, the conflict can be easily removed by stating that religion (explores the supernatural) and science (explores the natural) are two different categories all together.

      And that people can remove the conflict between science and religion by interpreting said scientific claims of religion at a more spiritual level like they were meant to in the first place.

      • Nick Gotts

        No, that does not remove the conflict, because you have not specified how the natural and the (alleged) supernatural are related, nor how to construct this interpretation of religious claims on a “more spiritual level”, and AFAIK, no remotely satisfactory way of doing so has been proposed.

        like they were meant to in the first place.

        How do you think you know how these claims were originally supposed to be interpreted?

        • newenglandsun

          Said: “that does not remove the conflict, because you have not specified how the natural and the (alleged) supernatural are related,”

          I said: “In other words, the conflict can be easily removed by stating that religion (explores the supernatural) and science (explores the natural) are two different categories all together.”

          I have stated that they are two different categories all together.

          You stated: “How do you think you know how these claims were originally supposed to be interpreted?”

          By examining the context they were written in, looking at other writings of the area and then clarifying what the most historically plausible way of interpreting the text is. This is the same way Biblical scholarship has always been done.

          • Nick Gotts

            I have stated that they are two different categories all together.

            How do these different categories share the same reality? Does the supernatural ever affect the natural, for example, changing the course of events? For that matter, what is the supernatural? What does it mean to say that religion “explores” it? How? Different religions come to drastically different and directly contradictory conclusions about it, which indicates that it’s being invented, not explored.

            By examining the context they were written in, looking at other writings of the area and then clarifying what the most historically plausible way of interpreting the text is.

            So, you use the methods of science to determine how a religious text is to be interpreted. How, then, can you claim that science and religion deal with altogether different categories?

            • newenglandsun

              “Does the supernatural ever affect the natural, for example, changing the course of events?”

              The supernatural can work behind natural processes to bring about the course of events, yes. For instance, modern fertility hasn’t convinced people to reject Ps. 139:13-15.

              “what is the supernatural?”

              The supernatural is anything that cannot be explored by nature.

              “Different religions come to drastically different and directly contradictory conclusions about it, which indicates that it’s being invented, not explored.”

              Of course religions are being invented. But new areas of the supernatural and how to interact with it are still being explored.

              “So, you use the methods of science to determine how a religious text is to be interpreted.”

              A religious text is material. Thus, it can be explored using the methods of science.

              • Nick Gotts

                The supernatural can work behind natural processes to bring about the
                course of events, yes. For instance, modern fertility hasn’t convinced
                people to reject Ps. 139:13-15.

                I don’t have the slightest idea what this is supposed to mean, and frankly, I don’t think you do either. Either the supernatural can change the natural course of events, or it can’t. Which is it?

                The supernatural is anything that cannot be explored by nature.

                This is just drivel: it says nothing at all about what the supernatural is like, or even whether it exists.

                But new areas of the supernatural and how to interact with it are still being explored.

                How? I asked that already and got no answer. What methods of exploration are available that are not natural?

                A religious text is material. Thus, it can be explored using the methods of science.

                But if anything can be said to be explored by religion, surely it would be a religious text. Thus, as I said, it is simply false to claim that science and religion deal with altogether different categories.

                • newenglandsun

                  Through the process of ritual, symbol, and myth, people find meaning and a way to mystically connect to the supernatural. Religion is about mysticism and breaking away from the natural world.

                  “I don’t have the slightest idea what this is supposed to mean, and frankly, I don’t think you do either.”
                  Then I will have an anti-theist explain it for you.

                  “God could simply work through natural processes” (Stenger, God: The Failed Hypothesis, 237)

                  • Nick Gotts

                    Through the process of ritual, symbol, and myth, people find meaning and a way to mystically connect to the supernatural.

                    Religious behaviour and experience are of course subjects of scientific investigation, showing once again that the domains of religion and science overlap, and hence, the two can clash.

                    Religion is about mysticism and breaking away from the natural world.

                    Some religion is about mysticism (I don’t know what “breaking away from the natural world” could mean); a great deal isn’t.

                    “God could simply work through natural processes”

                    Then the distinction between natural and supernatural collapses; if God always works through natural processes, there would be, necessarily, no way to explore the supernatural other than by natural means – in direct contradiction to your definition of the supernatural.

                    Really, I don’t think you have the slightest idea what you mean by “the supernatural”. If you do, you have certainly failed to articulate it.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I would just add that some religion is all that is ever in view, and is precisely the point. Some Christians clearly have issues at the intersection of science and faith. But not all do, and those that do don’t have all precisely the same issues in exactly the same form. And not all religions posit the supernatural, and so not all will necessarily tend towards issues at the intersection of religion and science either.

                    • Nick Gotts

                      Can you give some examples of religions that don’t posit the supernatural? Are you thinking only of recent “non-realist” groups like Sea of Faith and religious naturalism? I can’t think of any earlier examples.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      There certainly are modern religions that fit the description – many modern forms of Buddhism as well as some forms of Liberal Christianity and of religious Naturalism.

                      Whether earlier religions get placed in this category can be tricky, since often they did not make distinctions between ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural.’ Both were simply assumed to be part of how the world functions.

                    • newenglandsun

                      Buddhism still maintains a philosophy of reincarnation. I’m not certain if I would consider that “natural” in any sense. I’m not certain either if I would be able to contend that naturalism can in any way be described as “religious” but that’s just my opinion.

                    • Nick Gotts

                      As far as I’m aware, they all assumed that cognition and intentionality, at least in some cases, are independent of the physical world. I’d call that a belief (an unquestioned one in most cases) in the supernatural. But of course you’re right that the conceptual contrast natural/supernatural didn’t always exist.

                    • newenglandsun

                      “And not all religions posit the supernatural,”
                      Would Scientology and Raelianism count?

                    • newenglandsun

                      Oh, yes, LaVeyan Satanism as well.

                    • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

                      No and no.

                      Or, at least, it depends on your definition.

                      It might be important to distinguish whether you’re using ‘supernatural’ as an emic or etic label. Scientology doesn’t have a category of ‘supernatural’, so the church would deny that the supernatural is part of the religion. But it posits that individuals can have supernatural powers: it teaches that we unlock our powers as an immortal spirit thetan through auditing in the church, allowing us to leave our body and be at cause over matter, space, energy and time, and so on. It also (conveniently) teaches that demonstrating these abilities in front of those who aren’t also far enough along on the ‘bridge’ can almost literally blow their minds. So demonstrating the truth of their claims to have universe-spanning power is definitely not the done thing.

                      Imposing categories like supernatural on other faiths is quite difficult. It can be tempting to have ‘supernatural’ just be a synonym for “weird stuff”. Defining supernatural is notoriously difficult.

                      I suspect Nick is asking whether you are positing any process which couldn’t, in principle, be explained in terms of natural law. It is rare to find religious folks who would say there are none, I think. And even of those many act in ways that suggest they don’t really believe that, or at least haven’t integrated that into their religious activity. Some of the progressive Christians I know, for example would agree logically and rationally. But their actual religious practice and religious language suggests is still dominated by supernatural assumptions. At what point can you draw the line then and say they aren’t supernaturalists?

                    • newenglandsun

                      Thanks for clarifying. I would take the definition of supernatural to mean that which is outside of nature. Yes, for the most part, most people believe supernatural to mean anything outside the ordinary but this would be incorrect in my view.

                    • newenglandsun

                      “Some religion is about mysticism (I don’t know what “breaking away from the natural world” could mean); a great deal isn’t.”

                      Next time you make a comment like this in a public conversation, make sure you aren’t speaking to a religious studies student or major. Etc. Prayer, miracles, afterlife. These are all things connected with major religions such as Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. They were also attached to ancient Paganism as well.

                      “Then the distinction between natural and supernatural collapses; if God always works through natural processes, there would be, necessarily, no way to explore the supernatural other than by natural means – in direct contradiction to your definition of the supernatural.”

                      Well for Stenger, the only way possible that a theistic god could exist is if he always worked behind natural processes. But this assumes that the only business that a supernatural (non-natural) being has is to run the universe the entire time. This would be consistent with Calvinism that presents a “puppet” master God but not much else.

                    • Nick Gotts

                      Next time you make a comment like this in a public conversation, make
                      sure you aren’t speaking to a religious studies student or major. Etc.
                      Prayer, miracles, afterlife

                      What are you on about now? Neither prayer nor doctrines about the afterlife are inherently mystical by any reasonable definition.

                      Well for Stenger

                      It was you who introduced Stenger, supposedly to clarify one of your obscure remarks, but now you’re disagreeing with him, so the point of bringing him in is unclear. So let’s leave him aside, and I’ll return to my original question: can the supernatural ever change the natural course of events, or not? If you can’t answer this question, it’s obvious you really don’t know what you mean by “the supernatural”, as I suggested.

                    • newenglandsun

                      Mysticism:
                      a doctrine of an immediate spiritual intuition of truths believed to transcend ordinary understanding,or of a direct, intimate union of the soul with God through contemplation or ecstasy (definition 2, dictionary.com)

                      Are you now saying that if someone is a naturalist, they pray to God and connect with him in some sort of afterlife as well? Are you saying that naturalism transcends ordinary understanding?

                      “can the supernatural ever change the natural course of events, or not?”

                      First off, I never entirely disagreed with Stenger. But I would state that to some extent, a supernatural entity can do this. Although a supernatural entity might also be able to take the liberty to not do this as well to allow for free will. Thus, he can work through the means of natural processes and this is how a lot of theists see a supernatural being working in their lives. And a supernatural being can also interfere with nature as well to perform miracles. I would say it depends on the will of the supernatural being. A deistic God would not interfere with the natural course of events at all.

                    • Nick Gotts

                      Neither prayer nor doctrines of the afterlife have any necessary connection with mysticism as it is described in the definition you quote: a person does not have to think they, or anyone else, has an “immediate spiritual intuition” of anything in order to pray, or to believe in an afterlife.

                      Are you now saying that if someone is a naturalist, they pray to God and connect with him in some sort of afterlife as well? Are you saying that naturalism transcends ordinary understanding?

                      No. How on earth did you get that load of nonsense out of anything I’ve written?

                      And a supernatural being can also interfere with nature as well to perform miracles.

                      The alleged evidence for miracles can be studied scientifically (and has been – e.g. the Turin shroud) , confirming once more that science and religion do not address altogether different categories, contrary to your claim.

                    • newenglandsun

                      “Neither prayer nor doctrines of the afterlife have any necessary connection with mysticism as it is described in the definition you quote: a person does not have to think they, or anyone else, has an “immediate spiritual intuition” of anything in order to pray, or to believe in an afterlife.”

                      Yes you do. To some extent. Especially the way that religions have it set up. Prayer is essentially a way of communicating with the divine.

                      Are you now saying that if someone is a naturalist, they pray to God and connect with him in some sort of afterlife as well? Are you saying that naturalism transcends ordinary understanding?

                      No. How on earth did you get that load of nonsense out of anything I’ve written?”

                      Case in point.

                      “The alleged evidence for miracles can be studied scientifically (and has been – e.g. the Turin shroud) , confirming once more that science and religion do not address altogether different categories, contrary to your claim.”

                      The shroud of Turin is not a “miracle” it was a piece of evidence that people used to “prove” a miracle. A miracle, by definition, is something that surpasses all known natural processes and is ascribed to a supernatural power. Since science can only investigate the natural, miracles are out of reach. Unless you are trying to change and/or alter the definition of science and/or miracle.

                    • Nick Gotts

                      Yes you do.

                      No, you don’t, to any extent. A lot of believers simply believe what they are told by their religious instructors. That’s not an “immediate spiritual intuition”.

                      The shroud of Turin is not a “miracle” it was a piece of evidence that people used to “prove” a miracle.

                      Er, yes. Exactly as I said.

                      A miracle, by definition, is something that surpasses all known natural processes and is ascribed to a supernatural power. Since science can
                      only investigate the natural, miracles are out of reach.

                      On the contrary, science has frequently been used to investigate the alleged supernatural, such as the power of prayer. Sometimes positive results have been claimed; if these had been replicable, they would have been scientific evidence for the existence of the supernatural; and scientific methods could have been used further in attempts to discover more about it.

                      Unless you are trying to change and/or alter the definition of science and/or miracle.

                      There is no agreed definition of “science”, or of “miracle” that I could try to “change and/or alter”. You claim science can only investigate the natural, but that is a restriction neither you nor anyone else has a right to impose: you don’t just get to declare it by fiat and insist that I agree. The real obstacle to science investigating the supernatural is that there is no good evidence the latter exists – but it can certainly investigate whether an alleged supernatural event is really supernatural, as has been done in some of the fairly frequent cases of bleeding or weeping religious statues. And if vampires or werewolves are discovered tomorrow, I assure you they will be investigated using scientific methods.

                    • newenglandsun

                      “No, you don’t, to any extent. A lot of believers simply believe what they are told by their religious instructors. That’s not an “immediate spiritual intuition”.”

                      Definitely not true of me. In fact, for the most part, good religious instructors teach people to question.

                      “The real obstacle to science investigating the supernatural is that there is no good evidence the latter exists – but it can certainly investigate whether an alleged supernatural event is really supernatural,”

                      Precisely. When science investigates prayer, they are investigating as to whether it affects the course of action. However, due to the multiple purposes of prayer expressed by religious believers, it essentially becomes impossible to dogmatically state that prayer is supernatural or not.
                      To further expound on how this is, religious people generally give arguments that prayer didn’t work in case x because supernatural being we prayed to said “no” or it wasn’t in the will of said supernatural being. Or…prayer is simply a way of communicating with the divine as opposed to asking the divine to carry out tasks for some people (myself included). Can then prayer really be disproven as a communication to the supernatural at this point?
                      Given, it cannot be proven either. In fact, with these arguments about prayer, it really makes prayer out of reach for the usages and purposes of scientific investigation. It is futile to rely on science to disprove supernatural involvement in prayer.

                    • Nick Gotts

                      Definitely not true of me.

                      Completely beside the point, which is that many people pray, and believe in an afterlife, without having any “immediate spiritual intuition”. Hence, much religion has nothing to do with mysticism.

                      Given, it cannot be proven either. In fact, with these arguments about prayer, it really makes prayer out of reach for the usages and purposes of scientific investigation. It is futile to rely on science to disprove
                      supernatural involvement in prayer.

                      And here you miss the point completely. Of course no experiment can prove that the supernatural does not exist, or that prayers are not heard by a supernatural being. But if experiments on the power of prayer gave reasonably consistent positive results, that would be very good evidence that the supernatural exists. As far as anything positive in science is ever proven, such experiments could indeed prove that the supernatural exists, and that prayer can influence its behaviour. So naturalism – the belief that there is no supernatural – can and does put its beliefs on the line, unlike supernaturalism, which perpetually seeks excuses (such as those you cite) for the failure of the supernatural to produce any good evidence of its existence.

                    • newenglandsun

                      “And here you miss the point completely. Of course no experiment can prove that the supernatural does not exist, or that prayers are not heard by a supernatural being. But ifexperiments on the power of prayer gave reasonably consistent positive results, that would be very good evidence that the supernatural exists.”

                      Actually, it would not. Here’s why: you always have to consider other factors that play into the experiment as well. Hence, prayer is not really an independent variable which makes all testing done to prove or disprove the supernatural to be untenable. Now, one can observe whether natural explanations can account for everything and that is really the advantage of strict naturalism in comparison to fundamentalism. Fundamentalism maintains that God is known through these supernatural events that point to him. But methodological naturalism allows more open-mindedness in that things don’t always have to point directly to the supernatural.

                      With that said, I am going to have to end this discussion here. As good a discussion it has been, we are simply both just arguing in circles at this point neither one of us reaching the other head-on so to speak.

                    • Nick Gotts

                      Here’s why: you always have to consider other factors that play into the
                      experiment as well.

                      Yes, of course. That’s what control groups, random assignment of subjects to control and experimental conditions, and double-blinding are for.

                      Hence, prayer is not really an independent variable which makes all testing done to prove or disprove the supernatural to be untenable.

                      Er, no it doesn’t, because that “Hence” doesn’t actually refer back to any evidence or argument you’ve produced to show that prayer cannot be treated as an independent variable. It can be, and it has been.

                    • newenglandsun

                      Doesn’t go over the health of said patients receiving intercessory prayer, doesn’t go over religious beliefs of patients receiving intercessory prayer and does not go over the medical people involved in said patient’s healing.

                      I rest my case – prayer is simply not an independent variable. It’s kind of like those psychological procedures determining the “cause” of homosexuality. There’s no way that can be done. I would encourage you to provide a better way to study the effects of prayer as an independent variable then to just rely upon studies like these.

                    • Nick Gotts

                      I’m sorry, but it’s clear you do not understand what “independent variable” means in scientific studies. It is, precisely, the variable that is deliberately manipulated in the experiment. Prayer, and specifically whether particular patients are prayed for, and whether they know this, was the independent variable in the study I linked to. That’s just a matter of fact. Prayer can be treated as an independent variable just like drugs or exercise regimes. Now it is true in all experiments on human subjects that there are uncontrolled variables – like prior health and religious belief. You can try to match your samples on what you think are the most important of these, but the most common, and entirely sound, procedure, is to allocate your subjects to different conditions at random. If you find a difference between conditions, statistical procedures can tell you how likely such a difference would be to arise by chance – because, say, healthier people happened to get into one of the conditions. If this probability is low enough, you conclude, tentatively, that the difference was due to the independent variable. In the study I linked to, prayer itself made no significant difference (although knowing you were being prayed for appeared to make outcomes slightly worse*). However, if those being prayed for had turned out to do significantly better (among those who didn’t know whether they were being prayed for), this would have been evidence of the efficacy of prayer. Not conclusive evidence – a single experiment very rarely is – but certainly justifying continued research.

                      *This of course does not require a supernatural explanation, since the subjects gained the information by natural means. It may be that subjects associated being prayed for with being very ill, and so felt worse, for example.

                    • newenglandsun

                      WHO they are praying to (there are lots of gods out there, is it possible that they are creating a god in their own minds? yes, thus, this isn’t really measureable even if it could be demonstrated the supernatural was involved.)
                      HOW long are they praying for
                      HOW frequently do they pray
                      WHAT do they pray for
                      etc.

                      There is no legitimate way to scientifically measure the effect of prayer on a given subject. Unless you can present a way in which it can, which you haven’t, I really see no reason discussing this with you any more.

                      I am willing to vouch that the person who thought he could prove the effects of the supernatural through the means of prayer in the first place wasn’t entirely up to date on figuring out that prayer is scientifically untestable. While there have been numerous studies like these, all of them are going to end up in the garbage pit of pseudoscience because none of them can present any form of predictable conclusions whatsoever (contrast to natural selection).

                    • Nick Gotts

                      The answers to the questions in your first paragraph are given in the paper I linked to – for example, all the prayers were to the Christian god. The rest of your comment essentially consists of dogmatic repetitions of the claim that the efficacy of prayer cannot be studied scientifically, which is a little pointless when I have provided a clear example of this being done. If the results had been positive, of course, many believers in the power of prayer would have trumpeted them to the skies. Your overall claim that science and religion study altogether different categories, only became popular as the findings of science increasingly diverged from traditional Christian belief.

                    • newenglandsun

                      “The answers to the questions in your first paragraph are given in the paper I linked to – for example, all the prayers were to the Christian god.”

                      In other words, all the prayers were to only one deity. Therefore, prayer really doesn’t work.

                      I’m sorry, that’s just a bogus claim for the primary reason that prayer is related to the supernatural. Like I said, there is no way to investigate the overall effects of prayer.

                      At this point, you can just dismiss me as someone who is just repeating myself over and over or someone who is clinging to an idea to refute the notion of science because it is diverging from the Christian belief but you have yet to present any real evidence that the supernatural can be dogmatically erased by any genuine scientific claim. Instead, you sound like you prefer the pseudoscience of psychology.

                      The overall reason why even if you can make prayer an independent variable by making sure they’re all praying to the same deity is basically that people can just simply explain the results away.

                      It is also possible that you misunderstand the goal of these experiments as well. If the experiment is to study whether or not prayer helps people heal, this can be tested because it is part of the natural realm. If the study is to investigate prayer for how the supernatural effects things, this cannot be tested and is out of bounds for a scientist to make claims on.

                      Science has developed from pseudoscience, yes. For instance, there were people who once believed evolutionary processes were divinely guided. As such, there will always be pseudosciences to refute.

                      Again, you CAN investigate whether prayer actually helps someone heal (this is part of the natural world). You CANNOT investigate whether the supernatural played a part in this prayer study (this is not part of the natural world).

                      I’ve already rambled on and on explaining to you that the supernatural cannot be scientifically experienced but you just don’t seem to get it.

                      I will leave you with the definition of science.

                      http://www.roanestate.edu/faculty/condon/handouts/sciencedef.html

                      Note: things must be disprovable. You can disprove whether prayer really helps heal someone or not but you cannot disprove whether the supernatural was involved. Things must be disprovable in order to be legitimate science. This is why intelligent design is classified as pseudoscience.

                      End note: The only one that has toyed with science here is not I but you.

                    • Nick Gotts

                      Again, I haven’t claimed that science can disprove the existence of the supernatural. That is a claim you have attributed to me on no grounds whatsoever. What I claim, and have shown, is that science can investigate supernatural claims, so that science and religion do not, contrary to your claim, concern altogether different categories.

                      You CANNOT investigate whether the supernatural played a part in this prayer study (this is not part of the natural world).

                      If an effect occurred for which no feasible natural explanation existed, the obvious conclusion would be that the supernatural had played a part.

                      The fact that you think there is a universally agreed definition of science just shows that you know little about the philosophy of science. However, I note that naturalism, unlike supernaturalism, is disprovable – one well-supported instance of the supernatural would disprove it.

                    • newenglandsun

                      judging by what you are saying now, i would contend we are in perfect agreement about the relationship of science and religion. not at all in disagreement. i would also contend that you implicitly, in your recent comments, do accept the definition of science as exploring the natural solely.

                      “But it is quite possible to investigate particular supernatural claims scientifically – for example, the claim that intercessory prayer works.”

                      and science can also explore the age of the earth. but…”Nothing can refute the supernatural in total: its existence is unfalsifiable,”

                      and here again is the problem. in order for something to be scientific, it must be falsifiable in the first place. this is how theories are established. through repeated testing of falsifiable material. again though, i think the problem you are having with processing my position that the two are different categories is that religions sometimes make claims about the natural world. when religions make claims about the natural world, this is where they overlap. again, science explores the natural.

                      nothing has refuted the definition of science i gave out.

                      “naturalism, unlike supernaturalism, is disprovable”

                      i’m not too certain about that. i think that some questions can only really be made known in death. which means that supernaturalism, is also as disprovable as naturalism.

                    • Nick Gotts

                      i would contend we are in perfect agreement about the relationship of science and religion.

                      No, we most certainly are not. I have not changed my position at all.

                      i would also contend that you implicitly, in your recent comments, do accept the definition of science as exploring the natural solely.

                      No, I most certainly do not.

                      in order for something to be scientific, it must be falsifiable in the first place

                      No, that’s not the case. The requirement for falsifiability only applies to universal generalizations. For example, the hypothesis “Life once emerged on Mars.” is not falsifiable, but it could be confirmable. It can certainly be investigated empirically, therefore, it is a scientific hypothesis.

                      when religions make claims about the natural world, this is where they overlap

                      But this is what religions have always done, until very recently, and in most cases, still do now. They have retreated from many of their claims because science proved them to be false.

                      science explores the natural.

                      And also the allegedly supernatural, as I have shown.

                      i think that some questions can only really be made known in death. which means that supernaturalism, is also as disprovable as naturalism.

                      No, it isn’t. Suppose there is an afterlife; then the existence of the supernatural is confirmed. Suppose there isn’t; then (a) there would be no-one to become aware that there is no afterlife and (b) the non-existence of an afterlife does not in any case imply the non-existence of the supernatural.

                    • Nick Gotts

                      I “don’t get it” because it’s false, as I have shown. If prayer actually helped, and no feasible natural mechanism could do so, then the obvious conclusion would be that the supernatural was involved. If prayers to one particular deity worked, and to others didn’t, that would be near-conclusive evidence. I have never claimed science can show the supernatural does not exist, in fact, I’ve said the opposite: it could refute naturalism, but not supernaturalism. Thinking that there is an agreed definition of science is incredibly naive, and there are many things that are not disprovable – for example, that there was once native life on Mars – but can be scientifically investigated. Calling psychology a pseudoscience proves nothing but your ignorance and prejudice.

                    • newenglandsun

                      Here’s a challenge for you.

                      If my current status on the relationship of science and religion is false and science and religion, are in essence, two entirely different categories where one explores the natural and one explores the supernatural, then you should be able to test this by scientifically disproving the supernatural.

                      Now note: Most who hold to my position DO acknowledge that science CAN refute religious claims concerning the natural world (for instance, the Earth isn’t flat does not equal Is. 40:22).

                      Thus far, you have pointed to studies that have been able to show that religious claims concerning the natural do not hold up (for instance, your statement on intercessory prayer not working). However, you have used these claims to argue that science is exploring the supernatural here which is utterly false.

                      In these statements of yours, you have not explained why if intercessory prayer produces no visible effects, this refutes the existence of the supernatural. And your argument that it does seems to be based entirely on a misunderstanding of the religious aspects of prayer.

                    • Nick Gotts

                      I didn’t say the fact that intercessory prayer produced no effects in the study cited refutes the supernatural. Nothing can refute the supernatural in total: its existence is unfalsifiable, because excuses can always be produced for why it did not manifest itself in a given experiment. But it is quite possible to investigate particular supernatural claims scientifically – for example, the claim that intercessory prayer works. this establishes that science and religion do not, contrary to your claim, concern altogether different categories.

                    • Nick Gotts

                      No, science cannot disprove the supernatural, as I’ve said before. This does not, of course, mean it cannot investigate it, since there are many natural hypotheses – e.g. that there was once native life on Mars – that are not disprovable but are potentially confirmable, and so can be investigated scientifically.

                    • newenglandsun

                      And again, it was the effects of said intercessory prayer that were being studied as to whether or not it makes a difference.

                      The overall experience cannot be scientifically investigated. For instance, were they actually praying to a god? It is possible.

                      Further, was it actually the Christian god they were praying to? This is possible too.

                      Can prayer be studied when someone is using it to connect to the divine as opposed to interceding on another’s behalf? No and no. There has never been a study produced on this and there cannot.

                    • Nick Gotts

                      None of this has any relevance at all to the issue of whether science and religion, as you claimed, concern altogether different categories. They don’t.


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