Hellbound

A while back, it was mentioned that Mark Driscoll was being interviewed for a documentary about Hell, being created by some of the folks who made Expelled. That documentary, now being called Hellbound, is scheduled for release in September. Here’s a trailer:

Despite Driscoll’s involvement, I hear that the documentary comes closer to siding with Rob Bell.

  • http://afrolatinoatheist.tumblr.com dantresomi

    One of the guys makes a great point: if they remove Hell from the equation, it all collapses. Makes you wonder why it was put in in the first place.

    • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

      I don’t think that really holds water. If you remove hell, as many Christians do, then you have other choices such as heaven vs oblivion, eternal life vs eternal death, and so on. It does not cause the entire thing to come crumbling down any more than any other inconsistency.

      • JK

        Call it what you want. The problem that only Christians will be the ones allowed into heaven remains. All the others go to a bad place with whatever name you choose. So it’s If you don’t believe this, you will be in [not heaven] after you die. The pressure stays up for Christians to prevent poor little human beings like you and me to not go to heaven…

        • Kodie

          It doesn’t matter if it’s the difference between going out for ice cream forever, or staying home to eat nothing but lima beans, or going to the dentist for eternal root canal with no anesthesia, it’s best to go out for ice cream. It always is. Some people just don’t like the idea of hell for all their wicked friends, they might even conceive that it makes them a bad person to believe that’s where their friends will go after they die. It’s more soothing to tell themselves, they will not go to the dentist, they will just not get ice cream. It doesn’t collapse, it just makes up a more palatable (as if lima beans are palatable) lie.

          Of course there are rigid believers who are motivated only by ice cream or only by the prospect of going in for dental surgery, and think this lima bean nonsense (like I do) is crap. I mean, heaven and hell are imaginary, but making up a better version of hell so you can tolerate yourself is bullshit.

  • vasaroti

    I’m sure there are some neat visuals in this, but I doubt it is much more than an extended version of a History channel program.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I’m certain that many fine journalists have gone to Hell; Christopher Hitchens comes immediately to mind. Why have none of them filed a report?

  • Michael

    Where does Jesus say not to fear the afterlife? He does say not to worry about this life once or twice, but that’s about it. And if you believe he is behind Revelation, he seems to want you pretty afraid.

    • http://theotherweirdo.wordpress.com The Other Weirdo

      Fear is at the root of and is the core of all religion.

  • http://www.evangelicaluniversalist.com Sonia

    As a Christian who doesn’t believe the Bible teaches the popular conception of Hell, I’m really looking forward to this documentary. :) I hope they do a good job with it!

    • http://www.hellboundthemovie.com Kevin Miller

      We’re doing our best not to screw this up!

      • Reginald Selkirk

        Just like with Dawkins’ D. Ph. degree?

        • Sunny Day

          What am I missing?

          • Reginald Selkirk

            “Dick to the Dawk to the D. Phil.”

  • Karl Jennings

    If this is from the guys who made Expelled, it doesn’t inspire confidence that they’ve thought any deeper than what is necessary to spin whatever pre-conceived notion they are trying to sell.

    • http://www.hellboundthemovie.com Kevin Miller

      The only people from “Expelled” who are on this film are my editor and me, and neither of us had editorial control over that project like we do on this one. I can promise you “Hellbound?” will be quite different, so I hope you’ll give us the benefit of the doubt.

      • http://talkorigins.org jatheist

        @Kevin:

        You say you were involved with “Expelled”… so what is your take on that movie (Expelled)? Do you stand behind it? Was it honest? Factual? Ethical?

        Your answer will go a long way in determining whether you get the benefit of my doubt…

        • http://www.hellboundthemovie.com Kevin Miller

          Let me start by saying I’m a big fan of Thomas Huxley, who argued that science must remain agnostic. That is, it must be free to follow the evidence wherever it leads. We can’t allow any particular worldview to hijack science for it’s own purposes. Huxley was just as hard on Darwin as he was on someone like Wilberforce in this regard.

          At the same time, I recognize what Daniel Dennett says at the opening of “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea,” that there is no such thing as philosophy-free science, there is only science whose philosophical baggage has yet to be examined. So while I think it’s important to be aware of our philosophical and religious biases and to try to minimize their influence on how we interpret data, it is absolutely impossible to do science outside of a worldview. So I don’t think it’s so much a question of whether or not someone has a bias. We all have a bias. The real question is, are we aware of our bias and, more importantly, are we able to defend it?

          So that’s a summary of my point of departure when approaching any sort of theory, be it Intelligent Design or Rene Girard’s mimetic violence theory. Depending on our worldview, certain ideas are going to appear more or less attractive than others. So when considering a new theory we need to be cautious about getting swept away by our emotional attachment to it, b/c it could be that we’re merely seeking “scientific” validation of something we already believe to be true on a gut level. And the stronger our emotional attachment to an idea, the lower our ability to examine it critically. Especially if that idea becomes part of our identity, b/c then everything is on the table and we’ll be loathe to surrender it.

          So how does this relate to “Expelled”? That’s a bit of a long story, but I can say my interest in the project was along the lines of epistemology. On a philosophical level, ID proponents seemed to be asking an interesting question: If we examine nature looking for signs of intelligent design, will we find anything? What tools could we use to detect such a thing? This is an interesting line of inquiry in light of all that we’ve learned about information theory. And even Richard Dawkins will admit that such a search is not inherently theistic or irrational. You can cloak it in a theistic worldview if you like, but the bottom line is that if you’re going to embark on this search, you’re going to have to develop some hard scientific tools and interpretive techniques. Have the ID folks been able to do that? So far, I don’t think so. But my interest was never to argue that ID is the answer. I was more intrigued to know why the emotional and institutional reaction against them was so strong. How can we understand this conflict historically? Sociologically? Politically? Rather than declare winners and losers, I think it would have been much more interesting to get to the heart of what’s actually driving this debate and similar debates in society so we could learn from it. But unfortunately, that’s not the movie that made it to the screen.

          Why is that? For one thing, “Expelled” was the first documentary I had ever worked on. You have to remember I first started on this project 7 years ago, so I was still quite early in my screenwriting career. So one thing working against me was inexperience. I was literally learning on the fly and bound to make all sorts of mistakes. This isn’t to excuse them; merely to state a fact.

          Second, we had a lot of cooks in the kitchen with a lot of competing agendas on that film. One of the most powerful voices came from a somewhat Fundamentalist perspective, and he was primarily interested in taking the boots to the scientific establishment on this. As for Ben Stein, all he wanted to do was connect Darwin to Hitler–something the rest of us resisted throughout the process. Apart from Stein, one of our producers had the most power on the project, so the rest of us on the creative team were in constant conflict with him as we fought to bring some sort of balance to the discussion. In fact, one of the other producers essentially had a nervous breakdown mid-way through production largely as a result of this sort of conflict. Another member of the team didn’t really take the project seriously at all. So when it came to presenting evolutionary theory, it tended toward sarcasm and mockery simply b/c he was bored with the subject matter. I could go on and on, but people have this idea that “Expelled” was the product of a bunch of right wing young earthers bent on turning science–and America–into a theocracy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Behind the film were multiple points of view constantly competing with each other. I’m not saying I was the only sane one in the bunch. I made my fair share of mistakes. But I can say that if I and certain other team members weren’t in the editing room, the film would have turned out even more unbalanced than it is.

          So do I stand by the film? Certainly not all of it. I do think it made some good points along the lines of what I noted in my preamble, but unfortunately, those were overshadowed by some of its more controversial elements. I think the film could have gone a long way toward educating people about the conflict and perhaps opening up new channels of dialogue. Instead, it merely polarized people even further, which was exactly the opposite of what I had hoped.

          Was it honest? Factual? Ethical? Certain parts of it were definitely not honest, such as the quote Ben Stein reads while walking in Darwin’s garden. I still can’t believe they let that stand when it’s so obviously out of context. I also have to say I was terribly disappointed by ID scientists when we asked them how evolutionary biology would be different if it proceeded from an ID foundation. We never got a clear answer. We actually interviewed Michael Behe for the film thinking that if anyone could give us that answer, it would be him. But he couldn’t really do it. Hence his non-appearance in the film. The whole notion of whether or not scientists were actually expelled for their ID beliefs has also been contested, and I accept that. I think part of the reason for that is that people took the metaphor a bit too literally. But I can say there’s a lot more to the Sternberg case than ever made it into the film or the public record. You can’t say he was expelled, but you can say he experienced a high level of conflict for his views. Now, what role he played in inciting that conflict can be debated. But there’s no denying that his friendliness to ID is what got him in trouble. Another thing we were criticized for was allegedly misleading our interviewees. I’m kind of on the fence with that. When doing a documentary, it’s not always advantageous to be completely forthcoming about your POV, b/c that can have a distorting effect on the interview. I’d much rather be a participant-observer in order to minimize observer interference. However, that can lead to accusations of “gotcha” journalism. And the whole Rampant Films thing certainly looks like a smoking gun in that regard.

          So did we make some mistakes on “Expelled”? Certainly. Have I learned from those mistakes? Definitely. Do I regret some of the things we said and did in that film? I will offer an unqualified “yes.” Of course, that doesn’t mean my future film making efforts will be error-free (and I have worked on several documentaries since Expelled, btw). But I don’t expect perfection from anyone else, so I hope no one expects that from me.

          I’ve said some things here that I’ve never shared publicly before–and I could share a lot more. So I hope that satisfies you that I’m at least trying to be forthcoming about my past and future efforts.

          • Reginald Selkirk

            Let me start by saying I’m a big fan of Thomas Huxley, who argued that science must remain agnostic. That is, it must be free to follow the evidence wherever it leads…

            Let me respond by saying that this required openness is often abused in a dishonest way.

            Consider the question of whether the Earth is flat. To remain scientific in our outlook, we can never state with absolute certainty that the Earth is not flat. But to say that we have no position on it would also be dishonest, as it denies the huge body of evidence already accumulated. We cannot be absolutely certain, but we can be certain enough; we can be certain to a very high probability.

            And likewise with the theory of evolution. But people who use this argument tend to be very selective about which well-established scientific theories and which montane bodies of evidence they wish to ignore. I conclude that anyone who is not sufficiently certain about the theory of evolution is not sufficiently educated to make their opinion worthwhile.

            • http://www.hellboundthemovie.com Kevin Miller

              That’s exactly why I followed up my statement about Huxley with the recognition that objectivity is a pipe dream. Of course we are all sufficiently certain about a lot of things. As you’ve pointed out, problems arise when we cross the line from sufficiently certain to absolutely certain. Hence the need for constant internal and external checks and balances.

          • Len

            I’ve not seen “Expelled”, so I can’t comment on that, but I have read your post above, and two things bother me a bit (there may be more but I’ve no time to read it all again):

            So while I think it’s important to be aware of our philosophical and religious biases and to try to minimize their influence on how we interpret data, it is absolutely impossible to do science outside of a worldview. So I don’t think it’s so much a question of whether or not someone has a bias. We all have a bias. The real question is, are we aware of our bias and, more importantly, are we able to defend it?[my emphasis]

            You shouldn’t have to defend your “worldview” when doing science. You should do science and ignore your worldview. Otherwise you’re not doing science, you’re doing your worldview.

            … ID scientists …

            These words should not appear in the same sentence without some kind of negative between them.

            • Len

              Sorry – missed a bit in my first comment: worldview leads to bias, so defending your bias eventually means defending your worldview.

            • http://www.hellboundthemovie.com Kevin Miller

              I think Daniel Dennett would take issue with what you’re saying. You’re arguing for philosophy-free science. He’s saying (rightly, I believe) that there’s no such thing.

            • http://www.hellboundthemovie.com Kevin Miller

              Also, when I say “defend your bias,” what I mean is, can you articulate why your worldview is a better foundation for scientific inquiry than an alternative worldview. It’s merely defending your point of departure as valid.

            • http://talkorigins.org jatheist

              Kevin wrote: “It’s merely defending your point of departure as valid.”

              No. You shouldn’t defend “your point of departure” – you should do everything you can to ensure that you ~don’t~ depart at all. Following the scientific method requires no “worldview”.

          • FO

            Are you aware that reality is science-biased?

          • FO

            Also, no, science is the exercise of keeping your world view out of your understanding.

            And this is why scientists all over the world, each with different beliefs and world views, can cooperate and agree on their results.

            Examples?
            - Maxwell Laws of Electromagnetism: all scientists agree, regardless of world view.

            - Great Unification Theory: there are several conflicting theories, but thy aren’t still affected by world views.
            Also, there is a way to get an agreed truth, sooner or later.

            - The one True Holy Book: seem kinda bound to world view, and subject to disagreement.
            No way to eventually find an agreement is possible.

            Also, given that you are open to an intelligent agent, can you tell me how would you refute Intelligent Gravity?

          • http://fugodeus.com Nox

            A scientist necessarily has a worldview. The point of science is the recognition of this fact.

            That is exactly why testing data is important. Because what is intuitive may not be true.

            That is exactly why not accepting claims without evidence is important. Because humans can be fooled. And quite easily.

            Science is the branch of philosophy which attempts to overcome the limitations of human bias by sticking to what can be observed, tested and repeated.

            It isn’t scientific truth until someone with a completely different worldview can repeat your experiment and get the same result.

            That science is not looking for the supernatural is not actually an example of a limitation of science. If something were observed to exist in the Universe, it would be part of nature and by definition natural. Most supernatural beliefs are simply attempts to explain natural events.

            And in most cases, these are simply prescientific explanations that people hold on to even though there are better explanations now available. We no longer need to look for Thor because we understand electrostatic induction. We no longer need to worry about why the volcano god is angry, because we understand a little more about how volcanoes work. We no longer need demons to explain disease. And we no longer need an intelligent designer to explain the origins of the Universe, or how life could arise on Earth, or take all it’s diverse forms.

            • Elemenope

              Very early on in my time at UF, I got into a (what turned out to be a rather intemperate and nasty) argument with a regular about whether analogy has a proper role in science. He argued that it does not. I would hold, quite the contrary, that analogy–and what it makes possible, narrative–are crucial to understanding what science is to us, to human beings.

              Scientific laws are just mathematical relationships substantiated by repeated observation. Theories, on the other hand, are the stories that these laws tell, as we situate them in a wider framework that imbues meaning to those equations.

              The crucial thing about stories, and meaning more generally, is that they are required to be subtended by a world-view that imbues them, in turn, with meaning (and this is true even digging right down to the value axioms themselves). Without those stories, scientific laws are quite literally just descriptions of meaningless quantities, merely the interactions and collisions of random objects in space.

              I understand that science, as a process, is quite rightly bent on straining out the narratives formed by world-views other than itself, primarily because those narratives are constructed with insufficient rigor to support the scientific process. But it is, of course, not interested in straining out its own viewpoint biases because that would be counterproductive to its functionalistic goal of producing accounts of the world that are useful to humans.

              Rather, we leave that thankless task to philosophers and then laugh at them…heh, us…when we try.

            • UrsaMinor

              That is exactly why testing data is important. Because what is intuitive may not be true.

              This is a very important point. We have certain instincts that we need to overcome in order to understand the world as it really is. A case in point is the fact that humans instinctively subscribe to the impetus theory of motion; experiments show clearly that even among college students who have been educated in freshman physics, most of them do not internalize this knowledge and when faced with a physical task to perform, still behave as though it is possible to impart horizontal curvilinear motion to a thrown object. It feels deeply right, and deeply true at some intuitive level- and yet the briefest of experiments with thrown objects will demonstrate that this is not true at all. In fact, it is impossible to do.

              Human perception is full of quirks like this. Experimental science is needed to sort out our expectational biases from reality.

            • Elemenope

              We have certain instincts that we need to overcome in order to understand the world as it really is.

              Yes! This is the coolest part of the universe and the most frustrating part of being a human in it, that reality is deeply counterintuitive because human equipment for making our way in the world (our instincts and senses) is optimized to observe only objects of human-like size moving at human-like speeds.

              Very good for spotting the lion in the tall grass; not so useful for discerning the fine structure of matter.

          • DMG

            @Kevin Miller: Thank you for your comments. You’ve got the benefit of the doubt from me at least. :)

            I’ll confess, from reading what works I have from intelligent design advocates, I don’t get the impression that many of them are of the type you describe: interested in asking the question of whether the evidence suggests a designer and being open to all outcomes. Nevertheless, I’m sure such scientists exist, and it could have trouble being heard above the religious zealots intent on pushing their idea of god as scientific fact, and the academic establishment trying to keep such ideology out of science & education.

          • vasaroti

            If these comments were required reading for everyone, before watching Expelled, or, If you had made these remarks in a widely read publication of the Southern Baptist Church, I might be less judgmental. However, your explanation of behind-the-scene intellectual and ethical struggles will probably go no farther.

            Expelled remains a significant artifact in the dumbing down of America, and you, no doubt, continue to derive profit from it.

  • Len

    So I guess this is not a remake of Chuck Norris’ Hellbound: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hellbound_(film)

    Too bad.

  • Cody

    I’m hoping the documentary clarifies the origins of the word “Hell” and the actual words it replaces (Hades, Sheol, and Gehenna).

  • http://www.hellboundthemovie.com Kevin Miller

    Again, Jatheist, you’re arguing against Daniel Dennett here, and I think you should consider his arguments before discarding them. Merely saying, “science is the study of natural processes” is the product of a worldview, b/c it is by definition eliminating the notion of “supernatural processes.” That is a philosophical rather than a scientific choice, therefore, it is predicated on a philosophical or religious worldview. This is the point many people miss–the philosophical premises of science were not arrived at via a scientific process. And I don’t care what your philosophic premise is. It’s true of every position.

    • Kodie

      Merely saying, “science is the study of natural processes” is the product of a worldview, b/c it is by definition eliminating the notion of “supernatural processes.”

      I don’t think it counts as a “worldview” to say some things are imaginary. Absent any proof of them, and present many explanations that were formerly attributed to the supernatural, I think starting with a premise where imaginary things are real, i.e. ID “science” begins with the premise that god is real and then tries to line up evidence for it, is not at all parallel with how science is engaged. If you are trying to support that one is equally valid as another by applying this “worldview” horse crap, you’re the one who has to defend his premise is really just the conclusion put ahead of the evidence. Some things might be true, but you have to put the evidence in order before you draw a conclusion. Anything you are comparing to science or comparing science to demonstrates a pathological ignorance. It’s not a philosophy.

    • Elemenope

      Merely saying, “science is the study of natural processes” is the product of a worldview, b/c it is by definition eliminating the notion of “supernatural processes.” That is a philosophical rather than a scientific choice, therefore, it is predicated on a philosophical or religious worldview.

      Well, the decision is not made in a vacuum, only informed by Weltanschauung and nothing else. The philosophical choice for scientists to fix upon natural as opposed to putatively supernatural processes for study is a simple pragmatic response to the unavoidable fact that we can test one but not the other.

      It may be a fascinating philosophical adventure to look for teleological fingerprints in the universe, but it cannot be a scientific one not because we don’t want it to be, but simply because we lack (due to our unfortunate epistemological position) the tools and methods that would allow a narrative like “these physical facts A,B,C…X indicate that the universe was originally moved by a designer” to be anything other than not even wrong but actually completely incoherent. This is simply because that conclusion is one among an uncountably infinite number of untestable philosophical speculations, the possible evidence for which being radically underdetermined by our inability not just to find any dispositive facts that would allow us to choose that speculation amongst all the others, but even by our inability to describe what such a fact might look like so we could recognize it if we did find it.

      • UrsaMinor

        It goes beyond the inability to test the supernatural. It is a product of our inability to even observe it.

        There is no reason to postulate the existence of an unobserved phenomenon which leaves no detectable signature in the environment. If that were not so, then we would have to entertain the possibility of every conceivable unobserved phenomenon that we can imagine as being equally likely, as they all have zero evidence and there is no preferred choice among them.

        • Elemenope

          Good point. If we can’t find it, and we can’t even know what we’re looking for, and there is no phenomenal sign whatsoever that “it” even exists, then it doesn’t leave any room for an empiricism of any sort (much less science) to gain purchase.

    • FO

      Atomic nuclei are kept together by invisible leprechauns dressed in red, who dance around the quark particles, they are always smiling and well-meaning.

      I can make an infinity of those statements about nature.
      Assuming you don’t believe in my leprechaun theory, can you explain me why you don’t?

      • Len

        FO, you are clearly a heretic. Everyone knows the leprechauns are dressed in green.

        • UrsaMinor

          Except for the ones who hold atomic nuclei together through the power of interpretive dance. Green attire is reserved for those guarding the pots of gold at the end of the rainbow.

          • Len

            Interpretive dance (ID) is not science!

            • UrsaMinor

              Yeah, but subatomic leprechauns are not scientists, so it’s all good.

          • Elemenope

            After reading an earnest fiction book that included the evils of fast-dancing, ecstatic mitochondria, this isn’t even weird enough to raise eyebrows.

  • http://www.hellboundthemovie.com Kevin Miller

    Kodie: Our worldview also determines what we do and do not accept as evidence. What one person might accept as evidence, another person would reject. So no matter how you slice it, our worldview plays a pivotal role. It’s not a matter of starting with your preferred conclusion and then going out to confirm it. We depend on our worldview to frame the questions we ask and the lines of inquiry we pursue. For example, there’s a good reason science didn’t develop amongst the North American native people, b/c their worldview simply didn’t compel them to ask scientific questions. Ironically, it was the belief in a rational universe and a rational creator that drove scientific thought in Europe and the Middle East. Their worldview caused them to form certain questions and devise a way of investigating those questions. However, all of it was premised upon a non-scientific foundation.

    Again, I’m not the only one arguing this. You’ll find plenty of atheist philosophers who will argue exactly the same thing. And this also isn’t to argue that all worldviews have equal footing. Our worldviews are the product of reason, experience and our interpretation of authoritative texts or individuals. But it always precedes whatever scientific work that we do. Science may play a role in shaping our worldview, but once again, the foundation upon which science is conducted is ultimately a philosophical choice rather than a scientific one. That’s why I don’t see any inherent conflict between science and religion. That’s a category error. What’s going on is a conflict between competing worldviews. Science is merely one of many battlegrounds.

    • Sunny Day

      History is replete with religious scientists of integrity who performed investigations and upon examining the evidence published the findings even though it didn’t contain the evidence for god that they were hoping for.

      So yeah good science leaves the worldview at the door.

      • FO

        Good ‘ol Kepler to say one.

        • http://www.hellboundthemovie.com Kevin Miller

          You guys are totally misunderstanding what I’m saying. If you believe leprechauns are running the universe you won’t even do science, b/c your worldview will never prompt you to ask a scientific question. It’s not about using science to prove or disprove your worldview. It’s about realizing you simply can’t do science outside of a worldview. Again, go to Daniel Dennett on this–an atheist philosopher of science. You can’t leave your worldview at the door, b/c it’s what gets you through the door.

          • FO

            Kevin, the whole point is that there is no qualitative difference between the “Intelligent Designer” and leprechauns.
            You can do science with neither.

            The application of the scientific method as mean to understand reality (and in our specific case, the use of Occam’s Razor) follows straight from pure rational logic, the only worldview that matters here is whether you recognize logic or not.

          • kholdom0790

            How come the only word you can’t be bothered to type in its entirety is “because”?

    • Kodie

      Our worldview also determines what we do and do not accept as evidence.

      Unfortunately, this is correct. If you have a worldview, you are going to start with a conclusion, which is the wrong way. The evidence you accept has to match this conclusion or be able to be twisted and bullied to fit the worldview. Scientific study does not start with the conclusion. It starts with an idea what the conclusion might be and then tests it and retests it and publishes it and retests it. If you have a worldview that suggests social and emotional issues come from the brain, so you solve that problem by drilling into the skull, thus incapacitating and institutionalizing a more docile population, well, you’ve solved the problem and there’s your evidence. Is that the right way?

      Similarly, Intelligent Design is not Science. It starts with the conclusion and then crams whatever science it likes to “prove” it as an alternative to evolution. It doesn’t use science, it abuses science to pretend that it is also science. It discards EVIDENCE that proves evolution, makes up words like “micro-evolution” and “macro-evolution” in order to seduce people that it competes with science, and promotes itself by lying, and confusing people about what science is and what science isn’t and how they arrived at the “conclusion” by putting it beforehand. If SCIENCE can’t prove a thing that it thought might be true, it doesn’t keep going after that same thing until it does fit, because it never will. It approaches the conclusion by starting at the beginning, with no conclusion.

      • http://www.hellboundthemovie.com Kevin Miller

        Starting with a worldview does not mean starting with your conclusion. It means starting with a particular set of questions. For example, if my worldview says the earth is the center of the universe and everything else revolves around it, it’s going to prompt me to ask a far different set of questions than if I believe the earth is part of a system of planets that revolves around the sun–which is part of a much larger system of stars. These two worldviews give rise to completely different lines of inquiry because they start with different assumptions. We now know that the second view is a much closer approximation of reality, but the point is both worldviews provided a set of questions to investigate. It’s not about starting with the conclusion. It’s about starting with a particular set of questions.

        • Kodie

          If your worldview starts with the conclusion that the earth is the center of the universe, you will be asking the wrong questions, and whatever answers you get have to necessarily be modified to fit reality while still supporting your worldview. That’s why it’s dumb.

          • DMG

            But that’s exactly how science proceeds.

            For a long time, we did ask the wrong questions about the solar system and stars. We devised complex systems of epicycles to make predictions based on what seemed at the time to be the most logical hypothesis.

            Eventually we asked better questions and the evidence mounted until it shifted the prevailing worldview to a more correct one.

            It’s only with hindsight that we can see astronomers of the day were ignoring an obvious possibility. No matter how objective they were trying to be, it didn’t occur to them as a legitimate investigation.

            It’s entirely possible we’re wrong about the Higgs boson today, and that the explanation for mass lies elsewhere. Current evidence, viewed through the lens of prevailing worldviews, suggests we’re on the right track. But we should never believe that we are so objective that we think of every appropriate question in every subject.

            • Kodie

              I guess that was hasty. “Based on what we can observe and understand, such is true” isn’t the same thing as clinging to the worldview no matter what.

              When you ask the wrong questions, you will eventually get to an impasse between fact and the conclusion you’ve already drawn. And didn’t a lot of people believe the earth was the center of the universe even after it was demonstrated that it wasn’t? And the fact that it’s not (or rather, wherever it may be or how it all works) doesn’t really matter in the daily lives of most people, but didn’t it matter a lot to the guy who knew it wasn’t?

              I’m aware that science has to go investigate a lot of blind alleys to sort out the truth. I was speaking more to conversations we’ve had with people who mis-manage the evidence we have for evolution to ask the wrong questions because they have already concluded that there’s an intelligent designer. And of course, people who believed that the earth was the center of the universe because of the bible, and so denied what was discovered once scientific examination arrived at the impasse.

              If science is a “worldview,” which I think is a religious buzzword meant to label science or atheism a religious belief which doesn’t stand up to the scrutiny (or denialism) of the religionist speaker, it makes it sound like we don’t know anything. That evolution is “just a theory”. Because it might keep changing what is true, that it is not a good platform or “worldview” to stand on, and becomes the whole argument why we should trust a book that is thousands of years old, something that has been true forever. Something that asks the wrong questions and fits whatever it sees to match the conclusion it has already drawn.

    • Paul

      Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel” goes into this. The people who lived in areas where technology was not necessary for survival did not develop it. Even once they were exposed to it, they only gradually accepted those parts of it that improved their lives, or in the case of Native Americans in North, South and Central America, they adopted the tools of the Europeans – horses, steel and guns – in order to try to protect themselves from these same Europeans.

      The same applies to religion. European and Eastern religions evolved to fit better into the needs of the people as their culture evolved. Primitive tribal gods were traditionally based on those things they could not control but which greatly affected their lives. Praying to the volcano god that created fertile ground in its shadow, Storm gods, Sun gods all were directly connected to those things which the people feared or whose gifts they needed. These are necessary for hunter gatherer tribes as these controlled life or death and they needed to feel some control through pacifying these gods.

      As they became agrarian cultures they learned the timing of the seasons and worshipped gods that controlled them.

      As villages and cities formed, as tribes came more into contact, gods changed again.

      Judaism was the religion of a nomadic people. Christianity was the religion as people of different tribes lived together and interacted. Islam was the religion of one such group who was under the thumb of others, thus its more belicose nature. LDS was from the great awakening and many of its beliefs reflected the nature of its followers. More women were attracted than men, which happened with many of the new groups that formed during the two great awakenings of the 19th century. Plural marriage or group marriage was common to several of these groups. Only LDS really survived and they only were able to by renouncing one of the basic beliefs and they gave up plural marriage, though there are still the splinter groups that keep the practice alive.

      “Their worldview caused them to form certain questions and devise a way of investigating those questions. However, all of it was premised upon a non-scientific foundation.”

      Of course it was founded on a non-scientific footing. This was the path that led to what we now recognize as the scientific method.

      All knowledge is based on both what we have learned before as well as the mistaken ideas that went with them. So we start moving towards the scientific traveling on both correct new knowledge and wrong ideas that were mixed in among them. I would argue that this is why in a technologically advanced world we still have religions with all the petty and primitive beliefs, though as time goes on, people find it necessary to pick and choose among the passages of their holy books as more and more of it becomes untenable. The “god of the gaps” is paired with the “scriptures of the gaps”.

  • Elemenope

    I will say that while I don’t endorse Mr. Miller’s read of science on several significant points, I will say that it is hasty (and probably inaccurate) to claim that science is best understood as a practice or process without a built-in world view.

    It is, I think, clearly built upon more basic choices about what we believe the world to be and how it behaves that are not derivable in any reasonable way from argument; they are axiomatic assumptions: The utility of rigorous induction (and what that rigor does or does not preserve), the principles of the uniformity and time-invariance of nature, the basic reliability of the senses (i.e. even if senses only grant us apparent access to things-that-are, those productions are partially commensurate in a reliable way with whatever that underlying reality actually is), the basic quantifiability of phenomena, and more.

    There is also lots to say on why science exists (what are our goals when we do science?), what it exactly is producing (asymptotic approach to truth, or merely more effective instrumentality?), and what effect the fact that science is entirely a deeply human enterprise has upon the nature and fruits of that enterprise.

    All too often these questions, and the highly technical and not at all satisfying possible answers to them, are used as rhetorical crowbars to pry science out of its rightfully esteemed position as our dominant and by far most reliable episteme, and to attempt equivalence with religious or other modes of examining reality. But I don’t think that because these questions can be put to bad ends necessarily means it is a good idea to neglect or denigrate that they are open questions with profound consequence for our understanding of just what it is we are doing when we say we are doing science.

    • http://www.hellboundthemovie.com Kevin Miller

      Thank you. This is exactly what I’m trying to argue.

  • FO

    Ok.
    Let’s assume the Intelligent Designer.
    Let’s assume that He (it’s obviously male) can poke around matter.
    Let’s assume that He can poke without limits of time and space (for some reasons, I don’t think this will be challenged… But probably it’s just me thinking that ID proponents are not as honest as they would like to appear…)

    Puff!
    With these three assumptions, Life on Earth is perfectly explained, I am sure everyone will concur.

    But we shouldn’t stop here.
    These three very simple assumptions allow us to further simplify physics as we know it.
    Gravity?
    He does it of His own volition.
    Thermodynamics?
    He moves every single particle in such a way that order appears!
    I am sure you smart people will bee able to go much further on your own.

    Thanks to the outstanding ideas of Intelligent Design, we can easily and promptly reduce all the cumbersome burden called “science” to the straightforward and more human:
    “Go… Ehm… He did it!”

    Eureka!!!

    • DMG

      That “good enough” explanation is definitely a danger, but it’s not the kind of approach Mr. Miller is supporting (if I understand him correctly)

      The question of whether or not a god exists is a question about the nature of our world (as Dawkins argues in The God Delusion). There’s no reason, in principle, that the scientific method can’t be applied to it. If we can detect the delicate influence of neutrinos, plot the structure of unseen dark matter influencing galaxies, or unweave the history of our descent from patterns of shared genetic sequences, why should the influence of a designer/intervenor be beyond our detection?

      It’s worth looking for signs one way or the other. You just need to be careful of fittting the ecidence to your preferred conclusion.

      So far, to my mind, this universe looks very much like one without a devine being. But if someone discovers verifiable evidence to the contrary I would love to see it. I certainly support Dawkins and Miller’s idealized ID scientist in asking the question. :)

      • UrsaMinor

        Exactly. The question “Is there a God?” is valid and worthy of pursuit. But you have to be willing to to accept what the evidence tells you when you do pursue it.

        • http://www.hellboundthemovie.com Kevin Miller

          I couldn’t agree more. My philosophy is that the universe is what it is no matter what we believe about it, so we should always hold our beliefs loosely. The history of humanity is a history of changing our beliefs in light of new evidence. It’s rigidly held belief that always gets us into trouble. That’s essentially what “Hellbound?” is all about.

          • Elemenope

            As the great Philip K. Dick said, reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

            • Reginald Selkirk

              Dick was probably high when he said that. He was high an awful lot of the time.

            • Elemenope

              I’d say, if true, that gives him a special qualification to give that answer. He was also schizophrenic, another condition that gives a person (whether they want it or not) a different appreciation of the differences and interplays between internal beliefs and external reality.

          • Paul

            “Holding our beliefs loosely” is the defining difference between the approach of science vs religion. Religion offers a set of divine answers that you don’t dare question lest you become subject to the wrath of a petulent god. The scientific method is based on questioning and testing and retesting and forming new theories, testing them and seeing if it is more capable of fitting reality. Where religion is unchanging, science is all about changing, about building new ideas on what we have learned in the past.

            • http://www.hellboundthemovie.com Kevin Miller

              Your description of religion is what I would call “bad religion.” While such rigidly held beliefs are the kind that often hit the press, it’s hardly the only way to approach religion, and it’s certainly not the best way. I know plenty of Christians who approach the ambiguity of the universe with humility rather than certainty. If you observe what’s happening with the emergent church movement, for instance, it’s much closer to your definition of science, a process that is based on questioning old beliefs and testing and retesting and forming new theories, testing them and seeing if it is more capable of fitting reality. After all, as Richard Dawkins points out, science and religion are sort of in the same business–searching for the ultimate explanation of the universe. That’s why I see them as friends rather than foes.

            • Nzo

              @Kevin

              If it wasn’t for the umbrella of undeserved respect for religion, having any imaginary friend as an adult would be considered a bad thing.

              But please, do continue to tell us how your approach to religion is somehow better, and SO much like science.

            • Nzo

              x.x fuuuuuuuu-missedatag

            • Sunny Day

              Testing old beliefs against what exactly?

              What is the criteria for determining if the test was failed?

              Science is the only one with a track record of correcting errors.

            • Kodie

              It’s true that some people do find their religious beliefs inadequate or mistaken, and go searching for the religion that fits what they think is true. They may trade their god for another god, they don’t know what TO believe, but they know WHAT they believe, and the god they find to go with agrees with them. Whatever way they may have been raised or lived many years, they reach an impasse in their church and they no longer agree with what they say there that god wants. It is not working in their lives. So, pretending to know what god wants, they find another church’s teaching appealing, occasionally another religion altogether, but usually Christians stay Christian (including Catholics). I love how you try to make it sound like they are experimenting until they know god’s will, because god exists, and no matter what they come up with, they will cling to that. (Of course, there are former religionists here and everywhere who have shed their beliefs and categorize having them at all as irrational, generally). Most of my experience with religious people is with people who were raised with one belief and came to a point of doubt, but never all the way. Cherry-picking is not the scientific method, although, to you, it might seem similar.

            • Bill

              “Your description of religion is what I would call “bad religion.””

              Kevin – You seem like a smart guy. Are you sure you want to go “no true Scotsman” this early in the discussion?

              Moreover, Paul’s description of religious thought (“Religion offers a set of divine answers that you don’t dare question lest you become subject to the wrath of a petulent god”), is pretty consisntent with main stream christian doctrine in the US. It’s also consistent with the holy book on which that religion is based.

            • DMG

              Indeed. The problem in any debate of science vs religion comes down to the means of determining truth.

              While some religious groups are less dogmatic about their beliefs than others, they all enshrine at some level assertions reached through reading/oral tradition or introspection/meditation/communing. (If there is a counter-example of a religion that bases nothing on stories/personal experiences then I would be happy to be proven wrong here)

              The trouble is that these are not reliable ways of discerning truth about the world. If we make the (to my mind, modest) assumption that there is one objectively real world we’re all experiencing, then the fact that different written/oral traditions, different prophets/gurus/introspectors have arrived at different “truths” demonstrates that they are not reliably revealing objective truths but are rather inventing stories much of the time.

              And unlike bodies of scientific evidence and theories, which reach greater consensus over time as errors are pruned and new data accounted, these stories become more disparate over time. Look how many sects of Christianity have emerged, all ostensibly following the same revelations, but reaching sometimes diametrically opposite conclusions about what is true about our world and how we should live.

              This means that every religion has within it the potential to become a “bad religion” in Miller’s words, because they start from the premise that some things we can believe on feel/historical precedent, and have no filter mechanism to rule-out beliefs that are not objectively true.

              So no, not every theist is dogmatic and unwilling to re-evaluate their beliefs based on evidence. But religion, as a rule, permits dogmatism, with no built-in means to dislodge it.

        • Jabster

          “Exactly. The question “Is there a God?” is valid and worthy of pursuit.”

          Well I suppose I’ll have to disagree … how can a question be valid when the object that it refers to has no clear definition. I can say it’s valid to ask whether the Universe was created by an intelligent entity or entities or I can say it’s valid to ask if the Christian version of god exists but how can I say it’s valid to ask if an object that I can’t even define exists? In addition if we are talking about the Christian god why is it worthy to pursue a question which starts with the answer and has been shown time and time again to have no basis.

          • Kodie

            I found it somewhat worthy to ask and answer. I was raised secular in a household where we didn’t really talk about these things, under the financial control of an atheist grandparent in a society where people speak openly about their beliefs. I assumed I was an atheist, but also not really sure what that meant and was attracted to religions or superstitions like fortune-telling and stuff. I call that a normal late teenage phase (which my sister is still in, from all signs). Then I sort of dropped that, went to college, learned some other stuff vaguely philosophical, didn’t really understand it.

            I went on for years calling myself an atheist, but I didn’t really feel like an atheist until I spent some time examining what might be true, was there a god, and what might it be like? I used to be on a message board a long time ago where it came up every so often. I couldn’t wrap my head around grown adults believing in the biblical god, and from there, that many religious beliefs around the world are also obviously myth stories. It’s the symbolism and the way they act upon your life if you vibe into the symbolism. When I think about the less pro-active forms of god, detached creators, this is a form that satisfies a lot of people. They have their god up there, but they have their reality down here, and it all makes sense, except it doesn’t. That sort of god doesn’t need to exist, he’s just there like a security blanket. And it probably comes down to the afterlife. I can’t think of a form of god, without evidence, that supports the necessity of its own existence. It’s not about invisible pink unicorns; the whole notion of “unknowable” suggests there’s nothing to talk about and nothing to look for, and only an abundance of figments that satisfy a lot of people well enough to stop asking more questions – the questions that dissolve the answers you want to be true.

            I feel satisfied, having asked those questions, that there is no god. And I could say, with evidence, I would surely change my attitude, but only because I know there will be no evidence.

  • Danoye

    Sorry about being late to the discussion, but I’ve been reading Diamond McCulloch’s “Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years”, and it’s been fascinating reading the other paths the religion might have easily gone to regarding various facets of its ideology. One thing that I think is pretty appropriate to the questions this movie is apparently making was how early Christian theologians wrangled with those same problems. Origen of Alexandria, famous theologian and later discredited as a supporter of gnostism even though he helped create the Bible as we know it today, wrote about the wonders of free will, and the innate goodness of people, and its Creator. That even the idea of Hell, was a transitory stage, created to have people eventually move back towards their God. “That all will be saved, since all come from God.”

    That sounds good, huh? Doesn’t hurt that this third century Christian had a skeptical view on an literal reading of the Bible, writing that “who is so silly as to believe that God, after the manner of a farmer, planted a paradise eastward in Eden, and set in it a visible and palpable tree of life, of such a sort that anyone who tasted its fruit with his bodily teeth would gain life?”

  • Jabbar

    In the last hundred years or so many things have been found about the atom and also what makes up the universe. Some of the findings dispelled myths and faulty theories. Einstein came up with theories that we are still debating, some have been proved, while others are still in the process. At the time, his thoughts were radical and went against established thought (you could say the same for the flat versus round earth, however what made that one so much like this debate is that the flat earth was based on what could be ‘observed’) because it goes past what could be ‘observed’. Radical and theoretical Science is actually an art which starts with a premise and sets others up to find out whether it’s true or not. Most of the people who have disagreed with Mr. Miller sound as daffy as those who blindly follow the ‘unknown God’ of Athens(?) (for those that don’t know there is a story of a monument in Greece near Mars Hill (hence the name of the church) that gave praise to the unknown God an invisible deity that they had no time to find out was real). The so-called ‘enlightened’ who call the people who believe in God illogical, must not be that good at definitions. By definition reason is mental powers concerned with forming conclusions, judgments, or inferences, but you have already come to a conclusion without reason because it is just based on ‘observation’. How many non-scientist are going to use the excuse of the scientific method to deny whether there is a God without really using it. Since there is no conclusive proof that no God exists, because science does not prove that, then unless ‘intellectuals’ are willing to get into the metaphorical boat and be willing to risk it all to prove that the world is round….you need to shut up or accept others ‘opinions’. Remember everyone has an opinion but most people aren’t able to reason that they may be wrong.

    • Custador

      The Reader’s Digest version of your post seems to be: Some people are stupid enough to maintain blind faith in the face of overwhelming evidence, and we all just need to accept that.

      Yeah, fuck that shit. Some of those idiots run for president. Some of them have nukes. So I won’t just be accepting it, thanks.

    • DMG

      Your analogies are somewhat flawed.

      Einstein’s theories are generally respected because we *can* observe them at work, and they make far more precise and accurate predictions than the best theories we had before.

      The same goes for flat Earth – the Earth wasn’t observed to be flat, it was assumed. Observations of shadows enabled ancient thinkers to measure its curvature and deduce its diameter (to quite impressive precision for their time!)

      In both cases the theory that more parsimoniously accounts for the observed data, and more precisely and correctly predicts future observations is preferred.

      Areas like String Theory or Modified Newtonian Dynamics would be better analogies to use – since the predictions they make are sufficiently difficult to check and have sufficient degrees of freedom that our observations to date can’t pick a clear winner. Adhering to a particular flavour of string theory is thus an act of faith at present – one must be humble about such a hunch and accept that evidence may yet rule it out.

      Theistic worldviews necessarily fit into this category. Ask ten people what their god(s) would do in a situation and you’ll get ten different answers. This means theism, as a scienticic model of the universe, has precious little precision or predictive power – far worse than any string theory. Until a means of deriving reliable, specific predictions from a theistic theory is found, it cannot be held as an objective model of the universe, only as a hunch.

    • trj

      The so-called ‘enlightened’ who call the people who believe in God illogical, must not be that good at definitions. By definition reason is mental powers concerned with forming conclusions, judgments, or inferences, but you have already come to a conclusion without reason because it is just based on ‘observation’.

      That’s nonsense. Forming conclusions, judgments, or inferences is not “by definition” reason. People are perfectly able to use their mental powers to come up with conclusions, judgments, or inferences based on nothing but thin air and wishful thinking. That is not reason.

      Feel free to point to a useful methodology for establishing the existence of God, or any of his characteristics (interesting, by the way, that you’ve determined in advance there should be only one specific god). Until then, don’t expect us to take your unreasoned opinions as truth.

  • ruckrover

    I’ve come to this discussion probably far too late, but for what it’s worth I would like to chime in. I am a medical specialist (psychiatry) and am convinced that the broad thrust of evolution is true for this universe, the weight of evidence in numerous fields of science is overwhelming.

    However I have closely followed the near death experience literature for 35 years. It is really worth your attention, there has now been sufficient collation and analysis of these accounts of heaven and hellish realms, enquiring educated types who ask angels, spirit guides, Jesus/the great being of light, departed souls the big questions actually come back with answers and a sense of supreme knowledge that only fragments of can be recalled in this incarnation.

    some of this material is published in peer reviewed journals.

    Anyway to cut to the chase: hell exists but it is not eternal, God is unconditionally loving and “salvation” has nothing to do with legalistic penal substitution doctrines, but simply with love and kindness, reincarnation seems to be part of the picture, this life in this material universe is for learning and growing, evolution is the main mechanism for life and the universe is billions of years old, but time and space are not same in God’s immediate presence -all is an eternal now, there is some kind of plan for renewal of creation. There does seem room for intelligent design, consciousness extends through all life and even at primitive levels to the atomic level.

    Anyway it all sounds fantastic – and upsetting to fundamentalist christians and some other faiths and to materialistic scientism as well. But check out the videos and written accounts – there’s thousands and the themes are compelling. Quite a number of vertical out of body experiences as well, that add credibility.

    • Custador

      I’ve yet to see any description of any NDE or OBE that could not be easily explained in terms of endorphins, narcotics or hypoxia. On top of that, when you look at studies like Fenwick and Parnia (they placed eye-catching signs that were only visible from ceiling level in resuscitation rooms and cardiology wards to see if anybody who reported a vertical NDE could actually see anything that wasn’t visible from where they were laying), which woo-enthusiasts everywhere confidently predicted would prove that the vertical OBE phenomena was caused by the consciousness leaving the body and floating around the ceiling, it becomes quite clear that people really are not leaving their bodies at all.

      Can I suggest you look at the cultural themes of NDE? Western NDEs are quite consistent, and so are Eastern NDEs – But they’re not consistent with each other. That alone should tell you that they’re likely a product of the mind experiencing them.

      Oh, and: Ketamine. In resus rooms, we use Ketamine. Google it.

    • Jabster

      Anyway to cut to the chase: you’re a fucking idiot and have no place in the medical profession. I pity the patients that you treat.

  • ruckrover

    That should be veridical out of body experiences, a lot are from a “vertical” perspective looking down though… ;-)

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