Feb 17 2014

New Science and Religion Survey

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107 responses so far

107 Responses to “New Science and Religion Survey”

  1. wrysmileon 17 Feb 2014 at 8:38 am

    Ecklund and Rice where given a cool million by templeton to show precisely what she has shown – that science and religion are not in conflict.

    She’s also been know for distorting her own data

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/oy-gewalt-ecklund-gets-even-more-templeton-money-to-show-that-science-and-faith-are-friends/

  2. MikeBon 17 Feb 2014 at 10:22 am

    “Religion?” Which “religion”?

    What meaningless twaddle.

  3. Bronze Dogon 17 Feb 2014 at 11:25 am

    Once upon a more credulous time, I was happy with NOMA. I got into a fair bit of conflict with religious types because I applied it more consistently than most advocates I’ve seen since then.

    These days, I’m seeing the successes of monism. If “spiritual” things don’t interact with the natural world, what do they have to do with anything? My mind certainly seems to be the product of the natural world and operates according to its laws, so what’s left for a soul to do? NOMA seems dead in the water to me since I have a hard time getting an answer to a key question: how could we discover anything about the spiritual/supernatural domain?

  4. hardnoseon 17 Feb 2014 at 11:50 am

    I agree that religious people should not expect science to confirm their faith, and I do not think religion and science are in conflict. However, there is a conflict between the philosophy of materialism and religion. Religion says that there are worlds above and beyond the world we experience with our senses, while materialism (or naturalism) denies this possibility.

    We are not able to define “matter” or “nature.” It seems to me that matter consists entirely of relationships, not little ultimate particles, as scientists used to assume. If there is no real “substance” to matter, then it may ultimately consist of information.

    Something resembling the “matrix” idea makes sense to me, and to many others. I think it leads us to be more open-minded, and more skeptical about the old “naturalist” approach.

  5. Steven Novellaon 17 Feb 2014 at 11:57 am

    BD – I depends on how you see NOMA. NOMA has two parts. The first is that science and religioun are “non-overlapping” -meaning they are completely separate. That is the part I agree with. The second is the “magisteria” part, that both are legitimate intellectual pursuits. While they are certainly distinct and defined pursuits, as I briefly said in the article – it is entirely a separate question whether or not theology is a valuable intellectual pursuit.

    You have raised a good point – what is the value of an intellectual discipline based on fantasy? I would argue – none. Which is why I am completely non-religious.

    Massimo Pigliucci’s latest post also explores this idea: http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2014/02/is-alving-plantinga-for-real-alas-it.html

    I would only add that religious freedom is also an important principle in an open and rational society. The endless (and I do mean endless) discussion in rationalist circles in whether or not it is more intellectually valid and more strategically effective to put religion in a box (NOMA-style), or to oppose it altogether. I have chosen the former, but respect those who have chose the latter (as long as they respect my choices).

    In order words – I choose to focus my efforts on keeping religion out of science and teaching critical thinking skills. If you are successful in this, then supernatural beliefs will tend to moderate, become marginalized, and even fade away.

  6. steve12on 17 Feb 2014 at 1:00 pm

    “… the old “naturalist” approach.”

    Not sure what most of what you’re saying means, but none of it conflicts with naturalism. What is the alternative to naturalism? Magic?

    Naturalism (at least methodological) is not debatable or an old approach – it is a necessary assumption of science.

  7. hardnoseon 17 Feb 2014 at 4:22 pm

    I think everything is “nature” and “nature” is everything. So that is really not saying anything.

  8. Davdoodleson 18 Feb 2014 at 1:18 am

    ‘Nearly 60 percent of evangelical Protestants and 38 percent of all surveyed believe ‘scientists should be open to considering miracles in their theories or explanations.’

    Doubtless, that 60% would dwindle to single figures or zero, if they actually go what they wished for.

    Unless, by ‘open to considering’, they really mean ‘taking a dive in the second round’.
    .

  9. etatroon 18 Feb 2014 at 1:41 am

    This reminds me of visiting my folks and watching the local news in Ohio. For some reason, they are hyping the potential medicinal uses of marijuana. I think the local press wants to push for a grassroots effort for legalization in the hopes of making more news to cover … I dunno. Anyhow, the “teaser” to get you to watch the 11 o’clock news was “Some say that marijuana is the only thing that can help this poor girl suffering from a terrible illness. Is pot a miracle cure or addictive drug? You decide.” I said to my parents, “Even if the pot did cure her, it wouldn’t be a miracle. A miracle would be if she smoked it, sprouted wings, and flew to the sun.” And my mom goes, “or it means that someone gave her the good stuff.” The point being that it’s possible that pot has a chemical in it that cures her illness, but it’s not a miracle. It a reminded me of the “Miracle on the Hudson,” when a pilot, Sullenberger, landed a commercial jet on the Hudson River after birds damaged the engines. It wasn’t a miracle, it was a combination of skill, experience, training, and engineering. A miracle would be if a giant rose from the river and lifted his hand and gently set the plane down then disappeared. I recall an interview where the newscaster (perhaps on the Today Show) asked him “Did you say a prayer?” and he replied combining politeness with a hint of annoyance, ” ……. uh. I figure there were enough people in the back of the plane taking care of that.” (or something like that)

  10. Mlemaon 18 Feb 2014 at 4:28 am

    etatro: “A miracle would be if a giant rose from the river and lifted his hand and gently set the plane down then disappeared.”

    Some would say such a giant appearing was a miracle. Others would deny that it happened because they didn’t see it and there was simply some kind of mass hysteria. Others would say there’s a physical explanation because the giant was physical – we just don’t know where he came from or disappeared to yet. Just because we’ve never seen a giant appear like that, or even a giant for that matter, doesn’t mean it’s a miracle. There’s always a physical explanation because nothing supernatural exists.

    “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
    ― Albert Einstein

    I think when most people say “miracle” (as with the Hudson event), they simply mean: highly unlikely in everyday affairs. In other words, it was a miracle that everything came together so that a highly skilled man could land a plane in a place where it would allow the passengers to survive, and that he would be flying over that place at the moment he needed to land.

  11. Mlemaon 18 Feb 2014 at 4:31 am

    …also, it has to be something beneficial. If Satan and his minions rose out of the Hudson, we wouldn’t call that a miracle.

  12. BillyJoe7on 18 Feb 2014 at 7:38 am

    Steven,

    “It depends on how you see NOMA. NOMA has two parts. The first is that science and religion are “non-overlapping” -meaning they are completely separate. That is the part I agree with”

    But that is so obviously incorrect. Science and almost any religion you can think of are NOT non-overlapping. Evangelicals with their creationism quite clearly overlap into science. The bible frequently overlaps into science. And when population genetics demonstrate that the human population never dropped below several thousand and that our most recent common male and female ancestors lived a hundred thousand years apart, then science quite clearly not only overlaps into religion but actually demolishes the very foundation of the world’s most popular religions.

    “…to put religion in a box (NOMA-style), or to oppose it altogether. I have chosen the former… I choose to focus my efforts on keeping religion out of science ”

    But to excise all the bits of religion that intrude into science is, for all intents and purposes, to oppose it, because the only religions left standing are those based on a non-interventionist deistic god (which less than one percent of the population believes in). Perhaps you mean that you prefer the diplomatic approach to the activist approach. To which I say, let’s have both the diplomat and the activist. After all history shows that both are necessary (consider the movements to give women, blacks, and homosexuals equality). The diplomat achieves the actual change (cultural, legal etc), whilst the activist gets the damn thing happening in the first place and keep pushing things along. The activist won’t accept no for an answer and demands change now, the diplomat cajoles people into gradually accepting that change must occur and doesn’t care how long it takes.

  13. Steven Novellaon 18 Feb 2014 at 7:52 am

    BJ – We are mostly saying the same thing. NOMA does not describe religions as they are practiced, but religion as it properly should be. My activism is about pushing religion out of the realm of science. You are correct – what is left is a pure faith in a non-interventionalist entity – a world indistinguishable from the one we live in.

    This is strategic, but also philosophically appropriate. While I agree that there is a range of postures from diplomat to confrontationalist, I would not fall into the false dichotomy. And I don’t think that “activist” is not a good term for the confrontational end of the spectrum – we are all doing activism in our own way. Further, we need to respect individual freedom of religion – people can believe whatever they want, they just can’t call it science or use faith to dictate laws that everyone must follow.

    I have tons of anecdotal evidence (in the form of e-mail from SGU listeners) that my approach converts at least some people from their religious beliefs.

    Seriously – I have had this conversation dozens of times, in extended blog posts with hundreds of comments. I’m not going to have time to rehash it yet again here. Just Google my name with science and religion if you want to spend the rest of the day reading about it.

  14. BillyJoe7on 18 Feb 2014 at 8:31 am

    Steven,

    I have likewise participated in many blog posts with hundreds of comments and also don’t intend to rehash it all here. I just felt a need to clarify. I’m happy we essentially agree. I know your approach converts some people from their religion. But the activists also convert many. Richard Dawkins apparently has a section on his website devoted to them. The two approaches are complementary rather than exclusive.

    “we need to respect individual freedom of religion”

    Agreed. I respect the right of everyone to hold what ever religious beliefs they want or need or choose to believe in. I don’t respect their actual religious beliefs, and I don’t respect them for actually holding those religious beliefs, but I do respect their right to hold them….with the proviso that their religious beliefs don’t limit my freedom.

  15. Bill Openthalton 18 Feb 2014 at 10:07 am

    Steven –

    NOMA does not describe religions as they are practiced, but religion as it properly should be.

    You do realise our Rice “researchers” describe “science as it properly should be”, at least in their view. The problem is the absence of consensus on what religion is. For secularists, it is a wholly personal and private choice, subordinate to the laws of the land, laws which include moral issues (cf. the right to euthanasia for minors in Belgium). For religious people, it is a choice determining the fundamental moral rules of a society, which cannot be changed by laws.

    This fundamental difference was quite obvious in the discussions and controversies preceding the vote on the euthanasia law for minors in Belgium. Proponents didn’t grasp how opponents couldn’t understand the law did not incite people to practice euthanasia, and opponents didn’t fathom how the proponents didn’t see that this was another sign of moral decay, the thin end of the wedge to eliminating unwanted children. It was a textbook example of a dialogue of the deaf.

    No wonder we keep having the same discussions.

  16. Steven Novellaon 18 Feb 2014 at 11:17 am

    Bill – I agree that there is a disagreement about what religion “should” be – and that is exactly the conversation I think is worth having. I agree with the secular view that religion should be private and personal, i.e in a free and open society religious beliefs cannot be imposed on others. This is often framed in terms of the debate between whether or not the US is a Christian nation or secular nation. I think it is clearly a secular nation, and our Constitution and other documents make this plainly clear. I also think the best society is one that is publicly secular but allows the freedom to private be whatever you want.

    I also think we should vociferously criticize and oppose any attempts to change science to allow for supernaturalism.

  17. pdeboeron 18 Feb 2014 at 11:27 am

    hardnose – “Religion says that there are worlds above and beyond the world we experience with our senses, while materialism (or naturalism) denies this possibility.”

    This, as phrased, is very wrong. We have sensors that are in agreement with naturalism, that are not an extension of our own senses.

    The supernatural cannot be resolved in science. If these worlds and beyond exist and are scientifically explained, then they fall under naturalism and not supernaturalism.

  18. Bronze Dogon 18 Feb 2014 at 12:04 pm

    To me, “worlds above and beyond,” if they exist, would only be exotic, not inherently outside the domain of science. Even if our current understanding of the laws of physics fails to describe them, that would only mean we need to work harder, using science to improve our understanding so that we can accurately describe and predict those worlds.

    My big issue is how does religion claim any knowledge about those worlds? I see no reason to believe that theologians and priests are experts on the matter. Why do their assertions carry any weight?

  19. hardnoseon 18 Feb 2014 at 12:24 pm

    “We have sensors that are in agreement with naturalism, that are not an extension of our own senses.”

    We have our senses, and we have our sensors. And we can’t possibly know what might possibly exist that can’t be detected by either.

  20. Steven Novellaon 18 Feb 2014 at 12:35 pm

    which is why the best stance toward any such notions (those which we cannot investigate because they are beyond our senses or sensory, even indirectly) is agnostic atheism. We simply can’t know, but there is also no particular reason to believe in anything we cannot know about.

    The problem is in saying – this is something outside of science, but I can know about it through some other means. This is problematic because the “other means” tend to be indistinguishable from self-deception.

  21. Bronze Dogon 18 Feb 2014 at 12:44 pm

    We have our senses, and we have our sensors. And we can’t possibly know what might possibly exist that can’t be detected by either.

    If something has an observable effect, that means, at least in principle, we can build a sensor to detect it by observing that effect occur in the sensory organ or device. If an entity cannot be detected in principle, that undetectability effectively defines it as having no observable effects. If something has no observable effects, how is it relevant to us? What difference does it make for it to exist or not exist?

  22. Karl Withakayon 18 Feb 2014 at 1:03 pm

    Bronze Dog beat me to the punch, but here’s more along that thought line from Cal Tech physicist Sean Carroll:

    The Laws Underlying The Physics of Everyday Life Are Completely Understood

    http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2010/09/23/the-laws-underlying-the-physics-of-everyday-life-are-completely-understood/

    “But there’s no question that the human goal of figuring out the basic rules by which the easily observable world works was one that was achieved once and for all in the twentieth century.”

    “[...]if they can’t be found by our current techniques, they are also unable to influence what we see in our everyday lives. We have very little idea how big the region of our understanding is, compared to all that there is to be understood; but we know that it’s bigger than what we need to understand to make sense of the world we see with our unaided senses.”

  23. Bronze Dogon 18 Feb 2014 at 1:23 pm

    I liked Carroll’s speech. I think it also fits with one perspective I have of science today: We’re past the era of the lone genius making grand discoveries because we’ve run out of everyday things that need to be figured out, physics-wise. Now we’re stuck with resource-intensive research into the exotic, where subtle errors are easy and collaboration is necessary to make sense of the data.

    On my earlier point of sensors: Woos essentially want have contradictory features to their forces: They want the undetectability of the impotent and irrelevant, and they want raw power on par with the everyday forces.

    I tend to have trouble suspending disbelief in fantasy shows where the supernatural is both powerful and secret. They often involve a massive conspiracy with unlimited resources to cover it up for inadequately explained reasons and/or a nigh-monolithic lack of curiosity from the muggles.

  24. sonicon 18 Feb 2014 at 2:37 pm

    Dr. N. is one of the most reasonable people I have ever read on this topic.

    Yet, even his statements are self-contradictory–

    “You can’t constrain science to a pre-existing belief system. You also cannot mix miracles into science – the two are fundamentally incompatible.”

    Given that he is as reasonable as anyone I’ve read on this topic-
    my hopes are not high that this will be resolved anytime soon.

  25. DrJoeinCAon 18 Feb 2014 at 2:47 pm

    SN: Pretty arrogant saying it’s “self deception.” What makes you think you cannot reason to something that you cannot prove scientifically? Why would your fallback position be, “I don’t believe it because it’s unknowable?” Why wouldn’t it be that you do believe it because there cannot be any other rational explanation?

  26. BillyJoe7on 18 Feb 2014 at 3:20 pm

    DrJoe: Pretty idiotic saying that you believe in some fantastical notion because you cannot find any other rational explanation. Firstly, you’re implying your fantastical notion is rational. Secondly, you’re implying that because you cannot find them that there are no other rational explanations. Thirdly, you’re implying that you have found a way to make armchair philosophy work.

  27. BillyJoe7on 18 Feb 2014 at 3:32 pm

    sonic: “Dr. N. is one of the most reasonable people I have ever read on this topic.
    Yet, even his statements are self-contradictory”

    This implies that you think you’re more reasonable than most people you’ve ever read on the topic.
    Well, let’s just say that your contributions here would give the lie to that proposition (;
    For example what’s the chance that you’ve simple misunderstood the statement “You can’t constrain science to a pre-existing belief system. You also cannot mix miracles into science – the two are fundamentally incompatible” than that it’s contradictory.

  28. DrJoeinCAon 18 Feb 2014 at 3:46 pm

    BillyJoe7: Nothing like raising the bar with name calling. What I am inferring is that one can know other things that are not provable scientifically. One can use the concept of reasoning to address whether or not there is a God. One can know good and evil and ethics and justice and right and wrong, but one cannot “prove” any of these concepts. If all you rely upon is what you can prove scientifically, you’re in for a very barren existence.

  29. Karl Withakayon 18 Feb 2014 at 4:51 pm

    DrJoeinCA

    Nothing like dodging the point by invoking name calling.

    Calling an idea or action idiotic isn’t quite the same thing as name calling. People deserve respect, ideas do not.

    “What I am inferring is that one…”

    The word you are looking for there is probably “implying”, as in “I did infer that which you implied.”

    “One can use the concept of reasoning to address whether or not there is a God.”

    That partly depends on what you mean by address. If you mean “direct attention to” or “discuss”, I suppose that statement is valid. If you mean “deal with” as in provide an (affirmative) answer to, not so much. The best “sophisticated theologians” and philosophers have so far failed to make a compelling case for logically reasoning the existence of a god/maximal being.

    “One can know good and evil and ethics and justice and right and wrong, but one cannot “prove” any of these concepts.”

    I’m sure you think that statement is compelling, but it isn’t particularly meaningful. It is, however, nice gish gallup. You can’t prove red either, ergo god!

  30. DrJoeinCAon 18 Feb 2014 at 5:08 pm

    Karl: Pardon the offensive grammar mistake. By “address” I mean discuss. I believe it is possible to discuss the concept of God and reach a rational conclusion that there is a God. It’s been done many times by many philosophers. You may not accept philosophical and logical non-scientific case-making, but that’s on you.

    SN implied that one could not reach a conclusion about something “outside of science.” I think that is incorrect, as one can reach conclusions about many things outside of science, e.g., ethics, justice. My point is that limiting one’s beliefs to that which science can ultimately prove is stifling and ultimately irrational. It does not allow for the complex thought processes and reasoning ability that distinguish humans from animals (we think).

    Prove red?

  31. Karl Withakayon 18 Feb 2014 at 5:21 pm

    DrJoeinCA,

    “I believe it is possible to discuss the concept of God and reach a rational conclusion that there is a God. It’s been done many times by many philosophers”

    It’s been -attempted- many times by many philosophers, sure. Please tell me you’ve got something more compelling than the Ontological and Cosmological arguments.

    “You may not accept philosophical and logical non-scientific case-making, but that’s on you. ”

    I’ve yet to see a decent logical case for god. Make one, and I’ll accept it. I have no problem with properly done philosophical and logical non-scientific case-making.

    Step one: Absurd, illogical, undefined &/or unsupported premise.

    Step two: Well, any following steps, no matter how rigorously logical and well supported are worthless if they depend on and follow from step one.

  32. DrJoeinCAon 18 Feb 2014 at 5:30 pm

    Karl: Nope, nothing more compelling that the arguments you don’t believe. If the great philosophers can’t convince you, sorry but I cannot do better than that.

    Step one: you can’t get life from non-life. That is my logical scientific premise.

  33. Karl Withakayon 18 Feb 2014 at 5:33 pm

    DrJoeinCA,

    RE: Prove red:

    “One can know good and evil and ethics and justice and right and wrong, but one cannot “prove” any of these concepts.”

    Prove what? Prove the existence of the human concepts of good and evil and ethics and justice and right and wrong? Prove that they are universally objective and real entities? And how would this question even be relevant to the potential existence of a god, who presumably would be more than an abstract idea constructed by humans?

    Are you essentially saying, “because evil exists and you can’t prove evil,” (as meaningless as that statement is, “therefore god exists.”?

  34. sonicon 18 Feb 2014 at 5:51 pm

    BillyJoe7-
    zero.

  35. Karl Withakayon 18 Feb 2014 at 5:51 pm

    DrJoeinCAon 18 Feb 2014 at 5:30 pm

    >>>
    “Karl: Nope, nothing more compelling that the arguments you don’t believe. If the great philosophers can’t convince you, sorry but I cannot do better than that.”

    Please don’t waste time invoking the logical fallacy of argument from authority of the GREAT PHILOSOPHERS.

    Logical validity of a position or statement does not depend on or derive from the greatness of the author.

    The Ontological and Cosmological arguments have been pretty well refuted, though people keep trotting them out over and over again.

    The Ontological Argument is flawed from step one: “Our understanding of God is a being than which no greater can be conceived..” And I then proceed to imagine a greater being that that. Oh, and we haven’t even defined greatness/ maximal greatness yet. Only step 2 out of 6 can even be remotely considered as reasonable and logical.

    Cosmological Argument: Everything needs a first cause except that which does not need a first cause which caused everything else. Do I even need to point out what’s wrong here?

    I hope you’re not going to invoke Pascal’s wager next.

    >>>
    “Step one: you can’t get life from non-life. That is my logical scientific premise.”

    You’ll need to support that premise before you can logically continue on that line of thought.

  36. DrJoeinCAon 18 Feb 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Karl: Yes, scientifically prove the existence of the human concepts of good and evil and ethics. How do you prove these concepts apply to human beings? How do you prove scientifically that one is better than the other?

    You can’t do an experiment to show there is an objective good and an objective evil. This doesn’t mean that the concepts don’t exist because you can’t prove their existence scientifically. One knows what is good and what is evil, but you cannot prove this using science. One knows that knowing the difference between good and evil and having some concept of justice is beneficial for humanity.

    My point is that there are things that one can “know” logically and reasonably without resort to science. This is “outside of science,” to use SN’s term, and can be known about “through some other means.”

    It is not self-deception to come to these conclusions rationally without knowing them through science. In the same way it is possible to know reasonably that there is a God. Can’t prove it “scientifically,” but that doesn’t mean that you cannot know about it rationally and by resort to the great philosophers. Though you would disagree.

  37. rezistnzisfutlon 18 Feb 2014 at 6:00 pm

    “Step one: you can’t get life from non-life. That is my logical scientific premise.”

    Nothing scientific about that as a premise, so your assertion that it is a logical, scientific premise is false. There IS a scientific premise for life coming from non-life, in that we have direct physical evidence that it’s possible. Furthermore, from everything we do know and can unequivocally demonstrate, it’s far more likely that life derived from purely naturalistic means than from miraculous means. That’s what the science actually says about it.

    Besides, that’s a non-sequitur response to Karl’s original premise, which was correct in how he stated it. In essence, the basic premise for a god, which is typically a priori, is an assumption that god exists. Without supporting evidence, or even a cogent argument that can withstand scrutiny, that demonstrates this premise, it’s begging the question that stems from an argument from ignorance.

    You can have the most logically consistent syllogism, but if the premise is unsound then it’s useless and demonstrates nothing. The major hurdle for apologists is that first premise, that god exists in the first place.

  38. rezistnzisfutlon 18 Feb 2014 at 6:08 pm

    The notions of good and evil as apologists put it is flawed, that is of some sort of universal absolute good and evil, absolute morality. There is no such thing and it’s something theologians and religious philosophers have never been able to demonstrate.

    We can demonstrate morality that is based on scientific concepts and data, such as that pertaining to what we know about biology. For instance, we know that humans tend to function best in cooperative groups, and that societies that are the most peaceful, consistent, and stable tend to flourish the most. These can be supported by Theory of Evolution which indicates groups and societies which function the most cooperatively are the most “fit”. That means that there would need to be minimal disruptions in the way of killing, theft, assaults, and tyranny of majority groups onto minority groups. It’s not a great leap to then attribute more specific rules and codes of conduct in the form of morals, ethics, mores, and laws that assures orderly pursuits of these ideals. All stemming from known scientific concepts and data.

    This notion that we just “know” something for no good reason, therefore God, is again a blind attribution that ignores what we do know about the natural world. In other words, there is no need to attribute morality to a god, and it’s far more likely that moral standards have biological and physical bases for them.

  39. DrJoeinCAon 18 Feb 2014 at 6:11 pm

    Karl: Aw, come on. The ontological and cosmological arguments have been refuted? Really? So we are eliminating a whole body of philosophical thought in one fell swoop because you don’t believe it. I dunno. I got Thomas Aquinas and the rest of the boys. You got the Amazing Randi.

    You can’t get life from non-life is my scientific premise. If you think that is not true….

  40. DrJoeinCAon 18 Feb 2014 at 6:16 pm

    Rezist: Morality has nothing at all to do with scientific concepts and data. I never used a “therefore God” argument. I argue that it is possible to “know” things “outside of science.”

  41. rezistnzisfutlon 18 Feb 2014 at 6:16 pm

    It’s not so much that the ontological or cosmological arguments have been refuted, per se. That’s like saying that we can say with 100% certainty that there is no god, which is an intellectually dishonest position.

    What they have failed to do, however, is provide an adequate or compelling argument, in essence requiring the denial of entire bodies of evidence (Big Bang Theory, Theory of Evolution) in order for them to remain logically consistent. Again, they require a presupposition of the existence of God as well as a god of the gaps premise (aka argument from ignorance).

  42. DrJoeinCAon 18 Feb 2014 at 6:18 pm

    Rezist: Would you care to educate me on the life from non-life evidence?

  43. DrJoeinCAon 18 Feb 2014 at 6:20 pm

    Rezist: It is possible to believe there is a God as well as believe in evolution and big bang. They are not mutually exclusive.

  44. rezistnzisfutlon 18 Feb 2014 at 6:23 pm

    You brought up the notion of “objective good” or “objective evil” that somehow cannot be “proven” by science (keeping in mind that science doesn’t deal with proofs or certainties).

    While morality is more or less a human social construct, it is based on biological and physical laws. In other words, morality is based on behaviors that are best suited for maximum fitness of humans in particular environmental niches.

    “Morality” is merely a placeholder concept, like logic. What apologists try to do is turn symbolic language into actual physical entities in and of themselves (ie, absolute morality, human ideas, absolute logic, etc). Then they try to argue that, since these things have no actual physical states, they must be attributed to their particular divine deity (arriving at that conclusion via the intermediate step of “proving” that, in order for these things to exist, there must be an intelligence that originally developed them).

    I was hoping to get out in front of where it appears this is inevitably leading, which are the notions that “absolute moralities” and “absolute logic” were created by God.

  45. rezistnzisfutlon 18 Feb 2014 at 6:34 pm

    Rezist: Would you care to educate me on the life from non-life evidence?

    Sure. First, there is the evidence from meteor data that complex amino acids were present on Earth billions of years ago. You may be familiar with the Urey-Miller experiments, as most creationists are by now, which demonstrated that complex organic molecules (primarily aminos) could have derived from what is known about the atmosphere when it’s hypothesized that life first arose on Earth.

    It’s not necessary to develop a solid scientific model on how life exactly originated to accept that it likely originated from purely natural means. It’s far LESS likely that life originated from a divine intelligence, and forming that kind of conclusion a priori is fallacious.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miller%E2%80%93Urey_experiment

    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/322/5900/404.abstract

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/abioprob/

  46. DrJoeinCAon 18 Feb 2014 at 6:53 pm

    Rezist: The idea that one can build “life” from amino acids, wherever they came from, is not something that you can prove scientifically or duplicate. It’s at least as rational to propose that “something” created life than that it came from pre-existing amino acids which are not known to create themselves.

  47. hardnoseon 18 Feb 2014 at 7:12 pm

    “the best stance toward any such notions (those which we cannot investigate because they are beyond our senses or sensory, even indirectly) is agnostic atheism. We simply can’t know, but there is also no particular reason to believe in anything we cannot know about.”

    Many things can’t be perceived by our senses, but can be detected by artificial sensors. We believe in them, even though until recently no one imagined they existed.

    Keep in mind that a new artificial sensor could be developed tomorrow, which detects things we never imagined were there.

    In addition to being skeptical, I think we should remember that our current knowledge is limited. We have no idea what will be discovered. We should not assume that everything we don’t already know is unknowable.

  48. hardnoseon 18 Feb 2014 at 7:15 pm

    “If something has an observable effect, that means, at least in principle, we can build a sensor to detect it by observing that effect occur in the sensory organ or device. If an entity cannot be detected in principle, that undetectability effectively defines it as having no observable effects. If something has no observable effects, how is it relevant to us? What difference does it make for it to exist or not exist?”

    It’s easy to think of things that had no observable effects until someone decided to look for them, and built instruments that would detect them.

  49. rezistnzisfutlon 18 Feb 2014 at 7:23 pm

    The idea that one can build “life” from amino acids, wherever they came from, is not something that you can prove scientifically or duplicate. It’s at least as rational to propose that “something” created life than that it came from pre-existing amino acids which are not known to create themselves.

    As I’d mentioned, the idea wasn’t to create a scientific model on how life was created, but to indicate that it’s possible and likely that life formed through naturalistic means. Suggesting an intelligent creator, much less a specific supernatural deity, is far less likely. Furthermore, there simply is no evidence for it. So no, they are not equal positions.

    One process follows natural laws, is a purely natural process, has some physical evidence for it, and can be explained from what we do know about the natural universe. The other points to an unlikely supernatural all-powerful being that we have no evidence for, have no evidence of a life-starting process initiated by such a being, breaks natural laws, lives outside of the natural universe, and in many traditions runs contrary to what we do know about the natural universe. Not equal by a long shot.

  50. DrJoeinCAon 18 Feb 2014 at 7:42 pm

    Rezist: Nope, gotta disagree there. I don’t think it’s “likely” or even “possible” that life was created so accidentally from a soup whose existence in itself is problematic. Where did the soup come from?

    There is no “natural” process by which life is formed out of non-life. And there is no evidence for it. It cannot be duplicated or proven.

    It is much more rational to posit that “something” must have caused all this universe to happen either by creating it or by providing the environment for it to happen in. Otherwise you are violating the laws of science by proposing that something just existed out of nowhere.

    If you don’t know what was first, why is it not rational to call that first thing God?

  51. Hosson 18 Feb 2014 at 10:32 pm

    Drjoe
    “If you don’t know what was first, why is it not rational to call that first thing God?”

    It’s not rational because you’re making the argument from ignorance fallacy. I’d hold you’re hand and walk you through it, but if you’re familiar with Christian apologetics, which I think you are, you already know most of the counter-apologetics arguments.

    It’s very obvious that you’re being extremely illogical in regards to god. Every statement you’ve made about god contains some sort of fallacy, which has been adequately addressed and refuted by other commenters.

    If you’re serious about having a valid logical argument for god, then let’s hear it or post a link to the argument. If you have evidence for god, even better. Otherwise, your god is indistinguishable from fantasy and non-existence.

  52. rezistnzisfutlon 18 Feb 2014 at 10:57 pm

    Where did the soup come from?

    If you’d taken the time to read the links I provided, the “soup” was created in a lab using the materials and substances known to be present during the first billion years of Earth’s existence. If you’d taken the time to read what IS available on the subject, you’d be creating yet another fallacy in order to prop up your claim that “no evidence exists”.

    However, that’s not even the impetus of my argument, which is that it’s far more likely that life was created through naturalistic processes, because naturalistic processes are the ONLY things we’ve been able to observe and demonstrate. Given that we’ve been able to create the very basic organic structures of life using components commonly found on ancient Earth, it takes great mental gymnastics to propose that a godidit proposition is at least on equal footing as a naturalistic process. Just by the very nature of it being natural alone makes it far more likely than a magical “poof” into existence.

    To propose a godidit position IS illogical, because it’s an argument from ignorance. It’s not a valid premise to presuppose something without evidence to support it.

    If you don’t know what was first, why is it not rational to call that first thing God?

    Because it’s an argument from ignorance. To assume a thing exists a priori, especially in favor of more likely scenarios, IS irrational and illogical. You may as well say The Great Leprechaun created the universe, that’s just as valid.

  53. DrJoeinCAon 18 Feb 2014 at 11:42 pm

    Rezist: I meant where did the original soup come from that cooked these amino acids to create life? We have NOT been able to observe and demonstrate the source of components found on ancient Earth. Where did they come from? Seriously, that’s the question. Why is this soup theory scenario “more likely” even though it cannot be proven scientifically?

    Your argument, I assume, is that the “likely” foundation of the universe is provable scientifically. We can observe naturalistic processes, but they do not lead us to say that a naturalistic process is the cause of the creation of life. I say it is not provable scientifically because something cannot come from nothing and life cannot come from non-life. I’ve already admitted that the proof for God is impossible to prove scientifically; that’s where we started. But reason and philosophy can lead one to the conclusion that an intelligent force was perhaps responsible for it. Not science, but reason and philosophy. It’s at least a subject that can be debated and not dismissed out of hand as unscientific. Render unto Caesar and all that.

    Hoss: See above. If you mean by “fantasy” something created by the imagination, I would counter those giants of philosophy who have thought and reasoned about the existence of God — yeah yeah, the argument from authority — have concluded other than you do. That’s what makes ballgames. I’m not going to try to convince you otherwise when greater minds than I are unable to.

  54. Hosson 19 Feb 2014 at 1:22 am

    Drjoe
    It’s counter productive if you knowingly counter with fallacies(unless it’s satirical in nature). So, why the heck would you purposefully respond with a fallacy that invalidates what you are attempting to argue? It makes no sense.

    If you believe in the Christain god, then you have a moral obligation to present, to a non-believer, the philosophical arguments for the existence of a god.

    Pretty please, with cherries on top, link to the super awesome philosophers’ arguments you speak of, if you’re unwilling to type it out. Heck you don’t even have to type anything to convince us/me. A link to a valid argument for god is more than enough.

  55. Will Nitschkeon 19 Feb 2014 at 4:08 am

    @Steven Novella

    A curious response to a posed question may be the result of nothing more than a badly worded question.

    More broadly speaking, the demarcation between ‘science’ and ‘ideology’ (religion being a sub grouping of ideology with a spiritual focus) is hardly clear cut. That is to say, where one ends and where the other begins. Galileo had many interesting arguments for why be believed the Earth moved. But there was also empirical evidence against his position at the time; the absence of detectable parallax, the fact that a weight dropped from the mast of a moving ship always landed directly below the mast, and so forth.

    Simple demarcations between science and ideology only work if you limit yourself to referencing only the simplest of examples; for example, a Creationist who still believes the world is flat or 4000 years old.

  56. BillyJoe7on 19 Feb 2014 at 7:10 am

    DrJoe,

    “BillyJoe7: Nothing like raising the bar with name calling”

    Yep. You called up an “arrogant” and I raised you an “idiotic”. Glad you got the message.

    “What I am inferring is that one can know other things that are not provable scientifically”

    Science doesn’t prove anything. It provides evidence for an hypothesis. If there’s enough evidence, the hypothesis becomes a theory. The more evidence the more confident we can be that the theory is correct. There is no way to approach truth than through science. Sorry, but religion has never proved anything. It rules by fiat.

    “One can use the concept of reasoning to address whether or not there is a God”

    Which god? (why not gods?). I challenge you to define your god. Once you have done so, I will show you how science can demolish your god as effectively as the existence of faeries at the bottom of your garden.

    “One can know good and evil and ethics and justice and right and wrong, but one cannot “prove” any of these concepts”

    You cannot “know” what is good and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong. You have only opinions. We must start with a widely acceptable goals. The greatest happiness for the greatest number. Do to others what you would have them do to you. From that you form hypotheses and then provide evidence that your hypotheses actually work to achieve your philosophical goals. I hope that you have noticed that we are now doing science.

    “If all you rely upon is what you can prove scientifically, you’re in for a very barren existence”

    I hope you are not proposing gods as antidotes. And especially not the Christian god – that contradictory, cruel, and murderous dictator. Give me the awesome discoveries of science any day to the servile sterility of one of the thousands of mutually exclusive religions that have littered human history.

  57. Bronze Dogon 19 Feb 2014 at 10:04 am

    “If all you rely upon is what you can prove scientifically, you’re in for a very barren existence”

    I have various desires. Many other people share those desires. Science informs us how we can optimally fulfill them by working together and we can reason how to smooth over conflicting desires. What’s “barren” about that?

    How do gods fit in with this? If we can’t demonstrate their existence scientifically (to a high degree of confidence, but never absolute certainty), what relevance do gods have to the worth of our lives?

    The only way I can see they’d be beyond science is if they have no effects whatsoever, which pretty much makes them impotent and irrelevant by definition.

  58. Steven Novellaon 19 Feb 2014 at 10:28 am

    “If all you rely upon is what you can prove scientifically, you’re in for a very barren existence”

    This is also a straw man. There is more to life than what science can prove. Science is about our knowledge of the state of the universe. But philosophy can certainly contain wisdom that is not strictly scientific – although can be informed by empiricism.

    You should also not be judgmental about how other people can find meaning in their own existence. You are imposing what is likely a very narrow concept of meaning onto others. Strict philosophical naturalists don’t seem to have any problems enjoying life and finding meaning. Most would argue that seeking meaning in a fantasy is ultimately hallow.

  59. Bruceon 19 Feb 2014 at 10:29 am

    “If all you rely upon is what you can prove scientifically, you’re in for a very barren existence”

    This is revealing. Why would an existence without things that can’t be felt and smelt and tasted and heard and seen and experienced directly be barren? Is your existence so barren that you cannot be happy without the thought of a greater purpose?

    I admit, it is a personal choice to believe in what you want to believe in, but the fact that you project a barren existence on those who do not believe tells me more about your existence and why people choose to believe than it tells me about people who choose not to believe.

  60. Hosson 19 Feb 2014 at 10:57 am

    I’m not sure if we are able to choose what we believe. To me, it seems pretty involuntary.

  61. Steven Novellaon 19 Feb 2014 at 11:21 am

    Hoss – you can, however, think about the process you use to arrive at your beliefs. This is called “metacognition” by psychologists. You are not condemned to believe whatever your evolved heuristics lead you to. You have a neocortex with which you can strategically supercede your more automatic beliefs with a critical thinking process based on logic and evidence.

    This endeavor is referred to by some as scientific skepticism.

  62. Bruceon 19 Feb 2014 at 11:26 am

    Hoss,

    I am unsure what point you are making there, are you implying an overall illusion of choice (which is another rabbit hole altogether) or are you implying those who believe in something are forced into it for some reason or another?

    Or something else…?

  63. DrJoeinCAon 19 Feb 2014 at 11:47 am

    SN: My point exactly. “There is more to life than what science can prove.” “Philosophy can certainly contain wisdom that is not strictly scientific.” This includes the existence of a God.

  64. Steven Novellaon 19 Feb 2014 at 11:53 am

    Dr. Joe – but, if you approach the question of god from a philosophical point of view, rather than a purely empirical question, I think this also leads to the conclusion that there is no reason to believe in god.

    Here’s a good discussion by a philosopher colleague of mine, Massimo Pigliucci http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2014/02/is-alving-plantinga-for-real-alas-it.html

    The bottom line is that you will find no support for your beliefs in philosophy – at least not according to the vast majority of philosophers.

  65. DrJoeinCAon 19 Feb 2014 at 12:07 pm

    SN: “No support” is of course an overstatement. What I have said is that there is a reasonable philosophical and rational argument for the existence of God. Scientifically unprovable but rational.

  66. hardnoseon 19 Feb 2014 at 12:36 pm

    People who want to believe in God can find philosophical reasons for it., while those who don’t want to believe in God can find the opposite.

    It can only be answered empirically, by individuals. If you perceive and experience something you consider to be God, then for you it is real. Or the opposite.

    People who do not experience God used to go to church and pretend, in order to belong to society. Now you don’t have to.

    There is no reason to argue about it or try to convert anyone. The tendency to perceive and experience these things, or not, is mostly inborn, I think.

    Of course atheists can say that all the mystics, shamans, and prophets throughout the ages have been hallucinating. But you can’t prove that either, so imo the discussion could be dropped altogether.

  67. Hosson 19 Feb 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Bruce
    I haven’t done much reading into choice, free will, or the mechanisms behind why believe things, which is why I was hesitant to say anything.

    What I was trying to say is that I can see how choice applies to actions, but I didn’t see the same sort of choice when it comes to believing if something is true or not true.

    I’m still trying to wrap my head around what Steven wrote, but it’s slowly coming to me.

  68. The Other John Mcon 19 Feb 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Dr. Joe, may I rephrase your claim?

    ““No support” is of course an overstatement. What I have said is that there is a reasonable philosophical and rational argument for the existence of [unicorns and/or Flying Spaghetti Monsters]. Scientifically unprovable but rational. ”

    Forgive me if I feel unswayed by your argument that there are definitely good arguments (somewhere! I swear!) for a Ceiling Cat that you admit is scientifically unprovable on principle.

  69. Bronze Dogon 19 Feb 2014 at 1:19 pm

    hardnose, I think you’re confusing the difference between subjective experience and evidence. As a result, it sounds to me like you’re saying gods are as real as dreams, hallucinations, and so forth.

    Of course atheists can say that all the mystics, shamans, and prophets throughout the ages have been hallucinating. But you can’t prove that either, so imo the discussion could be dropped altogether.

    We know numerous things that can make a person hallucinate. We have evidence for this in the form of drug experiments that lead to people exhibiting unusual behavior and reporting strange experiences after the drug leaves their system. We can also look at people with neurological disorders. Hallucinations and dreams are known explanations for strange experiences and behaviors. We can’t go back in time and do a brain scan on the ancient mystics, but we can certainly say it’s reasonably likely that they had dreams and hallucinations are explanations that can account for their strange experiences. We have no reason to think that these things didn’t exist before we studied them.

    We know that humans can confabulate false memories if they’re suggestible enough or vulnerable to social pressure. This also seems like a reasonably likely explanation.

    We also have evidence that humans will lie for religious reasons. This also seems a reasonably likely explanation for some reported strange experiences.

    We can’t be certain any of these explanations are true, but certainty is something we can’t have in science, so there’s no point in demanding certainty.

    The problem gods have is Occam’s Razor. We look at the known explanations first before hypothesizing new ones. You’re positing a new entity without telling us why that new entity is necessary to explain something. Why are the various known causes of people reporting strange experiences insufficient to explain why people would report religious experiences?

    Oh, and dropping the discussion? It sounds more like you want us to shut up because you have given up on trying to understand this uncertain world. We don’t need the perfect solution of certainty to move forward.

  70. DrJoeinCAon 19 Feb 2014 at 1:22 pm

    The Other: Way to bring the conversation down. You ridicule what you don’t believe. Sorry, but that doesn’t work with us rational folk.

  71. NNMon 19 Feb 2014 at 1:25 pm

    “Nearly 36 percent of scientists have no doubt about God’s existence.”
    I’m just stunned… Deleted my text here several times, too offensive…
    36% of scientists… “no doubt”. “no doubt” – Really?! How..!? If you have “no doubt”, you’re not a scientist. And… *loses all hope in humanity*

  72. hardnoseon 19 Feb 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Bronze Dog,

    If someone’s subjective experience is different from yours, you can always say they are hallucinating. But that’s just your subjective judgment. You can’t prove their perceptions are hallucinations.

    And we really do not know what dreams and hallucinations are anyway. They are a convenient label you can apply to anyone you don’t understand or don’t agree with.

    I think the more rational approach is to live and let live, admitting that we are not all the same and everyone has their reasons. Many things are not accessible to scientific investigation. Maybe eventually some of these things will be proven one way or another, but for now they most definitely are not.

    You can say the vast majority of human beings in all times and places have been delusional, if that brings you consolation or helps you feel enlightened. But you can’t prove it.

  73. Bronze Dogon 19 Feb 2014 at 1:45 pm

    [Regarding the Unicorn/FSM substitution] Way to bring the conversation down. You ridicule what you don’t believe. Sorry, but that doesn’t work with us rational folk.

    Way to dodge a perfectly good point. The ridicule would be irrelevant if it didn’t serve to highlight the problem with the original statement. If you were arguing rationally, you would be drawn to explain either why gods can be used in the statement but not unicorns or the FSM, or why that statement isn’t as trivial for gods as it is for the substituted entities. Instead, you predictably resort to a well-known strategy of red herrings known as tone trolling to avoid answering the criticism inherent in using that substitution.

  74. Bruceon 19 Feb 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Hoss,

    Fair enough.

    The subject of free will and choice is fascinating.

  75. Hosson 19 Feb 2014 at 1:54 pm

    Drjoe
    You’re refusing to have a conversation. Commenters have tried to engage you, but when logically cornered, you assert irrelevant crap or you double down on the same fallacies completely ignoring the valid arguments against you.

    TheOtherJohnMC showed why that particular argument you’re using is ridiculous.

    As a rational person(self-proclaimed), I like valid arguments. I would like to hear one from you.

    I really don’t see why you can’t even tell us the name of the best argument for god or even who made the argument. Just give me a little something to go off of so I can look into it.

    Here, I’ll make it easier for you. I’ll stop demanding a valid logical argument for the existence of god, which you continue to refuse to do, if you tell me what you believe and why.

  76. Hosson 19 Feb 2014 at 2:03 pm

    Bruce

    “The subject of free will and choice is fascinating.”

    I completely agree. I should stop neglecting to read up on it. I’ve had the intention to read up on it for a while, but I never got around to it.

  77. The Other John Mcon 19 Feb 2014 at 2:09 pm

    Hoss & Bruce,
    If you want a real mind-boggling read on free-will/choice, take a gander at Benjamin Libet’s experiments on the perception of time. He summarizes much of his work in a book called “Mind Time” but there are endless internet sources to scour on this topic.

  78. Hosson 19 Feb 2014 at 2:37 pm

    TheOtherJohnMC
    Thanks for the recommendation.

  79. Bronze Dogon 19 Feb 2014 at 2:41 pm

    hardnose:

    If someone’s subjective experience is different from yours, you can always say they are hallucinating. But that’s just your subjective judgment. You can’t prove their perceptions are hallucinations.

    Giant flaming straw man. It sounds like you’re using your lack of imagination as a basis for it, too. It stinks of the old woo favorite, “How do you prove photography to a blind man?” It’s not that hard if you actually think about it instead of giving up right away.

    I could do drug tests to see if there are hallucinogens in their system. I could check their mental health records and family history. I could look at their recent activity to see if they were asleep and possibly dreaming. I could compare both our experiences against other people beyond the two of us. I could look at electronic recordings if they’re available. I could examine them for sensory organs that might be perceiving things I lack the features to, and if found, test how they react to different stimuli. There’s all sorts of tests that could be run to find out the most likely explanation(s).

    I don’t know if you’re intentionally avoiding thinking about how we can analyze experiences, or if you really couldn’t do so, but you’re effectively arguing that the uncertainty of the world is a reason to dismiss the concept of prior plausibility. Yes, there’s a non-zero chance that something that looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck might not actually be a duck. If you want to argue it’s not a duck, you should be willing to show me the non-duck features. (Assuming “duck” is clearly defined enough.)

    In any case, an isolated subjective experience would not inform me about new entities by itself. If I had such an experience myself, knowing how flawed my monkey brain is, I’d acknowledge that it’s too weak to count as evidence for positing new entities. To do otherwise would mean thinking I’m a superior exception. I’m being consistent by pointing out that other humans are just as flawed for that purpose. Subjective experience is usually good enough for making claims of ordinary things most of the time, because the stakes tend to be lower. Falsely believing “a funny, minor coincidence happened on my way here” isn’t going to significantly alter my worldview as much as “I saw a new entity that is going to radically change how we view the world” would.

    I think the more rational approach is to live and let live, admitting that we are not all the same and everyone has their reasons. Many things are not accessible to scientific investigation. Maybe eventually some of these things will be proven one way or another, but for now they most definitely are not.

    I question your motives about that. For me, part of living means being willing to admit I’ve made a mistake when it can be demonstrated through rational discourse. If no one is willing to challenge my misconceptions, I may suffer as a result. I recognize that because I can be wrong, that other people can be wrong. The only way we can sort issues out is to go through the comparatively mild discomfort of challenging beliefs. Sometimes it’s even exciting to be proven wrong, but that requires someone does the hard work of making a case for it.

    There’s a difference between “live and let live” and coddling ideas without merit. The version you’re positing sounds suspiciously like the “politeness” of a stagnant status quo. If you’ve got a challenging idea, don’t dare make a case for it, because someone whose wrapped their identity with a competing idea might take offense. It’s the softer, socially enforced counterpart to blasphemy laws.

    I want you to challenge me, but you don’t seem to understand what I would consider challenging.

  80. Will Nitschkeon 19 Feb 2014 at 4:22 pm

    DrJoeinCA & Steven Novella

    So you want to make assertions that you have no evidence of (“life cannot come from non-life”)? How do you know this? Non-life comes from life. Why not the other way? Call it what it is, faith, that the universe works a certain way.

    The activist sceptics will forever dance in frustration around impossible questions they are asked: how does something come from nothing? They are convinced it must have (somehow) although it contradicts central tenants of their belief system, such as thermodynamics. They don’t have the answers but are confident that one day they will. Let’s call that what it is, faith.

    DrJoeInCA believes in God. Or wants God to exist.

    Steven replaces, in a sense, God with”scientific methodology” although what that actually is, is rather arbitrary. Yes p-tests, null hypothesis, Occam’s razor and all that. But none of those notions *produce* scientific knowledge. If there was a recipe we would program it into a computer and discover cures for all types of cancers and everything else. So obviously there is no such thing, not in the sense that Steven wants or thinks it is.

  81. Bruceon 19 Feb 2014 at 5:10 pm

    The Other John,

    I will have a look into Benjamin Libet, thanks. Found his book on amazon so have added it to my buying queue.

  82. DrJoeinCAon 19 Feb 2014 at 5:14 pm

    Hoss: The conversation is whether it is possible to know something or believe rationally in something without being able to prove it scientifically. My contention is that it is. It’s not a matter of questioning my personal beliefs. It’s a matter of acknowledging that it’s possible to have rational beliefs without scientific proof. Dumbing down the conversation by resorting to ridicule and referring to fantasy and unicorns doesn’t help anything.

    Some people believe it is much more rational to believe in a God/creator than to believe that something can start from nothing or that it’s possible to created life from non-life. Neither of those — something from nothing or life from non-life — is scientifically possible or provable. So why not accept that if you don’t know and cannot know scientifically where the universe came from, where the first amino acid in the universe came from, you take the next rational step and consider that perhaps the cause is something other than what you already know? Maybe step outside your comfort zone and believe that “something” must have caused it all?

    Is all I’m sayin’.

  83. Will Nitschkeon 19 Feb 2014 at 5:28 pm

    @ DrJoeinCA

    Why not? Because your argument reduces to ~p therefore q.

    The statement may be true, but you can’t prove it rationally. If you want to believe that, then acknowledge it as a belief and not as a rational position.

  84. Will Nitschkeon 19 Feb 2014 at 5:33 pm

    @ DrJoeinCA

    Actually for those who are unfamiliar with propositional logic* here is a version of your claim:

    If it’s raining, then the streets are wet.
    It isn’t raining.
    Therefore, the streets aren’t wet.

    *Although if you don’t know propositional logic you shouldn’t be here.

  85. DrJoeinCAon 19 Feb 2014 at 6:03 pm

    Will: How about:

    If it’s raining, the streets are wet.
    The streets are not wet.
    Therefore it is not raining.

    It is impossible for the first molecule in the universe to have created itself.
    The first molecule existed.
    Therefore the first molecule was created.

  86. Will Nitschkeon 19 Feb 2014 at 6:28 pm

    @DrJoeinCA

    It is important not to conflate “statements of fact” (what we know or think we know with certainty) with propositional logic.

    Logic has a technical and a colloquial meaning. The colloquial meaning is something along the lines of “I figure what I just said sounds reasonable/plausible”. In casual conversation this is what people mean when they throw the word ‘logical’ into a sentence. If you are asserting that something is true or false, especially in philosophy, you cannot use the colloquial meaning. You are only permitted to use the technical meaning.

    You cannot derive a statement of fact from propositional logic. Therefore what you are assert may be true, but cannot be proven. Therefore your position cannot be defended on a *logical* basis.

    However, your problems are more serious than this. Certain assertions you have made do not contain valid propositional logic.

  87. DrJoeinCAon 19 Feb 2014 at 7:35 pm

    Will: Thanks for the lesson. Brings back college. I stand by the statements of fact that I made.

  88. BillyJoe7on 20 Feb 2014 at 6:57 am

    DrJoe,

    “Some people believe it is much more rational to believe in a God/creator than to believe that something can start from nothing or that it’s possible to create life from non-life”

    Scientists have traced the origins of the universe back to the virtual point in spacetime called the Big Bang. Not nothing yet, and maybe never, but existing theories that are based on observations of our universe, can show us how to get spacetime from nothing but the laws of physics. And if, as inflationary theory suggests, our universe is one of an infinite number of universes, then the set of laws of physics of our universe is just one amongst an infinite number of sets of laws of physics in a larger multiverse, and we find ourselves in a universe where the laws of physics are conducive to intelligent life. Still not absolutely nothing perhaps (though some will argue the point), but pretty close.

    On the other hand, Joe, your work has just begun….
    Where did your god come from?

    “Neither of those — something from nothing or life from non-life — is scientifically possible or provable”

    Of course it’s possible.
    With our present cosmological theories we are a shadow away from showing how it is possible. And, ultimately, there is no logical reason why something had to come from nothing. There could always have been something. There is no logical reason why nothing is the default position. There could have always been something. It could turn out to be extremely unlikely or even impossible for there to be nothing.

    “So why not…take the next rational step and consider that perhaps the cause is something other than what you already know?”

    That’s not the next rational step.
    It’s just another possibility.
    And it’s just a possibility that we cannot say anything about – because it is, by your definition, unknown.
    In other words, you can’t just insert your god in there.

    “Maybe step outside your comfort zone and believe that “something” must have caused it all?
    Is all I’m sayin’.”

    There’s no need to play hide and seek with your “something” and “must”.
    Gods do not provide any solutions here.
    There is no evidence that gods even exist, so it’s ridiculous to even consider what characteristics they might have that would make them the cause of all the universes that might exist.
    Or, if you insist, one God, one universe.
    And, even if you can do all this that is demanded of you, you still have all your work ahead of you…
    Where did your god come from?

  89. SteveAon 20 Feb 2014 at 7:42 am

    The Other John Mcon: “Forgive me if I feel unswayed by your argument that there are definitely good arguments (somewhere! I swear!) for a Ceiling Cat that you admit is scientifically unprovable on principle.”

    Wooah.

    Let’s leave the Ceiling Cat out of this.

    His stools are loose.
    His sphincter is unreliable.
    His wrath is mighty…

  90. Bronze Dogon 20 Feb 2014 at 9:51 am

    “Neither of those — something from nothing or life from non-life — is scientifically possible or provable”

    Given what I know of physics, I get the impression it’s most certainly possible to get something from nothing. The equation is balances out because you also get an anti-something.

    As for life from non-life, why the hell would that be scientifically impossible? I’ve seen all sorts of woos claim this, and all they ever do to support it is misinterpret abiogenesis hypotheses with very simple lipid bubbles and amino acid chains formed over millions of years to be disproven because the spontaneous generation of much more complex maggots over the course of days was disproven. The two aren’t even remotely similar in scope. It’s like that guy who said evolution is wrong because complex vertebrates didn’t spring out from his peanut butter jar after a few minutes of waiting.

    Life is chemistry. There’s nothing fundamentally special about life’s chemical reactions versus all the others.

  91. DrJoeinCAon 20 Feb 2014 at 12:08 pm

    Billy: “There could always have been something.” I call that an eternal God. You call it arginine.

    “A shadow away from showing how it is possible.” Let me know when you get past that shadow and into the scientific proof of getting life from non-life and something from nothing.

    Bronze: If it is possible to get something from nothing, use science to prove it. But don’t forget that you have to start from nothing, no soup, no atoms, no elements, no molecules. As for life from non-life, use science to prove that also.

  92. Hosson 20 Feb 2014 at 1:22 pm

    DrJoe
    Why are you asking for proof at all? I thought you didn’t care if things are true. The methods you use to rationalize your belief in god are independent of logic, evidence, and reality.

    “If it is possible to get something from nothing, use science to prove it. But don’t forget that you have to start from nothing, no soup, no atoms, no elements, no molecules. As for life from non-life, use science to prove that also.”

    Your asserted claims that life can’t come from non-life and something can’t come from nothing are both as scientifically and philosophically untenable as the claim that there is no god or that there is a god.

    The big bang and evolution does a pretty good job of explaining where we find ourselves in the universe. There are still many unanswered questions about the beginning of the universe and life, but our lack of understanding does not justify ruling out natural explanations and certainly doesn’t justify ad hoc explanations, which haven’t or can’t be proved wrong.

    Failure of not being able to imagine how different compounds come together and evolve to make proto-life does not mean it is impossible. It just means, in this area, that you lack imagination.

    Here is a question. Can god make life from non-life? Can god use natural methods to make life from non-life? Assuming you don’t try special pleading, the answer should be yes to both questions. Well if god can make life from non-life using natural methods in the universe, I don’t see how you can support the claim that life can’t come from non-life. So there it is, the possibility of life from non-life through natural means. Deal with it.

    Virtual particles are interesting. You should read up on them.

  93. The Other John Mcon 20 Feb 2014 at 1:24 pm

    Dr. Joe,

    you said to the idea that “There could always have been something.” “I call that an eternal God.”

    So to be clear, if there was nothing, then something (Big Bang’s first cause), you claim “it’s God”. But if there was always something (no first cause), you also claim “it’s God”.

    Is there any understanding about our universe and it’s beginnings (or possibility of eternal existence) that you wouldn’t claim as “it’s God”? Note here, again, that I could claim “it’s unicorns” or “it’s Flying Spaghetti Monster” and have just a strong of claim as yours.

  94. DrJoeinCAon 20 Feb 2014 at 1:58 pm

    Hoss: “There are still many unanswered questions about the beginning of the universe and life, but our lack of understanding does not justify ruling out natural explanations and certainly doesn’t justify ad hoc explanations, which haven’t or can’t be proved wrong.” So you say that even though we cannot prove it scientifically and even though it would violate scientific principles and natural law, there MUST be another explanation for how the universe started. Cannot possibly be God. No way. You sound pretty certain. I guess I could never find that certainty. My reasoning tells me that God is just as rational an explanation as any other. When and if we find another explanation for how everything started, I will consider it. But as of now, there is none.

    I think you’re losing me in the weeds there. God could make the first thing and everything would flow from that, big bang and everything else. There’s always the first thing that needs to be created, that cannot appear out of nothingness. I call the creator of the first thing God. If you’re asking me to “deal with” the idea that God can do something unnatural, I would say that would be against nature and would not occur.

    The Other: I call the first thing God, the thing that had no cause and always was.

  95. Hosson 20 Feb 2014 at 2:06 pm

    DrJoe
    Clearly you understood little of what I wrote. I’m not wasting any more of my time on you.

  96. The Other John Mcon 20 Feb 2014 at 2:07 pm

    Dr Joe you are assuming an entity (God) that was a first thing, an uncaused cause. Why not just save an unnecessary step in our logic and say the universe itself was an uncaused cause? That it was the first thing? This avoids positing an extra step in the causal chain.

  97. mumadaddon 20 Feb 2014 at 2:16 pm

    Dr Joe,

    ” My reasoning tells me that God is just as rational an explanation as any other. When and if we find another explanation for how everything started, I will consider it. ”

    What reasoning would that be? So far it seems to be: point to a gap in our scientific understanding of reality – therefore goddidit. You mentioned before that you had a rational philosophical basis for your belief, so could you lay it out? Or even just name the argument; eg. TAG, Kalam, ontological…. whatever it might be. If you’re interested, I’m pretty sure some of the posters here will properly engage your arguments and maybe demonstrate the flaws in their structure. If you’re right, you’ll just get to sharpen your rhetoric.

  98. Bronze Dogon 20 Feb 2014 at 2:20 pm

    The whole “I call that first thing ‘god’” meme is annoying because it’s just so empty as a statement. It doesn’t tell us anything about that first thing. It doesn’t explain anything. It only serves to make “god” a meaningless label used to declare a tautological victory, rather than describe a meaningful hypothetical entity we can actually talk about.

  99. DrJoeinCAon 20 Feb 2014 at 3:06 pm

    Hoss: The pleasure is all mine.

    The Other: Because I don’t think that matter comes from non-matter. Or life from non-life.

    Bronze: Look it up. The definition of God is all over. The first thing, the eternal thing, the non-material thing, the first cause. It is a reasonable explanation for the universe.

    Mumadadd: My reasoning, as I have stated several times, is that there must have been a first cause, that matter does not create itself, that life does not come from non-life. Science cannot explain where the first particle of matter came from and how that first particle of matter evolved into the universe.

    Interestingly, there is so much acrimony from presumably learned people here. I suggest that God exists, and the responses are flying leprechauns and unicorns and assorted non-rational ridicule. My experience is that usually suggests a shallowness of thought. No one says: no that isn’t true, we know how it all started and we can prove how it all started. There’s no God involved. We just haven’t found out “the answer,” but we, geniuses that we are, know your answer is idiotic. Geniuses that we are, we cannot prove our point and we cannot disprove your point so we ridicule it. “Resort is had to ridicule only when reason is against us.” – TJ

    So be it. Maybe another topic will be more rewarding and involve more rational thought. I look forward to it.

  100. The Other John Mcon 20 Feb 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Yes, we do know your answer is idiotic, the same way we all know (you included) that Flying Spaghetti Monsters and unicorns are idiotic ideas: there’s no evidence or compelling logic to suggest otherwise.

  101. BillyJoe7on 20 Feb 2014 at 3:59 pm

    DrJoe,

    “Let me know when you get past that shadow and into the scientific proof of getting life from non-life and something from nothing”

    My point was that science is a shadow away but you haven’t even started to explain where your god came from. Science is nearly there but you haven’t even started yet. Science is about to hit the finishing line but you’re still standing at the starting gun.

    Is my point clear yet?

  102. BillyJoe7on 20 Feb 2014 at 4:09 pm

    DrJoe,

    “So you say that even though we cannot prove it scientifically and even though it would violate scientific principles and natural law, there MUST be another explanation for how the universe started”

    That is incorrect.
    The cosmological theories that are a shadow away from demonstrating how something can come from nothing do not violate any scientific laws. They are entirely consistent with them.

    On the other hand, with your god you don’t have something from nothing, you have something from your god. And you’ve not even begun to explain your god.

  103. BillyJoe7on 20 Feb 2014 at 4:22 pm

    DrJoe,

    “God could make the first thing and everything would flow from that, big bang and everything else. There’s always the first thing that needs to be created, that cannot appear out of nothingness. I call the creator of the first thing God”

    That’s an illogical argument.

    You said “I call the creator of the first thing god”
    But that means that god is now the first thing.
    You said “the first thing needs to be created”
    But that means that god now needs to be created.

    That is called an infinite regress.

  104. Bronze Dogon 20 Feb 2014 at 4:27 pm

    Bronze: Look it up. The definition of God is all over. The first thing, the eternal thing, the non-material thing, the first cause. It is a reasonable explanation for the universe.

    1. It depends largely on who you ask. There are other religions out there and with them different conceptions of gods. Also, just because a definition is popular doesn’t mean it’s accurate. I’d rather you show me a deity and that you made your definition conform to it, rather than try to define something and claim that reality must conform to human symbolic language.

    And just to note, how would you feel if I did a search that turned up a different definition of god than the one you’re using and proceeded to unintentionally straw man your arguments because I argued against the wrong definition? If you’re going to cite a definition, provide a link instead of blindly trusting that my search-fu will turn up a matching result.

    2. “Non-material” irritates me in one way: It’s defining something by what it’s not, rather than what it is or what it does. I consider terms like “non-material” as theists use them to be a junk drawer category with no rhyme or reason dictating what goes in it.

    3. It’s about a good explanation as “it’s magic!” It can “explain” anything, so it effectively explains nothing. A testable hypothesis doesn’t just tell you what something can do or is likely to do, but also tells you what it can’t do or at least is unlikely to do. If it’s untestable, that makes the idea impotent because we can’t use it to understand why it made X happen instead of Y.

    4. My complaint is also about a common equivocation game. Change the definition of god to conform with whatever might be the first thing, such as a mindless quantum event. This “god” is defined in such a loose way as to guarantee its existence so long as there is reason to think there is a first thing. Then theists move onto pretend that slapping the god label onto said quantum event allows them to claim it has all the properties of the previous anthropomorphic definition.

  105. JRfromMiltonon 10 Mar 2014 at 11:18 pm

    Why does it always have to be science versus religion, like the author states Perhaps it is because we feel it has to be one or the other. It would make a lot more sense spending the time discussing how the two support one another. There is a book recently released titled To Adam about Adam by Jim Frederick that does a very good explaining how evolution and creation embrace one another. For example, it explains how both evolution and the creation of Adam and Eve could have occurred and for what reasons. The same for other stories in the Bible. I use to keep my religious and scientific views separate. But for the now the debate is over in my mind.

  106. Bronze Dogon 14 Mar 2014 at 4:35 pm

    I’d rather you explain yourself, JR, not just drop a book reference.

    I like science because I can see its merits. I don’t see any merit that is exclusive to religion or anything good that necessitates religion. I don’t see how a religion could be genuinely cooperative with science and still be a religion. I don’t see how religion itself contributes to the advancement of science. I recognize that religious people and institutions are certainly capable of contributing, but as far as I’ve been able to tell, that’s in spite of their religiosity, rather than because of it.

    If you want to get into the idea of science and religion covering different domains, what exactly is the domain of religion, and why should I consider religious leaders and texts to be authoritative about this domain? From my point of view, it’s religion that creates unnecessary conflict by claiming a domain without justifying that claim.

  107. BillyJoe7on 14 Mar 2014 at 4:44 pm

    JR,

    “…it explains how both evolution and the creation of Adam and Eve could have occurred and for what reasons”

    Population genetics has disproven the Adam and Eve story, so there is your overlap between science and religion with religion being the loser. Sorry to spoil your accomodationism.

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