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Darwin Didn’t Get God Off the Hook

As Michael Behe discusses in the article I linked in my last post, Darwinists Kenneth Miller and Francisco Ayala reject ID, because they believe it makes God (if one assumes God is the designer) culpable for all of the pain and misery in the natural world.  Ayala goes so far as to suggest that ID is blasphemous because it implicates God in causing this pain and misery.

Miller and Ayala are wrong, and their error stems from their failure to understand elementary principles of culpability that any 1st year law student can stand and recite from memory.

Generally, the law recognizes four culpable mental states (mens rea for the Latin buffs).  In descending order they are:

Intentional conduct.  An actor acts intentionally when he specifically desires to achieve the consequences of his act.

Knowing conduct.  An actor acts knowingly when he is aware that  – whether or not he intends a result — it is practically certain that his conduct will cause the result.

Reckless conduct.  An actor acts recklessly when he consciously disregards a known and substantial risk.

Negligence.  An actor acts negligently when he fails to use the care a reasonably prudent person would have used.

Now, Miller and Ayala say that Darwinism gets God off the hook because it is an indirect process that works itself out through purely mechanical means.  Therefore, by definition, no one can be said to have “intended” its results, such as the maleria parasite that kills millions.

The problem with this analysis is that it ignores three other levels of culpability.  If God exists, then He must be a Being of supreme, indeed supernatural, knowledge and intelligence.  Therefore, he must have known that it was practically certain that the mechanical process He set in motion would result in the consequences that have in fact resulted.

Even in the unlikely event that God did not know that the results were practically certain, it is inconceivable that He did not know that there was a substantial risk they would occur.

Finally, would a reasonable person in God’s position of practically infinite knowledge (a hypothetical “reasonable God”) have set in motion a process that resulted in untold pain and misery?  The answer is clearly no.

In summary, therefore, Miller and Ayala may have gotten God off the hook for acting “intentionally” (though even that is debatable).  But by no means have they gotten God off the hook for acting “knowingly,” “recklessly,” or “negligently.”

Before anyone accuses me of blasphemy, let me hasten to assure you that I think there are answers to the ”problem of evil” that vexes Miller and Ayala so.    I do not intend to suggest otherwise.  My purpose is simply to point out that Miller’s and Ayala’s purported reason for rejecting ID because it implicates God in the problem of evil does not stand up under scrutiny.

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29 Responses to Darwin Didn’t Get God Off the Hook

  1. Finally, would a reasonable person in God’s position of practically infinite knowledge (a hypothetical “reasonable God”) have set in motion a process that resulted in untold pain and misery? The answer is clearly no.

    I don’t disagree with your main thesis, but I do disagree with this statement.

    From God’s greater perspective there may be (must be!) over-riding reasons, or a greater good which can come from suffering which seems pointless from our limited perspective.
    So while a “reasonable person” in God’s position may act differently, God obviously allows horrible suffering.
    So either He’s not reasonable, or He knows something we don’t.

  2. Besides what Barry has written there is another major philosophical problem with Ayala and Miller’s philosophical concern. Since they are accepting the existence of God in their stance then we have to wonder that if a God didn’t create this world, and therefore is not responsible for all the pain and misery that is experienced, then how do they explain why their God doesn’t do something to stop the pain and misery which has arisen? The only philosophical escape for them is to postulate a God which either doesn’t care or is physically unable to help those in pain and misery. Either or both options are available to them if they like, but for them to claim that they belong to or believe in a traditional religion (doesn’t Miller claim to be a catholic?) which espouses a theology of an omnipotent loving God, is simply hypocritical and dishonest of them. If they personally cannot philosophically justify the existence of an omnipotent loving God, then they should reject any theology which espouses such an idea.

    Eastern religious philosophy is also ignored by their philosophical stance. In most eastern theology suffering is caused by the person suffering due to the karmic reaction from his past deeds i.e. if a person does something “bad” then in the future he will suffer an equal and opposite reaction to that bad deed in order to psychically cure him of doing bad deeds. In this theological conception God is very much involved in the suffering of humanity in order to cure humans of their propensity for selfish and harmful behavior. This is in order to enable humans to eventually live their lives in the eternal world of perfected beings (where there is no suffering, therefore no one who causes suffering is allowed to live there).

  3. dacook, in a sense I don’t agree with myself. The very idea of imposing a “reasonableness” standard on God is absurd. Still, my basic point stands. Intentional conduct is not the only culpable conduct.

    mentok’s point is well taken.

  4. I’m always puzzled by someone such as Miller who claims to be a Christian. Christians believe that the suffering the world (by humans in particular) was caused by an act of rebellion. God never intended suffering. Satan did. Satan tricked humans into rebellion, thus bringing in suffering. (Whether you consider the Adam and Eve story to be literal or allegorial of some greater truth makes no difference.)

    Miller uses a theological argument to justify his belief in darwinism, yet forgets that he is a Christian. His bizarre theology is lopsided to the maximus.

    Wierd stuff.

  5. mike1962, I agree with you, but I do not intend for this comment thread to explore the theodicy (the problem of the evil and God’s role in either creating it or allowing it to exist). I am simply showing that Miller has not thought his position through.

  6. BarryA, “I am simply showing that Miller has not thought his position through.”

    Me too. Did I go too far?

  7. My theological objection would be that God doing with his own property, so to speak, is in a different category than me doing something to another person I no rights to.

    But focusing on ID: if your objections to ID are mainly theologically driven (whether you are a theist or an atheist), then that’s a problem.

  8. It is true that God’s knowledge infinitely surpasses ours, but does His rationality? It strikes me that one needs to be very careful in the theological commitments here. The whole point of doing science, within the framework of a theological metaphysics, is that science is the activity of a community of finite and rational minds to understand the activity of an infinite rational mind. If God’s rationality and ours were too difference, then we would be unable to comprehend His creation.

  9. You could argue that ID has not thought its position through either. The main objection by Theistic Evolutionists to ID is that ID postulate a lesser God than the omniscient, all powerful God of traditional theology.

    A God that has to constantly tinker to get it right is One lesser than One who can plan it so it unfolds over time based on the initial conditions and laws set up in the beginning and does not have to intervene. This is a constant theme with those who oppose ID on theological grounds and is why those from ASA only wanted to talk theology when they were here earlier this year.

    This is also part of Miller’s and Ayala’s argument. There is also no way to escape the theodicy issue when defending ID or any other point of view and I agree with Barry’s assessment that defending Darwinism because it gets God off the hook is ludicrous but that is what they do. I tend to agree with dacook and think there is an overriding issue which we do not comprehend and that what is perceived as evil by us is necessary for a greater good.

  10. jerry, “The main objection by Theistic Evolutionists to ID is that ID postulate a lesser God than the omniscient, all powerful God of traditional theology”

    But Behe’s point is that *either* view (God as proximate creator, or God as indirect creator) leaves God “culpable” of the resultant evil. (Of course, all this leaves aside the issue of Satan as the instigator of evil, or other possibilities, etc. But, as Barry said, this isn’t a blog entry about solving theodicy, only about the fact that the darwinist view does nothing beyond what the ID view does with regards to theodicy.)

  11. mike1962,

    There are two separate issues.

    1. which point of view represents best the omniscient, all powerful God of traditional theology. This is the primary objection to ID by the theistic evolutionists and has nothing to do with theodicy.

    2. the role of the theodicy issue. If we want to mention the theodicy issue and then not discuss it, then fine. I doubt we would get anywhere anyway. No one seems to have solved it in 2000 years. I said I agree with BarryA that what Miller and Ayala claim does not let God off the hook if in fact evil results from what He has set in motion no matter how He does it. The answer lies elsewhere.

  12. This reads too much like Hitchens’ diatribe and the antecedent arguements of Russell and Mill. That there is evil in the world does not negate a Creator. This contempt is theirs alone and has nothing to do with whether or not there is a God.

    Follow the evidence; if it leads to an indictment of a “guilty” Creator, then deal with that in theological and/or philosophical discourse. To ascribe an evolutionary argument to let God off the hook on this basis alone is an absurd proposition.

  13. I wonder what everyone else thinks, but personally I never like to say this or that person “never deserved to suffer like that.”

    Perhaps its b/c I know the high price of sin and what it deserves (the Blood of Jesus Christ!), which is something Ayala and Miller don’t understand. If ppl who died of malaria did not deserve to die from it (remembering everyone has to die one day) they assume that anyone can stand before God and rightfully claim to Him ” I deserve X,Y, and Z or else you are not a righteous God.” Besides I think God has vindicated Himself through the cross and offering eternal life free to everyone.

    Lots of ppl think that God should’ve made the world for man’s happiness (which I don’t believe), but even under this criteria suffering and sin has its place in what I call the “2 Utopia Hypothesis.” Eden and the Eternal State are the 2 utopias for man and obviously the latter is best for a person. But the Eternal State is only achievable (or part of its greatness is due to) Christ dying for our individual sins. Thus even evil has a meaning, but in Ayala and Miller’s scheme we have a God who just sat back and couldn’t or wouldn’t control things.

  14. It is fairly clear to me that Miller does not have a well-tuned mind. Apparently, he excuses the unfortunate consequences of God’s creation and, by extension God, on the grounds that randomness sets into motion a series of events that God can’t follow. But randomness has no power to cancel or even compromise God’s ability to know the final process of each and all of nature’s processes. To be omniscient is to triumph over the apparent confusion of randomness. Indeed, anticipating the finished product of a natural process is a rather mild accomplishment for God compared to making sense out of personal choices of his creatures.

    Unlike random or unplanned events, which can only react to the natural laws that caused them, human agency can follow, resist, or even exploit those laws. Imagine trying to calculate all the combinations and permutations involved in every human act from the beginning of the world until the end of time. Now imagine factoring in the ways in which each implied choice impacts history. Now multiply by all of the causal variations included in mans relationship to himself including the biological, environmental, and psychodynamic factors that influence the capacity for free choice. Most important, remember that there is absolutely no room for even the smallest margin for error, inasmuch as every man will be subjected to a final judgment by this same God who must make all these calculations

    Now answer this question? How does Miller conceive of a God who, one the one hand, can’t follow the role of the dice, but, on the other hand, reads our thoughts, anticipates our actions, and even knows ahead of time the final fate of every living human being? Frankly, I don’t think Miller has even begun to think about the things he talks about all the time.

  15. H’mm:

    It seems to me we need to pause, point out that there is a recent [originally humorous] Oct 29 thread on motivations for atheism, that addresses the problem of evil [and the associated problems of good and the existence of morality].

    In that light, if is may, I wish to comment briefly on:

    1] Jerry, 11: If we want to mention the theodicy issue and then not discuss it, then fine. I doubt we would get anywhere anyway. No one seems to have solved it in 2000 years.

    Post 1970′s, this is [probably inadvertently] out of date and thus somewhat misleading.

    For, Plantinga has advanced a successful (NB: most of the carping against it rests on confusing defenses with theodicies, cf. the linked) Free Will Defense that (a) shows through using a DEFENSE that we do not need a theodicy to address the deductive and inductive forms of the problem of evil successfully, and (b) that a world that has in it sufficient potenial for good is one in which the allowance of evil as a consequence of having creatures capable of virtue [e.g. of loving], is at least a defensible choice on the part of a Creator.

    Nor is even the theodicy approach itself so impotent as some assume. (In short, we should beware of selective hyper-skepticism. That I may not or may wish to accept an argument is insufficient to rebut or sustain it.)

    2] Natural evil

    Indeed, theologies that hinge on theistic evolution in one form or another, and so on “nature red in tooth and claw” face serious challenges on the sort of issues of responsibility that BarryA advances above.

    As I recall, this is not only a line of objections advanced by Darwinists but also Young Earth Creationists!

    I would love to see how an ID form common descent defense looks. Maybe, there is an online article or two out there?

    I would be grateful for links.

    3] The wider problem

    As I commented in the previous thread, the problem is a lot broader than one may think, once one puts forward the standard comparative difficulties across worldviews challenge. For each and every worldview has to answer to factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power, on its own and bay comparison with alternatives.

    In that connexion, Koukl’s point on the implications of the admitted existence of good and evil brings up serious challenges to materialistic views. Excerpting his closing summary [but we need to go through his argument in the main to see how he gets there]:

    The argument against God based on the problem of evil can only be raised if some form of moral objectivism is true. Morals, therefore, exist. I need not give a complete taxonomy of ethical guidelines to make my case. If there is even one moral absolute, it invites the question, “What kind of world view explains the existence of this moral rule?”

    Atheism can’t make any sense of it. Neither can most Eastern religions. If reality is an illusion, as they hold, then the distinction between good and evil is ultimately rendered meaningless. Something like the Judeo-Christian or Muslim idea of God must be true to adequately account for moral laws.

    Morality grounded in God explains our hunger for justice–our desire for a day of final reckoning when all wrongs are made right, when innocent suffering is finally redeemed, when all the guilty are punished and the righteous are rewarded.

    This also explains our own personal sense of dread. We feel guilty because we are guilty. We know deep down inside that we have offended a morally perfect being who has the legitimate authority to punish us. We also know we will have to answer for our own crimes against God.

    In the end, we’re forced to accept one of two alternatives. Either relativism is true or morality is true. Either we live in a universe in which morality is a meaningless concept and are forever condemned to silence regarding the problem of evil, or moral rules exist and we’re beholden to a moral God who holds us accountable to His law.

    Okay, quite a set of issues . . .

    GEM of TKI

  16. What we have are various people who profess to be Christian but who refuse to accept God’s account of His own actions, either of commission or permission. Thereby they deny that God, as He has revealed Himself to us, is entirely good. Instead they create, and worship, a god of their own imaginations – one who behaves according to their own conception of what a “good” god should do.

    What it boils down to is that they are idolators.

    What’s so bad about pain? It hurts but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. The injection that hurts you may also be the medicine that cures you, or prevents you from getting sick in the first place. Almost all my growth as a Christian has occurred because I was hurting emotionally and, because of the hurt, was very seriously interested in discovering, and correcting, whatever was within me that was contributing to my own misery.

    No, I don’t like hurting. But am I glad for having gone through it? You bet! It taught me to pray.

    By now I’ve learned to cope, more or less well, with the sort of physical pains that accompany aging. And those pains are a good too. They make us aware that, soon enough, life will end. They give us warning that we need to think about what will come afterwards.
    God is very kind to give us so many opportunities, through pain, to discover what is really important.

  17. Jerry you wrote:

    A God that has to constantly tinker to get it right is One lesser than One who can plan it so it unfolds over time based on the initial conditions and laws set up in the beginning and does not have to intervene. This is a constant theme with those who oppose ID on theological grounds and is why those from ASA only wanted to talk theology when they were here earlier this year.

    That is a human subjective view of what it means to be “lesser”. You claim that a God is “lesser” if he has to take the time and effort to build all life forms, but in fact what you propose is really the same type of a designer God. In either case all life forms have to be thought out and designed before they come into existence, unless of course you believe in a God who can perform magic (an effect without a competent cause). Also with the type of logic you use you are in fact adding fuel to the philosophy espoused by Ayala and Miller i.e. only a “lesser” God allows suffering. If God is perfect then why does he make people who make imperfect decisions? If in fact God is perfect in every way then there would be no suffering, disease, death, etc. Therefore either a) God doesn’t exist b) God does exist but is imperfect c) or God does exist but does not involve himself with humanity very closely for some reason or another. None of these 3 conclusions would be acceptable to your beliefs. But that is the slippery slope you are one when you claim that you can deduce that only a “lesser” type of God would build all life forms instead of pre-programming “nature” to spit them out.

    Kairosfocus you quoted Koukl;

    The argument against God based on the problem of evil can only be raised if some form of moral objectivism is true. Morals, therefore, exist. I need not give a complete taxonomy of ethical guidelines to make my case. If there is even one moral absolute, it invites the question, “What kind of world view explains the existence of this moral rule?”

    Atheism can’t make any sense of it. Neither can most Eastern religions. If reality is an illusion, as they hold, then the distinction between good and evil is ultimately rendered meaningless. Something like the Judeo-Christian or Muslim idea of God must be true to adequately account for moral laws.

    He has an uneducated idea of what most eastern religions teach on this topic. First off most eastern religions believe in one supreme being who lays down what is ethical and moral. Secondarily most eastern religions teach that suffering is caused by one’s own improper past actions which caused harm to others. By those actions the person will in the future have to “reap what he has sown”.

    As for the idea of the world as an illusion; most eastern religions teach that the world is real, not an illusion in the sense of not being real, the world is illusory in the sense of our experience of this world being like a dream like existence. The basic idea is that there is a permanent reality which we are destined to live in, which is not this world. Because this world is always changing and our lives here are always changing and our time here is temporary; from birth, to old age, to death, therefore our lives here in this world are compared to an illusory dream like existence e.g. in a dream everything is temporary, you may fly through one moment then in the next moment you are having dinner with friends, then the next moment the dream is over and you wake up. so this world is said to be illusory in the sense of it not being a permanent reality for us. Also most people experience this world like a person in a dream like state. In a dream (lucid dreaming notwithstanding) a person is ignorant of the reality he is in, he doesn’t know he is in a dream, he is ignorant of the true nature of the dream experience. Likewise in their waking state most people do not understand the true nature of the reality which they are experiencing. So in these ways most eastern religious philosophy describe this world as illusory, an illusion, but not in the sense that this world isn’t actually real. It isi a metaphoric conception.

  18. First things first here, folks. We are NOT EVER that far yet. Before you can even GET to the attributes of God and argue about why God did X and have ID and anti-ID proponents bicker over whether God “wouldn’t really allow/do/foreknow X factor of pain (and by what measure do we say something is bad or evil vs. merely UNPLEASANT?–there’s a difference),
    you MUST prove that what science now finds about the human mind’s physical attributes CANNOT be used to explain traditional Christian dualism or the supernatural.

    We’ve got to build the basement here (or see if someone other than Mother Nature can do this) before we can even argue about the evil/good nature of the Main Contractor.

    http://www.newsweek.com/id/62337?GT1=10450

    I had heard this was being discussed–that there really is nothing “out there” any more about God than about ufos and tarot cards, ghosts, and the like you hear on the Art Bell show. While not using the “g” word, you can clearly see where neuroscientists are going with this idea about the “supernatural” being merely a reflection of the “false” dualism that one finds in a MATERIAL mind built to see patterns everywhere–this pattern building evolution of the physical brain does not prove there are things “out there” but rather that we merely get fooled sometimes into thinking this is the case when we see things that are not actually in existence. Thus the false dichotomy of “dualism”, etc.

  19. mentok,

    How do you know what my beliefs are? I didn’t express them. What I expressed is the argument provided by the theistic evolutionists about ID. I suggest you read something about them and see that they are serious about their beliefs just as you are serious about yours.

  20. Jerry, I’m sorry, I confused you with one of the ASA guys who post here occasionally. Just read what I wrote as if that were the case. I am sure they are serious about their beliefs, (I have read a lot from those guys at their email list and here), but that is neither here nor there as far as truth is concerned…

  21. After reading through what Kairosfocus quoted from Koukl I was thinking how so many Christians I have encountered have a very uneven view of eastern religious thought. I think this is due to bad education in schools in the west when it comes to eastern religion. What I have noticed (and many others) is that when it comes to what is being taught about Hinduism and Buddhism invariably (or almost) what is being taught is the religious views of one particular sect as if those views represent the mass of Hindus and Buddhists in the world. For example this webpage http://www.catholiceducation.o.....p0008.html is written by a teacher from Boston College. The problem with what he has written is that it is the teachings of one Hindu sect (Advaita Vedanta) which comprises maybe 10% of hindus in the world. Yet that one sect has come to represent “Hinduism” and eastern religious thought for the most part in western academia. The mass of Hindus (and Buddhists) have completely different beliefs then what is being taught as representing those religions in the west. The Wikipedia article on Hinduism is much more accurate then what is currently being taught in most schools http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinduism

  22. Mentok,,
    From my review of studies on Near De^ath Experiences from around the world,,I want nothing to do with the Hindu or Buddhist religions in any way, shape or form,,,From the preponderance of solid evidence I can find,,,they are false pagan religions that are very dangerous to anyone whom holds them as a primary belief system prior to De^ath!

    My list of Sources for my article I wrote on the studies:

    Comparative view of Tibetan and Western Near-Death Experiences by Lawrence Epstein University of Washington

    India Cross-cultural study by Dr. Ian Stevenson of the University of Virginia Medical School and Dr. Satwant Pasricha of the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bangalore, India

    Dr. Satwant Pasricha of the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bangalore, India, reports findings of another survey of NDEs conducted in a region of southern India. A population of 17,192 persons was surveyed and 2,207 respondents were interviewed for identification of NDE cases. Twenty-six persons were reported to have died and revived; 16 (62%) of these having had NDEs. Thus the prevalence rate of NDEs is found to be less than 1% for the general population of India. Whereas the rate in America is commonly given to be 5% for the general population.

    Near-Death Experiences in Thailand: Discussion of case histories By Todd Murphy, 1999: the following is an excepted passage from his paper
    NDEs manifested within certain, special, groups have been studied that reveal typical variations. Pediatric NDEs (Morse, 1985), and those of pre-literate cultures, as well as those of India (Pasricha, 1986), Africa (Morse, 1992) have all been looked at, and patterns have been discerned in each group. However, the most common approach to discussing their typical features has been to compare them to the typical Western NDE; to the pattern shown in the Ring Scale. We would suggest that the near-constant comparisons with the most frequently reported types of NDEs tends to blind researchers to the features of NDEs which are absent in these NDEs. Tunnels are rare, if not absent. The panoramic Life Review appears to be absent. Instead, our collection shows people reviewing just a few karmically-significant incidents. Perhaps they symbolize behavioral tendencies, the results of which are then experienced as determinative of their rebirths. These incidents are read out to them from a book. There is no Being of Light in these Thai NDEs, although The Buddha does appear in a symbolic form, in case #6. Yama is present during this truncated Life Review, as is the Being of Light during Western life reviews, but Yama is anything but a being of light. In popular Thai depictions, he is shown as a wrathful being, and is most often remembered in Thai culture for his power to condemn one to hell. Some of the functions of Angels and guides are also filled by Yamatoots. They guide, lead tours of hell, and are even seen to grant requests made by the experient.

    The Gallup poll in 1992 was of U.S. s, and found 5% had NDE: .05 = (number of those surveyed with a prior history of NDE)/(total number surveyed). That equates to 15 million of a population of 300 million

    The Seattle Study; Pediatrics by Dr. Melvin Morse and Kimberly Clark Sharp

    Near-Death and Out-of-Body Experiences in a Melanesian Society by Dorothy E. Counts

    There seem to be great cultural differences in beliefs about NDEs. In an Australian study, 58 percent of participants interpreted an NDE vignette as possible evidence of life after and 15 percent thought they were dreams or hallucinations. (Kellehear & Heaven, 1989). This is in stark contrast to a Chinese study in which 58 percent believed they were dreams or hallucinations and 9 percent believed they were evidence of life after (Kellehear, Heaven, & Gao, 1990)

    Several studies (Pasricha, 1986, Schorer, 1985-86) & Kellehear, 1993) Murphy 1999,2001) have indicated that the phenomenologies of NDEs is culture-bound.

    Researching Muslim NDEs, on the web at the NDERF home page, I find that there are only a handful of Muslim NDE experiences out of the thousands of NDE’s they have listed on their web site. There is only one really deep Muslim NDE in which there is a reference to “the Light”. Not surprisingly, this NDE occurred to a teenage boy. In the handful of somewhat deep Muslim NDEs that I have read about, the Muslim NDES never mentioned “the Light”, “Supreme Being” or a “Being of Light”. If this holds steady for all Muslim NDEs, then this will fall into stark contrast to the majority of deep Judeo/Christian NDE testimonies of s for the western world.

    The Light seems to be absent in Thai NDEs. So is the profound positive affect found in so many Western NDEs. The most common affect in our collection is negative. Unlike the negative affect in so many Western NDEs (cf. Greyson & Bush, 1992), that found in Thai NDEs (in all but case #11) has two recognizable causes. The first is fear of `going’. The second is horror and fear of hell. It is worth noting that although half of our collection include seeing hell (cases 2,6,7,9,10) and being forced to witness horrific s, not one includes the NDEer having been subjected to these torments themselves. (Murphy 99)

    The Holy Bible by various Authors under the inspiration of God

    Greyson and Bush (1996) classified 50 Western reports of distressing NDEs into three types:
    * The most common type included the same features as the pleasurable type such as an out-of-body experience and rapid movement through a tunnel or void toward a light but the NDEr, usually because of feeling out of control of what was happening, experienced the features as frightening.
    * The second, less common type included an acute awareness of nonexistence or of being completely alone forever in an absolute void. Sometimes the person received a totally convincing message that the real world including themselves never really existed. (note* according to one preliminary study , a similar type of this NDE may be common among the Buddhist culture in Chinese NDEs)
    * The third and rarest type included hellish imagery such as an ugly or foreboding landscape; demonic beings; loud, annoying noises; frightening animals; and other beings in extreme distress. Only rarely have such NDErs themselves felt personally tormented.

    The estimated incidence of distressing NDEs (dNDEs) for western cultures has ranged from 1% to 15% of all NDEs (Bonenfant, 2001). The results of prospective studies in which the researchers interviewed everyone who experienced cardiac arrest in one or more hospitals during a period of at least several months are noteworthy. In the four prospective studies conducted between 1984 and 2001 1, 2, 3, 4 involving a total of 130 NDErs, none reported distressing experiences. This finding seems to confirm that the experience is relatively rare in western cultures.

  23. Mentok:

    A side discussion on what Hinduism as a whole teaches [it varies from animism, to paganism to the most rarefied philosophical monism and pantheism, etc] is largely irrelevant to the focus of this thread.

    The material point Koukl made is that the “characteristic” oriental worldview as we encounter it [after all, Christianity, judaism and Islam, strictly are oriental in provenance, too!] is monistic, with ultimate reality being impersonal and it is true in relevant cases that they view the world of our experience as Maya or the equivalent, which may indeed be rendered at introductory level: “illusion.” (That is, they are getting at the same basic point that Plato did in dismissing popular views of reality and associated power games in his Parable of the Cave.)

    Similarly, transmigration of souls and karma and hopes for dissolution of individuality can be used to argue to an ethics, but the characteristic implication drawn from of the frame is that one is the number of truth and two that of error. Thence, the vital contrast between good and evil vanishes. [Think of the Francis Schaeffer discussion at was it Oxford, in which a Hindu student ended up philosophically asserting away the distinction, and the host then "threatened" him with a pot of boiling water, on the grounds that then there was no moral distinction at stake. At a more popular level, think about, e.g., the characteristic claims made by the Hinduism-influenced Unity School of Christianity, and how they try to dismiss the reality of evil through the concept of universal oneness, which they infer means that all is well . . . ]

    But all of that is aside from the main point: What follows from that implicitly conceded objectivity of evil, the premise of the argument that the reality, extent and nature of evil count against the existence of God?

    Koukl: Evil can’t be real if morals are relative. Evil is real, though. That’s why people object to it. Therefore, objective moral standards must exist as well. This discovery invites certain questions. Where do morals come from and why do they seem to apply only to human beings? Are they the product of chance? What world view makes sense out of morality [as manifested in objective moral rules]? . . . .

    The first thing we observe about moral rules is that, though they exist, they are not physical because they don’t seem to have physical properties . . . Instead, they are immaterial things we discover through the process of thought, introspection, and reflection without the aid of our five senses.

    This is a profound realization. We have, with a high degree of certainty, stumbled upon something real. Yet it’s something that can’t be proven empirically or described in terms of natural laws. This teaches us there’s more to the world than just the physical universe. If non-physical things–like moral rules–truly exist, then materialism as a world view is false . . . .

    Our discovery also tells us some things really exist that science has no access to, even in principle. Some things are not governed by natural laws. Science, therefore, is not the only discipline giving us true information about the world. It follows, then, that naturalism as a world view is also false . . . .

    Second, moral rules are a kind of communication. They are propositions: intelligent statements of meaning conveyed from one mind to another. The propositions are in the form of imperatives, commands. A command only makes sense when there are two minds involved, one giving the command and one receiving it.

    There’s a third thing we notice when we reflect on moral rules. They have a force we can actually feel prior to any behavior. This is called the incumbency of moral rules, the “oughtness” of morality we discussed earlier. It appeals to a person’s will, compelling him to act in a certain way, though he often disregards its force and chooses to disobey.[1]

    Finally, there is a deep discomfort that is felt when we violate clear and weighty moral rules, an ethical pain, making us aware that we have done something wrong and are deserving of punishment. This sense of guilt carries with it not just the uncomfortable awareness of wrong-doing, but also the dread of having to answer for our deed. Distraction and denial may temporarily numb ethical pain, but it never entirely disappears . . . .

    These four observations provide us with a foundation from which to answer the question, “Why morality?” We need only determine the possible options, then ask which option best accounts for our observations . . . .

    And so on . . .

    GEM of TKI

  24. Kairosfocus you wrote

    The material point Koukl made is that the “characteristic” oriental worldview as we encounter it [after all, Christianity, judaism and Islam, strictly are oriental in provenance, too!] is monistic, with ultimate reality being impersonal and it is true in relevant cases that they view the world of our experience as Maya or the equivalent, which may indeed be rendered at introductory level: “illusion.”

    You make my point for me i.e. most Christians have a serious lack of education in eastern religious beliefs due to bad education at the university level. Some 65-70% (according to the latest Indian census) or so of all Hindus are monotheistic and believe in a personal God. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaishnavism.

  25. All:

    it seems the main issue is “settled,” on the grounds of silence.

    Mentok:

    Here is what linked the article says in part:

    Vaishnavism is one of the principal traditions of Hinduism, and is distinguished from other schools by its primary worship of Vishnu (and his associated avatars) as the Supreme God. It is principally monotheistic in its philosophy, whilst also incorporating elements which could be described as being panentheistic . . . . The principal belief of Vaishnavism is the supremacy of Vishnu or Narayana as the one Supreme God. This principle is also applicable to the many avatars (incarnations) of Vishnu as listed within the Puranas but excludes all other personalities referred in the Vedas or similar texts, (i.e Ganesh, Surya or Durga etc…) which are instead classified as ‘demi-gods’ or devas. Shiva is also viewed as subservient to Vishnu, although with the understanding that he is also above the category of an ordinary living being (jiva) [4]. Some Vaishnava schools also identify the God of the Abrahamic religions with Vishnu[5], although it is not an essential tenet of Vaishnava belief, being outside of the scope of Vedic evidence.

    On Avatars, a parallel article notes:

    In Hindu philosophy, an avatar (also spelled as avatara) (Sanskrit: [XXXX] avat?ra), most commonly refers to the incarnation (bodily manifestation) of a higher being (deva), or the Supreme Being (God) onto planet Earth. The Sanskrit word avat?ra- literally means “descent” (avatarati) and usually implies a deliberate descent into lower realms of existence for special purposes. The term is used primarily in Hinduism, for incarnations of Vishnu whom many Hindus worship as God. Shiva and Ganesha are also described as descending in the form of avatars, with the Ganesha Purana and the Mudgala Purana detailing Ganesha’s avatars specifically.

    It seems then, that “Monotheism” is not being used in the usual sense here.

    Can we get back on point?

    GEM of TKI

  26. Kairosfocus: Panentheism is the idea that this material universe is a part of God but that God exists outside of this material universe as well, which differs from pantheism where usually the world is seen as identical to God (although there are many different types of pantheism). You and Koukl and many others without a good education in eastern religion often have the view which you wrote as:

    [orientel religion] is monistic, with ultimate reality being impersonal

    That is what I object to because it is wrong. And like Koukl and others have pointed out such a religious philosophy does have negative moral and ethical implications. While there are eastern religions which do indeed teach what you have said, in fact the vast majority of Hindus (and Buddhists) believe and follow devotional religions which espouse a completely different teaching.

    Hinduism is not a religion per se, it is a category of religions. There are 4 major religions within Hinduism, they are Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, Smartism. 65-70% of Hindus are Vaishnavas. They vigorously and rigorously reject the monist impersonal teachings of the Advaita Vedantists (whose philosophy is followed by many within the other 3 major denominations, although not all).

    There are two dominant mainstream theological traditions within Hinduism. Most all Hindus ascribe to either a form of monotheistic panentheism or a form of monistic panentheism. These two basic ideologies are categorized under the headings of the dualist traditions and the nondualist traditions. The dualist traditions (the Bhakti traditions of Vaishnavism and Shaivism) teach that God exists everywhere and is the matrix or ground of being of all existence ultimately comprising everything in existence. They teach (as found in their scriptures) that God is a unique individual soul (who is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent) who is essentially different then all other souls, who is in control of all existence. Vaishnavas call God, Vishnu, or by the name of one of his avatars (incarnations). The Shaivites call God Shivaetc.

    The nondualist traditions also teach that God exists everywhere and comprises everything in existence, but they teach that God is not essentially a unique soul in the sense of being different then all other souls. They teach that all souls are one with God in the highest understanding of reality. To them God and all souls are ultimately nothing but Brahman or the unndifferentiated spirit or consciousness behind and comprising all of reality. This is the teaching of the impersonal monist school.

    These two basic theological views have been atagonistic towards each other for a very long time, each claiming the other misunderstands the higher truth and misinterprets the scriptures. Because the monist impersonal school was the first to leave India and teach in the west (around 100 years ago by Vivekananda) and for a long time was the only Hindu theology being taught in the west, what happened is that Hinduism has been misleadingly been seen outside of India by a majority of people as being represented by the monist impersonal teaching of the Advaita Vedantists. In fact in India close to 90% of the people reject the monist impersonal theology and embrace one of the Bhakti devotional personalist monotheistic religions.

    Sometimes Hinduism is described as displaying henotheistic or polytheistic tendencies, but in reality this confusion is caused because of the large number of Devas or demigods worshipped within the Hindu pantheon. For non hindus it can seem like Hinduism is polytheistic or henotheistic (in the sense of the word used by it’s creator Max Muller), but in truth the devas are seen in every tradition as either avatars or aspects of the one supreme God, or as God’s empowered celestial managers, who are cognate with angels in the Abrahamic religions. Many Hindus commonly worship demigods in the hope of some material or spiritual benefit, it’s done in the same spirit as in christian faiths where the devote pray to angels and saints and also worship the virgin mary apart from their belief and worship in one God.

    There is the same exact problem with the common understanding of Buddhism in the west. Ask almost anyone and they will tell you Buddhism is atheistic. In fact just like in Hinduism there are 2basic theological schools of thought, an atheistic monist school and a theistic devotional school. And just like in Hinduism the masses of Buddhists in Asia follow the theistic tradition. See:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahaparinirvana_Sutra

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_Buddha

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotus_Sutra

  27. Mentok:

    I have two brief comments:

    First, I am quite aware of what panentheism is [as opposed to both monotheism and pantheism]. My point above is clear, including that I am very aware of the vast diversity in hinduism, from animism to pantheism. The same basic point holds for Buddhism, which let us recall, derives from Hinduism.

    Second, the key issue in the thread is far bigger than a side issue like this — it is the problem of evil and the significance of evil. I believe that is what we should be discussing.

    So, I think this is not the place for a back-forth on a tangential issue that has IMHCO been adequately answered to so far as such a side issue goes.

    Can we get back to the relevant main focus?

    GEM of TKI

  28. All:

    Getting back on track.

    Thanks to Ms Denyse O’Leary’s post that links and discusses Behe’s three-part response to Miller [well worth the read -- and as noted but not linked in the OP above], we can start from post 3, after Behe has correctly identified that both he and Miller are design thinkers based on fine-tuning, but that B sees that finetuning going down to taxonomic classes [i.e body plans].

    Key excerpts from Behe’s post no 3:

    I think the reason for Miller’s deep disdain of a relatively minor difference in our positions on evolution is not scientific. Rather, it’s theological. It’s called the problem of evil. Briefly stated, if God is responsible for designing not only the lovely parts of biology, but also the dangerous and nasty parts as well, then we have a theological problem on our hands. What kind of a God designs not only pretty flowers, but deadly malaria, too? Is God actually malicious? On the other hand, if God simply designed a process like Darwinism that He knew would lead to life, then, the thinking goes, He didn’t directly design those nasty parts of biology — the process did. So God escapes any blame for bad stuff . . . . So there you have it. Miller (and Ayala) won’t tolerate life on earth being designed because that would impugn God’s reputation. Too many bad things inhabit the earth. They embrace Darwinism, at least in large part, for theological reasons . . . .

    The first thing to say is that it’s very hard to see how the Miller/Ayala position gets God off the hook . . . . It seems to me that designing a poor Darwinian process that inevitably spins off natural evils leaves One as vulnerable to being sued for incompetence as directly designing them as finished products.

    My own view (which Miller spectacularly fails to grasp) is that, as a scientist, one is obliged to look at the evidence of nature dispassionately and nonjudgmentally. If the coherence and complexity of the malaria parasite point to its purposeful design by an intelligent agent, then that’s where the data point. As a scientist, one is not allowed to pass judgment on the morality of nature.

    In short Behe here says that the problem is real and one cannot get away from it through resorting to a Darwinian account. He then puts forward his defense, as a scientist who accepts common descent on the strength of the evidence as he sees it, and as a theistic thinker who believes that God is real and the best candidate for the Designer of life as well as the cosmos:

    . . . as a theist one can make an argument that what strikes us as evil in nature is part of a larger whole which is good. In his recent book Francisco Ayala wrote that one could regard tsunamis as the unintended side effect of a good process (plate tectonics) which is necessary to build a habitable world. Well, heck, one can make the same argument for parasites and viruses. It may well be that such seemingly vile creatures actually play positive roles in the economy of biology, of which we are in large part unaware. If that’s the case, then directly designing parasites and viruses is as defensible in terms of the overall goodness of nature as is designing the processes of plate tectonics . . . .

    What’s more, there can be just about as much real contingency and freedom in nature in the extended fine tuning view as in the view of theistic evolutionists of the Ayala/Miller stripe . . . .

    As I wrote in The Edge of Evolution, it seems to me that our world was designed to be a a dangerous living stage, one that’s set up for improvisational theater. It allows for real suffering, real pleasure, real pain, real joy. It allows for real freedom and real consequences. But if the world were not designed in sufficient detail, then no intelligent life would be around to act on the stage.

    Now, what are your thoughts, folks? Does this defense succeed? Why or why not, relative to alternatives as Koukl notes on?

    And, speaking of Koukl and the side-issue, it is probably worth citing from the Wiki article in the Hinduism series, on Hinduism:

    Hinduism is a diverse system of thought with beliefs spanning monotheism, polytheism,[14] panentheism, pantheism, monism and atheism. It is sometimes referred to as henotheistic (devotion to a single “God” while accepting the existence of other gods [added NB: often territorially connected, at least in a ME context]) . . . . According to the monistic/pantheistic theologies of Hinduism (such as Advaita Vedanta school), this Atman is ultimately indistinct from Brahman, the supreme spirit . . . The Upanishads state that whoever becomes fully aware of the ?tman as the innermost core of one’s own self, realises their identity with Brahman and thereby reaches Moksha (liberation or freedom [often interpreted as ending the cycle of rebirths etc; Maya is directly linked to this]).

    Other schools (for example, Dvaita Vedanta) and other (bhakti) schools, understand Brahman as a Supreme Being who possesses personality. In these conceptions, Brahman is associated with deities such as Vishnu, Brahma, Shiva or Shakti depending on the sect. The ?tman is dependent on God while Moksha depends on love towards God and on God’s grace . . . .

    The Hindu scriptures refer to celestial entities, called Devas (or dev? in feminine form; devat? used synonymously for Deva in Hindi), “the shining ones”, which may be translated into English as “gods” or “heavenly beings”.[25] The devas are an integral part of Hindu culture . . .

    In short, the diversity I noted above at 23 is accurate, and the Koukl response to the characteristic themes of monistic forms of Hinduism [which in a Western context is the characteristic example of such a Monistic-pantheistic religious worldview] is apt.

    GEM of TKI

  29. Same odd error message. I will try not to double post.

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