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Is PZ Myers the Future of Secular Humanism?

UD moderator Clive Hayden referred UD readers to an article at SuperScholar.org titled “The Future of Secular Humanism.” The article itself focused on a rift between the secular humanism old guard, represented by Paul Kurtz, and the new guard, represented by Ron Lindsay, who apparently ousted Kurtz from the various humanist organizations he had founded. The rift was over the place of religion in society and whether secular humanism should take a harsh line against it.

Hayden sees this rift as representing a deep-seated internecine conflict, with the implication that such conflict will undercut the effectiveness of secular humanism as a cultural force (though he doesn’t draw that implication explicitly). My own view is that secular humanism is being co-opted by the new atheism and that Kurtz’s humanist vision is on the way out.

Paul KurtzI’ve been party to at least two debates that Kurtz organized and have met him personally. He’s a gentleman and sees civility as a prerequisite to free and open discussion. As a humanist, he values humanity.  The problem is that he views religion as irrational and counterproductive to society, so it’s hard to justify civility vis-a-vis religion (is it possible to have a civil discussion with a holocaust denier?). And without religion, it’s hard to justify a high view of humanity — humans, in that case, become merely evolved animals.

PZ MyersAnd so, Kurtz, who’s in his 80s, passes the baton to his spiritual son … PZ Myers, who’s a generation younger and in a better position to follow out the logic of Kurtz’s vision. Actually, I could have chosen any number of younger humanists/atheists, but Myers is emblematic of what we are seeing and can expect to see. Instead of Kurtz, who established Prometheus Press to get a fully articulated secular humanist vision before the public, Myers has the blog Pharyngula, in which he trades in sound-bites and insults.

In a Facebook/Twitter culture where people’s attention span is down to zero, Myers’ blog represents the new face of secular humanism, or perhaps I should say the new atheism. Indeed, I have to wonder how long the phrase “secular humanism” will be around. If it stays, it will be through inertia, because the new generation of humanists/atheists divides humanity into us and them — the enlightened vs. the idiots — and despises the outsiders. They take pleasure in hatred. Paul Kurtz didn’t.

By the way, here are the YouTube videos referred to on the SuperScholar.org site in which Kurtz is lectured on why he was shown the door. It’s not often that we see the other side’s dirty laundary (or our own side’s, for that matter). It’s 20 minutes and some of it requires wading through, but it has some high points and is quite instructive:

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96 Responses to Is PZ Myers the Future of Secular Humanism?

  1. Interesting site, SuperScholar.org. Here’s their list of the 20 most influential scientists:

    http://www.superscholar.org/fe.....ive-today/

    Recognize anyone who’s popular at UncommonDescent?

  2. Pull back the curtain and this is how people who know(or think)they have superior rationality really behave. So how are they going to improve society for everyone else?

    On the other hand, maybe improving society isn’t really their goal. Maybe it is just to let everyone else know how superior and rational they are and attract other people who share their beliefs.

    I’m impressed. Or maybe a better word would be amazed. I’m amazed how self serving and egotistical people can really be.

  3. More from the New York Times: The last line in the piece is chilling!

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10.....038;st=cse

  4. I see Robert Marks on this list from superscholar:

    http://www.superscholar.org/fe.....-scholars/

  5. Always the purges.

  6. I have been following this atheist/secular humanist civil war (if one can call it that) and am glad to see it mentioned here. This was a long time coming and perhaps in hindsight somewhat inevitable.

    The age of dignified and gentlemanly academic atheism at the Secular Humanist/Center for Inquiry in America now appears a thing of the past (one also thinks of the late S Jay Gould, the late Isaac Asimov, the late Carl Sagan, all of Kurtz’s generation) with Kurtz’s ousting. Yes he is in his eighties, but it’s the forced removal from the organisation that he founded and the reasons for it that are revealing. And who stands in the wings, the young (well relatively) turks? Myers! Lindsay! Perhaps it’s appropriate, as Dembski points out, for the age of facebook.

    I sympathise with Kurtz’s mistreatment, yet the Council for Secular Humanism which he founded, and the old CSICOP (now the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry/CSI) formed under its wing (and its flagship mag The Skeptical Inquirer) has not exactly behaved impeccably and without blatant censorship and crude misrepresentations of who and what they arrogantly deign to consider the enemies of science and reason over the decades. In fact their blatant biases led to the early resignation of its first editor, the late sociologist Marcello Truzzi in 1976 or ’77 and he would go on to found the genuinely skeptical and well-balanced Zetetic Scholar.

    For what it’s worth here is Paul Kurtz on ID and Creationism, from 1998
    Darwin Re-Crucified

    It’s amusing that his article is ironically entitled “Darwin Re-Crucified: Why are so many afraid of Naturalism?”. Knowingly or not, secular atheists and humanists seem incapable of avoiding religious iconography and rhetoric. There is a further irony to Kurtz’s article that he doesn’t intend: namely one is tempted to ask, why are so many afraid of Intelligent Design?

    I further add that this article originally appearing in the CSH mag Free Inquiry, was the cover feature. The cover actually had a picture of Darwin with a loincloth literally crucified on a cross. As I’m not a Christian I don’t find this offensive, I just think it’s laughable for Darwinists to rankle at being called acolytes of the Church of Darwin by the likes of us in light of these give-aways.

  7. oops there appears to be a problem with the link, or how I typed it in perhaps. Anyhow it’s easy to come by, Paul Kurtz’s “Darwin Re-Crucified” is archived at the Secular Humanist.

  8. Methinks secular humanists make a good case for their being just evolved animals.

    IOW when pressed for evidence taht humans and chimps share a common ancestor all they have to do is say “Hey just look at us!”.

  9. Dr. Dembski, The next person Christopher Hitchens has debated after you is Tony Blair, former UK PM

    Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens debate religion
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11843586

  10. here is the Michael Behe vs. Michael Reiss in the UK

    http://www.premierradio.org.uk.....x?mediaid={42F345D1-A875-41AD-8591-71515CB69803}

    you may have to cut and paste the link in browser

  11. one more try:

    http://www.premierradio.org.uk.....x?mediaid={42F345D1-A875-41AD-8591-71515CB69803}

  12. premierradio.org.uk/listen/ondemand.aspx?mediaid={42F345D1-A875-41AD-8591-71515CB69803}

  13. Try this for the link that bornagain77 is trying to post.

    I think this will work.

    I’m listening now, but I might not listen all the way through.

  14. A general comment.

    There is a wide range of human personalities. I’ll suggest that PZ Myers is somewhat of an outlier in that group, so you probably shouldn’t assume that he is typical. His pharyngula blog has a large following, but in large part that is because of PZ’s wit.

    As for the changes at Secular Humanism – times change, organizations change, leadership changes. And sometimes it gets messy. Evangelical Christianity has been changing too, and some of the changes at other organizations are a response to that.

  15. Re: kibitzer at #1: I stopped taking that site seriously the second I noticed that on their list of the 50 greatest books they included The Da Vinci Code.

    Re: Neil Rickert @ 14: Yes, there is a wide range of human personalities. So why is it that the new atheists like Myers, Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens are all unkind and vicious? They certainly don’t approach religious people with the idea of ‘we disagree but we should respect each other’s dignity and ideas’. Instead, they tell religious people that they are deluded, insane, stupid and wicked.

  16. Barb (#15)

    So why is it that the new atheists like Myers, Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens are all unkind and vicious?

    Have you ever looked at the vicious and ugly things that religious people so often say about atheists?

  17. 17

    Neil Rickert:
    Have you ever looked at the vicious and ugly things that religious people so often say about atheists?

    Why should I be an atheist if they are no different or better than religious people?

  18. Hey Barb, Maybe the site is not to be taken seriously, but not for the reason you give. It doesn’t say this is the list of the “greatest” 50 books but the “most influential.” Yes, Dan Brown writes potboilers, but this one has influenced a lot of people that Christianity is nonsense. So I think they’re right to include it on the list.

  19. j.a.d. @ 2 “Maybe it is just to let everyone else know how superior and rational they are and attract other people who share their beliefs.”

    That’s how they advertise themselves but they are anything but. All rational thought is grounded in first principles and recognizes the sovereignty of reason in matters of truth. They SAY they are rational yet they deny the existence of God, which is demanded by reason. They SAY they are rational and then Dennett, for example, in Breaking the Spell, says that the universe created itself. (It’s the ultimate bootstrap.) How rational is that? Ugh. The stench of hypocrisy… They are pathetic and not serious intellectuals (when it comes to philosophy/truth/worldviews) at all, any of them. Of course, neither am I but I know that…

  20. 20

    tgpeeler,

    I try to put myself in the atheist’s shoes. If I were an atheist would I be promoting unbelief, as some kind of belief? I find that kind of thinking to be absurd. If I were an atheist I think I’d mind my own business and leave other people alone. If atheism is true, life is ultimately empty and meaningless. Why try to impose those beliefs on anyone else?

    However, if for some reason (some irrational reason) I wanted to advance the cause of atheism I wouldn’t do it by imitating religion. The new atheists and secular humanists not only imitate religion but they imitate the worst parts of religion. For me that completely destroys their credibility. These people are nothing more than egotistical blowhards. And, you don’t need to be very smart to be one of those.

  21. If atheism is true, life is ultimately empty and meaningless.

    Really? You really think logic works this way?

    Forgive the self-promotion, but I’ve written about this topic before and I think you might benefit: http://larrytanner.blogspot.co.....posts.html

  22. LarTanner, “God is the Being that couldn’t possibly not exit.”,,, Though a few ID proponents frown on the ontological proof for God, I like it for it turns the very heart of atheistic thinking on itself to prove the existence of God. (needless to say, when you can use the premises of your opponents own argument to defeat itself, the argument is not very well founded, to put it mildly)

    notes:

    The only other theory possible for the universe’s creation, other than a God-centered hypothesis, is some purposeless materialistic theory based on blind chance. Materialistic blind chance only escapes being completely crushed, by the overwhelming weight of evidence for design, by appealing to an infinity of other un-testable universes in which all other possibilities have been played out. Yet there is no hard physical evidence to support this blind chance conjecture. In fact, the ‘infinite multiverse’ conjecture suffers from some very serious flaws of logic. For instance exactly which laws of physics, arising from which material basis, are telling all the other natural laws in physics what, how and when, to do the many precise unchanging things they do in these other universes? Plus, if an infinite number of other possible universes must exist in order to explain the fine tuning of this one, then why is it not also infinitely possible for a infinitely powerful and transcendent Creator to exist? Using the materialist same line of reasoning for an infinity of multiverses to explain the extreme fine-tuning of this one we can surmise; If it is infinitely possible for God to exist then He, of 100% certainty, must exist no matter how small the probability is of His existence in one of these other infinity of universes, and since He certainly must exist, then all possibilities in all universes automatically become subject to Him since He is, by definition, All Powerful. To clearly illustrate the absurdity of what the materialists now consider their cutting edge science: The materialistic conjecture of an infinity of universes to explain the fine tuning of this one also insures the 100% probability of the existence of Pink Unicorns no matter how small the probability is of them existing. In fact a infinity of universes insures the existence of an infinity of Pink Unicorns an infinite number of times. Thus it is self-evident the materialists have painted themselves into a inescapable corner of logical absurdities in trying to find an escape from the Theistic implications we are finding for the fine-tuning of this universe.

    The preceding argument has actually been made into a formal philosophical proof:

    Ontological Argument For God From The Many Worlds Hypothesis – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4784641

    God Is Not Dead Yet – William Lane Craig – Page 4
    The ontological argument. Anselm’s famous argument has been reformulated and defended by Alvin Plantinga, Robert Maydole, Brian Leftow, and others. God, Anselm observes, is by definition the greatest being conceivable. If you could conceive of anything greater than God, then that would be God. Thus, God is the greatest conceivable being, a maximally great being. So what would such a being be like? He would be all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, and he would exist in every logically possible world. But then we can argue:

    1. It is possible that a maximally great being (God) exists.
    2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
    3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
    4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
    5. Therefore, a maximally great being exists in the actual world.
    6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.
    7. Therefore, God exists.

    Now it might be a surprise to learn that steps 2–7 of this argument are relatively uncontroversial. Most philosophers would agree that if God’s existence is even possible, then he must exist. So the whole question is: Is God’s existence possible? The atheist has to maintain that it’s impossible that God exists. He has to say that the concept of God is incoherent, like the concept of a married bachelor or a round square. But the problem is that the concept of God just doesn’t appear to be incoherent in that way. The idea of a being which is all-powerful, all knowing, and all-good in every possible world seems perfectly coherent. And so long as God’s existence is even possible, it follows that God must exist.
    http://www.christianitytoday.c.....ml?start=4

    I like the following concluding comment about the ontological argument from the Dr. Plantinga video:

    “God then is the Being that couldn’t possibly not exit.”

    Ontological Argument – Dr. Plantinga (3:50 minute mark)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCXvVcWFrGQ

    Dr. Bruce Gordon – The Absurdity Of The Multiverse & Materialism in General – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5318486/

  23. LarTanner, as well, a former atheist, and a atheist, Tippler and Barrow respectively, provided the rope for their own hanging by the ontological proof. The story behind their ‘hanging’ is in this video:

    The Anthropic Principle – Fine Tuning Of The Universe – Michael Strauss PhD. – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4323661/

  24. BA77,

    “God is the Being that couldn’t possibly not exi[s]t.”

    That makes a nice bumper sticker. I’ll put it next to the one that says “Omelos is the place that couldn’t possibly not exist.”

    Let me ask a few questions:
    (1) Is it possible that 2 or 20 or 400 equally-maximally great (or poor, or mediocre) beings exist?
    (2) Is it possible that a maximally great being does not exist?
    (3) Is it possible that a maximally great being exists that is not the god you worship?
    (4) Do you you think your #3 and #4 items are unproblematic?

    Carl Sagan tells a story that seems pertinent here:

    At a dinner many decades ago, the physicist Robert W. Wood was asked to respond to the toast, “To physics and metaphysics.” By “metaphysics,” people then meant something like philosophy, or truths you could recognize just by thinking about them. They could also have included pseudoscience.

    Wood answered along these lines: The physicist has an idea. The more he thinks it through, the more sense it seems to make. He consults the scientific literature. The more he reads, the more promising the idea becomes. Thus prepared, he goes to the laboratory and devises an experiment to test it. The experiment is painstaking. Many possibilities are checked. The accuracy of measurement is refined, the error bars reduced. He lets the chips fall where they may. He is devoted only to what the experiment teaches. At the end of all this work, through careful experimentation, the idea is found to be worthless. So the physicist discards it, frees his mind from the clutter of error, and moves on to something else.

    The difference between physics and metaphysics, Wood concluded as he raised his glass high, is not that the practitioners of one are smarter than the practitioners of the other. The difference is that the metaphysicist has no laboratory.

  25. 25

    This is what Richard Carrier wrote in a link to one of your links:

    The ultimate meaning of life is to live it. There is no big mystery about that. But life would not be worth living if it knew no happiness or love. It has been well argued since Aristotle that happiness is the ultimate aim of living, for it is the only thing we seek for itself. Everything else we pursue for some other reason, but we seek happiness for no other reason than to be happy. And though the preacher loves to attack the hedonism which he thinks this entails, in actual fact his own religion is based on the very same principle. For all the goals of religion are sought for some other reason, except the ultimate goal of eternal happiness.

    http://www.infidels.org/librar.....ought.html

    Do you agree with Carrier here?

    “The ultimate meaning of life is to live it.” That sounds to me like a little rhetorical “sleight-of-hand”.

  26. LarTanner,

    1 No
    2 No
    3 No
    4 Yes

    Your story is wrong in its presupposition, since God is the basis of reality. A basis which can be ‘measured’, contrary to your preconception:

    Scientific Evidence For God (Logos) Creating The Universe – 2008 – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3995300

    Explaining Information Transfer in Quantum Teleportation: Armond Duwell †‡ University of Pittsburgh
    Excerpt: In contrast to a classical bit, the description of a (photon) qubit requires an infinite amount of information. The amount of information is infinite because two real numbers are required in the expansion of the state vector of a two state quantum system (Jozsa 1997, 1) — Concept 2. is used by Bennett, et al. Recall that they infer that since an infinite amount of information is required to specify a (photon) qubit, an infinite amount of information must be transferred to teleport.
    http://www.cas.umt.edu/phil/fa.....lPSA2K.pdf

    Single photons to soak up data:
    Excerpt: the orbital angular momentum of a photon can take on an infinite number of values. Since a photon can also exist in a superposition of these states, it could – in principle – be encoded with an infinite amount of information.
    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/7201

    Ultra-Dense Optical Storage – on One Photon
    Excerpt: Researchers at the University of Rochester have made an optics breakthrough that allows them to encode an entire image’s worth of data into a photon, slow the image down for storage, and then retrieve the image intact.
    http://www.physorg.com/news88439430.html

    Atom takes a quantum leap – 2009
    Excerpt: Ytterbium ions have been ‘teleported’ over a distance of a metre.,,,
    “What you’re moving is information, not the actual atoms,” says Chris Monroe, from the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland in College Park and an author of the paper. But as two particles of the same type differ only in their quantum states, the transfer of quantum information is equivalent to moving the first particle to the location of the second.
    http://www.freerepublic.com/fo.....1769/posts

    As a side light to this, leading quantum physicist Anton Zeilinger has followed in John Archibald Wheeler’s footsteps (1911-2008) by insisting reality, at its most foundational level, is ‘information’.

    “It from bit symbolizes the idea that every item of the physical world has at bottom – at a very deep bottom, in most instances – an immaterial source and explanation; that which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes-no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that things physical are information-theoretic in origin.” John Archibald Wheeler

    Why the Quantum? It from Bit? A Participatory Universe?
    Excerpt: In conclusion, it may very well be said that information is the irreducible kernel from which everything else flows. Thence the question why nature appears quantized is simply a consequence of the fact that information itself is quantized by necessity. It might even be fair to observe that the concept that information is fundamental is very old knowledge of humanity, witness for example the beginning of gospel according to John: “In the beginning was the Word.” Anton Zeilinger – a leading expert in quantum teleportation:
    http://www.metanexus.net/Magaz.....fault.aspx

    The restriction imposed by our physical limitations of us ever accessing complete infinite information to our temporal space-time framework/dimension (Wheeler; Zeilinger) does not detract, in any way, from the primacy and dominion of the infinite transcendent information framework that is now established by the quantum teleportation experiment as the primary reality of our reality. Of note: All of this evidence meshes extremely well with the theistic postulation of God possessing infinite and perfect knowledge. This seems like a fitting place for this following quote and verse:

    “To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour.”
    William Blake

    Psalm 19:1-2
    The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.

    John 1:1-3
    In the beginning, the Word existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.

    (of note: ‘Word’ in Greek is ‘Logos’, and is the root word from which we get our word ‘Logic’)

    Moreover it is possible to ‘physically’ infer that Christ did indeed rise from the dead:

    General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Entropy and The Shroud Of Turin – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/5070355

    and is indeed worthy of our praise:

    Revelation Song – Kari Jobe – Slideshow
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5566201/

  27. BA77, I don’t get why your point 3 is correct. Why couldn’t a maximally great being exist only in a few possible worlds?

    Also as Lartanner points out you could substitute “a” being for any possible number of beings and it would make as much sense (or lack of sense).

  28. JAD @ 17

    That is an odd comment. You should be an atheist if you do not believe there are any gods. Its got nothing to do with how nice the people are.

  29. 29

    LarTanner,

    I very much appreciated your story about Mitchell Heisman. Whatever the theoretical explanations may be they are all rather meaningless, unless they can somehow be connected with the very real here and now. After all, that is where we all live, isn’t it?
    http://larrytanner.blogspot.co.....iving.html

    Here is a story that I think is very significant. It is a true story about a Christian business man/ part time missionary named, Steve, who ten years ago lost his 20 year old daughter. By the way, I had a chance to hear Steve speak a couple of years ago. I found him to be a very good, if not gifted, speaker. There were several sessions, with about 700 people in attendance for each, where he talked extemporaneously for almost an hour each time. He may have been a little long winded but was anything but boring. I found him to be a positive and enthusiastic, with a wonderful sense of adventure. And top it all off, he was stand-up-comic funny… Of course, he became very serious and emotional, choking back tears, when he related the story of losing his daughter.

    This particular chapter of Steve’s life begins sometime in 1999 when his musically talented daughter, Stephanie, asked him if she could drop out of college for a year so that she could travel internationally with a Christian music ministry. Steve was very reluctant but after seeing how much her heart was set on the opportunity he gave in and gave her his consent.

    A year later in July of 2000, after a year of international travel, Stephanie called to inform her parents that the tour was finished. She was coming home. When Steve picked her up from the airport in Orlando, she was the same beautiful, healthy, excited girl that he had said goodbye to a year earlier. Of course, seeing her dad for the first time in over a year must have made it extra exciting and special for Stephanie .

    At home Stephanie was greeted by family and friends who had thrown together an impromptu welcome home party. However during the celebrations she complained of a head ache. Her parents suggested that she go back to her bedroom and lay down.

    When her parents came to check on her, Stephanie complained that her head was pounding. To comfort his daughter Steve put his arm around her and began to pray for her. Suddenly he felt her body tense and heard her make a little yelp. Then both Steve and his wife noticed that Stephanie’s eyes had rolled back in her head. Something was very wrong with their daughter. This was more than a headache. This was something serious.

    It took a few minutes for the ambulance to arrive. It took a few more minutes for the ambulance to reach the hospital. Steve insisted to the EMS crew that he be permitted to ride along in the ambulance with his daughter.

    At the hospital while Steve and his wife were waiting in the emergency room, he began to sense that things were not going to turn out well.

    In his book he writes, that as a “black cloud of despair shrouded me I could feel my faith slipping away… I felt my lifeline trust in God’s power and protection slip through my numb fingers… The great blackness was covering me. The cord of faith I had trusted and followed since my dad had been jerked from life was running out. The end would soon pull through my hand and I would be lost.”

    As he struggled with his faith he turned to his wife and told her what he was thinking. “Ginny,” he said, “I think Steph is dying. I don’t think she is coming back.”

    Shortly, afterwards a doctor with tears in his eyes confirmed what Steve already knew. Stephanie had experienced a massive cerebral hemorrhage. Her brain was no longer functioning. She was brain dead.

    Okay Larry, it’s your turn. Here is your chance. If you were Steve’s friend how would you comfort and console him? Remember he is at the end of his rope, his faith has just about run out. Isn’t that exactly where you want him?

  30. John (#25): No, I don’t agree with Carrier. I think the concept of ultimate reality is fantasy.

    BA77 (#26): Come on, God is the basis of reality? Does that even mean anything? If the ancient Near Eastern priests could see what we’ve done to their ideas and beliefs, they would have a great chuckle.

    John (#27): If you think that I would WANT my friend to be at the end of his rope, then you must think I’m a terrible friend. But I don’t know why you would make this kind of judgment about me. In any event, when real problems strike I find that gods are usually irrelevant, so faith has no need to enter into the way a friend will support another.

  31. LarTanner you state:

    ‘If the ancient Near Eastern priests, (I take it you mean Hebrew monotheism), could see what we’ve done to their ideas and beliefs, they would have a great chuckle.’

    Yes they would be ‘chuckling’ with joy at the stunning empirical confirmation for Theism:

    The best data we have [concerning the Big Bang] are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the bible as a whole.
    Dr. Arno Penzias, Nobel Laureate in Physics – co-discoverer of the Cosmic Background Radiation – as stated to the New York Times on March 12, 1978

    “Certainly there was something that set it all off,,, I can’t think of a better theory of the origin of the universe to match Genesis”
    Robert Wilson – Nobel laureate – co-discover Cosmic Background Radiation
    http://www.evidenceforchristia.....38;id=3594

    “There is no doubt that a parallel exists between the big bang as an event and the Christian notion of creation from nothing.”
    George Smoot – Nobel laureate in 2006 for his work on COBE

    “,,,the astronomical evidence leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world,,, the essential element in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis is the same.”
    Robert Jastrow – Founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute – Pg.15 ‘God and the Astronomers’

    Prof. Henry F. Schaefer cites several interesting quotes, from leading scientists in the field of Big Bang cosmology, about the Theological implications of the Big Bang in the following video:

    The Big Bang and the God of the Bible – Henry Schaefer PhD. – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/5222493
    Entire video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSThtmA1J_U

    “The Big Bang represents an immensely powerful, yet carefully planned and controlled release of matter, energy, space and time. All this is accomplished within the strict confines of very carefully fine-tuned physical constants and laws. The power and care this explosion reveals exceeds human mental capacity by multiple orders of magnitude.”
    Prof. Henry F. Schaefer – closing statement of part 5 of preceding video

  32. 32

    LarTanner #28

    No, I don’t agree with Carrier. I think the concept of ultimate reality is fantasy.

    But that was my point above at #20. “If atheism is true, life is ultimately empty and meaningless.” Notice I didn’t say that atheists can’t find or invent some kind meaning for themselves. I would argue psychologically we can’t live without meaning. But a personally invented meaning is not ultimate meaning.

    If you think that I would WANT my friend to be at the end of his rope, then you must think I’m a terrible friend. But I don’t know why you would make this kind of judgment about me.

    So you agree with me then that atheism is not a positive belief. If it were a positive belief you would see it as a way to encourage your friends, wouldn’t you?

    In any event, when real problems strike I find that gods are usually irrelevant, so faith has no need to enter into the way a friend will support another.

    But for someone like Steve his faith is that God has a purpose for his life, and that everything, including tragic events like the death of daughter has a purpose and a meaning.

    So if you were his friend that is something that he would have confided in you, and at critical time would want to confide in you. Indeed, in the account he provides in his book friends do come the emergency room. They do pray. They do have brief discussions about God and faith.

    So do you encourage him in his belief or do you try to talk him out of it? Maybe not at the moment but maybe a few days or weeks later. If you are convinced that what you believe is true, why wouldn’t you?

  33. #28 “I think the concept of ultimate reality is fantasy.”

    Your concept as to the fantasy of ultimate realities should prove interesting as you take your last breath. Just perhaps, another person might not wait until then to grasp this most-obvious error. It might seem to them that your concept of a fantasy is rather like permission to be ignorant – no matter what lay ahead.

  34. LarTanner,

    If atheism is true, life is ultimately empty and meaningless.

    Really? You really think logic works this way?

    Truth works this way.

  35. BA77 (31)

    The best data we have [concerning the Big Bang] are exactly what I would have predicted.

    Oh. I guess that settles it, then. And no, the ancient Near East was a big place. I meant to include ancient Babylon, Ugarit, Canaan, Egypt, Mesopotamia. What became Hebrew monotheism borrowed laws, proverbs, and stories from elsewhere.

    By the way, why did you not expand on your reasoning for your 4 answers in #26? I’d like to hear your thinking on these answers. Also, I think the first premise would have to be qualified a bit. For example, how do we define “perfect”–as perfect from your perspective, mine, Osama bin Laden’s, Aristotle’s, or Jo-Jo the amazing dolphin’s? What do we mean by exists? Do we mean lived and breathed at one time? Do we mean is here right now? To me the ontological argument is too much swiss cheese when it’s really examined.

    JAD (32) — Seems like we agree on lots. I’ve never been in the position described in your scenario. If someone asks me a direct question and wants to know what I think, I do my best to share my thoughts. Encouraging a suffering friend to accept my arguments seems rather distasteful beside the point. Would you encourage your suffering friend to become a believer? That seems rather immoral and opportunistic to me.

    UBP (33) –Uh…OK. Sorry, but I don’t get the “obvious error” of questioning whether there actually _is_ an “ultimate reality” or whether it’s simply a mental tool. I’ve written on the issue and have concluded the latter.

    Clive (34) — “Truth works this way.” What is it with the slogans around here?

    We’re not talking about truth (capital t or otherwise). We’re talking about reasoning and whether there is any necessary relationship between (a) the existence of deities and (b) the value of human life.

  36. Well LarTanner, the ancient Hebrews were the only ones who got the transcendent origin of the universe right:

    Among all the ‘holy’ books, of all the major religions in the world, only the Holy Bible was, and is, correct in its claim for a transcendent origin of the universe. Some later ‘holy’ books, such as the Mormon text “Pearl of Great Price” and the Qur’an, copy the concept of a transcendent origin from the Bible but also include teachings that are inconsistent with that now established fact. (Ross; Why The Universe Is The Way It Is; Pg. 228; Chpt.9; note 5)

    ,,,perhaps it is just your bias (emotion) against God that makes you want to try to confuse matters so much of what is so clear?

  37. OT:

    Sperm Whale Hunts Giant Squid Using Echolocation – complete video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/5570473

  38. #35 “Uh…OK. Sorry, but I don’t get the “obvious error”…

    Yes, that was demonstrated when you made your statement about ultimate realities and gave yourself permission to ignore them.

    It is quite obvious that ultimate realities exist, the question is what are they.

    You might need to boost your intellectual bravery in order to pursue that question. Post-modern Euro-American Academic garbage like “ultimate realities are a fantasy” will likely not do.

  39. BA77 (36) —

    the ancient Hebrews were the only ones who got the transcendent origin of the universe right.

    A reader of the Bible needs to bring several assumptions to the text (and history) to get this interpretation.

    perhaps it is just your bias (emotion) against God that makes you want to try to confuse matters so much of what is so clear?

    Perhaps. I have nothing against “God” as you seem to use the word, so far as I know. But I promise to consider the matter.

    BiPed (38) — I will try an be braver. My statement, “ultimate realities are a fantasy” is not just an assertion, as I have tried to back it up with specifics. If you read the material I wrote on my site, can you tell me what you think? In the end, I find no good reason to consider “ultimate meaning” as anything more than theoretical. I’d be interested to hear your take (over at my blog, if we don’t want to clog this thread).

    Finally, I’m interested in why you dismiss postmodernism. I know it’s fashionable in both scientific and religious circles to do so. It’s the one thing the two sides seem to agree upon.

    What I like about postmodern thinking is its attention to language use and power. Look, for example at the bullying tactic you used earlier when you said “Your concept as to the fantasy of ultimate realities should prove interesting as you take your last breath,” which both alludes to the “no atheists in foxholes” myth and indulges in preemptive schadenfreude. From a pomo perspective, the invocation of life tapering off into uncertainty is very interesting, particularly as a move to try persuading me that there is or may be an “ultimate reality.”

  40. LarTanner, perhaps this will help you ‘consider’ the matter:

    As well as the universe having a transcendent beginning, thus confirming the Theistic postulation in Genesis 1:1, the following recent discovery of a ‘Dark Age’ for the early universe uncannily matches up with the Bible passage in Job 38:4-11.

    Job 38:4-11
    “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched a line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth and issued from the womb; When I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band; When I fixed my limit for it, and set bars and doors; When I said, ‘This far you may come but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop!”

    History of The Universe Timeline- Graph Image
    http://www.astronomynotes.com/.....meline.jpg

    For the first 400,000 years of our universe’s expansion, the universe was a seething maelstrom of energy and sub-atomic particles. This maelstrom was so hot, that sub-atomic particles trying to form into atoms would have been blasted apart instantly, and so dense, light could not travel more than a short distance before being absorbed. If you could somehow live long enough to look around in such conditions, you would see nothing but brilliant white light in all directions. When the cosmos was about 400,000 years old, it had cooled to about the temperature of the surface of the sun. The last light from the “Big Bang” shone forth at that time. This “light” is still detectable today as the Cosmic Background Radiation.
    This 400,000 year old “baby” universe entered into a period of darkness. When the dark age of the universe began, the cosmos was a formless sea of particles. By the time the dark age ended, a couple of hundred million years later, the universe lit up again by the light of some of the galaxies and stars that had been formed during this dark era. It was during the dark age of the universe that the heavier chemical elements necessary for life, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and most of the rest, were first forged, by nuclear fusion inside the stars, out of the universe’s primordial hydrogen and helium.
    It was also during this dark period of the universe the great structures of the modern universe were first forged. Super-clusters, of thousands of galaxies stretching across millions of light years, had their foundations laid in the dark age of the universe. During this time the infamous “missing dark matter”, was exerting more gravity in some areas than in other areas; drawing in hydrogen and helium gas, causing the formation of mega-stars. These mega-stars were massive, weighing in at 20 to more than 100 times the mass of the sun. The crushing pressure at their cores made them burn through their fuel in only a million years. It was here, in these short lived mega-stars under these crushing pressures, the chemical elements necessary for life were first forged out of the hydrogen and helium. The reason astronomers can’t see the light from these first mega-stars, during this dark era of the universe’s early history, is because the mega-stars were shrouded in thick clouds of hydrogen and helium gas. These thick clouds prevented the mega-stars from spreading their light through the cosmos as they forged the elements necessary for future life to exist on earth. After about 200 million years, the end of the dark age came to the cosmos. The universe was finally expansive enough to allow the dispersion of the thick hydrogen and helium “clouds”. With the continued expansion of the universe, the light, of normal stars and dwarf galaxies, was finally able to shine through the thick clouds of hydrogen and helium gas, bringing the dark age to a close. (How The Stars Were Born – Michael D. Lemonick)
    http://www.time.com/time/magaz.....-2,00.html

  41. #39

    You are so caught up that you miss the obvious. Death is one of the ultimate realities.

    Lars, as you quest through these realities which you submit are fantasy, be sure to deal with the observed reality of semiotic content (meaning, purpose, symbolism, information, representations) in the Universe.

    As far as I can tell there are three distinct varieties. The first is the reality of semiotic content that living organisms use to communicate and relate to one another. The second is the semiotic content that is created when higher organisms (particularly humans) perceive the world around them, the third is the that which is at work in creating/mantaining living organisms themselves.

    Good luck.

  42. BA77 (40) – Thanks for the references, most of which are familiar to me.

    What I find interesting about the Bible, especially at Ch. 1, is that it sets out a whole way of perceiving. The account of the six-day creation of the world is founded on the powerful assertion that the world is fundamentally God’s. Everything in the world, including us, was made by God. So, we’re talking both origins and authority here.

    Does Genesis describe the development of our universe and its structures? That’s a different matter, of course. I think it takes a very liberal reading to get this, but as I said, I will consider it further (and not for the first time).

  43. BiPed (41)

    Lars, as you quest through these realities which you submit are fantasy, be sure to deal with the observed reality of semiotic content (meaning, purpose, symbolism, information, representations) in the Universe.

    OK, so you are claiming that meaning, purpose, symbolism, information, and representations are all apprehend-able/detectable features of the world. Meaning exists independently of communication, language, and thought. Meaning is not only a shared/negotiated understanding of a sound between a human speaker and human listener, but a fixed and unchangeable interpretation authorized exclusively by a transcendent “speaker” and definitively deciphered by our priests and our scientists.

    Now, is this a view established by looking at the world in a certain way or is it a view established by interpretation of available data? Or is there a different foundation for this view?

    In other words, “where’s the beef” on this view of yours that is so obvious to all except poor me who is “so caught up.” I never tire of the smug epithets I get for pointing out that the proverbial emperor still has no clothes. I guess I am “spiritually blind,” “anti-supernaturally biased,” and “foolish” too.

    But I eagerly await the substance behind your views–published paper(s), book(s), and so on. Claude Shannon doesn’t count. Let me see your specific view being expounded and substantiated in a disciplinary way. Show me the specific view being matched to data. Otherwise, we are just telling stories.

  44. Lars, when you see a bird flying over, do you then have a bird in your head?

  45. Upright, that’s not answering my question. I’ll ask again: Where’s the beef?

  46. Answer the question. Do you have a bird in your head?

  47. You first, please.

    Besides, I don’t understand what you are asking. You could mean a mental representation or you could mean a literal bird. Or you could mean something else entirely.

    You’ve claimed that meaning (as opposed to birds) is an observed reality. Please explain where this view comes from.

    I’ll be happy to continue the discussion after you fairly respond to my legitimate request that I gave you first.

  48. Legitamate!? You mean you want me to respond to your set up?

    First you said that ultimate realities are a fantasy. I then gave you one you could hardly argue with (once you were made to understand it). Then I ask you to consider one of the important remaining realities we draw from direct observation and common logic.

    You then go on a diatribe, and ask “where’s the beef” concerning the existence of semiotic realities. Instead of answering my question, you are now pondering what you think I think.

    Cut the crap. If you do not have a bird in your head, then welcome to the world of semiotic realities. I suggested there are three varieties.

    Get out of your head, and deal with them.

    :)

  49. BiPed (48),

    I’m asking for you to cite sources. It’s not a trap. It’s not a diatribe. I’m asking for more information.

    Yes, I said that ultimate realities are a fantasy. Death is not an ultimate reality, if you mean death a separate state or dimension in which a person continues to exist.

    Meaning, too, is not an ultimate reality (and how many ultimate realities are there?). It does not exist independently of interpretants, and there’s no final or superior authority to stabilize and fix meaning. When we generally talk about meaning, as in the meaning of a sentence, we refer to an agreed-upon definition of words/phrases in a language system. These definitions are always changing, as are their pronunciations, sentence (syntax) uses, and cultural cache. Mainstream cognitive science and linguistics agree on these previous points. There’s also the field of biosemiotics, which takes the same position but stresses the reality of sign processes–that is, it asserts that all terrestrial life forms engage in sign processes. However, the reality of sign processes is not a claim for the reality of meaning floating free in nature all by itself, which is what I think you are claiming.

    If you, BiPed, are saying that meaning has a separate existence–like an atom or a rock–then you are saying something quite interesting. My natural question to you is simply what is your position based upon? Specifically, what research and data are you using to establish your view?

    I’m sorry if this seems like an outlandish or hostile request to you.

    And what’s with the bird? Are you trying to ask whether I’m a social constructionist? The answer is that I am, although I’m not radical about it. I’m aware of recent studies that indicate pre-linguistic brain activity, but most everything we humans know and think is mediated by language. Even our recognition of that bird as a “bird.”

    Now, please stop evading. Either give me some of the research and data on this independently existing meaning (for which I’ll thank you) or tell me you have none or show me how I’ve misunderstood your claims.

  50. Lars, I am moments away from making the 4 hour trip back from the Lake to the City. Perhaps on that trip I will give your post some thought, but I must tell you I probably won’t. As much as I might try to convince myself otherwise, I have little room for debating a man who thinks that there are no ultimate realities. A reality (in terms of a description of it) is that which faithfully corresponds to what is. For there to be no ultimate realities (and the adjective is hardly necessary) then there must not be anything that is. Why not just gather yourself together and say “My ultimate reality is that there are no ultimate realities” and allow us to watch as you chase your tail?

    Really, why not?

    What would be the purpose of a conversation? Up to this point, you have not honestly engaged a single thing I have said. Instead, you have tacked on a materialist’ positioning piece to my every comment and then asked me respond to your set up. You then have to cajones to call me evasive.

    Forgive me for being underwhelmed.

    /smirk

  51. BiPed, I have asked for sources, not a debate. You have none. It’s OK, but I just wanted to know.

    To recognize that there is no ultimate meaning or ultimate reality (whatever that means) is not to deny reality altogether.

    I don’t much care how much you are -whelmed by reality, but I do resent your statement that I have not engaged you honestly–especially as you have hypocritically avoided the most basic request of mine.

    But here’s an olive branch: Ask a direct question and I’ll answer as honestly as I can. No agendas. No debates. Ask a serious question and I’ll give you a serious question. Ask about birds and I’ll give you the bird.

  52. Hey LarTanner, here’s a question for you. How do you know if something is true?

  53. john_a_designer @ 20

    Indeed.

  54. LarTanner this is of related interest for defining ‘ultimate’ reality – worldviews. The podcast is by a former ‘academic’ atheist:

    Why Naturalism Is False, and Why It Matters – Part 1
    http://www.hieropraxis.com/201.....ers_part_/
    Part 2
    http://www.hieropraxis.com/201.....rs-part-2/

    Here is a picture that captures the heart of the atheistic worldview:

    Outside the box
    http://www.crystalinks.com/outsidebox.jpg

  55. tgpeeler (52) — I have been asked this question many times. The honest, direct answer is that we don’t know with perfect certainty if something is true. I hope this qualifies as an unambiguous response.

    However, I think there’s an important aspect of knowledge that we should address, and that is that knowledge is something we produce. If you read below my comments to BA77, you’ll see that I am saying that ancient biblical interpreters and modern biblical scholars produced different knowledge related to the Bible. The ancients re-made biblical texts into a mysterious treasure containing all the world’s secrets. The moderns re-made the same texts into a window on the religion of ancient Israel.

    In this sense, tgpeeler, the truth of what we know is true is not the whole story. Explanatory power is, for lack of a better expression, the name of the game. The perspective offering the greatest number of sufficiently robust explanations for the greatest amount of data “wins.”

    So, how do we know something is true? We don’t know for certain but if we have a perspective with continuously tested and refined explanations for wide swaths of data, then we are justified in placing confidence in that perspective.

    BA77 (54) — Thanks. I listened to a few of the podcasts. I think Prof. Ordway is a Donne scholar. If so, I think it helps to be religious!

    Both former-atheists seemed mostly to be atheists by default. Nothing wrong with this, of course, but I have no particular reaction to their stories because my experience was somewhat the reverse. I was kind of a theist by default, and came to identify as an atheist much later. When I was doing my graduate work in the early medieval period, I learned a lot about Judaism, early Christianity, and early Islam. By necessity, I also learned about scholarship on the Torah and its commentaries, from the books of biblical Israel’s history to the Talmud.

    One running theme throughout all of that is that our understanding of the Bible–whether as a book of divine inspiration given to holy prophets or as a collection of stories and laws assembled to speak to concerns contemporaneous with the collectors–has been indelibly shaped by its interpreters. Much of what we think we know about the Bible and “what it says” is the result of the creativity and brilliance of its early and late interpreters. Ancient interpreters resolved apparent inconsistencies and contradictions. Modern scholars put the entire Bible under the microscope to extract clues about the world that made the Bible.

    This learning did not make me an atheist, but it demystified the Bible for me in a way that is probably irrevocable. Atheism today, in my opinion, is not only an intellectual position but also a political one. Maybe “political” isn’t quite the best word, but I mean something like identifying oneself as part of a larger constituency. Ultimately, I think this is a good thing.

  56. LanTanner, my view of the Bible is completely different from yours. You see, I was in a real bad spot in my life because of drug use, and had lost a real good job because of my erratic behavior from that drug use. That evening after getting home, from losing my real good job, in desperation, I opened up my Bible, and the Bible, completely to my surprise, and for only a brief instance, literally became alive and the written words of the Bible spoke directly into that specific situation in my life. But perhaps LarTanner, you will say I was just imagining that an inanimate object spoke words of comfort into my hopeless situation at that particular time due to my being so distraught?!? Well, I struggled with those same doubts about my sanity over this issue as well for a few years FOR INANIMATE OBJECTS SIMPLY CANNOT SPEAK DIRECTLY INTO OUR LIVES!!! Yet a few years later the Bible once again came alive, only this time the Bible came alive in the presence of another man,,,

    Strange But True – Miracle Testimony
    https://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0AYmaSrBPNEmGZGM4ejY3d3pfNTNocmRjZGtkdg&hl=en

    ,,, thus I had a witness for the miraculous, and I laid to rest the doubt that I was imagining that moment years earlier!!! And I’ve seen many more ‘little miracles’ throughout these years (if there is truly anything as a ‘little’ miracle),, In fact I’m a bit uncomfortable if it has been more than a little while that I’ve seen the Lord move in a small tangible way in which I can notice His hand in my life. The point being LarTanner is that I have not come to the lord by someone else ‘educating’ me to know that God is real (or being educated that God is not real as your case seems to be),, You see LarTanner I KNOW FOR A FACT that my Redeemer lives because I have personally seen Him move in my life, and have in fact seen Him move in other people’s lives!

    Job 19:25-27
    I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes–I, and not another.,,,

    Nicole C. Mullen – My Redeemer Lives – Video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpCaNBhK4S0

    If you don’t mind a helpful suggestion Lartanner, to get over some of this ‘higher criticism’ of the Bible you’ve seem to have ingested, You may want to focus on prophecy,,,

    The Bible: The Word of God? Extraordinary Claims Demand Extraordinary Evidence – video
    http://video.google.com/videop.....2491778083

    particularly this one

    The Precisely Fulfilled Prophecy Of Israel Becoming A Nation In 1948 – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4041241

    further notes:

    1 Corinthians 2:9-10
    But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him. But unto us God revealed them through the Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

    Real Life Miracles – Blind See; Dead Raised; Deaf Hear – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4596829

    etc.. etc.. etc..

  57. BA77, Thanks for sharing. Your Google docs story reminds me (if I remember correctly) of a similar experience reported by St. Augustine of Hippo.

    Please don’t think my atheism was the result of “I took a class and that was it.” I’m a 40 year old man who has reflected a good deal on these issues. I’ve asked the questions I’ve had and come to (provisional) answers that seem to me closest to right.

    I don’t despise humanity at all, and I don’t think life is meaningless with or without gods. And I don’t think it’s morally right for folks–but especially folks who are not themselves atheists–to speak for or on behalf of the atheist.

  58. 58

    LarTanner:

    Encouraging a suffering friend to accept my arguments seems rather distasteful beside the point.

    If you don’t have anything positive to offer, I can see how that would be true.

    Would you encourage your suffering friend to become a believer? That seems rather immoral and opportunistic to me.

    How so? Let’s take the same scenario but replace believing Steve with a hypothetical unbelieving Steve. Everything else about the story is the same except rather than struggling with doubt and unbelief Steve has some questions about what his daughter believed. Remember Stephanie was a Christian, she believed that this life was not all there was. She believed that if she died that her soul, her real self, would live on. You don’t think I wouldn’t tell Steve about that and why we, especially his daughter, believed that to be true? That’s something good and positive, isn’t it? I believe Steve would see his daughter again if he was willing to accept what she believed.
    Of course, if he was cynical and angry at God there isn’t much that I could do there except be with him and console him as a friend.

    I said earlier, Larry, that the basic problem that I have with atheism is that it has nothing positive to offer, because it is not a belief, it is unbelief. If I were an atheist and really honest with myself I think the best thing I could is to leave the beliefs of other people alone. Unbelief has no answers.

  59. Well LarTanner, please keep my testimony as an ‘ace in the hole’,, i.e. when you find yourself in a tight spot, or when you are at your wits end, remember that just maybe, just maybe. that crazy ole BA77 was telling you the complete truth about Christ coming to you in times of need.

  60. 60

    Zeroseven:

    That is an odd comment. You should be an atheist if you do not believe there are any gods. Its got nothing to do with how nice the people are.

    To me the strongest evidence for God is how people of real faith really live their lives. But it is more than being nice. It is demonstrating the love of God in their lives by truly loving other people. I’ve met people like that. Have you? After meeting those kind of people I cannot believe there is not a God.

  61. John,

    I must return to my real life and work, but I must say that I find your approach to unbelieving Steve sick and offensive. You are basically trying to bully him into religious conformity through the use of a dead loved one, at a time of his greatest grief and turmoil.

    And then you have the gall to blame him for possibly being cynical and angry at God should your plot fail.

    I don’t share either your view that theism offers anything positive or that atheism offers nothing positive. Atheism, in my opinion, offers an honest approach to reality. That’s positive. I’m not asking you to agree with me or with all/any of my opinions. However, I will ask you to acknowledge that there are many people like me who feel that atheism can and does offer something positive (over and above being, well, right).

    Please re-consider what you have posted.

    Be well, all.

  62. LarTanner,

    It is very funny that you offer no positive proof for atheism to be true, other than your ‘educated’ opinion that it is true, and yet you have the gall to say John’s approach is sick??? I’m sure John will respond very eloquently, but I just want to lay my two cents out that you are completely out of line as far as what you have thus far established empirically to be true for your atheistic position, which is zero empirical evidence!!!

  63. BA77 (62) — You are offended, obviously, but please read what I write.

    I express my personal opinion that John’s stated approach is highly immoral. I’m not arguing the ‘truth’ of atheism because that’s not the issue.

    The issue is, as I say, that John’s approach is to “bully [Steve the unbeliever] into religious conformity through the use of a dead loved one, at a time of [Steve the unbeliever's] greatest grief and turmoil.”

    I still think that this approach is sick and offensive. Now if Steve were to ask John about religious belief B, C, I or J, that would be a different matter. But if John thinks it’s right and proper to initiate a proselytizing campaign on a suffering non-believer, then I cannot agree with that. I have a hard time imagining that anyone would consider such an approach to be moral.

  64. Neil Rickert: With respect to the “vicious and ugly things” Christians say about unbelievers: proof, please. Give me some links and examples.

  65. LarTanner, you might have a basis for your complaint of ‘bullying’ if, and only if, atheism were possibly true, which as you admit you have not even made a case for, nor does it seem that you are aware of the necessity for you to do as such to make your inference for ‘bullying’,,, But on the other hand, the tenets of Theism are rigorously true, as our best science does compellingly, and repeatedly, infer to the purpose and design of the universe and of life in it, and ‘science’ even offers compelling and repeatable, evidence for life after death,,,

    The Scientific Evidence for Near Death Experiences – Dr Jeffery Long – Melvin Morse M.D. – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4454627

    ,,, Thus LarTanner you have insisted that we take your conclusion of ‘bullying’ as valid when you have in fact offered no empirical support for your foundational premise of no life after death in the first place. So please tell me LarTanner, what is more cruel, to unintentionally deceive a distraught person that they will never again see a cherished loved one who as passed away, as you insist on doing, or to truthfully comfort a bereaved person with the assurance that they will once again see their loved one, as the Christian does, and as the best ‘scientific evidence says we have full right in proclaiming??? As to which one is hideously more cruel LarTanner, and WRONG, the answer is not even close!!! Your answer is clearly based on your ignorance of the true state of reality, moreover it seems that your ‘wrongness’ in this matter is reinforced by the arrogance that you think you somehow know better than we in this matter even though it is clear you do not even know how to properly defend, scientifically, a position that you claimed to be true in the first place.

    Further note:

    In The Presence Of Almighty God – The NDE of Mickey Robinson – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4045544

    The Day I Died – Part 4 of 6 – The Extremely ‘Monitored’ Near Death Experience of Pam Reynolds – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4045560

    Blind Woman Can See During Near Death Experience (NDE) – Pim von Lommel – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3994599/

    Kenneth Ring and Sharon Cooper (1997) conducted a study of 31 blind people, many of who reported vision during their Near Death Experiences (NDEs). 21 of these people had had an NDE while the remaining 10 had had an out-of-body experience (OBE), but no NDE. It was found that in the NDE sample, about half had been blind from birth. (of note: This ‘anomaly’ is also found for deaf people who can hear sound during their Near Death Experiences(NDEs).)
    http://findarticles.com/p/arti....._65076875/

    Miracle Of Mind-Brain Recovery Following Hemispherectomies – Dr. Ben Carson – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3994585/

    Removing Half of Brain Improves Young Epileptics’ Lives:
    Excerpt: “We are awed by the apparent retention of memory and by the retention of the child’s personality and sense of humor,” Dr. Eileen P. G. Vining; In further comment from the neuro-surgeons in the John Hopkins study: “Despite removal of one hemisphere, the intellect of all but one of the children seems either unchanged or improved. Intellect was only affected in the one child who had remained in a coma, vigil-like state, attributable to peri-operative complications.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/1997/08.....lives.html

    Quantum Consciousness – Time Flies Backwards? – Stuart Hameroff MD
    Excerpt: Dean Radin and Dick Bierman have performed a number of experiments of emotional response in human subjects. The subjects view a computer screen on which appear (at randomly varying intervals) a series of images, some of which are emotionally neutral, and some of which are highly emotional (violent, sexual….). In Radin and Bierman’s early studies, skin conductance of a finger was used to measure physiological response They found that subjects responded strongly to emotional images compared to neutral images, and that the emotional response occurred between a fraction of a second to several seconds BEFORE the image appeared! Recently Professor Bierman (University of Amsterdam) repeated these experiments with subjects in an fMRI brain imager and found emotional responses in brain activity up to 4 seconds before the stimuli. Moreover he looked at raw data from other laboratories and found similar emotional responses before stimuli appeared.
    http://www.quantumconsciousnes.....Flies.html

  66. further note:

    Study suggests precognition may be possible – November 2010
    Excerpt: A Cornell University scientist has demonstrated that psi anomalies, more commonly known as precognition, premonitions or extra-sensory perception (ESP), really do exist at a statistically significant level. Psi anomalies are defined as “anomalous processes of information or energy transfer that are currently unexplained in terms of known physical or biological mechanisms.”
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....ition.html

    In The Wonder Of Being Human: Our Brain and Our Mind, Eccles and Robinson discussed the research of three groups of scientists (Robert Porter and Cobie Brinkman, Nils Lassen and Per Roland, and Hans Kornhuber and Luder Deeke), all of whom produced startling and undeniable evidence that a “mental intention” preceded an actual neuronal firing – thereby establishing that the mind is not the same thing as the brain, but is a separate entity altogether.
    http://books.google.com/books?.....8;lpg=PT28

    “As I remarked earlier, this may present an “insuperable” difficulty for some scientists of materialists bent, but the fact remains, and is demonstrated by research, that non-material mind acts on material brain.” Eccles

    “Thought precedes action as lightning precedes thunder.”
    Heinrich Heine – in the year 1834

    A Reply to Shermer Medical Evidence for NDEs (Near Death Experiences) – Pim van Lommel
    Excerpt: For decades, extensive research has been done to localize memories (information) inside the brain, so far without success.,,,,Nobel prize winner W. Penfield could sometimes induce flashes of recollection of the past (never a complete life review), experiences of light, sound or music, and rarely a kind of out-of-body experience. These experiences did not produce any transformation. After many years of research he finally reached the conclusion that it is not possible to localize memories (information) inside the brain.,, In trying to understand this concept of mutual interaction between the “invisible and not measurable” consciousness, with its enormous amount of information, and our visible, material body it seems wise to compare it with modern worldwide communication.,,,
    http://www.nderf.org/vonlommel.....sponse.htm

    This following experiment is really interesting:

    Scientific Evidence That Mind Effects Matter – Random Number Generators – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4198007

    I once asked a evolutionist, after showing him the preceding experiment, “Since you ultimately believe that the ‘god of random chance’ produced everything we see around us, what in the world is my mind doing pushing your god around?”

    note of caution:

    It should be noted: All foreign, non-Judeo-Christian culture, NDE studies I have looked at have a extreme rarity of encounters with ‘The Being Of Light’ and tend to be very unpleasant NDE’s save for the few pleasant children’s NDEs of those cultures that I’ve seen (It seems there is indeed an ‘age of accountability’). The following study was shocking for what was found in some non-Judeo-Christian NDE’s:

    Near-Death Experiences in Thailand – Todd Murphy:
    Excerpt: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 tortures, not one includes the NDEer having been subjected to these torments themselves.
    http://www.shaktitechnology.com/thaindes.htm

  67. BA77 (65)–The complaint of “bullying” holds true regardless of the “truth” of theism. You’re position is a bit too Machiavellian. I’m criticizing the approach, but I can see that the intentions of John may be good. His approach is irredeemably evil for the reasons I gave. If you really want to disagree with me, try to argue that John’s not advocating opportunistic proselytizing. Try to sell me on the idea that he’s not talking about taking advantage of a situation. Persuade me that converting a friend is more important than being one.

    Do I really need to lay out the scientific, philosophical, and historical case for atheism? Really, there are plenty of books and blogs that will do a far better job than I.

    For books, I recommend Dawes, “Theism and Explanation,” and Oppy, “Arguing About Gods.”

    For blogs, well, I assume you know many. I like the blogs of Myers, Coyne, and Rosenhouse.

    On my own blog and in my own brief way, I have laid out summaries of the best case(s) for atheism. These are not dissertations, mind you, but the support is easily available:

    http://larrytanner.blogspot.co.....heism.html

    In sum, the real problem with God is –

    It cannot really be explained, it cannot be proved, it fits nicely into a human strength for creating imaginary characters, it is deeply undermined by the problem of indiscriminate evil, it is not the best explanation for anything, and it’s the most improbable cause of observed reality.

    http://larrytanner.blogspot.co.....anity.html

    So, we don’t know much of anything at all about the historical Jesus. All we can say for certain is that the New Testament reports on him as a teacher, executed rebel, and religious icon. Given that the case for God is so weak, it makes little sense to grant any credibility at all to supernatural claims with respect to Jesus.

    If there was a real Jesus, he was born and died as a human being, and that’s it. He’s gone.

    http://larrytanner.blogspot.co.....false.html

    http://larrytanner.blogspot.co.....rview.html

    In sum, the difference between the definition of evolution and the alternate hypothesis is that the first gives a way to solve a problem while the second one gives more problems. The descent with modification hypothesis may ultimately fail, but the hypothesis itself articulates how to go about reinforcing or falsifying it. The special creation hypothesis is less clear in its articulation and depends on unestablished categories such as global Flood and God.

    When we compare evolution to creationism, then, we can fairly conclude that

    Whatever the gaps in evolution, the gaps in creationism are substantially bigger and badder.

    Indeed, this conclusion seems to me so obviously sensible and accurate that I really wonder why anyone would prefer creationism to evolution.

    Enjoy!

    Finally, I want to acknowledge all those links you have given on NDEs. I’m sorry but I don’t find them particularly compelling for your argument.

  68. LarTanner, you state,

    ‘The complaint of “bullying” holds true regardless of the “truth” of theism.’

    Had to Get that pesky truth of Theism thing out of the way first and foremost didn’t you LarTanner? But then you claimed to have ‘superior truth’, so as to disallow Theism as you did, though your philosophical naturalistic foundation that you hold yourself allows no such conclusion for ‘truths’!!! LarTanner, Absolute Transcendent Truth is not even possible in a ‘consistent’ naturalistic worldview in the first place!!!

    This following site is a easy to use, and understand, interactive website that takes the user through what is termed ‘Presuppositional apologetics’. The website clearly shows that our use of the laws of logic, mathematics, science and morality cannot be accounted for unless we believe in a God who guarantees our perceptions and reasoning are trustworthy in the first place.

    Proof That God Exists – easy to use interactive website
    http://www.proofthatgodexists.org/index.php

    Materialism simply dissolves into absurdity when pushed to extremes and certainly offers no guarantee to us for believing our perceptions and reasoning within science are trustworthy in the first place:

    Dr. Bruce Gordon – The Absurdity Of The Multiverse & Materialism in General – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5318486/

    The following is a fun video showing that absolute truth exists:

    Absolute Truth – Frank Turek – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaGNRP6Q-6Q

    You as so incorrect in your presuppositions as to correctly deducing whether Theism or Naturalism is true it is hard to know where to start,,,

    Here is a site that defeats materialism/naturalism from its failed predictions in science:

    Predictions of Materialism compared to Theism within science:
    http://docs.google.com/Doc?doc....._5fwz42dg9

    Here is a video that lays out the sheer poverty for naturalism to account for the staggering levels of information/complexity we find in life:

    Is Undirected Naturalism Sufficient? – Don Johnson
    http://vimeo.com/11827337

    Here is a book that exhaustively lays out the reason why naturalism is hopelessly bankrupt at even the first stage of explaining how life got on earth:

    Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, by Stephen C. Meyer
    http://www.signatureinthecell......e-book.php

    Here is a paper that gives a broad outline of the plethora of reconciled problems of naturalism:

    http://lettherebelight-77.blog.....is_19.html

    Here is a 101 type introduction to the unfounded ‘dogmatism’ of naturalism:

    Darwinism: Science or Philosophy (4 of 4) – Phillip E. Johnson – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5g8FPIoVkk

    LarTanner, you go on to state:

    ‘Finally, I want to acknowledge all those links you have given on NDEs. I’m sorry but I don’t find them particularly compelling for your argument.’

    But of course LarTanner, do not cite any evidence that coherently explains why they happen, but merely ‘choose’ that they are not compelling and WA LA the problem disappears,,, Sorry LarTanner, your personal preference does not have near as much weight with me as you seem to think it should carry! :)

  69. 69

    LarTanner,

    (#61) I find your approach to unbelieving Steve sick and offensive. You are basically trying to bully him into religious conformity through the use of a dead loved one, at a time of his greatest grief and turmoil. And then you have the gall to blame him for possibly being cynical and angry at God should your plot fail.

    (#67)
    I’m criticizing the approach, but I can see that the intentions of John may be good. His approach is irredeemably evil for the reasons I gave. If you really want to disagree with me, try to argue that John’s not advocating opportunistic proselytizing. Try to sell me on the idea that he’s not talking about taking advantage of a situation. Persuade me that converting a friend is more important than being one.

    Irredeemably evil, Larry? How can you make such a judgement? You don’t even know me. What is the word we use when we prejudge a person without even getting to know him?

    You completely misunderstand (or misrepresent) my approach. According to the dictionary to proselytize is “to make a convert.” I cannot convert anyone. I can only explain to someone what I believe and why I believe it. If our hypothetical unbelieving Steve had wanted to talk to me about what his daughter believed I certainly would have been willing to do that. If he didn’t, I wouldn’t push it. When I said “if he was cynical and angry at God there isn’t much that I could do there except be with him and console him as a friend,” I wasn’t saying that if he didn’t want to talk that that meant he was being cynical and angry. I was saying that if he expressed words that indicated that he had cynical and angry feelings towards God I would still be a friend and still be willing to listen. I think that is what it means to be a friend.

    In his book the real Steve describes faith as lifelong journey. For example, to understand his faith you need to begin when he was five years old when he learns that his father, a missionary, had been murdered by the tribal people he was trying to help. Years later he learned the identity of the man who killed his father and was able to forgive him. Not only was he able to forgive him but they became best of friends. Ironically that man, Mincaye, was visiting Steve and his wife when his daughter Stephanie came home from her tour. He was also with them in the ER when she passed away.

    If anyone had an excuse to be bitter and angry towards God, in my opinion, it was Steve. But he has rejected that path. He has chosen to continue to believe, and continue to have faith because he really believes that there is an ultimate purpose and meaning to life. Even the untimely death of his daughter has a purpose and meaning.

    The point that I am trying to make here Larry is that to understand Steve’s faith and why he believed there was a ultimate purpose and meaning to it all you have to put his life, as he does in his book, into context. But that context itself is meaningless unless behind it all there is ultimate meaning and purpose to existence and that is because there is something, indeed I believe it’s a someone, who transcends finite existence. I find it interesting that the Hebrew word for God is I AM or I EXIST.

    Steve, in my opinion, is a real living 21st saint. From the talks of his that I attended I learned a lot about what a life of faith really is. Some critics claim that faith is only about the “here-after“. By the way he lives his life Steve has demonstrated that real faith is really about how we live our lives in the here and now.

  70. BA77 (68)–Let’s keep our eye on the proverbial ball, shall we?:

    (1) I take it my position on John’s “bullying” tactic is clear. His is an objectionable approach, and you’ve not offered a perspective that makes it seem more appropriate or moral. I think this sub-topic is closed.

    (2) I’ve avoided a direct atheism versus theism argument because–what’s the point? Seriously, why have that argument? I simply want you to know my positions because I feel that’s the best way to have a productive dialogue on those matters where our positions are less fixed or more unclear.

    (3) Do I think that atheism is probably more accurate relative to reality than any theism? Yes, I do. But I’m just one humanities dude with an opinion. I’m not particularly interested in rehearsing here the arguments and data that make atheism the more likely scenario scientifically, philosophically, and historically–and that make theism or deism less likely. If you want to have that conversation, go to my blog. I like hits. But I’m here in this forum for conversation and a few LOLs.

    (4) I understand your arguments against materialism, but they don’t hold up under scrutiny. See, for instance: http://larrytanner.blogspot.co.....re-is.html. That Turek video, by the way, is hilarious. The “self-defeating” gambit he uses is always good for a laugh. That other “proof of god” site uses the same kind of gambit. It may stupefy a class of first-year philosophy students, but it’s really a lesson in being very careful about words and concepts. See Tarski, Quine, and Kripke for three examples.

    (5) You seem irked that I don’t buy into your NDE links. Look, I understand that people claim to have had them. I have no reason to doubt that such people are sincere. But I don’t happen to have a full-fledged theory of NDEs in my back pocket. Am I therefore obligated to believe that there’s an afterlife and a place where the eternal souls of people and who-knows-what-else go either to get fried or to get bathed in celestial light?

  71. John (69)–

    Irredeemably evil, Larry? How can you make such a judgement? You don’t even know me. What is the word we use when we prejudge a person without even getting to know him?

    I have not judged or pre-judged you. I have commented only on the behavior that you have approved.

    You say

    If our hypothetical unbelieving Steve had wanted to talk to me about what his daughter believed I certainly would have been willing to do that. If he didn’t, I wouldn’t push it.

    Fair enough, but you don’t really know what his daughter believed, do you? You cannot speak for her or in her stead.

    Sure, I get the idea that understanding a person’s thinking and beliefs requires an understanding of relevant contexts. But why make a wild leap to ultimate meaning and purpose? You don’t need to do this at all. And there are many Hebrew words for God (whether that’s the monotheistic God most people think of today or one of the local Gods of ancient Israel’s neighbors).

    “Saints” come in all shapes and sizes. There are even plenty of secular saints. You don’t need to tether living a good and moral life to “faith.” If you do this, then do you get to say anyone who doesn’t behave in a certain way doesn’t have “real faith”? Is this not the famous “No True Scotsman” fallacy, as in only people with real faith (True Scotsmen) live in the certain way you approve while anyone who claims to be faithful but acts differently must not have “real faith”?

  72. LarTanner you state:

    1) I take it my position on John’s “bullying” tactic is clear. His is an objectionable approach, and you’ve not offered a perspective that makes it seem more appropriate or moral. I think this sub-topic is closed.

    You have simply denied, as a matter of your personal opinion, that the evidence I have presented against you as ‘not compelling’, even though the evidence against your position is overwhelming. Thus the only sub-topic that is closed in this matter is your mind!

    You then state:

    ‘(2) I’ve avoided a direct atheism versus theism argument because–what’s the point? Seriously, why have that argument? I simply want you to know my positions because I feel that’s the best way to have a productive dialogue on those matters where our positions are less fixed or more unclear.’

    That is the whole point LarTanner, your atheistic/naturalistic presupposition is wrong. The complete failure of the predictive power of materialism/naturalism to explain the basis of reality should by all rights of science completely exclude naturalistic explanations for any debate in origins science. But this complete failure for predictive power of naturalism is completely ignored by you, because you claim it is ‘non-productive’, yet in reality. if you were truly concerned about the finding the truth, you would find it very productive, yet since you probably full well know it is very futile for you to go down that alley, you ignore it completely as if just denying its relevance will make what you hold to be true reasonable.

    you then state,,,

    (3) Do I think that atheism is probably more accurate relative to reality than any theism? Yes, I do. But I’m just one humanities dude with an opinion. I’m not particularly interested in rehearsing here the arguments and data that make atheism the more likely scenario scientifically, philosophically, and historically–and that make theism or deism less likely. If you want to have that conversation, go to my blog. I like hits. But I’m here in this forum for conversation and a few LOLs.

    with your own words you have undermined any credibility you had with me since you yourself admit to blatant personal prejudice instead of rigid inquiry using reason and evidence.

    you then state,,,

    (4) I understand your arguments against materialism, but they don’t hold up under scrutiny. See, for instance: http://larrytanner.blogspot.co…..re-is.html. That Turek video, by the way, is hilarious. The “self-defeating” gambit he uses is always good for a laugh. That other “proof of god” site uses the same kind of gambit. It may stupefy a class of first-year philosophy students, but it’s really a lesson in being very careful about words and concepts. See Tarski, Quine, and Kripke for three examples.

    But do you hold what you just said to be a absolute transcendent truth so as to deny that absolute transcendent truths exist???

    you then state,,,

    (5) You seem irked that I don’t buy into your NDE links. Look, I understand that people claim to have had them. I have no reason to doubt that such people are sincere. But I don’t happen to have a full-fledged theory of NDEs in my back pocket. Am I therefore obligated to believe that there’s an afterlife and a place where the eternal souls of people and who-knows-what-else go either to get fried or to get bathed in celestial light?

    The evidence for NDE’s is consistent and compelling, and if you were truly as scholarly as you like to pretend to be you would at least try to quote Blackmore or some other person who has been dealt with in this matter,,, but to give you a benefit of a doubt Here is another article that is far more nuanced in its discerning of our ‘transcendent mind’ from our material brain, than the ‘brute’ empirical evidence I’ve listed so far:

    The Mind and Materialist Superstition – Six “conditions of mind” that are irreconcilable with materialism:
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....super.html

  73. BA77 (72)–One interesting thing you say:

    The complete failure of the predictive power of materialism/naturalism to explain the basis of reality should by all rights of science completely exclude naturalistic explanations for any debate in origins science.

    Let’s walk through this, shall we? Not pretending to be scholarly here, but trying make sure we’re on the same page. What exactly does “the basis of reality” mean? If possible, I’m looking for an answer in this form: “The term ‘basis of reality’ refers to….”

  74. further note here:

    the materialistic and Theistic philosophy make, and have made, several natural contradictory predictions about what evidence we will find. These predictions, and the evidence we have found, can be tested against one another within the scientific method.

    Steps of the Scientific Method
    http://www.sciencebuddies.org/.....thod.shtml

    For a quick overview, here are a few:

    1.Materialism predicted an eternal universe, Theism predicted a created universe. – Big Bang points to a creation event. -

    2. Materialism predicted time had an infinite past, Theism predicted time had a creation. – Time was created in the Big Bang. -

    3. Materialism predicted space has always existed, Theism predicted space had a creation (Psalm 89:12) – Space was created in the Big Bang. -

    4. Materialism predicted that material has always existed, Theism predicted ‘material’ was created. – ‘Material’ was created in the Big Bang.

    5. Materialism predicted at the base of physical reality would be a solid indestructible material particle which rigidly obeyed the rules of time and space, Theism predicted the basis of this reality was created by a infinitely powerful and transcendent Being who is not limited by time and space – Quantum mechanics reveals a wave/particle duality for the basis of our reality which blatantly defies our concepts of time and space. -

    6. Materialism predicted the rate at which time passed was constant everywhere in the universe, Theism predicted God is eternal and is outside of time – Special Relativity has shown that time, as we understand it, is relative and comes to a complete stop at the speed of light. (Psalm 90:4 – 2 Timothy 1:9)-

    7. Materialism predicted the universe did not have life in mind and life was ultimately an accident of time and chance. Theism predicted this universe was purposely created by God with man in mind – Every transcendent universal constant scientists can measure is exquisitely fine-tuned for carbon-based life to exist in this universe. -

    8. Materialism predicted complex life in this universe should be fairly common. Theism predicted the earth is extremely unique in this universe – Statistical analysis of the hundreds of required parameters which enable complex life to be possible on earth gives strong indication the earth is extremely unique in this universe. -

    9. Materialism predicted much of the DNA code was junk. Theism predicted we are fearfully and wonderfully made – ENCODE research into the DNA has revealed a “biological jungle deeper, denser, and more difficult to penetrate than anyone imagined.”. -

    10. Materialism predicted a extremely beneficial and flexible mutation rate for DNA which was ultimately responsible for all the diversity and complexity of life we see on earth. Theism predicted only God created life on earth – The mutation rate to DNA is overwhelmingly detrimental. Detrimental to such a point that it is seriously questioned whether there are any truly beneficial mutations whatsoever. (M. Behe; JC Sanford) -

    11. Materialism predicted a very simple first life form which accidentally came from “a warm little pond”. Theism predicted God created life – The simplest life ever found on Earth is far more complex than any machine man has made through concerted effort. (Michael Denton PhD) -

    12. Materialism predicted it took a very long time for life to develop on earth. Theism predicted life to appear abruptly on earth after water appeared on earth (Genesis 1:10-11) – We find evidence for complex photo-synthetic life in the oldest sedimentary rocks ever found on earth -

    13. Materialism predicted the gradual unfolding of life to be self-evident in the fossil record. Theism predicted complex and diverse life to appear abruptly in the seas in God’s fifth day of creation. – The Cambrian Explosion shows a sudden appearance of many different and completely unique fossils within a very short “geologic resolution time” in the Cambrian seas. -

    14. Materialism predicted there should be numerous transitional fossils found in the fossil record, Theism predicted sudden appearance and rapid diversity within different kinds found in the fossil record – Fossils are consistently characterized by sudden appearance of a group/kind in the fossil record, then rapid diversity within the group/kind, and then long term stability and even deterioration of variety within the overall group/kind, and within the specific species of the kind, over long periods of time. Of the few dozen or so fossils claimed as transitional, not one is uncontested as a true example of transition between major animal forms out of millions of collected fossils. -

    15. Materialism predicted animal speciation should happen on a somewhat constant basis on earth. Theism predicted man was the last species created on earth – Man himself is the last generally accepted major fossil form to have suddenly appeared in the fossil record. -

    As you can see when we remove the artificial imposition of the materialistic philosophy, from the scientific method, and look carefully at the predictions of both the materialistic philosophy and the Theistic philosophy, side by side, we find the scientific method is very good at pointing us in the direction of Theism as the true explanation. – In fact it is even very good at pointing us to Christianity:

    General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Entropy & the Shroud Of Turin – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5070355

    further note here:

    http://lettherebelight-77.blog.....is_19.html

  75. LT @ 55 “we don’t know with perfect certainty if something is true”

    We do know some things for certain to be true. They are called the laws of thought or right reason or first principles. The world of sensation is the world where knowledge is uncertain. We know our senses can deceive us, do we not? So it follows that empirical knowledge is necessarily uncertain and in the words of Stephen B needs to be “informed by reason.”

    “The perspective offering the greatest number of sufficiently robust explanations for the greatest amount of data “wins.””

    I can agree with this statement. What perspective do you think offers that?

  76. BA77 (74),

    I always ask my students to be courteous and answer the question that’s been asked before going off into the explanation and detail.

    So I’d like to ask you, please, to provide me the completed statement and then give me the data dump to all the articles and videos you think are pertinent.

    That statement starts, “The term ‘basis of reality’ refers to….”

    If you want to re-phrase the statement, that’s fine. I’m not setting you up or anything. I simply want to know what exactly it is you are referring to when you say “basis of reality.”

    By basis do you mean something physical? Are you talking about a set of equations, laws, or constants? Do you mean, instead, a logical or physical basis? Or do you mean something like “prior”?

    Please don’t think I’m being difficult or obtuse, but I need to ask for you to be clear about the answer. Often, I don’t see the connection between your claims and the sources you then cite. For example, you say “Your story is wrong in its presupposition, since God is the basis of reality. A basis which can be ‘measured’, contrary to your preconception.” Your first source is a video I cannot access that purports to present the scientific evidence for God-as-Logos having created the universe. The second is an article by Armond Duwell on information transfer in quantum teleportation.

    Since the connection isn’t clear, I can only guess that you are essentially using “basis” as “reason.” Thus, the video will explain that God is the reason we have a universe, and that’s because Big Bang sounds kind of like Genesis, and six “days” are not actual days, and so on. And thus, the article–although not itself addressed to cosmogeny (right?)–allows us to speculate that quantum teleportation is a mechanism by which creation could have happened.

    As I said, I’m guessing here without your clarification.

    As for the “predictions” that you say materialism makes, I think some of them don’t pass the laugh test.

    #1: Materialism predicts an eternal universe. OK, I get your reference to the long, long history of materialism and its use to support the view of matter’s eternity. But, is a Big Bang Cosmology inconsistent with materialism? I don’t think so, but maybe you disagree. In any case, we already have a better sense of the timeline of matter in our universe. Theism still has a big prediction where the jury remains out: the existence of one or more eternal divinities with personal desires.

  77. BA77–Per the beginning of my post (77): My phrasing ought to be revised. I don’t mean to imply that your are “my” student or “a” student. No offense or disrespect intended in the way I wrote the first 2 paragraphs.

  78. JAD, I want to endorse LarTanner’s reaction to your “unbelieving Steve” story. If I was Steve and you took it upon yourself to tell me about what you believed in a situation like that I would be insulted and upset. In fact I have been in that very situation when a grandparent died and my religious aunt tried to tell me he was in heaven and happy now. This is a cruel and selfish thing to do. The best you can do with a grieving friend is try and stay with them in the place they are in, not to try and force them into another place.

  79. I’ve jumped into this debate a little late, but I have a few questions, as I’m a little confused…

    Lar, you said ‘The honest, direct answer is that we don’t know with perfect certainty if something is true.’

    Okay… So if we cannot be certain anything is true, how can you claim what John said earlier is evil? How did you come to the conclusion what he was doing was evil?

    Why, if we are not certain anything is true, are you able to discern anything is true at all, including your own senses?

    Also, on John’s ‘bullying’ tactic, what moral framework are we working with here? As you have said you’re an atheist, aren’t we straying into moral subjectivity now? If so, how can you claim what John said was evil at all?

    With this in mind, I don’t see how (by what you’ve said) we are able to discern anything at all…

  80. LarTanner, ‘the basis of reality’ is not a solid material particle as materialism had originally postulated but ‘the basis of reality’ is instead reducible to transcendent information as Theism had originally postulated. i.e. John 1:1 (Wheeler, Zeilinger). That transcendent information is its own independent entity, separate from matter/energy was confirmed with the refutation of the hidden variable argument (EPR; Bell, Aspect). That transcendent information exercises dominion of ‘material’ was established by quantum teleportation experiments (Zeilinger). That the transcendent information is ‘alive’ is established by the fact that a ‘decision’ must be made to create a temporal universe from that ‘timeless’ transcendent eternal reality that infinite transcendent information occupies (Craig), as well as by the necessity for a transcendent ‘first mover’ to explain quantum wave collapse to each point of unique observation in the universe (Planck).

    etc.. etc.. etc..

  81. BA77 (80)–Ah… I think I’m seeing your point. Your claim is that the universe is made of immaterial information rather than material particles. You are drawing on quantum mechanics to make the case here.

    Correct?

    If so, I take it that you see John 1:1 as a statement that “in the beginning” immaterial information was present before the macro-particles making up the visible universe.

    Again, correct?

  82. 1. Yes
    2. Yes, It, immaterial information, is the only solution that satisfies all requirements necessary for the first cause, first mover, by empirical confirmation and moreover satisfies the questions of origins without leaving the bounds of empirical science as the absurd materialistic conjectures of the multiverse and many worlds do.

  83. 84

    Zeroseven:

    This what I originally wrote @ #58 (please read it carefully):

    Let’s take the same scenario but replace believing Steve with a hypothetical unbelieving Steve. Everything else about the story is the same except rather than struggling with doubt and unbelief Steve has some questions about what his daughter believed. Remember Stephanie was a Christian, she believed that this life was not all there was. She believed that if she died that her soul, her real self, would live on. You don’t think I wouldn’t tell Steve about that and why we, especially his daughter, believed that to be true? That’s something good and positive, isn’t it? I believe Steve would see his daughter again if he was willing to accept what she believed.

    Did you understand the sentence in bold? Here it is again. “Steve has some questions about what his daughter believed”. In other words, Steve is asking me about his daughters faith. I am not pushing anything on him. I am answering his questions. How is that by any stretch of the imagination bullying?

    Now let’s put the shoe on the other foot. You’re a friend of a second hypothetical Steve based more closely on the real Steve. Let’s call him “the more real Steve”. A few weeks after his daughters death he meets with you and expresses the same thoughts that the real Steve expressed in his book: that as a “black cloud of despair shrouded me I could feel my faith slipping away… I felt my lifeline trust in God’s power and protection slip through my numb fingers… The great blackness was covering me. The cord of faith I had trusted and followed since my dad had been jerked from life was running out. The end would soon pull through my hand and I would be lost.”

    Then he tells you that he really needs to hold on to his faith because he really needs to believe that his daughter is in a better place and he really wants to see her again someday.

    What do you tell him? That it is all wishful thinking? That it is all a fairy tale? If that is really the truth, why wouldn’t you?

    My point again is that atheism is a negative belief. It has nothing to offer to anyone. The more I learn about it the worse it appears to be. I am sorry but I don’t think the same is true of my belief. That’s why Jesus called it the Good News. Atheism just doesn’t work for the real issues that real people struggle with in their real lives. It is absurd to make it the basis of any kind of evangelism.

    If there is any bullying being done it is by you and Larry who have decided to gang up on me. You’re the ones who showed up here. (I don’t visit atheist sites and pick fights with people.) You’re the one that challenged my comments. Then you took those comments and twisted them into something I never said or meant. If what I said was unclear all you had to do is ask me what I meant. I’d be happy to oblige and clarify anything that I said. You have no right to distort what I mean or presume what I mean when I am available to answer your questions.

  84. Neil Rickert at #14:

    You are fooling yourself if you believe that those who follow PZ Myers do so because of anything to do wit his “wit”. Not to be blunt, but generally speaking, garbage atracts like-minded garbage. Those people on that blog who resort to the worst kind of insults do so *only* because it is who they really are and PZ gives them a forum in which to do it.

  85. Hi JAD, sorry, I am not calling you a bully. We are talking about a hypothetical situation.

    My answer to your question is yes, I would tell him he is better off without it if he asked for my opinion. That would involve loss as he gives up something that he has held on to all his life. Giving things up always involves loss, and sometimes loneliness and despair, whether the thing you are giving up is a good thing or a bad thing.

    But in my opinion he has been holding on to something that is false, and no matter how hard it is, and how uncomfortable it makes us feel, I believe we are always better to face the world honestly, and without false hope.

  86. The falsification for local realism (materialism) was just greatly strengthened:

    Physicists close two loopholes while violating local realism
    Excerpt: The latest test in quantum mechanics provides even stronger support than before for the view that nature violates local realism and is thus in contradiction with a classical worldview. By performing an experiment in which photons were sent from one Canary Island to another, physicists have shown that two of three loopholes can be closed simultaneously in a test that violates Bell’s inequality (and therefore local realism) by more than 16 standard deviations.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....alism.html

  87. Z7 “I believe we are always better to face the world honestly, and without false hope.”

    I completely agree. What is “true” hope in your world view and how do you justify it?

  88. tgpeeler;

    I think the opposite of false hope is actually often no hope rather than true hope. I’ve got to say, I think hope is overrated.

    The lifeline Steve is holding on to in the story is that somehow the pains and disappointments of his life will all be miraculously fixed by a higher being and some underlying purpose will be shown to him. Then there is the childish hope of meeting up again with everyone we love who has died. I have no such hope. I simply accept my pains and disappointments and endure the suffering that sometimes arises in life. You might think this sounds bleak. In fact, it is the only way to be free and I largely lead a contented and happy life.

  89. I would add tgp, that the type of false hope and consolation that prevents one from experiencing necessary suffering is an impediment to a fulfilling life.

  90. Summary of where the discussion ended: Information, Materialism, and the Basis of Reality

    Best, LT

  91. 92

    Zeroseven:
    Apology accepted. Let me now tell you about the real Steve (not another hypothetical Steve). The real Steve writes that he resolved the struggle over his faith the night daughter died before he left the ER. Here is what he wrote in his book:

    “If God is all powerful and all-knowing, none of this is happening without his knowledge or permission. This had to be part of His plan for Stephanie and for us… This had to be part of the story God was writing for our lives. It was an excruciating chapter in our story, but I suddenly found I believed that somehow– beyond our ability to comprehend– this terrible trauma would eventually and mysteriously prove to be the cornerstone of God’s plan for out lives.”

    Faith is described by skeptics as something irrational, something that opposes reason. But the faith the Steve is describing here was something that goes “beyond our ability to comprehend“ , or beyond reason. In other words, rather than faith conflicting with reason, it compliments it.

    While he was thinking about these things another doctor, somewhat nervously, approached Steve and Ginny. Steve knew what he was about to ask. He was there to ask Steve and his wife if they would permit the organs from Stephanie’s still living body be made available for transplant. The grieving couple gave the young doctor their consent. But then Ginny whispered in her husbands ear, “Please don’t let them take her heart.”

    That was it. It was now final. But both Steve and Ginny accepted their daughter loss. They had let her go.

    Steve concludes his account by writing, “As our precious daughter’s organs were taken so others could live, Ginny and I walked out of the hospital holding hands and at peace. It was a totally absurd reaction to what was happening in our lives.”

    Now that you have seen how the real Steve responded would you still counsel him the same way? Would you consel him that his belief that his daughter’s death, “had to be part of the story God was writing for our lives” was mistaken? Was Steve rationalizing? Was he guilty of wishful thinking? If you know with certainty that what he believed is a fairy tale, then you also know that his thinking about his daughter’s untimely death is erroneous. Of course you’re not his friend, but shouldn’t somebody help him straighten out his thinking?
    Clearly, this man is using faith as a crutch, right?

  92. First and foremost, let’s be clear that humanism in Western culture has its roots in Theism.

    Even if that was not the case, it would be practically impossible to defend humanism at the backdrop of atheism as the latter dehumanizes mankind. Simply put, one cannot be a humanist and an atheist at the same time.

    Now as far as pz being the face of atheism, I can think of no better clown to wear the crown. He will surely drive people as far away from him and his ilk as anyone can imagine. Apart from vile insults, irrationalities and ignorance has this man produced anything of value?

  93. “His pharyngula blog has a large following, but in large part that is because of PZ’s wit.”

    Perusing his website, I’ve only seen half of his wit. Where’s the other half???

  94. LarTanner: I find no good reason to consider “ultimate meaning” as anything more than theoretical.

    The fact that humans can intuit the very idea of ultimate meaning, or ultimate anything, is a clue that ultimate meaning exists. You say that there is no ultimate meaning. But that’s kind of like a world with only blind entities saying the psychological experience of color does not exist. If all entities were blind, the notion of color would not be debated. “Color” would have no meaning at all among them.

    If ultimate meaning didn’t exist, we wouldn’t be here arguing about it. Nobody would have such a notion in the first place.

  95. LarTanner,

    We’re not talking about truth (capital t or otherwise). We’re talking about reasoning and whether there is any necessary relationship between (a) the existence of deities and (b) the value of human life.

    You should be talking about truth.

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