User talk:Ungtss/crazyeddie part 1

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Creationism vs. Evolution[edit]

23 Jan 2005[edit]

Well, that explains your response to my comments about the "false premises" of Christians. What's your feelings on bibical infailability? crazyeddie 02:41, 23 Jan 2005 (UTC)

i don't believe it for a second. i think that inerrancy and infallibility were invented by christians in the 19th century (along with papal infallibility) as a reaction against the fact that secular thought was replacing the church -- i think it was a last, desperate appeal to authority at a time that the church had nothing to contribute. however, in reading the bible, i find that it is qualitatively different than any other book i've ever read. i find it to be breathtaking -- the historical scope, the accuracy, the insight of the authors, the objectivity ... and the way it differs from the writings of any of the other religions ... to me it doesn't read like a book that's trying to convince you of something -- it reads like a collection of historical accounts spanning 2000 years that were patched together and collected -- books written by and about men that experienced life and God in profound and personal ways ... and i think the quality of the experience reflects itself in the writing -- there seems to me to be a Truth and Light coming from the writing that i can find nowhere else -- so i find it to have an amazing amount of credibility. but infallible? no way. what in this world is infallible? nothing. why should we expect the bible to be any different? Ungtss 03:39, 23 Jan 2005 (UTC)

You say the Bible is accurate. How can you know this, without correlating it to an external, independent source? I suppose you could say that the Bible is an accurate description of your own experience with God. But somebody else might disagree, and say that the Bible does not accurately describe their experience. Plus, there is some question of how independent your experience is from what the Bible has taught you to expect. Or for that matter, how much your own preconceptions have shaped how you interpret the Bible. (I must say, however, you are more careful about that than most Christians.) But let's leave that aside for now, and treat the Bible as just a historical record. There is no question that the Bible is, to a certain extent, a factual historical record (at least post-Deluge :-)). But I've heard that historians have difficulty correlating it with other, contemporary histories.

For example, our best guess is that the Hebrews came to Egypt when the foreign Hyksos ruled, and served as intellectuals. When the native Egyptians overthrew the Hyksos and set up the New Kingdom, we think they resented the Hewbrews as collaborators. We think that the Exodus happened under Ramses II. Prior to that time, the area that would become Israel was under Egyptian control. About that time, Egypt experienced a lot of troubles (which might have been the basis for the Bibical account of the Plagues), and their sphere of influence shrank. I personally have the sneaking suspicion that the Hebrews were not so much allowed to escape, as forcibly deported by the government in order to save resources, made scarce by the troubles, for the Egyptian citizens.

But all of this is just our best guess. No event described in the Bible during that period can be found in contemporary Egyptian accounts. That doesn't prove anything, because the Egyptians of that period are known to have followed a certain Orwellian method to their histories - not hard when literacy is limited to a select class of scribes, and writing material is expensive.

There are other places where the Bible describes historical events consistant with our knowledge from other sources, but can't be confirmed by those other sources. There are precious few places where there is close enough correlation between other sources and the Bible to determine how closely they match up. I'm not saying the Bible isn't accurate. But how can you prove how accurate it is? crazyeddie 09:38, 23 Jan 2005 (UTC)

certainly there's no way to prove it -- whatever happened happened like 4,000 years ago, so there's no way to cross-check -- you're right about that. what strikes me is the accuracy of the bible as far as it CAN be cross-checked -- while there are many things that can't be verified, it seems to me that nearly all the things that CAN be verified have been. archaeological "consensus" will determine that the bible was wrong on a particular account, and then 10 years later, they'll find out that archaeological consensus was wrong and the biblical narrative turned out to be accurate -- and it's THAT sort of accuracy that (to me anyway) gives credibility to the rest. i wouldn't be surprised if a lot of it was wrong -- but i CERTAINLY think it's the best guide we've got to ancient middle eastern history.
like you said -- the egyptians and all the others followed an orwellian approach -- telling people what they wanted people to think / exaggerating the powers of their kings and armies beyond realistic levels (the list of kings had their kings living like 24,000 years) -- trying to build a mythology. but exodus? exodus records every single foible of its "heros" -- it shows moses murdering, saying, "i'm not a good speaker -- don't choose me," shows aaron helping the israelites build an idol in the wilderness and moses getting so mad that he disobeyed God so God didn't let him into the promised land ... this was not a book designed to build a mythology around its people and leaders -- this was a book that tried to "tell it like it is." i can't get over that.
but again, i can't prove anything -- i only find it to be a remarkable book -- one that i'm willing to take seriously as a historical account until it's been debunked by science. but in my opinion, genesis and exodus have stood the test so far -- science hasn't even been able to debunk the creation account yet, despite their best efforts. i think genesis is the most reasonable explanation for our origins we have. not perfect, but pretty damn good:). Ungtss 14:42, 23 Jan 2005 (UTC)

25 Jan 2005[edit]

I've taken the liberty of inserting a new section header, for the simple reason that I'm getting tired of my watchlist saying "Don't screw another man's wife." It's a sad state of affairs when your watchlist is giving you moral advice. Feel free to rename the header.

I'd like to enter into a Creation vs. Evolution debate with you. (I do have your talkpage watchlisted, so no need to cross-post this discussion.) That infallibility line was my opening manuever. I'll admit that I'm at something of a disadvantage. It looks like you're an old hand at this debate. You probably know just about every arguement and counter-arguement. You're an expert. Me, I consider myself a generalist, and what little expertise I have lies in a different field. So, as part of my stragety, I'd like to start with generalities. That way, we can start on common ground. We can then work ourselves towards the specific question, by creating more common ground. We can do that by either by determining that there is no disagreement between our positions or by persuading one another of the truth of our positions. The debate will persumably continue until we either completely agree all the way down the line, or, more likely, the gulf between our POVs becomes too great, and there is nothing left to do except for some quite boring shouting. At which point, I'll probably find something more productive to do.

I expect this debate to be quite intermittent, since we're both got other things to be doing. I'm giving up a bit of sleep while typing this, and I'll have to stop soon. (Another advantage for you - fatigue!)

The immediate point at hand is this: "How reliable of a source of truth is the Bible?" So far, you've agreed that the Bible is not infallible, but you have proposed that it is a virtual paragon of accuracy. I've allowed that it's not a complete pack of lies. Let's work on narrowing that gap down.

This is a bit more specific than I would like. So after we have chewed this bone, I'll take us further afield.

I was hoping to get further than this, but... crazyeddie 09:03, 25 Jan 2005 (UTC)

i'm certainly no expert in the topics -- i'm a layman just like everybody else, in the face of reality:).
i guess i just find genesis to be the most parsimonious explanation available for our origins. in my opinion, buddhist, naturalistic, and pagan views of history require me to reject my understanding of science. gases spread in a vaccuum: so where did the stars come from? There are no transitional fossils among higher taxa: so is it reasonable to believe they're all related? O3 (ozone) can only exist in concert with O2 in the atmosphere -- so is it reasonable to believe that life arose on earth when the atmosphere was entirely carbon dioxide, when there could have been no ozone, so UV radiation would have destroyed early life? atoms? the space-time continuum? where did it all COME from? philosophical naturalism leaves me with no answers, and only contradiction.
but creation? creation makes it all make sense to me. all these things came to be because they were designed to be that way. so which model of creation?
well, genesis is a very simple, ancient, unattributed account that is taken as historical by over half the world's population. it's got dates and genealogies and geography ... and it's at least worth a good read. it is absolutely nothing like any other mytholgoical account. plus, it makes some rather remarkable and falsifiable predictions -- like a global flood -- so then i look for signs of the flood -- and Flood geology gives me more than i know what to do with. that pushes me over the edge -- obviously genesis isn't PROVEN (and can't be -- it's all in interpretation of the evidence!) -- but i find it to be the most reasonable account we have -- and then i turn to science and the evidence to try and understand it better. Whatcha think? Ungtss 13:42, 25 Jan 2005 (UTC)

This is exactly the kind of details I didn't want to get bogged down in. I'm sure that the scientists in the fields mentioned either say one of two things: The paradox is only apparent - here's what we've figured out. Or they will admit that they don't know - but here are some possibilities that they're working on. Here's my attempt to answer you, before we move back to more general topics.

Interstellar gas is spread out pretty thin and cold. Any further thermal expansion is kept in check by the individual atoms' mutual gravitational attraction. If you get any clumping, that gravitational attraction will increase locally. That's when you get a star.

We've pretty much worked out that life began in the seas. Seawater does a pretty good job at blocking radiation - much better than the relatively thin ozone layer. By the time terristrial life developed, photosynthesis had been around for a long time. The atmosphere was fairly similar to today's, and we persumably had an ozone layer. I remember hearing that it might not be necessary to have an ozone layer for land-based life to survive. IIRC, there have been periods when the ozone layer was stripped away, and the geological record doesn't record any major extinctions during those times. The ozone layer going away would be bad for us - more skin cancer - but it probably wouldn't kill the human race.

I'm not sure what you mean by this: "There are no transitional fossils among higher taxa: so is it reasonable to believe they're all related?" What do you mean by "higher taxa"? Phylum level?

Energy and mass are equivalent. As the extremely hot universe cooled and expanded, some of its initial energy formed the fundamental particles of matter. There are very small number of these. As the universe cooled still further, these fundamental particles came together and combined to form more complex particles, such as protons and neutrons. In accordance with their natures (mutual attraction from the weak and electromagnetic force, IIRC), protons, neutrons and electrons came together to form atoms.

As for why the Big Bang happend, and why space-time exists (if it does) or why it has the properties it has, we simply don't know. In fact, we aren't even sure about the properties space-time has. Some variations of super-string theory suggest that space-time has eleven dimensions, not just the four we observe. We currently have two working theories of physics - relativity and quantum mechanics. In the conditions of the universe just following the Big Bang, and in describing the nature of space-time, the results these two theories give are not consistent with each other. It is hoped that super-string theory will resolve these issues. But it is still under developement. Not even the physicists who are working on super-string theory understand it yet.

Let's get away from these details, and look at the big picture. "What in this world is infallible?" Philosophers have asked this question for a long time. "What is truth?" or, more precisely "What can we know beyond any doubt?" We actually have an answer for that last one.

The answer was come up with by René Descartes. It is known as some circles as "the brain in the jar" idea. Matrix played with it. Essentially, the reports given to us of our surroundings by our senses - sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, even the contents of our memory - can all be falisified. All of them. Everything we observe could be wrong, a mere shadow show. But what cannot be falisified is the fact we are observing it. Because we observe, we know that we exist. We might be as we seem to be. We might be a simiulation in a computer. We might be a dreaming god. But we do exist.

That is the one thing that we can know without fail. crazyeddie 18:07, 25 Jan 2005 (UTC)

well alright -- we can skip the scientific details:). i agree with you that the only thing we can know without fail is that we exist ... and that there are levels of knowledge from certainty (existence) to falsifiability (repeatable science) to reasonable belief (history based on evidence) to hope (belief without evidence but with a raw desire to MAKE something true). personally, i think that repeatable science (like "what is dna made of?") can be falsified, but origins cannot be falsified -- they're based on a reasonable interpretation of the evidence. so i wouldn't claim to know how things came to be by any stretch of the imagination -- but i would claim that it's reasonable to believe that Genesis is history ... more reasonable than evolution, in fact. so i wouldn't dare force my ideas on anyone else. but i demand that they be fairly represented:). Ungtss 18:14, 25 Jan 2005 (UTC)

A Wikipedia article, in theory, doesn't care about about truth. Its purpose is only to report what the various factions report as the truth. However, this is not a Wikipedia article, but a private debate. And a debate means forcing your views on someone - to a certain extent, your opponent, but also the audience. Not by force of arms, mind you, but by force of logic. (And the occasional psychological dirty trick. Human cognitive systems are quite buggy - somebody should send God a bugreport so he can fix those in the next version.) You better be prepared to force your views on me - because I'll be doing my best to force my views on you. (Phone call - have to go.) crazyeddie 19:52, 25 Jan 2005 (UTC)

lol:). well then:). feel free to begin your effort to force your views on me -- i will respond in kind as soon as i know which issues you'd like to address. so far, i have agreed with everything you've had to say except for your interpretation of the scientific evidence ... which you wanted to exclude from the debate. bring it on:). Ungtss 19:55, 25 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I don't want to exclude it from the debate - I'd just like to avoid it for as long as possible. Right then.

Now we had just agreed that Descartes was right when he said that it is true, beyond any doubt, that we exist, because we observe. There was a reason he was asking this question in the first place. At the time, Europe was in the throes of the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation. There were a lot of people running around, claiming a monopoly on truth - and their claims conflicted. So a lot of people were asking: "How can we determine truth, without appealing to authority?"

Descartes reasoning was one answer to that question. What developed into the scientific method was another.

We have determined that "We exist." is one truth that is beyond doubt. Try as they might, that is the only truth philosophers have been able to add to that list.

This truth, by itself, doesn't help much. So the philosophy of science has added a few axioms. These axioms are not proven, but have to be accepted on faith in order to get any work done. Fisrtly, we assume that the other jabbering apes that surrond us are, in fact, other sentient beings. We assume that they have their own "shadow show", their own viewpoints, their own subjective reality.

Secondly, we assume that all of these differing subjective realities are projections of a single, self-consistant objective reality. What scientists try to do is gather these subjective realities together, and attempt to construct narratives - theories - that match the facts. By doing so, we try to create an accurate and precise of a model of objective reality as possible.

In any situation where these two axioms hold true, the scientific method should work. (For situations where they do not, I personally turn to Buddhistic philosophy for inspiration. For fortune cookies and horoscopes, I just decide to ignore the scientific method for a while.)

The scientific method, in theory, should be able to prove the existance of God. It can't entirely rule it out, because, according to some concepts of God, He exists outside of the observable universe. However, it can rule out certain scenarios. For example, it can place an upper limit of how much He has meddled in the affairs of our observable reality. crazyeddie 21:22, 25 Jan 2005 (UTC)

26 Jan 2005[edit]

so far i'm still agreeing with everything you said, except i would qualify "should be able to prove the existence of God" to "should be able to make belief in the existence of God more reasonable than non-belief." as you noted earlier, only our existence can be truly proven -- the rest is a matter of falsification and evidence -- which cannot be strict PROOF (in the sense that i can give you an irrefutable argument forcing you to accept God's existence) but can give a logical line of reasoning, based on reasonable premises, that make belief more reasonable than non-belief. other than that, however, I have absolutely no debate with you -- i think you're right on track:). Ungtss 00:52, 26 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I notice you're taking heat from both atheists and Christians for your views. Hope you're wearing abestos underwear!

You raise a point that I was going to touch on, but I don't think I was planning on explaining it fully. It's not what I was going towards, but since it will make things easier to explain down the road, I'm willing to make a detour now.

As you say, nothing in science, except that one truth and those two axioms, are beyond question. The most firmly believed scientific dogma is only a theory. However, while we can't be absolutely sure of anything, a hypothesis will have to go through a gauntlet of debate before it gets accepted as a established theory. While we still aren't absolutely sure of it, we're pretty sure that it's closer to the truth than the competing theories it has bested.

The process of scientific debate is something like a jury trial. But it is, I believe, even more exhaustive than that. In a jury trial, you have two different theories that have to be compared. You have the prosecution and the defense. In a scientific debate, all comers are welcome. In fact, if there are currently only two competing theories, the eventual winner will usually be some third theory that nobody is considering.

In a jury trial, in the States at least, the defense's theory has the advantage. The prosecution has a limited time to make its case, and, in a tie, the defense wins. The prosecution has to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, according to the unanimous decision of 12 jurors, that their theory is more true than the defense's.

In theory, no one hypothesis has an advantage over any other. In practice, newer theories have an uphill battle against more established ones. But, as I'll attempt to show later on, this doesn't matter in the long run. And, in any case, this is probably a good thing.

In order to gain final victory, the proponents of a hypothesis have to prove their case to the entire field, not just 12 individuals. There is no time limit. The debate goes on until one side's case is so strong that nobody wishes to argue against it anymore. (Aside from a trace amount of crackpots, which can be safely ignored.)

Because there is no time limit, the differing sides have time to say "Okay, if what you say is true this would happen in this case. If what I say is true, that would happen. Let's try it and see." In a jury trial, the prosecution pretty much has to have their ducks already lined up.

Note that I said that the jury consists of "the entire field". In theory, anybody can join in. But, in addition to being the jury and the advocates, the field also serves as the judge. The debate takes place in peer-reviewed journals, and peers, (established members of the field), control the funds needed to perform experiments. In order to have a say, an outsider would have to convince somebody (not the entire field) that they are worth listening to. This is pretty common. But it does limit the playing field. Again, probably a good thing.

So, while we aren't sure of the current dogma's absolute truth, we are very sure that it is closer to the actual truth than the competing theories it has defeated. crazyeddie 19:44, 26 Jan 2005 (UTC)


<<I notice you're taking heat from both atheists and Christians for your views. Hope you're wearing abestos underwear!>>

lol:). that's pretty much the story of my life -- i enjoy it tho:).

your analogy to a jury trial is very apt -- but it ignores one important point, and that is that a jury can be prejudiced -- determining that it is "more probable" that a person committed a particular crime due to his race, appearance, or previous crimes -- although none of those factors actually go into the probability that the individual committed this PARTICULAR crime. the legal system has a number of mechanisms to prevent such biases from entering the courtroom -- there are strict rules regarding what information juries are permitted to hear, in the knowledge that humans can be prejudiced based on their preconceived notions.

science, however, has no such mechanisms.

the application of this idea is supported (in a back-handed way) by the book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Popper -- the argument being that the scientific community finds itself in a Paradigm which controls its interpretation of the evidence, and that that paradigm continues to control the interpretation of the evidence until it is (after a long and hard battle) falsified, usually by an outsider who has not built his reputation on the paradigm.

it is my contention that the scientific community is prejudiced. science has been defined in such a way as to exclude BY DEFINITION supernatural causes and evidence of intelligent design -- such ideas and evidence are not even on the TABLE, because the philosophy of science disallows them from the beginning?

"Why," i ask myself, "should science exclude a number of possible explanations by definition?" there are a number of philosophical reasons i know, but i disagree with them. i think science explores cause and effect wherever they lead -- and if they lead most reasonably to God, then science should lead to God.

but science has defined God out of the equation. That is like handing the jury instructions with only one possible verdict: "Guilty." Even if you think he's innocent, that's not an option.

Why the bias? statistically, 92% of scientists either doubt or disbelieve in the existence of God, while 5% ascribe to a biblically literal creation. the ideological bias is due in part, i'm sure, to the many abuses and false premises of organized religion today -- in fact, much of it is disgusting enough to sicken anyone with an open mind.

But this is prejudiced the jury. It is like the prosecution bringing in evidence that a man cheated on his wife in a case against him for car theft. The fact that he cheated on his wife has no relevence to whether or not he stole the car -- telling the jury that will prejudice the jury against the defendant.

the fact that many christians, muslims and jews are absolutely ridiculous has no relevence as to whether Genesis is a historical account.

So in the end, i agree with your analogy to a jury trial. however, i think the jury instructions are flawed and the jury has been irreparably prejudiced, and i move for a new trial:). Ungtss 20:02, 26 Jan 2005 (UTC)

27 Jan 2005[edit]

We really need to find a way to subsection this thing... Anyway, this has nothing to do with this debate, but the rumors I've heard suggest that the consensus of historians of science have rejected the pardigm shift idea. It's basically a variation of the old "Great Man" theory of history. Like the "Great Man" theory, it has some truth to it, but the situations it describes are the exceptions, not the rule. A more general view would state that the process of science is the continual discovery of anomalies by the experimentalists and the invention of theories to explain those anomalies by the theorists. Occassionally, the experimentalists get ahead, and then a theorist steps in to restore the balance. That's when you get a paradigm shift. They're rare enough that those theorists are household names among layman centuries later. Newton. Darwin. Einstein. Why the imbalance occurs might be, as you suggest, mental tunnel vision.

The point I'm making is that, if a book advocates the paradigm shift theory, you need to read it with a critical eye. I'm not saying it's wrong, I'm just saying be careful. Good advice in any case.

Now, back to business.

The mission of science is to discover natural laws. To create a progessively more accurate model of objective reality - nature. In this sense, "supernatural" - "beyond nature" - implies that objective reality doesn't have set rules, that it is not self-consistent. This is in direct contradiction of the second of those axioms I mentioned. In science, there are no miracles, only anomalies. Anomalies are events that contradict the laws of nature as we know them, but it must be assumed that they obey the laws of nature as they are. They are to be sought after, because they are the key to improving our knowledge of the world that surrounds us. There is nothing man was not meant to know, there are only things we are to stupid to figure out. In this sense, science isn't just prejudiced against the supernatural, it defies it in its very foundation.

But, in this sense, God is not supernatural. If He exists, he is as much a part of objective reality as we are, and just as bound by its rules. His workings, pretty much by definition, contradict the laws of nature as we know them, but not as He knows them. As long as he stays in His corner of reality, and does not project Himself on our own observable reality, science is powerless to see Him. But if he does interfer with our slice of reality, he should leave traces of his passage. We might not be able to see Him, but we should be able to see His fingerprints - if he left them, and if we're smart enough.

So science itself is not anti-theistic. The college of scientists might be, but that a different story completely. crazyeddie 19:05, 27 Jan 2005 (UTC)

With your last sentence, i agree entirely. in fact, in my personal view, science works best when done with a theistic state of mind -- it seems to me interesting that many of the most profound scientific innovators of all time: aristotle, newton, mendel, einstein -- the real "paradigm shifters" -- all found that the universe was best understood as Created -- and i believe it is that state of mind that PERMITTED them to do science successfully.
by analogy, if you're looking at a machine trying to figure out how it works, those who believe it was BUILT (and and therefore looking for HOW it was put together) will have an advantage over those who believe it arose ad hoc -- because you are looking for the way in which things were arranged DELIBERATELY. i think the history of science bears this out.
with regard to the Supernatural, i think there are two views of God's relationship to the universe (actually more -- have a look at the page -- but two for our purposes).

one view is, as you described, that God is "outside the realm of nature" and "can't be observed unless he intervenes by "peeking out of his corner and violating the laws of nature through a supernatural act."

The other view is that He operates according to laws which WE cannot understand -- and that "supernatural events" are merely the "anomalies" that let us know that we are still confined to ignorance as to the true nature of the universe. I described this is "Supernatural as a Higher Nature" on the Supernatural page. God operates according to scientific laws ... we just don't get them yet. consider the man who goes to the primitive island with a gun and shows it to natives that don't know how it will work. The gun operates according to definite physical laws, but appears to VIOLATE the physical laws to someone who doesn't yet understand the laws by which it operates. This is how I think of God.

To put it another way:
One view places God in the corner and says, "unless you peak out, we have no reason to believe you're there."
The other view places us in the corner and says, "man, God is so big and we are so small that we haven't even begun to scratch the surface of the laws of nature by which God operates -- we better get started."
To put it one more way:
The former view thinks of us as solid and God as a vapor. The latter thinks of GOD as solid and US as a vapor.
So when i think of the supernatural in this way, I do not conclude that God is beyond the realm of science, and i do not conclude that he doesn't exist because we don't have evidence of him. Instead, I conclude that we are so miniscule in the grand scheme of things that we haven't even begun to scratch the surface of the nature of the universe and God ... that God operates according to physical laws that we can't even FATHOM ... and that the best approach to science is to stop trying to prove or disprove God under our present knowledge (surely a futile task) and instead simply start trying to understand the Universe ... and let our conclusions about God slowly be shaped around the evidence. The true nature of God is certain to be RADICALLY different than any currently taught -- but that's due only to OUR ignorance, not any lack on his part -- and i think that true science helps to refine our view of God as WELL as our view of the universe.
What do you think?

28 Jan 2005[edit]

I think the only difference between our views on this particular point is in emphasis, not essence. The reason I'm harping on this point is because most CvsE debates duck the question of God. I prefer to meet it head-on.

Here's a list of things I think we can agree on:

  • According to the scientific method, aside from the "one truth, two axioms", every belief is provisional, and subject to doubt.
  • God is part of objective reality. Therefore, His nature, including His existance or non-existance, can be determined by science - if He has interacted with our subjective reality, if we are smart enough. ("Are we smart enough?" is an open question.)
  • Therefore, science itself is agnostic. To truely follow the way of science, theists must be open to the possibility of the non-existance of God; atheists must be open to the possibility of His existance.
  • The current body of scientific theory, including Evolution, does not disprove God's existance. However, it also doesn't demand it.
  • Occam's Razor suggests that, since the existance of God is not required by current theory, it should be removed as an unneccesary assumption.
  • Occam's Razor is a rule of thumb, not an absolute truth. Belief in the current body of theory is not inconsistant with a belief in God. Many scientists, including evolutionary biologists, have a personal belief in God.
  • A literal interpretation of Genesis, as well as the related hypothesis of Creationism and Intelligent Design, are inconsistant with the current body of accepted theory.
  • A belief in a literal interpretation of Genesis, as well as the related hypothesis of Creationism and Intelligent Design, requires a belief in God.

The purpose of this debate is to determine which is more truthful: the current body of accepted theory, including Evolution, or a literal interpretation of Genesis, and/or the related hypothesis of Creationism and Intelligent Design.

You say that the vast majority of scientists doubt or disbelieve in the existance of God. I say that doubt is the job of scientists, and doubting is not the same as abandoning. Do you have data on what percentage of scientists actually believe in God? You imply that it is non-zero... Further, since a literal interpretation of Genesis is inconsistant with currently accepted theory, this is only to be expected. crazyeddie 18:53, 28 Jan 2005 (UTC)

i follow your list of points up to "Occam's Razor suggests that, since the existance of God is not required by current theory, it should be removed as an unnecessary assumption." that is where we part ways:).
let's define occam's razor first: occam's razor requires very simply that we not make more assumptions than are necessary to explain phenomena. it doesn't require the simplest explanation -- the simplest explanation is always "it just happened" -- but that doesn't EXPLAIN the phenemonon. occam requires that we line up our possible explanations for phenomena, and choose the one that requires fewer assumptions of things we cannot observe. the abuse of occam's razor to require only the SIMPLEST explanation has led to a number of "counter-razors" -- check out the occam's razor page for a list of those.
So let's look at the two alternatives that are currently on the table, creationism and philosophical naturalism. Let's limit ourselves to one very small issue: where the atom came from.
what does naturalism require us to assume?
  1. the neutron came into existence in some unknown way, but without God.
  2. the proton came into existence in some unknown way, but without God.
  3. the electron came into existence in some unknown way, but without God.
  4. the proton and neutron came to be bonded in the nucleous in some unknown way, but without God.
  5. the electron came to orbit the proton and neutron in some unknown way, but without God.
  6. electrons came to form s, p, and hybrid orbitals in some unknown way, but without God.
  7. atoms came to show the definite pattern based on their configuration within the periodic table in some unknown way, but without God.
and on and on we could go. to believe there is no God is to believe that all these things came to be ... how? we don't know. but we're assuming that all these things happened separately.
what does creationism require us to assume?
  1. some self-existent being of enormous power and intelligence and designed and created all these things in order to work in concert with each other for a definite purpose.
in my opinion, occam's razor prefers creationism in this case.
this leads us on to the question of the God of the Gaps. "Science is explaining God away," it is said.
is science really doing this?
naturalism in classical greek science required us to assume only the spontaneous existence of 4 elements.
the atom requires us to assume over 100 elements of different characteristics which work in concert with each other to form molecules.
the subatom requires us to assume the spontaneous existence of 3 subatomic particles which spontaneously arranged themselves into hundreds of elements.
quarks ...
whatever we discover next ...
I don't think science is explaining God away. On the contrary, I think science is giving us a greater and greater understanding of the mind of God. and as every discovery in science shows us MORE and MORE evidence of complexity and intricacy, naturalism is forced to assume more and more (becoming less and less reasonable) while creationism simply refines its one big assumption: "We used to think God did THIS. but NOW we think God did THIS." The more i learn about science, the less reasonable naturalism becomes to me, and the more reasonable creationism becomes. i can't get away from it.
what do you think? Ungtss 19:54, 28 Jan 2005 (UTC)

29 Jan 2005[edit]

Is this the only point you disagree on?

If you had no problem with these points, I was going to suggest moving on. But this difference seems to be fundamental enough that we need to work on it.

Firstly, let's make sure we are talking about the same thing. Occam's Razor, by my definition, which I'm fairly sure is the standard one, states that, given two theories, that both explain all evidence equally, the simplest one, the one that makes the least ad hoc assumptions, is probably true. If we discover some artifact that naturalism couldn't account for, then some variety of Intelligent Design theory would have to be used. To date, current theory has been able to explain all evidence in terms of naturalism, aside from the usual batch of anamolies that every theory has. But all of this evidence could also be explained by a Intelligent Designer who just happened to work in a manner that differs from naturalism so little that our methods can't tell the difference. In this case, Occam's Razor slices out the concept of an Intelligent Designer, since it is not currently needed to explain the evidence. This does not absolutely prove that ID doesn't exist - the Razor is only a rule of thumb, more true than not. It does mean that scientists have to work, in their professional role, under the assumption that ID does not exist, until further notice. It does not mean that they have to decide between their personal belief in God or their intellectual intergrity.

The first step the proponents of ID have to take, in order to displace the current theory, is to demonstrate evidence that can not be explained by naturalism alone. This is not sufficent in and of itself - but it is the first step.

If you don't believe that naturalism, all other things being equal, is simpler than ID, consider the following: Are you proposing that God, by hand, glues three quarks together to make a neutron? Are you proposing that God makes us think by personally poking our neurons every time they fire? And that He, then, by hand, carries the neurotransmiter molecule to where it needs to go?

Or are you proposing that God, to some extent, sets up the initial conditions, and lets things bake a while? Like a computer programmer coding out a program, and then letting it run.

If you are proposing this more moderate version, then realize that this version combines ID with naturalism. Why would you do this, unless naturalism is simpler?

Just being simpler doesn't mean that naturalism is the truth - unless it also explains all the evidence to date. In that case, and only in that case, does it become provisionally true. crazyeddie 01:51, 29 Jan 2005 (UTC)

To put this another way, a theory should be a simple as possible - but no simpler. There are more simple theories than the current ones - but they don't explain the evidence as well. Pure naturalism is simpler than ID, but it would still have to be junked if it can't explain the evidence as well as ID. crazyeddie 01:56, 29 Jan 2005 (UTC)

To put it yet another way: I purposefully choose the term "Intelligent Design" above, because, of the choices, it is the most general. It doesn't mean just God - it could also mean that life, on Earth, was created by a mortal alien from another solar system. The question then becomes, not "how did life on Earth begin?", but "Where did that alien come from?". ID doesn't solve the problem of the origin of life, it only pushes the question back a stage further. Why do that, when we don't know if that stage is neccessary? crazyeddie 02:49, 29 Jan 2005 (UTC)

i follow you all the way, except for your assertion that "To date, current theory has been able to explain all evidence in terms of naturalism, aside from the usual batch of anamolies that every theory has." that's an empirical question, and i disagree with your conclusion. i think that everything we've learned points to a designer. i know of no observable instance of greater organization arising from lesser organization without the intervention of an intelligence. entropy tells us energy is spreading, and leaves us wondering how it got concentrated. Genetic drift tells us we're losing genetic diversity more quickly than we're gaining it, and leaves us wondering where we got it from. the moon is receding slowly from the Earth, and makes us wonder where it came from. on and on and on. but that's an empirical question -- and that's why the argument continues. you see a universe of self-organization. i see a universe of entropy. i think that, empirically, the "theories" of origins held by contemporary scientists are unadulterated bullshit, and violate every law of observable science we have.
<<Or are you proposing that God, to some extent, sets up the initial conditions, and lets things bake a while? Like a computer programmer coding out a program, and then letting it run. If you are proposing this more moderate version, then realize that this version combines ID with naturalism. Why would you do this, unless naturalism is simpler? >>
i'm simply trying to obey occam's razor. some things -- like gravity, sickness, and death, can be explained by natural means alone. other things, like the complexity and diversity of life, cannot. occam's razor shaves God from why my grandfather died of cancer, because it can be explained naturally. but occam's razor doesn't shave God from the creation of the world, because in my opinion, naturalism is fundamentally inadequate to answer those questions. Ungtss 16:58, 29 Jan 2005 (UTC)
<<ID doesn't solve the problem of the origin of life, it only pushes the question back a stage further. Why do that, when we don't know if that stage is neccessary?>>
it's definitely true that ID can't solve the origin of the designer -- but in my opinion, that question is way beyond our scope at this point -- the question that interests ME is "Where did I come from?" if and when i meet God, i'll ask him how He came to be. But i'd be a fool to think WE came about without a designer ... because everything about US screams design.
What do you think?


Occam's Razor is probabilistic[edit]

I think our disagreements (or, dare I say it? misperceptions) are multiplying.

Let's take this one step at a time. Occam's Razor is a very misunderstood sentence. Who knew one little sentence could cause so much trouble?

The first thing you have to understand about Occam's Razor is that it is only a rule of thumb. It is not absolutely true. It is only held by those who use it to be true more often than not.

Here is the full version of its standard formulation:

"Of two equivalent theories or explanations, all other things being equal, the simpler one is to be preferred."

For right now, I'd like to focus on just two parts of that sentence. "Of two equivalent theories or explanations, all other things being equal, the simpler one is to be preferred."

Occam's Razor is actually one of the weakest weapons in the debating scientist's arsenal. The slightest bit of evidence defeats it. Its main use is giving the coup d'grace to a dying theory that has overstayed its time. Scientists are trained to expect their entire worldview to be turned upsidedown periodically. They are even trained to welcome it. But scientists are only human, and have a prejudice for the old, familar, comfortable certainties, as opposed to the new, unfamilar, frightening, provisional truth.

Just about every theory or hypothesis, when first proposed, is perfectly simple. It only gets complicated when it is placed in contact with harsh reality. Every theory has anomalies. Sometimes, these anomalies are only apparent, and can be explained by the proper application of the theory. Other times, the anamolies are real. The theory can, given time, be hacked to fit the evidence - but the result adds subclauses to the theory. The theory is no longer as simple, as elegent, as it once was.

Eventually the theory becomes quite complicated, baroque. So theorists propose new theories that also claim to explain the same evidence as the current one. Most of these new theories are shot down on grounds of the evidence. Although simpler, they don't explain the evidence as well as the current theory. There are places where the older, more complicated, theory matches up with reality better than the new one.

But, one day, along comes a theory that survives every single piece of experimental evidence thrown at it - or at least as well as the current theory. It might not explain the evidence better than the current one. After all, given time, a new version of the current theory can be created that also explains the new evidence.

So, all too often, the score on the evidence board is a tie. Occam's Razor is the tie-breaker. "All things being equal, the simpler theory is to be preferred." It lets the proponents of the new theory rule the roost - at least for the time being.

Since Occam's Razor is only probabilistic, it gives the diehard proponents of the old theory a face-saving way out. The winning side can say to the losers, "Hey, it was just Occam's Razor. Maybe you just need that last bit of evidence to bury us. Now get to work on that!".

A small group of scientists still trying to prove the previous theory might not be the most efficent use of scarce resources. But since the new theory proponents are now the majority, thanks to Occam's Razor, they control the purse strings. They can use that clout to encourage the diehards to at least work on it only on their own time. And, who knows? There is always the possiblity that an experiment will have an unexpected result. The diehards might not prove their theory is correct, but they might find that crucial anomaly that will give somebody else the tool they need to displace the new orthodoxy. crazyeddie 18:56, 29 Jan 2005 (UTC)

i don't think we're misperceiving -- i agree with everything you just said. i just happen to think that the "last bit of evidence needed to falsify contemporary scientific orthodoxy" is all around us ... in fact ... it is us ourselves:). and i think that all of the "untied ends" of science point to design, so that far from snipping God, occam's razor RECOMMENDS him for the moment. perhaps science will be able to explain the universe entirely in naturalistic terms some day -- until then, in my opinion, the existence of the universe is most parsimoniously explained with reference to a creator. Ungtss 21:39, 29 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Naturalism is simpler than Intelligent Design[edit]

Okay, moving along then.

The job of scientists is to try to explain the world in the simplest way possible, while still accurately describing it. So, ideally, they start with a blank slate. We have already mentioned that they begin by assuming three things to be true. The existance of God is not one of those things.

Again, ideally, they start with as simple of a theory as possible. After all, the simpler a theory is, the easier it is to work with. So they start with a few rules that seem to be true. (Things fall down.) Then they look for instances of those rules not being followed. (Some things travel up.) They then try to modify the theory to take into account this new information. (Some things go up, some things go down.) Sometimes, a more general statement can be made that explains the new information more simply. (Things that go up tend to go down.)

The point I'm clumsily trying to make here is that scientists don't assume anything they don't have to. It seems to me that you are assuming God exists first, and then demanding that atheists disprove his existance. Scientists, wether they are believers in God or not, don't assume that any given entity exists. They assume that a given entity does not exist, and then seek to prove themselves wrong.

Assuming that God exists, without first having evidence He does, creates headaches that scientists would like to avoid. It's not that scientists mind speculating on the nature of God. It's that its hard to say anything meaningful about something, when you don't have any evidence that it exists. If you can find something that you're pretty sure God made, then you can start making conclusions about God. (Given that God designed each species individually - man, did this guy like bacteria!) But if you don't have any evidence about His nature or even His existance, you can't really say anything meaningful. (How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? How should I know? Have you seen one? If so, then how big are they, on average?)

You see, you might not wonder about things like "So where did God come from?". But scientists do. The very foundation of science is to see what we can work out about our reality without appealing to authority - even God. If we do come face to face with Him after we die, and we can ask him questions, I, for one, think it would be a good thing to be able to tell if He is lying. The first step to that is to see if he really exists.

So far, current theory has been able to trace our history back into the past, without invoking the need for God. These theories aren't perfect, there are bugs, but they are the best we've come up with so far. We still don't know what the First Cause was. This doesn't mean our theories are wrong. It just means they are incomplete. But we already knew that. It's possible that the First Cause is, in fact, God. He could be waiting just around the corner. But the simplest explanation for the First Cause, that the universe literally just popped into existance, is actually still a valid contender.

Until we have solid evidence that God exists, we can not assume he does. Creationists claim to have that evidence. Maybe so. But until they can prove it, Occam's Razor says we have to assume pure naturalism. crazyeddie 00:55, 30 Jan 2005 (UTC)

well articulated:). and this is, i believe, the fundamental difference of opinion between creationists and evolutionists:
<<Naturalism is simpler than design>>
i don't think it is:). as i argued above, i think that naturalism requires me to make a million assumptions about unknown sources, causes, events, and phenomena to explain the universe, and forces me to ascribe to models which (in my opinion) violate the basic laws of nature ... and that every step of science requires me to assume MORE. on the other hand, creationism requires me to make only one very big, very subtle assumption: design. and having MADE that assumption, i am free to study the universe as it IS -- without being forced to reject ANY aspect of empirical science of today. i think creationism to be more parsimonious.
<<Until we have solid evidence that God exists, we can not assume he does.>>
secondly, in my view, we are the solid evidence that God exists, because our existence cannot reasonably be explained by chance and natural law alone; and the more we learn about science, the less reasonable naturalistic models become, the further we come from models that actually work, and the more necessary design becomes. whether those models work is an empirical question, and hence is the substance of the debate. you think there's no evidence. i think there is overwhelming evidence.
i think all the evidence you could ever need to believe in God is being used by you right now to read the screen -- the human eye is a work of engineering beyond my wildest fathoming:). i find the idea that it came about by chance and natural law to be absolutely laughable:). i think that my eye proves creationism, and i think that the models you mentioned are fundamentally flawed -- maybe someday they'll be better, but at the moment, they're laughable, and the most reasonable way to explain the universe is still "by design:)."
design by who or what is a question for another day -- but i find the inference that somebody created the universe, the earth, and me to be absolutely inescapable:). Ungtss 14:24, 30 Jan 2005 (UTC)

The immediate issue at hand is not wether or not current theories are correct. That issue is, of course, the overall question of this debate. But it is not the question we are considering right now. The issue immediately at hand is, if current theories are correct, what they say about the nature of God, including his existance or lack thereof.

So far, current theory claims to be able to explain the universe without invoking God. It explains the universe in terms of naturalism - the unfolding of the universe in accordance with natural laws. Current theory does not explain First Cause. It is still possible that God is the First Cause. It is also possible that he intervened later in history, in the era covered by current theory, but did it in such a way that our methods can't tell the difference between this intervention and naturalism. Or, if you prefer, that this difference isn't so blindingly obvious that it can overcome the rationalizations of the college of scientists, who, you alledge, are prejudiced against theism.

However Occam's Razor states that we should not assume, just yet, that God exists. Naturalism, all things being equal, is simpler than Intelligent Design. Assuming Intelligent Design would introduce an additional entity, whose nature we would be required to speculate on. This would add an additional complication to our model of reality. If it becomes neccessary, it will be done. But not until then.

Naturalism, in general, is simpler than Intelligent Design. Naturalism states that the universe is the result of the unfolding of natural laws. It does not state what those laws are. I will admit that our lists of natural laws are growing increasingly complex. I will later attempt to show that this complexity is neccessary.

However, in general, naturalism is simpler than Intelligent Design. It is possible that it is too simple, and because of this oversimplification, does not accurately describe reality. If this is the case, then we would have to go with Intelligent Design. But because naturalism is simpler, Occam's Razor places the burden of proof on the side of Intelligent Design. crazyeddie 18:54, 30 Jan 2005 (UTC)

i agree with your analysis, but (naturally) disagree with your conclusion. if current theory succeeds in explaining the natural universe with reference only to natural universe (except, of course the "first cause") then indeed naturalism is more parsimonious. the question then comes down to "do these models work?" my knowledge and experience tell me they do not, and that on the contrary, cutting God out of the equation requires MANY more unobservable assumptions than design (for instance, how did the atom come to be? a million facts and laws that came about from nothing, or 1 designer?) my provisional conclusion is, "not only do the models fail, but they are fundamentally opposed to the observable laws of science, and science is in the process of making naturalism less reasonable every day:)." Ungtss 19:02, 30 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Crap. You agree with me on this point just when I have a brainflash: Naturalism is so much simpler than Intelligent Design that Intelligent Design is a subset of naturalism. If God exists, he is as subject to natural law as us mere mortals. Otherwise, objective reality would not be self-consistant. It may be possible that God can edit or amend those natural laws - but that's a natural law itself.

But since you have agreed with me on this point, it's time to move on to other things. (After I finish my oatmeal, brb.) crazyeddie 19:27, 30 Jan 2005 (UTC)

The Growing Complexity of Currently Accepted Theory[edit]

You have stated that currently accepted theory is growing increasingly complex, in apparent violation of Occam's Razor. I will attempt to prove that this increasing complexity is the result of explaining experimental evidence, which trumps Occam's Razor.

As an example of currently accepted theory's increasing complexity, you cited science's progressive answers to the question "What are the fundamental building blocks of the universe?" I'll admit I'm surprised that you take exception to this portion of of current theory, since it's as far removed from the Creationism vs. Naturalism debate as anything. (I'm renaming this debate, since it seems you object to more than just evolution.) Whatever is used as the fundamental building blocks of the universe, they can be used equally by God or the actions of natural law. crazyeddie 19:39, 30 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I stated earlier that scientists, ideally, start with a blank slate. In practice, this is not the case. Each succeeding theory builds on the previous one, for reasons I plan to cover later. Because of this, current theory traces its lineage back to the commonly held beliefs of the time when the way of science first started. Roughly speaking, this was the 17th century.

At that time, it was believed that all matter was the result of combinations of 4 different elements. It was also an ongoing philosophical discussion about wether there was some fundamental, indivisible, unit of matter, called an atom, or wether matter was infinitely divisible. Occam's razor would prefer that matter be infinitely divisible, but this idea is counter-intuitive. Like the matter of First Cause, science has, so far, not given an answer to this question, and may never be able to give one.

Early scientists - or, as they were called at the time, natural philosophers - were able to isolate elements that can not be further broken down by any chemical means. IIRC, they started with oxygen and the "base" metals. However, they ran into a problem. Instead of there being only four elements, eventually 91 naturally occuring elements were discovered. Upon comparison with reality, the original, simple, theory of only four elements had become much more complex.

Meanwhile, using extremely precise measuring methods (the exact nature of the methods is something I'm trying to find..), scientists determined that elements were atomic - that there was a unit of mass for each element that could not be subdivided by chemical means.

It was realized that, if you listed the elements according to their mass, there was a pattern to their properites.

Elsewhere, work was being done on static electricity. Long story short, it was determined that matter consists of two kinds of stuff. The two kinds of stuffs were defined by two properties. These properties were called "charges". The two kinds of charges seemed to be equal and opposite. Put together, the two kinds of stuff formed a balanced whole. So scientists named the two kinds of charges "postive" and "negative. They could have just as well been named "ying" and "yang". It was realized that these kinds of stuff were sub-atomic, more finely divided than atoms that make up elements. Furthermore, they were particles - things that could not be divided by any known means. One kind of stuff tended to stay put. It had a positive charge. The other kind of stuff could be moved from one object to another. It had a negative charge, and was called an electron.

It was further realized that the properties of the atoms of elements were determined by how many protons, particles of postive charge, each one had. (The number of electrons were determined by how many protons an atom had, since protons stayed put, and each atom "wanted" a balanced charge.)

The resulting theory of sub-atomic particles was more complex than the original atomic theory. But it was simpler than having 91 kinds of fundamental building blocks. Evidence demanded that the original atomic theory be made more complex. The discovery of sub-atomic particles simplified that expanded theory. crazyeddie 20:24, 30 Jan 2005 (UTC)

(As similar story could be told for each successive iteration of theory - from subatomic particles to quarks, from quarks to superstrings.) The sub-atomic particle theory is more complex than atomic theory, because different rules apply to subatomic particles than atoms. But this complexity is protected from Occam's Razor by the "anti-Razor". To paraphrase Albert Einstein, "Theories should be as simple as possible, but no simpler." Scientists don't object to all complexity, just complexity that the evidence doesn't require.

Evidence trumps Occam's Razor. The current theory is complex because it has to be, in order to explain the world around us. If, and only if, a simpler theory can be found that describes the world as accurately as the current one, then Occam's Razor would select the simpler theory as the one that is more likely to be correct. crazyeddie 21:18, 30 Jan 2005 (UTC)

once again i agree with you almost entirely:). the example you cite is an excellent example of theories evolving to fit new evidence -- but i think that theories of origins are of a fundamentally different type. Theories of the FUNCTIONING of things do indeed grow more complex to account for phenomena -- that's good, empirical science. but as those theories grow more complex, they leave us with a fundamentally DIFFERENT sort of question -- where did all these facts and relationships COME from?
to illustrate, consider relativity. through general relativity, einstein was able to develop a more complex theory to explain observable phenomena -- but in DEVELOPING that new theory, he opened up a whole NEW can of worms as to where things ORIGINATED. before, scientists were able to say that the universe was eternal in time, and composed of physical atoms. after, scientists were forced to admit to a definite BEGINNING of time, and ask the even more complex question: "where did matter and energy COME from, and how did they come to differentiate themselves into two forms, for our use?" as the theory got more complex to account for more evidence, a naturalistic answer to ORIGINS became less reasonable, because now it requires us to ASSUME (without knowledge) that this intricately interwoven space-time continuum came out of NOWHERE. einstein made the universe look more "designed" than it ever had before.
So even given a big bang (and i'm skeptical), what made the particles differentiate in the early moments? why did some of the energy become matter and other remain light? why atoms and molecules? why the periodic table? why electons, protons, and neutrons? what is space "made of?" why stars? why stars of different ages and types? why does light have a constant speed? naturalism answers ALL of those individual questions with "we don't know -- it just happened." in order to believe in naturalism, you have to believe that a BILLION things "just happened" -- these are events you can't see, and can't explain. where did atoms come from? you don't know. where did light come from? you don't know. where did the big bang come from? you don't know. EACH of those phenomena had to "just happen," and scientists don't have a clue how ANY of them DID.
yet SOMEHOW, all these things "just happened" in such a way as to create this beautifully complex universe. i don't buy it. the farther science goes, the more "machine-like" the universe looks to me. is my distinction between the science of "functioning" and the science of "origins" clear?
(i'm really enjoying this, by the way -- fantastic dialogue:). Ungtss 23:18, 30 Jan 2005 (UTC)

This is late, so I haven't read your entire post, just skimmed it. I'm confident that science can find the origin of life. But I'm not confident that we will ever know the origin of everything. The origin of life happened a finite time ago - of this we are fairly sure. We might not be able to tell the exact details, but we can narrow it down to a pretty short range of possibilities. However, we may never know the true nature of the First Cause. This is because science starts with the world immediately surrounding us, our own backyard. From there, we look deeper into time, deeper into the fine fabric of reality, deeper into space. We don't know what the smallest thing is. It might be that reality can be infinitely subdivided. We don't know what the First Cause is. There is a thought that, if you sum up the entire universe, the result will be simply a gigantic zero. It might be that we are nothing more than finely sculpted nothingness. In particle physics, we see virtual particles spontaneously pop into existance. They can do so, because, if you add them together, they cancel each other completely. From a God's-eye view, our entire universe could be a virtual particle, appearing from nothingness in one instant, returning to it the next. (However, Buddhistic philosophy tells me that we would remain. "The infinite and the transient are the same.") We don't know how big the universe is. We only know how far we can see.

One thing you must understand about science is that "We don't know yet." is a perfectly valid answer. In science, ignorance is not something to be ashamed of. It is a badge of courage. "The man who knows he is ignorant, is truely wise." If the answer you get is "We don't know.", then it means you are asking the right question. How boring it would be if we knew everything! The only failure is in not asking the question. The way to truth lies through the valley of doubt. We who follow the path of science don't value our theories because we believe them. We value them because they are the few things that have withstood our doubt - so far. crazyeddie 09:38, 31 Jan 2005 (UTC)

beautifully said -- and the empirical question between us is simply your statement that "I'm confident that science can find the origin of life." Personally, i'm confident it can't -- unless it considers the possibility to intelligent designers:). in neither case do you KNOW what happened yet ... but in my opinion, looking for the origin of life in the primordial soup is a fruitless task -- i don't think we'll find it there:). i think we'd have much more success looking for it with God:).
but of course, more power to the scientists if they wanna keep looking for a naturalistic origin of life -- that's as good a track as any! i just object being told these things are fact -- PARTICULARLY in school ... when the proper answer is, as you said, "We don't know." I think that answer would be appropriate in a lot of areas scientists currently claim to know "fact."
Where did the universe come from?
We don't know.
Are humans and sea anemones related?
We don't know.
Is there a God?
We don't know. Ungtss 13:16, 31 Jan 2005 (UTC)

The Provisional Nature of Theory[edit]

I'm writing this post after the one beneath it...

We don't pretend that our theories explain the entire universe. But we do know that they explain our own backyard pretty well. Since our own backyard is pretty well known, scientists focus their attention on the border between the known and the unknown. Our theories don't explain the conditions out in the unknown. Our first attempts to explain the unknown take the form of exceptional clauses: "This is true at home, but this is true here." The next step is to invent a general theory, which explains conditions both at home and at the edge of the unknown.

Because each successive theory has to explain conditions at home as well as at the edge, each new theory will tend to resemble the one that came before it. For example, Newtonian physics and relativity. Newton physics explains our world pretty well, except for cases of speeds that are close to that of light, or very dense objects. In those cases, relativity takes over. Newtonian physics is a subset, a special case, of relativity. In theory, the laws of Newtonian physics could be derived from relativity. But relativity is hard to work with. So, since Newtonian physics is pretty accurate when used close to home, engineers use it a lot more than relativity.

I'll admit that current theory is all too often taught as if it were God's Own Truth. But this isn't really the fault of science or scientists. It is the result of the human craving of certainties. Given a choice, most people will choose a "good enough" certainty over perpetual doubt.

There are reasons why we don't more to curb this tendency. The first reason is that most high school students aren't going to be scientists. They aren't going to be in situations where current theory doesn't hold. They will spend their entire lives in their backyards, not out in the jungles of the Unknown. The second reason is that in order to question current theory effectively, budding scientists first have to understand it. We don't need scientists that spend time mapping the swing-set. We need to ship them off to the section of our mental map labeled "There be dragons here!" crazyeddie 20:36, 31 Jan 2005 (UTC)

you're quite a writer, eddie -- you should write books:). i agree with everything you said above ... i only wish that, given the fact that there are two currently predominent models of the great unknown, one of which involves a God who specifically designed Man in his own image, and the other of chance and natural law, that both were presented as possibilities in schools. fact is, accepting ID doesn't require the rejection of ANY of currently observable science -- it just says, "in the places where current models fail, we think that there was a designer who made up the difference." then budding scientists would be free to explore BOTH sets of hypotheses -- and may the best model win:). Ungtss 14:53, 1 Feb 2005 (UTC)

It could be argued that the best model has already won - evolution is the accepted model by a near unanimous consensus of the college of biologists. Creationism is the older model, evolution displaced it back when Creationism still had the home court advantage. Creationists have been attacking evolution ever since, but have not made a dent in this consensus. There are still segements of the general population of layman and scientists of other fields that believe in Creationism. But science is not a popularity contest. The opinion of the general public, or even scientists of different fields, doesn't matter. Only the consensus of the field of science involved matters.

You could argue that this "jury" has been prejudiced. This is both a serious allegation and a very unlikely one, for reasons that I would prefer to discuss later.

It is true that evolution is "just" a theory. We aren't absolutely, beyond any doubt, sure of anything except our own existence. But the word "theory" has special meaning in science. We are more sure of a theory than we are of a hypothesis. Before a hypothesis can become a theory, it has to be tested and re-tested by experiment. The results of this experiment have to widely accepted by the consensus of the scientists of the field.

We can't be sure that the sun will rise tomorrow. You can't be sure that your wife isn't cheating on you. These "facts" are, after all, only theories. We are more sure of evolution than we are that your wife isn't cheating on you. Cheating wifes are fairly commonplace. It's not that much of stretch to think that yours is one of them. We are about as sure of evolution as we are that the sun will rise tomorrow. After all, some force could be strong enough to stop the Earth from spinning. But as long as there are self-replicating entities, and there are errors in the replication process, the laws of evolution should hold.

Current theory doesn't pretend to explain everything. But we do know our own backyard pretty well. In just about every instance where we know enough to formulate a question, we have an answer. We are pretty sure of this answer. In the cases where honesty causes us to say, "We don't know.", chances are the question deals with things that happened far away in time or space, things that are very small, or the fine details in areas where we have the general outline nailed down. New discoveries in those areas aren't going to change what we know about our own backyard. They can change our understanding of how our backyard came to be.

Our theory of evolution will almost certainly be extended or expanded in the future (as it has been many times since Darwin came up with it), but it is very unlikely to be overturned completely.

The current theories allow for the existance of a creator God. But Occam's Razor is against this belief.

As you say, pitting Creationism against the current body of theory would be a good way to teach the underlying principles of science. But those same principles would require teachers to be quite unmerciful in beating down the Creationist hypothesis.

This is because a belief in a creator God, from a scientific point of view, is much like a belief in, say, yetis. Both can't be disproven, but both run afoul of Occam's Razor. The main difference is that there are very few people who are willing to fight and die (or at least make a big educational-carreer-ending hurrah) over the concept of yetis. There is no shortage of people who are willing to end a good teacher's carreer over even looking funny at the concept of a benevolent Creator, who is intimately involved with that Creation. crazyeddie 20:46, 1 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Teachers, when covering this subject, walk a fine line between sticking by the principles of science and not insulting the God-fearing people of this country. A lot of school districts are getting away from teaching evolution altogether, and spending scarce classtime covering other aspects of current theory, that don't provoke so many lawsuits. This is a sad, sad thing in my opinion. crazyeddie 22:40, 1 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<It could be argued that the best model has already won - evolution is the accepted model by a near unanimous consensus of the college of biologists.>>

again, as popper said, "I'm not convinced that success proves anything." it is my view that consensus about evolution among scientists doesn't mean any more than consensus about God among pastors. people go into evolutionary biology because they already BELIEVE in evolution, and on the way they're taught EXCLUSIVELY one paradigm. is it any wonder they believe in evolution by the time they graduate? we should also consider that the "modern evolutionary synthesis" is only 40 years old. prior to that, Orthogenesis was dominant, and darwinism was irrelevent. all economists from 1930 to 1970 believed in keynesian economics -- that doesn't mean that supply-side has nothing to say. one paradigm shift in the 70s and the old "consensus" is the new "silly old idea." these are not proofs that evolution is false. catholicism, after all, had "consensus" among everybody in europe from 300 to 1500. consensus doesn't mean anything to me. it's more a function of culture than anything else. i prefer to think for myself:). Ungtss 23:29, 1 Feb 2005 (UTC)
You proposed a while back that the "jury" of scientists was tainted. I have an answer to that, which I will get to in good time. Before we ask for a retrial, let's review what rules the trial was done by. Until then, could we assume, for the sake of arguement, that thousands, if not millions, of experts just might know something about their subject matter that the general public doesn't? For now, consider this: When evolution was first proposed, the field was prejuidiced against it. The vast majority of scientists were creationary theists. Yet evolution still prevailed, to the point that it is now hard to find a biologist who doesn't believe it.
Secondly, something you said proves a point I was making. "we should also consider that the "modern evolutionary synthesis" is only 40 years old." But that synthesis contains the same assumptions that Creationists find so objectionable. The modern synthesis inherited those assumptions from the original Darwinian evolutionary model. The modern synthesis extended Darwin's theory, it did not completely overturn it. Similarly, Darwin didn't overturn the existing theory of his day. Instead, he generalized the existing concept of artifical selection (microevolution, it is called today) into natural selection, and he extended the trend to its logical conclusion, beyond the ad hoc assumption of multiple creation events.
The current theory of today will almost certianly be extended or expanded in the near future. It's happening as we speak. But the new theories will change how we see the borders of our world, how our immediate surroundings came into existance, not how we see our immediate surroundings today. It is highly unlikely that the essential elements of evolution will be junked any time soon. crazyeddie 00:16, 2 Feb 2005 (UTC)
all well said and quite true ... but we mustn't neglect the "Eclipse of darwinism" from about 1890 through the 1940s when mendelism provided for the laws of inheritence, and mendelism provided that genetics provided for STABILITY within species, and so it was believed that GOD guided species development, by means of Orthogenesis ... scientists ... after Darwin ... believing that God ran the show ... Ungtss 00:25, 2 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<We can't be sure that the sun will rise tomorrow. You can't be sure that your wife isn't cheating on you. These "facts" are, after all, only theories. We are more sure of evolution than we are that your wife isn't cheating on you.>>

i agree with you that absolute proof is not a fair judgment for scientific fact. i disagree, however, that we are more sure of evolution than theories that can be repeated, tested, and observed. in fact, i think there's absolutely no evidence for it at all. but again, that's an empirical question:). Ungtss 23:29, 1 Feb 2005 (UTC)
The theory of evolution has been tested. Not in a lab, granted, but by careful inspection of the fossil record. As you say, Creationism does make falsifable statements. But every time it makes those statements, and those statements have disagreed with evolution, those statements have been falsified. At least to the satisfaction of the consensus of the field, which you alledge is prejudicied against Creationism. crazyeddie 00:16, 2 Feb 2005 (UTC)
again, that's an empirical question with which i disagree -- i think creation has falsified evolution in a number of areas, and that the areas in which evolution claims to have falsified creation are due to logical fallacies and questionable assumptions, rather than science:). Ungtss 00:25, 2 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<This is because a belief in a creator God, from a scientific point of view, is much like a belief in, say, yetis. Both can't be disproven, but both run afoul of Occam's Razor.>>

again, i disagree, because i think that design is the most reasonable and obvious explanation for the nature of things, and i find the secular models of origins to be unreasonable and unparsimonious. i think that science depends on the idea of a creator for its coherence, and that it falls out of whack when it tries to explain things that were designed by chance. i think that the development of repeatable and observable principles, theories, and models for origins could falsify creationism -- but i think that, on the contrary, every step of science is giving us more evidence for the creator and making their models less reasonable:). Ungtss 23:29, 1 Feb 2005 (UTC)
these are all just my opinions and my ways of looking at the evidence -- they're not proof, but i'm firmly convinced they're more reasonable than naturalism. the real nitty gritty of the debate comes in the FACTS and MODELS -- does macroevolution occur? can planets form naturally? where did the space-time continuum come from? is there tangible evidence for divine miracles today? i don't think there's a logical flaw ANYWHERE in your analysis -- i simply think that the facts don't back up your conclusions:). Ungtss 23:29, 1 Feb 2005 (UTC)
But the consensus of the scientists in the field disagree with you. And it is that which determines the current body of theory. And it is the job of teachers to teach that current body of theory, as well as the methods used to create it. By all means, disagree with the consensus view. But if you want to overturn that consensus, you have to play by their rules. crazyeddie 00:16, 2 Feb 2005 (UTC)
yes, i've never been afraid to disagree with the consensus and the current body of theory. i only believe things after they've been explained to me in a way i can accept -- and evolutionists haven't been able to do that for me yet:). Ungtss 00:25, 2 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Some explanations[edit]

Not really looking to debate these. Just trying to clear them up a little. crazyeddie 22:19, 31 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Where did the universe come from?[edit]

The simplest answer to "Where did the universe come from?" is that it has always been here. The Big Bang isn't an origin. It's simply the point where our theories hit a brick wall. The Big Bang theory came to be because we noticed that the universe is expanding. Projecting the trend backwards through time, and assuming no discontinuities, no changes in the trend (in accordance with Occam's Razor), we come to the conclusion that, at some finite time in the past, everything in the observable universe was at the same place. This means that the density of the universe was infinite. Our theories aren't equiped to explain infinite densities. The closest our theories can get to explaining conditions just after this point-mass "exploded" is a few milliseconds. Direct observation isn't much help either. Since the speed of light is finite, we can look back into time back looking deep into space. But 200,000 years after the Big Bang, the universe was so hot that it was glowing. Our telescopes can't look further than that point. The best we can do is to replicate the dense, hot conditions of the early universe in our particle colliders, by smashing high energy particles together.

Our theories can't explain why the primordial monoblock (the point-mass) exploded. We know it did because, well, we're here. We can duck the question by saying it happened in that era beyond the limits of our theories. We have some provisional theories that try to explain why this inflation happened. But they are widely understood to be adhockeries, the last gasps of a dying theory.

It has been known for some time that our current physical theories are not enough to explain our world. This first sign of this was the continuing co-existance of two physical theories: relativity and quantum mechanics. They've managed to co-exist because they describe two different aspects of reality - the very large, and the very small. But where they meet, they conflict. (Such as instances of infinite density - like the very early universe.) Our inability to explain why the Big Bang happen is just one of many limitations of our current theories.

The great white hope of physical science is super-string theory. It is hoped that it will explain both relativity and quantum mechanics, combining them into a seamless whole. It's still under development, so any conclusions drawn from it should be taken with a grain of salt. But we are getting some early returns. One version provides a possible discontinutity that saves us from the problem of infinite density.

The universe is a 4-dimenisional membrane. You can visualise it, from the vantage point of an additional dimension, as a thin, flat, bedsheet. According to this hypothesis, there is another membrane, like our universe, lying parrellel to it along an additional dimension. The two membranes are gravitationally attracted to each other. Some 13 billion years ago, these two membranes approached each other. As they drew closer, they buckled a little, wrinkled. The collided, at the points where the wrinkles met. At those points, the vacuum energies combined, causing the extremely hot universe we observe when looking back towards that era. This also explains why the universe had lower levels of entropy in the past. The resulting explosion also split the two universe apart. If I understand the story correctly, the universe expands because that's its nature, the result of vacuum energy. Everything was closer together in the past, but there was never a point-mass.

Even if this story is true, it doesn't explain where those two membranes came from. It's just one more iteration in our search for the First Cause. crazyeddie 20:00, 31 Jan 2005 (UTC)

The reason I'm not confident that we will ever find the First Cause is that we don't know if there is anything to find. Our scientists are essentially marching directly into the unknown. It could well be that all we'll ever find is a infinite series of regression. If so, we will push our theories deeper and deeper into the past, but never run into a place where the story simply stops. crazyeddie 21:33, 31 Jan 2005 (UTC)

well written and described -- and thanks for the primer on the latest theory -- i just find that theories about "superstrings" are just as divorced from our scientific EXPERIENCE as God is:). Ungtss 14:53, 1 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Of course superstring theory is divorced from our experience! If it wasn't, we would've worked it out long before now!

Superstring theory (oops, hypothesis!) hasn't been well tested. We haven't worked on it long enough to be able to extract too many verifiable predicitions. In fact, we're having troubles getting it to produce any predictions at all. Scientists like theories that only produce one possible universe. Hopefully, that solution matches up with the universe we live in. But superstring theory (theory in the mathematical sense) describes a multitude of different universes. Theorists are trying to pare that down.

We can't say it that what it says doesn't match up with the results of our experiments. We haven't been able to figure out what it says yet! Superstring theory is described in the language of math, not our language of English. Theorists are still manipulating the theory in math, trying to show that certain solutions are not self-consistent, and can be eliminated. Theorists are also still trying to translate the math into English, so they can talk about it. From these partial translations, popsci writers base their articles, telling all about the wonders of modern science. From what I remember of those "artist renditions" of partial translations of little understood equations, I'm telling you this story.

Theories often seem counter-intuitive or against common-sense when first proposed. It takes a while for people to accept them. That doesn't mean that those theories are wrong.

What we call common-sense is a collection of rules of thumb. These rules of thumb work well enough in our immediate surroundings. But they don't work that well far from home. Hence the need for science.

We call a concept intuitive if it is easy for our brains to process it. Our brains are believed to be the result of evolution. (Work with me here...) Humans care about finding out the truth, the real story. Evolution doesn't. Evolution doesn't care if the sound of a twig breaking behind us could be explained by a bear or a tiger or a fellow hunter. All it cares about is that THERE IS SOMETHING BEHIND US!!! If you hang around long enough to figure out what that something is, exactly, you're going to become lunch.

Evolution prefers quick, good enough answers, to more correct answers that are the result of lengthy meditations. So our brains have a certain amount of "common sense" hard-wired in.

Logic and math are recent inventions. They are special cases of language-use. They evolved culturally out of our genetically-based ability for language. We still aren't good at them. In situations that require their use, such as a game of chess, it is relatively simple computers to beat us, even though computers are lot stupider than us.

We have been tool-makers for millions of years. We understand tools a lot more than we understand calculus. If we can talk about the universe in terms of tools, we can understand it a lot better.

We have been social animals for a lot longer than we've been tool-makers. If we can talk about the universe in terms of a guy who made it, we can understand it a lot better.

Just because we understand a concept better doesn't mean that that concept is correct. crazyeddie 23:06, 1 Feb 2005 (UTC)

all well said ... but all said with the assumption that naturalistic explanations naturally follow religious ones in the grand scheme of evolution. this assumption ignores, however, the fact that naturalism and creationism have been taking turns in power since the very beginning -- that Christianity displaced naturalistic Atomism in greece and rome 2000 years ago because naturalism didn't work:(. i think of religion and naturalism as existing in a "thesis, antithesis, synthesis" relationship where old truths are squeezed by the other side into deeper and stronger truth. darwinism pressed the church out of its old complacency, and killed a lot of old and stupid ideas. but in my opinion, ID and the "new creationism" are just around the corner waiting to refine darwinism by showing it its limits ... Ungtss 23:41, 1 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Are humans and sea anemones related?[edit]

Short answer: Yes. Yes we are.

We aren't absolutely sure about this, of course. But we are very sure of this. Sure enough about it that, if we are wrong, there is something very wrong with our understanding of the universe. Not just simple "we don't know" wrong, more like "God is cheating!" wrong.

The theory of Evolution explains how different species can arise from the same common ancestoral species. Projecting this trend back into time, we arrive at a single common ancestor for all known life. This species, presumably, arose directly from non-living, but very complex, prebiotic organic compounds. This assumes no discontinuties in this trend. Discontinuties are against Occam's Razor, but might be demanded by the evidence.

The fossil record has not demanded such discontinuties, and we have traced it to very close to the origin of life. At one point in the fossil record, conditions on Earth were such that life could not be supported. A little later, we have evidence of the earliest, most simple, known organisms. The difference between the two dates is less than the margin of error of our dating methods.

Furthermore, we know that all Earth life alive today is very similar. If there were multiple origins of life, then the descendents of all but one of those origins died out. If we found proof that some of the organisms alive today are the result of a second origin of life, this would just about be ironclad proof of a creator. Not only that, but we would know that the creator self-plagarized His work.

Unlike the problem of the origin on everything, I'm confident that we will figure out the origin of life. When it comes to the origin of everything, we are just traveling deeper into the unknown. The only thing on the other side of our theories is a question mark.

But we have the origin of life bracketed. We know basically when it happened, assuming something exotic didn't happen, like life is actually imported to Earth from elsewhere. We also have it bracketed in our theories. The origin of life lies between the most complex forms of organic chemistry, and the most basic forms of biology.

We know that the most basic form of life (which is defined as a self-replicating entity) known to us, the cell, is, on the most basic level, a system of interacting organic molecules. The properties of cell arise from the interactions of nucleic acids, proteins, and the lipids that make up cell membranes. We are also aware of organic compounds that are not quite life, but come very close.

Viruses consist of a string of nucleic acid, shielded by an outer protein coating. They are not alive, because they can not self-replicate. But they are very close to it, because they can force living cells to replicate them.

We know about prions, one variety of which causes Mad Cow Disease. Prions are proteins that have a slightly different folding than their sibilings. (A protein is a string of amino acids. Their exact properties arise from how they are folded. This folding is the result of interatomic attractions between the atoms that form the protein. These interactions are very hard to predict.) They can't self-replicate, but they can refold their sibiling proteins into their alternate folding.

We also know that a certain class of biochemical compounds, called ribozymes, can perform both the workhorse functions of proteins and the information carrying functions of nucleic acids.

Therefore, we're fairly confident that the earliest, most primitive, form of life were "naked genes" - complex organic compounds, each one consisting of a string of a few thousand amino acids, that was capable of assembling copies of itself from surruounding amino acids.

Furthermore, organic chemistry allows such compounds to develop without the need for biology. We already know that complex organic compounds, such as the amino acids that form proteins, can arise abiotically. We also know that, under the conditions existing on the young Earth, that these amino acids spontaneously assemble into strings with a few thousand amino acids in each string.

However, these strings would also be destroyed as fast as they were produced.

But these strings would not all be destroyed at the same rate. Some would be more resistent to being dissassembled. A few would have the ability to self-replicate. At first, this ability would be very inefficient. More copies would be destroyed than made. But each replication would buy the naked gene a little more time to make that last crucial mutation, the one that would allow it to make slightly more copies than were being destroyed. At that point, the laws of biology would take over, including the laws of natural selection.

The main question that scientists in this field are considering is just how naked those naked genes were. At one extreme, they were completely free floating, right out in the middle of the primordial soup. At the other end, some think that these naked genes took shelter in precursors to today's cell membranes. (The chemicals that make up cell membranes also arise naturally from the primordial soup.) But this begs the question of at what point the naked genes gained control of the membranes. Without the ability to let nutrients in and waste out, these safe harbors would quickly become prision cells.

To sum up, we don't know what the origin of life was. But we've got enough naturalistic possiblities that we don't have to invoke God - yet. crazyeddie 22:18, 31 Jan 2005 (UTC)

indeed:). i just think that given the choice between assuming that a chemical reaction caused life (when we can't replicate the chemical reaction) is no more reasonable than assuming that a designer caused it. perhaps if the soup and the protocell can be SHOWN, then parisomony will recommend naturalism -- but without that, i think design requires one assumption, while naturalism requires a ton:). Ungtss 14:53, 1 Feb 2005 (UTC)

The problem is, Creationism would require us to investigate the nature of the Creator. Creationism doesn't require one assumption, or even a new theory. It would require an entirely new field of scientific investigation. For reasons I'll explain later, this field would be more complicated, more complex, harder to figure out, than the most complex field of investigation currently known to science. (For a preview of these reasons, the most complex field of investigation is currently human psychology.) That's a bit much to bite off when we aren't even sure that the subject of this vast new field even exists. crazyeddie 21:07, 1 Feb 2005 (UTC)

that new field's been called "theology" from time to time -- some have called it the "master science:)." Ungtss 23:42, 1 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Yep. But that field, so far, has been speculative philosophy. It's not science until you can do experiments, when you have something you can put under the microscope. If it's just words and logic, it's philosophy. Incidently, that's why philosophy isn't as popular as it once was. A subject is left to the philosophers only if the scientists don't want it. Until recently, pscychology was still a philosophy, not a science. In fact, some people say it still is.

agreed. there's a lot of stupid and speculative theology out there. but there's another type, i think, that's been practiced from time to time -- maybe i should call it "experiential theology" -- that is, instead of fooling ourselves into thinking we have God all figured out systematically, simply forming our tentative ideas around the evidence and reason, and always maintaining a healthy sense of agnosticism. after all, if we take the bible at all seriously, we note that when God shows up on the scene, you KNOW it. I've never met God. I find it most reasonable to believe He exists, but i've never met him. My THEOLOGY will begin forming if and when i ever meet him. Ungtss 23:58, 1 Feb 2005 (UTC)

On a different note, don't be so sure we can't replicate that chemical reaction. If I heard right, there is a team working on synthesizing a large number of different varieties of riboenzymes, looking for one that can do some limited form of self-replication. Of course, that still leaves the question of if their method of doing it is the same as what nature actually did... crazyeddie 23:50, 1 Feb 2005 (UTC)

it'd be fantastic if they got it! if they find it, there will be only two remaining questions: how could this riboenzyme have formed from the soup, and how could that riboenzyme have transformed into a cell:)? Ungtss 23:58, 1 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Is there a God?[edit]

Of course we don't know. It's very hard to prove that something doesn't exist - especially when that something has the power to hide where we can't look. The most we can say is that we haven't found it neccessary to assume God exists yet. Until then, Occam's Razor says we should assume he doesn't. This doesn't prevent theists from believing in current theory. It only means that they should realize that they believe in God because of faith, not proof. crazyeddie 22:23, 31 Jan 2005 (UTC)

personally, i take the middle road -- not strictly faith, not proof, but "reasonable belief." i think one of the mistakes many theists make is thinking they can PROVE god. how ridiculous:). but i do think that reason makes theism more reasonable:). Ungtss 14:53, 1 Feb 2005 (UTC)

I have personal knowledge and personal proof that there is a master creator. Simply put God is. Also faith is belief.

Entropy vs. Self-organization[edit]

I said that the universe can, so far, be explained in terms of self-organization. I meant that in two ways, both of which are consistant with the idea of entropy.

The first way is that the universe seems to be the unfolding of natural law. Entropy is one of those natural laws.

The second way is that organisms self-organize themselves. They go against entropy. The second law of thermodynamics state that "In a closed system, entropy tends to increase." Organisms are not closed systems. In order to decrease their own entropy, organisms need an energy source, a system that is increasing its entropy. Because of this, the entire closed system, which contains both the organism and the energy source, has increasing entropy.

Increasing entropy tends to destroy organisms. But organisms tend to replicate faster than entropy can destroy them. crazyeddie 22:32, 31 Jan 2005 (UTC)

my view of entropy goes far beyond just the laws of energy tho -- i see genetics in light of entropy. given that mutations are 99:1 harmful, and given that Genetic drift strips out variation from populations more quickly than mutation adds it, so that populations grow more homogeneous over time ... and given that the fossil record shows organisms of significantly greater complexity than those seen today ... and given that books like genesis report regular lifespans of 700-900 years before the flood and many other ancient documents also report enormous lifespans, and given phenomena like wisdom teeth that indicate that we're LESS than we used to be, and given excess brain potential ... i think that life today is a mere shadow of life when it was originally created. i don't think that life increases in complexity and diversity over time -- i think it increases in diversity as a result of the LOSS of genetic potential, and that there is no mechanism for increased complexity. In this regard, i understand genetics and biology in exactly the same light as Lovtrup, a "macromutationist evolutionist" -- who argues that darwinism is a myth.
i don't think life self-organizes faster than entropy can destroy it. i think life loses in the face of entropy, just like energy does. i think that the only way objects can INCREASE in complexity is through the intervention of an outside intelligence -- just like a house built in the forest. if you see one, you know someone put it there. All nature will ever do is reduce that house to dust. that's just the way i see the universe:). Ungtss 14:53, 1 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Alright, let's make that three ways. Evolution depends on entropy (in combination with organisms' ability to self-replicate) to work. The difference between a species and your house is that your house doesn't consist of self-replicating individuals.

Disorder kills individual organisms. Some individuals stand up to disorder better that others - hence natural selection. Mutations come from entropy introducing bugs into the self-replication process. As you say, most mutations are harmful. Fortunately, the self-replication is fairly reliable, otherwise we would all be dead. Some of those mutations are beneficial. Natural selection tends to increase the proportion of benefical variations and decrease the proportion of harmful ones.

Natural selection aside, sheer random chance (which is related to entropy - don't ask me about it, I don't know how, ask a mathematician) well cause a population to become more homogeneous over time. This is called genetic drift. Assume a population is split evenly between two mutually exclusive variations - A and B. For reasons only a mathematician could love, sheer random chance will cause the population to become all A or all B. Without natural selection, there is a 50% chance of all A, 50% chance of all B.

But if you isolate two populations with the same setup, there is a 50% chance that the two will take different paths, 25% chance of both populations going A, 25% chance of both populations going B. (Just like flipping two coins.) Put the two groups back together, and the games starts over. The more isolated groups you have, the more chances of at least one group taking a different path than the others.

If an entire species is allowed to mate with one another, then genetic drift will cause the species to become homogeneous. If segements of the species are isolated from one another, by a big mountain range, for example, genetic drift will cause the species as a whole to become more diverse. If this isolation in kept in effect long enough, the two populations will become so different that interbreeding can no longer create fertile offspring. That is one way speciation occurs. crazyeddie 23:32, 1 Feb 2005 (UTC)

In short, in some situations, genetic drift can cause populations to become more homogeneous. In others, it can cause them to become more heterogenous. Which way it goes depends on the situation. crazyeddie 23:36, 1 Feb 2005 (UTC)

but let's consider the fate of that one "hopeful mutation" (a variety of mutation which, i note, has never been observed) -- the first mutation in a long chain of mutations on their way to becoming a hair follicle. what will genetic drift do to it? unless that mutation is SO advantageous as to displace 50% of the species population, chances are VERY strong it will be wiped out by genetic drift before that second "hopeful mutation" can pile onto the first. macroevolution is like trying to swim upstream -- even granting you 1/1,000,000 beneficial mutations, those mutations are gonna be wiped by out genetic drift before that SECOND 1/1,000,000 beneficial mutation comes around. Ungtss 23:51, 1 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Chances are that genetic drift will wipe out any single beneficial mutation. But the odds are improved because 1) ideas tend to be invented several times and 2) there is always more than one way to do it.

Also, genetic drift can overwhelm natural selection, or it can help it. Genetic drift, when it is working for homogenity, can help natural selection weed out harmful mutations. It can also overwhelm natural selection by not giving helpful mutations a chance. But at least, in that case, the population is no worse off. When it is working for heterogenity, it can help natural selection encourage the spread of helpful mutations. However, it can also overwhelm natural selection by encouraging the spread of harmful mutations. This is why we fear inbreeding so much.

Complex, irreducable traits can be explained by the concept of pre-adaptation. There are many features that require several traits working together. The chances of all of those traits coming into being at the same time are slim. But, in all cases so far, those traits, taken individually, increase the fitness of the organism. Their use in the combined "finished product" is the result of a second use being found for the original trait.

Creationists often use a quote by Darwin about the evolution of the human eye to point out the problem of irreducible complexity. But they take the quote out of context. He goes on to advance a plausible scenario of intermediate steps in the evolution of eyeballs. For each of those steps, he gave an example of a modern species that exhibited that intermediate step.

Evolution is like swimming upstream. It is caused by the self-replicating nature of organisms fighting back against the increase of entropy. crazyeddie 00:40, 2 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<Complex, irreducable traits can be explained by the concept of pre-adaptation.>>

indeed -- but this, of course, begs the question of what they were preadapted for, and how they preadapted that way. Consider Hair. which adapted first: pores, hair follicles, keratins, disulfide bonds, the inner cortex, the cuticle, the fibrils, or the matrix? how did the hair "learn" to cover the entire body, and some parts more than others? each of these characteristics require a number of "genes" to interact with each other -- the more i learn about hair, the less likely it appears to me that it could have POSSIBLY come about one component at a time:). Ungtss 00:52, 2 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<Evolution is like swimming upstream. It is caused by the self-replicating nature of organisms fighting back against the increase of entropy. >>

in my view, the current runs a lot faster against us than we could possibly have ever swam. i think we've been going downstream non-stop since we left eden:(. Ungtss 00:52, 2 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Thread Round-up[edit]

I'm gathering up all the threads into one big one again:

  • The preadaptation of hair: ahem. "We don't know yet." Or rather I don't. Go ask one of the experts, maybe they've learned something. The history of hair is one of those fine details. And it's a particularly tough one too - hair is soft tissue, doesn't show up in the fossil record too well. Heck, we didn't know until recently that many, maybe all, dinosaurs were feathered. Some of your questions are in the field of developmental biology, not evolution. Evolution doesn't care how an organism does something, it just cares that it gets done. Since hair follicles are basically just specialized skin cells, I would think that hair originally would have just grown all over. If you don't want hair in a particular place, I think "planned cell death" would be used. (That has some technical name, but I forget what it is.) I'm sure we know when some of the things you listed were evolved. I know that keratin is also used in the manufacture of feathers.
You're thinking of apoptosis -- programmed cell death --DavidCary 20:08, 3 Feb 2005 (UTC)
    • yep -- that's what it comes down to:). you respond, "we don't know yet." i respond, "we don't know, and there's no reason to believe we ever will." that's what the god of the gaps revolves around -- is the gap getting BIGGER, or smaller? you think it's getting smaller. i think it's getting bigger. only time will tell:). Ungtss 20:44, 2 Feb 2005 (UTC)

In fact, isn't it also used in the production of scales? I know that mammals evolved from reptiles. So the question isn't "how did hair evolve from skin cells?". Rather, the question is "how did it evolve from scales?". That doesn't completely answer your question, but it does break it down a little.

At any rate, we do know that preadaptation has worked in similar situations, like the evolution of eyes. Since we know of examples where preadaptation has worked in the past, it's not that much of a stretch to assume it's what did it in this case. crazyeddie 19:57, 2 Feb 2005 (UTC)

it's a stretch for me:). like looking at a Hemi and saying, "it's not a stretch to think that evolved from a V6:). Ungtss 20:44, 2 Feb 2005 (UTC)
  • Downstream/upstream: Actually, it doesn't matter to evolution if we're gaining or losing ground. If we're losing ground, that just means we're going extinct. Fortunately that doesn't seem to be the case. There's more humans around all the time, and the fossil record show that more complex organisms are developing over time.

<<Actually, it doesn't matter to evolution if we're gaining or losing ground. >>

i have to disagree with that. if we're losing ground, and there's no way to explain us ever GAINING ground, then it stands to reason that we originated at a GREATER level of organization, which makes it most reasonable to believe that we were created. Ungtss 22:27, 2 Feb 2005 (UTC)

I know that how well you like an idea has no bearing on how true it is. But which version do you prefer? Your picture of a decaying creation? Or the view that we're progressing, that paradise (or at least a closer approximation of it than we have now) lies in the future, not the past. But, on the downside, that we're alone, and there is no God? crazyeddie 19:57, 2 Feb 2005 (UTC)

well, i prefer to know what's really going on:). if i'm actually headed downstream in a rushing river towards a waterfall, i wanna know so i can try and get out of the river:). within my philosophical / religious context (and you've got to take me on those terms for purposes of this question), i think of it this way: we're only headed down-river because we've rejected God, Truth, and Eternal Life. The farther we get from God, the worse things get for us in every respect. Again, if you take the Bible seriously, God created this earth was a Tree of Life that would permit us to live forever. We blew it. then people lived like 800-900 years at a go. We blew it. There are several people who the Bible reports didn't die: Enoch and Elijah. there were others who were resurrected with new and more powerful bodies (Jesus and the others that were resurrected with him). It appears to me that my life will peak in about 10 years, and then it will be downstream for me individually until i'm maggot-food again. If there's a way out of this river and back onto solid ground, i want to find it. what i don't want to do is land on the isle of the Lotus eaters, thinking things are getting better, when actually they're going to shit. Ungtss 20:44, 2 Feb 2005 (UTC)
  • <<it'd be fantastic if they got it! if they find it, there will be only two remaining questions: how could this riboenzyme have formed from the soup, and how could that riboenzyme have transformed into a cell:)?>>

We already know (so I'm told) that RNA can form spotaneously in the conditions of early Earth. (Riboenzymes are a subset of RNA. The first thing the researchers are trying to do is produce a riboenzyme from randomly synthezising RNA.) We know of several ways that this could have been done. So that question is more or less answered. The next question is a bit more difficult. We think evolution had 100 million years to work that one out, so we might not have anything on that one for a while. But we're working on it. While organic chemists are taking this "bottom-up" approach, some biologists are taking a "top-down" approach. They're taking the most simple known organism (some kind of liver parasite, which doesn't even have a full cell-membrane) and are knocking out a gene at a time, in order to see just how simple a cell can be a still qualify as alive. This will help us figure out how hard the whole process of "naked gene" -> proto-cell (naked genes squatting in a cell-membrane precursor) -> full cell (the naked genes taking up the upkeep of the membrane) was.

Of course, all of this assumes that the naked gene theory is true, which is far from being universially accepted. crazyeddie 20:15, 2 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<We already know (so I'm told) that RNA can form spotaneously in the conditions of early Earth.>>

i've never heard any factual basis for that -- do you have a cite? Ungtss 20:44, 2 Feb 2005 (UTC)
  • Empiricism. Why do you keep using this word? Last I checked, it means we know something works, but we don't know why. If a statement is empirical, it doesn't mean it's wrong, it just means that we need a more general theory to explain why it is right.

As a whole, our body of knowledge is empirical. We know it works, we don't know why. You say God, we say it just is. You might be right, but Occam's Razor begs to differ.

Subcomponents of our body of knowledge aren't empirical. Evolution will work in any situation where you have both screwups and self-replication. It doesn't explain where there is stuff that is self-replicating - that part is empirical, but the rest of evolution isn't. We have a fairly good idea where our kind of self-replicating entities came from - so that part's not empirical. We don't know where the inanimate universe came from - that part's empirical.

To quote the Princess Bride, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it does.". crazyeddie 20:26, 2 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<Empiricism. Why do you keep using this word? Last I checked, it means we know something works, but we don't know why.>>

um ... all i meant by empirical was observable -- things we can perceive with our senses. that's the definition of Empiricism, as i understand it -- and distinct from Rationalism which starts with deduction. common ancestry with the apes is not an empirical fact, because we have not observed it -- it is inferred based on a theory and our intuition that we "look" like them. Ungtss 20:44, 2 Feb 2005 (UTC)

God Stuff[edit]

It looks like we're getting bogged down in details, just like I feared we would. I think none of the arguements we are using haven't already been catalouged over at talk origins. I'm not retreating - in fact, I had some responses ready, but they got wiped out in a combination of edit confict and a malfunctioning kvm switch. I'm suggesting we put this section on the backburner and try something different. I'll try to rewrite my responses when I have time.

We've looked at the underlying assumptions of science. Why don't we do the same for the creationists? crazyeddie 18:55, 4 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Sounds great -- Theistic realism is a primer i've been working on:). Ungtss 18:56, 4 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Why do you believe in God?[edit]

Yet another edit conflict... I'm probably going to be editing this page between about 1 PM to 5 PM, Central time. Could you avoid editing this page during those hours? I'd like some elbow room to compose and review my replies. I know it's your talk page, but...

You stated earlier that you don't believe that the existance of God can be proven. Do you wish to qualify this statement? If not, why do you believe in something you can't prove? crazyeddie 19:01, 4 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Why are you giving special preference to a book?[edit]

You yourself say that the Bible is not infallible. Yet you maintain that it is very accurate. Let's take a look at that:

The earliest books in the bible were probably written sometime after the Exodus. Any events related in the bible before that date are based on oral histories. The Book of Genesis is no more than a compliation of oral histories that were current at the time Genesis was written.

Furthermore, we know that a literal interpertation of Genesis is wrong, at least in some cases. To give only the most glaring example, according to a literal interpertation of Genesis, we shouldn't even have a fossil record. 10,000 years (wasn't that the date that one guy worked up?) is barely long enough for fossils to form. We have samples of non-fossilized remains older than that.

Yet even after sections of the Genesis account have been falisified, you still try to maintain a theory that's as close to the Genesis account as evidence will allow. (Some would say "closer than".) Why?

For events that happened about the same time as the Bible was written, the Bible is reasonably accurate. It is biased. As you say, the purpose of the Bible is not to convince. Its purpose is to serve as a record of God's involvement with Man, for the instruction and enlightenment of future generations of believers. It is pro-God biased.

Bias aside, which is, after all, inherent in any human-produced writing, the Bible is still not as precise as it would be if modern historians were writing it. (Without precision, accuracy is an accident.) The Gospel writers didn't cite sources. We have no idea what part of the Gospels were observed first-hand by the writers, which were directly taken from primary sources, and which were based on urban legends. That gives the Gospels a certain credibility gap. I don't think there is any doubt that the Gospels are true in general - but what details are right, and which ones are wrong?

Compare this to current scientific theory. The current theory gains its credibility from the backing of the consensus of the college of scientists. This is a body of highly intelligent people, experts in the field, with access to all the data the human race has compiled over the last few thousand years - including the Bible. Intelligence and knowledge might not be the same as wisdom - but there is plenty of that to be found also.

More importantly, these people are highly individualistic, cantankerous, and downright cranky. These people invented the flame war! They are willing to fight bloody intellectual war over any detail, no matter how obscure. Getting them to agree on anything is a minor miracle in itself. But out of all the thousands or millions of life scientists, it it hard to find a single one who believes that the theory of evolution is not, in general, correct. There is a lot of discussion on the details - but, in general, the college has moved on to other issues.

If scientists have a fault, it's that they hate being made into fools. This gives them a conservative bent - but probably less of one than the average human. Even so, that resistance to change tends to create a preserve of old ideas, which can burst back onto the scene in a mutated form. That is why Darwinianism didn't completely die under the onslaught of Orthogenetics. Instead, a new form, which combined with the theory of genetics, was developed, and eventually became the dominant theory.

This conservative bent may cause scientists to dismiss new theories. But, since scientists hate to be made fools of, they have tried to curb this tendency. If they are going to be made fools of, best find out about it quick, so they can run damage control. The door is always open to outsiders, provided they or their theories have what it takes. Einstein is one example of this. Aquatic Ape Theory is another. A theory doesn't have to win from the first. All it needs to do is to convert more scientists to its cause than it looses to competitors.

I'm not asking you to accept the current theory, or the methods used to create it, uncritically. Scientist sure don't, although they tend to reserve their criticism for the details, since the generalities have been pounded on pretty well. What I'm asking is why haven't you used that same skepticism against the Bible, especially Genesis? crazyeddie 19:43, 4 Feb 2005 (UTC)

feb 4[edit]

<<You stated earlier that you don't believe that the existance of God can be proven. Do you wish to qualify this statement? If not, why do you believe in something you can't prove?>>

no need to qualify -- i agree with you that only one thing -- our existence -- can be strictly proven. but i still believe a lot of other things, because i find them to be reasonable. same with god. not strictly provable, but very very reasonable. Ungtss 00:19, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Science tries to start with a blank slate. In reality, science started with what was commonly believed around the time the discipline first began, about the 17th century. God and Creationism were parts of that received body of knowledge. As scientists began to question the underlying assumptions, that system of natural laws, some of those assumptions were removed and replaced with more generalized and simple laws. Creationism, and the need for a Creator, were some of those assumptions that proved unneccessary - so far.

once again, your conclusion depends on a disputed fact. i think the "simplified theories" are fundamentally inadequate. Ungtss 02:34, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)

It is possible to prove things in science - at least if you assume that the two basic axioms are true. A credible instance of a creation event would be undenible evidence of a creator. To date, there has not been an instance of an undenible creation event. It is possible that this is the result of prejudice on the part of the college of scientists, but this is highly unlikely.

i don't think that's quite fair. nobody has ever SEEN an eye evolve, yet somehow that qualifies as scientific fact. to require that something be repeated to be scientific is ... not scientific:). you have to test every hypothesis based on its predictions, and see whether the evidence supports the hypothesis. that's sciencce:). Ungtss 02:34, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)
I'll let this link do the talking for me: http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA210.html crazyeddie 07:19, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)
exactly my point. i think you're holding creation to a double standard. you don't have to observe the eye evolving for it to be scientific -- you just take the predictions of the theory. same with creation. above, you said that we'd have to see a creation event for creationism to be scientific. that's unfair. creationism says that God created everything, and then stopped -- so the predictions are irreducible complexity, specified complexity, and no mechanism for macroevolution -- it's not fair to require creationism to show new creation events, when you can't show macroevolution:). Ungtss 00:40, 6 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Creationism would prove the existance of God. But do you believe in God because you believe in Creationism, or do you believe in Creationism because you believe in God?

The former:). Ungtss 02:34, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)
Hear any examples of Creationism converting somebody to theism? I'm one atheist who got converted by evolution... crazyeddie 07:19, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)
i'm one. i did the atheist thing for a couple years in college. i found it to be unsatisfactory to explain creation:). Ungtss 00:40, 6 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Why do you believe in God? crazyeddie 01:48, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Because nothing else makes any sense at all:). Ungtss 02:34, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)
I don't believe in God, and my worldview more or less makes sense. Last I checked anyway. crazyeddie 07:19, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)
not to me:). again -- my conclusions are based on my premises, and atheism makes absolutely no sense at all to me:). Ungtss 00:40, 6 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<The earliest books in the bible were probably written sometime after the Exodus. Any events related in the bible before that date are based on oral histories. The Book of Genesis is no more than a compliation of oral histories that were current at the time Genesis was written.>>

there we have a disagreement on the facts -- i think it's most reasonable to believe that genesis was based on earlier written accounts -- i've never heard of genealogies with ages and specific dates being passed by oral transmission. i think that oral transmission and jepd hypotheses are pseudoscientific and highly unreasonable efforts to discredit the bible. Ungtss 00:19, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)
At what point did this hypothetical written history get written? Did Adam leave the Garden with the ability to write?
i wouldn't be surprised. he lived 930 years after all:). Ungtss 00:40, 6 Feb 2005 (UTC)

We have a pretty complete and complex genealogy for the Greek gods. These genealogies were based on oral histories. Genesis, last I checked, doesn't give specific dates. It does give ages, but these could have been evolved after the stories began to be written down, but before their final compliation. Or they could have been part of the oral histories.

genesis gives ages at which everybody was born, the age at which everybody had their first son, and the age at which they died, all the way from Adam to Abraham. The story of the flood tells exactly which year, month, and day of the month the waters started, the waters stopped, the ark landed, and everybody left the ark. there is absolutely nothing like it in the world. Ungtss 02:34, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)
When did the Bible get written, IYO? According to the documentary hypothesis article, the JEPD model is the consensus view of historians. It also mentions that some of the more idiotic claims of the original version(s) of the hypothesis have been thrown out. Also according to it, the Fundamentalist view was written in the time of Moses. Either way, written long after the events of Genesis. What's your view? crazyeddie 07:19, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)
well the text doesn't give me any basis for a definitive opinion, but given the scope and quality of genesis, my best guess is that moses (who was an egyptian prince) compiled ancient documents into a single coherent account ... and it was later modified to incorporate later events. i find that to be the most parsimonious. the tradition of the people who WROTE the book is that Moses wrote it -- JEPD requires me to assume multiple unnamed authors based on arbitrary criteria, in violation of the simple tradition of the people who wrote the book. that violates occam's razor:). Ungtss 00:40, 6 Feb 2005 (UTC)


Furthermore, I think some of those names in the genealogies aren't the names of people, but of cities. That would certainly throw off dating estimates based on Genesis!

they're all names of people -- and the genealogies very explicitly say that those people went certain places and founded those cities. Ungtss 02:34, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<shrug> Well, that was just my stupid idea, so no loss there. crazyeddie 07:19, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Since I'm an athesist, I'm as close to an unbiased witness as you're going to get when it comes to the Bible. No matter what it says, it's not going to do anything to my basic beliefs. One of the reasons I'm even having this debate with you is that your interpertation of the Bible is fairly close to mine. That shows that you're not blindly following the crowd. You've also admitted that the Bible isn't infallible. All we have to do is to convince you to switch from giving provisional acceptance to a thousands-of-years-old book to giving provisional acceptance to the consensus of some very individualistic experts, and we'll make a evolutionist out of you yet :-)

lol:). i must say, tho, that to be an atheist is not to be an unbiased witness. on the contrary, you come to it already believing it's false:). all i have to do is get you to switch your provisional assent from a group of people coming to unfalsifiable conclusions about events thousands, millions, and billions of years removed based on absurd assumnptions to a very simple and historical account written by people that were there, and we'll make you a creationist yet:). Ungtss 02:34, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)
Strangely enough, being an atheist does make me fairly unbiased. I don't know what parts of it are true or false, and I don't really care. I don't care wether that one passage means you should be anti-abortion, or just look out for pregenant women. I'm objective enough to read it with an eye to what the orignal author(s) meant, wether I agree with that author or not. I may not believe it, but at least I'm not reading extra meaning into it. I don't care who wrote it. crazyeddie 07:19, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)
all well said ... but i think it's fair to say that every time the bible says "God did something," you're inclined to believe it's false, no:)? God is the main character of the bible, and he doesn't exist ... so that makes it a fiction, no:)? Seems to me the most unbiased reader would be a confucian -- somebody who can look at it from entirely outside our western religious context, without the baggage of atheism, agnosticism, or theism. Ungtss 00:40, 6 Feb 2005 (UTC)

A while back, long after I became a full-fledged atheist after years of agnosticism, I began rereading the Bible. As a relatively unbiased witness, even my inexpert rereading of the first chapters of Genesis scream "oral history". I don't think Genesis was originally intended to be read as a historical record in and of itself. It's too abbreviated for that. I think it was used to jog the memory of oral historians.

again, we've got an empirical question. i studied biblical criticism (including the jepd) in undergrad ... and found it to be devoid of any logical or evidentiary basis whatsoever. they get so desperate, sometimes they divide SENTENCES up between authors:). it seems to me they're more interesting in finding a way to deconstruct the bible than seeking the truth:). Ungtss 02:34, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)
Which version of jepd theory was that? It looks like the current version has been modified. I'm no expert, but the JEPD theory passes my BS test better than the idea that Moses wrote it. (Since when does the author of the book die before the end?) But, since I don't know who you think wrote it... crazyeddie 07:19, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)
you'll get no argument from me -- i don't think authorship can be proven either way -- jedp just fails my bs test miserably:). Ungtss 00:40, 6 Feb 2005 (UTC)

I see at least two accounts that have been reconcilied together. One account tells about Abel and Cain. The other account tells about Seth. The two accounts have been joined together - but the seams show if you don't allow your preconceptions to blind you.

in my opinion, those "seams" are simply "chaptering." the "chaptering" runs throughout genesis, even in the first 2 chapters. Every episode starts with an intro and ends with a conclusion. i can find no reason to believe they're from different authors. i've written stories with chapters too:). Ungtss 02:34, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)
But, in general, chapters usually don't completely ignore each other... or have the occasional conflict. crazyeddie 07:19, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)
true enough ... personally, i don't find either of those in the text -- i find genesis to be remarkably self-consistent. Ungtss 00:40, 6 Feb 2005 (UTC)

There are also signs that the early Hebrews were polytheistic. One of the descendents of Seth is referred to as "the first musician" - or something to that effect. This sort of thing is relatively rare in a monotheistic religion, but fairly common in polytheistic ones. There are other, more obvious, signs that the Hebrews believed in several gods, but only worshiped one, but that's the one that caught my eye.

why does seth being referred to as the first musician mean they were polytheistic? couldn't it just mean that seth was the first musician:)? Ungtss 02:34, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)
Again, just my own stupid idea, I don't know of a single scholar who agrees with me. But if Seth is the guy I was thinking of, it seems to me that that little mention just might be the last rememnant of a god of music. But, again, just me. crazyeddie 07:19, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)

All that is just from the first few chapters of Genesis. I didn't get much further than that during my reread, and I don't plan on getting back to it anytime soon. It's not really too high on my list of priorities. crazyeddie 01:48, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<according to a literal interpertation of Genesis, we shouldn't even have a fossil record.>>

as a creationist, i believe that the fossil record is a result of the global flood. fossils and fossil fuels can only be formed when plants and animals are buried in sediments quickly, before they decay. fossils + fossil fuels are often buried in 1000s of feet of unbroken rock strata. mainstream science has no adequate explanation for fossils or fossil fuels. Flood geology explains the fossil record and fossil fuels. Ungtss 00:19, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Fossil formation is rare, and only happens under special circumstances. But over millions of years, you'd be surprised what can happen... "fossils and fossil fuels can only be formed when plants and animals are buried in sediments quickly, before they decay. fossils + fossil fuels are often buried in 1000s of feet of unbroken rock strata." Yep, that sounds about right to me. Let's say the remains got buried in a river valley. The river deposits sediments on top of the remains, quickly enough for fossilification to set in before decompisition does. (In fossilization, mineral deposits turn into sedimentary rock around the remains, including inside the pores of the bones, sometimes. After the the negative mold is made, the remains finish decaying, and a positive mold is made inside the negative side.)

The river carries sediment from the mountains. It continues to fill up the valley with those sediment, creates layers. Badda bing, badda boom, layers of sedimentary rock, layers of fossils.

we mustn't forget, the sediments have to undergo lithification before the life decays too. any guesses on how that happened without a really big flood:)? Ungtss 02:34, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)
Getting buried in sediment that's packed tight enough to lithify will keep the remains from decaying. Think bog mummies. crazyeddie 07:19, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)
but bog mummies aren't fossils:). Ungtss 00:40, 6 Feb 2005 (UTC)

That's just one scenario of course.

Fossil fuels, according to the majority view, are the product of thermal depolymerization of buried organic matter, caused by the heat and pressure of being buried under about a mile or more of rock, either through sedimentation or subduction. (Geologists, fact check me please!) This process is being replicated on a commercial scale, since it can turn turkey guts into diseal fuel.

but you still haven't explained how the organic matter got buried, friend:). Ungtss 02:34, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)

There is also a minority view that fossil fuels arise from abiotic process deep in the Earth, but that view is pretty much on the lunatic fringe.

Your hypothesis doesn't explain why the fossil record is layered, with older layers containing simpler creatures on bottom, and new layers containing more complex creatures, closer to the ones we see today, on top. If the consensus theory doesn't explain why fossils and fossil fuel form, then yours doesn't either.

oh, but it does. Experiements have shown that Liquefaction replicates the order of the fossil record, due to varying densities, float points, and gases released during the early stages of decay. Ungtss 02:34, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Sigh. Got sources? crazyeddie 07:19, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)

just [www.creationscience.com].

Plus, geez, that's a lot of stuff to wash out in 40 days! I'm thinking God had to make some new landmasses after that. Busy guy in those days.

actually, genesis reports that the flood lasted a year. the RAINS lasted for 40 days, but the waters kept rising for 150 days, because water came from underground -- the "fountains of the great deep."

Your hypothesis doesn't explain why the record is so old. (Don't make me look up how we date things. I'm lazy! Look it up yourself!)

we can't date sediments. we can only date minerals, and they depend entirely on the assumption of the proportions of isotopes in the original rock, and have been shown to be unreliable in a large number of cases. and even where they are reliable, they don't say ANYTHING about the age of the sediments. Ungtss 02:34, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)

I believe you said that, according to Genesis, all modern land animals are descended from 7 breeding pairs of each species? If so, and if any bit of what we know about genetics is true, then the vast majority of the rescued species should have died from inbreeding. 14 individuals are not enough to form a viable breeding stock. The rule of thumb is 50 for short term survival, 500 for long term. (This rule of thumb has a name, too lazy to look it up.)

once again, creationism holds that animals were vastly superior than animals today, and that the inbreeding REDUCED them to what we see today. genesis reports people living 700-900 years before the flood. and when you think of the animals before the flood, you gotta think of Ligers and Tigons, which inbred into lions and tigers after the flood. we believe in speciation by inbreeding. Ungtss 02:34, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)
Inbreeding causes a population to become more alike, not less. Inbreeding alone won't cause speciation. crazyeddie 07:19, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)
inbreeding after population isolation leads to speciation -- slight differences in the original two populations become bigger as the separated populations inbreed. consider the possibility that the first people were a mix of black/asian/white/indian, and the slight differences became homogenized into "races." think of the original cats as being Ligers and Tigons, and then inbreeding into lions and tigers. Ungtss 00:40, 6 Feb 2005 (UTC)

The rest would show a recent population bottleneck in Big Neon Letters. We probably wouldn't even need to look at the genome - the lack of variation would show up in the phenotype. We don't see that.

the variation could show up really quickly if the potential for that variation was latent in the original animals ... Ungtss 00:40, 6 Feb 2005 (UTC)

How would Noah have managed to get all of those beetles together?

as you say, "we don't know yet:)." Ungtss 02:34, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)
Come to think of it, how much room was on the ark? Was there enough physical room to store all of those animals? How about plants? Did they survive the flood unaided? crazyeddie 07:19, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)
issue is, we don't know how big the ark was -- the measurements are given in Cubits -- there are multiple versions of the Cubit, and the one used by the author might even have been different than those. so i can't really answer that question:). Ungtss 00:40, 6 Feb 2005 (UTC)

The Deluge gives a lot of falsifible statements - but they've been falsified. Most Creationists have given up defending it. crazyeddie 01:48, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)

on the contrary, we're still here, defending it:). Ungtss 00:40, 6 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<What I'm asking is why haven't you used that same skepticism against the Bible, especially Genesis?>>

quite simply, i think i have. i don't take either at their word -- i run them through my reason and experience. genesis makes sense to me, and evolution does not. avoiding all the details, i believe that evolution violates science and reason at a fundamental level. of all the other alternatives, no other ancient accounts make any sense to me. i don't think genesis is perfect (what is, after all?) but i think it's better than "mainstream science." i think it's the best we have. Ungtss 00:19, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Evolution may be counter-intutive and run counter to common-sense, but it is not against science and reason. If it was, scientists would be the first to scream about it. No conspiracy of silence would be able to stop them. Instead, they're near unanimous in their opinion.

again, i think it's a function of culture, rather than science:). Ungtss 02:34, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)

You're looking for signs of subtle prejudice in the college of scientists. You're ignoring huge gapping holes in the Genesis account. I have to ask - why? crazyeddie 01:48, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)

i don't see gaping holes:). Ungtss 02:34, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Okay, why don't you outline your theory of what happened, and I'll do my best to knock some holes in it. crazyeddie 07:19, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)

well, take a look at Flood geology and Creation biology -- that's the outline i've been working on:). Ungtss 00:40, 6 Feb 2005 (UTC)

I'd like to apologize for my behavior the last couple of posts. I blame fatigue. I'm planning on taking a vacation soonish, I may wait until after to return to this debate. crazyeddie 23:32, 8 Feb 2005 (UTC)

not at all -- i've enjoyed it -- i know we creationists can seem pretty obtuse:). i'd love to discuss things further with you whenever you wish:). Ungtss 23:43, 8 Feb 2005 (UTC)

I'm not so much afraid of offening you, I'm sure you used to it. I'm more afraid that I'm hurting my own cause. I think I'll take things slower, work on it on a word processor so I have spellchecking, etc. Gah. crazyeddie 23:51, 8 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Good deal:). Ungtss 23:55, 8 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Creation anthropology Page[edit]

I don't understand what you are doing, so far there is no anthropology on this page, merely a rehashing of some people's religious beliefs (the study of those beliefs could be anthropological but not the mere retelling of them) regarding Creationism. Secondly when I pointed out that there is no inherent reason for an anthropologist to believe either in Creationism or evolutionary biology you changed the statement. It strikes me as peculiar to title a page one thing and use it as a pulpit for something else completly. I understand that you have a passionate belief in Creationism and I don't want to arguer about that, I would like to know how that belief affects anthropology and I don't see it on this page. Dabbler 04:21, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)

From Anthropology: In the United States, anthropology is traditionally divided into four fields:

<<Secondly when I pointed out that there is no inherent reason for an anthropologist to believe either in Creationism or evolutionary biology you changed the statement.>>

as you can see above, physical anthropology encompasses the study of human evolution. anthropology is, above all, the study of humanity, and what's more relevent to studying humanity than figuring out where we came from?

<<no anthropology on this page, merely a rehashing of some people's religious beliefs>>

i disagree. your assumption is that religious beliefs cannot be APPLIED in studying humanity -- my contention is that they can. mainstream anthropology starts with a number of a priori assumptions -- evolution and moral relativism are just the beginning. creation starts with different a priori assumptions -- creation and moral absolutes. both study humanity, they just do so from different viewpoints. since anthropology is merely the study of humanity, i think that what i've begun to describe is a creationist view on humanity, and hence, anthropology. what do you think? Ungtss 12:56, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)

OK I see where you are coming from and although I am by no means an anthropologist, I am a student of humanity, so I will try and work with you. I do believe that studying and investigating the belief in God is an important part of anthropology, but as a practicing Christian with a scientific bent I am saddened by the anti-scientist viewpoint of many Christians. In my view, science is God's gift to humans to aid them in uncovering the wonders of this universe and the fundamental rules which God has followed and continues to follow in setting out where we live. I believe, consequently, that He doesn't play tricks with our minds by faking the evidence he puts before us. I have a serious problem with those who insist that God intervenes in the evolution of this universe or somehow created what we currently see in all its complexity. (Note: I realise that you will probably not agree with my understanding of the evidence for evolution, I have read some of your other writing here). In my reading and understanding, there so much positive evidence of the reality of evolution that any all-powerful God who created all that misleading background evidence of evolution in His Creation, is not a good and loving God, but a malicious trickster who does not deserve to be worshipped. Dabbler 14:55, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)

i look forward to working for you ... and there's one question about evolutionary creationism that has me stumped and i'd appreciate it if you'd clarify on one of the pages ... if there's no unequivocal evidence that God actually and tangibly intervenes in the "natural universe," then what basis do you have for believing in Him, per Occam's razor? Ungtss 15:30, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Faith! Not science. I don't feel any need for the support of scientific proof of His existence to believe in God. My belief is that God is perfectly capable of doing all that is required of Him by the Creation Theory but chose not to (and had no need to because the initial conditions of the universe were such that everything evolved naturally). In my opinion, the evidence for evolution is not evidence for the absence of God.

Actually, there is evidence that God intervenes in the natural universe but I believe He only does this in a very limited and self restricted way. I believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. I acknowledge that this is not part of the natural way of the Universe but if it didn't happen then there is no real basis for Christian belief and the religion becomes merely a guide to good behaviour. For many people that concept is sufficient and I consider that many atheists and agnostics can live a very moral and even spiritual life. For others, including myself, a belief in the resurrection and God's promises revealed through Jesus are an additional assistance in getting through this mortal coil.

I am not one of those who believe in the inerrancy of scripture, my belief resembles the three legged stool. It is supported by Faith, Scripture and Reason. None is sufficient alone and none can be dispensed with. Faith and Scripture can deal with many problems, but Reason in the shape of real evidence must not be ignored or that way lies madness. I agree that God is not absolutely necessary for my worldview and I have my doubts at times, but His presence is real at other times. Occam's razor has no real bearing on my viewpoint as it is not based on purely logical considerations. I can't and don't attempt to explain it scientifically because it is inherently not scientific.

Similarly I don't have to worry about trying to explain away descriptions of Biblical miracles scientifically. They may have happened as described or they may not, I personally doubt that they did but it has no bearing on my belief. I don't believe in the literal truth of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, seeing that as a Creation myth of the Jewish people which offers some food for spiritual thought but not a scientific textbook. Now I could be mistaken in my beliefs but if I am, then that trickster God is not one I would want to worship. Hope this helps. Dabbler 16:51, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Thanks Dabbler! You've stepped into the crossfire of a creationism/naturalism (naturalism because Ungtss objects to more than just evolution) debate me and Ungtss have been having. That's where Ungtss's Occam's Razor question comes from. I'm afraid my own atheism has made me overstate some points. Ungtss, Occam's Razor is only a rule of thumb. It says that the simpler theory, all things being equal, is more likely to be true - not that it always is.
A Christian who believes in the naturalistic theories laid out by science is not a contradiction. A personal belief in God and His miracles, based on faith, are "allowed" by science. What is not allowed is attempting to pass off those beliefs as scientific theories.
The sole exception is a belief in a literal interperation of Genesis. The story of Genesis is contradicted on grounds of physical evidence, not the much weaker grounds of Occam's Razor. Yes, Genesis can be modified to fit the facts, but this leads to such ad-hockeries as Flood Geology. The main reason to use Occam's Razor is to remove such ad-hockeries from the field of play. If the Genesis account is true, that means God is a joker, that He doesn't play fair. In order to keep a belief in the basic goodness of God intact, it is neccessary to discount the literal truth of Genesis. I think that most followers of Abrahamic religions are willing to make that small sacrifice, given the alternative.
Except for Genesis and Revelations (which hasn't happened yet) the miracles in the Bible are local enough that science is powerless to either confirm or deny them. Occam's Razor suggests that we deny them - but it only suggests, it does not command.
In my case, the conflict between science and Genesis lead me to question the validity of the entire Bible. If one part is wrong, how can you tell which parts are right? So I became agnostic. As an agnostic, I was biased in the direction of theism. I invented scenarios of God (not limited to the God of Abrahamic traditions) which were compatible with science. It was not until I was exposed to certain philosophies, including that of Buddhism, that I gained the courage to listen to the suggestions of Occam's Razor, and became a full-fledged atheist. I'm a fairly non-dogmatic atheist. I like to think I'm still open to theism - but it depends on what kind of God you're selling.
My conversion to atheism from agnostic and to agnostic from Methodist involved both doubt and faith. Faith that answers can be found, faith that a God-less world is tolerable. I was an agnostic for longer than I've been an atheist, and I was a Methodist longer than both combined.
Anything you'd like to add Dabbler? crazyeddie 19:21, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Thanks, dabbler, for expanding on your views -- i'd like to explain my own, not in order to "convert" you (fat chance, i'm sure), but in an effort to present an alternative viewpoint i think is very different from your conventional creationists -- perhaps we can sharpen each other's opinions:).

<<I don't believe in the literal truth of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, seeing that as a Creation myth of the Jewish people which offers some food for spiritual thought but not a scientific textbook.>>

where, if ever, does genesis become historical in your view? the genealogies? the flood? the tower of babel? abraham? moses? what do you do with the genealogies of Christ, which track his ancestry back through david, shem, noah, and adam? another fiction? Ungtss 20:22, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<Faith! Not science ... I can't and don't attempt to explain it scientifically because it is inherently not scientific.>>

here lies the fundamental philosophica difference between you and i. i think the dichotomy between "faith" and "science" is the core of the current intellectual muddle in the West.

In my opinion, Faith has been redefined to mean "wishful thinking" or "belief without evidence." and science has been redefined to mean "explanations that exclude God." Faith has been cut loose of reality (so that it becomes useless), and science has been cut loose of God (so that it becomes inherently atheistic).

I think that when we relegate our faith to the areligious, it loses all connection with objective reality, and instead becomes a "hobby," or worse, a "coping mechanism." i refuse to have that sort of faith. i have no use for a belief in God cannot be firmly grounded in science and reason. i find it to be useless. if there's no evidence in science or reason for God, then there's no reason to believe, period. I believe in god because I believe there is overwhelming evidence for the events of Genesis. My faith in God, in my view, is the most parsimonious explanation for the facts i've yet come across. Ungtss 20:22, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<Ungtss, Occam's Razor is only a rule of thumb. It says that the simpler theory, all things being equal, is more likely to be true - not that it always is. >>

oh no sir -- i agree with you entirely. occam's razor isn't a rule for what's TRUE, but it IS a rule for what's reasonable to believe. you and i both know it, and i believed it before we ever met. if God isn't fundamentally necessary to explain anything, it is fundamentally irrational to believe in him. i refuse to do that. if it weren't for creation science, i'd be an atheist. but i am firmly convinced that current evolutionary pseudoscience is a crock of shit, and that's why I believe in the God of Abraham:). Ungtss 20:22, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Are you seriously suggesting that, if I succeed in showing you that Creationism is bogus, you will become an atheist overnight? Dude, it took me five years to go from Methodist to atheist - and I have always believed in Evolution, read science fiction, etc, so it wasn't even that big of step for me. Don't tell me that you can change religions like you would a lightbulb. Changing religions means a radical rethink of your entire worldview. Why not take it in stages? Start with theistic evolution and take it from there.

If you're that big of a believer in Occam's Razor, then is it possible that you are rejecting valid theory in order to protect your faith in God?

As for what parts of the Bibical account Dabbler believes in, I don't pretend to know. I would guess that he (or she) believes that Genesis is based on an oral tradition, and becomes more accurate the closer it gets to the point where it got written down. There is never a clear line between completely true and completely false. crazyeddie 20:37, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<'Don't tell me that you can change religions like you would a lightbulb.>>

i didn't say i'd change like a lightbulb. but i did say i'd change.

<<Start with theistic evolution and take it from there.>>

in my opinion, theistic evolution is irrational and immoral:(. why believe in a god that doesn't DO anything? why trust a god who created a world of endless violence and death? not for me. atheism and theism i can accept, but theistic evolution and pantheism are self-contradictory in my opinion. Ungtss 20:45, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<If you're that big of a believer in Occam's Razor, then is it possible that you are rejecting valid theory in order to protect your faith in God?>>

certainly possible ... that depends on the merit of the theory, doesn't it:)? Ungtss 20:45, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)


I am a He for the purposes of this conversation. Does Genesis ever become historical? I don't think it can ever be proved absolutely true in any manner. Many myths have some basis in reality for example the Iliad or Atlantis, but are not what I consider to be history.

Like crazyeddie I have meandered on the boundary of agnosticism and Christianity for years. Currently I am more or less a believer though the activities of some Christians can drive me to despair. If I ever decided that a scientific proof of God was necessary to believe, then I would probably veer over towards atheism too. A need for scientific proof would prove to me that I didn't have the necessary faith as I can't see how an omnipotent God can be proved scientifically. He could convince me with a miracle right in front of me, but that wouldn't be scientific. Dabbler 23:09, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<A need for scientific proof would prove to me that I didn't have the necessary faith as I can't see how an omnipotent God can be proved scientifically.>>

i can find no reason to believe he's omnipotent. the word appears only once in revelation (a view of the future), and the idea is logically incoherent. it's just another western fiction in my view. i ascribe to Open Theism.
also, i think there's also a big difference between PROOF and REASONABLE BELIEF. i agree with you that it cannot be proven. but i still think it's the most reasonable belief. Ungtss 00:04, 11 Feb 2005 (UTC)

I consider that it is more unreasonable that a non-omnipotent Deity should spend a precious week of His time devising millions of different species of tiny insects and bacteria some of which differ from each other by only the finest of details, that he should produce chimpanzees and men who look quite distinct and yet make their DNA 97% the same and then sit back and consider that His Creation was good and complete. Of course His non-omnipotence may explain some of the weird design features that he has put into we poor humans. :-) Dabbler 01:57, 11 Feb 2005 (UTC)

that's the heart of it:). i find the creator much more reasonable than dumb luck and a lot of sex. Sounds to me, tho, like you find the whole concept of a creative God to be kinda dumb, generally. why believe in God at all? I mean, why did God have to cause jesus to rise just to make us act like good people? it's at least as arbitrary as creating all those bacteria, isn't it? why do you believe in jesus? Ungtss 02:09, 11 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Ungtss, I think you have lost your faith. I think you have heard science pronounce that God is dead. Deep down you believe it. You're mourning God, and right now, you're in denial. You have a greater belief in Occam's Razor than you do in God.

You heard wrong. Science has not said that God is dead. It has only said that it can't prove that He is alive.

Science depends on reason and observation. These things are powerful tools, and you would be a fool to ignore them. But, as Dabbler says, they aren't enough. Science can't prove that your wife isn't cheating on you. But if you really love her, you will believe - without proof! - that she isn't. Is a husband's faith in his wife a coping method?

You would be a fool to believe that your wife isn't sleeping with another man after you catch her in the act. I think you're a fool for denying the general truth of the currently accepted scientific theories. But the truth of those theories have no bearing on wether or not God exists.

Like all good Christians, Dabbler loves and has faith in God. Just like a husband believes without proof in his wife's fidelity, a Christian believes without proof in the existance of God.

Dabbler believes in a benevolent God. I don't believe in God. We both don't believe in a malevolent God, and we believe that a belief in Genesis would require that. According to Occam's Razor, I'm playing the odds, and Dabbler isn't. But what do the odds have to do with being correct?

Is quantum mechanics simple? No. Was a belief in quantum mechanics reasonable before evidence demanded it? No. Did quantum mechanics wind up being mostly correct? Yes.

Ungtss, you have a need to believe in God so great that you are willing to ignore all reason in order to believe in a "theory" that justifies that belief. But you don't need to justify that belief in order to believe it. The odds against such an unjustified belief are great, but you shouldn't let that stop you.

My screenname has a meaning. A Crazy Eddie is a person who knowingly attempts the impossible because the only alternative is surrender. For example: A king told a condemned man that, if he taught the king's horse to sing, he would spare his life. He offered the man one year to complete this task. The man accepted. A friend of his asked him why. He replied, "A lot can happen in a year. I may die. The king may die. And, who knows? Perhaps the horse will learn to sing."

Your actions show that you hold a life without God to be worth no more than that of a condemned man. If that is so, then what would you risk by a false belief?

If you find that life without God is worthless, then you should believe, on faith, in God, until reason demonstrates that such a belief is wrong - not just improbable.

You should only attempt atheism if you find that life without God is worthwhile - or at least worthwhile enough that playing the odds is a good exchange for giving up your belief.

Remember that "the map is not the territory". The Bible is not God. Only God is God. You should not allow falsification of the Bible to affect your faith in God. The scriptures of the Bible, no matter who wrote them, are only the notes of fellow travelers. You shouldn't believe in them without question.

When I was 16, I became aware of the conflict between the scriptures of science and the scriptures of the Bible. Rather than surrender my belief in a benevolent God, as a belief in Genesis would demand, I surrendered my belief in the Bible. Guided by reason and the scriptures of science, I became an agnostic. I knew that reason and observation were not enough to answer the questions I was asking. I took on faith that I would find refuge, an end to questions. Five years later, I found that refuge, and became an atheist.

My refuge is not atheism. This is my refuge: I believe that I exist. I believe that this moment, wether illusion or not, is the Eternal Now, and will always exist (or have had existed). Reason alone is enough to tell me this, and I don't need to take these beliefs on faith. On faith, I believe that there is an objective reality, and that my fellow humans (and other apparent sentients) are also self-aware and have existance. I have a provisional belief, but not faith, in the scriptures of science, including the historical record of the Bible. (I have gained enough perspective during my journey that I think I can take a fairly unbiased look at the Bible - including its context.)

I believe in atheism, in accordance with Occam's Razor. But I don't have faith in atheism. If things are as they seem, and there is no God, then life still has meaning, and is worth living. If God exists, and is good, then so much the better. If God exists and is evil, then I will fight Him, and, if I am lucky, He will destroy me. My religion and my faith are beyond the ability of any God to touch.

What do you have faith in, Ungtss? crazyeddie 08:05, 11 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Oh, and as for the God of theistic evolution not doing anything - 1 Kings 19:11-12. crazyeddie 09:06, 11 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<Ungtss, I think you have lost your faith. I think you have heard science pronounce that God is dead. Deep down you believe it. You're mourning God, and right now, you're in denial. You have a greater belief in Occam's Razor than you do in God.>>

dangerous business digging into another man's motives -- perhaps we should take a step back, and focus on what each other are saying, rather than what we think the other's "true motives" are:).
on the contrary, friend, i think that science and occam's razor RECOMMEND belief in the existance of God, as we discussed earlier. given the choice between accepting a theory which requires me to make innunerable assumptions, many of which are (in my opinion) completely contrary to the observable laws of nature, and choosing to believe in God, i think the latter is most parsimonious. your counterargument is that you think the current models work, or will work at some time in the future. my response is that i don't think they do. Ultimately, this debate comes down to the "specifics" we're trying to avoid. is evolution scientifically viable? i don't think it is. I think we have more evidence of God's creation and Noah's flood than we know what to do with, but willfully refuse to see it, because we have lost our minds. 2Peter 3:3-6. Ungtss 15:10, 11 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<Dabbler believes in a benevolent God. I don't believe in God. We both don't believe in a malevolent God,>>

i believe that any God that created the world through evolution would be deeply, deeply malevolent. i find the Problem of evil to be quite compelling, and believe that it can only be countered through Open Theism and Creationism -- the idea that God made the world Good, hoping it would stay that way, but we surprised him, and fucked it up. It's that or atheism for me. i won't accept a God who created a world of death, murder, and disease. that god is Satan. i'd rather go to hell than live in his heaven. Ungtss 15:10, 11 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<Faith>>

to me, faith is not believing in things without evidence. i think that believing in things without evidence is wishful thinking and self-deception. faith to me is taking the Truth we've been given, and seeking greater Truth. The "Hall of Faith" in Hebrews 11 includes murderers, adulterers, drunkards, pagans, and prostitutes, and absolutely no christians. What did they have in common? They were "strangers in a foreign land, seeking their home." That's me. a crazy eddie of a different stripe:). Ungtss 15:10, 11 Feb 2005 (UTC)

An Atheist Arguing For Faith[edit]

Motivations[edit]

<<dangerous business digging into another man's motives -- perhaps we should take a step back, and focus on what each other are saying, rather than what we think the other's "true motives" are:).>>

My primary motivation in getting involved in this debate was to determine what the Creationists' motivations are. I have little hope of winning the debate, even though I believe that both reason and evidence are on my side, and I fully expect a stalemate to result.

You see, I've listened to the debate long enough that I realize that there is no merit to Creationist arguments. Creationists are not correct. But they persist in their beliefs, even after reason and evidence have shown those beliefs are wrong.

Those who subscribe to the naturalistic theories of science have explained those theories, and the methods they used to arrive at those theories, to Creationists on a continual basis. Those theories are incomplete, but they are more truthful than a literal interpretation of Genesis. Most Creationists have listened to these explanations, and have continued in their falsified beliefs. Creationists are not ignorant.

Creationists frame apparent paradoxes, which are one of the reasons “Evolutionists” engage in the debate – the puzzles are so fun to unravel. Also, many Creationists are fairly well educated, even if they aren't specialists in the areas covered by evolutionary biology. Creationists are not idiots.

Creationists persist in incorrect beliefs, yet are not ignorant or idiots. They have had the opportunity and the ability to correct their beliefs, but failed to do so.

The only alternative left is that they have deluded themselves into an incorrect belief system, for reasons that have nothing to do with reason or evidence. They have constructed a self-consistent alternate conceptual universe, and any discrepancies between this conceptual pocket universe and the real one is obscured in a fresh coat of rationalization. This situation is similar to that of the Hell described in C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce.

I have not come to this conclusion willingly or easily. The idea that so many people have decided to be bounded up in an intellectual nutshell is distasteful to me. It has profoundly shaken by belief in the basic rationality of my fellow human beings.

I have looked into my own heart for signs of self-delusion, and have found none. The fact that the overwhelming consensus of the experts, who would be faced with evidence of there fallacy in the course of their daily work, is further evidence that I'm not self-deluded.

I could, of course, still be self-deluded. If you wish to return to debating reason and evidence, we may do so. But if one of us is self-deluded, no amount of reason or evidence can shake that delusion. In the Great Divorce, God Himself was powerless to remove those souls from the Hell of their own making.

Assuming that Creationists are self-deluded, the question becomes why are they deluding themselves? What is their motivation?

It isn't that Evolution denies God. It might not prove God's existence, but it doesn't disprove it either. Occam's Razor suggests that the concept of God, being not currently needed to explain the evidence, should be discarded. But Occam's Razor is probabilistic, not always true. Many “evolutionists” believe in God.

It isn't that Evolution contradicts the Bible – or least not entirely. As you say, the Fundamentalist creed of Biblical infallibility only developed after Evolution became popular – it is an effect of Creationism, not a cause.

I started this debate with you because you seem to be fairly intelligent, ruling out the possibility that you are among the proportion of Creationists who actually are idiots. You also go against the mainstream Christian, or even Fundamentalist, view in your beliefs, limiting the possibility of you being ignorant. Your reasoning appears to be functional, even if it has taken a wrong turn. So I have selected you as a test case.

In your case, I have made the hypothesis that you have a lack of faith in the basic goodness of the universe/creation. By extension, you have a lack of faith in God. (I will attempt to show that these two things are linked.) Because of this lack of faith, you can not maintain a belief in God without the corroborating evidence provided by the Bible. In the face of evidence that the Bible is fallible, your need to believe in God combined with your lack of faith in God to cause you to take a faith-based refuge in the Bible – a refuge that the scriptures were never meant to provide. You should not have faith in the Bible, you should only have faith in God.

So far, your response has confirmed this hypothesis in my eyes.

If you wish, we can continue debating reason and evidence. But, if my hypothesis is correct, your strong need to believe in God will never allow you to accept that Genesis is not literal truth. You must first work out the kink in your faith. crazyeddie 01:33, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

you're certainly free to psychoanalyze me as you see fit, but i think we might find our discussions to be more productive if we start with the a priori assumption that both of us actually mean what we say:). Ungtss 04:20, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

I specifically said self-deluded. I have no doubt that you believe what you say.

My point is that we both have been in this overall debate (not just our current one) long enough that we have both seen just about every argument and counter-argument out there. Yet we both still hold our original positions.

It is my position that, for reasons that have nothing to do with reason and evidence, one of us is rejecting valid evidence. One of us is explaining away valid evidence, engaging in rationalization instead of rational thought.

My money, of course, is on you, but I'm leaving the door open to me also.

We can go back to arguing on grounds of reason and evidence. This will most likely lead to yet another stalemate.

Or we can figure out what is causing the logjam. crazyeddie 07:47, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

what i meant by "mean what i say" is that neither of us is self-deluded, but we've actually gone from assumptions through premises to conclusions in an intellectually honest way. consider the possibility that, rather than one or both of us "ignoring the evidence," we're both reading the evidence validly in light of a priori philosophical presuppositions which can neither be proven nor disproven. our conclusions are a function of our assumptions and the evidence applied through equally valid and rational thought, but coming to different conclusions. perhaps, if we could identify those assumptions, we could decide if those assumptions are unreasonable on one of our parts, or if they're just irreconcilable differences. Ungtss 16:23, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Faith[edit]

<<to me, faith is not believing in things without evidence. i think that believing in things without evidence is wishful thinking and self-deception.>>

“Belief not based on proof” is the accepted definition of faith. But faith is more than just wishful thinking and self-deception. It is said that the opposite of love is not hate, but fear. Love is not jealous, because jealousy is not love. Jealousy is a form of fear – the fear that the need for your beloved will not be fulfilled. Faith is not foolish because love is not foolish. Faith is what allows love to overcome fear. Having faith in the fidelity of our beloved is what allows us to overcome our jealousy. Faith only becomes foolishness when a belief is persisted beyond the point where reason and evidence demands that such a belief is wrong, not just improbable. crazyeddie

i understand that that is the accepted definition of faith in contemporary western society, both theist and atheist. i reject that definition out of hand. instead, i choose the definition of Faith i find in the new testatement, particularly hebrews 11. i believe that faith is the pursuit of Truth, in thought, word, and deed. it is not believing things without proof. it is the pursuit of Truth; to be wise as serpants, innocent as doves; to become like a child; to attain wisdom; to obey God. Ungtss 04:24, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Let see: so far you have Creationist biology, Creationist geology, Creationist anthropology, Creationist history of the bible, and presumably Creationist cosmology. Are suggesting adding a Creationist dictionary to the list?

A common agreement on the meaning of words is essential to communication. If you insist on making up your own definitions, meaningful communication is impossible.

Your definition of faith sounds astounishingly like science. Scientists try to cultivate a child-like, innocent curiosity about the world around us. Many of them are also wise. The only thing lacking is "to obey God" (although scientists try to be moral in their own person, it's not exactly in the job description as such...). But one might argue that figuring out how to obey God is the job of ethicists, a branch of philosophy.

Philosophy is science's older brother. It is the child-like curiosity of science applied to areas where there is no hard evidence.

Both philosophy and science try to explain the world using reason and evidence. But reason and evidence isn't enough. This is implied in the very foundations of science. Science depends on a belief in objective reality, but this belief can't be proven by reason alone. Evidence is useless here, since the validity of any evidence (aside from our own existence) rests on the existence of objective reality. Science, at its very roots, is based on (gasp!) faith!

Neither the existence of objective reality or of God can be either proven or disproven by reason and evidence. (Although God could be proven if He decided to leave clear evidence behind.) I take objective reality on faith. I see no reason why somebody else shouldn't take God on faith if they felt the need. crazyeddie 08:07, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<A common agreement on the meaning of words is essential to communication. If you insist on making up your own definitions, meaningful communication is impossible.>>

it's not my definition. it's the definition i think is easily drawn from hebrews 11. many words have different and equally valid definitions, and it is important, for purposes of semantics, to clarify them. we can come up with some other word for my definition if you like, like "Hebrews Faith" or something.
i think what you're describing would be better called "Trust." We trust that our spouse is faithful. we trust that our senses tell us the truth -- we trust that there is an objective reality. we can of course trust the right thing or the wrong thing, and the results will be accordingly very good for us. We trust things of which we don't have evidence ... yeah ... i think it's trust.
but i think that Faith as intended by the Hebrew teachers is radically different. first, i think that i think that your definitions of philosophy and science definitely fall within the realm of faith in part -- at least when the practitioners follow the truth where it leads. i think that ethics and work and politics and economics and relationships ALL depend on Faith. Faith is the little buzzing in your mind when you realize you've stumbled on something profound that you don't quite understand yet, but you know that the Light is that way. Faith is pursuing that light until it becomes sight. Ungtss 16:23, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

The Problem of Evil[edit]

<<i believe that any God that created the world through evolution would be deeply, deeply malevolent. i find the Problem of evil to be quite compelling, and believe that it can only be countered through Open Theism and Creationism -- the idea that God made the world Good, hoping it would stay that way, but we surprised him, and fucked it up. It's that or atheism for me. i won't accept a God who created a world of death, murder, and disease. that god is Satan. i'd rather go to hell than live in his heaven.>>

The accepted definition of God is a being of arbitrarily great, approaching infinite, power and wisdom. If an entity doesn't have those qualities, then that entity is at most a generic god – an immortal being of greater power than humans.

It is a measure of God's power that He could have, if He wished, created the world as laid out by Genesis, and then made it appear if it happened by naturalistic methods over large scales of time.

(However, this forgery would have required extra effort. We would have to question his motives, especially since most Christians believe that a belief in God is a prerequisite for salvation. It is difficult to subscribe this hypothetical act to motivations that are not actively malevolent. We are left with three options: to assume that God is malevolent, that Genesis is incorrect, or that the evidence supporting evolution is incorrect. The first option has few takers, the third option appears to be highly unlikely, for reasons I have given, and will continue to give.)

Could God make a rock so large that he could not move it? No. But he can make a rock and refuse to move it. He may refuse to interfere with our free will. But he does have the power to. If nothing else, he could wipe us out and replace us with a model closer to spec. The fact of our continued existence argues that our defects are within the tolerances set by God. Free will is not enough to solve the problem of evil.

The problem of evil does say that, in a universe where evil exists, an omnibenevolent God is impossible. But “not omnibenevolent” is not the same as actively malevolent.

Good and evil are human concepts. The universe, as an inanimate object, is neither good nor evil. It is wholly indifferent. God, since He is a being, a person, is not wholly indifferent in general. It can be safely assumed that He is not indifferent in the specific case of his Creation. However, his motivations may be beyond the understanding of us mere humans, beyond our simplistic categories of good and evil.

Since God is a being of arbitrarily great power and wisdom, it can be assumed that He has shaped the universe into a form pleasing to Him. The only way we have to know the Creator is through His Creation. (Some philosphers go so far to believe that God is the personification of nature.) A lack of faith in the basic – but not complete – goodness of the universe means a lack of faith in the basic goodness of God. Since few people are willing to consider a malevolent God, this directly translates to a lack of faith in God. crazyeddie 01:33, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Even if you conclude that God is dead, you still have to make your peace with Him. Only then would you be able to let Him go, and become a true atheist. Given your views on the state of the universe, it is no surprise that you were not able to let Him go. crazyeddie 01:38, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<The accepted definition of God is a being of arbitrarily great, approaching infinite, power and wisdom. If an entity doesn't have those qualities, then that entity is at most a generic god – an immortal being of greater power than humans.>>

i understand that that is the accepted definition of God in western culture. i reject it out of hand. Instead, I choose the Hebrew definition: "I am that I am." God is not a plaything for our philosophical fancies. He was here before our fancies, and He'll be here when our fancies are shown to be the dust they are. God is what God is, no matter what we think. Ungtss 04:30, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Anything is a plaything for philosophy. The only exception is science, and that's just philosophy's leftovers. If God wants to strike us down for our lack of respect, well, at least that solves the question of God's existence!

The Achilles' Heel of philosophy is that it attempts to use natural languages to perform logical functions. English was never designed for logic. Math is the true language of logic, because it's assumptions are out in the open for everybody to see. Not so with natural languages. The fastest way to biting your own tail in philosophy is to use some cock-eyed definition, and then act like your artifical logical construction has anything to do with the real world.

I maintain that the accepted definition of God is a better description of the common-sensical conception of God then your non-standard one. It is therefore less liable to take detours into logical fallacy.

Using your definition of God, then I am God. What is "I am that I am" except for a restatement of Descartes' Truth?

This is no idle boasting either. One belief that Hinduism and Buddhism have in common is a belief that Atman - the god within, your own personal soul - and Brahaman - the world soul, the god who is dreaming our reality - are the same.

Now, are you going to accept the standard definition, or are you going to start bowing down and worshipping me? I assure you, that I am that I am, but I am not all powerful, or even come close. On good days, I humour myself by thinking I'm wise, but those days are few and far between. I'm surely not approaching all-knowing. I have no power to create universes, except in my own small arts. The entity we are discussing does have the ability to create universes, and that ability requires certain qualities. He would certainly have at least the power to scrap this failed attempt and to start over with a better design. crazyeddie 08:23, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<Using your definition of God, then I am God.>>

yes, in a sense, you are a god, small g, within my wordview. i ascribe to the thomistic view that "In my father's house i am a servant, but i am the master of my own." we are gods over the Earth, but God's children. consider:
"What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all [things] under his feet." -- Psalms 8:1-6; Hebrews 2:5.
"I say, `You are gods and children of the Most High." -- Psalms 82:6; Josh 10:34.
"Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection." -- Luke 20:36
"Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?" -- I Corinthians 6:3.

but you are not I am that I am. You are contingent. you were created. you will die. Not so with God. He Is. Ungtss 16:23, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<It is a measure of God's power that He could have, if He wished, created the world as laid out by Genesis, and then made it appear if it happened by naturalistic methods over large scales of time. >>

this, of course, assume that the Earth looks that way. i have absolutely no reason to believe it does:). Ungtss 04:30, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

You have better than reason to believe it does - you have actual hard evidence. What we are currently investigating is why you don't believe that evidence. crazyeddie 08:24, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

feel free to continue investigating that, but again, i suggest you might find the answers you seek down a different path:). Ungtss 16:23, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<Good and evil are human concepts. The universe, as an inanimate object, is neither good nor evil.>>

i understand that this is the accepted view of our contemporary western culture, but i reject it. I believe that good and evil are absolutes above and beyond us, and that we and the universe can be objectively good or evil. i believe that it is only our perceptions of good and evil that vary. i believe our perceptions succeed only insofar as they align themselves with the Truth. Ungtss 04:30, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

The univese has no intentional stance. It may have been created with good or evil intentions, it may contain good or evil, but it is itself neither good nor evil.

Evil can be defined as that which causes suffering.

One of the four noble truths of Buddhism is that suffering is the result of attachment. Suffering, and by extension, evil, is the result of thwarted human desire. The desire for a life without pain, for example... crazyeddie 08:28, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

right ... that's the buddhist definition, which is ultimately subjective -- suffering doesn't exist if you close your mind to desire. i reject that definition of evil. i believe that desiring the Good brings Joy, and desiring the Evil brings Suffering, so that desire is not our enemy; the desire of EVIL is our enemy. i believe that those who desire evil are genuinely, objectively evil, and i believe that their evil acts are genuinely, objectivedly evil as well. not because another person thinks they are -- but because they ARE. Ungtss 16:23, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<Given your views on the state of the universe, it is no surprise that you were not able to let Him go.>>

i must insist that it is my Reason that will not allow me to let Him go. Ungtss 04:30, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

I believe I will cover that further down. crazyeddie 08:28, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

God-as-an-Artist[edit]

During my tenure as an agnostic, I developed several scenarios of God, not limited to the Abrahamic concept of God. My favorite one is that the universe is a narrative work of art. This concept of God solves several problems dealing with the existence of God, including the problem of evil.

  • The problem of naturalism: If the universe is a work of art, it is not just real, but it is surreal, or hyperreal. Art is the distilled essence of Life. God may have based our reality on his own. The appearance of naturalism is intentional. Any signs of creationism would be a deus ex machina – or, since we, the characters, notice it, possibly a deliberate break in the fourth wall. (Including this discussion.)
  • The problem of evil – According to one author, the job of writers is to create good, decent people, and then put them through hell in order to show the audience what they are made of. Perfection is boring. Evil is an artistic necessity. But, hopefully, the story has a happy ending!
  • The problem of free will – as author, God controls every aspect of our lives. If something occurred offscreen, it has no reality, it only exists in our memories. (Did God flesh out a backstory before starting? Or is he winging it?) But that doesn't mean we don't have free will. Many authors have reported characters not acting as they had planned – that the characters themselves demanded that the plot take a different course. Even if we are parts of God's subconscious, we have some amount of autonomy.

God-as-an-artist does raise some questions. How much can characters inside a story tell about the nature of the story they are in? When fate (or the plot) stabs us in the back, is it part of some grand tragedy, or is it a pratfall? Is God one of the Greats? Or is He a hack?

I think your view of a decaying universe, trending inevitably towards Hell, is more pessimistic than strictly required by art. A little bit of suffering makes for a good story. Too much turns off the audience. Fortunately, all other sources of evidence, including some interpretations of Genesis, argue for a general trend of progress, not decay. (This only applies to systems that have negative entropy - we're slowly getting better and better, but the stars are burning out.) The sole evidence for a morally decaying universe is your interpretation of Genesis. crazyeddie 01:33, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

interesting thoughts all, but not a view of the universe i can accept. first, i think that a universe created as a "play" by god is absolutely devoid of meaning. second, i think that any god who cast little 6 year old girls in the "part" of the children who had their eyes poked out and their skin burnt with hot iron and their ears cut off and were then raped and skewered on their vaginas with long bamboo stakes in liberia when i lived there is a god i would shoot on sight. third, i challenge your notion of human progress -- i see a series of rises and decays, but i see no improvement. consider the progress of war, for instance, from a limited number of battles between professional soldiers, and the vaporization of millions of japanese civilians by a nuclear bomb built by a country claiming to be the most "civilized" in the world, in order to defend itself against the unadulterated evil of the axis powers. progress? are you quite serious? Finally, i never said the universe trended inevitably toward hell. i said it did so only insofar as it rejected God. Ungtss 04:35, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Your view that the universe is trended towards hell is orthogonal to your belief in God. But if you don't believe in God, there goes your only escape route. If the world is bad and getting worse, as you believe, then the only rational thing for an atheist to do is suicide before it gets worse. In fact, the only reason for a Christian not to do so is that suicide - or rather the sinful motivations behind the suicide - would prevent entrance to Heaven. Is it any surprise that you stopped being atheist?

I'm not suggesting you give up your belief in God. But I am suggesting you give up that really heinous world view. I believe that this world view, a lack of faith in the goodness of the universe, and by extension, a lack of belief in either the goodness or the power of God, is what is at the heart of your refusal to take evolution at face value.

And, yes, I'm quite serious in my belief in progress. First, keep in mind that the trend is general, long term. There are the occasional local, short-term setbacks, but on the whole, the trend is towards progress. Yes, we nuked Japan. But we did it for what, at the time, seemed moral reasons. And we haven't done it since. What would the Romans have done with such power at their fingertips?

I think we're getting more moral as time goes by, not less. But this trend is hard to trace. How can you objectively, quantitavely, measure morallity? Maybe by the murder rate. It has occasionally gone up in this country, but that's mainly because the amount is so small that any flux will cause it to go up - it doesn't have much room to go down. In pre-civilized societies, homocide was the leading cause of death. Now it's heart attacks. We've certainly got less murders than any other time in history - think about 18th or 19th century East End, in London.

Easier to measure is our physical progress. Our physical abilities are increasing across the board. Sadly, that includes our power to kill. But virtually every single technological advance of the second half of the 20th century trace their roots to WW-II, which was, more or less, a true crusade against evil. For example, the computing technology were using to communicate right now was developed in order to crack the Nazi Enigma cipher. Or the space program, the offspring of the missle gap, the love child of Nazi V2 rockets and American nukes.

Our increased ability to kill may force us to become more moral. What happens when everybody has nukes, or the equivalent?

Now, art is not just play - but it is fun! We're making an encyclopedia for the fun of it, why shouldn't God make our universe for the same reasons? I certainly hope He had fun doing it! Other than fun, what reason is there to do anything? Are you suggesting God was a wage slave? That He didn't enjoy His work? What else is raising kids but making art for art's sake? Isn't that the standard Christian view of God's motivation - that we're His children and that He is raising us as best He can?

Bringing up the evil parts of our existence ignores all the good things. If God created Darfour, then He also created the sunset.

But since you insist...

Consider the plot of Invisible Monsters. Isn't Chuck Palahniuk, the author, by making us vicariously experience the suffering of his protagonist, Shannon McFarland, causing us to suffer as well? Is he evil by doing so? If this idea of God-as-an-Artist is true, then aren't we probably God's peers, who have choosen to experience His manufactured reality of our own free will? What is God, but Chuck Palahniuk with a more immersive art form at his disposal?

The problem isn't if evil exists in our world - it does. The question is if God Himself is evil for letting it to continue. I believe that, in balance, our world is good, and that God had good reasons for allowing evil to continue. crazyeddie 09:04, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<I think we're getting more moral as time goes by, not less.>>

this brings up an interesting question. by what definition of morality are we becoming more moral? you've apparently rejected any objective basis for good and evil, because they are merely human concepts ... so how is one to say we are actually becoming more moral? how can morality have any MEANING outside of the context of the act itself? Ungtss 16:23, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<Your view that the universe is trended towards hell is orthogonal to your belief in God. But if you don't believe in God, there goes your only escape route.>>

once again, i only believe the universe is trending towards hell because we are CAUSING it to trend towards hell. when any of us choose to reenter the Light, regardless of our circumstances, our personal universe begins to trend toward Heaven. Ungtss 16:23, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<Isn't Chuck Palahniuk, the author, by making us vicariously experience the suffering of his protagonist, Shannon McFarland, causing us to suffer as well? Is he evil by doing so?>>

mcfarland is only in our imagination. those children i saw skewered through their vaginas on bamboo posts are very, very real. i don't think fiction to reality is a fair comparison. i'm not saying the world is absolutely evil -- i'm saying it's a mix of good and evil. but i think that the evil parts are absolutely evil, and they piss God off. Ungtss 16:23, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<Now, art is not just play - but it is fun! We're making an encyclopedia for the fun of it, why shouldn't God make our universe for the same reasons?>>

now that's a fair analogy in many ways, because it allows for the possibility of Vandals which undo his good work and the work of those who work with him, in the name of their own ideologies, or just the pleasure of sheer destruction. Ungtss 16:23, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<I believe that, in balance, our world is good, and that God had good reasons for allowing evil to continue.>>

i can certainly respect your point of views as yours, but my experience makes such a belief impossible for me. i believe that the world is both good and evil, and that God hates the evil. he's patient for a time, hoping we'll turn around and reenter the Light. but if we don't, he destroys us. Ungtss 16:23, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Scripture[edit]

<<The "Hall of Faith" in Hebrews 11 includes murderers, adulterers, drunkards, pagans, and prostitutes, and absolutely no christians. What did they have in common? They were "strangers in a foreign land, seeking their home." That's me. a crazy eddie of a different stripe:).>>

I find your userpage quote, that a novice agnostic is not the best judge of the Bible, is correct. That is why I abandoned the entire Bible when I became an agnostic, rather than try to figure out which parts are right and which parts are wrong.

But I'm no longer an agnostic. I've come out the other side of agnosticism, and I'm now content in my new religion. I'm pretty much the “confucian” of which you speak. I do have some pre-existing beliefs, but so would a Confucian.

As far as I can tell, Buddhists don't believe in objective reality. Therefore, they have no belief in the objective truth of their scriptures. However, they do have belief in the subjective truth of their scriptures, in that reading them can lead to Enlightenment. It was in this spirit that I quoted from the Bible.

Here is what I meant by my quote: Because God is wise as well as powerful, he doesn't need to always use His full power. If he wished to keep His involvement quiet, He could have subtly intervened in our history – a small, still, voice rather than an earthquake. Our scientific methods would be hard pressed to detect such interventions. Not using his full power in the act of creation is not the same as the deliberate falsification of the fossil record. Therefore, such an action would not be a sign of malevolence.

Because of my lack of involvement in the Bible, my understanding is not perfect. I confess that I don't fully understand what you meant by your quote. Care to elaborate? crazyeddie 01:33, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

i meant little more than the text itself indicated. i believe that the denial of creation and the flood despite overwhelming evidence to support it is the result of a deliberate and systematic attempt to avoid the Truth. Ungtss 04:39, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

That's what I mean: what exactly does that verse mean? Are you counting yourself among the Christians or the sinners? Which ones where the strangers in search of home? Which version of the Bible are you using?

i hope to be a Christian and a stranger seeking his home. i don't know if i am. i leave those judgments to God and history. but that's what i want to be. version? i use 'em all to try and cut through the theological bias of the translators. Ungtss 16:23, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

On a completely different note: Is this attempt to avoid the Truth a vast conscious conspiracy which either includes nearly every member of several disciplines, or has successfully duped the remainder, or is it vast, universal self-delusion affecting nearly every member of several disciplines? What is the motivation for this avoidence of Truth among those sworn to seek it, theist and athesist alike? Wouldn't theists be overjoyed to see their beliefs confirmed?

well, one might as a similar question of the holocaust. what caused millions of people, worldwide, to accept such a heinous idea, and put it into practice? certainly a function of context (we had badly oppressed the germans after world war 1, just as the religious community has been subject to a great deal of abuse), pride (scientists liking to think they are the smartest people around, just as the germans did), peer pressure (well everybody else believes it so i should to) ... i think it's very easy for the masses to be deceived. from your perspective, how do you explain the error of 1500 years of christianity as objective truth in europe? what of inquisition and crusade? can the "experts" not be quite systematically wrong? Ungtss 16:23, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

As distasteful as the idea of so many Creationists deluding themselves is, it is somewhat excusable in their case. They have not sworn to seek the truth, no matter what. They don't have to look at contrary evidence every day for their entire working life. But every follower of the way of science, myself included, is trained to look for signs of self-delusion in both themselves and others, from the moment they start down the path to the moment they die. That doesn't mean that they can't delude themselves - they often do, especially outside their field. But, over what I'm going to estimate as the low billions of collective man-years, somebody would have recognized the signs and rung the alarum bell.

<<They have not sworn to seek the truth, no matter what.>>
i daresay i have:). Ungtss 16:23, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

And yet I still have to consider the possiblity that those low billions of collective man-years were not enough to find the flaw in our thinking. And again I come up empty.

materialistic evolution is only 40 years old. in the earliest part of the century, Orthogenesis, or god-driven evolution, was dominant. this is a new idea. it hasn't been adequately tested. it happened to come in the midst of a massive culture-wide shift away from Christianity. cause and effect i can't prove, but i feel free to question then:).

Creationist evidence is faulty, and not as reliable as the evidence for evolution. I would demonstrate this to you, but I'm relatively sure you've heard it all before. crazyeddie 09:20, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

ultimately, it comes down to the evidence. perhaps it's faulty, perhaps not, but nobody's been able to explain why it isn't. instead, i find logical fallacies and personal attacks are the rule among these supposedly objective scientists. if the evidence were so overwhelming, i'd think they'd present it and be done with it. instead, i find them bent on a brainwashing campaign. that makes me suspicious. the truth doesn't require brainwashing. the truth speaks for itself. Ungtss 16:23, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)

crazyeddie 2004-02-24[edit]

The Meaning of Faith[edit]

I'm willingly to give the category you describe as “Hebrew faith” the label of “the search for truth” (of which philosophy and science are subsets) on one condition – that you agree that faith, as commonly defined, is an essential element of that search.

I might also point out that “to obey God” is the result of a successful search for truth, not an element of that search. I believe that moral behavior is the result of enlightened self-interest, and that the search for truth will result in enlightenment. An enlightened individual always does what is right, because that is the best way of meeting their goals.

However this is a minor point, and I'm not willing to haggle over it. I am quite willing to insist on the inclusion of faith though.

As for the difference between faith and trust: After some consideration, I think that the difference between trust and faith is that trust makes provisions for being wrong, faith doesn't.

You trust your business partners to make good on their bargain, but you still make plans in case they don't. On the other hand, faith, while it acknowledges that it might be wrong, makes no contingency plans. This is because faith should only be used as the foundation for a belief when the costs of that belief being wrong are so high that no amount of preparation would be sufficient.

sounds good -- now that i know what you mean by faith, i think we'll be able to communicate better:). just to clarify my definition, it seems to me that part of faith IS making provision for failure -- because faith is seeking Truth Trust, True Preparation, True Love, True Science, True Philosophy ... whatever's True:). Ungtss 01:50, 25 Feb 2005 (UTC)

The Meaning of God[edit]

Ah, so God is the eternal “I Am”. So you're changing the rules: see No true Scotsman. Nevertheless, even this revised definition means that honesty compels me to assert my Godhood, under the doctrine of the Eternal Now.

It is true that this form I inhabit is temporally finite. The complex of memories that give me my sense of self-identity – my soul, if you will – describe a curve through 4-dimensional spacetime, with an endpoint in the past, and presumably another endpoint in the future.

But I am not my memories. Under Descartes's Truth, my memories may be falsified, but my existence can not. I am nothing more than the simple fact of self-awareness. In the matrix of spacetime, I am a dimensionless point. The passage of time may be nothing but an illusion, an artifact of my apparent memories. But because I exist, I will always have had existed. There is no power in the universe, not even God, that can change that.

It seems to me that my own definition of God is problematic. “Arbitrarily great” is a weasel worded term. I think it may be better to define the entity we are discussing as the Creator of the universe. This doesn't run afoul of the “no true Scotsman” fallacy, because my former definition can be derived from my new one.

We know that God is very powerful since no human, to date, has created a universe. We also know that God is very wise because He designed the universe, a task that no human or group of humans has been able to match.

I believe that this demonstrated level of power and wisdom proves that God has the power to create a more benign universe. Even if the current design is the best one He could accomplish, he could still have used a genetic programming technique. He could have taken His best design, made random variations, create universes based on the modified designs, select the best of the lot, rinse, lather, repeat.

Our continued existence is strong argument in favor of the view that while this universe – including us – may have flaws, these flaws are within tolerances set by God.

It seems to me that the conventional view of Christianity is that God does see flaws in humanity, but these flaws are minor enough that He is attempting repairs instead of scrapping this version and starting over.

I don't particularly like this view, since it suggests that God didn't know exactly what He was doing when He made the universe. I prefer to think that He created the universe, evil and all, as part of some greater good.

<<So you're changing the rules: see No true Scotsman.>>

i don't know that that's a fallacy, really -- seems to me it's just articulating your definitions and ideals. What do I think God is? Well, I gotta explain it to you. i don't think it's fair to bind the discussion to "commonly held definitions" ... there are a million definitions of God ... i gotta let you know exactly what I mean:). Ungtss 01:50, 25 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<Under Descartes's Truth, my memories may be falsified, but my existence can not. I am nothing more than the simple fact of self-awareness. In the matrix of spacetime, I am a dimensionless point. The passage of time may be nothing but an illusion, an artifact of my apparent memories. But because I exist, I will always have had existed.>>

hmm ... help me out, because this appears to be non-sequitur to me. your line of argument appears to be:
1) I know for a fact that I exist, because i think.
2) Therefore, I have always existed, and will always exist.

I don't think 2 follows from one. descartes' deduction is, "I think, therefore I am." But if you cease to think, you will cease to be. Now you may indeed be eternal, but that would require some form of life-after-death -- in a materialistic universe, when your brain stops functioning, you're done. no? Ungtss 01:50, 25 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<I don't particularly like this view, since it suggests that God didn't know exactly what He was doing when He made the universe. I prefer to think that He created the universe, evil and all, as part of some greater good.>>

hmm ... i'm not quite sure where you're going here. You've said that you're an atheist, but also that you prefer to think He created the universe as part of some greater good. If you don't believe in God, of what relevence is your understanding of God?
as to the view itself, it's certainly a more poetic view, certainly the most widely held, and I can certainly understand and respect it. I simply find it absolutely irreconcilable with my experience and sense of right and wrong. Within my value set, I believe it to be both irrational and immoral. Ungtss 01:50, 25 Feb 2005 (UTC)

The Meaning of Morallity[edit]

<<that's the buddhist definition, which is ultimately subjective -- suffering doesn't exist if you close your mind to desire. i reject that definition of evil. i believe that desiring the Good brings Joy, and desiring the Evil brings Suffering, so that desire is not our enemy; the desire of EVIL is our enemy. i believe that those who desire evil are genuinely, objectively evil, and i believe that their evil acts are genuinely, objectivedly evil as well. not because another person thinks they are -- but because they ARE.>>

I think you're missing the point. Suffering is the result of thwarted desire. It may be that the source of that thwarting is the evil of another. But that doesn't matter. The point is that without desire there would be no suffering. Assuming that suffering is the same as evil, then getting rid of desires would get rid of evil. But it would also get rid of good, which is where I part ways with Buddhism. (But maybe they mean something else than what it appears – Buddhism can be tricky that way.)

<<Assuming that suffering is the same as evil, then getting rid of desires would get rid of evil.>>
right. i don't think your argument follows.
1) Desire causes suffering
2) eliminatind desire will eliminate suffering.
Point 1: I think point 1 fails, because i think that desiring GOOD causes JOY. you know the feeling you had as a kid right before you were gonna go to Chucky Cheese? Or the salivating feeling right before you eat your favorite food? I think that that desire is JOY -- and i think that the desire of good BRINGS that joy. Ungtss 01:50, 25 Feb 2005 (UTC)
Point 2: I think point 2 fails, because i don't think eliminating desire will eliminate suffering -- on the contrary, i think that the NUMBNESS it would bring would be suffering. To live a life without joy or the desire for joy? No. I think that would bring more suffering than it would cure. Ungtss 01:50, 25 Feb 2005 (UTC)

The point I'm trying to make isn't that we can get rid of evil by getting rid of desires. The point is that without desires there is no good or evil. Good and evil are subjective.

again, i simply disagree with your assertion. I think that Good and Evil are Absolute. Ungtss 01:50, 25 Feb 2005 (UTC)

We call an event good when it helps us satisfy our desires. We call an event bad when it thwarts our desires, and causes suffering. If an event neither helps or hinders the satifaction of our desires, then it is neither good nor evil.

Would you call Dahmer's killing spree good? it helped to satisfy his desires, and did not harm MY desires at all -- i never met him or anybody he met. but i think it was EVIL. i think it was objectively, not subjectively, absolutely evil. Ungtss 01:50, 25 Feb 2005 (UTC)

The universe is a complex of events. Without humans and their desires, the universe would be neither good nor evil. The universe doesn't satisfy all of our desires, so it does contain some evil. Wether, on balance, the universe is more good and evil is a different question, one where we appear to disagree on the answer.

But that's not the whole story. The universe is an inanimate object. But God is not. It is possible for a person, like God, to do evil while intending good. God, by creating a universe that is partially evil, has done evil. But does that mean that God intended evil? It could be that He wasn't wise enough or powerful enough to do the good He intended. But He might also have been like a doctor – intentionally causing some limited suffering in the service of a greater good. It is possible that we humans are too limited to understand God's motives in this matter.

I'm left again wondering why you have a theology, when you're an atheist. Ungtss 01:50, 25 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<you've apparently rejected any objective basis for good and evil, because they are merely human concepts ... so how is one to say we are actually becoming more moral? how can morality have any MEANING outside of the context of the act itself?>>

I have shown that, objectively, morality has no meaning. I could say similar things about truth, justice, peace, democracy, the American Way, and even apple pie. But I do believe in these things. Why do I believe in these things, when they have no objective truth?

Because I'm not objective. My reason is not pure.

Why is my reason not pure?

Because I have desires.

Why do I have desires?

Because Nature, either by the personal design of God, or by the impersonal actions of evolution, gave them to me. Nature gave us desires in order to increase our chances of survival. (Logically, what reason do we have to strive for survival?)

Mere instinct, inborn desires, can not evolve fast enough to make allowances for every contingency. That is why Nature gave humans minds – our brains exist in order to figure out how to best sastify our desires in an optimal way.

One of these desires is the desire to do good.

It has been shown many times that moral behavior, even when it requires self-sacrifice, is actually pro-survival. This is because while humans are mortal, the genes and ideas that determine our make up are potentially immortal. The survival of our genes and ideas depends on the survival of our families and our societies.

Many philosophers have suggested that this be used as the definition of morality – that in any given situation, the most moral choice to take is the one that optimally maximizes the odds of survival – of self, of family, of society, of life itself.

However, there is a trap in this definition. Consider the old fallacy of Social Darwinism. Because evolutionary fitness increases the chances of an organism prospering, Social Darwinists argued that prosperity was a sign of evolutionary fitness.

What they failed to consider is that human estimates of fitness are imperfect. If this wasn't true, we wouldn't have to problem of “overbreeding” in domesticated strains. The only true judge of evolutionary fitness is Nature itself.

Social Darwinists neglected to take in account that prosperity may be the resulted of inherited wealth, not inherited fitness.

A moral society is more likely to prosper than an immoral society. But just because a society is powerful does not mean that it is moral. Might does not make right.

Moral relativism does not say that there is no objective morality. What it says, in effect, is that only God is a true judge of morality, and that mortal societies should think twice before attempting to sit on His throne of judgment.

In the absence of the perfect rulings of God, morality becomes a matter of consensus.

Although the West is powerful, that doesn't mean that we should impose our cultural values on the rest of the world. In turn, this doesn't mean that we should ignore perceived evil either. But we should always be careful to know the difference between evil and mere differences in culture.

Evidence clearly shows that human behavior is getting closer to the current consensual measures of morality. But does that mean humans are getting more moral objectively? I think humans are getting more moral, but in the absence of an objective measure of morality...

<<But we should always be careful to know the difference between evil and mere differences in culture. >>
What's the difference, if morality is determined by consensus? Ungtss 01:50, 25 Feb 2005 (UTC)
<<Evidence clearly shows that human behavior is getting closer to the current consensual measures of morality.>>
I'm afraid this is self-referential. Human behavior is by definition getting closer to current consensual measures of morality -- because humans have a remarkable ability to rationalize their actions. Nazi Germany was also "getting closer to the current consensual measures of morality" at the time. They just happened to be absolutely, objectively evil and wrong. Ungtss 01:50, 25 Feb 2005 (UTC)

A Decaying Universe[edit]

If I understand you, you say that, without God, the universe is doomed to decay. But one belief doesn't require the other. It is possible to have a naturally improving universe with God, just as it is possible to have a decaying universe without God.

But the last option is an emotional impossibility. Atheism demands a faith in a basically good universe. Atheism, it can be said, transfers the worship of a personal God to a worship of an impersonal Nature. Doing so requires a belief in the goodness – but not omni benevolence – of nature.

Your belief in a decaying universe is only acceptable because of God. Without God, all hope, whether in the form of personal salvation by ascension to Heaven, or global salvation, by God reforming the Earth into a New Eden (or simply preventing further decay), is lost.

<<Atheism demands a faith in a basically good universe.>>

does it provide any rational basis for the basically good universe? A universe that is ultimately devoid of any objective meaning? Ungtss 01:50, 25 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<Your belief in a decaying universe is only acceptable because of God.>>

well, it may be TRUE with or without God ... but without God, it's a very very dark reality. It's only PALATABLE with God:). Ungtss 01:50, 25 Feb 2005 (UTC)

God-as-an-Artist[edit]

<<mcfarland is only in our imagination. those children i saw skewered through their vaginas on bamboo posts are very, very real. i don't think fiction to reality is a fair comparison.>>

I repeat: What is God, but Chuck Palahniuk with a more immersive art form at his disposal?

I don't think it was either. I think it was evil men doing things that God hates. Ungtss 01:50, 25 Feb 2005 (UTC)

The difference between our human arts and the universe (if you consider the universe as a work of art) is that human art is never fully immersive. Some part of our senses are not involved in the work. Even if that were not so, we still retain our own memories. God does not have those limitations.

We can be sure of nothing but our own existence. What proof do you have of the absolute reality of this girl?

I'm not offering God-as-an-Artist as a serious picture of reality. I'm offering art as one possible greater good that God may have been working towards if he intentionally created evil. We know that He, or rather, His Creation is causing us to suffer. But could he have a good reason for doing so?

I'm left with the same question. If you don't believe in God, why do you have opinions on theology? Since i'm the only theist here, perhaps we should limit our theological discussions to MY theology, unless you come to have one of your own? Ungtss 01:50, 25 Feb 2005 (UTC)

<<... allows for the possibility of Vandals which undo his good work and the work of those who work with him, in the name of their own ideologies, or just the pleasure of sheer destruction.>>

Ah, but Wikipedia vandals are co-equals with the benign contributors and are co-creators of the Wikipedia.

We don't know much about the actual nature of God. So far, I've been referring to Him as “He”, because that is the convention. But there is nothing preventing God from being a committee.

Either the Devil (the personification of evil) is a co-equal of God, or he is a creation of God. If the Devil is a co-equal of God, and had a hand in the Creation, then he is part of God. We have done nothing more than prove that God is partially evil – something we already knew.

If the Devil is a creation of God, then God is responsible for him. God should have the ability to destroy him. He may be prevented from doing so by some other consideration. Or he may have intentionally created him as part of some greater plan.

These all depend on your theological assumptions again. I believe that God made the devil Good (Lucifer, the highest of the Angels), but Lucifer rebelled, fell, and took 1/3 of the angels with him. I believe that God and Satan are currently locked in a battle, and God will ultimately win, because God is the ultimate I am. Ungtss 01:50, 25 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Crazyeddie 2005-03-02 (email)[edit]

I've put this in wikicode format, to keep it consistent with the discussion already in the archives.

The Theology of an Atheist[edit]

I believe that God is infinitely powerful and wise. I believe that God is basically good, but not omnibenevolent. However, God fails from omnibenevolence not because God is partially evil, but because God is beyond our categories of good and evil. God is exactly as God should be, nothing more, nothing less.

I believe that, because God made it, the universe is also exactly as it should be, nothing more, nothing less. If God were a person like us, I would say that the universe might serve a function in His world – an object of art, or a tool of some sort.

But I don't think God is a person – partially because the universe is too weirdly complex and beautiful to be artificial. It strains my belief to think that being who is not infinitely powerful and wise could have possibly had any large role to play in its formation.

But the existence of a self-aware entity – a person – that is infinitely powerful and wise produces certain paradoxes. That's even before throwing omnibenevolence into the mix. So my God isn't a person. My God is very real – but it is not a He, She, or even an It.

Because God isn't a person, the universe has no purpose intelligible to us. Even so, because God made the universe, the universe has a purpose. Because evil exists, evil must be a part of that purpose. But so is our own eternal struggle against it. Without suffering, how could we know joy? Without the struggle against evil, what would give our lives meaning?

Because I don't believe in a personal God, the easiest pigeonhole to put me in is the one labeled “naturalistic atheist”. It's more or less true, but it isn't the whole story.

I hold impersonal Nature in the same reverence that a theist holds their God. I also think that every self-aware being has a spark of the divine. So it is equally true to call me a pantheist.

Perhaps the most accurate description is to say that I'm the sole member of my own religion. But that doesn't give much useful information about what I actually believe. So I call myself an atheist as a form of shorthand.

Hmm ... I think the "standard" definition for your beliefs is Naturalistic Pantheism, yes? but now that i understand your particular brand of "atheism," we can keep using that label if you like:). Ungtss 13:56, 2 Mar 2005 (UTC)

The Transient and the Eternal are the Same.[edit]

<<hmm ... help me out, because this appears to be non-sequitur to me. your line of argument appears to be: 1) I know for a fact that I exist, because i think. 2) Therefore, I have always existed, and will always exist. >>

You are misquoting me. I didn't say, “always existed, and will always exist.” I specifically said “will always have had existed.” That's a pretty awkward phrase, and I wouldn't have used it if your own, more elegant one, would have served.

Your confusion is understandable, because the concept I'm trying to describe runs counter to the built-in assumptions of our common language.

We have agreed that, except for our own existence, nothing we know is known to be absolutely true. That includes our common-sense notions of time, which have become encoded in our very language.

Scientists have already made discoveries that poke holes in those notions. For example, we know that time is relative, not an absolute. From the point of view of an “objective” bystander, time moves more slowly for someone who is traveling close to the speed of light, or is in a very strong gravitational field.

A passenger in a starship traveling at relativistic speeds might spend only a few months on a trip, but come back to find that thousands of years have already passed back on Earth.

Spatial travel at relativistic speeds gives us a form of one-way time travel.

Physicists, who have a tendency to be science fiction fans, are of course looking for ways to travel backwards in time as well. Any such system would almost certainly make faster-than-light spatial travel possible as well. So far, it looks like current theory allows the possibility of reverse time travel, but it doesn't demand it either.

Assuming that bidirectional time travel is possible, and given the existence of objective reality, what actions are travellers allowed while they are in their own past?

My own answer to this question is philosophical in nature, not scientific. So you should only need reason to solve it, not evidence. It might help to see what answers other people have come up with. I believe you know how to use the Wikipedia, assuming you're still willing to do so passively.

Alternatively, why did I say “will always have had existed” instead of the more elegant “have always existed, and will always exist”?

If you get stuck, I will try to give you hints. But I think the more you worked on these questions yourself, the more likely you are to believe my own answers.

I have answers for your other questions, but unless you can answer mine to my satisfaction, I doubt you'll be able to understand me. The assumptions in our common language will get in the way.

well lemme give it a shot:).
<<But I am not my memories. Under Descartes's Truth, my memories may be falsified, but my existence can not. I am nothing more than the simple fact of self-awareness. In the matrix of spacetime, I am a dimensionless point. The passage of time may be nothing but an illusion, an artifact of my apparent memories. But because I exist, I will always have had existed. There is no power in the universe, not even God, that can change that.>>
your deduction above is:
"My memories may be falsified, but my existence cannot."
Absolutely.
"I am nothing more than a simple fact of self-awareness."
I challenge this. You may be more than a simple fact of self-awareness, or you may not -- descartes can only PROVE your "simple fact of self-awareness," but cannot prove that you are nothing MORE. You may be self awareness + atoms + personality + soul. Personally, I find it more reasonable to believe you are more than "mere self-awareness." after all, i'm aware of you too:).
"In the matrix of spacetime, I am a dimensionless point."
On what basis do you make this argument? again, just because descartes can only PROVE your self-awareness does not mean you are without dimension. you may have self-awareness PLUS dimension, plus any NUMBER of things. Further, to be a dimensionless point, you would have to be of infinite mass density -- a singularity, or black hole. any evidence for that:)? Ungtss 13:56, 2 Mar 2005 (UTC)
"The passage of time may be nothing but an illusion, an artifact of my apparent memories."
Indeed it may, but what reason do you have to believe it is? Ungtss 13:56, 2 Mar 2005 (UTC)
"But because I exist, I will always have had existed. There is no power in the universe, not even God, that can change that."
If I understand your more subtle meaning here, you mean simply that "you will always have had existed in the past, even if you cease to exist in the future, but since time may be completely arbitrary and meaningless, you may actually be eternal in some sense." I can agree with you on that, but i'm afraid i don't see the significance of it. time may indeed be arbitrary (The Christian doctrine of a timeless God requires it). and it may indeed be an artifact of our minds. but what reasonable basis do we have for believing the latter? Ungtss 13:56, 2 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Allow me to present my own beliefs for your consideration and criticism:

1) I believe that God (who we both agree exists, apparently) is a person, in the sense that he has ideas, feelings, thoughts, and reactions. I believe this because it is the only reasonable alternative i'm aware of to explain Creation. here are my premises and conclusions.

a) inductively, the universe exhibits design (a simple look at the magnificence of the atom or the human body convinces me of this -- and i think, to some degree, we agree on this, if indeed you are a pantheist).
b) inductively, design can only be created by persons. this is based simply on my experience. design only comes from designers, and the universe is full of design. i cannot conceive of the universe arising without a designer.
but more deeply, i question your idea of an "impersonal God." what meaning does such an idea hold? what IS it? what does it mean? what good is it? why reverence it? does it think? does it feel? is it just "the universe?" and if so, isn't it unparsimonious to layer a "faceless god" on top of an impersonal universe?
c) Therefore, i believe in a personal God.

2) I believe that people exist in all dimensions, space and time, at least while we're alive. yes, the dimensions are relative, but that doesn't render them meaningless. I am 6'9" tall, 250 pounds, and 25 years old. those are my dimensions. what we are before we're born and after we die, i don't claim to know. however, i have reason to believe that a personal designer would be gracious enough to allow us an "out" from death, and there is a story about a man named Jesus who, it seems, rose from the dead. So I believe it entirely possible that i could do so too. Ungtss 16:01, 2 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Crazyeddie 2005-03-11[edit]

Pantheism[edit]

<<Hmm ... I think the "standard" definition for your beliefs is Naturalistic Pantheism, yes? but now that i understand your particular brand of "atheism," we can keep using that label if you like:). Ungtss 13:56, 2 Mar 2005 (UTC) >>

Naturalistic Pantheism and atheism are basically the same thing. Think of it this way – the label of atheism describes what I don't believe – the existence of a personal God. The label of pantheism describes what I do believe in – an impersonal God. For the purposes of this discussion, I believe it will be easier for you to accept that I believe in a rather unorthodox God, rather than simply worshiping objective reality.

<<but more deeply, i question your idea of an "impersonal God." what meaning does such an idea hold? what IS it? what does it mean? what good is it? why reverence it? does it think? does it feel? is it just "the universe?" and if so, isn't it unparsimonious to layer a "faceless god" on top of an impersonal universe? >>

My impersonal God is nothing more or less than objective reality. That is not the same as our universe, which is only a local piece of the greater cosmos, or science, which is just our imperfect mapping of our little corner of reality. What good is it? Why reverence it? These are questions that can only be answered with faith, not reason.

<<isn't it unparsimonious to layer a "faceless god" on top of an impersonal universe?>>

I have done my best to describe my beliefs. I was not entirely able to do so, because I was limited by our common speech. What I have told you isn't false, but neither it is entirely true. Think of it as a myth.

Layering a faceless god on top of an impersonal universe is not logically unparsimonious, because the layering is only apparent, an artifact of the mythic quality of my statements.

My God is not a person. It can't think or feel, unless it first instantiates itself as a person. Me and thee are examples of such instantiations.

<<design can only be created by persons. this is based simply on my experience. design only comes from designers, and the universe is full of design. >>

A design is created in order to fulfill the desires of the designer. Since only a person can have desires, or for that matter, think, only a person can be a designer.

I don't believe my God designed our universe. I do believe that it created it. (At least in terms of this mythic structure.)

In the terms of my mythic structure, you believe that my God instantiated itself into the form of a person, who then created our universe. You God is sub-ordinate to my God. Furthermore, I think we are agreed that an omnipotent, omniscient person presents certain paradoxes. You resolve these paradoxes by Open Theism, which states that God is neither omnipotent nor omniscient. I personally believe that placing such limits on God is rather impious. Further, I intend to demonstrate that no person, including your personal God, is eternal (except in the same sense that I'm eternal). In fact, I will attempt to show that your personal God has no qualitative differences from me, aside from the small matter of His ability to create universes.

I find your conception of God to be a rather limited being. I believe it is a valid question to ask, “Why reverence such a being?”.

<<i cannot conceive of the universe arising without a designer. >>

Might I suggest that statement may say more about your lack of imagination than the nature of reality? :-p Objective reality simply is. Always has been, always will. It doesn't need a designer, because it has always been here.

The Problem of Evil (Recap)[edit]

After looking over the Theodicy article, I figured we might want to recap our stances on the problem of evil. Not discuss, as such, just recap.

These pretty much sum up my feelings on the matter:

  • What humans consider evil or suffering is an illusion or unimportant.
  • A perfect God is not only good but also evil, since perfection implies no lacking, including not lacking that which is evil. A lacking of evil would imply that there is something external to his all-encompassing perfection. This is related to monistic philosophies such as advaita, or pantheism.
  • God's divine plan is good. What we see as evil is not really evil; rather, it is part of a divine design that is actually good. Our limitations prevent us from seeing the big picture.

Not an entirely accurate picture of what I believe, but it'll do for now.

One last one:

  • Most atheists believe that statements about God are meaningless. Some atheists believe that the problem of evil can be used to prove that God does not exist by the method of reductio ad absurdum. However, as maltheists point out, this method does not prove that God does not exist, but rather that if he does exist he is not omnipotent or benevolent, as he and his followers might claim him to be. The logical error may also fall in other places: for example, that evil does not exist, or that God creating evil does not make God evil.

But since I'm not being an atheist today (it being an odd-numbered day), we will ignore this one.

Here's what it appears to me to be your views on the subject:

  • Evil is the consequence of God permitting humans to have free will, or God may intend evil and suffering as a test for humanity. Without the possibility to choose to do good or evil acts humanity would be nothing but robots.
  • God created perfect angels and perfect humans with a free will. Some of his creations chose independence and lost their perfection: they began to sin, which resulted in evil doing and death. For a while God will allow this to continue, so that it can be proven that his creations can not be happy while independent from God because this was the challenge which caused the rebellion in the first place. In due time God will restore the people who choose to depend on God to perfection and so bring an end to sin and with it an end to evil.
  • One of the conflicting assumptions is wrong: Drop either the assumption that God is omniscient, or omnipotent, or perfectly good. See the entry on the subject of God and omnipotence for more details on this point.

Not really looking to open up debate on these points at the present moment, but if you wish to clarify your position, go ahead.

Points for later discussion[edit]

You're bringing up more questions than I can easily answer, so I'm compiling a list of things to come back to. I'm doing this for two reasons. Firstly, I don't have time to cover all the bases in each post. Secondly, and more importantly, I'd like to make sure we both understand what the other person is talking about before moving on to the next topic.

  • Morality
  • "In the matrix of spacetime, I am a dimensionless point."
    • On what basis do you make this argument? again, just because descartes can only PROVE your self-awareness does not mean you are without dimension. you may have self-awareness PLUS dimension, plus any NUMBER of things. Further, to be a dimensionless point, you would have to be of infinite mass density -- a singularity, or black hole. any evidence for that:)?
  • "The passage of time may be nothing but an illusion, an artifact of my apparent memories."
    • Indeed it may, but what reason do you have to believe it is?
  • "But because I exist, I will always have had existed. There is no power in the universe, not even God, that can change that."
  • If I understand your more subtle meaning here, you mean simply that "you will always have had existed in the past, even if you cease to exist in the future, but since time may be completely arbitrary and meaningless, you may actually be eternal in some sense." I can agree with you on that, but i'm afraid i don't see the significance of it. time may indeed be arbitrary (The Christian doctrine of a timeless God requires it). and it may indeed be an artifact of our minds. but what reasonable basis do we have for believing the latter?

Material vs. Spirit vs. Non-dualism[edit]

  • "I am nothing more than a simple fact of self-awareness."
    • I challenge this. You may be more than a simple fact of self-awareness, or you may not -- descartes can only PROVE your "simple fact of self-awareness," but cannot prove that you are nothing MORE. You may be self awareness + atoms + personality + soul. Personally, I find it more reasonable to believe you are more than "mere self-awareness." after all, i'm aware of you too:).
  • I believe that people exist in all dimensions, space and time, at least while we're alive. yes, the dimensions are relative, but that doesn't render them meaningless. I am 6'9" tall, 250 pounds, and 25 years old.

It seems to me that you are describing the problem of the apparent duality of spirit and matter. I have not one, but two, answers to this dilemma. The first is "scientific", in that it requires a belief in objective reality. The second is "philosophical" in that it doesn't require a belief in objective reality.

Here is my first, objective, answer - the Principle of Emergence. This is what the Principle of Emergence states: "A system of interacting parts has properties, which, while they emerge from the properties of its parts, and, in theory, can be derived from the properties of those parts. However, in practice, the properties of the system can not be easily derived from the properties of its parts, to the point of impracticality."

There is, of course, a story behind this principle. When the discipline of science first started, some 300-400 years ago, it was clear (or at least taken as an article of faith) that the behaviors observed in the separate fields of physics and biology followed rules. But it wasn't entirely clear if they followed the same rules. Physics matured fairly airily, and started producing reliable results. But reconciling the laws of physics with those of biology proved difficult. The behavior of living things didn't violate the laws of physics, but their behavior couldn't be entirely predicted by the laws of physics either.

So two schools of thought developed.

The first school was that of the Materialists. They believed that the behavior of living things could be predicted solely by the laws of physics. This seems to be only logical. However, this philosophy leads to certain conflicts with everyday experience. Under the worldview of 19th century physics, the world operates like clockwork. If you know the initial conditions of a system, and the laws it works under, you can determine the future without error. The Materialist worldview is deterministic. This worldview flies in the face of our everyday experience of free will.

The second school was that of the Vitalists. They believed that living things were exceptions to the laws of physics. Living things are imbued with a quality that nonliving things lack, a vital essence, a quintessence of life, a soul if you will. This view attempts to explain free will, but it isn't entirely logical.

The first worldview lead to the belief that animals have no souls, that they are essentially organic robots, acting only out of genetically programmed instinct. (For the most part, humans managed to escape this view, but not entirely.) The second worldview left the question of how exactly the soul interacts with matter - the "Ghost in the Machine" problem.

It wasn't until the fields of chemistry and biology began to merge, forming biochemistry, that a third answer became apparent. This third answer was the Principle of Emergence.

Quarks, one of the simplest entities know to modern science, under earth-like conditions, combine to form protons and neutrons. It's pretty simple to work out what the properties of a nucleonic particle will be given the properties of the three quarks that will combine to form it. A nucleonic particle is a fairly simple system, consisting only of three quarks and the gluons that bind them together.

But what if we lived under conditions where we can observe quarks directly, and where quarks don't combine to form nucleonic particles? If, say, we lived in a really hot environment, and the quarks are moving around too fast to combine into nucleonic particles? And that we're really small, so that quarks are the size of beach balls?

We could learn quite a bit about the properties of quarks. But we might not think to work out the math that would show that, under the right conditions, quarks would combine to form nucleonic particles. In theory, we could do so, but would we, unless we already knew that nucleonic particles exist?

What does this have to do with the properties of biological systems?

The macromolecules of biochemistry, proteins, nucleic acids, prions, viruses, are chemical compounds that are almost, but not quite, alive. Proteins, for example, are strings of thousands of amino acids, which, in turn, are compounds consisting of approx. 40 atoms (IIRC). The properties of proteins are determined by their shapes. These shapes are determined by how the strings fold, which in turn, is determined by minor interatomic attractions which are too weak to form actual chemical bonds. Given the sequence of amino acids that form a protein, the folding of a protein, and hence its function, can be derived. But such derivation ain't easy. I'm running a program on my computer, folding@home, that does nothing but. IIRC, one biochemist won a Nobel Prize for figuring out if one organic compound was shaped this way or that.

These biochemical macromolecules exhibit complex behaviors which can be derived, after a lot of work, from the physical properties of their parts. Viruses and prions are rather annoying because their complex behaviors are right on the edge of actual life. They can't self-reproduce, but they can force living systems to assist them in reproducing.

According to current theory, the first living organisms where macromolecules that had worked out the trick of self-reproducing.

In the modern era, cells, which are systems of interacting macromolecules, are alive. They obey the laws of physics, but their behavior can only be predicted accurately by the laws of biology. The laws of biology, the properties of living cells, can, in theory, be derived from the properties of the macromolecules that make up living cells. In practice, we're working on it, but it ain't easy.

Biological systems, living things, operate by their own laws, laws which don't apply to non-living things. But these laws are just special re-formulations of the laws of physics. So the answer to the question of "Materialism or Vitalism" is "Yes.".

The human mind, the most complex system known to man, emerges from the interactions of about 60 trillion neurons, which are themselves only poorly understood. The human mind is dependent on the brain for existence, but that is not the same as saying the brain is the mind. In humans, the mind emerges from the underlying biology of the brain, and is dependent on it.

The central concept of Artificial Intelligence is that it is possible to create a human-like mind which emerges from an electronic, not organic, basis. This would require the modeling of the cognitive subsystems that make up the human mind in the form of software, which would then be run on a computer.

One of those subsystems is self-awareness.

So my self-awareness emerges from my brain and my body, but my self-awareness is not my brain or my body. It is not even my other cognitive subsystems, including most of my thoughts and my memories. In fact, I'm pretty sure that my mind does most of its work outside of my view.

I am only my self-awareness. I am not my biology.

As I mentioned, I also have "subjective" reasons to believe I am only my self-awareness, and that my memories and physical body are, at least in principle, illusions. These reasons don't depend on an assumption of objective reality. Since you have all the data you need, I leave it as a problem for the student, for now at least.






Ungtss 3-12-05[edit]

<<Naturalistic Pantheism and atheism are basically the same thing.>>

Perhaps for you, but don't tell that to the atheists that aren't naturalistic pantheists:). They reject any concept of God, personal or impersonal. But this is beside the point:). Ungtss 17:45, 12 Mar 2005 (UTC)

<<My impersonal God is nothing more or less than objective reality. That is not the same as our universe, which is only a local piece of the greater cosmos, or science, which is just our imperfect mapping of our little corner of reality. What good is it? Why reverence it? These are questions that can only be answered with faith, not reason.>>

understood. from my point of view, questions that are answered by your concept of Faith (as divorced from Reason) are not answered at all:). Ungtss 17:45, 12 Mar 2005 (UTC)

<<My God is not a person. It can't think or feel, unless it first instantiates itself as a person. Me and thee are examples of such instantiations.>>

understood, and i can appreciate your acknowledgment of the "mythical quality" of the god of naturalistic pantheism. i simply wonder why it's useful to call the universe god, when it's nothing more than the universe. Why not just call it "the universe" if that's all it is -- why overlay a myth over the Facts that doesn't do anything to add to or explain the Facts? But these are all useless semantic issues -- i accept your terminology:).

<<I don't believe my God designed our universe. I do believe that it created it. (At least in terms of this mythic structure.)>>

Did your God create itself? Did it DECIDE to do so? Did it have any CHOICE in doing so? Was it able to muster the WILL to do so? Ungtss 17:45, 12 Mar 2005 (UTC)

<<In the terms of my mythic structure, you believe that my God instantiated itself into the form of a person, who then created our universe. You God is sub-ordinate to my God.>>

i don't follow. could you clarify that syllogism for me? Objections:
1) only your god, my god, or neither god exist. how can one be subordinate to the other, if only one can exist?
2) you may mean that your CONCEPTION of God is superior to my conception of God, but what effect does that have on reality? I may conceive George W to be a fantastic president, and you perceive him to be a nut. What effect do our opinions have on what he actually is? And if the real god is less (or more) than we think he is, wouldn't it be most important to know what that is? Ungtss 17:45, 12 Mar 2005 (UTC)
3) Why is an impersonal God superior to a personal God, when it cannot Will or Choose or Think or Feel? Isn't this analogous to saying that the robot-designer is subordinate to the robot?

<<Furthermore, I think we are agreed that an omnipotent, omniscient person presents certain paradoxes. You resolve these paradoxes by Open Theism, which states that God is neither omnipotent nor omniscient. I personally believe that placing such limits on God is rather impious.>>

isn't it equally impious to hold that God would be less of a God simply because he doesn't live up to your standards for godhood? Ungtss 17:45, 12 Mar 2005 (UTC)

<<I find your conception of God to be a rather limited being. I believe it is a valid question to ask, “Why reverence such a being?”>>

Why reverence Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, or Michael Jordan? Quite simply, because they are extraordinary. Omnipotent? no. But amazing. and certainly more amazing than me. Why must God live up to our standards for what we think he SHOULD be in order to be worth reverencing? Isn't it enough to recognize him for what he is? Ungtss 17:45, 12 Mar 2005 (UTC)

<<Objective reality simply is. Always has been, always will. It doesn't need a designer, because it has always been here.>>

was it there before there big bang? Ungtss 17:45, 12 Mar 2005 (UTC)

The Problem of Evil (Recap)[edit]

After looking over the Theodicy article, I figured we might want to recap our stances on the problem of evil. Not discuss, as such, just recap.

sounds good -- i'll recap my feelings about your feeling:).
  • What humans consider evil or suffering is an illusion or unimportant.
    • I question your basis for saying this. Why are you willing to deny the fundamental values of good and evil that are inherent in human nature -- deny the instincts you and i were born with -- in order to make this statement? What overwhelming evidence or argument to the contrary leads you to believe that my heart is wrong to think that the slaughter of innocent children is wrong? Personally, i'm not willing to give my mind that twist. i'm unwilling to reject my instincts in this regard. Ungtss 17:45, 12 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  • A perfect God is not only good but also evil, since perfection implies no lacking, including not lacking that which is evil. A lacking of evil would imply that there is something external to his all-encompassing perfection. This is related to monistic philosophies such as advaita, or pantheism.
    • this certainly follows from your premise immediately above, but since i question your premise, i question your conclusion. if good and evil ARE real, objective, and important, a perfect god would be free from evil. yes? Ungtss 17:45, 12 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  • God's divine plan is good. What we see as evil is not really evil; rather, it is part of a divine design that is actually good. Our limitations prevent us from seeing the big picture.
    • this also follows from your premise above, but it leaves me with the same question. On what basis do you hold that God's divine plan is good, despite our overwhelming perceptions of a universe fraught with evil? why are you willing to deny your instincts? Ungtss 17:45, 12 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Here's what it appears to me to be your views on the subject: <<Evil is the consequence of God permitting humans to have free will, or God may intend evil and suffering as a test for humanity. Without the possibility to choose to do good or evil acts humanity would be nothing but robots.>>

Close, but not quite. I reject entirely the idea that "God intends evil and suffering as a test for humanity." If indeed that's what he's doing, then fuck him: he's evil, and i'd rather go to hell than live in his heaven. As to the first, i think evil is evil is a consequence of humans choosing to use their free will, without regard to whether God "permits" it. When God created Man, he created a person that by its very nature had free will. His motives in the matter are irrelevent to me. He hoped we'd do right. we didn't. i don't think God had control over that. if he did, then he created an evil universe, and again, i'd rather go to hell than live in his heaven. Ungtss 17:45, 12 Mar 2005 (UTC)

<<One of the conflicting assumptions is wrong: Drop either the assumption that God is omniscient, or omnipotent, or perfectly good. See the entry on the subject of God and omnipotence for more details on this point.>>

    • I reject all three premises. I don't believe in a god that is "perfectly good" -- because how could that be defined objectively? defining him as "perfectly good" just puts him in our theological box, where we can attempt to "imagine" what he is. i don't dare do that. i have no reason to believe he's perfectly ANYTHING. but i believe he's good -- much better than me -- and that he exists -- and that's all that matters to me.

<<I am only my self-awareness. I am not my biology.>>

thanks for your fantastic breakdown on the history of emergence, but i don't think the above sentence "emerges" (sorry:) from the theory. aren't you both your self-awareness AND your biology? messing with the biology certainly affects the self-awareness -- isn't your biology like the stem of a flower, and your self-awareness the bloom? if your self-awareness is DEPENDENT on your biology, you can't really say you are only your self-awareness, can you? Ungtss 17:45, 12 Mar 2005 (UTC)

04/11/2005[edit]

<<aren't you both your self-awareness AND your biology? messing with the biology certainly affects the self-awareness -- isn't your biology like the stem of a flower, and your self-awareness the bloom?>>

If I change my biology, am I the same person? If I get a haircut, am I the same person? If I loose a foot? If I get brain damage? If I have amnesia? If I have my mind uploaded into a computer? If I'm exactly duplicated, down to the atoms? If I'm resurrected by your God? If I die (presumably causing my self-awareness go *poof!*), am I my corpse? How about if I'm a mental state where I'm not self-aware (such as in a dreamless sleep), but still alive?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, then why? What is the constant?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, then why? What is missing?

interesting question! i'd have to answer yes -- you'd be the same person despite any of those changes. i think you'd be the same person even if you were labotomized (losing self-awareness), or had your arm cut off (losing part of your biology). However, while your "self" does not change its identity, it changes its characteristics. If i cut off your arm, you'll be the same person with different characteristics. same with a labotomy. what is the common characteristic? i don't think it's self-awareness. you could be braindead (and therefore not self-aware), but you'd still be the same person. i don't know that there's a single common characteristic. i think the "person" is the composite of physiological, mental, and spiritual phenomena and characteristics which have attached themselves to you at conception and following. you are therefore both your biology and your self-awareness (and probably more than that), and changing those things changes you, but doesn't change who you are. how's that? Ungtss 20:41, 12 Apr 2005 (UTC)

<<was [objective reality] there before there big bang? >>

Probably, for several reasons:

Firstly, the Big Bang isn't necessarily the beginning of the universe. The Big Bang theory was created when it was observed that all distant objects are receding from us. Projecting that trend backwards, we arrive at the conclusion that all matter in the observable universe was once at the same spot.

Assuming that there are no discontinuities in the trend (as Occam's Razor would have us do, in the absence of any other evidence), then the universe was infinitely dense at some finite point in the past. Infinite density creates a singularity – a “division by zero” error in our physical models. Our present theories can't go beyond this era of infinite density.

We can't observe even that far back, since the early universe was glowing hot, making it opaque to our current instruments.

If anything happened before the Big Bang, we can't tell at this moment. But there are some hypothesises floating around that the universe wasn't infinitely dense, that there was a discontinuity in the trend. So it might only be a matter of time before we find out something about events that happened before the Big Bang.

Secondly, objective reality is not the same thing as our universe. Objective reality is the set of all events that affect what we perceive about the world around us. Or more accurately, it is the relationship between those events. If events happened before the Big Bang, and we can somehow deduce that they happened, then they are part of objective reality.

Your god is presumably not of this universe, but, by your account, he did have an effect on events in this universe, which we can observe. Therefore, he is part of our objective reality, but not our universe.

But the third answer is that our local notions of time may not apply to the whole of objective reality.

It seems to me that what you are really asking is “where did all of this come from?”, or the question of First Cause.

The problem of First Cause assumes that the chain of cause and effect began some finite time ago. But this is problematic. If every effect requires a cause, what caused the First Cause?

The simplest answer is that time is infinite – that there is no First Cause, only an endless succession of earliest known causes.

Another answer is that time is looped in on itself – that the Last Effect becomes the First Cause. There is no beginning and end to time, just as a circle has no beginning and no end.

A third answer is that time is meaningless.

Consider a comic book. Each frame represents a moment, a snap shot in time. There is a sequence of them, running from left to right. There is a pattern to the events depicted in each frame – given the events in the frames to the left, you can predict, with some accuracy, what will happen in the next frame to the right.

But is this the same as saying that one frame caused the next?

All well said! i'd like to propose a fourth answer: since everything in our universe must have a cause, there logically must have been an uncaused cause. we don't know what that cause was like, but given the premise that everything in the universe must have been caused, it follows that everything must have been caused by some unknown thing that didn't require causation. Ungtss 20:41, 12 Apr 2005 (UTC)

<<Did your God create itself? Did it DECIDE to do so? Did it have any CHOICE in doing so? Was it able to muster the WILL to do so? >>

My God, objective reality, did not create itself. It has always been around, because our notions of time don't apply to it – only small portions of it. Objective reality is capable of making decisions, choices, and the exercise of will, but only because we exist. We are part of objective reality, and because we can make decisions, choices and exercise will, objective reality does. We are the eyes, heart, mind, soul of reality. But not all of the actions of objective reality are caused by us, any more than all of our actions are willed. Do you will to breathe? Do you will your heart to beat? Do you will your cells to divide?

Objective reality is not the same as our universe. Our universe is potentially only one part of objective reality.

The simplest scenario is that our universe just happened, from the unconscious unfolding of the nature of objective reality. Self-awareness isn't required for complexity to occur.

It is a possibility that our universe was created by a self-aware entity. But where did this self-aware entity come from? Was he also created by another self-aware entity? (Maybe we will create him, futureward along our timeline, pastward along his!) Or did he simply happen?

Either way, this hypothetical being, along with our universe, is a part of objective reality. Objective reality is the set of all events that have some effect on our subjective reality, and, acting together, create it. Our universe is perhaps only one portion of that set of events.

Interesting metaphysical speculations ... definitely food for thought:). Ungtss 20:41, 12 Apr 2005 (UTC)

<<isn't it equally impious to hold that God would be less of a God simply because he doesn't live up to your standards for godhood?>>

Only if your God is really a God. Is it impious or disrespectful to call a furry quadruped a cat instead of a dog if it purrs? What we call something is arbitrary. When we look at an object, we compare it to a mental checklist, and if it checks out, we call it one thing. If it doesn't, we call it something else. We humans pigeonhole things. Reality doesn't. Our tendency to pigeonhole things gives us strength. Our pigeonholing, our ability to abstract reality, allows us to use language, logic, mathematics. But it is really just a form of mental shorthand. Reality doesn't pigeonhole things, we do.

Granted. Ungtss 20:41, 12 Apr 2005 (UTC)

The only thing that counts is that we all use more or less the same sorting method. That way, we can all pigeonhole things the same way. So if we say that “that critter over there is a cat”, another person isn't going to expect it to bark.

Granted. Ungtss 20:41, 12 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Philosophers have traditionally defined God as an omnipotent, omniscient entity. You reject that definition “out of hand”. But all that means is that you and philosophers are speaking a different language. Based on the traditional philosophic definition of God, and on the characteristics of the entity you describe, I would pigeonhole this entity as not a God, but rather a god – an immortal person of great power.

Okay. that's an issue of semantics. i'm willing to differentiate between god and God for purposes of this discussion. Ungtss 20:41, 12 Apr 2005 (UTC)

The simplest pigeonhole for this entity that I think we can agree on is the one marked “(hypothetical) Creator (of our universe)”.

I have said that your god is subordinate to my God. I didn't mean that in the sense that my conception of God is to be preferred to yours. I meant it in the sense that your god is a subset of my God.

If science reported tomorrow that your religion is correct in every particular, I would be very surprised, shocked even, perhaps even perturbed. But my religion would still be the same.

My religion admits that your religion may be true – but it doesn't demand it. If your religion turns out to be true, my religion will not be affected, because it contains your religion.

My God is objective reality, the set of all events that affect our shared subjective reality. If your god exists, by your own admission, he has affected our subjective reality, by creating large chunks of it. Therefore, he is part of my God, objective reality.

okay ... if i follow your argument, you're saying that because your god is objective reality and my god is part of objective reality, then my god is part of your god. it's a good syllogism, but i don't know exactly what it proves. in my religion, i do not deny the existence of objective reality. i simply choose not to revere it as a god, because i believe that only persons are worthy of such reverence. Yes, my "god" is part of your "God." but in the case that my religion is true, then we'll both believe in my god and objective reality; but i'll revere my god and acknowledge objective reality, while you'll revere objective reality and acknowledge my god. i will revere the person, while you will revere the playing field. is this meaningful in some way i'm missing? Ungtss 20:41, 12 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Is a god less worthy of reverence than a God? Our pagan ancestors would beg to differ! But speculating on the nature of God has virtues that speculating on the nature of a god lacks. Since a God is all powerful and wise, nature and God's will are one and the same. Speculating about God teaches us things about nature, and observing nature teaches us about God. Even if God doesn't exist as a person, such speculations are useful, because humans are very good at figuring out other people. Thinking of nature as a person taps into the human ability to figure out what other people are up to.

Indeed, such speculation may be useful. but if there is no God, but only a god, then what is the use of belief in a being who does not exist? Ungtss 20:41, 12 Apr 2005 (UTC)

<<Why reverence Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, or Michael Jordan? Quite simply, because they are extraordinary. Omnipotent? no. But amazing. and certainly more amazing than me. Why must God live up to our standards for what we think he SHOULD be in order to be worth reverencing? Isn't it enough to recognize him for what he is?>>

There is the answer to a question you asked me earlier. We reverence what we choose to reverence. I answered “why we reverence something is question to be answered with faith”, which is true, but incomplete. I reverence objective reality because it contains all that is – including all persons, your Creator, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Michael Jordan, you and me. It contains all that is good and beautiful. It contains my self-awareness. It also contains all that is evil and ugly, but beggars can't be choosers.

i wouldn't argue with holding a deep reverence for reality. I hold one myself. i simply choose not to revere it as a god because (as you said), we choose to revere what we choose to revere, and i think that only persons can be revered as gods. so while sharing your reverence for objective reality, i can think of no reason to treat it as a god. i might as well worship a rock. Ungtss 20:41, 12 Apr 2005 (UTC)

2005/04/13[edit]

The purpose of this discussion[edit]

<<okay ... if i follow your argument, you're saying that because your god is objective reality and my god is part of objective reality, then my god is part of your god. it's a good syllogism, but i don't know exactly what it proves. in my religion, i do not deny the existence of objective reality. i simply choose not to revere it as a god, because i believe that only persons are worthy of such reverence. Yes, my "god" is part of your "God." but in the case that my religion is true, then we'll both believe in my god and objective reality; but i'll revere my god and acknowledge objective reality, while you'll revere objective reality and acknowledge my god. i will revere the person, while you will revere the playing field. is this meaningful in some way i'm missing? >>

My purpose here is to convert you to my religion. Why am I doing this? Because I believe that your deeply held religious beliefs are causing you to ignore evidence and reason.

Well alright then:). My purpose is not to convert you, but merely to understand your position better, and to develop my own both by incorporating your good points and sharpening my arguments against your bad ones:). Ungtss 12:24, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Some Creationists insist that science is a religion. This isn't true, but they are competitors. That is because religion and science have conflicting views. The rational thing to do if your religion and science conflict would be to switch religions. But that's not as easy to do as it is to say.

I don't think you'll find any creationists who say what you're saying. they say science can be misused as a religion, but they also insist that science in its truest form is not a religion, but a means for exploring the universe that depends on true religion for its coherence. Ungtss 12:24, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Toynbee ranked four aspects of culture by how easily societies change them. The most easy to change is military technology and tactics. The second is non-military technology and techniques. The third is political systems. The fourth is religion.

Toynbee believed this to be a bad thing, because it prevented “barbarian” societies from adopting the political and religious worldviews of the civilized people they conquered or otherwise came in contact with. But is easy to see why societies are so reluctant to change their religion. Religions are the inflexible backbone of a society, the foundation that all other beliefs are based on. Everything else changes, but religion stays the same. (They also aren't used much in day to day life, so the deficiencies of a religion aren't as apparent as a deficiency in military tactics.) Religion does change, but only over the course of centuries. Even in relatively fast-paced America, each Great Awakening cycle takes 90 years. Religions change when they have to, but it takes a long time to do so, and they don't do it lightly.

I agree with you on the macro-scale. however, my religion is radically different than popular christianity today. in fact, nearly all christians i know do not consider my ideas to be christian at all (recall my discussion about the trinity several months ago). further, my religion changes daily. i firmly believe that religion and science must exist in a dialectic -- and when the two are divorced (in your version of faith), both die. Ungtss 12:24, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Most religions have adapted, one way or another, to the new worldviews provided by science. They adapted their beliefs to ones more consistent with the new information. The have also firewalled themselves from science somewhat by creating an artificial rift between religion and science, faith and reason. Artificial – but useful, if religion and science are to coexist peacefully.

As I said, most religions have adapted themselves to the new worldviews provided by science. But this leaves them vulnerable to new discoveries that conflict with even their revised dogma. And science will advance faster than they can adapt.

When science conflicted with the religion I grew up with, I abandoned that religion and became an agnostic, in search for a new religion. Seven years later, I found one. I believe this religion to be rational, but beyond the reach of science. So no matter what science comes up with, I won't have to change religions again.

One effect of my religion being beyond the reach of science is that it makes no statements regarding the existence of gods or personal Gods. My religion caters equally to theistic Creationists or to atheistic Naturalists. I'm personally an atheist – but I only became one after converting to this religion. My religion doesn't demand atheism, it only allowed me to become the atheist that I saw science as demanding. As long as my religion (which required a personal God to exist) and science were in conflict, I was forced to be an agnostic.

You once said that if Evolution is true, you would have no choice but to convert to atheism. This is actually the rational thing to do. (Theistic Evolution isn't the rational thing to assume, but it is in the realm of possibility, according to current theories, unlike most forms of Creationism.) And you actually attempted atheism. But you failed, and retreated back to Christianity and Creationism. I believe the reason you failed is because you had no religious foundation. Before you can truly become an atheist, you have to have a religion that can support it. (Atheists do have a religion. They just don't know it. The only people without religions are agnostics, who are between religions at the moment. Even they have some sort of religion – they are just trying to sort out the details.)

consider another possibility -- the one to which i am partial: i chose to reject atheism because it has no foundation in science or reason:). Ungtss 12:24, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

If I am correct about why you refuse to accept evolution, then converting you to my religion (or some equivalent) is a prerequisite for getting you to accept evolution. Converting you to my religion doesn't require that you give up your present religion, only that you see it in a new light. I don't know if I'll be successful, but it's fun to try. Even if I'm not successful, it will give me the opportunity to understand my religion better. Like somebody once said, you don't understand something until you can explain it to a nine year-old. You aren't exactly a nine year-old, but a nine year-old probably wouldn't actively try to misunderstand me, like I misdoubt you will. :-)

Well good luck:). like somebody once said, "adults have a lot to learn from children:)." Ungtss 12:24, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Gods and gods[edit]

<<Okay. that's an issue of semantics. i'm willing to differentiate between god and God for purposes of this discussion.>>

<<Indeed, such speculation may be useful. but if there is no God, but only a god, then what is the use of belief in a being who does not exist?>>

There is no such thing as just semantics. Philosophers attempt to use natural language logically in order to say meaningful things about reality. Natural languages were never designed for logic. Because of this, philosophers have to use very specific definitions, to the point where they are speaking a separate language from laymen. To philosophers, there is a major difference between a God and a god. A god is no more than a turbo-charged human. Most philosophic truths that apply to humans also apply to gods. A God, on the other hand, is an all-powerful, all-wise being. Nature and a God's will is one and the same. Talking about nature as if it were a person makes certain ideas easier to work with. That is why Einstein, an avowed atheist (check his article if you don't believe me!), is often quoted talking about God.

Again, those aren't the definitions i use for god and God, but i will adopt them for purposes of this conversation:). in my henotheistic worldview, God is the creator God, and the gods are all sentient beings below Him, including the angels, the watchers, and men. And i think another look at Einstein's article will show you that he was not an atheist, but rather a pantheist. Ungtss 12:34, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Take, for example, the Problem of Evil. Essentially, “Can the existence of a (omni)benevolent God and the existence of evil be reconciled?” Given the philosophic definition of God, the question becomes “Is nature itself evil just because it contains evil?” Open Theism attempts to answer that question – but it does so by changing the rules. Open Theism cheats – it leaves the essential question unanswered.

How so? Who said God had to be omnieverything? certainly not the bible. the concept originates, in fact, with platonic philosophy. i don't see why plato's concept of god should take precedence over the jewish one ... I don't see why one "philosophic definition" is inherently more authoritative than another ... Ungtss 12:34, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

The philosophic God is personal. I have no literal belief in a personal God. My God is impersonal. My God is nature itself, raw and naked. Why do I say I believe in God then? Very simple - so you could understand why I have opinions on the nature of God when I'm an atheist! But it's true enough. All it would need is a paint job. I told you it was a myth. A myth is a story that isn't true, but contains truth.

These observations show a great deal of insight into your own views. i respect that a great deal:). Ungtss 12:34, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

This Creator of yours is also not a God, but only a god. In order to learn meaningful things about reality, you have to look deeper than that. You need to investigate God, not the Creator. Maybe the Creator exits, maybe he doesn't. That says nothing about God.

But what if there is no God that matches the philosophic definition? What if my god is the only one that actually exists? Ungtss 12:34, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

This is as good of a time as any to point out that your religion believes in two gods, not one. The Devil is also a god. According to you, he is not as powerful as the Creator, but it is clear that he is on the same level. Otherwise, the Creator would have destroyed him long ago, rather than letting him muck about for thousands of years. Humanity isn't on the same level as either of them. The Creator came close to destroying humanity once, and it was only by his will that we survived. It is also clear that he could destroy us at any time he wishes. He only promised not to destroy the Earth by flood – he didn't say anything about fire. Yet he isn't able to destroy the Devil with the same ease. The Devil, according to you, will eventually be destroyed by the Creator, but the Creator hasn't done so yet. Apparently the Devil is putting up a good fight.

Yes. To use my terminology, the devil is a god opposed to God. But keep in mind that i believe that you are a god too. i adopt this terminology because it is the terminology used in the Bible. we are explicitly called gods. but yes -- to use your terminology, the devil is a lesser and fallen god opposed to a greater and good god. Ungtss 12:34, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Rock worship (not to be confused with Worship Rock. <shudders>)[edit]

<<i might as well worship a rock.>>

Are you saying that a rock isn't worthy of worship? Even in your worldview, a rock is an example of God's handiwork. If Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Michael Jordan are worthy of worship, so is a rock. Maybe not to the same degree, but at least to some degree. Aren't humans just animated clay?

My religion is non-dualistic. Among other things, that means that there is no difference between the sacred and the mundane, or even the sacred and the profane. There is no difference between the natural and the supernatural, the spiritual and the material. It's all one and the same, when all is said and done.

Sufi mystics say that God is present even in everyday objects, like tables. This has let them in for persecution from non-mystical fellow Muslims, who take a dim view of the idea of worshiping a table. I think those other Muslims have a rather narrow view of things. Who are we to tell God what He can or can't be? What right do we have to criticize how he spends His off hours?

Zen Buddhism has a koan that might be useful:

Q: What is Buddha?

A: A dry turd.

I can definitely understand your point of view. it is characteristic of naturalistic pantheism. from my point of view, God created the Earth, so that God is worthy of worship, men are worthy of respect and admiration (when they merit it), and reality is worthy of reverence and care. I do not believe that "God is in the rock." I believe that God made the rock, and the rock stands apart from God. I believe the same of men. i do not find it meaningful to project a god into the rock. if the rock doesn't act like a god, doesn't think like a god, or doesn't look like a god, then what is the point of saying nice-sounding things like "God is in the rock?" I don't find any meaning in that sentence. God is God. the rock is the rock. to worship the rock is to worship the creation instead of the creator. while that's something humans love to do, i don't think it's a good idea. there's a passage in romans that might be useful:
"Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen."

First Cause[edit]

<<i'd like to propose a fourth answer: since everything in our universe must have a cause, there logically must have been an uncaused cause. we don't know what that cause was like, but given the premise that everything in the universe must have been caused, it follows that everything must have been caused by some unknown thing that didn't require causation. >>

So argued Thomas Aquinas. And he believed that this “uncaused cause”, or First Cause, was God. I believe that he was full of it.

A uncaused cause violates the premise that everything in the universe must have been caused. We are left with two possibilities – either the chain of cause and effect is endless, meaning that it is either infinitely long or else looped back in on itself, and therefore there is no First Cause. Or else our premise is invalid.

I submit that the second option is true. That our notions of cause and effect are flawed, and that our notions of time are meaningless. You have said that your religion's dogma states that time is meaningless – but I don't believe you fully understand what that implies.

How can the lack of cause and effect and the existence of objective reality be reconciled?

If you aren't confused, you are either very smart or you aren't paying attention. This is the scenario I laid out in my third example, the one with the comic book panels. Try it on for size. I'm trying to give your brain a workout here. Think about it and tell me what you come up with. Does one panel of a comic strip cause the next? What does that answer say about us and our universe?

I think you're misrepresenting aquinas's premise. he says that everything in the universe must have been caused, which is in indication that the universe depends for its existence on something outside the universe. it does not violate the premise. the premise is empirical. and the empirical data leads us to the conclusion that there is something more. Ungtss 12:46, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Persistance of Identity[edit]

<<interesting question! i'd have to answer yes -- you'd be the same person despite any of those changes. i think you'd be the same person even if you were labotomized (losing self-awareness), or had your arm cut off (losing part of your biology). However, while your "self" does not change its identity, it changes its characteristics. If i cut off your arm, you'll be the same person with different characteristics. same with a labotomy. what is the common characteristic? i don't think it's self-awareness. you could be braindead (and therefore not self-aware), but you'd still be the same person. i don't know that there's a single common characteristic. i think the "person" is the composite of physiological, mental, and spiritual phenomena and characteristics which have attached themselves to you at conception and following. you are therefore both your biology and your self-awareness (and probably more than that), and changing those things changes you, but doesn't change who you are. how's that?>>

You're getting there. The answer is obviously not self-awareness. That's not the point I'm trying to make. A few of those questions eliminate the possibility of self-awareness being the consistent factor, even though the common-sense answer to the question is “yes”. For example, I'm probably not self-aware when I'm in a deep, dreamless sleep, but most people would say I'm still the same person.

You've stated that I'm still me even if I'm a vegetable. Many people would disagree with you. That's as extreme as we're going to get, so let's start there. Am I my corpse? If your answer is “yes”, most people would say you're nuts. So what does a vegetable have that a corpse doesn't? How do you know I'm the same person as I am now if I turn into a vegetable, that the two states share a common identity? What creates that common identity? Don't be afraid to use religious terms – this is philosophy, not science.

I think that when you're a vegetable, you're the same person, without the personality. i think when you're brainwashed, you're the same person, with a different personality. and i think when you're dead, one of two things happen: your body is all that remains of you as a person, or your body and your spirit part ways in some inexplicable way. in my view, a "person" is simply the continuity of all your characteristics as they're changed by your environment and choices. and "personality" is just one of those characteristics. how's that? Ungtss 12:50, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

2005/04/13[edit]

The purpose of this discussion[edit]

<<I don't think you'll find any creationists who say what you're saying. they say science can be misused as a religion, but they also insist that science in its truest form is not a religion, but a means for exploring the universe that depends on true religion for its coherence. >>

I wouldn't expect them to say what I am saying. But I have heard quite a few Creationists who have referred to science being a religion. Maybe they were implying that this was a misuse of science, but that doesn't really matter. Religion and science are two different tools, which do two different things. Religion is the foundation of our belief system. It is the bedrock, the foundation. It is our safe harbor. Science is quick, mercurial, ever-changing. It is exploration. Without religion, we would never have the courage to use science.

Science and religion are two very different tools, but they are capable of getting in each other's way. When the two conflict, what should we do?

Science is based on observation and reason, while religion is based on tradition. When the two conflict, I believe that religion should be the one to back down.

if science and religion come into conflict, you figure out which one is wrong, and fix it:). "science" was used to support eugenics. it was wrong. just as religion is done by people who make mistakes, so is science. there's no reason that an idea should win out simply because it's labeled "science." it should only win if it's "good science." and that brings us back to my substantive and scientific support for the genesis account of creation, a topic we're deliberately avoiding:). Ungtss 19:25, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

<<I agree with you on the macro-scale. however, my religion is radically different than popular christianity today. in fact, nearly all christians i know do not consider my ideas to be christian at all (recall my discussion about the trinity several months ago). further, my religion changes daily. i firmly believe that religion and science must exist in a dialectic -- and when the two are divorced (in your version of faith), both die.>>

Modern Christianity has adapted itself to the current theories of science. This adaptation is imperfect, which caused both you and me to reject modern Christianity. In your case, it eventually caused you to return to the source of Christian doctrine, the Bible.

Granted. Ungtss 19:25, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Religion is the rigid skeleton, against which the more changeable muscles of society push and pull. One way religions maintain that needed rigidity is by referencing their beliefs against a sacred text. In the case of Christianity, that sacred text is the Bible.

I'd like to differentiate between organized and static religion, which you're describing, and the dynamic inner faith i find to be characteristic of true christianity -- far from being a rigid skeleton, it is the rebel who tears down the rigid skeleton of perverse human society in the name of Truth. Ungtss 19:25, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

But religion also needs to be somewhat flexible. Overreliance on a sacred text would prevent that needed flexibility. In order to be flexible, religions interpret and reinterpret the sacred text, to extract new meaning.

Agreed. Ungtss 19:25, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

You might think that this reinterpretation is intellectually dishonest. But so is believing that a text written by humans is sacred, that it doesn't need modifications.

Modern Christianity has struggled to unite the theories of science with the sacred text of the Bible. They did so by reinterpreting the Bible. The union is imperfect, juryrigged, but it is enough to get most people through the day. Only on close inspection are the faults apparent.

I disagree on the merits:). Ungtss 19:25, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

You saw the faults, and rejected the structure. You did this by rejecting the current theories of science. You returned to a more literal interpretation of the Bible. Your conflicts with modern Christianity are a direct result of that.

<<consider another possibility -- the one to which i am partial: i chose to reject atheism because it has no foundation in science or reason:). >>

Ah, but that would mean that I'm irrational and unscientific for being an atheist. Surely that can't be right!

well, it's one or both of us -- don't see why it should be me instead of you:). Ungtss 19:25, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

<<Well good luck:). like somebody once said, "adults have a lot to learn from children:).">>

Unfortunately, it is also said, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.”

in my experiences, horses are quite willing to drink when the water is good. you only have to force them to drink the water if the water's bad:(. Ungtss 19:25, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Gods and gods[edit]

<<Again, those aren't the definitions i use for god and God, but i will adopt them for purposes of this conversation:). in my henotheistic worldview, God is the creator God, and the gods are all sentient beings below Him, including the angels, the watchers, and men.>>

God is the person's name, but God isn't a God. Just like The Moon isn't a moon.

Alright -- more interesting semantics:). in my view, God is a god:). Ungtss 19:25, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

<<And i think another look at Einstein's article will show you that he was not an atheist, but rather a pantheist. >>

”It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."

He was an atheist and a pantheist. Just like me.

this comes back to our old semantic issue. is naturalistic pantheism actually atheism? in any event, it's not the label that matters, it's the content. and whether you're both naturalistic pantheists or both atheists, you certainly both agree:). Ungtss 19:25, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

<<How so? Who said God had to be omnieverything? certainly not the bible. the concept originates, in fact, with platonic philosophy. i don't see why plato's concept of god should take precedence over the jewish one ... I don't see why one "philosophic definition" is inherently more authoritative than another >>

If nothing else, it's because it's the one I use. Most philosophers use this definition (or so I'm lead to believe from my intro to philosophy course). All definitions are a matter of consensus. Western philosophy descends from Greek philosophy, so it makes sense that the definition of God used by Western philosophers is the same as Plato's.

The philosophic definition isn't more authoritative, but if you want to understand what philosophers are saying, you have to speak the same language.

One can understand the french of others, but still speak the English of one's native land:). definitions are not a matter of consensus -- they are a matter of convention:). Ungtss 19:25, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

<<But what if there is no God that matches the philosophic definition? What if my god is the only one that actually exists?>>

Then there is no God. But there is still objective reality, which can be best understood if you sometimes dress it up in God's clothes. In order to fully understand your god, you must first understand objective reality.

Agreed:). Ungtss 19:25, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Rock worship (not to be confused with Worship Rock. <shudders>)[edit]

<<to worship the rock is to worship the creation instead of the creator.>>

So is worshiping a human. And you have said that worshiping the creator is akin to worshiping a human. If all events require a cause, then the Creator must have a cause. If complexity requires intelligence, then the Creator must have a creator himself. By worshiping our creator, are we showing disrespect to his creator?

again, in following the reasoning of the First Cause, i arrive at the conclusion that the creator of this universe (if there was one) is in himself different from the universe, in that he is an uncaused cause. i'm led to believe he is the exception to the rule. Ungtss 19:25, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

<<what is the point of saying nice-sounding things like "God is in the rock?">>

The point only has meaning if you're a pantheist. If God is objective reality, then God is in the rock, just as God is in you, and God is in the Creator. If you're a pantheist, this isn't just nice-sounding fluff, it's cold hard fact.

By reverencing the good that is in creation, we are reverencing the one who created it. But he who created it is also responsible for that which is bad. We are also responsible for the evil in ourselves, because we have free will, but the creator is equally responsible for it, because he created an imperfect being.

Or you could argue that evil is the work of the Devil. But the creator is also responsible for the Devil. By your own account, your god created the Devil. Therefore, he is responsible for him.

If your dog slipped out of the fence and attacked a kid, wouldn't you be responsible for the kid's injury? The dog is too, of course, but does that absolve you of guilt?

I'm not guilty if i did the best i could with the dog, but he ran away anyway of his own will. Ungtss 19:25, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

First Cause[edit]

<<I think you're misrepresenting aquinas's premise. he says that everything in the universe must have been caused, which is in indication that the universe depends for its existence on something outside the universe. it does not violate the premise. the premise is empirical. and the empirical data leads us to the conclusion that there is something more.>>

Ah, so you're trying to weasel your way out of it. The premise is too specific. So let's generalize it: “All events require causes.”

You are neglecting to take into account that the universe might be endless along the temporal axis. If there is no first event, then there is no need for a cause for that first event. So the question of First Cause does not prove that this First Cause must lie outside the universe.

If there is a first event in the universe, then the cause of that event must lie outside of the universe. But that causal event itself requires a cause. And we're right back where we started. All we have done is to expand our chain of cause and effect outside of the universe.

If one event can be uncaused, then there is the potential that all events can be uncaused.

If uncaused events are possible, then why can't the universe itself be an uncaused event?

I submit that all events are uncaused.

Have you ever observed an uncaused cause in the universe? Ungtss 19:25, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Persistence of Identity[edit]

<<one of two things happen: ... your body and your spirit part ways>>

<<a "person" is simply the continuity of all your characteristics as they're changed by your environment and choices.>>

Ah, now we are getting somewhere! We have two possible hypothesises here.

Let's check out the “continuity” one first. What happens if we break that continuity? Let's say I'm instantaneously teleported to some location remote in space and time from my current one. To break continuity still further, let's say that this teleportation actually destroys my original body and makes a exact (or possibly inexact) copy at the other end. Am I still the same person? Or do we have to break that continuity still further? How far do we have to break that continuity until I'm no longer the same person?

If I step in the teleporter Crazyeddie and come out Pamela Anderson, I think it is safe to say that I'm not the same person. But what if I'm 90% Crazyeddie and 10% Pamela Anderson?

I don't think your examples break continuity. before the teleport, there was an old person. during the teleport, there was the electronic data. after the teleport, there was pamela anderson. your hypothesis just requires us to broaden our list of possibilities for changes in characteristics ... but it doesn't require us to define you as a different person.

Then there is the other solution – that a person has both spiritual and material components, and only when the two are combined does the person exist. For the sake of convenience, let's call these two components “soul” and “body”.

Would you say that a person has the same soul throughout their life?

Um ... since i don't know what (or if) the soul exists, i can't speak with authority. but my intuition (given my moderate realism) is that yes, if there is a soul, then we retain the same soul throughout our life, although the soul may change its characteristics or condition during that time. Ungtss 19:25, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

2005/05/04[edit]

Science and Religion[edit]

<<if science and religion come into conflict, you figure out which one is wrong, and fix it:).>>

Religion is a field of knowledge, science is a method of gathering and validating knowledge.

given that distinction, is it possible to be scientific in your methods of delving into religion? for instance, to consider the evidence, apply it against the various metanarratives available (including the big bang / evolutionary metanarrative), and come to a conclusion in accord with the evidence and occam's razor? Is it possible for scientific methods to lead to Christianity? Ungtss 02:16, 5 May 2005 (UTC)

Religions, for the most part, validate knowledge by how well it adheres to the beliefs outlined by the “sacred text”. This sacred text is held to be true without question. Religionists may say that they don't believe in this sacred text without question, but they usually don't act that way. Let's call this method of validating knowledge dogmatism.

this is indeed the way many of the religious operate. but it is not the way i operate. i have no use for dogmatism or proof by authority. i believe the abrahamic religious texts stand on their own merits, as historical documents of fascinating depth and scope which deserve serious attention.
HOWEVER, i would note as a side-bar that belief in evolution qualifies as dogmatism insofar as an individual accepts it on the word of scientists, rather than investigating the evidence themselves. Ungtss 02:16, 5 May 2005 (UTC)

For most of human history, dogmatism was the way all knowledge was validated, not just religion. A military tactic was sound because that was what the oldtimers used. But these “lesser” fields of knowledge changed faster then religion because sometime people were faced with the options of living by new ways or dying by the old ones. Even so, many people preferred to die the old-fashioned way. Others used empiricism, trial and error. Not as rigorous as true science, but effective enough in these matters. Empiricism is reliable, but it is not very flexible. You can use it to see if a tool works, but not to see if a god exists.

About 2500 – 3000 years ago (or about the last quarter to third of civilized, agricultural-based, city-building cultures, according to the orthodox histories), a new way of validating knowledge came into use – philosophy. Philosophy uses reason to validate knowledge.

Philosophy isn't much use in the “little questions” in life. Reason is too weak and unreliable of a tool to determine if a particular battle tactic or new tool will work. Even empiricism is better. But it's probably a better tool at the “big questions” than dogmatism. There is no question to big for philosophy to handle. Philosophy is the most flexible of our methods of validating knowledge.

Religionists have no problem with philosophy – as long as it doesn't contradict their sacred text! Interpreting the sacred text is allowable, contradicting it isn't. This doesn't stop philosophers, of course, but there is usually some penalty involved – Socrates and the hemlock, for example. Religions are dogmatic, and the only way to overcome this reliance on tradition is to start a new one. Usually, this new tradition is validated by a “divine revelation” - the messiahhood of Jesus, the Enlightenment of the Buddha, Allah pouring the Koran into Mohammad's head and out his mouth.

Less than 500 years ago, a new method of validating knowledge developed. It combined the reason-based flexibility of philosophy with the evidence-based reliability of empiricism. This combination, of course, is science.

Science works best on the small questions. But it can also be used to answer at least some of the big ones. The only real limit to science is that it assumes that there is an objective reality – but so does most forms of philosophy.

Science started out on the small questions, and worked its way up. Philosophy has to pave the road for it – science requires falsifiable predictions, and philosophy has to chew over the matter until such statements can be made. Technology also has to catch up to the point where those predictions can be tested.

Religionists have attempted to place limits on science. “Science can't go after God – that's religion's job.” “There is a separation between reason and faith.” Both you and me agree that these distinctions are artificial. Science can't disprove God, but science could be used to prove God. There is no separation between reason and faith.

But you have, in the past, attempted to place a limit on the reach of science. You have stated that there is a difference between historical science and laboratory science. But this difference isn't real.

In both cases, you use reason to extrapolate a falsifiable prediction, based on your current theory or hypothesis. Because this is a prediction, you don't know empirically if it is true or not. So you hit the lab or the field to see if this prediction is true or not.

The only difference between historical and laboratory science is that in historical science, nature has already performed the experiment for us. Now we just have to see what the results were.

For example, Darwin proposed that humans and chimpanzees shared a common ancestor. At the time, hominid fossils other than Homo sapiens hadn't been found, so he was making the prediction based on shared characteristics. We have since found many hominid fossils, and they back up Darwin's theory. The older the hominid, the more they resemble chimpanzees, the more modern the hominid, the more they resemble us.

Because science started out with the small questions, it didn't conflict with religion at first. There was the case of Galileo, but that was limited to Catholic dogma, and the belief in question wasn't directly validated by the Bible anyway. Religion and science continued to coexist relatively peacefully until Darwin and evolution. For perhaps the first time, science and the sacred text of the Bible were in direct contradiction.

i acknowledge your narrative of the scope of human intellectual history -- one based on a theory of evolution -- that human methods for acquiring knowledge have evolved over time.
however, i have a different narrative that i believe better explains the evidence. i do not believe that the course of human development has been a straight line from dogmatism to science. on the contrary, i think that from the very beginning, True Religion has stood as a middle ground between two perennial foes -- the religionists and the materialists. the dogmatists have, as you said, used proof by assertion to defend their nonsense. however, in my opinion, the materialists have used the trappings of science to defend their nonsense. Between those two has stood Theistic realism, which holds, in essence, that the empirical evidence leads straight to God.

between those two groups, however, there stands a tiny majority of people who try to synthesize religion and science -- who apply science and reason so rigorously and thoroughly that the facts of nature ultimately lead to belief in God. For examples, I citeMoses, Jesus, Aquinas, and Erasmus, who used reason to transcend both the religionists and the materialists, to arrive at a systematic and coherent philosophy.

<<just as religion is done by people who make mistakes, so is science. there's no reason that an idea should win out simply because it's labeled "science." it should only win if it's "good science.">>

This is true. But science has a greater amount of self-correction than any other way of gathering and validating knowledge. With dogmatism, the sacred texts aren't open to criticism. The discoveries of science are. And scientists are their own worst critics. Philosophy doesn't verify its conclusions with evidence, science does.

science, in my opinion, does a miserable job of verifying its conclusions when those conclusions conflict with its a priori philosophical assumptions which it systematically refuses to question. Ungtss 02:16, 5 May 2005 (UTC)

Evolution has made falsifiable predictions, and those predictions have been verified. Creationism either doesn't make falsifiable predictions, or the predictions it makes have been falsified. (Depending on what kind of creationism you're talking about.) Or so says the orthodox view. According to the orthodox view, evolution is good science, creationism isn't.

popper disagreed with you. he believed that darwinism is an unfalsifiable metanarrative and a framework for research, but not strictly scientific in and of itself. i agree with him. i challenge you to think of a falsifiable experiment which can be conducted today which would prove darwinism wrong. not "a piece of evidence we might find." and not evidence that is consistent with both creationism and evolution. neither of those mean anything. back up your claim to falsifiability with some facts. Ungtss 02:16, 5 May 2005 (UTC)

Eugenics[edit]

<<"science" was used to support eugenics. it was wrong.>>

The underlying principles of eugenics were discovered by science. That is true. These principles did not include evolution. Eugenics is the application of stock-breeding techniques to humans. It is based on artificial selection, not the natural selection of evolution. If anything, the practice of eugenics was probably part of that “orthogenetic eclipse” you keep going on about. Eugenics became popular in part because of a belief that natural selection no longer applies to humans, because we are too effective at coddling our “defectives”. A rabid evolutionist might have told the eugenicists not to bother, Mother Nature knows best.

The underlying scientific principles of eugenics are true. They are the same principles used in stock-breeding. They are used to produce those freakishly large chicken breasts Tyson puts out. Science has validated those principles.

Eugenics wasn't an experiment to determine a scientific truth. It was an application of pre-existing scientific principles. It was engineering. Science is capable of verifying if an example of engineering is performing as designed. In the case of eugenics, there isn't enough data to figure out if it would have worked or not. To show even the most minor results, I would estimate that the process would have to have been used for three generations. Eugenics fell out of favor long before then.

I suspect it wouldn't have worked.

Firstly, humans are long-lived compared to domesticated animals. Most domesticated animals are ready to breed at about age 2. Humans aren't really ready to breed until 15 – older in developed nations. This limits how fast artificial selection can work. The selection criteria used by the eugenicists probably would have changed faster than the genome could adapt. Without consistent selection, no net change would occur.

Secondly, even if eugenicists were successful in change the traits of a breeding group of humans, the result would be less evolutionarily fit then the result of natural selection. The difference between the artificial selection used in stock-breeding and the natural selection used in evolution is who is doing the selecting. In natural selection, Nature itself, aka, all-wise God, is doing the selecting. God/Nature can select based on all possible criteria. In artificial selection, the selection is done by imperfect and limited humans. Humans can only select based on a limited range of criteria, and often use only one.

Limited selection criteria can lead to “overbreeding”, or the gradual accumulation of subtle defects that go unnoticed until they reach critical mass. So you get roosters that have turned into rapists because they have lost the inborn ability to perform courtship rituals, huge-breasted chickens whose legs can't bear their weight, dangerously aggressive purebred dogs. If the eugenicists had succeeded in producing individuals with IQs of 200, but had no resistance to the common cold, would that count as a success?

Thirdly, I seriously doubt that humans would allow eugenicists to interfere with their private, sexual and reproductive lives with enough consistency to be effective. This is born out in the history of what actually happened.

But few people say eugenics was a failure because it didn't work. Eugenics was a failure because it involved the involuntary sterilization and/or murder of so-called “defectives”!

The failure of eugenics wasn't a failure of scientific principles or of engineering practicality. It was a failure of morals.

Science has more-or-less determined why moral behavior is desirable from an evolutionary point of view. Some say that this even provides a definition of morality. But science has yet to determine a way to figure out if a particular action is moral or not.

It is questionable whether morality, as a field of knowledge, falls under the umbrella of religion. But it is definitely the responsibility of philosophy and/or dogmatism. It is not in the hands of science, at least not yet.

The failure of eugenics wasn't a failure of the scientific method or a misapplication of the scientific method. It was a failure to apply, or apply correctly, ethics, a subset of philosophy.

that's exactly what i said. science said one thing. religion and philosophy said another. science was morally and ethically wrong. science had to give way to religion and philosophy. when science and religion come into conflict, the one that is wrong must give way, whether that be science or religion. Ungtss 02:16, 5 May 2005 (UTC)

Misc.[edit]

<<I'd like to differentiate between organized and static religion, which you're describing, and the dynamic inner faith i find to be characteristic of true christianity -- far from being a rigid skeleton, it is the rebel who tears down the rigid skeleton of perverse human society in the name of Truth. >>

If adherence to organized Christianity isn't the touchstone of true Christianity, what is? Is it adherence to the literal truth of the Bible? Or is it something else? If it is something else, is this something else compatible with a belief in evolution?

i believe that the touchstone of christianity is "love the lord your god and love your neighbor as yourself." that's what jesus said anyway. loving the lord your god will inevitably bring you into conflict with those who despise him, religious and nonreligious (and sadly it is often the religious who despise him most) and ultimately bring you into contact with him. loving your neighbor as yourself will make you a just man. i believe this not because "the bible tells me so." i believe it because it strikes a chord in my soul. i have believed it enough to stand up in sunday schools and churches and tell them they were full of shit, because they are. i believe it because nothing else makes sense. Ungtss 02:16, 5 May 2005 (UTC)

Leaving those questions aside, true Christianity has existed long before our modern secular society (assuming Jesus and the Apostles (great name for a rock band...) were true Christians). Christians (the organized ones, at least) went from being the persecuted minority to being the ruling class with the conversion of Constantine. They have been a dominant force in the affairs of the West ever since. It would appear that modern secular society is rebelling against organized Christianity, not the other way around.

in my opinion, secular society and organized religion have been rebelling against each other from the beginning of time. secular society rebels when religion becomes corrupt. religion rebels when secular society because corrupt. Ungtss 02:16, 5 May 2005 (UTC)

On which side of this conflict does the “mandate of heaven” lie? On which side does truth lie? On which side does true Christianity lie? Morality? Perversion?

How can you tell?

I'm a moral realist. i believe the mandates are right in front of our eyes if we care to see them. Ungtss 02:16, 5 May 2005 (UTC)

<<there's no reason that an idea should win out simply because it's labeled "science." it should only win if it's "good science." and that brings us back to my substantive and scientific support for the genesis account of creation, a topic we're deliberately avoiding:). >>

<<consider another possibility -- the one to which i am partial: i chose to reject atheism because it has no foundation in science or reason:). >>

“Ah, but that would mean that I'm irrational and unscientific for being an atheist. Surely that can't be right!”

<<well, it's one or both of us -- don't see why it should be me instead of you:).>>

We have both seen the evidence and reasons for and against evolution and creationism. I think we should have either agreed one way or another or agreed to disagree – that there isn't enough evidence to make a decision.

For example, I would say that there isn't enough evidence to make a decision regarding the existence or non-existence of a Creator god. Occam's Razor would suggest that, since current orthodox theory removes the need for a Creator, that we should assume that the Creator doesn't exist, because it is the simplest explanation. But Occam's Razor is only probabilistic. The Creator may still exist. A belief in a Creator may not be rational, but it is within the limits of rational behavior.

The same can't be said for the evolution/creationism dispute. There is enough evidence that two rational people should agree on what the truth is. Because we haven't, it might be time to see if we are behaving irrationally.

It is well known to me, and most people, that a sufficient emotional strain will cause a person to rationalize instead of thinking rationally. It has long seemed to me that Creationists were rationalizing. But I had no idea why. What could possibly be causing the emotional strain?

It isn't that evolution disproves God or the Creator – it doesn't. It is true that Occam's Razor, after evolution has been validated by evidence, suggests that the Creator doesn't exist. But Occam's Razor is only probabilistic. Why would Creationists pay such close attention to such a fragile principle while ignoring the mounds of evidence for evolution? It certainly appears that many Creationists don't consistently use Occam's Razor in their arguments! Furthermore, many theists believe in evolution. Why do Creationist have such a problem with it?

It isn't that evolution contradicts a literal interpretation of the Bible – it does, no question about it. But an insistence on a literal interpretation is a recent thing. It seems to be a result of Creationism, not a cause.

In your case, at least, I have an idea of what one source of emotional strain might be. Your solution to the Problem of Evil is Open Theism. You have also stated that, in your opinion, an acceptance of evolution would require converting to atheism (presumably Naturalistic Pantheism also).

As I have shown, in Naturalistic Pantheism, nature itself is a kind of God. So, even in atheistic Naturalistic Pantheism, the Problem of Evil still has meaning. But Open Theism doesn't. The God of Naturalistic Pantheism is all-powerful and all-wise, while the god of Open Theism isn't.

If you converted to Naturalistic Pantheism, you would be left without a solution to the Problem of Evil. I believe that would create quite an emotional strain.

I have no wish to convert you to atheism. (Remember that Naturalistic Pantheism isn't incompatible with a belief in Gods or gods.) But it seems that I have to help you find an additional solution to the Problem of Evil before you can accept evolution. This might not be possible, and the Problem of Evil might not be the only roadblock. But converting you to Naturalistic Pantheism seems to be a possible step forward.

Before I can help you solve the Problem of Evil, I must first get you used to thinking philosophically. That is best done on problems that don't have as much emotional value.

Honesty compels me to investigate the idea that it might be me who is acting irrationally. I don't think I am – but I would also think that if I was, wouldn't I! So, do you think I'm acting irrationally? If so, why do you think I am? And finally, what do you plan to do about it?

i don't think either of us are acting irrationally. i believe we are both acting fully rationally based on our philosophical presuppositions and experience. your premises lead to your conclusions, and my premises lead to my conclusions. my experiences in this world leave me unable to accept your premises. Ungtss 02:16, 5 May 2005 (UTC)

Problem of Evil[edit]

If your dog slipped out of the fence and attacked a kid, wouldn't you be responsible for the kid's injury? The dog is too, of course, but does that absolve you of guilt?

I'm not guilty if i did the best i could with the dog, but he ran away anyway of his own will.

Hmm. The local animal control officers here would disagree with you. You live in Africa, but I'm under the impression that you were raised in America, or possibly in another Western nation. Am I right? Or is it possible that this is a cultural difference?

It is my understanding that, in America, if a dog got loose and attacked someone, the dog would be destroyed and the owner would be heavily fined and/or sued. Is this your understanding?

i'm in the united states at the moment (just about to finish graduate school), but i grew up primarily overseas, in germany, china, cuba, ivory coast, saudi arabia, and russia, with brief stints in the united states for a total of three years, and will be returning overseas promptly after graduation.
As to mad dog law, Ga. Code Ann. sec. 51-2-7 provides:
"A person who owns or keeps a vicious or dangerous animal of any kind and who, by careless management, causes injury to another person who does not provoke the injury by his own act may be liable in damages to the person so injured. In proving vicious propensity, it shall be sufficient to show that the animal was required to be at heel or on a leash by an ordinance of a city, county, or consolidated government, and the said animal was at the time of the occurrence not at heel or on a leash."
the key element is "by careless management." it is essential to show some negligence on the part of the owner. no negligence = no liability. Ungtss 02:16, 5 May 2005 (UTC)

The Meaning of Time[edit]

<<Have you ever observed an uncaused cause in the universe?>>

Virtual particles. But I didn't say that uncaused events exist in the universe. I said that all events in the universe are uncaused. I'll admit that it appears to us as if one event causes another, but I submit that things seem different from God's point of view.

so you think in the grand scheme of things, all events are discrete and unrelated? what then of the appearance of causation? what causes this illusion? Ungtss 02:16, 5 May 2005 (UTC)

So I ask for the third time: Does one panel of a comic book cause the next?

of course one panel of a comic book doesn't cause another. but i don't think this universe is a comic book. i challenge your analogy. Ungtss 02:16, 5 May 2005 (UTC)

Persistence of Identity[edit]

To recap: we have an entity Crazyeddie. This entity is a compound – it consists of a complex of subcomponents, some of which are also compounds, some of which are presumably elemental – things that can't be broken down farther or changed without becoming something else.

Crazyeddie is apparently capable of change without becoming something else. But some changes to Crazyeddie result in Crazyeddie becoming something other than Crazyeddie. Crazyeddie's corpse isn't Crazyeddie, but “all that remains” of Crazyeddie.

What is the difference between the two classes of changes?

Is there some vital component of Crazyeddie, that, if you remove it, Crazyeddie is no longer Crazyeddie?

If so, is this vital component a way of identifying Crazyeddies? In other words, if an entity has this vital component, it is Crazyeddie beyond a doubt, and if it doesn't, it isn't Crazyeddie?

Is Crazyeddie's “soul” this vital component? Ungtss, you have testified that you think that I have the same soul throughout my life. Is my soul vital to my “Crazyeddieness”? If you remove it, will I cease to be Crazyeddie? Is my soul unique to me? Or could I swap it with somebody else's? If I do so, will I still be myself, or will I be the other person, or will I be something else?

i don't think that one particular component is necessarily vital. i think that you would only cease to be crazyeddie if all of your components were lost and/or replaced, so that nothing of the original remained. Ungtss 02:16, 5 May 2005 (UTC)

05/20/05[edit]

Science and Religion[edit]

<<given that distinction, is it possible to be scientific in your methods of delving into religion?>>

Let's put that a different way: Is it possible to construct a religion based solely on science? Yes and no. Science is ultimately limited only by its axiomatic belief in objective reality. But it is temporarily limited by two things.

Firstly, it is limited by the state of philosophy. In order to answer a question, science must first be provided a falsifiable statement to test. In order to come up with a falsifiable statement as a possible answer to a question, we have to know enough to ask intelligent, insightful questions. To put that another way, the value of philosophy isn't in discovering answers, but in discovering questions.

Secondly, it is limited by technology. Science has to have the ability to test the falsifiable statements that philosophy comes up with.

Both of these limits gets shoved back as our scientifically-validated store of knowledge grows. The more we know about a subject, the more insightful we can make our questions. Knowledge in one subject may give insight into other subjects. If we discover a law of nature, we can apply that knowledge in the form of a new technology.

As the areas where science can be applied has grown, it has intruded into the realm of religion. But it hasn't conquered the field of religion entirely. In fact, the areas it has intruded upon are fairly minor.

We don't have a science of ethics. We may have a science of meta-ethics – but that's highly debatable. Without a science of ethics, science can't solve the Problem of Evil alone.

It is conceivable that, in time, science will advance to the point where it can answer all of the problems of religion. But, if that day ever comes (and I'm not saying it will) we will have become so wise and powerful that we will probably qualify as gods, or even Gods, ourselves.

So, if we can't base a religion on science, what can we do to create a rational religion? Firstly, the religion must be in accordance with known facts. (“Known facts” being scientifically-verified theories.) Secondly, the religion must be emotionally satisfying. A religion doesn't has to be exactly correct in order to do its job. It only has to answer the Big Questions to the satisfaction of its followers, so they can get back to answering the Little Questions of everyday life. However, while a religion doesn't has to be correct, a proper respect for rationality demands that it must at least be within the realm of the possible as we understand it. We can do this by one of two ways.

We can be reactive, by adapting our existing religions to our present body scientifically-validated knowledge. That's what those who subscribe to Theistic Evolution have done. Theistic Evolution doesn't violate our present body of scientifically-validated knowledge. It isn't the simplest assumption – but Occam's Razor is only probabilistic. I don't think Theistic Evolution is likely to be correct – but I can't say it is wrong either. It is within the realm of the possible.

Or we can be pro-active, by creating a new religion from scratch, making the fewest possible number of assumptions needed to create a emotionally satisfying worldview. That way, not only is this religion in the realm of the possible, but it is likely to stay that way, since it has only a bare minimum of faith-based beliefs that science can disprove. That's what I've tried to do.

To answer your original question, it is my belief that our current body of scientifically-validated knowledge doesn't lead one to a belief in Christianity. However, we can't rule out the “meta-narrative” of Christianity – in some forms. It is possible that scientific methods could lead to a belief in Christianity, but they don't currently.

Good! i agree with you that scientific methods could lead to christianity. given that premise, my next question is, has science falsified christianity? if so, how? if not, then doesn't it remain a potentially valid conjecture until falsified? Ungtss 03:10, 21 May 2005 (UTC)

<<this is indeed the way many of the religious operate. but it is not the way i operate. i have no use for dogmatism or proof by authority. i believe the abrahamic religious texts stand on their own merits, as historical documents of fascinating depth and scope which deserve serious attention.>>

Then give me an example of where you believe the Bible is wrong.

the accounts of the resurrection. the order of events is irreconcilably contradictory. one or all of the writers is wrong. however, the contradiction in the details leads me to believe that they were authored independently, which makes the similarities in the story over all that much more striking to me. Ungtss 03:10, 21 May 2005 (UTC)

<<HOWEVER, i would note as a side-bar that belief in evolution qualifies as dogmatism insofar as an individual accepts it on the word of scientists, rather than investigating the evidence themselves.>>

If a person has the opportunity to question tradition, but doesn't do it, then the tradition isn't dogma. After all, if we spent all of our time questioning tradition, we wouldn't have time to discover new knowledge. Tradition only becomes dogma when it isn't permitted for anybody to question traditional beliefs. Evolution is open to question – but evolutionists are weary of the same, already disproved, arguments being continually advanced.

have the counterarguments been disproved, or are they unfalsifiable? can't be both ... Ungtss 03:10, 21 May 2005 (UTC)

<<i acknowledge your narrative of the scope of human intellectual history -- one based on a theory of evolution -- that human methods for acquiring knowledge have evolved over time.>>

It is true that I believe that there is some form of cultural evolution. But I am not asserting that theory at this time. Nor does this history depend on the theory of evolution. It is only dependent on the orthodox understanding of human history, which is agnostic when it comes to evolution. I am suggesting that this history is an example of progress. Tell me – in your observation, would you say humanity is tending to progress or regress? On a related note, which is there more of in this world, joy or suffering?

i think that the question of progress should be divided into three different issues: the progress of knowledge, the progress of intelligence, and the progress of character. with regard to character, i don't think we've progressed at all -- i think we're the same as we've always been, a mix of good and evil. with regard to technology, there's no question we're advancing -- technology has steadily developed for as long as we have records. with regard to intelligence, however, i don't think we're developing much either -- on the contrary, i think that the people who first studied the heavens and described the movements of the stars showed just as much intelligence (given their means) as a nuclear physicist -- the nuclear physicist of today simply has the records and learning of 1000 generations of men at his disposal. so in sum, i don't think humans are progressing or degenerating at all in terms of intelligence or character -- i think we're staying about the same as we've always been. but our knowledge and technology are steadily increasing, because we have the liberty of standing on the shoulders of those who came before. Ungtss 03:10, 21 May 2005 (UTC)

<<Between two perennial foes -- the religionists and the materialists.>>

That is a false dichotomy. The opposite of materialism isn't religion, but [[dualism], phenomenalism, idealism, or vitalsim. It is possible to have a materialistic religion – even a materialistic form of Christianity. A Christian who believed in bodily-resurrection (thus eliminating the theoretical need for a non-material soul) might be considered a materialist. You yourself show some signs of being a crypto-materialist – you profess a belief that we have a “spiritual” component, but it is not clear what you believe this spiritual component does.

Everybody, with the possible exception of agnostics, has a religion. What a religion boils down to is a person's view of their relationship with the rest of reality. That worldview may include god or Gods – but such things are not required. (By extension, religion also covers a person's relationship with their fellow sentient beings – which is why ethics is traditionally considered a part of religion – but only a minor part.)

As for myself, I consider myself a non-dualist. The spiritual and the material are one and the same. As a spiritualist yourself, you probably see this as a form of materialism. To which I say, so what?

i was referring to a broader conflict than simply the academic debate over "whether there's a spiritual or not." i was referring to the conflict between those who think there is more than nature (the neoplatonic view that the universe is just a shadow of the realm of the forms) and those who think that nature is all there is (like lucretius). this conflict seems to me to be perennial. i think that those we call "scientists" today used to be called "witches and warlocks," and burnt at the stake for their fascination with and semi-deification of Nature. and i think that the naturalists have also burned the religionists (as with Shadrach, Mesach and Abendigo, Daniel and the lion's den, Nero and the burning of the Christians, and Stalin's Great Purge). I think there is a breach between those two parties that has led to constant warfare throughout history. i agree with you that science and religion should not be at war -- that it is a false dichotomy -- but i think that historically, there is such a conflict. Ungtss 03:10, 21 May 2005 (UTC)

<<... Moses, Jesus, Aquinas, and Erasmus, who used reason to transcend both the religionists and the materialists, to arrive at a systematic and coherent philosophy.>>

Aquinas and Erasmus were philosophers who worked in the field of religion. To that extent, they were “religionists”. They were also careful not to question the central teachings of the Church – or if they did, they did so only to justify them. They reserved their attacks for non-central teachings, which weren't covered by the umbrella of dogma, or were at least in a grey area.

Moses may or may have not been a philosopher in his own time. I'm not enough of expert on Moses to testify one way or another. But he is chiefly remembered for being the vessel of a divine revelation. He was instrumental in the creation of a new dogmatic tradition, one based on the testimony of the Creator, not on antiquity.

Jesus is a middle case. He certainly wasn't shy about questioning the central teachings of the Judaic tradition of his time. I would count him as a philosopher. But after his death, his teachings became enshrined, not subject to question. They became dogma.

and yet, all three found themselves in conflict with both parties -- called heretics by the religious and religious nutjobs by the materialists. Ungtss 03:10, 21 May 2005 (UTC)

<<science, in my opinion, does a miserable job of verifying its conclusions when those conclusions conflict with its a priori philosophical assumptions which it systematically refuses to question.>>

What do you think these a priori assumptions are? Outsider points of view are always valuable. “Ask not the goldfish about water.”

philosophical naturalism. science assumes that nature is all there is. arguments that nature shows indications that more than nature exists meet with violent resistance. Ungtss 03:10, 21 May 2005 (UTC)

<<that's exactly what i said. science said one thing. religion and philosophy said another. science was morally and ethically wrong. science had to give way to religion and philosophy. when science and religion come into conflict, the one that is wrong must give way, whether that be science or religion.>>

No. The debate over eugenics wasn't one of science vs. religion/philosophy. In that debate, science was a neutral bystander. Science said that eugenics could be done. It did not say that it should be done. What was at conflict was two separate classes of ethics: The ethics of the eugenicists, who said that their ends justified their means, and their opponents, who said that ends don't justify their means, or at least that those particular ends didn't justify those particular means.

There is no science of ethics. There is only philosophies of ethics and systems of ethics that are validated by religious dogmatism. Science is not, now or then, able to determine which of two sides in an ethical debate is correct. Right now, it can inform the debate, but it can't make the final decision.

i agree with your dichotomy. in the strictest sense of the word, science can only inform an ethical debate. the problem is when scientists think that their knowledge of science gives them a monopoly over the realm of philosophy. they start to claim that things are "scientific" when they aren't. they make ethical and religious arguments that are not grounded in science, but they make them in the name of science. i find this to be abominable, just as i find it abominable when the religious put a religious face on their wish to do evil. Ungtss 03:10, 21 May 2005 (UTC)

<<i have believed it enough to stand up in sunday schools and churches and tell them they were full of shit, because they are.>>

Just out of curiosity, what were some of your disagreements with your fellow co-religionists?

total depravity and original sin (i think that both ideas are ludicrous), the necessity of "accepting jesus as lord and savior" to get to heaven (which i think is absurd), the existence of a "personal relationship with god" (i personally have never met god, and i think that those who pretend to have merely found an imaginary friend), moral idealism (thinking they are sinning simply because they are not perfect), the doctrine of the trinity (sheer nonsense), the worship of Jesus (who repeatedly told people not to worship him) ... the list goes on and on. i have nothing in common with the established church except that we both appeal to the same authority. Ungtss 03:10, 21 May 2005 (UTC)

<<I'm a moral realist. i believe the mandates are right in front of our eyes if we care to see them.>>

On the other hand, I am a moral pluralist. Regardless of pigeonholes, though, this is what I believe. I believe that an action is neither moral or immoral in and of itself. An action is only moral or immoral in relation to the alternatives. After all, without choice, morality isn't possible. I believe that some actions are more moral than others – but figuring out which is which is often non-trivial.

I believe that some moral codes are more moral than others – but, again, the figuring out the difference is often non-trivial. The test of whether a moral code is moral is if subscribing to it tends to make a person more likely to perform moral actions. Only actions are moral, intentions and moral codes are moral only if they tend to create moral actions.

But what makes an action moral? Is there some absolute, objective way of measuring morality? If so, what is it? What is its basis? What defines morality?

"love the lord your god and love your neighbor as yourself." Ungtss 03:10, 21 May 2005 (UTC)

<<The test of whether a moral code is moral is if subscribing to it tends to make a person more likely to perform moral actions.>>

isn't this self-referential? a moral code is good if it makes people act morally? but it's the moral code that determines what's moral in the first place. your line of reasoning here makes no sense to me. Ungtss 03:10, 21 May 2005 (UTC)

Is Evolution Falsifiable?[edit]

<<popper disagreed with you. he believed that darwinism is an unfalsifiable metanarrative and a framework for research, but not strictly scientific in and of itself. i agree with him. i challenge you to think of a falsifiable experiment which can be conducted today which would prove darwinism wrong. not "a piece of evidence we might find." and not evidence that is consistent with both creationism and evolution. neither of those mean anything. back up your claim to falsifiability with some facts.>>

Popper, at least initially, believed that historical science wasn't “real” science. Given the initial conditions of a system, a scientific theory should be able to predict the state of the system at a future (or past) time. The problem is that sometimes determining the exact initial conditions is a non-trivial task. This task usually is trivial in the field of physics, and physics is the field that Popper was using to define his model of “real” science. When you set up a experiment in physics, you are setting up an easily replicatible set of initial conditions. Of course, no set of conditions are ever exactly replicated, but the difference is minor enough that the experimenter can confidently make predictions.

But there are many cases where we can't set up an experiment because we can't replicate the initial conditions with close enough precision. For example, we can't exactly replicate a Civil War battle and refight it in order to test a military or psychological theory. We would have to replicate the weather, the physical state of the soldiers, their morale, the psychology of at least the leaders.

In these situations, what science does is construct a narrative, a theory of what exactly happened in the past, including what causative factors where involved, and then look for clues that have survived into our modern times to see if we can gather evidence for or against competing theoretical narratives. We call fields of sciences that operate in this manner historical sciences. These fields can't make predictions about the future, but they can, in effect, make predictions about the past. Evolutionary biology is one of these historical sciences. It attempts to create a narrative about how modern biology came to be.

In these narrative, there are often causative processes that occur multiple times. These causative processes are metanarratives. These metanarratives are falsifiable, just like physical theories. In fact, they are theories, seen from a different angle. Evolution is, as Popper says, a metanarrative. But this metanarrative is falsifiable.

Now, to falsifying (maybe) evolution. First off, what do you mean by evolution? Darwinism or the modern evolutionary synthesis? Neither of these are single monolithic theories. They are grab-bag labels for a family of related concepts and theories. Some of the concepts and theories of the original Darwinism have been falsified and were thrown out. Others survived the falsification process and were carried over into the modern evolutionary synthesis.

At the heart of both grab-bags is what we might call the Theory of Variation and Selection. This general theory breaks down into two special cases – Artificial Selection and Natural Selection. Let's state the general case first, and then investigate the special case of Artificial Selection. If Artificial Selection doesn't hold water, Natural Selection probably won't either.

So what does this Theory of Variation and Selection say? First off, let's look where it applies:

Firstly, you have to have a population of self-reproducing individuals. Variation and Selection doesn't apply to houses – they don't self-reproduce.

Secondly, there must be variation in this population, and these variations must be heritable. Usually, these variations are originally the result of mutations – imperfections of the reproduction process – but this isn't strictly necessary for Variation and Selection to work. However, without a fresh source of variations, Variation and Selection will eventually grind to a halt.

Thirdly, there must be selection. Not every individual will survive to reproduce equally. In order for this theory to apply, this survival differential must not be purely random. There most be some force that selects for certain attributes (which result from the previously mentioned variations) in the individuals. Individuals that this force favors survive and produce more copies. Individuals not so favored don't survive as long, and produce less copies. “Being favored by the selecting force” is also called “fitness” or “being fit”. This is not a definition, of course, but a tautology. It is the selecting force that defines fitness.

Given all of this, this theory says that the proportion of variations that tend to promote fitness will tend to increase in the population, while the proportion of variations that tend to act against fitness will tend to decrease. By extension, the fitness of the population (assuming it isn't already at optimal) will tend to increase. In other words, the population will adapt. Over time, the properties of the individuals in the population will change - evolve.

In the case of Artificial Selection, we humans (or other intelligent self-aware beings) provide the selecting force, and with it, the definition of fitness. For example, we say that a fit chicken will lay as many eggs as possible. We select for chickens that lay more eggs than average, by encouraging them to breed, and select against chickens that lay less eggs than average, by preventing them from breeding or killing them (and eating them, but that's beside the point).

According to the theory of Variation and Selection, over time, this will result in a population that lays more eggs on average than the original population.

Now how to validate this theory? According to Popper's falsifiability principle, there is no way to prove any theory. Finding examples of where the theory holds true doesn't prove the theory, it only lends the theory credence. No matter how many cases of the theory being true there are, it only takes one case of it not being true to falsify it.

Can you give me an example of where Artificial Selection doesn't work?

i think that the effects of variation and selection are absolutely science, and absolutely obvious. what i mean by evolution in this case is more broadly the grand narrative of evolution which holds to common ancestry -- the idea that all life on earth is related, and that we all evolved by V + S. i find that narrative to be totally unwarranted by the evidence, and unfalsifiable. of course we observe variation and natural selection. but do we observe sufficient evidence of common ancestry to consider it scientific fact? in my view, we do not. Ungtss 03:10, 21 May 2005 (UTC)

Problem of Evil[edit]

<<the key element is "by careless management." it is essential to show some negligence on the part of the owner. no negligence = no liability.>>

“He was not negligent” is not the same as saying “he did all he could”. If an owner of a dog failed to quit his job so he could train his dog full time, I doubt many juries would find him negligent. (Unless there is further evidence of negligence, of course.)

Likewise, the Creator did not do all he could to prevent the existence and continuation of evil. He could have refused to create anything at all. He could have made us automatons without Free Will that are only capable of doing good. Once humanity became partially evil, he could have destroyed humanity to prevent the continuation of this evil.

So the Creator did not do all he could. But was he negligent? The true opposite of negligence is, I believe, called “due diligence”. Did the Creator practice due diligence in the Creation of the universe? How is due diligence defined?

good reasoning:). i would define due diligence in this case as "providing adequate instruction and opportunity for mankind to avoid destroying himself" -- the guidance of instruction and laws that, if followed by all, would lead to universal harmony. Ungtss 03:10, 21 May 2005 (UTC)

The Meaning of Time[edit]

<<so you think in the grand scheme of things, all events are discrete and unrelated?>>

Discrete, yes. That doesn't mean that time is atomic – it may be that time is infinitely divisible. According to fundamental theorem of calculus, a discrete function becomes identical to a continuous function as the number of “snapshots” approaches infinity. So if you insist on thinking of time as infinitely continuous, you could think of each second as consisting of an infinite number of “panels”.

But events are not unrelated. The panels of a comic aren't unrelated. They form a pattern, a sequence. If a panel is missing, it is possible to reconstruct it. Here's some examples.

In the case of a comic book, the sequence is aligned spatially. The pattern is required by the self-consistency of the narrative, and is determined by the plot, by character development, and, at least in science fiction and fantasy settings, by the self-consistency of the “universe” - the sum total of all the gadgets (or magical systems), social and historical trends, etc. (In other genres the fictional universe is indistinguishable from our own. The “universe” still exists, but we don't notice it.)

In the case of our universe, the sequence is aligned temporally. The pattern is required by the self-consistency of objective reality, and is described (not determined) by our scientific theories, with our physical theories being the most basic ones.

Because the sequence of our universe is aligned temporally, we experience the sequence as a chain of cause and effect. Because the sequence of a comic book is aligned spatially, we do not experience the sequence as a chain of cause and effect.

An interesting thing happens when we look at this sequence at the basic level of physics. According to classical and relativistic physics, we can't tell if we are going backwards or forwards in time. There isn't a single classical or relativistic physical process that can not be reversed. From the point of view of classical or relativistic physics, time is symmetrical. We can't determine which of two related events is the cause and which is the effect.

In quantum mechanics, there are some cases where time is not symmetrical. But such cases obey CPT-symmetry. From the point of view of quantum mechanics, it isn't possible to tell if we are normal matter traveling forward in time, or antimatter traveling backwards in time. Again, which is cause, and which is effect?

The sole exception to temporal symmetry is the second law of thermodynamics – that a closed system, the entropy count tends to rise. This law provides an arrow of time. It is worth noting that this law is only probabilistic. It is possible for the entropy count to actually decrease locally, for short periods of time, without causing the entropy count of the entire closed system to increase. But how local is local, and how short is short? There is no clear boundary. The greater the size, in time, space and amount, of the entropy reduction, the less likely it is. It is possible that the entire observed universe is a local reversal of the second law. But this is highly unlikely, so Occam's Razor leads us the reject this theory.

Because of the arrow of time provided by the second law, we experience a consistently one way flow of cause and effect. Our main way of experiencing this flow is by the formation of memories. Our brain (an open system) creates memories by decreasing its entropy. It does so by metabolizing sugar and oxygen, increasing the entropy of the closed system of the universe. The arrow of time provided by the second law is responsible for the arrow of time provided by the one-way formation of memories. We remember the past, not the future.

Similarly, the entropic arrow of time is responsible for the electromagnetic arrow of time. When we look 100,000 light years in to space, we see 100,000 years into the past, not 100,000 years into the future.

To date, to my understanding, we have no idea of why the entropic arrow of time exists. It just is. We can't derive it from our other physical theories.

Now, let's imagine an observer who is able to view the whole of our universe, and isn't subject to our local entropic arrow of time. This observer either doesn't have an arrow of time of his own, or has one different from our own.

How could this observer tell the difference between our spatial dimensions and our temporal one?

i challenge the argument that time is symmetrical and that we cannot determine cause and effect -- could you provide further basis for that assertion? i find cause and effect to be very clear, and unidirectional. when matter is placed under certain conditions, it behaves in a particular way. when i pull the trigger, it causes the bullet to fire. where is the symmetry in that case? Ungtss 03:10, 21 May 2005 (UTC)

Persistence of Identity[edit]

<<i don't think that one particular component is necessarily vital.>>

We already know that some of my components are vital for my Crazyeddieness. If you remove my life, I become a corpse. My corpse is not Crazyeddie, but all that remains of Crazyeddie.

what's the difference between "crazyeddie" and "all that remains of crazyeddie?" if that's all that remains of you, then that's what you've become, no? you have died and lost your personality, and your body has begun to lose its coherence ... and that's what became of crazyeddie, no? Ungtss 03:10, 21 May 2005 (UTC)

The question is if there are any vital components that can't be exchanged for equivalents without destroying my Crazyeddieness. If you remove my heart, my life will quickly follow. My heart is a vital component. But you can replace my heart with an equivalent component, and my life will continue. Is there any component that can not be replaced without destroying my Crazyeddieness?

If not, then we run into the Ship of Theseus paradox.

<<i think that you would only cease to be crazyeddie if all of your components were lost and/or replaced, so that nothing of the original remained.>>

This theory might apply to the Ship of Theseus, but it gives results that don't agree with common sense when applied to me. From some comments you made, it appears you believe my Crazyeddieness started when my father's sperm and my mother's egg combined to form a fertilized egg. But it is entirely possible, maybe even likely, that not a single atom of that original egg remains in my body. Is there some component of Crazyeddie that doesn't consist of atoms?

If a single remaining piece of the original Crazyeddie means that I'm still Crazyeddie, what happens if one of the original components of Crazyeddie become incorporated into someone else? Would they become Crazyeddie also?

well ... given that crazyeddie's personality and the coherence of his body have disappeared, so that "all that remains of crazyeddie" is the elements that were absorbed into the soil which became the apple which became my lunch, the yes, those elements are "all that remains of crazyeddie" -- technically "you," but not a meaningful statement, since it neither bears your personality nor physical characteristics, but only your atoms. one might say, "crazyeddie's personality and body are gone ... all that remains are his atoms." Ungtss 03:10, 21 May 2005 (UTC)

2005-06-05[edit]

Religion and Science[edit]

Is Christianity Falsified or Falsifiable?[edit]

<<have the counterarguments been disproved, or are they unfalsifiable? can't be both ...>>

As you say, it isn't possible for a theory to be both unfalsifiable and falsified. But just as there is more than one evolutionary theory (Darwinism, the modern evolutionary synthesis), there is more than one creationist theory. Some creationist theories have been disproven, others can't be falsified, at least at present.

<<Good! i agree with you that scientific methods could lead to christianity. given that premise, my next question is, has science falsified christianity? if so, how? if not, then doesn't it remain a potentially valid conjecture until falsified?>>

Just as there is more than one evolutionary theory and more than one creationist theory, there is more than one Christianity. In fact, Christianity is, in some ways, a subset of creationist theories. I am not familiar with a sect of Christianity that believes that God did not create the universe.

Forms of Christianity that are not in accordance with current theory are generally called Creationist.

Forms of Christianity that are in accordance with current theory can be labelled Theistic Evolutionist.

The main source of conflict between Christianity and science is the theory of evolution. Big Bang cosmology is another, independent, source of conflict, but sects that have come to some sort of accomodation with evolution are usually accepting of the Big Bang. There may be other sources of conflict, but they pale in comparison with these two. So we can safely split Christianity into these two groups.

Creationist Christianity has been falsified. Theistic Evolutionary Christianity has not been falsified. Theistic Evolution is within the realm of the possible.

However, it is not the simplist theory that has not been falsified. Atheistic naturalism has not yet been falsified, and this theory is simpler than Theistic Evolution. Therefore, it is probable that Theistic Evolution is not true.

In certain cases, I believe it is reasonable to have a belief in theory that is within the realm of the possible, but is not likely to be true. Such a belief is reasonable so long as the one who holds it realizes that their belief is based on faith, not reason or evidence. I myself don't hold a belief in Theistic Evolution, but I understand why many people do have such a faith-based belief.

<<Creationist Christianity has been falsified. Theistic Evolutionary Christianity has not been falsified. Theistic Evolution is within the realm of the possible.>>

interesting ... you say that creationist christianity has been falsified. query: how?

Faith-based Axiomatic Assumptions[edit]

After doing some research, I have just learned that an a priori proposition actually means a proposition that can be proved conclusively by reason alone, without looking at physical, sensual, observational evidence. A priori propositions conclusively rule out the possibility that the proposition is wrong.

A priori reasoning is anathema to science. Science relies on a posteriori reasoning, reasoning based on physical evidence.

What you are describing seems to be more along the lines of axiomatic assumptions – assumptions that are believed to be true without proof. The possibility of an axiomatic assumption being wrong is not ruled out.

Axiomatic assumptions are allowable by reason. However, they should be concious. If you are making an axiomatic assumption, you should be open to the possibility that the assumption is wrong. If the assumption is unconcious, if you are not aware of the possibility of the assumption being wrong, it might give you mental tunnel-vision. You will not be open to theories that call this assumption into question. Axiomatic assumptions should also be kept to a bare minimum. The more axiomatic assumptions you make, the more likely you are to be wrong. Occam's Razor.

So why make axiomatic assumptions at all? I would say that believing in an axiomatic assumption, even if the possiblity, or even probability, exists that it is wrong, can be rationally justified by the careful and proper application of Pascal's Gambit.

Pascal used this gambit in the construction of his Wager, which he came up with to show "happy agnostics" why it might be worthwhile to believe in the Christian God even if His existence can't be proven.

His argument was something like this: If I believe in God, and there is no God, I loose nothing. If I don't believe in God, and there is no God, I gain nothing. If I believe in God, and there is a God, then I will earn an eternal and infinite award (heaven). If I don't believe in God, and there is a God, I will be eternally damned, and experience infinite suffering (hell).

Pascal argued that it doesn't matter what the probabilities of God existing are. So long as the probability of God existing is non-zero, the marginal payback of believing in God is still infinite.

To calculate the marginal payback: (The reward of correct belief in God)x(The chance of God existing) – (The punishment of incorrect belief in God)x(The chance of God not existing). Compare this to (The reward of correct belief in God not existing)x(The chance of God not existing) – (The punishment of incorrect belief in God not existing)x(The chance of God existing).

The marginal reward of believing in God is infinite, the marginal reward of not believing in God is zero.

Since I'm an atheist, it's pretty safe to assume I don't buy into Pascal's Wager. Why is this?

First off, I'm not convinced that humans, even in the afterlife, are capable of infinite suffering or infinite joy. It could be argued that maximal, but finite, suffering or joy, multiplied by infinite timespan, is the same as infinite suffering or joy. But again, I'm not convinced. It seems to me that it is possible to imagine a timespan of n years of maximal suffering or joy, after which, no additional benefit or drawback is gained from further joy or suffering. I would think you would either "bliss out" or go catatonic. Of course, if this suffering or joy ends after n+1 years, the result would be worse or better than an infinite time of suffering or joy. So let's assume, for the sake of argument, that time experience in the afterlife is finite but unbounded – after awhile, experiences start repeating themselves. There would be no difference, in terms of total joy or suffering, from an infinite afterlife.

So the joy or suffering obtained from either afterlife is not infinite, but merely arbitrarily large.

Secondly, a belief in God does not have zero cost. You believe that belief in God is not required for admittance into heaven. Likewise, most Christians believe that belief in God is not sufficient to gain entrance into heaven. A belief in God would require lifestyle changes that have a non-zero cost.

The marginal payback for a belief in God is no longer infinite. It is now dependent on the probability of God existing. In my estimate, marginal payback of a belief in God is less than the marginal payback of a belief in God not existing.

I believe that, while Pascal's Wager is wrong, the Gambit he based it on is correct. The moral of the story is that when applying Pascal's Gambit, be deeply suspicious of rewards or punishments of zero or infinite value.

I also believe that Pascal's Gambit can be used as the basis of faith-based belief in unproven propositions. So we have some ground rules for reasonable faith. Firstly, you should not have faith in a proposition that has been conclusively disproven. Secondly, faith should be a concious, rational decision. Thirdly, you should make as few faith-based assumptions as possible. Thirdly, be very careful when applying Pascal's Gambit – watch out for assumptions of paybacks of infinite or zero value.

Let's compare reasonable faith, based on Pascal's Gambit, with rationallization. Faith can't apply to propositions that have been ruled out by evidence. Rationallization concots reasons to ignore the evidence. Faith is a concious decision. Rationallization is unconcious. A person who is rationallizing isn't aware they are doing it. Faith is open to possibility it is wrong, but it intentionally persists in its belief anyway. Rationallization is deeply hostile to any suggestion it is wrong, and will attempt to concot fallacious proofs that it is absolutely right.

excellent distinctions all. thanks for clarifying the difference between a priori and axiomatic -- you've educated me:). i should also point out that i think pascal's wager is sheer nonsense for the reasons you provided as well as many others:). i especially like your distinction between faith and rationalization, and i agree that faith is good, reasonable, and often necessary, while rationalization is destructive to the human mind. but if rationalization is subconscious, how are we to determine whether we are doing it or not? how can i falsify the proposition: "i am rationalizing," other than with reference to the opinion of another person who also may or may not be rationalizing? if the proposition "i am rationalizing" is unfalsifiable, then is it useful in discussion, or is it mere rhetoric? Ungtss 03:16, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Pascal's Gambit and Occam's Razor[edit]

It seems to me that I use Occam's Razor is a descriptive sense, "All things being equal, the simplest explanation is usually correct.", while you use it in a prescriptive sense, "All things being equal, you should assume that the simplest explanation is correct."

In most cases, I agree with your formulation. But Pascal's Gambit provides for some instances where your formulation doesn't hold. In most cases, if the chances of two mutually exclusive propositions being true are exactly equal, the marginal payback of a belief in either proposition is close to being equal. Therefore, one derives greater marginal payback from a belief in the proposition which is most likely.

However, there are cases where, if the chances are exactly equal, one derives much greater marginal benefit from a belief in one proposition over the other. In such a case, the other proposition has to have greater likelihood of being right before one derives a greater marginal payback from a belief in it.

In some extreme cases, the potential relative payback from one proposition is so high that one still derives a marginal payback from a belief in it, even after taking Occam's Razor into account.

not for me:). pascal's wager is nonsense because it deals in screwed up logic and screwed up theology. first, is the criterion for salvation "intellectual assent to the existence of god?" of course not. there's no basis for that in scripture whatsoever, nor in reason (how could a reasonable god damn people to hell for a mere error in logic and interpretation of the evidence, given the inherent fallibility of the human mind? what of people who "never hear?" what of people who lack the intellectual ability to compose thoughts. what of the person who believes one day and disbelieves the next? of what eternal importance are our thoughts anyway? sheer nonsense. the biblical conditions for salvation are simple. Noahide laws for all us non-Jews.

Pascal's Gambit and Objective Reality[edit]

Science makes the axiomatic assumption that nothing exists outside of nature. This assumption can, I believe, be justified by the application of Pascal's Gambit.

If I believe in Objective Reality, and such a belief is correct, then I gain a very large positive payback – the ability to conduct science.

If I don't believe in Objective Reality, and such a belief is false, then I might loose something. If Objective Reality doesn't exist, it isn't possible to forsee the consequences of my actions with complete accuracy. In fact, it could be said that consequences don't exist without objective reality. So let's say I decided to do something foolish, on the assumption that it won't have any consequences. It then turns out that my actions do have consequences. A large negative payback.

If I believe in Objective Reality, and such a belief is false, then I may loose a small benefit by not doing what I want, regardless of consequences. But if my actions have no consequences, then I don't really loose too much by assuming there are. The payback is a negative, small, but non-zero.

Lastly, if I believe there isn't Objective Reality, and such a belief is correct, then I gain a little. Not much, but it is non-zero.

The marginal benefit of a belief in Objective Reality is dependent on the probability of Objective Reality existing. I'm not sure how to calculate such a probability, but the probability of Objective Reality existing would have to be quite small before the marginal payback of a belief in Objective Reality becomes less than the marginal payback of a belief in Objective Reality not existing.

It might also be said that there is no possibility of falsifying a belief in Objective Reality. If there is no way of determining if Objective Reality exists or doesn't exist, then how can one determine the payback they have received from such a belief? When can you cash in on this wager?

So there are other factors to consider when applying Pascal's Gambit. The payback one recieves from a belief regardless of whether it is true. The payback one recieves from a belief after it has been determined to be true or not. The chances of being around to see that Judgement Day. The relative timespan of "before Judgement Day" vs. "after Judgement Day".

There are many factors to consider when applying Pascal's Gambit. It is not surprising that atheists such as myself and Theistic Evolutionists assign different values to these factors. This difference is why it is possible that both atheism and Theistic Evolution are reasonable assumptions.

I fear the "objective reality exists" vs. "objective reality does not exist" is dichotomous with reference to philosophical naturalism. consider my view of the supernatural: supernatural events are real, historical, and natural, but operate according to deeper, more fundamental laws of nature than those of which we are aware. Consider an islander who sees an airplane fly for the first time.
    • The philosophical naturalist will cry, "That can't have happened. It violates the law of nature."
    • The superstitious supernaturalist will cry, "That's magic! A god must have done it!"
    • But I say, "That happened. I don't understand how it happened, so it must operate according to laws of nature I don't understand."

That's how i see God and the supernatural. I do not deny objective reality. I deny the erroneous belief that what we know of objective reality is all there is, so that reports of supernatural events must, of necessity, be false.

Science and Anaturalism[edit]

<<science assumes that nature is all there is. arguments that nature shows indications that more than nature exists meet with violent resistance.>>

That depends on what you mean by "nature". If by nature you mean "objective reality", then science does indeed make the axiomatic (unproven) assumption that nothing exists outside of nature. But by such a definition, deities (which I have some reason to believe you are referring to) are part of nature. Science can't rule them out. But it can't assume they exist either. Deities, all things being equal, are not the simplest possible explanation.

Many people apply Pascal's Gambit to justify an axiomatic belief in God or gods. But not everybody does. They use different values in calculating the results of the Gambit. So scientists have essentially made a compromise – believe in whatever Gambit-based beliefs you want to at home, but leave those axioms at the door when you show up for work.

Assuming something is not true is not the same as ruling it out. Only evidence can rule out theories, not Occam's Razor.

Many scientists are theists of one bent or another. They would be quite happy to prove their religious beliefs correct. So science definitely doesn't rule out theism. It's just that theists have an uphill battle if they wish to prove their theistic propositions.

Science also doesn't completely rule out philosophical spirtualism. Vitalism was a large part of biology in the early days. Until the rise of emergence, there was often a sense that the laws of biology couldn't be explained purely by the materialistic laws of chemistry or mechanical physics. Just before the rise of emergence, there was some speculation about colliodial chemistry – or laws of chemistry that only applied to living organisms. This trend continues in some ways to this day – Roger Penrose's heretical hypothesis about biochemical processes not being sufficient to explain the human mind, that there are organelles in human neurons that serve as quantum computers.

However, just as theism is not the simplest explanation that evidence allows, spirtualism is not the simplest explanation. We have no evidence that assuming the spritual exists that isn't explained just as well as assuming that there is a materialistic explaination for everything. So, unless you can make a case for Pascal's Gambit applying here, why should we believe that the spirit exists? What, exactly, does the spirit do?

So what do you mean by "more than nature"?

i addressed that in the section above. Ungtss 03:16, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)

I question your use of the word "violent". Are there many cases of scientists physically assaulting theists? How about relative to the other way around? It is true that scientists riducle theistic theories. But they do that to any radical theory that shakes their little world. "Big Bang" was a label pinned on the theory by a detractor. It is now taught in textbooks. Schroedinger's Cat was a thought experiment that Schroedinger came up with to show how absurd a certain quantum mechanical theory was. The theory held up. Look at the riducle still being heaped on the Aquatic ape hypothesis, a hypothesis that I believe (at least in the moderate form) holds serious water. Just because scientists heap riducle on a theory doesn't mean they won't eventually accept it – provided that the evidence backs it up.

by violent i mean extensive and seemingly desperate efforts to suppress, mirepresent, discredit, and attack creationist belief. you don't have enormous whythere'snosuchthingasanaquaticape websites to compare to talk.origins. you don't see such desparate efforts to attack, suppress, deny, mock, and misrepresent it in the media and schools. That hypothesis is harmless, as is the panspermia hypothesis -- and you'll notice there are no edit wars of substantial pov problems on the panspermia page, although it seriously challenges standard scientific evolutionary theory -- because, i propose, it leaves philosophical naturalism intact. wikipedia has opened my eyes to the violent hatred prevalent against creationists. i had absolutely no idea.

Religions vs. Religions vs. Science[edit]

<<and yet, all three found themselves in conflict with both parties -- called heretics by the religious and religious nutjobs by the materialists.>>

If somebody disagreed with my religion, I would call them a heretic or an infidel. I would call them a heretic if their beliefs have superficial resemblence to mine, an infidel if they don't. To a follower of a religion, a heretic is often considered more dangereous than an infidel. This is because a heretic is more likely to distract other followers from the One True Path.

If I call somebody a nutjob, it means that what they say disagrees with something I find to be self-evidently true, in an everyday sense of the word. I found this thing to be true based on science, experience, reason, or common sense. Common sense is, of course, dogma outside the field of religion.

So if I'm calling someone a nutjob, they are making statements that fall outside of religion, or else what I believe to be an everyday fact is part of religion.

It might be said that atheists, agnostics, or people of a relaxed version of theism sometimes use the word "nutjob" where a zealous member of a theistic religion might use the word "infidel".

If so, what does all this mean, except that all four men were influential enough to make enemies with both outsiders and close fellow travelers?

excellent analysis:). i'd argue, tho, that the ability to make enemies with both outsiders and "fellow travelers" is a gift possessed by those whose capacity for independent thought places them outside both camps. they didn't buy into religionism or materialism -- they dared to think for themselves. and that scared everybody.

<<i was referring to a broader conflict than simply the academic debate over "whether there's a spiritual or not." i was referring to the conflict between those who think there is more than nature (the neoplatonic view that the universe is just a shadow of the realm of the forms) and those who think that nature is all there is (like lucretius). this conflict seems to me to be perennial.>>

Again, what do you mean by nature? If Plato's Ideal Plane exists, and it follows self-consitent rules, then it is part of nature (if you define nature as objective reality).

In fact, the Ideal Plane has some similarities to Objective Reality. We can't directly observe either. We can only deduce the nature of each by how they affect the Material Plane, aka, our shared, consensual subjective reality.

Interestingly enough, Lucretius can more accurately be described as a theist than Plato. Plato harbored much bitterness over the execution-by-suicide of his mentor, Socrates. If you will remember, Socrates was found guilty of impious behavior and corrupting the youth of Athens. In otherwords, Socrates was found guilty of being a heretic. It is easy to imagine that Plato was not exactly an observant follower of the polythestic religion of the day.

It could be argued that Plato's analogy of the Sun is his version of God. But this version of God shows no signs of being a person. It is much closer to impersonal Naturalistic Panthesim then it is to personal Monotheism.

Lucretius, by contrast, was of the Epicurean school of thought. The founder of this school, in order to avoid the fate of Socrates, paid some lip service to personal polytheism.

i'm afraid i have to challenge you on the facts here. Lucretious was explicitly atheistic. consider On the Nature of Things. Plato, by contrast, referred constantly to God, the Demiurge, and the gods. Consider Critias (Plato). Ungtss 03:16, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)

<<i think that those we call "scientists" today used to be called "witches and warlocks," and burnt at the stake for their fascination with and semi-deification of Nature.>>

The pagans, who you might be referring to as witches and warlocks, no more deifyied Nature than Christianity does. The conflict between Paganism and Christianity is nothing more than the conflict between two different religions. This is assuming that these "witches and warlocks" weren't just people that weren't well liked by their "pious" neighbors.

There is also evidence that suggest there would also be conflict between Paganism and Science. According to some, the Neo-Paganistic movement is an a-rational, emotional, matriarchial backlash against the rationalistic, logical, patriarchial nature of both the Judeo-Christian and Scientific worldviews.

I don't dispute either of your statements, but I think they miss my point. My point is that I think that many witches and warlocks of prior days were those who placed nature in primacy over theology -- who's primary interest was in "magic spells" and attempts to master their environment. I think it is that same semi-deification of nature that drives hardcore atheistic scientists today -- Thomas Edison, for instance, who was notorious for his hatred or religion and preference for the deification of nature. I think that view is very threatening to religionists, who have a lot vested in fostering a distaste for "the world."

<<and i think that the naturalists have also burned the religionists (as with Shadrach, Mesach and Abendigo, Daniel and the lion's den>>

Shadrach, Mesach, and Abendigo were punished by the King of Babylon for religious reasons. Their henotheism conflicted with the king's polytheism. Polytheism is no more or less naturalistic than monotheism.

As for Daniel and the lion's den, that might have a simpler explanation than interreligious persecution. Daniel was an advisor high up in ranks of the Babylonian Empire. When the Babylonians were conquered by the Persians, Daniel retained his position. His religious views might have just been a pretext for him being thrown into the lion's den, with the real reason being the removal of a political threat.

i'm afraid i have to challenge you on the facts there. they were not burned in the name of the king's polytheism. they were burned for their unwillingness to worship the king. yes, it was quasi-religious in nature -- as was much of the deification of Lenin, Stalin, and Mao Tse Tung -- but it was not "religionist." it was "secularists" who manipulated religious sentiment to their secular advantage.

<<Nero and the burning of the Christians>>

Much of the hostility between the Roman Empire and Christianity was religious. The Romans tried to be respectful of native beliefs, not out of any moral relativity issues, but in order to gain the approval of the local gods. They feared that Christian members of the military might offend the local gods by refusing to worship them. They also were suspicious of the fact that Christians owed their allegience to something else than the Emperor, who, after all, was favored by the gods, and occassionally declared themselves to be gods in their own right.

see above.

< and Stalin's Great Purge.>>

Again, a conflict between religions. Stalin was effectively the Pope of Communism, a materialistic and atheistic religion. By purging openly practicing Christians, he was simply getting rid of infidels.

Stalin's religion also conflicted with science. Violently. See Lysenkoism.

<<but i think that historically, there is such a conflict.>>

There is a conflict, but it isn't limited to simply two sides. There is conflict between science and religion, but there is also conflict between religion and religion.

i don't think there's a conflict between science and religion at all. as thomas huxley said, true science can only benefit religion by ridding it of superstitition. I think the only substantive conflict is between different religions -- including the ancient and distinguished religion of atheistic materialism.

Morallity[edit]

Metaethics[edit]

<<isn't this self-referential? a moral code is good if it makes people act morally? but it's the moral code that determines what's moral in the first place. your line of reasoning here makes no sense to me.>

No. A moral code (at least one created by humans) doesn't define morallity, it describes it. "The map is not the territory." If a moral code defined morallity, you could change what is moral by simply change the moral code.

There are several schools of thought concerning the absolute definition of morallity.

  • Moral Relativity states that there is no absolute definition of morallity. Morallity can only be understood in the context of the moral code of a society.
  • Moral agnosticism believes either that we don't know whether or not an absolute definition of morallity, or believes that there is, but we don't know what it is.
  • Pessimistic moral agnosticism believes that there is an absolute definition of morallity, but humans will never learn it.
  • Moral absolutism believes that there is an absolute definition of morallity, and believes that they know what it is. Moral absolutism further divides depending on what the definition is believed to be.

I personally fall somewhere between moral agnosticism and moral absolutism. I have a tentative belief that moral behavior and evolutionarily fit behavior are the same by definition.

There is no absolutely sure way to prove that a proposed definition of morallity is correct. The best way we have is to compare the results of a proposed definition with "commonsense morallity". (Remember that commonsense is dogma outside the field of religion.) We're assuming that commonsense morallity closely resembles true morallity. We have no proof of this, but I think we could use Pascal's Gambit in this case.

The above falls under the field of "philosophy of meta-ethics", the most abstract division of the field of ethics. Under meta-ethics lies the field of normative ethics, which works out moral principles based on proposed meta-ethical definitions of morallity, descriptive ethics, which attempts to learn what moral principles people actually use in day-to-day life. Finally, there is applied ethics, which applies moral principles in real-world situations.

i accept everything you wrote in this section -- but in your previous post, you said that moral codes are moral because they cause people to act morally. it was that statement which i found to be self-referential. is that not what you meant to say? Ungtss 03:16, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)


Correct Moral Codes vs. Moral Moral Codes[edit]

It is possible that a moral code might be incorrect – if inteperted literally, it prescribes immoral behavior – but still be moral, in that attempting to follow it leads to moral behavior. This happens when we have an unconcious, inborn tendency to morallity, and conciously following an immoral moral code leads to a net result of moral behavior.

Take, for example, on half of your proposed definition of morallity: "Love your neighbor as you love yourself."

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that humans have an unconcious, inborn tendency to naive self-interest.

If we came accross a beggar, naive self-interest prescribes not giving them anything.

Commonsense morallity would argue for giving the beggar money, provided that doing so doesn't make a major impact on our own wellbeing.

But if we love our neighbor – the beggar – as ourselves, then we don't give our wellbeing higher priority than our neighbor's. So if we followed the Golden Rule, we would combine our assests with the beggar's, and then divide them equally.

This act would be allowed by, but not demanded by, commonsense morallity. We would probably both be able to get by – not comfortably, but adequtely.

But what if there is a hundred beggars, so many that if our assests were evenly distributed, all would starve to death equally? Would we have to draw straws to see who would starve and who would live?

I would say that such an act would be immoral. Therefore, loving your neighbor as you love yourself is morally incorrect, but the Golden Rule is still moral, because attempting to love your neighbor as you love yourself tends to counterbalance naive self-interest, leading to behavior that is closer to true morallity.

The Golden Rule is also incomplete – if you asked fathers who participated in "female circumcision", they would no doubt say that they were acting out of love for their daughters.

i don't think that "loving your neighbor as yourself" requires dividing your assets equally with them. i don't think it requires giving him a cent. in my view, "love your neighbor as yourself" simply requires being just in our transactions -- not taking more than we give, or cheating them. There is a special case, of course, for the beggar in extreme need -- those who need food to survive, or whose lives are in desperate danger -- in those cases, "love your neighbor as yourself" requires us to protect them from the impending catastrophe. but dividing our assets equally with everyone in the world? no way:). Ungtss 03:16, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)

The Euthyphro Dilemma[edit]

Might I suggest that the reason "Love the Lord your God" tends to make people more moral is that, if you love the Lord, you will naturally follow the moral code that God prescribes? (Including the bit about "love your neighbor as you love yourself".)

As I said before, humans, when they create a moral code, are describing morallity, not defining it. But how about when God creates a moral code? When God creates a moral code, is He defining morallity, or is he describing it? This is known as the Euthyphro dilemma.

If He is defining morallity, then we have a possible solution to the Problem of Evil – since God defines morallity, then He can redefine that definition so that, whatever He does is moral. The ultimate in "do what I say, not as I do". So we have a solution to the Problem of Evil – but it is an unsatisfactory one.

If God is only describing what is moral, then we are left back where we started – what defines morallity? This also means that God is responsible to a law outside of Himself – a prospect that dismays people who believe in a omnipotent God.

According to the article on this dilemma, Thomas Aquinas stated that this dilemma is false. Aquinas's God is good by definition, and is omniscient. Aquinas's God has perfectly internalized morallity. In any situation, God knows exactly what is good and what is evil. Even if the actual definition of good exists outside of God, the point is moot, because the two benchmarks give exactly the same answer.

Open Theism, by assuming that God is not omniscient and not perfectly good, rules this solution out. In fact, by assuming that God is not omniscient and not perfectly good, leaves us no choice but to assume that the definition of good either does not exist, or else comes from someplace other than God.

As I said before, I believe (tentatively) that moral behavior is the same as evolutionarily fit behavior by definition. That means that my God (Nature) determines what the definition of moral behavior is. This scenario escapes the Euthyphro Dilemma because my God is not a person, not capable of Free Will (except when incarnated as a person), and is therefore amoral. So, again, we have a solution to the Problem of Evil, but this solution is unsatisfactory. It doesn't generallize to the case of a personal God, so if this is our sole solution to the Problem, we will be emotionally locked in to assuming atheism.

In order to fully answer the Problem of Evil, we must solve it assuming that God is capable of moral behavior, and that moral benchmarking is not dependent on God. How is it possible that a moral (but not perfectly moral), omnipotent, omniscient God could have created a universe where evil exists?

i don't think that open theism rules out aquinas's solution to the euthyphro dilemma, because i don't think "infinity" is required to define the attribute. Possession of the attribute itself is sufficient to define it. for example, we know what "blue" is, even tho there is no "perfect blue." and we know what "beautiful" is, even tho there is no "perfect beauty." I'd argue that a Good God is sufficient to fit into Aquinas's solution -- in fact, I'd argue that the open God is a superior fit, because ideas like "omnibenevolence" are ultimately self-contradictory.
my solution: "Morality is Good because God said so, and God is good. Is God perfect? no. but neither is morality." Ungtss 03:16, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Morality is a way of us humans understanding on another

Science and Applied Ethics[edit]

<<the problem is when scientists think that their knowledge of science gives them a monopoly over the realm of philosophy. they start to claim that things are "scientific" when they aren't. they make ethical and religious arguments that are not grounded in science, but they make them in the name of science. i find this to be abominable, just as i find it abominable when the religious put a religious face on their wish to do evil.>>

I think you may be underestimating how much science can influence an ethical debate by informing it, and overestimating how much scientists are actually claiming. AFAICT, scientists who engage in ethical debates are quite clear about where science stops and philosophy begins.

Virtually all ethical systems judge the relative merits of possible actions on the basis of their probable outcomes. In some moral systems, the ends don't justify the means, so the probable outcome isn't the only basis of judgment, but it is still a consideration. Science can inform the debate by calculating the probable outcome of actions.

Science can't provide the moral principles which are used to judge the various possible actions. But in virtually all cases of applied ethics, all sides of an ethical debate agree to the same ethical principles.

Science can't decide if an ethical principle applies – it can't say definitively that a fertilized egg is a human being in its own right, or just living human tissue that has the potential to become a human being. But once it is provided with a definition of what is meant by human being, it can prove that the entity in question fits the definition or not, which in turn determines what set of moral principles apply. Either that, or it can show that it can't be determined whether or not the entity in question fits the provided definition. (For example, if you define a human being as having a soul. How can you prove that an entity has a soul? How can you prove that a fertilized egg, or a collection of about 64 unspeciallized cells, has a soul?)

Can you give examples of cases where a scientist, acting in the name of science, acted outside of these guidelines?

Eugenics was the original illustration I provided. more recently, a text focusing on evolutionary models of the universe concluded, "As has been shown, humans are simply animals who have arisen as an inevitable consequence of the laws of nature. Perhaps, then, we should realize this, give up our religion and religious wars, kick back, and enjoy the rest of the Quaternary period."

Bibical Falibility[edit]

<<the accounts of the resurrection. the order of events is irreconcilably contradictory. one or all of the writers is wrong. however, the contradiction in the details leads me to believe that they were authored independently, which makes the similarities in the story over all that much more striking to me. >>

You might want to consider that all four gospels stem from a single oral tradition, which is why they have similarities. The oral tradition mutated before and while the gospels were being written, which is why they have contradictions between them.

in my opinion, your unfalsifiable evolutionary hypothesis about the development of the gospels stands on the same ground as the traditional view that the gospels were recorded based on several attempts to sort through first-hand accounts. Ungtss 03:16, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)

To truly double check the gospel account, it would be best to check it against independent sources. There is some cases where many believe that the Gospels contradict with what we know (or think we know) about the relationship between the Romans and the Jews. For example, the story of Barabbas.

truly, it would be nice to check against independent sources. unfortunately, those sources would need to have greater credibility than the gospels themselves. modern conjectures about the relationship between the jews and romans based on ancient texts no more credible than the gospels themselves need not apply. Ungtss 03:16, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)

At any rate, all this is beside the point. The New Testment doesn't conflict with Evolution. You have shown that you believe that the New Testment is faliable. How about the Old?

absolutely. for one thing, there are two different versions of the Genealogies of Genesis with different ages provided for all the people. there are also discrepancies in the censuses of the early Jews. Ungtss 03:16, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Progress[edit]

<<i think that the question of progress should be divided into three different issues: the progress of knowledge, the progress of intelligence, and the progress of character.>>

I believe that we are progressing in all three areas. I can show hard evidence in the first two cases. I can't prove the third (which might be better called moral progress), but the reason isn't because of lack of hard evidence. The reason is that we don't have a good definition of "moral".

There is enough evidence of the progress of knowledge and technology that I don't need to harp on it. I believe that the cause of this progress is a form of cultural evolution, not genetic evolution. Genetic evolution doesn't work fast enough to produce the kind of progress we are seeing.

Strangely enough, general intelligence is increasing. The Flynn effect. This development took the scientific world by surprise. The effect is too great to be explained by genetic evolution – according to orthodox theory, genetic evolution simply doesn't work that fast. It isn't nutrition – nutrition plateaued in America in the 50s and the Flynn effect is still going on. And twin studies suggested that general intelligence is largely genetically determined, meaning that enviroment shouldn't have an effect.

What Flynn, the discoverer of this trend, came up with was this: That the twin studies showed cases of individuals leveraging small genetic differences into large enviromental differences. For example, twin studies would suggest that the ability to play basketball well is largerly genetic. What actually happens is that kids who are slightly taller than average (genetically determined) get picked for better basketball training. It is this difference in enviroment – the better basketball training – that is responsible for certain kids being better at basketball. If you took a short kid and gave them good training, they would be better players than tall kids with no training.

Likewise, if a kid is slightly smarter than average, they get placed in an enriched learning enviroment, which boosts their intelligence further.

So IQ is determined more by the enviroment then we thought. The more the enviroment tasks general intelligence, the more an individual's general intelligence improves. And the world today tasks general intelligence more than it has in the past. Everytime you figure out how to program your VCR, you are tasking your general intelligence. And everytime you use your general intelligence, it gets stronger.

I'm afraid I can't credit cultural evolution for this example of progress – it's just a fluke. But the Flynn Effect does imply that culture could shape how intelligent its members are on average, which means that cultural evolution could cause intelligence to increase – or decrease for that matter. Hard to say.

I do believe that cultural evolution is responsible for moral progress. I also believe that genetic evolution is causing moral progress, but on such a long time scale as to be invisible. Unfortunately, either of these beliefs is not falsifiable until we have worked out what exactly it means to be moral. I could cite examples of instances (relative to population size) of what I believe to be evil acts decreasing, examples of instances of "good" acts increasing. But what would be the point, if we don't know if these acts are really good or evil?

agreed:). my views about morality not changing much over time are totally dependent on my views on morality:). good ol' theory dependence:). Ungtss 03:16, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)

You didn't answer one of my questions – which is there more of in this world? Joy or suffering?

suffering, without question.

Additionally, which do you believe best describes God's relationship to humanity: He is a good watchmaker, a good shepherd, or a good parent?

at the moment, i think of him as a good general, attempting to win his creation back by overcoming the rebellion by which we fell into nonsense. Ungtss 03:16, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Problem of Evil[edit]

<< i would define due diligence in this case as "providing adequate instruction and opportunity for mankind to avoid destroying himself" -- the guidance of instruction and laws that, if followed by all, would lead to universal harmony.>>

You are not defining due diligence. You are not even describing how it applies in general. Instead, you are describing how you think it applies in this case. Why not just declare the Creator "not guilty" by decree while you're at it?

If anybody can define due diligence authoritatively, it would be the legal profession – the term isn't Standard English, but a term that has meaning only in Legalese. I'll confess that I don't have a good enough command of that language to give it a reasonably accurate definition. I could give a stab at it, but... The Wikipedia entry doesn't give enough information either.

well, i have a little legal education to go on:). when we define due diligence, we ask ourselves what a "reasonable person" would do in those circumstances. certainly it's not a cut and dried test -- but if it's good enough for the law, it's good enough for me. i think that a Good God would create an earth for people and instruct them on how to live up to their potential -- tell them what to do, what not to do, and the undesirable consequences of doing the wrong thing. i think that a God who attempted to control their actions would be going "above and beyond" what was reasonable and prudent. and one who didn't tell them the Rules or what would happen if they broke the rules would be failing to exercise due diligence.

While we're working that kink out, consider this:

If the Creator knew that the Creation would inevitably become partially evil, should he have gone ahead with the project?

absolutely not. that's what i don't believe he knew. Ungtss 03:16, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)

If the Creator knew that the creation of individuals with Free Will would inevitably lead to some individuals choosing evil, should he have created deterministic automatons instead?

absolutely not. i don't think he knew it was coming. Ungtss 03:16, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)

If the Creator could destroy all evil, but at the cost of the destruction of humanity, should he do it?

he's been known to do that in the past. Noah's ark.

If following the instructions of the Creator will result in moral behavior 100% of the time (or at least more often than behavior resulting from humans left to their own devices), why didn't the Creator hardcode these instructions? Why didn't he make moral behavior instinctive, instead of learned?

that's the inevitable question: "Why didn't God make us do right?" Since I've never met God, I ask a simpler and clearer question: "What didn't we choose to do what God explained was best for us?" I'm hesitant to hold God to such a high standard, when we failed to live up to the even most basic standards of all. Ungtss 03:16, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)

The Arrow of Time[edit]

<<i challenge the argument that time is symmetrical and that we cannot determine cause and effect -- could you provide further basis for that assertion? i find cause and effect to be very clear, and unidirectional. when matter is placed under certain conditions, it behaves in a particular way. when i pull the trigger, it causes the bullet to fire. where is the symmetry in that case?>>

You are assuming that cause and effect exists. Why should the burden of proof be on me to disprove your assumption? Is this assumption of yours unconcious, you simply never considered the possibility of cause and effect not existing? Or is this assumption concious, and you are open to the possibility of it not being right?

Commonsense tells us that cause and effect exist. But commonsense is just another way of saying dogma. The history of science is full of examples of commonsense being proven wrong.

Science relies on inductive logic to learn about the world that surrounds us. In our everyday experience, inductive logic demonstrates that cause and effect exists. But according to Popper's falsifibility philosophy of science, inductive logic can never prove a proposition. We can only say that the proposition is true to the extent of our knowledge. It only takes one example of the proposition not working for it to be disproven.

Now let's review what I'm saying. An event can be said to cause another event only if it takes place before the other event in time. If we can't tell which way time is flowing, which is before, which is after, it can't be said that cause and effect exist.

The only physical law that is temporally asymetrical is the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that, in a closed system, entropy tends to increase over time. A key phrase is "tends to" – the Second Law is probablisitic.

What is entropy? Here is one definition of entropy, taken from its article:

where k is known as Boltzmann's constant and Ω is the number of microstates that are consistent with the given macroscopic state. This postulate, which is known as Boltzmann's principle, may be regarded as the foundation of statistical mechanics, which describes thermodynamic systems using the statistical behaviour of its constituents. It relates a microscopic property of the system (Ω) to one of its thermodynamic properties (S).
Under Boltzmann's definition, the entropy is clearly a function of state. Furthermore, since Ω is just a natural number (1,2,3,...), the entropy must be positive — this is simply a property of the logarithm.

From further along in the article:

Consider, for example, a set of 10 coins, each of which is either heads up or tails up. The most "ordered" macroscopic states are 10 heads or 10 tails; in either case, there is exactly one configuration that can produce the result. In contrast, the most "disordered" state consists of 5 heads and 5 tails, and there are 10C5 = 252 ways to produce this result (see combinatorics.)
Under the statistical definition of entropy, the second law of thermodynamics states that the disorder in an isolated system tends to increase. This can be understood using our coin example. Suppose that we start off with 10 heads, and re-flip one coin at random every minute. If we examine the system after a long time has passed, it is possible that we will still see 10 heads, or even 10 tails, but that is not very likely; it is far more probable that we will see approximately as many heads as tails.

Like this passage says, the entropy of our system of ten coins tends to increase over time. But it is possible, but not likely, that the system will actually temporally decrease in entropy. If our system is only ten coins, then we will often see examples of entropy decreasing. The reason we don't often see examples of global entropy decrease in the world around us is that the real world has lot more possible microstates than our system of ten coins.

It is worth noting that, in a game of poker, the entropy of the players' hands tends to decrease over time, as a result of variation (chance) and selection (anti-chance).

Your example of a firing a bullet from a gun is an excellent one. A chemical reaction causes a bullet to fly from the gun, a physical act.

What happens in a chemical reaction? A chemical system starts out in a metastable state. A bit of energy causes the bonds of molecules to break, or for the electrons in an atom to achieve a new, unstable configuration. This energy is known as the bond activation energy. The resulting unstable state has lower entropy than the original metastable state.

The system will then come to rest in a new metastable state, with higher entropy than the unstable state. If there is a metastable state available that has a higher entropy than the original state, then that state will be preferred, the system will tend to seek it. But it might achieve a state with lower entropy, or it might backslide into the original state. This isn't likely, but it can happen.

If the energy released by entering into the new metastable state is more than the energy it took to kick the system into that temporary unstable state, the reaction is exothermic. The chemical system released more heat energy into its surroundings then it took. If the energy released by entering into the new metastable state is less then the energy it took to kick the system into the unstable interim state, the reaction is endothermic. The chemical system took more heat energy from its surroundings than it gave.

The initial '"kickstart" of a chemical reaction comes in the form of a quantum of energy – a photon. Usually, photons flow from a hot area to a cold area. The Second Law of Thermodynamics. But sometimes, a photon will go from cold to hot. It isn't likely, but it does happen.

With all of this in mind, let's see what happens when we fire a gun. The hammer provides energy to kick the chemicals of the gunpowder into an unstable state. For simplicity's sake, imagine the molecules of the gunpowder as tinkertoys, and the hammer of the gun actually snapping the bonds. The real story is a bit more complicated than that, but that's what it boils down to.

The chemical system of the gunpowder restabilizes to a state of greater entropy. This reaction is exothermic. Part of the heat released vaporizes the gunpowder, and then heats the vapor. The other part heats the gun barrel.

The bullet is now caught between a pressure differential between the superheated gas behind it and the ambient pressure in front of it. The expansion of the gas behind it imparts physical momentum. The bullet leaves the muzzle of the gun, describing a symmetrical parabolic (assuming no air resistance). The molecules of the gunpowder reactants disperse through the atmosphere.

Now let's watch that in reverse.

A bullet comes out of nowhere, flying backwards, and just happens to hit the muzzle of the gun. A bit out of the ordinary, but no different in principle than the old movie cliche of the foul ball that just happens to land in the glove of the only spectator in the stands who isn't paying attention.

Just before the bullet hits the muzzle, certain molecules in the atmosphere just happen to converge inside the barrel, just from random brownian motion. This causes an area of higher pressure, but such things can result from random motions. These molecules are also, by staggering coincidence, what would be produced by a gunpowder explosion.

The bullet rams these gases down, its momentum being transfered to pressurizing the gases in the barrel. Photons flow out of the barrel metal (which is warm for some reason), causing the molecules of the gases to achieve an unstable molecular state. The chemical reaction just happens to go the other way, achieving a metastable state with lower entropy than it started with. The energy of the bonds reforming (remember those tinkertoys?) causes the hammer to snap back into the cocked position.

All of the above is highly, highly, unlikely. So unlikely that it has never happened in the entire history of firearms. But it is not against the laws of physics and chemistry, as we understand them. Every single one of the steps in the reversal has been observed experimentally on a smaller scale.

If you show a physicist any sequence of events, they can't tell you whether it is a normal sequence, running forward, as is very likely and in keeping with commonsense, or a reversal of a very unlikely sequence of events.

i daresay your "bullet in reverse" example is not only unlikely, but absolutely impossible. first, what caused the bullet to fly toward the gun? we must have a CAUSE to bring about that motion. bullets do not fly spontaneously fly out of firing range backstops or targets. something has to CAUSE them to fly. in forward motion, the cause is "i pulled the trigger which started the reaction." in reverse motion, the cause is ... what?
secondly, gases do not coverge back into gunpowder inside the bullet casing at random -- it is physically impossible for such a chemical reaction to take place, unless caused by something else.
the law of causation requires unidirectional time. deny that, and i fear you've denied Reason herself. Ungtss 03:16, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Defining Crazyeddie[edit]

What if we define Crazyeddie in terms of properties instead of components? Remember: A system of simple components has properties, that, while emerging from the interactions of those components, can not be easily predicted from the properties of those components. My properties emerge from my components. If you define me in terms of my properties instead of my components, then I am still myself even if every single one of my components is swapped out, provided that the resulting system still exhibits the same properties. Likewise, if the system is changed so that those properties are no longer present, what remains isn't Crazyeddie anymore, even though all the original components are still there.

Does this theory give results more in keeping with commonsense than the alternative?

well ... depends on your version of commonsense:). which "properties" would you include in your definition? personality? interests? emotions? thoughts? all of those properties change constantly throughout our lives. certainly your emotions are different one day to the next. are you no longer crazyeddie when you feel differently? what are the properties that define crazyeddieness? Ungtss 03:16, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Is Evolution Falsifiable?[edit]

<<i think that the effects of variation and selection are absolutely science, and absolutely obvious. what i mean by evolution in this case is more broadly the grand narrative of evolution which holds to common ancestry -- the idea that all life on earth is related, and that we all evolved by V + S. i find that narrative to be totally unwarranted by the evidence, and unfalsifiable. of course we observe variation and natural selection. but do we observe sufficient evidence of common ancestry to consider it scientific fact? in my view, we do not.>>

From past experience, I know that common descent is not the only problem you have with evolutionary theory. You have expressed a disbelief in the idea that natural selection applies to humans, and that mutation can result in an individual of greater fitness than the original. You may have other disbeliefs to express. Why not run through the whole of evolutionary theory to see where those areas of disagreement are?

i'm afraid i may have been misunderstood. i don't dispute that natural selection applies to humans. obviously it does -- we see it every day. those with the characteristics that encourage survival and breeding tend to survive and breed. also, i wouldn't argue that mutation cannot by definition result in greater fitness than the original. on the contrary, i think that it is so likely, and mutation is such an overwhelmingly negative phenomenon, that fitness must also be a function of something other than evolutionary mechanisms. i believe that evolutionary mechanisms are true and scientific, but inherently inadequate to fully explain adaptive complexity.

Common Descent is part of both Darwinism and the modern evolutionary sysnthesis. But Common Descent is not an essential part of evolutionary theory. It is possible to have evolution without Common Descent. Rather, Common Descent emerges as the simplest possible explanation once more basic theories/metanarratives are validated. One could falsifiy Common Descent by falsifiying these underlying, more basic theories, thus making Common Descent impossible, or by showing evidence that Common Descent can't adequately explain.

that is EXACTLY what i am doing. I have no dispute with evolution per se. i am a firm believer that common descent is a belief grounded in religious conviction rather than scientific evidence. i believe there is absolutely no REASON to believe humans and apes are related that would not also serve as reason to believe they were designed separately. Ungtss 03:16, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)

I deliberately chose Artificial Selection as a starting point because it is the last point I can find where you agree with the orthodox theory.

Science doesn't produce facts. It produces falsifible theories. Artifical Selection isn't a fact, it's a theory. Common Descent isn't a fact, it is a theory. Science doesn't prove theories, it assumes the simplest known theory is true until such time as it is falsified.

According to Artificial Selection, a population that is subject to artifical selection will continually trend towards greater fitness, as defined by the intelligent selectors, until it reaches an optimal point.

So what about overbreeding? There is a story that somebody managed to create a breed of chickens, through artifical selection, that was capable of laying two eggs a day. One problem – they were so stupid that they would forget to breed. Surely that isn't an example of fitness!

But it is – because the breeder was basing his definition of fitness solely on the basis of egg-laying ability. It could be said that overbreeding isn't so much a falsification of Artificial Selection as it is a falsification of a naive understanding of it.

But consider this: If egg-laying ability is our sole criteria of fitness, then Artificial Selection predicts that egg-laying should increase until an optimum is reached.

What is an optimum?

If you graph a function with the independant variable on the x-axis and the dependant variable on the y-axis, the optimum is the point of the graph that reaches the highest y-wards.

But if our function for determining fitness (y) depends on only a single independant variable (x), then our graph of the function is a line. And lines don't really have optimums – if the slope isn't zero, then the highest point of a line is either when x equals infinity or negative infinity.

If egg-laying ability is our sole criteria of fitness, then according to the theory of Artifical Selection, egg-laying should increase indefinitely. But it isn't, because the birds are dropping dead. Nature itself is enforcing selection criteria of its own.

So the notion that Artifical Selection is able to describe our world by itself is falsified, and the road is paved for the theory of Natural Selection.

i would argue, tho, that natural selection doesn't allow for linear fitness functions and infinite increases in improvement either. i believe that all the evidence shows that the various forms of life exist within bounds, both in terms of fitness and capacity to interbreed -- and that those bounds cannot be broken by natural selection any more than artificial selection -- they can only be broken by design. Ungtss 03:16, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)

stimulating discussion as always:).

2005-08-18[edit]

Pascal's Wager and Gambit[edit]

<<pascal's wager is nonsense because it deals in screwed up logic and screwed up theology. [...] the biblical conditions for salvation are simple. Noahide laws for all us non-Jews.>>

Precisely. If I believe in the Judeo-Christian worldview, then I'm constrained to follow the Noahide laws. (Assuming I wish to earn this eternal, but not infinite, reward). If I don't believe in the Judeo-Christian worldview, then I am under no such constraint. In the absence of a belief in the Judeo-Christian worldview, the only reason I would follow the Noahide laws is if they have some intrinsic worth. So a belief in the Judeo-Christian worldview is not without cost.

So, we are agreement that Pascal's Wager is not profitable. How about the underlying Gambit? Does reason demand we always bet on the most likely outcome? Or is it reasonable to sometimes bet on the long shot, if the marginal payback is high enough?

If you believe the second option to be true, then can you suggest a different method of justifying such a bet other than the Gambit?

i definitely think that it's sometimes worth gambling on the long shot, but i challenge the entire idea of approaching belief in god from a gambling standpoint. i don't believe in god because i think it will maximize my return. i believe in god because i think, with my mind, that he actually exists. i believe not for self-interest, but for intellectual honesty. i believe not out of fear or hell or hope for heaven, but because i believe he is REAL. i think that anybody who is "gambling" on whether or not there is a god has missed the boat entirely. gambling is based on the fundamental CHANCE -- a random element -- something that cannot be seen nor understood until the dice have been rolled. KNOWLEDGE, on the other hand, leaves nothing to chance. it seeks to know for CERTAIN. Ungtss 18:31, 18 August 2005 (UTC)

Rationalization[edit]

<<but if rationalization is subconscious, how are we to determine whether we are doing it or not? how can i falsify the proposition: "i am rationalizing," other than with reference to the opinion of another person who also may or may not be rationalizing? if the proposition "i am rationalizing" is unfalsifiable, then is it useful in discussion, or is it mere rhetoric?>>

Left to our own resources, there is no way for us to know that we are harboring unconscious assumptions. Rationalization is not the only source of unconscious assumptions. We can also have unconscious assumptions that are such an integral part of our worldview that it never occurs to us that those assumptions might not be true in all cases. In those cases, the way we find out that we have those assumptions is to get into a situation where those assumptions don't hold.

Of course, in those situations, the fear, uncertainty and doubt caused by having such a fundamental part of our understanding of the world undermined is sometimes sufficient to cause rationalization!

Depending on how bad a case of rationalization is, it is possible for us to realize that we are rationalizing. The best way to do this is to get a friend to do a sanity check for you. If they disagree with you, and their logic seems valid, then it is time to consider if your thinking is less than logical. Rationalization isn't likely to cause someone to see logic in an argument that goes against the rationalized belief if the logic isn't really there.

When somebody else is rationalizing, it is generally quite clear to the people around them. But, from your point of view, the statement "You're rationalizing" isn't really falsifible, just as you say. A strong enough case of rationalization can make the logical seem illogical and the illogical logical - if doing so supports the rationalized belief.

The reason I bring up the possibility that you may be rationalizing is not because I think I can prove to you that you are. I bring it up because it suggests a possible approach.

The root cause of rationalization is fear. The secret to overcoming rationalization is face this fear and overcome it. And the secret to overcoming fear is the proper use of faith.

It seems to me that the source of all this rationalization is your refusal to believe in God. This rationalized refusal is caused by the fear the Problem of Evil instills in you.

my good friend, i wish you'd let me be the final authority on what i believe:). i'm here to discuss ideas and beliefs with you, not be psychoanalyzed:). you've cited my "refusal to believe in God." but i do believe in God. i am the theist. you are the atheist. i believe in a god that is consistent with the problem of evil. i don't believe he is omniscient, omnipotent, or omnibenevolent, but i believe he is Wise, Powerful, and Good. it's very simple:). i may indeed be rationalizing -- it's truly an unfalsifiable claim. but what reason do you have to believe i'm rationalizing, other than the fact that i won't adopt your views about god? Ungtss 18:48, 18 August 2005 (UTC)

Joy and Suffering[edit]

<<which is there more of in this world? Joy or suffering?>>

<<suffering, without question.>>

An interviewer once asked Christopher Reeves what he missed most about being paralyzed. He replied, "You don't notice how pleasurable the act of male urination is - until you can't do it."

It seems to me that we live in a world full of joy! Every breath we take, every heartbeat, is a little piece of joy. It seems to me that joy far outweighs suffering, not just a little bit, but by orders of magnitude! It just that we notice suffering more.

Of course, it could be said that there is also suffering that we don't notice. There are certainly cases where we have pains that we have gotten so familiar with that we don't notice them until they stop. But I still have reason to think that joy outweighs suffering.

Jared Diamond, in his book Guns, Germs and Steel, quoted some Russian author. Here's the quote he used: "Happy families are all alike, every unhappy family is different." In order for a family to be happy, many things have to go right. In order for a family to be unhappy, only few things, or maybe only one thing, have to go wrong. So, every happy family is the same, because, for the most part, they all have the same things going right for them. And every unhappy family is different because they are all dysfunctional for different reasons.

Just so, in order for us humans to get through a day, many, many, many things have to go right. And what is suffering but the sense that something is very wrong with the world? What is joy but the sense that everything is right with the world?

Now, by saying that joy far outweighs suffering, I'm not being some sort of Panglossian. We don't live in the best of all possible worlds. There is more suffering out there than the human mind is capable of dealing with. War veterans, veteran cops, holocaust victims - there are many people who have seen more suffering than a human can see and remain sane. But even in the worst concentration camp at the height of the Holocaust, I still say that joy outweighed suffering. Hearts continued to beat. Breaths continued to be taken. People still took a leak. There were still innumerable acts of human kindness, small acts of courage. After all, the guards were in the minority!

So, there is a lot of suffering in the world. But there is a heck of a lot more joy! Which is why we notice suffering more. We experience suffering in situations that imperil our lives, our wellbeing. If we had to shift through all of this joy in order to see if we are in a life-threatening situation, if we blissed out just because we are breathing and our hearts are beating, we wouldn't last too long. So we unconsciously filter out joy. We notice rainy days. If we didn't, we'd get pneumonia and die. We don't notice the sunny days - and the worst that happens is that we don't take full advantage of them. We notice the patch of ground with the deadly poisonous snake. We don't notice all of the patches of ground that don't have snakes.

All of this aside, if you think that suffering predominates in life, why do you think life is worth living?

you are quite an author. the above was poetic and inspiring:). when i say that suffering outweighs joy in the universe, i did not mean it must be so. i think that humanity suffers much more than it experiences joy, because it chooses to do so. some people, like you and me, choose to experience joy in most circumstances. other people choose to suffer, and to bring suffering to others. i think that joy is available to us, but empirically speaking, a substantial majority of our race persistently refuses to experience it and enjoy it.
so why do i think life is worth living? for the pursuit of joy in the midst of suffering, and the hope of bringing joy to others. i think that although suffering outweighs joy in the universe, it doesn't have to be that way. and my purpose in life is to find the joy in the midst of the suffering. Ungtss 19:00, 18 August 2005 (UTC)

Character[edit]

<<Why didn't we choose to do what God explained was best for us?">>

Since I'm an atheist, I'm going to translate that question slightly: Why do we knowingly do wrong?

When we knowingly do wrong, it is because of a flaw in our character. We may have free will, but free will doesn't allow us to act against our own character any more than it allows us to act in violation of the Law of Gravity.

this depends on your definition of "character." if "character" is simply the empirical sum of your choices and actions, then your statement is true, but also tautological. "you can't do anything but what you choose." but if "character" is the sum of your natural inclinations and instincts, then i don't think your statement is correct. we can do things that go against our natural inclinations -- we call that "mental discipline." Ungtss 19:46, 18 August 2005 (UTC)

Consider the meaning of the word "justice". It seems to me that a good definition for justice is "a system that tends to make other people act with greater morality". It also seems to me that we can define the adjective "just" two ways. Firstly, the word can describe someone whose actions create a true justice system, or a part of a true justice system. For example, you can have a just magistrate. Or the adjective could describe someone whose actions earn rewards from a justice system, or doesn't earn punishments. So you can say "so-and-so is a just man", even though this man doesn't actually judge anybody. Note that "just", in the second sense, doesn't have exactly the same meaning as "moral", but is very similar.

One part of our justice system is the penal system. One of the jobs of the penal system is - or at least should be - is to attempt to reform the character of convicted criminals. It might be said that, in a perfect society, where the consensus moral code, as codified into law, is the same as true morality, and this moral code is known by all, all criminals are not guilty by reason of "insanity" - flaws in their character. The purpose of the penal system, in a perfect society, is to cure criminals of their "insanity".

Of course, the penal system can only reform character, because by the time a criminal enters the justice system, their character has already formed. So what forms a person's character?

We do have some choice in what our character is. Our character is shaped by our past freely-willed decisions (and those previous decisions themselves were constrained by our characters). I would say that our original, clean-slate behaviors are determined by our genes and by our early childhood experiences. Only afterwards do we begin to shape our characters for ourselves.

So it seems to me that God did have some say in what our characters turn out to be, even factoring in free will. And he would not be just if he failed to take whatever measures necessary to ensure that our characters are moral ones.

<<i think that a Good God would create an earth for people and instruct them on how to live up to their potential -- tell them what to do, what not to do, and the undesirable consequences of doing the wrong thing.>>

Let's say that you set out to housebreak a dog. You tell it not to shit on the living room carpet. You tell it, that, if it does, the living room will begin to stink and you will be most displeased. If that dog then proceeds to shit on the living room carpet, can you truly say that you practiced due diligence in the housebreaking of this dog? That you truly did everything a reasonable person would have done?

Is the horror of the Holocaust any less offensive in the eyes (and nose) of the Lord than a pile of shit on the living room carpet is in ours?

If you tell a toddler not to play on the highway, explain to him or her what the effects of a car hitting a small child are like, and then leave the toddler unattended, can you claim due diligence when that toddler runs after a ball and gets hit by a car?

The way commonsense prescribes to housebreak a dog is something like this: you wait for the dog to do their business on the living room carpet. You then take the dog and rub their nose in the mess. You yell "Bad dog!", and you spank them with a rolled up newspaper (which frightens them more then it hurts them). You then take the dog and the offensive material, and place both wherever you want the dog to do his business. You put them both on the ground and say "Good dog!". Rinse, lather, and repeat as often as necessary, and praise the dog when they go to the bathroom the correct way.

The goal of housebreaking a dog is to shape the dog's character, so that it goes to bathroom the correct way, not because it will be punished if it doesn't, but because it is the right thing to do. To a correctly housebroken dog, going outside to do their business simply becomes second nature.

Raising and disciplining a child follows much the same general method, with some differences in the details - spanking is frowned on these days, time outs are preferred instead. But we still punish incorrect behavior, reward correct behavior. The purpose of these punishments and rewards are not to cause the child to behave correctly out of mere self-interest (although that may be better than nothing), but, ideally, to shape and mold the child's character so that they behave correctly because it is the right thing to do. Is this any different, in essence, than the justice system?

As I have said, we can shape our own characters, but in the beginning, at least, our characters are determined by our environment and our genetics. When it comes to dogs, we mainly shape their characters by manipulating their environment, by training them. But we also shape their characters by selective breeding, by manipulating their genetics. As for children, we have no way of shaping their genetics (short of eugenics or genetic engineering), so we are limited to shaping their environment, by raising them to be moral.

According to the Bible, and by our present day experience, God only rarely overtly intervenes in our environment. This is true, even if you believe in the Bible as literal truth. If you're an atheist, then obviously you don't believe that God overtly intervenes at all. At any rate, we obviously can't expect God to personally raise, train, discipline every single human being.

What he could have done, as you suggest, was to teach the first generation how to teach their children. In other words, to rely on the human capacity for culture, for traits that are inherited from environmental manipulation rather than genetic inheritance, to ensure that future generations of humans had moral characters. The problem with this is that culture is very mutable, subject to change. Even if humans followed due diligence in faithfully relaying God's instruction and training, errors, variations, innovations would creep in. God would have had to often intervene in order to keep human society on track. And the hallmark of an intelligent design is that the need for intervention is kept to a minimum. Intelligent designers hate to do anything "by hand" - an intelligent designer is a lazy designer.

So we are left with a third option: God could have genetically encoded a moral code into our DNA, making us instinctively moral. DNA, while mutable, is not as mutable as culture. This would not be an interference in our free will, it would not turn us into automatons. It would simply mean that doing evil would make us feel bad, doing good would make us feel good. We could still do evil if we choose, but doing so would obviously not be in our best interests. If we had a functional instinctive moral code, doing good would be the result of enlightened self-interest.

There does seem to be some evidence that humans have some sort of instinctive moral code. Since culture is so mutable, if every known human society has something in common, we can arguably assume that this trait has some instinctive base. And as Louis P. Pojman says on page 44 of my copy of Ethical Theory:

""One can also see great similarities between the moral codes of various cultures. E. O. Wilson has identified more than a score of common features and before him Clyde Kluckhohn has noted some significant common ground.
"'Every culture has a concept of murder, distinguishing this from execution, killing in war, and other "justifiable homicides." The notions of incest and other regulations upon sexual behavior, the prohibitions upon untruth under defined circumstances, of restitution and reciprocity, of mutual obligations between parents and children -- these and many other moral concepts are altogether universal.'"

But it would seem that this instinctive moral code is incomplete, flawed, dysfunctional in some way. Humans still do evil, either knowingly or because they think it is the right thing to do. What is the cause of these flaws? Did God follow due diligence when he laid out the foundations of this instinctive moral code? Are these flaws his fault? And so we return to the Problem of Evil.

whether god followed due diligence in the garden is an interesting question. personally, i think he did. i think that adam and eve were adequately instructed on the rules in the garden, and only fell because of the deception of the serpant, which God did not anticipate. personally, i think that instruction is enough. but then again, according to genesis, he later determined that he had made a mistake. he regretted having made mankind, and he wiped the wickedness out with a global flood. Ungtss 19:46, 18 August 2005 (UTC)

<<I'm hesitant to hold God to such a high standard, when we failed to live up to the even most basic standards of all.>>

Then why is it that you say that you find the Problem of Evil to be compelling? And, for the most part, humans do live up to the most basic standards. There are exceptions, of course, but the vast majority of humans are fairly moral, as they understand it, and, for the most part, live in accordance with the laws of their society. How many felony offenses have you committed lately? How many mortal sins? Very few people, if any, are 100% moral, but I would say that about 95% of people are at least 99.9% moral.

I have no illusions that our society's laws are a perfect reflection of true morality. But I believe that they are not all that far from it, and that they are much, much closer to being moral then they are to being immoral. Can you see any reason not to apply the laws of our society to God while investigating the Problem of Evil?

certainly our moral intuitions have some place in considering the problem of evil. my issue is not with using our moral intuitions at all, but in "defining" god as "perfect," and attempting to deduce his past and future actions on the basis of that definition. But whose version of "perfect" are we to use? In my view, God is what God is and does what he does, no matter what we think of it. The argument from perfections holds that god is omniscient because anything less would make him less than "perfect." well, what is this "perfect" we're always talking about? God is what God is, whether we think it's perfect or not. That's the message of Job 38.

Intelligent Design and Due Diligence[edit]

<<when we define due diligence, we ask ourselves what a "reasonable person" would do in those circumstances. >>

That seems correct to me, as far as it goes. But there are some cases where the average reasonable person wouldn't attempt a task alone. Instead, they would hire a professional. Housebreaking a dog, raising a kid, these are both tasks that any average adult is assumed to be able to handle. Constructing a mile long suspension bridge that will have millions of people drive over it in the course of the first year (and has the potential to kill hundreds of people if it fails)? Better hire an engineer to design it and to supervise the construction.

It would seem to me that the task of designing and constructing a universe, a world, an ecosystem, a species, are all tasks that should be placed in this second category. I know I would not want to undertake such a task without some extensive training first!

In such a situation, our average reasonable person is required to follow due diligence in deciding to hire a competent professional, in selecting a professional to hire, and in providing this professional with proper oversight. After that, the responsibility, and with it, the question of negligence vs. due diligence falls on the shoulders of the hired professional. And in the case of the professional, the question of due diligence in not "What would a reasonable person do?", but rather, "What would a competent professional do?"

Since we seem to be focusing on His role of "Intelligent Designer", then it seems to me that we must judge God in terms of "what would a competent intelligent designer do?"

Just as you have some education in the legal field, I have some education in the field of intelligent design. I attended engineering school for two years (and flunked out). I then earned a two-year degree in computer repair, and owned a computer repair business for almost two years. As part of the business, I parted out (in other words, selected the components, a simple form of design) and built computers. I also worked as a factory janitor for a period of ten years, and cleaned the engineering and quality control offices. I have almost memorized the Hacker's Jargon File, which gives much insight into the culture of computer programmers, who are in the business of constructing the most complex artifacts ever produced by man. While I'm not exactly an intelligent designer myself, I do have some idea of what is required from a competent intelligent designer.

So, in the case of Humanity vs. God, God is being charged with negligence in the design and manufacturing of three artifacts: Lucifer, Adam, and Eve.

Now, if I recall Genesis correctly, after the creation of Adam and the rest of the world, God looked upon his work and pronounced it good. That could be interpreted as a form of quality control - God compared His finished product to his original designs, and then concluded that the finished product was within spec. Of course, that doesn't help if the finished product is "broken as designed" - that is to say, the finished product is within the specs of the design, but the design itself has flaws. But it is a good first step.

Again, if memory serves, the Bible does not explicity describe the creation of Lucifer and the other angels. I suppose that depends on your interpretation of Genesis. Modern scholars believe that the entire concept of Satan/Lucifer was adopted into the Judeo-Christian tradition from other religions, such as Zoroastrianism, well after Genesis was written. So it isn't documented whether or not God looked upon Lucifer and pronounced him good. This lack of documentation itself might be construed as negligence. But let's be charitable and assume that the paperwork was merely lost over the millenia.

As for Eve, depending on your interpretation of Genesis, she was created from Adam's rib. It might be supposed that she was only a slightly modified clone of Adam. So in her case, it is somewhat understandable that God didn't preform a quality control test.

At some point, Lucifer went rogue. It is generally assumed that this was not part of God's plan. If so, then it can be assumed that this was the result of some flaw in God's design. There is some speculation that he went rogue out jealousy of humans, who where more favored in God's eye than the angels, even though to Lucifer, angels appeared to be the superior creation. At any rate, according to most modern interpretations of Genesis, Lucifer appeared to Eve in the form of a snake, and convinced her to eat of the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It could be said that Lucifer hacked Eve, by taking an advantage of a security vulnerability, by appealing to her envy (implying that God had told the humans not to eat of the fruit of the two trees because he didn't want humans to approach Him in power), and probably by appealing to her very human curiosity. Eve then "hacked" Adam through a slightly different security vulnerability, namely, just about any husband will do anything his wife wants, if she wants it bad enough.

So they both eat of the Fruit of the Tree of Good and Evil. They then notice, for the first time, that they are naked, and proceed to clothe themselves with fig leaves. (Incidentally, I've heard a rumor that fig leaves have much the same effect as poison ivy. Not sure if that's true or not, but....)

Now this says something about the natural character of the first humans. It would seem to imply that they originally had no knowledge of good and evil, that they were amoral. Perhaps, in their innocence, they sinned without knowing it, and their environment (Eden) protected them from the otherwise harmful results. That is, until they broke God's one commandment and ate of the Fruit. But that would imply that God wanted them to be amoral, that he didn't want them to have moral characters of their own. He knew that the Fruit would give them moral characters, and he forbade them from eating of the Fruit. Furthermore, if they did lack a moral sense, then can they really be blamed for breaking God's commandment?

On the other hand, it could be that Adam and Eve were unconsciously moral, and that eating of the Fruit corrupted that morality in some way. After all, not many people these days believe mere nudity to be a sin, and instead, they recognize it as only a cultural taboo. But Genesis says that God Himself commented that humans now had knowledge of Good and Evil, just like Him. So it would appear that the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil gave humans the same moral sense as God. But, again, if that is so, why didn't He give humans that knowledge in the first place?

At any rate, God was now faced with three severely malfunctioning artifacts.

In the life of a designer, such snafus are commonplace. In fact, consider the meaning of the acronym "snafu" itself: "Situation Normal: All F@#$ed Up". No matter how good a design looks in paper, there is always some flaw that will reveal itself only upon contact with the Real World. There are as many proverbs about this in the Hacker's Jargon File as the Eskimos have words for snow. In fact, there are probably more. You could say that this experience of bugs in the design is the defining feature of the life of an intelligent designer. "There is always another bug." "Experience is proportional to the amount (and value) of equipment ruined." And so on and so on.

So human intelligent designers have a lot of practice and experience in how to react when an artifact reveals a flaw in its design. (Since humanity was created last, after the rest of the world was created, then I think we can assume that God also developed experience and practice in how to deal with SNAFUs by the time of the Apple Incident.) The first task is to figure out what caused the problem, then figure out how to fix it. Then you fix the manufacturing process so no more of these flawed products are produced. If the problem is relatively minor, that's an end to it, the designers (or rather, the company the designers work for) simply sit back and wait for the passage of time to destroy the flawed products, which will be replaced by the improved model. If the problem is severe, then the entire line is recalled, and the flawed versions are either repaired or are destroyed, replaced by the new model.

Above all, the worst and most morally culpable reaction an intelligent designer can have to a snafu in their design is to cover it up. Even if they can't fix the error, they at least need to let the users of the product know, so that the users can be informed of the dangers of using the product. Also, it is almost certain that, even if the original designers can't fix the flaw, another designer might be able to - if they know the flaw exists. (Not saying that God violated this particular rule, it just seemed like a good idea to point it out.)

The need to repair a flaw, or else destroy the original, flawed version, is extremely important when the product is capable of self-replication! The first computer worm (a worm is a computer program designed to spread itself to other computers unaided) was designed at Xerox's PARC, where much of modern computing was also invented. Unlike modern worms, it was designed to be beneficial, but it developed a bug which disabled all of the computers in the research center's internal network. The PARC scientists had to shut down every single one of the computers at the same time, and then bring them back up one at a time in order to kill the worm. Today, computer worms are used almost exclusively for malevolent purposes. A while back, there was a "white hat" worm, which fixed a vulnerability that was being exploited by another worm, and erasing that worm if it was present. The anonymous designer(s) of the "white hat" worm were condemned by virtually every computer expert who had a greater than room temperature IQ - the chances of catastrophe in the event of an unforeseen flaw in the worm were simply too great.

Likewise, there is much concern about genetically modified crops that are allowed to be fertile by their designers - especially if those crop plants can interbreed with existing wild populations. So far, they haven't caused any troubles - but there is a lot of nail-biting going on in the background.

So, because humans have the ability to self-replicate, it was imperative that God either repair these malfunctioning humans, or else destroy them and replace them with models of improved design. But what did he do instead? He banished them from Eden, and condemned them to "earning their bread by the sweat of their brows".

While this act may have made God feel better, it didn't do much to modify the humans' behavior, which is the real goal of punishment. The humans continued to malfunction. One of the children of Adam and Eve, Cain, became the world's first murderer.

Eventually, things got so bad that He decided to wipe the slate clean and start over from almost scratch. He wiped out, not just humanity, but also all other land life - with the sole exception of Noah and his Ark. Wouldn't have things been a lot easier for Him if He had dealt with the Human Problem when there were just two of the pesky things? It might be said that he didn't want to kill these creations. But by refusing to kill two humans, He was later required to wipe out the entire population of the world, minus Noah and his family. As the medical profession says, sometimes you have to be cruel in order to be kind.

In fact, it wasn't even required for Him to kill Adam and Eve. Assuming He couldn't repair them, He could have sterilized them, and then allowed them to live out the rest of their natural life in a sheltered environment, where their flaws couldn't hurt themselves or others. Still better, He could have created them sterile, and only granted them the ability to self-reproduce after some initial tests.

Having once again reduced the human population to an easily managed size (and Noah's assigned task of rescuing the other, presumably less problematic, species from the flood waters being completed), why didn't he then make up for his previous mistake, and repair and/or replace humanity? Was it beyond His ability?

It seems to me that, taken literally, the Genesis account requires us to believe that the Creator, if not actually evil, is at least criminally negligent and/or incompetent. If that is truly the nature of the Creator, then he had no business playing God.

Your arguments are eloquent, but they rest on the latent and continuing assumption that God could "repair and/or replace humanity;" that he could make us morally perfect, and fix the latent defect. but supposing he couldn't. supposing humanity was what humanity was, and he had the choice, "do i kill them all, or do i kill all but a few good ones, and give them some instructions on living right?" that's why i'm an open theist. because genesis makes no sense unless one sees god as limited, learning, and growing.
and that's why i find it so difficult to believe that Genesis is some sort of "religious text" devised to inspire lofty religious feelings about God. On the contrary, God appears in the text to be well-intentioned, but watching his best-laid plans fall apart, without exception. particularly of interest to me is the sexual intercourse between the Watchers (Sons of God in Genesis, also mentioned in Jubilees and the Book of Enoch) and the Earth women. God didn't see that one coming either. And later, Abraham negotiates with God and changes his mind on some issues. Moses does the same later. He seems to be pliable; to learn; to grow. Human characters are described in similar terms. good and bad, smart and stupid actions are recorded with an even hand. it strikes me as history, not "religion."
does this make god unworthy of worship? not to me. he's the Creator, powerful beyond imagining. He is just and good, and wishes the best for humanity. So what if he can't anticipate all contingencies? neither can i. God created Man. That's enough for me. Ungtss 20:00, 18 August 2005 (UTC)

The Euthyphro Dilemma[edit]

<<"Morality is Good because God said so, and God is good. Is God perfect? no. but neither is morality.">>

On the contrary, if an objective definition of morality exists, then that definition of morality is, by definition, perfect. (Whether or not any moral actor lives up to that benchmark of morality with absolute precision is a different matter.) That is the essential difference between describing something and defining it.

i disagree. i don't think that "perfect morality" exists, and i don't think that definitions must be perfect. i think that definitions are an "approximation" of a real and tangible reality that the word can never fully capture. morality is something that is practiced and lived, not codified. it can be APPROXIMATED in laws and sayings like the golden rule. but even those definitions are imperfect, because there are always questions.
"love your neighbor as yourself."
"well, okay, but what if my neighbors are fighting each other to the death? how do i love them as myself? save one and kill the other? stay out of the fight? try to stop the fight and risk death myself? what if one started the fight? what if one of them has children? what if one of them is upset because the other raped his wife?"
i don't think that morality can be perfectly defined, much less perfectly lived. that doesn't mean that morality is not real and objective ... just that it cannot be perfectly reduced to words or action. Ungtss 20:16, 18 August 2005 (UTC)

When we describe something, we say that "all known members of this class have this set of properties". It could be that some members of this class don't have one of these properties, but still be a member of this class. Or it could be that an entity has all of the listed properties, but still isn't a member of that class.

By contrast, when we define something, we say that "all members of this class have this set of properties". Notice the lack of the word "known". Definitions, by their very nature, are perfect, because it is definitions that determine if a given entity is a member of the defined class or not in the first place.

If no definition of morality exists, then the Problem of Evil is nonsensical, because the concept of morality is itself nonsensical. But it seems that you are advancing the theory that what God says is moral is moral, by definition.

The theory of metaethics you are presumably describing here is similar to conventionalism, a form of ethical relativism which states that societies define morality by convention. The obvious flaw in the conventionalist approach is this: If society defines morality, and Nazi society declared the Holocaust moral, then is the Holocaust truly moral? If you disagree, and say that the Holocaust is not moral, and not merely because it violates the conventions of your own society, then you must be applying some higher definition of morality.

If any moral actor has the ability to set the definition of morality, then the only sin that that actor is capable of is the sin of hypocrisy, the sin of acting against their own stated rules of conduct. So, if God defines morality, then the Problem of Evil is again meaningless, unless you can give an example of God committing hypocrisy. (The murder of virtually all humans in the Deluge could be seen as this. Was that not a violation of the Ten Commandments? I suppose it depends on translation a bit: does the Bible say "Thou shalt not kill" or "Thou shalt not murder"? The Deluge was definitely homicide, but was it murder? Could it be construed as justifiable homicide?) Of course, God could get around this by amending His definition of morality - murder is wrong for humans, but right for God.

Aquinas's solution to the Euthyphro Dilemma works (to the extent it does work) because his conception of God has fully internalized the objective definition of morality (assuming it exists). Remember that Euthyphro Dilemma mainly focuses on God's role as the ultimate judge. (Is a pious man loved by the gods because he is pious, or is he pious because he is loved by the gods?) If God's definition of good differs from the real definition of good, then it is possible that a truly good person would be sent to Hell, while a truly bad person would be sent to Heaven. That is certainly an uncomfortable idea.

(The Noahide laws require us not to murder or steal. But it is a routine assignment in ethics classes to imagine scenarios where commonsense morality requires us to murder or to steal (in order to save the life of another, for example). In such a scenario, is the person who murders or steals really immoral?)

All of this doesn't require God to be good, it only requires that God be a perfect judge of good and evil. In order to be a perfect judge of good and evil, God must have a certain kind of limited omniscience.

why must he have a kind of limited omniscience to be a perfect judge? and what exactly is a perfect judge? suppose i'm a judge and i find a man guilty of larceny. do i sentence him to 3 years in prison, or 4? which is "perfect?" how do you know? what does it mean to be a perfect judge? Ungtss 20:16, 18 August 2005 (UTC)

Even if God is a perfect judge of good and evil, it doesn't immediately follow that He is good himself. He might decide to knowingly do evil. Or it could be that His ability to judge good and evil is limited to hindsight - only after an act is committed can He determine if that act is good or evil with absolute precision.

Just as it isn't required that God be good Himself in order to be a perfect judge of good and evil, neither is it enough for God to be good in order to be a perfect judge. It is often the case that good people wish to do the right thing, but have no idea which course of action is the right one. Merely being blue (or an imperfect shade of blue) does not automatically make one an authority of the color blue.

Of course, omnibenevolence would require God to be a perfect judge of good and evil, at least when it applies to His own conduct. Unlike things that happen to be blue, moral actors must decide to be good, therefore must know what good is. Or perhaps God is just perfectly lucky.

If God defines good and evil, then the only sin He is capable of is the sin of hypocrisy. If God does not define good and evil, then what does?

Aquinas's solution to this dilemma is that, firstly, God is a perfect judge of good and evil. If a true benchmark of morality exists outside of God, then God has internalized this benchmark with infinite precision. The judgments of God and of this hypothetical benchmark will always be the same. Secondly, God is omnibenevolent, His own conduct is in perfect agreement with this benchmark, if it exists. According to Aquinas, the problem doesn't arise.

It would be interesting to know what Aquinas's solution to the Problem of Evil is.

I believe that God, by definition, is omnipotent and omniscient. Whether or not an entity, or more to the point, a person, exists that fits this definition is an open question. A person with truly universal omnipotence and omniscience creates certain contradictions (which we'll probably get into later), but one can imagine a person who has complete control over and knowledge of our own local slice of reality. I believe that there is an objective definition of morality that is not created by any moral actor. I believe that God, if He exists, is good (but not omnibenevolent), but this is an article of faith. It does not follow from the definition of God that God is good, but I do refuse to believe that God is evil.

this strikes me as enigmatic. you're defining an entity that you don't believe exists. i don't see the use in that. to be an atheist is to believe that the omnigod doesn't exist, AND to believe that the open god doesn't exist, AND to believe that no other kind of god exists. you've got a very clear definition of god, and the opinion that he doesn't exist. but what about MY definition:)?

It is clear that, with a universe where evil exists, the God of that universe can not be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. One of these things must not be true. Omnipotence and omniscience are part of the definition of God, so if no being has those traits, then no God exists. So, if the universe contains evil, as it clearly does, we are left with two options: that either God does not exist, or else he is not omnibenevolent. But is it possible that God exists and that He is merely good? Or does the Problem of Evil rule this out as well? Is it impossible for a good God to create a universe that contains evil?

you could indeed have an omnipotent, omniscient god that was merely good, and such a god would be consistent with your opinion that the universe is more good than bad. the problem of evil requires only that SOMETHING in that trinity give way. personally, i think the hebrew scriptures describe a god who is NONE of them. Ungtss 20:16, 18 August 2005 (UTC)

Watchmakers, Shepherds, Parents, Generals[edit]

<<Additionally, which do you believe best describes God's relationship to humanity: He is a good watchmaker, a good shepherd, or a good parent?>>

<<at the moment, i think of him as a good general, attempting to win his creation back by overcoming the rebellion by which we fell into nonsense."">>

The reason I asked this question is because humanity's relationship with God says something about how God views humanity's innate potential for progress, and possibly our objective innate potential for progress.

When a watchmaker finishes making a watch, the potential for that watch to improve is virtually nil. It is as perfect as it is ever going to be, it is all downhill from there. The watchmaker may make repairs to the watch, and bring it back to something like its original state of near-perfection. It might even be that the as the watchmaker improves in his (or her) craft that they will return to their creation and retrofit it. But it is much more likely that he or she will abandon their creation and simply make an improved model. A watch has very little potential for improvement, innate or otherwise.

A population of sheep, on the other hand, has potential to progress. The shepherd can apply the methods of artificial selection to shape the production of sheep of greater perfection. But this progress is done on the shepherd's own terms. It is possible that the sheep would disagree with the shepherd's definition of "progress". Would a sheep really wish for longer wool, for example? It might make them too warm during the summer. Nature, in general, also disagrees with the shepherd's assessment of "progress" - domesticated animals generally do not fare as well as their wild cousins outside the protection of their humans. (On the other hand, domesticated animals, with their partnership with humans, have a massive advantage over their wild cousins. Wolves are on the endangered list in many parts of the worlds, dogs prosper virtually everywhere there are humans. Artifical selection is a subset of natural selection, not an exception.)

A good parent wishes to see their child progress, but the best parents don't demand that this progress be on the parent's terms. As one fictional parent put it, "I want you to be the best you you can be!" As we have seen, a parent can shape the character of their children. But this shaping is limited, the potential for progress must come from within the child themselves. Any progress will be made on the child's terms, and on the child's terms alone. The purpose of a parent's discipline is to give the child a firm foundation on which to build their own lives, to give the child the best possible chance of making their own way.

Also, unlike a watchmaker or a shepherd, every good parent wishes for their "creation" to become better than them.

It seems to me that, seen in this light, a general is not entirely dissimilar from a shepherd.

As I have said, I believe that "evolutionary fitness" and "morality" are one and the same. Humans are mortal; the only immorality (at least in this world) available to them is through their genes, which they pass on to their children, and their ideas, which they pass on to their culture. This fact does much to determine what is moral for humans.

Governments, on the other hand, are potentially immortal. They don't die naturally, but are destroyed only in revolutions by their citizens, by attacks from their fellows, or by changes in their surrounding environment. This fact does much to determine what is moral (or at least evolutionarily fit) behavior for governments.

It seems to me that one of the many tragedies of dictatorships is that one man (and it is generally a man) is forced to act in a manner appropriate to governments, not men. Those who are most fitted to the role of dictator are not normal humans, but to some extent abnormal, maybe even insane. This does much to explain the unstable nature of dictatorships.

In republics, there is still much that men are required to do in the service of their government that would not be appropriate for them to do in their private lives. For example, the executioner has no excuse for killing people on his own time. But at least the unsavory aspects are spread around. On the whole, no single person is pushed to the breaking point by the evil they must do for the good of the state.

One of those people who are forced to attend to the unsavory aspects of government by their duties is the general. They are tasked with sending young men (and in this country, young women) to kill complete strangers, or else be killed by them. The general might very well like these strangers if they met socially. But at least it isn't up to the general to decide if the war is just - that is left to the politicians.

One of the duties of the general, which he delegates to his underlings, is the process of shaping the characters of impressionable youngsters, who are not entirely adults, but not entirely children either. These youngster's characters have not fully formed, so they can still be shaped. The goal of this shaping is not to turn these youngsters into men, but into soldiers. If this shaping does turn a boy into a man, that's just a byproduct of the process.

During World War II, it was discovered that something like 5% of a platoon did something like 95% of the shooting. Upon researching further, it was discovered that humans have a natural inhibition against killing fellow human beings. In response to this, the U.S. military changed its training strategy to overcome this natural inhibition, through the use of surprise pop-up targets. As a result of this training, under the right conditions, a soldier will fire his weapon as a conditioned reflex, bypassing the inhibition. The program was successful; by Vietnam, 95% of a platoon would shoot during an engagement.

But this improvement in combat effectiveness came at a price. The strongest predictor of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder resulting from combat is if the soldier killed somebody. The natural inhibition can be bypassed, but it can't be entirely removed.

The generals of our military probably see the improved training program as progress, and it is, of course, necessary for the good of the state. But is this truly progress?

Is it truly up to God to define progress? Is it up to God to define what is moral?

i don't think "progress" is one of God's stated priorities. he speaks of justice and mercy. what exactly is "progress" toward that goal? it's a choice. we either do it or we don't. i can wake up tomorrow and be just, or wake up tomorrow and be unjust. no progress involved. progress seems to me to be a human goal -- not necessarily a good or a bad one -- but one that is pushed by us, rather than God. On the contrary, God has been known to knock down or towers of babel when we get too big for our britches. is it up to God to define what is moral? to me, that's like asking whether it's up to you to define "windows xp." it is what it is. Ungtss 16:13, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

In the Bible, has God ever said that it is He who defines what is moral? Does He ever say what the consequences of the actions he forbids are, other than the consequences He Himself creates? Does He ever say why he forbids these actions other than explanations which boil down to "Because I said so"? Do we truly know why God forbids these actions?

his argument, consistently, is that being moral is good for us. if we do good, we will succeed. he will bless us, yes. but more importantly, in order to function properly, human societies must behave morally. human societies who begin to behave immorally inevitably implode, just like an unleaded engine with deisel in it. Ungtss 16:13, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

Moral Codes and Definitions of Morality[edit]

<<i accept everything you wrote in this section -- but in your previous post, you said that moral codes are moral because they cause people to act morally. it was that statement which i found to be self-referential. is that not what you meant to say?>>

A moral code is not the same as a definition of morality. Without a definition of morality, there is no way of knowing if the behavior described by a given moral code is moral or not.

There is general agreement that murder is wrong. But why is it wrong? Without a definition of morality, there is no way of answering this question. But if we have a definition of morality, we can say that murder is wrong because it goes against our better nature, or because it is against the will of God, or because it does not serve the greater good, or because it treats other humans as a means, not an end, or because it is evolutionarily maladaptive. Or whatever.

As I said before, a moral code describes morality, it does not define it. Because of this, moral codes tend to be complex and baroque, in order to better describe the complexities of moral behavior. Consider the seven Noahide laws (although it seems that there is some disagreement over what exactly those seven laws are), the Ten Commandments, the Code of Hammurabi (which scholars believe that the Ten Commandments were plagiarized from), the complex tissue of laws that make up the legal code of the United States. Even the simplest of these consists of several statements.

By contrast, the definitions of morality that have been proposed are generally simple and elegant. "Morality is the result of acting with our better natures." "Morality is the result of carrying out God's will." "Morality is that which serves the greatest good." "Morality results from treating other humans only as ends, never as means." "Morality and evolutionary fitness are one and the same." Like E=mc^2, all of these are short, simple statements. It is only their implications that are complex. The complexity emerges out of the simplicity.

Given a definition of morality, we can, in theory, devise a test that will diagnose moral codes, and determine if the behavior described by the moral code is truly moral.

Given a definition of morality, we can, in theory, derive a perfect moral code. However, this may difficult to do in practice.

There is also the difficulty of determining if a definition of morality is a true definition. Since there is much agreement over what is moral (but not what morality is), we can see if the consensus moral code can be derived from a proposed definition of morality, or at least be shown to be in accordance with the definition. Ideally, this definition should also explain why there is some differences in the moral codes of different societies. For example, why did the elderly of the Eskimos commit suicide when they felt that they no longer served a purpose? Why did the Maori practice cannibalism? Why did the ancient Greeks practice infanticide by exposure? A definition of morality should explain these odd behaviors, which we find immoral in our own society, but were believed to be moral by the societies that practiced them. Or else, the definition should provide a persuasive argument for why these practices were truly immoral.

Now, I did not say that "moral codes are moral because they tend to make people act morally." I said "moral codes are moral if they tend to make people act morally." (Or at least that is what I remember saying, I'd have check to be sure.) More precisely, "the act of subscribing to a particular moral code is a moral one if the act of subscribing leads to moral behavior (as defined by our hypothetical definition of morality)." After all, a moral code is not a moral actor, therefore isn't capable of being moral or amoral. Only the person subscribing to a moral code is a moral actor, therefore only the act of subscribing can be judged moral, not the moral code itself.

It is not necessarily required for a moral code to be correct (that is to say, that it correctly describes moral behavior) in order for the act of subscribing to it to be a moral one. Merely subscribing to a moral code does not ensure that the subscriber will obey the moral code exactly, it only ensures that they will try. It could be that both the moral code being subscribed to and the subscribers own instinctive moral code are both incorrect, but that the net result of trying to follow this external moral code (and falling short) will result in truly moral behavior.

Also, it might be true that a moral code is correct (that it correctly describes moral behavior), even if the definition of morality used to justify it is wrong.

your use of the word "correct" in describing morality makes me wonder whether you think there is such thing as objective morality and immorality that transcends human opinion. suppose all people on the planet thought murder was good and right. would it still be wrong, or would it be right? Ungtss 20:28, 18 August 2005 (UTC)

Love and Justice[edit]

<<in my view, "love your neighbor as yourself" simply requires being just in our transactions -- not taking more than we give, or cheating them.>>

We raise our children out of love. What do we get in return? Nothing save the satisfaction of seeing their needs met. It may be that they will take care of us when we get old. But that isn't why we raise them. We raise them because we love them. There is nothing economically equitable in that transaction, but we do it anyway, out of love. We are repaid in happiness, not in gold.

Remember the thesis I'm trying to prove here: Following "Love your neighbor as yourself" exactly leads to immoral behavior. However, trying to love your neighbor as yourself, but falling short, leads to behavior that is more moral than what would result if the attempt was not made.

Presumably, you are trying to prove that "love your neighbor as yourself" is a part of the definition of morality. But it seems you are doing it by attempting to redefine "love" to mean "just".

As I said before, the best definition I know of for "love" is that it is "the state where another's happiness is essential to your own." As for "just", it means roughly the same as "moral", or close enough, I believe, for our purposes here. We are not in agreement over what "moral" means, of course, be we are in fairly close agreement over what is and is not moral behavior.

Do you wish to dispute these definitions?

i don't dispute your definition of love, but i do dispute your definition of justice. i think that love is indeed "the state in which another's happiness is essential to one's own." that's beautiful. but that love can go on without bounds. "greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his brother." but justice does not require that. justice is simply "loving them as you love yourself." that is, treating them as you would be treated. not going above and beyond that simply eye-for-eye justice. LOVE goes much, much farther. Ungtss 20:35, 18 August 2005 (UTC)

Humans have many needs. The better these needs are met, then the happier we are. But our resources to fulfill these needs are scarce. (This is one of the cardinal rules of economics.) In order to achieve the greatest happiness given our scarce resources, we have to prioritize our needs, in order to most optimally satisfy our needs with our scarce resources.

When we love someone, we place their happiness on our list of priorities. How high they are on that list is determined by how much we love them.

It seems to me that we love our spouses and our children more then we love ourselves. We place their needs on a higher priority than our own. We would gladly exchange our lives for theirs. On a more mundane level, a good parent will buy their kid that new toy they want instead of getting that new DVD the parent wants. Of course, this love does have some limits. Not many parents would sacrifice their lives just so their kid will get that new toy. Risk their lives, perhaps, but not sacrifice it.

It seems to me that while we love our parents a good deal, we love our parents less than we love ourselves. We honor and respect them, of course. We would risk our lives to save theirs. But would we exchange our lives for theirs? Most likely, our parents themselves would not want us to make that sacrifice. We take care of them in their old age. But would we sacrifice our retirement for theirs?

It may seem harsh that we don't love our parents as much as we love ourselves. But, to me, it seems that it is true that this is how things are. It also seems to me to be right that this is so. We don't repay our obligations to our parents back to them. Instead, we pay our debt forward, by raising our own children as best we can, by investing in the future.

It seems to me that we do love our neighbor. We take our neighbor's needs in to account when we sum up our happiness. But we don't come close to loving them as much as we love ourselves. We give their needs some priority, but we don't give them nearly the same priority as our own.

Ideally, I think we do love our siblings as much as ourselves. But that love is only one factor in that relationship. We also compete with our siblings for parental affection, and our love for them may be in conflict with other needs, such as the need for personal space. When the chips are down, the love wins out, but, on the whole, it is a rather messy model.

I think the best model we have for what loving another as we love ourselves is like is the kind of relationship we have with extremely close friends - "blood brothers". We might not save their lives at the certain cost of our own, especially if it isn't certain that our sacrifice will pay off, but we would definitely risk it to save theirs. If they need a kidney, and we have one to spare, take it. They're broke, need a place to stay? We've got a futon. When such friends eat out or go someplace non-free, not much attention is paid to who pays for what. If the friends are about equal in wealth, then it comes out about even. If one has more money than the other, then chances are they'll wind up paying more. Generally, nobody really keeps track.

In general, it's not a simple case of redistribution of wealth, but of "From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs." The "abilities" part isn't limited to your pocketbook, and the "needs" part includes the need for self-respect. If such a friend is down on their luck, and you've got funds to spare, you aren't just going to give it to him (unless they really need it that bad), but you are going to find a way to sneak it in to them.

Can you really imagine having such a relationship with all six billion people on this planet? Simply making a square deal with everyone you meet lives up to "Treat others as you would have them treat you" but it doesn't live up to "Love your neighbor as you love yourself".

as i said above, i think that love can exist in many degrees ... from basic justice (not cheating others) to self-sacrifice (giving freely to the poor) to sacrificing your life (greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his brother). but i think the beauty of the golden rule is that it doesn't require is to self-sacrifice for EVERYONE -- it only requires us to treat them FAIRLY -- and we are then free to love our family, neighbors, friends, and anyone else above and beyond that, as we please. Ungtss 20:35, 18 August 2005 (UTC)

Ethics and Science[edit]

<<Can you give examples of cases where a scientist, acting in the name of science, acted outside of these guidelines?>>

<<Eugenics was the original illustration I provided. more recently, a text focusing on evolutionary models of the universe concluded, "As has been shown, humans are simply animals who have arisen as an inevitable consequence of the laws of nature. Perhaps, then, we should realize this, give up our religion and religious wars, kick back, and enjoy the rest of the Quaternary period.">>

Your second example, for the most part, is a passage dealing mainly with issues of fact. What turns it from a discussion about issues of fact into an ethical statement is the word "should". Somehow, the author went from saying "this is how things are" to "this is what we should do". In order to accomplish this transformation, the author needed to use a moral principle.

Now, as I have said, there is much agreement over moral principles. In fact, there is so much agreement that they are, to a certain extent, invisible. They are unconscious. So the author did not explictly state what moral principle he was applying. However, from the context, it looks like it might have been: "All things being equal, assume that the simplest explanation is the right one."

Merely applying an ethical principle does not place the author outside of the boundaries of science. If he (assuming it was a he) had attempted to prove that this moral principle is truly moral (in the lack of an agreed upon definition of morality), then he would indeed be leaving the boundaries of science. But he did not do this.

that is, in my opinion, exactly what he did. he described his opinions about the history of the universe and the nature of humanity -- deterministic materialism -- and then used that argument to defend his moral argument -- "give up on religion."

You can dispute him on the grounds of fact. But you yourself have expressed agreement with the moral principle he used. So you can not dispute the morality of this principle without you yourself becoming a hypocrite. So, in this situation, what might be called the Problem of Metaethics does not apply. If you wish to debate this author, you must do so within the confines of science.

(Note that, unlike you, I could debate him on the grounds of this particular principle being false because I have already stated that I don't necessarily buy into that particular principle, that in certain cases, it can be overridden. Without an agreed upon definition of morality, the author wouldn't be able to use science to argue with me, but would have to resort to philosophy.)

The now historical debate over eugenics (historical in the sense that I'm not aware of anybody who seriously supports eugenics today) provides another case study in how science and ethics interact. In the case of eugenics, what science did was say, "If you do nothing, this will happen. If you take this action, this will happen." Science may have been wrong on the issues of fact, but that is largely beside the point. The supporters of eugenics (including some scientists) then applied their personal moral system, and decided to take the second option. The detractors (assuming they agreed with the scientists of the day on the issue of facts) applied a slightly different moral system, and decided to not take action.

It seems to me that the two sides differed not in the moral principles they applied, but in the different priorities they gave those principles. The supporters of eugenics, if cornered, would probably agree that involuntary sterilization and/or euthanasia is not generally a good thing. But they would argue that the needs of the race override the rights of the individual. Likewise, the detractors of eugenics would probably agree that it is a good thing to look out for the good of the race, but not at such a cost.

Many times, a moral question is not a true-or-false question, but multiple choice. In a situation where different moral principles are in conflict, and, given the alternatives that our reason has come up with so far, which response is the most moral, or the least evil? The question comes down to either deciding which moral principle you place more value on, or in finding a new solution that satisfies both principles in the most optimum way possible.

If you asked a scientist, as a scientist, which of the two priorities should be given greater weight, according to science, then they would be forced to shrug. To date, there is no science of ethics. However, they might very well have their own opinions on the matter, based on their own personal philosophy.

The eugenics episode is responsible for reshaping the way scientists take ethical considerations into account in their work. But even during the days of eugenics, can you find an example of a scientist attempting to use science to prove that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or some such similar principle?

It is true that some people use science to justify their own pre-existing views. Sometimes those views are immoral. But, generally, those who do so do it by taking advantage of the ambiguity of science's findings, by interpreting those findings to support their own view of how things are.

By contrast, since religion generally provides a definition of morality (justified by dogma), those who misuse religion to support their immoral actions generally reinterpret the moral codes of religion in order to support their view of how things should be.

i disagree:). judaism, christianity, and islam, are historical religions. they are grounded in assertions about events in the past -- things people did, things god did, and the course of humanity. these religions are grounded in indellibly in "how things are." and then, having shown how things are with piercing insight to gain credibility, they make a call to future action and how things "should be." Ungtss 19:38, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

Naturalism vs. the Supernatural[edit]

<<I fear the "objective reality exists" vs. "objective reality does not exist" is dichotomous with reference to philosophical naturalism. ... The philosophical naturalist will cry, "That can't have happened. It violates the law of nature." ... But I say, "That happened. I don't understand how it happened, so it must operate according to laws of nature I don't understand.">>

If that is truly what it means to be a philosophical naturalist, then I am not a philosophical naturalist. Neither are virtually all scientists. It seems to me that the real meaning of philosophical naturalism is that there are natural laws that even Gods, if they exist, have to follow. Whether or not we know what those natural laws are is beside the point.

Take, for example, Buddhism. Buddhism has often been accused of being an atheistic religion. But that is not quite the truth. It is closer to the mark to say that Buddhism is a naturalistic religion. Buddha never said that gods or Gods don't exist. In fact, there is quite a bit of evidence that shows he at least believed in gods. Rather, he believed that the question of the existence or non-existence of gods or Gods to be relatively unimportant. Instead, his teachings focused on laws of nature that applied to humans, gods, and Gods equally.

We already know that we don't know all of the laws of nature. For one thing, our understanding of the most fundamental field of science, physics, is clearly limited. Our theories are incomplete. We have two theories, quantum mechanics and relativity. They don't play well with each other. We know both are incomplete, because we can't use one to derive the other. Both explains things that the other one can't. If our knowledge of the laws of nature were complete, then we wouldn't have this problem.

It seems to me "God exists" vs. "God doesn't exist" is dichotomous with reference to philosophical naturalism. If philosophical naturalism is true, then it just means that God is as bound to the most fundamental laws of nature as we are. (Although it may be that He is subject to a different subset of these laws than us.) And I think philosophical naturalism is exactly the same as a belief in objective reality. Natural "laws" (which are actually our mental constructs, based on our limited understanding) are how we describe the self-consistent nature of objective reality.

Now, it seems that you are defining supernatural to mean "something that isn't in accordance with the laws of nature as we understand them." In that case, it can be said that scientists are in the business of seeking out the supernatural. They actively seek out situations where the laws of nature as we understand them don't hold. The purpose of seeking out such anomalies is to learn from them, and, in doing so, gain a truer understanding of the real laws of nature. This turns these "supernatural" events into natural ones.

precisely. i think "supernatural" vs. "natural" is meaningless. the only dichotomy that matters is "occured" vs. "did not occur." we only think things are supernatural because we don't understand them. Ungtss 19:49, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

Now it is true that scientists are skeptical of anomalies that run counter to the laws of nature as we understand them. Popper admits that one way which a theory can be adapted after falsification, in order to continue to match up with observed reality, is by theorizing that who ever observed the falsifying event was simply mistaken.

This doesn't seem to be a bad thing to me. Humans and their instruments are fallible, capable of mistakes. There exists a very high probability that, in any given instance, a human screwed up. It could even be that the human is making up stories, or even hallucinating.

By contrast, while it is a virtual certainty that the current theories are incorrect in some way, the chances of them being completely wrong in any particular instance are small. Otherwise, the theory would not have survived falsification for so long. Which means that if a scientist manages to be the one to falsify an established theory, and get it to stick, they're set for life. Their career is made. So they have a lot of incentive to try.

Because human observers are fallible, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". If a laboratory experiment turns up an excessively weird result, then that result must be confirmed by experiments done by others. It is true that the second team is also fallible, but hopefully they are fallible in a different way than the first team. After enough repetitions the screw-ups should cancel out.

If something excessively weird is observed in the field, then the team had better bring back some hard physical evidence for others to study. The weirder the observation, the harder the evidence the observers are going to need before they are going to be believed. Even after stuffed specimens were provided, taxonomists refused to believe in a fur-bearing, egg-laying, toxin-producing, milk-giving animal. European scientists were more inclined to believe that their Australian colleagues were engaged in a massive practical joke than to believe in such a weird beastie. I think it required a live specimen before they were prepared to accept the duckbill platypus as real.

So, God is not ruled out by naturalism. God is not supernatural. He isn't a part of our current theories, that is true, but scientists are well aware that their theories are incomplete. However, anybody seeking to demonstrate an anomaly that shows that God exists is going to have an uphill battle. The greater the anomaly, the harder the battle. But that is all to the good.

precisely. and that's why i think creationism/id is at least conceivably scientific. science could show the existence of god and the historicity of genesis, just like it may show anything else. true science doesn't care. it simply documents what exists. if creationism is true, science will show it. if common ancestry it true, science will show it. but unfortunately we have a bunch of bigoted, profoundly stupid people on both sides who are so dedicated to their ideology and paradigm as to preserve it at the expense of reality. Ungtss 19:49, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

As in many things, we must seek balance between two opposing principles. If a scientist is too open-minded, then they will be taken in by hoaxes and their own mistakes. They will see what they want to see, not what actually is. If a scientist is too skeptical, then they will miss out on the weird and wonderful discovery that will make their career.

It seems that you are arguing that scientists lean too far towards skepticism on the subject of God. But God is not the only thing that is within the realm of the possible, but isn't within the known laws of nature, within current theory. There is also Bigfoot, flying saucers, Atlantis, the Loch Ness Monster, etc. If the supernatural consists of those things that are outside of our understanding of how things work, then these are also supernatural. (In fact, some have pointed out that the urban legends of the Grey Aliens have certain things in common with the old myths about the elves.) Do you think scientists should be less skeptical about these matters as well?

i think that bigfoot, flying saucers, atlantis, and the loch ness monster should all be considered as possibilities -- tentative of course -- but there should be no bias against them. in fact, all of the above, if true, fit in very well with creationism. atlantis ties in very well with the deluge, and loch ness ties in very well with the contemporary existence of dragons and dinosaurs. i don't rule out any of those possibilities, and i don't think scientists should either. Ungtss 19:49, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

Consider this: Let's say, hypothetically, that you are right about Intelligent Design, but wrong about Genesis being literal truth. Might it not be the case that your belief in Genesis might blind you to the truth? If you happen across evidence that proves Intelligent Design, you might jump to a conclusion that Genesis must also be right. A more skeptical researcher might grudgingly agree that Intelligent Design is true, but decline to draw conclusions beyond that. So, if it turns out that the Intelligent Designer is not as she/he/it is pictured in Genesis, but something completely different. Because this skeptical researcher is not making the same assumptions you are, then they are more likely to see things for how they really are. Skepticism, combined with Occam's Razor, is useful because it maximizes our chances of being surprised. (Of course, such skepticism must be balanced by open-mindedness, so that we will recognize the surprise when we see it. Balance in all things...)

you're right -- were i dogmatically committed to the historicity of genesis, it could blind me to other possibilities. that's why i insist on keeping all the possibilities open, and considering the evidence in light of any number of possibilities.
consider the precession of the earth. the dominant theory is that precession is caused by a wobble in the earth's orbit. but this theory is inconsistent with the fact that precession is observable with respect to objects outside the solar system, but not objects inside the solar system. an alternative view holds that precession is caused by the curved motion of the sun, which is consistent with this last observation. nevertheless, the "wobble" view continues to be taught as fact, despite being inconsistent with the evidence. scientists can be stupid, stupid people sometimes. Ungtss 19:49, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

Science and Religion[edit]

<<i don't think there's a conflict between science and religion at all. as thomas huxley said, true science can only benefit religion by ridding it of superstitition.>>

What is superstition? The Wikipedia article on it says that it is a "provably wrong belief, especially one that involves magical thinking." (Magical thinking consists of mistaking correlation for causation. For example, thinking that, just because good things happen when you carry a rabbit's foot, that the rabbit's foot causes them to happen.) That "especially" is a weasel-word. It sounds to me like whoever wrote that knew more or less what the definition of superstition is, but wasn't quite able to put their finger on it. So they settled for describing superstition instead. This often happens in dictionaries.

i think that definition is incorrect, but reflects the usual wikipedia bias and misunderstanding of epistemology. superstition is not provably false. nobody can prove that the rabbit's foot doesn't bring me good luck. there are no experiments to disprove the effect of lucky charms, because who can say how unlucky i would have been if i hadn't had the rabbit's foot!? superstitution is not provably wrong. it's unfalsifiable and unparsimonious belief. belief that can't be proved wrong, but is not the simplest and most rational interpretation of the evidence. Ungtss 19:56, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

I'll go a step further than Huxley, then, and say that science can benefit religion by ridding it of all provably wrong beliefs, even if those beliefs don't qualify as superstitions. But this benefit can only happen after much conflict.

For example, science can't say that a belief in God is provably wrong. But current theory does say that a belief in the Deluge and in Young Earth Creationism is provably wrong. (Unless you assume that a godlike entity edited the fossil record, or some other such theoretical ad-hockery.) This has caused much conflict with Christianity. Some sects have adapted, but this adaptation only happened after conflict. Some sects still don't accept this.

For another example, let's say that you are right, and that science will one day prove that God exists. I'd imagine that this would cause a great deal of conflict between the scientific establishment and strong atheists wouldn't you?

Any time science intrudes on the doctrines of a religion, conflict emerges. Perhaps this will be to the benefit of the religion, but this does not change the existence of the conflict.

As I said before, after it was shown to me that science said that parts of the Bible were provably wrong, I became an agnostic. Not wanting to go through that process again, I have attempted to create my own religion that makes as few faith-based statements as possible, so that the chances of any of them becoming provably wrong are kept to a minimum. My religion can certainly survive falsification of atheism. Can yours survive a falsification of Genesis?

we're speaking in different terms, unfortunately. when i say there is no conflict between religion and science, i don't mean that there is never a conflict between particular religions and particular scientific ideas. of course there are. i mean there is no conflict between TRUE religion and TRUE science. if indeed genesis were falsified, then that belief would be FALSE RELIGION, and the religious would benefit from the falsification, for being freed from false religion. Ungtss 19:56, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

The Nature of the Creationism Dispute[edit]

<<you don't have enormous whythere'snosuchthingasanaquaticape websites to compare to talk.origins. you don't see such desparate efforts to attack, suppress, deny, mock, and misrepresent it in the media and schools. That hypothesis is harmless, as is the panspermia hypothesis -- and you'll notice there are no edit wars of substantial pov problems on the panspermia page, although it seriously challenges standard scientific evolutionary theory>>

I would say that, between the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis and the Panspermia Hypothesis, the closer match with the Intelligent Design hypothesis (not theory!) is Panspermia. Both say that the current theory isn't able to explain how life arose from non-living matter on Earth. Both "solve" the problem by removing it a step. Panspermia does it by saying the life arose elsewhere in the universe, then traveled to Earth, but leaves the question of how it came into being there open. Intelligent Design does it by saying that life was designed, but leaves the question of where the designer came from open. Both are not easy to falsify, but then neither are the simplest explanation that matches with known evidence, so the orthodox theorists are under no obligation to falsify them. Both of them could, in principle, be proven correct quite shortly, if new evidence comes in.

In many ways, Panspermia is Intelligent Design Lite.

I would say that the main difference between Panspermia and Intelligent Design is that Panspermia does not have the backing of the religion that claims 80% of Americans as its followers. Although not all Christians believe in Young Earth creationism, the Deluge, and a literal interpretation of Genesis, I'm not aware of a single sect of Christianity that doesn't believe in some form of Intelligent Design. It is a fundamental piece of Christian dogma.

Talk.origins is not an unprovoked attack on Intelligent Design, but rather a response to attempts by the subscribers of Intelligent Design to attack, suppress, deny, mock, and misrepresent evolutionary theory in the media and schools. The people who run talk.origins do not seek out Intelligent Design supporters, but wait for ID supporters to seek them out. They then rebut the arguments the Creationists make against evolution. The arguments listed as Creationist in the FAQs are not strawmen, as far as I can tell, but are most likely real Creationist arguments that have been used in posts by Creationists.

Of course, not all sects of Christianity attack evolution. Most Christians realize that a belief in Intelligent Design must be backed up by faith, not proof, at least not currently. Those who believe that ID can be proven can be called "Old Earth Creationists". Scientists can not say that ID didn't happen, but they can rebut arguments that seek to prove that it did. There are also Young Earth Creationists and Creationists who believe that the Deluge happened. Both of these beliefs run directly counter to what scientists believed happened. So science is not in conflict with most of Christianity, just Creationism.

If 80% of Americans were "saucer nuts", with a significant minority believing that the Grey Aliens introduced life to Earth (but did not design it), then I believe that biologists would be spending just as much of their time rebutting Panspermian arguments as they now spend rebutting Intelligent Design arguments.

then i guess our difference opinion just comes down to differing opinions of the character of these scientists, and their ends. you have much more faith in their objectivity and open-mindedness than i do. my experiences prevent me from seeing them as anything less than ideologues on par with protestant and catholic religious conversionists. Ungtss 20:00, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

The Arrow of Time[edit]

<<the law of causation requires unidirectional time.>>

I'm unfamiliar with any scientific law known as the law of causation. From context, it would appear to state that every event requires a cause. The principal of temporal symmetry does not violate this "law", it only imposes an additional restriction: If every event has to have a cause, then it must also have an effect. This effect becomes the cause when the sequence of events is observed in reverse.

but when are natural events ever observed in reverse? seems to me they can be IMAGINED in reverse, and maybe videoed and then played in reverse, but i'm unfamiliar with any event which can be observed occuring in reverse. example? Ungtss 20:10, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

However, consider this: if this so-called law of causation is part of a scientific theory, if it is justified based on inductive reasoning based on evidence, then it must be subject to falsification, by observation of instances where the "law" doesn't hold. I intend to eventually show that the law of causation is not the whole story, that, from certain points of view, all events in our universe are uncaused. And you yourself said that God was an exception to the law of causation, hence God's existence is falsification of the law of causation!

An alternative would be if you could prove this law of causation a priori, from reason alone. I may have been over-hasty when I said that a priori reasoning is anathema to science. It's just that, aside from Descartes' Truth, nobody has ever been able to show a positive a priori proof. (And be able to get it to stick, that is. Many have tried...) It could be said that the discipline of science was developed as a way to cope with the failure of a priori proofs. It is possible to do a negative a priori proof, to show that a set of axioms is inconsistent. That is essentially what super-string theorists are doing know, showing that certain classes of super-string theories are self-inconsistent, and so can be ruled out. Such negative proofs are done in the language of mathematics, which is much less subject to ambiguity then our natural languages. Quite frankly, I don't know enough math to work at that level! But I suspect you don't think that the law of causation can be proven by reason alone.

<<and i fear you've denied Reason herself. >>

That brings up a third alternative. If it could be shown that the ability to reason is dependent on an iron-clad law of causation, then it is possible that we could justify a belief in this law of causation by faith. But first, a proper respect for truth demands that we must first see if we can justify such a belief by other means, and also that we look at the alternatives and see if there are any that might also give rise to an ability to reason.

However, I rather suspect that you are just accusing me of taking leave of my reason by suggesting that the law of causation is not iron-clad, not that reason is dependent on it.

nope, that's exactly what i'm saying -- that rational human thought depends on the axiom of cause and effect. some try to envision a universe grounded on random events without causation ... but those lines of thinking appear to me to have abandoned Reason. Ungtss 20:10, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

<<i daresay your "bullet in reverse" example is not only unlikely, but absolutely impossible. first, what caused the bullet to fly toward the gun? we must have a CAUSE to bring about that motion. bullets do not fly spontaneously fly out of firing range backstops or targets. something has to CAUSE them to fly. in forward motion, the cause is "i pulled the trigger which started the reaction." in reverse motion, the cause is ... what?"">>

<<secondly, gases do not coverge back into gunpowder inside the bullet casing at random -- it is physically impossible for such a chemical reaction to take place, unless caused by something else. ">>

If I answer your first objection, I imagine the second will take care of itself. I left the question about where the bullet went to/came from an open one for two reasons: 1) it was outside of the bounds of the simulation, and 2) my keyboarding fingers were getting tired. However, I think we can expand the simulation a bit further. Let's say then that the bullet, after it was fired from the gun, hit a backstop. The kinetic energy of the bullet was converted into heat energy, warming the bullet and the material of the backstop. This heat is then radiated out in all directions, in the form of infrared radiation - photons of light. And so on to the Last Effect, or the heat death of the universe.

Let's leave this to one side for the moment, and consider the concept of determinism. If we know, with infinite precision, the initial conditions of a system, along with the true natural laws that the system obeys, we can, in theory, predict the state of the system at any future time - including the "randomized" final heat death state.

The heat death of the universe can be imagined like so: electrons, positrons, photons, the basic particles that are left when everything else has decayed, all whizzing around at random, the entire universe is a very, very sparse gas, at equal temperature through out.

The heat death state, at a macroscopic level, would appear to be a Last Effect. Nothing really changes. Every point in the universe is the same temperature. Matter/energy is spread evenly through out, the types of matter and energy are also spread out evenly. All the water has already run downhill. At a microscopic level, though, the universe is still in a state of constant flux. The particles of matter and energy are still whizzing around at random.

But how "random" is the "random" movement of these particles?

The exact nature of the heat death state is the inevitable conclusion of what has come before. If you changed the initial conditions, the conditions of the heat death state would also be changed. If, say, a particular star had started burning a fraction of a second later, then the heat death state would be slightly different. On the whole, it would be the same, the universe as a whole would still be the same temperature, for example, but that photon would be over there instead of here, that electron would be a hair slower, that positron a hair faster.

Just so, because we humans are subject to the laws of nature, our fates are to some extent predetermined. Given the particular set of initial conditions that this universe started with, then it was inevitable that I would decide to eat at Arby's today.

When we say that a particular outcome is likely or unlikely, it could be said that we are saying, "Out of this set of possible initial conditions, x% of the sets would result in the given outcome, y% wouldn't." The only reason we are able to talk about likelihoods is because we don't know, with infinite precision, what the initial conditions of the universe were. If we did know with such exactitude, then any event in the history of the universe would be neither likely nor unlikely. It would simply be inevitable.

Do you agree with me so far?

i agree with you so far, that given the principle of determinism (which is an unfalsifiable assumption about the universe), your conclusions follow from your premises. but i'm at a loss as to how this aids us envision the photons gathering themselves in the backstop at the firing range so as to push the bullet backwards into the barrel of the gun just as the man pulls the trigger ... Ungtss 20:10, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

Defining Crazyeddie[edit]

<<which "properties" would you include in your definition? personality? interests? emotions? thoughts? all of those properties change constantly throughout our lives.>>

Nevertheless, experience tells us that how people determine who we are. When somebody sees you, they take a look. "Hey, that person looks like Ungtss, walks like Ungtss, dresses like Ungtss. It must be Ungtss!" So they go over and talk to you. If you are not acting like you normally do, they might say, "Is everything alright? You're not acting like yourself." If you persist in acting strangely, then even those who know you best might say, "I don't know you anymore! You're not the man I met!" At no point will your acquaintances check to see if you still have any of the atoms that formed the fertilized egg that, according to some, was the true, original Ungtss.

So it seems to me that we are left with no choice. The label "Crazyeddie" doesn't apply to a single individual entity, but rather a class of entities. Each moment, the Crazyeddie of the moment disappears, and is replaced by an entirely different Crazyeddie. Different entities, but still members of the same class.

i still think we've got a choice:). i think you're a single living entity which periodically changes its atoms, personality, and location. here's my question for your theory: what theory of time permits you to slice up "moments" so that each "moment" the old crazy eddie disappears and the new one appears? and what law of causation permits the "old" crazyeddie to influence the characteristics of the new one?
i find it much more parsimonious to view you as a single individual entity demonstrating continuity in time and space, although its characteristics may change.

Because the label "Crazyeddie" is a class label, the definition of Crazyeddie, the set of rules we use to sort all possible entities into two piles, one labeled "Crazyeddie", the other labeled "Not Crazyeddie", specifies a range of values for certain variables. The specifications don't require that those values be exactly right. For example, the personality doesn't have to be exactly the same, but there might be a limit to how far it can change, before I am no longer considered Crazyeddie. On the other hand, it is possible for some differences to cause a particular entity to be placed in the "Not Crazyeddie" pile, even though that particular entity shares continuity with the Crazyeddies that have gone before. For example, my corpse is not Crazyeddie.

What, exactly, the definition of Crazyeddie is is irrelevant, because it is clear that we will disagree with what it is. You presumably say that I am still Crazyeddie when I have amnesia that completely wipes out my personality, or when I am brain-dead or in a persistent vegetative state. You presumably say that I was still Crazyeddie even when I was a fertilized egg. I disagree with all of these statements. I would be hard-pressed to say how, exactly, I define "Crazyeddieness". At any rate, I do, because "I knows it when I sees it".

The next question, depending on what curve balls you throw when you respond to the above, is how did we develop our definitions of "Crazyeddie", or any class definition for that matter.

i think we take our definitions of crazyeddie from the single, continuous entity we associate with that label, from zygote to corpse. i see no reason to divide you up into an infinite number of entitites in a class, when you appear to me to be a single, continuous entity. Ungtss 20:20, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

Evolution[edit]

<<i believe that evolutionary mechanisms are true and scientific, but inherently inadequate to fully explain adaptive complexity.>>

Ah, so you agree that the evolutionary metanarrative is falsifible? Glad to hear it! But it remains to be seen if it has been falsified.

sorry to disappoint, but i didn't say the metanarrative was falsifiable -- i only said the mechanisms of evolution were true and scientific, but INADEQUATE to justify belief in the metanarrative.

I do plan on answering your specific objections to evolutionary theory. But I think we should investigate evolutionary theory, starting with its most basic principles, and work our way up, discussing differences as they come up.

<<i would argue, tho, that natural selection doesn't allow for linear fitness functions and infinite increases in improvement either.>>

Of course it doesn't. You're missing the point.

According to Artifical Selection, when we breed chickens to produce more eggs, then the rate of egg production should increase indefinitely. That is because we are defining what is "evolutionarily fit" in this situation - the more eggs produced, the more fit the chicken. The graph of this fitness function is a line, which doesn't have a non-infinite maximum. So, since populations subject to variation and selection continue to "improve" until a maximum is hit, the population should "improve" indefinitely.

What happens is that nature is imposing a new term in this fitness function. At a certain point, an increase in egg production leads to a side effect which is bad for the survivability of the chicken. I said that the chickens became so feebleminded that they forgot to breed. (That was a typo - one of many in my last post. I meant to say "breathe". Don't suppose that matters though.)

That changes the graph of the fitness function. The function is no longer linear. Instead, after a certain point, increases in egg laying causes fitness to decrease. The chicken forgets to breathe and dies. Or else it forgets to breed, and its genes die out when it does.

Improvement in the population stops, not because it can't go any further, but because the population has already achieved its goal! (Speaking metaphorically - evolution is not goal-oriented. Neither evolution or the population of chickens has intentional stance.) The population of chickens is at a local maximum on the graph on the fitness function. The population is making the best possible tradeoff between egg-laying ability and feeble-mindedness. It has the best possible fitness under the circumstances.

So let's change those circumstances.

Let's put the chickens on artificial respiration. (Or starting using artifical fertilization.) This will remove the negative side effects that nature is adding to our fitness function. The sole remaining term in the fitness function is the one we impose, by artificially selecting for egg-laying ability. The fitness function again becomes linear, and egg-laying ability should continue to increase indefinitely. (Or until nature again imposes negative side effects, as seems rather more likely.)

There are several lessons to be learned from the above.

Firstly, an optimal solution to a problem requires finding the right tradeoff between opposing principles. Usually, there is more principles in the mix than just two.

Secondly, under natural selection, improvement is only "linear" when the population as a whole is far away from the optimal point. Once the population reaches the optimal point, then equilibrium sets in. The forces of mutation cause individual genotypes to drift away from the optimum (creating a sort of "halo", if you will), natural selection pushes them back (limiting how far out the halo goes). If the current average design is truly optimal, then improvement stops, the two forces just cause the population to "thrash".

If the current design is not truly the best possible design, but only the best so far discovered, and one of the mutations discovers a new, more optimal design, then that design will displace the current one (orthogenetic forces willing, of course, but innovations have a way of being independently rediscovered). At any rate, as a population nears and even brackets the optimal point, improvement slows down - all the easy fixes have already been found. Improvement plateaus.

So, over the long term, what really powers evolution is changes in the fitness function. This throws the system out of equilibrium, the population is now forced to hunt towards the new optimal point.

Secondly, and this can not be emphasized enough, is that, in evolution, what ever is "good" is whatever the fitness function says it is! In the eyes of evolution, bacteria are not better than humans, a human is not better than a bacteria. Bacteria and humans are measured by different fitness functions. We would make very poor bacteria, and bacteria would make lousy humans. Any allegations that humans are better than bacteria is simply the result of human prejudice. If God shares that prejudice, that is no matter. What matters is what evolution thinks.

Thirdly, is what to do after a theory has been falsified. A theory is not a fact, a theory is something that tries to explain why the facts are the way they are. "All swans are white" is a fact. If you falsify it by showing that some swans are black, then the new fact becomes "some swans are white, some are black". But a theory would explain why the swans are white. If the theory does not explain why some swans are also black, then it must be replaced with a new theory. This theory must not only explain why some swans are black, but it also must explain why many swans are white.

What happens next is covered by the correspondence principle. If the old theory had any merit at all, it generally turns out that the old theory is a subset of the new theory. For example, classical Newtonian physics can be derived as a subset of Relativity at slow speeds, low masses, small scales, and likewise, from Quantum Mechanics at large scales.

To a certain extent, the correspondence principle contains the question of why we didn't notice the new, more general, theory before this.

The current theories can be shown to be a subset of Intelligent Design quite easily (once ID has been established), but I'm at a loss to see how they could be shown to be a subset of Young Earth Creationism or Flood Geology, barring some rather drastic ad-hockery. But that is neither here nor there.

you've hit it on the head. i believe that current theories are a subset of ID and young earth creationism. young earth creationism/ID say "evolution goes this far in explaining adaptive complexity, and design explains the rest." Ungtss 20:25, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

So, why did we notice Artifical Selection long before we noticed the more general Natural Selection?

Firstly, for the most part, wild populations are at or near a state of evolutionary equilibrium. By changing the fitness function, and by changing it often, we keep our domestic populations in a state of disequilibrium. So the traits of domestic populations change faster than their wild cousins. Because the rate of change is so much higher with Artifical Selection than with Natural Selection, we notice it better.

Secondly, we generally impose a much higher "survival differential" (my term, not sure if it is official) than nature does. In a domesticated herd of cows, the vast majority of males are made into steers. Only a special few, who show exactly the kinds of traits we want, are used as prize bulls, and so wind up fathering hundreds of offspring. In the wild, even the best bull would be the father of only dozens, maybe a hundred if he were lucky. And many more bulls would manage to become fathers at all. So, again, the traits change faster.

Thirdly, we humans, when practicing artifical selection, tend to base our definition of fitness on only one metric (such as egg-laying ability). So "improvements", as defined by this metric, tend to be a bit less ambiguous than in the massively-multiple system of metrics nature uses. In nature, what to us might seem like an improvement sometimes contains a hidden flaw, what seems like a bad mutation actually carries with it a subtle advantage. Only nature can say for sure - we can only guess. Intelligent design comes down to intelligently guessing how nature will decide.

Domesticated organisms exist within a kind of "envelope of protection". Within that envelope, we define what is fit. What happened in the above thought experiment is that we pushed our population of chickens to the edge of that envelope and natural selection began to take over. That is why we noticed natural selection in this experiment.

The Correspondence Principle and Christianity[edit]

As a "Confucian", this is how I see the Bible: Genesis was written well after the events it described, I would guess (and remember that I'm not a biblical scholar) maybe a century or two after the Exodus. Further, Genesis was written directly from the oral tradition of the time, without reliance on any written source. So, the further back in time Genesis goes, the less reliable it is. I'm prepared to believe that Abraham was legendary - that there was a real Abraham that the biblical account of Abraham was based on. But pastward from there, I think that Genesis is nothing more than a myth - if it has any relationship with what really happened, it is nothing more than coincidence. (Of course, myths have their uses too...)

on what basis do you hold these opinions, as a confucian:)? what in the text indicates it originated in oral tradition at a later date? what about abraham indicates that he is a legendary figure? give me a full, confucian, literary analysis. personally, i think the text shows no such signs. it is very detailed in obscure ways, including genealogies, chronologies and geographies, and mundane details about lives ... it does not build the characters up into heros, but instead describes them in their full, fallible detail. what in the text leads you to the conclusions you articulated above? Ungtss 20:32, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

I also think that the Book of Revelations is complete and utter bull.

in what sense? you don't think somebody had that vision, but just made it up? or they had the vision, but the vision is itself just the product of a cracked-out brain? Ungtss 20:32, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

Other than that, I think that the Bible is a relatively accurate historical account, at least as far as "natural" events go. As for the "supernatural" events go, I can't say that they didn't happen, but I can say that it'll take a lot more than just some book's say-so to convince me. If you want to believe they happened, that's up to you.

So, let's take this as a Worst Case Scenario, and consider the following hypothetical situation. Let's say that you took the Bible and removed the Book of Revelations and the part of Genesis that came before Abraham. (That's not to say that science is right about the pre-Abrahamic events, just that something completely different from the Genesis account happened. Let's even stipulate that Intelligent Design is correct, and that God is that Designer.) Based on the remainder, could you construct a religion that would satisfy you?

absolutely -- if it turned out that ID was true and pre-abrahamic genesis was false, then i would reform my beliefs around those new historical realities -- seek to better understand and live in the Truth. it was satisfy me, because it would be true. Ungtss 20:32, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

If not, then why not? If so, then why do you say that Creationism and atheism are your only options?

well, the reason i only see two choices now is that those are the only two that appear to me to be parsimonious interpretations of the evidence. Genesis appears to me to be history. if it turned out it was not history but another form of ID was history, then that other form would become a viable option, and i would adopt it. but at the moment, there is only one account of ancient history which makes sense to me, and that's why i hold to it:). Ungtss 20:32, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

Misc.[edit]

<<i'd argue, tho, that the ability to make enemies with both outsiders and "fellow travelers" is a gift possessed by those whose capacity for independent thought places them outside both camps.>>

I'd say rather that it shows that there are factions-within-factions. If people were calling these Four Sages of yours "heretics", then these people were members of an opposing faction within the larger sect. The only thing that outsiders calling these Sages "religious nutjobs" proves is that these Four Sages and their intellectual inheritors were ultimately victorious in their intramural conflict. Either they eventually won over their enemies, and their inheritors gained control of the sect, or they left, and the resulting heretical sect became successful, no longer heresy, but an new orthodoxy in its own right. I'm quite sure that the outsiders would also consider the Four Sages' intramural opponents to be "religious nutjobs" as well.

It might well be that the reason for the intramural conflicts is that the Four Sages had the capacity for independent thought. But we can not rule out that all of their intramural opponents lacked this capacity. Nor can we rule out the possiblity that the outsiders are also independent thinkers. It is quite possible for two independent thinkers to come to different conclusions, and it is simple human nature that these opposing independent thinkers should then come into conflict.

It is impossible to reduce the entire history to a single "big endian vs little endian" mega-conflict. Or even a conflict between two idealogical superpowers with a "third world" in between. Instead, the history of religious conflict (both physical and intellectual) is the history of conflict between any number of permutations of possible belief systems.

<<witches and warlocks of prior days were those who placed nature in primacy over theology -- who's primary interest was in "magic spells" and attempts to master their environment.>>

Do you have any cases in mind in particular? I'm kinda sketchy on any particular person that this describes.

um ... merlin:)? Ungtss 20:49, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

<<i'm afraid i have to challenge you on the facts there. they were not burned in the name of the king's polytheism. they were burned for their unwillingness to worship the king. yes, it was quasi-religious in nature -- as was much of the deification of Lenin, Stalin, and Mao Tse Tung -- but it was not "religionist." it was "secularists" who manipulated religious sentiment to their secular advantage.>>

Daniel 3:12, New International Version: But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon - Shadrack, Meshach and Abendnego - who pay no attention to you, O king. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.

Persecution always has a pragmatic side and an idealogical side. The advisor speaking here was pragmatically attempting to eliminate competitors in the contest over who had the king's ear. The king persecuted the three for reasons that, while not exactly pragmatic, were definitely not idealogical either. It may be that the reason he persecuted them was because he was annoyed that they wouldn't worship him. But he probably couldn't give that as a reason to his people - his own people were probably nervous enough about that edict. And even a dictator rules only with the tacit consent of the governed. But say that these three were being punished because they wouldn't bow down for the Old Time Religion? Now that's a reason the people could respect!

The deification of Lenin, Stalin, and Mao may have been coldly pragmatic on the part of the controlling elite who initiated the program, but, to the extent that this program was embraced by the public, it was truly a religious experience for them.

Likewise, the persecution of both Christians and scientists underneath Stalin may have been for the pragmatic reason of eliminating potential powerbases of "counterrevolutionary" forces, but the reason the people accepted it (to the extent that they did) is because the Christians and scientists were guilty of violating the "religion" of Communism.

In any conflict, it might be that the war was started by old men for pragmatic purposes, but it always fought by young men for idealistic ones.

<<i'm afraid i have to challenge you on the facts here. Lucretious was explicitly atheistic. consider On the Nature of Things. Plato, by contrast, referred constantly to God, the Demiurge, and the gods. Consider Critias (Plato).>>

Oi, of course Plato believed in gods. I must have been taking Stupid Pills that day. But a belief in gods must be considered orthogonal with a belief in Idealism or Spiritualism because Lucreatious was both a materialist and expressed a belief in gods. Either that or somebody needs to update the atheism article:

(It should be noted that Lucretius was not exactly an atheist as he did believe in the existence of gods, and Epicurus was ambiguous on this topic too. However both of them certainly thought that if gods existed they were uninterested in human existence. Both of them denied the existence of an afterlife. Perhaps they are better described as materialists than atheists.)

Are you sure that Plato referred to a belief in God? It would be most strange for a Greek of that period to be a monotheist, and I imagine I would have heard of it by now. I did a quick google search and didn't turn up anything. I'd imagine also that Aquinas would have had an easier time of attempting to combine pagan philosophy with Catholic dogma if he could have shown that at least one pagan philosopher showed that philosophy led one to a belief in God. Are you sure this isn't some sort of translation artifact? I was reading a bit of one of Plato's Socrates pieces, and it mentioned God, but in a different translation, gods were mentioned instead. Could you give me an exact example?

"According to Plato, every law has a transcendental foundation: God. He is the "norm of the norms, the measure of the measures" (ibid, p. 1341). In The Republic, the supreme universal principle is the Good that coincides, in The Laws, with God’s mind. God presents himself as the legislator of the legislators, maintaining an eminent pedagogical relationship with men: as good fountains always spot out sound water, God always prescribes what is fair. He is, therefore, the "universal pedagogue" (ibid, p. 1343). http://www.vusst.hr/ENCYCLOPAEDIA/plato.htm

As for the Demiurge, it too can be considered to be orthogonal with a belief in Idealism or Spiritualism, because a belief in a creative force that brings forth order from a chaotic and inanimate universe is very similar to Extropianism's feelings about Life in general. And Extropianism is most certainly materialistic.

<<the ancient and distinguished religion of atheistic materialism>>

Distinguished maybe, but just how ancient is atheism, materialistic or otherwise? According to the Atheism article, at least in the West, the closest anybody came to atheism was the Epicureans, who were actually fairly ambiguous on the subject, as we have seen. It wasn't until the 1770s that people were openly calling themselves atheists. (About the same time as our country was founded. Coincidence?) Until then, "atheist" was just name-calling.

Heh, an entire class of religions designated by what they don't believe in. That seem right to you?

atheists like to think they're the "new belief system," here to transcend all the old "irrational religious" systems. history, however, belies their claims. buddha was, for all intents and purposes, and atheist. Psalm 14:1 is an argument against atheists. other ancient greek atheists included Diagoras, Democritus, and Anaxagorus. charvaka is an atheistic/materialistic strain of hindu thought. confucius never spoke of the gods at all. y'all have been around for a long time:).

<<my views about morality not changing much over time are totally dependent on my views on morality:). good ol' theory dependence:). >>

Not quite - if 1) we agree on what is moral, 2) we agree that what is moral today tends to be moral even a hundred or five hundred years ago, then we could show that how moral people are changes over time. Take your pick of sins - murder, thievery, whatever - if we agree that it is a sin, I'll wager that the rates per capita have tended to go down over at least the last 500 years.

right, but we disagree on those premises:). suppose i thought that war was immoral. how many people have died in wars in the last 100 years? Ungtss 20:49, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

Furthermore, my moral philosophy is about as absolutist as yours, and in some ways, more so. "Morality and evolutionary fitness are one and the same." Morality consists of selecting the most optimal course of action available in a given situation, and then carrying that course of action out. Nature is the final judge of what course of action is most optimal. What course of action is the most optimal changes depending on the situation, but the definition of morality is always the same.

You could say much the same about defining morality as doing God's will. How God's will applies in a particular situation is open to some interpretation, just as what is evolutionarily optimal is subject to the conditions of the particular situation. But is God's will incapable of change?

Since my conception of God is nothing more or less than raw Nature itself, and Nature is what determines what is evolutionarily fit, then it could be said that my definition of morality also boils down to "Morality consists of carrying out God's will." The difference is that my God is not a moral actor, so is incapable of hypocrisy, sin, virtue, or even acts of will outside of metaphors. God does, Nature simply is.

Gospel Fallibility[edit]

<<truly, it would be nice to check against independent sources. unfortunately, those sources would need to have greater credibility than the gospels themselves. modern conjectures about the relationship between the jews and romans based on ancient texts no more credible than the gospels themselves need not apply.>>

So let's try a hypothetical Worst Case Scenario: Let's say that I'm right with that hypothesis of mine that the Gospels all basically come from the same source, so that they effectively are only one person's story of events. Further, that the events in the Gospels are, on the whole, not denied by outside sources, but are not confirmed either. Then let's say that, regarding this one particular case, Pontius Pilate's relationship with the Jews, we had evidence from several reputable sources, who are believed to be independent of each other. Also, unlike the Gospels, these particular sources have been verified by archaeological evidence on other occasions (but not this one). On this one issue, where would you place greater reliance?

seems to me that with respect to pilate's relationship with the jews, the two groups of sources would have equal credibility, until independently verified or falsified. just because an author knows where a city is (archaeology) doesn't mean his accounts of other events are fair or accurate. fox news knows where new york is, don't they:)? Ungtss 21:05, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

<<in my opinion, your unfalsifiable evolutionary hypothesis about the development of the gospels stands on the same ground as the traditional view that the gospels were recorded based on several attempts to sort through first-hand accounts.>>

In case I didn't make it clear, this hypothesis of mine is merely a horseback guess done by a layman. It is not evolutionary other than it makes note of the fact that things change over time. But I just happen to know of a good place to check out what the experts are thinking...

Okay, let's see if we agree on what the "traditional" view of the history of the Gospels is.

In the order of writing, according to the traditional view, Matthew was written first, by the apostle who was the tax-collector, because he was planning on leaving a religious community. The second to be written was Mark, which was written by Peter's translator, following Peter's death. The third was Luke, who was a historian with no first-hand experience of the events, but who wrote his report after careful study of primary sources. Luke is also believed to be the writer of the Acts of the Apostles. The fourth was John, who apparently referred to himself as a "beloved disciple" of Jesus.

Does this match up with your understanding of the traditional history of the Gospels?

it's definitely the traditional view as i understand it. could be right, could be wrong. who knows:)? Ungtss 21:05, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

Also, was the notion that Moses used Egyptian sources when writing Genesis your idea, or someone else's?

it was an idea i got from man from burkina faso when i was in ghana a few years ago. i've never seen it published, but i'm sure it has been somewhere. Ungtss 21:05, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

rude interruption[edit]

Sorry to interrupt this discussion, but I wish to raise a few points of information that appear to have been missed by both

  • JEPD theory breaks up "sentences" only because the "sentences" are artificial in the first place. Verses, and chapters, were invented some time in the first millenium by some monk to make it easier to read (a very specific monk, but I've forgotten the name). They weren't there to start with. They weren't even there 100 years after the Gospels were written. These "sentences" just ran together. It is just as accurate to break them up according to JEPD as it is to the numbering that monk added.
  • The dates, and ages, on which so much accuracy appears to be put, isn't consistent. The Septuagint records one version, the Masoretic text another, the Syriac Peshitta a third, the Samaritan Pentateuch yet different still. Some of these add other commandments, new verses, angels where some have only God and God where some have only angels. Which do you trust? You'll probably say the Masoretic text since thats what most modern Old Testaments are based on, but some of the others are older. In the New Testament, Jesus makes some quotes from "scripture". Several of the quotes aren't from the Masoretic text, but they are in the others.
not rude at all -- i love discussing these things:). sorry for the delay -- i haven't spent much time on the wiki lately:).

JEPD theory breaks up "sentences" only because the "sentences" are artificial in the first place.

Quite true, but from my perspective, quite beside the point. The point is that JEPD claims different authors for such minute chunks of text that one wonders, "How do those 4 words indicate a different author to you?" And when I read the reasoning to support the division, it usually begs the question. Something along the lines of "The Yahwist always used the word Yahweh, so this little 3 word segment must have been written by the Yahwist." Spectacularly speculative in my opinion:).

The dates, and ages, on which so much accuracy appears to be put, isn't consistent.

Again, quite true, but quite beside the point from my perspective. I don't believe in inerrancy. But I do find it hard to believe that the detailed genealogies were fabricated, and much more reasonable to believe that they were educated guesses, based on sources. The reason I believe this is purely literary: I've never read a fabrication or fiction like Genesis. It reads like an attempted history. Now whether or not those numbers are precise is another question all-together. But there is no question in my mind that the author was making educated guesses and estimates for the ages of people he had some reason to believe existed, and some reason to believe lived as long as he said they did.