Friday, March 09, 2012

Should We Challenge the Beliefs of Our Students?

 
Is it part of our role as university educators to challenge the beliefs of our students? You're damn right it is! That's what university is all about.

Here's what Peter Boghossian says in Should We Challenge Student Beliefs?.
Until two weeks ago, I had been laboring under the naïve assumption that one of the primary goals of every academic was to change students’ beliefs when they were based on inaccurate information. I was awakened from this dogmatic slumber at an interdisciplinary faculty meeting by colleagues who reacted with dismay to my confession that I had tried and failed to disabuse one of my students of Creationist beliefs.

The conversation became more heated when I read to the group what the student had written on her final exam: "I wrote what I had to ‘agree’ with what was said in class, but in truth I believe ABSOLUTELY that there is an amazing, savior GOD, who created the universe, lives among us, and loves us more than anything. That is my ABSOLUTE, and no amount of ‘philosophy’ will change that."

Two of my colleagues, one in the language arts and one in psychology, argued that it was an inappropriate use of my authority to attempt to change this student’s belief; rather, my role should have been to provide her with data so that she could make better decisions.

I countered that both the process that allows one to arrive at Creationist conclusions, and the conclusions themselves, are completely divorced from reality, and that my role was not simply to provide evidence and counterexamples and hope for the best, but to help her overcome a false belief and supplant it with a true one.

Their unanimous reaction to this declaration temporarily made me question one of my basic assumptions about the responsibilities of college educators: Should professors attempt to change students’ beliefs by consistently challenging false beliefs with facts?
I share his frustration. There are far too many university professors who think that the "beliefs" of a student are off limits as long as they have something to do with religion. Those same professors would not hesitate to challenge belief in the superiority of whites over blacks or the efficacy of homeopathy or the validity of supply-side economics.

But it's a different story if a student says that God created the universe 6000 years ago. That belief mustn't be directly challenged because the foolishness of religious beliefs is off limits.

Isn't that strange?


[Hat Tip: RichardDawkins.net]

118 comments :

  1. Science is not supposed to be about beliefs. So I wouldn't challenge student's beliefs so long as their beliefs do not interfere with their understanding of the material taught. And I absolutely do not think that university "is all about" challenging students' beliefs. So they can believe anything they want but if they claim creationist rubbish on the exams they should get poor grade. I don't see any difficulties in keeping science and religion completely separate in the class.

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    1. "And I absolutely do not think that university "is all about" challenging students' beliefs."

      A proper university education involves learning how to think critically. The best way to teach critical thinking is to have students defend their beliefs.

      I disagree profoundly with your belief about university education but I guess you don't want to talk about it, right? :-)

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    2. Of course not - I am perfectly willing to talk about my beliefs about university education. And I strongly disagree with your medieval ideas of universities as scholarly ivory towers. FACT: universities are funded by taxpayers because taxpayers view unioversities' primary goals as vocational training (or, sadly, credentialing outfits). It it were not the case, you'd likely be out of your job.

      If I am paying you to learn about Kalvin cycle and I believe in Flying Spaghetti Monster, I don't give a f* about what you think of FSM or my belief in thereof. And don't waste my time disabusing me of my ridiculous beliefs - if I wanted it, I'd enroll in a class that deals specifically with moronic beliefs by strange people. :-)

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  2. If you are a philosophy instructor (a very soft science, flexible for interpretation) how can you propose to know or persuade anyone of the accuracy of a belief? The quoted statements of Boghossian’s creationist student are in fact absolutely accurate and consistent with Christian doctrine (what some might call, ‘philosophy’). If the student is a young-earth creationist, why not ask her to put her young-earth understanding of science to some simple scientific test. If she wants to, she could also test her Biblical understanding of science by examining any of the resources at Reasons To Believe. There she would find natural science and biblical faith to be congruent. Boghossian’s student knows God and the future He promises. What possible benefit could Boghossian or any naturalist offer the student for her life from a belief in atheism or naturalism – beliefs that will disappear with the certain self-destruction of the universe?

    I have personally heard a naturalist biology professor tell of publicly ridiculing young Christian entering college students. I have first-hand knowledge of another local professor who asked first-day biology students to stand, if they were Christians. He then berated them by saying that he was going to destroy their faith. Both professors had only a selective and ignorant understanding of the Christian faith. Their ridicule was plainly an abuse of power.

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    1. Oh Denny, what a drama queen. Must be tough being a member of the most persecuted majority in the history of civilization.

      The nerve of someone asking you to provide evidence for the turds that you pull out of your backside. And then having the temerity to mock you when you claim that your cloacal offerings have been revealed to you by an invisible friend via a book of bronze age fairy tales.

      If there is a hell then it will consist of being an unwilling spectator to an eternal wankfest of faithheads bitching and moaning about how persecuted they are.

      You are certainly entitled to your own opinions but when you start making up your own facts then expect to get called out for it.

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    2. Denny

      Ridiculing a student to me is off limits. But ridiculing ideas such as a 6000 year-old universe, or such nonsense, I don't see why not. Care should be taken not to make it appear as personal attacks, which is very hard ...

      Interesting that you think that reasons to believe is accurate. I have found them to be incredibly stupid, cherry-pickers, misrepresenters of science in many forms. They start their "articles" almost always by ridiculing "evolutionists" or "materialists-naturalists", claiming that the "evolutionists position is that [some straw-man or complete misrepresentation of what scientists have accepted, proposed, et cetera]." So, I would rather ask the students to find what I would find objectionable in those "articles," rather than letting them think that I accept such bullshit as scientific foundation for anything.

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    3. Denny, you do seem to classify sciences on some kind of Mohr scale! Philosophy being the softest, then presumably biology, then chemistry and physics and mathematics...

      If challenging a particular religious belief is seen as attempting to supplant it by atheism, then there would be cause for complaint. But in science class, one is attempting to educate in a general methodology that relies upon at least attempting to put away your preconceptions and investigate how things are. (I guess one assumption, that the world is capable of investigation by empiricism, is allowed to stand). A student who believed that hedgehogs thrived on cyanide, whose hedgehogs repeatedly died when fed cyanide, yet who persisted in that belief, is probably in the wrong class. But of course you'll bristle (geddit?) at that, because you'll see it as mocking sincere beliefs.

      Creationism is only an issue because there is a succession of individuals with the same belief, influenced by the same sects and holy texts. These beliefs are frequently unshakeable - it is not just that the tutor may be stepping outside the boundaries, but maybe simply wasting their time. Believers think that there are big-C Consequences at stake, and not just some intellectual proposition. And they have extensive support structures - including scientists like Ross and Rana who will make the appropriate soothing noises that biology has got it all wrong. They do so without the stridency of Uncommon Descent, for example, but nonetheless, the intent in fostering "productive dialogue with doubters and skeptics" is unlikely to be to learn anything from them that will modify belief, as opposed to inform strategy.

      But the very notion of "Reasons to Believe" seems a strange one. You have your belief, now here are some reasons why you should hold on to it in the face of scientific discovery. Do you need reasons?

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    4. "What possible benefit could Boghossian or any naturalist offer the student for her life from a belief in atheism or naturalism – beliefs that will disappear with the certain self-destruction of the universe?"

      Is this a question that we can ask undergraduate students? Would they perceive it as a challenge to their beliefs?

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  3. What really sucks is when these purely supernatural beliefs arise in high school. Then you REALLY need to be careful! All religions are state and constitutionally protected cults. I'm all for human rights but I do question freedom of religion and specifically the Charter's freedom of religion. How do we protect children's right of freedom from BS ideas, lies, stupidity etc. The new minister of freedom of religion in Canada is another one that confuses me. It should be the freedom FROM religion minister.

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    1. Really? You really want to give the government the power to tell people which views on religion are right and which are wrong? I would worry that if governments are given that kind of power, it will be used against the children of atheists first in many places.

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    2. The government of Canada tells its citizens that it's legal to have an abortion, it's legal to use contraception (paid by our health insurance), it's legal for gays to marry, it's legal to get a divorce, it's legal to have a blood transfusion, it's illegal to have more than one wife at a time, and it's illegal for the state to murder someone. All of those freedoms conflict with one or more religions.

      Nick, do you think this is wrong?

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  4. I agree that there are many university professors who steer clear of challenging students' beliefs that have anything to do with religion. Many of us were trained to accept the notion that challenging beliefs like this involves both cultural insensitivity and an abuse of power. The professional ethics codes that apply to those of us in psychology address this clearly. Moreover, many universities have policies on religious discrimination that are so vague that they open the door to all manner of complaints along these lines. Having to defend oneself against complaints in this atmosphere is not a pleasant experience.

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  5. Religion isn't science. They can have faith (which is, by definition, based on no evidence) but it is without a doubt absolutely wrong in a science class. If they do not understand the material, you fail them; if they believe science is a philosophy then it's clear they haven't the mos basic understanding of the scientific process and what it entails.

    To paraphrase Jon Stewart here: People mistake "challenging beliefs" with not getting everything they want.

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  6. So would you say professors should generally try to convince all believing students of atheism?

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    1. No, not at all.

      I hope that religious professors will challenge their atheist students and I'll even defend the right of Republican professors to teach students that supply-side economics actually works.

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  7. You can't fix stupid -- Ron White

    Yes, all professors should attempt to disabuse students of wrong thinking and belief. That is the point of the relationship. No belief or notion is sacred or the relationship becomes consumer and tutor with a goal of passing the test. That is not education, that's a diploma mill. If you are not to 'teach' just give them the answers to the test already. An honest student wants to learn in all subjects, not simply those they don't already know about, despite what compromises they make in order to focus their efforts. If a student doesn't want to learn... fail them. That is how the process works. When it doesn't work that way our educational institutions are doing a disservice to the student, to the community, to industry, and worse.. to the educational institute itself.

    The institution's cause should always be: If you just want a diploma we're not right for you. Go see a printer. If you want an education, come see us and bring some elbow grease.

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    1. Yes, all professors should attempt to disabuse students of wrong thinking and belief.

      No. Professors should teach their subjects. No one cares what any professor might think is wrong with students or their beliefs.

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    2. The subject I teach is critical thinking.

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    3. Really? The majority, it would appear, is under impression that the subject you teach is called "Molecular evolution". Those suckers!

      (And I am *not* saying that "critical thinking", however differently it is defined by different people, has nothing to do with understanding of molecular evolution or anything else).

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  8. Larry

    You say you share Boghossian's frustration, but you do not say whether you, in your classes, challenge your students beliefs.

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    1. I do challenge the beliefs of my students. In my course last semester we have an exciting debate about whether human cloning should be allowed. We also debated whether Intelligent Design Creationism was rational and whether it was important to vaccinate your children.

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  9. I think the simplest point to be made is that religious beliefs should not be considered untouchable. And there should not be a tendency to minimize the teaching of scientific ideas even if they run the risk of offending, confusing, bemusing, or upsetting certain students (or their parents).
    In a general science course I teach to first year non-science majors, I give one lecture on evolution where I open with the comment that evolution is genuinely difficult for many to accept for two reasons: first, it is difficult for some to imagine that our ancestors (for example) would not always have looked as they do today and second, a majority of people have been raised within one religious faith or another and most of these teach that all things were created suddenly, as they appear today, and are implacably opposed to alternative ideas.
    Some would consider the latter statement to be an unwise or unnecessary reference to faith...I call it the truth (and an uncontroversial one at that).
    Incidentally, in that lecture I focus a lot on artificial selection and domestication in an effort to show students just how mutable are the morphologies of living things even over short periods of time (I suspect this opens a few eyes).

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  10. Anybody holding beliefs that are wildly contrary to the evidence needs to be challenged in a science classroom. That is the essence of science: challenging our preconceptions and tirelessly exposing them to evidence. If a teacher doesn't actively challenge students' preconceptions, he or she is not teaching the student how to do science. Science is not just about learning a list of "facts". It is about developing an attitude of self-skepticism-- testing one's beliefs constantly and learning not to be afraid to change one's beliefs to better fit new information. I used to teach undergrads in Texas, and I loved to challenge my students, especially when they were showing intellectual laziness by repeating thoughtless young-earth beliefs that their pastors or peers had told them. We are doing a great favor to those students; some of them can be shaken out of their intellectual coma.

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  11. I think most beliefs need to be challenged in general in college, in all sorts of classes, so one can be taught how to think dynamically and critically; that way one can have tools to form and analyze at the very least acceptable beliefs from stupid ones.

    If you challenge a good belief, it's not going to make that belief any less good if it was good to start with. The exercise will just end in a better understanding of why that belief is good.
    But bad beliefs will often not stand up to scrutiny and at least cause some sort of cognitive dissonance in those who do not want to let go of them.

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  12. Well, what's the goal of the interaction with the student? To convince her that there is no God? To convince her that the evidence supporting the fact that the earth is billions of years old and that all of the physical evidence supports that evolution happened? To convince her of that natural selection is a "universal acid" that is applicable to everything (I happened to read PB supporting Dennett in following links from this story)?

    If you think ridicule is likely to convince her of anything, where would you get that from? Your experience of people ridiculing you and your ideas? Tell me how many times you've changed your deepest convictions on the basis of someone ridiculing you.

    So, what's the goal of the teacher? What's an intelligent way to pursue that goal that is likely to achieve that goal? Or is the goal to ridicule the student and make her feel pressured to stop expressing her ideas so the teacher and those who agrees with him can feel smug? Which is what I suspect is usually the real goal of ridicule.

    I remember way, way back, maybe as far back as the fifth grade, my teacher said that it was the teacher's job to open the door but students had to go through it by themselves. If they don't choose to, something I'd imagine they're less likely to want to do if they think the teacher is a lousy, conceited jerk, there's not much you can do about that. I'd be careful about how fairly you grade someone you've publicly humiliated and given them reason to suspect you're bigoted.

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    1. "If you think ridicule is likely to convince her of anything, where would you get that from? Your experience of people ridiculing you and your ideas? Tell me how many times you've changed your deepest convictions on the basis of someone ridiculing you. "

      Nobody said anything about ridicule. It's you who equates "challenge" with ridicule. You are probably one of those people who think that challenging one's religious beliefs is off limits because it insults the believer.

      However, there are times and places where ridicule can be very effective. I've actually been embarrassed on many occasions when someone has ridiculed my beliefs and made me realize that they were pretty stupid. I once believed, for example, that President Obama would actually shut down Guantánamo!

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    2. I wasn't the one who brought up ridicule in the discussion. I doubt that a discussion such as the one imagined, challenging the religious beliefs of this student, in today's ambient university culture would avoid ridicule.

      Do you think you'd not have noticed that President Obama was forced, for purely political reasons, to keep Guantanamo open without ridicule? I think you, as I was, would have been disillusioned without being ridiculed over those kinds of issues. I used to think the right would change due to being coerced through ridicule of their follies but that doesn't seem to have any effect. Their use of Guantanamo to attack Obama was massively dishonest and disingenuous but it wasn't an expression of stupidity. It was evil but not stupid. They care about power and plunder, they don't care about science except in so far as it furthers those ends. It's the easiest thing for them to use evolution dishonestly but effectively to further their real ends.

      I agree with Richard Lewontin in his brilliant essay-review, Billions and Billions of Demons, which you've cited in the past, that the issues surrounding the persistence of creationism are far more political than scientific and that regional and class derision has a part in that persistence. There is a reason that fundamentalism persists, even in those areas of the United States where socialism had a stronger presence than in the North East during the early 20th century. I think it's an even more complicated situation than he mentioned in the essay. I think the assertion that evolution requires atheism, something expressed from just about the beginning of Darwin's circle and asserted repeatedly and with quite a lot of ridicule of religion and religious people all along has had a major contributing role in that persistence. It's hard enough to defend science without the extra ideological baggage heaped on to it by atheists, with that ammunition provided to the right wing, it makes their attack on it easier and the use of it more effective in perusing their real ends that have nothing to do with either science or religion.

      The large majority of people who accept evolution are religious, a considerable number of people who could be convinced to accept it in addition are religious. They certainly have heard the ridicule of their religious ideas already, face it, they aren't going to give it up. If atheists who want to support the teaching of evolution in public schools were as smart as the fundamentalists, they'd use forces instead of fighting them. Which is why I doubt that's their real motive.

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    3. "It's hard enough to defend science without the extra ideological baggage heaped on to it by atheists ..."

      The question is whether science and religion are compatible. I understand that one of the possible answers may not be palatable to theistic evolutionists like Francis Collins but that's not my problem. I want to know the correct answer to the question.

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    4. Well, the only people who could give a meaningful answer to that question are people who are both religious believers and scientists reporting on their experience. Both science and religion exist in the minds of the people containing them and that is the ground of any compatibility or incompatibility. I assume you would acknowledge that people who are religious believers have produced good, at times great science. It would be rather difficult to deny that was the case. I'd think that fact is an undeniable and persistent phenomenon. The problems someone else might find in explaining it doesn't change the fact.

      Perhaps people who insist that it's not possible for religion and science to exist compatibly, in the only place that they both exist, lack an ability that religious scientists have. Maybe it's like tongue curling.

      That's a joke.

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    5. "I assume you would acknowledge that people who are religious believers have produced good, at times great science."

      Yes, of course I acknowledge that. Those religious scientists include fundamentalist Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Mormons, Buddhists, and believers in at least a dozen other gods. There are also atheists who have done some good science.

      Are you aware of the fact that many Roman Catholics are gay, practice birth control, have divorces, and even have abortions? Some Roman Catholic priests have been found guilty of molesting young boys. Does that mean that all these things are compatible with Roman Catholicism?

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    6. I can tell you how child abuse is incompatible with the teachings of Jesus (millstone around the neck) and how it is considered immoral according to the teachings of the the Catholic church - something which, by the way, it would be impossible to do with either science or materialism. I can tell you how it was hypocritical for JPII to shield Bernard Law from the law. But that kind of incompatibility does nothing to dispel the fact that someone can be very religious, even a fundamentalist, and also produce good science that stands up to review and even history. I didn't assert that atheism is incompatible with science, though it's clear that atheists can be inconsistent in their application of the standards of evidence and reason they insist is their creed.

      Is it inconsistent with science for a scientist to gamble. as more than one I know does? To, clearly, display a belief in luck? How about scientists who, clearly, allow their non-religious ideological preferences, their racial or ethnic or gender bigotry to cloud their scientific statements? I'll bet you any amount of money that I can identify numerous suspicious instances of non-religious pollution of published science for any one of clear religious infiltration you could mention. I've made that bet before and haven't lost it. Especially when that ideology is materialistic, it could be sneaked into science a lot more easily than religion, which would have to be quite explicit to be successfully introduced into science. I'd begin with just about everything that's been asserted to deal with "altruism" in evolutionary science over the past forty years. Explaining how generosity is really selfishness, destroying the meaning of the word in order to make natural selection supreme and universal. Then we can talk about "multi-universe" theory.

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  13. I can't help thinking about the space that these posers take up in a science classroom while you're trying to change their beliefs. Wouldn't we be better off to fill that seat with a deserving student who wants to learn science? Do educators at the post-secondary level not have the right to eject these bumpkins?

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  14. If you teach students just the facts and not what the correct interpret ion of the facts is you are essentially teaching them that the evidence does not matter. You simply can't do that in science.

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  15. Larry said, “it's a different story if a student says that God created the universe 6000 years ago.” - I agree. But that’s not what the quote in a quote said. It simply said, creationist. I’m a creationist and I reject the idea of a 6000 year-old universe. I think there was a Sandwalk thread on a similar topic about three years ago concerning a student whose last name was Ross.

    steve oberski said, “but when you start making up your own facts then expect to get called out for it.” - Steve, you didn’t mention which fact I made up. It may have been my statement – “atheism or naturalism – beliefs that will disappear with the certain self-destruction of the universe.” Upwards of 90% of all the galaxies in the known universe have stopped making stars. No stars = no planets. No planets = no life. Of the remaining 10% or so, only a minority spiral galaxies could theoretically be hospitable to life. The odds of life anywhere else in the universe are nil. Just as the universe had a beginning (predicted by the Bible, not naturalists) it will have an end (also predicted by the Bible, not naturalists). The end of the known universe is as certain as can be. Looking at this reality through strictly naturalistic eyes (materialistic too) means that life (our physical lives) and everything about the history of human life will cease to exist. That means that “atheism or naturalism – beliefs that will disappear”, as the lights go out.

    Negative Entropy said, “They start their ‘articles’ almost always by ridiculing "evolutionists" or "materialists-naturalists", claiming that the "evolutionists position is that [some straw-man or complete misrepresentation of what scientists have accepted, proposed, et cetera]." - Yes, they disagree with evolutionistic, materialistic, and naturalistic interpretations of scientific findings. For most in the scientific community, materialism is the a priory view, not a scientific view. That’s why the words scientific and materialism are different.

    DK said, “Science is not supposed to be about beliefs.” Then he said, “so long as their beliefs do not interfere with their understanding of the material taught.” – DK got it right.

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    1. A priory is a taxpayer funded residence for serial sex offenders.

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    2. "90% of all the galaxies in the known universe have stopped making stars. No stars = no planets"

      Even if this is accepted unchallenged, how do you get from "not making stars anymore" to "no stars"? What do you think galaxies are made up of? Even if GM, Ford, Toyota, etc., all stop making cars this morning at 10 a.m., will there still be cars on the road at 10:15? Tomorrow? Next week? Next year? And will there still be drivers in those cars? Life could exist, and continue to exist for billions of years, even in galaxies not currently producing new stars.

      "Just as the universe had a beginning"

      Says who? The big bang necessarily denotes the beginning of the EXPANSION of the universe and its taking on properties of dimensionality and all that that entails (such as the conditions for matter to manifest), but not necessarily the beginning of the universe itself. It's possible for a balloon to pre-exist its expansion.

      "The end of the known universe is as certain as can be."

      Again, says who? The eventual decay of matter is not in an of itself the end of the universe. It's the end of the manifestation of matter within the universe.

      "beliefs that will disappear"

      This also holds true for religious beliefs. And until some metaphysical aspect of personhood that is unaffected by any of this is demonstrated, that's the end of "god", too, because for all evidence, he's just another idea.

      "materialism is the a priory view, not a scientific view"

      This is the same as saying "religion is a priority view, not a religious one". Materialism isn't something you adopt in order to accept science; on the contrary: it's what science demonstrates. If you insist something cannot ever been substantiated by science, then for all practical intents and purposes you're saying it is unreal.

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    3. The odds of life anywhere else in the universe are nil.The odds of life anywhere else in the universe are nil.

      I find it amazing that Mr. Denny can make such a moronic statement. Thus far, more then 600 exo-planets around nearby stars have been found, and the current model of star development predicts that virtually all single stars will have planetary systems; in addition, many multiple star systems may also have planetary systems, although problems with orbital stability will restrict the orbits of such planets.

      As a matter of fact, their would well be life on Jupiter's moon Europa, which appears to have a liquid ocean underneath a thick layer of ice.

      In addition to planets orbiting stars, it has recently been discovered that there are literally billions of rogue planets wandering around the Milky Way galaxy, some of which could quite possibly consist of Jupiter/Europa situations which could support life.

      The question is not whether there is life elsewhere in the universe. The likelihood is nearly 100%. The real question is whether there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. That's a much harder question, as the development of intelligent life on this planet was contingent on the asteroid collision that eliminated the dinosaurs; absent that event, we wouldn't be here.

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    4. In case anyone is wondering about the source of Denny's "90% of all the galaxies in the known universe have stopped making stars" claim, it's from that top tier, peer reviewed journal known as Genesis I where it is claimed that "He also made the stars".

      Denny is not honest enough to admit that he actually thinks that his desert god made the stars on the 3rd day of creation (by the way some time after he created light).

      Same place he get's his creotard blatherings from and I suspect he is a big proponent of a flat earth, geocentric model of the universe, all biblically mandated.

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  16. ...argued that it was an inappropriate use of my authority to attempt to change this student’s belief; rather, my role should have been to provide her with data so that she could make better decisions.

    I think there's a fine (or absent) line between these two approaches. If I were to say to a student something like "Here is a book (or website, or whatever) that contains a large amount of data, arguments, and other forms of evidence that directly contradict your argument for young-Earth creationism. Please read it." am I abusing my authority as an instructor, or am I providing her with data so she can make better decions? Seems like I'd be doing both.

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    1. True. Ultimately, it's a little hard to bring new information to someone's attention that tends to challenge or flat-out contradict the conclusions they've formed in life to that point without implying that they're wrong. But we do that casually every day among friends and family. All the more reason that it should be acceptable to do it formally where the whole point of interfacing is to education the next generation. If we hadn't gotten over the fear (and once, very real dangers) of challenging people's preconceptions, we'd all still be walking around in horse manure and wondering where cholera came from. All the prayer in the world never saved us from either one.

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  17. Allan Miller said, “Denny, you do seem to classify sciences on some kind of Mohr scale!” - No. Astronomers, physicists, and mathematicians are governed by more rigid constants, principles and laws that permit falsifiability - a lot less wiggle room for evolution than with biologists and biochemists.

    Larry Moran said, “Is this a question that we can ask undergraduate students?” - If you going to ask questions testing religion, why not ask questions that test materialism? It’s a religion.

    Brad King said, “Religion isn't science.” - Yes, but. Like science, much of religion is testable. The creation accounts in all the major religions’ holy books don’t approach the reality of science, except for the Bible. The Bible’s twenty chapter-length narrative creation accounts are not inconsistent with natural science findings. (excepting young-earth’ism)

    Larry Moran said, "The subject I teach is critical thinking." - Religion is subject to critical thinking. But, respectfully, you can’t do it if all your time is spent extolling the virtues of atheism.

    Larry Moran said, “The question is whether science and religion are compatible. I want to know the correct answer to the question.” - Yes. That’s the answer. Partly because scientists make science their religion, and partly because the natural world (science) and the people in it contemplate more of themselves that mere material existence.

    anon22 said, “If you teach students just the facts and not what the correct interpretation of the facts is you are essentially teaching them that the evidence does not matter.” - Note anon22’s use of the word “correct” with the word “interpretation.” Doesn’t that mean that the word interpretation does not matter?

    barefoot hiker said, “how do you get from "not making stars anymore" to "no stars"? - Because of entropy. Astrophysicists and cosmologists say the universe will end, but they look for loopholes in multiverse.

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    1. "Because of entropy."

      No, I'm asking how you arrive at the conclusion that because stars may (purportedly) have ceased to be produced in some 90% of galaxies (which I don't believe, by the way), that the galaxies do not nevertheless currently possess billions upon billions of stars, any number of which may nurture life and continue to do so for billions of years more. As per my example, if we quit making cars today, the millions we've already made will still be on the road tomorrow and for decades to come, and they will be inhabited by drivers. So how, please, does even the lack of new star creation in some galaxies equate the lack of life around stars that already exist?


      "except for the Bible"

      Really. A man made out of mud and a woman made out of a spare rib. This is approaches science for you, does it?


      "Religion is subject to critical thinking"

      Yes, indeed! That's where most atheists come from, in fact. It's certainly how I arrived at a firm acceptance of it.

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  18. I love science, and greatly respect scientists, science researchers, and science teachers and professors. I think science is fun. I admire the work they do and their sometimes thankless devotion to it, especially when it’s tedious with only limited long-term pay-offs.

    Anybody that reads published soft-science papers (biological, for example) or their abstracts (which are always cited at Reasons To Believe) knows that evolution is sometimes cited as being an inadequate explanation for what’s observed. If one reads hard-science papers evolution is seldom cited as an explanation for anything. I believe evolution is eminently arguable. But, the materialists want the rest of us to think they are the smartest, because they believe in materialism, not because science says so, but because non-materialists are often religious and not scientific and therefore dumb. (Admittedly! Young-earth’ers contribute to this notion)

    I am quite convinced that the Sun will rise tomorrow morning. I am even more convinced that before the world and universe end through entropy, God will show himself empirically as the God described by Boghossian’s female student. I don’t want to go to Heaven without any of the Sandwalk fans, even Steve Oberski. So I point out the grim certainty of a self-destructing universe that offers no hope for anything more than a meaningless temporary existence. On the other hand, what could be more meaningful than being personally loved by the creator God of the universe, a universe that is the object of worship by materialists?

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    1. "I am quite convinced that the Sun will rise tomorrow morning. I am even more convinced that before the world and universe end through entropy, God will show himself"

      So you're more convinced that something you've personally seen happen well over ten thousand times by now in your life is less convincing as reality than something you have NEVER seen yet in your life.

      Can you tell us on what basis any of us ought to take that seriously?

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    2. @Denny

      because non-materialists are often religious and not scientific and therefore dumb. (Admittedly! Young-earth’ers contribute to this notion)

      Don't sell yourself short Denny. You are single handedly advancing the notion of dumb and religious.

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  19. evolution is sometimes cited as being an inadequate explanation for what’s observed

    Now you're going to have to define what you mean by inadequate. Inadequate for what purpose? If you mean as an entire explanation of biological diversity and as a complete explanation of the entire history of life on Earth, well, of course it is. The subject matter of evolution is rather enormous and largely unknown. I'd think anyone who believes that in 2012 there is any more than a tiny amount that is discovered and studied under evolution. And "tiny" would be an enormous over estimation of the percentage of the relevant natural history that has been covered.

    That evolution happened is so well supported that it should be called a fact, though natural selection is and will always remain a theory (one which I doubt will stand unchanged with increased knowledge). Evolution is "inadequate" in terms of anything like a total explanation but it is the only explanation that covers the evidence. Of course, physics can't entirely describe even a single object exhaustively so evolution is not at a fatal disadvantage in terms of science.

    Of course, no science can deal with information that can't be accurately studied by an honest application of its methods so most of life and the universe will almost certainly always escape human science before we end up driving ourselves into extinction.

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  20. What would you say to a student who indiscriminately agreed on everything that you told him science has found etc pp, i.e. you wouldn't notice the difference between him and an atheist student. They are not creationist, defenders of intelligent design or anything; they completely reject any claims that their religion makes regarding scientific subjects.
    Except that the student told you they still believe God(s) exist(s) - that they cannot tell you what exactly they do or do not do with the world, but that they can still feel their love for each individual? Would you try to discourage them from their belief then, even if it clearly bears only advantages to them and their surroundings? Considering that you have as little disproof as they have proof for something supernatural that stands above physics, since both are by definition impossible?

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  21. I have a question for all the Sandwalk fans, assumed to be naturalists, materialists and atheists. Since ‘evolution’ has explanatory power, how does it explain human free will? An explanation without reference to any other worldview. A scientific explanation about how natural selection produced free will and why.

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    1. You haven't established that human beings have free will, a highly contentious philosophical issue. Please do so now, citing the relevant literature.

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    2. Why do you think that free will actually exists? Could you explain that without reference to christian worldview? Do you think that christian worldview has any explanatory power? Why do you think it had to be natural selection which produced "free will"? Couldn't it be other mechanism? Why do you think evolution has to explain "free will"? Couldn't it be epiphenomenon?

      PS.
      You said, that nothing could be more meaningful than being personally loved by the creator God of the universe. You wrote in your profile that you like to read Bible. Do you think that people murdered by your god and those murdered by his order and in his name were personally loved by him?

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    3. Atheists typically don't think you have free will.

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  22. barefoot hiker said, "Can you tell us on what basis any of us ought to take that seriously?" That's a big question. Here's a short answer. I've tested my faith the same as you tested science and as a result, I have 'Faith' in things I cannot see, just as you have faith in science about things that are not yet seen or known.

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  23. Not a single instance of life elsewhere in the universe is known, the probability of there being "other life" stands at 1x/n. X being the number of places with life on or in it(who says that a planet is necessary?), n being the set of whole numbers from 1 up to a higher number of possible venues in which life could arise. n could be 1(Earth) or it could be a stupendously large number. I'd guess that the probability of getting even one of them up to 10, given the distances involved and taking the limits of speed - not to mention funding - as improbable. Anyone who makes assertions about the probability of life arising anywhere but on Earth is expressing a faith belief, not a real probability. That belief is usually one of materialist faith. St. Carl Sagan asserted that finding life even one other place would be a death blow to religion. I guess in all his sciency brilliance he failed to imagine that his extraterrestrials might be religious.

    It is generally arrogant men who make assertions of probability in this area of speculation, keeping up with the tradition that arrogant men have a hard time admitting that they don't know something even when that is obvious and undeniable. Even getting one of the variables up to 100 would tell you almost nothing about the probability of life arising anywhere else in the universe.

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    1. One way around actually having to travel at light speed to other systems would be to detect large concentrations of molecular oxygen in the atmosphere of other planets, particularly ones otherwise similar to Earth. It wouldn't be conclusive proof of life; it's possible that other processes we don't know about yet could cause the build up of molecular oxygen in an atmosphere, and some other process to break it down again in a cycle not requiring life--but it would at least be indicative, and if it were common enough, it would probably be a persuasive argument for life elsewhere since we do know that life on Earth produces large amounts of molecular oxygen. Since oxygen's keen to combine with almost anything, having it bond with itself in large amounts is at least unusual.

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    2. In theory it's possible to detect signatures of chlorophyll in light reflected from alien planets. I suppose it could be possible to detect signs of any abundant organic molecules created and used by living things.

      I've recently read this article:
      http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/338819/title/Aura_of_life_captured_in_Earthshine

      (I am pretty sure that I read at last one more article on this topic, but I don't remember where.)

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  24. Denny, that's an easy one. Free will, in order to be free, would have to originate outside of any causal network because if it was the product of causality it would be determined and not free. Science only deals with things that exist within a causal network so anything, including free will, that exists outside of causality would be entirely invisible to science. The question of free will becomes most important in political and legal applications so you don't need to worry about the inability of science to deal with it. The consequences of denying that free will and other things like inherent rights are real and that there is an obligation to observe the rights of people who possess those are rather dramatically awful. The history of the denial of those things, the real consequences of observing or denying those in human experience are infinitely more useful than would be scientific tail chasing around the question. Those real life consequences are real in a way that the sciency pretense of addressing them is not. They are real in every possible way.

    As science can only address a limited range of aspects of causality within the physical universe it can't say anything about free will and how it works. It's irrational to think it could.

    By the way, the patron saint of contemporary atheism, Hume, seems to have denied causality was real. I'd like to get around to researching the, I'm guessing tacit, address of that by atheists.

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    1. "As science can only address a limited range of aspects of causality within the physical universe"

      In other words, you mean "among those things we know and can demonstrate actually exist"? Yeah, that's pretty much it. Science really does not deal with causality in places that are not demonstrably real, but merely dreamed up in whatever way happens to please the reveler to do so. The halls of Valhalla? Seventy-two virgins by a spring? Second star on the right and straight on till morning? Philadelphia Cream Cheese on a cloud? No... science doesn't deal with any of that.

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  25. "I've tested my faith"

    How? What experiments did you run, and what controls did you employ to weed out results that merely confirm your bias? Are they reproducible by other objective testers who will be able to replicate your results and demonstrate their validity? If not, then no, you did not "test" your faith in any fashion parallel to science.

    "just as you have faith in science about things that are not yet seen or known"

    Things that are not seen or known are things that are not established. They MAY exist, but until such time as they are demonstrated TO exist, no one ought to live his/her life as though they were real. Cold fusion would be great, but don't ask me to invest in your Mr. Fusion Portable generator till you've demonstrated in peer review that the principle is sound.

    But you're all ready to invest in the Mr. Jesus Spiritual Salvationator simply because they've pitched a good story. But in peer review, the Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs, etc., etc., explain the spiritual issues with it, and science the material problems its basis has. Still, you're willing to back it.

    That's the difference between science and faith.

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  26. "how does it explain human free will?"

    Why does evolution have to explain free will? Free will is an emergent property of sufficiently complex minds. All it is the ability to assess the likelihood or subjective value of a situational set relative to others, and opt for the more preferable one. The choice will vary from being to being based upon that being's life experience, instincts and drives, and operant conditioning.

    But I'd like YOU to explain how free will can exist in in the instance that a creator god is omniscient, and his knowledge is deemed "perfect". In such a situation, not even that god itself, let alone its creatures, is possessed of free will. A being with perfect knowledge, including all future events, is trapped by that knowledge and compelled to simply act in accord with what it knows to be true. If anything deviates from that knowledge, then that knowledge is not perfect, and therefore the god would NOT "know everything". In a world where a god has perfect knowledge, even that god has no free will. It must at some point create you, in full knowledge of everything you will ever do or think or say: it has no choice but to create you because it is compelled by the perfection of its knowledge to do so. And you are compelled in turn by that perfect knowledge to act out all the things known to that god. You have no free will either. A creator god of perfect knowledge is that antithesis of free will.

    Free will, in an instance where there actually is a creator god, is only possible in a situation in which that god's knowledge is not perfect; where its plans can be foiled by the acts and intentions of other agencies... that is, where that being is capable of surprise. There's no point in such sophistry as suggesting a god that temporarily "hides" his knowledge from himself, because even that defeats the perfection of knowledge. Knowledge you lack, even temporarily, is definition imperfect. Free will therefore necessitates a god whose knowledge is not perfect: therefore, neither is the god perfect: therefore, that god is itself fairly subject to moral analysis by other agents.

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  27. Do christians think people have free will? Calvinists don't think so.

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  28. Instead of checking the latest replies in this thread, I listened to a lecture sponsored by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. Mr. Dawkins introduced the lecturer, Lawrence Krauss (funny guy) - both renowned skeptics and mutual fans. The lecture title ended up being, “A universe from nothing.” Mr. Krauss began by saying that the event co-coordinator thought all Krauss’ suggested titles were depressing, and maybe they should just title the lecture, “We’re F…..” That was the point I tried to make regarding Boghossian being troubled by his female creationist’s belief in the God of the Bible, and its eternal proposition based on a personal God vs. a material-exclusive universe that self-destructs with only impersonal implications. The obviously grim picture (worldview) painted by naturalists and materialists beg the questions, why does anything we do matter or have value – as compared to the Bible’s proposition that we only exist materially to discover and experience a greater spiritual reality, not confined by the restricted physical limits (four space/time dimensions) of this world, and which bestows ultimate value on us. Larry opened this thread with, “Should We Challenge the Beliefs of Our Students? If Boghossian’s student was a young-earth’er, then her views of science should be respectfully challenged, because they don’t correspond to scientific reality. But, if I were a naturalist/materialist, I’d be challenging my own beliefs.

    In the lecture “A universe from nothing,” right after Krauss finished his talk with the pronouncement that no one and nothing is special, Dawkins congratulated him for a wonderful talk. Go figure.

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    1. "we only exist materially to discover and experience a greater spiritual reality"

      On what basis is a material existence a requisite of discovering spiritual reality? If anything, it would seem to present an impediment that would obscure a process far better suited to a purely spiritual experience. To me, this suggestion has always made about as much sense as promoting building a tree house to better understand deep sea diving.

      More likely, purely material beings capable of imagining and yearning for a means to escape death tell themselves and one another this pleasing interpretation of what's real and marry it to what's imaginary.

      How is the theoretical (based solely on our current, very incomplete understanding of physics) eventual decay of matter in an ungraspably remote future "depressing" to anyone who faces the reality he or she will have long since ceased to exist? If you can only find meaning in the idea that you'll live, be remembered, and have an impact that lasts forever, I suppose it might be. If you can find meaning in the here and now, and the people around you and the goals you can set and achieve, it's merely interesting.

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    2. "But, if I were a naturalist/materialist, I’d be challenging my own beliefs."

      That's a very nice, very fine definition of science at its best, right there.

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  29. Free will, in an instance where there actually is a creator god, is only possible in a situation in which that god's knowledge is not perfect; where its plans can be foiled by the acts and intentions of other agencies... that is, where that being is capable of surprise. Barefoot hiker

    You're assuming a number of things that aren't warranted. First is that the God able to create the universe would be bound by the limits of human reasoning, there is no reason to believe that would be true. If free will exists, as I believe it does, then it would elude those limits and people aren't God.

    Atheists frequently imagine that a cartoon image of God that is simple to knock over is the God that everyone believes in, when anyone who has ever considered the matter seriously would certainly not believe in that limited God. Then they are surprised when they fail to knock over the God that people believe in. Just about anyone I've read who thinks about it seriously believes that God surpasses human understanding.

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    1. "First is that the God able to create the universe would be bound by the limits of human reasoning, there is no reason to believe that would be true"

      Your argument here is self-defeating; you're appealing to reason (no REASON to believe) in order to argue against reason. Your argument can be dismissed on that basis alone. Nevertheless...

      It is safe to assume it due to the fact that it's an underlying precept of every religion I've ever heard of: they all purport that reason comes from their god, and we can't explain its existence without him. Well, either a god is reasonable, in which case, free will is illusory as per my previous illustration; or else this god is unreasonable, in which case we do not and in fact cannot resort to him as a source for human reason--we can be proud of having arrived at it ourselves. Claiming both to be the case is either Orwellian doublethink or childish petulance.


      "anyone who has ever considered the matter seriously would certainly not believe in that limited God"

      You're certainly right in my case. I've thought it over and no, I don't believe in any of the gods proposed to me yet. As ideas they are not persuasive.


      "Then they are surprised when they fail to knock over the God that people believe in"

      The made-up one whose goal posts have moved and moved and moved throughout history and will continue to do so so long as men fear death and yearn for absolution from things that trouble them and reunion with those they've loved and lost? No, that doesn't surprise me at all. Frankly, it makes me a little sad that people can't face up to reality and cherish what they have while they have it, but are prepared to risk squandering it on the promise of something "greater" after they're dead and have almost certainly ceased to exist.

      Religion, to me, is like growing up believing there's pirate treasure buried in your back yard. It makes you feel grand. You can daydream for hours about the castle you'll build someday, and how people will fawn on you when you're rich. Some people make the mistake (if it can be called that) of digging up their back yard and realizing that no, there's no treasure there after all. They grow up a little and get on with a life without the happy lie. Most people who believe in the treasure, though, know better than to really go digging up the back yard. It's enough just to believe it's there. Especially if deep down, they suspect it isn't.

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  30. Helen, many Christians believe in free will, Catholics and Orthodox do, I believe most protestants do. I would imagine many members of churches denominated as "Calvinist" do, despite what some of their founding theology says. Most people choose their church on other than theological grounds. I would be very careful about attributing a belief to John Calvin on the basis of second hand assertions, though. I've looked at his writing and he was a lot more subtle thinker than he's generally believed to have been. Quakers certainly believe in free will.

    On the other hand, I don't see how anyone who is a materialist could believe in free will or inherent rights, including that rights are equally held by all people. As a liberal-leveler, I don't see how anyone who is an ideological materialist could really be a liberal, finding a kind of libertarian indifference often being mistaken for it. On the other hand, as sophisticated and well read a figure in Calvinism as Marilynne Robinson makes a good case that liberalism was derived from Calvin.

    http://mediafiles.ptsem.edu/audiolibrarypts/2011/8068/mp3/8068MR0411_02.aiff.mp3

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  31. Anonymous said, “Please do so now,” - Unless someone held a gun to your head, your reply illustrates free will.

    Arek W. - Sandwalk space is inadequate for answers to that many questions, especially since I perceive them to be disingenuous vs. inquisitive.

    Arek W. said, “Do you think that people murdered by your god and those murdered by his order and in his name were personally loved by him?”- Yes

    Arek W. said, “Atheists typically don't think you have free will.”- They may not think much about free will, but they exercise it just like anyone else.

    The Thought Criminal - You twice used the term “only” implying that science deliberately limits its observations to the material. Ok, then. But it is a self-imposed limit that deliberately excludes the non-material.

    barefoot hiker - Like Arek W, your questions do not lend themselves to Sandwalk space limits. However, I have lived over 68 years with jobs, marriages, children, grandchildren, death of friends and family, stress, disappointments, cancer, some heartache, some fun, and some time left over to ponder the universe and my existence in it. Life, and the questions that arise that go beyond material. That is where "I've tested my faith," and the claims of the Bible.

    barefoot hiker said, “Why does evolution have to explain free will?”- Because naturalists and materialists say it can, in the absence of anything supernatural.


    Hey! When you you guys get to answer the question, "how does evolution explain human free will??

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    1. "I have lived over 68 years with jobs, marriages, children, grandchildren, death of friends and family, stress, disappointments, cancer, some heartache, some fun"

      Pretty much in line with what I said above about coming to grips with death, etc. Some of us grasp at what we, or others, have imagined. The rest of us accept reality on its own terms and get on with make the most of all that we know for sure we have.


      "Because naturalists and materialists say it can, in the absence of anything supernatural."

      And so I went on to subsequently explain it. What part of what I said do you take issue with? Emergent properties or discernment itself?

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    2. "Arek W. said, “Do you think that people murdered by your god and those murdered by his order and in his name were personally loved by him?”- Yes"

      Really, Denny? In your 68 years, how many of your kids did you murder and/or condemn to eternal torture out of "love"? I'm willing to bet none... correct me if I'm wrong. Most human beings, Charles Manson, Hitler, Ted Bundy, et al. notwithstanding, are morally superior to the god of the Bible. I'm pretty you are too.

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    3. They look like questions, but they are also - partially - answers to your own question.

      We don't know really whether free will actually exists. You take it as granted, but if you think about it for a while, it doesn't make much sense.
      And neither evolution nor specifically natural selection ought to explain "free will" - it could be epiphenomenon, an emergent property of our brains.

      You really think that those people were loved by him? Then I thank God for his nonexistence :P .

      "Atheists typically don't think you have free will." - this is probably some kind of typo. It's actually Starbuck who said that. I could second that, but I don't know if this is typical thinking among atheists.

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  32. I forgot to add that in the Lawrence Krauss lecture titled “A universe from nothing,” Krauss and Dawkins both lamented the fact that today’s entering college students are increasingly taking media type courses instead of science courses. Soon thereafter, Krauss said he hoped to someday give a commencement speech where he could quote Kurt Vonnegut, “Things are going to get unimaginably worse, and they are never going to get better again.” (That’s what Denny said, earlier in this thread.) How in the world can one inspire students to enter the fields of science when your lecture is peppered with human descriptions as “nothing special, insignificant, and irrelevant”, quoting Krauss?

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  33. Denny, science only deals with the material universe. It can't even deal with all of the material universe but only that part of the material universe that can be and has been successfully subjected to its methods. Its methods were designed to study the material universe, its what science was invented to do. Anything more is scientism, not science.

    You should read what A. S. Eddington had to say about the subject. Here's a brief overview.

    http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11636&page=215

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  34. Your argument here is self-defeating; you're appealing to reason (no REASON to believe) in order to argue against reason. barefoot hiker

    No I'm not. I'm acknowledging what reason is and what it deals with and that the belief in a creator God would include that God created reason. Reason is only known to work within human experience of the external world, in so far as that experience deals with the perceivable universe. As far as we know reason is a uniquely human practice. It is certainly limited, as any paradox shows. The popular one about God being able to make a rock too big for God to lift up is illustrative. It makes no sense at all if you assume, as atheists normally do, that God, the author of the universe and reason, is confined within the limits of human reasoning. As soon as you assume that God wouldn't be so confined it's not a problem. The problem is with the limits within which human beings think, not with the idea of an all-powerful God.

    Atheists always underestimate the God that religious believers believe in, it's why they so often get worked up when religious believers fail to go along with their thought games. I'm happy to report that religious people don't have to worry about those classical atheist paradoxes.

    Religion, to me, is like growing up believing there's pirate treasure buried in your back yard. Barefoot hiker

    Perhaps if you weren't so arrogant and had more respect for other people's right to come to their own conclusions you'd have a more realistic view of religious believers in their remarkable variety. Most serious religious thinkers have moved on from 9-year-old level fantasy. I'd guess that there is a larger percentage of religious believers who can articulate their beliefs at an adult, sophisticated level than there are atheists who can articulate their beliefs in an adult manner. "You're stupid" isn't an argument. At least not one anyone should be satisfied with after the 7th grade. The typical blog atheist is a few emotional grade levels lower than that.

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    1. "a creator God would include that God created reason"

      But you posit a god that is unreasonable. How do you propose reason to emerge from an unreasonable source? How are we to understand a reasonable, rational, and predictable universe to be the product of an irrational being?

      "It makes no sense at all if you assume, as atheists normally do, that God, the author of the universe and reason, is confined within the limits of human reasoning

      But to you it makes MORE sense to posit a god who can make a rock too big for himself to lift a rock too big for him to lift a rock to big for him to lift (ad nauseam)? No, I'm sorry, that god is an absurdity; there's no evidence to support such a notion, and no reason to live my life as though there were. If it really is as Luther said, that reason is the enemy of faith, then a modern world firmly based on reason and the successes it's given us pretty much mean to me faith lost the contest a long time ago. The eclipse doesn't send us scurrying to our caves anymore. Or shouldn't.

      "Perhaps if you weren't so arrogant and had more respect for other people's right to come to their own conclusions"

      If you promulgate them in public, you open them to scrutiny and potential ridicule. If you weren't so arrogant in the "specialness" of your position, you'd recognize that. You wouldn't have said that about a political, economic, or preferential point in any other matter. Only when it comes to pirate treasure in the backyard are we not supposed to raise any objections.

      If theists want creationism taught in science classes; if they want to tell women what to do with their bodies; if they want to tell other people who they may and may not love--all on the basis of what they purport their god to think and feel and expect--then they'd better be prepared to produce this god. Frankly the notion that all of the universe was created just so that a tiny sliver of matter could be stirred to consciousness on one very small planet orbiting one very ordinary star in no special part of just another galaxy, all so a bigger versions of us could get upset if we masturbate, or come to the "wrong" conclusions about him, or forget to sufficiently praise him on particular days, is literally ridiculous. It's an idea worthy of ridicule.

      ""You're stupid" isn't an argument."

      Neither is "let's pretend" and just believing whatever you find pleasing. No one who's made it to kindergarten should be satisfied with that game.

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  35. @DK (why cant I reply under the relevant comment which is at the beginning of this thread? The reply link doesn't work for me).

    Jesus christ, throw a f-ing book at the bastards if they want to learn about the Calvin Cycle as an exercise in vocational training (and good luck with that as a valuable contribution to said training). What is wrong with you? University and indeed all levels of organized education has no monopoly on information. Our purpose damn well better be to challenge students on their assumptions...and in the meantime, since education is a life-long process, challenge our own assumptions in the process. This is the value, after all, of a university education. You want facts? Google away, but avoid the discussion parts.

    And if taxes that support education are the price to be paid for an engaged, civilized, just, informed, and educated society..well, lets just keep that our dirty little secret, lest the conservatives find out (I know...too late).

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  36. heleen said, "Do Christians think people have free will? Calvinists don't think so." - It may seem that way. I am not a Calvinist. I think if Calvinists better understood extra-dimensionality, they would not get so hung-up on so-called predestination.

    barefoot hiker said, “On what basis is a material existence a requisite of discovering spiritual reality?” - I don’t know anyone that discovered God outside of a human material existence.

    barefoot hiker said, “If you can find meaning in the here and now...” - I don’t understand how “meaning in the here and now” has meaning, if (materialistically speaking) its destined for nothingness.

    barefoot hiker said, “That's a very nice, very fine definition of science at its best, right there.” - But, why does science challenge beliefs? For what purpose? What’s the point? Is there a need to have a point? Is the point to simply kill time waiting for death?

    Barefoot hiker said, “Free will, in an instance where there actually is a creator god, is only possible in a situation in which that god's knowledge is not perfect” - I don’t understand. A supreme being would likely not create equally supreme beings. Therefore, he would create (by definition) inferior beings. Since he was still supreme, why would his knowledge not be perfect?

    The Thought Criminal said, “Just about anyone I've read who thinks about it (God) seriously believes that God surpasses human understanding.” - I agree. I perceive that many Sandwalk fans either have not done this, or they have rejected what they read, because they fail to resolve the issue of good and evil.

    The Thought Criminal said, “On the other hand, I don't see how anyone who is a materialist could believe in free will or inherent rights,” - Wow! This is new to me. That a materialist (maybe atheist and naturalist too) would deny human free will. Is that because they see humans as “instinctive” as animals?

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    1. "I don’t know anyone that discovered God outside of a human material existence"

      And I'm not convinced that anyone has, either. But it dodges my question: what's the requirement of a material existence when the goal is spiritual, and according to you folks, we spiritually pre-exist corporeality? Again: what's the point of being assigned to building tree houses when the goal is to glean insight into deep sea diving?

      "I don’t understand how “meaning in the here and now” has meaning, if (materialistically speaking) its destined for nothingness. "

      Yes, that's self-evident from your need for imaginary friends who will provide you with a permanent Neverneverland someday. I know you don't get it. Nevertheless, I find meaning in the things I enjoy, the people around me, the goals I aspire to (whether or not I achieve them), and the progress of humanity without requiring any of them to be monuments that will last forever.

      "For what purpose? What’s the point?"

      Because as human beings it pleases us to learn; to identify and solve problems. It's become very fundamental to what we are and how we relate to and enjoy the world around us. What more do you need?

      "A supreme being would likely not create equally supreme beings"

      First of all, why not? If they're as morally superior as he is, they're no threat. Secondly, that wasn't my point. My point was that perfect knowledge implies no deviation from a set of events. There's no choice at all, neither for the possessor of perfect knowledge nor any of his agencied creation, and no free will. You can't choose NOT to do something if you know you will. Whatever you do is what you knew you would. There's no free will in perfect knowledge. It's a boring prison of going through the motions.

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  37. The Thought Criminal said, "science only deals with the material universe. (the) part of the material universe that can be and has been successfully subjected to its methods.” - Yes. I know. But! Atheists, naturalists, and materialists make non-scientific judgments all the time, and they constantly link their judgments to materialism/methodological naturalism. Science and materialism has never tested and disproved God’s existence. Yet Materialists insist that empirical scientific evidence shows that there is no God. My point is similar to one you made earlier. If skeptics made the same testable challenges to the Bible and the historical Christ that they do for science, they would likely find credibility in Christianity. Skeptics seem to cherry pick bad things to mock God and religion without ever seriously contemplating why something is bad or not. Those kinds of questions face all human beings, not simply people who live in the rarified world of science.

    No reflection on you (Thought Criminal), but the claim that “science only deals with the material universe” always seems like a little bit of a cop-out to me. Skeptics are just like everyone else, except for their personal or professional interest in things scientific. Except for that special interest, they must grapple with all the non-scientific ups and downs of life, and they must make sense of how and why we are part of the material world. If materialism has the limits you suggest (and I agree), then what about the non-material? If science is limited to natural science, then what about the supernatural? More than once at Sandwalk, I have seen blogger A not so subtly attempt to silence blogger B, when it seems that blogger B appears to give legitimacy to the supernatural or “mysteries.” Why do materialists censor the non-material supernatural or mysteries that seem to have followed humans from their first appearance?

    I will checkout your suggested link.

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    1. Oh the stupidity. If there is no eternity there is no point. Right. tell me, if there is an eternity beside your god, then what's the point of anything? Why not just wait for your god to come? Why not just let go and then you will be with your god? Also, what's the meaning of anything if everything will be gone and we will have the company of your god? What's the point of having an eternity with your god? Is it meaningful to have an eternity of kissing your god's ass? I am special because "God" loves me? What a shitty way of being "special." One more among billions to be loved by this god.

      See? It's easy to find something meaningless. And it is just as convincing as your "argument."

      Maybe Krauss said so. I don't give a damn. I find it meaningful to be here now. I understand. Even if all will be gone. I am here. So fuck eternity. I am here. You do';t find it meaningful? Fine. I do. You find your eternity meaningful? Fine. But you should be able to notice now that you have no argument other than your personal preference for eternity before meaning.

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  38. In other words, you mean "among those things we know and can demonstrate actually exist.... "? Barefoot hiker

    Oh, really. How much of what recent theoretical physics goes on about can be demonstrated to exist? Demonstrating existence would be the farthest thing from what seems to be on the mind of Hawking who seems to want to divorce physics from its subject matter, the physical universe. How about the Paleolithic behaviors that Dawkins and Dennett and legions of blog atheists are always expressing such faith in? How about natural selection, itself, about which one of the scientists I respect the most said:

    "Such a theory can never be falsified, for it asserts that some environmental difference created the conditions for natural selection of a new character. It is existentially quantified so that the failure to find the environmental factor proves nothing, except that one has not looked hard enough. Can one really imagine observations about nature that would disprove natural selection as a cause of the difference in bill size? The theory of natural selection is then revealed as metaphysical rather than scientific. Natural selection explains nothing because it explains everything."

    http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2011/02/quotations-from-richard-lewontin.html

    Science has frequently and, if the wonderful blog "Retraction Watch" is representative, still does assert much which "doesn't exist". Science has frequently gone off the rails, quite often at the behest of theory, in the past, quite often today on the basis of promissory materialism.

    I'm tempted to go into the essay of another scientist I for whom I have enormous respect, Eddington, and what he said about the relation of the concept of "existence" and science in The Philosophy of Physical Science: The Concept of Existence. But not while you're arguing in terms I'd expect from a 12-year-old.

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    1. "Demonstrating existence would be the farthest thing from what seems to be on the mind of Hawking"

      Yeah, that's right; CERN just spent 20 years and €7.5 billion building the Large Hadron Collider because physicists aren't interested in demonstrating the validity of their hypothesis.

      By contrast, how much has the Vatican spent so far demonstrating that souls are infused at the moment of conception, I wonder? Or, more fundamentally, even that there ARE souls?


      "How about the Paleolithic behaviors"

      Such as?


      "How about natural selection"

      Falsifiable by "rabbits in the Precambrian", for example.


      "Science has frequently gone off the rails"

      So what do you actually mean by this? That from time to time people put forward hypotheses that, when tested, are falsified and demonstrated not to be valid descriptions of reality? That's not science going off the rails; that's the scientific method doing precisely what the scientific method is designed to do. Do you remember cold fusion? Well, that was exactly the kind of thing we're talking about. Scientists attempted to replicate the findings in peer review and couldn't. That's why you don't see countries pouring billions into cold fusion reactor plants. But in the realm of faith, cold fusion would have been proposed, accepted on the basis that it was dogmatic, and right now, supporting sects would be building the plants and insisting that, evidence notwithstanding, they were even now outputting huge amounts of power. But only metaphysical power, of course.


      "But not while you're arguing in terms I'd expect from a 12-year-old."

      Sorry. Should I dumb it down a little?

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  39. Denny asks for a scientific explanation about how natural selection produced free will and why. This is supposing free will exists.
    Since Calvinists derive their idea about the non-existence of free will from Augustine, free will is damned by a major part of the church. I might have my heretics wrong, but I think Pelagius (who advocated free will) has been decried by all of the church.
    The point is that before Denny asks atheists to explain something, he should be certain christians adhere to a position.

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    1. 14God in the beginning created human beings
      and made them subject to their own free choice.
      15If you choose, you can keep the commandments;
      loyalty is doing the will of God.
      16Set before you are fire and water;
      to whatever you choose, stretch out your hand.
      17Before everyone are life and death,
      whichever they choose will be given them.

      Sirach 15:14-17

      From what I understand Orthodox and Nestorian Chritianity were't all that impressed by Augustine. Even in the Roman Catholic church which, after all, considers Augustine a saint, people are held to have free will. It's in the official Catechism.

      Most of the denial of free will, inherent rights, etc. I've read has been on the basis of materialism. I don't know of any Christians who believe we are just "meat automatons" or "lumbering robots controlled by genes" but I've read, oh, I'd guess hundreds of atheists who believe that kind of stuff. And they assert that they "know" it because "science" has "proven it". I don't see how even those materialists who rely on quantum indeterminacy as providing a possibility for free will can be consistent. If they are going to base such an important consideration on non-regular and random events in the physical world, it would seem to me to open the door to all orders of non-determinate events in the universe, even those so rare as to constitute what some would call "miracles". If they are going to liberate quantum indeterminacy (and the brilliantly asserted biological indeterminacy that Lewontin has talked about) having a real effect in the universe at the level of our perception, I don't see any way to limit that to preferred topics.

      But, since there is absolutely no evidence that consciousness is governed by physical laws, I'm rather open to allowing a far higher level of regularity in physical existence while recognizing that that regularity doesn't restrict consciousness. I think the insistence that consciousness is governed by physical law was never based on unbiased observation or was an obvious intuition but is more likely the result of university politics when some professors wanted to start getting their dabbling in psychology funded and made part of the curriculum. The results considered as "science" have been unimpressive for a century and a half.

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    2. "Most of the denial of free will, inherent rights, etc. I've read has been on the basis of materialism."

      They didn't ever cover Calvinist predestination in your philosophy classes?

      What happened to free will when God hardened Pharaoh's heart against letting the Jews leave so he could show off what a big powerful mofo he was? That was a literal denial of free will. There's no disputing that.

      But in terms of an effective denial of the right to make and live by one's own choices:

      What happened to the free will of the people building the Tower of Babel?

      What happened to the free will of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah (as opposed to anywhere else on Earth where the people weren't interfered with)?

      What happened to the free will of the millions and millions of people, many of them innocent newborns who had not even formulated their first wicked deed or even thought, in the flood that killed off all but eight drunken, incestuous members of mankind?

      What happened to the free will of Adam and Eve to simply dwell at peace in the Garden even knowing the difference between good and evil (an arguable requisite to having and utilizing free will in the first place)?

      Now, please... don't waste your time mulling these over, because you might come to some disturbing conclusions about your faith. Just trot out the pat answers you've learned by rote. Tell us all about how your god is a big respecter of our free will--even though he's going to torture us forever should we ever choose to exercise it and deviate in the slightest from the otherwise robotic existence free will supposedly spares us from while ironically being the ONLY one ultimately acceptable to him--while denigrating that set of materialists who may have concluded that causality obliges that free will might simply be illusory.

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    3. "I think the insistence that consciousness is governed by physical law was never based on unbiased observation"

      As opposed to what? The insistence that it's some supernatural phenomenon rooted in a place you can't go, have never seen, and can in no way establish as real, but are going to assert as part of reality anyway? Really? You think that's a sound footing from which to suggest materialism is merely a BIAS instead of a working process?

      When you humbly grant the (self-evident) proposition that physics applies to all of of space EXCEPT that between your ears, you feel you've got license to criticize others for engaging in special pleading when they (you, actually) propose quantum uncertainty as a model for free will as opposed to one that bases its validity on the proposition that there's a bearded man who lives outside of everything and anything handing out intangible "get out of being a fleshbot free" cards to blastocysts?

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  40. Heleen. - The following is only one theological definition of the term “free will”, which I draw from the Christian Research and Apologetics Ministry website.

    “Open Theism states that God has granted to people free will and that in order for this free will to remain free, God cannot know ahead of time what the choices of people will be. They reason that if God knew a future choice of a person, then that person would not be truly free to choose anything different when the time comes to make that choice. Therefore, they say, ‘If God knows the future free will choices of people, then it means that free will doesn't really exist.’”

    This definition is self-limiting. Because, it assumes that God is confined to linear time, as we are: “God cannot know ahead of time.” This is what I meant earlier by Calvinist’s faulty understanding of dimensionality. (They can’t really be faulted, because they didn’t know. Hardworking scientists hadn’t discovered dimensions yet.) God is outside of time. Neither the future nor the past applies to him – Only for the universe and us. God wants to be loved (not out of need, but mutual unselfish love). God wants to be loved freely, not out of some scientific dimensional or denominational/theological straight jacket. While God’s sovereignty gives him power to cut someone off from free will and therefore the ability to love him, I believe consistent with 2 Peter 3:9 and the whole of the Bible’s message: “The Lord …, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” For repentance to reflect true love it requires genuine free will.

    Therefore, using the (non-denominational) term, the way all people, Christian or otherwise, would understand it, I continue to ask how materialists view free will from an evolutionary perspective. Or, how and why would a materialist refrain from the use of the term, in application to their life?

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    1. Denny, are you going to address my question? How and why is a material aspect to existence a requisite to the understanding of spiritual verities when it so obscures the process that to billions of human beings, the spiritual realm isn't even credible at all? Well?

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    2. "I continue to ask how materialists view free will from an evolutionary perspective"

      Yes, you'll continue to pretend this hasn't been answered, even though it has. And I quote from my answer above:

      "Free will is an emergent property of sufficiently complex minds. All it is the ability to assess the likelihood or subjective value of a situational set relative to others, and opt for the more preferable one. The choice will vary from being to being based upon that being's life experience, instincts and drives, and operant conditioning."

      Delete
    3. barefoot hiker asked, “How and why is a material aspect to existence a requisite to the understanding of spiritual verities when it so obscures the process that to billions of human beings, the spiritual realm isn't even credible at all?” – barefoot hiker, I’m not sure I understand your question completely. There are many things that provide the verities of spirituality of the Christian variety. The Bible, much like scientific theory, made (successful) material predictions, as far as 4,000 years before scientific evidence verified them. For example;
      · The Big Bang (cosmological beginning to the universe) vs. traditional naturalistic steady state existence.
      · The laws of physics, “If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed laws of heaven and earth,” (Jeremiah 33:25)
      · The coming of the Messiah, Jesus, is surrounded in verifiable evidence.

      The billions of human beings who think the spiritual realm isn't even credible must be being in multiverses. A basic check of the earth’s religions indicates about 2.3% is atheistic or 11.9% non-religious. However, I don’t think it’s very scientific to treat spiritual verities as a popularity contest.

      In short, if one has a material body, one can evaluate experiences that point to the spiritual.


      barefoot hiker, - If free will is emergent property, what situational logic would cause anyone to choose a hopeless belief system like materialism, whose great minds (Dawkins and Krauss) say that human existence is “nothing special, insignificant, and irrelevant”, and nothing to look forward to except “Things [becoming] unimaginably worse, and they are never going to get better again.” (Krauss delightedly quoting Kurt Vonnegut) - When the spiritual realm, through Christianity, delivers hope. A hope, which at the very least cannot be scientific falsified (as myths can be), and a hope that offers unending life for body mind and spirit - outside the suffering conditions of the known world.

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    4. "Jeremiah 33:25"

      So the guy these people invented to invent the universe also claims to have created the rules by which it runs? I would have thought that would be self-evident in any case. I'm not impressed. If he'd given the value of the gravitational constant, the precise speed of light, said something definitive about the nature of the atom and headed off centuries of pointless alchemy, that might have a beard-stroker. But a guy saying "I made all this and I made the rules" is fourth grade fiction writing, not science.


      "The coming of the Messiah, Jesus, is surrounded in verifiable evidence."

      Like? And please, not Bible quotes. Something else. And not Josephus, who mentions Jesus precisely twice, and once in what's widely accepted to be an interpolation by later scribes. A report from Pilate back to Rome? A mention of all the dead folks wandering the streets of Jerusalem (you'd think people would remember THAT one)? Mentions of the Star of Bethlehem outside the Bible, particularly in the observations of distant cultures? No? None of that? None of the sorts of things historians tend to look for and FIND when they're confirming the veracity of an account?


      "I don’t think it’s very scientific to treat spiritual verities as a popularity contest."

      Apparently you do, or you wouldn't be looking for numbers to support your position. You and I both know there are millions and millions of nominal Christians (et al.) who show up in the pews because it's good for the kids, or the spouse expects it, or they live in communities where their business would suffer if they didn't, or they've always gone and can't admit the whole thing stopped making sense to them years ago... all without really believing it's true; simply going through the motions. Now what is the point of THAT if the idea was to gain spiritual insight? It tends to contraindicate it as the kind of effective plan a "perfect" being would come up with.


      "what situational logic would cause anyone to choose a hopeless belief system like materialism"

      First of all: materialism isn't a "belief" system. It's an acceptance of what can be demonstrated to be real. There's no faith involved; it's the antithesis of faith. We're all from Missouri, as they say. "Show me."

      As for hopeless, there are lots of things to hope for besides opening your eyes after you die and seeing Grandma there with an apple pie and wings (either on her or the pie). If that's all you've got to hope for in life, you have my sympathies.

      But to answer your now mineswept question... A situation in which people like you haven't convinced people like me your god exists as anything but an imaginary friend largely mutually accepted by others with the same fears belief in him soothes in you. That said, that has nothing to do with free will. I didn't CHOOSE not to believe in your god, any more than you chose not to believe in unicorns or Bigfoot. I don't believe because the stories and claims are not persuasive to me. They're largely ludicrous. And the best part is, you've reached the same conclusion, for all the same reasons, about all the gods you've ever heard of, EXCEPT ONE. And the same is true for every theist... Muslim, Jew, Sikh, Hindu (in their case, "ones"). If you were just able to turn the spotlight you shine on the absurd claims of every other religion around and shine it uncritically on your own, you would see how absurd it all is.

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    5. barefoot hiker said, "If he'd given the value of the gravitational constant, the precise speed of light, said something definitive about the nature of the atom - If God had given that information 2,000 to 4,000 years ago, who would have understood it?

      barefoot hiker said, Like? And please, not Bible quotes. Something else. - OK, hiker. If you are honest in your question, citing only one source ("The Case for Christ," by 'former skeptic,' Lee Strobel) here are a few areas of evidence.
      - Eyewitness evidence
      - Documentary evidence
      - Corroborating evidence
      - Scientific evidence
      - Rebuttal evidence
      - Medical evidence
      (Good Reading!)

      barefoot hiker said, "You and I both know there are millions and millions of nominal Christians (et al.) who show up in the pews because it's good for the kids, or the spouse expects it, or they live in communities where their business would suffer if they didn't, or they've always gone and can't admit the whole thing stopped making sense to them years ago..." - This isn't skepticism. It's cynicism.

      barefoot hiker said, "First of all: materialism isn't a "belief" system. It's an acceptance of what can be demonstrated to be real." - What about the things that can't be demonstrated but are known to be real, like love or hate, hope or despair, regret or satisfaction?

      barefoot hiker said, - On what logical basis or by what materialistic reasoning would a materialist offer me their "sympathies.”

      barefoot hiker said, "I don't believe because the stories and claims are not persuasive to me. - Respectfully, read Strobel's book or Tim Keller's "The Reason for God." If you remain a skeptic, it's because of your free-will choice, not lack of evidence.

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    6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    7. "barefoot hiker said, - On what logical basis or by what materialistic reasoning would a materialist offer me their "sympathies.”"

      I didn't say that. I expect that's you. But I can answer it anyway. Because I'm a human being and there's an empathic element to my nature that motivates me to first identify with another being suffering, to some extent to mirror and thus share that being's distress, and to seek ways to ameliorate it in us both. Some animals do this and some don't. We happen to be one of the ones that does. "Logic", by the way, doesn't have to be a component of it. It's rooted in instinct and for creatures like us it's had a survival value. It can be hijacked by other considerations. Risking your life saving your dog wouldn't promote the passing along of many genes similar to yours; there's not much logic in it. But the need to respond to, or prevent, suffering in others is a powerful urge in human beings and many higher animals.


      "Respectfully, read Strobel's book or Tim Keller's "The Reason for God.""

      Have you read God Is Not Great or The God Delusion yet?

      I took Christian instruction as an adult, in my 30s. I'm entirely informed as to core Christian beliefs. I find majesty and beauty in the liturgy, in service, and the language of the King James Version. But none of that made it real. None of that makes the claims of the religion credible to me. I know what they are. They simply are not believable.

      Consider the claims of Islam. Can you make yourself believe them? Well, there. That's what I'm talking about.

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    8. "If God had given that information 2,000 to 4,000 years ago, who would have understood it?"

      Oh, I see, but if he tells us 2000 years ago that Israel will be recreated, well that's a MIRACLE and it proves he's real. And yet, no one seemed to really understand that one till it came to pass. Didn't seem to bother him that people wouldn't understand THAT one till the time was right; why make an exception for the more solid proofs that I proposed? I'll tell you why. Because the people who made up the Bible could conceive of a country being conquered and rising again... Israel had already done it once (the Babylonian Captivity). But they had no idea light even HAD a speed, let alone what it was, so they didn't write a lot about that kind of thing.

      It doesn't always work, though. Ezekiel told the people of Tyre their city would, upon conquest, be flattened, turned into fields, a place where fishing nets would be cast, and it would never be rebuilt. Except... Tyre still exists today. It was never destroyed; it's been continually occupied since the time of Ezekiel and over 100,000 people live there.

      That kind of boo-boo might also explain why people doubt the claims of divinely-inspired prophecy in the Bible.


      "Eyewitness evidence"

      Who? Anyone OUTSIDE the Bible?


      "Documentary evidence"

      Like? We've ruled out the Bible and Josephus, remember.


      "Corroborating evidence"

      Like?


      "Scientific evidence"

      Such as? (This will undoubtedly surprise a lot of scientists.)


      "Rebuttal evidence"

      I think ALL of what you're talking about is supposed to be a "rebuttal", isn't it?


      "Medical evidence"

      Like?


      Sorry, I'm not interested in reading Strobel's book just to do YOUR homework for you. If you have, then you know what your points are. Give us the Reader's Digest version.


      "This isn't skepticism. It's cynicism."

      I don't care what arbitrary, subjective label you want to calumny it with; it is what it is. And it's reality. A lot of nominal Christians do not believe the core tenets of Christianity, and many don't even believe in God. But they have reasons for keeping that to themselves. I'd like them to be free.


      "What about the things that can't be demonstrated but are known to be real, like love or hate, hope or despair, regret or satisfaction?"

      Why do you think those things can't be demonstrated? How would we recognize them in anyone other than ourselves if they couldn't be demonstrated to us in the first place?

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    9. Barefoot hiker said, “Give us the Reader's Digest version.” - This is not a fair response to something that shows up in all human activity for as long as there have been humans. But, here’s my Reader's Digest version, quoting my friend, David.

      “Any attempts to ‘prove’ God or a Creator must labor under God’s desire that the just shall live by faith not scientific fact. All God would have to do is gently remove the roof from the building you are now sitting within and say, “Boo” … to provoke you to worship Him. But this very action would negate our ability to choose and make it some category of “forced belief.” What God does is leave His “fingerprint” on science and His convicting power within our hearts … and says, “Won’t you trust Me?”

      Conversely, Bertrand Russell said: “That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; . . . that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins--all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built” - End quote.

      ”If naturalism is true, Russell's point seems to be irrefutable.

      ”Whatever you do in this life is, objectively and ultimately, without any trascendence or meaning. You're esssentially, radically and basically (in an ultimate sense) nothing (or more precisely, you come from nothing, and your ultimate end will be literally nothing... being your current existence a mere insignificant cosmic accident, without any ultimate trascendence, meaning or purpose at all).”

      Read the link I have provided and you will see it’s not Denny talking about worthlessness, it’s a renowned naturalist and atheist. Add this to my quotes by Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins in “Should we challenge the beliefs of our students” (Sandwalk, Friday, March 09, 2012), and it’s hard to see what so good about skepticism.

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    10. "to provoke you to worship Him. But this very action would negate our ability to choose and make it some category of “forced belief.”"

      He didn't have any problem doing it in the Bible. Off the top of my head I know that he (reputedly) appeared to Adam, Moses, and Jacob; he spoke directly to Ezekiel, Job, and Paul; he sent angels to speak directly to Lot and Mary; he interfered DIRECTLY with Pharaoh's free will; and, best of all, he showed up IN PERSON and wandered around performing miracles in public for three decades. Apparently he didn't oblige THOSE people to "just trust me". But suddenly he can't life the roof off my house and say "Hi, know you've been struggling with this; here I am; see you later"? Why not? Sorry, that's entirely contradictory. But that's what it takes to believe this stuff... world-class doublethink.


      ”If naturalism is true, Russell's point seems to be irrefutable."

      Yeah, and? So I can accept that the things we know, and we ourselves as beings, are ephemeral, and live my life anyway; and you can't, and cling to a fable about an unsubstantiated escape hatch, with all kinds of baggage that you want the rest of humanity to bow to and be obliged by. But no, sorry, not till he lifts the roof and says hi. Not till Bigfoot shows up after hitching a ride into Kamloops. Not till a unicorn wins the Kentucky Derby. Not till the aliens show up at Devil's Tower and offer us a spin around Jupiter. I won't live my life as though any of these things were real when I haven't been convinced that they are. Neither should you.


      "You're esssentially, radically and basically (in an ultimate sense) nothing"

      I'm here, now. I exist. I'm doing these things. I find things I enjoy and do them; I have principles I stand up for; I try to improve the lives of the people around me. That's meaning enough for me. If it's not carved in stone for someone to read about 50 trillion years for now, so what? I will have long ago ceased to be or to care. But right now I do exist and there are things I care about; there are people today and in the next hundred years or two whose lives I can affect for better or worse by my choices; and that's where anyone's honest and legitimate focus should be.


      "it’s hard to see what so good about skepticism."

      It keeps you from being a sucker who has to accept anything anyone proposes to you by default. You're skeptical about most things (you haven't sent your bank account information to anyone in Nigeria lately... have you?). Just not consistently.

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  41. The Thought Criminal. – I find your comments interesting and puzzling. If I succeed in getting my mind around all that you’re saying, I’ll reply. Otherwise, the unseasonably warm weather has overtaken me and I am obliged to address my outdoor to-to list for my wife’s sake. As it concerns Larry’s initial question, and taking into account the replies in this thread, plus the considered opinion of Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins, it’s clear that no matter how one answers the question, “Should we challenge the beliefs of our students,” the question is moot - Because in the end, from a strictly materialistic perspective, it doesn’t matter. Attempting to change someone’s belief has no ultimate point whatsoever.

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  42. Barefoot hiker, I'm not a biblical fundamentalist, I wasn't brought up as one. I am not that favorite atheist figure that is so easy to knock over. I just pointed out that Christianity is a far more varied thing than atheists wish it was for the same reason.

    There never was and is not any evidence that consciousness follows anything like physical law. That assumption of psychology has produced a century and a half of some of the lousiest junk called science in the history of science, consumed by some of the most credulous of atheists. You might want to read Marilynne Robinson's essay "The Freudian Self" for a short commentary on that. You can here her read it here, but it's better to read it.

    http://www.yale.edu/terrylecture/robinson

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  43. "I just pointed out that Christianity is a far more varied thing than atheists wish it was for the same reason."

    Oh, you've got my vote there. I've never seen so many different conflicting versions of the same religion, all claiming the padlock on inerrant truth. What are there now, 12,000, 20,000 Protestant denominations worldwide? That's varied, alright. Not all that inspiring of confidence, but... varied, yes.


    "There never was and is not any evidence that consciousness follows anything like physical law."

    There's all kinds of it. You just don't want to credit it because it would tend to snuff out that little candle of spiritual light you feel the need to assert (speaking of "not any evidence") is at the root of identity.

    If consciousness and identity are not based on a physical aspect, why does damage to the brain change personality and identity, such as the case of Phineas Gage?

    How is it that neurologist V.S. Ramachandran can report that one of his patients with a severed corpus callosum exhibited a right brain hemisphere that believed in God, but a left hemisphere that was atheist? Is just half of that person going to hell? Did God FedEx a spare soul down when the connection between the brain hemispheres was severed--and if so, to which hemisphere? Which is the one with the life experience that's going to be judged?

    What is the use and purpose of the brain at all? Why does a spirit need a brain to control the material of a body, when in order to do so, it must have a way to control the material of the brain in the first place?

    If a soul is holistic, the homogeneous kernel of identity, why are particular parts of the brain demonstrable as localizations of specific functions on MRI scans, consistent from person to person and even from species to species? How is it even possible for some aspects of consciousness and identity to be lost when these local areas are damaged if consciousness and identity are not aspects of physicality?

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    1. barefoot hiker said, "There's all kinds of it." (evidence that consciousness follows anything like physical law." – Since you speak as a materialist, what are materialism’s logical answers for:
      - How do you get more complex (DNA information) from earliest most simple organisms (without outside intelligence)?
      - How can the more complex effect result from a less complex cause?
      - How do you get order (our universe) from randomness (evolution and natural selection)?

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  44. "How do you get more complex (DNA information) from earliest most simple organisms (without outside intelligence)?"

    What does that have to do with the material basis of human consciousness?

    Never mind. Denny, there's nothing mysterious about induced complexity. It happens all the time. Draw a breath. There. You've just converted billions of O2 molecules into C02, which is--tah dah!--more complex. That wasn't so hard, was it? Or do you actually suppose that required your god to come down and frantically push all those molecules together? No wonder he doesn't answer prayers, then.

    The point is that atoms and molecules have propensities resulting from the number of electrons they have to form greater and greater molecules, and carbon is particularly prone to it, so, what a surprise, we wind up with a myriad of very complex carbon-based molecules we class as "organic". There's nothing magical about it. It's based on how positive and negative ionic charges interact.

    And I still don't see what it has to do with the suggestion that consciousness necessitates a supernatural element, or why you continue to insist on it while ignoring all the questions I asked that tend to disestablish the idea.


    "How can the more complex effect result from a less complex cause?"

    Fine, where did your god come from? He's supposedly complex; if complexity alone necessitates a creator, who created him? And then who created that guy? And who created THAT guy? Etc., etc., etc.

    But if you can just insist your god always existed, why not save a step and just conclude the universe always existed in some form and didn't need a creator either? There's nothing I know of that rules it out. So what need for your "creator" (or his creator, or his creator's creator...)? I'll tell you what the need is. It's so you can tell other people to live their lives as suits you, and so you can tell yourself you're not really going to die. That's about it.


    "How do you get order (our universe) from randomness (evolution and natural selection)?"

    You've got it backward. The order of the universe doesn't arise from evolution and natural selection. Evolution and natural selection arise from the order of the universe. If the universe didn't happen to have properties consistent with them, then we simply wouldn't be here to care about the matter in the first place. Again, I don't see the need for an invisible bearded man outside the universe who frets about what humans do when they're naked to explain order in the universe.

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  45. barefoot hiker said, “there's nothing mysterious about induced complexity………..” - So, barefoot hiker, we’re material robots. Right?

    barefoot hiker said, “Fine, where did your god come from?” – He’s self- existent. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be an uncreated God. Rather, he’d be like us – created.

    barefoot hiker said, “why not save a step and just conclude the universe always existed” – Naturalistic scientists have determined that the universe has not always existed, and I’m sure that you know the scientifically accepted facts for that non-religious determination.

    barefoot hiker, - your reading material must be very parochial, if you do not know that materialistic scientists’ own discoveries make the case for design stronger each day vs. a case for random chance.

    barefoot hiker said, “It's so you can tell other people to live their lives as suits you,” – I have no desire to tell anyone how to live their life. On the chance that there is an (metaphysical) existence after death, with a timeless life, I also have no desire that you or anyone should miss the opportunity (life on earth) to join in a life not constrained by time and space and all that is imperfect about this ‘material’ life.

    barefoot hiker said, “so you can tell yourself you're not really going to die.” – Only my body will die. I will not.

    barefoot hiker said, “You've got it backward. The order of the universe doesn't arise from evolution and natural selection. Evolution and natural selection arise from the order of the universe.” - OK then. How does a proposed natural unguided system (evolution) that improves everything over time, end up in a universe that has been scientifically determined to be certainly self-destructing?

    barefoot hiker said, “If the universe didn't happen to have properties consistent with them, then we simply wouldn't be here to care about the matter in the first place.” - But we are here. And I propose that with God, there is a reason why. Without him, this discussion and our physical existence has no reasoned worth. My guess is that few people you know view their lives as having no worth. In this thread, it seems to me at that’s what materialism leads to. Temporary worth is no worth.

    barefoot hiker said, “Again, I don't see the need for an invisible bearded man outside the universe who frets about what humans do when they're naked to explain order in the universe.” – Your notion of God is juvenile.

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    1. Denny,
      let me loosely summarize what you've already said. You may of course correct me if you think that I distorted your words.

      ... it seems to me at that’s what materialism leads to. (to view our lives as worthless)
      You've been told many times that we (materialists of all sorts) think, that our lives are meaningful.
      But you still insist that materialism makes us to view our lives as having no worth.
      You accused me of being disingenuous. What should I call you?

      You've been told, that eternal life could also be perceived as meaningless.

      "Temporary worth is no worth."
      Then you could send me your money? They are worthless, right?

      You said that God loved those people who he killed, or who had been killed by his orders.
      Total nonsense for anyone with healthy notion of what love is. Someone who is killing his childred and makes other childred kill each other is not loving and caring father. He is psychopath. But that doesn't convince you, because God is good, therefore everything he does is - by definition - good.

      You said, that the Bible predicted Big Bang and laws of physics.
      This is nonsense for anyone who actually read the Bible and know something about science (and can think for himself). Bible contains many vague fragments which can be "interpreted" to mean anything you want. But of course this doesn't convince you, because Bible says that Bible is true, right?

      He’s self- existent.
      Why the universe couldn't be "self-existent"? Why it need to be created by someone who doesn't need to be created?
      Only because you think, that without him your life is worthless?

      Naturalistic scientists have determined that the universe has not always existed
      AFAIK science doesn't say that. It only says that our local, visible cosmos started to expand 13.7 bilion years ago.
      But I am not an expert, so feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

      You also said, that there is verifiable evidence about the coming of the Messiah. Outside the Bible of course.
      Eyewitness evidence, Medical evidence, etc...
      I'll repeat after barefoot hiker: Like?

      It appears that - for example - eyewitness evidence is from early christians, who lived more than a century after Jesus.
      Indeed very convincig.

      You are not really interested in reality, are you? All you need is to know the Absolute Truth.
      Real truth can be sometimes fuzzy and hard to figure out, but personally I think it's worthy even if it leads to uncertainty.

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    2. "we’re material robots. Right?"

      Define "robot" in this instance.


      "He’s self- existent."

      Fine; that's my position on the universe; it doesn't require your invisible friend to exist. The difference is I can at least show you the universe is real. So let's call that one done and move on, shall we?


      "Naturalistic scientists have determined that the universe has not always existed"

      Where?


      "your reading material must be very parochial"

      Well, if that's not the Bronze Age pot calling the Space Age kettle black... No, Denny, it really doesn't prove design. Every year, the evidence for abiogensis gets tighter and more convincing. Every year, more fossil finds fill in important gaps that confirm the transitional forms evolution predicts (for instance, tiktaalik and ambulocetus). Every year, more mapped genomes of other life forms demonstrate the common threads of a common fabric of life and point to a common origin for it. And every year, people like you stick their fingers deeper in their ears and hum centuries-old Christian hymns as loud as you can, ignoring the evidence and telling people like me, who know it exists, and it doesn't. You must be mad.


      "“so you can tell yourself you're not really going to die.” – Only my body will die. I will not."

      See? Now, what evidence is there for that, other than your dad pointing to a book his dad pointed to, that his dad pointed to, that his dad pointed to... ever meet anyone who died? Ever sat down in a restaurant across a table from Jesus and actually hashed it all out? Or did you just take everyone's word for it because that way you don't have to face the scary reality of it?

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    3. "a universe that has been scientifically determined to be certainly self-destructing"

      Well, that's just it, Denny, we DON'T know that yet. There's a whole lot about the nature of the contents of the universe we don't understand or even know yet. Just at the moment what we know tends to point to eventual heat death, but as you'd be oh-so-quick to point out in other circumstances, that's at odds with what science purported to "know" just a few decades ago. Given that I expect we're still thousands of years away from understanding the universe to the level of certitude you're happy to suggest exists now (and, by the way, why are you so eager to pretend to accept the word of science in THIS case, but not on the matters of abiogenesis or evolution?), I don't see the need to assume that as ironclad even with what do know at the moment. That said,...

      Natural selection works like this. When a mutation arises in a population, it can have one of three effects. It can be prejudicial to the survival of the individuals that have it in its environment; it can be beneficial to the individuals who have it in its environment; or it can be neutral in its expression in a given environment. In the latter two cases, it will tend to be passed on, but in the second case, generally more and more successfully, until it becomes the norm. In the former case, it tends not to be passed on and will usually be weeded out by environmental pressures. Take for instance the example of light skin. When we left Africa hundreds of thousands of years ago, it's very likely we had dark skins. That's important in an environment of strong, direct sunlight. But in Europe, where there's less sunlight and it comes at an increased angle, it's less of an advantage because it tends to eliminate the UV light the skin uses to produce vitamin D, and the result is rickets. Now, if a child is born with a lighter skin, he will be slightly less likely to develop rickets, and thus slightly less likely to die relative to someone more prone to it. Over many generations, that advantage will accumulate, until eventually the norm is a lighter skin. That's an example. And I think you already know that, Denny. I think that's already clear to you. You just need to pretend it's not because feigning ignorance of something people have known and talked about for a hundred years before you were born is kind of a defence mechanism for people like you.

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    4. "But we are here"

      Yes, we are, but all that establishes is that we happen to inhabit a universe amenable to life in this form. For all we know, there may be innumerable arrangements capable of supporting self-replication and self-aware systems like us; this is, of course, the only instance we have to examine. But what it doesn't demonstrate is the existence of something outside of EVERYTHING that set that up. It doesn't rule it out, but it doesn't rule it in, either.


      "Temporary worth is no worth."

      Well, by definition, Denny, worth is worth. All you've done is stick the modifier "temporary" in front of it. But modification is not negation; worth, even temporary, is still WORTH.

      Put another way... there's a crazed axe-murderer bearing down on you about to cleave you in twain. There's one bullet in your gun. But... its worth is only temporary. After all, the moment you pull the trigger, it's valueless. Now according to you, temporary worth is no worth, so... you might as well take it out of your gun, throw it away, and take what's coming to you with a shrug and a prayer. But me, poor miserable materialist that I am, I can see the value in even "temporary" worth and making good use of it... so unlike you, I'll be telling the tale to reporters and cops and guys buying me drinks at the bar for years to come. Worth is worth. It's what you do with it while you have it that matters.


      "Your notion of God is juvenile."

      I heartily agree. As is every one that's ever been related to me.

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    5. "AFAIK science doesn't say that. It only says that our local, visible cosmos started to expand 13.7 bilion years ago."

      That's what I understand as well. The big bang necessarily marks the beginning of the EXPANSION of the universe and its taking on volume, facilitating the expression of some of its contents as matter (which has as one of its attributes volume). Nothing about the universe necessarily coming into existence at the same time, any more than the suggestion that a balloon can't exist before its expansion begins. Of course it can.

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    6. Arek W. said, "materialists of all sorts ... think, that our lives are meaningful." (and do not lack worth) - Worth = “The quality that renders something desirable, useful, or valuable.” I expect that all scientific minded materialists and naturalists know the material realities of the universe. For something to be desirable, useful, or valuable, it must exist. All human biological molecules or artifacts or evidence of thought will vanish with the cooling of the universe. Here it a quote by eminent naturalist, Bertrand Russell.

      “That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; . . . that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins--all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”

      My earlier quotes of Lawrence Krause and Richard Dawkins, and adding Neil Tyson, “One way universe will wind down into oblivion” are all in sync and point to a conclusion about the ‘ultimate’ reality of the material universe, of which we and all our experiences are part, all echo Russell’s dismal conclusions.

      Arek W. said, “You may of course correct me if you think that I distorted your words. (And) “But you still insist that materialism makes us to view our lives as having no worth.” – You have not distorted. You have misunderstood, and I don’t know why. This is not the gospel of Denny. It is not my personal judgment of you or any other Sandwalk fan. It is the undeniable gospel of naturalistic and materialistic thought. If you wish to claim worth from a flicker of existence that ranks as not much higher than a cockroach, you’re free to do so. I place a higher claim on desirability, usefulness, and value as being assigned by a personal caring God.

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    7. Arek W. said, " You said that God loved those people who he killed,” – This analogy may seem inadequate, but here goes. I was diagnosed with cancer. Under the microscope, I saw the symmetrical orderly-looking healthy cells and the chaotic dismembered cells destroyed by cancer. The Dr. told me that some healthy cells would have to be destroyed along with the cancerous ones. Since I had authority over my body, I decided to have the neighboring healthy cells destroyed along with the unhealthy ones, in order to preserve my life. Another possibly inadequate analogy is that the dropping of the atom bomb was indescribably vicious and seemingly merciless toward defenseless civilians. But, who was to know what other action would stop the spread of fascism, which had already been brutally perpetrated on all Japan’s neighbors. If you amputate a leg to save your body, is it an indication that you do not love your leg?

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    8. Arek W. said, "You also said, that there is verifiable evidence about the coming of the Messiah. I'll repeat after barefoot hiker: Like?” - If I don’t take you to be as cynical as barefoot hiker, I’ll offer the same suggestion I did him. Read Lee Strobel's (former skeptic) “The Case for Christ” or Tim Keller's "The Reason for God." Arek, your question does not lend itself to a 300-word answer.

      Arek W. said, "It appears that - for example - eyewitness evidence is from early Christians, who lived more than a century after Jesus.” – I think “eyewitness” meant the same 2,000+ years ago as it does now. Read Strobel and Keller. What have you got to lose?

      Arek W. said, "You are not really interested in reality, are you?” – I live in the same physical reality you do. The question is; What reality follows the physical world?

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    9. @Denny

      This is not the gospel of Denny. It is not my personal judgment...
      Yes it is.
      It is the undeniable gospel of naturalistic and materialistic thought.
      No it isn't. We told you how we perceive our lives. BTW I am not beliver, I don't need a gospel. I can think for myself.
      If you wish to claim worth from a flicker of existence... Yes I do.

      I place a higher claim on desirability, usefulness, and value as being assigned by a personal caring God.
      Maybe this is the reason why I misunderstood you? I told you what I think about God described in the Bible.

      It is a love letter, often full of nuances that depend on context.
      Yeah. A context. Very important thing. Tell me the context of this love letter:
      Fourty-two children made fun of Elisha on the roadside because he was bald. Elisha cursed them in the name of Lord. Two bears came out of the woods and mauled them to death.
      Oh sorry, they were probably those cells which had to be destroyed.
      And you accuse me of being cynical?
      And you claim that materialism leads to view life as worthless?

      I think “eyewitness” meant the same 2,000+ years ago as it does now.
      Me too. So what does that mean? From dictionary (you like definitions):
      Eyewitness: a person who actually sees some act, occurrence, or thing and can give a firsthand account of it.

      And what about those christians who lived circa 100 AD?
      They were told (like you) that gospel is true and they eyewitnessed that it is true.
      Don't you see a flaw in this reasoning?

      What have you got to lose?
      Some money, time, maybe nerves?
      I took that example of "evidence" from review of the book you recommended.
      http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jeff_lowder/strobel.html
      I assume that reviewer haven't distorted its meaning. Maybe he didn't say everything, but if this is kind of evidence I have to read about, then no - thanks.

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    10. Arek W. said, “From dictionary, ‘Eyewitness: a person who actually sees some act, occurrence, or thing and can give a firsthand account of it.’” – Yes, that is exactly what I meant. The same kind of eyewitness testimony that would be considered evidence, if admitted in a court of law. Two things. First, most of the Bible can be verified, as anthropologists would research and document from a prior civilization. Second, even if all the physical fragments of the copies of the old and new testaments that survive today were lost, there is enough independent identical secular corroborating information available to duplicate the Bible’s contents. Remember, countless scholars and scribes (with motives as honest and skills as honed as any Sandwalk scientist) over four millennia have been devoted to preserving the message of the Bible.

      Arek W. said, “And what about those christians who lived circa 100 AD?
      They were told (like you) that gospel is true and they eyewitnessed that it is true.” – I think you should do a little fact checking, somebody’s reasoning IS flawed. To begin with, the disciples were eyewitnesses, and many lived long after Christ’s crucifixion. Long enough to have friends and others preserve facts. My grandfather (tragically), while in the service in 1914, saw a back man hanged in a public square. It’s now nearly 100 years later and I can give account that such things took place.

      Arek W. said, “I took that example of "evidence" from review of the book you recommended.” – You know what, Arek, my grandmother always told me that it was important in life to know the difference between truth and falsehood. Maybe you should be ‘skeptical’ of the reviewer. Did you notice that the reviewer, Jeffery J. Lowder, resides at The Secular Web, which “is owned and operated by Internet Infidels, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization dedicated to defending and promoting a naturalistic worldview on the Internet?” I doubt that you will ever get an unbiased or scholarly view of the Bible from him.

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    11. barefoot hiker said, “But what it doesn't demonstrate is the existence of something outside of EVERYTHING that set that up. It doesn't rule it out, but it doesn't rule it in, either.” - Well, yes. It doesn’t rule it out. But, here’s what may rule it in. The quantum fluctuation or singularity, whatever you want to call it, it scientifically postulated to have occurred from nothing. But, we already know that the “nothing” that appears to separate the universe’s celestial bodies isn’t really nothing. Its dark matter – Something. So, if the quantum fluctuation or singularity emerged from another “nothing” (as we view it from the narrow limits of four dimensional time and space), then there may be a reason for what you term “the existence of "something" outside of EVERYTHING.”

      barefoot hiker said, "All you've done is stick the modifier "temporary" in front of it. But modification is not negation; worth, even temporary, is still WORTH.” - Modifier, Yes. But for humans and all of human history, that “worth” modifier seems to mean more than it appears to mean to cockroaches. Even a skeptic must see that every human activity, love, art, work, literature, scientific discovery, etc. has plumbed the “temporary” aspect of worth and hoped it isn’t – temporary. Science seems to have given skeptics some comfort and justification for their skepticism, but, according Bertrand Russell, is didn’t work.

      barefoot hiker said, “It's what you do with it while you have it that matters.” Very good illustration, hiker. Mine would be that I can have it (worth) eternally (outside the limit of time) by simply acknowledging the worth-giver. I don’t have to worry about the axe-murderer, if you get my meaning.

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    12. @Denny

      Two things. First, ...
      What's that have to do with eyewitnessing?

      ...devoted to preserving the message of the Bible.
      Not really.

      ...I can give account that such things took place.
      Again - what's that have to do with eyewitnessing?

      Remember that this is kind of evidence you insisted on.

      Oh. And one more thing - you said that you have evidence not based on quotes from Bible, but you are still giving us quotes from Bible. Is "evidence" from the book you recommended not so good?

      Maybe you should be ‘skeptical’ of the reviewer.
      I am not sure, but I think I know why you think that I shouldn't trust the reviewer (besides that he "resides at The Secular Web,...").

      In a (futile) attempt to show you mistake in your reasonign I oversimplified that example of "evidence". My mistake. But I think he describes it (and other kinds of evidence) in his review accurately (bear in mind that I am not talking about Lowder's opinion about book - only about description of the content of the book).

      If you like you could look at it.
      http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jeff_lowder/strobel.html
      And FYI he doesn't disagree with everything Strobel says (but that doesn't change much).

      Anyway, I am tired of this discussion.
      Some of the things you said were interesting (that doesn't mean I agree with them), but for most of the time it was nonsense.
      I don't think I could convince you that not everything you say makes sense so I'll stop trying.

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  46. Arek, You keep making negative cynical testing statements vs. curious questioning statements. Blog space is limited, and you force me to make unreasonably brief replies. That’s what follows.

    Arek W. said, "This is nonsense.” - When all naturalists said the universe was in a steady state, the Bible said it had a beginning, and had said so for nearly 4,000 years. And, would have an end for nearly 2,000 years.

    Arek W. said, "This is nonsense.” - Jeremiah 33:25 (several hundred years BC) “This is what the LORD says: 'If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed laws of heaven and earth,’” I’m not sure when ancient astronomers began to discover that the sky revealed some of the laws of physics. But, no other holy book, besides the Bible, even remotely refers to ‘fixed laws.” Quite the contrary, most non-Christian religions present capricious gods.

    Arek W. said, "Bible contains many vague fragments” – The Bible is not a dime store novel, read once and discarded. It is a love letter, often full of nuances that depend on context.

    Arek W. said, "But of course this doesn't convince you, because Bible says that Bible is true, right?” – I accept science as truth - not naturalistic interpretations. I don’t reject science based on things I don’t know or understand, or naturalistic interpretations. I also accept the Bible as truth, despite some things I don’t know or understand.

    Arek W. said, "Why the universe couldn't be "self-existent?” – Nothing from science or the Bible indicates the universe is self-existent. Your question is purely speculative.

    Arek W. said, “AFAIK science doesn't say that (Naturalistic scientists have determined that the universe has not always existed). It only says that our local visible cosmos started to expand 13.7 billion years ago.” – Scientists know of nothing beyond 13.7 billion years, and our cosmos. The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model that explains the early development of the Universe, including time and space. Carrying the known expansion of the universe backwards, cosmologists and physicists describe the point prior to the Big Bang as “nothing.”

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  47. Arek W. - Here’s some context on 2 Kings 2:23-24 from a non-theologian - Denny.

    The mockery of 42 young men; especially when the culture of the time insisted on showing respect to their elders, and toward Elisha’s hair, which was a very important means of cultural identity, amounted to Elisha being accosted and held in contempt (Lepers had to shave their heads), not simply made fun of. The statement “go up you baldhead!” has cultural significance, probably meaning “go up” to Elisha’s predecessor, Elijah, ascending to heaven. In other words, ‘we want you dead.’ The lads’s comments could easily have been a deliberate and malicious insult, something dangerous in a mob that can quickly get out of hand. Given the challenge of the youths, their intimidating number, which could constitute a mob, their veiled threat, the contemptuous attitude, and the fact that Elisha was the prophet of God, the Lord allowed the youths to be destroyed.

    Arek, there’s a situation going on in Florida right now where one young man was killed for allegedly threatening a man. Have you ever heard of a situation like this? Or does 2 Kings 2:23-24 sound unbelievably outlandish to you.

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    1. @Denny
      You must be kidding!

      This is simply ridiculous!

      First you claim, that God who kills and makes people kill each other is loving and caring.

      Then you are trying to make an excuse by saying that it is sometimes better to kill humans for greater good (like cells) while accusing materialism of leading people to view their lives as having no worth.

      Then you say that it was OK to kill those children because it was different culture which sounds like moral relativism, i.e. - something atheists are accused of. (BTW - God is supposed to be omnipotent. They were threating him (they weren't)? Why he didn't just stop them? Why he had to kill them in a brutal way?)

      You are not serious, right? Because otherwise...

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    2. Arek W. – It looks to me like you are trying to use some sort of rational that implies
      some moral value about who kills who and why, and whether it’s morally wrong or not – outside of an ultimate absolute moral standard. Why? If there is a God, with the most and best of what that word implies, then his rational is certainly different and higher than yours and mine. To most people, it’s not rational to sacrifice one’s own perfect son for the sake of people who are often willingly reprehensible. If there is no God (materialistically-speaking), then we are left with natural selection, in a doomed universe.

      Using barefoot hiker’s definition of free will (“Free will is an emergent property of sufficiently complex minds. All it is the ability to assess the likelihood or subjective value of a situational set relative to others, and opt for the more preferable one.”) the implication is that we’re simply material robots functioning within the confines of natural selection. No value or moral standards there. Just survival of the fittest to no good end. Why then does it matter to you why God instructed the Israelites to kill the Canaanites, or why he allowed two bears to kill 42 young men? All you do is end-up pointing out what you perceive to be the Bible’s contradictions. You make no case that materialism/naturalism provides you with a better set of values or basis for logical beneficial rational. It looks to me like religion, and Christianity specifically, provides an essential scapegoat for materialists. Without it, I see no positive non-fatalistic (pseudo Calvinistic) defense for a dismal worldview.

      It seems to me that you cannot have it both ways. Either accept that there is little more than temporary worth to anything that exists in the universe, or the Bible’s proposition of ultimate worth in the Creator and his creation.

      Referencing all my quotes by your eminent peers, Russell, Stenger, Dawkins, Krauss, and Tyson (“One way universe will wind down into oblivion”), all the arguments I see by Sandwalk fans for naturalism/materialism are arguments against religion, specifically Christianity. I have never seen a better stand-alone argument supporting naturalism/materialism than to reject theistic religion and simply muddle through this temporary existence.

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