Thursday, April 05, 2012

The Toronto Transit Commission Stands for Freedom of Speech

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has resisted attempts to have a controversial ad removed from their buses, streetcars, and subways as reported in The Toronto Star [TTC won’t remove controversial ads].
But a review that is automatically triggered whenever the TTC gets at least five complaints about an ad found there were no grounds to pull either advertisement.

That review was by TTC chair Karen Stintz and TTC commissioner Maria Augimeri.

“Although I would not personally condone the comportment outlined in the advertisement, I feel that I do not have the jurisdiction nor the authority to promote its cancellation; particularly because the TTC would not fare well in a court challenge should the promoter of the advertisement choose to make this issue one of rights and freedoms,” Augimeri said of the ... ad.

“There is nothing that violates any of our policies, and we do have policies around our advertising (based on) the Ontario Human Rights Code, not promoting hate or violence,” said TTC spokesman Brad Ross.

“You don’t have to agree with the message, you don’t have to like the message of the advertiser. Our suggestion would be that if somebody takes issue with the ad they take it up with the advertiser,” he said.
Congratulations TTC! That's exactly right.

It doesn't matter what sort of ad triggered the complaints but just in case you're interested, here it is. The first paragraph says, "Dear Jesus, My mom and dad do drugs at home and it scares me. Will you help them stop? Thank you for hearing my prayer." The second paragraph is, "Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand." The ad is sponsored by Bus Stop Bible Studies.


Note: Hemant Mehta has a slightly different take on the issue [Christian Bus Ad Advises Child with Druggie Parents to Pray, Not Call for Help].


[Hat Tip: Canadian Atheist]

191 comments:

  1. FWIW: The Bus Stop Bible guy spoke up in favour of the "Probably No God" ad campaign when it was opposed in Ottawa, on free speech grounds. This ad's message stinks, but the TTC made right decision on it.

    BTW, have you seen where that stupid yappy-dog McVety is whining about a Muslim ad on the TTC?
    http://www.torontosun.com/2012/04/04/holy-war-erupts-on-ttc

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    1. We'll just see how this flies with the US Tourism board. Yup, Canada promotes Muslim beliefs over others. We'll get this straighened out!

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  2. Dear Jebus, why did you let them start ?

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  3. There was also a second controversial one that they refused to take down.

    "One ad for the Walk-in Islamic Info-centre has offended some because it states, “There is no god but Allah.”"

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  4. Just noticed that Bus Stop Bible Studies shortens to BSBS or BS squared.

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  5. It is interesting to see the public responses to some of our displays. In the past 5+ years we have posted literally thousands of ‘studies’ on public transit in Canada (the majority on the TTC) and it is surprising to us how little response we do get from the general public. Thankfully, most of the responses we get are quite positive. Sometimes the testimonies we receive are life changing which is what encourages us to keep doing what we do. The text for this particular ‘study’ has been on the TTC almost continuously for 5-years. It was only when someone took a photo of it last week and Tweeted with a negative comment it that it has become an issue. We now live in a world of instant media.

    Over the years of this ministry we have come to learn that people’s paradigms dramatically impact their response to any message we might display. I have personally experienced too many direct answers to prayer to not believe that God is perfectly able to respond to any child’s genuine cry for help. In the Bible Jesus holds up children as an example of what our faith should be like.

    Consider this for a moment… A child prays the suggested prayer in genuine faith (recognizing that God is able). God answers that prayer by convicting the parents of the damage they are doing to themselves and their child and they turn from doing drugs. Would you not then agree that our counsel has been effective? Our paradigm is faith based. Others will scoff and say “Ridiculous!”

    Having said this, some have made an excellent point that children need to be directed to resources where they can find practical help. To this end there are other ads on public transit which promote the Kid's Help Phone, an organization that is equipped to direct children to practical resources if they feel the need. Due to copyright restrictions, etc. we cannot simply display this information on our ‘studies’ but children on public transit who read the ads can avail themselves of both the spiritual and the practical.

    Our transit messages may not be the complete answer to every situation but we do believe they are at least part of the answer.

    David

    David Harrison, President
    Bus Stop Bible Studies

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    1. David Harrison

      You say, "God answers that prayer by convicting the parents of the damage. . . ."

      Did you mean to say "convincing"? If so, how do God convince the parents; do they experience a revelation?

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    2. "A child prays the suggested prayer in genuine faith (recognizing that God is able). God answers that prayer by convicting the parents of the damage they are doing to themselves and their child and they turn from doing drugs."

      Why does your infinitely good and loving god require the intercession of a girl child in order to do this? Is his love and compassion for the parents as individuals itself not sufficient? If, on the other hand, he does nothing in respect of their free will, why does the will of their child overturn this otherwise ironclad rule?

      There's no consistency, logic, or justice to what you propose. There's neither evidence for it other than interpretation of circumstance, nor testability that can fairly establish or disestablish it. It simply is what you need it to be, or not to be, at any given moment or point in the discussion... like anything else imaginary.

      I support your right to purport these things and I accept that your heart is in the right place, generally speaking. But a faith-based position by its very definition does not place itself as the peer of positions demonstrably grounded in reality, and certain caveats ought to be exercised by the public in this regard.

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  6. I certainly agree that the BSBS folks have every right to put up this ad. On the other hand it seems like such obviously wretched advice that it must be a Poe, right? It's a pretty powerful argument against Christianity to me, anyway....

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  7. This is the same cut & paste reply I got from Bus Stop Bible Studies when I sent them this EMAIL:

    Quite often incorrectly attributed to Voltaire, "I disapprove of what you
    say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." sums up my
    reaction to your disgusting message to children trapped in an abusive
    parental relationship.

    What this ad does do is to make public your damaging advice to children to
    continue to endure a toxic home environment while grovelling to an invisible
    sky fairy and not seeking out the real help that society provides.

    That you would project your fear of the dark and death on the most
    vulnerable members of our society is hardly surprising, this has been a
    staple of religion from the beginning.

    Hopefully your ad will make enough decent citizens with morals and ethics
    arrived at by innate human decency, altruism and empathy and not the ravings
    of genocidal, misogynistic, homophobic nomadic goat herders who didn't even
    understand germ theory* recoil in disgust at your attempt to impose your
    death cult mythology into our secular society that you will become
    marginalized in the marketplace of ideas and lose the ability to harm even
    more children.

    I look forward to the day when religion loses it special status in society
    and is treated in the same way as any other bad idea. The only reason you
    get away with the type of bad behaviour you indulge in is that for some
    reason religion is deemed to be exempt from the criticism that is directed
    at any other idea put forth in the marketplace of ideas.

    And I especially look forward to the day when churches lose their tax exempt
    status and you have to compete with other far less odious organizations on
    an equal footing.

    * There is nothing wrong with ignorance, education is a wonderful remedy.
    You however abdicate personal responsibility for your actions and put your
    ignorance on an altar and worship it as a god.

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  8. I agree with Hemant Mehta. They are not merely advertising their faith. They are giving advice. Very bad and possibly harmful advice.

    It's not a matter of free speech.

    BTW, I think you made a typo. You wrote Hermant Mehta but it should be Hemant Mehta (without r).

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  9. I agree that the transit service that this ad should be allowed. However, it's so hideous that it's hard to believe it was actually posted by a Christian group. Certainly an own goal.

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  10. I checked the Canadian Constitution Act of 1982 and found three places referencing rights to religious freedom. In this thread, it seems as though many Sandwalk fans, if they’d had their way, might have omitted those rights. For many years, I have worked for Christian Rescue Missions and with all manor of people who suffered the ravages of substance abuse, and related life-destroying problems. I’ve seen death and life, and credit for recovery given to the one mocked so enthusiastically by several Sandwalk fans. I know many who would disagree with the anti-God sentiments expressed in this thread. Especially Mr. Oberski who says, “Hopefully your ad will make enough decent citizens with morals and ethics arrived at by innate human decency, altruism and empathy...” I wonder of Steve can offer up any naturalistic or materialistic explanation for how such qualities could have come from natural selection, a simple theory of survival of the fittest, ending in “oblivion” (Quoting, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Physicist). I am particularly curious about your use of the word, “innate.” Please explain.

    Skeptics often say that science only concerns itself with the physical world. Well, some might say that “decency … morals and ethics” are not physical and cannot be measured. Steve, can you put your hatred of God (or people who acknowledge Him) aside long enough to make an articulate case for non-physical “decency … morals and ethics” from a naturalistic materialistic worldview? Especially a case that takes into account human imperfection, and the fact that no one always does only what is good?

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    1. I find it entirely consistent with your previous posts that you take full advantage of the privileges of living in a secular democracy while hiding behind your irrational beliefs to avoid any of the concomitant responsibilities.

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    2. Hi Denny!
      It's me again ;) .

      Have you actually read that message?

      Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

      They, and other belivers, have rights to advertise their faith. But they are not only saying "belive in god". They are advising children not to take any real action in their misery.

      For many years, I have worked for Christian Rescue Missions...

      This means that you don't rely only on prayer, but also on real work. Do you agree?

      Should't you be upset that BSBS suggest, that your and other christians work is unnecessary, or maybe even bad?

      Of course - I and others could've misunderstood BSBS. I admit that their message is a little bit vague. But maybe they could change - a little bit - their message, so nobody would be upset?

      What do you think?


      PS.

      I could tell you what you could do with your naturalistic or materialistic explanations, but that would be rude. So I only say - evolution is not "survival of the fittest", and evolution does not have to explain everything in the universe. There are other theories, you know?

      And one more thing. Naturalism is not about what you can measure.

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    3. Denny,

      ...how such qualities could have come from natural selection, a simple theory of survival of the fittest

      One of the 'themes' of evolution is that some form of mutuality can provide additional survival capacity. Although frequently characterised as such, it is not simply a matter of 'survival of the fittest', in a constant war of independent units. Endosymbiosis provided a mutual association of formerly independent organisms to mutual benefit (in that the survival of the combined organism was enhanced by the combination). Sexual diploidy and multicellularity provide other examples. And social animals are clearly an example, at the next level up, so to speak, of an equivalent principle in operation. To the extent that a social fabric provides benefits, behaviours that undermine this fabric are likely to be selected against, and those that cement it to be selected for. Loners and sociopaths are as likely to leave the group, or be ostracised by it, as to cause its disintegration. The result is a group whose members possess 'good' integrational qualities - those we reify as ethics and morality, and simple 'Golden-Rule' empathy.

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    4. Hi, Denny. I believe experiments presenting various moral situations to children have found that even in children too young to have absorbed religious doctrine, there is still an innate sense of what we would call morality, or right and wrong. One of the effects that has been found of learning religious doctrine is that children who understand religious doctrine are more willing to choose outcomes of these moral situations where bad things happen to people who are not of their own religion.

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    5. Hello, Jud. Please explain “innate” (in a non-theistic sense). Maybe you could also (in the same context) explain why some might accept and act on their innate sense (assumed positive), and why some might not (assumed negative). The Bible postulates that people have a conscience and know right from wrong. It further postulates that people are responsible for their choices. How does your “innate sense” differ, and what do you call the difference, when people don’t do what is innately assumed positive? And if they don’t make a good choice, are they responsible? And, if they are responsible, and don’t get caught, does that matter?

      Jud said, “One of the effects that has been found of learning religious doctrine is that children who understand religious doctrine are more willing to choose outcomes of these moral situations where bad things happen to people who are not of their own religion.” - Would you be more specific, in a way that takes into account all people, even secularists, atheists, etc. (unless you believe secularists and atheists never think “bad things happen to people who are not of their own” views). If you think this situation is specific to religion, then why do you think this happened? What I’m fishing for is why do people not follow their innate sense (assuming you meant it to be positive), and what does naturalism or materialism offer that would prevent bad choices?

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    6. "I’ve seen death and life, and credit for recovery given to the one mocked so enthusiastically by several Sandwalk fans."

      Would that be Allah or Buddha or Krishna?

      "what does naturalism or materialism offer that would prevent bad choices?"

      The human ability to model the consequences of actions and weigh both the likelihood of those outcomes and their relative desirability. I really don't need to believe Jesus is Lord or there is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet in order to recognize the reality that, for example, however much of a blast heroin might be, I really don't need the collateral of its use in my life.

      What did Jesus say about heroin? What did he say about inside trading? What did he say about stem cell research? What did he say about same-sex marriage? If morality comes from God, why do different Protestant denominations come to different conclusions on these and other matters and yet proclaim them alternately blessed or cursed by this very same god?

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    7. "And if they don’t make a good choice, are they responsible? And, if they are responsible, and don’t get caught, does that matter?"

      "Responsible" means obliged to respond. To whom are we obliged? A range of culturally diverse imaginary friends? Or to our fellow sentient beings who are affected by our choices and actions? I would say certainly to the latter; whether or not to the former remains in doubt... but certainly, we are responsible to one another. We recognize this and establish laws, customs, standards... even, sadly, religions... as means of formulating workable norms and enforcing them.

      If a responsible party isn't caught, does it matter? Well, what are we talking about? A potentially objectionable act for which their is no social consequence, like private cursing or masturbation? Then no, it doesn't. Why would it, other than if you imagine an omnipresent invisible man to get gratuitously offended? If you're talking about theft, or murder, or genocide, then it matters. Someone else has been affected. Real and demonstrable harm has occurred to a second party as a result of the first person's actions. It is in society's interests that such a person be caught and punished in order to dissuade him, and others, from behaving similarly in the future. The catch here is that human beings are limited. The law is not perfect nor justice absolute. That tends not to sit well with our sense of justice, but it's an undeniable reality that people get away with things we think they shouldn't. So we invent for ourselves a golden calf in the form of a judge who can't be escaped, and comfort ourselves with that sop. The danger in that is that it makes us prone to surrender our obligation to act, shrugging and passing it off to an imaginary court held after death. The idea is undemocratic and disenfranchising, and ought to be resisted. We ought to be mature enough to recognize that some people will evade justice, but that it should not be as a result of our not giving our best efforts.

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    8. Denny asked:

      Please explain “innate” (in a non-theistic sense).

      "Innate" meaning kids without religious education gave answers to questions involving moral situations showing that they were evaluating issues of right and wrong behavior (i.e., what would be the good or right thing to do in the given situation vs. what would be the bad or wrong thing). If by "non-theistic" you mean "Please show Yahweh/Jesus/The Holy Spirit/Allah/The Great Spirit/The Creator Raven did not imbue these children at conception/birth with moral ideas," then I suppose the first thing I'd think of offhand is that there are many examples in other animals than humans of actions for the benefit of others, with no benefit or even detriment to the actor. (E.g., bird parents that act to attract the attentions of predators to themselves and away from nestlings.) Thus why should a deity be necessary to explain similar sorts of behavior in humans?

      What I’m fishing for is why do people not follow their innate sense (assuming you meant it to be positive), and what does naturalism or materialism offer that would prevent bad choices?

      I don't think it's as simple as people not following "their innate sense." Rather I think it's a case of innate positive feelings being used to produce non-positive results. For example, innate positive feelings toward one's family and friends could be extended through education to promote thinking of co-religionists (or members of any given group to which one belongs, e.g., citizens of a particular nation) as included in "family and friends," and non-members of one's own group - those of different religious backgrounds or citizens of other nations - as posing threats.

      Regarding what naturalism or materialism might offer, I suppose it would be the potential absence of one particular source (religious differences) of this in-group vs. out-group mentality. I say "potential absence" because I am certainly not contending atheists are immune from thinking of themselves as an "in-group."

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    9. Jud said:
      ...there are many examples in other animals than humans of actions for the benefit of others...

      Here's interesting article I've read some time ago(*). It's about empathy in rats:

      http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/336819/title/He's_no_rat,_he's_my_brother

      I assume that those rats belive in YHWH, because otherwise why would they help each other, right Denny?


      (*) - I gave both link and adress just in case, beacuse I had problems in preview with opening that article.

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  11. I agree with free speech and the right to protect it...up to a point. When the ads clearly promote placing one's belief in an entity that doesn't exist and a cause that's foolish at best, deadly at worst, these kinds of ads should not occupy public space. What kind of message is being sent out? That people should give up on trying to better their own lives and hope that unseen being will swoop in and save the day?

    "Don't worry about anything; pray for everything." This statement typifies everything that is wrong in society, how religion encourages people that all their ills can be solved with a few words. No, it can't. It takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice, some of which won't be seen for years. People should worry- it keeps them in close contact with how to move forward in their lives.

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  12. steve oberski said, “… a secular democracy …” - I live in the USA, a less secular society, based on general biblical standards, and openly attributed to God.

    Arek W. said, “This means that you don't rely only on prayer, but also on real work. Do you agree?” – Yes. Both.

    Arek W. said, “What do you think?” – It’s very difficult to speak of spiritual things with people who deny its existence.

    Arek W. said, “Naturalism is not about what you can measure.” – Correct, but science fact must be measurable, or it’s not fact, but theory. - At Sandwalk, the two are often confused.

    Allan Miller said, “One of the 'themes' of evolution is … as to cause its disintegration.” – Is any of this falsifiable?

    Allan Miller said, “The result is a group whose members possess 'good' integrational qualities - those we reify as ethics and morality, and simple 'Golden-Rule' empathy.” – Per materialism and naturalism, what do you do when one doesn’t observe the simple 'Golden-Rule' empathy?”

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    1. It's hardly surprising that you are as stunningly ignorant of American history as your are of evolutionary biology and science in general.

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    2. Steve. Look at the first two paragraphs of The Unanimous Declaration
      of the Thirteen United States of America (US Declaration of Independence). If you mean to imply that the absence of the word God in the US Bill of Rights and the US Constitution is evidence against America’s founding on biblical principles, think again. You have a secular atheistic (a priory) view. America’s founding documents were not written from a secular atheistic (a priory) view. The founders were not secularists. What you may be implying is like saying since Martin Luther King Jr’s. “I have a dream” speech only mentions “God” four times (out of over 1,600 words); therefore he must be referring to an impersonal non-denominational deistic god. Hogwash! Martin Luther King Jr. was referring to the Judeo/Christian personal triune God – who was the centerpiece of his speech’s ideals and inspiration. If you had two lenses available to you, one secular and the other religious (Christian), and you could put either one on for interpretative purposes, and for the sake of context, you would see that every word of the US Constitution was inspired by knowledge of the Judeo/Christian God, taken from the Bible. If you don’t believe me, and are not willing to consider it, nothing I could say will persuade you.

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    3. Denny :"Allan Miller said, “The result is a group whose members possess 'good' integrational qualities - those we reify as ethics and morality, and simple 'Golden-Rule' empathy.” – Per materialism and naturalism, what do you do when one doesn’t observe the simple 'Golden-Rule' empathy?”

      I'm not sure whether the 'you' or the 'one' referred to are specific or general. Do you mean how do I behave if someone else does not follow my moral values?

      Fundamentally, the issue is the same whether (as you believe) morality has some non-human source, or whether (as I think) it is genetic and cultural. Either way, there will always be those who do not behave in accord with one or another 'moral standard'. The threat of damnation may be one way to persuade the religious to toe the line, but removal of that threat does not lead to a society of moral degenerates - precisely because there is an innate element to 'materialistic' morality (courtesy of our genes, culture and our desire to 'fit in').

      And at least one is not in thrall to some author or another's personal beefs dressed up as The Word of God - a Bronze Age attitude to homosexuality, masturbation or rape, for example.

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    4. “The first rule of holes: When you're in one stop digging.”

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    5. Allan Miller said, “One of the 'themes' of evolution is … as to cause its disintegration.” – Is any of this falsifiable?

      Not to any extent that need trouble you - that is, for someone whose default position (in no particular need of falsification) is a religious one, any and all scientific work can be dismissed if it is inconvenient. The bit in ellipsis covers vast swathes of material which I can't really cover in a blog comment. And I know from experience that it is futile to try. Suffice it to say that the fundamental principles behind the 'co-operative' side of biology have been extensively worked out in those areas I mention, and run counter to a naive 'survival of the fittest' caricature of evolution. Hamiltonian kin selection as it applies to groups and to multicellular bodies, endosymbiosis as a mutual merger of distantly related organisms, and the boundaries that may be transcended by those means, have been examined in models. The bit about sex is a bit more idiosyncratic (but relates to Lynn Margulis's view). But OBVIOUSLY we cannot get the original organisms and perform experiments on them, so if you prefer to believe the naive 'Darwinian' caricature (which is easier to knock down), you probably will.

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    6. Steve, by the way, concerning my understanding of my own US history, if you astutely read the Constitution, you would see that it is full of checks and balances, safeguards, safeguards to prevent tyranny (which is in the hearts of all men). The founders of American government knew from personal experience and from biblical principles that man is naturally/innately flawed (sinful), and sometimes does good vs. being naturally/innately perfect, sometimes doing bad. The latter is a secular humanist view. Read the Humanist Manifesto and what you see is the latter view clocked in a lot of warm fuzzy platitudes. As I read the Humanist Manifesto, it only alludes to one bad thing, “cruelty.” Giving no cause or remedy. Read the US Constitution and Humanist Manifesto one after the other and see what you think about their origins and the beliefs of the people who wrote them. Which is secular and which is not.

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    7. "I live in the USA, a less secular society, based on general biblical standards, and openly attributed to God."

      Yes and no. Certainly the US is one of the more religious of Western societies today on the ground, but it is certainly one of the least, if not the least, in terms of its founding principles. Canada's constitution, for example, mentions God; even in its its late 20th century updates. The US's doesn't. Furthermore, in the Treaty of Tripoli, 1797, the same people who penned the US Constitution just ten years earlier reaffirmed it:

      "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."



      "If you mean to imply that the absence of the word God in the US Bill of Rights and the US Constitution is evidence against America’s founding on biblical principles, think again."

      Oh... well, then can we safely also assumed the ABSENCE of the word "Allah" in any of the US's founding documents can ("think again") imply the acceptability of Sharia law in the United States as well? Or maybe, just maybe, they left if out for a reason?

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    8. "The founders were not secularists."

      Most of them weren't. But that doesn't mean the republican government founded by them isn't. Quite clearly they intended it to be, if only because they didn't want the peculiar religious practices of the folks in the next county being legally imposed on them. They set out to create a system where that kind of thing, which their ancestors had left behind in Europe, wouldn't be established in the US. This has been common elsewhere in English-speaking settler colonies. Despite remaining in the British Empire and the Commonwealth, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand do not, unlike England, have established religions; for very much the same reason: no one wanted to be obliged to live (or be barred from a rightful voice in government) according to someone else's conscience.

      Amen to that.

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    9. "every word of the US Constitution was inspired by knowledge of the Judeo/Christian God, taken from the Bible"

      At least on the matter of slavery, I'd have to agree with you. I can see all kinds of the Levitican disregard for basic human rights in the Three-Fifths Compromise.

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    10. I think the treatment of women in the original constitution also corresponds pretty closely to what's in the Bible. It's clearly what the Judeo-Christian god would have wanted.

      But I'm not sure about the separation of powers. Where in the Bible does it say that you need to be wary of someone with too much power?

      And what about this idea of electing someone? I don't see that in the Bible either. Did they hold elections over who would be the son of god or who gets to be an apostle?

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    11. Allen Miller said, “Either way, there will always be those who do not behave in accord with one or another 'moral standard'.” - What moral standard? If each person and culture has arbitrary “standards” and the standards even change with time and circumstance, the word “standard” has little if any meaning.

      Allen Miller said, “The threat of damnation may be one way to persuade the religious to toe the line,” – There’s no denying that in this physical world, there are possible negative consequences (“damnation”) that travel with poor choices, actions/behavior. You may deny any other reality outside the known physical four dimensions of space-time reality, but your denial does not cause any other extra-material dimensional reality to cease existing. Any more than my belief causes it to exist. Lawrence Krauss, in “A Universe from Nothing,” uses the word “nothing in two different ways. 1) The absolute absence of anything, 2) the absence of anything we are able to detect. Theoretical (atheistic) physicists believe that at least six dimensions exist beyond the four in which we are confined. The idea of (Christian) spirituality is compatible with the scientific proposition that there is something outside time and physical space that cannot be detected and is not limited by the physical. If that’s true, then I can think of no reason why possible negative consequences (“damnation”) might not travel beyond the physical world. Unless, naturalistic or materialistic thinking can posit of a way to explain why we are not responsible for the negative non-physical consequences of our poor choices, actions/behavior.

      Allen Miller said, “removal of that threat does not lead to a society of moral degenerates.” - Most in Britain, in the 1930’s, went out of their way to remove any possible threat to Hitler for his promised aggression. I think it’s safe to say that Europe degenerated morally. (Citing, “Modern Times” by Paul Johnson, Chapter 10)

      Allan Miller said, “because there is an innate element to 'materialistic' morality (courtesy of our genes, culture and our desire to 'fit in').” – Would you cite a peer reviewed publication to support your use of the word “innate?”

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    12. Look at the first two paragraphs of The ...Declaration of Independence

      “Nature’s God”, “Creator”, (and further down...) “Supreme Judge of the world”, “Divine Providence”. Who are they describing here? Jehova? Allah? Brahma? Ik Onkar? Rod? The pixies out in the forest behind the chicken coop? The description is so vague that it encompasses any of them; I would say deliberately so. Certainly there’s nothing in them that singles out a god as understood in unique Christian terms, the so-called “triune” one (and, just for the record, Denny, you can’t claim this god to be both "Judeo/Christian" AND "triune", because the Jewish god is decidedly NOT "triune"). In fact, it’s genuinely hard to imagine a more generic evocation of divinity than we see here. One is strongly persuaded to see them as the poetic manifestation of the zeitgeist of the American Revolution than as anything at all like sincere references to something or someone real.

      So the best you can say is that these men, when writing up something high-falutin’ for the consumption of the world and posterity, dusted off their poetic deifications of justice and creation... then, when it really mattered, when they were writing up rules to live by and treaties to bind their actions, they put him back on the shelf like the heirloom he really is.

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    13. barefoot hiker, - Your understanding of the Bible must rank where you think my understanding of science ranks.” Very low. No offence - If your words are any indication, your biblical view is less than juvenile (back and white) and overly simplistic. It appears that you may have treated the Bibe as a dime store novel where you look only for the “good” (or bad) parts with no attempt to get to the core of a book that has survived attacks for over three thousand years. You seem to confuse literalness with intent, and especially with context. Not simply the context of a specific scripture, but the context of the whole Bible. As an example, maybe it’s a little like me presuming to have an understanding of Darwinian evolution at the same level as Larry Moran. Larry will always know more than me, because of a lifetime devoted to science and education, and a passionate atheistic view. All I can do is try to see his perspective and rational. You would do well to apply objective scholarship to the Bible.

      Regarding slavery, it was the norm in most cultures for most of history, and tragically continues today, despite all attempts to obliterate it. I respectfully suggest that when reading the Bible, you consider it a requirement to apply scholarship and integrity, and refrain from importing your own modern views and biased (anti-God) values onto the text.

      From what I know, the Three-Fifths Compromise was a despicable rational to preserve the power of some over others. If you only remembered me from High School, when I had acne, you may not know me today. That was then, this is now. Historical, cultural, social context are important to understand why people are inhumane to each other. You act like only religious people are idiots or do idiotic things. It amazes me that you fail to see that religious and non-religious alike suffer from “natural” imperfections. I still wonder, outside of a simple “survival of the fittest” mentality, how one such as yourself explains man’s inhumanity to others. If you think it’s exclusively due to “religion,” then I don’t know whether to consider you naïve or what.

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    14. Laurence A. Moran said, “It's clearly what the Judeo-Christian god would have wanted.” – No it’s not. I refer to my barefoot hiker reply.

      Laurence A. Moran said, “Where in the Bible does it say that you need to be wary of someone with too much power?” - There are countless instances of the Bible alerting people to abuses of and the dangers of power. Again! You raise your question in a very narrow context (political or social). The Bible warns of power over one’s self, over others, over nature, and it warns of the power of evil. I don’t know what atheists or naturalists think of the word “evil.” But (sarcastically speaking), I expect it must be attributable to religion. Which, I guess, would absolve atheists from ever being evil at any level.

      Laurence A. Moran said, “And what about this idea of electing someone? I don't see that in the Bible either. Did they hold elections over who would be the son of god or who gets to be an apostle?” – Do you hold elections over who gets passed and who doesn’t?

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    15. Your understanding of the Bible must rank where you think my understanding of science ranks.” Very low.

      Denny, I would wager I know more about your Bible than you do, and the reason I'm fairly sure I do is because I know enough about it to realize it's hogwash, and you don't. If you've ever read any more of it than gets quoted in the average 1970s-era Christmas and Easter cartoon specials, and you still believe it, then you must have read it with your eyes closed.

      your biblical view is less than juvenile (back and white)

      In other words, I take it for what it says, whereas you take it for whatever you can make up that fits and feels comfy. No, Denny. THAT'S juvenile. Accepting it for what it is and says, warts and all, is the mature way to approach ANYTHING.

      For example... can you quote me the passage in the Bible that states that Jesus IS God? Can you quote anything that asserts that the Holy Spirit IS God, rather than, say, a messenger sent forth? Can you quote the passage that designates that God is a "trinity", or even unambiguously defines the concept? I'll save you the trouble: no, you can't. Because they don't exist. They are matters of interpretation made generations later and not even formalized until the Nicene Council, three centuries after the death of Jesus. If your god had in fact been clear about this, three centuries of debate on the matter, and centuries more rooting out Arianism, wouldn't have been necessary. So my question is, given it isn't established in the Bible but simply by a vote taken in 325, how do you "know" this to be real?

      Regarding slavery, it was the norm in most cultures for most of history

      So was killing people you didn't like; your god felt sufficiently bummed about that to take a stand against it (so long as it didn't involve people whose land, cities, or daughters the Hebrews coveted). Presumably you find slavery anathema... why? Your god doesn't. He never said a word against it in either the Old Testament nor the New. In fact, he established a vast array of rules formalizing the practice in Leviticus, and inspired Paul to tell slaves to toe the line. Where is your god's moral outrage at the idea that some of his "children" should dare to own, beat, sell, exploit, rape, and even kill other "children" of his? Why were Southerners on such solid ground when they used the Bible writing screeds defending their way of life before the Civil War?

      the Three-Fifths Compromise was a despicable rational to preserve the power of some over others

      What it was was a necessary measure without which it's doubtful that all or any of the slave-holding states would have acceded to the union being proposed in 1787. It was a nod to an institution that had sanction in the Bible. I'd like to know why your god didn't shout out against it somewhere in the first four or five of his sickeningly egotistic and generally uninspiring Ten Commandments. Where is the love, the compassion, the care for suffering bodies and souls?

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    16. That was then, this is now.

      So you're saying that morality actually is subjective? There is no such thing as an objective morality, Denny? That your god can root for human brutality and misery for 10,000 years, and then suddenly up and change his mind once we have steam engines and don't need slaves so much anymore?

      Think hard, Denny. If you abandon objective morality, you're abandoning the central thesis most theists finally retreat to to insist there has to be a God. And yet, matters like slavery would seem to leave you with no choice. See, it's stuff like that that made me realize, even before my age reached double digits, that there was something about the whole idea that didn't add up.

      Historical, cultural, social context are important to understand why people are inhumane to each other.

      Your god is reputedly "timeless". The zeitgeist shouldn't matter with him. Are you telling me that Thomas Jefferson can get into Heaven because when he forced labour out of other human beings by the implicit threat of torture--some of them reputedly his own children--it was just fine, but if I did it today, your god would send me to hell? Really? Again... what happened to OBJECTIVE MORALITY, Denny?

      It amazes me that you fail to see that religious and non-religious alike suffer from “natural” imperfections

      I'm not talking about the people; I'm asking about your god. What's his stand on slavery? How can we presume he's not boiling mad at us for getting rid of something he endorsed and established in the Pentateuch?

      If you think it’s exclusively due to “religion,”

      I don't. Remember, I don't believe your god exists. BUT YOU DO. I want to know how you square that circle. Why was the Civil War fought in 1861, rather than when the Jews themselves were freed from either the Babylonians (which actually happened) or the Egyptians (which didn't)? Why did the world's biggest empire ban slavery in 1833, rather than when Jesus was stirring things up during the reign of Tiberius in the world's biggest empire of his day?

      Do you hold elections over who gets passed and who doesn’t?

      Yeah, they're called "exams", Denny.

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    17. There are countless instances of the Bible alerting people to abuses of and the dangers of power... The Bible warns of power over one’s self, over others, over nature, and it warns of the power of evil. I don’t know what atheists or naturalists think of the word “evil.”

      Oh, you mean like your god commanding that if you find anyone encouraging the worship of a foreign god, you must KILL EVERYONE IN THAT TOWN, including the livestock (Deuteronomy 13:13-19)? Or that you must without pity kill anyone in your family who converts to another religion (Deuteronomy 13:7-12)? Or when he commands the Hebrews to kill everyone, including the children, in the places they conquer (Ezekiel 9:5-7; Isaiah 13:15-18)? Unless, of course, they are "the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him", in which case he commands that you "keep alive for yourselves", all 32,000 of them, except for the 32 to be offered to the Lord in the form of the priest Eleazar (Numbers 13:17-18; 35; 40-41), of course.

      Now you were telling me you know more about the Bible than I do. Fair enough. I just wonder what you feel, what you think, when you, a man living in the United States in the 21st century, reads such commands as this from your god. Just what do you think of as an "abuse of power", Denny? What do you call "evil"?

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    18. Denny said: If each person and culture has arbitrary “standards” and the standards even change with time and circumstance, the word “standard” has little if any meaning.

      ...but then, confronted by his god's advocacy of slavery, he said: That was then, this is now.

      You've lost, Denny; right here on this one page you've argued out of both sides of your mouth. Like any good theist, you've said one thing to Allen to prop up your god as the source of objective morality, then turned right around and said the complete opposite to me to try to wave away a glaring inconsistency you can't ignore.

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  13. Sandwalk fans, suppose a one-time cosmic window opened and a small group of people from earth could be transported to another planet hospitable to human life. Suppose Richard Dawkins and his wife were granted many more years of life and fertility, along with another few dozen people with the same health and views – maybe some of you. Suppose a thousand years later, an alien craft landed on, Dawkinia. Anthropologically-speaking, what would the aliens discover about Dawkinian contemporary and historical civilization?

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    1. A few dozen? Sorry, the Noah's ark hypothesis that eight people and their hideously inbred offspring could give rise to our civilization in the relative blink of a eye is a non-starter. Frankly, I don't think a sample that small has sustainability; not genetic, and certainly not for a civilization and technology as intricate as anything we've had for the past five hundred years or so. Ramp it up to a few million and maybe we've got a game on.

      And in that case, human nature being what it is, I'd expect to see pretty much what we have right now. Some people who get by with what can be known and demonstrated, and a lot of other people who need to invent imaginary friends in a blind rush to explain things they otherwise can't, and are willing to murder one another over whose imagination is "correct".

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    2. They would discover a perfectly happy, godless, society where rational thinking was highly valued.

      Why do you ask?

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    3. The reason I ask about what aliens might find on Dawkinia, a thousand years after Richard Dawkins and his friends colonize it, is to see what the aliens might find (absent a theological perspective). I am trying to explore the naturalistic and materialistic views, by wondering if Dawkinians would have conceived of the notion of a non-physical after life.
      - Would injustices have occurred, and why and what explanation would be offered for injustices that transcended the best of logic and reason?
      - Would words like redemption and forgiveness exist in a culture where natural selection and survival of the fittest are accepted explanations for how and why things work in a strictly physical world?
      - How would Dawkinians have dealt with or overcome the seemingly evil side of human nature that transcends religious thinking or influence?
      - How would Dawkinians prevent or handle tyranny, jealousy, hate, etc (all of which lead to bad consequences)?
      - Would ‘hope, purpose, and meaning’ be valid terms, and if so, why?
      - In other words, how would Dawkinians have answered the deep uniquely human non-tangible experiences, without a theistic proposition?

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    4. So let me run one past you now, Denny.

      Suppose sometime in the next few years we do something great, like ban all nuclear weapons or something, and the aliens finally show up and say at last we’re fit company for galactic society. And they tell us that they’ve been watching our planet, among countless others, for millions of years. And, since they WERE there (in answer to that old creationist saw), they can show us the whole history of our lineage: the various species that gave rise to us. And they can show that the Earth definitely is many many millions and millions of years old; making us sit though slide shows of their vacations at the Grand Canyon when it was just the Bland Canyon; that there has never been a single second when the entire surface of the planet was covered with water -- and stuff like that. And they can show us that life has naturally arisen by similar processes on millions of planets, and that new planets are coalescing around newly-hatched stars in the Orion nebula, among other places, right at this very moment; always have been and always will because that’s just what gravity does with stuff. And they can even show you the life history of this pleasant “Joshua” chap in Galilee; carpenter who wandered around for a few years urging people to be kind and gentle and follow the rules, but that he was fairly ordinary and certainly never violated any of the laws of physics (for which the aliens have had full, natural explanations for millions of years)... let’s imagine all that. Essentially, pretty much everything someone like me holds to be real is utterly demonstrated, and Christianity, and any other particular religion you care to name, is factually disestablished. I ask you:

      Would there still be Christians tomorrow? Would there still be Muslims? Jews? Hindus?

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    5. Suppose all knowledge of religion and science were wiped out.

      Using evidence based rational thinking, theories for what we observe in our universe would be re-developed, and while they would have different names, and developed in perhaps a different order, they would explain the same phenomena in the same way due to the fact that experiments performed in this future world would give the same results as in the past. There would be an analogue to Boyle's law relating the volume and pressure of a gas, Newton's laws of motion and gravity, Maxwell's laws of electromagnetism, Darwin's laws of evolution via random mutation and differential reproduction (not to forget genetic drift) and so on. Who knows, this future world might even skip over a classical explanation of motion and gravity and proceed directly to a relativistic one, especially if it was unencumbered by religion.

      But other than some basic similarities such as sectarianism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia and genocide, any new religions would bear no resemblance to any previous ones.

      There would most specifically not be a desert dogma based on children being born deformed and needing vicarious redemption for a crime they never committed via the torture, death and reanimation of a jewish zombie who teleported to earth through the vagina of a unsuspecting and most likely unwilling jewish virgin.

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    6. I'm inclined to agree with Steve. Denny, the planet you're talking about is THIS one. We've been ramping up on reason, logic, and evidence-based positions for hundreds of years, and yet, we still have religions, we still have literal witch hunts, we still have astrology, superstitions, New Age woo...

      Humans are animals. Fortunately for us we do have some capacity to appeal to logic and systematized learning and process development. But we also have emotions. We have fear, doubt, uncertainties, insecurities, jealousies, and aggressive responses that come from much older, instinctive parts of our brains. We're not going to ever completely lose those; at least, not and be the kind of beings we are. As a result, we will always have people prone to inventing imaginary answers to soothe themselves when they shiver in the dark. But that doesn't make your god real, Denny.

      Would injustices have occurred

      Since "injustice" is itself a broadly subjective term, of course there will. Logic will lead even reasonable people to divergent opinions of what is just and what is not. But hopefully the broadest injustices, like slavery, or presuming the right to invade someone else's country on a whim, will be a thing of the past.

      Would words like redemption and forgiveness exist in a culture where natural selection and survival of the fittest are accepted explanations for how and why things work in a strictly physical world?

      We live in such a world right now, and yes, those concepts still exist and still apply. I can forgive someone who has wronged me but seems to me genuinely penitent; I don't need an invisible man to make that possible. It's between me and him/her. And they can be redeemed by my acceptance of their sincere apology and/or restitution... again, without the need of a god. Human beings, even other animals, can do these things.

      "Survival of the fittest" simply means that organisms best suited to their environments tend to proliferate (polar bears will do better in Arctic than panda bears will, for instance). It doesn't mean everyone madly whips out the long knives and kills everything else in sight.

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    7. How would Dawkinians have dealt with or overcome the seemingly evil side of human nature that transcends religious thinking or influence?

      They wouldn't. Christians, Jews, Muslim, Hindus, and Sikhs haven't either. Human beings have a capacity for self-interest that can be injurious to others, and that's going to be the case regardless of whether or not the acceptance of imaginary men outside the universe is prevalent or not. The best we can do is make sure there are enough societal penalties for egregious behaviour that most people restrain themselves, and finding ways of dealing with others who don't.

      How would Dawkinians prevent or handle tyranny, jealousy, hate, etc (all of which lead to bad consequences)?

      I refer the hon. gentleman to my previous answer in all of its aspects.

      Would ‘hope, purpose, and meaning’ be valid terms, and if so, why?

      Denny, we've already extensively answered this question for you. Why do you continue to insist we have not? I don't need your imaginary friend to aspire to better myself, my life, our civilization, or the lives of the people around me. I don't need your imaginary friend to find purpose and meaning in the things I like to do or want to build; if anything, I wonder how people like you find them when you insist everything's already known, mapped out, planned, nailed down, and inevitable in the the mind of your god. Where do you find "meaning" in knowing you're simply a fleshbot acting out the script of his perfect, unalterable, and inexorable knowledge, Denny? At least I can claim the future is unknown; you can't.

      In other words, how would Dawkinians have answered the deep uniquely human non-tangible experiences, without a theistic proposition?

      What kind of an answer do you imagine people like YOU have given these matters? You blow up an imaginary balloon, paint an imaginary face on it, tell us it's the creator of everything and that's the answer, and you want to turn around and suggest that there's something lacking in someone else's worldview?

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    8. Barefoot hiker said, “So let me run one past you now, Denny …”

      Wow! First, there are not going to be any aliens, as you think of them. Ask Lawrence Kraaus, Victor Stenger, Neil deGrasse Tyson (“universe on a one way journey to oblivion”) and many more atheistic naturalistic cosmologists, astrophysicists, etc. As I have said before, roughly 90% of the universe’s galaxies are no longer producing stars (no stars = no planets). Goldilocks planets have shown no realistic promise for life. Roughly 75% of the remaining galaxies are completely inhospitable to life. We’re all on our way to cold death. (Go check this with your cosmologist friends) Science confirmed the beginning and end of the universe. The Bible predicted both. No other so-called holy books did.

      As for nuclear weapons, there are only two ways to persuade someone. By Words, or by Force. Nuclear weapons are simply a big force to handle communication problems. Ask Larry to explain how the people of my imaginary Dawkinia would handle communication problems – assuming there was no need for nuclear weapons.

      At last count, I believe the earth is about four billion years old.

      Concerning the entire surface of the planet being covered with water – I think you’ll have to take that up with geologists. Since I think they would confirm the early planet being covered with water, I’ll leave it to you to consider how a 4,000 year-old narrative could have gotten that right.

      Since there is no empirical evidence or rational theory to support the existence of aliens, we’ll have to leave it to human interpretation to determine the answers to cosmological questions (life’s origin) from the natural evidence of the earth and universe. That probably means some disagreements.

      “Joshua” was a biblical character who lived between 1500–1390 BC. Yeshua was the son of a carpenter who wandered around Galilee around 0 to 33 AD. If you want to refute biblical scholarship and evidence, you’ll have to do more than say you simply don’t believe it. That’s simple “faith” in something about which you seem to understand little.

      Barefoot hiker said, “Would there still be Christians tomorrow? Would there still be Muslims? Jews? Hindus?” - Again, I ask you to ask Larry. I’d like to know if he or anyone at Sandwalk has contemplated human nature enough to know how and why the Dawkinians turn out the way they do, assuming every flaw in human behavior cannot be explained by an atheist’s view of religion.

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    9. As I have said before, roughly 90% of the universe’s galaxies are no longer producing stars

      Denny, I'm sorry, but that's just bullshit. Unless gravity's gone on strike, then there are stars being formed right now all over the universe. That's what happens wherever a sufficient volume of hydrogen, or helium, is drawn into a location. All it takes is gravity and enough matter and the pressure takes care of the rest; bang, you have fusion. That's all a star is. Until there's virtually nothing left in the universe lighter than iron, the element at which the process is "poisoned" and stops (iron requires more energy to fuse than it releases as fusion byproducts, thus ending the chain reaction)--and we're a long, long, long, LONG way away from THAT--the universe will continue producing new stars. Every day. All the time. I don't know what you've heard, but you've clearly either been outright lied to, or very badly misunderstood what you were listening to.

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    10. Goldilocks planets have shown no realistic promise for life.

      Denny, the first extrasolar planet wasn't even confirmed twenty years ago. We've hardly been doing this long enough for you or anyone else to make such a ludicrous pronouncement. And in fact, we're only just reaching the point now where we can realistically begin polling extrasolar planets as to the oxygen and water content of their atmospheres... the search is really just BEGINNING. And if we find oxygen, well... someone here will be able to correct me, but as far as I've heard, the only known process that routinely produces large amounts of molecular oxygen (O2) to the point that it builds up in a planetary atmosphere is photosynthesis. In other words, we find a planet out there with a significant amount of molecular oxygen in its atmosphere, and you've arguably got your next planet with life on it. That's pretty much all there is to it.

      Of course, the minute we announce that, the theist goalposts will move again and people like you will go from crowing about how the couple-mile thin skin of life tenuously clinging to this tiny planet in the middle of nowhere is the Great Bellybutton of Creation to, "Oh, my, look how much my god loves life! He created a universe and just stuffed it to the gills with critters! Oh, Jebus be praised!" :/ Anybody want to take side bets?

      Roughly 75% of the remaining galaxies are completely inhospitable to life.

      Denny, nearly 100% of the planet Earth is completely inhospitable to life. Only a couple of miles of it right on the surface makes it tenable at all. But that doesn't mean it isn't there.

      And what do you think a "galaxy" is, anyway, that 75% of them would be "inhospitable to life"? And even if just 25% are... do you have any idea how many BILLIONS of galaxies you just admitted ARE suitable to life, and how many QUADRILLIONS of stars that implies, and QUINTILLIONS of planets? Frankly, it's a lot harder for me to believe that none, but NONE, of them harbours any life than that probably millions upon millions upon millions of them do... intelligent or not.

      I believe the earth is about four billion years old.

      Do you?

      Concerning the entire surface of the planet being covered with water – I think you’ll have to take that up with geologists.

      We have. It wasn't.

      Since I think they would confirm the early planet being covered with water

      You might think that, but you'd be wrong. There's no such indication that the entire surface of the planet was every uniformly submerged.

      I’ll leave it to you to consider how a 4,000 year-old narrative could have gotten that right.

      Oh, let's see. "Once upon a time, long before grampa was even a twinkle in the Great Pixie's eye, everything was covered with water!" Wow, bang, I'm a god. The book also says the Earth pre-exists the sun and the stars. How come you're not asking us how your book got that WRONG?

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    11. We're going to have to add archeology to the list of topics in which you are completely ignorant (I'm trying to be charitable here, I think it more likely that you're just a dishonest sack of shit).

      You are quite the fundegelical Renaissance Man, Denny.

      Other archaeological discoveries haven't just cast doubt on the accuracy of some biblical information but have shown some accounts to be completely erroneous. A notable example would be the account of Joshua's conquest and destruction of the Canaanite city of Ai. According to Joshua 8, Israelite forces attacked Ai, burned it, "utterly destroyed all the inhabitants," and made it a "heap forever" (vs:26-28). Extensive archaeological work at the site of Ai, however, has revealed that the city was destroyed and burned around 2400 B. C., which would have been over a thousand years before the time of Joshua. Joseph Callaway, a conservative Southern Baptist and professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, spent nine years excavating the ruins of ancient Ai and afterwards reported that what he found there contradicted the biblical record.

      The evidence from Ai was mainly negative. There was a great walled city there beginning about 3000 B. C., more than 1,800 years before Israel's emergence in Canaan. But this city was destroyed about 2400 B. C., after which the site was abandoned.

      Despite extensive excavation, no evidence of a Late Bronze Age (1500-1200 B. C.) Canaanite city was found. In short, there was no Canaanite city here for Joshua to conquer (Biblical Archaeology Review, "Joseph A. Callaway: 1920-1988," November/December 1988, p. 24, emphasis added).

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    12. barefoot hiker said, "The book also says the Earth pre-exists the sun and the stars. How come you're not asking us how your book got that WRONG?" - You are misinterpreting the Bible. You have the ‘narrative’ order of events out of order. Get your interpretation right and you'll get the “narrative” order of events right, (consistent with natural scientific facts) and then try my question about how a 4,000 year-old narrative could have gotten that right.

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    13. So if we reorder Genesis to be "consistent with natural scientific facts" then Genesis is consistent with natural scientific facts ?

      I see you've dispensed with circular logic in separate posts and gone to the more economical circular logic within the same post.

      And which of the 2 contradictory creations accounts do we use - First Account (Genesis 1:1-2:3) or Second Account (Genesis 2:4-25) ?

      Genesis 1:25-27 - Humans were created after the other animals

      or

      Genesis 2:18-19 - Humans were created before the other animals

      Genesis 1:27 - The first man and woman were created simultaneously

      or

      Genesis 2:18-22 - The man was created first, then the animals, then the woman from the man's rib

      Denny I'm starting to think that have you actually never read the bible.

      That's nothing to be ashamed of, many self professed xtians haven't.

      The part to be ashamed of is accepting uncritically what others have told you to believe.

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    14. You are misinterpreting the Bible.

      Oooookay... so when the first chapter of Genesis says that your god separated the land from the water on the second day, and filled "the land" with all kinds of vegetation on the third day, and THEN got around to creating the sun, the moon, and the stars on the fourth day [Gen. 1:6-19]... explain to me how I'm "misinterpreting" that the Earth--y'know, that thing all the little seeds and plants were living on--was created BEFORE the sun, moon, and stars, that followed the next day.

      Get your interpretation right

      Which means what? Ignore what it actually says and pretend it says something different and then purport that what you made up is what your god did instead?

      and then try my question about how a 4,000 year-old narrative could have gotten that right.

      So your answer is, basically, ignore what it says, make something up instead that fits your preferred conclusion, and voila, you will see it fits your conclusion. Yeah... you don't say.

      Denny, it doesn't get it right, and it doesn't change no matter how much you pray, or mess with "what 'is' is", or how long you hold the bong hit. It says the Earth came first, then all the plants (that can't live without the sun), and THEN sun. It even tells you quite plainly that these all happened on different days, and I don't care what what you think "days" means when it says "days" but doesn't really mean "days" or any of that other typical garbage. No matter what time period you want to pretend "days" are, it's still wrong, it's not how the solar system, the Earth, and the life on it came to exist, and it represents a facile, clearly fictional account that contradicts the evidence of "natural scientific facts". It is not gob-smackingly scientifically accurate; it is, in fact, as jaw-droppingly inaccurate as it's possible to get as it completely reverses the order of these events and utterly ignores the chain of causality between them, or even that there IS one. And that's that.

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  14. Other archaeological discoveries haven't just cast doubt on the accuracy of some biblical information but have shown some accounts to be completely erroneous.

    Not to mention the entire story of the Jewish captivity in Egypt, or wandering in the Sinai for forty years. Completely unsubstantiated by archeological evidence, particularly since the deciphering of the Rosetta Stone. We can identify camp fires hundreds of thousands of years old, what was eaten at them by the bones, and what tools were being wrought around them by the character of the stone chips they left behind, by bands of one or two dozen proto-humans... and yet, of the million-plus people who supposedly crisscrossed the Sinai for two generations only 3400 years ago, not a trace.

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  15. Yeshua was the son of a carpenter who wandered around Galilee around 0 to 33 AD

    Yeshua and Joshua are the same name, Denny... like John and Juan.

    If you want to refute biblical scholarship and evidence, you’ll have to do more than say you simply don’t believe it.

    Oh, but it's just FINE for YOU to do that with the voluminous scientific evidence for facts you find troublesome to the stories underpinning your favourite Sunday morning mythos, huh?

    Again, I ask you to ask Larry.

    I'm asking YOU. You asked us a question and I didn't go fobbing you off on anyone. What do you think if clear, irrefutable evidence your religion and every other one we know of were not a part of reality were presented by a neutral third party that was there for all the things you guys ask us "were you there?" about (without every once realizing the same question applies to Genesis)? Would you accept it, or would you carry on denying what you no longer could even doubt were real in order to keep believing you're not a finite being, that all your transgressions are absolved, and that you'll see everyone you ever loved and lost again? How important do you think truth is to you and other believers--is it more, or less, important than the sweet but almost certainly illusory fruits of faith?

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  16. Denny: Allen Miller said, “removal of that threat does not lead to a society of moral degenerates.” - Most in Britain, in the 1930’s, went out of their way to remove any possible threat to Hitler for his promised aggression. I think it’s safe to say that Europe degenerated morally. (Citing, “Modern Times” by Paul Johnson, Chapter 10)

    Whaaat? How much do you propose that 'appeasement' or the rise of National Socialism in Germany was due to abandonment of the Protestant religions on those countries? Not at all, I would suggest. I think you may have jumped a couple of steps in the 'logical' flow of the stock Creationist argument from abandonment of religion to moral degeneracy. You missed out the obligatory bit about Darwinism and Hitler. I was merely talking about morality and its source. If your thesis is correct, how come we, as a society, took up arms against Nazism? We did not rediscover religion (we had not even abandoned it in the first place - 1930's Britain was a far more religiously observant society than it is today. But we don't kill our citizens or allow everybody to bear arms; we have reprehensible and noble elements in proportions I’d hold up against any 'religious' society you may care to name - including, as you seem to be arguing, good old God-save-America).

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  17. Denny, Allan Miller said, “because there is an innate element to 'materialistic' morality (courtesy of our genes, culture and our desire to 'fit in').” – Would you cite a peer reviewed publication to support your use of the word “innate?”

    Would you care if I did? Peer-reviewed publications are ignored in their tens of thousands by Creationists, so I doubt one would sway you. If I am right, and human beings simply evolved, then their morality must be innate. If you are right ... it might still be innate in exactly the same sense. The existence of a moral sense is not proof of its divine source.

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  18. Denny, Allen Miller said, “Either way, there will always be those who do not behave in accord with one or another 'moral standard'.” - What moral standard? If each person and culture has arbitrary “standards” and the standards even change with time and circumstance, the word “standard” has little if any meaning.

    To the extent that the standards derive from genetic programming, they are not arbitrary, person by person. You would expect to find them in most members of most societies. To the extent that they are cultural ... different cultures certainly seem to settle upon similar sets of basic standards. But the use of the word ‘standard’ is perfectly legitimate, even if there is a sense of temporal shift. ‘Standard English’ is not static. It evolves. What would be a straitjacket would be settlement on a standard that suited a society of 2,000 years ago, and forceful retention of every word of that standard in all future societies. What opportunity to ‘make the world a better place’ would exist in such a literalist society? Fortunately, only a few hardliners take such a dogmatic view. Meaning that objective and subjective morality are indistinguishable in practice.

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  19. The Biblical Archeology Review is unfortunately behind a paywall but I did find a preview to the referenced article above (http://members.bib-arch.org/publication.asp?PubID=BSBA&Volume=14&Issue=6&ArticleID=1).

    For a fascinating glimpse into the religious mind here we have a letter to the editor of the same volume of the review, taking the Mormons to task for ignoring scientific evidence, but could have been written with the Dennys of the world in mind:

    BAR 14:06, Nov/Dec 1988
    Queries & Comments
    More on the Nephites and the Book of Mormon
    It is with great interest that I read the “International Timeline-Mormon Theology” debate in the July/August 1988 issue of BAR (Queries & Comments, BAR 14:04). Dr. C. L. Sainsbury is correct when he cites the Book of Mormon as the principal (and to my knowledge the only) source of the mythical Nephite culture. Typical of many religions, the Mormon church must retreat to emotional experience when challenged by objective archaeological, anthropological and unadulterated historic facts. Truth is not determined by how intensely you believe it and how many believe it. When squared against objective evidence, the facts are:
    1. No Book-of-Mormon cities have been located.
    2. No Book-of Mormon names have been found in New World inscriptions.

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  20. Larry Moran said, “I think the treatment of women in the original constitution also corresponds pretty closely to what's in the Bible. It's clearly what the Judeo-Christian god would have wanted.” – If your implication were true, why is it that about 150 million women living in America, a country that still has the remnants of a Christian heritage, enjoy the greatest amount of individual power, rights and freedom of any group of women in the world?

    barefoot hiker said, “Who are they describing here?” I think you know who. I am describing the God of the Hebrews and Christians. “Triune” correction taken. Thank you.

    barefoot hiker said, “I'm not talking about the people; I'm asking about your god.” - Slavery is an indescribably complex and dreadful issue that has occupied the pages of many thousands of books, university classes, government laws and religious teachings. The quotes below are an unreasonably brief but accurate snapshot of the Bible’s views of slavery.

    “The Bible contains warnings about the practice of slavery. The prophet Amos spoke woe to Gaza and Tyre for their practices of slave-trading entire populations (Amos 1:6-9). The Book of Revelation declares that disaster awaits those who sell slaves (Rev 18:13). As for Christians, the apostle Paul advised slaves to obey their masters (Eph 6:5; Col 3:22; Titus 2:9). Paul appealed to Philemon to receive back Onesimus, a runaway slave who was now a Christian and therefore a brother (Philem 16). Elsewhere Paul counseled believing slaves to seek freedom if they could (1 Cor 7:21). Since slave practices were part [often voluntary] of the culture in biblical times, the Bible contains no direct call to abolish slavery. But the implications of the gospel, especially the ethic of love, stand in opposition to slavery.”

    “Both slave and free are called upon to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Christ, social distinctions such as slavery no longer apply (Gal 3:28; Col 3:11); in Christ all are brothers and sisters. The excitement of such new relationships is expressed by Paul: "Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ" (Gal 4:7).””

    “In a spiritual sense, people apart from Christ are slaves to sin. To commit sin is to demonstrate that sin has control of one's life (John 8:34). Christ can set us free from this kind of slavery (John 8:36)-to be obedient to Christ and to do righteousness (Rom 6:16-18).”

    “Paul spoke of himself as a "servant," a word sometimes rendered as "bondservant" but frequently also as "slave" (Rom 1:1; Titus 1:1). Christians, especially ministers, are not hired servants but slaves committed to service to Jesus. A slave does not manage his own life. The person who calls himself a slave of Christ acknowledges that the Savior has power over him. (from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary)”

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    1. Denny says,

      If your implication were true, why is it that about 150 million women living in America, a country that still has the remnants of a Christian heritage, enjoy the greatest amount of individual power, rights and freedom of any group of women in the world?

      What makes you think that American women enjoy more rights and privileges than women in Canada, Australia, or Sweden?

      It seems to me that there's a direct inverse correlation between the power and influence of Christians in a country and the freedoms that women enjoy. In the United States, for example, there are still serious attacks on women's rights by leading candidates for President. Is it just a coincidence that all of them profess to be very Christian?

      The history of women's rights in the past century is mostly an attack on the very Christian principles that you defend. Haven't you noticed that there are very, very few female leaders of the Christian religions represented in the USA? Isn't that strange for a group of people who are supposed to see women as equals?

      Your favorite pastor, Ken Ham, has had a few things to say about this issue. A few weeks ago, for example, he was upset that some churches were supporting Darwin Day (Feb, 12, 2012). Here's what he said in Who Has a Birthday Today?.

      I did tell the reporter that the list of churches that have signed up for Evolution Weekend are mainly theologically liberal churches, and I added, with an inordinate number of women clergy. The particular Sacramento-area church the writer reported on has a woman pastor—who obviously doesn’t understand the difference between operational (observational) science and historical science. When clergy like this make the comment “science and faith,” they really mean that “biological, geological, and cosmological evolutionary belief” is supposedly compatible with God’s Word. However, that is simply not true, as dozens of articles on this website show ...

      Gasp! Women pastors!!! Of course they can't be trusted over the word of a man.

      Answers in Genesis even has a special website devoted to Answers for Women. Here's part of their "passion statement."

      As Christians, we are called to give answers, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). We need the answers from the Bible about marriage (Genesis 2:24), how the curse on Eve affected our marriage relationships (Genesis 3:16) and how by God’s grace our marriages can be restored. We need the answers from the Bible about the importance of teaching our children about God (Genesis 4:25-26, Deuteronomy 6:1-9) and that the Bible is a book of history not just a book of “stories.” We need the answers from the Bible to properly understand biology, geology, astronomy, anthropology, etc. as it relates to the world of the present and the past (Genesis 1-11). We need the answers from the Bible about why there is death and suffering (Genesis 3:6) and the ultimate redemption offered through Jesus Christ (Genesis 3:15).

      Denny, why not look up the Biblical references and see if this is what most women think of when they use the word "freedom"? Pay special attention to Genesis 3:16 because it is specifically mentioned in this passion statement. [To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”]

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    2. I think you know who.

      I think I know who too. My point is your description works perfectly well for pretty much any of the other gods throughout history... y'know, the thousands of them that you'd tell us were obviously just made up?

      Since slave practices were part [often voluntary] of the culture in biblical times

      Yes, as ordained and established by your god in his tete-a-tete with Moses on Mount Sinai in Leviticus.

      Gal 4:7

      Come on, Denny, that's cheap. You people are always going on about "context" and the context of this verse is not that it is spoken to anyone who's actually enslaved to someone else on Earth--it's not like that line was spoken to anyone ACTUALLY FREED by some other human being by it; it's a metaphor for spiritual renewal (and a pretty blase one at that). If your god had disestablished slavery anywhere in the Bible, it's hard to believe it would have persisted in the Christian West into the 19th century. In fact it's the kind of empty promise that American slaver owners like George Washington used to use as a sop to their slaves... oh, you might be a slave on Earth, but when we all get to heaven, well, we'll all be equal in the eyes of the Lord and get our great reward for putting up with our rightful lot in life. If anything, it's soft apologetics like this that helped slave owners argue their cause so well for so long.

      Christians, especially ministers, are not hired servants but slaves committed to service to Jesus.

      Oh, really... they're "slaves", are they? So, they work for free, do they? And they suffer beatings and mutilations if they try to leave their homes and jobs, is that right? And their children and spouses can be sent away from them for the benefit of others; do I understand you right?

      Hang your head, Denny. You have no excuse in this day and age for not being fully aware of what slavery actually was for the people who endured it and for treating it so casually. It wasn't anything like standing at the front of a church spouting canned platitudes while the collection plate moved through the crowd, or even being one of the folks hauling out an Andy Jackson (or Queen Liz) to put in it, either.

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  21. barefoot hiker said, “Yeah, they're called ‘exams’, Denny.” – I don’t think an exam testing knowledge is the same as the expression of an opinion.

    barefoot hiker. - If you killed someone threatening to kill your family, it would not be murder. If you killed someone out of malice, it would be murder. When a government, which has power and authority, executes someone for a crime, it’s not murder. When a government orders a killing out of blind aggression, it is murder. These are simple principles to be applied against your accusations.

    barefoot hiker said, “Denny? What do you call ‘evil?’” – I don’t know how to answer that question until you and I agree on what the word evil means.

    barefoot hiker said, “You've lost, Denny.” – What have I lost? A blog debate or Internet argument? Without accepting your statement, what does that matter? Scientifically speaking, from a naturalistic, atheistic, and materialistic view, there is no winning or loosing, just ultimate cold death after a brief period of time where human beings had no special meaning or purpose, simply a random undirected process in which a kind of directed process called natural selection occurred – till it died too. Where is the winning or losing?

    Barefoot hiker said, “god's advocacy of slavery,” - Where do you see something so explicit in the Bible that you can make a statement that God is an ‘advocate’ for slavery?

    Barefoot hiker said, “And in that case, human nature being what it is, I'd expect to see pretty much what we have right now.” (On Dawkinia) – So. What is ‘IT’ that permeates earth, coinciding with its religions, that causes people to behave as you say, and what it ‘IT’ that causes a world not permeated by religion to experience the same thing?

    barefoot hiker – Taking into account all that you said about the “illions upon illions” chances of life in the universe, you still must find a galaxy exactly like ours with a solar system exactly like ours in an identical location in that galaxy, and the solar system must have planets like ours in the same sizes and of the same composition and at the same relative distances from us and the sun. The solar system’s planets must be in the same order circling around a sun of the same size and age as ours with only one moon (for the subject planet) of the same size and distance from its planet, etc. – plus about 200 hundred more identical conditions – including a planet water content of only a few percent, not more and not less, plus the planet and its moon must have rotation rates and axes identical to ours. Where are we now with all the “illions?’

    Denny said, “I believe the earth is about four billion years old.” barefoot hiker asked, “Do you?” – Yes. Maybe a little less. And the universe a little less that 14 billion years.

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    1. Never have I heard such s display of ignorance such as in Mr. denny's response to barefoot hiker.

      1. The notion that another galaxy must be exactly like the one in which the Solar System is located in order for life to exist is piffle. Even if it were true, there are billions of such galaxies.

      2. The notion that an exo-solar system must be in the exact same location in a galaxy in order to support life is piffle. Even if it were true, there are millions of such systems in the Milky Way galaxy alone.

      3. The notion that an exo-solar system must be exactly like ours is piffle. There is no such requirement.

      4. The notion that an exo-planet must have exactly one moon of the same size as earth's is piffle. There is no such requirement.

      5. The notion that the star must be exactly like the Sun and of the same age is piffle. There is absolutely nothing stopping the development of life on planets revolving around stars dimmer then the Sun, or even slightly brighter.

      6. As a matter of fact, life could well exist on Jupiter's moon Europa, which appears to have a planet-wide water ocean underneath a thick layer of ice. The water is kept liquid not by energy received from the Sun but by internal friction caused by the gravitational field of Jupiter. The notion that life requires the absorption of energy from the Sun (or a central star in the case of an exo-panet or moon) has been disproved here on earth for a decade or two. Life has been found in the deep oceans which receives energy from vents in the ocean floor, not from the Sun.

      7. Very recently, it has been discovered that there are probably billions of rogue planets roaming around this galaxy and undoubtedly others which do not revolve around a central star. As Mr. Torbjorn Larsson opined on Panda's Thumb, there may be millions of Jupiter/Europa situations amongst those planets which could support life.

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    2. Other than pretty much every other post Denny has ever made.

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  22. I don’t think an exam testing knowledge is the same as the expression of an opinion.

    It's sort of the reverse of what you're after, Denny. In this case, the students are the candidates, and the prof is the voter. He elects, to scientists, the students whose platform (a.k.a. "answers") persuades him they have the chops to get the job done.

    If you killed someone threatening to kill your family, it would not be murder.

    Yes it would. It might or might not be justifiable depending on how credible the "threat" was, but it would still a deliberate and premeditated act. I think you would feel "malice" toward someone threatening your or your family in any case.

    When a government orders a killing out of blind aggression, it is murder.

    This is kind of an indictment of your god in the Old Testament, wouldn't you say?

    I don’t know how to answer that question until you and I agree on what the word evil means.

    Well, part of us working that out would require you to answer the question in the first place. Or is the other party to reaching a mutual definition supposed to read your mind?

    But let's not mince words. You and I both know all those things are hideously evil, and are plainly laid at the feet of your god in his own storybook, and you haven't got the nerve to do anything but tug at your collar and stall. Own up to it! Your god does, counsels, and commands fiendishly evil acts all through the Bible that you would hotly condemn were they attributed to anyone but your ultimate hero or his appointed proxies--but in coming from him, you feel the need to look for excuses instead. Right?

    What have I lost?

    Your credibility and adherence to principle. You've demonstrated you'll do anything, even flat-out contradict something you've just said, in order not to concede the point. That's all religious apologetics ever was, and Luther admitted as much when he said "What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church...a lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be against God, he would accept them."

    Where do you see something so explicit in the Bible that you can make a statement that God is an ‘advocate’ for slavery?

    Leviticus 25:1; 44-46 King James Version (KJV)

    1 And the LORD spake unto Moses in mount Sinai, saying...
    44 Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. 45 Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession. 46 And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour.

    That, I think.

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  23. What is ‘IT’ that permeates earth, coinciding with its religions, that causes people to behave as you say, and what it ‘IT’ that causes a world not permeated by religion to experience the same thing?

    I just answered that: human nature. Regardless of whether there is, or we perceive there to be, a god of some sort, we've evolved to be a social species with certain skills for co-operating and enforcing workable standards on groups. We also have a regrettable facility for anthropomorphizing natural events and attributing agency to them... Zeus and his lightning bolts; Jehovah and his rainbows.

    you still must find a galaxy exactly like ours

    What's wrong with THIS one, for instance? But in what respect do you mean "exactly like ours"? A galaxy is simply an aggregate of stars (in the same way that a beach is a collection of sand grains or a cloud is a collection of water molecules... one is much like another). It doesn't have magical powers that either grant or deny life. Galaxies are made up of stars; stars give off energy; the planets near them may or may not have organized chemistries that can make use of that energy (odds are, not, but it's nearly certain that some will). It's (Not) a Mystery, Charlie Brown.

    with a solar system exactly like ours in an identical location in that galaxy

    No, Denny, nothing of the sort. All that's required is a planet where stable conditions meet a range of energy input and chemical composition. There's no need for "identical" anything. There aren't even "identical" conditions here on Earth; conditions vary broadly and some forms of life can't exist where others do perfectly happily even on the same planet. That's why we just observed the centennial of the Titanic's sinking... its passengers proved not as hardy as polar bears on the waters of the North Atlantic, nor as good as fish at breathing within it. Life elsewhere would, out of necessity, be conditioned by the environment from which it derives. And that could be very different... as the variety of life in the various environments of our own world demonstrates.

    Yes. Maybe a little less. And the universe a little less that 14 billion years.

    That's not what the first book of the Bible says. Even taking into account blokes who lived to see 900, those generations don't add up to 14 billion years from that first week.

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  24. barefoot hiker said, “can you quote me the passage in the Bible that states that Jesus IS God? Can you quote anything that asserts that the Holy Spirit IS God, rather than, say, a messenger sent forth? Can you quote the passage that designates that God is a "trinity",”

    barefoot hiker. I notice two things here.

    1. This blog thread started out as a discussion about a sign on a Toronto transit bus portraying an about 10 to 12 year-old girl whose appearance is evidence of her parents being involved in self-destructive drug abuse. The sign sponsors have the experience to know that the girl needs hope, because she is too young to know what to do or to have the power to change her situation. The thread has mostly mocked the suggestion that the girl pray. But no Sandwalk fan has suggested what the girl may do to gain hope for her situation, let alone practical actions appropriate to an adolescent girl. Many of my comments are aimed at finding out what the atheistic, naturalistic or materialistic alternative is for the young girl to gain hope. Do you or does anyone at Sandwalk have the experience or know-how to know what to suggest to that girl’s situation, absent any theism?

    2. barefoot hiker said, “... can you quote me the passage in the Bible that states that Jesus IS God? Can you quote anything that asserts that the Holy Spirit IS God, rather than, say, a messenger sent forth? Can you quote the passage that designates that God is a "trinity", - You do not ask this question without already knowing the one preconceived answer. At the same time, you do two other things.

    a. You totally eliminate the reality of anything spiritual. Since you apparently don’t experience it, how can you do that? Isn’t that like trying to disprove a negative proposition?
    b. You arbitrarily dismiss countless thousands of living university professors who teach all kinds of religion subjects, and the millions of dollars and millions of hours of scholarly studying they accomplished to teach many more millions of students, not counting the countless present and past theologians and philosophers who have concerned themselves with the metaphysical and non-physical experiences unique to humans. Then, after those arbitrary capricious dismissals, you want me to give you a rational 300-word counter argument. That is preposterous. If you lived near me, I would welcome the opportunity to meet you personally, buy you coffee, build a mutually respectful relationship, and share what I know and who I am as an attempt to help you discover the some things. In the mean time, you behave like young earth creationists that are zealous about their belief, no matter how dismissive and rude they are to people (especially scientists and science educators) who devote their lives to things that better mankind’s condition. Only your target is people who believe something different than you. For what point???

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    1. I notice two things here.

      I notice some stuff here too. One is that no, you can't even claim a scriptural basis for the beliefs at the very heart of your religion, but nevertheless you'll almost certainly go on insisting they're the truest facts in the universe.

      Do you or does anyone at Sandwalk have the experience or know-how to know what to suggest to that girl’s situation, absent any theism?

      Me? No. Unfortunately for her, my parents weren't illicit drug users--or if they ever were, they hid it well enough that it never impacted my life, so I'm not the one to offer advice. But that doesn't mean there's no atheist who can.

      Tell me what "hope" being religious gives this girl, Denny. Does her silent prayer in her bedroom offer a BETTER chance of her parents getting clean than, say, her simply confronting them and begging them by expressing her love--something no one requires a god to do? What I mean is, what does her belief in her culture's creation myth add that wouldn't be there otherwise? How is it, in any practical sense, different from or better than any other imaginary friend she might dream up to help her through a trying point in her life?

      You totally eliminate the reality of anything spiritual.

      No, not at all. What I do is challenge people like you to provide evidence for it. A REASON to credit its existence and live one's life as though it were a part of reality. There MAY be something to the supernatural; I can't and wouldn't absolutely say otherwise because I don't know. But what I do know and can say is that no one has ever presented me with any evidence that makes me sincerely believe it's real, in the way that I do with gravity, or electricity, or even the planet Neptune. All the explanations you guys ever offer us are either scriptural or personally intuitive, in which case there's nothing to differentiate your claims from those of any other religion except cultural favouritism, or else pointing to some aspect of reality, asking how it got there/why is it like that, and then insisting the answer is "God did it". Both non-answers.

      "Isn’t that like trying to disprove a negative proposition?"

      No. It's like asking you to demonstrate the validity of a positive claim; i.e., "God exists". As to proofs, refer to my previous point.

      You arbitrarily dismiss countless thousands of living university professors

      Denny, even Isaac Newton devoted a good portion of his life in attempting to discover the Philosopher's Stone. Kepler's seminal studies of the solar system were largely predicated on demonstrating that the orbits of the planets he knew of at the time were nestings of the perfect solids. Just because people can conceive of something, study it, and formulate questions and hypotheses about it, doesn't make it real, or a worthwhile pursuit. Sometimes people get caught up in fictions, and that's what we use science for: to help us discern the difference.

      you behave like young earth creationists that are zealous about their belief

      Okay, so, instead of showing us why you believe the things you do--the very thing I asked you to do and you say you'd like to do over coffee--you instead just blew a few hundred words at us about what's wrong with me. That's just smokescreening and trying to get people to overlook you aren't going to answer the question.

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    2. barefoot hiker said, “... can you quote me the passage in the Bible that states that Jesus IS God? Can you quote anything that asserts that the Holy Spirit IS God, rather than, say, a messenger sent forth? Can you quote the passage that designates that God is a "trinity", - You do not ask this question without already knowing the one preconceived answer.

      The answer being of course, that none of the four Gospels says outright that Jesus IS God. Moreover, the Trinity is absent altogether in any part of the Bible.
      Theology is an enterprise that expanded over the ages, just like the universe, and funcamentally changed its subject during expansion.

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  25. Steve oberski said, “So if we reorder Genesis to be "consistent with natural scientific facts" then Genesis is consistent with natural scientific facts?” – Funny! Context and frame of reference are always essential, whether interpreting scientific or biblical information. Here’s an example. Gen. 1:2 says, “heavens AND earth. There’s a shift in perspective between universe AND earth. (Rhetorical question, ‘From which perspective is the reader looking at the universe OR earth?) The text indicates that the reader’s perspective is from, “the surface of the deep … over the waters.” (not high in the heavens) Many erroneously mistranslate, or misread, or misunderstand that if the Genesis author’s viewpoint were from the heavens, things like plants (created day three) would appear before the sun existed. (day four) The text’s first creation day indicates that the initial conditions of earth were ‘darkness’ (could not see heavens or sun from earth’s surface) and formlessness. Initial conditions of star formation indicates large amounts of gas and dust debris, which would make an early earth surface vantage point see an opaque (‘dark’) atmosphere. The point I make even with this small amount of words and small section of scripture is that a 4,000 year-old narrative ends up consistent with modern science findings, after the order is properly interpreted and determined.

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    1. Gen. 1:2 says, “heavens AND earth.

      And later is says that the sun and the stars were placed into the heavens AFTER the Earth and even the plants that require sunlight to live already existed. Are you going to acknowledge that or just continue to ignore it as though it had never been brought to your attention?

      or misunderstand that if the Genesis author’s

      I thought that was "God", wasn't it? And here we are again with the whole "misinterpret" bit. Denny, there's what it SAYS, and what you WANT it to MEAN. The misinterpretation in this case, I'm afraid, is yours. Earth before stars; plants before sun. That's what it says. Plainly. Wish it away all you want--it's still the word of your god, and if he did it some other way than stated, then the Bible's lying.

      (could not see heavens or sun from earth’s surface)

      No, Denny. Genesis 1:14-18 makes it clear; your god claims to have MADE the sun and stars (and the moon) on the four day, and PLACED them in the heavens. Not revealed something already there. Again, you'll just ignore the evidence and say whatever you need to say.

      The thing is a STORYBOOK. It was made up bit by bit by a lot of illiterate goat herders who knew nothing of science or geography or history while they huddled around fires, built upon, and finally written down, and then added to during the Roman Empire. That's all it really is--the same as every other "holy" book you've ever heard of and laughed at for all the same reasons. I wish you could shrug out of the cultural straightjacket your family and neighbours bound you up in for a just a few minutes and see it as objectively as you look at everyone else's myths.

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  26. Steve oberski said, “which of the 2 contradictory creations accounts do we use?” - Genesis one (appropriately the first chapter of the Bible, even though this book is not the oldest book in the Bible – Job is) begins with the creation of the "heavens and earth" - a phrase describing the entire universe, and is the account of the creation of the universe and life on planet earth as it happened in chronological order. Genesis 2 begins with God planting a garden, and is simply an expanded explanation of the events that occurred at the end of the sixth creation day - when God created human beings. Genesis one dedicates 4 verses (13%) to the creation of humans. However, Genesis two dedicates 19 verses (76%) to the creation of humans. No contradiction here.

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  27. Allan Miller said, “I was merely talking about morality and its source.” – Me too.

    Allan Miller said, “You missed out the obligatory bit about Darwinism and Hitler.” – I omitted it precisely because it has become “obligatory,” and I fear that certain groups of people deny its relevance to historical events, and too many other people are sadly unaware of it. However, concerning moral degeneration, let me quote from “Modern Times,” by Paul Johnson. “when the moral restraints of religion and tradition, hierarchy and precedent, are removed, the power to suspend or unleash catastrophic events does not devolve on the impersonal benevolence of the masses but falls into the hands of men who are isolated by the very totality of their evil natures.” Hence, Hitler, Stalin, etc. My Dawkinia question was to see if it might be possible for someone with an “evil nature” to emerge from a Richard Dawkins influenced (godless) culture. If so, why? If not, why? Skeptically and evolutionarily speaking.

    Allan Miller said, “If your thesis is correct, how come we, as a society, took up arms against Nazism?” – I take the Bible’s proposition that there is a non-material (spiritual) element to humans. It is subject to and party to a conflict between good and evil, God and Satan. Human beings “innately” have both characteristics in them. There is no evidence to show that other natural life forms concern themselves with good and evil (rather, merely survival). Sometimes, humans individually or collectively chose good and sometimes evil. Both choices have individual and collective consequences. From my own personal individual experience and collective experience of sixty-eight years of life with others, plus my awareness of human history, the Bible’s proposition seems consistent with life’s realities, both natural and supernatural. That’s why I am always trying to discover the skeptic’s view and explanation for why people do what they do, and what of the consequences? Again, that’s why I asked about Dawkinia. Sandwalk skeptics focus on science, and I’m looking for a clear scientific explanation for good and evil that passes the test of the scientific method, without falling into non-theistic religious belief (naturalism and materialism).

    P.S. If you don’t like my choice of Johnson as a historical and scholarly source for moral perspective, please suggest a skeptical one. Yes! I will read it. If I can find it, and if it’s not real long. Abstracts are good. And, if I can deal with the onslaught by barefoot hiker and steve oberski.

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    1. I take the Bible’s proposition that there is a non-material (spiritual) element to humans.

      We get that. What we're asking folks like you to do is demonstrate it, not merely assert it. Why do you believe it? Why should we?

      That’s why I am always trying to discover the skeptic’s view and explanation

      What I'd like to know is why you keep ignoring our answers and pretending we never gave them, and asking the question yet again.

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  28. Allan Miller said, “objective and subjective morality are indistinguishable in practice.” – Wow! Might this mean that the words “objective and subjective” lose their meaning?


    SLC said, “Never have I heard such s display of ignorance such as in Mr. denny's response to barefoot hiker.”

    1. “The notion that another galaxy must be exactly like the one in which the Solar System is located in order for life to exist is piffle. Even if it were true, there are billions of such galaxies.” - I have quoted Lawrence Kraaus and Neil deGrasse Tyson. I saw a video of Victor Stenger where he turned to an audience of skeptics and said, ‘if you think there’s another planet out there where we can live, forget it.’ All astronomers and astrophysicists agree that we on earth are at the optimum location in the universe to observe the conditions of the universe, and that because of the speed of the expanding universe, we will soon lose the ability to observe more of its history, as well as life itself. If everything we see shows no possibility of life outside earth, and if we’re approaching our limits to observe, and if we’re all on a “one way journey to oblivion” (quoting Tyson) what’s wrong with my statements? The event co-coordinator who scheduled Kraaus for a Dawkins Foundation presentation at Arizona State, after hearing of Kraaus’ speech said, “We’re F…” SLC, check out the scientific professions of the people I cite.

    6. As a matter of fact, life could well exist on Jupiter's moon Europa,” – Europa is thought to have rocky core (not molten, and therefore no necessary tectonic plate dynamics) surrounded by a water shell some 150 km deep. Water = 15% of Europa's mass compared to 0.02% of Earth's. Comets = about 75% water, and Jupiter's moons Ganymede and Callisto some 65% water, but Europa is richest in liquid water, a requirement for life (water is only one of more than 150 requirements necessary for the survival of life, and the scientific community is causing those requirements to increase). Europa does not have enough radioactive materials to heat water enough to melt, tidal friction from its close orbit to Jupiter is thought to provide enough energy for some ice melting. Europa may have necessary CHON molecules, but energy source for driving metabolism, growth, repair and reproduction seems to be missing. Tidal heating only 1/16 that of Io, so geothermal not a viable option. Even if geothermal were sufficient, even Earth's thermal vent life requires oxidants from surface oxygen-based life to survive. Thick ice seems to block any proposed mechanism for providing (necessary) oxidants on Europa. Oxygen-ultraviolet paradox seems to drive the last nail in the coffin of an Europa origin of life model.

    7. “Very recently, it has been discovered that there are probably billions of rogue planets roaming around this galaxy” - SLC. I think you have been reading too much naturalistic wishful thinking from places like National Geographic, Scientific American, etc.

    P.S. I loved learning a new word, “piffle.” Can’t wait to teach my 4 year-old granddaughter. Saying it even feels good.

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    1. 1. Mr. Denny, as all liars do, moves the goal posts. I said that life is probably plentiful in the universe and Victor Stenger agrees (see attacned link). Dr. Stenger was referring to intelligent life, such as us. He thinks that intelligent life is far rarer, which opinion was also held by Ernst Mayr. On the other hand, Carl Sagan disagreed when both men held an internet interview not too long before the latter died. At this point in time, it is foolhardy to extrapolate off of a sample of 1. Money quote: Yes, life was very likely an accident, but we still do not understand the precise mechanism. So we cannot predict how common life may be in the universe. The current thinking is that primitive life, such as bacteria, is fairly common, but complex life, such as plants and animals, is probably very rare. But the universe is vast and may contain a trillion (1,000,000,000,000) planets. So even a very improbable accident is likely to have happened in other places.

      Actually, his 1 trillion figure for the number of planets is almost certainly off by several orders of magnitude. Most single stars in the main sequence will have planetary systems and there are billions of such stars in our galaxy alone, in addition to billions of galaxies in the known universe.

      Would Mr. Denny care to provide a link to a site where Tyson and Krause made such statements. Given his less then stellar record of adherence to accuracy, we can accept nothing less.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/victor-stenger/questions-for-a-new-athei_b_783232.html

      6. The tidal friction of Jupiter's gravitational field would appear to be sufficient to keep the water under the ice cap liquid. Would Mr. Denny care to provide a link to a source for the other statements he is making. Links to Answers in Gonads and the Dishonesty Institute are unacceptable.

      7. See the attached link from Phil Plait's blog before making a further ass of yourself.

      http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/05/18/the-galaxy-may-swarm-with-billions-of-wandering-planets/

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    2. To expand further on the situation on Europa, a Google search reveals a number of issue papers on the subject. Attached is a link to one from the National Academy of Science. However others can be found.

      http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=9451&page=7

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    3. SLC, Here are the Kraaus and Tyson links. Lawrence Kraaus @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ImvlS8PLIo , Neil deGrasse Tyson @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJfqmZ0cuek&feature=related

      SLC said, “Dr. Stenger was referring to intelligent life,” – The real fact here is that it’s quite likely that none of we Sandwalk fans will ever know if there is any kind of (physical) life in the universe. 1) we’ll destroy ourselves first, 2) the advancing speed of the universe and aging of our sun will kill us, 3) Christ will come back to earth and ultimately eliminate the need for physical life, or 4) fill in the blank. When scientists or science writers write for the public, they bend over backward to avoid sharing the actual scientifically sound scenario that predicts the end of all life (however real or hypothetical) in the universe. The way they avoid the (‘virtual or theoretical,’ if you prefer) negative end of life in the universe scenario is to put a positive spin on things by talking about the positive mathematical odds of finding “life.” And by life, they do not mean an environment that limits life to some primitive bacteria. They mean an environment that will permit and foster advanced human life identical to earth’s. They do this in part because they are bound to the idea that earth’s life is not unique or created, but rather a simple accident that repeats itself. The odds of advanced (earth-like) life elsewhere in the universe is about the same as a blind man pulling out a marked dime from a pile of dimes as big as the universe – on the first try. (Mathematically speaking, 1037) So, I guess you’re right, SLC. There is a possibility.

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    4. I have quoted Lawrence Kraaus and Neil deGrasse Tyson

      No, you haven't. You haven't quote either of them or cited a source. You've simply said what you think you heard, and you heard wrong. If you've seen them say they're certain there's no possibility of life elsewhere in the universe, give us a link. I'd love to see that. I think it's a bit like the "Trinity" claims in the Bible... attributed but not actually there.

      ‘if you think there’s another planet out there where we can live, forget it.’

      He doesn't mean there isn't life anywhere else in the universe. He means the odds of us finding another planet to which we would be naturally suited are remotely low, SO TAKE CARE OF THIS ONE. Again, this returns to my point about the people on the Titanic. The fact that they couldn't survive more than a few minutes in, or more than a few seconds under, the Atlantic doesn't rule out the Atlantic as the home of life; there's all kinds of life there suite to it. JUST NOT HUMAN BEINGS.

      we on earth are at the optimum location in the universe to observe the conditions of the universe

      So is everyone else in the universe. There's no "centre" to the universe, Denny. Every point is the centre. It's not like everything is expanding away relative to us; WE'RE expanding away relative to everything else too. We don't have a privileged location in any sense.

      If everything we see shows no possibility of life outside earth

      Nothing we see shows that. There are, in fact, literally billions of G class main sequence stars in our galaxy alone. We know organic chemistry is so common it even exists in space. We now know for certain other planets have stars. It literally is just a matter of time, though it may be many centuries, until we find life elsewhere in the universe. There is no principle whatsoever to exclude the possibility. Your continued insistence that life can't exist anywhere but on a planet precisely or even approximately like Earth, and that no such planet can exist, are both non-starters. The first isn't the case at all, and the second is simply a matter of how large your sample is. And sorry, but the universe is quite clearly much larger than you seem able to imagine. It's not limited by your lack of understanding or conception.

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    5. if we’re all on a “one way journey to oblivion” (quoting Tyson) what’s wrong with my statements?

      What does that have to do with the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe? Does that fact that people grow old and die in Pittsburgh mean that life can't exist in Peoria (where it's ALSO fated to grow old and die)?

      Kraaus’ speech said, “We’re F…”

      Again: what does that have to do with the CURRENT existence of life anywhere in the universe, including here?

      but energy source for driving metabolism, growth, repair and reproduction seems to be missing

      According to whom? If tidal forces are great enough to keep water liquid, then there's obviously a huge and constant input of energy into the system. Life there wouldn't include photosynthesis as a means of energy exchange, but there's all kinds of life on Earth that doesn't depend on it either, both in the deep oceans and among thermophiles. It's really only near the surface that it's viable and useful for life here.

      Even if geothermal were sufficient, even Earth's thermal vent life requires oxidants from surface oxygen-based life to survive

      No. There are thermophiles that are anerobic and use sulphur in their respiration in place of oxygen. They're not dependent on photosynthetic recycling. It's life along these lines we would expect to find on Europa. Furthermore, the possibility and character of life on Europa is not obliged by limits on life here on Earth.

      I think you have been reading too much naturalistic wishful thinking from places like National Geographic, Scientific American, etc.

      As opposed to The Big Bronze Age Book of Talking Snakes, Walking on Water, and Red Sea Pedestrians?

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    6. is the account of the creation of the universe and life on planet earth as it happened in chronological order. Genesis 2 begins with God planting a garden

      Yes, we understand that, Denny. The point is, it's wrong. Repeatedly. Your point here. Wrong. The first life on Earth wasn't multicelluar plant life; not by a long shot. That took billions of years to arise from life that was much simpler, and which probably isn't mooted in the Bible because, gee, the goat botherers who made it up had no idea it existed. But your god would have had to. If it were accurate, the Bible wouldn't say plants were made on the second day (and WHICH plants? Did you realize flowering plants, for instance, are incredibly recent, so recent that only the last of the dinosaurs could ever have seen one?), it would say that microbes were created on the 200 billionth day, or some such.

      It also says, and please understand I have no intention of letting this pass even if you do, that the Earth predates the sun and the stars, which it does not. This is not an accurate account of what science demonstrates to be the history of our world. It is a childish, uneducated guess, based simply on moving from what looks elemental and simple to what seems more complex.

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    7. I haven't had a chance to listen to the Krause lecture, although I actually listened to it several months ago and downloaded it at that time. However, I listened to the Tyson lecture and he never said any of the things that Mr. Denny claimed he said.

      1. Tyson never said that an a galaxy that could support life must be exactly like the Milky Way Galaxy. In fact, the Andromeda Galaxy which is only 5 million light years away is very like the Milky Way Galaxy (albeit it is somewhat larger).

      2. Tyson never said that an exo-solar system which might support life must be in the exact same location as ours in its galaxy.

      3. Tyson never said that an exo-solar system which might support life must be exactly like ours.

      4. Tyson never said that an exo-planet which might support life must have a moon of about the same size as ours.

      5. Tyson never said that an exo-star must be exactly like our Sun in order to have planets that might support life.

      So, once again, Mr. Denny is seriously in error. Actually, what Tyson spent most of the lecture pontificating on was the lack of evidence for design in the universe and the concomitant evidence for the existence of god.

      What I suspect that Mr. Denny is really citing is an idiotic treatise written by Guillermo Gonzalez, a creationist astrophysicist who threw away a promising career at Iowa State University in the investigation of exo-solar systems to indulge his religious absurdities in intelligent design. In other words, an IDiot.

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    8. By the way, as more evidence for Mr. Denny's ignorance, he makes the claim that star formation is no longer going on. Here's a link to a post by Phil Plait on this subject which refutes this claim.

      http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2012/04/17/a-stunning-star-factory-for-hubbles-22nd/

      I have some advice for Mr. Denny. Instead of listening to Youtube selections and misrepresenting what is said, I suggest that he spend some time reading a few popular books on the issues on which he writes so knowledgeably from such a vast fund of ignorance.

      On evolution, books by Ken Miller, Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne to start with. On astronomy and cosmology, books by Phil Plait, Neil Tyson, Lawrence Krause to start with. In particular, read them with an open mind instead of filtering them through the piffle found in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.

      I would also suggest that Mr. Denny stop lying about the fact that the creation myths in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are in conflict. As was previously stated, Genesis 1 is perfectly clear so that no misunderstanding is possible, humans were created after all the other animals, Genesis 2 is also perfectly clear so that no misunderstanding is possible, humans were created first and all the other animals afterward. These two myths are in total contradiction to each other. Period, end of story.

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    9. I suggest that he spend some time reading a few popular books on the issues on which he writes so knowledgeably from such a vast fund of ignorance.

      Can't do it, SLC. It leads to growing up, leaving Neverland, and stopping believing in Tinkerbell and other magic pixies. Finding out what's real risks revealing the rest as myth and abandoning the happy happy story that the stars only exist to lead you to it--second one on the right and straight on till morning; all the rest, just confetti.

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    10. it’s quite likely that none of we Sandwalk fans will ever know if there is any kind of (physical) life in the universe. 1) we’ll destroy ourselves first,

      Hardly out of the question. Pity we didn't have an all-knowing, all-loving god looking out for us to spot that possiblility and steer us clear of it.

      2) the advancing speed of the universe and aging of our sun will kill us,

      Not until the sun and the Earth are considerably older again than they are now. Your belief in your fellow man is underwhelming, Denny. No wonder you need your invisible pal. Consider that from the "invention" of controlled fire to its application in the first flight in 1783 took several hundreds of thousands of years. From that to the first powered flight was another 120. From that to the first manned space flight, less than 60. And from that to the first man on the moon, another 8. Consider that from the launch of Sputnik to the landing of Apollo 11, less than 12 years passed. A child born for the first would not have yet been in junior high school for the second. In my lifetime alone, and yours, we've sent robots to explore every single planet in our solar system. Landed on comets and asteroids; visited moons. When my parents were born, that was science fiction and some people actually held manned space flight was impossible for various reasons. Nuclear power and weapons were imaginary. Organ transplants were theoretical. Computers were rare, secret devices that filled rooms and calculated projective trajectories over several days; no one even imagined they could sit on your dash and tell you which way to turn to get to Florida. Both of them are still alive, and yet they've seen all that come to pass. But you will insist we're getting nowhere and doing nothing and should all just settle back and wait for your angry, "loving" god to finally pop his cork and kill us all and then spend eternity hanging with the COOL deadies (those being the ones who treat him forever and ever and ever as the Great Extrauniversal Fonzie; Amen).

      3) Christ will come back to earth and ultimately eliminate the need for physical life,

      Personally I'm counting on the Great Prophet Zarquod to show up at Milliways and pass on his wisdom to those assembled to dine at the end of the universe. But that's just me.

      or 4) fill in the blank.

      And you've got the nerve to call us gloomy and hopeless.

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  29. barefoot hiker said, “there's all kinds of life there (Atlantic ocean). – My reply to SLC, when referring to the universe vs. the Atlantic Ocean, didn’t some across correctly. The statistical chances of life suitable for humans elsewhere in the universe, based on known scientific data is (Mathematically speaking) Ten to the 37th power.) Who cares if there’s someplace where only bacteria can live? Why would anyone care or see this as some kind of positive – if life were limited to bacteria?

    barefoot hiker – By my understanding, everything you said is correct, except for “So is everyone else in the universe.” Earth is at an especially dark spot, not blinded by some supernova or nearby galaxy, which would prevent viewing distant stars and galaxies. Also, “privileged” is a subjective term I would use, but you’re free to omit it.

    barefoot hiker said, “ There is no principle whatsoever to exclude the possibility.” – Here’s a short paragraph to argue against to your point about star, and consequently, planet formation.

    "From our study, we now know that typical galaxies in the early universe contained three to ten times more molecular gas than today," said Cooper, "a strong indication that the rate of star formation has slowed because those galaxies have less raw material available compared to when they were younger, and not because there was some change in efficiency with which they make new stars." http://www.astronomy.com/en/sitecore/content/Home/News-Observing/News/2010/02/Study%20Fewer%20stars%20born%20today%20than%20in%20early%20universe.aspx I think the law of entropy is at work here, and therefore it affirms the ultimate demise of the universe, which is why the RDF event coordinator was flummoxed, after hearing Kraaus describe the point of his “Universe from Nothing” talk.

    The last Goldilocks planet I read about, as an example of other life in the universe did not rotate on an axis. Its sunward side was inhospitable to either unsheltered human life or to conditions for growing food, because of the heat. Its backside was inhospitable to either unsheltered human life or to conditions for growing food, because of the cold. The narrow band in-between had a friendlier temperature (and maybe even water), but was trapped between the hot and cold and the likelihood of severe convection and resulting storms. Yet, the publication in which it appeared, touted it as an indication of possible “life” in the universe.

    P.S. The doom and gloom scenario I continue to paint was not invented by me, but rather by the cosmological realities discovered by reputable scientists like Stenger, Kraaus, Tyson, etc. Tyson, at the link I earlier provided, goes to great lengths to describe the great and many negative hostile aspects of the universe. I’m simply a realist on these matters, when I look at things through a naturalist’s materialist’s eyes.

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    1. The doom and gloom scenarios that Mr. Denny whines about won't take place for millions, if not billions of years. Hardly something for us to worry about at this stage. As a for instance, the Sun is good for another billion or two years at its current output.

      As for Yeshua of Nazareth returning soon, the scriptures say that he promised to return during the lifetimes of those who were in the sound of his voice. As Martin Gardner put it, the Galilean carpenter turned itinerant preacher was mistaken.

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    2. Denny said:
      I’m simply a realist on these matters, when I look at things through a naturalist’s materialist’s eyes.

      No Denny, you are not.

      You are picking some words of famous non-belivers (those which suits you) and then you are claiming that this is undeniable gospel of materialism (sic!).

      And anyway - what you are trying to prove?
      That we are doomed, therefore God exists?
      Or maybe that materialism is stupid, because scientist says that universe is going to die?

      Do you know how much time it will take a universe to "die"?

      From wikipedia:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultimate_fate_of_the_universe

      Star formation ceases: 100 trilion years (10^14)
      Dark Era and Photon Age: 10^100

      Do you have idea how much time is it? Human civilisations exists for approximately few tousands years!

      And look at that article from wikipedia - we are not even sure, how universe will "die".
      And what that mean, anyway?

      Universe probably hasn't begun 14 bilion years ago. It maybe only changed its state.
      It is also possible that it will again change its state in the far future.

      So, are we doomed?
      We are. You and me and others will die. But we simply don't know that about universe.

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  30. Who cares if there’s someplace where only bacteria can live?

    Well, ME, since you're asking. I'm not even a scientist, except in the sense of junior apprentice scientist with the secret decoder ring and all, but even I can imagine fewer bigger events than, for example, the demonstration that life did, or actually still does, live on Mars... principally because it would deprovincialize the Earth and forever dispel the arguments of people like yourself. It would mean that one day, somewhere out there, we could encounter other beings capable of understanding the same things as us, but approaching them in unimaginably different ways. It's hard for me to imagine anything more exciting than that. That I would like to see in my lifetime. A bearded Jewish zombie showing up to take me away to an eternity of telling him over and over and over what a swell guy he is? Thanks, I'll pass. That's a marginally more attractive offer than being tortured forever. I would quite literally rather peacefully cease to exist than do EITHER of those things.

    The statistical chances of life suitable for humans elsewhere in the universe, based on known scientific data is (Mathematically speaking) Ten to the 37th power.)

    I don't believe anybody has the goods on this, Denny. But I no more believe the odds against finding an Earth-sized planet in the liquid-water band around the quadrillions of stars in the known universe to be anything at all like that remote than I do that your god exists. Mars alone, had it a thicker atmosphere, would qualify; and in the past, actually did. And that's just around one star alone. So excuse me a moment while I reset my bullshit detector. Meanwhile, please, carry on.

    a strong indication that the rate of star formation has slowed

    You don't say! You know, when I was ten, eleven, tweleve, I was growing two inches a year. Cell division was going like a mofo in this little animal. Decades later, not so much. But it still goes on. Same with star formation. What a surprise that a universe empty of stars but just full of the stuff for making them would have an accelerated rate of star production relative to later times when the reverse is the case. Nevertheless, there's still lots of material for doing this, and it gets recycled every time a star supernovas, too. That's why our sun has absorption lines for various metals in its spectrum... it's partly made of stars that fused hydrogen into heavier elements and then blew up to provide the material to make other stars like ours... and beings like us. Every atom in your body that isn't hydrogen by definition was once INSIDE A STAR, somewhere out in the universe billions of years ago, before our sun, a third generation star, even came into existence.

    because those galaxies have less raw material available compared to when they were younger

    No dispute here. Nothing in what you quoted says it's not still going on, or that it can happen in some places but not others. Where in all that is your reputed "3/4 of galaxies can't do this" figure, by the way?

    I think the law of entropy is at work here

    No, it's got nothing to do with entropy. It has to do with how much free hydrogen there is available for star formation. Did you ever notice that state creation was fairly brisk in the US for a long time, but really seemed to slow down after 1912 for some reason? Same idea. Except we're a long way from 1912 in the universe yet.

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    1. barefoot hiker said:
      A bearded Jewish zombie showing up to take me away to an eternity of telling him over and over and over what a swell guy he is? Thanks, I'll pass. That's a marginally more attractive offer than being tortured forever.

      I am not sure if I correctly understood you. Are you saying that going to heaven is better than going to hell?
      Well, maybe it is. But I like to see it another way:

      Let's assume, that hell exists. Then I am going to spend eternity with Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, prof. Moran, Bertrand Russell and many other clever people. And since this is hell, and I am not very amusing or intelligent person, that would mean I will meet them (additional torture ]:-D ). And since our damnation is eternal, there will be plenty opportunities for talking with them.

      And in case you are wondering if any discussion will be ever possible, the answer is - yes!
      I once asked a theologian if thinking is possible in hell (because of that pain), and he said: "Yes. Satan for example is very smart."

      But don't take me seriously - I don't want to live forever, even in the company of such prominent people.

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  31. The last Goldilocks planet I read about, as an example of other life in the universe did not rotate on an axis. Its sunward side was inhospitable to either unsheltered human life or to conditions for growing food, because of the heat.

    Denny, I'm no physicist, and clearly neither are you, but I know enough about it that I don't believe a planet that orbits its star so closely that it's tidally locked to it falls within anything remotely like that star's "Goldilocks zone". Mercury is three times closer to the sun than the Earth is and even it isn't tidally locked.

    Yet, the publication in which it appeared, touted it as an indication of possible “life” in the universe.

    Well, then, Denny, it was touted as such by someone who's even less of a scientist than I am. And that's not saying much.

    The doom and gloom scenario I continue to paint was not invented by me

    No, but you're all over it like flies on... well, anyway, you're inordinately fond of it primarily because you see it as one of two things, or probably both... one, an impossible refutation of your god's perfect handiwork and thus something you don't really believe will come about; and two, a hectoring stick with which to beat naturalists and attempt to depress people into grasping at the illusory straw your mythology purports to hold out to us. Unfortunately, people like me can accept that the universe won't always be the home of beings like us, that nothing lasts forever (at least as such), and that there's no such thing as universal "meaning". Yet, we can still see the temporal meaning in our lives and get on with them all the same. There's still lots that's interesting, all kinds of things to do, and much to achieve. The questions are can we and will we. The challenge comes from within: can we meet our own greatest expectations, and what surprising things can we learn along the way? Y'know, like that silicon can be trained to tell you how to drive to Florida. Who knew?

    Tyson, at the link I earlier provided, goes to great lengths to describe the great and many negative hostile aspects of the universe

    Nothing like juggling goal posts, is there? Theists go on and on about how good their god is. Look at how he made the universe for life! Look at how perfectly he made it for life! But then a Sagan or a Tyson comes along and says, no, it's not fine tuned for life like us at all; we're clinging to a tiny, particular little environment in it by the skin of our teeth... and now it's, oh, look how our god made just the one little place prefect for life! Whatever you guys can't refute goes from being a lie to an underlying proof of all the rest of the junk you shift on top of reality. At least we're not still having to convince you guys the Earth's not flat anymore.

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    1. Still fighting the heliocentric model of the solar system though.

      http://www.galileowaswrong.com/galileowaswrong/

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  32. barefoot hiker,

    Well, I see some hope in communication, if not agreement, between us. It has certainly and slowly surprised me that there are people who “accept that the universe won't always be the home of beings like us, that nothing lasts forever (at least as such), and that there's no such thing as universal ‘meaning’.” I’ve seen that sentiment at Sandwalk many times and have honestly struggled to believe that that’s how some really view life. You then speak about “temporal meaning.” That’s the Bible’s proposition - That the world/universe and physical life are “temporal,” and that there is meaning to the temporal life. But, it goes further by proposing that there’s nothing “temporal” if there isn’t something eternal – one can’t have one side to a coin without having an opposite side too. And, since there indeed is a “temporal” existence, there must be an eternal existence. Several in this thread have asked me to prove the eternal/spiritual by providing temporal/physical proof for something that’s not physical. It can be done, but it’s difficult with skeptics.

    You implied that people like me “attempt to depress people into grasping at the illusory straw.” It is not my intent to depress anyone. I think the realities discovered and expounded by Kraaus, Tyson et al, is depressing. This is my somewhat crass way to put make a point. Christians think they’ve won the lottery, the eternal lottery (if you will). We showed up at the lottery administrator’s office (belief in God), and redeemed our free ticket (Christ’s forgiveness). The lottery administrator told us that he has unlimited resources (not bound by “temporal” existence), and that he wants us to tell everyone we know that they can win too.

    You said, “The challenge comes from within:” – It’s not meant to depress to ask, ‘within what?’ Allan Miller and others at Sandwalk keep giving me evolutionary biological and biochemical reasons why there’s nothing but physical dynamics going on “within” us. If that’s all there is, what does your use of “within” mean? The physical stuff? Is that what you mean by, “The challenge comes from within?” What challenge? Our molecules and the unguided process of natural selection are at work. If that’s where you place “meaning,” OK. “The challenge comes from within” seems to me to be something beyond the temporal and not fully answered by molecules and natural selection that leads to - nothing.

    You also said, “Nothing like juggling goal posts?” If I put my hand on the manifold of a running car engine and get burned, I don’t think that’s bad design on the designer’s part, I think it’s a learning experience for me. Tyson seems to think the conditions of the universe that lead to our ability to exist are bad, and the indication of bad design. I think all his unpleasant descriptions of the realities of the universe are (simplistically stated) the explanation of why we are here contemplating our existence. I think Tyson sees scientific reality fine, but misses the reason for it.

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    1. But, it goes further by proposing that there’s nothing “temporal” if there isn’t something eternal

      It doesn't follow that time and existence could be finite. If there's nothing at either end, then this is simply all there ever is. That's entirely possible. As to the "why" of it, there isn't necessarily an answer. Your god is still nothing but you perceiving that as a "gap" and rushing to fill it.

      Nevertheless, the "eternity", as far as I can tell, is the existence of the universe itself. I have no reason not to believe it has always existed in some form and always will. It exists. What permission or explanation does it require?

      We showed up at the lottery administrator’s office (belief in God), and redeemed our free ticket (Christ’s forgiveness).

      So how do you know you didn't give your money to a swindler and the REAL lottery is, say, over there at Kaaba? It seems to me you're running a much bigger risk than I am. A god might be upset with me for looking at all the options and saying none of them convinces me. But he's going to be even more upset with you if you've not only rejected his truth but then gone on to hitch your wagon to an absurd refutation of it. At least people like me stayed neutral. Folks like you, of whatever faith, declared war on every other proposition of eternal verity, and you stand to be in biiiiig trouble.

      It’s not meant to depress to ask, ‘within what?’

      Ourselves. I already regret missed opportunities in my life; times I could have risen to the occasion, seen what I could do, and let the opportunity pass me by. Sometimes, though, I tried. Maybe I failed, but what I learned either helped me succeed when I tried again, or else succeed in something else. That's what I'm talking about. As individuals, and as a species, we find meaning in testing our abilities against our expectations, and the satisfaction that comes from either accomplishment or at least education. That it's not a monument for all eternity doesn't matter to me at all. If your only reason for attempting anything is the idea that a trillion trillion trillion years from now it'll still be remembered and matter, that's pretty vain. If it isn't, if there are other reasons you make the attempt, then fine... YOU ADMIT THERE ARE VALID REASONS other than "eternal meaning". Dispense with the latter and there you go.

      Tyson seems to think the conditions of the universe that lead to our ability to exist are bad, and the indication of bad design.

      No, that's not what he said, and if you could escape for just a split second the necessity to define the matter on the basis of the necessity of design, you'd get that. He's arguing that if it IS design, it's NOT "good" design where beings like us are concerned. But his underlying point is that it's not "design" at all. It is what is it, and on this planet conditions are such that organic chemistry is robust, and here we are.

      I think Tyson sees scientific reality fine, but misses the reason for it.

      I think he sees it and accepts it on its own terms. People like you see it and can't accept that, and need to ask "why" and in asking, insist there MUST be an answer when there isn't necessarily one. There are all kinds of questions that don't warrant an answer.

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  33. barefoot hiker said, “Where in all that is your reputed ‘3/4 of galaxies can't do this’ figure, by the way?” - OK. For you skeptics of my sources, here are only two that support my suggestion about "3/4 of galaxies.” (cannot produce planets)

    · Rahul Shetty and Eve C. Ostriker, "Global Modeling of Spur Formation in Spiral Galaxies," Astrophysical Journal 647 (2006): 997-1017; Woong-Tae Kim and Eve C. Ostriker, "Formation of Spiral-Arm Spurs and Bound Clouds in Vertically Stratified Galactic Gas Disks," Astrophysical Journal 646 (2006): 213-31; C. L. Dobbs and I. A. Bonnell, "Spurs and Feathering in Spiral Galaxies," Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 367 (2006): 873-78; S. Chakrabarti, G. Laughlin, F. H. Shu, "Branch, Spur, and Feather Formation in Spiral Galaxies," Astrophysical Journal 596 (2003): 220-39; Woong-Tae Kim and Eve C. Ostriker, "Formation and Fragmentation of Gaseous Spurs in Spiral Galaxies," Astrophysical Journal 570 (2002): 132-51.
    · Shetty and Ostriker, 997-1017.

    These folks are probably naturalists. I don’t know anything that would indicate that they are Christians or even religious.

    These studies contribute to my point that not only is star formation occurring less often (= fewer planets), but also that only spiral galaxies (comprising about one quarter to one third of the universe’s galaxies) have to properties to foster life. Irregular and elliptical galaxies cannot. Irregular and elliptical galaxies compromise most of the galaxies in the universe, and therefore they must be removed from the estimates you guys keep offering to support the idea that there must be lots of earth-like planets, and therefore eliminate the idea that earth is completely unique and created specifically for humans to encounter God. That’s really what this discussion is all about. It’s not really about science. Science simply ends up being used as a tool or weapon, sometimes clumsily, against the other side.

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    1. For you skeptics of my sources, here are only two that support my suggestion about "3/4 of galaxies.”

      Your sources would appear to be about spiral galaxies. The galaxy in which we live, on a planet, is a spiral galaxy.

      Anyway, regardless... assuming you've actually read these studies... what do they say about star and planet formation that leads you to believe three-quarters of galaxies (which are, after all, made of stars) are incapable of producing the things they're made of? To me, that's rather like suggesting three-quarters of human beings can't produce cells. You tell me that and you have some 'splaining to do, Lucy.

      These studies contribute to my point that not only is star formation occurring less often (= fewer planets)

      Denny, I don't care if it STOPS, tomorrow at 8:52 a.m. The point is, there are ALREADY quadrillions of planets in existence around the universe, just extrapolating on the sample we've confirmed from a tiny handful of local stars. Even if another planet is never made again--and sorry, I don't buy anything like that--there's still an inestimable possibility of life out there. And it's probably never heard of Jesus and never will, either.

      Irregular and elliptical galaxies cannot.

      Explain why.

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    2. Given Mr. Denny's record of misrepresenting what Stenger, Tyson, and Krauss have said, I have no confidence that he is correctly characterizing the articles he cites.

      However, just for the sake of argument, let's take the claim that only spiral galaxies can produce planets and that only 1/4 of the galaxies are of the spiral type. Since there are an estimated 100 billion or more galaxies in the universe, that means that there are 25 billion or more spiral galaxies. Since each of these galaxies have at least 100 billion stars (the Milky Way galaxy has several hundred billion stars), that means that there are more then 2 quadrillion stars in those galaxies. If only 1% of those stars have planetary systems (almost certainly far too low), that leaves us with 20 billion planetary systems in the universe and likely enough 100 billion or more planets.

      The notion that only 1 of these 100 billion planets could sustain life is ludicrous.

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  34. The notion that only 1 of these 100 billion planets could sustain life is ludicrous.

    Exactly. Right here in our own solar system there are at least three good candidates for life similar in principle to what we know exists on Earth; they are Mars, Europa, and Titan. Europe and Titan are not even in the so-called "Goldilocks zone" of the sun (strictly speaking, neither is Mars in its modern atmospheric guise), but enjoy sufficient energy input by other means to make them at least worth considering as possible homes of life based on organic chemistry. That's just in one solar system. SLC's talking about 100 billion planets; add to that the various moons proximate to the size of the Earth orbiting gas giants and the number candidate worlds doubles, triples, quadruples. Do I know for absolutely certain there's life in the universe beyond the Earth? No... I can't show you that, so I can't say I do. But am I convinced that there is due to the indicative evidence... the ubiquity of organic molecules, the ease with which they self-assemble, the vast number of stars and planets in the universe... yes, that's easily enough to convince me it's essentially undeniable that life exists elsewhere.

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  35. barefoot hiker said, “It doesn't follow that time and existence could be finite.” – I don’t understand your statement. Science, not religion, has confirmed that the universe and its beginning is/were finite. The word finite has no meaning, if there isn’t something infinite.

    barefoot hiker said, “eternity", as far as I can tell, is the existence of the universe itself.” – That sounds self-contradictory. Time came into existence along with matter at the instant of the Big Bang. (Remember, I am merely stating scientific reality, determined and described by mostly naturalists.) Time (in the universe) is as limited as matter. Therefore, the universe is not eternal.

    barefoot hiker said, “I have no reason not to believe it has always existed in some form and always will.” – This is not science. It’s personal speculation.

    barefoot hiker said, “So how do you know you didn't give your money to a swindler …” – As I have said before, it’s hard to reason in a blog about matters of faith. Faith (the Christian faith) isn’t (as you said) “temporal,” like life and the universe. It isn’t measurable, except by action or outcome.

    barefoot hiker said, “regret” and “failed”. - If all matter is destined to self-destruct and disappear into oblivion, what is the value of “regret” and “failed”, in an evolutionary sense?

    barefoot hiker said, “it's not "design" at all.” – That’s your opinion. It’s not mine. One of us is likely mistaken.

    barefoot hiker said, “Your sources would appear to be about spiral galaxies. The galaxy in which we live, on a planet, is a spiral galaxy.” - Of course. Only spiral galaxies have the potential for hosting life. (Are there any astronomers or cosmologists out there in Sandwalk land who will confirm this for the Denny skeptics?) I think I already noted that irregular and elliptical galaxies cannot host life. They constitute most of the universe’s galaxies. You guys seem to forget that there are consequences to the universe’s expansion. It’s not just getting bigger, it’s getting colder and that’s related to less star formation. Admit it, Tyson was right, “A one way journey to oblivion.” My point being that naturalism and materialism are ideas limited to physical reality, and physical reality is limited to the universe and its realities.

    barefoot hiker said, “inestimable” - The chances of life in the universe, based on known cosmic data are very ‘estimable.’ That’s why I continue to cite naturalistic scientists and their findings, based on cosmological and astronomical data, and the laws of physics.

    SLC said, “Denny's record of misrepresenting what Stenger, Tyson, and Krauss.” - I did not misrepresenting what Stenger, Tyson, Krauss and many other atheistic scientists have said about the ultimate reality of life in the universe. Like all atheists, they put a positive spin on their view/interpretation of cosmology, because of their atheistic worldview, in order to have logic to reject God.

    SLC. You continue to dismiss my statements about the need for identical planets and solar system characteristics in order to have life anywhere in the universe. Please keep in mind dark matter, which effects the way things behave in and around planets, solar systems and galaxies.

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    1. Mr. Denny, dark matter has not the slightest measurable affect on the motions of the planets in the solar system; neither does dark energy. Yet another example of Mr. Denny's vast fund of ignorance.

      By the way, one of the other commentors has already demonstrated Mr. Denny's misrepresenting what Victor Stenger said; he was referring to the impracticability of moving to another planet in the universe, given the vast distances between the stars, not stating that there were no other planets capable of sustaining life such as exists here. A textbook example of quote mining by taking something out of context.

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  36. Science, not religion, has confirmed that the universe and its beginning is/were finite. The word finite has no meaning, if there isn’t something infinite.

    Hi, Denny. That statement is not correct. The current state of scientific knowledge and theories regarding the beginning(s) of the universe(s) is not such as to be able to specify whether the beginning of the universe in which we live, or the potentially infinite number of other universes, were "finite." In fact, "finite" or "infinite" are really quite vague terms to use in describing the origin(s) of the universe(s), so I am curious regarding exactly what you mean by use of the term "finite"? In terms of time? Space? Mass? Some other characteristic?

    You continue to dismiss my statements about the need for identical planets and solar system characteristics in order to have life anywhere in the universe. Please keep in mind dark matter, which effects the way things behave in and around planets, solar systems and galaxies.

    I must say I don't understand what you are saying with regard to dark matter and the difference between conditions in Earth's solar system and elsewhere. I would appreciate it if you would explain (preferably with a quote and citation to the quoted source) what you mean.

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  37. “It doesn't follow that time and existence could be finite.” – I don’t understand your statement

    I realized later I should have said "couldn't be finite". And no, science has not determined the universe to be existentially finite; merely temporally. Those aren't the same things. And you have it backwards. In order for the "INfinite" to be conceivable, you must first have the FINITE. The former is predicated on the latter, obviously.

    Time came into existence along with matter at the instant of the Big Bang.

    "Time" doesn't have a separate existence. It's simply a word we use to describe rate of change. Change became possible when the singularity the universe was took on volume and differentiation at the big bang. But that's not the same thing as saying the universe itself came into existence at that time. We've had this out before. Repeatedly. Please try to let it sink in this time.

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  38. This is not science. It’s personal speculation.

    What IS science is that there's no evidence to the contrary, which makes my position the default. YOURS in speculation, because it assumes an agency that is not evidenced.

    It isn’t measurable, except by action or outcome.

    Well, then it's not science, and it's an intrusion on this blog and places like science classrooms.

    what is the value of “regret” and “failed”, in an evolutionary sense?

    None, as far as I can see. I'm not sure why this is even a pertinent question. And you before you go blathering up a nice straw man that people like me insist that everything boils down to an urgency of natural selection, no, I don't. There are emergent properties that come into being as a result of OTHER factors that respond to environmental pressures, however; in this case, the general survival advantages of the mammalian brain.

    That’s your opinion. It’s not mine. One of us is likely mistaken.

    Yeah, but the difference is that my position is the default position, and yours is a positive assertion of entity that requires the backing of evidence. I personally have never been shown anything compelling. But then, my threshold is higher than yours because it wasn't eroded by indoctrination when it was most tender and susceptible... during childhood.

    Only spiral galaxies have the potential for hosting life.

    Explain how.

    I think I already noted that irregular and elliptical galaxies cannot host life.

    Yes, you did; and for the third time, EXPLAIN HOW.

    it’s getting colder and that’s related to less star formation

    No, Denny, it really isn't. Star formation is a function of gravity. It doesn't REQUIRE heat; heat is one of its PRODUCTS.

    Admit it, Tyson was right, “A one way journey to oblivion.”

    Yeah, we've been down this road before, and I still don't care. So the universe gets bigger, colder, and billions and billions and billions of years from now, beings like us won't be tenable someday. Alas, alack. That still doesn't send me off squealing like a little girl, begging an imaginary man to save me from the monster. That's just how it is... or appears it might be, on the basis of our knowledge of physics at the beginning of the 21st century.

    The chances of life in the universe, based on known cosmic data are very ‘estimable.’

    If that's so, then break down the factors, their values, and the determination of those values for us.

    Please keep in mind dark matter, which effects the way things behave in and around planets, solar systems and galaxies.

    What do you think the stuff is, magic? Denny, "dark matter" is a hypothetical concept used to explain gravitational anomalies that can't be accounted for in the estimation of what we consider ordinary visible matter... like the paths of galaxies. It has NOTHING to do with life, its processes, or the likelihood of its existence here, there, or anywhere.

    Is that the width, breadth, and depth of your bag of tricks? Moot a cutting edge concept, fail to understand it, equate it with magic or metaphysics, and use that cloth to stitch up a puppet named "God"?

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  39. SLC said, “A textbook example of quote mining by taking something out of context.” – I was not quote mining. A friend has a DVD of a debate between Victor Stenger and Hugh Ross at a California Skeptics Conference. I’ve seen the video twice. Why do you and so many other Sandwalk fans seem to want to avoid the ‘natural’ scientifically predicted outcome of the universe’s state/fate – that Tyson summed-up so well, “The universe is expanding on a one-way trip to oblivion!” http://alcalde.texasexes.org/2012/02/star-power/

    SLC said, “Mr. Denny, dark matter has not the slightest measurable affect on the motions of the planets in the solar system.” – “Dark matter is detectable by its effects on normal matter.” If this statement is true, dark matter has effects on normal matter. Planets and people are normal matter. http://science.howstuffworks.com/dictionary/astronomy-terms/dark-matter.htm

    Jud said, “I must say I don't understand” – I already alluded to dark matter in my reply to SLC above. Re. “Earth's solar system,” and my earlier claim that the locations and characteristics of each of our solar system’s planets have a life sustaining bearing on earth and its life, and that for life to exist elsewhere in the universe, similar or exactly the same conditions must exist.

    One greatly oversimplified example is provided in the paragraph below and excerpted from Hugh Ross at: http://www.reasons.org/articles/design-of-the-solar-systems-gas-giants The sources are noted there too.

    “As, this has to do with the masses and orbits of the solar system’s four gas giant planets, which are crucial for life on planet Earth. Without the gas giant planets, Earth would suffer from frequent life-destructive collision events from asteroids and comets. The four gas giant planets act as gravitational shields for Earth. In order to adequately protect Earth from collision events without being gravitationally disturbed, the protection must come from not just one gas giant planet, but rather several. Previous work by certain members of the team of theoreticians, and others, shows that the mass and orbital characteristics for each of the solar system’s gas giant planets are exquisitely optimized to make the long-term survival of a wide diversity of both primitive and advanced life-forms on Earth possible. http://iopscience.iop.org/1538-3881/134/5/1790 “The team determined that in the presence of the gas disk about the Sun, from which all four gas giants formed, the configurations where the planets lock into a “quadruple mean-motion resonance,” are the only configurations for these planets that are able to reach a steady state (stable constant orbits) 1” Alessandro Morbidelli et al., “Dynamics of the Giant Planets of the Solar System in the Gaseous Protoplanetary Disk and Their Relationship to the Current Orbital Architecture,” Astronomical Journal 134 (November 2007): 1790-98.

    SLC and Jud. One statement by Denny, some challenges by you, and some replies by me do not accurately sum up these extremely complex cosmological factors. My point is, if one takes the totality of the stuff that’s written by naturalistic scientists about how the cosmos is believed to work, the likelihood of life anywhere else in the universe is nil. That’s it. If naturalists are OK with some temporary dancing molecules with no future as the ultimate reality of one’s human life, fine. Christians do not. In very general terms, we see the beginning and ending of the physical universe (scientifically-speaking), and the non-physical human experiences life (spiritually-speaking) as having been predicted and as being consistent with the Bible’s narrative, and that makes the Bible and its message trustworthy - Just as trustworthy as empirical science.

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    1. My point is, if one takes the totality of the stuff that’s written by naturalistic scientists about how the cosmos is believed to work, the likelihood of life anywhere else in the universe is nil.

      Hi, Denny. That again is an incorrect statement. The scientists I've read (and I'm very interested in cosmology, so I've done a fair amount of reading) write explicitly that it is virtually certain there is a great deal of other life in the universe. The central concept is how huge the universe is, and how many billions upon billions of Earthlike planets there are. We've only just begun to search for these with experiments like the Kepler mission, and hundreds of Earthlike planets have already been found.

      Re: Dark matter - I believe you misunderstand both dark matter and its role in the possibility of life. First, it is dark *energy*, not dark *matter*, which may be responsible for something like three quarters of the mass of the universe. Dark matter is potentially responsible for much, much less of the universe's total mass. But the important thing is that there isn't anything you've said (nor anything I've read anywhere else) that connects the *distribution* of dark matter in the universe to the potential for life. That is, you haven't mentioned any difference between the near-Earth dark matter distribution and its distribution anywhere else in the universe, let alone how that would affect the potential for life.

      Finally, Dr. Ross - His "Goldilocks scenario" pronouncements, which I see strong echoes of in your writing here, are not very good science, judging by the track record of those I've seen discussed. For example, there is his statement that if Earth's orbit were just 1% nearer to or further away from the Sun it would not support life, easily debunked if you are aware that Earth's distance from the Sun varies by *more than* 1% as it orbits each year. (It's an ellipse, not a circle - known since Kepler - the astronomer, not the space mission - so it's quite a shock Ross didn't bother to take it into account.)

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    2. 1. Mr. Denny, consider the theory of holes. The first thing to do when one finds oneself in a hole is to stop digging. You don't have the faintest notion of what you are talking about. I will say it once again. Dark matter (and dark energy) has no measurable effect on the motions of the planets in our solar system or any other solar system. How do I know this. Because calculations of planetary motions from Newton's laws and the small (very small) effects of General Relativity agree with what is observed is in statistical agreement to many decimal places. Dark matter is not nearly dense enough to have any measurable effect. Dark matter is observed to have an effect on issues such as gravitational lensing and the revolution rate of the stars around the center of the galaxy.

      2. Hugh Ross is an old earth creationist and has no credibility with mainstream cosmologists.

      3. The notion that gas giants are required to protect the inner solar system from asteroid collisions is an assumption that assumes that all planetary systems will have an asteroid belt. There is no particular reason from what we know about the formation of planetary systems to make such an assumption.

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    3. Without the gas giant planets, Earth would suffer from frequent life-destructive collision events from asteroids and comets.

      Laughable overstatement, and amazingly oblivious to the extremely obvious. Do you know what object in the solar system sweeps up the most debris by far? Our old friend, Mr. Sun. Wayyyyyyy bigger than Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune put together. It contains 99.8% of the mass of the solar system, and anything that isn’t nailed down in a sufficiently stable orbit is going to wind up in the sun sooner or later. True, it helps to have a large moving target or two in your solar system, of course... and since they’re not rare (they do, after all, form the vast preponderance of all the extrasolar planets discovered so far), all the better. But the star you’re orbiting will do most of the work anyway.

      the mass and orbital characteristics for each of the solar system’s gas giant planets are exquisitely optimized to make the long-term survival of a wide diversity of both primitive and advanced life-forms on Earth possible

      Rubbish. Their orbits correspond to the required parameters for their mass relative to that of the sun as discribed by Kepler, and nothing more. Life doesn’t have anything to do with the determination of where those orbits are, and their gravity would be doing the same job regardless of their distance from the sun in any case.
      Seriously, Denny, step back and ask yourself: what’s your bottom line here? You want us to believe we’re unique; the whole rest of the universe is just the dirt on an otherwise empty bottle? All to what end? To insist your imaginary friend is real, he had a son who was in fact himself, walked on water, cured a couple of people and invented the Filet-O-Fish at a wake, so therefore we are all obliged to live lives you personally and culturally approve of? Honestly, you trump up unbelievable claims about the impossibility of life elsewhere, misinterpret facts and misrepresent people to make it seem they hold beliefs that are actually diametrically the opposite of the ones they do; all so you can keep insisting your myth is real, and we have to believe it too. Why don’t you just go flat out and claim the Earth is flat and at the centre of the universe and be done with it?

      If naturalists are OK with some temporary dancing molecules with no future as the ultimate reality of one’s human life, fine. Christians do not.

      And as long as you’re not trying to get your Bronze Age campfire yarns into science classrooms or written into laws to oblige the lives and behaviours of those who aren’t convinced your imaginary friend is anything but that, or hassling us on the streets or knocking on our doors with your “good news” as though we could somehow have missed hearing “the word” in the first place, then we’re fine too. Sadly, a whole lot of you seem unwilling to do so, so here we are.

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  40. Barefoot hiker said, “And no, science has not determined the universe to be existentially finite; merely temporally.” – I do not think this is (so-called) settled science, and like most of this stuff, it may not be quite that simple. My point is, as never before, because of the hard work of countess scientists, with (known and observable) cosmological evidence, and theoretical physics, the possibility exists of other dimensions - Dimensions from which a singularity occurred, and dimensions that may go beyond what we characterize as “finite.” Science postulates and predicts, then looks for ways to corroborate the postulate. The Bible’s narrative was correct about predicting a ‘beginning’ and it also predicts an end to the earth and universe. Science has uncovered evidence of both. The Bible also speaks of (over-simplifying) heaven, a realm outside of the physical. I am merely pointing out that the progress of science continues to be congruent with narratives from millennia ago – before today’s advanced science discoveries, and science may provide evidence for things infinite.

    Barefoot hiker, said, “Time" doesn't have a separate existence. It's simply a word we use to describe rate of change.” - I think you made the statement earlier that the universe is eternal. I was merely speaking to the use of “eternal.” I’ll accept your definition of time as the rate of change. It’s pretty obvious by now that the physical universe of time and matter, as presently constituted (including life), will not be eternal. As to whether the singularity is not the same as the universe’s beginning, I’m not sure about that.

    Barefoot hiker said, “What IS science is that there's no evidence to the contrary, which makes my position the default. YOURS is speculation, because it assumes an agency that is not evidenced.” Yes, But! You expect physical evidence for a non-physical agency. Try as they might, Dawkins, Kraaus and others cannot provide contrary physical evidence for God. Therefore, people like me can match science against the Bible’s narratives and look for inconsistencies. Science is making it harder and harder to do that.

    Barefoot hiker said, “It isn’t measurable, except by action or outcome. Well, then it's not science, and it's an intrusion on this blog and places like science classrooms.” – Excuse me. The blog master has the power to exclude me anytime. Unless I am mistaken, I believe the so-called conflict between science and faith is welcome at Sandwalk. If not, I’ll leave peaceably. In the meantime, unless science can disprove God, God is an option for first causes, purpose, and non-physical ‘Why’ questions about the natural world in which we live (natural science) - in contrast to the no meaning or no purpose notions of naturalism and materialism. I alluded to the point above that what science is discovering seems quite consistent with non-scientific narratives in the Bible, observed and recorded by people who lived in the same physical world that you and I do, and who asked many of the same questions that give (excuse me) meaning to life.

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    1. I do not think this is (so-called) settled science

      Neither do I—the point is, for you to make such a claim, there’d have to be support for it, and there isn’t. The universe exists; that’s undeniable. We can wonder about that but it doesn’t owe us an explanation. The reality is that it does exist, and as such, the default assumption, barring evidence to the contrary, is that it always has. If you feel there was a circumstance in which it didn’t, the burden of proof is on YOU to demonstrate a principle by which all that exists would not have existed, and then how it came to. Until you can, it’s simply an assumption used to support the idea of “God” as its answer... an answer that explains nothing. Magic isn’t reality, and “poof” isn’t “proof”.

      Dimensions from which a singularity occurred, and dimensions that may go beyond what we characterize as “finite.”

      Whatever; those dimensions would still constitute something that exists, and something that provides a natural explanation for the universe. You can reach as far down into the hat as you like; the hat is all you need. Grope around all you want for a bunny to pull out and call your god; that part’s still just a trick.

      The Bible also speaks of (over-simplifying) heaven, a realm outside of the physical.

      I thought Genesis designated it as the place the sun, moon, and stars were, and they’re certainly physical. But, here we go again. Anything in the Bible means whatever a Christian needs it to mean for whatever point he find it convenient to make at any given time.

      Try as they might, Dawkins, Kraaus and others cannot provide contrary physical evidence for God.

      They don’t have to. Non-Christians don’t have to prove your god isn’t real; YOU have to prove to us he IS. Telling us you can’t provide physical evidence when physical evidence is our own proof of ANYTHING is simply conceding the point: there’s no reason to believe your god is real. Moreover, if he’s never demonstrably interacted with the physical universe, then he is for all intents and purposes EXACTLY THE SAME AS SOMETHING THAT DOESN’T EXIST IN THE FIRST PLACE, because how could have ever had a single effect upon it?

      Therefore, people like me can match science against the Bible’s narratives and look for inconsistencies.

      No, Denny. People like ME can do that. People like YOU can come up with buttered-up wordplay that attempts to explain AWAY those inconsistencies. Like your flat-out denial of what’s actually related in Genesis right here on this very page.

      Excuse me. The blog master has the power to exclude me anytime.

      Touche. I’ve overstepped my bounds and I sincerely apologize to both you and Larry.

      Delete
  41. Barefoot hiker said, “It isn’t measurable, except by action or outcome. Well, then it's not science, and it's an intrusion on this blog and places like science classrooms.” – P.S. I think Larry likes to see theists run the atheists’ gauntlet.

    Barefoot hiker said, “what is the value of “regret” and “failed”, in an evolutionary sense?
    None, as far as I can see.” - What unique “emergent property” (physical or intangible entity, aka scientific evidence) is there that demonstrates the human need for words like “regret” and “failed”? The purpose for the question is because I think words like “regret” and “failed” reveal characteristics that go beyond the physical. Most people outside science labs contemplate things beyond the physical. I keep wondering what naturalists do with those questions. Answer with terms like, “emergent property”?

    Barefoot hiker said, “That’s your opinion. It’s not mine. One of us is likely mistaken. Yeah, but the difference is that my position is the default position, and yours is a positive assertion of entity that requires the backing of evidence. – Your “default” position is one of choice. Christians’ default position (worldview) is an eternal one. One that does not end in death.

    Barefoot hiker said, “I personally have never been shown anything compelling.” - Keep looking. Consider Tim Keller’s “The Reason for God.”

    Barefoot hiker said, “But then, my threshold is higher than yours.” - Again, that’s a matter of subjective opinion, not science, which also happens to reveal an air of superiority? I understand (sadly) a misplaced sense of superiority on the part some religious folks. I don’t understand it coming from scientists or atheists.

    barefoot hiker said, “Only spiral galaxies have the potential for hosting life. Explain how. And he said, “I think I already noted that irregular and elliptical galaxies cannot host life. Yes, you did; and for the third time, EXPLAIN HOW.” – OK. I found a clear simple explanation at “Could there be life in the galaxies nearest to the Milky Way?” at http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/question.php?number=449

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    1. What unique “emergent property”... is there that demonstrates the human need for words like “regret” and “failed”?

      What makes you think these sentiments are “unique” to humans? Failure is simply the ability to recognize that the anticipated outcome of any activity is not been achieved; even a frog can tell he didn’t get the fly. “Regret” is an emotional state that more sophisticated animals experience when they contrast the anticipated outcome with the actual outcome and internalize the failure rather than externalize it. I don’t know where the dividing line is, but based on personal observation, it seems to me you have to be pretty far up the vertebrate chain to be in the latter category. But to answer your question... in the first instance, the emergent property required is consciousness; in the second, self-referential thought. Again, I don’t know where the dividing line is; it’s probably a gradient rather than a hard yes/no line.

      Most people outside science labs contemplate things beyond the physical.

      And lots of people contemplated the Philosopher’s Stone. It didn’t mean it was real.

      Your “default” position is one of choice.
      No one “chooses” what they believe. Choose to believe, right now, that the sky is pink. Go ahead. Experience the genuine sensation of being amazed to look out and see it’s blue because you were absolutely convinced it was pink. You can’t do it. A person believes, holds to be true, those things of which he has been persuaded are real. I don’t choose not to believe in your god. I hear someone else’s “proof” and to me, it sounds absurd. You experience the same thing yourself when you hear the claims of other religions. You don’t CHOOSE not to believe them; you consider their merits and discover they do no persuade you that they’re true, or real. The difference between you and me where Christianity is concern is almost certainly that you were told and told and told and told that it was real and true when you were a very young child, and you’re deeply convinced it’s part of reality pretty much entirely for that reason. I wasn’t, and I’m not. No religion I’ve ever encountered impresses me as anything other than a cultural artifact; cooked up generally to answer questions that couldn’t be answered otherwise at the time, going on to control the behaviour and aspirations of members of society, and ultimately not uncommonly to secure certain privileges and benefits to particular classes. I understand the Christian (Muslim; Jewish; Hindu, etc.) narrative... but to me, what it purports is simply absurd. It does not persuade. That is not a matter of choice; that’s just how it is. The things I’ve learned about cosmology, physics, and biology, particularly since I was in high school, on the other hand, are generally persuasive, because they’re backed by evidence and are bountifully demonstrated by the practical applications they have in the real world; the transistor as opposed to angels dancing on heads of pins.

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    2. Keep looking.

      I haven’t closed shop to the possibility. But to be frank, with what I know now, the “proof” of the existence of a god is pretty steep; something on the order of the instantaneous introduction of another planet into our solar system without any sort of gravitational perturbation and accompanying disruption; “miraculous” because it would utterly and massively defy physical laws on the macroscopic scale. Bending spoons and appearing on toast in Lourdes wouldn’t cut it for me, I’m afraid.

      Again, that’s a matter of subjective opinion

      Well, no, it isn’t. You believe in your god without anything LIKE the kind of evidential requirement I outlined right above. Your threshold of belief on the matter is demonstrably orders of magnitude lower than mine. Whether that’s superior or not is a matter of opinion, I’ll grant you. But yeah, I think so. :)

      OK. I found a clear simple explanation at “Could there be life in the galaxies nearest to the Milky Way?”

      Because I know some basic astronomy, I knew right away what they were talking about. The “small” nearest galaxies they’re mooting are almost certainly the Megallanic Clouds. And as small galaxies, the number of supernovae they’ve experienced would also be correspondingly low; hence the reference to “low metallicity”. You might recall I mentioned previously that that’s where the “stuff” that makes up planets and beings like us comes from; your article makes exactly the same point.

      But in the same article they go on to mention the Andromeda Galaxy, which is a large galaxy that has a metallicity similar to ours. No reason life couldn’t be there.

      The article mentions irregulars; I already knew that most irregulars result from collisions between galaxies; these are like swarms of bees passing through each other. Their mutual gravitation disrupts the order they previously had. The article says that such galaxies “might” be less hospitable to life because the paths of the various stars are more likely to bring them into proximity with “dangerous objects”... by which I would imagine they most likely mean other stars. But remember that stars are literally light-years apart, the equivalent of gnats separated by literal miles, and while some might encounter each other, most wouldn’t. The article is so dumbed-down that it makes it sound like this would be an inevitability. It ignores just how much NOTHING there is between stars. And to a planet going around a star, for the most part, it doesn’t matter at all where that star happens to go, barring the absolutely catastrophic.

      The article says nothing about ellipticals, which are also highly organized galaxies whose stars have stable orbits around the common centre, nor does it give any aid to your claims about the proportion of spiral galaxies or anything like their relative hospitality to life. I believe you made most of it up based on vague recollections of articles like that one, which really doesn’t bear out your claims like you hoped it would. For one thing, you’ve been insisting such galaxies CAN’T host life. Even your own article says, “This is not to say that there couldn't be life in these galaxies.”

      Delete
  42. Barefoot hiker said, “No, Denny, it really isn't. Star formation is a function of gravity.” – If my point was poorly stated, here is some clarification at Wikipedia: “Future of an expanding universe” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Future_of_an_expanding_universe


    Barefoot hiker said, “Yeah, we've been down this road before, and I still don't care. So the universe gets bigger, colder, and billions and billions and billions of years from now, beings like us won't be tenable someday. Alas, alack (expression of sorrow or regret). - There’s the difference, barefoot. The Bible’s proposition (the same Bible with twenty chapter length scientifically congruent creation narratives written by unrelated authors over a millennia) is that the affairs of men (individually and collectively) that cause sorrow or regret will forever become happiness and contentedness. Isn’t this what men hope for, and are distressed when its not achieved? Or do they simply hope to exist until they can exist no longer. That won’t be a sudden event. That will be a slow painful agonizing backward process.

    Barefoot hiker said, “I still don't care.” - Someone visiting Sandwalk might.

    Barefoot hiker said, “If that's so, then break down the factors, their values, and the determination of those values for us.” – After putting “chances of life in the universe” into my search engine, I got 2,200,000 hits. Narrowing it down to galactic factors only, here goes:
    1. Galaxy-Cluster Density
    2. Galaxy Size
    3. Galaxy Type
    4. Galaxy Mass-Distribution
    5. Galaxy Location
    6. Galaxy-Cluster Size
    7. Galaxy-Cluster Location
    8. Size of the Galactic Central Bulge
    9. Proper Amount of Galactic Dust
    10. Giant-Star Density in Galaxy
    11. Frequency of Nearby Gamma-Ray Bursts
    12. Dwarf Galaxy Absorption Rate
    13. Star's Nearness to Galactic Center
    14. Parent Star's Age
    15. Parent Star's Mass
    16. Parent Star's Metallicity
    17. Star Rotation Rate
    18. Close Encounters With Nearby Stars
    19. Parent Star's Carbon-to-Oxygen Ratio
    20. Solar Wind's Strength and Variability

    Source and details at http://worldview3.50webs.com/etlifeprobability.html

    barefoot hiker said, “(dark matter) has NOTHING to do with life.” - Wow! Something that might make-up more than 75% of the universe “has NOTHING to do with life.” So. You think removing dark matter would leave life unaffected. I simply don’t know how to respond to such a statement.

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    1. Once again, Mr. Denny demonstrates his total ignorance. Dark matter makes up about 20% of the gravitating mass of the universe. Dark energy makes up about 75% of the gravitating mass of the universe. They are not the same thing. What Mr. Denny fails to understand is that the density of dark matter and dark energy is very low, much too low to have local effects such as on planetary motions or the motions of moons. Their effects are only are observable on large scales, such as the revolution rate around galactic centers and gravitational lensing, as I cited in a previous comment. Given the low density of dark matter and dark energy, there is no reason to believe that our current understanding of how stars and planetary systems form, which was first proposed by Swedenborg some 400 years ago, has to be in any way, shape, form, or regard to be modified to take into account these two elements.

      Delete
    2. Future of an expanding universe” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Future_of_an_expanding_universe

      Why can’t you just quote it instead of making me go do your homework?

      The article says, in its first paragraph, “but eventually the supply of gas needed for star formation will be exhausted”. That’s my point, not yours. You’ve been talking about heat being part of the equation; it’s not. Stars are formed by the mutual gravitation of clouds of gas causing them to falling in on themselves. If there’s enough matter, the atoms are squeezed together with sufficient force that gravity overcomes electromagnetic repulsion and fusion begins. That’s a star.

      If the universe spreads out enough that the material isn’t available for that to happen, or most of the stuff has already been rendered into iron, that’ll stop. The stellar period of the history of the universe will come to an end. No matter what its fate, if the universe lasts long enough, that’s inevitable: one day, all the usable hydrogen and helium and carbon and oxygen will have been fused into iron. I don’t see how that reality is supposed to lead me to an “Ah ha, therefore Jesus is Lord!” epiphany.

      Alas, alack (expression of sorrow or regret).

      I think the word you’re looking for is “ironic”.

      the affairs of men... that cause sorrow or regret will forever become happiness and contentedness

      This is just happy word salad, Denny. What does it actually mean? We cease to be agents of free will able to do the things that have the potential making others unhappy? “Paradise” is to be permanently whacked out on thorazine and sit around doing nothing?

      Isn’t this what men hope for

      No, that would be hopelessly boring. Literally hopeless. There’d be nothing to hope for, strive for, attempt to improve, ameliorate, take pride in, plan to avoid, condition against, etc., etc. Things that humans are driven to do that defines us. What you’re advocating is sitting around like a sedated happy lump at the feet of the Maharishi forever... and ever... and ever... No, thank you. I’d rather cease to exist than contemplate instead that fate with no escape.

      Narrowing it down to galactic factors only, here goes

      The factors from 13 on are stellar, not galactic. None of your criteria are nested in terms of their dependencies on one another, nor are there any accompanying estimations of their values. Essentially, I’ve asked you how to make duck a l’orange and your answer is “A&P, some stuff in aisles 3, 5, and some of part of 6... partly”.

      Wow! Something that might make-up more than 75% of the universe “has NOTHING to do with life.”

      Yeah, that’s essentially it, Denny. MOST of the universe, even the visible part of it, hasn’t got much to do with life. “Life”, as we know it, is a function of carbon chains in environments amenable to liquid water. Now maybe you think the rising of the constellation Virgo dictates what colour shorts you should put on today, but frankly, I don’t think it affects us at all. And that’s something we can SEE. As has been pointed out to you, dark matter is a hypothesis to explain the gravitational characteristics of the universe on the largest of scales. What way the Milky Way’s been travelling for the past 15 billion years or so really doesn’t have all that much to do with how chemicals interact in pools on any of the various tiny planets hanging around inside it.

      Delete
    3. I simply don’t know how to respond to such a statement.

      Well, Denny, now you have at least SOME idea of how rationalists feel when we hear people tell us that something/some"one" that represents ZERO percent of the universe accounts for A HUNDRED percent of the the universe.

      Delete
  43. SLC said, "Once again, Mr. Denny demonstrates his total ignorance. Dark matter makes up about 20% of the gravitating mass of the universe. Dark energy makes up about 75% of the gravitating mass of the universe. They are not the same thing.” - Yes, SLC, I know they are obviously different, and I got my percentages switched. One ‘gotcha’ for you. Wikipedia says, “Dark matter is estimated to constitute 83% of the matter in the universe and 23% of the mass-energy. Dark energy currently accounts for 73% of the total mass-energy of the universe.”

    If you look at the growing body of quantum and (in this case) cosmic scientific data (Thanks to scientists!) as a very big puzzle, the following information represents one very small but likely piece.

    “In the 1930s, Caltech astronomer Fritz Zwicky recognized that huge amounts of hidden dark matter were necessary to explain the dynamics of galaxies and galaxy clusters. Today, we understand that every galaxy is dominated by dark matter, both ordinary dark matter (made up of particles like protons, neutrons, and electrons that efficiently interact with photons) and the much more abundant exotic dark matter (made up of particles like neutrinos and axions that interact weakly with photons or not at all).” … “The measured dark matter density for Segue 1 (a dwarf spheroidal galaxy discovered in 2006 by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey) has a dark matter density value that is entirely consistent with predictions arising from hot big bang inflationary models where most of the universe’s exotic matter is in a cold state. Taken with a recent issue of the Astrophysical Journal, a team of 12 astronomers led by Joshua Simon determined that the subdwarf galaxy Segue 1 reveals the highest known mass-to-light ratio of any galaxy.”

    SLC. Modern pre-big bang naturalist’s postulated: The universe is static, and there are stars everywhere, and the stars go on forever = a ridiculously bright sky = Olbers’ Paradox. (Why is it dark at night?)

    SLC. You will note that the excerpts in the paragraph about “Segue 1” above were taken from http://tnrtb.wordpress.com/2011/08/22/the-darkest-galaxy/ , a Reasons To Believe link, and that the secular (likely ‘naturalists’ sources are cited). Quoting again, “These findings correlate with a hot big bang inflationary model where most of the universe’s exotic matter is in a cold state. These cosmic models are consistent with the big bang creation models the Bible uniquely described more than 2,000 years ago.”

    SLC. Kindly also note that in the Bible’s book of Job (4,000 years ago), chapter 38, verses 19–20, God asks, “Where does darkness reside? Do you know the paths to their dwellings?” Therefore, long before modern scientists theorized about dark matter and energy and their ‘likely’ role in a big bang universe with life, the book of Job accurately described the nature, characteristic and scientific context of darkness. Job noted that darkness is not merely the absence of light. It is a variety of substances with specific geographical locations in the universe.



    SLC. Ask yourself how an ancient record (Job), unlike any other record (all holy books and ancient scientific records), and unlike any contemporary human perceptions of dark and light, could have predicted that the darkness of the universe was a ‘substance.’ Surely anyone reading such language (originally ancient Hebrew), until scientists theorized dark matter and energy, would have laughed out of ridicule. But, Job got it right, despite the fact that such language would have been completely outside historical language lexicons.

    SLC. Besides the theistic implications, let me know if you see any errors at http://tnrtb.wordpress.com/2011/08/22/the-darkest-galaxy/

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    1. Job (4,000 years ago), chapter 38, verses 19–20, God asks, “Where does darkness reside? Do you know the paths to their dwellings?”

      How do we know he wasn't just talking about black people? Ah, that's right... we DON'T. Because it says "darkness", not evil, not black people, not dark matter, not rich chocolately pockets into which the Caramilk flows. But it could mean any of those things.

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    2. Denny -

      You have made arguments that science has showed us the universe is finite, and you have made arguments that science has showed us there are "dimensions beyond the finite," saying each is supported by the Bible. These are contradictory arguments, so you have wound up illustrating what some have already mentioned here: there are self-contradictory descriptions of creation and the universe in the Bible.

      Since the Bible has accounts that vary so widely from each other as to be self-contradictory, it is child's play to find snippets that support virtually any notion you can think of. Yet you feel the need to go beyond even that latitude and provide inaccurate Biblical interpretations to support your position that the Biblical creation account and science are harmonious. For example, you say "The Bible also speaks of (over-simplifying) heaven, a realm outside of the physical." The nearest cognate to the Hebrew word for "firmament" is a thin sheet of beaten metal. That is, the firmament - heaven - was thought of as a dome, and absolutely something physical. (It had to be - in ancient conception, the stars were affixed to it.)

      Let's not insult these very sincere people who came up with the Theory of Everything for their time - that is, a single explanation (one God) where others before them had seen a plethora of separate, unrelated forces (many gods) - by supposing they were muddling through inaccurately worded half-baked explanations of quantum gravity. They were doing their best to put extant Bronze Age Middle Eastern creation myths into a new monotheistic world view. Seen in that context, they didn't do a bad job at all, creating stories that billions still find relevant to their lives today. But if you have them attempting to explain modern scientific concepts of the creation of the universe, then they failed pretty miserably, because the correspondence between what they said and what modern science says is utterly muddled where it isn't flat out wrong or nonsensical (daylight and darkness before creation of the sun, for example). I simply don't think there's any basis for the conclusion that these people were such blithering idiots as not to be able to make themselves plainly understood for over 2000 years.

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  44. Re Denny

    My estimate of 100 billion planets in the universe is ridiculously low. Attached is a link to a presentation by Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer, where he estimates that there may be 400 billion planets in the Milky Way Galaxy alone!

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2012/04/26/qba-how-many-exoplanets-have-been-discovered/

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  45. Re Denny

    Mr. Denny, the ancient goat herders who wrote the Hebrew Scriptures thought that the stars they were observing were holes in the firmament above the earth. They thought that the earth was the center of what they observed that that everything revolved around the earth. These notions were entirely wrong. In addition there are 2 incompatible creation stories in the Hebrew Scriptures. In Genesis I, the first humans were created after all the other animals on day 6 and the first woman was not taken from the rib of the first man. In Genesis II, the first human was created before the other animals who were subsequently created to keep the first man, known as Adam, company. The first woman was then created from the rib of Adam. These two myths are irreconcilable and Mr. Denny is either a moron or a liar if he thinks otherwise.

    The Hebrew Scriptures claim that Joshua caused the Sun to stand still in the sky for a day. Aside from violating the laws of physics, this remarkable occurrence was not noted by observers in other civilizations in existence at the time of Joshua, in particular, Egypt and China. It never happened.

    The Hebrew Scriptures claim that a world wide flood from a rain that lasted 40 days completely covered the earth. Has Mr. Denny made any calculations as to how fast the rain would have to fall to cover the top of Mount Everest, some 29,000+ feet above sea level? Or how much water it would take? Or how salt water fish would survive in oceans suddenly with virtually salt-less water (there weren't any fish on the arc)? Totally impossible; it never happened.

    These are just a few of the fairy tales in the Hebrew Scriptures. The Christian Scriptures have many more, including a Jewish zombie who wandered around what is now Israel for some 40 days after his apparent demise before ascending to heaven. There appears to be somewhat of a fascination with the number 40 here. By the way, that same Jewish zombie, before he became a zombie, promised his followers that he would return before the last of them had passed away. Well, it's 2000 years and counting and neither hide nor hare of him has been seen and I doubt that any of his followers are still around. I have a flash for Mr. Denny, if he ever existed, which I doubt, he ain't coming back.

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  46. SLC said, “My estimate of 100 billion planets in the universe is ridiculously low.” – OK. I looked at “Bad Astronomer.” I’ve also seen estimates of 4 trillion planets in our own galaxy. Generally speaking, I think it’s estimated that the observable universe contains about 300 billion galaxies with about 300 billion stars in each galaxy. Make a bigger estimate, if you chose, and you may extrapolate the number of potential planets any way you want. Following is a compendium from RTB’s Hugh Ross (Ph.D. Astrophysicist, University of Toronto) indicating hundreds of detailed quantifiable characteristics required for life in a planetary system (This includes all scientific sources.). Check it out yourself and let me know what you think the probabilities for life outside our solar system are – remembering that only spiral galaxies are potentially hospitable to life. Or, use all galaxies, and see how that works.

    Part 1 Fine-Tuning for Life in the Universe — lists 140 features of the cosmos as a whole (including the laws of physics) that must fall within certain narrow ranges to allow for the possibility of physical life's existence.

    Part 2
    Fine-Tuning for Intelligent Physical Life—describes 402 quantifiable characteristics of a planetary system and its galaxy that must fall within narrow ranges to allow for the possibility of advanced life's existence. This list includes comment on how a slight increase or decrease in the value of each characteristic would impact that possibility.

    Part 3
    Probability Estimates for Features Required by Various Life Forms—identifies 922 characteristics of a galaxy and of a planetary system physical life depends on and offers conservative estimates of the probability that any galaxy or planetary system would manifest such characteristics. This list is divided into three parts, based on differing requirements for various life-forms and their duration.

    Part 4
    Probability Estimates on Different Size Scales for the Features Required by Advanced Life—presents a breakdown of the characteristics required by advanced life (from Part 3) as they must occur, separately, in the galaxy cluster, galaxy, star, planetary system, planet, moon, planetary surface, and ecosystem where advanced life exists.

    If you have trouble with the links, here is the url where I found the compendium: http://shop.reasons.org/More-Than-a-Theory-p/b0901.htm

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    1. Hi, Denny.

      I assume we're all aware of Dr. Ross. For anyone who's not, here:
      http://www.talkreason.org/articles/ross.cfm

      So are paraphrases of, and citations to, Hugh Ross essentially the sum of what you've got to offer?

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    2. Fine-Tuning for Life in the Universe

      Life as we understand the phenomenon. We have no idea what kinds of life (that is, naturally-occurring systems capable of self-replication and diversification over time) would and wouldn't be possible under circumstances in which physical laws deviate from the familiar because we have no such examples to study. It is therefore non sequitur to suggest life can only exist if the universe is "fine tuned" as such.

      Part 2... Part 3... Part 4...

      And so what are their final conclusions, Denny? If they're provisionally anything greater than "one", you owe it to us and yourself to concede the point: that life certainly can, and probably does, exist elsewhere--at which point, the Earth is no longer the centre of the universe in even an intentional sense.

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  47. Mr. Denny, I don't care what Hugh Ross says. As I stated previously, he is an old earth creationist whose views are not taken seriously by most cosmologists and who exhibits a total ignorance of biological processes.

    However, the trouble with Prof. Ross is that, as I understand it, he rejects the theory of evolution, in particular common descent. Thus, if the origin of life is defined as the appearance of the first replicators, which is a chemical process, then evolution, a biological process takes over. It is, of course, hard to generalize from a sample of 1 but if the conditions are right for the appearance of replicators, then we have no reason to believe that more complex life will not arise as a result of natural selection and genetic drift, just as it has on this planet. Thus, the general consensus of cosmologists and biologists who study the problem is that life, defined as replicating biological entities is ubiquitous in the universe.

    Now the question of whether there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe and, if so, how prevalent it is, is a whole different problem. Here, there is disagreement, as evidenced by the internet debate conducted in the mid 1990s between Carl Sagan and Ernst Mayr, where the former took the position that intelligent life might be fairly common and the latter that it might be quite rare.

    However, as I have argued on several blogs, even though we have only a sample of 1 to extrapolate from, it is possible to posit that intelligence might have a selection advantage and thus might arise fairly often.

    The argument is as follows. A necessary condition for the development of intelligence is encephalization, that is an increase in brain size relative to body size. It is not a sufficient condition as the organization of the brain, and probably other factors play a part. Thus, Neanderthals lost out to Homo sapiens, even though they were as encephalized as sapiens.

    We note the following examples. The Cretaceous dinosaurs were more encephalized then their Jurassic antecedents and today's mammals are more encephalized then their antecedents of 50 million years ago. That seems to indicate a selection advantage for encephalization, based on a sample of 2. However, I emphasize that it is not a sufficient condition. As I indicated previously, Neanderthals were equally encephalized as humans and Bottlenose Dolphins are about 80% as encephalized as humans.

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  48. Here's a takedown of Hugh Ross by a real biologist and colleague of Prof. Moran.

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/04/lets_pick_on_an_old_earth_crea.php

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/04/lets_pick_on_an_old_earth_crea.php

    Here's what Prof. Moran had to say about Prof. Ross in a previous post

    http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2007/11/who-was-adam.html

    Money quote: I've seen Hugh Ross in action when he was here for a two day symposium organized by Denyse O'Leary and some of her friends. Hugh Ross is a genuine kook with nothing to say that's even remotely interesting to scientists. I don't know about Fazale Rana. Has anyone read this book?

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  49. barefoot hiker said, “I don’t see how that reality is supposed to lead me to an “Ah ha, therefore Jesus is Lord!” epiphany.” – Maybe “reality” is the key to your point. I think it may be fair to state that atheists simply do not associate or believe in anything ethereal or theistic, anything extra/non-physical, and anything that cannot be quantified and measured. Not believing in those things does not cause anything extra/non-physical, anything that cannot be quantified or immeasurable to be impossible or to cease existing. That does not seem to me to be rational thinking. Neither does it seem rational to me to say that anything and everything that a human experiences that falls outside the scope of the physical “provable” aspects of life is non-existent or a myth. For example, some think that love is more than physical pleasure, but I’m not sure there’s a way to measure love or prove it. However, who would deny its (non-material) existence? Real or not, all the gods of human history certainly were not invented in order to gain the ridicule of atheists. Most of my comments at Sandwalk are simply made to either refute or debate the ‘interpretative’ scientific conclusions of atheists. I dislike the notion that science gives “reasons” for atheism, and by fiat, proof against God. I try to comment based on scientifically based information that can be seen through a different AND legitimate interpretative lens – to see where the data is pointing vs. where an atheist is pointing. Sometimes, as in this thread, we rely on science to make points. But, as with the original “Toronto Transit Commission” and prayer focus of this Larry Moran blog, the discussion seems to descend into God-bashing. I don’t bash the “reality” of naturalism or atheism. I understand its existence is real. I simply think their logic is faulty. I simply try to understand naturalism and atheism enough to critique them and their logical reasoning and merits. I am not the first person to believe that God is a greater “reality” than the universe. Hugh Ross was raised in a secular culture by non-religious parents. He saw the “reality” of science (first) and it consistency with what he discovered in the Bible (second). Antony Flew (I’m sure you know who he was) came to see something with a greater “reality” than the physical (allowing for the possibility that he didn’t lose his mind late in life). C.S. Lewis became the twentieth century’s most prominent Christian apologist, post atheism. Another conversion from a lesser known person (PhD physicist, space plasma physics and technology) is at “On the Breaking of Bad Habits Acquired in One’s Youth: Smoking and Atheism” at http://onscreen-scientist.com/?p=28 . There are countless people who have discovered enough about non-physical “reality” to become “God believers,” and they didn’t lose their minds in the process. I also think they would be as hard-pressed as I am to reduce their belief to one short blog entry. All I’m saying is, maybe all of “reality” is not trapped in matter. And maybe, all of spiritual “reality” is not the human imperfections we see daily, but the thing that makes us discern imperfections, and wonder what perfection would really look like.

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    1. I think it may be fair to state that atheists simply do not associate or believe in anything ethereal or theistic, anything extra/non-physical, and anything that cannot be quantified and measured.

      No, you've got it backwards. The fact that nothing about these claims CAN be quantified and measured, whenever we ask for proof to establish them, is the reason we don't believe them. Not the other way around. You believe them--by dint of your argument, you shouldn't be blind to means to measure and quantify them. But I don't see any of this coming from you enlightened souls either, which suggests to me it isn't possible no matter how you approach it. Instead we end up listening to frustrated howls of "look at the clouds, look at the trees, how do you explain feelings, what about love", etc., etc.

      Not believing in those things does not cause anything extra/non-physical, anything that cannot be quantified or immeasurable to be impossible or to cease existing.

      But Denny, the telling point here, the measure of the validity of your ideas, is that if the results you get believing it, and the results I get in not believing it, are EXACTLY THE SAME, then the measure of the validity of your belief in a practical sense is that it equates to disbelief. You can believe that every digit "0" wears an invisible hat with a feather in it; but if it doesn't make any difference at all to how mathematics works or the results you get, then why would you? Why would I? And why should I have to live my life, bend to laws, and pay public lip-service to social formulas ("Happy Zero-Wears-a-Hat Day!") based upon this absurd and baseless suggestion?

      That does not seem to me to be rational thinking.

      But belief in an invisible man outside of everything whom you've never seen and admit can't be demonstrated, does? Forgive me if I'm not slighted that I don't measure up to your standards of reason.

      proof against God

      Again: disbelief in a positive claim does not require "proof"; it's the default position. It is the positive claim that requires proof. If we don't believe, it's because people like you haven't demonstrated an extraordinary claim persuasively.

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    2. I try to comment based on scientifically based information that can be seen through a different AND legitimate interpretative lens – to see where the data is pointing

      You're NOT looking where the data is pointing. What you do is cherry pick data to match scripture, or else spin scripture to match the data. In either case, you're leading the data, not following it. You assume your conclusion and tailor what you need, sewing some things together and cutting off and discarding whatever you can't make fit. Don't try and tell us that's as legitimate as doing what, say, Kepler did, when he abandoned his life's work of demonstrating a relationship of the planetary orbits to the Platonic solids because he couldn't ignore even the mere 8 seconds of arc in Tycho's observations of the orbit of Mars that meant planets orbit not in perfect circles, but ellipses. That realization shook his faith in God, but he accepted it. You ignore a whole lot more than just 8 seconds of arc.

      I simply try to understand naturalism and atheism enough to critique them and their logical reasoning and merits.

      And what does it come down to? Not to question the methodology that gives us inoculation and transistors and international satellite communication and weather prediction, no. You're fine with the scientific method so long as it makes your physical life easier. But if it poses a challenge to the stories you grew up with, it's different. Your opposition to naturalism is hinged on the implication we're animals, that we're finite beings who exist briefly then disappear, that there's no evidence for eternal punishment or reward, and so on. You dig up spurious evidence to suggest that out of all the vastness of the universe, life--which is finally just a set of chemical processes--is somehow unique to the Earth, and you shake boogymen about the subjectively regrettable "end" of the universe at us to corral us into grasping for the kind of escape hatch you've bought into. Fine, live your life that way. But atheists will no longer consent to be mocked because we don't.

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    3. “On the Breaking of Bad Habits Acquired in One’s Youth: Smoking and Atheism”

      Now that's a hot one. Pardon the pun. Let's deconstruct the analogy and see if it bears scrutiny as a valid one.

      The default position is NON-smoking. No one is born a smoker. Smoking is a learned behaviour. It is typically established by the example of one's parents; occasionally by one's peers. Generally these examples socially re-enforce one another. In recent times, smoking is predicated on the dismissal of generations of scientific evidence that deny the validity of the claim that a smoker can expect to live a long, fruitful life free of cancer, stroke, emphysema, and heart disease; and going ahead anyway and believing otherwise largely because it just makes you feel good.

      What do you think, folks? Does that sound analogous to an atheistic position, or a theistic one?

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    4. All I’m saying is, maybe all of “reality” is not trapped in matter. And maybe, all of spiritual “reality” is not the human imperfections we see daily

      I'm not denying the "maybes". Maybe there's a god or gods. Maybe there's a Bigfoot. Maybe UFOs are anally probing good ol' boys. Maybe unicorns are real. I can't say for certain none of those things exist. What I can say is that so far, no one's persuaded me, and I won't be forced to live my life as though any of them were real until someone does.

      And no one SHOULD, either. After all, are you buying my $50,000 Bigfoot insurance policy anytime soon...?

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  50. By the way, a commenter on Dr. Plait's blog was kind enough to post a link to an article that indicates that planet formation is possible in elliptical and barred galaxies.

    http://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=22613

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    1. I don't see why star and planet formation shouldn't be possible in an irregular galaxy, come to that. A stellar nebula is a stellar nebula, regardless of where you happen to find it. I don't see how two galaxies passing near, or even through, each other should cause such things to suddenly cease to exist.

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  51. SLC quoting Larry Moran: “I've seen Hugh Ross in action when he was here for a two day symposium organized by Denyse O'Leary and some of her friends. Hugh Ross is a genuine kook with nothing to say that's even remotely interesting to scientists. I don't know about Fazale Rana. Has anyone read this book?” – I haven’t checked the links you supplied yet. But, I can respond to the above quote. I was sitting right next to Larry when he heard Hugh Ross. Looking back, it reminds me of how a husband and wife can look at exactly the same thing and walk away with two completely different impressions of what happened.

    Fuz’s latest book is, “The Cell's Design: How Chemistry Reveals the Creator's Artistry . Love to hear a Sandwalk review.

    Jud said, “So are paraphrases of, and citations to, Hugh Ross essentially the sum of what you've got to offer?” – Check the sources. Just the ‘facts,’ Jud. That’s all I’ve got to offer. It shouldn’t make any difference who cites them.

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    1. Re Denny

      Here's a post from astrophysicist Sean Carroll reacting to a presentation by Hugh Ross. He completely demolishes Ross's argument about the improbability of life originating via natural processes.

      As Prof. Carroll puts it, Ross is a crackpot.

      http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2008/10/09/reasons-to-believe-creationists-are-crazy/

      Here's a critique of Ross's so-called predictions by Dr. Steven Novella, a well known skeptic and host of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast. Dr Novella's take on Ross, is that the latter is a pseudo-scientist.

      http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/hugh-rosss-testable-creation-model/

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    2. Fuz’s latest book is, “The Cell's Design: How Chemistry Reveals the Creator's Artistry . Love to hear a Sandwalk review.

      Oh, I can do that for you right now, Denny.

      And now, my review of “The Cell's Design: How Chemistry Reveals the Creator's Artistry", written in pseudo-Basic:

      10 PRESUPPOSE EXISTENCE OF DEITY ON BASIS OF IMPRESSIVE NATURAL PHENOMENA
      20 SEEK OUT IMPRESSIVE NATURAL PHENOMENA AND ASCRIBE ORIGIN OF SAME TO PRESUPPOSED DEITY
      30 GOTO 10

      I'd call it a subroutine to take you briefly outside of science, but the problem is, it never really brings you back. You get stuck in a perpetual superstition loop. So let me amend...

      15 IF REALIZE 10 IS NON SEQUITUR THEN RETURN

      Sadly, theists don't seem able to parse this command. They tend to mistake it for a divide by zero error, ignore it, and never leave the loop.

      ...I'd say that's a review of book's central thesis in a nutshell. "Nut" not necessarily meant to be a reflection on anyone. :)

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    3. Denny, I've had a recommendation for you I've been meaning to make but I wanted to watch it end to end before I did. It's an episode of NOVA posted on YouTube called "Life Beyond Earth". You don't need to find it, you don't need to buy it, you don't need to spend weeks of your life reading it. All you need is a few gaps adding up to 100 minutes over the next couple of days or so to let it wash over you and take it in.

      I doesn't say anything definitive. What it does do, though, is give an up-to-date picture of our understanding of what kind of life might be possible, what kind of conditions could foster it, and where we're likely to find them. And it provides the views of the scientists doing this work... not quote-minings spun to make the astronomers sound like they think life elsewhere is impossible. One of the most interesting aspects is that it's possible we will know, by the end of this decade, if any rocky planets orbiting other stars have atmospheres containing molecular oxygen. That discovery in itself wouldn't PROVE life, but it would be indicative of it because so far Earth is the only world we know of whose atmosphere contains a large amount of molecular oxygen, and it is created by plant life in the biological process of photosynthesis. It would at least give us strong candidates.

      You've talked about wanting to understand. I don't know if you're serious about looking into something that would tend to challenge positions you seem to hold about science in aid of buttressing your spiritual beliefs... but if you are, you can find out what REAL scientists doing the REAL work in this field think and are working to learn:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvzBqD6qUIY

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    4. It should be pointed out that an observer on a planet revolving around the star Fomalhaut, about 25 light years distant, with the exact same technology that we currently have available, would not be able to discover the Sun's solar system. The large planets are too far away and the rocky planets are both too small and too far away. Thus, the claim by creationists that planetary systems like the Sun's haven't been discovered yet is most likely due to the fact that our instruments are not sufficiently advanced, not that they don't exist. However, this situation will not last for too much longer as the technology is rapidly advancing, and once again, the creationists will be refudiated.

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    5. The file from the youtube site can be downloaded using Firefox and the add-on Download Helper; in fact, a higher quality MP4 file can be found and downloaded using Download Helper. It's pretty interesting and informative for a layman with, perhaps, a little less skepticism then I would have liked.

      Rather interesting that the scientist at the end says that most stars will have planetary systems. I would be a little more conservative and say that most single stars will have planetary systems. Multiple star systems present instability problems due to non-central forces being present and, IMHO, are probably responsible for a substantial fraction of the rogue planets in our galaxy and others as the non-central forces spun them out of their orbits.

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  52. Denny writes -

    Just the ‘facts,’ Jud. That’s all I’ve got to offer. It shouldn’t make any difference who cites them.

    It is good to see you put quotations around "facts." Some of the Dr. Ross's premises are indeed facts. Others are perhaps best characterized as half-truths or simply wrong (e.g., the statement I mentioned earlier, that life would be impossible if Earth were 1% closer to or further from the Sun, when Earth's distance from the Sun during its annual orbit varies by more than 1%; or his mangling of Biblical Hebrew). As for the conclusions he draws from those premises, they seem pretty outlandish to me, but I'm a layperson (except for the Hebrew, regarding which I can tell you that Dr. Ross's critics are correct). Here is what Sean Carroll, a scientist who's deeply involved in research on various cosmological questions, thinks of Dr. Ross's conclusions:

    It’s the worst kind of flim-flam, because it tries to cover the stench of nonsense by squirting liberal doses of scientific-smelling perfume. If someone didn’t know anything about the science, and already believed in an active God who made the universe just for us, they could come away convinced that modern science had vindicated all of their beliefs.

    * * *

    The crackpot mindset has no legitimate interest in an open-minded discussion, held in good faith; their game is to take any set of facts or arguments and twist them to fit their pre-determined conclusions. It’s the opposite of the academic ideal. And it’s an insult to religious believers to have their point of view represented by crackpots.

    Of course it is up to you, Denny, to decide whether to feel that all your beliefs have been vindicated, or to feel insulted that a crackpot is purporting to represent the religious point of view. (By the way, Ken Miller, a religious scientist, spoke at the same conference, and though Carroll did not agree with much that he said, Carroll did say that at least Miller's presentation qualified as reasonable academic discussion. So Carroll doesn't automatically dismiss believers as crackpots.) But I would say that something you might want to do is at least begin to read some of the popular cosmology literature that's available, and once you feel you've got a bit of background, have another look at what Dr. Ross says and see if it still represents your viewpoint.

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  53. Re Jud

    This is typical of whackjobs like Ross who seem to treat every issue as a uni-variate problem, i.e. a single independent variable. Actually, the earth's orbit could be considerably further out or considerably closer in, depending on the amount of green house gases in the atmosphere. Thus, if the earth were further out, a higher CO(2) percentage would compensate while if it were further in, a lower CO(2) would compensate.

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  54. Jud said, rites – “Some of the Dr. Ross's premises are indeed facts. Others are perhaps best characterized as half-truths or simply wrong.” - Will you cite one that is “simply wrong”?

    barefoot hiker said, “I've had a recommendation for you - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvzBqD6qUIY .

    I will look at the link later this week. One thing I must say. I have appreciated the honesty of Stenger, Tyson, Kraaus and a few in this thread who admit that a simply naturalistic look at the earth’s and universe’s future is (to say the least) grim. Stenger didn’t seem to try to put any positive veneer on that reality. Tyson is so charismatic that no one seems to notice the hopelessness of humanity’s likely future. Kraaus blends into his description of scientific reality tons of humor and wit. And they all punctuate their presentations and support their views with the always necessary jabs at God (That’s because they are bigger proponents of atheism that they are science). I used to love NOVA, and still look for its TV schedule. However, whenever it broadcasts a natural science issues, like life elsewhere in the universe, it (the NOVA scientists, writers and producers) always present a positive scenario, a hopeful outcome. Why? Why not be candid and accurate and present the presently known realities as seen by the likes of Stenger, Tyson, Kraaus and many others (that’s not predicated on the presumed stupidity of naturalism’s skeptics). I believe the answer is because people want a positive outcome, a hopeful prognosis. NOVA’s producers know this. Who wants to watch a depressing show with a bad outcome? So, I will watch "Life Beyond Earth" and see how it matches known scientific reality. I hope my old laptop doesn’t burn-up after 1.75 hours

    barefoot hiker said, “You've talked about wanting to understand.” – One thing I try to “understand” is how someone with a completely different worldview from mine (atheistic, naturalistic, materialistic) can use scientific information to aid in “buttressing” that view into a bias and then not admit that they have a bias.

    barefoot hiker said, “What do you think, folks? Does that sound analogous to an atheistic position, or a theistic one?” – Very funny. I enjoy your word-smithing. Now, how do you respond to the author’s view on atheism? Is it predicated on the basis that it ‘just makes you feel good’ to think that you are better or more rational than someone else?

    barefoot hiker said, “You're NOT looking where the data is pointing.” – Dawkins says, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed” If “giving the appearance” (of design) isn’t a pointer, what is it?

    barefoot hiker said, “You're fine with the scientific method so long as it makes your physical life easier.” (Yes) “But if it poses a challenge to the stories you grew up with, it's different.” (No.) - I do not find in science a “challenge” to my Christian beliefs.

    barefoot hiker said, “there's no evidence for eternal punishment or reward” – There are lots of things in science for which there is no evidence. For example; Inorganic life evolving into organic life. But, you still believe in evolution.

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  55. barefoot hiker said, “And now, my review of “The Cell's Design: How Chemistry Reveals the Creator's Artistry", written in pseudo-Basic” ………… - Here’s my reply, based on people who did not experience the logic you describe.

    10 Scientists look at naturally initiated biological systems to discover a pattern of development.
    20 Scientists discover that, as in human initiated design, many biological systems are optimized according to a purpose.
    30 Scientists discover further that the optimization that surrounds protein structure, production, and lifetimes with respect to aggregation tendency mark just one more example of optimization.
    40 Scientists continue to discover that protein optimization displays a clever molecular logic, of sorts.
    50 Scientists (Richard Dawkins specifically) define biology as ‘the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose’ (The Blind Watchmaker, op cit, Preface, p. x.)
    60 Scientists are faced with the ‘apropo’ correlation, or the parallel between human initiated design and biological design, as described by Richard Dawkins.’
    70 Scientists must consider the logical conclusion that minds are behind ‘design,’ or reject that notion by believing that the correlations are an accident, and go back to 10 and begin the same process all over again with the prospect of arriving at 70 Ad nauseam.

    Fazale Rana went through an experience like the one described above on his personal journey to ‘faith.’ Facts first, then faith.


    barefoot hiker said, “… nutshell.” "Nut" not necessarily meant to be a reflection on anyone.” – Here’s another person who traveled the Facts first, then faith path. Note the sentence beginning, “The purpose of this universe…”

    After winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1996, Richard Smalley said, “Recently I have gone back to church regularly with a new focus to understand as best I can what it is that makes Christianity so vital and powerful in the lives of billions of people today, even though almost 2000 years have passed since the death and resurrection of Christ. Although I suspect I will never fully understand, I now think the answer is very simple: it’s true. God did create the universe about 13.7 billion years ago, and of necessity has involved Himself with His creation ever since. The purpose of this universe is something that only God knows for sure, but it is increasingly clear to modern science that the universe was exquisitely fine-tuned to enable human life. We are somehow critically involved in His purpose. Our job is to sense that purpose as best we can, love one another, and help Him get that job done.” (Source, Wikipedia or Wikiquote)

    barefoot hiker, do you think Richard Smalley was a “kook” as Larry referred to Ross, or a “Nut,” as you not so subtly frame Rana? :-)

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    1. Re Denny

      The late Prof. Smalley is a textbook example of someone who was a prestigious scientist in one field who makes a fool of himself when he pontificates in another field of science. One need only cite his fellow Nobel Laurette, chemist Linus Pauling, as an example, who, despite knowing nothing about cancer, decided that vitamin C was a cure for the disease. Prof. Smalley was a physical chemist, expert in that field, who decided that all the evolutionary biologists who have been studying evolutionary biology for 150 years were all wrong, despite knowing nothing about the subject. His opinions were based on his religious beliefs that he acquired shortly before his untimely demise from leukemia, not on any evaluation of the evidence. Yes, like Hugh Ross, Linus Pauling, Peter Duesberg, William Shockley, J. Allen Hynek, Michael Behe, Brian Josephson, Lynn Margolis, Wilhelm Reich, etc. Prof. Smalley turned from a productive scientist into a crank. I suspect that, in Prof. Smalley's case, his late life religious views were quite possibly the result of the diagnosis of his final illness.

      What Mr. Denny is engaging in here is the logical fallacy of arguments from authority, even though in this case, his authorities are nothing of the kind.

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  56. a simply naturalistic look at the earth’s and universe’s future is (to say the least) grim

    Having so recently denied you wave boogeymen at us, here you are doing it yet again. Denny, if you sincerely accept that we “get” that the universe isn't a storybook with a happy ending from the point of view of beings like ourselves—but that we accept it isn't obliged to fill our mouths with whipped cream and powder our fannies—then why do you continually keep coming back to this point again and again like if you hammer it home just one more time maybe it'll finally shake us up? It's billions, maybe trillions of years in the future. WHO CARES? Do you really think something that vague and remote is going to make us suddenly hit our knees and wail to Jesus when the far more immediate and pressing concerns of the world going on around us don't? If not, why do you keep harping on it, over and over and over?

    I believe the answer is because people want a positive outcome

    This sounds to me a lot like you're alleging that the producers of NOVA are lying.

    But if they're not, then what they're doing is communicating the views and findings of scientists working in the field. They are not drawing conclusions. They are presenting what they've found, what they hope it could mean, and what they want to find out next. Right or wrong.

    use scientific information to aid in “buttressing” that view into a bias and then not admit that they have a bias

    What's our “bias” here, Denny? Are you biased against Bigfoot because no one's shown you any reason to accept he's real? Are you biased against alien visitations because no one's shown you any reason to accept they're really happening? Since when did not believing in things you haven't been persuaded yet are real become a “bias”? Now, the day you push me out a second floor window and I break my leg on the ground and still insist gravity is a myth... then you can call me biased. But if you tell me that actually it was fairies that slammed me to the ground, you can't prove it, but you believe it anyway, I'm afraid the “bias” is yours, not mine.

    I enjoy your word-smithing

    There's no art in it. It's simply being able to see the inconsistencies and hypocrisies in someone else's position and point them out. That's what critical thinking provides a person. Non-smoking and atheism are default positions. Smoking and Christian doctrine (Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, whatever) are learned behaviours, and they are increasingly clung to in spite of scientific evidence. On that basis alone, to equate smoking and atheism is risible.

    Is it predicated on the basis that it ‘just makes you feel good’ to think that you are better or more rational than someone else?

    I could still manage that as a Christian, Denny, so what has that to do with it? If it were a matter of holding a view to make myself feel better, well hell, isn't that why you keep reminding us of the monster of heat death under the bed? If I just wanted to “feel better”, I'd sell my discernment and buy that guff on spec. But I don't, so I haven't.

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  57. If “giving the appearance” (of design) isn’t a pointer, what is it?

    Jesus, Denny, how do you look at yourself in the mirror? How can you so often, and so consistently, break the Ninth Commandment and still call yourself a follower of your god? It would be one thing if you were spreading this manure among the faithful who could all nod like sheep that even people who don't believe in god are really saying there's a god, uh huh, uh huh. But you're spreading it HERE, where we all KNOW what Dawkins actually said. WE'VE READ THE BOOK. It's an introductory phrase to a discussion of “designoid” objects, and you've got to know that. The very fact that he deems such phenomena as having the “appearance” of design, rather than the “property” of design, is TO DENY THAT THEY ARE IN FACT DESIGNED. Like the Devil's Causeway in Northern Ireland gives the appearance of design, but isn't either. That's one of the things that makes it impressive, rather than just another pile of rocks... which is all it actually is. What makes it impressive is that it happens to invoke pattern-recognition in human beings where most piles of rocks don't, and we thrill that we've been tricked by nature. Those of us who don't leap to the conclusion that it's therefore proof that there are, or were, giants, that is.

    I do not find in science a “challenge” to my Christian beliefs.

    Principally because you ignore or deny any of the science that does. Which comes back to my point. Sorry, Denny. You don't get to have transistors without evolution, because the same scientific method that gives you one, gives you the other.

    Inorganic life evolving into organic life.

    There is evidence for that, actually. No one's actually had anything crawl out of a test tube and wave. Yet. But what they have done is taken basic molecules like methane and water and carbon dioxide, etc., and by simply applying electricity for relatively brief periods of time, compared to the billions of years in the quadrillions of test tube-equivalents the Earth represents, produced organic chemicals all the way up to artificially-produced nucleotide pairs. The preponderance of evidence is in. There's no longer any reason to credit the idea that life, which is simply complicated chemistry, is impossible on the basis of chemistry, and no reason to insist it takes a magic man no one's ever seen to stir the pot and sample the broth.

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  58. 20 Scientists discover that, as in human initiated design, many biological systems are optimized according to a purpose.

    Yeah. The purpose is molecular replication. The systems, represented as organisms, best suited to their environments survive to reproduce themselves with greater frequency. Those less suited to it do with less frequency. The ones that preponderate become the norm. Since we understand this mechanism, and have repeatedly demonstrated it in the lab and observed it in nature, there's no reason to credit an invisible magic man. Unlike people in the Bronze Age, we understand how it happens, and why.

    As previously stated, this is measured by, and wholly dependent upon, the environment in which an organism finds itself. Human beings are fairly generally adapted to much of the temperate zone of the Earth. But optimal? Optimal for what? Take that same person and drop him on the moon without a space suit and watch just how “optimal” he is in that environment. We are the PRODUCTS of our environment, and part of it as well; affecting it and affected by it. We have grasped these mechanisms, and even begun to control them. What, then, requires a god to explain? Aside from your personal need, I mean.

    Facts first, then faith.

    If you have “facts”, wither faith? “Faith” is what you need when you don't have facts. To boil down the position of someone like Fazale Rana: “I've seen the Devil's Causeway in Northern Ireland, and I am impressed. Therefore I know there are giants.”

    Note the sentence beginning, “The purpose of this universe…”

    “There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet.” Just asserting something (like “purpose”) doesn't make it so, Denny. Does it?

    “Recently I have gone back to church regularly with a new focus to understand as best I can what it is that makes Christianity so vital

    Yeah, we've been down this road, Denny, so I'll restate the objection. Isaac Newton was brilliant, probably ran brain-circles around Smalley... but for all that, he also believe in alchemy and the dream of the Philospher's Stone. He was a man of his times. But it needs to be asked: did his brilliance in other fields make his crackpot pursuits any more valid?

    barefoot hiker, do you think Richard Smalley was a “kook”

    Inasmuch as you've just quoted him? Yes. He's a scientist who lives one part of his life based on rigorous standards of evidence and accepting nothing indemonstrable, to the point of being awarded the highest accolade of science the modern world can offer, and the other accepting merely on emotional fiat that an invisible man who is his own son and sacrificed himself to himself as a loophole to a rule he made up but apparently can't amend or see the flaw in in the first place, actually exists and controls everything. If he believed all those things BUT attributed them to “Tony the Space Robot” instead of something you're culturally familiar with, you'd see him for a kook too.

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  59. SLC said, “The late Prof. Smalley is a textbook example of someone who was a prestigious scientist in one field who makes a fool of himself when he pontificates in another field of science.” – First, I would say that he became an expert in two fields, natural science reality and extra-natural spiritual reality. Maybe you believe yourself to be a man of far more wisdom and discernment than me. Maybe I should bow to you on matters of personal judgment from afar. Maybe you should look for what Smalley found.

    SLC and barefoot hiker. - Each of you and some other Sandwalk fans have disputed my statements and sources (Ross and others) about the virtual certainty of a future doom and gloom scenario for the universe, as it relates to any ‘ultimate’ hope or purpose for humankind – something in and beyond a temporal existence at a very narrow period of time on planet earth. You both have provided some references to a Dr. Plait, other information about star and planet formation, etc. I accept that there are myriad scientists and many hypotheses on the subject. But, you act like it’s me you’re debating. It’s not me. You debate Stenger, Kraaus and Tyson. They (and many others) are the specialists in cosmology and related fields, and they are the ones who have seen all the cosmological stuff you see, and finally came to a (virtually) unavoidable conclusion – The chances of life elsewhere in the universe are nil or less. It is they, like Sandwalk fans, who must use pejoratives against those who believe in God, in order to have some logic for their own beliefs. I understand that some of you accept a fatalistic view of human life. However, you know that other people (scientists and non-scientists) do not. It was some non-scientists (Richard Smalley may have agreed) who suggested that the young daughter of drug users pray to God. My purpose in plumbing the topic of The Toronto Transit Commission Sign and the minds of Sandwalk fans was to see what naturalism and materialism have to offer for all the non-scientific non-physical aspects of life, the things that don’t have anything to do with physical matter, like that young woman’s situation. After all, it’s you guys that claim your belief (or non-belief) system is better. I have pointed to the universes’ doom as evidence that naturalism offers nothing, besides some fatalistic references to doing the best one can while we’re here. I haven’t seen what an atheist would say to that adolescent girl; much less give her hope, if she was looking for hope – if she were your granddaughter, niece, etc. We can debate elliptical galaxies, stellar nebulas and the universe’s cold death all day long. But, what’s it worth, if these apparently unique beings (like that girl) do not have innate value with meaning beyond that of a cockroach, and some hope of finding it?

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    1. Re Denny, Denny, Denny

      Each of you and some other Sandwalk fans have disputed my statements and sources (Ross and others) about the virtual certainty of a future doom and gloom scenario for the universe, as it relates to any ‘ultimate’ hope or purpose for humankind – something in and beyond a temporal existence at a very narrow period of time on planet earth.

      We do nothing of the sort. We only point out that this doom and gloom scenario will happen billions of years in the future so what purpose is served by worrying about it now. Unless reincarnation is true, we won't be around when it occurs. In fact, I suspect that there won't be anybody around, at least on this planet, when it occurs.

      By the way, long before this doom and gloom scenario occurs, in about 5 billion years, the Sun will exhaust it's supply of hydrogen and expand into a red giant. It's outer layers will engulf the earth, turning it into a cinder and eliminating any life that might be present at that time. In fact, the layers will extend about halfway between the Earth and Mars. Now there's gloom and doom!

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  60. First, I would say that he became an expert in two fields, natural science reality and extra-natural spiritual reality.

    How exactly does one become an "expert in extra-natural spiritual reality"? Do you study with Dr. Venkman and tag along on ghostbusting assignments? Who yah gonna call? Dick Smalley!!!

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  61. Each of you and some other Sandwalk fans have disputed my statements and sources (Ross and others) about the virtual certainty of a future doom and gloom scenario for the universe

    Denny: I'd like you to read back, if you haven't yet, just a couple of days ago where I acknowledged that very possibility. It's easy to spot; I wrote "WHO CARES?" in big capital letters. I've also touched on it repeatedly to point out that despite your insistence to the contrary, you wave the idea at us to try to chase us into the arms of your imaginary salvation... as you're doing here, yet again.

    You debate Stenger, Kraaus and Tyson

    No, Denny, you misrepresent Stenger, Kraaus, and Tyson (and while we're at it, Dawkins), and that's been repeatedly demonstrated too. You quote-mine, you paraphrase, and you outright mis-attribute. Martin Luther might be proud of your disinguinuousness in a "higher" cause, but if he's true to his commandmends, your god can't be.

    The chances of life elsewhere in the universe are nil or less

    You haven't bothered to watch that NOVA episode. No, don't bother telling us you have... you haven't. If you had, there's no way you'd be willing to stand by such an unequivocal statement unless you're borderline psychopathic and standards of truth and possibilities affect your judgment not in the slightest. Have we found life beyond the Earth yet? No. Does what we know of how life works, how abundant its constituents are, and how many places we already know of are arguably hospitable, and the sheer size of the universe mark it as a virtual certainty? Yes.

    What I find so head-shaking is that you seem determined to go to your grave, having wasted what little time you had here deliberately avoiding understand the place in which you existed and the processes that gave rise to you as a conscious, self-referential node of the universe, all so you could cling to a fantasy you yourself have admitted is beyond demonstration. Just a few hundred years ago, people didn't have any choice in the matter... but you do, and you've chosen to side with the ignorant likes of them. And it fills me with trepidation for our future as a species that so many of you still do.

    I understand that some of you accept a fatalistic view of human life.

    You keep implying that on you accept an unrosy picture of the fate of the universe that the rest of us ignore (and can only be escaped by accepting the unacceptable), then you turn around and calumny us as "fatalistic". Well, which is it? We can't be both cheerfully ignorant of the disquieting likelihoods of physics AND morbidly resigned to them at the same time. If you simply must tar us with one brush or the other, at least please make up your mind.

    The reality of it is... ONCE AGAIN... yes, we know the universe SEEMS, from what we know at the moment, to have a destiny that we might not choose for it, had we the ability to do so (how is that any different from coming to grips with the reality that humans inevitably get old, less cute, less mobile, and eventually, die?). We also know it's almost unimaginably remote, that none of us is going to be around to deal with it--nor anyone remotely like us--but that in the meantime we DO exist and we have things to deal with regarding that anyway. It might not matter at all to the universe if my brakes work or not, or if I can afford that vacation in Cuba in a couple of years, but it matters to ME (and the other people affected by those matters), and that's enough. Why should there be, why should I presume, there's cosmic significance in everything I do? That's unbelievable hubris.

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  62. After all, it’s you guys that claim your belief (or non-belief) system is better.

    I've repeatedly asked you to point out how prayer would benefit this girl, or have any demonstrable practical effect on her situation. Where we've posited, among other things, reaching out to authorities, or her actually confronting her parents with her feelings; so far, as far as I can see, you've elected to dodge your responsibility to answer the question put to you in return and treat the answer as an ipse dixit... which it isn't.

    What does prayer do, Denny? What does this girl get from kneeling in the dark and muttering into apparently thin air while her parents continue shooting up in the next room?

    I have pointed to the universes’ doom as evidence that naturalism offers nothing, besides some fatalistic references to doing the best one can while we’re here.

    And if that suffices for us, but not for you, has it occurred to you that perhaps the fault, dear Brutus, is not in the atheistic stars, but in the theist selves? Why is it that we can get through our lives and somehow manage to deal with unsavoury realities on their own terms, while you need to believe in one of a vast set of made-up games each with its own arbitrary rules for acquiring a get-out-of-death-free card?

    I haven’t seen what an atheist would say to that adolescent girl

    YES YOU HAVE. REPEATEDLY. AND FROM MORE THAN ONE OF US. You have chosen to disregard our replies. BUT THEY WERE MADE.

    But, what’s it worth, if these apparently unique beings (like that girl) do not have innate value with meaning beyond that of a cockroach, and some hope of finding it?

    And I'll ask you again: where does prayer provide that? How does belief in an imaginary friend in and of itself promote you to "better than a cockroach", where other things don't?

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  63. SLC said, “We do nothing of the sort. We only point out that this doom and gloom scenario will happen billions of years in the future so what purpose is served by worrying about it now.” – Well.
    1. As to its relevance to humans, Thousands, maybe. Probably not millions. And, certainly not billions. Look at how recent human life is compared to the ages of the universe and earth. Look at all the myriad things had to occur for earthly life and ultimately for advanced earthly life to exist. When we reach the ‘tipping pint’ where earth’s physical conditions begin to diminish from the optimum ones we experience now, advanced life will very likely begin diminishing too.
    2. Isn’t the value of life for those in the future as important as for us now, and for those in the past. I doubt that you are suggesting that our lives have more value or personal significance that those who have preceded or will follow us. So, Why does it matter when life ends, when it comes to assigning value and purpose to human life?
    3. Speaking as a Christian, as you probably know, the Bible predicts that the world will end. And the end is predicted to be supernatural, not natural. For those who believe in the Bible, that opens the door for an ending soon – compared to the billions of years scenario.

    SLC said, “By … Now there's gloom and doom!” – What do you think I’ve been talking about?

    I thought an atheist was someone who simply didn’t believe in any god. I’m not sure how to refer to someone who so strongly denies the existence of God. It seems to me that actually denying God’s existence requires proof. All of your remarks about never having seen evidence for God cite the lack of physical evidence, and it seems to me that physical proof of the spiritual may be difficult. The words are different because the realities are different. I’m not sure how to described it, but I think there’s a condition in your demand, and I’m not sure how God might feel about that, no matter how you think he should feel about your conditions. I do know this, God has said, “Come to Me.” The context is that those who sincerely seek him will receive a response from him. Lack of sincerity might be an impediment. I don’t know, barefoot hiker. Do you think you could sincerely ask God to show himself to you, while your Sandwalk brothers and sisters are not looking over your shoulder?

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    1. Thousands, maybe. Probably not millions. And, certainly not billions.

      Denny, you're speaking out of pure ignorance. It's trillions upon trillions upon trillions of years in the future. Nobody human or remotely human will be around to witness it... if it, indeed, even comes to pass. Heat death is forecast at about 10 to the 500th years in the future. The time since the Big Bang is only about 1.37x10 to the 10th years. Ref http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Future_of_an_expanding_universe

      When we reach the ‘tipping pint’ where earth’s physical conditions begin to diminish from the optimum ones we experience now

      That won't happen for billions of years yet, either.

      Isn’t the value of life for those in the future as important as for us now

      I would expect so. Do you imagine that means the beings of the future will be able to talk the universe out of winding down, perhaps? An emotional plea to physics? Try it the next time you step out of a plane without a parachute. The realities of physics don't owe us a hearing, nor would they be able to amend themselves even if they did and were swayed. They are what they are.

      Why does it matter when life ends, when it comes to assigning value and purpose to human life?

      The question here is, to whom? It certainly matters to me when and how my life ends, and the actions I take will accord to my perceptions of that. But do I imagine it matters to the vast majority of humanity who aren't even aware I exist--much less the universe? No, I don't. There are people dying every day you've never heard of and never will. Do you want me to believe you're actually affected by that in anything but the broadest, most abstract sense?

      Speaking as a Christian, as you probably know, the Bible predicts that the world will end. And the end is predicted to be supernatural, not natural.

      And speaking as a non-Christian, what reason do I have to believe that and in any way feel threatened by it? How much sleep do YOU lose over the predictions of Hindu cosmology? Not much, I bet... and for the same reasons we don't lose much sleep over the book the Revelations.

      What do you think I’ve been talking about?

      Denny, he's MOCKING you. He's replacing your incredibly remote event of gloom and doom that no human will live to see with another, slightly more pending one that none of us will live to see either. It's a JOKE, but you don't get it.

      I’m not sure how to refer to someone who so strongly denies the existence of God

      "Gnostic atheist". Most atheists are agnostic atheists.

      It seems to me that actually denying God’s existence requires proof

      Arguably; that's why most of us are open to the slight possibility that a god exists. I don't claim to know for sure one doesn't. What I do claim to know for sure is none of you guys has ever convinced me your particular imaginary friend is anything but imaginary.

      it seems to me that physical proof of the spiritual may be difficult

      Then on what basis should I believe it, and more to the point, why do you? [To cut to the chase: in your case, it's almost certainly childhood indoctrination.]

      God has said, “Come to Me.”

      Denny, your god supposedly has all the power to do whatever he wants. If he can't be arsed to show up, make it clear to EVERY human being equally that he's real, and be clear about what he wants, then the fault lies in HIM, not in finite beings like us.

      Do you think you could sincerely ask God to show himself to you

      No more so than you could sincerely ask Brahma to show himself to you, no. And for exactly the same reason.

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  64. barefoot hiker said, “why do you keep harping on it, over and over and over?” – I’m simply stating the obvious. You are not debating me because it’s a matter of life and death, survival of the fittest. You’re debating me because of something else that is not material/flesh related. It matters to you that I don’t share your view. Well. It matters to me that you seriously consider that you may be misinformed.

    barefoot hiker said, “This sounds to me a lot like you're alleging that the producers of NOVA are lying.” – Come on! NOVA produces are people just like everyone else with biases and jobs to keep. It comes down to whose bias you prefer. There are precious few objective unbiased programs anywhere. Especially when one associates one’s worldview with the meaning of the program.

    barefoot hiker said, “They are not drawing conclusions. They are presenting what they've found, what they hope it could mean, and what they want to find out next. Right or wrong.” – Right. And what they’ve found is ‘design,’ and certainly not accidents.

    barefoot hiker, - I am not responsible for convincing you of anything. You and I are responsible for making our own choices between alternatives. That’s what the word bias means – to prefer one alternative over another. You prefer to ignore or reject that anything non-material (spiritual) exists, as an innate part of human beings. You keep trying to reduce the meaning and value of life to something in a test tube. Yet. I repeat. The fact that you continue to feel it important to dialog with me over something non-material (The ‘desperation’ of an adolescent girl and prayer to God) means that you actually accept that there is more at work here than someone else’s drug abuse. Conversely, I admit my “bias,” - I continue to debate you, because I think it (the non-material) is important.

    barefoot hiker said, “That's what critical thinking provides a person.” – First, your critical thinking must have told you that the author was simply looking for a way to make a point. Second, you repeatedly equate all religions (“Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, whatever”) with Christianity. It appears to me that you have not applied your critical thinking skills to the comparative difference between Christianity and Judaism, and all other religions.

    barefoot hiker said, “in spite of scientific evidence.” – There is no scientific evidence that disproves God.

    barefoot hiker said, “WE'VE READ THE BOOK.” – In whatever context you or Dawkins prefer, it is science that discovers the aspects of biology that are most naturally described as “design,” which continue into each and every single field of science. It is naturalist scientists that have a need to deny design.

    barefoot hiker said, “how do you look at yourself in the mirror?” – Are you telling me that it is Denny who has raised and cultured this notion of “design,” to the point where Dawkins feels the need to give his view on the word, as a preface to his book? You know that’s not true. Again, it’s not me you debate. It’s the “appearance” of virtually, if not literally, all the scientific data that emerges every day.

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    1. It matters to you that I don’t share your view.

      Inasmuch as people like you attempt to inflict your views on the rest of us in custom and legislation, yes. I don't really care that much what one person or another believes... it's what those beliefs prompt them to do that matters to me. People like me aren't prepared to sit back and shuffle our feet as wallflowers anymore. We're in the dance, and we're going to start calling the tunes. Or at least making sure we don't have to dance the way YOU say.

      It matters to me that you seriously consider that you may be misinformed.

      Been there, done that. Did Christian Education for Adults in my 30s. It was culturally interesting, I liked the liturgy and the ceremonies and the music, but at the core of it, it remained a set of fantastic stories that did not impress me as credible. Your god is not REAL to me. He's a character in fiction, like the thousands of others.

      NOVA produces are people just like everyone else with biases and jobs to keep.

      And that job is presenting the latest scientific evidence on various phenomena to an audience that wants to be impressed by our progress... not gulled by lies. If the evidence says there's no life on Mars, we're okay with that. It doesn't mean we stop looking (at least not yet), but we must say for now, there's no evidence. That's what we expect of NOVA. We leave the absolute certainty in spite of evidence to the theists.

      And what they’ve found is ‘design,’

      Not till you show us A) the so-called designer and B) that natural phenomena can't account for evolution. Till then, your claim is disingenuous.

      I am not responsible for convincing you of anything

      If you want to pass law and establish cultural and societal norms on the basis that your god is real and says certain things, then yes... you ABSOLUTELY ARE.

      That’s what the word bias means – to prefer one alternative over another.

      That's a puerile definition. Are you saying if I push two buttons together with two others, count them, and come up with four, I'm "biased" if you can't or won't prove to me it's either three, or five, as you insist? That's absurd.

      You prefer to ignore or reject that anything non-material (spiritual) exists

      It isn't a choice. The "evidence" shown to me isn't genuinely persuasive to me. Christian claims no more impress me than Muslim claims--in fact, the fact that there ARE competing claims at all was one of the first things that set firm in my mind as a boy that religions are all made up. Human governments won't even let you deviate from a tax code... but someone all-powerful who's supposedly obsessed with our salvation won't make the supposedly crucial path unquestionably clear? He's content to let his beloved children wander a minefield with faulty maps (one of them possibly YOURS) largely handed down to them from birth, even as they sincerely cry out to him for guidance? No, sorry, that doesn't hold together for me. That's a monster, and while he might exist, he sure isn't what you're selling him to be.

      The ‘desperation’ of an adolescent girl and prayer to God

      And I'll ask you yet again: what is practical upshot of her prayer to your imaginary friend? Even if she just phones up some anonymous hotline, AT LEAST she's talking to another feeling human being WHO WILL ANSWER BACK, unambiguously. ANYONE can offer that. What does your story book offer her but blandishments and old chestnuts?

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    2. you repeatedly equate all religions (“Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, whatever”) with Christianity

      Of course I do! To me, they're all made up. They all have the same character, same claims, same lack of evidence to back them up. Your religion is to me just one of the bunch.

      It's been thousands of years. If any one of them really had the goods, that should be manifestly clear to all humanity by now. When scientific explanations go toe to toe, there are ways to establish which is the better explanation for a phenomenon, and the competing idea falls away. That's because they're based on evidence, and not just made up. But people will be believing the same religious guff they do now, and probably newer, weirder-still claims, thousands of years into the future, I'm sure... because no such test exists for them. It's like arguing over whether Mighty Mouse or Superman would win in a fight.

      There is no scientific evidence that disproves God.

      There's all kinds that disestablishes the claims of a god for all sorts of things that used to be attributed to him and his magic, though. More to the point, there's none that ESTABLISHES him, so why should I live my life as though he were real?

      aspects of biology that are most naturally described as “design,”

      ...by you, and people like you. Not by their discoverers.

      It is naturalist scientists that have a need to deny design.

      They don't need to deny what isn't established by evidence, Denny. You need to find evidence that unequivocally establishes your claim. So far, all you have is spin. You're impressed with something, it seems complicated, therefore, "God"... and that's that. No no no, it doesn't matter if scientists find a natural mechanism for it, you'll just move the goal posts and still insist it's "God"...

      Are you telling me that it is Denny who has raised and cultured this notion of “design,”

      No, I'm saying you're the one who's taken a man who is using the word to deconstruct the concept, ignoring that process, and simply using the fact that he states the premise he's out to put to rest as proof of that claim. It's appalling dishonest. You have to know that, and not just "deep down", either.

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  65. barefoot hiker said, “ There is evidence for that, actually. … basic molecules like methane and water and carbon dioxide, etc., … applying electricity … produced organic chemicals all the way up to artificially-produced nucleotide pairs.” – Please tell me you are not speaking of Stanley Miller and his partner. What they produced in their lab (50 years ago) was the equivalent formaldehyde and would have killed any emerging cells. If you are speaking of the many current efforts to artificially replicate life that are supported by tons of private and public funding, those activities are extensively described in Fazal Rana’s “The Cell’s Design.” But I know of no breakthroughs, only hoped for posits.

    barefoot hiker said, “Yeah. The purpose is molecular replication.” – Is that the naturalist’s term for “design”?

    barefoot hiker said, “We are the PRODUCTS of our environment,” – Since our environment has proved to be so rare that it is seen as a cosmic anomaly, how did the environment know to get ready for us?

    barefoot hiker said, “If you have “facts”, wither faith? “Faith” is what you need when you don't have facts.” – It’s nice to see someone else quote mining. :-) Although I forgot the original author. If I buy the premise of the quote, it might be said that faith is for those things that require answers for which science has no explanations. barefoot hiker, Are there any things for which science has no explanations that matter? Again, I go back to the The Toronto Transit Commission Sign and the adolescent girl. If you reject prayer, what naturalistic remedy do you offer for despair, fear and hope and peace?

    barefoot hiker said, “Just asserting something (like “purpose”) doesn't make it so, Denny. Does it?” – No. But what about when something like purpose is called for, as with the adolescent girl? Or does her temporal existence, and her suffering, deprive her of the hope for escape or rescue or even ‘healing?’ To me, either she is more than a temporary collection of molecules or not. Either naturalism offers something for her non-temporal needs or not.

    barefoot hiker said, “Newton … believed in alchemy and the dream of the Philospher's Stone.” – Yes he did. But, in matters of faith, I don’t buy the premise that one must be an expert. I don’t think God requires experts, since none of us could ever achieve his level of expertise. I think, in the world of the spiritual (Christian), it is a humble heart and mind that’s required vs. human cognitive ability, achievement or self-pride. There’s a Christian expression: ‘The ground is level at the foot of the Cross.’ It’s not knowledge or achievement that matters most to God. Maybe Smalley, after all his achievements found something that reached beyond anything he could ever do, and he was able to simply accept something called grace.

    Barefoot hiker said, “accepting merely on emotional fiat” Wow! Would you say that to his face, if given the opportunity? If not, Why not, since you’re willing to speak to me that way?

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    1. As to its relevance to humans, Thousands, maybe. Probably not millions. And, certainly not billions.

      No Denny, the Sun will continue to put out light for several billion years at its present output. When it runs out of hydrogen in about 4.5 billion years, it will swell up, turning into a red giant and engulf the earth. Provided that humanity is not extinguished by anthropogenic global warming or nuclear war, the environment will be conducive to the continuation of human life for at least a billion years or two.

      Look at how recent human life is compared to the ages of the universe and earth.

      Well, Mr. Denny is correct. Homo sapiens sapiens has been around for about 150,000 years, Neanderthals, Homo sapiens neanderthalis, about 500,000 years. However, complex vertebrate live has been around for some 500 million years, having evolved in the Cambrian. The Solar System has been around for some 4.5 billion years, the universe for some 14 billion years.

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    2. Look at all the myriad things had to occur for earthly life and ultimately for advanced earthly life to exist. When we reach the ‘tipping pint’ where earth’s physical conditions begin to diminish from the optimum ones we experience now, advanced life will very likely begin diminishing too.

      Humans could have survived quite comfortably in the environment of the age of dinosaurs, stretching back 450 million years. Of course, humans, like all other large mammals, would not have been able to coexist with the dinosaurs, particularly the raptors and Troodons. They had to go before mammals could evolve to fill the niches. As for the myriad things that supposedly had to happen, these are the imaginings of whackjobs like Hugh Ross and have no foundation in biology, a subject with which he is entirely ignorant.

      Speaking as a Christian, as you probably know, the Bible predicts that the world will end. And the end is predicted to be supernatural, not natural. For those who believe in the Bible, that opens the door for an ending soon – compared to the billions of years scenario.

      The bible, in the person of Yeshua of Nazareth also predicted that he would return during the lifetime of some in his audience. That was nearly 2000 years ago and I sincerely doubt that any of those folks are still around. As Martin Gardner put it, the Galilean carpenter turned itinerant preacher was mistaken.

      I thought an atheist was someone who simply didn’t believe in any god. I’m not sure how to refer to someone who so strongly denies the existence of God.

      This is a misunderstanding on Mr. Denny's part. Let me cite Richard Dawkins in his book, "The God Delusion." Dawkins' position is that he considers the existence of god to be a scientific proposition, testable by the methods of science. Thus far, he has seen no scientific evidence for a god or gods. Thus, he has concluded, albeit tentatively as all scientific propositions are to be considered, that god does not exist. However, if some scientific evidence were to be found supporting the existence of god, he would be quite willing to reconsider his position. I suspect that there is no evidence that could possibly be found that would cause Mr. Denny to reconsider his position. If a TV camera were inserted into one of the vents on Europa into the underlying ocean and a shark was seen swimming around, I expect that not even that would convince Mr. Denny of the error of his ways.

      Now, Mr. Denny might well ask for an example of evidence that would convince me to reconsider my position. That's easy. As I stated previously, the Book of Joshua in the Hebrew scriptures claims that the Sun stood still in the sky for a day. Clearly, such an event must needs be a supernatural one as it would violate the laws of physics. As we sit here today, there is no evidence other then the claim in Joshua that such an event occurred. If writings were unearthed from other civilizations (e.g. China, Egypt) that existed at the time of Joshua that noted such an event, that would constitute some evidence that the event occurred. Thus far, no such evidence has been unearthed.

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  66. Please tell me you are not speaking of Stanley Miller and his partner.

    You get your wish! I'm talking about myriad experiments conducted in the light of an increasingly deep geological understanding of the chemical nature of the prebiotic Earth over the past 60 years. They're still going on. I guess I'm not really surprised you don't (want to) know that.

    What they produced in their lab (50 years ago) was the equivalent formaldehyde and would have killed any emerging cells.

    First of all, the first life was self-replicating carbon chains. Nothing anything like as complicated as a "cell". That was hundreds of millions of years down the line. Secondly, what's poisonous to some forms of life is ambrosia to others. Were you aware, for instance, that when plants really started into photosynthesis and pumping out the molecular oxygen, it was a deadly poison to nearly all life on Earth? It's referred to as "the oxygen crisis" or "the oxygen catastrophe", and it wiped out most of the species in existence at the time. Such organisms either went into hiding as extremophiles, or died out. The few that could tolerate, and eventually exploit, this dire new pollutant took over the world. The point is, what's noxious in one age ain't necessarily so in every age. We couldn't live on the prebiotic Earth... but it was home for our earliest ancestors, who themselves would die if exposed to our current atmosphere.

    many current efforts to artificially replicate life

    No one's expecting to replicate "life", Denny. What they're doing is demonstrating that organic chemistry is perfectly capable of quickly and abundantly creating amino acids, the building blocks of life, from extremely basic and common compounds given the presence of liquid water, and an energy source (that'd be Mr. Sunshine and his friend Lady Lightning). And they have, repeatedly, all the way up to, last I heard, one of the four nucleotides of DNA. No magic man required.

    But I know of no breakthroughs, only hoped for posits.

    Well, that's the difference between us, see. I actually look up what's being achieved and discovered in science, with genuine interest, whereas you look up decades-old, repeated ad nauseam denials and qualifications of it to fend off the implications, with real trepidation. The advance of science for you must be constantly just like cresting a roller coaster, looking down the drop, and realizing the guy didn't put the safety bar down in front of you. EVERYTHING for you must be like the Russians getting Sputnik up there first.

    Is that the naturalist’s term for “design”?

    Is that all your "designer" set out to achieve?

    how did the environment know to get ready for us?

    Why do you assume we were inevitable in any case?

    Your question would be like me asking "how did the lottery numbers get ready for your ticket?" Your ticket represents the right conditions for you to win ("live"). In most draws ("on most planets"), you won't win ("conditions won't support life"). But once in a long while, hey presto, your numbers come up and you win ("a planet has the right conditions for self-replicating carbon chains to self-assemble"). So the environment didn't "get ready" for anything. Is it what it is here, and almost certainly elsewhere. Mars once had a heavier atmosphere and oceans of liquid water on its surface. It may have then harboured life, and possibly still does. So, what, are the little Martian microbes waiting for Jesus to come save them? Why would your god create a second habitable world in the same solar system if he only needed the one?

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  67. Although I forgot the original author.

    Me.

    But here's a related one from Martin Luther: Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but--more frequently than not--struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.

    I completely agree with him. Of course, his and my perception of "God", and the actual origins of what "emanates from" him, differ markedly.

    faith is for those things that require answers for which science has no explanations

    So is honestly admitting you don't know the answer instead of accepting one made up around camp fires in the Bronze Age and asserting it in the Space Age.

    Are there any things for which science has no explanations that matter?

    There must be millions of things under current research and billions of things we don't even know we don't know yet. But you know what, Denny? Not a single one of them is adequately explained by just saying "magic man done it!" It's an "explanation" that explains NOTHING, and in fact retarded our advance as a species and a society for thousands of years.

    If you reject prayer, what naturalistic remedy do you offer for despair, fear and hope and peace?

    I refer you to the THREE times I personally have addressed that question so far, never mind the others here. Now, AGAIN, are you EVER going to answer mine? What does prayer do, Denny? What does this girl get from kneeling in the dark and muttering into apparently thin air while her parents continue shooting up in the next room? What does it demonstrably SOLVE? How is her life bettered in any measurable regard? Not does it achieve that NOT praying doesn't?

    But what about when something like purpose is called for, as with the adolescent girl?

    What does prayer have to do with purpose?

    Or does her temporal existence, and her suffering, deprive her of the hope for escape or rescue or even ‘healing?’

    What evidence do you have that prayer or a belief in a god is a requisite for either?

    To me, either she is more than a temporary collection of molecules or not.

    We're a specific KIND of temporary collection of molecules, Denny. One with the ability to self-identify and realize agency in others, and to be affected by those realizations. It doesn't have to be magic to be true, or special. There aren't many arrangements in the universe that can claim those attributes. We can. And we can care about each other, even if your god doesn't exist.

    And I don't think he does. But I care for others all the same.

    none of us could ever achieve his level of expertise

    I think the people who made him up essentially encompass his expertise. A guy who supposedly created the universe, but is defeated by the iron chariots of his opponents (Judges 1:19), is simply the limited creature of his limited creatures, to coin a phrase.

    Maybe Smalley, after all his achievements found something that reached beyond anything he could ever do

    Maybe Smalley grew up in a religious family or society and reached for comforting old chestnuts as he drew nearer the end of his life and his own mortality became increasingly a factor.

    Wow! Would you say that to his face, if given the opportunity?

    Not gratuitously. But if we had a discussion like this, of course. Not that I flatter myself that a Nobel Prize winner would care all that much what I think. But, that's my honest assessment. Given the opportunity, and the impetus, I would ask him why he abandoned the rigourous, tested-and-true methods of his life's work in this one single aspect of his life. We all know the reason: fear. Fear of one's mortality and the end of being, fear of the permanent loss of loved ones, fear that one's accomplishments are not a permanent monument. The adoption of our culture's typical placebo for all those ills.

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  68. If a TV camera were inserted into one of the vents on Europa into the underlying ocean and a shark was seen swimming around, I expect that not even that would convince Mr. Denny of the error of his ways.

    Oh, absolutely NOT. At the point, he, and everyone like him, would drop the tune "my god loves us so much he made life here unique in the universe! Praise be!" and start singing "my god loves life so much he put it everywhere in the universe! Praise be!" instead.

    That's the thing with these folks. No matter how you slice it, it comes up "praise be".

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    1. I wouldn't bet the ranch on that. More likely, based on my interactions with a YEC calling himself JonS over at Jason Rosenhouse's blog he would either claim that the images were faked or that god placed the shark there just before the camera went down to test our faith.

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    2. Some would cry fake. Not many... just the dyed in the wool fundies who make their money appealing to the tinfoil crucifix crowd. The rest know the world puts too much stock in what science can do, achieve, and provide to get much mileage out of flat denial. Most will do what the moderates in all churches do... bow to reality and bolt it onto their god, as per heliocentricity and evolution.

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  69. Now, Mr. Denny might well ask for an example of evidence that would convince me to reconsider my position. That's easy. As I stated previously, the Book of Joshua in the Hebrew scriptures claims that the Sun stood still in the sky for a day.

    And my example was the sudden appearance of a new planet in our solar system absent any attendant gravitational disruption... both violations of rudimentary physics and not naturally explicable. A note written on an unknown compound claiming responsibility would pretty much clinch it.

    See, we'll actually answer Denny's questions. He'll typically ignore them, keep on sailing, and then ask us the same questions he asked two days ago as though we never answered. Typical theistic playbook.

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  70. SLC said, “No Denny … human life for at least a billion years or two.” – No way! You are not taking into account a myriad of factors. The accelerating expansion of the universe and its negative effects on earth and life. Lawrence Krauss and Robert Scherrer calculated that, because of dark energy, in the distant future observers on any planet in the universe will be fundamentally unable to ascertain any of the important features of the universe.(source: “The Return of a Static Universe and the End of Cosmology”) This contributes to the good chance that ‘advanced’ life will not be advanced anymore. If we can exist for a billion or two years more, “at an advanced or increasingly advanced” level, why didn’t we exist that way a billion or two years in the past? Besides, we exist at the right moment in cosmic history to see the whole of cosmic history, at the right place in the cosmos from which to see the whole of cosmic history, within the one brief time window that the cosmos allows for our existence, at the right location in the cosmos for life to thrive, with all the matter and energy found in fifty billion trillion visible stars plus all the invisible stuff (which is vastly more abundant) in order for life to exist anywhere, anytime in the universe (Any more or any less and the result would be a different collection of elements either too light or too heavy for life chemistry), and with all of Earth’s layers upon layers of past life in order to sustain our own life. Earlier life-forms are the source and foundation of human survival and civilization. From them we have access to minerals, ores, food, energy, water, and other resources in just-right kinds and quantities to sustain but not poison us. Christians call this God’s providence. It’s too obvious to miss, if one looks the universe scientifically.

    SLC said, “Speaking as a Christian, as you probably know, the Bible predicts that the world will end. And the end is predicted to be supernatural, not natural.” – SLC, you need a good commentary. The Bible indicates that the world will physically end.
    - Matthew 24:35: “Heaven and earth shall pass away,”
    - Mark 13:31: “Heaven and earth shall pass away,”
    - Luke 21:33: “Heaven and earth shall pass away,”
    - 2 Peter 3:10: “… the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”
    - 1 John 2:17: “The world and its desires (of the flesh) pass away”
    - Revelation 21:4: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things (the temporal things) are passed away.”

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  71. SLC said, “They (dinosaurs) had to go before mammals could evolve to fill the niches. – Wow! This sounds like a creationists talking of God’s intervention in his creation.

    SLC said, “Hugh Ross and have no foundation in biology, a subject with which he is entirely ignorant.” – It’s been a while since I have see such a broad grossly SLC said, “ erroneous statement.

    Speaking as a Christian, as you probably know, the Bible predicts that the world will end. And the end is predicted to be supernatural, not natural. For those who believe in the Bible, that opens the door for an ending soon – compared to the billions of years scenario.

    SLC said, “The bible, in the person of Yeshua of Nazareth also predicted that he would return during the lifetime of some in his audience.” – I think you’ve fallen victim to some misinterpretation.

    SLC said, “Let me cite Richard Dawkins in his book, "The God Delusion." Dawkins' position is that he considers the existence of god to be a scientific proposition, testable by the methods of science.” – Mr. Dawkins, as does SLC, looks for spiritual evidence among the physical.

    SLC said, “… Sun stood still in the sky for a day. Since none of us were there, we have to speculate or calculate on this matter. See http://www.reasons.org/articles/joshua-s-long-day-and-the-nasa-computers-is-the-story-true

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    1. Re Denny

      SLC said, “The bible, in the person of Yeshua of Nazareth also predicted that he would return during the lifetime of some in his audience.” – I think you’ve fallen victim to some misinterpretation.

      Mr. Denny lies again. Martin Gardner wrote an entire essay on this issue in one of his books.

      SLC said, “… Sun stood still in the sky for a day. Since none of us were there, we have to speculate or calculate on this matter. See http://www.reasons.org/articles/joshua-s-long-day-and-the-nasa-computers-is-the-story-true

      This notion that NASA's computers did calculations that support the story in Joshua is a total fabrication.

      http://www.cincinnatiskeptics.org/blurbs/joshuas-long-day.html

      In addition Mr. Denny, there were civilizations that were there at the time of Joshua and left written records behind. In no case did any of these written records mention any such phenomena as the Sun standing still in the sky for a day.

      Speaking as a Christian, as you probably know, the Bible predicts that the world will end. And the end is predicted to be supernatural, not natural. For those who believe in the Bible, that opens the door for an ending soon – compared to the billions of years scenario.

      Charlatans have been predicting the end of the world ever since the scriptures were written. Just the past year, a pastor predicted a date when the world would end. The date passed and we are still here. I seem to recall a statement somewhere in the scriptures that only god knows the date and time of the end of the world.

      SLC said, “They (dinosaurs) had to go before mammals could evolve to fill the niches. – Wow! This sounds like a creationists talking of God’s intervention in his creation.

      Well, physics Prof. David Heddle of Christopher Newport University made a claim in response to a query of mine on another blog that the asteroid collision that wiped out the dinosaurs was sent by god. Of course, it should be noted that Heddle, unlike Denny and Hugh Ross accepts evolution.

      However, the evidence that the disappearance of the dinosaurs was a necessary condition for the evolution of large mammals is that there were mammals existing during most of the reign of the dinosaurs and they were all small, no bigger then a cocker spaniel. There is no evidence of any large mammals existing during the dinosaur period.

      Mr. Dawkins, as does SLC, looks for spiritual evidence among the physical.

      There is no such thing as spiritual evidence, otherwise known as making stuff up.

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  72. barefoot hiker said, “You get your wish!” - Can you point me to a testable theory?

    barefoot hiker said “Were you aware, for instance, that when plants really started into photosynthesis and pumping out the molecular oxygen, it was a deadly poison to nearly all life on Earth? – “There were lots of things in the chemical sciences that were and are poisonous to humans in the past. There are still poisons in our environment, but at small enough levels to prevent a threat to life. It’s part of the idea behind the many anthropic principles. It’s one reason the early earth was hostile to any life, especially humans.

    barefoot hiker said, “No magic man required.” – When they succeed without a magic wand, call me.

    But I know of no breakthroughs, only hoped for posits.

    Well, that's the difference between us, see. I actually look up what's being achieved and discovered in science, with genuine interest, whereas you look up decades-old, repeated ad nauseam denials and qualifications of it to fend off the implications, with real trepidation. The advance of science for you must be constantly just like cresting a roller coaster, looking down the drop, and realizing the guy didn't put the safety bar down in front of you. EVERYTHING for you must be like the Russians getting Sputnik up there first.

    barefoot hiker said, “Why do you assume we were inevitable in any case?” – You know why.

    barefoot hiker quoted Martin Luther: “Reason is the greatest enemy that faith…” I quote Thomas Aquinas, "For those with faith, no explanation is necessary. For those without, no explanation is possible." Even though “no explanation is necessary,” scientific explanations can augment one’s faith and they sure are a lot of fun.

    barefoot hiker, I appreciate and value science and scientists. One difference between you and I is that I do not see science as disproof of God.


    If you reject prayer, what naturalistic remedy do you offer for despair, fear and hope and peace?

    barefoot hiker said, “What does prayer do, Denny?” - What good does it do to put a Barbie Band-Aid on a little girl’s booboo, when there was no injury in the first place? Or, give a hug when a little boy is simply scared? Little kids believe things they are taught appropriate to their age. You, as do so many others, see themselves as all grown up and not in need of anything outside of their cognitive capabilities. Christians accept that we’re all developing children yet, and that there are many mysteries yet to be explained, not all of them by natural science. For you, it’s muttering into apparently thin air. For others, it’s an appeal to the greatest reality that exists. I have seen and heard of answered prayer from people I know and trust. If you haven’t, then your default is “For those without (faith), no explanation is possible."

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    1. barefoot hiker, I appreciate and value science and scientists. One difference between you and I is that I do not see science as disproof of God.

      Strawman. Neither does anybody else. Since the existence of god is not falsifiable, there is no way that science can disprove his existence. Science can only show that scientists have no need of the god hypothesis in explaining observed phenomena.

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    2. Can you point me to a testable theory?

      Yeah, I just outlined it. The theory is: prebiotic matter can spontaneously assemble the building blocks of life. The test is the experiments I just mentioned, and the proof of the concept is the results they got just by putting the simple chemicals abundant throughout the universe together and turning on the juice.

      In essence, I said, “there’s a car”, and you asked me “can you point me to a car?”


      It’s part of the idea behind the many anthropic principles.

      And what’s their explanation for the necessity of environments toxic to humans for well over a billion years and a world utterly devoid of humans for billions of years more? It’s a bit like saying that your god created the USA just for you and everyone else is just there to support your arrival on the stage, isn’t it?


      When they succeed without a magic wand, call me.

      When they find the magic man AND his wand outside the storybooks, call ME.


      But I know of no breakthroughs

      There’s nothing posited about the results. You start with simple chemicals and within mere weeks, you have amino acids. We understand how and why. Pixie dust and incantations aren’t part of the process.

      You know why.

      I know that you DO, I don’t know why you WOULD, other than that it pleases you to do so.


      I quote Thomas Aquinas, "For those with faith, no explanation is necessary. For those without, no explanation is possible."

      I agree. And that’s why I’ve never been able to believe in your god, or anyone else’s. I don’t see the ability to nod like a bobblehead at something not only unevidenced, but contraevidenced by science (as well as everyone else’s religious claims), as a virtue. You believe because people you care(d) about believe, and your trust is actually in them, not your god.

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    3. scientific explanations can augment one’s faith

      Yeah, all you have to do is assert that the things you believed about your god five minutes earlier aren’t what you believe about him now. Suddenly so much of what’s real about the world becomes acceptable, huh? Like the Earth going around the sun, germs causing disease, lightning being just electricity, rainbows being an optical effect of water droplets, and humans being animals with a long history through millions of speciation events over billions of years. Never mind how remote your god gets with every new reason we don’t need him to explain things anymore... for some of you, he’s always there taking the credit anyway. Whatever. Just don’t claim you know anything about him and what he wants, and try to pass laws obliging the rest of us, that’s all.


      One difference between you and I is that I do not see science as disproof of God.

      Neither do I. What I see are natural explanations for things that don’t require conscious, much less magical, agency; what I don’t see, coming from folks like you, is evidence for a magical man or men of various descriptions you keep insisting are there anyway.

      What good does it do to put a Barbie Band-Aid on a little girl’s booboo

      Hold on, buster, you don’t get away with THAT now. You’ve been badgering me about my solution for A GIRL WHOSE PARENTS ARE JUNKIES, not “a booboo”. I told you, WE told you, what the secular solutions for that are. They’re not pretty and they’re not cure-alls because the REAL world is a complicated place of clashing rights, allegiances, and motivations. But I asked you to tell us what makes prayer superior to those solutions... the efficacy of having that girl just kneeling in her room and muttering into the air, to nobody, as far as I can see. Now you either tell me what that NOBODY—your god, who doesn’t have to worry about rights tribunals and search warrants and foster homes and halfway houses, and can do WHATEVER IT PLEASES HIM TO—does that all us SOMEBODIES can’t, or stop demanding that you have something we don’t that’s superior, because I’m a little sick of you dodging this question after issuing us this challenge in the first place.

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    4. Re barefoot hiker

      It’s a bit like saying that your god created the USA just for you and everyone else is just there to support your arrival on the stage, isn’t it?

      Actually, I get the impression from Mr. Denny's statement that he attended a presentation by Hugh Ross along with Prof. Moran, presumably at the Un. of Toronto, that he is a Canadian.

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  73. barefoot hiker said, “What does prayer have to do with purpose?” – Renowned atheists have personally told me, and atheists at this blog have told me, that there is no special meaning or purpose to human life (Implication: We’re just a meaningless accident.). Some have quibbled that one should do the best they can in their circumstances, which to me is the same sentiment. Therefore, why do you ask for a “purpose?” If there is no purpose, why does the word have meaning for you? Is it only an excuse to mock God and me? You know how you’re going to reply to any comment I make about faith, faith in God. I cannot and it is not my responsibility to convince or prove anything to you, except show you where I believe science has more than one interpretation. Once I share my views of science and God, it is your responsibility to investigate through people you know and trust. My motive is simply to remind you of the obvious, that going as far back as you like, anthropologically and morphologically, humans have displayed longings about metaphysical things in the name of purpose and meaning beyond physical molecules that have been translated into something called religion. I didn’t invent this issue. Naturalists grasp at straws to try to explain these non-physical aspects of human life, while explicitly deny God’s existence, and that proposition for meaning and purpose. If you are satisfied that science has eliminated any human need for something outside of themselves and non-physical, then I guess you have an option, if not a responsibility, to tell everyone you know. But, as for me, I am like the young woman in Peter Boghossian’s class ( Should We Challenge Student Beliefs? ) Quoting: “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.”

    barefoot hiker said, “We're a specific KIND of temporary collection of molecules, … we can care about each other, even if your god doesn't exist.” - Again, I ask, if the universe and naturalism/atheism/materialism offers no special meaning or purpose, beyond a “specific KIND of temporary collection of molecules” (be careful of that use of the word “special.” You may get admonished by another Sandwalk fan.), why do your even words matter, why does anything matter?

    barefoot hiker said, “Not that I flatter myself that a Nobel Prize winner would care all that much what I think.” – I am more sure that I am that the Sun will rise tomorrow, that if Richard Smalley were alive, he would care very much what you think about God and his relation to science.

    barefoot hiker said, “Given the opportunity, and the impetus, I would ask him why he abandoned the rigorous, tested-and-true methods of his life's work in this one single aspect of his life.” – I am equally sure that he would tell you that 1) He did not abandon anything, but 2) added something that science didn’t offer.

    barefoot hiker said, “We all know the reason: fear.” - How presumptuous. 1) to know the motives of another, and 2) to tell me you have no fears that science cannot salve.

    barefoot hiker said, “Fear of one's mortality and the end of being, fear of the permanent loss of loved ones, fear that one's accomplishments are not a permanent monument. The adoption of our culture's typical placebo for all those ills.” – 1) You just mentioned a few of many of the things intrinsic to humans for which I see no response in atheism. 2) You also imply that atheism tied to materialism and science is your “placebo.”

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    1. Here's a question for Mr. Denny. Did Neanderthals have souls? Did Homo Erectus have souls? Did Australopithecus Afarensis have a soul? What do the scriptures have to say about these folks? By the way, were any of them on the Ark?

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    2. there is no special meaning or purpose to human life (Implication: We’re just a meaningless accident.).

      WE decide meaning. WE discern context. WE assign value and act on it. That’s one of the great things about being human. There’s nothing intrinsic about gold that makes if valuable; what MAKES it valuable is that humans have identified certain uses for it and ASSIGN a value TO IT. Meaning is the same thing. It’s not granted by your god. It’s a function of who and what we are. And to me, that’s far more uplifting. The idea that the universe can, over time, sufficiently self-organize that it spontaneously stirs to consciousness and begins to explore and understand itself in the form of human beings is a FAR more exciting idea to me than just some pre-existing, inexplicable magical man with the emotional capacity of a six-year-old making mud pies shaped like himself and goosing them into being puppets to amuse and/or upset him.


      Therefore, why do you ask for a “purpose?”

      I don’t. YOU do, and people like you, and so you either make up a god or, more commonly, accept someone else’s. But no, I don’t think there’s a “purpose” to the universe, any more than I think there’s a “purpose” to the billions of rocks scattered on the beaches of the world. I don’t need to believe there is to accept that the universe exists, and for the moment I’m a conscious part of it, and there are things I can do and learn and enjoy while I’m here. I exist. I have agency. I won’t be here forever. But while I am, I’ll decide the meaning of things, I’ll assign value to things (either on my own or collectively with others), and I’ll decide what I want to do within the bounds of practicality and the society in which I live. I don’t require any or all of that to be underlined, much less underwritten, by imaginary friends.


      going as far back as you like, anthropologically and morphologically, humans have displayed longings about metaphysical things

      Yes, and for just as long, children—and many adults—have convinced themselves nightly for years on end that there are monsters under the bed waiting for them. That’s what cerebrums do with the fleeting survival-based impulses cerebellums come up with. Religions are the same process. It doesn’t make them real.
      Naturalists grasp at straws to try to explain these non-physical aspects of human life

      No. Naturalists ask for evidence there even ARE “non-physical aspects of human life” in the first place. And no, I’m sorry, things that go on in the brain, that cease then the brain is either damaged or dies, including thought, sensory perception, imagination, conceptual self-identity, value judgment, and emotion, are not “non-physical”.

      be careful of that use of the word “special.”

      You’ll recall I said just a moment ago that WE assign value to things. “Special” is subjective... but it’s a word humans commonly use to describe ourselves, and living things in general. I don’t propose this to be a universal statement. But given that I’ve already said value is assigned by us, I don’t see a problem in using a value we’d chosen to assign to something.

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    3. why do your even words matter, why does anything matter?

      Because you and I are beings capable of having this discussion, and we are. What more than that do you require?


      I am more sure that I am that the Sun will rise tomorrow, that if Richard Smalley were alive, he would care very much what you think about God and his relation to science.

      Well, fine, then why wouldn’t I tell him what I think? Why act shocked and ask me if I’d dare say such a thing to the man if you’re telling me he’d be all ears anyway? It never fails to amaze me how you people can drive up BOTH sides of the road at the same time. Maybe by now it shouldn’t anymore.


      I am equally sure that he would tell you that 1) He did not abandon anything, but 2) added something that science didn’t offer.

      Yeah, an imaginary friend. I get that. I want to know why a grown-up Nobel Prize winner needs one.

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    4. How presumptuous. 1) to know the motives of another, and 2) to tell me you have no fears that science cannot salve.

      The first is called “theory of mind” and it’s the same thing you guys do you when you say that deep down we know there’s a god (evidenced only by the fact that you yourselves believe it) and we only want to defy the guy... ignoring the counter evidence that lots of people believe in gods but not yours, and god-given values that differ from yours; the second is itself an example of that. You call me presumptuous for imagining I understand the mind of another, then turn right around and do the very same thing to me. Well, is it right or wrong to do so?

      For the record, I’m not looking forward to dying... the process of it, anyway. But that doesn’t change the fact that eventually it’ll happen. I don’t look for science to give me an escape hatch from it. The fact that I don’t perceive one doesn’t drive me abandon all hope in life and go on murderous rampages by jumping to the absurd conclusion so common among theists that my eventual cessation of being means that nothing should matter to me one way or the other... the fact that I’ll one day cease to be doesn’t alter the fact that while I’m here, other beings and their welfare DO matter to me as does my continued autonomy within a society that will strip me of it if I’m enough of a detriment to others. I don’t need a couple of stone tablets largely dedicated to stroking the ego of an imaginary magic man (in other words, toeing the dogmatic line) to provide me with a context in which to live. I know I’ll die, but others matter to me anyway, and I don’t turn to the solace of a fable that isn’t real to me to avoid facing the reality of my nature. Science won’t save me either. That’s just what it is to be human. We’re finite. Deal with it.

      Last autumn I was out for a walk in my neighbourhood. I saw a monarch butterfly. It was tattered and worn and probably wasn’t going to make it south. It actually landed on the dotted white line of the busy four-lane road I was travelling. Cars were racing by it, and because of where it was, it wasn’t crushed. I waited for an opening, and I went out, picked it up, and put it on the grass. What did it achieve? What did it matter? What was the purpose? Well, none, really. That butterfly’s probably long dead. Probably never made it to Mexico. But at that moment, there and then, it mattered to me. Until this moment, no one else in the whole world knew about it. Just me. But it mattered to me, to my values, and as conscious agent, I made a decision and I changed some little aspect of the universe. And it pleased me to do so. I didn’t do it for God, I didn’t do it out of some idea it would substantially alter reality. I did it simply out of compassion for another being, one that probably couldn’t even perceive, much less appreciate, the gesture—and for myself. That was plenty. For me, that’s the real joy of being human.


      You just mentioned a few of many of the things intrinsic to humans for which I see no response in atheism.

      Which is what, specifically? That we fear loss? Why should we need a god to explain that?


      You also imply that atheism tied to materialism and science is your “placebo.”

      If I didn’t accept I’d one day cease to exist and that science could somehow make me live forever, you could say that. But I do accept it. So what solace do you purport I’m getting from it that parallels your supernatural illusion?

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    5. SLC