Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Atheism is a catastrophe for science according to Michael Egnor

Michael Egnor doesn't like atheists. He got a bit upset about a recent post by PZ Myers so he responded on Evolution News & Views (sic) with: Atheism Is a Catastrophe for Science.

Modern theoretical science arose only in the Christian milieu. Roger Bacon, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Kepler, Faraday, Pasteur, Maxwell and countless other pioneers of the Scientific Enlightenment were fervent Christians who explicitly attributed the intelligibility in nature to God's agency, and even 20th-century scientists like Einstein and Heisenberg and Schrodinger and Rutherford and Planck attributed nature to intelligent agency. Einstein famously explained his quest: "I want to know God's thoughts..."

Vanishingly few great scientists have attributed the world to "undirected processes." Atheism, in fact, has a dismal record in science. For much of the 20th century, a third of humanity lived under the boot of atheist ideology. What was the great science produced by atheist scientists in the Soviet Union? What are the scientific contributions of Communist China and Cuba and Vietnam and Albania? Compare the scientific output of East Germany (atheist) to that of West Germany (Lutheran and Catholic). Compare the scientific output of North Korea (atheist) to that of South Korea (Christian and Buddhist).

The fact is that during the 20th century atheist ideological systems that "assum[ed] that the world is a product of natural, undirected processes" governed a third of humanity. What's the scientific "track record" of atheism? Atheism had its run: it heralded a scientific dark age in any nation unfortunate enough to fall under its heel. Atheism is as much a catastrophe for science as it is a catastrophe for humanity. The only thing atheist systems produced reliably (and still produce reliably) is corpses.
Google is my friend. I found a Wikipedia article on List of nonreligious Nobel Laureates. Here are the Nobel Laureates in science who didn't believe in any gods. This is part of the "scientific track record of atheism."

Chemistry
Svante Arrhenius
Paul D. Boyer
Frédéric Joliot-Curie
Irène Joliot-Curie
Richard R. Ernst
Herbert A. Hauptman
Roald Hoffmann
Harold W. Kroto
Jean-Marie Lehn
Peter D. Mitchell
George Andrew Olah
Wilhelm Ostwald
Linus Pauling
Max Perutz
Frederick Sanger
Michael Smith
Harold Urey

Physics
Zhores Alferov
Hannes Alfvén
Philip Warren Anderson
John Bardeen
Hans Bethe
Patrick Blackett
Nicolaas Bloembergen
Niels Bohr
Percy Williams Bridgman
Louis de Broglie
James Chadwick
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar
Marie Curie
Pierre Curie
Paul Dirac
Albert Einstein
Enrico Fermi
Richard Feynman
Val Logsdon Fitch
James Franck
Dennis Gabor
Murray Gell-Mann
Vitaly Ginzburg
Roy J. Glauber
Peter Higgs
Gerard 't Hooft
Herbert Kroemer
Lev Landau
Leon M. Lederman
Albert A. Michelson
Konstantin Novoselov
Jean Baptiste Perrin
Isidor Isaac Rabi
C. V. Raman
William Shockley
Erwin Schrödinger
Jack Steinberger
Igor Tamm
Johannes Diderik van der Waals
Eugene Wigner
Steven Weinberg
Chen-Ning Yang

Physiology and Medicine
Julius Axelrod
Robert Bárány
J. Michael Bishop
Francis Crick
Max Delbrück
Christian de Duve
Howard Florey
Camillo Golgi
Frederick Gowland Hopkins
Andrew Huxley
François Jacob
Sir Peter Medawar
Jacques Monod
Thomas Hunt Morgan
Herbert J. Muller
Élie Metchnikoff
Rita Levi-Montalcini
Hermann Joseph Muller
Paul Nurse
Ivan Pavlov
Richard J. Roberts
John Sulston
Albert Szent-Györgyi
Nikolaas Tinbergen
James Watson


49 comments :

  1. ID in general (and Evolution News and Views in particular) are much larger catastrophes.

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  2. I had a couple "discussions" with Egnor over at his blog, before he discovered the benefits of posting his opinions on a site that does not allow any comments.

    He is just proof that stupid people can be neurosurgeons.

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  3. Not religious might not mean not seeing a creator in nature and a must.
    Anyways.
    I love Egnor's stuff but disagree here.
    I see no reason a atheist, or non atheist would make any difference in figuring out something in nature.
    In fact for everyone God has made nature to run itself and so THE RUNNING can be figured out on its own.
    The soviet union was competing in a few high tech things. Thus the space race. It was a race.!

    Its broughyt up about western accomplishment but all the world was religious and more so then us. Let it was just the west.
    The thing about it can only be that christianity raised the intelligence of the people.if so!
    i do think this is what happened.
    now i think it was really a protestant rising curve affecting the common man and then a rising tide raises all boats.
    That is the upper classes rose with the curve.
    Most science accomplishment came from the upper classes, or near upper middle classes until the 20 century when education was more general.
    Religion , in our case, oNLY raised the smarts of the population.
    Yet its not about the religion's truth.
    It just motivated zealous protestants to think and read relative to Catholics and the rest.
    however France did well and so its still a dance between the common mean and the upper class.
    I understand before 1900 Britain/america did 70% or more of all inventions and discoveries. So its not Christian europe.
    Aggressive sincere Christianity just motivated the common man to do better.
    Then a probability curve took over.
    Christendom makes a error here in not seeing science as a intellectual accomplishment exclusively. Nothing to do with religious doctrines.

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    1. Robert. Just a suggestion, but don't drink before commenting.

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    2. Robert doesn't seem to drink but I believe that many atheists should, as well as some creationists. Robert needs medication that may not be readily available, but then again, is there a medication for ignorance? How about blind faith? Who is the judge?

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  4. Referring to Isaac Newton as a fervent Christian is quite laughable. Newton rejected the Trinity and was dubious about the divinity of Yeshua ben Yusef of Nazareth. In fact, he is generally considered to be an Arian. If his religious views, which were only discovered in the late 19th Century, had become known in his time, he would have found himself in serious trouble with the authorities and might well have found himself on trial for heresy.

    Although Albert Einstein denied being an atheist, he made it quite clear that he rejected the notion of a deity as proposed in Judaism and Christianity. At best, he was a Pan-Theist.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_Albert_Einstein

    If we want to go back in time, many of the French mathematicians of the 18th Century were at least skeptical of orthodox religion, not the least of which was Laplace who, when asked by Napoleon what part god might play in maintaining the stability of the Solar System, replied: I had no need of that hypothesis.

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    1. There is a good Nova episode on newtons ideas. He believed in the bible and so genesis. He believed in God but indeed strange ideas about Jesus.
      However its irrelevant about a few people. Science is more then a few winners. its a whole system of greater thoughtful investigation into nature/using it.
      its just a intellectual standard used by small numbers of peoples.
      In the old days it was very few and now its a few more but still a tiny minority.
      Its all just a rise in human intellectual accomplishment
      Its got nothing to do with religion. Thats a unrelated subject.
      The only thing, as I said, can be said is that a religious motivation made people more on the make.
      The rise of the common man with a equal rise of the upper classes and a few more boys who figured things out.
      The true faith motivated people more to be accomplished in life.
      They call it the protestant work ethic. Its not, its a motivation.

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    2. Byers says: a religious motivation made people more on the make... The true faith motivated people more to be accomplished in life.

      The true faith? Hindus and Jews have the highest educational levels and highest median income, at least in the USA. So I guess theirs is "the true faith."

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    3. Byers says: a religious motivation made people more on the make... The true faith motivated people more to be accomplished in life.

      The true faith? Hindus and Jews have the highest educational levels and highest median income, at least in the USA. So I guess theirs is "the true faith."

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    4. You make my case and debunk it.
      Yes its about motivation of identities.
      The modern world was created by a protestant motivation, marginally, affecting a good percentage of the population in northern europe.
      This caused a rise in the intellect curve of the general population and so the upper classes who, in those days, actually did al the science.
      The Hindus here are just upper class immigrants from india.
      They never raised themselves or the common mean in India. That only happened with the Brit empire.
      The Jews are a ethnic group only living in another population.
      Just a ethnic motivation.
      Yet your examples make the case.
      Identity is the origin for Europes intellectual rise relative to the world.
      It wasn't Christian doctrines as some suggest.
      Christianity, protestant, simply put the common people more on the make. Only relative to a earlier backward peasant population of coarse.
      The true faith gets the credit for motivating sluggish mankind.
      I think also God blessed us a bit more but still its a intellectual rise in the mean of the people with the top of the curve getting in wikipedia for science accomplishment.
      Your missing Egnor's point if you say India etc were equally or close or a little closer to the European science revolution.
      Are you saying it was christian doctrines as egnor says???

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  5. Interesting how Egnor can only think of atheism as some huge bureaucratically imposed orthodoxy. I agree such orthodoxies impede science, which tends to work better to the extent inquiry isn't constrained by bias, internal or external.

    Can anyone think of an institution that plays the role of a bureaucratically imposed orthodoxy in modern Western nations (the US in particular, since that's Egnor's home country)?

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  6. Woa. Egnor is Egnorant. I am hard pressed to find a single sentence in that article that is remotely true. A 5th grader with some knowledge of recent world history would know that he is spouting bullshit.
    Maybe the 1st sentence is true-ish. But science did not emerge in religious times b/c of religion. It rose in spite of it.

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  7. Apparently, praying for the conversion of "Godless Russia" when I was a kid was a waste of time, according to Egnor. It was already Christian; otherwise how would they have given birth to all those Physics laureates?

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    1. "Apparently, praying for the conversion of "Godless Russia" when I was a kid was a waste of time, according to Egnor"

      Well, you know, Stalin finished his 6 year course as priest in the Russian orthodox church. Putin is also close friends with the same church and some of Putins laws make the church very happy. Atheists in Russia are called neo-fascists, and don't dare to be gay or else your life will be hell in Russia.

      So yeah Frank, it really was a waste of time, the mass murders in Russia were performed with the blessings of christianity and the church.

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    2. Some of those Russian scientists were Jewish (e.g. Lev Landau)

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  8. Here are the Nobel Laureates in science who didn't believe in any gods. This is part of the "scientific track record of atheism."

    I'm just curious; How many of those Nobel Laureates got their prize for "at least" explaining, not to mention scientifically proving it, how "nature" acquired the creative powers and qualities?

    I'm pretty sure this became common science without ANY evidence but I'm about to find one experiment that proves that...
    Where do I look Larry?
    Give me some guidance Larry ! You must have come across some real-deal scientific proof to make you act the way you do... I just want some scientific evidence just in case someone wants it... It should be no problem for you should it?

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    1. I know Cruglers is trying to be snarky, but OK, we can play along.

      "how "nature" acquired the creative powers and qualities?"

      Just read the list, Cruglers. Off the top of my head, there's Hermann Muller. Muller in the 1930's predicted based on evolutionary theory theory that what is now called "Irreducible Complexity" would exist at the biochemical level.

      Francois Jacob and and Jacques Monod discovered genetic regulatory elements, which of course play the major role in evolution of changes to the embryonic development plan that creates anatomical complexity.

      Thomas Hunt Morgan of course was famous for his studies of the process of mutation.

      Harold Urey was famous for the Miller-Urey experiment that showed that energy added to simple chemical constituents formed more complex chemicals. You should know that one.

      Now it's your turn, Cruglers. Go through the list of scientists who were Christians. Which ones got a Nobel Prize for proving that God, or any disembodied intelligence, ever did anything? Anything? Even one change to one nucleotide of DNA anywhere?

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    2. Diogenes,

      You didn't go deep enough to even have a logical, scientific discussion. Try again!

      BTW: Don't bring up the ludicrous Miller-Urey experiment again! I know that you can't do any better than that but for your point to be even acceptable for any kind of discussion you have to eliminate the creative, intelligent (I hope) powers of Miller and Urey. You can't just assume that this experiment can be replicated by "nature" just because two intelligent men did it unless you can prove it by some experiment that doesn't involve intelligence, which I know you can't so...

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    3. Crugler - why is the Miller-Urey experiment ludicrous?

      Because you do not understand the implications? Or because you are afraid of them?

      Please show us all of the experiments done by Egnor and Behe and Dembski and Tomkins showing us how Yahweh created a man from dust, or how yahweh fiddled with genomes post-creation.

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    4. It is really quite odd what passes for "thinking" in creationist circles. They keep asking for experimental evidence for evolution, but at the same time insist that such evidence cannot exist, because any experiment must involve an intelligent agent.

      I guess they must consider Intelligent Design research to be genuine, because there is precious little evidence of input from intelligent beings there.

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    5. for your point to be even acceptable for any kind of discussion you have to eliminate the creative, intelligent (I hope) powers of Miller and Urey

      OK, fine - many meteorites have amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, in them. So "organic" chemistry of the type that goes on in living things is so ordinary and ubiquitous in the universe that it even leaves evidence in space rocks.

      I just did what you asked, left all human intelligence out of it. Any reply?

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    6. Cruglers translated: "If scientists can't recreate the origin of life in the lab, that proves God did it. And if scientists can recreate the origin of life in the lab, that proves that only intelligent agents can create life, therefore God did it."

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    7. Cruglers translated: "If scientists can't recreate the origin of life in the lab, that proves God did it. And if scientists can recreate the origin of life in the lab, that proves that only intelligent agents can create life, therefore God did it."

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  9. I'm a bit tired of religious people claiming Einstein believed in their god.

    Einstein, upon being asked if a Jesuit priest had converted him to believing in God: "I have never talked to a Jesuit priest in my life and I am astonished by the audacity to tell such lies about me. From the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest I am, of course, and have always been an atheist. ... It is always misleading to use anthropomorphical concepts in dealing with things outside the human sphere—childish analogies. We have to admire in humility the beautiful harmony of the structure of this world—as far as we can grasp it, and that is all."

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

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    1. If Einstein said that he never talked to a Jesuit priest he was seriously in error. By his own admission, he had conversations with the Jesuit Priest Father Georges Lemaitre who first performed the calculations that showed that an expanding universe followed from Einstein's field equations of General Relativity.

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    2. Dinogenes,

      Why don't you quote all Einstein's statements against the existence of God, and I will quote all his statements for it; for the existence of God. Who do you think is going to win?

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    3. “I believe in Spinoza's God, who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind...

      to Rabbi Herbert Goldstein (1929)”

      Better yet - who cares about quotes of someone's opinions? How about you post Einstein's evidence for Yahweh?

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  10. Egnor's piece is a veritable showcase of logical fallacies. It would be a good exercise for my students to identify them. Funny, though, and ironic, how Egnor attempts to use the appeal to authority but fails by naming atheists and others with heretical (for their time) views.

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    1. Remember, this is the guy who says that medicine does not benefit from a knowledge of evolution. Why does he think that doctors insist on a patient complete their series of antibiotics?

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  11. The above list is clearly incorrect. Here are a few examples:

    - Although Einstein did not believe in the Judeo-Christian concept of God, he was upset when people classified him as an atheist, because he was not an atheist nor a materialist.

    - Erwin Schrödinger was certainly not an atheist, he rejected materialism and naturalism as incompatible with reality.

    - Eugene Wigner (or Wigner Jenő) believed that quantum theory was a proof for the existence of God.

    - Szent-Györgyi Albert certainly believed in God, here is his Psalmus Humanus, a beautiful prayer, in which he confesses his faith:

    http://www.szepi.hu/irodalom/vers/tvers/tv_369a.html

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  12. It appears that Schrödinger was a Vadentist, a relative of Hinduism that bears no resemblance to any of the Abrahamic religions.

    http://www.hinduhistory.info/erwin-schrodinger-vedantist-and-father-of-quantum-mechanics/

    At best, Einstein was a Pantheist, which bears no resemblance to the Abrahamic religions. He specifically denied belief in an intervening god.

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  13. Although Einstein did not believe in the Judeo-Christian concept of God, he was upset when people classified him as an atheist, because he was not an atheist nor a materialist.

    Interesting. I have failed to find any term for a deity or other non-material phenomena in his equations. Could you point me to any such?

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    1. To support my relatively modest claim, these quotes from Einstein should be sufficient:

      “In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me for the support of such views.” (Einstein, as cited in Ronald W. Clark, Einstein: The Life and Times. London: Hodder and Stoughton Ltd., 1973, 400; and Max Jammer, Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2002, 97)

      “Then there are the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is of the same kind as the intolerance of the religious fanatics and comes from the same source. They are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who – in their grudge against the traditional ‘opium for the people’ – cannot bear the music of the spheres. The Wonder of nature does not become smaller because one cannot measure it by the standards of human moral and human aims.” (Einstein, as cited in Jammer, 97).

      “My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior Spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality.” (Einstein, as cited in Dukas and Hoffmann, Albert
      Einstein: The Human Side. Princeton University Press, 1979, 66).

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    2. Those quotes seem to support the claim that Einstein was an atheist. They certainly don't portray him as a follower of any religion, which is what Egnor's claim would require.

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    3. Einstein admitted to believing in Spinoza's god which is a pantheistic god. He also admitted to being an agnostic. This was the position eventually taken by Charles Darwin after the death of his daughter from diphtheria.

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    4. lutesuite-
      Egnor claimed Einstein “…attributed nature to an intelligent agency.’”
      The quotes above support the view that Einstein attributed nature to an intelligent agency.

      Is it your claim that people who attribute nature to an intelligent agency are atheists?

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    5. The quotes above support the view that Einstein attributed nature to an intelligent agency.

      Not really. That's only one possible interpretation.

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  14. lutesuite-
    It's possible to interpret what Einstein meant in a variety of ways.
    I'm finding it particularly difficult to think what an 'infinitely superior Spirit' would refer to if not 'god' as the term is generally used.

    I am wondering- since I have not ever read the Bible, is it possible for me to be a theist in your view?

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    1. I'm finding it particularly difficult to think what an 'infinitely superior Spirit' would refer to if not 'god' as the term is generally used.

      I'm not.

      I am wondering- since I have not ever read the Bible, is it possible for me to be a theist in your view?

      Yes.

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    2. BTW, quotes like these seem to me decidedly less ambiguous:

      "It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I feel also not able to imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere. My views are near those of Spinoza: admiration for the beauty of and belief in the logical simplicity of the order which we can grasp humbly and only imperfectly. I believe that we have to content ourselves with our imperfect knowledge and understanding and treat values and moral obligations as a purely human problem—the most important of all human problems."

      "On 22 March 1954 Einstein received a letter from Joseph Dispentiere, an Italian immigrant who had worked as an experimental machinist in New Jersey. Dispentiere had declared himself an atheist and was disappointed by a news report which had cast Einstein as conventionally religious. Einstein replied on 24 March 1954: 'It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.'"

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_Albert_Einstein#Personal_god_and_the_afterlife

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    3. lutesuite-
      You missed this quote from the page you linked to—

      Einstein stated in his final letter: 'I am not an atheist.', explaining at one point: "I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal god a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being."

      It appears you have a definition for atheism that differs from Einstein (who clearly stated he was not an atheist).

      If I believe that ‘everything is derivative of God’ (Spinoza), does that make me a theist?
      What exactly do I have to believe to be a theist?

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    4. It appears you have a definition for atheism that differs from Einstein (who clearly stated he was not an atheist).

      All that demonstrates is that Einstein did not understand the strict definition of the word "atheist". He was not the only smart person to make that mistake.

      If I believe that ‘everything is derivative of God’ (Spinoza), does that make me a theist?
      What exactly do I have to believe to be a theist?


      Well, I may be running afoul of my own rule regarding using terms in their strict sense, but I am using "theism" to refer to the belief in a personal, interventionary god or gods. In which case, it appears Spinoza does not qualify:

      As soon as this preliminary conclusion has been established, Spinoza immediately reveals the objective of his attack. His definition of God—condemned since his excommunication from the Jewish community as a “God existing in only a philosophical sense”—is meant to preclude any anthropomorphizing of the divine being. In the scholium to proposition fifteen, he writes against “those who feign a God, like man, consisting of a body and a mind, and subject to passions. But how far they wander from the true knowledge of God, is sufficiently established by what has already been demonstrated.” Besides being false, such an anthropomorphic conception of God standing as judge over us can have only deleterious effects on human freedom and activity, insofar as it fosters a life enslaved to hope and fear and the superstitions to which such emotions give rise.

      http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/spinoza/#GodNatu

      If I am using the term inaccurately, and it would include broader conceptions of "God", I am willing to concede the point. The main issue is whether this would support Egnor's position that science depends on religious belief, and on Christianity in particular, in order to progress.

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    5. lutesuite-
      I think your definition of god is overly restrictive.
      Einstein wanted to ‘know god’s thoughts’
      If the definition of ‘atheist’ is “a person who does not believe in God or gods”, then it seems we have to ignore what Einstein claimed his motivation was to put him in that category.

      As to Egnor's position- his argument is historical and includes people who believed all sorts of different things. (Newton's god probably had little to do with Maxwell's, for example).
      This would indicate your use of the term 'god' is overly restrictive in analyzing the position.

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    6. I see things somewhat differently. Egnor is arguing for the importance of Christianity, specifically, as being essential for the inception and progress of science. But he pulls a bait and switch in talking about theism in the broad sense, and then using these as examples to support his position, even though they involve conceptions of God very different from that used in Christianity.

      I believe it is debatable even among theologians whether pantheism is closer to atheism than theism.

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  15. Getting a grip on God is like catching neutrinos with a fishing net. God is spirit, and there is a ghost in the machine, i.e. brain. Just leave it alone to perform its function, it needs no outside help.

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    1. God is spirit

      Which one? I am partial to bourbon myself.

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    2. I thought the spirit was tequila-
      I've heard so many people take a shot of that and say-
      "Oh god".

      Come to think of it, they say the same thing about bourbon sometimes too.

      I guess people can be 'monotheist' and still disagree about which mono.

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