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A Theology of Science (my story, cont.)

August 26, 2009

I’m guessing the title of this post alone has grabbed people’s attention. So, allow me to explain.

I’m often asked by atheists how I can love the natural world and science while still being a Christian. Judging by the comments on this blog and my conversations with atheists around the country, they view this as a complete mystery.

And, look, I get it. On the surface, it seems as if science and faith are at complete odds with one another. Many people have tried to resolve the tension in different ways. Some have suggested that faith trumps science every time. Some think science trumps faith. Or, people like Stephen Jay Gould said, both attempt to answer different questions and therefore should stay in their seperate realms.

Of these positions, I have been attracted to Gould’s position. But lately, I have been finding in unsatisfactory in a number of different ways. I think the main reason is that such thinking is completely naive to how human beings function. That is, it’s asking people to leave aside their presuppositions when they do science. And, as I argued in regards to the whole Collins/Harris situation, I don’t think that’s possible. I don’t think that you can have a truly objective science, as that would require a scientist who is truly objective. Such a thing doesn’t exist.

However, thankfully, the whole process and nature of science is built to try and elminate those presuppositions we might bring to the table. The scientific method is a thing of beauty. But, I still don’t think it can make us totally objective, even when we do science. I don’t believe it can fully accomplish the goal of getting rid of our presuppositions about the world.

Why? Because science is simply not designed to do such a thing. Science is designed to help us figure out how the natural world works. And as much as people like Dawkins would like to think, science CANT give us meaning. Why? Because it’s not meant to do so. It can tell us how things function. For example, if they can ever prove there is a “God” part of the brain, it still can only tell us how our physical bodies react to a worship type of situation. To say otherwise, is to step over into philosophy and worldview, not science. Every time science tries to give us meaning, value and ethics, we wind up with things like Eugenics. Before people get crazy about this, read this book by Edwin Black, a New York Times writer. He shows how Eugenics was pushed by the scientists of the day in a fit of complete social Darwinism. It’s a sobering read and a warning against making science mean more than it’s meant to do.

And, further, with something like the “God” part of the brain, it’s no threat to a Christian view of the world about human beings. Why? It goes back to the whole soul/body situation. A Judeo/Christian view of the body/soul is that it’s an organic whole. The problem with Christianity is that has often infected itself with Greek philsophical concepts, namely, the body and soul are divided, and the body is weak at best, evil at worst. This is NOT a biblical view of human beings. Instead, it views humans as integrated wholes, spirit and body intertwined. in a symbiotic relationship.

To take this one step further, a Judeo/Christian view of creation is like this. The created order is broken down in two ways, the seen and the unseen. Now, both of these categories are very large and included a number of different things. Too large to get into at this moment. But, this is the realm of science, the created order. It can investigate anything in this realm and should investigate anything in this realm. The created realm is a great mystery the more we found about it, the more we realize we don’t understand. This is why I love trying to understand Quantum Physics. This whole area of science messes with everything we thought we know about the world.

Science may not solve all of the mysteries of the created order, but theoreticially, it can. You see, a Judeo/Christian view of the world doesn’t recognize the whole natural/supernatural distinction. Don’t get me wrong, it certainly understands that God has interved in the world at certain times and places. But, have you ever noticed how rare miracles are in the Bible? We were made to be on this planet. God intends that we take care of it. One day, from a Christian point of view, it will be renewed. But, it will be this planet, not some ethereal never world of Greek philosophy.

But, there is one thing that science, by definition, can’t solve, that is, whether God exists or not. The reason for this is simply that by definition, God has to stand outside of space and time. If He is bound by either, He is no longer, by definition, god. So, therefore, I find it highly doubtful that we will ever find an experiement to test for God’s existence. This is something neither people like Dawkins or the ID folks like very well. This is why I’m not entirely happy with the ID folks either for the simple reason it often seems like their faith rests on certain scientific mysteries that could be figured out any moment. As in, just because things like blood clotting are a bit of a mystery in biological science, doesn’t mean they will always be. So, if your faith rests on that, and it’s figured out one day, then where is your faith? It was misplaced and it might throw you for a loop.

God stands outside of the created order and therefore outside the realm of scientific investigation. I know that’s frustrating for some people, but it really shouldn’t be. What it says is that scientific investigation is free. It can explore and push boundardies of our knoweldge of the created order. But, it has to realize it will eventually bump into a wall that it can’t penetrate. But, for the Christian, they have to remember that while some of the proofs seems convincing, there are some deep seeded problems with them. As Daniel Dennett rightly said, “I agree with Alister (McGrath) that science doesn’t give all the answers. Indeed not. He says we have to look elsewhere and that we may not agree. I think we can even agree on that if he’ll answer those deep questions that science doesn’t answer if we start looking to other humans for those answers”.

And, that’s exactly right which brings me to my exception with everything I just said.  What is God was a human being that we could look to? What if God stepped into the created world Himself? What if He stepped into this process He started at the Big Bang? What if He somehow combined His nature with the created order? You see, Christians believe exactly that when we talk about Jesus Christ. And because He did that, you CAN investigate the claims. Christianity is a historical religion and it rises and falls on the death and ressurection of Jesus. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, the whole thing goes to the toilet, pure and simple. Pascal’s wager is simply not biblical. St. Paul said it himself, “If there is no ressurection, your faith is pointless. Go eat, drink and be merry, because tomorrow you will die”.  If it could be proven that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, I would chuck the whole thing tomorrow and put on a Flying Spaghetti Monster t-shirt.

Come to think of it, I might do that anyway. I love that little guy. He makes me laugh.

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118 Comments leave one →
  1. AdamK permalink
    August 26, 2009 11:14 am

    “…by definition, God has to stand outside of space and time. If He is bound by either, He is no longer, by definition, god.”

    “What if He somehow combined His nature with the created order? You see, Christians believe exactly that when we talk about Jesus Christ.”

    So either Christ is a fiction, or he is within space and time and therefor “no longer, by definition, god.”

    But of course that’s not what you mean. By drawing reasonable inferences, I’m missing the point. I mustn’t apply logic to the incarnation, because to do so spoils all the fun. It’s a Mystery, and you mustn’t forget to capitalize it!

    Someday, somehow, some christian will express this in a way that makes a little bit of sense. I’m still waiting.

  2. August 26, 2009 11:18 am

    Actually, Adam, I think you are getting pretty close to what Christians believe about God’s action in Jesus. In some mysterious way, God gave up being God to become incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, and suffered like any human, and was killed on the cross…etc…you know the story.

  3. AdamK permalink
    August 26, 2009 11:28 am

    Yeah, Eric. The Good News is no longer news. And it still doesn’t make a lick of sense. 🙂

  4. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 26, 2009 11:41 am

    Adam,
    I don’t believe that I used the word mystery. Instead, I prefer to say, “in a way we don’t understand”. Last time I checked, many scientists take the same track. So, I’m not sure why that would be wrong to do in regards to the Incarnation. This is what I don’t get sometimes in regards to reason and logic. I’m all for them, but the rules ought to be applied across the board in a sense of fairness. Just because Christians can’t explain fully about the Incarnation doesn’t mean it’s not true. It may not make sense, but there is plenty of things in the natural world along the same lines. We can’t just dismiss things because they don’t fit with our understanding of the world.

  5. Andrew permalink
    August 26, 2009 12:05 pm

    Every time science tries to give us meaning, value and ethics, we wind up with things like Eugenics. Before people get crazy about this, read this book by Edwin Black, a New York Times writer. He shows how Eugenics was pushed by the scientists of the day in a fit of complete social Darwinism.

    Science has never done that. Individual scientists may have tried to do that, but meaning is a human construct and science only tells you what is, not what should be. (It can often give you a good idea of the consequences of your actions, which is highly relevant to ethical debate but which still doesn’t constitute an ethical statement.)

    Religion gave us the Crusades; if you don’t believe that the Crusaders were (religiously) justified by their appeal to religion, then you also have to accept that the Eugenicists were not (scientifically) justified by their appeal to science. (Not to mention that many prominent eugenicists were religious, and many were not scientists.)

  6. AdamK permalink
    August 26, 2009 12:20 pm

    I don’t believe that I used the word mystery. Instead, I prefer to say, “in a way we don’t understand”. Last time I checked, many scientists take the same track. So, I’m not sure why that would be wrong to do in regards to the Incarnation. This is what I don’t get sometimes in regards to reason and logic. I’m all for them, but the rules ought to be applied across the board in a sense of fairness. Just because Christians can’t explain fully about the Incarnation doesn’t mean it’s not true. It may not make sense, but there is plenty of things in the natural world along the same lines. We can’t just dismiss things because they don’t fit with our understanding of the world.

    Sorry, Jonathan, but that’s pure bullshit. You stated a logical impossibility — the equation of a god who was necessarily outside of space and time with a human being inside space and time. You can wave your hands and say “we don’t understand” all you like. That’s nothing like what scientists are doing when they use the same words. They’re dealing with actual things, measured effects and reasoned discriptions of situations that actually pertain and are publicly, intersubjectively testable. You’re just juggling myths, trying to make them come out the way the bible says. There is no equivalence. You’re making lame excuses.

  7. AdamK permalink
    August 26, 2009 12:41 pm

    Sorry I said “bullshit.” Feel free to substitute “horsefeathers,” “poppycock,” “humbug,” or another inoffensive euphemism of your choice ad lib.

  8. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 26, 2009 1:06 pm

    Once again, you can assert that I’m making lame excuses, but your argument that I’m doing so is weak, at best.

    Further, just because science can’t show us that God exists, doesn’t mean there aren’t other avenues to pursue in this.

    ANd bullshit is perfectly acceptable as long as you don’t mind that I use the word in return.

  9. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 26, 2009 1:09 pm

    Andrew,
    I certainly believe that and it illustrates the point even stronger. I would certainly think that Eugencisists were not justified in their appeal to science. So, you won’t get any argument out of me on that one.

    You have a very limited view of history if you think the Crusades were primarily religiously motivated. It certainly played a factor, but it was one of many. I know it’s fashionable to blame religion for the Crusades, but history is never that simple. There were economic factors. Political factors, etc and so on.

  10. Andrew permalink
    August 26, 2009 1:29 pm

    Of these positions, I have been attracted to Gould’s position. But lately, I have been finding in unsatisfactory in a number of different ways. I think the main reason is that such thinking is completely naive to how human beings function. That is, it’s asking people to leave aside their presuppositions when they do science. And, as I argued in regards to the whole Collins/Harris situation, I don’t think that’s possible. I don’t think that you can have a truly objective science, as that would require a scientist who is truly objective. Such a thing doesn’t exist.

    False reasoning; you don’t need to have objective scientists in order to have objective science; to insist that you do is to commit a category error.

    The only thing that science needs as a foundation is the assumption that the thing that we call the “real world” actually exists in some form (i.e. that I’m not just a brain in a vat). Essentially everything else that science deals with, including many of the assumptions that philosophers argue about interminably, are in fact testable; we can measure the reliability of our senses, test by means of replication of experiments the extent to which reality is objective or subjective, detect errors in reasoning by comparing predicted consequences against reality, and so on. Reality is the ultimate error-check.

  11. AdamK permalink
    August 26, 2009 1:41 pm

    “… just because science can’t show us that God exists, doesn’t mean there aren’t other avenues to pursue in this.”

    So go ahead and pursue them.

    You’re the one who brought up science, and tried to use it to draw a false equivalence.

    And don’t you dare use the word “bullshit”! Because that would be terribly naughty, and I would be shocked beyond measure!

  12. AdamK permalink
    August 26, 2009 1:43 pm

    Andrew, I am a brain in a vat, and I’ll have you know that your remarks are very insensitive to the brain-in-a-vat community.

  13. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 26, 2009 1:44 pm

    Skubulos. Skubulos. Skubulos. Name the apostle who used these words and what they mean.

    The whole point of the post was to point that science cannot solve the issue of whether God exists.

  14. August 26, 2009 1:48 pm

    The whole point of the post was to point that science cannot solve the issue of whether God exists.

    Given that science isn’t trying to, that seems to follow naturally.

    Although religion doesn’t seem to be very good at it either.

  15. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 26, 2009 1:51 pm

    I’m not sure how that qualifies as a category error. But, I will clarify, to have fully and true objective knowledge, it requires a truly objective person. As we are all bound by what we presume about the world, I would put forth that’s impossible.

    So, let me get your argument straight. Science is dependent on the assumption our senses give us accurate information about the world (ie the physical world exists), that allows us to test whether our senses are accurate. I really want to know, is that what you are saying?

  16. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 26, 2009 1:52 pm

    Kelseigh,
    I would fully agree, but many, like Dawkins, would say that it could and should.

  17. August 26, 2009 1:54 pm

    He does? Could I get a quote and maybe some context?

  18. Richard Eis permalink
    August 26, 2009 1:54 pm

    If i wanted to interact with the world then it seems to me logical that you would create an avatar. It’s easier to use the existing rules of the world than to poke and peek everything by hand from outside.

    and let’s face it, burning bushes are so last testament.

  19. Richard Eis permalink
    August 26, 2009 2:05 pm

    -So, let me get your argument straight. Science is dependent on the assumption our senses give us accurate information about the world (ie the physical world exists), that allows us to test whether our senses are accurate.-

    I can see where you are going with this. Unfortunately this logical trap fails when you realise that 2 incomplete pieces of information can come together to make one complete understanding. Lots of inaccurate info can be filtered and tested and refined.

  20. Andrew permalink
    August 26, 2009 2:09 pm

    You have a very limited view of history if you think the Crusades were primarily religiously motivated. It certainly played a factor, but it was one of many. I know it’s fashionable to blame religion for the Crusades, but history is never that simple. There were economic factors. Political factors, etc and so on.

    Some more than others. The “classic” Crusades had a lot of geopolitical background; a perhaps clearer example might be the Albigensian Crusade, which was called for purely religious reasons, though it rapidly became political once it actually started.

  21. August 26, 2009 2:11 pm

    Actually, as I understand it there’s a lot that goes on in science to compensate for known flaws in human perception. So the idea that we’re 100% relying on our senses doesn’t sound quite right.

    Oh, and I found this discussion about the claim that Darwin thinks science disproves God which some here might find interesting. I’ve seen similar sentiments elsewhere.

  22. AdamK permalink
    August 26, 2009 2:21 pm

    In order for science to address the existence of god, it would be necessary first to define god. Then it would be necessary to stick with that definition and not move the goal posts. Moreover, the definition would need to be a workable one, i.e. not entail logical contradictions.

    It’s fine if you want to define god in an internally contradictory manner, but then you’ve placed it out of the realm of science.

    It’s fine if you want to place it there. No problem. But you can’t then turn around and blame it on science, or claim that it’s science’s or scientists’ fault for being limited to what’s logical and testable. And you can’t claim that what you’re doing is in any way “like” science.

    Because that’s just balderdash. Horsepucky. Hogwash.

  23. August 26, 2009 2:56 pm

    As an aside, when I see the word “balderdash” I can’t help but hear it in Yosemite Sam’s voice.

    Or is that just me?

  24. August 26, 2009 3:11 pm

    .
    I don’t see how a synthetic friend of Thomas can keep NOMA under Gould except as a lens to check your own bias. A good thing to do.

    I wouldn’t throw it away.

    But I wouldn’t live there.

    Consider Wilson’s, “Conscilience.” A Thomist’s friend, me-thinks. In part.

    There’s a Lutheran charismatic maybe-going-to-be Catholic working on an actuarial theology of risk calculation on this issue — whether theology is effective for saying anything at all about the natural world. And whether theology can be metricized into risk-calculation factors (http://intellogos.blogspot.com).

    I think theology can be metricized for natural effects.

    But I’m not about to tell Thomists what to do.

    There’s a harder question for public education treating religious studies as a form of risk-calculation against stupid faith. It’s a problem for which I don’t have an answer, even on my own forum. I’m perplexed.

    Peace,

    Jim

  25. August 26, 2009 3:22 pm

    Oh, a sidebar. AdamK (2:21):

    – “In order for science to address the existence of god, it would be necessary first to define god.”

    With due respect, no it wouldn’t.

    We can make a certain Bayesian guess. And work our way in from subjectives. But you’d need to know how to do the maths. Or take a longer time in prose theology. Not unlike Aquinas.

    I have a hunch that even with the ‘certainties’ of theological ipse dixit in defining “God,” most theologians – Catholics foremost (my impression) – still know that certainty is not the same as omniscience.

    So that no matter what our certainties, we’re all still triangulating between our subjectives and our beloved authorities to “define” God.

    The factor that you didn’t put in play in your science-god question is the capacity of God to self-define. To meet us between our subjectives.

    That’s the rub.

  26. Andrew permalink
    August 26, 2009 3:34 pm

    I’m not sure how that qualifies as a category error. But, I will clarify, to have fully and true objective knowledge, it requires a truly objective person. As we are all bound by what we presume about the world, I would put forth that’s impossible.

    This is the kind of over-simplification that is a major problem with philosophy (and why philosophers rarely contribute usefully to science and engineering). The mistake here is to think of knowledge as being something which is tied to a particular person; this is too limiting a concept.

    So, let me get your argument straight. Science is dependent on the assumption our senses give us accurate information about the world (ie the physical world exists),

    No. The statements “our senses give us accurate information about the world” and “the physical world exists” are not equivalent (and in fact the first is not quite true).

    What our senses give us is approximate information about some aspects of the physical world (which we assume to exist). The senses give us the impression that a physical world exists, but we don’t take their word for it on the details; we substitute measurement for mere perception, we cooperate to compare results from multiple observers, we criticize each other’s reasoning, we apply logical principles to the observations and then test the results against different observations, and so on.

    It’s easy to come up with dozens of examples of ways in which we know our senses are unreliable. We are very prone to see patterns where there are no patterns; we see movement in some cases where there is no movement; we see some shapes and spatial relationships incorrectly; there are innumerable physical phenomena which we don’t perceive at all; even our perception of something as apparently simple as colour turns out to be vastly more complex than it subjectively appears; and in extreme cases we can see things which don’t exist at all. Phenomena like confirmation bias and motivated reasoning affect the conclusions that we draw from what we do perceive.

    But if I measure the length of something with a ruler marked in inches, then with vernier calipers marked in millimeters, then with a digital micrometer, then give it to someone else who measures it with a different instrument and tells me the result, then I’ve received the same piece of information via multiple senses and in multiple forms, so the extent to which I get the same result tells me something about how reliable the measurements are. My brain could still be fooling me; but if I also tell others the results I got, and they compare their results with mine, we can collectively draw conclusions that are more reliable than any individual can manage. The more we extend this, the more tightly we can constrain the scope of possible subjectivity and error, even though we are still all using the same unreliable senses and reasoning. Even if we’re all mistaken about the result, when we incorporate it into theories, use it to make predictions about other observations and then confirm those (or not), we’re then testing not only our original measurements but also our reasoning against reality; and the more we do this, the more we constrain the scope of possible errors.

  27. Andrew permalink
    August 26, 2009 3:48 pm

    So, therefore, I find it highly doubtful that we will ever find an experiement to test for God’s existence.

    As others have pointed out, that depends on how you define God.

    One experiment that has been done was of the form: “does there exist a god who will answer prayers for the health of other people”. The answer, unsurprisingly, appears to be “no”, at least within the terms of the study (link).

  28. August 26, 2009 4:00 pm

    For a break, I am taking up the extra credit offer! The apostle who used the words skubulos was Paul and it means shit. in the greek it is shit, thats right, there is cussing in the Bible.

  29. Tiranna permalink
    August 26, 2009 4:49 pm

    Christianity is a historical religion and it rises and falls on the death and ressurection of Jesus. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, the whole thing goes to the toilet, pure and simple. Pascal’s wager is simply not biblical. St. Paul said it himself, “If there is no ressurection, your faith is pointless. Go eat, drink and be merry, because tomorrow you will die”. If it could be proven that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, I would chuck the whole thing tomorrow and put on a Flying Spaghetti Monster t-shirt.

    Really? If the resurrection is disproved somehow, your faith fails? Should I be picking up on a sarcastic tone here?

    One of my bigger problems with Christianity is Jesus being a god and a man – it makes absolutely no sense to me. I can accept the theory of God being beyond time and space or in a completely different dimension than us or however else you want to remove it from our world. Something like that should not be capable of coming into our world as a human, and if it somehow did, it should not be able to bend the laws of nature and be resurrected as the same human. If I were to believe in the resurrection, I would also keep a zombie survival kit under my bed…

  30. August 26, 2009 4:52 pm

    I have to agree that the faith rises and falls on the resurrection. I might be Jewish then, maybe. Tiranna, would you be more accepting of the idea of the Messiah, instead of the incarnation? To be honest, I lean more towards the Messiah concept for me as a Christian which falls in historical tradition with Judaism. The incarnation really is an image for something we can’t quite describe in that God was actually present in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, I have friends that are ex-Jews who are not trinitarian, just believe in God and Jesus as messiah.

  31. AdamK permalink
    August 26, 2009 4:55 pm

    Jim,

    Sorry, I don’t speak Christianese or Sophistican or whatever that gobblegook is yer talkin’.

    And you better stay out from between my subjectives if you know what’s good for you!

    (I’m not much worried about god defining itself since it doesn’t exist.)

  32. Tiranna permalink
    August 26, 2009 5:22 pm

    Eric, yes, the Jewish idea of Jesus not being the literal son of god, but an anointed king makes more sense than him being 100% human and 100% god. However, I don’t fully understand what a messiah is and why that’s different from a prophet – I went to Hebrew school until 3rd grade and wasn’t really taught anything that made sense out of religious ideas. The image of Jesus that I like is from Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margaret” where there is little mention of God as an entity.

    On a side note, I, too, think Jim is speaking gobblegook, I can only understand every other sentence if I’m lucky…

  33. Richard Eis permalink
    August 26, 2009 6:12 pm

    I think Jim says “we can’t know God. And God can do anything” therefore no god-science.

    It’s very easy to be 100% god and human. I am 100% mammal and 100% human. It’s just semantics.

    A prophet tells you what will happen…a messiah makes it happen.

  34. AdamK permalink
    August 26, 2009 6:13 pm

    The messiah is the anointed king of the line of David who comes to kick Roman ass and restore David’s kingdom — the whole thing, Israel and Judah, and the davidic dynasty. That’s it. The whole “suffering servant” skubulos is a christian invention to explain jesus’ major fail.

    The jews never would have considered of a son of god, which is a bunch of neoplatonic pagan heresy.

  35. August 26, 2009 6:19 pm

    AdamK (4:55 pm),

    Adam said – “Sorry, I don’t speak Christianese or Sophistican or whatever that gobblegook is yer talkin’.”

    Ah!

    So you’re one of those guys who uses plain English to offend everyone by saying nothing while telling scientists what science must do in order to test for a god that you know all about without understanding the language either for God or for science, even when it’s presented to you!

  36. Tiranna permalink
    August 26, 2009 7:18 pm

    It’s possible to be 100% human and 100% mammal because human is a type of mammal. Is human a type of god, or god a type of human? I always thought the two were mutually exclusive. Thanks for the prophet vs. messiah clarification.

  37. Tiranna permalink
    August 26, 2009 7:20 pm

    Wait, I should clarify, being 50% human and 50% god doesn’t seem like a contradiction – it’s like being 50% Asian and 50% Caucasian, where you can’t be 100% both.

  38. August 26, 2009 7:31 pm

    Adam K.-
    The suffering servant is not a bunch of skubalos. I find it interesting that you make this claim even though it is blatantly untrue. The idea of the suffering servant is present all throughout the second half of Isaiah as the continuing theme of the coming king, and is also present in Jeremiah.

  39. David permalink
    August 26, 2009 7:36 pm

    In the main post: “there are some deep seeded problems with them.”

    deep seated, not deep seeded

    Sorry, I know it has nothing to do with the discussion you lot are having, but it bothered me.

    I know it is pronounced the same way in many parts of America, but in writing…

  40. August 26, 2009 7:49 pm

    Isaiah 53

    1 Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

    2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
    He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

    3 He was despised and rejected by men,
    a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
    Like one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

    4 Surely he took up our infirmities
    and carried our sorrows,
    yet we considered him stricken by God,
    smitten by him, and afflicted.

    5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
    the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.

    6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to his own way;
    and the LORD has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

    7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
    he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.

    8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
    And who can speak of his descendants?
    For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was stricken.

    9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
    though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

    10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,
    he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

    11 After the suffering of his soul,
    he will see the light of life and be satisfied ;
    by his knowledge my suffering servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.

    12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
    because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
    For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

  41. August 26, 2009 7:51 pm

    most scholarly dating puts this passage at 6-7th century bc.

  42. Matheus permalink
    August 26, 2009 8:50 pm

    I just don’t agree with the whole science doesn’t give us meaning old chestnut.
    What does it even mean really to ask for the meaning of something? You ask for the meaning of the world, how do you know there is meaning at all? Also, for subjective meaning of things, there is the whole area of scientific research into the nature of the mind that is aimed at answering those questions.

  43. August 26, 2009 9:23 pm

    “The whole point of the post was to point that science cannot solve the issue of whether God exists.”

    I think you did a good job of making some important distinctions between the role Biblical testimony plays and the function of science as a method of knowledge inquiry. Both have their inherent limitations on ‘knowing’ in their own respective quality. Not a bad thing of course. It’s just the way it is.

    I think it’s of immense value in recognizing that what often serves as the problem to the discussion of science/religion and objectivity is the way objectivity is defined. Modern rationale employs the term as essentially embodying the idea of a detached perspective. Another way of saying it is that modernism creates a bifurcation between reason and faith and presupposes that the scientific method can be employed without any fundamental prior commitments but what many have observed and do recognize now is that “all facts are theory laden.”

    Augustine’s dictum “credo ut intelligam” ( one believes in order to know, or, one has faith in order to understand) captures an irreducible phenomena of the knowing process.

    If we recognize this reality it only serves to highlight that our use of “objectivity” really can only be objective in terms of defining “facts” within it’s own structure of plausibility. But not without prior commitments. It’s just not possible. We are not cognitively inert…unless a vegetable.

  44. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 26, 2009 9:25 pm

    Welcome Miguel. Glad to have you!

  45. August 26, 2009 11:00 pm

    Thank you Johnathan. There is resonance in this place.

  46. sljc1378 permalink
    August 26, 2009 11:27 pm

    Hello Everyone,

    Jehovah God, of His own Holy Spirit, quickened the egg within the womb of the virgin mother Mary, whereby the 23 chromosomes of the natural were accelerated and made alive of His very Divine. It was in this way that Jehovah God took on the flesh of man. So for those who say that Jesus birthed Jesus into the world, they do error. Jesus was born in time of Jehovah God the Father. Jesus’ very soul is the Divine. The apostle Paul was correct: That all the divinity dwelleth in Jesus Christ bodily (Col. 2:9). Also, if you can receive it, when one says that the virgin mother Mary was the mother of God, they say correctly. However if one says she still is, then they’re in error. For at the cross Jesus put off all the natural of the mother (Jesus died), and put upon all that is of the Heavenly Father, and glorified His Human uniting it in the very Divine in Whom He was at the beginning. And on the third day, in what is complete, came forth out of the grave in the entirety of His elements: Christ Jesus our Lord and God. Now for those really astute, we speak no longer upon the third day, but upon the seventh day. The reason for this is not only is it complete, but now Holy Holy Holy as well. amen

    Thank you Lord, sljc

  47. August 26, 2009 11:41 pm

    So there’s people believe that really happened?

    Sorry, I’ve never been able to wrap my head around that. Even as a kid, stuff like that, and Noah, and the whole Eden thing, all struck me as just stories. Stories with a point, but not really much different than the stuff about Zeus and Hercules and such.

  48. August 27, 2009 12:31 am

    Jim Wrote> We can make a certain Bayesian guess. And work our way in from subjectives. But you’d need to know how to do the maths. …

    Atheist or Christian … Frequentist or Bayesian … same thing.

    Sorry. It’s sort of an in-joke for statisticians – (and no, it’s not a very good joke either, which tells you something about the sad state of statistical humor).

  49. August 27, 2009 2:05 am

    Tomato Addict!

    That’s it!

    “Lies, Damn Lies, and Superfecundity!” (Add your own favorite Monte Python tune here)

    Strange tales from wannabee believers like me who swim upstream and still can’t penetrate the fideistic membrane! Every steenkin’ time I wanna express my charismatic Quaker faith formally, I hear a Voice saying, “Shut the hellup! You’re ‘probably’ defaming Me!”

    That’s when I know I’m the atheist after all, before an Indefinable Concept half the time. And the other half of the time I’m still not the believer of my conceit that I’m a believer frequently.

    Not all God-thoughts make it to reproduction induction. Thank God. Probably.

  50. AdamK permalink
    August 27, 2009 5:04 am

    So you’re one of those guys who uses plain English to offend everyone by saying nothing while telling scientists what science must do in order to test for a god that you know all about without understanding the language either for God or for science, even when it’s presented to you!

    So you’re one of those guys who uses obfuscating language to pretend you know all about science and god? Gee, you’re so much better than me, I’m not even qualified to comment on a blog post. Whereas your communication skills are so delicate and refined, no lack of understanding could ever possibly be your fault.

    When was “it” “presented” to me? I don’t have a clue what you mean to communicate with the words in quotes. I’m sure that’s my fault.

  51. Chris permalink
    August 27, 2009 5:52 am

    The whole point of the post was to point that science cannot solve the issue of whether God exists.

    Hey Jonathan,
    if there is a god and if he interacts with earth then this interaction should be detectable by science. Maybe science did not look enough yet or missed it. So you might be able to prove god. (which has not been done)

    But you cannot prove a negative. Not with science not with anything. I dislike the distinction ‘science cannot do x we need something different’. Science is an attempt to describe the world as it can be observed. Anything that is out of the realm of science (not only natural science) is outside of anything that can be observed.

    Saying ‘science cannot say anything about god’ is saying ‘god cannot be observed in any possible way, not even indirectly’. I have absolutely no problem with such a god, but i also do not see the point except if you think you can observe him AFTER you die.

    But it seems to me that that is (randomly) believing in something that would be nice if it was true.

    Cheers,
    Chris

  52. sljc1378 permalink
    August 27, 2009 6:15 am

    Hello Everyone,

    All is evidence of God, or nothing at all. Truly the Lord God is the very all in all. This being known within me left me in preponderance when consider a statement made by an atheist saying; “why do you need faith”? The following is my response, as a Christ like being, to this atheist’s question:

    What is faith but truths, and what is love but goodness. The more true we become of goodness the more receptive and real of life living we are.

    The physical world in which we leave is all objective. The empirical “evidence” logically provides and endeavor of subjective forces naturally, and can do no other wise. For those things in effects, objectively only, are in agreement with the sun of earth’s orbit. These elements, in and of themselves, are finite, and having none life in them. My friends if one disassembles an animated carbon form down to the atomic level, the animated source will not be measurable empirically or even found, but are no more then a pile of dust to be vacuumed up off the surface of other inanimate things of collected and formed together compounds of dusts. The Lord brought this to my mind:

    John 9 (KJV)
    1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
    2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
    3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
    4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
    5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
    6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,
    7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

    Here then Faith? Without it where’s the where?, or how’s the how?, or why’s the why? is the animated of living within the dusts? Affirming this in his time, the beloved Apostle Paul say;

    Hebrews 11:1-3 (KJV)
    1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
    2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.
    3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

    It is in this reasoning of the animated source, consciousness, faith in all goodness, and truth of the love of God and His Christ, that I am knowing in the 2012 end, JC our LG and His Holy Angels, shall defeat BO the AC Muslim and his obamanite hordes.

    Thank you Lord, sljc

  53. Richard Eis permalink
    August 27, 2009 7:02 am

    Ah, obfuscated and strange logic. With an extra side portion of scripture and a dollop of feelgood rhetoric.

    With Obamination for pudding!!!!!

  54. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 27, 2009 8:11 am

    SLJC,

    I would ask that you stick to the point. I’m really not sure why you put in the last part about defeating the Muslims or the Obamanite hordes. Please stick with the subject matter and not use your posts for a political rant. Thanks.

    J-

  55. August 27, 2009 10:02 am

    SLJC, you are a strange duck my friend, and apparently don’t use modern english either.

  56. August 27, 2009 10:14 am

    All is evidence of God, or nothing at all.

    If those were the only choices, I’m afraid the second would be more compelling.

    Fortunately, they aren’t.

  57. Ray S. permalink
    August 27, 2009 10:23 am

    You have it exactly bass-ackwards. Science does not require an objective scientist, using your definition, nor does it require one with perfect, accurate senses. The whole aspect of science that makes it work is that it is independent of any individual. Your continued fawning over science is a more than tacit assumption that it works, despite any flaws you may think you see. It seems clear to me that you don’t really understand science at all.

    Where you need an objective individual with perfect senses is when you accept personal revelation, which theists do with abandon. I cannot understand how you can attack science, with its repeatable experiments, when you accept the thinnest testimony without so much as batting an eyelash. I cannot understand how you can attack science with its peer review building consensus, when theists can’t even agree on a god, when Christians can’t agree on what their holy book means or even which books actually comprise it.

    This cult of the individual and its revelation shows again when you call us Darwinists. This is nothing more than a thinly veiled accusation of accepting the personal revelation of Charles Darwin. Do theists have to recast everything science does in their own modus operandi?

    Your problem is that you recognize that science works. You know that science has steadily chipped away at the things a god is supposedly responsible for. Your god is hiding in ever increasing crevices of the yet to be explained. You know that if your god were able to intervene in the world, we’d be able to detect it. You can’t deal with that, so you invent something you think science cannot investigate and hide your god there.

    That is exactly what you’re doing when you declare that god is outside of space and time. You know that is a meaningless construct. You cannot show that there even is such a thing as ‘outside of space and time’. All the better to supposedly hide your omnipotent and omnipresent god. You know, the one that doesn’t respond to prayer to heal the sick, as your holy book says it will. The one that permits slavery, though you know clearly that slavery is wrong. The one that encourages and commits genocide. The one that supposedly made all the rules, but requires human sacrifice for appeasement. The one that seems to be frightened of scientists, since it’s never around when scientists are watching.

    Even though its model of the universe is incomplete, I’ll take science, thank you very much. It works.

  58. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 27, 2009 10:45 am

    Ray,
    Is there is a point in this tirade? It seems to me this is a boilerplate that use on every theist within your reach. You accuse me of a number of different positions in this post that I actually don’t take. Such as the hideous “God of the gaps” position. Further, you accuse me of being intellectually dishonest with such statements as “You know this, you know that”.

    So, I’m not sure how to even adress anything you said in this post. But, I’ll give it a shot.

    Science CAN’T be independent of individuals because individuals do the work of science. I find it curious that an atheist who accuses me of “creating a meaningless construct,” goes and tries to do the same thing in regards to science.

    So, tell me, how can I “fawn” over science and “attack” it at the same time? Or, “recognizing that it works” and then “not understanding science at all”. I’m not exactly sure which one you are want me to answer.

    The position I ACTUALLY took, was to recognize the limits of science. A position that both Christians and Atheists take. You may not like it, but it’s a reality. And for you to assert otherwise doesn’t prove anything other than your own presuppositions.

    As for God interverning in the world, whether we would be able to detect it or not is an open question, not the position you confidently assert. You beg a number of different questions. What exactly would that look like? Why would God do such a thing? How could we test for it? As a Christian, i would argue that He did intervene through the person of Jesus Christ. Even further, who gets to set those rules on the burden of proof?

  59. AdamK permalink
    August 27, 2009 11:07 am

    The position I ACTUALLY took, was to recognize the limits of science.

    It can be argued that the “limits” of science are what give it power and dependability. Its limits are its strengths.

    Religion has no limits. You can use it to make whatever screwy assertions you want. Where science seeks, and approaches, agreement, religion fragments into thousands of disagreeing sects. For every religious question you ask, you get a thousand different answers, packed with paradoxes, nonce neologisms, shaky metaphors and logical contradictions. Because there are no rules — no limits — to claims of revelation. Such claims are untestable, yet purport to be shared, objective truth.

    … who gets to set those rules on the burden of proof?

    Shouldn’t the burden of proof be on the person making the positive assertion? Why not? That’s always been my understanding, at least.

    but isn’t “proof” too strong a word? There are mathmatical proofs, but in science and law and scholorship and debate, don’t we usually just ask for evidence? (The only thing I personally need proof for is liquor.)

  60. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 27, 2009 11:23 am

    I would actually disagree with you on religion. It does have it’s limits or rules. Just not the ones you might be used to. I think this is a common misconception in religious discussion that Denett himself points out.

    And, I would agree that limits are what give science it’s power. As I said in the original post, I don’t view that as a negative. It’s only people like Dawkins who see this as a problem.

    And, good point on evidence. But there again, what constitutes evidence and who gets to decide that is an interesting question in of itself.

  61. Shannon permalink
    August 27, 2009 11:31 am

    … mmm.

    I do agree that religion and science are not mutually exclusive. As an atheist, I do not care what anyone believes, provided it does not directly countermand truth.

    This may or may not be a grey area; I don’t, for instance, believe that Jesus rose from the dead. I can’t prove that fact to anyone’s rigorous standard of evidence, but the converse – that the event itself cannot be supported by any rigorous standard of evidence – is also true. I am unconvinced that this is truth, and not just wishful thinking.

    At the same time, someone who believes in the ressurection of Jesus can do perfectly good science. There’s nothing implicit about this belief that makes it impossible for our believer to expand our biological, chemical, psychological, or whateverelse sciences. It is when belief is held to an equal standard as the weight of understanding of reality that I have problems.

    The Creation Museum is a perfect (and completely insane) example. When belief is laid on the same … mm. Shelf? Standard? Well. When it’s given equal weight to science in those areas where science has more ground simply because beliefs are somehow sacred… I have problems. There are no sacred cows, least of all something like a six thousand year old earth or Noah’s Flood actually taking place in 2340ish BC. These things stand as impediments to our understanding of the world; clinging to childlike delusions does not improve the lot of man, no matter how comforting the delusion may be.

    If science stops exploring the origin of the universe simply because belief says ‘God Did It’, then we are essentially throwing away knowledge for the sake of upholding belief. This is where I have problems.

    Otherwise? no. I don’t see a fundamental incompatibility.

  62. Andrew permalink
    August 27, 2009 11:32 am

    Science CAN’T be independent of individuals because individuals do the work of science.

    Let’s try this another way.

    Remember the old analogy of the blind men and the elephant? Each of them is wrong about what the elephant is like, but all they have to do is to talk to each other and they can easily figure out where they went wrong, and what the elephant is really like. (And even, if they construct appropriate instruments, what colour it is, despite the fact that they can’t see it.)

    (I’m not making exactly the same point that PZ makes in this post, but it’s close, and worth a read anyway.)

    And yet another way:

    It is a fundamental error to assume that properties of an individual component of a system are also properties of the whole system (or vice-versa). (This is the same trap that Plantinga plunges headlong into in one of his arguments against materialism.) A simple cellular automaton such as Life or Rule 110 has “universal computation” as a property of the system (either of them can compute anything that is computable), but both are made up of nothing but individual cells that apply a single fixed (and trivial) rule and are incapable of computing anything. It would be clearly nonsense to say “rule 110 can’t compute because it consists only of individuals who can’t compute”; but this is exactly analogous to your “science can’t be objective because it’s done by individuals who aren’t objective”, or Plantinga’s “physical brains can’t believe anything because they are made up of atoms which can’t believe anything”.

  63. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 27, 2009 11:38 am

    Shannon,
    Excellant thoughts! Thank you.

    J-

  64. AdamK permalink
    August 27, 2009 11:51 am

    I would actually disagree with you on religion.

    I’m shocked! So unexpected!
    🙂

  65. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 27, 2009 11:52 am

    Interesting thing about the blind elephant analogy is that it doesn’t give full justice to the story and therefore misses the point of the story. In it’s many variations, there is usually a king/wiseman/philsopher who asks the blind mind to feel the elephant. So, while the blind men only arrive at partial truths about the element, the wiseman/king/philospher has knowledge of the full elephant. So, I know lots of people use that analogy when discussing religion, but it doesn’t quite work if you use the full story.

    As for your other points, let me give that some thought.

  66. AdamK permalink
    August 27, 2009 11:55 am

    Andrew — Your last paragraph. Bingo.

  67. Andrew permalink
    August 27, 2009 2:33 pm

    I suspect that Rule 110 (alone and by comparison to other automata such as Rule 30) makes an excellent counterexample to a lot of philosophical arguments about systems and the relationship of parts. The fact that it has the universal property puts some very strong bounds on what we can predict about its behaviour; many of its properties will be undecidable. We can’t analytically say why rule 110 is universal whereas rule 30 is (almost certainly) not. There’s nothing in the composition of elementary one-dimensional automata that gives even the slightest hint at their computational power.

    Plus there’s the fact that elementary automata are simple enough that they can exist naturally as physical or biological processes (a striking example of which is the implementation of rule 30 in the pigment cells of the textile cone snail).

  68. Matheus permalink
    August 27, 2009 2:40 pm

    @Andrew

    Yes true, I like to cite those examples of emergence a lot to people who can’t believe the universe couldn’t have been designed by an intelligent being. That such tremendous complexity can arise from something so simple really is astonishing =)

  69. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 27, 2009 2:48 pm

    Andrew,
    As I’m thinking through this, I need your help. Why is it a fundemental error to assume that properties of an individual component of a system are also properties of the whole system. I’m not being a smart ass, by the way, It’s an honest question. I’m trying to think this through and have an intelligent reply. Plus, I’m not seeing the connection between that argument and the argument that science can’t be completely objective, as it’s done by indviduals who aren’t objective. I’m really not trying to be thick, but to understand. The perils of Internet communication or my own slowness, take your pick.

  70. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 27, 2009 2:49 pm

    Yeah, Matheus, I’m not debating that point, just to be clear. I think things did start simply, etc and so on. Just want to make sure that’s understood.

  71. August 27, 2009 3:21 pm

    —> AdamK (5:04 am) “ I don’t have a clue ….”

    You got it!

  72. Matheus permalink
    August 27, 2009 3:24 pm

    @jonathan

    for example a piece of wire is not capable of calculating PI, but when it’s combined with other electronic components, turning it into a computer, it is able to do so. So its generally an error to assume that just because a certain property is present in a piece, then it must be present in the whole. You would just be forgetting about emergent behavior. Look up for criticisms of platinga’s argument for a more through answer.

  73. Andrew permalink
    August 27, 2009 3:27 pm

    As I’m thinking through this, I need your help. Why is it a fundemental error to assume that properties of an individual component of a system are also properties of the whole system. I’m not being a smart ass, by the way, It’s an honest question.

    OK. here are the components of Rule 110: an arbitrarily long row of cells, where each cell has the following properties:

    1. Each cell can be in one of two states, labelled 0 or 1 (this is clearly the minimum possible number of distinct states)

    2. Each cell is connected only to the two adjacent cells (this is clearly the minimum number of connections needed to make it into a single system)

    3. Each cell changes state according to only the following inputs: its own state, and the state of the two adjacent cells, which gives only 8 combinations. There are thus 256 possible rules for state changes, though some are trivial and some pairs differ only by exchanging left/right or 0/1; the terms “rule 30” and “rule 110” refer to specific rules for state changes. Rule 110 means that if the state of the cell and is neighbors is 111, 100 or 000, then the new state of the cell is 0, otherwise it is 1. (This is from the bit pattern of the binary representation of the decimal number 110.)

    The property “is capable of universal computation” applies to anything which can compute the result of any computable function. (Conceptually, it’s as powerful as any supercomputer; it might be slower, but there is no difference in the limits of what it can compute.) The property “is not capable of universal computation” is the lack of the previous property.

    A system consisting of one two-state cell with two input connections and a fixed state table does not have the property of universal computation; it can behave only in a perfectly rigid and predictable fashion. If you connect two, or three, or any small number of cells together, the behavior remains predictable. The cells do not have the universal property either on their own or in small groups; the connections between them lack the property; and yet the system as a whole has it.

    Where did it come from? What component of the system, or interaction between its parts, provided the property? There is nothing you can point at and say “this is where the universal property came from”. It emerges from the behavior of the entire system in a way that defies easy analysis.

  74. Ray S. permalink
    August 27, 2009 3:51 pm

    Newton gave us our fundamental understanding of motion, gravity and the interactions of ordinary objects, yet he pursued alchemy and was a theist. Einstein saw a flaw in Kepler’s laws of planetary motion with regard to Mercury and developed relativity, yet was highly skeptical of certain aspects of quantum mechanics. Neither of these men were completely objective individuals, but both advanced science greatly. Clearly the advancement of science does not rely on objective individuals; science advances despite a lack of objective individuals. It is one of the things that makes science work.

    As for the limits of science, I thought we were in agreement that science can investigate the entire natural world. I freely admit that we might not yet have all the tools, concepts and theories to do so, but I cannot see any part of the natural world off limits to science perpetually. If we are in disagreement here, I don’t know there is any point to future conversations.

    If you’re still reading then hopefully you agree that science can test and evaluate claims of actions by a god that affect the natural world. Whether that is a global flood, a virgin giving birth, a dead man walking away from his tomb or a prophet riding to heaven on a winged horse, these are all subject to investigation through science. You cannot claim not to know what this would look like and then in the same breath tell us about substitutionary atonement.

    And finally your accusation of a boilerplate hit job is hurtful. I came here thinking there could be fruitful discussion because there was common ground in reality and science’s attempt to model and understand that reality. Every word I’ve written has been an honest attempt to communicate and has been posted once and only once.

  75. August 27, 2009 3:57 pm

    .
    Shannon (11:31)

    Shannon wrote: “If science stops exploring the origin of the universe simply because belief says ‘God Did It’, then we are essentially throwing away knowledge for the sake of upholding belief. This is where I have problems. Otherwise? no. I don’t see a fundamental incompatibility.”

    Exactly. An excellent statement.

    It’s contorted and non-scientific to say (in theory – just in theory) that we simply cannot have reality and God too. Your atheism seems perfectly elegant (ala Occam), clean, perfectly reasonable. Kudos.

    It’s not like religion constitutes a research program (in the sense of science research programs defined by Prigogine) competing with science.

    For those, like myself, who suffer what the skeptic, Paul Kurtz, calls the transcendental temptation (I love Kurtz for this), it’s possible to accept the axiom that God is merely a “statement” constructed arbitrarily by fallible humans. And to build this baseline into a belief in God. Axiomatically.

    This approach is not common.

    Except among scientists who believe. Experimentally.

    With this axiom in tow at the baseline of faith, one can have any number of statements about God which are false. And still have reality at the same time. In exactly the same way as quantum physicists experienced infinite results in the quantum realm before they renormalized their maths and came up with the unitary equations for QM. The ‘reality’ of QM still stood before them. Their maths were wrong.

    It’s routine in science to have statements which model reality. Only to have those statements modified by the facts. And to have reality at the same time. This is not a god-of-the-gaps argument for theism. Exactly the opposite.

    Artificial statements about God can be false. They can be misleading. And worse, ill conceived. Thus not amenable to empirical inference.

    Popper, a great hero of mine, said that any properly formulated metaphysical truth could never be falsified by science. That’s true. And it’s a tautology. And it got Popper into his personal trouble for awhile because Popper felt that the neo-Darwinian synthesis in evolutionary biology was not really a testable hypothesis. Not scientific. It took years for science to break Popper down on this.

    But Popper rightly kept in tact his tautological statement that no properly formulated metaphysical truth could be falsified. A statement with which most scientists agree.

    Which is exactly why scientists are still looking for a TOE.

    And I wish them well in this. Though metaphysics isn’t my bag.

    To wit: no matter what any ‘statement’ about God is (as a statement), reality continues. Unabated.

    And like you say, no conflict is generated.

    At least, not necessarily.

    The problem for humans is which ‘statements’ to reject. And which ‘statements’ to hold.

    Which is why we invented science in the first place.

    If some future day Thomas-like prodigy spins out a synthetic proof for God as a ‘statement,’ then that’s another matter.

    Cheers,

    Jim

  76. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 27, 2009 4:11 pm

    If I was hurtful, I do sincerly apologize. I think what rubbed me the wrong way is that in your orginal statement, you hinted at me being intelletucal dishonest, something I’m very sensitive to. So, I apologize if I overreacted.

    Ill comment more later.

  77. August 27, 2009 4:41 pm

    thomas2026 (4:11 pm),

    I feel you’re doing a good job here. Not intellectually dishonest. I get the same feel from you as I get from another Catholic, Mortimer Adler. I never get the feeling he’s trying to pull the wool over my eyes. Despite my disagreements with him.

    A quibble. Instead of saying “in ways we don’t know yet,” (which I agree is better than mystery-speak), I just say, “Dunno! Beats the snot out of me.”

    Because, I don’t know, “yet.” And maybe never.

    Even if we go Aristotelian-Thomistic (which I don’t – would Teilhard be here?) with a steady-state universe having no beginning or end – with this universe as everything there is and with parts of it beyond us – we may still never know as many things as Martin Gardner said:

    “We will never know all the decimal digits of pi, or all possible theorems of geometry. We will never know all possible theorems just about triangles. We will never know all possible melodies, or poems, or novels, or paintings, or jokes, or magic tricks because the possible combinations are limitless. Moreover, as Kurt Godel taught us, every mathematical system complex enough to include arithmetic contains theorems that cannot be proved true or false within the system. Whether Godelian undecidability may apply to mathematical physics is not yet known,” (Science and the Unknowable”).

    Which I say, is pretty neat. There should be a lifetime supply of learning …

    Cheers,

    Jim

  78. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 27, 2009 4:54 pm

    uh, thanks Jim. But, for the record, I’m not actually catholic. I’m a Presbyterian minister who has catholic tendencies. 🙂

    Doubtfully,
    J-

  79. Ray S. permalink
    August 27, 2009 5:21 pm

    I don’t think you’re intellectaully dishonest, but I do think you’re intellectually inconsistent. You state that science is flawed (not objectively true) because no scientist can be objective. I think that is a false statement; I and others have tried to show you why.

    But you also take as fact that the tomb was empty, based apparently on two written accounts by unknown authors not known to be present at the alleged event, and only known to us in modernity by being preserved by people with a theological bias. Objective?

    You also ding science because it doesn’t give us meaning. The statement doesn’t make any sense to me. Why would you think science could do such a thing? Science is just a way to try to understand how the world works. So you rely on theology to give you that meaning. Others do too, but they’re reading the same sacred texts and coming up with different answers.

  80. sljc1378 permalink
    August 27, 2009 5:24 pm

    Hello Everyone,

    All self-organization finds its existence in some form of utility, which is an analog of altruism and spiritual love. A God of love cannot create anything that is not ultimately useful. What this means is that higher causal levels of order and activity (like conscious love) adapt the lower level forms of nature to their own disposition (emergence of complexity). The scientist/theologian, Emanuel Swedenborg, called this top-down self-similarity the science of correspondences.
    The closest idea to Swedenborg’s science of correspondences I have found in modern thinking is the concept of supervenience, whereby higher leveled phenomena, like ethics, morality, and altruism influence the lower level properties of nature and biological structure. The unity of nature is a causal consequence of Divine Love.
    The science of correspondences implies that the laws of nature are, in fact, an extension of spiritual laws and forces into the constraints of spacetime. This means that the universe and its laws are perfectly fine-tuned for the Easter resurrection to occur.
    God’s heavenly spirit supervened into a human body provided by the virgin birth, where it reached its ultimate actualization in the measurement outcomes of the Lord’s life of fulfilling Scripture on earth. Making the Word “flesh” was a lawful process by which higher-level realities and lower-level realities became perfectly united. Put into scientific terms, the a-temporal and a-spatial dynamics of the hidden microworld became fully expressed in the Lord’s macro bio-structure or physical body. So “quantum tunneling” through the shut doors of the room where the disciples had gathered after the crucifixion was no problem for the Lord’s resurrected body.

    Now, by our Lord’s mercy, we having suffered ourselves to be put together in oneness of Christ likeness in our lives, are we able to recognize the one only Divine Man, God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. In this more substantial state of being we now are able to understand what before seemed great mysteries in the Holy Scriptures. Such as how did Lord Jesus appear unto His Apostles in the room with the door yet being shut?

    I will share with you, that by our Lord’s mercy, made knowing, understood, and lived in me, a key from the Word of God within, by which this seeming mystery and many like ones in the Holy Scriptures may be better understood.

    This door by which Lord Jesus makes us present before Him is a Living Door within Him where by His Divine Love exchanges in Divine Goodness. And is the very Life giving and sustaining power of all in all.

    It is from this Divine Power of God and His Christ, that cupidity’s and falsity imbibed in the sensuous of the Apostles natural of states was removed and/or gently suppressed, while proportionately in-flowing them in actual goodness and truth.

    This Living Door, Christ in us, operating as a Spiritual accelerator, illustrates, to us yet in natural forms, as a hologram, but in actuals is substantial substances Spiritual, His Life upon ours (vivifies), where by the purer substances or remains of our souls are inner-dimensionally receiving reformation in transferring substantiation in our states of being, increasing consciousness making us more real (quickening), aware and/or unaware of being within our immortal states.

    After Lord Jesus finished communion with His Apostles, He de-accelerated His Spiritual Being illustrated prior in their states, being made more substantial, to one of being more posterior, and as it were, closing this door unto their Spirits, and was gone out from their sights. And again, the room door yet being shut.

    Lord Jesus did many like appearances before His Disciples. These I’ll let each of us meditate upon and search out in the treasure and wonders within the Holy Scriptures, OT and NT. And please for studies use the KJV, Vulgate (90 AD – 150 AD), Torah for OT, and/or other like Holy Bibles. Also for sound doctrine the works of Emanuel Swedenborg are priceless in provided Spiritual insights necessary for enrichment of the meanings living alive with the Word of God. And please, put away the NIV’s or like books. Also learn to swim upstream and review older writings. The Internet has become a wonderful source for this endeavor.

    Thank you Lord, sljc

  81. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 27, 2009 5:34 pm

    SlJC,
    The KJV is the worst English translation you can use. I would suggest the ESV, myself.

  82. Andrew permalink
    August 27, 2009 5:48 pm

    Somehow at this rate I expect the first banning on the blog will be of a Christian rather than an atheist 🙂

    A God of love cannot create anything that is not ultimately useful.

    OK, what’s the ultimate use of the nematode worm Onchocerca volvulus then? Other than to randomly blind people?

  83. August 27, 2009 6:07 pm

    .
    thomas2026 – “.. not actually catholic. I’m a Presbyterian minister who has catholic tendencies …”

    Then, I take back every nice thing I said, every nice thought I had, and every good feeling. But not yet: first I’ve got to get red in tooth and claw! Though I should first take all this out on myself for violating the common sense courtesy against presumption! Mea culpa.

    Insane, isn’t it? – the twists and turns and torque of faith? I’m a charismatic Quaker, neither Arminian nor Calvinist (we usually don’t see ourselves as ‘Reformed,’ and are in fact, ‘un-reformable’), but I’m a lover of Terry Virgo (a hard core charismatic Calvinist) as much as a lover of Greg Boyd (open theist). The Masters of Suspicion are my best friends – and I say no charismatic should ever be allowed to speak without first memorizing Hume’s skepticism against miracles (“Treatise on Miracles’). A lover of the feeling a nearly seamless integrity between my faith and science as a prayer. And none of this makes any more sense (and a lot less sense) than, “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences” (Wigner’s classic essay).

    Though I might sacrifice ‘faith’ to science only because Dr. Spock in Star Trek says facts trump logic! And I don’t want to mess with any kind of Vulcan death grip …

    Peace …

  84. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 27, 2009 7:02 pm

    No, no, I woulnd’t ban SLJC unless he attacks someone. These weird posts are actually entertaining.

    But, I have edited his stuff, so get gets to claim that first.

  85. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 27, 2009 7:09 pm

    Ray,
    I don’t recall saying that science is flawed. I said it had limits, which, in my book, doesn’t mean its flawed. But, if that’s the sticky wicket, then let me clarify. Science, as concept, can be objectively true. I grant that. But, my point is that humans may not be able grasp that objective truth because of our limitations. Also, no one has taken up the point about the curiosity of atheists depositing an objective reality. I find it quite interesting.

    Also, I wouldn’t claim objectivity. Far from it. I freely admit my own bias and view of the world. I’m just trying to get others to do the same.

    In your last statement, if that’s your position, I have no problem with it all. I was rather addressing those who think that science CAN give us meaning. If you are saying it can’t but rather it tells us how the world works, I believe that we actually agree and indeed, that’s what i wrote in the original post.

    Plus, I really am NOT trying to ding science. I wish everyone would understand that. I’m not anti-science. However, just like everything else, it’s open to critique and debate. I know you would agree, but I just thought I would point that out to the folks at home. 🙂

  86. sljc1378 permalink
    August 27, 2009 8:23 pm

    Hello Everyone,

    Thank you thomas for allowing me to follow along on this blog string. I’m of another way, and the mention of censorship really saddens me.

    To remove a post from your string is understandable, but to edit another’s work is in my estimation criminal.

    My friends hope to see some of you on other more pure and original blogs.

    Always remember my friends, no matter how many messengers you kill, the true shall always rule the day, always.

    Thank you Lord and all for allowing me to share.

    Shalom, sljc

  87. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 27, 2009 8:27 pm

    The only thing I edited was your tirade against Obama and how Jesus was going to destroy the Obamite hordes.

    So, come and arrest me if you must. But, such comments are not acceptable here. And, as tolerant as I am, I won’t tolerate inflammatory comments about the President or Muslims. First, because, as a Christian, you should be praying for our president, not his destruction. Second, such statements go against the spirit of this blog. I might remind you that as the Abbott of this blog, I reserve the right to do what I want with the posts. I have never edited a post until yours, so that should tell you something.

    Thanks for the weirdness, SLJC.

  88. Andrew permalink
    August 27, 2009 9:23 pm

    Science, as concept, can be objectively true. I grant that. But, my point is that humans may not be able grasp that objective truth because of our limitations.

    It’s often said (with some justification) that nobody actually understands quantum mechanics; but that doesn’t stop us making use of it. Likewise, provided we keep in mind certain key limitations, we can make use of the objective truths that science can make available to us even if we can’t actually grasp them ourselves.

    (The most important precaution is fairly obvious: don’t take the pronouncements of any single scientist too seriously; it’s not exactly unknown for high-profile scientists to be wildly wrong about something at some time, e.g. Einstein about local hidden variables in QM, Linus Pauling about vitamin C, Fred Hoyle on dozens of things, etc. Sometimes this gets dangerous, for example HIV-denialist Peter Duesberg was a respected scientist before running off the rails.)

    Also, no one has taken up the point about the curiosity of atheists depositing an objective reality. I find it quite interesting.

    Why?

    There is only one thing that you can be fairly sure all atheists agree on, which is the lack of gods. Everything else is up for grabs; you will find atheists with views on the nature of reality which are just as strange and diverse as any theist’s.

    Also, I wouldn’t claim objectivity. Far from it. I freely admit my own bias and view of the world. I’m just trying to get others to do the same.

    Maybe so, but having bought into the presuppositionalist position you’re assigning an importance to worldviews that isn’t necessarily warranted. Notice that science is carried out by people of many different religions, philosophies, worldviews, political persuasions etc. but we still manage to end up with consistent observations (and usually consistent conclusions, eventually, given enough time for reality to weed out the errors).

    I was rather addressing those who think that science CAN give us meaning. If you are saying it can’t but rather it tells us how the world works, I believe that we actually agree and indeed, that’s what i wrote in the original post.

    Has anyone argued here that science gives us meaning?

    We haven’t debated ethics and meaning here nearly as much yet as the question of objective reality; but if you’re now prepared to accept the existence of objective science, perhaps we can tackle the other topics.

  89. Ray S. permalink
    August 27, 2009 10:56 pm

    Jonathan, in your OP you opine that science does not always trump theology, and theology does not always trump science (I disagree, of course, but let me get to that later). Then you bring up that science cannot give us meaning (Some may not find meaning in science, but some of us do) and launch into an indictment of scientists for eugenics. Can you see where I might think that you think science is flawed?

    If you know of some scientific discovery that was negated by a theological argument, I’d be interested to hear of it. I think we all know of many theological assertions that have been shown to be incorrect by science. That’s why I would say that science always trumps theology. Science is tested against reality. And yes that is an objective reality in that the Empire State Building is in the same place and has the same properties for both of us. you are not entitled to your own private set of facts. If you mean something else by objective reality, then you’ll need to educate me.

    Speaking of educating me, what do you find curious about atheists depositing an objective reality? My bank takes such deposits. (sorry, I don’t know how to do smilies either)

  90. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 27, 2009 11:50 pm

    I think you missed my point about Eugenics. My point was that to draw meaning and values from science is an iffy proposition at best, and dangerous at worst. As we have all agreed, science is not meant to do that.

    The problem is that I don’t see science and theology in a trump war.

    All right, Mr. Smart Ass, you caught be spelling mistake. For that, you will be forever left of the Attie nominee list. 🙂

  91. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 27, 2009 11:54 pm

    Andrew, would agree with the first half of your post.

    I would, of course, fight you on the worldviews. Science still rests on the worldview that our senses can give us accurate information about the world. I agree with that assumption, but it’s still an assumption that can’t be proven in a scientific way. I think it can be proven in other ways, but not in the rigourous standards of science.

    But, further, I would agree with you about science being carried about numbers of different people and arrive at the same truths. I can be full on board with that.

    No, no one here has argued that science can give us meaning.

  92. Matheus permalink
    August 28, 2009 12:04 am

    @Jonathan

    No, no one here has argued that science can give us meaning.

    Again, what do you define as meaning? Can you give any example? How are you sure it does even exist objectively? If it is subjective, why do you think scientific studies of the mind can’t give what you are asking for?

  93. Andrew permalink
    August 28, 2009 12:55 am

    I would, of course, fight you on the worldviews. Science still rests on the worldview that our senses can give us accurate information about the world. I agree with that assumption, but it’s still an assumption that can’t be proven in a scientific way. I think it can be proven in other ways, but not in the rigourous standards of science.

    Incidentally, one point I haven’t made yet is that contrary to certain philosophical traditions, we can actually be more confident of the reliability of our perception of the world (which can be checked by other people and by instruments) than we can be about the reliability of our perception of our own consciousness (which cannot). This is why neuroscience is going to end up telling us more about the fundamental issues of consciousness, free will, etc. in the next couple of decades than philosophy has managed in the past couple of millennia.

    As for reliable senses being necessary for science, I’ve pointed out repeatedly that we don’t need much reliability; that it’s enough that most people have senses which give us approximate information about some aspects of the world which is reasonably reliable. But we don’t have to assume that’s the case; we only need to assume that we’re not the victims of a complete global deception, since in the absence of a deception, if our senses were too unreliable for science to work we would know that it wasn’t working. The fact that science does work confirms that our senses are reliable enough (and no, this is not a circular argument), and the extent to which our senses are in fact reliable simply becomes one more object of scientific study.

  94. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 28, 2009 8:36 am

    I think the faith in neuroscience is overblown for the simple reason that people assign meaning to the biological process. All it can show is how our brain functions when we engage in certain activity and how it works in our brain functions. Assigning meaning to such a process is a highly dubious enterprise. Why? Because, frankly, no matter how much your protest Andrew, it is circular.

    I also find it interesting that we use the word “approximate” and “reasonable”. I agree with you. But, making assumptions still falls into the category of what we presume to be true.

  95. August 28, 2009 8:42 am

    Ray-
    what theological points have you seen go by the wayside. I assume you mean YEC (which is not a traditional position, it in fact is a fairly modern arrival), Flat Earth, and …. I certainly know of no science that has changed the way we look at God, his character, etc… Certainly, theological statements that involve science like YEC are free game for science, I would be the first to admit that, but as I told Kelseigh, the literal reading of Genesis is something that hasn’t happened until the last 250 years, and misses so much of the point of the writer. Far from which was making scientific observations about the known universe, even though the writer does make some observant points.

  96. Shannon permalink
    August 28, 2009 9:27 am

    @Jim: Thank you for the compliment. I’m curious about something:

    But Popper rightly kept in tact his tautological statement that no properly formulated metaphysical truth could be falsified. A statement with which most scientists agree

    Popper’s writing is interesting, and I’ve never before had an opportunity to ask a few questions about it with someone else who’s read it (admittedly, my reading of it is a bit painfully aged, and more than that – incomplete. I need to dig books out of the boxed library!). My question for you is this:

    A tautology, by its very nature, is predicated on the notion that it proves itself – the logical chain of determining its truth begins and ends within itself. One of the most famous Faith tautologies is the one about the inerrancy of the bible:

    The Bible is the inerrant word of god. God says so. In the bible. And since the bible is the inerrant word of god…

    Which.. is not intended to be inflammatory, please understand. It’s what jumps first to mind.

    The problem with these tautologies (to one like myself) is.. how can I, who do not believe their fundamental premise, consider them true? Popper is right inasmuch as metaphysical ‘Truth’ would, by our definitions of universal truth, require a certain self-evidence, but the ‘Truths’ offered by most metaphysics predicate on at least one core premise that must be taken as inviolable and is utterly a function of belief, as opposed to anything empirical.

    Deepak Chopra assumes you agree with him on the existence and nature of ‘energy’ (heck, most new-agers fall in line with this one). Protestant Christianity assumes you take the Bible as holy. Islam assumes the Koran in that state. We can go on –

    What happens when these Truths are subjected to the questions that attack their core premises, and why should they be exempt (or should they be exempt) from those questions?

  97. Shannon permalink
    August 28, 2009 9:27 am

    (Oh, man. I /fail/ on the quote function. Apologies folks!)

  98. Andrew permalink
    August 28, 2009 11:05 am

    I think the faith in neuroscience is overblown for the simple reason that people assign meaning to the biological process. All it can show is how our brain functions when we engage in certain activity and how it works in our brain functions. Assigning meaning to such a process is a highly dubious enterprise. Why? Because, frankly, no matter how much your protest Andrew, it is circular.

    Our ability to look at brain function is still extremely crude (and still suffers from the ability to distinguish correlation and causation in many cases); but that wasn’t really what I was referring to.

    Take for example the question of free will. If you do an experiment in which people are asked to decide which hand to move, you can strongly influence which hand they choose via transcrainial magnetic induction on a specific area of one side of the brain or the other; but if you ask them, they’ll tell you that they were making a completely free choice. So our perception of free will is inaccurate; we can’t assume that we have it simply because it appears to us that we do.

    For consciousness, there’s now significant evidence of a time lag between the act of making a decision and conscious awareness of having made it, which raises all sorts of questions about the direction of causality there.

    This is why pure philosophy is now completely out of its depth in trying to explain these concepts, and why it will have to adapt to the results of neuroscience rather than the other way round.

    As for why my reasoning isn’t circular; all you need to do to see this is to consider the question “what would our senses have to do in order to lead us to conclude that science was working when in fact it was not?”. If you study this question it leads only to global deception, because our senses would have to be not only unreliable but reliably unreliable, giving everyone consistent wrong answers via all senses in all situations. Otherwise, we would never agree on even the simplest propositions about the real world. (Similar arguments work for reasoning; if our reasoning were sufficiently unreliable for science to be impossible, but we nevertheless concluded that it was, we’d need to be so far detached from reality that we would be back to the brain-in-a-vat scenario.)

  99. Andrew permalink
    August 28, 2009 11:08 am

    (and still suffers from the ability to distinguish correlation and causation in many cases)

    inability. gah.

  100. August 28, 2009 1:15 pm

    Shannon ( 9:27 am),

    I think your core question was – “What happens when these Truths [metaphysical tautologies] are subjected to the questions that attack their core premises, and why should they be exempt (or should they be exempt) from those questions?”

    I agree with you that this question is important.

    My short answer is pretty simple. No core premise nor metaphysical truth deserves immunity from attack and questioning.

    Endlessly.

    A small detail of housekeeping.

    I’m sorry my notes on tautology suffered vagueness. I didn’t have in mind the definition of tautology that you noted, that is, of self-proving statements in propositional calculus supported by unassailable technical notation.

    That’s a valid definition. But not quite what I had in mind. The Stanford metaphysics project exemplifies this approach by trying to derive a formally precise ontology. For abstract concepts. With empirical inference far secondary. A few years ago, I had a brief colloquy with Ed Zalta who reiterated that no novel definition of ‘God’ (abstract God-concept) has overcome the theological impasse of centuries by successfully turning a modal-logical inference. Nothing new there. Nor was I hoping.

    But this could happen. If some future Aquinas-like prodigy ever pulls one off. Don’t hold your breath.

    What I had in mind about Popper was this: getting such a metaphysical tautology “properly formulated.” The “properly formulated” part is the rub.

    Since we don’t have one, we can’t say it would look like. The sheer number of potential formulations – whether in propositional calculus or in some novel form of theological notation – might have no effective limit. We don’t have one yet.

    To your other questions –

    In my best Austin Powers impression, I say, “metaphysics isn’t my bag, baby.”

    Systematic theology, less so.

    That’s the voice of experience (and bias!). I’ve read enough of these two to know they’re like a halt function in a computer program. I see these two disciplines as janitors sweeping up the floor of the lab after bench experiments are done. They have a little utility. For examining incoherency issues. For adding an occasional novel insight. For generating some goose bumps and twitching freshman neurons in responses like, “ooooh! .. aaaaah! … wow! Zen and the Art of Rebuilding Your ‘57 Chevy! Oh yeah, baby!”

    But not a whole lot more.

    So I have zero problem agreeing with you in testing the high and holy magisterium of theology. And metaphysics.

    For every assertion they make.

    Bombs away!

    A relevant sidebar on Popper:. And this really goes to your question.

    Popper would say that even if we ever pulled off a “properly formulated” (again, this is the key) metaphysical truth, then we would still lack certainty. And certainly not have omniscience. Because the equally valid ethic of testing all things should keep us busy testing it for life! Just like the velociraptor constantly crashing and testing the electric fences in Jurassic Park.

    So for practical purposes, our work-a-day confidence in such a truth might generate yawns. Spouses and loved ones will still say, “take out the trash, honey!” Or, “fetch my beer!”

    So even if we had such a metaphysic (again, don’t hold your breath), then we would pretty much end up back on the pragmatic playing field of falsifiable science. Back where we started.

    Weinberg (the pretty cool atheist-physicist) says almost the same thing. In a different way. He says that any eventual TOE might end up so vague and so general – as to be useless.

    Alas, there you go.

    True, but trivial. If we ever pull it off.

    What really irritates many theists (sometimes me too – when I confuse this!) is our false belief that the intellectual enterprise of science denies – worse, rejects as impossible – any other legitimate or substantive domain of knowledge. This very stupid inference is spun too frequently by theologians and philosophers alike. And has nothing to do with science. It’s a mockery and gross caricature that fits only to scientism. Not science. Science makes no such claim. Ratio-empirical propositions derived through science hail only to forms of discovery confined to physical relationships among observables, with or without known causal connections. Science is just one domain. And a pretty neat one.

    I don’t think scientists deserve any penalty for occasionally playing in the sandbox of goofy metaphysical speculation. Scientists have as much right to this form of wild entertainment and free wheeling intellectual roaming as do philoso-fuzzies and say-anything theologians.

    Theologians and philosophers need to do a much better job distinguishing between science proper and scientism. And distinguishing between science and the recreational speculations of scientists sitting in bars over a beer, inventing stories, and telling metaphysical whoppers – for fun.

    Jim

  101. Ray S. permalink
    August 28, 2009 5:05 pm

    Eric, you seem stuck on thinking your own concept of a god is the only one out there. Your previous comment addresses only your own theology and that of the heretics (YEC) .

    Would you say that science invalidates much if not all of Young Earth Creationism? I would.

    Would you say that science invalidates the claims of Thor as god of thunder? I would.

    Would you say that science invalidates the claims of Zeus as king of the gods and ruler of the sky? I would.

    Need I go on? There is a large variety of theologies out there. Some of them make claims that can be investigated by science. I’m not aware of any theological statements that have ever shown science to be incorrect. There are of course new scientific discoveries that invalidate older science, but again I;’m not able to come up with any motivated by theology. Perhaps you can.

    Clearly there are many cases of science showing theological claims to be incorrect. This does not imply that all theological claims are incorrect, but science has reduced the responsibilities many attributed to gods over the years. This has led some to park their god outside of space and time, I presume to protect it from the reach of science.

    I have three problems with such a conjecture:
    1) no one has shown there to be an ‘outside of space and time’. IOW, I’ve yet to see a coherent definition of what that is.
    2)no one has shown why, if the thing in 1 exists, why science cannot investigate it.
    3)assuming that a god can interact with the natural world i inhabit, no one has explained why we would not be able to detect such interaction.

  102. Ray S. permalink
    August 28, 2009 5:06 pm

    Jonathan;

    Call me a smart ass if you like and ban me from anything you can, but please answer the question:

    Why do you find it curious that an atheist would posit an objective reality?

  103. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 28, 2009 5:11 pm

    I will never ban you for that question, Ray, it’s an honest one. I’ll try to answer it more later.

    The only thing I would ban someone for is viciously attacking someone else or making threats. The only comments I have edited at this point was SLJC’s loopy rants about Obama and Muslims.

  104. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 28, 2009 5:13 pm

    As for a reality outside of science, Ray, I have three questions:

    1) Explain what was in existence before the Big Bang
    2) How did life orginate?
    3) What was the origin of what was uniquely human?

  105. Matheus permalink
    August 28, 2009 5:23 pm

    @Jonathan
    Nobody knows the answer to those questions. That includes theologians. Now trying to assign that to yeahweh is yet another example of filling the gaps with gods.
    You answer to those questions should also be “I have no idea” too.

  106. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 28, 2009 5:25 pm

    I realize that, Matheus, I was just making a point.

  107. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 28, 2009 5:31 pm

    Plus, I don’t think that’s “God of the gaps” at all, but I think I’m going to have to explain that in a full long post.

  108. Matheus permalink
    August 28, 2009 5:33 pm

    Well its either god of the gaps or failure to apply occam’s razor.

  109. Andrew permalink
    August 28, 2009 5:49 pm

    As for a reality outside of science, Ray, I have three questions:

    Oh, come on, those are easy 🙂

    1) Explain what was in existence before the Big Bang

    Explain what is found to the north of the North Pole.

    2) How did life orginate?

    Jury’s still out on the details. The evidence so far suggests that life originated with simple chemical replicators which formed naturally from chemical compounds which are known to form readily under a reasonably wide range of conditions.

    It’s also possible that life originated more than once (the Earth got smacked around a bit a few hundred million years after forming, in the Late Heavy Bombardment, and this will have resulted in a number of impact events large enough to sterilize the surface, though in some models life could have survived them in deep ocean vents).

    The Late Heavy Bombardment lasted from about 4.1 to 3.8 billion years ago, and there is evidence of life at least 3.5 billion years ago and possibly further back.

    3) What was the origin of what was uniquely human?

    What is uniquely human? How do you know?

  110. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 28, 2009 7:58 pm

    I don’t think you can dismiss any of those questions so easily. Certainly, scientists don’t and are studying them now. IN fact, I would say that much of modern scientific endevor tries to explore those exact questions.

    As for number 2, all of what you say is true, but, no knows what started that process.

  111. Andrew permalink
    August 28, 2009 9:10 pm

    I don’t think you can dismiss any of those questions so easily. Certainly, scientists don’t and are studying them now. IN fact, I would say that much of modern scientific endevor tries to explore those exact questions.

    The dismissal of questions 1 and 3 was more in the nature of a hint that you’re not formulating the questions in any meaningful way.

    For question 1 that was especially important because the way you ask the question betrays a complete misunderstanding of the nature of spacetime. While we don’t yet have the theory to understand exactly what is going on early in the Big Bang (and we won’t have until we figure out how to reconcile GR and QM), we do know that spacetime was curved to the extent that the naïve concept of “before” has no value. Depending on what the topology turns out to look like, it’s quite possible that the Big Bang has no causal past (using ‘causal’ here in the GR sense), in which case there is no meaningful concept of “before”.

    (Philosophers rarely understand that when they talk about causality, they’re actually talking about the topology of spacetime.)

    The “what’s north of the North Pole” line is in fact a response given by Hawking to exactly that question.

    As for question 3, you’ve failed to indicate what sort of properties you had in mind. Every species has some set of characteristics that distinguishes it from its close relatives; humans have characteristics which are not shared by the other great apes.

    But when theists ask that question, they are almost always positing the existence of some property that makes a qualitative difference between humans and the other apes; a “soul”, a sense of morals, whatever. In such cases the burden of proof is on the questioner to establish that the property actually exists and is unique to humans; for “souls” there is no reason to accept their existence, and for morals, there is clear evidence that human moral emotions are not qualitatively different to those of other social primates.

    As for number 2, all of what you say is true, but, no knows what started that process.

    All that needs to happen is for the raw materials and the energy source to exist in the same place – nothing else is needed to “start” the process.

  112. Ray S. permalink
    August 28, 2009 9:51 pm

    As for a reality outside of science, Ray, I have three questions:
    1) Explain what was in existence before the Big Bang
    2) How did life orginate?
    3) What was the origin of what was uniquely human?

    Good answers have already been posted, but you deserve mine as well.

    1) I don’t know. It’s possible that we cannot know. The conditions at the moment of the big bang are so unlike anything ordinary humans come into contact with, it would be folly to try to wrap the concepts of our everyday lives around it. That’s one of the reasons why sticking a god on the ‘other side’ of the big bang, as if it were simply a wall separating different rooms, pushing a button to create everything fails as a concept. Even if it were true, conventional models of the big bang suggest that nothing can cross the singularity we call the big bang. I don’t think you really want to place your god there.

    A second problem is that a god, presumably one with a mind, would have to be a complex object. What explanation would you offer for the origin of this god?

    2)I’m not sure how life originated, but the leading candidate suggests simple chemical replicators as Andrew mentioned above. A thorny problem is how one defines life. By some definitions, viruses are alive, by others, no. And for those who say ‘life begins at conception’, they’re implying that sperm and ovum were not alive prior to fertilization. I see no reason to go into details about any of that, but wonder what this has to do with being ‘reality outside of science’.

    3) I don’t know, but mostly because I’m not sure what uniquely human means. Other species exhibit social and moral behavior (at least from our perspective), use tools and communicate. Of course we think we’re better at it than they are, but we could be a little arrogant about that. it’s not at all clear to me that we’ll be the longest surviving species on this planet, nor that there are not other life forms elsewhere in the universe. We need to be careful about claiming to be the pinnacle of development.

    I often wonder how different everything would be if there had been a second sentient species on this planet; one clearly not human, but of similar capability.

    And again, how does that relate to ‘reality outside of science’?

    Perhaps you’re already assuming I’ve just dismissed your questions with a handwave by saying ‘I don’t know’ repeatedly. I’m not. They are interesting questions, but I’d rather admit I don’t know the answer than to make one up.

    But let’s assume for one moment there was a powerful being on the other side of the singularity; a cause for the big bang. It could not, if our current understanding is correct, be here in this universe with us. That would be consistent with a deist sort of view but not an active interventionist type god. Certainly not one that could appear on Earth in human form.

    For your other two examples, you’re talking about a powerful being applying just the right nudge at just the right time to make things turn out the way they dis. Where did this being come from, where is it now and why can we not detect it? Perhaps we don’t have the tools or understanding to do so, just as we had no way to detect gamma rays 120 years ago. That doesn’t seem consistent with the god most Christians advocate.

  113. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 28, 2009 10:04 pm

    An excellant point about no meaningful concept of before, as I would certainly hold that time came into being only after the instant of the Big Bang. So, I don’t misunderstand the nature of space/time at all. It seems to me that when Hawking stated that on a British talk show, that he was showing his trademark wicked sense of humor. It seems to me his point is that science can’t talk about that in any meaningful way. I have seen other places where he and other scientists talk about that as well. So, when I asked the question, I was curious about the response I would get. The Big Bang event happend, this we know. Beyond that, hard to say.

    As for question two, you assertion about the right chemicals and energy source existing in the same place is far from proven with any certianity. I certainly think its possible, but I would be careful about stating it with such certainty.

    As for question 3, help me define what you think is unqiuely human. I realize that’s putting the ball in your court, but then, it’s also letting you set the tone of the conversation.

  114. thomas2026 permalink*
    August 28, 2009 10:19 pm

    Ray,
    No, I certainly don’t think you are avoiding the questions. They seem simple, but as you pointed out, they are quite tough.

    As for your reponse to the first one, no, I wouldn’t put God at that moment of sigularity. I think, by nature, He would have to before that. And, I actually take Aquainas’ position that God is actually a simple being, not a complex one in the Dawkonian sense. So, I guess I would say the question about how was God made as meaningless.

    I think what I mean by a reality outside of science, I mean God Himself, which, by definition, wouldn’t be testable by science. As for the other points about God interveneing, I hope to address that in a post later in the week.

  115. Matheus permalink
    August 28, 2009 10:28 pm

    @Jonathan

    How can you say yahweh/jesus/the holy ghost is a simple god? Are human beings simple?

  116. Ray S. permalink
    August 29, 2009 12:00 am

    Jonathan, in your response to Andrew you agree there is no ‘before’ the big bang, but in your response to me it looks like you do think there is a before. There are theists who postulate a god as the instigator of the big bang, but that god cannot, if we understand the big bang correctly, be the god revered by the ordinary Christian.

    Were I to come to the conclusion that the big bang required a cause, I would not refer to that cause as god. The term comes loaded with other potentially false baggage that could easily convey the wrong meaning.This is a mistake I think many apologists make.

    I don’t see how a being supposedly capable of making an entire universe could possibly be simpler than a human. We don’t normally obsess over the creation of a human, but that is mostly because we have ample evidence of how to make them. While I do accept that humans evolved from simpler life forms, that has happened over long time frames and involved millions of individuals and generations. While I’ll concede that such a process could yield a being sufficiently more powerful than humans to be considered as gods, you’d end up having lots of them and not just one. I don’t think polytheism is your bag.

    It’s entirely possible that ‘outside’ the natural world is analogous to ‘before’ the big bang. While we certainly don’t know everything, we have yet to develop a reliable way to detect anything that is not of the natural world.

    You define god to be the reality outside of science and decree it to be untestable. Untestable to me here seems to be the same as undetectable. Of what benefit is an undetectable god?

  117. Andrew permalink
    August 29, 2009 7:40 am

    But let’s assume for one moment there was a powerful being on the other side of the singularity; a cause for the big bang. It could not, if our current understanding is correct, be here in this universe with us. That would be consistent with a deist sort of view but not an active interventionist type god. Certainly not one that could appear on Earth in human form.

    The more accurate mathematical description of what many theists are postulating (by saying “God is outside space and time”) is to posit that the spacetime manifold of the universe is embedded in some other topological space.

    But this gets us nowhere, because we’re right back to the old question of whether God interferes with the universe or not; if he does, then there is some interaction that operates within the enclosing space but affects the physical universe; there is no evidence for such a thing, so Occam’s Razor excludes it; if he does not (more the deist position than the theist), then the existence of the embedding is not falsifiable so it gets excluded again.

    If, instead, the universe turns out not to be closed under the causal-past function (i.e. there is no set of points X such that J-[X] is contained in X), then the Big Bang has a “before”, but nothing in that “before” can affect anything other than the Big Bang itself; everything happening afterwards is the result of the operation of normal physical laws, so again this is (at most) the deist position rather than the theist one.

  118. Knockgoats permalink
    January 18, 2010 9:56 am

    Having read through this thread, it confirms absolutely my conviction that thomas-the-bigot understands absolutely fuck-all about science.

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