Wednesday, April 23, 2014

VENTING MY FRUSTRATIONS

I have not been posting to my religion blog in recent weeks because, frankly, I have been disappointed in my inability to make any headway in convincing others of the virtues of reliance on the scientific method, objective evidence, and rational analysis in arriving at beliefs.  

Actually I had a number of goals when I started my blog.  One was simply to create an outlet for me to express myself philosophically.  Another was to refine and to sharpen my point of view, based on the simple act of writing my thoughts and on the responses that others, both religious and nonreligious, might make to what I write.  And I feel I have made progress on both of those goals.  It is the third goal--of persuasion--where I have come up short.  I’m not sure why I would think that anyone would be “converted” by my essays, but that was my (I now realize, naive) hope.
  

I had initially thought my failure was due to my lack of skill in persuasive writing, and that may have been a contributing factor.  However, now I am convinced that the bulk of the problem lies with the fact that, generally speaking, religious belief is simply not amenable to change through rational discourse.  An old friend of mine once told me that a belief that has not been arrived at through logic cannot be changed by logic.  He was talking about politics, but I believe the statement holds true also--and perhaps even more so--for religious belief.  It is logic-tight.

For most people of faith, religious belief trumps objective evidence and rational analysis every time.  A statement based on faith can be illogical, self-contradictory, clearly rebutted by scientific fact.  It can be shown to be comically absurd, even frightening in its implications.  Doesn’t matter.  In his debate with Bill Nye on the question of science vs. creationism, Ken Ham was asked what evidence would change his belief in creationism.  His response was, “I’m a Christian.”  In other words, nothing.  And for once, he was right.  The faithful are simply not interested in changing their minds.

Yet here I am again getting up on my soapbox.  And the reason is a recent poll conducted jointly by AP and GfK.  The poll asked a cross-section of Americans to indicate their confidence in each of a number of statements expressing well established scientific principles, such as “Inside our cells, there is a complex genetic code that helps determine who we are” and “Childhood vaccines are safe and effective.”  This poll differed from some others in that the respondents were not asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the statements; rather, they were asked to state their level of confidence in whether each statement was correct.

What caught my attention were the responses to the following statement: “The universe began 13.8 billion years ago with a big bang.”  On whether the statement was correct, 51 percent responded “Not too confident” or “Not at all confident”--essentially, that they did not believe the statement was correct.  Only 21 percent were “extremely” or “very” confident that the statement was correct.

It could be argued that most respondents were doubtful of the big bang because it was simply too far removed from their daily lives.  And maybe there’s some truth in that.  But I think a more important reason is that the idea that the universe began 13.8 billion years ago is incompatible with creationism.  In a Gallop poll conducted a few years ago, 66 percent of the respondents believed that “Creationism, that is, the idea that God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years” was “Definitely true” or “Probably true.”  

In other words, lack of acceptance of the big bang theory is largely based, not on questions about the adequacy of the scientific evidence, but simply because the theory contradicts creationism.  

In all truth, my guess is that most of those doubting the reality of the big bang have little if any understanding of the astronomical evidence that supports it, evidence that is consistent, corroborative, and overwhelming.  And most of those don’t really care.  They would rather remain ignorant of that evidence to the extent that it might contradict their religious beliefs.  Or, perhaps worse, they would only review such evidence for the purpose of trying to dispute it.  

As I said, for the devout, faith trumps fact every time.  The comforts of faith are more important than the reality of the truth.  And therein lies my frustration.

© 2014 John M. Phillips



46 comments:

  1. You are as frustrated trying to convince others of no creation as I am in my belief in God. He is my everything and it feels great to walk with Him on a daily basis. I guess FAITH trumps facts. It would be impossible for me not to trust in my Lord.

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  2. Wanda, Yes, for the faithful, faith does trump facts. But truth is based on the application of rational thought to the facts, not on faith. I have cast my lot with the truth. You might find that uncomfortable, and maybe I did too at first, but not any longer. And, of course, I didn't really have a "choice" in the matter. :-)

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  3. John, I am afraid to say that my Faith leaves me no "choice" in the matter either. We neither one can change our beliefs. The Bible says that we walk by Faith and not by sight. I sure do see your point of vies and you write very well. You are very logical and for this I sure admire you.

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  4. So are you saying that you have no free will to choose a different point of view?

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  5. We will always have free choice in each thing we decide. I am quoting you by saying that I had no choice in the matter. I do but simply choose Christ

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  6. Hello John,
    Your post about why God had to send Jesus Christ was brought to my attention through a common friend. As a way of introduction, I'd like to say that I have come to believe in Jesus Christ after being an atheist for many years. I love your questions, and I believe all Christians should be asking them!

    You said: "why did God set up a "plan" that required Christ, as another member of the Godhead, to come to earth, be crucified, and then resurrected in order to grant possible salvation to those who accept Christ’s divinity? In short, what is the necessity for this scenario."

    I believe there is an answer to this question and here it is: the whole world sees God as a God of violence. But through my studies I have come to believe that there is absolutely no violence in God. The only way for God to show us that there is no violence in Him is to come down here. Was it a plan that Jesus should be killed? Perhaps. But more likely, it was an inevitability, that a completely non violent being would come to a violent world and become a target of its violence.

    Was it a plan that Jesus would resurrect? Perhaps. But more likely, it was inevitable that a being completely devoid of violence would be immortal. Jesus came to reveal that God has only good intentions toward us and absolutely no violence in Him. Does the Bible contradict what I am saying? Yes and no. On the surface, yes, but under deep scrutiny juxtaposed against Jesus' revelation of who God is, the only revelation of the true character of God, no.

    God knows that violence is extremely destructive. He knew that without sending Jesus we would be entrapped in violence and would eventually annihilate each other. Jesus reveals that there is hope for the human race, and teaches us to be nonviolent: love our enemies, and do good to those that are evil to us. Not repay evil with evil, but overcome evil with good.

    There is of course another side to the whole story: the true violent ruler on the earth, who likes to be incognito, is God's arch rival and enemy. His power is the power of deception, and his deception can be fatal. That is why Jesus said that the truth would set us free. God's enemy does all sort of destructive actions and then blames it on God. Again, only through years of deep biblical studies did I begin to see the true picture of what has been going on in the great controversy.

    I don't know if this satisfies your mind at all, but all the same, I wish you all the best and hope you will find your answers.
    Sincerely,
    Denice Grant

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    1. Denise,

      First, thank you for your comment on my blog. The particular essay you posted to does not address the question regarding the rationale behind the salvation story, as I'm sure you realize. I had posed that question on my Facebook page, and since you are not a FB "friend," it would have posed difficulties for you to have tried to respond in that medium. I have been using the FB page lately because it seems better for establishing dialogue "threads," since the participants are notified when additional comments have been posted. If you think it worthwhile, you are welcome to comment on my FB page directly by becoming a "friend." (I am surely a tyro when it comes to FB and social media generally, so if there is another, better way, I am open to ideas.)

      As to the substance of your comment, if I understand you correctly, you are saying that Christ's incarnation, death, and resurrection were required in order to demonstrate to us that God is nonviolent. I am having difficulty with your basic premise that God is nonviolent. There is so much violence in the Old Testament that it seems impossible to maintain such a premise. The Flood, Sodom & Gomorrah, and the 10 plagues of Egypt come readily to mind, where God is seen to kill many people, including those that can reasonably seen as "innocent," young children, for example. I am no biblical scholar, but I know there are many other similar instances in the OT.

      Putting the violence issue aside for the moment, my question related to what appears to be the requirement that the incarnation, death, and resurrection occur in order for us to be eligible for salvation. John 3:16 seems to sum up this point, as I am sure you are familiar: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." And this theme seems to permeate the NT. Your explanation provides a rationale for Christ's life--to prove God's nonviolent nature--but it doesn't seem to address why it was needed to enable us to qualify for salvation.

      I would look forward to further dialogue on this, in whatever medium you are comfortable. Thanks again for your thoughts.

      John

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  7. John, I have just a moment and then I have to crash. But I would submit that it is not just "religious" positions that are hard to change by reasonable discourse. It's more a human nature thing. There's a good book on this, "The Righteous Mind: Why good people differ on politics and religion." (Something like that.) The author's point is that we make our choices for much more gut level, intuitive reasons and that the "reason" is like the rider on the elephant who thinks he's in control but is mostly just along for the ride and to act as the "public relations" guy for what the elephant has already decided he wants to do.

    That being said, I highly prize my reason and my scientific and philosophic tools, and have come, through investigation, reason, and also intuition to the conclusion that there is "something" outside of that natural universe we see. Creationists have made a hash of their position, but the fact that there is anything rather than nothing, that life exists, and that we have minds that can perceive it and ponder the problem is nothing short of mathematically astounding.

    So my question for you would be, "Are YOU willing to at least investigate the possibility that a reasonable person might reasonably come to a different conclusion?" If so, I'd be interested in dialogue.

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    1. Mark,

      Thank you for commenting on my blog. I am always curious to learn how others come across my blogs (I have a photography blog also: SKEPTICPHOTO.blogspot.com), and I would be interested in learning how you did also. I "snooped" a little on your contact with Blogger, and there seems to be an SDA connection, though I could certainly be wrong on that score, so you could correct me on that also if you wish. In part, I am simply curious whether we have any connections other than an interest in religious and science.

      Thanks also for referencing "The Righteous Mind." I was able to locate it on Amazon and am interested in getting it. This is a subject that has concerned me for some time, as may be clear from my essay that you are responding to.

      Now to the substance of your comment: Actually, based on what you have written, I'm not sure we are that far apart philosophically. I too have spent a good deal of time wondering why there is anything rather than nothing. Not long ago I read the book, "Why Does the World Exist," by Jim Holt, which addresses this question head on. You might know it. I have to say that, perhaps because I'm just too dense or because even a metaphysician can't dredge up convincing answers to all of the questions, I came away pretty dissatisfied. So the question remains a difficult one for me. Of course, religion offers a pat answer to the question, but that really just shifts the question one step back to why there is a God. In short, for me religion doesn't really address the question, at least not effectively.

      By the way, I loved your analogy between rationalizing our positions on religion and politics and riding the elephant. You might want to check out an earlier essay I wrote on this blog that addresses the idea that none of our positions are really a matter of "choice." See: http://skepticreflections.blogspot.com/2013/08/a-matter-of-choice.html. Maybe I am stretching this a bit, but without free will all of our beliefs are really a matter of riding the elephant.

      I'm not sure how you will learn that I have responded to your comment other than by checking back on this site, but I hope that you do and that you will continue the dialogue.

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    2. Theoretical physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss and his colleagues are addressing the question of how something can come from nothing. My own scientific training has been in biology and psychology with only a single college level course in physics. I will need to bone up on that subject if I'm to understand Krauss's work, but it looks fascinating. He has made both himself and his research accessible on line and in Youtube videos for those interested in this enormously important, indeed, pivotal question. I would think intellectually-curious people from both the Intelligent Design and Creationist communities would join those of us who have accepted the scientific data on evolution in trying to understand Krauss' work. The less thoughtful and fair-minded advocates of God (or his avatar, an "Intelligent Designer") continue to reject their clear obligation to explain where God came from while insisting that the objective scientists working on the origin of life in the universe explain how matter could have come from nothing in the Big Bang. As I understand Dr. Krauss' work to this point, he has found evidence that, not only is it theoretically possible for something to come from nothing, it is bound to happen, given the limitless space and time available, together with quantum jumps in what astrophysicists are learning about the nature of "nothing." Anyone interested in catching up with what scientists are learning about matter and energy, and their new understandings about what has heretofore been considered empty space need only Google "Lawrence Krauss," find his Youtube videos on "Something from Nothing," and be ready to hit the "pause" button as many times as necessary to keep up with his points. Krauss has a talent for speaking clearly and putting complex ideas and chunks of evidence simply. Krauss' main flaw as a lecturer is his tendency to go off on tangents when something he says cues a related thought. If his lectures were a game, it would be chess, and his favorite piece would be the knight. But, with the help of the pause button and some savvy jumping back and forth on the timeline bar at the bottom of the video, it's possible to learn a LOT in a short time if we also bring a skeptical and inquiring mind to the task.

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  8. John, I really like your questions. I am coming from a different direction having grown up in a very conservative Christian environment where questions were not really welcome. Since my teenage years I have finally felt more and more free to ask tough questions, some of the very same ones you are posing. I decided to not abandon my relationship with a church while at the same time challenging everything I was told. I now realize that real truth is never afraid of being tested, challenged, analyzed or anything else, for if it is actually true it will only come out even stronger as a result. On the other hand, if what I have long assumed is not really true then it would be well for me to know it sooner than later as far as I am concerned.
    At the same time, I have also observed for many years how illogical the faith of many scientists and atheists are - just as frustrating as the so-called faith of many illogical Christians. I see a great deal of intentional obfuscation of facts that contradict the widely embraced doctrines of popular science. That to me is not consistent with their claims to believe truth. To simply suppress anything that discredits what they desperately want to believe seems terribly disingenuous to me. So the problem is not so much between the integrity of atheists vs. Christians but is a problem across the board and seemingly equally shared.
    Having said that, it seems to me that you have an honest heart. You do seem a bit predisposed to wanting to arrive at your own preconclusions, but most people feel that way myself included. But I also sense that you may be open to dialog with people who see things differently than you do if they will just not keep avoiding the questions or make excuses as the ones you have mentioned. I feel just as frustrated as you at the terribly feeble, simplistic and downright illogical arguments that most people try to use to support popular religion.
    If I had not found far more coherent explanations for why I believe in God and even creation by now, I don't know what I might believe. I might have ended up being an atheist myself given the inability for me to embrace the usual explanations of the gospel that you have heard. But as I said, I decided to ask the same tough questions without disconnecting from a church even though I don't buy into the shallow ways of many of the people there. As a result I now feel far more secure in what I believe. Of course I also find myself believing things that are far out of the mainstream of popular religion but seem even more consistent with what I now see even more clearly in the Bible.
    As Mark also said, I would be interested in dialog if you so desire. I am attracted to people who are asking the deep questions if I sense they are just a willing to listen to plausible explanations that they have not thought about before. I hope that I have that same attitude myself.

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    1. Clay,

      Thank you for your comment on my Skeptic Reflections blog. You have indicated that you are "coming from a different direction having grown up in a very conservative Christian environment," but as you may not know, I also grew up in such an environment. However, we all have unique journeys through life, as I am sure you would agree, so I may have taken a different fork in the road at some point. I am happy to "dialogue" with you. We can see how far things go.

      And I will be the first to admit that I have come to believe certain things and that it is difficult for those beliefs to change. Partly it is probably a function of my age. Essentially I abandoned religious belief over 50 years ago and have not moved back since. But I am willing to listen and, in fact, one of the primary reasons I started this blog was to hear what others have to say. Just the act of putting my thoughts down in writing has led me to refine some of my views. I would guess you may have had a similar experience.

      As to the substance of your comment, I am not sure what you are referring to in your statement that some scientists and atheists "intentionally obfuscate the facts that contradict the widely embraced doctrines of popular science." (I hope I am not misunderstanding your comment.) Could you explain further or provide some examples? As to atheists, I suppose they are no different from anyone else in their desire to support and substantiate their existing point of view. I feel somewhat differently about scientists. In my way of thinking science is more a methodology than a body of knowledge (or beliefs). That is to say, true scientists don't have any specific point of view that they are attempting to preserve. They are willing to go wherever the findings might take them, so long as the findings are arrived at through use of the scientific method--observation, rational analysis, setting up of hypotheses, and testing those hypotheses. Of course, scientists are human too, so a scientist who has promoted a point of view surely has some "investment" in that perspective and is naturally reluctant to accept something that might disprove it. But it is a fact of life in the scientific community that progress often entails the revision or overturning of ideas in the light of new findings. Witness relativity theory and quantum physics, not to mention the heliocentric solar system and evolution.

      Perhaps to summarize, there is a fundamental difference between science and religion. Conclusions in science are based on the results of experiments carried out in accordance with the scientific method. Conclusions in religion are based, in part at least, on reliance on authority--whether it be scripture or the statements of leaders of a particular faith. And science has proven to be hugely successful in explaining the world. Religion, not so much.

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  9. John,

    Yes, I realized I needed to check back to see if you'd responded. I'm again in haste at the end of a long day but let's see if I can't respond to some of your questions.

    I found your blog through a mutual friend who thought I might be interested in it.

    Yes, my background is SDA and I'm still active in that fellowship - though more as a "fellowship" than as a "rule of life". I've made my own way. It includes some of the things from my background that I found to be helpful. But I've either discarded or (more frequently) "re-synthesized" parts that simply didn't make any sense to me.

    Having come to the conclusion that there was something "Other" outside of nature I eventually came back to the fact that it seemed that it was intelligent (as the source of our intelligence) and personal (since one of the things I re-synthesized was the notion that the Kingdom Other was based on love), and that if that were so then would It not have tried to communicate with its intelligent children? Considering if there was evidence that this was the case I found that there was, in all cultures and at all times.

    But here I start to diverge from "religion" in that it mostly seems to be about hierarchical power structures, institutions and their survival, and a way to keep people in line and under control. In particular, I utterly reject the pictures of God that are usually used to back up such manipulation. And in conversations with the handful of people such as yourself (I think) who are willing to really dialogue about their position and how they got there, I find that most have rejected the notion of God for all the RIGHT reasons. If God is as he is made out to be by the vast majority of religions, it would be better for him NOT to exist.

    We should probably talk about the "theodicy" problem - why evil if there is an all powerful God? Someone called it "The only question worth asking" and I agree. I've found what is, for me, a compelling answer. But that's for another time.

    Not unrelated, you mentioned "freedom". Without freedom to choose it is exactly as you state it - we're just on the elephant along for the ride. In fact, it's worse than that. Not only are we just along for the ride, if we are not free in any sense then we can't even discuss the issue, reason about things, or claim any semblance to logic or establishing true or false? Why? Because without freedom the outcome of such discussion, reasoning, what-have-you, is itself predetermined. It may have something to do with reality / truth. It may not. We just can't tell, even in theory.

    But whence would come freedom in the ironclad laws of physics, chemistry, biology? It doesn't exist. We are simply machines. And freedom for a machine is a contradiction in terms. (Or so it seems to me.) So where would we get freedom? To me it must come from something which is itself "Other" than the laws of nature. And "God" is as good a name for such a thing as any. So my thinking about the ability to think, to reason for there to be meaning (another big piece for me) all leads me back to the conclusion that it is not only reasonable to assume the existence of something "Other", it is almost required for me to think and discuss and process evidence.

    Note that this is NOT a "proof". I understand that it is possible that I am not free, that there is no meaning, that this discussion (and all discussions) is meaningless. But I submit that it is not an unreasonable CHOICE for me to make that I will start with an assumption that allows for the existence of further discussion and meaning, that to start with an assumption that is essentially self-negating a "proof that there are no such things as proofs."

    Well, anyway, that turned out to be a lot longer than I intended.

    I am anxious to hear your response.

    Mark

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  10. Oh, I meant to add one more thing on the issue of the existence of freedom. Quantum indeterminacy doesn't really help. It just means that the "machine" is statistically controlled, that we don't know the exact outcome. We wouldn't suggest that a pair of (really good, i.e. actually random) dice were somehow free, would we? So my definition of "freedom" is quite stringent. If the outcome of a choice can be traced through mechanical cause and effect - even "random" cause and effect, then it is still mechanistic and therefore not freedom in the sense that would allow for the determination of truth of falsehood. The assumption that we are simply a product of random events seems to imply in an irrevocable way that we are indeed NOT free.

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    1. Mark,

      Let me try to address two general points that you made in your prior comment(s). First, you state that you have concluded that there is "something 'Other' outside of nature" that is intelligent and personal. However, I'm not sure I understand the basis for your conclusion other than that this understanding is found "in all cultures and at all times." I hope I am not misinterpreting what you were saying. I am just trying to get a handle on how you have come to believe in a personal intelligence beyond our own. And by "personal" I am assuming you mean an intelligence that gets involved in or at least takes an interest in our lives. Again, please correct me if I am misunderstanding what you are saying.

      Assuming for the moment that this is roughly what you meant, I do not share your belief regarding whether all cultures have espoused such a belief. Whether one deems such schools of thought as a "culture," there have certainly been philosophies that have rejected the idea that God or the gods, if you will, have an interest in and get involved with human lives. Beginning at least as far back as Epicurus and Lucretius there have been those who believe that we are essentially on our own and that our lives are governed exclusively by natural laws. And that viewpoint is held by many now, including the entire secular community. Moreover, whether or not cultures have generally believed in a higher intelligence is not persuasive for me on the question of whether such intelligence actually exists. (Here I am not referring to whether other intelligence exists in the universe--I have little doubt of that. Rather I am referring to the notion that a higher intelligence is responsible for our existence or takes an active interest in our lives.) Cultures have over the years held many beliefs that have proved on further examination to be wrong.

      Second, on the question of freedom. Again if I understand you correctly, you agree that the laws of physics don't leave room for freedom. (And I agree with you that quantum uncertainty does not solve the freedom problem. Freedom, as I understand it, really means having a choice and quantum uncertainty isn't choice. Rather, it is virtually the opposite of choice.) And without freedom there would be no meaning. Because you feel there is meaning therefore there must be freedom. Unfortunately, from my perspective wanting there to be meaning doesn't make it so. On an intellectual level I don't see any meaning in our existence. In short, I see no room for free will. It would in fact require some sort of modification to the laws of nature for that part of the universe inside our brains. I believe that our brains are made of the same stuff as the rest of the universe, which is fully governed by those laws. Ergo, no free will, no meaning. I realize that makes this discussion "meaningless" as well. But, hey, it's fun so here I am.

      As to communicating on this stuff, if you are on Facebook, you are welcome to become a "friend." You would then be notified of any added comments to an ongoing discussion. That would make it easier for others to participate as well. Your choice.

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  11. John,

    Yeah, that is “roughly” what I meant. :) For purposes of our discussion I think what I'm trying to establish that my starting point is with something “Other” but to establish that I see a pretty direct path from that to including an “intelligence” which does indeed have some “aspect” that is connected to each part of all that is, including us as individuals. If I'm going to postulate something Other that transcends physical reality then by definition it is utterly beyond us and no amount of our searching is going to uncover anything about such an entity... unless it decides that it wants that. A lot of people get caught in the “Otherness” or “Transcendence” of God without taking into account the volition from the other side to reach back into our reality. So if this Otherness decides it wants to connect with our universe, my assumption is that it could do pretty much whatever it wanted in that respect – including connecting with each of us, every blade of grass, each atom, each sub-atomic particle if it so desires. But such a desire would, it seems to me, leave some sort of footprints if you will. So I look around me to see if I see such footprints. And guess what? I do. Virtually every culture has at least a mythology of the Other interacting with humanity if not writings that purport to chronicle such things. And while I certainly want to use my critical thinking in asking what such things mean, I am not willing to totally dismiss the possibility that the bible, to pick a random example :) , as having nothing to do with such an attempt at communication from the Beyond.

    As to it being in all cultures, that was intended as a generality, not a universal. Sure there have always been people, even schools of thought, which don't follow that line of development. But if we're just looking for evidence that such communication might have taken place, I think we can agree that interaction with “the gods” is a notion widely shared by humanity through history.

    We seem to agree on the notion of freedom being necessary for choice and meaning. That's sometimes a hard one to explain if one hasn't really worked through the issues for themselves. I know that training in biology while learning computers and studying religion and philosophy gave me a quite a shock when I realized that the difference between our brains and the way the computer worked was a difference in magnitude rather than a difference in type. If you had a big enough computer and enough knowledge you could theoretically model the human mind. This stunned me as I thought about the philosophical and religious implications.

    You wrote: “Unfortunately, from my perspective wanting there to be meaning doesn't make it so. On an intellectual level I don't see any meaning in our existence.”

    Nor would I suggest that wanting meaning ensures that it exists. That is why I gave my caveat about it not being a “proof” but rather a choice to make the assumption that allows for freedom and meaning. And that choice is what I really am interested in discussing with you. Because I have never quite understood how one makes the opposite choice which seems to me to undermine the very idea that choices are even possible.

    How do you get past the apparent disconnection between the inability to make a truly free choice and the validity of investigation and reason? The same thing that excludes meaning without freedom seems also to exclude the possibility of discussion, reason, investigation, examination of evidence. No? How can one put all that together and still maintain one's intellectual honesty?

    I suppose one could say “Well, I don't know if my reason has anything to do with reality but I'm going to act like it does.” Fair enough. But that is simply a shot in the dark and I'm curious why would would go there rather than making the equally shot in the dark assumption that there could be freedom and meaning?

    I'm not trying to attack you. I genuinely want to understand how one processes that.

    Mark

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    1. Mark,

      So it seems we have narrowed things down to two issues: (a) What is the basis for belief in an "Other" aka a personal God? And (b) how can I defend my belief that we have no "choice" or free will? Again, I hope I haven't oversimplified things.

      First, as to the "Other." I guess I am just not persuaded by the fact that because historically most cultures have had a belief in a personal god therefore that is evidence for God's existence. My feeling is that humans have turned to belief in a god as an explanation for things they didn't understand. As we have come to understand more and more (through observation and science) we have attributed less and less to a higher power. I see that trend continuing. I just feel that the concept of God doesn't serve to further my understanding of the world. It's not a necessary element in an understanding of the world.

      And maybe I should clarify something. I am not opposed to the idea of a higher intelligence. Or even that we were in some sense the creation of some higher intelligence. However, I see no evidence of any interaction between such intelligence and us. That is, I take the "personal" component out of the equation because we have seen absolutely no reliable evidence of anything other than the operation of the laws of nature. Whenever something unexpected has occurred, we have been able to reconcile it with the laws of nature. Or, if not, we have been able to refine our understanding of those laws to keep that consistency of application. I realize that you may feel differently about this, that you believe there may have been instances where the Other has intervened (by definition, an intervention is a contravention of the laws of nature, a miracle, if you will). I have put my bet on science rather than the Other. And that strategy has been extremely successful. Assuming everything is the natural consequence of physical laws has been enormously successful in furthering, not just our ability to explain things, but in generating essentially all of the technological advances that we see every day.

      As to free choice. If one accepts that there is no free choice, that does not mean that nothing can happen or that we can't process information or that knowledge doesn't progress. I guess it means that if I assert that I don't have free will, then I was driven to make that assertion. And on it goes. I guess I would fall back on my position that our brains are simply a part of the universe and the chemicals that make up our brains are governed by the same rules of chemistry and physics as everything else in the universe. We certainly don't attribute free will to other aspects of the physical universe. Or I could ask if you believe amoebas have free will. My guess is that you would say not. I could then go up the scale, if you will, to sponges, worms, insects, fish, cats, dogs, etc. I think there might be a point where you would assert that, yes, that animal does have free will orate least some free will. My experience in asking this question has been that the notion of free will is linked to consciousness. If one believes an animal has consciousness, then one is likely to believe that the animal also has free will. I personally don't think consciousness makes any difference in what happens but it does create a powerful illusion of free will.

      And don't worry about my feeling that you are trying to attack me. I certainly don't feel that.

      John

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  12. No, wide belief in "God" is not evidence for his existence, just trying to give you the context for my thinking.

    It seems there are TWO possible starting assumptions (yeah, binary thinking, but “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. :) )

    Assumption One: The natural laws of the universe are ALL there is. There is no Other.
    Implication: Everything we say, think, or feel, every argument we make, conclusion we draw... are determined at the moment of the Big Bang. We're all Schrodinger's Cat, waiting to see if we died. I think we agree that under this assumption there is no freedom or "meaning".

    Since all is predetermined, all discussion is moot. As is everything else. There is no basis for rationality, morality, beauty, intelligence, feeling, intuition... NOTHING! I find this a self-negating, nihilistic starting point. I just can't rule it out, but if true, there's no point in talking about it... Or anything else. (On the other hand, I suppose that we can't help ourselves! :D )

    Two: The natural laws apply to us BUT... there is also an Other that “transcends” the natural laws.
    Implication: There exists the possibility that real choices can be made which transcend the laws of nature, that freedom exists. There is the possibly that reason, logic, intelligence, feeling, intuition, morality, beauty, meaning are “real”. Discussion can continue with some hope that it makes a difference.

    Given the two assumptions, one an apparent dead end, the other allowing for freedom, meaning, and continued discussion and investigation, why would I choose the former? Why chose to invalidate life, science, investigation, love, meaning and beauty?

    You wrote: "I guess it means that if I assert that I don't have free will, then I was driven to make that assertion. And on it goes. I guess I would fall back on my position that our brains are simply a part of the universe and the chemicals that make up our brains are governed by the same rules of chemistry and physics as everything else in the universe."

    What difference does it make that our brains are part of the universe and [totally] run by its laws? We can't ascribe any sort of "purpose" to the universe. That's putting the concept of "God" in different words. So we're intelligent and reasonable beings totally by accident. AND it is not verifiable.

    The conversations I've had previously on this subject have come down to a couple (well, three) outcomes.

    1. Yes, I think there is something Other, but I totally reject the kind of God that religion manufactured.
    [With this I agree whole heatedly and we can talk about why I take this to eventually re-synthesize something like a kinder, gentler "God" that still makes sense and doesn't require that I check my brain at the door.]

    2. Well, I can't prove that things my reasoning has any validity but I don't have to. The system is internally consistent and I really don't care that there really is no larger meaning.
    Or the less explicit statement might be more like - "I don't really care to think about the problem. Don't bother me."
    [I would at one point have said I was agnostic. But it seemed intellectual cowardice to not make a choice. At that point I started my "I think, therefore I am" synthesis. The lack of "certainty" might technically make me "agnostic". ]

    3. There is no freedom and no meaning. I accept that and live my life knowing that in the end, it just doesn't matter and I can make no difference.
    [I find this the most honest approach if one makes the non-Other starting assumption. I just see no reason to go there. ]


    I argue that it is equally reasonable to make either choice. But the fact that one allows for freedom, meaning, and further discussion, why would I NOT make that choice? And starting with the assumption of freedom and meaning, I find that I CAN construct an internally consistent, reasonable, beautiful context for our existence - and problem of evil.

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  13. Mark,

    I have a fair amount going on today, but I wanted to get back to you with some further thoughts.

    First, I am now unclear on what your basis is for believing in an "Other," which is what I assume is your code word for God. I thought it was based on the fact that belief in a higher intelligence has been a common theme across time and cultures. But now you seem to be saying no to that. So what IS the basis? Or are you simply saying that you are starting with the idea of an Other as a given, sort of like a postulate in geometry--accepted without proof?

    You speak of two alternatives: (1) There are only natural laws and no Other. Determinism reigns and there is no meaning to life. Everything is moot. (2) There is an Other beyond the natural laws, which opens up the possibility that there is true choice and meaning in our lives. But really there are other possibilities, such as that, while there may be an Other, we are limited to the natural laws. That is, something may have set things in motion but then went off and left it, without further interaction. In other words, a nonpersonal Other. Or the Other may interact but chooses when to do so and we on the other hand are limited to the natural laws. In either case, we are stuck with the natural laws in terms of our personal actions.

    Then you go on to say that you "choose" a personal Other scenario. But from my perspective it is not your choice to make, not just because you don't have a real choice but because whatever is is, not because you choose it but because that is the nature of reality. Your "choice" may make a difference in how you view the world but it doesn't make any difference in how the world actually is. I see my goal as understanding that reality as best I can, whatever it may be like. I find your idea of choosing reality to be conceptually troubling, to be honest.

    Let me also try to address the notion that without true choice (aka free will) life is meaningless and there is no "reason, logic, intelligence, feeling, intuition, morality, beauty, meaning." Yes, there is no ultimate meaning. However, there are still all the other things that you seem to dismiss. I believe that free will is an illusion, but I don't live my days constantly thinking that since I have no choice life is ultimately meaningless and there are none of the things you list.

    Perhaps the following analogy will help. When I go to a movie, I know intellectually that the movie has already been shot, that the ultimate ending has already been determined and we are simply watching that play out. Even so, if the movie is a good one, I can get caught up in the characters and the plot and am simply enjoying the story unfold. I don't think to myself, this is a waste of time since the end has already been determined. For me my life can be like watching a great movie, except it's a lot better because I am a participant in the action. Moreover, I believe that quantum indeterminacy actually adds to the drama and suspense by making the outcome fundamentally uncertain. True, as a participant I am just following a script, but the script, in some sense, is still in the process of being written. Right now I am really enjoying the "show."

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  14. I too have a lot to do today so this response really WILL be short. What I'm trying to say is that EVERYTHING is based on what starting assumptions one is willing to accept. As I think about this question I have to CHOOSE (there is no way to know about an assumption other than whether it leads to useful results) whether I start with "Natural law is all there is" or "Natural law is only part of the picture."

    What I'm suggesting is that starting with "Natural law only" leads me to a dead end - no freedom, no meaning, no reason, no real science. This may be the case. I can't prove otherwise. But... if I choose to believe that there is something Other than natural law (and no, this is not an IMMEDIATE codeword for "God" - though in honesty I eventually get there) then it is possible to suppose that freedom, and rationality might exist and we can do real science. Again, I can't prove this but it leads to useful hypothesis. The other option doesn't seem to. And mathematically speaking, that is pretty close to a "proof" that the assumption which lead to contradictions was wrong. It is certainly a reasonable incentive to base my thinking on the "Something Other is at play in the universe" assumption.

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    1. I think this is getting too far out for me.

      The fact that a world view (nothing beyond natural laws) carries a consequence that you are uncomfortable with (no free will) does not of itself "lead to contradictions" and certainly doesn't constitute any sort of "proof." And the fact that one view seems more attractive than another doesn't mean that one can simply "choose" it. Unless, that is, you want to delve into solipsism. I'm not willing to go there. If one alternative is better supported by observation and rational analysis, then I believe one is compelled to favor it, despite the fact that it may carry some attributes that one finds distasteful.

      I would be interested in finding out how you would address some of the other queries I made to your prior comments. Otherwise, I am not sure there is much more to say about these topics.

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    2. Hmmm, I don't know how to be more clear. I'm not saying that it is a "Proof". Without establishing foundational assumptions there is no such thing as a "proof". What we're examining here are the two possible foundational premises and where they lead. One seems to allow for the possibility of "proofs". The other says that everything is or might be illusionary. That makes choosing my starting premise easy, and not unreasonable. The rest follows.

      Mark

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    3. OK, so let me make sure I understand. Your argument is that the "two possible foundational premises" are (1) one that assumes an "Other" and allows for freedom of choice (2) one that contemplates that all that exists is the universe governed by natural laws, which would exclude any freedom of choice. Correct? The first allows "for the possibility of 'proofs'." I guess the implication is that the second does not allow "for the possibility of 'proofs'," but I'm not sure why that is the case. The universe and its laws appear to be observable and "provable" in the ordinary sense of that term. That is, to the extent anything is "provable," it would be appear to be provable in a world fully determined by physical laws. In other words, simply positing the existence of an "Other" does not make that view of the world any more "provable" than not making that supposition. Also, I don't see why assuming a world that does not include freedom of choice would mean "that everything is or might be illusionary." Again, to put it differently, I don't see why simply positing an "Other" would make the world any less illusory.

      If I understand you correctly, you are saying that positing a world governed only by physical laws, with no "Other" or freedom of choice leads to "contradictions" and, perhaps by analogy with the mathematical principle of reductio ad absurdum, it must therefore be wrong. Ergo your other choice must be correct. But I don't see any necessary contradictions in the no-choice option, just something that you are uncomfortable with. You would need to show me wherein lie the contradictions.

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  15. John,

    You state my proposed foundational premises correctly and succinctly.

    As to why the second one (Natural law only) causes me problems it is because of the "epistemology" - the theory of knowing. Very briefly, lack of freedom calls into question the process by which we "know" something. What you say about observability and provability imply that we can make choices between options based on the weight of evidence. But a mechanistic universe calls all of that into question. Did I 'reason' to a valid proof? Or did the dice in my neurons just come up "True" or "False" by random chance? In a totally mechanistic universe (and forgive the caps but I need to emphasize) WE JUST CANNOT TELL WHY WE CAME TO A SPECIFIC CONCLUSION. It might have been by observation and reason. Or it might have been "a bit of undercooked potato" as Scrooge observed. :) WE JUST CAN'T TELL. For me the whole thing breaks down and we can't even say that our discussion of it does not also fall under the random, predetermined outcome. Thus my contention that for this conversation, or anything else, to have meaning we there must be some sort of freedom - which I think we both agree, does NOT exist in a mechanistic Natural-law-only universe.

    And if that is the case, making the CHOICE to operate under a Natural-law-plus-Other universe is not illogical but can be argued to be the most reasonable choice. (But it is still a choice because we cannot eliminate the possibility that we were programmed to choose that! )

    I wonder if we're not very close to falling into the fundamentalist trap of insisting on CERTAINTY. There is no such thing. There is the weight of evidence and probability. But we must ALWAYS leave room for new evidence that may change everything we know, or at least interpret it in a new light.

    (And to digress - as I LOVE to do - That's why I think that cosmology is teetering on the edge of a new paradigm. The "voodoo physics" of all this "dark matter" that just has to exist to make the equations come out sounds a lot like the old "epicycles" that the Ptolemaic astronomers used to make the equations of their earth-centered universe work out. I think there's a new Einstein out there working on recasting Newtonian physics into Relativity. :) )

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    1. Mark,

      Now I am probably getting in over my head. However, I just can't help myself. So here I go, again.

      As to the question of knowledge, I understand your point that we cannot know if any statement or observation we make is true or not true, beyond mathematical and logical "truths" such as 1 + 1 = 2 or simple syllogisms like "All humans are mortal. I am a human. Therefore I am mortal." The truth of other statements about the "real world" is ultimately unknowable. But this is the case whether one is operating under scenario 1 (only natural laws) or scenario 2 (natural laws plus an "Other"). I simply don't think that the existence of an "Other" makes any difference as to whether we can "know" something. Those two matters are independent.

      In the sense that our behavior is determined under scenario 1 (setting aside the issue of quantum inderterminancy for the sake of simplicity and because that doesn't establish free will), I agree that our conversation is without ultimate "meaning." That may be distasteful to you but it may just be the way things are. And the fact that that scenario may be uncomfortable for you doesn't give you the ability to "choose" the existence of an "Other." Whether scenario 1 or 2 applies is not your choice to make.

      I'm beginning to think that we have gone about as far as we can in this and that we are starting to repeat what we have said before. Sorry.

      John

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  16. You wrote: "... I agree that our conversation is without ultimate "meaning." That may be distasteful to you but it may just be the way things are."

    Of course if that's the case then there is no point in this or any other discussion, no basis for science, no reason to think 1+1=2 is in any way meaningful, no basis for any sort of morality, ethics, aesthetics... There is also no reason to accept that it is true. The position nullifies itself. There is no where else to go.

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    1. Mark,

      I thought perhaps I should just terminate this conversation since our differences are, it appears, irreconcilable. But then I decided that I at least should point out some of the differences and unresolved issues for the record.

      First, you had limited possible scenarios to two: (1) nothing beyond the natural world or (2) natural world plus an “Other.” I pointed out that there were additional possible scenarios besides those two and asked you why those should not be considered. No response. I bring this point up because by artificially reducing the apparent choices to two, you oversimplify the matter. It is, frankly, a common tactic, if you will, to attempt to steer the discussion by stating and controlling the question to be answered. But I believe there are more options that you would need to address.

      Second, you seemed to be saying that since scenario (1) was bleak, you “chose” scenario (2). I pointed out that the world is what it is and that you cannot “choose” what kind of world we live in. Do you really mean to say that you “choose” scenario (2) because it would provide meaning to your life? Or are you just saying that you “believe” in scenario (2) because it is more palatable and because, importantly, it encourages you to introduce an “Other” into the equation? My view, of course, is that one can believe either scenario (1) or (2) (or any of a number of other scenarios). I happen to believe scenario (1). Moreover, I believe scenario (1), not because I “choose” to do so—after all, I don’t believe we have “choice” in the first place. Rather, I believe in (1) because my experience has led me to that belief. I think you need to ask yourself whether your belief in an Other is simply a rationalization of your belief in God. [That’s not something to be ashamed of. After all, in my world, as you point out, since our actions (or beliefs) are not “free,” shame is illusory in an ultimate sense, though I would argue that it has meaning in a societal sense.] We are all, I believe, subject to rationalizing our beliefs, that is, starting with a conclusion and then proposing those components that allow us to justify that conclusion.

      Third, you say that if we have no freedom (i.e., if we live under scenario (1)) there is “no basis for science, no reason to think 1+1=2 is in any way meaningful, no basis for any sort of morality, ethics, aesthetics... .“ In my view that simply is not the case. We have made great strides in understanding the world through scientific reasoning and discovery. And that progress has been both impressive and continuous. We certainly have now a better understanding of the world than we have had in the past. We will never know the “truth,” but we are a lot closer than we were before. And that is not because of the intervention of an “Other” but rather through the application of critical thinking and scientific investigation. Yes, it is not because we have exercised free will in pursuing those endeavors, but it has happened nevertheless. And, yes, it may be that at the end of the day such progress does not have “meaning” in some ultimate sense, but progress it has been nevertheless. The same can be said for morality, for ethics, for aesthetics. We certainly, for instance, have a well developed morality. And, yes, again, we haven’t “chosen” such a morality. It has been determined, if you will, but have one we do.

      Unless you feel you can address these matters, I do believe we are at an end. It has been interesting.

      John

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    2. Yeah, we seem to have come to an impasse where we're repeating ourselves without further clarification. The sticking point seems to be over my assertion that without freedom we can't choose what we believe is true, it's just programmed into us. I've bounced that idea off a couple of friends and it seems that, while it is intuitively obvious to me, it is not something that is readily arrived at by others. I need to re-examine my thinking to see if there is some flaw in my logic or if I can find a more simple, direct way of putting it. Thanks for the exchange. It has, as always, helped me refine my thinking and communication.

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    3. Mark,
      Oddly, I agree with your last comment, "without freedom we can't choose what we believe is true, it's just programmed into us," although I would probably not use the word "programmed." I might instead say something like "our beliefs are the product of the same natural laws operating on our brains that determine all of our other beliefs and behavior." But that is not what I understood you to be saying in past comments. Rather, you were contending that if there were no freedom then life would be meaningless and that therefore you "chose" a world view that included freedom. That is a very different statement, and it's one that does not make sense to me.
      John

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    4. Yeah, for me the difference between how you put it and "programmed" is nil. And if it is literally "programmed" I can't see how meaning or truth are possible. This whole discussion with you reminds me of a similar conversation I've had with theo side folks on the iron restrictions that "absolute foreknowledge" put on freedom and meaning. There is a connection that seems so obvious to some that it is hard to articulate, while for others it is totally inexplicable. I think this applies to my connection of freedom to meaning and truth. It seems so obvious to me that I'm not quite sure how to explain it. To me it's like someone asking "WHY" 1+1=2. How does one answer such a question. Yet, I understand that it is not a matter of intelligence or training or articulation. A friend of mine claims (tongue firmly in cheek) that it is a "genetic" defect. :) Which, of course, brings us back to our "programming" issue! :) Anyway, again I thank you for the amicable conversation. I may check in from time-to-time if I have things I'd like an alternate perspective on.

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    5. Mark,

      I think I understand better your use of the term "programmed." I was quibbling over the connotation that the term implies some sort of outside agency or intelligence. To the extent you mean simply that beliefs are built into us via genetic and environmental history, I don't have a problem.

      I didn't mean to get hung up on that point, which I consider minor. The more important issue is the distinction between freedom and truth. I think where we have a fundamental disagreement is that I believe that truth exists independently of whether we have freedom of action. That is, there is a truth about the world whether or not we have freedom. And I of course do not believe we have freedom. You may only be arguing that if we do not have freedom then our beliefs about the world (that is, our beliefs about what is true) are dictated to us. I don't disagree with that. If you mean that without freedom we can never actually know the truth (or at least never know that we know the truth), then I don't disagree. If you are saying that without freedom then there is no truth, then I respectfully disagree.

      In any event, it has been fun and I do hope you will check back.

      John

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    6. I agree with you that "truth" == "reality" == "what is" has existence totally independent of the existence of freedom, our opinion about reality, or any observer whatsoever. In other words, I think we're agreeing on an "objective reality" - one that is not relative to our perception of it. So I'm not saying that "truth doesn't exist because we are not free." Rather what I'm saying is that our ability to DETERMINE what is true is called into serious question if the outcome is "programmed" (in your sense of predetermined by the laws of physics etc). And it is at that point that I claim that the initial assumption just self-negated.

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    7. Mark,
      I was with you until your last sentence. It simply contradicts what you said in the remainder of your comment. Again, the fact that we can never know the truth doesn't mean that there is no objective reality. And the history of science and technological advancement demonstrates that our version of reality is getting better and better. I may be slow, but your exposition also could use some improvement or at least clarification.
      John

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    8. I hesitate to keep restating the same thing but... maybe one more time! :) You agree that we can't "know" anything without freedom but then seem hesitant to apply that conclusion to the conclusion itself. And by extension any other conclusion. A "proof that there are no such things as proofs" - self-negating negating proof.

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    9. Mark,

      No. You stated, "You agree that we can't 'know' anything without freedom." That seems to imply that we could know the truth if we had freedom of choice. I disagree. I am saying the following: (a) There is a reality, a "truth" about how the world is. (b) We cannot know that truth, or at least cannot know if we know the truth. But this is the case WHETHER OR NOT we have free will. That is, having free will would not allow us to know the truth about the world. (c) In any event, we do not have freedom of choice.

      I hate to put it this way, but I was an English major in college and managed to get a law degree at Stanford. I don't think I am dense, but it is not clear what you mean by the statement that I "seem hesitant to apply that conclusion to the conclusion itself. And by extension any other conclusion." What "conclusion(s)" are you referring to? Nor is it clear to me what you mean by "A 'proof that there are no such things as proofs' - self-negating negating proof." There are "proofs" of course, if only in logic and mathematics.

      For me the point of exposition is clarity, not obscurity. I sense that you have an interesting perspective and I would like to understand it, but I am having difficulty with your exposition. I would rather be considering your points rather than trying to figure them out. Sorry, but it is frustrating.

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  17. Attached is a comment posted by Steve, a friend and former classmate. The comment, for some reason, disappeared off my blog site, so I am reposting it at his request. I would echo the suggestions that he makes.

    "Theoretical physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss and his colleagues are addressing the question of how something can come from nothing. My own scientific training has been in biology and psychology with only a single college level course in physics. I will need to bone up on that subject if I'm to understand Krauss's work, but it looks fascinating. He has made both himself and his research accessible on line and in Youtube videos for those interested in this enormously important, indeed, pivotal question. I would think intellectually-curious people from both the Intelligent Design and Creationist communities would join those of us who have accepted the scientific data on evolution in trying to understand Krauss' work. The less thoughtful and fair-minded advocates of God (or his avatar, an "Intelligent Designer") continue to reject their clear obligation to explain where God came from while insisting that the objective scientists working on the origin of life in the universe explain how matter could have come from nothing in the Big Bang. As I understand Dr. Krauss' work to this point, he has found evidence that, not only is it theoretically possible for something to come from nothing, it is bound to happen, given the limitless space and time available, together with quantum jumps in what astrophysicists are learning about the nature of "nothing." Anyone interested in catching up with what scientists are learning about matter and energy, and their new understandings about what has heretofore been considered empty space need only Google "Lawrence Krauss," find his Youtube videos on "Something from Nothing," and be ready to hit the "pause" button as many times as necessary to keep up with his points. Krauss has a talent for speaking clearly and putting complex ideas and chunks of evidence simply. Krauss' main flaw as a lecturer is his tendency to go off on tangents when something he says cues a related thought. If his lectures were a game, it would be chess, and his favorite piece would be the knight. But, with the help of the pause button and some savvy jumping back and forth on the timeline bar at the bottom of the video, it's possible to learn a LOT in a short time if we also bring a skeptical and inquiring mind to the task."

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  18. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (Jesus) that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16 I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father accept by Me. John 14:6

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    1. Quoting scripture as it if somehow responds to my concerns simply serves to confirm my frustrations. Irrelevant to what I wrote and illustrating the logic-tight qualities I was referencing in the essay.

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  19. Psalms 14:1 The fool says in his heart, "There is no God".

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  20. One man's opinion. There are other fools who say there is a God.

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  21. There are many things that cause someone to become a fool, but one way is to say there is no God.

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    1. I think one should be especially careful whom one labels as a fool. I have been called a lot of things in my life, and deservedly so as to many of them. But one thing I know is that I am not a fool. You can ask any of my family, friends, or colleagues or any of my classmates from high school or from any of my three alma maters.

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  22. I Corinthians 8:1-3 We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God. V 6--For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

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    1. Please do not quote scripture that has no evident relationship to the thread. Thank you in advance.

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    2. The thread was that all things came to be through God the Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ.

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    3. No. The thread originated with my essay to the effect that many Christians are logic-tight in their beliefs--impervious to consideration of alternative points of view. And using scripture as "proof" illustrates that point unfortunately. Moreover, this is MY blog, not yours. You are welcome to set up your own blog and run it any way you wish. Or you can post anything you like on your Facebook page and invite others to comment and conduct threads anyway you want. I have had a policy of trying to respond to what people write on my blog. But in your case, because you seem incapable of thinking outside the "box" of your own particular brand of Christian thought, I feel it would be a waste of time to continue any discussion. If you post anything further, I will simply delete it without comment.

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