Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Science, Reason and the Bible

There is a fairly fruitless debate going on in the comments section of an earlier post regarding science and logic.  Those educated in science are on one side and those educated in religion are on the other.  The classic, timeless debate.

But I don't think it has a place on this blog. We've gone round and round on this a couple times before and it just breaks down into personal arguments after a while.  I'll be the first to say that I'm guilty of having a low threshold when dealing with those that aren't well schooled in the sciences.

Therefore, I decree by virtue of me being the LORD of this blog, that all science/religion discussions should be confined to this post.  If the topic comes up in future posts, I will kindly remind the poster to move the debate here. if they don't, the comments will be erased.
I hope you will hold me to the same standard.

I'll start us off and then step back;
Why is science so great and religion so horrible?  Discuss! ;-)
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  1. I totally I posted a very similar statement in the post you speak of.

  2. @Tom,
    You gave me the idea! ;-)

  3. Science is based on evidence.

    Religion - isn't.

    So, that settles it, right?

    Peace and love.

  4. I'll take licence and reframe this as whether reason produces a better map of the world than religion does. Science is just a product of a reasonable, organized, persistent mind that has an interest in how the world works.

    Reason provides the framework and tools to perceive and evaluate the world, to adjust to it or shape it, and to grow. Religion doesn't.

    Religion - at least as portrayed in the Bible - is a snapshot of primitive man just taking his first steps out of the (figurative) cave. I can imagine, and have seen, different ways in which individuals benefit from, or use religion. I just don't see it as representing a map of the world that I can navigate by, and have found reason to allow finding much better guidance

  5. At this point my mind is somewhat boggled that this is still framed as an issue of "how well do you understand science?" If nothing else, I (as Team Religion, I guess?) have gone out of my way to show that knowledge of science and the scientific method is exactly why I resent the assertion that Peter summarizes. Both science and religion make use of evidence. Both science and religion make use of faith/belief/confidence/something that is unproven (or unprovable).

    Fine and dandy. But when we start thinking that knowledge is unattainable apart from science - in other words, that if science doesn't prove it, it's nonsense - then we undercut science itself. Science depends on induction and the laws of logic, neither of which can be proven by science. So are those two elements of science "faith"? By Team Science's definition, it sure looks like it to me.

    I'm glad there's a post dedicated to this discussion, but I'm sorry that it's framed in such an unhelpful way.

  6. Science rests on the bedrock of evidence, careful observation, and testable hypothesis. What makes it so great is that it works. Science is what brought us all the modern conveniences we have, from waste disposal systems to modern mass transit, from deep see submarines to lunar and martian rovers. Science has allowed us to see far into space, and deep into the past, and allows us reliable methods by which we can predict the future and improve our situation.

    Religion, despite Christian's declaration, does not rely on evidence. It rests on proclaimed authority promising eternal bliss backed up with threats of violence and eternal torture. Any attempt to study what evidence it claims to have is met with diversions, shifting of burdens of proof, lies, and logical fallacies. I have yet to find any theist who readily and happily presented any evidence they claimed to have. On the rare occasions that 'evidence' is presented it never stands up to reasonable criticism, and the presenter almost always resorts to accusations that I am in some way at fault for being unable to accept what they present. Nor have I ever heard any testable hypothesis which could be used to falsify claims made. Theists final claim almost always resorts to the need to use faith in order to learn the truth, a mysterious quality for which I can find no difference from the quality of gullibility. Religion has never managed to relieve human suffering, at best it disguises it, at worst it encourages it. Its adherents still today retard human progress. The best of them work to improve human progress, their success completely benign to any advancement in the religious arena. The worst of them seek to overturn what progress we have made through legislation and violence, all proclaiming loudly that they act in accordance with the will of their deity of choice.

    Worst of all Religion has the audacity, the arrogance, to assert that it is absolutely right and that we should trust it implicitly, not only with our lives but with our very souls (whatever those are).

    I submit in all humbleness that I might be wrong, and if Christian, or Edward, or any other theist wants to prove me wrong I will tell you how. Offer me a reliable technology that we have and make common use of that we attained purely through 'faith.' Willingly and happily offer me this evidence that you claim to have, without diversion or condition, for which any of us can confirm your claims independently. Tell me the hypothesis that proves your claims right, that allows me to test your claims and potentially prove them wrong.

  7. First off, I love science and am a big fan of multiple realities. Knowing that somewhere out there is a me who is a lawyer or sitting in jail or 6 feet under is fun to think about. In each dimension we live, there are 11 or 12 dimensions within that one.

    For a very short two years (undergrad), I studied the stars/other planets and holograms. Knowing how small we are in our multi-verse tells me also how insignificent we are. Seriously, what do we do to help this uni-verse? Can we?
    Why can we only understand and see only one version of us at a time?
    Can anyone name the 11 or 12 dimensions we live in per uni-verse?
    Why can't the human skin travel faster than speeds of 144,000 miles per second?

    How can we as specks of dust say that a greater intelligence did not design all of this?

    Sorry, human earthly science has been wrong before.

    I like to believe that a greater intelligence invented all of this, too me it just makes sense, and that Greater Intelligence is God.

    Personally, I believe that science is the technical explaination of God's work...some humans just keep going off and not listening to God (that whole free will thing) which could be why humans have made mistakes in science...or gone off and design stuff ignoring God's word. Atomic Bombs and other "weapons of mass destruction"

    If God were a news cast, God would be the Anchor and science would be the cables and colors and transmission feed supplying that feed. You can't understand the news if you stare at the RGB cables all day.

  8. @Confused,

    Thanks for the lengthy response. Sadly, of course, you know I disagree with it on a fundamental level ;o)

    Responding to all of your claims individually would exhaust everyone. Let me see if I can respond briefly to the highlights. If I seem to be dodging something, don't let me get away with it - just ask me in a follow-up.

    1) Science works [but religion doesn't].
    - What do you mean by "works"? By my definition, they both "work." It seems that, in your understanding, something "works" if it advances technology through the scientific method. That, in turn, makes something have a real value and benefits mankind as a whole. If that's true, religion doesn't "work" - but neither do art, literature, sports, sex, or any number of good and wonderful things outside the realm of science. Are you saying that science is the only way for us to determine value or meaning?

    2) Religion exists apart from (or contrary to) evidence.
    - I won't attempt to speak for other religions (though some would happily admit to this). Christianity, however, self-consciously claims that its truth rests on knowable and, in some instances, testable evidence. Most obviously, the existence of reality, both physical and non-physical, is claimed as evidence (Psalm 19; Romans 1). I don't keep pace with the latest news in science, but apart from Stephen Hawking's latest book, I'm unaware of any attempt to explain precisely how something came out of nothing (which is a thoroughly non-scientific claim!). Additionally, the New Testament documents names and places of important events; specifically, Paul tells his audience that there were many, many witnesses to Jesus' resurrection who could be consulted for their testimony (1 Corinthians 15). It sounds like you have a special kind of evidence in mind, because these claims are pretty prominent in my reading. What do you mean by "evidence"?

    3) Religion is universally bad for humanity.
    - Maybe I'm overly biased, but even if I assumed for the sake of argument that there were such a thing as "good" or "bad" apart from Christianity, I could still list quite a few things you as a non-theist would consider beneficial to all people, Christians or not. Ironically, I think one of the greatest things Christianity has given our species is science itself! Biblical religion, unlike others, provides a philosophical and practical basis for science. Many of the scientific discoveries from the past five hundred years rest on the assumptions that a) the Creator of the natural world is personal, orderly, and can be known, and, therefore, b) his creation is also able to be explored and analyzed as reflecting his orderly and knowable traits. I'm obviously not saying that you have to be a Christian to make meaningful scientific advances, but the assumptions that make them possible are not shared by all non-Christians (and especially non-theists; I could say the same for much of the scientific advances made by Muslims in the Middle Ages).

    4) Religion is reprehensible because it claims to be right and trustworthy.
    - I don't think you really think that qualifies something as reprehensible. It seems to me like you think science is right and trustworthy, but it apparently isn't arrogant to think so. I'm sure this isn't a conscious double standard.

  9. (cont.)

    5) If something can't be proven through the scientific method, then it is not worth being believed.
    - I'll assume that you believe in numbers, the laws of logic, and (considering our conversation here) the existence of a real world outside of your own mind. Under the conditions you list, however, none of those things can be proven right or wrong. (Honestly, your own conditions for what makes good evidence can't be proven or disproven with science.) Should we stop believing in them, then? Or does it make more sense to admit that science is very useful for some things but incapable of making truth claims about other things (some of which are necessary for everyday life)?

    To me, it seems like your approach fails to answer its own questions. Moreover, Christianity has a rational and logical answer for each and every question - unless you assume that it is false from the get-go.

  10. Tom, As cool as it sounds (and maybe) we only had knowledge of one universe and 4 dimensions.
    There is only the UNI-verse. Multiple universes are only a hypothesis. They exist only in mathematical formulas and those have ben shown to be wrong before. Google Zeno's Arrow.

    Light travels at 186,000 miles a second.

    Science has been wrong before but we continue to learn and correct.

    We ca't say for sure that a greater intelligence doesn't exist, but we can say there is no evidence for it (yet).

  11. I wonder how many would believe in God if they sat in on an Exorcism? One might change their mind once they see a Cross lift off the table. Or that demon tells you some small little detail about your life that no one knows like how you had white socks with black pants on that morning only to go and change before leaving the house.

    Of course, God has something to say about believing only out of fear of the evil one. Bible verse anyone?

  12. 144,000 Nautical miles...I believe. But I did google it and it looks like back in November 2011, they proved Einstein wrong regarding his calculations of the speed of light. I honestly spent two minutes on it. But just Google: speed of light 186,000. Whole bunch of "scientists prove Einstein wrong" junk pops up.

    I wonder how long it will be before Darwin is proven wrong?

  13. @tom, well some might believe but then people see the face of Jesus on a piece of toast. I would probably want a couple of well-experienced stage magicians checking out the room and everyone involved first.

  14. @Bruce
    Actually Google: speed of light Einstein wrong. A bunch of news stories pops up.

    And what theory is your 4 dimensions?
    Please don't feed me that lenght, height, width, time crap.

  15. @erp
    Nice to hear from you...did you check out those Bible verses regarding what John states about how Jesus is the coming Messiah? Going back to that whole Jesus following John first thing.

    It would be very entertaining to see people check out the room first, they could catch that Cross for themselves. You can have them check for fish string and vomit tubes.
    Of course, those magicians can't help you when the little details come out of its mouth.

  16. Actually they haven't proved Einstein wrong yet. They had some experimental results which seem to show that some neutrinios (not light) were going faster than the speed of light. Now this does contradict the current understanding (it also contradicts the behavior of other observed neutrinos) so people are going over the experiment with a fine tooth comb (e.g., are they timing it correctly, is the distance between the two points accurately measured [i.e., if the distance is really shorter than believed then the neutrinos aren't going as fast]). They've repeated the experiment at the same location with some improvements but the same results; however, if a systematic error occurred in the first experiment it might have been repeated. Ideally the experiment should be repeated in a different location but this will take a few months (people are working on it).

    However if the neutrinos did exceed the speed of light it would be very much like the Michelson Morley experiment in 1880s. The solution to that experiment which contradicted the then current theory led to a Nobel prize and so would the solution to this.

  17. @Christian
    Just went to your blog, What ministry did your husband enter full time? I knew you had to have had some form of full-time religious calling based on the way you write.

    1. @Tom,
      That's funny. I didn't realize that blog was somehow linked to my profile here. The blog is written by my wife - I am "the husband." I'm a nominal admin on the blog, though I've never written for it (my wife worked in journalism before we started our family, and she's a much better writer than I am). Also, I'm not an ordained minister, just a seminarian with a side interest in philosophy.

  18. @erp
    Well...I do love Mountain tops and mirrors. But all things have to come to an a few months anyway.

  19. @Christian It is no surprise to me that you simply avoid those items I request, you don't even seem to acknowledge what I requested. Yet even in not acknowledging them you proceed to do exactly as I said all theists tend to do when requested, you claim you have plenty of evidence and then offer no specific item, thereby completely dodging your burden of proof. And then you try to show that somehow the failure is mine for not recognizing the evidence that you failed to mention.

    "What do you mean by 'works'?" It makes specific, testable claims that through verification allow us to learn what is true and in so doing grants us the ability to make use of that knowledge.

    You say religion does the same, this is why I have asked for you to offer a reliable technology, that we make common use of, for which we gained purely through faith. If you can't offer that, then no, I cannot accept that faith works as a method for determining truth. Or alternately, if that is not what faith does, then enlighten me as to what faith does, because it has always been my understanding that theists arrive at their conclusive belief in their deity of choice through faith.

    "If that's true, religion doesn't "work" - but neither do art, literature, sports, sex, or any number of good and wonderful things outside the realm of science."

    Art and literature are examples of expression, something that we can, and do, have sciences dedicated to their study. Sports is also a form of entertainment and social behavior, they too have their own areas of scientific study. Sex is a basic function of biology and is heavily studied by scientist. You seem to be confused as to what science can and can not study.

    "Christianity, however, self-consciously claims that its truth rests on knowable..."

    Knowledge is demonstrable, demonstrate the existence of your deity. If you cannot, you cannot claim that your belief in god rests on knowledge in any way.

    "Most obviously, the existence of reality, both physical and non-physical,"

    How does the existence of reality demonstrate the existence of your deity? and what do you mean by 'non-physical?'

    "I'm unaware of any attempt to explain precisely how something came out of nothing"

    Nothingness has been mathematically proven to be unstable. It is entirely theoretically possible for matter and anti-matter to pop into and out of existence on a regular basis. Stephen Hawking is not the originator of this claim, and he is by far not the only one to refer to it.

    As I mentioned to Erp in the 'Magnets, How do they work?' post, just because the Bible mentions places that we can confirm to have existed, doesn't mean everything the Bible mentions is true. Spider-Man lives in New York, New York exists, by your logic therefor Spider-Man must necessarily exist. As for the witnesses of Jesus's resurrection, firstly Paul's account is hearsay and inadmissible, secondly eyewitness testimony is the least reliable form of testimony, and thirdly the Bible is a biased source, provide me a contemporary and secular source that confirms any claim concerning Jesus and his 'miracles.' Such sources would be far more valuable and convincing.

    "What do you mean by 'evidence'?"

    Give me something that I can use to independently confirm your claim that your deity exists.

  20. @Tom Assuming this happened to you, did they know you were going to be coming (scam artists are known to investigate marks ahead of time)? Did someone else who knew or you mention it to anyone (or was it something habitual for you)? Could it have been a result of a 'cold reading'? Was anything said that was not correct?

    1. @erp
      Long sigh...c' to all your questions.

      Wait maybe that camera crew in my closet could have had something to do with it.

      Perhaps if Bruce hosts a blog party, I will bore you with my work with the archdiocese.

  21. @Christian

    "I could still list quite a few things you as a non-theist would consider beneficial to all people, Christians or not. Ironically, I think one of the greatest things Christianity has given our species is science itself!"

    Then by all means start listing away, or we can take this one item at a time. Science was not given to us by Christianity, unless you can pinpoint the verse in the Bible where the Scientific Method is detailed? No, in Genesis the story goes that God did not want us to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and when Adam and Eve did so they were punished for it. This is widely accepted as a Biblical teaching meant to discourage the search for actual knowledge. And even if you don't agree with that understanding, there are also numerous passages that tell us we should not test God. Testing is the very way in which Science works, it is the way by which we could verify God's existence if we had an intelligible hypothesis to test. Besides, if Christianity gave us Science, then why is it Christianity regularly rejects the very knowledge we gain through science? Heliocentrism, Spherical Earth, Evolution, Global Warming, all these understandings of our world, arrived at through Science, have been initially rejected by religious adherents including Christians, some rejections persist yet even among Christians.

    "Many of the scientific discoveries from the past five hundred years rest on the assumptions"

    Name one. Any claim that rests on an assumption is not science. If God is knowable, then demonstrate it. If one can make scientific advancement without the assumption that God exists, then your claim that anything rests on that assumption is plainly false.

    "I don't think you really think that qualifies something as reprehensible."

    That alone, no, what qualifies it as reprehensible is that it threatens anyone who does not accept it with eternal torture. And no its not a double standard for Science because Science humbly submits that our conclusions can be wrong and invites, thrives even, on critical analysis and the efforts to show how our claims are in error.

    "Under the conditions you list, however, none of those things can be proven right or wrong."

    You obviously continue to operate under a grave misconception of what those things are and how science functions. Numbers are labels given to values, values that can easily be demonstrated through various means. For instance one can count the number of words or letters that have been used in sentence. That count represents a value, given a label that we call a number. We can interact with those values and arrive at conclusions that we can test against real world recreations, thereby testing those values. Mathematics are the basis of logic. As for any world outside my own own mind, I am clearly interacting with something, it doesn't matter if it exists without my own mind or is external to my mind, I can observe it and learn from it and that alone gives it value. My conditions of what constitutes evidence are the basis upon which science operates, they are plain and simple and easily achievable by anything real. It makes no sense to say that Science is incapable of studying anything real.

    "To me, it seems like your approach fails to answer its own questions."

    What questions does my approach fail to answer?

    "Christianity has a rational and logical answer for each and every question"

    Really? Then why are you avoiding those answers and instead trying to debase my very reasonable questions?

    1. @Confused,

      It appears that we're talking past each other. One or both of us appear to misunderstand the other, because I didn't mean to avoid any of your requests. In fact, I didn't intend my reply to be a true response - I am asking you to treat me like a child and explain to me what you mean. It is painfully obvious to me that we are defining our terms differently, so I need you to help me out and help me understand you. Re-reading my reply, the first two points ask you to define what you mean by certain words. As I wrote, it seems that we define them differently, and until we understand each other's terms we're only going to frustrate each other. That seems to be what's going on with the "evidence" issue, at least. I'm not dodging the question; I'm trying to save us both some time by making sure I understand you before I throw out a bunch of stuff that you find irrelevant. Again, be patient with me, and I'm very happy to continue our dialogue like rational adults.

      - "Works" - Here's a good example of what I'm talking about. You and I define "faith" differently, which means that we're not really addressing the real issues. Thanks for clarifying!

      I would define faith as the understanding of, acceptance of, and trust in something that cannot be proven empirically (this lines up with the clearest definition given in the Bible - Hebrews 11:1). That doesn't mean, though, that faith is "blind" in the sense that it is credible apart from support from reality. For example, I don't have faith in something if it is logically inconsistent or if it blatantly contradicts reality. That's not biblical faith; it's naivety.

      Here's where we have another difference in vocabulary. To me, it is perfectly rational to have faith in something that does not (or even cannot) have 100% empirical data to support it. That might sound naive, but the point of my posts the last few days has been to try to show my non-theist friends that, in reality, they also have faith in things that don't meet that criterion. Take, for example, the existence of numbers. We obviously use numbers. We observe them. They clearly exist. But I would challenge anyone to go beyond observation and give me physical evidence that numbers exist. The most brilliant philosophers and mathematicians have been trying that since the days of Plato, and it still hasn't happened. That doesn't mean that we reject numbers as superstition or fairy tales. It just means that we admit, "Numbers are real, even if I can't show that empirically through testing any hypothesis. I have faith in the existence of numbers."

      You could say the same thing about lots of other things. Take the law of non-contradiction ("something cannot be both A and not-A at the same time in the same way"). I have faith that that is true. But nobody is able to produce empirical evidence that it is. I understand, accept, and trust it, even though I can't produce empirical evidence that it is true.

      I'm not the only one that accepts the laws of logic by faith. So does science. Without them, science couldn't produce anything useful - no laws of logic, no iPhones. So, while they aren't identical, both science and religion have this in common: they accept certain principles that cannot be proven according to empiricism.

      - "Art, literature, etc."
      My point was just to list things that offer something meaningful and true apart from the scientific method. Of course they can be studied by science, but in themselves they are not direct products of science. Again, I was trying to flush out what your definition of "works" was, so I wasn't really trying to make an argument so much as prod you to help me out. But now I have another important question: it seems like you're admitting that science can't study certain things. Can you give me some examples?


    2. (cont.)

      - "Knowable"
      Like I say above, I believe that some things can legitimately be known/believed apart from 100% empirical evidence. It may not fit their definition of "know," but non-theists obviously "know" things that can't be proven empirically (for example, it is always wrong to rape children). I believe we can know God (and, of course, that he exists) through having faith in the message of the Bible. The claims of the Bible are supported by reality. For example, the Bible says that God is a spirit who by definition must exist and created all things. To point out the obvious, reality exists. Now I'm not saying that that settles the issue, but I'm saying that the common experience of all people everywhere doesn't contradict that claim. In philosophical terms, the claim that God created all things "comports" with reality. Therefore, it can be "known," at the very least, that the claim is plausible and is not impossible. Reality supports the claim. In more concrete terms, it would be like having a debate about the existence of air. The person who argues against it must by necessity use air to prove it doesn't exist. In the same way, one must "use" God's reality in order to argue against his existence. A smart-alec response would be to say that EVERYTHING THAT EXISTS proves God's existence, since he is by definition the only One capable of creation from nothing, but I'm guessing you have higher standards than that kind of "gotcha" line.

      - "Non-physical"
      I have faith that there are some things that exist non-materially - they're real, but you can't touch them. In that sense, things like love, numbers, the laws of logic, numbers, and the past are "real" while also being non-physical.

      - "Something out of nothing"
      Thanks for the link. It certainly made better sense than Hawking's explanation from string theory! The first response to the question proposes that there is something that exists outside the physical universe. I would prefer the term "Someone" to "something," but in essence I agree - the law of thermodynamics continues to be a law because the universe was produced by the actions of an outside Force/God. The second response was very interesting for me (anything related to advanced physics is super cool to me, even if I'm not a trained physicist), but the author doesn't offer empirical evidence for his claims. He even uses the word "believe"! That's not necessarily trying to say he's right or wrong, but until somebody harnesses these observations to make another universe out of nothing, I remain unconvinced that this is satisfying empirical evidence.

      - Biblical evidence
      Of course the listing of places and names doesn't prove anything. But at the very least, the biblical writers were willing to put their money where their mouth was and offer ways for their claims to be tested by their immediate audience. The church in Corinth could have tested Paul's claims by searching out the alleged witnesses. He didn't say, "Just trust me, it happened." It's possible he could have been lying, but my point was only that Christianity doesn't claim to exist apart from support in reality.

    3. (cont.)

      - "Hearsay"
      By your logic, I can't prove that my great-great-great-grandparents existed. No photographs of them exist. They are not mentioned in any extant writings of the time. All the information anyone has about them has been passed down by people who themselves didn't know them. It's not just hearsay, it's poorly footnoted hearsay! If I haven't personally observed their existence, then it seems impossible to prove that they ever existed.

      Of course eyewitness testimony is less credible than, for example, DNA evidence. But does that mean that all eyewitness testimony is wrong? Has there ever been any eyewitness testimony that was accurate? It's illogical to think that just because some eyewitness testimony is inaccurate means that ALL of it is inaccurate.

      I don't believe that there is such a thing as an "unbiased source." I'm biased concerning all kinds of things. So are you. And so is everyone who has ever lived. It seems illogical then to discount all evidence that has a bias. Should I reject all scientific claims made by scientists in favor of those made by nomadic tribesmen? "Biased" doesn't mean "lying." I don't understand why testimony from non-Christians is inherently "far more valuable and convincing" - unless you're unfairly biased against Christian sources.

      - "Beneficial"
      I didn't say that Christianity produced science. I said that theistic cultures have produced much more of scientific value than non-theistic societies. The ancient Greeks, Christians, Muslims, etc., were all theists. Compare their discoveries with pantheist cultures. Even the advances of the last few centuries made by non-theists are built on the shoulders of people who, because of their theistic understanding of the world, considered scientific inquiry worth their time. If there is no creator who designed creation in a way that we can know, then there's no point in science. You don't have to be a fan of theism to admit that it has resulted in nearly all of the scientific advances we enjoy today. For example, the discoveries of new stars and planets in the past century have very practically depended on the fact that observed patterns can be used to predict how things will be in the future. If there has been a blur in the telescope every night for the past month, and we can determine a pattern out of it, then we can make a reasonable guess about where it might show up tomorrow night. That process depends on an ordered universe, something that is by no means obvious from a non-theistic view of the world. Of course many non-theists believe in an ordered universe, but it is alien to their confessed philosophy. It was stolen, you could say, from theists.


    4. (cont.)

      - "The Bible and science"
      I don't believe that those interpretations you list are necessitated by the text, so I don't believe them and I won't defend them. The word "test," in the biblical sense, could be translated more literally "tempt" or "put to the test." It is wrong to tempt God to do something contrary to his nature. It isn't wrong to test the atmosphere for carbon dioxide levels, and the Bible makes no such claim.
      The Bible doesn't reject heliocentrism, a spherical earth, global warming, or micro-evolution. Those have been rejected by some Christians, but "some Christians" doesn't equal "the Bible." As for macro-evolution, the time table necessary to test its claims require much more testing than is capable in the one-hundred-plus years since the theory's formulation. It is also incapable of proving all its assertions empirically, meaning that some of its tenets must be taken by faith. Of course some theists (and non-theists) reject it - popular consensus and incomplete explanations of available data are unscientific reasons to accept a theory.

      - "Reprehensible"
      This was another attempt to flush out your definition. Whether or not science humbly accepts criticism is objectionable, since logical and rational criticism of science's non-scientific uses gets me labeled an idiot or a liar around here!

      - "Numbers, etc."
      See my response above. In addition, you are saying that, if I observe non-physical things like numbers, that is sufficient proof of their existence. But when I start talking about non-physical things of religious significance (i.e., God), you demand to see physical evidence. I asked for physical evidence for numbers, the laws of logic, etc., not to say that they don't exist, but to show your double standard for evidence.

    5. Then lets take this point by point because trying to respond to everything else is far too much for these little comment boxes. And since it is you who claims God exists, then how about you help me to understand how you come to that conclusion. You offer a nice starting point when you define faith as follows:

      "I would define faith as the understanding of, acceptance of, and trust in something that cannot be proven empirically*"

      *Not sure if the code will work for comments, so if it fails I'll know and won't try it again.

      Speaking of, this would be a good time to mention how knowledge is demonstrable. In trying to use blockquotes to embed your comment within my reply, I've never used them before and I don't know if they'll work. By using them I will be able to test for them and after posting this comment I'll know whether or not they work. That's knowledge, and this is what I'm asking for as concerns your deity. This is what I want you to give me when I ask for evidence and/or hypothesis. Theists often like to say 'well you can't see the wind.' Actually we can see the wind as it blows against the trees, we can feel the wind as it pushes against us, and if we get a smoke machine out there we can see the wind more directly.

      Now your comment would suggest that faith is understanding something and accepting, even trusting, its existence without any way of confirming it or demonstrating it. Later in your responses you seem to suggest that you find this to be rational. Sorry Christian, I cannot accept that as rational.

      How is faith reliable? Almost every religion professes faith, yet they all come to different conclusions. Without any way of demonstrating and thereby testing your claims you cannot prove one another right or wrong, so why should I consider faith reliable, or even rational?

      How does faith lead you to believe that God exists instead of Allah, or Krishna, or Osiris? And how are others doing it wrong when faith leads them to believe in those deities instead of your own?

      P.S. blockquote doesn't work, and now I know having gotten this error: Your HTML cannot be accepted: Tag is not allowed: BLOCKQUOTE

  22. @christian

    It might surprise you to know that hearsay is usually inadmissible in US courts because the original source can't be cross-examined. It is admissible in certain circumstances (e.g., you find a man who has been stabbed and he tells you before dying that James Smith stabbed him, you can testify to that in court even though it is hearsay). However history (like science) is not a courtroom and the rules are different; for history hearsay is permissible but not accepted as gospel truth. Given a crime, the justice system seeks to find out who if anyone can be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; a historian would seek to figure out who was the most likely culprit and might lay out several scenarios with different culprits before indicating which she felt was most likely (or least improbable).

    In this case the 'crime' is the existence of Christianity. I think you will agree it exists beyond a reasonable doubt (in both a legal and historical sense) but how did it start? To me no scenario can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt but some scenarios that have an itinerant rabbi called Jesus, who was executed, and whose followers thought he had returned and was the messiah seem far more probable than any without such a figure.

    1. @Erp,

      I would question your expectations for the evidence, just as I do those of Confused. I appreciate that "beyond a reasonable doubt" is better than the empirical evidence I think Confused wants, but because everyone has a different level of "reasonable doubt," it's hard for me to quantify it. I've seen lots of double standards and illogical standards here, so I can't say what might convince you. The best I can do is try and show that the question is rigged from the beginning if we presuppose that the teachings of Christianity are false. I can also show where non-Christian philosophies fail, and where Christianity offers a better solution. But that's all I can do.

      For me, it doesn't make any sense for the apostles to have died for their faith if it was invented. Eleven men who did this (twelve, counting Paul), especially considering the gruesome and torturous deaths all but one of them experienced per church history, moves me beyond reasonable doubt. So does the fact that Christianity, unlike every other philosophy, makes sense of all of life's questions. It is internally consistent in a way that other philosophies aren't. Combined with legitimate experiential/subjective data, I'm moved to faith.

      Of course, the Bible teaches that each step is also supernaturally superintended by God himself, and that my prayers for help in seeking are essential (though not sufficient in themselves).

  23. I'm sure we've all noticed a pattern, in this thread and elsewhere. Some people require evidence, some people don't. It doesn't reduce to a non-believer vs. believer thing either, although it looks that way in this thread so far.

    Ignoring the subject of belief for just a paragraph, those people that rely on sense experience to obtain knowledge - empiricists - are often unsympathetic to rationalization, appeals to tradition, or idealism. Tim Delaney on the Secular Web expressed an opinion that "...any attempt to produce reliable knowledge solely by arranging English words is illegitimate". My parody of the Ontological Argument for the Existence of God in the Matt 6-8 thread addressed that point specifically. Just because you can think and say the words doesn't automatically confer legitimacy on them. We see claims here that are without evidence, and are thus uncompelling. The best we can do is be polite about them.

    Making religious claims to folks that require evidence is a difficult task if the claimant wants to be taken seriously. Engaging in hypotheticals doesn't get you anywhere unless you personally take the hypothesis and test it, refine it, and present a conclusion that supports or disconfirms the hypothesis. Either result is valuable, but only after the hard work of testing it has been done.

    If you have evidence, please present it. Everything else just is just lip exercise.

    1. @Skepticali,

      "...any attempt to produce reliable knowledge solely by arranging English words is illegitimate."
      Is that arrangement of English words an attempt to produce reliable knowledge? If so, I will follow its own advice and reject it as illegitimate.

      "Engaging in hypotheticals doesn't get you anywhere unless you personally take the hypothesis and test it, refine it, and present a conclusion that supports or disconfirms the hypothesis. Either result is valuable, but only after the hard work of testing it has been done."
      That's true, of course, unless some things are unprovable through the scientific method. I think I've pointed out some of those things. I've also noted that some of them are used by the scientific method. Therefore, your assertion that this method is the only reliable method can't be proven scientifically and is therefore contradictory.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. @Christian:
      You said "...If so, I will follow its own advice and reject it as illegitimate."
      That's a good one! The guy was stating an opinion, so I'm sure you're just being funny ... right?

      You said "...your assertion that this method is the only reliable method can't be proven scientifically and is therefore contradictory." I think you missed what I said - I'm saying that tested evidence is the way you will convince an "empiricist". You're saying that I'm saying it's the only reliable method (for something ... I presume for obtaining knowledge). The rest of your statement doesn't really matter once we've determined that we're not on the same page. But ... it's worth pointing out that using evidence obtained by testing, as opposed to guessing, making stuff up, or appealing to a deity, **can** be scientifically be proven to be the best (not only, but the best) way of obtaining knowledge. All you have to do is run a few hundred, thousand or million trials to get the results.

      I know you mean well ... and I **TRULY** appreciate your insights on the Bible and your willingness to engage with us heathens here without a lot of rancor. This can be really touchy for some people. Keep it up!

  24. Since I haven't posted enough today, I do feel the need to share this Daily Show clip regarding the importance of civil discourse:

    In all seriousness, I appreciate the respect most of you non-theists have given me as a theist. Thanks!

  25. For those who missed my 1/3 blog post...

    @ all who are married or in-love.
    You can't prove you love your spouse. No matter what you say to provide evidence...there is an out. Just like no matter what believers say, non-believers have an out.

    Some examples...if you say I love my wife because I give her a roof to live under, all that means is that you are a provider. Many people provide for strangers.
    If you say its the little things like rubbing her feet and sweeping the floor, I can come back and say I have a maid that sweeps the floor, does she love me? And thousands of businesses provide foot rubs, does that mean they love me?

    How does one provide evidence for love?

    So I guess I can say you all dont love your spouse's since you can not provide evidence that meets my approval.

    1. @Tom - "You can't prove you love your spouse." This is a false equivalence. Emotions are not physical facts about the universe. I presume you were trying to make a point about science and knowledge.

      Nice touch implying that we need your approval on this - by the way. Being the Lord and Arbiter of False Equivalence must be a Very Important Job! That must be really demanding! More seriously ... this is an informal debate on this blog, so "assent" is given or withheld on specific points. As for science - no Lord and Arbiter there!

  26. @Christian

    Are you studying out of Mundelein by any chance?

  27. @Christian
    Not to get technical. But don't forget about Judas in your Apostle count or perhaps you left out his replacement, Matthias. that brings the total to 14 if you include Paul.
    But with all that great writing you are doing you are bound to make a few technical errors.

  28. @Tom - "You can't prove you love your spouse." This is a false equivalence. Emotions are not physical facts about the universe. I presume you were trying to make a point about science and knowledge.

    Nice touch implying that you approval on this - by the way. Being the Lord and Arbiter of False Equivalence must be a Very Important Job! That must be really demanding! More seriously ... this is an informal debate on this blog, so "assent" is given or withheld on specific points. As for science - no Lord and Arbiter there!

  29. Well since you gave me the title. Thanks!
    So then I can say that it is Equivalent.

    By the way, nice touch on you approving our evidence that God and Jesus exist. Einstein found enough evidence.
    Even Einstein believed God existed. I am reading a book on that now. Quotes from Albert himself.

  30. Does the book include full citations because I've certainly seen false quotes? Einstein denied belief in a personal God and certainly did not believe Jesus was God (Spinoza's God was his God).

    Note that scientists are never infallible nor do they need to be to be good scientists. Michael Faraday's work was groundbreaking independent of his religious beliefs. I also suspect there are plenty of bad scientists who are atheist (as well as bad scientists who are religious). Admittedly the percentage of excellent scientists (judging by election to the American Academy of Science or the British Royal Society) who are theists is much lower than in the general population.

  31. @Tom - I wasn't sure who you were replying to when you went off on the "evidence for God and Jesus ... Einstein" tangent ... but here's some nuggets from the frizzy-haired one himself:

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

    And before his death:

    "The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this."

  32. Well quotes/paragraph check out what?

    Curtis Martin is a Catholic Author who wrote a hand full of books, the book that has a very moving Pro-God quote/paragraph is from Made for More. Page 17. According to the foot note, it came from an interview dated 10/29/1926 in the Saturday Evening Post.
    I will type it out soon but it is very long and I respond by Android.
    Einstein claims he is Jewish but cannot deny feeling the actual presence of Jesus when reading the gospels.

  33. Parts of the interview are around on the web though I couldn't find the full interview (actual date of interview seems to be 26 October 1929 and it may have been conducted in German and then translated). However it just shows that Einstein believes in a historical Jesus who was a good teacher not a divine Jesus (among other things he puts Jesus on the same plateau as Moses and the Buddha).

  34. This is the quote about Einstein which is on several sites. And a quick history build up.

    Albert Einstein received instruction in bothChristianity (at a Roman Catholic school) andJudaism(his family of origin). When interviewed bythe Saturday Evening Post in 1929, Einstein was asked what he thought of Christianity.

    "To what extent are you influencedbyChristianity?"

    "As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene."
    "Have you read Emil Ludwig’s book on Jesus?"
    "Emil Ludwig’s Jesus is shallow. Jesus is too colossal for the pen of phrasemongers, however artful
    .Nomancan dispose of Christianity with a bon mot!"

    "You accept the historical existence of Jesus?"

    "Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life." 7

    So, although Einstein was not a Christian, he had a great respect for Jesus, and recognized that He was an amazing figure in history.

  35. For those who are interested. I think some may have fun trying to prove him wrong:

  36. @erp
    For some reason, I can't enter dates on the phone in mm/dd/yyyy.
    Booking hotels or putting my birthday in is a nightmare.
    The HTC Sprint elves flip-flop numbers every time.

    Perhaps I need to update the software.

    One time I was born 03/01/3001 but thank you for correcting the dates for the blog room.