SCIENCE VS RELIGION

General discussions of interest to readers and fans of Harlan Ellison.

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Carstonio
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Postby Carstonio » Mon Oct 30, 2006 9:53 pm

Ezra Lb. wrote:I think there is a real danger in regarding science as merely a substitute for religion. This is a common criticism by fundamentalists especially. Because they cannot conceptualize outside their own irrational point of view they assume that science is simply a competitor that wishes to replace them....One of the lies that religion tells is that in rejecting them you also have to reject awe and wonder, the ability to be overwhelmed and fulfilled by beauty, the ability to act ethically.


Exactly. So who will be the spokesperson for science that can eloquently expose the lies for what they are? Carl Sagan was good at evoking that awe and wonder.

On another board, a fundamentalist insisted to me that evolution rules out God because it portrays humans as "nothing special." That reminded me of the old objection to heliocentrism, which is that it negated the idea of humankind as the ultimate creation. I find that doctrine contradictory when it comes from fundamentalism, which insists that humans are evil and worthless and desperately in need of salvation.

Ezra Lb. wrote:Perhaps we shouldn't waste our lives trying to find meaning but spend our lives creating it? And less there seem a contradiction here, remember nature as revealed by science is full of function, but the religions define meaning as something prior to us, handed to us, demanded of us.


That is exactly my point - each of us creates our own meaning. Originally I didn't make a distinction between the individual finding meaning and creating it, only because both are directed by the individual. I'm saying the meaning cannot and should not be imposed from without, which is what most (if not all) organized religions do.

JohnG
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Postby JohnG » Mon Oct 30, 2006 10:12 pm

Ezra Lb. wrote:Good discussion Carstonio.

According to the toll of hits as of a minute ago 85 people had read this thread but only you and I (with Frank's delightful contribution) seem interested enough to post. Perhaps they are astonished and intimidated by our verbal acrobatics? Yeah right.


Count me in as following this thread, too. I don't consider myself religious--12 years of Cathlic school will do that to a person--but I do hold the possibility that some beliefs have value even if I don't immediately see them myself, so it's all an interesting debate.

Ezra wrote:Contrast this with the blind dogmas of the Church which get handed down generation to generation, never questioned.


I see where you are going with this, but take a look at another perspective: dogma, and by using the word "Church" I'll assume you mean Christian dogma, has undergone quite a bit of change over the last 2000 years. Hell, it's changed even to some degree over the last century and change. Look at Mormonism(nominally a Christian belief system) dropping the multiple marriage and anti-black stuff, and I can think of some changes even in Catholic dogma that I was taught as a kid in the 1960s. IIRC even the Wahhabi and Hassidic variants dates back only to the late 18th century. Not some of the core stuff, I agree, but an awful lot of other things. The change is glacially slow, but it does occur even when the result is a splinter into a new line of understanding or belief. Granted, a lot of time the splinter ends up being reactionary or especially obnoxious.

In brief, the Bible describes a God that is like an emotionally and physically abusive parent.

Not to mention a genocidal psychotic.


That's one way to look at it, but I can also look at almost any verifiable "true" history and say the same things about everything from daily life--mean, nasty, and short-- up and through the greatest events of the human story, a narrative littered with abuses, stupidities, and horrible tragedies both accidental and deliberate. There's a very real set of problems in applying a 21st century North American social and political perspective as the standards in interpreting events in the past and it is also a problem in looking at social/religious texts with our contemporary standards.

The sort of perspective that's needed to examine past things in context isn't easy for us, whether it's looking at Sumerian theology or colonial era "captive" narratives or even classic biblical stories... hell, even popular TV from the 1950s.

I was never raised with the biblical infallibility argument, so it's easier for me, and I think many raised Catholic, for example, to see the Old Testament as man of that time hearing Jahweh speaking to them in a language they could understand. As our collective language and knowledge grows, the way a God might speak to us will change as well, but you wouldn't expect a God to be held to human standards of behavior, much less act in a way that is entirely understandable.

Ezra wrote:Well in a real sense the thoughtful religionists have been forced to do this already by the findings of science. My own question would be, if religion has nothing to say about the "mechanics of life" then how could it have anything to say about "meaning and purpose"?


Good point, and in many ways the crux of the current debate. Science is a result of "rational" thought ( I have some problems with using just that one word to describe a very big paradigm shift it but it's a good one for general use). Arguably it's been the biggest advance in human life in the last 500 years or so.

But I can see religion evolving over maybe a hundred thousand years for two reasons, at least; one is to explain the way the world works, the "how", and then also as a way to prescribe the "why", the why are we here and why we need to do certain things. The how is slowly being supplanted by science changing "how", the way we look at the universe, but I don't know if it is enough to do the "why" part, at least yet.

Religion is really a tradition, an accumulation of learned lessons, shared history, and wisdom, for lack of a better word, about how to conduct life, and it was necessary for a very long time. No question it's been a device for political and social control, and it can be a bad thing, but it's a consistent fixture in so much of human history it had to have been there for a reason. I don't think it's a "rational" need, but it was there, FWIW.

Ezra wrote:My opinion is that the religious way of thinking and the scientific way of thinking are so mutually contradictory that the differences cannot be rationalized. To put it crudely, it would be like trying to graft wings on a pig.


Tradition is, I agree, not completely compatible with "science", or modernist thought, but it may have value in the human sphere that is not immediately apparent. There was an interesting discussion here a while back around the idea of how do you form morals and ethics, and it's an ongoing debate that also informs the whole idea of infusing one's life with "meaning", I think. Knowing the atomic weight of lead or finding a new planet, whatever, by itself is of great value but in and of itself doesn't make you a better person. Or does it?

My guess? Religion evolved along with the human brain to provide some sort of rules and shortcuts to help understand and survive in a very hostile universe, one that we are not capable of mastering at all without help, and it worked--we see evidence of spiritual beliefs from the oldest cave paintings and burials onwards.

We--and I mean we privileged few in the modern world-- are maybe among the first few generations that won't have that sort of survival worry, thanks to science, so some of the questions we ask of ourselves and our fellows are starting to change even as some of the old ones remain. That sort of spiritual belief, something that is truly a belief as iti can't be proved rationally any more than I can prove something is beautiful or wonderful, may be something that is needed in a world that will never yield all of its secrets until we can see the back of our own heads, so to speak. Maybe.

Carstonio
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Postby Carstonio » Tue Oct 31, 2006 5:53 am

JohnG wrote:In brief, the Bible describes a God that is like an emotionally and physically abusive parent.

Not to mention a genocidal psychotic.


That's one way to look at it, but I can also look at almost any verifiable "true" history and say the same things about everything from daily life--mean, nasty, and short-- up and through the greatest events of the human story, a narrative littered with abuses, stupidities, and horrible tragedies both accidental and deliberate. There's a very real set of problems in applying a 21st century North American social and political perspective as the standards in interpreting events in the past and it is also a problem in looking at social/religious texts with our contemporary standards.

The sort of perspective that's needed to examine past things in context isn't easy for us, whether it's looking at Sumerian theology or colonial era "captive" narratives or even classic biblical stories... hell, even popular TV from the 1950s.

I was never raised with the biblical infallibility argument, so it's easier for me, and I think many raised Catholic, for example, to see the Old Testament as man of that time hearing Jahweh speaking to them in a language they could understand. As our collective language and knowledge grows, the way a God might speak to us will change as well, but you wouldn't expect a God to be held to human standards of behavior, much less act in a way that is entirely understandable. [/quote]

I think you miss my point. In my personal experience, Christians are taught to accept everything that God does without question, to agree that everything that God does is right and just, to not question God on pain of hell.

The Abraham and Isaac sacrifice story is one of the saddest parts of the Bible for me. If I had been in Abraham's position, I would have been tempted to sacrifice myself rather than my son. It felt like God was playing a cruel mind game with Abraham, especially since there was no sign or guarantee that God would step in at the last minute and stop the Kobiyashi Maru test.

This isn't directed at you specifically, but I find the whole "God works in mysterious ways" argument to be insulting. It implies that humans are too stupid to understand anything but themselves. It implies that we're immature children who need a God-Daddy to keep us in line. I've heard some Christians use this to deny the reason for science, claiming that humans are incapable of understanding the world or the universe.

I think I understand your point about context. To use a secular example, I'm a huge fan of the Godfather series but I would never condone the actions of the Corleones in real life. My point is that a casual reader of the Bible lacks the context that was available when the book was originally written. Slate has a great series running called "Blogging the Bible" where the writer analyzes the book without any historical or cultural assumptions.

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Postby Cary Bleasdale » Tue Oct 31, 2006 9:32 am

***WARNING*** The following contains Christian thought. Some may find this offensive, bigoted, or just plain silly. We like it though. ***WARNING***

The Abraham and Isaac sacrifice story is one of the saddest parts of the Bible for me.


I refer you to Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling in which he discusses that very point. In essence, he said, it is Abraham's faith that justifies his, his utter, complete faith in the will of the Lord.

And you are hardly the first person, let alone the first Christian to have problems with that story. For me, however, the big one is God's command to slaughter all of the Canaanites.

However, as more than a few have said, it is easy, from a 21st century view to condemn early religious practices. Of course, those people who do forget that the Torah was THE most advanced and civilized legal code around for many hundreds of years. Yes, they've gotten better, but contrast the Jewish code with that of their neighbors sometime. You have to go to Classical Greece to get a better legal code.



In brief, the Bible describes a God that is like an emotionally and physically abusive parent.

Not to mention a genocidal psychotic.


I would disagree with that last bit. I see those parts of the Bible as some Hebrew warlord lying to his people as to what God wanted. I mean, when we see Osama Bin Laden, rational people don't accuse all Muslims of his crimes, or say that is what God really wants. So why say that about the Bible?


I think you miss my point. In my personal experience, Christians are taught to accept everything that God does without question, to agree that everything that God does is right and just, to not question God on pain of hell.


Now, over on the Light Side, Mike Lane wrote (referring to Rush Limbaugh) “And they make a great noise with personal attacks against individuals or amorphously defined groups like "liberals".” Not that you are making personal attacks, or are even veering close to Limbaugh territory, but saying "Most Christians believe” is like saying "most scientists agree." Generally in both communities, there is general agreement on the basics, with sharp debate over the details. Actually, many, many Christians disagree on the infallibility of the Bible, and with how different verses should be viewed.

Further, I get the feeling that when you say "Christians" you mean "those Jerry Falwell Pricks." Actually, they are a TINY minority. Pat Robertson has about 800,000 viewers. Contrast that with say, the numbers that watch House, or Desperate Housewives. He ain't got much. There are lots of Fundies who are 6,000 year earth, Homos is bad, Bible is infallible assholes. Attack them. But please don't paint me with the same brush. I am a pre-med major. I like science. I debate fundies and convert them to liberalism. I question the Bible, and most people are like me. Trying to paint "Christianity" as some nebulous concept with a fundamentally backwards slant is like me saying all Muslims believe what Bin Laden does, or all Atheists are like Charlie Manson.

Criticize the ones that need it.

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Postby JohnG » Tue Oct 31, 2006 11:15 am

Carstonio wrote:
I think you miss my point....
The Abraham and Isaac sacrifice story is one of the saddest parts of the Bible for me. If I had been in Abraham's position, I would have been tempted to sacrifice myself rather than my son. It felt like God was playing a cruel mind game with Abraham, especially since there was no sign or guarantee that God would step in at the last minute and stop the Kobiyashi Maru test.

This isn't directed at you specifically, but I find the whole "God works in mysterious ways" argument to be insulting. It implies that humans are too stupid to understand anything but themselves. It implies that we're immature children who need a God-Daddy to keep us in line.


I'm not disagreeing with you re the above, but I do see the counterpoint in that humans will always have an incomplete understanding of a God, which is pretty much a tautology--I mean, how could we, right? Of course that line of thought leads to all sorts of other problems--how we would know what is or isn't God or a God's work, what is actually true or false or even real.

There's tons of ways to intepret bible stories and myths, of course. If there is any value in these old stories it's in seeing why they hold such a fascination and meaning, even if it's not immediately obvious to us today. I'll throw a thought at you re: Abraham, though: who were the Hebrews, and by extension humanity, prior to Abraham? A loose tribal group with blood ties drifting among many other such groups. To them blood kin and marriage, their extended families are probably the only real social ties, so your child is your security and obligation. God knows that Abraham would sacrifice himself for his child, so there's no test there--it's as it always has been.

To grow the Hebrews as a people, though, they must move beyond the ties of family to those who share allegiance to a larger idea than family survival--the Word, the covenant with God, which is the bedrock of a new people. So Abraham is tested not against that which he knows, sacrificing himself for his son, but to see if he will sacrifice that which was most important to him in allegiance to a greater new value, the covenant that God promises to the Hebrew people, now led by an Abraham who passed the test and sees beyond his own family. Maybe the story is a metaphor for the transition of humans from clans to a nation state based not on blood ties but a collective belief system that will sustain them through all sorts of inevitable crap to come?

I can't say that's true or even that it *should* be true--it's just a guess. There's tons of symbolism in any of the older stories, not just bible ones, that I'm sure doesn't resonate for us any more without a lot of research. But like the more secular Aesop type fables I'm assuming there is some point to these stories beyond the disaster movie aspects that jump to mind.

Thanks for the tip on the Slate article--I'll look for it. Have you read the recent article in Wired, "The Crusade Against Religion"? if not, some good stuff is found here: http://www.wired.com/news/wiredmag/0,71 ... page_prev7

Interesting points, Cary, especially in light of the way those internal squabbles over details often bloom into such huge conflicts. I wouldn't scoff at 800k viewers, though--many, many cable hosts would kill for those kinds of numbers :)

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Postby David Loftus » Tue Oct 31, 2006 11:23 am

I'm tempted to concoct an aphorism based on the old Groucho-ism about private clubs (which, you'll remember, Woody Allen refashioned with reference to personal relationships in his opening monologue of "Annie Hall"):


I wouldn't care to believe in any god that had human beings as his, her, or its (choose one or both):

-- adherents

-- pride of creation
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus

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Postby Carstonio » Tue Oct 31, 2006 12:40 pm

Cary Bleasdale wrote:Further, I get the feeling that when you say "Christians" you mean "those Jerry Falwell Pricks." Actually, they are a TINY minority. Pat Robertson has about 800,000 viewers. Contrast that with say, the numbers that watch House, or Desperate Housewives. He ain't got much. There are lots of Fundies who are 6,000 year earth, Homos is bad, Bible is infallible assholes. Attack them. But please don't paint me with the same brush. I am a pre-med major. I like science. I debate fundies and convert them to liberalism. I question the Bible, and most people are like me. Trying to paint "Christianity" as some nebulous concept with a fundamentally backwards slant is like me saying all Muslims believe what Bin Laden does, or all Atheists are like Charlie Manson.


Whoa, whoa...I wasn't trying to lump all Christians in with hatemongers like Falwell, and I'm sorry I gave that impression.

My point was this - I have been told that if I want to be a good Christian, I have accept everything that God does without question, to agree that everything that God does is right and just, to not question God on pain of hell. You are probably correct that most Christians do not believe this. I know this because for a while I attended a Unitarian Universalist church.

Still, it is unacceptable to me that some people want to change my beliefs, whether it's five people or five million people. It is unacceptable to me that some people believe I am stupid or worthless if I don't follow their belief systems. And I don't mean some Christians exclusively, or even some believers in all religions exclusively. I'm talking about rabid evangelists in all belief systems, including secular ones like veganism.

And your comment about some people finding Christian thought offensive or bigoted - I only find some of it offensive because I feel devalued by some of it on a deeply personal level. I have that feeling when I read the Noah's Ark story, the Abraham and Isaac story, and Revelations. In my opinion, these show a God who is impossible to please, like nothing I do is good enough for Him, like I'm going to get in trouble no matter what I do. I have the same feeling about rabid evangelists - they withhold their love and approval unless I believe exactly what they believe.

I wanted to cry when I read about Abdur Rahman, who was almost executed because he didn't belong to the "right" religion. In a way, I wished he had barricaded himself in his home with a machine gun and slaughtered the Afghan police who were coming to take him to his death. Should people be prepared to kill to defend their freedom of conscience, or is it enough that people are prepared to die for it?

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Postby Carstonio » Tue Oct 31, 2006 12:48 pm

JohnG wrote:There's tons of ways to interpret bible stories and myths, of course. If there is any value in these old stories it's in seeing why they hold such a fascination and meaning, even if it's not immediately obvious to us today...

I can't say that's true or even that it *should* be true--it's just a guess. There's tons of symbolism in any of the older stories, not just bible ones, that I'm sure doesn't resonate for us any more without a lot of research. But like the more secular Aesop type fables I'm assuming there is some point to these stories beyond the disaster movie aspects that jump to mind.


I agree completely. My point is this - for much of my life I have been told that Christians must not apply their own interpretations to the stories, that there was only one acceptable view of the stories. It wasn't until a few years ago that I even heard of any Christians who viewed the stories as symbols and metaphors.

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Postby JohnG » Tue Oct 31, 2006 3:10 pm

Carstonio wrote:I agree completely. My point is this - for much of my life I have been told that Christians must not apply their own interpretations to the stories, that there was only one acceptable view of the stories. It wasn't until a few years ago that I even heard of any Christians who viewed the stories as symbols and metaphors.


You're right. When I was growing up and had this stuff literally pounded into me, (or whatever the term is for getting slapped with those pointers and rulers by 100 pound nuns who could hit like McGwire on a good day), there was no easily available alternate sources.Based on what my parents and aunts and uncles told me Catholics were discouraged from even reading the Bible on their own without direction back in the good/bad old days.

One of the differences I see(at least in Catholicism, which has all sorts of other issues to deal with, of course) now is bible study groups for everyone, and much broader reading lists of pre-screened but acceptable commentary type books, plus a lot more open discussion on doctrinal issues based on individual opinions.

It's a little cynical of me but I put this down to market forces--far too many Catholics were decamping to evangelical, charismatic, and "other" groups starting in the 1970s. They encouraged this kind of direct participation and provided a more immediate feedback for those who went that way--I think the Church saw these new congregations eating into their installed base, so to speak, and started to loosen up,

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Postby Ezra Lb. » Wed Nov 01, 2006 11:20 am

Criticize the ones that need it.


Ah now’s when we wade into troubled waters and I render meself contentious.

First of all my original email about the disparity between lurkers and posters was not merely intended to prod other people to respond but was motivated by a genuine desire for other points of view.

Cary, your post certainly qualifies so no need for a warning. I welcome your contribution and this post is primarily a response to you.


In one of his essays Joseph Campbell relates how he was approached at a dinner party in London by a Hindu scholar who told him that when he was in other countries he liked to acquaint himself with the customs and beliefs of that culture. (This took place in the 1940s I believe when there hadn’t been the exposure of ideas between east and west as there is today. It was still possible for educated Westerners not to know much about the religions of the East and vice versa. )

Well the Hindu scholar told Campbell that he had purchased a Bible and begun to read. But he was puzzled. He said he couldn’t find any religion in it! Campbell, who was familiar with the East because of his travels and his relationship with such scholars as Hans Zimmer said he laughed and explained to the gentlemen that in the Western conception, the narrative of the relationship between Yahweh and the Hebrews WAS considered religion.

Any of you who are in any way familiar with the Hindu scriptures like the Vedas, or the Upanishads, of the Bhagavad Gita, will instantly realize the source of the scholar’s confusion. That ain’t the way they do it where he was from!

Cary, I related the story to illustrate the point that I am well aware that there are differing conceptions of religion, certainly from religious tradition to tradition and certainly within any particular tradition.

Now you would make a careful distinction between your own beliefs and the beliefs of the obviously goofy fundamentalists. You are compelled by your respect for the rule of evidence to accept that the present world is a result of millions if not billions of years of evolutionary processes.

But I must reiterate that I am not simply opposing this or that irrational belief. I reject the very concept of irrational belief, i.e., “faith” without evidence, altogether.

Sure it’s easy to mock someone who believes that Adam and Eve were real people, that snakes can talk (and tempt), or that the earth was created in more or less its present form 8 or 10,000 years ago. But I ask you, what’s the difference in believing that and believing that God created the earth billions of years ago and has guided it through evolution to its present state?

There is no evidence for either view. Both require a “faith” in the irrational. The latter only seems the more sophisticated viewpoint because the so-called “moderate religionists” have been forced into it by the clear results of science.

The world revealed by science is full of function, but lacks any evidence of design, purpose, intent, direction, whatsoever. What we do find is a contingent, probabilistic process, devoid of “plan”.

So sure, I prefer Rumi to Osama, or Thomas Merton to Pat Robertson. But I prefer the rule of logic and reason, skepticism and science to them all.
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Postby Moderator » Wed Nov 01, 2006 11:35 am

I think this may be where we get into some trouble, however. I don't regard science as a religion for exactly the reasons you state above. I believe the whole Science v Religion to be a red herring of sorts, created on both sides to sustain their view that theirs is the sole true path.

"Science" is not a religion specifically because it discards faith completely and utterly. "Religion" relies upon a willingness to suspend a degree of literal interpretation of the world to allow for something that cannot be readily or easily proven to be real.

I love my wife, but she has to more or less take it on faith that I really mean it when I say it. I can't produce Love as a physical construct, I can only demonstrate actions and sentiment that seem to lead to that conclusion. But, at the end, the scientific method fails utterly as a tool proving that I love her.

Likewise, closing your eyes while driving a car, believing that your faith in God (gods) will keep you from crashing headlong into parked cars is demonstrably a bad idea. In this case, the steering wheel embeeded in your forehead is provable reality but in no way detracts from the fact God or gods did not intervene to prevent your stupidity.

Two totally different concepts and not mutually exclusive ones.

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Postby David Loftus » Wed Nov 01, 2006 12:23 pm

While I agree for the most part with your analysis, Steve, from the standpoint of "adherents," it strikes me that there are not a few folks out there who treat science with a sort of blind faith.

One of the bits of fun I used to have, back in the mid 1990s when the Internet was younger, was -- when the appropriate occasion arose -- to drop a bomb in a Usenet newsgroup with the casual remark that science, like history, is just another form of storytelling. I could always count on somebody to come unglued over that.
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus

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Postby Cary Bleasdale » Wed Nov 01, 2006 12:48 pm

One of my favorite webcomics has been running a storyline that is eerily apropos of this discussion, with the crux falling in the latest comic here.

First of all my original email about the disparity between lurkers and posters was not merely intended to prod other people to respond but was motivated by a genuine desire for other points of view.


I understood that. I don't want to come off as attacking you; rather, it seems that you wish to lump the group of "Christian" together. Hell, I find it sadly easy to understand why people would discard Christians based on no more than Phelps, Falwell, and their ilk. I myself now refuse to refer to myself as "Christian" simply because of the connotations of that wretched word.

But I must reiterate that I am not simply opposing this or that irrational belief. I reject the very concept of irrational belief, i.e., “faith” without evidence, altogether.


Ah. Now we come to the crux of your argument. Except that I think you misunderstand what many people find in religion. When someone refers to a "personal relationship" with God, they mean just that. Many religious people, myself included, find that we feel, quite literally feel the presence of God. Delusions? Psychosomatic manifestations? I don't know. What I do know is that when I pray, or look for help, I find a sense of peace, beyond anything I can account for. Again, I don't know, I could be delusional. But I am not the only one, not by a long shot. Virtually every real Christian, Muslim, or anyone else that I have spoken too has this feeling. Interestingly enough, I don't find many radical nutjobs who get that feeling. Coincidence? I don't know.

But I ask you, what’s the difference in believing that and believing that God created the earth billions of years ago and has guided it through evolution to its present state?


I don't think he guided it, I think that it is far more glorifying to God that he/she/it created a universe that has the infinite diversity and beauty that we see. Again, there are many who agree with me. And I think that any idiots that actually believe the 6-day theory are simply loud minorities, who have little if anything to do with the actual religion.

The world revealed by science is full of function, but lacks any evidence of design, purpose, intent, direction, whatsoever. What we do find is a contingent, probabilistic process, devoid of “plan”.


It is the nature of man to find patterns, even perhaps where none exist. Perhaps it is all random. Or it isn't. I don't, but life is more exciting when you are looking for something, looking for truth.

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Postby Ezra Lb. » Wed Nov 01, 2006 2:36 pm

Barber wrote

I love my wife, but she has to more or less take it on faith that I really mean it when I say it. I can't produce Love as a physical construct, I can only demonstrate actions and sentiment that seem to lead to that conclusion. But, at the end, the scientific method fails utterly as a tool proving that I love her.

I think you are confusing two different senses of the word "faith". Of course your wife extrapolates from your actions that you do really love her. This is rational faith. Faith based on knowledge, even if not absolute knowledge. But this is most definitely NOT belief in something for which there is no evidence whatsoever.

It's the difference between telling your wife that you love her based on a long period of shared experience versus going up to a stranger in a bar and telling her that you love her.

David wrote

...science, like history, is just another form of storytelling...

Excellent. The difference being that history, like religion, involves telling a story about nature while science allows nature to tell its own story.

Cary wrote

... Many religious people, myself included, find that we feel, quite literally feel the presence of God. Delusions? Psychosomatic manifestations? I don't know. What I do know is that when I pray, or look for help, I find a sense of peace, beyond anything I can account for. Again, I don't know, I could be delusional. But I am not the only one, not by a long shot...

I do not doubt for a minute the reality of your experience. I disagree with your interpretation of your experience. Don't you realize that atheists have these feelings too? It's just that decades of brain function studies have demonstrated to my satisfaction that what is happening is neurological and psychological but not supernatural.

I think that it is far more glorifying to God that he/she/it created a universe that has the infinite diversity and beauty that we see. Again, there are many who agree with me.

But once again Cary there is simply no evidence whatsoever that this is the case. Evolution through natural selection provides a simple, elegant, verifiable explanation for this diversity and beauty and requires no recourse to the supernatural. And the number of people who believe something has no relationship on whether a proposition is true or not.

It is the nature of man to find patterns, even perhaps where none exist. Perhaps it is all random. Or it isn't. I don't, but life is more exciting when you are looking for something, looking for truth.

Natural selection is not random, just the opposite. Nature selects for just those attributes that increase the likelihood that organisms will be able to pass on their genes.

If you're looking for truth why not do it with the best tools available, the evidence of your senses disciplined by observation and experiment? These tools have taken us to the edge of the universe and back to within seconds of the singularity that produced our universe at the beginning of time.
“We must not always talk in the marketplace,” Hester Prynne said, “of what happens to us in the forest.”
-Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Carstonio
Posts: 286
Joined: Sat Jul 22, 2006 6:50 am

Postby Carstonio » Wed Nov 01, 2006 3:43 pm

Cary Bleasdale wrote:One of my favorite webcomics has been running a storyline that is eerily apropos of this discussion, with the crux falling in the latest comic here.


I can appreciate the sentiments of the cartoon.

Regarding the second panel: I have a hard time believing that some stranger could care about me without the need to look down on me, regardless of the belief system. In my experience, people who claim to have my best interests in mind usually want to change me to fit their idea of what they think I should be.

The fourth panel fits probably about 90 percent of my experiences with Christianity as a doctrine, probably 50 percent of my experiences with evangelical Christians, and probably 20 percent of my experiences with all Christians. When people tell you that they are better than you are, it hurts. There have been times when I was just like the Christian in the last panel, except that I was

To me, Christianity as a doctrine has always seemed like it demanded absolute, unforgiving perfection. Like one mistake and I would be doomed to hell. It has always seemed like asking for forgiveness was an invitation for God to laugh in my face. It has always seemed to present a view of God's love as conditional. In my view, a loving God would not wipe out the entire human race by drowning (Genesis) or by fire (Revelations). A loving God would not play a sick mind game with a father by requiring him to sacrifice his child as a loyalty test. That's not love, that is being controlled by a madman, like a mythological version of Abu Ghirab.

When I was a boy, my family went to a Lutheran church for a while. One day after Sunday school, I came back to the regular service and found a guest preacher talking about Job or about the persecution of early Christians, I can't remember which. He had two kids standing next to him. He talked about how his enemies put his son's eye out, and had the boy cover his eye with his hand. And then he said his enemies cut out his daughter's tongue, and had the girl cover her mouth with her hand. I was horrified, because I was imagining what it was like to lose a tongue or an eye.

Obviously, I acknowledge that most Christians don't go around telling unbelievers that they're evil and worthless and doomed to hell. I just want them to acknowledge that my emotions regarding Christian doctrine are just as valid as theirs, that I have a right to my opinions.


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