The Raving Theist

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Daily Headline (With Note at End)

March 12, 2009 | 128 Comments

clintonstemcellheadline2

Washington, D.C., March 12, 2009
Special to The Raving Theist

Declaring “the ultimate triumph of science over politics,” President Obama today announced that only unfertilized, unborn human fetuses would be used in potentially life-saving experimental medical research. The new executive order puts an end to the once-contentious debate over the use of human life in federally-funded efforts to discover new cures for a variety of diseases.

“Ignorance and ideology will no longer impede progress by our greatest scientific minds,” said Obama. “Unfertilized fetuses, at any stage of development, will permit us to move forward with this important research without choosing between sound science and moral values.”

Obama praised Rhodes scholar and “genius” Bill Clinton for his ground-breaking discovery of the unfertilized embryos from which the necessary fetuses would be derived. Clinton announced his startling findings last night in an interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Larry King Live. Not only did Clinton reveal that there are embryos which “clearly have been placed beyond the pale of being fertilized before their use,” but that they would be available to all laboratories because “[t]here are a large number of embryos that we know are never going to be fertilized”:

Dr. Gupta, Obama’s former choice for surgeon general, nodded in awe of Clinton’s extraordinary revelation. In a joint statement, top medical researchers and Planned Parenthood lauded Clinton for “revolutionizing the way we think about embryos.” Although embryos were long believed to be, by definition, the product of fertilization, Clinton’s research demonstrates that the two may be thought of as conceptually distinct. According to Dr. Hans Mengele, this new knowledge will quickly facilitate the harvesting of fully developed organs from unfertilized toddlers and the elderly.

The former President is expected to win a Nobel Prize in Scientific-ness for his contribution to medicine. “This award will send the message that our future is in the capable, competent hands of people who know exactly what they are talking about,” said President Obama. “No longer will such matters be entrusted to those who appear to be hopelessly uninformed, completely clueless and possibly even insane.”

via Kelly Clark of The Lady in the Pew

NOTE: NO, there is no possibility that Clinton actually meant to say “implanted” — which would have made even less sense. See today’s update to Jill Stanek’s post on the interview, and my comment at 12:22pm (3/13/09) of that post regarding Dr. Gupta’s later attempt to spin Clinton’s words.

Comments

128 Responses to “Daily Headline (With Note at End)”

  1. Geoffrey
    March 12th, 2009 @ 3:00 pm

    This is way too rich. LOL. Stupid evil politicians.

  2. frustrated (mk)
    March 12th, 2009 @ 6:10 pm

    And I bet he said all of that with a smile on his face.

    Isn’t this the guy that thinks using a cigar to have sex is NOT the same as having sexual relations? This is what comes of comprehensive sex ed! Brilliant.

  3. Kathy
    March 12th, 2009 @ 6:39 pm

    That was embarrassing to watch! I wonder how Dr Gupta kept a straight face during the whole thing….

  4. Lily
    March 12th, 2009 @ 6:45 pm

    I think it speaks volumes about the “doctor” that he said nothing. I have heard that he is an enthusiastic abortion supporter and his unwillingness to speak up would point to that probably being true. Thank heaven he took himself out of the running for Surgeon General. We really don’t need a slicker version of Jocelyn Elders.

  5. frustrated (mk)
    March 12th, 2009 @ 6:54 pm

    I wonder how Dr Gupta kept a straight face during the whole thing….

    Dr. Gupta, Obama’s former choice for surgeon general, nodded in awe of Clinton’s extraordinary revelation…

    I think he believed every word that Clinton said…scary isn’t it? If our economic advisers are as well educated as these “scientific” minds, we are in a world of trouble!

  6. skeptimal
    March 12th, 2009 @ 7:23 pm

    RA/RT/RW,

    Still waiting for an explanation of what caused you turn to the kind of Christian “love” like you demonstrate daily on this blog.

    Did they drug you, or were you just a whore for whatever group could inspire the most hatred in you?

  7. Beelzebub
    March 12th, 2009 @ 9:00 pm

    Hmmm. I don’t know. Maybe he meant “implanted” or something. He’s usually a little more lucid.

    The real issue, of course, is do little IVF leftover embryos have tiny souls that prevents us from using them to cure real live sickness in real live people?

    Funny how after you strip way the demagoguery, what you’re left with is something to actually talk about.

  8. Fuinseoig
    March 13th, 2009 @ 11:11 am

    Thank goodness we didn’t have to listen to one of those illiterate, ignorant, superstitious Bible-thumpers mangling the science which they misunderstand, fear and hate! At last, a voice of calm sanity discussing the facts in an informed manner!

    Er…oh.

    ;-)

  9. Fuinseoig
    March 13th, 2009 @ 11:16 am

    skeptimal, Beelzebub: come on. If a pro-life advocate or conservative Christian made this kind of elementary mistake in a discussion about the topic on a national tv programme, the atheist/agnostic blogs would be mocking the living daylights out of them as an example of talking through their backsides on a subject they evidently know nothing about but are waving as a totem for their side.

    And I rather imagine, having seen some of the billet-doux on “Pharyngula” during Professor Myers’s desecration of the Host, that the language used would be a lot more in keeping with drugged whoring for the side that most inspires hatred.

  10. Fuinseoig
    March 13th, 2009 @ 11:18 am

    Ah – should qualify that last. Some atheist blogs would be mocking and jeering, not all.

    There are reasonable atheists who can put forward their objections to religion without frothing at the mouth or wishing death and destruction on their opponents.

  11. Michael Drake
    March 13th, 2009 @ 12:28 pm

    When I originally saw the interview, I thought the error was kind of amusing, but also quickly realized Clinton probably just meant “implanted.” This is what they call interpretive charity. (Which I understand Christians are permitted, though clearly not commanded, to practice.)

    It’s sort of like when Sarah Palin said that “[y]ou know there are, there are man’s activities that can be contributed to the issues that we’re dealing with now, these impacts,” I took her to mean…well, to be honest, I still don’t know what the hell she meant.

  12. JoAnna
    March 13th, 2009 @ 12:53 pm

    Michael Drake, my favorite presidential gaffe so far is George W. Bush’s, “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.” (Remarks by the President on Teaching American History and Civic Education, September 2002)

    Still, I find it odd that Dr. Gupta didn’t bother to even say something like, “You mean implanted?” after the first time Clinton mistakenly used “fertilized.”

    It does seem to show an appalling lack of knowledge regarding basic biological terms, though.

  13. Michael Drake
    March 13th, 2009 @ 1:27 pm

    JoAnna, I appreciate the Bush example, but prefer the one about OBGYNs’ “showing their love for women.” Delightfully funny as that remark was, though, I would find it hard to credit the idea that it proves that Bush believes that OBGYNs practice “love” rather than gynecology on their patients.

  14. Michael Drake
    March 13th, 2009 @ 1:31 pm

    (And yes, I suppose Gupta should have clarified the point, though again I can’t credit the idea that his failure to do so betrays “an appalling lack of knowledge regarding basic biological terms.”)

  15. Lily
    March 13th, 2009 @ 1:39 pm

    Did anyone attribute it to his “appalling lack of knowledge”? I rather thought we were attributing it to an admixture of obsequiousness and a lack of intellectual honesty.

    I could, of course, be wrong.

  16. JoAnna
    March 13th, 2009 @ 1:57 pm

    Interestingly enough, Clinton’s made the same “mistake” before, during a Larry King Live interview. You’d think someone would bother to tell him he’s using the wrong term, if indeed he’s using it unintentionally. “I do not think that word means what you think it means.”

    MD, yes, I’d forgotten about the OB love gaffe. That’s a favorite. I also rather like “If we don’t succeed, we run the risk of failure” and “Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child.”

  17. Melissa
    March 13th, 2009 @ 2:12 pm

    I just love the brilliant rational thoughts of Obama, Clinton, and all their cronies!! ;) If only they could hear themselves!!

    By the way, is there any particular reason you put MONDAY March 12th, 2009 as the date on your headline? Nevermind, that must be the “Times” error – just like everything else they print. :P

  18. Michael Drake
    March 13th, 2009 @ 2:29 pm

    “If we don’t succeed, we run the risk of failure.”

    Too, too true.

    Yes, I think Clinton may be a serial committer of this malapropism. He also says ‘nookyuhler.’ However, since I agree with Newt Gingrich and other EOB that Bill Clinton is extraordinarily bright and not a rank ignoramus, I’m inclined to think these are surface errors, and rather unilluminating ones at that. (And I don’t think TRA’s arguments in the updated link speak to the issue, however persuasive his underlining of the phrase ‘no possibility’ may be.)

  19. Michael Drake
    March 13th, 2009 @ 2:31 pm

    “I could, of course, be wrong.”

    That much is true.

  20. JoAnna
    March 13th, 2009 @ 3:22 pm

    It still seems bizarre to me that no one has corrected him, seemingly, in public or in private. The fact that he’s made this mistake more than once, on two different TV appearances — one of which was with a MEDICAL DOCTOR who should certainly know better — indicates that either he (a) doesn’t know the difference, and can’t remember the difference even when it’s explained to him, or (b) does know and doesn’t care.

    What’s also disturbing about is comments, though, is if he is referring to implantation. When has stem-cell research ever involved going into embryos AFTER implantation? (Scarily enough, however, that’s probably not too far off in the future; I can see the “wait! we can use aborted fetuses for research!” proposals popping up in droves).

  21. Erin
    March 13th, 2009 @ 4:18 pm

    Awww, Geez!! What’s the difference?? You also know that oral sex isn’t really sex, right? Fertilized, unfertilized, aren’t we just splitting hairs? Leave the poor old man alone.

  22. frustrated (mk)
    March 13th, 2009 @ 4:28 pm

    JoAnna,

    too late…already done…

    http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=15362

    “Absolutely horrifying’ proposal calls for using aborted babies as organ donors”

    London, England, Mar 13, 2009 / 04:04 am (CNA).- A leading embryonic stem cell expert in Britain has called for organs from aborted babies to be used in transplants to increase the supply of organs available for donation, drawing criticism from pro-life and Christian groups who called the proposal “absolutely horrifying.”

  23. Lily
    March 13th, 2009 @ 4:28 pm

    Who knew; who could possibly have guessed that our political institutions and process could be so further corrupted that I would ever find myself longing for the days when we merely had to endure that impossible good old boy of the oleaginous countenance and faux-empathy!

    The mind boggles.

  24. frustrated (mk)
    March 13th, 2009 @ 4:29 pm

    Erin,

    Give the man a cigar!

  25. Will
    March 13th, 2009 @ 4:32 pm

    Or, Clinton being Clinton, he is PRETENDING not to know to bamboozle us.

    Remember, “it depends on what the meaning of the word ‘fertilize’ is.”

  26. skeptimal
    March 14th, 2009 @ 8:47 am

    “come on. If a pro-life advocate or conservative Christian made this kind of elementary mistake…”

    I’m actually not talking about the fact that he called attention to the fact that Clinton misspoke. Although certainly there is a level of hypocrisy in anyone who supported Bush criticizing ANY president. I’m not a fan of Clintons and I never voted for him.

    I’m talking about the level of vitriol and contempt that RA/RT puts out. It has nothing even to do with abortion. He boasts that not long ago he was an atheist who took part in a film debunking Christianity, yet now his contempt for everything non-Christian seems evident. This is actually one of his milder posts.

    Now one would think that as someone who recently converted from reason to Christianity, presumably claiming that he was wrong back in the day when he was pointing out the flaws in Christianity, might demonstrate some humility. Nope. A little sympathy for us poor lost souls still stuck in the depravity and hopelessness of logic? Nope.

    You would think he himself was born perfect and had lived a sinless (and speech-impediment-free) life. It’s kind of sickening.

  27. frustrated (mk)
    March 14th, 2009 @ 10:22 am

    Skep,

    I hear what you’re saying, but I think we must look to RT’s motives. He wants, I believe, to stimulate conversation. If that means ticking people off, so be it. Tell me honestly, would you be here if RT’s style was to simply preach and make nice? I don’t think so. I think what draws you here is the very fact that he DOES peak your ire.

    His style is and seems to have always been, tongue in cheek sarcasm. He points things out in a way that few people can.

    It might anger you, it might enrage you, but by God, it gets you thinking.

    Is his goal to piss you off? I don’t think so. I think his goal is to wake you up. Even if that means that you’re livid.

    I enjoy it. It seems to be the way most atheists argue, through sarcasm. (Not all, to be sure, but it does tend to be the norm in my view). One liners, zingers, pointing out hypocrisy…I think he is just speaking in a language that most of you are familiar with.

    It used to tick US off. But it made us stronger in what we believe, because we were forced to defend our tenets. It is the very act of defending atheism, that I assume, finally led RT to come to the truth that atheistic arguments just don’t hold up. He would probably still be an atheist, if he had not vocalized his beliefs and had them challenged.

    If what you believe is true, then RT’s style shouldn’t really bother you. Not on a deep level.

    I remember engaging in a 4,000 comment debate on Jill’s regarding Cathoclic beliefs vs Protestant beliefs. I walked away from the argument rejuvenated, better able to understand my faith and the the protestant faith, more knowledgeable of scripture as well as Church doctrine.

    I LOVED every minute of it. However the two protestant women that I debated with, walked away exhausted, disgusted, disheartened and upset.

    I believe this is true, because while I had my faith strengthened from being challenged, they were left shaken.

    They will not admit this of course, but what else could explain the difference in our takes on the debate. Neither side “won”, so it wasn’t victory I was feeling.

    I honestly believe that I was not angered, because the debate itself only confirmed my previous held beliefs. I entered it with an open mind and was willing to admit any fallacious ideas that I held. I’m not sure the other two women could say the same. Hence, they left with a bad taste in their mouth.

    I urge you to look inward, and see if part of your revulsion at RT’s posts, is not that they challenge your own beliefs…and in some way threaten the way that you see the world.

    As always, do you desire to be “right”? Or do you seek the “Truth”? If you seek the truth, then it shouldn’t matter what RT says or how he says it…

  28. Michael Drake
    March 14th, 2009 @ 11:30 am

    “He wants, I believe, to stimulate conversation.”

    When TRA was still TRA, the anti-abortion posts used to be a refreshing way of preaching against the choir. Now they are just another way of preaching to it. Their substance and style have deteriorated accordingly.

  29. Richard Norris
    March 14th, 2009 @ 11:53 am

    Skeptimal, the truth of the matter is, we are no longer TRA’s target audience. He can’t satisfy us with his conversion story because he knows that it’s not going to satisfy a mind looking for empirical evidence. His conversion had to do with the fact that he just got to a point where he “knew” God had to exist and I’m willing to bet that his Catholic friends who fight against abortion with him had something to do with that. And has anyone noticed that it seems abortion is the only sin he rails against on here? In a wide smorgasboard of sins that are presented to us every day, the Raving Theist only sets one in his sights. His outrage is very limited, but I believe that’s because even after his conversion he still has many of his convictions as an atheist that some things described as “sins” are natural to the human race. Of course, I could be wrong. He could begin telling us about the need of abstinence education in schools, the importance of banning gay marriage, the need to have all pornography to be declared obscene, the importance of punishing those who massively pollute the environment, or any of the new seven deadly sins decreed by the Catholic Church. I won’t hold my breath though.

  30. Lily
    March 14th, 2009 @ 12:50 pm

    There are no new “seven deadly sins”. That was a foolish story put out by the press which cannot get anything right when it comes to religion or Obama.

    We all of us have particular interests and our pet causes. Why should RA tackle anything else but the same issue that has always deeply concerned him? That strikes me as a peculiarly irrelevant criticism. If you want to know his opinion on other subjects, I suppose you can ask. It is up to him to decide if he wants to respond.

  31. Richard Norris
    March 14th, 2009 @ 3:18 pm

    Lily, as the Raving Atheist, he was able to tackle more than the carnal sin of abortion. He spoke out about different kinds of moral issues all of the time, but since his conversion he has become very “one-note” as it were, to the point that his posting has become tiresomely predictable. If this is all that he can muster passion for after his conversion, then he has given up far more than his ability to reason.

  32. skeptimal
    March 14th, 2009 @ 5:14 pm

    Richard Said: “His conversion had to do with the fact that he just got to a point where he “knew” God had to exist and I’m willing to bet that his Catholic friends who fight against abortion with him had something to do with that.”

    I agree that this seems likely. I maintain that there are no Christians who reasoned their way to faith; it always involves a “revelation.” And there’s not really anything wrong with that as long as they don’t claim they became believers through logic. These days, there are people making fortunes on claiming to be able to demonstrate that faith is logical and that things like creationism are scientific.

    “I believe that’s because even after his conversion he still has many of his convictions as an atheist that some things described as “sins” are natural to the human race.”

    We don’t know exactly when he converted, but you may be right that he’s still coming to grips with some cognitive dissonance. I think you’re wrong, though. Given the way he parrots (and builds on) the Christojargon, I think he’ll toe the Republican Church party line.

  33. skeptimal
    March 14th, 2009 @ 5:17 pm

    “When TRA was still TRA, the anti-abortion posts used to be a refreshing way of preaching against the choir. Now they are just another way of preaching to it. Their substance and style have deteriorated accordingly.”

    Generally speaking, once you’re willing to settle for religion, you give up on the kind of critical thinking that makes conversation interesting.

  34. frustrated (mk)
    March 14th, 2009 @ 5:49 pm

    Skep,

    What exactly have you added to the conversation this so dang “interesting”???? ;)

  35. skeptimal
    March 14th, 2009 @ 6:02 pm

    MK said: “He wants, I believe, to stimulate conversation. If that means ticking people off, so be it.”

    Well, let’s look at that. When you want to stimulate conversation, presumably you think some actual communication can take place if people get talking. You can stimulate thought and challenge people without being a jerk. How many non-religionists are left on this site? Is RA/RT’s strategy working? Only if his goal is to get adoration from a group of people who already agree with him.

    “Tell me honestly, would you be here if RT’s style was to simply preach and make nice? I don’t think so. I think what draws you here is the very fact that he DOES peak your ire.”

    I can’t deny I like an argument, but I have to know that some actual communication will take place. Zingers are fun, as the ravemeister has discovered, but they’re ultimately just noise. This site is becoming increasingly noisy without much understanding being communicated.

    “I urge you to look inward, and see if part of your revulsion at RT’s posts, is not that they challenge your own beliefs…and in some way threaten the way that you see the world.”

    It’s a logical question to ask, especially if you assume that everyone who isn’t a Christian is avoiding the “truth,” but I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. I generally *like* having my thinking challenged, which is why I visit sites where I disagree with the prevailing view. I lose interest, however, once I start feeling like I’m the only one in the room not toking the doobie. I’m not sure what RA/RT is smoking.

    “It is the very act of defending atheism, that I assume, finally led RT to come to the truth that atheistic arguments just don’t hold up.”

    :^) You’ve got a good sense of humor. I do agree, though, that it’s a healthy thing to talk to people with whom you disagree. We need to be challenged in our thinking, or we start doing what RA/T does: preaching to the choir.

  36. skeptimal
    March 14th, 2009 @ 6:06 pm

    MK said: “What exactly have you added to the conversation this so dang “interesting”???? ;)”

    LOL…perhaps I should clarify. Once a religionist believes that the only way understanding can come is through revelation, they will cease trying to communicate. What’s the point, after all? Nothing we say matters if it takes divine intervention to understand an issue.

  37. frustrated (mk)
    March 14th, 2009 @ 6:22 pm

    Skep,
    I’ve had a number of very intense, very interesting conversations on this site with non believers. I’m in one now with Bbub…I’ve had one with Niles, Michael Drake, and Irreligious way in the beginning.

    I can’t speak for everyone, but I honestly try to “converse” and not just argue or “zing”. I’m willing to explain why I believe what I believe to anyone willing to listen, and I’m willing to listen to anyone that is willing to tell me what they believe and why they believe it.

    If you steer clear of the folks that irk you, and focus on the ones that really seem sincerely interested in discussion, you’d be surprised where it can take you.

    In just the last few posts, you yourself, have insulted believers at least three times. Just for being believers. How is that conducive to conversation?

    You’ve insinuated that we’re morons, bereft of rational thought, blindly going through life like robots, called us uninteresting and full of noise.

    This isn’t exactly welcoming discourse. It makes most people want to “fight back”. It puts people in a defensive position.

    Tell me honestly, how many believers on this site have you openly and honestly tried to converse with? Maybe the fault is not all ours?

  38. frustrated (mk)
    March 14th, 2009 @ 6:41 pm

    BTW,

    I give many kudos to the few atheists that have stuck around. It can’t be easy, and requires a certain amount of courage to enter “enemy” territory…especially when you are outnumbered. It too wish there were more atheists, or different faiths. It would make it more interesting for me also….

  39. lily
    March 14th, 2009 @ 6:57 pm

    Skeptimal: I pretty much agree with what you are saying only I don’t find the direction of this blog a bad thing. RA has always felt strongly about the evil of abortion. I, personally, would love to see him turn that laser wit on Obama and the thefts that he and his Chicago slime buddies are perpetrating. But if RA did so, this would be a different blog. He wants to join his voice with that of other passionate prolifers. It is hard for me to see that as a fault.

    Beyond that, I am aware that a number of atheists are still reading, though they do not comment. RA has blog stats. He knows whether he is reaching others or not. If he isn’t, it may seem appropriate to him at some point to shut down and devote himself full-time to other pursuits. Just what I know anecdotally would suggest that he has more readers than we know of.

    Finally, I find myself laughing at how earnestly you and Richard Norris, et al. assure each other that there is no logic in his or anyone else’s conversion. It is really hilarious. And sad.

    Where does your faith come from (and it is faith) that you can know anything? Where does the faith of the scientist come from that the universe is intelligible and that truths about it can be expressed in the language of mathematics? Why do you trust your mind to give you accurate insights into the nature of reality? Your brain did, after all, evolve in a blind process from the primordial goo. Is your trust (which is another word for faith) that science is the means for determining truth empirically demonstrable?

    Frankly, as a writer I like put it, the appearance of one white crow immediately demonstrates that not all crows are black. Thus, the scientist’s understanding of crows must be revised to account for that white crow. The existence of thousands of highly educated people who find your (plural) definition of faith ridiculous, ought to give you pause and cause you to rethink your simplistic notions.

    Having said that, yes, there is a real element of trust/faith that goes along with conversion. We call it the gift of faith for a reason. But to suppose that the barmy, childish thing, that Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens and all the other “new” atheists call “faith” is religious faith is, frankly, akin to believing in Santa Claus.

  40. skeptimal
    March 14th, 2009 @ 7:59 pm

    MK said: “You’ve insinuated that we’re morons, bereft of rational thought, blindly going through life like robots, called us uninteresting and full of noise.”

    MK, I see why you think that, but I think if you look back, you’ll see that it’s not what I’ve said or even insinuated. I’ve said that you can’t reason your way to faith: that’s very different from calling anyone a moron or calling them bereft of rational thought. My point was that faith is always a “revelation,” meaning that you accept beliefs without evidence. As I recall, that’s even a Christian doctrine…”wisdom of this world” and all of that. I specifically said there’s nothing wrong with that as long as you don’t claim you reached your faith through logic.

    Now although faith is not reached through logic, that doesn’t mean that people can’t reason together, even when they disagree. Many Christians, however, do seem to believe that reasoning together is a waste of effort, because it’s impossible for a non-Christian to understand true wisdom.

    As I recall, I haven’t accused Christians in general of going through life blindly like robots, although I *have* suggested that RA/RT has swallowed someone else’s thoughts without chewing.

    I seem to recall a “doobie” comment, but that had more to do with people of any ideology engaging only each other in conversation. Atheists unquestioningly support each other could just as easily earn that comment.

    MK Said: “Tell me honestly, how many believers on this site have you openly and honestly tried to converse with? Maybe the fault is not all ours?”

    Most of the cross-group conversations have been between non-theists and you, at least as far as I’ve observed. I’m comfortable with my record on this site, but I’d be the last to say I couldn’t improve. Maybe I like to “stimulate conversation” myself. :^)

  41. skeptimal
    March 14th, 2009 @ 8:15 pm

    Lily said: “Where does your faith come from (and it is faith) that you can know anything?”

    Well, if we can’t know anything, then there’s not much point in even trying to understand anything is there? If that takes faith, then I guess it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

    “Where does the faith of the scientist come from that the universe is intelligible…”

    My answer above pretty much applies to this. I’m not sure what the alternative is.

    ” and that truths about it can be expressed in the language of mathematics?”

    I wasn’t aware that scientists believed this.

    “The existence of thousands of highly educated people who find your (plural) definition of faith ridiculous, ought to give you pause and cause you to rethink your simplistic notions.”

    I’m not sure what you mean by my plural definition of faith, but the fact that intelligent people are people of faith proves only that you don’t have to be unintelligent to have faith. I think that goes without saying.

  42. lily
    March 14th, 2009 @ 8:31 pm

    Wrong answer Skeptimal. Your belief in the superiority of your position rests on nothing.

  43. lily
    March 14th, 2009 @ 8:32 pm

    Nothing but faith, I mean. (Hit submit too soon.)

  44. Kamikaze189
    March 14th, 2009 @ 11:03 pm

    “Your belief in the superiority of your position rests on nothing.” (Where “nothing” is, of course, referring to faith.)

    A perfect Freudian slip. Don’t come by those too often. Glad I dropped by the site today.

    Also, haven’t the readers here been over the conversion story thing a few times already? The guy likes Dawn Eden. To semi-quote RHCP: What he got, he gotta put it in her.

    If you’re looking for something better than that, well, you’re out of luck. The other option is “nothing,” as Lily so aptly puts it.

    “Nothing” is generally less convincing than a vagina. It’s difficult to measure just how convincing or not a vagina -is-, but considering that “nothing” has no persuasive value at all, it is fair to say “nothing” holds a lot less argumentative weight.

    Note that my usage of vaginas may be replaced with other similar things. By this I do not mean penises (as Dawn Eden probably doesn’t have one), but perhaps things like love, or large breasts. Whichever of these options may have caused RT’s “heart” to raise its bulbous purple head, they are unconvincing as an argument.

    If anything, I wouldn’t be surprised if he simply resorted to “nothing”. Being convinced by “nothing” is a very common thing for the religious.

  45. Nile the Jolly
    March 15th, 2009 @ 2:26 am

    1. Science is made on probability not certainty.
    2. We make science with our imperfect brains and it is all there is to it.
    3. Naturalism is not just another point of view like any religion; it has superiority because, apart from religion, it is through naturalism that any concensus on matters related to our universe, humankind and animal kingdom can be attained. Therefore, it is the problem of theism that when it comes to religion, there is no concensus and it is the theists’ task to solve this problem.
    4. The world is full of religions; and this puts the theist in a moral obligation to explain why an all-good God should provide redemption to only one group among many.

  46. Beelzebub
    March 15th, 2009 @ 3:50 am

    #44 definitely proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that I’m not the most brutal commenter here. But if that is true, it does answer a few questions. The age old link between contemplation and vows of celibacy…

  47. frustrated (mk)
    March 15th, 2009 @ 7:04 am

    Kamikaze,

    The fact that the only thing you can attribute a possible conversion to is a desire for sex, tells me so much more about which gutter your mind is in, than where RT’s mind is.

    That you could equate big breasts and love is truly sad.

    Did RT fall in love with Dawn Eden? I for one, would be thrilled! Dawn is amazing, and it appears that so to is RT.

    But falling in love is a far cry from thinking with your sexual organs.

    I’m sad for you. Perhaps, you too, will one day experience true and honest love. Until then, you’ll just have to treat love the way you do faith. You’ll believe it when you see it.

    Sadly, like faith, you usually don’t see it til you believe it.

    Good luck to you. I’m sorry you’re lonely. I’m sorry you’re life is so empty that you can’t even imagine a relationship between a man and a woman that doesn’t involve doing “the nasty”…

    God Love You Kam.

  48. frustrated (mk)
    March 15th, 2009 @ 7:16 am

    Bbub,

    1. Science is made on probability not certainty.

    Faith is based on probablilty, not certainty, also. We can’t “know” anything on faith matters either. We can only trust what we sense, feel or see, just like a scientist. Given what I know of the world, it is more probable to me that God exists, than that He doesn’t. I guess it all comes down to which questions are you trying to answer. If how, what, when and where are your game, the science is your man. But if why is the question, then science is gonna fail. Those of us that believe were not happy with how, what, when and where. We wanted to know WHY.

    2. We make science with our imperfect brains and it is all there is to it.

    We believe with an imperfect faith and that is all there is to it. Our brains are not big enough to understand all of it, so we do the best we can. We can’t answer all the questions that you ask about God, but we DO keep asking, searching…just like scientists do. The evidence is there. But being of a supernatural nature, you won’t be able to see it with natural methods. To quote Antoine de Saint Exupery in the The Little Prince, ”

    “Here is my secret. It is very simple. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

    4. The world is full of religions; and this puts the theist in a moral obligation to explain why an all-good God should provide redemption to only one group among many.

    God has NOT only offered Himself to one group of people. Rather He used one group of people to reveal Himself to the world.

    Eternal Life is there for the taking. By ANYONE. He used one group of people to SHOW us Himself, but He did NOT show Himself to save only one group of people.

    You want a piece? Take it. It’s yours as well as mine.
    You CHOOSE to become one of the “chosen people”. And aren’t we always talking about “CHOICE”.

  49. Nile the Jolly
    March 15th, 2009 @ 8:09 am

    “Faith is based on probability, not certainty, also”

    Faith is based on certainty because it is not open to falsification.

    “Our brains are not big enough to understand all of it, so we do the best we can”

    If our brain is not big enough to understand the said supernatural, how can you claim any knowledge about it?

    “God has NOT only offered Himself to one group of people. Rather He used one group of people to reveal Himself to the world.”

    To say that God used one group of people to reveal himself to the world is meaningless when we consider that the rest of the world does not take this seriously.

  50. Beelzebub
    March 15th, 2009 @ 8:26 am

    mk,
    I think you’ve mistakenly attributed that comment to me, but it was Nile’s.

  51. Beelzebub
    March 15th, 2009 @ 8:33 am


    But falling in love is a far cry from thinking with your sexual organs.

    ::Barely suppressed smile:: The thing is mk, when men armchair analyze other men there are a few key points they cover almost immediately. “Gonadal” thinking is the very first base to cover.

  52. Beelzebub
    March 15th, 2009 @ 8:36 am

    …particularly when there is an abrupt, radical, and not thoroughly explained shift in behavior.

  53. frustrated (mk)
    March 15th, 2009 @ 8:41 am

    “Our brains are not big enough to understand all of it, so we do the best we can”

    I have no idea how a television works, but I watch it.

    No one has any idea how to cure cancer, but we all agree it exists.

    No one has walked on venus, but we’re pretty sure it’s there.

    To say that God used one group of people to reveal himself to the world is meaningless when we consider that the rest of the world does not take this seriously.

    The charge was that He only offered salvation to one group of people. I answered THAT. Of course it is meaningless to those that do not take it seriously. That has nothing to do with the fact that it is OFFERED to everyone. You have the CHOICE to take it seriously or not.

    Faith is based on certainty because it is not open to falsification.

    Faith is based on subjective certainty. Not objective certainty. By definition. If was objectively certain, it wouldn’t be called faith.
    Are you saying that unless we can understand a thing completely, know all there is to know about it, it doesn’t exist or is not worthy or our attention?

  54. frustrated (mk)
    March 15th, 2009 @ 8:42 am

    Sorry BBub. I didn’t realize that Nile had joined us. Mea Culpa.

  55. frustrated (mk)
    March 15th, 2009 @ 8:44 am

    ::Barely suppressed smile:: The thing is mk, when men armchair analyze other men there are a few key points they cover almost immediately. “Gonadal” thinking is the very first base to cover.

    This may be true, but it doesn’t give the argument merit.

    Two quotes come to mind.

    One: Women use sex to get love. Men use love to get sex.

    Two: When men argue they address the issue. When women argue they address each other.

    Men! Sheesh!

  56. lily
    March 15th, 2009 @ 8:44 am

    Nile: you said: 1. Science is made on probability not certainty.

    Yes, indeed it is. But, scientists and all believers in scientific naturalism bring a tremendous amount of faith to the enterprise. You are taking for granted something you cannot take for grante– that the universe behaves in a “law-like” manner and that our brains can comprehend these laws. When and how, in the long process of blind, purposeless evolution, did our minds become competent to give us knowledge of reality?

    You have brought a tremendous amount of faith to this statement. You believe that your mind is capable of discerning truth—even if it is *merely* the truth of scientific naturalism. What experiment can you run to provide verification that your mind can discern truth or formulate correct hypotheses? You trust your mind well enough to challenge what I write but why? Where is your evidence that your brain is giving you accurate data that you can trust? Indeed, if it evolved by adaptation, why do you trust that somewhere along the line it became trustworthy to give you independent knowledge of reality?

    2. We make science with our imperfect brains and it is all there is to it.

    ? That is not all there is to it.

    3. Naturalism is not just another point of view like any religion; it has superiority because, apart from religion, it is through naturalism that any concensus on matters related to our universe, humankind and animal kingdom can be attained.

    Well, yes, naturalism is just another point of view and a very limited one at that. If our knowledge is limited to what science can discover, we cannot know very much. Indeed, the belief that knowledge is limited to what science can discover is called scientism, and it is very bad philosophy. It also refutes itself since you cannot demonstrate the truth of the proposition “there are no truths except scientific truths” using the scientific method. Moreover it would mean that mathematical truths and logical truths don’t constitute knowledge, because they are a priori rather than a posteriori truths.

    4. The world is full of religions; and this puts the theist in a moral obligation to explain why an all-good God should provide redemption to only one group among many… Mk has answered this brilliantly, as usual.

    Oh, I see you have written another message. You said:

    Faith is based on certainty because it is not open to falsification/em>.

    No. This is not so. All our attempts to find truth rest on a “leap” of faith that truth can be found. This is true of the scientist and the theist. We make that leap and it enables us to continue the pursuit of truth. Not to make it leaves us unable to “know” anything. Indeed, there is such a school of philosophy. But radical skepticism is confused and sterile and most of us cannot go there.

  57. skeptimal
    March 15th, 2009 @ 8:48 am

    Lily said: “Wrong answer Skeptimal. Your belief in the superiority of your position rests on nothing but faith.”

    I hear this frequently (regarding the alleged empty faith involved in skeptical views), but I haven’t been able to get myself into the head of a believer to understand why they see it that way. It would be one thing if I was saying with certainty that there are no gods or supreme beings, but I’m not saying that.

    It also strikes me as significant that you refer to my “belief in the *superiority* of my position,” because I’ve apparently left room for misunderstanding on this. My goal is not to have the most “superior position.” My goal is to pursue the truth. (Whether I’m effective in that pursuit is up for debate, of course.)

    You seem to believe it’s an article of faith for me to believe that the truth is going to be consistent with the available evidence and it’s also going to be logically consistent.

    If it takes faith to believe that, then that’s a gamble I’m willing to take, since I really have no better alternative. If we’re going to say that the truth is NOT going to fit the available evidence and be logically consistent, then we’re saying that someone or something is deliberately tampering with the evidence so that we *can’t* understand how the universe works.

  58. lily
    March 15th, 2009 @ 9:12 am

    I’m sorry skeptimal– I was in a hurry when I wrote that last message and should not have bothered until I could flesh out my answer.

    Actually, most of what I would say I said in my response to Nile.

    I hear this frequently (regarding the alleged empty faith involved in skeptical views), but I haven’t been able to get myself into the head of a believer to understand why they see it that way.

    There is faith (I don’t claim that it is empty) in your skeptical views. It is an act of faith to pursue truth at all because it assumes that there is truth to be pursued and that you can recognize it when you find it. In this respect, the theist and atheist are far more alike than they are different! You cannot demonstrate empirically that there is such a thing as truth. Yet you believe in it. Why?

  59. Nile the Jolly
    March 15th, 2009 @ 9:30 am

    Mathematical and logical truths are not a priori. They are conceptualization and formulation of our impressions and accumulated knowledge. That they are found a priori in the mind is scholastic understanding of philosophy. From enlightement to this day, that understanding has changed.

  60. Nile the Jolly
    March 15th, 2009 @ 9:41 am

    Any knowledge claimed beyond science is speculative. It is not based on experiment and evidence. It is intuitive and subjective and therefore does not deserve validity. Mostly apologetics of religions defend this view. Neither theirs nor the criticism of social scientists are satisfactory. Naturalistic approach is the one and only universally acceptable way of understanding nature. The theists also use the method of naturalistic approach, say from using a computer to knowing when the moon is full. It is only in the religions that there is controversy with the natural approach and it is up to the theists to question the validity of their faith.

  61. lily
    March 15th, 2009 @ 10:21 am

    Nile, You are avoiding the question. You and most atheists make incredible leaps of logic. Why should the universe should be describable in the language of mathematics? Why should an unguided evolutionary process have given rise to creatures with the ability to apprehend that universe? As Einstein said, “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.” Like most people, you are simply taking that for granted without asking why.

    What persuasive evidence is there that the physical universe is all that exists, and nothing else? Do you have some empirical evidence for that proposition (or even a compelling logical argument for it)?

    It will come as news to philosophers and mathematicians everywhere that mathematical and logical truths are not a priori. Why do you think that?

  62. lily
    March 15th, 2009 @ 10:29 am

    I should probably add that science is based on abductive reasoning– that is, it is an inference to the best explanation for some phenomenon. This is how science avoids the charge that it is arguing from ignorance, since all scientific theories are underdetermined and only based on presently available knowledge.

    Scientific naturalism doesn’t make sense as a starting point. It offers absolutely no explanation of why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe behaves in a law-like manner, why it’s describable in terms of mathematics, and why we’re able to comprehend it, among many other things. All of this has to be assumed before science can get off the ground. You and other atheists are taking huge leaps of faith without even knowing it!

  63. Nile the Jolly
    March 15th, 2009 @ 10:45 am

    Lily: We’re not taking anything for granted. We went through this before. When we know no more, then your God takes the lead.

    Isn’t it funny that you talk about empirical evidence? That’s all I’nm saying. I’m saying that when empirical evidence is no more, then that’s not knowledge; you claim the contrary. You claim to know things (God, etc.) by intuition and without empirical evidence.

    In the middle ages, up to 17th century (Descartes), with the influences of Plato and Pythagorian thought, math principles were thought to be present a priori – as metaphysical substances (ideas) – in the mind. Modern science does not accept metaphysics, thus math principles and logical truths are formulations of the mind based on rationalization of accumulated knowledge. I don’t think this view is news for any modern mathematician.

  64. lily
    March 15th, 2009 @ 2:38 pm

    You don’t appear to have understood the argument I am making. You have not dealt with the issue– How do you know anything? Why do you assume that the world can be understood? Why do you assume that we are capable of understanding it? Science can’t begin to answer such questions.

    It is wrong to say that science doesn’t “accept” metaphysics. Science deals strictly with the natural world and makes no claims about anything else. Science attempts to describe the universe by constructing mathematical models. But such models cannot answer the question of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. So often scientists think that if they can describe something with a mathematical equation, they’ve explained it.

    One eminent scientist, Stephen Hawking (I am pretty sure you will have heard of him?), knows better. He wrote, “Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the question of why there should be a universe for the model to describe.” (From A Brief History of Time).

    You cannot simple dismiss everything that cannot be demonstrated empirically. There are some things that science can never know, even on an empirical level. Such limits are the basis of quantum theory and chaos theory, for example. Also, what happened during the Planck era of the Big Bang is a limit on empirical knowledge since the known laws of physics break down at that moment at the beginning of the universe. Even Stephen Hawking has recently begun to acknowledge that a Theory Of Everything is not possible.

    But let’s deal with the easy stuff first. How do you *know* anything?

  65. frustrated (mk)
    March 15th, 2009 @ 3:44 pm

    It’s what I keep saying. Science answers what, who, where, when and how…but it doesn’t answer why, or where does it come from.

    I think part of the problem is that we keep comparing science/math with religion.

    One measures and explores that which can be known, so it uses physical means to do so. But how does one measure what cannot be seen?

    Only by measuring the effects, or what we call the “fruits”. The fruits of faith cannot be measured with rulers or thermometers. They must be measured with non physical things. You wouldn’t attempt to prove a scientific theory using metaphysical means, would you?

  66. lily
    March 15th, 2009 @ 4:08 pm

    Part of the problem, I think, is that so many atheists really take for granted that the universe obeys laws (or appears to) and that we can figure them out (to the degree that we do) and understand them. It is amazing to me that they don’t ask themselves how this can be but just take for granted that it is so. It is a huge leap of faith and so many of them just don’t understand that.

  67. frustrated (mk)
    March 15th, 2009 @ 4:23 pm

    Yes, Lily. The fact that we have the faculties to reason and recognize that we have the faculties to reason and recognize these faculties, is what needs to be addressed.

    The very ability to know that we know is what is not being addressed. Where did the ability to be able to even ask the question come from?

    Dogs don’t do it. Mice don’t do it. Only man does it. Only man is aware that he can do it. So what is it? Where did it come from?

  68. Beelzebub
    March 15th, 2009 @ 7:59 pm

    Science doesn’t have a problem with an ordered universe, but it considers the fundamental axioms arbitrary or fixed by physical necessity, or interdependent. This is how it deflects many of the “anthropic” fine-tuning arguments.

    ‘How we can know anything’ is easier to deal with. Evolution supplies us with brains that model our world. The scientific answer is as simple as that, and it even predicts that the further we stray from everyday metaphysics (ordinary cause-effect, rocks falling off cliffs, etc.) the less accurate and dependable becomes common sense. Our minds balk at quantum physics because evolution didn’t require that common sense account for it for our survival.

  69. frustrated (mk)
    March 15th, 2009 @ 8:17 pm

    B,

    But where did the ability itself come from? You say evolution and that tells me that I have it, that it can be
    “seen”, but it doesn’t tell me why MY brain works this way and no other creatures does. Why doesn’t the dog need to know how to “think” like we do to survive? Wouldn’t we have survived just fine if our brains stayed unevolved?

    Why do we have art? Why do we need to grasp concepts like beauty and truth and honor? We don’t need these to survive.

    Why do sunsets awe 99% of us, while that same 99% are grossed out by worms? Worms are harmless, so why the revulsion? (Maybe 99% is high, but you see what I mean)

    Why are mountains sublime, while dirt doesn’t do much for us unless we are farmers?

    Do you see what I’m getting at? Evolution explains why we had to learn a lot of things to survive yes. But there are tons of things that are unique to man, that are not utilitarian. Why?

  70. Kamikaze189
    March 15th, 2009 @ 8:28 pm

    MK writes: “The fact that the only thing you can attribute a possible conversion to is a desire for sex, tells me so much more about which gutter your mind is in, than where RT’s mind is.”

    Well, the guy’s awful quiet about why he did it. I’m just speculating. You know how often people do exactly what I’m talking about, though, don’t you? Guy-who-converts-to-have-sex is a very common thing. Our Guy is playing the right tunes on his blog, but so would Guy-who-converts-to-have-sex. A commonly seen thread between these converters is a lack of a good explanation for converting. We see that here. In fact, he hasn’t even tried to explain it.

    I’d love to see RT do a post on it. I’d like to know because it could do any number of things. He could convert a lot of us skeptics if he’s really on to something. Or maybe he’s got nekkid pics of Dawn Eden, and he’s waiting until the breakup to post those?

    I for one intend to crack jokes on his comment threads until he either 1) gives us his sexual reasons (or other reasons) for converting, or 2) kills me.

    “That you could equate big breasts and love is truly sad.”

    Perhaps it’s more of a combination of the two.

    “Did RT fall in love with Dawn Eden? I for one, would be thrilled! Dawn is amazing, and it appears that so to is RT.”

    Let’s not rule out the big boob possibility, okay? I’m willing to entertain your far-fetched “love” perspective, so let’s just try to meet halfway here.

    “I’m sad for you. Perhaps, you too, will one day experience true and honest love.”

    As Oscar Wilde once said: “Bitches ain’t shit but hos and tricks.” Still, I’ll try anything once. I get to keep the video games after the divorce. She has to keep — I mean, uh, GETS — the kids.

    “Until then, you’ll just have to treat love the way you do faith. You’ll believe it when you see it.”

    Well, as I see it, people kill over both. It’s faith that kills buildings full of people. Love is mostly positive, but every now and then, somebody has sex with the babysitter, and somebody else hits that other somebody repeatedly with their golf clubs.

    Love is demonstrable. TED.com has a decent speech given by a Helen Fisher about it.

    I don’t treat them the same.

    “Sadly, like faith, you usually don’t see it til you believe it.”

    Just goes to show, you can never be too cautious!

    “Good luck to you. I’m sorry you’re lonely.”

    I could understand how you could conclude I was having love-less relationships, one nights stands, etc etc… but you got this? Alright, alright. It’s probably in the bible somewhere. Christians mind-reading and stuff. Just point it out.

    “I’m sorry you’re life is so empty that you can’t even imagine a relationship between a man and a woman that doesn’t involve doing “the nasty”…”

    The nasty. That’s like “bumpin’ uglies”, huh? That doesn’t make it sound too good. “Horizontal dancing” is a little bit better.

  71. Kamikaze189
    March 15th, 2009 @ 8:42 pm

    MK also writes: “Science answers what, who, where, when and how…but it doesn’t answer why, or where does it come from.”

    Could you expand on this? Give a few examples of how this works in practice?

  72. skeptimal
    March 15th, 2009 @ 8:46 pm

    Lily said and MK ratified: “You cannot demonstrate empirically that there is such a thing as truth. Yet you believe in it. Why?”

    Past conversations with Christians tell me that you see this as some sort of turning point in logical reasoning. Why? Why does the fact that just about everyone believes there is such a thing as truth constitute proof to you that Jesus was born a virgin birth, died after a sinless life, and is still alive?

  73. Lily
    March 15th, 2009 @ 9:02 pm

    Who is talking about fine tuning or the anthropic principle? You haven’t recognized the fundamental problem, Bbub. Evolution cannot and does not explain our minds. Evolution is random and purposeless, remember? While science can plausibly describe our brains as adaptive, so what? At what point did they become competent to weigh truth claims? How do you account for such things as self-awareness? Subjective experience? Personal identity? You can’t simply wave your hand and ignore them. And you sure as heck can’t make a plausible evolutionary argument to account for all those inconvenient matters, either.

    Science takes for granted certain things that it must take on faith because it cannot demonstrate them to be true. Like so many you simply don’t see the implications of the sort of world we live in. How do we happen to live in a universe that behaves as though it is governed by laws? How does it happen that we have minds that can comprehend those laws and express them in the language of mathematics? Science can’t even explain why there is something, rather than nothing.

    And you think we are the credulous ones!

  74. Lily
    March 15th, 2009 @ 9:05 pm

    Why does the fact that just about everyone believes there is such a thing as truth constitute proof to you that Jesus was born a virgin birth, died after a sinless life, and is still alive?

    Skeptimal, we are long miles away from talking about Christianity. Let’s worry about establishing the reasonableness of positing “God”. Then we can talk about Christianity, specifically, if you like.

  75. Beelzebub
    March 16th, 2009 @ 5:10 am

    “Evolution cannot and does not explain our minds. Evolution is random and purposeless, remember?”

    The first thing is to understand what we’re talking about by “explain.” And this isn’t just a dodge like “it depends on what your definition for ‘is’ is.” because you need the clarification as badly as I do. Do you mean spell out everything in terms so obvious that it’s self-evident to any who hear AND UNDERSTANDS it that it’s true. Evidently, by that definition there are many things that both science and religion do not explain. However, there are scientific explanations that do fit the bill here. Evolution is one of them. I believe that any person that actually understands the principles of evolution, comprehends the evidence and its explanatory power will see that it is indeed true — at least in general terms. You can still quibble about whether God had his spoon in the soup now and then.

    How lucky we would be if there were actually religious explanations — an of them — that met this criterion. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just tell me to go read X,Y and Z and then visit museum A,B and C and I would believe! Of course, you can’t. Then again, there have been instances where born again Christians have received Phd’s in Paleontology and still been YECs, but my firm belief is that they were simply parroting knowledge and didn’t really learn anything.

    On the other hand is what you mean by explanation simply an account for the origin and cause of something, without any real details for any of it. The evolutionary explanation for the brain is of this sort, for the time being.

    It’s true that evolution is based in part on random mutation and is purposeless, as in it has no intention. However, evolution as a phenomenon can be viewed as purposeful in that it will tend to optimize creatures for survival. I don’t see how saying our minds MUST be separate from that process follows. It’s quite possible that we are, in fact, smarter than we need to be; it’s possible that the mutation(s) that produced a vastly expanded cortex overshot the mark by a large margin. But I think it’s absurd to claim that just because we can appreciate a sunset, there must be God — any more than the fact that my cat seems to be quite fond of me implies there is a cat God.

    It’s true that somewhere around 1/4 million years ago or possibly more recently something quite remarkable happened to produce the modern human brain. Just as an example, when Neanderthals died, their kin dug a pit and kicked gramps into it. Cro Magnon adored its dead with beads and flowers and probably had burial ceremonies of some sort. You can explain this through the touch of God or as a evolutionary brain augmentation that boosted our capacity to process symbols. Another option is to lobotomize yourself and say everything popped into existence 6000 years ago.

    btw — dolphin brains are also quite remarkable, and who says they don’t enjoy a good sunset — and who says they don’t amuse themselves with undersea metaphors, or are epicures of tuna and so on.

  76. Beelzebub
    March 16th, 2009 @ 5:28 am

    It’s interesting that this whole debate has as its origin the very inception of post-Socratic philosophy. Basically, it’s Plato vs. Aristotle now as it has been forever. Plato’s bizarre Theory of Forms was what started the ball rolling regarding the “unseen world,” that there are certain mystical elements hidden behind the curtain that govern our world. He even accounted for those “special people” who would be our spiritual leaders and who could perceive true reality. Aristotle was far more into empiricism. He was very much a “what you see is what you get” kind of guy.

  77. frustrated (mk)
    March 16th, 2009 @ 5:55 am

    btw — dolphin brains are also quite remarkable, and who says they don’t enjoy a good sunset — and who says they don’t amuse themselves with undersea metaphors, or are epicures of tuna and so on.

    Well, lol, where is the EVIDENCE?

    No one doubts that for an animal, primates, dolphins, whales and parrots top the list…but, there is still no evidence that they have anywhere NEAR the reasoning power that we have.

    As I’ve said before, if you saw a man swimming in the Ocean you wouldn’t blink. If you saw a man climb a tree or use a stick to get termites out of a termite mound, or keep a kitten as a pet, you’d say “So what”?

    But what if you found underworld cities, with governments and building codes and paved roads…or jungle libraries or art museums filled with books and painting done by chimps in a building built by Orangutans? Or a parrot driving a car? What would your reaction be?

    Are you saying that these animals are MORE intelligent than us? That they are SO evolved, that they COULD do all of these things, but in their superior wisdom, have decided not to?

    Enjoying a sunset, and describing one with words, or putting one on canvas are very different things. Could a bird enjoy a sunset? Sure. Could he photograph one with a camera that was made by an iguana that he bought from a border collie at a store that was built by a kangaroo? I think not.

  78. frustrated (mk)
    March 16th, 2009 @ 6:00 am

    He even accounted for those “special people” who would be our spiritual leaders and who could perceive true reality. Aristotle was far more into empiricism. He was very much a “what you see is what you get” kind of guy.

    That just means that Aristotle preferred to DEAL WITH what he could see. It doesn’t prove that Plato was wrong.

    Plato’s view takes both his AND Aristotles views into account. He allows for both things to be true. There IS what you see/what you get. There is also what you don’t see.

    Aristotles seems much narrower. He does not allow for the possibility that there is more. Who is more open minded? Christians/theists get accused of being too closed minded. But I think, if anything, we are actually too OPEN minded. It is the atheist that is closed minded. It is the atheist that puts restrictions on what is possible.

  79. Beelzebub
    March 16th, 2009 @ 6:26 am

    As Tim Minchin says “if you open your mind too much, your brain falls out.”

  80. Lily
    March 16th, 2009 @ 6:57 am

    You still don’t quite get what I am asking, Bbub. I don’t deny that our brains evolved or, even, that science doesn’t still have plenty to say about them. What I *am* saying is that evolution is not a sufficient explanation. It does not and cannot explain the big three; self-awareness; subjective experience; and our understanding of ourselves as unique individuals. Someone better educated in these matters than I could say a lot more about the issues of cognition that evolution cannot explain than I can. I am merely aware of some of the problems.

  81. Lily
    March 16th, 2009 @ 7:00 am

    As much as I respect Aristotle, let’s not forget that for a “what you see is what you get” kinda guy, he still had his shortcomings. If I remember correctly, he also claimed that women had fewer teeth than men. Surely, he could have tested that hypothesis by having Mrs. Aristotle open her mouth and counting …

  82. Skeptimal
    March 16th, 2009 @ 7:31 am

    Past conversations with Christians tell me that you see this as some sort of turning point in logical reasoning. Why? Why does the fact that just about everyone believes there is such a thing as truth constitute proof to you that Jesus was born a virgin birth, died after a sinless life, and is still alive?

    “Skeptimal, we are long miles away from talking about Christianity. Let’s worry about establishing the reasonableness of positing “God”. Then we can talk about Christianity, specifically, if you like.”

    Fine. Why does the fact that just about everyone believes there is such a thing as truth constitute proof to you that there are gods? This comes up a lot in these conversations, and it’s clearly important to many Christians. There’s an implicit “gotcha” whenever someone says there is truth, and you guys start acting like you’ve made a point. What is the point you think you’re making?

  83. frustrated (mk)
    March 16th, 2009 @ 7:37 am

    “As Tim Minchin says “if you open your mind too much, your brain falls out.”

    “It’s a dangerous business going out your front door.
    Still round the corner there may wait,
    A new road or a secret gate.”

    J. R. R. Tolkien

  84. frustrated (mk)
    March 16th, 2009 @ 7:39 am

    “Of Magic Doors there is this. You do not see them even as you are passing through”.

    CS Lewis

  85. frustrated (mk)
    March 16th, 2009 @ 7:44 am

    Skep,

    First, if there IS Truth, Objective Moral Truth, then the next question is obviously going to be, where did this Truth come from?

    Second, the answer must be one of three things. It comes from within, it comes from without, or it doesn’t exist at all.

    If it comes from within, we must ask, what caused it.

    If it comes from without, we must ask, who authored it.

    If it doesn’t exist, we must explain why so many people have the same values throughout history.

    Some morals seem to be, for the most part, universal. When people/societies depart from them, we notice. When people follow them, no one pays attention.

    Who notices a country that treats it’s people well? Who writes newspaper articles about countries that think rape is a crime?

    But if a country promotes rape, or murder, or incest or pedophilia…THEN, we sit up and take notice. Why?

  86. frustrated (mk)
    March 16th, 2009 @ 7:47 am

    Skep,

    I think a better question would be why do you dodge this question? Why has no one addressed my points about art and beauty? (with the short exception of Bbub) Why do you gripe about the question “If there is Objective Moral Truth, then where does it come from?” but don’t answer it?

  87. frustrated (mk)
    March 16th, 2009 @ 7:49 am

    Tell me this Skep, if nothing more. Do you believe we have a conscience…the ability to discern the difference between right and wrong?

    Do you believe that there is such a thing as objective right and objective wrong?

  88. Skeptimal
    March 16th, 2009 @ 9:10 am

    “I think a better question would be why do you dodge this question?”

    I don’t think I have dodged the question, which came up in the course of a discussion about something else entirely (whether one can reason their way to faith), and I was trying to stay on subject.

    I think I’m beginning to understand, though, that a lot of Christians don’t make a distinction between factual truth and moral truth. You see one as evidence for the other.

    *Maybe* this is also why a discussion about whether or not gods exist so frequently devolves into a discussion of whether people can be moral without gods. In my mind, these are two different questions that have little to do with each other. Christians, however, act as if these two things are irrevocably tied together.

    “Why has no one addressed my points about art and beauty? (with the short exception of Bbub) Why do you gripe about the question “If there is Objective Moral Truth, then where does it come from?” but don’t answer it?”

    Probably because I wasn’t paying adequate attention and thought it was part of a conversation you were having with someone else.

    “First, if there IS Truth, Objective Moral Truth, then the next question is obviously going to be, where did this Truth come from?”

    Again, to be clear, when I was talking about the truth, I was talking about factual truth.

    Regarding objective moral truth, I think it’s a long discussion that deserves more attention than I’m going to be able to give to it right now. The short answer is “no, there is no universal moral truth,” but that’s not the same thing as saying morality, virtue, and ethics are pointless or that the conscience is not real. And I’m sorry to have to leave it at that, but I don’t have time for more now.

  89. Lily
    March 16th, 2009 @ 9:35 am

    Skeptimal, I don’t think you do quite see where we are coming from. There are a couple of different issues in play here. I have tackled the notion of faith (or trust) in our ability to reason. Faith in that ability underlies the scientist’s belief in his ability to “do” science, and it underlies the theist’s (who may also be a scientist!) ability to apprehend and serve God. There is simply no getting away from that. The idea that atheists use reason and theists don’t is, not to put to fine a point on it, preposterous.

    I think I’m beginning to understand, though, that a lot of Christians don’t make a distinction between factual truth and moral truth. You see one as evidence for the other. What does this mean? No matter how I look at it, I can’t make heads or tails of it. There is only truth. Making distinctions of this sort kind of reminds me of a diversity seminar on campus where we are pompously told to strive for economic justice or social justice. Well, no. There is only justice. The minute someone qualifies it, watch out for your wallet and your rights! Somebody is going to lose …

  90. Maria
    March 16th, 2009 @ 8:43 pm

    You would think that theses men are aware of the fact have to know your basic scientific terms before making scientific breakthroughs

  91. skeptimal
    March 18th, 2009 @ 5:06 pm

    Lily said:

    “Faith (or trust) in that ability (to reason) underlies the scientist’s belief in his ability to “do” science, and it underlies the theist’s (who may also be a scientist!) ability to apprehend and serve God. There is simply no getting away from that.”

    I guess I still don’t see the point of arguing over whether this is faith or not. What does it prove when I agree with you that we all assume we have the power to reason?

    “The idea that atheists use reason and theists don’t is, not to put to fine a point on it, preposterous.”

    I’m obviously a long way from understanding you, because I can see no connection between your sentence and the rest of the paragraph it inhabits in your comment. Also, and importantly, I have not said that atheists use reason and theists don’t.

    First, not all atheists are atheists because reason led them there. Some have rejected Christianity because of Christian hypocrisy and abuse. These walking wounded are ripe for indoctrination into different flavors of Christianity or cults.

    Second, I have never said that Christians do not use reason. Maybe I haven’t said this enough, but I know I have said that intelligence has little or nothing to do with whether one is a person of faith or not.

    What I *have* said (or tried to say) is that in order to have faith, you have to be willing to accept something other than evidence and reasoning at some point. No one ever *reasons* their way to the idea that a man was born of a virgin, lived a perfectly virtuous life, died temporarily, and is alive again still. They listen to advocates for that belief; they may or may not have a mystical experience; and they take their friend’s or parents’ word for it. Once the belief is initially adopted, it’s a sin to have doubt or to challenge the fundamentals of belief of the churches.

  92. frustrated (mk)
    March 18th, 2009 @ 5:34 pm

    Skep,

    it’s a sin to have doubt or to challenge the fundamentals of belief of the churches.

    That’s not strictly true. We doubt all the time. Giving in to doubt would be a sin, but just doubting? Heck, Thomas doubted so much that he got named Doubting Thomas…he’s a saint.

    Faith is more an act of the will than a feeling.

    Second, it takes a leap of “something” to believe that there is no God also. It doesn’t take so much of a leap to say that you don’t know…but to say that you absolutely believe that there is NO God, takes a leap at some point equal to the leap it takes to believe that there IS a God.

    The truth is, we can’t KNOW empirically, one way or the other. There is no evidence either way. Not definitive evidence, anyway.

    I think what Lily is asking (originally anyway) is where does your ability to know that you are able to reason…to reason that you can reason…come from. Why are humans, and humans alone, able to reason in a singularly unique way.

    You can say to me that you have reasoned you way to…and you have come to that conclusion, through reason. How? Where did that ability come from?

    I’ve asked before, why are humans the only ones that can understand beauty, truth, honor, evil…why can we compose music, love, lie, covet, desire, think….

    I think this is what Lily is getting at…

  93. skeptimal
    March 18th, 2009 @ 6:58 pm

    MK said:

    “That’s not strictly true. We doubt all the time. Giving in to doubt would be a sin…Faith is more an act of the will than a feeling.”

    I think everyone doubts, no matter their beliefs. Doubt itself has value, however. When you change your thinking, that change begins as a doubt. If you’re not allowed to explore those doubts, you’re not really free.

    “Second, it takes a leap of “something” to believe that there is no God also.”

    I’m inclined to agree. You may recall that I’m from the agnostic-skeptic end of atheism.

    “I think what Lily is asking (originally anyway) is where does your ability to know that you are able to reason…to reason that you can reason…come from.”

    The short answer is that we evolved that ability, and I’m not trying to be trite when I say that. I happen to think it’s true.

    “Why are humans, and humans alone, able to reason in a singularly unique way.”

    Because that’s the way it has worked out. The fact that there is not a grand purpose for it does not make the universe any less awe-inspiring. This is what I mean when I say that the moral or ideological truths seem to be evidence to believers that outweighs the factual truths.

    “I’ve asked before, why are humans the only ones that can understand beauty, truth, honor, evil…why can we compose music, love, lie, covet, desire, think….”

    Somehow I think “because we’re the only ones on earth who’ve evolved that far” is not the answer you’re looking for, but that’s my answer. If there’s one beyond that, we lack information to know it. My views are not quite as simplistic as this sounds. If I’ve missed your point, I’ll be glad to answer again.

    Does our ability to appreciate the world in which we live constitute proof for you that there is a god?

  94. frustrated (mk)
    March 18th, 2009 @ 8:32 pm

    Skep,

    I think everyone doubts, no matter their beliefs. Doubt itself has value, however. When you change your thinking, that change begins as a doubt. If you’re not allowed to explore those doubts, you’re not really free.

    I absolutely agree.

    The short answer is that we evolved that ability, and I’m not trying to be trite when I say that. I happen to think it’s true.

    But see, that only tells me how we got this way, and not why…see? While it was necessary to our survival to evolve in certain ways (2 sets of molars, hair/no hair, tool making/using) what value is there in the ability to appreciate butterfly wings? Or opera? Or crayons? You see? It’s those unique things…beauty, truth, love, music…that we have, that aren’t necessary in any way to our survival that stump me.

    Somehow I think “because we’re the only ones on earth who’ve evolved that far” is not the answer you’re looking for, but that’s my answer. If there’s one beyond that, we lack information to know it. My views are not quite as simplistic as this sounds. If I’ve missed your point, I’ll be glad to answer again.

    No you haven’t missed my point, nor have you answered the question. I can’t answer it either. You’re right, there isn’t enough information. But the possibility of a God, a God that ALSO enjoys music, art, clouds, language, truth…instilled these things into us out of love…is one way of explaining it. Not the only way, but one.

    Does our ability to appreciate the world in which we live constitute proof for you that there is a god?

    Nothing constitutes proof. But it is reason enough for me to make that “leap” that you spoke of and to explore in more depth what the ramifications are to my life, if He exists.

    You seem to be satisfied with not knowing why. Which is fine. Many people are. I’m just one of those people that want to know “who we are, what we are here for”…

    After making that leap, I have formed a relationship with this entity that we call God. I now believe strongly that He is real. I’ve seen Him work in my life. I’ve heard His voice. Which would not have been possible if I had not first asked the question “why”, and then made that leap. It is enough for me, but not enough for a lot of other people.

    But reason was most definitely involved. My ability to think is what led to my conclusion. Dogs, worms and kangaroos are not able to “wonder” about this kind of thing. Which of course, brings us back to the question “Why am I able to?”

  95. Lily
    March 18th, 2009 @ 9:45 pm

    Let me try to clarify, working from most recent to oldest message:

    mk said“I think what Lily is asking (originally anyway) is where does your ability to know that you are able to reason…to reason that you can reason…come from.” (Yes, that is indeed a big part of it.)

    To which skeptimal replied:

    The short answer is that we evolved that ability, and I’m not trying to be trite when I say that. I happen to think it’s true.

    Evolution cannot possibly account for a brain/mind that is self-aware, can weigh truth claims, or enjoy (for lack of a better word) subjective experience. Evolution can explain the brain’s adaptive abilities but it cannot explain how the brain became so much more.

    You are assuming that you have a complete materialist account of mind. In fact you have no such thing. You have the presumption of a naturalistic explanation and a whole lot of people promising to figure it all out eventually. I see a lot of reasons to doubt that.

    A materialist account of the mind has to be able to adequately account for such features as self-awareness, subjective experience, the sense of personal identity, and free will, as I said earlier. The “scientific” strategy of the naturalist has been to try to show why none of these things are real, but are simply emergent properties of brain function, or else are entirely illusory.

    They can and do try this but at a price– they are not explaining anything; rather they are explaining away a lot of inconvenient facts. They have no proof that purely physical processes can give rise to these sorts of pheneomena, it’s merely an a priori assumption of naturalism. And that brings me back to my original point that atheists and scientists and theists all operate from a basis of faith.

    Scientists cannot prove anything unless the world behaves as though governed by laws which we can discover and understand. It was Christians who made that leap first. Indeed the reason modern science was born in the Church (although it had a fair amount of help from Aristotle) is because the scientists/priests of the middle ages believed that men could know God better by studying the world He made and that the world would, necessarily, reflect his nature. That was a huge leap of faith, although for them, I suppose, it was self-evidently true. There are other religions on this planet that don’t have that belief. That is why modern science did not arise from Hinduism or Buddhism…

  96. Beelzebub
    March 19th, 2009 @ 5:30 am


    A materialist account of the mind has to be able to adequately account for such features as self-awareness, subjective experience, the sense of personal identity, and free will, as I said earlier. The “scientific” strategy of the naturalist has been to try to show why none of these things are real, but are simply emergent properties of brain function, or else are entirely illusory.

    Why does being “emergent properties of brain function” disqualify them from being real? You seem to mean that if I don’t show you something that explains “love” as material as a metal bolt you’re never going to accept it as “real.” How “real” is the software you’re reading this with?

    There is absolutely no reason not to believe that other animals are self-aware, or that they don’t have free-will. What’s the alternative, that they are being directed by doggy and kitty gods?

    Humans are unique to the extent that we have created culture transcendent to instinct. If you’ve been keeping abreast of developments you’ll know that we aren’t the sole tool-wielders.

  97. Beelzebub
    March 19th, 2009 @ 5:34 am


    It was Christians who made that leap first. Indeed the reason modern science was born in the Church (although it had a fair amount of help from Aristotle) is because the scientists/priests of the middle ages believed that men could know God better by studying the world He made and that the world would, necessarily, reflect his nature.

    From what I know that describes the period of time after Aquinas, who was the one that introduced the idea of “Natural Theology.” The time between the era of Church Fathers (Tertullian, etc.) and Aquinas, nearly 1000 years, was a scientific and philosophical dead space, where anything outside church doctrine was considered heretical and persecuted ruthlessly. 1000 years wasted.

  98. Beelzebub
    March 19th, 2009 @ 5:45 am

    Speaking of Church Fathers, I find this at the end of the St. Augustine wiki page:


    Abortion and ensoulment
    Like other Church Fathers, St Augustine “vigorously condemned the practice of induced abortion”.[59] In his works, Augustine did consider that the gravity of participation in an abortion depended whether or not the fetus had yet received a soul at the time of abortion.[60] He held that this ensoulment occurred at 40 days for males, and 90 for females.[59]
    In the summer of 2008, this aspect of Augustine’s thought (i.e., the gravity of abortion vis-a-vis the ensoulment of the fetus) was used by the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, in defence of her pro-choice political stance. She quoted one of his works, in which he wrote:
    “The law does not provide that the act [abortion] pertains to homicide, for there cannot yet be said to be a live soul in a body that lacks sensation.'[61]
    In the week following her comments, she was corrected by numerous American bishops, such as Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver, who wrote: “In the absence of modern medical knowledge, some of the Early Fathers held that abortion was homicide; others that it was tantamount to homicide; and various scholars theorized about when and how the unborn child might be animated or “ensouled.” But none diminished the unique evil of abortion as an attack on life itself…”[62]

    I’m not exactly sure how Chaput goes from “no soul” to unique evil…as an attack on life itself. In fact, Augustine was providing a very modern pro-abortion argument, the fetus is not yet a person.

  99. Lily
    March 19th, 2009 @ 7:29 am

    Nancy Pelosi is a cynical idiot. The pope told her that too, when she met with him a couple of weeks after making that preposterous argument, although he did it more gently, I am sure.

    Augustine was not providing a pro abortion argument. The Church condemned abortion vigorously from the beginning. What possible difference do you think it can make if Augustine posited that a less severe crime was committed before ensoulment? It was still a crime and one which the early Church and his contemporaries, like St. Jerome, passionately condemned. In fact, he wasn’t arguing for or against the humanity of the child– he was following Aristotle on the question of when the child received a soul in a scholarly exercise.

    The time between the era of Church Fathers (Tertullian, etc.) and Aquinas, nearly 1000 years, was a scientific and philosophical dead space, where anything outside church doctrine was considered heretical and persecuted ruthlessly. 1000 years wasted.

    This is utter nonsense. No history book will tell you anything like that. Where do you get this stuff? I guess we will have to cut Boethius, John Scotus Erigena, Anselm et al. out of the philosophy curriculum.

    Let’s see. There is computistics which advanced knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, among others, but that doesn’t count, I don’t suppose, so we will have to cut it out, along with the Venerable Bede.

    Oh, dear. I just remembered. We will have to strike out the Carolingian renaissance that took place under Charlemagne. We will also have to dismiss Isodore of Seville and Martianius Capella– pikers and light-weights, all of them.

    I am going back to bed now. I am thoroughly depressed that we have been fooling ourselves for the last 1200 years about the history, culture and achievements of the West.

  100. frustrated (mk)
    March 19th, 2009 @ 8:24 am

    B,

    You have to understand that Augustine was “thinking out loud” which is very different than what the Church considers doctrine.

    Remember when Skep said that “doubt” is what leads us to the truth? It is when we ask questions, that we get answers. Augustine was simply wondering out loud when the soul enters the body. There was no ultrasound back then. There was nothing really except the remains of a miscarriage to tell us anything about what takes place within the womb. The closest thing there was to indicate when life began is what is known as quickening. When you could feel the baby move.

    We didn’t have the technology to know a lot of things back then. Electricity comes to mind. Or whether or not the sun revolved around the earth.

    This is what we mean by there is no conflict between science and the church. Augustine had no idea when ensoulment takes place, because he had no real clue when life began. But once the science was understood, we (the church) concede to science. Science only confirms what we suspected all along. Life begins at fertilization. What science cannot confirm is when the soul takes on a body. But this doesn’t matter in the abortion argument, because no matter when the body enters a soul, it is STILL life, and human life is to be respected regardless of sentience, ensoulment or anything else.

    It is ALWAYS evil take innocent human LIFE…that has NEVER been disputed. Augustines opining was just that…it was not doctrine. And no doctrine was affected by his opining.

    It is understandable that he would wonder about “personhood/ensoulment”…we’re still wondering about it today. For a theologian, this question would be very interesting.

    But it has no bearing on whether or not human life is sacred, person or no.

    Remember, we don’t require sentience to prove a persons value.

    BUT, what he knew, and what we know now is that no matter WHEN life begins, it IS life, and worthy of our utmost respect.

  101. frustrated (mk)
    March 19th, 2009 @ 8:55 am

    B,

    Why does being “emergent properties of brain function” disqualify them from being real?

    I don’t think any one is claiming that they are not real. Certainly, I’m not. We’re simply asking why these particular brain functions were necessary, evolutionarily speaking.

    There is absolutely no reason not to believe that other animals are self-aware, or that they don’t have free-will. What’s the alternative, that they are being directed by doggy and kitty gods?

    I’m going to assume that you are saying this “tongue in cheek” because if you are serious, I would have to question your sanity.

    Can animals be self aware? Perhaps, to a very small degree. Do they have free will? You tell me. Can an animal decide what is the morally correct thing to do in a given situation? I don’t think so. They can opt to perform the task that proves most advantageous to them, but from a moral standpoint? No.

    They have a nature. Dogs have the nature of dogs, and they can never have anything else.

    But a dog, MUST act as a dog. He can never choose to act as a cat. He can never fly like a bird, through his own choice or actions.

    Humans have the mental capacity to imitate any animal. Our intelligence is unlimited.

    Perhaps free will as it pertains to animals can best be understood by looking at how they do NOT have it rather than how they do.

    If I put a piece of meat in front of a dog, do you think he really has a “choice” in the same sense that you or I do, as to whether he will eat it or not?

    If an unneutered male dog meets a female dog in heat, do you think he makes a “conscious” decision to mate?

    If an animal is cornered, do you think he weighs his options and decides whether or not to bite the person that has cornered him?

    Animals have no REAL choices. To compare them to humans is incomprehensible to me.

    The most intelligent animal is light years away from the level of intelligence of any adult human being.

    Give a crayon to a monkey and he is as likely to eat it as to draw with it. Why? Because he has no real choice.

    He might make a mark on the paper, but this is not art.

    If you argue that this is because he has not evolved to the point where he can do what we do, then I have to ask “Why Not”? Have not apes been here as long as we have? Why did we evolve to the point that we can know truth from lies, right from wrong, beauty from ugliness, good from bad, love from hate? Would it not stand to reason that since we started from the same place, we would also have evolved to the same place?

    In the other thread, you made a statement that you do not believe that there is truly objective “wrong”. That morals are always subjective.

    This is the point of the book “The Abolition of Man”…while you would view this as a progressive view, Lewis (as well as myself) would view this as regressive…as returning to a bestial state.

    Man is a higher creature than any other animals. To ask him to revert to the lower echelons of the animal kingdom is to deny his very humanity.

    In trying to conquer “nature”, you are actually allowing “nature” to conquer you.

    By removing all morality from humankind, you are actually turning us into beasts.

    In the end, you will be totally subject to nature, and you will have gotten your wish.

    Instead of changing your actions to reach a loftier goal, you lower your standards to meet your actions. This is ass backwards, pardon my French, and will lead to man’s ultimate destruction.

  102. frustrated (mk)
    March 19th, 2009 @ 9:27 am

    B,

    My opinion is that the closest we can probably come to an objective moral law is the Golden Rule. From there you can either attribute it to a mandate from on high, or simply poplar consensus. It’s so powerful because it’s the converging nexus of principles of personal rights, justice, and a workable basis for social law.

    Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

    Let’s apply that to abortion.

    Would you have wanted to be aborted? Forget about whether or not you’d be aware that you were being aborted. You are aware now, and the golden rule says Do unto others…etc., it doesn’t say provided they are aware of what you are doing. See what I’m saying?

    It doesn’t say, if the other party is insentient, unconscious, pre born, or in a vegetative state, all bets are off. It says think about what you would want done, and then treat others the same way.

    I know that I would not want to have been aborted. So, by your standards, I must therefore refrain from aborting others.

    I’ll take that a step further and say that I would want someone to protect me from being aborted, so I must in turn protect others from the same action.

  103. Nile the Jolly
    March 19th, 2009 @ 4:12 pm

    “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

    Don’t because they may think differently.

  104. frustrated (mk)
    March 19th, 2009 @ 5:18 pm

    “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

    Don’t because they may think differently.

    That’s what we’ve been tryin’ to tell ya! lol

  105. skeptimal
    March 19th, 2009 @ 9:20 pm

    Skep: “If you’re not allowed to explore those doubts, you’re not really free.”

    MK: “I absolutely agree.”

    Then how can you explore a doubt without the possibility of “giving in to it” which would be a sin?

    “what (survival) value is there in the ability to appreciate butterfly wings? Or opera? Or crayons? You see? It’s those unique things…beauty, truth, love, music…that we have, that aren’t necessary in any way to our survival that stump me.”

    That’s probably one of the better reasons I’ve heard for believing. But if there were survival value to those things, would it make them any less wonderful?

    “You seem to be satisfied with not knowing why.”

    LOL…If you only knew. I’m not satisfied; I’ve just accepted it.

    “After making that leap, I have formed a relationship with this entity that we call God…But reason was most definitely involved. My ability to think is what led to my conclusion.”

    Thank you for the generosity involved in sharing your passion with a non-believer. Again: I recognize that there is reasoning involved. My point is that there’s always an “extra-logical” leap involved as well.

    I’m even open to the possibility of a personal revelation, but even after that revelation, I would test it to see if it held up under skeptical examination. Maybe you’ve done so to your own satisfaction. Most of the believers of all stripes that I’ve known (protestant, wiccan, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Catholic, cultic) wall off their faith from skepticism once they’ve had their revelation. Any truth that won’t subject itself to examination is probably not the truth.

  106. Beelzebub
    March 20th, 2009 @ 3:02 am


    This is utter nonsense. No history book will tell you anything like that. Where do you get this stuff? I guess we will have to cut Boethius, John Scotus Erigena, Anselm et al. out of the philosophy curriculum.

    It isn’t utter nonsense. It’s generally recognized that philosophy, in that it existed at all during that period, was completely subsumed by theology and practitioners where in constant peril of crossing the Church. You think this was a period of free inquiry? Where do you get that stuff? St Anselm, please…whose major contribution was the ridiculous ontological proof of God. That’s what you call advancement of philosophy. And where’s the science? There’s even a stronger case against that. And I don’t call desperately trying to reconcile Aristotle to Christianity advancement of philosophy.

    computistics which advanced knowledge of mathematics and astronomy

    Hmmmm. Calendar making as science. Outside of Islam I don’t recall any great advances in math and astronomy in the early middle age. Science history doesn’t even usually begin until the Renaissance.

    The Carolingian Renaissance was not a scientific or philosophical renaissance, again it was a clerical “renaissance” that attempted to revisit classical philosophy and reconcile it to Christianity.

    In summary, unless your definition for scientific and philosophical “advance” is speculating how many angels can fit on the head of a pin, the dark ages, was…the dark ages.

  107. Beelzebub
    March 20th, 2009 @ 3:22 am


    Remember, we don’t require sentience to prove a persons value.
    BUT, what he knew, and what we know now is that no matter WHEN life begins, it IS life, and worthy of our utmost respect.

    No, I don’t have to remember that, and no, it is not worthy of my utmost respect. I consider a single cell human embryo of no greater status than a dish full of caviar — and of far less value.

    The ONLY reason you think it has value is because you believe in a “soul” and that is very easy to dismiss as fiction.


    Would you have wanted to be aborted? Forget about whether or not you’d be aware that you were being aborted. You are aware now, and the golden rule says Do unto others…etc., it doesn’t say provided they are aware of what you are doing.

    My attitude is that if “I” had been aborted then there never would have been an I, so the question is non sequitur. Again, your belief that I suddenly came into being, non emergently, upon conception, is showing.

  108. Beelzebub
    March 20th, 2009 @ 3:31 am

    I know that I would not want to have been aborted. So, by your standards, I must therefore refrain from aborting others.

    You have an almost bizarre temporal distortion going on. YOU can’t be aborted; you are an adult person. When you were a fetus you couldn’t have “wanted” anything because you didn’t have the means to support a desire like that. Now, we can debate back and forth the emergence of fetal desire and it might actually be a productive move in the right direction, but why am I sure you’re not interested in that discussion?

    You seem to think the day-old embryo “wants” to live. You call to mind something I once read about a Vegan who was convinced she could hear a carrot scream when it was cut.

  109. frustrated (mk)
    March 20th, 2009 @ 5:57 am

    Skep,

    Then how can you explore a doubt without the possibility of “giving…”

    I have been a Catholic for 15 years now, and every doubt I have ever had, I have explored. It has always led me to a new understanding of what I doubted. I have yet to discover, in my opinion, that the Churches teaching on anything I have doubted is wrong.

    I trust the Church. I pretty much, by now, know that if I’m doubting something, I am going to be wrong and not the church. But if I had never doubted, I could never have gotten to this point. It is those doubts that led me to a firmer faith.

    If the Church is the keeper of TRUTH, then I have nothing to fear from my doubts. If she is the keeper of LIES then I want to know it…

    If you are talking about doubting the actual existence of God…when that happens, it takes an act of Will to move on. I don’t berate myself, but neither do I entertain the doubts. This doesn’t happen very often tho, as I have already explored all those doubts and come to the reasonable conclusion that God exists.

    Many saints have gone through periods of doubt. Mother Teresa spent 50 years battling this one. Again, an act of the Will is employed and you simply go on. We call these periods “Dark Nights of the Soul”. They are actually a gift from God, as they can cause great agony, and strengthen you. But much is gained from believing in spite of the doubt. Mother Teresa continued to be a faithful Catholic til her death. She continued to ACT as a Catholic, serving God til her last breath, in spite of the fact that she didn’t have the emotional sense that God existed.

    We recognize that faith is not about what we feel or think. It is something we choose, freely to do, sometimes because of and sometimes in spite of what we “feel”.

  110. frustrated (mk)
    March 20th, 2009 @ 6:10 am

    Skep,

    That’s probably one of the better reasons I’ve heard for believing. But if there were survival value to those things, would it make them any less wonderful?

    Absolutely not, on a more ‘base’ level. But it isn’t base to be in awe. That’s kind of what I mean. It’s not that the butterfly wings are beautiful that promotes belief, it’s the fact that we can recognize their beauty..see?

    This is one of the things that Lewis covers in Abolition of Man. He says that some thing ARE a certain way. Like butterfly wings ARE beautiful. They aren’t beautiful because we think they are. They simply are. He uses the example of a mountain.

    Two people can be looking at a picture of a mountain and both can say “That mountain is sublime”. One might mean that it makes him feel sublime, while the other recognizes that OBJECTIVELY speaking, the mountain is, in fact, sublime on it’s own. It doesn’t need us to say so.

    He says that children are OBJECTIVELY delightful. He himself, doesn’t delight in them. Therefore, there is something in him that isn’t working properly. There is nothing wrong with the children…they ARE delightful, but he is flawed, in that his “Natural” love of children is broken.

    What he is saying is that Nature herself provides the objective beauty, truth etc, and we are designed to “see” it. If we can’t see it, it’s because WE are not working properly. OUR design is flawed.

    The same principle would apply to Natural Law. Truth is Truth. It’s objective. We were designed to know it and recognize it. But if we don’t/can’t it is because something in US is broken.

    If 99% of the people in the world found butterfly wings boring, then 99% of the people would be broken, because butterly wings ARE beautiful, regardless of whether or not we are capable of knowing it.

    Am I making any sense? So when I “doubt”, it means something in ME is not working, not that the Truth is untrue.

    Therefore, even if butterfly wings served some utilitarian purpose, it would not mean that they ceased being objectively beautiful. And the fact that I can KNOW this, is what gives credence to the fact that there just might be a “designer”.

    The fact that I CAN be awed, is what makes believing plausible, not the thing that I am awed by…

  111. frustrated (mk)
    March 20th, 2009 @ 6:17 am

    ’m even open to the possibility of a personal revelation, but even after that revelation, I would test it to see if it held up under skeptical examination. Maybe you’ve done so to your own satisfaction. Most of the believers of all stripes that I’ve known (protestant, wiccan, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Catholic, cultic) wall off their faith from skepticism once they’ve had their revelation. Any truth that won’t subject itself to examination is probably not the truth.

    I think that’s a WONDERFUL attitude. There are definitely people, (my mom is one of them) that believe and never give it a thought. I’m not like that, and I know many people that aren’t…The beauty of the Catholic Faith is that it can accommodate BOTH types of believers.
    My mother is safe. She can continue to believe blindly, and it is just as valid as my own faith. I on the other hand, can continue to question and search and read…

    One of the reasons that I LOVE the Church so much, is that there is NO END to what can be discovered. It is so vast, so deep, always higher up and further in! There is the history, the saints, the mystical, the mass…always more, more, more to be explored.

    I’ll probably continue to ask questions til the day I die.
    Even when the only answer you get is “It’s a mystery”, my faith is not shaken. This only means that there is MORE to be discovered. Since I was a little girl, I have loved alleys. The side roads, the back roads, the hidden, the mysterious…There is PLENTY of that in the Catholic Church…I’m never bored! I never know what’s around the next corner.

  112. frustrated (mk)
    March 20th, 2009 @ 6:27 am

    B,

    No, I don’t have to remember that, and no, it is not worthy of my utmost respect. I consider a single cell human embryo of no greater status than a dish full of caviar — and of far less value.

    I wasn’t attacking you there…and I didn’t mean YOU think that it is life from fertilization, I meant WE as in the Church. I realize that you don’t believe this. I was only explaining how WE get to the next step…sorry if I sounded like I thought this was “common” knowledge and that you accepted it…I should have been clearer on what I meant by WE…

    My attitude is that if “I” had been aborted then there never would have been an I, so the question is non sequitur. Again, your belief that I suddenly came into being, non emergently, upon conception, is showing.

    Have I said something to anger you? I’m sorry if I have. It feels like you’re upset with me…

    I was only asking if, following the Golden Rule, would you be comfortable with the idea of being aborted yourself…if not, then wouldn’t you be obligated not to promote abortion because this is something that you yourself would not want “done unto you”?

    I have never been murdered. But I know that I would not want to be murdered. (If I was, I wouldn’t be here to tell you that I didn’t like it). Therefore I would not murder other people, because according to the golden rule, I would do unto them, what I wouldn’t want done unto me.

    I have never been beaten with a stick. But I wouldn’t want to be either. I have never been molested as a child, but I wouldn’t want to have been, therefore I wouldn’t molest a child.

    I was not aborted, but I wouldn’t want to have been aborted, therefore I think abortion is wrong.

  113. frustrated (mk)
    March 20th, 2009 @ 6:34 am

    B,

    You seem to think the day-old embryo “wants” to live. You call to mind something I once read about a Vegan who was convinced she could hear a carrot scream when it was cut.

    I think the above comment addresses this, but my point is that we don’t have to have something done to us to know that we wouldn’t want it done to us. Of course I can’t be aborted now as an adult, but I can now, as an adult understand what it would mean to be aborted and I can unequivocally say that looking back, I am glad that I am here. It doesn’t matter what the victim thinks. According to the golden rule, it matters what I think.

    Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

    If a person is knocked unconscious, I can be pretty sure they wouldn’t want me to pour battery acid on them. They wouldn’t even know that I WAS pouring battery acid on them. But I would know, that I would not want battery acid poured on me, therefore following the Golden Rule, I would not pour battery acid on them. Not because THEY wouldn’t like it, but because I wouldn’t like it.

    See? The golden rule doesn’t come from the “Other’s” point of view…it comes from OUR point of view. It doesn’t say do unto others what THEY would want done unto them. Therefore, I look at MYSELF, not the unborn child, to determine what would be the right thing to do according to the Golden Rule.

    I, MYSELF, would not want to have been aborted as an embryo, therefore I should not abort embryos…

    It doesn’t say “Do unto others what you would have them do to you because you have been in that situation and therefore know how you would feel, and if you couldn’t feel anything because you were only an embryo, then all bets are off…”

    It says “How would you feel NOW, then act accordingly”.

  114. Beelzebub
    March 20th, 2009 @ 6:57 am


    I was not aborted, but I wouldn’t want to have been aborted, therefore I think abortion is wrong.

    You’re trying to make that sound logical from my perspective, but it’s not because in my view you would never have existed if you had been aborted. How can anything be “done unto you” if you never existed? See? The reason you think it makes sense even from my perspective is that you can’t break yourself from the notion of personal instantiation and soul insertion at conception. Without that the statement above is pure nonsense.

  115. Beelzebub
    March 20th, 2009 @ 7:08 am


    I, MYSELF, would not want to have been aborted as an embryo, therefore I should not abort embryos…

    Again, there never would have been a you yourself who could have been aborted if you were aborted. You’re dictating a preference for a person who never will exist. It’s as absurd as saying “don’t paint your house yellow because future tenant X might not like it.”

  116. frustrated (mk)
    March 20th, 2009 @ 8:02 am

    B,

    I did not bring up the golden rule. You did.

    I am just applying it.

    Again. I have never been murdered. If I was murdered I would not be here to care that I was murdered. But I wouldn’t murder because I can know what I would feel NOW.

    Maybe you don’t understand the Golden Rule? Otherwise I can’t see why you are not getting this…

    The rule does not say do unto others what you have experienced being done unto you. The whole point IS to project your feelings onto another.

    I agree that I am coming from the standpoint that there is a soul, but this has nothing to do with the reality of what I a saying.

    The idea of painting my house yellow? This is not a moral issue…we are talking about morality. There is nothing immoral about painting your house a certain color.

    Perhaps if you explain what YOU mean by the Golden Rule we might get somewhere.

    My understanding is that you think about what you would want done or not done to you, and act accordingly on moral issues. Maybe you think it means something else?

    Of course an embryo can’t “know” what is happening to him. Which is why I used the example of an unconscious person. It doesn’t matter what the other person actually feels. The “law” says act according to how YOU would want to be treated. Whether I was aware of being aborted or not, I can tell you that from MY standpoint, right now, I would not want to have been…this is where I work from…Not do unto others as THEY would have you do, but do unto others as YOU want done to YOU…Maybe you’re just not in the mood today to really address the questions? Which is okay, we can move on or try again tomorrow…

  117. Lily
    March 20th, 2009 @ 8:09 am

    The idea of painting my house yellow? This is not a moral issue…we are talking about morality. There is nothing immoral about painting your house a certain color.

    There was a time I would have agreed with you about this but that was before my sojourn in Durham, NH. There, some slum landlord on the main (and only) drag into town painted one house a hideous bright purple and the one next to it a garish yellow (or was it lime green? It has been a lot of years, since then) in order to protest either having been asked to paint them (keep them up) or else choose a color in keeping with the surrounding houses. Every d-mn morning coming upon that purple house in the early hours of the morning was like a physical blow.

    An experience like that changes a person.

  118. frustrated (mk)
    March 20th, 2009 @ 8:43 am

    Lily,

    LOL…painting your house is USUALLY not a moral issue.

    I almost said unless you were painting it for someone else and they had paid you to paint it blue…then if you painted it yellow it would become a moral issue…

    You just can’t win sometimes! ;)

  119. Skeptimal
    March 20th, 2009 @ 11:28 am

    Lily said:

    “(Naturalists) have no proof that purely physical processes can give rise to these sorts of pheneomena (self-awareness, subjective experience, the sense of personal identity, and free will), it’s merely an a priori assumption of naturalism. And that brings me back to my original point that atheists and scientists and theists all operate from a basis of faith.”

    Thanks for explaining what you meant in more detail. I’m probably still misunderstanding some of what you’re saying, but I think I see better where you’re coming from. Yours is an interesting perspective on the question, and your reasoning is an example of why I don’t think that belief or unbelief is a question of intelligence.

    I don’t think you’re right when you say that naturalists view awareness and free will as illusions, although some probably do. I do think awareness could have arisen through natural processes, but you’re right: I can’t prove or explain it.

    Clearly awareness is impacted by the physical universe, however, which suggests that it is not an entirely spiritual thing. Medicines, illicit drugs, strokes, food intake, head injuries, and diseases all affect our awareness a great deal. Why should that be, if awareness didn’t arise through natural processes in the physical universe?

  120. frustrated (mk)
    March 20th, 2009 @ 11:49 am

    Skep,

    Why should that be, if awareness didn’t arise through natural processes in the physical universe?

    And this is the point where we can’t know and atheists, agnostics and theists split. We say there must have been a designer, you say we can’t know so there is no use wondering and atheists say….well, I don’t what atheists say as none has answered the question yet.

    The point is, none of us can be sure. So yeah, faith comes in. You are actually the most rational (which is not to say that you are right) in that you don’t take a leap of faith either way.

    Reminds me of the dwarves in the Final Battle/Chronicles of Narnia. They fight for themselves, never a higher cause. Sometimes on the side of good, but not because it’s good. Sometimes on the side of bad, but not because it’s bad. Always on the side that benefits them. As a result they aren’t able to see the wonderful banquet set out before them in Aslans’ tent. All they see are onions and rocks…their inability to take the “leap” keeps them from seeing “reality”…while those that believed are sitting on cushy pillows and enjoying a feast. The feast is there…they just can’t perceive it.

    Interesting.

  121. frustrated (mk)
    March 20th, 2009 @ 11:50 am

    Skep,

    BTW, 109, 110 and 111 are comments directed to you. Didn’t want you to miss them as they are way up there…

  122. skeptimal
    March 22nd, 2009 @ 8:48 am

    MK:

    I haven’t mentioned in a while that I appreciate the thought you put into your comments. Not to say that we won’t be going at it hammer and tongs again sometime soon (I may have already provoked that with a comment on another thread). You’ve been good for me, in that you’ve shined light on perspectives that I had not understood as well as I thought. I believe there is a human tendency to reduce in our minds those with whom we disagree until they appear cartoonish and simplistic. You work against that tendency, both in your approach to non-theists AND in your painstaking expression of your own views.

    Lily, this applies to you as well, although you and I will both do better if we can keep from letting our tempers get the best of us.

  123. skeptimal
    March 22nd, 2009 @ 9:42 am

    MK said: “What he is saying is that Nature herself provides the objective beauty, truth etc, and we are designed to “see” it. If we can’t see it, it’s because WE are not working properly. OUR design is flawed.

    The same principle would apply to Natural Law. Truth is Truth. It’s objective. We were designed to know it and recognize it. But if we don’t/can’t it is because something in US is broken.”

    Not surprisingly, I disagree with some of this. I’m also not sure that the language we’re using means the same thing to both of us. Take “natural law,” for instance. Are we talking about physics, chemistry, biology, etc., or are we also talking about morality and ethics? I suspect you are, and I’m not.

    I don’t think that beauty and the descriptor “sublime” *are* objective values that are inherent in the objects to which we assign them. If our eyes had evolved to perceive colors differently, then butterflies might also have evolved with a different color scheme. If so, the way butterflies look now might not be considered beautiful.

    A mountain is sublime to us in part because it is huge and silent, and if we studied it for a lifetime, we still wouldn’t be able to grasp all of the ways in which it is beautiful. If we were Titan sized, and the mountain was merely the size of a large rock to us, it would have no fewer facets, but would it still seem sublime?

    My point is that our perspective does change our perceptions, and that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with us.

    Regarding factual truth, I definitely agree that it doesn’t matter whether we understand it or not, it’s still true. The world was round, even when we thought it was flat. Disease was caused primarily by germs even when we thought it was caused by demons.

    You said: “If you are talking about doubting the actual existence of God…when that happens, it takes an act of Will to move on. I don’t berate myself, but neither do I entertain the doubts.”

    Also: “We recognize that faith is not about what we feel or think. It is something we choose, freely to do, sometimes because of and sometimes in spite of what we “feel”.”

    I appreciate your acknowledging that doubts happen (to all of us). Sometimes I talk to Christians or Muslims who claim never to have doubts, and it makes it difficult to treat those comments with respect.

    Your decision to believe, however, seems kind of an odd one. You’ve made the decision that this particular belief is beyond negotiation, even with yourself. You have effectively walled off that belief from consideration. Should you? And if so, why?

  124. skeptimal
    March 22nd, 2009 @ 10:25 am

    MK said: “(Your approach)reminds me of the dwarves in the Final Battle/Chronicles of Narnia. They fight for themselves, never a higher cause…their inability to take the “leap” keeps them from seeing “reality”…”

    Lewis had an interesting perspective on agnostics. There was a character with a similar perspective in the “Perelandra” series. His view was that these people saw themselves as neutrals in the battle between good and evil. It’s at least a more generous perspective than the more modern and pervasive Christian view, which seems to be that non-theists are either deceived by demons or are lying about not believing.

    I suppose your implied cautionary statement is valid, at least in part. It’s possible to spend so much time questioning assumptions that we never get anything else done.

    I don’t think that’s where I am, though. For one thing, this “dwarf” is not just for the “dwarves.” I’m not trying to negotiate some truce between Satan and Jehovah. I’m also not neutral when it comes to good versus evil. Further, I have not “chosen” to disbelieve.

    One thing you and I agree on is that the question of gods or supreme beings is an important one. I think it’s *too* important to take lightly, which is what I would be doing if I “took it on faith.” I want evidence, or I want a theory that stands up to what evidence we do have.

    Others have taken this to mean I expect the god, goddess, supreme being, or group thereof to prove itself to me. Nah. If they exist, I figure they’ve got more important things to do. The evidence that I’ve seen in my life, however, is against any of the known gods or goddesses being real.

  125. Lily
    March 22nd, 2009 @ 11:10 am

    Lily, this applies to you as well, although you and I will both do better if we can keep from letting our tempers get the best of us.

    Hmmm. There is likely hope for you; there is none at all for me.

    On the “will” thing. I suspect that there really are people who are not troubled by doubt. Clearly, the ability to imagine different possibilities is, at least in part, a function of some combination of intelligence, imagination and/or education.

    That said, most of us do have our moments of doubt. I can’t imagine denying it. I think mk alluded earlier to Mother Theresa and to John of the Cross who is only one of many who have written on the subject. When we say that belief is an act of the will I think we all mean the same thing– the will exerted is in not allowing transient emotions to blow us away; not will to believe, in spite of the evidence.

    Thus, your remark:

    Your decision to believe, however, seems kind of an odd one. You’ve made the decision that this particular belief is beyond negotiation, even with yourself.

    doesn’t get at what is going on. I don’t think we take our beliefs for granted (which is what I take “beyond negotiation” to mean), but, rather, we realize that we are always going to meet challenges or come against questions that are going to force us to think through what we really believe. It would be easy to chuck it all; after all, Christianity makes real demands on us that are not always easy to meet. It is thinking it through, wrestling, as it were, with the challenges that we meet that strengthens belief.

    In fact, I am always struck by the number of atheists (I used to read a couple of atheist forums– one I read regularly) who claim that they gave up their beliefs easily, often as children (as Hitchens does) or teenagers, the first time they were challenged. I have to smile at the self-delusion! These folks don’t have a clue what real belief is or entails. That is one of the reasons this crowd seems so childish to me and so unworthy of the same label that was applied to such real thinkers as Nietsche or Camus. But, of course, I am a bit of a philosophic and literary snob, when it comes right down to it.

  126. frustrated (mk)
    March 22nd, 2009 @ 2:48 pm

    Skep,

    I can’t tell you how good your words made me feel…I try so hard not to let certain comments take away from what I know to be true…that regardless of how the comments are made, the commenters keep commenting…the very fact that they/you are hear tells me that you are asking questions, looking for answers or just willing to converse and share ideas. If you weren’t, you would go away.

    Which is why I really try to read “between the lines” and only answer what’s really being said. Sometimes, the only way to do that is to fight fire with fire, as I often feel as if I’m being tested to see if I’m a worthy opponent. If I make it on the sarcasm scale, then real conversation may commence. lol.

    So I sincerely thank you. You are also making me think. Your commments are very deep and don’t carry any of the “let’s see if I can trap her”…Most appreciated.

    And don’t worry about falling off the wagon…if we polite each other to death, we won’t get any farther than if we slap each other silly. It might very well get heated, but you have my word that I am taking you seriously, and will do my best to respond with respect.

    Now, on to the arena…

  127. frustrated (mk)
    March 22nd, 2009 @ 3:23 pm

    Skep,

    I don’t think that beauty and the descriptor “sublime” *are* objective values that are inherent in the objects to which we assign them. If our eyes had evolved to perceive colors differently, then butterflies might also have evolved with a different color scheme. If so, the way butterflies look now might not be considered beautiful.

    A mountain is sublime to us in part because it is huge and silent, and if we studied it for a lifetime, we still wouldn’t be able to grasp all of the ways in which it is beautiful. If we were Titan sized, and the mountain was merely the size of a large rock to us, it would have no fewer facets, but would it still seem sublime?

    But you see, the butterfly wings have not changed. If our eyes had evolved differently, we might not be able to perceive their beauty, but they would be beautiful nonetheless. Just as Lewis is not able to enjoy children. His ability to find delight in them is not working correctly, a color blind persons are not working correctly and they are unable to perceive a butterflies colors.

    I think one of the ways to understand natural law, is to look to the thing that does NOT change, namely the butterfly or the mountain. WE change, they do not. A law cannot be based on that which is mutable. It IS a law, by it’s very fixidity.

    If we were giants and the mountain appeared less sublime to us, it would still be sublime. We, as giants, might also be looked at with some awe, but that would not affect the mountain. The mountain is unchangeable. There would always be something smaller than the mountain…

    PLUS, the mountain is also sublime because of it’s timelessness, something which would not be affected by our size.

    As to Natural Law, I mean all things that happen over and over again, to the point where we can count on them. It is Nature acting as she was MEANT to act. Science, physics…yes, but ALSO morals, behaviors…

    So while cancer might be a part of nature, it is NOT part of Natural Law. Our bodies are not supposed to get cancer. It’s nature run amok. This is why we can interfere with medicines and such, as long as we are trying to bring nature back on course. We cannot interfere, however, when the cure we are offering causes a different offense to Natural Law.

    IVF is an example of this. We know that when a man and a woman make love, the natural result is a child. Sometimes this doesn’t happen. We are aware of some techniques that will force the issue, namely in vitro. However, In Vitro itself goes agains Natural Law, as a child is a result of two souls physically AND metaphysically uniting. When we remove the human aspect, the spiritual, we are going against the Natural Law.

    I realize you won’t agree with that, but I wanted to give you an example of when morals or lack of them, dictate how we are to behave via Natural Law.

    Morally speaking, Natural Law would say that certain moral behaviors are not meant to be. We almost all agree that rape is wrong. Those that don’t are assumed to have faulty wiring. Why do we think rape is wrong? What innate thing exists in us, that we deeply sense the intrinsic evil evident in the rape of one human being by another? Surely, we can see why the woman being raped would object, but why do you and I ALSO get a funny feeling in the pit of our stomach? Why do we get outraged by injustice?

    How many times have you yourself used the phrase “That’s not fair?”

    Our inner sense of Justice is as real as our understanding of the mountain being sublime.

    While WE might change, OUR views on what is right and wrong might be one way today and another tomorrow, Natural Law says that there is an objective way that we are to treat one another, and no matter what the moral flavor of the day might be, these Moral Truths do NOT change, any more than the mountain or the butterfly wing.

    Lastly, you say that if you could find evidence that what we as Christians say is true (or Muslims or Hindus) then you too might consider that you are wrong….I say look to the fruits.

    Take each religion that you can think of…one at a time…and picture the world if every person in it were to live by the standards and teaching of that religion.

    The only one that presents a world working in exactly the way it was meant to work, is Christianity, more specifically, Catholicism.

    It is the only one that teaches love, mercy, objective morality…others might come close, but Love is not the name of their God. Picture a world, where couples are happily married for life, where there is no crime, no unwanted children, no sexually transmitted disease, no hatred or predjudice…

    What other faith is trying to achieve that? Other religions might try to attain SOME of those objectives, but ALL of them?

    I could take it a step further, and tell you that the church believes that if there was no sin, there would be no illness either. So theoretically, our health would improve with our morality…much tougher to prove of course, but interesting nonetheless.

    Since we couldn’t never attain perfection we would live in a world filled with Mercy…the ability to forgive transgressions, even when they appeared unforgivable…

    Granted, this whole exercise would entail a voluntary willingness to acquiesce…so it is no doubt a pipe dream and something God has been trying to bring about since the fall…but in theory? Wow.

  128. skeptimal
    March 23rd, 2009 @ 8:33 pm

    “Take each religion that you can think of…one at a time…and picture the world if every person in it were to live by the standards and teaching of that religion.

    The only one that presents a world working in exactly the way it was meant to work, is Christianity, more specifically, Catholicism.”

    If you didn’t believe that, you probably wouldn’t be a Catholic then, would you? As for picturing the outcome of each religion, were it unanimous, I think you’re asking something that’s beyond any human being. There are too many variables within every religion, Catholicism included, to envision a unanimous world. My suspicion is that if any religion had absolute control, its adherent’s would start killing each other to determine who was the most “pure” adherent.

    “It (Catholicism) is the only one that teaches love, mercy, objective morality…others might come close, but Love is not the name of their God.”

    Except that Muslims, protestants, and Jews would say the same.

    “Picture a world, where couples are happily married for life, where there is no crime, no unwanted children, no sexually transmitted disease, no hatred or predjudice…”

    You’ll have to forgive me for the chill that runs down my spine to hear you say that. I know that Catholicism is relatively benign in this day and age, but…listen, I don’t know if you’re familiar with Scientology or not, but even that monstrous religion claims to want “a world without war, a world without crime, and a world without insanity.” Hitler wanted perfect peace, too. It’s how you GET to those goals that determines what kind of philosophy you really have.

    “I could take it a step further, and tell you that the church believes that if there was no sin, there would be no illness either. So theoretically, our health would improve with our morality…much tougher to prove of course, but interesting nonetheless.”

    This is not an unusual belief. The outcome of this belief can be truly cruel, though. Across the South, there are charlatans making their fortunes persuading their sheep that illness is the result of sin or weak faith. As a result, hundreds of thousands add guilt to the suffering they endure as a result of disease (and they add millions to the pockets of these scumbags). I know you’re not one of those people, but the belief itself has been horribly abused.

    Don’t get me wrong: Christianity and Judaism bring to the world the concept of forgiveness, and that’s a lot to bring. When we believe the scales of justice have to be perfectly balanced, we are inviting mayhem and violence. You asked me to examine the fruit each religion bears. If there was a sweetness to the fruit of Christianity, the concept of forgiving our trespassers? That’s it.

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