November 18, 2017

Evolution: Scripture and Nature say Yes!  Chapter 4- Intelligent Design and the Book of God’s Works

Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes!  Chapter 4- Intelligent Design and the Book of God’s Works

By Denis O. Lamoureux

Denis begins this chapter by reminding readers he does not hold to the view of design called “Intelligent Design Theory”.  He says ID Theorists, for the most part, reject evolution and claim that God intervened miraculously to put design in living organisms.  He notes the leading ID Theorist is Michael Behe, whom formulated the idea of “irreducible complexity” in his book Darwin’s Black Box .  Behe’s most famous illustration was the bacterial flagellum, which he asserted was too complex to arise as an integrated unit in one fell swoop and had to be created fully formed.

Behe’s use of the flagellum is a classic case of “God of the Gaps”, the view that there can be a gap in nature where only God could have intervened.  If you google “debunking irreducible complexity” you can get a nice line-up of articles and videos, for example, this Ken Miller video from his lectures on the Kitzmiller trial, that pretty thoroughly debunks irreducible complexity.  “God of the Gaps” has a very poor track record and every single case in the history of science has shown that there is a gap in knowledge regarding how natural processes work.  It’s a poor strategy for Christians to adopt as an apologetic.

The Kitzmiller v. Dover  trial mentioned above, to those of you unfamiliar with it, was the high-water mark of the Intelligent Design Theory movement.   In October 2004, the Dover Area School District of York County, Pennsylvania, changed its biology teaching curriculum to require that intelligent design be presented as an alternative to evolution theory.  Eleven parents of students in Dover, York County, Pennsylvania, near the city of York, sued the Dover Area School District over the school board requirement that a statement presenting intelligent design as “an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view” was to be read aloud in ninth-grade science classes when evolution was taught.  It was a bench trial before Judge John E. Jones III, a Republican appointed in 2002 by George W. Bush.  The judge ruled that Intelligent Design Theory was a religious viewpoint and could not be taught as science.  Which is true and it was revealed that the ID Theorists were being disingenuous by trying to say it was only about science.  This disingenuity was demonstrated by the discovery of the “Wedge Document”, a public relations campaign meant to sway the opinion of the public, popular media, charitable funding agencies, and public policy makers by pretending to be only about science and not at all about Christianity, nudge-nudge-wink-wink-know-what-I-mean-say-no-more-know-what-I-mean.  Disingenuity by Christians (aka lying-for-Jesus) is a very poor strategy that is guaranteed to backfire.  No one, nowhere, is ever convinced of the truth of Christianity by Christians being disingenuous. Can I get an AMEN!

As Denis noted in the previous chapter, intelligent design is not a scientific theory, it is a religious belief and metaphysical concept that is the belief that beauty, complexity, and functionality in nature point toward an Intelligent Designer.  Denis asserts there are two types of divine revelation.

Special Revelation is specific revelation from God that is given to men and women, the nation of Israel, and the Christian church. The greatest act of divine revelation is when God became man in the person of Jesus so we could know him personally and experience his love for us.  Biblical revelation is a subset of special revelation that means the Bible contains the very words of God.  General revelation is experienced by all men and women, religious or not.  This divine disclosure offers a broad outline of God’s attributes and is non-verbal.  Natural revelation is a form of general revelation and deals with intelligent design in nature.  The creation points to the existence of God and declares His glory (Psalm 19:1).

Christians have traditionally held the two views, often expressed as “Two Books” as illustrated in Denis’ Figure 4-2.  Psalm 19 is the classic example of the Bible asserting natural revelation.  Psalm 19 uses the ancient understanding of the structure of the world, the “firmament”, the “ends of the world”, the heavens structured like a tent with a flat floor and domed canopy, the daily movement of the sun rising at one end and making its circuit to the other, to illustrate the central spiritual truth that God reveals Himself through his creation.  Knowing the actual structure of the world is not essential for believing in intelligent design.  The biblical notion of design focuses on the belief that nature reflects design, and not on how the actual world is structured or how it operates.  Likewise Romans 1:18-23 affirms the reality of natural revelation and intelligent design.  Paul uses a bit of rhetoric to say that the divine disclosure is so obvious that “men are without excuse” if they don’t recognize it.  But despite the rhetoric, Denis asserts that one’s spiritual state influences one’s belief in intelligent design.  He says:

“The reciprocal arrows of Figure 4-3 represent the two-way exchange of information between the religious/philosophical belief in intelligent design and the scientific discoveries in nature.  This interchange of ideas occurs with interpretation of design, including those that reject design… This approach is presuppositional in that it begins with the assumption that intelligent design exists, and then it views the creation through this lens to discover reflections of design in nature.  I call this way of reasoning the “argument from to design to nature”.

Denis emphasizes that this a faith claim that (Hebrews 11:3) “by faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”

Any discussion of evidence for design in nature will have to deal with Richard Dawkins book, “The Blind Watchmaker”, and Denis does so.  Here is what he says:

Richard Dawkins is obsessed with design in nature.  He wrote a 350 page book attempting to write off intelligent design as an illusion in our minds.  It is odd that any atheist would take so much time and effort to do so.  But maybe Dawkins hears the ‘voice’ of a non-verbal divine revelation in the physical world, and as an atheist he needs to find a way to justify his rejection of its clear message.

William Paley 1743-1805

The Blind Watchmaker is a reference to William Paley  (July 1743 – 25 May 1805) who was an English clergyman, Christian apologist, philosopher, and utilitarian. He is best known for his natural theology exposition of the teleological argument for the existence of God in his work Natural Theology or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, which made use of the watchmaker analogy.  Paley said:

Let’s say you’re walking around and you find a watch on the ground. As you examine it, you marvel at the intricately complex interweaving of its parts, a means to an end. Surely you wouldn’t think this marvel would have come about by itself. The watch must have a maker. Just as the watch has such complex means to an end, so does nature to a much greater extent. Just look at the complexity of the human eye. Thus we must conclude that nature has a maker too!

 

David Hume 1711-1776 (nice shirt- Dave)

The Scottish philosopher and famous skeptic, David Hume (1711-1776) supposedly demolished Paley’s argument, and Dawkins borrows from Hume’s arguments.  I say supposedly because the argument still, to this day, rages on with either side confidently asserting they have mastered the other.  Denis notes that we are entirely accustomed to the idea that complex elegance is an indicator of premeditated crafted design, as have most people throughout history.

First and foremost, Denis notes that Dawkins admits that nature powefully impacts everyone, including himself.  He confesses that “complex elegance” hits him so hard that it creates a “problem” that needs to be explained (away).  Second, Dawkins acknowledges that this experience in nature leads to the notion of God’s existence, and that nearly everyone throughout history has understood that message.  Its almost as if he understands the message in nature of declaring the reality of a creator must be destroyed in order for him to maintain his hard atheism.

Third, Dawkins agrees that artistic and engineered features in the world are an “indicator of premeditated crafted design”.   Note that these “feats” of engineering” and “works of art” are non-verbal.  Dawkins also sees a balance between these characteristics as evident with his use of the terms “elegant efficiency” and “complex elegance”.  This means it also includes beauty.  God is just not a Supreme Engineer; he is also a Cosmic Artist.

Finally, Dawkins rejects intelligent design; believing it is nothing but appearance.  Design is merely an illusion in the minds of most people.  Dawkins then concludes, “It is almost as if the human brain were specifically designed to misunderstand Darwinism (atheistic evolution) and find it hard to believe.”  From the Christian’s perspective, the Creator HAS gifted us with a brain to see design and when considering the atheistic position conclude it could never be true.

In other words, you say reality only appears to be designed…

I say it is apparent reality is designed…

You like potato and I like potahto, You like tomato and I like tomahto; Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto!  Let’s call the whole thing off!

But oh! If we call the whole thing off, Then we must part.  And oh! If we ever part, Then that might break my heart! (George and Ira Gershwin, 1937)

So lets not part and break my heart… lets argue instead.  First of all, Christians, lets be brutally honest and admit to all the facts.  There is plenty in nature that seems poorly, even badly designed.  Here is a talk origins page that lists a number of nature’s jury-rigging, including the giraffe’s neck and the panda’s thumb.  And much of nature seems random; the whole issue of theodicy is basically an argument post-fact excusing God’s so-called hiddeness.  Well, why should we make excuses for God, let him show up and defend himself.  The vastness of the universe, most of it cold, inhospital swirling dust and gas, eventually headed for an even colder heat death and the end of everything.  It makes belief in God’s design just whistling past the graveyard.

And Atheists, if everything is ultimately purposeless and meaningless, then why are YOU showing up to argue at all.  It’s all just sound and fury signifying nothing.  Who are you trying to convince, but more importantly WHY are you trying to convince anyone of anything?

Well, enough of the prelimnaries… LETS GET IT ON!!!  C’mon Klasie, J, Robert F on a bad day, BRING IT!!

But before you bring it, just remember… on my side I have:

Dana Ames

 

 

Christiane

 

 

 

E-thor, Uh, I mean Eeyore

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rick “Iron Man” Ro

Chaplain Mike, of course

Remember, you don’t want to make me mad, you won’t like me when I’m mad

Comments

  1. You put me with the atheists? Was it something I said?

  2. *drinks orange juice*

    This drink, I like it!

    *smashes mug*

    ANOTHER!

    😉

  3. Every death and every moment of suffering is counter-testimony to the experiences of design and elegance to be had in nature. And they are powerfully offsetting experiences, that can be felt to throw our schemes of esthetics as indicators of God’s activity in existence right out the window. The argument from esthetics can work in two directions: the experience of pain and horror in the world, which are pervasive, testify to the ugliness and crudity of existence, and that testimony is made right alongside the one to design and elegance. If the heavens and earth testify to the existence of God, the testimony it gives is certainly not consistent, and therefore not conclusive.

    Does this mean I’m having a bad day?

    • I still think the Dorothy Sayers quote is the best answer to your argument: “For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is— limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death—He had the honesty and the courage to take His own medicine. Whatever game He is playing with His creation, He has kept His own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that He has not exacted from Himself. He has Himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair and death. When He was a man, He played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile.”

      And yes, you’re having a bad day 🙂

      • Again, if we’re trying to use esthetic categories, which both the argument from design and elegance are based in, to interpret the signals we get from nature, we cannot come to any conclusion, since the signals are ambivalent.

        • You’re apology in the above reply for the conditions of our existence are based in the revelation we have in Jesus Christ, not the bare testimony of nature.

          • Your….

          • Mike the Geologist says:

            That is a good point, Robert. But I agree with Denis that it is a faith claim. Also, I do not believe it is a purely rational or empirically derived belief. Emotion and temperament play a large part of which view you accept. Hence my smart-arse crack about “having a bad day”.

      • “He has Himself gone through the whole of human experience . . .”

        Jesus never experienced the death of his mother.
        Jesus never experienced the death of his spouse.
        Jesus never experienced the death of his child.
        Jesus never experienced his mind betraying him with Alzheimer’s.
        Jesus never experienced his body betraying him with cancer.
        Jesus never experienced years of solitary confinement.
        Jesus never experienced the aftermath of a nuclear attack.
        Jesus never experienced living past the age of 33 and seeing everyone he knew dying around him.

        Shall I go on?

        • Oh, one more really important one that I forgot.

          Jesus never experienced being a woman in a patriarchal society.

          • Mike the Geologist says:

            Very pedantic, SV. Did you read the phrases that followed. You don’t really have a good point. He was a man and experience humanity, that is the point.

            • SottoVoce says:

              The point of that quote as I read it is to argue that Jesus has experienced The Most Suffering Ever, so human beings can’t be upset about God allowing the world to continue in a state of suffering because Jesus has experienced everything they have and more. I have actually heard people (Catholic-leaning, if I recall correctly) make exactly this argument, so that is where my mind goes when I read the quote. That sounds very pretty on its face, but if you actually start to break it down as I have done above, you realize it’s nonsense. There are thousands of forms of suffering that Jesus the man never endured in his time on earth. So if that’s supposed to make it acceptable that God allows suffering and death, or be comforting that Jesus knows what we go through, it fails abjectly. Now if you would like to argue that my interpretation is wrong, be my guest.

              Also? According to Christianity, Jesus KNOWINGLY CONSENTED to suffering (and let’s not forget that in exchange, he was exalted above everyone except God). I don’t recall ever being asked for my consent when something bad happens to me. That makes our respective situations totally different.

              • Christiane says:

                Jesus ASSUMED our humanity. He took us to Himself. He knew our pain, you bet.

                • I can tell that “assumed” is one of those Christianese words that actually stands for quite a lot, but on its own and unexplained is too vague to convey its point properly. Would you care to describe specifically what you mean so I can tell if you have addressed my point or not?

        • +1 above and below

        • If he now lives in us, he has experienced all that.

          • He doesn’t tho, he exists in a physical body somewhere in “the heavens”, but His Spirit lives in us. Right?

            Somewhere, right now, Jesus exists in a physical body. That’s traditional Christian teaching, right?

          • SottoVoce says:

            Not firsthand. Not in his own body. Doesn’t count.

            • I have trouble with the idea that every oppressed groups’ pain is absolutely unique and can only be understood and appreciated by those within it.

              • Careful, we are discussing suffering, not just oppression. Oppression is a subset of suffering, but does not encompass all of it. Jesus, in his physical body, could not experience every form of suffering available to humans because certain forms of suffering are unique and specific to certain groups that he was not a part of (he was not a slave or a woman or a eunuch, for starters). But even ignoring that, are you prepared to argue that suffering is equal and interchangeable? Let’s even look at a form of suffering that doesn’t rely on one’s social identity: bereavement. Would you say that the suffering caused by the death of your mother is interchangeable with the suffering caused by the death of your baby? Would you say the suffering caused by the death of your child who was a firefighter and died saving someone from a burning building is interchangeable with the suffering of seeing your child ripped from your arms and burned on a bonfire in front of you? Or take depression for example. Would you say that a person who has been depressed for four months has experienced the same suffering as someone who has been depressed for four decades? Would you feel the same in those situations, or different?
                And now, beyond that, let us get back to the original quote. It seems to me to be clearly advocating that the solution to the problem of evil is that God subjected himself to human experience. But it ignores that God subjected himself to only a tiny subset of human experience; that, indeed, it would be impossible for God in one human lifetime to experience all the myriad forms of human suffering. So no, God hasn’t experienced everything that we have and is still on the hook for allowing it to happen to us. This attempt to mitigate the problem of evil fails.

                • Iain Lovejoy says:

                  I agree that God in Jesus experiencing suffering doesn’t excuse his inflicting it, but I would say:
                  – Jesus’s death demonstrates that he is prepared to suffer for us; and
                  – God’s character revealed in Jesus demonstrates that he also suffers with our sufferings through compassion for us, in the way that a parent suffers on seeing their child suffer, although infinitely greater as his compassion is infinitely greater and his awareness of our suffering (being omniscient) is also closer and much keener.
                  If this is the case, Jesus’s death indicates that God cannot be indifferent to our suffering, let alone be glad of it, and that he himself suffers because of it. While this does not excuse evil, or explain it, it indicates that there is likely to be such an explanation, whatever it is, and that that explanation is to be found not in some purpose for the benefit of God, but some necessity resulting from our nature and existence, which God will not spare himself any suffering to correct.
                  Why God needed to suffer in this way to correct the problem of evil, why it has taken so long to sort it out and why it still hasn’t been is a matter of a great deal of religious speculation.

                  • SottoVoce says:

                    And now you have landed yourself with the problem of claiming that a mere three days of suffering, which was chosen and consensual with a known reward, is somehow adequate repayment for millennia of the unchosen, nonconsensual suffering of billions without any definite proof that it will ultimately be rewarded. I can’t make that math work out. Any thoughts?

                    • Iain Lovejoy says:

                      I started the above by saying it wasn’t an excuse, and I certainly didn’t say it was a repayment. What’s repayment got to do with it? Quite apart from the mathematics you point out, I can’t see how yet more pointless suffering (however much of it) would somehow make the existing suffering OK. Sorry I really don’t understand.
                      What I said, in summary, was I thought the incarnation and crucifixion were evidence that God cared about suffering, didn’t want it and was prepared to do whatever it took to do something about it, whatever the cost to himself. I also said that a conclusion that might be drawn from this is that suffering does not continue to exist because God chooses for reasons of his own to allow it, but that there must be some concrete reason why, and for our sake not his, suffering can’t just be magicked away, but has to be dealt with in this costly way by God.
                      I’d like to respond a little more positively but I honestly don’t get how what you said connects with what I did.

      • Idk. Maybe it’s just where I’m at today and in this moment, but that quote is a strong case for atheism to me.

        There’s gotta be something more.

  4. “Every death and every moment of suffering is counter-testimony to the experiences of design and elegance to be had in nature.”

    It is? Death and pain are intimate parts of How Things Work.

    • But in esthetic categories, which both the argument from design and the elegance are made from, it’s a wash. No beauty or elegance in death and suffering; in fact, they tend to undermine all esthetic categories. That means the esthetic evidence from nature, its testimony, is not conclusively in favor of the existence or non-existence of God; it is conflicting and ambivalent. Our experience of elegance and design in nature are not adequate to conclusively signal the existence of God, though they cannot conclusively signal his non-existence either. Ambivalent signals are given for both possibilities.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      Why does darkness and pain trump light and joy?

      Isn’t every great moment, every act of sacrifice and compassion, every moving song or poem, every coming home to a pot of Vietnamese food sitting on the front porch a counter-testimony to meaninglessness and despair?

      This is a round-n-round game we can play forever and get nowhere.

      or: Somewhere today a child’s puppy died. The new mother holding her child or the young person moving into their first apartment – they should drop everything and weep? Burn it all down!

      • –> “Why does darkness and pain trump light and joy?”

        It doesn’t. Just open a closet door. Does darkness spill out or does light go in?

        • Dana Ames says:

          Fr Stephen Freeman has written that the big question is not “Why is there evil?” but rather, “Why is there good?”

          Dana

  5. I’m just a methodological atheist, and a student of Barth. Just you wait for the real atheists to show up!

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > I’m just a methodological atheist,

      Pretty much everyone is, on an honest day.

      About these kinds of discussion I usually want to say: “Ok, if I agree with you – so what?” Tomorrow my alarm will go off, I will take a shower, drink coffee, walk down the block to the bus stop, spend ~8 hours typing nonsense into a machine, stopping occasionally to go to the bathroom, walk back to the bus, play fetch with the dogs, …. Present it to me inside that sequence of events.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says:

        Very good answer.

      • If we’re breaking into teams, put me on Team ATW. 😉

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          Welcome aboard!

          I do not discount these kinds of questions; but I recognize that they are *very* often disingenuous. It seems rare that they are asked of genuine curiosity. It nearly always feels like a game of Gotcha or a proxy fight for other, much more substantial, ideological concerns [often about power].

          C.S. Lewis had a bit somewhere about how some issue, particularly theology, need to be discussed behind closed doors, among scholars, or at least among friends. They key being that respect – and just the intellectual base line – has to be already established *before* approaching the topic.

          • Yeah, I think sometimes they even subconsciously turn into fights for points.

          • Dana Ames says:

            Well, we all now know about the phenomenon called “confirmation bias.”

            Nobody believes **anything** on a “purely rational or empirically derived basis.” It’s all a big mix of what people deem “objective” and the subjective person who is sorting through information from the senses, relational cues, all kinds of things.

            We believe what we believe for reasons – but sometimes we can’t articulate many of those reasons.

            Dana

            • Christiane says:

              “We believe what we believe for reasons – but sometimes we can’t articulate many of those reasons.”

              this is so true, Dana

  6. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    “””And Atheists, if everything is ultimately purposeless and meaningless, then why are YOU showing up to argue at all…..Who are you trying to convince, but more importantly WHY are you trying to convince anyone of anything?”””

    I can answer for some of them, and that answer is contained in this post: “””Disingenuity by Christians (aka lying-for-Jesus) is a very poor strategy that is guaranteed to backfire.”””

    Perhaps if ‘Christians’ would stop trying to hijack institutions like school boards for the underhanded advancement of their personal ideology fewer people would feel motivated to counter-strike. Christians can be extremely unneighborly.

    Aside: When challenged with a question like: “…if everything is ultimately purposeless and meaningless, then why…” the best first move is the make the person asking the question answer it first. Hey, they brought it up! What’s your purpose? What meaning do you see? Is it that if you are “good” for ~70 years you will get an eternal lollipop? Can you walk me through that in Scripture? No, no, not come to your church to have it explained; you, here, right now. You brought it up, and you know the answer – of course you do – it is something you built your whole life around, right?

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:

      Agreed.

      As to purpose and meaning: A quick survey of humanity will indicate that we ourselves imbue the Cosmos for purpose, arriving at very different conclusions based on our background, culture, religion or irreligion etc etc. If you think about teleology – through our history we wanted to understand agency and purpose – because as partly rational creatures, it helps with survival – and natural selection does the rest of the job.

      Add to that the desire to live – those that didn’t have it, obviously didn’t, then you quickly get agency and desire for continuous life and eventually, eternal life. In a way, religious thought I’d just natural selection at work. To answer Ben below – the Baby left the bathwater and grew up. The adult is not superior to the Baby- it is merely at a different stage (or am I carrying the analogy to far?).

      Lastly – as to the invitation to join battle? Comedy intended, Sure, but one grows tired of fighting. Calm discussion, preferably around a pint or 2, is the better way… 😉

      • Mike the Geologist says:

        “As to purpose and meaning: A quick survey of humanity will indicate that we ourselves imbue the Cosmos for purpose…”

        And since we are part of the Cosmos then the Cosmos has purpose. I’m not being a smart-ass, the fact we have evolved the ability to raise and discuss these questions is teleological in and of itself.

        “…arriving at very different conclusions based on our background, culture, religion or irreligion etc etc.”

        So we see through a glass darkly; that doesn’t mean we don’t have some vision.

        “If you think about teleology – through our history we wanted to understand agency and purpose – because as partly rational creatures, it helps with survival – and natural selection does the rest of the job.”

        I know that is your stand, and I respect it, but we don’t NEED philosophical speculation, or art, or music, etc. to survive. There is more than mere survival in play; there is flourishing. Mental flourishing, and I would argue, spiritual flourishing as well. If religion evolved as a survival mechanism then it is necessary and not mere illusion.

        “To answer Ben below – the Baby left the bathwater and grew up. The adult is not superior to the Baby- it is merely at a different stage…”

        And there is another stage to growth, which I think is reflected in Richard Rohr’s writings, as one example. There is a spiritual maturity.

        • Klasie Kraalogies says:

          Your first statement doesn’t follow – unless you are a panentheist, ie Spinozist. And the difference between that and atheism is minimal, even semantic.

          Second statement – related to the first, ie, you are reading into the Cosmos something you would like to be true. The next guy doers the same – but a different “something”. all that you can prove from that is that we like to read meaning into something, not that meaning (or Meaning) exists. The more pertinent question is to examine why we do it. And then see my comments related to that above.

          How do you know we don’t need art, philosophy etc? Or let me phrase it differently, how do you prove that art and philosophy etc wasn’t an outcome of our cognitive evolution, and therefore became part and parcel of our existence? We do see (very) primitive attempts or actions in those directions in our primate cousins, just as we see empathy, teamwork etc.

          Finally, as to the growing up – in the distant past, we imbued the world around us with immediate supernatural causation – God/gods sent the rain all the time, they made the plants grow etc etc. Of course, we now know the natural causation of these events. Hence, unless you are a fundie, you tend to say that God is the prime mover, or Initiator, or something like that – ie, you don’t need Him (or her 🙂 ) for immediate causation, but only for teleology. And then, you might discover teleology is not required either. How is that for “spiritual maturity”? My point is, we can read the same events very differently. Therefore, using that as proof or something like that is not helpful at all.

          • Mike the Geologist says:

            “Your first statement doesn’t follow…” And here we will have to agree to differ, because I think it does follow. The cosmos produced us, who are rational and see purpose. That rationality and teleos has to arise from something beyond the mere physical and that something has to equal or exceed our rationality. So the existence of rational creatures in this cosmos is, ipso facto, the evidence of a rational cosmos. A rational cosmos is most like a mind, as far as we can know. And that ultimate mind is what most of us call God.

            • Klasie Kraalogies says:

              You have just described panentheism Mike.

              • Mike the Geologist says:

                So what, Klasie? That is where I start, you know I believe more. The ultimate mind became man.

                • Iain Lovejoy says:

                  I may be teaching my grandmother to suck eggs, but Klasie said “panentheism” rather than “pantheism”: pantheism holds that God is, or is the mind of, the universe, while panentheism holds, just like pantheism, that everything is God, but goes further to say that God is also more than just the universe. With panentheism, the universe is contained in or part of God (at least in a sense) but is not the whole of or to be equated with him.
                  I suspect that with “panentheism” Klasie has got you spot on (and probably me too).

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > I know that is your stand, and I respect it, but we don’t NEED philosophical
          > speculation, or art, or music, etc. to survive. There is more than mere survival
          > in play;

          I am on the fence regarding this one.

          There are clear survival advantages to advanced language skills; even to mathematics when coexisting / competing in very large groups – the culture that developed the concept of fungible value [money] would have a powerful efficiency advantage over the one that this not.

          So… do things like Philosophy & Theology spring forth as side-effects of that surplus capacity. Or are they themselves of value. I go back and forth.

          We can teach a dog to help a disabled person perform all manner of sophisticated tasks; to know – literally – thousands of commands+qualifiers. So the dog has much more capacity than he appears to use in his ‘natural’ condition. Why does the dog have such spare capacity? What does that mean? [beyond, perhaps, that we underestimate his ‘natural’ condition]

          Minds – high functioning brains? – are very plastic things, plasticity ultimately is their advantage.

          I can understand that as weight on other side of the scales.

          • Christiane says:

            we have taken too much ‘for granted’ . . . . and we have missed much in the process, yes

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        It is International Stout Day today!

    • +1

  7. Burro (Mule) says:

    A couple of random thoughts;

    The atheists who hang around here tend to be of a higher quality than crude atheists I’ve encountered elsewhere, most of whom are like the smug, priggish child who is the first to discover that “Nanny’s stories aren’t really true, you know. She just wants you to believe them to keep you in line”, and delight in disenchanting the other children in the nursery. J* is like this at his worst.

    As a mediocre man, Nature, capitalized, strikes me very much the way as does a truly beautiful woman. Her beauty, my desire for it, and her indifference are all equally terrifying.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:

      The same could be said of the theists here. We are an exclusive establishment, didn’t you realise?

      🙂

      • I know you are being lighthearted but you are actually quite right. You usually get atheist sites and Christian apologetic sites but never the variety of opinion and measured discussion that we enjoy in this environment. I take this to reflect the attitude and effort of our Host which is much appreciated.

        • And then J++ appears to prove me wrong. Oh well.

          • I’ve just learned that there is no level of sufficient deference for atheists. ANY level of atheist assertiveness is ‘disrespectful’ or ‘priggish’. All atheists are simply too ignorant of theology to have an opinion of it (nevermind if they actually have quite a bit of theological study or that most would-be converts to religion aren’t first quizzed on *their* theological knowledge).

            So yeah, I’m “rude”. Which is to say I have been known to say things.

            • –> “Which is to say I have been known to say things.”

              Pretty much everyone here has been known “to say things.” It’s the manner in which it is said that matters.

              We all love you, J. Or J++.

            • Klasie Kraalogies says:

              You are rude J++ – coming from this atheist. Immediately assuming a mocking or shrill attitude is a mark of immaturity. I can point to many religious and atheists that do the same. Rudeness is not necessary, even if your opposition is rude (which they are not, so far today).

            • Ah J++ my friend Halloween has made you giddy. No, you don’t get points here for just showing up. And your “put on my atheist mask and jump out of the bushes to scare passers-by” tactic is not going to be very effective I’m afraid. It is a testimony to my depth of compassion that I take time to explain to you why that is.

              You will find a real divergence of opinion here. There are regular posters who are fundamentalists, and ones who are atheists, and all points in between. High church, Low church, No church. Also It’s also a safe space for people who don’t know what they think and want to try to figure it out. Consequently it takes much more than the “I’m an atheist! You’re stupid!” approach to get a response. If you have an interesting comment or argument or anecdote then you’re at the right place. If you just want to pick a fight or need the validation of derailing a conversation of which you don’t have the chops to participate in then I prophesy you will meet with limited success.

            • Oh bs. That isn’t true, that’s straw. Especially here.

              C’mon.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            There is one in every crowd 🙂

    • Who is ‘nanny’ here?

  8. Burro (Mule) says:

    Moderated already

    • Christiane says:

      Hi MULE,
      my comment was ‘moderated’, but I don’t know why . . . . I thought it was pretty good . . . . maybe it was TOO good?
      oh well, the mysteries of blogging 🙂

  9. The atheist viewpoint is an inevitable side effect of surrendering to the idea that the only valid truth is scientific fact. The problem with that is that there’s more baby than bathwater. And you lost it all.

    • What’s your proof of that?

    • I disagree. Not all atheists only surrender to scientific fact as truth. Sometimes they actually read the religious documents and ask questions around the text, not through it.

      There’s more than one kind of atheist in the world.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says:

        Yes. Some of us spent decades in the Church. Often in leadership roles.

      • @StuartB, I think you’re arguing against a point I didn’t make.

        Pure materialism -> atheism
        doesn’t imply that
        atheism <- pure materialism.

  10. “And Atheists, if everything is ultimately purposeless and meaningless”

    Atheists don’t believe this. We create our own meaning.

    “then why are YOU showing up to argue at all.”

    Because your kind is constantly trying to seize power and inculcate our children. And so we will fight you.

    “It’s all just sound and fury signifying nothing.”

    Says the people who believe in ‘justification by faith’.

    “Who are you trying to convince”

    You.

    “but more importantly WHY are you trying to convince anyone of anything?”

    To deny you power and expose your lies.

    • Mike the Geologist says:

      Actually, J, I agree with you. We Christians should be denied power; it will inevitably corrupt us. In fact, it is only as we are powerless that we are effective for the kingdom of God. And our lies should be ruthlessly exposed, you do the work of God there, whether you realize it or not.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Actually, J, I agree with you. We Christians should be denied power; it will inevitably corrupt us.

        Type examples: The Western Church between Constantine and Luther; the Eastern Church in Byzantium and Russia; and the American Evangelical Church in the Age of Trump.

      • –> “We…should be denied power; it will inevitably corrupt us.”

        That’s one of the messages of my sci-fi novel. To me, in fact, the evidence of that is God’s relinquishing power by being first and foremost a Creator full of love and grace, and by dying on the Cross.

      • I don’t think relinquishing power is the same as having it stripped from you.

        Which is still not to say that I think Christians should aspire to power, but that there is no ‘virtue’ in being powerless if it’s not chosen: just as there’s not virtue in being ‘good’ simply because you lack the power or opportunity to do bad.

        And I should add that by ‘virtue’ I don’t mean “moral points scored in my path to salvation”, but “ethical benefit for oneself and mankind”. Or something like that.

    • +1. I actually agree with J on all this here. I’m surprised a little people would disagree.

  11. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    ID originally made sense in the sense of “Natural Theology”, a philosophical underpinning of science.

    But now it’s become another sugarcoat of paint for YEC Uber Alles, nothing more.

  12. john barry says:

    I cannot “prove” my Mother loves me or my wife. I take it as reality by their actions and my belief they love me based on their actions. Likewise they cannot “prove” or justify if I love them except by my actions and how I act. I believe in a higher authority called God because of what I believe he has given me. I believe we are made in the image of God so the moment my children were born I love them unconditionally and without reservations just as God loves man, his children. So it is great to have discussions and viewpoints such as here. It seems the secular world will insure that Christians will lose whatever “power” they have in this world so the belief in God debate will dwindle as most people will not believe in God as they do not know him. As some people give me the Larry King argument about what I think about who is going to hell or creation I simply as I am simple reply it does not matter what I say it matters what the Bible says, so like I said and have proved I am simple, like a little child

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:

      As an atheist, I will defend your right to believe whatever you want or don’t want. The majority of the Secular world is not out “to get Christians”. That is a myth created for partisan political gain, as well as by some Fundamentalists in order to scare their flocks (I know, I come from deep and dark fundamentalism).

      • Yes but the “persecution as validation” trope goes back to the very origins of the faith. Remember Matthew 5:10 & 11. However “persecution”, in this country anyway, has come to mean “any sort of criticism of my beliefs or practice”. Not actual physical danger.

        I once heard Reformed apologist James White asked what he thought the first sign would be of a general persecution of Christians by the US government. His response? If the automatic 501C tax status of churches were to be revoked. What a world of privilege is betrayed by this statement!

    • I believe we are made in the image of God so the moment my children were born I love them unconditionally and without reservations just as God loves man, his children.

      I assume you don’t mean you only love your children because God loves man/his children.

      It’s possible you love them without compulsion.

      It’s possible other parents do not love their children without compulsion.

      It’s possible we weren’t created “to love” our children. It’s possible we evolved “to love” our children. And the reverse of both is equally possible.

      I don’t believe you intended this as an apologetic, more of a testimony of your life and truth, but I wanted to point that out.

      • john barry says:

        StuartB. To sum up anything is possible, love it, God made me with the desire to love my children, is that possible?

  13. Mike, thanks for including me on your team! But “Iron Man”? You don’t know me well. I’m more like “Neurotic Man.”

    Hey, have you read/watched any Brian Green (string theory, etc.)? Several years ago, while watching his PBS special “Elegant Universe” with a couple of friends (both basically agnostic), all three of us were struck by a comment he makes during the program, basically (paraphrasing), “The elegance and mathematical beauty of the physics of the universe…can that come about without something behind it?”

    Other quotes:
    “…The wonders of life and the universe are mere reflections of microscopic particles engaged in a pointless dance fully choreographed by the laws of physics.”

    “We all love a good story. We all love a tantalizing mystery. We all love the underdog pressing onward against seemingly insurmountable odds. We all, in one form or another, are trying to make sense of the world around us. And all of these elements lie at the core of modern physics. The story is among the grandest — the unfolding of the entire universe; the mystery is among the toughest — finding out how the cosmos came to be; the odds are among the most daunting — bipeds, newly arrived by cosmic time scales trying to reveal the secrets of the ages; and the quest is among the deepest — the search for fundamental laws to explain all we see and beyond, from the tiniest particles to the most distant galaxies.”

    “The boldness of asking deep questions may require unforeseen flexibility if we are to accept the answers.”

    ? Brian Greene, The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory

    • The “Elegant Universe” is one of the first books that started me down the path towards becoming a physics content developer and instructor. Good book, and certainly one that has helped this fascinating field become more mainstream. How could you be anything but captivated and want to know/learn all that you can about this colossal universe and the unending mysteries that accompany it?

      One of the great and exciting things about the time we live in is the pace at which we’re discovering things too — and there’s no shortage of material out there that’s accessible to the layperson.

  14. StrangerTides says:

    Hi, atheist long time occasional lurker here.

    “And Atheists, if everything is ultimately purposeless and meaningless, then why are YOU showing up to argue at all.”

    If those of you who are Christians were to become irrefutably convinced that there is no god, would they stop pursuing happiness, stop working toward a fair and compassionate society, stop discussing interesting topics with others, lose their sense of what is ethical, and in fact lose the inclination to do anything at all in their lives?

    I think it’s clear that the answer is “no” – people leave religion every day and continue to do all of these things. It’s in our nature as humans to find value in our actions and experiences even if there’s no scientifically justifiable reason to do so, and we will continue to do that.

    • StrangerTides says:

      Hmm, sorry about the grammar. ?

    • The thing is, we’re all living under the influence of hundreds, if not thousands of years of religious culture, and I suspect that influences us all in ways we might not recognize. Would a society that’s been non-religious for centuries have the same ideas about morality that we do?

      I suppose it’s impossible to say, since we don’t have anything to compare ourselves to.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says:

        Here is an observation: Your statement can be (and most likely will be) interpreted as religion coming from outside us. If that is not the case, then it all changes. Essentially then, morality is from within, both when it is good and when it is bad. Therefore – we can say – well the non-religious society won’t be much different.

        • I wonder, though, how it can objectively be determined if morality coming from within us is good or bad? I guess you could say that morality consistent with our nature is good, and morality that is in opposition to our nature is bad. But, even if you believe that our nature as a species is overwhelmingly to be empathetic and cooperative (can you say that?), you cannot say that our nature is fixed, or that all members of our species have the same capacity for empathy and cooperation. Why is it wrong if some of them, perhaps more than a few, see their own differences from the rest of us in this area as indications that they are superhumans, forerunners of the next stage of the development of human nature, and so ignore our moral rules, which they view as outdated and repressive? To say that it is wrong because it opposes the nature of the majority is not an argument that you can expect the superhumans to respect or obey, unless you can force them to do so.

    • If those of you who are Christians were to become irrefutably convinced that there is no god, would they stop pursuing happiness, stop working toward a fair and compassionate society, stop discussing interesting topics with others, lose their sense of what is ethical, and in fact lose the inclination to do anything at all in their lives?

      +1 and amen

    • Welcome!

  15. Special Revelation is specific revelation from God that is given to men and women, the nation of Israel, and the Christian church.

    First, this has no bearing in 99% of discussions believers have with people outside of the church.

    Second, how do we test this special revelation and prove it within the church? Example:

    The greatest act of divine revelation is when God became man in the person of Jesus so we could know him personally and experience his love for us.

    Disagree. That had to be ‘tested’ for centuries and still is being tested. Does ecclesiastical or political might finalize the testing? Is it all just personal revelation and how convincing to others you can be? Maybe insert the passage of time, assume another’s voice, and declare ‘this is how it’s always been’? Maybe wash out alternative gods in favor of the god of the moment?

    I’m having a hard time seeing through all the bs and true history to whatever “truth” is. Or maybe truth is just the narrative we choose to align with.

  16. Christiane says:

    Christiane! Me?
    goodness, I’m glad I checked in. 🙂

    I take it I am on the side of those who believe in ‘evolution’ as a natural unfolding of God’s initial act of Creation? I hope so. (And I must say that I think evolution is a greater way of proclaiming the magnificence of God as the Source of all being.)

    There is a beauty in evolution that is more awe-inspiring than the limited views of some, if they would take the time to see it. My term ‘unfolding’ may be mis-interpreted by some, but I see evolution as ‘miracle enough’. And that is something I wish for others, that they see in the blade of grass or the drop of water, something of eternity. 🙂

    Fire away. I’m in proclamation battle gear . . . . not to harm anyone’s faith, if they need it to hold on to in the way of those who may see things differently (never that)
    . . . . but to ask for people to see the miracles in the natural cycles of nature, in the mysteries of photosynthesis, in the beauty of how all life and all of the natural world speaks to us and teaches us of the Creator God . . . . . we are called in sacred Scripture to ‘hear’ and to ‘see’ these witnesses who speak truth to us in their very being.

    In my older age, I looked into the bathtub and saw a little spider. In my younger years, I might have killed it but these days, when so many I have loved no longer are living, I think twice about the ‘life’ of this creature as something ‘given’ and I gently remove it on a piece of paper and set it down elsewhere so that it may continue to ‘live’. Something about all ‘life’ is precious to me now, that I have lost so many to death, precious in a new way that demands from me a new response that I am open to. . . . . perhaps it is another way of mourning, by honoring ‘life’ in its smallest and most humble form? If so, I am also ‘evolving’ and it is a good thing. 🙂

    • God seems to me to be a very patient God who also enjoys creating. Put the two together and voila…evolution. I have no issues with it.

  17. He was my neighbor, but I barely knew him. An older man, solitary and quiet, he always remembered my name, though I never did his. I think it was Bill. He noticed it when some of my haiku was printed in the local paper, and said that he also did some writing. I just learned from another neighbor I barely know that he died alone in his apartment, and that his body was only discovered after ten days.

    Rest in peace, Bill. May the angels and saints greet you into God’s kingdom of love. I hope to see you there one day, and to learn to be your friend.

    • My neighbor’s name is Paul. Retired early this year. A couple months later, diagnosed with bladder cancer. He’s been through chemo treatments, goes infor surgery December 1. Merry Christmas, eh? I’ve been praying for him. He’s Catholic and has told me he appreciates the prayers.