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A Useful Religion
By: Regis Nicoll
Published: March 8, 2010 11:02 AM
Religion & Society
Ever wonder what the Enemy thinks about religion? The latest installment of
The Swillpit Chronicles
may provide some surprising insights. Read more
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Boy, was I wrong!!
I was completely convinced, Ben, that in terms of your interest in this thread we'd reached the Meh-sozoic Period. Delighted to see you still want to discuss it.
And actually, evolutionary theory *does* constitute a belief system. Per evolution, life's origin is an evolutionary process, life has no meaning, morality is whatever a social group decides is expedient for its survival, and destiny is death followed by nothing. People like Richard Dawkins accept this view, but not everyone does, so let's distinguish this by calling it “Big ToE”. In “Little ToE” (and yes, I'm shameless about going out of my way to give Gina and her colleagues a chuckle as they plow through all these words on a topic they didn't study much in college), only the origin question is answered, and the other answers have to be found elsewhere, in some kind of religious belief (such as humanism). Or maybe several religious beliefs.
The problem with mixing beliefs like this in an attempt to create a complete worldview is that you end up with extremely significant inconsistencies. Theistic evolutionists, for example, accept evolution for our origins, refer to Christianity for meaning and morality, and are a little vague on the whole idea of destiny. In fact, they're a little vague on the “theistic” part. And the “morality” part, come to think of it. They end up arguing from authority, saying like my parents did that something is wrong because they say so. This works until the listener becomes an adult.
Well, I've realized that vagueness is a problem for me, since I'm so good at rationalization. So I've determined I'll have a worldview that's consistent on all four issues, even if it puts me in conflict with some of my friends. Even if they think that such intellectual discipline is stupid or excessive.
And Rolley, you always speak brilliantly in my place. I can't express my delight at having a comrade-at-arms. And I'll steadfastly refuse to believe that you and I were brought together by random chance. No matter what Swillpit may say.
Posted By: LeeQuod on October 24, 2010 5:18 PM
Apologies to Gina for the Length of This....
…but I rationalize that I’m answering for two.
Responding to Ben W whose remarks I’ve enclosed in brackets:
[LQ, you hit on the excellent reasons for why evolutionary theory does not make up a "belief system" - it doesn't answer those four questions.
I understand that you want a rock-solid foundation for the questions of origins, meaning, morality, and destiny, but with our tentative and weak human understanding, such a solid foundation can only come through an unwavering acceptance of some Principles - and whether those principles are right or wrong is not really answerable. There are many, many versions of the four answers that are based on the Bible, so "rock solid" is only as strong as your faith, as you can find another set of Bible-based answers if you decide the ones you have are lacking.]
Ben, I can’t speak for LQ, but I guess I will anyway since he’s going to be out a while. When he gets back he can lop off my head for gross misrepresentation, but here goes.
I don’t think Lee was saying that evolutionary theory does not make up a belief system. I don’t think he was saying ToE doesn’t answer those four questions to the satisfaction of a lot who hold to the Theory. I think what he was saying is that the answers to some or all of those four questions are not answered satisfactorily to Christians with both a high view of scripture and an appreciation for any demonstrably correct conclusions of the faithful application of the scientific method.
When you say “whether those principles are right or wrong is not really answerable”, are you not thereby making ToE a “faith” every bit as much as Christianity? A choice, a conclusion based on evidence rather than rock-solid proof is, by definition, a “belief”. And if that belief has religious implications (even if only in the form of anti-religious conclusions) as ToE does, then that belief becomes a “faith.”
When you say “there are many, many versions of the four answers that are based on the Bible”, I would insert the word “loosely” (i.e., “there are many, many versions of the four answers that are “loosely” based on the Bible).” There is only one version that is based on a high view of the Bible. Lee and I hold to the high view (inerrancy and infallibility), and therefore we would argue that there is no other set of Bible-based answers. If one is true to a high view of the scriptures, one cannot believe in evolution. They are contradictory points of view.
That is why for Lee and myself the issue is not merely evolution versus creation; the issue is (at best) incipient or (at worst) full-blown atheism versus Christianity. To be logically consistent you can’t have both. That’s why I make a big deal of raising the question of “stakes”. Sooner or later one “faith” is going to have to yield to the other.
[Rolley, how can you prove a Bible verse false, when "I don't know" is always an acceptable answer? The Bible is non-dis-provable. As LQ pointed out, there is no amount of evidence that could make him believe in evolution, because he perceives it to be contradictory to the rest of the Bible. But how can you pursue truth if you've already made up your mind?]
As was noted in another thread, anyone can say “I don’t know” about anything at any time (e.g, I don’t know if I exist, I don’t know if Obama is really the president, etc). So I would disagree that “I don’t know is ALWAYS an acceptable answer. People unacceptably do it all the time to dodge implications they find unpleasant. So again, the question is not “what do I KNOW”; the question is, based on the evidence that I have, which of these two mutually-exclusive and antithetical faiths do I CHOOSE to subscribe to?
Choosing one over the other does not mean you have to close your mind to evidence for or against either position. But it does mean that “until sufficient compelling evidence is introduced, and with due consideration of the implications, I will remain true to my choice, precisely BECAUSE OF the implications. THAT is how you can “pursue truth [even] if you’ve already made up your mind”. Myself, I very much enjoy reading about new scientific findings. My beef is with the so-called “scientific” conclusions (more like leaps of – you guessed it – “faith” that are prematurely formed and the passion with which they are championed and the intolerant hostility that is heaped upon those of us whose high-view Christian faith has the audacity to be at odds with.
[Rolley asks, "You are clearly concerned to defend evolution. Where is comparable concern to determine if the foundations of Christianity are sound? If your quest is for honesty/truth, why does it manifest itself in the acceptance of an as-yet unproven conclusion that is inimical to Christianity rather than in trying to resolve questions you have about the bible’s integrity? "
See above, really. I've plumbed the depths of Christianity as best as I can, and as you said, it's a matter of faith. Trust me, with many hours of classes and reading under my belt, I've done my research. As part of that research, I came to the conclusion that ToE is not contradictory to Scripture.]
You say you’ve come to the conclusion that ToE is not contradictory to Scripture, but that you have done so on the premise of “not knowing” how to reconcile ToE WITH Scripture. But surely you see that on the face of it – if one takes a high view of Scripture – ToE is a contradiction of many, many plain statements found throughout both Old and New Testament, statements upon which essential doctrines of the Christian faith are founded. To choose to say, “I don’t know if this signifies contradiction or not” is in my opinion equivalent to serving two masters who are at total odds with one another. Sooner or later you’re going to conclude it just doesn’t work, and you’re inevitably going to go with one or the other, not both.
[I saw your last comment, the link Colson's article about altruism. My counter:
There's also been a bit of articles in the news lately about animals "adopting" orphaned kits of other species. And surely you've heard the stories of dolphins protecting humans from sharks?]
But what does all this suggest other than that the more advanced the species, the more contradictory its behavior to the tenets of Darwinism? If Darwinism were true one would expect just the opposite behavior in the higher life forms. The Scriptures acknowledge hierarchy among created beings but not along evolutionary lines. Hebrews 2:7, for instance, says man was created both AFTER and “a little LOWER than the angels”. Just one more problem for ToE-believers who call themselves Christians to have to reconcile.
I’m telling ya, Ben, if you remain logically consistent, eventually one of your belief-systems is going to give in to the other. I see it all the time.
Posted By: Rolley Haggard on October 19, 2010 12:55 PM
LQ, you hit on the excellent reasons for why evolutionary theory does not make up a "belief system" - it doesn't answer those four questions.
I understand that you want a rock-solid foundation for the questions of origins, meaning, morality, and destiny, but with our tentative and weak human understanding, such a solid foundation can only come through an unwavering acceptance of some Principles - and whether those principles are right or wrong is not really answerable. There are many, many versions of the four answers that are based on the Bible, so "rock solid" is only as strong as your faith, as you can find another set of Bible-based answers if you decide the ones you have are lacking.
Rolley, how can you prove a Bible verse false, when "I don't know" is always an acceptable answer? The Bible is non-dis-provable. As LQ pointed out, there is no amount of evidence that could make him believe in evolution, because he perceives it to be contradictory to the rest of the Bible. But how can you pursue truth if you've already made up your mind?
Rolley asks, "You are clearly concerned to defend evolution. Where is comparable concern to determine if the foundations of Christianity are sound? If your quest is for honesty/truth, why does it manifest itself in the acceptance of an as-yet unproven conclusion that is inimical to Christianity rather than in trying to resolve questions you have about the bible’s integrity? "
See above, really. I've plumbed the depths of Christianity as best as I can, and as you said, it's a matter of faith. Trust me, with many hours of classes and reading under my belt, I've done my research. As part of that research, I came to the conclusion that ToE is not contradictory to Scripture.
I saw your last comment, the link Colson's article about altruism. My counter:
There's also been a bit of articles in the news lately about animals "adopting" orphaned kits of other species. And surely you've heard the stories of dolphins protecting humans from sharks?
Posted By: Ben W on October 19, 2010 1:51 AM
Can't Say it Much Better Than This
Gina, you beat me to the draw!
Posted By: Rolley Haggard on October 13, 2010 10:51 AM
Ben, not understanding a passage is one thing. Proving it false is another. Your argument about mistakes in the bible/Christ/Paul might pack some punch if someone would just prove that even ONE teaching in the book is demonstrably false.
It hasn’t happened yet in 2000 years and counting. Sure, the book is obscure in a few places, but it has NEVER been shown to be false. Brilliant scholars have stabbed it with their steely knives for millennia, but they just can’t kill the beast.
Doesn’t that strike you as remarkable? It’s almost as if God WANTS it to look like the Book is wholly trustworthy.
Either way you slice it, Ben, either with God merely *wanting* it to look like the bible is inerrant, or Him *wanting* things to look like evolution took place, God comes out as a naughty deceiver.
Unless there is a third explanation.
Consider: if there’s a God, there’s also a Devil. That means unless the cosmic war between God and Satan is merely an act, the simple fact that the conflict has been drawn out for several thousand years (several million I suppose by your calculation) and has already cost God unimaginable suffering suggests there is in some sense a close contest between God and His Adversary.
My point is, with a powerful foe like that it ought not surprise us that there are many things that seem to strongly militate against what God has said. Things such as these largely unanswered questions:
Why do the innocent suffer?
Why does evil so often win out?
Why does God often remain silent in the midst of our darkest hour?
How can a loving God permit suicide, Auschwitz, tsunamis, cancer, or the death of children?
If God wants us to believe in Him why doesn’t He make a personal appearance before the whole world right now so we can all just make our choices and have done with this hell-on-earth? Etcetera.
Just like evolution does, so these things argue powerfully against the book we (rightly) call “the word of God”. They strongly suggest that the word of God contains errors, is grossly misunderstood, misleading or downright false. Is God trying to deceive us on all these points?
I alluded to a third explanation. You said there are only two conclusions; (1), either God wants it to look as if evolution took place, or (2), evolution took place. But there is a third: not that God WANTS it to look as if evolution took place, but that God HAS to let it seem plausible that evolution took place, in the same way that He HAS to let it seem plausible that the dominance of evil proves either He is not real, not omnipotent, or not good.
He lets these seeming contradictions exist -- not to deceive us, but to prove to the Devil that there are those who, unlike the Devil, take God at His word, despite the compelling plausibility (but not proof!) that there are explanations of reality besides (and in contradiction to) the word of God.
In the final analysis it really is all about faith (read Hebrews 11 and disagree with me). Not faith in the irrational or the implausible; not faith in contradictions to scientific facts. But faith in what God has said, and for which there is compelling – compelling – evidence, but NO PROOF – as yet.
You are clearly concerned to defend evolution. Where is comparable concern to determine if the foundations of Christianity are sound? If your quest is for honesty/truth, why does it manifest itself in the acceptance of an as-yet unproven conclusion that is inimical to Christianity rather than in trying to resolve questions you have about the bible’s integrity?
There are answers for all the big questions about the scriptures, and for almost all of the minor ones, too. Answers that are intellectually honest (and satisfying, I might add). If you spent a fraction of the time researching bible conundrums that you seem to defending evolution I’m convinced that unless you choose to remain prejudiced to prove THAT evolution is true you will shift your energy to trying to determine IF it is true. And with respect to ToE, that, I believe, is the true and honest status quaestionis.
Posted By: Rolley Haggard on July 31, 2010 3:45 PM
"delays"?? On an evolutionary timescale that was less than an eyeblink, Ben.
Ravi Zacharias says that any belief system must answer four basic questions about mankind: the questions of origins, meaning, morality and destiny. Ben my friend, you say that science proves that our origins are per evolution (whatever its latest formulation, which has now tossed some of Darwin's ideas in favor of genetic drift and such). For the meaning of life, well, I'm not sure you've taken an explicit position on that but from your other writings I'd assume you'd refer to the Bible or a confessional statement such as "Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever." For morality it appears you'd refer to the Bible for certain issues but to the prevailing social consensus for others. And for destiny - well, I'm not sure.
I have chosen to get my meaning, morality and destiny questions answered from the Bible, and have decided to accept its definition of origins at face value. Yes, this puts me at odds with the prevailing scientific opinion. Yes, that makes me a pariah in the world at large because the common worldview is that science and rationality is all there is (until some terrible tragedy strikes, at which point even the atheists are asking why God didn't intervene). But I prefer to get my four questions answered in a consistent way from a Rock-solid foundation rather than rely on the constantly-under-revision shifting sand of evolutionary theory.
Besides, my rebellious streak kicks in whenever someone tries to shame or ridicule me into accepting the common wisdom primarily on the basis of argument from authority. I'll never have the time to gain sufficient expertise in all the disciplines that contribute to evolutionary theory, so at some level I have to trust that I'm not being lied to or misled in all sincerity. But I have to confront those four questions - particularly the morality one - on a daily basis, and shifting sand just won't do as a foundation.
And you should know, Ben, that for several years I believed as you do. But I found the cognitive dissonance over the issues raised in those four questions to be too great to bear. So I'm going to remain your friend in spite of what you believe, because I think it's possible you may sometime need all the friends you can get.
Oh, and you said no sissy lattes, because in Pennsylvania you drink beer. As a high-school-age drummer I once played a gig with a band where the other band members (who were in their forties and fifties) woke up the next morning over a brewski or three - then drove us home. I'm hoping that's not what you mean, and that Keystone Staters take measures to be alert and sober before commuting, because I expect to be driving the freeways of Pittsburgh on a few mornings in the near future.
Posted By: LeeQuod on July 30, 2010 9:50 AM
Sorry for the delays, folks.
To Rolley: You ask why I choose embrace evolution over a literal interpretation of Genesis.. well, I've always considered it important that I be honest with myself and that I try to seek out the truth in any matter.
You lay out two choices: A: Concede the falsity of the Bible because I can't piece it all together, or B:, concede the falsity of evolution because I can't piece it all together. And you talk about Christian scientists that are "simply, honestly, and wholly unconvinced that the scientific method proves evolution". But I am not one of those scientists. Along with most other Christian scientists, I can't fit into your category B, because it would involve lying to myself about my beliefs. Evolution fits - at least, to most of us.
Having taken an extensive look at the evidence, I have come to the conclusion that (1), either God wants it to look as if evolution took place, or (2), evolution took place. Easier to go with (2).
So we have two choices: Either accept a non-literal interpretation of Genesis (which there are good exegetical reasons for), even though it conflicts with Jesus/Paul's interpretation, or reject evolution, and every other part of the scientific method along with it. You can *say* that we can keep working with the scientific method, but that same method is very clearly leading us back to evolution and an old Earth. The cognitive dissonance would be too much.
So, "I don't know". Paul and Jesus might have been mistaken, or meant something else, or the words got corrupted through centuries of copying. /shrug. Man is fallen, and sees the world through a glass dimly, but there's a heck of a lot more support for and intellectual rigor in evolution than in a strict interpretation of Genesis 1.
Is there nothing in the Bible that you just shrug your shoulders and say "I don't understand" about? (what's your take on Mark 9:1? Or why slavery is condemned today, but slavery, even sexual slavery was okay in the Old and New Testaments? Or why we don't see many miracles that are convincingly non-placebo-ish?)
LQ: Darwin's theories have long since been discarded/revised, as there was much he was wrong about. He had great ideas, and some of them even worked, but he was no more perfect than Newton. I doubt very many scientists follow him unconditionally (or the more modern version of evolutionary theory, either). Evolutionary theory has recently undergone another shift, de-emphasizing natural selection somewhat for genetic drift and (for single-celled organisms) DNA exchange. It turns out that phenotypes are more plastic than we'd thought, and evolution can work pretty fast... so steady-state-ish conditions are pretty common, and genetic drift plays a bigger role.
Regarding racism: Yes, and many Christians of the time believed that Africans were the descendents of the cursed son of Ham, destined to be slaves. Bad science and bad theology are both bad.
Posted By: Ben W on July 29, 2010 2:35 AM
Elbows in the ribs while walking out
Ben, I have a couple of minutes before my next flight, so here are some clarifications for you:
I'm not conflating various versions of "love" because I'm thinking only of the "agape" meaning, which is to sacrifice oneself for the good of another. And of course no one follows any scientist unconditionally - even though it certainly looks that way for followers of Darwin. No, I can't sacrifice myself for the sake of scientific "truth" that is altogether dependent on human beings. (They keep claiming that the truth is out there, and discoverable, but that nothing outside of nature sustains this property. So nature itself makes nature amenable to scientific discovery. I just can't buy that.
(Incidentally, I saw on a news broadcast that some scientists proved you can't create eggshells without a protein created only in the bodies of chickens. Newscasters were chuckling that this solve the problem of which came first, the chicken or the egg. Missing was any discussion of how evolution claims that dinosaurs, the supposed predecessors of chickens, were laying soft eggs for a long time before chickens came along. But for me it's clear that the chicken was created first.)
Scripture, however, has withstood the concerted attacks of many, and has been shown to be altogether reliable. And hey, aren't anthropologists and linguists also scientists? Where's the love for them, hmm?
As to the "firmament above the Earth", I love being sufficiently curious to understand what those words might mean, rather than taking some "obvious" interpretation and trashing it.
Regarding racism, well, it may be the unscientific interpretation of evolution, but many scientists and their followers came to exactly that conclusion. Including, harrumph, many of Darwin's contemporaries.
And since when are frappuccinos less sissy than lattes? What's more, when did liberals become worried about appearing to be sissies??!? Are there no gay rights activists in PA? ;-) But I'll go so far as to buy you a beer if it'll make you happy. FYI, over the 4th I discovered that Sam Adams was a terrible brewer, and even worse businessman. He sure could rouse the rabble, though.
But sure - we can hug! None of that sissy latte stuff, though.. In Pennsylvania, we drink beer. Or maybe frappuccinos.
Posted By: LeeQuod on July 18, 2010 4:57 PM
Outfitted by Everlast ™
Ben, you ask “What're the dire implications for saying "I don't know" about another passage?”
But is that really what you are saying? Are you saying, “I don’t know”?
It’s one thing to say “I don’t know” and quite another to say, “I don’t believe.” Unless I’m mistaken you’re not saying of a literal Genesis creation “I don’t know”; you’re saying “I don’t believe”. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me there’s deliberate choosing going on here. Yours, like mine, is a position - a faith if you will - based on evidence that we find compelling.
The first question in my last post was, why would you *choose* to let evolution determine your opinion of the veracity/integrity/reliability of the scriptures? Why not the other way around? Why not let scripture at the very least temper somewhat the zeal of your faith in evolution? Why the bias towards evolution at the expense of revelation?
There is much more at stake with choice A than with choice B. Choice A (your choice) says “I’m willing to concede the falsity of the bible because I can’t piece it all together – there are some missing links.” Choice B (my choice) says “I’m willing to concede the falsity of evolution because I can’t piece it all together – there are some missing links.”
So what’s at stake? With choice B, virtually nothing is at stake. There is and will be no abandonment of the scientific method. Christian scientists are still applying and will continue to apply to the end of time what they consider a God-given research method. But so far, they are simply, honestly, and wholly unconvinced that the scientific method proves evolution. With choice A on the other hand, the implications are indeed dire. For starters:
1. If evolution is true, then a literal interpretation of Genesis is false.
2. If a literal interpretation of Genesis is false, we’ve just opened a Pandora’s box, because that means Jesus and Paul were mistaken/lying, for they clearly held to the literal account.
3. If Jesus and Paul were mistaken/lying in one area, the principle is established ipso facto that they could be mistaken/lying in other areas.
4. If they could be mistaken/lying in other areas, the only way we can be sure that *anything* they said is true is via the scientific method – the method evolutionists put their faith in in step 1 above when they *chose* to believe that evolution has with “near irrefutable proof” demonstrated that a literal interpretation of Genesis false.
5. The dire implication, then, is that since the scientific method is the only sure-fire way to validate the fundamentals of the Christian faith, clearly the incarnation of God and the resurrection of the dead are falsities, and we have NOTHING – no reasonable basis - upon which to hang our faith in God and hope of everlasting life.
But even if you personally don’t find those implications daunting, give some thought to how others might (and indeed, have) responded to such implications. Like most of us here, I’ve read a lot of opinion on the Internet, and one thing that I keep running across in superabundance is how young people abandoned their faith in God because of the [dire] implications of evolution.
I’m ok with Christians saying “I don’t know”. That’s simple honesty. I do have a problem with Christians saying “I don’t believe”, because that means they have made up their mind before all the evidence has been evaluated. And if you argue that there’s no way you can evaluate ALL the evidence in one lifetime, then I go back to my original question: why then the bias when the stakes of one choice over the other are so disparate?
Posted By: Rolley Haggard on July 18, 2010 3:30 PM
A quick re-poste:
1. What was the question?
Ah well. I'll take a stab at it anyway.
I don't believe evolution's problems are anywhere near as bad as you say. Indeed, the Theory of Evolution is already at the point of "near-irrefutable proof". However, as there are other, non-scientific reasons to reject evolution, the issue has become quite muddled for many Americans with a lot of misinformation. It takes some digging to understand evolution.
I find it much easier to toss Jesus' interpretation of Genesis into the "unsolvable" pile with some other Scriptural issues, rather than toss the entire scientific method out the window.
"Who're you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?"
2. What are the dire implications of believing in evolution?
As it stands now, I don't think we can make Scripture/Christianity make complete sense (or if we can, I've yet to see it done). What're the dire implications for saying "I don't know" about another passage?
LQ, while I'm hanging around here late on a Saturday night, I'll go ahead and respond to you.
1) Probably not where you meant to go with this, but surely you could love your family while also loving God with all of your heart. Why not scientists, too? Are we scientists unworthy of your love? =(
1b) OK, just kidding. But I do think you're conflating two definitions of the word "love". Surely "love" doesn't mean "believe unconditionally", and certainly doesn't mean "believe unconditionally God's words that have been filtered through thousands of years and lost cultural and linguistic understandings".
Trust me, He also won't get mad if you don't think that there's an actual "firmament above the Earth".
2) On inferior vs. superior: That's bad science. Humans are more similar than dissimilar, and there are no scientific reasons to consider some groups of humans are "more evolutionarily advanced" than others.
Nor, if such things were even true, would it justify treating Africans inhumanely. Darwin even said as much (it's most easy to find this quote of his by looking for a Creationist's quotemined words of Darwin, looking up the original passage, then reading the next few sentences). =p
But sure - we can hug! None of that sissy latte stuff, though.. In Pennsylvania, we drink beer. Or maybe frappuccinos.
Posted By: Ben W on July 18, 2010 2:01 AM
The Old One-Two
Ben, two questions:
One, if I were to articulate the principle that, like an intellectual Great Divide, causes your conclusions to go in one direction and mine in another would it be something like this:
You deem it wiser, even as a follower of Christ, to adopt a point of view that, by your own acknowledgement, cannot be reconciled with a literal interpretation of Genesis, despite the fact that such a position (i.e. evolution) has formidable problems of its own at least as great as any the bible might have, and despite the fact that the logically consistent and demonstrably inexorable tendency of that viewpoint is to undermine Christian faith by obscuring just what is and is not true about God, Christ, faith, salvation, and virtually all the other important tenets of Christianity…
…deem it wiser, even as an open-minded embracer of empirical reality and respecter of the scientific method, to adopt a point of view that, by my own acknowledgement, cannot be reconciled with ToE, despite the fact that such a position (i.e. belief in the literalness of Genesis and the inerrancy of the bible) has a few knotty problems, and despite the fact that the logically consistent tendency of that viewpoint is to make me regard popular science with sufficient skepticism to require near-irrefutable proof before I start jettisoning the foundations and cornerstones of the faith.
That was the first question (but for the life of me I could not figure out where to put the question mark. Gina? Catherine? Diane?) Now for the second.
Assuming I’m not too wide of the mark there, doesn’t prudence dictate that the follower of Christ, before he takes sides in a debate where the implications for him on one side are dire versus merely intellectually dissatisfying on the other – doesn’t prudence dictate that he spend a little more time examining those much-touted problems in the bible lest he prematurely – and tragically – conclude too much?
You have convinced me you have a better than average grasp of the arguments in favor of evolution. But you seem too ready to gloss over ToE’s problems and showcase the bible’s. Swallowing camels and straining at gnats comes to mind.
Posted By: Rolley Haggard on July 17, 2010 7:39 PM
Sound of the bell, or got my bell rung?
Ben, it was always my intent that we finish this as friends, irrespective of the outcome.
The "Love God with everything you've got, and care for your neighbor just like you care for yourself" verse is one of my favorites, too. It is, in fact, what caused me to re-think my prior commitment to evolution. For me, I can't love God with *everything* I've got if *some* of my "love" is held out for scientists and their discoveries. Or even, for that matter, for anyone's rationality. And, Kim's "Shakespearean insults" thread has made me recall how as an evolutionist I found myself categorizing people into those who were superior and those who were inferior - those who should be allowed to reproduce and those who should be dragged from the gene pool by some lifeguard. ("You will be like God", said Satan.) I struggled to justify evolution as non-racist because, well, if Africa is the birthplace of humanity, and if stable populations feel no evolutionary pressure to progress, well, then,...
But of course none of this applies to you. I'm delighted. Seriously.
And I think I'll conclude this, amicably, rather than responding to each of the "dueling quotes" points. But I will note that for me, John 13:3 and Hebrews 1:3a do, in fact, mean thatt without God my couch would not be stationary. But naturally I'm reminded of a line from "Life, the Universe and Everything" in the Hitchhiker's Guide series: "Arthur felt happy. He was terribly pleased that the day was for once working out so much according to plan. Only twenty minutes ago he had decided he would go mad, and now he was already chasing a Chesterfield sofa across the fields of prehistoric Earth." (You may recall that he and Ford chase it through a wormhole, and onto a cricket pitch in the middle of an important test match.) The way I see it, without God's direct and continuous intervention, there's nothing to stop the universe from being exactly as Adams describes. Or, worse.
Oh, and in place of that handshake, I offer a hug. Once we've showered and cleaned up, lattes are on me - this time; next time around, *you* can buy. Deal?
Posted By: LeeQuod on July 14, 2010 11:59 PM
"Alright. I think, for me, this debate reached a satisfying conclusion when LQ said that God might have permanently changed the laws of physics and not told us, or alternatively that most of the major branches of science might be wrong. Clearly, your faith is in the Bible (and a specific interpretation), and while that's not a position I can agree with, we can still shake hands and part amiably at the end of this fight."
Science? You mean people who de-planetize Pluto?
Science changes to regularly for it to be seen as other then an extrarational belief system like others. If you are basing your claims on a system that allows only reason, then you must start by acknowledging the Law of Non-contradiction. If not then you are no different from anyone else. And Secularists are no different from anyone else. Except that Secularists are more cheeky about it.
Posted By: jason taylor on July 14, 2010 10:06 AM
Out but not down..
Alright. I think, for me, this debate reached a satisfying conclusion when LQ said that God might have permanently changed the laws of physics and not told us, or alternatively that most of the major branches of science might be wrong. Clearly, your faith is in the Bible (and a specific interpretation), and while that's not a position I can agree with, we can still shake hands and part amiably at the end of this fight.
My position can be summed thusly: "Who're you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?"
Fred Clark over at Slacktivist has a good old post on when our experiences and Scripture collide: http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2007/02/let_us_reason_t.html
Let the dueling quotes commence!
LQ: Not quite - I mean a correspondence between the models our brains create and the observable world. It's entirely possible to create worlds within our brains that do not correspond to logic - see the works of Lewis Carroll, for example. Non-Euclidean geometry was that way, until application was found for it, IIRC. But if the universe lacked the basic property I've called "rationality", then we could create logically consistent models that didn't correspond to anything we observe.
By this definition, the universe lacks "rationality". The Aether model for light transmission was logically consistent, yet didn't correspond to reality. Flipping it around, quantum mechanics is non-sensical, yet is what we find in reality. You know what they say about QM, right? "If you think quantum mechanics makes sense, you don't understand it yet".
LQ: Don't the laws of physics have to be independent of the world they describe?
I can't see why. We don't yet have enough information to say either way, but it's not necessarily impossible for the laws of physics and the universe to mutually change each other.
"Aha!", you say, "but you said that the laws of physics were unchanging, and it was only our perceptions that had changed". Probably true. I can't prove it, really, but it seems likely given that we've never noticed the laws of physics changing since the advent of science.
You say that we need Something to keep the laws of physics the same. Why is that? If you put a couch in your living room, do you need Something to keep it there? Won't it just, y'know, stay?
LQ: As an aside at this point, lots of people disbelieve the Bible because it's got descriptions that defy "the laws of physics".
So the story of Noah's Flood should be counted as a sidenote of God changing the laws of thermodynamics, thereby allowing limestone fossils and lava formations to build up without boiling the oceans? That seems like a stretch to me. I think it's fair to guess that when God performed miracles elsewhere in Scripture, he didn't re-write the structure of the universe.
LQ: I never met a false dichotomy I couldn't like. The third possibility is that we're insufficiently interested in resolving this problem - unlike, for example, the wave/particle duality.
Oh, I think we've worked on the problem plenty. The evidence seems quite solid to me. And, as you said, there's no evidence given by man that'd sway you from your opinion.
LQ: My blushes, Watson; double-blind studies are quite replicable. There's this little outfit called "the FDA", not far from where Gina works; look sometime at what they make medical device manufacturers go through.
Ah. So that 25% of medical research that was fabricated back in the '70s - those papers were subject to independent double-blind studies before publication? Because that old study showing fabricated results in medical research seems to be your basis for rejecting scientific truths, while I'm pointing out that with proper controls, the physical sciences can be quite reliable.
LQ: At least do me the courtesy, my friend, of acknowledging that I don't impute inherent moral superiority to only one side because they support my position.
LQ: Oh, come come come - a lie is any statement known by the teller to be false but presented as true to foster the teller's personal welfare. ... But thankfully, actual scientists rarely lie - unless it's about something like cold fusion, or Nebraska Man or something like that. Humph.
*cough*. If you know anything about the cold fusion story, it's a stretch to say that it meets the definition you gave for "lie" just before. It was a case of excessive enthusiasm + bad experimental control. (If you're going to conduct sensitive calorimetry experiments, for goodness' sake, seal the damn flasks).
And the Nebraska Man is also not considered to be a hoax, but another mistake, corrected within 3 years by scientists.
LQ: Only one problem: evolution, when properly understood, leads us inexorably to the hopelessness of Richard Dawkins.
Not really. Evolution says nothing about the existence of God. And even if it did, it wouldn't lead to hopelessness: human beings are quite good at mental compartmentalization. We can "believe" something without it affecting our emotions.
On to.. Jason.
Jason: I agree, and that is how I see miracles as well. The problem I have with the Flood is that it is used to explain other things which have no bearing on the Miracle performed (like miles-thick fossil layers, which would be impossible today for thermodynamic reasons: forming them would release enough heat to boil the floodwaters. God would have to go out of his way to make these fossils, which show every other evidence of being formed over millions of years). Sure, God says he performed a miracle, and we can take that at face value. But extending one miracle to "And God also restructured the universe while he was at it, but didn't tell us" is a bit of a stretch.
Rolley asks, "How do you reconcile it all?"
I don't know. I can't tell you how to make my interpretation of Genesis fit perfectly into Christian doctrine. If I was going to be fully fair to all sides, I'd say the Bible itself doesn't *fit*. I could easily list five verses off the top of my head that seem to contradict each other, and if I questioned you, your only possible response would also be "I don't know. It's a mystery". But I do know that Genesis-as-allegory makes more sense to me than Genesis-as-history.
RH: I’m not suggesting you ignore the evidence for evolution; I’m suggesting you not let it overshadow and define your view of the scriptures.
How is this even possible? Evolution and a literal interpretation of Genesis are mutually exlusive; I must pick one or the other. An allegorical interpretation of Genesis gives me the least conflict. Having looked long and hard at both sides, this seems the most rational thing to do.
As to whence comes my hope of heaven.. No, we don't have "solid assurance", in contrast to the Hebrews of Moses' time or Jesus' disciples or the people who witnessed Paul's miracles. At best, we have faith, which is not evidence. I've never seen someone regrow an amputated arm, or raised from the dead, or seen a mountain moved - but I'm pretty happy with my life, so I'll run with what I have. God will sort things out, and if by some means I've erred and no God exists, well, I won't know the difference. My Christianity is more in the doing than the believing anyway.
RH: One of the things He tells us is that Satan is the god of this world and that his (Satan’s) “bible” is a natural (natural as in “godless”) interpretation of the physical evidence, and is therefore more easily perceived by us, and owing to our fallenness, is also much more eagerly seized upon.
Really? I don't remember those verses. Certainly I wouldn't equate "natural" with "godless" anyway.
RH: It seems to me He has chosen (for reasons we can take up again later) to make faith – i.e., reasoned trust in His statements -- the means by which we are enabled to know the things He deems most important.
So, my question for you is: How does "faith" tell us what He deems important?
Rolley, what would you say if someone asked you about usury and Christianity? Or if you make it a habit to reject unrepentant sinners as Paul instructed, such as divorced+remarried people? Or if it is necessary for women to wear headcoverings in church? Surely our willful ignorance of these Scriptures is at least as big a deal as our confusion regarding Genesis, no? Or are we just making this up as we go along?
This is the entire Scriptural grounding for how I choose to live my life: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, sould, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself". And this is all that really matters.
Posted By: Ben W on July 14, 2010 1:52 AM
Rolley, on his ostensible “Battlefield Turf”
More thoughts on why you may be tempted to conclude it looks like God “wanted” us to believe in evolution.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I would suppose you agree that life here under the curse is biased towards unbelief; i.e., of believing solely what is seen. And since God is not seen, it is relatively easy to believe He may not even exist, or at least that the book purported to be His inerrant and infallible revelation has serious problems.
Ok, since it is pretty clear that God will not be induced to make, on demand, an empirical show of Himself, and assuming He does nevertheless want us to believe in and know Him, how do you think He would have us get to know and believe in Him?
And further, if God really does want us to believe in Him,
- Why doesn’t He speak to us directly? Why through a book written by men?
- Why does He remain invisible? Why not manifest Himself?
- Why does He let evil people prosper? Why not intervene and make it unmistakably clear what He approves and disapproves?
- If He wants to be loved, why does He let innocent people suffer horrifically?
- Why make/let it be so easy to conclude that “this is all there is”?
It seems to me He has chosen (for reasons we can take up again later) to make faith – i.e., reasoned trust in His statements -- the means by which we are enabled to know the things He deems most important. That is, by His telling us certain things about Himself in a book, and having us trust Him (for reasons we can take up again later) that He knows what He is doing, and that He is doing it for our good.
One of the things He tells us is that Satan is the god of this world and that his (Satan’s) “bible” is a natural (natural as in “godless”) interpretation of the physical evidence, and is therefore more easily perceived by us, and owing to our fallenness, is also much more eagerly seized upon.
Anyway my point is, answer those questions and I think we’re closer to having a good idea why it is easy to believe in evolution and/or that God wants us to believe in it. It’s not because the evidence for evolution is incontrovertible; it’s because it is exceedingly plausible to those who incline towards that interpretation in the first place.
Our attitude as Christians, I would argue, is not to believe blindly or against evidence, but to examine all evidence in light of what God in His word has said. Eventually, all revelation and intellectually honest science will be perfectly reconciled; not forced, not coerced into one mold or the other, but logically reconciled. And I believe that is what God’s word (!) teaches. (Colossians 1:20).
Posted By: Rolley Haggard on June 13, 2010 1:21 PM
Queeksdraw I’m Not
Remember me? I’m slow and I’m late, but I’m back, commenting from the pew here as it were.
I hope you don’t feel like I’m hounding you or niggling on this point – but try as I might I just can’t wrap my head around how there can be consistency between faith in the biblical Christ and a rejection of the literal Adam and Eve. To my mind they are at irreconcilable odds.
Basically I’m trying to understand upon what foundation you, personally, place your hope of heaven. Is it not on the word/promise of God? If so, then why do you trust God’s word for that, but not for the literal account of creation in Genesis? If not all of the bible is reliable, how can anyone know what parts are and what parts are not? More importantly, how do we reckon with Christ’s and Paul’s erroneous understanding of Adam and Eve? If they are wrong about that, what else might they be wrong about?
If the foundations of Christian doctrine are gravely flawed, what level of certainty can we have that the cornerstone – Christ’s substitutionary atoning death and resurrection -- is reliable? If the word of God is not the word of God, or if it is seriously flawed (and a flaw in Romans 5 for instance, is cataclysmic to the gospel), then upon what foundation can we place our confidence? Is your hope of heaven wishful thinking, or is there solid assurance of it? If there is assurance, on what foundation is it fixed?
I understand (at least I think I do) your driving desire to be fair with evidence. I share it.
But when the two worldviews conflict, isn’t it wise to spend more time examining the one where the stakes are highest, especially if you already have doubts about the scriptures?
I’m not suggesting you ignore the evidence for evolution; I’m suggesting you not let it overshadow and define your view of the scriptures. In other words, study to firmly establish what you thoroughly believe about the scriptures first, and then, with that settled, resume the evaluation of the evidence for and against evolution. Taking the reverse approach, it seems to me, prejudices your conclusions in favor of ideas that by their nature are calculated to eventually undermine your faith, because, as I said, (at least in my opinion and that of many scholars I respect) the two worldviews are totally at odds with one another.
Thanks for indulging me.
Your puzzled brother,
P.S. Sorry to drop the boxing motifs, but in order to remain true to myself I had to figure out some way to get off topic.
Posted By: Rolley Haggard on June 13, 2010 10:58 AM
Hmm, LeeQuod. Over 1,700 words.
If we pixilate Lee’s post (new verb there I believe, Gina; does it work?), we might be able to fit it onto a 3 X 5 card.
(3 X 5 feet, that is).
Fine. I don’t want to hear anyone else grumble about the length of my posts (other than Gina, of course!). Except perhaps to complain they are too *short*.
“Brief” my eye. Humph. I’ll show you brief, LeeQuod. Watch for my next post.
Well? Did you see it? No?!? Hah. How’s that for “brief”? They don’t call me Rolley “The Brain” for nothing. (Or is it “Rolley, the ‘brain-for-nothing’? I never know.) In any event, not that I’m self-promoting or anything, but I’ll have you know I’m a combination of erudition and wit. You heard me right: half scholar, and half wit. So there, take that (my paraphrase for “neener”).
To sum up: I consider it no idle coincidence that the longest word in the English language, consisting as it does of 189,819 letters, was coined by… (drumroll, Regis!): A CHEMIST (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longest_word_in_English ).
* * *
P.S. LeeQuod, you made a troublesome remark elsewhere today. You said, “I did stay away a little longer than necessary, contemplating the trouble I tend to cause and comparing it to the value some seem to think I bring”.
I hope that statement was (to use a great adjective coined by Ben) “hyperbolous”. If not, you may be forced to deal with an even more “troublesome” character, a/k/a http://usera.imagecave.com/wwwuuwuu/Rolley%20on%20the%20Oregon%20Trail.jpg . And believe me, you DO NOT want to “trouble” him. I can –- I mean “he” can --- make your life oatmeal --- and laugh while doing it. Brrr.
* * *
Huh? What’s this? Hold on a sec, folks. (What do you want, Zorak? Can’t you see I’m in the middle of trying to encourage LeeQuod to keep it up? No no no, I don’t want that; I’m not hungry, see? Huh? Read what? A fortune cookie?!?! What do I want with a fortune cookie? I don’t believe in fortune cookies, Mr. Z. Honestly, sometimes I wonder what rock you crawled out from under. What? I’ll believe in this one, huh? Well, we’ll see about that).
Hmm. Seems that mantis has been praying again.
Posted By: Rolley Haggard on June 02, 2010 4:00 PM
Miracles are not inconsistent with a logically constructed universe. I will give to examples to explain this, one fictional, one real-life.
In the role-playing game Traveller they have what they call an Imperial Warrant. This is a certificate from the Emperor to a trusted official granting the power to override normal laws and customs of the Imperium. There is a tradition of holders of imperial warrants acting as a "fire-brigade" to solve local crises' It is a useful plot-hook; the player-characters can carry a warrant to a given Nobleman as a Macguffin, or a PC can be a warrantholder himself. Alternatively a warranthollder can turn out to be a villain and misuse his powers. Or whatever.
The historical counterpart is a Pragmatic Sanction. In the Holy Roman Empire, a pragmatic sanction was a decree by the Emperor allowing the Constitution to be temporarily modified. The most famous Pragmatic Sanction was in the mid-eighteenth century when an Emperor died without male issue but secured the throne for his daughter Maria Theresa with a Pragmatic Sanction which he got the princes of Europe to recognize at the price of unusual concessions. Said princes of Europe, of course, took the chance to gang up on Maria thinking they had a chance while the throne was held by an inexperienced girl. Which of course proves that chivalry is not dependable in politics. It also proves that one better not underestimate people as Maria Theresa was not someone to be crossed.
The point was that in neither of those cases was the temporary change a violation of the constitution of it's polity. Rather it was an inherent part of it. That is the way to look at miracles. They are like an Imperial Warrant in Traveller, or a Pragmatic Sanction in the Holy Roman Empire. They are not "violations" but temporary alterations.
Posted By: jason taylor on June 02, 2010 11:34 AM
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