PvM posted Entry 2729 on November 18, 2006 08:11 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2720

From Premier Christian Radio we learn more about the concept of Intelligent Design.

28 October 2006
Darwin vs. Design

We revisit the subject of Intelligent Design and Evolution with special guest Dr. Tom Woodward from the USA who has written a history of the Design movement. Pete Hearty of the National Secular Society argues for Darwinian evolution. Will the idea of a a “God-like” intelligence behind nature supersede Darwinism?

A “God-like” intelligence behind nature.
Good for them, finally some Christians who clearly describe what ID is all about.

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Comment #145119

Posted by Al Moritz on November 18, 2006 9:18 PM (e)

Will the idea of a a “God-like” intelligence behind nature supersede Darwinism?

When will they finally get it? Evolution is God’s Design of creation. Therefore the question in itself is nonsense, since it suggests opposites that do not exist.

As Stephen Barr writes in “The Miracle of Evolution”:

“If biology remains only biology, it is not to be feared. Much of the fear that does exist is rooted in the notion that God is in competition with nature, so that the more we attribute to one the less we can attribute to the other. That is false. The greater the powers and potentialities in nature, the more magnificent must be nature’s far-sighted Author, that God whose ‘ways are unsearchable’ and who ‘reaches from end to end ordering all things mightily.’ Richard Dawkins famously called the universe ‘a blind watchmaker.’ If it is, it is miracle enough for anyone; for it is incomparably greater to design a watchmaker than a watch. We need not pit evolution against design, if we recognize that evolution is part of God’s design.”

Of course, atheists will not agree with this interpretation, but believers should realize that this creates the logically necessary harmony between philosophy of belief and science – after all, for a believer, nature, which is studied by science, is the book of God’s works. Then we can all together move on and wholeheartedly embrace science, whatever the ultimate philosophical interpretations of its results may be for each person, theist or atheist. These will not influence scientific progress, but silly disagreement on science itself will.

Comment #145135

Posted by Jack Krebs on November 19, 2006 9:22 AM (e)

Nice post, Al. I really like the quote from Stephen Barr.

The key idea is that for the creationists if nature did it, then God didn’t do it, as if “God is in competition with nature.” They will inevitably see science as in conflict with their religious beliefs, but frankly, that’s not science’s problem.

The other key idea is that different people will have different religious interpretations of the findings of science. This is something we should be able to live with. If we want to dialogue about something important, we can, and should, talk about different religious perspectives, but we should understand that the findings of science are merely a part, and not the main part, of what we should consider as we have those discussions.

Comment #145146

Posted by P-S d. l. Meyraque on November 19, 2006 10:10 AM (e)

Re: comment 145119 by Moritz (endorsed by Krebs in 145135): a guelder-rose berry said, “I am good with honey.” Honey replied, “I am good without you.”
Confronted with evidence for evolution, some believers simply deny or misinterpret the evidence, but some other, like Moritz, perform acrobatic exercises to reconcile their faith with scientific evidence, and sometimes even go to such lengths as to view their religious prejudices as allegedly supporting their faith. In fact, though, science is “good without faith” and cares not a fig about religious fantasies.

Comment #145148

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 19, 2006 11:05 AM (e)

In fact, though, science is “good without faith” and cares not a fig about religious fantasies.

If it “cares not a fig” about them, then, um, why do the evangelical atheists keep bringing them up … ?

Alas, it sounds to me as though the evangelical atheists want the same thing that the fundamentalist nutters want — they want science to support their religious and philosophical opinions.

And they are both equally wrong.

Comment #145151

Posted by Meyraque on November 19, 2006 11:51 AM (e)

Lenny Flank:

If it “cares not a fig” about them, then, um, why do the evangelical atheists keep bringing them up … ?

“Evangelical atheists”? A new entry to the dictionary of oxymorons? Any examples?

Comment #145152

Posted by Meyraque on November 19, 2006 12:12 PM (e)

Funny, if you look up Lenny Flank’s post onTalk Reason, it makes one expect that Lenny would agree with my statement in comment 145146 he now rejects in his comment 145151.
Science cares only about evidence and as such makes no distinction between “natural” and “supernatural.” That is Lenny’s thesis in the above post; I agree with it and it is in tune with the statement that science does not care about religious fantasies.

Comment #145162

Posted by PvM on November 19, 2006 1:58 PM (e)

“Evangelical atheists”? A new entry to the dictionary of oxymorons? Any examples?

Sure, an evangelical atheist is someone who zealous and enthusiastic in taking atheism and using science and philosophy to argue not only that atheism is correct but also that religious beliefs are wrong. Often they make the same mistake as Young Earth Creationists or Intelligent Design activists to argue that science not only supports but proves their position. Example

The Evangelical Atheist is dedicated to helping mankind overcome religion.

From the Urban Dictionary

An evangelical atheist is one who not only believes there is no god or other supreme being, but is obsessed with convincing everyone around them to become an atheist too, usually through hard-line intolerance (the kind they accuse other religions of). When cornered they usually try to put down their opponent’s religion and bash them for ‘blind faith’, not realizing that their belief that there is no god is no more or less valid or provable than the other guy’s belief that there is one.

Not to be confused with normal atheists/agnostics, who for the most part just dont talk about religion and accept the beliefs of those around them as their perogative. Evangelical atheists are particularly common on the Internet, as organized religion is generally accepted as part of ‘the system’ of global human society, and lately it’s become cool on the Internet to hate ‘the system’. Mostly teen angst if you ask me…

Comment #145217

Posted by Peter Henderson on November 19, 2006 3:13 PM (e)

No mention throughout the entire discussion of silly YEC ideas, for example, the Earth being only 6,000 years old, dinosaurs living alongside people in the Garden of Eden (just like in the Flintstones), flood geology, vapour canopies, etc.etc. Which is why I get somewhat confused at times as to the real nature of ID. Is it YECism or not ? Are all the people involved in the movement YEC’s ? I got the impression Woodward wasn’t.

I just love C.S.Lewis

I wonder if Tom Woodward realises that C.S.Lewis was a T.E. and that he (C.S.Lewis) didn’t have a problem with evolutionary science. I’m puzzled as to why YEC fundies so often quote Lewis.

Comment #145219

Posted by MarkP on November 19, 2006 3:14 PM (e)

In all my 20+ adult years of seeking out atheists and intelligent believers, I’ve never met or read anyone who fits the descriptiom of “evangelical atheist” that I’ve seen here. The closest was an ex-Christian friend of mine who, upon losing his faith, was so ardent about it that he would actually correct people who said “God bless you” when he sneezed.

However, he was just predictably stretching new intellectual legs, and quickly passed through that phase to the one the other 99.9% of atheists I’ve met and discussed the issue with inhabit: we wouldn’t think about gods or anyone else’s opinion of them at all were the pious not so incessantly blocking our path because of what they think their gods think of what we are doing. That’s why the term is so absurd. When was the last time you heard of a bunch of atheists trying to stop believers from doing something because it was based religiously motivated?

Evangelical Christians knock on your door, uninvited, on a Sunday morning to convert you to their view. Evangelical Christians stop you in the street to convert you, and think it’s cute when their kids try the same thing. There is no group of atheists that can’t fit in a phone booth that has anything even close to that attitude.

Comment #145225

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 19, 2006 3:19 PM (e)

In all my 20+ adult years of seeking out atheists and intelligent believers, I’ve never met or read anyone who fits the descriptiom of “evangelical atheist” that I’ve seen here.

Then you haven’t been here long enough.

Oh, and before anyone gets their anti-religious panties all in a bunch, let me point out that I do not assert, and do not accept, the existence of any god, gods, goddesses, or any other supernatural entity whatsoever.

But as was pointed out, science isn’t pro-religion. Nor is science anti-religion. When faced with religious matters, opinions, or questions, the only answer science can give is: (shrug).

Alas, as I noted earlier, both the fundie Christians and the evangelical atheists have the same goal – they both want science to support their religious/philosophical opinions. They are merely different sides of the same coin – birds of the same feather. And both are mis-using and abusing science.

Comment #145226

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 19, 2006 3:22 PM (e)

An evangelical atheist is one who not only believes there is no god or other supreme being, but is obsessed with convincing everyone around them to become an atheist too

Yep. I’ve certainly met people like that.

They have become exactly what they say they are fighting. (shrug)

Comment #145228

Posted by PvM on November 19, 2006 3:25 PM (e)

Evangelical Christians knock on your door, uninvited, on a Sunday morning to convert you to their view.

That’s the ‘old days’, nowadays they have book tours :-)

Comment #145229

Posted by Meyraque on November 19, 2006 3:30 PM (e)

PvM and Lenny: Is it not interesting that the Urban Dictionary referred to by PvM gives as a synonym to “evangelical atheist” the word “asshole?” It makes doubtful that dictionary’s authority except as a source of fun.

The combination of “evangelical” with “atheist” does not seem to be apt. Indeed, would you call an overzealous Orthodox Jew an “evangelical Jew” or an overzealous Muslim an “evangelical Muslim?” I don’t think you would, because the word “evangelical” has a strong connotation of being related to Christian Gospels’s dissemination. When applied to atheists, it is IMHO misleading.

I think atheism and religious faith are both irrational. Neither is provable by incontroversial evidence. A different question is the veracity of science vs. specific tenets of a religion. Science is highly reliable and mostly contrary to the tenets of any religion. One can believe in God but reject “revealed” religious fantasies as being hopelessly against scientific data. That is why science does not care about religious fantasies which are not supported by evidence and are therefore beyond science. This does not prevent science from investigating phenomena involving possible “supernatural” components (as in Lenny’s example of intercessory prayers, or in the Bible code fallacy).

Comment #145233

Posted by Peter Henderson on November 19, 2006 3:42 PM (e)

“Evangelical atheists”? A new entry to the dictionary of oxymorons? Any examples?

I think Lenny may be refering to people like Richard Dawkins etc.:

http://blogs.answersingenesis.org/aroundtheworld…

I think groups like AIG would like this to become a debate about whether or not God exists. Since many Christians accept evolutionary science the issue of God’s existance is irrelevent and shouldn’t be an issue. I thought that both Peter and Chris were very wise not to bring this up during the radio programme.

Comment #145234

Posted by MarkP on November 19, 2006 3:53 PM (e)

Believers are far more motivated to convert than are nonbelievers, irrespective of who is right. The inapplicability of “evangelical” to atheism need not be perceived as some sort of insult to believers. Imagine you had two friends:

Bob thinks your religious views are mistaken, and you are wasting your time in your religious activities.

Jow thinks your religious views are going to land you in a fiery pit of pain and despair for all of eternity.

Now seriously gentlemen, who is going to be the evangelical one? And given the presumptions, it is entirely rational. Atheism just isn’t all that exciting.

Comment #145243

Posted by MarkP on November 19, 2006 4:15 PM (e)

Believers are far more motivated to convert than are nonbelievers, irrespective of who is right. The inapplicability of “evangelical” to atheism need not be perceived as some sort of insult to believers. Imagine you had two friends:

Bob thinks your religious views are mistaken, and you are wasting your time in your religious activities.

Joe thinks your religious views are going to land you in a fiery pit of pain and despair for all of eternity.

Now seriously gentlemen, who is going to be the evangelical one? And given the presumptions, it is entirely rational. Atheism just isn’t that exciting.

Comment #145247

Posted by MarkP on November 19, 2006 4:31 PM (e)

Lenny Says:

Alas, as I noted earlier, both the fundie Christians and the evangelical atheists have the same goal – they both want science to support their religious/philosophical opinions. They are merely different sides of the same coin – birds of the same feather. And both are mis-using and abusing science.

Nonsense, they aren’t even close to the same thing. As the IDers are so apt to demonstrate for us, the Evangelicals distort science to support their views, almost proudly so. Show me an atheist group that lobbies the world to accept their view in spite of what mainstream science has to say. Oh, science favors the atheists you say? Exactly my point, and Dawkins’ as well.

Dawkins is just not making an exception for gods in his thinking, and is no more an evangelical atheist than he is an evangelical a-unicornist. He just doesn’t have Unicornists in his face every day trying to get him to stop eating ice cream cones because they think Unicornius considers it blasphemy against the Holy Horn, and therefore Dawkins has less of a need to write a book showing how flawed the arguments proporting to prove the existence of Unicornius are.

The atheist, like the a-unicornist is entirely reflexive, which is why “Evangelical atheist” is, at best, an oxymoron, and at worst, fodder for the intellectual enemy that would quote mine and slander with it.

Comment #145248

Posted by PvM on November 19, 2006 4:35 PM (e)

As the IDers are so apt to demonstrate for us, the Evangelicals distort science to support their views, almost proudly so. Show me an atheist group that lobbies the world to accept their view in spite of what mainstream science has to say. Oh, science favors the atheists you say? Exactly my point, and Dawkins’ as well.

Science favors the atheist as much as the Christian religion. That by itself is a clear evangelical atheist statement to suggest that science favors the atheists.

Comment #145253

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 19, 2006 4:43 PM (e)

The combination of “evangelical” with “atheist” does not seem to be apt.

It is once you get to know people like PZ, Norm, and Popper’s Ghost.

Comment #145255

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 19, 2006 4:51 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quot'

Comment #145256

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 19, 2006 4:53 PM (e)

Alas, as I noted earlier, both the fundie Christians and the evangelical atheists have the same goal – they both want science to support their religious/philosophical opinions.

Oh, science favors the atheists you say? Exactly my point, and Dawkins’ as well.

As I was saying …. . (shrug)

Comment #145258

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 19, 2006 5:00 PM (e)

I think groups like AIG would like this to become a debate about whether or not God exists. Since many Christians accept evolutionary science the issue of God’s existance is irrelevent and shouldn’t be an issue. I thought that both Peter and Chris were very wise not to bring this up during the radio programme.

I quite agree. This is simply not a fight between “science” and “religion” (although extremists from both sides would LIKE to make it one). It is a fight between “a tiny minority of fundamentalist nutters” and “everyone else”. If we turn this into a “science vs religion” fight, we will lose. Like it or not, most people in the US are religious, and in a political fight with the fundies, we cannot win without the active support of most of those religious people. Fortunately, most religious people think the fundies are just as nutty as I do.

The whole “is there a god or not” issue is a non-issue. ID isn’t science, whether there’s a god or not. ID offers nothing scientifically useful, whether there’s a god or not. ID is illegal to teach, whether there is a god or not. Nobody supports the theocratic dominionist political agenda behind the IDers, whether there is a god or not. So there’s simply no need for the issue to come up at all. (With the sole exception that every time the fundie nutters preach to us about their god, they make it SOOOOOOO much easier to kick their ass, yet again, in Federal court by making clear their unconstitutional aims and motives.)

And I will once again repeat, for the hard-of-hearing, that I do not assert, and do not accept, the existence of any god, gods, goddesses, or any other supernatural entity of any sort whatsoever.

Comment #145261

Posted by Flint on November 19, 2006 5:05 PM (e)

Of course, atheists will not agree with this interpretation, but believers should realize that this creates the logically necessary harmony between philosophy of belief and science – after all, for a believer, nature, which is studied by science, is the book of God’s works. Then we can all together move on and wholeheartedly embrace science, whatever the ultimate philosophical interpretations of its results may be for each person, theist or atheist.

In other words, what is proposed here is a formulation which renders notions of gods irrelevant to, rather than in competition with, the reality that science investigates. Which in turn constructs a scheme wherein those unable to set aside beliefs that serve no positive purpose, can at least neuter them so they don’t actively hinder anything important.

Kind of like figuring out a way to drive with a blindfold on by making the blindfold transparent, for those unable to take it off. It says that your particular god(s) are so almighty that they’ve set things up so as to render themselves unnecessary, now or ever. The distinction between this and there not being any gods requires at least seven Philadelphia lawyers to distinguish.

Comment #145263

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 19, 2006 5:06 PM (e)

Nonsense, they aren’t even close to the same thing.

They are precisely the same.

And, oddly enough, both extremes tend to react in precisely the same way whenever I point this out to them. Apparently, neither one of them likes having their particular religious/philosophical opinions to be questioned ….

Comment #145267

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 19, 2006 5:09 PM (e)

The distinction between this and there not being any gods requires at least seven Philadelphia lawyers to distinguish.

Well, as long as their religious beliefs don’t affect their science, what do YOU care? What’s it to YOU? If someone does make that distinction, how does it pick YOUR pocket or break YOUR leg?

Or do you simply object to the mere *presence* of religious beliefs, in any form … ?

Comment #145268

Posted by Flint on November 19, 2006 5:10 PM (e)

Lenny:

They are precisely the same.

ONLY if evidence does not matter. As soon as you start thinking evidence indeed matters, then the distinction becomes huge.

Comment #145274

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 19, 2006 5:19 PM (e)

ONLY if evidence does not matter.

Well, whenever you figure out a way to test for the existence of gods using the scientific method, do let us know, OK?

If it can’t be tested using the scientific method, then science has, uh, diddley doo to say about it. Pro or con. (shrug)

You are of course entitled to any religious/philosophical opinions that you like (the fundies haven’t YET managed to repeal the First Amendment). But until you can test them using the scientific method, they’re not science. Period. And claiming they are, is an abuse of science. Every bit as much as the fundie abuse of science.

Comment #145294

Posted by Al Moritz on November 19, 2006 6:01 PM (e)

Thank you, Lenny, for a whole lot of common sense on this thread.

Comment #145303

Posted by Baratos on November 19, 2006 6:23 PM (e)

“Well, whenever you figure out a way to test for the existence of gods using the scientific method, do let us know, OK?”

If it cant be tested empirically, how could anyone have come to believe in it in the first place? If your position cannot be proven true or false, what led you to hold that position?

That is why I am an atheist. I will only believe in god when not only can those who claim it or any other supernatural being exists come up with a test, but also have that test support their hypothesis. I fail completely to understand why, when there is no evidence for something, some people will start believing it is true anyway.

If there is no proof that something exists, is it so hard to admit it probably doesnt?

Comment #145305

Posted by PvM on November 19, 2006 6:28 PM (e)

If it cant be tested empirically, how could anyone have come to believe in it in the first place? If your position cannot be proven true or false, what led you to hold that position?

The same that led atheists to reject the existence of a deity.

Comment #145306

Posted by Russell on November 19, 2006 6:32 PM (e)

Rev. Dr wrote:

let me point out that I do not assert, and do not accept, the existence of any god, gods, goddesses, or any other supernatural entity whatsoever.

It is with great hesitation that I venture to ask, but my curiosity got the better of me…

What is the difference between someone who “does not accept the existence of any god…” and an “atheist”? To me, that sounds like the same thing, but the Rev. Dr. has always objected to being called “atheist”.

[disclaimer: I really don’t care about anyone’s religion or lack thereof; to use the oft-quoted cliché, “I don’t have a dog in this fight”. It’s more a question of philology, I guess]

Comment #145320

Posted by Steviepinhead on November 19, 2006 7:14 PM (e)

Uh, correction, junior:

You don’t have a neuron in this fight.

Comment #145331

Posted by Ray on November 19, 2006 7:50 PM (e)

Who cares? Why did the amoeba cross the road?

It didn’t. It doesn’t have legs and Darwin can’t do a thing about it.

Ray…

Comment #145335

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 19, 2006 7:58 PM (e)

If it cant be tested empirically, how could anyone have come to believe in it in the first place?

I believe they call it “faith”.

But then, you’d have an awfully hard time proving empirically that your wife loves you, wouldn’t ya ….

Some things simply cannot be studied using the scientific method. And on those things, sciecne can say nothing. Nothing pro, nothing con, nothing at all whatsoever.

Alas, that includes religious opinions. Science can no more tell us whose religious opinions are right than it can tell us if blondes are cuter than brunettes. (shrug)

Comment #145341

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 19, 2006 8:06 PM (e)

What is the difference between someone who “does not accept the existence of any god…” and an “atheist”? To me, that sounds like the same thing, but the Rev. Dr. has always objected to being called “atheist”.

Well, I don’t really know what to call myself. I don’t accept the existence of any god or gods, so I’m not a “theist”. I could say I’m agnostic and don’t know either way, but I’m not comfortable with that label either since so many people DO claim to know, one way or the other. As for “atheist”, the word implies to me a positive conclusion that there are no gods, and I see no good basis for that belief, either (how does one demonstrate a negative, or that something definitely does NOT exist?). Anyway, calling myself an “atheist” would be associating myself with the likes of PZ and the other evangelical atheists, and I’d prefer not to be associated with them (they’re, uh, not very nice people, and I’d not like to live in a world run by them).

If I had to call myself something, it’d be an “apa-theist”. I simply don’t care if there’s gods or not. It doesn’t make a shred of difference to my life one way or the other. Similarly, it doesn’t make a shred of difference to me if somebody ELSE does or doesn’t, so long as they don’t continually try to convince me that their particuklar opinions (pro or con) are right. I think the extremists on both sides who want to fight over the whoile thing, are just wasting everyone’s time. You can worship a head of lettuce for all I care, so long as you don’t demand that I worship it too. (shrug)

Comment #145344

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 19, 2006 8:11 PM (e)

That is why I am an atheist.

That’s fine and dandy with me. (shrug) I don’t give a flying fig WHAT anyone’s religious opinion (or lack of one) is or isn’t. It’s not the fact that some people don’t believe in god that bothers me (after all, neither do I) — it’s the fact that some people will not rest until no one ELSE does, either. Particularly when they, like the fundies, try to claim that science supports or proves their religious/philosophical opinion.

It doesn’t. Science doesn’t give a rat’s ass about anyone’s religious/philosophical opinions. Science only cares what can be demonstrated using the scientific method.

When someone can use the scientific method to prove or disprove the existence of gods, THEN that will be a matter for science. Until then, it’s just philosophizing and opinionizing, and it has nothing at all whatsoever to do with “science”.

Comment #145350

Posted by Flint on November 19, 2006 8:17 PM (e)

Lenny:

Some things simply cannot be studied using the scientific method. And on those things, sciecne can say nothing. Nothing pro, nothing con, nothing at all whatsoever.

You may be too closely wedded to your aphorisms to have anything useful to contribute here.

The number of things that might exist somewhere, for which no evidence has ever been discovered, is limited only by our imaginations. It’s a sterile exercise to point out that since we can’t *disprove* any of these things, we can’t say definitively that they don’t exist. Atheism isn’t a philosophical position, and not a matter of faith. Instead, it’s the entirely pragmatic position that we presume as the default that whatever is unattested by any evidence, does not exist unti such evidence surfaces.

And THAT is why evidence matters (to the rest of us. You may retreat back into your aphorisms now).

Comment #145381

Posted by normdoering on November 19, 2006 11:52 PM (e)

Questions that PvM may prefer not to have me ask (you’ll know when he censors them):

Al Moritz wrote:

Evolution is God’s Design of creation.

What do you mean by “God”?

And what do you mean by “design”? What distinguishes something designed from something that’s not?

Is intelligence required for designing?

What is “intelligence”?

How do you feel about this quote from Richard Dawkins:

DAWKINS: My mind is not closed, as you have occasionally suggested, Francis. My mind is open to the most wonderful range of future possibilities, which I cannot even dream about, nor can you, nor can anybody else. What I am skeptical about is the idea that whatever wonderful revelation does come in the science of the future, it will turn out to be one of the particular historical religions that people happen to have dreamed up. When we started out and we were talking about the origins of the universe and the physical constants, I provided what I thought were cogent arguments against a supernatural intelligent designer. But it does seem to me to be a worthy idea. Refutable–but nevertheless grand and big enough to be worthy of respect. I don’t see the Olympian gods or Jesus coming down and dying on the Cross as worthy of that grandeur. They strike me as parochial. If there is a God, it’s going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed.

Source:
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171…

Comment #145382

Posted by Andrew on November 20, 2006 12:05 AM (e)

‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank wrote:

I don’t accept the existence of any god or gods, so I’m not a “theist”. I could say I’m agnostic and don’t know either way, but I’m not comfortable with that label either since so many people DO claim to know, one way or the other. As for “atheist”, the word implies to me a positive conclusion that there are no gods, and I see no good basis for that belief, either (how does one demonstrate a negative, or that something definitely does NOT exist?)….

I think that is why some make the distinction between “Strong” and “Weak” Atheists. My understanding is that a strong Atheist rejects the possibility of the existence of a god, whereas a weak Atheist sees no evidence for a god and therefore sees no reason to admit the existence of a god.

Agnosticism has always had the connotation (to me personally) of not believing in god, but being willing to be persuaded by rhetoric or epiphany..

I would class my self as a weak atheist. Certainly not zealous and more certainly not about to proslytise my (lack of) beliefs…

Comment #145385

Posted by C.W. on November 20, 2006 1:34 AM (e)

Isn’t it a bit ironic to post on PT saying there’s no conflict between religion and science? After all, PT is all about the conflict between (one dogma of) religion and (one theory of) science. The conflict is there. It’s real, not imagined. The Hovind side of the debate is wrong. To pretend that religion says absolutely nothing about nature doesn’t change the fact that most versions of it do. The kind of radical deism or pantheism that would smoothly evade all scientific knowledge is a very rare belief indeed.

Comment #145386

Posted by Meyraque on November 20, 2006 1:42 AM (e)

Lenny, you stated in some comment that you’d not want to live in a country governed by evangelical atheists. It did not go unnoticed - look up comment 145294. A kiss from an evangelical theist - congratulations. The fact that his own supercilious comments lack any traces of common sense adds pungency to his kiss, does it not.

Comment #145389

Posted by demallien on November 20, 2006 2:35 AM (e)

I think the whole crux to the “Is there a God?” meme for most atheists is a quick study of the probabilities involved.

Science takes as its opening hypothesis that a particular phenomenon is not caused by God. We always seek natural explanations - always. It’s practically the definition of science. This hypothesis is tested every time we do an experiment, and right to this day, we have yet to have an experiment negate the hypothesis - no God act has ever been observed.

Now, I am far from a statistics guru - hated it at Uni in fact. But it seems to me that if you take a hypothesis, and you test it millions of times in millions of experiments testing the hypothesis of natural causes for a very wide range of phenomena all around the world, you arrive at a pretty high level of confidence in the hypothesis. That is, in a nutshell, why atheists have a hard time accepting that a reasonable person can believe in a God.

At best, atheists can accept that maybe there is a God, but s/he certainly doesn’t meddle with today’s world, so who cares.

Comment #145390

Posted by Marek 14 on November 20, 2006 2:37 AM (e)

In “God Delusion” (based on what I heard on this site, I actually went and bought it - not a trivial task in non-English-speaking country), Dawkins refines the theist/agnostic/atheist distinction in seven degrees.

1 - Strong theist - considers God’s existence 100% sure. He doesn’t believe. He KNOWS.
2 - De facto theist - considers God’s existence extremely likely, but acknowledges that he can’t be absolutely certain.
3 - Agnostic leaning towards theism - he’s not sure, but he tends to believe.
4 - Impartial agnostic - considers God’s existence and nonexistence equally likely.
5 - Agnostic leaning towards atheism - he’s not sure, but he tends to be sceptical
6 - De facto atheist - considers God’s existence extremely unlikely, but acknowledges that he can’t be absolutely certain.
7 - Strong atheist - considers God’s existence 100% false. He KNOWS that there is no God.

On this scale, “evangelical atheist” would have to be number 7. Dawkins claims that there should be very few people in this category (he counts himself as 6, leaning towards 7).

I consider this a pretty good distinction, at least for classification purposes. Myself, I belong to 6, and I openly acknowledge that it’s for philosophical reasons (since the existence of something as clunky and “deus-ex-machina”, pardon the pun, as God, would, in my view, really cheapen the value of the whole world).

Also, a question I am eminently interested in, is the origin of intelligence. If God exists, and he’s intelligent, then there is no real “origin” of intelligence, it’s just something that exists without explanation. I consider this a personal affront :)

Comment #145408

Posted by Al Moritz on November 20, 2006 8:35 AM (e)

Meyraque wrote:

Lenny, you stated in some comment that you’d not want to live in a country governed by evangelical atheists. It did not go unnoticed - look up comment 145294. A kiss from an evangelical theist - congratulations. The fact that his own supercilious comments lack any traces of common sense adds pungency to his kiss, does it not.

Funny.

Science itself lets everyone believe what they want, as I evidently implied in my first post on this thread. Jack Krebs in his reply clearly understood this. So what then makes me an evangelical theist?

Just shows that you evangelical atheists constantly see ghosts on the wall where they don’t exist. Tsss …

Same bunch, fundie atheists and fundie theists.

Comment #145417

Posted by normdoering on November 20, 2006 10:41 AM (e)

demallien wrote:

I think the whole crux to the “Is there a God?” meme for most atheists is a quick study of the probabilities involved.

That’s only part of it.

There’s also all the very different religions around and the apparent evolutionary history of religion. When you go back into our archeological history you find religions older than Christianity in Sumer and Egypt and Greece. And as religion evolves it seems to get more efficient and aggresive and deadly. We can see the religions splitting off and forming one of those tree-like evolutionary graphs – someone should make one of those tree charts for the world religions.

There’s also the dangerous whackiness of certain religious people in our current environment, like Pat Robertson or Osama bin Laden.

There’s also the example of those religious people we meet here on the net in these blogs and chat rooms who say whacky stuff like “Science itself lets everyone believe what they want” (like believing in fairies and teapots orbiting Mars – certainly science makes no laws against it).

Comment #145448

Posted by Kermit on November 20, 2006 2:18 PM (e)

As a atheist I would not say that I want science to support my position, but that it does support my position. If it did not, I would change my position. I do not see the extreme fundamentalist changing his/her ideas because of science. Instead, they “change” science.

The idea that science is neutral only applies to religions that make no claims about the natural world. Many religions clearly make claims that are not only not consistent with our scientific knowledge, but are also not logically consistent to begin with.

Is it helpful/useful to argue relgious questions here? Perhaps not. But there are so many common beliefs (astrology, scientology, chiropractic, YEC, etc) that are refuted by our scientific findings, that I am not comfortable with the idea that we should ignore these beliefs as if they were just a matter of opinion. They are false and often harmful.

Comment #145452

Posted by Carol Clouser on November 20, 2006 2:48 PM (e)

Lenny wrote:

“When someone can use the scientific method to prove or disprove the existence of gods, THEN that will be a matter for science. Until then, it’s just philosophizing and opinionizing, and it has nothing at all whatsoever to do with “science”.

While much of what you wrote in this thread sounds eminently reasonable, I want to highlight an important distinction to be made between what science CAN OR CANNOT currently investigate and what science deeply CARES about and looks forward to the day when it ultimately could investigate and shed light upon.

Science is about cause and effect relationships. As long as we don’t know how or why some particular development came to be, science aims to find out and hopefully use that knowledge to predict future effects based on present conditions as causes. The grandest cause-and-effect mystery of all is, of course, the existence of the universe and the rules that govern its behavior. As long as this issue has not been firmly and finally settled, science is interested in God and looks forward to the day when it will be able to play a useful role in shedding light in this area.

To say that God “has nothing at all whatsoever to do with science” merely because it doesn’t see today how to investigate or comment intelligently on the subject, is wrong. One can cite many an area of investigation that once upon a time seemed beyond the reach of science, but in the course of time, well, things turned out differently. I, for one, am not ready to give up on science playing a critical role in shedding light on the greatest mystery of all.

Comment #145473

Posted by Steviepinhead on November 20, 2006 4:31 PM (e)

Oh, Carol!

The grandest cause-and-effect mystery of all is, of course, the existence of the universe and the rules that govern its behavior. As long as this issue has not been firmly and finally settled, science is interested in God and looks forward to the day when it will be able to play a useful role in shedding light in this area.

But there’s just a wee little, unacknowledged logical leap in what you say here, Carol.

I might well agree with you that science is “interested” in investigating the “grandest cause-and-effect mystery of all … the existence of the universe and the rules that govern its behavior.”

But how do we get from there to “science is interested in God”? While it may be an article of faith with you that a supernatural being lies behind the existence of the universe, to some of the rest of us, it sounds like you just assumed your preferred conclusion–which is not the manner in which science proceeds.

And, for some reason, until this very moment, I was under the impression that you believed in the literal Jewish “God.” Yet now you seem to be equating “God” with something much more abstract and diffuse: “God” = “the existence of the universe and the rules that govern its behavior.”

Why am I sensing an inconsistency in your logic here, Carol?

And, to anticipate Lenny’s question, how exactly do you propose science go about investigating a supernatural, non-materialistic, unobservable, unmeasurable “mystery” behind “the existence of the universe,” exactly?

I think what we’re looking for here is something on the level of procedures and tools, not grandiose diffuse abstractions… Got anything like that?

Otherwise, you don’t seem to have added much to the discussion.

Comment #145474

Posted by Steviepinhead on November 20, 2006 4:34 PM (e)

Sorry, some html got lost in that last post. The first extended paragraph should have been a boxed quote from Carol’s preceding comment.

Comment #145484

Posted by Sir_Toejam on November 20, 2006 4:52 PM (e)

Otherwise, you don’t seem to have added much to the discussion.

Shocker!

Comment #145488

Posted by Steviepinhead on November 20, 2006 5:14 PM (e)

When it comes to titillating news, we aim to be firstest with the mostest.

And, now, this just in: a very old pest-ridden man has just been located in little=known wilderness terrain partway up Mt. Ararat. This venerable gentleman was using as shelter a very old worm-eaten delapidated wooden, er, structure of some some sort, perched high and dry on the rocks. When asked, what the heck he was doing so far from civilization, the old duffer replied:

“Well, I just been waiting for the rain. I been waiting and waiting fer time out of mind. All the big animals got out–thank goodness! the stink! although some of them were tasty while they lasted!–and I wish all these leetle insects and such had jumped ship, too! Anyway, it just kept snowing–never did rain to amount to much. Say, I’m glad you fellers finally come along: I was getting tired of eating lice… Say, that ham sandwich you got there looks pretty tasty!”

Comment #145490

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 20, 2006 5:33 PM (e)

1 - Strong theist - considers God’s existence 100% sure. He doesn’t believe. He KNOWS.
2 - De facto theist - considers God’s existence extremely likely, but acknowledges that he can’t be absolutely certain.
3 - Agnostic leaning towards theism - he’s not sure, but he tends to believe.
4 - Impartial agnostic - considers God’s existence and nonexistence equally likely.
5 - Agnostic leaning towards atheism - he’s not sure, but he tends to be sceptical
6 - De facto atheist - considers God’s existence extremely unlikely, but acknowledges that he can’t be absolutely certain.
7 - Strong atheist - considers God’s existence 100% false. He KNOWS that there is no God.

On this scale, “evangelical atheist” would have to be number 7.

No, it would be number 8:

8 - Evangelical atheist – considers God’s existence 100% false. He KNOWS there is no God, and he will not rest until no one ELSE believes in God either.

Comment #145491

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 20, 2006 5:34 PM (e)

I, for one, am not ready to give up on science playing a critical role in shedding light on the greatest mystery of all.

Well, do let us know when that happens. (shrug)

And no, Landah’s book doesn’t count.

Comment #145563

Posted by carol clouser on November 20, 2006 9:41 PM (e)

Hi Pinhead,

First, I am somewhat perplexed as to what you are “sensing” about my “Jewish God” (whatever that means) vis-a-vis the “diffuse God” (universe and its rules). To me they were always one and the same. What’s on your mind?

Second, I can imagine many ways in which science may some day contribute to investigating the existence of God. But first let me remind you that science already has done so in a limited way, making it increasingly possible for folks to comprehend the universe without God. Just compare the present to the dark ages when humans could imagine no alternative to God. True, this is a negative contribution that I do not share, but a contribution it is. In the future science may, for example, disprove many of the alternatives to God. If science demonstrates that there are no universes other than our own, then the anthropic cosmological principle will loom ever larger as an argument in favor of a grand designer. I am sure you can think of other ways for science to contribute, just use your imagination.

By the way, there is nothing wrong with having an opinion or a hope about the outcome of an investigation as it is being conducted, so long as it doesn’t interfere with the impartial conduction of the investigation. The history of science is replete with examples of such. If you read the story of the Michelson-Morely interferometer experiments, for example, you will find that they were desperately hoping and expecting that the two light beams would interfere with each other, thereby supporting the universal frame of reference called the aether. They were literally mortified when that turned out not to be the case.

Comment #145570

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 20, 2006 10:08 PM (e)

I am sure you can think of other ways for science to contribute, just use your imagination.

Do let us know when it happens, OK?

And no, Landa’s book doesn’t count.

Comment #145586

Posted by Coin on November 20, 2006 11:09 PM (e)

1 - Strong theist - considers God’s existence 100% sure. He doesn’t believe. He KNOWS.
2 - De facto theist - considers God’s existence extremely likely, but acknowledges that he can’t be absolutely certain.
3 - Agnostic leaning towards theism - he’s not sure, but he tends to believe.
4 - Impartial agnostic - considers God’s existence and nonexistence equally likely.
5 - Agnostic leaning towards atheism - he’s not sure, but he tends to be sceptical
6 - De facto atheist - considers God’s existence extremely unlikely, but acknowledges that he can’t be absolutely certain.
7 - Strong atheist - considers God’s existence 100% false. He KNOWS that there is no God.

On this scale, “evangelical atheist” would have to be number 7.

8 - Evangelical atheist – considers God’s existence 100% false. He KNOWS there is no God, and he will not rest until no one ELSE believes in God either.

While that certainly makes interesting food for thought, I’m not really sure the whole theism/agnosticism/atheism thing is best expressed as a spectrum. I can think of a number of tertium quids who don’t seem to clearly fit into that scale anywhere, for example:

- Selective atheists, who strongly disbelieve in one single specific God or religion, but are essentially agnostic toward anything else

- Unitarian-ish type spiritual people, who strongly believe in a divine power but are essentially entirely agnostic as to the name and nature of that God

- Self-identifying “agnostics” who are essentially just nonpracticing Christians, or nonpracticing members of some other religion (a close relative of this group is the interestingly large number of people who self-identify as “atheist Jews”)

- Cryptoreligionists, who self-identify as atheists or agnostics but oddly enough frequently and vociferously argue in favor of the value system or supremacy of some particular religion– for example, I can think of people who claim not to believe in the Christian God, yet make assertions such as that America is a Christian nation, the Bible is the foundation of all secular law or that all positive scientific and philosophical advances of Western society in the last 1000 years uniquely stem from the values and philosophies of Christianity

- Supernaturalists, and neopagans who do not work with a divinity concept, who have many strongly held supernatural beliefs which for all practical purposes make them strong religionists, but they might not believe in a God

- Political partisans, who hold very very very strongly to one specific entirely non-supernatural belief system or ideology. These people often technically have no religion, but it’s sometimes quite difficult to tell the difference.

- Gene Ray

Comment #145587

Posted by Coin on November 20, 2006 11:13 PM (e)

Self-identifying “agnostics” who are essentially just nonpracticing Christians

Hm, in the interest of avoiding causing a flamewar and just to be safe, looking back over that last post, I wanted to make it clear that I was trying to describe a specific subset of agnostics right there, not generalize about all agnostics. Also, I should probably note that the post was mostly tongue in cheek and I wasn’t at any point trying to imply membership in any of the above groups was a bad thing (except of course for the thinly veiled and awkward swipe at Steve Fuller).

Comment #145609

Posted by C.W. on November 21, 2006 3:34 AM (e)

8 - Evangelical atheist – considers God’s existence 100% false. He KNOWS there is no God, and he will not rest until no one ELSE believes in God either.

What would you call a cat 6 atheist who likes a good debate?

Comment #145622

Posted by Marek 14 on November 21, 2006 5:07 AM (e)

8 - Evangelical atheist – considers God’s existence 100% false. He KNOWS there is no God, and he will not rest until no one ELSE believes in God either.

In this case, would true evangelical theists get the 0. position?

Comment #145639

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 21, 2006 7:11 AM (e)

In this case, would true evangelical theists get the 0. position?

Yes.

Comment #145641

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 21, 2006 7:24 AM (e)

Sorry to interrupt here, but PZ is back to deleting my posts from **all** his threads again … (sigh)

So I’ll repost this one, from the “Nature Publishes A Crank Letter” thread, here:

Yes I do, and Beneviste’s paper is still cited by homeopathy advocates.

It has always amused me whenever homeopathy advocates try to make the point that their, uh, cures “don’t have any harmful side effects”.

Yes, by golly, they are right. Plain old ordinary water is indeed not known to have any harmful side effects. (giggle)

Comment #145642

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 21, 2006 7:30 AM (e)

Questions that PvM may prefer not to have me ask (you’ll know when he censors them)

You seem to be, um, uncensored. (shrug)

Would you mind asking your pal PZ to stop censoring ME? Once again, after a fight, he is childishly deleting comments of mine on all his threads, which do not refer to him, do not refer to religion/atheism, and are utterly and totally innocuous.

I.e., he is waving his dick again.

Comment #145649

Posted by minimalist on November 21, 2006 8:11 AM (e)

wrote:

Yes, by golly, they are right. Plain old ordinary water is indeed not known to have any harmful side effects. (giggle)

Tell that to a drowning man, smart guy.

Comment #145652

Posted by normdoering on November 21, 2006 9:29 AM (e)

‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank asked:

Would you mind asking your pal PZ to stop censoring ME?

Lenny, you need to be discouraged from posting for the sake of your own mental health. You spend way too much time posting here.

I know because I spend too much time here and I’m not posting half as often or as much as you do.

Comment #145660

Posted by Raging Bee on November 21, 2006 10:25 AM (e)

norm is questioning Lenny’s mental health? What a joke!

Comment #145669

Posted by Peter Henderson on November 21, 2006 10:59 AM (e)

It has always amused me whenever homeopathy advocates try to make the point that their, uh, cures “don’t have any harmful side effects”.

Yes, by golly, they are right. Plain old ordinary water is indeed not known to have any harmful side effects. (giggle)

Yep, you’re excactly right Lenny. Tried it a number of years ago in desperation. Getting up at 7.00am in order to rub an unknown substance on my navel didn’t do anything for my U.C. I’ve had experience of homeopathy twice now and the only thing it harmed was my bank account ! In the end surgery worked on both occasions. I went to a colleague of this well known U.K. homeopathy Dr.by the way:

http://www.jandevrieshealth.co.uk/

Comment #145681

Posted by stevaroni on November 21, 2006 11:53 AM (e)

Plain old ordinary water is indeed not known to have any harmful side effects. (giggle)

Actually, suddenly ingesting very large amomunts of water can be dangerous, sometimes fatal.

The problem is that if you suddenly put a bunch of water into your digestive tract, especially if your stomach is empty and it can get straight to your duodenum, it will be very quickly absorbed through osmotic pressure.

Your kidneys will do their noble best trying to get rid of it, but there’s a limit to how fast they can pump, and the salinity of your blood can fall to levels where the biochemistry that keeps you running collapses.

The condition is called water toxicity, and, in extreme cases can lead to fatal heart atttacks.

Who would suddenly decide to drink gallons of water with nothing at all in their stomachs, you ask? Like all weird things, the best recent examples of this way to win the Darwin awards came out of California a decade ago, in the midst of the “cleansing colonic” fad. Not content to just pull the drain plug, some extreme enthusiasts decided that a system flush was just the right ticket, an it turned out badly.

Proof that nature eventually thins the herd, I guess.

Comment #145690

Posted by Steviepinhead on November 21, 2006 1:19 PM (e)

Oh, Carol!

I am somewhat perplexed as to what you are “sensing” about my “Jewish God” (whatever that means) vis-a-vis the “diffuse God” (universe and its rules). To me they were always one and the same. What’s on your mind?

Huh? Carol, I agree that my incredulity isn’t evidence of much of anything, other than your well-known capacity to boggle my little pinheaded excuse for a brain (I must not have had any Neanderthal ancestors).

But is this diffuse, Einsteinian “God” you now seem to be claiming not a considerably different deity than the interventionist, burning-bush, tablet-engraving, enemies-of-the-Israelites-smiting, humans-to-salt-pillars-transmuting “God” of the Pentateuch?

Or does Mr. Landa’s “authorized” translation of the first several books of the Bible put some entirely different “spin” on those episodes as well?

Comment #145692

Posted by Sir_Toejam on November 21, 2006 1:28 PM (e)

Who would suddenly decide to drink gallons of water with nothing at all in their stomachs, you ask? Like all weird things, the best recent examples of this way to win the Darwin awards came out of California a decade ago, in the midst of the “cleansing colonic” fad. Not content to just pull the drain plug, some extreme enthusiasts decided that a system flush was just the right ticket, an it turned out badly.

this isn’t the only way to get water toxicity, and actually the most common sufferers are marathon runners, who take in water, but forget that electrolytes are also lost through sweat.

there was even a story on it on 60 minutes last year.

Comment #145704

Posted by stevaroni on November 21, 2006 3:07 PM (e)

actually the most common sufferers are marathon runners

Ah, that explains why I hadn’t heard of it before. Marathons involve exercise, a subject of which I try to avoid any direct knowlege.

(I kave no direct knowlege about colon-cleansing either, but at least that makes it into News Of The Weird.)

Comment #145714

Posted by tomsuly on November 21, 2006 4:04 PM (e)

Sir_Toejam wrote:

“this isn’t the only way to get water toxicity, and actually the most common sufferers are marathon runners, who take in water, but forget that electrolytes are also lost through sweat.”

I think this happened to me. In 1998, I ran the Dallas marathon while drinking mainly just water throughout the race and at the 22 mile mark, I hit “the runners wall”. I was running a decent pace (I ran the first half in 1 hour 22 minutes), but at mile 16 I could tell I was starting to slow down and at mile 22 - Wham! It took me about 45 minutes to run the last four miles. It also probably did not help that my longest run before the marathon was only 12 miles (which was really stupid!)

Anyway, just a little insider info for anyone interested in marathons and what not to do when training for or running in one.

Comment #147270

Posted by Henry J on November 29, 2006 11:30 AM (e)

Re “Science is about cause and effect relationships.”

Not all of it. Science can also study correlations in which no cause/effect relation is evident, as long as there are repeatable verifiable observations that form pattern(s) that can be used to produce or support theories.

————-

Re “Plain old ordinary water is indeed not known to have any harmful side effects.”

That reminds me of an episode of MASH, in which one of their people had a condition that blocked the usual way of removing excess water from ones system.

Henry

Comment #153441

Posted by K. Mapson on January 5, 2007 8:56 AM (e)

I would have to go with Pandeism – the God that created the Universe actually became the Universe at the time of the creation. Therefore, God can not interfere with the Universe, which operates according to natural laws set at the creation, but does experience the world.

This idea has gotten a recent boost from Paola Zizzi, an Italian astrophysicist/mathematician, who suggests that during the Big Bang the expanding proto-universe may have passed through a point where the patterns of energy match those which are theoretically required to express consciousness. Since a being with the power to create the universe would presumably have the power to initiate such creation at any point on the scale, there may have been nothing preceding this point other than a different manifestation of such a being, a thought entity, if you will, an entity formed of energy masked in a pattern alien to the laws of this universe (and indeed, responsible for creating the laws of this universe).

So, this entity which could conventionally be called God chooses to disperse itself (really to re-arrange itself) and become the Universe, thereby to complete its knowledge of the possible conditions of existence. The absentee landlord/clockwork universe-maker of Deism becomes the God=Universe of Pantheism, hence Pandeism; God is a scientist conducting an experiment, and all of us are the bacteria in this Petri dish universe (but then again, the Petri dish, everything in it, and the experiment are God itself).