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Gotta Serve Somebody

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It has been a very busy week digging out from under the pile of work that accumulated while I was on vacation (think of the Bride digging out of the grave in Kill Bill 2). Earlier I had time only to post a link to Mollie Hemingway’s take down of Frank Bruni’s genuflection before the alter of “science.” Today I want to revisit that topic. Before I do, a couple of definitions:

Reify: to regard (something abstract) as a material or concrete thing

Fealty: the obligation or the engagement to be faithful to a lord, usually sworn to by a vassal.

The money quote from Bruni’s piece:

And with the right fealty to science, this next Congress would be forced to accept the overwhelming consensus on climate change and take action.

Bruni reifies an abstraction called “science” and bids Congress (and presumably everyone else) to give “fealty” to his reification. It is one thing to honor a particular scientist, but Bruni urges us to genuflect before “Science” with a capital “S.” Why?  Because, he feels an overwhelming need to serve something larger than himself, to place his life in a larger context, and to find meaning in his life. What in the world is going on here? As it happens, Bob Dylan has a keen insight into this phenomenon. He writes:

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

Gotta Serve Somebody. As another song goes, “ain’t Bobby so cool”?

The idea that our life is completely meaningless, that the universe is indifferent to our existence, that literally nothing we say, think or do has any ultimate significance, is unbearable. No one is able to stare into the abyss without flinching. Even those who insist there is no meaning feel compelled to seek meaning. Consider these two quotations from Richard Dawkins:

[In the universe there] is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.

The truly adult view, by contrast, is that our life is as meaningful, as full and as wonderful as we choose to make it.

In the first quote Dawkins stares into the abyss, and in the second he flinches away.  Why?  Because an intense longing for meaning is at the bottom of every human heart. Everyone, from fundamentalist Bible thumpers to militant  atheists, searches for a greater context in which to situate their lives.

For theists the explanation for this longing is easy:

You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.

Confessions, Augustine of Hippo

The materialist insists there is no meaning to life. Therefore, he cannot admit that our longing for meaning is a response to the existence of real meaning. Like so many things (consciousness, the overwhelming appearance of design in nature, libertarian free will), he is forced to argue that the impulse to find meaning is the product of an illusion foisted on us by our genes, which in turn resulted from some evolutionary adaptation.

It is not my purpose in this brief post to argue for one view or the other. I only point to the reality of the impulse. Bobby is right. Ya gotta serve somebody.

Comments
Aleta, I'm interested in whether keiths and Mark F agree with you.
That is not what markf, keits, et al are saying. They (and I’ll include myself here) are saying that the universe as a whole has no purpose nor does it add an external meaning to our life.
But that's just silly, and not believable, on a number of levels. How do they, and you, determine that the universe as a whole has no purpose? How does a universe that has no purpose just happen to give rise to meaning and purpose? In what sense is there meaning and purpose in their lives, and yours, without external meaning? If that which is external to you, the universe outside, provides nothing meaningful to your life, what's the point?
Human beings, as a species, as cultures and communities, and as individuals create meanings that help us navigate the world we live in. That is not the same as “there is no such thing as meaning.)
Sure it is. First, are you saying that meaning and purpose are a singular human construct? Humans are in fact different from plants and other animals? We're unique? Second, if each individual gets to define what is meaningful and purposeful, then in what sense is anything meaningful or purposeful? What is it that is common to each individual definition of what is meaningful and purposeful? If there is nothing common, then how is it that there is anything at all definable about those terms?Mung
November 10, 2014
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Mark, regarding my comment at 33, consider the difference between your 31 and Aleta's 34.Barry Arrington
November 9, 2014
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Hi Barry. First, although I worry this will lead us away from the main topics, I don't consider myself a materialist. As I discussed a bit in a previous thread, I don't believe we can really know the nature of the metaphysical foundation of the universe, but I'm inclined to believe that it is most likely some set of impersonal principles rather than a personally involved being. But for the sake of discussion, I'll accept the "materialist" designation, because I agree with the materialist on the point in question, which is that the "universe as a whole has no purpose nor does it add an external meaning to our life." In responding to me, you read more into what you think I mean than I mean: starting a response with "You agree that ..." is sort of annoying because in fact I don't agree with all you say about me. A better discussion technique, one which would facilitate a constructive discussion rather than just denial, would be to start by saying, "Do you agree ..." or "It seems to me your belief implies ..." With all that said, when I wrote that "the "universe as a whole has no purpose nor does it add an external meaning to our life," I did not say, or mean, that, as you say I agree to, "“our life is completely meaningless." In fact I went on to explain a bit about how our life comes to have meaning. You also draw an erroneous conclusion in your numbered [2]: When I wrote, "Human beings, as a species, as cultures and communities, and as individuals create meanings that help us navigate the world we live in," you said that therefore "I agree that the indifference "“is unbearable. No one is able to stare into the abyss without flinching. Even those who insist there is no meaning feel compelled to seek meaning.”" I don't agree with that at all. It is your [3] that really helps explain what the issue is here. You say "Either there is ultimate meaning or there is no ultimate meaning." I'll agree with that as a logical truism. But then you say that my understanding of meaning is
“make believe.” I am not the one who says “there is no such thing as meaning.” Materialists are. Then, as you have just demonstrated, unable to bear that thought, they equivocate on the word “meaning.’ “Sure,” they say, “there is no meaning, but we can pretend there is. And why do we pretend?
The problem here is that the only kind of meaning you accept as really qualifying as meaning is "ultimate meaning", and so, to you, if I don't accept that defintion of meaning, I really have no real meaning at all. But making someone else (me) responsible for holding your beliefs, and then saying my beliefs really don't count because they aren't the same as yours, is unjustifiable. You are absolutely convinced that there is ultimate meaning, and if you contemplate the absence of that meaning, all you can see is that you would despair. But I don't even consider ultimate meaning a possibility, so there is nothing to feel despair about: why should I despair over something I don't believe in even though it causes you to feel potential despair when you contemplate it's absence? I am not "equivocating" about the word meaning: I am using it in reference to a human activity that all people engage in in order to understand a whole multitude of types of things, and there is nothing that says the word has to refer to an "ultimate meaning." Just because, to you, meaning isn't significant - isn't "really meaningful - unless it has some external, ultimate source or referent doesn't mean that I am obligated to accept your meaning of meaning. I do believe that humans do engage, and have engaged in "make believe" about some things that we really don't know much, if anything about: I think most metaphysical religious beliefs fall into this category. But we have all sorts of other beliefs about how to treat our fellow man (or at least those that we include in our understanding of our community/society), about how to contribute to the well being of our society, how to spend our time in what various human activities are possible, and so on. Many of these beliefs are cultural: the fact that many people are brought up in them as children and that most of society supports them gives those beliefs a sense of being bigger than the individual. Human belief and meaning systems are human inventions. They are based on a mixture of empirical knowledge (confirmed beliefs) and agreements within the culture to see the world a certain way (affirmed beliefs). Calling then "make believe" devalues both them and the human beings for whom they are important. And last, given that we are social animals, virtually all people grow up feeling a part of and a responsibility to a larger body of people. (Those that don't we see as pathological.) To return to the Dylan song, most people do indeed need to "serve somebody", be it their family, their community, their profession, their nation, or whatever. Those who have religious beliefs often feel that they are serving a God or a principle of some sort. For everyone, all these beliefs about how we are to behave and feel, and how that behavior and feelings fit into our place in a larger entity than just ourselves, are what constitute our "meaning of life." While some might have a religious component that posits an ultimate meaning, others don't (and of course there is a wide variety in religious beliefs as well as non-religious one.) But all these people, you included, Barry, are finding meaning in the same human way. You include a religious belief in your meaning and I don't in mine, but the religious belief is not necessary: my world of meaning is not inferior to yours just because you believe that yours is connected to some universal ultimate meaning.Aleta
November 9, 2014
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Mark, I often respect what you have to say in these pages and enjoy the challenges you raise. Then, there are other times, such as in this thread, when you convert to “full on denial mode” and substitute mere contradiction for argument. Trying to argue with someone who merely contradicts is boring. Mark’s anticipated response. “No it isn’t.” :-) Barry Arrington
November 9, 2014
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Barry your conclusion 2 simply does not follow from anything Aleta wrote or anything Bruni wrote. I suggest less rhetoric and more logic.Mark Frank
November 9, 2014
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Aleta,
That is not what markf, keits, et al are saying. [1] They (and I’ll include myself here) are saying that the universe as a whole has no purpose nor does it add an external meaning to our life. [2] Human beings, as a species, as cultures and communities, and as individuals create meanings that help us navigate the world we live in. [3] That is not the same as “there is no such thing as meaning."
[1] You agree that, just as I said, the materialist must say that ultimately “our life is completely meaningless, the universe is indifferent to our existence, and literally nothing we say, think or do has any ultimate significance.” [2] You agree that, just as I said, idea [1] “is unbearable. No one is able to stare into the abyss without flinching. Even those who insist there is no meaning feel compelled to seek meaning.” [3] Either there is ultimate meaning or there is no ultimate meaning. It is a discrete function. All you are saying is, (again, just as I said) the materialist must say he believes an evolutionary adaptation of some kind compels him to avert his gaze from [1] and “make believe.” I am not the one who says "there is no such thing as meaning." Materialists are. Then, as you have just demonstrated, unable to bear that thought, they equivocate on the word "meaning.' "Sure," they say, "there is no meaning, but we can pretend there is. And why do we pretend? Because we are unable to look into the abyss without flinching." We are in fundamental disagreement about how materialists cope with the bleak conclusions compelled by their premises.Barry Arrington
November 9, 2014
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That is not what markf, keits, et al are saying. They (and I'll include myself here) are saying that the universe as a whole has no purpose nor does it add an external meaning to our life. Human beings, as a species, as cultures and communities, and as individuals create meanings that help us navigate the world we live in. That is not the same as "there is no such thing as meaning.)Aleta
November 9, 2014
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There is no such thing as meaning, and I have to say, that's quite meaningful to me!Mung
November 9, 2014
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Barry - a masterpeice of rhetoric and quote-mining - cleverly interspersing phrases calling for people to take science more seriously with the word "God" supplied by you. All the guy is saying is that people should stop ignoring what the scientists say (given scientists quite extraordinary track record in discovering things that are indisputably true with massive impacts on our welfare that seems rather good advice). There is no call for anyone to serve science or worship anything. No suggestion that science provides any kind of ultimate meaning to life. And above all there is nothing in the piece about Bruni's motives or personal situation. There is no reason to suppose he is making this call to respect science for any reason other than he thinks it is true. Zero reason to suppose it is anything to do with his need to serve something larger than himself.markf
November 9, 2014
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markf @ 19 says there is no evidence that Bruni feels a need to serve something larger than himself. Let’s take a look. First, as I noted above, Bruni has reified science. He then says the following regarding his reified god: I “fervently hope” that they “show more respect for” my god. He is “enraged” by those who “disregard” his god. It is “maddening” when people do not give proper deference to the pronouncements his god’s priests, because his god’s priests are “happy to share their wisdom” if we will but heed them. His religion even has a sort of eschatology. Listen to my god’s priests and there will be plenty and peace. Refuse to heed them and there will be “food shortages, refugee crises, the flooding of major cities and entire island nations, mass extinctions of plants and animals, and a climate so drastically altered it might become dangerous for people to work or play outside during the hottest times of the year.” Congress has been “largely useless,” because it’s “relationship to science” [really, you can have a “relationship” with science”] has been either unduly neglectful or they have even outright contemptuous of his god. Americans have shown “woefully insufficient gratitude” for the blessings bestowed upon them by my god. On the one hand he is glad that Americans are “enthralled” by the romance of his god and that they “revere” the brainpower of his god’s priests. Indeed, one of his god’s priests has even “become a veritable cultural icon.” But he is beside himself with contempt for those heretics who deny the power and wisdom of his god. In strangely apt phrasing he more or less says “there is only one God [science] and Darwin is his prophet.” If you do not bend the knee to his god it is because you choose to remain in the darkness (“elect mysticism”) instead of revel in his god’s marvelous light (“empiricism”). Those who fail to obey his god are “ignoring” or “defying” the “ironclad” pronouncements of the priesthood. If we had a “proper regard” for his god we would fund his priesthood more lavishly then we already do (I wonder if a tithe would be enough) and we would not irresponsibly smear” the pronouncements of the priesthood. And finally, with “the right fealty to” his god, we would be “forced to accept” the pronouncements of his priests. No evidence Mark?Barry Arrington
November 9, 2014
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It is interesting to me that the contentment with hopelessness, as staked out by the Darwinists on this thread, is a contentment that they unknowingly (I'm assuming) share with most of history's most profoundly religious peoples (surprise, surprise). In the below video, Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart debunks the schools of thought, including the Marxist and Freudian, which, based on Darwinian assumptions, have claimed that religion originated as an antidote to human beings' fear of death by offering myths about life and rewards beyond the grave. Hart cites the historical and archeological evidence which shows that humankind's religious impulse has no clear connection at all with hope in an afterlife. Death, Sacrifice, and Resurrectionjstanley01
November 9, 2014
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Eric Metaxas's video interview with Dick Cavett on Socrates In The City, about his new book, 'Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life', is now uploaded, and can be viewed, as of now, freely. You may watch the interview, after a short registration, here: The Miracles Event with Eric Metaxas and Dick Cavett - video http://watch.socratesinthecity.com/event/metaxas/watch Of note: He touches on 'meaning' for our livesbornagain77
November 9, 2014
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In trying to understand how it can be possible that each 3-D point in the universe may be considered central in the universe, it is important to learn that General Relativity is based on higher 4-Dimensional (4-D) math.
The Mathematics Of Higher Dimensionality - Gauss & Riemann https://vimeo.com/98188985 The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences – Eugene Wigner – 1960 Excerpt: We now have, in physics, two theories of great power and interest: the theory of quantum phenomena and the theory of relativity.,,, The two theories operate with different mathematical concepts: the four dimensional Riemann space and the infinite dimensional Hilbert space, http://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc/MathDrama/reading/Wigner.html
Moreover, Quantum Mechanics, which notoriously refuses to be mathematically unified with General Relativity, reveals a surprising centrality, not for just any 3-D position in the universe, but centrality specifically for 'conscious observers' in the universe.
Quantum Enigma:Physics Encounters Consciousness - Richard Conn Henry - Professor of Physics - John Hopkins University Excerpt: It is more than 80 years since the discovery of quantum mechanics gave us the most fundamental insight ever into our nature: the overturning of the Copernican Revolution, and the restoration of us human beings to centrality in the Universe. And yet, have you ever before read a sentence having meaning similar to that of my preceding sentence? Likely you have not, and the reason you have not is, in my opinion, that physicists are in a state of denial… https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/the-quantum-enigma-of-consciousness-and-the-identity-of-the-designer/
The conclusion of all this is summed up here:
The Galileo Affair and “Life/Consciousness” as the true "Center of the Universe" Excerpt: I find it extremely interesting, and strange, that quantum mechanics tells us that instantaneous quantum wave collapse to its 'uncertain' 3D state is centered on each individual conscious observer in the universe, whereas, 4D space-time cosmology (General Relativity) tells us each 3D point in the universe is central to the expansion of the universe. These findings of modern science are pretty much exactly what we would expect to see if this universe were indeed created, and sustained, from a higher dimension by a omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal Being who knows everything that is happening everywhere in the universe at the same time. These findings certainly seem to go to the very heart of the age old question asked of many parents by their children, “How can God hear everybody’s prayers at the same time?”,,, i.e. Why should the expansion of the universe, or the quantum wave collapse of the entire universe, even care that you or I, or anyone else, should exist? Only Theism, Christian Theism in particular, offers a rational explanation as to why you or I, or anyone else, should have such undeserved significance in such a vast universe. Psalm 33:13-15 The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BHAcvrc913SgnPcDohwkPnN4kMJ9EDX-JJSkjc4AXmA/edit
Thus, far from what atheists would prefer to believe, i.e. that their lives have no real meaning, purpose, and significance in the universe, the fact of the matter is that the universe itself, due to seemingly miraculous advances in science, reveals that each of us has a profound significance in the universe. Moreover, from a slightly different angle, ‘Life’, with a capital L, is also found to be central to the universe in that Christ’s resurrection from the dead provides a very credible reconciliation to the most profound enigma in modern science. Namely the unification of General Relativity with Quantum Mechanics/Special Relativity (Quantum Electrodynamics) into a ‘Theory of Everything’:
The Center Of The Universe Is Life (Jesus Christ) – General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Entropy and The Shroud Of Turin – video http://vimeo.com/34084462 Special Relativity, General Relativity, Heaven and Hell Excerpt: "Einstein's equation predicts that, as the astronaut reaches the singularity (of the black-hole), the tidal forces grow infinitely strong, and their chaotic oscillations become infinitely rapid. The astronaut dies and the atoms which his body is made become infinitely and chaotically distorted and mixed-and then, at the moment when everything becomes infinite (the tidal strengths, the oscillation frequencies, the distortions, and the mixing), spacetime ceases to exist." Kip S. Thorne - "Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy" pg. 476 https://docs.google.com/document/d/1_4cQ7MXq8bLkoFLYW0kq3Xq-Hkc3c7r-gTk0DYJQFSg/edit
Verse and Music:
Matthew 10:28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Fearless - From The Inside Out - Phillips, Craig, and Dean https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prGl5kOzDWc
Supplemental note: The following site is also very interesting to the topic of ‘centrality in the universe’:
The Scale of The Universe - Part 2 - interactive graph (recently updated in 2012 with cool features) http://htwins.net/scale2/scale2.swf?bordercolor=white
The preceding interactive graph and video points out that the smallest scale visible to the human eye (as well as a human egg) is at 10^-4 meters, which 'just so happens' to be directly in the exponential center of all possible sizes of our physical reality (not just ‘nearly’ in the exponential center!). i.e. 10^-4 is, exponentially, right in the middle of 10^-35 meters, which is the smallest possible unit of length, which is Planck length, and 10^27 meters, which is the largest possible unit of 'observable' length since space-time was created in the Big Bang, which is the diameter of the universe. This is very interesting for, as far as I can tell, the limits to human vision (as well as the size of the human egg) could have, theoretically, been at very different positions than directly in the exponential middle.bornagain77
November 9, 2014
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At the 38:10 minute mark of the following video, Dr. Huterer speaks of the 'why right now? coincidence problem' for dark matter and visible matter:
Dragan Huterer - 'coincidence problem' - video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qTJc1Y7duM#t=2290
The Privileged Planet by Gonzalez, which also holds that any rare life supporting planet in the universe will also be 'privileged' for observation of the universe, has now been made into a excellent video,,,
The Privileged Planet – video playlist https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ohuG3Vj_48&list=PLbzQ4aXdqWD-9kjFsSm-cxNlzgrkJuko7 “The same narrow circumstances that allow us to exist also provide us with the best over all conditions for making scientific discoveries.” - Guillermo Gonzalez - Astronomer The very conditions that make Earth hospitable to intelligent life also make it well suited to viewing and analyzing the universe as a whole. - Jay Richards
The Privileged Planet hypothesis has now been extended by Robin Collins PhD.,,,
The Fine-Tuning for Discoverability - Robin Collins - March 22, 2014 Excerpt: The most dramatic confirmation of the discoverability/livability optimality thesis (DLO) is the dependence of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMB) on the baryon to photon ratio.,,, ...the intensity of CMB depends on the photon to baryon ratio, (??b), which is the ratio of the average number of photons per unit volume of space to the average number of baryons (protons plus neutrons) per unit volume. At present this ratio is approximately a billion to one (10^9) , but it could be anywhere from one to infinity; it traces back to the degree of asymmetry in matter and anti - matter right after the beginning of the universe – for approximately every billion particles of antimatter, there was a billion and one particles of matter.,,, The only livability effect this ratio has is on whether or not galaxies can form that have near - optimally livability zones. As long as this condition is met, the value of this ratio has no further effects on livability. Hence, the DLO predicts that within this range, the value of this ratio will be such as to maximize the intensity of the CMB as observed by typical observers. According to my calculations – which have been verified by three other physicists -- to within the margin of error of the experimentally determined parameters (~20%), the value of the photon to baryon ratio is such that it maximizes the CMB. This is shown in Figure 1 below. (pg. 13) It is easy to see that this prediction could have been disconfirmed. In fact, when I first made the calculations in the fall of 2011, I made a mistake and thought I had refuted this thesis since those calculations showed the intensity of the CMB maximizes at a value different than the photon - baryon ratio in our universe. So, not only does the DLO lead us to expect this ratio, but it provides an ultimate explanation for why it has this value,,, This is a case of a teleological thesis serving both a predictive and an ultimate explanatory role.,,, http://home.messiah.edu/~rcollins/Fine-tuning/Greer-Heard%20Forum%20paper%20draft%20for%20posting.pdf Greer Heard Forum: Robin Collins – “God and the Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Discovery” – video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBWmMU7BXGE
Moreover, a recent video based on Michael Denton's work has also been recently released, in limited showings thus far, showing that chemistry is of maximum benefit 'for warm-blooded, air-breathing organisms such as ourselves'.
The Place of Life and Man in Nature: Defending the Anthropocentric Thesis - Michael J. Denton - February 25, 2013 Summary (page 11) Many of the properties of the key members of Henderson’s vital ensemble —water, oxygen, CO2, HCO3 —are in several instances fit specifically for warm-blooded, air-breathing organisms such as ourselves. http://bio-complexity.org/ojs/index.php/main/article/view/BIO-C.2013.1/BIO-C.2013.1 Privileged Species - How the cosmos is designed for human life - main website http://privilegedspecies.com/ Dr. Michael Denton Interview Excerpt Question 14: 14. Q: ,,,you also detail that nature isn’t fine-tuned for just any kind of life, but life specifically like human life. Would you expound on this for our readers? A: there are certain elements of the fine-tuning which are clearly for advanced being like ourselves. http://successfulstudent.org/dr-michael-denton-interview/
Dawkins once made this interesting quote in regards to our significance in the universe,,,
"The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” ? Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life
And although Dawkins wasn't specifically talking about General Relatvity and Quantum Mechanics in that quote, but about the argument from evil, the physics of General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics reveal that, far from what Dawkins believes about pitiless indifference in the universe, that 'at bottom' the universe reveals there is a design, purpose and surprising significance. In what I consider an absolutely fascinating discovery, Einstein’s General Relativity has shown that 4-dimensional (4D) space-time, along with all energy and matter, was created in the ‘Big Bang’ and continues to ‘expand equally in all places’:
"There is no centre of the universe! According to the standard theories of cosmology, the universe started with a "Big Bang" about 14 thousand million years ago and has been expanding ever since. Yet there is no centre to the expansion; it is the same everywhere. The Big Bang should not be visualized as an ordinary explosion. The universe is not expanding out from a centre into space; rather, the whole universe is expanding and it is doing so equally at all places, as far as we can tell." - Where is the centre of the universe?: http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/Relativity/GR/centre.html
Thus from a 3-dimensional (3D) perspective, any particular 3D spot in the universe is to be considered just as ‘center of the universe’ as any other particular spot in the universe is to be considered ‘center of the universe’. This centrality found for any 3D place in the universe is because the universe is a 4D expanding hypersphere, analogous in 3D to the surface of an expanding balloon. All points on the surface are moving away from each other, and every point is central, no matter where you live in the universe. This centrality for each 3-D point in the universe is highlighted in the first few minutes of the following video:
Centrality of The Earth Within The 4-Dimensional Space-Time of General Relativity – video https://vimeo.com/98189061
bornagain77
November 9, 2014
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That our lives have real meaning, purpose, and significance is revealed by modern astronomy, chemistry and physics. The main reason why atheists think it is 'scientific' to say that their lives have no real meaning, purpose, and significance is because of what is termed the Copernican principle, also known as the 'principle of mediocrity'.
Copernican principle Excerpt: In physical cosmology, the Copernican principle, named after Nicolaus Copernicus, states that Earth is not in a central, specially favored position in the universe. More recently, the principle has been generalized to the relativistic concept that humans are not privileged observers of the universe. per wikipedia
,,, With the removal of the earth from the center of the solar system, people generalized it to mean that their personal lives had no real meaning, purpose, and significance. Here is a quote attesting to that belief,,
"No one looking at the vast extent of the universe and the completely random location of homo sapiens within it (in both space and time) could seriously maintain that the whole thing was intentionally created for us." Tim Maudlin - NYU philosopher Telling Theists What They Think: Philosopher Versus Philosopher at the New York Times - David Klinghoffer - June 19, 2014 http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/06/telling_theists086931.html
,,,But both these beliefs, about the earth and about humans not being significant in the universe, are now being overturned by recent discoveries in modern science. First as to the earth, as our science has advanced, and as our view of the universe has expanded with advances in telescopes, we now know that the earth has a surprising special position in the universe,,,
Why is the solar system cosmically aligned? BY Dragan Huterer - 2007 The solar system seems to line up with the largest cosmic features. Is this mere coincidence or a signpost to deeper insights? Caption under figure on page 43: ODD ALIGNMENTS hide within the multipoles of the cosmic microwave background. In this combination of the quadrupole and octopole, a plane bisects the sphere between the largest warm and cool lobes. The ecliptic — the plane of Earth’s orbit projected onto the celestial sphere — is aligned parallel to the plane between the lobes. http://www-personal.umich.edu/~huterer/PRESS/CMB_Huterer.pdf
Of note: The preceding article was written before the Planck data (with WMPA & COBE data), but the observations were actually verified by Planck.
A Large Scale Pattern from Optical Quasar Polarization Vectors - 2013 & Testing the Dipole Modulation Model in CMBR - 2013 Is there a violation of the Copernican principle in radio sky? - Ashok K. Singal - May 17, 2013 Abstract: Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR) observations from the WMAP satellite have shown some unexpected anisotropies (directionally dependent observations), which surprisingly seem to be aligned with the ecliptic\cite {20,16,15}. The latest data from the Planck satellite have confirmed the presence of these anisotropies\cite {17}. Here we report even larger anisotropies in the sky distributions of powerful extended quasars and some other sub-classes of radio galaxies in the 3CRR catalogue, one of the oldest and most intensively studies sample of strong radio sources\cite{21,22,3}. The anisotropies lie about a plane passing through the two equinoxes and the north celestial pole (NCP). We can rule out at a 99.995% confidence level the hypothesis that these asymmetries are merely due to statistical fluctuations. Further, even the distribution of observed radio sizes of quasars and radio galaxies show large systematic differences between these two sky regions. The redshift distribution appear to be very similar in both regions of sky for all sources, which rules out any local effects to be the cause of these anomalies. Two pertinent questions then arise. First, why should there be such large anisotropies present in the sky distribution of some of the most distant discrete sources implying inhomogeneities in the universe at very large scales (covering a fraction of the universe)? What is intriguing even further is why such anisotropies should lie about a great circle decided purely by the orientation of earth's rotation axis and/or the axis of its revolution around the sun? It looks as if these axes have a preferential placement in the larger scheme of things, implying an apparent breakdown of the Copernican principle or its more generalization, cosmological principle, upon which all modern cosmological theories are based upon. http://arxiv.org/abs/1305.4134
In fact, a movie has been recently been released, in limited distribution thus far, announcing, as far as I can tell from not personally seeing the movie yet, that the Copernican principle is being overturned by recent discoveries in astronomy:
Does the Universe Revolve Around Earth? - The Principle - video interview Excerpt: three probes of this radiation all showed the same proof that the universe and its galaxies appear to be arrayed around Earth and the Milky Way. "All of the radiation which comes from everywhere in the universe - there's no place we don't see it - it's all coming toward us and aligned with us," Sungenis said.,,, there is provable design in the universe and Earth's at the center of it - like what scientists found with the 2005 Sloan Digital Sky Survey of all the visible cosmos. "As far out as we could see in the universe the galaxies were aligned in concentric spheres around - guess what - Earth, or our galaxy," http://m.cbn.com/cbnnews/healthscience/2014/October/Film-Shocker-Does-the-Universe-Revolve-Around-Earth-/
Moreover, there are many independent characteristics required to be fulfilled for any planet to host advanced carbon-based life. Two popular books have been written, 'The Privileged Planet' by Guillermo Gonzalez and 'Rare Earth' by Donald Brownlee, indicating the earth is extremely unique in its ability to host advanced life in this universe. The 'Rare Earth' hypothesis has been now extended by Dr. Hugh Ross and his team:
Rare Earth - Michael Strauss PhD. - video https://vimeo.com/91775975 Linked from Appendix C from Dr. Ross's book, 'Why the Universe Is the Way It Is'; Probability for occurrence of all 816 parameters approx. equals 10^-1333 dependency factors estimate approx. equals 10^324 longevity requirements estimate approx. equals 10^45 Probability for occurrence of all 816 parameters approx. equals 10^-1054 Maximum possible number of life support bodies in observable universe approx. equals 10^22 Thus, less than 1 chance in 10^1032 exists that even one such life-support body would occur anywhere in the universe without invoking divine miracles. http://www.reasons.org/files/compendium/compendium_part3.pdf Hugh Ross - Evidence For Intelligent Design Is Everywhere (10^-1054) - video http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4347236
In the following video, Dr. Hugh Ross reveals that the conditions neccesary for advanced life to exist in the universe occur during a narrow window during the universe's history,,,
Hugh Ross - The Anthropic Principle and The Anthropic Inequality - video http://www.metacafe.com/watch/8494065/ Anthropic Principle: A Precise Plan for Humanity By Hugh Ross Excerpt: Brandon Carter, the British mathematician who coined the term “anthropic principle” (1974), noted the strange inequity of a universe that spends about 15 billion years “preparing” for the existence of a creature that has the potential to survive no more than 10 million years (optimistically).,, Carter and (later) astrophysicists John Barrow and Frank Tipler demonstrated that the inequality exists for virtually any conceivable intelligent species under any conceivable life-support conditions. Roughly 15 billion years represents a minimum preparation time for advanced life: 11 billion toward formation of a stable planetary system, one with the right chemical and physical conditions for primitive life, and four billion more years toward preparation of a planet within that system, one richly layered with the biodeposits necessary for civilized intelligent life. Even this long time and convergence of “just right” conditions reflect miraculous efficiency. Moreover the physical and biological conditions necessary to support an intelligent civilized species do not last indefinitely. They are subject to continuous change: the Sun continues to brighten, Earth’s rotation period lengthens, Earth’s plate tectonic activity declines, and Earth’s atmospheric composition varies. In just 10 million years or less, Earth will lose its ability to sustain human life. In fact, this estimate of the human habitability time window may be grossly optimistic. In all likelihood, a nearby supernova eruption, a climatic perturbation, a social or environmental upheaval, or the genetic accumulation of negative mutations will doom the species to extinction sometime sooner than twenty thousand years from now. http://christiangodblog.blogspot.com/2006_12_01_archive.html
bornagain77
November 9, 2014
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Keith: I am content that my life has meaning to me and to the people I love.
Let's break it down:
I am content that my life (...)
FOR SOLID EVOLUTIONARY REASONS, WE’VE BEEN tricked into looking at life from the inside. Without scientism, we look at life from the inside, from the first-person POV (OMG, you don’t know what a POV is?—a “point of view”). The first person is the subject, the audience, the viewer of subjective experience, the self in the mind. Scientism shows that the first-person POV is an illusion. Even after scientism convinces us, we’ll continue to stick with the first person. But at least we’ll know that it’s another illusion of introspection and we’ll stop taking it seriously. We’ll give up all the answers to the persistent questions about free will, the self, the soul, and the meaning of life that the illusion generates. The physical facts fix all the facts. The mind is the brain. It has to be physical and it can’t be anything else, since thinking, feeling, and perceiving are physical process—in particular, input/output processes—going on in the brain. We can be sure of a great deal about how the brain works because the physical facts fix all the facts about the brain. The fact that the mind is the brain guarantees that there is no free will. It rules out any purposes or designs organizing our actions or our lives. It excludes the very possibility of enduring persons, selves, or souls that exist after death or for that matter while we live. Not that there was ever much doubt about mortality anyway.
I am content that my life (...)
Thinking about things can’t happen at all. The brain can’t have thoughts about Paris, or about France, or about capitals, or about anything else for that matter. When consciousness convinces you that you, or your mind, or your brain has thoughts about things, it is wrong. Don’t misunderstand, no one denies that the brain receives, stores, and transmits information. But it can’t do these things in anything remotely like the way introspection tells us it does—by having thoughts about things. The way the brain deals with information is totally different from the way introspection tells us it does. Seeing why and understanding how the brain does the work that consciousness gets so wrong is the key to answering all the rest of the questions that keep us awake at night worrying over the mind, the self, the soul, the person.
(…) has meaning to me and to the people I love.
Love is the solution to a strategic interaction problem. As with a justification for core morality, when it comes to making life meaningful, what secular humanists hanker after is something they can’t have and don’t need. What they do need, if meaninglessness makes it impossible to get out of bed in the morning, is Prozac. People who stay in bed all day or who engage in self-destructive behavior or commit suicide don’t do it because their lives lack meaning or even because they think their lives lack meaning. They commit suicide because the neural circuitry in their brain responds to intractable pain, feelings of depression, and all the other slings and arrows flesh is heir to. Often the circuitry responds by producing suicide notes along with and prior to the fatal act. These last gasps may even complain of the meaninglessness of the victim’s life. Scientism assures us that such notes, as well as the conscious introspections they may report, are just by-products, side effects, produced by the brain, along with the self-destructive act itself. [comments from: ‘The Atheist’s Guide to Reality’ by Alex Rosenberg.]Box
November 9, 2014
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KeithS
I am content that my life has meaning to me and to the people I love.
The people that you love do not love you. Their love isn't real. In fact, they quietly hate you. No worries. though. Their love seems real to you and that's all that matters.StephenB
November 9, 2014
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Barry - I am suggesting there is no evidence that Bruni "feels an overwhelming need to serve something larger than himself, to place his life in a larger context, and to find meaning in his life." I certainly have no such overwhelming need.markf
November 9, 2014
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Barry:
Life has meaning or significance or it does not. It is incoherent to say “life has no meaning or significance but it has meaning and significance to me.”
But it's not incoherent to say "life has no ultimate meaning or significance but it still has meaning and significance to me." Meaning is inherently subjective. An experience can be meaningful to one person while another sees it as utterly banal. There is no contradiction there. I am content that my life has meaning to me and to the people I love. I don't need a Big Meaner in the Sky to regard my life as meaningful.keith s
November 9, 2014
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markf
Evidence, it appears, is not required for this assessment – just a certain amount of rhetoric.
Are you suggesting there is no evidence for a deep seated human longing for meaning and purpose? Wow.Barry Arrington
November 8, 2014
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KS
It’s enough that life has meaning and significance to us.
Say two men come up to a panel painted black. The first one says to his friend, “that panel is black. I don’t like it.” His friend says, “I quite agree that it is painted black, and I don’t like it either. But so long as I pretend it is painted white, it is in fact white to me.” Life has meaning or significance or it does not. It is incoherent to say “life has no meaning or significance but it has meaning and significance to me.”Barry Arrington
November 8, 2014
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markf:
For your information I find it quite bearable to believe “that our life is completely meaningless, that the universe is indifferent to our existence, that literally nothing we say, think or do has any ultimate significance.
Me too. It's enough that life has meaning and significance to us. No need for an imaginary source of "ultimate significance."keith s
November 8, 2014
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Why? Because, he feels an overwhelming need to serve something larger than himself, to place his life in a larger context, and to find meaning in his life.
Barry - you are indulging in one of your favourite debating tactics - telling other people what their motives are. It generally takes the form of telling someone that their motives are the same as yours but they don't realise it. Evidence, it appears, is not required for this assessment - just a certain amount of rhetoric. For your information I find it quite bearable to believe "that our life is completely meaningless, that the universe is indifferent to our existence, that literally nothing we say, think or do has any ultimate significance. "markf
November 8, 2014
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Seversky
And it’s why religions will continue to thrive for as long as human beings are as they are.
Quite correct if the materialist “evolutionary adaptation” account is true. But false if there really is meaning and purpose toward which our longings point.
Unfortunately, while it provides a good reason why people turn to religion, it doesn’t provide a good reason for thinking one, or indeed any, of the worlds faiths, great or small, are true.
False. It obviously provides a reason if the longings point to something real. Certainly it is not a sufficient reason. But there are many other reasons, and together they are more than sufficient.Barry Arrington
November 8, 2014
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Why do you have to serve anybody? The American colonists who won independence from Great Britain didn't feel they had to serve King George III. They believed they were better off deciding and running things for themselves. And they were right.
The idea that our life is completely meaningless, that the universe is indifferent to our existence, that literally nothing we say, think or do has any ultimate significance, is unbearable. No one is able to stare into the abyss without flinching.
Absolutely right. And it's why religions will continue to thrive for as long as human beings are as they are. Unfortunately, while it provides a good reason why people turn to religion, it doesn't provide a good reason for thinking one, or indeed any, of the worlds faiths, great or small, are true.Seversky
November 8, 2014
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as to:
"The materialist insists there is no meaning to life."
One of the interesting things about finding information to be 'directing the show' in life in DNA is that, in order for information to exist in the first place, it is necessary for the ability to assign meaning to first exist. There is not an alphabet, or book, or even a single sentence written on earth that was not written by someone who intended to convey a specific meaning with that information. Thus, for us to find information in life is equivalent to us finding that there is indeed meaning for life. Another interesting point is that one thing that drastically separates man from animals, (i.e. part of the ‘image of God’ inherent to man), is our ability to communicate information.
Origin of the Mind: Marc Hauser – Scientific American – April 2009 Excerpt: “Researchers have found some of the building blocks of human cognition in other species. But these building blocks make up only the cement footprint of the skyscraper that is the human mind”,,, http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/?/~mnkylab/publications/rec?ent/mindSciAm.pdf Young Children Have Grammar and Chimpanzees Don’t – Apr. 10, 2013 Excerpt: “When you compare what children should say if they follow grammar against what children do say, you find it to almost indistinguishable,” Yang said. “If you simulate the expected diversity when a child is only repeating what adults say, it produces a diversity much lower than what children actually say.” As a comparison, Yang applied the same predictive models to the set of Nim Chimpsky’s signed phrases, the only data set of spontaneous animal language usage publicly available. He found further evidence for what many scientists, including Nim’s own trainers, have contended about Nim: that the sequences of signs Nim put together did not follow from rules like those in human language. Nim’s signs show significantly lower diversity than what is expected under a systematic grammar and were similar to the level expected with memorization. This suggests that true language learning is — so far — a uniquely human trait, and that it is present very early in development. “The idea that children are only imitating adults’ language is very intuitive, so it’s seen a revival over the last few years,” Yang said. “But this is strong statistical evidence in favor of the idea that children actually know a lot about abstract grammar from an early age.” http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130410131327.htm
In fact, the three r’s, ‘reading, writing, and arithmetic’, are the first things to be taught to children when they enter school. And yet at the heart of life, we find ‘reading, writing, and arithmetic’ (information processing) to be central to biological life:
Signature in the Cell by Stephen Meyer – video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVkdQhNdzHU “One of the things I do in my classes, to get this idea across to students, is I hold up two computer disks. One is loaded with software, and the other one is blank. And I ask them, ‘what is the difference in mass between these two computer disks, as a result of the difference in the information content that they posses’? And of course the answer is, ‘Zero! None! There is no difference as a result of the information. And that’s because information is a mass-less quantity. Now, if information is not a material entity, then how can any materialistic explanation account for its origin? How can any material cause explain it’s origin? And this is the real and fundamental problem that the presence of information in biology has posed. It creates a fundamental challenge to the materialistic, evolutionary scenarios because information is a different kind of entity that matter and energy cannot produce. In the nineteenth century we thought that there were two fundamental entities in science; matter, and energy. At the beginning of the twenty first century, we now recognize that there’s a third fundamental entity; and its ‘information’. It’s not reducible to matter. It’s not reducible to energy. But it’s still a very important thing that is real; we buy it, we sell it, we send it down wires. Now, what do we make of the fact, that information is present at the very root of all biological function? In biology, we have matter, we have energy, but we also have this third, very important entity; information. I think the biology of the information age, poses a fundamental challenge to any materialistic approach to the origin of life.” -Dr. Stephen C. Meyer earned his Ph.D. in the History and Philosophy of science from Cambridge University for a dissertation on the history of origin-of-life biology and the methodology of the historical sciences. Intelligent design: Why can’t biological information originate through a materialistic process? – Stephen Meyer – video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqiXNxyoof8 John Lennox – Is There Evidence of Something Beyond Nature? (Semiotic Information) – video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6rd4HEdffw
In fact, not just life but reality itself is found to information theoretic in its foundational basis:
"it from bit” Every “it”— every particle, every field of force, even the space-time continuum itself derives its function, its meaning, its very existence entirely—even if in some contexts indirectly—from the apparatus-elicited answers to yes-or-no questions, binary choices, bits. “It from bit” symbolizes the idea that every item of the physical world has a bottom—a very deep bottom, in most instances, an immaterial source and explanation, that which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes-no questions and the registering of equipment—evoked responses, in short all matter and all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and this is a participatory universe." – Princeton University physicist John Wheeler (1911–2008) (Wheeler, John A. (1990), “Information, physics, quantum: The search for links”, in W. Zurek, Complexity, Entropy, and the Physics of Information (Redwood City, California: Addison-Wesley)) Why the Quantum? It from Bit? A Participatory Universe? Excerpt: In conclusion, it may very well be said that information is the irreducible kernel from which everything else flows. Thence the question why nature appears quantized is simply a consequence of the fact that information itself is quantized by necessity. It might even be fair to observe that the concept that information is fundamental is very old knowledge of humanity, witness for example the beginning of gospel according to John: "In the beginning was the Word." Anton Zeilinger - a leading expert in quantum teleportation: http://www.metanexus.net/archive/ultimate_reality/zeilinger.pdf “The thesis of my book ‘Being as Communion’ is that the fundamental stuff of the world is information. That things are real because they exchange information one with another.” Conversations with William Dembski–The Thesis of Being as Communion – video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYAsaU9IvnI
Also note this Bible verse that was written 2000 years ago:
Acts 3:15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.
The obvious question is, "how in blue blazes did they know 2000 years that life was, at its foundation, information?" Moreover, if Christ really is the author of life, as I hold that He is, then everything in the universe and life finds its ultimate meaning and purpose in and from Him! Music:
City on a Hill - God of Wonders https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZL0cjcLBYY
bornagain77
November 8, 2014
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In and of itself the universe has no purpose. It's the life that the universe supports that has purpose.Edward
November 8, 2014
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Slow Train is a great song: see lyrics at http://www.bobdylan.com/us/songs/slow-train I also like the lyrics to Precious Angel. Dylan got flak from some for going through his "Christian phase", but he did some great music then. For those interested, see especially, in my opinion, Watered Down Love and the bootleg I Ain't Goin' to Go to Hell for Anybody.Aleta
November 8, 2014
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I have, as has probably everyone else who has debated dogmatic Darwinists on the internet, noticed that many times atheistic Darwinists have an almost compulsive habit of equating the word 'science' with their foundational religious belief of atheistic materialism/naturalism. And labeling everyone who disagrees with their beliefs in Darwinism as 'anti-science'. This is interesting, since atheistic materialism was not at the founding of modern science, (Christian Theism was), and since atheistic materialism/naturalism has not been confirmed by advances in science. If anything advances in molecular biology have shown the Darwinian mechanism of random mutation and natural selection to be grossly inadequate as to the generation of functional information, and advances in Quantum Mechanics have falsified claims that reality is materialistic in its foundational basis. As if that was not enough to disqualify atheistic materialism as being 'science', it is also found that atheistic materialism/naturalism leads to the epistemological failure of science. But the question that arises for me in all this is, 'why was it the Christian worldview that provided the correct epistemological basis for science and not some other Theistic worldview, such as Jewish or Muslim beliefs?' Stanley Jaki provides a clue to that question,,,
The War against the War Between Science and Faith Revisited - July 2010 Excerpt: …as Whitehead pointed out, it is no coincidence that science sprang, not from Ionian metaphysics, not from the Brahmin-Buddhist-Taoist East, not from the Egyptian-Mayan astrological South, but from the heart of the Christian West, that although Galileo fell out with the Church, he would hardly have taken so much trouble studying Jupiter and dropping objects from towers if the reality and value and order of things had not first been conferred by belief in the Incarnation. (Walker Percy, Lost in the Cosmos),,, Jaki notes that before Christ the Jews never formed a very large community (priv. comm.). In later times, the Jews lacked the Christian notion that Jesus was the monogenes or unigenitus, the only-begotten of God. Pantheists like the Greeks tended to identify the monogenes or unigenitus with the universe itself, or with the heavens. Jaki writes: Herein lies the tremendous difference between Christian monotheism on the one hand and Jewish and Muslim monotheism on the other. This explains also the fact that it is almost natural for a Jewish or Muslim intellectual to become a pantheist. About the former Spinoza and Einstein are well-known examples. As to the Muslims, it should be enough to think of the Averroists. With this in mind one can also hope to understand why the Muslims, who for five hundred years had studied Aristotle’s works and produced many commentaries on them failed to make a breakthrough. The latter came in medieval Christian context and just about within a hundred years from the availability of Aristotle’s works in Latin,, http://www.scifiwright.com/2010/08/the-war-against-the-war-between-science-and-faith-revisited/
Although other mono-Theists may object, I think it is clear that the remarkable success of science in modern times is certainly a very strong confirmation of the truth inherent in Christian theism that brought modern science to fruition in the first place. i.e. If Christianity was not a proper view of the world, how was it possible for that view of the world to succeed in understanding and subjugating the world? In fact, not only can I point to the success of modern science as confirmation to the truth inherent in Christian Theism, I can also point to the fact that the resurrection Jesus Christ from death provides a very credible, empirically backed, resolution to the number one problem in science today. Namely, the resurrection of Christ from death provides a reconciliation of General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics/Special Relativity, (i.e. Quantum Electrodynamics), into the long sought after ‘theory of everything’.
a few notes along that line, https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/darwins-christians-a-response-to-sirius/#comment-526127
bornagain77
November 8, 2014
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Awesome albumn. Saw Dylan live in San Diego on the tour. Slow Train ComingMung
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