Intelligent Design

Jerry’s challenge

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Sunrise over the Dead Sea seen from Masada, Israel. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

I’ve written previously about Christopher Hitchens’ challenge: “Name one ethical statement made, or one ethical action performed, by a believer that could not have been uttered or done by a nonbeliever.” Professor Jerry Coyne has come up with a new challenge of his own: “Tell me exactly what ‘knowledge’ religion has provided that is not derivable from secular reason.”

I’d be happy to oblige. I’ll submit two statements. The first is known to everyone. The second is taken from Professor Coyne’s own blog.

1. The sun will rise tomorrow.
2. Killing an unarmed man who does not resist arrest in a way that endangers his captors is murder and therefore wrong, even if that man happens to be Osama bin Laden.

For the record, I think Professor Coyne is right about the second statement, and I applaud his courage for making it. While I’m quite sure that Osama bin Laden got his just deserts, he should have also gotten a trial, if it was possible to capture him alive.

Now, Professor Coyne seems to be quite sure about the second statement, so I presume he would count it as “knowledge.” So my reply to Professor Coyne’s challenge is: can you derive either of the above two statements from secular reason?

Professor Coyne is a very intelligent man, and I’m sure he will try to turn the tables at this point. He may ask me: “You say you believe in God. Please tell me how belief in God enables you to derive either of the two statements listed above.”

Sorry, but I’m not biting. Here’s why. Either I can meet his challenge or I can’t. If I can, then the ball is back in his court. If I can’t, then the ball is still in his court. Does he claim to know these things or doesn’t he? If he does, then how does he know them? But if he doesn’t know them, then shouldn’t he have the modesty to admit as much?

I’m going to focus on Professor Coyne’s first statement in this post. As a scientist, he would claim to know that the sun will rise tomorrow, and he would presumably base this claim to knowledge on the laws of Nature. I have previously argued that the laws of Nature provide no assurance about future events. In a recent article, Seven questions for Professor Carroll, I posed the following question to the physicist Sean Carroll, Senior Research Associate in Physics at the California Institute of Technology, in response to his article, Does the universe need God?:

Do you believe that rules, which prescribe the behavior of objects, are a fundamental and irreducible feature of the cosmos, even in the absence of human observers?

There are only two possible answers: Yes and No. If the answer is “Yes,” then this invites the further question, which I posed to him: “How can rules exist in the absence of a Mind that made these rules?” But if the answer is “No,” then we face a further dilemma. As I wrote:

If … rules are not a fundamental feature of the cosmos, then why is it rational for scientists to believe that the universe will continue to conform to the laws of nature in the future, instead of violating them? Specifically, why should I believe that the sun will rise tomorrow at the forecast time, when there is no rule saying that it should rise, and when there are innumerable ways in which it could fail to do so?

I hope you will resist the temptation to answer: “Because it’s simpler.” It’s one thing to try and order the observations you’ve already made in the simplest way you can. That’s what scientists do. But it would be naive to expect the universe to go on behaving simply in the future, simply because it would fit your favorite theory better if it did. That would be an anthropomorphic projection of human wishes onto the cosmos. In a cosmos without rules, it simply makes no sense to say that our remarkably lucky run of sunrises every day for the past 4.5 billion years should continue in future, and it would surely be very surprising if they did continue.

I hope you will also resist the temptation to answer: “It’s rational to believe that the cosmos behaves in a reliable fashion, because we wouldn’t be here if it didn’t.” That’s a perfectly good reason to believe that the cosmos has behaved reliably in the past, but it doesn’t constitute a reason for believing that it will behave reliably in the future.

Professor Carroll is a very busy man, and he hasn’t answered my question to date, although he was courteous enough to acknowledge my post in an email. So I would like to ask Professor Coyne the same question: how do you know that the Sun will rise tomorrow? To me, it really seems like an anthropomorphic projection. You desperately want the sun to rise tomorrow (don’t we all?), and as a scientist, you would like to say that you know it will (for if scientists don’t know that, then what do they know?) So you hang your hopes on the laws of Nature. But to me, trusting in a law of Nature sounds like a funny thing to do. If a law of Nature is a mere regularity, then there is no reason to trust it. To use an old example: every lump of gold out there in the cosmos has a volume of less than one cubic kilometer. That’s a regularity, if it’s true (which it probably is). However, we wouldn’t think for a minute of trusting it to hold. On the other hand, if a law of Nature is more than a mere regularity, then what is it? Does it have a normative content or not? And if it does, where does the norm come from, if not from a Mind?

As regards Professor Coyne’s second statement, I suppose he will try to justify it by appealing to the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It is certainly true that if I were accused of a crime, I’d like a trial. But I find it impossible to answer the question: “Would you like a trial, if you were a mass murderer?” because I find it very hard to put myself in a mass murderer’s shoes. Appealing to such an extreme counterfactual seems like a shaky justification to me.

What I think underlies Professor Coyne’s abhorrence of State-sanctioned murder – even the murder of mass murderers – is his deep-seated belief, which he perhaps has not even articulated to himself, that a person is somehow a sacred object, and that people do not lose their sacredness by doing bad things. A person’s a person, no matter how bad. I agree. Religious people know exactly what the word “sacred” means, of course. But how does Professor Coyne, an avowed secularist, claim to know that people are sacred in this way, and that their sacredness is inalienable? Why can’t it be forfeited? There’s only one answer I know: because we are made in the image and likeness of God. But Professor Coyne doesn’t believe in God. Or does he?

45 Replies to “Jerry’s challenge

  1. 1
    Mung says:

    OT: New posting by Douglas Axe at Biologic site:

    Correcting Four Misconceptions about my 2004 Article in JMB

  2. 2
    Mung says:

    Tell me exactly what ‘knowledge’ religion has provided that is not derivable from secular reason.

    I have no idea what secular reason is or how such a thing could possibly exist.

  3. 3
    paragwinn says:

    Mung,

    you cant conceive of a form of reasoning that is neutral in regards to religious presuppositions?

  4. 4
    nullasalus says:

    There is no “secular reason”. There is simply “reason”.

    It would probably be better to ask what Coyne means by “knowledge” and “reason” here before engaging him. Then again, the man’s not exactly a serious thinker, so why take him too seriously I suppose.

  5. 5
    Upright BiPed says:

    Whats Coynes problem with killing an ant from a different colony? Did evolution make a mistake?

  6. 6
    Upright BiPed says:

    Whats Coyne’s problem with killing an ant from a different colony? Did evolution make a mistake?

  7. 7
    Upright BiPed says:

    Perhaps he could repose Darwin’s “nobility” skit. After 150 years of arguments, the old girl could a little freshening. Besides, materialists have more rouge than Mary Kay.

  8. 8
    LarTanner says:

    I don’t know why Dr. Coyne would bother responding. My guess is that he’d say first that you do not actually answer his question directly (i.e., you dance around it) and second that neither statement you offer is one of “knowledge.”

  9. 9
    DrREC says:

    “I agree. Religious people know exactly what the word “sacred” means, of course. But how does Professor Coyne, an avowed secularist, claim to know that people are sacred in this way, and that their sacredness is inalienable? Why can’t it be forfeited? ”

    It is a historically curious thing to claim due process rights emerge from a notion of the sacred. How many centuries of Judeo-Christian society go without such a notion? Did Christian slaveowners know the sacredness of their property was inalienable?

    No, this is truly amazing revisionist thinking, taking a very recent political development and claiming it as some innate property of religiosity. Where was your inalienable sacredness for black persons prior to only a few decades ago? Where is it for Africans living under Christian dictators today?

  10. 10
    DrREC says:

    I could achieve the same ‘morality’ through property rights. The most fundamental property is oneself, not to be deprived without just cause, as judged by a trial of ones peers.

    Given the history of rights, and their emergence from a propertied class, this might be closer to the truth….

    And we have been pitifully slow to extend them to all….

    Property rights seem to trump ‘sacred’ personhood through most of history.

  11. 11
    Upright BiPed says:

    Let me get this right. Men act out of their genes without free will, and their lust is a testament there is no God?

    Okay, got it.

  12. 12
    nullasalus says:

    It is a historically curious thing to claim due process rights emerge from a notion of the sacred. How many centuries of Judeo-Christian society go without such a notion?

    Without the notion that humans are sacred and are intrinsically deserving of certain benevolent treatment? 0 centuries.

  13. 13
    DrREC says:

    nullasalus-

    Curious name. Am I damned? Perhaps my Latin fails me, but I think your name mean none are saved-that is, without the Roman Catholic Church. No?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E.....ulla_salus

    Interesting response-so the notion “humans are sacred and are intrinsically deserving of certain benevolent treatment” has been with us for millennia, but only executed in the last century? Hmm….some gap.

  14. 14
    nullasalus says:

    DrREC,

    Curious name. Am I damned? Perhaps my Latin fails me, but I think your name mean none are saved-that is, without the Roman Catholic Church. No?

    “Googling” does not mean you’re consulting “your latin”, and clearly you don’t know what even that Catholic quotation means in detail. Don’t worry, this is some ignorance you can keep – I’ll just leave it at “Wow, you’re hilarious wrong on this” and move on.

    Interesting response-so the notion “humans are sacred and are intrinsically deserving of certain benevolent treatment” has been with us for millennia, but only executed in the last century? Hmm….some gap.

    No, it’s been executed for far longer than that. Perfectly, even consistently? Absolutely not – we’re sinners all, and all that entails. But the idea that humanity is intrinsically valuable and deserving of particular consideration and respect? That is not new to Christianity. Note: The existence of slavery for a period of time does not suffice to disprove this.

    But keep on swinging. Frankly the Christian track record on even that question obliterates the atheist track record. But everyone knows that – they just don’t want to talk about it.

  15. 15
    DrREC says:

    ” Googling” does not mean you’re consulting “your latin”, and clearly you don’t know what even that Catholic quotation means in detail. Don’t worry, this is some ignorance you can keep – I’ll just leave it at “Wow, you’re hilarious wrong on this” and move on.”

    Hilarious wrong?

    Please, then explain:

    “Quare illi homines salvari non possent, qui Ecclesiam Catholicam a Deo per Iesum Christum ut necessariam esse conditam non ignorantes, tamen vel in eam intrare, vel in eadem perseverare noluerint.”

    From Vatican II. ” “They are not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it, or to remain in it.”

    I frankly find your name offensive, and your attempts to laugh it off ignore a lot of Church history. Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus got people burned.

    Maybe you’re just ignorant, and don’t know what nulla salus means to hard-line Catholics.

    Take Mel Gibson:
    http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/4224452

    “There is no salvation for those outside the Church,” Gibson replied. “I believe it.” He elaborated: “Put it this way. My wife is a saint. She’s a much better person than I am. Honestly. She’s, like, Episcopalian, Church of England. She prays, she believes in God, she knows Jesus, she believes in that stuff. And it’s just not fair if she doesn’t make it, she’s better than I am. But that is a pronouncement from the chair. I go with it.””

    A good summary of the doctrine.

    Ironic on a thread where you claim religiosity automatically conveys that “humanity is intrinsically valuable and deserving of particular consideration and respect.”

  16. 16
    nullasalus says:

    I frankly find your name offensive, and your attempts to laugh it off ignore a lot of Church history. Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus got people burned.

    I’m laughing off your offense too, and couldn’t care less what you find offensive – especially when it’s out of ignorance (Yeah, Vatican II was all about declaring all non-Catholics to be damned, you Google Scholar you.) You don’t know why I chose this handle, and your understanding of what qualifies as “inside the Church” is sorely lacking – complicated subject. But hey, good job on working in a quote from Mad freaking Max.

    Again: You’re offended? Suck it up.

  17. 17
    nullasalus says:

    Ironic on a thread where you claim religiosity automatically conveys that “humanity is intrinsically valuable and deserving of particular consideration and respect.”

    Yeah. I said nowhere that ‘religiosity conveys’ this. I said it’s been a belief, a followed one, of Christianity from the start. Again, a google scholar ain’t much of a scholar.

  18. 18
    Charles says:

    “Tell me exactly what ‘knowledge’ religion has provided that is not derivable from secular reason.”

    Christian ‘religion’ informs us that:
    – the universe had a beginning and a beginner
    – we have free will; our decisions (regardless of consequences) are cause and not effect
    – evil exists apart from and in opposition to good
    – there is life after death

    If the above are dismissed as illegitimate, nonexistant examples (i.e. myths), then obviously secular reasoning has not derived them, but commensurately, secular reasoning can offer no alternative derivations that explain the evidence, whereas religion does.

    Furthermore, knowledge derived from secular reasoning only discounts religious knowledge if secular reasoning derived it first. Otherwise, secular derivations after the fact merely confirm the correctness of knowledge provided earlier from religion. But for secular reasoning to lay claim to any derivation, it must do so either first or completely independent and without insight from earlier religious knowledge, i.e., secular reasoning must deduce *soley* from evidence or secular first principles.

    For example, for secular reasoning to derive that we have “free will”, the derivation must begin with what is “will”, where does the “will” reside, how does the “will” decide, how are its decisions known, and how are its decisions free from constraint (albeit not from consequence)? It is not a sufficient derivation to merely declare “nothing constrains my thoughts” because a mind that thinks, and thinks freely, is a concept whose immaterial premise also requires derivation from secular materialism.

  19. 19
    vjtorley says:

    Dr REC

    Thank you for your posts. You write:

    Where was your inalienable sacredness for black persons prior to only a few decades ago? Where is it for Africans living under Christian dictators today?

    You DO realize that the Catholic Church has had three African Popes, don’t you? See here: http://www.nbccongress.org/bla.....-popes.asp

    On salvation outside the Church, here is what Pope Pius IX said in Quanto Conficiamur Moerore, 150 years ago:

    There are, of course, those who are struggling with invincible ignorance about our most holy religion. Sincerely observing the natural law and its precepts inscribed by God on all hearts and ready to obey God, they live honest lives and are able to attain eternal life by the efficacious virtue of divine light and grace. Because God knows, searches and clearly understands the minds, hearts, thoughts, and nature of all, his supreme kindness and clemency do not permit anyone at all who is not guilty of deliberate sin to suffer eternal punishments.

    Pius IX clearly says that all those who are invincibly ignorant, and yet live upright lives ready to obey God, will be saved. God does not allow anyone who is not guilty of deliberate sin to suffer eternal punishment.

    Also, some of the Church Fathers stated that an explicit knowledge of Christ is not necessary in order to come into saving contact with him through faith, but that a more implicit knowledge can suffice. Thus St. Justin, basing himself upon the fact that all truth derives from Him who is the Truth, wrote that “those who lived according to reason are Christians, even though they were thought to be atheists… those who lived before Christ but did not live according to reason were wicked men, and enemies of Christ… whereas those who lived then or who live now according to reason are Christians” (First Apology, 46).

    An Eastern Orthodox bishop has expressed this doctrine as follows:

    Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. All the categorical strength and point of this aphorism lies in its tautology. Outside the Church there is no salvation, because salvation is the Church” (G. Florovsky, “Sobornost: the Catholicity of the Church”, in The Church of God, p. 53). Does it therefore follow that anyone who is not visibly within the Church is necessarily damned? Of course not; still less does it follow that everyone who is visibly within the Church is necessarily saved. As Augustine wisely remarked: “How many sheep there are without, how many wolves within!” (Homilies on John, 45, 12) While there is no division between a “visible” and an “invisible Church”, yet there may be members of the Church who are not visibly such, but whose membership is known to God alone. If anyone is saved, he must in some sense be a member of the Church; in what sense, we cannot always say. —Kallistos Ware

    Mel Gibson is not a theologian. His interpretation of the doctrine is more rigorous than the Church’s.

  20. 20
    NZer says:

    VJ, why did you quote Pius IX? IIRC a much more recent pope said all outside the Catholic faith, especially evangelicals, are lost.

  21. 21
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: VJT, pardon. The problem for OBL, is that “unarmed” is very hard to verify in an era of remote control detonators and suicide belts. Both, pioneered and perfected by Al Qaeda, led by that self-same OBL. A sad reality in a world that has got increasingly barbaric.

  22. 22
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N 2: In reply to the suggestion a bit above that Christianity promotes tyranny [a particularly venomous talking point of those whose system of thought is inherently and inescapably amoral and open to some very serious issues first raised on the record by Plato 2,350 years ago], I think we need to examine the corrective here, on the roots of modern liberty and democracy, such as you are unlikely to see in the usual evo mat, secular humanism dominated textbooks.

  23. 23
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N 3: Some of the above is so polarised that I will take exception to my main focus at UD [on science issues tied to the ID quesiton, cf here in context], and excerpt then comment on a remark by a far more august authority on the subject of salvation –in a key C1 work that was recently dismissed by a pol as “an obscure letter” [NOT] — and on who may access it:

    ______________

    >>Rom 2:4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

    6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality . . . .

    14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. [ESV] >>
    _______________

    In short, the principle is that salvation is in the death burial and resurrection of Christ, but this embraces those who have had no actual credible access to the gospel or to credible prophets or enscripturated revelation. (Think about where Abraham started, and how — in the midst of his struggles and stumbles — he found God and faith [= penitent trust in God] that led to salvation.)

    For, God has implanted in our hearts and minds enough evidence that points us to our duty to the truth and the right, and to the path of patient persistence in the good, even though we stumble. So to those who walk in the light according to the light they have, and who keep on seeking the right and the truth, our Heavenly Father waits with open arms.

    But, if we are self-willed, stubborn, resistant or dismissive or hostile to the truth and the right we do know or should know — by light of conscience guided common sense and reason, by word of God accredited prophets, oral or written, by the sign of the gospel and its supporting evidence, depending on what access we have — we have reason to expect to face a tear-filled disappointed (and if our attitude and deeds deserve it, wrathful) Father.

    This BTW, is why the word for repentance in the NT is metanoia, denoting in the first instance a change of mind.

    Let us therefore heed John Locke’s solemn advice in sect 5 of his intro to the essay on Human Understanding (yet another of those classic texts that we just don’t usually see):

    Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given them (as St. Peter says [NB: i.e. 2 Pet 1:2 – 4]) pana pros zoen kaieusebeian, whatsoever is necessary for the conveniences of life and information of virtue; and has put within the reach of their discovery, the comfortable provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better. How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments [Prov 1: 1 – 7], that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties [cf Rom 1 – 2 & 13, Ac 17, Jn 3:19 – 21, Eph 4:17 – 24, Isaiah 5:18 & 20 – 21, Jer. 2:13, Titus 2:11 – 14 etc, etc]. Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp everything . . . It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant [Matt 24:42 – 51], who would not attend his business by candle light, to plead that he had not broad sunshine. The Candle that is set up in us [Prov 20:27] shines bright enough for all our purposes . . . If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly. [Text references added to document the sources of Locke’s allusions and citations.]

    Please, please, please . . .

    GEM of TKI

  24. 24
    tjm says:

    “I have no idea what secular reason is or how such a thing could possibly exist.”

    Mung, I agree with you. Secular reason is an impossibility in the truest sense.

    Reasoning requires premises: axioms or truths taken for granted. Naturalism has no basis for determining these axioms/truths which are a necessary foundation for their reasoning.

    Taken from creation-evolution headlines:

    http://creationsafaris.com/cre.....#20110227a

    “Atheists may do science, but they cannot justify what they do. When they assume the world is rational, approachable, and understandable, they plagiarize Judeo-Christian presuppositions about the nature of reality and the moral need to seek the truth.
    As an exercise, try generating a philosophy of science from hydrogen coming out of the big bang. It cannot be done. It’s impossible even in principle, because philosophy and science presuppose concepts that are not composed of particles and forces. They refer to ideas that must be true, universal, necessary and certain.
    It’s time science gets back to the beginning of wisdom. You can help by rapping a scientist’s knuckles every time he steals from the Christian smorgasbord of presuppositions. While bandaging his knuckles, encourage him with the upside of a scientific revolution based on the Bible: it makes genuine scientific knowledge, if not exhaustive, at least possible.”

  25. 25
    bornagain77 says:

    tjm – I’m plagiarizing the quote you plagiarized 🙂

    John Cleese – The Scientists – humorous video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-M-vnmejwXo

  26. 26
    vjtorley says:

    kairosfocus (#20)

    You make an excellent point. I suppose it must be very hard to verify whether a terrorist is carrying a remote control detonator or wearing a suicide belt. Since I have never served in the military and know very little about modern warfare, I couched my statement about Osama bin Laden hypothetically: “he should have also gotten a trial, if it was possible to capture him alive.” Some years ago, I believe Russian forces pumped fentanyl into the ventilation system, to end the Moscow theater hostage crisis . I don’t know whether that would have worked in this case. Anyway, the point of my illustration was simply to show that Professor Jerry Coyne has deep-seated intuitions about persons that are not derivable from secular reason.

  27. 27
    Puragu says:

    A good example would be the traditional Christian/ Catholic teaching against pre-marital sex and against marriage infidelity. Had this teaching been adhered to, we would not have HIV, Syphilis, rectal and cervical cancer and other STDs and their sequelae. At one stage secular thought advocated ‘safe’ sex by mere condom distribution. It however appears that despite increasing condom use and distribution the rate of HIV acquisition in places like Sub-Saharan Africa has not decreased. The problem lies in the fact that people tend to use condoms less the longer they’re in relationships. Condoms alone are not a certifier of ‘safe’ sex and that concept is being surpassed by the concept of ‘safER sex’.
    Furthermore the more sex partners one has concurrently, the higher the risk of spread of HIV among them – vs cases of serial monogamy.
    Behaviour modification is therefore important and not mere quick band aid stop gap measures such as massive dumping of condoms and assuring people they’ll be ok as long as they just wear one.
    In each case Christian teaching was correct, ahead of the secular curve. In fact as said, had Christian teaching been adhered to on a significant scale, we would not have HIV, Syphilis, HPV induced rectal and cervical cancer and other STDs right now, and billions of lives would be saved from premature death, suffering and disability.

    As another example we could cite could be the Catholic teaching against gluttony and sloth. Both lead to diseases such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, gout, osteoarthritis, depression, coronary artery disease, stroke etc.

  28. 28
    vjtorley says:

    Hi everyone,

    Well, I see Professor Coyne has responded to my post with a sunrise photo of his own:

    http://whyevolutionistrue.word.....-michigan/

    I have to admit it’s a nicer photo than mine.

    tjm (#23)

    I really liked this quote of yours:

    Atheists may do science, but they cannot justify what they do. When they assume the world is rational, approachable, and understandable, they plagiarize Judeo-Christian presuppositions about the nature of reality and the moral need to seek the truth.

    Precisely.

    NZer (#19)

    Thank you for your post. I think your memory is mistaken. There was a Boston priest named Fr. Leonard Feeney who upheld a position similar to the one you describe, but he was excommunicated by Pope Pius XII. See http://www.romancatholicism.or.....ations.htm

    kairosfocus (#22)

    I very much appreciate your post, which is filled with more wisdom than anything I could have written, especially the following:

    But, if we are self-willed, stubborn, resistant or dismissive or hostile to the truth and the right we do know or should know — by light of conscience guided common sense and reason, by word of God accredited prophets, oral or written, by the sign of the gospel and its supporting evidence, depending on what access we have — we have reason to expect to face a tear-filled disappointed (and if our attitude and deeds deserve it, wrathful) Father.

    Thanks again.

  29. 29

    Unlike Professor Carroll, who is a very busy man, Coyne has plenty of time to look for a nice picture and answer your query!

    Who’s paying his salary as a full-time professor???

  30. 30
    Mung says:

    Mung @2

    I have no idea what secular reason is or how such a thing could possibly exist.

    paragwinn @3

    …you cant conceive of a form of reasoning that is neutral in regards to religious presuppositions?

    No, I can’t. That pretty much sums up the point of my post.

    I’m willing to listen to what such a form of reasoning might look like, what sort of propositions it might consist of.

    But even calling it a “form of reasoning” rather gives away the store, no?

  31. 31
    Collin says:

    Yes, adding the word secular in front of reasoning only inhibits reasoning a priori.

    Here’s a statement:

    “It is objectively morally wrong to : (fill in the blank).” No non-believer (in at least something transcendant) can make that statement honestly.

  32. 32
    kairosfocus says:

    Dr Torley:

    Glad to be of help.

    We need to know that when Jesus stood before the tomb of Lazarus weeping, the sense of the text, according to exegetes, is that he was not only grieved but angry.

    Angry at what a broken world means, and he did something about it right there and then; knowing full well that a few days later he would pay a price for that, at horrific cost.

    But, in love, he willingly did.

    And, therein lies the hinge of hope for history.

    Oh, that we would but listen and respond.

    GEM of TKI

  33. 33
    kairosfocus says:

    Collin:

    Dead right.

    G

  34. 34
    DonaldM says:

    Both Hitchen’s “challenge” and Coyne’s are completely misguided and frankly, pointless, except as they illustrate the real problem atheists have in assuming such a thing as objective moral/ethical values (as Collin pointed out). However, the two challenges are slightly different in what they are assuming. Hitchen’s challenge assumes that there are such things as ethical statements, and that these statements are meaningful from a moral point of view. That only makes sense if (and ONLY if) there is such a thing as objective moral values. But that is the very thing that Hitchens, as an atheists does not accept. So what, exactly, is the basis of the “challenge”? Or, more precisely, what exactly is it that he thinks he is challenging? As a theist (and Christian) I do NOT claim that atheists can be and most ARE people that live moral and ethical lives. That is simply not the issue. The issue is from whence are these moral values derived and why ought we obey them? Of course there isn’t any ethical statement that a religious person can make that an atheist could not also make. But all that proves is that the probability that there are such things as objective moral values is pretty high – the very thing Hitchens, as an atheist, must deny. So to his challenge I say…so what?

    Coyne, on the other hand, isn’t challenging the existence of moral values, but knowledge itself. He appeals to reason, with the modifier “secular”. Is “secular” reasoning somehow different from “religious” reasoning? Are there different rules of logic involved here? Coyne would have a pretty tough time showing that! But, like Hitchens, he sneaks in a presuppposition: that our reason, which in turn is derived from the deliverences of our cognative faculties, has the ability to give true beliefs. This is the essence of Alvin Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism. How does Coyne know this? As an atheist, there is no way he can say that he actually does…so exactly what is it that he thinks he is challenging with his “challenge”? Like Hitchens, he’s got the larger problem.

    If this is the best they have to offer in the way of “challenges” these days, then the foundations of atheism are crumbling to dust in a hurry!

  35. 35
    DonaldM says:

    Ooops…bad typo above: I said “I do NOT claim that atheists can be and most ARE people that live moral and ethical lives.”…what I MEANT to say is: “I do NOT claim that atheists can NOT be people that are and that live moral and ethical lives”. My bad! Apologies to any atheists…

  36. 36
    myname says:

    Jerry Coyne’s challenge is NOT

    what ‘knowledge’ God has provided

    but

    what ‘knowledge’ religion has provided.

    I think what he means is that what might become clearer in my reformulation:

    How can religion demonstrably distinguish between the validity of competing hypothesis in a way that the scientific method can not?

  37. 37
    kairosfocus says:

    MN:

    Pardon, but you are applying to the wrong province of scholarship for your answers.

    Both religion and science answer to the issues in epistemology on evidence of matters of fact and inference to best explanation regarding those facts. The root discipline on what we mean when we claim to know, and what criteria warrant that claim on fact claims and related explanations or models — whether in the courtroom or in science or theology or history, makes little difference for that [the methods and issues cannot be neatly sliced apart, e.g. many key scientific results are based on study of records or reports [e.g. peer reviewed journal articles are in large part recorded reports of findings of fact and linked analyses attested by hopefully independent and expert witnesses], which are historical documents amenable to forensic methods] — is therefore philosophy, of which epistemology is a major branch.

    And, the everyday discipline that has worked out the best cluster of practical tested rules of thumb for discerning credible facts from likely falsehoods is law. Greenleaf, here is a classic. read the PDF, as it is the clearest presentation of this heavily footnoted classic; NB: very fat download.

    I suggest you look here and here, for a start. (And here too, to see a highly relevant case in point. On science, cf here, noting especially Newton’s 1704 remarks in his Opticks, Query 31, which is the classic presentation of the summary “scientific method” — insofar as a common method is definable; and on its inescapable limitations.)

    GEM of TKI

  38. 38
    kairosfocus says:

    OOPS: Greeneaf on Evidence vol I at Gutenberg. (Pardon how it is only now I cite this, it has taken some significant searching to track this down.)

  39. 39
    Mung says:

    How can religion demonstrably distinguish between the validity of competing hypothesis in a way that the scientific method can not?

    This question makes no sense.

    Define “religion.”

    Religion does not distinguish, people do. IMO, religious people distinguish in very much the same way as non-religious people.

    Now say you were to ask:

    How can a person demonstrably distinguish between the validity of competing hypothesis using the religulous method in a way that the scientific method can not?

    Religulosity isn’t a “method” for making distinctions between competing hypotheses.

  40. 40
    myname says:

    Religulosity isn’t a “method” for making distinctions between competing hypotheses.

    Then religion does not produce knowledge (which is fine) since the only way to produce knowledge is to distinguish between the validity of competing hypotheses.

  41. 41
    bornagain77 says:

    ‘How can religion demonstrably distinguish between the validity of competing hypothesis in a way that the scientific method can not?’

    Well let’s see what the scientific method itself says about comparing these ‘competing hypothesis’ of ‘religion’ and ‘non-religion’

    The materialistic and Theistic philosophy make, and have made, several natural contradictory predictions about what evidence we will find. These predictions, and the evidence we have found, can be tested against one another within the scientific method.

    Steps of the Scientific Method
    http://www.sciencebuddies.org/.....thod.shtml

    For a quick ‘rough’ overview, here are a few:

    1.Materialism predicted an eternal universe, Theism predicted a created universe. – Big Bang points to a creation event. –

    2. Materialism predicted time had an infinite past, Theism predicted time had a creation. – Time was created in the Big Bang. –

    3. Materialism predicted space has always existed, Theism predicted space had a creation (Psalm 89:12) – Space was created in the Big Bang. –

    4. Materialism predicted that material has always existed, Theism predicted ‘material’ was created. – ‘Material’ was created in the Big Bang.

    5. Materialism predicted at the base of physical reality would be a solid indestructible material particle which rigidly obeyed the rules of time and space, Theism predicted the basis of this reality was created by a infinitely powerful and transcendent Being who is not limited by time and space – Quantum mechanics reveals a wave/particle duality for the basis of our reality which blatantly defies our concepts of time and space. –

    6. Materialism predicted the rate at which time passed was constant everywhere in the universe, Theism predicted God is eternal and is outside of time – Special Relativity has shown that time, as we understand it, is relative and comes to a complete stop at the speed of light. (Psalm 90:4 – 2 Timothy 1:9)-

    7. Materialism predicted the universe did not have life in mind and life was ultimately an accident of time and chance. Theism predicted this universe was purposely created by God with man in mind – Every transcendent universal constant scientists can measure is exquisitely fine-tuned for carbon-based life to exist in this universe. –

    8. Materialism predicted complex life in this universe should be fairly common. Theism predicted the earth is extremely unique in this universe – Statistical analysis of the hundreds of required parameters which enable complex life to be possible on earth gives strong indication the earth is extremely unique in this universe. –

    9. Materialism predicted much of the DNA code was junk. Theism predicted we are fearfully and wonderfully made – ENCODE research into the DNA has revealed a “biological jungle deeper, denser, and more difficult to penetrate than anyone imagined.”. –

    10. Materialism predicted a extremely beneficial and flexible mutation rate for DNA which was ultimately responsible for all the diversity and complexity of life we see on earth. Theism predicted only God created life on earth – The mutation rate to DNA is overwhelmingly detrimental. Detrimental to such a point that it is seriously questioned whether there are any truly beneficial mutations whatsoever. (M. Behe; JC Sanford) –

    11. Materialism predicted a very simple first life form which accidentally came from “a warm little pond”. Theism predicted God created life – The simplest life ever found on Earth is far more complex than any machine man has made through concerted effort. (Michael Denton PhD) –

    12. Materialism predicted it took a very long time for life to develop on earth. Theism predicted life to appear abruptly on earth after water appeared on earth (Genesis 1:10-11) – We find evidence for complex photo-synthetic life in the oldest sedimentary rocks ever found on earth –

    13. Materialism predicted the gradual unfolding of life to be self-evident in the fossil record. Theism predicted complex and diverse life to appear abruptly in the seas in God’s fifth day of creation. – The Cambrian Explosion shows a sudden appearance of many different and completely unique fossils within a very short “geologic resolution time” in the Cambrian seas. –

    14. Materialism predicted there should be numerous transitional fossils found in the fossil record, Theism predicted sudden appearance and rapid diversity within different kinds found in the fossil record – Fossils are consistently characterized by sudden appearance of a group/kind in the fossil record, then rapid diversity within the group/kind, and then long term stability and even deterioration of variety within the overall group/kind, and within the specific species of the kind, over long periods of time. Of the few dozen or so fossils claimed as transitional, not one is uncontested as a true example of transition between major animal forms out of millions of collected fossils. –

    15. Materialism predicted animal speciation should happen on a somewhat constant basis on earth. Theism predicted man was the last species created on earth – Man himself is the last generally accepted major fossil form to have suddenly appeared in the fossil record. –

    As you can see when we remove the artificial imposition of the materialistic philosophy, from the scientific method, and look carefully at the predictions of both the materialistic philosophy and the Theistic philosophy, side by side, we find the scientific method is very good at pointing us very strongly in the direction of Theism as the true explanation. – In fact it is even very good at pointing us in the direction of Christianity:

    General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Entropy & the Shroud Of Turin – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5070355

    Last, but certainly not least, as a Christian I would be very remiss if I failed to ask you to accept the free gift of eternal life from the living God who created this universe and all life in it. In fact, almighty God has made a very clear path for us “fallen human adults” to completely reconcile with Him so we may be able to stand before Him in heaven. We do this by humbly accepting what He has done for us through Christ on the cross so that we may be able to stand in the glory of the presence of almighty God in heaven (For our God is an all-consuming fire – Hebrews 12:29). In fact by accepting Christ into your heart, you will be cleansed spotless of your sins in the presence of almighty God. So how about it, Will you accept this priceless gift of Jesus Christ into your heart today so you may able to receive the priceless gift of eternal life in heaven? —

    Revelation 3:20
    ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.’

    My Beloved One – music video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4200171

    John 3:16
    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

    The Disciples – How They Died – Would A Man Die For Something He Knew Was A Lie? – music video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4193404

    ———————————————————————————————————————-

    Evanescence – “Bring Me To Life” – Video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YxaaGgTQYM

    Wake Me O Lord

    Wake me O Lord from this sleep of mine
    To the living wonders of creation that are so fine
    With a “Oh, that’s nice” I shall not content
    NO, only when You speak shall my heart be spent
    Others may suffice their cravings of Awe
    With an “Oh Well” shrug of the wonders they saw
    But I know You are in each piece of reality
    Yes, in the wind, the stars, and even the sea
    So this vow to You I make
    No rest in me my heart will take
    Till Your face and hands again I see
    In the many waters of reality
    For the truth be known to You indeed
    That if I see You not with my heart and head
    I’m not really born again, but instead am dead

    ——————-

  42. 42
    CannuckianYankee says:

    myname,

    “Then religion does not produce knowledge (which is fine) since the only way to produce knowledge is to distinguish between the validity of competing hypotheses.”

    I agree, but with religion and knowledge it’s the other way around. Knowledge is intended to produce religion. True religion. In religion there are competing hypotheses as well.

  43. 43
    Mung says:

    Then religion does not produce knowledge (which is fine) since the only way to produce knowledge is to distinguish between the validity of competing hypotheses.

    I disagree. I didn’t say anything about religion.

    Here’s what I said:

    Religulosity isn’t a “method” for making distinctions between competing hypotheses.

    Then religion does not produce knowledge…
    For the second time now, define “religion.”

    …the only way to produce knowledge is to distinguish between the validity of competing hypotheses.

    Sez who? You?

    …the only way to produce knowledge is to distinguish between the validity of competing hypotheses.

    And you arrived at this knowledge by distinguishing between which competing hypotheses?

    YAAF.

  44. 44
    myname says:

    @ Mung

    If you accept one hypothesis you at least implicitly reject the negation of that hypothesis.

  45. 45
    kairosfocus says:

    MN:

    The world of knowledge and warrant is much bigger than clashes between competing hypotheses.

    Before you can get to competing hypotheses, for instance, you need to address self evident first principles of right reason.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: And in fact the real issue is that to accept a given proposition, on self-evident first principles of right reason, you imply denial of its negation. That is, the principle of non-contradiction: NOT(A AND NOT_A)

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