Intelligent Design

Over at WEIT, reader Ben Goren asks: “Why doesn’t Jesus call 911?”

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Over at Why Evolution Is True, New Atheist Professor Jerry Coyne has posted a letter he received from one of his regular readers, Ben Goren, regarding a major theological flaw which (he claims) undermines not only Christianity, but any religion that worships a God (or gods) who is both omniscient and good: why doesn’t such a being (or beings) assist the police, firefighters and ambulance workers by calling 911 whenever someone is in danger? Goren writes:

Imagine you find yourself in one of any number of calamitous situations — somebody you’re with clutches her chest in pain and falls to the floor; you hear, coming from the far end of a dark alley, the voice of a frightened old man crying for help; a tree falls as you’re driving down a lonely road, missing you but smashing the car following you.

In all such cases, the very first thing you — or anybody else — would do is call 9-1-1…

Now, imagine that it’s not just a single incident you observed and yet stood silently by, but every such case everywhere. Never mind the fact that you’d be a pervert for looking in everybody’s bedroom windows, but to look in a bedroom window, see a lit cigarette fall from sleepy fingers and catch the curtains on fire and then not call 9-1-1 to get the firefighters on the scene before the baby in the crib burns to death in uncomprehending screaming agony, well, that would go unimaginably far beyond mere perversion and move solidly into the worst brand of criminal psychopathy…

And that, at last, brings us to the question that nobody from any religion can satisfactorily answer — at least, not if at least one of its gods (however many there are) has enough awareness and ability to answer the simplest of prayers — or, for that matter, merely has a cellphone and the compassionate instincts of even a young child.

Why doesn’t Jesus ever call 9-1-1?

Goren is not impressed with theologians who respond by making “obfuscatory excuses” and by raising “obscure questions of ‘freedom of the will’ or placing the blame on an ancient ancestral maternal progenitor who procured culinary counseling from a speaking serpent.” Still less is he impressed by the claim that God dispenses justice in the hereafter – “as if post-mortem divine retribution is of any help to the person bleeding out by the side of the road after running into a falling tree, or of any comfort to the umpteenth victim of a serial criminal who enjoys continued success despite the desperate efforts of investigators hoping for a lead or even the slightest hint of a clue.”

Goren is particularly incensed at crimes committed by religious leaders against innocent members of their own flock – for instance, crimes such as child abuse. Goren expresses his astonishment at the fact that “not once in all of history has any deity ever alerted any civil authority to the misdeeds of one of its official representatives.” Crimes such as clerical child abuse, which are committed by God’s “official representatives,” would surely warrant a Divine telephone call to emergency assistance, argues Goren.

In this short post, I’m not going to put forward an answer to Ben Goren’s question: why doesn’t Jesus (or God) call 911? Instead, I’d like to identify a few background assumptions that Goren makes, in his argument. Remember that if even one of these assumptions turns put to be incorrect, then Goren’s argument collapses:

(i) the assumption that God’s responsibility to assist innocent human beings who are in distress is the same as (if not greater than) that of a passerby who happens to see them in distress and who hears their cries for help;

(ii) the assumption that, if God is responsible for alerting 9-1-1 whenever innocent people are in distress, He is directly responsible, and that He cannot delegate this responsibility to some lesser intelligence, such as an angel;

(iii) the assumption that God has no higher obligations towards the human race as a whole, which might conflict with, and over-ride, His obligation to assist individuals in distress;

(iv) the assumption that there are no “privileged members” of the human race who have the prerogative of deciding, on behalf of humanity as a whole, whether (and to what degree) God should offer assistance to individuals in distress who call upon his name for help;

(v) the assumption that anyone – in particular, anyone on 911 – would be capable of hearing the voice of God, if He wanted to leave an important message for them.

Finally, here are a few brief comments of mine regarding these “background assumptions” that Goren makes:

(i) God is not a mere passerby, but the very Author of our being. On the one hand, this fact increases His obligation towards individuals in distress: since He is all-good, all-knowing and all-powerful, God is obliged to dispense perfect justice. But on the other hand, the fact that God maintains everyone – good and bad alike – in existence may also prevent Him from dispensing justice now. (Think of the parable of the wheat and the tares.) Goren has not explained why a supernatural Deity with perfect knowledge, love and power, would be obliged to help each suffering individual right away. As far as I can tell, the only obligation that God has towards suffering individuals here and now is the obligation not to allow them to suffer irreparable harm. However, we should always bear in mind that what appears to be “irreparable damage” to us, may not appear so to God;

(ii) if God has delegated the responsibility for alerting 9-1-1 whenever innocent people are in distress to some angel (or some other super-human intelligence), then we have to consider the possibility that this intelligence – call it Lucifer if you like – has “gone rogue” and is working to sabotage God’s original plan;

(iii) if God’s always alerting 9-1-1 whenever someone is in distress would interfere with the moral development of the human race as a whole (e.g. by making them apathetic about assisting crime victims, leading to a hardening of people’s hearts towards suffering individuals), then it is at least arguable that God’s obligation not to hinder the moral development of the human race as a whole would over-ride His obligation to help those individuals who are in distress;

(iv) it is entirely possible that God, after revealing His existence to the first human beings at the dawn of human history, then asked them, as representatives of the human race as a whole, how much Divine assistance they would like to receive in the future. And it is entirely possible that these “privileged” human beings opted for little or no Divine intervention, thinking that it would give them more personal freedom and enable them to escape from the suffocating embrace (as they saw it) of a Deity Who loved them too much. It’s also entirely possible that God may have promised to comply with their decision, which would “tie His hands” until the end of human history, insofar as He cannot break a promise;

(v) finally, it may turn out to be the case that our ability to hear a message from God depends on our spiritual condition, and that bad or spiritually lukewarm people are simply incapable of hearing detailed 911 messages from the Almighty, due to their poor relationship with God. In that case, it would be our fault, not God’s, that we don’t receive 911 calls from Him, about individuals in distress.

Well, that’s about all I want to say, in response to Ben Goren’s question. The ball is now in his court.

Meanwhile, what do readers think?

385 Replies to “Over at WEIT, reader Ben Goren asks: “Why doesn’t Jesus call 911?”

  1. 1
    daveS says:

    (iv) the assumption that there are no “privileged members” of the human race who have the prerogative of deciding, on behalf of humanity as a whole, whether (and to what degree) God should offer assistance to individuals in distress who call upon his name for help;

    Is that not a reasonable assumption? Maybe it’s the fact that I attend a Protestant church that makes the idea of such “privileged members” seem very strange. (To be clear, I am an atheist).

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    semi related. I was impressed with this sermon from pastor Tim Keller last night as I listened to it. But then again many of his sermons are very good. I have come to respect him as one of the best pastors of our day.

    Tim Keller – The Terrifying and Beckoning God – sermon
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6tnnU_wUi8

  3. 3
    lpadron says:

    Another in a long line of “God should do what I would do…maybe” objections.

  4. 4
    ppolish says:

    Whiny Atheists need to HTFU. If you want to live in a perfect world, you have to earn it. Salvation of the Fittest grrrr.

    “Why doesn’t Jesus call 911 waaaa”. What an ingrate.

  5. 5
    DennisM says:

    I suggest one more assumption overlooked by Mr Goren, i.e., that God may already be intervening in many ways of which we are unaware. We may be seeing only unavoidable situations in which competing priorities make God’s intervention unwise, and even in those God may be working to lessen the blow.

  6. 6
    Axel says:

    Just another garbled rehash of the theodicy complaint.

    Here’s another insightful article by Mark Shea not without relevance to this thread:

    http://www.ncregister.com/blog.....happiness/

  7. 7
    Sebestyen says:

    You missed his key assumption which is that God actually never called 911.

    How could anyone tell if an anonymous caller wasn’t an angel or a human calling on God’s request/command or even God himself. Even if he’d mention his name the callee’d hardly take that serious, so there really is no reliable data to base that assumption on.

    Sebestyen

  8. 8
    Seversky says:

    Over at Why Evolution Is True, New Atheist Professor Jerry Coyne has posted a letter he received from one of his regular readers, Ben Goren, regarding a major theological flaw which (he claims) undermines not only Christianity, but any religion that worships a God (or gods) who is both omniscient and good: why doesn’t such a being (or beings) assist the police, firefighters and ambulance workers by calling 911 whenever someone is in danger?

    What would be the point? If they are omniscient, any such deity would already know what was going to happen. In fact they would have known since the beginning of time so they could have sent a message by carrier pigeon or a letter or an email alerting the emergency services well in advance if they’d wanted to. The question, as always, is, if such a being or beings exist, why didn’t they want to?

    And has no one noticed that the reason apologetics are such a thriving field in Christian scholarship is because there is so much in Christian theology that demands explanation and justification. In other words, for a perfect and omniscient being, God has apparently done a very poor job of communicating His intentions, beliefs and rationales.

  9. 9
    scottH says:

    Or we have done a poor job at listening and understanding what they are. Why does a perfect and omniscient being “need” to be more obvious. What is obvious enough? Just another “I wouldn’t do it that way, therefore God doesn’t exist”. Placing expectations on something one doesn’t believe must be difficult. Seems to me there is plenty of evidence, and God does do enough, not always in ways we understand or would like. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist.
    If someone is going to argue against the existence of God, do better than “I wouldn’t do it that way”. Pretty arrogant way of thinking. At least use an argument that is difficult to understand, say evil in the world.

  10. 10
    tjguy says:

    Dennis says:

    I suggest one more assumption overlooked by Mr Goren, i.e., that God may already be intervening in many ways of which we are unaware. We may be seeing only unavoidable situations in which competing priorities make God’s intervention unwise, and even in those God may be working to lessen the blow.

    Exactly what I was thinking Dennis! Besides, why would God need to call 911?

    After all, He is God! He could save the person with a miracle if He so chose. Sometimes He works through humans – often times – but sometimes He alters the weather, supernaturally protects, helps people in trouble make the right choice by giving wisdom, or who knows what else!

    Recently, I read a very interesting story about how God intervened to save George Washington and the Revolutionary Army at one point in the war when they were trapped on an island. The skeptic will say it was just coincidence – he’s welcome to his opinion – but General Washington knew it was God answering their prayers.

    Here was what Washington wrote after that supernatural deliverance:

    Washington wrote later that year, Aug. 20, 1778: “Undergoing the strangest vicissitudes that perhaps ever attended any one contest since the creation … the Hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this – the course of the war – that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith. … But it will be time enough for me to turn Preacher when my present appointment ceases.”

    You can read about the incident here:
    http://www.americanminute.com/index.php?date=08-27

    Goren’s argument is simply another version of the “God can’t be both good and all powerful if He allows so much suffering in the world” argument.

    The other thing to remember here is that we often clearly see the instances when God does not deliver people from trouble, pain, and suffering. But I don’t think we are often aware of the times He does protect us. If God were to protect you from an accident by inspiring you to take a different route to work one day, would you ever know that? Sometimes His protection is clearly visible as in George Washington’s case, but other times we are protected without ever even being aware of it.

    Goren and his skeptic friends have a very man centered view of God – as if His sole reason for existing is to make man’s life comfortable and smooth. If so, then his conclusion that “God” does not exist is accurate!

    The existence of great suffering in the world is not an easy one to understand and I don’t pretend to be God or to be able to explain it all, but like Job, a man in the midst of dire suffering, said in response to his wife who wanted him to curse God and die, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (meaning not moral evil of course, but trials.)

    Goren speaks as one of the foolish scoffers would speak. He doesn’t understand who God is and he tries to defame him by painting Him to be someone He is not.

    Anyway, why would God, the Creator of the universe, need to call 911? A silly thought! There are any number of ways He works to save people, but those are not good enough for this guy. If God doesn’t do it his way, and if God doesn’t help everyone all the time, then well, the obvious conclusion for this guy is that He doesn’t exist.

    Everyone is welcome to their own opinion, Goren included, but many of us see things differently. We do not answer to him, but to God. If our answers/opinions/beliefs do not satisfy him, so be it. His opinions/answers/beliefs as a skeptic in defending his worldview do not satisfy us either.

  11. 11
    Mapou says:

    The anti-God crowd want a universe where there is no suffering, just pleasure. Everything should be easy and never hard. Coyne’s God would never have created pain sensors, only pleasure sensors.

    The problem is that we live in a Yin Yang universe and there is no way around it. You can’t have Yin without Yang. Not even an all-powerful God could create just a Yin or a Yang universe. This is the lesson Yahweh wants us to learn but Jerry Coyne et al cannot learn this lesson because they are forever crybabies, a bunch of wussies, really.

    Yahweh, too, must have gone through his share of suffering over the eons. There is no escaping this. We, humans, are being initiated into the company of Gods.

  12. 12
    Mapou says:

    Seversky:

    What would be the point? If they are omniscient, any such deity would already know what was going to happen. In fact they would have known since the beginning of time so they could have sent a message by carrier pigeon or a letter or an email alerting the emergency services well in advance if they’d wanted to. The question, as always, is, if such a being or beings exist, why didn’t they want to?

    This is an excellent question that most Christians cannot answer because they are taught to believe in an omnipotent and omniscient God. But it’s a heresy and a form of idolatry IMO, i.e., the work of the devil. Such a God cannot possibly exist and the concept if falsified in the Bible. It’s a concept that was introduced to Christianity by Catholic medieval thinkers in those days when they had serious discussions about the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin.

  13. 13
    EDTA says:

    Seversky @ 8:

    …for a perfect and omniscient being, God has apparently done a very poor job of communicating His intentions, beliefs and rationales.

    This makes the assumption that God’s intentions, beliefs and rationales are fully comprehensible to us. That is a huge assumption on which many atheist arguments rest, but one for which there is no justification at all. In fact, if there is (merely) a _superior_ being, then it would have to be the case that some things known to Him are beyond our ability to comprehend.

    As an analogy, a 3-year old does not understand why they have to get a shot at the doctor’s office. In fact, they are not yet capable of fully comprehending why it is necessary. But it is necessary. All they know is that it will hurt.

    I can see one quick argument coming my way at this point: “But we (humanity) have done a pretty good job of understanding things so far!” How do you know that? How could you possibly prove that you (or all humanity, or at least one individual) have comprehended everything we’ve encountered so far? Not epistemically possible.

    People who argue against God always assume (always as a suppressed premise, I’ve found) that we would be capable of comprehending absolutely everything and anything that might be the case. Human hubris at its most extensive!

    Sorry. All arguments that depend on this assumption fail.

  14. 14
    Robert Byers says:

    Jesus was the 911 answer. It was a big call.
    Also God is always stopping problems. He just can’t stop them all because of the problem that led to Jesus being the 911 answer.
    Its an equation.

  15. 15
    Mung says:

    Jesus doesn’t call 911 because he is on the main line. Duh.

  16. 16
    JDH says:

    Ben Goren makes the same mistake all believers in the “God can not be all good and all powerful if suffering exists…” fallacy.

    Ben is a time bound being and he can’t know the final outcome. How can he tell when temporal suffering is good and when it is bad. He can’t. For to make an accurate adjudication would require him to be eternal in time.

    To prove this I will appeal to some common sense that I know is held to by every person by how they behave.

    The behavior of all people shows that they will take onto themselves suffering for a greater good.

    So people choose to work, choose to exercise, choose to practice music, choose to go to school… they choose to do any number of (at the time) painful things in order to gain more at the end.

    This behavior is so universal it is found in every society. The concept and practice of suffering now to achieve a greater good later is universal.

    So why should someone like Ben Goren be surprised that the all powerful and all good God allows suffering to happen so that a greater good may be achieved. After all, God allowed His Son to withstand the true agony of the cross, that He might deliver all from the penalty of sin.

    These are truths that Ben Goren is willingly ignorant of. I heartily invite Mr. Goren to drop his willing ignorance and believe the truth.

  17. 17
    Mapou says:

    An omniscient being cannot change his mind. He is impotent to do so because he knows what he’s going to do in advance. If he changes his mind and does something else, then he’s not omniscient.

    Think about it. Omniscience is an illogical concept. So is omnipotence but that’s a different topic.

  18. 18
    Roy says:

    Because he’s Jewish and the emergency numbers in Israel are different.

  19. 19
    Virgil Cain says:

    I was taught that the point of suffering and evil was to see how people responded to it- as a show of character of sorts.

  20. 20
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: A 101 on the challenge of evil, per Boethius, Zacharias and Plantinga, with a bit of Plato tossed in too: http://nicenesystheol.blogspot.....u2_gdvsevl KF

  21. 21
    Seversky says:

    Virgil Cain @ 10

    I was taught that the point of suffering and evil was to see how people responded to it- as a show of character of sorts.

    That’s what I was taught but it doesnn’t make any sense.

    We run tests like that because we don’t know for sure what the outcome is going to be. If we did we wouldn’t do the experiment because there’d be no need.

    God is supposed to be omniscient. That means he already knows the outcome of any experiment we can think of – and that includes how people respond to suffering and evil.

    That explanation of why there is suffering and evil simply doesn’t work if God is omniscient.

  22. 22
    Virgil Cain says:

    Seversky:

    That’s what I was taught but it doesnn’t make any sense.

    It makes perfect sense.

    God is supposed to be omniscient.

    God is not beholden to our definitions. Also God would know ALL possible outcomes with free will providing the contingency. Nothing is set in stone.

  23. 23
    Mapou says:

    Folks, I’m neither atheist nor materialist but Seversky is correct about this omniscience thing. It’s all silly crackpottery from people who have not thought it through or are just dogmatic believers who are set in their ways.

    We, too, are Gods and were made in the image of the Gods. So says the Bible (just in case you are Christian). Human civilization will steadily increase in knowledge for eons until we become just as knowledgeable as the original Gods who created the universe. We’re just babes in training for now. Besides, there isn’t an incomprehensible logic for the immortal Gods and a lesser logic for us mortals. That’s ridiculous. Logic is logic.

    One more thing. An omnipotent and omniscient God cannot regret his decisions. The God of the Bible does. Live with it.

  24. 24
    jerry says:

    What do we call 911 for?

    Do we call it when a mosquito bites us? Do we call it when we see someone gets dissed by another? Do we call it when there is trash on the lot next to a store?

    Why not?

    Their trivial.

    But what separates these from the situation where one sees a group of young men attacking an older man on the street?

    From a situation where a man is raping a 12 year old girl?

    From the systematci killing of an ethnic group?

    And from our famous example here, the torturing of a a baby?

    Is there a line between what is egregious and what is not? If so what is it?

    Are these later examples, trivial too? In the total scheme of things for the Christian God, are not even these more harsh things trivial? After all this world is only a stepping stone.

    Where should God step in? Or should he ever?
    ———————–

    But what happens when God steps in? What will our existence be like if God did step in? And it was obvious?

    ————-
    Leibniz once said that this if the best of all possible worlds and by that he did not mean life on this planet alone but our entire existence. We just don’t know why it is the best? But maybe we could understand more about why it is the best, if we start from the assumption that it is the best and then maybe we could understand why it is and then why

    God would never make an obvious call to 911.

  25. 25
    EDTA says:

    Mapau,

    It’s all silly crackpottery from people who have not thought it through or are just dogmatic believers who are set in their ways.

    I have thought quite a bit about this, and as the finite and inferior beings at the table, we suffer from a lack of information (among other lackings). We’re not omniscient. How then can we know that we are even aware of all the variables? We cannot.

    You seem to be making the same presumption that others make, namely that if God were real, he could/should just sit us down, and explain every factor, every contingency, every mitigating circumstance to us, and we would be capable of fully understanding it, and would accept it as reasonable. There is no reason to believe that any of that is the case.

    Yet the skeptics continue to insist that anything they are asked to accept must make perfect sense to them, as if we mortals are the final judge. (The implicit assumption there is that all the God stuff is myth invented by man. If that were the case, then it _could_ be fully explained and understood by mortals.)

    The conclusion here is that that the Bible, and any other communication to us from on high has to be a watered-down, simplified version of the actual truth. Again, using my analogy from above, when explaining something to a 3-year old, it is necessary to simplify, simplify, simplify. Many important details may have to be left out of the explanation.

    We see a 2-D shadow; the real object is hidden from us. We read the abstract, but the full article is behind a paywall. (I’m clearly running out of analogies.)

    Logic is logic, but there may be additional information/circumstances/factors that we are not aware of nor even able to sense or comprehend. Therefore we cannot factor it all into our logic.

  26. 26
    Mapou says:

    EDTA:

    You seem to be making the same presumption that others make, namely that if God were real, he could/should just sit us down, and explain every factor, every contingency, every mitigating circumstance to us, and we would be capable of fully understanding it, and would accept it as reasonable. There is no reason to believe that any of that is the case.

    If we don’t understand it now, we’ll understand it later. We learn and we increase our knowledge, just like the Gods. Heck, we are Gods. So say the scriptures.

    The conclusion here is that that the Bible, and any other communication to us from on high has to be a watered-down, simplified version of the actual truth.

    Ha. Some things are written in a simple language for a certain age. Others are not. As the prophet Daniel wrote, a time would come when knowledge would increase. The time has arrived for us to understand the difficult things. I have excellent reasons to believe that some of the metaphorical books in the Bible contains revolutionary scientific knowledge that will shake the foundation of human civilization. Get ready to live in interesting times.

  27. 27
    Box says:

    Mapou: Seversky is correct about this omniscience thing. It’s all silly crackpottery from people who have not thought it through or are just dogmatic believers who are set in their ways.

    That’s rich coming from you. I already exposed your erroneous reasoning in another thread.

    Mapou: the point is that, if God can see all past, present and future, there is no free will. It’s already determined. But since there is free will, God cannot see all past, present and future. It’s one or the other. There is no getting around this. It’s trivial logic and no one has to be a propeller head in order to understand it.

    What you don’t seem to get is that seeing the future does not imply causing the future. Those actions are entirely distinct. Similarly I know that the sun will rise tomorrow, but I don’t cause the sun to rise.
    So, assuming that an outside-time-perspective exists, why should things be “already determined” when seen by God? You seem to hold that God must determine the future if God sees the future. It doesn’t follow.

  28. 28
    Eugen says:

    Imagine for a moment this scenario.

     Programmer creates cellular automata world on a computer. Little creatures and their world  are just patterns of electronic signals moving around the memory grid. He may make himself coffee and display the patterns so he can watch what’s happening. Even though software rules he established are very simple emerging patterns become complex and unpredictable. Automata become conscious and intelligent and start learning about the world.

     Automata scientists figure that everything is made of electrons which move around in bunches and follow simple rules built into the grid. They can count number of electrons in any bunch down to high precision. They develop ways to accelerate electrons and smash them around to see what happens. Automata scientists find the latest little pathway on a memory grid. They see that everything is stable, orderly and predictable in their reality.

    Automata philosophers start asking tough questions: If the Creator exists what are his intentions?

    Atheist automata ask: Would he call 911 for me?

    Theist automata say: you should do it yourself and stop whining, you will die sooner or later anyway.

    What could automata be able to say about programmer? Could they observe programmer with their science or even imagine how to describe him? Where is the programmer? How he looks and behaves? Does he eat, dream or is he ever going to pull the plug?

    The simple answer is no, we don’t know his plan or intentions. There is no way for automata to cross to another domain/realm to observe or study the programmer. I cannot think of any probe or experiment they could setup to cross the barrier.

    Wise ones notice the rules which provide stability and orderliness to their world. They also see that combination of rules + some freedom is the optimum setup for their world.  They realize there is something amazing going on but nobody is sure what.

  29. 29
    Axel says:

    Worse, Box, imo, is that you and Mapou make no allowance for paradox re free will.

  30. 30
    Box says:

    Axel, would you please elaborate?

  31. 31
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Seversky,

    Thank you for your comments. You write:

    God is supposed to be omniscient. That means he already knows the outcome of any experiment we can think of – and that includes how people respond to suffering and evil.

    Actually, that only follows if you accept either a predestinationist (Calvinist/Banezian) or Molinist account of free will. (In the latter account, God knows all counterfactuals.) But if you accept a Boethian account of free will, as I do, then it doesn’t follow. On this account, God is timeless, but His knowledge is that of a spectator. So God cannot know the outcome of an experiment involving free creatures (such as ourselves), unless He actually performs it.

  32. 32
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Dennis,

    Thank you for your very insightful comment:

    I suggest one more assumption overlooked by Mr Goren, i.e., that God may already be intervening in many ways of which we are unaware. We may be seeing only unavoidable situations in which competing priorities make God’s intervention unwise, and even in those God may be working to lessen the blow.

    tjguy,

    Thanks very much for that story from “American Minute” about the providential deliverance of Washington’s army. I hadn’t known about that episode. The event calls to mind Tennyson’s aphorism: “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.”

  33. 33
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Eugen,

    That was a very interesting scenario about the cellular automata. I enjoyed reading it. Thank you.

  34. 34
    steveh says:

    The only question now is should I call the emergency services if I am first on the scene of a disaster when many lives are in danger?

    Before acting on such an occasion, It can be helpful to ask oneself, WWJD? – Apparently, what Jesus would do would be to delegate the Job of making the call to Lucifer, the Evil One, who hates Humans and will go out of his way to harm them, perhaps by prank-calling 911 and sending them off on some wild goose chase. So I guess I should delegate to Lucifer as well. I can’t see any problem with that.

    There’s also the problem that Jesus may be standing by while these people die horribly and go on to eternal suffering in Hell at the hands of God’s Mr Telephone (assuming they are not Christians), because everything ultimately works out better this way (*). You know, like it did for the victims of the Holocaust and everyone on BA77’s list of atheist atrocities. If I acted to save one person in any of these situations, for all I know, I could be making things much worse. The best thing is probably to do nothing; If it’s better for people to die then it would be remiss of me to help save them. How can I know what the best action is? I can’t, but if I do nothing and God doesn’t step in with some miracle then I guess my choice of inaction will have been vindicated. OTOH, maybe I was supposed to help but didn’t, but then God gets to throw that in my face before he sends me to join them in hell after my death. Well worth any discomfort on their part I should think.

    I like the idea that somebody may be refused the help they desperately seek because a distant ancestor didn’t want every minute detail of his life dictated to them by God: “Back off God, I want to choose my own curtains”. I don’t like wearing hats so let me state for the record that no descendant of mine for ten thousand generations is ever going to be allowed to wear a hat or any sort of protective headgear or receive emergency help in the case of a head trauma unless it’s from Satan, their appointed representative and enemy – Unless they pray for help, in which case their prayers will be successfully answered with a polite (and silent) “no” (and maybe tumbleweed) and a squishing.

    It saddens me that Jesus is unable to communicate with Human emergency service dispatchers because they can’t hear his voice. Maybe we should club together and buy him one of those Stephen Hawking electric speaky gizmos which he operates using a single switch by moving his cheek.

    (*) Although I know of one Christian, BarryA, who does not accept such arguments.

  35. 35
    bornagain77 says:

    Since God created time (and space) it follows that there is no moment of time in the future that God can not have complete knowledge of.

    For God, being completely transcendent of time and space, it is simply nonsensical to hold that there is some hypothetical moment in the future that He does not have complete access to and knowledge of.

    The transcendent omnipresence, and omniscience, of God simply leaves no room, indeed CAN leave no room, for some ‘experiment’ that He ‘performs’ that He does not know the future outcome of.

    Exhibit A – The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ before time began:

    2 Timothy 1:9
    who hath saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but in accordance with His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

    1 Peter 1:20
    He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.

    In fact, prophecy, i.e. knowing exactly what will happen in the future, is one of the ways that was used to test whether a prophet was from God on not.

    If what a prophet said was found to be false the punishment for his false prophecy, in old testament days, was death.
    (of personal note: I heard one Christian, who was fed up with all the false prophets now-a-days, quip that maybe we ought to bring that particular old testament punishment back 🙂 )

    Psalm 139:16
    Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

    Isaiah 46:9-10
    Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

    Although many Christians reference the prophecies surrounding Jesus Christ to support the authenticity of the prophetic claims of the Bible…

    The King Jesus (A Precise Mathematical Prediction)
    Excerpt: Here are the calculations.
    March 14th, 445 B.C. to March 14th, 32 A.D. is 476 years.
    (1 B.C. to 1 A.D. is one year, There is no year zero)
    476 years x 365 days per year = 173,740 days
    Add for leap years = 116 days (Leap years do not occur in century years unless divisible by 400 [therefore, we must add three less leap years in four centuries])
    March 14th to April 6 th = 24 days
    total = 173,880
    How could Daniel have known this in advance? How could anyone have contrived to have this detailed prediction documented over three centuries in advance?
    http://www.iclnet.org/pub/reso.....esenpr.htm

    The Case for Jesus the Messiah — Incredible Prophecies that Prove God Exists By Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon, and Dr. Walter Kaiser, Jr.
    Excerpt: But, of course, there are many more than eight prophecies. In another calculation Stoner used 48 prophecies (even though he could have used 456) and arrived at the extremely conservative estimate that the probability of 48 prophecies being fulfilled in one person is one in 10^157.
    How large is the number 10^157? 10^157 contains 157 zeros! Let us try to illustrate this number using electrons. Electrons are very small objects. They are smaller than atoms. It would take 2.5 times 10^15 of them, laid side by side, to make one inch. Even if we counted four electrons every second and counted day and night, it would still take us 19 million years just to count a line of electrons one inch long.
    But how many electrons would it take if we were dealing with 10^157 electrons? Imagine building a solid ball of electrons that would extend in all directions from the earth a length of 6 billion light years. The distance in miles of just one light year is 6.4 trillion miles. That would be a big ball! But not big enough to measure 10^157 electrons.
    In order to do that, you must take that big ball of electrons reaching the length of 6 billion light years long in all directions and multiply it by 6 x 10^28! How big is that? It’s the length of the space required to store trillions and trillions and trillions of the same gigantic balls and more. In fact, the space required to store all of these balls combined together would just start to “scratch the surface” of the number of electrons we would need to really accurately speak about 10^157.
    But assuming you have some idea of the number of electrons we are talking about, now imagine marking just one of those electrons in that huge number. Stir them all up. Then appoint one person to travel in a rocket for as long as he wants, anywhere he wants to go. Tell him to stop and segment a part of space, then take a high-powered microscope and find that one marked electron in that segment.
    What do you think his chances of being successful would be? It would be one in 10^157.
    Remember, this number represents the chance of only 48 prophecies coming true in one person (there are 456 total prophecies concerning Jesus).
    http://www.johnankerberg.org/A.....1103-3.pdf

    ‘Other than Christ, no other religious leader was foretold a thousand years before he arrived, nor was anything said about where he would be born, why he would come, how he would live, and when he would die. No other religious leader claimed to be God, or performed miracles, or rose from the dead. No other religious leader grounded his doctrine in historical facts. No other religious leader declared his person to be even more important than his teachings.’
    – StephenB – UD Blogger

    Although many Christians reference the prophecies surrounding Jesus Christ to support the authenticity of the prophetic claims of the Bible, I feel a better evidence establishing the authenticity of the prophecies in the Bible comes from referencing the main prophecy that has come to pass in our own generation. Namely the precisely fulfilled prophetic restoration of the Jewish people to their homeland:

    Is Modern Israel Fulfilling Prophecy? – Thomas Ice
    Excerpt: There are dozens of biblical passages that predict an end-time regathering of Israel back to her land.
    http://www.pre-trib.org/data/p.....ulfill.pdf

    Luke 21:24
    They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

    The time span from the rebirth of Israel as a nation in 1948 to the 6 Day War in 1967 is 19 years. The time from the loss of independence in 606 B.C. to the time of the loss of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. was also 19 years. Was the recapture of Jerusalem in 1967 also prophesied? (Short Answer,, Yes!)
    http://xwalk.ca/y3nf.html

    Restoration Of Israel and Jerusalem In Prophecy – Chuck Missler (Doing The Math) – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/8598581/

    Although Missler said that he cheated and ‘backed into the calculation’, none-the-less, archaeological evidence is found that supports his calculation:

    Bible Prophecy Fulfilled – Israel 1948 – article
    Excerpt: Although July 15, 537 B.C. can not be verified by outside sources as the exact day of Cyrus’s proclamation, we do know that 537 B.C. was the year in which he made it. As such, we can know for certain that the Bible, in one of the most remarkable prophecies in history, accurately foresaw the year of Israel’s restoration as an independent nation some two thousand five hundred years before the event occurred.
    http://brittgillette.com/WordPress/?p=16

    SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT
    Excerpt “In late years several cuneiform tablets have been discovered pertaining to the fall of Babylon which peg both Biblical and secular historic dates. The one tablet known as the “Nabunaid Chronicle” gives the date for the fall of Babylon which specialists have ascertained as being October 12-13, 539 B.C., Julian Calendar, or October 6-7, 539 B.C., according to our present Gregorian Calendar. This tablet also says that Cyrus made his triumphant entry into Babylon 16 days after its fall to his army. Thus his accession year commenced in October, 539 B.C. However, in another cuneiform tablet called “Strassmaier, Cyrus No. 11″ Cyrus’ first regnal year is mentioned and was determined to have begun March 17-18, 538 B.C., and to have concluded March 4-5, 537 B.C. It was in this first regnal year of Cyrus that he issued his decree to permit the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. (Ezra 1:1) The decree may have been made in late 538 B.C. or before March 4-5, 537 B.C.
    In either case this would have given sufficient time for the large party of 49,897 Jews to organize their expedition and to make their long four-month journey from Babylon to Jerusalem to get there by September 29-30, 537 B.C., the first of the seventh Jewish month, to build their altar to Jehovah as recorded at Ezra 3:1-3. Inasmuch as September 29-30, 537 B.C., officially ends the seventy years of desolation as recorded at 2 Chronicles 36:20, 21, so the beginning of the desolation of the land must have officially begun to be counted after September 21-22, 607 B.C., the first of the seventh Jewish month in 607 B.C., which is the beginning point for the counting of the 2,520 years.”
    http://onlytruegod.org/jwstrs/537vs539.htm

    As to the paradox of our having free will and God’s omniscience, I found this Tim Keller sermon to be very helpful.

    Does God Control Everything – Tim Keller – (God’s sovereignty and our free will, how do they mesh?) – video (12:00 minute mark)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkQ6ld8dn7I

    As to the argument from evil, does not that entire argument melt away when the Cross of Christ is taken into consideration? Certainly if God spared not his own Son through suffering

    2 Corinthians 4:17
    For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

    The Contradiction of the Cross
    “On the cross, our false dependencies are revealed. On the cross, our illusions are killed off. On the cross, our small self dies so that the true self, the God-given self, can emerge. On the cross, we give up the fantasy that we are in control, and the death of this fantasy is central to acceptance. The cross is, above all, a place of powerlessness. Here is the final proof that our own feeble powers can no more alter life’s trajectory than a magnet can pull down the moon. Here is the death of the ego, of the self that insists on being in charge, the self that continually tries to impose its own idea of order and righteousness on the world.
    The cross is a place of contradiction. For the powerlessness of the cross, if fully embraced, takes us to a place of power. This is the great mystery at the heart of the Christian faith, from Jesus to Martin Luther King Jr., the mystery of the power of powerlessness. As long as I am preoccupied with the marshaling of my own feeble powers, there will be no way for God’s power to flow through me. As long as I am getting in my own way, I cannot live in the power of God’s way.”
    – Parker Palmer, The Promise of Paradox, Pg 46-47

  36. 36
    EDTA says:

    Some things are written in a simple language for a certain age. Others are not. As the prophet Daniel wrote, a time would come when knowledge would increase. The time has arrived for us to understand the difficult things. I have excellent reasons to believe that some of the metaphorical books in the Bible contains revolutionary scientific knowledge that will shake the foundation of human civilization. Get ready to live in interesting times.

    Sounds like you have a hankerin’ for the Sinularity. But until I see it (and it turns out to not be a living nightmare for everyone), I’m going to have to reason from what we have, which are finite minds whose understanding is not able to fully comprehend the things its Maker can.

  37. 37
    EvilSnack says:

    Severesky @ 8:

    And has no one noticed that the reason apologetics are such a thriving field in Christian scholarship is because there is so much in Christian theology that demands explanation and justification.

    Actually, it’s because the world is full of people who make it their hobby to come up with excuse after excuse after excuse for ignoring what God has said. Some of us choose to answer these excuses so that those who make them are without excuse.

    In other words, for a perfect and omniscient being, God has apparently done a very poor job of communicating His intentions, beliefs and rationales.

    Actually, He is perfectly clear when He wants us to know exactly what He expects of us.

  38. 38
    Aleta says:

    Severesky writes, “And has no one noticed that the reason apologetics are such a thriving field in Christian scholarship is because there is so much in Christian theology that demands explanation and justification.”

    I think it’s worse than that.

    I think it is a mistake for people, such as Ben Goren did, to bother to try to find “logical” problems with God, because it implies that there might be logical answers that solve the problem. However, the whole idea of a omni-everything divine being taken an interest in, and in some way being responsibility for, the actions of people, is a logically untenable story that people have made up. Since it is made up, people can go through endless rationalizations to try to make it make sense without there being any reality to ground their speculations in. It is all “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” type of stuff.

    The simplest answer to the questions in the opening post is that there is no God, especially of the God/Jesus type of Christianity, so the questions and points made by Ben Goren are meaningless.

  39. 39
    bornagain77 says:

    Aleta, funny you claim that

    “it is a mistake for people, such as Ben Goren did, to bother to try to find “logical” problems with God, because it implies that there might be logical answers that solve the problem.”

    Yet you take no notice that you, i.e. the atheist, are the one who is holding that there is no real rhyme or reason, i.e. logic, for why the universe exists in the first place.

    “If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”
    C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

    Before you claim that there is no logic for God, should you not at least have a worldview that you can be able to ground logic in in the first place? Exactly how is logic and reasoning to be grounded in a worldview that insists that everything arose without any real rhyme or reason?

    To presuppose that the universe can be understood through logic and reason is to presuppose that there is logic and reasoning behind the universe to be understood in the first place.

    The atheistic/materialistic worldview is incoherent as to providing a rational foundation for practicing science in that it presupposes no logic or reason behind the universe.

    All of which explains, number one, why there were no atheists at the founding of modern science,,
    and which, number two, also explains why the atheistic explanations for how the universe came into being, and for how our conscious selves came into being, both wind up in epistemological failure (Boltzmann’s Brain, Plantinga’s EAAN, also see Nagel.)

    “If you do not assume the law of non-contradiction, you have nothing to argue about. If you do not assume the principles of sound reason, you have nothing to argue with. If you do not assume libertarian free will, you have no one to argue against. If you do not assume morality to be an objective commodity, you have no reason to argue in the first place.”
    – William J Murray

    The Great Debate: Does God Exist? – Justin Holcomb – audio of the 1985 Greg Bahnsen debate available at the bottom of the site
    Excerpt: The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove anything. The atheist worldview is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality. The atheist worldview cannot allow for laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the ability for the mind to understand the world, and moral absolutes. In that sense the atheist worldview cannot account for our debate tonight.,,,
    http://justinholcomb.com/2012/.....god-exist/

    Verse:

    John1:1
    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

    of note: ‘the Word’ in John1:1 is translated from ‘Logos’ in Greek. Logos is also the root word from which we derive our modern word logic
    http://etymonline.com/?term=logic

    Of supplemental note:

    “It always bothers me that in spite of all this local business, what goes on in a tiny, no matter how tiny, region of space, and no matter how tiny a region of time, according to laws as we understand them today, it takes a computing machine an infinite number of logical operations to figure out. Now how can all that be going on in that tiny space? Why should it take an infinite amount of logic to figure out what one stinky tiny bit of space-time is going to do?”
    – Richard Feynman – one of the founding fathers of QED (Quantum Electrodynamics)
    Quote taken from the 6:45 minute mark of the following video:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obCjODeoLVw

    I don’t know about Feynman, but as for myself, being a Christian Theist, I find it rather comforting to know that it takes an ‘infinite amount of logic to figure out what one stinky tiny bit of space-time is going to do’:

  40. 40
    Mapou says:

    Box:

    What you don’t seem to get is that seeing the future does not imply causing the future. Those actions are entirely distinct. Similarly I know that the sun will rise tomorrow, but I don’t cause the sun to rise.
    So, assuming that an outside-time-perspective exists, why should things be “already determined” when seen by God? You seem to hold that God must determine the future if God sees the future. It doesn’t follow.

    I don’t hold this at all and this is not my argument. It’s a strawman of your own making. All I’m saying is that, if God knows the entire future of the universe including what he’ll be doing in that future, then he is an impotent God who can never change his mind. This argument has nothing to do with causing the future. It has to do with determinism and omniscience. If God knows the future, the future is already determined by logical necessity. It’s nonsense, of course.

    But since you mentioned causes, let me add that my God (Yahweh) does not know the future. However, he can cause the future to happen the way he wants if he so chooses. And he can also change his mind.

    PS. “outside-time-perspective” is also nonsense since time is an abstract concept.

  41. 41
    Box says:

    Mapou,

    Box: You seem to hold that God must determine the future if God sees the future. It doesn’t follow.

    Mapou: I don’t hold this at all and this is not my argument. It’s a strawman of your own making. (…) This argument has nothing to do with causing the future. It has to do with determinism and omniscience. If God knows the future, the future is already determined by logical necessity.

    The future — God’s actions included — are determined by something other than God? Pray tell by what.

    Mapou: (…) let me add that my God (Yahweh) does not know the future.

    Okay your Yahweh doesn’t know the future, however there are other concepts of God wrt to time, which you fail to take into account:

    BA77: Since God created time (and space) it follows that there is no moment of time in the future that God can not have complete knowledge of.
    For God, being completely transcendent of time and space, it is simply nonsensical to hold that there is some hypothetical moment in the future that He does not have complete access to and knowledge of.
    The transcendent omnipresence, and omniscience, of God simply leaves no room, indeed CAN leave no room, for some ‘experiment’ that He ‘performs’ that He does not know the future outcome of.

    VJTorley: But if you accept a Boethian account of free will, as I do, then it doesn’t follow. On this account, God is timeless, but His knowledge is that of a spectator.

    You may also want to read this article at the Stanford website.

    Mapou: All I’m saying is that, if God knows the entire future of the universe including what he’ll be doing in that future, then he is an impotent God who can never change his mind.

    It doesn’t follow. A timeless God can make free choices.

    Mapou: PS. “outside-time-perspective” is also nonsense since time is an abstract concept.

    If that is the case, then it’s rather surprising that your Yahweh, who according to you consists of billions upon billions of individuals, is constrained by a mere “abstract concept” and cannot access the future.

  42. 42
    JDH says:

    Mapou said –

    Folks, I’m neither atheist nor materialist but Seversky is correct about this omniscience thing. It’s all silly crackpottery from people who have not thought it through or are just dogmatic believers who are set in their ways.

    I feel sorry for you Mapou, you have not learned the lesson of your limitations. For a time bound being trapped in three dimensional space, you truly have a lot of nerve declaring that you can make grand logical conclusions about items outside of your epistemological domain.

    I suggest you read a little book called “Flatland”. It may open your eyes to see your own limitations and how they affect your thinking.

  43. 43
    Aleta says:

    When Mapou said that the idea of an omniscient God was “all silly crackpottery from people who have not thought it through or are just dogmatic believers who are set in their ways”,

    RDH replied,

    I feel sorry for you Mapou, you have not learned the lesson of your limitations. For a time bound being trapped in three dimensional space, you truly have a lot of nerve declaring that you can make grand logical conclusions about items outside of your epistemological domain.

    What RDH says applies both way – believing that an omniscient God (and all the other omni-s of the Christian God) exists definitely is a unwarranted conclusion “outside [the limits of our] epistemological domain.” We just can’t know all that.

  44. 44
    Davem says:

    I used to go sailing with a Jewish guy whose daughter I was dating, and he once said that if a school bus went over a cliff and half the kids lived, the parents would say “Thank God!” He then followed up with “What about the kids who died?”
    His daughter had been in an car accident many years before, and she said that as the car was rolling over, she felt the presence of God. When I told him he seemed astonished. I said “It’s a different story when it’s your own daughter” and he agreed.

  45. 45
    Mapou says:

    JDH:

    I feel sorry for you Mapou, you have not learned the lesson of your limitations.

    Same to you.

    For a time bound being trapped in three dimensional space,

    You have no idea what those things mean.

    you truly have a lot of nerve declaring that you can make grand logical conclusions about items outside of your epistemological domain.

    You don’t know that.

    I suggest you read a little book called “Flatland”. It may open your eyes to see your own limitations and how they affect your thinking.

    I suggest you take note of this essential point in our discussion (if you can call it that): I am not your dog.

  46. 46
    Davem says:

    Since God exists out of time it is silly to talk about Him knowing the future, as if He is in our time.
    He views it all simultaneously. He is in our past, our present, our future. Just because He is aware of what is happening in our future doesn’t mean he is determining it, just as He isn’t determining what is happening right now, even though right now is the future to any time in the past.
    For all we know He could be tweaking things here and there throughout time in order to perfect creation.
    If He decided to change something in our past, how would we know? We wouldn’t say, “hey, the past used to be this but now it’s different!”

  47. 47
    JDH says:

    Mapou –

    I apologize if I have offended you, but I thought we were discussing philosophy, not attacking each other.

    What do you mean by “same to you”. I have not made the statement that an omniscient God is not possible like you have. I have not concluded things can not be true that are outside of my epistemological domain. I simply stated that you can not possibly declare that common sense dictates there can’t be an omni- anything. Common sense does not help you in seeing what is not possible.

    Please read the book “Flatland’. I don’t think you are my dog. I did not give you a command, I asked you to read something. If you want me to read something you think will help me see more clearly, please suggest.

    You seem like a smart guy, its just that I object to “time bound people trapped in three dimensions” ( which means that you can not move freely in time either to effect or to observe, and you can not move in a forth spatial dimension -i.e. it makes no sense for someone to tell you about it if it even existed because there is no way for you to see it. )

    The book “Flatland” talks about a sphere entering a two dimensional world. The sphere is able to take a circle up and out of the two dimensional plane he dwells in and show him the 3-d world. Yet when placed back in his two dimensional plane the circle realizes it is impossible to describe what “up” means.

    It is a useful analogy for you not being able to quite comprehend how God can be omnipresent, omniscient or perfect.

  48. 48
    Davem says:

    Man trying to comprehend God is like trying to explain to an amoeba everything we as humans know about the universe.

  49. 49
    mike1962 says:

    JDH: It is a useful analogy for you not being able to quite comprehend how God can be omnipresent, omniscient or perfect.

    The flatland analogy is only useful for getting a sense about how entities could exist that occupy more dimensions than ours and how they might relate to us. It is not useful with regards to the idea that God has omniscience with regard to all future events within our dimension set if we have freedom of choice within it.

  50. 50
    mike1962 says:

    Davem: Since God exists out of time

    Fact not in evidence

    Moreover, God may not exist in our time frame, but nobody knows whether or not there is a more fundamental time frame that God exists in.

    Moreover, the statement that God exists outside of any and all time is nonsensical and irrational. To assert it, is to assert nothing meaningful for us.

  51. 51
    bornagain77 says:

    as to:

    “the statement that God exists outside of any and all time is nonsensical and irrational. To assert it, is to assert nothing meaningful for us.”

    and yet somehow immaterial timeless/spaceless/massless stuff does make sense to us. In fact I hold that unless human minds were able to somehow hold a perspective that was and is outside of space-time, in essence a ‘timeless’ perspective, then science would not be possible for us.

    An Interview with David Berlinski – Jonathan Witt
    Berlinski: There is no argument against religion that is not also an argument against mathematics. Mathematicians are capable of grasping a world of objects that lies beyond space and time ….
    Interviewer:… Come again(?) …
    Berlinski: No need to come again: I got to where I was going the first time. The number four, after all, did not come into existence at a particular time, and it is not going to go out of existence at another time. It is neither here nor there. Nonetheless we are in some sense able to grasp the number by a faculty of our minds. Mathematical intuition is utterly mysterious. So for that matter is the fact that mathematical objects such as a Lie Group or a differentiable manifold have the power to interact with elementary particles or accelerating forces. But these are precisely the claims that theologians have always made as well – that human beings are capable by an exercise of their devotional abilities to come to some understanding of the deity; and the deity, although beyond space and time, is capable of interacting with material objects.
    http://tofspot.blogspot.com/20.....-here.html

    “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

    “Information is information, not matter or energy. No materialism which does not admit this can survive at the present day.”
    Norbert Weiner – MIT Mathematician -(Cybernetics, 2nd edition, p.132) Norbert Wiener created the modern field of control and communication systems, utilizing concepts like negative feedback. His seminal 1948 book Cybernetics both defined and named the new field.

    Verse:

    John 1:1-3
    In the beginning, the Word existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.

    (of note: ‘Word’ in Greek is ‘Logos’, and is the root word from which we get our word ‘Logic’)

  52. 52
    JimFit says:

    For a Theist the baby doesn’t die but instead continues to live with God. On Atheism there is no unfair death since humans aren’t different from a stone to give them fairness. This life wasn’t meant to be eternal to use as an argument against God death. I agree with Mapou that we are images of God equal in understanding and behaviour but i disagree when he says that God, in the Old Testament doesn’t behave like Omniscience because He regrets. Sometimes you know how things will become and still continue to make them, God wasn’t regretted for making us, he regretted for some humans but not for all humanity.

  53. 53
    mike1962 says:

    BA77: and yet somehow immaterial timeless/spaceless/massless stuff does make sense to us.

    Not where free-will is a factor, and that is what I am addressing. Yes, we can intuit a transcendent “platonic” reality where “mathematics exists timelessly”, but mathematics do not have free-will. By definition, they are changeless. Free-will is not change-less by definition.

    In fact I hold that unless human minds were able to somehow hold a perspective that was and is outside of space-time, in essence a ‘timeless’ perspective…

    Human consciousness may transcend space-time, that is, exist outside of the material space-time universe, but it need not be outside of all time. Assuming free-will of consciousness, I submit that the fact that human consciousness can change states, which is the essence of what time is, that it is indeed based in a more fundamental time than space-time.

  54. 54
    Mapou says:

    My God said “Know my ways”. He did not say “You will never understand me”. I can’t stand those Christians who worship an incomprehensible God of their own making. That is idolatry. We, too, are Elohim (Gods).

  55. 55
    Mapou says:

    And this business of a God existing outside of space and time is ridiculous. How can you exist outside of something that does not exist in the first place. Both space and time are abstract or derived concepts.

  56. 56
    Mapou says:

    Infinity worship is idolatry. It’s the work of the devil. LOL.

  57. 57
    Seversky says:

    vjtorley @ 31

    Hi Seversky,

    Thank you for your comments. You write:

    God is supposed to be omniscient. That means he already knows the outcome of any experiment we can think of – and that includes how people respond to suffering and evil.

    Actually, that only follows if you accept either a predestinationist (Calvinist/Banezian) or Molinist account of free will. (In the latter account, God knows all counterfactuals.) But if you accept a Boethian account of free will, as I do, then it doesn’t follow. On this account, God is timeless, but His knowledge is that of a spectator. So God cannot know the outcome of an experiment involving free creatures (such as ourselves), unless He actually performs it.

    Hi

    Thank you for replying to my comment.

    It seems to me the problem with the Boethian account is that there is an underlying assumption of a fixed temporal viewpoint

    You and I and everyone else sees time from the perspective of our own present and it appears we can do no other. We presume this to be true for all people throughout human history. We also presume there is no way to privilege one temporal perspective over any other.

    For example, George Washington in 1776 would have had some knowledge of his own history and, more generally, that of the world at large, up to that point in time. But, we have no reason to think that his viewpoint is any way more significant than our own today.

    The only difference between George Washington and ourselves, in this context, is that the 239 years separating us in time was a complete mystery to him but is known in some detail to us. Similarly, we can envisage one of our descendants, 239 years in our future knowing that mysterious future as settled history.

    This suggests that all times exist simultaneously and that we are somehow moving through fixed history in the way a traveler might cross a fixed landscape.

    God, on the other hand, is presumed to exist outside our spacetime Universe. He was there before it came into existence and He will still be there, wherever “there” might be, after it is gone. Although He could choose to see time from a particular temporal perspective, such as through the eyes of Jesus, He can also see the whole history of our Universe laid out before him, much as we might see the whole land surface of the Earth from the International Space Station.

    Do we have any evidence to suggest that God has definite knowledge of the future? Yes, the Bible provides some. For example, we have the story of Christ telling Peter that he would deny knowing Him three times before the following morning. According to the account, He does not tell Peter there is a good chance he will deny knowing Him or there is a 95% probability of denial, He says quite definitely that he will. And, according the the Biblical account, that’s exactly what he does.

    That story alone, if true, is strong evidence that God knows the future, not just all the possible futures that might radiate from a particular present but the actual future realized from all those possibilities. This argues that the future must already exist in order to be known and in turn negates the possibility of absolute free will.

  58. 58
    bornagain77 says:

    Actually mike1962, you are making some fairly broad claims for time for which you simply have no empirical support (other than in your imagination).
    As to the fact that there exists a dimension that transcends all conceivable space-time frameworks, that fact is empirically establish by comparing the temporal realm of matter with the eternal realm of light with the transcendent realm of quantum information.

    Both special relativity and general relativity reveal a higher dimensional ‘eternal framework’:

    “I’ve just developed a new theory of eternity.”
    Albert Einstein – The Einstein Factor – Reader’s Digest – 2005

    “The laws of relativity have changed timeless existence from a theological claim to a physical reality. Light, you see, is outside of time, a fact of nature proven in thousands of experiments at hundreds of universities. I don’t pretend to know how tomorrow can exist simultaneously with today and yesterday. But at the speed of light they actually and rigorously do. Time does not pass.”
    Richard Swenson – More Than Meets The Eye, Chpt. 12

    To grasp the whole ‘time coming to a complete stop at the speed of light’ concept a little more easily, imagine moving away from the face of a clock at the speed of light. Would not the hands on the clock stay stationary as you moved away from the face of the clock at the speed of light? Moving away from the face of a clock at the speed of light happens to be the same ‘thought experiment’ that gave Einstein his breakthrough insight into e=mc2.

    Albert Einstein – Special Relativity – Insight into Eternity – ‘thought experiment’ – video (6:00 minute mark)
    https://youtu.be/jHnRqhnkyGs?t=364

    This higher dimension, ‘eternal’, inference for the time framework of light is also warranted, by logic, because light is not ‘frozen within time’, i.e. light appears to move to us in our temporal framework of time, yet it is shown that time, as we understand it, does not pass for light. The only way this is possible is if light is indeed of a higher dimensional value of time than our temporal time is otherwise light would simply be ‘frozen in time’ to our temporal frame of reference. Another line of evidence that supports the inference that ‘tomorrow can exist simultaneously with today and yesterday’, at the ‘eternal’ speed of light, is visualizing what would happen if a hypothetical observer were to approach the speed of light. Please note, at the 3:22 minute mark of the following video, when the 3-Dimensional world ‘folds and collapses’ into a tunnel shape as a ‘hypothetical’ observer moves towards the ‘higher dimension’ of the speed of light, (Of note: This following video was made by two Australian University Physics Professors with a supercomputer.).

    Approaching The Speed Of Light – Optical Effects – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQnHTKZBTI4

    Of related interest, the “Flatland” video, which clearly illustrates this principle of higher dimensions, is on the Vienna Quantum Science Group’s outreach page, (i.e. Anton Zeilinger’s home group):

    Vienna Group Video Outreach page
    http://vcq.quantum.at/outreach.....age-4.html

    Dr. Quantum in Flatland – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=takn4FPkId4

    Moreover, hypothetically traveling at the speed of light in this universe would be instantaneous travel for the person going at the speed of light. This is because time does not pass for them, yet, and this is a very big ‘yet’ to take note of; this ‘timeless’ travel is still not instantaneous and transcendent to our temporal framework of time (as quantum entanglement/teleportation is), i.e. Speed of light travel, to our temporal frame of reference, is still not completely transcendent of our framework since light appears to take time to travel from our temporal perspective. Yet, in quantum entanglement/teleportation of information, the ‘time not passing’, i.e. ‘eternal’, framework is not only achieved in the speed of light framework/dimension, but is also ‘instantaneously’ achieved in our temporal framework. That is to say, the instantaneous teleportation/travel of quantum information is instantaneous to both the temporal framework and the eternal speed of light framework, not just in, and to, the speed of light framework. Information entanglement/travel is not limited by time, nor space, in any way, shape or form, in any frame of reference, as light is seemingly limited to us in this temporal framework.

    Looking beyond space and time to cope with quantum theory – 29 October 2012
    Excerpt: “Our result gives weight to the idea that quantum correlations somehow arise from outside spacetime, in the sense that no story in space and time can describe them,”
    http://www.quantumlah.org/high.....uences.php

    Thus ‘pure transcendent information’ (in quantum experiments) is shown to be timeless (eternal) and completely transcendent of all material frameworks. Moreover, ‘instantaneous information’ is indeed real and the framework in which ‘It’ resides is the primary reality (highest dimension) that can exist, (in so far as our limited perception of a primary reality, i.e. highest dimension, can be discerned).

    “An illusion can never go faster than the speed limit of reality”
    Akiane Kramarik – Child Prodigy –

    Verse and Music:

    Psalm 115:2-3
    Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God?
    Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.

    Rich Mullins – Creed – music
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LR2hFP1yb4

    Supplemental notes

    God, The Universe, and Everything – Special Relativity and Quantum Entanglement Reflect Some Characteristics Of God
    Excerpt: Albert Einstein taught us that time and space are related by light. Imagine that you and I hitch a ride on the Star ship Enterprise, traveling at the speed of light. Now remember, at the speed of light time stops. So if we look out the window while traveling at this speed, we would be aware of the past, the present and the future all at once. This bizarre universe which seems absurd to us is the very universe described by quantum physics.,,,
    The concept that there is something outside the material world becomes even more evident when you consider light. You see light has the ability to behave in a singularly conscious manner. To actually transmit information across the entire universe instantly. Consider this. In 1997 a Geneva researcher created a pair of twin light photons and sent them flying in opposite directions along optical fibers. When one photon hit a mirror it was forced to make a random choice to go one way or the other. Which ever way it went it’s twin photon already seven miles away always instantaneously took the very same option. Instantaneous is the key word here. The reaction of the twin photon was not delayed by the amount of time it takes light to travel seven miles. Other more recent experiments support this finding. In fact, physicists now believe that an entangled twin particle will know what it’s partner is doing and instantaneously mimic it’s actions even if the pair live in separate galaxies billions of light years apart. Since we’ve been told that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, how does one photon on one side of the universe know what the other photon on the other side of the universe is doing? Instantly?
    – Dwight Nelson
    http://www.theevidence.org/art.....rything-v2
    video
    http://www.theevidence.org/art.....everything

    of note: Not only was our universe brought into being from this highest dimension of God 14 billion years ago, but God also continuously sustains this universe from His highest dimension.
    In essence, Quantum Mechanics is showing us that God continuously creates the universe, upholding it in its continual being:

    Reality doesn’t exist until we measure it, (Delayed Choice) quantum experiment confirms –
    Mind = blown. – FIONA MACDONALD – 1 JUN 2015
    Excerpt: “It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,” lead researcher and physicist Andrew Truscott said in a press release.
    http://www.sciencealert.com/re.....t-confirms

    “Look, we all have fun ridiculing the creationists who think the world sprang into existence on October 23, 4004 BC at 9AM (presumably Babylonian time), with the fossils already in the ground, light from distant stars heading toward us, etc. But if we accept the usual picture of quantum mechanics, then in a certain sense the situation is far worse: the world (as you experience it) might as well not have existed 10^-43 seconds ago!”
    – Scott Aaronson – MIT associate Professor

  59. 59
    Box says:

    Seversky,

    Suppose that George Washington made a perfectly free choice when he retired from office after two terms. That decision is part of the past — the decision is fixed. But does the fact that George’s decision is fixed change the fact that it is a decision determined by free will? His decision was an act of free will and free will determined his decision.
    When we study American history we can “see” George Washington make a free decision.

    Seversky: That story alone, if true, is strong evidence that God knows the future, not just all the possible futures that might radiate from a particular present but the actual future realized from all those possibilities. This argues that the future must already exist in order to be known and in turn negates the possibility of absolute free will.

    It doesn’t follow. A timeless God can watch us make free decisions in the past, present and future. Similarly we can “watch” George Washington make free decisions. GW’s decision isn’t any less free because it “already exists”.

  60. 60
    JDH says:

    This comment is directed to all of you who are arrogant enough to believe to have God caught in an obvious contradiction over free will vs. omniscience.

    You claim it is not possible for both to exist. So I don’t have to know how God has both, all I have to show is one method by which the infinite God can have both.

    1. When any time bound intelligent agent makes a decision, the Lord is there. If some other directive of God depends upon the agent making a different decision, he just puts every particle in the universe back to the time before the decision and again observes. He repeats this process until the agent makes the decision He wants.

    I am no way suggesting that this has any comport with reality, as I think this is much too complicated way. I bet God has a much simpler algorithm. I can’t see it, being the time-bound agent that I am.

    BUT … any of you who read this, and still go on believing that you have discovered this obvious truth that God can’t both be omniscient and have granted His subjects free will are willingly ignorant.

    You choose to disbelieve in spite of the evidence, not because of it.

  61. 61
    steveh says:

    1. When any time bound intelligent agent makes a decision, the Lord is there. If some other directive of God depends upon the agent making a different decision, he just puts every particle in the universe back to the time before the decision and again observes. He repeats this process until the agent makes the decision He wants.

    That also explains why Hitler’s “National Judaism day” and Stalin’s on-going “Kittens are cute” league were replaced by more God-friendly events.

    Free will according to JDH:

    G) Do you you take sugar
    Y) No thanks
    G) No that is not the correct answer. Deleted. Now, do you take sugar?
    Y) No
    G) No that is not the correct answer. Deleted. Now, do you take sugar?
    Y) No, I have a medical condition, I must avoid sugar.
    G) No that is not the correct answer. Deleted. Now, do you take sugar?
    Y) No, I have a medical condition, I must avoid sugar.
    G) No that is not the correct answer. Deleted. Now, do you take sugar?
    Y) (High energy particle enters brain). Half past two, er, three, er sorry where was I?
    G) Ok three sugars it is then.

  62. 62
    Mapou says:

    JDH:

    This comment is directed to all of you who are arrogant enough to believe to have God caught in an obvious contradiction over free will vs. omniscience.

    Only the God you created, JDH. Only the God your created in your own mind. It’s a stupid God who is above simple logic. My God suffers from no such handicap. Your God is impotent because he cannot change his mind. My God is powerful and can change his mind anytime. Genesis teaches me that God regretted creating mankind. Not very impressive if he knew everything in advance.

    You fundamentalist Christians can continue to play with your little impotent and imagined God all you want but you cannot call yourselves Christians. You make a mockery of God.

  63. 63
    Upright BiPed says:

    Comment deleted by author.

  64. 64
    Mung says:

    Comment deleted by author.

    Back to the beach with you!

  65. 65
    Popperian says:

    Again, the very same arguments the OP is appealing to could be used to “justify” the actions of abortionists.

    For example, in a comment on another thread, I wrote:

    …if a women is evil enough to want their child to die, then one could argue that their child’s death would be God’s punishment for her evil. And being raised in such a family, such a child would have just been evil as well. IOW, it’s unclear how you could know that God isn’t just using abortionists as a “surgeon” to “cut out” evil that exceeded some limit that we cannot comprehend.

    How can you rule this out, while simultaneously appealing to this supposed inability to know what God is or is not doing, want’s or does not want, etc.?

  66. 66
    Popperian says:

    Goren has not explained why a supernatural Deity with perfect knowledge, love and power, would be obliged to help each suffering individual right away.

    So, if I see someone who I could help, say tomorrow, like a woman who is in an abusive relationship, then I don’t need to help them right away?

    As far as I can tell, the only obligation that God has towards suffering individuals here and now is the obligation not to allow them to suffer irreparable harm. However, we should always bear in mind that what appears to be “irreparable damage” to us, may not appear so to God;

    So, if the abuser doesn’t really cause any physical damage that cannot be repaired, I don’t have to report it either?

    if God has delegated the responsibility for alerting 9-1-1 whenever innocent people are in distress to some angel (or some other super-human intelligence), then we have to consider the possibility that this intelligence – call it Lucifer if you like – has “gone rogue” and is working to sabotage God’s original plan;

    God, being infinite in nature doesn’t need to delegate anything to anyone since he is supposedly infinite. Reporting someone doesn’t leave him with less time to report anyone else or reduce his ability to act in some other capacity. Even then, God would know that lucifer failed to delver the message and could do it himself without reducing his ability to act in some other capacity.

    if God’s always alerting 9-1-1 whenever someone is in distress would interfere with the moral development of the human race as a whole (e.g. by making them apathetic about assisting crime victims, leading to a hardening of people’s hearts towards suffering individuals), then it is at least arguable that God’s obligation not to hinder the moral development of the human race as a whole would over-ride His obligation to help those individuals who are in distress;

    First, not all 911 cals are necessarily crime related. Take natural disasters, for example.

    Second, It’s unclear how God alerting people when someone in suffering makes other people less empathetic to other peoples suffering. For example, imagine a scenario where each person had a personal digital assistant that could call 911 for them or contained an internal cloud of nano-bots that monitored their health, distress levels, etc. and called 911 automatically within specific parameters, (which seems rather likely at some point in the future.) Would this somehow imply the human race had become apathetic toward human suffering? Are you suggesting we would not be morally obliged to make such systems available for those who would want them to reduce suffering if we could?

    Again, this is yet anther example of how ID proponents here grossly underestimate the role that knowledge plays, in that it assumes we will not create the necessary knowledge to better solve moral problems than, apparently, God.

    How do you explain this future disparity?

    (iv) it is entirely possible that God, after revealing His existence to the first human beings at the dawn of human history, then asked them, as representatives of the human race as a whole, how much Divine assistance they would like to receive in the future. And it is entirely possible that these “privileged” human beings opted for little or no Divine intervention, thinking that it would give them more personal freedom and enable them to escape from the suffocating embrace (as they saw it) of a Deity Who loved them too much. It’s also entirely possible that God may have promised to comply with their decision, which would “tie His hands” until the end of human history, insofar as He cannot break a promise;

    Why would human beings at the beginning of history have the knowledge of what the future will be like and therefore, be considered a good representatives as for how much divine assistance would be desired today?

    What if those same human beings decided they wanted no assistance and complete separation from God? Would he free to make that promise as well, and be obliged to keep it?

    (v) finally, it may turn out to be the case that our ability to hear a message from God depends on our spiritual condition, and that bad or spiritually lukewarm people are simply incapable of hearing detailed 911 messages from the Almighty, due to their poor relationship with God. In that case, it would be our fault, not God’s, that we don’t receive 911 calls from Him, about individuals in distress.

    God could simply hijack a robo-dialer to make the call on his behalf. Or, he could simply cause 911 calls to appear in the call log system with all the necessary details already filed out. These are just different levels of indirection than those used when a person uses a phone to call 911. By acting in this way, any one individual “spiritual condition” would be irrelevant to the event being reported.

  67. 67
    mike1962 says:

    BA77: As to the fact that there exists a dimension that transcends all conceivable space-time frameworks, that fact is empirically establish by comparing the temporal realm of matter with the eternal realm of light with the transcendent realm of quantum information.

    I don’t agree that these things transcend all conceivable space-time frameworks, and nothing you quoted demonstrates that. They all undergo state changes. Something that undergoes state changes cannot be timeless in an absolute sense. At any rate, I’m primarily concerned with the free-will of human consciousness and God’s alleged omniscience with regards to it. I don’t see how you’ve solved that one.

  68. 68
    Box says:

    Mike1962: At any rate, I’m primarily concerned with the free-will of human consciousness and God’s alleged omniscience with regards to it. I don’t see how you’ve solved that one.

    Why is there a problem when we assume that God has an outside-time-perspective and spectator knowledge? We make free decisions in the past, now and in the future. God watches us make those free decisions in the past,now and the future. Explain the problem, please.

  69. 69
    bornagain77 says:

    mike1962, we undergo ‘state changes’, God, in his ‘highest heaven’, does not.

    “What is the immutability of God?”
    Answer: The immutability of God (His quality of not changing) is clearly taught throughout Scripture. For example, in Malachi 3:6 God affirms, “I the Lord do not change.” (See also Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Isaiah 46:9-11; and Ezekiel 24:14.)
    James 1:17 also teaches the immutability of God: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning.”
    http://www.gotquestions.org/immutability-God.html

    Moreover, as Aquinas established centuries ago, we are ultimately dependent on the ‘unmoved mover’, God, for us to have ‘state changes’, i.e. for us to have movement.

    Aquinas’ First Way
    1) Change in nature is elevation of potency to act.
    2) Potency cannot actualize itself, because it does not exist actually.
    3) Potency must be actualized by another, which is itself in act.
    4) Essentially ordered series of causes (elevations of potency to act) exist in nature.
    5) An essentially ordered series of elevations from potency to act cannot be in infinite regress, because the series must be actualized by something that is itself in act without the need for elevation from potency.
    6) The ground of an essentially ordered series of elevations from potency to act must be pure act with respect to the casual series.
    7) This Pure Act– Prime Mover– is what we call God.
    http://egnorance.blogspot.com/.....t-way.html

    Aquinas’ First Way – (The First Mover – Unmoved Mover) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qmpw0_w27As

    Or to put it much more simply:

    “The ‘First Mover’ is necessary for change occurring at each moment.”
    Michael Egnor – Aquinas’ First Way
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....first.html

    Moreover, non local, i.e. beyond space and time, quantum actions provide solid empirical support for the ‘unmoved mover’ argument.

    Stephen Hawking: “Philosophy Is Dead” – Michael Egnor – August 3, 2015
    Excerpt: The metaphysics of Aristotle and Aquinas is far and away the most successful framework on which to understand modern science, especially quantum mechanics. Heisenberg knew this (Link on site). Aristotle 2,300 years ago described the basics of collapse of the quantum waveform (reduction of potency to act),,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....98261.html

    And in confirmation of this ancient ‘unmoved mover’ argument, in the following video Anton Zeilinger, whose group is arguably the best group of experimentalists in quantum physics today, ‘tries’ to explain the double slit experiment to Morgan Freeman:

    Quantum Mechanics – Double Slit Experiment. Is anything real? (Prof. Anton Zeilinger) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayvbKafw2g0

    Anton Zeilinger makes this rather startling statement in the preceding video that meshes perfectly with the ‘first mover argument’:

    “The path taken by the photon is not an element of reality. We are not allowed to talk about the photon passing through this or this slit. Neither are we allowed to say the photon passes through both slits. All this kind of language is not applicable.”
    Anton Zeilinger

    If that was not enough to get his point across, at the 4:12 minute mark in this following video,,,

    Prof Anton Zeilinger Shows the Double-slit Experiment – video
    http://www.dailymotion.com/vid.....iment_tech

    Professor Zeilinger states,,,

    “We know what the particle is doing at the source when it is created. We know what it is doing at the detector when it is registered. But we do not know what it is doing in-between.”
    Anton Zeilinger

    And if that was not enough to get the ‘unmoved mover’ point across, in Quantum Electrodynamics, arguably the most stringently, and accurately, tested theory in science today, we have these following comments

    Quantum Electrodynamics – Introduction
    The key components of Feynman’s presentation of QED are three basic actions.[1]:85
    *A photon goes from one place and time to another place and time.
    *An electron goes from one place and time to another place and time.
    *An electron emits or absorbs a photon at a certain place and time.
    These actions are represented in a form of visual shorthand by the three basic elements of Feynman diagrams: a wavy line for the photon, a straight line for the electron and a junction of two straight lines and a wavy one for a vertex representing emission or absorption of a photon by an electron. These can all be seen in the adjacent diagram.
    It is important not to over-interpret these diagrams. Nothing is implied about how a particle gets from one point to another. The diagrams do not imply that the particles are moving in straight or curved lines. They do not imply that the particles are moving with fixed speeds. The fact that the photon is often represented, by convention, by a wavy line and not a straight one does not imply that it is thought that it is more wavelike than is an electron. The images are just symbols to represent the actions above: photons and electrons do, somehow, move from point to point and electrons, somehow, emit and absorb photons. We do not know how these things happen, but the theory tells us about the probabilities of these things happening.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_electrodynamics#Introduction

    Verse:

    Acts 17:28
    For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

  70. 70
    mike1962 says:

    BA77: we undergo ‘state changes’, God, in his ‘highest heaven’, does not.

    Fact not in evidence.

    Not a big fan of Aquinas. I think he was wrong.

  71. 71
    JDH says:

    Mapou –

    It’s a stupid God who is above simple logic.

    Have you ever read Matthew 22. It is my favorite chapter of the Bible from a purely intellectual logic point of view. It shows how foolish the brightest intellectuals of the day fare against the eternal Logos.

    Each group thought they had caught Jesus in a trap of inescapable “simple logic” by which they could “…entangle him in his talk.” (Matt. 22:15 KJV)

    _________________
    Pharisees – By simple logic – Jesus either has to support taxation ( at which point He will lose his followers ) or not support taxation ( at which point the state will arrest him ).

    Jesus – “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto Got the things that are God’s”. He wipes out their supposed trap with a clear answer. (Matt. 22:21 KJV)
    ______________
    Saducees – By simple logic – We know that there can not be a real physical resurrection because it would lead to impossible eternal contradictions in the case of brothers who needed to marry a woman to “…raise up seed unto their brother.” (Matt. 22:24 KJV)

    Jesus – “Ye do err…For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” There supposed simple logic which demonstrated the impossibility of the resurrection was vanquished by a simple understanding of the nature of the resurrection state.(Matt. 22:29-30 KJV)
    _______________
    A lawyer – By simple logic. I know the most important law is from Deuteronomy part of which declares that ‘…The Lord out God is one Lord.’ Jesus can’t affirm this commandment and still claim divinity.(Deut. 6:4 KJV)

    Jesus – “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy should and with all thy mind.” He just simply answers the question as to how to satisfy the command – he will deal with the issue of the relationship of the Son to the Father with a question of His own.
    ______
    Jesus – “…How then doth David in the spirit call him[The Son of David] Lord..If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?”( Matt 22:43-45 KJV)

    He gives them a mystery which they could not answer at all, but any modern Christian will recognize as easily answered by the the Incarnation.
    ________
    I’m afraid I don’t know this “…stupid God who is above simple logic.” I know a God of tremendous Love and Knowledge who has clearly revealed His Wisdom in His word. I know the God who will “…destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” and “…by the foolishness of preaching…save them that believe.”( I Cor. 1:19, 21 KJV)

    God’s ways have always been a mystery to those who limit themselves to the prevailing winds of man’s wisdom in order to shield themselves from truly believing Him. His ways have always been discernible to those who put God’s word first, and then wait for the Wisdom of God to see the mighty and perfect and glorious way that God has revealed Himself as Omnipotent Judge and Righteous Savior.

    This is the God I know. Who is your God?

  72. 72
    bornagain77 says:

    mike1962, well I consider the fact that Aquinas’s argument, (reduction of potency to act), meshes perfectly with collapse of the quantum waveform, to be VERY good evidence that his ‘unmoved mover’ argument is indeed correct. It simply is uncanny how he was, simply through rigid reasoning, and centuries before it was even scientifically known about, able to deduce the basics of quantum waveform collapse.

    You may reject the evidence and his argument for the ‘unmoved mover’, but it is certainly not a ‘fact not in evidence’ as you claim.

    i.e. I hold you to be wrong not Aquinas. And I will continue to hold you to be wrong in your opinion until you provide the proper empirical evidence that counters what I have thus far presented (i.e. namely double slit & QED)

  73. 73
    mike1962 says:

    Ba77,

    Perhaps you should consider this:

    If God does not undergo state change, than the very idea that “God created the heavens and the earth” is nonsense. Because here we have a clear, unequivicol statement that God is in the state where he is not in relation to his creation (since it doesn’t exist yet), contrasted with another state where God is in relation to his creation. The act of creation is a state change with his respect to God’s creation.

    This is fundamental, and no amount sophistry and irrational word play will change the clear and basic statement.

    If you cannot accept that, we have nothing to discuss.

    Aquinas was trying to have the Bible’s God and Plato’s God at the same time. It doesn’t work. I have no reason to accept Plato’s God. It makes no sense. I hope you can see that.

  74. 74
    bornagain77 says:

    mike1962, so you want me to accept your simplistic reasoning for a static “frozen in time” state being equivalent to the highest timeless state that God exists in?

    Your simplistic ‘frozen in time’ position was already gone over in my post on special relativity:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-579007

    Moreover, besides ignoring that post, you also presented no empirical evidence to counter the empirical evidence that I presented linking quantum wave collapse to Aquinas’s ‘unmoved mover’ argument.

    i.e. Exactly how does a photon get from point a to point b?

    Although modern science has no clue, the ‘unmoved mover’ answers that question VERY WELL.

    You may not personally like the fact that Aquinas is verified in his ‘unmoved mover’ argument, but that does not negate the fact that modern science has verified the basic premise of his argumentation.

    “The ‘First Mover’ is necessary for change occurring at each moment.”
    Michael Egnor – Aquinas’ First Way

    It is certainly not me playing word games, it is you refusing to think outside your temporal ‘flatland’ box, and to follow the evidence where it leads, and recognize the ’empirical’ reality of the higher ‘eternal’, and highest transcendent (timeless), dimensions above this one.

    Albert Einstein – Special Relativity – Insight into Eternity – ‘thought experiment’ – video (6:00 minute mark)
    https://youtu.be/jHnRqhnkyGs?t=364

    Approaching The Speed Of Light – Optical Effects – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQnHTKZBTI4

    Dr. Quantum in Flatland – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=takn4FPkId4

  75. 75
    bornagain77 says:

    Of supplemental note: Although I don’t know what you think about NDEs mike1962, there is a ‘unexpected’ correspondence in NDE testimonies to the ‘tunnel’ and ‘eternal’ attribute that is ‘scientifically’ found for the speed of light:

    “The laws of relativity have changed timeless existence from a theological claim to a physical reality. Light, you see, is outside of time, a fact of nature proven in thousands of experiments at hundreds of universities. I don’t pretend to know how tomorrow can exist simultaneously with today and yesterday. But at the speed of light they actually and rigorously do. Time does not pass.”
    Richard Swenson – More Than Meets The Eye, Chpt. 12

    Please note, at the 3:22 minute mark of the following video, when the 3-Dimensional world ‘folds and collapses’ into a tunnel shape as a ‘hypothetical’ observer moves towards the ‘higher dimension’ of the speed of light, (Of note: This following video was made by two Australian University Physics Professors with a supercomputer.).

    Seeing Relativity – Approaching The Speed Of Light – Optical Effects – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQnHTKZBTI4

    And, in stark contrast to multiverse (and Darwinian) claims from atheists, for which we have no direct observational evidence, we have actual observational evidence from Near Death Experience testimonies of eternity and also of people going through a tunnel to a higher heavenly dimension,,,

    ‘Earthly time has no meaning in the spirit realm. There is no concept of before or after. Everything – past, present, future – exists simultaneously.’
    – Kimberly Clark Sharp – NDE Experiencer

    ‘There is no way to tell whether minutes, hours or years go by. Existence is the only reality and it is inseparable from the eternal now.’
    – John Star – NDE Experiencer

    ‘In the ‘spirit world,,, instantly, there was no sense of time. See, everything on earth is related to time. You got up this morning, you are going to go to bed tonight. Something is new, it will get old. Something is born, it’s going to die. Everything on the physical plane is relative to time, but everything in the spiritual plane is relative to eternity. Instantly I was in total consciousness and awareness of eternity, and you and I as we live in this earth cannot even comprehend it, because everything that we have here is filled within the veil of the temporal life. In the spirit life that is more real than anything else and it is awesome. Eternity as a concept is awesome. There is no such thing as time. I knew that whatever happened was going to go on and on.’
    In The Presence Of Almighty God – The NDE of Mickey Robinson – video (27:45 minute mark)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s66DchGhhD0

    “I started to move toward the light. The way I moved, the physics, was completely different than it is here on Earth. It was something I had never felt before and never felt since. It was a whole different sensation of motion. I obviously wasn’t walking or skipping or crawling. I was not floating. I was flowing. I was flowing toward the light. I was accelerating and I knew I was accelerating, but then again, I didn’t really feel the acceleration. I just knew I was accelerating toward the light. Again, the physics was different – the physics of motion of time, space, travel. It was completely different in that tunnel, than it is here on Earth. I came out into the light and when I came out into the light, I realized that I was in heaven.”
    Barbara Springer – Near Death Experience – The Tunnel – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gv2jLeoAcMI

    Ask the Experts: What Is a Near-Death Experience (NDE)? – article with video
    Excerpt: “Very often as they’re moving through the tunnel, there’s a very bright mystical light … not like a light we’re used to in our earthly lives. People call this mystical light, brilliant like a million times a million suns…”
    – Jeffrey Long M.D. – has studied NDE’s extensively
    http://abcnews.go.com/Nightlin....._gydvW8jbI

    “Regardless, it is impossible for me to adequately describe what I saw and felt. When I try to recount my experiences now, the description feels very pale. I feel as though I’m trying to describe a three-dimensional experience while living in a two-dimensional world. The appropriate words, descriptions and concepts don’t even exist in our current language. I have subsequently read the accounts of other people’s near-death experiences and their portrayals of heaven and I able to see the same limitations in their descriptions and vocabulary that I see in my own.”
    Mary C. Neal, MD – To Heaven And Back pg. 71

    This following video interview of a Harvard Neurosurgeon, who had a Near Death Experience (NDE), is very interesting. His NDE was rather unique from typical NDEs in that he had completely lost brain wave function for 7 days while the rest of his body was on life support. As such he had what can be termed a ‘pure consciousness’ NDE that was dramatically different from the ‘typical’ Judeo-Christian NDEs of going through a tunnel to a higher heavenly dimension, seeing departed relatives, and having a life review. His NDE featured his ‘consciousness’ going outside the confines of space/time, matter/energy altogether to experience ‘non-locally’ what he termed ‘the Core’, i.e to experience God. It is also interesting to note that he retained a ‘finite sense of self-identity’, as Theism would hold, and did not blend into the infinite consciousness/omniscience of God, as pantheism would hold.

    A Conversation with Near Death Experiencer Neurosurgeon Eben Alexander III, M.D. with Steve Paulson (Interviewer) – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ASWnPJSf7o

  76. 76
    mike1962 says:

    BA77,

    You are off the rails, IMO. That’s OK. Peace out.

  77. 77
    Popperian says:

    The same question could be ask in regards to the early detection of diseases.

    For example, some kinds of cancer has a over 90% rate of completely being cured if detected early enough. Why doesn’t God inform patience or doctors when the first cancerous cells are present?

    Again, in the future, we will have clouds of nano-machines in our bodies constantly monitoring for the early onset of diseases, which will report their presences and possibly even follow up with in place treatment.

    Would that make us less sensitive to suffering? I don’t see how.

    In fact, wouldn’t it be immoral of us to *not* provide such a system to people if requested?

  78. 78
    Ben Goren says:

    the assumption that God’s responsibility to assist innocent human beings who are in distress is the same as (if not greater than) that of a passerby who happens to see them in distress and who hears their cries for help;

    Silly me. Here I thought that the gods were supposed to be paragons of virtue, the ultimate exemplars of morality. And, yet, here you are complaining that they are to be held not to an higher standard, but no standard whatsoever.

    the assumption that, if God is responsible for alerting 9-1-1 whenever innocent people are in distress, He is directly responsible, and that He cannot delegate this responsibility to some lesser intelligence, such as an angel;

    Okay; I’ll bite.

    So, why, then, has no angel ever called 9-1-1?

    the assumption that God has no higher obligations towards the human race as a whole, which might conflict with, and over-ride, His obligation to assist individuals in distress;

    You mean the omnipotent almighty all-powerful can’t even walk and chew gum at the same time?

    the assumption that there are no “privileged members” of the human race who have the prerogative of deciding, on behalf of humanity as a whole, whether (and to what degree) God should offer assistance to individuals in distress who call upon his name for help;

    Ah, yes. The priests. The mere mortals who invented the gods and hold ultimate power over the gods, commanding the gods to speak on their behalf. Nasty lot, the priests.

    the assumption that anyone – in particular, anyone on 911 – would be capable of hearing the voice of God, if He wanted to leave an important message for them.

    Wait — I’m confused. If nobody realizes that the gods are speaking to them, let alone has a clue what they’re saying…where do all these scriptures and prophesies and revelations come from, again…?

    As the saying goes…with enemas like these, who needs fronds?

    Cheers,

    b&

  79. 79
    Virgil Cain says:

    Here I thought that the gods were supposed to be paragons of virtue, the ultimate exemplars of morality.

    And if we are constantly bailed out then what was accomplished?

    You mean the omnipotent almighty all-powerful can’t even walk and chew gum at the same time?

    Those are nasty human habits.

    So, why, then, has no angel ever called 9-1-1?

    How do you know that no angel ever called 9-1-1? How do you know an angel never intervened?

    As the saying goes… with atheists like you who needs clowns?

  80. 80
    Ben Goren says:

    And if we are constantly bailed out then what was accomplished?

    Who wrote anything about, “constantly”? I’d say that, after a priest has run out of appendages to count the number of children he’s raped, it’s high past time Jesus dropped a dime on him, don’t you?

    Or maybe you don’t think Jesus should alert the authorities until after he’s raped an hundred children? More?

    How many children does a priest have to rape before it’s time for Jesus to finally decide that enough is enough and call 9-1-1?

    No — wait. Don’t answer that. I’ve got a better question for you.

    How many times would you have to witness a priest raping a child before you would call 9-1-1? Ten? Twenty?

    Or…just one?

    Hmpf. Fancy that. A Christian who demonstrates infinitely higher moral standards and more compassion and dignity than Jesus.

    Those are nasty human habits.

    Walking…a nasty habit? Seriously?

    And, last I checked, the American Dental Association recommended chewing gum for dental hygiene. I never cared for gum…but, again? Clean teeth is a nasty habit?

    …and you wonder why Christians have a reputation for…well…backwardness…?

    How do you know that no angel ever called 9-1-1? How do you know an angel never intervened?

    Oh, that’s trivial. You just proved it for me.

    First, had any ever done that, you’d have been the first to offer the evidence.

    Second…they’re clearly all too busy helping sports megamillionaires score more points and drunks find their car keys to bother calling 9-1-1 for babies whose houses are on fire.

    But, then again, I suppose Jesus thinks it’s more important that the baby and its parents and the little dog, too, all die an agonizing death so you yourself can learn some vague lesson about lovingkindness or some such. Clearly got his priorities straight, that Jesus. All that pain and death and misery is such a small pay for your righteous self satisfaction, wouldn’t you agree?

    b&

  81. 81
    Mapou says:

    Ben Goren, we live in a Yin-Yang reality. There is no such thing as pleasure without pain, happiness without suffering. We are designed with both pain and pleasure sensors for that reason. God could certainly intervene to prevent all the nasty things that happen on earth, even to prevent little kids from falling on their tricycles. But that would not be reality. We would be living a lie. The brain adapts to its environment precisely because we have both appetitive and aversive behaviors.

    IMO, whoever is in charge knows that nobody is allowed into their company without going through the same crap that they went through. We must be initiated into both Yin and Yang. There is no escaping it.

  82. 82
    Eugen says:

    Ben – Jerry Coyne’s groupie

    You atheists used to be amusing but now you are just creepy to me. It’s good that there are people on UD who have patience for you.

  83. 83
    vjtorley says:

    Ben Goren,

    I see that you have deigned to grace us with your presence. I should inform you at the outset that for people who contribute to this forum, sarcasm is no substitute for logic.

    I questioned your implicit assumption that God’s responsibility to assist innocent human beings who are in distress is the same as (if not greater than) that of a passerby who happens to see them in distress and who hears their cries for help, and you attributed to me the callous view that God (or gods, as you put it) “are to be held not to an (sic) higher standard, but no standard whatsoever.” Sorry, but that does not follow. Even I would agree that God is eventually bound to cut short the suffering innocent human beings who are in distress, and that He would be morally depraved if He were to allow them to suffer forever.

    I also criticized your assumption that God cannot delegate this responsibility to some lesser intelligence, such as an angel, and you responded by asking why no angel has ever called 9-1-1. Here’s your answer, from a Christian perspective: the angel in charge of this planet, a.k.a. the Prince of this world, is called Lucifer. We know him as Satan. While each of us has a guardian angel who is good, the boss of the show, at least on planet Earth, is still the Devil. If you want to understand where I’m coming from, I suggest you read C.S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet.

    I also drew attention to your assumption that the assumption that God has no higher obligations towards the human race as a whole, which might conflict with, and over-ride, His obligation to assist individuals in distress. You mock such a Deity as being unable to walk and chew gum at the same time. But it isn’t a matter of simply juggling responsibilities; if the responsibilities are on different levels, then higher-level ones could over-ride lower-level ones.

    By the way, the “privileged members” of the human race who have the prerogative of deciding, on behalf of humanity as a whole, whether (and to what degree) God should offer assistance to individuals in distress who call upon his name for help, are not priests. I was referring to our first parents, Adam and Eve.

    Finally, the possibility that perhaps no-one on 911 would be capable of hearing the voice of God, even if He wanted to leave an important message for them, should not be overlooked. The fact that some individuals have claimed to hear the voice of God does not imply that most or all individuals are in fact capable of doing so.

  84. 84
    Ben Goren says:

    Even I would agree that God is eventually bound to cut short the suffering innocent human beings who are in distress, and that He would be morally depraved if He were to allow them to suffer forever.

    Even that standard would be considered horrific if applied to an human. I’ll ask you the question. How many children would you witness a priest rape before you saw fit to call 9-1-1? How many rapes must a single child under your care suffer before you relented and called 9-1-1? Would I not be correct in identifying you as morally depraved if that number were greater than one? Imagine now you’re the priest’s superior — bishop if Catholic; substitute your denomination’s own hierarchy if not. Or cardinal, or pope. If the pope witnessed a priest rape a child and failed to alert the local police, would that not be even more horrific than a cardinal who failed to do so?

    So, again: why should it not be even more horrific still that Jesus himself, whom we are to believe sees all and has far more than enough ability to place a simple phone call…why should not his active complicity in not merely enabling but conspiring to perpetrate serial child rape — why should that not absolutely repulse and horrify all morally competent humans?

    While each of us has a guardian angel who is good, the boss of the show, at least on planet Earth, is still the Devil.

    Then the Devil has demonstrated that Jesus, far from being all-powerful, is utterly impotent. Imagine if Obama’s daughters were kidnapped by terrorists; would he not throw the entire might and force of the American military at the kidnappers in an effort to free them? How long would he make his daughters suffer in order to give the terrorists the opportunity to exercise their free will and come clean? Yet Jesus, in his fight to liberate us from the Devil, can do more than make cameo appearances on burnt bread and the hindquarters of a dog?

    You mock such a Deity as being unable to walk and chew gum at the same time. But it isn’t a matter of simply juggling responsibilities; if the responsibilities are on different levels, then higher-level ones could over-ride lower-level ones.

    Again, you’re the one who, on the one hand, claims that Jesus’s power is limitless — and then, with every other breath, desperately assures us that Jesus is completely powerless and incompetent.

    Utterly incompetent! Even the lowliest of Greek Muses would have been able to spare Earth the Holocaust, by simply inspiring Hitler to fulfill his dreams of becoming a great artist. And, indeed, rather than somehow diminish his “free will,” his will would have been expanded and empowered. Yet Jesus was unable to do something even so trivial…and so millions had to die, just so that Hitler could take out his frustrations on them? That’s what you expect of all-powerful infinite compassion?

    I was referring to our first parents, Adam and Eve.

    Never mind that they never existed, that they’re fictional characters from a fourth-rate faery tale about an enchanted garden with talking animals and an angry wizard. Even according to your mythology, that was hundreds of generations ago. What sort of insane psychopath carries out a grudge on the hundreds-of-times-removed-great-grandchildren of somebody whose crime was eating a piece of fruit? Would you think it just were I to dig up all the crimes your own parents ever committed and sentence you to that much jail and fines? Your grandparents? But, apparently, it’s perfectly fine if it’s your imaginary great…great-grandparents.

    The fact that some individuals have claimed to hear the voice of God does not imply that most or all individuals are in fact capable of doing so.

    At this point, I need to ask you to stop and ask yourself why you worship such a blitheringly incompetent god. Every single challenge I’ve offered of you, you’ve replied by assuring us that it’s far too difficult for your god to even think of addressing. Here, even: your god can’t get get an official Twitter account, let alone hold the occasional press conference? And is instead reduced to competing with all the other auditory hallucinations schizophrenics suffer?

    This is one of the things that most amazes and frustrates me: the naked hypocrisy of the pious — that, from the one side of the mouth, we are told of the limitless power and glory of the gods; from the other, even the most trivial task is utterly beyond imagination for the gods.

    How can you believe that Jesus had the power to physically manifest, has the power to hear and answer prayers, loves us all as his own children…and yet sits idly by, ignoring the desperate pleas of help from actual children actually being actually tortured at the actual hands of his actual official representatives?

    …and, of course, the other thing that amazes me is that, not only is none of what I’ve written any sort of new revelation or observation, but just another recapitulation of what Epicurus himself wrote centuries before Mark wrote an Euhemeric biography for the ancient Jewish demigod of Zechariah 6….

    Cheers,

    b&

  85. 85
    vjtorley says:

    Ben Goren,

    Thank you for your post. In my previous comment, I pointed out that sarcasm is no substitute for logic. I’d like to add that rhetoric and bombast are no substitute are no substitute for logic, either. If you have a point to make, you don’t need to shout. We can hear you.

    In answer to your question, obviously I would call 9-1-1 if I believed, or even suspected on reasonable grounds, that a priest (or any other individual) was going to molest some child.

    You then ask: “Why should it not be even more horrific still that Jesus himself, whom we are to believe sees all and has far more than enough ability to place a simple phone call,” doesn’t call 9-1-1? “Why,” you ask, “should that not absolutely repulse and horrify all morally competent humans?”

    Not so fast. You still haven’t explained why a supernatural Deity with perfect knowledge, love and power, would be obliged to help each suffering individual right now. Nor have you explained why the obligations of a Deity are the same as those of a human passerby. As I pointed out above, the only obligation that we can be absolutely certain that an omnibenevolent Deity has towards suffering individuals is the obligation not to allow them to suffer irreparable harm.

    With regard to Adam and Eve, you ask: “What sort of insane psychopath carries out a grudge on the hundreds-of-times-removed-great-grandchildren of somebody whose crime was eating a piece of fruit?” Quick answer: God carries no grudge. I believe it was Adam who demanded that the human race be left alone, and that God refrain from “butting in” all the time with danger warnings, whenever something bad was about to happen. Adam saw that as interference, and viewed God as an interfering Cosmic Nanny. Adam wanted complete autonomy. He demanded that the human race be left alone to make its own mistakes, even if this entailed lots of suffering for us all. God reluctantly complied with his request.

    You might ask why God has bound the whole human race by Adam’s fateful decision, when some people might have preferred to have a “Cosmic Nanny.” (After all, why not?) But if you think about it for a little while, you’ll see why. You could hardly have a situation where half of humanity received regular updates from On High about approaching earthquakes, typhoons, and terrorist plots, while the other half was kept in the dark. That wouldn’t be fair, either. As a result of Adam’s fateful decision, it had to be “lights out” for everyone. That’s what the doctrine of the Fall is all about.

    Christians believe, however, that God has not left the human race in the lurch. But the triumph over evil will not happen overnight. Ever since Calvary, we have known that God’s victory is a fore-ordained conclusion, but we do not know when history will come to a close.

  86. 86
    Virgil Cain says:

    I’d say that, after a priest has run out of appendages to count the number of children he’s raped, it’s high past time Jesus dropped a dime on him, don’t you?

    The priest will spend eternity in hell. That is quite the dime being dropped on him.

    How many times would you have to witness a priest raping a child before you would call 9-1-1?

    Why would I need 911?

    A Christian who demonstrates infinitely higher moral standards and more compassion and dignity than Jesus.

    I’m not a christian.

    Walking…a nasty habit?

    When compared to how God gets around, yes.

    And, last I checked, the American Dental Association recommended chewing gum for dental hygiene. I never cared for gum…but, again? Clean teeth is a nasty habit?

    God has teeth? Or are you a deluded dork?

    How do you know that no angel ever called 9-1-1? How do you know an angel never intervened?

    Oh, that’s trivial. You just proved it for me.

    Only in your very limited mind.

    First, had any ever done that, you’d have been the first to offer the evidence.

    As if I monitor all 911 calls. Obviously you are a moron.

    So Ben doesn’t know jack and thinks his ignorance is an argument.

    Typical atheist.

  87. 87
    Ben Goren says:

    You still haven’t explained why a supernatural Deity with perfect knowledge, love and power, would be obliged to help each suffering individual right now. Nor have you explained why the obligations of a Deity are the same as those of a human passerby.

    But, don’t you see? I don’t have to, for you already have.

    The least among us is expected to, and it is demanded of the greatest amongst us. You yourself would.

    You know why you would call 9-1-1. You know why you would teach your own children to call 9-1-1. You know why you would urge anybody and everybody to call 9-1-1.

    Mentally tally those reasons. Conjure up your excuse for Jesus’s incompetence. Apply that same excuse to yourself, to your children, to some random stranger. Would you not be horrified at applying any excuse to yourself and anybody else? So why would you love somebody who has an excuse?

    I’ll give you but a single example; if you have any sense of honesty, of decency, you yourself could come up with countless others.

    We know from too-painful example that a priest (or whomever) who rapes a child is unlikely to stop with but a single victim. Ideal, of course, is prevention; but, in this scenario, prevention is too late. Even if the priest has already raped dozens of children by the time you stumble upon his crimes, you’re still going to call 9-1-1 so that the priest doesn’t rape dozens more. If you don’t, and that priest goes on to rape dozens more children, you are morally and legally considered an accomplice, as complicit in the crimes as if you yourself were the rapist. You’re aiding and abetting after the fact, as I believe prosecutors put it. Those later victims, after you observed the crime, could, would, and should have been spared their torture but for the fact that you hid the priest from the police and thereby actively helped him continue his crime spree.

    Could you live with yourself knowing that you had effectively raped by proxy dozens of children? Could you respect anybody who did? If the accomplice were the rapist’s supervisor, the rapist’s regional manager, the CEO and founder of the rapist’s organization?

    You could hardly have a situation where half of humanity received regular updates from On High about approaching earthquakes, typhoons, and terrorist plots, while the other half was kept in the dark.

    Again with the omnincompetence! Do not we ourselves already receive updates, literally on high from orbiting satellites, regular updates on approaching typhoons? Do not our spies (incompetently) provide a small handful of people regular updates about suspected terrorist plots, leaving the rest in the dark?

    Every time I suggest something that mere mortals do as something that Jesus might consider doing, you declare it far beyond his capacity to even consider. Jesus can’t do this; Jesus can’t do that; Jesus can’t do the other. Excuses, excuses, excuses — yet you yourself do these very things.

    Never mind rocks too heavy to lift, burritos too hot to eat. Jesus, by your own emphatic and repeated declaration, is too weak to skip a stone across a still lake, too anorexic to swallow a crumb, too heartless to drop a dime.

    If Jesus can’t do any of these most trivial things, not even when it means saving children from being raped by his own priests…why on Earth should you think he’ll follow through on any of these other promises?

    Would you trust somebody who wouldn’t even drop a dime on a serial rapist?

    b&

  88. 88
    Virgil Cain says:

    Our newly arrived atheist is a confused imbecile. What happens on earth we are responsible for. That is how we are judged.

    All of the bad and evil people don’t get in to heaven. Eternal punishment is far greater than anything humans can do.

  89. 89
    Ben Goren says:

    Virgil, didn’t your mother teach you that two worngs don’t make a right? Torture is inexcusable under any circumstances; infinite torture infinitely inexcusable.

    And that’s ignoring the fact that prevention is the most important part of the criminal justice system. Jesus doesn’t have the same moral obligation the rest of us do to call 9-1-1 in case of emergency in order to ensure that perpetrators get punished. Most emergencies don’t have perpetrators to punish. The obligation to call 9-1-1 is to staunch the bleeding, to keep a bad situation from getting even worse. In particular, in the case of Jesus’s official agents going on all-expenses-paid extended child rape vacations…the reason to call 9-1-1 after the first dozen or so rapes is to spare the next dozen or so possible victims from becoming victims.

    Who will Jesus torture for the tree that falls with nobody to call for help for those trapped underneath? What comfort to the second dozen victims of a predator priest is even worse agony inflicted upon the priest? Especially when their own agony could have been avoided, not by some magic miracle, but a simple phone call!

    By your own logic, who is to cast Jesus himself into Hell for all eternity for his own repeated crimes against humanity, for his constant failure to render assistance when, in many jurisdictions, failure to do so is itself criminal?

    b&

  90. 90
    Virgil Cain says:

    Ben, Didn’t your mother teach you not to hump strawmen? Or are you really as mentally limited as an infant?

  91. 91
    Barry Arrington says:

    Virgil Cain at 90. You are warned against such. Last warning.

  92. 92
    Virgil Cain says:

    Mr Barry, my apologies but I am not sure what part of my post (90) is bad/ ban worthy. Ben is posting strawman arguments and his “arguments” are that which come from infants.

    Did you read what I was responding to? Or do you think Jesus tortures people?

    UD Editors: Virgil, you can point that out without vulgar references to humping.

  93. 93
    Barry Arrington says:

    VJ,

    I appreciate your attempts to answer Ben Goren. But I can assure you that at the end of the day none of your answers will satisfy him. Ben is doing a fine job of standing in for Ivan Karamazov in this thread. And if you will remember, Dostoevsky never answered Ivan’s indictment by providing a counterargument. He answered the indictment by pointing to God’s grace.

    David Bentley Hart captures this in this article. In one of the most sublime paragraphs ever written in the English language he says:

    As for comfort, when we seek it, I can imagine none greater than the happy knowledge that when I see the death of a child I do not see the face of God, but the face of His enemy. It is not a faith that would necessarily satisfy Ivan Karamazov, but neither is it one that his arguments can defeat: for it has set us free from optimism, and taught us hope instead. We can rejoice that we are saved not through the immanent mechanisms of history and nature, but by grace; that God will not unite all of history’s many strands in one great synthesis, but will judge much of history false and damnable; that He will not simply reveal the sublime logic of fallen nature, but will strike off the fetters in which creation languishes; and that, rather than showing us how the tears of a small girl suffering in the dark were necessary for the building of the Kingdom, He will instead raise her up and wipe away all tears from her eyes”and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor any more pain, for the former things will have passed away, and He that sits upon the throne will say, “Behold, I make all things new.”

    And that, my friend, is all the we can really say. So let Ben rage. Let him pretend that his solution — pretending that a universe in which man, instead of God, is the measure of all things makes the situation better. I can even understand what compels him (and Ivan). The pain and terrible suffering in the universe cry out to us. But his proposed solution is worse than the problem he hopes to solve. As someone said, after the Holocaust it is difficult to believe in God, but it is impossible to believe in man.

  94. 94
    Ben Goren says:

    Barry, put yourself in what you perceive as Jesus’s shoes, as the righteous judge of your own life.

    And imagine that you committed some horrific, unspeakable tortuous act upon an unwilling innocent child, but, in your mind, only to prepare the way to give the child a life of great wealth and luxury afterwards.

    Would you ignore the evil wrought simply because you promised to do something to make amends afterwards?

    Were you on a jury hearing such a case, would you vote to acquit?

    We know empirically that this is overwhelmingly not the case with Christians. We are told that abortion is one of the worst imaginable sins, yet that the aborted get a guaranteed free ride straight to Heaven without suffering earthly torment. The truly brave moral conclusion for one who believes such would be to cause as many abortions as possible, to sacrifice one’s own eternal salvation for the infinite bliss of as many hundreds of innocents as possible. That no Christians see the good done to the aborted as reasonable justification to the harm caused to them by being aborted…well, there’s your answer right there. Not only do two worngs not make a right, a future right doesn’t exculpate past worngs.

    Christians claim that all moral authority derives from their gods. If that is the case, then our morality must be a mirror of divine morality — even if imperfect. And, whenever our morality deviates from the divine, it must be our obligation to abandon ours and realign ourselves with the divine.

    Therefore, if we have a moral obligation to, again for example, call 9-1-1, then so, too, must the divine. But if the divine can have reasonable excuses for not calling 9-1-1, then those excuses must be every bit as valid for humans.

    That no such excuse is imaginable for somebody with knowledge of, again again for example, priestly rape, there must similarly be no excuse for gods with such knowledge.

    Vincent focussed his original reply to me on a number of implicit assumptions of mine he considers invalid. All his objections, and yours as well, ultimately distill down to but a single invalid assumption of your own.

    And that is, that because you think something should or must or ought to be so, it therefore is so.

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that was how the Cosmos actually functioned? If we could dream up of ways that we would do things better, and Lo and Behold they were? Life would be so much easier with an ultimate father figure telling us what to do; ergo, an ultimate father figure has told us what to do.

    For better or for worse, that’s not how things actually work. As I suspect you very likely actually do know, deep down inside, even if you’d rather not admit it, not even to yourself.

    Faith is the false warm comfort of the bed the child has just wet. Long before morning, the misery of the wet bed far outweighs the perceived misery of the inconvenience of getting up and walking down the hall.

    b&

  95. 95
    Upright BiPed says:

    Which thread is this?

    Is this the one where molecules make meaning out of other molecules? Or is the one with the guy shaking his fist at a God that he doesn’t think exists? Or is it the one where rapists are cool, as long as there aren’t too many of them. Like smokers in a pool room, we don’t want them all lighting up at once.

  96. 96
    Virgil Cain says:

    So many strawmen, so little time. It must be sad to be so desperate, Ben.

  97. 97
    Barry Arrington says:

    Ben,

    I have answered this question before. I will point you to that answer. You will not be satisfied with it. But this is my last word on it today:

    We Cannot Wrap Our Head Around Evil

    An excerpt:

    Adherents of both schools would have benefited from Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. Chesterton takes for granted the fact that we cannot understand the universe (far less the God of the universe) fully, and efforts to do so lead quite literally to a sort of madness. Using poetry as a metaphor for mysticism, he writes:

    Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion . . . The poet only desires exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in. The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.

    Chesterton would be the first to admit that the internal logic of both the “sadistic maniac” and the “amiable bumbler” schools is unassailable, just as the internal logic of a madman’s arguments cannot be defeated:

    If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment. He is not hampered by a sense of humor or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.

    Chesterton concludes that only the ability to hold truths that appear to be contradictory keeps us sane:

    Mysticism keeps men sane. As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity. The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic. He has permitted the twilight. He has always had one foot in earth and the other in fairyland. He has always left himself free to doubt his gods; but (unlike the agnostic of to-day) free also to believe in them . . . Thus he has always believed that there was such a thing as fate, but such a thing as free will also . . . It is exactly this balance of apparent contradictions that has been the whole buoyancy of the healthy man. The whole secret of mysticism is this: that man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand. The morbid logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious, and everything else becomes lucid.

  98. 98
    Ben Goren says:

    Barry, may I suggest?

    You yourself are highly unlikely to embrace every fool superstition out there that dresses itself in the garb of mysticism. You do not consult the dredges of your coffee cup for investment advice; you do not seek to cure your headache by splattering yourself with chicken blood; you do not ward off evil by dancing around the fire in the skins of your trophies in the hunt.

    Nor do you shy away from the fruits of our most impressive successes at making sense of the Cosmos. Your smartphone could not have been built without an understanding of both Quantum and Relativistic Mechanics, and it will tell you how long you’ll be before you get to the coffee shop at the same time you use it to relay that information to your friend waiting for you there. This very medium we are communicating by, some random blog on an out-of-the-way corner of the Internet…it represents a mind-boggling fusion of so much human understanding. You literally would have no device to see the words I type were it not for the fact that we know exactly how the human eye functions and how to trick it into seeing an entire spectrum of color where only three small slices of the rainbow are present.

    The excuses you offer for your own mysticism would neither fool nor satisfy you were we to simply do a search / replace on the names and places of the mysteries you reference. Set Genesis not in Eden with Adam and Eve but in an hidden city park in Baltimore with Bruce and Carol, and you’d instantly recognize it as what it is: a faery tale in an enchanted garden with talking animals and an angry wizard. You’d also recognize that talking plants (on fire!) do not, in fact, give magic wand lessons to reluctant heroes — at least, not outside of faery tales. And zombie resurrections, with thralls thrusting their hands into the gaping chest wound of the king of the dead…

    …none of it wold even remotely pass the sniff test for you had you not been taught from your mother’s breast that it’s really real. No appeals to mystery, to ignorance, to blind trust…none of that would suffice for anything that even vaguely resembled that which you proudly claim on those exact grounds.

    Would you buy an used car on faith, or would the salesman’s passionate reassurance that the car was a real cherry, no need for you to have your own mechanic kick the tires, set off all kinds of alarm bells?

    And if you wouldn’t even buy an used car on faith…how can you possibly justify buying an entire worldview on faith?

    b&

  99. 99
    Virgil Cain says:

    Ben Goren, It takes more faith to believe our existence is due to contingent serendipity than it does to be a christian. And please don’t talk of science as if your position has some to support its claims. Your entire worldview is faith based.

  100. 100
    Sastra says:

    I have a question which relates to Ben’s problem with theodicy:

    if someone knew nothing about God, Jesus, or the Bible in advance, do you think this person could look at all the seemingly unjustified suffering in the world and reasonably conclude that there is no Higher Power lovingly watching out for humanity?

    I’m not asking whether you think they’d still be wrong. I’m wondering if you would agree that yes, absent Special Revelation, the Problem of Evil could mislead an honest person into atheism not through arrogance, but through compassion?

  101. 101
    Ben Goren says:

    Virgil, as you do not seem to be arguing in good faith, I question your comprehension of the term…but I’ll give it a try anyway.

    The goal in science is to proportion one’s belief as indicated by a rational analysis of objective observation.

    Lacking adequate observation or a thorough analysis, the proper answer is, “I don’t know” — which is the answer you’ll get from any cosmologist on questions of ultimate origins. We can — and do — push the boundaries of knowledge back…but, as with the child’s “Why?” game, there will always be a further horizon beyond which we cannot (yet?) see.

    Incidentally, such is also the same for any purported intelligence, no matter how allegedly infinite. Jesus, for example, has no way of ruling out the possibility that even he is but a fragment of Alice’s Red King’s Dream — and the King, in turn, cannot rule out the chance that he himself is but a minor subroutine of a pan-Cosmic Matrix…which, in turn is some pimply-faced teenaged hyperintelligent shade of the color blue’s smartphone game. And so on.

    But there are all sorts of things we can have, for all insensitive porpoises, absolute confidence about. The Sun will rise in the East. Until air resistance (etc.) becomes a factor, things unsupported near the surface of the Earth fall at about ten meters per second per second. Water is a chemical compound made of two hydrogen atoms for every oxygen atom — and those atoms are composed of electrons and quarks held together by the various nuclear forces. And so on.

    And there are other things that lie between. We’re pretty confident that dark matter is real, for example; we can see galaxies move in ways that only make sense if there’re clumps of matter out there that we can’t see. But, though lots of astrophysicists have their pet theories as to what that dark matter actually is made of, and they’ll eagerly tell you about those theories and why they prefer theirs…they’ll also admit that they don’t know and are still trying to figure it out. (Note: declaring it’s Jesus mysteriously waving his magic wand and giving up does not constitute an attempt at trying to figure it out.)

    You yourself do not question the sorts of basic agreed-upon facts I gave examples of — at least, I should hope you don’t. I’m pretty confident that you don’t live your life thinking that you can step off a cliff without falling down, that the Sun someday might rise in the West (high-latitude supersonic aircraft trips notwithstanding), that water is some sort of fundamental Platonic ideal essence present in most substances to some degree or another.

    There are all sorts of other facts that can be demonstrated with similar levels of confidence…and, amongst those facts are that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old; that all life on Earth shares a common ancestor almost as old as the Earth (alternatively stated, that we are cousins with all living organisms, not just all other humans); that there was no global Flood; and that the entire Jesus incident is a mythical fabrication no different from all the other religious fabrications of the era…

    …but that is perhaps best left as a subject for another day….

    Cheers,

    b&

  102. 102
    Virgil Cain says:

    Ben Goren:

    The goal in science is to proportion one’s belief as indicated by a rational analysis of objective observation.

    Yes and your position can’t do that.

    There are all sorts of other facts that can be demonstrated with similar levels of confidence…and, amongst those facts are that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old; that all life on Earth shares a common ancestor almost as old as the Earth

    The age of the earth depends on how it was formed. The 4.5 billion year number assumes the proto earth was so hot that no crystals survived and all crystals were made during the cool down. The common ancestor one, well, there isn’t any way to test the claim. We don’t know what makes an organism what it is. DNA codes for assorted RNAs. There isn’t anything in DNA that determines the final form.

    But that misses the point. None of that points to a mechanism. Your position relies on differing accumulations lucky accidents. It can’t be tested.

    Did you know that most of the greatest scientists thought science was a way of figuring out God’s Creation?

  103. 103
    Virgil Cain says:

    Sastra:

    if someone knew nothing about God, Jesus, or the Bible in advance, do you think this person could look at all the seemingly unjustified suffering in the world and reasonably conclude that there is no Higher Power lovingly watching out for humanity?

    If they only got to see the pain and suffering, probably not. However if they also got to see the other side of humanity- the majority side, they may conclude there is a Higher Power pushing back.

  104. 104
    Sastra says:

    Virgil Cain #103 wrote:

    If they only got to see the pain and suffering, probably not. However if they also got to see the other side of humanity- the majority side, they may conclude there is a Higher Power pushing back.

    Thank you. But this hypothetical person has not concluded “an evil force exists” — they’ve concluded that the universe as a whole is indifferent to suffering. Nobody is watching and controlling, for good or ill. In that case I don’t think the fact that there’s also love and joy in this world would require the assumption that there’s anything “pushing back.”

    In the absence of special revelation, do you think pity and compassion for the suffering might reasonably lead someone to atheism?

  105. 105
    steveh says:

    You could hardly have a situation where half of humanity received regular updates from On High about approaching earthquakes, typhoons, and terrorist plots, while the other half was kept in the dark. That wouldn’t be fair, either. As a result of Adam’s fateful decision, it had to be “lights out” for everyone. That’s what the doctrine of the Fall is all about.

    So when a plane crashes and 500 people die, but one person inexplicably and “miraculously” escapes, has that person been wronged by God in some way and been deprived of his chance to enjoy a horrible and unavoidable death and subsequent eternal torment as Adam dictated? Why did Jesus intervene and cure people of blindness, leprosy and insufficient bread and/or fish? Surely, they should have been left to their own devices to find cures for blindness, disease,hunger,tsunamis, earthquake, or whatever for themselves.

    I really do not like this kind of apologetic. You would never use it in any situation where you were not trying to explain God’s apparent moral failings. Nobody argues that slavery is/was OK because maybe, just maybe, Adam, Noah, Moses, whoever, said “Should any descendant of mine ever complain about forced servitude/labor/slavery please ignore them and let them jolly well sort it out for themselves”; If someone in a concentration camp pleads for his or her life to be spared we don’t generally search ancient texts for utterances of their forebears urging them to quit complaining and get on with it. when someone is suffering agonies brought on by some form of cancer, we don’t deny them pain relief and inform them that it’s not my problem/job (*). If we did, in each case we would be mirroring God’s own course of inaction, but would arguably, by these standards, be correct to do so.

    (*) Possible exception: JW’s who deny their children blood transfusions – although I am not OK with that.

    Why not “‘Lights out’ for Noah if he so wishes for himself, but that decision for others, in circumstances he could not have anticipated, be left to them, as is normally the way?”

    Eta: Fixed some typos, I’m sure I will notice more once the deadline passes. BTW, what happened to preview?

  106. 106
    Mapou says:

    Yin and Yang, people. You can’t have one without the other.

    We must go through this suffering/tribulation because we are being initiated. We will not enter the company of the Gods unless we first experience both the Yin and the Yang. Stop blaming Jesus/Yahweh or the aliens for your afflictions.

  107. 107
    vjtorley says:

    Ben Goren,

    I will keep my response short.

    The point I have been making, over and over again, is that whatever good reasons you or I may have for calling 9-1-1 as soon as possible in order to prevent a crime, they do not apply to God, for two reasons: (i) God isn’t a member of the human race and therefore doesn’t have the same obligations towards individuals as you or I have; (ii) God may have countervailing obligations which prevent Him from intervening now. Not even God can break a promise. If He has promised to give responsibility for the oversight of this planet’s affairs to some lesser intelligence, then He has to step aside and let that intelligence go bout its business. And if He promised to abide by the decision of the first human beings regarding whether acts of Divine intrervention should occur on a regular basis or not, then He has to keep His promise. It’s as simple as that.

    A final thought. If aliens discovered our civilization, would they be morally obliged to call 9-1-1 if they saw a crime about to occur?

  108. 108
    Ben Goren says:

    Vincent,

    Your clarifications are most helpful…but not to the furtherance of your argument. Indeed, I do believe you’ve effectively conceded all my points — especially with your final comparison to aliens.

    If aliens visited us, they would not necessarily be under any moral obligation to alert our local authorities in cases of emergency.

    However, if they wished to be part of our society, they would most certainly be under the same obligations as any other members of our society. In particular, if they wished for us to view them as exemplars of moral virtue and to dictate moral standards to us…they must walk the walk. They must hold themselves to the same standards as they would hold us to, and as they would have us hold each other to.

    As I noted, they may well not choose to be part of our society. But, if not, if they don’t leave us alone, they become interfering so-and-sos at the least, and, inevitably, our enemies. If they merely wish to dictate terms to us with no intention of reciprocity, then they would be our masters with us as slaves — a situation I would hope even you would find abhorrent.

    So, take your pick. Either your gods are respectable moral agents, in which case are obligated to play by the same rules as everybody else; or they’re under no such obligation and therefore are irrelevant at best and our mortal enemies at worst.

    This iconic clip demonstrates the point rather viscerally:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dk01eeKMD_I

    As to your other points…a boss who fails to fire an incompetent subordinate shares in the subordinate’s incompetence. When the subordinate goes beyond mere incompetence into violent criminality, if the boss still stands behind the subordinate, the boss takes on full responsibility for the crimes committed under his authority. Jesus can’t pass the buck to Satan. And if Adam and Eve really were as children…then Jesus is the absolute most horrific child-neglecting parent imaginable to abandon them at their darkest hour. Only heartless monsters even think of doing that sort of thing.

    b&

  109. 109
    Virgil Cain says:

    Either your gods are respectable moral agents, in which case are obligated to play by the same rules as everybody else;

    Strawman. It could be that God is a respectable moral agent that has a hands-off approach so God can determine who deserves to get into Heaven.

    or they’re under no such obligation and therefore are irrelevant at best and our mortal enemies at worst.

    Or God just sets the standards that everyone has to follow to get into Heaven. It’s a free will thing.

  110. 110
    Virgil Cain says:

    Sastra:

    But this hypothetical person has not concluded “an evil force exists” — they’ve concluded that the universe as a whole is indifferent to suffering.

    You don’t know that. That person would still have to explain our existence.

    In the absence of special revelation, do you think pity and compassion for the suffering might reasonably lead someone to atheism?

    No.

  111. 111
    Ben Goren says:

    It could be that God is a respectable moral agent that has a hands-off approach so God can determine who deserves to get into Heaven.

    No; that’s horrifically evil behavior, of the over-the-top comic book villain variety. It’s the luxury hotel operator whose property survived the natural disaster, who continues to off the finest accommodations to his guests, and who welcomes all in need — provided of course, they’re the right sort of people. Of course, it should go without saying, that all those dirty homeless slobs clogging up the driveway aren’t the right sort of people, and won’t somebody please clear them away? They smell bad.

    That person would still have to explain our existence.

    Now that’s a strawman. In order to conclude that there probably aren’t any invisible agents doing nothing, you have to know more than all cosmologists combined. But to conclude that there are invisible agents imperceptibly doing damned little, all you have to do is attribute existence to the invisible agents.

    Maybe you’d be impressed by my anti-tiger rock? Or you’d like to speak to the inaudible invisible heatless dragon in my garage? I’d be more than happy to interpret for you everything she has to say to you.

    The answer to, “Why does existence exist?” is that the question itself is meaningless. What’s north of the North Pole? But even if you want to push it back a bit, to, “What were the proximate causes of the Big Bang?” then, “I don’t know,” isn’t merely a perfectly valid answer; it’s the only defensible one.

    Claims of certainty in the face of ignorance are the purview of conmen and fools.

    b&

  112. 112
    vjtorley says:

    Ben Goren,

    Thank you for your response. I was interested to read your answer to my question about whether visiting aliens would be obliged to call 911, if they saw a crime occurring (or about to occur):

    However, if they wished to be part of our society, they would most certainly be under the same obligations as any other members of our society. In particular, if they wished for us to view them as exemplars of moral virtue and to dictate moral standards to us… they must walk the walk. They must hold themselves to the same standards as they would hold us to, and as they would have us hold each other to.

    Three brief points in response:

    1. I’m mystified as to why you think that God, the Author of our Being, wishes to be part of our society. He is on another plane of existence, just as the author of a book is on another plane of existence from her characters. (Having said that, I should add that I don’t think the author-novel analogy is a perfect one: God is more like the Author of an interactive novel.)

    2. You seem to think that unless God holds Himself to the same standards as He would hold us to, the He has no right to dictate moral standards to us. But if we depend on God for our very existence, then surely, for that reason alone, God is in a position to dictate moral standards to us.

    3. I might add that even if the aliens had no wish to be part of our society, they would still have a moral obligation to call 911, in the absence of countervailing obligations.

    You also write:

    …[A] boss who fails to fire an incompetent subordinate shares in the subordinate’s incompetence. When the subordinate goes beyond mere incompetence into violent criminality, if the boss still stands behind the subordinate, the boss takes on full responsibility for the crimes committed under his authority.

    There is no question of God standing behind Satan (or for that matter, Adam). Rather, it is a question of God promising to let Lucifer hold sway over the planet for an appointed time. At the end of that time, he will of course be removed. As for Adam: Christians believe that Jesus has already reversed the major effects of Adam’s fall. (Compare the moral standards of the world before Christ with those of the world after, and you’ll see my point. Think of female infanticide, letting beggars die in the street, and child prostitution, which were all viewed as perfectly OK in the pagan world, but are now almost universally regarded as abominations.) We don’t know when human history will end, but I think most Christians would assume that the end of things will take place in hundreds of years rather than thousands or millions.

    By the way, you haven’t mentioned where you think moral obligations come from. Do you view them as arising from some kind of social contract, or as grounded in human nature (as Ayn Randian objectivists and libertarians do)? In other words, are they (a) shared and inter-subjective or (b) objective?

  113. 113
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Ben Goren,

    I’d like to ask you one final question: in what respect does your criticism of the Christian theodicy differ from what Richard Dawkins disparagingly refers to as the Argument from Incredulity? On Dawkins’ account, the creationist says he/she “cannot imagine” how this or that structure could have arisen via undirected processes. But, says Dawkins, the inability to imagine how a structure could have arisen naturally does not mean that it couldn’t have arisen naturally. After all, “evolution is smarter than you are.”

    But aren’t you doing the same thing? You say you cannot imagine why God (or Jesus) doesn’t call 911. However, your inability to imagine a reason that would justify God’s non-intervention policy doesn’t mean that there is no such reason. And after all, God is infinitely smarter than you are (or I am).

  114. 114
    ChrisBuckley80 says:

    Ben Goren, It takes more faith to believe our existence is due to contingent serendipity than it does to be a christian. And please don’t talk of science as if your position has some to support its claims. Your entire worldview is faith based.

    For the sake of argument, let’s grant for a moment that Ben’s entire worldview is faith-based. Now would be a good time to explain how this tired retort is doing anything to strengthen the position of any religion or religious claim. More faith is bad? It follows that less faith must be better. I’m sure you know the Bible frowns upon having little faith. At what point does less faith start becoming bad (for if it doesn’t, the best amount of faith to have must be none)? Is there a parabolic arc where you can hit “just the right amount” of faith? How would one gather when this amount is satisfied? Faith?

    UDEditor: Chris, you seem to think the issue is “how much faith should we have?” No, that is not the issue. The issue is one side denying that it has faith and asserting that all of its truth claims are based on unassailable empirically verified fact and all of the other side’s truth claims are based on wild-eyed, fundamentalist, snake-handler, grit-your-teeth in the face of the evidence blind faith. The fact of the matter is that both sides evaluate the data in the context of metaphysical commitments that cannot be proven empirically. And the problem is that one side (yours) denies that and the other side (ours) acknowledges it. Since you have failed to understand the problem, you have chosen to attack a straw man of your own creation. Tilt away. But don’t expect us to take your seriously.

  115. 115
    Sastra says:

    Virgil Cain #110 wrote:

    You don’t know that. That person would still have to explain our existence.

    In the hypothetical case I’m offering, a person with a tender heart and great empathy for others has concluded from his or her observation of seemingly pointless suffering that there is no benevolent cosmic force watching over human existence. There’s not a malevolent cosmic force either: the universe as a whole is indifferent. If someone believes this, then they might very well not feel any great need to explain human existence as particularly extraordinary and in need of explanation. Or, perhaps, they’re just not a very deep thinker.

    Remember, this person has never encountered the idea of God, the Bible, or heard any of the reasons why they shouldn’t view apparently pointless suffering as anything but what it seems to be on the surface. All of your own explanations are being made within the context of Christianity, and what you have learned and reasoned about God from the Bible. But not having that context, this one kind person has drawn a natural (but erroneous) conclusion, inspired by their own sympathy towards those who suffer.

    You don’t think this is at least possible? Why not?

  116. 116
    vjtorley says:

    Professor Jerry Coyne mocks my belief in Lucifer in a recent post over at Why Evolution Is True.

    Actually, there is good empirical evidence for the existence of demons. Genuine demonic possession is rare, but real. As evidence, I’d like to cite the following description of an exorcism by a board-certified psychiatrist and associate professor of clinical psychiatry at New York Medical College:

    Richard E. Gallagher, “Among the Many Counterfeits: A Case of Demonic Possession” New Oxford Review 75, no. 3, (March 2008). Here is an article discussing this highly unusual case:
    Testing Demonic Possession by Dr. James C. Patterson II, an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and emergency psychiatrist.

    I should mention that for about 30 minutes, the possessed woman actually levitated about half a foot in the air.

    Belief in Adam and Eve has also been ridiculed on this thread. I suggest that skeptics have a look at Dr. Lydia McGrew’s excellent article, No, Virginia, Science Hasn(t Debunked Adam.

  117. 117
    daveS says:

    Dr Torley,

    I should mention that for about 30 minutes, the possessed woman actually levitated about half a foot in the air.

    Is there any video of this incident?

  118. 118
    Virgil Cain says:

    Sastra- If the person understood biology and the earth’s place in the universe I don’t see how that person couldn’t come to the conclusion there is a Higher Power. If the person is ignorant of science then that person could become an atheist.

  119. 119
    Virgil Cain says:

    self-deleted duplicate post to Sastra

  120. 120
    Virgil Cain says:

    It could be that God is a respectable moral agent that has a hands-off approach so God can determine who deserves to get into Heaven.

    No; that’s horrifically evil behavior, of the over-the-top comic book villain variety.

    That’s your opinion. And only your opinion.

    That person would still have to explain our existence.

    Now that’s a strawman.

    More opinions and no substance.

    In order to conclude that there probably aren’t any invisible agents doing nothing, you have to know more than all cosmologists combined.

    More opinions and no substance. Cosmologists don’t know how the universe came to be and they surely don’t know how life on earth started.

    Biology is ruled by codes and physics and chemistry do not produce codes.

  121. 121
    Sastra says:

    vjtorley #11 #115 wrote:

    Actually, there is good empirical evidence for the existence of demons.

    No, even if the event really happened as described, it’s still not classified as “good evidence” — which is a much higher bar than “evidence” alone. It’s an anecdote.

  122. 122
    Sastra says:

    Virgil Cain #118 wrote:

    If the person understood biology and the earth’s place in the universe I don’t see how that person couldn’t come to the conclusion there is a Higher Power. If the person is ignorant of science then that person could become an atheist.

    Okay, yes — this hypothetical person is ignorant of modern science as well as the Bible. Their kind heart has therefore mislead them into believing that there is no Higher Power in the universe watching over us.

    They have become an atheist because they knew too little and felt too much. This is, as you agree, possible.

    It seems to me then that this possibility is a rather powerful argument FOR the significance of Problem of Evil. The existence of seemingly pointless suffering is, on the surface, a good reason to not believe in God. It is a good reason which has nothing to do with arrogance or selfishness. It’s a reason which is inspired by love for others.

    You have argued that it’s then countered by special revelation, theology, science, and reason. Once you study and learn a great deal then it’s not a good reason any more. I don’t agree — but I won’t dispute that. I’ll grant it for the sake of argument.

    Here is my new question: why would a just God have set the world up so that a loving heart is a liability — without additional study and learning?

    Modern science and modern apologetics are, when you step back and look at the entire scope and history of the world, rare and privileged things. They not only aren’t available to all, they weren’t available till relatively recently. The ignorant hypothetical Person of my thought experiment could have been anyone and everyone. And yet the Problem of Evil, of bad things happening to good people, has always been around. So for most of the world, most of the time, someone could be lead away from believing in God through no fault of their own — except that of a sympathetic heart.

    The Problem of Evil has now dovetailed into the Problem of Nonbelief.

  123. 123
    Ben Goren says:

    Vincent, I’ll answer your multiple posts in this one. I’ll try to keep the quoting coherent.

    I’m mystified as to why you think that God, the Author of our Being, wishes to be part of our society.

    But isn’t that the entire premise of Christianity? YHWH manifested as Jesus, became one of us, served as our greatest teacher, and will welcome us into his own home? Whether you wish to call that him joining our society, us being called to join his, or a merger of the two, the end result is the same: a single interacting community of mortal and divine. Ergo, either there’s a single set of rules that applies to all…or else we’re no more than slaves or livestock or pets or whatever.

    But if we depend on God for our very existence, then surely, for that reason alone, God is in a position to dictate moral standards to us.

    That’s the “I brought you into this world, and I’ll send you out of it, too!” threat of an abusive parent. It carries no moral weight and is instead the lashing out of the bully frustrated at failure to control another person.

    Rather, it is a question of God promising to let Lucifer hold sway over the planet for an appointed time.

    So God is the absentee landlord who won’t fire the criminally incompetent superintendent.

    Either God and Lucifer had at contract that Lucifer would be a good steward, or God is an incompetent idiot. Either Lucifer is in full compliance with that contract, in which case God is abhorrently complicit in Lucifer’s evil; or Lucifer has breached the contract and God is negligent in reasserting control.

    Compare the moral standards of the world before Christ with those of the world after

    May I suggest? Christian apologetics is not a very good source for ancient history. In reality, the picture you paint has no bearing on reality.

    Trivially demonstrated. I’m sure you disagree with their arguments, but Southern slaveholders cited scripture after scripture to explain why Jesus wanted them to keep slaves. And there’s no disputing the fact that there’s lots of slavery in the Bible, including lots of instances of YHWH explicitly awarding slaves to Moses and the Israelites. Whether those slaves had it as bad as Blacks in the South doesn’t even really matter, either; today, no form of slavery is considered tolerable.

    The pattern repeats continuously. Today, it’s gay marriage. Whatever your own position on the matter, it’s a slam dunk that, a generation from now, opposition to gay marriage will be seen as every bit as nasty as opposition to miscegenation is today — and Christians in a generation or three will generally cite Christ’s love for all mankind as some sort of proof that they were in favor of gay marriage all along.

    By the way, you haven’t mentioned where you think moral obligations come from.

    Morality is an optimal strategy (in the sense of game theory) for an individual living in a cooperative society. As one might imagine, it’s a balance of give and take; the society won’t tolerate those who attack it, but the individual won’t tolerate oppression. It should come as no surprise that helping your neighbor with her groceries is much more effective for everybody than robbing and raping her.

    You say you cannot imagine why God (or Jesus) doesn’t call 911.

    No; that’s not what I’m doing.

    The Christian claim is that Jesus is the most moral, most powerful, most loving, and most knowledgeable entity to ever walk the Earth — and that he is still with us in a form such that he watches over us and hears and, sometimes, answers, our prayers.

    Thus, it is established, according to Christian claim, that Jesus is aware when disaster strikes, and that it is within his power to act.

    We know full well what moral mortals do when disaster strikes: they alert authorities and render whatever assistance they are capable of.

    And we know that people who fail to do so are either incompetent or immoral.

    So, at least one of the Christian claims cannot be true.

    If Jesus has the power to answer prayers, he has the power to make a phone call — and a well-timed phone call to 9-1-1 would be far more effective than most of the miracles attributed to him.

    But if we insist that Jesus does have at least enough power left in him to call 9-1-1, then we must ask why he doesn’t place the call. Is it because he’s unaware of what’s happening, or maybe not aware until it’s too late to call? But that would invalidate the claim that he’s all-knowing and all-seeing — and is also inconsistent with the claims that other prayers are answered in a timely fashion.

    So if he has the ability to call 9-1-1, and he knows that a call to 9-1-1 is needed, the only remaining possibility is that he deliberately and with malice aforethought fails to render necessary aid in a time of crisis. That makes him not moral, but a monster — and one of the most reviled types of monsters in all of humanity.

    You have consistently suggested many reasons why Jesus should be in a position to call 9-1-1 but choose to fail to do so…and all of your suggestions are horrific. Jesus has some big plan for humanity…and, apparently, that plan involves letting a priest rape hundreds of children over a span of decades. As Jesus watches. Every single time. And sits, unmoved by the prayers of the victims, caring more about whatever this grand plan is than the torture and humiliation the child is suffering at the hands of the man who, minutes earlier, had physically manifested Jesus’s body and blood.

    And you yourself have agreed that you wouldn’t think twice were you in a similar situation; you’d call 9-1-1, and you’d have no excuse for failure. Hell, I’m sure you’re cringing at reading that previous paragraph as much as I cringed writing it.

    C.S. Lewis offered up a famous trilemma: Lord, Liar, or Lunatic. I’m offering you a similar trilemma: incompetent, ignorant, or evil.

    But, of course, in each case, there’s another option.

    In the case of Lewis’s trilemma, it’s obvious: the reports of Jesus are fabrications, so of course Jesus can be however perfect his authors want him to be.

    And, in mine, the answer is much the same.

    For good or ill, we are all alone in the Cosmos. We were not Created; we were not placed here by some ultimate father figure. We are not the center of the Cosmos. The Cosmos was not Created just for us, just to impress us with the majesty of the Creator. The Creator has not presented us with all this wonder to gain our approval.

    Why are we here? Might as well ask why you drew the card you did from the deck. If you draw a card, some card is going to get drawn — so why should it be any more remarkable that you drew this card than any other? Of course, from the card’s perspective, it’s incredibly lucky — the odds were so stacked against it being drawn, so there must be some special significance. Except there wasn’t.

    Yes, yes. My analogy implies a card-drawer — and it’s off to Paley’s watchmaker races. But we now know full well that Aristotelian metaphysics is as primitively incoherent as any other ancient superstition; in particular, lots of things simply happen, without cause. There is no cause why a particular radioactive atom in a sample should be the one to decay at a particular instant; it just happens. Einstein’s whole point about relativity is that cause and effect break down as you approach the speed of light (etc.), as well — thus the need to express things relative to each other. And, to that point…though there’s lots we don’t know about the Big Bang, what we do know is that the explanation is going to have to rely on both relativity and quantum mechanics…with ancient notions of causality being even less relevant than bicycles to fish.

    And, you know what? As soon as you let go of Jesus…the entire world opens up for you. You leapfrog past childish thinking of the rainbow as a magical message from a monster who just drowned the whole planet and won’t call 9-1-1 when Timmy is silently drowning in the pool…you move beyond that into an entirely new realm where the rainbow is the starting point for your journey into learning about the spectral response of human vision and how differences in the relative spectral sensitivity between humans and various digital cameras enables them to distinguish colors we can’t and vice-versa…and so much more….

    So, come on in! The water’s fine. Shockingly cold at first, yes — no doubt. But yet get over that quickly…and you won’t believe what’s on the other side of the lake….

    b&

  124. 124
    Ben Goren says:

    I should mention that for about 30 minutes, the possessed woman actually levitated about half a foot in the air.

    Vincent, there’s a saying about keeping an open mind, but not one so open that your brains fall out.

    If I told you that I saw the Sun rise in the West this morning, you would not believe that the Sun actually had risen in the West. You might believe that I was sincere in my belief, but you would be pretty sure that I had gotten turned around, or that it was part of a dream. Or, for that matter, that, no, I’m not sincere, and I was trying to trick you for whatever reason.

    Something like the direction of the sunrise is pretty obvious. You don’t even need to consult any sort of evidence to dismiss the claim out of hand. It would run so contrary to so much that is so well established that, were it to be true, you’d be left adrift with no basis upon which to evaluate any claim. You’d have to start from scratch just attempting to figure out what the true appearance of reality is — let alone the true nature of what appears.

    And, so, rightfully, you prejudicially dismiss a claim that the Sun rose in the West.

    Your claim of levitation here is of a similar scale. The only plausible explanations for levitation are the ones used by stage magicians; a false report; or that the entire universe has gone insane.

    This is not the place to explain basic Newtonian Mechanics. If your education is deficient such that you don’t understand why actual levitation is not possible according to Newtonian Mechanics, you desperately owe it to yourself to take a local community college class on introductory physics. And it will (if the teacher is even remotely competent) be lots of fun…you will, for yourself independently confirm the acceleration of gravity, the property of inertia, and so on.

    If you continue your education in physics, you will eventually get to one of the most exciting discovery of all time: the Higgs Boson.

    And never mind the Boson itself; its significance to this discussion is that it completes the Standard Model at lesser scales.

    The short, hand-wavy version is that there are no unknown particles with a mass less than the Higgs; we’ve searched everywhere they could possibly be, we know the search is exhaustive and couldn’t have missed anything, and all we’ve found has been that which is in the Standard Model.

    We already know that there’s lots of physics beyond the Standard Model…but we also know that that physics similarly operates outside the Standard Model. Within the scope of the Standard Model, any new physics will reduce to the Standard Model. Why? Because we’ve found the Higgs and everything else in the Standard Model, and nothing else.

    Take Newton as an example. All the way up to the orbit of Mercury, you can calculate everything using either Newton or Einstein, and you get the exact same answers. You have to get the same answers, or else Einstein is worng. It’s only when you go beyond the domain for which Newton is valid that you have to resort to Einstein — at which point the answers start to diverge, and it’s Einstein, not Newton, that matches the predictions.

    Similarly, you could use Quantum Mechanics to calculate the trajectory of a baseball…but you’d wind up doing insanely extra amounts of work just to get the same answer. But try to use Newton to predict the trajectory of an electron through a small enough slit…and again the divergence, with Quantum Mechanics being right and Newton again being worng.

    With all that in mind, I invite you to read this short essay that should help put into perspective why, indeed, claims of levitation are as absurd as claims of the Sun rising in the West:

    http://www.preposterousunivers.....nderstood/

    Cheers,

    b&

  125. 125
    Virgil Cain says:

    Sastra:

    It seems to me then that this possibility is a rather powerful argument FOR the significance of Problem of Evil.

    The ony “problem of evil” is how to deal with it.

    The existence of seemingly pointless suffering is, on the surface, a good reason to not believe in God. It is a good reason which has nothing to do with arrogance or selfishness. It’s a reason which is inspired by love for others.

    But without God there isn’t any evil. It’s all whatever happens.

    Here is my new question: why would a just God have set the world up so that a loving heart is a liability — without additional study and learning?

    Because ignorance isn’t bliss. A loving heart doesn’t put food on the table.

    So for most of the world, most of the time, someone could be lead away from believing in God through no fault of their own — except that of a sympathetic heart.

    The end is near…

  126. 126
    Sastra says:

    Virgil Cain #125 wrote:

    The ony “problem of evil” is how to deal with it… But without God there isn’t any evil. It’s all whatever happens.

    I was referring to the formal term in philosophy of religion. “Evil” in this context means apparently pointless suffering. Humans don’t like to suffer unnecessarily, regardless of the cause.

    Because ignorance isn’t bliss. A loving heart doesn’t put food on the table.

    Well, no. But I’m not sure this addresses my point.

    A benevolent Higher Power would not set up a system which condemned simple people only because they had compassion for others and failed to be born at the right time and place to hear a lot of difficult intellectual arguments. If love deeply felt and experienced can reasonably lead to atheism, then I think Christianity has a problem — even if you personally don’t.

  127. 127
    Virgil Cain says:

    Sastra- I prefer not to talk about the problems of Christianity- alleged or real. It’s a glass house sort of thing.

  128. 128
    Sastra says:

    Virgil Cain #127:

    Okay.

  129. 129
    Ben Goren says:

    Virgil, if rationalists aren’t permitted to speculate on anything until we can answer the question of ultimate origins (“That person would still have to explain our existence.”), then, Shirley, Christians mustn’t dictate the wisdom of Christ until your own grass house has its thrones properly stowed.

    Nor should it be a challenge. An all-wise, all-capable god could rip out a clear, self-explanatory, universally comprehensible and applicable guide to morality easier than Britney Hilton can Twit out a FaceLike. Simultaneously publish it in all languages, even; make it free for download — and even invent the Internet just to make distribution that much easier. Sure, it took us millennia to come even this close, but everything before that only took YHWH a week, right? Snap of the fingers and it’s done before the midmorning coffee-and-manna break.

    That the Bible needs interpretation and explication and has passages like Numbers 31 and Luke 19 in it tells us that that can’t possibly be that text; regardless of what was thought back in the day, we know today that moral compassion does not involve making sex slaves of the unmarried girls of our defeated enemies or of killing all those who would not that we should rule over them. And, since Christians themselves, today, as an almost-universal rule, do not take as brides the daughters of their conquered foes nor kill as many non-Christians as possible, we can see that even Christians agree that the Bible is not the unambiguously perfect timeless guide to morality they superficially claim it to be.

    I do believe there’s a quote from literature that may be applicable…something about a water-filled defensive formation filled with “yes” votes…?

    Cheers,

    b&

  130. 130
    Eugen says:

    Ben Goren

    “For good or ill, we are all alone in the Cosmos. We were not Created; …etc”

    Of course Cosmos and we are created. That’s who we worship: the Creator of Cosmos. Otoh, you and other Jerry Coyne’s groupies can continue worshiping Jerry’s Boots. It seems you are having a nice back-patting party over there at WEIT.

    I rarely learn anything new or interesting from atheists so it’s the case with your comments here. You seem to be proposing modernized version of the problem of evil. Nothing original here including typical atheist-commenter attitude. Problem of evil has been covered by many philosophers in the past. Probably not the most interesting topic.

  131. 131
    jerry says:

    I was referring to the formal term in philosophy of religion. “Evil” in this context means apparently pointless suffering. Humans don’t like to suffer unnecessarily, regardless of the cause.

    How do we know what is pointless suffering?

    There is this great example from the Karate Kid where Daniel thinks he is wasting his time pointlessly but later understands that there was an ultimate purpose. We have no way of knowing what the purpose of suffering is or is not with the Christian God. Also what is suffering?

  132. 132
    Ben Goren says:

    How do we know what is pointless suffering?

    There is this great example from the Karate Kid where Daniel thinks he is wasting his time pointlessly but later understands that there was an ultimate purpose.

    While there are certainly grey areas, I think we can all agree that there’s quite a bit of difference between doing chores for a martial arts master and, for example, being a prepubescent Yazidi girl made a sex slave by a DAESH commando after watching the rest of her family be raped and tortured to death.

    I do believe even Jesus would be mightily hard pressed to offer up any examples of some “greater good” that could make up for that sort of thing. Lame excuses, sure — Numbers 31 and all, again. But I think we’ve all already established that such is invalid.

    Besides, if I remember right, the kid in the movie was free to quit at any time. When denied the right to refuse, when “no” doesn’t actually mean, “no”…that’s pretty much the definition of evil.

    But never mind that. Don’t you realize the irony of writing that knowledge of divine purpose is impossible, juxtaposed with declarations of divine will? If nobody can understand what Jesus wants, how can anybody know be confident in Jesus’s personal love? If Jesus can clearly communicate his love to you, why can’t he similarly clearly explain why he’s standing idly by with his thumb up his bum as people commit the worst imaginable horrors at, they claim, his own explicit orders!? Can’t he at least tap them on she shoulder and say, “Hi, you don’t know me, but I’m Jesus, and I’d really rather you stopped doing that and saying I was the one who told you it was okay”?

    b&

  133. 133
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Ben Goren,

    There’s a very simple reason why claims of levitation are utterly dissimilar to claims about the sun rising in the West this morning – namely, that we all saw it rise in the East this morning. If someone says it rose in the West then they’re calling us all liars or deluded people.

    I have a Bachelor of Science degree, and although my major was Pure Mathematics, I studied physics for a couple of years, so I know all about the Higgs boson and am quite familiar with the Standard Model, thank you very much. I’m also familiar with Sean Carroll’s writings (I’ve debated him previously).

    Proving that the laws of physics are a complete description of the interactions observed in Nature is not the same as proving that the laws of physics are causally closed. There’s no way in principle that you can exclude the possibility of trans-corporeal agents who are able to influence bodies, via interactions governed by a more general set of laws (call it P’) than the set of laws which holds for our cosmos.

    As for God, He is no more bound by our laws than the author of a book is bound by the rules governing the world she creates in her novels. Harry Potter is bound by the limitations of magic, but J.K. Rowling is free to rescue Harry Potter by any literary device she choooses. More later.

  134. 134
    jerry says:

    A couple things:

    being a prepubescent Yazidi girl made a sex slave by a DAESH commando after watching the rest of her family be raped and tortured to death.

    This is an example of moral evil or evil committed by one human against another. As opposed to natural evil where one suffers due to natural causes.

    Who is to say if the girl’s temporary suffering is not made up by some other form of compensation of which we are not aware. Remember the Christian God’s rewards are infinite both in the sense of eternity and kind. When juxtaposed the two are not comparable. You may not believe this but it is the Christian God we are discussing.

    And that the act must be allowed because these types of acts are necessary for one to use free will. If they were never allowed to happen, then obviously free will will never happen and humans action will essentially be meaningless.

    If we are supposed to only be able to choose between so called positive acts then these in turn could then be judged as to what is less or more positive and the less positive could then be judged as undesirable or classified as suffering. Human action needs uncertainty of outcome in order to exercise free will and make the actions meaningful. One of those uncertainties is whether they will be judged or not and rewarded or punished accordingly.

    Behavior theory essentially illustrates how free will is eliminated as the system of rewards and punishments guides behavior.

    If God came down every Monday morning and rewarded and punished everyone based on the previous week’s actions, then after a few weeks there would be almost no punishment. That assumes that we would then not be punished for what was trivial at week 1 but by week 10 would be a major offense compared to other actions.

    A meaningless world.

    When denied the right to refuse, when “no” doesn’t actually mean, “no”…that’s pretty much the definition of evil.

    I never been able to find one who could define the word “evil.” Why don’t you take a crack at it.

    As to the comment about being denied the right to refuse, that happens to nearly everyone countless numbers of times in their life.

    Can’t he at least tap them on she shoulder and say, “Hi, you don’t know me, but I’m Jesus, and I’d really rather you stopped doing that and saying I was the one who told you it was okay”?

    Again leads to a meaningless existence. The world must appear random and human beings must have free will in order for life to be meaningful. It is only “evil” if one is punished unfairly for our entire existence and we cannot begin to know that

  135. 135
    vjtorley says:

    Ben Goren,

    You also write:

    But isn’t that the entire premise of Christianity? YHWH manifested as Jesus, became one of us, served as our greatest teacher, and will welcome us into his own home? Whether you wish to call that him joining our society, us being called to join his, or a merger of the two, the end result is the same: a single interacting community of mortal and divine.

    No, the end result is not the same. If God were to apply to join our society, then He’d have to do so on our terms. But He is the Lord and Creator of the cosmos, and He’s inviting us to join His society. If we want to belong, then we have to do so on His terms.

  136. 136
    Ben Goren says:

    Vincent, I’m sure you remember a very popular movie of some time back, an huge blockbuster at the time and now rightly considered one of the all-time science fiction greats. Most people have since realized that it was rather heavy on the Christian symbolism, and I think the directors have even described the Gnostic Christian influences they drew upon in making the film.

    I refer, of course, to The Matrix.

    And it is, hardly surprisingly, a perfect model for what you describe.

    It even explains how you think it could be reasonable that physics as we think we understand it is utterly irrelevant to the true nature of reality, how Agents beyond our ken can step in at any time and alter the very fabric of existence by the power of their minds.

    Before I continue, I should hasten to add that it’s one of my personal favorite movies of all time, one that I’ve watched quite a few times and with a greater appreciation each time. A masterful work of art, full of great beauty and passion and technically executed with consummate craft. Come to think of it, I should probably make a point of digging out the DVD and watching it again this weekend; it’s been a while.

    It is also, not to put too fine a point on it, a conspiracy theory.

    We know it is such because, as I’m sure you would agree, it is impossible to disprove the theory. If there’s an intelligent Agent monitoring my green hieroglyphs as they fall down the monochrome LCD monitor, and it sees that I’m about to perform an experiment that would reveal its presence…well, no problem; just edit the code, never mind the little glitch, and my experiment gives whatever results the Agent would prefer it should.

    There are two levels of problems with such conspiracies: local and global.

    The local problem…is that you yourself have no way of knowing that the conspiracy is as you perceive it to be. How do you know that you’re in the Matrix, and not on the Holodeck of the Enterprise, or the philosopher’s favorite brain in a vat? How do you know that you’re in a simulated reality in the first place? Maybe your tinfoil has slipped and the aliens are controlling your thoughts with your mind ray? Maybe the dentist secretly replaced your filling with a CIA mind control implant?

    And, even if you do come up with a way of positively identifying the proximate conspiracy, how do you know that that’s where it stops? Maybe you’re a brain in a vat, but the vat is a construct of the Holodeck, but the Enterprise is flying through the Matrix. Or the Matrix is a construct of the Holodeck, which the philosopher is feeding into the brain in the vat. Or whatever.

    The sequels to The Matrix addressed this, but gently. Neo, the Christ analogue…his power was supposed to be limited to the Matrix itself…until it was discovered that he could perform the same miracles in the real world. That would superficially be seen as an indication that the power of the Christ is not limited to our world but spans all time and space…but a far simpler answer would be that Neo never actually escaped the Matrix at all; what he thinks is the real world is simply a quarantined subroutine of the Matrix.

    That brings us to the global problem of conspiracy theories: that even the conspirators themselves are trapped by them.

    Imagine, for a moment, that, very similarly to (but not exactly as) Christian theology describes, Satan tells Jesus that he’s seen the Light, he’s now a good person, and wishes himself to be Judged that he might receive Jesus’s forgiveness and grace and be welcomed back home with the Heavenly Host.

    Jesus would hopefully have the compassion to consider such a request, but also not be foolish enough to blindly trust Satan. And, so, he agrees to judge Satan by giving him a test: Jesus will, for the duration of the test, bequeath to Satan Jesus’s own power — all the omnipotence, all the omniscience, all of everything; and Jesus will see what Satan will do with such responsibility.

    But, again, Jesus is no idiot. Satan may well, as always, get drunk and run the Maserati head-on into the tree at 100 MPH again.

    So, of course, Jesus secretly sets up a simulation, of the same sort we’ve been describing all along.

    And, also of course, Jesus being perfect, the simulation is equally perfect. As far as Satan is concerned he, Satan, really is the one-and-only all-knowing all-powerful Creator of Life, the Universe, and Everything.

    But Satan’s no dummy, either. He’s been around the block a few times himself, and understandably suspects that Jesus might be setting him up. So, of course, the first thing he does is pull out Jesus’s almighty secret decoder ring of omniscience and ask it if this is the real deal, or if he’s in another one of Jesus’s fake playgrounds.

    So what happens?

    If the almighty secret decoder ring of omniscience really is the real deal, it’s going to blow the gig right then and there before it gets started. So Jesus would have to give Satan a counterfeit almighty secret decoder ring of omniscience…and the test is equally invalid, because the whole point is to see what Satan would do with the real thing.

    If you’re as familiar with mathematics as you present yourself, you should recognize that scenario: it’s just a stylized retelling of a popular proof of Turing’s famous Halting Problem. And the answer, of course, is that there is no answer; there is no almighty secret decoder ring of omniscience…and, as such, the ultimate nature of reality will truly remain a mystery to all entities, no matter how much else they know, no matter how much more they know than other entities.

    So, if even the gods can’t possibly know the ultimate nature of reality…well, first, why call them gods? And, more importantly, of what sense does it make to claim that there even is an ultimate nature of reality?

    By the time you get to that point, you realize the futility in trying to pick the right conspiracy from a transfinite array to pick from. The only sane conclusion is that all conspiracy theories deserve to be discarded, with prejudice, until actual credible evidence is presented to support their reality.

    And, by that standard…Christianity is the exact opposite of credible. Never mind that it doesn’t even pass the “sniff” test, what with all its tales of sword and sorcery and magic and monsters; its fabulous development is pretty clearly laid out. Zechariah 6 has the prototypical Jesus (Joshua) with all the foundational elements — architect and high priest of YHWH’s true perfect church, prince of peace, crowned (i.e., anointed / christened) with many crowns, and so on. Philo of Alexandria, writing at about the same time as Jesus was supposedly on his mission, noticed nothing of the goings-on in Jerusalem…but did incorporate the Greek Logos into Jewish philosophy, including the explicit identification of Zechariah’s Jesus with the Logos, including a discourse on the significance of one of Zechariah’s epithets that Philo interpreted as “The Rising.” A few decades later, Paul’s Risen Christ Jesus is theologically indistinguishable from Phio’s Rising Anointed Jesus, and is still devoid of terrestrial biography. After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, in the spirit of Euhemerus, Mark writes an epic biography for Paul’s Jesus, set in the fading glory days of the Jewish kingdom and drawing heavily on Homeric iconography. The other Gospel authors draw inspiration from Mark and attempt to do him one better…and the rest, as they say, is His Story.

    Nor is any of this any grand secret conspiracy of its own. Saint Justin Martyr — yes, that Martyr, the earliest-known Christian apologist — himself devoted his writings to the thesis that his Pagan audience had no right to mock Christians for their beliefs for Pagans, too, believe that Perseus was born of a virgin in accord with prophecy, that Bellerophon Ascended on Pegasus, that Aesculapius raised the dead, that Mithras manifested in his Eucharist of bread and water, and so on…and that the only difference was that the Pagan superstitions were planted by evil daemons with the power of foresight who knew of Jesus’s immanence and sought to lead honest men astray. Incidentally, if you strip out all the biographical elements and theological characteristics that Martyr identifies Pagan precedents for, you’re left with nothing for Jesus.

    So, which, I ask you, is more likely?

    That the Christian Gospel is an accurate reflection of the reality allegorized in The Matrix? That Justin Martyr was right and the reason Jesus looks like all the other demigods of his era was because of infernal interference?

    Or because it really is just yet another ancient superstition with nothing to distinguish itself from all the other near-identical similar ancient superstitions you yourself dismiss without second thought?

    Cheers,

    b&

  137. 137
    Ben Goren says:

    Who is to say if the girl’s temporary suffering is not made up by some other form of compensation of which we are not aware.

    I think you’ll agree with me on this one. At least, I rather hope you would…the alternative being you’re the same sort of monster as DAESH is filled with.

    I’ve no clue if you’ve a family or not, but, regardless, imagine you’ve a daughter. And imagine she’s kidnapped and brutalized in all the worst ways your imagination can imagine. Take a moment to dwell on the horror.

    “…and then he touched me, and I begged him to stop, but he didn’t, and then it hurt even more and nobody stopped him….”

    Continue until you’ve truly internalized the true depths of evil — and, again, imagine that it’s not some faceless Yazidi girl, but your own beloved daughter.

    Okay. You can stop now. It’s a year later, the girl’s daily, hourly, never-ending nightmare has finally come to an end, and her captor show up with her at your doorstep, gives her back to you, apologizes for the inconvenience, but explains that he’s really sorry about what happened to her and, just to show that he really means it, he’s set up a full ride scholarship for her at Harvard when she’s grown up, and there’s an endowment she can draw from for whatever she wants, and a million dollars for you and your wife, and, just to show he really means it, season passes for the next several years to Disneyland.

    Would that compensation satisfy you?

    No?

    How about if he implanted a science-fiction pleasure device in her brain so that, for the rest of her days, she experienced unimaginable bliss at all times? Would that be enough?

    How about all that, plus a magic pill that made her live that that for a million years? Are we now getting close to compensating for that year of brutal sex slavery?

    …no?

    Didn’t think so. And, of course, I completely agree with you.

    Cheers,

    b&

    P.S. If you don’t agree with me…spend some more time imagining what the monster is doing to her, exactly how he’s touching your tiny daughter…. b&

  138. 138
    Ben Goren says:

    No, the end result is not the same. If God were to apply to join our society, then He’d have to do so on our terms. But He is the Lord and Creator of the cosmos, and He’s inviting us to join His society. If we want to belong, then we have to do so on His terms.

    Then you’re admitting that his terms do not include the moral obligation to call 9-1-1 in case of emergency. After all, you’ve already made plain that he’s under no obligation to do so.

    And who would be crazy enough to want to join such a cruel and depraved society where nobody has the simple compassion and decency to even do something so little as call 9-1-1 when help is needed the most?

    b&

  139. 139
    Mapou says:

    Atheist:

    Why doesn’t Jesus call 911?”

    Jesus:

    “Shall the pot say to the potter, “What makest thou?””

    PS. It sounds better in King James English for some reason.

  140. 140
    jerry says:

    I think you’ll agree with me on this one. At least, I rather hope you would…the alternative being you’re the same sort of monster as DAESH is filled with.

    Let’s call someone a monster if they don’t agree with you especially if it was their child. Sounds like a Michael Dukakis moment. Interesting rhetorical technique. Why does the fact that it is your child make a difference?

    However, your example is irrelevant and any example you can imagine is irrelevant. Why because they are all finite no matter how horrific they are. We could start a contest of the most unpleasant/painful act possible and see who could win. The current winner is from “The Empire Strikes Back” where one has to endure a thousand years of agony in the Sarlacc pit after falling in. But even this outlandish example if it were real would still be finite and would have to be permitted to have a meaningful world.

    Because if they weren’t what would the alternative be. A world where the most horrific thing would be far down the list from the winners of the contest. And one would ask why cannot we do something more horrific. Oh, there is a God who would step in if you do.

    Ok, I get it, I am not supposed to do these but I can do these less horrific things. But what will happen to me if I do the slightly less horrific things. I get zapped too. Oh, I better not do those either. It is a meaningless existence devoid of free will.

    Rank all the unpleasant events possible from the slightest, for example, not getting the best seat at the opening night of the hot new concert to whatever you can imagine. Use your example of the Yazidi girl if you want but people here could probably out do it. They love to bring up the torturing of babies. All are finite and if you eliminate the top end of horror, the slightly less horrible will then be the top but why stop there. Eliminate them and so on and you are down to stubbing your toe as you go out for a walk as the worst that can happen and since it was the worse thing it would now be your example and someone should call 911 for you.

    No, all has to be allowed and is one a monster for saying this. It doesn’t mean that you approve of it, just recognize that it is a possibility no matter how undesirable it is. What is the alternative—meaningless existence.

    Your examples of what will compensate for the horrific act are irrelevant too. Especially, the Harvard degree and Disney land tickets. That is almost comical. I would go for something bigger, the devil would figure out more interesting alternatives. But he asks for your soul. Now you are maybe getting into real evil.

    Why don’t you have a contest? You are God and can do anything. Design a meaningful world. See what you come up with. Find the “Best of All Possible Worlds.”

  141. 141
    Vaal says:

    Hello Prof Torley.

    I appreciate seeing you engaging Ben’s piece, and Ben personally, in dialogue. I hope you don’t mind another atheist voice added to the conversation.

    I believe Ben is right in identifying the main issue: the special pleading so often used by Christians, and on display here IMO. When it’s convenient for the Christian, God’s goodness and motivations are scrutable. When inconvenient – e.g. problem of suffering – God becomes inscrutable, with possible unknown reasons for causing or allowing any particular instance of suffering. (Or, insofar as some tentative reasons are floated, they do not hold up in consistency with our normal moral reasoning).

    The case being brought by Ben, and by most atheists, is not the formal logical argument against God, but a reasoning-to-the-best-explanation. That is, applying skepticism consistently to God claims as to any other claims. Hence it will NEVER do to appeal to “logical possibilities” such as “God MAY have a morally sufficient reason we aren’t in a position to know for X instance of suffering.” That is merely a re-statement of our general epistemic limitations, our lack of omniscience, taken for granted in any such skepticism about your Christian claims. God is not a “special” epistemological problem that requires we make exception only for that claim. As Ben’s reference to The Matrix reminds you, there can be logically possible ideas we can not formally disprove that would contradict virtually ANY belief we already hold. Yet this does not – can not! – mean we refrain from coming to reasonable conclusions about the plausibility or implausibility of any claim, either mundane or extraordinary.
    It’s logically possible Hitler actually had good intentions for Jews
    that went astray, or even that Hitler was God, engineering the Jews’ fate for the Best Possible Outcome for their eternal souls.
    This is compatible with the horror of the holocaust. But does the holocaust SUGGEST it? No. Is it more plausible, more reasonable than an inference based on evaluating the evidence as we do for any other person? Of course not.

    Let’s say a Being arrived and displayed all the powers Yahweh and Jesus purportedly demonstrated that convinced people it was God, our Creator . But then this Being proceeded to go on a never ending rampage of destruction, relentlessly torturing anyone in His path. Basically, acting in a manner more befitting a demon.

    How would it make sense to call this Being “good” given how we normally understand that epithet as we use it to identify “good” in other persons? Of course, in an attempt to save the goodness of this rampaging Being, one could say “Sure from our perspective this Being looks evil…but perhaps He has Good Reasons for his behavior that we can’t know from our limited perspective.” First of all, no one would, or should, accept this. The reason is obvious: this type of reasoning leads to epistemological chaos, leaves us vulnerable to ANY claim to Godhood. This form of reasoning could justify belief that ANYONE or anything is God – a pet rock, a stray cat, my next door neighbor, Donald Trump….”hey, who are we puny humans to judge how the Almighty appears to us?”….and hence can never distinguish between any such claims.

    The fact is, epistemologically, we are left calling ’em as we see ’em, by our own lights. This means judging whether a claim that a character in an ancient book acts in accordance with what we normally understand as “good,” or whether the world looks like one plausibly created by a Good Being with unlimited power and knowledge. For all the reasons Ben brings up, and countless more,
    the claims of Christianity and the purported Goodness of Yahweh are not plausible.

    Cheers,

    Vaal

  142. 142
    Vaal says:

    Prof Torley,

    (Hoping I get the quote formatting right…)

    vjtorley wrote:
    “But if we depend on God for our very existence, then surely, for that reason alone, God is in a position to dictate moral standards to us.”

    How does that follow at all?

    You won’t want to special plead, so you would have to show this derived from a principle we accept elsewhere. But I can’t think of any examples that would show I do, or ought to, accept this principle. Do we say that, for instance, a patient dependent upon doctors for her existence (e.g. their care is keeping her alive) entails that whatever the Doctors decided to dictate to her she ought to take as a moral standard? Does fathering a son, bringing a person into existence, entail that whatever the father dictates to the son is therefore moral, and what the son ought to do? “Son, you ought to rape, murder and steal whenever possible!” No one (no one not twisted) would agree that follows from the son’s dependence upon the father. I certainly don’t. So don’t see how your principle follows.

    Perhaps you mean something more like the common: “God is the creator so He is in position to have made the rules” apologetic one often hears from Christians.

    If so, it’s a pretty naive defense, and doesn’t help. If morality is only set of rules created by God for humans, as for instance we allow that creators of games create the rules, then that has implications. Even if God “made the rules for morality” then insofar as God is not “playing by the rules of morality” then God can not be described as “Being Morally Good.” No more than the person who designed chess could be described as “playing chess” if he’s not playing the game, or violating the rules of chess. So if this is an attempt to absolve God from the same moral rules humans are bound to, you’ve done away with a moral/good God right there.

    Or let’s use a thought experiment to further test the principle. Let’s say two scientists of the future, Lucy and Richard, managed to fully design and create a new race of beings, whose capacity for fear, love, goals, desires, suffering etc was as rich as our own.
    Now lets say Lucy treats the beings with benevolence and advises them to act in ways we normally associate with “good persons.”
    But Richard’s approach is to produce as much suffering and fear as possible in the beings, and instructs them to lie, cheat, and harm each other as much as possible. Make a movie with that plot line and every audience in the world will agree which of those scientists is the “Evil/Bad Guy” in the story, right? Again, this indicates we don’t really think the nature of morality is equivalent to “a game in which ANYTHING would go” or that it follows a creator could dictate ANYTHING to his creation and still be understood as Good.

    But I’m presuming your position would want to be more sophisticated than that, and say that God WOULD BE moral in the way we understand goodness/morality – e.g. loving, benevolent, etc. (And perhaps this derives from God’s very character). Well then, you are back to the fact a Good God would act consistently with what we understand to be a Good Person.

    Which makes the issue of “God being in a position to dictating morality” or being outside humanity, or the material or whatever, moot to the debate, and non-answer to Ben’s objections. Yahweh either acts in accordance to “good” as we tend to understand it or not. The world LOOKS like one plausibly created by a Benevolent All Powerful Being…or not. And the answer to both, when you remove special pleading to unknown reasons, seems to be: “not.”

  143. 143
    Vaal says:

    Jerry,

    “Who is to say if the girl’s temporary suffering is not made up by some other form of compensation of which we are not aware.”

    This is the appeal-to-unknown-possibilities I (and Ben) have pointed out as insufficient.
    If you are going to appeal to skepticism based on our epistemic limitations it cuts both ways: I can say as well “who is to say Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t part of God’s evil plans to ensure maximum human suffering?”

    You can’t beg the question by assuming God’s good intentions, so you bring up this epistemological skepticism at your own peril. Which is to say, again, all we can rationally do is evaluate the evidence as it appears, what it suggests using criteria we normally apply to other claims.

    Further, the principle you seem to be invoking, like Prof Torley, is something like “It is ok to cause or allow intense suffering, so long as the suffering person is given a reward after the suffering (e.g. whatever reward in eternity).” But why accept this principle?
    What does it say about morality? We normally associate “good person” with “being benevolent.” That is, a disposition to DO GOOD, to act in support of the well-being of others. And doesn’t “evil/bad” have to do with the wrongness in causing unnecessary suffering to another person? Therefore, isn’t it just “wrong” on the nature of “wrong” to cause unnecessary suffering to someone? And “good” to act in support of their well-being? If so, the idea of what will happen later on, reward or not, is moot. It’s just WRONG to torture someone or stand by and watch it happen if you could stop it. It’s just GOOD or RIGHT to help someone who is suffering, if you can do so. Full stop.
    Talk of later rewards SO IT’S OK TO CAUSE OR ALLOW SUFFERING seems twisted and evil on how most of us understand good and evil actions. And this is the thrust of Ben’s example – we don’t excuse the actions of a torturer as “ok” no matter WHAT reward he is able to offer afterward, magical or otherwise. It’s just not ok to want to torture someone, or allow it, in the first place!

    Hence this principle you appeal to seems to be a very dubious one, yet to be justified.

    You’ve also claimed that the type of evil we see in the world is necessary for human free will (i.e. morally relevant free will). I don’t think this is remotely plausible even if we keep the discussion to human behavior. But it is even less plausible in explaining natural evil – that is the staggering amount, and diabolical kinds, of suffering inflicted on humans by nature. How is it MORE PLAUSIBLE THAN NOT that rabies is utterly necessary for humans to exert free will? Or earthquakes? Or any number of countless horrors that afflict humans? I’ve never seen a remotely plausible answer from any Christian.

    One move has already been indicated by Prof Torley, which is the old “we are reaping the world handed to us by Adam and Eve” gambit. But this doesn’t seem to answer this problem at all. It’s still a world of horrors as God designed or allowed it to become. No All Good Being would allow unnecessary suffering, which the world seems utterly full of. You still have to make a case that all the suffering we see is necessary, and how in the world is it “necessary” for a Good God to make a contract with a devil that would allow the devil to cause all this suffering in our earthly life? Or necessary for God to base the well-being of ALL FUTURE HUMANITY on the decision of two original, callow human beings, especially knowing the horrific outcome for our earthly existence? “Y’know, if you two disobey me I’ll let it result in the horrendous suffering of billions of people after you. Ok, I’ll make this your call.”

    This is not in keeping with how any Good Person, with how any RATIONAL person we know would act.

  144. 144
    Ben Goren says:

    (Hi, Vaal! Good to see you here.)

    Jerry, one or the other of us is quite confused…and I don’t think it’s me.

    On the one hand, you declare all suffering in this mortal coil to be moot, for it is but nothing compared to an infinitude of bliss in the life to come.

    On the other hand, you bemoan the fact that, without a god to tell you what is and isn’t good and how you should live your life, this life is meaningless.

    So, which is it? Is this life meaningless because your god has rendered it so, or this life not meaningless only because your god has commanded it not be so?

    The sad truth — for you, not for me — of the matter is that, no matter how much might wish it otherwise, even in principle no other entity than yourself can give your life meaning, and this right now is your only chance to actually give your life meaning. It might be scary…but tough. It’s all you’ve got.

    Vaal has done an excellent job of demonstrating why the Euthyphro Dilemma really does hold: either goodness is independent of the gods and they may be judged accordingly; or it is arbitrary and subject to their whim. The same holds for meaning, as well. No god, no matter how powerful, can decide for you what you want. The god can tell you what it wants of you, but you still must decide, for yourself, if what the god wants of you is what you yourself want.

    That’s the whole point of, “free will,” as Christians understand it, no?

    My own life is full of meaning. I just got back from a rehearsal that included Bach’s second Brandenburg Concerto, possibly the most intimidating work in the trumpet repertoire. And I don’t think I’m going to embarrass myself too badly on the concert — which will be a major accomplishment all unto itself. Simultaneously, in another life, I’m independently developing new techniques for digital camera color profiling and calibration and achieving results that few, if any, have ever matched — at least, with the type of equipment I’m working with. And I’m blessed to have been graced by an incarnation of Baihu, the White Tiger of the West, in the form of a most loving formerly-feral tabby kitten (now a several year old cat) — a divine feline who is most emphatically reminding me that it’s time for his katsuobushi now…neow…NEOW…

    …so, really, what more meaning could I possibly ask for?

    If you’re unhappy with the meaning you have adopted for your life, as it sure sounds you are…well, I’m quite sorry at your existential angst. But the answer is to give yourself a kick in the seat of your pants, ask yourself what it is that you really want in life…and then devote yourself to building your own heaven here on earth — for it’s for damned certain that that’s the only heaven you’ll ever know.

    I think that’s what saddens me the most about Christianity. All that wasted effort preparing for an imaginary heaven in the sky, that could instead be put towards building a real one here on Earth. We’ve done not all that bad, all things considered; there’s a great deal that’s intolerable and that we should be ashamed of, but, at the same time, even the poorest of us has access to luxury and wealth beyond imagining for the kings of old.

    …but we can do so much better. So why don’t you join in the construction project? It’s as good a purpose to life as any, and carries lots of rewards all its own.

    It’s simple, if not easy. All you have to do is imagine what you wish the world really were like, and then try to come up with ways to remake it in that image.

    Do you, for example, wish that people didn’t suffer needless pain after getting in a car wreck? Wouldn’t that be nice? Well, then…drive safely, first of all…and, if you witness a wreck, don’t be a jerk like Jesus, and instead call 9-1-1….

    Cheers,

    b&

  145. 145
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Vaal,

    I’m not a professor, and although I have a Ph.D. in philosophy, I don’t care about titles. “Vince” or “vj” or “vjtorley” is fine.

    You immediately caught my eye with the following comment of yours, which was very insightful:

    The case being brought by Ben, and by most atheists, is not the formal logical argument against God, but a reasoning-to-the-best-explanation. That is, applying skepticism consistently to God claims as to any other claims. Hence it will NEVER do to appeal to “logical possibilities” such as “God MAY have a morally sufficient reason we aren’t in a position to know for X instance of suffering.”

    All right. Now I see where you are coming from. As an Intelligent Design advocate, I understand reasoning-to-the-best-explanation quite well. That’s how we reason that life had a Designer.

    Let me say up-front that if the balance of good and evil in the world were the only piece of evidence we had relating to God’s goodness, it would be rational to infer that God is not omnibenevolent. One might rationally infer that He was only interested in creating a universe that was fit for intelligent life, and that He was indifferent to the suffering of individuals.

    However, that is not the only evidence we have.

    First, there are solid philosophical reasons for rejecting a materialistic account of the human mind. Google “Edward Feser: Some brief arguments for dualism” and you’ll get a list of five online posts of his, which you might like to peruse. (Professor Feser is a Thomist philosopher of some note.) If materialism is false, we cannot say that death is the end of everything, or that people suffer irreparable harm.

    Second, many people claim to have a personal experience of, or encounter with, God. I can’t speak for myself, as I haven’t had any dramatic experiences, but there are many people I know who have. Some of these people have had their faith strengthened after undergoing horrific experiences – e.g. the murder of a family member – which one might think would destroy anyone’s faith in God.

    Third, there is impressive documentary evidence for miracles (Google my posts on St. Joseph of Cupertino) and for the Resurrection (see Drs. Tim and Lydia McGrew’s online article on the subject).

    Fourth, Dr. Bruce Greyson has catalogued evidence for veridical perceptions (visual and auditory) by individuals who have undergone near-death experiences. Maost of these individuals were brain-dead.

    I could go on, but I have to head off to work shortly, so I’ll stop there.

  146. 146
    Virgil Cain says:

    Vaal:

    This is the appeal-to-unknown-possibilities I (and Ben) have pointed out as insufficient.

    That’s only your opinion, so it doesn’t count for anything.

    Even if God “made the rules for morality” then insofar as God is not “playing by the rules of morality” then God can not be described as “Being Morally Good.”

    God is outside of the game.

    This is stupid- if atheism is right then there isn’t any good nor evil- whatever happens, happens. And unless atheists are also IDists they can’t explain our existence so they lose before they begin.

  147. 147
    Virgil Cain says:

    The sad truth — for you, not for me — of the matter is that, no matter how much might wish it otherwise, even in principle no other entity than yourself can give your life meaning, and this right now is your only chance to actually give your life meaning.

    LoL! We can only give ourselves mundane meaning. And that meaning is meaningless in the grand scheme.

    In principle you wouldn’t even be here with an Intelligent Designer or a Creator. All purpose derives from that.

  148. 148
    jerry says:

    You can’t beg the question by assuming God’s good intentions,

    I am not begging any question. I am pointing out what has to happen to have a meaningful existence.

    First, the evidence overwhelming points to the existence of a massive intelligence who created the universe. Second, there must exist another or the same intelligence to create life and the various life forms subsequent to the creation of the universe. One could argue that Earth is such a rare event that there must have been an intelligence behind it too. (Assume that I understand the physical processes of star and solar system creation.)

    So we have to deal with this. That is not begging the question. What is begging the question is assuming that these things arose by some naturalistic means. The information points away from this.

    So people from the beginning of time have been trying to deal with the phenomena of creation. And there are tens of thousands of explanations that have been held including thousands within our current time.

    Next, has this massive intelligence communicated with us. And if He did, how did He do it. So sorting through all the phenomena since the beginning of time that we are aware of, what could be these communications if there were any.

    Once we do that, we can try to assess what makes the most sense. But it will never be conclusive. I have given you the reasons why it cannot be conclusive. If it was, life would be meaningless.

    The explanation that many have ascribed to is that there is a single God with various characteristics and it is coherent. Is it necessary right. No, but assuming that this intelligence did communicate with us, how would He do it.

    My explanation is coherent while those who say that this God would not allow suffering, is not a coherent explanation. Remember there must be doubt or else life is meaningless but we have been left with lots of clues and it is up to us to interpret these clues to reach a best explanation. A God that would intervene every time that something unpleasant would happen is an absurdity so the basic proposition put forth that God should intervene is absurd.

    No, it you who are begging questions. I am working from evidence to a best explanation. And the theodicy issues is a non-starter because essentially evil does not exist. It only exist in the minds of those who beg the questions and assume there is no reason for it. Unpleasant results in terms of this world must exist for this life to be meaningful. That is the proposition that is so easy to understand or prove that it should not have to be repeated.

    So the only coherent system is one where Jesus rarely calls 911 and when He does it will be in such a way that it will be hard to prove He did.

  149. 149
    Sastra says:

    vjtorley #145 wrote:

    Let me say up-front that if the balance of good and evil in the world were the only piece of evidence we had relating to God’s goodness, it would be rational to infer that God is not omnibenevolent. One might rationally infer that He was only interested in creating a universe that was fit for intelligent life, and that He was indifferent to the suffering of individuals.

    The fundamental question here though is not “Is God omnibenevolent?” It’s “does God exist?” This makes a difference, I think. We can’t use familiar analogies which have to do with people we know behaving in or out of character, and our wondering why they might do that. They don’t fit the situation.

    If the balance of good and evil in the world were the only piece of evidence relating to God’s existence, one might rationally infer that there is no God. The world is exactly what we would expect to see if there was no Creator, benevolent or malevolent. Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people depending on the entire chain of physical circumstances. It’s consistent perhaps with an indifferent Creator — or an absent one — — but I’ll assume introducing this pointless option doesn’t really interest either of us.

    The problem with your additional ‘reasons to believe’ (Thomist philosophy, special encounters, anecdotes of miracles, etc.) is that these reasons all require a privileged position — by which I mean someone has to be in the right time and place to encounter them, and be of sufficient intelligence and curiosity to think them through. Leaving aside the problem of whether they really do count as strong, convincing evidence for the existence of God or an afterlife, we’re still left with the problem that these reasons would only be available to a handful of the human race during a very short period of human history.

    Therefore, for MOST people who have ever lived it would be perfectly rational to be an atheist. In fact, as I pointed out earlier, they’d not only be reasonable, they’d be motivated in that direction by compassion and love.

    The Problem of Evil has to do with God’s existence and, as Vaal stated, is one of inference to the best explanation. If the Problem of Evil can only be defeated by invoking knowledge and evidence available to the very few — leaving virtually all the rest of humanity rationally justified in concluding that it works and there is no benevolent God out there — then I think it works. God is supposed to care about every individual from every moment in history, not just the privileged few who have access to Aquinas or a computer.

  150. 150
    Sastra says:

    Virgil #146 wrote:

    God is outside of the game.

    No, God cannot be both outside of our morality and the foundation for our morality. Pick a horse and ride it.

  151. 151
    Virgil Cain says:

    Sastra:

    God cannot be both outside of our morality and the foundation for our morality.

    Your say-so is not an argument. Lenski was the foundation of his experiment yet he remains outside of it.

    God is not beholden to our game. God is judging our actions. We are alone in that regard.

  152. 152
    Virgil Cain says:

    Sastra:

    The fundamental question here though is not “Is God omnibenevolent?” It’s “does God exist?”

    The scientific evidence says some Intelligent Agency existed that brought life to Earth. Nature doesn’t produce codes and biology is ruled by them.

    If non-believers want to support their position they need to show that nature can indeed produce codes. Good luck with that.

  153. 153
    Ben Goren says:

    First, there are solid philosophical reasons for rejecting a materialistic account of the human mind.

    Philosophical arguments, no matter how philosophically solid, have an astounding track record of being spectacularly worng. It was philosophy that concluded that there must be but four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. It was philosophy that concluded that the Earth must be at the center of the celestial spheres, and that the fact that there are five planets and five Platonic solids is no coincidence. It was philosophy that concluded that every effect must have a cause.

    Philosophy, frankly, is bunk. At best, it’s only as good as its starting premises — and those, in turn, are only reliable insofar as they’re firmly grounded in careful observation. But, once you go that far, you’ve left the realm of philosophy far behind; you’re now doing science, instead.

    Vince, you’ve explained why you favor a Matrix-style conspiracy theory, that all this is but the actualization of the mind of a god. That can get you to the odd miracle, but it can’t get you to where you’re trying to go with cognition. I think even you’d have to agree that the Standard Model is the only sane explanation for common everyday phenomenon…and there’s not even the slightest hint of wiggle room in there for cognition being anything other than the result of the physical workings of a meat computer. Anything more would require observable electromagnetic interactions — and, frankly, quite substantial such interactions.

    No, what you propose is no more and no less than that every brain is a perpetual motion machine.

    If cognition is supernatural, then the disembodied soul has full knowledge of the workings of the body, and can control the body like a puppet. Presumably, in this model, the brain is a transceiver for the soul, possibly with some relatively inconsequential primitive autonomous control functions of its own so the soul doesn’t have to tell the heart every time it should beat.

    But that means that, when you lift something, when you do work in the sense used by physics, the energy budget has a deficit in the brain. If something other than biochemistry made the neurons in the brain fire in the ways we know full well are necessary to cause the limbs to move, then that same something could do the exact same sort of physics to charge a chemical battery.

    And that the mind is a property of the brain — or, at least, the body — is something that we’ve had overwhelming evidence is the case for millennia. At the very lease, ever since the invention of beer…an invention that itself predates, by millennia, the Biblical timeline for Creation.

    So, what happens when you drink beer? Does the alcohol interfere with the soul receiver in the brain? How could that even make sense?

    But, of course, it’s much more than that. Though there’s more that we don’t know but wish we did about the brain than perhaps any other phenomenon, there’s amazing amounts we do know…and that includes a significant number of actual physical structures in the brain directly responsible for all sorts of things that you would consider essential to what makes you “you.” Throw a blood clot in this specific region, and you can’t do basic arithmetic any more. Have a lesion over there, and you lose all sense of music appreciation. Have a railroad spike take out this region, and you become prone to fits of uncontrollable rage. Ingest this chemical and you want to make love to anybody and anything in the room. Ingest this other chemical and you’ll want to make love to your spouse, but everything you see has a blue tint. Send an electrical charge over here and you’ll raise your arm — and, when asked why you raised your arm, you’ll answer that it’s because you wanted to, maybe even making up a story about how you wanted to ask a question.

    It certainly doesn’t feel like we’re meat computers; we generally do have the illusion of being disembodied floating spirits hovering somewhere on the forehead, or whatever. But our world is full of cognitive illusions — many of which I’m sure you’ve enjoyed on the Internet.

    So, yes. Philosophy can certainly reject all of science, all of physics, all of information theory, all of everything else, and suggest that black is white and water is indivisible and there. are. four. LIGHTS! But it’s an argument that most emphatically doesn’t impress in the slightest.

    Cheers,

    b&

  154. 154
    jerry says:

    The Problem of Evil has to do with God’s existence and, as Vaal stated, is one of inference to the best explanation.

    What is evil? I have not found one person who can define this word. I have searched books and intellectual writings on it. But you use it cavalierly. That is one problem

    The best explanation is that unfortunate incidents must exist to have a meaningful life and these incidents can range from what we consider trivial, getting a cold chill while sitting in a room, to excruciating, painful death of a child from a cancerous tumor (happened to some acquaintances of ours). That is a second problem for your position.

  155. 155
    Ben Goren says:

    This is stupid- if atheism is right then there isn’t any good nor evil- whatever happens, happens.

    Virgil, can we agree that, whatever the true nature of good and evil, that the systematic rape of prepubescent Yazidi girls by DAESH militants is evil?

    I should think that it’s self-evident that there is no context, gods or no, in which we can reasonably consider that anything but evil. If Jesus appeared to you in a dream and commanded you to kidnap young girls and make them your sex slaves, you’d probably assume that it was Satan pretending to be Jesus — and, even if Jesus managed to convince you he was the real deal, I’d hope you’d have the courage to tell him to go to Hell rather than do something so horrific. Even if it meant going to Hell, yourself.

    The problem, of course…is that the DAESH militants are raping prepubescent Yazidi girls out of their perceived duty to their gods. Go read up on it — it’s quite horrific. They call the girls their prayers, their duty, and the act of rape itself a form of worship.

    It’s not a problem unique to DAESH. Go read Numbers 31…and you’ll see that YHWH commanded Moses to do exactly what the DAESH militants are doing.

    So, you see, it’s not at all the case that, without gods, whatever happens, happens.

    Rather, it’s the case that, with gods, you can justify even the most horrific acts simply by declaring certitude that you’re carrying out the orders of the gods.

    And unless atheists are also IDists they can’t explain our existence so they lose before they begin.

    Unless theists can explain the origins of their gods and why the gods are intrinsically deserving of respect, they lose before they begin.

    If non-believers want to support their position they need to show that nature can indeed produce codes. Good luck with that.

    The common public understanding of “information” and related phenomenon is quite confused — hardly surprising, since it’s a difficult subject and not one typically addressed in schools.

    Information is not some sort of reified Platonic ideal that has some existence of its own. Information is only that which is being communicated. And Claude Shannon and others like him have described the hard, inescapable physical limits (mostly relating to energy amounts and signal-to-noise ratios and the like) that govern communication and information. The short version is that, just as you can’t inject energy into a system lest you make a perpetual motion machine, you also can’t inject information into a system without injecting energy — again making a perpetual motion machine.

    And, as for the spontaneous emergence of order from disorder…who, pray tell, do you think it is who has the job of so neatly stacking the gumballs in the gumball machine?

    Cheers,

    b&

  156. 156
    vjtorley says:

    Sastra,

    Thank you for your comments. You have mounted a vigorous argument for atheism, but before I address that, I’d like to get back to what we mean by “God.”

    Lord Bertrand Russell and Father Frederick Copleston, in their now-famous 1948 BBC radio debate on the existence of God, agreed on the following definition of the term “God”: “a supreme personal Being – distinct from the world and Creator of the world.” That is the definition I shall adopt. It says nothing about God’s goodness.

    This is an important point. If there is scientific evidence for the fine-tuning not only of our universe but also of any multiverse that contains it – see here for a strong defense of this position by Dr. Robin Collins – then that indicates an intelligent agent distinct from the cosmos, who created the cosmos. Bertrand Russell and Frederick Copleston would have both called such an agent “God,” regardless of whether this agent cared about each human individual or not.

    You write that the evil we see in Nature is “consistent perhaps with an indifferent Creator — or an absent one — but I’ll assume introducing this pointless option doesn’t really interest either of us.” I disagree. We cannot overlook the evidence for the intelligent design of life and the cosmos, simply because the evidence seems to point to an indifferent Creator. We have to follow the evidence wherever it leads.

    You write:

    The problem with your additional ‘reasons to believe’ (Thomist philosophy, special encounters, anecdotes of miracles, etc.) is that these reasons all require a privileged position — by which I mean someone has to be in the right time and place to encounter them, and be of sufficient intelligence and curiosity to think them through…

    Therefore, for MOST people who have ever lived it would be perfectly rational to be an atheist.

    On the contrary, I would say that the vast majority of people who have ever lived have either had an intense spiritual experience (e.g. an encounter with the spirit of a deceased loved one, an experience of grace, or a feeling of supernatural joy such as we might encounter once or twice in a lifetime) or known a close friend or family member who has had such an experience. That wellspring of shared human experience, I would suggest, is the main reason why religion has flourished down the ages.

    Leaving aside these personal encounters with the divine, I would add that most people who have ever lived have believed in a God (or gods) of some sort, for two very strong reasons. The first is an intense conviction, difficult to articulate but widely shared, that the world and its creatures are designed and ordered by some Intelligence. For some people, this conviction of design comes from watching the stars. For others, it stems from the common fact that Nature is generally reliable: for instance, St. Paul pointed to the seasons in Acts 17. For still others, it’s the beauty of Nature that suggests a God – “Tiger, tiger burning bright, / In the forests of the night; / What immortal hand or eye, / Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” in the words pf William Blake, although he did also wonder, “Did He who made the lamb make thee?”

    The other reason that many people have believed in God, down through the ages, is the moral argument. Even in societies where people thought very little about the afterlife, people have strongly felt that a shared public belief in God as the Author of the moral order is essential for the proper functioning of any society.

    For these reasons, then, I cannot agree with your conclusion that “for MOST people who have ever lived it would be perfectly rational to be an atheist.”

    I’ll leave you with this thought. Einstein believed in God, but his God was not a personal God, but the God of Spinoza. It strikes me that many of today’s atheists never even consider this option, but I think it has a lot going for it: it is compatible with both the evidence for design in Nature and the callous indifference of natural processes to individual human welfare. Why not give Spinoza a go, if belief in a God of love is a bridge too far for you?

  157. 157
    Virgil Cain says:

    LoL! @ Ben- Just because these people say they are doing it- raping- in the name of God doesn’t make it so.

    Rather, it’s the case that, with gods, you can justify even the most horrific acts simply by declaring certitude that you’re carrying out the orders of the gods.

    Everyone has to answer for their actions- sooner or later. No one gets a pass. Eternal damnation awaits them.

    Unless theists can explain the origins of their gods and why the gods are intrinsically deserving of respect, they lose before they begin.

    What a joke. Why does God need an origin? As for deserving respect, do you respect your parents?

    Also the misunderstanding of information and codes is all yours. The genetic code is a real code. It isn’t a metaphor nor an analogy. And your position cannot account for it.

  158. 158
    Ben Goren says:

    What is evil?

    I’ll give you a concise definition that I think you’ll find fits.

    Evil is doing unto others as they do not wish to be done unto. “No means no,” as the current popular phrase puts it, and continuing after a “no” constitutes evil. Evil is the deprivation of another’s autonomy.

    Obviously, people themselves engaging in evil do not wish others to stop them, and permitting them a “get out of jail free” card would be idiotic. As such, it is morally permissible to use forceful means to stop an act of evil…but only to the minimum amount necessary to do so. Summary execution of a petty theft would be a classic over-the-top example of more-than-minimmaly-necessary force.

    Children and other incompetents present another gray area. Parents must take full responsibility for infants for all obvious practical reasons. At adulthood, children must have full adult autonomy. Between the two, there must be a gradual blending transition — and judgement calls of when control is warranted and autonomy deserving are some of the most difficult faced by most humans.

    Does that help?

    b&

  159. 159
    jerry says:

    can we agree that, whatever the true nature of good and evil, that the systematic rape of prepubescent Yazidi girls by DAESH militants is evil?

    It is certainly an immoral act. But another question that arises is

    Is standing by and letting this happen equally immoral?

    That seems to be the official position of the current US government and most of the world. So are they equally to blame? Or they more so? After all we can look on the actual perpetrators as deranged but those standing by as coolly rationale.

    But the question above is irrelevant to the debate just as any individual incident is irrelevant. The choosing of specific incidents only confuses the basic issue and is an appeal to emotion and not reason. So I suggest you drop the approach and deal with the fundamental questions.

  160. 160
    Virgil Cain says:

    Ben:

    Evil is doing unto others as they do not wish to be done unto.

    LoL! You can’t be serious. So it’s OK for people who like to be beaten up to beat up other people just because?

  161. 161
    jerry says:

    Does that help?

    No. I suggest you read more and get back to us. I am sure all the people in jail would not like to be there. It is not just children that must be told to do things they do not want to do. Hey, I think too many people pay more taxes then they should. Is that evil? I would call it misguided but others would call it enlightened policy.

    Besides you are missing the basic argument in all this and that is natural evil is usually the sole focus of the debate. Rarely do people come after God because of moral evil because they understand the free will argument of an independent entity.

    What they object to is natural evil where no independent entity causes painful experiences and only one entity could be blamed and that is the One who created the system that caused the pain.

  162. 162
    Ben Goren says:

    Just because these people say they are doing it- raping- in the name of God doesn’t make it so.

    Ladies unt chentlemen, ve has a veiner!

    Virgil, neither of us think that the DAESH commando raping his preteen “bride” has actually been commanded by any god to commit the act.

    But neither do I think that anything you claim in the name of your gods is actually so, either.

    And, you know what?

    That DAESH commando agrees with me on that.

    You’re fond of this, “If you can’t ____ then go home,” sophistry — but this one really is the real deal.

    If you can’t identify independently-verifiable universal means by which somebody like me can conclude that you’re right and the DAESH terrorist isn’t, then it’s game over, man.

    You’ve got all your work ahead of you, as the saying goes. Start with Virgil’s most recent arguments — personal revelation, powerful emotional experiences, tradition, appeals from consequences, recognition of patterns in nature, all the rest. You’ll find that those’re exactly the same arguments that Islamists use to defend Islam. The only difference is they’ve done a search-and-replace of, “Jesus,” and, “Jehovah,” with, “Muhammad,” and, “Allah.”

    And it goes both ways. All the arguments you use to “prove” Christianity over Islam? They work exactly as well in the other direction.

    …with, of course, the usual exception: the special pleading that is such a popular feature of religion. “I’m right because I said so” may make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, but, again, so does wetting the bed. For all of a minute or three. In reality, you only prefer Jesus to Muhammad because of an accident of birth; your parents taught you to sing, “Jesus Loves Me,” when you were very young, and it’s stuck. I don’t know what the Islamic equivalent is, but you and I both know it’s every bit as popular in the Middle East.

    Both of you can’t possibly be right. But you both can be — and most certainly are — worng.

    b&

  163. 163
    Virgil Cain says:

    Ben Goren:

    But neither do I think that anything you claim in the name of your gods is actually so, either.

    And what have I claimed? Please be specific or admit that you are just a jerk on a fishing trip.

    Also you have issues as I am not religious. I am not a christian nor am I a member of Islam.

    I just take issue with atheists creating strawman after strawman just because their position has nothing. However atheists are entertaining, in a sad sort of way.

  164. 164
    Ben Goren says:

    So it’s OK for people who like to be beaten up to beat up other people just because?

    No, Virgil. You’re substituting the Christian Golden Rule for what I actually wrote.

    But you have identified why the Golden Rule, if given more weight than the right to personal autonomy, is powerfully evil. Torquemada was being perfectly Christian when he tortured his subjects; as he himself is said to have put it — and you and others here have written as much in this very thread — better a few months of earthly torment than an eternity in Hell.

    The reason why Torquemada was evil, and why your example is one of evil, is because the people Torquemada tortured and the people being beaten up in your example didn’t want to be tortured nor beaten up. If they wanted to be tortured or beaten up, fine. Stupid, incomprehensible — but it’s their choice to make.

    Their choice. Not the choice of the one doing the torturing nor the beating.

    Jerry wrote:

    I am sure all the people in jail would not like to be there.

    Agreed! But, assuming the criminal justice system really is just (and, sadly, it’s got a really bad record on that front, especially of late), then the people will only be in jail until we can be reasonably confident that they’re no longer a threat to anybody else. Anything more than that would be excessive and tantamount to kidnapping.

    Is standing by and letting this happen equally immoral?

    That seems to be the official position of the current US government and most of the world. So are they equally to blame?

    US foreign policy is so horrifically messed up it’s not even an unfunny joke.

    But you point to a key fault of foreign policy of the current generation: the recognition that a situation is horrific, intolerable, even…and, from there, concluding that something must be done…and, from that, latching on to anything, and doing it…without regards to whether or not what you’re doing is actually going to make things better.

    If you come upon somebody who fell in a lake and is suffering from hypothermia, you have a moral obligation to render aid. But dousing that person with gasoline and lighting the person on fire because that’ll warm the person up does not constitute properly-rendered aid. If a gas can and a match is all you’ve got to offer, you’re much better doing nothing than doing something.

    Powerlessness is a terrifying phenomenon, but it is evil in the extreme to commit horrors simply to assuage your lack of self-esteem.

    b&

  165. 165
    ChrisBuckley80 says:

    Chris, you seem to think the issue is “how much faith should we have?” No, that is not the issue.

    Talk about dismissing straw men! I made no assertions about metaphysics in my post. I asked Virgil to clarify what his statement that one worldview takes “more faith” than another actually implies. You then jump in and claim that it’s not about faith at all. If it’s not about faith, why make the claim that one worldview is worse because it’s more faith-based?

    And, of course, we haven’t even addressed the ridiculous claim that “my side” thinks the Universe is the result of “contingent serendipity.” The idea that the Universe is contingent rests on your Thomistic philosophy. Again, it is Virgil presenting claims that the Universe is contingent to begin with and it is you talking about faith-based worldviews and refusing to answer a simple question about what you just implied. Virgil did not say anything about sets of underlying metaphysical principles, he clearly dismissed an argument based on the fact that he perceives it as requiring “more faith.” This is a relatively straightforward claim, but since you refuse to even answer questions about it, let’s back up a step. Please point out where I, or anyone here, has claimed the Universe is the result of “contingent serendipity” and then we can discuss the issue of who is presenting straw men.

  166. 166
    Ben Goren says:

    Virgil, I can’t reconcile your responses with those of somebody arguing in good faith. I’ll likely continue the discussion with others, but don’t be surprised if I don’t see fit to continue replying to your trolling.

    Sorry.

    b&

  167. 167
    Sastra says:

    Virgil Cain #151 wrote:

    Your say-so is not an argument. Lenski was the foundation of his experiment yet he remains outside of it. God is not beholden to our game. God is judging our actions. We are alone in that regard.

    When theists claim that God is the ‘foundation of morality,’ what do they mean? It can’t just mean that God “judges” us, for anyone might judge anyone else.

    What do you think the phrase means then?

  168. 168
    Sastra says:

    Jerry #154 wrote:

    What is evil? I have not found one person who can define this word. I have searched books and intellectual writings on it. But you use it cavalierly. That is one problem

    I defined my use of the term “evil” back in #126:

    I was referring to the formal term in philosophy of religion. “Evil” in this context means apparently pointless suffering. Humans don’t like to suffer unnecessarily, regardless of the cause.

    It’s a minimalist definition. There are of course many different applications and kinds of “evil” which could be discussed and explored, but I was keeping it very simple.

    The best explanation is that unfortunate incidents must exist to have a meaningful life and these incidents can range from what we consider trivial, getting a cold chill while sitting in a room, to excruciating, painful death of a child from a cancerous tumor (happened to some acquaintances of ours). That is a second problem for your position.

    From the perspective of someone who only suffers — or who suffers a great deal — there is no benefit. There is little to contrast it with and they do not derive a more meaningful life from it.

    A successful theodicy must apply to the hard cases as well as the ‘easy’ ones.

  169. 169
    Vaal says:

    vjtorley,

    I appreciate your reply.

    I’m glad we seem to be on the same page as far as reasoning to the best explanation.
    Though as I argued this does dispense with the force of any appeals to “unknown/logically possible” reasons in defending God from either the problem of natural suffering or in defending Christianity in general. (Since evaluating the claim of God’s goodness is what is under question, one can not beg the question by appealing to mysterious reasons that depend on presuming God’s goodness to give it plausibility in the first place).

    “One might rationally infer that He was only interested in creating a universe that was fit for intelligent life, and that He was indifferent to the suffering of individuals.”

    Indeed. And Sastra’s objections are relevant to this as well.

    ““Edward Feser: Some brief arguments for dualism” and you’ll get a list of five online posts of his, which you might like to peruse. (Professor Feser is a Thomist philosopher of some note.)”

    I’m familiar with Ed Feser, having read his blog for years now and having engaged him (and many more in his comments section) in some back and forth over Natural Law Theory, Thomistic-Aristotelian metaphysics, and on the problem of moving from metaphysical arguments for God to justified belief in Christianity. In a nutshell the problem is that Metaphysical arguments for God, even if they were successful, don’t raise the probability of any particular miracle, and since the world full of noisy variables would remain the same, we STILL have to come up with the most rigorous method of assessing claims given human bias, error, etc…e.g. science. So the person arguing for the metaphysical God can not suddenly drop the skeptical bar to let his favourite miracle or religion hop over. A problem we’ll get to in just a moment 🙂

    “If materialism is false, we cannot say that death is the end of everything, or that people suffer irreparable harm.”

    That’s just a re-statement of the possibility of metaphysics already taken for granted in Ben’s (and my) arguments against the Christian conception of God. Materialism being false, or life after death, aren’t arguments for God’s goodness: all the suffering on earth remains, and this will at best be just another appeal to “logical possibilities of a Creator having Good Reasons for the horrors of earth.”

    “Second, many people claim to have a personal experience of, or encounter with, God.

    Yes, and for encounters with aliens, with Elvis, with New Age spirits, with Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster…for every way out fringe belief and extraordinary claim you will find people waiting to tell you about their “utterly convincing experience.”

    Haven’t we learned by this, and through science, just how skeptical we ought to be given this problem?

    Some of these people have had their faith strengthened after undergoing horrific experiences – e.g. the murder of a family member – which one might think would destroy anyone’s faith in God.”

    And many people have had their faith destroyed by bad experiences, or have had their faith destroyed or removed by exposure to argument or evidence, or even just going to college 😉

    All your statement denotes is a psychological fact about some people, it’s no argument for the truth of God’s existence. If that level of “evidence” were strong enough, every fringe claim would have to be granted truth.

    If you want to talk about purportedly “unlikely” psychological scenarios virtually every extraordinary claim comes with “I was a SKEPTIC until I EXPERIENCED IT.” Take the claims of Transcendental Meditation, whose proponents claim that through proper meditation and practice you can obtain supernatural powers, walk through walls, become invisible, and more famously actually levitate. (known as the Yogic Flyers). Have they ever actually demonstrated any of those claims? Of course not.
    Instead, most rational people snicker at the videos of “yogic flyers” simply hopping up and down on their folded legs.

    Now, who would be LESS likely to fall for such trickery, such silliness, than a professional
    magician who specializes in illusions of flying, and in the mechanics of human gullibility and illusion? And yet, Doug Henning, the premier illusionist/magician of the 70’s/80’s bought into the claims of TM, yogic flying. After joining Henning expressed beliefs such as: ““You can disappear at a high state of consciousness because your body just stops reflecting light.” This is a guy who specialized in how people are tricked to believe in levitation and invisibility in his professional life, actually falling for bogus claims that people were doing real thing! (And, of course, neither Henning or any other TM proponent ever demonstrating any such real powers, to no one’s surprise – an inconvenient fact which didn’t impact their own belief at all, typical of such extraordinary claims of the superntural).

    There are just countless examples of people who have what one would assume is a disposition against accepting an extraordinary claim, becoming a convert. It’s a psychological fact about human beings and with such a huge variable it is far from justified to use such examples in support of any extraordinary claim.

    This of course pertains to claims of Resurrections and sudden conversions of followers as well.

  170. 170
    Virgil Cain says:

    Ben Goren:

    You’re substituting the Christian Golden Rule for what I actually wrote.

    OK I see where I did that. You said:

    Evil is doing unto others as they do not wish to be done unto.

    Then the world is overwhelmed by evil and yours is an idiotic criteria.

  171. 171
    StephenB says:

    Ben Goren,

    You ask why God doesn’t “drop the dime” on perverted clerics who molest children. My implicit answer is inherent in the following questions, which I hope you will address. Following those questions, I will provide my explicit answer.

    How can God grant sexual perverts free will and, at the same time, prevent them from misusing it? If free will does not include the power to create both good and bad consequences, of what use is it? Doesn’t the power to love God and his creatures necessarily include the power to hate or disregard God and his creatures? How can there be loving actions if only loving actions are allowed and hateful actions disallowed?

    I will now provide an abbreviated answer to your question: God doesn’t drop the dime on sexual perverts for misusing their wills to molest boys for the same reason he doesn’t drop the dime on you for misusing your intelligence to become an atheist. The power to love depends on the power to decide between loving and hating and the power to decide between doing good and doing evil. There is no charm in a yes unless a no is possible.

  172. 172
    Virgil Cain says:

    Sastra:

    When theists claim that God is the ‘foundation of morality,’ what do they mean?

    God gave us the rules to play by. Those rules are the foundation of morality and those who break those rules pay- sooner or later. And they pay dearly for their transgression(s).

  173. 173
    Vaal says:

    I’ll just end addressing this part:

    Third, there is impressive documentary evidence for miracles (Google my posts on St. Joseph of Cupertino) and for the Resurrection (see Drs. Tim and Lydia McGrew’s online article on the subject).

    Vince (I’ve always liked that name!)…

    Given you are clearly well educated and an IDer I assume you not only accept the scientific method; you appeal to it for many of the facts upon which you build the case for Intelligent Design. I believe you should see how very inconsistent this is with accepting claims of ancient resurrections, miraculous or otherwise. The methods of science arose and were refined over time not simply as some “other way of knowing” or procedure you do when putting on a lab coat, as if the concerns underlying science didn’t apply to your off-time. The justifications for science arose from fundamental epistemological concerns that arise immediately when you have the problem of variables both in terms of cause and effect (how do you determine a cause when there are many possible causes?) and the problem of explanation (given for every experience we have one can conjure a variety of logically possible explanations, how do we choose from among them?).

    That is to say, that when it comes to the world of our experience, you can’t just accept the necessity of scientific rigor in justifying any new claims to empirical knowledge and then cast it aside, drop the critical bar, to allow your favorite claim to hop over. Look how much effort was demanded to satisfy the scientists concerning the Higgs Boson – decades and billions of dollars just to build a machine that could establish some empirical evidence for particle for which theory was already extremely plausible and solid.

    Now, imagine 12 men claiming with utter conviction that they’d “experienced” seeing a perpetual motion machine – a machine violating our understanding of physics. Could you imagine someone at a scientific convention presenting this as evidence to justify accepting the claim, and overturning what we think we understand about physics? You know how quickly it would be laughed off the stage, and justifiably so. How much more ludicrously insufficient would it be if the speaker appealed not even to living claimants, but to purported claims from an ancient book? No one would, or should, take any scientist seriously presenting such “evidence” for a claim that would violate our understanding of the world.

    Why then would you possibly think lowering the standards of skepticism is justifiable just in the case of claims of an ancient resurrection???? I mean, take a non-miraculous, prosaic claim that a cancer medication or blood pressure drug has some slight effect. Given the problems of human bias, confounding variables etc, just vetting this claim typically takes from 10 to 15 years before it becomes acceptable. And for good reasons! Place next to that the claim of a Nobel-prize-worthy, physics-upturning phenomenon like someone rising from the dead…and in that case suddenly the claims of purported witnesses in an ancient book passes the evidential bar? Could it not be clearer the distance you have dropped the skeptical bar in the case for your religious beliefs, vs what we reasonably demand for important empirical claims? (And yes Jesus’ resurrection is an a posteriori empirical claim, not an a priori claim).

    Is it any wonder atheists like us believe we are justified in our skepticism?

    (Again, thanks for hosting this conversation).

  174. 174
    Virgil Cain says:

    Predicted response to StephenB @171

    “God is omniscient, knew what the priests were going to do and allowed it. That is much worse.”

    A keiths’ response:

    “God, in Her omni magnificence, could have created humans with free will but create only those who would use it for doing good.”

  175. 175
    Sastra says:

    vjtorley #156 wrote:

    Thank you for your comments. You have mounted a vigorous argument for atheism, but before I address that, I’d like to get back to what we mean by “God.”

    Thank you for your response. The Argument from Evil cannot work against any version of ‘God’ which does not significantly involve benevolence, goodness, love, and so forth, so this is irrelevant to my argument. You’re bringing up a different topic.

    Leaving aside these personal encounters with the divine, I would add that most people who have ever lived have believed in a God (or gods) of some sort, for two very strong reasons.

    Again, not relevant to my argument. I said that “… for MOST people who have ever lived, it would be perfectly rational to be an atheist.” I didn’t say that most people who have ever lived were atheists (or didn’t believe in the supernatural.) My point was that it would have been reasonable (and compassionate) if they had.

    For most people for most of human history, contemplating the Problem of Evil could fairly counter any inchoate feelings that maybe the universe is controlled by something like a loving, caring Person — if the person doing the contemplating was themselves a loving, caring person. This is unexpected if a benevolent God exists, but expected given naturalism.

    Why not give Spinoza a go, if belief in a God of love is a bridge too far for you?

    Assuming that the ‘God of Spinoza’ is not just a poetic way of referring to “Nature,” I don’t find the Argument from Design convincing — and I find the case for naturalism highly persuasive. But I’d rather not run off in that direction, since I’m more interested in reading your response to the argument I made.

  176. 176
    Sastra says:

    Virgil Cain #172 wrote:

    God gave us the rules to play by. Those rules are the foundation of morality and those who break those rules pay- sooner or later. And they pay dearly for their transgression(s).

    The foundation of morality is punishment? Might makes right? “It ain’t wrong if you don’t get caught?”

    You might want to rethink that. Most theists mean something very different when they say that “God is the foundation for morality.” If nothing else, they usually mean that the existence of God explains where we get / how we measure our sense of what is right and good, against what is wrong and evil. This embeds God into our nature by embedding us into God’s.

    The presumption is that we share a system, one which makes good and fair sense to us. God doesn’t stand outside of it like an arbitrary, incomprehensible alien Force of Destruction.

  177. 177
    Ben Goren says:

    How can God grant sexual perverts free will and, at the same time, prevent them from misusing it? If free will does not include the power to create both good and bad consequences, of what use is it? Doesn’t the power to love God and his creatures necessarily include the power to hate or disregard God and his creatures? How can there be loving actions if only loving actions are allowed and hateful actions disallowed?

    Stephen, your argument presupposes that your god is acting in a parental capacity — a very common way that gods throughout history have been presented.

    So, permit me to continue with your analogy.

    You have two children, one, say, seven years old; and the other a toddler.

    And the seven-year-old starts hitting the toddler.

    How many times must the seven-year-old strike the toddler before you as the parent will interfere and save the toddler from further harm? And if you failed to intervene, or if you had left them alone without adequate supervision such that no intervention were possible, would not child protective services be justified in concluding that you’re an unfit, abusive parent and step in to remove the children from your harmful influence?

    Of course, if there’s no parent, if these two children are simply shipwrecked on a deserted island…well, that right there is a pretty good analogy of the world we actually find ourselves in, no? Sure, it’s not a pretty picture…but would that therefore justify the children inventing imaginary invisible parents simply because they missed their mommies and daddies?

    If they did, that would be entirely understandable…for children. But can such an excuse really wash for adults?

    Cheers,

    b&

  178. 178
    jerry says:

    I was referring to the formal term in philosophy of religion. “Evil” in this context means apparently pointless suffering. Humans don’t like to suffer unnecessarily, regardless of the cause.

    Pointless from whose perspective? I am sure most would prefer no level of discomfort (though we all witness the process of excelling needs certain amounts of deprivation and discomfort.) But this begs the question of why do we want to excel.

    As far as what is pointless, take torture or what is called enhanced interrogation. Certainly from the perspective of the one being interrogated, they do not like it. But is it evil? Some say yes but what if it caused no permanent damage to the individual and he eventually provided information that saved another or perhaps thousands.

    So what is evil. A stubbed toe is a discomfort and is certainly unnecessary but no one would call it evil. If we applied the definition to one’s perspective then we could have 7 billion definitions in this world of what was evil.

    No this is not a definition of the word that goes very far. It is too vague. Also all instances are finite and often arbitrary.

    From the perspective of someone who only suffers — or who suffers a great deal — there is no benefit. There is little to contrast it with and they do not derive a more meaningful life from it.

    We are talking about the total human experience not the experience of any particular person. If there were no discomfort by anyone, human life would be so mundane and essentially meaningless. The process has to appear random for life to be meaningful. Life has to be uncertain.

    People want to avoid any discomfort and will transfer that attitude to wishes for others. But such a world would be meaningless even if it is unfair and we want to eliminate unfairness. We as humans then try to eliminate the unfairness. That is one of the things that makes life meaningful.

  179. 179
    Vaal says:

    StephenB,

    Hope you won’t mind if I take a stab at it 🙂

    “How can God grant grant perverts free will and, at the same time, prevent them from misusing it?”

    Ask yourself this: How can WE grant one another (or respect one another’s) Free Will and, at the same time, prevent someone from misusing it?

    We do this all the time, don’t we. It’s called: Enforcing The Law. We have laws against harming one another and we have forces to thwart the efforts of people doing bad things – i.e. we want police to prevent people from exercising their “free will” when it comes to producing more human suffering. We do not think the freedom of the rapist is more valuable than the well being of his victims. If someone knew a terrorist was about to introduce Anthrax into a school’s air system you and I would expect a Good Person to ACT and PREVENT terrorist from freely acting on his desire. (And no one thinks that our stopping criminals affects our overall free will).

    The principle that “free will” trumps the value of well-being is not one I hold to, or civilized societies hold to, or you hold to in real life. So why would you expect anyone to accept that principle in defense of God’s inaction in the face of human or natural evil causing human suffering?

    “The power to do good depends on the power to decide between good and evil.

    That actually doesn’t follow, any more that the old trope “without darkness there can be no light” follows.
    Light – electromagnetic radiation – could exist, in fact WOULD exist, without the absence of light – darkness. We wouldn’t have a word for darkness anymore, but then we wouldn’t need one.

    There is no logical contradiction between states of experience we consider “good,” e.g. peace, love, feeling of well-being, joy etc – and the absence of terror and pain. And it’s amazing when Christians forget this, since it’s already a concept they accept in their mythology: you already have this concept of a blissful only state: it’s called “Heaven.”

    Which brings up the question as to why God would ever create a corporeal realm and launch a plan guaranteed to include the suffering and physical misery of untold millions/billions of physical beings, rather than simply create us in a heavenly realm.

    Wait…maybe He had to test us first to see if we will get into heaven?

    An All Knowing God requires tests? How would that make sense? Does our earthly trials suggest we require some sort of preparation, some sort of training to avoid suffering and evil because we’ll be faced with all these ills and temptations in our afterlife? No, heaven is a place of eternal bliss living in God’s glory. So…what’s this earthly, suffering-infused boot-camp for again?

    And even IF one grants free will were necessary for moral goodness, does this logically entail we must have the “sin/depraved” nature God created us with? I don’t see how that would follow. Christians, and the rest of us, always bemoan human nature, our lack of intelligence, lack of perspective, our bad impulses and tendency to choose wrong. Why in the world would God necessarily have to create creatures with the nature of having a propensity to sin? Why not create smarter and more noble creatures, without our base impulses that lead us astray, with the tendency to choose right over wrong? There is nothing logically impossible about that proposition, and in fact Christians already think this is an intelligible proposition as they believe there are beings with free will whose nature it is to do always do the good: Jesus. God.

    So, I’m sorry, but this free will defence for evil and suffering does not seem to stand up no matter what angle you hold it at.

    Cheers,

  180. 180
    Ben Goren says:

    We are talking about the total human experience not the experience of any particular person.

    I think an honest evaluation of all the most significant horrors in history will reveal that all depend on this sentiment in one of two ways: either harm done to individuals or minorities is justified as being for the greater good, or those who are harmed are considered not human and therefore irrelevant.

    Even if you sincerely believe in the utilitarianism you espouse, you owe it to yourself and to the rest of society to reject it as adequate justification, lest you yourself become such a monster.

    When you do that, you will discover that it’s fine and dandy to sacrifice yourself, or to ask others to sacrifice themselves on your behalf. But sacrificing others for your own desires crosses over the line.

    If somebody else is doing evil, yes, stop them — but do no more than is minimally necessary to stop them. And only intervene if you have good reason to believe that your intervention will be effective; inaction, frustrating as it is, is far preferable to making things worse.

    Cheers,

    b&

  181. 181
    Ben Goren says:

    Vaal, if I might summarize your post:

    Is there evil in Heaven? Do its residents enjoy free will?

    If there is no evil in Heaven but people retain their free will, then we know that free will is not a valid excuse for the existence of evil. If there is no free will in Heaven, then why should we need it here? And if there is evil in Heaven, then what’s the point of Heaven in the first place?

    b&

  182. 182
    Virgil Cain says:

    Sastra 176 wrote:

    The foundation of morality is punishment?

    I said the RULES are the foundation of morality.

    Might makes right?

    Following the rules make right.

    “It ain’t wrong if you don’t get caught?”

    In the context we are discussing- God catches all.

    If nothing else, they usually mean that the existence of God explains where we get / how we measure our sense of what is right and good, against what is wrong and evil.

    Those rules I was talking about.

    God doesn’t stand outside of it like an arbitrary, incomprehensible alien Force of Destruction.

    What is it with atheists and strawmen?

  183. 183
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Vaal,

    Thank you for your post. I’d like to address your key comments. You write:

    There are just countless examples of people who have what one would assume is a disposition against accepting an extraordinary claim, becoming a convert. It’s a psychological fact about human beings and with such a huge variable it is far from justified to use such examples in support of any extraordinary claim.

    That’s a fair point. Skeptics can sometimes become zealous believers. But it’s a different matter when one is dealing with a large group of people (500, according to St. Paul) who claim to have seen a dead man come back to life, and who are so sure of what they’ve seen that they’re willing to be tortured and killed (in some cases) for insisting that what they saw was real. I can’t think of another parallel case for such a claim, in history.

    You also write:

    Now, imagine 12 men claiming with utter conviction that they’d “experienced” seeing a perpetual motion machine – a machine violating our understanding of physics. Could you imagine someone at a scientific convention presenting this as evidence to justify accepting the claim, and overturning what we think we understand about physics? You know how quickly it would be laughed off the stage, and justifiably so. How much more ludicrously insufficient would it be if the speaker appealed not even to living claimants, but to purported claims from an ancient book? No one would, or should, take any scientist seriously presenting such “evidence” for a claim that would violate our understanding of the world.

    Why then would you possibly think lowering the standards of skepticism is justifiable just in the case of claims of an ancient resurrection????

    I don’t think your example is a parallel case. A proper parallel would be: twelve trained physicists being tortured and in some cases, killed, for asserting that they’d personally examined an alleged perpetual motion machine and verified that it actually was what it claimed to be. Even that wouldn’t be a perfect parallel, because it would be very difficult for them to systematically exclude the possibility that the machine was obtaining energy from a hidden source, or from a source that will eventually burn out. By contrast, it is relatively easy to ascertain that someone is dead (especially if they’ve just been crucified and pierced through the heart with a lance), and it is easy to verify that a person you encounter a few days later is the same person as the person you saw dying (especially if they happen to have the same wounds, in the same places, and if they publicly manifest supernatural powers, as well). One doesn’t need special measuring instruments to ascertain that.

    As for the illegitimacy of appealing to claims made in an ancient book: no New Testament scholar disputes that St. Paul’s account in 1 Corinthians 15 was written a mere 25 years after Jesus’ crucifixion. In his account, St. Paul mentions many people who were still alive, who had seen the risen Jesus.

    As for the levitations performed by St. Jospeh of Cupertino in the seventeenth century: as I have pointed out in previous posts (see here, here and here), the man was seen levitating several meters in the air, often for hours on end, on about 1,500 occasions during his life-time, by thousands of witnesses, including eminent people (many of whom made sworn depositions after his death). It would be unreasonable to turn up one’s nose at evidence like that. The levitations are as certain as any other fact in recorded history.

    Finally, I should mention that there is contemporary scientific evidence, summarized here by Dr. Bruce Greyson, that consciousness can occur independently of the brain. I don’t claim any expertise in this field, but I think it warrants an open-minded investigation. This evidence, on top of the philosophical arguments for dualism, at least supports the strong possibility of life after death. That doesn’t get God off the hook, as you correctly pointed out. But what it does show is that we are only seeing a tiny portion of the whole picture, which means that it would be unwise to be form any firm conclusions about God’s goodness based on the evils we see in this life.

    Finally, Vaal, I would like to thank you for the courtesy you have displayed in your posts over here at Uncommon Descent. One of the reasons you seldom see my comments over at WEIT is that they’re usually deleted by Jerry. That’s his privilege, I suppose; after all, it’s his Website. Anyway, it has been a pleasant exchange of views. Thank you.

  184. 184
    Vaal says:


    jerry
    ,

    Since you seem to be having trouble with the whole “good and evil” thing insofar as most of us here understand the terms….

    There are generally two ways in which debating parties – e.g. atheists and Christians – can debate things like the Goodness of God.

    One is at the deepest philosophical level of assumptions – comparing our Moral Theories, which may involve metaphysical arguments, appeal to axioms, etc.

    Another is to instead take generally agreed upon notions of “Goodness” among people like ourselves, and from there investigate who is applying these criteria most consistently, e.g. to evaluating claims about a purported God’s goodness.
    This is just as “standard and acceptable” as the former method of debating claims. And to engage in such a discussion, all you have to do is acknowledge that we do indeed share some basic intuitions or concepts of “good” and “evil” as we apply those terms in evaluating persons. We don’t have to establish that EVERYONE IN THE WORLD agrees, only that we here (and likely most civilized people) agree, and then look for consistency from there.

    Now, if you might think you just can’t find any common ground here, no characteristics we’d both agree upon as indicating “good” and “evil,” I’d suggest
    you are quite wrong. Hopefully this is helpful:

    Movies and TV shows very often feature “good guys” and “bad guys.” Right?
    Do you, or most people, have trouble figuring out who the bad guys are vs the good guys? Certainly there are some movies that attempt ambiguity in this manner – but a great many don’t, from westerns, thrillers, horror movies, superhero movies, audiences naturally understand who is “good” and who is “evil” on screen.

    Now I’d ask you to characterize the traits that people identify in these onscreen characters, that lead us all to agree “good guy” and “bad/evil guy.”
    What traits do they share?

    Here’s what I would suggest:

    Traits That Identify Good Characters: Kindness. Bravery. Benevolence (disposition to act for the welfare of others). Self sacrifice. Love. Compassion.
    I’m sure you can complete the list.

    Traits That Identify Evil/Bad Characters: Selfishness. Wonton disregard for the well-being of others in pursuit of their own goals, if not the outright desire to cause suffering. Deceitful. Unjust. Etc.

    But, again, be my guest if you would suggest alternate characteristics that would predict the judgement of audiences about a character’s goodness or badness.

    Now, if we start with this basic agreement on the traits we tend to associate with Good Persons and Bad Persons, then we can go FROM THERE to analyze if the claims for any particular person, or personal Being, would be judged “good” or “bad” using that normally employed criteria.

    Which is generally the approach taken by the atheists on this thread.
    And it’s an approach that, in fact, is the basis for the “problem of suffering/evil” in the first place for Christianity. After all, this has never been a problem for atheism; it’s a problem WITHIN CHRISTIANITY which is why individual Christians face it so often, and why theologians have spent so much time trying to harmonize a way out of it. If Christians only ever found it acceptable to believe “whatever God does is good” then there would be no problem of evil/suffering. But it’s the fact that people DO have a sort of base-level, societal level concept of “Goodness” that seems to clash with the facts of the world, that causes the distress in the first place. Just like the atheists on this board, Christians have tended to associate “goodness” with characteristics like love and benevolence, and it’s from that perspective of consistency that even Christians have to acknowledge creates friction with the suffering we see under the purported overseeing of an All Good, All Powerful Personal Being.

    Clearer now, I hope? Can we move on to applying the criteria to claims of a Good God, or to the claims of the Christian God’s goodness?

    Cheers,

  185. 185
    Sastra says:

    Jerry #178 wrote:

    Pointless from whose perspective?

    Apparently pointless from our perspective, but as you, and my inclusion of the modifier “apparently” points out, we could be wrong. Yes. We might change our mind when we learn more. Or not.

    No this is not a definition of the word that goes very far. It is too vague. Also all instances are finite and often arbitrary.

    It’s a definition which goes very far, since it’s broad enough to include every possible instance as well as the possibility of error. It sets the field. As you note, it’s just not very useful when we want to get down to understanding or debating particulars.

    We are talking about the total human experience not the experience of any particular person.

    Then I think you are running afoul of the concept of a Benevolent God who cares for all individuals, and would presumably not coldly create any human being as a mere tool to be used for the benefit of others.

  186. 186
    Sastra says:

    Virgil Cain #182 wrote:

    I said the RULES are the foundation of morality.

    Why are the rules the foundation of morality? What makes them right? How do we tell? Why would we adopt them?

    Any answer which places God outside of our understanding of good and evil also places us outside of His. As many theists would agree. It’s not an atheist argument; it’s an ethical one.

  187. 187
    vjtorley says:

    Vaal and Ben Goren,

    I’d like to briefly respond to your question about free will in Heaven:

    Is there evil in Heaven? Do its residents enjoy free will?

    If there is no evil in Heaven but people retain their free will, then we know that free will is not a valid excuse for the existence of evil. If there is no free will in Heaven, then why should we need it here? And if there is evil in Heaven, then what’s the point of Heaven in the first place?

    The traditional Christian teaching is that the Blessed in Heaven are not free to turn their eyes (or rather, minds) away from the Beatific Vision of God. They retain the freedom to choose between good act A and good act B, but they are not free to sin.

    Could God have made people like that from the get-go? Yes, and in a few cases He did. Apart from Jesus Christ (who, as a Divine Person, was not only sinless in His human will, but also impeccable), the Catholic Church teaches that the Virgin Mary was divinely preserved from sinning throughout her life: she was “confirmed in grace” from the moment of her conception. And there may have been other individuals who were accorded a similar privilege (St. Joseph, for instance).

    This raises the obvious question: why didn’t God make all of us like that, thereby preventing a world filled with evil? The short answer is that if He had done so, then the individuals in that perfect world wouldn’t have been the same people as the individuals in our world. If a person is divinely preserved from sinning throughout their life, then that feature becomes part-and-parcel of their very identity. Had the Virgin Mary been able to sin, she wouldn’t have been the same person.

    What this means is that while God could have made a world filled with people who could never sin, He couldn’t have made one with me in it – or you, for that matter. Consequently, it is impossible for anyone to reproach God with the complaint: “Why didn’t You make me sinless?” If God had done that, then He would have made a different person. Hence, in wishing for a perfect world, you’re wishing for a world in which you would never exist. Are you sure you want to do that?

    You might say that from a Divine standpoint it would be highly irrational to prefer making a world filled with evil, such as ours, to a perfect world. In reply: first of all, each individual person is an entity of irreplaceable value – a jewel that’s unique and like no other. Consequently it makes no sense to say that a world containing individuals X, Y and Z would be better than a world containing individuals A, B and C. Second, God is under no moral obligation to make a world containing as little suffering (or as much goodness) as possible. For if God had such an obligation, to whom would he owe it? X, Y and Z? Or A, B and C? Obviously, none of them, for God doesn’t owe anyone the gift of existence. But then, the notion of an obligation which is owed to no-one surely makes no sense. Third, for all its drawbacks, our world does contain a number of goods that a perfect world might not contain: an Incarnation, for instance (although Duns Scotus famously maintained that the Incarnation could have occurred even if Adam had never sinned), and the Redemption of the human race through Christ’s death and resurrection. I don’t expect these things to impress you, given your sensitivity to the problem of evil, but from a purely dramatic standpoint, there’s something to be said for this world.

    I hope that answers your questions on free will and evil. Cheers.

  188. 188
    Ben Goren says:

    But it’s a different matter when one is dealing with a large group of people (500, according to St. Paul) who claim to have seen a dead man come back to life, and who are so sure of what they’ve seen that they’re willing to be tortured and killed (in some cases) for insisting that what they saw was real.

    Vincent, that’s not a case of 500 people risking death for what they believe; that’s a single offhand mention of 500 faceless, anonymous people saying they saw a ghost.

    First, if you don’t know of any similar claims, it’s because you’ve covered your eyes and stuck your fingers in your mouth. I’m pretty sure you’re not a Mormon; assuming that’s the case, consider why you’re not at all convinced by the twelve signatories at the opening of the Book of Mormon, all who testify that they did, indeed, personally witness Joseph Smith’s magic talismans. Once you understand why you’re not convinced by that any more than I am, you’ll understand why I should find Paul’s account far less convincing.

    But never mind that. If it’s simply the willingness to die for a cause that you find convincing, why are you not a devotee of Jim Jones, or those whackjobs awaiting rescue from the flying saucer that was hiding behind a comet? Why are you not a Muslim?

    The answer, of course, is that none of what you have put forward is evidence that you yourself find convincing; rather, it is an attempt at rationalizing a worldview that you yourself have described as being beyond reason — I again, of course, refer to the Matrix-style conspiracy theory of God as the Ground of All Being.

    You owe it to yourself to seriously answer — to you, if not to us, why you believe in Christ.

    Not why you should believe. Not what you think will convince us. Not what you think others find convincing. Not even what you find confirms your preexisting beliefs.

    But the very foundation for the beliefs themselves.

    When you do so, I do believe that you’ll discover that they’re built on nothing, and unsupportable by themselves.

    In contrast, I believe that the mutual gravitational attraction between the Earth and an apple causes them to accelerate towards their mutual center of gravity, resulting in an observed downward motion of the apple of about ten meters per second per second, with minor footnotes for air resistance and similar confounding factors.

    Why do I believe that? Because I’ve measured it, multiple times, and I informally re-measure it basically every waking moment of my life. And others have measured it and reported the same thing. And other observations I’ve made, such as of planetary motion in a college astronomy class, are consistent with that observation, and so on.

    What personal experience have you of Jesus that’s even a fraction as reliably repeatable and universally available?

    If you doubt my claim that an apple falls at about 10 m/s^2, we can both grab some apples and a stopwatch and figure out who’s right.

    But just look at all the responses to my initial challenge in this thread: we don’t see Jesus do this; we can’t see Jesus do that; Jesus only does this other when nobody’s looking; and the grand finale only comes after death.

    “One of these things is not like the other one,” as the song goes.

    Cheers,

    b&

  189. 189
    Ben Goren says:

    Consequently, it is impossible for anyone to reproach God with the complaint: “Why didn’t You make me sinless?” If God had done that, then He would have made a different person. Hence, in wishing for a perfect world, you’re wishing for a world in which you would never exist. Are you sure you want to do that?

    Vincent, a perfect artist does not create imperfect art.

    Let’s leave aside the question of sin for just a moment.

    If I have your god to thank for my body, then I must castigate him for cursing me with such an incompetently-designed hacked-up kludge.

    Now, don’t get me worng; as humans go, I’m in superb shape, and get an A+ from my physician in my annual exams.

    But I’ve already had to have pieces of plastic mesh inserted in my abdomen to stop crippling pain from inguinal hernias — and I would be long since dead by now were it not for the perfect job the surgeon did in repairing your god’s superb cockup. My eyesight is starting to fail; I need reading glasses for the normal-sized text on a smartphone, for example — especially at the end of the day. I haven’t yet managed to shed the last bits of belly flab I had accumulated; why give us a sweet tooth but not a mechanism to excrete sugar without metabolizing the extra? Oh — and I have a genetic disposition to high cholesterol, though no sigs of arterial plaque or other cardiovascular disease.

    And that’s just me — again, somebody in near-perfect health, probably in the top 5% or even 1% of the population. The rest of all y’all have it so much worse!

    So, for starters: yes, I would very much appreciate had I been made a different person with a different body. I think all of us would. Indeed, imagine were you given the opportunity to engineer your own body! Whether superficially humanoid or a radical departure from anything familiar, I’m sure the result would include some very significant departures from your present body. And think of how much it would reveal of your true nature were you given a chance to create your body!

    So, now that we’ve got the basic question answered with the body, let’s continue the thought experiment.

    Imagine that you’re exactly the same person you are today, but with one and only one difference. You have a divine sense of compassion, but limited only to the effects of the actions you yourself take.

    That is, you’d still be free to punch somebody else in the face…but you’d not only feel the other person’s pain of a broken jaw, but, before the punch landed, you’d also feel the person’s terror at what you’re about to do.

    And, since this is fantasy we’re discussing, we could even include a divine dispensation for, for example, a surgeon to set a fractured bone without becoming so overwhelmed with pain as to be unable to complete the procedure.

    So there’s another dilemma for theists. How can Jesus feel our pain, but not share it?

    …but, again, obviously, of course, you’ve already mooted the entire discourse. As you describe, in Heaven we are changed. And this is a good thing. So all your appeals to emotion that I should be glad that I am who I am are irrelevant; when in Heaven, it won’t be me there, but some simulacra of what I would be like stripped of my free will.

    Sorry. Try again…?

    b&

  190. 190
    StephenB says:

    Ben

    Stephen, your argument presupposes that your god is acting in a parental capacity — a very common way that gods throughout history have been presented.

    You are moving the target, but I will answer your question anyway. First, My aim was to address your question about God, the Creator. From a moral perspective, which is the one you are taking, God created a universe of soul making. More precisely, He created a universe that made it possible to love Him and help His creatures, which is possible only if it is possible to not to love God and hurt his creatures, as previously indicated.

    To answer your second question, the relationship between God and His creatures is not exactly the same as the relationship between parents and children, at least not in this context. The reason is that parents are, in large part, responsible for the behavior of their children and are obligated to help them reach adulthood in one piece. God, on the other hand, is not responsible for the behavior of adults.

    Meanwhile, I would be interested in your response to my first answer.

  191. 191
    Virgil Cain says:

    Sastra:

    Why are the rules the foundation of morality?

    God’s Creation, God’s rules

    What makes them right?

    God’s rules

    How do we tell?

    Many human laws are based on them

    Why would we adopt them?

    They seem humane and just.

    Any answer which places God outside of our understanding of good and evil also places us outside of His.

    Sastra has decreed it so.

  192. 192
    Sastra says:

    Virgil Cain #191 wrote:

    They seem humane and just.

    This is a reasonable answer — and it supports what I say about the necessity for a shared morality as opposed to an imposed one. I don’t ‘decree,’ I’m pointing out something you can see for yourself.

    As I think Vaal mentioned somewhere back in the thread, a statement like “God’s creation; God’s rules” is in need of support. It’s not morally obvious that one person has the right to do anything they want with another person if they created that person. In fact, I’d argue that it’s much more obvious to both of us that ethics is going to have a lot more to do with what is humane and just — and what is meant by that — than it has to do with things like ownership, power, and punishment.

  193. 193
    jerry says:

    Since you seem to be having trouble with the whole “good and evil” thing insofar as most of us here understand the terms…

    I have been reading about it for over 30 years, long before I knew there was an evolution debate. When I first heard about the theodicy issue, I thought it was a no brainer because it had no relevance to what the Christian God was offering.

    So I am fairly confident about the meaning of the word “evil” or the trouble defining it. I have given numerous examples in my comments about this. It is vague and it varies from person to person. Not something one can debate with.

    Another is to instead take generally agreed upon notions of “Goodness” among people like ourselves, and from there investigate who is applying these criteria most consistently, e.g. to evaluating claims about a purported God’s goodness.?This is just as “standard and acceptable” as the former method of debating claims. And to engage in such a discussion, all you have to do is acknowledge that we do indeed share some basic intuitions or concepts of “good” and “evil” as we apply those terms in evaluating persons.

    You are applying what is desirable/undesirable from a particular situation and trying to say these are good and evil incidents. These are helpful in ordinary conversation.

    But there is no way could these be applied to God. In the book of Job, one of the earliest discussions of good and evil there is an analogy of a worm, a human and God. In it the worm knows more about the human than the human knows about God.

    I had all sorts of people react to this as absurd but in reality the worm and human are finite creatures while God is infinite. We can not possibly begin to understand an infinite entity.

    You may not agree with this but you can not blithely say we want to apply our human understandings to God. It is impossible. Does this mean we cannot know anything about God. No, especially when He decides to communicate to us through His creation and his other possible communications.

    traits That Identify Good Characters: Kindness. Bravery. Benevolence (disposition to act for the welfare of others). Self sacrifice. Love. Compassion.?I’m sure you can complete the list.

    You are confusing personal characteristics with actions that may be desirable or undesirable. I fail to see the relevance of movie/literature characters in understanding God. They could be very useful in helping one to lead a moral life. But, it is really missing the point of the debate. I would look more to the endpoint of existence in the Christian tradition if you are going to judge the Christian God.

    Clearer now, I hope? Can we move on to applying the criteria to claims of a Good God, or to the claims of the Christian God’s goodness?

    Once you start dealing with just what is Christian theology and not your misconceptions of it. Start by dealing with my comments. You must deal with that the endpoint of Christian existence is eternal and not of this world. Any criticism of the Christian God must consider this and not just what happens in this world. What happens in this world is trivial unless it affects one’s status for eternity.

    Now you can criticize the theology etc but do not criticize God based on what is not relevant to His objectives. Undesirable events in this world are not relevant. If they are caused by an intelligent entity then they are relevant to that individual because they violate the desired objectives of God but are not a reflection on God per se but to the individual.

    I suggest you do not go off on tangents and address the actual issues.

  194. 194
    jerry says:

    You are moving the target,

    What else can they do? They do not like to deal directly with the actual issues.

  195. 195
    Sastra says:

    What this means is that while God could have made a world filled with people who could never sin, He couldn’t have made one with me in it – or you, for that matter… Hence, in wishing for a perfect world, you’re wishing for a world in which you would never exist. Are you sure you want to do that?

    Sorry to break into the dialogue with Ben, but the answer to this is not an obvious ‘no.’ In fact, I think a thoughtful response will go the other way.

    If your death would guarantee that there would be no war, no disease, and no cruelty — would you sacrifice your life for the good of others? For this much good, and so many others?

    I would answer — I HOPE I would honestly answer — “Yes.” There are some things worth dying for.

    And to have not been born in the first place ? I’d never feel that pain at all, just as all the millions of permutations of potential brothers and sisters you might have had if things had proceeded just slightly differently between your parents have not undergone any injury because they never got conceived. Again, if I was given the choice, I’d take it.

    And whether I really would if push came to shove, I think it ought to be rather obvious what I ought to say, from a moral, ethical perspective. And I assume my atheist friends would agree. We try not to think of ourselves as such Special Snowflakes that nothing matters so much as we do.

    Since you ask this question as if every believer you know would give the obvious answer “yeah, I’d never want to sacrifice my life for the greater good, no matter how much suffering is relieved” — are you sure you want to do that?

  196. 196
    StephenB says:

    Vaal

    Hope you won’t mind if I take a stab at it

    Not at all. Go for it.

    Ask yourself this: How can WE grant one another (or respect one another’s) Free Will and, at the same time, prevent someone from misusing it?

    We can’t. That is why we ought to intervene. However, when we do intervene, we are acting on behalf of God and neighbor in the spirit of love. In other words, we can love and intervene only because God gave us the power to do so, which is why He normally allows both good people and bad people to act without interference from him. If He intervened for us, we couldn’t do good. Accordingly, if bad people don’t have the power of free will to do evil, then good people don’t have the power of free will to do good. That should be obvious.

    The principle that “free will” trumps the value of well-being is not one I hold to, or civilized societies hold to, or you hold to in real life. So why would you expect anyone to accept that principle in defense of God’s inaction in the face of human or natural evil causing human suffering?

    Man, not God, created suffering. Every sin carries a price tag of suffering and guilt. Thus, the solution is to deal with the cause, which is sin, not to impeach God, who recommends that we avoid the cause.

    SB: “The power to do good depends on the power to decide between good and evil.

    That actually doesn’t follow, any more that the old trope “without darkness there can be no light” follows.

    It follows as surely as night follows day. A will that isn’t free to choose evil isn’t free to choose good.

    ight – electromagnetic radiation – could exist, in fact WOULD exist, without the absence of light – darkness. We wouldn’t have a word for darkness anymore, but then we wouldn’t need one.

    Irrelevant. Please do not ask me to respond to irrelevant comments.

    There is no logical contradiction between states of experience we consider “good,” e.g. peace, love, feeling of well-being, joy etc – and the absence of terror and pain. And it’s amazing when Christians forget this, since it’s already a concept they accept in their mythology: you already have this concept of a blissful only state: it’s called “Heaven.”

    Inaccurate and irrelevant. I will address only relevant topics.

    Which brings up the question as to why God would ever create a corporeal realm and launch a plan guaranteed to include the suffering and physical misery of untold millions/billions of physical beings, rather than simply create us in a heavenly realm.

    Question already answered.

    Wait…maybe He had to test us first to see if we will get into heaven?

    Correct. Love must pass a test. It isn’t love until it consciously chooses good over evil, often at a price. Love must prove itself by loving actions. Always.

    An All Knowing God requires tests? How would that make sense?

    It makes perfect sense. Would you want to live forever with someone who refuses to love you? Would you want to live forever with someone who wants nothing to do with you? Would you want to live forever with someone who embraces values inferior and antagonistic to yours?

    Does our earthly trials suggest we require some sort of preparation, some sort of training to avoid suffering and evil because we’ll be faced with all these ills and temptations in our afterlife? No, heaven is a place of eternal bliss living in God’s glory. So…what’s this earthly, suffering-infused boot-camp for again?

    As already indicated, boot camp and earthly suffering are for the purpose of soul making, that is, to become saints and enter heaven. Heavenly virtue requires both heavenly grace and earthly struggle. There is no cheap path to either virtue or heaven. The price of virtue is suffering. Anyone can practice vice and go to hell. It requires no moral exertion at all—at least until the chains of habit enslave, at which time, free will is severely diminished and the opportunity to do good becomes increasingly compromised. All that is necessary to lose everything is to do nothing, flow downstream, and plunge over the waterfalls.

    And even IF one grants free will were necessary for moral goodness,

    Free will is obviously necessary for moral goodness.

    So, I’m sorry, but this free will defence for evil and suffering does not seem to stand up no matter what angle you hold it at.

    You have provided no argument against it. You have merely complained about it.

  197. 197
    Vaal says:


    jerry,

    Your replies are a good example of the special pleading seen in the responses of
    most Christians. Reasoning and argument is about consistency; that is if you are going to put forward a claim or argument that you expect anyone else to accept, you must show how that principle is accepted elsewhere. I.e. “Look, I’m appealing to a principle we already accept, here’s an example, therefore it’s a valid principle from which to argue.” This is what the atheists are constantly doing – employing principles we already accept in your everyday reasoning to establish their warrant, and then applying them with consistency to claims about Gods.

    On the other hand Christians tend to assert principles – e.g. If God was our creator then God can dictate moral rules, or If we are not omniscient we can not make judgements about an Omniscient Being, etc – and these principles are merely asserted without argument showing why based upon principles acceptable to the other side. You just use them as declared starting points from which to build other claims.

    You’d been challenging the criteria, asking for it (e.g. “what is evil?”) by which atheists here were trying to judge claims about God’s goodness. I just explained the criteria. And I gave the argument, unre-butted by you, why this isn’t simply an arbitrary criteria only assumed by atheists in this thread, but one generally accepted, including by you and most Christians.

    That was the point of the “bad guy/good guys” in movies example. The point is made that you already understand the criteria being used for judging the claims about God’s goodness.

    You reply:

    “You are confusing personal characteristics with actions that may be desirable or undesirable.”

    It’s not a confusion on my part. The moral characteristics we normally associate with persons all imply actions; they are mostly meaningless without action. For instance, a Good Person we normally take to be benevolent. That is they have a disposition or desire to help others. That characteristic IMPLIES action. That is, given many circumstances, we are right to expect certain behaviour from someone who is “Good,” who is “benevolent.” For instance, a toddler is drowning in the shallow end of a pool. If a Good/benevolent person is there, aware of the toddler’s situation and able to save the toddler, we expect that person to act to save the toddler. This is WHY such concepts are, as you put it, “helpful in ordinary conversation.” because Goodness/Benevolence actually mean something and communicate expectations. You can’t just ignore this point.

    It is therefore BEING CONSISTENT to apply this criteria to judging anyone’s claims that a Good God exists, or that the character like Jesus or Yawheh in an ancient book fit that criteria of Goodness – loving, benevolent, etc. The atheist is being consistent here. When you abandon this, you are special pleading, making up new principles for judging God.
    (Though, you only do so inconsistently, because Christians will happily judge God “good” whenever it’s convenient – look how GOOD Jesus was with the poor and downtrodden, look how BENEVOLENT God was in the case of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, etc).

    Now, here comes your special pleading. You want to make an exception for God:

    “But there is no way could these be applied to God.”

    Why? What principle are you appealing to that I should accept?

    It looks like with your “worm” example that you appeal to the standard Christian response: We are simply not in an epistemic situation that allows us to make judgements about God.

    But this thread has already been full of reasons to reject that principle. Ben and I have given explicit, detailed responses to that claim giving reasons to reject it. Again: All you are doing is pointing out our general epistemic limitations – we have a limited viewpoint, and God represents the omniscient perspective which we can never have. But the problem of our lack of omniscience has NEVER been a reason to withhold rational conclusions. Because if it was we would exist in total paralysis. Our lack of absolute certainty about anything, our limited ken, can be highlighted by countless examples against every single belief we hold. Are you typing at a computer? How can you know it is not a fully convincing illusion foisted by The Matrix, or Aliens from other dimensions we don’t know about, or that you aren’t a sophisticated robot with that image and sensation programmed in to you, or that a magical being isn’t fooling you, or that a God isn’t fooling you. You’d require omniscience to know every logically possible alternative was false, so gee…I guess we just can’t be rational about anything.

    Except you know this is nonsense and you don’t let that problem stop you from making rational conclusions all day long. Rationality *allows for our limited viewpoint,* takes it as part of the deal, and works within it. Do you KNOW for sure you will arrive safely at work when getting in to your car in the morning? Of course not. You aren’t omniscient. But you don’t need to be: you work from probabilities based on the evidence you have at hand – it’s the only way rationality could work, in our situation. Was Hitler really a Good Magical Being who saved The Jews by pretending to incinerate them but really whisked them off to another realm of pure bliss? Puny mortal, how can you be in a position to KNOW that’s not true? But of course, it’s not rational to demand this omniscience in the first place. Instead we go on what *seems to be the case* using logic/reason to tie it together with the rest of our experience. Hitler did things that bad people do – it’s reasonable to conclude Hitler did a bad thing and truly had ill will toward the Jews.

    If we were to say in the case of talking about a God “we are in no position to judge” then we would be epistemically helpless – for no good reason – in the face of ANY claim to Godhood. I’m God, you ought to send me your life savings, I want to spend it on a lottery. What, are you going to make a judgement I’m not God, or that God wouldn’t demand this of you? That this is simply not a reasonable, believable claim? How unreasonable of you – as a puny human you are in no position to pass any judgments about me! This is what you get when you pretend we can’t have the criteria to judge, and that God supplies the criteria. ANYONE claiming to be God can pass the criteria test, on their own criteria. Which is reason to reject this bad principle.

    So when you come to me with a claim about God, you can’t make some special pleading objection where God is excepted from our everyday judgements. If you have a book that claims the Character is the creator of the universe, I’m going to see if the evidence supports that claim. If you, or the book, claims the character Yahweh is “good” I’m going to see if the evidence – e.g. the actions ascribed to the character in the book or by Christians – supports that claim. Based, consistently, on the usual, useful notions of deciding “good” and “bad” persons.

  198. 198
    Ben Goren says:

    God, on the other hand, is not responsible for the behavior of adults.

    Yes, Stephen, I think we’re in agreement that the gods are both descriptively and evidentially irresponsible. (Nonexistent, actually, of course; this is for the sake of argument.) The question is how one can get from a position of irresponsibility to that of ultimate morality — whether proscriptive or as a model to be emulated.

    I will now provide an abbreviated answer to your question: God doesn’t drop the dime on sexual perverts for misusing their wills to molest boys for the same reason he doesn’t drop the dime on you for misusing your intelligence to become an atheist. The power to love depends on the power to decide between loving and hating and the power to decide between doing good and doing evil. There is no charm in a yes unless a no is possible.

    Honestly? The description you provide of your god seeking love is immature to the point of being infantile. If your god has so little self-esteem that it is so utterly dependent on expressions of love from its own creations…I mean, really? This is admirable?

    Right here as well as elsewhere in your responses to me and others, you’ve made quite the laundry list of assertions about the nature and desires of your god. I do think it’s time to take a moment for me to challenge you as I similarly have Vincent.

    How do you know all this, and why should you, I, or anybody else believe you?

    I hope you’ll pardon me if I express more than a bit of skepticism that a mere mortal can so intimately know the nature and desires of an entity he himself describes as incomprehensibly infinite. And I hope you’ll still pardon me if I note that your claims are, to me, indistinguishable from the claims of those of all other religions — claims you yourself reject outright, just as I do.

    So, what makes you think that you’re the mortal with the direct line to the divine, and all those others are confused or liars or whatever? And, assuming you’re not just as confused (or dishonest) as all the rest, what’ve you got that’s so different?

    Cheers,

    b&

  199. 199
    Eugen says:

    Thanks Jerry and StephenB for great discussion. There’s always something to learn from you.

    TBH situation is becoming amusing again with atheists. They don’t believe in God but they come here to to tell us how should God behave! Being that doesn’t exist doesn’t behave, right? If you are an atheist you should still try to make some sense.

    So now we don’t know which way atheists think:

    a) God exists but but we don’t like his behavior
    b) God doesn’t exist but we still don’t like his behavior
    c) God will be allowed to exist if he behaves by our standards

    Atheists remind me of this:

    http://images.dailykos.com/ima.....1409343048

  200. 200
    Ben Goren says:

    Eugen, you seem to misunderstand a basic convention in discussion and logic — that of assuming, for the moment, that somebody’s claims are valid and figuring out what the consequences of those claims are. If that leads to a contradiction, you know the initial claims aren’t valid after all.

    But, even within that…well, I don’t think Iago or the Baron Scarpia or Darth Vader are any more real than any of the gods in any of the various pantheons. But I still think Iago, Scarpia, and Vader are truly horrific, evil, nasty so-and-sos. Don’t you? Fictional characters don’t have to be real for you to decide what you think of them.

    So, to put it succinctly: I personally have yet to encounter a proposal for a divine entity that can reasonably and coherently be considered to exist outside of the context of a made-up fantasy. Considering that the prime purpose of the gods is to provide an unquestionable authority for those who speak on their behalf, and that they establish their authority by doing that which simply cannot be done no way nohow, this is hardly surprising.

    And, surprise surprise, we see throughout this entire thread claim after claim from theists about their gods that, per the descriptions of the theists themselves, are beyond inquiry and confirmation. How is one supposed to confirm that an absent non-interfering deity has infinite ability to alter reality to suit its needs? But we’re also told by these same theists that these gods have specific wants and desires of us, and rewards and punishments after death for those who do and don’t comply…and they themselves know this…how, exactly? How could they even possibly know, even in principle?

    The problem that kicked this all off is that some very common and very specific claims are trivially contradicted by observation. Were you to claim that there is a supermassive black hole orbiting the Earth at about the altitude of the ISS, we wouldn’t need to grab any telescopes to know that claim is false; we’d all already be dead — and, besides which, the Earth would not only orbit something heavier, but, at that distance, would be well within not only the event horizon but the Roche limit.

    So, too, the claim that there is an entity of limitless power and all-encompassing knowledge of utmost benevolence. Said entity would no more put up with his official spokesmen being serial child rapists than any human CEO would. Therefore, if the entity exists at all, either its power or knowledge is severely limited or it is incomprehensibly evil, not unimaginably good.

    Is such basic logic really so hard to grasp? Especially from a crowd that favors Aristotle so?

    Cheers,

    b&

  201. 201
    Mung says:

    Ben Goren: Is such basic logic really so hard to grasp? Especially from a crowd that favors Aristotle so?

    First you should demonstrate that you understand basic logic. Then perhaps we’d have reason to accept your judgment.

  202. 202
    Ben Goren says:

    Very well, Mung.

    Jesus is claimed to be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent.

    Therefore, he knows when his very own priests — or even frauds falsely pretending to be his priests — are committing the most horrific imaginable atrocities in his own name with the help of his assumed authority. He also has the ability to prevent or curtail these atrocities.

    Horrific atrocities are not properties of benevolence, omni- or otherwise. A benevolent entity does not commit nor even tacitly conspire to facilitate horrific atrocities. Therefore, the initial claim results in a contradiction. Jesus cannot possibly possess all three properties.

    Indeed, even the Christians here agree. The common conclusion is that Jesus displays no benevolence whatsoever in this world, and only is benevolent to the dead. Why one would expect an heartless monster who turns a deaf ear on the cries of children being raped by his own men in his own name to suddenly develop a sense of compassion after they’re dead is beyond me — but I suppose that’s not directly addressed by the logic of the premises here.

    If you think there’s a logical fault in any of that, by all means: identify it for us.

    Cheers,

    b&

  203. 203
    Vaal says:

    vjtorley,

    “What this means is that while God could have made a world filled with people who could never sin, He couldn’t have made one with me in it – or you, for that matter. Consequently, it is impossible for anyone to reproach God with the complaint: “Why didn’t You make me sinless?” If God had done that, then He would have made a different person. Hence, in wishing for a perfect world, you’re wishing for a world in which you would never exist. Are you sure you want to do that?”

    The same objection Sastra noted immediately came to my mind on reading this, and he’s already put it well.

    But I’d go further and say this is a very, very odd defense. It seems to make an unjustified exception of normal reasoning…just in the case of God.

    Of course if God had made a different world this exact one wouldn’t exist. That’s what possible worlds is all about and counterfactuals. We routinely rely on possible world/counterfactual reasoning for deciding our actions: IF I take action A then B will (likely) happen. But if I don’t take action A then B will (likely) not happen. We choose one possible world; the other one doesn’t happen (leaving aside for the moment the idea of the multi universe, but even so this reasoning would still pertain to our universe).

    Moral reasoning in deciding action relies on this. A kid is drowning. I SHOULD save the kid = of the possible futures, including the one I let the kid drown, I should bring into being the possible world in which I save the kid. Moral action requires discarding possible worlds, choosing the best one from alternatives. The same goes for evaluating past actions
    using counterfactual reasoning. If I had acted to save the kid from drowning I would have saved him, and therefore would have acted morally. Therefore, instead of ignoring his plight, I should have made a different choice with a better outcome.

    To act rationally and morally is to choose to bring about the the better possible world, at the expense of a less promising possible world.

    Therefore, how can you suddenly raise the principle that God would be restrained from choosing a different world because it would abandon some other possible world (e.g. this one)? God, like any rational Being, could understand the many possible worlds and select the one with the best result. If another counterfactual world would have had a better result (far less suffering or no suffering/evil) then it’s just special pleading on God’s behalf to say it can not be a basis to evaluate any purported choice by God, or that He couldn’t have chosen the better world because it meant not creating the worse world (this one).

    As Sastra said, it seems extraordinarily selfish to say “God couldn’t have made another better world with far less suffering, because then it wouldn’t have ME in it.” Like Sastra I would sacrifice my life (in my best moments) if it altered the future of human suffering.
    (In fact, having contemplated the concept of Hell, eternal suffering, if that fate could be shown to me to be a real one for some people, and if even one person were suffering eternally, I would offer my own annihilation if it would get them out of hell. Nothing I can experience in my life could outweigh eternal suffering.

  204. 204
    Ben Goren says:

    Mung, if I can add on an additional clarification that I just realized the theists in this thread aren’t getting…

    To support a claim of all-encompassing lovingkindness, it is not sufficient to argue a “best of all possible worlds” position, that there is some greater good that necessitates the evil we observe. That might support a claim of maximal benevolence, but it does not support a claim of boundless love.

    If you wish to support the typical theistic claims in this regard, you must transcend local maxima…and, to do that, you must demonstrate that priestly rape is, itself, an act of good and benevolence and love and kindness.

    Let that horror sink in for a minute, and maybe you’ll come to understand why I so vigorously reject the theistic claims of infinite love from their various gods.

    Cheers,

    b&

  205. 205
    Aleta says:

    Hi Ben. Just wanted to let you know that I’ve been enjoying reading your posts.

  206. 206
    Mapou says:

    Goren:

    Jesus is claimed to be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent.

    Did Jesus make that claim? Or is this a strawman? Where did this claim come from? Who first claimed it? I challenge anybody (Christian or atheist) to either show or prove that Jesus/Yahweh ever made that claim about themselves. And, please, don’t anybody quote the Bible as evidence for an omniscient and omnipotent God because I can do the same to show the opposite.

    And what does omnibenevolent mean?

  207. 207
    Mapou says:

    Yahweh never claimed to have created our spirits, only our bodies. He only claimed to have created the body as a receptacle for the human spirit (and even other spirits if you believe in demon possession). Spirits can neither be created nor destroyed. They just are.

    So, if we are a bunch of a-holes (and we all are), we cannot blame Yahweh for it. Our spirits are our own.

  208. 208
    Vaal says:

    StephenB

    “However, when we do intervene, we are acting on behalf of God and neighbor in the spirit of love.”

    So a good person intervenes and interferes with the free will of someone causing unnecessary suffering.

    But not God. Who is The Ultimate Good Person.

    Instead, when we intervene we are ‘acting on behalf of God.’ But what does this mean? It suggests God endorses the principle that “the value of human well-being trumps the value of free will,” even if we are his proxy. But then…that is the principle I have argued for! And yet your reason for exempting God is to suddenly raise the principle that free will is more valuable than well being, which is why God won’t interfere with a rapists free will even at the cost of someone’s well being! You still haven’t established some alternate principle that actually rebuts my argument, thus far.

    Further, there are countless instances where there is no other person around to intervene. A rapist attacking a woman in an alleyway when no one else is around or aware of it does not afford anyone the opportunity to intervene, and hence seems gratuitous in terms of justifying free will. God intervening would not be robbing someone else of their opportunity to “do good.” How can God be “good” by standing by allowing gratuitous suffering – God is just not acting like a Good Person would.

    “Accordingly, if bad people don’t have the power of free will to do evil, then good people don’t have the power of free will to do good. That should be obvious.”

    It if FAR from obvious that people ought to have the power to cause as much suffering as we do. There is nothing logically necessary about the extent of harm we able to cause one another, nor the amount of anguish we can suffer. God could have logically reduced the severity of both, without harm to free will. The plausibility of this is played out every time we enjoy ourselves without suffering terrible harm or anguish. I recently had a wonderful night out with friends, a dinner. We all had free will, yet were in a state of well being and happiness without contemplating, choosing or encountering moral horror. Ought the restaurant owner have come up to us with this offer: “We see you are having dinner here tonight. You will only be able to enjoy and appreciate your meal if you have the counter example of how bad things could be for you. So we’ve set up a torture chamber just over there, where we will torture this person in view to allow you to enjoy your meal all the better. After all, you can’t experience good without the contrast of evil, right?”

    That of course is morally insane. But it is quite similar to what you and other Christians argue: when someone suggests that goodness and well being could obtain without the existence of moral horror, you object “Oh no, we need the moral horror and the nature of suffering we have in this world in order for there to be goodness and well being!”

    Further, I have earlier provided an argument that your comment does not address. That is: An All Powerful God could have, without logical contradiction, created nobler beings with a tendency to choose The Good, rather than as we have been created, with a “sin nature” and tendency to often choose badly. This in no way contradicts free will. For one thing, the beings could still retain the power to cause others suffering…but they freely choose not to cause suffering. This can only be denied on pains of some very problematic implications. For instance, we know there is a great variety among humans in terms of those who tend to act morally vs many who tend toward immoral actions. Many people have been able to lead FAR more moral lives, in terms of avoiding immoral choices, than others. Are we to presume that the nobler among humans are the ones without, or with less free will? That would produce quite a paradox in terms of God purportedly valuing free will, but urging us toward states in which we would exhibit less free will!

    If you are to make your case against my objections, you need to answer why these things are not possible.

  209. 209
    Vaal says:

    StephenB

    “Man, not God, created suffering.”

    Well that’s weird. I don’t remember myself, or anyone else, causing the existence of rabies.
    Or malaria. Or Ebola. Or earthquakes. Or tornadoes. Or cancerous rays from the sun. Or
    predators, poisonous snakes, genetic defects, or any of the countless natural afflictions.

    I’m afraid I see no reason to accept your claim.

    It isn’t love until it consciously chooses good over evil,

    Sorry, but again, on whose say so? What definition of “love” are you using and why ought I agree with that definition? I see no reason that love could not exist absent evil.
    I’ll appeal to actual, accepted definitions of love (Googles definition of Love):

    Love: 1. An intense feeling of deep affection.

    When I look at my wife or my son I feel love. I don’t feel myself struggling with or even thinking about evil. The simple experience of deep affection quite sufficiently entails I love them. So your assertion that “love” requires consciously choosing good over evil is thus far just that: an unsupported claim.

    Love must prove itself by loving actions. Always.”

    Always? Except…always the exception…except for God, right?
    A loving action would presumably be to help someone when they are suffering.
    But there are countless examples every hour, every day, all year, of God not doing so, and when no one else could do the job.

    Re: an All Knowing God needing to do tests?

    “It makes perfect sense.”

    No it doesn’t. We need to set up tests in order to gain information we can not know otherwise. An Omniscient Being would have no such requirement, so His requiring a “test” makes no sense. God would know “if I create X this will be the outcome, if I create Y that will be the outcome” and He could create whatever outcome He desired, without “tests.” (And no that doesn’t deny free will: God would have HAD to have chosen between alternate possible worlds to have chosen ours, so you can’t object the process logically negates free will).

    “Would you want to live forever with someone who refuses to love you?”

    Absolultely!!!

    If: I were a Good Person (let alone the Ultimate Good Being) AND the alternative was that human being suffering for all eternity. It would be the pettiest bit of pique to say “I won’t save you from eternal suffering because YOU DON’T LOVE ME.” Anyone taking that approach would immediately be recognized as a villain – in fact villainous characters have used that model often in fiction because it’s so vainglorious and lacing in compassion. Why you want to adduce such excuses on behalf of God is very curious.

    “Heavenly virtue requires both heavenly grace and earthly struggle. There is no cheap path to either virtue or heaven. The price of virtue is suffering.”

    Again…why? That’s mere assertion. It may be a contingent fact that God made earthly struggle necessary for entrance into heaven, but it hardly seems a necessary fact. Why would God make such a “price” to get in? Does God let in sinners who accept Jesus’s sacrifice? If so, it doesn’t seem that God requires people of higher moral character to get into heaven, so “virtue” is not tested for to get into heaven. Or is it based on “works,” e.g. those who do more good on earth? If that’s the case, we have to ask did those people do good arbitrarily and by accident? If so, how is that a valuable form of “virtue?” Or did their tendency to do good derive from their nature? If that’s the case, then God could have created more, most or all humans with a better nature like those people, without having created people without morally relevant free will. So this whole free will defense – that humanity as God created us was necessary, falls apart.

    Again, why does an All Powerful God HAVE to put people through material suffering to MAKE immaterial beings good enough to keep him company in a realm of non-suffering? This makes no sense, and nothing you have written establishes this necessity; you’ve only asserted it to be the case.

    Basically what we have here is the Christian method of rationalization: You have to look at the world as it is and are forced to conclude, on your religious assumptions, that this MUST be what an All Good God would create, and therefor you have to rationalize backwards from that to your theodicy. It’s always thinking-in-reverse, which inevitably leads to special pleading.

  210. 210
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Ben Goren,

    I’d like to respond to your recent comments. You wrote:

    Vincent, a perfect artist does not create imperfect art.

    Let’s leave aside the question of sin for just a moment.

    If I have your god to thank for my body, then I must castigate him for cursing me with such an incompetently-designed hacked-up kludge.

    Now, don’t get me worng; as humans go, I’m in superb shape, and get an A+ from my physician in my annual exams.

    But I’ve already had to have pieces of plastic mesh inserted in my abdomen to stop crippling pain from inguinal hernias — and I would be long since dead by now were it not for the perfect job the surgeon did in repairing your god’s superb cockup.

    What you’re forgetting here is that human bodies are not built from the top down but from the bottom up, via a genetic program. It’s not enough to critique the way the human body looks and say how it could be improved. What you have to do is say how you would improve the genetic program that determines how our bodies are built.

    I might also add that the alleged flaws in the design of the human body are actually the result of multiple conflicting design constraints. Given these constraints, some compromises are necessary.

    Regarding aging: I’m starting to need glasses for reading at night myself (I’m long-sighted), but I don’t complain about the fact. To me, the most amazing fact is that I am capable of enjoying the sensation of color at all, even for a second. And that’s something you can’t explain: why evolution would bother to generate beings that were not only highly responsive to their environment, but also sentient. There’s no need for that, from an evolutionary standpoint. Even Richard Dawkins confesses to finding it puzzling.

    Regarding your individual genetic flaws: we all have some flaw or another. But these flaws are the result of bad mutations, and the only way to prevent those is to have a static world, where there are no mutations. That would be a world without you or me in it.

    Finally, regarding your claim that a perfect artist does not create imperfect art: we need to know what the artist designed in the first place. If we look at the DNA molecule or at proteins or at ATP synthase, then I’d say God did a very good job designing those. And the human brain is a marvel of engineering. And you might like to look at this talk by a biologist and engineer, Stephen Larson, who admits that that life’s “complex interacting molecular machines” reveal that “molecular clockwork is real and pervasive” and appear to be “built by an engineer a million times smarter than” we are. He’s not an ID proponent, but he’s over-awed at the design of even a humble bacterium:

    On the one hand it’s extremely well organized, but on the other hand the sheer scale of all of this unfamiliar well-organized stuff that happens in there makes me feel that I’ve stumbled onto an alternate landscape of technology that’s built by an engineer a million times smarter than me.

    Definitely food for thought.

    You add:

    So, for starters: yes, I would very much appreciate had I been made a different person with a different body. I think all of us would.

    Huh??? Ben, I can understand your wanting to upgrade your body, but wanting to be a different person makes absolutely no philosophical sense. If you were a different person, then you wouldn’t be “you.”

    You conclude:

    As you describe, in Heaven we are changed. And this is a good thing. So all your appeals to emotion that I should be glad that I am who I am are irrelevant; when in Heaven, it won’t be me there, but some simulacra of what I would be like stripped of my free will.

    People who end up in Heaven have made a final and irrevocable choice to accept God’s offer of eternal life with Him. Having made that choice and been presented with the Beatific Vision of God, they are no longer free to turn away. What’s the problem?

    Also, according to Christian doctrine, it is the same person who ends up in Heaven as the person who lived on Earth.

    Regarding the resurrected body in Heaven: I would not be the same person if I had had different parents, but there is no reason why my body’s acquiring new powers, after being raised, should cause me to undergo a loss of identity. I don’t think you understand what Christians believe about the resurrection.

    Re the evidence for Christianity, you write:

    Vincent, that’s not a case of 500 people risking death for what they believe; that’s a single offhand mention of 500 faceless, anonymous people saying they saw a ghost.

    I’m pretty sure you’re not a Mormon; assuming that’s the case, consider why you’re not at all convinced by the twelve signatories at the opening of the Book of Mormon, all who testify that they did, indeed, personally witness Joseph Smith’s magic talismans. Once you understand why you’re not convinced by that any more than I am, you’ll understand why I should find Paul’s account far less convincing.

    First of all, you’re overlooking the fact that St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, knowing that some of them would soon be visiting him in Jerusalem (see 1 Corinthians 16: 3-4), where they could easily check the veracity of his claims. St. Paul wasn’t making those 500 people up.

    None of the alleged witnesses to Joseph Smith’s talismans was martyred for affirming their existence. Also, while some claimed to have seen and handled them, others spoke of seeing them with the eyes of faith.

    But the real point which you fail to address is the argument made by mathematician Charles Babbage in his Ninth Bridgewater Treatise:

    …[P]rovided we assume that independent witnesses can be found of whose testimony it can be stated that it is more probable that it is true than that it is false, we can always assign a number of witnesses which will, according to Hume’s argument, prove the truth of a miracle…

    It follows, then, that the chances of accidental or other independent concurrence of only six such independent witnesses, is already five times as great as the improbability against the miracle of a dead man’s being restored to life, deduced from Hume’s method of estimating its probability solely from experience.

    But if the evidence of the Resurrection of Jesus were not enough to convince you, I have already mentioned the thousands of witnesses, from all walks of life, who saw St. Joseph of Cupertino levitate for hours on end, several meters above the ground. The probability that they were all hallucinating is infinitesimal – much lower than the alleged improbability of a miracle (which, for a cosmos in which 10^120 events have taken place, could not be any lower than 1 in 10^120, on Laplace’s sunrise argument.)

    And that brings me to your challenge: you ask why I am a Christian. The short anser is that if I were not, then I’d have to believe something even more incredible: that all these people were hallucinating the same thing at the same time, or that there was something causing them all to hallucinate, on thousands of occasions and at several locations in Italy. That’s preposterous. You remind me of the Aristotelians who refused to look through Galileo’s telescope, because they were closed to his new world-view.

    Over to you, Ben.

  211. 211
    Vaal says:

    vjtorley

    “But it’s a different matter when one is dealing with a large group of people (500, according to St. Paul) who claim to have seen a dead man come back to life,”

    As Ben mentioned, the “500” isn’t a “fact” one has to explain; it’s merely part of the claim of the story that itself is being asked for veracity! If I say to you “I just ran 200 mile per hour” you are going to demand much more than my claim. If I add “Well 500 people saw me do it, so how do you explain THAT mister!?” you will be utterly unmoved, knowing I haven’t added at all to the veracity of my claim. I’ve just added another fantastic claim on top of the other, which I’d need to show was true as well.

    Same with a biblical passage simply claiming 500 people saw a resurrection. It’s not a fact that requires explaining: it’s a claim itself that requires evidence!

    “who claim to have seen a dead man come back to life, and who are so sure of what they’ve seen that they’re willing to be tortured and killed (in some cases) for insisting that what they saw was real. I can’t think of another parallel case for such a claim, in history.”

    But all these appeals to martyrdom are simply a way of saying “they really, really believed it!”
    But since when has people “really, really believing” an extraordinary claim entailed that it’s true?
    Do you think martyrdom is required before accepting that anyone “really believes” a claim. That would be a crazy, impossible, and unjustified criteria. Surely you accept I really believe my wife loves me, without my having to be martyred, or that Muslim’s truly believe their religion, without their having to be mattered.
    So the whole “but they were martyred for their beliefs so we can conclude they really believe it” is just a red herring. (And, anyway, there are countless examples of people believing fringe, extraordinary claims, e.g. healers of all variety, that they stake their very lives on it – Steve Jobs choosing bogus alt medicine for his cancer treatment is only one example of many).

    In the scenario I brought up, the presenter saying to the scientific audience: but they really, truly believe they saw a perpetual motion machine! wouldn’t justify the claim one more bit. People can believe crazy things. People are often in error. Nothing else is presented but a belief. No other data to examine, no experiment to replicate. No dice.

    “By contrast, it is relatively easy to ascertain that someone is dead’

    Except that there have been many instances of people left for dead, who were not dead. And even many instances of people ruled dead by modern physicians, who turned out not to be dead. You an google various such instances.

    “(especially if they’ve just been crucified and pierced through the heart with a lance),”

    Which is simply accepting the claims that are part of a story actually under dispute here. From the vantage point of 2,000 years later, we have no way to verify any claims of whatever was done to Jesus.

    But the point is: we both know very well that the type of “evidence” you are presenting for someone resurrecting from the Dead – in a way that violates our current knowledge of physics/biology – would be grossly insufficient in making the case to other scientists. That is, to the group who most understand when to be skeptical, why to be skeptical, and what kind of evidence is required to accept some new phenomenon has occurred.

    Again: 10 to 15 years usually required of hard research by hundreds of people using the best modern facilities and scientific methods merely to establish the mild efficacy of a heart drug.

    But to justify belief in the actual resurrection from the dead, you propose the claims found in an ancient book pass the muster.

    How can you not see the gulf between these two approaches to justifying empirical claims? How can you not vividly see just how much you allow yourself to lower the skeptical bar for evidence of your religion?

  212. 212
    Vaal says:

    vjtorley,

    Your appeal to St. Joseph’s purported levitation sounds like more of the same. Do you have actual many thousands of personal attestations, or only claims by other authors that thousands saw the levitations? If the latter – of which I have little doubt – then it’s like Paul’s claim: not established fact, but itself just another extraordinary claim in need of demonstration.

    “The levitations are as certain as any other fact in recorded history.”

    Would you say that with a straight face to a scientific audience? That levitation has been established…through the written claims of people many hundreds of years ago? And would you expect the audience to agree it has been thus established?

    I know you know the answer.

    Are you familiar with Sathya Sai Baba? He was until he died recently, one of the many “god men” of India. The God men are considered manifestations of God on earth and all manner of miracles are attributed to them – resurrections, incredible headings, levitations you name it.
    Sai Baba had around a million followers, and still has plenty (I just passed one of his massive church centres the other day, and I’m in Canada). Thousands and thousands claimed to have seen Sai Baba perform the miraculous – almost all the miracles attributed to Jesus and many more – simultaneously appearing in different places, controlling the weather, resurrecting the dead, levitating, you name it! How could ALL THOSE PEOPLE be mistaken?

    Well, go look at videos on line of Sai Bab performing “miracles.” What will you find? An obvious cheap dime-store magician, performing old “materialization” tricks (and you can see videos slow-mo where he’s pulling things out of his sleeves etc). If it’s not obvious how utterly prosaic his “powers are,” consider also, as Wikipedia states: “Accusations against Sathya Sai Baba by his critics over the years have included sleight of hand, sexual abuse, money laundering, fraud in the performance of service projects, and murder.”

    Sound like a legit Divine Being to you? Me neither. But this is exactly what it’s like the closer we get to the source of miraculous claims – the more publicly accessible the evidence is – actual videos for instance of Sai Baba “doing miracles” or Yogic Flyers “flying” (by hopping around) the more reliably prosaic these miracle-makers become. Examples like Sai Baba show just how easily fantastic claims attach to ordinary people…or to con men.

    I do not see that in your appeals to evidences for a resurrection, you are taking this lesson to heart. You would if you were doing science; but when it comes to your religious beliefs, it appears the credulity grows and the skeptical bar drops. Exactly what science arose to help us
    guard against 🙂

    Cheers,

  213. 213
    StephenB says:

    Vaal @208, 209,

    You are writing far too many words and saying far too little. There is no reason for you to take each individual sentence that I write and respond with three paragraph. Until you can make your points more concisely, I will move on to other address other writers.

  214. 214
    Ben Goren says:

    What you’re forgetting here is that human bodies are not built from the top down but from the bottom up, via a genetic program. It’s not enough to critique the way the human body looks and say how it could be improved. What you have to do is say how you would improve the genetic program that determines how our bodies are built.

    Eh? No, I don’t. Not hardly.

    If the DNA-based method of building human bodies is inadequate to the task, an intelligent designer with adequate resources (time, creativity, budget, etc.) would simply abandon it and build a better method. And modern manufacturing has already solved lots of these sorts of problems — plus many nature hasn’t solved. How many vertebrates have wheels, or supersonic turbofan engines?

    What you describe is how we know that the design itself is an evolutionary design; it came about in a stepwise fashion of incremental changes of previous designs, exactly as described by modern biology. Intelligent designers aren’t constrained like that; they abandon old designs and invent new ones with reckless abandon and disregard for backwards compatibility. Amongst intelligent designers, things only get reused if they’re already a perfect fit (or can be readily modified to be a perfect fit)…or if you lack the time, imagination, or other resources to come up with something new that’s the perfect fit. As such, reuse is typically a sign of suboptimal design — and extensive and inappropriate and constraining reuse is a sign of incompetent design. Or, in the case of biology, no design whatsoever.

    Having made that choice and been presented with the Beatific Vision of God, they are no longer free to turn away.

    Sorry, you’re now contradicting your story about Satan. He turned away, no? And what sort of idiot signs a contract without terms and conditions specifying nullification options?

    And that brings me to your challenge: you ask why I am a Christian. The short anser is that if I were not, then I’d have to believe something even more incredible: that all these people were hallucinating the same thing at the same time, or that there was something causing them all to hallucinate, on thousands of occasions and at several locations in Italy.

    Not hardly! All you have to believe is that a single person invented a story about thousands. Happens all the time. Here — I’ll show you: I can personally attest that I have collected video statements from ten million people who have witnessed the power and glory of the true god, AZAvaTEr and his holy miracle of transylvating bent spoons. They have pledged their lives, their fortunes, and sacred honor to spreading His Good News to all seven corners of the Earth. Will you not join in the worship of AZAvaTEr?

    …and, if it’s levitation specifically you want, you might try India. The popular con game there is “yogic levitation” or some such; tens of thousands claim to have witnessed it. So why aren’t you Hindu?

    And I could continue similarly for all your other pieces of so-called evidence. You yourself only find them convincing when they support your favored flavor of Christianity. Mormons have actual signed eyewitnesses rather than unnamed anonymous hordes; that’s not good enough for you. People in India today will eagerly tell you about how they witnessed some faker fly; still not good enough. Entire cults of hundreds or thousands commit suicide (or fly airliners into skyscrapers or what-not), and that doesn’t convince you nearly so much as Paul’s anonymous imagined hundreds, some of whom supposedly risked death.

    Again, I have to conclude: you’re no more convinced by these claims of miracles and sincerity than I am, else you’d be overwhelmed by the even better claims of the competition. You’re not telling me why you believe; you’re giving me examples of what you see as bolstering evidence.

    I can drop the apple and time its fall any time I doubt whether or not it’ll accelerate towards the center of the Earth at about 10 m/s^2. What test for your gods can you offer that comes even remotely close?

    b&

  215. 215
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Sastra, Vaal and Ben Goren,

    A few more quick comments. Ben, you write:

    To support a claim of all-encompassing lovingkindness, it is not sufficient to argue a “best of all possible worlds” position, that there is some greater good that necessitates the evil we observe. That might support a claim of maximal benevolence, but it does not support a claim of boundless love.

    God is infinite, or boundless, in His essence. But as far as I am aware, there is no Christian teaching that he is infinitely loving in His dealings with creatures. I’m not even sure what that would mean.

    But if you want boundless love, then I’m curious as to why you think the prospect of eternal happiness with God doesn’t qualify as a manifestation of infinite love on God’s part.

    Vaal, you wrote:

    Like Sastra I would sacrifice my life (in my best moments) if it altered the future of human suffering.

    (In fact, having contemplated the concept of Hell, eternal suffering, if that fate could be shown to me to be a real one for some people, and if even one person were suffering eternally, I would offer my own annihilation if it would get them out of hell. Nothing I can experience in my life could outweigh eternal suffering.

    I have to say that you are a noble-minded soul, Vaal, and you’ll probably get to Heaven before I do. (I expect a very long spell in Purgatory.) Re Hell, you are assuming that people in Hell would prefer annihilation to being in Hell. I doubt that. People in Hell are there because of excessive self-attachment, and nothing you could do for them could get them into Heaven. People have to choose God. However, I believe God is not a sadist. The suffering of Hell is eternally bitter, but I don’t believe it is one everlasting scream of pain.

    You also write:

    To act rationally and morally is to choose to bring about the the better possible world, at the expense of a less promising possible world.

    But the problem with this is that because each and every human being is of infinite and incommensurable value, it’s not possible to compare world 1 (with X, Y and Z who are confirmed in grace and destined to be saved) with world 2 (with A, B and C who are capable of being damned) and say that world 2 is better. World 1 has better outcomes, but the people in world 2 are no less valuable than the people in world 1.

    With regard to your example of saving the drowning child: it makes sense to aim for an obviously better outcome for the child, but when one is comparing outcomes for two different sets of individuals, I would argue that there is no obligation to aim for the best possible outcome. For supposing there were such an obligation, to whom is it owed? What you’re saying is that God has an obligation to aim for the best result, irrespective of the parties involved. A strange kind of obligation, if it’s owed to no-one!

    Sastra, you write:

    If your death would guarantee that there would be no war, no disease, and no cruelty — would you sacrifice your life for the good of others? For this much good, and so many others?

    I would answer — I HOPE I would honestly answer — “Yes.” There are some things worth dying for.

    And to have not been born in the first place? I’d never feel that pain at all, just as all the millions of permutations of potential brothers and sisters you might have had if things had proceeded just slightly differently between your parents have not undergone any injury because they never got conceived. Again, if I was given the choice, I’d take it.

    I would certainly agree with you that there are things worth dying for. But I am not a utilitarian, and I don’t think of myself as a replaceable cog in the great wheel of society. That’s a degrading kind of morality, because it implies that society could justly ask me to undergo any kind of degradation (e.g. rape or unending torture), no matter how awful or brutalizing, if it were necessary in order to advance the “greatest happiness of the greatest number.”

    Let us recall that every human being created by God has an opportunity of attaining Heaven, with God’s grace. Those who do not do so have chosen to reject God. Frankly, I see no reason why I should forego my own existence (which I value), merely in order to guarantee that nobody will ever make any bad choices, or suffer the consequences of a bad choice. I’m not that altruistic. But if you are, well, I wish you well.

  216. 216
    StephenB says:

    SB: God, on the other hand, is not responsible for the behavior of adults.

    Yes, Stephen, I think we’re in agreement that the gods are both descriptively and evidentially irresponsible. (Nonexistent, actually, of course; this is for the sake of argument.) The question is how one can get from a position of irresponsibility to that of ultimate morality — whether proscriptive or as a model to be emulated.

    If you are going to misrepresent what I say, our dialogue will be short lived. To say that God is not responsible for human vice is not to say that God is “irresponsible,” nor is it to imply polytheism.

    SB: I will now provide an abbreviated answer to your question: God doesn’t drop the dime on sexual perverts for misusing their wills to molest boys for the same reason he doesn’t drop the dime on you for misusing your intelligence to become an atheist. The power to love depends on the power to decide between loving and hating and the power to decide between doing good and doing evil. There is no charm in a yes unless a no is possible.

    Honestly? The description you provide of your god seeking love is immature to the point of being infantile. If your god has so little self-esteem that it is so utterly dependent on expressions of love from its own creations…I mean, really? This is admirable?

    Your response has absolutely nothing to do with what I said, and you are, once again, seriously misrepresenting my comments. I don’t like it when people put words in my mouth and keep moving the target. It tells me that they have no confidence in their own position and that they are afraid to address the real points that I make. The Christian God, which is apparently the God you disdain, does not “need” or depend on anything.

  217. 217
    vjtorley says:

    Vaal,

    Thank you for your comments. The miracles worked by Sai Baba involved sleight of hand, as you correctly point out. And it’s true that people’s perceptions ar notoriously unreliable, when it comes to rapid bodily movements. Sai Baba never levitated several meters off the ground for several hours on end, in the presence of hundreds of eyewitnesses, like St. Joseph of Cupertino did. If someone could explain to me how a 17th century magician could pull of a stunt like that, then I’d be more impressed.

    You ask where the testimonies of these eyewitnesses are, They’re in the Vatican. There are 13 volumes of depositions, as I mentioned in one of the articles on St. Joseph that I linked to above. The guy was the phenomenon of the 17th century. He even levitated in front of the Pope. I might add that the Catholic Church didn’t like him levitating either: they kept moving him around and trying to lock him away. The Inquisition made his life miserable.

    Re the 500 witnesses mentioned by St. Paul, see my remarks to Ben Goren above. St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, knowing that some of them would soon be visiting him in Jerusalem (see 1 Corinthians 16: 3-4), where they could easily check the veracity of his claims. That’s why I’m convinced that St. Paul wasn’t making those 500 people up.

    You write:

    People can believe crazy things. People are often in error. Nothing else is presented but a belief. No other data to examine, no experiment to replicate. No dice.

    Miracles don’t need to replicated if the combined probability that the witnesses are all in error is lower than the threshold I proposed above for the probability of a miracle: namely, 1 in 10^120 (the number of discrete events that have taken place in the history of the cosmos). It would be irrrational to rate the prior probability of a miracle as being lower than that. With a sufficient number of independent witnesses, one can easily get below this threshold. That was the point Babbage made.

    Got to go now.

  218. 218
    tjguy says:

    VJ, pardon me for jumping in here.

    I believe in the Bible and as such I do believe that miracles do still occur today, but I am not aware of any miracles in the Bible that were performed simply to impress people. Jesus did point to his miracles as evidence for the truth of what he taught and the claims he made about himself, but his miracles always were of the type that helped people. He didn’t just do a miracle simply to impress people or to display his power. In fact, when asked by Satan to do just that, – to throw himself down from the top of the temple in plain sight of everyone – he refused. So, these miracles of levitation do not fit the type of miracles we have recorded in the Bible in my view.

    I just read a little about the claims made about this guy’s levitation and I guess I am inclined to believe it actually happened, but again, it doesn’t strike me as the type of miracle that God would perform. There seems to be no purpose to it. It seems only to have brought attention to him. It just doesn’t sit right with me so, personally, I’m not sure what to think.

    I do agree with you though that trustworthy witnesses are enough to validate a miracle.

    The claims about the resurrection could easily have been proven to be false by anyone alive at that time. The religious leaders could easily have produced the body to put these dangerous rumors of resurrection to rest. That would have been an effective way of dealing with this early “cult”. If they were simply lies dreamed up by the disciples or the early believers, why would those same people live their whole life to spread a lie and suffer persecution doing it? That doesn’t make any sense either. Denying the resurrection creates a lot of other logical problems or scenarios that do not make sense of the data.

  219. 219
    Sastra says:

    vjtorley #215 wrote:

    Let us recall that every human being created by God has an opportunity of attaining Heaven, with God’s grace. Those who do not do so have chosen to reject God.

    Let’s recall my original argument then, which pointed out that millions of human beings have had no access to or awareness of the revelations of the Bible, sophisticated Thomist apologetics, modern science or any of the other possible defeaters which have been brought up here to answer the Problem from Evil. A world in which the good often suffer and the wicked often prosper looks exactly like a world which isn’t being morally supervised from above. And absent any good reason to think otherwise, a reasonable and compassionate person would be rationally justified in concluding that there is no benevolent and powerful God watching over humanity and caring for every individual equally.

    These people have not “chosen to reject God” in the sense usually meant by that, that they’ve made a “bad choice” by preferring wickedness. On the contrary, they would be doing the best they could given the information they have — and are motivated by their love for other people.

    If a loving God of grace has provided every human being with an opportunity of attaining heaven, then it would not be possible for people to become atheists for good and moral reasons. And yet this is possible. That God therefore does not exist.

  220. 220
    Eugen says:

    Ben

    I think I understand now that you and your atheist friends are :

    b) God doesn’t exist but we still don’t like his behavior

    …and you are lecturing me about logic 😀

    You atheists should try to condense your ideas because we are not pen pals telling each other our life stories. Another problem is for people like me whose first language is not English because we may not understand complicated philosophical terms.

    Since you are b) shouldn’t we first clear whether such being exists or not so that way we clear the more important issue.

  221. 221
    Aleta says:

    What Sastra said.

  222. 222
    Vaal says:

    vjtorley

    “The miracles worked by Sai Baba involved sleight of hand, as you correctly point out.”

    Yes, that is what his miracles look like to the degree skeptics can actually have access to them. But far greater miracles have been attributed to him. That’s the point: attestations to miracles are EVERYWHERE attesting to every religion and every new age, spiritual belief etc. But the closer you get to the source of any such claims, the more widely accessible the source is to public, skeptical scrutiny, inevitably the source of the “miracles” doesn’t hold up and becomes quite prosaic. You have claims of levitation. We have those today as well. Yogic Flyers claim to be able to actually levitate. For real. But what happens when you have DIRECT ACCESS to yogic flyers? You only see people flopping on their knees. But “don’t worry, we have LOTS of eyewitnesses establishing we really can fly!” Oh, and they have “scientific studies” their yogic flying has magical effects in reduced crime and other societal ills.” Isn’t that amazing? Convinced yet?

    We have no direct access to the purported levitation you refer to – and given the huge propensity of people to be fooled, deluded, for stories to grow in the telling, even with the most prosaic occurrences as their source, we should have the highest skepticism about the character of claims you are producing.

    This is why all you can produce is…like any other religious person…anecdotes, claims for miracles, but we get no actual miracles available for wider, skeptical scrutiny.

    “If someone could explain to me how a 17th century magician could pull of a stunt like that, then I’d be more impressed.”

    Eyewitnesses – and there are thousands and thousands – claim a huge number of miracles for Sathya Sai Baba. Among the eyewitness claims are that Sathya Sai Baba: Controlled the weather, changing it at will. Altered a flowing river. Performed miraculous “impossible” healings, performed bi-location (physically manifesting to different people in completely different areas at the same time, e.g. separated by 600 miles). He also raised multiple people from the dead, including “resurrection of a man dead some six days in whom body decomposition was taking its normal course.”

    Can you explain how a mere huckster could pull off stunts like those? Not to mention his mother claimed she was a virgin and his was a miraculous birth (heard that one before?).

    And devotees are already starting to report resurrection appearances of Sathya Sai Baba. But wait…that’s impossible…Sai Baba died a mere 4 hers ago. It’s far too close to the founder’s death for any such legends to arise! Am I doing this right? 😉

    (There used to be a page on the web that I can’t find at the moment, with a very large list of eyewitnesses to Sai Baba’s miracles, giving addresses and/or phone numbers so you could TALK to them. That’s one hell of a lot more direct “evidence” and access than you have for ancient claims in an old book).

    Sai Baba is only one of many “God men” in India to which all these types of miracles are claimed by eyewitness devotees.

    Sai Baba of Shirdi, another God man in the 20th century, aside from performing a great many miracles (*including being able to take off his limbs, put them back on) , died and afterward made physical re-appearances:

    “Testimonials come pouring in from all quarters of the tangible reappearance of Sai Baba. In many cases the Master gives darshan in actual flesh and blood, not only to those who had been his close disciples during his life time, but also to many others who had not even seen him or heard of him.”

    If you think, like most Christians, the beliefs that a founder did miracles and made post mortem appearances requires explaining rather than dismissal, then how can you explain all these beliefs of the Indian God-men devotees?

    And, again, why don’t you think your case for miracles is ready to be presented to the scientific community? We know scientists are going to say “not nearly good enough.” The question is why?
    The answer is: science arose BECAUSE it has learned what types of evidence is required to justify confidence in one claim over another. The huge amount of variables, the noise, in which your miracle claims sit, are just the type of variables science arose to address, and if you accept the validity of science you should be far more skeptical than you are being about such claims.

  223. 223
    Vaal says:

    Eugen

    “Ben
    I think I understand now that you and your atheist friends are :
    b) God doesn’t exist but we still don’t like his behavior
    …and you are lecturing me about logic ?

    I’m unclear why you seem to be having trouble with some pretty basic, everyday forms of reasoning. The reasoning employed by atheists here are “IF/Then…”

    This can not be so confusing to you, as you yourself use this reasoning all day. “IF I skip lunch, THEN I will feel hungry during the day, but IF I eat lunch I’ll feel satisfied.” “IF my son hasn’t done his homework, Then his teacher will be mad at him…” etc.

    The subject of “IF” doesn’t need to happen in reality for you to contemplate the implications. “IF we lost our jobs, THEN these bad results would follow…” “IF I were hit by a speeding car when crossing the road THEN I’d likely be horribly injured.”

    If/then reasoning is routinely applied to scenarios that haven’t happened, unlikely to happen, or may never happen. They are used to examine the nature and application of principles, e.g. morality. IF Obama ordered a nuclear device to be set off in Washington THEN he would be an immoral person. IF a 500 foot tall being appeared on earth and began torturing children THEN that being would be considered “evil.”

    This is what the atheist is saying: IF Yawheh existed as depicted in the bible THEN he would be immoral. IF a being created this world, THEN he would be evil or at least amoral.

    Feel free to dispute the arguments…but to dismiss them by questioning the very validity of If/then reasoning, or even be confused about it, is rather strange.

  224. 224
    jerry says:

    A summary of my position on God and His interaction with this world.

    1. There must be a creator.

    The science overwhelmingly points to a creator of massive intelligence. The fine tuning indicates both a creator and one of incredible intelligence

    We know very little about this creator from the creation but we do know some things. We do not know if the creator is infinite or benevolent or all knowing but we can look at what He created and deduce some things that are likely.

    2. Besides the universe there are several other origins that can not be explained by naturalistic means and require a vast intelligence for their explanation.

    Some of these are life, the complex organization of not only the simple cell but even more so the increases in complexity since the first cells have appeared. Another is conscious thought especially among humans which are qualitatively and quantitatively more complex than other life forms. Then there is earth which like the universe is incredibly fine tuned.

    3. This creator seems to have chosen to communicate with us about His nature.

    There have been tens of thousands of different views of what this creator is since the beginning of time. For billions, one theme stands out. That the creator is mono-theistic and He has inspired/communicated with many with information about what His nature is, what His plans are. These people have then written down these communications and there seems to be an ongoing communication.

    Now, many do not believe this but if one is going to argue against the creator based on what these people believe then they must not assume what they want but deal with what the communication actually is and is interpreted.

    But first of all they must assume there is a creator with massive intelligence.

    4. This will not go into Christian theology because the point in contention here is what is known as the theodicy issue. I maintain it is a non issue based on the theology of Christianity.

    I understand that Christians have grappled with this for centuries. The turning point was the Lisbon earthquake which caused people to ask why such a catastrophic event from a benevolent God happened, especially on All Saints Day.

    Was it punishment or was this God not so benevolent.

    Several years ago, a bunch of people who were very interested in religion in an academic setting discussed this. We came to a conclusion that the theodicy issue was a non issue because all the so called “evils” were finite while the Christian God was offering up infinite rewards.

    And the only real evil in this existence is failure to achieve salvation. That was permanent and infinite. There is no way to tell just what this was, fires of hell (physical), eternal loneliness(psychological), or maybe the extinction of the soul.

    Further, we had no way of knowing what was happening to the victims of cruel activity on earth after their death. So the invoking of earthly suffering was not an issue about the benevolence of God or his power.

    Now this flows from Christian theology so if one is going to criticize the Christian God, one has to start with its premises. One cannot not assume that this is all the world is about and then condemn this God. It is an irrational criticism.

    5 But why couldn’t this world be hunky dory and have no suffering?

    This was a theme that popped up but was quickly dismissed. Why, because such a world would be so vanilla that it would have no meaning. There would be no free will especially if one knew that God would punish immediately those that trespassed him.

    I added a concept from my business career about the nature of what was evil. If we ranked every unpleasant act from lowest to highest, then we would get some really egregious acts at one end and humans would act to eliminate them. We have been trying to do so since the beginning of time and in fact have eliminated lots of the things that affected our ancestors.

    But as we eliminated something, another would take its place at the top of the list and would be the focus of activity till it was eliminated. These later events might have been less of a problem to the preceding generations but would now top the list.

    As the new problem got solved, it would be replaced by a new problem till we might get down to the level of stubbing your toe as the ultimate issue. We used that as an example of how something that was not a consideration for one group may in later times be the worse thing that could happen to you. Use your own example. It is kind of hard imagining a world where the worse thing that could happen to you was of the order of stubbing your toe but the concept made one understand the finiteness of bad or so called evil things.

    6. Free will had to be maintained for a meaningful existence which leads to bad things happening

    Without free will there is no meaningful existence and without uncertainty and the potential of bad things happening there is no free will.

    Thus, God would never intervene is an obvious way because once the intervention was obvious, free will disappears. There would be no calls to 911.

    This is a very brief outline of the issue and I am sure could be made much better with more time and input from others. It is based on what I was taught and my exposure to those who studied theology and some conversations several years ago.

    So let’s bury the theodicy issue. It is really a non issue for Christians.

    I am leaving for a business trip in a couple hours so will not be able to respond to this till next week if there are any coherent/serious answers to my comments. Atheism is an incoherent philosophy so I will not respond to anything based on it till they deal with the their incoherencies

  225. 225
    Vaal says:

    vjtorley

    “I have to say that you are a noble-minded soul, Vaal,”

    I don’t think so at all, not especially. It seems like a pretty obvious moral conclusion to me. I went to church when I was young, I’ve been interested in philosophy/religion for going on 40 years, I’ve contemplated eternal suffering and to me doing so makes the choice trivially easy. There is literally nothing worse than *eternal* suffering.
    It strikes me that any morally sane person who contemplates it should find themselves reeling at the horror of it. No finite, earthly amount of pleasure I could have could compare in gravity to it. And even the idea that an eternity of bliss for me would come at the cost of an eternity of suffering for another soul (because God has put in motion a system guaranteeing some will end in hell, some in heaven) makes the eternity of bliss morally disgusting. I’m telling you right now in all honesty IF
    I had the choice of eternal bliss while another suffered eternal torment, vs the choice of having no eternal life at all to save the person from torment, it frankly strikes me as an easy choice to choose no afterlife.

    To me the Christian moral calculus never ceases to amaze. To Christians the Bible is the Good News. For me, and many atheists, there would be scarcely anything worse for humanity if the Yahweh of the Bible existed – that we have an eternal fate over which that character had control! (And I think this recoiling at the idea is a much more morally consistent conclusion).

    This isn’t, as Christians usually crow, simply because atheists “don’t want to have their actions judged.” We are fine having our actions judged – by sane, moral contemporaries. We are judged all the time.

    What we recoil from is the concept of having our actions judged by a morally crazy Being who thinks sending people to eternal torment is acceptable behavior.

  226. 226
    Vaal says:

    vjtorley,

    “Re Hell, you are assuming that people in Hell would prefer annihilation to being in Hell. I doubt that. People in Hell are there because of excessive self-attachment, and nothing you could do for them could get them into Heaven. People have to choose God. However, I believe God is not a sadist. The suffering of Hell is eternally bitter, but I don’t believe it is one everlasting scream of pain.”

    The approach of Christians with a more sensitive conscience has been to soft-peddle the depiction of hell. I’m afraid scripture does not seem to be on your side:

    http://www.openbible.info/topics/hell

    It’s not for nothing so many Christians have warned so strongly of the perils of hell. You really have to do quite a bit of cherry-picking and biased interpretation to start to make Hell look anything less than a place of horrible torment. An ETERNITY of torment.

    There’s also, as I think I see implied in what you wrote, the attempt by many Christians to get the blame for hell off God and on to us. “No, God doesn’t send us to hell (forget all the passages depicting this!). We send ourselves to hell! And we keep ourselves there…for eternity. It’s your CHOICE.”

    This to me is preposterous and depends on some sort of cartoon conception of people, like evil-doers who can not think anything but selfish, evil thoughts.

    I’m an unbeliever and the bible says I will end up in hell. And I strongly disagree with the morality of the Biblical God. Now, am I in torment now? No. Not at all. I don’t torment myself. I’m not “bitter.” The only way this will change is if GOD changes this scenario, and sends me somewhere I will be in torment. I can tell you in no uncertain terms, I would not CHOOSE eternal torment if I really were presented with the choice, and sure as hell wouldn’t continually desire my own eternal torment if I found myself there. To think this even possible is just turning real people into cartoons, so the Christian can turn his empathy and sense of justice off, so he himself can be on God’s good side. “All fine by me God, I get it, they chose eternal suffering, I buy that! Just open those pearly gates for me please.”

    No decent, loving Being would be so spiteful as to allow people to endure eternal conscious torment.
    If I had the power for such decisions, and even if it were the case some people hated me I sure wouldn’t say “Ok, eternal torment for you!” Would YOU do that? I hope not. I’d say something more like: Ok, if you don’t want to hang out with me I’m not going to send you to a place you’ll be tormented forever. Instead I’ve provided another place where you can be comfortable, and where you can’t hurt others. I’ll continue to make my case, let you be aware of the benefits of being with Me, and make sure the opportunity for changing your mind is always available.

    If that doesn’t sound more like love, wisdom, compassion to you than the one way ticket to eternal damnation, I don’t know what to say. Except that Christianity often interferes with people’s ability to reason morally about God. (Once you’ve bought into His existence, it’s rather frowned upon to judge God, given the dire consequences of judging against Him).

    The fact it is so easy to think in morally superior ways to the God of the Bible is reason enough to dismiss it’s claims of an All Good inspiration.

  227. 227
    Vaal says:

    Jerry,

    Just quickly:

    “5 But why couldn’t this world be hunky dory and have no suffering?

    …..Why, because such a world would be so vanilla that it would have no meaning.

    Can I assume then you will be disabusing your fellow Christians of the idea of “heaven?” – a place of eternal bliss and no sin? And purported to be the ultimate state of existence?

    Looks like they have it all wrong. When are you starting your own church 😉 ?

  228. 228
    StephenB says:

    SB: It isn’t love until it consciously chooses good over evil,

    Vaal

    Sorry, but again, on whose say so? What definition of “love” are you using and why ought I agree with that definition? I see no reason that love could not exist absent evil.
    I’ll appeal to actual, accepted definitions of love (Googles definition of Love):

    (I will discuss one or two issues with you at a time, since I don’t want exchanges in the thousands of words, as I indicated. I seek depth, not breath. If we settle one point, we can move on to the next since all my points are logically connected).

    If your notion of love is limited to a feeling, it is superficial in the extreme. We are not discussing the feelings of love; we are discussing the actions of love. If you feel love for someone, but you don’t have the courage to protect them from harm, even at some cost to yourself, then you don’t really love that person.

    Real love is not simply a feeling. The Greeks discussed three levels of love, eros (based on feeling), philia (brotherly love) and Agape (self sacrificial love). Only the latter category qualifies as Christian love.

    That is why love must be tested in order to determine if it is real. Hence, it is necessary to choose good over evil in order to prove that love is really present. According to traditional Christianity, everyone in heaven had to pass the test of love by overcoming evil. Only then can one love exist in an environment absent of suffering and evil.

    Love: 1. An intense feeling of deep affection.

    As indicated, that is a superficial definition, though accurate as far as it goes, which is not very far.

    When I look at my wife or my son I feel love. I don’t feel myself struggling with or even thinking about evil. The simple experience of deep affection quite sufficiently entails I love them. So your assertion that “love” requires consciously choosing good over evil is thus far just that: an unsupported claim.

    Again, I find this expression extremely superficial. Do you really mean to say that you love your wife if you allow someone to rape her in your presence on the grounds that love doesn’t have to express itself in action? Indeed, you have now contradicted yourself, since you indicated earlier that loving people “intervene.” You can’t have it both ways (love is a feeling—love must act) How do you resolve this inconsistency?

    Once we resolve this issue, I will take you to the next step.

  229. 229
    Ben Goren says:

    But if you want boundless love, then I’m curious as to why you think the prospect of eternal happiness with God doesn’t qualify as a manifestation of infinite love on God’s part.

    But of course that’s not boundless! We’ve already identified the boundary, and you and I and everybody else in this world, especially those enduring intolerable suffering, are on the other side of it.

    And if all this suffering is irrelevant in the face of infinite bliss, then our lives are worthless, meaningless, pointless. If our suffering matters not to the gods, how could our bravery matter either? Christians claim all are sinful and saved only by the grace of Jesus, right? So sin is irrelevant; go and sin much more. If Jesus can forgive the finite sin of stepping on an ant, he can certainly forgive the sin of murdering millions; both pale in significance to the infinitude of the afterlife — so sin is meaningless, too.

    Don’t you see? Your gods don’t give your life meaning and purpose; they rob you of it. That’s your entire argument: no horror is too much, for it’s irrelevant compared with heaven eternal. And no history of noble deeds is sufficient, either. None of it matters.

    You’ve made clear that that’s not how you actually live your life. So why should you be so dismissive of your true values and put forth fake meaningless nonsense that renders it irrelevant? Isn’t it important to you that you’re a good person? Wouldn’t it still be important to you even without Jesus? Why persist in believing in a faery tale that diminishes who you are, that dismisses your entire life as an irrelevancy? You’re not a better person because of it; you’re a decent person in spite of it.

    What, then, do you gain by this gullibility and self-deception? An excuse to pretend that you’re not going to die? Do you engage in similar wishful thinking that you won’t have to pay taxes?

    b&

  230. 230
    rtkufner says:

    Jerry wrote:

    “Thus, God would never intervene is an obvious way because once the intervention was obvious, free will disappears. There would be no calls to 911.”

    You can’t really influence people’s freedom of will through 911, though. At best, you may influence their freedom of ACTION. If Yahweh or Jesus Christ made an anonymous call to 911, it would not affect anyone’s freedom of will AT ALL.

    All Ben Goren’s argument requires as evidence for the existence of an omniscient benevolent deity that does not influence free will is a PHONE CALL. He is in no way asking for the use of psychoactive substances, hypnosis or Jedi mind tricks.

    So, sorry to spoil the party, but “the problem of evil”, even in its human form, cannot be dispelled by the “but free will” gambit.

  231. 231
    Ben Goren says:

    Stephen, we must be using the language differently.

    To claim that the father of all, the moral lawgiver, should deny responsibility for his charges…well, that’s the very definition of irresponsible. What kind of platoon leader fails to accept responsibility for the actions of his troops? What kind of boss sanctions incompetence, or throws his subordinates under the bus? What kind of President declares that the buck does not stop at his desk?

    Irresponsible ones, no? An irresponsible person who fails to demonstrate a proper acceptance of responsibility. And if you’re going to claim the title of ultimate moral authority…that job, as with any other, comes with commensurate moral responsibility.

    So, either your God, Vincent’s Jesus, the Pope’s Trinity, the Islamic Muhammad and Allah…either they have ultimate moral authority and are shirking their responsibilities, or there is no responsibility associated with authority and no justifiable reason to hold anybody accountable. Including, it must be noted, no reason for the gods themselves to hold us accountable.

    The Christian God, which is apparently the God you disdain, does not “need” or depend on anything.

    Then why did it create the world and humanity in the first place? It must have wanted us for something. You don’t go around intentionally creating things you have no desire for, do you? Do you know anybody who does? Can you even formulate how that could be coherently expressed?

    And if Jesus doesn’t want us to follow his teachings, why’d he come and sacrifice for us in the first place?

    I must admit, it seems utterly bizarre to me, bordering on incomprehensible, for you to so vehemently dismiss the notion that Jesus needs something from us. Aren’t we constantly bombarded with messages for how Jesus needs our help with prayers here and money there? Isn’t love itself, at least in part, a desire for the wellbeing of another?

    There are infantile needs, of course, and your previous post certainly identified one in Jesus. But to throw that baby out with the bathwater and declare that Jesus couldn’t possibly have any needs at all…well, the only people who don’t need anything are the dead. Are you trying to tell us that Jesus is dead?

    Cheers,

    b&

  232. 232
    Ben Goren says:

    Since you are b) shouldn’t we first clear whether such being exists or not so that way we clear the more important issue.

    Eugen, you desire brevity. So:

    Jesus is a monster in a faery tale.

    b&

  233. 233
    Vaal says:

    StephenB,

    That’s fine by me. The longer version rebutting your various claims is up there for others who wish to read it 🙂

    I’ll repeat this short part:

    “Man, not God, created suffering.”

    Well that’s weird. I don’t remember myself, or anyone else, causing the existence of rabies. Or malaria. Or Ebola. Or earthquakes. Or tornadoes. Or cancerous rays from the sun. Or predators, poisonous snakes, genetic defects, or any of the countless natural afflictions.

    I’m afraid I see no reason to accept that statement.

    And on the subject of human-born evil and suffering and the free will defense: please explain why an All Powerful, All Good Being could not have, and would not have, created creatures more noble and more inclined toward the good than us? (Which would plausibly result in a world with far less people harming one another). Surely there are logically possible free willed creatures with less base desires impulses, better impulse control, less bias, greater access to reasons for good behaviour, than many human beings.

    If you wish to deny this possibility, I believe you will get into some of the problems I already indicated in the post you didn’t want to read. But we can get there 🙂
    Cheers,

    Vaal

  234. 234
    StephenB says:

    Vaal

    That’s fine by me. The longer version rebutting your various claims is up there for others who wish to read it

    Vaal, you didn’t rebut anything. You simply filled the air with words. I am now breaking these comments down.

    Vaal

    Sorry, but again, on whose say so? What definition of “love” are you using and why ought I agree with that definition? I see no reason that love could not exist absent evil.
    I’ll appeal to actual, accepted definitions of love (Googles definition of Love):

    If your notion of love is limited to a feeling, it is superficial in the extreme. We are not discussing the feelings of love; we are discussing the actions of love. If you feel love for someone, but you don’t have the courage to protect them from harm, even at some cost to yourself, then you don’t really love that person.

    Real love is not simply a feeling. The Greeks discussed three levels of love, eros (based on feeling), philia (brotherly love) and Agape (self sacrificial love). Only the latter category qualifies as Christian love.

    That is why love must be tested in order to determine if it is real. Hence, it is necessary to choose good over evil in order to prove that love is really present. According to traditional Christianity, everyone in heaven had to pass the test of love by overcoming evil. Only then can one love exist in an environment absent of suffering and evil.

    Love: 1. An intense feeling of deep affection.

    As indicated, that is a superficial definition, though accurate as far as it goes, which is not very far.

    When I look at my wife or my son I feel love. I don’t feel myself struggling with or even thinking about evil. The simple experience of deep affection quite sufficiently entails I love them. So your assertion that “love” requires consciously choosing good over evil is thus far just that: an unsupported claim.

    Again, I find this expression extremely superficial. Do you really mean to say that you love your wife if you allow someone to rape her in your presence on the grounds that love doesn’t have to express itself in action? Indeed, you have now contradicted yourself, since you indicated earlier that loving people “intervene.” You can’t have it both ways (love is a feeling—love must act) How do you resolve this inconsistency?

    And on the subject of human-born evil and suffering and the free will defense: please explain why an All Powerful, All Good Being could not have, and would not have, created creatures more noble and more inclined toward the good than us?

    That’s easy. According to classical Christianity, which is what I am arguing, God did create creatures (humans) more noble and more inclined toward the good. They are not as noble as they once were.

    Now, will you respond to my comments.

    That is why (Which would plausibly result in a world with far less people harming one another)

    Of course. I agree. You are repeating yourself.

    Surely there are logically possible free willed creatures with less base desires impulses, better impulse control, less bias, greater access to reasons for good behaviour, than many human beings.

    Of course. You are, again, repeating yourself and agreeing with me most aggressively.

    If you wish to deny this possibility, I believe you will get into some of the problems I already indicated in the post you didn’t want to read. But we can get there 🙂

    I haven’t denied the point. I made the point. You are repeating yourself yet again.

    Now will you address my points. I will be happy to answer any question that you may have, but I cannot help you if you will not answer my points.

  235. 235
    Ben Goren says:

    According to classical Christianity, which is what I am arguing, God did create creatures (humans) more noble and more inclined toward the good. They are not as noble as they once were.

    Stephen, that’s simply not coherent.

    Abandoning nobility is not an act of nobility. Noble people don’t abandon nobility. At best, ignoble people might abandon the pretenses of nobility, but that’s something else entirely.

    So the creatures your god created couldn’t have been noble to begin with. And we’re somehow to blame for an ignoble god imperfectly creating us in its own ignoble image?

    I suppose there is a certain consistency in that, after all. Tyrants don’t care about nobility, only its pretense. So of course a tyrant would fault its creation for its own failing.

    But then why should you wish to worship at the altar of an (imaginary, to be sure) tyrant? If you’re going to go looking for a god to worship, why not go with one that actually is noble, rather than one that simply puts on airs?

    b&

  236. 236
    vjtorley says:

    Vaal and Ben Goren,

    A couple of quick responses re God, Hell, Heaven and miracles.

    Re finding God, I strongly urge you both to read these two excellent articles by ex-atheist Jennifer Fulwiler, who writes far more eloquently on the subject than I do:

    http://jenniferfulwiler.com/20.....sing-soul/
    http://jenniferfulwiler.com/2009/04/finding-rest/

    Believing in God is a matter of the heart as well as the head.

    Vaal, you argued that the Bible supports the view that Hell is a place of torture. I suggest that you take a look at the following article by Christian apologist Glenn Miller, which is highly informative:

    http://christianthinktank.com/gr5part2.html

    In a nutshell, Miller argues that C.S. Lewis’s view of Hell has better Biblical support than Dante’s view of Hell as a place of torture. Instead, the dominant Biblical image is one of everlasting shame, bitter regret, and “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

    C.S. Lewis held that God ultimately honors our decisions. In The Problem of Pain, Lewis writes: “I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors of Hell are locked on the inside.”

    I might add that Pope Francis himself has said that even atheists may be saved, if they follow their consciences. Hell is for people who willfully refuse to believe, as opposed to people who want to believe, but cannot. The Bible nowhere says that people in the latter group go to Hell.

    Re Heaven and the meaning of life: St. Augustine summed it up best when he wrote, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.” Heaven is a place of everlasting and unconditional love. I find it hard to imagine that anyone would not want that.

    I don’t think atheism offers people a meaningful view of life. To be sure, many atheists are loving people who are deeply devoted to their families, but at the back of their heads, they continually have to keep away the thought that ultimately, life is absurd. In Bertrand Russell’s words:

    “That man is the product of causes that had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins- all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand.

    “Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”

    Jennifer Fulwiler’s article at http://jenniferfulwiler.com/2009/04/finding-rest/ illustrates how atheism can harm people’s mental health. (Jennifer Fulwiler grew up in an atheist family.)

    To be continued…

  237. 237
    vjtorley says:

    Continued…

    Finally, regarding miracles: none of the quoted testimonies on Sai Baba relate to levitations performed over a period of hours, under normal lighting conditions, with Sai Baba floating several meters above the ground, in the presence of dozens or even hundreds of witnesses. To compare the levitations of St. Joseph of Cupertino with those of Sai Baba is intellectually lazy.

    I cannot fathom why atheists like yourselves are not in the least curious about checking out the evidence for these miracles. As I said, the testimonies, which were collected from persons of unimpeachable integrity who were testifying under oath during the inquiry into St. Joseph’s canonization, comprise 13 volumes, which are kept in the Vatican Library. For Catholics, this is our star exhibit. The evidence is as clear-cut as you could possibly get. Why aren’t you sending someone to the Vatican to check out the manuscripts? I would be, if I were in your shoes.

    I’d like to quote from a blog article titled, Why Levitation? by Michael Grosso (October 8, 2013), who has done extensive research on the saint:

    By chance, on a trip to Italy some years ago I acquired a 1722 biography of St. Joseph of Copertino.

    I had read accounts of St. Joseph’s levitations in a scholarly essay by Eric Dingwall and also in Herbert Thurston’s book, The Physical Phenomena of Mysticism. Eventually I began to read Domenico Bernini’s biography of Joseph, which Dingwall had cited as being rich in sworn eyewitness testimonies of the saint’s phenomena, which included more than levitation. I delved into the critical literature and assembled my own thoughts on the subject in a forthcoming book, The Strange Case of St. Joseph of Copertino: Ecstasy and the Mind-Body Problem (Oxford University Press). Joseph’s performances were never dubious sightings; they were show-stoppers, and his reputation as miracle mystic man spread all over Italy and then Europe….

    The records show at least 150 sworn depositions of witnesses of high credentials: cardinals, bishops, surgeons, craftsmen, princes and princesses who personally lived by his word, popes, inquisitors, and countless variety of ordinary citizens and pilgrims. There are letters, diaries and biographies written by his superiors while living with him. Arcangelo di Rosmi recorded 70 incidents of levitation; and then decided it was enough. Streams of inexplicable events surrounded the black-bearded friar. Driven by malicious curiosity, even Joseph’s inquisitors observed him in ecstatic levitation during Mass. Their objection to him was not the fact that he levitated; they were concerned with where the power was coming from, God or the Devil?

  238. 238
    vjtorley says:

    Here’s more from Michael Grosso’s article:

    It is impossible to suppose that all the stories about levitation were part of a Church plot to use miracles to control the mind of the masses. It wasn’t like that at all. The only way to make sense of the Church’s treatment of Joseph is to assume that he possessed these strange abilities in such abundance that there was talk of a new messiah arising. Joseph’s response to his Inquisitor’s was humble and honest. He had to explain that he enjoyed these “consolations” but that he was not proud or pleased with himself for having them. Nevertheless, the Church progressively tried to make him retreat to the most obscure corners of the Adriatic coast, ending finally under virtual house arrest in a small monastic community at Osimo. There was no decline effect in Joseph’s strange aerial behaviors; during his last six years in Osimo he was left alone to plunge into his interior life; the records are unanimous in saying that the ratti (raptures) were in abundance right up until his dying days. The cleric in charge of the community swore that he witnessed Joseph levitate to the ceiling of his cell thousands of times. The surgeon Pierpaolo was cauterizing Joseph’s leg shortly before his death when he realized the friar was insensible and floating in the air. He and his assistant both deposed that they bent down and looked beneath Joseph’s horizontal body, to be sure they weren’t dreaming.

    To repudiate the evidence for Joseph’s levitations would be to repudiate thirty-five years of history because the records of his life are quite detailed and entangled with other lives and documented historical events. We would have to assume colossal mendacity and unbelievable stupidity on the part of thousands of people, if we chose to reject this evidence. We would be forced to believe that when the duchess of Parma wrote in a letter that Joseph was the “prodigy of the century”, she was romancing or totally deluded.

    Definitely worth checking out.

  239. 239
    Vaal says:

    StephenB

    Sorry, I hadn’t seen your new reply to me when I posted my last one to you.

    “If your notion of love is limited to a feeling, it is superficial in the extreme.”

    “That is why love must be tested in order to determine if it is real. Hence, it is necessary to choose good over evil in order to prove that love is really present. According to traditional Christianity, everyone in heaven had to pass the test of love by overcoming evil.”

    I see no reason to accept your claim. First let me clarify: I certainly don’t deny that loving someone has implications for behavior. Of course it does, that’s one reason why I conclude a Good God doesn’t exist. IF someone you love is in peril, of course you will want them to be safe, and if that required your action you’d take it.

    But that is different from saying that the existence of real love REQUIRES such scenarios of peril. That is where I find you to go off the tracks.

    1. First, dictionaries display what most people refer to by the term “Love,” and you can look at any number of dictionary definitions and see that they describe certain states of mind, feelings – e.g. “to have a profoundly tender, passionate affection for (another person).”

    So your claim as to the nature of love, with it’s additional claims that the dictionary meaning is insufficient, is already in competition the normal use of the word “love.” No one is obligated to accept your version without very good reasons to do so. And here is why you’ve supplied no such good reasons:

    2. Your claim that love requires testing in the face of evil to show it exists, or be real deep or legitimate, is inconsistent with normal moral reasoning.

    Example from real life: Recently I was on vacation with my family, sitting by a pool reading, and also watching my son play in the pool with my wife. Taking in scenes like that, especially without other distractions, is when I most feel, am most in tune with, the experience of “love” for my family.

    But on your logic, this is not good enough. This is love…without test.

    So let’s say at one point I looked up from my magazine and my wife and child were gone. As panic rises in me, a man approaches and says “We saw the way you were looking at your family. It seemed to indicate your affection. But we aren’t sure and have to be sure. Further, even if you were feeling that love, it’s not legitimate unless it has been deeply tested. Therefore, to help out, we have kidnapped your wife and child.
    Currently we are torturing them in an undisclosed location. If you love them you’ll want us to release them from torture. But you must demonstrate it to objective observers by making a significant sacrifice. We’ll release your family upon a demonstration of your willingness to sacrifice for them. We will accept your cutting off a hand, arm, or foot. After this is over, others can be satisfied your love was demonstrated, and you will have met the requirements of making your love truly real.”

    Now, this gentlemen would appear to exemplify just the logic you expect me to accept about love – this is what “real love” demands, or perhaps what God demands for “real love.” And yet, I, and every normal person (including you no doubt) would recoil in horror and see this as insane. Your logic does not stand up to real life consistency.

    3. To elaborate on 2 toward another point: Situations of well being are more conducive to the experience of “love” than ones of peril. I love my son, but when he was young and for a short while we couldn’t find him after school (eventually found) what I experienced was distress, fear, panic. Yes I experienced those because I love him, but it certainly was not REQUIRED for me to love my son! Love is a positive feeling. Putting my son in peril actually has the effect of being overruled by horrible, negative feelings of panic and fear. Which brings us to….

    4. The problem of Heaven. Most of Christianity subscribes to the concept of Heaven as a realm where one experiences constant bliss and love WITHOUT peril and “tests” of the sorts you imply. In other words, the value of Heaven as depicted by most Christianity is being about a state of mind, state of feeling, NOT ACTIONS choosing between evil or saving loved ones from evil. And this state of being is seen as the Ultimate State Of Being – the one of highest desire and value.

    Therefore your claims that for Love to be real or significant it must be accompanied by tests of evil and peril is in contradiction to Heaven, where the ultimate form of love is does not require this.

    In fact, this is related to point #3. Christians realize that situations of peril and evil and “tests” are NOT the optimal scenario for experiencing love. That is why their ultimate fantasy is a place where one can simply feel love WITHOUT these tests and threats to our loved one’s well-fare.

    So, I find your reasoning about love fails on virtually every count. It fails, by making unjustified additional conditions, in terms of being consistent with how the word is normally understood. It fails in being inconsistent with principles of moral reasoning as we apply them in real life. It fails as a psychological understanding of love. And it fails in being inconsistent with the concept of Heaven which acts as a counter example to your claims.

    Hence…I reject your claim.

    Cheers,

  240. 240
    Vaal says:

    StephenB

    Re why couldn’t God have created more noble creatures, with a greater tendency toward choosing The Good?

    “That’s easy. According to classical Christianity, which is what I am arguing, God did create creatures (humans) more noble and more inclined toward the good. They are not as noble as they once were.”

    Ok, glad it’s easy. But I can’t imagine you think your response suffices as an answer to the problem. You’d have to answer:

    Why aren’t we as noble as we once were?

    Is it because the original noble creatures chose to sin? If so, that contradicts the claim of their nobility – their tendency not to choose sin.

    I look forward to your making a coherent argument for this problem.

  241. 241
    vjtorley says:

    Vaal, Sastra and Ben Goren:

    Summing up: it seems that the differences that divide us ultimately boil down to epistemology. I have a few questions I’d like you all to ponder.

    1. How would you rate the prior probability of a miracle? I’d like an actual number, please. I’ve already given you my estimate of 1 in 10^120, based on Seth Lloyd’s calculations of the number of discrete events that have taken place during the history of the observable universe, and on Laplace’s famous “sunrise argument.” If you don’t like that figure, what’s your alternative?

    2. I can understand your reluctance to believe in an omnibenevolent Being, given the suffering in the world. But why aren’t you investigating the possibility that a Designer may exist, but that He’s the God of Spinoza (i.e. not a Being Who is interested in us personally)? Or why aren’t you having a look at Jewish physicist Gerard Schroeder’s book, The Hidden Face of God, in which he argues for a Creator who is finite and who makes mistakes? Surely these are hypotheses worth considering. Why are you interested in only two alternatives: materialism or an infinitely loving God?

    3. Why do you keep bringing up the Bible, Heaven and Hell, as if the only kind of infinitely loving God would have to be the Judeo-Christian one?

    4. If you are convinced that inference to the best explanation makes the notion of an infinitely loving God unlikely, then why do you object to Intelligent Design arguments that cosmological fine-tuning, combined with solid scientific arguments against the multiverse and calculations by evolutionary biologist Dr. Eugene Koonin showing that abiogenesis is astronomically unlikely, are best explained by the hypothesis of a Designer Who created life and the cosmos? It’s the same kind of reasoning. For that matter, you might combine the two inferences and conclude that there’s a Designer, but He/She/It isn’t infinitely loving. But you seem to think that the argument from evil outweighs the argument from design, despite the fact that the latter argument is rigorously quantitative while the former is not. Why?

    Well, I’ve contributed long enough to this thread, and I think I’ll leave it there. If you want a handy summary of the various strands of evidence for God’s existence, please see here, and good luck to you all with your search for truth. I would like to thank you for your patience and courtesy, and I’ll leave the last word to you.

  242. 242
    Box says:

    VJTorley: Hell is for people who willfully refuse to believe, as opposed to people who want to believe, but cannot. The Bible nowhere says that people in the latter group go to Hell.

    I have a question for those people “who willfully refuse to believe”.
    Why? Why do you want a universe without meaning? Why do you want death to be the end?

    Thomas Nagel: It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.

  243. 243
    Barry Arrington says:

    VJ,

    Isn’t it 4:00 AM there? Do you ever sleep?

  244. 244
    rtkufner says:

    vjtorley wrote:

    “Believing in God is a matter of the heart as well as the head.”

    That is silly. It’s all in your head.

    Imagine you were an atheist/polytheist/pseudotheist/demitheist/oligotheist who suddenly had a sublime experience that overwhelmed your entire being with both the feeling and the certainty of Yahweh’s existence and love towards his creation (something that has happened several times, to be sure) – and because of that you wholeheartedly converted to christianity. Now imagine suffering an injury to the brain two hours later, one that permanently affected an area upon which recollection of recent memories depends (which happens quite frequenly).
    Now, when you wake up you will have no recollection of the sublime experience that lead to your conversion, nor the conversion itself. It will be as if you were never a christian.
    THAT is how significant believing in gods and other supernatural being is. Completely dependant on the recollection and reinforcement of the fuzzy feeling in the belly from when you were certain Yahweh loved you. This is also what takes people to churches, temples, mosques, religious organizations, meetings and websites.

    The strangest thing of all, though, is that even though no religious person will refrain from saying that their faith is what matters, that they feel in their hearts such and such, some still go to lengths in the completely futile (by their own implicit admission) endeavor of concocting excuses and rationalizations for conclusions they did not arrive at rationally in the first place.

    It would be much, much more honest to just drop the post-hoc excuses and say outright “STFU atheist, god exists because I want it to, GTFO my faiths.”

  245. 245
    Vaal says:

    vjtorley

    “Finally, regarding miracles: none of the quoted testimonies on Sai Baba relate to levitations performed over a period of hours, under normal lighting conditions, with Sai Baba floating several meters above the ground, in the presence of dozens or even hundreds of witnesses. To compare the levitations of St. Joseph of Cupertino with those of Sai Baba is intellectually lazy.”

    On the contrary, it’s being intellectually consistent, and I submit, cheekily and respectfully, if anything the laziness is on the other foot 🙂

    I’m applying consistent skepticism. The tendency of humans to create false supernatural claims – as shown by the many contradictions found in these claims, and from the prosaic “evidence” we find whenever they can be thoroughly investigated – cautions strongly against the reliability of “eyewitness claims” for the supernatural. (Heck, eyewitness claims for mundane, accepted phenomenon like “He started the fight” or “He was shot while he was trying to give himself up to the police” are held to high skepticism and cross-examination).

    I’m being consistent with our most fully realized account of how to vet empirical claims: science. For any claim that would go against, or significantly expand our understanding of how the universe operates – e.g. perpetual motion machines, people levitating or rising from the dead – we rationally hold these to our HIGHEST levels of scrutiny. Again, look at all the work demanded simply to verify something like a Higgs Boson, something that actually fits in with current theoretical understandings of physics, let alone forces that DON’T fit in or contradict our understanding of what is possible.

    Your case for someone levitating hundreds of years ago would, as you well know, not remotely pass muster if presented to the scientific community, for all the good, justified reasons for why science is so successful in vetting claims in the first place. So I’m being consistent across the board with rational skepticism.

    On the other hand: You are presenting purported eyewitness claims to a miracle – levitation. All you are presenting is the claims about the purported BELIEFS of a number of people. Your argument is the suggestion that, unless one could explain how people could come to those beliefs without appeal to the reality of the miracle, then they should be compelling evidence for the reality of the miracle.

    I’ve simply asked that you demonstrate consistency by appling the same logic to OTHER claims of miracles. It doesn’t matter whether Sai Baba did “an exactly similar miracle” (Sai Baba after all did many other miracles your Saint did not achieve!). The point is that amazing miracles have been ascribed to Sai Baba, and other God men, and by your logic if you can not come up with non-miraculous explanations, the truth of those miracle claims remains the best conclusion.

    So, please be my guest and apply your same argument to the miracles of Sai Baba, explaining them away. How could eyewitnesses come to believe Sai Baba altered the course of a river? Controlled the weather at will? Resurrected people from the dead? Appeared simultaneously to different people 600 miles apart? How could followers (and non followers!) of Sai Baba of Shirdi come to believe they had seen bodily post-mortem appearances? How could current followers of Sai Baba come to believe they have seen him after death as well?

    The point is if you actually attempt to come up with non-miraculous explanations to explain the belief of their devotees, it will have clear implications for the miracles of Jesus and your flying Saint as well. Which is one reason I probably shouldn’t expect any such attempt on your part in the first place.

    (I have been putting up the Sai Baba challenge to Christians for years and years and no one has ever taken up the challenge of explaining how the eyewitness claims could have arisen through non-miraculous events. Again, it’s not that their explanations fail…it’s that when they even begin trying they quickly get to “uh-oh” land for their own miracle claims, and suddenly have better things to do).

  246. 246
    Ben Goren says:

    Vincent, why should we bother with the words of Swiftian flappers interpreting Jesus for us, when we can read what we are to believe is his official authorized biography for ourselves?

    Did Jesus not describe Hell as a place of fire and torment and weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth? Or was Luke in error when he wrote verses such as 13:28? Or perhaps Luke’s original text has not been faithfully preserved?

    If I should wish to understand the words of the person who is said to have the greatest possible insight into the human condition, I’ll consider his actual words long before I let somebody else of inferior intellect, quite possibly with an agenda, tell me what the great man really meant to say but couldn’t quite phrase correctly.

    …which, of course, is why interpreters such as Lewis are necessary in the first place. It’s instantly obvious to anybody who reads the actual Bible, as opposed to an heavily annotated Cliff’s Notes redaction of the Bible, that Jesus is far from being a love god and is, instead, the over-the-top archvillain of the story. So, if, for whatever reason, you wish to maintain the fiction that Jesus is a love god, you’ve got to put words in his mouth and hope nobody reads nor remembers passages like Luke 19:27 or Matthew 5:27-32 or Matthew 10:34.

    I don’t think atheism offers people a meaningful view of life.

    Of course it doesn’t! Not believing in the Loch Ness Monster, or Santa, or the faeries at the foot of the garden doesn’t offer a meaningful view of life, either. Nor does accepting the discoveries of science as having a very high probability of being reasonably accurate offer a meaningful view of life.

    If it’s meaning you want — and who doesn’t? — it’s up to you to make it for yourself. That’s part of what it means to grow up, to embrace adulthood. Do you want to be an astronaut? Would adventure give your life meaning? Maybe you want to be a firefighter, and make your meaning by giving other people a second chance? Perhaps you could make stuff and give your life meaning through your own creations? Be a scientist and make your meaning the discovery of the meanings of your surroundings?

    It’s all up to you. Which, of course, is frightening at first…and then most exhilarating, once you embrace it.

    To be sure, many atheists are loving people who are deeply devoted to their families, but at the back of their heads, they continually have to keep away the thought that ultimately, life is absurd.

    Of course life is absurd. Haven’t you noticed!? Incredibly, powerfully absurd.

    So?

    As with everything else, just because you wish it were otherwise, merely because you can’t bear to admit it is so…well, tough titties. Reality is that which persists even when you wish it wouldn’t.

    I cannot fathom why atheists like yourselves are not in the least curious about checking out the evidence for these miracles.

    As the saying goes, we’ve got the T-shirt. You know why you’re not convinced by today’s Indian mystics, despite their massive and sophisticated PR campaigns? We’re even less impressed by your centuries-old unsophisticated minor PR campaigns.

    Again, you can prove for yourself that gravity is real; just grab that apple and a stopwatch. But there’s absolutely no doubt whatsoever in anybody’s mind that each and every miracle you cite couldn’t even withstand the slightest attempt at critical objective evaluation — any more than the Indian mystics, any more than the Gypsy card readers, any more than the stage magicians, any more the Uri Geller, any more than any such performer, whether honest or avaricious.

    Were these phenomena real, and as readily available as one must conclude from their widespread belief…well, don’t you think we’d be putting them to better use than getting people to toss a few pennies in the hat when it gets passed around? Billions of dollars have been spent on superconducting magnetic levitation for use in rail transport. Wouldn’t it be so much cheaper to hire a few yogis, one for each car in the train?

    Cheers,

    b&

  247. 247
    Aleta says:

    VJ writes,

    Hell is for people who willfully refuse to believe, as opposed to people who want to believe, but cannot. The Bible nowhere says that people in the latter group go to Hell.

    Is that the orthodox position? What happens to those people who grow up in other religious cultures and perhaps have never even heard of Christianity, or little Buddhist kids too young to even know about religious beliefs. What happens to them when they die?

    I would really like to know what Christian belief about this is.

  248. 248
    Ben Goren says:

    I have a question for those people “who willfully refuse to believe”.
    Why? Why do you want a universe without meaning? Why do you want death to be the end?

    Box, just because you wish the world were different doesn’t make it so.

    Whether or not I want the universe to have meaning, whether or not I want death to be the end…my wishes on the matter no more give nor deny meaning to the universe or create or obliterate life after death than my desire to fly to the Moon gives me wings.

    Wouldn’t you want to fly to the Moon and bounce on its craters? Swim through the Great Red Spot on Jupiter? See what it’s like out amongst the stars? I sure would.

    So where are our wings?

    If you don’t have wings, it must be because you don’t really care what space is like. But then why would you want to be such a dull, unimaginative person?

    Where your own wings are, that’s where you’ll find my belief in your gods.

    b&

  249. 249
    StephenB says:

    SB: [it is necessary to choose good over evil in order to prove that love is really present. According to traditional Christianity, everyone in heaven had to pass the test of love by overcoming evil.”

    Vaal

    I see no reason to accept your claim. First let me clarify: I certainly don’t deny that loving someone has implications for behavior. Of course it does, that’s one reason why I conclude a Good God doesn’t exist.

    Well, you need to make your mind. Love either implies action or it does not. If it does, then it is not limited to a feeling. You can’t have it both ways. Love either requires loving actions or it does not.

    With respect to the official definition, I will address that issue now:

    For my part, I am describing love in terms of Christian charity, which means generous actions, or, if you like, Agape love, which means self-sacrificial love. However, if you do not want me to use the term love as synonymous with these things, then I will simply use the word Agape love or Christian love each time. However, that seems a little unwieldy, don’t you think?

    :No one is obligated to accept your version without very good reasons to do so. And here is why you’ve supplied no such good reasons:

    I think I have now provided good reasons. So, are we in agreement that Christian love, or agape love (self-sacrificial love) goes beyond the dictionary definition. Christians are permitted to define love as agape love and the Christian God is the one you are presuming to scrutinize. When I use the term “love,” therefore, I mean Christian love.

    Your claim that love requires testing in the face of evil to show it exists, or be real deep or legitimate, is inconsistent with normal moral reasoning.

    No, it isn’t. Everyone knows that morality refers both to intentions and actions.

    Yes. Love (Christian) must be tested by evil in order to prove itself.

    Example from real life: Recently I was on vacation with my family, sitting by a pool reading, and also watching my son play in the pool with my wife. Taking in scenes like that, especially without other distractions, is when I most feel, am most in tune with, the experience of “love” for my family.

    That tells us nothing about how you will act when things are not going so well. It is a completely meaningless scenario. The question persists: will you continue to love your wife when she is 90 years old and begs you not to put her in a nursing home, even though, it will cost you 12 hours a day to care for her?
    Or, will you say, “I feel good things for my and wife, but that is good enough.”

    So let’s say at one point I looked up from my magazine and my wife and child were gone. As panic rises in me, a man approaches and says “We saw the way you were looking at your family. It seemed to indicate your affection. But we aren’t sure and have to be sure. Further, even if you were feeling that love, it’s not legitimate unless it has been deeply tested. Therefore, to help out, we have kidnapped your wife and child.
    Currently we are torturing them in an undisclosed location. If you love them you’ll want us to release them from torture. But you must demonstrate it to objective observers by making a significant sacrifice. We’ll release your family upon a demonstration of your willingness to sacrifice for them. We will accept your cutting off a hand, arm, or foot. After this is over, others can be satisfied your love was demonstrated, and you will have met the requirements of making your love truly real.”
    That isn’t the question. You are, again, writing many words and saying very little. The question is very simple: Is it enough to “feel” for them, or must you do something.
    Now, this gentlemen would appear to exemplify just the logic you expect me to accept about love – this is what “real love” demands, or perhaps what God demands for “real love.” And yet, I, and every normal person (including you no doubt) would recoil in horror and see this as insane. Your logic does not stand up to real life consistency.

    Nonsense. The question is this: Are you going to rescue your family (or try) from the torturers, or are you going to say, “I have feelings of love for my family and that is enough.” (It isn’t necessary to write all those words.)

    You can’t have it both ways. What is your decision? Does love (agape) require action or not?

    The problem of Heaven. Most of Christianity subscribes to the concept of Heaven as a realm where one experiences constant bliss and love WITHOUT peril and “tests” of the sorts you imply.

    I have already addressed that issue. Everyone in heaven had to pass a test of love to qualify for eternal life. Please stop asking me to explain things two or three times.

    In other words, the value of Heaven as depicted by most Christianity is being about a state of mind, state of feeling, NOT ACTIONS choosing between evil or saving loved ones from evil. And this state of being is seen as the Ultimate State Of Being – the one of highest desire and value.

    There are no moral dilemmas in heaven because there are no temptations to evil. There are no moral tests to pass. There is no more virtue to be attained. It has already been attained.

    Therefore your claims that for Love to be real or significant it must be accompanied by tests of evil and peril is in contradiction to Heaven, where the ultimate form of love is does not require this.

    Only love that has proven itself qualifies for heaven. It doesn’t need to prove itself again. So my point stands.

    Please try to make your points more concisely and please stay on topic. We were not discussing heaven.

  250. 250
    Box says:

    Ben Goren: Whether or not I want the universe to have meaning, whether or not I want death to be the end…my wishes on the matter no more give nor deny meaning to the universe or create or obliterate life after death than my desire to fly to the Moon gives me wings.

    Why do you offer this glaring truism? No one has made the claim that your wants are capable of changing the foundations of reality — I certainly didn’t.

  251. 251
    Aleta says:

    Box, I believe Ben was responding to you, who wrote,

    I have a question for those people “who willfully refuse to believe”. Why? Why do you want a universe without meaning? Why do you want death to be the end?

    His response was the very reasonable point that what we want concerning meaning and death is irrelevant – we have to accept and live with what is in fact the case. If one wants life to go on after death but in fact life doesn’t, then accepting the truth about death is better than nursing wishes which are not true.

  252. 252
    Ben Goren says:

    For my part, I am describing love in terms of Christian charity, which means generous actions, or, if you like, Agape love, which means self-sacrificial love.

    […]

    No, it isn’t. Everyone knows that morality refers both to intentions and actions.

    Yes. Love (Christian) must be tested by evil in order to prove itself.

    […]

    You can’t have it both ways. What is your decision? Does love (agape) require action or not?

    Christian, heal thyself.

    If Vaal’s love for his wife requires the action he care for her even when she is old and senile, then Jesus’s Agape for all humanity requires the action that he alert local authorities when his own priests start a serial rape spree.

    Vaal already has, and, I’m confident, will continue to demonstrate his love for his wife. Jesus has already failed and will assuredly continue to fail to demonstrate his Agape for the children of his own priests’s flocks.

    b&

  253. 253
    Box says:

    Aleta: His response was the very reasonable point that what we want concerning meaning and death is irrelevant – we have to accept and live with what is in fact the case.

    I know. Everyone knows. It’s a perfectly irrelevant glaring truism.
    My question was not: do you hold that you can change the foundations of reality by wanting something?

    I cited Thomas Nagel for clarity: “It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”
    Why don’t you e-mail Thomas Nagel and tell him your great insight that his wanting there to be no God doesn’t change anything?

    My question for those people “who willfully refuse to believe” is: Why?

  254. 254
    Eugen says:

    Ben said

    “Jesus is a monster in a fairy tale”

    Yeah, I didn’t expect much more, that’s how your basic idea and worldview looks unwrapped. You don’t need to hide it behind the smoke screen of verbosity.
    We are happy to help you understand that, you are welcome.

    But for you and your friends – Jerry Coyne’s Boot worshipers there is no problemo, being that doesn’t exist cannot be monster so you can sleep peacefully. You can get back to playing your trumpet.

  255. 255
    Aleta says:

    Box, I don’t quite know what you mean when you write,

    My question for those people “who willfully refuse to believe” is: Why?

    What is the difference between just “not believing in God” and “willfully refusing to believe in God”?

    There are many reasons why I don’t believe that God exists, and I see no reason why I should believe he does. Am I “willfully refusing” to believe in him?

    Or does “willingfully refusing” mean that I accept his existence, but refuse to accept him as my God, which would be an entirely different thing (and one that doesn’t apply to me.)

    can you explain more?

  256. 256
    Andre says:

    And all I hear Ben Goren say is “Damn you Jesus for giving me free will, damn you!!!! I want you to be a big brother so I won’t have to be responsible for the things I do! Damn you Jesus!”

  257. 257
    Box says:

    Aleta: What is the difference between just “not believing in God” and “willfully refusing to believe in God”?

    In post #236 VJTorley writes:

    I might add that Pope Francis himself has said that even atheists may be saved, if they follow their consciences. Hell is for people who willfully refuse to believe, as opposed to people who want to believe, but cannot. The Bible nowhere says that people in the latter group go to Hell.

    Do you not understand which distinction is being made here?
    – – – –
    I do not understand ppl who don’t want to believe. I honestly do not. Hence my question.

  258. 258
    Ben Goren says:

    My question for those people “who willfully refuse to believe” is: Why?

    Box, why do you willfully refuse to believe in Krishna, or Allah, or Zeus, or Thor…or Santa or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Faery…or the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot or the Chupacabra…or Leprechauns or unicorns or trolls…or…?

    My lack of belief in the Christian pantheon is no different from your lack of belief in any other pantheon. When you understand why you reject all other gods but your own, you will understand why I reject yours as well.

    Yes, you insist that your gods are special, completely unlike all the other gods. But the Muslims say the same thing about Muhammad and Allah, the Hindus the same about Krishna and Brahma, the ancient Egyptians the same about Horus and Ra, and on and on and on. From where I sit, Jesus and Jehovah are cut from the exact same cloth.

    Cheers,

    b&

  259. 259
    daveS says:

    Perhaps John 3:16 should be amended to read “whoever believes wants to believe in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

  260. 260
    Ben Goren says:

    Andre, Christians are the one who blame Jesus’s incompetence on free will. For me, it’s a moot point; Jesus is a fictional character, and free will is an incoherent self-contained contradiction — what a married bachelor might practice in spartan luxury north of the North Pole.

    I personally couldn’t give a flying flip what excuses Christians make for why their imaginary Superman doesn’t fly in and rescue Gotham from Lex Luthor. None of it has even the slightest bearing in reality.

    I do care that Christians are deceiving themselves, wasting a lot of their lives, and espousing some very dangerous positions — though, to be fair, most simply speak in favor of profound evil even whilst being positively horrified at the mere notion of actually doing anything about it. Right up front, Vincent himself reassured us that he’d do the right and honorable thing, and alert the proper authorities if he even so much as suspected child abuse…even at the same time as he was trying to explain why such inaction is only to be expected from an entity infinitely more loving and able than he.

    All y’all have so much to contribute to our efforts to make an Heaven of our own here on Earth, and I hate to see such waste and so much that’s counterproductive coming out of your fantasies and wishful thinking.

    And that’s why I’m trying to point out the incoherence of the fantasies. I’m hoping that, by pointing out that Lex Luthor doesn’t exist, doesn’t have a doomsday machine, the earthquake just happened for no reason, and we would have expected Superman to have stopped Lex just in time before the city was destroyed if the stories were true…I’m hoping to get Christians to stop begging Superman to carry them away to Krypton with him, and to help me build some new homes that’re up to code so they won’t collapse and burn when the next quake hits.

    Cheers,

    b&

  261. 261
    Axel says:

    Aleta, it is more than a matter of credence on the part of the Christian, anyway, (never mind the credulity atheists would claim). As James remarked in his epistle, ‘The devils believe and tremble.’ Faith is proved, as well as by credence, by an ongoing commitment to Charity, a generous, self-denying love.

    The description of the Last Judgment in Matthew 25 is the son of God’s own description of what comprises our passport to heaven, qua our ‘faith’, and is the only one in the whole of scripture.

    It seems clear, however that this sine qua non of charity – in fact, what gives value to all the virtues, each of which latter has a counterfeit simulacrum – may not be consciously exercised by an individual ‘sheep’, the indwelling Holy Spirit of supernatural grace animating his actions without his even being aware of its nature and provenance.

    He/she just sees some poor soul ‘up against it’, and is moved by compassion, like the good Samaritan, to do what he can to help the suffering person, unaware that, in doing so, in some strange supernatural way, it is Christ that he is seeking to rescue from his travails.

    We are all of us, especially via baptism, kind of clones of the god-man, Jesus. The church teaches us to see him most clearly in those who suffer. We are branches of the true vine, which is Christ, himself, as he teaches us in the Gospel.

    As regard wishful thinking, yes, undoubtedly it is wishful thinking, but why would it not accord with the reality, since that same theological virtue (with Faith and Charity) of Hope is inspirited in us by the same indwelling Holy Spirit, who adopts us, if we are willing, for all eternity.

    Indeed, why should the truth be something not to be wished for, not to be hoped for, undesirable? That ‘cold, hard reason’ nonsense is a fantasy of the naive realists, as the reality is that it is both personal and dynamic, as quantum physics loudly proclaims.

    Indeed, ‘wisdom is proven by her children’, and this is exactly what has transpired. Physics has proved with irrefragable certainty the truth not merely of theism by a multiplicity of most cogent indicators, but Christianity, itself, via the miraculous Shroud of Turin.

    As regards intelligent design, alone, the fact that matter finally reduces to information definitively confirms it as the primordial reality (‘In the beginning was the word..’), if one were so wilfully blind as not to see it throughout the whole of nature without the aid of physics.

  262. 262
    Vaal says:

    StephenB,

    “Well, you need to make your mind. Love either implies action or it does not. If it does, then it is not limited to a feeling. You can’t have it both ways. Love either requires loving actions or it does not.”

    I have already explained why that is a false dichotomy. Simply re-stating the false dichotomy is not a rebuttal.

    I’ll explain again. Here’s the principle:

    That X has implications for Y does not entail that Y is necessary for the existence of X.

    This is IF/THEN reasoning.

    Examples of principle:

    1. Light – electromagnetic radiation exists, for instance in the form of my flashlight.
    One can bring in other scenarios for which this has implications – e.g. IF there were a dark room you can’t see into and you shine the light into it THEN the nature of light implies you will light the room and will be able to see there.

    But the fact light has implications for dark rooms doesn’t mean that electromagnetic radiation REQUIRES dark rooms for light itself to fully exist.

    2. If I’m enjoying an episode of Breaking Bad and wouldn’t want to watch Big Bang Theory, then my affection for the show has implications for the proposition of “changing the channel to Big Bang Theory.” IF someone changed the channel my affection for Breaking Bad implies my action of changing the channel back to that show. But that in no way entails that such a scenario of “changing the channel” has to be actualized in order for my affection for Breaking Bad to exist and be fully real.

    Acknowledging that X has implications for possible scenario Y does NOT entail that X is dependant upon scenario Y.

    Therefore I am not having to choose between love implying action or not.

    I’m saying that Love (X) has implications for possible scenarios (Y) of loved ones being in peril – e.g. it predicts certain outcomes/actions IF scenario Y occurred. But the fact of my love does not entail the existence of Y – the actualization of my loved ones coming into peril.

    You may argue against this, but I am not in self contradiction.

    “Christians are permitted to define love as agape love and the Christian God is the one you are presuming to scrutinize. When I use the term “love,” therefore, I mean Christian love.”

    Sure. But remember you are supposed to be able to give an argument for why another rational person – i.e. me – ought to accept your premises. To do so you’ll have to show consistency with principles and manners of behavior you and I accept elsewhere. If your version of “love” ends up having implications so inconsistent with what I and most people understand as “loving” or with generally accepted moral behavior, then your argument fails on consistency, whatever you happen to re-name as “love” or “agape love.”


    That tells us nothing about how you will act when things are not going so well.

    Sure it does. As I’ve already said, if you love someone it would have implications for various *possible* scenarios, but that doesn’t entail those scenarios must occur for there to be actual love.

    I know how I feel about my wife and what I’d do if she was in peril. But if you hold that is NOT GOOD ENOUGH and that rather, you must put my wife in peril so I can demonstrate my care for my wife to you or some other observers, or that you must put her in harm’s way or else my love really isn’t valid, then you are demonstrating a monstrous moral vision that no one actually accepts put to real life.

    And, again, the concept of Christian Heaven shows this – Christians think the best state of love is one in which it is felt without the existence of peril, evil and suffering.

    “Nonsense. The question is this: Are you going to rescue your family (or try) from the torturers, or are you going to say, “I have feelings of love for my family and that is enough.” (It isn’t necessary to write all those words.)”

    So here you are, actually adopting the morality of the evil guy in my story. I tell you I love my wife and kid, but that’s not enough. It’s “nonsense” UNLESS it is demonstrated by putting my family in peril and forcing the sacrifice upon me.

    My god…do you really want to pursue this line of reasoning?

  263. 263
    Vaal says:

    StephenB

    Everyone in heaven had to pass a test of love to qualify for eternal life.

    Why? What consistent justification can you provide showing I ought to accept that principle?
    See, this is what Christians so steeped in their mythology and theodicies don’t seem to notice.
    You assert your theological claims as if they solve the moral issues, when they only further RAISE the moral issues being debated. You haven’t explained anything here.
    The question is whether the moral reasoning you present on behalf of Christianity/yahweh, is coherent and consistent with morality and goodness as we apply anywhere else. God could make up any “test” or demand he wanted for people to get into heaven – he could demand everyone rape or murder at least twice to pass a test to get into heaven: that doesn’t answer whether the demand is a MORALLY CONSISTENT one.

    What you have to do is show how demanding that love is only accepted as “real love” if it is conjoined with peril and suffering is a consistently moral notion. So far, you have failed to show this – I’ve applied your principles to real life and shown they would result in monstrous
    demands.

    There are no moral dilemmas in heaven because there are no temptations to evil. There are no moral tests to pass. There is no more virtue to be attained. It has already been attained.

    Again, if our ultimate destiny, and the ultimately good state of affairs is a realm where moral dilemmas DO NOT occur, and this is in fact THE BEST state of affairs to be in, and love is most fully realized in a state where there is no peril….why in the world
    do we need another realm of existence of suffering and peril? You want to say “but love requires a test to get into heaven.” But you have not established this as anything but arbitrary. You want to attach the necessity of peril-choosing to “real love” but then have to admit the ultimate state of affairs is love in the absence of peril-choosing! So there goes that principle. This is a blatant inconsistency on your part. Further, if love for another REQUIRES the peril of the one we love in order to give us the opportunity to demonstrate and justify our love, how can we truly fulfill a love for a heavenly God who is All Powerful and will never be in peril?

    So, again, on no level have I found you have made a case for your claims.

  264. 264
    Aleta says:

    Ok, I see Box, and I appreciate your willingness to discuss this.

    1. As I asked earlier, what happens to those people who grow up in other religious cultures and perhaps have never even heard of Christianity, or little Buddhist kids too young to even really know about religious beliefs, or devout followers of other religions who are just as committed to theirs as you are to yours. What happens to them when they die? If they don’t go to hell, is heaven the only other choice? I would really like to know what Christian belief about this is.

    2. I know a great deal about Christianity, and don’t believe any of it. Why would you want to sayI am “willfully refusing” to believe and not just “I don’t believe.” As Ben said, are you willfully refusing to believe in Krishna? I don’t think you’d say that, but then I don’t know why you’d say I was willfully refusing to believe in the Christian God.

    Can you explain further?

  265. 265
    Box says:

    Ben Goren:
    Box, why do you willfully refuse to believe in Krishna, or Allah, or Zeus, or (…) or trolls…or…?

    My lack of belief in the Christian pantheon is no different from your lack of belief in any other pantheon. When you understand why you reject all other gods but your own, you will understand why I reject yours as well.

    I’m no member of an established religion. I simply believe that there is a God, because there is excellent evidence for it. For me it’s perfectly clear that, without a God, — without life after death — life is meaningless.
    VJTorley’s quote of Russell is very much to the point:

    “That man is the product of causes that had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins- all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand.

    “Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”

    “No God” is an unspeakable sad state of affairs. So I do understand sad atheists. I understand the atheist who says: of course I want there to be God and a heavenly hereafter, but I cannot believe it is so.
    What I don’t understand is the willful atheist, who doesn’t want there to be a God.

  266. 266
    Vaal says:

    Box,

    “My question for those people “who willfully refuse to believe” is: Why?”

    I personally don’t know any atheist who fits that description so I’m guessing you’ll be waiting a long time for an answer.

    It’s not that I “refuse” to believe, it’s that I don’t believe because I find arguments for God unconvincing.

    I both don’t believe the Christian God exists and wouldn’t want it to be true that the Christian God exists, just as I don’t believe ISIS have a Doomsday Device but certainly wouldn’t want it to be true they had one.

    I”m inferring from the Nagel quote that he is describing a similar mind set about the Christian God.

    So I don’t think Nagel is expressing the idea his disbelief in God is due to an act of “willful disbelief” rather than reasoned assessment of the arguments. No atheist I’ve ever met thinks like that, and I’m sure Nagel is far too smart to endorse such a mind-set.

  267. 267
    Barry Arrington says:

    Aleta,

    I don’t think you’d say that, but then I don’t know why you’d say I was willfully refusing to believe in the Christian God.

    Box has seen you operate here at UD. And from that observation he has concluded that you frequently fail to act in good faith. For example, you pointed to the fact that 2+2=4 does not work when one is adding velocities, all the while knowing (as a math teacher) that 2+2=4 is meant to work only in the context of adding sets each with a cardinality of two to arrive at a set with a cardinality of four. To use the map/territory metaphor you are so found of, you pointed to Arizona and hooted about how a map of Texas is insufficient to describe it.

    Now if you were a mathematics layman like me, I might pass this off as a mistake. But any competent math teacher would know better. I infer, therefore, that you were not acting in good faith.

    Therefore, it is only natural to infer that you did not engage in a good faith evaluation of the evidence for Christianity. Thus, Box’s statement.

  268. 268
    Aleta says:

    Thanks, Box. You write,

    I simply believe that there is a God, because there is excellent evidence for it. For me it’s perfectly clear that, without a God, — without life after death — life is meaningless….

    “No God” is an unspeakable sad state of affairs. So I do understand sad atheists. I understand the atheist who says: of course I want there to be God and a heavenly hereafter, but I cannot believe it is so.
    What I don’t understand is the willful atheist, who doesn’t want there to be a God.

    It may be perfectly clear to you that “without a God, — without life after death — life is meaningless”, but I definitely do not believe my life is meaningless because it will come to an end at my death, and I am definitely not sad that there is no God and attendant life after death. I don’t “want there to be God and a heaven thereafter.” I appreciate that I have this life to lead, and I accept the arc of human life as it goes from birth to death – I have no reason to want anything more, or to believe that there is anything more.

    That’s why I don’t think “refusing to believe” applies to me.

  269. 269
    StephenB says:

    SB: “Well, you need to make your mind. Love either implies action or it does not. If it does, then it is not limited to a feeling. You can’t have it both ways. Love either requires loving actions or it does not.”

    Vaal

    I have already explained why that is a false dichotomy. Simply re-stating the false dichotomy is not a rebuttal.

    No, you haven’t. A statement cannot be true and false at the same time. Law of Non-Contradiction. Please take one position or the other: Agape love requires action or Agape love does not require action. What is your answer?

    This is IF/THEN reasoning.

    I know how it works. It appears that you do not. I am using If/Then reasoning to rebut your claims.

    You may argue against this, but I am not in self contradiction.

    You are in self-contradiction: Your position is:

    [a] Love requires action:

    [b] Love does not require action.

    My question persists: Are you loving your wife [agape love] if you abandon her and put her in a nursing home at her hour of greatest need on the grounds that having feelings of love are enough. Are you loving her if you refuse to pay the price of sacrificing your time? Or, it is enough to have “feelings” of love for her when you abandon her?

    SB: “Christians are permitted to define love as agape love and the Christian God is the one you are presuming to scrutinize. When I use the term “love,” therefore, I mean Christian love.”

    Sure. But remember you are supposed to be able to give an argument for why another rational person – i.e. me – ought to accept your premises.

    Of course. That is why I am asking you rational question grounded in my argument. I am asking you to show that you are a rational person by giving me an honest answer to my questions.

    SB: That tells us nothing about how you will act when things are not going so well.

    Sure it does. As I’ve already said, if you love someone it would have implications for various *possible* scenarios, but that doesn’t entail those scenarios must occur for there to be actual love.

    Implications? Possible scenarios? I want to know if you really believe what you say? If you love your family, does love require you to come to their rescue if they are being abused in the way you described? Or, would that not be a requirement and simply be a “possible scenario?”

    —-“I know how I feel about my wife and what I’d do if she was in peril. But if you hold that is NOT GOOD ENOUGH and that rather, you must put my wife in peril so I can demonstrate my care for my wife to you or some other observers, or that you must put her in harm’s way or else my love really isn’t valid, then you are demonstrating a monstrous moral vision that no one actually accepts put to real life.”—

    Nope. I didn’t say that. You are putting words in my mouth. I asked you if love requires you to perform loving acts or if you think it is enough to simply have feelings of love even as you refuse to perform loving acts. So far, you have taken both sides of the issue. This is a contradiction.

    And, again, the concept of Christian Heaven shows this – Christians think the best state of love is one in which it is felt without the existence of peril, evil and suffering.

    Now that I have explained to you three times that the Christian view of heaven is not like that, and that my view is not like that, I can only assume that you are so desperate that you feel the need to say something that you know isn’t true. Why would you knowingly make a false statement? Is that your idea of good faith dialogue? Again, there is no need to prove love or to suffer in heaven. The proving is over and the suffering is over. Is it necessary for me to explain this to you yet a fourth time.

    SB: The question is this: Are you going to rescue your family (or try) from the torturers, or are you going to say, “I have feelings of love for my family and that is enough.”

    So here you are, actually adopting the morality of the evil guy in my story. I tell you I love my wife and kid, but that’s not enough. It’s “nonsense” UNLESS it is demonstrated by putting my family in peril and forcing the sacrifice upon me.

    So, again, you appear afraid to answer a simple question. Clearly, you do not have much confidence in your position. You come here trying to scrutinize the Christian religion, but when your scrutiny is put under scrutiny, your attitude seems to change.

  270. 270
    Box says:

    Vaal: It’s not that I “refuse” to believe, it’s that I don’t believe because I find arguments for God unconvincing.

    The arguments for atheism pale in comparison. In order to see this, here — an article by WJMurray — may be a good place to start.

    Vaal: I both don’t believe the Christian God exists and wouldn’t want it to be true that the Christian God exists (..)

    Would you like ‘another’ God to exist? Can you think of a God that would be ‘ideal’?

    Aleta: I appreciate that I have this life to lead, and I accept the arc of human life as it goes from birth to death – I have no reason to want anything more, or to believe that there is anything more.

    Let’s say that you are going to die tomorrow and on your deathbed are given a choice: ‘lights out’ or heaven, you would choose ‘lights out’ because you “have no reason to want anything more”? If you have to make this choice for your loved ones, would you make the same decision?

  271. 271
    Ben Goren says:

    I’m no member of an established religion. I simply believe that there is a God, because there is excellent evidence for it. For me it’s perfectly clear that, without a God, — without life after death — life is meaningless.

    Yes. Your life has no meaning other than whatever meaning you give to it.

    I’m sorry that this makes you feel uncomfortable, but the fact that it is true remains. No matter how hard you clap your hands, Tinkerbell does not live; she remains a fictional character in a faery tale, in the same Neverland as all the gods ever invented.

    Let’s say that you are going to die tomorrow and on your deathbed are given a choice: ‘lights out’ or heaven, you would choose ‘lights out’ because you “have no reason to want anything more”?

    If wishes were fishes we’d all cast nets.

    And, frankly, I have no desire whatsoever to spend an infinite amount of time in the company of the sort of petty, vindictive, heartless, childish incompetent as are all the gods being advertised in this thread. For that matter…all who claim to look forward to eternal life have no clue what that actually entails. Even the most incomprehensibly spectacular orgasmic bliss is going to get boring after the first few hundred trillion years — and you still haven’t made it across the lobby yet; the opening act is infinitely far away, and the curtain is never coming down on the show. Sure, I’d love more — much more, even — than the few score years I’m likely to have…but infinite anything is my idea of Hell. Let me check out on my own schedule, whenever I’ve decided I’ve had enough.

    b&

  272. 272
    Aleta says:

    Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
    Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while

    Dylan, “Visions of Johanna”

  273. 273
    Daniel King says:

    Ben Goren:

    …but infinite anything is my idea of Hell.

    Yes, please turn off the respirator, unplug the electricity and let me sleep.

    Forever.

  274. 274
    Aleta says:

    Alan Watts (google him if you don’t know who he was) once wrote, and I paraphrase,

    When you die, it’s like throwing a drop of water back into the ocean.

    This has stuck with me for over 40 years. In this view, individuality is a property of a living biological organism, not a property of the spirit that lies within. When we die, that spirit goes back to being an indistinguishable part of the unified cosmic spirit. No individual “I” goes on after death even though the essential spark of the divine that dwelt within me does continue as an undifferentiated part of the one spirit that animates the world.

    I like this. If I were to commit myself to a metaphysical belief, I could go with this.

  275. 275
    Ben Goren says:

    When you die, it’s like throwing a drop of water back into the ocean.

    The way I like to put it is that life after death is indistinguishable from life before birth.

    If you’re not distressed at the fact that you weren’t alive for the first baker’s dozen billion years after the Big Bang, you shouldn’t be any more distressed at the fact that you won’t be alive either for the next baker’s dozen billion years and more.

    b&

  276. 276
    bornagain77 says:

    Aleta, you have believed a lie.

    There is far more observational evidence that the ‘you’, the ‘you’ that is the unified individual soul that constitutes ‘you’ as a ‘person’, continues on after death than there is observational evidence for Darwinian evolution:

    Near-Death Experiences: Putting a Darwinist’s Evidentiary Standards to the Test – Dr. Michael Egnor – October 15, 2012
    Excerpt: Indeed, about 20 percent of NDE’s are corroborated, which means that there are independent ways of checking about the veracity of the experience. The patients knew of things that they could not have known except by extraordinary perception — such as describing details of surgery that they watched while their heart was stopped, etc. Additionally, many NDE’s have a vividness and a sense of intense reality that one does not generally encounter in dreams or hallucinations.,,,
    The most “parsimonious” explanation — the simplest scientific explanation — is that the (Near Death) experience was real. Tens of millions of people have had such experiences. That is tens of millions of more times than we have observed the origin of species , (or the origin of life, or the origin of a protein/gene, or a molecular machine), which is never.,,,
    The materialist reaction, in short, is unscientific and close-minded. NDE’s show fellows like Coyne at their sneering unscientific irrational worst. Somebody finds a crushed fragment of a fossil and it’s earth-shaking evidence. Tens of million of people have life-changing spiritual experiences and it’s all a big yawn.
    Note: Dr. Egnor is professor and vice-chairman of neurosurgery at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....65301.html

    In the following study, researchers who had a bias against NDEs being real, set out to prove that they were merely hallucinations by setting up a questionnaire that would prove that the memories of NDEs were merely hallucinatory in nature. They did not expect the results that they got:

    ‘Afterlife’ feels ‘even more real than real,’ researcher says – Wed April 10, 2013
    Excerpt: “If you use this questionnaire … if the memory is real, it’s richer, and if the memory is recent, it’s richer,” he said.
    The coma scientists weren’t expecting what the tests revealed.
    “To our surprise, NDEs were much richer than any imagined event or any real event of these coma survivors,” Laureys reported.
    The memories of these experiences beat all other memories, hands down, for their vivid sense of reality. “The difference was so vast,” he said with a sense of astonishment.
    Even if the patient had the experience a long time ago, its memory was as rich “as though it was yesterday,” Laureys said.
    http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/09/.....periences/

    Don Piper, whose movie on his experience, ’90 Minutes In Heaven’, was just released last Friday, made the following rather startling comment:

    “More real than anything I’ve experienced since. When I came back of course I had 34 operations, and was in the hospital for 13 months. That was real but heaven is more real than that. The emotions and the feelings. The reality of being with people who had preceded me in death.”
    – Don Piper – “90 Minutes in Heaven,” 10 Years Later – video (2:54 minute mark)
    https://youtu.be/3LyZoNlKnMM?t=173

    This following video interview of a Harvard Neurosurgeon, who had a Near Death Experience (NDE), is very interesting. His NDE was rather unique from typical NDEs in that he had completely lost brain wave function for 7 days while the rest of his body was on life support. As such he had what can be termed a ‘pure consciousness’ NDE that was dramatically different from the ‘typical’ Judeo-Christian NDEs of going through a tunnel to a higher heavenly dimension, seeing departed relatives, and having a life review. His NDE featured his ‘consciousness’ going outside the confines of space/time, matter/energy altogether to experience ‘non-locally’ what he termed ‘the Core’, i.e to experience God. It is also interesting to note that he retained a ‘finite sense of self-identity’, as Theism would hold, and did not blend into the infinite consciousness/omniscience of God, as pantheism would hold.

    A Conversation with Near Death Experiencer Neurosurgeon Eben Alexander III, M.D. with Steve Paulson (Interviewer) – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ASWnPJSf7o

    Here is a neat quote that I like:

    “I think death is an illusion. I think death is a really nasty, bad lie. I don’t see any truth in the word death at all” –
    Pam Reynolds Lowery (1956 – May 22, 2010)
    http://christopherlovejoy.com/.....eally-are/

    Supplemental note:

    The Unbearable Wholeness of Beings – Stephen L. Talbott
    Excerpt: Virtually the same collection of molecules exists in the canine cells during the moments immediately before and after death. But after the fateful transition no one will any longer think of genes as being regulated, nor will anyone refer to normal or proper chromosome functioning. No molecules will be said to guide other molecules to specific targets, and no molecules will be carrying signals, which is just as well because there will be no structures recognizing signals. Code, information, and communication, in their biological sense, will have disappeared from the scientist’s vocabulary.
    ,,, the question, rather, is why things don’t fall completely apart — as they do, in fact, at the moment of death. What power holds off that moment — precisely for a lifetime, and not a moment longer?
    Despite the countless processes going on in the cell, and despite the fact that each process might be expected to “go its own way” according to the myriad factors impinging on it from all directions, the actual result is quite different. Rather than becoming progressively disordered in their mutual relations (as indeed happens after death, when the whole dissolves into separate fragments), the processes hold together in a larger unity.
    http://www.thenewatlantis.com/.....-of-beings
    picture – What power holds off that moment — precisely for a lifetime, and not a moment longer?
    http://cdn-4.spiritscienceandm.....ardd-2.jpg

  277. 277
    Barry Arrington says:

    Aleta,

    If I were to commit myself to a metaphysical belief, I could go with this.

    The arrogance implicit in this statement is breathtaking. Aleta speaks as if all of the competing metaphysical claims are waiting for him, all atwitter, breathlessly hoping “pick me! oh please pick me!”

  278. 278
    Aleta says:

    What a silly comment. Your dislike for me is causing you to embarrass yourself.

  279. 279
    bornagain77 says:

    Aleta, actually your comment is rather embarrassing in itself.

    You act as if worldviews are not decided by what is true scientifically, but by what is preferable personally.

    As far as I can tell, atheists constantly let there personal preferences dictate what worldview they are willing to believe is true.

    They never allow the scientific evidence to have its fair say.

    Atheists claim to be rational and scientific, but I have found that that is the complete opposite of the truth.

    Their personal preference and desire for an atheistic worldview is always, no matter what the evidence says to the contrary, given primary consideration over the evidence.

    Which really is quite a shame, since science is suppose to primarily be about the unbiased pursuit of truth:

    1. Naturalism/Materialism predicted time-space energy-matter always existed. Theism predicted time-space energy-matter were created. Big Bang cosmology now strongly indicates that time-space energy-matter had a sudden creation event approximately 14 billion years ago.

    2. Naturalism/Materialism predicted that the universe is a self sustaining system that is not dependent on anything else for its continued existence. Theism predicted that God upholds this universe in its continued existence. Breakthroughs in quantum mechanics reveal that this universe is dependent on a ‘non-local’, beyond space and time, cause for its continued existence.

    3. Naturalism/Materialism predicted that consciousness is an ‘emergent property’ of material reality and thus should have no particularly special position within material reality. Theism predicts consciousness precedes material reality and therefore, on that presupposition, consciousness should have a ‘special’ position within material reality. Quantum Mechanics reveals that consciousness has a special, even a central, position within material reality. –

    4. Naturalism/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) –

    5. Naturalism/Materialism predicted the universe did not have life in mind and that life was ultimately an accident of time and chance. Theism predicted this universe was purposely created by God with man in mind. Scientists find the universe is exquisitely fine-tuned for carbon-based life to exist in this universe. Moreover it is found, when scrutinizing the details of physics and chemistry, that not only is the universe fine-tuned for carbon based life, but is specifically fine-tuned for life like human life (R. Collins, M. Denton).-

    6. Naturalism/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 organic life to be possible on earth gives strong indication the earth is extremely unique in this universe (G. Gonzalez; Hugh Ross). –

    7. Naturalism/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). Geochemical evidence from the oldest sedimentary rocks ever found on earth indicates that complex photosynthetic life has existed on earth as long as water has been on the face of earth. –

    8. Naturalism/Materialism predicted the first life to be relatively simple. Theism predicted that God is the source for all life on earth. The simplest life ever found on Earth is far more complex than any machine man has made through concerted effort. (Michael Denton PhD) –

    9. Naturalism/Materialism predicted the gradual unfolding of life would (someday) be self-evident in the fossil record. Theism predicted complex and diverse animal 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. –

    10. Naturalism/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(disparity), then rapid diversity within that 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. –

    11. Naturalism/Materialism predicted animal speciation should happen on a somewhat constant basis on earth. Theism predicted man was the last species created on earth – Man (our genus ‘modern homo’ as distinct from the highly controversial ‘early homo’) is the last generally accepted major fossil form to have suddenly appeared in the fossil record. (Tattersall; Luskin)–

    12. Naturalism/Materialism predicted that the separation of human intelligence from animal intelligence ‘is one of degree and not of kind’(C. Darwin). Theism predicted that we are made in the ‘image of God’- Despite an ‘explosion of research’ in this area over the last four decades, human beings alone are found to ‘mentally dissect the world into a multitude of discrete symbols, and combine and recombine those symbols in their minds to produce hypotheses of alternative possibilities.’ (Tattersall; Schwartz). Moreover, both biological life and the universe itself are found to be ‘information theoretic’ in their foundational basis.

    13. Naturalism/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.”. –

    14. Naturalism/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, information building, mutations whatsoever. (M. Behe; JC Sanford) –

    15. Naturalism/Materialism predicted morality is subjective and illusory. Theism predicted morality is objective and real. Morality is found to be deeply embedded in the genetic responses of humans. As well, morality is found to be deeply embedded in the structure of the universe. Embedded to the point of eliciting physiological responses in humans before humans become aware of the morally troubling situation and even prior to the event even happening.

    16. Naturalism/Materialism predicted that we are merely our material bodies with no transcendent component to our being, and that we die when our material bodies die. Theism predicted that we have minds/souls that are transcendent of our bodies that live past the death of our material bodies. Transcendent, and ‘conserved’, (cannot be created or destroyed), ‘non-local’, (beyond space-time matter-energy), quantum entanglement/information, which is not reducible to matter-energy space-time, is now found in our material bodies on a massive scale (in every DNA and protein molecule).

    As you can see when we remove the artificial imposition of the materialistic philosophy (methodological naturalism), 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 in the direction of Theism as the true explanation. – In fact it is even very good at pointing us to Christianity:

    The overturning of the Copernican Principle and the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead as the correct solution for the ‘theory of everything’:
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/17u0srH9x3kUiei43aOHoKolLsRERhPpUfI9WNhxyLrE/edit

  280. 280
    Aleta says:

    Metaphysics can’t be proven scientifically, neither yours nor any that I might like. That’s why I wrote, “If I were to commit …”, not “I believe …”

  281. 281
    bornagain77 says:

    “Metaphysics can’t be proven scientifically”

    Well ‘proof’ is in the eye of the beholder, but regardless of that, science, as I have shown, can certainly strongly support one worldview over another.

    Or do you deny even that self evident truth because of your atheistic bias?

    If you do, then it will simply be even more evidence that atheists are severely and unfairly biased towards atheism no matter what the evidence says to the contrary.

  282. 282
    Aleta says:

    I should make it clear that my working belief is that we don’t have any non-material spirit that survives, even of the Buddhist kind that Alan Watts describes. When we’re dead, we’re dead. That’s it.

    I like the Buddhist story better than those of other religions, but that’s essentially a literary preference, not a statement about truth.

  283. 283
    bornagain77 says:

    Well Aleta, thanks for your evidence-free ‘personal’ belief.

    By the way, do ‘you’ think the person of ‘you’ is a neuronal illusion like Dawkins, Coyne, Rosenberg, and other militant atheists think?

    If so, why should I care one iota what ‘you’ believe since ‘you’ are not real but are merely an illusion?

    “What you’re doing is simply instantiating a self: the program run by your neurons which you feel is “you.””
    Jerry Coyne
    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/eagleton-on-baggini-on-free-will/

    The Confidence of Jerry Coyne – January 6, 2014
    Excerpt: But then halfway through this peroration, we have as an aside the confession that yes, okay, it’s quite possible given materialist premises that “our sense of self is a neuronal illusion.” At which point the entire edifice suddenly looks terribly wobbly — because who, exactly, is doing all of this forging and shaping and purpose-creating if Jerry Coyne, as I understand him (and I assume he understands himself) quite possibly does not actually exist at all? The theme of his argument is the crucial importance of human agency under eliminative materialism, but if under materialist premises the actual agent is quite possibly a fiction, then who exactly is this I who “reads” and “learns” and “teaches,” and why in the universe’s name should my illusory self believe Coyne’s bold proclamation that his illusory self’s purposes are somehow “real” and worthy of devotion and pursuit? (Let alone that they’re morally significant: But more on that below.) Prometheus cannot be at once unbound and unreal; the human will cannot be simultaneously triumphant and imaginary.
    http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.c.....oyne/?_r=0

    at 37:51 minute mark of following video, according to the law of identity, Richard Dawkins does not exist as a person: (the unity of Aristotelian Form is also discussed) i.e. ironically, in atheists denying that God really exists, they end up denying that they themselves really exist as real persons.

    Atheistic Materialism – Does Richard Dawkins Exist? – video
    Quote: “It turns out that if every part of you, down to sub-atomic parts, are still what they were when they weren’t in you, in other words every ion,,, every single atom that was in the universe,, that has now become part of your living body, is still what is was originally. It hasn’t undergone what metaphysicians call a ‘substantial change’. So you aren’t Richard Dawkins. You are just carbon and neon and sulfur and oxygen and all these individual atoms still.
    You can spout a philosophy that says scientific materialism, but there aren’t any scientific materialists to pronounce it.,,, That’s why I think they find it kind of embarrassing to talk that way. Nobody wants to stand up there and say, “You know, I’m not really here”.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVCnzq2yTCg&t=37m51s

  284. 284
    Mung says:

    Aleta: Metaphysics can’t be proven scientifically…

    So?

    “Scientifically” can’t be proven scientifically.

  285. 285
    Aleta says:

    Religious beliefs are stories. The Spanish philosopher Santayana said something to the effect that religion is sacred literature. People since before the dawn of history have made up overarching stories for several purposes: to explain the mysteries of things we don’t understand or know about, to provide a worldview structure for social cohesion, and so on.

    Through the process of socialization, each generation buys into those stories as true. However, the truth of religious stories is one of affirmation, not confirmation – people essentially say, more or less explicitly, I commit to seeing the world this way, and to believing these things.

    Religious beliefs are not confirmed “scientifically”, or by empirical evidence in general. They are affirmed by the members of the society as a shared agreement about how to see the world, and how to act in the world. They are not empirically true.

  286. 286
    Aleta says:

    to ba77: I don’t know anything about what Dawkins, Coyne, and Rosenberg (whoever he is) think that the self “I” is, but “neuronal illusion” is certainly not a phrase I would use.

  287. 287
    bornagain77 says:

    Aleta, do you think consciousness, specifically your conscious experience of ‘you’, is emergent from a material basis? i.e. That your mind is merely your brain? If so, you must hold that ‘you’, as you consciously experience yourself, and which is the most sure thing a person can know about reality, must be a ‘neuronal illusion’.

    There simply is no other alternative given the materialistic premises that ‘you’ prefer to be true.

    There is only one sort of stuff, namely, matter-the physical stuff of physics, chemistry, and physiology-and the mind is somehow nothing but a physical phenomenon. In short, the mind is the brain.
    Daniel Dennett

    “that “You”, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased: “You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.” This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people today that it can truly be called astonishing.”
    Francis Crick – “The Astonishing Hypothesis” 1994

    David Chalmers is semi-famous for getting the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness across to lay people in a very easy to understand manner:

    David Chalmers on Consciousness (Philosophical Zombies and the Hard Problem) – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK1Yo6VbRoo

    Supplemental note:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter”.
    J. B. S. Haldane [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.

    Materialism Ought to be Judged as Much by the Ignorance It Demands as by the Knowledge It Purports to Afford – Michael Egnor – December 6, 2014
    Excerpt: Materialism, properly understood, purports to afford knowledge, but its salient contribution to modernity is the ignorance it demands. Materialism is a denial of reality. It’s an impoverished superstition, hardly more than magical thinking. Materialism is an amalgam of unexamined presuppositions, delusions of explanatory relevance, smug scientism, self-refuting pretense, and witless non-sequiturs posing as “scientific” conclusions.
    The fact is that the world is plainly more than atoms in the void and man is plainly more than an evolved meat machine. Our beliefs and judgments and insight — all that make us human — are immaterial, and it is obvious that transcendent purpose permeates nature.,,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....91771.html

  288. 288
    Andre says:

    Ben Guron

    Why do you care? If there is no rhyme or reason for the universe your caring about it is what’s incoherent. Can you give me a single reason for your caring?

  289. 289
    bornagain77 says:

    Aleta, Christianity is the only ‘religion’, i.e. metaphysical worldview, which brought forth the modern scientific revolution. Thus the success of modern science is in fact strong evidence that the Christian worldview is true:

    Science and Theism: Concord, not Conflict* – Robert C. Koons
    IV. The Dependency of Science Upon Theism (Page 21)
    Excerpt: Far from undermining the credibility of theism, the remarkable success of science in modern times is a remarkable confirmation of the truth of theism. It was from the perspective of Judeo-Christian theism—and from the perspective alone—that it was predictable that science would have succeeded as it has. Without the faith in the rational intelligibility of the world and the divine vocation of human beings to master it, modern science would never have been possible, and, even today, the continued rationality of the enterprise of science depends on convictions that can be reasonably grounded only in theistic metaphysics.
    http://www.robkoons.net/media/.....ffd524.pdf

    The Threat to the Scientific Method that Explains the Spate of Fraudulent Science Publications – Calvin Beisner | Jul 23, 2014
    Excerpt: It is precisely because modern science has abandoned its foundations in the Biblical worldview (which holds, among other things, that a personal, rational God designed a rational universe to be understood and controlled by rational persons made in His image) and the Biblical ethic (which holds, among other things, that we are obligated to tell the truth even when it inconveniences us) that science is collapsing.
    As such diverse historians and philosophers of science as Alfred North Whitehead, Pierre Duhem, Loren Eiseley, Rodney Stark, and many others have observed, and as I pointed out in two of my talks at the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC), science—not an occasional flash of insight here and there, but a systematic, programmatic, ongoing way of studying and controlling the world—arose only once in history, and only in one place: medieval Europe, once known as “Christendom,” where that Biblical worldview reigned supreme. That is no accident. Science could not have arisen without that worldview.
    http://townhall.com/columnists...../page/full
    Several other resources backing up this claim are available, such as Thomas Woods, Stanley Jaki, David Linberg, Edward Grant, J.L. Heilbron, and Christopher Dawson.

    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,,
    If science suffered only stillbirths in ancient cultures, how did it come to its unique viable birth? The beginning of science as a fully fledged enterprise took place in relation to two important definitions of the Magisterium of the Church. The first was the definition at the Fourth Lateran Council in the year 1215, that the universe was created out of nothing at the beginning of time. The second magisterial statement was at the local level, enunciated by Bishop Stephen Tempier of Paris who, on March 7, 1277, condemned 219 Aristotelian propositions, so outlawing the deterministic and necessitarian views of creation.
    These statements of the teaching authority of the Church expressed an atmosphere in which faith in God had penetrated the medieval culture and given rise to philosophical consequences. The cosmos was seen as contingent in its existence and thus dependent on a divine choice which called it into being; the universe is also contingent in its nature and so God was free to create this particular form of world among an infinity of other possibilities. Thus the cosmos cannot be a necessary form of existence; and so it has to be approached by a posteriori investigation. The universe is also rational and so a coherent discourse can be made about it. Indeed the contingency and rationality of the cosmos are like two pillars supporting the Christian vision of the cosmos.
    http://www.scifiwright.com/201.....revisited/

  290. 290
    Vaal says:

    StephenB,

    I’m afraid you are not reading me carefully enough, and this is leading you to continually re-assert the same false dichotomy, strawmanning my position while adding question begging.

    Remember: we are debating the nature of love at the moment. I’m thus far rejecting your concept of love, and arguing for mine. (Each time I show why my version is more coherent and morally consistent than yours).

    Therefore when you demand this: “Please take one position or the other: Agape love requires action or Agape love does not require action.”… you are begging the question – taking the position that Love must be your concept of “agape” love, when that is EXACTLY what I’m arguing against.

    Ok, on to putting out the fire in the straw man.

    “You are in self-contradiction: Your position is:
    [a] Love requires action:
    [b] Love does not require action.

    The first is your premise, not mine. Neither premise captures specifically what I’ve argued. Look more carefully at what I wrote. I’ll add emphasis:

    Vaal: I’m saying that Love (X) has implications for possible scenarios (Y) of loved ones being in peril – e.g. it predicts certain outcomes/actions IF scenario Y occurred. But the fact of my love does not entail the existence of Y – the actualization of my loved ones coming into peril.

    See those carefully chosen words “implications for” and “predicts?” Notice they do not say “obligate” or “require?” Remember my appeal to the common usage of “love” (dictionary definitions) as describing an emotional, mental disposition toward another person? Notice how they do not mention “require” and other such language of obligation? See where you are drawing false assumptions in your claim of spotting a contradiction? If I need to lay this out further…

    I have explicitly rejected that love “requires” action in the form of “physical peril and sacrificial action. ”

    And I reject the concept that love “requires” action in the sense of an obligation. Love, in my view is not moral obligation. It is a mental attitude i.e. “an intense feeling of deep affection.” It therefore has implications for – PREDICTS – how someone in love would likely act in various situations, but it is not itself a form of “requirement” or “obligation.” That I love my wife suggests, predicts, I would save her in peril. But it is itself not the obligation (the obligation comes from morality). Just as someone being scared of snakes may predict their behavior when in the presence of snakes, but it is not an “obligation” that they act that way in the presence of snakes.

    Nor can we be, on this view, “morally obligated to love.” Because as anyone knows, love (again as the word is commonly used) is not something one is entirely in control of, and you can not just “love” someone – feel deep affection – on command. Love can be encouraged, to the extent anyone can widen their affection for others. But to command as obligatory something that is not possible for us, is irrational and incoherent. Moral obligation, on the other hand, gets across this problem as it directs us to moral action, and acting for the welfare of others *whether we can summon feelings of love while we do it or not.*

    These are some of the reasons to keep the concept of “love” carefully distinguished from moral obligation. From conjoining it to moral-like “demands for action.” It is good to love because love will motivate moral action, but it is not the obligation itself. Again: Morality will recommend action to help someone *whether someone can summon feelings of affection/love or not!” (Which is one of several reasons I’m giving to reject your concept of love).

    So you have still got it wrong. I do not say love requires action in the sense of obligation. And I reject that love requires the SPECIFIC types of actions or scenarios we’ve been discussing. It does NOT require the loved one to be put in physical peril in order for love to exist or be demonstrated.
    Love only *predicts* such actions because you care for a person and wouldn’t want them to suffer.
    But “requirement/obligation” is the domain of morality.

  291. 291
    Vaal says:

    StephenB,

    Re Heaven being a place where love is experienced in the absence of peril

    Now that I have explained to you three times that the Christian view of heaven is not like that, and that my view is not like that,

    Not the case. I have described the typical Christian conception of heaven correctly. Christians are to love God/Jesus with all their heart, and in heaven will be joined with this God Of Love in an eternal relationship. As opposed to this wretched earth full of sin, our affections and thoughts contaminated by sin and base impulses, joining God in His realm is generally held to be a vastly higher, more desirable level of existence, of bliss, joy, love. Being in Heaven is the end game, this is purportedly the BEST POSSIBLE STATE OF AFFAIRS to be in, and that state of affairs is one in which love exists without suffering, evil and peril.

    You can not deny this as substantially accurate characterization of the Christian heaven.
    You’ve even said yourself there will be no moral dilemmas or temptations in heaven…and yet there will be love.

    You HAVE made the claim that God requires us to pass a “test” to get into heaven, and that on this view love is something that must “pass this test” through demonstrations of peril and sacrifice. But I’ve been QUESTIONING that premise on the grounds of everyday, moral consistency! So you can’t just assert it as if it makes your position compelling or coherent. As I said, I’ve explained why, appealing to our moral sentiments on earth, this demand is actually screwed up and leads to immoral ideas – e.g. that my being in love with my family can not suffices as “love” or be good in of itself – that you or your God demand it be accompanied by peril, suffering, sacrifice. That’s screwed up big time and I see every reason to reject it.

    (BTW, I’m feeling like I’ve spent enough time here and likely will be on my way….)

    Thank you.

  292. 292
    Vaal says:

    Ben,

    The way I like to put it is that life after death is indistinguishable from life before birth.

    If you’re not distressed at the fact that you weren’t alive for the first baker’s dozen billion years after the Big Bang, you shouldn’t be any more distressed at the fact that you won’t be alive either for the next baker’s dozen billion years and more.

    b&

    Ben, not that I can tell you what type of thoughts console you. But for me the logic of that has never really worked to address the real worries about death.

    (Putting aside for now the worries about the pain of dying)

    True, if speaking only of the states of our non existence before and after death, they are equivalent.

    But they are not equivalent to us NOW while we are alive, and it is the distress NOW while we are alive that we are looking to alleviate. And from the perspective while we are alive, death has significantly different implications than before we existed. Before we existed, we never had any desires feelings or goals. NOW we do. And death will mean that some of our desires and goals may/will go unfulfilled. For instance I hope to live long enough to see my kids at least become independent and to be able to leave some substantial money to contribute to their well being after I’m gone. Dying early threatens the fulfillment of those goals.
    That’s entirely different than before I was born and had no goals to fulfill.
    To say “but when you are dead, even if you leave your kids destitute you won’t be bothered then about it any more than before you were born” would miss the point.
    We are talking about what thoughts ought to console us NOW while we are alive,
    and the thought that I will feel nothing when dead does nothing to console whatever worries I have NOW about dying and it’s implications for my kid’s future, etc.

    (I think there are ways to be somewhat accepting about death, but that particular meme doesn’t do it for me).

    Cheers,

    (See folks, us atheists aren’t in lock step agreement on everything).

  293. 293
    Vaal says:

    Box,

    I appreciate the link. However, it leads me to all the same old arguments that I have never found to be convincing. (I’m around 30 years or so into my interest in philosophy, philosophy of religion, philosophy of science etc, so it’s rare to encounter a new argument, though I love it when it happens).

    “Would you like ‘another’ God to exist? Can you think of a God that would be ‘ideal’?’

    I can imagine a different God existing that I would much prefer existed vs the Abrahamic God. I don’t need to be able to come up with the “ideal” version to be able to image a better more desirable version IMO.

    Off the top of my head, I’ll propose a rather modest version of God with features I’d prefer if He existed: A God who substantially reduces suffering in the world by ridding us of earthquakes, major catastrophic diseases, birth defects, cancer etc. Basically, all the things humans are working on reducing or combatting because we agree life would be better for more people without them. Providing a world where we are not distracted from our flourishing by such horrors and afflictions. (And before someone wants to say “but if you remove X then it may have bad unintended effects on the ecosystem or whatever, I am talking about a God powerful enough to do anything logically possible. Those would be contingent facts under his control and hence God could achieve these good results without contingently-based compromises). God would be actually fair and Just and compassionate, without fits of murderous, avenging pique. Heaven would be an option for anyone who desire it (and if it’s great up there, surely everyone will desire it).
    God would be EVIDENT to all and available for consultation or consolation, rather than the hidden peek-a-boo Christian God who has left the world in religious confusion, and cries of “where is God?” when people pray into the emptiness.

    I’m not particularly a fan of “eternity” so I would prefer the option to opt out should I desire.

    That kind of God would be immediately better than the Christian God IMO.

    (BTW, I decided to contemplate how this God would change the world as we find it, vs talking of a world that such a God might originally have created).

  294. 294
    Andre says:

    Vaal

    Each time I show why my version is more coherent and morally consistent than yours

    In the absence of any objective love how is subjective love more consistent? This has got to be the most incoherent illogical and unreasonable statement I’ve ever read from an atheist, proclaim that subjective morals are consistent…..

    Do you even know what subjective means?

    meaning;

    Subjective is the opposite of objective, which refers to things that are more clear-cut. That Earth has one moon is objective — it’s a fact. Whether the moon is pretty or not is subjective — not everyone will agree. Facts are objective, but opinions are subjective.

    So please help me here how on Gods green earth is your subjective love more consistent than objective love? The puniness of the atheist logic is breathtaking!

  295. 295
    Andre says:

    Vaal

    “I’m not particularly a fan of “eternity” so I would prefer the option to opt out should I desire.

    Newsflash sugar! That is exactly why you are here, to opt in or opt out! As we say in our daily prayer “Thy will be done” God will say to you one of these days “Thy will be done”

  296. 296
    Andre says:

    Vaal

    I appreciate the link. However, it leads me to all the same old arguments that I have never found to be convincing. (I’m around 30 years or so into my interest in philosophy, philosophy of religion, philosophy of science etc, so it’s rare to encounter a new argument, though I love it when it happens).

    Really the evidence is not convincing? What would make it convincing?

  297. 297
    Mung says:

    Aleta: Religious beliefs are stories.

    So?

    People say the same thing about scientific explanations, especially evolutionary ones.

  298. 298
    Ben Goren says:

    Why do you care? If there is no rhyme or reason for the universe your caring about it is what’s incoherent. Can you give me a single reason for your caring?

    Andre, why should I need a reason to care? Is it not enough simply that I do?

    Of course, there are some powerful incentives to care. If I just lay in bed paralyzed from existential angst, I’ll be miserable and starve. If I commit suicide, I’ll miss out on an awful lot of really neat stuff. What’s the point in either? And, for better or ill, we are each the product of billions of generations of organisms that survived; as such we wouldn’t be here were there not something in our ancestry that drove individuals towards survival — the ones who lacked such a drive didn’t survive to have descendants.

    But, again; all that’s moot. I’m eager to find out what comes next. What more could I possibly need, even in theory?

    b&

  299. 299
    Ben Goren says:

    Vaal, I, too, give some thought for leaving the world a better place than I found it. If nothing else, it seems only fair. But once I’ve drawn my last breath, It’ll be somebody else’s problem. I can do my best while I live, but there’s no point in worrying past that.

    b&

  300. 300
    Ben Goren says:

    bornagain77, everything you wrote about how the mind can’t possibly be the product of the brain was rendered moot with the invention of beer…and became completely insupportable when that railroad spike shot through Phineas Gage’s head. And everything we now know about physics and information theory only confirms it; for cognition to be anything else, all of physics would have to be thrown out.

    You can offer all the incredulity you like…eppur si muove.

    b&

  301. 301
    Mung says:

    Ben Goren: why should I need a reason to care? Is it not enough simply that I do?

    What’s the point of your presence here at UD, if there is any?

    Why should you need a reason. You don’t need a reason.

  302. 302
    Mapou says:

    Goren:

    bornagain77, everything you wrote about how the mind can’t possibly be the product of the brain was rendered moot with the invention of beer…and became completely insupportable when that railroad spike shot through Phineas Gage’s head.

    I’m a Christian and I fully agree that there can’t be no mind without a brain. The brain is what provides the actual intelligence. Although it is not sufficient for mind. There are no colors (and other qualia) in the brain. Claiming otherwise is pseudoscience.

    BA77 has been preaching his doctrine of the mind being 100% non-physical but it’s a false doctrine, one that originates from medieval Catholic thinkers and others.

    And everything we now know about physics and information theory only confirms it; for cognition to be anything else, all of physics would have to be thrown out.

    Physics may explain the brain but not the entire mind.

  303. 303
    Andre says:

    Ben Goren

    Andre, why should I need a reason to care? Is it not enough simply that I do?

    No its not, what makes you care? Ever heard of a very simple thing called cause and effect, foundational to this universe…… What caused you to care? Don’t you want to know?

    Vaal, I, too, give some thought for leaving the world a better place than I found it.

    Does the world care about you? Why would you care about something that has no interest in you?

  304. 304
    Andre says:

    Ben

    Of course, there are some powerful incentives to care.

    List them please?

  305. 305
    Box says:

    Vaal: I appreciate the link. However, it leads me to all the same old arguments that I have never found to be convincing. (I’m around 30 years or so into my interest in philosophy, philosophy of religion, philosophy of science etc, so it’s rare to encounter a new argument, though I love it when it happens).

    Atheists, such as yourself, are capable of extraordinary skepticism. Only in the last couple of weeks I have witnessed several atheists expressing their doubts about the validity of law of identity — the first of the three classical laws of thought: “A=A”.

    HOWEVER atheists are somehow totally convinced by some argument that God does not exist. And after all these years I haven’t found out what that argument is.
    If successful, the argument from evil proves that (the Christian) God is not a thoroughly nice guy, but doesn’t prove His non-existence.
    For me the argument from evil — uttered by people who according to their position cannot ground a single bit of morality — contrasted with the evidence in favor of God, isn’t impressive at all. Moreover, by not being a Christian, I don’t see how concerns wrt to “hell” and “omnibenevolence” and so forth are related to the existence of God.
    So why is it so convincing for atheists who are more prone to skepticism than I?
    Maybe I have missed something. Are there any positive arguments for the strong “there is no God” position? If so, what are they?

  306. 306
    StephenB says:

    Vaal

    Nor can we be, on this view, “morally obligated to love.” Because as anyone knows, love (again as the word is commonly used) is not something one is entirely in control of, and you can not just “love” someone – feel deep affection – on command. Love can be encouraged, to the extent anyone can widen their affection for others. But to command as obligatory something that is not possible for us, is irrational and incoherent. Moral obligation, on the other hand, gets across this problem as it directs us to moral action, and acting for the welfare of others *whether we can summon feelings of love while we do it or not.*

    What you have described is not agape love, which is, by definition, self sacrificial in nature. Agape love is something we can, with moral exertion, control because it is based on the power of decision. Recall, that we are discussing the notion of Christian love, not the dictionary definition of love as a “feeling.” Christian love is not based on feelings. Your definition of love requires no moral exertion and is easy to practice.

    Christian love is not easy to practice. No one feels like loving their enemies. No one feels like taking care of their elderly, at least not at first. No one feels like saying no to illicit sexual behavior. No one feels like suppressing anger. No one feels like avoiding gossip. In every case, it requires moral exertion to practice agape love. Yet Christian love entails all these things and more.

    The Son of God did not allow himself to be mocked, scourged, and crucified because he felt like it. Nevertheless, these were profound acts of love that were not prompted by any kind of a “moral obligation.” You have come here to criticize Christianity, yet you appear to know little about it.

    According to the Christian doctrine, we can decide to love people that we don’t like or those for whom we do not have good feelings. Not every Christian lives up to that standard, of course, but that is irrelevant because you are criticizing Christianity as a world view. Thus, you are obligated, for purposes of clarity, to use the Christian vocabulary of love, not the dictionary definition.

  307. 307
    StephenB says:

    Vaal

    I have described the typical Christian conception of heaven correctly. Christians are to love God/Jesus with all their heart, and in heaven will be joined with this God Of Love in an eternal relationship. As opposed to this wretched earth full of sin, our affections and thoughts contaminated by sin and base impulses, joining God in His realm is generally held to be a vastly higher, more desirable level of existence, of bliss, joy, love. Being in Heaven is the end game, this is purportedly the BEST POSSIBLE STATE OF AFFAIRS to be in, and that state of affairs is one in which love exists without suffering, evil and peril.

    Of course No one has said otherwise. Certainly not me.

    You HAVE made the claim that God requires us to pass a “test” to get into heaven, and that on this view love is something that must “pass this test” through demonstrations of peril and sacrifice.

    That is absolutely correct.

    But I’ve been QUESTIONING that premise on the grounds of everyday, moral consistency! So you can’t just assert it as if it makes your position compelling or coherent.

    TThere is no inconsistency about it at all.

    As I said, I’ve explained why, appealing to our moral sentiments on earth, this demand is actually screwed up and leads to immoral ideas – e.g. that my being in love with my family can not suffices as “love” or be good in of itself – that you or your God demand it be accompanied by peril, suffering, sacrifice. That’s screwed up big time and I see every reason to reject it.

    This demand is inherent in every human act. This world is full of temptations to do evil things. Your notions of love are unrealistic because they do not take that fact into account. You say that feelings of love will “predict” acts of love. Notice, that you didn’t say that they guarantee acts of love. That is because feelings can mislead us and even cause us to be very unloving. On a daily basis, those feelings of love are in competition with many other feelings that can be even more compelling. If those other feelings win the day, then feelings of love fail to produce acts of love. In other words, feelings of love, undisciplined by the conviction that other feelings must be suppressed, will lead to unloving actions. Thus, agape love will, through decision and discipline, supported by grace, will conquer those other destructive feelings, It is only by deciding to love in spite of our feelings, that we can perform loving Actions. Thus, we are tested every moment of the day. Will we do the right thing, or will our feelings win the day. We can win that fight only by overcoming evil, which requires suffering. Agape love is inseparable from suffering. Feelings of love are easy. They come and go. Those who live by their feelings will not overcome their evil instincts, which means that they will fail at love, in this life—and the next.

    (BTW, I’m feeling like I’ve spent enough time here and likely will be on my way….)

    Thank you.

    I believe our last round was more fruitful than the preceding rounds. Thank you.

  308. 308
    bornagain77 says:

    Ben Goren at 300, Hmmmm, hello, hard problem?

    David Chalmers on Consciousness (Philosophical Zombies and the Hard Problem) – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK1Yo6VbRoo

    Ben Goren at 300, claims the hard problem of consciousness is no problem at all because of,,,

    bornagain77, everything you wrote about how the mind can’t possibly be the product of the brain was rendered moot with the invention of beer…and became completely insupportable when that railroad spike shot through Phineas Gage’s head.

    Well I guess that does it folks. You guys heard it from Ben Goren himself. Railroad spikes and beer explains the hard problem of consciousness, i.e. explains the mind, i.e. explains ‘you’.
    But something tells me that Ben Goren is missing something very important in trying to explain away the hard problem of consciousness with railroad spikes and beer. (Moreover, I think that perhaps Ben Goren should have stayed away from the all night beer parties in college where he apparently learned most of his current debating techniques).

    As to the tired chestnut of Phineas Gage’s railroad spike, that chestnut is refuted at the 7:00 minute mark of the following video:

    The Case for the Soul (Neuroscience) – video
    https://youtu.be/oBsI_ay8K70?t=420

    As well, 4:03 minute mark of the preceding video, and completely contrary to materialistic thought, ‘Brain Plasticity’ to a person’s focused intention has now been firmly established by Jeffrey Schwartz, as well as among other researchers.
    Moreover, completely contrary to materialistic thought, mind has been now been shown to be able to reach all the way down and have pronounced effects on the gene expression of our bodies:

    Scientists Finally Show How Your Thoughts Can Cause Specific Molecular Changes To Your Genes, – December 10, 2013
    Excerpt: “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that shows rapid alterations in gene expression within subjects associated with mindfulness meditation practice,” says study author Richard J. Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds and the William James and Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
    “Most interestingly, the changes were observed in genes that are the current targets of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs,” says Perla Kaliman, first author of the article and a researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona, Spain (IIBB-CSIC-IDIBAPS), where the molecular analyses were conducted.,,,
    the researchers say, there was no difference in the tested genes between the two groups of people at the start of the study. The observed effects were seen only in the meditators following mindfulness practice. In addition, several other DNA-modifying genes showed no differences between groups, suggesting that the mindfulness practice specifically affected certain regulatory pathways.
    http://www.tunedbody.com/scien.....ges-genes/

    Despite Goren’s self assurance that railroad spikes and beer explains (away) the hard problem of consciousness, no one, and I repeat no one, not even drunken college freshmen and sophomores, have a clue how anything material can possibly be consciousness.
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientist Sebastian Seung makes this clear in his book “Connectome,” saying:

    “Every day we recall the past, perceive the present and imagine the future. How do our brains accomplish these feats? It’s safe to say that nobody really knows.”

    There is simply no direct evidence that anything material is capable of generating consciousness. As Rutgers University philosopher Jerry Fodor says,

    “Nobody has the slightest idea how anything material could be conscious. Nobody even knows what it would be like to have the slightest idea about how anything material could be conscious. So much for the philosophy of consciousness. Regardless of our knowledge of the structure of the brain, no one has any idea how the brain could possibly generate conscious experience.”

    As Nobel neurophysiologist Roger Sperry wrote,

    “Those centermost processes of the brain with which consciousness is presumably associated are simply not understood. They are so far beyond our comprehension at present that no one I know of has been able even to imagine their nature.”

    From modern physics, Nobel prize-winner Eugene Wigner agreed:

    “We have at present not even the vaguest idea how to connect the physio-chemical processes with the state of mind.”

    Contemporary physicist Nick Herbert states,

    “Science’s biggest mystery is the nature of consciousness. It is not that we possess bad or imperfect theories of human awareness; we simply have no such theories at all. About all we know about consciousness is that it has something to do with the head, rather than the foot.”

    Physician and author Larry Dossey wrote:

    “No experiment has ever demonstrated the genesis of consciousness from matter. One might as well believe that rabbits emerge from magicians’ hats. Yet this vaporous possibility, this neuro-mythology, has enchanted generations of gullible scientists, in spite of the fact that there is not a shred of direct evidence to support it.”

    But alas, what could they possibly know, railroad spikes and beer explains it all! Just ask Ben Goren. 🙂

    The ever wise Ben Goren goes on to inform us that,,,

    “And everything we now know about physics and information theory only confirms it; for cognition to be anything else, all of physics would have to be thrown out.”

    That statement is so wrong that it is, sans Pauli, ‘not even wrong’.

    If anything, everything we now know about physics and information theory now confirms the primacy of consciousness to reality.

    “No, I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”
    Max Planck (1858–1947), the originator of quantum theory, The Observer, London, January 25, 1931

    “Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental. It cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else.”
    (Schroedinger, Erwin. 1984. “General Scientific and Popular Papers,” in Collected Papers, Vol. 4. Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences. Friedr. Vieweg & Sohn, Braunschweig/Wiesbaden. p. 334.)

    “It was not possible to formulate the laws (of quantum theory) in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.”
    Eugene Wigner (1902 -1995) from his collection of essays “Symmetries and Reflections – Scientific Essays”;

    “It will remain remarkable, in whatever way our future concepts may develop, that the very study of the external world led to the scientific conclusion that the content of the consciousness is the ultimate universal reality” –
    Eugene Wigner – (Remarks on the Mind-Body Question, Eugene Wigner, in Wheeler and Zurek, p.169) 1961

    Eugene Wigner laid the foundation for the theory of symmetries in quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963. Moreover, his insights into quantum mechanics are now driving a ‘second quantum revolution’:

    Eugene Wigner – A Gedanken Pioneer of the Second Quantum Revolution – Anton Zeilinger – Sept. 2014
    Conclusion
    It would be fascinating to know Eugene Wigner’s reaction to the fact that the gedanken experiments he discussed (in 1963 and 1970) have not only become reality, but building on his gedanken experiments, new ideas have developed which on the one hand probe the foundations of quantum mechanics even deeper, and which on the other hand also provide the foundations to the new field of quantum information technology. All these experiments pay homage to the great insight Wigner expressed in developing these gedanken experiments and in his analyses of the foundations of quantum mechanics,
    http://epjwoc.epj.org/articles....._01010.pdf

    Thus, since Wigner’s insights into the foundational role of the ‘conscious observer’ in Quantum Mechanics are bearing fruit with a ‘Second Quantum Revolution’, then that is certainly very strong evidence that his ‘consciousness’ insights are indeed true.

    As well, Dean Radin, who spent years at Princeton testing different aspects of consciousness, recently performed experiments testing the possible role of consciousness in the double slit. His results were, not so surprisingly, very supportive of consciousness’s central role in the experiment:

    Consciousness and the double-slit interference pattern: six experiments – Radin – 2012
    Abstract: A double-slit optical system was used to test the possible role of consciousness in the collapse of the quantum wavefunction. The ratio of the interference pattern’s double-slit spectral power to its single-slit spectral power was predicted to decrease when attention was focused toward the double slit as compared to away from it. Each test session consisted of 40 counterbalanced attention-toward and attention-away epochs, where each epoch lasted between 15 and 30 s(seconds). Data contributed by 137 people in six experiments, involving a total of 250 test sessions, indicate that on average the spectral ratio decreased as predicted (z = -4:36, p = 6·10^-6). Another 250 control sessions conducted without observers present tested hardware, software, and analytical procedures for potential artifacts; none were identified (z = 0:43, p = 0:67). Variables including temperature, vibration, and signal drift were also tested, and no spurious influences were identified. By contrast, factors associated with consciousness, such as meditation experience, electrocortical markers of focused attention, and psychological factors including openness and absorption, significantly correlated in predicted ways with perturbations in the double-slit interference pattern. The results appear to be consistent with a consciousness-related interpretation of the quantum measurement problem.
    http://www.deanradin.com/paper.....0final.pdf

    Psychophysical (i.e., mind–matter) interactions with a double-slit interference pattern –
    Dean Radin, Leena Michel, James Johnston, and Arnaud Delorme – December 2013
    Abstract: Previously reported experiments suggested that interference patterns generated by a double-slit optical system were perturbed by a psychophysical (i.e., mind–matter) interaction. Three new experiments were conducted to further investigate this phenomenon. The first study consisted of 50 half-hour test sessions where participants concentrated their attention-toward or -away from a double-slit system located 3 m away. The spectral magnitude and phase associated with the double-slit component of the interference pattern were compared between the two attention conditions, and the combined results provided evidence for an interaction,,,. One hundred control sessions using the same equipment, protocol and analysis, but without participants present, showed no effect,,,.
    The second experiment used a duplicate double-slit system and similar test protocol, but it was conducted over the Internet by streaming data to participants’ web browsers. Some 685 people from six continents contributed 2089 experimental sessions. Results were similar to those observed in the first experiment, but smaller in magnitude,,,. Data from 2303 control sessions, conducted automatically every 2 h using the same equipment but without observers showed no effect. Distance between participants and the optical system, ranging from 1 km to 18,000 km, showed no correlation with experimental effect size. The third experiment used a newly designed double-slit system, a revised test protocol, and a simpler method of statistical analysis. Twenty sessions contributed by 10 participants successfully replicated the interaction effect observed in the first two studies.
    http://deanradin.com/evidence/.....ys2013.pdf

    Shoot 3-D material reality, as we experience it, does not even exist without conscious observation:

    Reality doesn’t exist until we measure it, (Delayed Choice) quantum experiment confirms –
    Mind = blown. – FIONA MACDONALD – 1 JUN 2015
    Excerpt: “It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,” lead researcher and physicist Andrew Truscott said in a press release.
    http://www.sciencealert.com/re.....t-confirms

    New Mind-blowing Experiment Confirms That Reality Doesn’t Exist If You Are Not Looking at It – June 3, 2015
    Excerpt: The results of the Australian scientists’ experiment, which were published in the journal Nature Physics, show that this choice is determined by the way the object is measured, which is in accordance with what quantum theory predicts.
    “It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,” said lead researcher Dr. Andrew Truscott in a press release.,,,
    “The atoms did not travel from A to B. It was only when they were measured at the end of the journey that their wave-like or particle-like behavior was brought into existence,” he said.
    Thus, this experiment adds to the validity of the quantum theory and provides new evidence to the idea that reality doesn’t exist without an observer.
    http://themindunleashed.org/20.....at-it.html

    As to information theory, and Goren’s drunken college freshman claim that information theory somehow explains consciousness, all I can say is, Goren, please step away from the beer keg nozzle.

    Sentient robots? Not possible if you do the maths – 13 May 2014
    Over the past decade, Giulio Tononi at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his colleagues have developed a mathematical framework for consciousness that has become one of the most influential theories in the field. According to their model, the ability to integrate information is a key property of consciousness. ,,,
    But there is a catch, argues Phil Maguire at the National University of Ireland in Maynooth. He points to a computational device called the XOR logic gate, which involves two inputs, A and B. The output of the gate is “1” if A and B are the same and “0” if A and B are different. In this scenario, it is impossible to predict the output based on A or B alone – you need both.
    Crucially, this type of integration requires loss of information, says Maguire: “You have put in two bits, and you get one out. If the brain integrated information in this fashion, it would have to be continuously haemorrhaging information.”,,,
    Based on this definition, Maguire and his team have shown mathematically that computers can’t handle any process that integrates information completely. If you accept that consciousness is based on total integration, then computers can’t be conscious.
    http://www.newscientist.com/ar.....3LD5ChuqCe

  309. 309
    bornagain77 says:

    Algorithmic Information Theory, Free Will and the Turing Test – Douglas S. Robertson
    Excerpt: Chaitin’s Algorithmic Information Theory shows that information is conserved under formal mathematical operations and, equivalently, under computer operations. This conservation law puts a new perspective on many familiar problems related to artificial intelligence. For example, the famous “Turing test” for artificial intelligence could be defeated by simply asking for a new axiom in mathematics. Human mathematicians are able to create axioms, but a computer program cannot do this without violating information conservation. Creating new axioms and free will are shown to be different aspects of the same phenomena: the creation of new information.
    http://cires.colorado.edu/~dou...../info8.pdf

    Evolutionary Computing: The Invisible Hand of Intelligence – June 17, 2015
    Excerpt: William Dembski and Robert Marks have shown that no evolutionary algorithm is superior to blind search — unless information is added from an intelligent cause, which means it is not, in the Darwinian sense, an evolutionary algorithm after all. This mathematically proven law, based on the accepted No Free Lunch Theorems, seems to be lost on the champions of evolutionary computing. Researchers keep confusing an evolutionary algorithm (a form of artificial selection) with “natural evolution.” ,,,
    Marks and Dembski account for the invisible hand required in evolutionary computing. The Lab’s website states, “The principal theme of the lab’s research is teasing apart the respective roles of internally generated and externally applied information in the performance of evolutionary systems.” So yes, systems can evolve, but when they appear to solve a problem (such as generating complex specified information or reaching a sufficiently narrow predefined target), intelligence can be shown to be active. Any internally generated information is conserved or degraded by the law of Conservation of Information.,,,
    What Marks and Dembski prove is as scientifically valid and relevant as Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem in mathematics. You can’t prove a system of mathematics from within the system, and you can’t derive an information-rich pattern from within the pattern.,,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....96931.html

    Goren, to remove all doubt that he is a drunken college freshman trying to impress his sophomore brethren, then states the “And yet it moves” phrase from Galileo:

    You can offer all the incredulity you like…eppur si muove.

    And so it does move Goren. Perhaps when you sober up tomorrow you would like to tell us exactly how ‘it’ moves?

    A Professor’s Journey out of Nihilism: Why I am not an Atheist – University of Wyoming – J. Budziszewski
    Excerpt page12: “There were two great holes in the argument about the irrelevance of God. The first is that in order to attack free will, I supposed that I understood cause and effect; I supposed causation to be less mysterious than volition.
    If anything, it is the other way around. I can perceive a logical connection between premises and valid conclusions. I can perceive at least a rational connection between my willing to do something and my doing it. But between the apple and the earth, I can perceive no connection at all. Why does the apple fall? We don’t know. “But there is gravity,” you say. No, “gravity” is merely the name of the phenomenon, not its explanation. “But there are laws of gravity,” you say. No, the “laws” are not its explanation either; they are merely a more precise description of the thing to be explained, which remains as mysterious as before. For just this reason, philosophers of science are shy of the term “laws”; they prefer “lawlike regularities.” To call the equations of gravity “laws” and speak of the apple as “obeying” them is to speak as though, like the traffic laws, the “laws” of gravity are addressed to rational agents capable of conforming their wills to the command. This is cheating, because it makes mechanical causality (the more opaque of the two phenomena) seem like volition (the less). In my own way of thinking the cheating was even graver, because I attacked the less opaque in the name of the more.
    The other hole in my reasoning was cruder. If my imprisonment in a blind causality made my reasoning so unreliable that I couldn’t trust my beliefs, then by the same token I shouldn’t have trusted my beliefs about imprisonment in a blind causality. But in that case I had no business denying free will in the first place.”
    http://www.undergroundthomist......theist.pdf

    Aquinas’ First Way – (The First Mover – Unmoved Mover) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qmpw0_w27As

    Aquinas’ First Way
    1) Change in nature is elevation of potency to act.
    2) Potency cannot actualize itself, because it does not exist actually.
    3) Potency must be actualized by another, which is itself in act.
    4) Essentially ordered series of causes (elevations of potency to act) exist in nature.
    5) An essentially ordered series of elevations from potency to act cannot be in infinite regress, because the series must be actualized by something that is itself in act without the need for elevation from potency.
    6) The ground of an essentially ordered series of elevations from potency to act must be pure act with respect to the casual series.
    7) This Pure Act– Prime Mover– is what we call God.
    http://egnorance.blogspot.com/.....t-way.html

    Or to put it much more simply:

    “The ‘First Mover’ is necessary for change occurring at each moment.”
    Michael Egnor – Aquinas’ First Way
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....first.html

    And in confirmation of this ancient ‘first mover’ argument, in the following video Anton Zeilinger, whose group is arguably the best group of experimentalists in quantum physics today, ‘tries’ to explain the double slit experiment to Morgan Freeman:

    Quantum Mechanics – Double Slit Experiment. Is anything real? (Prof. Anton Zeilinger) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayvbKafw2g0

    Prof. Anton Zeilinger makes this rather startling statement in the preceding video that meshes perfectly with the ‘first mover argument’::

    “The path taken by the photon is not an element of reality. We are not allowed to talk about the photon passing through this or this slit. Neither are we allowed to say the photon passes through both slits. All this kind of language is not applicable.”
    Anton Zeilinger

    If that was not enough to get his point across, at the 4:12 minute mark in this following video,,,

    Prof Anton Zeilinger Shows the Double-slit Experiment – video
    http://www.dailymotion.com/vid.....iment_tech

    Professor Zeilinger states,,,

    “We know what the particle is doing at the source when it is created. We know what it is doing at the detector when it is registered. But we do not know what it is doing in-between.”
    Anton Zeilinger

    And if that was not enough to get the ‘unmoved mover’ point across, in Quantum Electrodynamics, arguably the most stringently, and accurately, tested theory in science today, we have these following comments

    Quantum Electrodynamics
    The key components of Feynman’s presentation of QED are three ba