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Religious fervor or mental illness: SciAM guest blogger wonders how to tell

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From physician Nathaniel P. Morris at Scientific American:

Take an example of a man who walks into an emergency department, mumbling incoherently. He says he’s hearing voices in his head, but insists there’s nothing wrong with him. He hasn’t used any drugs or alcohol. If he were to be evaluated by mental health professionals, there’s a good chance he might be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia.

But what if that same man were deeply religious? What if his incomprehensible language was speaking in tongues? If he could hear Jesus speaking to him? He might also insist nothing were wrong with him. After all, he’s practicing his faith.

It’s not just the ambiguities of mental health diagnoses that create this problem—the vague nature of how we define religion further complicates matters. More.

Actually it is quite easy to tell: The outcome in the person’s life. Persons who have had near-death experiences, for example, tend to focus more on relationships and less on acquisitions. While it is not possible to tell from the outside what exactly happened, a change that cannot be attributed to mental illness becomes evident. Consider the case of philosopher A. J. Ayers:

“Freddie became so much nicer after he died,” said Dee. “He was not nearly so boastful. He took an interest in other people.” Ayer also told the writer Edward St. Aubyn in France that he had had “a kind of resurrection” and for the first time in his life, he had begun to notice scenery. In France, on a mountain near his villa, he said, “I suddenly stopped and looked out at the sea and thought, my God, how beautiful this is … for 26 years I had never really looked at it before.”

What is also undeniably true — and has never been reported on — is that at the end of his life, Freddie spent more and more time with his former BBC debating opponent, the Jesuit priest and philosopher Frederick Copleston, who was at Freddie’s funeral at Golders Green crematorium.More.

See also: Templeton sets out to find the afterlife for $5 million

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96 Replies to “Religious fervor or mental illness: SciAM guest blogger wonders how to tell

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    In an article in “Scientific American” no less, and especially as ‘a physician specializing in mental health’, I think that Dr. Nathaniel P. Morris, in the interest of fairness, should have instead of just focusing on the outlier cases of mental illness among Christians, and also citing, of all people, Richard Dawkins to claim that religious belief is more or less delusional,,,

    In 2006, biologist Richard Dawkins published his book The God Delusion, in which he characterizes belief in God as delusional. Dawkins cites the definition of a delusion as “a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence, especially as a symptom of a psychiatric disorder.”

    I think that Dr. Nathaniel P. Morris, in the interest of fairness, should have instead also cited the ample ‘scientific’ evidence showing that religious belief, as far as mental health is concerned, to be much more beneficial than non-belief is:

    “, I maintain that whatever else faith may be, it cannot be a delusion.
    The advantageous effect of religious belief and spirituality on mental and physical health is one of the best-kept secrets in psychiatry and medicine generally. If the findings of the huge volume of research on this topic had gone in the opposite direction and it had been found that religion damages your mental health, it would have been front-page news in every newspaper in the land.”
    – Professor Andrew Sims former President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists – Is Faith Delusion?: Why religion is good for your health – preface

    “In the majority of studies, religious involvement is correlated with well-being, happiness and life satisfaction; hope and optimism; purpose and meaning in life; higher self-esteem; better adaptation to bereavement; greater social support and less loneliness; lower rates of depression and faster recovery from depression; lower rates of suicide and fewer positive attitudes towards suicide; less anxiety; less psychosis and fewer psychotic tendencies; lower rates of alcohol and drug use and abuse; less delinquency and criminal activity; greater marital stability and satisfaction… We concluded that for the vast majority of people the apparent benefits of devout belief and practice probably outweigh the risks.”
    – Professor Andrew Sims former President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists – Is Faith Delusion?: Why religion is good for your health – page 100
    https://books.google.com/books?id=PREdCgAAQBAJ&pg=PA100#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Is Christianity Evil? (Mental Benefits of Christianity – Meta-analysis, 8:24 minute mark) – 2014 video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=dgESPmh-TxY#t=504

    Atheism and health
    A meta-analysis of all studies, both published and unpublished, relating to religious involvement and longevity was carried out in 2000. Forty-two studies were included, involving some 126,000 subjects. Active religious involvement increased the chance of living longer by some 29%, and participation in public religious practices, such as church attendance, increased the chance of living longer by 43%.[4][5]
    http://www.conservapedia.com/Atheism_and_health

    As News alluded to, there is also scientific evidence showing that ‘Knowledge of the afterlife deters suicide’

    Knowledge of the afterlife deters suicide. Lessons From the Light by Kenneth Ring and Evelyn Elsaesser p.257-258:
    As far as I know, the first clinician to make use of NDE material in this context was a New York psychologist named John McDonagh. In 1979, he presented a paper at a psychological convention that described his success with several suicidal patients using a device he called “NDE bibliotherapy.” His “technique” was actually little more than having his patients read some relevant passages from Raymond Moody’s book, Reflections on Life after Life, after which the therapist and his patient would discuss its implications for the latter’s own situation. McDonagh reports that such an approach was generally quite successful not only in reducing suicidal thoughts but also in preventing the deed altogether.

    Since McDonagh’s pioneering efforts, other clinicians knowledgeable about the NDE who have had the opportunity to counsel suicidal patients have also reported similar success. Perhaps the most notable of these therapists is Bruce Greyson, a psychiatrist now at the University of Virginia, whose specialty as a clinician has been suicidology. He is also the author of a classic paper on NDEs and suicide which the specialist may wish to consult for its therapeutic implications. (14)
    Quite apart from the clinicians who have developed this form of what we might call “NDE-assisted therapy,” I can draw upon my own personal experience here to provide additional evidence of how the NDE has helped to deter suicide. The following case,,,
    http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/201.....lains.html

    And in the interest of alleviating depression by increasing belief in the afterlife, I reference former engineer turned Pastor John Burke’s research into over a thousand NDEs, and his video series interviewing Near Death survivors about their experiences from ‘the other side’

    Imagine Heaven – video series
    Description: John Burke has researched over a thousand accounts of people who have experienced life after death and come back to share their experience, as well as interviewed several in person. He’s researched what the Bible, scholars and experts have to say on the topic.
    Youtube playlist
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAx2w5l0LlY&list=PLy61gU5NWK15AZfCB_RurkltZQ_Ldm3w9

    Of related interest, whereas the secularist has no empirical evidence whatsoever confirming that the infinite multiverses postulated by cosmic inflation, or the ‘extra dimensions’ postulated by string theory, are real, the Christian Theist does not suffer from such a embarrassing lack of empirical verification for his belief in a higher heavenly dimension and in a hellish dimension.

    Specifically, the empirical evidence validating the Christian’s belief in a higher heavenly dimension, and in a hellish dimension, comes from two of our strongest, most verified, theories in science. i.e. From Special and General Relativity respectively:

    Special and General Relativity compared to Heavenly and Hellish Near Death Experiences
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbKELVHcvSI&list=PLtAP1KN7ahia8hmDlCYEKifQ8n65oNpQ5

    Verse:

    John 14:2-4
    In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go, ye know the way.

    Also in the interest of fairness, I think that Dr. Nathaniel P. Morris should have also at least briefly mentioned the outlier cases of anti-Christians, mostly Muslims and Atheists, who were psychopathic mass murderers since they greatly outnumber the number of outlier Christians who have committed psychopathic mass murders

    Atheism and Mass Murder
    http://www.conservapedia.com/A.....ass_Murder

    Young mass murderers
    http://www.conservapedia.com/Young_mass_murderers

    Here’s the TRUE Non-Politically Correct History of Islam’s Violence (believe it or not, Islam has been more violent than atheistic nations)
    http://thefederalistpapers.org.....s-violence

    Verse:

    John 10:7-8
    Beloved, let us love one another, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

  2. 2
    Origenes says:

    Take an example of a man who walks into an emergency department, mumbling incoherently. He says he …

    … does not exist. He says that his wife and children do not exist. He says that persons do not exist. He says that only fermions and bosons exist. He says that thoughts are not about anything. He says that no clump of matter is about another clump of matter.

    If he were to be evaluated by mental health professionals, there’s a good chance he might be diagnosed …

    … as … “non-delusional”?

  3. 3

    We have seen this many times before. Christians are delusional, they talk to an imaginary friend named Jesus, etc. This line of thinking is still marginalized, but if it ever becomes mainstream it could very well lead to persecution of Christians on a grand scale.

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    Those who are playing with the fire of the old Soviet strategy of corrupting psychiatry and categorising dissidents as insane (then pumping them full of mentally destructive drugs) would be wise to think again, and back off from playing with things like that.

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Since these skeptics wish to attack faith in God, especially Christian Faith, and typically in the name of evolutionary materialist scientism, I suggest they need to address three things on the merits adequately before reaching for the smear that Christians are borderline insane:

    I: The self-refuting, self falsifying, inherently delusional and amoral nature of evolutionary materialism (as in, is there any “you” really there to have credibly rational and especially ethical thoughts, on your own premises?);

    II: The worldviews-comparative difficulties challenge (as in, every worldview must stand on its own merits in the face of the big, hard questions); and,

    III: The core warrant for the historic Christian Faith, anchored on 500 eyewitnesses and life transformation of millions, often positively changing the course of history — as in, it is long since high time to move beyond one sided litanies of the real and imagined sins of Christendom and silly rhetoric about bronze age sky gods. (Don’t you even know the huuuuge worldviews difference between such common-g gods and the Supreme, maximally great, necessarily good and ontologically necessary self-existing Being and root of reality of ethical theism?)

    It seems, the shoe is on the other foot and the snide dismissiveness about invisible friends and hearing voices in the head backfires, bigtime.

    KF

    PS: ‘Fess up, when you think to yourself, or read or the like do you or do you not hear a “still, small voice” in your head? How do you come to the conscious self-awareness to hear that voice and understand it? For that matter when the person next to you speaks, how do you believe there is an independent, morally governed, responsible, rational self behind the mouth-noises [or scratches on a bit of paper]?

  6. 6
    Seversky says:

    Take an example of a man who walks into an emergency department, mumbling incoherently. He says he …

    … does not exist. He says that his wife and children do not exist. He says that persons do not exist. He says that only fermions and bosons exist. He says that thoughts are not about anything. He says that no clump of matter is about another clump of matter.

    Regardless of his mental state, he would, like so many here, be committing the fallacy of the single cause, per Wikipedia:

    The fallacy of the single cause, also known as complex cause, causal oversimplification, causal reductionism, and reduction fallacy, is a fallacy of questionable cause that occurs when it is assumed that there is a single, simple cause of an outcome when in reality it may have been caused by a number of only jointly …

    Yes, at one level human beings can be described as just bags of water and chemicals or, at another level, collections of fermions and bosons. Does that mean that is all they are? No, of course not. And atheist/materialists are just as well aware of that as you are. Do we have a step-by-step a/mat account of how a human being can be built from water and chemicals? No, we don’t and neither does anyone else, least of all believers. Christian creationists accept without difficulty that their God created the universe without having any knowledge – or apparently even curiosity – about how it was done at all. Perhaps it was all the work of some vast alien intelligence. That can’t be ruled out. But which approach is more likely to find out which is the case?

  7. 7
    Origenes says:

    Seversky: Yes, at one level human beings can be described as just bags of water and chemicals or, at another level, collections of fermions and bosons. Does that mean that is all they are? No, of course not.

    According to materialism, the answer to your question is “yes of course”.

    Seversky: And atheist/materialists are just as well aware of that as you are.

    No they are not. And you are well aware of the fact that they are not. Do you want the quotations that prove you wrong?

    Seversky: Do we have a step-by-step a/mat account of how a human being can be built from water and chemicals?

    Irrelevant. Materialism is an incoherent belief. The fact that it cannot be proved to be correct is irrelevant.

  8. 8
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Sev

    Do we have a step-by-step a/mat account of how a human being can be built from water and chemicals? No, we don’t and neither does anyone else, least of all believers.

    That is an honest (and striking) admission. The key term there is “can be”. That is, the a/mat account does not even know if it is possible. And yet, it is claimed as the default explanation.

    The second sentence is true also: believers do not have an a/mat account of how a human being can be built from water and chemicals either. Nobody does.

    But believers do have an account of how a human being “can be built” by an intelligent, transcendent power that can confer being from its own actuality. We do not know the mechanics of such an events, but we can know philosophically that it is possible.

    That power could be God directly, or it could be from creatures created by God (angels), or it could be sourced from alien beings. So all of those are possible, but they all refute the a/mat story that we are built entirely from unintelligent bosons and fermions (which is the a/mat story, nothing more).

  9. 9

    Materialism is a faith-based philosophical worldview/secular religion relying on “Darwin of the Gaps” to create the illusion of scientific plausibility. It is just an opinion, nothing more.

  10. 10
    Seversky says:

    Origenes @ 7

    According to materialism, the answer to your question is “yes of course”.

    That might be the answer to your strawmandered version of materialism but not to anyone who’s given it a moments thought.

    Seversky: And atheist/materialists are just as well aware of that as you are.

    No they are not. And you are well aware of the fact that they are not. Do you want the quotations that prove you wrong?

    Go ahead. Surprise me.

    Seversky: Do we have a step-by-step a/mat account of how a human being can be built from water and chemicals?

    Irrelevant. Materialism is an incoherent belief. The fact that it cannot be proved to be correct is irrelevant.

    The old version of materialism was shown to be inadequate by quantum theory. Which means it was a scientific claim, not metaphysics, according to naïve falsificationism.

  11. 11
    Seversky says:

    Dean_from_Ohio @ 10

    The scientific revolution is a gift of the Judeo-Christian world view and none other.

    No one is denying that science in Europe was fostered by religious institutions for a period or that most, if not all, of the great scientists of those times were believers to some extent.

    But if, as a Christian, you actually value truth above all things, then neither can you deny that, at various times, science has flourished in ancient China, India, Egypt, Greece and under Islam, all without the alleged benefits of the “Judeo-Christian world view”

    Truth over narrative, please.

    Exactly, even over the Judeo-Christian narrative.

  12. 12
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky:

    I think I need to point to J B S Haldane, turn of the 1930’s — yes THAT J B S Haldane:

    “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.” [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. Cf. here on (and esp here) on the self-refutation by self-falsifying self referential incoherence and on linked amorality.]

    Nancy Pearcey, in Finding Truth recently expands:

    A major way to test a philosophy or worldview is to ask: Is it logically consistent? Internal contradictions are fatal to any worldview because contradictory statements are necessarily false. “This circle is square” is contradictory, so it has to be false. An especially damaging form of contradiction is self-referential absurdity — which means a theory sets up a definition of truth that it itself fails to meet. Therefore it refutes itself . . . . An example of self-referential absurdity is a theory called evolutionary epistemology, a naturalistic approach that applies evolution to the process of knowing. The theory proposes that the human mind is a product of natural selection. The implication is that the ideas in our minds were selected for their survival value, not for their truth-value.

    But what if we apply that theory to itself? Then it, too, was selected for survival, not truth — which discredits its own claim to truth. Evolutionary epistemology commits suicide.

    Astonishingly, many prominent thinkers have embraced the theory without detecting the logical contradiction. Philosopher John Gray writes, “If Darwin’s theory of natural selection is true,… the human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth.” What is the contradiction in that statement?

    Gray has essentially said, if Darwin’s theory is true, then it “serves evolutionary success, not truth.” In other words, if Darwin’s theory is true, then it is not true.

    Self-referential absurdity is akin to the well-known liar’s paradox: “This statement is a lie.” If the statement is true, then (as it says) it is not true, but a lie.

    Another example comes from Francis Crick. In The Astonishing Hypothesis, he writes, “Our highly developed brains, after all, were not evolved under the pressure of discovering scientific truths but only to enable us to be clever enough to survive.” But that means Crick’s own theory is not a “scientific truth.” Applied to itself, the theory commits suicide.

    Of course, the sheer pressure to survive is likely to produce some correct ideas. A zebra that thinks lions are friendly will not live long. But false ideas may be useful for survival. Evolutionists admit as much: Eric Baum says, “Sometimes you are more likely to survive and propagate if you believe a falsehood than if you believe the truth.” Steven Pinker writes, “Our brains were shaped for fitness, not for truth. Sometimes the truth is adaptive, but sometimes it is not.” The upshot is that survival is no guarantee of truth. If survival is the only standard, we can never know which ideas are true and which are adaptive but false.

    To make the dilemma even more puzzling, evolutionists tell us that natural selection has produced all sorts of false concepts in the human mind. Many evolutionary materialists maintain that free will is an illusion, consciousness is an illusion, even our sense of self is an illusion — and that all these false ideas were selected for their survival value.

    [–> that is, responsible, rational freedom is undermined. Cf here William Provine in his 1998 U Tenn Darwin Day keynote:

    Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . .

    The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them. Human free will, however, is another matter. Even evolutionists have trouble swallowing that implication. I will argue that humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will [–> without responsible freedom, mind, reason and morality alike disintegrate into grand delusion, hence self-referential incoherence and self-refutation. But that does not make such fallacies any less effective in the hands of clever manipulators] . . . [1998 Darwin Day Keynote Address, U of Tenn — and yes, that is significant i/l/o the Scopes Trial, 1925]

    So how can we know whether the theory of evolution itself is one of those false ideas? The theory undercuts itself.

    A few thinkers, to their credit, recognize the problem. Literary critic Leon Wieseltier writes, “If reason is a product of natural selection, then how much confidence can we have in a rational argument for natural selection? … Evolutionary biology cannot invoke the power of reason even as it destroys it.”

    On a similar note, philosopher Thomas Nagel asks, “Is the [evolutionary] hypothesis really compatible with the continued confidence in reason as a source of knowledge?” His answer is no: “I have to be able to believe … that I follow the rules of logic because they are correct — not merely because I am biologically programmed to do so.” Hence, “insofar as the evolutionary hypothesis itself depends on reason, it would be self-undermining.” [ENV excerpt, Finding Truth (David C. Cook, 2015) by Nancy Pearcey.]

    This is NOT a strawman tactic, and you should be ashamed of your projection and glib turnabout tactics.

    There is a very serious problem on the table for Evolutionary Materialistic Scientism, and it has been on record in fact since Darwin inconsistently tries to doubt the musings of a Monkey’s jumped up mind only when it was tempted to doubt the whole edifice.

    Beyond, from 2350 years ago, lies the warning from Plato.

    KF

  13. 13
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Plato warns, in The Laws, c 360 BC:

    Ath [in The Laws, Bk X 2,350+ ya]. . . .[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [i.e the classical “material” elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art . . . [such that] all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only [ –> that is, evolutionary materialism is ancient and would trace all things to blind chance and mechanical necessity] . . . .

    [Thus, they hold] that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.-

    [ –> Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT, leading to an effectively arbitrary foundation only for morality, ethics and law: accident of personal preference, the ebbs and flows of power politics, accidents of history and and the shifting sands of manipulated community opinion driven by “winds and waves of doctrine and the cunning craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming . . . ” cf a video on Plato’s parable of the cave; from the perspective of pondering who set up the manipulative shadow-shows, why.]

    These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might,

    [ –> Evolutionary materialism — having no IS that can properly ground OUGHT — leads to the promotion of amorality on which the only basis for “OUGHT” is seen to be might (and manipulation: might in “spin”) . . . ]

    and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [ –> Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality “naturally” leads to continual contentions and power struggles influenced by that amorality at the hands of ruthless power hungry nihilistic agendas], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is,to live in real dominion over others [ –> such amoral and/or nihilistic factions, if they gain power, “naturally” tend towards ruthless abuse and arbitrariness . . . they have not learned the habits nor accepted the principles of mutual respect, justice, fairness and keeping the civil peace of justice, so they will want to deceive, manipulate and crush — as the consistent history of radical revolutions over the past 250 years so plainly shows again and again], and not in legal subjection to them [–> nihilistic will to power not the spirit of justice and lawfulness].

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: Lewontin inadvertently confirms, Jan 1997:

    . . . to put a correct view of the universe into people’s heads [==> as in, “we” have cornered the market on truth, warrant and knowledge] we must first get an incorrect view out [–> as in, if you disagree with “us” of the secularist elite you are wrong, irrational and so dangerous you must be stopped, even at the price of manipulative indoctrination of hoi polloi] . . . the problem is to get them [= hoi polloi] to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations,

    [ –> as in, to think in terms of ethical theism is to be delusional, justifying “our” elitist and establishment-controlling interventions of power to “fix” the widespread mental disease]

    and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth

    [–> NB: this is a knowledge claim about knowledge and its possible sources, i.e. it is a claim in philosophy not science; it is thus self-refuting]

    . . . . To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists [–> “we” are the dominant elites], it is self-evident

    [–> actually, science and its knowledge claims are plainly not immediately and necessarily true on pain of absurdity, to one who understands them; this is another logical error, begging the question , confused for real self-evidence; whereby a claim shows itself not just true but true on pain of patent absurdity if one tries to deny it . . . and in fact it is evolutionary materialism that is readily shown to be self-refuting]

    that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality [–> = all of reality to the evolutionary materialist], and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test [–> i.e. an assertion that tellingly reveals a hostile mindset, not a warranted claim] . . . .

    It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us [= the evo-mat establishment] to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes [–> another major begging of the question . . . ] to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute [–> i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door . . . [–> irreconcilable hostility to ethical theism, already caricatured as believing delusionally in imaginary demons]. [Lewontin, Billions and billions of Demons, NYRB Jan 1997,cf. here. And, if you imagine this is “quote-mined” I invite you to read the fuller annotated citation here.]

  15. 15
    kairosfocus says:

    PPPS: Philip Johnson’s on-target reply November that year:

    For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them “materialists employing science.” And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence.

    [–> notice, the power of an undisclosed, question-begging, controlling assumption . . . often put up as if it were a mere reasonable methodological constraint; emphasis added. Let us note how Rational Wiki, so-called, presents it:

    “Methodological naturalism is the label for the required assumption of philosophical naturalism when working with the scientific method. Methodological naturalists limit their scientific research to the study of natural causes, because any attempts to define causal relationships with the supernatural are never fruitful, and result in the creation of scientific “dead ends” and God of the gaps-type hypotheses.”

    Of course, this ideological imposition on science that subverts it from freely seeking the empirically, observationally anchored truth about our world pivots on the deception of side-stepping the obvious fact since Plato in The Laws Bk X, that there is a second, readily empirically testable and observable alternative to “natural vs [the suspect] supernatural.” Namely, blind chance and/or mechanical necessity [= the natural] vs the ART-ificial, the latter acting by evident intelligently directed configuration. [Cf Plantinga’s reply here and here.]

    And as for the god of the gaps canard, the issue is, inference to best explanation across competing live option candidates. If chance and necessity is a candidate, so is intelligence acting by art through design. And it is not an appeal to ever- diminishing- ignorance to point out that design, rooted in intelligent action, routinely configures systems exhibiting functionally specific, often fine tuned complex organisation and associated information. Nor, that it is the only observed cause of such, nor that the search challenge of our observed cosmos makes it maximally implausible that blind chance and/or mechanical necessity can account for such.]

    That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”

    . . . . The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [Emphasis added.] [The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]

  16. 16
    kairosfocus says:

    P^4S: In case some imagine the Rational Wiki clip just above is idiosyncratic, we may note the US National Science Teachers’ Association [NSTA] in a notorious July 2000 Board declaration:

    The principal product of science is knowledge in the form of naturalistic concepts and the laws and theories related to those concepts [–> ideological imposition of a priori evolutionary materialistic scientism, aka natural-ISM; this is of course self-falsifying at the outset] . . . .

    [S]cience, along with its methods, explanations and generalizations, must be the sole focus of instruction in science classes to the exclusion of all non-scientific or pseudoscientific [–> loaded word that cannot be properly backed up due to failure of demarcation arguments] methods, explanations, generalizations and products [–> declaration of intent to ideologically censor education materials] . . . .

    Although no single universal step-by-step scientific method captures the complexity of doing science, a number of shared values and perspectives characterize a scientific approach to understanding nature. Among these are a demand for naturalistic explanations supported by empirical evidence that are, at least in principle, testable against the natural world. Other shared elements include observations, rational argument, inference, skepticism, peer review and replicability of work [–> undermined by the question-begging ideological imposition and associated censorship] . . . .

    Science, by definition, is limited to naturalistic methods and explanations and, as such, is precluded from using supernatural elements [–> question-begging false dichotomy, the proper contrast for empirical investigations is the natural (chance and/or necessity) vs the ART-ificial, through design . . . cf UD’s weak argument correctives 17 – 19, here] in the production of scientific knowledge.

    It is entirely fair and well warranted comment to say that his is indoctrination in evolutionary materialism under false colours of education, and too often backed up by state power.

  17. 17
    john_a_designer says:

    Here is another quote from the article linked to in the OP:

    Some have gone so far as to argue religion may actually be a form of mental illness. In 2006, biologist Richard Dawkins published his book The God Delusion, in which he characterizes belief in God as delusional. Dawkins cites the definition of a delusion as “a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence, especially as a symptom of a psychiatric disorder.”

    Consider the following story reported by the UK’s Daily Mail on March 21, 2016:

    It is a moment Christy Beam will never forget – the darkest of the dark.

    She was sitting by her nine-year-old daughter Annabel’s hospital bed when the little girl turned to her and said: ‘Mommy I just want to die. And I want to go to heaven and live with Jesus where there’s no more pain.’

    After four and a half years of chronic, progressive, incurable illness – of hospital stays, procedures, myriad medications and unending pain – both mother and daughter had reached their limit.

    Annabel had stopped fighting. Christy had nothing left to give.

    ‘However much my faith had been tested and I’d questioned Him,’ she says, ‘At that point I just turned it over to God.’

    They needed a miracle. One week later, on December 30, 2011, they got one.

    That was the day when Annabel fell 30 feet into a hollow tree and emerged physically unscathed, cured of the ‘incurable’ illness that had plagued her…

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new.....z4UmxOrqP5

    Here’s a little bit more detail. Anna, as she prefers to be called, had with her older sister climbed up into a large old cottonwood tree whose trunk, unbeknownst to them, had rotted out. The branch they were sitting on had started to break and Ana jumped into a large hole, again not realizing the whole tree trunk had rotted out, and fell 30 feet inside the tree all the way to the bottom. There was no way out except the hole near top. It took several hours for the rescue team from the local fire dept. to get her out. Fortunately she was not seriously injured.

    Afterwards her doctor was able to ween her off her medicines and conclude that she was asymptomatic… Eventually he was able to release her from his care.

    So are her parents and friends deluded for believing that Anna had been miraculously healed?

    As the U.K. article reports Anna’s stranger-than-fiction story has been made into a movie starring Jennifer Garner as Anna’s mom.

    Here’s the trailer.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=se8f_y1iAYo

    I have to give five stars to Kylie Rogers, the young actress who plays Anna. I cringed watching her re-enacting the pain Anna went through in real life. It was that convincing. As matter of fact in one of the interviews that I saw the director said that she and her producer had discussed cutting one of the scenes– it was that horrific. (This is after all billed as a family film.)

    As mentioned in the article, Anna also claims that while she was in the tree she had an out-of-the-body experience. The movie does a great job recreating that experience. Here is a brief clip. It is beautiful, peaceful and awe inspiring as well as mystical– another five stars!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ttnHQ8uP7A

    So was Anna just hallucinating? If your world view is some form of naturalistic reductionism I guess that is the only explanation you really have. And therefore, the miraculous survival from the fall, and the cure afterwards from an incurable disease, was all just coincidence and Ana’s parents are morally wrong for filling her head with this kind of religious nonsense in the first place.

  18. 18

    JAD @ 18: Thank you for sharing that very important and powerful information.

    I often tell atheists, especially the aggressive, hostile type, that they should be thankful some of us believe in what they call a “delusion.” I have been restrained many times by a gentle whisper in my head repeating these words: “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)

    That gentle voice has saved many people, including myself, from very ugly and violent endings.

  19. 19
    john_a_designer says:

    Thankyou TWSYF,

    A few more comments about the movie, Miracles from Heaven— some critical ones.

    One of the things these docudrama movies always do is take some “dramatic license.” Sometimes this is justified, sometimes it is not. For example, the real life Anna suffered for fours and half years before she was cured. However this would have been impossible in a two hour movie with a tight time schedule. Could Kylie Rogers have played a five year old then a nine year old? So, the “time compression” IMO is justified. On the other hand, the movie portrays Anna’s mom Christy flying herself and her daughter up to Boston to see a specialist without an appointment. According to History vs. Hollywood that never happened. In my opinion the movie was dramatic enough, I don’t see why being inaccurate here was necessary. When portraying real life events I think you should strive to be as accurate as possible.

    http://www.historyvshollywood......om-heaven/

    However, I do think the fictional subplot where Anna shares her hospital room with a girl named Haley who is cancer patient is justified. The two quickly become friends. Haley asks Anna if she afraid to die and that begins a discussion about faith. However, Haley’s dad Ben learns about the conversation and confronts Anna’s mom about it. A skeptic, he tells her that he would prefer that Anna keep her religious beliefs to herself. (“We don’t believe that way.”)

    Of course this raises an important question. Anna learns at the end of the movie after she has been healed that Haley has died. Is this fair? And, what about all the other suffering children in the world? In other words, if God is really all powerful and loving why doesn’t he heal all of them? That is a difficult question and there are no easy answers.

    In my opinion miracles are not about being fair. They are signs which God uses to reveal His power and His mercy. Maybe that won’t satisfy everyone, but as a cancer survivor who is still in danger of a recurrence, I found the movie to be very encouraging and reassuring. It strengthened my faith. Let’s be honest, all of us are terminal.

    Yes, they needed to confront that question. I think they did so very artfully and very honestly. But maybe I am wrong. What do other people think?

  20. 20
    john_a_designer says:

    I mentioned above that I am a cancer survivor. Here briefly is what happened to me.

    In the summer of 2014 after having been sick on and off for a couple weeks with nausea, abdominal pain and then severe bloating, I found myself in crisis, so I called EMS who transported me to my local hospital’s emergency room… After evaluation I was rushed into surgery… When I woke up the next day in the ICU my surgeon told me that a cancerous tumor had created a blockage which caused my colon to rupture. Along with the tumor he had to remove 2/3 of my colon. He also told me that he had performed a colostomy and that going forward I would have to use a colostomy bag. After a ten day stay in the hospital I was sent to a nursing home for another few weeks to recover… After that there was six months of chemo therapy.

    I had never been sick like that in my life, indeed, I had been extraordinarily healthy and had led an active and vigorous life style– lap swimming, hiking, mountaineering, and scuba diving to name a few things. Now everything had changed.

    Of course, I felt deeply depressed but paradoxically I also found myself reconnecting with my faith (not to suggest that I ever lost it.) Some skeptics argue that faith is just wishful thinking. But there was nothing wishful about it for me during that time. Faith was the only thing I had to grab hold of. It was that or nothing. Other skeptics say that faith is just a crutch. Well sometimes you need a crutch.

    Story’s like Anna’s which I related above @ #18 & 20 are inspiring but they can also be misleading. Faith is not about just miracles– though on rare occasions it is. Faith, among other things, is how we confront suffering in our lives. Clearly that is what is being taught in the Book of Job. There are no miracles in Job. Job’s faith is born out through his endurance and personal integrity in the face death (of his children), disaster and disease. Even in his darkest hour Job did not give up. He never stopped believing in God. He never gave up hope.

    Atheists would say that there is nothing to faith. So how would they suggest that we respond to suffering?

  21. 21
    Origenes says:

    John_a_designer @20, 21, thank you.

    John_a_designer: Atheists would say that there is nothing to faith. So how would they suggest that we respond to suffering?

    The atheist may suggest something like this:

    There is no self in, around, or as part of anyone’s body. There can’t be. So there really isn’t any enduring self that ever could wake up morning after morning worrying about why it should bother getting out of bed. The self is just another illusion, like the illusion that thought is about stuff or that we carry around plans and purposes that give meaning to what our body does. [Ch. 10]

    As in, “you have to understand that there is no one who suffers”? Yes …

    The self, the person, the “I” inside the body is an illusion, along with all those others. That means that even if there is a loophole in Epicurus’s argument that death is something you shouldn’t worry about, science still backs him up: there isn’t really any “you” or “me” or “him” or “her” to worry about death, post-death harm, boringly endless post-death existence, or anything else. [Ch. 12]

    And then there is Prozac:

    As with a justification for core morality, when it comes to making life meaningful, what secular humanists hanker after is something they can’t have and don’t need. What they do need, if meaninglessness makes it impossible to get out of bed in the morning, is Prozac.

    o, what should we scientistic folks do when overcome by Weltschmertz (world-weariness)? Take two of whatever neuropharmacology prescribes. If you don’t feel better in the morning . . . or three weeks from now, switch to another one. Three weeks is often how long it takes serotonin reuptake suppression drugs like Prozac, Wellbutrin, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, or Luvox to kick in. And if one doesn’t work, another one probably will.

    If you still can’t sleep at night, even after accepting science’s answers to the persistent questions, you probably just need one more little thing besides Epicurean detachment. Take a Prozac or your favorite serotonin reuptake inhibitor, and keep taking them till they kick in. [Ch.12]

    [Source: Rosenberg, ‘The Atheist Guide To Reality’]

  22. 22
    daveS says:

    JAD,

    Atheists would say that there is nothing to faith. So how would they suggest that we respond to suffering?

    First, I hope everything’s ok for you healthwise now.

    The question you raise is a big one, which I can’t hope to fully answer. But I have observed that my response to suffering is similar in some ways to theists’. I don’t believe there is a deity listening to my prayers, but I can draw on past experience. I know that humans are resilient and suffering (mental, at least) subsides. Reaching out to others helps. Self-care sometimes goes by the wayside in difficult times, which makes it especially important to pay close attention to one’s mental and/or physical health.

    All very basic stuff of course, but I don’t think atheists and theists are that far apart on this issue.

  23. 23
    rvb8 says:

    Prayer is an unusual thought process if you think about it. You are talking to a disembodied entity that never replies, and will never reply, and you do this to the ‘one true God’, which ever flavour you prefer.

    Now, as a child I had an imaginary friend, but I grew out of him. The analogy that a praying person is sane, and a person talking incoherently to thin air is insane, is apt, and reversable.

  24. 24
    john_a_designer says:

    Origenes,

    Good points. However, to keep things simple, I think the main problems with Rosenberg’s atheistic naturalism are epistemological.

    In his 2013 debate with Rosenberg, William Lane Craig argued that the philosophical naturalism that Rosenberg espouses does not provide a sufficient grounding, or foundation, for truth or knowledge.

    1. It is a false theory of knowledge for two reasons.

    a. First, it is overly restrictive. There are truths that cannot be proven by natural science and the success of natural science in discovering truths about the physical world does nothing to show that it is the only source of knowledge and truth.

    b. Secondly, it is self-refuting. The statement “natural science is the only source of knowledge” is not, itself, a scientific statement and therefore it cannot be true.

    For these two reasons, epistemological naturalism is a false theory of knowledge that is widely rejected by philosophers. But leave that point aside. The really important point for tonight’s debate is the second:

    https://www.reasonablefaith.org/debate-transcript-is-faith-in-god-reasonable#section_2

    Then Craig offers a refutation of Rosenberg’s “argument from truth:”

    1. According to Dr. Rosenberg, if naturalism is true then there are no true sentences. That is because they are all meaningless.

    2. But, premise (1) is true. That is what the naturalist believes and asserts.

    3. Therefore, naturalism is not true.

    In other words, an atheist can only make ungrounded assertions about truth, knowledge and meaning. He cannot say anything meaningful about them. If he were truly honest with himself he would say nothing about these things. That is what Wittgenstein appeared to conclude. He said in Tractatus, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” Indeed, on atheism, or atheistic naturalism/materialism, I don’t see how you can conclude or say anything about anything.

    DaveS,

    Can you prove to me that atheism is true? If you can’t then that means you must accept atheism to be true on the basis of faith. That is rather absurd position for an atheist to take, isn’t it? I thought atheists rejected faith.

    The point made in the OP is that atheists view religious people, including Christians like me, as deluded– indeed, according to Richard Dawkins, they are even dangerous. That is what I am addressing here on this thread. I am not claiming that atheists are incapable of showing resilience– I believe many of them do. show resilience. But let’s be honest, whatever hope they have it is only for this world because there is nothing else.

  25. 25
    daveS says:

    JAD,

    Can you prove to me that atheism is true?

    Certainly not. I think that would be impossible. In fact there are very few propositions concerning “real life” (as opposed to things such as mathematical statements) that I believe one can prove.

    If you can’t then that means you must accept atheism to be true on the basis of faith. That is rather absurd position for an atheist to take, isn’t it? I thought atheists rejected faith.

    Based on the evidence I’ve seen, my provisional conclusion is that atheism is true. In much the same way, I provisionally conclude that aliens have not visited the Earth. Of course either of those conclusions could be overturned at any time.

    I don’t normally choose to say that my position on aliens visiting the Earth (or atheism) is a matter of faith, just because it doesn’t sound to me like the “faith” that is discussed in a religious context. I’m not averse to using the word, however, as long as we’re clear on the meaning.

  26. 26
    asauber says:

    “my provisional conclusion”

    DaveS, then you aren’t an atheist. You are agnostic.

    Your “atheism” is a jump to a conclusion, despite your being fully aware you possess very little reliable information relative to the big, big universe.

    Andrew

  27. 27
    daveS says:

    asauber,

    DaveS, then you aren’t an atheist. You are agnostic.

    Well, my position is often referred to as “weak atheism” or “agnostic atheism”, so it’s not uncommon to label it as a variety of atheism.

    But again, I don’t really care what label we use, provided we are clear on definitions.

  28. 28
    Silver Asiatic says:

    rvb

    Prayer is an unusual thought process if you think about it. You are talking to a disembodied entity that never replies, and will never reply …

    Why do you think God never replies and will never reply?

  29. 29
    john_a_designer says:

    DaveS @ 26,

    Faith can be defined a number of different ways, however, when it comes to basic world view assumptions I would argue that faith means exactly the same thing for theists and non-theists alike.

    A few years ago in 2013 I had this brief exchange on-line with someone who identified himself as David P. He asked me if I would consider a world view that actively disagreed with my current Christian world view. Since David had already identified his own world view as naturalism, I told him that if he could prove to me “that naturalism was true, I would.”

    He replied, “If that is your condition, you are essentially saying “no”, because naturalism cannot be proven.”

    I responded by asking him, “So, on what basis are you warranted in believing in it?”

    That question prompted the following dialogue:

    David wrote: “Believing that naturalism cannot be proven? Because we can only perceive a tiny part of the entire system. We may one day be able to formulate naturalistic theories that explain beautifully all that we perceive, but we cannot prove that that is all there is.”

    I asked: “So then, you accept naturalism by faith… Correct?”

    David replied: “I accept naturalism as a working assumption because of the evidence that it helps drive us to understand reality in a way that allows us to make increasingly better predictions. Also, the evidence that so many phenomena attributed to supernatural causes have turned out to have natural causes” .

    Notice how David smuggled faith into his world view without calling it that. What I mean is that he was actually acting on the biblical definition of faith and he doesn’t even realize it. Let me prove it to you.

    Hebrews 11:3 says: “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”

    Someone committed, like David, to naturalism is actually just modifying the verse so that it reads:

    “By faith we understand that the universe was formed [by some kind of mindless natural process], so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”

    What is the difference in the way we believe the basic claims of theism vs. naturalism? I don’t see any.

    So the battle of world views, in my opinion, is not really faith vs. reason, as many if not most modern atheists would have us believe; it’s a battle of faith vs. faith: faith in the infinite (God) vs. faith in the finite (man). Anyone who understands that understands that man cannot possibly win.

  30. 30
    Origenes says:

    daveS: Based on the evidence I’ve seen, my provisional conclusion is that atheism is true.

    What evidence might that be? Honestly, I cannot come up with any evidence in support of atheism.

  31. 31
    daveS says:

    Origenes,

    Yes, I should probably amend or at least clarify that.

    The evidence I’m speaking of purports be in favor of theism, but I haven’t found any that I find convincing. Just like I haven’t found convincing evidence for alien visitation of Earth.

    Perhaps I should just leave it at that? I have yet to find a compelling (IMHO) reason to believe a God exists.

    JAD: I’ll have to think a little longer about your post #30 before responding.

  32. 32
    Origenes says:

    daveS: The evidence I’m speaking of purports be in favor of theism, but I haven’t found any that I find convincing.

    Okay, but after weighing the evidence for both sides — theism and atheism — you lean towards atheism. Now, again, what is this evidence which supports atheism?

  33. 33
    daveS says:

    JAD,

    What is the difference in the way we believe the basic claims of theism vs. naturalism? I don’t see any.

    So the battle of world views, in my opinion, is not really faith vs. reason, as many if not most modern atheists would have us believe; it’s a battle of faith vs. faith: faith in the infinite (God) vs. faith in the finite (man). Anyone who understands that understands that man cannot possibly win.

    I don’t know if I’m following your point here, but I might agree with the first sentence quoted above. I have a pastor friend who is a YEC. Even though I am a lifelong atheist, I don’t think we really have fundamentally different “worldviews” in that we both approach questions in the same common-sense way. I suppose both of us must exercise some amount of faith simply in assuming that we aren’t in a sort of Matrix simulation and that we exist in a (somewhat) intelligible universe. But in sermons, I remember him talking about reason more than about faith. Of course he has come to different conclusions regarding the existence of God, but I understand the logic behind his arguments.

  34. 34
    daveS says:

    Origenes,

    Okay, but after weighing the evidence for both sides — theism and atheism — you lean towards atheism. Now, again, what is this evidence which supports atheism?

    I don’t have pro-atheism evidence. Like you, I don’t know what that would consist of. What would evidence in favor of the lack of alien visitation to Earth look like? I don’t know.

    Rather, I have considered pro-theism evidence/arguments and have not found them persuasive. Just as I have not found evidence for alien visitation to be persuasive.

  35. 35
    Origenes says:

    daveS: I don’t have pro-atheism evidence.

    Then how do you arrive at the “provisional conclusion that atheism is true”?

    How do you get from e.g. ‘I don’t find the fine-tuning argument convincing’ to ‘therefore atheism is probably true’.
    What is the line of reasoning here? Why don’t you arrive at “I don’t know”?

  36. 36
    daveS says:

    Origenes,

    Then how do you arrive at the “provisional conclusion that atheism is true”?

    How do you get from e.g. ‘I don’t find the fine-tuning argument convincing’ to ‘therefore atheism is probably true’.
    What is the line of reasoning here? Why don’t you arrive at “I don’t know”?

    Similarly to the way I provisionally conclude that aliens have not visited Earth.

    If aliens were here, presumably there would be strong evidence for this, correct? Cameras are everywhere. NORAD monitors the airspace over a large portion of the globe. Granted, we could be in the presence of aliens who are very good at concealing themselves, in which case I would be wrong. However, alleged alien sightings involve exotic ships, clearly nonhuman Grays, rather unpleasant “probes”, etc.

    In response to the question of alien visitation, do you just say “I don’t know”, or do you believe they likely haven’t happened?

    The God I am talking about (primarily the Christian one), is a being who rather obviously exists, according to my Christian friends. I am told one can have a personal relationship with and actually feel the presence of this God. This God performs miracles and sends angels to assist those in need. On the flip side, The Evil One and demons also (rather obviously) exist, and some say they have witnessed these demons personally during exorcisms. (I would count evidence for such evil beings as an indication that God exists as well).

    I believe this God should be fairly easily “detectable” to the common man, especially since one’s salvation rests on just this. There should be clear evidence that doesn’t require a PhD in philosophy, biology, or physics to understand, but I haven’t found such (my subjective judgement).

    Again, I could be wrong—I could be deluded, perhaps our God prefers to keep a low profile, and so on, but I’m only claiming a provisional conclusion.

  37. 37
    Origenes says:

    daveS: In response to the question of alien visitation, do you just say “I don’t know”, or do you believe they likely haven’t happened?

    I don’t see the relevancy of your question. But for the record, alien visitation seems unlikely to me.

    daveS: The God I am talking about (primarily the Christian one), is a being who rather obviously exists, according to my Christian friends. I am told one can have a personal relationship with and actually feel the presence of this God. This God performs miracles and sends angels to assist those in need. On the flip side, The Evil One and demons …

    I’m not willing to discuss the existence or non-existence of God on such a level. I’m talking about God as an explanation of reality — God as the First Cause.

  38. 38
    john_a_designer says:

    DaveS,

    I think you are a bit confused about what a worldview is and how it is commonly defined. Atheism, for example, is metaphysically and epistemologically distinct from theism. They are distinct world views, not only by definition but logically, conceptually and categorically. In fact, other philosophical belief systems or “worldviews” reject being included with theism.

    For example, philosophical naturalists clearly describe their belief system as a worldview which is distinct from what they term collectively as “super-naturalistic” worldviews: theism, polytheism, pantheism and animism etc. (As a theist I would further argue that theism is a world view that is distinct from pantheism, polytheism and other forms of super-naturalism.) See the following website:

    Worldview Naturalism

    Naturalism as presented here is a comprehensive, science-based worldview, premised on the idea that existence in all its dimensions and complexity is a single, natural realm, not split between the natural and the supernatural. See the links to the left for further material, including a brief history of naturalism, FAQs, and common misconceptions when first encountering naturalism.

    http://www.naturalism.org/worldview-naturalism

    Because they reject theism committed atheists are either naturalists or materialists,* which means they espouse a naturalistic or materialistic worldview. (*Of course, materialism is just an extreme reductionistic kind of naturalism.)

  39. 39
    Origenes says:

    daveS,

    Let’s look at one piece of evidence in support of God’s existence. I’m looking forward to your comments.

    The fact that we are free rational persons constitutes evidence for the existence of God. In short, either blind particles in motion are writing these sentences or God exists. Allow me to explain.

    (1) Your unique existence, as free and rational, is either explained by particles in motion or a non-material spiritual cause.
    (2) Blind particles in motion can explain neither freedom nor rationality.
    (3) Such a non-material spiritual cause can be named “God”.
    Therefore
    (4) God exists.


    Grounding premise 2:

    1. If materialism is true, then determinism is true.
    2. If determinism is true, then all our actions and thoughts are consequences of events and laws of nature in the remote past before we were born.
    3. We have no control over circumstances that existed in the remote past before we were born, nor do we have any control over the laws of nature.
    4. If A causes B, and we have no control over A, and A is sufficient for B, then we have no control over B.
    Therefore
    5. If determinism is true, then we have no control over our own actions and thoughts.
    Therefore, assuming that rationality requires control,
    6. If determinism is true, we are neither free nor rational.

  40. 40
    daveS says:

    JAD,

    I think you are a bit confused about what a worldview is and how it is commonly defined. Atheism, for example, is metaphysically and epistemologically distinct from theism. They are distinct world views, not only by definition but logically, conceptually and categorically. In fact, other philosophical belief systems or “worldviews” reject being included with theism.

    Yes, I shouldn’t have used the word “worldview” above. I’ll try to briefly revise.

    My aim was to more or less echo your statement “What is the difference in the way we believe the basic claims of theism vs. naturalism? I don’t see any”.

    In the case of my pastor friend and I, we both approach questions about the universe with some mix of faith and reason. I find his arguments intelligible and vice-versa, I believe. So in our case, it’s definitely not “faith vs reason”—we’re actually quite similar in that respect.

  41. 41
    asauber says:

    I don’t really care what label we use

    DaveS,

    It’s clear that you do. You, and every other “atheist” I’m aware of, cling to that particular label with religious devotion, because it provides cultural identification.

    Andrew

  42. 42
    daveS says:

    Origenes,

    Let’s look at one piece of evidence in support of God’s existence. I’m looking forward to your comments.

    These arguments might be interesting as a logical exercise, but I don’t find them very convincing, in part because I have no idea whether (some of) the premises are true. In fact, some of the great issues which have troubled philosophers for millennia are bundled up in those premises.

    Furthermore, in this particular argument, assuming we accept (1) and (2), then it seems to me the “god” you arrive at in step (3) might or might not be a being which the average person would call “God”.

    One question that just occurred to me, to which I don’t have an answer: Is this entity that appears in step (3) necessarily the/a First Cause?

  43. 43
    daveS says:

    asauber,

    DaveS,

    It’s clear that you do. You, and every other “atheist” I’m aware of, cling to that particular label with religious devotion, because it provides cultural identification.

    No, really, you can call me an agnostic if you prefer. I use “atheist” because I think others will understand me better.

    And by “others”, I mean people here, since I practically never discuss atheism or theism anywhere but here.

  44. 44
    Silver Asiatic says:

    daveS

    One question that just occurred to me, to which I don’t have an answer: Is this entity that appears in step (3) necessarily the/a First Cause?

    It takes a few more, interlocking, arguments to reach that conclusion more completely. As it stands, we’d have “the Cause of rationality and freedom”, but not necessarily the First Cause (of all) with this argument.

    But with “freedom” sourced from a cause, then the origin of all is not through a deterministic process. The cause all, created through a free choice – is not a physically determined outcome. That free choice indicates Intelligence at the source.

    So the cause of rationality and freedom is Intelligence – thus that cause is the ultimate of Intelligence, the source of all.

    Similiar arguments are used to arrive at the source of Being itself. Thus, more directly, we have the First Cause (although some object to the distinction between Being and Non-Being or that being is a characteristic).

  45. 45
    Origenes says:

    DaveS: These arguments might be interesting as a logical exercise, but I don’t find them very convincing, in part because I have no idea whether (some of) the premises are true.

    Let’s break it down and start with premise 1. You have “no idea” whether it is true. Okay. What are your concerns?

  46. 46
    asauber says:

    I use “atheist” because I think others will understand me better.

    DaveS,

    You just made my point for me. You want to identify with other people who are atheist and to announce to non-atheists that you identify with atheists. This does nothing to explain your convoluted and unreliable belief system to anyone, which I think is OK with you, as long as they latch on to “atheist” when you communicate.

    Andrew

  47. 47
    Origenes says:

    daveS: Furthermore, in this particular argument, assuming we accept (1) and (2), then it seems to me the “god” you arrive at in step (3) might or might not be a being which the average person would call “God”.

    God, here (post @40), is the cause of free rational persons (human beings). To me that is certainly one aspect of the concept “God”. And I believe that the average person would agree — although I don’t feel bound by his agreement.

    daveS: One question that just occurred to me, to which I don’t have an answer: Is this entity that appears in step (3) necessarily the/a First Cause?

    Why do you ask? It is irrelevant to the argument presented in @40. This is not about Aquinas First Cause argument.

  48. 48
    daveS says:

    Origenes,

    I’ll try to respond to your #46 later today (I have an urgent snow problem currently) but to reply to this:

    Why do you ask? It is irrelevant to the argument presented in @40. This is not about Aquinas First Cause argument.

    Well, if several arguments are presented, each concluding “we can name X God”, and the various Xs are possibly not all the same, then it could be that these arguments contradict each other.

    I’m not saying that has actually happened here of course.

  49. 49
    Origenes says:

    daveS: Well, if several arguments are presented, each concluding “we can name X God”, and the various Xs are possibly not all the same, then it could be that these arguments contradict each other.

    If several valid arguments would lead to multiple Gods, then my argument still holds. It is not the case that the God of the bible must be true or else arguments fail. The argument presented in @40 is an argument for the existence of a cause that can be named “God”, nothing more and nothing less. This cause may be Zeus, Brahman, some other God or a divine team effort.

  50. 50
    daveS says:

    Origenes,

    If several valid arguments would lead to multiple Gods, then my argument still holds. It is not the case that the God of the bible must be true or else arguments fail. The argument presented in @40 is an argument for the existence of a cause that can be named “God”, nothing more and nothing less. This cause may be Zeus, Brahman, some other God or a divine team effort.

    Yes, I agree. If we allow the possibility of multiple gods, then there is no problem here.

    Getting back to your post #40, a few thoughts that come to mind:

    (1) Your unique existence, as free and rational, is either explained by particles in motion or a non-material spiritual cause.

    (a) This presumes that I am free and rational, which I believe is true. I don’t want to debate the issue, just acknowledging that it has been referenced.

    (b) I’m less clear on whether my freedom and rationality is explained by anything. I can understand explanations of simple, everyday events and states of affairs, but I don’t know what an explanation for freedom and rationality would look like, if it does indeed exist.

    (c ) Concerning this part: “is either explained by particles in motion or a non-material spiritual cause”, do you think this might be a false dichotomy?

    Here’s what I have in mind—setting aside my worries in (b), I would be fine with something like: “Your unique existence, as free and rational, is either explained by a non-material spiritual cause or some other type of cause (I’m reversing the order in the either-or clause). Now the entities are clearly exhaustive.

    It’s not obvious to me where the laws of physics would fit into your formulation. When you say “particles in motion”, do you also include those laws?

  51. 51
    Origenes says:

    daveS: (a) This presumes that I am free and rational, which I believe is true. I don’t want to debate the issue, just acknowledging that it has been referenced.

    One cannot argue that one is not free and not rational without being self-referentially incoherent.

    daveS: (b) I’m less clear on whether my freedom and rationality is explained by anything.

    One can give up on rationality, one can give up on explanations, but that comes with the price of leaving the debate. If there is a horse in your living room, one must assume that there is an explanation in order to be rational. “Maybe there is no explanation” is not an option — is not rational.

    daveS: (c ) Concerning this part: “is either explained by particles in motion or a non-material spiritual cause”, do you think this might be a false dichotomy?

    No. I’m perfectly fine with it.

    daveS: It’s not obvious to me where the laws of physics would fit into your formulation. When you say “particles in motion”, do you also include those laws?

    Yes I do. See also “Grounding premise 2” in post @40.

  52. 52
    daveS says:

    Origenes,

    One cannot argue that one is not free and not rational without being self-referentially incoherent.

    I get that, but that doesn’t mean that it could not be the case that we are not free and not rational.

    One can give up on rationality, one can give up on explanations, but that comes with the price of leaving the debate. If there is a horse in your living room, one must assume that there is an explanation in order to be rational. “Maybe there is no explanation” is not an option — is not rational.

    Do you accept that it could be true that there is no such explanation?

    Yes I do. See also “Grounding premise 2” in post @40.

    Well, your step (1) in the grounding premise is another issue I think is very debatable, if I’m clear on the meaning of “materialism”. The laws of physics (as we currently understand them) may not be deterministic, correct?

  53. 53
    Origenes says:

    daveS:

    Origenes: One cannot argue that one is not free and not rational without being self-referentially incoherent.

    I get that, but that doesn’t mean that it is impossible that we are not free and not rational.

    Anyway it’s a thoroughly uninteresting possibility for those who want to understand. But if you want to give up on rationality and leave rational debate I cannot stop you.

    daveS:

    Origenes: One can give up on rationality, one can give up on explanations, but that comes with the price of leaving the debate. If there is a horse in your living room, one must assume that there is an explanation in order to be rational. “Maybe there is no explanation” is not an option — is not rational.

    Do you accept that it could be true that there is no such explanation?

    No. But again, it’s an uninteresting possibility for those who want to understand.

    daveS:Well, your step (1) in the grounding premise is another issue I think is very debatable …

    So far, I don’t see other issues which are “very debatable”.

    daveS: … if I’m clear on the meaning of “materialism”. The laws of physics (as we currently understand them) may not be deterministic, correct?

    Correct. However I anticipated this objection. Van Inwagen has decisively shown that undetermined events (also) fail to ground freedom and rationality:

    “Let us look carefully at the consequences of supposing that human behavior is undetermined …
    Let us suppose that there is a certain current-pulse that is proceeding along one of the neural pathways in Jane’s brain and that it is about to come to a fork. And let us suppose that if it goes to the left, she will make her confession;, and that if it goes to the right, she will remain silent. And let us suppose that it is undetermined which way the pulse goes when it comes to the fork: even an omniscient being with a complete knowledge of the state of Jane’s brain and a complete knowledge of the laws of physics and unlimited powers of calculation could say no more than: ‘The laws and present state of her brain would allow the pulse to go either way; consequently, no prediction of what the pulse will do when it comes to the fork is possible; it might go to the left, and it might go to the right, and that’s all there is to be said.’
    Now let us ask: does Jane have any choice about whether the pulse goes to the left or to the right? If we think about this question for a moment, we shall see that it is very hard to see how she could have any choice about that.
    …There is no way for her to make it go one way rather than the other. Or, at least, there is no way for her to make it go one way rather than the other and leave the ‘choice’ it makes an undetermined event.”
    [Van Inwagen]

    This settles the matter: blind particles in motion cannot ground a free rational person — whether the particles behave deterministic or undeterministic.

  54. 54
    daveS says:

    Origenes,

    Anyway it’s a thoroughly uninteresting possibility for those who want to understand. But if you want to give up on rationality and leave rational debate I cannot stop you.

    Essentially I’m just saying it should be acknowledged as a possibility. I am not a proponent of this view.

    So far, I don’t see other issues which are “very debatable”.

    Well, your premise (1) states that if materialism is true, then determinism is true. Are you now saying that this is not actually true?

    Thanks for the Inwagen passage, btw. I actually read this several years ago, but I’ll have to go over it again.

    For now, I will just note that in a very few posts, we have referenced free will vs. determinism, some form of the PSR, and an issue which is still hotly debated among physics experts (whether the laws of physics are actually deterministic). This is why I personally prefer more down-to-earth evidence/arguments for the existence of God.

  55. 55
    Origenes says:

    daveS: Well, your premise (1) states that if materialism is true, then determinism is true. Are you now saying that this is not actually true?

    For clarity, I divided the argument, that physical events cannot ground a free rational person, in two parts:
    1. If physical events are deterministic they fail to ground a free rational person (see 40).
    2. If physical events are undeterministic they fail to ground a free rational person (see 54 — van Inwagen).

    daveS: For now, I will just note that in a very few posts, we have referenced free will vs. determinism …

    Thank you for taking notice.

    … some form of the PSR,

    ?

    … and an issue which is still hotly debated among physics experts (whether the laws of physics are actually deterministic).

    Again, the outcome of that debate is perfectly irrelevant to my argument, because it has been shown that physical events — deterministic or undetermined — can ground neither freedom nor rationality.

  56. 56
    daveS says:

    Origenes,

    By PSR I meant the principle of sufficient reason.

    I also left off the “van” in van Inwagen’s name for some reason.

    Thanks for summarizing:

    For clarity, I divided the argument, that physical events cannot ground a free rational person, in two parts:
    1. If physical events are deterministic they fail to ground a free rational person (see 40).
    2. If physical events are undeterministic they fail to ground a free rational person (see 54 — van Inwagen).

    Could I fairly conclude you are saying (in part) that if materialism is true, free will does not exist?

    I’m asking because van Inwagen is a physicalist, IIRC. And I take it he does not reject free will out of hand (although his position on the subject appears to be complex).

  57. 57
    Origenes says:

    daveS: Could I fairly conclude you are saying (in part) that if materialism is true, free will does not exist?

    If materialism is true, then freedom and rationality does not exist.
    Peter Van Inwagen is a philosopher and a christian.

  58. 58
    daveS says:

    Origenes,

    If materialism is true, then freedom and rationality does not exist.
    Peter Van Inwagen is a philosopher.

    Yes, I’ve read his book Metaphysics. He is a physicalist, I believe.

    Now if freedom does not exist, free will also does not exist, agreed?

  59. 59
    Origenes says:

    daveS: Yes, I’ve read his book Metaphysics. He is a physicalist, I believe.

    I find it rather unlikely that Van Inwagen, as a christian and a philosopher, holds that God is made of particles in motion.
    But enough about Van Inwagen, let us not get side-tracked.

    daveS: Now if freedom does not exist, free will also does not exist, agreed?

    Of course. I must note that I prefer the terms “freedom” and “free person” over “free will”.

  60. 60
    daveS says:

    Origenes,

    I find it rather unlikely that Van Inwagen, as a christian and a philosopher, holds that God is made of particles in motion.

    Perhaps not. I don’t know if he has written on that subject.

    He does, however, believe that you and I are “particles in motion”, i.e., purely physical beings, who may be able to exercise free will (although as I said, his position is nuanced):

    I conclude that free will remains a mystery–that is, that free will undeniably exists and that there is a strong and unanswered prima facie case for its impossibility.

    Van Inwagen, Peter. “Free Will Remains a Mystery: The Eighth Philosophical Perspectives Lecture.” Philosophical Perspectives, vol. 14, 2000, pp. 1–19.

  61. 61
    Origenes says:

    If Van Inwagen is indeed a materialistic christian, then it makes perfect sense to me that he cannot ground free will — “free will remains a mystery”. His conclusion is in full accord with the argument I presented: one cannot explain freedom (nor rationality) in the context of materialism.

    Why are we discussing Van Inwagen’s beliefs?

  62. 62
    daveS says:

    Origenes,

    Why are we discussing Van Inwagen’s beliefs?

    Recall what I said about your argument in #40: “some of the great issues which have troubled philosophers for millennia are bundled up in [the] premises.” I think this has been demonstrated.

    In fact, I am sure you are aware that eminent philosophers (such as van Inwagen) who have spent decades studying these issues have quite diverse views. I pointed out that van Inwagen (apparently) would not accept your argument that if materialism is true, then free will cannot exist simply to highlight this diversity of views. I think part of the reason philosophers come to such different conclusions is that the problems are difficult.

    Therefore, I, for one, do not have a great deal of confidence that the premises in this argument are true. That’s why I would find mundane, down-to-Earth evidence more convincing.

    I will add that I have asked several Christians about their conversions and why they believe, and I don’t think any of them cited these abstract logical arguments as a reason. I also have never heard the pastor I see most Sundays refer to them; usually he talks about evidence from history, the bible, archaeology, and so forth.

  63. 63
    Origenes says:

    daveS: Recall what I said about your argument in #40: “some of the great issues which have troubled philosophers for millennia are bundled up in [the] premises.” I think this has been demonstrated.

    I disagree with your assessment. But if your “counter-argument” is ‘probably not everyone agrees with you’, then I’m not sure as to what to say.

    daveS: In fact, I am sure you are aware that eminent philosophers (such as van Inwagen) who have spent decades studying these issues have quite diverse views. I pointed out that van Inwagen (apparently) would not accept your argument that if materialism is true, then free will cannot exist simply to highlight this diversity of views.

    As an aside, based on the quotes you have provided, it seems that Van Inwagen actually agrees with me (see @62). That said, you are indeed correct in pointing out that not everyone agrees with me. However, I don’t consider that to be a valid criticism of the argument, as presented in posts @40 and @54.

    daveS: I think part of the reason philosophers come to such different conclusions is that the problems are difficult.
    Therefore, I, for one, do not have a great deal of confidence that the premises in this argument are true.

    Well, what can I say Dave? Maybe this: you have not addressed the argument at all.

  64. 64
    daveS says:

    Origenes,

    I disagree with your assessment. But if your “counter-argument” is ‘probably not everyone agrees with you’, then I’m not sure as to what to say.

    If you don’t agree that free will, the principle of sufficient reason, and materialism are some of the more difficult and controversial issues in philosophy, then I also don’t have much to add.

  65. 65
    Silver Asiatic says:

    daveS

    If you don’t agree that free will, the principle of sufficient reason, and materialism are some of the more difficult and controversial issues in philosophy, then I also don’t have much to add.

    I don’t think you’re being consistent. On the principle that an issue seems to be “difficult and controversial” you are undecided. But that same principle applies to any and every area of philosophy and science. It certainly applies to atheism, and yet you choose that as your worldview.

    It’s really only a denial of free will that is controversial.

  66. 66
    Origenes says:

    @65
    Okay Dave. Let’s see if we can make some progress here.

    Can you show me a (successful) attempt, by anyone, to ground freedom (a free person) in the context of materialism?

    BTW you have to do much better than quoting Van Inwagen, who is a christian and who explicitly states that he cannot ground free will and moreover that free will should be impossible.

  67. 67
    daveS says:

    SA,

    I don’t think you’re being consistent. On the principle that an issue seems to be “difficult and controversial” you are undecided. But that same principle applies to any and every area of philosophy and science. It certainly applies to atheism, and yet you choose that as your worldview.

    Well, my view is that (certain) matters of science and philosophy pertaining to mundane, down to earth events actually are less controversial than the ones I mentioned above.

    For example, if I entered my house and saw a horse in my living room (to borrow Origenes’ example), I would indeed expect there is some “explanation”. In my experience, that does not happen spontaneously, so I accept some focused version of the PSR which concerns such events. I’m less certain that the PSR holds much more generally.

    It’s really only a denial of free will that is controversial.

    I’m not sure I understand your meaning here (perhaps I shouldn’t have introduced the word “controversial”). However, for record, I accept that free will exists; regarding the PSR and whether materialism is false, I don’t know.

  68. 68
    daveS says:

    Origenes,

    Can you show me a (successful) attempt, by anyone, to ground freedom (a free person) in the context of materialism?

    No, I cannot.

  69. 69
    Origenes says:

    daveS:

    Origenes: Can you show me a (successful) attempt, by anyone, to ground freedom (a free person) in the context of materialism?

    No, I cannot.

    I cannot either.

    Where do we stand?

    We both hold that free will exists. We both think that materialism cannot ground it.

    So, exactly where lies the controversy?

    It seems to me that your only concern is the principle of sufficient reason.
    IOWs maybe the capacity of free will of billions of human beings has no explanation — unlike horses in living rooms. Free will as some sort of Uncaused Cause.
    Okay, let’s suppose, arguendo, that this is a possibility. Is it obviously true? Is it even likely to be true? Does it tip the scales in favor of atheism/materialism?

  70. 70
    daveS says:

    Origenes,

    We both hold that free will exists. We both think that materialism cannot ground it.

    We both hold that free will exists, but I have no opinion on whether materialism actually can ground it.

    IOWs maybe the capacity of free will of billions of human beings has no explanation — unlike horses in living rooms. Free will as some sort of Uncaused Cause.
    Okay, let’s suppose, arguendo, that this is a possibility. Is it obviously true? Is it even likely to be true? Does it tip the scales in favor of atheism/materialism?

    I’m going to have to simply say “no” to the first question and “I don’t know” to the second and third.

    I think these questions are very hard, at least for a non-philosopher like me.

  71. 71
    asauber says:

    but I have no opinion on whether materialism actually can ground it

    DaveS,

    Right, as long as people understand you are An Atheist, your opinions and lack thereof are farther down the list of considerations.

    Andrew

  72. 72
    daveS says:

    asauber,

    Right, as long as people understand you are An Atheist, your opinions and lack thereof are farther down the list of considerations.

    Yes, this picture sums me up perfectly. 😛

    Seriously, though, I don’t think I have answers to many of the questions Origenes is raising. Certainly nothing I would have a chance of defending.

  73. 73
    asauber says:

    DaveS,

    You do deserve credit for presenting that pic. 😉

    Andrew

  74. 74
    Origenes says:

    daveS @71: We both hold that free will exists, but I have no opinion on whether materialism actually can ground it.

    IOWs the fact that, a successful attempt to ground freedom (a free person) in the context of materialism is non-existent, does not have an effect on your opinion on whether materialism actually can ground freedom. Also the fact that an argument as to why materialism cannot ground freedom, presented in @40 and @54, compels you to question the principle of sound reason, does not have an effect on your opinion on whether materialism actually can ground freedom.
    On top of that, you hold on to your provisional conclusion that atheism/materialism is true.

    Okay Dave. Got it.

  75. 75
    daveS says:

    Origenes,

    IOWs the fact that, a successful attempt to ground freedom (a free person) in the context of materialism is non-existent, does not have an effect on your opinion on whether materialism actually can ground freedom.

    Given that I have no idea if there have been any successful attempts to ground free will in other contexts, or even whether such grounding is possible, yes.

    Also the fact that an argument as to why materialism cannot ground freedom, presented in @40 and @54, compels you to question the principle of sound reason, does not have an effect on your opinion on whether materialism actually can ground freedom.

    Sufficient reason.

    On top of that, you hold on to your provisional conclusion that atheism/materialism is true.

    I have explained in #37 my primary reason for concluding that atheism (not materialism, mind you) is true—the evidence that should be there, in my judgement, is not.

  76. 76
    Origenes says:

    daveS: I have explained in #37 my primary reason for concluding that atheism (not materialism, mind you) is true—the evidence that should be there, in my judgement, is not.

    So you decide what kind of evidence is relevant and you simply ignore or try to explain away ‘unwelcome’ evidence. IOWs, based on #37, you want God to perform certain miracles and have a personal relationship with you — everything else doesn’t count.
    – – –
    BTW if not materialism, what other stuff is there?

  77. 77
    daveS says:

    Origenes,

    So you decide what kind of evidence is relevant and you simply ignore or try to explain away ‘unwelcome’ evidence. IOWs, based on #37, you want God to perform certain miracles and have a personal relationship with you — everything else doesn’t count.

    I decide what evidence I can be confident in, based on my limited understanding.

    BTW if not materialism, what other stuff is there?

    There could exist non-material entities, as far as I know. Numbers for example? I don’t know in what sense they actually exist, but I’m open to the possibility.

  78. 78
    Origenes says:

    Cherry picking
    suppressed evidence
    fallacy of incomplete evidence
    argument by selective observation
    card stacking
    fallacy of exclusion
    ignoring counterevidence
    fallacy of slanting
    observational selection
    Occam’s broom

  79. 79
    asauber says:

    Look at this comment
    I know the holes are showin’
    Look at this confusion of thought
    I really don’t know where it’s goin’

    [Chorus]
    I don’t know much
    But I know I’m an Atheist
    And that may be
    All there is to know

    Andrew

  80. 80
    Silver Asiatic says:

    daveS: I have explained in #37 my primary reason for concluding that atheism (not materialism, mind you) is true—the evidence that should be there, in my judgement, is not.

    Side note to start; you say “the evidence that should be there” … perhaps it’s best just to look at the evidence that is present and not whether there should be more. The task is to weigh what you find and draw a conclusion based on what is strongest. Atheism requires the same since it is not merely a neutral default position but a positive statement about causality.

    To conclude that atheism is true, you’d need evidence that other things are true, for example, materialism. But there’s no evidence that materialism is true, in fact, there is counter-evidence against it (as discussed here).

    But you then suppose that materialism might not be true because there could be other non-material entities like numbers.

    There could exist non-material entities, as far as I know. Numbers for example? I don’t know in what sense they actually exist, but I’m open to the possibility.

    But there is no evidence that these are non-material causes of anything. So again, you’d conclude atheism with no evidence to support it.

    At this point, I think you should rank your options.

    Materialism
    Non-material causes
    God

    The weight of the argument thus far puts God as your #1 option as the best explanation.

  81. 81
    Silver Asiatic says:

    daveS

    Going back to your comments @ 37

    Similarly to the way I provisionally conclude that aliens have not visited Earth.

    There’s a problem with this analogy because whether aliens exist or not is relatively unimportant to a worldview. Aliens would not be an explanation of ultimate causality.

    This is much different from concluding that there is no God. That is a positive statement that there is no First Cause and/or that material causes are all that exist. Atheism is a foundation for a worldview and it is an answer or conclusion about the cause and purpose of everything. It’s not just pointing to unessential essences like aliens.

    So, to conclude atheism is not merely to state that there is an absence of God, but to frame everything in a godless origin, and godless causes. That’s where some considerable evidence is needed to prove that such a universe can be rationally conceived.

    The God I am talking about (primarily the Christian one), is a being who rather obviously exists, according to my Christian friends.

    I think it’s admirable that you’ve done some research, with Christian friends and your wife’s pastor at church. I’ll just suggest, that the field for research on God is quite large and even with direct conversations with believers, it’s still a narrow selection. For example, the idea that God “obviously exists” can be problematic as I see it. In my view, God is actually more hidden than obvious – for reasons which make sense to me.

    I am told one can have a personal relationship with and actually feel the presence of this God. This God performs miracles and sends angels to assist those in need.

    Again, to my view I would challenge these understandings. Then again, I hold a minority view on religious matters here at UD (and probably in American society as a whole), but I would not propose the “feeling of God’s presence” as a primary or necessary evidence. I don’t find that valuable at all. Additionally, the method one uses to create the “personal relationship” that is referred to here I find is usually not helpful either. In my view, it requires a spiritual search or exploration — which is very much similar to scientific research, except on a spiritual level. Many others disagree and will propose “all you have to do is …” and a somewhat simplistic approach will be given. I have not found that to be helpful, myself — fully understanding and appreciating the good-will that is offered with it, and accepting that many have found a relationship with God through those sorts of “all you have to do is …” means. For me it has been different. It’s a lifelong journey of “search and find and search and find again and again”. It’s a growing knowledge and love towards the majesty of God where after a lifetime of moving towards it feels as if you’ve barely taken one step forward.

    I believe this God should be fairly easily “detectable” to the common man, especially since one’s salvation rests on just this.

    I think you will find that God is detected quite easily by the common man. The problem here is that you’re not in the category of the common man. You are disadvantaged by having a more-than-usual amount of education. This actually makes the “detection” of God more difficult, not easier in many cases. Where there is a lot of education, there is a lot of misinformation to sort through. There is also a lot of distraction and skepticism which undercuts the certainty that all rational inquiry is built upon. This is why we can see educated people actually undercutting the foundation of the very rationality that they rely on to become educated! It is self-defeating. But often, the more intelligent a person is, the more blind the person becomes to these kinds of gross errors. The “common man” can see it clearly. The academic often gets lost, overwhelmed by details and triviality — a classic case of not seeing the forest for the trees.

    There should be clear evidence that doesn’t require a PhD in philosophy, biology, or physics to understand, but I haven’t found such (my subjective judgement).

    You’re right. The easiest, clearest and most convincing evidence comes through experiential means. It would not be best to search biology, philosophy or physics. I would add that a study of theology and mysticism can be a big help — mainly to assist in the experiential approach. The primary means is: 1. spiritual preparation (morally, mentally, emotionally and 2. consistent, sincere prayer – requesting to learn, requesting the spiritual insight to know, requesting guidance on the path.

    Again, I could be wrong—I could be deluded, perhaps our God prefers to keep a low profile, and so on, but I’m only claiming a provisional conclusion.

    Yes, a low profile. It’s a measure of our integrity and commitment on the search and journey.

    Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

    A “still quiet voice” as some translations say.

  82. 82
    Origenes says:

    Silver Asiatic: There’s a problem with this analogy because whether aliens exist or not is relatively unimportant to a worldview. Aliens would not be an explanation of ultimate causality.

    If aliens did not visit the earth, than the consequence is not that we are stuck with a wholly unexplained reality. That’s the considerable difference with the act of rejecting God.

    Silver Asiatic: To conclude that atheism is true, you’d need evidence that other things are true, for example, materialism.

    This is a very important point. We have a duty to explain reality — universe, life, freedom, rationality. God is an obvious explanation for reality. More generally, intelligence is an obvious explanation of certain aspects of reality.
    Now, what one cannot do is reject God/intelligence as an explanation for reality without offering an alternative explanation. One cannot say: “I reject God but I have no idea how things came into existence”. One cannot prefer ‘no explanation’ over an explanation that one doesn’t like. That’s not rational. Obviously, from a rational viewpoint, an explanation that one doesn’t like is always better than no explanation at all.
    But this is exactly what Dave is trying to do.

    Silver Asiatic: But there’s no evidence that materialism is true, in fact, there is counter-evidence against it (as discussed here).

    Something similar happens here, Dave doesn’t like the nature of the evidence, and on that basis alone he feels free to completely ignore it — to him it has no weight whatsoever. And again, he doesn’t feel any need to offer an alternative cause (other than God) for the fact that we are free persons. He doesn’t feel the need to defend materialism at all. He is ‘just’ an atheist.

    Look at this comment
    I know the holes are showin’
    Look at this confusion of thought
    I really don’t know where it’s goin’

    [Chorus]
    I don’t know much
    But I know I’m an Atheist
    And that may be
    All there is to know

    Andrew

    Excellent!

  83. 83
    daveS says:

    SA,

    I’ll try and respond to your posts later today or tomorrow when I get more time. I think they do raise interesting issues which I will have to think more about.

    Origenes,

    Something similar happens here, Dave doesn’t like the nature of the evidence, and on that basis alone he feels free to completely ignore it — to him it has no weight whatsoever.

    This is simply motive mongering (and false as well).

    And again, he doesn’t feel any need to offer an alternative cause (other than God) for the fact that we are free persons. He doesn’t feel the need to defend materialism at all. He is ‘just’ an atheist.

    Why would I be required to defend materialism? I am not a proponent of that view.

  84. 84
    Origenes says:

    daveS: We both hold that free will exists, but I have no opinion on whether materialism actually can ground it.

    Origenes: IOWs the fact that, a successful attempt to ground freedom (a free person) in the context of materialism is non-existent, does not have an effect on your opinion on whether materialism actually can ground freedom.

    daveS: Given that I have no idea if there have been any successful attempts to ground free will in other contexts, or even whether such grounding is possible, yes.

    How is that a response to my question? How are “other contexts” — other than materialism — relevant to the question if freedom can be grounded in the context of materialism? Suppose freedom can be grounded in the context of e.g. solipsism or panpsychism, how does that help materialism?

    – – –
    Does the fact that an argument as to why materialism cannot ground freedom, presented in @40 and @54, makes you to resort to questioning the principle of sufficient reason, have any effect on your opinion on whether materialism actually can ground freedom?

  85. 85
    daveS says:

    Origenes,

    How is that a response to my question? How are “other contexts” — other than materialism — relevant to the question if freedom can be grounded in the context of materialism? Suppose freedom can be grounded in the context of e.g. solipsism or panpsychism, how does that help materialism?

    Yes, I was mistaken there. I’ll try again.

    It could be that freedom cannot be grounded in materialism. It could also be that freedom can be grounded in materialism, but that humans have yet to solve this problem.

    So even if freedom can be grounded in materialism, should I expect this to have already been carried out? That’s what I don’t know.

    I’ll respond to the second part later today.

  86. 86
    asauber says:

    It could also be that freedom can be grounded in materialism, but that humans have yet to solve this problem.

    daveS,

    It also could be that God is out there waiting for you to seek Him.

    Could be. But I know… you’re an Atheist. There’s nothing else.

    Andrew

  87. 87
    daveS says:

    Origenes,

    Does the fact that an argument as to why materialism cannot ground freedom, presented in @40 and @54, makes you to resort to questioning the principle of sufficient reason, have any effect on your opinion on whether materialism actually can ground freedom?

    Yes, potentially. I think I need to read more about van Inwagen’s argument, so I am going to do that.

  88. 88
    kairosfocus says:

    SA, apart form a miracle of guidance in answer to prayer by my mom, I would not be here. KF

  89. 89
    Silver Asiatic says:

    KF – thank you for sharing that. It’s beautiful and moving. You encountered a profound, life-changing experience with lasting effects. From that, no additional argumentation is needed. You could see the power in your life directly by intercessory prayer from your mom. I also consider your testimony as evidence for anyone seeking.

    I’ve experienced the same sort of thing. It shook me deeply and no amount of proof or argument could ever change it.

  90. 90
    daveS says:

    Origenes,

    After reading a little more about the argument, I will answer “yes”, it does have some effect on whether I think materialism can ground freedom, in particular, whether non-determinism is compatible with free will. I think the argument is going to be difficult to counter.

    SA,

    Sorry, I’ll get back to your posts asap.

  91. 91
    Silver Asiatic says:

    daveS

    That’s ok. I would prefer that you just take time and think about them rather than just put together a response too hastily. Some of these things take a considerable amount of reflection. Too often we rush into arguments, but with something like this which is very personal, I’m just as happy to know you’re giving it serious thought.

  92. 92
    daveS says:

    Silver Asiatic,

    I’m finally getting some free time to catch up on your post #81 and 82.

    Side note to start; you say “the evidence that should be there” … perhaps it’s best just to look at the evidence that is present and not whether there should be more. The task is to weigh what you find and draw a conclusion based on what is strongest. Atheism requires the same since it is not merely a neutral default position but a positive statement about causality.

    To conclude that atheism is true, you’d need evidence that other things are true, for example, materialism. But there’s no evidence that materialism is true, in fact, there is counter-evidence against it (as discussed here).

    I do agree that I have no option but to weigh what I do find and then (provisionally, anyway), draw conclusions based on that.

    I disagree with the proposition “if atheism is true, then materialism must be true”. To be clear, by “materialism”, I understand materialism/physicalism to be “the doctrine that the real world consists simply of the physical world”, stealing a definition from Wikipedia.

    I did refer to numbers above as potentially being existing, non-physical entities, but I’m also open to the possibility that “I” have non-physical component(s). For example, maybe my consciousness is not entirely physical.

    There’s a problem with this analogy because whether aliens exist or not is relatively unimportant to a worldview. Aliens would not be an explanation of ultimate causality.

    This is much different from concluding that there is no God. That is a positive statement that there is no First Cause and/or that material causes are all that exist. Atheism is a foundation for a worldview and it is an answer or conclusion about the cause and purpose of everything. It’s not just pointing to unessential essences like aliens.

    So, to conclude atheism is not merely to state that there is an absence of God, but to frame everything in a godless origin, and godless causes. That’s where some considerable evidence is needed to prove that such a universe can be rationally conceived.

    It is true that the existence of aliens is not as deep a question as the existence of a god.

    Now you raise what I think is an interesting point in whether as an atheist I must deny the existence of a First Cause. I suppose that would follow assuming certain premises, but my position all along is that I don’t know whether those premises are true.

    To address your last paragraph, I believe I have a reasonable understanding of how the universe works in some small neighborhood of my existence. I know enough to function adequately in the real world, like most of us. But rationally conceiving our universe, god or no god, is beyond my ken.

    I’m generally quite pessimistic about our power to reason about the beginning of the universe, in particular.

    Again, to my view I would challenge these understandings. Then again, I hold a minority view on religious matters here at UD (and probably in American society as a whole), but I would not propose the “feeling of God’s presence” as a primary or necessary evidence. I don’t find that valuable at all. Additionally, the method one uses to create the “personal relationship” that is referred to here I find is usually not helpful either. In my view, it requires a spiritual search or exploration — which is very much similar to scientific research, except on a spiritual level. Many others disagree and will propose “all you have to do is …” and a somewhat simplistic approach will be given. I have not found that to be helpful, myself — fully understanding and appreciating the good-will that is offered with it, and accepting that many have found a relationship with God through those sorts of “all you have to do is …” means. For me it has been different. It’s a lifelong journey of “search and find and search and find again and again”. It’s a growing knowledge and love towards the majesty of God where after a lifetime of moving towards it feels as if you’ve barely taken one step forward.

    Thanks for laying out your views on this. It is true that I have tuned my “search” for something more obvious.

    I think you will find that God is detected quite easily by the common man. The problem here is that you’re not in the category of the common man. You are disadvantaged by having a more-than-usual amount of education. This actually makes the “detection” of God more difficult, not easier in many cases. Where there is a lot of education, there is a lot of misinformation to sort through. There is also a lot of distraction and skepticism which undercuts the certainty that all rational inquiry is built upon. This is why we can see educated people actually undercutting the foundation of the very rationality that they rely on to become educated! It is self-defeating. But often, the more intelligent a person is, the more blind the person becomes to these kinds of gross errors. The “common man” can see it clearly. The academic often gets lost, overwhelmed by details and triviality — a classic case of not seeing the forest for the trees.

    Well, I might have had more formal education than most by global standards, but I’m really a novice when it comes to philosophy and issues that are relevant to this discussion. I have very little education in this area. But it is in my nature to be quite skeptical concerning abstract arguments; I realize you can overdo that, but it’s part of my makeup.

    Yes, a low profile. It’s a measure of our integrity and commitment on the search and journey.

    Somewhat OT: Do you think that God makes His existence “more obvious” to those those with severe cognitive impairments?

  93. 93
    Origenes says:

    daveS,

    Given materialism, our actions and thoughts are not controlled by us — see #40 and #54. Now from this, one can conclude not only that we are not free, but also that we are not rational.
    Up till now you have ignored my latter conclusion about rationality, focusing instead on free will.

    The argument wrt rationality is straightforward and simple. If our actions and thoughts are not produced by us — but are instead either consequences of (non-rational) events and (non-rational) laws of nature in the remote past before we were born (#40) or consequences of (non-rational) undetermined events over which we have also no control (#54) — then we have no control over our actions and thoughts. And if we have no control over our actions and thoughts, then …
    WE ARE NOT RATIONAL.

    It is important for the debate to bring up irrationality as a consequence of materialism, because pointing this out intrudes upon the materialistic atheist’s sensibilities much more than the ‘vague’ notion of a non-existent free will.

  94. 94
    Silver Asiatic says:

    daveS

    I did refer to numbers above as potentially being existing, non-physical entities, but I’m also open to the possibility that “I” have non-physical component(s). For example, maybe my consciousness is not entirely physical.

    In the question of origins, one logical inference is that any non-physical components (for example to our “self”) have a non-physical origin.

    Now you raise what I think is an interesting point in whether as an atheist I must deny the existence of a First Cause. I suppose that would follow assuming certain premises, but my position all along is that I don’t know whether those premises are true.

    I don’t see how an atheist could accept the existence of a First Cause since that cause must be non-material, transcendent of all physical boundaries and non-dependent on other causes and possessing fullness of being (as the cause of all other contingent being).

    Somewhat OT: Do you think that God makes His existence “more obvious” to those those with severe cognitive impairments?

    I don’t know where you’re going with this and it seems you’re looking at something tangential or at an extreme boundary. But I’ll say I haven’t researched or studied the question and all I have is anecdotal evidence and knowledge I’ve gained on parallel subjects.

    Anecdotally, I worked for a few years with children who had severe mental impairments. Of the group of 14, only one was able to express herself in speech. She was a teenager at the time, confined to a wheelchair — and she had a very joyful understanding of God. Faith in God was her deepest committment. So, that’s one thing. None of the other kids could speak, although one could communicate by raising and lowering her eyes. So, we can’t determine anything by observation and evidence there. All of those kids went to church and none objected. There was no evidence of atheism among them.

    But we’re chasing a tangent here. Also, I always find it very difficult to explain how God treats specific matters with someone (you in this case) who doesn’t believe God exists. The main problem is that you’d have to have some consistent, clear understanding of the nature of God in order to understand the rationale for certain of God’s actions.

    This is like arguments against the existence of God due to the presence of evil in the world. One should know what the nature of God is first before judging God’s actions.

    The fullness of being (because God cannot receive being/existence from any other source) is the perfection of goodness (because evil is a deprivation of being). Where there is a perfection of goodness, there is justice. This means, ultimately, every human being has equal access to the evidence of God, given the circumstances that balance justice and free will (a person who insists in not wanting to know God generally will not be compelled by God to do so).

    So, we also have to make sure to understand that when we say “God makes himself less obvious”, or something like “God withdraws”, that is terminology that is not precise exactly, since God is omnipresent and no space in the universe can exist absent God.

    But God does manifest himself either more or less clearly at times.

    One of the reasons for that is the attitude of the person. The fundamental virtues necessary for an awareness of the “obviousness” of God are humility, reverence, and purity of heart. Where these are present, spiritual realities are more clearly seen.

    On the converse, the mental attitudes that block awareness of God (we all struggle with these) are most especially pride, self-satisfaction, egoism and impurity.

    These block the spiritual vision because they create “gods” within the soul. The person becomes enamored with his own self, his own qualities captivate him and he is unwilling to humble himself and seek what is transcendent. The person who recognizes and admits his sinfulness, weakness, littleness and dependency is much more open to evidence of the spiritual universe which surrounds us. When self-orientation is dominant, the subtle nature of God’s presence is obstructed.

    So, many times it’s not God who withdraws “obviousness” but the person who blocks it out.

    On the other hand, God does manifest himself in more direct and obvious ways to some people. From the Bible, Moses for example, had powerful, direct and obvious evidence of God’s presence. Interestingly, it is said there that Moses was “the meekest of men” – so humility and reverence enabled him to see and hear.

    I’d take two additional examples: Bernadette Soubrious of Lourdes was uneducated. I wouldn’t say she had severe cognitive impairment, but she had no intellectual development. At the same time, her spiritual awareness ended establishing one of the most popular sites of spiritual healing in the world over the past century. But more importantly, we see evidence of God making his presence known more obviously there. The story and miracles of Lourdes are worth looking into if you haven’t.

    I’d suggest another person, Andre Bessette of Quebec who was not only uneducated but who lacked the intellectual capacity to pass college level theological studies. But he ended as a spiritual guide to thousands – in fact, more than a million people traveled to his city upon his funeral.

    On what basis did he have that kind of impact? He wasn’t a preacher or theologian, in fact he remained uneducated. Yet, he was so popular that new train tracks and a depot had to be installed to accommodate travelers who wanted to visit him while he was alive

    His entire impact was in miraculous healing. So again, we can’t necessarily say that a lack of intellectual quality is correlated with spiritual awareness or power, but we have evidence of some cases where it was.

    Psalm 19: God gives wisdom to the simple.

    We can see this often among children who have an innate sense of God’s presence.

    In my view (supported by some reading), belief in God is intuitive in every culture. Just in my experience, I haven’t seen atheism as an intuitive or natural conclusion among children.

    I’d say that in general: atheism is non-intuitive. It takes quite a lot of effort to reconcile an atheistic conclusion about the world with one’s natural awareness.

  95. 95
    daveS says:

    Origenes,

    If our actions and thoughts are not produced by us — but are instead either consequences of (non-rational) events and (non-rational) laws of nature in the remote past before we were born (#40) or consequences of (non-rational) undetermined events over which we have also no control (#54) — then we have no control over our actions and thoughts. And if we have no control over our actions and thoughts, then …
    WE ARE NOT RATIONAL.

    Ok, that sounds reasonable. I would already have assumed (perhaps naively) that without free will, rationality cannot exist.

  96. 96
    daveS says:

    Silver Asiatic,

    Thanks for the response. My question at the end is definitely tangential. I was just curious what others thought about it.

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