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August 09, 2016

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Hi

Just did an MA thesis on this topic from a cosmological point of view, using the thoughts of C.S. Lewis from his work on literature in the 16th century in The Oxford History of the English Language.

Lewis believed another significant revolution took place after 1543 (the death of Copernicus and the publication of his work) in addition to heliocentrism.

For Lewis, the birth of a much more mathematical understanding of the heavens nearly eviscerated the universe of its divine nature/characteristics. Lewis was not opposed to mathematics or the sciences per se, but believed that they unintentionally engendered a revolution of cosmic existentialism. Amidst this burgeoning cultural tendency to quantify nature, "meaning" was eviscerated from the heavens, especially the glory which the heavens regularly proclaimed (Ps. 19:1).

Mathematics certainly has a beauty and elegance all its own, but man cannot live by equations alone. Human nature resists being reduced to numerical abstraction. Beauty, wonder, love and awe, things of which the heavens reminded Lewis, cannot finally be explained with sophisticated equations.

In my thesis, I note that at the popular level, many times the idea of human significance is mentioned in light of recent astronomical discoveries since the mid twentieth century, most notably with the Voyager I image of Earth that Carl Sagan popularized as the "Pale Blue Dot."

Sagan claimed human beings are nothing more than a "thin film" floating about on a "solitary lump of rock and metal."

And since then, secular cosmologists and astronomers have commented on man's "insignificance" in relation to the rest of the universe.

But this is not a scientific statement. It is made by scientists, but it is a value judgment that gets afforded the term of "scientific" simply because scientists make the statement.

This, I think, is the underlying problem in the ongoing tentatio between science and religion. What is man and, well, says who? Are we an accidental collocation of atoms? (Russell) Are we "just" our DNA? (Crick) Are we an unintended branch, evolving from a single organism through time and through slipshod trial and error of different ever-changing species, with no particular reason for being here? (Darwin)

And now science is searching for "life" in the universe. The irony is that if they find it, even microbial life, no one would view such a discovery as insignificant. Why is it then that science views ourselves as insignificant? We are the only life in the universe for light years in every direction.

Is that an accident or was it intentional? Methodological naturalism really is ill-equipped to answer the existential dilemma it presently faces.

To answer the kinds of questions people ask of the universe require more than what mathematics and science can presently provide.

Christians certainly do benefit from modern scientific discoveries, of course. The dilemma posted above, I think, is more a reflection of an overreaction on both sides of the argument. It is not science per se that is the problem, but the philosophical and metaphysical conclusions about human nature that scientists make in regards to the physical data they examine.

They are of course free to make those conclusions(Fred Hoyle personally believed, based on his careful examination of the universe, that "someone monkeyed with the physics."), but in the end they must be admitted as value judgments, not hard scientific data.

Christians, on the other hand, who critique contemporary scientific paradigms, would do well to be more precise in defining just exactly what it is they criticize. The term "science" has tended to become a catch-all, but care should be taken in explaining what one means when one offers a critique.

As an atheist, you are taught to largely disregard religion, morality, and tradition (and anti-Darwin science) as it comes from the minds of “superstitious” and “primitive” men. Instead, “science” is seen as the only, truly rational source of truth. Thus when long held, time tested scientific, philosophical, moral, and theological standards contradict modernist/post-modernist myths, the atheist must toss out pre-Darwinian thought in place of pseudo-scientific “theories” they would write off as late-night-talk-radio-conspiracy-theories if anyone other than Richard Dawkins or Star Trek was promulgating them (i.e. interstellar panspermia). At the same time, atheists are quite happy to reap the benefits of a free, rational society founded on Human Rights, the product of a Christian view of human nature and human governance, when it suits them. It’s genuinely comical to see atheists arguing that people are created equal and have inalienable rights the state neither gives (nor can, legitimately, take away) while undermining the Creator that endows us with those rights. They use the science and the free society the Christian world invented and turn around and say that religion stifles progress, and is a wicked superstition, that God, man’s wisdom, and philosophy are “dead”.

I'd be curious to know which churches the "ex-Christians" from this website went to that they were taught the Bible was the "only" truth. I grew up in a fairly fundamentalist church and the little paper/mini-magazines we got in Sunday School always had "science corners", the Moody radio station played "Uncle Bob" every afternoon (we didn't have a TV if that clues you in to how "fundamentalist" my family was). Uncle Bob was a science show, learning about God by learning about the world God had made. So I don't get where these guys think Christianity is anti-science.

"The Heavens declare the glory of God," David tells us, "the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech, night after night they reveal knowledge." The Bible tells us to study the natural world. Science is part of the mandate given to man on the very first page of the Bible to oversee the world He created.

This faith/science divide is a FALSE DICHOTOMY invented by atheists to try and make Christianity look superstitious and backwards. It is such a common trope Dr. Cornelius Hunter (blogs at http://darwins-god.blogspot.com/) has given it the name the "Warfare Thesis" (the idea that "science" and "faith" are at war with one another. Christians have been in the forefront of every field of science, from medicine to magnetism.

Christianity isn’t anti-science. Christianity is pro science. Christianity might be anti-Darwinism, but isn’t the same thing as rejecting science. One can reject Darwin’s scientifically impossible just-so story simply on the scientific grounds.

I know the Darwinists constantly try to make evolution as fundamental to understanding biology and science as matter and energy are to physics, but THAT is what hampers science. Fortunately a bunch of scientists DIDN'T listen to Mister "selfish gene" Dawkins about all that "junk DNA" and studied what Darwinists predicted was nothing more than the flotsam and jetsam of millions of years of random genetic trial and error and they created the ENCODE project and discovered all sorts of things. Junk DNA isn't junk at all. Those "creationists" over at the Discovery Institute, even the "actual" creationists at the Institute for Creation Research predicted that, once studied, Junk DNA would reveal all sorts of functional genetic information. They were right, Panda's Thumb was wrong. Who's anti science?

Sorry I'm going long. This particular issue is a big hot button for me. I've been in love with science since I first met Mister Spock and Scotty when I was three (my grandparents did have a TV). I've loved learning about science as long as I've loved learning about Jesus.

Further thoughts:

Galileo (a Christian, by the way) wasn't punished for being "right" when the Catholic Church knew it was "wrong". He was punished for teaching an unproven scientific theory as a fact. Copernicus (also a Christian) wasn't rejected because his heliocentric solar system violated the doctrines of the church; his theory was rejected because it was WRONG. He maintained the idea of circular orbits, because the Greeks - not the Bible - believed the circle to be a "perfect" shape. Because of this, his theory failed to match the actual observations of the motions of the planets (the planets speed up and slow down in their orbits, if the orbits were circular they should move at a constant speed), the astronomers of the day, therefore, did not accept it. Galileo preferred Copernicus' system, even with its flaws. But the "scientific consensus" of the time, and the careers of many scientists, were built on trying to solve the problems inherent in the geocentric system of Ptolemy. They had a vested interest in the status quo and their pressure, and Galileo publicly mocking the Pope for not taking his side in the debate, was what got Galileo in hot water. It took the detailed observations of Kepler (incidentally a Christian, too) and the math and gravitational formula of Newton (also a Christian who probably spent more time studying the Bible than he did "science") that gave us the specifics of the planets' elliptical orbits and finally did away with the "cycles and epicycles" that had obsessed astronomers since Ptolemy. Once the science was nailed down, nobody in the Church disputed it. It wasn't an issue of doctrine, it was an issue of insufficient proof.

I do have to admit that, especially in the American church, there is a streak of anti-intellectualism. The Warfare Thesis, originally cooked up by Voltaire and "enlightenment" philosophers with a political axe to grind against the Catholic Church, became very popular in the 1800s and was used to chase Christians out of the universities Christians had founded, from Oxford to Harvard. Fundamentalism, and its rejection of philosophy and science, grew out of this, well, let's call it what it was, persecution. It is a frustration of mine that, a hundred years ago, the Church faced with Darwinism and its evil child eugenics dominating science, Nietzsche and Mill's atheism dominating philosophy, deconstructionism dominating literature and Biblical scholarship, Marxism swallowing economics and political studies departments whole, relativistic abstract ideas dominating the arts, and the church, like Yosemite Sam in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, cried "Retreat!" and abandoned the field (if you recall the cartoon, Sam got blasted off the field). Instead of retreating into "God said it, that settles it" fundamentalism, I wish the church had tried engaging every one of these defunct, debunked, or discredited 18th century "theories".

Of course, the adherents of the religion of scientism and the devotes of "modern" philosophy now have a problem. Post-modernism has arisen out of the wreckage of philosophy Enlightenment Modernism left in its wake and has turned and bit the hands that fed them. The anti-science post-modernists are increasingly ruling the roost in the University, and even science has to take a back seat to political correctness.

First, there is a popular misunderstanding of the difference between scientific discovery, which is a set of established methods for appropriating general revelation, and "technology" which is the application of applying information derived scientifically to the development of useful tools. Having some education in both physics and philosophy there are epistemological limitations on the scientific methods. Applying this education today in industrial manufacturing, They nevertheless often yield correct enough information to help direct engineers to pragmatic solutions.

The big misunderstanding in the difference between "science" and "religion" by secular thinkers, and even some Christians, is that science yields information that is fairly accurate and certain, and religion is based on a lack of certain information. So to these people science is objective and religion is subjective. If it is true that there is no God, but only the material world exists, then the best that could be said is that science is less subjective than religion. The reason is because we can't know that there is no God, but can only suppose based on the lack of ability to discover him ourselves.

On the other hand, if there is a God, defined in part as the one who created all things, then we must understand any revelation of himself to his creation to be absolutely objective. Given that he created all things, even the natural world is evidence of his handiwork. However, simply observing the world requires a subjective approach. Therefore, general revelation is not authoritative and special revelation is authoritative.

But what makes science at least somewhat subjective in both views? Scientific methods involves the evaluation of at least the observation of if not the direct manipulation of evidence against a predetermined set of criteria. If the criteria is measurable, then a likelihood of a logical relationship (causal or not) between the two can be determined. However, every scientific endeavor involves a set of assumptions, as well as unknown or uncontrollable factors, including the predetermined criteria. These assumptions are not arbitrary, but each carry with it their own likelihood. These are assumptions because each must be taken as true.

However, the fact is that there is plenty of evidence for God and his special revelation to us that carries exceptional liklihoods. Additionally, special revelation not only reveals God, but also reveals our inner selves. Just like the Samaritan woman who believed Jesus based on the fact that he told her everything about herself, so when we read the Scriptures and we see our need for God revealed to us in them, we are moved to accept God's revelation to us by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who opens us up to see our sinful nature for what it is. Otherwise, our nature will deny the authority of God and reject any revelation that we are sinful according to his nature. This is the crux of the difference between the secular view of science and faith and the Christian view of science and faith.

Practically, the best way I've seen to approach this with an unbeliever is by way of personal testimony. You identify with the person and then testify that what God has revealed in the Bible is true of you and that there is hope in Jesus according to this same Bible. A person will either accept or reject your testimony at that point and, by association, likewise accept or reject God's revelation of himself.

All this to say that there is no contradiction between accepting technological advances and relegating a lower epistemological status to scientific discovery. We don't reject science, but merely put it in a correct place. But that correct place cannot be understood without knowing God.

Well put Liljenborg ! Perhaps you are really "Little Jen of the Borg" :)

How would I respond? I would have a nice, hearty laugh. That's a ridiculous assertion.

As an atheist, one thing that thoroughly annoys me about Christians is that they give credit to an invisible god for things that are clearly the work of human effort and ingenuity. For example, a person in need of a heart transplant undergoes a successful operation that is the result of human-derived technology and skill. The first thing Christians will do is thank God for the healing he has provided when, in fact, there is no evidence of any supernatural healing at all.

If Christians truly believed in the power of prayer, why would they ever do to a doctor? Why would they ever take antibiotics or other medicines? If their God is that powerful, all these other things are superfluous. In fact, almost all Christians do not really believe in the power of prayer to heal, they merely assert they do due to peer pressure. Their actions speak much louder than their words or beliefs.

Galileo (a Christian, by the way)

Completely irrelevant. Everyone was (or at least claimed to be) a Christian back then.

wasn't punished for being "right" when the Catholic Church knew it was "wrong". He was punished for teaching an unproven scientific theory as a fact.

You act like the Church was doing this to establish some sort of academic rigor. They weren't. The prohibited the teaching of heliocentrism as fact because it contradicted the Scriptures. It was a squelching of discourse due to religious fanaticism.

Certainly Galileo made his situation worse than it needed to be by mocking Urban as Simplicio, but that's an example of how religious rule stamps out disagreement, not any indictment of Galileo.

At every step of the way, religion has acted as an impediment to scientific progress and knowledge. It is only because of the scientific revolution that we have answers to questions like "What are the stars?", "What causes disease?", or "Why do my children look like me"? Religion has never given accurate answers to these questions because potential answers are always questioned and tested rigorously. Contrast this to the words from the mouth of Yahweh: "Do not put the LORD your God to the test".

I meant to say above:

Religion has never given accurate answers to these questions, but science has because potential answers are always questioned and tested rigorously.

Aaron, simply put: the human body healed. That healing process is in itself a reflection of its Creator. Second, the technology was the work of a creative and designing Mind. Again, a reflection of its creator. Third, how did that surgeon learn how to do that 'successful operation" but by learning how the human body is designed? Those cells and such are not randomly bouncing areound in there. There is a language telling them exactly what to do.
Christians go to a doctor because doctors have insight into how the human body is designed and what is needed to help it heal. Prayer plays a role in submitting our wills and expressing our trust in the God who will ultimately decide if healing will take place and in guiding the doctor. Prayers are not only for healing physically.

That healing process is in itself a reflection of its Creator.

Assertion without evidence. Can you defend this claim with evidence?

Second, the technology was the work of a creative and designing Mind.

Since you capitalized mind, I assume you mean God. I disagree. That technology was the work of countless human minds laboring for millennia. From stone tools to fire to bronze to iron to steel to electricity to lasers and transistors. There's no need for a god to explain any of that.

Third, how did that surgeon learn how to do that 'successful operation" but by learning how the human body is designed

That surgeon learned from other men. He learned by dissecting the cadavers of deceased men. No god taught him how to replace a human heart. He labored endless hours to prefect that skill. To attribute it to a god cheapens his efforts.

Prayer plays a role in submitting our wills and expressing our trust in the God who will ultimately decide if healing will take place and in guiding the doctor.

You make it sound like a doctor is an automaton controlled by god. What use is the doctor? If god can heal on his own, why does he need a doctor through which to work? All that doctor does is steal God's glory.

Actually, I didn't mean to capitalize Mind, but it doesn't matter. The technology was the result of minds working and observing and developing. The fact that they can do this is a reflection that they are unique beings with abiltities to do it. A dolphin couldn't have done it, nor a chimpanzee despite his opposing thumbs. The human mind is immaterial (soul) that sets humans apart. Materialism cannot explain this. The medical technology was designed for a specific purpose. That specific purpose can only be the result of unique human mind abilities given by a Mind.

The technology was the result of minds working and observing and developing. The fact that they can do this is a reflection that they are unique beings with abiltities to do it.

Totally agree. Humans are pretty amazing animals.

A dolphin couldn't have done it

It might have the intellectual capability to harness technology but flippers make tool use largely impossible.

The human mind is immaterial (soul) that sets humans apart.

And here we'll disagree. There is no evidence for a soul, so it's irresponsible to act as if one exists. The ball is in the court of the Dualist to prove that the mind is separate from the body.

Materialism cannot explain this

Sure it can. You don't like that explanation so you reject it outright. Some things are true whether you accept them as true or not.

The medical technology was designed for a specific purpose

By humans. Not by God.

That specific purpose can only be the result of unique human mind abilities given by a Mind

So what MIND gave the Mind his mind?

No evidence for a soul? Do you know what you are thinking? Your thoughts are in your mind, not your brain. The mind is immaterial. The brain physical. Laws of reason are also immaterial. They are not measurable by the senses.

You believe a dolphin can develop a medical device? You don't believe that.

Everything that has a specific purpose, was designed by a mind.

God (mind) is an uncreated Creator. He is outside time, or space, or matter. We know the Universe had a beginning. Scientists now know this. He didn't.

"There is no evidence . . ."

This is the essential dilemma. What evidence could one offer for the existence of the immaterial mind that a person who asserts only "scientific" data counts as evidence? I pulled out my ruler and measured my mind. Yet no matter how long I thought I measured, I kept thinking what's infinity plus one? I tried to pin it down on my scale but it flew off faster than light, and yet was so weighed down with concern it kept breaking the spring. I threw a memory or two into my spectrograph to see what atoms they were made out of, but I'd just seen Batman vs. Superman so all my memories contained krypton. Yet I knew something had to be there, because the very act of thinking thoughts meant some whole (my Self) much greater than the sum of electro-chemical fields and neurotransmitters parts operating in accordance with deterministic laws of chemistry was going on. What is the scientific definition of "mind"? This is why "psychology" (the study of the soul) morphed into the study of the mind and then into merely the study of behavior. Now it is simply neurology, the study of the brain, which still cannot tell us how thoughts are formed, how the brain processes information, how memories are stored, why some brain damage doesn't seem to really impact the "mind" while other, less extensive damage can destroy a "personality" whatever that is, scientifically speaking. Yet without a personality or a mind what grounds do we have for creating a society where individual freedom is exalted and human rights (what are those, scientifically speaking) are respected?

Atheists insist there is no evidence God exists. There is evidence that God exists. The very existence of the painting is evidence that the painter exists.

Science does not explain the universe. Science only describes the universe that exists. Scientific law and random chance do not explain how a universe exploded from a point without mass, without space, without time into a fabric of space and time, filled with matter and energy, precisely organized along abstract (non-physical) mathematical rules, yet we live in one. Scientific law cannot explain how clouds of gas coalesce into stars yet we see the sun in the sky. They don't explain how disks of gas and dust coalesce into planets yet we stand on one. They don't explain how random organic chemicals arrange themselves, in violation of known laws of chemistry, into self-sustaining, self-replicating chemical systems involving hundreds of molecules yet we are breathing. They don't explain how new species of animals develop unique body plans and anatomical characteristics unique to their species yet my cat is over by the door pawing at a spider. Show me evidence for universal common descent. Scientific law has no explanation how a conscious mind emerges from the neural connections in the brain (to the point where some scientists now deny that we have minds, are conscious, or have free will) yet I am thinking about the points people on this thread have made and expressing thoughts of my own. I would say the ball is in the court of the materialist to prove that a mind capable of understanding and manipulating abstract concepts, like numbers or and eternal, transcendent God, in accordance non-physical rules, like logic, is merely some sort of "emergent" property of reactions in neurons.

We simply have a universe that is ordered, stable, and predictable; following laws describable with abstract mathematics understandable by minds we experience every waking moment but cannot define or describe scientifically. That atheists can look at this masterwork of intelligence and power and then say "there is no evidence of a creator" is a staggering act of intentional blindness.

Over the last thousand years mankind has progressed technologically by leaps and bounds. At every step along the way it was religious people, curious as to how God had ordered and organized the universe, who advanced science, not held it back. The reason I mentioned Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton were Christians was not some "he was on our side" taunt(I honestly apologize if it was understood that way). It was to note that their curiosity was motivated by their theology. I wasn't saying they were Christians and still scientists, I was saying they were scientists because they believed in God. This is why astrology is a way of looking at the stars ubiquitous to human civilizations all around the world from the Australian outback, to the Mayans, to the Greeks, to the pre-Celts who built Stonehenge. Only in Christian Europe (where the Bible condemns astrology, but commends studying the stars) did astrology become astronomy. Alchemy is also a common pursuit in cultures all around the world. Only in Christian Europe (where magic was forbidden by their religion, but mastery of the physical word taken as a divine mandate), did alchemy progress to chemistry. Aaron Ginn credits man and man's efforts over the years insisting that God had no hand in it. He even asserts that religion roadblocked scientific progress. Yet many cultures technologically more advanced than Europe was a thousand years ago stagnated scientifically and technologically while universities in Europe, filled with monks and scholars seeking to understand the mind of the Creator by systematically studying the world He created, transformed the world and science. Did God make a difference? Historically speaking, He did; at the very least, the idea of God did. The societies where the Christian idea of God had little impact did not develop modern medicine or technology. The societies where God was a driving force of creativity did.

What exactly would you consider evidence for God's existence and activity in human history?

As to Aaron Ginn's final dig with the old "if God made the world, who made God" line of "reasoning", (though I have to give him a doff of the topper for the creative use of capital letters) let's look at the logic, which is tricky given that we are beings inextricably bound inside of time in a universe where every object and event are contingent effects of some prior cause that is, in turn, the effect of a prior cause. If God created the universe of space and time, matter and energy, He exists outside of it. There may be points in space and time where He intersects with it (i.e. miracles) but, in Christian theology, the physical universe is not a part of God, nor is He a part of the universe. "Until" God created time, there was no time. Therefore there cannot be something "before" God, since "before" God created the space/time fabric of the universe, there was no such thing as "before". Now stop fussing with the blankets, that little "argument" was put to bed years ago. Let it Rest In Peace.

Aaron Ginn,
Some Christians may believe "in the power of prayer to heal" but as a doctrine, it is not a rule. God may or may not choose to heal. That is his prerogative. But you seem to question why God should be thanked for a surgeon healing someone.

Two points to consider:
1. You mentioned that it annoys you. Why does it annoy you that God gets thanked by some people who believe he exists? You don't believe he exists. You don't believe there is any purpose to our existence and everything will end in a heat death. So why get annoyed? Isn't that just an evolutionary programmed reaction on your part? If you believe that there is no mind/soul, then you are totally deterministic. You get annoyed for the same reason that a calculator displays 4 in response to 2 + 2 =. You are just an automata.

2. Christians believe God is sovereign over everything, including stochastic processes (Prov 16:33). Hence they give thanks that there were no mistakes made or other complications. In fact, the Bible commands that we give thanks in all circumstances, for God is sovereign over everything and nothing happens without him permitting/ordaining it. Including your blog comments here.

Please see James 5:14. An understanding of ancient medical practices allows one to see that God is instructing people to both pray and seek out medical treatment.

Regarding the specific issue raised by the challenger, I would simply introduce myself, letting her know that I am a Christian who is a professor of physiology, and then ask her to restate her challenge with specific evidence as support.

No evidence for a soul? Do you know what you are thinking? Your thoughts are in your mind, not your brain. The mind is immaterial. The brain physical. Laws of reason are also immaterial. They are not measurable by the senses.

So where is my mind located if not in my brain? Show me the evidence.

Laws are merely models devised by human to describe natural phenomena. There's nothing mysterious about them. Reason doesn't exist outside of a mind that can use logic (another human-devised tool for thinking).

You believe a dolphin can develop a medical device? You don't believe that.

I don't know what a dolphin is capable of and neither do you because you aren't a dolphin. Of course a dolphin can't create an x-ray machine; that's too big a technological leap. But it's quite possible that a dolphin could create and use tools if it had the proper appendages to do so.

No one completely understands the selection pressures that led to the human. It probably involves being able to harness fire to cook food and being able to walk upright thus freeing the hands for more intricate tasks. Given the dolphin's environment, those are probably impossible tasks for it.

Everything that has a specific purpose, was designed by a mind.

And the human has no purpose other than what he creates for himself. Evolution has no intent. Those organisms that are adapted to flourish will do so.

God (mind) is an uncreated Creator. He is outside time, or space, or matter. We know the Universe had a beginning. Scientists now know this. He didn't.

That's quite a leap. You can't even prove a god exists and now you're asserting all kinds of things about him.

And scientists are not at all sure that the Big Bang was the beginning. There are many competing theories about the beginning of our universe. Quantum Loop Gravity, for instance, posits that our universe was the result of a previous universe contracting to a nearly infinite density then expanding back into our own. Nothing is completely known about the beginning of our universe; there are competing theories.

1. You mentioned that it annoys you. Why does it annoy you that God gets thanked by some people who believe he exists?

Annoyed is too strong a word. I roll my eyes at it. If I was a surgeon who did the work I would probably be annoyed. Give the credit to the one who did the work; the doctors, scientists and engineers who developed the technology and skill to heal, not an undetectable god.

2. Christians believe God is sovereign over everything, including stochastic processes (Prov 16:33). Hence they give thanks that there were no mistakes made or other complications. In fact, the Bible commands that we give thanks in all circumstances, for God is sovereign over everything and nothing happens without him permitting/ordaining it. Including your blog comments here.

Why thank god for anything then? He's going to do whatever his will regardless. What's the point of prayer at all in a case like that? BTW, did God change his mind when Moses pleaded with him not to destroy the Hebrews because the Bible certainly claims he did. How does an omniscient god who ordains everything that happens change his mind?

Please see James 5:14. An understanding of ancient medical practices allows one to see that God is instructing people to both pray and seek out medical treatment.

If you need both prayer and medical treatment to heal, how do you know if prayer does any good at all? Several studies have been done on the efficacy of prayer for sick individuals and, unsurprisingly, prayer had no effect at all. I guess god doesn't like to be tested. It would be quite simple for god to reveal himself in ways that are undeniable but he never does. He just keeps hiding.

Liljenborg, I'd love to dialog with you about some of these things because you appear to be very passionate about them, but I just don't have the time to wade through long comments like that and pick out the main arguments to discuss. If you could condense your point a bit it would be quite helpful. Thanks!

Aaron, it sounds to me like you don't really understand prayer as laid out in the Bible. I'm not sure I fully understand it. But what is clear is that God is not a vending machine and prayers aren't quarters.

Moreover, I'm sure you've read the reviews by Hackney and Sanders in 2004 and Masters and Spielmans in 2007 which report two things of interest. First, as you made reference to, on overage there is no consistent effect of intercessory prayer on the health of others. Second, both sets of authors note that there are numerous issues related to study design that make it difficult to interpret the findings. Things such as prayer constructs and objective control variables. So while the META's report no effect there are numerous issues that reduce our confidence in the findings of these META's.

Lastly, God's not very good at hiding. I found Him.

Aaron, it sounds to me like you don't really understand prayer as laid out in the Bible. I'm not sure I fully understand it. But what is clear is that God is not a vending machine and prayers aren't quarters.

Did Moses change God's mind when he prayed? How does one change the mind of an omniscient, omnipotent being? What is the point of intercessory prayer if not to influence an outcome? Would the result have been different if the intercessor hadn't prayed?

You're right. I don't understand the point of prayer other than to stroke God's ego. Asking for God to change the future he already knows is a complete logical morass.

Lastly, God's not very good at hiding. I found Him.

You found comfort and some sort of meaning to your life which can be a positive thing. It's not clear at all you found God.


Aaron - talk about arrogant! You know what I have found and what I have not. That comment is irrational by definition.

B.E. Hunt,

Per his own words there is no room for the first person reality (I will, I think, I reason, and so on) given Aaron's definitions and terms. There is no room for "you". There is only room for the four fundamental forces (interactions) of reality.

There are no other (real) interactions (forces) by which to "do" anything, by which to "be" anything.

So he is completely correct, sort of.

Not only is the Self an illusion on Aaron's terms, not only is the first person experience (I think, I will, I reason, and so on) an illusion on Aaron's terms, but, also, the Illusion that is Aaron "knows" what the Illusion that is You does and does not experience there within the first person reality.

How?

Well he can't say. But he knows it's true.

Why?

Because his god tells him so.

Another reason he knows is that *God* is not real because I often, as we all do, tell people, say, ABC about myself in one context and setting, and then, in some other context and setting, tell people, say, DEF about myself. And I do the same with "giving instructions". We all do. And, so, having read those same things about Christ, well clearly it all counts as criteria/evidence for Christ's, and therefor ours, and Aarons, and your, Mythhood / Non-Existence. It's all a Myth, an Illusion. Christ, you, me. All of it.

Why?

Because of his god's holy trinity of [criteria] and [objective truth] and [reasoning].


The physical sciences and the fundamental composition of the Christian's metaphysical landscape all find the entire material (created) order all warm and cozy within its (Christianity’s) much wider, more plausible paradigm. Christians just love science. We are, after all, commissioned by God to Go Out and master the created order even as we are called to Come In and know Reality Himself.

Meanwhile:

The first person reality (I will, I think, I reason, and so on) given Non-Theism’s definitions and terms (and means and ends) is an illusion. There is no room for "You". There is only room for the four fundamental forces (interactions) of nature. Irreducible reality’s rock bottom.

“Free will doesn't exist; it's an illusion…..The naturalist would also claim that free will doesn't exist because, at the lowest level of reality, the fermions that make up our bodies are subject to only the four fundamental forces of nature. There's no room for "you" to control their behavior.” (by A. Ginn)

G. Rodrigues hit the nail on the head elsewhere:

“The theist is *not* saying [to the Non-Theist], “You cannot explain some (seemingly arbitrary chosen) set of things, therefore your position is incoherent”.

“You have a gap, therefore you are incoherent” is not the Christian’s logical complaint against the Non-Theist’s baggage.

Rather: the failure of materialism / Non-Theism as a plausible T.O.E. emerges in and by its many corridors painfully constituted of the following:

From Wiki:

“Reductio ad absurdum (Latin: “reduction to absurdity”; pl.: reductiones ad absurdum), also known as argumentum ad absurdum (Latin: “argument to absurdity”, pl.: argumenta ad absurdum), is a common form of argument which seeks to demonstrate that a statement is true by showing that a false, untenable, or absurd result follows from its denial, or in turn to demonstrate that a statement is false by showing that a false, untenable, or absurd result follows from its acceptance……. this technique has been used throughout history in both formal mathematical and philosophical reasoning, as well as informal debate.”

Another interesting component here is how the Non-Theist responds to the whole question of "Can science give us an exhaustive picture of reality?".

The fundamental composition of the Christian's metaphysical landscape finds the entire material (created) order all warm and cozy within its much wider, more plausible paradigm. Such is completely missed by some Non-Theists as some (on occasion) think, or claim, that because science cannot capture "X" (say, some contour of dualism, or whatever), then "X" must be false. Such is straight-up scientism which misses the obvious point that the debate isn’t over “X” but is in fact over whether or not science can give us an exhaustive picture of reality.

The Non-Theist heatedly emotes merely because he sees (in the Christian truth claims) only a gap rather than an internal incoherence and rather than this or that reductio ad absurdum, meanwhile, his own paradigm is full of gaps, internal incoherence, and reductio ad absurdum-s. Not that we mind the gaps in his paradigm, of course, as gaps just aren’t the issue in either direction.

That is all a critical oversight on the Non-Theist's part and even worse it commits him implicitly – perhaps even explicitly – to the defense of scientism. We wish him luck. Sure, he thinks he can find irreducible distinctions somewhere within that which (eventually) unpacks to a kind of "singular and seamless continuum of particle (or whatever) in motion" (as noted at https://fidedubitandum.wordpress.com or Debilis at Fide Dubitandum). Only, such paltry means leave him holding one reductio ad absurdum after another, after another…….. Of course he can always make a very easy escape from absurdity simply by suffering the pains of circularity. But then he must deal with the illusion of the first person reality, of I will, of I think, of I reason.

On any given “X” from the Christian, and on the question of “X’s” ontological location in what sums to an exhaustive picture of reality, as the following quote of Debilis states, the Non-Theist cannot simply “………cram these kinds of questions into a scientific model. The entire point of what the Theist is saying is that there are things which don’t fit that model. One is free to disagree, but it makes no sense to argue against the truth of those claims by pointing out that science doesn’t find them. Of course it doesn’t – that’s the theists point. The debate is over whether or not science gives us an exhaustive picture of all reality……”

Here's the quote by “Debilis”……

We can’t simply insist, without evidence, that all evidence is physical then make proud declarations about what evidence does or doesn’t exist. This is assuming materialism in order to “prove” atheism, making it a circular argument. Rather, we first need to give a reason why all evidence is physical.

But this leads the materialist into a very difficult corner, because there’s absolutely no physical evidence to support the idea that all evidence is physical.

Generally, the response I get is further insistence that I “show” some non-physical things – as if the person asking doesn’t believe a mind, free will, moral truth, or even logical principles exist. What I never get is a bona fide reason to believe that all evidence is physical.

So, summing this up……. we haven’t seen any reason at all to be a materialist. The reasons for belief in God, if they have any weight at all, will be the stronger case.

Of course, I’ve argued (and will continue to argue) that such reasons have substantial weight……….

….……I can elaborate, but the point is that scientific tests and “because it seems obvious” aren’t the only possibilities for determining the truth of a premise.

And that is part of a running theme here. As with my argument from moral truth, and my refutation of the argument for materialism, one simply can’t cram these kinds of questions into a scientific model. The entire point of what the theist is saying is that there are things which don’t fit that model. One is free to disagree, but it makes no sense to argue against the truth of those claims by pointing out that science doesn’t find them.

Of course it doesn’t – that’s the theists point. The debate is over whether or not science gives us an exhaustive picture of all reality.

On Non-Theism we are a kind of effervescing “film” atop the surface of some sort of “nano-bubble” which is itself a blip wherein we find a cul-de-sac of phosphorescence every bit of which is entirely driven by and constituted of that oceanic abyss that just is reality’s Glorious Rock Bottom of fundamental interactions as She, and She alone, commands all worship as we behold our glorious task-master and shout our praises to Her thrice fold, “I Will! I Think! I Reason!”, ever awash within the bliss of illusion. Amen.

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And then the sky breaks open, and then comes the light of day, the lucidity of sight, the bulldog of logic (thanks Brad B.), the immutable love of the Necessary Being – that is to say – and then comes Christ.


Aaron - talk about arrogant! You know what I have found and what I have not. That comment is irrational by definition.

Not sure how it's arrogant. I didn't say you hadn't found god, I said it wasn't clear. Contrast this with Christians who claim that Buddhists or Muslims are actually deceived by demons. I don't see how you can claim my position is arrogant while affirming that Christians are not.

People take themselves into things all the time that support their preconceived notions while rejecting things that oppose them. It's called confirmation bias and it's impossible for any person to completely free himself of it.

"People take themselves into things all the time that support their preconceived notions while rejecting things that oppose them. It's called confirmation bias and it's impossible for any person to completely free himself of it."

Very true.

Hence the far better path of slow, methodical, and intentional data gathering, reasoning, and weighing. Also, it's helpful to allow one's views to be picked apart and challenged and allow the force of reason and Brad's proverbial bull dog of logic to press in and force one to define one's terms ever more carefully.


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