Religion and War

‘They say a good cause justifies any war, but I say unto you, a good war justifies any cause.’

– Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra.

One of the aspects of religion that most people find troubling is the strong role it has often played in war and violence throughout history. Richard Dawkins has laid particular emphasis in this, stating that a belief that one has a divine mandate may enable a person to justify any war or atrocity. Now it is true that religion has played a very strong role in providing support for war and aggression throughout human history. In Britain the violence and terrorism in Ulster has part of its origins in tension and conflict between the Protestant and Roman Catholic communities in Ireland. The question has become particularly pressing because of the militaristic concept of martyrdom in Islam, where within the Prophet Mohammed’s lifetime a shahid – ‘martyr’ – included someone who fell in battle for the faith, rather than was the passive victim of murderous persecution, such as the early Christians in the Roman Empire. However, religions will also act to limit aggression and brutality. Christianity, Islam and Sikhism all have rules regarding what is a just war. Some denominations within Christianity, such as the Quakers and the Amish, reject war altogether. Dawkins himself is aware that the conflict between Roman Catholic and Protestant in Northern Ireland was not simply one of theology, yet his comments seem to suggest that violence is intrinsic to religion. Indeed his whole attack on organised religion is based on his assumption that religious moderates, by giving support to faith, justify irrationality which receives its murderous expression in warfare and violence. This is profoundly mistaken.

Rational Basis of Faith

Firstly, Dawkins’ view of religion supplying a justification for war, no matter how irrational, is part of his general position on faith. Dawkins believes that faith is belief in something despite lack of evidence: ‘faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence … Faith is not allowed to justify itself by argument.’ 1 This is quite simply wrong. Christian theologians such as W.H. Griffith-Thomas state that faith involves reason as well as inner conviction:

 ‘[Faith] affects the whole of man’s nature. It commences with the conviction of the mind based on adequate evidence; it continues in confidence of the heart or emotions based on conviction, and it is crowned in the consent of the will, by means of which the conviction and confidence are expressed in conduct.’ 2 The early Christian Fathers and apologists stressed that Christianity was both reasonable and based on evidence. St. Augustine declared that ‘they are much deceived, who think that we believe in Christ without any proofs concerning Christ.’ 3 The whole project of Christian apologetics is based on supplying rational proofs for the existence of God, a project that has its counterpart in Islam in kalam theology. As Dawkins himself recognises, this project has resulted in the rich tradition of Christian apologetics and philosophical argument that he attempted to refute in the God Delusion. Thus Christians do not simply blindly accept the existence of God despite proof.

Faith and Desire for Justice and Warfare

This important distinction between reasonable faith and blind faith has consequences for the view religion and its involvement in warfare that Dawkins aparently has. I went to an Anglican (Episcopalian) Church school here in Britain. The emphasis was laid on possessing a reasonable faith. For this faith to be genuine, fanaticism and violence were to be avoided. If one’s faith resulted in hatred and bigotry towards others, then it was bad faith. Nevertheless, there has often been a religious component to warfare because of the need to seek justification for acts of mass violence. For Jews, Christians and Muslims, God is the supreme source of justice and morality, so those seeking support for wars have naturally turned to God for moral support. This is not necessarily a cynical attempt to enlist God to justify otherwise baseless and self-interested acts of aggression. Nations generally have waged war from a sense of injustice, an injustice that can only be corrected through national violence. Those seeking to defend their rights, or who believe that they are right in waging war, naturally turn to God for support in their struggle as the source of right and justice.

 Furthermore, even when wars have been waged under the belief that it has been commanded by the Lord, it has usually been fought for rational reasons other than a simple divine command. For example, God’s commission of Israel to conquer Canaan was due not because of Israel’s strength, but because the Canaanites had failed to honour God and had fallen into extreme wickedness. Deuteronomy 7:7 declares that ‘It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love upon you and chose you, for you were the dewest of all peoples’. 4 The conquest of Canaan was granted to Israel on the provision that they follow the just laws established by the Lord. Leviticus 20:22-23 contains the command from the Lord that ‘You shall therefore keep all my statutes and all my ordinances, and do them; that the land where I am bringing you to dwell my not vomit you out. And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation which I am casting out before you; for they did all of these things, and therefore I abhorred them.’ 5 The conquest of Canaan was part of the establishment of a strict legal code that Israel also had to follow. It was far more than the simple demand for Israel to attack the settled cultures in Canaan.

Just War Regulations in Ancient Israel, Christianity, Islam and Sikhism

Christianity inherited the ideas of a holy war from Judaism, but modified it with Christ’s demands for love and forgiveness. It also drew on Roman theories about the constitution of the just war. The great 12th century Roman Catholic canon lawyer, Gratian, codified this into a theory of the Just War that was steadily developed. By the time of the Reformation, this theory stated that a war could only be just if it met seven principles.

1. It had to have a just cause. These were to regain something stolen, to punish evil, or to defend against planned or actual aggression.

2. There had to be a proper authority initiating the war.

3. Those waging the war had to have the right intentions.

4. The use of force had to be proportional, so that it did not commit more harm than good, and was relevant to the issue.

5. War should be conducted as a last resort.

6. The purpose of the war should be to establish peace.

7. The war should also have a reasonable hope of success. 6

The jihad, the Islamic holy war, is governed by regulations laid down by Muhammad himself: ‘In avenging injuries inflicted on us, do not harm non-belligerents in their homes, spare the weakness of women, do not injure infants at the breast, nor those who are sick. Do not destroy the houses of those who offer no resistance, and do not destroy their means of subsistence, neither their fruit trees nor their palms.’ Violations of these rules will be punished at the Day of Judgement. 7

In Sikhism, the five rules governing the just war or dharam yudh (war of righteousness) were drawn up by the 10th guru, Guru Gobind Singh. These are –

1. War must be the last resort, taken when all other methods of settling the dispute have failed.

2. It must be conducted from pure motives, and not from enmity or the desire for revenge.

3. It must not be waged to gain territory, and any territory so taken must be returned after victory.

4. Those engaged in combat must be committed Sikhs following ethical standards in the treatment of non-combatants and the defeated, amongst others.

5. The war must be waged with minimum force. 8

Thus, although attitudes to war vary considerably from religion to religion, Christianity, Islam and Sikhism all have a set of laws governing the correct conduct of war with the intention of limiting the violence. This is an important point, and marks these religions out from many pagan cultures. For the Vikings, for example, warfare and raiding was an accepted part of life and society. Viking jarls would go raiding in the season when no more agricultural work could be done on their own land. Their violent attacks on the surrounding nations, with the intention of gaining slaves and plunder, had the character of a business trip for profit. While Christianity did not remove conflict or stop warfare, it did regulate it with the demands that warfare be conducted justly and for just motives and with the restoration of peace as the goal, rather than from simple greed and a delight in violence for its own sake. The rejection of these aspects of warfare can also be seen in the wars fought by ancient Israel in the Bible. The Israelites were instructed not to attack certain peoples, such as the Ammonites, and the Canaanite nations who made peace with them. In Deuteronomy 2:19, God said to Israel ‘and when you approach the fronterir of the sons of Ammon, do not harass them or contend with them, for I will not give you any of the land of the sons of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the sons of Lot for a possession’. 9

Similarly, God in Deuteronomy 20:10-11 commanded Israel that ‘when you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it. And if its answer to you is peace and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labor for you and shall serve you.’ 10 Although such terms constitute the enslavement of the city’s population, nevertheless the law places a limit on violence and allow conflict to be avoided.

Christian Origins of Rejection of Religious Violence 

Within Christianity, attitudes towards violence may also vary considerably. The medieval Byzantine Church had a strong pacifist tradition, viewing war as little more than mass murder. Originally soldiers were required to perform seven years’ penance after fighting in a battle, but this had to be reduced due to necessity of defence against attacks by the invading Muslims. In the West this pacifist tradition in Christianity found particular expression in the Protestant sects of the Quakers, and the Amish and Mennonites. The Quakers are particularly important for the prominent role they played in promoting religious toleration. William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, based his arguments for liberty of conscience on the Bible and the arguments of the early Church Fathers. Penn considered that Christianity was so excellent a religion, that it did not require conversion by force. Indeed, rather than promoting Christianity, the use of violence in its favour acted against it. Penn declared that

‘It is the privilege of the Christian faith above the dark suggestions of ancient and modern superstitious traditions to carry with it a most self-evidencing verity, which ever was sufficent to proselyte believers, without the weak auxiliaries of external power; the Son of God, and great example of the world, was so far from calling his Father’s omnipotence in legions of angels to His defence, that He at once repealed all acts of force, and defined to us the nature of his religion in this one great saying of His, my kingdom is not of this world. It was spiritual, not carnal, accompanied with weapons, as heavenly as its own nature, and designed for the good and salvatio ofthe soul, and not the injury and destruction of the body: no goals, fines, exiles, etc. but sound reason, clear truth and a strict life. In short, the Christian religion entreats all, but compels none.’ 11 Amongst the arguments Penn used against the use of force in religion were quotations by St. Hilary against Auxentius stating that the Christian church does not persecute, but is persecuted, and the great theologian St. John Chrysostom ‘that it is not the manner of the children of God, to persecute about their religion,b ut an evident token of antichrist.’ 12

My point here is not that pacifism is the correct Christian attitude towards war, but that Christianity as well as endorsing war for a just cause, has also led others to renounce war and the use of force, and that the contemporary Western attitude which strongly rejects the imposition of religion by violence and persecution derives in part from arguments by Christian ministers and theologians. These arguments stressed the importance of human reason in faith to demonstrate that the use of force was an obstacle to salvation. Penn thus argued that

‘as he that acts doubtfully is damned, so faith in all acts of religion is necessary: now in order to believe, we must first will; to will, we must judge; to judge anything, we must first understand; if then we cannot be said to understand anything against our understanding; no more can we judge, will, or believe against our understanding: and if the doubter be damend, what must he be that conforms directly against his judgement and belief, and they likewise that require it from him: In short, that man cannot be said to have any religion, that takes it by another man’s choice, not his own.’ 13

Thus for Christian theologians like Penn, the essential rational nature of faith and Christianity meant that the use of force to ensure religious conformity was both impious and self-defeating. This is very far from Dawkins’ conception of faith as inherently unreasonable, and making the person of faith far more inclined towards violence than the atheist.

Martyrdom in Christianity, Islam and Secular Ideologies

Dawkins’ and Hitchens’ suspicion of martyrdom as inclining people of faith towards violence is similarly flawed. It’s true that Islam states that the warriors for the faith who die in battle will experience the delights of paradise as martyrs, and the ideology of martyrdom has been used by Middle Eastern regimes, such as Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and revolutionary Iran to encourage enlistment in their armies and instil morale and a willingness to face violent death. The same cult of martyrdom has also been used to justify and encourage suicide bombing as acts of self-sacrificing faith against what is seen as Western oppression. However, according to the militant atheist sociologist, Scott Atran, Islamic suicide bombers are psychologically no different from their secular counterparts, and it is a careful programme of psychological pressure and preparation that creates and sustains the suicide bombers, rather than a simple belief in martyrdom. Atran has pointed out that the organisation that made the greatest use of suicide bombers was the Communist Tamil Tigers.

In fact, military service and an absolute dedication to the state, including the use of force, has been a feature of secular regimes since the French Revolution. The French Revolutionary Communist, Buonarroti, believed in compulsory military education for every male youth as part of an educational system designed to promote patriotism and equality. 14 Military-patriotic education, designed to prepare schoolboys for their national service and good Marxist values, was similarly a part of the Soviet school system. This included patriotic songs celebrating death for the workers’ cause. A cult of martyrdom is by no means confined solely to supernatural religion.

There are also important differences with the Christian conception of martyrdom. Although the papacy promised absolution and entrance to heaven to the knights who fell in battle during the Crusades, the early Christian view of martyrdom was less militaristic. William Penn again stressed that the great prophets and martyrs of the faith, including Christ Himself ‘enacted and confirmed their religion, with their own blood, and not with the blood of their opposers.’ 15 Indeed, the early Christian martyr Ignatius, in his Epistle to the Ephesians recommended gentleness in dealing with aggression from non-Christians:

‘Give them a chance to learn from you, or at all events from the way you act. Meet their animosity with mildness, their high words with humility, and their abuse with your prayers. But stand firm against their errors, and if they grow violent, be gentle instead of wanting to pay them back in their own coin. Let us show by our forbearance that we are their brothers, and try to imitate the Lord by seeing which of us can put up with the most ill-usage or privation or contempt – so that in this way none of the devil’s noxious weeds may take root among you, but you may rest in Jesus Christ in all sanctity and discipline of body and soul.’ 16

Although by second century the martyr was regarded as the ideal Christian, and martyrdom the ultimate test of faith, there was a concern to avoid martyrdom becoming a form of suicide. Clement of Alexandria advised against actively seeking martyrdom as some of those who did so were motivated by a hatred against the Creator. ‘Clement concluded that false martyrs needlessly sacrificed themselves out of suicidal love of death.’ 17 Thus, unless the Christian genuinely received the call to martyrdom, they should hide from the authorities in case, by seeking out arrest, they became complicit in the crime of the persecutors. 18 Thus Christian martyrdom was held to be distinguished from pious suicide by some members of the early Church. This attitude to martyrdom did not necessarily reflect a pacifist attitude in the Church as a whole. The early Christian apologist Tertullian, although doubtful about the suitability of a military career for Christians because military duties including sacrificing to idols and the execution of capital punishment, nevertheless states that there were Christians serving in the Roman army. ‘We sail with you, we serve in the army with you, and till the ground with you,’ he wrote in his Apologeticus. 19 Thus early Christianity, while celebrating the sanctity of those who refused to compromise their religion, did not advocate using violence to force their religion on others and distinguished between it and suicide. Religious convictions and a willingness to suffer for one’s religion or beliefs do not automatically make a person more inclined than others to be a suicide bomber, as some of the New Atheists, such as Dawkins, seem to believe.

Secular Origins of Conflict Obscured by Atheist Focus on Religion

There is also the problem that the focus on the involvement of religion in many conflicts can lead to the immediate, rational, secular causes being ignored. While religion clearly was a motivating force in the Crusades and the wars of the religion in the 16th and 17th centuries, there were also strong secular causes for the wars. Most of the violent conflicts in the Middle Ages arose from secular causes such as dynastic arguments, ethnic conflicts, attempts by monarchies to contain challenges from overmighty vassals, economic complaints and grievances by subjects who felt themselves oppressed. One of the reasons for the distinction historians make between ‘medieval’ and ‘modern’ is the difference in national foreign policy followed by states after the supposed end of the Middle Ages. Europe in the Middle Ages was essentially Christendom, a geographical entity which received its identity from the Christian faith and culture of its constituent states. After the 16th century this religious identity was weakened to the point where individual states, such as France, were willing to ally themselves with non-Christian powers, such as the Muslim Turks, against threats from rival European, Christian powers, such as the Holy Roman Empire. The notion of a united Christendom was slowly giving way to that of a secular Europe. It is a feature of the modern period that most of the wars fought arose from purely secular causes, regardless of the way the states turned to God for aid and victory in their struggles. Andrew Brown in his book The Darwin Wars, states that ‘it’s difficult to think of any lasting or atrocious conflict in which religion has not been one of the factors spearating and defining the two sides.’ 20 As an example of how even atheist states used religion as well as their official secular ideologies, he cites the way Stalin let Orthodox priests out of the Gulags to celebrate communion during the War with Nazi Germany. 21 Yet this was a cynical political strategy to draw on the religious sympathies of the Russian people to support his regime in the ‘Great Patriotic War’, the immediate and real causes of which were ethnic, and based in secular ideologies concerning the correct structure of society and the perceived need to dominate the Eurasian landmass in order to achieve economic prosperity and domination in the global economy. Similarly, the sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland is not simply a product of religious tension, but also has its origins in the British colonisation and rule of Ireland from the Anglo-Norman invasion in the 12th century. Religion is therefore one element in a conflict that is also strongly determined by questions of ethnicity, national identity and political affiliation.


Thus, while religion has clearly been a factor in many wars, it is rarely their sole cause. Even when there has been a religious mandate for a war, it has frequently been for deeper reasons than a simple belief that God simply desires it. In the case of ancient Israel, the holy wars waged against the Canaanites derived from a mandate to establish justice, a justice to which Israel itself was subject and which repudiated purely selfish, commercial attitudes to warfare that characterised other and later societies, such as the Vikings. Christianity, Islam and Sikhism later developed strong theological codes to limit violence and ensure that war be waged justly and with restoration of peace as its goal. Moreover the different attitudes to martyrdom in Christianity and Islam mean that martyrdom is not necessarily connected to the use of force and violence against others, while the modern, secular attitudes that view religious violence with suspicion are partly derived from early Christian attitudes against the use of force to secure religious compliance. Atheist ideologies have also developed a cult of violent martyrdom, and the common secular view that religion is fundamentally connected with violence may lead to the deeper, immediate roots of such conflicts in material grievances being ignored. People generally resort to war when they feel their cause is just, and look to God as the source of justice to aid them in what they perceive to be a just use of force deriving from a legitimate grievance. In this sense, in the involvement of God in warfare is no more surprising or sinister than the observation that a desire to correct an injustice leads nations to resort to violence. Christianity, along with other religions like Islam and Sikhism, have developed rules to regulate and contain violence in the name of God’s justice. Violence is a part of human nature, and religion may supply a cause for it, but it also may and has acted to contain it. As for causing wars, it was Friedrich Nietzsche, the apostle of Nihilism, who stated, in the quote I placed at the very beginning of this article, that once God was dead, then war itself could become a legitimate cause itself.


1. R. Dawkins, ‘Lions 10, Christians Nil’, in The Nullafidian, vol.1, no. 8, December 1994, cited in Alister McGrath, Dawkins’ God: Genes, Memes and the Meaning of Life (Oxford, Blackwell Publishing 2005), p. 84.

2. W.H. Griffith-Thoms, The Principles of Theology (London, Longmans, Green, 1930), p. xviii, cited in McGrath, Dawkins’ God, p. 86.

3. St. Augustine, On Faith in Things That Are Not Seen, cited in Kenneth D. Boa and Robert M. Bowman jr., Faith Has Its Reasons: An Integrative Approach to Defending Christianity (Waynesboro, Authentic Publishing 2005), p. 17.

4. Deuteronomy 7:7, Eyre and Spottiswood Study Bible, RSV, p. 266.

5. Leviticus 20:22-23, Eyre and Spottiswood Study Bible, RSV, p. 376.

6. ‘Just War’ in John Bowker, ed., The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions (Oxford, OUP 1997), p. 518.

7. ‘Jihad’, in Bowker, ed., World Religions, p. 501.

8. ‘Dharam Yudh (‘war of righteousness’)’, in Bowker, ed., World Religions, p. 275.

9. Deuteronomy 2:19, Eyre and Spottiswood Study Bible, RSV,  p. 257.

10. Deuteronomy 20:10-11, Eyre and Spottiswood Study Bible, RSV, p. 283.

11. William Penn, The Great Case of Liberty and Conscience (1670), in Edwin B. Bronner, ed., William Penn: The Peace of Europe, the Fruits of Solitude and Other Writings (London, Everyman 1993), pp. 161-2.

12. Penn, Liberty and Conscience, in Bronner, ed., Peace of Europe, p. 182.

13. Penn, Liberty and Conscience, in Bronner, ed., Peace of Europe, p. 166.

14. J.L. Talmon, The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy – Political Theory during the French Revolution and Beyond (Harmondsworth, Penguin Books 1952), p. 247.

15. Penn, Liberty and Conscience, in Bronner, ed., Peace of Europe, p. 162.

16. St. Ignatius, The Epistle to the Ephesians, in Maxwell Staniforth, trans., and Andrew Louth, ed., Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers (Harmondworth, Penguin Books 1987), p. 64.

17. David Chidester, Christianity: A Global History (London, Penguin Books 2001), p. 91.

18. Chidester, Christianity, p. 91.

19. Quintus Septimus Florens Tertullianus (Tertullian), Apologeticus, in Henry Bettenson, ed. and trans., The Early Christian Fathers (Oxford, OUP 1956), p. 156.

20. Andrew Brown, The Darwin Wars: How Stupid Genes Became Selfish Gods (London, Simon & Schuster 1999), p. 168.

21. Brown, Darwin Wars, p. 168.

67 Responses to “Religion and War”

  1. Feyd Says:


    History certainly seems to suggest religion prevents far far more killing than it causes.

    We’ve discussed before how the decline in the authority of the church in the 20th century coincided with by far the bloodiest 100 years humanity has yet experienced, even in relative terms.

    The percentage of killings that can be blamed purely on religious reasons is well under 1% of the total deaths from war.

    Consider this list of the top 10 wars of the last millennia, ranked by approx number of deaths causes in millions:

    WWII — 62
    Mongol conquests — 50 (Ghengis Khan , 13th century)
    WWI1 – 45
    An Lushan Rebellion – 36 (8th century , China)
    Taiping Rebellion- 30 (18th century, China)
    Manchu conquest – 25 (17th century, Ming China)
    Timr Lenks conquest 17 (14th century , Golden Hoard)
    2nd Sino-Japanese War 15 (1931 – 45)
    Russian Civil War 7 (1917 – 21)
    Napoleonic Wars 5 (19th Century)

    With the possible exception of the Taiping Rebellion , I don’t think it can be convincingly argued that religion was a primary cause of any of those conflicts?

    As we’ve discussed the aggressor in WWII had an explicitly secular ideology, Ghengis Khan had almost no respect for religion and is a hero to many atheists , Napoleon had atheist tendencies….

    Sure some folk claim God is on their side or even to say God is the reason they are fighting. But then, some wife murderers have said in court they killed their spouse because they loved her. No sensible person would see that as a good reason to say love is a negative emotion!
    And few would readily accept that love was the reason for the crime, sure the murderer may only have become jealous (or whatever) due to his strong feelings , but that’s a different issue.

    Moving on the Dawkins / Hitchens view on martryrdom, I think they should leave that subject alone if they know whats good for them!

    Historians has said there were more martyrs in the 20th century than the previous 19 combined. Some sources place the number of martyrs who died at the hands of atheists or the troops they controlled at over 30 million:

    Click to access gd16.pdf

    I consider that an over estimate and would say that far fewer of the victims of Stalin , Mao et la were killed specifically for their religious beliefs. Yet certainly the number of martyrs is at least in the tens of thousands.

    And atheists bang on about being killed for their lack of faith! I may be wrong but I doubt anyone can name even as many 10 atheists who were killed for their unbelief – yet there are thousands, possibly millions of souls who lost their lifes due to atheism in the last century alone.

  2. JOR Says:

    “Ghengis Khan had almost no respect for religion”

    I can’t believe you seriously said this. Chingis Khan had very firm religious beliefs. That these beliefs motivated him into either tolerating other religions, debasing them, or cynically playing them against each other (depending on strategic requirements) only speaks of the content of his own religious beliefs.

  3. Rich Says:

    Sorry folks, bad analysis. Greater technology has made for bloodier wars with more killing.

  4. beastrabban Says:

    Sorry folks, bad analysis. Greater technology has made for bloodier wars with more killing.

    No, Rich – read what Feyd has said in his comments about Pol Pot in the piece on Stalin and the Gulags. Most of the people the Khmer Rouge murdered were killed using very primitive technology. I don’t think you can blame advances in technology solely for the mass destruction of the 20th century. There seems to have been an ideological change as well towards mass destruction.

  5. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Rich has used this line before, as has JOR. Modern warfare CAN indeed be labelled, as one pundit said, as akin to “mechanized slaughter.”

    True–but this means we are neither less nor more moral. Just more effective in what some of might have had on our hearts desires in the first place. One can point out that inanimate objects have no such power over us to create death than a spear or knife if we don’t dig for the appropriate route for killing. This is intentionality at work. Yet again. Just as guns don’t sprout legs and walk around by themselves, regardless of the efforts of some local and national governments at limiting them (the UK had a LOWER murder rate in the 1920’s when handguns were far more common than today, where you have to demonstrate a special need for them.)

    The horror and blood of Pol Pot was done primarily without resort to weapons of mass destruction and modern technology. It was teenage male hormones told to kill with guns and swords in amazingly gruesome ways. Same for most of Stalin’s pogroms. Same for the Japanese torment of American GIs during the Battan Death March. Only the Nazis regulated their death counts with what can be called a scientific scrutiny in modern times. This is not to say that Middle Ages warriors would not like to have had access to our weapons. But note that weapons, qua weapons, kill no one. In the worst of times among the great powers often cooler heads have prevailed exactly BECAUSE of the massive liability in the modern world to economic and social destruction of even a portion of such usage.

    Oh, by the way, I was GOING to blog on something similar but due to another project will have to let BRs input on these kinds of matter stand.

  6. Ilíon Says:

    OT to W.T. (and the general reader):

    Have you considered that corresponding to or mirroring the vast right-wing conspiracy (VRWC) is the half-vast left-wing conspiracy (VLWC/2)?

  7. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Hi Feyd and Beast.

    Thanks for the commentary on the site. Appreciated. More than you can know.

    Dawkins is indeed a strange bird, as they say in the countryside. On the one hand he says our gene machine replication agents force certain moral conclusions that deal with life but somehow (per him) we can escape our own programming and gene bonds on go all out on agendas to make a better tomorrow. Ironic, really. Dawkins for his part if not just political and ideological, but PASSIONATELY so. As one writer, not a believer, quipped, there IS just something about religion that draws in Dawkins’ attention “faster than a moth goes to flame”. I know BR mentioned Dr. Freud on another topic elsewhere (well, that issue would be something less brainy–the ethics of our loins!). But could this be some kind of insecurity, or even projection?
    Even noted evolutionary biologist and non-believer Allen Orr got on his case in a book review of his simpleton God Delusion, pointing out that in one chapter Dawkins slams religion for death and mayhem and makes all kinds of moral judgments but later handwaves away the atrocities of the larger scale of the variety you’ve both mentioned by claming that “I’m not getting into county evil heads here…”

    Says Orr–“Oh REALLY?–that’s not what you said a chapter back!”

    That Steven Jay Gould quote (one would think) that we have no purpose on this planet and that one form of survival (moral thinking) is but mere social contrivance or convenience to make babies grow up better is no more meaningful than dogs defending their pups would counteract all this blather to the degree that one form of life replication (being Prime Directive no 1, for Star Trek fans) is no better than others and YET I must agree with BR on this issue that all this is belied by the fact that some atheist groups DO show signs of agendas and Politically Correct notions. That was THE main point of the blog, even though I didn’t tag it that way at the time. Yes, BR, it does seem, contra your arguers form the Skeptic Web and Rational Responder types, that atheists of some stripes DO have an agenda of sorts that gives the lie to their claims that atheism entails no agendas or belief systems. As Dawkins’ own words (and Daniel Dennet and Eugenie Scott and many others in both public and private comments about education of the young and halting religious belief as necessary to commonweal show, this is not the case. Perhaps has some have argued with you this PCness and goal directed energy they place on politics and education and their own ritualistic behavior does not mean religious per se, but it does smack of ideology. Which is the modernist form of faith in politics and human action.

    So when Sam Harris and some others tour the nation and tell the kiddies and assure their parents that atheism means nothing. Period. Or that atheism, again per Harris, is “not a philosophy. It is not even a view of the world. It is simply an admission of the obvious noises that reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified beliefs”, we know who’s talking through the hat. Their other comments belie this claim. Sam Harris apparently goes to another page in the mind’s eye and tells another group that belief in Christianity is like belief in slavery. In this amazing comparison he throws out, he says “I would be the first to admit that the prospects for eradicating religion in our time do not seem good. Still, the same could have been said about efforts to abolish slaver at the end of the eighteenth century.” So for Harris, the non-philosopher, it seems some thought has gone into how to make Christianity as oppressive as the Antebellum South.

    Elsewhere often one hears of organizations like the ACLU happily suing over God on coinage, the Pledge of Allegiance, forcing the Boy Scouts to have atheist troopmasters, and the like. But this is just droll to some. The real problem comes in when you have this combined with organizations that CLAIM to “merely” be defending “science.” The National Science Foundation here in the States claims this, as do dozens of other outfits and tax exempt clubs that have “science” in the letterhead or local citizens councils (so they say) like the South Carolinians for Science Education, the National Association of Biology Teachers, and so forth. What is interesting, as pointed out by writers like Dinesh D’Souza, for example, is that in all this worry and froth over “failure to teach REAL science” in the public schools and how our schools are failing us and religious types get in the way of this, there is something mission. Actually several things. First, a look at just what certain kinds of science are showing results. Second, why are other nations making better use of their resources? Third, you NEVER hear in all this “science” jabber any such thing as a lawsuit to a public school about the meaning of tectonic plate movement, photosynthesis, or the ACLU getting upset over the mishandling of Boyle’s Law or Issues in Entropy and meanings for the Universe. Yet ask a high school student about any of these or Einstein’s famous equation and you’ll likely get little response outside the science team. Yet no lawsuits. Two reasons, says Dinesh. One, education is not the actually goal here. And certainly little about science is what spills beer at the biology conventions. It IS ABOUT Darwinian evolution being taught.

    ONLY—-that aspect of science. Second, and more importantly, the issue is not so much inculcation of ideas even on this but a way to “mitigate” superstitious “belief” and “supposition”, which is exactly how religion is seen by these Enlightenment wizards of public education advocacy. Thus for example, Richard Lewontin, science will establish itself as the only access to reality and source of Truth. All else is mush and gush. Says he “The objective of science education is NOT to provide the public with knowledge of how far it is to the nearest star and what genes are made of. Rather, it is the problem of getting them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, science, as the only begetter of truth.”

    The issue is clear. For the defenders of Darwinism, no less than for the critics, religion, not education per se, is THE PROBLEM, to be overcome.

    Paul Blanchard, long held in esteem as one of the “pioneers” of public education here in the US and a leading member of the Humanist’s association, proudly boasts of education’s accomplishment. Singular, it seems. Says he ..“we might not be able to teach Johnny to read or write or count to 10, but we’ve got him for at least 16 years of his life in the (public schools) and that tends to mitigate against superstitious belief.” John Dewey, famous educator, John Dunphy, Supreme Court judge Oliver Wendell Holmes (who once said he saw no difference in the moral attributes of a human being versus a baboon), and Darwinian attorney who helped formulate “positive law” Clarence Darrow of the nonsensical circus Scopes Trial fame (which was also a setup and media fake, BTW), made similar statements up and down his career path of empathy for murderous predators and that fact that all morals are relative. And we don’t mean your sister.

    Richard Rorty also made similar noises and hopes, per him, that those “fundamentalist” kids entering into college could be turned around in opposition to what mom and dad thought at home and disdains this “quaint notion” that our kids are ours to teach. For Rorty, college will finish the job missed in high school in turning kids to his side of secularism: Rorty notes that students are fortunate to have had people like him around “under the benevolent “Herrshaft” of people like me, and to have escaped the grip of their frightening, vicious, dangerous parents…we are going to go right on trying to discredit (the parents) in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable.”

    Helen Calderone, as well as Margaret Sanger in her day, (who was, like Peter Singer, big on infanticide and sterilization and sex as the noble path to human salvation) tells us that public education and specifically the ethics of new sex and other orgasmic discoveries (which she says the orgasm is the divine and ultimate goal of human development) asks “what kind of person are we to evolve” and proudly answers that the new “sexual human” should be forcible removed from the negative influences of parents and church and other “oppressions” that teach people to keep their pants zipped until marriage. For Calderone, orgasm is akin to a religious experience and is the prime directive and thus ultimate goal for the human race.

    To achieve this, the public schools will be the force, the “anvil” on which (per Sanger), the “rotting corpse of Christianity will finally be crushed and swept away.” Sanger’s views on racism and euthanasia and eugenics are not often heard today. Nor her hatred of “unfit” classes of human “debris”, nor her addiction to Demerol and her promiscuious sex life with multiple “voluntary partners”, as she called them. Nor much about her committed Darwinian ethics that included removing undesirables from the earth including those who found comfort in spirituality and not just those of us not qualified to go to Cambridge or Harvard or had too many rugrats to feed at the tenement housing. But now that Planned Parenthood and other spin-offs and brainchilds she began or inspired are in full swing and teach the kiddies that cucumbers are just as good as real men, who cares? As you know by now Richard Dawkins takes no prisoners. In the UK it seems he’s issued a set of DVDs called Growing Up in the Universe, based on his Royal Institution Lectures of children. The lectures promote (per one reviewer) “Dawkins secular and naturalistic PHILOSOPHY for life.” Popular brain researcher and fellow Darwinian spear carrier Daniel Dennett picks up and urges that the schools finish the job by promoting the idea of religion as a purely materialistic brain phenomenon. Says Dennett, parents just need to step aside here. Privacy, legal norms, and freedoms we take for granted now are passé in the New Liberation: “some children are raised in such an ideological prison that they willingly become their own jailers…forbidding themselves any contact with the liberating ideas that might well change their minds….the fault lies with the parents who raised them. Parents don’t literally own their children the way slave-owners once owned slaves, but rather are their stewards and guardians and ought to be held accountable by outsiders for their guardianship, which does imply that outsiders have a right to interfere.

    Psychologist Nicholas Humphrey argued in a recent lecture that just as Amnesty International works to liberate political prisoners around the world, secular teachers and professors should work to free the kiddies from the “damaging influence” of their parents’ religious instruction. “Parents have no god-given license to enculturate their children in whatever ways the personally choose; no right to limit the horizons of their children’s knowledge, to bring them up in an atmosphere of dogma and superstition, or to insist they follow the straight and narrow paths of their own faith.

    Dawkins’ notion of domestic tranquility and parental rights? Similar but more aggressive even than Rorty’s:

    Isn’t it always a form of child abuse (sic) to label children as possessors of beliefs that they are too young to have thought about?

    Noting that the Constitutional provisions of the freedom of religion and the privacy of the home and childrearing have upper limits he just can’t tolerate, Dawkins follows up by adding that “how much do we regard children as being the ‘property’ of their parents? It’s one thing to say people should be free to believe whatever they like, but should they be free to impose their beliefs on their children? Is there something to be said for society stepping in ? What about bringing up children to believe manifest falsehoods?”

    Strong language of the use of force. Not to be outdone (and guess who can match even this), Christopher Hitchens writes “How can we ever know how many children had their psychological and physical lives irreparably maimed by the compulsory inculcation of faith?” One wonders if Hitchens might be a mite damaged in some degree or another. He concludes that “If religious instruction were not allowed until the child had attained the ‘age of reason'(sic), we would be living in a quite different world.”

    I’m quite sure he’s right. More than he knows. Noted biologist E.O. Wilson wants educators to make sure the kids know from here on out that the brain is the product of evolution only and that “free moral choice is an illusion……if religion….can be systematically analyzed and explained as a product of the brain’s evolution, its power as an external source of morality will be gone forever.” A prospect no doubt he finds exhilarating. Physicist Stephen Weinberg, popularly quoted favorably in many physics textbooks and covered for nifty quotes, says “I personally feel that the teaching of modern science is corrosive of religious belief, and I’m all for that……if scientists can destroy the influence of religion on young people, then I think it may be the most important contribution that we can make.”

    There went all the claims to scientific neutrality. They just leaped (or more likely got knocked) out the window of the lab.

    Carolyn Porco, a researcher at the Space Science Institute in Colorado, at a 2006 conference on science and religion said “ We should let the success of the religious FORMULA guide us…..Let’s teach our children from a very young age about the story of the universe and its incredible richness and beauty. It is already so much more glorious and awesome and even comforting than anything offered by any scripture or God concept I know

    In a “libertarian” magazine called Reason, Jonathan Rauch applauds a development he calls “apatheism” which he defines as a “disinclination to care all that much about one’s own religion, and an even stronger disinclination to care about other people’s” Rauch argues that many self-proclaimed Christians today are really apatheists. It is not a lapse, he says, but rather “an achievement” worth a gold start and he hopes the entire culture will soon follow suit.

    Dennet for his part does throw a bone to believers. A gnawed one. And a snide one at that.

    He says that like other extinct ritual and culture now enshrined in museums or species confined to zoos now that their world has been bulldozed, religious people should have their churches removed OR turned into repositories–akin to zoos–for the amusement, entertainment and “enlightenment” of non-believers, the so-called BRIGHTS, the rational materialists who can “handle the world with science and not superstition.” Note the word “amusement”, and not “reverence” or “respect.” On Cosmic Log, a site I visit once in a blue moon, one poster chimed in to say religion should be destroyed as it hinders embryonic research that could have saved his grandpa. Others mocked the “Christer types” who are “always getting in the way” and of course George Bush is the new incarnation of the Devil for not allowing forced Federal funding (though private is allowed) for stem cell research if using human zygotes. On and on it goes. The irony here is overwhelming and almost funny if not so dangerous. Dennet’s bone (and bones of contention, for that matter) would be somewhat more meaningful if this were true honor of the great strides and respect showed to such that Christianity made to science (indeed, as the Soul of Science suggests, the VERY backbone) and development from animism and primitivism to the modern world’s encoding of law and justice and reason.

    George Gilder is controversial due to his often glib assessments of technology here in the States. But he’s written some fine material on the fact that technological progress, while not a panacea for the soul, is actually a product of non-materialist thinking. In the “Materialist Superstition”, an article that came out in FORBES ASAP, 1996, Gilder points out that like the microchip, wrought of sand and glass, the windows and framework of the Old World’s cathedrals were built with the greatest attention to detail and architectural knowledge at that time and the majesty and beauty of these buildings now on display more often for awe by tour guides (who OMIT the spiritual demands of WHY such things were in men’s minds) made moral demands on the society at large. They both resonate with moral authority not found in much else.

    Not affected in, say, the 1300s, by these shibboleths of “separation of church and state”, the builders and financiers of these monoliths to God were NOT afraid to make demands of the lowest serf and warned even the great kings that some things demanded their loyalty. There were lines against which not even the King could step without permission. These were the churches of old. There was controversy then and more now even among Christians about the meaning of these vessels of God. Some non believers, like Upton Sinclair, wrote in The Jungle that Catholicism had turned Christ into a “jeweled idol” and that more humble abodes were necessary to show God’s love to the world. After all, he said Christ came on a donkey over the palm leaves and was born near farm animals in a mere manger. Granted, the Conquistadors didn’t help matters much representing Christendom for the Spanish King with a hunger for gold that allegedly can still be found at the Vatican.

    Gilder says they all miss the main point. Christ will return on a war horse, not a donkey. A King born in straw is a King nonetheless. And a Kingly persona of God, at that. And His splendor as represented on Earth–so thought the Old World–was best expressed by majesty and awe. Their Scripture was apparently the Book of Genesis, were the best sacrifice was the one God honored. The lesser fruits of Cain were dishonored. Even from poor serfs making a pittance in the fields. Interesting too the best and brightest of the architects and servants and stonesmiths, goldsmiths, and lattice and glassworkers were reserved for buildings that were planned to last Eternity. And so they might.

    While Gilder does NOT recommend a voiding of Separation of State and Church nor advocate Federal funding of any venture, stem cells, microchips, nor churches (all three being the realms of private enterprise now that the world has changed to keep religion from being dominated by State, and a new, more dynamic economy based on price evaluations that the ancients didn’t appreciate that much with their notions of “inherent” value of everything from cows to glass rather than market demands), his point is still valuable, IMO. The best fruits went to what was the greatest value.

    Dennett? He’s sees none of this. He wants the trend in Europe to come here and make our great churches too into virtually little more than museums.

  8. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Ilion says “Have you considered that corresponding to or mirroring the vast right-wing conspiracy (VRWC) is the half-vast left-wing conspiracy (VLWC/2)?”

    If the equation of division means half-witted for some on the Left, will do.

    Well, yeah I do that mostly in jest. I’m certainly economially and culturally conservative compared to many people and probably very liberal on some issues to the complete dissatisfaction of others. Remember on my site that Robert Heinlein quote?

    I have had many to choose from that pleased me immensely.

    I keep it there for a reason.

  9. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    “I’m not getting into county evil heads here…”

    should have read “not COUNTING evil heads here……

    Dawkins of all people should get full, accurate, and swift benefit for the kinds of things he says….

    He deserves it. He’s pitched for it. He’s earned it.

  10. JOR Says:

    “True–but this means we are neither less nor more moral.”

    I think, proportionally, more people were disgusted by and outraged at the actions of Hitler and Stalin than ever were at the actions of the princes of the ancients. We’re ‘more moral’ in this sense. However, if the powers that be were to demand tomorrow that we turn over our neighbors to the authorities for relocation/liquidation, well, I’m sure that our society is not so morally advanced as to decline. (Note: by society I mean ‘most people’).

    Pol Pot and Mao are a different story; they were asiatic dictators and behaved as asiatic dictators always have. Freyd himself highlighted some of the more interesting episodes in their pre-20th Century history; now consider those numbers in the context of the contemporary overall populations.

  11. Ilíon Says:

    W.T.:If the equation of division means half-witted for some on the Left, will do.
    No, that’s just a way of writing “half-vast left-wing conspiracy” (try *saying* it, rather than merely reading it). It’s not meant as a way to call leftists (themselves) half-wits; but rather to humorously call so many of their beliefs and claims foolish (and worse).

    W.T.:… and probably very liberal on some issues to the complete dissatisfaction of others. Remember on my site that Robert Heinlein quote?
    No, I haven’t noticed a Heinlein quote. But I *am* disappointed. 😉

    I read a number of Heinlein’s books when I was in my early-to-mid teens; I gave up in disgust. I now classify him as “deliberate fool” (and therefore, most of his ideas as “deliberately foolish”).

  12. Ilíon Says:

    W.T.:For the defenders of Darwinism…
    I call them “DarwinDefenders(tm)” (with or without the “(tm)” and ‘Darwindefensor internetensis‘ (for the ones one encounters on the internet). I’ve have some other name, which I can’t think of at the moment.

    The mortal enemy of (cute-and-cuddly) Darwindefensor internetensis is the fearsome preditor Darwindenigor internetensis.

    And, of course, DarwinDefenders(tm), being Defenders Of Science And Democracy And The World As We Know It And All That Is Good And True And Right Against The Coming Christianist Dark-Age, are in mortal (and “moral”) combat with the evil DarwinDeniers(tm).

  13. Ilíon Says:

    Ultimately, these “New Atheists” are fated to fail.

    As Christians, we can say: “God *is* in control.” Christ promised that the gates of Hell would not stand against his Church. If he is God, then his promise is true and it will be fulfilled.

    Or, from a “naturalistic” point of view, we can say: “The future belongs to those who show up.” As we are seeing played-out before our very eyes (and as the Bible predicted thousands of years ago), a people or nation which abandons God dies out.

  14. Rich Says:

    Oh. Dear.

  15. Feyd Says:

    JOR, are you aware of a credible source that claims Genghis Khan had firm religious beliefs?

  16. Feyd Says:

    You’re very welcome Wakefield. You’re certainly clued up about atheist propaganda, there was a lot of stuff in your comments I didn’t know about. Id like to echo ilions comment that atheism is fated to decline.

    You mentioned Blanchards claim that education mitigates against “superstitious” beliefs – happily there’s evidence that the more higher education students have the more likely they are to belief in the supernatural!

    So even with the humanists influence education is keeping its ability to dispel falsehoods, like the absurd humanist claim that no supernatural dimension exists!

    Havent heard the term apatheism before but we’re all to familliar with that outllook here in England. Personally I think militant atheism is actually helping to reduce it as they have caused religion to be a hot topic in public debate and fired up many of us dormant apologists.

    As for great churches, in England at least Cathedral attendances have been rising for several years. Its sad that the overall congregations are still declining but at least globally Christianity is still growing.

    Ultimately there can be no victory for atheists, the triumph of Christ is inevitable.

  17. Rich Says:

    “Ultimately there can be no victory for atheists, the triumph of Christ is inevitable.”

    I guess we can all go home now.

  18. Feyd Says:

    Rich, while our final destination is pre-ordained our free choice very much determines how much we suffer on the way. So its best not to leave the field clear for atheist propaganda!

  19. Rich Says:

    I hope it keeps you happy / helps you live a good life. Just don’t try and force it on others or interfere with the scientific enterprise, and we’ll all get along just fine.

  20. Ilíon Says:

    There’s a howler: “scientific enterprise

    There’s another: “Just don’t try and force it on others …

    There’s another: “Just don’t try and … interfere with the [things others believe to be the important part of life]

    I mean, really! From an apologist for atheism?

  21. beastrabban Says:

    Rich, I’ve deleted your last two comments because of their abusive character. You could have replied to Ilion without the ad hominem insults, and linking to a post at describing anybody as a ‘tard’ does not constitute a rebuttal of their argument.

    As for not forcing their views on others, as we’ve seen from Wakefield’s comments it’s atheists who wish to indoctrinate others in their views.

    Secondly, it is entirely legitimate to question the view that science is somehow a value-free enterprise that just happens to support atheism, as many atheists seem to believe. In fact it’s built on a structure of metaphysical assumptions, and the dogmatic atheism of some of the most vociferous scientists can lead one to consider that atheism is being used to colour and corrupt the scientific enterprise, rather than theism.

  22. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Feyd, you said, in part:

    happily there’s evidence that the more higher education students have the more likely they are to belief in the supernatural!

    While I had heard from reading Francis Bacon that a midgen of science estranges man from God, and yet a great deal of science will bring him back.

    However (and this MIGHT be an ideological or philosophical conviction about Darwinism of the type BR mentions as carrying philosophical assumptions), the National Academy of Sciences certainly likes it known that their members are about 94% nontheist. Genius group MENSA says something similar. So maybe this higher education is found primarily in fields outside the so-called hard sciences, and certainly the biological science. Stephen Weinberg reports (to his delight) that 80% of all biologists in the USA are not what we would call believers in some kind of personal God.

    As to BRs take on the philosophical baggage assumed in some ideological notions getting into “value free” science, it seems this is partly acknowledged by agnostic philosophers of science like Michael Ruse who’s less shy about trumpeting this. Daniel Dennett mentioned above certain thinks this is OK in opposition to claims made be men like Harris. Thus for example, Dennett reminds his readers in one little ditty that

    ” There is no such thing as philosophy-free science. There is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination.”

    (From Daniel Dennett, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea)

    In a half-mocking way, in response, one apologist has written a response in a fantastic book called C.S. Lewis’ Dangerous Idea
    Victor Reppert. See

    I highly recommend his site and the give and take, though his ideas are a little difficult to grasp for newbies. He concentrates his critique of Darwinism by using and evaluating Lewis’ critique of materialism and the development of the brain and morals, free will, “rules of science”, patterns, and the notino of Induction. It is complicated, but Lewis’ classic Argument from Reason runs something like this:

    Strictly speaking there are no “rules of matter” or “rules of physics” and “rules of biology.” There are only PATTERNS. The difference is that rules assume what materialist science cannot, in that rules pertain to some law above the process itself and beyond matter. Patterns are just repetitions that have no final or formative causation. They just are. Rules are what humans create in their heads.
    Likewise either God has something to do with the Cosmos–or not. Those are the choices. If not, then not. If so, then while the mechanics of this are unknown by and large then it is not “supernatural” in the parody sense of Thor making the clouds rumble with his hammer. That has never been my conception, nor “magical properties,” etc.

    On patterns, this leads to the common teleological assumption for God that even Materialists can agree on, I think:

    What we know can be summed up as follows–

    1) Science by its nature entails observations of patterns, NOT rules (there is non such thing as “observing a rule”–that is nonsense). What are observed are material patterns.

    2) Patterns are NOT rules without intelligent input behind them. We know this as patterns have no predictive value; only rules have such value and make predictions.

    3) Rules in the proper definition are MENTAL constructs that can ONLY be EXPERIENCED, and INFERRED, not observed scientifically.

    4) If nature IS predictable (and it seems to be, for the most part–i.e.–giving the appearance of being “rule bound”) it MUST be dependent at some source upon a mental construct that lies OUTSIDE of human reasoning AND is scientifically UNOBSERVABLE. In this sense only do I think there is a “supernatural”, in the sense that something frankly unobervable is at work. So in a sense this is “beyond nature.” But this is not really a problem in my estimation for materialists either. They confront the same problem when it comes to “cosmic origins” notions. To our puzzlement (but now confirmed) we know that the Universe is all there is materially and yet it is NOT eternal and had a beginning. This being the case and no room for eternal material, it is no more (to use one quip) irrational, nor rational, to believe in an egg that came from no bird (common theism beginnings of creation) than to believe in a bird that existed for all eternity (materialism, no input).

  23. Rich Says:

    Be careful deleting my comments, it may look like his brown-nosing is working. This is a simple observation.

    Science needs to be constrained to be useful. Without methodological naturalism, it would explain nothing. Science isn’t concerned with religion unless religion makes obviously false statements about the natural world. (YECs, for example, or doubting evolution or common descent). It’s at this point I step in. In your own homes or places of worship, have one way chats with your God. This is your right and I will defend it. You are also free to evangelize, providing I am free to rebut.

    When you make statements that are untrue or unsupported, you will be called on them.

  24. Wakefield Tolbert Says:


    Do these putative “rights” you claim to defend extend to, contra Dennett and Dawkins, NOT having the State or other agencies step in to defend the children from “unsupported statements”? That is the trend in some athiest corners. Curious to see if you’re part of the movement.

    ALL thought needs to be “constrained” in some logical manner to be useful. You can’t declare with cute statements that all ideas are equally valid, or on anectdotal evidence or appeals to authority, nor remove context. In fact only by constrainsts can be even approach the issue of origen of life scenarios in the lab like the Miller-Urey claim and paleontology discoveries, etc. Having said all that, there are differing forms of knowledge, including propositional. And the ‘facts’ of things don’t decide on context. This is either habit, methodology, or philosophy.

    SO I agree in large part with what you said. But as someone said either God can be shown as part of the cosmic interface–or not. Now it might be that we can only guess at some origins and processes and that for the most part God’s agency is unknowable to science alone. Not helpful to you, I know. But then like I said there are other logical arguments (see Peter Kreeft on more on this).

    But there are those working on useful models and constraints just the same to test for other kinds of agency other than methodological naturalism, which is closely reaching upper limits of what it can explain so far in some areas, like issues of biological complexity and “cosmic origins” type issues.

    And as to science not being “concerned” with religion unless certain lines in the sand are cross—that is demonstrably untrue for some people itching to make religion all but illegal even in the home. As far as they are concerned science is the anvil on which religion in general will be crushed , not just perceived false statements and oddities.

  25. Ilíon Says:

    W.T.If nature IS predictable (and it seems to be, for the most part–i.e.–giving the appearance of being “rule bound”) it MUST be dependent at some source upon a mental construct that lies OUTSIDE of human reasoning AND is scientifically UNOBSERVABLE.

    Not exactly. These rules are *not* “OUTSIDE of human reasoning” (for we use reason to discover them, after all), but they *are* “scientifically UNOBSERVABLE.”

  26. Rich Says:

    Here we go. I feel another aborted ‘proof of god’ coming on.

    Why MUST (I copied the capitals) based on some mental construct? That is one horrible naked assertion.

  27. beastrabban Says:

    Be careful deleting my comments, it may look like his brown-nosing is working. This is a simple observation.

    No, Rich, it’s another ad hominem . People naturally praise others who share their worldview for defending it in debate with those who don’t, often right in the middle of such debates. I’ve had atheists congratulate each other in front of me when they thought one of them had trumped me. Is that sycophancy, or simple praise? Besides, there are better ways of putting it than ‘brown-nosing’, which is a vulgarism. So my comments stand.

    Science isn’t concerned with religion unless religion makes obviously false statements about the natural world.

    Strange – that’s clearly not the case with the various ‘atheists in white lab coats who turned up at the ‘Beyond Belief’ conference in La Jolla last year.

    You are also free to evangelize, providing I am free to rebut.
    You’ve changed your tune. At Christmas you were telling us that we shouldn’t evangelise.

  28. beastrabban Says:

    Thanks for the info on Victor Reppert’s C.S. Lewis’ Dangerous Idea , Wakefield. It’s really interesting stuff, and very close to what the philosopher Ward was saying in his critique of Naturalism at the beginning of the 20th century. I’m going to use it as part of a blog post on the topic, if I may.

  29. Ilíon Says:

    You might also look into (former UK Prime Minister) Balfour’s “Foundation of Belief” (of which Reppert has speculated that it may have influenced Lewis’ thought and arguments).

    If I remember correctly, I downloaded a version from this page (it looks as though this is a facsimile of the 1st edition; somewhere, I also found a .PDF of the 8th edition)

  30. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Ilion said:

    Not exactly. These rules are *not* “OUTSIDE of human reasoning” (for we use reason to discover them, after all), but they *are* “scientifically UNOBSERVABLE.”

    What I meant to say was that the SOURCE of this is outside human reason. NO doubt God would be incomprehensabile though you pointed out that the effects of His influence and the effects of his existence can be known through reason and deduction.

    I don’t thinkn we can know the full monty of God’s attributes other than what has been revealed in Scripture or reveleation. This would be most difficult and akin to having an insect or simliar creature “understand” human beings.

    They certainly are aware at some level of our existence. This is not the same as saying they “know” the human creatures.

    Yes, BR, I think the Lewis site is a great resrouce–the Argument from Reason is complicated but a great way to demonstrate certain attributes of a Beginnings argument. There are similar ideas. Not familiar with Ward but no doubt others have followed suit or even came before. This is but one I’m familiar with.

  31. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Rich, you said: Why MUST (I copied the capitals) based on some mental construct? That is one horrible naked assertion.

    Rules can only be mental contrusts. They don’t have a physical manifestation like a rock. There is no giant obelisk floating around in space like in 2001 saying “Behold, here’s how things are”

    Rules, like the Law of Njumbers, have no other representation other than analogy to physical objects and our input on certain kinds of analysis and categorization. The are in the minds of people.

    Likewise if matter follows what materialist science itself demonstrates can ONLY be patterns that give appearance of rules then the guess is that the Rulemaker is invisible except by default of other attributes that can be analyzed indirectly.

  32. Rich Says:

    Rules can only be mental contrusts.


    metal constructs are codification of “Rules”

    Now your dog wags your tail.

  33. Rich Says:

    There may be ‘better ways’ of saying “brown nosing”, but that doesn’t mitigate the fact that he was / does.

    No doubt this is ad hominem. It’s also true.
    Actually in this instant it isn’t, as I’m not anchoring the observation to a claim or refutation.

  34. Wakkefield Tolbert Says:

    Hi Beast.

    I wanted to remind you, though I know you probably already know by now, that while doing your research on the work of Reppert and the Argument from Reason and his take on Lewis and similar arguments, to remember that there is a corollary argument to the AFR.

    It has to do with the fact that per Lewis and similar thinkers, the human mind IF evolved from purely materialistic chain of events in increments is evolved to see things the way they are. Akin to being on autopilot. However, as Lewis points out, this creates a difficult for any “reason” or “truth” for all propositions and suggestions. IF this is the case and we are biological inputs only, then the mind sees what it wants for comfort to the degree that if all thought is little more than neural response to stimuli then we can never know for certain what is true or not in the first place AND we have the added problem that a proposition–any–must be analyzed for its own sake and not some biological prerogative, etc. This is called the problem of Induction, a fancy way of saying you have to cross the gulf from A to point B for all propositions. Truth must stand alone. Now there is the atheist answer to this–or more properly the evolutionary/materialist answer in that perhaps the brain is displaying an “emergent” property after evolution that ALLOWS truth propositions to become manifest. Sort of like water–water is made of hydrogen and oxygen which by themselves cannot be show (except very mathematically and in a way difficult to understand to the laymen with the covalent bonding and how it behave sin concert) to demonstrate properties of what you and I call H20. But there it is, and thus by analogy the “emergent” property of water displaying properties not readily forecast by mere association of atoms but nonetheless having a (difficult) material explanation for its many interesting properties (like specific heat values and expansion rather than contraction when freezing, etc).

  35. Wakefield Tolbert Says:


    Well it looks like I’ve hit the classic “writers” block–not good for someone trying to refine apologetics or being a writer. I WAS going to finish the brain research posting AND another one I had cooking about the classic Anslem argument and how it is treated and why I had THOUGHT it was going to be a good one. Not so much now. I ran into the below and I just stood there–or sat there–and had that Charlie Brown response to Peppermint Patti and said to myself “well……I…..ummmmm”

    I was not able to find a logical way around these retorts. The closest one to Anslems is the Ontological. See also the one about the LAWS of Cosmos–similar to Lewis’ take on things. And something VITAL to your impending post on the Lewis/Reppert Argument from Reason, so you might want to comment on this also: This is supposedly a counter to the Laws need a “lawgiver”. Now I guess one answer is that for these patterns, WHAT put these regularities into place? But that sounds weak, honestly.

    So in my line of thinking there’s no real point to go to the “easy” post (the other one is going to be tedious but not exhaustive) on Anslem’s contingencies when the basics are not answered. See for example the argument from lines of contingencies, the argument that to exist is to be in time and thus the classic theological take on chains of causes not going on forever falls apart since by definition God would have to be IN the Universe if He is in time. And He must since he exists. There is no such thing as “timeless”—it is supposedly (per this author) a contradiction in terms. Anslem and Brain research will have to wait until I have these notions shored up.

    And of course the moral issue. As Bertrand Russell said, if God is the arbiter of morals and it is only because “God is good” therefore “God is the source of God because He is God” is nonsensical thus morals is no less arbitrary for religion than for atheists, etc. And so it goes.

    Found this emailed from a website on atheism (or mostly about this, though they go into other topics). There’s apparently more to this site but this is the main theme of this character.

    Inputs, anyone? Feyd can chime in too:

    “Given below are the most common arguments in favour of a god. When talking about this, it should be assumed that I am referring to the god of the Abramic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The arguments can be applied for any religion – these are simply the most common religions within the Western world. The arguments – and counter-arguments – apply as well as for Wicca, Hinduism and so on. For simplicity’s sake, however, I’m referring the god/s of the big three.

    The arguments are grouped on a family basis.

    First Cause, or Prime Mover, or Cosmological Argument – Who started the Universe?
    The Kalam Argument – revised version incorporating Islamic theology which attempts to smooth over the flaws of the First Cause Argument. But does it succeed?
    The Argument from Contingency – A favourite of Thomas Aquinas; can there be an infinite chain of events? Can these events be without purpose?
    Argument from Design,or Intelligent Design, or the Teleological Argument, or The Cosmic Watchmaker – is the universe designed?
    The Anthropic Principle – A close relative of the Argument from Design; how is it that the universe is so hospitable to life?
    The Argument from Improbability – Is life really so unlikely that it needs a god to exist?
    Irreducible Complexity – Is life too complex to have functioned as less complicated forms?
    Physical Laws – Can there be laws without a law-giver?
    Moral Principles – Do our moral compasses point due God?
    Pascal’s Wager, or the Safe Bet – Why risk Hell?
    The Ontological Argument, or Perfect Being Argument – If we can imagine perfection, surely it exists?
    Personal Revelations – Did God just whisper in my ear?
    Warm Fuzzies, or “I can feel God’s presence!” – Can feelings be a valid form of argument?
    Numbers, or How can millions be wrong? – A more democratic approach to the facts; do you think you know better than millions of others?

    The Cosmological or First Cause Argument
    Everything had a cause, and every cause is the effect of a previous cause. Something must have started it all. God is the first cause, the unmoved mover, the creator and sustainer of
    the universe.

    This has been a very popular argument with religious philosophers throughout the ages; it seems to be enjoying an upsurge in popularity in recent years, as people who don’t understand the Big Bang or logical principles struggle to find something else. It’s a quick and easy argument which appeals to many who don’t bother to think it through. It seems to solve the mystery of the what caused the Big Bang and prove a God. Two arguments for the price of one.

    Unfortunately, this argument shoots itself in the foot. It is internally flawed and internally inconsistent.

    What caused God? What many people suggest that it is reasonable to believe in God because it solves a mystery: that of who, or what, caused the universe to come into being. However, it just replaces one mystery with another.

    The usual counter to this is that God is somehow exempt from the ‘rule’ that everything has a cause; I believe the normal format is God is extratemporal, and thus exists at all times simultaneously, so he doesn’t require a cause. This is where Ockham’s Razor comes into play: Do not multiply entities unnecessarily. That is, don’t try solving mysteries by adding mystical ingredients which just cause other mysteries. We already have a mystery: the cause of the Big Bang. If you introduce a God, you’re just tipping in a bucket of soap into already murky water; sure, it says on the packet that it cleans away dirt, but how clear will the water be afterwards? You’ve probably also just killed all the fish, too.

    Saying that the existence of the Universe proves the existence of God is a logical fallacy of the kind called begging the question, or more formally, petitio principii.

    This fallacy occurs when the premises are at least as questionable as the conclusion reached. Typically the premises of the argument implicitly assume the result which the argument purports to prove, in a disguised form. For example:

    The Bible is the word of God. The word of God cannot be doubted, and the Bible states that the Bible is true. Therefore the Bible must be true.

    There’s no reason to suppose a God exists simply because the Universe does. Yes, the start of the Cosmos is a mystery. So what? Powered flight used to be a mystery – up until the Wright brothers decided Kitty Hawk would be a nice place for an airstrip. This is commonly called the God of the Gaps Syndrome: there is a mystery which is so far unexplained by science. Priests everywhere rejoice, and proclaim that said mystery proves God. It’s very strange how God keeps leaping from place to place every six months as scientists make new discoveries.

    The argument that God is extratemporal is quite innovative, but it suffers a few major flaws. One is that actions require temporality: if you want to do something, you need time to do it in. The Big Bang theory posits that the Universe began with a singularity: a point of infinite mass and zero volume. Everything, ever, was crammed into it, literally: all time and all space were in it.

    Now, this screws the idea of a time up a lot. Time would not exist outside the singularity, and because the singularity contained all matter and space, there was no time. Supposing you could stand on top of the singularity before it went bang, you could wait forever, and nothing would happen: events require time to happen.

    The time from the universe being a singularity to the big bang would thus be infinite.

    Therefore, since the big bang has happened, the singularity must have existed for an infinite time before that.

    Therefore, the universe is eternal and uncaused, and we don’t need to cut anyone with Ockham’s Razor.

    If you’re feeling confused about physics right now, you’d better get unconfused fast. There will be a test later.

    God cannot be an uncaused cause, because a cause, even if uncaused, assumes temporality and therefore must exist inside the universe and not outside, which is where God de facto lives/exists.

    Subsection: The Kalam Argument
    Everything that begins to exist has a cause. The universe began to exist. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

    Looks pretty tidy, huh? This argument intertwines Islamic theology and the cosmological argument. In Kalamitous1 thought, infinity exists only conceptually: infinity does not exist as a real object. If time and events are infinite, we could have arrived at the present. Ignoring the fact that the present doesn’t exist either, being only past or future, we have reached the present; therefore, the series of events has a beginning.

    Let’s have a look at it.

    Things that begin to exist
    Does this actually mean anything? At all? The answer is, as you probably guessed, no. You cannot differentiate between objects which exist and those which don’t. Things exist, or they don’t. Existence is not a qualitative concept: you have it or you don’t. The argument implies that things can be divided into existent things and non-existent things.). In order for this to work, things which haven’t begun to exist cannot be an empty group, but more important, it has to have more than one item in it to avoid being just another way of saying God. If God is the only thing which did not begin to exist, things which began to exist is just another way for God to hide behind the curtain in Oz. This make the premise everything that begins to exist has a cause the same as saying everything except God is caused. This puts us right back into the frame of the normal cosmological argument by begging the question.

    A subset of this would be that if the only thing that didn’t begin to exist is God, the second premise is shrunk down to the universe is not God, which again assumes what the argument is trying to prove. Put that way, it becomes

    Everything except God has a cause. The universe is not God. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

    This is logical, if not very useful. It is equivalent to

    All limousines are no more than thirty feet long. My house is thirty-eight feet long. Thus my house is not a limousine.

    This is all very useful as a specimen of beginner’s logic, but it’s not actually telling us very much. I don’t need to compare lengths to know that my house is not a limousine.

    William Lane Craig, the Christian philosopher who is a proponent of Kalam, argues that under Kalam, a creator is inevitable by saying

    We know that this first event must have been caused. The question is: How can a first event come to exist if the cause of that event exists changelessly and eternally? Why isn’t the effect as co-eternal as the cause?

    It seems that there is only one way out of this dilemma, and that is to infer that the cause of the universe is a personal agent who chooses to create a universe in time. Philosophers call this type of causation ‘agent causation,’ and because the agent is free, he can initiate new effects by freely bringing about conditions which were not previously present.2

    This dependent upon our knowing that the first event was a caused one. However, if God is the only thing allowed to be existent without being caused, the argument begs the question again. Basically, in order to avoid miring the argument in logical fallacies from the first step, anyone using it has to provide examples of things which are not God, which have also not begun to exist yet exist. Because we don’t encounter things which haven’t begun to exist on a daily basis – or ever, for that matter – we can’t make guesses about them. If something has a beginning, it exists temporally, and vice versa; something cannot exist without a temporal locus or starting point inside the natural universe, because time is an integral part of the Universe. Nothing within the Universe can exist without time, because temporality is what defines the Universe as existent.

    The next rabbit out of the hat is usually God is outside the universe (see part of the parent Cosmological Argument), which is just nonsensical: if the Universe is the totality of what exists, you can’t have anything outside of it, or it wouldn’t be the totality of existence. Well done, the rabbit just suffocated inside your magical Fallacy Hat.

    However, for the purposes of the discussion, let’s say that there is an Outside to the Universe. If the arguer wants to avoid turning the argument into mass of fallacies analogous to a double helping of spaghetti with extra Bad Logic sauce, he has to admit that his argument is a false one unless he allows other things besides God to not have been caused.

    This is where it gets really funny.

    The existence of a personal creator as described by Craig presupposes personality, which presupposes complexity. Even Deism presupposes personality, of a sort3.

    Now, let’s bring out Ockham’s Razor again, and see if we can’t give Craig’s argument an opportunity to get rid of that beard. As a reminder, it essentially says, don’t make things any more complex than they need to be.

    For the argument to remain logical and not simply a big old sack full of assertions, impersonal objects have to be admitted into the group of things which are existent without a beginning. If they are not eliminated in some way – and the argument doesn’t hold together if they are – the possibility that the Universe had a naturalistic beginning must be admitted into the equation.

    Whoops, Ockham’s Razor just slipped! Kalam has had its throat cut.

    If a natural explanation is not eliminated, it is the correct one until proven otherwise. I don’t see any proof of extra-Universal entities which never began coming any time soon.

    Whew. Kalam is nearly as riddled with bad grammar as the Ontological Argument.

    Subsection: The Argument from Contingency
    Contingent things exist.
    Each contingent thing has a time at which it fails to exist (contingent things are not omnipresent).
    So, if everything were contingent, there would be a time at which nothing exists (call this an empty time).
    That empty time would have been in the past.
    If the world were empty at one time, it would be empty forever after (a conservation principle).
    So, if everything were contingent, nothing would exist now.
    But clearly, the world is not empty (premise 1).
    So there exists a being who is not contingent.
    Hence, God exists.

    (This paraphrased as Aquinas was a long-winded boor)

    A quick clarification here: contingent objects are those which are true only under certain conditions or under existing conditions, and therefore not universally true or valid, for those of you who don’t spend their free time reading into philosophy.

    Aquinas. Blech.

    Things do not cease to exist when they die or are destroyed. If I smash a glass on the floor, the material elements of the glass still exist. They don’t make up a glass anymore, and the shape of a glass is no longer one of its attributes. It’s still the same stuff, though.

    Contingency also denies determinism, of which more in a few sentences’ time. The argument basically states that the universe can only intelligible if there was a founding intellect.

    Determinism is belief that everything, including every human act, is caused by something or other and that there is no real free will. This is not necessarily a supernatural viewpoint: there is biological determinism, for example, or naturalist determinism.

    This argument assumes that all objects are contingent, that is, that they exist only as a result of a series of past events that did not need to have happened. Some event or entity, however, created the universe, and that event or entity could not have been contingent, since its existence is based on no past events.

    The argument presupposes that events are contingent and not deterministic. It further presumes that the creator is a purposeful entity, rather than a non-purposeful impersonal event. Neither presumption is obviously true, and the argument fails for much the same reason that First Cause fails: It assumes without evidence that the creation was initiated by a sentient being, and that this being does not itself labour under the terms of the argument.

    If there is a being without previous events which caused it, how did it come to exist? It couldn’t exist temporally, as determined by the ruthless murder of Kalam.

    The Argument from Contingency is thrown on the scrapheap because it is internally consistent and relies solely on assumptions to make its argument.

    The Argument from Design
    The world is characterized by such a degree of order and regularity it must have been designed for some purpose. The order and regularity in the world were bestowed by a “divine craftsman”, who created the world for a definite reason.

    Another modern favourite, especially among Theists who would like to believe in special creation, but are honest enough to admit to themselves that it really doesn’t have a leg to stand on (it may have evolved without legs, perhaps from some sea-dwelling argument).

    Anyway… There are quite a few things wrong with this argument. David Hume4 criticised it on the following grounds:

    i. It assumes too much
    Inferring an effect – a cosmic design – from a cause – the beginning of the cosmos – is basically assuming what the argument wants to prove. Order and regularity do not imply design, supernatural or otherwise.

    ii.The universe is unique
    On this basis, Hume argued that it cannot be inferred that there is anything like a designer behind it; where is the undesigned universe by which one can make comparisons?

    iii. Who designed the designer?
    If functional complexity requires a designer, then the designer also needs a designer, because the designer must be at least as complex as the thing it designed. How else could it have designed the Universe? Maybe there was a team of imperfect designers. A Universe designed by committee would explain a lot.

    iv. The universe shows just as much evidence of imperfection and disorder
    Seeking a cause of the order when such order only partially represents what the universe is like is asking for trouble. If an all-perfect, all-good designer made the universe, why is it so full of suffering for life forms? Even if one could infer a designer from the world, there is no reason to suppose that it is the Judaeo-Christian or Islamic god. In fact, there are reasons to suppose it is not.

    The perceived design in nature is not necessarily intelligent by definition. Life is the result of the mindless design and repetition of natural selection. Order in the cosmos comes from natural regularity.

    Subsection: The Anthropic Principle
    The Universe is so hospitable to life, it must have been designed with life in mind.

    Right… Please excuse me while I laugh…

    This implies that life is somehow apart from the Universe, that it consists of some kind of special matter which only forms stable bonds in this Universe. Besides, are there any examples of Universes which were specifically designed with the intention of hostility to life?

    Just as you would expect to find ashes and cinders in a fire but not in the dregs of a shot glass (a possible origin for this argument?), you expect to find life which is adaptive and reflective of the environment it resides in. If it isn’t adapted to its environment, it dies.

    The Anthropic Principle is essentially saying that water is so easy to swim through that it was designed with swimming in mind.

    It’s so circular you could roll it down a hill.

    Subsection: The Improbability Argument
    It is improbable that the complexity of life occurred by accident. If the probability of something happening is less than about 1e-15 (or 0.000000000000001) it is considered to be impossible. The probability of life occurring ‘by accident’ is far less than this, therefore there must have been a Creator.

    This argument ignores the size of the universe. There are hundreds of billions of galaxies, each with hundreds of billions of stars, any of which might have planets capable of supporting life. Even an impossibly improbable event is almost a certainty – and we already know of one planet that supports life.

    This also falls into the same trap as the Design Argument and Anthropic Principle: there are no other Universes to compare it with. It is impossible to see how the probability of existence can be measured, with or without a deity, given the lack of comparative material. It could be said that the Universe in any form is impossible by this standard, given the innumerable possible permutations; its actual form is no more improbable than any of the other possibilities. It is only the fact that humans are around to look at it, combined with small-minded humanocentrism, that makes the Universe seem so special.

    This argument also ignores an important fact: if something has a probability, no matter how small, it can happen. Impossibility comes when there is no degree of probability.

    Subsection: Irreducible Complexity
    A single system, like the human eye, which is composed of several interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, and where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced gradually by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, since any precursor to an irreducibly complex system is by definition nonfunctional. This shows the hand of a Designer

    The best known charlatan… sorry, proponent of this argument is Michael Behe.

    The above quote is a modification of the definition given in one of his books5. However, there are plenty of examples of things which are irreducibly complex, which have grown up over time. Ecosystems, cities, the modern economic system of the West, and so on.

    An irreducibly complex system is either one which has been designed, or which is the result of an undirected process. Such systems are to be expected in evolutionary biology: the underlying processes are called co-adaptation and co-evolution, and have been well understood for a long time. Biological functions are not built iteration at a time in order to meet some static function. They evolve in layers, always in a state of change, and always ready to change to serve current needs. Irreducible complexity does not indicate design, and therefore the argument collapses into its own filth.

    The mistake of this argument is to conclude that no Darwinian solution for irreducible complexity remains without a designer. This is an incorrect assumption, either based on a desire to hoodwink people, or a misunderstanding of the principles of evolutionary biology. An irreducibly complex system can be built by gradually adding parts that are initially just advantageous. These later become necessary because of further changes.

    Later changes build on previous ones. Previous refinements or changes might become necessary. The evolution of air bladders that allowed fish to breathe oxygen from the air was essentially just an added advantage to start with. The addition of such organs would allow individuals or species to explore areas which were less in competition, like dry land, which their rivals would have been unable to colonise. It would have provided a haven from predators, and easy food supply, and so on.

    Evolution is arranged around this kind of process. Animals grew lungs. They are now essential; land-dwelling creatures cannot survive without them. This is an irreducibly complex system growing up from one which was not, and it is thoroughly Darwinian. Changes are built on previous changes, and changes are built onto those changes, and further changes, and so on.

    The claim that irreducible complexity indicates design is utterly without foundation, and shouldn’t even enter into the argument. The biggest problem with the concept of irreducible complexity as an argument for the existence of a designer is that it is an argument by analogy, rather than facts or logic.

    When it comes to explaining scientific matters to a public which usually has little knowledge or interest of the subject at hand, analogies are essential to getting the information across. We all can better understand something new if it is compared to something we already know and can visualise. Analogies can be used to explain science, but they should not be used in place of it, as do intelligent design advocates. An example of this, as put forth by Michael Behe:

    A mousetrap is “irreducibly complex” – it requires all of its parts to work properly.
    A mousetrap is a product of design.
    The bacterial flagellum is “irreducibly complex” – it requires all of its parts to work properly.
    Therefore the flagellum is like a mouse trap.
    Therefore the flagellum is a product of design.

    There’s no excuse for this. This is simply an attempt by stealth to hoodwink a gullible public into believing in Creationism. It is quite interesting that Michael Behe has become a big figure in anti-evolutionary circles. He is something of a spokesman for the Creationism movement. He admits to being Christian, yet when questioned on who he thinks this ‘Designer’ is, he refuses to answer. He seems more than willing to speak at fundamentalist-sponsored events, however, and has had articles published in right-wing magazines. Apparently Behe is trying to have his cake and eat it.

    The general public won’t know the limitations of his argument, or be aware of his misrepresentations of the facts, and therefore will be easily seduced by his arguments. It’s a lot easier on the brain of Joe Public to accept that God did it all, even if it has to be dressed up in fallacious arguments, bad logic and misrepresentations of the facts. Peddlers of the irreducible complexity theory are seductive to the public alright – but like all seducers, they lie and never say anything of substance.

    Subsection: Physical Laws
    The universe is governed by natural laws. Laws require a lawgiver. CS Lewis gets blown right out of the water due to sloppy verbiage here.

    This is essentially a misinterpretation of what a law actually is. It’s pardonable – most people don’t know. A law is a description of how things usually happen, which has been so well observed and documented that there is virtually no doubt that if Event X happens in Situation Y, Effect Z will be the result. For example, if you drop something, it will hit the floor. If it doesn’t, you’re either in space, or the law of gravity has spontaneously vanished, in which case you’ll shortly be in space anyway. And you might suddenly stop existing as a coherent entity.

    Natural laws are descriptions of behaviour: they do NOT regulate anything. They’re simply human PERCEPTIONS of how the Universe normally reacts. The confusion probably arises because of the confusion between the laws which society uses to mandate or forbid specific behaviour and physical laws. The reason they’re called “laws” is because they are so universally applicable that they might as well mandate physical events. They do not, however, do so. Laws, like Theories, are subject to change if new evidence arises which may contradict them or alter our knowledge.

    Moral Principles
    We all have a feeling of right and wrong, a conscience which puts us under a higher law. This universal moral urge points outside of humanity.

    For this to be true, there would have to be a universal moral standard common to all human cultures. Needless to say, there isn’t.

    Polygamy, human sacrifice, war, child mutilation (circumcision) and incest are all features of the Bible, as are drunkenness, theft, murder and rape. Yet, most of the time, God sits by and does nothing. He either doesn’t care, or he approves.

    There’s also good reason to believe that moral absolutes cannot exist, simply because life isn’t that black and white.

    This also leads us onto a famous dilemma posited by Plato, called Euthyphro’s Dilemma6. It goes like this

    How does God determine what is good?

    Usual answer: He knows because he is the source of all morality. But

    If God decides what is good based on a universal moral standard, why do we need to follow him to be moral?

    Good point. It then goes on to say

    And if what is good is simply what God subjectively believes to be good, there cannot be a moral absolute, because it is changeable at the whim of an unknowable entity.

    These are very valid points, and no theologian has ever been able to adequately answer them. If God decides what is good according to his own wishes, there are no moral absolutes; if what is good is decided is based upon a set of absolute standards independent of God, what need do we have of God as a moral exemplar?

    If it all comes down to God deciding what is good, the moral example of God is just as subjective and relative as anything created by humans; in either case, why bother with him as a moral exemplar at all?

    Pascal’s MAFIA , err, extortion, err….Wager, or the Safe Bet
    Surely it is better to believe than to not, because if you believe and there is no God, you lose nothing; but if you do not believe, and there is a God, you will be damned. If you believe
    and there is a God, you will be rewarded.

    On the face of it, this looks unassailable. However, dig deeper: what if you believe, and you find out after death that the Muslims were right? Or the Hindus? Or the Australian Aborigines? You’ll end up being punished then, so you lose out. Surely Zeus will be more annoyed with a Christian than an Atheist? After all, Atheists deny all gods equally, but a Christian denies the True God Zeus, and worships a false god! As Homer Simpson once put it,

    What if we’ve chosen the wrong god, and every time we go to church, we make the real one madder and madder?

    And, if you look at it, you do lose out if there’s no God. All those Sundays spent in Church when you could have been doing something else to make your life more enriched and enjoyable. You could have spent your life enjoying yourself rather than feeling guilty for being “sinful”; rejecting religion is not symptomatic of losing something, it’s a sign of liberation. Thinkers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your mental chains!

    What kind of loving God would eternally torment people who doubted his existence, when he himself is responsible for not leaving any evidence of his existence around?

    Pascal’s Wager is not actually an argument: it’s an extension of Mafia tactics. It’s intellectual extortion. “Believe or bad things might happen when you die,” is a post-mortem threat in the same way as
    “Pay us or something bad might happen to your business,” is a threat in reality. To use a threat in place of an argument means that you have no argument to begin with.

    The Ontological Argument
    God is the being greater than which no being can be conceived. I can think of this being as existing as just a thought I have and as something in the physical/objective realm.
    Since existing as a thought is not as great as existing apart from my thoughts/in the objective realm, it must then necessarily exist in the objective realm, or else something greater
    than it can, but by definition it can’t.

    The flaw in this reasoning is to treat existence as an attribute which can or can not be applied to things in objective reality. If something exists, it exists. Things do not exist to greater or lesser extents based on their attributes. If it exists, it exists as much as anything else. Nothing can be great or perfect if it doesn’t already exist. This is a case of a cart/horse mix-up. See also the Kalam Argument above.

    The objection posed by the 18th-century philosopher Immanuel Kant to the Ontological Argument is one of the most decisive in destroying it. Kant argued that the problem with the argument lay in its claim that existence is a predicate. A predicate term describes something done by a subject; so, in the sentence “John is eating” the predicate “is eating” describes something that the subject, John, is doing. Kant argued that existence cannot be a predicate because it does not add any new information to an understanding of the subject. To be told that John is bald, that he is eating, and that he is angry is to add three things to the stock of information about him. However, to be told that he exists does not genuinely communicate anything about him. Likewise with ‘God’. To state simply that God’s existence follows from thinking about him is to done nothing other than assert that God exists. Kant argued that nothing of philosophical consequence has been learnt. It is for this reason that many modern-day philosophers have held the ontological argument to be in error

    The argument commits suicide: God can be conceived to have infinite mass or infinite non-existence or infinite potatoey-ness or whatever. And how, exactly, does existence in conceptual terms transfer over to reality? If I imagine a seven-foot green monster called Boomerang McCheese III, does it now exist? No, for all of you reading this on acid.

    Also: what if I said there was a perfect total lack of existence? Would the Universe instantly cease to exist? Let’s try it. There is a perfect void greater than which no void can be conceived. I can think of this being as existing as just a thought I have and as something in the physical/objective realm. Since existing as a thought is not as great as existing apart from my thoughts/in the objective realm, it must then necessarily exist in the objective realm, or else something greater than it can, but by definition it can’t. Has the Universe stopped existing? Well, looks like it actually has. You didn’t notice because you were trying to understand the above example.

    Just kidding. I’d give you fair warning of the Apocalypse.


    Bertrand Russell said all ontological arguments are a case of bad grammar; he was right.

    Personal Revelations
    God has revealed himself to me! You don’t have the spiritual understanding needed to understand, so you deny it. You’re like a blind man denying the existence of colours!

    This argument fails on many counts. Firstly, it fails to satisfactorily explain how one can differentiate between sense data caused by ‘God’ and sense data caused by a hallucination of ‘God’. Secondly, an extraordinary amount of these revelations seem to occur in private places where no one else can experience them, and they leave no evidence. Thirdly, the sense used to determine the presence of ‘God’: what is it? And finally, the blindness analogy is based on a false premise: blind people do not deny that colours or the sense of sight exist. The blind and the sighted don’t live in different worlds, and both can grasp the natural principles involved when they are explained. Light can be traced through a normal eye to the brain without any kind of special mental commitment involved. Frequencies can be explained and the spectrum can be experienced independently of vision. The existence of colour need not be taken by faith – colour can be definitively shown to exist.

    Until there is a method of testing spiritual insight or experiences, they must be doubted. The reality of the experience is not at issue: the supposed supernatural explanation, however, is.

    Subsection: Warm Fuzzies
    I feel like God exists. How else can you explain the feeling of closeness and warmth I get whenever I think about God? I just know He exists – I can feel His Love!

    In answer to the question, how about gas? Warm Fuzzies work for anything – they could work for the fairies at the bottom of your yard, for Shiva, for Santa Claus and anything else mythological. It’s untestable nonsense, and shouldn’t even be considered an argument; it wouldn’t be here, but for the millions of Christians who insist on using it.

    Subsection: Numbers, or How can millions be wrong?
    Millions of people believe in God. Do you think that you can possibly be right when so many people disagree with you?

    Truth is not a democracy – votes do not count. Millions of people believe in your god, sure; what about the millions of Hindu believers? What about all the people who used to believe that the Earth was flat? Until relatively recently, the Catholic Church believed that the Sun orbited the Earth, rather than vice versa. What about them? What about the people who disagreed? Did the Earth orbit the Sun for non-Catholics, but the Sun orbit the Earth for the Catholics? By that logic, the Earth was at one point simultaneously flat, round, orbiting the Sun and having the Sun orbit around it. Do you really want to pursue this line of argument any further? If truth is defined by belief rather than facts, the Universe should be somewhere slightly under a third in accordance with Christian belief, about the same for Islamic beliefs, approximately 0.5% according to Jewish belief, about 12% belongs to Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu… Need I go on?

    If we’re talking numbers, a Muslim has about the same chance of being right as a Christian, and slightly more than a Hindu. And guess what! Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world! Better start having kids, so you can make reality what you want it to be when you’ve brainwashed them!


    1This could well not be the correct adjective for Kalam-related stuff. Kalamitous as an adjective was inspired by the title of Dan Barker’s article Cosmological Kalamity. Dan Barker is a former evangelical minister who now works as the PR Director of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and has participated in many formal debates with Theists.

    2 W. L. Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth And Apologetics

    3 A belief in God allegedly based on reason rather than revelation, and involving the view that God has set the universe in motion but does not interfere with how it runs. Deism was especially
    influential in the 17th and 18th centuries, when science started kicking great big holes in religious arguments.

    4 Hume, David (1711-1776), Scottish historian and philosopher, a prominent influence on scepticism and empiricism.

    5 Michael Behe, Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution

    6 Plato, Euthyphro. A Socratic dialogue about the concept of piety.

    By Mike, Evil Teuf

  36. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    This argument also ignores an important fact: if something has a probability, no matter how small, it can happen. Impossibility comes when there is no degree of probability.

    Although I did read somewhere there is the issue of Borel’s Law which states that after a certain level of reduced change certain small chance happenings simply don’t happen unless puerposed to do so. But I know there is a counterargument to this also. One from above is that the Universe is so vast and that we have no other reference points or other universes from which to compare and contrast the “fitness for life” idea and of course we don’t know all the parameters of the Universe and what it is capable of over eons of time. Also, we can see from above that just because something looks “fit” this is merely a tautology. It is fit due to being the fittest to survive and flourish.

    We once thought, for example, per Seth Shostack of SETI studies that it might be unlikely to find extrasolar planets hanging around other stars. We now know they are common to the level of perhaps 1/2 of all stars.
    The likelihood that some of these stars with their planets will evolved similar conditions to earth puts a monkey wrench into the notion of earth exceptionalism as found in Creationist works like The Priveledge Planet, etc. based on notions of Borel type improbability numbers crunching for rare chances of abiogenesis of life.

  37. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Beast I am surprised that regarding the issue of “millions can’t be wrong” that the Evil Tuef didn’t mention what COULD be a retort to the Theo claim that (as you’ve stated before) many men of science in the past were believers and thus this was not a barrier to science. In fact many were devout. I imagine his answer would be that in the old days MOST people were theists of one type or another so this means little?

    I have heard that one before also. Maybe you have too….

    Regarding our dear gal-pal Kelly over on RR, this reminded me of something someone else said here regarding “bad girls” who’ve decided to flaunt their sexuality as an asset rather than take the tack of the feminists (though this is changing rapidly) of yesteryear. They thought sexuality of her flaunting equaled an objectification of sorts of the female creature and rightly did protest the abuses of pornography, rape, abuse, and other things men have done.
    Allen Bloom once mentioned in Closing of the American Mind this was why feminsits of his time hated porn about females but no men or homosexuals, as this did not cross the line and their temporary alliances with some Christian groups to oppose porn was a tenuous alliance at best. Bloom points out that at that time feminism’s best thoughts highlighted their “facts” that female and male unions are no more meaningful or even biologically determined or “fit” than any other kind of union, marriage limited one’s horizons, and made slaves of women and limited careers.
    It seems however that unlike the old feminist standby of keeping men apart (per Gloria Steinem who later got married–a “woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle!”), there is little talk these days of this objectification of women or the notion that “biology does not predict destiny.” Etc.
    Lately with some groups the ability to curse, vulgarize, and otherwise return to a state of primitive obnoxious behavior seen fit formerly among drill sergeants at boot camp or getting your finger snipped by pliers making you say ugly words, a whole new level of “thought” is found in the primitive, shall we say, Anglo-Saxon explicative. Thus for example Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues, a series of dreck-ridden four letter soliloquies where usually adolescent girls in “women’s colleges” get on stage and pretend to smoke Marlboro lights and curse about their boyfriends coming home drunk and beating the slop out of them is now seen as high drama of Romeo across the land. Other scenes include lesbian rape, physical abuse histories, and vivid descriptions of what men must think of their body parts in lurid ways that even Larry Flint would not have thought of yet. Ensler is the bisexual women’s rights, abused as a child, champion to her credit who’s donated millions for various causes across the globe, no doubt most of them noble for empowering females of all ages, who brought this play to fruition. One by one the male bash continues until at the end of the play you have tear wiping and thunderous standing ovations of these little princesses acting like, well…..

    The vulgarity of this is overwhelming, even to me, never a prude or one to put wax into my ears. Thus every spring we have V-Day. No, not Valentines.

    Also mocked as being rather quaint and Victorian. But Vagina Day, and perhaps like Kelly this emphasis here is the “liberating” effect of saying dirty words and mocking men as only women can do. I have heard this is akin to how some ethnic and social minorities can curse at and mock themselves or others with relative impunity while for others it is Verboten! No doubt some men are boors and come home from the pub ready to pounce and take their ladyfriends and wives for granted and abuse if common. But this is over the top. Imagine my surprise at how many “Christian” Colleges of note and standing basically either allow or Shanghai young women into performing this.

    Sorry to clog your commentary boxes, BR. But fascinating stuff. It will be some time before I can get around here again with many reports to do in appraising properties in Atlanta so I’ll get back later. I had to get this off my mind or it cooks. I’ll get around to the other stuff later on. Take care.

  38. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    I’ll look at the other issue on Lewis more closely later, BR. Thanks for the other posting. Hoped that I got the other info to you in time.

    This bounces nicely onto something else someone once said to me:

    If such questions about God, morals, origins, etc.–then the very fact that God is so obsure and His presence leads to more questions than answers or the questions multiply supposedly indicates something not worthy of worship or study–as it has not end. We can say in response that NASA and SETI suffer this and other science endeavors, but eventually they do “get their man”–we didn’t always know much about the moons of Saturn or their orbits or the fact it seems many stars have planets in their own right. Now we do. Questions answered, even if initially we were lost and could only guess.

    The most glaring issues in my mind is not just these but the one about morals being “placed’ with God–as seeming arbitrary. Frank Walton had a poster for example who expressed something similar to above: If God wants our worship He needs to act in a way worthy of this and not allow suffering, seem arbitrary, or create situations wherein the perception is that there is justice in the world. God being good sounds arbitrary as part of His nature and could shift at fiat or whim.

    I’d also like your input on my updated findings about “laws of nature” and of course the other aspects of AFR.

  39. beastrabban Says:

    Thanks for the link to the article by Balfour, Ilion. It looks well worth a peek.

    Regarding the Evil Tuef’s attacks on the philosophical arguments for God, I don’t see anything insuperable in any of them. Let’s start with the ‘warm fuzzies’. I went to a Religious Studies conference last year where one of the presentations was by a philosophy postgrad defending fideism, which could be described as the argument from ‘warm fuzzies’. The problem is, none of the various theories of truth, like the consensus argument, pragmatism, correspondence and so on will adequately cover all cases of what is ‘true’, and as a means of perceiving truth, fideism is actually as good as any of them. Nor does the fact that there are a plurality of religions necessarily disprove the existence of God. One of the standard arguments for God’s existence is that nearly all cultures have believed in God or gods through world history. These gods may be false, but belief in them nevertheless points to a further truth that there is one God, of which the others are merely misperceptions, or misattributions of the qualities of the deity to creations of humanity’s own minds. Thus falls the argument against the ‘warm fuzzies’.

    The argument against supernatural revelation: really, this is actually very, very weak. Theologians and religious scholars have since the Middle Ages debated what constitutes a genuine religious experience as opposed to madness. A lot of Christ’s miracles, including His post-Resurrection appearances, were made to large numbers of people, so it’s not simply the case of people receiving unverifiable revelations in private. So there’s no reason to accept this argument either.

    Now to the Ontological Argument. Actually, this has had criticisms pretty much like the one above since Aquinas first articulated it. The example Gaunilo used was of an island. However, it is still being defended. Let’s start with the objection that degrees of being don’t exist, things just are. Well, that’s not quite true. There are degrees of being in that somethings are less durable than others, more prone to corruption, less intelligent and so on. However, from observing them, one can imagine a perfect being that was incorruptible, eternal, infinitely intelligent and more moral. Moreover, the imperfect beings would be dependent on the perfect being for some of their attributes, as being caused, they would require a cause that could only be supplied by a causeless cause. Hence one could argue that the Ontological Argument still stands up, and effectively summarises as a kind of intellectual shorthand the other arguments of the Five Ways.

    Now let’s deal with Pascal’s Wager. Graham Priest, in Logic: A Very Short Introduction uses the argument that if there are an infinite number of gods, then the argument falls down. However, there are problems in this in that several religions consider their gods to be only aspects of an ineffable reality, and so not exclusive of any other gods. Moreover, it assumes that there is a chance that the other gods exist and the Christian is worshipping the wrong one. But this is an assumption, and needs to be proved. Furthermore, the argument that if the Christian is wrong, then all the time he’s spent in Church on Sundays is wasted is also wrong. If there is no God, the Christian won’t know it, as he’ll simply cease to exist. Moreover, if Nietzsche is right, and when God is dead there are no rules, then the satisfaction the Christian receives living righteously, praying and going to church is as worthwhile as the atheist who lives a life of wanton pleasure. So the wager still holds.

  40. beastrabban Says:

    Let’s tackle the Euthyphro problem: this little gordian knot has been cut by theologians like Peter Vardy. God is good. He cannot be otherwise. It is not simply a case of God obeying an objective moral standard that is independent of Himself, nor what is good being God’s subjective opinion. The statement that ‘no theologian has been able to adequately answer the problem’ is an assertion, not a statement of fact.

    Now let’s start from the absence of a universal moral law pointing away from a transcendent source of morality, and the existence of transcendent morals themselves. Again, this really doesn’t do the job. As the British moral philosopher D.D. Raphael has pointed out, just because certain moral laws will give way to other moral laws in certain circumstances, such as the prohibition against killing giving way in situations like war where one could only protect oneself or others by killing an attacker, doesn’t mean that these moral prohibitions don’t objectively exist.

    Furthermore, I see no contradiction between conscience as indicating the presence of the divine and a lack of a universal morality. Kant himself, whom the Evil Tuef clearly admires, stated that conscience pointed to God’s existence as it was like a knocking at the door: it only made sense if there was someone actually knocking on the other side. However, one can have moral intuition – an idea that there exists right and wrong – without the stipulation that one knows what precisely is right or wrong. The Bible states clearly that humans and nature are corrupt. This is what sin is, the separation of humanity from God, that has blinded humanity to the reality of God. As Pascal said, ‘the corruption of nature, proved by nature itself’. Humans are finite beings, and so don’t have transcendental insight in the deeper meaning of the cosmos. Thus, one can reconcile an objective morality, conscience with human inability to create a uniform system of morality. And I would say that the fact that humans haven’t created a uniform system of morality is a powerful statement in favour of free will – that humans aren’t machines, whose behaviour is dictated by their environment and heredity, and whose operations can be reduced to a simple set of algorhythms like your average PC.

    Now let’s start on the bit about the laws of nature and human laws not actually being the same. Firstly, laws of nature are themselves only general abstractions from behaviour. This is true. However, one can say that they share general features with human laws. Both are abstractions governing observed behaviour. You can’t observe, for example, the law of tort. You can read its description in a legal text book, and see it applied in a court case, but there is no such concrete object as the ‘law of tort’. It also governs behaviour, though of the human creature, rather than creatures generally. Secondly, human laws can be changed or rescinded in deference to a higher principle. When this occurs in the natural world, it’s called a miracle. In fact it was the ancient Greeks who first drew up the idea of laws of nature, and the modern scientific project is based on this premise, so I’d say that the idea holds good.

    Irreducible complexity: this is really just a rant. There’s no other word for it. Now it might be an inference from analogy, but this is simply what Darwinism is. Darwin observed artificial selection, and infered that there was a similar – analogous – process performed by nature. Furthermore, some of the maths done for Darwin, such as the profound difference between mutation rates and actually somatic changes in living organisms don’t add up. I find the argument about land creatures lungs interesting. Now mammals and reptiles all share the same type of lung, but birds have a completely different arrangement. Instead of bronchi, they have parabronchi, and it’s a vascular, circulatory system like the heart, rather than an in-out system. Michael Denton describes it in his book Evolution – A Theory in Crisis , and states there’s no way this could have evolved in slow, incremental steps. It either happened all at once, or not at all.

  41. beastrabban Says:

    Now let’s start with the criticism of the Anthropic Principle. There’s a problem here in that it states that the universe is also full of disorder. Well, that’s true. Up to a point. Things don’t happen randomly, except at the subatomic level, and then one can argue that this level of disorder is somehow tied into the order that emerges at the next level, so to use a musical analogy, it’s disharmony creating greater harmony. And the disorder in the universe occurs according to ordered laws. So, disorder, perhaps, but not chaos. Multiverses are a red herring. If they exist, they are by nature supernatural. Physicists also say they’re unobservable. Really, they’re another class of invisible metaphysical entities, yet acceptable to atheists because they’re naturalistic. Moreover, you still get the problem of an eternal regress with them. So, they’re unsatisfactory. You can dispense with them.

    As for the argument from contingency, Tuef seems to be upset at this contradicting determinism. Yet scientists today don’t beleive we inhabit the clockwork universe envisaged by Newton or Laplace. Moreover, even if the kind of coarse determinism he seems to favour were to hold true, it still does not deny the existence of God, because the universe would still be contingent on God’s creative work and setting those first conditions. God is the free agent here, not the cosmos.

    Now for Occam’s Razor. Actually, this is a problem for the atheist. It is not an immutable law of logic, as the guys at Atheism Sucks have shown. It won’t cut the Kalam cosmological argument as to create the universe, God must be unlike the universe. So, Occam’s Razor falls there. As does the argument that God must be more complex than the universe, and so require a designer. This is Richard Dawkins, and it’s another dud. God is simple in that He has no parts. That’s what’s meant by simple. Yet God is also highly complex in that He is able to envisage complexity – this is a different order of complexity. Thus Dawkin’s daft argument about ‘who designed the designer’ really falls apart.

    As for God not existing because if He does exist as a first cause, he must somehow be outside time, and so unable to act, this is also weak. The universe is a projection from God, who may be timeless, but also able to observe the cosmos and act within it, as He contains time, rather than is completely separate from time somewhere in the depths of non-space and non-time.

  42. Ilíon Says:

    BR:Thanks for the link to the article by Balfour, Ilion. It looks well worth a peek.

    Actually, it’s a book (I haven’t yet read the whole thing myself).

  43. Ilíon Says:

    As for time, it may not even be ‘real’ (but rather may be ‘ideal’).

    (see this for a reference to what I’m talking about)

  44. Feyd Says:

    Rich, in today’s climate it takes more courage to praise or create than to criticise or insult. Sincerely meant praise is an important part of a healthy society, companies and teams where good work is recognised tend to do better than those where they aren’t.

  45. Feyd Says:

    Wakefield, wow quiet a read! For me the Anthropic principle is the strongest argument. I guess though one needs to know to know quiet a bit of physics, probably up to degree level, to appreciate just how convincing it is. A simplified version goes like this.

    1) You accept the big bang may have occurred without a creator.

    2) You then have to explain why a number of fundamental constants like the one which governs the strong nuclear force happened to fall into the very narrow range that would allow the feasible emergence of life. With the nuclear force constant if it had been even a tiny bit higher planets and suns would never have formed, instead most matter would have collapsed into neutron stars. If it had been a tiny bit lower there would be no chance of complex molecules forming at all. In either case you don’t get the kind of chemistry that could support any conceivable kind of life.

    3) There are several other fundamental constants upon which the conditions capable of supporting life depend. Taken together the chance of the various constants falling into the required range is something like 1 in a billion to the power of 80, a number many times higher than the number of particles in the universe.

    4) The only plausible way atheists can get round this problem is to invoke the multi verse theory, but as Beast has shown there are a number of issues with that and the majority of physicists tend to dismiss speculation about parallel universes.

    I recently saw Dr Craig debate Prof Stenger an atheist physicist on atheism sucks, and Stenger just dodged the anthropic principle preferring to concentrate on bible bashing and philosophy.

    Hope you are back on this site soon btw!

  46. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    For me the Anthropic principle is the strongest argument. I guess though one needs to know to know quiet a bit of physics, probably up to degree level, to appreciate just how convincing it is

    Yes, and I agree. But it has ONE vital critical weakness.

    And, unfortunately, the multiverse theory, while an unobservable absurdity in its own right, is NOT the primary route of escape. The notion of the Cosmos being like a child’s bubblegum with bubbles of space time erupting into other bubbles or from the ingestion of space time from some other local just pushes back weakly the whole notion of where all THAT came from. Material explanation cannot go on for all eternity as we know that the universe is not eternal. It is just this aspect that bugs many nonthesis and so they came up with Hesitation loops and Steady State theorems to get around this. But the very fact that the night sky is dark and that we have all the aspects of seeing an explosion that separates and thins out light shuts these notion down.

    The size and unfathamable scale of our own universe is our problem here. Not the unseen multiverses (though acknowledging their popularity among some people in mags like Discover magazine).

    If pluto is located on a scale where a few centemters equals 4 billion miles, then the nearest star, Proxima Centari, won’t fit in my yard. Or street. Or the end of this district. It is 25 KILOMETERS away on this scale.
    The nearest galaxy to ours? I’ll have to leave the earth’s atmosphere and carry my ruler and a space suit with me. I’ve gone well past the Moon.

    Its big, man. I mean BIG. With a plethora of possibilities. Borel’s law can even be undercut when you meaure mass and matter with light years of travel and eons of time.
    Impossible means “not possible” and not just (as one agnostic explained) of slim piddle chance.

    It assumes what it tries to prove. You hinted at a way around all this. It has to do with the foundations of the Cosmos more than the particular situation of the development of life on earth, which is more prone to change and happier happenstance.

    Let not your heart be troubled. The above mentioned Dr. Craig has an answer to this vital alleged weakness I’ll mention later.

  47. Feyd Says:

    Thanks Wakefield , it would be interesting to read more from yourself and Beast about this. I certaintly dont think the anthropic principle is 100% convincing. It would be a bonus if it was but it doesnt trouble me.

    I dont think we need to make an overwhelming case, as long as the intellectual battle is at least a draw the inner pull we all feel towards God’s love should take folk the rest of the way to faith.

  48. beastrabban Says:

    Hi Ilion – thanks to the link about the time being an ideal, rather than actually existing. I heard something similar being discussed a decade ago at the Festival of Literature in Cheltenham, UK. The author of the book The End of Time , which does indeed take the view that time is merely an illusion, rather than an actual existent, was discussing his book. I can’t remember that much about it, except that it’s an extreme view and most scientists aren’t convinced.

    As for multiverse theory, there are a number of problems associated with it apart from the problem of infinite regress. For some of the scientists and philosophers Lee Strobel interviewed in his The Case for a Creator , there was a problem with the view in that, if this universe was the product of an earlier universe, then the problem of complexity became even more difficult, as that universe had to contain not just its laws, but the laws for our universe, or the potential for creating our universe and its laws. Moreover, one of the models for the multiverse showed the process of budding ceasing after a certain number of cycles.

  49. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Well what the teuf was going after was more earth bound. WL Craig an an answer that is a little hyperbolic but get the point across. More on that some other time, I’m afraid. But for now the issue he was after was that if fish swim nicely in water then water must be “designed” with fish in mind was a hopeless tautology. Fish swim to one model not out of design but of necessity due their ancestors being halfway good at it and getting better when the bad ones fell pray or sick, etc. You know the story on that.

    Actually there ARE some swimmers that are better than others. In the sky the only mammal to fly, the bat, can actually outfly most birds and has been known to negotiate its way throught the blades of an ELECTRIC fan turned on high. No bird can do that. Some creaturs are adept and some cling tenously and go then go extinct, like the blue poison frog (which I have two breeders) that is in danger in the wild. This time not due man but shrinking habitat in Suriname, their native location.

    And so his argument would go. “so circular you can kick it downhill.”

    On the other hand you might have noticed that SOME non-theists looking for windows of opportunity don’t have a problem with this.

    The Universe exists not only as we observe it, but also our mere act of observation endangers it??


    Astrologists eat your heart out. This is a good one for late night talk radio.

    Amazingly. Like the half-dead cat of Schrodenger fame, these items not only defy common sense, they defy the very science that they are tyring to bolster. A simple experiment in logic that tied the micro to the macro eliminates the blarney about half dead cats or cats that exist in quantum flux merely because certain micro level quantum events are not known to us or not easily examined.

  50. beastrabban Says:

    Regarding the lifespan of the universe being shortened because humans are around to observe it, I think I saw something like that mentioned in New Scientist a few years ago, before there was the furore last year when it was alleged that Laurence Krauss had said something similar. Roberto Lanza and Michael Frayne have both independently suggested that the reason we’re here in the first place is because our observation of the universe has acted to select the best conditions for life, and bring the cosmos into existence. This is no more convincing that the statement that by observing the universe, we’ve somehow shortened its lifespan.

    As for the Evil Tuef and his argument about water being designed for fish, one could possibly argue that because of its immense importance for life as we know it, water was intentionally created as part of an overall divine design for the universe that include fish or the other sea creatures, as well as the biological systems that are dependent on water and its flora and fauna.

  51. beastrabban Says:

    On a completely different topic, regarding your post about Eve Ensler and Kelly. I do wonder how much of that kind of feminism isn’t the articulation of genuine problems so much as simple misandry in an aggressive attempt to construct a sexual identity against the opposite gender parallel to the aggressive sexuality and misogyny in certain forms of pop music, like Gangsta Rap and the deliberately offensive Heavy Metal groups.

    Unfortunately rape and domestic violence do occur, and they are taken very seriously by the authorities and the police, as well as the vast majority of the general public, regardless of their gender. I suspect, however, that Ensler’s play is based not so much on these social issues as such, but from the deeper, human adolescent fascination with sex and desire to establish their sexuality against what they see as repression from societal conventions, and fear of sex or of the opposite gender. I also suspect that apart from its own sexist antipathy towards the male sex, feminists like Camille Paglia may not be impressed by it because it re-inforces the idea of female victimhood, and that women can only be victims, not active participants or even aggressors.

  52. Ilíon Says:

    One thing about domestic violence which is almost always overlooked (often intentionally [as I expect we shall see momentarily]) is that far more often than not it’s a two-way street.

  53. Rich Says:

    ” Ilíon Says:

    January 28, 2008 at 2:04 pm
    One thing about domestic violence which is almost always overlooked (often intentionally [as I expect we shall see momentarily]) is that far more often than not it’s a two-way street.”

    Shame on you.

  54. Rich Says:

    From the makers of denialism, mitigationism!

  55. Ilíon Says:

    From the proponents of Relativism, Absolutism.

  56. Rich Says:

    Indeed. Absolutely everything is relative.*

    *Except recursive humour.

    lovely non-sequitur, though.

    Did you beat by a girl, Ilion? Is that what this is about? It’s okay. You can tell me.

  57. beastrabban Says:

    Hi Feyd – I don’t know about it being ‘more often than not’ that domestic violence is a two-way street. I really, really wouldn’t like to stay. However, I have come across a number of couples who had what one person I know described as ‘a stalwart relationship’ in which the female partner was as likely to hit the husband as he was to lay into her. And I’ve also come across some women who were definitely personally more violent to their menfolk than they were to them.

    Altogether, I’d say that there’s certainly more violence by men towards women, but this certainly doesn’t mean that the opposite doesn’t occur.

  58. Ilíon Says:

    It was I, not Feyd, who said: “… far more often than not it’s [domestic violence] a two-way street.

    BR:I don’t know about it being ‘more often than not’ that domestic violence is a two-way street.

    Altogether, I’d say that there’s certainly more violence by men towards women, but this certainly doesn’t mean that the opposite doesn’t occur.

    BR, your two statements don’t agree.

    First, you imply that you don’t know whether or not what I’d said is correct. Then you say that what I’d said is false.

    But, as for your last statement, you’re likely confusing the *result* of the violence for the fact of the violence and the initiation of the violence.

    Men are (generally) stronger than women. In a situation (no matter how it can about) in which a man and a woman are physically attacking one another, it is generally going to be her body on which most of the physical evidence of the violence will be found.

    That’s just a fact of life; but it tells us nothing about how they came to be physically attacking one another. It tells us nothing about *fault*

    Women are human beings, just as men are. Women are *sinful* human beings, just as men are.

    I think you’re falling into the all-too-common trap of equating *her* bruises with *his* fault. Maybe he is 100% at fault, but maybe he’s not; the point is that her bruises don’t tell you a thing about the important question of fault.

  59. beastrabban Says:

    Hi Ilion – sorry about confusing you with Feyd. My mistake. Okay, you’re right about my two sentences about domestic violence not agreeing. My guess is that the evidence from complaints to the police and social services and so on suggest that there are more men beating their wives than the reverse, but this is very, very far from saying that all men beat their wives, or that women themselves can’t be violent.

  60. beastrabban Says:

    I also agree with you in that the violence can be a two-way street.

  61. Ilíon Says:

    Beast, the police — and especially those ghastly “social services” people — automatically *assume* that the fault is entirely the man’s.

    Look, it has been long known scientifically that “domestic violence” is a two-way street. Your opinions (and most people’s opinions) that physical abuse is almost always male-on-female violence is not only incorrect, but is deliberately fostered by persons with an agenda (i.e. man-haters).

    Here is one page (from the UK, no less) which summarizes some of the — let me re-emphasize this — long known facts: Domestic Violence: A Two-way Street

  62. Ilíon Says:

    Hi Ilion – sorry about confusing you with Feyd. My mistake.

    Ah, no need to apologize about that (I can’t speak for Feyd on this point 😉 )

  63. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Regarding those “long odds” offered by William Lane Craig and some other apologists using Borel’s Law, rioting chimps, and other supposed improbabilities about the origin of life on Earth, we must remember that long odds are still OK odds when it comes to eons of time.

    Human birth in general is seen as overcoming insurmountable odds and yet we’re here, regardless of some methodology.

    Of course I know this entire field is ripe for mockery of the faithful. As the Atheist Mama said in one of her blogs:

    “As a joke goes, the Catholic Church allows women to use mathematics to prevent pregnancy(“natural family planning”), but neither physics nor chemistry(pills). “Natural Family Planning” has always struck me as a ridiculously contrived loophole. I once heard it explained that the method leaves open the opportunity for God to “give” you a child, if he so wishes. I suppose that if I were to believe in an omnipotent deity who reputably once managed to impregnate a virgin, I’d likely trust that neither a condom nor a pill full of hormones would be likely to thwart him. Perhaps I’m over-estimating omnipotence.”


    But anyhoooo…

    Be careful of making drastic long odds claims. You…me…..everyone we know…… are proof the long odds hit their mark once in awhile. What about that conception? Literally, CONCEPTION? In a general sense the chance of a man and woman conceiving in any particular “unprotected” non-contraception “lovemaking” session is about 25-1. Slighter smaller than 1/3 of the chances when playing Russian Roulette. Each of us has already beaten the long odds. Here we are. All of us is the result of a romp in the hay between mom and dad. Uncomfortable a notion that might be at least in my case, the odds of any one love session or getting frisky with an average human female is about 400 million to 1. Most men produce about 400 million sperm cells in each release at that moment when the moment is right, and ahem, only one of the little squiggles will make it and meet the egg and dance. Yet here we are. Everyone on this forum and all over the planet and has ever walked on the earth has punched this winning lottery ticket. Else we’d not be here to observe ourselves thinking about this long odds. But here we are. I would not leave the safety of my home to go down to the local curb store and buy one of those sordid lottery tickets promising a million bucks for 100 times better odds than this. (But I’m not taking action in my own creation.)

    There was a funny cartoon that I didn’t particularly like all that much that was around many years ago here in the States called Bloom County. Among the characters were a goofy penguin and a scruffy filthy speechless cat named Bill. One day Bill is just staring into space, and he is asked what on earth is going on and can only cough and sputter. Someone surmises that he probably read that article by a prominent scientist suggesting we all take time once a day to stare at ourselves in the mirror and marvel at our own existence. I forget this man’s name, but the true part of this is that yes he suggested from his secularist point of view that we all marvel at ourselves and take note we beat the odds of existence on a number of fronts, not just “Mum’s womb”.

    See the issue here: Appeals to the unlikely suggest they might happen nonetheless, else we’d not be here to observe even ourselves and not know the difference. After all, that which is NOT, has not voice and makes no commentary. And people do win the lottery, even if I think its an ugly affair that wastes pocket money and violates Scriptural prohibitions against being frivolous with what God blesses.

    Having said all that, on a somewhat different topic, maybe you have some insights also on child psychology here. Another poster wrote to me to say:

    Someone named Beverly said “nobody is born an atheist” , and I bet she hasn’t even observed children.

    ” When children are born, they don’t start talking about God or Jesus. They just want to experience the world around them. They are not concerned with the ‘God concept’. To them even the tiniest insignificant thing is just as big for them as your god is for you. They don’t need to choose to believe or not. It is unimportant for them. Only when society starts to tamper with that innocence and brainwash the purest mind, that is when there is the need to choose to become an atheist, or as I call it, our natural state. “

    My first resonse is that children are not pure of mind any more than anyone else of another age. One would think some people have never heard of Lord of the Flies, or have kids other than angelic. That’s utterly absurd on its face.

    Oh BTW—-Same poster later:

    Why doesn’t the Bible explicitly prohibit slavery?

    Millions of men, women and children all over the world for thousands of years have suffered and continue to suffer today under slavery in one form or another.

    Can it truly be called “The Good Book” when it fails to condemn something that is so obviously evil?

  64. Ilíon Says:

    W.T.Regarding those “long odds” offered by William Lane Craig and some other apologists using Borel’s Law, rioting chimps, and other supposed improbabilities about the origin of life on Earth, we must remember that long odds are still OK odds when it comes to eons of time.

    It depends upon the context. Specifically, it depends upon whether there is any connection or correlation between one “roll of the die” and another.

    If each “roll of the die” is independent/uncorrelated, then the odds get “reset” for each trial.

  65. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    That’s true. Many people don’t beleive that, but you’re right. Its reset each time.

    Thus this makes things WORSE. All 6 BILLION human beings who live on this planet EACH had to win those long odds—none of whcih I’d personally take to mean I could really be a millionaire with lottery tix odds like that.

    See what I mean?

  66. Ron Says:

    the iraq war… this is what I think about the war

  67. Rich Says:

    Ah.. arguing from improbability.

    I have mocked this before with regard to the ID position.

    The all caps is a “Tardologue”, which is an old joke that you kind of had to be there for…;act=ST;f=14;t=5393

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