Monday, April 26, 2010

I Don't Believe in Atheists - Two

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The Folly of Relying on Science to Disprove, or to Prove, the Existence of God


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Many atheists claim that there is not scientific evidence of the existence of God, that man’s comprehension of the vastness of the universe has made him capable of discounting the existence of an entity beyond his comprehension.

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To bolster this position of non-belief, some even present as evidence the claim that scientists do not believe in God, that the most intelligent of men are non-believers. This assertion can be proven false by “scientific” observation. A quick search of the internet produced a sea of empirical evidence to refute the claim. One Google link led to a list of “12 famous scientists who believed in God”: Nicolas Copernicus (a Catholic Priest who uncovered the model of the world envisioned by the pre-Aristotelian Greeks), Sir Francis Bacon (often credited with developing the “Scientific Method”), Johannes Kepler (who discovered the Laws of Planetary Motion), Galileo Galilei (who presented empirical evidence of the Heliocentric world Copernicus had rediscovered), Rene Descartes (the father of modern philosophy), Isaac Newton (whose observations on gravity and mathematics stood until Einstein), Robert Boyle (who explained matter), Michael Faraday (who explained electricity and magnetism), Gregor Mendel (a monk who laid the foundation for the science of genetics), William Thomson Kelvin (who explained heat), Max Planck (whose quantum theory challenged man’s concepts of physics), and Albert Einstein (who gave us theories of time, gravity, energy, and matter that challenged Newton’s truths). Another list also caught my attention, 50 Nobel Laureates and Other Great Scientists Who Believed in God. I went down the list looking for any still alive and was pleased to find Arno Penzias who received the Physics Prize in 1978. His research into Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation supports the Big Bang. Sharking up lists of scientists who believe in God does not prove His existence, but it does prove that those who claim scientists don’t or cannot believe in God are wrong. My favorite quote in this vein comes from Charles Darwin: “To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator. . .” (The Origin of Species, pg 242)

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It is amusing to listen to the waffling of the many who seek to find in science evidence against the existence of God. Michael Ende’s The Never Ending Story, parodies the idea that every book ever written can be produced by random accident. By this logic, one could take all the individual letters in the Iliad, throw them up in the air, and have them land in a perfect text of Homer’s masterpiece. Scientific atheists would make the same claim for the chemicals in human DNA. They seem to miss the contradiction in asserting that random chance can produce anything while denying the existence of something called God.

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A final ploy of those who would employ science to assert atheism is concocting definitions of God that they then insist God must meet in order to exist. Admittedly, atheists are aided in this by the assertions of many believers. No supernatural beings appear to live on Mount Olympus; Jehovah is not in the whirlwind. Disproving myths simply reveals their failure to explain the truth. It is equally irrelevant to point out atrocities done by men in the name of God. Mohammad’s murders may expose his fraudulence, but they do not impeach God.

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Science examines a small domain within the universe of knowledge, demonstrable and empirically comprehensible truths from only a sliver of what we “know”. Scientific theory is, by definition, in flux. Einstein tells us that, “No fairer destiny could be allotted to any physical theory, than that it could of itself point out the way to the introduction of a more comprehensive theory, in which it lives on as a limiting cause.” (Relativity, pg 86) Yet atheists, who pretend to some mastery of science, are erroneously willing to insist that using the present incarnation of Science, they can comprehend the sum total of truth. Like the prisoners in Plato’s Cave, they insist that the shadows they see are the universe as it is; that their transitory and concocted explanations are the immutable truths.

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Science illuminates only a small part of what must be discerned for man to come to the knowledge of anything. It is quite unlikely that we are using all our reasoning capabilities. Consider: mathematics before the principals of calculus were revealed, man’s ignorance of the solar system before the first telescope, the value of radio waves before the first receiver, the death that stalked the earth before we found the germs. Good scientists should be more skeptical about good science.

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Most of what there is to know in the world is not manifested in a way that can be measured by the senses. It is foolish to claim that all beyond one’s physical comprehension is non-existent. Just because 21st century science cannot grasp some being's existance does not mean He dose not exist. It is folly to discount so many truths which are self-evident because they are not physically demonstrable.

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In summary: a student report from the Chronicles of Narnia in my Great Books class gave some points to ponder from an atheist turned believer, C. S. Lewis.

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“Oh, Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good!” Aslan from (The Magician’s Nephew)

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“‘You see,’ said Aslan, ‘they will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.’” (The Last Battle, pg 148)

18 comments:

Reach Upward said...

Just as it is incorrect for anti-theists to set up a straw man "God" to tear down with their arguments, it is also improper to set up straw man definitions for the term "atheist" to tear down with anti-atheist arguments.

I have run into a fairly broad variety of people who suggest that they are atheists. Recent studies have pinned the percentage of the U.S. population that don't believe in any kind of supreme being at somewhere around 6% to 9% depending on how the questions are framed.

But not believing is not the same thing as denying. The most reliable recent study has only 0.4% of the U.S. population as solid atheists that deny the existence of a supreme being. The rest hold to varying degrees of agnosticism.

Most that call themselves "atheist" simply do not believe that they have a strong basis for belief in a God. They don't deny the possibility, per se, but they don't find a cogent reason to pursue it.

Some anti-theists frame their arguments in a pseudo-scientific framework. It has been suggested that this is itself a religion of sorts. One observer has coined the term "scientism" to describe it.

There are certainly some frothing-at-the-mouth, extremely vocal anti-theists among the small cohort of actual atheists. Despite the number of academic degrees among this group, they provide little compelling reason for rational people to consider their rantings with any degree of seriousness.

One former militant atheist that has become a mellow agnostic once remarked that religionists offer people joyful salvation for their eternal souls while atheists can only offer the assurance that they have no soul.

Lysis said...

Reach,

I believe in anti-theists. I also believe in agnostics, at times I am one. I just don’t believe in atheists.

Reach Upward said...

You may have a valid point there.

Anonymous said...

"Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply an admission of the obvious. In fact, "atheism" is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a "non-astrologer" or a "non-alchemist." We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs. An atheist is simply a person who
believes that the 260 million Americans (87 percent of the population)claiming to "never doubt the existence of God" should be obliged to present evidence for his existence..."

Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation pp 51-2

Lysis said...

Anonymous,

I agree with you, there is no need for the term “atheist”. As I have said, I don’t believe there are such people. Any more than I would admit to the existence of people who know the earth is flat, or that it is not in orbit around the sun but at the center of the world. I don't believe there are people who know that the stars are not distant suns but rather insist they know they are holes in the bowl of the sky. I don’t believe in those who claim they know that there is no gravity, or deny the existence of such thing as absolute truth, beauty, or art. There are people who make these claims but they cannot know what they cannot see or reasoned out. They want others to accept their ignorance as fact. They are deceiving themselves and trying to deceive others. It is the same with those who claim to know there is no God. They are pushing their opinion, even their hope, but they have no REASON to make such an unfounded claim to knowledge of something completely beyond their experience.

Captain said...

The arguments above show why dialog between atheists and believers can be so difficult. The arguments miss each other completely because they flow from the very point the two parties disagree on.

If God does not exist than Mr. Harris is completely correct. Atheists are exactly like non-astrologers or non-alchemists.

If God does exist than Lysis is right and Atheists are exactly like people deigning a heliocentric solar system.

Most of the arguments about God follow this same pattern:

If God does not exist than religion is absurd.

If God exists than religion is the most essential avenue for investigation truth.

If a man claims to be the Son of God, or have talked with God then he is insane. Unless, of coarse, he is the Son of God or a real prophet.

If God does not exist than millions of people do mumble to themselves every night before they go to bed.

If God does exist than prayer is a holly communion with the divine.

The arguments don’t work because they are based on the issue being debated.

Instead of an argument I would like to present the following illustrations, not to convince atheists of my position but to help them understand how we religious types think. Hopefully it will help free up the dialog.

Captain said...

Scenario #1

Imagine you are a musician whose best friend is deaf. Because of his deafness he does not believe in music. You try for years to convince him that music exists, and that it is beautiful, but you get nowhere. You take him to the symphony. He sits respectfully but afterward claims he heard nothing. Furthermore he claims that you didn’t hear anything either.

Just telling him you can hear the music does no good. He doesn’t really believe in hearing at all. You can’t explain it to him. Hearing is a little bit like seeing, and a little bit like feeling, but it’s really something completely different from seeing or feeling. He can’t understand.

But what about the hundreds of thousands of people throughout time and across societies that claim to hear music? This doesn’t prove anything. In fact it casts doubt on the existence of music. So many people claim to hear it but they have so many different ideas about what music should sound like. Why are there so many genres? How can you claim that the music you hear is beautiful when there are so many different music groups? Your friend has even talked to two people who listened to the same symphony and each described the experience differently.

He suspects that some biological or social disorder accounts for the widespread belief in music. Perhaps a music gene.

And what about the negative or destructive forms of music? You have to admit that there are many ancient and contemporary types that are abhorrent.

“But somehow you have found the truly beautiful music right?” He asks sarcastically.

He points out that music groups insight violence and promote drug use. People waste their money and their lives chasing after this unseen, undetected “sound.”

Your friend is firm. Music does not exist. If it does then you must prove it to him. There can be no appeal to popular belief or personal testimony. Show him something concrete.

The fact that you can produce waves in a pool with sound waves does not convince him. He admits that you can produce waves in the air but he denies that this is sound, and certainly not beautiful music.

If you cannot prove it conclusively then we must remove musical instruction from the schools and certainly stop wasting any government money on musical institutions or celebrations.

Captain said...

Scenario #2

In addition to being a musician you are a scientist. One of your colleges, very well educated and intelligent, is blind and therefore does not believe in the sun.

You point to the evidence. What about the heat from the sun? Surely he can feel that. He can, and so admits the existence of heat. But he cannot believe that some enormous body somewhere in unreachable space is the source of all heat.

He has felt heat from other people, he has felt fire, therefore he admits that there are bodies that create heat. But your idea of a sun is ridiculous. You claim that there is a body so large that it can provide heat for every living thing on earth and everything that has ever lived.

Not only this you go on to make the absurd claim that all heat, weather from a fire or a human body comes indirectly from the sun. That in fact the sun is the catalyst for all life on earth.

You also claim that this unseen sun holds the entire solar system in balance. He admits that there is gravity and that gravity holds the entire earth system (he dislikes the term solar system) in place. But he cannot believe in a source of all gravity.

He can’t explain exactly where heat or gravity originate, but he is confident science will one day explain it. He quotes several brilliant blind men who are very close to disproving the solar delusion through science.


What is to be done with our friends? We are making the claims, therefore the burden of proof is on us.

I understand that my examples are not exact; picking them apart would be a good exercise so please comment..

If you'll indulge me, would now like to take the images a step further. I believe the following addition will draw the analogies closer to reality but also make them more controversial.

I believe that the real situation is more hopeful and more cynical.

I suspect that our deaf friend is not really deaf but has stopped his ears up with cotton. Our blind friend is not blind but holds his eyes tightly shut.

More than this or deaf friend can still hear the music faintly through his ear plugs. Our blind friend can still sense, vaguely, the light beyond his eyelids.

I suspect that the atheists I know, who happen to be some of my favorite people in the world, are in this state of willing denial.

They certainly work hard to maintain their disbelief, much harder than many of my religious friends work at maintaining their faith. They study their atheist texts much more ardently than many religious folks study their scriptures.

Like I said these illustrations are not arguments but explanations. I hope they help any atheist to gain a better perspective of our position.

As I stated in the opening I am perfectly aware that my analogies are ridiculous unless of course they are correct.

He that hath ears let him hear.

I welcome comments to this post here or at my own blog www.penmansship.blogspot.com

Lysis said...

Captain,

I agree with you on the difficulty of dialog between atheists and believers and therefore, even as you; I long hesitated to launch a discussion along these lines. That said, this is not the issue I am seeking to explore. I do not claim to be a believer, nor am I determined to prove there is a God. I merely maintain that I DO NOT BELIEVE IN ATHEISTS. In the answer to Anonymous, which I posted above, I admit that there may be people who believe that the earth is flat – I just don’t believe in people who KNOW it is. I do not deny the existence of agnostics. As I admitted to Reach – sometimes I am one. But all of this is irrelevant to my point - if God dos not exist I am still right; all I claim is that I do not know, and I don’t believe in people who do know, there is no God.

I love your analogies. They are excellent expositions of the position I had hoped to establish. My claim is that, in respect to God, we are all blind and deaf. This is because it is not through our senses, applied as we can now weald them, that this debate can be resolved one way or the other. I hope you can see that you have illustrated my assertions better than I have myself. My only extension is that there is a way by which to live in the quiet darkness of our ignorance – that is through the application of reason and faith.

By faith I do not mean religious belief – but rather the process by which we act on our opinions as if they were true, even though we cannot know. Grace is granted if our opinions are right, wisdom comes by abandoning our most heart felt beliefs when reason proves them false.

Dr. Rackliffe said...

Just a note,*I am religious by the way

I also happen to be an ecologist so I have read a little bit about evolution and I just want to explain something about the way it works. The example was given of taking all the letters in Iliad and threw them in the air and having "random chance" write the masterpiece. That is not how evolution works. Natural selection is not random chance. It is survival of the fittest. Let me explain how this works because it is a very common misunderstanding.

Natural selection is a logical step by step process. Let's say there are 10 letters on fridge magnets randomly taken out of a box and stuck to the fridge in the following matter.
A B K W T R U T H N
Upon encountering these letters Gaia, the housewife of the kitchen, notices the word TRUTH and pulls it out of the randomness, "selecting" it for survival. Perhaps she has young kids about and is attempting to teach them to spell. Or maybe she thinks that combination of letters will live longer and reproduce better in the harsh environment of the kitchen. She dumps the rest of the letters in the box. Ten more letters are thrown on the fridge
W P L A T O F N E J
Gaia once more walks in and pulls PLATO out of the letters.
This continues with random words being left on the fridge until there are enough words to make sentences.
Plato, dear, me, dearer, still, truth, west, wise.
Gaia sees these words and, with her preoccupation towards order, arranges them in a fashion that makes sense.
"Plato is dear to me, but dearer still is truth" (Aristotle)

Piece by piece randomness becomes something intricate, something that makes sense, that works. As letters build into words and sentences and paragraphs, codons build into genes and proteins and Homers.

The question is who is doing the selecting? Is Gaia God? Or is she Natural selection? Natural selection is brainless be definition. Simply put those combinations of letters that function are selected because if they don't function they are removed. If an animal or plant doesn't work, it doesn't survive and doesn't pass on genes or have offspring. It dies, leaving no trace. The letters are swept back into the box. Who decides if an animal or plant can survive? No one, if it can it does, if it can it does not. It’s pretty simple. In each stage of selection the parts that don't work are removed leaving only working parts that are then altered by random chance. Selection works again removing all the parts that don't work. It is a PROCESS. The Iliad would not be created at once by random chance; it is created over time, word by word, sentence by sentence.

Really it does make sense. I have yet to find a single argument that logically (in my own mind anyway) defeats natural selection as a creationary process.

Nevertheless I do believe in God because I choose to have faith in something I cannot see. The results of that faith have been tangible but only to me and thus are useless as evidence for anyone else. I strongly believe that the only way to know God is one on one, through personal experience. Arguments cannot be used to prove that God exists; only God can choose to reveal himself.

Lysis said...

Dr. Rackliffe

Thank you for commenting at the Agora. I agree with you, evolution is not random. My reference was to the Neverending Story and was meant to parody the idea that “anything” but confusion could be produced in such a way.

I am inclined to agree with Darwin, writing in the Origin of the Species: “. . . these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.” Laws are not random accidents.

Your choice of Gaia for your creative mother is most apt, since Gaia is the Earth Mother, the mother of all living. And I agree that piece by piece this goddess can create anything. However, it occurred to me as I read your story that one is forced to reasonable ask: who is sticking the letters on the side of the fridge? Who made the letters in the first place? Who gave them sound and words with meaning? Who crafted the syntax that told Gaia how to put the words into the order to make such a powerful statement, and who made the truth which Aristotle discovered and reveled with his words?

If Gaia’s wisdom existed only at the level of sorting letters, then not even the Earth Mother could comprehend the existence of such questions, let alone know their answers

I accept the reason of natural selection, and agree with you, and the Catholic Church, that man was created through evolution. But I do not accept that the laws that make evolution possible are random. The laws that develop divergence are not haphazard, they are predictable and inexorable. They, like your Gaia gazing at the fridge, are forces beyond accident and have motivations beyond the present knowledge of science or theology.

Your final paragraph is a bit troubling to me. I agree that, at this time, we cannot know about many things, including about God. Although these truths are beyond man’s present capacity to discover, I do not believe that any truth is beyond mans ability to reason out. The truth is already manifest, and mans mind is capable of understanding it. I do not think that God needs any mystic manifestation beyond that power of reason. This is a power that Cicero claims is shared by men and Gods. It is all that is needed to discover all truth. We possess already that which is necessary to discover the truth which is everywhere evident, although not completely know, yet.

Dr. Rackliffe said...

If I understand this all correctly your issue is not so much in the application of laws but in the origin of natural laws.

For me the question is who is Gaia? God or natural law? (or both). I already talked about that though and it doesn’t seem to be the issue anyway.

I wish to say something about law. The Universe works in accordance with laws, but who says the laws had to be created? They are eternal principles that apply in every situation. At this point you will pull up exceptions to every law man has ever decreed. Point 2, man has defined laws based on our limited knowledge and understanding of the universe. Our definition of laws like gravity, nuclear forces, and natural selection are limited and imperfect compared to the reality that exists. Nature existed long before Aristotle described it.

Now who made the letters? The example given is fractal in design, meaning it is a repeating pattern that repeats as it increases (or decreases) in degree. Just as the letters that fit together are selected to remain the words that fit together are selected to make sentences. The same applied to sentences and paragraphs, paragraphs to chapters, chapters to books and so forth. The same pattern can go backwards. Sounds were selected for those that are most useful, Syntax was selected out of thousands of options because it worked (this is interesting because it isn't necessarily what works best, just what works that survives. Surely an intelligent designer wouldn't have put English Syntax together the way it is)
The process is applicable at the minute first construction of atoms and the organization of galaxies.
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Now that final paragraph is kind of special because I deny everything I try to prove in the other paragraphs. I believe in reason, strongly. I believe God intend us to think and figure things out and progress in knowledge. However, I believe are capacity to understand and acquire knowledge is limited if only by our status as mortals not to mention physical limitations. I believe that revelation, knowledge that comes straight from God through the Second Comforter, is more valid than any conclusions that my senses or reason can reach. I say that because my reason has led me astray before, as have every single one of my physical senses, individually and combined. Since I can't trust my reason 100% I can't definitively prove the existence of God through reason just like I can't prove that I exist through reason.

I can't prove it based on the testimony of others because everyone I have ever known has been wrong at some time about something, intentionally or not.

But the spirit of God testifying to me of truth has never been wrong, even when I don't follow it. I cannot accept pure reason to be a source for all truth simply because practical experience has proven it otherwise. And it isn't just me, If reason always resulted in truth then we wouldn't have opposing schools of Philosophy now would we. The must be some kind of modifier on reason because clearly not all reason results in truth, nor can all true be achieved through reason. Sorry Cicero, I disagree.

Lysis said...

First, let me explain that my issue with natural law is that I don’t know its origin.
To quote Sophocles’ Antigone in her response to Creon’s challenge to her disobedience:

Antigone: “Yes; for it was not Zeus that had published me that edict; not such are the laws set among men by the justice who dwells with the gods below; nor deemed I that thy decrees were of such force, that a mortal could override the unwritten and unfailing statutes of heaven. For their life is not of to-day or yesterday, but from all time, and no man knows when they were first put forth.”

I do not believe there is any beginning to truth, nor to the universe nor to time. You say that there are eternal principles in every situation, I agree - that means that truth is without beginning of days or end of years. I don’t say that Laws had to be created, but my reason tells me they exist. Surly they have nothing to do with the statutes of men or of nations. Cicero states it this way:

Marcus: “. . . But we must come to the true understanding of the matter, which is as follows: this and other commands and prohibitions of nations have the power to summon to righteousness and way form wrong-doing; but this power is not merely older than the existence of nations and states, it is coeval [of the same age]with that God who guards and rules heaven and earth. For the divine mind cannot exist without reason, and reason cannot but have this power to establish right and wrong. . . Even if there was no written law against rape at Rome in the reign of Lucius Tarquinius, we cannot say on that account that Sextus Tarquinius did not break the eternal Law by violating Lucretia, the daughter of Lucretius! For reason did exist, derived from the Nature of the universe, urging men to right conduct and diverting them from wrongdoing, and this reason did not first become Law when it was written down, but when it first came into existence; and it came into existence simultaneously with the divine mind. Wherefore the true and primal Law, applied to command and prohibition, is the right reason of supreme Jupiter.

Quintus: I agree with you, brother, that what is right and true is also eternal, and does not begin or end with written statues.”

This relates to your point 2 – man’s laws are only just if they agree with universal laws. Just like revelation is only divine if it is reasonable. If they are not just, they are not Law nor divine.

Just an aside: I’m not a big fan of Aristotle. He couldn’t get the structure of the world right, let alone nature.

Now, to who made the letters. Indeed, there can be a nesting of creations – but my point is this, who knows when we are at the furthest edge of the pattern? We can now barley comprehend the shapes of the letters, (speaking figuratively) let alone understand the magnetic forces which hold them to the fridge. Still it would be silly to deny that some force, beyond our ken, holds the letters up. And even if all the physical mechanics of magnets and letters can be unraveled, what makes Aristotle’s claim about the need to love the truth, true? Let us not abandon the search for truth, just because it is difficult but neither should we abandon the foundation of wisdom, which is the recognition of our own ignorance.

This acceptance of the position that we can only know that we do not know applies to your fear concerning reason lead astray. Mistakes can be made, men can be deceived for a time, but if they continue to ask the right questions and ask them long enough there is nothing they cannot come to understand.

Lysis said...

cont.

On the other hand, claims to revelation seem to preclude the necessary skepticism. I too can find examples when reason seemed to fail, I can do this because I can reason. There are many examples of false revelation, read the Qur’an, check out Mountain Meadows, or consider the references to the Old Testament atrocities provided in the Post before this one.

It is my position that all revelation must be checked by reason. I disagree with you, all reason does result in truth if carried to its reasonable conclusion. That is the challenge of our search that is our Neverending Story.

You claim that the spirit of God has testified to you of truths and that these testimonies have never been wrong. Give some examples and I will test them by reason. I can find a host of suicide bombers whose bosoms burn with revelation, their actions are wrong – they are not reasonable.

It would be nice if there were a higher level of understanding, a spiritual consciousness from which one can recognize all truth, but why would God withhold such a view from the many. What could be His reason for keeping so many in ignorance? I don’t believe He has. Some say that He has given to all men the way to judge, I at least agree that all men have that ability, and it is my faith that we share this ability with the gods.

Dr. Rackliffe said...

It is somewhat difficult for me to respond. Something about my writing style has resulted in a very large number of topics. I find it hard to keep myself focused on the most important topics.

For some reason we assume that natural laws have an origin. I don't see any reason why they would need one. Why can't they just be intrinsic parts of the universe for that is certainly what they are now? I guess I agree with your Greeks. It sounds like we are in agreement on that principle. The fundamental laws that govern all matter could have always existed and don't necessarily need a creator. If those natural laws are intrinsic in creation then they would operate as the "Gaia" to eventually select for increasingly complex life forms.

It is "reasonable"

It sounds like your idea that reason, applied by enough men constantly enough, will always lead to truth. Isn't that the same principle as natural selection? Given enough time eventually something that works will come out?
Perhaps we agree on that one too.

Dr. Rackliffe said...

What then is the question? Revelation.
I'm going to break internet protocol and reveal my location (although anyone that knows anything about the internet could figure it out pretty quick.) Yesterday I attended Shabbat at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. I was surround be devote Jews in full attire and praying with all the faith of 3000 years of pleading for deliverance.

Now according my personal religious tradition they are wrong. They missed the boat and are now an apostate faith. But can I approach one of them and tell them that the religious fervor that they feel as they pray with all their "heart, might, mind, and strength" is false? That it isn't a legitimate religious experience? Or even Revelation? That’s the tricky thing about revelation or inspiration from God; you are the only one that knows. In order for someone else to confirm it they must have their own religious experience. Maybe this could be provoked as they reason their way through it. So we have no way of checking revelation to see who is right save by revelation.

I suppose you could test the revelation against already excepted truths. Fresh stuff shouldn't contradict the old stuff. But the reason has proved itself capable of justifying everything from anything. Kind of like I am doing now.

I happen to have a copy of the Quran on my bedside table. I have read it, not entirely but significantly. I find things in it that I disagree with and things that I respect. Is it legitimate revelation? If the bible is true than it is not. If the Quran is true we must reject portions of the Bible. But who am I to declare the bible as truth? I see two paths there. Reason could take me down either side. Millions believe the Quran to be the more reasonable option. Millions believe the bible to be more reasonable. Reason doesn't seem to be very picky now does it?

So those who do atrocious things under the guise of divine commission. How can eternal light from heaven lead one astray? Obviously it can't be direction from God if it is wrong. They must be lying then right? But we already determined that it is impossible for another to know what revelation someone else has received for certain unless they receive their own revelation. So I can't prove that the religiously motivated murders are wrong (save by my own revelations)
So how do you know if a revelation is legitimate, either your own or someone else's? You asked this question too I believe.
I don't have a good answer.
Christ said by their fruits ye shall know them.
One of your prophets, Moroi I believe, said whatever is good comes from God. It sounds like the way to know is based on the consequences of the revelation. Now you have to find some way to judge whether something is good or not. A little reason would be handy right about here.
Why would God withhold revelation? I suppose he wants us to work for it. I dare say he even wants us to reason things out. BUT, after reason we must check our results with him and he confirms the accuracy.
A related return question. How do we know when reason has produced a final result? Isn't reason an eternal process not an end result?

I hope I have been concise in answering. Our topics are becoming ever more numerous. We have come a ways since we began. I hope we can arrive at a resolution that will be significant and relevant.

Lysis said...

Dr. Rackliffe,

Thank you for your challenging comments. Yes, my reason tells me that truth is eternal, without origin or end, and the fundamental Laws of the Universe are likewise unchanging and without beginning. That these natural laws are responsible for the evolution of all life forms is also reasonable to me. That the mind of man will continue to evolve until all truth is circumscribed into one great whole – and we indeed know the truth of all things, seems to be the ultimate function of man’s ability to tell the good from the evil. Right reason is what will make us as the gods.

Now, for a short flirtation with faith: it seems reasonable to me that my soul has also always existed. In The Last of the Wine, Mary Renault’s hero, Alexias, gives his REASON for believing in the soul. He is speaking with his friend Phaedo, a much abused slave boy who has survived the massacre at Melos. He tells Phaedo that he believes in the soul because: “I have seen how the body can be bought and sold, and not only that, but forced to what it hates and would never consent to; yet the soul can be free, and keep its courage, and defy its fate. So I believe in the soul.”

In your second post you reveal your location. (I am not much concerned with internet protocol.) I am impressed that you have such opportunities, and gratified that, with such opportunities at hand, you would take time at the Agora. My experience is more prosaic. I did spend the day at the State Republican Convention with close to 3,500 delegates who cast vote after vote in an effort to chose our representatives. It was wonderful to see democracy in action. Although I did not entirely agree with the choices of the majority, my faith in freedom was strengthened. I think of your “devoted Jews in full attire and praying” and see some similarity. According to my personal beliefs, the delegate majority was wrong in their choice of Senate, they missed the boat, but their desire to serve America, to defend the Constitution, and the unalienable rights of men, is laudable, and reasonable and in the end fulfilled. I have spoken with and listened to the candidates that will now enter a primary election. They are both good men, I have my preference, but am grateful that such people are willing to serve.

Lysis said...

cont.

Please consider this: Do you think God cares in what language or by what name those who seek His aid call upon Him? Isn’t it their works that would really concern a just God? If they do justice, won’t they receive the fruits of their acts in natural succession.

I also have a copy of the Quran. I have read parts of it, although I found Robert Spencer’s book – The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran – a more accessible. I would hold that the things in it that are true are legitimate – whether they are revelations or no. It is the same with the Bible. I don’t think it is reasonable for anyone to accept anything in the Bible or the Quran that isn’t reasonable – and I think it is right to accept everything in either book that is. I do not accept your claim that one cannot judge another’s revelation – as God is reasonable, any true revelation must conform to reason. All murder is wrong. This is how we determine if something is good or not. All the worlds’ great religions, and common sense, agree on the way to judge. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Jesus). Do not do unto others what you would not want others to do to you (Confucius). This ability to confirm accuracy is in all reasonable souls, all rational minds.

To answer your final questions, I don’t know. I don’t know when I will know. But I will act as if I did know, while holding on to my doubt, I will be confident that someday I will. I will never stop questioning until I find some better way to seek the truth.

Since the search is a goal in itself to me, we have already arrived at a place I find very significant. Thank you. I hope to continue to search for more truth. You questions and thoughts are very helpful. As of yet, I am not satisfied, but I am not discouraged in the search; as for now it is all I have.