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Showing posts from April, 2008

Latest response to author@ptgbooks

author@ptgbooks has been contributing to this blog on creationism. I have divided my posts into two: those dealing with the issue of whether it's reasonable to suppose the authors' Judeo-Christian God exists, and those dealing with whether creationism should be explicitly acknowledged in school science classes as something science has not disproved (which is what author wants). On the first issue: two posts ago I pointed out that evidence from design etc. is very weak evidence for the very specific god believed in by Christians (who is all-powerful and good), and that there is, in addition, very powerful evidence against the existence of that God supplied by the problem of evil/suffering. So, in terms of reasonableness, author's belief system looks very unreasonable indeed. In response, author comments that: (i) he doesn't want to focus on this issue (ii) that he has faith - i.e. "chooses to believe what God says" about his own goodness (iii) that the evid

Creationism, and intellectual black holes

Incidentally, has anyone got any information regarding Young Earth Creationists who have ceased being Young Earth Creationists (or even become atheists)? And have any once confirmed atheists ever ended up YECs? While lots of religious have become atheists, and vice verse, I am guessing there are very few examples of either of these categories. I suspect (though it's speculation, I admit), that Young Earth Creationism is an intellectual black hole - that the psychological and other forces that make religion so seductive become so concentrated in the U.S. version of YEC that they reach a critical mass: so that, once you're in, there's no way out again (certainly, not by means of reason ). But I would like to be proved wrong....

Gods, designers, and author@ptgbooks

Here’s my latest response to author@ptgbooks. I am focusing here just on the reasonableness of belief in the Judeo-Christian creator-god. Author said: You and other participants have often used examples of ridiculous beliefs like dogs being spies from Venus. I suppose you think belief in a creator God is just as ridiculous. I guess it would do no good to try to point out evidence for God, because you would just discount it. On the contrary, I have pointed out that the evidence you have provided thus far is very poor, and that there is, in a addition, very good evidence against belief in such a maximally powerful and good God. Can I suggest you read my “ The God of Eth ” article, to give you a quick overview of why I think the problem of evil/suffering is fatal to belief in such a God, and why I think your appeal to “mystery” etc. just won’t do. I’d be interested in your response. I see you put forward as evidence for your God that: (i) the world shows signs of design (ii) natura

Creationism - further comments

Here’s a quick-ish response to some of author@ptgbook’s (a creationist, if a slightly unorthodox one) comments on my preceding post. 1. EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE FOR/AGAINST THE EXISTENCE OF GOD First, author suggests that the supernatural/God is not something that science can address. Yet he or she suggests that, actually, there could be empirical evidence for God’s existence. Indeed, he/she cites the truth of prophecies, the fine-tuned character of the laws of nature, etc., and suggest there might also be evidence for ID . Well, good, so we agree that there can be empirical evidence for, and thus also against, God’s existence. Let’s look at some of author's alleged evidence supporting belief in God (which is threefold, thus far: fine-tuning, ID and truth of Biblical prophecies). Actually, fine-tuning and ID-type evidence are evidence, at best , for some sort of intelligence working behind the universe. It’s a huge further, unwarranted leap to conclude this intelligence is all

"Creationism" defended and "evolution" attacked

Here's a comment from author@ptgbook.org on my post on Darwin, creationism and evidence . Reminds me of Spencer Tracey towards the end of Inherit The Wind (the Tracey character puts to the blustering old creationist prosecutor that perhaps the "days" of the Bible lasted millions or billions of years). I am posting it here as it deserves special treatment, I feel. I'll respond further in next post... Your article is interesting and makes some good points, but it is missing the larger picture. Not all Bible literalists believe in a six thousand year old earth. A literal understanding of Genesis allows a time period of unspecified length between verse 1 and verse 3. This could have been billions of years. In other words, in verse 1 God created the earth. The earth could have become filled with life. At some point, the surface of the earth became covered with water as described in verse 2. Then starting in verse 3, God restored the earth to a condition of having life o

Schopenhauer on religious education

Philalethes. [...] But religions admittedly appeal, not to conviction as the result of argument, but to belief as demanded by revelation. And as the capacity for believing is strongest in childhood, special care is taken to make sure of this tender age. This has much more to do with the doctrines of belief taking root than threats and reports of miracles. If, in early childhood, certain fundamental views and doctrines are paraded with unusual solemnity, and an air of the greatest earnestness never before visible in anything else; if, at the same time, the possibility of a doubt about them be completely passed over, or touched upon only to indicate that doubt is the first step to eternal perdition, the resulting impression will be so deep that, as a rule, that is, in almost every case, doubt about them will be almost as impossible as doubt about one’s own existence. Hardly one in ten thousand will have the strength of mind to ask himself seriously and earnestly—is that true? As the exam

DARWIN, CREATIONISM AND EVIDENCE

Here's something I have been working on. Comments please. It needs a final para. Warning - about 3.5k words! DARWIN, CREATIONISM AND EVIDENCE Introduction Both the general theory of evolution and Darwin’s particular theory of evolution by natural selection are regularly challenged by people who describe themselves as “creationists”. There are several varieties of creationism. The focus here is on what is often called “young earth creationism”: the view that the entire universe is approximately six thousand (certainly less than ten) thousand years old, and that all living species were created within the first few days of creation. Henceforth, when I speak of “creationism”, it is young earth creationism I have in mind. Why would anyone believe creationism? Typically, because they are Bible literalists. Creationists believe that Genesis provides an historically accurate account of origin of the universe and life. Their chronology is based primarily on the number and ages of the genera

The Problem of Evil - character-building solution

Here's a popular explanation for the suffering and moral depravity that God allows into his creation: We know that a bad experience can sometimes make us stronger. We can learn, be enriched, through suffering. For example, people who have suffered a terrible disease sometimes say they gained greatly from it. Similarly, by causing us pain and suffering, God allows us to grow and develop both morally and spiritually. It is only through our experiencing this suffering that we can ultimately become the noble souls God wants us to be. The suffering is for our benefit! I don't find this remotely plausible. Here's an analogy. The secretive headmaster Suppose you come across a school. You observe that it has a strange regime. The teachers horribly flog some children within an inch of their lives for no reason whatever. Others receive fantastic rewards, again for no reason all. The headmaster knows everything that’s going on in the school. He knows that many children leave phy

Secularism - a simple test

Here's an essay that repeats some points I made earlier... By a secular society I mean one in which the state takes a neutral view on religion. A secular society aligns itself with no particular religious, or anti-religious, point of view. A secular society also protects freedoms: the freedom to believe, or not believe, worship, or not worship. Theists often assume that a secular society must be an atheist society. But, as I’ve characterized secularism here, secularism and atheism are very different concepts.. An Islamic or Christian theocracy is obviously not secular, because one particular religion dominates the state. But then an atheist state, such as Stalin’s Russia or Mao’s China, is not secular either. A secular state does not privilege atheist beliefs. It is neutral on the issue of religion. It is founded on principles framed independently of any particular religious, or indeed, atheist, commitment: principles to which we ought to be able to sign up whether we are religio

The other "problem of evil"

Sometimes, when presented with the problem of evil (for example, in the form of my " God of Eth " article [ original here ]), believers respond by saying "Well, ok, that's a problem for theists. But of course it's just as much a problem for atheists . Atheists need to deal with the problem of evil too." This had me scratching my head for a while. If you don't believe in an all-powerful, all-good God, well, evil is not a "problem" for your position, is it? Atheists don't face the "problem of evil". But then I realized that, actually, two quite different problems are being run together here. There is of course a " problem of evil" that atheists face: the problem of how to deal, psychologically, with evil - with the sheer quantity of suffering, and also moral depravity, that so many of us have to endure. The believer can find solace in their faith, of course. But to what can the atheist turn? So yes, atheists face this