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Evolution Basics: At the Frontiers of Evolution, Part 1: Frontier Science, Abiogenesis and Christian Apologetics

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June 19, 2014 Tags: Creation & Origins, Genetics, History of Life, Science as Christian Calling

Today's entry was written by Dennis Venema. You can read more about what we believe here.

Evolution Basics: At the Frontiers of Evolution, Part 1: Frontier Science, Abiogenesis and Christian Apologetics

Note: This series of posts is intended as a basic introduction to the science of evolution for non-specialists. You can see the introduction to this series here. In this post we revisit what a “theory” is in science, and discuss how evolution, as a theory, is expected to have core ideas that are well established, but also extend from that core to test hypotheses at a more speculative frontier.

Weizsäcker’s book The World View of Physics is still keeping me very busy. It has again brought home to me quite clearly how wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know; God wants us to realize his presence, not in unsolved problems but in those that are solved.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

When we began this series over a year ago, we started with a discussion of what a theory is in the scientific sense: a broad explanatory framework supported by experimental evidence, that makes accurate predictions, that has not (yet) been falsified through experimentation. Since that time we have traced the outlines of evolution as a scientific theory – discussing its origin with Darwin’s travels, discussing its mechanisms, and tracing the history of life on earth, including our own. We have also seen how evolution has withstood new evidence provided through scientific advancements, such as in paleontology and genetics. Though scientific theories always remain provisional, evolution as a scientific theory is so well established that its basic contours (species are related through common ancestry, natural selection is a significant player in speciation, et cetera) are no more likely to be overturned than those of other well-established scientific theories.

All theories, however, have frontiers – where their theory-like structure slowly gives way to a more hypothesis-like one. Demarcating the line between theory and hypothesis is also an attempt to draw a line on a gradient, but nonetheless it is a feature of all theories to expand into areas where less is known. As theories expand, some of what was once at the hypothetical frontier moves towards the well-established core – namely, those hypotheses that were accurate, or at least accurate enough to be refined through experimentation. In this series, we have seen historical examples of this process occurring. For example, in Darwin’s time, the idea that humans are related to other forms of life through common ancestry was much less well established than it is today, and was very much towards the “hypothesis” side of the equation. Human common ancestry was clearly predicted by Darwin’s work with other species, and supported by the lines of available evidence (such as the anatomy and physiology of humans compared to living great apes). Despite these evidences, however, in 1859 the science of human evolution had a long way to go – and it would be decades in coming, as we have seen. Eventually, the idea that humans are a lineage nested within the great apes would become entirely uncontroversial for scientists, given the accumulated evidence. This idea, then, moved from what was once the frontier of evolutionary theory to the core – a natural progression for an accurate hypothesis.

So, it is not a surprise that a scientific theory will address areas that are poorly understood: indeed, it is expected that theories, as they expand, will naturally have a frontier where the science is far from settled. Accordingly, we expect evolutionary theory to have its areas that are being actively researched and thus are more hypothetical than theoretical (in the scientific sense of those terms). For evolution, there are many such areas of active inquiry, where no single hypothesis has yet outcompeted its rivals – and no survey of evolutionary theory would be complete without at least a sketch of some of these areas.

Scientific frontiers and Christian apologetics

One challenge that faces us when examining frontier areas of evolution is that many Christians have had exposure to such topics exclusively in the context of antievolutionary apologetics. In such cases, it is common for the arguments to have the following basic structure: discuss a genuine scientific controversy from a frontier area of evolution, and then inappropriately use it in an attempt to cast doubt on evolution as a whole. This approach, though sadly common, misses the mark for two reasons: it fails to appreciate that a field of science is expected to have areas that are well supported as well as areas that are more speculative; and that in speculative areas, the presence of competing hypotheses does not imply that the more theoretical base that allows the hypotheses to be made in the first place is somehow suspect.

Nowhere in Christian antievolutionary apologetics is this approach more prominent than for the first frontier area of evolution that we will examine: abiogenesis, or the proposed transition between nonliving matter and the first life on earth. Strictly speaking, abiogenesis is not part of evolutionary theory, in that evolution is the theory of how life changes over time, not how life may have arisen from non-life. As we will see, however, there is good evidence that this distinction is yet another attempt to draw a line on what is in fact a gradient between “non-living” and “living”. Regardless of these careful distinctions that a scientist might make, however, in the popular Christian antievolutionary literature the mystery of abiogenesis is reason enough to doubt evolution as a whole. Hopefully, the scientific problem with this approach is by now obvious – unsolved problems at the frontier are expected, and the natural result of a productive theory. Of course, there is also an apologetics problem with this approach: should a hypothesis at the frontier find experimental support, it will shift towards the theoretical core over time. If an apologetics argument is based on the expectation that such a hypothesis is false, then that argument will lose even what meager force it may have once had, to the detriment of the apologetic it was designed to support. Bonhoeffer famously rejected this approach, and we would do well to follow suit.

In the next post in this series, we’ll examine the reasons why evolutionary theory leads us to hypothesize that life had a singular, chemical origin deep in earth’s history.

For further reading

  • Venema, D.R. (2011). Intelligent Design, abiogenesis and learning from history: a reply to Meyer. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 63 (3), 183-192. [PDF]
  • Meyer, S. C. (2011). Of molecules and (straw) men: a response to Dennis Venema’s review of Signature in the Cell. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 63 (3), 171-182. [PDF]
  • Venema, D.R. (2010). Seeking a signature: essay book review of Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design by Stephen C. Meyer. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 62 (4), 276-283. [PDF]

Dennis Venema is professor of biology at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia. He holds a B.Sc. (with Honors) from the University of British Columbia (1996), and received his Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia in 2003. His research is focused on the genetics of pattern formation and signaling using the common fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism. Dennis is a gifted thinker and writer on matters of science and faith, but also an award-winning biology teacher—he won the 2008 College Biology Teaching Award from the National Association of Biology Teachers. He and his family enjoy numerous outdoor activities that the Canadian Pacific coast region has to offer. Dennis writes regularly for the BioLogos Forum about the biological evidence for evolution.

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Steve Sterley - #85820

June 19th 2014

Great post Dennis, you’ve explained this well. I’m so tired of pointing out to people that we don’t have to have a strong opinion on abiopgenesis to have a high degree of confidence that we are related to other animals.

Yet again and again we see this used a creationist criticism of evolution.

Another area where we’ve recently seen change is in the recent update made to the estimate for when humans and chimpanzees diverged. Just because scientists are refining their estimates, doesn’t mean that evolution is in a state of chaos.


GJDS - #85821

June 19th 2014

Dennis,

I would be interested to understand what you mean by your statement that, “… the theories expand…” The history of science (this has been covered to some extent by Ted Davies) shows that in fact as any paradigm in science is criticized, there is a dynamic which seeks to defend the paradigm, until a breakthrough occurs, and this eventually causes a ‘revolution’ in that particular area of the Science.

The adherents of Darwinian evolution imo, show a different approach, in that their defense of Darwinism leads to a contraction of their thinking into dogma, and this has caused a great deal of antagonism and argumentation more often associated with ideologies.

I for one am confident that the sciences, including the bio-sciences, will continue to progress, by following the normal dynamics, in which a paradigm is overthrown, after a great deal of examination and criticism of the its major tenets, and replaced by an outlook that is an improvement on the previous paradigm. There are some voices currently (not religious or atheistic ones) that are making similar remarks. I think the complexities of the bio-areas make progress in these sciences more difficult and thus this takes place at a slower rate than perhaps the exact sciences.

Sadly a dogmatic position does not respond well to any criticism, and the response is often an emotional one, instead of reflecting on the nature of that area of science. There are examples in which particular theories ‘explained’ and ‘predicted’ many experimentally observed results (the easiest to understand is the old theory of acids and bases in chemistry, but one needs to go through the history of science to get a good appreciation of this), but these eventually did not expand, but were in fact replaced, and that area of science then progressed. This is the strength of the scientific method, and scientists should embrace it instead of reacting against it.


GJDS - #85823

June 19th 2014

To defend myself against the common and numerous accusations on this site, I have taken a quote from an article on the BBC that is easily accessible, and which provides a conclusion, rather than a portion of the article:

The conclusion that I derive takes me back to Dmanisi: We have built a picture of our evolution based on the morphology of fossils and it was wrong.

We just cannot place so much taxonomic weight on a handful of skulls when we know how plastic - or easily changeable - skull shape is in humans. And our paradigms must also change. Professor Clive Finlayson, “Viewpoint: Human evolution, from tree to braid”, http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-25559172

There are other examples, such as questions of the tree of life notion (which is the basis of common descent), an excellent lecture by M Polanyi which questions the current understanding of natural selection and speaks to the notion of the descent of humanity (and others) – these highly educated people, who have a well established reputation in their respective fields, and from what I read, are NOT out to create a culture war, or even deny that Darwin has made a valuable contribution to biology. It is not necessary for me to give a long list of scientists or examine their particular point of view – it should be enough in ANY area of science, to acknowledge that such criticisms are there, and these should be taken seriously.


Richard Speyer - #85829

June 19th 2014

There are other examples, such as questions of the tree of life notion (which is the basis of common descent)

I think you’ve got this backwards. The tree of life notion is an outcome of the idea of common descent not it’s basis.

To quote from further down the article you reference…

Some time ago we replaced a linear view of our evolution by one represented by a branching tree. It is now time to replace it with that of an interwoven plexus of genetic lineages that branch out and fuse once again with the passage of time.

The suggestion seems to be that even the “tree” view is too simplistic and it’s time for the theory to expand.


Gregory - #85830

June 20th 2014

GJDS,

Thanks for this helpful request for clarification from Dennis, specifically re: scientific theory and method on the one hand and dogma and ideology on the other. I think it would be quite helpful in this series for Dennis to explain what he means by addressing your question.

Imo, it does not matter in the long-run if the ‘Darwinian’ theory of evolution (which differs from ‘Darwinism’) proves most accurate or not. What Dennis is saying is that evolutionary theory, even if it is non-Darwinian, is so far understood in ‘the scientific community’ broadly as ‘sound.’ Most theists that are not YECs or IDists, not evangelicals or fundamentalists seem to agree.

Talk of ‘Darwinism,’ though, really isn’t helpful here; it is just a demand to use ‘outside’ language from what BioLogos prefers. ‘Darwinism,’ as you know, is an ideology (based on a character & his ideas). So is ‘evolutionism’ (based on a concept & its scientific or philosophical reference), which is why BioLogos has come out against it (see Questions - http://biologos.org/questions/biologos-id-creationism). Sure, that’s quite different from Dennis’ biology-centred view of PoS, but it is no less (and imho even more) important. Darwinian evolution is not an ideology if one is speaking about the ‘strictly natural scientific’ contribution that Darwin (and his followers) made (and still make) to natural science.

“many Christians have had exposure to such topics exclusively in the context of antievolutionary apologetics.”

Of crucial importance in the discussion of ‘apologetics’ is to distinguish ‘antievolutionary apologetics’ from ‘Christian apologetics.’ In this thread, the two appear conflated. What would seem to be more fruitful to focus on is ‘anti-evolutionism/anti-evolutionist apologetics’ (if one must call it ‘apologetics’ instead of just ‘logic’ or ‘rationale’), which not only the Catholic and Orthodox churches (as well as Judaism and Islam) agrees to, but also most ‘evangelical’ and ‘mainstream’ Protestants in the USA and Canada (which should be brought in because Venema is not USAmerican, but Canadian; he currently lives in Canada, in my second ‘hometown’). I can’t recall a single thing Venema has written against ‘evolutionism’ at BioLogos and it would be helpful if he would show it specifically if he’s done it somewhere.

Some non-USAmerican critics of BioLogos have suggested that BioLogos is dogmatic. These critics have elsewhere on the net even supported the notion that BioLogos-affiliated scholars and scientists *should* be called ‘Christian Darwinists,’ though personally I think that is a silly label and one without credibility or honour in the suggestion. Denyse O’Leary is a prime example of this, as a paid journalese mouthpiece for the DI. What these folks haven’t yet done, however, is to openly give their voices of support for the efforts of BioLogos to help overcome the YECism in the USA, which is the main mission of BioLogos.

I would like to add, however, GJDS, that even ‘paradigm change’ in the Kuhnian sense, can be considered within an ‘evolutionary’ framework. That is, science by many people is thought to ‘evolve’ – by which they simply (but technically erroneously) just mean ‘change-over-time’ – until a threshold (cf. emergence) arrives where/when a ‘revolution’ occurs for whichever time period, and then ‘after the revolution,’ a period of ‘evolution’ supposedly returns to said science. That’s of course ‘evolutionism’ of another variety. So of key importance, and which is why I harp on it, is actually openly and fairly considering the limits of ‘evolutionary’ explanations in the context of science, philosophy and theology/worldview discourse. Biologism, as an ideology, will not be exempt from public and scholarly scrutiny, as demonstrated repeated both by atheists and by self-labelled ‘evolutionists’ (ideologues) who are (rather strangely still also) theists. It should also not be exempt from discussion in this very PoS-attempted thread.

As for Dennis’ claim that “All theories, however, have frontiers,” that sounds like an excellent topic for BioLogos to explore. What are the limits of evolutionary theory/theories? Is there any chance this could be recommended to the leadership as a valid and potentially highly resonant (not just among ‘evangelicals’) to explore, even if not only in biology and genomics?

Gregory

p.s. I did like the Bonhoeffer quote; a non-biologist colleague is working closely on his thought and life here, e.g. there was just a Bonhoeffer symposium in the Tolerance Centre


GJDS - #85832

June 20th 2014

Thanks for your comments Gregory. I agree with you that ‘things change over time’ is a good way of understanding the broad meaning of evolution. I have also tried (with partial success I think) to draw a distinction between scientific theories (including neo-Darwinian theories) that have reached ‘a state of certainty’ such, that we may include such insights in our theological considerations, as separate from speculative thinking (although it is part of the scientific method to speculate, and to even be shown to be wrong). This distinction is central to theological considerations, and this is what I understand to be the central goal of BioLogos.

Thus I am uncomfortable with entering into arguments on specific and technical areas that are the concern (properly) of bio-scientists. I am equally uncomfortable with claims (some made out of ignorance) that Darwin’s paradigm has such ubiquitous relevance (especially natural selection) that this somehow subsumes all scientific thought, and has explanatory power throughout Nature. 

The central theme of Dennis’s posts have been imo to show that the Darwin theory is somehow misunderstood by those who are criticize it within the context of theological considerations – these post show a bias, which can be highlighted by examining the simplistic statements such as, “…..what is in fact a gradient between “non-living” and “living”…” This type of language is not scientific but more along the lines of ideological statements. Scientists have discussed “the proposed transition between nonliving matter and the first life on earth”, and such outlooks range from outright rejection of any understanding in this area, to attempts that are speculative in the extreme. What I am saying is that NONE of these opinions can be reconciled with such statements, or a fact of a gradient… yet once gain we have such such language in BioLogos, who ironically also maintain they are interested in scientifically verified outlooks.

When such opinions are presented within a theological context, I for one consider them absurd and unworthy of any attempt to provide useful information to Christians. Dennis is not unique in this respect, and the major areas of somehow Darwinian theories accounting for how Nature operates (be it some type of randomness and autonomy), and the waffling about the nature of mankind, are other examples where BioLogos is not up to the mark. God does not operate using a process that can change to accommodate any waffle and hare-brained ideas that people may come up with from time to time. Such outlooks are considered by ALL scientists as speculation and not an expansion of some theory or other.   

Your suggestion, “What are the limits of evolutionary theory/theories?” is excellent and this has been explored in a limited way by specialists in “Mapping the Future of Biology” (Ed Cohen, Renn and Gavloglu).


Gregory - #85836

June 20th 2014

Hi GJDS,

Sorry, there is just not time to respond, only to this.

You wrote:

“I agree with you that ‘things change over time’ is a good way of understanding the broad meaning of evolution.”

That is really *not* what I meant.

‘Evolution’ is only one kind of ‘change-over-time’ among other kinds. Repeat: only ONE kind. No monopoly. Change is the master category, not evolution. (This is almost completely not understood in the current discourse here.) Non-evolutionary change is under-represented in popular science, philosophy, theology/worldview conversations.

Hopefully that helps a bit to clear up my approach. If I can I will respond to the rest of your message.

p.s. the subtitle of the book you recommend = problematic, but rather ‘normal’ according to ‘scientists’ (as respectfully you are one).


GJDS - #85839

June 21st 2014

Gregory,

I do not understand why the subtitle of the book is problematic, and I agree with you the term ‘Evolution’ may be used to one kind of change over time. The Title and subtitle are:

MAPPING THE FUTURE OF BIOLOGY

EVOLVING CONCEPTS AND THEORIES

BOSTON STUDIES IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE

The foreword by Richard C. Lewontin is an excellent summary of the stages that this area has undergone from the 17th Century to the present. Morange remarks on the changes of the neo-Darwinian paradigm, but the general view seems to be that this is a result of interdisciplinary works incorporated – this would be an expansion, which I suspect is what Dennis may be trying to say. However, he recognizes the range of outlooks by writing,

This similarity pushes many to consider that biology is at the dawn of a new scientific revolution, comparable to the rise of molecular biology. The paradigm of molecular biology is dying, and ought to be replaced by a new one.”

His view is that a new paradigm may not be necessary, but he acknowledges the debate in this area, and states:

But the epigenetic and self-organization models were too heterogeneous to constitute a new approach to biological phenomena. As some supporters of DS theory admit, their models were at the border between science and philosophy, and probably more on the side of the

latter: they were not, in most cases, research programs, alternatives to the present models and theories awaiting for a paradigm shift. Epigenetics is already a recognized field of research, enriching the genetic description; self-organization models will be used to enlighten such and such aspects of the complex biological systems; and the numerous original prospects opened by DS theory will be progressively incorporated into an extended form of Darwinism.”

Once again such remarks are valid when confined to the areas of Biology, and represent perhaps a greater state of flux than may be found in the Physical Sciences – whatever the case, there is a great deal of speculation in many areas, and it is instructive to understand this and try to comprehend the impact such speculation may have on ones theological/ Christian outlook - this is after all, why I try to find time to participate on this site (not because I have invested or have a stake in the bio-areas).


Gregory - #85841

June 21st 2014

“I do not understand why the subtitle of the book is problematic”

In short, using your own words it is a dogmatic, not scientific use of ‘evolving’.

Concepts and theories are not, strictly speaking, biological entities. They are changed, developed, adapted, adjusted *by people*. They do not ‘live’ (bios) independently of people. Surely you agree (leaving out the Extended Mind thesis)?

Unfortunately, many people, including scholars, scientists and non-academics don’t see where the slippery slope to evolutionism begins and they fall right into it.

I asked the question above: What are the limits of evolutionary theory/theories? You said it was an excellent question. Yet the book you cited is oblivious to even the possibility of this question the way I am asking it wrt ideology and dogma. They simply don’t know what they don’t know (and perhaps don’t care either).

Their interest (I searched the book on gbooks for ‘limits’) in the limits of evolutionary theories is focussed *only* on biology. It does not actually deal with ideology and dogma (search the book for those terms yourself - ‘dogma’ - only once, ideology - nothing). Whatever other value the book may have (eVo-deVo, self-organisation, information emergence, systems biology, epigenetics, niche construction, etc.) does not change that and without facing that, your question and mine are left unaddressed.

To clarify language (quoted because the Bold feature isn’t working when I post):

Darwinian = qualifier for Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Darwinism = ideology (or dogma, as you call it).

Without this important distinction, your question (though not framed as a question) to Dennis doesn’t make any sense. (But it would not be a surprise if Dennis thinks ‘Darwinism’ is simply a ‘strictly natural scientific’ theory too, since many biologists only have minimal training, if any, in philosophy of science.) And it is also, I suspect, why Falk removed ‘Darwinism’ from the BioLogos website in summer 2011. The conversation I had with him then about this seems to support that suspicion.

Do you not see clearly, GJDS, that ‘Darwinism’ is what IDists harp on (broken record!), while BioLogos is more interested in Darwinian evolution? That should be crystal clear when discussing the science involved, in contrast with the ideology or dogma.


Gregory - #85842

June 21st 2014

Let me just add that I do not wish to discuss ‘Darwinism’ with any IDists and do not want to be provoked here at BioLogos by IDists. I’d ask the Moderator to note this basic request.

My particular concern with Dennis’ post (as mentioned in #85830) is distinguishing ‘anti-evolutionary’ from ‘anti-evolutionism’. BioLogos is anti-evolutionism, as shown in their Questions section. Thus, Dennis should be anti-evolutionism too, if he accepts BioLogos’ chosen approach. As he said himself, “All theories, however, have frontiers.” Evolutionism goes ideologically beyond the ‘frontier’ of scientific evolutionary theory and it is the biggest problem in the science, philosophy, theology/worldview discourse wrt origins and processes of change.


GJDS - #85843

June 21st 2014

Fair enough Gregory - I do not wish to push these discussions any further, as I feel that these matters have been discussed and will continue for some time. As long as I make one point clear, I will be satisfied; this is the point, that I for one try to distinguish between certainties in scientific thinking, from those that are speculation. I tend to (unconsciously I suspect) use the term ‘dogma’ as a way of pointing out cases where this distinction may be lost. This is a restricted useage and I want to leave it at that.


Gregory - #85862

June 24th 2014

GJDS, we are agreed to leave it at that. My longer message to you saying this was deleted. 


Roger A. Sawtelle - #85838

June 20th 2014

Dennis.

Maybe you can clear this up for me.

Whast do you see as the relationship between evolution and ecology.  Dome seem to day there is none.  This is the way I understand Richard Dawkins.

Others say there is a connection, but I have not been able to tie this down, even though this is my position.  I think this is a very important question since climate change and Islam vs the West are the real crises of our day that demand our attention.  


Tony - #85840

June 21st 2014

Hi Dennis…

You write, “it is not a surprise that a scientific theory will address areas that are poorly understood: indeed, it is expected that theories, as they expand, will naturally have a frontier where the science is far from settled.  Accordingly, we expect evolutionary theory to have its areas that are being actively researched and thus are more hypothetical than theoretical (in the scientific sense of those terms).”  In line with this reasoning, what do you say concerning the following:

 

Here is a quote by Jerry Coyne - WHYEVOLUTIONISTRUE.WORDPRESS.COM - Is “epigenetics” a revolution in evolution?

This piece can be found here at the old “Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science” website - http://old.richarddawkins.net/articles/642737-is-epigenetics-a-revolution-in-evolution

“The second meaning of “epigenetics” is more recent, and involves actual changes in the DNA itself that are not based on mutational changes in nucleotides, but in environmental modifications of nucleotides - things like methylation of nucleotide bases or changes in DNA-associated proteins like histones - that can temporarily modify genes and affect their actions.  I say “temporarily,” because such environmental modification of DNA, while it can be adaptive, is not usually passed on from one generation to the next.  For example, we get our genes in pairs - one from mom and one from dad - but they can be differentially “marked” (the technical term is “imprinted”) during the formation of sperm and eggs, and so the copy from dad can act differently from the copy coming from mom.  This imprinting is probably due to natural selection: scientists like David Haig have argued that the different and conflicting “interests” of paternal versus maternal genes has, through natural selection, molded the way they are imprinted, allowing them to act in different ways in the embryo.  But an “imprinted” gene is reset each generation: the imprinting disappears and has to re-form depending on which sex the gene is in.”

Even though an imprinted gene is reset each generation because the imprinting disappears and has to reform depending on which sex the gene is in, doesn’t necessarily disqualify the fact that the genes are “steering” the process.  From one generation to the next the genes [are] “steering” the process - Am I wrong?  Mutations are random copying errors caused - as I inferred elsewhere - by stressful changes in the environment.  I believe a “steering” process is similarly in effect here - although, with major problems.  In reading the whole piece which brings you to the whyevolutionistrue website - the significant point to make here is that the “evidence” that “God [is] “steering” evolution lies in epigenetics.

 

The disclaimer at the website states that, “The mission of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science is to support scientific education, critical thinking and evidence-based understanding of the natural world in the quest to overcome religious fundamentalism, superstition, intolerance and suffering.”

It would seem that Richard Dawkins sacrifices his scientific education, critical thinking, and evidence-based understanding at the expense of his quest to overcome religious fundamentalism, superstition, intolerance and suffering.

 

This is what Richard Dawkins had to say about the piece:

“I now groan audibly when a journalist (usually from continental Europe where they spend too much time learning philosophy rather than science) asks me the now inevitable ‘what about epigenetics?’ question.  It is a real disease among science journalists, this unseemly eagerness to find something that enables them to say “Darwin was wrong” (New Science under Roger Highfield is a lamentable example).  I am heartily sick of the ‘epigenetics’ bandwagon and almost look forward to the next one, where it turns out to be.”  [Sunday, 21 August 2011]

I believe Mr. Dawkins has a deep seated fear of “epigenetics” - almost as if he desires for something very important to remain hidden.  Here is a lecture with Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss - notice how Mr. Dawkins vehemently avoids a question (at 1:05:35) on epigenetics by a spectator.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGhUDByWdPQ


Roger A. Sawtelle - #85844

June 21st 2014

Gregory and GJDS,

I think that Gregory is making an important point.  The ism on the end of Darwinism is generally used to to indicate an ideology, in this case a closed ideological system based primarily on the ideas of Charles Darwin.  In my opinion Dawkins and Dennett views are examples of Darwinism, even thiugh they try to claim that they are not ideologs, but scientists.

On the other hand many people who should know better seem to think that any criticism of Darwin and his point of view is a denial of evolution.  In other words they identify the natural process of evolution with Darwins Theory of the same.  That is like saying that Einstein’s understanding of how gravity works which is different from Newton’s denying the reality of gravity itself.  

There is one thing, the natural process thaqt we call evolution.  There are many theories as to how it works, the Lamarkian theory, Darwin’s original theory, Neo-Darwinism, and my view of ecological evolution. 

My concern is that some people in BioLogos and without confuse the scientific theory with the natural process.  That is a serious problem, because it means that the scientific theory has become a closed system that does not require new thinking.

Also the confusion of theory with reality senies an important aspect of our faith.  God is God.  God is not dependent on our ideas about God.  Yet there are three monotheistic faiths that have three theories about Who God is. 

Nowe only one of these thweories can be right, or more nearly correct than the others, because humans cannot expect to fully understand God.  Now many people might say that we cannot make this decission, but must believe one of the three sacred books God has given us. 

I disagree for theological reasons.  The New Testament calls Jesus the Logos, Who is both the Source of rationality in faith and science.  Therefore we have a revealed theological base for determining what is true and false concerning theology and science.

If Jesus Christ is not the Logos, or Meaning of Life and Reality, then most probably Islam is the true faith.       


Bilbo - #85845

June 21st 2014

Hi Dennis,

As usual you label design arguments as apologetic arguments, even though they are not.  It gets rather tiring.  If SETI found the narrow-band radio emission from outer space that they are looking for, they would infer that it was designed.  I doubt that you would label their inference as an “apologetic argument for Extraterrestrials.”


Gregory - #85860

June 24th 2014

Are ‘design arguments’ commonly thought as apologetic arguments? http://cis.org.uk/upload/Resources/Creation/Is_ID_Biblical.pdf


PNG - #85865

June 24th 2014

ETs might see them that way, but it’s hard to find any to ask. Certainly SETI evidence, if it existed, would be take as a reason to believe that there are ETs. (I foresee an organization called Reasons to Believe in ETs.) So sure, ET apologetics, why not?

Everybody knew there was a cat in the bag, and it got out several months ago:

http://www.abpnews.com/faith/theology/item/28461-conference-links-intelligent-design-to-essential-doctrines-of-christianity


Eddie - #85866

June 24th 2014

Hi, PNG.

I looked at the article you linked to.  It seems badly-organized and its thesis is not clear.  I’m not sure what you are trying to establish by citing it.

What “everybody knew” was that most ID proponents are Christians, mostly evangelical Christians.  But every Christian ID leader without exception admitted to Christian faith from the very beginning.  There was never the slightest concealment of personal religious commitments, so there was never any secret to let “out of the bag.”  

On the other hand, there are are no Christian premises required to follow the argument in Darwin’s Black Box, Signature in the Cell, The Design of Life, No Free Lunch, etc.  So if the charge is that most ID proponents have Christian motivation, that’s true; but if the charge is that ID arguments depend on accepting Christian faith, that’s false.  

I’m missing your point, I guess.  That arguments for design are often motivated by Christian apologetic interest?  Yes, they are; but they don’t *need* to be motivated by that interest, as is shown by the example of people such as Plato or the Stoics who were not motivated by that interest.  

ID arguments can of course be used in apologetics.  But they aren’t in themselves examples of apologetics.  Not when they are pure ID arguments, as opposed to apologetic harangues making use of ID arguments.


PNG - #85868

June 24th 2014

Good grief, Eddie, it was written by a journalist. My recollection from high school journalism is that they organize things differently from a philosopher. (“Whack ‘em in the head with a big beginning - you’re writing to the average 12 yr old - you have to get their attention.”)

 

The point seems pretty clear in quoting it. When you’re (not you personally) trying to convince federal judges, insist that what you are doing has nothing to do with religion, split logical hairs and hypothesize mysterious ET designers. When you’re talking to Christians who might send you money, make no bones about it that you are talking about the Christian God. 

I don’t understand why they play this game, when everyone can see what’s going on. If they think they can show that there is design and make science out of the it, well, they ought to do the best they can at it and admit that the object is to push people toward belief in God. It’s not like there’s anyone who doesn’t know that.


Eddie - #85869

June 25th 2014

Hi, PNG.

I grant that there are many ID supporters who are creationists as well as ID supporters, and within that group there are many for whom ID is more or less a tool to support creationism.  That was particularly the case with the Dover School Board—whence your remark about federal judges probably comes.  I think that the Dover school board was guilty of the behavior you’ve pointed out.  No doubt many churches which sponsor ID events are guilty of the behavior you’ve pointed out.  

Still, when you think about it, the idea that the object of ID for such people is “to push people toward belief in God” seems to have limited explanatory power.  Within their churches, the people already strongly believe in God, and would continue to do so even if ID had never come along.  Before ID came along, these same churches were pushing “Creation Science” events.  The religious belief in such churches wasn’t created by Creation Science back then, and it isn’t created by ID now.  The belief was already there, and what was being pushed was a particular connection with science—an attempt to validate the belief by demonstrating that it was founded on, or at least compatible with, good science.  

It might seem that the case is different when creationists try to push ID in school boards rather than at church events.  After all, a public school may have children in it who have been taught no religion in the home, and so ID arguments might serve as an indirect means to win them over to religious faith through the idea of a Designer God.  But my sense is that the movements to push ID in the schools generally arise not in downtown Boston or Los Angeles or in the suburbs of Long Island, but in small-town or rural areas where a large proportion of the population is already fundamentalist Christian.  In such places, the vast majority of the kids have already been taught about God in the home and at church, so mention of possible arguments for a designer in a science class is not pushing children to any place where they aren’t already standing.  

Also, the people pushing these policies see themselves as acting defensively rather than aggressively.  They perceive the school system, the courts, the media, the colleges, etc. as conspiring to squash belief in God and to ridicule the Bible, and they see that the main tool used in this regard is the prestige of natural science.  From their point of view, then, showing that science (in this case, ID science, in an earlier era, Creation Science) is compatible with the Bible and with belief in God is merely balancing things; it’s a defensive tactic used to prevent their kids’ minds, dazzled by the accomplishments of science, from being snatched away and enlisted in the secular humanist cause.  Paranoia?  Maybe.  But I think that is how many of the parents see it.  So they fight back with any tool at their disposal—not to push any inherently non-religious kids (or parents) to believe in God, but to protect their own kids from concluding that there is no God, or that the Bible is untrue, because science seems to speak against it.  So if ID seems to offer a scientific defense of a creator, such people will latch onto it.

To me, Dover represented scared traditional Americans trying to hold on to their traditional beliefs, not a militant attempt to cajole secular Americans into the churches.  I’m not defending the Dover policy and I’m glad the board’s policy was struck down, as it was plainly religiously motivated.  But I don’t see it as an attempt to bully people into believing in God.

In the meantime, people like Michael Denton, who have no association with fundamentalist churches or even with America, are arguing for intelligent design in nature.  So clearly the theory of ID is detachable from the use made of it by fundamentalists in the USA.  


Tony - #85878

June 25th 2014

Hi Eddie…

The object of ID for such people is “to push people toward belief in God” seems to have limited explanitory power.”

This is because the statement is not clarifying which philosophic position concerning “God” it is referring to:

“Deism is the belief that God exists but has no present active relation to the world,” is the philosophic position ID adheres to.  This is a [false] teaching (in my opinion) and thus this is why the courts (in my opinion) will not allow this belief to be taugh in the public schools.

“Theism is the belief that God exists as a distinct being and works through and in the world,” is the philosophic position TE/EC adheres to.  This is the [correct] teaching (in my opinion) and thus the courts (in my opinion) would allow this belief to be taught in the public schools.

 

What was being pushed was a particular connection with science - an attempt to validate the belief by demonstrating that it was founded on, or at least compatible with, good science.”

Well, the “attempt to validate the belief by demonstrating that it was founded on, or at least compatible with, good science,” has failed.

If ID’s position is that God intended the universe (in live time) and has evolved through and with the creation, declare it, close shop, and join the TE/EC movement.  If their position is that God exists apart from the universe and has no relation with it (more of the same old belief), similarly, declare it.  ID hides in the dark!  We all know what all good men of God declared concerning those who work in darkness.  John 1:5 states, “And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

 

After all, a public school may have children in it who have been taught no religion in the home, and so ID arguments might serve as an indirect means to win them over to religious faith through the idea of a Designer God.

“There is no religion higher than truth!”  Helena Blavatsky

 

In such places, the vast majority of the kids have already been taught about God in the home and at church, so mention of possible arguments for a designer in a science class is not pushing children to any place where they aren’t already standing.

Sure, the kids are already deceived by their misinformed parents and the churches that misinform them - let’s reinforce the deception further in our public schools.

 

They perceive the school system, the courts, the media, the colleges, etc. as conspiring to squash belief in God and to ridicule the Bible, and they see that the main tool used in this regard is the prestige of natural science.

Remember, things are not always as they seem!  “They perceive the school system, the courts, the media, the colleges, etc. as conspiring to squash belief in God and to ridicule the Bible.”  Although, what is being “squashed” is belief in the philosophy of deism.  Of course, there are those who work in these fields who are ignorant of the facts - and ridicule that which is sacred.


Eddie - #85881

June 25th 2014

Tony:

I hope it was clear that I was not *defending* the Dover school board’s policy, and that I agreed with the judge that the school board was religiously motivated.  And if I appeared to be defending the board trustees, I was not in fact agreeing with either their theological views or their political activities; I was merely setting forth their motivation for doing what they did.

My point was that they weren’t trying to push all the students at Dover into becoming believers in God, but were trying mainly to create a safe space in the biology class for those students who do believe in God now, but might not, after being exposed to textbooks that said that evolution was unguided and unplanned etc.  The board members used ID—even though they didn’t have a clue what ID was about—to create that safe space.  I don’t agree with their manipulative tactics, but I have human sympathy for their fears and their sense of impotence; for evolutionary theory has in fact often been presented, both in textbooks and in popular culture, with an anti-God edge.  

I don’t understand where you get your legal conclusion about deism and theism.  Under current constitutional interpretation, which was upheld at Dover, both deism and theism are forbidden territory; they may not be promoted in science class or anywhere else in the schools.  They can be discussed in a history class, or a world religion class; but talking *about* deism or theism and *defending* deism or theism are two different things.  The school, the teacher, the state, etc. are all forbidden from defending or promoting any view that is found by the courts to be “religious.”  You can confirm all this by reading any number of books which were written about the Dover Trial.

I don’t understand why you identify ID with deism.  Which ID books have given you that impression?  The only major ID proponent I know of who appears to be a sort of deist is Denton.  The rest are theists of various kinds—Jewish, Catholic, Protestant.

I find it interesting that you champion theism but then approvingly quote Mme. Blavatsky, who was, as far as I know, not a theist but a pantheist.  But I don’t have time to sort that out with you.  Hope this reply clarifies where I was coming from.  Best wishes.


Tony - #85884

June 25th 2014

Eddie…

You were crystal clear that you were not *defending* the Dover school board’s policy.  You made this clear in your first paragraph and, specifically, in your second to last paragraph you state;

“I’m not defending the Dover policy and I’m glad the board’s policy was struck down, as it was plainly religiously motivated.”

So, in a certain sense, I don’t understand why you are being defensive.  Then again, I believe you stand with the ID camp and didn’t like certain things I said in other posts concerning the ID movement.  However, I also, was crystal clear about what was said about ID in the other posts - that what was said was directed at those who willfully and deliberately set themselves against the Holy Spirit and choose to deceive others, not at any sincere Christian who doesn’t know any better.  Alternatively, Revelation 18:4 does state, “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”

 

You write, “I don’t agree with their manipulative tactics, but I have human sympathy for their fears and their sense of importance; for evolutionary theory has in fact often been presented, both in textbooks and in popular culture, with an anti-God edge.”

I also have human sympathy for the fears and sense of impotence these parents have on account of their children.  Accordingly, a false belief in a God who exists in the clouds (ID’s Deism) will not solve the problem.  The absolute truth, exclusively, will solve the problem that parents and children face - God is the higher self and exists within the subconscious.  It is by this truth that a person becomes whole - regarding those who have been deceived and lived their lives as broken individuals.  Where is the moral reasoning and the sense of justice of those who want to perpetuate this depravity upon mankind?  You see, that’s the thing, Eddie, these kind of people have no moral reasoning or sense of justice - to be crystal clear I am referring to those who willfully and deliberately set themselves against the Holy Spirit.

 

You comment, “I don’t understand where you get your legal conclusion about deism and theism.  Under current constitutional interpretation, which was upheld at Dover, both deism and theism are forbidden territory; they may not be promoted in science class of anywhere else in the schools.”

Eddie, with the new heaven and the new earth of God’s Kingdom this will not be a concern, for the former things will have passed away.  As for theism, the philosophy of theistic evolution has incorporated the term in its name - The belief that God exists as a distinct being, and works through and in the world.

 

You state, “I don’t understand why you identify ID with deism.  Which ID books have given you that impression?”

I haven’t read any books on intelligent design, nevertheless, the argument from intelligent design has been taught and studied in theology for centuries.  It proposes that, necessarily, because of the complexity in nature and semblance of design there must be an intelligent designer.  The movement intentionally avoids identifying the intelligent designer.

I’m well aware of how much you respect Wikipedia, but for quick access to information that is relatively accurate here we go; Dembski, in “The Design Inference (1998), speculates that an alien culture could fulfill these requirements.  Of Pandas and People proposes that SETI illustrates an appeal to intelligent design in science.  In 2000, philosopher of science Robert T. Pennock suggested the Raelian UFO religion as a real-life example of an extraterrestrial intelligent designer view that “make[s] many of the same bad arguments against evolutionary theory as creationists.”  This, is why I identify ID with deism.

 

By the way, Eddie, I took the time to sort it out for you.  Helena Blavatsky was a theosophist, meaning, “any of various forms of philosophical or religious thought based on a mystical insight into the divine nature.”  I believe that i don’t need to explain any further here, than that Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism all have their mystical traditions - Qabalah, Rosicrucianism, Sufism, and Vedanta.  Anyway, the reason Helena Blavatsky was mentioned was in respect to her name for the coining of her famous phrase, “There is no religion higher than truth.”  How true it is!


Eddie - #85888

June 26th 2014

Tony:

Unfortunately I have no time to answer at length.  Let me say quickly that every Christian ID proponent known to me (and I know many, and have met some of them personally and spoken with them) believes that God is no mere distant designer and maker, but is personally involved in the universe and in the lives of individuals in all kinds of ways.

Regarding Dembski, you are confusing his thoughts on design detection methods (which are unable to identify the identity of a designer, and can only ascertain the fact of design) and his personal religious belief (that the designer is the Christian God).  This confusion would not happen if you read his books instead of Wikipedia, which incidentally is the world’s worst source for information on ID.

It’s a fundamental belief of mine that it is both intellectually and morally wrong to criticize the views of anyone without having heard or read those views first-hand.  Since you say that you haven’t read any ID books, we can’t have a proper discussion of what ID has to say.  Best wishes.


Tony - #85903

June 27th 2014

Hi Eddie…

I believe there are different aspects to who God is and, as such, one must explore these diverse areas of God’s being to have a complete understanding of what [absolute reality] is.  For example; first there was the singularity, then 13.8 billion years ago the big bang, later the expansion of the universe and with it the formation of galaxies, solar systems, and their particular planets and moons.  Through this process was created [all] the rudimentary substances of the periodic table of elements that exist in the entire universe.  Earth was formed 4.5 billion years ago and at some point, around 3.5 billion years ago, biological life sprung into existence from the inanimate matter making up our planet.  It is theorized that an energy source, or combination thereof, such as our sun, lightening, or deep oceanic vents etc., played an important role in triggering the inanimate matter into life.  Evolution through natural selection completed the rest of the process.  Accordingly, here we are today - the purpose for the creation - so that God, who abides within us, can see the world through our eyes.

If you can contemplate and understand the journey that we have been on you can comprehend that in the process of the journey we were not conscious of what we have gone through.  It is only now, as [a conscious outgrowth of the universe], that we can turn around and look back at ourself and understand where we came from.

Philosophy defines [being] as “a term that refers to anything that is, was, or can be.  The most general thing that we can say about any object is that it has being.  This means that the object exists or can be known in some way.  A thought or a memory, as well as a table, has being.”  In this sense the initial singularity had being, however, it was not conscious of itself or its surroundings - not in the rational sense that we think of consciousness.  The force[s] holding the singularity together, also, had being, although, again, it was not conscious of itself or its surrounding, and yes, again, not in the rational sense that we think of consciousness.  Therefore, in the beginning of the universe God had being, but interestingly enough, was not conscious of Himself or His surroundings - not in the rational sense of consciousness.  As Adam (man) developed consciousness He came to understand that He was the purpose of the creation.

Hence, if we put forth the supposition that the [intelligent designer] of ID was a conscious, rational, intelligent being - our reasoning is flawed.  Consciousness, rationality, and intelligence, at the human level or beyond, require a physical human brain.  Conscious, rational, intelligent, spiritual beings, “do not” and “cannot exist” apart from the human brain.  It is only through the medium of the human brain, by means of dreams, trance, projection, and pure thought, that any communication, apparition, or miracle with the spiritual realm can be accomplished.  Again, this implies that spiritual being “do not” and “cannnot exist” apart from the human being.

Prayer is the communication of the conscious mind with the higher-self which resides in the subconscious - a self-suggestion, if you will.  Regualar conscious communication with the higher-self (God) keeps the individual whole and united as a person.  Shutting the door to the higher-self [the moral conscience] creates separation and division in being a healthy whole person.  Personality disorders, mental illness, and ciminal psychopathy result in these progressive instances.

You say that every Christian ID proponent known to you believes that God is no mere distant designer and maker, but is personally involved in the universe and in the lives of individuals in all kind of ways.  However, in using the term [personally] for God being involved in the universe, and your comment below, “‘God is the higher-self’ - this is a theistic belief,” I can already sense that you believe or would like others to believe in a distant designer and maker.  This is what I sense and seems obvious by your comments. Let me know if I am wrong in what I sense and come clean with what you believe?

This belief in a distant designer and maker is not the God that Jesus and the prophets taught.  In saying, “I come from the Father, the Father has sent me, I and the Father are one, he who sees the Son sees the Father,” Jesus was referring to none other than the Father of the human race - Adam (man).  You see, people make the mistake that God resides in some heavenly abode in the clouds, because of the prayer that they have been taught - “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.”  As has been made clear, spirits do not exist apart from the human being.  Thus, what does Heaven imply?  Definitively, the world that exists within the human being.  The Father abides in the mind of his children.  The Bible statement that Adam walked with God in the Garden on Eden indicates that Adam was in communication with the higher-self (God).  The story of the fall of man implies the separation of man from the higher-self (God).  Jesus, the second Adam, a perfect man without sin, attained the same state of divinity the first Adam enjoyed - before the separation from God.  Hence, the Father and the Son are One.  But, wait a minute!  The Trinity suggests three - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Well, God, who spoke through Jesus did state that He was coming again.  I believe it is just about that time.  Can it be there is a Grand Son who will be blessed with the Holy Spirit.  “Thy Kingdom come thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”  The New World Order?  On earth as it is contemplated in the mind?

Regarding Dembski, you state that I am “confusing his thoughts on design detection methods (which are unable to identify the identity of a designer, and can only ascertain the fact of design) and his personal religious belief (that the designer is the Christian God).”  Eddie, I am not confusing anything, and there is no [fact] of design!  The Christian God is God, but He did not consciously, rationally, or intelligently design the universe but rather “mightily hands on, steered” it into existence and the universe was designed through the process.  Yes, I used the term designed, although, it was the process and not a designer.

Finally, you write, “it’s a fundamental belief of mine that it is both intellectually and morally wrong to criticize the views of anyone without having heard of read those views first-hand.  Since you say that you haven’t read and ID books, we can’t have a proper discussion of what ID has to say.”  Ultimately, the Bible does state that at the testimony of two or three people a matter will be settled, and , although, I have not heard of read ID views first-hand, I believe the knowledge and experience I have gained here at BioLogos, and my own knowledge and experience in philosophy, science, religion, occult, mystical, esoteric, gives me the right to criticize these views.  Moreover, I believe my critical points have been made logically and rationally and will stand up to scrutiny.


Eddie - #85904

June 27th 2014

Tony:

I won’t comment on the parts of your note that I agree with, or that seem to me to wander off the main point of our discussion.  Rather, I will zero in on just a few points.

You wrote:

“Conscious, rational, intelligent, spiritual beings, “do not” and “cannot exist” apart from the human brain.”

This can be replied to either philosophically or theologically.

Philosophically, it is dogmatic and premature.  We do not know enough about consciousness, rationality, or intelligence to say that they *cannot* exist apart from a brain.  To affirm such a thing is to presuppose the truth of materialism, which no philosopher should do.

Theologically, it is in conflict with every orthodox Western form of theism, all of which affirm the existence of entitites which are intelligent, conscious, and rational (God, angels, etc.) but do not have brains.  And this is puzzling because you said you wished to defend theism.

At other points, your discussion lapses into confusion.  It was you, not I, who said that “God is the higher self.”  I *denied* that “God is the higher self” was a theistic belief.  I pointed out that it is more typical of pantheistic forms of religion.

I do not know why you are having trouble understanding my position.  The orthodox Christian tradition says that God is both transcendent and immanent.  I accept that.  If it strikes you that too much emphasis is put on the “transcendent” part (which I gather is your complaint), you should remember the main target of the Old Testament was idolatry, in which created things were worshipped as God.  The emphasis on transcendence was necessary in such a situation.  

It is quite evident that you have delved (perhaps more than is healthy) into works that are “occult, mystical, esoteric.”  What you choose to read is your own business, but bear in mind that you have claimed here to speak for Christianity, not for occultism or other unorthodox beliefs.  When one is deciding what *Christianity* teaches, Mme. Blavatsky, Nostradamus, Paracelsus, Willie Yeats, Freemasonry, etc. are of no authority at all.

I do not accept your excuse for criticizing ID without reading ID works.  There is no excuse for it.

As for your remark about the Bible, it is out of context.  The context of “the testimony of two or three people” is *legal*—the Bible is referring to courtroom decisions there, decisions of guilt or innocence regarding violations of the Law.  Testimony is relevant to law courts; it is irrelevant in theoretical matters.  In theoretical matters, the only opinions that matter are theoretically informed opinions.  If someone has not read any books or articles by ID authors, that person is not entitled to an opinion about ID.  So I say this without rancor:  until I am convinced that you have done some reading in ID authors, I will not be replying to any future opinion you express about ID.  Best wishes.


Tony - #85914

June 30th 2014

Hi Eddie, how are you, I Hope all is well?

On account of my statement: conscious, rational, intelligent, spiritual beings “do not” and “cannot” exist apart from the human brain, you had two responses;

Philosophically, you said, “it is dogmatic and premature.  We do not know enough about consciousness, rationality, or intelligence to say that they *cannot* exist apart from a brain.  To affirm such a thing is to presuppose the truth of materialism, which no philosopher should do.”  Modern humans evolved from archaic Homo sapiens some 200,000 years ago.  Behavioral modernity, the period when Homo sapiens began to demonstrate an ability to use complex symbolic thought and developed human language, also known as the “Great Leap Forward,”  is said to have occured 50,000 years ago.”  Ancient Egypt, the Hebrew Civilization, Ancient Greek Philosophy, the Renaissance, the enlightenment, and more recent with modern civilization - Premature and dogmatic?  This is an extraordinary long period of time to have come up with nothing on the good!  You wrote, “We do not know enough about consciousness, rationality, or intelligence.”  I suppose you are referring to yourself and the others who hold this similar opinion?  However, we - myself and others - hold the opinion that we *now* know more than enough about these fields to inform what “absolute reality” is.

Theologically, you said, “it is in conflict with every orthodox Western form of theism, all of which affirm the existence of entities which are intelligent, conscious, and rational (God, angels, etc.) but do not have brains.”  Here, I will just simply have to quote Revelation 18:23, “For by thy *sorceries* were *all* nations deceived.”  John, of course, is referring to Revelation 17:5, “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”  You do know who *she* is, and who her *daughters* are, right?  You are Christian and understand the Revelation, do you not, Eddie?  We have all been deceived by *her* malevolent spell, we have been taught lies, *wake up* from the strong delusion she has cast!

Matthew 13:10-11 states, “And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?  He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the *mysteries* of the *kingdom of heaven*, but to them it is not given.  Also, Revelation 10:7 affirms, “But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the *mystery of God* should be finished, as he hath declaired to his servants the prophets.”

An important point to make, here, is that it must be understood of what was known to happen.  Revelation 22:18-19 “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”  The scriptures have no doubt been modified, and since there is a *mystery of God* which is to be revealed the *absolute truth* has obviously not been known by many.

My definition of theism is the belief in one God as the transcendent eternal animating force of the cosmos who creates the universe and *becomes* human to consciously, rationally, and intelligently experience His magnificent creation.  Hence, God (the eternal panentheistic animating force) holds the universe together with His *life force* (energy) and simultaniously transcends the universe to become human as fully man and fully God.  Through the necessarily *inevitable* - so-called fall of man (through biological evolution) - the learning process of trial and error takes place.  Because of the necessary process of trial and error, sin enters into the human race and thus God is obliged to sacrifice Himself since He is responsible, although it was inevitable.  God (the higher self) in man discloses His plan to Adam which is handed down from father to son to successive generations.  Abraham and Issac is a trial run of what is to come.  Jesus Christ - the second Adam - attains the same divine standing as perfect Adam and is thus an acceptable sacrifice.  The second coming of Christ *today* is the third aspect of the Trinity who attains this same divine standing by accepting His *own* sacrifice and is thus now justified in judging those of mankind who do not accept His sacrifice.  To give life to the universe it was necessary to undergo the birth pains and suffering that a mother goes through.  Whoever cannot forgive his Father neither will the Father forgive him.  If you cannot forgive everyone for whatever they have done neither will you be forgiven.  And, if you cannot forgive yourself for all that you have done neither will others forgive you.  Forgiveness is the Christian Way of Salvation.


Eddie - #85919

July 1st 2014

Tony:

My challenge concerned your claim:

“Conscious, rational, intelligent, spiritual beings, “do not” and “cannot exist” apart from the human brain.”

This is a metaphysical claim.  To defend a metaphysical claim, you must provide a philosophical argument.  Instead you have provided an anthropological and historical survey.  I don’t need a listing of the achievements of the human mind.  It doesn’t prove the point to be proved.  I need a demonstration that no mind can exist without a brain.

If it is true that no mind can exist without a brain, then either God has no mind, or God does not exist.  The latter view is atheism, and the former view is heresy.

You now write:

“My definition of theism is the belief in one God as the transcendent eternal animating force of the cosmos who creates the universe and *becomes* human to consciously, rationally, and intelligently experience His magnificent creation.”

This is YOUR definition of theism.  But you don’t have the right to prescribe to the rest of the world how it shall use the term “theism.”  The meaning of the word was already established before you came along, and if you don’t use the established meaning, you will only confuse people.

To be specific, the part “and *becomes* human to consciously, rationally, and intelligently experience His magnificent creation” is your addition, and no part of the standard definition of “theism.”  It may be true, but you can’t derive it from the definition of theism itself.  It’s your inference about God’s motivation.  I don’t object if you offer it as your own private speculation; I do object if you make it part of the definition of theism.

Yes, I have read Revelation.  I have taught the book, in Greek, to seminary students.  I do not agree with your interpretation of it.

As for your statement:

“However, we - myself and others - hold the opinion that we *now* know more than enough about these fields to inform what “absolute reality” is.”

If you know what absolute reality is, you have no need to be debating on a blog site.  You can write your own ticket.  You can be a professor of religious studies or philosophy at any top university in the world.  But I have yet to meet a person with such knowledge.  And I have yet to meet a person who can prove that mind cannot exist without a brain, and that is the proof I was asking for.  Unless you are going to offer such a proof, I will retire from this discussion.  Thanks very much and best wishes.


Tony - #85953

July 6th 2014

Hi Eddie…

The reason I provided what you call an “anthropological and historical survey” was to make the point that a considerable amount of time has passed for mankind to know more than enough about consciousness, rationality, and intelligence to say that they *cannot* exist apart from the human brain.  You write, “philosophically, it is dogmatic and premature.”  In truth, what has been “philosophically, dogmatic and premature” has been the “spin doctoring” of Christianity which has been hijacked by the false religious system of the world.  This opinion is not something new and unknown but rather well known by many.  You also write, “To affirm such a thing is to presuppose the truth of materialism, which no philosopher should do.”  My statement is not a presupposition of the truth of materialism, spiritualism, or spirituality for that matter.  It is an informed statement based on the conclusions of a personal in-depth systematic investigation of the bible’s teachings, the teachings of different Christian denominations, and further research into the teachings of Hinduism, Vedanta, the Spiritual Essence of Yoga, and Buddism - apart from other teachings.  You could say that my research has explored, to some extent, all of these areas:  “Christian systematic theology will often touch on some or all of the following topics: God, trinitarianism, revelation, creation and divine providence, theodicy, theological anthropology, Christology, soteriology, ecclesiology, eschatology, Israelology, Bobliology, Hermeneutics, sacrament, pneumatology, Christian life, Heaven, and interfaith statement on other religions.”  http:///en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systematic_theology

You state that my metaphysical claim, “Conscious, rational, intelligent, spiritual beings, “do not” and “cannot exist” apart from the human brain,” must be defended by a philosophical argument and say that a demonstration is needed to prove the point that no mind can exist without a brain.”  What would certainly and without a doubt prove this point would be if Christ himself were actually present and if it were definitely acknowledged that he is the Christ.  This would be the case because if he were asked where he had been since the 1st century and whether he was conscious during the experience he would not comment that he was in a lucid and conscious state.  Accordingly, for the moment, this does not prove the point, however, a true Christian has faith that Christ will come again and this fact will be proven at that time.  For now all that we have is the logical and rational conclusions of observational and experimental experience.  I know this is not enough for many are skeptical like doubting Thomas and would need to stick their fingers into Christ’s wounds - they would not believe without direct personal evidence.  Unfortunately, the world will not have this luxury and their faith will be further tested through the coming upheaval that will befall the world.  Satan’s test will fall upon the world to purge the nations of remaining wickedness.  In ending on this point, I have a question; if God is asked for understanding, will he not answer?  Many ask but do not listen, they listen but do not hear, they look and do not see.  The answer, of course, lies in the honest sincerity of the person’s relationship with God.

You write, “If it is true that no mind can exist without a brain, then either God has no mind, or God does not exist.  The latter view is atheism, and the former view is heresy.”  Why is it that you cannot see the “middle way?”  God has a mind and exists within man?

I understand your point about my definition of theism and how I don’t have the right to prescribe its meaning since its meaning has already been established.  In this case, a creative endeavor would be required to establish an original term and definition so that a unique belief system is created.  Panentheism and theosis would perhaps be the place to begin - Panentheosisism?  The definition and teaching of Panentheism describing the eternal animating force creating “itself” as man and theosis as the synergy or cooperation between the activites of Christ and God’s uncreated energies or operations.

“St. Athanasius of Alexandria wrote, “He was incarnate that we might be made god.”  His statement is an apt description of the doctrine.  What would otherwise seem absurd - that fallen, sinful man may become holy as God is holy - has been made possible through Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theosis_(Eastern_Orthodox_theology)

Because I believe I know absolute reality should not deprive me of debating on BioLogos or any other blog site - you yourself believe that you know [your] absolute reality.  At present I have no intentions to be a professor of religious studies or philosophy at any top university in the world - On the other hand, BioLogos is a 500,000 membership community.  If what I write is truth, it will be acknowledged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Eddie - #85955

July 6th 2014

Tony:

It does not matter how many thousands of years have passed; it does not matter how much experience people, individually or socially, have accumulated.  If anyone says, “Mind cannot exist without a brain,” that person is required to demonstrate the truth of the statement.  You haven’t demonstrated the truth of the statement; you’ve merely affirmed that you feel certain of its truth.  But no one is obliged to accept your feeling of inner certitude as the equivalent of a demonstration.  If I wanted you to believe something, I would never try to get you to believe on the strength of my inner certitude.  I would try to persuade you by reason, evidence, etc.

One good reason for reading Aquinas, as opposed to very unreliable sources such as Wikipedia, is that from Aquinas you can learn what it means to demonstrate something.  After Euclid, Aquinas may have been the best “demonstrator” the world has ever seen.  

Your suggestion of the middle way that “God has a mind and exists within man” does not solve your problem.  First, geology, paleontology, cosmology, etc. teach us that man has not always been around.  (You yourself have appealed to scientific evidence from these fields, so you can’t now turn around and discount them.)  If God can exist only within a human brain, then where was God before humans came into being?  Second, Christian theology, starting with the Bible, makes it clear that God existed before man (or any creature with brains) did; therefore, it cannot be necessary for God to dwell in a brain in order to exist.  So both science and theology rule out your proposal, and if you are intellectually honest, you will give it up.

Christianity teaches that God exists without need for any brain or any other bodily host or association.  Anyone who denies that proposition is not only not Christian, but not even a theist—no matter how many times he quotes the Bible or speaks the name of Jesus.

Christianity commits one to certain metaphysical propositions; to deny those propositions is to deny Christianity.  One of those propositions is that God is not a body and has no need of a body, that he prexists all bodies and will be around long after all bodies have been dissolved (if he so chooses to dissolve them).  Theologically, the doctrine that *all* minds require a brain to exist is heresy. 

I’m not going to say any more on this mind/brain question.  The sources, from Genesis 1 through to the writings of the magisterial Reformers, are unanimous and clear on the question.


Tony - #85915

June 30th 2014

Eddie…

I believe I was not clear where you stated that my discussion lapses into confusion - I know that I am the one who said that God is the *higher self* and that you denied that.  The point I was making is that you wrote that every Christian ID proponent known to you does not believe in a distant designer and maker, but is personally involved in the universe and in the lives of individuals in all kinds of ways, and yet you deny that God is the higher self.  If, for you, God is not the higher-self, then how is he involved in the lives of individuals in all kinds of ways.  For me, God is involved in my life and in the lives of others I encounter because he abides in me and in the others as the higher-self.  If this is not the case with you then that means that you do not know where God is.  Thus, for you, and every Christian ID proponent known to you, must feel like God is a distant designer and maker.  Maybe God is involved your lives and aids you in your every day to be better, happier people, but you neither know who or where he is or what his plans are.  I have only the best of wishes for people who are kind and respectable individuals and this includes you Eddie.

I also agree with the orthodox Christian tradition which says that God is both transcendent and immanent - in the panentheistic sense, of course.  I am also aware that idolatry was the main target in Ancient Israel, and that the Apostles Paul and John were said to have bowed down to worship angels, but were told not to do so and to worship only God - is this a case of the truth/scripture being modified to place emphasis on transcendence or to plainly deceive people from the truth?  Because, as I said, angels do not exist - but only in dreams, trance and visions.  This is not contrary to scripture - Abraham, Joseph son of Israel, Ezekiel, Daniel, Mary, Joseph, John - encountered God and angels in dreams, trance, and visions.


Eddie - #85920

July 1st 2014

Tony:

God does not have to be the “higher self” of human beings in order to be intimately involved in creation or human life.  God does not have to be the “higher self” to part the Red Sea, reveal the Law, send manna from heaven, heal the lame, raise the dead, etc.

Your statement that angels do not exist is dogmatic, and also heretical.  As for your evidence, it is not *always* the case that the angels are encountered in dreams, trances and visions in the Bible; and even if it were, it would not follow that the angels were not real entities.  A real entity might choose to reveal itself only in special ways.  Indeed, its reality might necessitate such a special form of contact, normal human sense perception being unsuitable to perceive a disembodied mind.  And finally, by your argument (angels do not exist except in dreams etc.), God does not exist, either (since you group him with angels as appearing in dreams etc.).  And of course, such a conclusion is not theism but atheism.

I don’t think we can bridge our differences by debate in a forum like this.  Indeed, until we have read some common texts from the tradition, I don’t think we can discuss these issues at all.  Aquinas devotes a huge portion of his Summa to the discussion of angels.  Have you read Aquinas on the subject?  Perhaps after you have read Aquinas, you could get back to me and show me where his account of angels is wrong.  Then we could have a discussion.

It may be that you do not care what Aquinas says, or what Augustine says, or what Calvin says, etc.  It may be that you construct your own theology from the Bible as you see it.  If so, please let me know this right away, and we can terminate our discussions, with no hard feelings, but merely a parting of the ways due to quite different interests.  Private readings of the Bible that are undisciplined by religious tradition are of no interest to me, so if they are where you are at, then I am not the right discussion partner for you.


Tony - #85954

July 6th 2014

Hi Eddie…

If God does not have to be the higher-self of human beings in order to be intimately involved then how is he intimately involved in creation or human life?  In my view he is involved in creation through the animation of all matter and living things through his Energeia - through nuclear, atomic, and molecular processes.  Is there not a higher “directing” or “steering” force within man that autonomically processes the operations of the human body and does not this “directing” or “steering” force act as our “higher-self” to “direct” and “steer” us in the right direction in our association with the outer environment?  I would really like to know your explanation of how God is intimately involved with creation and human beings if it is not through the higher-self?

You write, “Your statement that angels do not exist is dogmatic, and also heretical,” is based on “YOUR” worldview.  In “MY” worldview “YOUR” statement that angels exist is dogmatic, and also heretical.  Again, suffice it to say, the coming of Christ will settle the issue.

Your comment, “It is not *always* the case that the angels are encountered in dreams, trances, and visions in the Bible” has a certain truth to it in that “human” are sometimes referred to as angels - the situation of the [visitors] Abraham and Lot received just before Sodom was destroyed.  In Abraham’s case, in Genesis 18:1-8, the [visitors] are called [men].  Abraham tells the [three men], “Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and [wash your feet], and rest yourselves under the tree:” and also, “And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts,” and tells Sarah, “Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth.”  The passage states, “and they did eat.”  Would angels need to have their feet washed, and would they need to eat physical food?  Genesis 19:1-5 states, “And there came two [angels] to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom:” and to the [angels] he said, “Behold now, my [lords], turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and [wash your feet], and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways.”  Again, would [angels] need to have their feet washed? and also, “ye shall rise up early,” would they require sleep?  “He made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat.”  Again, would [angels] need to eat physical food?”  Finally, “And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the [men] which came in to thee this night?”  Here, the [angels] are called [men].  Ergo, God’s [angels] are [human] messengers, after all, the definition of the word angel [is] messenger.  Therefore, the bible teaches us that angels are God’s human messengers who deliver his instructions and at times they appear in dreams, trance, and visions to deliver these instructions.  God also has other battallions of angels who have other assignments, but I will not get into that here. 

In granting the possibility that angels only exist in dream, you state, “even if it were, it would not follow that the angels were not real entities.”  In actuality the [angels] encountered in dreams, trance, and visions are a [single] entity, this entity [is] a real entity, a shape shifter, called the [higher-self].  You write, “A real entity might choose to reveal itself only in special ways.  Indeed, its reality might necessitate such a special form of contact, normal human sense perception being unsuitable to perseive a disembodied mind.”  Now….who has delved (perhaps more than is healthy) into works that are “occult, mystical, and esoteric.”  Notice how God answers his people, 1 Samuel 28:6 “And when Saul enquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by [dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets],”  and how spirit mediums or spirit entities have no relation with God, 1 Samuel 28:19 “Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.”  God commands against any such involvement, Leviticus 20:6 “And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.  And Leviticus 20:27 A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death:  they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.”  This evidence should conclude the issue concerning angels, spirit entites, and God.

And finally, you state, “by your argument (angels do not exist except in dreams etc.), God does not exist, either (since you group him with angels as appearing in dreams etc.).  And of course, such a conclusion is not theism but atheism.”  This aspect has already been answered, however, I will make one further comment concerning the higher-self.  In some people, through mystical “oneness” or “union” with God (henosis), the higher-self is experienced at a conscious level in waking life.  Furthermore, although this may not be the definition of theism it certainly is not atheism.

I have been meaning to get some reading done on the Summa, but as you know time is limited and I have been occupied with researching and commenting on other topics on BioLogos.  I believe the bridge is being built, especially because of patience and mutual respect.  I’ll look into the Summa and let you know.

It is not the case that I do not care what Aquinas, Augustine, or Calvin says.  It is also not true that I construct my own theology based on the way that I see it - It is all directed by the higher-self, I just follow where he takes me.  I would fully respect your decision to terminate our discussions if that were the case.  However, since this is not the case I hope our discussions will continue.  You state that private readings of the Bible that are undisciplined by religious tradition are of no interest to you.  I would have to say that this is precisely what the Pharisees would have said to Jesus.  Specifically, because they were so dogmatic about tradition, whereas Jesus was more concerned about what truth was since he was the fulfillment of that tradition.

Best Regards


Eddie - #85956

July 6th 2014

Tony:

I am not debating whether or not your teaching about the inner self is true.  You are not getting my point.  My point is that you stand up here, purporting to speak for Jesus, the Bible, the Spirit, and Christianity.  If you are going to speak for those things, you are bound by Christian doctrine, and are expected to submit all your private conceits and opinions to Christian doctrine.  And Christian doctrine says that your statements about the inner self—in their present form, anyway—are false.  So if you wish to remain Christian, you must renounce them.

You of course have the complete religious and political freedom to retain your beliefs about the inner self, and to deny those Christian doctrines which would oppose those beliefs.  But then you stand outside Christianity, in judgment on its teachings, and therefore you cannot maintain your pose as a teacher of Christianity.

What you are trying to do is to bypass historical, orthodox, doctrinal Christianity, to to an end run around it, to get to some mystical vision, and then declare that mystical vision the true Christianity.  None of the the truly great Christian leaders ever did that.  Even most of the great Christian mystics never spoke against orthodox doctrine.  My advice to you is that before taking off on your private mystical flight, you should first master historical, orthodox, Christian doctrine.

Your notion of Jesus as a rebel undisciplined by tradition is sheer romanticism.  Jesus is represented in the Gospels as a good, disciplined Jew who knew his tradition well, and deeply respected it.  (He referred to angels as though they were real beings, by the way, not figments or dreams or visions.)  His higher truths were extensions of an already good tradition, not private visions which justified his setting aside the tradition.

If you would follow the model of Jesus, who studied not only Scripture but such tradition as existed in his day, you would be studying not only Scripture, but the Fathers, the Scholastics, the Reformers etc.  You would try to gain knowledge of God not by doing an end run around orthodox tradition, but by slowly working your way through orthodox tradition.  You are too impatient.  Until you know the tradition backward and forward, you are in no position to know whether or not the directives you think you are getting from your “higher self” are delusions.

I make no judgment whether or not God has talked to you.   What I do know is that many of the things you have stated are false as Christian teachings.  So if God has indeed spoken to you, then large parts of historical Christian doctrine are false.  So you have a choice to make, whether you will uphold the Christian religion as it has been passed down to you by the Church, the great saints, and the great theologians, or whether you will uphold the private voices you have heard in your head.  It is not my business what choice you make, but it is my business to inform readers here that many of your statements are antithetical to historical Christian orthodoxy.  And having done that, I’ll now exit.  

If you wish any further conversation on this with me, you can write to me privately through the BioLogos message system on your control panel.  I do not wish to engage any more on this thread in public.


Tony - #85957

July 9th 2014

(1)

This comment is in answer to Eddie’s two last comments, #85955 and #85956.  This will be followed by another comment in answer to Eddie’s #85943 “comment on the exchange between Tony and Gregory.”  These comments require no response since Eddie does not wish to engage this thread in public any more.  Eddie has had his last word in public, now I will have mine.

Eddie states, “If you wish any further conversation on this with me, you can write to me privately through the BioLogos message system on your control panel.  I do not wish to engage any more on this thread in public.”  Does Eddie have something to hide?  He seems to be cracking at the seams and cannot contain himself any longer.  It might be best if he does not respond and properly digests them first - otherwise he might have a severe case of indigestion, and suffer in more ways than one.

He continues, “If anyone says, “Mind cannot exist without a brain,” that person is required to demonstrate the truth of the statement.  You haven’t demonstrated the truth of the statement; you’ve merely affirmed that you feel certain of its truth.  But no one is obliged to accept your feeling of inner certitude as the equivalent of a demonstration.  If I wanted you to believe something, I would never try to get you to believe on the strength of my inner certitude.  I would try to persuade you by reason, evidence, etc.”

I [have] demonstrated that truth the best way I presently know possible, and believe that I have succeeded to a certain extent.  Nevertheless, the seeds of that truth have been planted and will demonstrate themselves in the appropriate people in the appropriate ways.  Eddie [is] correct that no one is obliged to accept my feeling of inner certitude as the equivalent of a demonstration, but again, as I have said, I [have] demonstrated that truth the best way I presently know possible - through the philosophical and logical reasoning skills that I possess.  Eddie states, “If you are intellectually honest, you will give it up” - I believe I hit a major nerve and will not give it up!

He further states, “Christianity teaches that God exists without need for any brain or any other bodily host or association.  Anyone who denies that proposition is not only not Christian, but not even a theist - no matter how many times he quotes the Bible or speaks the name of Jesus.”

Don’t let Eddie’s words fool you.  We are here at BioLogos to share our different perspectives on biblical scholarship, theology, and science.  Eddie does not rely on the truth of bible, the prophets, Jesus, or the apostles.  He relies on the teachings of the “false religious system” that has established a “dogmatic” counterfeit faith that allows no freedom of thought to speculate on matters of God.  Visit the BioLogos “About Us” page and read - “Our Mission, What We Believe, and What We Do.”  One of the comments in the section, “What We Do” states, “Christianity has long embraced a diversity of views on matter that are not essential for salvation.”  As you can clearly see, Eddie’s “threats” are just “scare tactics” - “Anyone who denies that proposition is not only not Christian, but not even a theist.”  The French philosopher, René Descartes, speculated about the existence of the “evil demon” that fools the world about what reality is.  It would seem reasonable to interpret that Descartes’ “evil demon” is that “false religious system” that fools the world on the truth about God.

Eddie writes, “Christianity commits one to certain metaphysical propositions; to deny those propositions is to deny Christianity.  One of those propositions is that God is not a body and has no need of a body, that he preexists all bodies and will be around long after all bodies have been dissolved (if he so chooses to dissolve them).  Theologically, the doctrine that *all* minds require a brain to exist is heresy.”

Again, more “threats,” Eddie LOVES the word “heresy” there is no one else here at BioLogos who uses the word “heresy” more than Eddie does.  Eddie would have felt at home with the Pharisees.  He continues, “Christianity commits one to certain metaphysical propositions; to deny those propositions is to deny Christianity.”  Do you see how his “false religious system” offers no freedom of thought through commitment to metaphysical propositions that are not to be denied, otherwise it is “heresy” and you deny Christianity.

 

 


Eddie - #85961

July 10th 2014

Tony:

In answer to your speculation above, I have nothing to hide, on the intellectual level.  However, I sense that our discussion has passed the point where we are talking about the issues, and has moved into territory where we are criticizing each other’s manner of discussion.  I don’t think this is constructive to do in public, but I would be happy to converse with you privately about anything you find objectionable in my manner of discussion, and to set things straight between us if there has been any injury.  I bear you no malice and never meant to attack you personally, and if anything I have said strikes you as insulting it was not meant to be.

At the core of our disagreement, it seems to me, is your sense of certainty that God or the Spirit has spoken to you on the matters under discussion.  If I sounded as if I was ridiculing you for this belief, I am sorry.  What I meant to convey was not ridicule but deep frustration:  a sense that no argument or evidence I adduced could make any difference, since your position—you believe—has been confirmed internally for you by God or the Spirit.  Thus, I have the sense that arguments I took a great deal of time to construct will have no effect on your position.  That is why I have ceased to discuss the issues with you.  

We could discuss at some length your objections to my use of the term “heresy.”  Since someone else here questioned my usage, it might be good to clarify it now.  I never employ the term as a personal insult; I employ it only in its technical meaning.  Some people take it as a personal insult, but it was never meant as such.  It refers to a belief which deems itself to be Christian but which in fact lies outside of the orthodoxy decreed by the Church.  The belief that God has a body is heretical in this technical sense.  Whenever I use the word heretical, no anger is implied or should be inferred.  I am merely stating what strikes me as the inevitable logical implication of certain metaphysical doctrines.  If my judgments are wrong, it should be easy enough to show where I am wrong by the citation of historical sources regarding Christian doctrine.

And now I leave this thread.  My private channel remains open.  I wish you all the best.


Tony - #85958

July 9th 2014

(2)

Eddie continues, “If you are going to spead for those things….Jesus, the Bible, the Spirit, and Christianity….you are bound by Christian doctrine, and are expected to submit all your private conceits and opinions to Christian doctrine.”

I have no private conceits and/or opinions to Christian doctrine - these are the revelations as revealed by the Holy Spirit to the different Christian denominations that have been brought together with the revelations as revealed by the Holy Spirit to the different Eastern Traditions.  Philosophy, psychology, and criminology are important factors in this revelation.  If one goes through all my comments (I’ve only been here for several months) and puts them together as one puts together a puzzle he or she will see the picture that I have been painting - it is almost complete.

Eddie comments, “And Christian doctrine says that your statements about the inner self - in their present form, anyway - are false.  So if you wish to remain Christian, you must renounce them.  What you are trying to do is to bypass histoical, orthodox, doctrinal Christianity, to an end run around it, to get to some mystical vision, and then declare that mystical vision the true Christianity.  None of the truly great Christian leaders ever did that.  Even most of the great Christian mystics never spoke against orthodox doctrine.”

Eddie is either unaware or is aware and does not want others here to be aware of the profound insights that psychiatry, psychology, and criminology has gained into the inner-workings of the psyche and how this relates to religion and to spirituality.  Eddie does not realize the “mystical vision” he refers to is the “cutting edge vision” science has developed into psychiatry, psychology, and criminology.  None of the truly great Christian leaders ever bypassed historical, orthodox, doctrinal Christianity to an end run around it, or even most of the great Christian mystics never spoke against orthodox doctrine because the fear of reprisal they had from the “false religious system.”  This was especially and specifically true because scientific knowledge into the inner-workings of the psyche were not developed yet.  Today, this spititual and scientific revelation is changing all that. 

Eddie’s writes, “My advice to you is that before taking off on your private mystical flight, you should first master historical, orthodox, Christian doctrine.”  Historical, orthodox, Christian doctrine does not probe in-depth on the goings on of the mind so there is nothing to master.  In our present day and age the science is remarkably advanced and accurate.  By the way, Eddie’s statement, “My advice to you is that before taking off on your private mystical flight,” is outright indicative of insulting, disdainful contempt.  Eddie’s true colors are right in the open now.

He says, “Your notion of Jesus as a rebel undisciplined by tradition is sheer romanticism.  Jesus is represented in the Gospels as a good, disciplined Jew who knew his tradition well, and deeply respected it.  His higher truths were extensions of an already good tradition, not private visions which justified his setting aside the tradition.”

I have not portrayed Jesus as a rebel who was undisciplined by tradition.  Jesus had but two commandments which encompassed all other commandments - To love God with all thy heart, soul, and mind, and to love thy neighbor as thy self.  As Eddie rightfully states, “Jesus was a disciplined Jew,” and followed Jewish tradition, but tradition itself is not a matter ” essential for salvation.”  The tradition Eddie would like to impose on Christians who are waking-up to the truth is the tradition of the Pharisees - whether he realizes it or not.  This tradition is intended to keep an individual occupied with mastering imposed tradition, dogma, and doctrine.  Scepticism and speculation is not encouraged and even condemned!

He writes, “If you would follow the model of Jesus, who studied not only Scripture but such tradition as existed in his day, you would be studying not only Scripture, but the Fathers, the Scholastics, the Reformers etc.  You would try to gain knowledge of God not by doing an end run around orthodox tradition, but by slowly working your way through orthodox tradition.  You are too impatient.  Until you know the tradition backward and forward, you are in no position to know whether or not the directives you think you are getting from your “higher self” are delusions.”

Eddie does not seem to understand that I have not only studied the scriptures, but also the tradition of the Jews as at the time of Jesus.  I have not done an “end run” around orthodox tradition, but have seen through its faults and errors.  I have studies - and this is an ongoing process - Philosophy, psychology, and criminology, and the Fathers, scholastics, and the reformers.  This is why I am here at BioLogos - I am further learning about the Fathers, the scholastics, and the reformers etc.  Eddie’s problem is that he realizes that he cannot convince me that what I believe are delusions.  This is not only because what I believe is rational and logical, but because politicians, military officials, judges, prosecutors, police officers, psychiatrists, psychologists, all speak the same language concerning crime, the criminal, the psychopath, and the dictator.  There is no delusion here.  The only delusion lies in Eddie’s mind’

He states, “I make no judgment whether or not God has talked to you.  What I do know is that many of the things you have stated are false as Christian teachings.  So if God has indeed spoken to you, then large parts of historical Christian doctrine are false.”

Eddie begins to consider the possibility that perhaps his belief system may indeed be based on false teachings and faulty reasoning.  Maybe there is hope for Eddie!

Furthermore, he says, “So you have a choice to make, whether you will uphold the Christian religion as it has been passed down to you by the Church, the great saints, and the great theologians, or whether you will uphold the private voices you have heard in your head.”

Eddie’s insulting remark that I hear voices in my head in unwarranted, unjustified, and outright disdainful.  The reason I hold these views is not only based on my private interpretations, but as I said before, on the revelations by the Holy Spirit of the different Christian denominations and the different Eastern Traditions.  Of course, the Holy Spirit has also exhaustively labored in the conclusions of philosophic and scientific endeavor.

Finally, Eddie writes, “It is not my business what choice you make, but it is my business to inform readers here that many of your statements are antithetical to historical Christian orthodoxy.”

Yes, many of my statements are antithetical to “historical Christian orthodoxy,” however, many of the teaching of “historical Christian orthodoxy” are antithetical to rational, scientific, empirical evidence.  It is not my business [either] what choice Eddie makes, but it is my business to inform readers here that many of Eddie’s statements are antithetical to the true authentic Christianity.

 

 

 


Tony - #85931

July 2nd 2014

Hi Eddie…

To be completely honest I stayed away from anything having to do with occult literature my whol life.  Like most people I wanted nothing to do with the subject.  Anything involving spiritism of any kind was not for me.  It had a mysterious darkness to it that made me apprehensive.  That all changed when my family was broken apart and my life was turned upside down because of takin in someone in my ex’s family and helping him with lodging, clothing, and food.  This person was in and out of prison his whole adolescent life and as an adult finally made it to the federal pen.  Anyway, when he was gone for good I realized he had left his duffle bag in one of my closets.  In the bag I found about 10 different prescription containers with all kinds of psychotropic drugs - he just had come out from the pen.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  This guy didn’t seem to have any mental illness - he hid it very well, as most felons do, I guess.  This was an extremely lucid and sobering experience in my life - it didn’t take long to make the important connection between *religion* and *psychology*.  Of cource, I considered this person a wicked, evil person, without conscience or remorse of any kind - an arrogant, narcissistic, violent psychopath.  I eventually forgave him.  I was completely certain now that spiritual beings didn’t exist as separate entities from the human race.

Immediately, I had no fear of delving into occult, esoteric, and mystical literature, since, I was already having visions of past, present, and future events on account of the connection that was made between *religion* and *psychology*.  I was sure of myself as a good, honest, human being, and was sure of those whom the bible warned against.  I needed words, an explanation, for the experiences I was having.  It all seemed so surreal.

If one is to understand the important connection between *religion* and *psychology* it must first be acknowledged that human beings are cognitive, rational, spiritual/physical beings who act from decisions of free-will that they have been endowed with.  The most heinous criminal acts committed in society are not perpetrated by people who are possessed by malevolent spirits (conscious, rational, intelligent beings) who reside in an alternate reality, but rather are perpetrated by wicked people - or by people who are possessed/influenced by the spirit/personality of wicked people.  Accordingly, if malevolent spirits (conscious, rational, intelligent beings) who reside in an alternate reality [do not] exist and [do not] possess people to commit heinous crime, then, the compassionate acts committed by good people are not done by people who are possessed/influenced by good spirits (conscious, rational, intelligent beings) who reside in an alternate reality either, but are committed by good people - or by people who are possessed/influenced by the spirit/personality of good people.  Good spirits (conscious, rational, intelligent beings) who reside in an alternate reality [do not] exist and [do not] possess people to commit wonderful acts of compassion.  Good and evil spirits exist as spiritual/physical human beings who are classified as good or evil because of the acts they commit.  The spirits who play different parts, whether good or evil, in the film, music, literature industries etc., can possess and influence individuals who are [prone] to such possession or influence.  Government policy in modern democratic societies have allowed an existential freedom in the populace, in that all may be fulfilled.  Again, we are cognitive, rational, spiritual/physical beings with free-will who, determine, choose, and calculate the decisions we make on a daily basis. Think about it, rationally!  Are the actions you perform in your life coerced by spiritual beings who reside in an alternate reality?  Or do you determine, choose, and calculate your daily experience - even though at times that may be at a subconscious level?  I still claim to speak for Christianity and when I quote inspirational words that deserve respect I will still cite the name of their author in due respect.  The phrase, “There is no religion higher than truth,” speaks for itself.  It is pure, simple, and meaningful.  It was used to convey the fact that truth is the highest religion.  In deciding what Christianity teaches, I was not calling on Hellena Blavatsky to be an authority.  The authority is God, and God alone, and no other authority is needed.

As for not accepting my excuse for criticizing ID without reading ID works, I believe I made myself perfectly clear, in that what was said , was not directed toward any sincere Christian.  I criticize ID because it communicates a false teaching - that of an intelligent designer.  You know the saying - The *proof* is in the pudding - well, here is the *proof*.  Your word Eddie - “Theologically, it is in conflict with every orthodox Western form of theism, all of which affirm the existence of entities which are intelligent, conscious, and rational (God, angels, etc.) but do not have brains.”  Your comment above states, “If it is true that no mind can exist without a brain, then either God has no mind, or God does not exist.  The latter view is athism, and the former view is heresy.”  You include yourself with those who affirm that “God, angels, etc.” exist, “but have no brains.”  There you go - the distant designer and maker of ID who supposedly is an intelligent, conscious, and rational being who exists as a separate entity from humanity with no brains.  Didn’t you say that that was heresy!  This is not meant as ridicule because that is cruel and is the spirit of wickedness which I abhor.  Rather the intention is meant as proof in that [absolute truth] may reign supreme.

Finally, about my response concerning the “testimony of two or three people,” I can admit that it was out of context and refers to legal and courtroom decisions - it was a lazy and quick response on my part and I didn’t think that you would have held me to it - I should have reminded myself that it was Eddie I was dealing with - no disrespect intended.  My reasoning was that if it is acceptable to take the “testimony of two or three people” on matters of life and death, it is acceptible to take the “testimony of two or three people” who on TE/EC theoretical matters are theoretically informed on ID.  I believe God’s Spirit is directing BioLogos and that his Spirit has also directed me here.  Accordingly, I believe that I am entitled to an opinion about ID - although, I respect your point of view to speak from one’s own experience and knowledge.  It is always advisable to rely on one’s own assured certainty.  In truth, that is what I was doing to begin with.  I was relying on my own intuition because of the truth that has been revealed to me.

Best regards


Eddie - #85933

July 3rd 2014

Tony:

I don’t believe that “it is always advisable to rely on one’s own assured certainty.”  Some of the most horrible acts ever committed by human beings have proceeded from the “assured certainty” of those human beings that they have received a revelation, commandment, or impulsion from on high.  Reason and evidence, Scripture and tradition, are much safer guides than a belief that one has heard the voice of God, of the Spirit, etc.

You have not followed my argument about God, angels, brains, etc.  The position I articulated there is the position of every major branch of the Christian faith.  God does not have a body.  God does not have a brain.  But God has a mind.  Therefore, your position that a being must have a brain to have a mind is simply false.

The question of ID (understood as a method of design detection) and the question of the existence of an intelligent designer are two separate questions.  It is *not* required of Christians that they accept ID; it *is* required of Christians that they believe in an intelligent designer, since they must believe in God, who is characterized in both Scripture and tradition as an intelligent designer (whether the actual words “intelligent designer” are uttered or not).  God is an intelligent designer: that is not my opinion, but the universal view of the great doctors and teachers of the Church from the Latin and Greek Fathers through all the great Reformers.  It is also the plain teaching of Genesis, Job, the Psalms, etc.  If you or anyone here can show me any Biblical passages which deny that God is an intelligent designer, or any of the great orthodox theologians who deny that God is an intelligent designer, I would be glad for the textual references.  

I was not offended either as a person or as a Christian that you do not accept ID arguments.  I did not take your remarks as showing any disrespect to me.  I was objecting as a philosopher, scholar, thinker, teacher, university lecturer, and intellectually honest human being that you would reject a view without first taking the time to understand it.  I find such an approach to truth to be not only intellectually but also morally offensive.  If someone disagrees with ID after having read ID arguments, that is fine with me.  If someone disagrees with ID without having read those arguments, I regard that person’s opinion about ID as uninformed, unimportant, and inconsequential.

At that I must leave it, Tony.


Gregory - #85936

July 3rd 2014

Tony, as for me, who has read a considerable amount of IDist literature and also visited their ‘hub’ at the Discovery Institute and met many of the IDM’s leaders, personally, I don’t recommend reading much if any IDist (or IDist-creationist) literature. It won’t help get you closer to the Abrahamic faiths, if that is eventually your heart’s desire. I had academic interests in investing time reading IDist texts and following its manufactured political-educational PR controversy, otherwise I would have stopped some time ago.

Here’s an article I would recommend though, not written by an IDist, but by someone interested in the question: Is Intelligent Design Consistent with Christianity? http://www-ece.eng.uab.edu/DCallaha/Pubs/IDCallahanJuly2004.pdf

Good wishes on your vertical searches.


Tony - #85942

July 4th 2014

Hi Gregory…

Thank you for your point of view on IDist literature.  For me, doing some reading on ID wouldn’t be to get closer to the Judeo/Christian faith - I believe I am as close as anyone can get to the true teachings of Christ.  Although, I have read a little on the subject of ID to have an overall understanding of their theory, so as to be part of a general conversation.  However, my instincts were right in that the theory holds to the typical belief system of a distant designer and maker.  This is not what I believe - I have tried to make sense of this my whole life, and it never made any sense at all.  I am now completely certain of myself and my belief.  I very much appreciate the article you recommended - it’s already been read and was right on the money!  Thank you for your kind wishes.

Best Regards


Eddie - #85943

July 4th 2014

Comment on the exchange between Tony and Gregory:

Gregory kindly wishes Tony “good wishes” on his “vertical searches” (presumably meaning searches for God, or for religious truth).  Tony responds:  “I am now completely certain of myself and my belief.”  Well, since Tony is “completely certain,” he no longer needs to engage in vertical (or horizontal) searches of any kind.  You don’t search for an answer you already know, and Tony KNOWS.  To Tony, the truth has been vouchsafed.  So Gregory’s good wishes, though offered out of the best of motives, are redundant; they are like offering wishes for electoral success to President Obama.

If we compare Tony’s certainty to that of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Hegel, etc., we see an important difference.  All those philosophers were arrogant enough to think that they possessed unshakable certainty (certainty which in retrospect was not warranted); but they at least offered *arguments* for their conclusions.  They did not ask their readers to take their conclusions on faith.  Tony, however, asks us to take on faith that his intuitions about design, God, and creation are correct.  But there is no reason why anyone should make this leap of faith.  

“I am completely certain of myself and my belief” is not an argument at all—it’s merely a report of a private emotional state.  It is therefore of no intellectual value in ascertaining the truth, and is rightly ignored in all academic, social, and public contexts.

What Tony has to show, to maintain his thesis (and the thesis of the Callahan article which he has defended) is that the Christian God did not design the universe that he created.  He has not yet offered even one piece of Biblical evidence, even one piece of traditional testimony (from the Fathers, etc.), or even one argument to support this claim.  Until he does, his claim will rightly be rejected by all Christians.  


Tony - #85959

July 9th 2014

Why would Eddie disgrace himself by acting in this cruel manner to bring reproach upon me?  Eddie’s comments on this thread became more and more emotionally driven.  Must he even disparagingly criticize my comments with other members of the community?  The iconic statement, “do not disparage good manners,” has been conserved and cherished for good reason - it exibits malicious intent.  His sarcastic and cynical attitude is not very Christian like - for a so-called theologian.  He mentions the word heresy so often and presents himself as the voice for Christian teaching and then displays this prententious aura.  Gregory’s kind gesture in offering me his recommendation on ID and the article by Callahan was answered with appreciation.  I thanked him for his “good wishes” on my vertical searches because there is always new information in higher learning.  Although I am certain of myself as and honest and intellectual person, and certain of what my spiritual beliefs are, does not necessarily suggest that my spiritual learning or learning in general has ended.  To make perfectly clear - my belief was already certain about ID in relation to the philosophy I hold.  When I said, “I am now completely certain of myself and my belief,” this implied that the Callahan article “confirmed and reassured” my beliefs against ID.  There is no conceit, arrogance, or pomposity whatsoever in my veins.  Perhaps Eddie cannot bear the different views of other opinions or is just plainly and simply against the word of truth?  This personal attack on my person is even contrary to what Eddie has stated elsewhere; that to attack a person’s views to correct false reasoning is acceptable whereas to attack the person himself is unchristian.  I believe this to be the case here.

Eddie’s pretentious nature can further be seen in his disregard for the great philosophers.  He states, “All those philosophers were arrogant enough to think that they possessed unshakable certainty (certainty which in retrospect was not warranted).”  Then he says, “they did not ask their readers to take their conclusions on faith and offered arguments for them.”  However, they were established, learned philosophers who spent a life-time developing their theories - I have just begun.  As follows, I [have] offered many arguments to the best of my ability.  The truth is, Eddie is stubbornly closed-minded and very opinionated about this issue, and in retrospect prevents others here from exploring their views.

I may not be an eloquent writer and speaker in expressing myself as Eddie is, but he is mistaken for thinking that my views are based on a private emotional thing having no intellectual value in ascertaining the truth.  His opinion is deeply misconstrued and inaccurate.  Eddie writes, “Tony, however, asks us to take on faith that his intuitions about design, God, and creation are correct.”  I am not asking anyone to take anything on faith but only stating that those who already have faith will [very soon] have their faith fulfilled.  As I have explained before the information I am putting forth is not based on intuition, but on the conclusions of a personal in-depth systematic investigation into the teachings of the bible, the teachings of different Christian denominations, and further research into the teachings of Hinduism, Vedanta, the Spiritual Essence of Yoga, and Buddhism - apart from other teachings.  What Eddie cannot comprehend is that the major established powers that be are already aware of these facts, that the followers of the different religious systems of the world have been conditioned to obey the [Laws] of society, and that the followers of the major monotheistic religions are ready to receive the [One] that they have been waiting for.

Eddie states, “What Tony has to show, to maintain his thesis (and the thesis of the Callahan article which he has defended) is that the Christian God did not design the universe that he created.”  Well, I will not go into depth with this challenge except to say that the Callahan article mentions, “a modified Van Till’s robust formational economy (RFE), which hold[s] that God created everything with an internal economy to self develop.”  This is the view that I hold:

If we consider all events, beginning with the Big Bang, as being causally determined, it then follows that there was some form of causal “design process” in the creation of the universe.  However, because the creation of the universe followed a causal “design process” does not necessarily suggest rational intelligence, and similarly, although the universe is alive with energy and causally conscious does not necessarily suggest mind.  Biological life, in differing degress, is the conscious outgrowth of the universe and we as human beings are bestowed with the “image of God” and entrusted with all life on earth.  We humans, collectively, bequeathed with consciousness, reason, and rationality [are] the intelligent designer.

However, it follows, no amount of biblical evidence, reason, or rational argument presented has swayed Eddie from his dogmatic stance, because Eddie relies on the Fathers, and on the Fathers alone.  Eddie does not have an open mind nor a creative imagination, and this is fine, as long as Eddie respects the two greatest commandments - “Love the Lord the God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and love thy neighbor as thyself.”  We can have different views and opinions about God just as there are different religious systems in the world - as long as we respect ourselves and each other.  What is important is the social contract (do unto others as you would have others do unto you) - the people holding different views and opinions about God [must] be respected even though we criticize eachother’s views and opinions. 

In the BioLogos section - “About Us, Our Mission” - we read, “We strive for humility and gracious dialogue with those who hold other views” - and in the section - About Us, What Do We Do - we read, “In addition, our daily blog, the BioLogos Forum, provides still more material to foster a serious and comprehensive discussion of Christian faith and the sciences.  The articles and videos under the Forum banner feature voices that at times deeply disagree with one another on various aspects of biblical scholarship and theology.  This is intentional: Christianity has long embraced a diversity of views on matters that are not essential for salvation, and charitable engagement of different perspectives helps sharpen our thinking and deepen our commitment to the truth that is hidden in Christ.”

Eddie should return to the “About Us” page and study its meaning and should also return to the basic human teachings of Christianity.  By the way, for my own well being and for Eddie’s, I have already forgiven him, whether he apologizes or not.


Eddie - #85893

June 26th 2014

Tony:

I knew that Mme. Blavatsky was a theosophist.  But theosophy quite often keeps company with pantheism.

This remark of yours is somewhat alarming, in the context of a defense of theism:

“The absolute truth, exclusively, will solve the problem that parents and children face - God is the higher self and exists within the subconscious.  It is by this truth that a person becomes whole -”

“God is the higher self”—this is a theistic belief?

Such a view is found in, e.g., Hindu thought, but Hinduism is not “theistic” as Western religion understands that term.  You would be hard-pressed to find the belief that “God is the higher self” in the writings of Calvin, Augustine, Aquinas, etc.

Your defense of “theism” puzzles me; perhaps you do not mean the same thing that most people mean by “theism.”

Don’t misunderstand me.  I have no problem if you embrace pantheism or theosophy or anything else; I do have a problem if such theologies are called “theistic.”  Maverick terminology, unless reasons for it are given, always leads to confusion.  


Tony - #85879

June 25th 2014

On the same note:

William James, the great American philosopher and psychologist stated, “To upset the conclusion that all crows are black, there is no need to seek demonstration that no crow is black; it is sufficient to produce one white crow; a single one is sufficient.”  BioLogos [is] that White Crow!  ID, is but another black crow!


PNG - #85887

June 26th 2014

I wrote a response to this, but decided it was of no great significance. However, a bon mot did pop out in the process, and I can’t let one go.

My old buddy Roy Varghese apparently succeeded in using ID arguments to get Anthony Flew to convert to theism. This resulted in much gnashing of Gnu teeth (<- there it is.) In the cases where such a conversion happens, I have no objection, but, with Pascal, I’m skeptical that this has any spiritual significance. 

I too sympathize with those who want to protect their kids from evolution being used for atheist propaganda, but it seems like knowledge of biology/evolution has this M. C. Escher figure-ground aspect to it. You find out about this marvelous process that produces all these wonderful things (like us,) but you also find out about smallpox virus and all the other nasties, all produced by the same process. The whole thing raises the possibility that there is a god, but the big question is, if he’s there, what is he like? Certainly mysterious. It seems to me, if you have any sense, you ask Him. What happens then determines everything.


Jon Garvey - #85889

June 26th 2014

PNG - it seems as if you’ve just paraphrased Acts 17.24-28, which is saying that God has put the opportunity for natural theology in the world for a real, but limited, purpose: to show enough of God for people to reach out to him.

Flew remained a Deist, it seems (but didn’t have that long to develop his beliefs, a reminder that Satan’s favourite ploy is not to say faith isn’t important, but that it isn’t urgent). But I remember other cases, like the Soviet surgeon who came to faith on the basis that even if the human hand was all God had made, he ought to be worshipped. Indeed, the general design inference (ie looking around the natural world) has convinced many that naturalism doesn’t work, and sent them off to consider the gospel seriously.

But this all deals with ID as apologetics, as if it has some kind of duty to produce saving faith in Christ. If its goal is more limited - to point out weaknesses to the only strong rival to theism, ie naturalism, at a time when naturalism has put itself beyond questioning, then it can serve a purpose. Questioning the unquestionable is about the only thing I can think of that leads to outraged hostility.

Tom Nagel, for example, accepts many of its arguments both negative and positive, and now has to struggle to construct teleology within an atheistic system. He’s more or less retracing Aristotle, so the attempt will doubtless fail, if not in his estimation, then in that of those who can’t see why God should be excluded *a priori* anyway (and so seek him out for his views…)

Your point about evolution disclosing both wonder and harm could, absolutely equally, be applied to the old creation narrative, and was by Christianity’s first pagan opponents. You know my arguments for saying that, for 75% of the Church’s history, there was little dispute amongst Christyian thinkers that God, in his mysterious wisdom, had created not only “nice” things, but harmful things including carnivores, parasites, plagues and disasters to serve his deep purposes. They needed neither evolution nor electron microscopes to see, and deal with, the theodical issues.

It was only at the Reformation that anyone started attributing natural evil to sin (and then it was seen as God’s *judgement* on sin, not as a problem for God to justify), and only at the Enlightenment that Satan began to be accorded creative powers to make nasties, and only with the ascent of skepticism after Darwin that those powers got re-assigned to evolutionary contingency. One needs to sense how the theology has tracked the change in dominant worldview to make sense of it.


Jon Garvey - #85870

June 25th 2014

I really can’t see the big deal here, perhaps because I’m across the Atlantic. As I recall, ID publically committed itself to refuting naturalism from the start, so it’s not surprising that some of those so wishing are Christians, nor that their interest should overlap with apologetics.

If a working scientist speaks at a Christian conference to the effect that his work increases his faith in God, I see no problem. Do you?

The concerns and suspicions seems to be a little asymetrical to me. In this country the main organisation lobbying and politicking for naturalism and against religion is The National Secular Society, with only 10K members but a long list of influential scientists signed up including Peter Atkins (chemistry), Colin Blakemore (physiology), Richard Dawkins (evo. biol.), Steve Jones (genetics) and Lawrence Krauss (physics). Does anybody draw attention to the conflict of interest between pushing secularism and claiming that science confirms secularism?

The second campaigning organisation is the British Humanist Association, with ony 25K members but a veritable Who’s Who of supporters from science, its president being a physicist, and vice-presidents including Dawkins (again!) and Lewis Wolpert, the developmental biologist. Apart from representatives of most of the hard sciences and life-sciences, several of the most prominent science educators such as Brian Cox and Alice Roberts are supporters. It lobbies and advises government on ethical matters and education, clearly in a thoroughly  partisan manner.

A typical “testimony” on the BHA website is this by Prof Raymond Tallis:

I am a humanist and see my work as a doctor and as a philosopher as repectively an expression of, and as setting out the case for, my humanist convictions.

I see no outcry that such people are publishing science, campaigning for secularist causes and doing public science education from - and particularly for the promotion of -  that worldview, without any kind of public disclaimer that their metaphysical bias affects their claims of scientific objectivity. By comparison the ID lot are completely upfront - I can’t think of any whose quite varied religious or non-religious positions aren’t voluntarily in the public domain.

In my view, religious bias is quite acceptable - as is being both a researcher, a lobbyist and an apologist - provided that personal convictions are known and attached to publications, wehatever they may be. The problem, to me, is that secularism is so often seen as a neutral position, rather than as a bias. It’s even seen as the default position which makes all other commitments appear suspicious.

Since no science exists without metaphysical prior commitments, all such commitments, or none, should be considered significant. And all should be accorded equal validity in science, since science is not qualified to adjudicate metaphysics.


Bilbo - #85875

June 25th 2014

If I remember correctly, if I use the “Reply to this comment” then my comment will appear directly under PNG’s comment and chronologically out of order of earlier comments.  So this is a test to see if that is the case.  If so, I won’t use it to reply to PNG’s comment, so that it will appear chronologically in order to the earlier comments.


James Stump - #85855

June 23rd 2014

NOTE:  comments have been removed from this post that violate our Ground Rules for Commenting.


Bilbo - #85876

June 25th 2014

Ah,  I see that’s been fixed.  Great!  Okay, so PNG suggested that there would be no problem with referring to SETI’s work as potential apologetics for ET.  But if one were to seriously use such a term I suggest that it would be seen as disparaging SETI’s work; as something not to be taken seriously, even if they found the desired narrow-band radio emissions.  I further suggest that most scientists would take offense at PNG’s suggestion that we do apply the term “apologetics” to SETI’s work.

Likewise, I take offense at Dennis’s use of the term “Christian antievolutionary apologetics” to arguments that the origin of life was designed.  Such arguments are based on the same sort of premises that underlie the justification for SETI’s research.  Further, non-Christians such as the orthodox Jewish rabbi David Klinghoffer, and even the atheist Fred Hoyle accepted such arguments that the origin of life was designed. 

Thus, I think it is clear that Dennis’s use of the term “Christian antievolutionary apologetics” is inappropriate, demeaning, and an attempt to divert the conversation away from what should be the real question of whether such arguments have validity.  In my opinion an apology from Dennis is in order.


bren - #85892

June 26th 2014

Hi Bilbo (in response to 85876),

Much as I appreciate your desire to cleanse the conversation of sly put-down terms, I think your hand is way overplayed when you raise the temperature with demands for an apology.

Antievolutionary apologetics is not being used as a disparaging name for any assertions that the origin of life was designed (not sure where you got this idea), it is being used as a designation for the core group of people who make a habit of unreasonably claiming that the supposed impossibility of abiogenesis can be used as an argument to discredit evolution as a whole.

Dennis is repeating the on-target observation that people engaged in antievolutionary apologetics tend to “discuss a genuine scientific controversy from a frontier area of evolution, and then inappropriately use it in an attempt to cast doubt on evolution as a whole”.  If Christian antievolutionary apologetics is constantly attacking abiogenesis as evolution’s Achilles heal (and it is), then these apologists deserve a good shake and no apology is needed to pay for the favor.  Nobody muddies the waters or participates in mudslinging by making such observations.

If you want to discuss abiogenesis in its own right and make claims about the failure of naturalism, go ahead, but the observations above are not made any less true by such a shift in focus.  I’d say you have your work cut out for you if you plan to establish anything concrete about something as obscure as abiogenesis (especially if the plan is to establish a negative, which is a doubtful route in the best of weather) but if you are feeling ambitious, then why not?  The fact that you do not want your efforts to be in any way associated with Christian apologetics is taken into account of course;-).

Anyway, even if you are generally right that we need to watch out for the use of terms that might unfairly disparage a position (a good observation, misapplied in this case), I wouldn’t go on any hunger strike over that  apology if I were you…


Bilbo - #85895

June 26th 2014

Hi Bren,

Not sure who you or Dennis are referring to as people who are “constantly attacking abiogenesis as evolution’s Achilles heal [sic].  I do know people who make positive arguments that the origin of life was designed.  Stephen Meyer and Fred Hoyle come to mind.  Neither uses their arguments to prove God, Christianity, or the falsity of neo-Darwinism.  But one doesn’t need to rely on Meyer, Hoyle, or other pro-design people to attack abiogenesis.  One merely needs to read what each abiogenesis researcher has to say about theories of abiogenesis that compete with their own.  Better yet, just read Eugene Koonin’s paper that proposes a huge multiverse in order to account for the origin of life:  http://www.biologydirect.com/content/2/1/15

The idea that the divide between life and non-life is negligible isn’t a new idea.  It’s a very ancient idea.  The theory of spontaneous generation didn’t disappear until the 19th century.  Even then researchers were sure there was some simple way for life to evolve from non-life.  But it was only after we learned how amazingly complex the replication and translation systems needed for life were that the basis of the modern design argument became apparent.  It’s either that or Koonin’s multiverse.  Not all that different from the problem of a fine-tuned universe.  But we won’t hear any of this from Dennis.  We’ll just hear more remonstrations that Christian apologists are unwise to attack abiogenesis.  So when Dennis is willing to call SETI researchers potential apologists for ET, I’ll withdraw my demand for an apology.  Until then, he’s a hypocrite in my book.


bren - #85902

June 27th 2014

Bilbo (answer to 85895),

The “Achilles heel” bit was just a manner of speaking; to be more clear (though I thought I was) abiogenesis has nothing to do with evolution but is constantly discussed in lists, pamphlets, websites and books which are attempting to discredit evolution, and this is usually in an unapologetically apologetics context.  This is obviously ridiculous, since evolution is in no way dependent on the results of any abiogenesis investigation (I assume you agree with this?).  Your demand for an apology implies that you are defending those who make this fallacious link from being besmirched with the name “Christian antievolutionary apologists”.  Is this really what you intend?  I would prefer to wait for someone who actually thinks that evolution is trumped in this way to demand their own apology for being called a Christian before making the demand (and even then, Dennis is merely defining the target of his correction, not making it clear that you can’t make this mistake unless you are a part of that group – so the apology still doesn’t make sense).

If this supposed link between abiogenesis and evolution is entirely foreign to you, then I can only congratulate you on how little creationist literature you read.  I guess you read a lot of ID output, which would explain why you are rising in defense of SETI instead of Genesis;-).

As Dennis says, abiogenesis is on the fringe and is being explored tentatively and controversially.  There are a lot of interesting ideas and possible clues, but absolutely no chance of direct evidence (so no surprise when we don’t find any and no chance to actually verify any hypothesis except under largely inaccurate, short-term lab conditions).  The conclusion that life cannot have arisen by nature means simply because a scientific field with no available evidence hasn’t been able to verify the obviously limited range of ideas that their creativity has allowed, is absolutely inadmissible.  Almost no one is claiming that it must have happened in such and such a way by fiat, but most are claiming that it is absurd to think we have exhausted the actual range of natural possibilities or that we have truly tested such a range under realistic conditions.

In order to legitimately make a claim for outside “designer” intervention, you must do one of two things; either exhaust all natural possibilities, ideas or tests (a profoundly unrealistic task to assign or to expect to complete – but note that this path is only necessary if no separate positive evidence for such an intervention is available), such that intervention is the only available recourse, or to come up with positive external evidence that such an intervention occurred (like a four billion year old petri dish).  Say you took the second path, but claimed that God is already proven by other means (such as the cosmological argument or some other apologetics workhorse); this would not be positive evidence for such an intervention since we don’t know what God would do or how he would choose to do it.  You would need to corroborate the intervention itself.

You can’t just try out a few clever hypotheses in conditions of questionable accuracy (and within a wildly contracted timeframe – many orders of magnitude too short in fact) over the space of 40 years, claim you tried every possible natural means to produce life, infer that the only remaining logical option is outside intervention, and then turn around and adduce the complexity of the results as positive evidence for this intervention!  Well, you can, but you probably can’t expect to be taken all that seriously when you do so.  We already know of at least one natural ratchet that produces greater levels of complexity and diversity over long periods of time (natural selection) so we are poorly placed to confidently claim that it simply can’t be done.

Anyway, I didn’t discuss SETI, all I did was to clarify why your claimed misuse of the term “antievolutionary apologetics” was incorrect, and I can’t see where I am wrong in this point, since you didn’t address it directly.  SETI is a different story and wasn’t discussed by Dennis.  I’m sure PNG will step up to the plate if he thinks he is ruining the good name of SETI scientists, but unless I’m reading the wrong thing, he is just making a fairly harmless joke and I don’t expect SETI scientist riots to break out across the globe any time soon (though it certainly wouldn’t be the first time if they did).

Post script; we really need to stop equating the debunking of spontaneous generation with the impossibility of abiogenesis; the whole cloth production of flies from a garbage heap in a few days within a life-filled highly competitive world is not even loosely analogous to the slow building up of complexity to form rudimentary life over hundreds of millions of years without outside competition for resources or predation.  One of these things is not the least bit like the other, so I can’t see why they would even be discussed in the same place.  So no, it is most certainly not either “that or Koonin’s universe”!!  No one thinks that complex life arose overnight and no one is desperately looking to Koonin to bail them out when they realize it couldn’t have happened overnight, so please…  Don’t be offended that Dennis doesn’t seem interested in dabbling in such inanities.


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