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Uncertainty is Uncomfortable

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November 3, 2010 Tags: Divine Action & Purpose

Today's video features Kathryn Applegate. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

In this video “Conversation,” BioLogos Program Director Kathryn Applegate points to evolutionary science as a way to gain a richer understanding of the glory of God.

Scientists become fairly comfortable with a certain level of uncertainty within scientific data, notes Applegate, but that is not the case for most people. Uncertainty—especially where faith is concerned—can be scary for people who want a black and white answer. Yet science has all of the subtlety of a beautiful painting that is hard to encapsulate in a sound byte.

God speaks through the Bible and all sorts of other things that comport with the Bible, says Applegate. “Science is another way of studying what God does. How he created and how he continues to create. God is active and involved. We see that through the means of a continuous creation through evolution,” she says.

That is really exciting and allows us to better understand the character of God. God is infinitely creative and infinitely good. Looking to Genesis for scientific data is like looking at the notes on the page of a symphonic score without ever hearing the music—you miss all the richness. “Not that the notes aren’t important,” says Applegate, but they do not offer the complete picture and it isn’t the primary purpose of those texts.

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Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.


Kathryn Applegate is Program Director at The BioLogos Foundation. She received her PhD in computational cell biology at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. At Scripps, she developed computer vision software tools for analyzing the cell's infrastructure, the cytoskeleton.

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Papalinton - #38517

November 4th 2010

Hi Nedbrek
“God stands outside time (and entropy).”

Of course he does. where else would you find him standing or hiding for that matter?  That’s what’s said in the book so it must be true, right? 

So does the flying pink unicorn prance outside of time, well at least that’s what I’m told.  And if others are in the know it must be true, right?

Tell me Nedbrek, where does the talking snake reside?

Nedbrek, your earlier words had some meaningful punch.  These latest words are a fallback to unfalsifiable nonsense.

The god idea is growing more impersonal and nebulous in proportion as the human mind is learning to understand natural phenomena and as science progressively correlates human and social events.  God, today, no longer directs human destiny with the same iron hand of yesterday [unless you are a fundie].  Rather does the god idea express a sort of spiritualistic stimulus to satisfy the fads and fancies of every shade of human weakness.  [Just survey the plenitude of the christianities and its variants speaks volumes about personal interpretation]. 

Cheers


Papalinton - #38522

November 4th 2010

Hi defensedefumer
“But isn’t it equally true that God is comforting because He exists?”

Demographically, Hinduism is the world’s third or fourth largest religion, after Christianity, Islam, and possibly Buddhism, with more than a BILLION adherents.  Most Hindus believe that the spirit or soul — the true “self” of every person, called the ātman — is eternal.  According to the monistic/pantheistic theologies of Hinduism (such as Advaita Vedanta school), this Atman is ultimately indistinct from Brahman, the supreme spirit. The Upanishads state that whoever becomes fully aware of the ātman as the innermost core of one’s own self realizes an identity with Brahman and thereby reaches moksha (liberation or freedom).  The Hindu scriptures refer to celestial entities called Devas (or devī in feminine form; devatā used synonymously for Deva in Hindi), “the shining ones”, which may be translated into English as “gods” or “heavenly beings”.  The devas are an integral part of Hindu culture.”

But which one(s), no smoking [defensedefumer]?

[cont]


Papalinton - #38523

November 4th 2010

@ defensedefumer [cont]


“However, isn’t it also true that God can work through evangelism (which He commanded Christians to do at the end of the Gospels)?”

So the book says.  But who would have thought that at around 600 CE all of the near and middle east which was covered in christians, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, right along the top of North Afirca,  and   BAM!  another proselytising religion [you know, Islam, the wrong, false one]  would come along and kick the christians ass right out of the area, the very area that your god favoured as the place to make known his veracity, reality.  So much for strength of the Word.

In the beginning there was the WORD.  At the end, just a cliché.

I’m sorry, defensedefumer, if my skepticism seems a little over the top. It is to counter the statement above, drawn from the bible as it is, is akin to the drug addict being left responsible for the pharmacist’s dispensary.

Cheers


leadme.org - #38533

November 5th 2010

Great discussion, even if somewhat off course from the content of the original video.

Bertrand Russell said quite beautifully: “The centre of me is always and eternally a terrible pain–a curious wild pain–a searching for something beyond what the world contains.”

I think we all empathize, and many embrace theism to escape such pain.  As Nedbrek has shared, theism is a way to transcend the ultimate futility of existence.  My reason, though, for balking at the futility of existence is not primarily because that’s just too painful a conclusion to stomach, but rather, because that conclusion rings completely hollow.

If we were insignificant cogs in a colossal machine, I might expect that our existence would be rather sterile.  But it’s anything but sterile.  Our experience is marked by two remarkable extremes:  Unspeakable evil and horror, on the one hand, and stunning, breathtaking goodness and beauty, on the other.  It appears that we are witnesses to and participants in a mighty cosmic struggle.  We’re much more than just tiny cogs in a neutral, uncaring machine.

Of course, others may object to my unabashedly aesthetic/intuitive apologetic, and I won’t try to beat them over the head for doing so.


johan - #38539

November 5th 2010

I love my life, my family and the world I live in, unfettered and happy//

Of course you do, like I said I would love to be an atheist myself if it was just about warm and fuzzy feelings , the problem is there was this Nazarene who said “He that loveth his life shall lose it”

You said theism gives us warm and fuzzy feelings, and then you say “that is how theism works at the emotional and psychological level [it is a form of entrapment]”

I’m confused, which is it? Warm or fuzzy feelings or does it scare us into belief? Can’t be both though?

When it comes to warm and fuzzy feelings, atheism wins hands down.


johan - #38540

November 5th 2010

That is the greatest fear that theism can perpetrate.//

I am not scared, I just think the evidence points to theism as opposed to atheism, it just doesn’t look like nature is complete to me, this has nothing to do with fear or warm fuzzy feelings.

//Atheists also experience uncertainty but deal with it with different strategies [innumerable].//

Atheists are uncertain that nature is all there is, they are uncertain that evolution is unguided? Where show me this atheist, I would love to meet him!

//So does the flying pink unicorn prance outside of time, well at least that’s what I’m told.//

Of course, the conclusion of God comes to us in a vacuum, we believe in Him for the sake of believing in Him because he cannot be disproved..no it’s the structure of the physical world which implies something or someone beyond it..pink unicorn flying spagetti monsters or tea pots are all designed to knock down a straw man argument


Papalinton - #38542

November 5th 2010

Hi Johan
“I’m confused, which is it? Warm or fuzzy feelings or does it scare us into belief? Can’t be both though?”

An absolutely good point raised, Johan, and yes it can be confusing.  And indeed theism is confusing when attempting to make sense of it. 
The following is one way to make sense of it:  For those who believe,  and about which no amount of cognitive dissonance will sway them, then it has the capacity for the ‘warm and fuzzies’.  Speak to any bright-eyed, bushy-tailed evangelist and they are overcome with the warm and fuzzies.

[cont]


Papalinton - #38543

November 5th 2010

@ Johan   [cont]
For those who find it difficult to reconcile significant parts of the bible with their intuitive and humanist self, while at the same time being a believer [ many progressives and liberal theologians could be counted in this group by virtue of the significant debates happening all over the country about what is and isn’t inerrant, what’s allegory and what’s fact and what is simply illustrative etc] but are terrified in the process of questioning their belief because they simply don’t know whether such action will condemn them to the fires and torture to be burned in hell for eternity, then theism is working as it has been designed to work at the emotional and psychological level [it is a form of entrapment].
 
[cont]


Papalinton - #38545

November 5th 2010

@ Johan   [cont 3]

‘It’s not rocket science Johan, just mind games.  But for the unsuspecting, it works beautifully and as any psychologist will tell you, it is incredibly effective; the process is used so often in politics, advertising, subliminal messaging, propaganda.  It is very easy to promulgate, and unfortunately, and to a greater or lesser degree we are all prone to it, even the most skeptical of us [even me], was drawn into believing that the Iraqis had massive numbers of weapons of mass destruction [as an example],  later to be found a complete lie. 

You say, “Of course you do, like I said I would love to be an atheist myself if it was just about warm and fuzzy feelings , the problem is there was this Nazarene who said “He that loveth his life shall lose it”

All I can add Johan to what the Nazarene said is, only you can determine the truth of that statement without coercion from anyone.  I know what my response is but I won’t give it, as I feel it would be inappropriate.  Only you can test and decide on its veracity.

Cheers


nedbrek - #38606

November 5th 2010

leadme (38533) “As Nedbrek has shared, theism is a way to transcend the ultimate futility of existence.”

My argument is not:
- Atheism implies life is meaningless
- I desire meaning
- Therefore God exists

Rather:
- We are rebels against God
- We need to surrender
- One path to surrender is to realize one’s position is hopeless
- Meaninglessness implies hopelessness
- Atheism implies life is meaningless


defensedefumer - #38634

November 5th 2010

Papalinton,

Forgive my ignorance, but I feel that your reply just doesn’t get the point. I was not talking about Hinduism or other religions, but the concept of God in general. As nedbrek pointed out, you insist that we created God to be comforting. While that could be true, my point was that it is equally true if God exists it would be comfroting too. If you want to talk about other religions, I will oblige.

And somehow, I felt you missed my second point entirely too. I was simply pointing out that evangelism was consistent with God’s will. Your point that Islam somehow kicked Christianity has nothing to do that God works through evangelism. By your line of logic, it is even more amazing that Christianity still persist despite losing its “traditional” holy lands.

I hope this clears things up. If you misunderstood my points in the first place, I apologise for being unclear in my first post.

Have a nice day!

PS: Thanks for pointing out the signifiance of my pseudonym!


nedbrek - #38636

November 5th 2010

Papalinton (38517)

Nedbrek, your earlier words had some meaningful punch.  These latest words are a fallback to unfalsifiable nonsense.

The god idea is growing more impersonal and nebulous in proportion as the human mind is learning to understand natural phenomena and as science progressively correlates human and social events.  God, today, no longer directs human destiny with the same iron hand of yesterday [unless you are a fundie].  Rather does the god idea express a sort of spiritualistic stimulus to satisfy the fads and fancies of every shade of human weakness.  [Just survey the plenitude of the christianities and its variants speaks volumes about personal interpretation].

While this is interesting, we’ve gotten off my earlier point.  Your worldview is hopeless and meaningless.


Johan - #38638

November 5th 2010

simply don’t know whether such action will condemn them to the fires and torture to be burned in hell for eternity//

From a purely philosophical theistic point of view it makes absolutely no sense what you say here, it doesn’t add up, there is nothing about reaching a conclusion of theism that leads one to any such conclusion. I don’t think of fires, in fact, I am a Christian and I still don’t think of fires, because it makes no sense. I believe in a rational God, the idea I got from the Christ-God was that this is a rational God, a just God that will judge in a fair manner. But knowing how this God would judge is just not something anyone can know.


leadme.org - #38656

November 5th 2010

Hi Nedbrek, #38606:

Thanks for clarifying, sorry if I misrepresented your view!


Papalinton - #38659

November 5th 2010

Hi Nedbrek
You say, “My argument is not:
- Atheism implies life is meaningless
- I desire meaning
- Therefore God exists

Rather:
- We are rebels against God
- We need to surrender
- One path to surrender is to realize one’s position is hopeless
- Meaninglessness implies hopelessness
- Atheism implies life is meaningless”

This is wonderful support for the case for atheism.

Note:  You say, ‘Atheism implies life is meaningless’ in your first set.  And you support this statement in your second set of reasonings;  One path to surrender is to realize one’s position is hopeless
- Meaninglessness implies hopelessness
- Atheism implies life is meaningless”

The logic of your argument is, is to realise you position is hopeless, thereby implying having no meaning, which in turn implies atheism.  So you need to surrender to atheism as a measure of your hopelessness to which we need to surrender. 

[cont]


Papalinton - #38661

November 5th 2010

@ Nedbrek   [cont]

All I can say, as Homer says,  DUH!
Nedbrek I have been trying to tell you that for the past few posts. 
Once you realise that, you get up, dust yourself off, and go about making meaning in your life, for your life, and get on with your life as any mature adult would without the umbilical cord to the ‘sky daddy’ or to take yourself off the ‘life-support machine’ called theism.  It is an unnecessary complication in and an added burden to one’s life, a security blanket for those who are afraid of the dark.

I simply cannot put it gentler than that.

Cheers


Papalinton - #38668

November 5th 2010

Hi defensedefumer

Of course I didn’t get both your points.  This is the default move of most, if not all theists, when their position is challenged with a strong, cogent but different perspective but one they had not wanted to hear.  When they do not like the sound of the reasoned argument and are unable to refute it through logic and reason, we have ‘missed the point’.
And that may be true, simply because the theist’s logic is shrouded in theo-speak, a veritable ‘talking in tongue’ which has firstly to be deciphered to extract the ‘nub’ of the argument.

Whether you were not talking about Hinduism is beside the point.  The argument I make is, which god is the truest god?  Brahmin or YHWH?  Which pantheon of spectral numens are true, the christian angels, archangel, demons spirits, satan or the the Hindu celestial entities called Devas, “the shining ones”, which may be translated into English as “gods” or “heavenly beings”?

Is the world held up by an elephant and it in turn held up by a turtle, and then it’s turtles all the way down?

The christianities [all of the competing brands] =2 billion people
The hindus [all of the competing brands] = 1 billion.

Who has the one any only claim to fame?

Sheesh


nedbrek - #38669

November 5th 2010

Papalinton, the problem is, asserting meaning (“making meaning in your life”) when there is none is inconsistent.


leadme.org - #38670

November 5th 2010

Hi Papalinton,

I think one could give Nedbrek’s line of reasoning a bit more charitable an interpretation than that, although I’ll agree I’m not quite following the train of thought either.  Perhaps, Nedbrek, you’ve fleshed it out a bit more in some other corner of the web, and you could provide us with a link?

I am wondering, though, Papalinton:  It seems that your latest thoughts in #38661 fail to address my argument in #38533.  Any response?


nedbrek - #38676

November 5th 2010

leadme, nothing in particular (although I find this old post holds up well: http://nedsfaith.blogspot.com/2008/03/mouthful-of-ashes.html)

To expand, I believe the only logical alternatives are:
1) Biblical Christianity
2) hedonism (or perhaps an atheism deploying sufficient logic to maximize one’s pleasure)

To say that “atheism is a logical choice” (or even “the only logical”) is inconsistent.  Logic presupposes meaning, purpose and God.


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