Home > All, Conversations, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Skepticism > Does God Go Poop? [An Analysis Of Infinite Regression]

Does God Go Poop? [An Analysis Of Infinite Regression]

This is great. I have to say that I’m pretty excited to write this entry. I’d recently had a debate with a guy named “Bret” on a previous entry. A Creationist debate… you know how those go. Bad logic and avoidance of the issue, etc.

The Debate

You’ve all heard the argument before, the thing about a tornado making a 747 jet in a junkyard. That randomness can’t create life the way it is now. More specifically, the odds are against it happening. Yeah, this guy went there. He said the odds are against it. More specifically…

…the randomness of the universes and our existence is so great , 10,000,000,000 to the 24th, that is virtually impossible.

First of all, what do odds have to do with something that’s already happened? Bret’s not making a prediction. He’s using odds as some sort of device to deny the current state of science. My basic conclusion was…

As a final comment on this debate, as I’ve said before, odds are an estimate… a guess.

Probability cannot be used as proof of a claim – or against a claim for that matter.

If you want to say that our Universe only had a certain probability of coming into existence by natural means, that’s great. BUT, you cannot use those odds as proof against the Universe coming into existence by those means.

That would require actual evidence. And, sufficed to say, the evidence points toward a natural “popping into of existence.”

You’ve not offered any evidence. Only “odds.” That proves nothing.

The Analysis

Odds are not proof. They signify probability. But, that’s pretty useless when the event has already occurred. Beyond that point, it simply becomes a denial mechanism (the logical fallacy of post hoc reasoning). A way to provide intellectual cover for those who want to believe in an invisible man (God).

Now, while I’m sure Bret believes this is a valid argument, at the heart of what he’s saying is really just bad logic. The odds argument really stems from a combination of two arguments. Irreducible complexity and infinite regression.

Bret is basically saying that the Universe is too complex to have just “popped into existence.” Therefore, there must be a first cause, which I’m assuming he believes is God.

Matter couldn’t have popped into existence because it needed a jump-start from God.

And we all say… “Who made God?”

If Bret answers with, “No one made God. He just always was,” then he is being inconsistent. He claims that, logically, matter is too complex to have just “popped into existence.” Yet, a God with the ability to create matter can easily pop into existence. You can’t have it both ways.

Does God Go Poop?

Let’s start addressing this with a more simple question. Does God go poop?

A strange question, you say? I think not. Let us look at what exactly Bret (or any believer in God, for that matter) claims.

For God to “pop into existence,” he has to have certain traits which identify Him as “God.”

First, He has to have a likeness. An appearance. We read in the Bible that God made man in His likeness. So we can assume that God looks a lot like humans. That’s first off.

He has to have magical powers. This involves, I’m assuming, large amounts of some sort of energy. This is the important part. He’s not God if He can’t do magic spells.

He has to be invisible. I’m sure that takes copious amounts of energy to maintain that state of affairs.

And then, if God goes poop, He would require a digestive system and an asshole where He could dispense large amounts of Holy Shit into his toilet… this isn’t even taking into account the food that God would have to eat before Holy Shitting.

Conclusion

Now, I’m leaving out a great deal of other things that God would need in order to exist. I know that. Nervous system, a brain, skeletal structure, etc.

But, my point is that Bret has certainly not considered his own set of beliefs before criticizing science. Bret says the odds are against the Universe “popping into existence” by natural means.

And yet, he presupposes the belief that a (fully-formed!) God with all (and more) of the traits previously listed simply “popped into existence.” And he has the nerve to say that the odds are against my view of reality???

The Universe evolved from very simple elements such as hydrogen which were created from the intense energy release during the Big Bang. Life is simply another manifestation of that matter/energy.

Believers, on the other hand, think that a fully-formed God spontaneously just came to be one day. “Popped into existence,” as the saying goes.

To claim that a Universe which evolves from the simple to the complex is less logical than a fully-formed invisible man with magical powers just popping into existence… it’s complete nonsense. I’m not even sure you could call it “intellectual cover” for believers. It’s more like an excuse.

Then you get believers who try to reconcile science and the Bible. Or even say that they agree with one another!

What, on Earth, is the point? They’re already starting with the assumption of God popping into existence. Why start worrying about proof and logic now? Do you really need any when you start with a premise like that? When did proof become so important? It certainly isn’t important in demonstrating how God came to be.

I’m not sure, but I think the odds are against it.

Please, read a book. It’s good for you.

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  1. Fr. Ted
    Saturday July 19, 2008 at 1:42 PM

    The assumption of your comment and blog is that the only life forms are carbon based life forms. Obviously those who believe in gods, angels, spirits, demons, souls, or a God are willing to accept and acknowledge the existence of beings that are not carbon based and therefore not part of that empirical world which is the limit of the study of science which is based in scientific materialism. Believers do accept that intelligence or the mind is not co-terminus with the brain, and that intelligent beings can and do exist in within the empirical universe. One might think of planes of existence or different dimensions if you want. Humans however always still encounter these other types of beings, planes or dimensions within the empirical universe and in and through our bodies, minds, souls and senses. God as such a non-carbon based being doesn’t have the physical attributes which you assume a carbon based being must have – nervous system or a digestive system. In any case since you acknowledge his invisibility anyway, we would never see any of these things including any waste he might excrete. It seems to me that quantum mechanics and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle surely have shown that the universe is far more mysterious than was once imagined under the mechanized theories of the universe. That mechanized view could get a man to the moon but cannot adequately account for how the universe functions nor even what constitutes the universe as the knowledge of dark matter and dark energy have shown. Finally, at least as far as believers are concerned, God did not pop into existence. God is existence and has chosen to share that existence with others which includes us. Our being is in His existence. It is not unlike the first law of thermodynamics which states that energy cannot be created or destroyed. The Big Bang has redistributed that energy, but science which is limited in its knowledge to both space and time, cannot tell us anything about the nanosecond before the Big Bang, since from the point of view of empirical science time does not exist before the Big Bang.

  2. Saturday July 19, 2008 at 5:50 PM

    Humans however always still encounter these other types of beings, planes or dimensions within the empirical universe and in and through our bodies, minds, souls and senses.

    … based on a premise that these “extra-dimensional” beings can pass between dimensions, that there are these other dimensions and beings, and that there is such a thing as a soul.

    These seem, to me, to be extraneous ideas that needn’t be added to our model of existence, as they don’t add anything to our knowledge, and only create more confusion – swiftly dealt with concisely through the use of Occam’s Razor.

    I’m reminded of a familiar quote, when Napoleon was shown Laplace’s model of the solar system. Napoleon asked where God was located in his model?

    Laplace simply responded, “I had no need of that hypothesis.” Or, as Christopher Hitchens put it in his book God Is Not Great, “It works well enough without that idea, Your Majesty.”

    It seems to me that quantum mechanics and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle surely have shown that the universe is far more mysterious than was once imagined under the mechanized theories of the universe. That mechanized view could get a man to the moon but cannot adequately account for how the universe functions nor even what constitutes the universe as the knowledge of dark matter and dark energy have shown.

    Quantum Mechanics… didn’t they use that excuse in The Secret? Wish for something hard enough and Quantum Mechanics will make it happen? Not that there’s anything wrong with Quantum Mechanics. People just use it to bolster their wacky ideas because it is so weakly understood.

    I liken this to the “Ghost Hunters” who feel a breeze in a room and, without investigating any further, ascribe that blowing wind to “ghostly activity.” I would be very hesitant to ascribe any unknown to supernatural or Godly activity.

    We owe it to ourselves to exhaust any other natural explanation before jumping to magical thinking. It’s just like giving up. I don’t want to investigate any longer. It’s magic.

    God did not pop into existence. God is existence and has chosen to share that existence with others which includes us. Our being is in His existence.

    This would be the unfalsifiable clause; the backdoor to prevent belief systems from being invalidated.

    And this is what believers are left with. As science becomes more and more sophisticated, it’s harder and harder to find a place for God. It was easy before everyday people were allowed to read. He used to throw lightening bolts, cause disease, natural disasters, etc. Now, one must search for gaps in our knowledge and toss God in there while He’s still got some wiggle room.

    I guess there’ll always be that little bit of time right around the Big Bang that He can hang out in.

  3. Fr. Ted
    Sunday July 20, 2008 at 8:15 PM

    Extraneous ideas – By your standards so too are beauty, poetry, architecture, floral arrangements, art, music, comedy, entertainment, sports, pagentry, and any other form of human creativity. We all could live in Soviet style gray slab buildings, each wearing black clothes and suppressing anything that is not essential.

    Your assumption seems to be that the only purpose for a soul or a god is if it makes life simpler. But see my first comment in this reply.

    I think your comment that as science becomes more sophisticated there is less place for God may depend on what you think God is. You construct a straw god and then tear it down. Science rather is showing how much more sophisticated the universe is than Newtonian scientists believed.

    Your own logic – “it is magic” is itself an unfalsifiable clause.

  4. Monday July 21, 2008 at 5:07 AM

    Extraneous ideas – By your standards so too are beauty, poetry, architecture, floral arrangements, art, music, comedy, entertainment, sports, pagentry, and any other form of human creativity. We all could live in Soviet style gray slab buildings, each wearing black clothes and suppressing anything that is not essential.

    Your argument is a non sequitor. We’re dealing with the existence of God here, not beauty, poetry and floral arrangements… value judgments based on human opinion. The truth value of the existence of a God is what I’m getting at.

    You are likening the existence of God with value judgements… or, as some say, “personal truth.” Truth is not subjective. Something is true or it is not. God exists, or He doesn’t.

    Without the presence of human opinion, something such as “beauty” is meaningless. Our ability to reason is what qualifies us to give the attribute of “beauty” to an object. The concept of beauty does not exist without humans.

    And if this is the point you are making, I agree with you. Had there not been human beings, there would not have been created a God – along with beauty, poetry, floral arrangements, music, art, etc.

    It is far another thing to say that I view value judgments as “extraneous.” I am speaking only of things which make truth claims, not value judgments. If someone says God is real, He should be able to at least make logical sense… let alone be more logical, or likely than the natural explanation. The idea shouldn’t introduce more confusion.

    And, if you’d like a Bible verse for that, there’s always I Corinthians 14:33…

    For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

    Your assumption seems to be that the only purpose for a soul or a god is if it makes life simpler.

    This is not my point. My point is, positing the existence of a soul or God should answer questions about our Universe – not confuse matters. Truth should not cause confusion, and it certainly shouldn’t contradict everything we know about our Universe… not without very substantial evidence to the contrary. At least as much evidence as we have to support the natural hypothesis. And that would be just to split the difference.

    There would need to be more evidence for God than there is for the naturalistic world view – and clearly evidence is lacking.

    I think your comment that as science becomes more sophisticated there is less place for God may depend on what you think God is. You construct a straw god and then tear it down. Science rather is showing how much more sophisticated the universe is than Newtonian scientists believed.

    This makes the idea of God unfalsifiable. Any time one questions the existence of a God, you can merely say, “I don’t think that’s what God is.” And God would could easily morph to fit your ideology. This seems to be walking the line of special pleading.

    Your own logic – “it is magic” is itself an unfalsifiable clause.

    I am not claiming magic. I was speaking, in simplified terms, of the logic of believers. God uses, for lack of a better word, magic to create the Universe, answer prayers, etc. Resorting to magical thinking, instead of saying, “We don’t know the answer yet.”

    So, while it is clear that there are some things that we probably will not agree on, I think it is fair to say that, as I said before, that we owe it to ourselves to exhaust all possible natural explanations for phenomena before jumping to the supernatural explanation. Think of how many things in human history have had mundane explanations which, before science, were thought to be “divine.”

    As Hippocrates once said…

    If men called everything divine which they do not understand, why, there would be no end of divine things.

  5. Fr. Ted
    Monday July 21, 2008 at 6:26 PM

    GodKilzYou said: “We’re dealing with the existence of God here, not beauty, poetry and floral arrangements”

    But your ASSUMPTION (=your belief, not objective fact) is that God and beauty are not the same thing, or that truth and beauty are unrelated. A botanist, a chemist, a geneticist and poet each write a description of a flower. Is what the poet writes not also truth? A lover gives the flower to his beloved – does this not also express a truth? We certainly can reduce a human being down to certain elements: oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, iron. But would you say that is all that a human being is? Is there not more to being human? Sure there is – there is a molecular level, and a genetic level, and a psychological level, and an emotional level, a creative level, a social level, and a global level. Believers only say there is another level of humanity that poets and many scientists also acknowledge. It is just another claim that humans are something more than mere elements, or amino acids, or cells. Yes humans can be seen in terms of proteins or amino acids, but can that totally account for why humans create art or send spacecraft to mars or argue about whether or not there is a God?

    GKY says: “Without the presence of human opinion, something such as “beauty” is meaningless. Our ability to reason is what qualifies us to give the attribute of “beauty” to an object. The concept of beauty does not exist without humans.”

    The Romanticists would disagree with you. Again you are making many assumptions here not offering provable facts. Is it reason which “qualifies” us to attribute beauty? Do not children and the senile and the severely retarded also appreciate beauty? Your argument is not based in things that can be proven. How do you know the concept of beauty does not exist without humans? Can you prove this?

    GKY: “Truth is not subjective. Something is true or it is not. God exists, or He doesn’t.”

    While I would agree with you on this, you do betray your modernist assumptions. Post-modern thinkers would already disagree with you. Your truth claims suit well old debates but it also reveals your modernist limits – you assume there is one truth for everyone in the universe. Einstein’s Relativity belies that claim. Scientific truth is only true from some perspectives as Relativity shows. Your thinking is too rigid.

    GKY: “If someone says God is real, He should be able to at least make logical sense… let alone be more logical, or likely than the natural explanation. The idea shouldn’t introduce more confusion.”

    When Arthur Holmes introduced the idea of plate tectonics it caused great confusion in the scientific world and his ideas were totally rejected because they caused confusion. But later studies proved him correct. Quantum mechanics have introduced their own confusion. That doesn’t mean it is not true.

    GKY: “My point is, positing the existence of a soul or God should answer questions about our Universe – not confuse matters.”

    But it has for countless millions for thousands of years. It answers the question “why?” Why is there something rather than nothing? The fact that God’s existence causes more questions or confusion in you is no proof that God does not exist.

    GKY: “we owe it to ourselves to exhaust all possible natural explanations for phenomena before jumping to the supernatural explanation.”

    While your statement gives me no heartburn, I would again say this is an assumption of yours, your own belief. For many there is an assumption(a belief) that the natural explanations do not exhaust the ways in which we can encounter and understand the universe. A poet gives us insight into the truth of the meaning of a flower in a way that a geneticist does not. That believers see meaning beyond naturalistic explanations is just another way to engage the universe. You look into a microscope or a telescope with one eye and an otherwise unseen world is revealed. But the other eye is also seeing the universe and keeping the unveiling of science in another perspective. All I am saying is that believers see the world not just through the naturalistic eye of science (we do see that world), but we also do not limit ourselves to that very particular perspective.
    And yes many things that people could not explain they attributed to God or the numinous. But even those explanations grew from a desire to know the truth, not obscure it. They came up with the best explanations they could based upon their own experience and limited by their own knowledge. As “scientific” explanations proved their reliability, they replaced false beliefs. And yes believers at times have resisted science and held on to discredited explanations, but then so have scientists. That only proves that their understanding of the universe was incomplete. That is what quantum mechanics has done to Newtonian physics. There is plenty reason to believe that current scientific ideas will yield to ever more sophisticated explanations of the universe. Which is why believers can reasonably and rationally keep God in the mix. We can assume or hope or believe that in fact science will continue to debunk its mechanistic view of the universe and embrace an organic view and eventually a theistic one. The universe is far more alive and mysterious than Newtonian physics led us to believe.

    Even if we are totally controlled by our genes, and all human characteristics simply serve some advantage in natural selection, a belief in God or in some greater force in the universe is genetically ingrained in our very being and thus must serve some greater purpose. Wouldn’t you agree?

  6. Tuesday July 22, 2008 at 8:32 AM

    I recommend this author:

    http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/first-cause.htm

    He does a good job of explaining the arguments you are discussing here.

  7. Wednesday July 23, 2008 at 3:02 PM

    But your ASSUMPTION (=your belief, not objective fact) is that God and beauty are not the same thing, or that truth and beauty are unrelated. A botanist, a chemist, a geneticist and poet each write a description of a flower. Is what the poet writes not also truth? A lover gives the flower to his beloved – does this not also express a truth?

    I understand where you’re coming from, but in order for beauty to establish some type of truth value, it would have to hold true in all circumstances. Truth can’t be true only sometimes.

    For instance, I was looking the other day at pictures of atomic bomb explosions. While they were somewhat frightening to look at, they also had a certain beauty to them. Now, for someone who may have a different disposition, their opinion would be totally different about those pictures. They would not see any “beauty” in those photos.

    It’s merely an opinion. The old saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

    And what is beauty, anyway? Basically, it means pleasing to the senses. Then we come to the non sequitor argument, “Because something is pleasing to the senses, therefore there is a God.

    Unless you are saying that God is the propensity for something to be pleasing to the senses. Then I would concede that there is a God. We would then just substitute the word “beauty” for the word “God.” It would then have to be lower-case… as it changed from a proper noun to an adjective. I could simply say, “This flower is absolutely god,” instead of, “This flower is absolutely beautiful.”

    Do not children and the senile and the severely retarded also appreciate beauty? Your argument is not based in things that can be proven. How do you know the concept of beauty does not exist without humans? Can you prove this?

    Where there are senses present, those senses are capable of perceiving something which is “pleasing.” And, as I’ve said previously, “pleasing” is entirely subjective and not based on any standard which could be considered “truth.”

    So maybe it’s not just humans. Any form of life is capable of perceiving something as “beautiful.” But, I don’t think beautiful would be the proper word. More like pleasure as contrasted with pain. No living being seeks out pain (with the exception of the mentally disturbed – which makes a case for beauty being totally subjective; not a Truth).

    A poet gives us insight into the truth of the meaning of a flower in a way that a geneticist does not. That believers see meaning beyond naturalistic explanations is just another way to engage the universe.

    I disagree with your definition of Truth. A poet gives his opinion about the flower. It’s completely possible to read a poem about a flower and disagree with it, with what is says about the flower. This could be the case with someone who has bad memories associated with a certain type of flower that the poet is describing (possibly a reminder of heartbreak, etc.). This poem would not ring “true” to the reader.

    There is plenty reason to believe that current scientific ideas will yield to ever more sophisticated explanations of the universe. Which is why believers can reasonably and rationally keep God in the mix. We can assume or hope or believe that in fact science will continue to debunk its mechanistic view of the universe and embrace an organic view and eventually a theistic one.

    I guess this is the part of your philosophy that I do not understand. The trend has been that things God was supposed to be responsible for have consistently been shown to have naturalistic causes. And yet, you see it more likely that there is a God because,essentially, we don’t know everything. You can “reasonably and rationally keep God in the mix.”

    But why jump to that conclusion? For me, I see no reason to make that leap. It seems almost like you’re just using God as a placeholder for the gaps in our knowledge.

    Would I be correct in assuming that you do not accept the God of the Bible or other organized religions? It seems to me that your concept of what God is cannot be reconciled with that type of “God.”

  8. Fr. Ted
    Wednesday July 23, 2008 at 11:23 PM

    GKY wrote: “for beauty to establish some type of truth value, it would have to hold true in all circumstances. Truth can’t be true only sometimes.”

    Yes, and no. Remember Relativity – what appears to be true from certain perspectives will not be the truth as viewed from a different perspective. I was trying to find a simple graphic on the Internet which shows this truth, but didn’t find what I was looking for but you might read http://www.thebigview.com/spacetime/relativity.html where a description of how factual truth depends on one’s point of reference. This is basic physics. The example given is about 2 people playing ping pong in a moving train and how their perception of truth – how fast the ball is moving – is distinctly different from someone standing outside the passing train and watching it go by and measuring the speed of the ball. You can also watch http://www.weshow.com/uk/p/36357/einsteins_theory_of_relativity and get another view of in what manner truth/facts are dependent on one’s frame of reference. This is science, not religion. Your use of “truth” although valid as long as we are all in the same frame of reference is inadequate when you factor in the truth that there are other frames of reference which are valid. Truth/fact are and are not what they seem. Basic physics thanks to Mr. Einstein.
    So in some sense what we view as fact/truth is only true in a certain frame of reference, and yet we would not say it is opinion. I just think your definitions are too rigid and somewhat antiquated.

    Perhaps a non-scientific and non-religious example will help you to understand where I am coming from: Thomas Jefferson wrote, “We hold these truths to be self evident that all men were created equal…” Do you think this statement is true or not? Why or why not?

    GKY: “The trend has been that things God was supposed to be responsible for have consistently been shown to have naturalistic causes. And yet, you see it more likely that there is a God because, essentially, we don’t know everything.”

    I would only venture to say that things happen in the universe that do not totally make sense to me and to my logic. That doesn’t mean they aren’t following some kind of logic – it may be that it is following a logic that is beyond my grasp – greater than I am able to perceive. So I don’t conclude that the universe is just following natural cause and effect – I allow that perhaps something else is guiding these events but I am only seeing the picture partially. I might be able to explain some things by cause and effect and be satisfied with that, or I might wonder if there is some unseen mover making things work the way they do. Kind of like the discovery of the planet Uranus – Neptune was not behaving as it should and so there was a suspicion that something unseen was affecting its orbit and low and behold another planet was discovered. Of course this is an example still within natural causes. But Relativity and quantum mechanics have shown the universe behaves in strange ways which defy our understanding. And now scientists are sure that dark matter and dark energy (two things which in fact we may never be able to identify as they may be beyond any tools we can invent to measure them) must exist and would explain why the universe behaves in ways we wouldn’t predict. Again, it just tells me there may be many other forces and dimensions out there influencing our universe which we can’t detect or prove. And I would say God is in that mix. God is not in the gaps as such but is part of the matrix. In the strange way that gravity distorts time, so too the universe is far more mysterious than science can explain. But that is a good thing – it causes us to be ever curious and to seek the truth rather than treat the truth as a static known which is nothing greater than what humans can mentally construe.

    GKY:”Would I be correct in assuming that you do not accept the God of the Bible or other organized religions? It seems to me that your concept of what God is cannot be reconciled with that type of ‘God.’”

    Your assumption would be incorrect, though I would agree that I don’t hold to what I think many fundamentalists and biblical literalists mean when they say God. Basil the Great (Christian bishop of the 4th Century) wrote that any God which is comprehensible is no god at all. He meant that those who think they comprehend god end up limiting god to whatever their “greatest” thoughts are. But Basil argued (as many other believers from all kinds of traditions have) that God is not a human concept though the word God is something we humans have put on what we experience as divinity, but in doing so we all too often then try to control this God or the idea of God. He was in a tradition that says we always begin with what we know – the earth, our self, the empirical universe – and then we move into the unknown when we practice religion. In this sense, unlike what you seem to think religion is, for Basil religion opens our minds to new and exciting possibilities where questioning is valued (though for him that wasn’t the equivalent of skepticism. Skepticism always doubts whereas questioning always seeks).
    He was very comfortable with apophatic thinking – we can mostly say what God is not rather than what God is: God is not an old man sitting in the clouds, God is not pure anger, God is not controlled/limited by the space-time-gravity continuum, etc. He certainly believed we have direct encounters with God, and He defended the claims of the revelation of God found in the Christian scriptures. But he would not have been comfortable with some of the ways in which various religious groups have so narrowly defined God.

    I just think you react against a very particular form of religion which I react against as well. I am not a biblical literalist, but I do accept the bible. My faith is not threatened by the discoveries of science. I can accept the Big Bang, evolution, and a host of other theories as true. I realize science by nature is based in skepticism, but it is not only skeptical of biblical literalism, it is skeptical of the claims of science too! That is the entire basis of science – it only gives us an approximation as to how the universe works, and it is skepticism which ever refines its understanding. Scientific “truth” is always being tested and doubted – that is the scientific method! And this method does reveal from time to time that what was thought of as indisputable/objective truth in one era is proven an inadequate approximation of the truth in another. Thus Newtonian physics which worked well enough to get a man to the moon is proven to be not the total truth by quantum mechanics.

  9. Fr. Ted
    Wednesday July 23, 2008 at 11:58 PM

    Your originally commented on one of my blogs, perhaps reading some others will give you more of a sense of where I am coming from:

    http://frted.wordpress.com/2008/06/28/208/
    or
    http://frted.wordpress.com/2008/07/17/the-spontaneous-appearance-of-life-god-is-creative/
    or
    http://frted.wordpress.com/2008/06/19/the-quantum-natures-of-mind-matter-and-body-and-soul/

    I would only hope to convince you that religion does not automatically stifle creativity nor intellectual searching. Seeking the truth means dealing with difficult and complicated issues that are not always easy or even possible to balance. I would say skepticism has kept God alive for me. And I readily admit despite a belief in God, I do not believe I know all the answers. I just hope to be able to form some good questions.

  10. Saturday July 26, 2008 at 6:34 PM

    Remember Relativity – what appears to be true from certain perspectives will not be the truth as viewed from a different perspective.

    I have a pretty good handle on relativity, and I think you’re extrapolating a little too much with this. According to Relativity, yes, things are “different” depending on your perspective, but you wouldn’t see an apple in one perspective and an orange from a different perspective. It’s not that kind of a difference. It’s about difference in velocities, not differences in beauty.

    If what you’re saying is true, then I would only find something beautiful at certain velocities. I think the stars are beautiful whether I’m standing still, or if I’m going 65 mph in a car.

    It would be the same as someone who did not find beauty in an object. They would have that opinion regardless of velocity. Relativity doesn’t apply to ideas – only to objects in motion.

    I would only venture to say that things happen in the universe that do not totally make sense to me and to my logic. That doesn’t mean they aren’t following some kind of logic – it may be that it is following a logic that is beyond my grasp – greater than I am able to perceive. So I don’t conclude that the universe is just following natural cause and effect – I allow that perhaps something else is guiding these events but I am only seeing the picture partially. I might be able to explain some things by cause and effect and be satisfied with that, or I might wonder if there is some unseen mover making things work the way they do.

    But why isn’t it enough to say “I don’t know yet?” Why insert God? Yes, there are things that seem like they must have a magical explanation. But, that’s because we don’t have infinite understanding.

    Basil the Great (Christian bishop of the 4th Century) wrote that any God which is comprehensible is no god at all. He meant that those who think they comprehend god end up limiting god to whatever their “greatest” thoughts are.

    I absolutely agree with this, but, in my perspective, I apply the word Universe where Basil uses the word God.

    What I mean by that is, with the Universe being a contained system, and we humans being part of that system, we don’t possess the capability to completely understand the system we are contained in. If there is an “outside” relative to our Universe, we don’t have access to it. Therefore, it is out of the realm of our understanding. To say what is outside of that “boundary” of the Universe would be mere speculation… such as the existence of a God. There could be an infinite number of things that are “outside” of the Universe. None of them necessarily “magical.” Just things we don’t understand.

    (I think I’m borrowing a little of that from Bertrand Russell, concerning knowledge theory.)

    I suppose my underlying point is that organized religion, Christianity, Islam and all the others assert themselves as the authorities on morality and human behavior. And this is based on their alleged “truths,” the authority of their holy books. But what reason is there to accept them? They certainly don’t agree with our scientific knowledge.

    I’ve written a lot before about how you don’t need God to tell you that killing or stealing is wrong. And if God telling you it’s wrong is the only reason you think something is ethically, morally, or for any other reason – wrong, then there would really be something wrong with you.

    I don’t believe that God can make something right or wrong. Think about the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham knew that killing his son was wrong – even though it was God who told him to do it.

  11. Fr. Ted
    Tuesday July 29, 2008 at 5:21 PM

    Perhaps I am extrapolating too much on Relativity, I am not a physicist. However, Relativity and quantum mechanics would also show that what we see as “fact” (something dropping straight down or moving at an angle, does depend on perspective – yes it is related to velocity, but it changes what we think factually happened). The web site with the lightning strikes shows that – the two observers would actually see the lightning strikes happening in a different order – time, not just velocity changes.
    And then of course there is the ability of light to act as either/both wave and particle, or that particles in experiments will behave differently (“choosing “ different paths for example) depending on what the observer is watching for. “Facts” become shaped by the experiment, by the observer and even by the observed particles. I may be extrapolating too much, but those experiments show me that the universe is really different than pure Newtonian physics would lead me to believe. The truth is not limited by the facts observed.
    Why isn’t it enough to say, “I don’t know yet”? Obviously it is enough for some, and at one time was enough for me. But questions about “why?” continue to plague me, and I do believe there is meaning in life, and so I’m looking for that meaning, and “I don’t know” doesn’t always satisfy. I am intrigued by their being an overarching “intelligence” somehow at work in the universe – that human intelligence and logic is wonderful, but that there is something even more than us (or more than our smartest thinkers) or beyond our logic. I am fascinated that modern physics is showing us that there is more to the universe than we imagined. So when I wonder why there is something rather than nothing, I find God to be an intriguing answer.
    I agree that if the universe is a closed system, then what is beyond is beyond the capacity of science to discover – that is by definition the very limit of science. Science can study everything back to the first nanosecond after the Big Bang, but it can’t go any further. What was before that? That is beyond the competency of science which can only study this time-space universe.
    But that science is limited by time and space doesn’t mean that the human heart, mind, soul cannot aspire to something greater. You call such thinking speculation. Some would call it imagination. Some would say it is faith. Some would say it is nonsense. But humans do have the capacity to think beyond their current limits which certainly has inspired many great discoveries and inventions. I am willing to accept that this “beyond” offers greater meaning, though I won’t deny that it could be me putting meaning on it. But I am willing to allow that others may have had experiences of this greater beyond, and I am willing to incorporate their experience and their thinking into how I see the universe. Scripture and religion are really part of this “collective experience.” Just because I don’t or haven’t experienced something “beyond” doesn’t mean it isn’t there. That gravity can bend time as I think science has shown it does defies my logic, but apparently it is true.
    Equating religion with magical thinking isn’t completely fair since we cannot know for sure that people have not experienced some of the things they claim. I am skeptical of ghosts and aliens, but lots of people claim to have experienced such things, so I hold to my skepticism silently. I certainly have had strange dreams and also have experienced insightful inspirations which are also a little hard to explain.
    I think what you may have encountered in some religionists is something I think is dangerous in atheists as well – ideologues. These folks hold to ideas violently. And I would just point out that the followers of Hitler and Stalin (both men who were anti-religious) were ideologues and they killed in the 20th Century more people then were killed in any previous religious war. It isn’t only religion that kills –ideologues are quite willing to kill even when they are atheist or anti-religion.
    Obviously we don’t need God, but look at the two main systems of thinking, both direct descendents of the Enlightenment – Fascism and Communism – both decided they could rule the world sans God, and consider what happened: untold suffering on a scale never even imagined in human history no matter what religion came to power. Even the Inquisition killed only hundreds maybe a few thousands. But 20th Century anti-religious ideologies killed millions and caught the whole world in their conflagration.
    So we may not need God to tell us not to kill, but take God out of the human equation as these two systems did in the 20th Century and try to live on human reason alone (as those two philosophical systems did) and we see the result.
    I don’t believe in God because of what happened in the 20th Century, but neither am I convinced that a world without God is a more humane world. The experiments on humans done by the Nazis and Japanese in WWII were perfect scientific experiments, regulated by scientists, documented with scientific accuracy, but where was the moral compass?
    I think it was Einstein who said science can tell us what it is possible for humans to do, but it cannot tell us whether or not we should do these things. He thought that was the purpose of religion. Science tells us the atom bomb is doable, but it cannot tell us whether or not we should do it. That requires another kind of knowing, based in some truth which may not be measurable, quantifiable, factual or scientific – perhaps in a knowledge and logic greater than humans would, left to their own desires, embrace.

  12. Wednesday July 30, 2008 at 12:51 PM

    And I would just point out that the followers of Hitler and Stalin (both men who were anti-religious) were ideologues and they killed in the 20th Century more people then were killed in any previous religious war. It isn’t only religion that kills –ideologues are quite willing to kill even when they are atheist or anti-religion.

    While I may be willing to concede certain points prior to this quote, but I take great issue with when people use Hitler and Stalin as examples against Atheism. I think it completely illogical to use the actions of individuals of a certain “belief system” as evidence against it.

    It is no more logical than saying Christianity is “true” because of how certain people behave who believe in it.

    In fact, Hitler and Stalin exploited people’s propensity to “believe” and replaced God with their own authority and a twisted sense of nationalism, making themselves “Gods.” Hitler was, also, supported in many ways by the Catholic church. But, these are “trivial” matters in our debate and don’t really add to the discussion.

    It is a non sequitor to say that because of the actions of a select few, Atheism is bad.

    I don’t ever hear reports on television about Atheists and Agnostics fighting over a piece of land, suicide bombing each other, or any other such turmoil.

    I think it was Einstein who said science can tell us what it is possible for humans to do, but it cannot tell us whether or not we should do these things. He thought that was the purpose of religion.

    Einstein was also very adamant saying that he very much disbelieved in a “personal God” who cared at all about the personal affairs of human beings. At most, you could say he was a deist. But even that is pushing it, at least from the recent letter that was sold at an auction. He even referred to the Bible as “pretty childish.”

    The article says….

    In it, Einstein said that “the word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.”

    “For me,” he added, “the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions.”

  13. Fr. Ted
    Thursday July 31, 2008 at 9:33 AM

    I first want to thank you for the discussion and exchange of ideas, which I have appreciated.

    Linus Pauling believed massive doses of Vitamin C were good for you and he lived according to his beliefs. Not all science nor all scientists have agreed with his conclusions, but he lived according to his beliefs (and believed he had scientific support for his ideas even though not all scientists agreed with him). His actions were proof that he actually believed the “truth” (=his beliefs) he taught. The willingness of anyone to live according to their beliefs does not prove their beliefs are true (I’m agreeing with you), but it does prove that they really do believe (=they are convinced of the truth they espouse). It is something when people live in a way consistent with their beliefs. I think you would see many hedge their bets one way or another. But I think it is logical to look at the actions of individuals as one way to determine something about the belief system – as Jesus said, “you will know them by their fruits, a good tree produces good fruit.” You cannot determine everything about a belief system by looking at its members, I grant you that – many members live lives inconsistent with their belief systems. However, one can look at the actions of some members and realize that the belief system is faulty in some way. Stalin’s murderous ways were inconsistent with the worker’s paradise he supposedly was building, and yet his methods became ingrained in his followers. I would still say because they ideologues they became inhuman.
    Stalin and Hitler were both sons of Enlightenment Rationalism and they endeavored to shape a world based on their beliefs in human reason, and they rejected any traditional idea of God or religion. I am not saying they are atheism’s poster children nor that they are typical atheists, but they did live consistently with the belief that without God all things are permissible (Nietzche), and the end result was not beautiful. My point is you cannot say it is religionists who are responsible for all of the world’s problems. I don’t think theists or atheists are the problem, but rather it is ideologues who are the culprit. Taking God out of the picture does not produce the better world you hope for. Humans are quite capable of doing immense evil even when God is not in the picture. Blaming God or religion oversimplifies humanities’ problems in the same way that blaming the devil does.
    People can be militant atheists or militant rationalists or militant scientists. We don’t need religion to make us into ideologues or into oppressive people.
    And I wasn’t making any claim that atheism is bad, my point was that in itself neither is it a guarantor of good.
    You say you never hear about atheists or agnostics fighting over land or bombing each other – but that is partly because you say that Stalinists who were in fact militant atheists exploit belief. You define them out of existence. Atheistic China fought a war with atheistic Vietnam – both were communist states. China and Russia had plenty of tensions on their borders. Communist insurgencies in Asia are fighting because they are atheist communists. Really the wars in Korea and Vietnam were not religious wars, though I guess you would say these people were fighting over their beliefs, but then in that sense atheism is a belief.
    Regarding Einstein – again my point had nothing to do with what his religious beliefs were, it was how he framed science and the limits he saw regarding it. Science cannot in fact determine the “goodness” of something or if something is “evil.” That was his point. He could help the scientists bring the atom bomb into being, but he could not rely on science to answer the question “should we in fact make and then use an atom bomb?” I didn’t use him as an endorsement of religion, but as a man who understood the limits of science and scientific truth to resolve human problems. Nazi and Japanese scientists in WWII conducted totally scientific experiments on human beings with scientific precision, following the scientific method and recording the results totally objectively. But science itself could not tell them whether they should have been conducting that science. Moral and ethical issues require more than scientific facts and the scientific method to determine right and wrong. It has never been obvious to humans that all murder/killing is wrong. Morality has dawned on humans as humans endeavor to coexist in society. And religion has been part of that experience.

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