Why Do So Many Of Us Want To See the Movie God’s Not Dead?

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The Pure Flix film God’s Not Dead opened in 784 jam-packed theaters last night, averaging $10,400 per screen. For comparison, no film showing in more than five hundred theaters the previous weekend took in more than $5730 per screen, and last weekend’s top ten, on average, took in only one-third of God’s Not Dead’s first-night revenues.*

This film taps into something in the Christian psyche. What is it?

While there were reviews that came out before opening night, including mine, the real energy behind these large audiences surely came from its trailer, which was viewed some 5,000,000 times on various web locations in its first 72 hours online.

What’s sparked all this interest?

David vs. Goliath

There is a classic David-Goliath theme expressed here: the freshman takes on the professor. The lines are clearly drawn; the battle is intense. while we can’t tell from the trailer who prevails, we can at least see that he holds his own. Everyone loves it when less powerful people stand up to those who are more powerful. Everyone loves it when the underdog wins, unless its their own team that takes the beating. (No one thinks atheists comprised much of last night’s audience.)

Who wins in the end? What could winning even look like in that context? The trailer leaves us wondering: we won’t find out without seeing the movie. That’s another reason it’s drawing crowds, and I certainly don’t intend to spoil the effect by saying more.

Confidence Restored

I think there’s something more specifically Christian going on here, though. It has to do with our uncertainty about the way we hold to our own beliefs, and the way we live them out.

Christians aren’t quite sure of themselves; or rather, they’re not quite sure of God. Dallas Willard put it this way in The Divine Conspiracy:

The powerful though vague and unsubstantiated presumption is that something has been found out that renders a spiritual understanding of reality in the manner of Jesus simply foolish to those who are ‘in the know.'”

(See also my article, Has the Faith Been Found Out To Be Foolish?)

Too many churches teach what to believe and how to behave, without looking seriously at why we should believe. Atheists and skeptics say Christians accept the faith based on what they’ve been told to believe. That’s not necessarily the case, it’s certainly not always the case, but it is definitely too often the case.

So when we see a young man standing up to a professor with reasons for his faith, something inside us says, “Yes!” Yes, there are reasons to believe. Yes, our faith has a solid foundation of knowledge. Yes, there are answers even for professors we had thought were (as Willard put it) “in the know.” For those who have been disturbed by Willard’s “powerful though vague and unsubstantiated presumption” that the faith is foolish, this has to come as a welcome relief.

A Clear Witness for Christ

Christians want to share their faith, too. We have a powerful though not so vague and unsubstantiated sense of failure in our witness. Often the problem has to do with not knowing what to say; sometimes it’s simple fear. Shane Harper’s character comes across as one who is neither fearful nor tongue-tied. We want to learn from him; even more, we want to identify ourselves with a character like that.

For my part, before I saw the film I didn’t care whether Shane Harper’s character “won” in the classroom (whatever that might mean) as much as whether he spoke with truth and faithfulness. If he did that much—and if I could do the same in my own life—that would be enough. Unbelievers can do with it what they will; their responses are between them and God. I just want to represent Christ well. Shane Harper’s character speaks boldly, with power, truth, and insight. I’m not the only believer who likes to see that. I’m not the only one who wants to be that way. Most of us want that.

Real Needs, Real Questions, Real Help

This movie is “soaring” because it addresses real needs. Shane Harper’s character faces real questions.

And the questions have real answers. For those who face these questions on campus, whether the pressure you’re facing is subtle pressure or overt, Ratio Christi stands ready to help you understand the answers.

And for anyone wondering whether atheists have rational reasons to deny the faith, I suggest you read True Reason: Responding to the Irrationality of the New Atheism.

Why Do You Want to See It?

The film lives up to its trailer’s promise. Not everyone reading this wants to see it, but if you do, I really hope you get the opportunity. And I close with a question for you. I’m not asking anyone to answer unless you’ve seen the film or you want to see it. My question is, why? What attracts you to it? Why do you want to see God’s Not Dead? I’m sure I haven’t covered all the territory, and I’ll be interested to know what else you have to say.

*(The link to previous weekend sales appears to be one that will be updated from week to week. My observation here is based on figures for March 14-16, 2014. That chart covers an entire weekend, whereas the information I have for God’s Not Dead includes only Friday night. Its box office figures will likely drop somewhat over the weekend.)

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170 Responses to “ Why Do So Many Of Us Want To See the Movie God’s Not Dead? ”

  1. Right on Tom !! I actually watched last night and like you said the film lives up to its trailer’s promise. I’m also happy that they are going to release it in Latin america next month, there is a great need for Apologetics material in Spanish, we are trying to do our part to make this material available in Spanish at http://www.fundamentofirme.com God Bless Tom and thank you for all your hard work brother.

  2. Jorge,

    Thank you so much for posting the link to your Apologética website. I am a fluent Spanish speaker and am very interested in what you are doing to make materials on apologetics available to the Spanish speaking world. Dios te bendiga.

    Jenna Black

  3. Note to recent commenter: I loved what you had to say, but I didn’t want that much plot information displayed here. I trust you’ll understand.

  4. Saw this yesterday, and it was pleasant enough, with Sorbo’s acting surprisingly good (though he does resemble one of those well-dressed Satans who dominate Christian movies). It even threatened to be interesting at first (you don’t often hear Hawking and Dawkins and Bertrand Russell name-dropped at the multiplex). I don’t consider the following graf a spoiler b/c it’s such a Christian cliche:

    But 2/3 in they dropped the intellectual pretensions and brought out the intellectually bankrupt and personally offensive “angry at God” theme, as if there were actually no such thing as an intellectually convinced atheist, all just window-dressing for some deep trauma or character flaw. And since you can’t be mad at someone who doesn’t exist…checkmate, atheists! The youth group around me hooted and clapped in triumph.

    Beyond shoe-horning in Dawkins, I suspect the filmmakers didn’t bother figuring out what atheists are really like, except of course, that we’re all cynical and unhappy and don’t even really believe our own nonsense.

    A theological contradiction from the movie: While “free will” answers the problem of evil, another truth-teller speechifies that sometimes the devil lets you live a great life so you don’t have any reason to believe. How can you have free will when the devil is running your life?

    On the plus side, the Big Bang (and thus an old Earth) and even evolution are confirmed as fact.

  5. I’ve read reviews and saw the trailer for this movie and doesn’t interest me, so I won’t be watching it.

  6. Sorry, Clay. You might want to watch it again.

    1. Evolution is not confirmed as fact. In the interest of avoiding spoilers I won’t explain what was really said about it, but it was not confirmed.
    2. No one said that Sorbo’s character represented all atheists. The Dean Cain character wasn’t portrayed that way. “Amy” wasn’t either. The movie portrayed at least three different faces of atheism. How does that count as stereotyping?
    3. Do you think there is absolutely no atheist anywhere who is angry at God?
    4. Or (different question) did you think that the movie had a moral imperative to portray the archetypical atheist, the one with whom every atheist would agree about everything? That would be a strange film that tried to accomplish that.
    5. The character who spoke about the devil actually said something about letting you live a great life so you don’t realize you have a need to believe.
    6. There’s no theological contradiction between free will, as used in answering the problem of evil, and the idea that persons are subject to influences outside themselves. No one thinks that is so.

    Finally, do you think the filmmaker was stereotyping? Take a very close look, my friend, at the evidence-assumptions you’ve displayed in your own comment! You assume without evidence that the filmmakers believe there is no intellectually convinced atheist. You take it that they didn’t bother figuring out “what atheists are like” (congratulations—you accomplished two stereotypes in half a sentence there!).

    Look in the mirror.

  7. I would have appreciated one intellectually convinced atheist. None of the three “atheists” were, and my take on the Dean Cain guy was he was too absorbed in himself to think about such things and take an intellectually informed side one way or the other.

    And I didn’t even come close to saying this: “You assume without evidence that the filmmakers believe there is no intellectually convinced atheist.”

    what I said: “as if there were actually no such thing as an intellectually convinced atheist.”

    If the filmmakers do believe there is a such thing (and I suspect they reluctantly do), they certainly didn’t bother to put a single example in their movie. I can understand why. It would have lessened the pro-God propaganda to have a sincere atheist in the mix. Atheism has to be reduced to “god hate” or personal trauma or some kind of self-absorption to be a good antagonist.

    Btw, free will is what C.S.Lewis fans say to explain away the evil of the hell concept. In the actual Bible god is hardening people’s hearts and ordaining and predestining people to heaven or hell. It’s all over Romans. Or else killing them for not believing in him, which kind of lessens the charm of the concept.

    Interestingly that the movie said we also have free will in heaven…so presumably if we get tired of the singing we can leave, like Lucifer.

  8. Clay:

    But 2/3 in they dropped the intellectual pretensions and brought out the intellectually bankrupt and personally offensive “angry at God” theme, as if there were actually no such thing as an intellectually convinced atheist, all just window-dressing for some deep trauma or character flaw. And since you can’t be mad at someone who doesn’t exist…checkmate, atheists!

    I continue to be amazed at the indignation this movie has caused– indeed, the indignation it was causing even before it was released. But what is there for an atheist to be indignant about? Are we attacking his (or her) beliefs? Absolutely not. I have been told over and over again by many, many internet atheists that ATHEISM IS NOT A BELIEF! I have been told this so many times that they have me convinced that this is honestly what all atheists really believe(?) or think. (And, it does make sense, doesn’t it?) So then, what is there to be upset about? The movie, after all, is just a contrived story, a dramatization, that was created for entertainment and to make the investors some money. None of the characters are real or portray real people, so get over it.

  9. Or (different question) did you think that the movie had a moral imperative to portray the archetypical atheist, the one with whom every atheist would agree about everything? That would be a strange film that tried to accomplish that.

    And boring. The only thing this atheist could say on screen that every atheist would agree with was that she lacked belief in God or gods. That’s it! I imagine screenwriters would give this atheist one brief scene in the movie so not to bore all moviegoers with such a flat, dull and uninteresting character.

  10. At least one Christian review agrees with Clay.

    “These character portrayals of atheists and other religions will generally be found to be unbelievable by viewers, whether Christian or not. And worse still, for a professing Christian movie to portray them so unreasonably is very uncharitable. Weaker brethren may even find these portrayals believable and if so, it will do nothing to engender Christian love to those who are outside of Christ. We (Christians) do not like to be caricatured in this way, and certainly believers should apply the admonition to ‘do unto others’.”

    Source: http://creation.com/gods-not-dead-review

  11. Hi Tom,

    “A theological contradiction from the movie: While “free will” answers the problem of evil, another truth-teller speechifies that sometimes the devil lets you live a great life so you don’t have any reason to believe. How can you have free will when the devil is running your life?”

    “There’s no theological contradiction between free will, as used in answering the problem of evil, and the idea that persons are subject to influences outside themselves. No one thinks that is so.”

    While I can understand how Satan can ruin Job’s life without interfering with the free will of mankind (killing his crops, livestock, etc), I think it would be much harder to make a person successful in the same way. Success is much more dependent on interactions with other people, and if everyone has free will then things can’t be made to go the way of a particular individual.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  12. “And boring. The only thing this atheist could say on screen that every atheist would agree with was that she lacked belief in God or gods. That’s it! I imagine screenwriters would give this atheist one brief scene in the movie so not to bore all moviegoers with such a flat, dull and uninteresting character.”

    This. Drama is based on conflict. The hero and the villain are required to have goals as opposite as you can get. Mutually exclusive if possible. So the filmmakers went with the militant atheist vs the Christian. The reason there are no movies with mainstream atheists as hero or villain is that they are boring characters with nothing for an audience to get emotionally invested in.

    Cheers
    Shane

  13. Clay:

    I haven’t seen the movie but plan to tomorrow.

    “While “free will” answers the problem of evil …”

    I don’t think that free will is much of an answer to the Problem of Evil. First off, it obviously doesn’t help with natural evil (tsunamis, droughts, etc.).

    As for manmade evil (murders, rapes, and so on), we’re often told that God insists that we have free will so that we don’t love him as robots. However, I don’t see God as much of a champion of free will. When someone’s free will is violated (the victim of a violent crime, for example), God doesn’t lift a finger. “But the murderer’s free will mustn’t be violated” isn’t much of an excuse for God.

  14. Hopefully the movie will come to Australia. Non-mainstream “Christian” movies like this are rarely shown here. If they are, they tend to be restricted to just one or two cinemas in each state’s capital city.

  15. I don’t see God as much of a champion of free will. When someone’s free will is violated (the victim of a violent crime, for example), God doesn’t lift a finger. “But the murderer’s free will mustn’t be violated” isn’t much of an excuse for God.

    Is free will really free will if despite wanting to, someone cannot commit evil acts? In effect, you are proposing that people cannot help but do good. That isn’t free will at all.

    Perhaps you mean only certain acts (like murder) should be treated by God in this way? But then the same question can be asked for heinous acts that are not quite as bad as murder … and so on.

  16. Bob, RE:#17

    I reject the notion of “natural evil.” There really is no such thing and certainly the idea cannot be part of a materialist or naturalist world view. There are only natural phenomena such as tsunamis and earthquakes. If humans happen to be in their way, this is simply a fact of life. The concept of evil implies an intention to do harm, and certainly the natural events that shape and form our earth are not inherently evil. The way I look at it is this: without volcanic eruptions, there would be no Hawaii, but we are blessed to have Hawaii.

  17. I happened to be listening to the latest podcast from Ravi Zacharias (Glottalization’s Impact on Evangelism pt 1) and in it he shared a story that is quite relevant to the film. In brief:

    * He had returned from travelling (not sure when) and he sat down with a new staff member to have a chat.
    * She told Ravi that she had recently endured a tough legal battle with her erstwhile college authorities.
    * One professor was passionately anti-theistic and was apparently vocal about his dislike of Christianity in class.
    * She challenged him on this in class and was sent to the dean’s office for being disruptive
    * The dean was having none of her defence and claimed that she had been indoctrinated for 18 years in her Christian beliefs and that the college was there to educate her and out of the same beliefs.

    Ravi declined to mention the name of the college or the result of the court case.

    If my understanding of the case is correct then it would seem that there is precedent for the story behind the film.

  18. bigbird:

    Is free will really free will if despite wanting to, someone cannot commit evil acts? In effect, you are proposing that people cannot help but do good. That isn’t free will at all.

    Is my thinking that incredible? It’s how a police officer would act—free will is fine, as long as you don’t impose on others.

    Perhaps you mean only certain acts (like murder) should be treated by God in this way?

    I have little interest in composing a handbook for God to help him out with the preferred resolution of all the various moral situations. I’m simply saying that murder is one situation where God is no champion of free will. Conclusion: “God must allow free will” doesn’t get the Christian out of the Problem of Evil.

  19. Jenna:

    I reject the notion of “natural evil.”

    Agreed: there are natural things we like and those we don’t. I simply used this term because it’s common and to make the distinction that is typically made: bad stuff that is (a) caused by humans or (b) not.

    The way I look at it is this: without volcanic eruptions, there would be no Hawaii, but we are blessed to have Hawaii.

    I hear that God is very smart. He’s probably so smart that he could either make tropical islands without violence or make it so that living things are supernaturally protected.

    In the earthquake case, for example, he could clip all earthquake magnitudes at 5.0, say. That they actually follow a power law is just one more clue that God doesn’t exist.

  20. Billy Squibs:

    I haven’t yet seen the film but only the trailer. Nevertheless, I can’t imagine any college administration tolerating what I imagine the movie professor did in his class. Public humiliation for one’s personal views? Seriously?

    We can simply say that “that’s Hollywood,” and I can live with that. But is anyone saying that this is exactly the kind of experience that a Christian student has a chance of having?

  21. The movie provided light in a world full of darkness; positives in a world full of negatives; absolute truth in a world full of situational ethics, lies, spin, and cover-ups; a Christian voice in a world that wants to silence all Christians; wisdom in a world full of self-satisfied and arrogant “scholars”; courage and faith in a world full of haters and scoffers; steady assurance in a world full of doubt and anger; and selflessness and devotion to God in a world full of arrogance and self centeredness. For years, the movie industry has become more and more gleefully brutal in their hateful misrepresentation of Christiansand biblical standards. Political correctness has protected the delicate sensitivities of and demanded tolerance for every belief, race, political persuasion, personal choice, and alternate lifestyle with two exceptions – conservative traditionalists and Christians.

    I went to the movie because I was starving for honest representation of my faith, and God is Not Dead promised to provide an honest portrayal of believers. I went to the movie because I wanted to encourage the film’s producers. I went because I wanted my investment in movie tickets to add to the financial success of the movie. I wanted the movie industry to see that there is a large, un-represented group of people who are tired of the trash, the lies, the sex, and the violence that the industry has dished out for far too long. I went because, when I am surrounded by darkness, hopelessness, and lies, I am drawn to light, hope, and integrity, and this movie provided all of the above.

    Atheism puzzles me. I have to wonder why an individual would shape his identity around trying to prove that what he doesn’t believe in doesn’t exist. I don’t believe in aliens or zombies, but I feel no desire to spend my life proving that they don’t exist. It seems to me that those who argue so adamantly against the existence of God are trying to prove something to themselves. Why would they care what I believe? Why would they need to recruit others to their belief in non-belief? Say what you will, anger, bitterness, and ridicule are very much a part of the atheist mindset. Why else would they work so hard to destroy the faith, hope, and integrity of believers? Their whole belief system is based upon destroying another belief system. By definition, their designation as “atheist” identifies them as the negative – as against something rather than for something. They won’t change my mind, because I have experienced the miracle of Christ’s atonement, but I wish I could change theirs. I have no desire to ridicule them or destroy them, but I do have a desire for them to experience hope.

    We Christians know that we look crazy to the rest of the world. We’re okay with that although we do wish all non-believers could experience the joy, peace, hope, and security that we have. No one can possibly understand why we are unshakable in our faith unless they have crossed that line into belief. Once that happens, the Holy Spirit gives us assurance that what we have is real. No one can understand that unless they’ve experienced it, and no one can experience it unless they believe.

  22. Bob,

    Where I think there is a problem with your understanding about natural events that cause death and destruction is our understanding that all of creation is affected by sin. Therefor, sin’s affects aren’t limited to just people. Sin affects all of nature. So, it’s not surprising that there are natural events that cause death and destruction. In fact, it would only be surprising if there weren’t.

  23. Karen:

    Atheism puzzles me. I have to wonder why an individual would shape his identity around trying to prove that what he doesn’t believe in doesn’t exist. I don’t believe in aliens or zombies, but I feel no desire to spend my life proving that they don’t exist.

    Does belief in aliens or zombies cause harm to society? No? Then you can see why no one much cares.

    Why would they care what I believe?

    Do you keep it to yourself? Then no one cares.

    Or, do you try to change laws to allow your religion taught in science classroom (Creationism) or give yourself the right to impose your religious beliefs on others (Hobby Lobby case in front of the Supreme Court)? If so, you can see why others might want to rein that in.

    If there were nothing to react against, atheists would be pretty much invisible.

    I have no desire to ridicule them or destroy them, but I do have a desire for them to experience hope.

    Ask them if they have hope. I think their lives are just as fulfilling as yours.

  24. Bob,

    As an atheist, you don’t believe in sin at all, correct? So your point of disagreement with me about sin hardly limited to just that.

  25. “Say what you will, anger, bitterness, and ridicule are very much a part of the atheist mindset. Why else would they work so hard to destroy the faith, hope, and integrity of believers? Their whole belief system is based upon destroying another belief system.”

    I’m an atheist and none of that describes me.

    Is one of the goals of this film to convince people just how sad and nasty atheists are? Is that why all the atheist characters are such heels?

  26. That they actually follow a power law is just one more clue that God doesn’t exist.

    And the fact that there is a “power law” or natural laws of any kind is just one more clue that He does.

  27. Tom:

    Bob, I asked and answered that question here. See also the ADF’s list of related cases (more here).

    Show me a professor who demands that Christian students publicly renounce their faith. Every atheist in the country would agree with you that that’s out of line.

    If you’re simply saying that college can be tough on Christian students’ faith, I’ll agree with that. But the professor in the movie is making a specific error that no one, atheist or Christian, would put up with.

  28. BillT:

    And the fact that there is a “power law” of natural laws of any kind is just one more clue that He does.

    That natural explanations explain away the need for a God to explain them is yet more proof of God? Sorry—you’ve lost me.

  29. That natural explanations explain away the need for a God to explain them is yet more proof of God?

    Bob,

    You’re not really going with the “science disproves/obviates the need for God” thing are you? If so, the 1950’s are calling and want their arguments back. Try arguing against something theists actually believe in this century.

  30. Bob to Karen @ #29:

    “do you try to change laws to allow your religion taught in science classroom (Creationism)”

    Many Christians, like me, agree that so called “creation science” should not be taught in the classroom. However, name me one court case that has been won by any creationists in the last 50 years? It appears that it’s nothing but Bob’s paranoia that’s showing through here.

    “or [do you] give yourself the right to impose your religious beliefs on others (Hobby Lobby case in front of the Supreme Court)?”

    Who is imposing on whom here? Is it now a one way street when it comes to religious freedom? Secularism and atheism all the way? I’m sorry but freedom of religion is not the same as freedom from religion. The constitution guarantees American citizens freedom of religion. The government does not have the right to “prohibit the free exercise” of anyone’s religion. That is what is at stake in the Hobby Lobby case. Maybe you should take another look at the first amendment.

    Does anyone else get tired of these same old tired canards?

  31. Does anyone else get tired of these same old tired canards?

    Nope, not me. I so like being reminded that “God is a moral monster” that we want creationism taught in schools, that Christians are planning a theocracy, that science has done away with the need for God and that the Hobby Lobby case is about imposing our religious beliefs on others. I’m just a bit disappointed that no one has recently asked me how a donkey can talk.

  32. I haven’t yet seen the film but only the trailer. Nevertheless, I can’t imagine any college administration tolerating what I imagine the movie professor did in his class. Public humiliation for one’s personal views? Seriously?

    Your personal incredulity that such things could happen are really of no consequence. It also happens to be a particularity weak line of argument. I mentioned pointed people in the direction of the recounting of a case that sounded notably similar to the premise of the film. It wasn’t exactly the same story but then again I never claimed as much. Your response was only tangentially relevant to my comment and I would gather didn’t bother to listen to the podcast.

  33. Tom:

    The sign of it would have been your addressing the answers offered there, rather than essentially repeating your question.

    Fate seems to have condemned us, like Sisyphus, to go over the point again and again.

    You listed cases, and you discussed situations where Christians have had a tough time within universities. And I agreed that college can be tough on Christians but said that I want to see a situation just like the one in the movie.

    Do you have such an example?

  34. BillT:

    You’re not really going with the “science disproves/obviates the need for God” thing are you?

    Not quite. I’m going with: when we have an adequate natural explanation for things, the supernatural explanation has no more value.

    If so, the 1950’s are calling and want their arguments back. Try arguing against something theists actually believe in this century.

    Try arguing with a real, y’know, argument. Did I make a mistake? Could be—show me. The genetic fallacy won’t get you very far.

  35. JAD:

    Many Christians, like me, agree that so called “creation science” should not be taught in the classroom.

    Ah, a nice point of agreement.

    However, name me one court case that has been won by any creationists in the last 50 years? It appears that it’s nothing but Bob’s paranoia that’s showing through here.

    But why stop there when you can turn things acrimonious?

    To your point: Creationists have lost, not because the correct path will always be followed, but by determined, expensive efforts on the part of the rest of us. Didn’t just happen.

    Is it a one way street when it comes to religious freedom?

    I’m afraid so. The First Amendment gives individuals, including Christians and atheists, the right to say what they want in public. When it comes to other situations (government, employment, etc.), we have the right as citizens to not be imposed on.

    Them’s the rules.

    The government does not have the right to “prohibit the free exercise” of anyone’s religion.

    Guess again.

    Consider Davis v. Beason, the Supreme Court case in which polygamy was prohibited. Sorry, Mormons.

    Does anyone else get tired of these same old tired canards?

    Amen! (Though I think we’re not thinking about the same issues.)

  36. Billy Squibs:

    I can’t imagine any college administration tolerating what I imagine the movie professor did in his class.

    Yes, this is my point as well. Further, every atheist that I know would echo the Christian outrage at this kind of bullying.

  37. I’m going with: when we have an adequate natural explanation for things, the supernatural explanation has no more value.

    And this is somehow different than the “science disproves/obviates the need for God.” Bob, just using different words to say the same thing doesn’t make it different. The fact is, the existence of God and the rational, ordered universe He created makes adequate natural explanations more likely not less likely. Adequate natural explanations are just what one would expect in a created universe.

    It’s you that have to explain how all this order, all these laws, all these constants that ensure life and the very existence of the universe came from the randomness and chaos of nothing. How does all this just appear out of nowhere Bob? I’m sure you have a fascinating explanation for us.

  38. I don’t know.

    But the existence of adequate natural explanations somehow renders other possible explanations without value. For a guy who admits he doesn’t know anything at all about how all this came to be your certainly not shy about drawing conclusions. Just what are they based on Bob besides you not knowing anything?

  39. BillT:

    For a guy who admits he doesn’t know anything at all about how all this came to be your certainly not shy about drawing conclusions.

    I’m simply following the evidence. There is insufficient evidence behind the supernatural claim, so I reject it.

    But I guess that’s standing in quicksand from your standpoint?

  40. @Bob

    Is my thinking that incredible? It’s how a police officer would act—free will is fine, as long as you don’t impose on others.

    No, we don’t each have police officers assigned to us, ready to prevent us from doing all evil acts – and no-one would want to live in such a society, despite there being no crime. We accept that there is a price for being able to live in relative freedom.

    In effect, what you are proposing is no possibility of acting freely unless the act is not an evil one – which is not free will at all. If the very definition of free will includes the ability to do the wrong thing (which some philosophers dispute of course), then God must allow us to do so if he wishes us to have free will.

  41. But Bob, you weren’t taking about insufficient evidence behind the supernatural claim. That wasn’t the argument you proposed. You said because adequate natural explanations exist that supernatural explanations were without value. So, I gather we are now done with your canard regarding adequate natural explanations. As far as your belief that there is insufficient evidence behind the supernatural claim you’re welcome to believe whatever you want.

  42. bigbird:

    we don’t each have police officers assigned to us, ready to prevent us from doing all evil acts

    Uh, yeah, nor did I suggest that we do.

    In effect, what you are proposing is no possibility of acting freely unless the act is not an evil one

    Nope. I’m saying that “God values free will” is a ridiculous claim since he allows free will to be violated continually.

  43. BillT:

    you weren’t taking about insufficient evidence behind the supernatural claim.

    You claimed that I drew conclusions though I admitted to not knowing all the answers. I explained why my position is justified.

    Problem?

    You said because adequate natural explanations exist that supernatural explanations were without value.

    The plausible natural explanation beats the supernatural explanation, yes.

    So, I gather we are now done with your canard regarding adequate natural explanations.

    Hey, kids! Putting in little negative evaluations (“canard,” as we see above) is a great way to increase the animosity in the conversation. Try it with the next conversation you have and see how it goes! It’s fun!

    As far as your belief that there is insufficient evidence behind the supernatural claim you’re welcome to believe whatever you want.

    So now you’re the one changing the subject? That’s not what I said.

  44. Bob S.,

    Why? Am I obliged to have answers to the open questions of science?

    What open questions of science? The claim is that it is only within theism that the natural world including science is intelligible.

    How do universals, which are the subject of our scientific theories, exist and how do they relate to the concrete particulars that we observe? What about causation? In what way does a real connection between two events exist such that we can label one the cause of the other? How are we to understand defects and misrepresentation if reality is devoid of teleology? None of these are questions of science but unless we have some account regarding them we cannot make sense of what science is really telling us. How we answer these questions will have a definite bearing on whether God is “needed” or not. If your atheistic worldview does not consider or answer these questions I suppose that is your business, but appealing to science seems pointless unless your worldview can appropriately ground, at least, a critical realist view of science.

  45. If supernatural claims are without value because of the existence of adequate natural explanations, as you said, then what does your belief of the insufficient evidence behind the supernatural claim have to do with anything. You’re not explaining why your position is justified, you’re giving two different explanations for the same proposition. Is it the existence of adequate natural explanations or the insufficient evidence behind the supernatural claim that makes the supernatural claims without value?

  46. Melissa:

    What open questions of science?

    What caused the big bang? How did abiogenesis work? Etc.

    The claim is that it is only within theism that the natural world including science is intelligible.

    You can make that claim. I don’t find it compelling.

    How do universals, which are the subject of our scientific theories, exist and how do they relate to the concrete particulars that we observe?

    Quick answer: dunno. Why—should I know the answer to this?

    Another: Replacing one mystery (“Gee—what grounds the axioms on which all of science is built?”) with another (God) doesn’t do much to advance our learning.

    Longer answer: I’ve written in some depth about the Transcendental Argument at my blog.

    In what way does a real connection between two events exist such that we can label one the cause of the other?

    Causation doesn’t always apply at the quantum level. The universe was a quantum particle at the point of the Big Bang. Maybe it had no cause as well.

    appealing to science seems pointless unless your worldview can appropriately ground, at least, a critical realist view of science.

    See my discussion of the Transcendental Argument.

    And moving from “That’s just the way it is” to “God grounds that” doesn’t help us. It’s replacing one mystery with another.

  47. Bob S.,

    Quick answer: dunno. Why—should I know the answer to this?

    Another: Replacing one mystery (“Gee—what grounds the axioms on which all of science is built?”) with another (God) doesn’t do much to advance our learning.

    Longer answer: I’ve written in some depth about the Transcendental Argument at my blog.

    If there are aspects of our experience that lead us through philosophical arguments to the conclusion that God exists then that is evidence for God. If you do not have a valid refutation of those arguments then we can very reasonably conclude that you are blowing hot air. Now, it may be that you are unaware of how universals and the question of natural teleology and causation relate to the question of God, it seems so by the fact that you pointed me towards a series of blog posts that have nothing to say in connection with any of what I wrote, in that case it is still reasonable for us to dismiss your comments as ignorant re the actual arguments. Do you know anything about the various position on universals and what they entail?

    See my discussion of the Transcendental Argument.

    And moving from “That’s just the way it is” to “God grounds that” doesn’t help us. It’s replacing one mystery with another.

    The problem with your response is that it doesn’t even come close to addressing the actual arguments proposed. “God did it” is not the form of the arguments of say Aristotle or Aquinas but rather begin from aspects of our experience and argue for the necessary existence of a First Cause of a particular type. They do not propose that this particular thing is mysterious therefore God did it. I don’t doubt that there are apologists that make that kind of claim but many times the idea that God grounds something is made with an awareness of the actual arguments that support that claim.

  48. Melissa:

    If you do not have a valid refutation of those arguments then we can very reasonably conclude that you are blowing hot air.

    Expand on this. I don’t know what this means.

    There are many questions at the frontier of science that are, as yet, unanswered. I don’t know what caused abiogenesis, the Big Bang, and so on. Are you saying that this ignorance is relevant somehow?

    it may be that you are unaware of how universals and the question of natural teleology and causation relate to the question of God, it seems so by the fact that you pointed me towards a series of blog posts that have nothing to say in connection with any of what I wrote, in that case it is still reasonable for us to dismiss your comments as ignorant re the actual arguments.

    I wrote two posts on the transcendental argument. If that has nothing to do with what you were saying then I am indeed ignorant of what the heck you’re talking about.

    Do you know anything about the various position on universals and what they entail?

    Probably not. I’m probably just stupid.

    “God did it” is not the form of the arguments of say Aristotle or Aquinas but rather begin from aspects of our experience and argue for the necessary existence of a First Cause of a particular type. They do not propose that this particular thing is mysterious therefore God did it.

    And yet they nevertheless say that God did it. They don’t tell us how he did it—what laws of physics he broke to create the universe or what laws of physics he used that we simply don’t know about. We’re indeed no smarter after learning that God did it than before. “I don’t know” has been replaced with “God did it” and we’re no wiser—that’s the problem I’m raising.

  49. we don’t each have police officers assigned to us, ready to prevent us from doing all evil acts

    Uh, yeah, nor did I suggest that we do.

    And neither did I suggest that you suggested it. I merely extended your argument to its logical conclusion. Police officers as we have them don’t prevent us exercising our free will, even if we wish to do evil things.

    I’m saying that “God values free will” is a ridiculous claim since he allows free will to be violated continually.

    And you seem to be saying that free will should be violated continually (by God) to show that God values free will. That is a ridiculous claim.

    Either humans have free will or they do not.

  50. @Bob Seidensticker:

    Probably not. I’m probably just stupid.

    Probably, but that is your problem. The only inference *we* can draw is that you are ignorant.

    They don’t tell us how he did it—what laws of physics he broke to create the universe or what laws of physics he used that we simply don’t know about.

    Are you asking what laws of physics God used to create the laws of physics?

  51. Bob S.,

    If that has nothing to do with what you were saying then I am indeed ignorant of what the heck you’re talking about.

    That much is clear.

    And yet they nevertheless say that God did it. They don’t tell us how he did it—what laws of physics he broke to create the universe or what laws of physics he used that we simply don’t know about. We’re indeed no smarter after learning that God did it than before. “I don’t know” has been replaced with “God did it” and we’re no wiser—that’s the problem I’m raising.

    And yet despite your admitted ignorance of the actual arguments you still claim that they tell us that “I don’t know” is replaced with “God did it”.

  52. Hi Tom,

    “So Satan can do some things that are easier and some that are harder. Is that supposed to be another objection to Christian belief???”

    Is this a response to my question about how Satan could make an individual prosper without violating the free will of others s/he is interacting with?

    Sincerely
    Shane

  53. Bob, you seem to be implying that “God did it” is no advance in knowledge, regardless of whether it’s true. That can’t be right. If it’s true, then to know it is to advance in knowledge beyond, “we have no idea who or what did it.”

    Yet if I’m reading you right, you’re saying it’s not an advance in knowledge unless it’s of the form, “God did it by physical method x.” Thus, “God did it” could never count as knowledge, but “God did it by physical method x” could.

    Could you explain how it is that “God did it” could not be knowledge unless it included, “by physical method x”?

  54. Shane, you wrote in #14,

    While I can understand how Satan can ruin Job’s life without interfering with the free will of mankind (killing his crops, livestock, etc), I think it would be much harder to make a person successful in the same way.

  55. Bigbird:

    Either humans have free will or they do not.

    That’s nice. Now, shall we get back to the topic at hand?

    I’ll try one more time: saying that God values free will makes no sense since he obviously doesn’t. He allows it to be violated all the time.

  56. That’s nice. Now, shall we get back to the topic at hand?

    Quoting a sentence out of context and being patronizing is just bad manners.

    I’ll try one more time: saying that God values free will makes no sense since he obviously doesn’t. He allows it to be violated all the time.

    You have conflated two different concepts here. You seem to equate free will with being able to do whatever you want.

    At its most basic level free will means that we are free agents – that we are able to choose our own course of action. But this does not mean we can do anything we want – we are not free to violate natural laws even if we wish to, for example.

    On your view, I could argue that my free will is violated because my life is other than I want it to be.

    If all humans can choose their own course of action, then it is clearly possible for the choices of one human to impinge on another, limiting their choices in some way. This does not mean our ability to choose is suddenly removed – it means our options have become more limited.

    It is precisely because God values our free will that he does not prevent us from committing evil acts – he allows us to exercise our free will despite the consequences. Yes, that can affect others, but it does not remove our free agency, even if the choices available have been limited or altered in some way by others.

  57. If God is not the ultimate explanation why anything at all exists then what is? What is Bob’s explanation? I’m sorry maybe I have missed it.

  58. Further on free will: the question is not whether God “values” free will. The question is whether he has granted humans free will. Again there, though, the question is not whether we have unlimited free will, but whether we have any capacity at all to make morally significant free decisions.

    If God has granted humans some capacity to make morally significant free decisions, then the free will defense for the so-called logical problem of evil is valid—even if we can’t fully explain why he did so, and even if that freedom is not unlimited. Therefore limits on free will, and questions about God’s “valuing” of free will, are really quite irrelevant to this issue.

    This is true for reasons that are too long to post here but which I have written elsewhere.

  59. Bob, just by way of reminder, you wrote in #45, “I’m going with: when we have an adequate natural explanation for things, the supernatural explanation has no more value.”

    In #48, BillT asked you,

    It’s you that have to explain how all this order, all these laws, all these constants that ensure life and the very existence of the universe came from the randomness and chaos of nothing. How does all this just appear out of nowhere Bob? I’m sure you have a fascinating explanation for us.

    Your answer in #49 was,

    I doubt it: I don’t know.

    Why? Am I obliged to have answers to the open questions of science?

    Since this has seemed to be a hard point to communicate effectively, I’m going to formalize it for clarity.

    Your point in #45 seems to be:

    1. If we have an adequate natural explanation for things, the supernatural explanation has no more value.
    2. We have an adequate natural explanation for things.
    3. Therefore the supernatural explanation has no more value.

    But your point in #49 is that you doubt we have adequate natural explanations for many things, and that as far as you know, we do not. You contradict your own position (which I’ve re-written here as premise 2).If premise 2 cannot be positively maintained, then the conclusion (3) doesn’t follow, and logic would call on you to retract what you said in #45.

    (You might still have reasons to deny the value of supernatural explanations, but the one you gave in #45 could not be one of them.)

    Now, did I misrepresent your position from #45 or #49? If so then I’d like you to clarify it so we can communicate more clearly. Thanks.

  60. JAD:

    If God is not the ultimate explanation why anything at all exists then what is?

    You’re aware of the Big Bang, I’m sure. You’ll probably ask what was behind that, and science doesn’t know yet.

  61. Tom Gilson:

    I want to point back to where it started, and answer your question. No, you are not obliged to have answers to the open questions of science. Rationality does require you to acknowledge, however, that when you do not have answers to these questions, we do not have “an adequate natural explanation for things,” and therefore your reasons for saying “the supernatural explanation has no more value” are undercut.

    I never claimed that all scientific questions have been answered. I’m saying that in the case where a particular question does have a natural explanation, we must go with that. The supernatural explanation has no value.

  62. bigbird:

    he allows us to exercise our free will despite the consequences

    … and if those consequences are an infringement of free will? Then God does nothing.

    God has a rule that free will is important and must exist and that he must never infringe on it. Yes, I understand that. But let’s not imagine God as a champion of free will since it gets violated continually and he does nothing.

  63. Tom Gilson:

    Further on free will: the question is not whether God “values” free will. The question is whether he has granted humans free will.

    OK. Let’s say then that he has granted humans free will, but that he is no champion of human free will (since he lets it get violated all the time).

    If God has granted humans some capacity to make morally significant free decisions, then the free will defense for the so-called logical problem of evil is valid

    And I’ll grant that. I’m simply demanding that you acknowledge the unpleasant baggage that comes along with that claim.

  64. Bob, when you say “The supernatural explanation has no value,” you’re saying one of two things:

    1. There is definitely no supernatural explanation, or
    2. If there is a supernatural explanation, it has no value.

    There are no other logical possibilities, as far as I can see. Which is it?

    I think you’re saying my syllogistic re-formulation in #71 isn’t quite right, and I’d like to get it right so that I’m understanding you accurately.

  65. I have one more thing to add about “I never claimed that all scientific questions have been answered. I’m saying that in the case where a particular question does have a natural explanation, we must go with that.”

    I’ll be right back.

  66. I’m still wanting to clarify things. You’re saying now that where there a question has a natural explanation, the supernatural explanation has no value.

    Much of the discussion up until now, however, has been about phenomena that have no natural explanation. In your opinion, could a supernatural explanation conceivably have any value in explaining any of those phenomena, if that explanation were true?

    Again I think you’re saying one of two possible things, and I’d like to know which it is:

    1. There is definitely no supernatural explanation for anything, even for things we do not yet understand naturally, or
    2. We don’t know whether there could be some supernatural explanation for some phenomena, but if there were, it would have no value for us—not even if it were true.

    Which is it? (Am I missing a third logically possible position, based on what you’ve said so far?)

  67. Whether God is a champion of free will is rather a silly question, in my view. Champions advance a cause. Free will is a fact, not a cause. Champions push their cause forward through obstacles. God doesn’t have to push. Limitations to free will are part of nature, without which there could be no regularity in our environment, and arguably nothing even remotely like nature as we now know it. Limited free will is still free will.

    I acknowledge the unpleasant effects of sin, evil, pain, and suffering. That’s never been in dispute.

  68. God does nothing about violations of free will?

    REALLY?

    Which God are you contesting here? Whatever God it might be, I’m with you: I don’t believe in that God either!

  69. I think I said this in a different way earlier, but I’ll try it again this way.

    Free will has to do with the question, “Can a human freely make a morally significant decision or not?” If a human can do that, then that human has free will in the sense that’s relevant to this discussion. If not, then that human does not have the relevant free will. It is a binary issue: yes or no.

    So if God were to “champion” free will to the extent that we all had ten times as much free will as we have, or a thousand, or a million, the relevant question for purposes of this discussion would be binary: do we have free will or do we not? The answer would be yes if we had a lot more free will, and it would still be yes if we had just a little free will. It’s a binary matter.

    Also: if humans had a kind of “free will” that allowed them to do good things but never bad things, that would not be morally significant free will. The answer would be no: we have no morally significant freedom to choose.

  70. Bob S @ #72:

    You’re aware of the Big Bang, I’m sure. You’ll probably ask what was behind that, and science doesn’t know yet.

    Apparently you did not understand my question, Bob. Let’s try a different tack. Is there an ultimate explanation for why anything at all exists? Is that a rational question to even ask? If it is, is it possible that it can be answered?

  71. Unless Bob can conceive of all possibilities and actualize absolutely everything he wills I find it difficult to take his arguments on God and free will seriously.

    I would be more interested in the following questions.

    The first question is open to all. Is it coherent for atheists like Bob to believe in free will or even the self?

    The second question would largely be an in-house discussion, I think. What can Christians say about free will in new creation? Are we technically able to sin but the very idea would be an anathema to us? Or perhaps the possibility will be removed altogether?

  72. I’m going with: when we have an adequate natural explanation for things, the supernatural explanation has no more value.

    There may be a side to Bob’s statement I didn’t consider. Bob, if you are talking in a very limited sense about natural explanations then we may well agree. e.g., If there is a natural explanation for why the sun rises (i.e., the earth rotates) compared to s supernatural explanation. (i.e., the sun is being carried on Ra’s chariot) then the supernatural explanation has no value. Ok, we agree.

    I got the sense though you were talking on a grander scale then that and discounting the supernatural in general based on the existence of natural explanations in general. As I tried to convey, the particular fact (the sun rises) may have a natural explanation but that does not militate against the existence of the supernatural (God) in the overall.

  73. This discussion with Bob is not only frustrating but quite frankly, disagreeable.

    (1) He seems to think that God is the answer to some scientific or quasi-scientific question and that with the inevitable progress of science we can just dispense with him.

    First misunderstanding.

    (2) He seems to think that God is to be conceived in the manner of the pagan gods; a being like us, only without our limitations and with some spiffy special ultra-powers, say like superman without the cape and the ridiculous suit. And being like us, that He must elbow its way to have a share in the causal cake, a share dwindling by the day with the inevitable progress of science.

    Second misunderstanding.

    (3) As a corollary of (2), since He is a being among beings, then maybe we could trap him like we could conceivably trap the Abominable Snowman or the Loch Ness monster — watch out for Bigfoot’s footprints or just scan the whole Loch Ness lake.

    Third misunderstanding.

    (4) As a corollary of (1), since Christians are advancing a quasi-scientific hypothesis *without* having the proper scientific evidence, or even in spite of the existing scientific evidence, then they must be scientifically illiterate.

    Insulting.

    (5) Bob on the other hand, who is the poster child for epistemic humility, contents himself with saying “I do not know”. He does not know, but he does know that God did not do it, because if He did, how did He do it? Nyah Nyah.

    Ridiculous.

  74. Tom Gilson:

    could a supernatural explanation conceivably have any value in explaining any of those phenomena, if that explanation were true?

    Of course. If substantial evidence pointed to a supernatural explanation and it became the scientific consensus, I’d have no option but to accept it as the best provisional explanation of the truth.

  75. Tom Gilson:

    Whether God is a champion of free will is rather a silly question, in my view.

    Suit yourself. That God is indeed no champion for free will undercuts the free will defense for the Problem of Evil.

  76. Tom Gilson:

    Which God are you contesting here? Whatever God it might be, I’m with you: I don’t believe in that God either!

    One more soul for the Dark Lord®™ (patent pending).

    When someone is raped or murdered (that is: has their free will violated), God doesn’t step in to stop it. If you’re saying that we don’t know for a fact that God doesn’t step in, say, once a year to prevent this. Granted. But we have no good reason to imagine it. And God as the defender of free will doesn’t look like much of an argument.

  77. BillT:

    I got the sense though you were talking on a grander scale then that and discounting the supernatural in general based on the existence of natural explanations in general.

    No, that’s not what I said or meant.

  78. God has a rule that free will is important and must exist and that he must never infringe on it. Yes, I understand that. But let’s not imagine God as a champion of free will since it gets violated continually and he does nothing.

    Again (and as Tom has also pointed out), free will does not get violated continually. You are conflating two different things.

    Free will is a property of being human – the ability to make choices (including moral choices).

    Just because someone else may restrict the choices that are available does not remove the ability to make choices.

  79. Rodrigues:

    This discussion with Bob is not only frustrating but quite frankly, disagreeable.

    There’s a lot of that going around.

    (1) He seems to think that God is the answer to some scientific or quasi-scientific question and that with the inevitable progress of science we can just dispense with him.
    First misunderstanding.

    No, I’m saying that when we have a natural explanation for something, the supernatural explanation for the same thing has no more value. It’s now redundant. Of course, having no more scientific questions to answer may well never happen. And, even if we did, that wouldn’t prove that God doesn’t exist.

    First misunderstanding.

    (2) He must elbow its way to have a share in the causal cake, a share dwindling by the day with the inevitable progress of science.
    Second misunderstanding.

    The claims for God are, in theory, testable—that he created everything, that life is the way it is because of God, that miracles happen, that prayers are answered, and so on.

    Second misunderstanding.

    (3) As a corollary of (2) …

    Third misunderstanding.

    (4) since Christians are advancing a quasi-scientific hypothesis *without* having the proper scientific evidence, or even in spite of the existing scientific evidence, then they must be scientifically illiterate.
    Insulting.

    Nope.

    (5) Bob on the other hand, who is the poster child for epistemic humility, contents himself with saying “I do not know”. He does not know, but he does know that God did not do it, because if He did, how did He do it? Nyah Nyah.
    Ridiculous.

    Wrong. Since I never said this, I’m guessing this is deliberately wrong, but perhaps this was just a misreading.

    I don’t know the answer to the unanswered questions. Nor do I know that God did/didn’t do anything or that God does/doesn’t exist. Rather (and I’m not sure why this is so profound or complicated that the first time didn’t make it clear) I’m saying that we should follow the evidence. When we have a constant stream of natural explanations and our ice floe of supernatural explanations is continuously being eaten away, the evidence argues that “God exists” is hard to defend.

  80. Bob S.,

    I don’t know the answer to the unanswered questions. Nor do I know that God did/didn’t do anything or that God does/doesn’t exist. Rather (and I’m not sure why this is so profound or complicated that the first time didn’t make it clear) I’m saying that we should follow the evidence. When we have a constant stream of natural explanations and our ice floe of supernatural explanations is continuously being eaten away, the evidence argues that “God exists” is hard to defend.

    And what explanation has science given to the type of questions that are addressed by say the arguments of Aristotle, Aquinas etc. I’m not sure how your “argument” is supposed to work.

    Science has provided a lot of answers to a lot of different questions therefore … ?

    Here’s a heads up – science is very good at answering questions related to how physical things change but there are a lot of very interesting and worthwhile questions that fall outside the scientific disciplines.

    Edited to add: I agree with you that we should follow the evidence, that is exactly what we are trying to get you to do.

  81. When we have a constant stream of natural explanations and our ice floe of supernatural explanations is continuously being eaten away, the evidence argues that “God exists” is hard to defend.

    But Bob. We don’t believe that the evidences for God consist of Him as an explanation for natural events (as opposed to nature). We believe natural events have natural explanations. You seem to be arguing against evidences for God that we don’t take as evidences for God.

  82. Bob, you’re still begging the question, requiring “scientific consensus” before a supernatural explanation could be of any use to you. This is equivalent to saying there is no supernatural explanation unless it’s a natural explanation.

    Or, there’s no supernatural explanation because there’s no supernatural explanation.

    Rather circular, don’t you see?

  83. @Bob Seidensticker:

    No, I’m saying that when we have a natural explanation for something, the supernatural explanation for the same thing has no more value.

    And since I quite *explicitly* said that the questions that God answers are not scientific questions, it means that your misunderstandings persist.

    The claims for God are, in theory, testable—that he created everything, that life is the way it is because of God, that miracles happen, that prayers are answered, and so on.

    You simply have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. *If* those claims were indeed testable, there would be by now reams of scientific papers testing them. By my last count, the number of scientific papers testing those claims is exactly zero. And the reason is quite obvious — do you need me to spell it out? And if you are so sure, why don’t you apply for a grant and conduct the experiments yourself? You will be famous overnight as the man who proved scientifically that God did not create everything, that miracles do not happen, that prayers are not answered, etc.

    Third misunderstanding.

    Yep, third, and repeated, misunderstanding of yours.

    since Christians are advancing a quasi-scientific hypothesis *without* having the proper scientific evidence, or even in spite of the existing scientific evidence, then they must be scientifically illiterate.

    No what? That you are not calling Christians scientifically illiterate? I never said you were. What I said was, that your claims do imply that Christians are scientifically illiterate. If indeed as you say below the “constant stream of natural explanations” is eating away the role God, any god, would play, and apparently we Christians are blissfully unaware of such a state, how is this not scientific illiteracy?

    Wrong. Since I never said this, I’m guessing this is deliberately wrong, but perhaps this was just a misreading.

    Never said what? You do not claim that you do not know? You do. That you have not asked if He did it, then how did He do it? You did.

    Rather (and I’m not sure why this is so profound or complicated that the first time didn’t make it clear) I’m saying that we should follow the evidence.

    What evidence? You have just said that you do not know, so how is your ignorance evidence of anything other than your ignorance, which is indeed very real and very vast?

    When we have a constant stream of natural explanations and our ice floe of supernatural explanations is continuously being eaten away, the evidence argues that “God exists” is hard to defend.

    Irrelevant.

  84. Actually, G. Rodrigues, there are purportedly scientific papers purporting to test the effects of prayer.

    The day they can do that with proper controls (no one anywhere praying for the control group) and with all experimental subjects, including God, blind to which group is the experimental group and which is the control group, is the day I’ll agree that to remove “purported” from that description.

    Absent those standard scientific protocols there is no science.

  85. Melissa:

    And what explanation has science given to the type of questions that are addressed by say the arguments of Aristotle, Aquinas etc.

    We don’t go to the ancients to figure out the origin of the universe. Modern science is a more reliable source.

    Science has provided a lot of answers to a lot of different questions therefore … ?

    … let’s look to it to tell us how reality works.

    there are a lot of very interesting and worthwhile questions that fall outside the scientific disciplines.

    So therefore … ?

  86. BillT:

    We don’t believe that the evidences for God consist of Him as an explanation for natural events.

    But what are “natural events”? It’s a moving target. Ask Isaac Newton and he would’ve had all sorts of these in the “supernatural” bin.

    If you’re saying that God doesn’t do those things that God doesn’t do, I agree, but that doesn’t help us much.

    You seem to be arguing against evidences for God that we don’t take as evidences for God.

    So what do you take as evidence for God?

  87. Tom Gilson:

    Bob, you’re still begging the question, requiring “scientific consensus” before a supernatural explanation could be of any use to you.

    I’m saying that when a supernatural explanation is the scientific consensus, then I’m obliged to accept it. I said nothing about the supernatural explanation that wasn’t.

    But tell me, what do you suggest I do with a supernatural explanation?

  88. Bob S.,

    We don’t go to the ancients to figure out the origin of the universe. Modern science is a more reliable source.

    I’m sorry but you are still confused about the types of questions that the arguments for God are addressing. Plus science cannot answer questions about the origin of the universe anyway.

    … let’s look to it [science] to tell us how reality works.

    I think you need to look more carefully about what science actually is and can do. It can tell us about physical efficient causes and material causes but it would be question begging to assume that is all there is to reality (not to mention incoherent).

    So therefore … ?

    To continue to point us back to science is just avoiding very real, interesting and worthwhile questions.

  89. Bob S.,

    What questions are these?

    Philosophical questions, worldview questions, questions about what kinds of things exist and in what way. Questions of change, causation and universals, teleology … how our experience and perceptions reflect (or don’t reflect) reality. The implications of what we affirm in one area undermining other things that we consider true.

  90. @Bob Seidensticker:

    What questions are these?

    Melissa gave one example in the exact same post you are responding to.

  91. Melissa:

    Give me specific examples of the questions you’re thinking of.

    You said, “To continue to point us back to science is just avoiding very real, interesting and worthwhile questions.” OK, so we’re not talking about science. But the kinds of questions you’re pointing to may very well be ones that science could say something about.

    I do fear, however, that this is taking us to a tangent in which I have little interest. I’m interested in your list, but I may let you wrestle with those on your own.

  92. So what do you take as evidence for God?

    Bob,

    Big category but I’m sure you’ve heard of empirical arguments like Aquinas’ Five Ways and deductive arguments like the ontological argument and arguments like the argument from reason and the argument from morality and the teleological argument for God. This is what we generally look to for evidence of God not God as a specific explanation for specific natural events.

  93. BillT:

    So what do you take as evidence for God?

    Yes, I’ve heard the arguments. Don’t think much of them.

    If you’re asking what hypothetically would convince me, not much, given the brain’s fallible nature. I’ve written more here.

  94. What questions are these?

    You just asked one (what real, interesting and worthwhile questions are there outside science?).

  95. We don’t go to the ancients to figure out the origin of the universe. Modern science is a more reliable source.

    Genesis has always said the universe had a beginning. How long has modern science said that for?

  96. Bob S.,

    I do fear, however, that this is taking us to a tangent in which I have little interest.

    And that is why this discussion will go nowhere. You aren’t interested in the reasons why we believe God exists. You claim to know what the arguments of Aquinas are but going by what you’ve written here you don’t (or to be more precise you don’t understand the questions and the metaphysics that preceded the arguments).

    But here’s a particular question just as you asked: Is the concept of causation and explanation completely exhausted by explanation and causes as described by the sciences. If so, in what way is there a connection between any two effects?

  97. Yes, I’ve heard the arguments. Don’t think much of them.

    Well Bob, then by all means don’t believe them. However, please don’t invent evidences for God and attribute them to us.

  98. bigbird:

    Genesis has always said the universe had a beginning. How long has modern science said that for?

    Indeed, that argument was raised in the movie. I didn’t find it any more compelling there. No science has ever come out of the Bible. At best, apologists today try to find it there, after the fact. I don’t have much interest in that project.

  99. Melissa:

    And that is why this discussion will go nowhere. You aren’t interested in the reasons why we believe God exists.

    Actually, that’s precisely what I’m interested in.

    You claim to know what the arguments of Aquinas are but going by what you’ve written here you don’t

    “You don’t understand Aquinas, so why am I bothering with you?” Is that it?

    Is the concept of causation and explanation completely exhausted by explanation and causes as described by the sciences. If so, in what way is there a connection between any two effects?

    Dunno. It sounds like we now in the smoke screen phase, where you throw up brain teasers and demand that they be answered scientifically, otherwise you win.

  100. I’m not sure what offense I’m being accused of here.

    Bob,

    You’re arguing that we see God as a specific explanation for specific natural events. You said that “When….supernatural explanations is continuously being eaten away, the evidence argues that “God exists” is hard to defend.”

    Again, these are not things we consider evidences for God.

    We just has this exchange in #108/109. The existence of natural explanations for natural things says nothing about God nor is it part of the arguments we use for the existence of God. How hard is this?

  101. Indeed, that argument was raised in the movie. I didn’t find it any more compelling there. No science has ever come out of the Bible.

    The Bible is not a scientific textbook, and shouldn’t be treated as one. Nonetheless, for thousands of years it has claimed that the universe had a beginning, contrary to scientific consensus for most of that time.

    You may not find it “compelling” (no surprise), but that does not mean it is insignificant. Georges Lemaître was a Catholic priest, and when he proposed the Big Bang some cosmologists complained religious ideas were being smuggled into physics.

  102. Bob S.,

    Actually, that’s precisely what I’m interested in.

    You say that, but contradict it with the rest of what you write.

    “You don’t understand Aquinas, so why am I bothering with you?” Is that it?

    No. It’s more like “you don’t understand the arguments and show no indication that you are interested in remedying that, so why am I bothering with you.”

    Dunno. It sounds like we now in the smoke screen phase, where you throw up brain teasers and demand that they be answered scientifically, otherwise you win.

    No Bob, I am raising questions that are worth thinking about and considering. I am certainly not demanding that you answer them scientifically, but I am saying that if you want to understand why we believe in God you need to be ready to seriously think about the answers to difficult non-scientific questions. Our answers to these questions will have implications for our other beliefs, including our beliefs about God.

  103. I thought I knew Mr. Seidensticker from somewhere. Here he is advancing the Powerful argument from the Flying Spaghetti Monster. And in here, we find:

    That’s a thoughtful offer, but I’m fed up with this place, I’m afraid. I apologize for the harsh critique, but I’ve found the ratio of thoughtful content to hot air and outrage to be too low.

    Maybe I’ll drop by in the future and have more success with another post.

    Mr. Seidensticker did fulfill his threat; even in the same thread. I just wonder what leads a man that finds “the ratio of thoughtful content to hot air and outrage to be too low” to try his hand again. Boredom?

  104. Well, so far, at least as far as I can see, Bob believes in atheism on faith– and a very fideistic kind of faith at that (how ironic). He certainly hasn’t been willing to honestly engage in any of the arguments that have been presented here. I don’t want to say that Bob has been bluffing but…

    Of course, if Bob wants to say that atheism is just a lack of belief in God or gods, well okay. But that does nothing to address the issue whether or not theists are rationally justified in holding to what they believe.

  105. BillT:

    Again, these are not things we consider evidences for God. … How hard is this?

    Pretty hard. I’m having a difficult time wrapping my head around the fact that you get to speak for all Christians.

    For many Christians (not you, apparently), I thought that God was seen to enter our world. God created the universe, for example. For those Christians, at least, showing a natural explanation means that the supernatural one was redundant.

  106. bigbird:

    The Bible is not a scientific textbook, and shouldn’t be treated as one. Nonetheless, for thousands of years it has claimed that the universe had a beginning, contrary to scientific consensus for most of that time.

    I think I can be forgiven for seeing a contradiction here. We should not go to the Bible for science. And we should.

  107. Melissa:

    I am saying that if you want to understand why we believe in God you need to be ready to seriously think about the answers to difficult non-scientific questions.

    Though I apparently don’t meet your standards, I am well acquainted with these ideas.

    Knowing why you believe is useful. I’m more interested in what reasons you think are compelling and perhaps even binding on others (like me). Would this be Aquinas’s Five Ways? Or are other arguments in this list?

    Are these the reasons that you are a Christian? If not, why should they be compelling to me, and what are the reasons why you’re a Christian?

  108. Rodrigues:

    Mr. Seidensticker did fulfill his threat; even in the same thread. I just wonder what leads a man that finds “the ratio of thoughtful content to hot air and outrage to be too low” to try his hand again. Boredom?

    I bask in the warmth of Christian love. Give me the reason for the hope that is within you, ’cause I want a piece of that.

  109. JAD:

    He certainly hasn’t been willing to honestly engage in any of the arguments that have been presented here. I don’t want to say that Bob has been bluffing but…

    I’ve done the best that I could. I gave you my A game, but apparently my A is a fail in your mind.

    That’s a clever technique—I’ll have to remember it. Just dismiss an argument as flabby and, like the ontological argument that brings God into existence with a thought, it’s as you wish.

    Show us how it’s done. Give me the reasons to believe that God exists.

  110. The Bible is not a scientific textbook, and shouldn’t be treated as one. Nonetheless, for thousands of years it has claimed that the universe had a beginning, contrary to scientific consensus for most of that time.

    I think I can be forgiven for seeing a contradiction here. We should not go to the Bible for science. And we should.

    I said the Bible is not a scientific textbook. It is an account of God’s relationship to humanity.

    It does, however, contain metaphysical truths, like the claim that the universe had a beginning. And that God was responsible for it.

    These are primarily metaphysical claims, not scientific claims – but they obviously overlap with science.

  111. Bob S.,

    Knowing why you believe is useful. I’m more interested in what reasons you think are compelling and perhaps even binding on others (like me). Would this be Aquinas’s Five Ways? Or are other arguments in this list?

    Are these the reasons that you are a Christian? If not, why should they be compelling to me, and what are the reasons why you’re a Christian?

    So far in this thread I have been referring only to a belief in God solely based on general revelation, the specifically Christian beliefs of the incarnation, resurrection etc are supported by different reasons.

    What I think is that our experience of reality (including our science) is unintelligible if we deny teleology. Causation itself becomes problematic in the absence of formal and final causes. Our thought is most obviously problematic and materialistic explanations inevitably presuppose teleology in their reliance on concepts such as representations, misinformation etc. For this reason I think it is incoherent to deny teleology in nature. I personally lean towards natural teleology immanent in natural things but if we affirm natural teleology it is difficult to see how to avoid the conclusion of Aquinas’ Fifth Way.

  112. Melissa:

    What I think is that our experience of reality (including our science) is unintelligible if we deny teleology.

    Not much common ground here. I see little evidence for design. In fact, DNA alone is enough to sink the Design Hypothesis (more here).

    Causation itself becomes problematic in the absence of formal and final causes.

    Does everything have a cause? The Copenhagen interpretation says No. This is the problem with using philosophy at the frontier of science.

  113. Bob S.,

    Not much common ground here. I see little evidence for design. In fact, DNA alone is enough to sink the Design Hypothesis (more here).

    You persist in thinking that you know what the argument is and have already considered it while continuing to demonstrate that you do not. When I refer to teleology I do not mean of the type that is characterised by Paley style design arguments which you probably could have had a clue to if you had taken into account the sentences following what you have quoted.

    Does everything have a cause? The Copenhagen interpretation says No. This is the problem with using philosophy at the frontier of science.

    Hang on, I’m considering one question but you raise an entirely different one. Part of good critical thinking is to know what the question is and to understand what is relevant. You do not.

    … but the Copenhagen Intepretation is just one interpretation . QM might show that some events do not have a deterministic efficient cause, to which I shrug my shoulders and say, so what?

  114. I see little evidence for design.

    Do you see biological defects in the human body? If so, then you are seeing evidence of teleology.

  115. Melissa:

    You persist in thinking that you know what the argument is and have already considered it while continuing to demonstrate that you do not.

    What fun! I do my best to move the discussion along by trying to anticipate where you’re going. But instead of correcting where that goes wrong, you get to scold my ignorance.

    Love it!

    you probably could have had a clue to if you had taken into account the sentences following what you have quoted.

    I fear that you give me too much credit, and now I feel compelled to apologize both for my presumptuousness and my ignorance.

    Hang on, I’m considering one question but you raise an entirely different one.

    Dang my imperfect clairvoyance!

    Part of good critical thinking is to know what the question is and to understand what is relevant. You do not.

    I’m unworthy, and I’m in awe of your patience. And condescension.

    but the Copenhagen Intepretation is just one interpretation

    It is indeed. I can’t say that things for sure can’t have causes; likewise, you can’t say that things for sure do.

  116. SteveK:

    Do you see biological defects in the human body? If so, then you are seeing evidence of teleology.

    Wouldn’t that be evidence of dysteleology? Or is that your point?

  117. Bob S.,

    But instead of correcting where that goes wrong

    To repeat you are wrong in thinking that when I refer to teleology I mean Paley style design.

    I fear that you give me too much credit,

    Yes well that may have been true. I am referring to formal and final causes or natural things having natures and being directed towards natural ends.

    Dang my imperfect clairvoyance!

    I guess it must be a little disconcerting to find that I was not raising a subject relevant to your preprepared answers.

    It is indeed. I can’t say that things for sure can’t have causes; likewise, you can’t say that things for sure do.

    You might want to continue reading below the sentence quoted.

  118. For many Christians (not you, apparently), I thought that God was seen to enter our world. God created the universe, for example. For those Christians, at least, showing a natural explanation means that the supernatural one was redundant.

    Really Bob? I mentioned a number of times that creation in general (either of life or the universe) as an exception to my point (which, of course, you admitted having no explanation for whatsoever). I also repeated over and over that I was addressing specific explanations for specific natural events you agreed you were. Not to mention the red herring “speaking for all Christians” is given my explanations of our arguments for God.

    Here’s a question for you Bob. Is your personal integrity of any value to you? If so, ignoring what I said and changing what you said and engaging in childish word games isn’t a very good way of showing it.

  119. Bob, your answer in 101 doesn’t relieve you of the very obvious logical fallacy you’re committing, which I pointed out to you in #96.

    You ask what I suggest you do with a supernatural explanation? I have two suggestions. First, drop your fallacious reasoning, repeatedly identified here. You do yourself no favors, logically or otherwise, by reasoning in a circular manner.

    Second, discover it, if there is one. I think there is, and that there is much more to “do” with it beyond discovery. But I don’t know how to explain that to you while you’re still stuck in the idea that if a supernatural explanation exists then it is not a supernatural explanation. So I’ll go short on my second answer here while I wait for you to respond to my first one.

  120. @ 127

    It does, however, contain metaphysical truths, like the claim that the universe had a beginning. And that God was responsible for it.

    These are primarily metaphysical claims, not scientific claims – but they obviously overlap with science.

    Nonsense. Scripture is revealed knowledge–it most certainly is not reasoned to knowledge (even though one can, in the light of human reason alone, soundly argue to the existence of an Unmoved Mover, etc.). However, whether one wants to believe it or not, one can NOT argue (in the light of human reason alone) to a beginning.

    It’s the same sloppy view Craig and others (like IDers) share: that natural scientific truths give one direct access to metaphysical ones. It’s the view that degrades a properly cosmological argument down to a temporal scientific one. One should start with fundamental observations of the real world and then from there reason through philosophical arguments to higher verities which are foundational. Said another way, one’s knowledge of higher philosophical verities starts from natural scientific knowledge but then is mediated by the process of philosophical reasoning: there is no direct path, there is no “passing GO”. (Intuitive knowledge of First Principles notwithstanding, by the way.)

    This is NOT an issue of demarcating bounds through trite throw-away phrases like “obviously overlap”–it’s an issue, ultimately, about the efficacy of human reason and the ability to distinguish the proper objects (subject matters) of each particular science. The subject matter of metaphysics, as a science, is “being as being” or the first and ultimate causes of things. (Some may deny this, but that’s their problem.) For example, free will is NOT a per se metaphysical problem, although it draws upon metaphysical concepts: free will is studied by the philosophy of man (or, perhaps in a broader sense, the philosophy of rational agents). Similarly, a temporal cause is NOT an atemporal cause in much more of a way than the obvious wording seems to imply.

    The grand irony is the constant unnecessary pressure to present difficult subjects, as much as possible, through a natural scientific lens. Ugh!

  121. Bob @133,

    Wouldn’t that be evidence of dysteleology?

    See 137 and 138. Modern medicine is based on the philosophical idea that teleology is evidently very real. Medicine fixes/corrects imperfections, right?

  122. SteveK:

    A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.

    And you imagine an objective source for this? If we’re talking about morality, I think that our sharing morality (we’re all the same species, after all) explains things pretty well.

  123. SteveK:

    Medicine fixes/corrects imperfections, right?

    Imperfects as seen from our viewpoint, sure. We have goals and standards because we’re intelligent beings. But to apply that intelligent view to the organism itself makes no sense.

    “We see imperfections; therefore there must’ve been a designer who (deliberately?) made this imperfect” fails in the same way that the C.S. Lewis quote fails: the natural explanation is adequate.

  124. Tom Gilson:

    Bob, your answer in 101 doesn’t relieve you of the very obvious logical fallacy you’re committing, which I pointed out to you in #96.

    Not obvious to me. Let’s see what you said in 96:

    Bob, you’re still begging the question, requiring “scientific consensus” before a supernatural explanation could be of any use to you. This is equivalent to saying there is no supernatural explanation unless it’s a natural explanation.

    Nope, not begging the question. If you want to blunder forward where scientists fear to tread, go for it. My own approach is to correct for my own fallible thinking by crowdsourcing the problem. When the consensus of the people qualified to evaluate the evidence (not me) say that ghosts exist or unicorns exist or we can talk to the dead or Jesus was resurrected or that any other supernatural claim is true, I’m there.

    We could define “that which is the scientific consensus” as “natural” if you want. In this case, no logical fallacy.

    I have two suggestions. First, drop your fallacious reasoning, repeatedly identified here. You do yourself no favors, logically or otherwise, by reasoning in a circular manner.

    While we’re sharing advice, let me offer some: make really, really sure that you’ve correctly identified an error before you accuse someone of making it. The temperature of this conversation from some quarters is already hot enough, and making accusations like this doesn’t help.

  125. Tom Gilson:

    Bob, are evidences of dysteleology not evidences of teleology?

    “Dysteleology” is simply a judgment that we make. It’s an opinion from one perspective, not an objective truth. Evolution made us the way we are in a blind, clumsy way by culling the less fit. There’s no wise guiding hand.

    The human body is kind of marvelous, and kind of a Rube Goldberg machine. You’re probably aware of the recurrent laryngeal nerve, one of the best examples of the make-do nature of life. There’s a good video of Richard Dawkins doing a dissection of a giraffe’s neck to show this nerve’s circuitous route.

  126. @142 & 143:

    The usual breathtakingly inane, atheist-inspired, pseudo-philosophical drivel.

    If you had the smallest clue, Bob, that “perfection” is an analogous terms that can have nothing to do with values or morality… or nothing to do with mechanical “fix-ups” from the perspective of medicine, you might then be able to stop for a moment and do some actual thinking.

    Perfection is a philosophical term of art that has to do with the orderly (i.e., non-chaotic, i.e., not-without cause) aspect of Nature and natures, in other words, with ends (telos) understood either as simple termination, perfection, or intentio.

    Based on your MO here, however, no one should hold their breaths waiting for you to actually explore substantive issues in depth. Why think when scientistic arrogance maintains your comfort zone?

  127. Holopupenko:

    Based on your MO here, however, no one should hold their breaths waiting for you to actually explore substantive issues in depth. Why think when scientistic arrogance maintains your comfort zone?

    Why inform when it’s so much more fun to vent, eh? Love it!

    It’s a marvel that you’ve been as patient as you have been. “Thank you, sir, may I have another?” and all that.

  128. Bob, your opinion on what dysteleology is, is duly noted.

    Your progression from “evidences of dysteleology” (#133) to “there’s no such thing in reality as dysteleology” is also duly noted. Therefore “defects in the human body” (#133) may in fact be evidences (you said it, not me!) of something that doesn’t exist in reality.

    I don’t think that’s what you really meant. Could you clarify?

  129. Here’s how you excise yourself from the charge of question-begging, in your comment #144.

    1. Nope. (That’s a start, I’ll grant you.)
    2. Scientists are the best source of information.
    Which is begging the question still, in exactly the way it was identified earlier.
    3. Crowd-sourcing is a great idea,
    But you know as well as I do that crowd-sourcing would probably lead to the conclusion that God is real, except you add,
    4. We can only look to people qualified to evaluate the evidence.
    whom you do not identify.

    If you can identify that group without resorting to something that returns recursively upon an assumption of scientific naturalism, then I’ll modify my opinion of your argument. Otherwise, however, you’re still reasoning in a very clearly circular manner.

    I accept your advice in your final paragraph, and unless you can provide us with a better answer, I continue to maintain you’re practicing circular reasoning.

    If you want to tone down the discussion, you might be careful using loaded language like “accusation.”

  130. Regarding your last response to Holopupenko, Bob, would you please review what you’ve said yourself in prior comments, indicating your lack of knowledge and/or interest in various arguments. (Would you like me to detail the locations?)

  131. Bob,
    Your reply here about medicine’s ability to fix imperfections is troubling.

    Imperfects as seen from our viewpoint, sure. We have goals and standards because we’re intelligent beings. But to apply that intelligent view to the organism itself makes no sense.

    You’re saying that medicine doesn’t really resolve imperfections, because there aren’t any that need resolving. It’s only fixing them in the subjective sense. In other words, human beings are subjectively sick, but not objectively sick. Wow!

  132. So, on Bob’s view, a disordered human desire isn’t really disordered. It’s only disordered “as seen from our viewpoint”, but to apply that view of reality to the organism itself “makes no sense”.

    Which brings us to a conundrum….if our mind sees a disorder that isn’t there, is our mind functioning improperly? No, because that would require actual teleology in nature.

    Naturalism = anti-realism

  133. Speaking of the tone of the discussion, I want to express my respectful appreciation to you for hanging in here amid such pressure.

    Speaking also of the tone of the discussion, how does the language here compare to this, on your blog, or this? (Parental guidance warning for both of those links). How does it stand up against your own dismissiveness here or here?

    If you’re offering advice, listen to your own.

  134. I’m sorry you have no idea what I’m talking about, Bob. I just took your words from two comments and elided them according to your definitions of those words.

  135. I’ll detail it more carefully:

    In #133 you suggest that human physical defects are evidences for dysteleology.

    In #145 you define dysteleology in terms of subjective judgment. It’s “not an objective truth.”

    So I think you’re saying that human physical defects are evidences for something that can only be regarded subjectively, and which is not an objective truth.

    Is that what you mean to say? (Just trying to clarify.)

  136. @Melissa:

    … but the Copenhagen Intepretation is just one interpretation.

    And says nothing about formal or final causation. And there is no monolithic Copenhagen interpretation anyway, not even a formally stated one, not even a consistently held interpretation by a single person. And if you pick out say, Bohr and for example, read his paper “Causality and Complementarity” from 1937 (based on a lecture given the year before), you will quickly find out that nowhere does he state there is no such thing as causality at the atomic level and that he is quite adamant that the only appropriate interpretation of the QM formalism amounts only to predictions (whether determinate or statistic). Indeed, it would be quite surprising to read Bohr advancing such a substantial metaphysical thesis, since he was an anti-realist and instrumentalist about physical theories, and was heavily influenced by the anti-metaphysical bias of the positivism and neo-Kantianism of the times. And even if he did, it would still be Philosophy, so it is hard to see what consolations could Mr. Seidensticker derive from it.

  137. I want to express my respectful appreciation to you for hanging in here amid such pressure

    That’s a worthy sentiment, Tom. Even though Bob’s presence seems to coincide with heightened levels of anger expressed in the locals (and I’ll let individuals be the judge of why this is) I can at least admire his endurance.

  138. Endurance is a good thing only in a person of objectively good character. A person who acts virtuously does great things excellently; a person who acts viciously (i.e., vice) is driven by bad reasoning and acts, well, badly. Bob can’t seem to hold an argument without descending into fallacy… and then can’t even recognize that. So, can you trust his “reasoning” to provide an objective good to his will… and “endure”? Perhaps. But, recall, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Just sayin…

  139. @Holopupenko

    Nonsense. Scripture is revealed knowledge–it most certainly is not reasoned to knowledge (even though one can, in the light of human reason alone, soundly argue to the existence of an Unmoved Mover, etc.).

    “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” is revealed knowledge, but it is still a metaphysical claim.

    However, whether one wants to believe it or not, one can NOT argue (in the light of human reason alone) to a beginning.

    I don’t believe it. If you can argue in the light of human reason alone for an eternal universe, you can argue for a universe that is not eternal.

    It’s the same sloppy view Craig and others (like IDers) share: that natural scientific truths give one direct access to metaphysical ones.

    I suppose it depends on how sloppily and vaguely you use the term “direct access”.

    This is NOT an issue of demarcating bounds through trite throw-away phrases like “obviously overlap”–it’s an issue, ultimately, about the efficacy of human reason and the ability to distinguish the proper objects (subject matters) of each particular science.

    Of course they overlap – metaphysical cosmology is a branch of metaphysics.

    The subject matter of metaphysics, as a science, is “being as being” or the first and ultimate causes of things. (Some may deny this, but that’s their problem.) For example, free will is NOT a per se metaphysical problem, although it draws upon metaphysical concepts: free will is studied by the philosophy of man (or, perhaps in a broader sense, the philosophy of rational agents).

    The subject matter of metaphysics is not that simple to define, which is why many metaphysics texts devote a chapter to trying to explain what metaphysics actually is. Free will and determinism are certainly metaphysical problems, according to every metaphysics text that I’ve read.

  140. Christians aren’t the only people who are frustrated with the shallow thinking of “new” atheists like Bob S. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, appears to share the same frustrations.

    “Whatever happened to the intellectual depth of the serious atheists,” he writes in a June 2013 article for The Spectator, “the forcefulness of Hobbes, the passion of Spinoza, the wit of Voltaire, the world-shattering profundity of Nietzsche? Where is there the remotest sense that they have grappled with the real issues, which have nothing to do with science and the literal meaning of scripture and everything to do with the meaningfulness or otherwise of human life, the existence or non-existence of an objective moral order, the truth or falsity of the idea of human freedom, and the ability or inability of society to survive without the rituals, narratives and shared practices that create and sustain the social bond?”
    http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/8932301/atheism-has-failed-only-religion-can-fight-the-barbarians/

  141. @160: Nonsense dressed up with pseudo-intellectual yet pretty-sounding assertions (“I don’t believe it… I suppose it depends… Of course they overlap…”) or evasions (“… metaphysics is not that simple to define …”) is still nonsense. There’s this: “’In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’… is still a metaphysical claim”?!? #Clueless. And this: “… according to every metaphysics text I’ve ever read…” pretty much says it all: you’re hiding behind alleged ambiguities (based on ignorance) so as to pull everything into a caricature of metaphysics to serve certain emotional commitments. You’re not taking lessons from Bob, are you?

  142. Hi Tom,

    “Shane, you wrote in #14,

    “While I can understand how Satan can ruin Job’s life without interfering with the free will of mankind (killing his crops, livestock, etc), I think it would be much harder to make a person successful in the same way.”

    Yes. Affecting things with no free will and I guess killing people is easy enough. But as I said, success depends on interactions with other people. These other people have free will. How can people be made successful without compromising the free will of the other people?

    Cheers
    Shane

  143. Bob:
    “Evolution made us the way we are in a blind, clumsy way by culling the less fit.”

    Well, natural selection does that. There’s also drift, which doesn’t involve selection.

    SteveK to Bob:
    “You’re saying that medicine doesn’t really resolve imperfections, because there aren’t any that need resolving.”

    I didn’t see that “because” clause in anything Bob wrote, Steve.

    If an antibiotic wipes out a bacterial infection, didn’t we merely choose between “intelligently-designed” organisms? And what if the antibiotic ends up killing the patient via pseudomembranous colitis, in which other intelligently-designed bacteria fill in the niche caused by the antibiotic treatment?

  144. Nonsense dressed up with pseudo-intellectual yet pretty-sounding assertions (“I don’t believe it… I suppose it depends… Of course they overlap…”) or evasions (“… metaphysics is not that simple to define …”) is still nonsense.

    Step back a little and take a look at your postings. They are arrogant, rude, and full of absurd assertions, the quote above being an excellent example. They certainly are not persuasive.

    you’re hiding behind alleged ambiguities (based on ignorance) so as to pull everything into a caricature of metaphysics to serve certain emotional commitments.

    At least now you are making me laugh, so that’s something.

    Having read them both, I recommend Crane & Farkas “Metaphysics a guide and anthology”, and Lowe’s “A survey of metaphysics” to get you up to speed on metaphysics.

  145. Dutch,

    I didn’t see that “because” clause in anything Bob wrote, Steve.

    Okay. Tell me how removing that word changes anything.

    “You’re saying that medicine doesn’t really resolve imperfections, there aren’t any that need resolving.”

  146. My beliefs are really very simple. Unless an atheist can prove or demonstrate to me in a very convincing fashion that the universe, operating as an ontologically closed system, is sufficient to generate life, mind and consciousness by itself, I am perfectly warranted in believing that the explanation is something else that transcends the universe as we know it.

    Resorting to bad logic, ridicule and contempt is not going to convince me that an alternative explanation is rational or viable. People who truly have rational explanations do not have to resort to those kinds of tactics.

  147. Bob,
    I hope you are still around. I really am interested to hear your reply to Tom’s comment in #156 and my comment in #151.

    It really does *seem* like you are saying that medicine doesn’t objectively resolve, or fix, imperfections in the body. I find that so hard to believe that I really am hoping you will clarify.

  148. I have been a christian for over half a century and have been attending bible study for several years. Its all about free will and we as an open minded group are still grappling with it. Lets say you were God and you made a bunch of people. Now you want them to love you, (those of us who are in a relationship where we would give our life for our mate understand love), unconditional and understanding. Now I ask you how would you do it if you were God?

  149. Armen, RE: #169

    You ask, “… how would you do it if you were God?” The “it” you refer to is to if I understand correctly is to make your creatures want to love you (God). May I ever so gently suggest that perhaps your underlying question could be phrase differently? First, we need to explore what it means for God to love us and second, we must explore what it means for us to love God.

    For me, God’s love for us is obvious and unquestionable. Jesus gives us the metaphor or analogy of God as Father. All healthy, moral human fathers love their children. We recognize the many ways in which this love is manifested and expressed: care, guidance, protection, support for our becoming our fully fulfilled selves as humans, communication, interaction, affirmation, and yes, even punishment when necessary to set us on the right path when we go astray, and forgiveness when we do stray (sin). We know what it is like to love what we create from our experiences as creators (with a lower case letter “c”).

    Based on our experiences with love as humans and children of God, we can then come to understand what it means to love God. For me, love of God is first and foremost a true love for all of God’s creation and all of God’s creatures, including myself and my fellow human beings. Then my love of God is manifest and expressed through my response to God’s love in everything I think, feel and do with my life. Is the way I live pleasing to God? When the answer is no, it is up to me to get right with God as a response to His love for me and all of His creation.

    There are atheists who we interact with who attempt to convince us that the command to love God is unreasonable because God is not worthy of love. This view is the product of a deep misunderstanding of who/what God is and how we ought to respond to His love for us. It is also a rather strange reaction, since what benefit is there in not loving a Father who is Almighty and whose love means that He only wants everything beautiful, wonderful and joyful for us and holds us accountable for observing His Law, whose purpose is love. This is all in accord with Jesus’ teachings. See Matthew 22:36-40: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    JB

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