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Prominent Scientists and their religiosity 
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Post Re: Prominent Scientists and their religiosity
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Hello Doulos, welcome to Booktalk. You are quite wrong in your assertion. Bertrand Russell's teapot has no empirical evidence for or against it, yet the overwhelming scientific consensus is that it does not exist. Scientifically, we are right to assert that this teapot does not exist because the burden of proof rests with those who make extraordinary claims about the existence of imaginary things. Same for God.


Thank you Robert,

Good point on Russel and the burden of proof. I would point out however that Christianity has always held out extraordinary proof to support its extraordinary claims (I see your Bertrand Russel and raise you one David Hume :) ). Whether this proof is accepted or not is a different question.

Once again though, popular opinion does not determine existance. Existance is not dependant upon opinion.

I might also question your assertion that there is 'overwhelming scientific consensus' that God does not exist. There may be overwhelming scientific consensus for an evolutionary understanding of existence, but this is not the same as the assertion that God does not exist.



Tue May 22, 2012 8:08 am
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Post Re: Prominent Scientists and their religiosity
From DWill
Quote:
I don't disagree with everything you say. I think we'd be crazy to value rationality above all other abilities, for example. But this idea that people who don't believe in God must therefore have no appreciation of the (as far as we know) unique capacity of humans to feel and express love or experience the wonder of the world is just plain false.


I would agree with you entirely here. Like any group of people, Christians often assert beyond what can be supported by evidence (in this case Biblical). The Bible does assert that 'God is love,' but it is also clear that God, "causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Mt 5:45) This latter passage is followed immediately by a connection of this concept to love.

From my own experience coming from Atheism/Agnosticism to belief in Christ, I would say that it has renewed and hightened the capacity to feel and express love.


Quote:
Yet it is what you're implying.


So I'm not implying 'that' :wink:

Quote:
If atheists give scientific explanations for the development of life and assume correctly that we and monkeys have common ancestors, those are not meaning-of-life statements. It seems that you might be cherry-picking one or two atheists--who, I don't know--who might have said that the scientific facts place limits on the meaning with which we can invest life. In other words, straw man, as far as atheists as a class are concerned


I'm not entirely clear what you mean by 'meaning-of-life statements.' Could you please elaborate?

I don't think evolution is contrary to what is taught in the Bible (unless one ascribes to literal 6 day creation). As others in this post have admirably pointed out, the latter is not accepted even by all Christians, and this for reasons of Biblical proof.

Quote:
Can you explain to me why meaning needs to reside in a power outside of ourselves? Even if the universe has no meaning, why does that make meaning impossible for me?


You have two excellent questions here, so I'll take them in turn.

Meaning does not need to reside in a power outside of ourselves. Neither does there scientifically 'need' to be a God, which is where Christians and Muslims often feel challenged by evolution. The question is not whether there 'needs' to be, but whether there IS a power outside of ourselves. And if so, does he/she deserve our worship and obedience.

Meaning is not impossible in a meaningless universe. I was simply seeking to demonstrate that existance with God offers a 'greater' potential meaning than without. This was in response to Dexter's May 20th post.

Thanks for the good questions DWill. If I've missed any of your nuances, please let me know and I'll try to answer them as best I can.



Last edited by Doulos on Tue May 22, 2012 8:35 am, edited 2 times in total.



Tue May 22, 2012 8:31 am
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Post Re: Prominent Scientists and their religiosity
@ Chris Connor
Quote:
This is a really great question.


Yes it was :)



Tue May 22, 2012 8:33 am
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Post Re: Prominent Scientists and their religiosity
Doulos wrote:
Good point on Russel and the burden of proof. I would point out however that Christianity has always held out extraordinary proof to support its extraordinary claims (I see your Bertrand Russel and raise you one David Hume :) ). Whether this proof is accepted or not is a different question.


What is this extraordinary proof?



Tue May 22, 2012 9:06 am
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Post Re: Prominent Scientists and their religiosity
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@ Interbane,
I was just enjoying the opportunity to explore a line of thought.

The main point from my own perspective is that people (whether believers or agnostics/atheists) have difficulty accepting things outside their own thought paradigm. To villify the opposition is thus often a reflection of our own inability to understand opposing viewpoints, and not necessarily a product of the other person being 'wrong.'


That is all too true. You touch on something else as well - the devil is in the details. A person may have explored every part of his belief system in detail, but still missed a critical link that would expose the entire system as false. Those nuggets of contradiction are often surrounded by an impenetrable shell of fuzzy wording, bias, and equivocation.



Quote:
From my own experience coming from Atheism/Agnosticism to belief in Christ, I would say that it has renewed and hightened the capacity to feel and express love.


Did you have any beliefs before, as an atheist/agnostic? Such as humanism or some sort of pantheism? Most people make the mistake of believing that atheism is a positive belief system(not positive as in value, positive as in content). But it is simply lack of belief in god. It doesn't define a person any further. What defines a person further are the beliefs that fill that hole. Most atheists without realizing it ascribe to humanist principles, or some other secular morality, perhaps based on naturalistic algorithms. :shock:

Going from no belief system to one such as Christianity could indeed help you to love more. But Christianity isn't the only belief system that can nurture that side of us. There are secular belief systems that can accomplish the same. However, there is a 'warm fuzzy' from believing in an overseeing intelligence that is only duplicated by other superstitious beliefs, such as that your ancestors are watching over you from the heavens.

Quote:
Every person has some areas of fallacious reasoning. It comes with being human.

A person who accepts a 'trustworthy' person's opinion has certainly made a justifiable choice, even by the standards of pure reason. The very nature of being 'trustworthy' is the accumulated record of 'wise' decisions/choices. To go with the statistically superior choice would be entirely justifiable.


How do you know it's justified? Unless you've taken each and every decision this trustworthy person has made, and critically analyzed them for veracity, you don't know what his record is. I've learned the hard way that some people who we see as trustworthy are instead very good liars, even family and friends. You may frown at those words, but they are unfortunately true. How can you justify something a person told you, if his record has only ever been cross checked heuristically?

A vast majority of what we believe, we aren't justified in believing. We must accept that, and continue to learn our entire lives. If a trustworthy person makes a claim, the claim must still be verified if it's to be trusted. In the same way that world reknowned scientists must have their work peer reviewed(even a scientist that has produced only truthful results - he's statistically at 100%) People are fallible. That fact will not go away, and claims supported only by a person's reputation cannot be justified because of this fallibility.


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Tue May 22, 2012 10:27 am
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Post Re: Prominent Scientists and their religiosity
Hi Dexter,

The gospel accounts are that 'extraordinary evidence.'

Divine birth
Miracles
Fulfilled prophesies
Claims of divinity
Death and resurrection
Meeting his disciples after resurrection
Raising to heaven

It is precisely the fact that these claims are 'extraordinary' that they are questioned. Kind of a catch 22... we want extraordinary proof, but we doubt it precisely because it is extraordinary.



Tue May 22, 2012 6:57 pm
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Post Re: Prominent Scientists and their religiosity
Doulos wrote:
Hi Dexter,

The gospel accounts are that 'extraordinary evidence.'

Divine birth
Miracles
Fulfilled prophesies
Claims of divinity
Death and resurrection
Meeting his disciples after resurrection
Raising to heaven

It is precisely the fact that these claims are 'extraordinary' that they are questioned. Kind of a catch 22... we want extraordinary proof, but we doubt it precisely because it is extraordinary.


Uh, the claims are also the proof? I'm afraid it doesn't work that way. As they are extraordinary claims, without actual evidence the most obvious explanation is that they are made-up stories. If you were to read the stories of 100 other religions -- or how about one other religion -- would you believe them all?



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Tue May 22, 2012 7:17 pm
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Post Re: Prominent Scientists and their religiosity
Quote:
The gospel accounts are that 'extraordinary evidence.'


The claims aren't also the evidence. The evidence are things like the shroud of Turin, and corroborating references from third parties such as Josephus. There is remarkably little evidence, unfortunately.




Quote:
It is precisely the fact that these claims are 'extraordinary' that they are questioned. Kind of a catch 22... we want extraordinary proof, but we doubt it precisely because it is extraordinary.


There is a reason that phrase is used.

We've played with the universe a bit, and have come to weasel out some of the rules by which it operates. Much of the knowledge we know is based on induction. For example, how many people do you know that have come back to life after an extended period of death? Medically, it is next to impossible. Perhaps after frozen in ice for a period of time. We know that brain cells start dying very soon after death, and the brain is needed for us to live. There is a tremendous amount of evidence that this happens to any and every human.

Every person who has remained dead and every test with experimental evidence sets an inductive precedent. In order for the extraordinary claim of the resurrection to have justification, you'd need not only ontologically positive evidence that the event happened, you'd also need sufficient evidence to outweigh the contrary precedent. That is why extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence - due to all the contrary evidence that already exists.

Note that nowhere in here I say resurrection is definitely impossible. It's possible there is a black swan. But there is far too much evidence showing that such things do not happen. What would you have us do, simply ignore all that evidence? You have to realize that's a bit absurd.

Should a special case be made exempting Christianity from the precedent? If God were ever to influence events on Earth, of course he would do so when his son is alive, and especially to him. It's no wonder we haven't seen anything similar since. Right?

What of all the other religions that make equally extraordinary claims backed up by their own brand of convincing rationalization? What of all non-religious extraordinary claims? How many millions are there, passed off as the Truth? From succubi to bigfoot to eavesdropping Thetans? Well, Scientologists likely think their belief qualifies as a religion, I'm not sure...

Sometimes I feel like an oppressed customer where everyone is trying to sell me one belief or another. Each make the claim with genuine certainty, and all are intelligent enough to be convincing. But there is no way to determine which are true and which aren't true. Every salesman just wants you to believe, either based on their word, or based on words in a book. They expect me to throw out all the knowledge I have of how things work, and make an exception for their belief. They each could go on for hours about how all the other competing beliefs are false. It's like the current state of our Politics, but with a thousand politicians in the running.

Even a TRUE extraordinary claim would require extraordinary evidence. How else can we sort the wheat from the chaff? If you have any ideas, please share them.


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Post Re: Prominent Scientists and their religiosity
Interbane wrote:
Quote:
The gospel accounts are that 'extraordinary evidence.'

There is remarkably little evidence, unfortunately.
None. It is all made up.
Quote:
Even a TRUE extraordinary claim would require extraordinary evidence. How else can we sort the wheat from the chaff? If you have any ideas, please share them.

One true extraordinary claim is that Jesus Christ did not exist. The evidence for this is very strong. It requires people to comprehensively reassess their assumptions about history and psychology.


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Post Re: Prominent Scientists and their religiosity
Quote:
The gospel accounts are that 'extraordinary evidence.'


What is the extraordinary evidence that the gospel accounts are not fiction?

http://www.logicalfallacies.info/presum ... -question/



Wed May 23, 2012 12:44 am
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Post Re: Prominent Scientists and their religiosity
@ Interbane
Quote:
A person may have explored every part of his belief system in detail, but still missed a critical link that would expose the entire system as false. Those nuggets of contradiction are often surrounded by an impenetrable shell of fuzzy wording, bias, and equivocation.


Flip the analysis around. In a desire to find falsehood, people often create their own contradictions as well. There is bias in every person. The challenge is to read as neutrally as possible by being aware of our own bias.

Quote:
Did you have any beliefs before, as an atheist/agnostic?


We're talking roughly 35 years as an Atheist/Agnostic, so obviously there is development and change along the path. Like most people, I explored various beliefs and rejected them all, while at the same time toying with certain elements of them which I found interesting, or which agreed with what I already believed.

We all have a belief system. Our own.

I think you're confusing a sense of belonging/love with what I'm talking about. Certainly that is part of it, but merely part.

Quote:
How do you know it's justified?


Justified in the sense of being a valid logical choice. Even if a person were to be proven fraudulent later, this doesn't mean that the person trusting them did not make a valid, logically justifiable choice in trusting them at the time.

I'm just seeking to demonstrate that the idea of logical/rational choice has different possible sources of 'evidence.'



Last edited by Doulos on Wed May 23, 2012 6:04 am, edited 1 time in total.



Wed May 23, 2012 5:35 am
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Post Re: Prominent Scientists and their religiosity
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Uh, the claims are also the proof? I'm afraid it doesn't work that way. As they are extraordinary claims, without actual evidence the most obvious explanation is that they are made-up stories. If you were to read the stories of 100 other religions -- or how about one other religion -- would you believe them all?


Wow Dexter. Please pardon me if I'm reading your post incorrectly, but do you always answer polite replies with such sarcasm and condescension? You mentioned in another post that you were a teacher. I am as well, with experience teaching in several countries and education systems, both public and private. I sincerely hope this isn't the tone you use with your students when they have a viewpoint that differs from your own.

You are confusing the claims with the proof. The claim of Jesus was that he was the Messiah, the Son of Man, and that the kingdom of God promised in the Jewish scriptures had been fulfilled in and through him. The things I mentioned were written in the gospel accounts as witness to this.

As to other religions, I have read, discussed with adherents/teachers and explored in various depth:
Islam (the Qur'an and the Hadith)
Taoism (mainly the core Dao De Jing)
Chan/Zen Buddhism
Hinayana Buddhism
various Native American beliefs
Celtic beliefs
Northern European/Germanic beliefs
the Bhagavad Gita
Judaism
Baha'i
Mormonism
Wicca

I'm probably missing some, but I wouldn't say I've read 100. It's partially because I've read these though that I hold the books of the Bible to be truthful. If you'd care to discuss any of these topics, I would be happy to do so.

I endeavor to hold myself to respectfulful and gentle replies because this is what Jesus teaches. Please correct me if I do not hold to this ideal.



Wed May 23, 2012 6:03 am
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Post Re: Prominent Scientists and their religiosity
@ Interbane, Robert, and Dexter as well, since you all touch on this.
Chris OConnor wrote:
What is the extraordinary evidence that the gospel accounts are not fiction?


Evidence has more than a scientific connotation, as in a court of law for example.

As in a court of law, there may be material evidence, but there may also be witnesses as well. The gospel accounts are precisely this. Either first or second-hand accounts of the life of Jesus, as Luke makes explicit in the opening of his gospel:
Quote:
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.
(Luke 1:1-2)


They are not neutral accounts, but the writings of followers of Christ who were convinced of his claims, and who were seeking to 'prove' this to others as well.
Quote:
Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
(Luke 1:3)


Part of the 'extraordinary evidence' of the truth of the biblical accounts was in the lives of the people who wrote them, since these were living, active teachers while the letters of the New Testament circulated. A group of common people suddenly left their jobs, lives and culture (since they were eventually barred from synagogue life) and followed this Jesus unto the point of death.

Is any of this evidence incontrovertible? Absolutely not. It makes clearly extraordinary claims even in the evidence provided, and it is open to question on many different levels. It is entirely a plausible response to see it as fiction.

The Bible never makes the claim that all men will accept Jesus. That said, the Bible does say, "For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." (Matthew 7:8) Part of the extraordinary 'evidence' of the Bible is the claim that God will reveal truth if asked. I can only say that for myself this was the case.



Wed May 23, 2012 6:30 am
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Post Re: Prominent Scientists and their religiosity
@ Interbane
Quote:
Even a TRUE extraordinary claim would require extraordinary evidence. How else can we sort the wheat from the chaff? If you have any ideas, please share them.


Normally the term 'extraordinary evidence' would refer to an overwhelming mass of unassailable proof. The evidence in support of the theory of evolution or continental drift might be examples of this.

In the specific case we're looking at though, I would say that there will never be sufficient extraordinary evidence to prove the claims of Jesus to all people (barring the second coming of Christ in Christian belief).

There are many reasons for this, but the primary one from a theological standpoint is that the claims of Jesus himself would be invalidated should proof be incontrovertible. He says in several places that few will follow his path, and the general point is that an act of trust in God is required of us. Because of our own brokeness, few are ever willing to really reach out in trust.

Does this mean that there is no possible proof? Absolutely not. It merely means that from a Christian standpoint, the gaining of that proof itself requires an act of trust.

If the God of the Bible exists, then ask him to show sufficient personal proof. The attitude of the heart in asking is obviously important. The evidence may not come in our timing, or the ways we expect, but if He exists then it will come.



Wed May 23, 2012 6:53 am
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Post Re: Prominent Scientists and their religiosity
Chris OConnor wrote:
http://www.logicalfallacies.info/presumption/begging-the-question/


Thanks for posting this Chris, as it made me think about a key point.

People on both sides of the God debate often bring up contentions of logical fallacy. I think it's important to consider what a logical fallacy actually 'is.'

In simple language, a logical fallacy means that the point raised cannot be used to PROVE a logical point. In other words, it is insufficient to allow uncontested proof of the premise. This doesn't mean that the 'logical fallacy' is necessarily false or untrue in itself (though they can be). It simply means that you can't use a logical fallacy to prove something, because the logical fallacy itself is not 'provable.'

Please note though. Part of my contention is that the truth of Biblical claims cannot proven by logic alone.



Wed May 23, 2012 7:09 am
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DennettA Peace to End All Peace by David FromkinThe Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey NiffeneggerThe End of Faith by Sam HarrisEnder's Game by Orson Scott CardThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark HaddonValue and Virtue in a Godless Universe by Erik J. WielenbergThe March by E. L DoctorowThe Ethical Brain by Michael GazzanigaFreethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan JacobyCollapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared DiamondThe Battle for God by Karen ArmstrongThe Future of Life by Edward O. WilsonWhat is Good? by A. C. GraylingCivilization and Its Enemies by Lee HarrisPale Blue Dot by Carl SaganHow We Believe: Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God by Michael ShermerLooking for Spinoza by Antonio DamasioLies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al FrankenThe Red Queen by Matt RidleyThe Blank Slate by Stephen PinkerUnweaving the Rainbow by Richard DawkinsAtheism: A Reader edited by S.T. JoshiGlobal Brain by Howard BloomThe Lucifer Principle by Howard BloomGuns, Germs and Steel by Jared DiamondThe Demon-Haunted World by Carl SaganBury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee BrownFuture Shock by Alvin Toffler

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