Sunday, February 05, 2006

The faiths of Martin Gardener and Ken Ham

I think it was reading Michael Shermer's Why People Believe Weird Things in which about Martin Gardner's fideism.

Gardner, for those who don't know, is one of the founding members of CSICOP and the author of such skeptical works as Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science and Confessions of a Psychic (an expose of Uri Geller).

Most members of CSICOP and the anti-pseudoscience movement in general identify as atheists or agnostics, so when I read that Gardner believed in God, I wanted to know more. His rationale? Credo consolens - I believe because it is consoling.

I got a copy of his Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener, and read the essays that had to do with religion. I no argument that went beyond the simple fideism mentioned by Shermer and in an online interview I had found. He says he has much sympathy with Bertrand Russell’s lecture “Why I am not a Christian.” He says we cannot know why there is evil in the world. In one particularly dramatic passage, he declares:
Faith is indeed quixotic. It is absurd. Let us admit it. Let us concede everything! To a rational mind the world looks like world without God. It looks like a world with no hope for another life. To think otherwise, to believe in spite of appearances, is surely a kind of madness.
Even more striking was the chapter “Prayer: Why I Do Not Think It Foolish.” This was totally unexpected. Gardner was a critic of things like parapsychology.

But once again, perfect fideism is maintained. There is no way to establish the effectiveness of prayer on evidence, he says, and if we did, it would just become another element of the natural world.

I must say I cannot fathom Gardner’s position, but I have a hard time advancing criticism not advanced by Gardner himself, and feel no great urge to. Gardner is no fundamentalist, he has been a critic of such movements as "creation science," and does not even label himself a liberal member of any traditional religion.

I wonder if fundamentalism is possible in such a pure fideist. When one admits that one believes on faith alone, it is hard to believe in eternal perdition for those who disagree, and similarly hard to believe that one’s ideas must be forced into public school science classrooms.

Then, however, I think of Ken Ham. Prominently featured on his website is an essay titled
Creation: 'Where's the proof?' in which he more or less declares that the issue cannot be decided on evidence. How different is this from Gardner's postion?

The difference is that with Ken Ham and his cohorts, this fideism is intermixed with a belief that their claims can be proven. The entire rest of the site it dedicated to pretending to do so. I think, then, that the problem occurs when people refuse to make up their minds on whether they believe on faith or evidence and reason. When this happens, they can put forth various arguments when they want to make life difficult for others but fall back on faith when these arguments fail, only to rebound the next day, claiming they can prove their view is the right one.

I will not, therefore, spend my time denouncing a belief on faith, at least until I see evidence contradicting the above paragraph. However, to those who oscillate between faith and argument, I must say this: please make up your minds!

9 comments:

Alejandro said...

I read Gardner's book many years ago, and since reading it I have never thought again that religion is necessarily foolish or anti-reason. I have recommended it once or twice to excessively agressive atheists as a counter-example to their generalizations.

I think that besides the one you point there is another big difference between Gardner and a fundie like Ham. Fundies often decide on "faith" their beliefs about things that can be adressed by science and reason, such as the origin of mankind. Gardner is careful to keep his faith restricted to issues that science can never adress, like the ultimate origin of existence. His God (and afterlife and answer to prayer) are purely transcendent, they don't interfere with anything science can discover about the empirical world.

SocialScientist777 said...

It is all too easy to prove the evolutionary theory is fiction for even people like myself who are not scientist but just read science books from the library. Here is the assignment I received high distinction for in Acedemic Literacy Skills study:

THEORETICAL SCIENCE OR SCIENCE FICTION

Some of the bizarre notions of science fiction are inspired by the hypotheses of theoretical science. In commenting on black holes and science in relation to science fiction, David Filkin (1997, p. 198) has said “ ... many of the best science fiction writers are themselves scientists. Science fact feeds science fiction; and science fiction is perhaps just as important in supporting science fact.”

For example, American astronomer Carl Sagan wrote the science fiction novel Contact (Sagan, 1985) about an advanced alien community who construct a space time tunnel wormhole, that allows rapid travel between two distant parts of the universe. In order to make his fictional tunnel plausible, Sagan asked the Cal Tech astrophysicist Kip Thorne, a black hole specialist, for advice. Intrigued by the idea, Thorne investigated the physics of the proposal with some younger colleagues. Thorne Calculated what restrictions apply to known physics that might prevent such a space time tunnel existing.

Black holes are an essential part of theoretical science which alleges there is a million solar-mass black hole at the centre of our galaxy. They conjecture that once every 10,000 years this massive black hole flings stars at a speed of 4,000 kilometers per second. There is no evidence for black holes.

Theoretical scientists claim black holes are time tunnels through which an infinite number of universes are connected. If a person could survive the singularity at the centre of a black hole, theorists claim they would travel to the future, or to the past if they could exceed the speed of light. But if they re-entered the same black hole they would not return to our universe and space-time, but would enter a third universe.

Astrophysicist Fred Hoyle wrote the science fiction novel The Black Cloud (Hoyle, 1991) in which a gas cloud of living molecules were organised into a thinking, purposeful individual. This cloud moved from star to star to feed on the energy it needed to survive; and was able to communicate to humans through a chosen radio signal.

Hoyle (Davis & Gribbin, 1992, p. 292) has built a detailed theory, the roots of which can be traced back to this idea. In collaboration with Chandra Wickramasinghe, he now suggests that the microscopic grains of interstellar material found within such clouds are living bacteria encased in a protective shell. Hoyle claims an enormous number of different micro-organisms pervade interstellar space, ready to make contact with a suitable host planet or comet.

Astronomers (Davies & Gribbin, 1992, p. 293) have studied and located these clouds using infra-red telescopes, but doubt there is microbes in them or that microbes could survive space. If it were possible, it would explain how life may have been established on Earth so quickly after the formation of the planet. By providing billions of years for pre-biotic chemistry to on the material in clouds before the Earth was formed, it makes the Evolutionary theory of DNA arising out of nothing by chance more plausible.

Physicist John Gribbin has written the science fiction novel Brother Esau (Gribbin, 1982) in which scientists discovered not only the sculls of missing links, but captured a living link to man. The scientists did DNA tests on Esau (the name given to the hominid) and found him to be a 99% match to Homo sapiens. Later when they released him he led them to a small colony of 11 other hominids living in the Himalayan Mountains. This story re-enforces the billions of years dating for the evolutionary process, and found the missing links real scientists would dearly love to find.

A book review for David Brin’s science fiction novel Kiln People, (Brin is an astrophysicist consultant to NASA) appeared in New Scientist (12 January 2002, p. 45). The review was written by Elizabeth Sourbut a judge for the 2001 Arthur C. Clarke (science fiction) Awards. The novel explains a break through in science called Soulistics in which science can imprint a copy of a human soul’s standing wave into a specially prepared clay duplicate. These copies of the original human only live for 24 hours, millions of people live double lives and transfer memories back from their clay selves. Sourbut says “David Brin has always had a talent for inventing new twists to familiar science.”
The ‘familiar science’ that this relates to is an ambitious project by British Telecom called Soul Catcher 2025. Soul Catcher is to be developed by the year 2025 and is a chip which could be implanted in someone’s scull to record all their life experiences to be downloaded to another person, or played back on a computer. British Telecom claims such a chip would require the memory capacity of 7,142,857,142,860,000 floppy disks. Dr Chris Winter says “By combining this information with a record of the person’s genes, we could recreate a person physically, emotionally and spiritually ... This is the end of death.” (Daily Telegraph, July 18, 1996).

With such a strong similarity and connection between theoretical science and science fiction the demarcation between science and pseudoscience is difficult. Karl Popper (1902 – 1994) a professor of physics and philosophy attempted such a demarcation between what he termed ‘science and non-science,’ which became accepted by leading scientists. Popper outlined important demarcation tests in several books as a criterion to identify non-science.

The first point Popper made (Magee, 1975, pp. 23 – 47) is that evidence alone could not verify the truth of a theory, and no number of tests proved a theory. Popper realised this when Einstein’s theory of gravity (relativity) displaced Newton’s theory of gravity. Newtonian physics was confirmed by countless observations, technological advances and accurate predictions. Predictions of undiscovered planets, the movements of tides and even the operation of machinery were formulated from Newton’s laws of physics.
Einstein’s theory was different to Newton’s and went beyond Newton’s theory (in speculations about the speed of light). Yet all the observational evidence which supported Newton’s theory also established Einstein’s theory of relativity.

The second point Popper made (Magee, 1975) was that though theories were not verifiable in an empirical sense, they could be falsified. Popper held that scientific laws were testable and a balance between verification and falsification must be maintained. He insisted that even the most proven theories should only be accepted as provisional knowledge, not as facts.

Popper’s guidelines (Magee, 1975) for making a statement testable, and therefore scientific and refutable were as follows: A theory must be compatible with all know observations and contain its predecessor, contradicting it were it failed, and accounting for its failure. It must yield precise predictions with a high informative content consisting of non-tautological propositions. If all possible states of affairs fit in with a theory then no observation or experiment can be claimed as supporting evidence. And having proposed a theory in this manner, he required theorists must not evade refutation. They must not reformulate either their theories or their evidence to accommodate contradictory evidence. Nor should they dispute the reliability of every test that refutes their theory then ignore the results.

Popper (Magee, 1975) denounced Freudian Psychology and Darwinian Evolution as unscientific because they were unfalsifiable and did not advance scientific knowledge. Popper was cautious and never judged a theory to be true or false, he distinguished only between what was and was not scientific.

When Darwin published the origin of species (1859), his theory predicted that countless transitional forms must have existed (for evolution to occur). To date no missing links or living links in previously unexplored regions have been found. But the predictions Popper (Magee, 1975) outlined differed to this, in that he required achievable tests that could refute the theory, to be built into the theory. The claim by theorists that radioactive carbon dating supports their assertion that evolution happened over millions of years, would not validate the theory by Popper’s standards. The accuracy of radiocarbon testing as a technique to date geological discoveries would have been refuted by Popper’s demarcation procedure also.

Evolutionists claim it takes thousands of years for wood to petrify into stone (according to carbon dating methods). But petrified wood of a know age (less than a hundred years old) is consistently discovered. For example, the Chapel of Santa Maria of Health (Santa Maria de Salute), built in 1650 in Venice, Italy, to celebrate the end of the plague is a prime example. Because Venice is built on water saturated clay and sand, the chapel was constructed on 180,000 wooden pilings to reinforce the foundations. Even though the chapel is a massive stone block structure, it has remained firm since its construction. How could wooden pilings have lasted in these conditions for longer than 35 years? The chapel now rests on (petrified) stone pilings (Segment on Burke’s Backyard, Channel 9 TV, Sydney, Australia, June, 1995).

Pearce (1970, p. 33) reports similar discoveries, Pearce says “I understand that down in the Sandhill country below Boulia [S.W. Queensland, Australia], where fences are often completely covered by shifting sand, it’s a common thing for the sand to shift off after a number of years, leaving stone posts standing erect.”

Evolutionists claim it takes millions of years for sediments like mud or sand to harden into rock (according to carbon dating methods). But in the Creation Science Answers in Genesis Museum in North Kentucky, there is part of a clock mechanism encased in solid rock along with sea shells, on display. The ‘Clock Rock’ was found in 1975 by Dolores Testerman, near the south jetty at Westport, Washington, USA. The Creation Science Foundation (Creation 19 (3) June – August 1997, p. 6) states “Obviously, the clock was not made millions of years ago!”

When determining the age of the universe or distant stars, the main method is redshift measurements. Radioactive carbon dating has established the age of the Earth and its Solar System at 4.5 billion years old. Theorists have conjectured the universe to be between 10 to 20 billion years old (in agreement with evolutionary requirements). Hubble’s redshift measurements (Gribbin, 2000, p. 128) revealed the distance of stars moving away from us and calculated how long the inflation had been happening, making it possible to date the universe. If the expansion had been going on at the same rate, it can be calculated from the constant of proportionality in the redshift distance relation, how long it has been since the galaxies were a compressed lump (Big Bang theory).

Using Hubble’s constant (a value of 525 Km/sec) the age of the universe comes out at about 2 billion years, which is less than half the radioactive carbon dating age for the Earth. Theoretical scientists evaded refutation by questioning Hubble’s interpretation of Hamason’s redshift measurements. Then they speculated that the universe has not been expanding at the same rate, carbon dating was never doubted. By Popper’s standard this would not only falsify the accuracy of the radioactive carbon dating method, but constitutes rejecting the reliability of contrary evidence and reformulating the theory to accommodate the contradiction.

Every aspect of the evolution of the universe of life has been reformulated to accommodate contradicting experimental or observational evidence. The scientific community announced (New Scientist, 11 April 1986, p. 26) that the expansion of the universe was accelerating with ever increasing speed. But then they changed their mind (New Scientist, 15 December 2001, p. 15) and claimed the accelerated inflation was an illusion caused by a mirage of axions dimming light as it travels.

According to theorists axions are hypothetical particles postulated as a candidate for (cold) dark matter. Together with neutrinos, photinos, gravitinos, black holes and antimatter they account for 90% of the universe’s mass (gravity) causing galaxies to congregate. It is hypothesised that axions are formed when protons decay into axions, the creation of axions depends on protons decaying. But it was discovered that (Pagel, 1985
30
p. 275) “ ... it would take the proton 10 years to disintegrate into a positron and a neutral pion. This is 100 billion times the age of the universe – a very long time indeed.” But scientists are still searching patiently for proton decay to show up in tests.

Meanwhile researchers at the CERN nuclear physics laboratory near Geneva have spent a year analysing data from the LEP accelerator. Researcher detected neither symmetry nor super-symmetry particles, which includes axions (New Scientist, 8 December 2001, pp. 4-5). Though Popper never equated non-science with science fiction, the lack of evidence with theoretical science such as the evolution theory and science’s agreement with science fiction rather than evidence of reality, implies it strongly.

References
Filkin, D. & Hawking, S., 1997, Stephen Hawking’s Universe, BBC books, London.

Sagan, S., 1985, Contact, Constable books, Hawthorn Victoria, Australia.

Hoyle, F., 1991, The Black Cloud, Macmillan, London.

Gribbin, J. & Orgill, G., 1982, Brother Esau, The Bodley Head, Great Britain.

Magee, B., 1975, Popper, William Collins Sons & Co, Great Britain.

Pagel, H., 1985, Perfect Symmetry, Billing & Sons, London.

Pearce, R. C., 1970, ‘Petrified Wood’, The Australian Lapidary Magazine, June, 1970.

Davies, P. Gribbin, J., 1992, The Matter Myth, Penguin Books, England.

Gribbin, J., 2000, The Birth of Time, Phoenix, London.

SocialScientist777 said...

In my posting Theoretical Science or Science Fiction? the follow typing errors should be noted:
In the 7th paragraph it should read - By providing billions of years for pre-biotic chemistry to work on the material in clouds before the Earth was formed, it makes the Evolutionary theory of DNA arising out of nothing by chance more plausible.

The 23rd paragraph should have read like this -

According to theorists axions are hypothetical particles postulated as a candidate for (cold) dark matter. Together with neutrinos, photinos, gravitinos, black holes and antimatter they account for 90% of the universe’s mass (gravity) causing galaxies to congregate. It is hypothesised that axions are formed when protons decay into axions, the creation of axions depends on protons decaying. But it was discovered that (Pagel, 1985, p. 275) “ ... it would take the
30
proton 10 years to disintegrate into a positron and a neutral pion. This is 100 billion times the age of the universe – a very long time indeed.” But scientists are still searching patiently for proton decay to show up in tests.

[That's 1 to the power of 30, or 1 with 30 zeros after it]

Jim Jordan said...

Hallq, Maybe their minds are made up.

(Dictionary.com)
Reason; An underlying fact or cause that provides logical sense for a premise or occurrence.
The capacity for logical, rational, and analytic thought; intelligence


I see faith and reason intertwined in these definitions. The symbiotic nature of science to science fiction that social scientist posted clearly lays this out.
Science fiction is a plausible story based on some scientific facts. Likewise, a sound fact of reality leads to an interpretation that can't work without faith in our ability to discern.

Alejandro's statement that reason and science can "address the origin of mankind" is an example of a presupposition NOT based on any fact. There is no scientific explanation for how matter can organize itself into complex cells much less make the leap from bacteria to dinosaurs.

My faith in God is based on reason. Our own intelligence and the order found in the universe are reasons (see first definition)to believe in God. My faith and reason are aligned, and therefore symbiotic.

Even though he makes some good points in his essay, Mr. Ham makes a mistake by trying to bend science to fit a literal scriptural interpretation and vice versa. His crisis of faith is that his reason is corrupted by making his literal interpretation his guidpost of faith and not God. His interpretations are often wrong because his faith is misplaced (his zeal for literal vindication supersedes his desire to see God).

Faith in God is founded on innumerous reasons. The problem is that unbelievers see no evidence where the evidence is plain as day to the believer. The believer and the unbeliever have two warring presuppositions. How they came to their faith in those presuppositions is like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg.

I recommend to everyone to try each presupposition out and see where it takes you. That is what I did.

Fideism: Reliance on faith alone rather than scientific reasoning or philosophy in questions of religion

As a Christian one gives up the proprietary rights to their own intellect in exchange for seeking God's guidance. The knowledge that God gives you then is a hundredfold, as Meister Eckhart stated. The fideist looks like someone caught up in a black hole somewhere in between. To the believer, God is the author of our itelligence (see 2nd definition of reason). I have faith that He is greater than any problem or material obstacle. My faith also tells me He didn't create me to be stupid.

A very thought-provoking post. Muy bien.

Alejandro said...

Jim Jordan,

I appreciate that you distance yourself from fundamentalists like Ham, but I think that in the paragraph in which you answer to me you are making a subtler form of his same mistakes. You are allowing a preconception based on faith to decide on a matter that is for empirical science to decide. Scientists have indeed explanations for "how matter can organize itself into complex cells" and "make the leap from bacteria to dinosaurs". The explanations are of necessity piecemeal and provisional, because that is how science works. But the method of searching for natural explanations to natural phenomena (methodological naturalism, which does not imply the nonexistence of a trascendent God) has lead to continuous progress in our understanding, of the development of life as of other aspects of the natural world. To say as you do that "there is no natural explanation, therefore God did it, therefore belief in God is founded in reason" is not a rational argument, and many believing scientists and even theologists would dispute it.

The same thing happens, though the matter is less clear-cut, with our own intelligence, which you cite as a reason for believing in God. Our intelligence is an empirical phenomenon, and as such it can subject also to scientific investigation, which must follow methodological naturalism. It is true that much less is known, scientifically, of the basis of human consciousness and reason than of the evolution of life. But research is being made, and it is only a matter of time till it gives fruits.

My point, one which Gardner appreciated, is that if you base your belief on God in anything that can be investigated scientifically, you run the risk of science finding eventually a natural explanation that will undermine your faith. It happened to those who based their faiths in the Earth being at the centre of the universe, and to those that based them in a literal interpretation of Genesis. It is happening now to those that base them in a miraculous origin, or evolution, of life. And it will happen to those that base them in a miraculous view of human intelligence as based in a nonmaterial soul.

The argument from the order of the universe, which you cite, would seem to be of a different order (something metaphysical and not disprovable by science) but even that may fail if some of the most recent speculations in string theory (according to which the existence of ordered laws of the universe is nothing but an accident) are vindicated. These views are not yet testable science, but they may become so in the future.

I short, I think that attempts to ground belief in God in things unexplainable by science are ultimately anti-scientific; when they do not contradict present science, they block the way for future research. Someone who truly respects science and wants to continue believing in God, as Garnder did, must therefore become a fideist.

SocialScientist777 said...

Alejandro said...

"I short, I think that attempts to ground belief in God in things unexplainable by science are ultimately anti-scientific; when they do not contradict present science, they block the way for future research."

As one who would not distance myself from creation scientists such as Ken Ham etc., I think it needs to be pointed out that Scientists such as Ken Ham do make their creatist claims and refutation of evolution on scientific observation, evidence and tests to explain things that evolution theoretical scientists either cannot prove or explain by their doctrine of evolution.

Jim Jordan said...

Hola, Alejandro,
Fundies often decide on "faith" their beliefs about things that can be addressed by science and reason, such as the origin of mankind. Gardner is careful to keep his faith restricted to issues that science can never address, like the ultimate origin of existence. Your first post.

Detection of how something works is not an explanation of it's origins. My faith that the origin of life can NEVER be proven to have been by chance is reasonable. In fact, I'd bet money on it.

Someone who truly respects science and wants to continue believing in God, as Garnder did, must therefore become a fideist.

Should we truly respect science or scientifically respect truth? Why should we "respect" science anyway? Science has been found wanting thousands of times over the centuries. Scientists have been doing intellectual cartwheels with string theories and steady state theories et al in hopes of casting doubt on the fact that the universe had an inexplicable, sudden origin.

We must respect truth. And it is not true that faith is believing in something that could not possibly be true or reasonably acceptable. You are paraphrasing Archie Bunker when he'd say "the Bible is a book of things you'd never believe if it wasn't in the Bible!" Archie Bunker, now there's a fideist!

And it will happen to those that base them in a miraculous view of human intelligence as based in a nonmaterial soul.

If I see an order and complexity in nature of a kind which still overwhelms us in this computer age, then consider our intelligence for abstract thinking. I am simply putting two and two together. We are a microcosm of the universe figuratively speaking.

Yet we are part creature. Overwhelming evidence shows us that we all will die and not come back to life. The question is, does our consciousness die with our bodies? Here is where faith is key. You say yes and I say no. Your opinion is based on empirical evidence, and so is mine.

Here is my evidence.

There was a clear case of some kind of creation approximately 14 billion years ago. This implies a Creator. It also implies a Purpose. For the Creation of the universe, which is obviously the starting point of our physical reality, does not present itself as an act of indifference. A universe would never have been created in a fit of apathy. In fact the opposite would be true, that it was a good thing. Can anyone argue that a universe is a bad thing? Considering the alternative to existence (and it hasn't been a bad existence) is not a logical construct.

Then comes the human race, a hodgepodge of intelligently ordered matter that is capable of profound thought and dsicovery (ok, most of the humans, anyway). We are, like the universe, impossibly complex. Yet we were not created 14 billion years ago, our matter existed but we were not beings. In fact, we are quite new. The being, we'll call him the Franchise, that created us was there 14 billion years ago and also there when we showed up a million or so years ago.

The Franchise does not appear to be limited by time and space like our bodies. This is consistent with the pre-universe reality. The "Big Bang" would have suddenly birthed the reality of space and time. Prior to that moment there was something that existed. That something would have still existed when the "franchisees" were developed. There is clear continuation and clear intelligence.

I know this is getting long, but I feel like a flea who's hit an artery. Now does this Creator sound any different from the Creator of the Bible? Look at Exodus 3:14. Exodus 3:14 (Amplified Bible)

And God said to Moses, I AM WHO I AM and WHAT I AM, and I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE; and He said, You shall say this to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you!

Here's the rub. What could science tell us about an entity like that that He couldn't tell us? The character of the biblical God fits reality like a glove and brings it all together. As Wallace Stevens wrote in his poem "July Mountain", "just as when one climbs a mountain in July, Vermont pulls itself together". The God of the Bible is that kind of intelligent being that pulls the universe, it's past, present, and future, together into a unified whole.

What the Bible tells us is that we were called to unite with this Creator, this spirit-being that creates matter and transcends it. This I AM created us with the purpose of living forever as His children. This would mean endowing us with the pre-universal I AM nature of God. Not living "forever" but living outside of space and time. What the Bible calls "eternal life" is not a continuation of our earthly lives but life with God.

Impossible? One atheist makes a good case that the afterlife would be unbearable were it to last forever. But he forgets that the God of the Bible is not a timeline being. The afterlife is not unbearable if you understand this.

My faith is in a being that created us. That belief is plausible because the universe itself was created. Creation was the first phenomenon of the universe. The possibility for our own creation is based on the existence of the created universe itself.

I believe that the I AM that WILL ALWAYS BE speaks to us from the pages of the Bible.My faith is based on evidence as well as logic.

My faith is not in a miraculous view of human intelligence as based in a nonmaterial soul as you say but in a Creator who is easily capable of miracles.

Great debate, alejandro
Hasta pronto, Jim

Alejandro said...

Hi Jim, I realise that it is unlikely that any of us will convince the other one, but let's try to go on... I copy some quotes (there are other things I disagree with but I can't address everything!) and then answer them:

Detection of how something works is not an explanation of it's origins. My faith that the origin of life can NEVER be proven to have been by chance is reasonable. In fact, I'd bet money on it.

Of course science cannot "prove" that anything happens by mere chance. You are perfectly allowed to have faith that what looks as chance to us is really planned by a trascendent God. But what science can show is that such a posit is not needed to explain the origin of life. Models of the early chemistry of the Earth may show that life was quite likely to emerge naturally in those conditions. Your exclusion of this a priori instead of waiting for investigations to proceed is in my opinion not "reasonable".

Here is my evidence.

There was a clear case of some kind of creation approximately 14 billion years ago. This implies a Creator. It also implies a Purpose. For the Creation of the universe, which is obviously the starting point of our physical reality, does not present itself as an act of indifference. A universe would never have been created in a fit of apathy.


All that we can know that happened 14 billion years ago is that the universe appeared, and the properties it had. To postulate a Creator for it is to go beyond the evidence and is a step which cannot be taken by reason, only by faith. The Universe may have appeared without any cause (you may say this is impossible, but if
God can exist without cause, why not the universe?) Or the universe may have been caused by something entirely different form our human notions of a Creator with a mind and a purpose. We simply have no reason to infer this kind of cause.
Perhaps you say "something as complex as the universe must come from an intelligent cause" but this is not warranted by reason and experience. In our experience some complex things, e.g. clocks, come from intelligent causes; others, such as planetary orbits, trees or crystals, do not. None of these examples warrants an analogy to the whole universe. You may posit that all things that superficially have unintelligent causes have ultimately an intelligent (divine) cause, but the materialist may retort that on the contrary, it is human intelligence what has ultimately a nonintelligent cause, via evolution. There is no way neither of them can use reason to extrapolate to the cause of the whole universe. You should read Hume's Dialogues on Natural Religion, they say all this much better than I can.

At the end of the post you seem to bring up the Bible as supporting evidence. This is obviously not somthing that reason alone can endorse. Why trust the Bible and not accounts from other religions (sometimes incompatible with it, for example in being politheistic)? Why trust any of these religious traditions at all? If you don't give rational value to stories of Viking, Aztec, (etc) gods, then why the Hebrew one?

Jim Jordan said...

Hi, Alejandro
Thanks for your thoughtful rebuttal.

What compels one to believe that there is no god may compel another to believe there is. Are you willing to wait for some final verdict 500 years from now? In a few years we might have an opportunity to take a commercial space flight. Risky as it might seem, the information available on the safety of such a flight may convince one of us to trust that we'd come back in one piece. One might decide to go enthusiastically while the other would definitely stay home, that would be me.

From my vantage point God looks very real. I assure you though I did not delegate that decision out. It was the result of decades of study and life experiences.

I do believe that God could exist without cause (and the I AM of the Bible is an uncreated God). Creation presupposes purpose. There was some reason that it appeared. Do you believe the universe could have created itself for no reason at all? Does it possess that kind of intelligence?

but the materialist may retort that on the contrary, it is human intelligence what has ultimately a nonintelligent cause, via evolution.

Here again the materialist sees something from the same evidence and I see something different. A river does not rise above its source. An intelligent creature does not rise up from non-intelligence. Such a maneuvre would require intelligence to accomplish it. My faith that an intelligence was involved is reasonable. Your faith that it was not required is reasonable to you. You trust your theory and I trust mine. Both are based on evidence.

You did not see the evolution and I did not see the creation. We are both sitting on the same branch in regard to our faith. We both rest our arguments on something upon which we feel there is sufficient evidence, but still upon something we cannot see.

Honestly, other "gods" don't fit the description of an uncreated God. Many claims about the Hebrew God have been exactly right. Uncreated, created the universe all at once, the universe is going to "wear out like a garment", He predicts Abram's descendants will be as numerous as the stars, and a host of other claims that would have seemed crazy that have been found to be true. The character of the Hebrew God fits the logical profile of an uncreated God: infinitely knowledgeable and aware, impossible for humans to fathom, loving, redemptive, merciful, etc. It is almost as if God chose these people to carry His message to the world.

The other gods are verifiably false in one way or another. Greek and Norse gods are novelty characters, exalted humans. Buddhism, although it possesses a great wealth of wisdom literature, talks of "beginningless time". Hinduism has a problem at its core in that our reality is part of an illusion (how could we know we don't exist - I think therefore I don't exist?). Islam takes the Hebrew God and turns Him into a slave trader. And so on. They just don't add up.

Last, we believe differently. Neither of us are crazy. Neither of us are hanging out with Archie Bunker, that bigoted fideist.

Hasta pronto,
Jim