4 of 48
4
Letter to an Atheist by Michael Patrick Leahy
Posted: 12 April 2007 03:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]  
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1763
Joined  2006-08-20

[quote author=“Michael Patrick Leahy”]
It seems that many rational people feel trapped by their own intellectual integrity and belief that science reigns over all. Therefore, they must not believe in God, for to do so would be to surrender that which they value most—their honesty.

Scientific knowledge doesn’t require belief and the scientific method is not a belief system. In science, it is not necessary to draw conclusions, especially the kinds of conclusions that religion requires for a basis. Science and and religion, as means of determining objective truth about the world are not at all equivalent.

Religion is all about answers where science is all about questions.

What we call the supernatural is made evident in this world only by it absence.  When the supernatural becomes evident in any tangible way, it becomes natural. Anything that requires faith, is not apparent in the world.

[quote author=“Michael Patrick Leahy”]There is no effort more noble than to sincerely seek the truth.

What does nobility have to do with anything, who cares about it? I would say that an honest appraisal of reality is important to one’s mental health.

 Signature 

The ants are my friends, they’re blowing in the wind, the ants are blowing in the wind.

Dog is my co-pilot

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 April 2007 03:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  135
Joined  2007-04-12

Mr. Leahy:

Thank you for your kind words regarding the eloquence of my writing.  I appreciate the sentiment very much.

As for the remainder of your response, I am not an atheist merely because I view myself as an intellectual and fear looking or feeling foolish for adopting religious views.  Much the contrary, I am an atheist in the strictest sense of the word: I do not believe in any supernatural beings, whatsoever.  Atheism is not a “belief” per se, but rather a complete lack of belief.  I am unpersuaded that the God from your Bible—or any other god for that matter—exists, or ever has existed; nor do I believe the world or man was created by any such supernatural force.  I lack belief because the world I live in lacks evidence to support any such belief (short of a very old book filled with flaws, and many notions I view to be utterly reprehensible).  Why on earth should I start believing in God based on nothing more than a series of ancient parables?  Are you aware of some other verifiable evidence than this to support a belief in God?  Evidence supporting only one possible interpretation (i.e. in favor of the existence of God, and not explainable in any other way)?  Do you believe that faith in a God is justifiable because of the ancient stories, combined with the fact that millions of other people also believe?  Any other rational reasons (i.e. reasons not involving the word “faith”)?

I personally could not give a hoot how many people have, or currently do, believe in God.  This is not, to my mind, evidence of God’s existence.  Indeed, given the level of superstition found throughout history, and sadly continuing to this day, it seems to me perfectly normal to expect that vast numbers of people will believe in a god of some sort.  I trust you will concede that the fact that masses of people believe in a given idea is not even the scantest of evidence in support of that proposition.  Similarly, the fact that such beliefs have been held for two millennia is also of no evidential validity.

And I hope you will trust that I am not being hyperbolic when I also say I could not give a hoot whether others might ridicule me for choosing to believe in God.  I care not a wit what others might think of my beliefs or lack thereof.  Indeed, given that most of my friends and colleagues – and even my wife – all believe in God (usually the Christian one), my lack of belief already sets me apart from my “tribe”.  So I have not chosen disbelief (a/k/a “atheism”) out of some concern that I might be perceived as less intelligent than my friends and kin.  We all know that’s simply not the case.  And my choice of words is probably less artful than it ought to be.  When I use the word “choose” with regard to my lack of belief, it is really not exactly the best word.  I can no more “choose” to believe a thing, than “choose” not to believe a thing.  The combined product of everything I’ve learned and experienced in life has left me with an utter inability to agree with the proposition that a supernatural power exists.  In this sense, I am not “choosing” to disbelieve.  I simply do not believe.  Similarly, were I to decide right now that I want to become a Christian (if for no other reason than I would very much like to live in an afterlife), I cannot simply ignore the operations of my mind, and “choose” to believe.  My lack of belief is, as noted, based on my life experience, and the evidence available (and the lack of evidence available too), and even if I wished it otherwise, I cannot simply “choose” to begin believing a proposition that the entirety of my rational being rejects as absurd.

Like you, I find it a deeply disconcerting concept that when I die, I will simply cease to exist.  If you’ll forgive me for using your words, “I don’t like it that way at all.”  Unfortunately, however, this is precisely what I do believe.  And I expect I will continue to hold this belief until I am presented with reliable, verifiable evidence to the contrary.  If you are correct in your supposition that new discoveries may soon shed light on the reality that God brought mankind into existence, I dearly hope I am alive when any such convincing evidence is discovered.  I assure you, if this ever happens, I will promptly renounce my heathen ways, and will find the nearest possible church so I can be baptized before my spirit departs this corporeal body.  I’m writing this with no small amount of sarcasm, but I nevertheless mean precisely what I say.  As unlikely as I view the prospect, if sound evidence does in fact come to light that supports the theory of God (and is susceptible to no other reasonable explanation), I will be as happy as you.  I take that back.  I will be happier than you.  For it is no comfort to know that at my current age of 38, I have likely lived at least half of my expected life, and with each passing day I get that much closer to nothingness.  I love life – my wife, dog, friends, family, baseball, summer days, tropical beaches, the stars on a clear night – and so much more.  I would very much like to believe that my existence is not limited my brief stay here on planet earth.  When I tell you I do not believe in God, I do so without joy.  I find it deeply depressing to know that this is all I have, and nothingness awaits me. 

But regardless of my desire to believe otherwise, I cannot make it so by simply changing my mind on the subject.  I could pretend to do so.  I could join a church, be baptized, and go through the rituals along with everyone else around me.  But I would know that I still don’t believe.  And if you are correct in your belief in an omniscient God, he too will fully know that I lack true belief.  Indeed, he’d probably be even angrier with me, because instead of merely holding honestly held (though wrong) beliefs, I chose to act the hypocrite, misleading all those around me with my false displays of faith.  Surely this would be good cause for one-way trip to Hell (having read the Christian Bible as well as the Torah, I well recall God getting quite pissed off over lesser offenses than hypocrisy). 

Besides, why exactly is it so important that I adopt faith, and choose God as my Lord and Savior?  If he is omniscient (as he is reported to be), surely he will know that I have lived a largely moral life, and have overall been a kind a decent person.  If he is omnibenevolent (as he is purported to be, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding) then God surely will forgive me for using the faculty of reason he so kindly gave me to evaluate the facts available and conclude (reasonably I believe) that God did not likely exist.  I mean, he gave me the ability to think rationally; and he stacked the deck of cards with insufficient evidence for me to rationally conclude he exists.  Surely he wouldn’t condemn me to an eternity of torment for using this faculty to evaluate the evidence he made available (which any unbiased person would be obligated to concede is woefully scant).  If he’s as concerned about humans – and this one in particular – to the extent reported by Christians, then surely he could save my soul in an instant by providing some truly reliable evidence to base my belief on – or better yet, he could simply make his existence known to me by calling me on the phone for a chat (or if he’s shy, by appearing in a vision or dream).  Thus far he has not done so.  I must therefore conclude that given his clear knowledge of my intellectual failures, he is either deliberately withholding the necessary evidence that would bring me into the fold (and is thus not as concerned about my everlasting soul as reported) – or worse, is withholding this key knowledge and condemning me to eternal damnation because he is a sadist of some fashion.

That, or maybe he just doesn’t exist.

As I’ve tried to explain herein (and in my earlier posting), I simply do not believe in supernatural beings, including among others, the Judeo-Christian God.  I see no good reason to do so.  I also see no good reason to believe in Heaven, Hell, Satan, Angels, Jesus (as the Son of God), Allah, Vishnu, Buddha, Zeus, Apollo, Athena, Superman, Wolverine, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster (shamelessly borrowed from Richard Dawkins).  Lacking evidence to the contrary, belief in any of these is irrational as the next.  They are all stories – some better than others (I’m talking about you Buffy:) – and as best I can tell, there is no reliable evidence to support belief in any of them.  The Christian God is no more believable to me than any of these, and I feel sufficiently comfortable in this belief that I’m willing to say so outright, without fear of eternal damnation.  The whole notion of God-worship is so silly to me that it would be amusing – if the world weren’t on the verge of conflagration in part because of all this silliness.

Moreover, and this is important: I do not feel my life is any less rich absent God (or belief in him).  In contrast to many religious-minded people currently populating this planet, I value my life above all else (though I would, and have, risked it on the basis of my principles).  Knowing that each day I wake is one day less I will exist I approach every element of my life with a hunger for experience, and an openness to wonder.  I have, and continue to, seek out the wonderment that can be found in the natural world around us.  I sailed around the world twice before I was old enough to drink legally.  I’ve dove with sharks off Bora Bora.  I’ve run with the Bulls in Pamplona.  I’ve stepped out of an airplane at 1,000 feet (repeatedly).  And I’ve looked upon the stars of the Milky Way with awe through night vision goggles high in the Hindu Kush Mountains.  I value my life because it is all that I have, and I live it that way.  And when I die, I dearly hope my friends and family won’t mourn my soul burning for eternity in Hell, but will instead say, “Spence lived life, and what better epitaph could a person ask for?”

Those are my beliefs.  When I’m presented with good evidence for the existence of God I will happily revisit and revise my beliefs.  Until then, I am an atheist, and am neither proud nor ashamed of the fact.  It is simply who I am.

Regards,
Spence

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 April 2007 03:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]  
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1763
Joined  2006-08-20

[quote author=“Spencer H. Kelly”]They are all stories – some better than others (I’m talking about you Buffy:) –
Spence

Ok! now your’e stepping on my world view! :twisted:

I read and enjoyed your posts however, my very humble suggestions,

hit the return key a little more often than you do, dividing thoughts into paragraphs.

the jesus freaks like like this fellow thrive on wordiness, always looking for some something to hang onto.

Seeing the stars through infra-red at high elevation sounds cool, is it?

 Signature 

The ants are my friends, they’re blowing in the wind, the ants are blowing in the wind.

Dog is my co-pilot

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 April 2007 04:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]  
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1585
Joined  2006-10-20

Mr. Leahy, someone who you claim told a lie is by definition a liar, although I will grant that you did not use “liar” but the implication is clear.  You’ve also qualified the lie as a “big” one, as if this fine point alone is enough to discredit Sam’s entire argument.

Getting back to the poll, you have now presented a better case and I must verify your claim, however, it is better if you said this in your original post.  Also, Sam’s use of Gallup poll numbers is not a claim or assertion, he is repeating poll numbers.  You are the one who has delved into the numbers much deeper to describe the fine points the poll numbers alone do not suggest, but to accuse Sam Harris of dishonesty for not using your method of interpreting the numbers is hyperbolic.  At the most you could accuse Sam of being intellectually lazy, since claiming he is lying requires more proof of his intent (do you have it?).

The terms “militant atheist” and “evangelical atheist” are yours which you have placed on atheists, and, personally, I do not like the terms because of their negative association with criminal and delusional acts by Christians, Muslims, and sundry radical fringe groups; nor have you identified a group of atheists who fit your descriptions.  Adding “militant” and “evangelical” to qualify an atheist creates distinctions where none exist.

As for atheists declaring war on you, by your own definition of “evangelist” and your self-declaration of being an evangelical Christian then it is you who has declared war not only on atheists, but anyone who does not follow your brand of Christianity.  May I refer you to “I Was Wrong” by Social Distortion:

It was me against the world
I was sure I would win
But the world fought back
Punished me for my sins.
Well they tried to warn me of my evil ways,
But I didn’t get what they had to say.
I was wrong.

I’m not out to destroy religion, nor will I support it, but rather would let it fade away through benign neglect.

 Signature 

“All extremists should be killed!” - neighbor’s bumper sticker

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 April 2007 05:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  135
Joined  2007-04-12

eucaryote:

Thanks for the suggestion regarding shorter paragraphs.  I’m not yet accustomed to writing for the short-attention-span crowd (meaning, I haven’t spent much time posting to forums such as this).  In the civilian sector, I’m accustomed to writing sometimes lengthy, and always detailed, legal briefs, and in that style of writing I find arguments to be more persuasive and methodical when I dedicate a paragraph to each specific element of my argument—and the more involved the set-up for the argument, the longer the paragraph.  Nevertheless, brevity does have value, and your suggestion makes sense, especially in this forum.  So I’ll try.  But I write arguments for a living (for part of my career), so I make no absolute promises.

Sorry for poaching on your Buffy territory.  I’ll try not to offend in the future.  Can I have dibs on Willow?—Or is she part of your Buffy territory?

Yeah, seeing the Milky Way high in the mountains through night vision was an amazing sight.  One particular night stands out so clearly in my memory.  We were encamped about 3km from the Pakistani border (inside Afghanistan of course), in a wadi (dry riverbed), and I picked up a midnight to 0200 guard duty.  We were easily more than a hundred miles from any city of even small significance, and there’s virtually no electricity outside of Kabul anyway; the night was completely cloudless with a waning moon, and even without night vision, you could easily make out thousands of stars of the Milky Way overhead.  Then to serve guard duty with any hope of success, you need to tilt down the night vision.  When you turn on your NVGs the black of night and pinpoints of white starlight is transformed.  The device magnifies the light and any IR signatures, so that you see an almost daylike field of vision, except it’s green through the NVGs.  Where before you could just make out faint images with the naked eye as illuminated by the partial moonlight—with the night vision, you see everything: the full visible length of the wadi, our soldiers racked out in sleeping bags scattered all over the place (the best place to sleep is on the hood of a HUMVEE, but those get claimed quick).  As you scan up the bracketing slopes of the wadi, you can see your snipers in their oversight locations (they are similarly scanning the wadi below using NVGs and weapon-mounted PEQ-4 IR laser spotters, which can be used to aim an IR laser dot, or to illuminate an entire area with a sorta IR flashlight—all of which is invisible to anyone not wearing NVGs).  Then you look further up to the sky, and it’s just mind-boggling.  The illumination capabilities of the NVGs magnify and bring to light thousands upon thousands of stars that you wouldn’t otherwise see with the naked eye.  On a starlit night like this, it looks like the sky is just littered with stars of every conceivable brightness, and you can even grasp the shape of the band of the Milky Way.  You see constant shooting stars (several per minute) that you wouldn’t otherwise perceive.  And then further in the distance, you see the IR signatures of the Close Air Support element (CAS) that will be on-station and quickly available should the feces hit the fan.  They rotate the aircraft on and off-station as they fly their alotted missions, and as they require fuel; so in the course of a couple hours you might see a pair of MH-53 (Pave Low helicopters); which are replaced by a pair of A-10’s; and then these are followed by perhaps an AC-130 Spectre gunship (or a B-1 bomber, which is naturally at a far higher altitude).  So the whole experience is rather surreal.  Absorbing this wondrous display of starlight is almost a religious experience it’s so beautiful—while surrounded by hostiles in every direction who make no secret of their intent to engage us at the opportune time; while watching the reassuring IR signature of some incredibly deadly aircraft flying a wide orbit of our encampment.  It’s a strange combination when you see such beauty while in the middle of such ugliness/

Sorry, that was a long paragraph.  I’ll try harder next time.

Spence

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 April 2007 05:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]  
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1585
Joined  2006-10-20

You lost me at “waning moon”.

 Signature 

“All extremists should be killed!” - neighbor’s bumper sticker

Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 April 2007 04:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  135
Joined  2007-04-12

Sorry about that Skipshot.  And thanks for making me re-read my posting, which was a good reminder that, as a writer (or otherwise), I shouldn’t fall in love with the sound of my own voice.  I dislike it in others, and it’s probably equally annoying to others when I display that quality. 

I am duly chastened and humbled, and will try to write more concisely, and with a greater focus on the facts and arguments, than on my personal experiences.

Thanks,
S.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 April 2007 04:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  154
Joined  2007-04-11

Storm,

Thank you for pointing out the recent Newsweek survey.

As with any of these surveys on creationism and evolution, the way the questions are phrased matters a great deal, and it would be nice to take a look at the way the questions were asked.

However, the results you cite seem consistent with the 25 years of polling that Gallup has done on the topic.

The 34% of college students who believe the Biblical account of creation mirrors the results that Duncan and Geist found in their 2004 study of the topic. (You can get the details at http://www.lettertonanatheist.biglie.html).

They concluded that 33% of the general population of Americans were creationists, and that of these only 18% were literalists, 14% took a more “liberal” interpretation of the creation story in the Bible, and 1% were uncategorized.

I read that data to say that 18% are probably Young Earth Creationists and 14% are probably Old Earth Creationists. Young Earth Creationists believe the universe was created sometime in the last 6,000 to 25,000 years. Old Earth Creationists believe the earth and universe are 4.5 billion years in age plus, but have an entire range of timelines for the origin of the human species.

From your incredulity that so many American college students are “creationists” I assume then that there are virtually no “creationists” in Sweden ?

Thanks for your post.

P.S. I grew up in a small former iron mining town named Dannemora, New York, so named because the first miners to work were natives of Dannemora, Sweden.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 April 2007 04:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  154
Joined  2007-04-11

Mia,

I want to thank you for posting one of the most interesting and challenging replies to my discussion of Sam’s erronenous thoughts on the relationship between slavery, Christian faith, and abolition. I am assuming that you read my critiques of Sam’s discussion of slavery on the part of my book website that addresses the twenty factual errors same made in Letter to a Christian Nation ( http://www.lettertoanatheist.twentyerrors.html ).

I am appreciative that you have an interest in the topic, and will also refer you to Chapter Two of my book, which deals even more extensively with the entire issue, and which you might find of interest from a historical perspective.

So let me respond to your points one by one:

You say:

“ in your critique of Sam’s discussions of slavery, you apologize for the OT as being representative of a time when slavery was simply the norm, everybody was doing it, and therefore the poor idiots were just going with the flow of the times. You further state that “anyone who reads the Golden Rule can come to but one conclusion: The Bible condemns slavery”,. . . and that “the central theme of the New Testament on slavery” is covered by Jesus when he says, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Slaves are not one’s neighbors, Michael. Rather, slaves are one’s property. Unless I missed a verse, Jesus does not urge us to “Love thy property as thyself.” Neither God nor God-as-Jesus ever condemns slavery in the NT.”

I don’t think you are correct here in arbitrarily assuming that “slaves” would not be considered “neighbors”. I read the Golden Rule as saying that every living human being is a “neighbor”. I think that would be the most common interpretation of the Golden Rule, but I am open to arguments demonstrating my intepretation is incorrect.

You say:

“it’s impossible to deny that God condones and encourages enslavement, since a good one-third of the commandments revolve around his obsession with our worship of him, whose name, according to him, is ‘Jealous’. “

You make many good points in your post, but this is not one of them.

Citing those commandments that relate to worship, and suggesting they mean God encourages slavery is more than a stretch. It is a completely unrelated thought.

You say:

“Most of you believe the Bible is the perfect and inerrant word of God (however strange the content), else you would lose the entire foundation of your faith claims. To suggest that even one word is wrong or contradictory is to bring it all crumbling down, since Revelation demands that not one word be added or taken away.”

While I do believe that the Bible is divinely inspired, I personally don’t think that every word as displayed in a particular version of the Bible in today’s English is necessarily inerrant. That’s where understanding the context comes in. I think there are some Christians who your words accurately describe, but I am not one of them.

You say:

“just what the heck guides you in your cherry-picking?”

This is a fabulous question, and perhaps the central issue with regards to Christian faith, isn’t it ?

In my earlier reply to Spencer H. Kelly I addressed this issue, but let me elaborate a bit further here.
First, I would look at the book of the Bible in which the passage comes from. Old Testament, New Testament, the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John, Acts, all are written in a certain historical context.

John, for instance, has always been troubling for me.

I just don’t understand the way the author of that book thinks. It’s as if he was having some mystical experience that I have no experience with, and I just don’t process a lot of it.

That’s not to say I reject it. But it is to say I don’t really dwell on it, or look to it for guidance.

In contrast, I love reading Mathew, Mark, and Luke. Especially Luke. It’s the historian in me, I guess.

You say:

“Do you actually buy into the idea that many saints rose from their tombs along with Jesus, and that this was witnessed by many? If so, isn’t it because you wholeheartedly believe the words of those fallible men?

Don’t you wonder why at least one of these many saints didn’t go on to write or dictate his own account of this unfathomable miracle? Where are the Gospels of the Risen? Personally, I’d be selling my story left and right to the founding fathers of the church.”

Again, this is an area of the Bible I don’t really dwell on. In fact, off the top of my head, I can’t tell you where this is found in the Bible.

Must be from John, don’t you think ?

Help me out here and give me the passages to which you refer and I will think on it and respond.


You say:

“Good luck getting Sam to debate you, seriously. I’d definitely tune in.”

Thanks. Do me a favor and e-mail his lecture agent telling him how great it would be to debate me !

Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 April 2007 05:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]  
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1453
Joined  2005-01-22

There might be a quasi-solution to the “big lie” you accuse Sam of making, Michael.  For you it is important to make the distinction between young earth creationists and old earth creationists, I presume this distinction is important because you are an old earther and that you find the belief in a universe (or earth, to be specific) that is less than 10,000 years old to be simply ludicrous.  In order to believe that statement a person would have to basically jettison 50% of the scientific information that humans have gathered over the last 200 years.  Such a belief, in your eyes, is implausible.

For people like Sam Harris, as it is for me, the distinction between whether the formation of the earth (or the creation itself) happened less than 10,000 years ago or 4.5 billion years ago, while important, is not really so significant.  We see the idea of creation (by a god) as the significantly more important detail.  Perhaps Sam should not have said what he did, in fact, he should not have said it. (I do remember cringing slightly when I read it because I felt it just wasn’t possible that so many Americans were so stupid, but I think I sort of read between the lines to the conclusion that 53% are creationists, which in itself is a horrendous statistic.) 

So while you see this as a slander against nearly half of the creationists, atheists view it as a technical detail when viewed in the context of the larger framework - creationism itself!  What’s interesting to me is “the why” of your being so offended by Sam’s assertion.  You call it a “big lie” because it must be deeply unnerving, but why is it so important to you?  Why do you insist so strongly on being safely distanced from your fellow (young earth) creationists?  I guess I just want you to admit that the belief in the earth being less than 10,000 years old is ludicrous . . . is that your feeling?

Yet once you admit that, are you stepping on the slope where science gets to trump religion on almost every assertion about the nature of reality?  How do you find a place to stop the slide?  If you believe in the concept of a human soul, how do you manage to stop the scientific knowledge at some point where you can reasonably insert “soul talk” into the explanitory equation?

You also asked

“I was particularly intrigued with your thoughts on abiogenesis. So educate me here.

It’s a scientifically unproven concept correct ? No experiment has ever proven that life can be created from inanimate matter.

How is abiogenesis not merely the scientific wish of the atheistic world view ( I am tempted to say “atheistic religion” here, but out of respect for the quality of your most recent post I won’t do that now !)”

I am no expert on this topic, but when I read anything reputable on the subject, I can see protein strings becoming self-replicating RNA just through the natural forces of nature and given the proper environment.  It seems to me to be a very plausible and probable thesis when considering the origin of life.  Certainly, it’s a lot more common sense than the belief that some intelligent supernatural being created self-replicating DNA by some magical transaction (and this second assumption necessarily includes a myriad of other totally unbelievable premises about god and existence).  Occam’s razor comes into play constantly.


Bob

 Signature 

It’s definitely a moon! . . . and now it’s become a sunflower!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 April 2007 05:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  154
Joined  2007-04-11

Bob,

You continue to impress me with the arguments you make in your recent postings.

I think you are insightful in commenting on the degree to which Sam’s continual repetition of this lie about beliefs about the age of the universe irritates me so much.

First, let me correct you in your assumptions regarding my views on evolution.

I am not an Old Earth Creationist.

I am a theistic evolutionist with an open mind to the arguments of the Intelligent Design school.

I identify five unique schools of thought on the topic, only two of which accept the current and only scientific theory that has met the standards of the scientific community for acceptance.

1. Atheistic evolutionist
2. Theist evolutionist
3. Intelligent Design
4. Old Earth Creationism
5. Young Earth Creationism

I spell this out in great detail in Chapter Three of my book, Letter to an Atheist. The Chapter is titled Science, Faith, and Atheistic Evangelism.

Actually, it matters a great deal whether a person subscribes to a school of thought that places the origin of the universe at 6,000 years ago as opposed to 4.5 billion years.

If you say 6,000 years you are saying—as Sam points out—I reject the Scientific Method entirely, and I am using my theology as science.

If you say 4.5 billion years, you are saying you are a person who is rational, logical, and are generally accepting of the scientific method as a way to uncover the facts.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 April 2007 05:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]  
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2927
Joined  2006-12-17

[quote author=“Michael Patrick Leahy”]
I identify five unique schools of thought on the topic, only two of which accept the current and only scientific theory that has met the standards of the scientific community for acceptance.

1. Atheistic evolutionist
2. Theist evolutionist
3. Intelligent Design
4. Old Earth Creationism
5. Young Earth Creationism

It is important here to separate the “evolution” from the descriptive adjectives.  Both atheistic and theistic refer to a religious position from whithin which the scientific theory is interpreted.  The only accepted scientific theory is EVOLUTION, full stop.  That takes the debate out of the realm of science.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 April 2007 06:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 58 ]  
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1453
Joined  2005-01-22

OK, Michael.  Perhaps, from the theistic stance, these 4 distinct theistic categories are very important, but for me the ‘belief in god’ is the one table-turning caveat.  Whatever is the nature of the “evolution” as espoused by categories 2 and 3, it is not the true version of the theory of the evolution of life.  It’s the reason that Darwin was not a theistic evolutionist.  He was originally a theist, but when he finally, actually, really understood the mechanisms and processes of evolution, he became an agnostic.  To my way of thinking you either understand the theory of evolution OR you believe in god, there is no middle ground unless you make the ‘god’ into something no more meaningful than a word that stands for nothing.  As soon as the word ‘god’ stands for something existentially real (and supernatural)  in your vocabulary, you have in fact proven to me that you DO NOT understand the theory of evolution.  It’s that plain and simple to me.

Understanding is what makes knowledge different from belief.  A theistic evolutionist likely “believes” in evolution because the science is convincing, but apparently, not convincing enough?

Perhaps I’ll have to read chapter 3 to get my answers?

Bob

 Signature 

It’s definitely a moon! . . . and now it’s become a sunflower!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 April 2007 06:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 59 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  154
Joined  2007-04-11

Kudos to Bob and burt for their intelligent comments on evolution.

burt is 100 per cent correct in stating that there is only one scientific THEORY on the topic, and that is Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.

burt, please note that I make a distinction between the scientific theory of evolution and “public opinion” schools of thought on the topic.

This is where mixing science and religion incorrectly leads to confusion, but let me try to elaborate on how I try to be very careful in the distinctions.

Atheistic evolutionists accept Darwin’s scientific theory of evolution, but do so within the context of a personal “religious” world view of atheism. Thomas Huxley clearly fit in this camp. Darwin would best be placed here, but he was careful to call himself an agnostic, and not an atheist, and I am sure you are well aware of the difference.

Theistic evolutionists accept Darwin’s scientific theory of evolution, but do so within the context of a personal religious view of Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism, or any Theistic world view. Darwin’s close friend and supporter Asa Gray, for instance, clearly fit into this school of thought.

Intelligent Design supporters reject the classic Darwinian theory of evolution (particularly the random nature of mutation and natural selection) and have a wide range of personal religious views, most of which are Christian, but some of which may be Deist, or other major religion. They have not yet developed their own scientific theory that is testable according to the scientific method, but they are diligently working on that. To my mind, their best arguments come in viewing the probability problems related to the creation of entirely new species under the classic Darwinian random approach, but the facts remain to be seen here.

Old Earth Creationists reject Darwin’s theory of evolution, and have developed their own theory, which they claim is testable. Dr. Hugh Ross has done a lot of work here. Religiously, this group is mostly Christian, though it may have some Muslim adherents.

Young Earth Creationists reject Darwins’ theory, and replace it with their own literal interpretation of the Genesis story. Mostly Christians. This group substitutes theology completely for science.

Bob makes an argument that Phillip Johnson, the Intelligent Design proponent from UC Berkeley Law School also makes.

They argue that belief in God and belief in evolution are two incompatible belief structures.

I think both Bob and Phillip Johnson are completely wrong here, each incorrectly trying to apply science to religion, and religion to science.

One final thought on public opinion about evolution.

A good chunk of the population really doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to think about which of the 5 schools I have identified above fits for them. Some may think they are Intelligent Designers one day, and Old Earth Creationists the next.

Some may just not care.

In fact, I think the percentage of the population who really thinks their own positions through on this logically is less than 50 %. Probably a lot less.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 April 2007 06:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 60 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  154
Joined  2007-04-11

Arildno,

Thank you for taking the time to my website and review my comments on the 20 factual errors Sam Harris makes in Letter to a Christian Nation.

Also, thanks for checking in from Norway. One of my very best friends is Norwegian, and lives in Oslo. Perhaps you’ll invite my friend and I to have a cup of coffee at your favorite cafe in Oslo some day.

You say:

“What you have shown, is that some of the source material Mr. Harris RELIED upon (relied, not lied) is spurious, and in some cases, incorrect.

You deserve credit for pointing this out, thank you!

What is NOT to your credit is to shift the blame onto Mr. Harris and say he is dishonest because he hasn’t studied French gynecological practice in detail!”

Perhaps it’s a fine point, but hear me out on this.

Sam’s claim that “half the American population believes the universe is 6,000 years old” is a lie because he knows it is not true, and yet he continues to repeat it. If you continue to repeat something you know is not true, that is a lie.

Now, I will give you this.

If Sam were to acknowledge his error, and publicly correct his lie, I would be willing to withdraw my claim that he is intellectually dishonest. But he is well aware of my challenge on this topic by now, and he remains silent.

As to your references to his claims made concerning the relationship between the funding of abstinence programs under the George W. Bush Administration and the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases, I believe I refer to that simply as one of the 20 false statements in Letter to a Christian Nation.

More on that later if you care to discuss it.

Profile
 
 
   
4 of 48
4
 
RSS 2.0     Atom Feed