Evidence of God from Christians questionable

December 26, 2012

zJustin says:

I’m an atheist myself and I’m not presenting any doubts about my atheism with this question but I seem to have trouble with trying to get evidence from theists who want to try to convince me that God exists.

I was talking with a very fine gentleman, who is my neighbor and a strong believer in Christ and God. He asked me why I don’t believe and as is the standard reply there is not enough evidence to prove the existence of God. I told him I am a person of science and logic, and I need proof in the form of hard, observable evidence.

So he is convinced one form of evidence is that we each have an unseeable spirit and soul within us, and since it is only God that can create us with a spirit inside, God must exist. And his supporting arguments for this spirit, hence God are various documented miracles witnessed. We didn’t have time to go into detail about it but he quickly explained something about a woman without a womb giving birth to a child.

So anyway the problem I have really revolves around how “miracles,” that may have been observed and apparently interpreted as such, actually specifically prove the Christian god? I asked for hard evidence, something explainable; scientific but Christians keep citing observations that are in themselves miraculous events.

I mean if the event is currently unexplained by science, how do we know Allah or Shiva didn’t do it? Or perhaps there was a sorcerer or leprechaun in the room. Miracles, or for that matter anything that seems amazing or incredible are lousy at proving god. But I need a way to explain that to Christians. But at the same time I’m having a hard time figuring out what exactly good evidence, that’s not miraculous or magical but could prove god if we found it, might look like.

Proof that there is no god?

June 2, 2012

Paul S says:

A definitive proof there is no god.

Such claims have been made. But fail do to the fact one cannot logically prove negative.

Now if one was to show that there is something else other than a god to account for everything, that could be such a proof.

Now on the premise that there is in fact no god. That should indeed be possible prove that there is something else other than a god, I would think.

To show this is the case, let’s look at the question, “Does God exist?”

The question presumes existence. And does not presume a god.

Existence is here. And existence is in evidence. God in the question is not. The point being existence exists without the need for any kind pf a god. Existence is the only self existence entity. And not in need of any kind of a god.

Now there not being any kind of a god. The universe exists as it is now. All the theist arguments which may convince many there is a god. Are still false, there not being any.

Furthermore can any theist show this premise that there is no god to be an absurd premise, being that there is no god?

Paul S.
a professed Christian.

Why Another Discussion About Evolution?

February 19, 2012

There are far fewer discussions these days about the validity of evolution than there were just a few years ago, and for good reason. For the most part, evolution is accepted by theists and atheists alike. Albeit theists add that evolution must have been guided by the Divine hand, even if the guidance was apparently through the natural processes that we can observe.  That’s an interesting discussion too, but not the one I’m attempting to target here.

The question about evolution is still very relevant to some whose conservative interpretation of their sacred writings (the Bible, the Qur’an, the Tanakh, etc) is at odds with it.  This post isn’t my attempt to put forth any new evidence or arguments – that would take more moxy than I’m able to muster!  It’s not even an attempt to put forth an exhaustive case for evolution – still too much moxy!  The purpose of this post is to provide those who object to the theory of evolution with a ready forum in which to explore the topic, in the context of the other discussions on this blog that they might be participating in.

We can observe the mechanisms of evolution first hand. For example we can observe the causes of genetic mutation, like copy errors during reproduction, and external influences like radiation, and interaction with external chemicals. We can also see how the mutations are directly related to new traits – in many cases we can trace a specific trait to a specific set of genes.

We can see natural selection in action. Natural selection happens when organisms interact with their environment. Traits that are beneficial in a certain environment give the organism a reproductive advantage. Conversely, traits that are detrimental can hinder reproduction.  Shifts in the environment can change which traits are advantageous and which traits are detrimental.  Thus detrimental traits in one environment can become advantageous traits in another. Organisms with advantageous traits are more likely to generate more offspring, thus the trait becomes predominant.

There are hardly any believers left who object to “micro-evolution”. Virtually all believers now accept that “micro-evolution” occurs. The objection is to so-called “macro-evolution”.  The terms “micro-evolution” and “macro-evolution” are differences without any real distinction – they are folk concepts rather than biological concepts.  There is however a biological concept of “speciation”. Speciation can occur when members of the same species become isolated into distinct colonies. This often happens when colonies migrate and become separated by geographical distance, or by newly formed features in the geography – like bodies of water, mountain ranges, or climate shifts.  The isolated colonies evolve independently over time, each accumulating it’s own unique set of mutations.  Over time, the drift in genetic makeup of the isolated colonies can be substantial enough so that individuals from one colony are no longer capable of producing fertile offspring with mates from the other colony.  Once this happens, the colonies are said to be different species.  Since the colonies are no longer able to share genetic traits, they can’t re-converge. From this point forward, the individual colonies, now separate species, continue to evolve independently.  As a result, their traits continue to diverge to the point where we would recognize them as different species by casual observation – they “look different”. You might think of this as “macro-evolution”.  Speciation has been observed first hand in various living plants, flies, worms, and other organisms. And of course we find countless examples of speciation in the fossil record.

We use independent means to observe that evolution has occurred over time. We can deduce a family tree (a model of ancestral relationship) based on the morphology and age of the vast number of species that are preserved in the fossil record – some quarter of a million or so species that are represented by countless individual organisms.  We can also deduce a family tree by looking at DNA of living species, to determine how close one species’ genetic sequence is to another.  For example, chimpanzee DNA is much closer to human DNA than to fruit fly DNA. Therefore chimpanzees and humans are more closely related than either humans and fruit flies, or than chimpanzees and fruit flies.  These completely independent methods of observing our evolutionary past yield virtually the same family tree.

Evolution provides an excellent explanation for the progression of single-celled organism, to cell colonies, to simple multi-celled organisms, to the more complex organisms (including us!) that we can observe today.

How can a belief in the supernatural evolve?  Is belief in the supernatural somehow a beneficial trait?  And if not, does our belief in the supernatural suggest something more to us humans than can be explained by evolution?

We humans (and some other animals to a lesser degree) have evolved the ability to think abstractly.  This enables us, among other things, to predict outcomes of hypothetical scenarios in our minds, rather than being forced to learn everything by trial an error through our physical actions.  This has clear evolutionary advantages.  This same abstract thought forms the basis for complex thinking and verbal communication – also very advantageous.

Along with abstract thought, we (and most other animals) have evolved the ability to distinguish between living organisms and inanimate objects. That is, we can tell the difference between agents, like a butterfly in our garden, and non-agents like a feather floating erratically in the breeze.  However like anything in nature, this ability is not perfect.  Sometimes we mistake agents for non-agents (we don’t recognize the panther stealing stealthily across the grassland), or we mistake non-agents for agents (a shirt hanging in a dark closet looks just like a ghost!).  From an evolutionary standpoint, it’s better to err on the side of mistaking a non-agent for an agent (don’t take any chances – that could be a predator and we might be its lunch!) than to err by mistaking an agent for a non-agent (we missed lunch because we didn’t recognize the pray).  We’ve evolved to err on the side of “seeing ghosts” than to err on the side of “getting eaten”.

Seeing “ghosts” and thinking abstractly about “what a ghost is and where ghosts come from” are a few examples of the kinds of things at the root of belief in the supernatural. We sense something that feels like it’s really there, but we can verify that it is not really there.  We then conclude that things that aren’t physical can exist (that is, we tend not to doubt the accuracy of our feelings).

Belief in the existence of abstract, unseen agents evolves through reasoning, to become beliefs in things like animal spirits. We assume that the unseen agents have a familiar origin, like agents we can see – people and animals. The belief evolves into ancestral gods when we reason that our ancestors were with us when they were alive (when we could see them), so they must still be with us now since they are still alive, but we just can’t see them. And if they are with us, they must still take care of us like they did when we could see them. If they take care of us, it means they can still make things happen – they have power to affect change in the environment. Abstract concepts of celestial gods proceed from there. This, combined with our reasoning that everything has an origin, becomes belief in creator gods.

Not every persistent trait is advantageous. Take male breasts for example.  Some traits are simply byproducts of advantageous traits, like female breasts for example.  Similarly, belief in the supernatural might be a by product of erroneous agency detection, coupled with the ability to think abstractly about “ghost” agents.  Though it could be merely a byproduct, I think belief in the supernatural actually is beneficial.  Tribes that are more organized around authority can dominate tribes that are less organized.  Belief in gods is a ready source of authority – both in terms of the belief about what the gods might require of us (we seek to appease authorities or to perhaps gain favor from them), and also in terms of the authority that self-appointed spiritual leaders claim to have – spiritual leaders claim first-hand knowledge of the gods and what the gods want: “The gods want you to put yourself in harms way to protect our village! Disobey them and the gods will kill you!”

Theists who don’t accept evolution because it conflicts with their theistic beliefs, won’t particularly like these conclusions.  That’s expected and understandable.  Shouldn’t we accept any conclusions that are most strongly supported by the evidence, even if we don’t particularly like the conclusions?  My challenge to you is this: while you examine the evidence that underpins evolutionary theory, and while you look for ways to refute the theory (Refuting a theory is a good thing by the way! Science is based in falsifying theories and cannot stand without it!), be resolved to accept whatever your reasoning suggests is the truth.

The incomprehensible and Atheist thought

February 18, 2012

Kurt says:

For many of us, the definition of an Atheist is one who does not believe in the existence of a God. To discuss this further then one must agree to a benchmark Atheist definition of what does the word God mean? Is God a higher power, a supernatural force, or as described by the two main western religions; Christianity & Judaism.

NASA’s Kepler Mission is searching for planetary systems throughout our Galaxy. Based upon all of the Initial research of the Kepler Mission scientists now believe our Galaxy contains more planets than it does stars! That means there should be no less than one trillion stars and five trillion planets. Of all those five trillion planets most scientists believe that no less than 5% will be in a Goldy Lox Zone! That would equal 250 Billion Planets. Of those 250 Billion conservatively 5% would harbor life. Of the 12.5 Billion which harbor life it is estimated that no less than 1% (125 Million) will have intelligent life forms and of these 125 million planets it is now believed that at least 1% or 1.25 million planets within our galaxy harbor intelligent life which is vastly more evolved than our comprehension. In other words life or entities with incomprehensible higher powers.

God is not Necessary

August 3, 2011

According to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, there is no such thing as absolute zero energy (also called vacuum energy) in infinite space for infinite time.  In fact, energy fluctuations in empty space cause virtual particles to spontaneously come into existence all the time.  According to Lawrence Krauss, virtual particles account for most of the mass in the universe (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ImvlS8PLIo&feature=relmfu)

If it is impossible for energy not to exist, then by definition energy is necessary.  Therefore God is not necessary for the existence of energy.

If energy is the cause of virtual particles, then virtual particles are contingent upon virtual energy and not upon God.  Virtual particles are a type of matter.  Then God is not necessary for the existence of  all matter.  If Krauss is right, that virtual particles make up most of the mass of the universe, then God is not necessary for the existence of most of the matter in the universe.

Edward P. Tryon proposed back in 1973 that the entire universe was the result of a large-scale energy fluctuation.  Work to understand how the matter we observe can come into existence from energy fluctuations is still underway.  A new class of high-energy experiments will shed new light on this question now that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC)  is online.  Rather than speculating now that all matter is contingent on energy and not on God, let’s stop here and be content to narrow God’s gap.  In the mean time, we’ll continue to ask theists to justify their special pleading when they claim that “everything is contingent… except God.”

Creating the Creator

July 10, 2011

We humans believe in all sorts of different gods.  It is a rare person who believes that all of these gods exist.  Most people in modern society believe that only one particular God exists (Allah or Yahveh for example), or they believe that only a particular pantheon exists (The Father, Son, Holy Ghost, and angels for example). And a few of us believe that none of these gods exist.

Unless you happen to be one of the rare people who believe that all gods that anyone conceives of really exists, you can join me in exploring how people come to dream up the gods that do not exist (excluding, of course, your god or pantheon which really does exist).  Here is one plausible account:

Memories of the dead

When a parent dies, there is very often the mistaken feeling that the parent is still somehow still with us after his or her death. We continue to “feel” the parent’s presence for several months. Our memories of the parent, emotional denial of his or her death, our habit of having the parent with us since birth, all make it difficult to realize the loss. In some societies, ancestor worship is the main religion. These feelings, that the parent is still present, has grown into a codified belief system where ancestors are always present and watching over their progeny.

When some ancestors become more powerful than others (the spirit of my great great granddad can protect me against the spirit of your great great granddad), that ancestor becomes a demigod. Each generation attributes more powers and abilities to their demigods. Over time, the demigods begin to look like what we would call gods.

Belief in the unseen

Most of the time, we (and other animals) can distinguish an agent from an inanimate object. We can tell for example that a lief blowing overhead in a stiff wind is inanimate, even though it is moving erratically. We can tell that a hawk gliding smoothly overhead is animate; the hawk is an “agent”. An agent can act, it has the ability to direct it’s movements. Inanimate objects can be acted upon but they don’t act of their own accord.

We are good at recognizing agency. Our ability to recognize agency is hardwired in us, it is essential for our survival. We can recognize pray, and more importantly, we can recognize predators. But because our ability to recognize agency isn’t perfect, we have evolved to err on the side of mistaking an inanimate object for an agent. This has some disadvantages. One disadvantage is that we might flee at the sound of a falling pine cone. However, this is far more preferable than erring in the other direction – it is far more preferable than mistaking an agent for an inanimate object. That is how you get eaten by a predator!

We’ve all heard a creak in the house that sounded a little like a footstep. Or we’ve seen a shadow that look a little like a person. Because we are hardwired to recognize agency, and if we can’t tell for sure, we’re hardwired to err on the side of recognizing agency when there is no agent. We interpret these “unseen agents” as spirits or ghosts. Spirits and ghosts are what we call agents that are invisible. Most of us have had the experience of “seeing a ghost” until we look close and discover we have seen a shadow.

Language develops

As hominids become bipedal, children could no longer easily hang from the mother as she goes about her business of foraging and traveling. The child had to walk close by as soon as he became big enough to walk. As a result, physical gestures between mother and child became less effective since the child and mother were no longer in constant physical contact. Vocal utterances began to take on a primary role in mother child communication: “stay close by, beware of danger, eat this, stop that!”

Language takes on a more important role as toolmaking develops – it’s a way to pass on the skill to children and other tribesman. Finally, it becomes a way of facilitating cooperation. Language evolves from grunts and hoots and becomes symbolic.

Language can describe the unseen

As language becomes more sophisticated, it becomes adequate to describe a dead ancestor or tribesman to a child who has never seen him.

Conflation of real and imaginary

The child grows up with the understanding that there are unseen people who everyone believes to be real. The same child hears stories of mistaken (or intentionally invented) agents which are indistinguishable from stories of extinct agents. There is a conflation between an imagined agent who never existed with real extinct people who really did exist.

Imagining Gods

Memories of ancestors become distorted as more superhuman feats are attributed to them. Super ancestors are imagined to explain apparent agency that would not be possible actions of (normal) dead relatives: thunder, earthquakes, the sun tracking along the sky, floods, famine, epidemics.

Imagining a Creator

Logic develops and people begin to recognize that things have origins. What is the agent that created those things? The origin stories from different cultures give us examples of various Creators that we humans have imagined.

Is Natural Selection a Conscious Process?

March 8, 2011

Curious George says:

I have a question concerning the theory of evolution – the natural selection of random mutations. My question is specifically concerning the belief that natural selection is not a conscious process and the apparent lack of intent in the conventional theory of evolution.

From everything I’ve read natural selection is not a conscious process. Certainly certain scenarios exist where the process of natural selection does a great job of explaining how that works. For example, natural selection tends to favor the survival of blond haired mice over dark haired mice on white beaches. Easy enough to understand that. It has been scientifically demonstrated that bird prey can more easily see the contrast of dark colored mice as opposed to blond colored mice against the background of white sand. So over time more and more dark colored mice fall prey to the birds seeking food until eventually there are fewer and fewer of them remaining to contribute to the gene pool and over time are virtually eliminated from the gene pool – in that environment anyway- altogether.

Evolutionists have done a great job of dunking the irreducible complexity argument with regard to the “complex” eye, showing that it evolved over time from something far less complex. But what they don’t explain is how at every turn there just happen to be just the right random mutations available to be selected from and how natural selection goes about making the selection of useful mutation or the analysis/assessment of which mutations to keep or discard. It seems to me that such analysis would need to be a conscious process. I’m not suggesting a “God” per say, just a consciousness or intelligence at some level directing the natural selection process.

Furthermore, human reproduction requires two sexes, each with their own distinct reproductive system. How does evolution explain the existence of two different but mutually dependent and complementary reproductive systems? The two different systems would have had to evolve in tandem from a particular point, separately and yet maintaining their complementary structure. How does chance mutation and natural selection explain these two very different but complementary systems? And you can’t use the “it look millions of years” explanation because with sexual reproduction if you get it wrong for even one generation – you lose. So how could natural selection work without the right-hand knowing what the left had was doing? Or how with natural selection can you explain that the right hand knew what the left hand was doing?

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