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Both good points.

The first I mention in my response to KB. The second I touch on briefly in that same response.

The problem is that I don’t think it is a mystery. While I may not have an answer I feel that an answer is there. Do we need to make a step of faith at this point, lacking proof? Yes. Will it always be that way? I don’t think so. Will the answer be found in science? At least in part.

Call me a dreamer, but the God that I believe in WANTS us to know Him. That means there is a proof even if we can not see it right now.


That is some answer. I doubt I can answer 10% of what you wrote to your satisfaction due to the fact my answer would be based on my faith which your opening would seem to disallow. My single address to that point is that I do not separate God from the physical. Your example of digestion actually resonates with me in this imperfect point: to the food the stomach is the universe yet the body exists, the food could prove God if it existed in the same level as God. This example is full of flaws but I think you might see my point. I believe that He is existent in our reality and can be observed if we choose to look for evidence.

This is not to suggest that you have not looked, just that the search has been outside the boundaries. Nor am I suggesting that I know how to look or even where the boundaries are. My belief is that the sin nature prevents us from making these direct observations. Convenient I know, but my honest opinion.

The only other point I would ask you to consider is going to be a stretch. I hat to ask it but if folks and “suspend disbelief” just a moment and grant me one point: If a God exists that can create all of this, he would likely be the 3 O’s. The only one I would ask is that we grant omnipotent as He must have set the rules of science in place.

If you can grant me that one point, is it unreasonable to consider that He could have created our reality to present these questions to us? If so why would he do that? I would suggest it is to drive us to the point of searching.

My picture of creation is one that is best exampled by a TV. When you turn it on to an over the air station you are presented with a program “already in progress”. I would offer that the world was created “already in progress” and we are searching for the plot. Again, convenient but an an honest statement of my opinion.

As to the last section I think I provided a clarification to Katherine that might, or might not, make my statement appear a bit different to you. Let me know if you want me to revisit this point.

For the public record: I am not nearly as smart or as studied as everyone here. I know my answers seem thin and “leaps of faith” but I will give as honest an account of my faith as you ask for. I am not deluded into believing that Amber’s overwhelming evidence is “toppled” by me brushing it off as “already in progress”. I simply offer that view as an explanation of the conclusion I have come to. To me Amber’s evidence is reconciled to my faith. I am in no way attempting to proselytize (I have only mentioned salvation once) so feel free to disagree with me or even think me crazy.

I was over in the original thread and came here to read the rest of this discussion. Am I getting the gist right: God created the world in Scrivener, but did all of His work in the tutorial, so He’s now afraid He’s lost seven days worth of effort…

Wait, that doesn’t sound right.

That sounds distinctly more like the grist of it, to me.

[size=80]And I do mean that in the sense that Vic-K would appreciate.[/size]

Apparently He didn’t really read that paragraph in the FAQ or tutorial. He just skimmed it.

I’ve been following this discussion with much interest, for it echoes one I’ve heard played out in my teaching over the past decade. Back in 2000 I became very ill, and I learned that it was possible I might have esophageal cancer. For the first time in a long career, I had to take a leave of absence. I was told to rest, avoid stress, change my diet, and make out a will.

Although many in this situation might have turned to reading scriptures, I chose Darwin. I had always wanted to read his four big popular books, and with time on my hands, I did. (I bought a digital edition on a CD, so I could copy and annotate passages). I spent close to six months in this venture, eventually developing a graduate seminar that examined the reaction of conservative religions to Darwin’s ideas. These forces included creationism, fundamentalism, orthodox Christianity and Islam, and intelligent design.

The religious attacks are generally based on (1) literal readings of the Bible, especially Genesis, (2) insistence on an active, personal God shaping destiny, (3) the appearance of “design” in the known world, (4) the valuing of faith over reason, owing to the limitations of human knowledge. Darwin struggled with and ultimately against those conservative beliefs. He came to see patterns in natural history, both geology and biology, that denied Biblical accounts of creation.

He did not at first call his ideas “evolution,” that word came from readers and he later accepted it. His vision is radically simple: in the descent of life, every species must reproduce or die out. In reproduction, the mating of male and female produces inheritance, qualities passed on to offspring. The offspring, being a mixture of parental life, create variation from those previous beings. And as they go forward in life, the offspring produce selection, the choices that lead this way or that. Inheritance, variation, and selection: the entire process he called natural selection, as compared to the artificial selection that farmers have used for centuries to breed cattle or hybridize corn.

When people ask political candidates, do you believe in evolution? I’m staggered. The real question is: do you understand it? When you understand it, it’s undeniable. Spray fields with DDT, and in a few decades, the bugs will resist DDT. When conservatives say they want their children only to marry people of faith, they’re trying to control the selection process. Only trouble is, nature does not love monopoly or endogamy; survival for a species works best if it learns to adapt, to diversify, and most of all, to move on to greener pastures.

Darwin was less a discoverer than a synthesizer; we remember him because he did prodigious homework and wrote very well. Among his important observations are that the fossil record verifies the fact of deep time, that forms evolve to support functions, that human beings descend from primates (beginning in east Africa), that “race” is not a biological category, but an adaptation to habitat, that sexual selection explains much species behavior, that emotions have biological origins, that plants follow the sun’s daily path and worms are constantly mining the soil. His biggest flaw: he failed to read Mendel and understand genetics. Later genetic studies have verified that natural selection works.

I respect anyone’s right to a faith, unless it’s trying to control the right of others to believe or not. Religions that seek to convert everyone and are intolerant of other ways, in my view, are hopelessly narrow and will eventually die out. Some praise religion for developing “moral” values, but more important are ethical values, the distinctions not between good and bad, but right and wrong. It’s possible to prefer science, to accept it as a means of finding the truth, and also to have spiritual inclinations. For me, faith or belief is a lot less important than knowing, seeking, and learning–because often that process forces me to give up old prejudices. Oh, and I did improve my health, but I probably can’t attribute that to reading Darwin.


I think you point out one of the greatest issues with “faith” that folks refuse to deal with: what is the proper reaction to one who disagrees with you?

In my mind free will and original sin requires that we respect the right of those around us to disagree and choose what is believed to be wrong. On one hand you have the problem of “their soul is lost” with the directive to “win the lost souls”. If one really believes that the know the way to salvation how far do you go to show people what you know? On the other you have the problem of protecting the young. Even those who claim no religious faith take steps to prevent their children from bad influence. On something as significant as a child’s soul, wouldn’t extreme measures be called for?

Part of the “feud” I mentioned in a post to Katherine is on this very topic. It centers on the pro-life attitude toward abortion. Who are we to dictate to a person that they MUST agree with us on this issue? We claim a “free will” to choose right. This implies a free will to choose wrong. Our job is not to further criminalize those who we feel choose “wrong” but to reach out to them and show them what “right” is. I hold the same position on on same gender marriage. “Faith” has abandoned any claim to marriage (consider the rate of divorce and extra-marital affairs in churches) and left it to the state. We need to offer the same compassion and benefits to everyone who wants to make a life long commitment to another person.

I do not see this position as being in conflict with my faith. I do not believe that abortion is “right”. Nor do I believe that homosexuality is “right”. I also believe that condemning others is just as not “right” as these acts themselves. There is much in scripture to support this position, but folks don’t seem to be able to read those words just as they can not read the words that tell us how to properly address these differences.

The improper “reactionary” responses have discredited faith to the point of invalidating faith’s actual argument. In reading your post some phrases stood out of the first few paragraphs:
• reaction of conservative religions [emph. mine]
• these forces include
• The religious attacks
The idea of a militarized assault, while extremely accurate, frustrates most efforts for open and rational dialog. In my opinion this thread show how a respectful airing of opinions can and should happen. We are free to disagree with no fear of name calling or threats. We see (or at least I get to see) the unique information that each brings to the table and we can assess its value on our terms. This is as it should be.

As I state at the opening of this thread I do believe that evolution occurs. Both in the natural and as forced by man (selective breeding and hybridization). I use the term to refer to the process of natural selection AND environmental impact on a species. My disagreement with evolution is in the origin of all species. I agree that emotions are evolutionary traits. Where I find evidence of God is in what I call the “conscience” (refer to my clarifying post to Katherine as I am unable to provide a better label) and in “reason”.

As to the four points that you list as the basis for attack (of which this is not one) I believe that I have demonstrated all four of them in the course of this thread. I believe they are all valid. I would disagree with the label of “conservative” or even “fundamental” as it relates to these points. Folks who claim that label seem to be unhappy with me using it. I think these point are THE result of actually knowing what you believe as it relates to Nicene (Christian) faith. One would not ask a “evolutionist” to discard Darwin, the fossil record or plate tectonics in the course of supporting his argument. Likewise a Creationist will always return to these 4 points. Hence your statement is not only true but entirely expected.

I think I can make a seemingly bold yet undeniable statement: the entire “God” debate is not about evolution, the Bible, Nicene creed, fossil record, science, or even creation, it is really about “do we have an eternal soul?” We all dance around the topic but choose to argue meaningless points of “doctrine” (creation v. evolution, abortion v. anti-abortion, even God v. atheist). I may be expressing this point badly but I think it is true. I don’t think it is foremost on the minds of those involved with the debate, but if we dig deep enough this seems to be the underlying source of all the strife.

Just in case anybody thought I’d dropped a ton of metaphoric rubber balls on the metaphoric minefield (thanks Amber for the great images in the head of the thread upstairs before we were relocated to down here in the comfy chairs) then escaped in a in a helicopter: not so.

You all outpace me with your speed of thought and articulation of responses, and I just can’t keep up. I’m still trying to digest Jaysen’s first response to my question (and thank you Jaysen, you were right in thinking it was an explanation I wanted, not proof).

So I’m still about, reading and thinking very, very hard. :unamused: Yes, my head hurts, it doesn’t get used this intensely very often, and since starting to participate in the forums here my neurones are being taxed like never before!

Sarah <-- a little out of her depth, but treading water.
Hmmm. Note to self - get an avatar so I can point that way --> much more visually appealing.


Good response, especially your sensible takes on abortion and same-sex marriage. I am almost out the door on a long trip, so will make just two quick points.

My use of “attack” in describing anti-evolution, anti-Darwin forces is quite mild. Just Google those two terms, and you will encounter a world where evangelicals rage, froth at the mouth, and commit violent actions, all in the name of denouncing evolution. … 8&oe=UTF-8

These folks have brought suit in 14 US states, including California, either to bar the teaching of evolution or impose “intelligent design” as a “comparable theory.” They insist on calling evolution a theory. You might as well call gravity or the freezing point a theory.

BTW, the United States is the only country where such rabid, anti-intellectual forces have that kind of power. The Gallup poll checks every year, to find that 52-54% of US adults believe that the earth was created 10,000 years ago. Science educators have much work before them. Before all our UK friends say, yah, stoopid Yanks, I will note that conservative religion has always been strong in these colonies, ever since landless British peasants began to emigrate here. And besides, you have your football yobs.

My second point: I don’t understand your objection to the labels conservative or fundamentalist. I’m using them carefully, in accord with common usage, as documented in dictionaries of religion. I know that any labels are inaccurate and ignore the nuances of ideas and opinions. But we use them, of necessity, in a discussion. I’m sorry if they make you uncomfortable

However, I do admire the stands you are taking, which are doubtless difficult if you are living in a region, or a church and family, where such views are not tolerated. Many faiths, such as Judaism or Buddhism, have no quarrel with evolutionary biology. It’s entirely possible to regard the first cause as divine, and accept all the subsequent events as natural. Otherwise, I want a discussion with the Almighty about why I have an appendix, wisdom teeth, and sore knees.

Adios, amigo mio.

First an affirmation: you’ve answered everything to my satisfaction because my questions were not put with the intention of challenging your faith, as you put it, but to explore its boundaries and definitions. As stated before, I come from an extremely religious background—those scary fundamentalists this thread has spooled out to further address. I was not only taught that 100% of evolution was false (and a lie perpetrated by the evil scientists), but 100% evil. In fact, a directly and elaborate plot contrived by Satan himself and only successful because of that (because anyone with a brain not persuaded by the Devil can easily see the whole theory is flawed!). And while I was taught that blowing up abortion clinics was wrong, nobody could ever explain to me why when capital punishment for murder was considered okay. :slight_smile:

Now, I have never considered myself to be a believer. The moment I started forming my own preferences and logic as a child, I started questioning what I had been brought up with, and by the time I was out of high school I was largely an agnostic. However, because of the way I was brought up, much of my formative opinion on matters has been wrought from these extremist viewpoints. I was never exposed to the types of Christians that even had the mental capacity (not a denigration of intelligence, but of formative logical patterning, the specifics for which differ in most people) for reconciling evolution and scripture in a meaningful way, and while I’ve read much on the topic, because I no longer associate with social religious groupings, I’ve never really come across anyone that genuinely subscribes to the mixture.

Hence, I’m mainly just curious how you explain things, because in the way that I was taught, what you are saying is literally a crucial weapon of the anti-christ. A plot to drive apart the church and blah blah. Consequently, it was never really explained to me except in shadowy caricature.

One other thing here, and that is I did not intend to disallow faith. I merely wished to make the distinction between spiritual faith and empirical extrapolation. I see the argument used frequently that evolution is a kind of religion because it requires faith in unknowns. This is a bit of a misconception that on the surface appears true, but scientifically speaking the types of brain activity going on, and the logical arguments themselves are clearly different.

That does not mean that I feel faith is invalid (unless one is trying to apply it as a scientific tool; which must guard against all presupposition by definition as a reductionist creed), or not possible to be included in such a debate as this. Absolutely not. It’s the faith component that interests me. In the extremist “deny everything” world that I came from, there is actually less faith, I feel. If you do not stand up to scientific arguments for what they really are, and reason out a manner in which they can support your beliefs, that requires more faith (in a good way), than to simply and blindly say that it is impossible for genes to mutate. That isn’t faith, that’s ignorance.

So to summarise my thoughts: Faith is an informed opinion on a topic which contains elements which extend beyond the empirical theoretical as addenda to the empirical elements. The stuff I was brought up on, that is just denying the empirical and pretending that ignorance is faith.

I’ll assume I’ve made my point on the issue between theoretical empirical and true faith, but if that needs further clarification let me know.

How would you define the supernatural? Assume it is a completely unknown topic to myself and that I have no words to fathom or express what you mean by it.

Again, I ask as a point of genuine curiosity, not as a challenge to your beliefs.

I find this statement to be a bit of a contradiction, so I’m probably not understanding what you are saying. It seems to me you’ve started out by saying that these proofs are observable if we choose to look for them, but that we cannot actually make these observations.

What is your definition of observable in the first clause and how does it differ from the second?

Of course it makes it sound as though you’ve chosen to stop looking and “just believe”, and use the sin-occlusion effect for a reason in doing so. That attitude doesn’t conform with everything else you’ve been saying, so I query.

I can fathom alternatives which do not involve the 3 O’s, or even any of them. Going back to our admittedly faulty metaphor: while I am in abstract aware of the described war between food and me and the process by which food becomes who I am, I am not actually literally aware of it. I do not have various cells named nor do I know the number of atoms in their little bodies. In a sense, I created billions of them, but am wholly unaware of their singular peculiarities and unless I was thinking about it, was largely unaware of the fact that I even did create them at all.

Why would it be inconceivable that a larger entity involved in the formation and perhaps even continued existence of the universe even need be aware of the universe at all except maybe in some abstract sense as I’ve described. A knowledge that it must be (a distortion of I think therefore I am), because I exist and am not violently ill.

But is it even likely, as you suggest? Upon what are you declaring this likelihood? What in this universe and all of its matter and energy suggests to you that it is likely one way, and not the way I just described?

For myself (and I lean more pantheistic within my agnostic centre, if anything) a variation on the scenario that I have described is more likely than a singular (or tri-part whatever) divinity entity which has a keen interest on the state of all its atomic components, and is threading plots and plans throughout them.

Likewise, I do not see why a creation, in this sense, would imply omnipotence. The rules might be that way simply because that is the only configuration in which anything at all can exist. Thus, were not “designed” but simply are. Creation would then be shaping a process which must happen a certain way to function, but within those constraints has creative potential. Liken this to writing a novel. There are certain aspects of writing a novel which must exist a certain way else it isn’t a novel. But within that realm of variables, the possibilities are endless. Perhaps a universe can only exist in one configuration because otherwise it wouldn’t be a universe, but within that definition the possibilities are endless.

Of course, you are begging the question here. If the granted point is assumed as fact, then it wouldn’t make much sense to have designed a universe that doesn’t look designed and then populate it with individuals that are exceptionally good at pattern recognition and problem solving, unless you had a reason for doing so.

While entertaining, it doesn’t really solve anything because trying to assert a logical statement by assuming its conclusion is already one way is too circular.

That’s a fascinating point of view, but it doesn’t answer where things came from—creation then seems to be more of a tuning principle for something already going on. Are you essentially saying here that the currently standard empirical-theoretical view is correct: Universe started with a big bang; suns formed; suns blew up; heavy elements results; elements coalesced and planets formed; some abiogenesis trigger happened; complex organic carbon replicators happened; life evolved haphazardly…

and then poof a divine figure came along and turned on the channel (initiated advanced consciousness). I hope that doesn’t make things sound flippant for it is not intended that way; I’m just trying to clarify past the metaphor here.

If that is correct, then it still doesn’t explain to me how Paul could state that sin has caused matter’s bondage to decay as he poetically stated entropy, and death. All of those factors existed (must have existed otherwise natural selection doesn’t work and heavy elements do not form from supernovas et cetera) before the channel is flipped on and sin is allowed to have gone one way or the other. Personally, I’ve always felt that passage was as equally at fault of scientific misunderstand as the statements that leprosy can develop because of bad behaviour, and that somebody frothing at the mouth and seizing on the floor should be exorcised as opposed to taken to E.R. and checked for epilepsy. Just as these behaviouristic explanations were attempted for physical maladies and then discarded once science discovered what they really are—I think the notion of sin=entropy should be discarded.

This is the chronological problem I stated. We seem to be living in an ancient universe on an old world, but sin only happened, according to doctrine, in the last few metaphorical seconds of all that. Unless I’m not following what “already in progress” means, above.

I see where you are coming from, though I do not think your expanded version addresses my point: that Reason is an extremely valuable survival tool. Sure, it happens to have some interesting non-survival aspects as well, but that doesn’t erase the fact that a creature who can solve an escape solution or devise a mechanism by which a greater creature can be destroyed is going to have a profound impact on natural selection and thus be a favoured gene.

Unless I’m misunderstanding you, you are stating that reason; tool application and invention are not selectable or favourable in a survival way. I just do not see how that can be. You seem to be separating the components from which art evolved from the components in which invention evolved.

I’m not certain there is any scientific merit for that.

Druid I know you wont see this until you get back, but I would like to clarify a few things for the record.

Thank you for the compliment. My sensible takes have cost me quite a bit lately. In retrospect I the loss wasn’t that painful.

I have no issue with your use of “attack”. I actually agreed with you and noted that the accurate nature of your choices were unfortunate. I hold the folks who have led us to this point in a kind of contempt. These folks have forgotten the very point they are arguing for. And they don’t like being reminded of that.

On labels, this is going to get messy.

My issue with the use of the labels is more along the lines of putting them in front of the word “christian”. As you clearly point out, your use is the accepted norm. As you also point out there is a necessity of providing a label to the groups. I grate at the implication that “christians” stereotyped by these … how do I say it … extremists. Are there bad, terrorist Muslims? Yes, but there are more peaceful Muslims that are just as committed to their faith but are not crazy. Are there bad, terrorist “Christians”? Yes. I am not sure they are Biblical Christians. Are there more “good” than bad? I don’t know. Their words, attitudes, actions, and often their life style (based on personal experience) are in direct contradiction with the Bible. My favorite, is the judgmental way that they condemn those who disagree with them. The need to spend some time in 1 John 4, 1 Cor 13, and 1 Peter 4. The fundamental, conservative and just about every other label starts to fall apart if the christian were to take those verses to heart. Good people? Yes. Christians? I just don’t know.

Let me reveal something that might discredit me forever in the eyes of many. If I were forced to choose a label for myself it would be evangelical. Those whacky, hand raising, Holy Spirit types. I have many many practical issues with most “practitioners” and pastors but the underlying theology is closest to what the Bible teaches. This includes the concept of the Holy Spirit. The problem for me is that if I am going to say “I believe in God” then I need to understand what this belief really means in terms of how one should live. I have taken time, lots of time, to understand what the Bible says and then live it. The more I study the more I am convinced the the “labeled” have it wrong.

I am not suggesting that I am 100% right. The chances of me misunderstanding a point are not insignificant, but for things like “love your neighbor as yourself” and “fathers do not provoke your children to wrath” and “a man can not hate his brother and love God” are pretty hard to screw up. I just don’t understand why so many christians behave the way they do. Do you love your neighbor when you say things like “you are going to go to hell for believing that” or do you build a wall of separation? How is telling your child “you going straight to hell for listening to XXX music” not provoking them to wrath? It just doesn’t add up.

What point am I making? If I look at a tree and apples are growing on it it is probably an apple tree even it the label says it is a grape vine. The Bible says that we know who the christians are by the “fruit” that grows on them. Galatians 5:22 sets that standard for a christian. Are the attributes that these labels stand for evidencing these fruits? I would say no. Hence labels make me uncomfortable when the label is being associated with a premise that I hold dear.

Druid I am glad you are well. Enjoy the trip. Be safe.

Amber it sounds like you and I have been on very similar journeys. I am not sure where to begin so I will simply start with the first paragraph.

Ditto. I am of the opinion that capital punishment can NOT be supported by anyone of faith for the same reasons that abortion is currently condemned (note that in my previous posts I did not support abortion but feel that criminalizing it is wrong). The reason folks won’t explain it is that there is no brain being applied to the scripture. Asking this question with an honest desire to understand “uninvited” me to 2 churches. At 15. I guess I have always been at odds with the modern church.

That anti-christ comment of yours is interesting. I would counter that comment (have in the last 24 hours) with 1 John 4. God as I understand Him does not want us ignorant or stupid. So we must be able to reconcile facts to belief. This is a critical point. “All creation points to Him.” This must be true so there must be a way to reconcile fossil record and the like. Please note I am not talking “shoe horn” but a hand in glove reconciliation of scientific fact to God. Lack of reconciliation, in my opinion, does invalidate the faith. Science and faith must work together.

To that end I admittedly lack the understanding to reconcile carbon dating and like sciences. I understand them, but there are components of them that seem like supposition more than fact. But I feel these concepts can not be ignored. This is where supernatural reason, what we have in us that I believe evidences God, comes into play.

I have adopted the Lewisian concept of the supernatural: that which exists outside our nature but can chose to interact with it, or influence it at will (Miricales, cp IV). This implies that nature is the subjugated inferior to the supernatural. This is where KB starts to flail at the screen and ask “where did the supernatural come from?” As we exist in the natural we then are also subjugated inferiors and are able to be influenced or interacted with by the supernatural. This is a one way relationship and we can not interact with the supernatural unless it choses to enter the natural. Nor can we force the supernatural to interact with us, the natural. The supernatural is not bound to us, we are bound to it.

My favorite picture of this is a fish tank. I can put my hand in the water and interfere with the fish at will. The fish can not interact with me unless I first choose to enter their nature (the tank). The fish may want me to interact with them, but they can not make me. There are several large issues with this analogy but it works as a simple example.

My definition of observe in this context is “to discover”. In the second clause you must notice the word “direct”. Let me use the same example, with modification, to further clarify my statements on observing evidence. If we make our fish tank a closed system that does not require interaction, and we construct it in a way that the fish can not see us we create a slightly more realistic analogy. To the fish we are not directly observable. If I open the lid and put a new plant in the tank I have created an observable proof of my existence. The sudden appearance of the plant would certainly shake things up. What if I instead dropped a seed into the tank and a new, unique plant grew? This plant would not stick out until someone observed that there is no other plant like it in the tank. The fish must now consider that I exist or find some other explanation.

Likewise I believe that there is observable evidence of the supernatural. But the sin nature prevents us from looking though the aquarium glass and seeing the supernatural. My belief leaves room for miracles, the sudden dropping of a full plant, and embedded evidence, the seed. Seeing a paralytic get out of a wheel chair an example of the first. My ability to plumb the depths of this concept, the latter. These are not “direct” observations of God, but evidence of Him that is observable.

If we can continue with the fish tank analogy it serves as a good answer to our next topic. As a person who sees his pets as extensions of his family, we named all our fish (we had a 55 gal. African cichlid tank). When they reproduced we cared for the young as best we could (until mom ate them :frowning: ). If we extend this to God it is not unfathomable that he would have interest in us (we are created in His image). This is even more likely as the fish tank analogy is much closer to the creationist stand than the stomach analogy we started with. It is this interest that causes a redemption to be planned and executed. It is this interest that causes him to know “the number of the hairs on our head”.

If we consider that the supernatural can manipulate the natural, remember that by my stated definition it can, we begin to see omnipotence as a characteristic. I would suggest that time would be subjected to what would appear to be interference of the supernatural as well. It would be more accurate to say that the supernatural exists outside of time as we know and understand it. This exposes a large flaw in our fish tank analogy as in this example the natural, the fish tank, and the supernatural, us, exist in the same time/space continuum. Enter what I call the “tivo” example. I used to call it the vcr, then dvd, but time changes (pun intended).

The analogy here is that the natural, us, exists as a linear arrangement on the tivo hd. We experience our world in a linear sequence but the supernatural has the remote and can go to any point that it chooses. The supernatural is not bound to our timeline, but can go from our perceived future to the perceived past and anywhere else on the timeline the instant it chooses. Going back to the original “already in progress” example it is no longer a “poof”. But it could have been. This is omnipresence.

The problem with the tivo analogy is the implication that everything is predetermined and there is no free will. This will not do as free will is source of original sin and hence must be reconciled. To this I offer the following concept which is regretfully derived from an OO Perl project I was working on. To those who don’t know object based programing I would love to find a better way to explain this, but it requires a picture. Contact me and I will find a way to illustrate it.

We have a node with data and 3 possible child nodes. The data is the actions of the node. Now each of the child nodes has data and 3 children. Continue this to infinity. If each node is a decision then each child is a pointer to the possible outcome of the decision and the subsequent possible decisions to be made. Now add this to the tivo example. We now have omniscience. God knows what will happen, is not surprised and we have true free will.

While not radical (or really even original Sarah) this whole mess is critical to my next statement which is pretty radical.

I will air a thought I have that might reconcile our positions leaving both entirely intact. I must state that I completely believe my above example to be as close to a perfect example of how the supernatural exists outside our time line and leaves us free will as possible. I must also state that I believe it to be true.

My thought is that Genesis 1 occurs and the supernatural simultaneously causes the historical record to be created. This means that it happened (remember that I have not denied fossil record) and that it took what we perceive as time. But it did not exist until it was created. Think of it this way: the big bang occurred but it was thrown backward in the timeline to assume its place in the deep past as we understand it.

In terms of my above node objects, we make node 0 the creation moment and give it only 2 children where child A is “eat fruit” and child B is “not eat fruit” then point B back to node 0. We then point A to “the big bang thrown into the past” that I mention above.

Suddenly we have Paul’s sin=entropy reconciled to modern science. I believe I am informed. I do not believe I am bending or even breaking the laws of physics or theology. The assumptions that are made are not leaps of faith, but the application and development of practical examples to both theology and science to have a unified theory that answers, for me, the question "why?’ I believe this is “faith” as you define it.

The above illustrates the reason that, in my opinion, points to a supernatural source. We are not talking reason the solves escapes or food problems and can use a simple tool. We are talking about plumbing the depths of “why”. The ability to reinvent (Sarah’s thread on original thought should explain why I do not use “create”). The ability to marvel at the wonders of the world around us. This is the reason that points to a source outside nature.

Amber, I want to give credit to you for helping me reconcile one of the last pieces that I was accepting on “blind faith” but I knew must be reconcilable. In considering your “old universe” and “sin=entropy” questions the “big bang throw back” suddenly took shape. Druid asked “why would he create it that way?” and I believe you second that question. There is a germ of an idea growing. Maybe we will air it here shortly.

Thank you. One of the things I find most offensive about the extremists is the way they have co-opted the “Christian” label, without (as far as I can tell) ever having read the parts of the Bible that I find the most meaningful.



I owe you a better, more direct answer for what you call “the turtle problem”. I will admit that I have lost sleep on this. As proof I offer the fact that it is currently 4:20 AM my time. Here goes.

The first thing I notice is that the question isn’t one of “prove God” or even “prove the supernatural”. These are key points to me. While not conceding these points a proof of either does us no good. If I understand the turtle problem it is this “prove that God is not a created being Himself”. To me this is more analogous to an “eternal onion of creation” problem than turtles (I think I am missing something through my lack of formal education).

I have made a statement to you that I feel God can be proved through observation and offered reason and conscience as, what to me, are observable evidence of His existence. In my last post directed to Amber I provided examples of the the supernatural and how God would exist outside our nature. These are irrelevant to you as they are not directly in answer to your underlying question. I must ask your indulgence as I feel these are critical to understanding what I am going to suggest to you as an answer.

It should be clear the my view of God is one that grants Him supernatural, outside our nature, existence. This existence, by definition is beyond our ability to fully comprehend. As such we can only use flawed examples to relate His realm and existence. I have provided a few. The fish tank, the tivo, and the node based decision diagram. While I believe these to be as near a perfect example of the supernatural relationship of God to our nature they are flawed, as will every other possible example, in one area. They are examples based in the natural and hence are limited by the extents of our nature.

To explain this I need to return to the tivo example. In this example I attempt to show how the supernatural need not be bound to our timeline. I feel this example does this quite well with one issue: it implies that the supernatural is bound to some form of timeline. This implication is made by phrases such as “jump to any point”, “has the remote”, “pause”, and “resume”. The reality is that the supernatural may not have any concept of what we call time.

This may seem radically bold at first but you have to consider that the natural exists as a sub-set of the supernatural. More explicitly a confined, potentially reduced, set of properties derived from the supernatural. Our assumption of “beginning and end”. eg creation, are dependent on the natural concept of time. If this concept, time’ is a reduced, or derived property of the supernatural then we cannot apply the same creationary principles or concepts to the supernatural.

In an effort to explain this let me suggest the in my node based decision diagram node 0 may illustrate the existence of the supernatural as it relates to time. Picture a single self referential node. An “infinite loop node” if you will, where all decisions point back to the same node. In the data set of this node is another node tree whose node 0 is a derived class of the infinite loop node and whose children are not self referential (other than the not eat decision in node 0).

This example is itself flawed by the implication of a time to loop, the fact the derivation of classes in programing leads to attribute and property extension. In this example we need to consider that what we consider time is a construct impose on our subset of nodes that is not present in the parent node. We are also assuming that our nodes, time based nodes, are derived from the non-time based node. I might offer that this idea is itself incorrect.

To support that last statement let me return to the fish tank example. Does the reality of the fish tank derive from my relative supernatural reality? I live in air, the fish in water. I move in an exclusively horizontal plain, the ground, (assuming no ladders) while the fish move in 3 dimensions unassisted. My relative supernatural has no limits to space not constructed by me, while the fish nature is limited by me. in attempting to understand the supernatural the fish would have to use examples of their nature, but they would be drastically out of line with the actual supernature in which I exist.

All this to provide a single answer to your question: I do not believe your question is answerable. We, man, can not comprehend the supernatural as it is beyond our understanding, hence we can not answer your line of query.

This is what I meant by my previous statement of

I sure hope this make sense. Probably not. Sorry.


You both noted my use of "reason’ and “conscience” and questioned my meaning. I attempted to explain it but until I sat down to lunch I did not have a clear tangible example. Here is the example.

The majority the population draw a distinction between a “man” and an “animal”. The higher primates are included in the animal population even thought they display traits that would fall into my definition of “reason”. The animal population is not accorded the rights of a member of the man population such as the right to liberty (not confined). It is not considered slavery to keep an animal confined or to work an animal against its wishes (in case of the lunch trigger is was a seeing eye dog).

It is clear that there is a distinct difference in the way we perceive the man. I have always called this difference “reason” as I ascribed our ability to think as a key differentiator of the man and animal. I am not sure what you might call this, but it is the same thing that Southern Anglo American denied the Negro Southern American possessing (pejorative “monkey” statements as the most direct example).

I hold that there is a cognitive differentiation that is not evolutionary that yields this differentiation, hence creating this gap of perception. Otherwise any use of animals as food or involuntary, eg slave, labor would need to be considered as reprehensible as eating or enslaving a man. I evidence our reaction to the abuse of infants and the mentally handicapped as a demonstration of this not being related to achieving a cognitive level.

I hope this clears up my meaning of “reason”. Can you offer a better label to describe this difference?

I completely agree with the scriptural support for examining science and nature (and sympathise with being condemned by religious institutions; though perhaps I might have been slightly more rebellious than you. I got exiled from Vacation Bible School at the age of 11 for insinuating “eating the fruit” was a euphemism for God and Eve having a bit of a horizontal party). Even Romans 1, which I have seen touted as anti-evolution (and proof that an evolutionist is absolutely incapable of morality), seems to me to even go so far as to state that those that do not question and seek out answers in nature are evil.

Of course, there are verses which can be used to insinuate otherwise as well, including verses to support the notion that evolution is weapon of the anti-christ (though you would not interpret them in that fashion since you see creation and evolution as entwined). And just to put this into perspective, I come from a background where the Pope in particular is the anti-christ, and that the Catholic church is his vehicle for destruction (and thus it is no circumstance that they are more supportive of evolution than other forms of Christianity). This is the level of insanity that I grew up in. I digress.

Miracles are tricky things, as I’m sure you are aware. There is a good reason why the Catholic church has an entire arm of scholars who do nothing but investigate and debunk if necessary, claims of miraculous intervention.

It could be stated that one of the principle characteristics of intelligence is a two sided coin: the art of prediction and the art of persuasion. On one half of the coin there is the need to be able to predict and detect the quality of an anomalous condition; to receive sensory input, parse it, and predict the plausible outcomes of that anomaly; this involves, at its most basic components, a creative capacity. On the other side of the coin you have the skills of projecting illusory queues which will foil the predictive abilities of an opponent. These are, as you can tell by my phrasing, integral features of survival both for the prey and the predator, and there are thousands of examples of this all throughout nature and in a wide variety of wildlife (and I’m not referring to deceptive spots and so forth which are not artefacts of intelligence; the butterfly is not aware of its appearance to the bird). These two qualities can be examined in mating rituals, hunting techniques, and survival tactics.

I think another safe statement would be that the differences between complex intelligence and basic intelligence is that it is a refinement and at times hyper-derivative of connected intelligence forms. The behaviour that drives a bird to feign a broken wing and fly away from its nest in order to draw a predator away from its nested eggs can be refined and derived into the behaviour of a chimp, or even further in the complex behaviour and instincts of a Homo sapiens. This is not to say that human behaviour is analogous to bird behaviour, but that the same qualities that are expressed in human behaviour can be discovered and analysed in different and sometimes more primitive forms in other modern species. Much as we might look at the genetic components which allow use to break down sugar molecules into energy.

Would it be reckless to speculate that perhaps the refinement and hyper-derivative qualities of anomaly detection in human mental activity could be responsible for a large percentage of what might at first speculation term to be a miracle? Could it be that the same qualities which evolved to give us the ability to determine the difference between a bush shaking due to a squirrel and a bush shaking due to a lion are linked to our ability to conjecture a causal reason behind things which might in actuality be more determined by the power of suggestion or straight up coincidence?

I think that it would be wisest to state that it could only be partially due to that. Such attributive instincts are better suited to explaining our predilection toward superstition. You blow on your dice a certain way and then roll a double-six and you will naturally gravitate toward doing it the same way again. Even if only four times out ten it works for you, you’ll start to believe that there is some sort of mysterious link between your ritual and a result which (unless you are cheating) is pure chance.

I think it is no mistake that most miracles seem to arise around systems which can be eccentric to a degree (randomness) and simultaneously contain plausible scenarios. Meteorological miracles are perhaps the most common; along with medical conditions. Both involves extremely complex systems with trillions of variables and possible outcomes. You roll the dice often enough, and eventually some of those variables are going to pop into configurations that you submitted your ritual for (and all of those inaccurate dice tosses get forgotten). With weather and medicine, we don’t even need to roll the dice. A nearly infinite number of variables are shifting one way or another on a level of temporal scale that our minds cannot even fathom. Storm clouds can seem to come out of nowhere. Cancer can suddenly go into remission. Yes, these things happen, but before we call them miracles we should look closer at what is really happening and from as broad a perspective as possible.

In the end it really comes down to a fundamental question: Why do good things happen? And if they do happen, what agents could be behind the natural components which seemed to have been pushed into my favour? Immediately, the question follows: what is the definition of good? Seemingly simple, but rarely ever is it truly.

Some of the most famous miraculous events are those which have been documented in the Pentateuch. Here are some truly fantastic tales, and in many cases they serve to illustrate my point quite well. In nearly all of these miracles, there is a powerful suggestion, or a direct implication, of give and take. Something happened to benefit one group of people at the great cost of another. The Red Sea opens and allows a bunch of escaping slaves to get away from an army. As the army chases the group of slaves through the gulf, it collapses and kills them all. The scriptures say nothing more of all these lives that were taken. We are, presumably, merely left to presume that they were all so evil that their lives were worthless in the face of a bunch of slaves. Nothing is said of all the widows and fatherless children that were left behind.

A modern farmer in a midwest U.S. drought prays for a rainstorm because if it hits summer without the spring rains his corn crops will never come to full growth and he’ll go bankrupt. So he prays for rain, and hours later a huge thunderstorm sweeps in and it’s a miracle! He tells the story for the rest of his life until eventually it becomes part of the shared folklore of believers all over the world. It might have all the earmarks of an urban legend in that names change and situations are never quite pinned down—but let’s just say this once it really did happen.

Meanwhile, a family was moving from the east coast to the west coast (as all sane people should do). Prior to leaving on their trip, they prayed for safe journey. Then a thunderstorm came upon them out of nowhere, and they were buried alive in an avalanche.

You see the conundrum of course. In many claims of miracles, we have claims of them happening because they caused good variables to occur for whatever reason. Perhaps the church bishop or whatever has cancer so everyone prays and it suddenly goes away. A miracle! Twenty years later it turns out he was molesting children—what is “good”?

There is also a flip-side to all of this, and these are the catastrophic variables. Bad things happen too, and people need explanations for them as well. Depending upon the beliefs of the people involved, they might be explained as having their faith tested. Others, like Falwell, might presume to say that God has cursed an entire city because it had a reputation for sinfulness. Others believe that it was because they did not offer the right sacrifices. Others might say it is because an unwanted child had a birthday. Good and bad variables happen, and always there are reasons. After a while, to me, it all just sounds like that old guy at the Mirage blowing on his dice and tapping his knuckles six times on the wood.

I apologise if that sounds disrespectful, but from my perspective, I see a lot of reasons being offered for why miracles happen. They say that over 100 religions blossom into existence every single year, and most of them only last a decade or two. Nearly all of them start because of a miracle. Does that mean that miracles are happening, or that maybe humans are unusually susceptible to conjuring explanations for anomalies—suffering from a hyper-derived and highly refined survival instinct? If it is the first answer, then why do so many of these miracles happen to people of contradictory faith systems, and why is there such a wild variety of things which can persuade supernatural forces to cause them? Why is it that when we can observe these micro-religions forming, we can observe precisely what behaviouristic tendencies are being brought into play? When the islanders who adhere to the religion of G.I. John Frum build fake airstrips and march around to hackneyed U.S. army chants, waving U.S. flags like talismans and hoisting bamboo rifles over their shoulders—praying for the day when G.I. John Frum will return to bring them cargo, we can look at them and see what it is that causes a belief in miracles. We can also see what causes religions to form and propagate from generation to generation. This particular “cargo cult” sprung into existence in World War II, and it still exists to this day. People actually do chant and get “U.S.A.” tattooed. They really do believe that G.I. John Frum is the messiah and that one day he will bring cargo and save them all from peril. Their belief is, I dare say, just as strong as yours and has incredibly profound and real manifestations as proof. There is actual cargo relics they can hold and wonder at.

Plants that popped out of nowhere.

Does it not seem risky to say that simply because we do not know why something is, it is automatically supernatural? When first confronted with a wire in a sealed glass bottle, it must seem miraculous to watch it suddenly burst forth with the light of a thousand candles—but it is not actually a miracle. Why is it that so much of the definition of the supernatural rests upon what humans are ignorant of?

I’m afraid I do not see how this necessarily follows. My objection to this would be similar as before. You see this as a following logical chain because you happen to already believe in an omnipotent being. A person that does not believe in an omnipotent being—say a polytheistic Hindu—might observe a miracle or supernatural intervention and ascribe it to an agent which is not omnipotent, but can have an impact in whatever realm of the natural in which the miracle occurred. There isn’t anything in the variable “supernatural can impact natural” which automatically implies a singular omnipotent being, and further I really don’t see how that insinuates anything about existing outside of time.

Say no more! Deriving things from OO Perl Objects is probably one of the most painful processes that humans ever subjected themselves to. :wink: Background: I wrote a server daemon in OO Perl once. Then I promptly picked up Python for the client software.

Anyway, that aside, your description of probability field functions is essentially what I subscribe to, and I believe that the mind is an antenna for those wave functions. Thought is merely a collapsing of probability fields, and really at the core, what I was talking about above. At a deeper level, it could explain how the universe got the way it did. Think of it as evolution on a level of fundamental physics. The versions of the universe that survived spawned further probabilities from them and eventually became the dominant variation set. It’s really no different than what I said before, when I stated that perhaps a “universe” can only unfold in a certain way, and thus there is nothing really mysterious about its composition; and certainly nothing anthropic.

Unless you consider the external variables in a probability function to be supernatural, I do not see how they can be reconciled however. These are mathematically predictable aspects (granted the math is horrifically complex). You’ll note I haven’t used the phrase “parallel universes” because I think that is a misnomer. I think the universe is a glued up probability function that is composed of an infinite number of possibilities all collapsing on a singular working copy.

So while I find your illustration fascinating, and truly I do, I don’t think I’ve ever heard the creation event explained quite in those terms, it stills seems to me a superfluous explanation for something which could otherwise be explained naturally.

Let me phrase that slightly differently: I can see how it makes a working system for you, and how it explains some of the questions that I posed. Where it doesn’t work for me is that it is essentially still a story pasted on top of a bunch of known variables, filling the gaps of the unknown variables where it can. To me, this is no different than a science fiction novel or another religion entirely which does the same thing with different variables. In other words, the same problem as above: I don’t see how these conditions logically support one explanation over another. They all seem to me, roughly equally possible, and this is largely because none of them can really be tested.

That said, I think some of your variables are more testable than most. As you should know, coming from an atheist that is quite a compliment. :slight_smile:

As above, I can see how more complex forms of intelligence are rooted in these more basic forms of intelligence, just as I can look at the eye of an owl and see how it is a more complex sensory organ than the eye of a finch. It doesn’t make sense to me to take the eye of an owl and say that it is special or impossible to have come from something simpler, just because in its current form it is far, far beyond the eye of a finch, and for no other reason than that.

Thanks for taking the time to explain, by the way. All of this has been very enlightening since the versions of creation I am most familiar with are astonishingly ignorant in terms of science.

Actually that might be changing and it wouldn’t surprise me if in the future our attitude toward animals, particularly the higher primates, is regarded with equal distaste as the treatment of black slaves in human history. I know of at least one country that is seriously considering legislation that will give apes human rights—not adult rights mind you, but more in the same vein as that of a child. The campaign to elevate our treatment and attitude toward these marvellous and intelligent animals is proceeding in other nations as well. It wouldn’t surprise me if it takes a while for it to catch on, but it would not surprise me if in fifty years humanity and complex intelligent animals will be viewed, if not as peers, at least as respected entities. Considering how long it took for humans to consider each other equally (and many still do not of course), this is hardly astonishing.

There are now known to be nine species which pass the so-called “mirror test”. For example, if you put a sticker on a European Magpie and then present it with a mirror, it will not only recognise that it is seeing itself, but try to get the sticker off with its beak. The mirror test is not perfect of course, after all a blind human would fail it, but it does demonstrate that some species are complex and intelligent enough to have a recognition of self, and to even demonstrate reason and problem solving.

This aside, you’ve built a case on the human perception of animals, which is a tricky thing because in many cases that human perception has been deeply influenced by the very beliefs you are bringing them back around upon as proof of superiority. Humans have declared themselves as special or separate from the animal kingdom, not on any physical or mental basis, but rather on a spiritual basis, which could very likely be derived from nothing more than a sophisticated sociological mechanism rooted in the superstition and miracle roots elaborated on above. Pointing back to that treatment and attitude as proof of there being something different is a bit circular.

Consider the argument that the existence of a seven-day week is proof of creation. Some have put it that there is no reason for a seven-day week except in that it is how long it took for creation to happen. Or to put it another way, that we use a seven-day week is proof that Genesis is right.

This ignores that there are physical reasons which could explain a seven-day week. The lunar cycle (28 days) is divisible by 7 (and neatly into four); prior to the invention of advanced optics, there were seven celestial objects in the sky and indeed the etymological derivations of the names for the days of the week can all be traced back to either the names for planets or their governing gods and goddesses; seven is also a particularly stable structure when it comes to binding cylindrical objects together with twine and is thus likely one of the most common first architectural achievements of humans around the world. More importantly and relevant to your example, it ignores that there are a bounty of day “week” patterns all around the world that, were it not for the Roman Empire, and subsequently the British Empire, wielding their massive influence throughout the entire world—including the seven day week—it’s very likely it would be just one of many obscure systems antiquated by a more rational decimal week.

The argument you are making is no different. Culturally and via social memes, the concept of Homo sapiens sapiens spiritual superiority has been the dominant mode of thought. It is only natural that it would be considered as such all of this time, and thus cannot be used as proof of itself.

As stated above: Complex intelligence breeds more refined and hyper-derived qualities of more base reactions. A group of brown rats attacking and killing a white rat (which is genetically pretty much no different than they are) gets extrapolated out to a more sophisticated argument “this group of rats is more like mice than rats because of their fur”, but at the base it is, like any other evolutionary trait, traced back to differing and at times more primitive forms.

I’m afraid I don’t see any profound difference between humans and animals on this score either. For most of human history, slave labour was considered to be a fairly ordinary trade and a consequence of war. Our aversion to slavery has only come about fairly recently in the grand scheme of things, and as mentioned above, there is evidence that our attitude toward animals is changing as well. Women were not considered equal to men for 99% of that time. Further, there are other beasts which are just as violent as us. They kill each other and other species. There are species which are total pacifists and would almost fit into your description above.

There are too many conflicting data points out there for your theory to hold water.

Yes. “Evolution.” All I see is a biological gap, which isn’t all that unusual in the grand scheme of things. Species fork off and evolve and lose their intermediary chains all of the time. If the Neanderthals were still around we would have some fascinating subjects for studying how consciousness came to be, but all we have are fossils and our closest cousins which only have a dim echo of what we possess.

I think that intelligence arrived by evolution. I can support this by observing degrees of intelligence amongst the many different species on the planet. I can see how highly evolved creatures have used their intelligence to get an advantage over their competitors, especially in terms of predictive and persuasive craft. In my opinion once a certain degree of intelligence was reached, a criticality formed in evolution (I put that at the formation of formalised language) and the landscape was forever changed. Once advanced thought hit the grasslands, the world changed forever. It was such a dominant and overpowering genetic achievement that the rest of the natural world could do nought but kneel in awe at it.

Our subsequent expansion and total domination of the planet from its hottest to coldest climates is nothing miraculous to me. After all, it has happened before. One species got a huge upper-hand and in a few hundred generations they either slagged the environment or something nasty came along and slagged them out of existence. We were the first to do this mentally, that we can discern, but how is that any more special than a species that managed to evolve itself into such massive forms that nothing could ever dream of going up against it?

Art, philosophy, self-perception, humour, guilt—all of these things can like any other feature be traced backward through human history and then once that blacks out, extrapolated out into the areas between what we can directly observe, and what we only have fossil or dim record of. We can see the gradual evolution of language in archeological digs, document analysis, and linguistics. We can see how even the definition of art has evolved and changed. We can see how morals and ethics have evolved and become more sophisticated, now all but divorced from their simple roots which can even be found in the higher mammals, but once very similar indeed.

This is a massive topic, Jaysen, and I’m really only barely dipping in to it here. The components, qualities, patterns, and predictable tendencies of consciousness are one of my primary interests. The interesting thing to me is, consciousness tends to think more of itself than it really is. Even things like reason have much more to do with the rest of the mind than consciousness itself. When we cogitate on a difficult proposition, we often cannot consciously form a result; many times we already know the answer and it is our consciousness that struggles to catch up with it, eventually succumbing to it. You’ve demonstrated this yourself as this conversation has developed. You’ll make a start at some form of thought, sleep on it, and then come back with a fresh answer. Your Reason is happening on a level that is not directly controlled by consciousness.

I don’t mean to diminish the human mind. Truly, there is nothing else like art out there that we know of. I’m not sure I follow why the present of unique features is proof of spiritual specialness, however. After-all, there are unique properties all over the planet. Is it any wonder that we would, with our unique property, presume it to be the greatest of them all?

I realise it may sound as though I am a cynic, but really I’m not. I do appreciate the wonders of the mind. I just happen to think it is can be explained naturalistically. The naturalistic explanation is, to me, beautiful enough to knock the wind out of me, and I’ve never needed a super-layer story on top of it to make it better.

So hopefully you can see how I see consciousness as being a pure artefact of natural processes. Amazing, sure, but so are many qualities of various species.

Amber you didn’t grow up in Columbus Ohio in the 70’s did you? Your experience sounds an awful lot like mine. Only instead of exile, I received a smack upside the head to bring me back to “righteousness”. It was the old “this translation of the Bible is the only one” that finally broke the camels back for me. Let’s face it, if God is who folks claimed Him to be then they would all be used by Him. Seems like a logical conclusion to me. Oh well.

To the point though…

As I have stated several times, I am the midget among giants in this conversation. I am at further disadvantage as there are not many who will carry on as open a conversation as the scriverati have on either said of my fence (the worst are the “faithful” but even the agnostic/atheist types to which I have access reduce this to name calling within minutes).

I think a fairly accurate charge has been laid against me that my arguments are valid from my starting point but not from yours. I don’t disagree with this. It makes sense if you think about it. I wonder if that same might be said of the other positions that have been expressed? While I may not have the formal education, I think it has been clear that I have considered information as I have been able to obtain it (I have not digested all the information you have provided, nor researched what you have pointed to). It is likewise clear to me that (the collective) you have studied scripture as part of your decision making process.

I wonder if it is possible for either of us to look at these points from an entirely neutral position. While we have had similar experiences as children with “the religious nuts” the impact was clearly different. I decided that “God and faith” as I understood them was correct in spite of the examples I had. As such my quest has been one not of finding new faith, but finding a way to fit the reality around me into the faith that was intrinsically mine. This is not to say that I have never questioned the existence of God, creation, etc. but that at the end of that questioning I understood my faith better.

I guess I see this just like I see my children’s affinity for strawberries. I think they are disgusting. The taste and texture just bother me. Yet they love the darn things. Eat them like candy. They are always trying to get me to eat strawberries and I am always trying to get them to not eat strawberries. Our arguments eventually reach a simple point of “I choose”.

The choice that seems to separate your position and mine is small but significant. You actually state it as

And in a lesser way as

To you the gaps are not as unsettling as the “need” for a super-layer story. To me the gaps are insurmountable without it. The idea that inference based fossil record, by the same humans that can forge miracles (which I do not deny), is in some way adequate … is to me illogical. If the miracle is suspect then so would be the inference. It is this point where my choice is made.

You are not cynical, I am. I am OK with that statement as it applies to the preceding paragraph. I am unable to trust the, to my mind, deceitful homo sapiens to make those inferences without bias (which I will admit I would be biased if I were making the inference as I am no less human). As you noted we often see what we want to see when we look at things. I know I do “see what I want” and have demonstrated this trait throughout this discussion.

In the end all the facts and examples are used to justify our position. It is the ignorant stance assumed by parties on all sides that has led to an untenable conflict. “My” side, the creationists, is one that can not be excused. While I am not speaking for any other creationist, I only speak for myself, when I say that it is futile to attempt to “debunk” or “add to” either science or creation (eg God). To me they must co-exist cooperatively. This one statement sums up my position.

The preceding statements are not arguments nor intended to be argumentative. These statements are opinions on the God v. Atheist/Agnostic position.

Quick shift of gears to a specific point you raised.

Your position on the 3O’s is clearly stated but I am not sure that mine is. My reliance on illustration, which comes from my inability to express myself in other ways, may be the problem. If you will bear with me I will try to explain why I think a “supernatural” would inherently have the 3O’s.

The basis that creationists must take is that everything we “know” is created. “Know” in this case suggests intrinsic knowledge, experience, deduction, etc. As such the very laws of the sciences are created by the supernatural. “Created” in this sense implies origination, unique to the creation. To this is added the concept that the creation is subjugated to the creator. Again, this is a REQUIRED point for creationists to take. Less these points and the creationist view falls entirely to pieces.

Again, I believe the above points to be true.

For the sake of the next couple of paragraphs I need to set a definition for universe as “the reality in which we exist”. My illiteracy does not provide me a better word so I must take liberties with universe for now.

Time, spacial dimension, gravity, all the laws of science exist in creation, our universe. There is nothing stipulating that they exist outside of our universe. We can neither prove nor disprove things outside our universe. Likewise we can not prove or disprove the characteristics that a being from outside our universe would have relative to our universe. What we can do is approximate the characteristics imperfectly through models based on our universe. This is easier from the creationists view as we are made in God’s “image”. We (the creationists) take this to mean an approximation of characteristics of the creator.

A creator can alter the creation. We know this from our daily lives. Scriverati call it editing. The created has no choice in the matter. If we consider the implication of a creationist view then time, position, and knowledge are all alterable within the created by the creator. This is the subjugation of the universe to God. Likewise this is where the 3O’s come in to being.

I hope that is clear.

Shifting into third!

I would like to once again make a couple of general statements that I feel are needed at this point.

• KB has every right to kick this thread from the forums. I dragged this thread off into left field and I thank him for indulging us.
• I am having a BALL with this. I don’t get much time to actually discuss these ideas at this level. I am humbled that Amber, KB, kewms, druid, and the others have taken so much time to read and provide alternate points.
• I am in no way a “typical” christian. Most of my positions will not be echoed by others who claim that affiliation.
• Understanding that this conversation is about sharing our underlying beliefs and the way we arrived at them, I have found myself at the end of my ability several times. The simple lack of forum and like minded individuals has limited my ability to test my explanations for soundness until now. Thank you for being patient.
• I know I am a dumb hick. I have gone back and corrected spelling and gross errors (since => sense, their => they’re) when I have found them. Thank you for being kind.
• At no time have I meant offense to anyone. If you claim the label “christian” and take offense at anything I have written contact me, you may be the exception to this statement.
• studentSarah, you owe me an answer.

I’ve been playing along at home for a while, so I figured I should join in.

Firstly, full disclosure. I am an atheist, although it may be better described as an agnostic with strong atheist tendencies (I believe it is impossible to prove or know for certain, but from all of the evidence I have seen, I find the religious explanation by far the least likely). Unlike Jaysen and Amber, I did not need to reject a crazy religious upbringing: my parents both did that for me in their childhood/teens. Although in Australia we tend not to get the super-crazy religious people like you do in the US, so it was a far more traditional religious upbringing that they rejected.

Regarding your position, Jaysen: I appreciate the efforts you have taken in trying to explain your beliefs and your efforts to reconcile those beliefs with those scientific facts you feel cannot be ignored (i.e. evolution). I don’t know many Christians willing to have that conversation. As such, once again, insert the usual “no offence intended” preamble to all that follows.

Unfortunately, I do believe that most of your arguments are a post-hoc rationalisation, in that you could arrive at your position having taken that leap of faith and then worked backwards to reconcile the two conflicting ideas, but that you could not logically work forward from those ideas towards your conclusion. In some ways that’s okay: you say yourself it reached a point where you had to choose and you chose faith, and the explanation you have come up with is not unreasonable or impossible. That does mean that it is not scientific, though.

As an aside from my main question (which is below), you mentioned guilt and grief and suicide, and how they cannot have any evolutionary basis: they do not affect survival of the fittest. I think you are perhaps viewing evolution from an “intelligent design” perspective. Not everything evolution has given us (or any other animal) is there for the survival of the species. Some things are there for historical reasons (unnecessary organs), some are side-effects from traits we have developed for survival, and some exist because they do not affect propagation of the species (eg. Huntington’s Disease, which usually affects people after their child-bearing years).

I have read a book with a very good explanation for why guilt and grief are evolutionarily important. I will find it later and give you its name (something like “How the Mind Works”, I think, but I may be confusing it with a different book I’ve read), because it is a fascinating book to read. The basic argument is that guilt and grief must be as bad as they are: if grief wasn’t as bad as it is, we would have no reason to save our loved ones from dying; if guilt didn’t exist, we couldn’t trust anyone. The argument is that in effect, they act as the doomsday clock to stop us doing things that would harm our genes (i.e. letting loved ones die, double-crossing others that share those genes to society’s detriment, etc.). If the end result isn’t our own private nuclear holocaust, we would have fired those missiles a long time ago.

I think it is easy to see depression and suicide as a side-effect from this: some people, through random chance/error, have a hypersensitive guilt/grief engine (just like some of us are stronger, some of us are faster, some of us are smarter, and I am all three :smiley:), which causes them to enter this state when they have no reason to, or in severe cases, even to kill themselves. Why has evolution not fixed this up? For the same reasons that children today are still born with generative diseases: 1) that we are a work in progress; and 2) that enough people with those genes reach child-bearing age, so that it can still be carried through vast generations without affecting those generations overall survival rates.

As for intelligence/reason, and a justification for why we have ended up so far ahead of our nearest cousins. I would suggest that there are two issues at play. The first is that, as soon as we became more intelligent, we became more social, and this altered our selection pressures. Suddenly, being the biggest/strongest/fastest wasn’t enough. To be a leader you had to be stronger mentally as well. Once we began using our intelligence to survival advantage, and particularly once we were interacting as a society, we would begin to choose mates who were better adapted for that (i.e. more intelligent). As a result, intelligence switched from a random chance by-product of evolution and became its driving selection criteria in our species (this, of course, happens in very minor increments, each giving a slight selection advantage and therefore continually being selected).

The second, related, issue is the development of language. There is a limited amount of inherited intelligence that can be imprinted directly into a brain without any associated reasoning: large silhouette of bird in the sky equals trouble, run and hide (conversely, our children, who take a lot of time to develop their reasoning capability, would probably die if left alone in a zoo at age 3 or 4 - incidentally, probably killed by a big cat half their age). But what language allows us to do is share knowledge, first through stories and then through writing. This obviously provides a massive benefit for survival of the species. But it also has a massive impact on our intelligence: it allows us to specialise, trade skills (I have no idea how a car works, nor do I need to), and build on existing knowledge. Effectively, the intelligence of our species is a shared intelligence of thousands of years - and hence will always be more advanced than an animal that has not developed complex language.

Anyway, that is all a side issue that others may or may not address at their whim. My main question is really for Jaysen.

You have admitted yourself that your beliefs are out-of-line with mainstream Christianity, and from your own discussions, appear to be something you have arrived at yourself and given a lot of thought to.

Which leads me to wonder, when you rejected your religious upbringing and forged your own beliefs, why did you continue to identify with the Christian god and the bible, none of which seems necessary for your above explanations? Couldn’t you hold your beliefs almost entirely intact without turning to a 2000 year old book, written by men, and subject to the same potential distortions (see various controversies over accepted vs rejected gospels, etc.) that caused you to reject the current teaching?


PS - Add necessary “no offence or disrespect intended” post-amble, to match the pre-amble that you added previously.


No offense taken on any point.

Your “post hoc rationalization” statement is clearly true. I actually make that point myself when I say I am “reconciling my faith to science”. In my last post to Amber I hint at the following question that I will state clearly here: how is the atheist/agnostic argument different? You have a belief (note this is different than faith) that you use facts to support. I have a belief that I reconcile the same facts too. At the end we all have a belief about the existence of God that we want to support. We both argue backwards while we think we argue forwards. I don’t see an issue with this. As the scientific process seems to suggest this is the best practice. Ex, have a theory, devise experiment to prove theory, keep trying until you prove it, then get others to agree. I have no problem with this method.

I think it is important to note that I see the human ability to deceive just as Amber does. Unlike what I call the “typical” atheist/agnostic and even christian, I apply my cynical or distrustful view to science as freely as to faith (I have debunked more than my fair share of “faith healers” as a consequence (which is a great way to anger the local congregation)). Hence when I see a gap which is answered by inference I question the validity of that inference until it can be empirically proven. Ambers lightbulb example is perfect to this point. There is no inference to the existence of electricity. We see it in the lightbulb. Not so with the gaps in evolution.

As I stated in a different way earlier, I believe this comes down to choice over one point: do we have an immortal soul? If you answer no, then all of this, evolution, existence of a deity, even science and knowledge are irrelevant. Without an immortal soul then our value as an individual is only as high as our ability to benefit the species (this line of argument has HUGE ethical implications that I don’t want to go into at this point). An answer affirming the existence of the immortal soul leaves us with the dilemma of the origin of that soul. I affirm the existence of the immortal soul. As such I am left to answer for the origin of said soul, then reconcile that explanation to the world around me in a satisfactory way.

Which is why I feel we all provide post-hoc rationalizations to our position and I have no issue with this approach from either side of the conversation.

Why do I identify the “christian” faith as my own?

This is the point where we can quickly head in a direction that KB will not tolerate. I will defer to his decision to delete or not delete this post and will archive it locally and send my answer to whomever desires it. KB let me know your position.

As I stated, I believe in the immortal soul. My reasons for doing so are based on the value of my fellow man relative to the value of other creatures. Amber has said that “consciousness thinks too much of itself” but I believe that man is in fact unique and endowed with “reason” from a supernatural entity. These points were NEVER rejected by me even when the “faith of my forefathers” was brought into close scrutiny. In my opinion their version of “faith” violated these points (particularly the value of their fellow man).

In my efforts to answer my questions I was brought face to face with the sciences in a way that was denied me previously. I embraced the knowledge, but when the argument of

was levied, a critical review of the position of science had the same issue. Science worked to prove its position. While ostensibly correct the underlying dilemma of human deception remains. Keep in mind I already believed in a supernatural at this time so undermining that belief will require indisputable proof that the supernatural can not exist. The problem begins to loop on what group of men I hold to be less deceitful by nature.

This new view of science raised some mammoth issues with the “conservative” and “fundamentalist” branches of christianity. While these groups give mouth service to God (the supernatural deity) they seem unable to understand that you can’t pick and choose which parts of a deity you want to keep. All or none. As such I recognized that science and religion needed to fit as a unified system, not an buffet of preferences, a shoe horned mish-mash, but as a single interwoven whole. Otherwise God is not really the origin of all, hence not an origin of the soul.

None of this is new, and has been discussed, but is required to understand the next several points (which is where KB gets real close to the delete button).

The remaining problem for me was man’s treatment of man. Why would a creature with a soul enslave another, kill another, destroy, condemn, harm, or not even attempt to prevent the preceding from happening to another soul? Up to this point in our conversation we have only addressed sin as barrier between God and man. That is only part of the picture. I began to believe that an unnatural depravity was present in man. Taking a line from Agent Smith we are “like a virus, consuming all the resources and destroying everything around us.” I began to see humanity’s inhumanity toward each other as a result of what christianity calls original sin.

I also saw this as further evidence of a soul, but the rationale behind it is so shaky that I have left it out of the conversation to date. That evidence was the collective moralizing even in “undeveloped” tribes in the sub Sahara, Pacific islands, and South America. As you, Katherine, and Amber have all said, you can account for this social evolution as easily as I can in my line of thought. The point is that mankind was not by nature benevolent TO ITSELF yet mankind clearly felt that mankind should be self-benevolent.

Given that I was now confronted with “sin”, an immortal soul, and a deity I had to reconcile the position of the deity to the sin. If the deity had created an immortal soul in human A would the deity be accepting of human B, with a similar immortal soul, intentionally harming, or allowing harm to come to, human A? There is only one answer I could arrive to, that was no. To me this implies that the deity is “anti-sin” and is beginning to look more like the God of christianity. I will admit at this point that I had never abandoned my faith in God. Much as I said earlier I freely admit to looking for proof of my stated hypothesis on this point.

So I now have sin, God, a soul, evidence that mankind is predisposed to sin, and a position that God is against sin. It seems clear that God would want the souls to be free from sin. Considering that that mankind is predisposed to sin how would one remove sin? Can a dirty cloth be used to clean a dirty cloth? It seemed obvious that the “cure” for sin could not originate from a source already tainted by sin. Since I had already arrived at the conclusion that our reality was created by God by this point in time, I had to consider the impact of sin on all of reality. Was the Pauline position of “all creation groans” under the taint of sin accurate?

I had already started to develop what I call the node tree, fish tank, and tivo examples of the 3O’s, omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence, although they were by no means completed. My thoughts tended toward “God would not allow ALL creation to be enslaved by man’s sin” until the idea that only man was granted a soul was considered. If all creation was created to house mankind, then the house itself would become as we are. Think a perfect house inhabited by pigs. The house will become a filthy, uninhabitable mess. Hence creation itself was tainted.

This leaves the cure for sin in the hand of the God. This would imply that the cure would itself be supernatural and that it would not be contingent on “activities” of man. A survey of religions leave one that fits. Christianity.

A man, supernaturally conceived, does supernatural things, offers salvation via an unexplainable method, and it is clearly stated that man “can not earn righteousness through works”. All other religions depend on “penance” to attain righteousness but this had already been ruled out.

As to the point of

I would make this very bold statement as loud as anyone will allow me:

Going beyond this statement would be a digression from your question of why I believe in the God of the Bible and in the Bible itself. I am sure there are points which are unclear (that dumb hick again) and which beg for debate. I do feel that I have given an honest account of my intellectual path to God†.

Thank you for asking. Thank you even more for taking the time to read my reply.

[size=75]† Note that this is the INTELLECTUAL path I travelled. I distinguish this from an emotional affinity for, or a emotional dependance/need for God. That is a completely different problem altogether.[/size]
edited to add footnote and correct a grammar error or 7.

Thanks for the detailed response. I will leave alone the majority of your response, since it adequately answered my question. However, a couple of times you have drawn parallels between religion and science, so I will mention what I believe are the differences between the two.

You are correct that there are scientists in most fields that work to prove what they already believe, and this is part of the scientific process: form a hypothesis, perform some sort of test on the hypothesis, and if it fails, reject the hypothesis*. Where scientists are most likely to fail is in designing fair experiments to test their hypothesis, finding excuses to exclude data that disagrees with their hypothesis, and the like. In short, where they are seeking evidence to prove their theory, rather than seeking evidence to disprove it.

  • In pure scientific terms, nothing can be proven correct by a single experiment (or in fact every experiment). But as the weight of evidence increases, usually from many different experiments, many different scientists, and in the ideal scenario, many different fields (as with evolution), things can be accepted as correct for practical purposes. But even then, the model can be improved and refined (look at what Einstein did to Newton, how we have refined Darwin’s original model, etc.)

It is unfortunate that printed news only cares about “scientific advances”, drug companies only publish positive results, etc. and that we do not better celebrate scientists who disprove theories as well. In truth, even the academic funding is too heavily targeted towards positive results - because Universities are in the end slaves to the media and journals and governments wanting to look pro-active with their funding.

I am drifting a little from my point, which is that science is about disproving theories at least as much as proving them, from individuals looking to disprove their own newly formed hypothesis, to entire hordes of scientists attempting to chip holes in Einstein. If an individual fails to live up to the scientific ideal, the scientific process (i.e. the self-regulating nature of other scientists examining and attempting to reproduce your work) will eventually weed them out. It may take some time - and there is plenty of non-scientific quackery like homeopathy that attempt to subvert the process altogether - but in the end, faulty science will eventually be proven thus.

It is true that even if everything we think we know today turns out to be false (or in more likelihood, a massive simplification), the scientific method is still valid.

Where I think that differs to religion, is that with religion there is only one pre-defined “truth”, and so once you take that leap of faith, any evidence which disagrees with that “truth” can be immediately rejected as invalid.

With science, there shouldn’t be a leap of faith, or at least, if you seek it out, there should be supporting evidence every step of the way. Of course, most people don’t do that, and instead at some point they choose to believe what they are told about the back-log of evidence. and that exposes you to the risk of quackery (there is a reason so much quackery is couched in sciencey-sounding terms)… no system is perfect.

At its best, science embraces and accepts its imperfections. It is a pity it doesn’t reach its best more often: