Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Atheism: Responding to Dennis Gordon

Grace Communion International's New Zealand operation has produced few notable thinkers, neither in its cultic WCG days nor now under the Tkach imperium. Dennis Gordon is the exception that proves the rule. Dennis was there in the not-so-good old days, and successfully made the transition to the new theology. He is a respected scientist who also ministers to the GCI congregation in Wellington.

I want to be generous in my comments on the article, but it's hard not to pick up on the invective. Dennis seems to be venting, and I'm not sure he does justice to the questions raised. Fair enough, this is an apologetic piece (what else could it be in a church magazine of this kind), but even so the tone is at times somewhat strident and defensive, though Dennis Gordon also writes: "Surely grace must prevail, especially in wrestling with contrary views."

There are a lot of statements in the article that I'd want to take issue with - simply as a (hopefully) progressively minded person with some fairly deep Christian roots of his own - but for now I'll limit myself to this one.
Jesus himself reminded us that 'God is spirit', to be 'worshipped in spirit'. This is made possible by the indwelling Spirit of God, who makes God known relationally, but how can an atheist understand or accept this?
Which appears to take the issue out of the domain of rational discourse. I'm not sure how Dennis would unpack or explain the concept of God only being "known relationally". Certainly the Bible (or even just to consider the New Testament) is anything but univocal on that matter. If an atheist can't understand this, can a Hindu?

Let's be honest; there's a certain amount of bull-roaring on this blog when it comes to atheistic positions. So my challenge is for those with clear views to offer some invective-free observations and analysis of Dennis' position (both pro and con are welcome). Insults and venting won't get past the moderation process. Sarcasm settings are also on low, and it's a prerequisite to have actually read the article first! It would be fantastic to have an adult discussion that puts reason and courtesy above point scoring - at least this once.

Any takers?


  1. Scientist-for-Jesus Gordon calls Dawkins "stupid" (page 5).
    But who would be judged 'stupid' in a one-on-one debate?

  2. This 'intellectual' challenge from the Tkach sect comes at an interesting time, as it's just reported (see side panel link) that White Americans (WASPs, "Israelites") are abandoning Christianity.

    Following Dr Gordon's article is one by Joe Tkach himself: Wow, he's not much of an intellectual - or writer. He needs ghostwriters like, it is said, his father used.

  3. Based on the reality that we know, the fact that anything exists at all is absurd. On page 6 of Gordon's article, third column, he observes that Dawkins asserts that the "theist's answer is deeply unsatisfying because it leaves the existence of God unexplained." The fact is, all answers are unsatisfying including Dawkins' answer. We live in a spacetime reality where there is cause and effect. Cause and effect are chronologically related such that the cause precedes the effect in time, so time for us is experienced sequentially. So the question is: "What caused everything we know?" Theists say that God was the uncaused first cause and atheists say that the universe has always existed. In both cases you have something that was uncaused. Something that in existence and is yet uncaused does not compute in our spacetime minds. Both the theist proposition and the atheist proposition are absurd. Moreover this is a question that seems to receive little attention and thought by both sides. Christopher Hitchens, before his death, claimed on BookTV that there could not be a god because nobody could explain where god came from. And at about the same place in the interview claimed that the universe had always existed, hence, was never created. In other words, inconsistently, the universe can be uncaused but god cannot be uncaused. I do not expect any of this to yield to rational analysis.

    Gordon then contends that God (the Christian God) is "relationally knowable." While I support this view, it seems to be too restrictive. My own experience is that there is an "a priori" knowledge of God prior to relation that results in either a state of general revelation or special revelation, but this may not happen with everyone. Wesley attributes this to prevenient grace. How this all works exactly is not easily definable. C.S. Lewis converted from atheism to theism and cannot relate exactly what went on. At some time later, Lewis became a Christian theist.


  4. (Continued)

    But there is something in the origin of the universe that is difficult for atheists to explain. The idea that the universe has always existed is just as absurd as the idea that God has always existed, as already noted. But beyond that, there is the Big Bang theory. Some Christians contend that this is incontrovertible evidence that the universe had a beginning. Atheists, I believe, contend that it is a single point of fact and we have no context for it so maybe the Big Bang is a part of a larger process that includes Big Bangs as natural and frequent phenomena in a multiverse. Christians have empirical evidence on their side in this debate. And this is where atheism sheds its mantle of science and becomes a faith.

    But there is something peculiar about the Big Bang. It is not just the idea that something spontaneously happened. Scientists (my source is a documentary on PBS) believe that the original extremely dense and miniscule package that expanded explosively into the universe was smaller than an atom. If something were to just spontaneously happen from some unknown but natural cause, why would it immediately produce a complex universe? It seems reasonable some natural process would produce something far simpler like maybe a little, barely detectable cloud of plasma. Or maybe one little field of energy - not even a subatomic particle, after all atoms are specially organized. Instead we have a miniscule little package that includes all the information in it needed for the complex initiation and operation of the universe. This complex and carefully engineered "seed" implies a maker with powers of sentience beyond our knowing. We're still trying to figure out what "dark matter" is. We will always be trying to figure out something. On balance, this argues that a sentience initiated the universe.

    I corresponded with Dr. Gordon back in 2011. John Halford referred me to him. My belief is that evolution is teleological. I believe this goes against the grain of many who hold to theistic evolution. They believe that evolution is random and man cold have arisen our of the reptilian line just as easily as out of the primate line. The dice just rolled in favor of primates. I received on e-mail from him and I wrote an extended letter to him on my objection to randomness and never heard anything back from him.

    -- Neotherm

  5. (Continued)

    The question then becomes, "Did the little package that expanded into the universe at the Big Bang result from evolutionary processes?" In other words, did the reality exude a universe one day because of evolutionary pressures? Atheism would require some non-spiritual causation. Evolution as far as anybody knows does not apply to cosmological processes. We do not see stars competing for resources. We do see biological creatures competing for resources and natural selection happens. This evolutionary pressure originates in the scarcity of resources. If resources were unlimited, all species no matter how inefficient would succeed. Science to my knowledge has postulated no evolutionary process to explain the origin of the little "seed" that started the universe. And further, what scarcity of cosmological or ontological resources would be generating the pressure to evolve? Not enough space? Not enough time?

    -- Neotherm

  6. THE problem that all atheists confront is the fact that we are here, when, technically, we shouldn't be! I will quote a famous Nobel Laureate:

    "Ilya Prigogine, chemist-physicist, recipient of two Nobel Prizes in chemistry, wrote: “The statistical probability that organic structures and the most precisely harmonized reactions that typify living organisms would be generated by accident, is zero."

    Now, atheists counter this argument with the argument about time.......given ENOUGH time, anything that is possible (even by accident) becomes probable, and anything that is probable becomes a virtual certainty. Therefore, as long as the probability of life happening by accident is greater than zero, it will happen.

    However, I agree with Ilya, the probability is zero, and even trillions of years of time multiplied by zero is still ZERO. So, life is NOT an accident, period. Is it a natural continuation of logical/natural processes? Some would argue that. If that were the case, life in the universe should be abundant and detectable. So far, no go.

    I believe that the current state of our scientific knowledge of cosmology and biochemistry PROVES rather than disproves, intelligent design. Where you wish to go from there becomes theology.....

  7. To a mathematician zero is zero. To physicists and engineers, zero can be very, very small. I think that Prigogine is using the latter concept when applied to natural phenomena. Then the counter-argument is that if the probability of an event, no matter how small, is greater than zero, given enough time, it could happen. But all this stuff happened instantaneously at the Big Bang.

    I do not agree with the idea larry expresses that there is no other life in the universe. There well may be other life in the universe that is beyond our ability currently to detect. We can't even see the whole Universe. Within the horizon we can see, we are beginning to find many planets in the Goldilocks Zone. Maybe they are there for a reason.

    -- Neo

  8. While I did not specifically say that there is no other life in the universe, I would not be surprised if that were true. It is quite likely that there is "life" elsewhere, because God is the God of the living. For theological reasons, I doubt that there is sentient life elsewhere though, and readers of this board can understand how that conclusion could be reached.

    I do not believe that further creation of the universe, beyond primitive live (i.e. non-sentient), can proceed until the matter of the dispute over the relative merits of the philosophies of good and evil, have been resolved. So, there is a perfectly legitimate theological explanation for why we do seem to be alone. For atheists, unconcerned about the battle of selfishness vs. selflessness as tenets of living, this reasoning is preposterous. But, they do not have a better explanation. They desperately hold on to the premise that the universe is just so big that we do not have the technology yet to explore it, or to find other civilizations.

    But, and this is a big but, in just 300 years of industrialization (or 6000 years of civilization, if you please), we have progressed from the stone age to the space age. This is less than the blink of an eye on the astronomical time scale. Engineering breakthroughs are being made today that will soon bring the solar system into our reach, and theories are now being proposed that could make "faster than light travel" a reality. Other civilizations, should they exist ought to be able to do the same.

    Based on the age of the galaxy and the stars/planets in it, THEY should have found us by now, yet "they" have not. A reasonable conclusion would be that "they" do not exist.

  9. Atheism is scientific. Theism [belief in gods without evidence] is voodoo.

    1. Well said.

      Science doesn't have ALL the answers. Believers take this as a flaw. I disagree. Science has SOME answers, and at least they are real answers. They are supported by their, logic, evidence and experimentation.

      Contrast that to religion. Religion claims to have all the answers. But where did these "answers" come from? Straight from the imaginations of primitive men. Many of religion's so-called answers, which were accepted in bygone years, have now been shown utterly false. More fall each year. What is the logic of clinging to those that have not yet fallen?

  10. The idea that atheism is scientific is a mythology. Atheism portrays itself as scientific when it is expedient. The naive notion of atheism is that science can explain everything. But scientists don't believe that. Many scientists are theists.

    Voodoo, as practiced in Carribean islands, is a form of theism but theism is not Voodoo. Nor is theism a belief in gods without evidence. In some cases, theism and atheism recruit the same evidences to support their causes. There are some atheists who believe things for which there is no scientific evidence such as the belief in the existence of a multi-verse to try to quell the argument of intelligent design.

    Moreover, theists cannot explain how God exists uncaused and atheists cannot explain how the universe exists uncaused. There are no principal evidences on either side. There are secondary evidences that are subject to interpretation. So theism and atheism are, at best, in a state of parity with regard to this question of origin. (Interestingly, I have read that the principle issue contemplated by people in insane asylums is the issue of how something exists rather than nothing. At least they can be credited with being willing to reflect on something significant that the average person seemingly never considers.)

    In other words, the statement that atheism is scientific is both simplistic and incorrect.

    -- Neotherm

  11. Hardly. I just presented valid scientific arguments. Atheism is as much "voodoo" as theism.

    1. In my opinion, Skeptic puts his finger on the nub of the issue: Logic; the logical protocol of science. Modern Christian apologists are giving us distorted, invalid protocols for science that won't pass muster (or get published in authoritative journals).

  12. I think the debate simplifies into two viewpoints. And I think it is just this simple in spite of the way it may have been dressed up by various pundits:

    1. Atheists believe that the universe has always existed. Hence, there is no need for a creator. Everything we know just happened.

    2. Theists believe that the universe has not always existed. God created the universe. Hence, everything was designed.

    Both of the above viewpoints recruit scientific data for support but go beyond the data by postulating different theories of origin. So we cannot say one is scientific and one is not. For example, both sides believe in the Big Bang but attach different interpretations to it. The idea that one side is supported by science and the other is not is a parroted non-starter.

    On balance, the complexity and precise integration of the physical processes of the universe support the view of creation by some transcendant sentience. But this will never convince a dedicated atheist of the existence of God. He can always say, "I see the complexity and integration, but it has always been in existence just like that." One may be able to successfully contend that this view is highly improbable but one can never decidedly falsify it. Hence, the debate goes on.

    -- Neotherm

  13. Our human minds can't comprehend how a universe might have always existed. At least my mind can't. How can something have always been there? What happened before that?

    Asserting that God created the universe just takes the question back a step. Where did God come from? Oh, he always existed? How? Well, he's God, he's higher than us. Somehow that's easier for the human mind to accept than rocks and gases always existing. At least it was for my mind. But is it true?

    Who knows? I think we can't know. Maybe matter and energy always existed. Maybe God always existed and at some point made that stuff (why then? what happened before that?)

    I DO know the following: (1) the bible is full of errors and contradictions and was clearly not inspired by any God, (2) the Q'ran is even worse and was also not inspired by any god, (3) I have no familiarity with other so-called holy books but I have no reason to think they were inspired by Gods, and (4) the laws of science, limited as they are, always work consistently and there is no evidence of any supernatural act ever superseding these laws.

    So ... I have to conclude that "what you see is what you get". We live in a physical universe. We are physical. Perhaps a God made it, but if he did he is not actively involved today. Our world is governed by scientific laws. "Spiritual" is a word made up by humans which apparently has as many different meanings as there are people and which is reality is only hypothetical. So-called "spirit" events have no scientifically measurable impact on anything. Anywhere.

    Theists "recruit" scientific data alright: they "cherry pick" what suits their world view. This is dishonest and a turnoff. It reminds me of apologetics in general. It is not an honest presentation where both sides of the story are considered and a conclusion is reached; it presents one side of the story and reaches the pre-determined conclusion. This is the problem I have with Theists in general.

  14. I would like to point out that the latest scientific cosmology theory is that the universe has always existed. It's being studied, but frankly, this makes the most sense and we may have to set aside our inability to conceive that something could exist forever. If this view is correct, God did not create the universe and just maybe, God, if we accept that He exists may be a product of the universe itself. The question then would be, what role does God really play?

    To clarify things a bit, I would like to quote Tony Reno:

    First, I know other people are going to correct the OP and point out that atheists don't need to believe in science, but for the sake of my answer, since I'm an atheists who does, let me take it from my point of view.

    Imagine my car is stalling on the highway, and I don't know why. I take my car into the local mechanic. He's got a small shop, but he's my friend. He's fixed several of my cars in the past and I trust him. I ask him to find the problem.

    He starts working on it, takes the engine apart, runs diagnostics. About this time the local pastor comes in to visit. My mechanic comes out and says, "It's not the spark plugs, not the wiring."

    I ask? "Do you know what it is yet?"

    Mechanic: Not yet.

    Pastor: I know what it is.

    Mechanic, rolls his eyes.

    Me: Really. What is it?

    Pastor: God doesn't want your car to run.


  15. Me: I think I'll let the mechanic work on it a bit longer.

    Mechanic comes back after a while: Well it's not the fuel line. The coil seems ok too.

    Pastor: I told you what it was already. I don't know why you keep working on it.

    Me: Pastor, are you going to fix my car?

    Pastor: Well no. I'm just letting you know that God doesn't want it to run.

    Me: Pastor, if you are not going to fix my car, would you please shut up and let the mechanic do his job.

    You see, religious people don't care if I learn what I need to. To them, "God did it," is all they care about.

    Me, I actually want to know the answer. I care about it. I might not need that particular car to run, but I still care about the answer.

    When the pastor says he knows the answer he's totally discounting the work the mechanic has already done. The pastor doesn't care that the mechanic has done tests and knows things. The pastor is only trying to look smug and important, pretending he has that secret knowledge that the mechanic didn't have.

    But did the pastor know that the spark plugs were fine? Did the pastor know that the wiring was fine? Did he know the coil was fine? No, the pastor didn't know any of those things.

    The pastor is sitting up there with his clean hands and his smug answers and is making a mockery of the years of study and the dirty hard exacting work that the mechanic is doing to find things out.

    Do you think the mechanic deserves that kind of treatment?

    Pastor: Oh, I know you've looked really hard. But you didn't find the answer. That's because I already know the answer. No, I didn't look at the engine. No I didn't study the instruments. No I didn't get my hands dirty. No I didn't run any tests. But none of that matters. I know the answer. God doesn't want the car to run. That's your answer.

    And you wonder why mechanics might be angry with you? You wonder why car owners might be angry?

    Not every atheist is angry, because, as I'm sure people have pointed out, not every atheist cares. But those of us who do care about the car, those of us who appreciate the years of study that went into the mechanic's discipline, those of us who appreciate the fact that the mechanic is willing to get his hands dirty, take the engine apart, check the instruments out, those who appreciate that these jobs aren't easy, we wish ...

    I know it's a lot to ask ...

    But we wish you'd quit acting so smug and sure of yourself.

    We wish you'd realize that you aren't fixing the cars.

    We wish you'd realize that you aren't even looking at the engine, much less rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty.

    We wish you'd appreciate the hard work that is happening.

    We wish you'd realize that even though you don't really care about the right answers, some of us do.

    We wish you'd get out of the way and let the mechanic do his job.

    Does that not make any sense as to why the smug behavior of claiming that you know what's wrong with the car when you are not even offering something that will fix the car, just making a pronouncement, doesn't go over well? You don't care what's wrong with the car. You just want to seem smarter than the mechanic, but unlike the mechanic, you aren't willing to get your hands dirty and look at the engine.

    And in case you are thinking that there are no broken cars involved, you don't know how science works. Many modern medical instruments come from studies in physics, from detector technology used in studying stars. Science actually gets somewhere. A pastor sitting back and saying, "God doesn't want your car to work," is just getting in the way.

  16. An apology to NEO. I inadvertently pushed delete on my smart phone rather than publish with your last comment, and now it seems to be beyond recovery. If you repost I'll be more careful.

  17. Black Ops: The chief argument used by the Dawkins/Hitchens adherents is that God cannot exist because nobody can explain where he came from. To use that argument to deny the existence of God but then to postulate an ever-existing, uncreated universe is logically inconsistent. Yet, it is in that zone of logical inconsistence where atheism seems to stand.

    The mechanic-pastor analogy has validity to a limited and shrinking extent. Without a doubt, there are Christians who deny the findings of science. I think the young earth crowd are the worst. But one cannot take the worst case and apply it across the entire class. That is "cherry picking" to use a term applied by the Skeptic. You have selected a certain brand of Christianity that is easy to assail. I would assail it myself. Many Christians now do not regard science to be hostile. Many scientists are theists. I work with such people. There is a current trend in the most dynamic part of the Christian faith (Francis Collins, et al) to advocate that science and theism are non-contradictory. Many such people are theistic evolutionists like Dennis Gordon.

    I appreciate your advocacy of an inquiring mind but science will never directly discover God. Science may discover the "tracks" of God in the material realm but that can always be explained away by some (e.g., there must be a multi-verse or matter has existed forever which are both statements of faith and not science or as you say "the latest theory").

    In fact, you are looking for objective reality. The pastor is "just getting in the way" of this inquiry. But also scientists with "the latest theory" are also" just getting in the way". There is no evidence in the material realm that directly denies the existence of God. That is why there is about a 90-10 split on this topic in North America with theism being favored. What we can validly conclude is that you do not see the evidences that you would personally like to see either in support of or against the idea of the existence of God.

    Gavin: I don't recall what I wrote and you deleted. Nobody will miss it.

    -- Neo

    1. My post was targeting Armstrongists. I'm sure you figured that out. Please note that I have some serious questions about the GCI article. The first concern is that author 'cherry picked' from Dawkins book. I'm not about to read it, so I will never know if the CGI author quoted Dawkins correctly or not. Given the history of the GCI and where they came from, I have no trust that any author of the GCI doesn't just make things up. That was the modus operandi of the Worldwide Church of God and old habits die hard, particularly when there is no accountability. I'm also disappointed that Dawkins would fall prey to the idea that Jesus existed. We've covered that in past posts here and the jury is out whether or not there are any valid anchors to historical reality without resorting to indirect referents (i.e. someone quotes someone else he's never seen or heard). Certainly we don't have source documents.

      I do believe in God, but at this juncture I'm finding the Bible a rather suspect resource to understand who and what He may be. I have only faith and what I deem to be personal experiences with him. Outside of faith, there is no shred of proof God exists. It's in Hebrews 11. Does God Exist, Seven Proofs God Exists and The Proof of the Bible are simply pathetic when examined in the cold light of objectivity. Religion will never directly discover God (unless Jesus actually DOES return as a warrior King for all to see).

      I'm not understanding your logic. If indeed the universe has always existed, how does that mean the God does? No big bang. No need for a creator to make a pin prick in the space / time continuum. It always existed. This does not mean that God could always have existed as well -- and that would explain where His throne came from (always existed) -- but an eternally existing universe weakens the case for God.

      Atheists have been getting smarter and they are growing in number. In the United States there is said to be 30 million+ of them and the number has doubled from decades ago. More and more people see the unhelpful smug pastor as representing Christianity and they want no part of it. This coupled with the fact that they see no real proof for God lends itself well to atheism.

      Forget Dawkins. If you really want to plunge into the world of understanding atheism and skepticism, then there are two books of value to do so:

      The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails edited by John W. Loftus with a foreword by Dan Barker;
      Pseudoscience and Extraordinary Claims of the Paranormal: A Critical Thinker's Toolkit y Jonathan C. Smith.

      What Christians need to do -- and what I would like them to do -- is to answer the questions raised by such books and not be careless, waving their arms in a broad sweep, hoping that the problems all go away (some of the very problems covered here in this blog with past entries).

      Science isn't logic -- it is all about observations. Religion, on the other hand is all about magic, voodoo and superstition. While there may be some reconciliation between parts of the two, they approach things from completely different angles. The reason that science is limited is because there are limits to logic, experimentation and observation. As the sophistication of the tools grow, so does the accuracy. One thing science is good at is disproving propositions: For example, DNA evidence completely obliterates the arguments for British Israelism. But note, that until the Human Genome Project, science couldn't do that. Now it can. Religion, on the other hand, is the province of those with very strong abilities to compartmentalize and ignore scientific findings or things they don't like. Opinion is raised to doctrine and truth without any supporting foundation upon to rest. After all, it's all about faith in things not seen (and may never be seen). Many of us here have waited far too long to depend on such things and need to get on with our lives.

  18. Neo - as a skeptic I demand proof, and I'm willing to go wherever the proof leads me. Of course, many areas are "gray" areas and do not have proof one way or the other. In those cases I lean toward the preponderance of the evidence but I'm open to changing my opinion.

    I have some comments on your post:

    I agree, an argument "that God cannot exist because nobody can explain where he came from" is just plain not valid.

    It seems to me the "theistic evolutionist" approach was adopted by the Catholic church and the mainstream Protestants 60 years ago. Are you saying this is new? What am I missing?

    "science will never directly discover God". Why not? I think if God where there, it would be impossible for science NOT to find him.

    "There is no evidence in the material realm that directly denies the existence of God". True. Lack of evidence is not proof.

    "That is why there is about a 90-10 split on this topic in North America with theism being favored". I would ask you to re-think this statement. It's bad for many reasons. The three main ones are: (1) This is not a vote - more people in favor of theism doesn't prove anything. The North American religion with the most adherents is Catholic - does that mean they're right. In second place (if it were a religion) would be "former Catholics" LOL. (2) the 90% figure is VERY doubtful. There is extreme stigma against nonbelievers in most parts of North America. Many Americans, Canadians and Mexicans check "Christian" on a poll, or verbally, but are in various stages of unbelief. Many don't attend church but claim to be Christian. Others attend occasionally. Others attend every week for social reasons, family pressures, etc. but don't really believe. There is a great "silent majority" of unbelievers or semi-believers who are Christian in name only. (3) Why cite only North American - why not Europe? Asia? Africa? Why cherry-pick the one continent that supports your argument?

  19. (I'm posting this on behalf of a correspondent.)

    Science has always had its limitations. If you go back to the 1800s there was a physician by the name of Ignaz Semmelweis. He noticed that when midwives delivered their babies, rather than physicians, the death rate was lower. He suggested that this was due to the fact that doctors, not midwives, would be down in the morgue before coming upstairs to deliver babies. Back then doctors didn’t wash their hands between patients. Ignaz suggested that all doctors and midwives should wash their hands in chlorinated water. This led to a dramatic drop in maternal deaths. But scientists were limited in their understanding as to WHY? Then came the microscope, which opened up to science a whole new world. Louis Pasteur came up with the idea of heating milk to kill bacteria and Joseph Lister began to sterilize surgical instruments.

    Today, science is still limited. It always looks for naturalistic explanations. Science is not able to look beyond, into the supernatural. So we can’t prove scientifically that “God” exists. Science can measure blood pressure, temperature, cholesterol levels, blood glucose levels, but there is tool to measure “the Holy Spirit.” (Imagine if we had such a tool and we could use it to determine if someone should be ordained into the ministry?) The questions that I think has to be addressed is, “Is it more reasonable to believe in a supernatural being than to not believe?” I have enough faith to be a theist, but not enough faith to be an atheist.

    Before the theory of biogenesis came into being (life comes from life), we believed in “spontaneous generation.” For instance, if you throw a bunch of rags and junk into the corner of the barn, rats would spontaneously appear. Garbage would spontaneously produce flies. It appears to me that when evolution (macro, not micro) came along, we sort of went back to the idea of spontaneously generation.

  20. Neo:"That is why there is about a 90-10 split on this topic in North America with theism being favored."

    I'd put that down to cultural pressure. For instance the figure in Iran is 100%, as skeptics must suppress their doubts. But I would hope Iran's universities are scientific, teaching Medical Science and not cures from the Bible/Koran - like Armstrongism - that uses grape diet fasting "The Grape Cure" for cancer treatment in preference to "idolatrous" orthodox medicine.

  21. On the poll about the number of atheists versus theists, let us just say that any poll you look at will indicate a great imbalance between the number of theists and the number of atheists, in favor of the theists. If you are an atheist you challenge these polls in many ways but why should you? If you are comfortable with your beliefs why should you need to populate a "band wagon" for yourself. Would you change your viewpoint if you were the only atheist in the world?

    Another point is that theism is not the sole property of Christianity. It does not work to cite something from the Bible that seems in correct as an argument that God does not exist. One can be a theist without being a Christian.

    My logics is this:

    1. By considering the observable, atheists cannot prove that God does not exist and theists cannot prove that God exists. Both rely on uncaused existence. Uncaused existence is nonsensical to us. But this makes atheism and theism ultimately at parity with regard to declarations about God's existence.

    2. On balance, there are more persuasive observed phenomena that support the existence of a sentient God than not. But this is not a proof. Atheists can always look at very persuasive evidences (see my earlier post on the Big Bang) and simply say it all happened without God. Theists can say the scale is heavier on one side but that is not a decisive victory.

    -- Neo

    1. Neo: You believe in God; is Jesus God?

    2. I am a Christian Theist. I believe in the standard Trinitarian Doctrine. I have not brought Christian Theism into this discussion because it seemed like there is much to discuss without it. In addition, many people make the mistake of believing that arguments against Christianity are arguments against God.

      -- neo

    3. Neo points out that 90% of Americans believe in God and Bill Maher points out that 60% of that 90% believe in Noah's Ark, but Hip Christian apologists like Neo, Alister McGrath and Dennis Gordon don't want to be lumped in with that 60% because Science can easily refute Noah's Flood; they have to be more cunning and will tell us about an absurd theory called "Theistic Evolution" - not because they really feel like pushing this, but because Science has backed them into a very uncomfortable corner!

      Neo further clarified that, in his case, 'God' is Jesus who, by today's state-of-the-Ark apologetics, sounds a bit outdated as he endorsed Noah's Flood. But evolving Christian apologetics has adapted to this problem by saying "Well, all right, we used to say the Bible was infallible, but actually it's kind of fallible in so much as God allowed men to take their best stab at what they think Jesus was saying, limited by their ancient concepts of cosmology". Well, the Liberal ones take that route; the Conservatives will have none of it! For people who confidently tell us they have the answers, they manifest serious division!

    4. The statistic for theists in North America is actually close to 95 percent. But a Pew Poll recently found atheism to have increased for some population - so I went with 90. I do believe in Noah's Flood. I do not believe it was a global event. The global nature of the flood is derived from a particular translation made by the KJV translators. The KJV translation is a valid alternative - we just know that it does not hold up to scientific scrutiny. I believe in a regional flood affecting a small clan of people.

      Theistic evolution makes a lot more sense than atheists telling us that the universe has always been and its complexity "just happened." If you read Frances Collin's book you will see that your characterization of being backed into "a very uncomfortable corner" is just melodramatic rhetoric. Though Collins is not the initiator of theistic evolution, his approach is quite methodical and rational. C.S. Lewis said years ago when confronted with the question of evolution, "What difference does it make." Not exactly a state of panic. In fact it is the atheists who are in the uncomfortable corner. They always thought they had evolution as their principle defense of atheism. Now that has succumbed to progress.

      I do not think Jesus was outdated at all in believing in the Flood and the Ark. The account of the flood is just not what the KJV translators trumped it up to be.

      Atheism, too, is divided. Many people who claim atheistic views are really not atheists. You find these two views:

      1. People who would state "I have never been presented with persuasive evidence that there is a god."
      2. People who would state "God does not exist."

      The class of people in bullet 1 are really agnostics. They don't know for sure if there is a God. They do know they have never received adequate evidence for drawing a conclusion.

      The class of people in bullet 2, the real atheists, are properly fundamentalist believers. They believe ardently in something that cannot be established scientifically. Yet they wrap themselves in the comforting mantle of science.

      Surveys typically do not make the distinction. One does not know if the surveys are talking about class 1 or class 2 or both. Seldom do you see agnosticism as a separate category. I think the agnostics are incorrectly lumped in with the fundamentalist extreme.

      I will admit there is not as much division among atheists as among theists. But greater unity among atheists does not emanate from some noble nature. The materials of atheism are much narrower and there is much less to disagree about. We can all be united about the fact that the sky is blue but we may well differ in many ways over the Book of James.

      -- Neo

    5. Neo: " I do believe in Noah's Flood"

      Well you've got to, Jesus said it's true.

  22. If the universe has existed forever and is eternal as the latest cosmological theory proposes, the discussion of theism might logically seem totally irrelevant and the so-called Big Bang is also irrelevant.

    As for observed phenomena, there is so little we have access to -- the universe is a big place and we don't observe very much of it -- even indirect observation is very limited.

    1. I would support the logic of your conditional statement. But the statement expresses a sufficient condition that cannot be established. It is correctly characterized as the latest cosmological theory.

      But we can observe our neighborhood and we know from this that the Universe started at the Big Bang. We can detect the background radiation from that event. We can see the Doppler shift and the rapidly flying galaxies. On the opposite end, we know that there is increasing entropy and the Universe is winding down. This initial constructive trend giving way to a later destructive trend does not argue well for an ever-existing universe, yet this data is scientific.

      I just read that Stephen Hawking believes that there are many universes and many realities. Emphasis on the word "believes" - an article of faith. There is no scientific evidence of many universes and many realities. Yet the anthropic principle, which relies on something like Hawking expresses, cited by many atheists as a counterpoint to intelligent design rests on this scientifically unsupported principle.

      If you believe that atheism is aligned with science that is a delusion. It is aligned with faith - it is just not religious faith.

      -- Neo

    2. If the universe had existed forever, we would certainly have to score one for pantheism or panentheism. But, I personally am convinced that the "Big Bang" was the starting point of what we see around us. And, I believe that it reverses itself and repeats. Black holes somewhat suggest this.


  23. Atheism isn't a faith, it's just an acknowledgement that there's not enough observable evidence to prove God exists.

    Someone hasn't been reading Hebrews 11.

    1. Atheism is a declaration that God does not exist. What you have defined is agnosticism.

      Atheism is a faith in some respects because it asserts that God does not exist based on hypotheses that are not scientifically demonstrable (e.g., ever-existing universe and multi-verse). Now that you bring it up, I have never thought about the atheistic form of faith does fit the definition in Hebrews. The atheistic faith is the substance of things hoped for just as the Christian faith.

      -- Neo

  24. Black Ops Mikey - that's exactly right.

    Neo - you focus on the question of whether there is a God. I think there is an equally important question. If we accept, for the sake of argument that there is a god: which god is it? The christian god was clearly created by man. Similarly Allah and every other god. a careful reading of each religion's so-called "scriptures" makes it very apparent that they were written by men. If there is a god, it certainly is not the god of any of these religions. Where does that leave us?

    1. If you conclude that there is a god, you naturally look around for something that he left for us - some information - some statement. This is especially true if you conclude that god is a moral god. A moral god would not leave mankind without some communication. A moral god would be inclined to create with purpose. The message may be written or it may be found within the natural functions and organization of our universe. The message may be found in your relationship with another person. Maybe the medium is the message. That is where it leaves us in my view.

      -- Neo

    2. Neo, if that's what works for you, that's great, at least you're logical and consistent.

      For me, however, your arguments are just plain based on too many assumptions. My background is in mathematics and in financial modeling. I've reviewed more financial forecasts than I care to remember. One thing I've learned: when a model is based on too many assumptions, it just plain doesn't reflect reality. As time passes, events prove the model not to be true. Just like what happened with WCG.

      To me, Theistic arguments look like they're based on too many assumptions. Even yours. They're just too much of a "stretch".

      I'd love to believe in God the same as you. It would make life so easy. That's what made WCG so attractive. It offered a nice neat package with all the answers. It was like we were children again - do what you're supposed to do, don't do what's forbidden, and your all-powerful father wll protect you, provide for you and take care of everything. It's simple.

      Too simple. Perhaps simplistic. Life is nuanced. It's hard to understand. And I don't see any almighty father figure anywhere helping us sort it out.

    3. I looked around. God didn't leave us anything. All I see is stuff written by men.

      Why would I conclude God is a moral God? Nature is red in tooth and claw. Every stomach is a tomb. Each animal survives only by killing, often in cruel and painful ways. Throughout the animal kingdom is fear, death and pain. The same is true of mankind throughout history. Could a moral God not have created a peaceful, dare I say godly, way of life for the animal kingdom and for mankind here on earth?

      And please spare me the absurd argument that it's all because Adam sinned. That line of BS may have worked on primitive minds and even medieval minds, but surely modern educated minds can see through it.

      " A moral god would not leave mankind without some communication". You forgot to write "I assume" in front of this assertion. Clearly this is an assumption on your part. I assume no such thing.

      " A moral god would be inclined to create with purpose". Same comment as above.

      You assume too much my friend. It leads you to false conclusions.

    4. It is probably needless to mention that because you personally can find no evidence of god doesn't mean that there is no god. It only means that you can find no evidence.

      -- Neo

    5. Neo: Why should Skeptic even go looking for a god? Your axiom is a chimera inherited from our early fearful ancestors. A false-dilemma you religionists are refining to perfection - inherited cultural baggage that permeates our psyche..

    6. Note that I stated "if you conclude there is a god." I am not sure what "axiom" you are referring to. Nor do I understand the term "chimera" in this context. And what "false-dilemma" are you talking about. Did I inherit observations about the Big Bang from my ancestors? Are you including atheists in you term "religionists"? You should.

      -- Neo

    7. Let's not get silly. Of course atheists are not "religionists". Lack of belief is not the same as belief.

      And let's be clear. It's not a matter of me personally finding no evidence of a god: neither can you. I've read your arguments and your "evidence". In addition, for years I've read all the best "evidence" that the believers have been able to serve up. It turns out all your best experts have NOTHING. Their arguments always boil down to subjective factors, belief and faith. They cannot support their beliefs with hard facts. Well, perhaps by their squishy reasoning they think they've supported their beliefs factually, but any scientist, mathematician or statistician knows that these are not factual arguments.

      If the best evidence of all the pro-god "experts" cannot hold up to scrutiny, then a Skeptic has to conclude that there is no evidence.

    8. It is not silly to say someone who believes devoutly in subjective concepts that have no real world support is a religionist. Atheists believe in ideas that are not supported by science. Hard fact.

      What I stated was that when it comes to proving or disproving the existence of God, atheists and theists are at parity - neither can explain how something can be uncaused. On balance, the configuration of the universe supports a sentient creator much more reasonably than the atheist idea of "it has always been" or "it just happened."

      If the best evidence of the no-god experts cannot hold up to scrutiny, then a theist has to conclude that there is not evidence against.

      -- Neo

    9. Neo: "Atheists believe in ideas that are not supported by science."

      Wouldn't the opposite of that statement be the case? As I think Atheists like Bill Maher say they'll change if shown evidence.

    10. We've all had a chance to present our perspectives, and it doesn't seem like one side is going to convince the other anytime soon. I get what Neo is saying but I think he's mistaken. Neo gets what I and Minimalist are saying but he thinks we're mistaken. I think it's time to "agree to disagree". There's no need to kill or even get mad at someone who holds a different religious opinion than ourselves. After all, we are not Muslims.

    11. Atheists reject the idea of a deity. Presumably they have done this based on some kind of evidence that is sufficient for their non-belief to become incontrovertible. But what Maher is asserting is an agnostic viewpoint. (In fact Maher says he is an agnostic.) A good atheist knows that there is no god and there is no evidence. Maher is admitting that there might be a god, he just has not seen the evidence of it. We might restrict it further and state that he believes there is no evidence in the observable universe. I doubt that Maher included religious experiences of any sort in the formation of his view. Oddly, Maher frequently finds his humor in value judgements of some sort. I wonder how he has come to conclude what is right and what is wrong?

      The inverse of Maher's statement is true of some theists. They will change if shown evidence. This evidence has not been forthcoming.

      I believe, on balance, that there is more evidence of a sentient creator of the universe than not. But it is not evidence that would be decisively convincing to everyone. Many atheists would say that what I view as evidence "just happened." You can't debate that.

      I have sympathy for people who are agnostics. I believe they have a reasoned position based on their examination of the observable universe. I agree with many of their viewpoints on the flaws in religion. But none of them have convinced me that there is unassailable evidence that God does not exist. They are caught in the materialist's dillemma of "How do you know god, if you don't know god?"

      -- Neo

    12. Neo is trying to force an invalid/limited definition of Atheism. To the contrary, Wikipedia states: "Atheism has been regarded as compatible with agnosticism"

  25. Yes, thank you Black Ops.

    Watch out for these trendy New-Apologists bashing/redefining Atheism/Science.
    But can New-Apologists like Frances Collins get published in the journal Nature?

  26. Frances Collins is the Director of the National Institutes of Health. He lead the Human Genome Project and has received both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Science Medal. He has an extensive publication record.

    I made a response concerning the issue of atheism as a faith. Several of my responses seem to have gotten lost in the shuffle.

    Atheism is a faith in the sense that something is believed without evidence such as the ideas of the multi-verse and a universe that has always existed. In fact atheistic faith is similar to Hebrews 11 faith - the substance of things hoped for. This makes atheism a secular religion without a deity. Religions don't have to have a deity. They just have to have belief and practice.

    Discussing the properties of the Big Bang doesn't redefine anything. Demanding that theists not progress in understanding so you can rely on old arguments is like children in the marketplace saying "we have piped unto you and you have not danced."

    -- Neo

    1. Well Frances Collins makes for a good Appeal-to-Authority as you Christians push the False-Dilemma of Atheism/Theism.

    2. You might want to explain what is false about that dilemma.

      And I did not appeal to his authority. I referred to the content of what he has written. His credentials were cited only after you belittled him.

      -- Neo

    3. What about a superior entity that petered out or died? That would be a third option.

    4. If there ever was a superior entity, he either died or just plain went away. He plays no active role today.

    5. Is this the same Skeptic that got so stirred up over my many assumptions?

      -- Neo