Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Old Habits Die Hard: The Garden Variety Atheist Fairy Tale of "Christianity vs. Science & Reason" Redux (vs. "drunkentune")

Dr. Michael J. Behe of Darwin's Black Box and Intelligent Design fame: is he an ignorant
fundamentalist creationist-in-disguise? Actually, he is a Catholic and accepts common descent
of species, including man. But he is not a materialist, and that is sufficient to be heaped with scorn as an imbecile and intellectual troglodyte.

This is one of the more ridiculous exchanges I have ever had with an atheist: truly pathetic, exasperating, excruciatingly absurd, and now well beyond my patience to continue. It has some relation to the previous post, On Whether Atheism is Inherently More Rational and Scientific, and Less Dogmatic and Axiomatic Than Christianity, which in turn was a follow-up to The Atheist's Boundless Faith in Deo-Atomism ("The Atom-as-God").

I still hold out hope for at least two atheist blogs I know of, where the atheists are quite fair-minded and have the required background knowledge, understanding, and respect for the best in Christian thinking, to engage in constructive, amiable, non-insulting-to-the-intelligence discourse (as well as fair moderation, which is as rare as a bearded billiard ball anywhere, anymore). drunkentune's words will be in blue. My cited words will be in green, his cited words in purple.



*** CLICK ON "Tolle, lege!" immediately below to finish this article ***


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You two seem to have this conversation under control. I'll let you two have at it amongst yourselves.

Very clever way to sidestep the issue.

Doesn't your dogma preclude all other contradicting faiths? You have to contend with Zoroastrianism, for example.

I haven't claimed that Christians have no dogma, nor that all dogmas are necessarily bad. My claim is, rather, that the atheist has his own sort of dogmas as well (i.e., unquestioned, unproven axioms), and must exercise as much faith (belief without ironclad proof or even evidence) as any Christian, at least at certain crucial points.

I've also claimed that this is rather easy to show. But obviously you and I will never get to that point because you are unwilling to go there. It's too threatening to go that deep in examining one's own premises. It could turn out to be like an onion peel: you keep peeling and end up with nothing.

It's not like this is anything new. I'm as familiar with it as the back of my hand. Atheists are almost always unwilling to take a close look at their first premises. I suppose I would be the same if I were an atheist, because there is nothing there. It would look foolish to have this exposed, when it is so much fun to make fun of supposedly gullible, stupid Christians, as if there is a huge essential rational and epistemological difference between the atheist and the Christian. It's much easier and more fun to keep the illusion of inherent superiority going.

Thanks for the little tidbit of Norse mythology. I love Wagner and Tolkien.

"It takes a ton of faith (much more than a Christian exercises) to believe that something can come from nothing."

What are you saying here?

That y'all believe something came from nothing.

Can you rephrase this?

I don't see what the point would be. It's pretty clear.

I don't believe that something can come from nothing,

I see. So you hold that matter is eternal and never did not exist?

so I think you may either be confused with what atheists actually believe, or are misrepresenting the current scientific literature's conclusions.

That's fine. Just state what your own opinion is. I contend that my critique (i.e., followed through to the end) will work with any atheist (at least any materialist atheist).

Again, you have to contend with other religions out there.

I'm not talking about them, but about what the atheist believes.

The atheist dismisses them all (including yours) because there's no evidence for them (and yours).

Yet you yourself believe things without any evidence. So why the double standard? How can you dismiss one thing because it has no evidence and then turn around and do the same thing that you just dismissed? Does that make any sense?

Your use of language reveals a good deal.

I should hope so. If it didn't reveal anything, it wouldn't be of much worth now, would it? :-)

The universe didn't create itself. No atheist I know believes that, and I certainly don't believe that too.

I see. So the conclusion follows that it is eternal, if there is no God to create it and it didn't create itself. Matter must be eternal. I don't see that it is possible to deny that. There are only so many basic choices.

Just two months ago the theory of an oscillating universe, contracting and expanding, was given a boost after the background radiation of the universe was observed. I forget if they did or did not, but they may have won a Nobel Prize in astrophysics for their work.

As far as I know, it can't be proven. If you disagree, please show me some evidence that it can be. It requires every bit as much faith (if not more) as believing that God created the universe.

The verdict's still out on the origins of the universe,

Really? Then how can you be so sure God didn't do it, if the verdict's still "out"? A bit of dogma, perhaps? "God can't possibly do it"? Now, if you can have that as your unproven dogma, why can't the theist turn it around and say, "It's not possible that God didn't do it?"

[By the way, I would not actually make that claim myself, but that's beside the present point]

If one guy can say it's impossible that God created, what stops the next guy, on the same epistemological basis, from asserting the contrary? Both are equally "dogmatic" and equally unprovable in any absolute sense.

but I don't see how the faith you describe comes into play when we're measuring dark matter and proposing different theories.

Is that so? So you are claiming that you have airtight premises and axioms all down the line, that require no inductive leaps or speculations. No gaps of knowledge are present. It is all utterly demonstrated and cannot be disproven? Fascinating indeed! Are you really that philosophically naive? I wouldn't have guessed as much.

On one hand, we have a holy book and a religion verses a couple thousand holy books and religions; on the other, we have testing, observation, and peer review.

I love it! This is how your dogmatic atheist mind works: on one side is rationality, science, love of observation, respect for facts and the rational process of analysis, and everything good about the intellectual life.

On the other hand is the ignorant, gullible, infantile (perhaps mentally ill) Christian, exercising blind faith: anti-science, anti-reason, anti-logic, anti- evidence and observation.

Obviously with that huge straw man set-up from the get-go, who in their right mind would choose the Christian side? But when you create a ridiculous either/or choice like this one, that is almost entirely the problem of thinking, category, and condescension that I am critiquing. It's the very way you choose to distort reality and separate people en masse into such arbitrary, laughable categories, that is the problem.

"It takes a ton of faith (much more than a Christian exercises) to believe that science provides the only possible reliable knowledge to be had."

Science engages in practical naturalism. We cannot test for the existence or nonexistence of God, the supernatural, or all sorts of quackery. In fact, why should we even want to do such a thing?

I'm very well aware of what science is, thank you, and how it operates, and what it's limits are. Your problem is that you assume I (and most Christians) are ignorant of it. I presuppose all of that coming into the discussion. But you assume profound ignorance. And so we are forced to go into these tedious digressions about things I already know backwards and forwards. But you are too prejudiced against Christians to accept that I do. It's all absolutely irrelevant to my present argument, which presupposes a respect for science. It's not based on running down science at all; only on recognizing that it doesn't constitute all knowledge, and that it is not dogmatic truth.

Again, you show yourself epistemologically naive. I've gone many levels of analysis deeper than this Science 0101 routine that you want to play. Perhaps that's why you keep avoiding the main issue.

"It takes a ton of faith (much more than a Christian exercises) to believe that only matter exists and there is no spirit. Even Albert Einstein denied that."

How do you see this? I don't see evidence for the existence of the spirit, so why is it a matter of faith to not believe?

You couldn't care less about what I believe, so why don't you, in effect, ask Einstein? Don't waste time with an average Christian like myself! HE managed to believe there was something beyond mere matter. How did he do it?

We can test for matter; we can't test for the spirit, whatever it is. I don't even know what you mean when you say "spirit", so could you define it for me?

There's no point. You have already defined it out of existence by definition or category exclusion. Your paradigm won't permit its entry.

* * * * *

Your choice quote of Dawkins mystifies me. I think that faith is dangerous - especially when children are indoctrinated. I should hope you agree that propagating dogma - no matter the ilk or stripe, does not better the advancement of good ideas.

Every parent indoctrinates his child to some extent. This is no different for atheist or Christian. How could it be otherwise? A young child is in no position to rationally decide the big issues for themselves, so they are simply told.

As they are old enough to think for themselves, then they ought to be encouraged to do so, and to understand the reasons for why Christianity teaches certain things. This is what I do for a living: I'm an apologist. I teach Christians how to think rationally about what they believe, to understand the reasons for various doctrines, and to understand competing views, and to see why ours is intellectually superior to them.

It should be pointed out that Dawkins doesn't attack Christians in the passage; he attacks "a state of mind that leads people to believe something - it doesn’t matter what - in the total absence of supporting evidence."

He's in the same boat you are in (and everyone else): he comes to a place where he does the same exact thing. So his criticism towards only religious people rings hypocritical and hollow.

[Biologist Steven Rose wrote: "Richard’s view about belief is too simplistic, and so hostile that as a committed secularist myself I am uneasy about it. We need to recognise that our own science also depends on certain assumptions about the way the world is - assumptions that he and I of course share." - Quoted in The Sunday Times 19 Nov 2006. Dawkins is cited in the same article ranting as follows: "The enlightenment is under threat . . . So is reason. So is truth. We have to devote a significant proportion of our time and resources to defending it from deliberate attack from organised ignorance. We even have to go out on the attack ourselves, for the sake of reason and sanity." - emphasis added presently]

If Christians are included with other faiths, that's because they all employ faith.

And so does anyone who thinks and admits that he doesn't have all the answers concerning the Big Questions.

I combat such notions each day, be it from a vocal Christian or a vocal non-Christian. Such an example immediately springs to mind: a friend has recently convinced herself that she has premonitions. She daydreamed about an event, and then a similar event occurred within the day. She has faith that she can see into the future, so I took the time to ask her which was more likely: she had premonitions; or, it was happenstance. To me, it looks like a mental disorder, since they are clearly delusional.

That's easy: just test the thing! That's the scientific attitude, ain't it? If she claims ability to predict the future, then keep score and see if she does or not. It's a very easy, scientific method:
and (guess what?!) it comes from the Bible: this was precisely the test for the ancient professed prophets. If what they said didn't come to pass, they were stoned. Very straightforward: very "evidence-oriented" and scientific. But hey, I thought Christians (and Jews) were supposed to be about the negation of, or complete apathy towards evidence????!!!!!

* * *

I gave your comments another passing over, and I almost missed this little tidbit:

"Science, in turn, rules out (by definition) explanations involving non-material elements or aspects. But that is pure dogma, and simplistic to boot."

If I may, to paraphrase what you have said, Science is dogmatic because… it doesn't attempt to explain using untestable "elements or aspects".

I did not say that. You have warped my comments and taken them out of context. Let me provide readers with the full context, so they can see how you have twisted this to your own ends:
How about the question of spirit and matter, that has occupied philosophers for centuries? The materialist atheist (not all atheists are materialists, but most are) cannot accept the existence of spirit, because his materialist dogma forbids it. The Christian, of course, can, so his worldview is less dogmatic and less exclusive.

The materialist has the underlying dogma that science is pretty much the only path to truth (albeit constantly capable of being revised, but even so, it can give us much reliable truth about reality). Science, in turn, rules out (by definition) explanations involving non-material elements or aspects.

But that is pure dogma, and simplistic to boot. The Christian, on the other hand, recognizes that science is but one philosophy (roughly-speaking, empiricism): one which involves unproven axioms from the outset. To claim that it is the only way to arrive at truth is philosophically naive in the extreme.

The Christian is under no such constraints. Recognizing that science is but one species of philosophy, and that it can’t possibly exclude things that are beyond its purview (just as religion does not and cannot preclude science, because it is a separate inquiry), we can discuss and incorporate non-scientific avenues to truth.

But the atheist, by and large, cannot do that, because their dogma (generally-speaking, as throughout) confines them to one method, and then they labor under the illusion that this method is the be-all and end-all of reality (itself in turn reduced to materialism by most atheists).
The entire argument is far far more subtle and nuanced than the stupid straw man that you set up to then tear down. I don't need to explain any further. Folks need simply to read how I argued, and then see what you did with that and how you either deliberately chose to misrepresent what I said, or (far more likely) simply couldn't grasp it because (again):
1) you assume I am far more ignorant about science than I am,

and

2) your arbitrary categories of thought and your premises do not allow you to see otherwise, and so you wind up distorting what you don't understand.
When you assert: "[Science] is pure dogma, and simplistic to boot," I can’t help thinking that you haven't looked at their definitions. I feel that you are trying to pull the wool over my eyes, or that you are actually ignorant of the scientific method.

See what I mean, folks? This is so classic it is beyond funny. You prove one of my contentions (pervasive atheist prejudice against theists) 1000 times better than I could myself. Thank you!

Now, what is dogma? The definitions of "dogma" I looked at specifically state that it is a religious belief, and the one or two that did not say so, had each something on par of, "a belief that is held to be unquestionably true", and there’s a bit at the end about believing in something even with a lack of evidence, or in spite of evidence to boot.

Exactly. There is certainly an application beyond religion.

So what is science? I looked for a good definition, and found this one: "Science refers to either: the scientific method – a process for evaluating empirical knowledge; or the organized body of knowledge gained by this process." There’s usually a bit about methodological naturalism in there somewhere.

Any process that is designed to test the natural world by "evaluating empirical knowledge" and observation is by definition nondogmatic.

You are a piece of work. You actually believe that all of science from A to Z is absolutely epistemologically neutral and involves no speculations of a nature that they cannot themselves be proven? I've already covered this elementary ground, but you ignored it and proceeded to define science for me as if I didn't know what it was. Science is itself a philosophy. It is not absolute truth. It doesn't preclude other kinds of knowledge, nor does it preclude spirit.

The proper scientific attitude would say, "science is about matter; we make no statement about possible non-material reality." That is objective and recognizes inherent epistemological limitations.

But you and many atheists don't want to do that. You want to make out that science excludes things that it clearly - by definition - doesn't deal with in the first place. This is irrational. How can one field of knowledge dogmatically rule out that which it doesn't deal with at all in the first place? How can it authoritatively speak to that which it has nothing to do with?

The objective, fair-minded, philosophically sophisticated doctor who faces a miracle cure in a patient (and there are plenty of those documented: I wrote a paper about one such case: a son of a friend who was pronounced brain dead by three neurologists), will say he cannot explain it, not that it is impossible. How does he know what is possible or not? He doesn't possess all knowledge.

In fact, the first half of your assertion ("Science, in turn, rules out (by definition) explanations involving non-material elements or aspects.") doesn't seem so bad. Take for istance this short piece on naturalism:

"[T]here is only one reliable method of reaching the truth about the nature of things . . . "

This is sheer nonsense! Why should any thinking person accept the supposed truism that only science can give us truth about reality? It's almost self-evidently false.

"this reliable method comes to full fruition in the methods of science, . . . and a man's normal behavior in adapting means to ends belies his words whenever he denies it. Naturalism as a philosophy not only accepts this method but also the broad generalizations which are established by the use of it; viz, that the occurrence of all qualities or events depends upon the organization of a material system in space-time, and that their emergence, development and disappearance are determined by changes in such organization. . . . naturalism as a philosophy takes [the word "material"] to refer to the subject matter of the physical sciences. Neither the one [philosophical naturalism] nor the other [science] asserts that only what can be observed exists, for many things may be legitimately inferred to exist (electrons, the expanding universe, the past, the other side of the moon) from what is observed; but both hold that there is no evidence for the assertion of anything which does not rest upon some observed effects. (Paul Kurtz, "Darwin Re-Crucified: Why Are So Many Afraid of Naturalism?" Free Inquiry (Spring 1998), 17.)"

No! That's sheer nonsense, too, because it oversteps the bounds of its own definition. A true scientific attitude would say that matter can be subjected to scientific scrutiny, but not that all reality whatsoever comes under the umbrella of science. For to make such a claim is "meta-scientific." To make a claim about science is necessarily to step outside of science in order to do it. Science cannot prove by its own method that it is the only way to arrive at knowledge (this would be, of course, logically circular, or "begging the question"). Assumptions are already brought to the table.

What's so bad about that? In this light, your assertion that science is "simple" makes little sense to me. It's good that "Science, in turn, rules out (by definition) explanations involving non-material elements or aspects," because they have no observable effects whatsoever.

Spirits can have plenty of observable effects. That's what we claim miracles and fulfilled prophecies are.

When you assert that science is dogmatic, you look, at least to me, like a fool or a charlatan caught in the act. I do not wish to believe you are, yet it's difficult not to, especially when coupled with your tone.

Great. Go in peace, then. Clearly, you are unwilling or unable, or both, to go in this conversation to the place where it is necessary to go for me to demonstrate beyond doubt what I am saying. You don't have the slightest clue what I am arguing (which is truly amazing, since I have laid it all out and it isn't rocket science or calculus). You'll keep caricaturing, insulting, and misunderstanding.

If Benny (or any other atheist) can read these comments and grasp what I am saying, and wants to pursue the discussion, fine. But my patience for having my thoughts warped and twisted in such a way only goes so far (not very far, I'm afraid).

Happy new year again, to you and all here.

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You have had a bone to pick with me since our first encounter. I realize that you have had that on your mind for some time. Now, your ranting is fine in other venues, but when you insult me and go on and on, ranting about atheists and their "unproven axioms", I can’t help but feel taken advantage of. soulster and I did not want this to occur.

This website isn't for you: it is to further dialogue, and you are attempting to dampen our chances. You have a problem with me? Visit my website. We can talk there as gentlemen.

. . . Stop trying to pick a fight. Just go with what I said: you claim you have revelation; other religions do too. Science does not have revelation. It is you that inferred that I was talking about "ignorant, gullible, infantile Christian[s], exercising blind faith." Are you really that self-absorbed that you must think everything in relation to Christianity? There have been thousands of religions claiming the Ultimate Truth, and Christianity is only one of them. All I'm asking is for you to prove it. That is not dogmatic.

Please see the difference between observation and revelation. You claim that you are aware of science and "how it operates", but I don't see that you do. Instead, you rant and insult me, give ridiculous "definitions" to science, and continue to claim that science is dogmatic, because science, Dave, is methodological naturalism, and you have this notion that naturalism is dogmatic because it rules out supposed things when we can not observe their effects.

. . . I have never claimed that science is the only possible way to gain knowledge. There may be other ways. But first, you must show me why there are other ways to discover the truth. Demonstrate how we can use supernaturalism to discover the truth.

Just tell me about it, and give it a rest. The rest is hyperbole on your part. If there is a method beyond the empirical, don’t assert it.

You couldn't care less about what I believe, so why don't you, in effect, ask Einstein? Don't waste time with an average Christian like myself! HE managed to believe there was something beyond mere matter. How did he do it?

And you resort to simple appeals to authority? You've been around the block before, and you know plenty well that your argument means little. Einstein was a human being. He married his cousin and helped begin the Manhattan Project. He's also dead. What he believed/disbelieved in the supernatural has no bearing, just as Isaac Newton's faith had nothing to do with the theory of gravity.

. . . If you don't tone it down, Dave, I won't be held responsible for what happens next. soulster [the Christian on the forum] may just tear your heart out, because I am seething. Remember: you represent to many an angry, paranoid Christian personally attacking a mannered atheist, and you have an audience of many. Do not start a flame war; do not insult me.

* * *

Thanks for the New Year's Eve entertainment!

* * *

It would be entertaining if you'd show us if there are 'other than empirical facts, say spiritual or transcendent facts.'

-----------------------

But hey, I thought Christians (and Jews) were supposed to be about the negation of, or complete apathy towards evidence????!!!!!

You might not have heard, but I wrote a small post on that here.

Gideon asks God to dry wool set out overnight as evidence for his existence (Judges 6:36-40).

Isaiah asks God to change the shadow of the sun 10 degrees as evidence for his existence (2 Kings 20:8-11).

Thomas asks to touch Christ's wounds as evidence for his resurrection (John 20:24-29).

Jesus appears before hundreds as evidence for his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:5-9, Matthew 28:1-10, Luke 24:13-31, etc.).

If they can test for God's existence, or see proof, I can too. We don't have to rely on faith to be a Christian. The sealed box by my bedside is still locked, and I'm still waiting.

* * *

Thomas asks to touch Christ's wounds as evidence for his resurrection (John 20:24-29).

Right. And at the end of the very passage you cite Jesus says:
Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. (RSV)
The import is clear: Christians have plenty of evidence to go by, yet faith is also required, and the Bible repeatedly says that men know that God exists even if they are not granted an extraordinary miracle to help them believe.

If they can test for God's existence, or see proof, I can too.

Sure; and then Jesus would respond to you in the same way He responded to Thomas and others. He habitually called us on to a more sublime faith. For instance, in Matthew 12:38-39, Jesus had one of His frequent run-ins with the Pharisees, who requested of Him:
"Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you." But he answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah."

(cf. Matthew 16:1-4, Luke 11:29-30, John 2:18-22; NRSV)
Note that He does implicitly appeal to the sign of His Resurrection, but look how He regards the seeking of signs! (see also Mark 8:11-12).

Signs, wonders, and miracles (that is, in the empirical, outward sense that you and many atheists demand) do not suffice for many hard-hearted people anyway:
. . . If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.

(Luke 16:31)
For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles……For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.

(1 Corinthians 1:22-23,25)
We don't have to rely on faith to be a Christian.

This is not what Jesus would say (as shown). Or are you now deciding the content of the Christian faith, over against the One Who started it? The biblical view is as follows: God may or may not provide evidence of the sort you seek. He may choose to do so on occasion for reasons known only to Him (just as He chooses to do miracles in general only rarely). He also has no problem per se with evidences, observation, testing hypotheses, etc.

But be that as it may, God also requires faith, of everyone. Even if one witnesses a miracle, faith will still be required. So evidence and faith are not set in antithesis against each other, as you seek to do.

Reason and faith are harmonious, and not in conflict with each other but (like science), reason has its limitations and religious faith is more than simply reason. It goes beyond reason without being contrary to it, just like (to use an analogy everyone can grasp) sex is much more than simply biology and nerve endings. If you reduce something down to only one aspect of several, you cheapen and trivialize it.

* * *

I point you to comment #71: are there "other than empirical facts, say spiritual or transcendent facts"? I haven't heard a peep out of you on this.

I see no faith in Isaiah asking God to change the orbit of the Sun. Isaiah asked for proof and it was given. He did not suffer after asking, even though the Bible explains clearly not to ask. So, we're either allowed to test, or we're not. The Bible tells us both, and I'll go with the former.

You seem to miss the point of the comment: contrary to your assertion "Christians (and Jews) were supposed to be about the negation of, or complete apathy towards evidence????!!!!!", there are plenty of Christians and Jews in the Bible that love evidence.

If that's so, I'd love to see it.

Reason and faith are harmonious, and not in conflict with each other but (like science), reason has its limitations and religious faith is more than simply reason.

1. What are the limits to reason?

2. How are reason and faith not in conflict?

3. How are reason and faith harmonious?

* * *

I'm not gonna follow your rabbit trail. That's simply one more evasive, obscurantist technique from you, so that you don't have to face your own epistemological music.

It would be quite ridiculous and time-wasting for me to go down your little rabbit trail of 10,000 objections to Christianity when the very discussion in the first place (that I initiated) was the epistemological foundations of atheism.

Apparently, you don't want to deal with those, so instead you keep trying to change the subject back to your usual relentless attacks on Christianity and hoping I'll take the bait.

Doesn't work with me. I don't play those games. And I can spot them a mile away, from my 25 years of Christian apologetics and dialogues with those holding every kind of belief under the sun.

You've already made your stupid insults of me (and by extension many or most Christians, if not all). Do you think trying to change the subject changes that? If you had the courage of your intellectual convictions you would be willing (in fact, happy) to subject them to scrutiny, rather than evading seven different ways and resorting to personal attack.

I thought we had progressed way beyond that after your apology for your conduct when we first met. But here you are back doing it again and making out that I am the one personally attacking.

All I'm doing is testing to see if you can back up what you believe and in the process of showing you that as an atheist you exercise faith in things you can't prove just as any Christian or any thinker alive or who ever existed, also does.

But you can't (won't?) allow that to happen, and so you continually try to change the subject or obfuscate by attacking my intelligence and motivations before it can ever get off the ground.

Keep it up; by all means. This will be on my blog. People will be able to see what is happening, as they always can, because I present both sides and let them make up their own minds.

* * *

Anticipating that you and others of like mind won't know to what I refer ["stupid insults"]; some examples:

you are actually ignorant of the scientific method.

[after butchering my comments out of context and not even having a clue what I was arguing in the first place]

When you assert that science is dogmatic, you look, at least to me, like a fool or a charlatan caught in the act. I do not wish to believe you are, yet it's difficult not to, especially when coupled with your tone.

[again, since you utterly misunderstood my statement on science vis-a-vis possible dogmatism, then made a "conclusion" from a distorted falsehood, it makes this remark hilarious as well as notoriously ad hominem]

This website isn't for you: it is to further dialogue, and you are attempting to dampen our chances.

[How does your being afraid to examine your own first premises have any possible reflection on me and whether or not I truly want to dialogue or not? That's like saying, "Socrates made people very uncomfortable; therefore he was opposed to the true dialogical spirit and simply wanted to insult people." It doesn't follow; it's not logical. You opted out of the dialogue before it began, so don't blame me for it.]

You claim that you are aware of science and "how it operates", but I don't see that you do. Instead, you rant and insult me, give ridiculous "definitions" to science, . . .

[LOL. Translation: "I don't have a clue what you are arguing about, so it's best that I completely caricature it and insult you, and make you out an idiot (in matters of science), and hope that folks won't notice what I've done, so I can cover my own rear end and appear so enlightened while you are a dolt who doesn't even know what science is." Or, in more crass terms: "if I throw enough manure against my critic, some of it'll eventually stick and people will think that I prevailed in the argument"]

Remember: you represent to many an angry, paranoid Christian personally attacking a mannered atheist, . . .

[This is precious; one for the ages. I'm an angry, paranoid SOB because I dare to question atheist first premises and unproven assumptions, and no one can ever do that! That might accomplish a breakthrough of the usual atheist condescension towards Christians! It might be seen that we actually have more in common than many atheists have assumed. That would never do! It's too radical. It's too "uppity" on the Christians' part. We are supposed to know our place and know that we are vastly inferior intellectually to our atheist overlords.

And you are "mannered"? Don't make me laugh. But why launch the rank insults here documented? Does it give you a charge or something?]

* * *

My argument rests with,
Is there a method discontinuous with that of rational empirical method which will give us conclusions about what exists on earth or heaven, if there be such a place, concerning which all qualified inquirers agree? Tell us about it. (Sidney Hook, The Quest for Being, pp. 173–174.)
If you cannot or unwilling to show that there is a different method than naturalism, then I am at a loss.

. . . I'll give you one more:
[E]xcept for humans, philosophical naturalists understand nature to be fundamentally mindless and purposeless. . . . Of course, this doesn't eliminate the possibility of supernatural mind and purpose in nature; the only requirement would be the demonstration of its existence and mechanism, which is up to the supernaturalist to provide. We are still waiting. (Schafersman, "What Is Science?" in "Naturalism Is an Essential Part of Science.")
And another one for good measure:
In contrasting the Western religions with science, the most important criterion of distinction is that the supernatural or spiritual realm is unknowable in response to human attempts to gain knowledge of it in the same manner that humans gain knowledge of the natural realm (by experience). . . . Given this fiat by the theistic believers, science simply ignores the supernatural as being outside the scope of scientific inquiry. Scientists in effect are saying: "You religious believers set up your postulates as truths, and we take you at your word. By definition, you render your beliefs unassailable and unavailable." This attitude is not one of surrender, but simply an expression of the logical impossibility of proving the existence of something about which nothing can possibly be known through scientific investigation. (Arthur N. Strahler, Understanding Science: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, p.3.)
I am still waiting.

1. I answered your questions in comment #59. They were appeals to ridicule, but I answered them anyway, and then asked you questions to clarify what you meant. You did not respond, and instead took time to rant.

2. I then countered your claim that science was 'dogmatic', and advanced the notion that naturalistic science, while perhaps ridiculous to you, works.

3. I pointed to several odd things you said, and commented on them, such as your use of quotes from Dawkins, or using Einstein's beliefs. You stood your ground, even when I explained that you were making perfect examples of flawed logic.

4. I now stand here, mouth agape, wondering how I have 'change[d] the subject or obfuscate[d] by attacking my intelligence and motivations before it can ever get off the ground.'

You have lambasted, telling me,

'You don't have the slightest clue what I am arguing (which is truly amazing, since I have laid it all out and it isn't rocket science or calculus). You'll keep caricaturing, insulting, and misunderstanding.',

'Are you really that philosophically naive? I wouldn't have guessed as much.',

'See what I mean? This is so classic it is beyond funny. You prove one of my contentions (pervasive atheist prejudice against theists) 1000 times better than I could myself. Thank you!',
'You are a piece of work.'

I made it clear from the beginning that,

When you assert that science is dogmatic, you look, at least to me, like a fool or a charlatan caught in the act.

If you take that to be an insult, than I retract it. You are not a fool. You only look, to me, as I originally stated, like a fool when you assert that science is dogmatic.

* * *

Where to begin (I feel like a mosquito in a nudist colony)?

Having no desire to pursue what I consider (in light of your responses) an absurd, pointless exchange, I'll confine myself to just a few things that are irresistible.

I don't have the slightest problem with methodological naturalism in science. In fact, I have consistently advocated it (for at least 25 years) from both creationist and evolutionist Christian outlooks.

I've always said that the Christian need not introduce the Bible or God into science; he should just do science like anyone else without involving specifically Christian elements. On the other hand, I have also openly pointed out where scientists overstep their bounds and become dogmatic and start claiming that science rules out God or the supernatural, when it has no business doing so.

What I oppose is, rather, metaphysical naturalism, not methodological. To give an example: Michael Behe does science and then comes to a place where he believes that science is no longer sufficient to explain the origin of something. At that point he will say that God may be a possible explanation. But when he says that he isn't doing science proper (as I think he would agree). He is acknowledging that the explanation may lie outside of science and scientific inquiry.

He's being sensible and open-minded; the very opposite of dogmatic and "unscientific." He doesn't rule it out. Someone like you does, or comes close to doing so, based on science alone. That's where the line is crossed.

Secondly, you completely misunderstood my reference to Einstein. It was entirely rhetorical, not any sort of appeal to authority. Nice try. Again, you make out that I am over my head and unacquainted with basic logical fallacies.

You seem to always assume the most ignorant explanation of anything I say that you either don't like or misunderstand. I get no benefit of the doubt at all. If I say something that you can utilize as fodder for the anti-Christian crusade, then you run with it, with little concern for what I may actually have meant or intended. I cite Einstein and (presto!) it automatically must be the fallacy of appeal to authority (when in fact it was perfectly permissible rhetoric), because that makes me look the stupidest.

If I make statements about science and dogmatism (abracadabra!!!): all of a sudden this obviously proves I don't have a clue about scientific method at all. Whatever I say is interpreted as if I am as ignorant and clueless as possible. And in both cases, I would say that context made it very clear that I did not believe what you attributed to me. But what do you care about context (at least when it comes to me)? So you ignored that and moved ahead. After I clarify how you did this, you ignored that too. One gets weary of this very quickly.

God forbid you actually ask me to clarify! You'd rather launch into rhetoric designed to make me look as dumb (and as stereotypically "fundamentalist" [which I've never been]) as possible in the eyes of the atheists who read the exchange, whom you know will tend to side with you. This is unethical sophistry, as far as I am concerned.

My actual point was that there is such a thing as an atheist who is not a materialist (David Chalmers, whom I mentioned in the same thread or the one next to it, is one such, and I have immense admiration for his intellect and fairmindedness). You asked me how this could be, so I replied rhetorically (paraphrase), "why ask me?; go ask someone like Einstein how this can be."

It's clear that discussion between us is futile. Prior to your outbursts tonight I was hoping that we could actually rationally engage and make a new start, but it is clear to me now that this is not the case, and that you are just one of a long line of atheists I have met (not all, by any means) who want to substitute insults and assumed profound ignorance of opponents for true dialogue.

When one thinks their opponent is profoundly ignorant of basic stuff (like, oh, science and logic), dialogue is literally impossible, because the supposedly "ignorant" opponent will continually be underestimated, uncharitably and illogically judged, with asperions cast upon his motivations. All those things kill dialogue. And you have already used these "techniques" against me (all just on this night alone).

I don't have time for that sort of thing. I'm interested in rational, amiable dialogue and people who are as willing as I am to subject their opinions to close logical and factual scrutiny.

There are still a few atheist venues where I continue to hope (and have good reason to believe) that such a goal can be achieved. I haven't given up yet. But I rapidly tire of atheists who "argue" as you do and who can't even figure out what I know and don't know: stuff that should be assumed (in charity, extending the benefit of the doubt) in conversations from the outset, not questioned when the other is trying to avoid answering hard questions himself.

Logic and science are things where atheists and Christians can have considerable, even massive, common ground. But to see them both used constantly as clubs against the Christian, as if we somehow oppose both and opt for some silly, foolish "blind faith", is to sabotage conversation from the outset.

You can put me down as you like and make out that the problem here is mine (I'm "angry and paranoid," etc.), but I confidently predict that if you keep up this modus operandi, you'll have to look far and wide for truly thoughtful, educated, informed, intellectual-type Christians with whom you can converse. You'll go through this again and again, and many Christians will not be nearly as restrained as I have been.

And that's a shame, because I believe you truly do want to engage in those conversations (hence this blog). But you don’t know how to do it in the proper manner. If all you can do is talk to Christians who don't challenge you, what good is that? If you lose it whenever someone offers a critique that can actually challenge and push the envelope a bit, then that will be your loss. It'll be counter-productive to your stated goals.

Farewell, happy new year, and best wishes to you and all the good things in life (here and hereafter).

* * *

1. You assert that I said, "you are actually ignorant of the scientific method."

The full words:

I feel that you are trying to pull the wool over my eyes, or that you are actually ignorant of the scientific method. (Comment #61)

. . . Your definition of science and 'how it operates':

"The proper scientific attitude would say, 'science is about matter; we make no statement about possible non-material reality.' That is objective and recognizes inherent epistemological limitations."

The definition of science:

So what is science? I looked for a good definition, and found this one: "Science refers to either: the scientific method – a process for evaluating empirical knowledge; or the organized body of knowledge gained by this process." There’s usually a bit about methodological naturalism in there somewhere.

Any process that is designed to test the natural world by "evaluating empirical knowledge" and observation is by definition nondogmatic.

* * *

One last thing before I depart:

Do you ever tire of making mincemeat of all context where my statements are concerned? You write:

Your definition of science and 'how it operates':

"The proper scientific attitude would say, 'science is about matter; we make no statement about possible non-material reality.' That isn’t objective and recognizes inherent epistemological limitations."

Whew . . . Of course this is not my "definition of science" at all (nor is an "attitude" a "definition"; for heaven's sake! . . .). I was strictly referring, not to that, but rather, to the lines where science ends, and non-scientific inquiries and fields of knowledge begin, and how the two are related (a far different thing indeed).

In fact, that is not science at all, technically-speaking, but rather, epistemology, part of philosophy proper. It's meta-science. It's a complex issue; all the more important to understand statements in their context and in light of a person's other expressed thoughts. But far be it for you to offer me that courtesy.

As so often in our atrocious "dialogues," my point was a great deal more nuanced and subtle than you thought. You just didn't get it. And in so doing, you casually assumed that I was profoundly ignorant when this was not the case at all. If anyone was [ignorant], it was you, by virtue of such abominable treatment of your opponent's arguments.

* * *

If I am ignorant, as you so claim, then your job is easy: just show me.

If you cannot or unwilling to show that there is a different method to discovering the truth than naturalism, then I am at a loss.

As for Behe and others that resort to a supernatural answer (such as yourself): the supernatural cannot logically exist. [my emphasis]

A specific event of history in a specific time segment must fall into either (a) divine causation or (b) natural causation. Our logic is as follows: 'If a divine causation or (b) natural causation. Our logic is as follows: 'If a [divine, supernatural causation], then not b [natural causation]. If b, then not a.' To follow with the proposal 'Both a and b' is therefore not logically possible. Moreover, one cannot get out of this bind by proposing that God is the sole causative agent of all natural causes, which in turn are the causative agents of the observed event. This 'First Cause/Secondary Cause' model, long a standby of the eighteenth-century school of natural theology . . . adds up to 100 percent supernatural creation.

Consider the analogy of cosmic history as an unbroken chain [of causal explanations] made from all possible combinations of two kinds of links, a [supernatural cause, as in religion] and b [natural cause, as in science]. . . . When a theist declares any link in the chain to be an a-link (whereas all the others are b-links), an element of the science set has been replaced by an element of the religion set. When this substitution has been accomplished, the entire ensuing sequence is flawed by that single antecedent event of divine creation and
must be viewed as false science, or pseudoscience. The reason that replacement of a single link changed the character of all ensuing links is that each successor link is dependent upon its predecessor in a cause-effect relationship . . . that divine act can never be detected by the scientist because, by definition, it is a supernatural act. There exists only the claim that such an act occurred, and science cannot deal in such claims. By the same token, science must reject revelation, as a means of obtaining empirical knowledge. (Strahler, Understanding Science, pp. 345–346.)

That may not matter to you. Rhetoric or faith may be more important to you than the truth, but I don't care. [my emphasis] I answered your questions truthfully, asked you to clarify several points. There is a reason why I had answers to your questions. . . . you did not ask the correct questions to tease out my premises. Perhaps you 'casually assumed that I was profoundly ignorant when this was not the case at all,' then rode a tangent like a tidal wave.

Why don't we do two things, since I'm so ignorant of everything:

1. Show me that there is a different method to discovering the truth than naturalism. That should be a simple task, since I "just don’t get it".

2. Ask me more questions.

* * *

Your divisive actions, and your constant obsession with the 'us' vs. 'them' of Christianity v. atheism, naturalism, et al., get on my nerves. I do not find you a 'paranoid, angry' Christian; after reading your comments, and seeing your behavior, I find you a paranoid, divisive, angry person. I could be wrong, but I think you are projecting an image to others that does a disservice to your argument and your position. People respond to honey, not venom, and if you want to prove me wrong on my judgment, drop the act.

* * *

This paragon of virtue in discussion, this self-described "mannered" atheist, happens to have another blog (entitled [yeah, you guessed it] "Drunken Tune"). What kind of "honey" do we find over there? And why would anyone in their right mind have the slightest suspicion of anti-Christian prejudice on "drunkentune's" part? You tell me!:
[fil-a-lay-thee-a] n. love of truth.

Ben Cheek [aka. Soulster] and I have decided to start Philaletheia, a website that encourages atheist/Christian dialogue. Each of us began our work by posting a "How to." We both agreed that instructing Christian and atheist alike on how to give arguments that the other side can stomach can only be for good [i.e. less headaches on both sides].

While there, I'll be leaving my condescending tone and insular streak behind me: [right; isn't that patently obvious?] Philaletheia is well-mannered dialogue [yep, no doubt!]; Drunken Tune is insane rants. I'll cross-post occasionally, but it will be primarily a dialogue between us - anyone that wishes to comment may do so.

(11-17-06) [linked]
And here's another profound classic:

Everything You Know is Wrong

Sometimes, I feel that there is no way to fight the insanity in the world. Faith in something super-natural or magical makes no sense. These people are blind, content to live in a particular delusion of many due to culture or happenstance. It is the belief that they are somehow special, that the world is different than it is. As Douglas Adams said, "Isn't it enough to see that the garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?"

The idea of a geocentric universe, of a flat earth with the heavens rotating above, of the sun orbiting the earth, of the world created for us, of the universe less than 6,000 years old: these thoughts are just selfish, not noble; moronic, not insightful. Do theists really want more? We have the whole world, and theists aren't satisfied.

Let them deal with their shit, I say. Let them have their holy war. Yet, can I really live with myself when crimes today are still conducted in the name of a magical being that lives in the sky? Can I really let them deal with the shit they've created, sitting aside laughing at the horror, and be content to watch the destruction of humanity unfold? Sometimes I see no way to fight faith - belief despite, or in the face, of evidence - for it is an impossible war. I can only attempt to prevent any case of delusion I can.

. . . [Darwin] was the man willing to give up some of his beliefs to more properly align them with the facts - with the truth. He lost dogma and embraced reality. Is this the way to combat faith?

That is why I chose his likeness. He stands - for me - as a symbol of the scientific method - a desire to learn through observation, testing and intellect - in the face of ignorance and duplicity.

( 11-10-06 )
And don't forget his posting of this famous blasphemy and so-called "art" (on 11-10-06), as if he is flat-out yearning to publicly prove himself to be a clueless boor, when it comes to matters religious, he posted this comment underneath the blasphemous "art":
Well, for one thing, it's pretty easy to hate religion [objectively and unemotionally, and with total rationality, of course, no priejudice at all here!] when you live in America, surrounded by the mentally stunted, the happy fools, the purposefully [nice additional touch] ignorant. Religion breeds mental imbalance in the individual. [yes! we're all nuts! Whoopeeeeee!]

But more than that, I cannot tolerate any system of belief that advocates faith devoid of reason, denounces inconvenient facts, demands obedience to an imagined authority, places people into 'in groups' and 'out groups' where no such division exists, and can easily justify any action with a meaningless catchphrase. Religion has all of these, and religionists are proud of it.
And again on 11-12-06:
I swear, at times it feels like I'm surrounded by a country full of intellectually stunted children.
How lonely he must be, being so much smarter and possessing far more wisdom than almost everyone he meets . . . he continues his idiotic and prejudicial ruminations on 11-13-06:
There is no difference between a Christian, a Muslim, and an atheist, other than dietary laws, ignorance, faith, and imaginary friends.

. . . Of course I get "all riled up" at the mention of faith, religion, or god. I find it a mass delusion perpetuated over the ages.

Imagine, if you could, that you were in my shoes, and you lived in a world where people professed faith in a thing that obviously was a figment of their imagination, an imaginary friend held by millions of people that happened to have the same name, namely "Jesus." [exactly; and our imaginary calendar stems from this imaginary historical figure; also, the Jews wrote negatively (in the Talmud) about this fictional character who somehow created a huge imaginary and unhistorical religious movement that broke away from their own and took some Jews with it. Makes eminent sense to me . . . ]

. . . Imagine that people who give their lives to this bizarre belief are held in high regard, while science is considered mundane, and in some cases, frowned upon because the imaginary friend's holy book says that science is wrong. [really?! Wow, I musta missed that one . . . learn sumpin' every day, huh?!]

Imagine that you live in this world, and if someone says the words "faith," "religion," or "god," you scream a little inside, because they're part of the insanity. [One flew over the cuckoo's nest, in other words: the lunatics are running the asylum] You want out of this crazy world!

Now, that's why I wrote that entry, and previous ones like it. God is a delusion, a myth, an imaginary being, just like fairies, the boogeyman and unicorns.
More revealing ravings (and I don't even cite the blasphemous vulgarities):
I woke up this morning with a clear conscience. The usual hate that runs in circles had moseyed on over to a back alley of my mind, to rest for a while in fitful wimpers. I thought, "Why so much hate towards faith? It's in no way helping me. I'll only hurt my body and mind, waste my time and alienate others by hating people I do not know." I wished that I, and many other atheists, freethinkers, and other wise and understanding people of many beliefs, could stop wasting our time on something so futile - the eventual dismemberment of faith in all its forms. I woke up this morning with a clear conscience, and threw out the notion that the world has a monstrous stormcloud above it, obscuring reality's warmth from many of the faithful.

[then after citing a lunatic who killed his family in the name of God]

I dare not accept faith as a reasonable lifestyle for anyone. Faith leads only to violent death, pain, subjugation and undeserving guilt, unneeded fear, horrible loss, and the grimmest, most profound misery.

[In comments underneath, drunkenmind does his usual hatchet job on his straw man of what "faith" supposedly is]:

Faith is unsubstantiated belief. Faith is telling yourself something is true, when there is no evidence that it is true, or there is contrary evidence.

(10-24-06)
Pray for this man. Do penance for him (I certainly will). This is one confused, sad, lost soul indeed. When unbelief is this entrenched, only prayer can (as with the demons) dislodge it. I may have my frustrations and self-torturing moments trying to actually reason with a guy like this (and am as disgusted with all his lies and slanders as any Christian reading this), but in the end, one must compassionately view him as a human being who needs God; who needs meaning and purpose in his life.

His self-admitted "hate" will do him no good (like Ebeneezer Scrooge, he will suffer more than anyone else he inflicts with the hatred). He's clearly been hurt and/or disenchanted. He's gotten a raw deal somewhere along the line, to become both so bitter and irrational (not to mention blasphemous). It's good to always keep this in mind when we meet people who live without God, and (in his case) who have a curious need to mock and get furiously angry about that which allegedly doesn't exist.

Pray. My job as an apologist is to expose the false ideas and the folly, but there is always a man or a woman behind the facade who needs to accept the love and truth of God and His gospel. Most of us will never meet this man or other atheists we come across online, but we can pray that some Christian who can share love and truth with him, will meet him. And we can pray that God will speak to his heart and break down the walls that he has constructed.


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