Intelligent Design: A far-far superior explanation


Note: This essay is in response to two of my readers who have asked for Intelligent Design’s better explanation of biological structures and systems. You can see their remarks at the bottom of my post Darwinian Dictates, and here:

Joe Hewlett on Darwinian Dictates.

in response to Jose Fly:

Don, You seem to be saying that intelligent design creationism (IDC) offers a superior explanation for certain biological structures and systems. That leads to an obvious question: What is IDC’s better explanation?

I’m also still interested in a good philosophical explanation or defense of IDC [in your own words; I don’t expect any science and won’t follow a bunch of hyperlinks]. The dream you wrote up was cool. It doesn’t satisfy my desire for a good argument.

Your Friend,
Joe

*  *  *  *

naturalism “the idea or belief that only natural (as opposed to Supernatural or spiritual) laws and forces operate in the world; the idea or belief that nothing exists beyond the natural world.”

In order to break through the barrier of “naturalism”  and hopefully be able to communicate my thoughts on this issue of evolution-creation-intelligent design, I must attempt to get my readers beyond this barrier and to my actual thoughts.

Naturalism as defined above carries the day when it comes to the modern day definition of science, at least in the popularization and politics of science. Any deviation from that rigorous and very constrained definition is met with jeers, ridicule and slurs; and all too often real world penalties such as discrimination in hiring and granting of tenure, and in the publication (or not) of papers in scientific journals. .

I’m also learning that this definition is a real stumbling block in opening any dialog between those who adhere to this definition of science and those who point to the very large elephant of design in the room.

This rigid definition leads some very prominent  and highly educated people to make statements such as the following:

Richard Dawkins “Even if there were no actual evidence in favor of the Darwinian theory, we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories.”

Lawrence Krauss  “The illusion of purpose and design is perhaps the most pervasive illusion about nature that science has to confront on a daily basis. Everywhere we look, it appears that the world was designed so that we could flourish.”

Richard Lewontin“ It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

Am I reading their words correctly? Are these prominent scientists freely admitting to wearing blinders, all the while screwing those binders more tightly across their eyes?  Have they admitted to a type of brainwashing and then wiping their hands clean of such brainwashing?  With the kind of horsepower making those kinds of statements, it is no wonder that few venture to tangle with the Darwinian dragon.

But lets take a close look at that definition once more.

naturalism “the idea or belief that only natural (as opposed to Supernatural or spiritual) laws and forces operate in the world; the idea or belief that nothing exists beyond the natural world.”

This definition claims as an absolute truth that “nothing exists beyond the natural world.”

There is not a human being alive today, nor is there one who has ever lived that could truthfully make such a claim of “nothing exists beyond the natural world.” And yet the politics of neo-Darwinism and naturalism requires strict adherence to such nonsense.

Only one who exists beyond the space and time of this universe and can see and know the entire picture could make such a claim, and even then it could not be a true statement because the one making the claim from beyond time and space would be making it as a supernatural statement.

Even putting this definition on paper (again) exposes the folly of the definition:

naturalism “the idea or belief that only natural (as opposed to Supernatural or spiritual) laws and forces operate in the world;  the idea or belief that nothing exists beyond the natural world.”

You see, when you or I look at that definition we look at it from the transcendent view of it being one thought among others on the page; in other words I see it from the perspective of being beyond the space and time of the thought itself.

Maybe we could even come up with an analogous definition:

thoughtalism “the idea or belief that only this thought (as opposed to other thoughts on this page) has validity in this article;  the idea or belief that no other thought exists beyond this present thought.”

Or … how about this:

This paragraph is the only one in this page that was entirely written by by stray elecroniks pulses in my computer (including spelling).

My suspicion is that most hands-on scientists give the obligatory wink and nod to this definition of naturalism all the while charging ahead into exploring the real designs they encounter under the microscope and in the petri-dishes. After all, real progress is only made when the actual design is discovered  and then explored.

By whatever name …  materialism, naturalism or atheism …  the results are the same. The philosophy stated is simply that … a philosophy and not science, which sits on an empty pile of words. Furthermore, that brand of science whose foundation is atheism is a fraudulent science and deceives those it teaches.

If I haven’t lost you yet, and you are open minded and willing to read my thoughts from here on out, let us proceed. Otherwise you might as well go back to your iPhone.

*  *  *  *

A better explanation

My goodness, there are so many good sources in the Intelligent Design movement. I list some of them off to the right side of my blog under BLOGROLL, and under the menu heading CREATION-EVOLUTION in the blog. Likewise there are many good books, including Darwin’s Doubt and one I am currently reading I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist,  by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek.

So rather than trying to regurgitate what others and I have already said, a never ending process, let me try presenting my thinking in the form of The Human Anatomy System of Systems

(Source: The Human Body: Anatomy, Facts & Functions | LiveScience)

The human body is everything that makes up, well, you. The basic parts of the human body are the head, neck, torso, arms and legs.

Body systems

Our bodies consist of a number of biological systems that carry out specific functions necessary for everyday living.

The job of the circulatory system is to move blood, nutrients, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and hormones, around the body. It consists of the heart, blood, blood vessels,arteries and veins.

The digestive system consists of a series of connected organs that together, allow the body to break down and absorb food, and remove waste. It includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus. The liver and pancreas also play a role in the digestive system because they produce digestive juices.

The endocrine system consists of eight major glands that secrete hormones into the blood. These hormones, in turn, travel to different tissues and regulate various bodily functions, such as metabolism, growth and sexual function.

The immune system is the body’s defense against bacteria, viruses and other pathogens that may be harmful. It includes lymph nodes, the spleen, bone marrow, lymphocytes (including B-cells and T-cells), the thymus and leukocytes, which are white blood cells.

The lymphatic system includes lymph nodes, lymph ducts and lymph vessels, and also plays a role in the body’s defenses. Its main job is to make is to make and move lymph, a clear fluid that contains white blood cells, which help the body fight infection. The lymphatic system also removes excess lymph fluid from bodily tissues, and returns it to the blood.

The nervous system controls both voluntary action (like conscious movement) and involuntary actions (like breathing), and sends signals to different parts of the body. The central nervous system includes the brain and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system consists of nerves that connect every other part of the body to the central nervous system.

The body’s muscular system consists of about 650 muscles that aid in movement, blood flow and other bodily functions. There are three types of muscle: skeletal muscle which is connected to bone and helps with voluntary movement, smooth muscle which is found inside organs and helps to move substances through organs, and cardiac muscle which is found in the heart and helps pump blood.

The reproductive system allows humans to reproduce. The male reproductive system includes the penis and the testes, which produce sperm. The female reproductive system consists of the vagina, the uterus and the ovaries, which produce eggs. During conception, a sperm cell fuses with an egg cell, which creates a fertilized egg that implants and grows in the uterus.

Our bodies are supported by the skeletal system, which consists of 206 bones that are connected by tendons, ligaments and cartilage. The skeleton not only helps us move, but it’s also involved in the production of blood cells and the storage of calcium. The teeth are also part of the skeletal system, but they aren’t considered bones.

The respiratory system allows us to take in vital oxygen and expel carbon dioxide in a process we call breathing. It consists mainly of the trachea, the diaphragm and the lungs.

The urinary system helps eliminate a waste product called urea from the body, which is produced when certain foods are broken down. The whole system includes two kidneys, two ureters, the bladder, two sphincter muscles and the urethra. Urine produced by the kidneys travels down the ureters to the bladder, and exits the body through the urethra.

The skin, or integumentary system, is the body’s largest organ. It protects us from the outside world, and is our first defense against bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. Our skin also helps regulate body temperature and eliminate waste through perspiration. In addition to skin, the integumentary system includes hair and nails.

Vital organs

Humans have five vital organs that are essential for survival. These are the brain, heart, kidneys, liver, and lungs.

The human brain is the body’s control center, receiving and sending signals to other organs through the nervous system and through secreted hormones. It is responsible for our thoughts, feelings, memory storage and general perception of the world.

The human heart is a responsible for pumping blood throughout our body.

The job of the kidneys is to remove waste and extra fluid from the blood. The kidneys take urea out of the blood and combine it with water and other substances to make urine.

The liver has many functions, including detoxifying of harmful chemicals, breakdown of drugs, filtering of blood, secretion of bile and production of blood-clotting proteins.

The lungs are responsible for removing oxygen from the air we breathe and transferring it to our blood where it can be sent to our cells. The lungs also remove carbon dioxide, which we exhale.

What this represents is what I have come to call Massively Complex Synchronicity. A name that is for the most part self explanatory, and of which I have written before at The Origins of the Universe … Simple or Complex, Your Choice: Part 1 | A Yearning for Publius and The Origins of the Universe … Simple or Complex: Part 2 … The Problem of “Massively Complex Synchronicity” | A Yearning for Publius

And the human body is but one part in an ever growing picture of Massively Complex Synchronicity, expanding out to the universe itself with its finely tuned 230 some constants and the physical laws finely tuned at allow life as we know it. So finely tuned that even a small deviation in one of these constants would exclude the possibility of life.

And we can go small as well in examining the cells and materials making up the organs of our bodies. Some 40 machines have been identified thus far as having vital roles in the functioning of our bodies. In fact, our cells have been likened to factories in that they produce, transport and consume materials vital for life.

And then there is the marvel of DNA, the molecules that define the very blueprint of our life. The data processing and storage capacity of DNA is beyond my imagination, and I will leave it to the curiosity of the reader to explore and get excited about this marvel. Suffice it to say here that DNA not only has massive data processing capability, but also provides the mechanism whereby our bodies are manufactured; and furthermore the capability to pass life on to subsequent generations.

But none of this means a thing if we are constrained to “the idea or belief that only natural (as opposed to Supernatural or spiritual) laws and forces operate in the world …”

The evidence for design in all areas of the universe is overwhelmingly compelling once we rid our thinking of the fallacies of Naturalism. But these fallacies are stubborn things, even addictive, and it may take a considerable amount of work and even personal embarrassment to cleanse the mind of the toxins of this addiction. But give it a try … work at it … read some of the literature … pray … and be patient – the cure is well worth it.

And of course, once cleansed of the addiction of materialism, naturalism or whatever you call it, the next logical thing to do would be to ask the question “Yes, I now see design all around me … but who or what is the designer?”

I am but one of many, very many, who came to that point and asked that question; and I might add, coming from the same place of skepticism as Jose and Joe.  So I will conclude with the answer as I found it. The answer to Jose Fly’s question “What is IDC’s better explanation?” and to Joe Hewlett’s desire for a good argument. I hope this will give you a good start in your own personal questioning – me winning an argument here is well down on a list of priorities.

Jose and Joe – I sense in your questions and remarks — your skepticism, but I also sense a desire in you for truth.  I have honestly tried to present to you a path to finding the truth as I have found it. I have not simply engaged in a silly exercise to win an argument  and thus add a notch to my belt. All I ask of you, all I can ask of you, is a simple “thank you” and, if at some future time you find your own answers as a result of these exchanges, please share with me.

So here is the better explanation, and a good argument.

Genisis1:1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth….”

John 1:1 In the beginning was the λόγος
[ please read this short introduction before proceeding  on to the modern English translation of John 1:1]

The word λόγος (logos) in the prologue of John’s Gospel is a word with a very interesting history in ancient theological writings. It is translated ‘Word’ in English versions, but this translation does not express everything that the term would have suggested to ancient readers.

For the benefit of students, on this page I have reproduced discussions of the term λόγος by four New Testament scholars: Marvin Vincent, Frederic Godet, Hugh Mackintosh, and John Campbell. Vincent, whose explanation I think will be found most helpful, briefly explains what the word meant in the context of theological discourse in the milieu of Hellenistic Judaism (especially after Philo), and he argues that John “used the term Logos with an intent to facilitate the passage from the current theories of his time to the pure gospel which he proclaimed.” Godet and Mackintosh are largely in agreement with Vincent, and Campbell also agrees, though he evidently does not share the others’ high view of Scripture. After these excerpts I add Wilhelm Nestle’s more general discussion of the philosophy of Philo from his revision of Zeller’s Outlines of the History of Greek Philosophy.

My own opinion is that the contemporary Hellenistic understanding of logos in theological contexts (esp. in Philo) should not be discounted by those who wish to understand John’s meaning. The contrasts between Philo and John, which the scholars here want to emphasize, should not obscure the fact that John is using a word which was already full of meaning for Jewish readers in his day. When he asserts that the logos became flesh he is indeed saying something that was never dreamt of by Philo or the Greek philosophers; but in all other respects it is their logos — the cosmic Mediator between God and the world, who is the personification of God’s Truth and Wisdom — that John is referring to when he asserts that Christ is its incarnation.

And now read how those verses are rendered in one of the more popular translations, the NIV.

John 1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.

6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and[b] is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”

The idea of and the possibility of design in nature opens up scientific exploration limited only by the seemingly limitless designs of nature itself.

Lastly … I’m sorry Joe. You said you didn’t want a lot of hyperlinks, but I can’t resist this one:

No science, no philosophy, no theology. Just bird and fish.

Don Johnson – September 2013

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19 responses to “Intelligent Design: A far-far superior explanation

  1. Don:

    I’m going to ask more “why?” questions. Please realize that “Why?” means something doesn’t make sense. You quote the Bible a lot, so I’ll show that it doesn’t make sense, right in the places where you quote it.

    First though, the topic of naturalism cuts to the heart of the matter. Scientists can ONLY look at natural phenomena. They decided long ago that they could only observe and measure those things. They didn’t rule out the supernatural, they just decided to stop using “God did it,” as the immediate answer to everything cool, or “the devil spoiled our experiment,” as an excuse for the unexpected. Those things were impossible to prove or disprove; they only stifled free inquiry and rigor.

    Debates have continued about whether or not susupernatural causes are behind natural phenomena, how many angels fit on a pin, etc. It’s irrelevant to a scientist doing his job. [Maybe after work, over a beer?]

    In a science classroom we can only teach things that have been determined scientifically, like the theories of gravitation, electro-magnetism, and evolution. Statements one way or the other about the supernatural do not belong in science classrooms or the Texas textbooks.

    Origin of life is also not taught in the classroom. Experiments are being done, trying to find a natural cause. Nobody claims to understand the mystery of life. We are also searching for life outside of earth. My guess is that it permiates the universe. Much remains to be discovered.

    • Thanks again for your comments Joe. It sounds like you are a teacher now, or is that just a generic ‘we can only teach … ‘ Also, are you still in RC?

      I’ve long wanted to talk to you and among other things tell you how much I appreciated what you did as facilities manager at Thompson. Things like the pop-out and the X terminals were a vast improvement and I don’t know if you ever received the recognition that you deserved for your efforts, especially from us developers. And it’s amazing that your name should pop up after all these years in commenting on my comments on, of all things, science.

      So I guess we have reached an impasse on the topic at hand, which is not surprising. But I will again take the opportunity, respectfully, to answer some of your remarks above.

      Even though Naturalism is the root of modern science, and the supernatural is ‘officially’ ruled out as being unscientific, my suspicion is that many working scientists, studying such things as cellular structure and DNA give the wink and nod and continue as a practical matter to delve into the designs the they find in nature; they just keep quite, keep their head down and eyes focused in the microscopes and continue to uncover the new breakthroughs in their field.

      I’ve learned from hard personal experience that very few will speak out against the accepted norms and authorities when confronted with things that are just flat out wrong. The prevailing attitude is to go-along to get-along and not make any waves. In my waning years as a software developer, I found myself to be one of those few folks that did speak out, and I found out just how lonely that can be. People that would agree privately refused to engage the debate publically.

      And since retirement, I’ve found the same to be true in the so-called scientific community. And it’s clear that the powers-to-be in the scientific community have indeed aggressively ruled out the supernatural, and are quite vocal and forceful in keeping to the party line and excluding any dissenting point of view. I’m talking here, to a large extent, about the ‘popularizers’ of science such as Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, Stephen Hawking, Lawrence Krauss and others; and the popular mass market publications such as Scientific American and Discover magazines. Dawkins and Coyne, especially Coyne, seem to have abandoned their role as professional scientists and have become instead professional atheists, and they carry enormous influence, especially among the young college age minds. I’ve seen the scorn, insults and ridicule they pour out against folks like Dr. Stephen Meyer and Michael Behe who view the endeavors of scientific inquiry more along the lines of how Newton, Galileo and others of the early days of the modern scientific disciplines viewed it, namely to follow the evidence wherever it led. I’ve seen and have received such ridicule and scorn when commenting on scientific issues in places like the Huffington Post and the NCSE site; and much of the comments undoubtedly come from lay people like myself and not the ‘real’ scientists.

      Naturalism by its very definition rules out the idea of intelligent design, and thus also rules out those who would advocate for it. This is an unnecessary stance, first of all, as I pointed out earlier, the truth claim of “nothing exists beyond the natural world” closes out debate, and is itself demonstrably false. And folks like Dawkins clearly go beyond the idea of looking only at the natural phenomena, when making extravagant book title claims such as The Blind Watchmaker:

        Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design

      . If you look for such evidence in the book you won’t find it; it boils down to a lot of philosophizing.

      I don’t know if you caught it, but I wrote recently of Stephen Meyers account in ‘Darwin’s Doubt’ of a scientist at the Smithsonian who was essentially fired (they actually locked him out of his office) for allowing the publication in a scientific journal suggesting that intelligent design might help in explaining a particular biological question. That scientist later on was one of the lead researchers in the ENCODE project which discovered that what had been for years called ‘junk DNA’, and used as a powerful evidence for evolution, was actually functional — to the tune of at least 80%. He pursued this line of research in large part because of his openness to ID, and his research showing him that the traditional Darwinist ideas were not even asking the question, let alone seeking answers. So much can be gained by recognizing that nature does indeed contain design, many designs. And by the way (and this is a very big ‘by the way’), ID does not depend in scriptures of any kind as the basis for the theory.

      And finally, ID proponents such as Meyer and the Discovery Institute oppose laws that would require teaching of ID in the schools. In an interview recently Meyer says (I’m paraphrasing here) that such laws unnecessarily entangle science and law, and result in situations where judges decide what is or is not science rather than scientist. He believes that over time there will be an organic upwelling within the scientific community that will sway towards in inclusion of ID as a legitimate scientific hypothesis. I AGREE WITH HIM.

      Well, that’s another round. Don’t know how many more to come, and I’ve not seen the official score card, but the debate is good.

      Cheers,
      don

  2. Don:
    Some facts about Biblical creationism, and one of those “why?” questions:

    1. All theology comes from people — everything we supposedly know about God. The writers claim revelation, and the believer concedes that the ideas came from God. As culture changes, theology changes; a new God is invented.

    2. Every ancient culture made creation stories. There are four different stories in the Bible, all saying things that don’t make sense. Apologists gloss over the difficulties and add ideas that aren’t in the text. Knowledge of nature increases; a new Creator is created.

    Case in point: In your Origin of the Universe essay, you quote Gen. 1:1 with elipses, leaving out, “…and the spirit of the Lord moved upon the surface of The Deep.” You describe creation of the universe, ex nihlo. Gen 1 describes creation of a strange cosmos out of a pre-existing, watery chaos. After “let there be light,” God creates a “firmament,” and calls it “heaven.” “Firmament” was added to the English lexicon for translation of “raquia,” otherwise it is “tin bowl.”

    This has nothing to do with creation ex nihlo (Augustine’s concept, ca. 400 AD), or what we see from the Hubble telescope.

    Why should I believe Augustine’s creation story or one adding “Massively Complex Synchronicity”? It’s just creation of a new Creator, probably no more correct than Gen 1, or 2, or John 1, which was a re-purposing of Philo and Epictetus.

    Next I’ll share my thoughts on the Anthropic Principle and Hubble Ultra Deep Field.

    Joe

  3. “Am I reading their words correctly? Are these prominent scientists freely admitting to wearing blinders, all the while screwing those binders more tightly across their eyes?”

    No, you are not. The quotes are deceptively taken out of context and even edited to give the false appearance that that is what they are doing.

    What you are engaging in is called puddle-thinking. To quote douglas adams:

    “Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact, it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the Sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be all right, because this World was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.”

    Or as a creationist website would quote him:

    “This is an interesting world I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact, it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!”

    See, now douglas adams was a creationist. It’s so much easier to just lie about what people say than it is to defend your point of view, isn’t it?

    • The quotation I attributed to Crick should have been attributed to Richard Lewontin. I’ve corrected that.
      The other miss-quotes you point out seem minor and don’t take away from the Naturalistic world view of the authors, nor do they necessarily fall into the category of lies and deception. But thanks for the comments.

      • I didn’t point out any misquotes, I pointed out that they are deceptively taken out of context. The first is a quote that is supposedly attacking evolution which in it’s actual context calls it a fact. Another is taken to mean that the author’s book doesn’t contain intermediate forms because none have ever been found, when the book has entire sections with illustrations dedicated to them and the quote was about proving one species was directly ancestral (rather than being a cousin) to another one, and he said “there is not one for which you could make a water-tight case” which you or the source of these quotes truncated into “there is not one” to make it sound like he meant the fossils haven’t been discovered and don’t exist. Google “quote-mining” and you will discover the term was coined specifically to refer to this creationist tactic.

    • I did not detect any deception in Don’s use of the quotations. The scientists were saying EXACTLY what he objects to — that natural science can only consider natural causes. It is true.

      I came into this discuscussion because of the Texas schoolbook controversy. Students (all ages) should be told, up front, that this is a limitation of science. Cosmologists freely admit when they theorize something new and immeasurable with today’s instruments. They propose new ways to detect and measure, build the instruments, and discover things like neutrinos.

      Religion operates differently — with outright fearmongering and intimidation: “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but none will be given it….” (Matt. 12). Implication: Just believe. You only want evidence because you are evil. [My elipses leave out the sign of Jonah, another assertion that doesn’t survive the dialectic, the questioning of which makes me a sinner.]

      Science deals with questions that we don’t have answers to. Religion deals with answers that we are not supposed to question. (Shermer?)

      Don, you claim to have been shunned for believing. I think maybe you were just dealing with smart people who didn’t want to discuss such matters at work, where it does not pertain. (Most of the time you can probably get away with it though).

      Atheists are clearly the most despised and mistrusted people in the world. We’ve been told too keep quiet for way too long. When those lunatics attacked our country on 9/11, a lot of us came out of the closet. The terrorists were true believers.

      Joe

      • Joe, When I said
        ” … In my waning years as a software developer, I found myself to be one of those few folks that did speak out, and I found out just how lonely that can be. People that would agree privately refused to engage the debate publically. … ”
        I was not talking about religious debates at work. I tried to avoid those kinds of discussions because I felt they were inappropriate in the work environment.
        I was talking about speaking out against work related wrong-doing by management, a type of whistle blowing if you will. And that is indeed a lonely place to be in.

      • I also agree about workplace wrongdoing. I have never blown a whistle formally. I have griped in a few hallway discussions though.

        I was talking to Navy and DoD leadership – DASN, DUSD OTL, etc., helping get new programs approved. It all seemed to go wrong when I told the truth about cost. The program suvived, but there was a crisis, and I got passed over for high grade.

        Before that, a PM at China Lake sat me down and, in no uncertain terms, told me to lie. He said the Boy Scouts code of honor does not require honesty, only “trustworthiness.” We weren’t talking about exactly the same cost issue, but I think I was expected to generalize in a Machiavellian way.

      • Joe,
        “When those lunatics attacked our country on 9/11, a lot of us came out of the closet. The terrorists were true believers.”
        Agree … however, shouldn’t one be a bit more discerning? There are truth claims made by all religions, and thus contradictions between all religions, including atheism, but that does not make them all false, nor does that make any one ‘true’.
        I’ve felt, at least since 9/11, that Islam will be the major threat to liberty in the world, as atheistic Communism was in the twentieth century. But I sure won’t subscribe to the idea that lumps Judaism and/or Christianity into that same category of ‘true believers.’
        My faith has taught me of the fundamental worth of each human individual, created in the image of God, and thus afforded dignity and respect.

      • I agree with what you said above about Islam being more of a threat to liberty. Christians aren’t currently chanting “onward Christian soldiers.”

        Jesus did say, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Also, something important is up in the air here — the extent to which Christians believe in a violent God who approves of killing in His name. The Catholic church never apologized for the crusades or inquisition. The Catholic Encyclopedia still says that theocracy is the ideal form of Government.

        There is currently at least one holy war under way on every continent. I see more harm than good in belief in the almighty, when the sacred texts can be used to excuse all of this.

        Joe

      • It isn’t that science refuses to entertain supernatural ideas, it simply can’t test them. And I don’t think islam is that big a threat to democracy, since theocracies tend to retard technological development. The third world will probably never topple the first world, the only weapons islamic states have are ones we sell them, and we only sell them inferior weapons. Also I think islam has the capacity to become secular at a faster rate the same way judaism has in the west because they can’t white-wash their scriptures as easily as christians can by ignoring all the non-red text.

  4. Naturalism is a scientific axiom, however it is the best axiom that we have. We experience the natural, consistently and repeatedly. The same cannot be said for the “spiritual.” There is no unit of measurement for “spirit,” no way to clearly define it, no way to replicate it. This makes it difficult to distinguish from nothing. If something exists beyond the natural world, as soon as you have replicable evidence for it we’ll all be happy to incorporate it. That is the good thing about science, it is not a dogma – if God shows up tomorrow on our doorsteps we will be pleased to have been proven wrong.

    A brief note on the “systems” you mention – the systems exist. Yet, they are all flawed. If we assume a designer based on apparent design, we must assume a flawed designer due to flawed designs. This does not bode well for a belief in an omnipotent deity. Rather, it lends to conclusions like that of Marcion, of a flawed, limited or evil creator at best.

  5. I need to make a correction also — there are six creation stories in the Bible.

    Regarding your personal question, Don, yes I am still in Ridgecrest. I’m not paranoid about any outright discrimination. Still, I imagine my career would have progressed better if I was a churchgoer. Put another way, I believe I could be of greater service to the warfighter. It’s not what you know, but who you know, so “let’s not neglect the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews?).

    I’m a bit more open about my atheism these days, but only bring it up at work when somebody asks me directly, or gets real preachy, looking for reinforcement on notions that aren’t true or don’t make sense. I try to uphold Separation and insist on Article 6, Section 3. Sometimes people won’t let it go, especially after they learn that I have a theology degree. I had a long debate with a co-worker at the Pentagon. He threw all the usual crap at me about having no meaning in life and no basis for morality; a Hitler, a Stalin, not a true American, blather, blather. [He got fired for an ethics violation in ’09. Ha, ha.]

    I appreciate your complement about my previous work. I was only doing my job, and took great pleasure (most of the time).

    Look forward to more good discussion. I don’t think it’s an impasse. We’ve only scratched the surface.

    • Thanks Joe,
      I rarely have the opportunity to discus origins these days, I guess that’s a young college kid game.

      My interest was rekindled by once again recognizing that when it comes to the questions of origins, American culture is steeped in a fog of evolution; magazines, newspapers, TV shows, text books … . Whenever origins is addressed by the media in our culture it is invariably couched in evolutionary terms, and if creation or intelligent design is reported it is invariably in the context of controversy (there they go again … those Bible thumpers …) Very rarely is the topic even mentioned in church, as if many churches have just given in.

      I have three school age grandchildren, and I took to writing about faith topics in my blog so as to leave a record of grandpa’s own beliefs for them to hopefully read at some point. I then started to introduce my views into places like the Huffington Post and NCSE in hopes of having some influence.

      Agree with you on Article 6, Section 3 (actually we both agree with the founders).

      I guess some religious discrimination occurs, and people are unfairly hired/not hired, promoted/not promoted based on who they know at church. I’ve never seen such misconduct myself. I’ve found that in the context of job advancement, the “who I knew” was usually founded in a strong sense of “what he knows” based on past performance. In other words meritocracy.

    • Joe, your comments were directed towards the post with the dead link, which I’ve since deleted. However, I include them here so we may continue on the topic. My comments will be in brackets [dlj: …]
      * * *
      The slide show is a dead link [and you are pointing people here from other websites].
      Anyway, I wouldn’t say that the universe “created itself.” What is wrong with thinking of the universe as eternal? At least that idea doesn’t lead to logical contradictions.
      [dlj: Hawking does say this]
      The red-shift of the cosmic microwave background seems to hint at an initial “BIG BANG.” There are occasional articles in “Scientific American” by cosmologists, proposing other models — periods of expansion and contraction, extra dimensions we cannot detect, unknown factors, etc. Much remains to be learned. Why is it so important to demand that this mystery be solved with a story that doesn’t make sense?
      [dlj: I think science has concluded that the BB actually did occur, they don’t just hint that it may have occurred. Science tells us that time and space began at a particular point in time; and so does Genesis. But, Genesis is not used as the rational for the BB. Genesis says “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” and science via the BB says pretty much the same thing “?? created time and space”]
      There’s an interesting note here. Hawking, in “A Brief History of Time,” talks about a big convention of physicists that was held to discuss the Big Bang. Hawking received a letter from a Catholic Archbishop, requesting that they NOT INQUIRE REGARDING EVENTS BEFORE THE BIG BANG! The Cardinal had decided that the BB was the moment of God’s creation and expected scientists to tread carefully.
      Here we go again. We know nothing about any creator that didn’t come from an assertion just like that one… “Here is truth. Asking questions is sin. My authority comes from God. Denial is blasphemy. Kiss my ring.”
      [dlj: Good point here, no need for invoking the concept of sin or blasphemy. However, Hawking might well have heeded the Archbishops advice here on other grounds. Hawking, among others, steps out of the realm of science into the realm of speculation when he posits such ideas as multi-verse as the reason why we have such a finely tuned universe that very narrowly permits the conditions for life – I’m not sure that such speculation is properly labeled as speculation since it comes from the mind/mouth of such as respected scientist as Hawking. No evidence, and no possibility of obtaining evidence for such as the multi-verse.]
      Unless you want to ASSUME a Creator, and then try to infer something about Her (Mother Nature) from creation. That immediately leads to the problem of suffering. Looking at what we see, the Creator is indifferent, arbitrary, or just plain mean.
      [dlj: The problem of sin and a good God is an old … old question, and a good one. Many others much smarter than I have weighed in on this and I’m sure more will in future days. I’m actually, even now, reading yet another treatment of the issue (among other issues) in “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist” by Norman Geisler and Frak Turek at http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Have-Enough-Faith-Atheist/dp/1581345615, and William lane Craig weighs in at http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-problem-of-evil

      Guys like Ron Shipley have an easy answer — blame it on the devil (it can even explain what goes wrong in my head). BRILLIANT. Now you are creating a second, virtually all-powerful being to make up for the shortcomings of the first one.

      Cheers,
      don

  6. Don: We never debated these things when I was in college, or anything really deep. A line was usually drawn. “Thus far shalt thou go; no farther.” Any time I started to question doctrine, I was told to accept the standard answers, or I wouldn’t get a call to the ministry. So I pulled my hands off the plough and questioned the fundamental basis of all doctrine, and found it to be only “I said so.” Since that meant little more to me than people saying I shouldn’t question in the first place, I turned atheist. I now deny the concept of “God,” as defined, anywhere that I have read.

    I read the article at http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-problem-of-evil. I have several gripes with William Lane Craig’s justification of evil. [I said suffering; ok for now.]

    Gripe #1, the (Thomist) doctrine: “a. The chief purpose of life is not happiness, but the knowledge of God.” That knowledge can lead to joy and hapines in eternity.

    Motion denied. I believe that the chief purpose of this life is the pursuit of happiness for me and my family. We challenged the throne of England for the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, not for the right to pursue ” knowledge of God.” [I’m not forgetting Jefferson and Locke’s mention of “creator.” [I adopted Locke’s use of square brackets for full parenthetical sentences.]]

    I don’t think that belief or religion help. They just give people extra, imaginary things to fear and worry about, and reasons to knock down each-other’s skyscrapers. Gods and demons are imaginary, as is the afterlife. The challenge is still out there to produce one fact about a god or demon that is not traceable to some person’s lively imagination.

    Since all theology comes from people, Craig really just says that the chief purpose if this life is learning what barbarians imagined about fearful, invisible, all-powerful beings.

    Gripe #2, Craig’s statement, ” objective values cannot exist without God and objective values do exist. ” Motion denied. Objective values do not exist. Referencing God as the source of your values does not increase the objectivity, it increases the subjectivity. All theology comes from people, and that includes Biblical values. Since I have referenced Locke, I’ll quote him: “Our assent to a revelation can be rationally no higher than the evidence of its being a revelation. If the evidence is only probable proof, then our assent can reach no higher than the apparent probability of the proofs.”An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke (1689), pp. 571-572 paraphrased.

    What Locke says is obvious. And it means that adoption of Biblical values is subjective…subject to your assent that those values are a true revelation from a real God. Without even getting into issues of faithful scribsmanship, preservation of text, and translation you are quite far removed from “objectivity” when adopting Biblical values.When we discover that things in the Bible were adapted from earlier sources, e.g., Deueteronomy borrowing Hammurabi, John borrowing from Philo and Epictetus, it sheds doubt on the apparent likelihood of a revelation or a real God. All values come from people, If I reference the law of the land, I am at least closer to the source. “We the people put this law on the books.”Government of the people, by the people and for the people shall never perish from the earth.”We have done away with the Divine Right of Rulers and the old form of jurisprudence along with.

    Gripe #3, When discussing anthropic principles, Craig says, ” So improbability is multiplied by improbability by improbability until our minds are reeling in incomprehensible numbers.”

    Motion denied. You cannot assign a probability to the occurrence of anything in an infinite set of occurrences. Craig gives numbers and ratios of those numbers. That creates the false impression that his use of the word “probability” will hold some mathematical truth. It’s just a gut call about something he can’t comprehend.

    Frequency statements can never be deduced from precision statements. They need their own assumptions, which must be specifically statistical. Since you cannot divide by infinity, you can not estimate the probability that any set of circumstances will recur within infinite time and space.

    I can easily imagine the recurrence of the coincidence of all of the anthropic values and ratios of human life on Earth, somewhere out there in our universe. It is virtually infinite. I can also imagine other sets of coincidences creating other forms of life and evolutuionary sequences. If you say that the big bang was the beginning of time for our universe, I can imagine a time before it. If you say that the red-shifting of the CMB implies a border to this universe, I can imagine crossing that border (without bumping into the mind of God), and finding other amazing coincidences out there, in infinite time and space, which surely do exist.

    Gripe #4, the red herring, “Friedrich Nietzsche, the great atheist of the 19th century who proclaimed the death of God, understood that the death of God meant the destruction of all meaning and value in life.”

    I haven’t read Nietzsche, but he must be wrong. Biblical theists don’t hold a monopoly in “meaning,” that’s for sure. They just keep re-hashing all of the same tired old ideas. The ideas don’t survive one minute of serious questioning, and don’t explain reality any better than “it’s turtles all the way down.”

    Craig probably wouldn’t admit this, but the futility of human life, even in a theocracy, was an acknowledged fact centuries before Nietzsch. The situation was so distressing to the author of Ecclesiastes, that he opened with, “Meaningless, meaningless, meaningless. Everything is meaningless.” He went on to say that there is nothing new under the sun, things are the way they are because God is arbitrary, that He never makes outcomes fair, and we should just accept the situation. Expecting to see or learn anything different is just a “chasing after the wind.”

    I find more meaning in one issue of Scientific American than a re-reading of thr Bible. [I always fall asleep on the begats and begottens anyway.]

    Gripe #5, “He bore the punishment for the sins of the whole world. He voluntarily took upon himself the punishment that we deserved. ”

    The doctrine doesn’t make any sense, despite the special pleadings of St. Thomas Aquinas about the time that Jesus spent in Hell, and what happened there. If the promise is now eternal life [to Abraham the promise was property and offspring, without mention of afterlife], and the alternative is eternal punishment (the end of it all, or eternal torment in flames, depending upon interpretation), then the punishment that Jesus bore would have to be eternal, not just a weekend’s worth. Eternity does not equal 36 hours.

    The docrine doesn’t make sense for another reason. God is only satisfying his own requirement for death or blood sacrifice. Why play out this drama (esp. in a way that does not compute), when God could simply wave the requirement for death or scapegoat? If God was going to send Himself to earth (to become His own Father), to bring the light of pure Logos, why doesn’t the story make sense? Why not bring some truth about the world instead of performing magic tricks?

    Also, the multiple accounts of the story of Jesus, his ministry, death, and resurrection, dont agree with each other or with reality in many, many ways. The gospels are the only contemporary versions of these stories. Other historians don’t mention Jesus. There are no historical accounts to fall back on other than these (often mutually exclusive ) books.

    The only thing Craig said that I can agree with is, “They just don’t like a God who would permit them or others to suffer and therefore they want nothing to do with Him. Theirs is simply an atheism of rejection.” In my case, this is true.

    A God who sees everything supposedly judges us all. We also judge “God,” as defined in literature. “MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN…you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting.”

    I have been very lucky. Others have not. “Millions of animals have suffered throughout countless generations withoul moral improvement,” as Darwin said, “it revolts our understanding.” If there was a God in charge, He/She/It would have to be a better person than me. I would have to be conceited to think that others suffer while I am spared for Divine purposes.

    All theology comes from people, and they have not yet made up a satisfactory story, much less a deity to admire.

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