Who leaves better clues, God or the Devil?

September 4, 2006 | By | 13 Replies More

Here’s a Question I Like To Ask when arguing biblical accuracy versus scientific discovery:

Postulating an omnipotent God and his potent yet subordinate nemesis: Which has the power to influence the minds of a few men to compose a persuasive text and create a regional following, and which to deposit billions of consistent clues about creation into the ground, the seas, and the heavens, from the scale of muons to the size of galactic superclusters?

It really comes down to whether one chooses to believe in an interpretation of a translation of a much edited anthology of ancient scraps of text (“truth”), or in physical evidence that anyone can see and measure, with some training (“just a theory”).

I almost posted this as yet another response under grumpypilgrim’s Apes wearing pants, but it was wandering too far from the original point.
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Category: Education, Good and Evil, Psychology Cognition, Religion, Science, Statistics

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A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Ah, the Book of Nature! A disciplined study of this Book makes the many traditional apochryphal, often-vague, often-self-contradictory allegedly sacred writings look puny by comparison.

    Some would still say that the Book of Nature lacks any meaning–it just IS. I disagree. We need to stop letting people define science narrowly, as though it is conducted only by a bunch of Philistines who would gladly conduct vivisections on their own unwilling mothers to advance science.

    The Book of Nature can be read accurately only by people with an intense and unceasing sense of wonder. Read in this way, the Book of Nature energizes and orders our highest values. After all, Nature is not just out there. Human animals themselves are parts of this glorious unfolding process of Nature.

  2. Brother's Keepe says:

    I would agree with you that nature does reveal many things and is full of meaning. The Scriptures, (one of the allegedly sacred readings you refer to) agree as well.

    Romans 1:20"For the invisible things of him (God) from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.

    The Scriptures declare that nature is indeed a book: a book that reveals that there is a Creator, leaving no excuse for those who speak to the contrary.

    "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools." Romans 1: 21, 21

    To study the Scriptures is no puny task at all. But instead they invigorate the mind and help one to have an accurate understanding of nature.

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    Brother's Keeper writes that Nature is "a book that reveals that there is a Creator, leaving no excuse for those who speak to the contrary."

    You can tell from Brothers Keeper's tone that he is a person who carefully wrote his comment with the sincere intent of helping members of this blogging community to embrace beliefs he holds dear. Unfortunately, he commits a logical fallacy in the process. The unspoken premise to his conclusion (that nature had to have a Creator) is that everything had to be created by something else. Brother's Keeper is not alone in making this argument. Many Christians argue that the world could not have simply appeared. Something had to create the world, they argue. Why? Because everything had to have a Creator.If I am sounding repetitive, it is because so many Christian assert this principle to be the most basic principle upon which they make their philosophical arguments. These same people, however, completely ignore their own basic principle when they are asked "who created God?"  When faced with this question, the look at you with their glazed-over eyes and they quickly change the subject. They act like you are being absurd to consistently apply their own basic principle (that everything had to have a Creator). In taking this inconsistent position, they are playing the philosophical equivalent of a shell game. Here is how that "shell game" is played: their important principle (that everything must have a Creator) applies only where they want it to apply, and not anywhere else.

    It gets much worse for such Christian apologists, of course. If we apply this principle (everything must have a cause) to God himself, we must conclude that God had a Creator too. And that Creator also had its own Creator. On and on, it's an eternal regress. No wonder they break their own rule!

    Doesn't it make more sense to admit that we really don't know whether our universe had a cause outside of itself and to be courageous enough to admit that we don't know what or who that cause was, if there actually was such a cause? What I am suggesting is an approach called humility. It's an approach called "apply the same degree of skepticism toward your own religious beliefs that you apply toward everyone else's religious beliefs." It an approach called "Don't apply logical principles selectively." It's an approach called "Don't intellectually rig the system."

  4. Brother's Keepe says:

    You are wrong in your assumption that God must have a cause. This is because, the very definition of God is one who is omnipotent, eternal and without a cause. Oh wait! That is what all Christians say! But, the truth is, that is the definition of God. My eyes are assuredly not glazed over. But I do have to chuckle at a person who spends a lot of their time and mental energy trying to disprove a God whom they say they don't believe in. Why would someone want to spend their time ranting that way? It must be a comforting way for you to justify your Godless life.

    Anyways, I didn't say that everything had to be created by something else. That was an assumption you made on what I said.

    Humility is to stop trying to disprove that there is a creator, exalting yourself in your finite life of threescore years plus 10. Humility is definetely not the position you are playing.

    There are some reasons that "you" don't know that there is a God:

    when you knew God, you glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in your imagination, and your foolish heart was darkened. Professing yourself to be wise, you became a fool.

    and because, you refuse to believe the message that God sent to us, the Holy Scriptures. That is your God given choice.

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    BK: I DO spend a lot of time trying to disprove the existence of the God claimed by Bible literalists. I didn't spend much time on this previously. I used to live and let live. If a belief in God gave someone comfort, good for them (as strange as it seemed to me).

    What's different? Bible literalists are now taking over all branches of government, justifying many government policies that I consider blatantly immoral on their big Friend in the sky, that really really nice Guy up there who throws you into hell for eternal torture if you don't spend your entire life worshipping him. That's why it has all become personal and intensely important to me.

    You need to look at your arguments more carefully. They truly do depend upon the assumption that the world didn't just get here on its own. Hence, your claim that looking at the "Book of Nature" reveals that there must be a Creator.

  6. Dan Klarmann says:

    Remember your Axioms, gentlemen.

    Monotheisms are founded on the principle that God is, has been, and always will be, and the universe is subordinate to that.

    Science has evolved to the principle that the universe is, has been, and will be.

    Religion explores the unknowable and the "whys", and science seeks the directly observable and the "hows".

    Science cannot be used to disprove God, nor should religion be used to dispute the discoveries and observations of science. They are different schools of philosophy.

  7. Jason Rayl says:

    But science–in my very humble opinion–can be used to prove that "god didn't do that (insert miraculous example)." And since many, perhaps most, believers rely on miraculous acts to bolster if not outright validate their assertion that there is a god, whittling away at these examples certainly does a nasty statistical diminution on the existence of, at least, that kind of god.

    This, of course, was the theme underlying Zeno's Paradox. The closer you get to the anwer (by halves and halves and halves)…

  8. grumpypilgrim says:

    BK said, "You are wrong in your assumption that God must have a cause. This is because, the very definition of God is one who is omnipotent, eternal and without a cause."

    Unfortunately, BK's assertion merely sidesteps the issue. Merely defining a god to require no cause does not make such a deity spring into existence, nor does it support any argument that such a god exists. We could say the same thing about the gods Zeus, Apollo and Aphrodite: we shall define them to require no cause; therefore, they exist. Absurd. By such reasoning, we could "prove" anything we wanted: President Bush could define grains of sand to be weapons of mass destruction and — BEHOLD — Iraq WMDs exist. I define my gods to require no cause and — BEHOLD — my gods exists.

    In fact, defining a god that requires no cause is merely a convenience for avoiding the paradox of having a creator for the Universe without requiring a Creator for the creator. It's merely a plug for an otherwise unfixable hole in the Christian dike. I have never understood why Christians find comfort and satisfaction in such plugs, but I certainly do understand why they need to create them. Indeed, much of Christianity appears to be nothing more than a collection of such plugs, and the process of "becoming a Christian" consists of memorizing what they are and when they are used. "Someone is pointing out the paradox that arises from my declaration that anything as complex as the Universe must have a creator; therefore, the plug for that is to define my god to require no creator."

    Unfortunately, many Christians seem to believe that such word games are clever and convincing, when they merely highlight the absurdity that permeates Christian dogma. How can Jesus be the divine Son of God and yet still be fully human? We shall simply define Jesus to be the Son of God and yet still fully human. How can Paul possibly know that Jesus was without sin? We shall define Paul to have been inspired by the Holy Spirit and, therefore, accurate. The list of such assumptions in Christianity is gigantic, yet Christians would have us believe that this carefully constructed scaffold of absurdities is simpler and more believable than any other explanation of where the Universe and humans came from. Their One True Religion is just a collection of plugs in the dike.

  9. Brother's Keepe says:

    What a good question. But so poorly thought out. By you not understanding how Jesus could be God yet fully human, you think that it must be wrong. Plus, your presupposition about the Bible is that it is not true. So any argument put forth to show that it is true is automatically wrong, in your world. So, when you get to Paul, and other writers, claiming that Christ was perfect, you disgard the fact that these men were , as it is stated in Scripture, under the guidance of the Spirit of God. Because you are coming from a position that categorically denies that God inspired the Bible, you deny the Spirit of God's influence into account as to how Paul knew that Christ was sinless.

    I would put money on the fact that there are things that even the most intelligent people do not understand about how many things work. Yet they say and believe that those things do work. I would be willing to bet that you do not fully understand how you woke up this morning, yet you did, did you not. Who can test something like evolution, using the scientific method to observe and repeat true "evolution" happening? It hasn't been done. Yet you believe it, by faith, based on your presupposition that evolution is true, and your interpretation of the data must always fit into your presupposition, even if it contradicts. Furthermore spontaneous generation, otherwise known as biogenesis, was disproven long ago. Yet so many people believe that a pool of chemicals came together to form life. Has that ever been tested and repeated in a scientific experiment? Never. I think, correct me if I am wrong, that Louis Pasteur disproved spontateous generation long ago.

  10. Brother's Keepe says:

    By the way, does your god, nature, have any need for a "cause"? If it does, what is that cause? If it does not, then you too must assume that it always has been, not something you could ever "prove".

    How could life come about from a pool of lifeless chemicals with some electrical charge running through them, organizing into sugar-phoshates and nucleotides and eventually into strands of DNA, until blam! Life from non-life? Easy! We shall simply define evolution as true and then every answer necessarily must confirm evolution.

    Why is there love? Well it must have been advantageous to the species.

    Why is there hate? Well it must have been advantageous to the species.

    Why do we think? Well it must have been advantageous to the species.

    Any scientific proof confirming that these answers are correct? None! But yet, that must be the reason, because evolution is by definition, true. So all explanations must confirm this idea. And all other explanations are false.

    And if you can't explain something, even using evolution, you'll just say "Well its just one of those tiny mysteries that we haven't discovered the answer for yet. But someday, we'll find out."

    Those are just a few of the many absurdities of the religion of evolution.

    Does that sound familiar?

  11. Dan Klarmann says:

    Evolution is a conclusion, reached reluctantly by scientists a generation or two before Chas. Darwin to explain the ever-increasing mound of evidence that a single creation and subsequent flood couldn't explain.

    Darwin's contribution was to write a popular book describing his observations of the principle (theory) of survival of the fittest. Since then, the theory has evolved as more and more evidence emerges.

    I don't know about the others, but I don't consider nature a god. I do believe that the observable universe (nature) has existed for an arbitrarily long time, of which the last few billion years have seen little (if any) change in its laws. Science is about discovering those laws.

    If you know any chemistry, you know that elements always react toward more complicated compounds. Complexity always increases.

    Evolution is not an assumption that science has been succesfully justifying for 200 years. It is a conclusion reached 200 years ago to try to explain the small mountain of data they had at the time. Meanwhile, science has uncovered millions of times as many pieces of data as Darwin had access to, and none of them contradict the basic principle that everything evolves.

    As to love, hate, and thinking: If you aren't up to reading technical journals on information theory, neuropharmacology, sociology, anthropology, and so forth, you could just subscribe to Scientific American and get an overview of proofs of the necessity of those behaviors that don't cite evolution as an explanation.

  12. grumpypilgrim says:

    I had hoped BK would address the issue in my comment — i.e., the many plugs that Christianity has created over the past two millenia — but apparently BK has decided to concede this point rather than address it.

    As to the issues BK raises:

    1) "By you not understanding how Jesus could be God yet fully human, you think that it must be wrong."

    I did not say I believe it to be wrong; I merely pointed out it is another example of Christianity defining a contradiction out of existence. Nevertheless, BK is partly correct: I do not understand how Jesus could be God yet fully human. Perhaps BK could explain it, because this dualism raises all sorts of other contradictions: e.g., if Jesus is God, then, by definition, he raised himself from the dead…but this would mean that he never actually died.

    2) "Plus, your presupposition about the Bible is that it is not true. So any argument put forth to show that it is true is automatically wrong, in your world."

    Yes, I presuppose that the Bible is not true. The Bible makes many extraordinary claims, and extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. When Christians are asked for that proof, they quickly change the subject.

    3) "…even the most intelligent people do not understand about how many things work….I would be willing to bet that you do not fully understand how you woke up this morning…."

    Non sequitur. There are many things that neither I, nor anyone else, understands. This neither proves nor disproves Bible mythology.

    4) "Who can test something like evolution, using the scientific method to observe and repeat true “evolution” happening? It hasn’t been done."

    "True evolution" is a random process which, because it is random, cannot be repeated — at least, not without waiting a very long time. Accordingly, to demand repeatable science experiments of "true evolution" is, at best, unrealistic and, at worst, nonsensical.

    Also, scientific understanding of the genome is very limited, so designing well-controlled scientific experiments is very hard.

    Nevertheless, some experiments have been done. For example, many species of dog exist today that did not exist 1000 years ago — the product of evolution. Evolution has also been demonstrated in the creation of the wolphin — a rare species that is cross-breed of whale and dolphin. Also, the creation of modern anti-biotics have resulted in the appearance of drug-resistant strains of bacteria. Also, evolution is the reason why so many health professionals are worried about bird flu: they are concerned that the flu will mutate into a form that is capable of human-to-human transmission, rather than only bird-to-human transmission that exists today.

    Of course, if you expect someone to evolve a mouse into a human, you will be disappointed, for at least two reasons: 1) because the common ancestor that humans share with other primates is long extinct and, therefore, unavailable for experimentation; and 2) because even if we had that ancestor species, we have no way of knowing which sequences of genetic changes in that species produced the line of species that eventually resulted in homo sapiens. The same two problems plague experiments on other species.

    Nevertheless, keep in mind that evolution consists of just two components: random genetic mutation and natural selection. Unless you deny that either of these two components exist, you would inherently concede the existence of evolution. Which of these two components do you disbelieve?

    Also, regardless of what creationists believe, the undisputable fact is that Darwin's theory of evolution coherently explains a wide range of observed phenomena in many different fields of science — from astronomy to zoology. Darwinian evolution has also provided specific predictions about the natural world that have later proven to be true. On the basis of such empirical confirmation, Darwin's theory of evolution is as "true" as the Bohr model of the atom, the bacteria model of disease, the electron current model of electricity, etc. Creationists like to single out evolution because they believe it conflicts with their narrow interpretation of the Bible, not because evolution is more controversial or dubious than any other scientific model.

  13. grumpypilgrim says:

    Responding to BK's second comment:

    1) "We shall simply define evolution as true and then every answer necessarily must confirm evolution."

    No one has "defined" evolution as true. Evolution has proven to be a very useful tool for understanding natural processes; accordingly, it has earned its place as a valid theory.

    2) "Why is there love? Well it must have been advantageous to the species. Why is there hate? Well it must have been advantageous to the species. Why do we think? Well it must have been advantageous to the species. Any scientific proof confirming that these answers are correct? None!"

    In a species with complex social rules, emotions such as love and hate, as well as intelligence, obviously do confer a competitive advantage. Humans who do not express love and hate are labeled autistic, while people without intelligence are labeled simpletons. Is it not self-evident that simpletons and autistic people do not win the best mates nor do they gain better material resources for their own survival?

    3) "And if you can’t explain something, even using evolution, you’ll just say 'Well its just one of those tiny mysteries that we haven’t discovered the answer for yet. But someday, we’ll find out.'"

    Exactly what is wrong with acknowledging that there are things we do not yet understand, but are still trying to figure out? And what is superior about saying, "Anything we don't understand must be the work of an invisible deity, so we won't even bother trying to figure it out?"

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