The Ultimate Cart-Before-the-Horse (Why Atheism is Illogical).

Posted on March 21, 2012 By

“There is a wide measure of agreement which, on the physical side of science approaches almost unanimity, that the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine. Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of matter. We are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail mind as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.” (italics added)

–The knighted mathematician, physicist and astronomer Sir James Jeans, as quoted in his book The Mysterious Universe.

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“I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”

–Nobel Prize winning physicist Max Planck, who founded quantum theory, and who is therefore one of the most important physicists of all time.

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Atheism relies on logic and science, and accepts nothing on faith. Belief in God is a primitive superstition that can only be adopted by weak minded people who ignore cold, hard logic in favor of logically unsupported, faith-based beliefs. Adopting atheism entails turning away from faith in favor of logic and reason….

…or so goes the atheist credo. And this self-flattering atheist narrative has become so prevalent in the media and popular culture that, sadly, many people have begun to believe it largely as a result of hearing it repeated so often. But the atheist credo suffers from one fatal flaw: It is completely backwards. Atheism relies much more on faith than does theism, and it is atheism that is utterly illogical.

To show where I am going with this, it is appropriate to start with a little review. As I described in my essay titled God Is Real…Why Modern Physics Has Discredited Atheism, atheists and theists tend to agree that there is an ultimate reality, or a “something-that-has-always-existed.” Physicist George Stanciu and philosopher Robert Augros, in their book The New Story of Science (as I cite in that essay), put it succinctly: “…something must have always existed; for if ever absolutely nothing existed, then nothing would exist now, since nothing comes from nothing.” Somewhat reworded, Stanciu’s and Aurgros’ point could be stated as follows: “There must be an ultimate reality (or a “something-that-has-always-existed”) of some sort, because, if at any point there was nothing, there would still be nothing because nothingness can’t cause anything to exist or to happen.” Atheists and theists just differ on what this ultimate reality is.

In the above mentioned essay, I describe how atheism is rooted in the naturalist (or materialist) view which says that the physical universe or nature is the ultimate reality and that mind or consciousness eventually emerges (in human brains) from mindless matter as a result of natural processes. Theism, conversely, holds that a pre-existing mind (God) is the ultimate reality and that matter (as well as everything else, including human minds) are the product of this pre-existent mind. So, perhaps it could be said that the theism/atheism debate can be distilled to the question of, “Did mind (or ‘consciousness’) come from matter, or did matter come from mind?”

Because of the undercurrent of deeply entrenched materialist assumptions that prevail in modern secular culture, the idea of a pre-existent mind without a body may seem foreign, even alien, to many people initially. And to atheists, the idea is downright superstitious and naively make-believe. But common sense impressions cannot be relied upon because they are formed, in part, by one’s cultural environment and psychological makeup. Therefore, it is a failure of logic to not expose one’s common sense impressions to the same level of scrutiny as anything else.

To determine if consciousness came first, or if it emerged from mindless matter, it is first necessary to do a little homework on consciousness. Jeffrey M. Schwartz is a Professor of Research Psychiatry at UCLA. He comments on the difficulty of explaining how the brain can produce consciousness in his book The Mind and the Brain:

“How does a mental reality, a world of consciousness, intentionality and other mental phenomena, fit into a world consisting entirely of physical particles in fields of force? If the answer is that it doesn’t—that mental phenomena are different in kind from the material world of particles—then what we have here is an explanatory gap, a term first used in this context by the philosopher Joseph Levine in his 1983 paper Materialism and Qualia: The Explanatory Gap. And so, although correlating physical brain activity with mental events is an unquestionable scientific triumph, it has left many students of the brain unsatisfied. For neither neuroscientist nor philosopher has adequately explained how the behavior of neurons can give rise to subjectively felt mental states.”

“…It seems ridiculous even to consider why a handful of wires and transistors fails to generate subjective perceptions, then ask the same question about neurons outside the brain. Why is it that no neurons other than those in a brain are capable of giving the owner of that brain a qualitative, subjective sensation—an inner awareness? The activity of neurons in our fingertips that distinguish hot from cold, for example, is not associated in and of itself with conscious perception. But the activity of neurons in the brain, upstream of the fingertips’ sensory neurons, is. If the connection linking the fingers to the brain through the spinal cord is severed, all sensation in those fingers is lost. What is it about the brain that has granted to its own neurons the almost magical power to create a felt, subjective experience from bursts of electrochemical activity little different from that transpiring downstream, back in the fingertips? This represents one of the central mysteries of how matter (meat?) generates mind.”

“…As the evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin puts it, ‘One restricts one’s questions to the domain where materialism is unchallenged.’”

Consciousness cannot be simply the result of meat (the brain) because consciousness is a property entirely separate from matter. Consciousness has an irreducible existence. Regardless of how complex a material thing such as a brain gets through evolution, it remains just that…a highly complex material thing, and not a conscious or personal thing.

Moreover, the inescapable problem with materialistic explanations for consciousness is that they ignore the need for a subject in subjective experiences, or in other words, the need for an experiencer of experiences.

Moreover, the inescapable problem with materialistic explanations for consciousness is that they ignore the need for a subject in subjective experiences, or in other words, the need for an experiencer of experiences. A person is a subject that can experience subjective experiences. Brain chemicals and electrical signals in the brain cannot be subjects. Just think about it…the last time that you were enjoying a piece of music, was it the chemicals and electricity in your brain enjoying the music, or was it you enjoying the music?

Keith Ward is a retired Professor of Philosophy from Kings College (in London) and a member of the Royal Institute of Philosophy. He writes in his book Doubting Dawkins: Why There Almost Certainly is a God:

“…It is only fair to point out that there are things he [the atheist author and biologist Richard Dawkins] systematically neglects to mention, but that a great many philosophers, both dead and alive, accept. Two big ones are: the irreducible existence of consciousness, and the irreducible nature of personal explanation.”

“It is very unsatisfactory to have two different sorts of explanation, with no obvious way of connecting them in one coherent scheme of thought. The materialist hypothesis tries to connect them either by reducing the personal to the physical (reductive materialism), or by supposing that the personal just emerges out of the physical for no particular reason (emergent or non-reductive materialism). The former theory conflicts with our everyday experience of conscious life. The latter gives up on explanation.”

Simply put, the materialist/naturalist (matter comes first) view struggles mightily to explain such things as the existence of consciousness and personhood because consciousness and personhood are entirely different phenomena than matter. Because consciousness and personhood are not just highly complicated matter, the increasing complexity of material things through evolution cannot be cited as the cause of conscious, personal beings such as ourselves.

Materialists/naturalists try to get around this problem by using some highly contorted mental gymnastics. As Ward notes, the two main methods for getting around this problem that materialism/naturalism utilizes are reductive materialism and emergent or non-reductive materialism.

Reductive materialism tries to reduce the personal (as well as consciousness) to the material. So, put another way, reductive materialism says, “There really is no personal, just the material.” In effect, you as a person don’t really exist. I hate to be the one to deliver the bad news, but your existence as a person is really nothing but an illusion produced by a complex arrangement of matter. What you refer to as “me” is really nothing but “a survival machine….a robot vehicle blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes,” to quote the atheist biologist Richard Dawkins from The Selfish Gene. If learning that you are a mindless robot instead of a person has ruined your day, I ask that you please forgive me. (And please forgive the preceding brief interlude into sarcasm, but I am intending to show, as Ward points out, that this explanation “conflicts with our everyday experience of conscious life.”)

Emergent or non-reductive materialism attempts to get around the problem by basically “giving up on explanation,” as Ward puts it. No offense to Ward, but I think a better explanation of the problem with emergent or non-reductive materialism is that it confuses an observation of the emergence of such properties as consciousness, intelligence, and personhood with an explanation for the emergence of such properties. As an example, to the question of how consciousness emerges from non-conscious matter, emergent or non-reductive materialism basically answers that once the complexity level of the brain evolves to a certain level, PRESTO, you have consciousness. Consciousness “emerges” once the complexity level of the human brain reaches a certain degree. The “emergence” of consciousness in complex brains is an observation that materialists/naturalists confuse with an explanation for the phenomenon of consciousness. Yes, consciousness “emerges” in highly complex brains…good job. Now please explain why this is so. Emergent or non-reductive materialism provides no such explanation, but rather, “gives up on explanation,” because to observe something is not equivalent to explaining it.

And, as an example of the “irreducible nature of personal explanation,” consider a work of art such as a painting. Since materialism declares that there is no reality other than the material, the painting, according to materialism, is really nothing but a complex collection of paint molecules arranged in a particular way. The painting IS the paint and the canvas…nothing else. Materialism leaves no room whatsoever for the personal expression the artist intended to convey.

But everyday experience declares that this is absurd. What the artist intended to convey is personal, not material. The paint and canvas are just tools to express the personal.

Some atheists may at this point be objecting, “You are using God-of-the-gaps reasoning. Just because science doesn’t yet know how brains can produce consciousness and the personal, doesn’t mean that it never will. We can’t just give up and say, ‘God did it.’” But this is circular reasoning because if consciousness (God’s mind) is the ultimate reality, then THERE ARE NO GAPS TO BRIDGE. God’s mind as the ultimate reality would be a case of “the God of the whole show,” not a case of God filling in explanatory gaps. It is only if matter is the ultimate reality that there are explanatory gaps to bridge. So an atheist making the accusation that “God of the gaps” reasoning is being committed is starting with the assumption that matter is the ultimate reality as a means of reasoning back to the pre-determined conclusion that matter is the ultimate reality.

And a philosophical system that insists that matter is the ultimate reality (materialism/naturalism) can only continue running into a brick wall when it comes to explaining the existence of properties that are clearly not material…properties such as consciousness and personhood. Watching materialists/naturalists try to explain consciousness and personhood reminds one of watching someone feverishly trying to hammer square pegs into round holes…it just doesn’t fit. As the philosopher John Locke, who was one of the most important Enlightenment thinkers, put it:

“It is as impossible to conceive that ever pure incogitative matter should produce a thinking intelligent being, as that nothing should of itself produce matter.”

Believing atheism requires an enormous amount of faith that material explanations can account for the existence of consciousness and personhood (or intelligence, or life, for that matter). The assumption that science will eventually provide satisfactory material explanations for everything was mockingly referred to as “promissory materialism” by the eminent philosopher of science Karl Popper. Is it not ironic that the atheist credo (stated at the beginning of this essay) declares that atheism does not rely on faith, and yet, atheism places faith in the notion that science can provide material explanations for properties which are clearly not material?

Keith Ward continues with regards to the difficulty of citing a mindless cause for mind, and an impersonal cause for the personal, etc.:

“…there is force in the classical philosophical axiom that, for a truly explanatory cause to be intelligible, it must contain its effects potentially in itself. As the classical philosophers put it, the cause must contain more reality than its effects.”

When Ward cites the axiom that a cause “must contain its effects potentially in itself,” he is simply stating (in philosophical language) that the cause of conscious, personal, intelligent beings must itself be conscious, intelligent, and personal. Mindless matter cannot eventually cause conscious, personal, intelligent beings because it does not contain the potential to do so. In order to have the potential to do so, mindless matter must have some sort of mechanism to bring about this gradual evolution. What is this mechanism? Was it the laws of physics? Ok, fine. Why is it that matter so consistently follows such laws? What causes it to do so? The theistic explanation for why matter follows physical laws (such as the laws of physics, thermodynamics, etc.) is simple…the same mind that creates matter also directs it. As Robert Boyle, the founder of modern chemistry, put it: “The nature of this or that body is but the law of God prescribed to it [and] to speak properly, a law [is] but a notional rule of acting according to the declared will of a superior.” [italics added]

When atheism is asked the question of how it is that matter can be compelled to follow such physical laws, it is stuck with an it just does answer. But “it just does” is not an answer. Rather, it is an avoidance of a question that atheism cannot answer. Atheism is a faith constructed of it just does and just so assumptions. Norman Geisler coins the term “just-so storytelling” in his book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. I highly recommend it.

I conclude by calling attention to the principle known as Ockham’s Razor, which states that, other things being equal, a simpler explanation is better than a more complex one. In order to do away with a number of facts which are inconvenient to the atheist ideology, atheism must resort to a large amount of elaborate explaining away. This makes atheism much less simple than theism. Below I cite several examples of this elaborate (and often ridiculous) explaining away.

1) In Why Life Could Not Have Emerged Without God, I describe how prominent atheist biologists have resorted to citing intervention from space aliens (as well as a couple of other real humdinger explanations) to explain the origin of life.

2) In God Is Real…Why Modern Physics Has Discredited Atheism, I describe how modern physics strongly supports the mind-as-ultimate-reality model, which contradicts atheistic materialism/naturalism. Does this mean that all physicists believe in God? Of course not. But what it does mean is that physicists who cling tenaciously to atheism must make absolutely embarrassing philosophical errors in doing so, as describe in Who Is Playing Make-Believe? (Atheists or Theists). In this essay, I also describe how atheist physicists must resort to extremely elaborate explanations for the origin of the universe (such as the existence of 10 to the 500th power universes) in order to do away with God.

3) I detail how many thousands of people have claimed to have met God in what is known as a Near-Death Experience, in Has Anyone Met God and Returned to Tell About It? The NDE phenomenon has become so convincing and so difficult to ignore that atheists have had to resort to explaining the phenomenon away as a result of hallucination…even though this explanation clearly does not fit since hallucinations are too unique to the individual to share such consistent similarity.

4) Doesn’t Evolution Prove the Biblical Account of Creation to Be False? illustrates how remarkably similar the biblical and scientific accounts of creation are. The essay includes a video featuring the MIT physicist and biblical scholar Gerald Schroeder (which is very highly recommended). As far as I can tell, the only atheist replies to Schroeder’s arguments are that the similarities are a coincidence.

Why There Almost Certainly Is a God: Doubting Dawkins (Paperback)


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The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force (Paperback)


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34 comments


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    Settecase says:

    “…consciousness is a property entirely separate from matter. Consciousness has an irreducible existence.” I’ve never thought of it this way. You’re totally right. Consciousness is irreducibly extant (I was going to say “complex”, but I’m not sure that would be appropriate here).

    I am going to tweet this.

    For anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, I have a website where I discuss similar matters: http://dontforgettothink.blogspot.com

    Keep up the great work, Scott.


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    Grace says:

    Robert,

    “Theism doesn’t ‘answer’; theism asserts. Atheism, on the other hand, is not in the business of making assertions or providing answers.”

    Atheism is the guise of naturalists and materialists. If one claims only to lack a belief in God, then they probably think that they don’t have to be accountable for their beliefs. But atheists do because they hold positive beliefs as well, which usually falls under naturalism or materialism. Naturalism or materialism has not answered these questions.

    “I’ll err on the side of science, which has a far better track record of discovering what’s true about our existence than philosophy.”

    Regarding Lawrence Krauss explaining how something coming can from nothing, there is no “science of nothingness”, so science can’t answer why there is something rather than nothing. Actually, science can’t answer alot of questions such as ones regarding ontology. Why? Because no one was there. You would have to build a time machine and go back and observe the events _if_ you hold empirical evidence as the standard. Looks like you will have to go with philosophy.

    “Both aren’t perfect, but philosophy is far less so than science.” Science is more perfect than philosophy? How do you know that? Sounds like a bare assertion to me. Is this assertion because you think that scientific theories change less than philosophical arguments? Both may change when there are new discoveries, and new discoveries are continually being made, invalidating old scientific theories and even philosophical arguments. For example, here are three scenerios of a universe without a beginning -Eternal inflation, Cyclic evolution, and Static seed. They all seemed to be very promising. Years later in January 2012, Alexander Vilenkin studied the theories as he and others reworked them, and his conclusion is that all the evidence points to the universe as having a beginning (from http://www.ctc.cam.ac.uk/stephen70/. Under heading “Programme” there is a PDF link to Alexander Vilenkin’s presentation). In paleontology, paleoanthropologists keep reclassifying and reclassifying certain hominid fossils due to new discoveries; at first they imagined a line where the first cell transformed into a frog, then into an ape, and then into a human. We no longer see that illustration probably because there isn’t evidence to support it; so they went with a tree. A tree was also used to depict how humans came from apes, but with the discovery of more hominid fossils, this fossil record is now depicted as a bush. Science has been wrong in the past, so you are correct when you say it isn’t perfect.

    No, macro evolution isn’t a settled matter. The constant reclassification of fossils and the limited data make it impossible to settle the matter. Right now there are 4 contenders for the closest common ancestor to man (http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/hominids/2012/01/meet-the-contenders-for-earliest-modern-human/). I guess you can connect the dots although paleoanthropologists have not, but that would be based on blind faith. The Cambrian explosion poses a difficulty for macro evolution because it does not show the gradual emergence needed for creatures to evolve into other creatures. Neither is there ANY evidence for abiogenesis as the cause of life on earth, and here is the biggest contradiction:

    “It takes no faith at all to think that science will eventually solve those mysteries too.”

    Now THAT is a statement of faith. Not only a statement of faith, but it’s a self-refuting statement.


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      Robert says:

      Grace, you write,

      Atheism is the guise of naturalists and materialists.

      All atheists are naturalists and materialists? I want to be clear that’s what you’re contending because there are many obvious counter-cases.

      Actually, science can’t answer alot of questions such as ones regarding ontology. Why? Because no one was there. You would have to build a time machine and go back and observe the events _if_ you hold empirical evidence as the standard. Looks like you will have to go with philosophy.

      Huh? What does not being there have to do with ontology?

      Is this assertion because you think that scientific theories change less than philosophical arguments?

      No, my claim primarily rests on the fact that there is far more unanimity in science than philosophy. The unanimity exists because science has a proven method for weeding out false hypotheses and ideas, whereas philosophy doesn’t. This is not to say science doesn’t rely on philosophy in some manner, just that philosophy seems to live within the realm of possibility, whereas science seems to live within the realm of reality.

      No, macro evolution isn’t a settled matter. The constant reclassification of fossils and the limited data make it impossible to settle the matter.

      Reclassification of fossils doesn’t imperil the theory of evolution. Besides, fossils aren’t the only evidence that prove evolution; descent with modification is written in DNA. Just ask Christian theist Francis Collins.

      The Cambrian explosion poses a difficulty for macro evolution because it does not show the gradual emergence needed for creatures to evolve into other creatures.

      Well, not according to even many Christian theists.

      Now THAT is a statement of faith. Not only a statement of faith, but it’s a self-refuting statement.

      Please explain. If method X has repeatedly shown itself to produce positive or truthful outcomes, how is it self-refuting or a statement of faith to believe that it will continue to do so?


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        Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 32 ) says:

        All atheists are naturalists and materialists? I want to be clear that’s what you’re contending because there are many obvious counter-cases.

        I am sure that there are counter-cases? But what would this demonstrate? Please present the alternative to theism that non-materialist atheists present? I am curious.

        No, my claim primarily rests on the fact that there is far more unanimity in science than philosophy. The unanimity exists because science has a proven method for weeding out false hypotheses and ideas, whereas philosophy doesn’t. This is not to say science doesn’t rely on philosophy in some manner, just that philosophy seems to live within the realm of possibility, whereas science seems to live within the realm of reality.

        Robert, there you go again. You have just constructed another PHILOSOPHICAL argument for why science is superior to philosophy. Don’t you see the embarrassingly self-refuting nature of your arguments?! Further, atheism is a PHILOSOPHICAL view. Atheism cannot be a scientific view because the methods of science cannot demonstrate that there is no God because science studies the physical and natural world and God is alleged to exist outside of the physical and natural world.

        Atheist philosophy can only try to use scientific insights to argue its case.

        Further, your claim that there is more unanimity in science that in philosophy is exactly opposite from reality. Many of the philosophical axioms first established by philosophers such as Plato are still referenced by modern philosophers (such as the classical philosophical axiom that I cite in this essay). But what scientific axioms from the time of the ancient Greeks are still referenced by modern scientists? The classical scientific view that the world is constructed of the four primary elements of earth, air, fire, and water? (click here)

        Science has a proven method for weeding out false hypotheses and ideas, whereas philosophy doesn’t?!?! Then why were scientists not able to weed out the scientific view that bloodletting (which says that blood and other bodily fluid are “humors” that must be balanced to maintain health) is a good medical practice? (click here) This medical practice, endorsed by science, was in effect for almost 2000 years.

        Or how about the scientific view (once almost unanimous in the scientific community) that light waves travel through a substance known as ether? (click here)

        None of this is intended to mock science, but rather to demonstrate the insights from science are provisional and therefore must be referenced in conjunction with philosophy and personal experience in order to draw any reasonable ontological conclusions.

        Reclassification of fossils doesn’t imperil the theory of evolution. Besides, fossils aren’t the only evidence that prove evolution; descent with modification is written in DNA. Just ask Christian theist Francis Collins.

        OK, fine, have it your way. I don’t feel any need to discuss the theory of evolution with you because the theory of evolution is utterly irrelevant with regards to the question of God’s existence, as I demonstrate in Why Evolution Cannot Be Used to Rationalize Atheism (click here) and Doesn’t Evolution Prove the Biblical Account of Creation to Be False? (click here)

        So your citation of Christian theists such as Francis Collins just further bolsters my point that there is no conflict between Darwinian evolution and belief in God. Debates about evolution belong on a forum about biology, not on a forum about God.


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          nick says:

          I meant to post this link on your origins page, as the discussion is largely on origins. Yes type in Rowan Williams if you like. He’s got a youtube channel called ‘LambethPress’ and this discussion is on the front page. I caught this video earlier and thought it might be of interest. Dawkins also declares himself to be an agnostic in this video which is interesting, for the worlds most famous atheist. But, to be honest, I think he would generally call himself an atheist, whilst he might technically be an agnostic, because he doesn’t claim to be certain that there is no God, but does believe it. I think I like the guy in the middle. He claims to be an agnostic and says he represents ‘ignorance’.


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          nick says:

          Been checking out youtube recently. This is a discussion based on many of these topics. Thought it might be of interest to you. The priest is Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest clergyman in the Church of England. He’s an interesting character and someone who I like to listen to. This is about many of the topics on this site including this page. Thought you might be interested in this discussion held at Oxford University. It’s as it should be done, I reckon.


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            nick says:

            I just thought it was a very interesting discussion. I am always interested to hear discussions of this nature, especially between people such as Dawkins and Williams. I agree with you about the Archbishop, I think he is a good leader for the church in this country. However, he has announced that he will be resigning from his post at the end of this year, which I think is a shame for the Church of England.
            One thing I did note, (not so much a highlight, but a note) was that Archbishop Williams openly accepts Darwinism. Hopefully he is another example for your article on Darwinism not being incompatible with faith.


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            nick says:

            Did you catch any of this? It was very interesting…. (At 1 hour 11 mins …. There’s an interesting moment, where Dawkins says he is an agnostic)….


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              Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 32 ) says:

              Yes, I did. I am impressed with the Archbishop. Were there any highlights for you?


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            Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 32 ) says:

            Nick:

            Thanks for the tip…I guess I just type “Rowan Williams” into the YouTube search box?

            Scott


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            nick says:

            I meant to post this on the origins of life page…


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    GerryD says:

    An article that may shed further light on the matter/mind issue is William A. Dembski’s “Explaining Specified Complexity” http://www.leaderu.com/offices/dembski/docs/bd-specified.html
    I recommend a YT video I posted on “The SOUL as the origin and Essence of human Identity.” A review of the mind /body /soul problem. I assess the evidence from evolutionary, biochemical & philosopical viewpoints, asking “are we as sentient beings, just an unlikely cosmic accident, the product of blind forces, ancient chemicals & mindless processes?” Are all our human endeavours reducible to no more than firing neurons & evolving biochemical pathways? I review current scientific evidence for a mind molecule as well as controversial studies of cloning, brain-conjoined twins, “afterdeath” experiences and psychic phenomena.


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      Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 32 ) says:

      Gerry:

      Thanks for this. I will check it out.

      Scott


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    Curtis Waters says:

    By the time I finished this article I probably lost at least 20 iq points because the idiocy just radiated off onto me. Atheism does not rely on faith, Atheism is the absence of faith. Theism, which relies on blindly believing something without any sort of evidence is illogical.


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      Curtis:

      Thank you for your comment. You have provided us with a couple of near textbook examples of methods which atheists commonly use to conceal the illogicality of atheism.

      #1) The use of strong rhetoric in order to distract attention from the lack of a coherent logical argument (Such as your statement: “I probably lost at least 20 iq points because the idiocy just radiated off onto me”). A person who has a logical argument does not need the crutch of strong rhetoric such as “lost at least 20 iq points”. If you had a logical argument to counteract the arguments in this essay, YOU WOULD FURNISH THAT LOGICAL ARGUMENT…but you won’t, because you don’t have one.

      #2) The attempt to deny that atheism is comprised of positive, faith-based claims in order to protect these claims from scrutiny….scrutiny which the claims cannot withstand. What are some of the positive claims made by atheism? Bo Jinn comments in his book Illogical Atheism:

      So, what is the epistemological faith of atheism? Well, let us just take a look at a shortlist of those beliefs and/ or philosophies which have been absorbed into the mainstream atheist culture of the present day:

      1. The ‘universe from nothing’ concept and the denial of the principle of sufficient reason [which says ex nihilo nihil, or “from nothing only nothing comes.”]
      2. A self-sufficient, necessary and eternal universe (Steady-State Theory)
      3. The ‘Many Worlds’ hypotheses in all their forms (Multiverse Theory).
      4. The assembly of complex intelligent life non-life given chance + energy + time (and no design or information input).
      5. Universal Darwinism and cosmic evolution.
      6. Epiphenomenalism (The belief that consciousness is illusory) …[The question immediately becomes who or what is experiencing the illusion of consciousness?!?!]
      7. The reliability of “rational” beliefs ultimately arising from chaotic and unguided reductionistic processes geared specifically toward survival and not truth.
      8. The belief that there is no such thing as absolute truth (logical self-contradiction- “There is no truth except for the truth that there is no absolute truth”), since absolute truth cannot logically exist without a locus of absolute truth.
      9. The objective purposelessness and meaninglessness of life and existence in general in the absence of a final and transcendent cause (No purposor = no objective purpose).   This is a non-provable assertion.
      10. An eventual complete materialistic explanation for every single aspect of human experience on the basis of science, otherwise known as materialistic reductionism/ scientism/ naturalist epistemology. Also implies the belief that “what science cannot tell us, mankind cannot know”(This is a logically self-contradictory assertion, since it is not a statement of science, and therefore cannot be known). It also effectively negates the existence of abstract ideas like love and beauty as mental illusions, since these are things which cannot be ontologically, scientifically established.
      11. All the implications of the philosophy of materialistic determinism including (but not exclusive to) the renunciation of free will.
      12. The negation of objective morality.
      13. Ancillary beliefs like Dawkins’ theory of the ‘alien designers’, Dennett and Krauss’ “ultimate bootstrap act” of the self-creating universe and many others. And, finally and most crucially;
      14. The positive assertion that there is No God.

      When it comes to the logically indefensible, positive claims made by atheism (such as these), it is the Christian who is the skeptic, and the atheist who is the true believer.


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    Robert says:

    Scott:

    I am proposing that you present your first argument against the existence of God in about 50 lines. If you really do need to go over, I understand…just make sure that, in going over, you do so with substantive argument rather than rhetoric and excess verbiage.

    When the rhetoric and excess verbiage is clearly coming from you, I see no need to agree to arbitrary limits within how many lines I may present my arguments. If yours are so compelling, then you should have no problem confining yourself to the limits you seek to impose on others. As I indicated previously, I shall proceed on my own blog from now on. How you respond is entirely up to you, but I’m guessing it won’t be confined to 50 lines.

    Regarding Richard Dawkins endorsement of directed panspermia. Here is a transcript of what he said in the Ben Stein interview.

    Why do you continue to ignore the link to Dawkins response to this? Is it beyond your abilities to conduct a search within your browser? Laziness or ignorance is a poor excuse for retaining a refuted belief. It seems I need to post the response in full (and thereby exceed my 50 line limit):

    “Another example. Toward the end of his interview with me, Stein asked whether I could think of any circumstances whatsoever under which intelligent design might have occurred. It’s the kind of challenge I relish, and I set myself the task of imagining the most plausible scenario I could. I wanted to give ID its best shot, however poor that best shot might be. I must have been feeling magnanimous that day, because I was aware that the leading advocates of Intelligent Design are very fond of protesting that they are not talking about God as the designer, but about some unnamed and unspecified intelligence, which might even be an alien from another planet. Indeed, this is the only way they differentiate themselves from fundamentalist creationists, and they do it only when they need to, in order to weasel their way around church/state separation laws. So, bending over backwards to accommodate the IDiots (“oh NOOOOO, of course we aren’t talking about God, this is SCIENCE”) and bending over backwards to make the best case I could for intelligent design, I constructed a science fiction scenario. Like Michael Ruse (as I surmise) I still hadn’t rumbled Stein, and I was charitable enough to think he was an honestly stupid man, sincerely seeking enlightenment from a scientist. I patiently explained to him that life could conceivably have been seeded on Earth by an alien intelligence from another planet (Francis Crick and Leslie Orgel suggested something similar — semi tongue-in-cheek). The conclusion I was heading towards was that, even in the highly unlikely event that some such ‘Directed Panspermia’ was responsible for designing life on this planet, the alien beings would THEMSELVES have to have evolved, if not by Darwinian selection, by some equivalent ‘crane’ (to quote Dan Dennett). My point here was that design can never be an ULTIMATE explanation for organized complexity. Even if life on Earth was seeded by intelligent designers on another planet, and even if the alien life form was itself seeded four billion years earlier, the regress must ultimately be terminated (and we have only some 13 billion years to play with because of the finite age of the universe). Organized complexity cannot just spontaneously happen. That, for goodness sake, is the creationists’ whole point, when they bang on about eyes and bacterial flagella! Evolution by natural selection is the only known process whereby organized complexity can ultimately come into being. Organized complexity — and that includes everything capable of designing anything intelligently — comes LATE into the universe. It cannot exist at the beginning, as I have explained again and again in my writings.”

    Ultimately, you are going to have to answer the question of what the source of the “high degree of ordering of the objective world” (that Einstein marveled at) is. If it is unintelligent mechanisms, you are still left with the question of where these mechanisms came from.

    I “need” to answer it? No, I don’t, but I’ll continue to provide what current scientific thinking is on the subject.

    Insofar as you’ve proposed the Goddidit hypothesis as an answer, we eagerly await evidence. So far, your “evidence” consists entirely of arguments from ignorance. This may satisfy committed theists, but given the repeated failure of such arguments (not to mention the hypothesis itself), you’ll excuse me if they remain less than convincing.

    I falsely suggest that you lean towards non-directed panspermia? Then what are you referring to when you say, “There is more and more evidence that life could have originated off earth,” in your most recent comment? Is the idea that life originated in space not what “panspermia” refers to?

    It’s considered polite etiquette to accurately quote. Here’s what I actually wrote (again):

    “Well, no. Dawkins and others are intrigued by panspermia because there is more and more evidence that life could have originated off earth.”

    As anyone can see, I believe Dawkins and others are interested in panspermia because there is evidence it’s possible.

    Did I state I found the evidence convincing, or even a likely explanation for the origin of life on earth? No. To me, there’s insufficient data to lean one way or another. It’s possible that panspermia seeds life on planets, but that Earth’s life was entirely homegrown.


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      Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 32 ) says:

      Robert:

      If you do not want to present an arguement against God, fine.

      Regarding Dawkins’ comments about his Ben Stein interview, I need to make a couple points. First, by bringing directed panspermia (space aliens) as one possible explanation for the origin of life, I am not trying to paint all atheists a weirdos. Rather, I am merely demonstrating that, behind all of the scientific posturing that frequently comes from atheist quarters, is a foundation of extra-sceintific religious belief. Atheists such as Dawkins prefer to be perceived as having only scientific (and not religious) beliefs. But (as I discuss in my essay titled “I Believe in Science, Why Do I Need Religion”), not only do atheists have extra-sceintific (and thereby religious/philosophical) beliefs, but these beliefs are in many cases logically unsupportable.

      In the Dawkins/Stein video, Dawkins says that the aliens themselves must have evolved, “probably by some sort of Darwinian means.” He also says, “Evolution by natural selection is the only known process by which organized complexity can ultimately come into being.”

      But as I have pointed out before, there is an UNSURMOUNTABLE problem to citing “some sort of Dawinian means” as the source for the origin of life from non-living matter. Darwinian natural selection is a mechanism that involves the random mutation of genes and the natural selection of reproductive offspring. Unfortunatly, non-living matter has neither genes to mutate nor reproductive offspring to naturally select.

      So forget about the whole aliens/panspermia thing for a moment. What atheists like Dawkins are doing is using their religious/philosophical beliefs to extrapolate a random source for the origin of life by starting with the (at least apparent) randomness present in the Darwinian mechanism. But this is a completely logically unsupportable extrapolation.

      You say that I provide the “goddidit” explanation for the origin of life. But this is a double edged sword. Atheists like Dawkins are using the “some-as-yet-to-be-discovered-random-process-diddit” explanation for the origin of life.

      Further, you suggest that I have not provided any evidence for what you refer to the “goddidit” hypothesis other than arguments from ignorance. However, you have failed to respond to the evidence that I have presented in “What It All Boils Down To,” which demonstrates that consciousness is the “ultimate reality” or the something-that-has-always-existed. I am of course referring to God’s consciousness.

      Still further, you may want to respond to the evidence I present in “Is There A God? (What is the chance that our world is a result of chance?)” In this essay, I demonsrate that a theistic explanation for the origin of the universe is the explanation most strongly supported by modern cosmology.

      Lastly, you may want to respond to the evidence that I present in “Has Anyone Met God and Returned to Tell About It?” In this essay, I cite the conclusions of 3 decades of research, which state that an encounter with God is a common thread to many near-death experiences. And, yes, this does include near-death experiences that atheists have had (as I demonstrate in “When I Die, Is That It?”).


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    Robert says:

    Scott wrote,

    The tactic that I see you using here is that you are trying to lay down huge quantity of argument in hopes that I will not respond to some of it.

    As I demonstrated above, it is you who is laying down the huge quantities of argument. My replies have been shorter than which they replied to. Your sustained practice is to respond with even more volume. I won’t pretend to know your motivations, though I’ve noticed that theists often accuse atheists of what they themselves are guilty.

    So here is what we will do: Go ahead and present what you consider to be your toughest and strongest argument, that you think I will have the hardest time responding to. Just keep it to about 50 lines. When we have beaten that horse to death, we will go on to what you think is your next strongest argument.

    Because it is clearly you who has the problem with limiting quantity, not me, by your own standard it is you who should limit their posts to no more than 50 lines.

    If that’s not your desire, then what I will do is respond to you from my own blog, where there are no silly policies – ad hoc or otherwise – restricting what anyone may say. What you will do in turn is entirely up to you.

    Please specify which arguments that I “am forced to retreat from.” I know that you really want to create this illusion. But if I am doing so, then please specify exactly which arguments that I have retreated from. Have I retreated from my argument against the aliens-brought-life-to-earth-in-their-spaceship hypothesis presented by various atheist biologists? Have I been forced to accept, by weight of argument, that this is in fact how life originated on earth? Or was it the life-came-to-earth-from-space-without-aliens argument that you seem to lean towards?

    I certainly will be pointing those out, though I recognize that fool-proof evidence against your arguments won’t sometimes make you admit it, if the above example is any indication. It boggles that you’re still bringing this up. Are you purposely ignoring what I wrote?

    “Well, no. Dawkins and others are intrigued by panspermia because there is more and more evidence that life could have originated off earth.”

    “I know Crick and Orgel proposed something like this, known as “directed panspermia”. But I can’t find where Dawkins endorses the view. You reference his interview with Ben Stein, but it’s obvious Dawkins wasn’t endorsing directed panspermia, as he was forced to remind everyone later.”

    You’re dredging up something two deceased scientists suggested forty years ago, and then later backed away from. Then you falsely charge Dawkins with promoting the idea. You also falsely stated I “lean towards” non-directed panspermia.

    What gives, Scott? Does the god you follow reward its followers for lying on its behalf or something?


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      Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 32 ) says:

      Robert:

      When I asked you for “your toughest and strongest argument that you think I will have the hardest time responding to,” I was specifically asking for your strongest argument against the existence of God. I really wasn’t looking for your strongest argument against my point that you write huge comments. If you feel that I am the one trying to hide behind quantity of argument, so as to conceal the lack of quality of my argument, here is your chance to demonstrate that. I am proposing that you present your first argument against the existence of God in about 50 lines. If you really do need to go over, I understand…just make sure that, in going over, you do so with substantive argument rather than rhetoric and excess verbiage.

      Regarding Richard Dawkins endorsement of directed panspermia. Here is a transcript of what he said in the Ben Stein interview. If you want to watch the video again, click here.

      Dawkins said: “It could be that at some earlier time, somewhere in the universe, a civilization evolved, probably by some kind of Darwinian means, to a very high level of technology and designed a form of life that they seeded onto perhaps this planet. That is a possibility, and an intriguing possibility.”

      Aliens designing a form of life and seeding it onto Earth is what the term “directed panspermia” refers to. How can it be “obvious Dawkins wasn’t endorsing directed panspermia,” as you say, considering these comments? He is clearly endorsing directed panspermia as one possible explanation for the origin of life. If this is not the case, am I some how misinterpreting his comments that I transcribe above? What is the correct interpretation? Is the correct interpretation contained somewhere in the article that you linked to? If that is the case, please describe for me what the correct interpretation is so that I (as well as other readers) don’t have to go digging through the web page that you link to. Just do a copy and paste of the 2 or so most pertinent paragraphs from the article that you link to.

      So when atheists insist that life originated from an unintelligent source, it is obvious that they hold this belief for ideological rather than logical reasons. If they had a good explanation for the origin of life that involved an unintelligent source, I am quite sure that they would cite that unintelligent source rather than citing such things as space aliens and piggyback rides on crystals (as the atheist biologist Michael Ruse did).

      Crick and Orgel endorsed “directed panspermia” 40 years ago? They then retracted their endorsement? Fine…what explanations for the origin of life have come from the ranks of atheists since then? What did Crick and Orgel replace their endorsement of directed panspermia with? I will remind you that merely citing some sort of theoretical unintelligent mechanism does nothing. This is because citing such a mechanism immediately leaves us with the question of where this mechanism came from. Ultimately, you are going to have to answer the question of what the source of the “high degree of ordering of the objective world” (that Einstein marveled at) is. If it is unintelligent mechanisms, you are still left with the question of where these mechanisms came from.

      Further, these mechanisms require a structure within which to operate. A copy and paste from my Riddles for Atheists post:

      How did reality come to be structured such that there are fundamental laws of nature and a hierarchy of intelligence in the natural world? Even if natural selection is cited as the mechanism for this state of affairs, our question remains unanswered since the mechanism can only work within a structure. How did this structure originate? Why is reality structured so that random mutation and natural selection, for example, can occur?

      I falsely suggest that you lean towards non-directed panspermia? Then what are you referring to when you say, “There is more and more evidence that life could have originated off earth,” in your most recent comment? Is the idea that life originated in space not what “panspermia” refers to?

      Accusing me of lying when the proof that I am telling the truth is front-and-center for everyone to see is also not an argument against God. So please get back on topic and present what you think is your best argument.


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    Robert says:

    Scott wrote,

    You use quantity of argument as a tactic to disguise the lack of quality of your argument. Why is is necessary for you to write such a HUGE comment? If your logical arguments are so persuasive, why can’t you summarize them in a few nutshell paragraphs?

    From this point forward, I am limiting your replies to 50 lines per day. I have had to do this once in the past with another atheist who tried to spam me out and consume all of my time by writing huge, rambling replies instead of concise, point-by-point logical arguments.

    This is rich! Who’s trying to “spam” the other out with huge, rambling replies? Let’s count the words! (Numbers doen’t include quotes taken from replies):

    My reply of March 23: 400 words

    Your reply of March 23: 1,400 words

    My reply of March 26: 700 words

    Your reply of March 27: 2,800 words

    My reply of April 2: 1,350 words

    Your reply of April 4: 4,000 words

    My reply of April 16th: 3,650 words

    Your reply of April 18th: 6,600 words

    In every single case, I actually use fewer words to reply to you, and in every single case you come back with even more!

    And if that wasn’t enough, you replied for other participants when they didn’t reply to me.

    Yes, indeed: “You use quantity of argument as a tactic to disguise the lack of quality of your argument. Why is is necessary for you to write such a HUGE comment? If your logical arguments are so persuasive, why can’t you summarize them in a few nutshell paragraphs?”

    Little wonder you wish to cease the conversation. Not only are you forced to retreat from your own arguments, but it takes you even more and more words to defend what arguments you have left.

    But perhaps the most amazing thing of all, in all those words not a single shred of evidence for a god is actually ever provided.


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      Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 32 ) says:

      Robert:

      I do not wish to cease the conversation.

      I responded with huge amounts of material because your comments included huge amounts of material. The tactic that I see you using here is that you are trying to lay down huge quantity of argument in hopes that I will not respond to some of it. This in turn will create the illusion that I can’t respond to some of it. But, by responding to your arguments in full, I am demonstrating that I will not let you create this illusion.

      So here is what we will do: Go ahead and present what you consider to be your toughest and strongest argument, that you think I will have the hardest time responding to. Just keep it to about 50 lines. When we have beaten that horse to death, we will go on to what you think is your next strongest argument.

      That way we will be able to have a debate that focuses on logical arguments, and not on the endurance of the debaters.

      Please specify which arguments that I “am forced to retreat from.” I know that you really want to create this illusion. But if I am doing so, then please specify exactly which arguments that I have retreated from. Have I retreated from my argument against the aliens-brought-life-to-earth-in-their-spaceship hypothesis presented by various atheist biologists? Have I been forced to accept, by weight of argument, that this is in fact how life originated on earth? Or was it the life-came-to-earth-from-space-without-aliens argument that you seem to lean towards?

      Have I been forced to retreat from my opposition to the universe-from-nothing argument presented by certain atheist physicists (even though the most rudimentary philosophical inquiry dictates that nothingness cannot cause anything to happen or to exist)?

      If you can’t specify which arguments I have retreated from, it will just be further evidence that you are trying to create an illusion that there are arguments that I cannot respond to.

      Please read my latest essay titled I Believe in Science! Why Do I Need Religion?! It specifically addresses your contention that “science is better than philosophy.”


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    Robert says:

    I am sure that there are counter-cases? But what would this demonstrate? Please present the alternative to theism that non-materialist atheists present? I am curious.

    Perhaps the best example of non-materialist atheism is animism. Animism, which is a very old proto-religion, sees everything has having a non-material soul, but does not hold a belief in a supreme deity or deities.

    Robert, there you go again. You have just constructed another PHILOSOPHICAL argument for why science is superior to philosophy.

    Sorry, your logic eludes me. Are you denying there is more unanimity in science than in philosophy? Are you denying that science possesses a method for weeding out false hypotheses and ideas, in contrast to philosophy?

    Further, atheism is a PHILOSOPHICAL view. Atheism cannot be a scientific view because the methods of science cannot demonstrate that there is no God because science studies the physical and natural world and God is alleged to exist outside of the physical and natural world.

    It’s news to me that atheism is a PHILOSOPHICAL view. Is a-unicornism a PHILOSOPHICAL view? Is non-stamp collecting a hobby too?

    I never claimed that atheism is a scientific view. Rather, it’s a view resulting from the failure to substantiate the theistic hypothesis. Sure, science is a major contributor in this failure, which probably explains why the vast majority of scientists are atheists, but there other reasons as well, some of which are philosophical.

    Yes, one conception of “god” has him/her/it living outside the physical and natural world, while others have god as synonomous with it. However, many religions, like Christianity, assert that “god” frequently interacts with the physical and natural world (e.g., “faith healing”), and as such, is amenable to scientific inquiry. Unfortunately, scientists have failed to substantiate such assertions, and believe me, they’ve tried.

    But what scientific axioms from the time of the ancient Greeks are still referenced by modern scientists? The classical scientific view that the world is constructed of the four primary elements of earth, air, fire, and water?

    The classical scientific view? Did you even read your own source?

    “Many philosophies and worldviews have a set of classical elements believed to reflect the simplest essential parts and principles of which anything consists or upon which the constitution and fundamental powers of anything are based.”

    “The concept of the five elements formed a basis of analysis in both Hinduism and Buddhism.”

    “The concept of the five classical elements in the Western tradition originates from Babylonian mythology.”

    “Plato characterizes the elements as being pre-Socratic in origin from a list created by the Sicilian philosopher Empedocles (ca. 450 BC).” (emphasis mine)

    Science has a proven method for weeding out false hypotheses and ideas, whereas philosophy doesn’t?!?! Then why were scientists not able to weed out the scientific view that bloodletting (which says that blood and other bodily fluid are “humors” that must be balanced to maintain health) is a good medical practice?

    Good question! Fortunately, theistic philosophers (and not scientists) demonstrated it’s actually harmful.

    So I suppose it’s true, philosophy, and especially theology, has a proven method for weeding out error, which is why there is only one religion and everyone worships the exact same god as you do. Could you just do me the favor and remind me of its method again?

    I don’t feel any need to discuss the theory of evolution with you because the theory of evolution is utterly irrelevant with regards to the question of God’s existence.

    As I noted already, the theory of evolution makes your uber-mind look like a bungling tinkerer, so it’s little wonder why you wish to ignore it. Nonetheless, depending on what “god” you’re talking about, it’s clear evolution IS relevant – at least to some theists.


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      Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 32 ) says:

      Perhaps the best example of non-materialist atheism is animism. Animism, which is a very old proto-religion, sees everything has having a non-material soul, but does not hold a belief in a supreme deity or deities.

      So, under animism, is the ultimate reality mindless matter (as in materialism), or something else? Are you saying that you are not a materialist? I would like for you to make this clear.

      Sorry, your logic eludes me. Are you denying there is more unanimity in science than in philosophy? Are you denying that science possesses a method for weeding out false hypotheses and ideas, in contrast to philosophy?

      More unanimity in science than in philosophy? That would be extremely difficult to demonstrate. How would you demonstrate such a claim? By running a survey of scientists and another survey of philosophers? What questions would you ask them? Would you ask them, “How many times in the last week have you disagreed with a colleague?”

      Further, what would such a claim, even if verified, demonstrate?

      The point is this (a copy and paste from my reply to your other comment):

      Take the statement, “The only kind of knowledge that we can have is scientific knowledge” (which you seem to believe). This is a self-defeating statement. Philosopher Mikael Stenmark comments in his book Scientism: Science, Ethics and Religion:

      The problem is that the scientistic [not to be confused with “scientific”] belief that we can only know what science can tell us seems to be something that science cannot tell us. How can one set up a scientific experiment to demonstrate the truth of T1 [“T1” is Stenmark’s symbol for the premise, “The only kind of knowledge that we can have is scientific knowledge.”] What methods in, for instance, biology or physics are suitable for such a task? Well, hardly those methods that make it possible for scientists to discover and explain electrons, protons, genes, survival mechanisms and natural selection. Furthermore, it is not because the content of this belief is too small, too distant, or too far in the past for science to determine its truth-value (or probability). Rather it is that beliefs of this sort are not subject to scientific inquiry. We cannot come to know T1 by appeal to science alone. T1 is rather a view in the theory of knowledge and is, therefore, a piece of philosophy and not a piece of science. But if this is the case, then T1 is self-refuting. If T1 is true, then it is false. T1 falsifies itself.

      And the same is true with such statements as, “Science alone can answer our existential questions and explain as well as replace traditional religion.” Such a statement is self-refuting because it is not a scientific statement. Perhaps that is why Einstein said, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

      Robert, a statement such as, “Because of the lack of immediately apparent intelligence present in the Darwinian mechanism of random mutation and natural selection, we can extrapolate that there is no God,” is NOT A SCIENTIFIC STATEMENT. Rather, it is a philosophical statement. To get from the observational data of biology to a conclusion such as, “There is no God,” one must embark in philosophy.

      It’s news to me that atheism is a PHILOSOPHICAL view. Is a-unicornism a PHILOSOPHICAL view? Is non-stamp collecting a hobby too?

      If atheism is not a philosophy, why do so many philosophers (Hume, Nietzsche, Sartre, Ayer, Diderot, Mill, etc.) spend so many volumes writing about the subject? Why is there such a thing as an atheist philosopher? Yes, “there is no such thing as unicorns” is a philosophical view. It certainly is not a topic that many philosophers would spend time on, but it is a philosophical view nevertheless.

      I never claimed that atheism is a scientific view. Rather, it’s a view resulting from the failure to substantiate the theistic hypothesis. Sure, science is a major contributor in this failure, which probably explains why the vast majority of scientists are atheists, but there other reasons as well, some of which are philosophical.

      Citing statistics regarding the percentage of atheists in the scientific community is a treacherous road. Click here to read about a study conducted by a Rice University sociologist which says that,

      “About two-thirds of scientists believe in God, according to a new survey that uncovered stark differences based on the type of research they do.
      The study, along with another one released in June, would appear to debunk the oft-held notion that science is incompatible with religion.”

      Moreover, what would the rate of belief/disbelief in God within the scientific community demonstrate? I think Lynn Margulis (winner of the U.S. Presidential Medal for Science) put it best:

      “…people are always more loyal to their tribal group than to any abstract notion of ‘truth’ – scientists especially. If not they are unemployable. It is professional suicide to continually contradict one’s teachers or social leaders.”

      And the late Harvard University paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould hit the nail on the head when he said:

      “Unconscious or dimly perceived finagling is probably endemic in science, since scientists are human beings rooted in cultural contexts, not automatons directed toward external truth.”

      It may be that there is a strong cultural context in favor of atheism within certain branches of science, such as biology. But what is the relevance of a cultural context?

      Yes, one conception of “god” has him/her/it living outside the physical and natural world, while others have god as synonomous with it. However, many religions, like Christianity, assert that “god” frequently interacts with the physical and natural world (e.g., “faith healing”), and as such, is amenable to scientific inquiry. Unfortunately, scientists have failed to substantiate such assertions, and believe me, they’ve tried.

      Whether or not God interacts with the physical world is not something that the methods of science are equipped to determine. The methods of science are not equipped to determine a lot of things. How would the methods of science determine whether or not I think the clothes someone is wearing are fashionable? How would the methods of science determine whether or not I experience the color blue in the same way that you do?

      The classical scientific view? Did you even read your own source? “Many philosophies and worldviews have a set of classical elements believed to reflect the simplest essential parts and principles of which anything consists or upon which the constitution and fundamental powers of anything are based.”

      Yes, I did. Later in the post, it says “The Aristotelian tradition and medieval Alchemy eventually gave rise to modern scientific theories and new taxonomies.”

      Good question! Fortunately, theistic philosophers (and not scientists) demonstrated it’s actually harmful.

      Bloodletting was almost unanimously accepted among scientists for almost 2000 years. This is not meant to mock science, but rather to demonstrate the provisional nature of scientific conclusions.

      So I suppose it’s true, philosophy, and especially theology, has a proven method for weeding out error, which is why there is only one religion and everyone worships the exact same god as you do. Could you just do me the favor and remind me of its method again?

      And there is more than one atheism, as you can learn by clicking here. What is the method for weeding out what is the right type of atheism?

      As I noted already, the theory of evolution makes your uber-mind look like a bungling tinkerer, so it’s little wonder why you wish to ignore it. Nonetheless, depending on what “god” you’re talking about, it’s clear evolution IS relevant – at least to some theists.

      We need to break this down so that is clear what about what is science and what is philosophy:

      1) Scientific theory:

      “A mechanism known as random mutation and natural selection is responsible for the diversification of life from a common ancestor.”

      2) Shoddy, over-reaching and logically unsupportable philosophical (and specifically, ontological) conclusion derived from this scientific theory:

      “The lack of clearly apparent intelligence involved in this mechanism for the diversification of life can be used to extrapolate a lack of intelligence involved anywhere in the phenomenon of life…or even in the high degree of ordering present anywhere else in the objective world. Even the source of this mechanism, and the source for the origin of life itself, are mechanistic and mindless. The high degree of ordering of the objective world is not the result of mind, but rather, just is. We can know all of these things because this mechanism for the diversification of life (from an immensely complex putative common ancestor) does not itself display any clearly apparent intelligence. ”


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    Robert says:

    Scott, you wrote:

    No, I am saying that atheism requires much more blind faith than does theism. And faith should not be blind, rather it should be scrutinized like everything else, and the atheist faith does not withstand scrutiny.

    Ok, blind faith is the real trouble. This prompts two questions: 1) What is the difference between faith and “blind” faith? 2) How much blind faith comprises your theism?

    Also, it’s fair to note that depending on your notion of a god or gods, blind faith could very well be a supreme virtue; your theism doesn’t speak for all theism.

    For example, in this essay, I ask the question of how it can be that matter so consistently follows physical laws (such as the laws of physics). Theism answers that matter follows such laws because the same mind that creates matter also directs it. What answer does atheism provide? Matter follows physical laws because “it just does.”

    Theism doesn’t “answer”; theism asserts. Atheism, on the other hand, is not in the business of making assertions or providing answers. That’s the job of other endeavors, like science.

    That said, “the laws of physics” are a bit of a misnomer. As physicist Victor Stenger notes, “[They are not] rules somehow built into the structure of the universe. They are ingredients of the models that physicists invent to describe observations. Rather than being restrictions on the behavior of matter, the laws of physics are restrictions on the behavior of physicists.”

    Finally, the theist’s assertion for why this “mind” exists at all? “It just does”. How does a non-material “mind” create energy and matter at all? “It just does”. Pot, meet kettle. :)

    I really like this article from the New York Times about Lawrence Krauss.

    Regardless of what the philosopher-reviewer thought about Krauss’s hypothesis, the point was to show, contra your claim, that not everyone believes “something has always existed”. As for his alleged “egregious philosophical errors”, these frankly are of little concern. Philosophy is not some unified body of thought or standard to which other human endeavors must conform. In a conflict between the two, I’ll err on the side of science, which has a far better track record of discovering what’s true about our existence than philosophy. Both aren’t perfect, but philosophy is far less so than science.

    Consciousness (God’s mind) is the ultimate reality.

    Yes, that’s the assertion. But if mind only comes from mind, then the assertion collapses upon itself.

    What you’re doing is begging the question; you’re holding as true (“God’s mind is the ultimate reality”) that which is just an assertion.

    Please elaborate on where you are going with this. It is not clear.

    Sorry for the confusion. You wrote that “the idea of a preexistent mind without a body may seem foreign, even alien, to many people initially”. I don’t see how such an idea is “foreign” at all. As I said, this idea has been the dominant paradigm for much of history. It’s the reverse idea – there is no preexistent mind without a body – that in fact may seem foreign, even alien, to many people initially.

    Yes, Richard, most scientists do adopt this view.

    Steve, it’s Robert, if you recall. ;)

    But citing scientific consensus by itself is a clear-cut case of the logical fallacy of “argument from authority.” The reasoning behind the scientific consensus must be subjected to scrutiny because scientific consensus has been shown to provide inadequate explanatons innumerable times before”.

    You’ve misunderstood the fallacy. “Appeal to authority” is a fallacy when the individual(s) making the claim is not a legitimate authority. It’s legitimate and reasonable to appeal to expert consensus.

    I explain the philosophical flaws in the “reductive materialism” view.

    What makes philosophers, or, more accurately, a few philosophers, experts on neuroscience? Ironically, you’re the one here making fallacious appeals to authority.

    Oh, OK. Then you think that consciousness and personhood are the same as matter? Do I have that right? Is matter conscious? Is the chair that I am sitting in conscious?

    No, I don’t believe that. But I do believe that inanimate carbon rod is conscious!

    When you refer to “God of the gaps,” you are going right back to the assumption that matter is the “ultimate reality” and that therefore, there is a gap that can be bridged between matter and mind.

    As opposed to the “fact” that God-mind is the ultimate reality? Again, you’re begging the question.

    Theists make a claim about the existence of god(s). In attempting to substantiate that claim, they appeal to gaps in our understanding, such as how consciousness develops. They don’t see how (or refuse to see how) unguided natural processes acting on natural substances produce certain outcomes. Ergo, Jesus, or Allah, or Zeus, or Yahweh, or Mazda, or… Sorry, such reasoning has been continuously obliterated; the gaps narrow and close, but theists just keep moving god into the ones that remain.

    If something is currently unexplainable, the reasonable response is “We don’t know how, but let’s try to find out”, NOT “Goddidit”.

    Can you locate some consciousness under a microscope? Matter can be spotted under a microscope but consciousness cannot. Can you isolate some consciousness in a test tube?

    These are childish objections that evince a poor understanding of science. Can gravity be spotted under a microscope? Can you isolate some gravity in a test tube?

    In my essay titled “Why Life Could Not Have Emerged Without God”, I detail how miserably atheists have done at explaining the origin of life from lifeless matter.

    The example of evolution was to show that, what was once considered an impossibility without a god, i.e., diversity and complexity of life, is actually possible. Now that evolution is a settled matter, theists now claim that other phenomena – abiogenesis, consciousness – are impossible without a god. They can’t explain how, you say, it must be god! Such reasoning has always failed miserably in the past. It takes no faith at all to think that science will eventually solve those mysteries too.


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      Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 32 ) says:

      Robert, below I have indented your comments and put them in italics, and then inserted my replies in between:

      Ok, blind faith is the real trouble. This prompts two questions: 1) What is the difference between faith and “blind” faith? 2) How much blind faith comprises your theism?

      Also, it’s fair to note that depending on your notion of a god or gods, blind faith could very well be a supreme virtue; your theism doesn’t speak for all theism.

      Robert, as I said in my last post, it is all about having a “faith” that withstands rational scrutiny. Atheists are often fond of declaring that they don’t have any faith, but this is ridiculous because the only way to not have any faith is to have access to total knowledge. In your above reply, for example, you express belief that mindless natural processes will eventually explain the origin of life from lifeless matter. This is faith, open-and-shut. And this is despite the fact that, for example, as I detail in Why Life Could Not Have Emerged Without God, living things utilize coding languages that communicate meaning through symbolic representation. The coding and decoding (as well as the storage) of information is clearly a mental process. You apparently have FAITH that non-mental processes will be discovered someday to explain something that is clearly only explainable as the product of a mind.

      No, my theism does not speak for all theism…but what does this have to do with anything? Your atheism cannot speak for all atheism because there are numerous different sects of atheism as this post describes.

      Theism doesn’t “answer”; theism asserts. Atheism, on the other hand, is not in the business of making assertions or providing answers. That’s the job of other endeavors, like science.

      Quite the reverse, Robert. You have, quite embarrassingly, failed to notice that your above statement, “theism doesn’t ‘answer’; theism asserts,” is itself an empty ASSERTION. Atheism is not in the business of making assertions or providing answers? Then statements such as “everything can be explained as the result of mindless processes” is not an answer to a philosophical question about the nature of the universe?! If atheism is not an answer to a philosophical question about the nature of the universe, then please explain what it is? This is bizarre.

      That said, “the laws of physics” are a bit of a misnomer. As physicist Victor Stenger notes, “[They are not] rules somehow built into the structure of the universe. They are ingredients of the models that physicists invent to describe observations. Rather than being restrictions on the behavior of matter, the laws of physics are restrictions on the behavior of physicists.”

      OK, fine, “the laws of physics” is a misnomer, if you wish. They are not “rules somehow built into the structure of the universe.” But this semantic shift, or change in terminology, is a way for you to avoid answering a question that atheism cannot answer. It achieves nothing. Why is it that matter so consistently behaves in specific ways? Whether or not you use the term “laws of physics,” and however you choose to discuss or describe these “laws” (or whatever you want to call them), is utterly irrelevant. Why is it that matter so consistently behaves is specific ways? In the theistic model, it is obvious. The same mind that creates matter also directs it. In the atheistic model, we are stuck without any answer. So I will ask you again, Robert, WHY IS IT THAT MATTER FOLLOWS LAWS OF PHYSICS…or “regularities” or whatever you want to call them?! Are you going to deny that matter very consistently behaves in very predictable ways? When you bounce a basketball, it gives you a very predictable result…or else it would be impossible to play basketball. Is this a restriction on how the basketball (matter) behaves, or is it “a restriction on the behavior of physicists”?

      Finally, the theist’s assertion for why this “mind” exists at all? “It just does”. How does a non-material “mind” create energy and matter at all? “It just does”. Pot, meet kettle. :)

      Yes, a pre-existent non-material mind is a “just is”, the ultimate reality. And as this essay describes, both atheists and theists tend to agree that there must be an ultimate reality, or ONE “just is.” If there were not ONE “just is” (or ultimate reality), there would be nothingness because, if ever there were nothing, there would STILL be nothingness because only nothing comes from nothingness. So atheists and theists have solid rational reasons for believing in ONE “just is.”

      The problem with atheism is that the atheist ultimate reality (mindless matter) does not have any mechanism for producing consciousness, intelligence, or personhood, etc. Therefore, atheism requires numerous other just is assumptions in addition to its ultimate reality…and there is no rational reason to accept anything more than ONE just is. Albert Einstein wrote: “You find it strange that I consider the comprehensibility of the world (to the extent that we are authorized to speak of such a comprehensibility) as a miracle or as an eternal mystery. Well, a priori, one should expect a chaotic world, which cannot be grasped by the mind in any way… the kind of order created by Newton’s theory or gravitation, for example, is wholly different. Even if man proposes the axioms of the theory, the success of such a project presupposes a high degree of ordering of the objective world, and this could not be expected a priori. That is the ‘miracle’ which is constantly reinforced as our knowledge expands.”

      So I will ask you straight up, Robert, WHAT IS THE SOURCE of this “high degree of ordering of the objective world” if the ultimate reality is mindless matter? Would it be the case that this ordering “just is”? What is it about highly complicated matter that it eventually produces consciousness (in human brains)? Would it be the case that this consciousness “just appears” when the brain becomes complex enough through evolution? I challenge you to produce answers to these questions without indulging in just-so storytelling.

      Regardless of what the philosopher-reviewer thought about Krauss’s hypothesis, the point was to show, contra your claim, that not everyone believes “something has always existed”. As for his alleged “egregious philosophical errors”, these frankly are of little concern. Philosophy is not some unified body of thought or standard to which other human endeavors must conform. In a conflict between the two, I’ll err on the side of science, which has a far better track record of discovering what’s true about our existence than philosophy. Both aren’t perfect, but philosophy is far less so than science.

      OK, fine. Let’s assume that something has NOT always existed. Then at one point there was absolutely nothing and now there is something. Please describe for me either scientifically or philosophically how this can be. How can nothingness cause anything to exist or to happen? What is your alternate explanation? Krauss tries to show that something comes from nothing, but his “nothing” is actually the laws of quantum mechanics…and then he admits that he cannot explain where these laws came from. So his “nothing” is actually something…he commits an open-and-shut equivocation that any child could detect.

      In a “conflict between the two [science and philosophy]” you will “err on the side of science”? When you reject the philosophical conclusions of the reviewer, you are adopting a different philosophical conclusion. Both “something can come from nothing” and “something cannot come from nothing” are philosophical conclusions. It is not the case that one of them is philosophical and the other is scientific. Rather, both are philosophical conclusions that are derived from science. You confuse your philosophy with science. It would be impossible to use the methods of science to show how something could come from nothing. Krauss tries to do this, but embarasses himself in the process by foolishly declaring the laws of quantum mechanics to be “nothing.”

      When you say, “both aren’t perfect, but philosophy is far less so than science,” you are making a PHILOSOPHICAL statement. And atheism is a PHILOSOPHICAL stance. Are you going to reject atheism in favor of science? I hope so.

      You’ve misunderstood the fallacy. “Appeal to authority” is a fallacy when the individual(s) making the claim is not a legitimate authority. It’s legitimate and reasonable to appeal to expert consensus.

      OK, fine. I will assume that is what the “appeal to authority” is. But the logical fallacy of argument from authority is something different. Argument from authority is the logical fallacy that occurs when someone says that something must be true just because a person or persons of authority say it is. It is perfectly legitimate to cite authorities as evidence to support a conclusion. This only becomes the logical fallacy of argument from authority when one does not include the reasoning behind the authority’s conclusions. For example, the first of the below statements does not commit the logical fallacy of argument from authority, but the second one does.

      1) SURGEON GENERAL WARNING: Smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, and may complicate pregnancy. Therefore, it is better for your health to not smoke.

      2) SURGEON GENERAL WARNING: The surgeon general says it is not healthy to smoke, and he is a really smart guy with a lot of credentials who knows what he is talking about. Therefore, it is far better for your health to not smoke.

      My point is that when you cite scientific consensus to support the conclusion that consciousness is the result of brain activity, you have done so without the necessary scientific reasoning that must support such a conclusion. And you can’t because there is no scientific reasoning to support such a conclusion. In fact, the idea that the brain can produce consciousness when it becomes complicated enough is NOT A SCIENTIFIC CONCLUSION at all. Rather, it is a paradigm, or a belief that is an element of a theoretical framework which is necessary for the conduct of science. As Thomas Kuhn explains in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, it is impossible for a group of people to conduct science without an underlying theoretical framework or “paradigm.” But paradigms are not the result of scientific inquiry…rather they precede and underlie the conduct of science.

      So, for example, when scientists decided to agree that light waves travel through “ether” (as was almost unanimously agreed upon by scientists a little over a century ago), they did so not because they had actually scientifically demonstrated the existence of “ether.” (And in fact, they couldn’t have because, as we know now, there is no such thing as “ether”.) Rather, they did so because they needed a common, agreed upon theoretical framework in order to collaborate in the conduct of science. I am not mocking science, rather, I am trying to demonstrate that it cannot be conducted without a set of underlying, and yet unprovable, assumptions.

      In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn wrote:

      “Observation and experience can and must drastically restrict the range of admissible scientific belief, else there would be no science. But they cannot alone determine a particular body of such belief. An apparently arbitrary element, compounded of personal and historical accident, is always a formative ingredient of the beliefs espoused by a given scientific community at a given time.”

      And the view that the brain can produce consciousness is an “arbitrary element, compounded of personal and historical accident,” not the result of “observation and experience.” Are you going to suggest that scientists have observed brains producing consciousness? This would be impossible because all that scientists can determine through observation and experiment is that brains HAVE consciousness. The view that brains work as a sort of TV set or “receiver” for consciousness is just as plausible (actually more so) than the view that brain produce consciousness. Scientists adopt the view that brains “produce” consciousness because of the “personal and historical accident” that materialism/naturalism is the reigning philosophical system within certain branches of academia, as I explain in If the Evidence for God Is So Strong, Why Are So Many Smart People Unconvinced?

      What makes philosophers, or, more accurately, a few philosophers, experts on neuroscience? Ironically, you’re the one here making fallacious appeals to authority.

      Nothing makes them experts on neuroscience. They are not engaging in neuroscience…rather, they are engaging in the philosophical conclusions that can be made as a result of the conclusions of neuroscience.

      I am not making “fallacious appeals to authority” because, when I cite experts, it is accompanied by the reasoning behind the expert conclusions. When you cite expert opinion that brains can produce consciousness, you do so without also producing the reasoning behind these opinions. Scientists are human beings just like everyone else, and therefore, they believe things for scientific reasons, and they also believe things for philosophical reasons. Without any scientific reasoning to support the view that brains produce consciousness, what reason do we have to think that this view is not a theoretical presupposition (or paradigm)….much like the light-travels-through-ether view that was virtually unanimously agreed upon by scientists for many years?

      No, I don’t believe that. But I do believe that inanimate carbon rod is conscious!

      Is that how you are going to dodge a question that is inconvenient to your ideology…by using a joke? This is just further evidence that you can’t answer the question.

      As opposed to the “fact” that God-mind is the ultimate reality? Again, you’re begging the question.

      Theists make a claim about the existence of god(s). In attempting to substantiate that claim, they appeal to gaps in our understanding, such as how consciousness develops. They don’t see how (or refuse to see how) unguided natural processes acting on natural substances produce certain outcomes. Ergo, Jesus, or Allah, or Zeus, or Yahweh, or Mazda, or… Sorry, such reasoning has been continuously obliterated; the gaps narrow and close, but theists just keep moving god into the ones that remain.

      If something is currently unexplainable, the reasonable response is “We don’t know how, but let’s try to find out”, NOT “Goddidit”.

      Once again, with the theistic model, THERE ARE NO EXPLANATORY GAPS TO BE BRIDGED. It is only with the matter-first model that there appear all sorts of explanatory gaps. This is because mindless matter cannot cause anything to happen….it is causally inert. You are committing circular reasoning

      It is not “God of the gaps,” rather, it is “God of the whole show.”

      Atheists make a claim about mindless matter being able to do things that it very clearly and transparently cannot do…like create life, consciousness, intelligence, and personhood. And citing “unguided natural processes acting on natural substances” provides no explanation whatsoever because then the question immediately becomes, “Where did the natural processes come from?” Below is a pertinent excerpt from my essay Why Evolution Cannot Be Used to Rationalize Atheism:

      Oxford University mathematician John Lennox writes in his book God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?:

      “For, from one point of view, there is nothing controversial in describing forces or mechanisms as ‘blind’. Quite obviously, most are. The strong and weak nuclear forces, electromagnetism and gravity have no eyes to see with, either physical or mental. And most mechanisms are blind — think of a watch, a car, a CD player, a computer hard-disc. Moreover, they are not only blind but also unconscious; indeed, to be even more precise, they are incapable of conscious thought since they have no mind to think with. But those mechanisms, though blind in themselves, are all the products of minds that are far from being blind; such mechanisms are intelligently designed. What is more, this holds even for mechanisms that involve an element of randomness in their operation.”

      Lennox provides a simple thought experiment as an illustration, which I shall paraphrase: Imagine an automobile factory in which all of the manufacturing is done by robots. Can we declare that, because all of the work is accomplished by robots, no intelligence is involved in the manufacturing process? To make such a declaration, we would need to also declare that the robots, the software that guides the robots, and the factory itself were not the products of intelligence. But any reasonable person can see that this is not the case…human intelligence was clearly involved.

      You see, all that citing “unguided natural processes acting on natural substances” does is DELAY answering the question of how mindless matter can eventually become conscious, intelligent persons. OK fine, the mechanism itself is mindless (if you want it to be)….but then where did the mechanism come from? The robots in the above excerpt are a mindless mechanism, but they clearly did not, in turn, come from mindless mechanisms. Atheists can keep delaying the question, but eventually they will have to answer why it is that there is this “high degree of ordering of the objective world” that Einstein referred to.

      And, once again, the gaps in explanation only emerge when atheists make mindless matter the ultimate reality in order to satisfy ideological desires.

      These are childish objections that evince a poor understanding of science. Can gravity be spotted under a microscope? Can you isolate some gravity in a test tube?

      No, but gravity can be subjected to scientific experiment. All I have to do is pick up a rock and drop it and I have scientifically demonstrated gravity. How can the idea that consciousness and matter are the same thing be subjected to scientific experiment? Could you describe how this experiment would be set up and conducted?

      The example of evolution was to show that, what was once considered an impossibility without a god, i.e., diversity and complexity of life, is actually possible. Now that evolution is a settled matter, theists now claim that other phenomena – abiogenesis, consciousness – are impossible without a god. They can’t explain how, you say, it must be god! Such reasoning has always failed miserably in the past. It takes no faith at all to think that science will eventually solve those mysteries too.

      To the extent that “evolution is a settled matter,” all that atheists have done is DELAY answering the question of how it is that mindless matter can eventually become conscious, intelligent, personal beings. WHAT IS THE SOURCE OF THIS ORDERING that Einstein marvelled at? How does mindless matter produce ordering? The answer is that it can’t because, if it could, it would not be mindless. As I demonstrate in Why Evolution Cannot Be Used to Rationalize Atheism, evolution does nothing to do away with God. It just delays the question one step: OK fine, the mechanism of random mutation and natural selection is itself is mindless (if you wish it to be), but how did the mechanism come to be?

      If something is currently unexplainable, the reasonable response is “We don’t know how, but let’s try to find out”, NOT “Goddidit”.

      You are engaging in mindless-natural-processes-of-the-gaps reasoning. And once again, these gaps in explanation only emerge when mindless matter is made to be the ultimate reality, for ideological (rather than logical) reasons.

      Take the origin of life for example. Living things rely on the coded language of DNA, which means that they utilize a language: the transmission and storage of meaning and symbolic representation. Meaning and symbolic representation are clearly the product of a mind. If we saw the words “Bobby loves Suzy” etched in a tree, we would have very solid reasons for believing that a conscious agent (probably Bobby or Suzy) was responsible. This is because we know that the symbolic representation contained in these words must have been the product of a mind. In this example, would reasonable people be saying things like, “we don’t know unguided, mindless natural processes could have produced these words on the tree, but we can’t just give up and say ‘a person did it’”?! Of course not, we would make a very reasonable deduction that a conscious agent was responsible.

      Atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Francis Crick clearly realize this, otherwise they wouldn’t be citing ALIENS FROM OUTER SPACE as the source of the origin of life, as I describe in Why Life Could Not Have Emerged Without God.


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        Robert says:

        Scott, you write,

        Atheists are often fond of declaring that they don’t have any faith, but this is ridiculous because the only way to not have any faith is to have access to total knowledge.

        I’m not aware of any notion of faith that defines it as a lack of total knowledge. Where did you get such an idea?

        In your above reply, for example, you express belief that mindless natural processes will eventually explain the origin of life from lifeless matter. This is faith, open-and-shut…You apparently have FAITH that non-mental processes will be discovered someday to explain something that is clearly only explainable as the product of a mind.

        “Clearly”? As I stated before, the diversity and complexity of life on earth was once believed to be “clearly” the product of a mind. Actually, many still think that, despite the scientific verdict that it’s not, which to me is the essence of faith. In a pattern repeated over and over through human history, phenomena once held as products of mind have instead been shown to be products of non-mental natural processes. So when I think science will eventually discover that abiogenesis is a result of a natural process as well, it’s not faith in the slightest, but a reasonable supposition based on abundant experience.

        And this is despite the fact that, for example, as I detail in Why Life Could Not Have Emerged Without God, living things utilize coding languages that communicate meaning through symbolic representation. The coding and decoding (as well as the storage) of information is clearly a mental process.

        I read that article and it appears to posit a curious information staticity, as if “the mind” popped a single super cell into existence, which contained all the information necessary for evolution to take over and produce the boundless diversity and complexity of life on earth we see today.

        First, scientists don’t regard cells as the irreduceable units of life. They think pre-cursors to cells called protobionts existed, and before those, even simpler molecular structures. A lot of great information on how cells could have formed is at exploringorigins.org (just one of many sites, by the way, that puts to lie your claim that the scientific community knows “absolutely nothing! Zero, zip, zilch!” how unintelligent natural process could have brought about life.)

        Secondly, an increase in information complexity can be shown to naturally occur. Indeed, this is suggested by evolution itself, or did eukaryote DNA contain all the information necessary to produce earth’s biodiversity?

        Finally, it’s not obvious at all that DNA represents “coded language” or “symbolic representation”. Is an oxygen molecule also “coded language”? What about molecular compounds, like sugar, or even more complex ones like amino acids or nucleotides? In sum, where does simple matter leave off and “symbolic representation” begin?

        With that said, if abiogenesis is “clearly” the result of a mind, then how precisely did the mind do it? Did it magically link chemicals together and then zap them with magical electricity to jumpstart self-replication? Did “the mind” leave off after that, leaving evolution to pure chance, or did it make an appearance every now and then to ensure that it produced human minds? If so, where, how, and when did it do that? How do we determine the truth of your answers without indulging just-so storytelling?

        No, my theism does not speak for all theism…but what does this have to do with anything?

        You stated “Atheism relies much more on faith than does theism”. The claim is unfounded because of the innumerable varieties of theism, some of which may regard “blind faith” as a virtue.

        Quite the reverse, Robert. You have, quite embarrassingly, failed to notice that your above statement, “theism doesn’t ‘answer’; theism asserts,” is itself an empty ASSERTION.

        Embarrassingly for yourself, calling it an “empty ASSERTION” is itself an empty assertion. See, we can both play this game. It’s an assertion until you can provide something resembling evidence rather than arguments from ignorance or incredulity.

        OK, fine, “the laws of physics” is a misnomer, if you wish. They are not “rules somehow built into the structure of the universe.” But this semantic shift, or change in terminology, is a way for you to avoid answering a question that atheism cannot answer…Why is it that matter so consistently behaves in specific ways?

        I suppose I just don’t understand your question. What matter are you referring to? All matter? What about energy? Which ways?

        Are you going to deny that matter very consistently behaves in very predictable ways?

        Most matter behaves in mostly predictable ways, but at certain levels, such as the quantum level, it doesn’t. Scientists instead speak of “probability”. In any case, scientists haven’t arrived yet at an understanding for why matter and energy behave as they do. Does this mean they will never arrive at an understanding? I doubt it. But even if they don’t, it doesn’t make the “theistic model” valid. It’s possible to create many other models that provide “answers” too.

        You assert that “The same mind that creates matter also directs it.” How does the alleged mind “direct” matter? What is “the mind” doing at the probalistic quantum level? Is it leaving energy alone? How does it convert energy to matter and vice-versa? When you bounce your basketball, is “the mind” directing it to go “up”? Or is it creating and dissolving local gravity fields around the ball? How do we determine the truth of your answers without indulging just-so storytelling?

        Yes, a pre-existent non-material mind is a “just is”, the ultimate reality. And as this essay describes, both atheists and theists tend to agree that there must be an ultimate reality, or ONE “just is.”

        A non-material mind is just one conception of the ultimate reality. Why not a mind of pure energy, or some other material substance we have no knowledge of? Could we comprise the ultimate reality in some fashion, as the pantheists believe? Or that ultimate reality passes in and out of existence, as the Buddhists believe?

        The point is, you’re making a false dichotomy that does not encompass the entire range of human thought. An inability to show how consciousness develops (yet) does not necessarily validate your model of monotheistic dualism.

        The problem with atheism is that the atheist ultimate reality (mindless matter) does not have any mechanism for producing consciousness, intelligence, or personhood, etc.

        As I’ve previously expressed, I don’t see this as a problem. Until relatively recently, there was no known mechanism for producing the diversity and complexity of life on earth. Now there is. Some questions we don’t yet have answers to, and the reasonable response is “We don’t know”, not “Goddidit”.

        What is the mechanism your theism says produced conciousness, intelligence, or personhood? A snap of the fingers? Powerful magical incantations? How do we determine the truth of your answers without indulging just-so storytelling?

        When you reject the philosophical conclusions of the reviewer, you are adopting a different philosophical conclusion.

        You completely side-stepped my point, which is that science is a superior (not perfect) endeavor for discovering truth about our existence than philosophy, and thus its claims are to be preferred. I didn’t say I think Krauss is correct; I merely raised his example to disprove your assertion that everyone believes something always existed.

        This only becomes the logical fallacy of argument from authority when one does not include the reasoning behind the authority’s conclusions.

        Where did you get this notion? No source on this fallacy I’m aware of supports it. As I said, citing scientific consensus is perfectly legitimate and does not run afoul of the fallacy. I invite you to prove me wrong.

        And the view that the brain can produce consciousness is an “arbitrary element, compounded of personal and historical accident,” not the result of “observation and experience.” Are you going to suggest that scientists have observed brains producing consciousness?

        Alternatively, could it be possible that most scientists believe the brain can produce consciousness because volumes of evidence and research are trending toward that view, as well as the lack of any evidence for other explanations, such as yours that the brain is acting as some kind of “TV receiver”? Nah….clearly these scientists are just ideologically-committed “materialists/atheists” who simply want to be free of “burdensome moral restraints”.

        Once again, with the theistic model, THERE ARE NO EXPLANATORY GAPS TO BE BRIDGED.

        Well, great! I look forward to answers to all my questions above, and many, many more if you’re inclined, such as, if the brain is really just a sort of “TV receiver” from the TV antennae mind, what is happening when we dream? What kind of waves are being emitted by “the mind”? Why is that when our brains die, we also lose consciousness?

        Oxford University mathematician John Lennox writes in his book …

        Sorry, what makes a mathematician an expert on consciousness again? You, being an expert on the fallacy of the argument from authority, surely have an answer.

        You see, all that citing “unguided natural processes acting on natural substances” does is DELAY answering the question of how mindless matter can eventually become conscious, intelligent persons. OK fine, the mechanism itself is mindless (if you want it to be)….but then where did the mechanism come from?

        Philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett, who’s written quite a bit on the implications of evolution, would probably say that the mechanism – an algorithm – is intrinsic to the universe, perhaps one of its “brute facts”, just as “the mind” is a “brute fact” under monotheistic dualism.

        How can the idea that consciousness and matter are the same thing be subjected to scientific experiment?

        I don’t think anyone is claiming that. Rather, most scientists think that consciousness is a by-product of electrochemical activity. Please visit the compendium of papers I linked to earlier for more.

        How does mindless matter produce ordering? The answer is that it can’t because, if it could, it would not be mindless.

        Like I stated, mindless algorithms can produce this order.

        Your example of the words “Bobby loves Suzy” written on a tree is not really apt. We would naturally conclude a human wrote those because we have abundant evidence that humans write such words, though perhaps not necessarily in that particular order. What similar experience do we have of some non-material mind writing or coding anything? Meanwhile, we do know that natural processes working over time can produce what appear to be “coded information”. If “the mind” is actually behind it, then why is it utilizing such a cumbersome, time-consuming, and wasteful algorithmic process – one that, for all intents and purposes, is indistinguishable from a non-mental process?

        Atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Francis Crick clearly realize this, otherwise they wouldn’t be citing ALIENS FROM OUTER SPACE as the source of the origin of life…

        Well, no. Dawkins and others are intrigued by panspermia because there is more and more evidence that life could have originated off earth. I realize this poses even more challenges to “the mind” hypothesis. After all, why would the “the mind” plant pre-life forms on comets and meteors? That’s almost as crazy as “the mind” zapping a cell into existence on earth and starting its evolution to produce us!


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          Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 32 ) says:

          I’m not aware of any notion of faith that defines it as a lack of total knowledge. Where did you get such an idea?

          No, faith is not defined as a lack of total knowledge. Faith is what everyone must rely on to some degree or another because we do not have total knowledge. Atheists need much more faith than theists because they need to have faith that there will eventually be materialist explanations for things that are clearly not material…consciousness and personhood for example. This is what the eminent philosopher of science Karl Popper mockingly defined as “promissory materialism.”

          “Clearly”? As I stated before, the diversity and complexity of life on earth was once believed to be “clearly” the product of a mind. Actually, many still think that, despite the scientific verdict that it’s not, which to me is the essence of faith. In a pattern repeated over and over through human history, phenomena once held as products of mind have instead been shown to be products of non-mental natural processes. So when I think science will eventually discover that abiogenesis is a result of a natural process as well, it’s not faith in the slightest, but a reasonable supposition based on abundant experience.

          Robert, you cite a “scientific verdict” that the complexity of life on earth is not the product of a mind. But this is impossible because there quite obviously is not a scientific verdict as to how life diversified. If there were, there would not be heated debates within academia regarding this issue. For example, highly prominent paleontologists such as Stephen Jay Gould from Harvard (now deceased) and Niles Eldredge from Columbia endorse a theory known as “punctuated equilibrium” (click here) which states that “the degree of gradualism commonly attributed to Charles Darwin is virtually nonexistent in the fossil record, and that stasis dominates the history of most fossil species.” Punctuated equilibrium then tries to explain for this. Other scientists, such as Richard Dawkins, support the classical Darwinian view that evolution was gradual. And the distinction between gradual and rapid is no subtle distinction. Without gradualism, Darwinian evolution has no mechanism.

          Scientists supporting “punctuated equilibrium” and those supporting the classical Darwinian view engage in heated debates on the topic. So if scientists can’t even agree on how life diversified, how can you reasonably conclude that they know how it happened without mind?

          I am sure that the majority of scientists on both sides of this debate endorse various non-intelligent means for the diversification of life, but if they can’t agree on what this non-intelligent means is, it becomes clear that they endorse non-intelligent means for ideological reasons, as opposed to logical reasons. Further, biologists are in the business of providing explanations for the phenomenon of life. It should therefore be no surprise whatsoever that a majority of them find the idea that there are aspects of the phenomenon of life which are inaccessible to human reason to be, well…distasteful. To explore the ideological (as opposed to logical) basis for atheism within the scientific community, please read my essay titled If the Evidence for God is So Strong, Why Are So Many Smart People Unconvinced. Below is an excerpt from that essay:

          In The Altenberg 16: An Expose of the Evolution Industry, Oxford University and University of Massachusetts-Amherst Professor of Biology Lynn Margulis (winner of the U.S. Presidential Medal for Science) discusses the persistence of neo-Darwinian theory, despite its deteriorating scientific basis, with journalist Susan Mazur:

          Margulis: “If enough favorable mutations occur, was the erroneous extrapolation, a change from one species to another would concurrently occur.”

          Mazur: “So a certain dishonesty set in?”

          Margulis: “No. It was not dishonesty. I think it was wish-fulfillment and social momentum. Assumptions, made but not verified, were taught as fact.”

          Mazur: “But a whole industry grew up.”

          Margulis: “Yes, but people are always more loyal to their tribal group than to any abstract notion of ‘truth’ – scientists especially. If not they are unemployable. It is professional suicide to continually contradict one’s teachers or social leaders.”

          Here the reader can clearly see that atheistic conclusions which purportedly arise from scientific research, such as neo-Darwinism, can hardly be characterized as the logical result of an objective examination of facts. Rather, they precede the examination of facts and reflect the religious beliefs of a scientist’s “tribal group.” This can be the case even when such theories have a basis which has been eroded by advances in scientific understanding.

          The late great paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science Stephen J. Gould commented that:

          “Unconscious or dimly perceived finagling is probably endemic in science, since scientists are human beings rooted in cultural contexts, not automatons directed toward external truth.”

          Robert, I strongly recommend that you read The Altenburg 16. This book details how a secret conference (the public and media were banned) of 16 top scientists from elite universities such as Oxford, Harvard, UCLA, and the University of Chicago was held in Altenburg, Austria in 2008 to discuss laying the groundwork for “post-Darwinian research.” One of my favorite quotes comes from the back cover (viewable on Amazon by clicking here): Sam Smith, the editor of The Progressive Review says, “The scientific establishment has been somewhat scared of dealing rationally and openly with new evolutionary ideas because of its fear of the powerful creationist movement.” Richard, if the biological branch of the scientific establishment (which is full of materialists/naturalists) has such compelling evidence against God, why are they afraid of creationists? And why do they need to hold secret meetings to discuss laying a foundation for “post-Darwinian research”? And why can’t they agree on such basic fundamental issues as whether life diversified gradually or rapidly?

          In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (a seminal book on the philosophy of science and the psychology of scientists) Thomas Kuhn explains that a paradigm (or an agreed upon theoretical framework) does not go away when its logical basis has deteriorated. Rather, scientists will cling to a disintegrating paradigm until a new one comes to take its place because it is impossible to conduct science with no agreed upon theoretical framework whatsoever.

          And even if there were a total consensus with regard to how life diversified, what would that demonstrate? As I mentioned in a previous post, scientific consensus has been wrong innumerable times in the past. Please recall the view, once virtually unanimously accepted by scientists, that light waves travel through ether (click here). Or the once virtually unanimous view that human diseases are caused by an imbalance in four bodily “humors”, known as humorism (click here). Or the view (which was the scientific consensus in 1750) that things burn by giving off “phlogiston”.

          I do not cite these examples to mock science, but rather to demonstrate that scientific consensus alone is not worth much with regards to ultimate questions such as whether mind or matter is fundamental. Scientific reasoning must be examined in conjunction with philosophy, as well as such things as experiential evidence, in order come up with the best answers to such ultimate questions. This is why Albert Einstein said, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

          And, as I mentioned before, but which you have not responded to, even if Darwinian evolution were indisputably 100% correct, this would do nothing to explain away God. This is because Darwinian evolution operates on a mechanism (random mutation and natural selection) that then needs an explantation, as I discuss in my post titled Why Evolution Cannot Be Used to Rationalize Atheism. Darwinian evolution only kicks the can down the road (or delays) the question of how life could have diversified through non-intelligent means. In this post I cite the metaphor of mindless robots assembling cars. So the robots themselves are mindless…so what? Where did the robots, or the software that guides them, or the factory itself, come from?

          I read that article [Why Life Could Not Have Emerged Without God] and it appears to posit a curious information staticity, as if “the mind” popped a single super cell into existence, which contained all the information necessary for evolution to take over and produce the boundless diversity and complexity of life on earth we see today.

          Well, my computer dictionary does not have a definition for “staticity,” so you will have to rephrase. No, the article is not suggesting “the mind popped a single super cell into existence, which contained all the information necessary for evolution to take over…” That is something that you injected. The article is suggesting that life (as well as mindless matter, and everything else) is the product of mind, rather than mindless matter.

          First, scientists don’t regard cells as the irreducible units of life. They think pre-cursors to cells called protobionts existed, and before those, even simpler molecular structures. A lot of great information on how cells could have formed is at exploringorigins.org (just one of many sites, by the way, that puts to lie your claim that the scientific community knows “absolutely nothing! Zero, zip, zilch!” how unintelligent natural process could have brought about life.)

          OK, fine…you want “protobionts,” you got ‘em! Protobionts are a theoretical abstraction. You confuse theoretical abstraction with something that scientists “know” about the origin of life. But even if protobionts were proven observationally or experimentally, what would that prove? Absolutely nothing. All this (or any other scientific theory) would do is kick the ultimate question (which is ontological rather than scientific) down the road. What ultimate question am I talking about? The same one the I asked in my last post but which you ignored: WHAT IS THE SOURCE of the “high degree of ordering of the objective world” that Albert Einstein marvelled at? If it is not mind, what is it? If you answer “the laws of physics,” then the question remains unanswered because we are left with the question of where the laws of physics came from and why it is that matter so consistently follows physical laws. The simple fact is that atheism has no explanation for the source of the “high degree of ordering of the objective world” that does not amount to a just-so explanation. The laws of physics just-are and matter follows physical laws because it just does. THE COMPLETE INABILITY OF ATHEISM TO EXPLAIN THE SOURCE OF THE HIGH DEGREE OF ORDERING OF THE OBJECTIVE WORLD IS THE REASON THAT YOU HAVE NOT, AND WILL NOT IN THE FUTURE ANSWER THE ABOVE QUESTION. RATHER, AS AN ATHEIST, YOU HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO EVADE, OBSCURE, AND IGNORE THIS QUESTION. Thus far, you have adopted the tactic of ignoring it so I am going to keep count of the number of times that I ask it to you. Currently the count is at 2.

          Secondly, an increase in information complexity can be shown to naturally occur. Indeed, this is suggested by evolution itself, or did eukaryote DNA contain all the information necessary to produce earth’s biodiversity?

          OK, fine…you want naturally occurring increase in information complexity, you’ve got it! Where did this natural process come from? Would it be the case that it just is? This just bounces us back to the fundamental ontological question that appears above: What is the source of the high degree of ordering of the objective world that brought about such a natural process? If it is not mind, what is it? Once again, atheism has no answer more substantive than it just is.

          Finally, it’s not obvious at all that DNA represents “coded language” or “symbolic representation”. Is an oxygen molecule also “coded language”? What about molecular compounds, like sugar, or even more complex ones like amino acids or nucleotides? In sum, where does simple matter leave off and “symbolic representation” begin?
          With that said, if abiogenesis is “clearly” the result of a mind, then how precisely did the mind do it? Did it magically link chemicals together and then zap them with magical electricity to jumpstart self-replication? Did “the mind” leave off after that, leaving evolution to pure chance, or did it make an appearance every now and then to ensure that it produced human minds? If so, where, how, and when did it do that? How do we determine the truth of your answers without indulging just-so storytelling?

          Below is an excerpt from The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel:

          To convey information, you need irregularity in sequencing. Open any book; you won’t see the word ‘the’ repeating over and over and over. Instead, you have an irregular sequencing of letters. They convey information because they conform to a certain known independent pattern—that is, the rules of vocabulary and grammar. That’s what enables us to communicate—and that’s what needs to be explained in DNA. The four letters of its alphabet are also highly irregular while at the same time conforming to a functional requirement—that is, the correct arrangement of amino acids to create a working protein.

          “Here’s an example. If you go north of here into Victoria Harbor in British Columbia, you’ll see a pattern on a hillside. As the ferry approaches, you’ll realize it’s a message: red and yellow flowers spell out WELCOME TO VICTORIA. That’s an example of an informational sequence. “Notice you don’t have mere repetition—a W followed by an E, followed by another W and another E, and so on. Instead, there’s an irregular combination of letters that conform to an independent pattern or specific set of functional requirements—English vocabulary and grammar. So we immediately recognize this as informational.

          Whenever we encounter these two elements—irregularity that’s specified by a set of functional requirements, which is what we call ‘specified complexity’—we recognize this as information. And this kind of information is invariably the result of mind—not chance, not natural selection, and not self-organizational processes.”

          The language of DNA, Robert, uses the chemical letters which scientists represent as A, C, G, and T in an irregular way, with specified complexity in order to provide a set of instructions, much like a computer language provides a set of instructions. And when you ask, “What about molecular compounds, like sugar, or even more complex ones like amino acids or nucleotides?,” you gloss over the fact that these compounds do not in any way involve the coding, storage, or decoding of information…as does DNA. Seriously, how could you think that sugar contains a set of codified instructions? Remarkable.

          As I mention in the essay, even prominent atheist biologists like Richard Dawkins admit that DNA is a language. Dawkins concedes this point in his book River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life:

          “..The machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like. Apart from differences in jargon, the pages of a molecular biology journal might be interchanged with those of a computer engineering journal.”

          Try to find a single scientist who thinks that molecular compounds such as sugar utilize the coding, storage, and decoding of instructional information. You can’t because there are none because it is obvious that DNA is the only example of this in the natural world.

          You stated “Atheism relies much more on faith than does theism”. The claim is unfounded because of the innumerable varieties of theism, some of which may regard “blind faith” as a virtue.

          Your logic eludes me. You assert that there are varieties of theism that “regard blind faith” as a virtue. Please specify what these varieties of theism are and why their existence (if you can specify them) would have any bearing whatsoever on the branches of theism that don’t hold such a virtue. Your atheism cannot speak for all atheism because there are numerous different sects of atheism as this post (click here) describes.

          Embarrassingly for yourself, calling it an “empty ASSERTION” is itself an empty assertion. See, we can both play this game. It’s an assertion until you can provide something resembling evidence rather than arguments from ignorance or incredulity.

          Well, Robert, I have provided large amounts of evidence. You just insist on ignoring the evidence because you are fully aware that you are not able to furnish adequate rebuttals. For starters, please tell me how the following constitutes “argument from ignorance or incredulity”:

          1) The anthropic fine tuning data as presented in my essay title Is There A God? (What Is the Chance That Our World Is the Result of Chance?)

          Citing alleged logical fallacies such as “argument from ignorance or incredulity” is an excellent tactic for someone who is not able to rebut an argument. And if such logical fallacies are being committed, you must specify precisely where they are being committed and then you must make a case. Dismissing an entire essay with an allegation of “argument from ignorance or incredulity,” while simultaneously failing to explain where and why this alleged fallacy is being committed, is clearly a tactic intended to divert attention from the fact that you are not able to engage with and rebut the argument.

          Most matter behaves in mostly predictable ways, but at certain levels, such as the quantum level, it doesn’t. Scientists instead speak of “probability”. In any case, scientists haven’t arrived yet at an understanding for why matter and energy behave as they do. Does this mean they will never arrive at an understanding? I doubt it. But even if they don’t, it doesn’t make the “theistic model” valid. It’s possible to create many other models that provide “answers” too.

          Robert, you gloss over the fact that scientists already have arrived at an understanding for why matter and energy behave as they do. It is because matter is derived from consciousness because consciousness is fundamental. A couple of recycled citations from my essay titled The Ultimate Cart-Before-the-Horse:

          “There is a wide measure of agreement which, on the physical side of science approaches almost unanimity, that the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine. Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of matter. We are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail mind as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.” (italics added)

          –The knighted mathematician, physicist and astronomer Sir James Jeans, as quoted in his book The Mysterious Universe.
          .
          “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”

          –Nobel Prize winning physicist Max Planck, who founded quantum theory, and who is therefore one of the most important physicists of all time.

          Please review the above mentioned essay as well as What It All Boils Down To. Please note that I include the philosophical and scientific reasoning supporting the above authority citations in these two essays so as not to commit the logical fallacy of argument from authority.

          When you say, “scientists haven’t arrived yet at an understanding for why matter and energy behave as they do. Does this mean they will never arrive at an understanding? I doubt it”….what you really mean is: “Scientists haven’t arrived yet at an understanding for why matter and energy behave as they do that will vindicate my atheist views. But this does not mean that they never will.” And this is, once again, what the eminent philosopher of science mockingly referred to as “promissory materialism”…and it is basically your faith.

          You assert that “The same mind that creates matter also directs it.” How does the alleged mind “direct” matter? What is “the mind” doing at the probalistic quantum level? Is it leaving energy alone? How does it convert energy to matter and vice-versa? When you bounce your basketball, is “the mind” directing it to go “up”? Or is it creating and dissolving local gravity fields around the ball? How do we determine the truth of your answers without indulging just-so storytelling?

          Asking how a mind directs matter is like asking how the mind of a composer such as Beethoven composes a symphony. Once again, this is not just-so storytelling because consciousness is the ultimate reality. Both theism and atheism require an ultimate reality. The ultimate reality that theism proposes has built-in capacity to create and direct matter. But what capacity to direct matter does the ultimate reality that atheism proposes (matter itself) have?

          A non-material mind is just one conception of the ultimate reality. Why not a mind of pure energy, or some other material substance we have no knowledge of? Could we comprise the ultimate reality in some fashion, as the pantheists believe? Or that ultimate reality passes in and out of existence, as the Buddhists believe?
          The point is, you’re making a false dichotomy that does not encompass the entire range of human thought. An inability to show how consciousness develops (yet) does not necessarily validate your model of monotheistic dualism.

          What logical necessity would a “mind of pure energy” serve? If mind is the fundamental and is irreducible, why would it need to be comprised of something, such as energy? The reason that atoms are no longer viewed as the fundamental unit of matter is because it is now known that they are reducible to smaller units of matter (quarks, electrons, etc.).

          What would be the mechanism causing ultimate reality to “pass in and out of existence”? Once ultimate reality passed out of existence, what would cause it to pass back into existence? Nothingness? If you believe in something being caused by nothing, then you are denying the law of causation, without which science would be impossible.

          As I’ve previously expressed, I don’t see this [the lack of a mechanism for mindless matter producing consciousness] as a problem.

          I am not surprised that you don’t see it as a problem considering that you believe that nothing can cause something to exist, which is a clear violation of the law of causation…without which (once again), science would be impossible.

          Until relatively recently, there was no known mechanism for producing the diversity and complexity of life on earth. Now there is. Some questions we don’t yet have answers to, and the reasonable response is “We don’t know”, not “Goddidit”.

          And yet there is a known mechanism. Consciousness—God’s consciousness—which is the ultimate reality, as explained in What It All Boils Down To and The Ultimate Cart-Before-the-Horse. What you really mean is: “We don’t have answers to some questions regarding how mindless matter could be the fundamental…the ultimate reality. But eventually answers will come and materialism will be vindicated.” This is what the eminent philosopher of science Karl Popper mockingly referred to as “promissory materialism”…and it is basically your faith-based belief system.

          What is the mechanism your theism says produced consciousness, intelligence, or personhood? A snap of the fingers? Powerful magical incantations? How do we determine the truth of your answers without indulging just-so storytelling?

          Robert, have you been paying any attention at all?! Theism doesn’t say that consciousness, intelligence and personhood were produced. Rather, it says that consciousness (God’s consciousness), which implies intelligence and personhood, is the ultimate reality that has always been. Atheism says that mindless matter is the ultimate reality that has always been, and then relies on just-so storytelling to explain how consciousness, personhood, and intelligence emerged from mindless matter.

          You completely side-stepped my point, which is that science is a superior (not perfect) endeavor for discovering truth about our existence than philosophy, and thus its claims are to be preferred. I didn’t say I think Krauss is correct; I merely raised his example to disprove your assertion that everyone believes something always existed.

          Once again, you very embarrassingly express a philosophical view that science is superior to philosophy. Your argument is therefore self-refuting. Could someone conduct a scientific experiment to prove that science is superior to philosophy? Of course not. Such a view is philosophical, not scientific.

          OK, not everyone believes that there is something that has always existed. Fine. Such a person is then left with the burden of explaining how nothingness can cause something to exist or to happen.

          Well, great! I look forward to answers to all my questions above, and many, many more if you’re inclined, such as, if the brain is really just a sort of “TV receiver” from the TV antennae mind, what is happening when we dream? What kind of waves are being emitted by “the mind”? Why is that when our brains die, we also lose consciousness?

          How does “what is happening when we dream” have any bearing on whether the brain produces or receives consciousness? If the brain is the receiver of consciousness, why would it emit waves? We don’t lose consciousness when our brains die. You merely assume this because we must lose consciousness when we die for materialism/naturalism to be true. Please view my essay titled When I Die, Is That It? It presents the brain as receiver model (including a BBC documentary supporting this model).

          Sorry, what makes a mathematician an expert on consciousness again? You, being an expert on the fallacy of the argument from authority, surely have an answer.

          I didn’t cite Lennox regarding consciousness. I cited him regarding the mechanism behind evolution.

          Philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett, who’s written quite a bit on the implications of evolution, would probably say that the mechanism – an algorithm – is intrinsic to the universe, perhaps one of its “brute facts”, just as “the mind” is a “brute fact” under monotheistic dualism.

          Atheism’s reliance on “brute facts” is one of my central points. Saying that something is a “brute fact” is just another way of saying “it just is.” Declaring something to be a “brute fact” amounts to encouraging people to cease rational enquiry because that something cannot be explained.

          Mind is not a “brute fact” under monotheism. Rather, it is the fundamental…the ultimate reality. “Brute facts” are necessary appendages to atheism because there are things that can never be explained by atheism. Consciousness, personhood, intelligence, the origin of life, the high degree of ordering of the objective world…these must all be “brute facts” under the atheistic model because atheism can never explain them. Atheism, however, can attempt to explain them away, as Daniel Dennett tries to explain away consciousness in his book Consciousness Explained. Dennett seems to think that consciousness is an illusion, but then he fails to explain who is experiencing this illusion. He is one of the people who think that human beings are mindless robots. Aren’t you depressed to learn that you are a mindless robot?

          I don’t think anyone is claiming that. Rather, most scientists think that consciousness is a by-product of electrochemical activity. Please visit the compendium of papers I linked to earlier for more.

          Now THAT, sir, is the logical fallacy of argument from authority. You have cited authority opinion without citing the rational basis behind that authority opinion. I will cite an authority below (UCLA Professor of Research Psychiatry Jeffrey M. Schwartz) in a manner that includes his reasoning. Merely citing authority opinion without including the reasoning behind that opinion is equivalent to saying “such-and-such must be true because so-and-so experts think so, and they must be right because they are really smart guys.” And that is the essence of the logical fallacy of argument from authority. Below is Schwartz’s reasoning for why consciousness cannot be a by-product of electrochemical activity:

          Conscious experience, this mental state called a sense of [the color] red [for example], is not coherently described, much less entirely explained, by mapping corresponding neural activity. Neuroscientists have successfully identified the neural correlates of pain, of depression, of anxiety. None of those achievements, either, amounts to a full explanation of the mental experience that neural activity underlies. The explanatory gap has never been bridged. And the inescapable reason is this: a neural state is not a mental state. The mind is not the brain, though it depends on the material brain for its existence (as far as we know). As the philosopher Colin McGinn says, “The problem with materialism is that it tries to construct the mind out of properties that refuse to add up to mentality.”

          Now please provide the reasoning behind the scientists who “think that consciousness is a by-product of electrochemical activity.” Without convincing reasoning, we have no choice but assume that they believe this for ideological rather than logical reasons.

          Recall that phrenology (which purported to determine character, personality traits, and criminality on the basis of the shape of the head…click here) was very popular among scientists in the 19th century. What was the experimental or observational evidence behind this? None whatsoever. It was merely a popular theoretical framework (or “paradigm”). The same is the case with consciousness being the “by-product of electrochemical activity.”

          Like I stated, mindless algorithms can produce this order.

          OK, fine. Where did the mindless algorithms come from? Are they another just-is appendage to the atheist ultimate reality of mindless matter? Yet another “brute fact”?!

          Your example of the words “Bobby loves Suzy” written on a tree is not really apt. We would naturally conclude a human wrote those because we have abundant evidence that humans write such words, though perhaps not necessarily in that particular order. What similar experience do we have of some non-material mind writing or coding anything? Meanwhile, we do know that natural processes working over time can produce what appear to be “coded information”. If “the mind” is actually behind it, then why is it utilizing such a cumbersome, time-consuming, and wasteful algorithmic process – one that, for all intents and purposes, is indistinguishable from a non-mental process?

          OK fine, the analogy is not perfect because “Bobby loves Suzy” is written in the English language, which we know to be a human product. But despite the weaknesses of the analogy, the point stands. You ask, “What similar experience do we have of some non-material mind writing or coding anything?” But the correct question is, “What experience do we have of mindless matter writing or coding anything?” And that is the whole point….mindless matter cannot write or code anything, but mind can. This is a solid reason to infer an intelligent mind behind the coded instructional language of DNA. What reasoning do we have to infer mindless matter is somehow responsible for a coded instructional language such as that of DNA? Meaning and symbolic representation are properties of mind, not of matter or energy.

          You assert that “we do know that natural processes working over time can produce what appear to be ‘coded information.’” What evidence do you provide for this? Even if you did provide such evidence, the question would immediately become, “Where did these natural processes come from?” Are they yet another “brute fact” that we must add to mindless matter? Further, DNA does not merely appear to involve coded information.

          Well, no. Dawkins and others are intrigued by panspermia because there is more and more evidence that life could have originated off earth. I realize this poses even more challenges to “the mind” hypothesis. After all, why would the “the mind” plant pre-life forms on comets and meteors? That’s almost as crazy as “the mind” zapping a cell into existence on earth and starting its evolution to produce us!

          Well, describing where life originated does nothing to explain how it originated. You ask, “Why would the ‘the mind’ plant pre-life forms on comets and meteors?” I don’t know because I am not suggesting that this happened, you are. What evidence is there that life came from outer space? Do you agree with the hypothesis proposed by prominent atheists such as Dawkins, Crick, and Orgel that life was created by aliens in their laboratory and then brought to earth in their spaceship? If so, do you have any idea what planet the aliens came from?

          “‘The mind’ zapping a cell into existence on earth and starting its evolution to produce us” is your crude caricature of the theistic model. Caricature does not constitute rational argument. Rather, it substitutes for rational argument where rational argument is lacking.


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            nick says:

            Hi Robert…. Just a quick point… I don’t know why you keep belittling philosophy. It is a mechanism that is used by all parties in discussing matters such as theology and existence. Science is a good means of investigation and understanding, but it is founded on philosophy. Its roots are in the philosophical contemplations of minds such as Confucius, Aristotle and Plato, the catalyzation of the enlightenment as a result of a desire to investigate the world and post enlightenment thinkers ranging from Descartes and Hume to Pailey or Spinoza. Science reveals a lot for us and I take your general point, but whilst there is merit to the idea that science has given us more, you seem to speak so derisively about philosophy rendering it almost useless to you. You called it a ‘failed “amswer”‘ to life’s important questions. Philosophy was the precursor to science and exists in the fundamental tenets of the scientific method as it is practised today. Philosophy is the process and mechanism of critical thinking, contemplation and consideration with logic at its heart, which lead to the evolution of the scientific method. It is the ‘medium’, if you like. It is a mechanism that has given us science as we know it. Whether it is always wielded correctly is a debatable topic, however as a tool of investigation it is of great use in many areas, if not directly producing the material benefits that science does, but in its proper use across many fields as a means of critical thinking and analysis. You call it a ‘failed answer’, yet many of the most famous philosophers past and present have been and are atheists such as yourself. I know you weren’t writing it off completely, but I would give it more credit than you seem to have offered here. It has revered proponents on all sides of the debate, so dismissing it wholesale would seem a little cavalier.


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            Robert says:

            Scott wrote,

            No, faith is not defined as a lack of total knowledge. Faith is what everyone must rely on to some degree or another because we do not have total knowledge.

            I’m still waiting for any support of this notion besides your say-so. Does one need faith to believe the sun will come up tomorrow? Does one need faith to believe the lunch you intend to eat won’t kill you? No one speaks of their faith in sunrises or poison-free meals – well, except masters of equivocation like theistic apologists.

            Science has a long and well-established track record of demonstrating purely natural causes for phenomena once believed to be “clearly” of supernatural origin. And unless you still believe, for example, that seizures are the work of demons, as theists of old did (Mark 9:14-29), then you too acknowledge this fact.

            It doesn’t take any faith whatsoever to believe that science will continue to do so. On the contrary, it takes faith to maintain belief in supernatural causes in the face of the excellent scientific track record debunking them.

            Robert, you cite a “scientific verdict” that the complexity of life on earth is not the product of a mind. But this is impossible because there quite obviously is not a scientific verdict as to how life diversified. If there were, there would not be heated debates within academia regarding this issue.

            “Heated debates within academia”, eh?

            I quote from the National Center for Science Education’s Project Steve:

            “NCSE’s “Project Steve” is a tongue-in-cheek parody of a long-standing creationist tradition of amassing lists of “scientists who doubt evolution” or “scientists who dissent from Darwinism.”

            Creationists draw up these lists to try to convince the public that evolution is somehow being rejected by scientists, that it is a “theory in crisis.” Not everyone realizes that this claim is unfounded. NCSE has been asked numerous times to compile a list of thousands of scientists affirming the validity of the theory of evolution. Although we easily could have done so, we have resisted. We did not wish to mislead the public into thinking that scientific issues are decided by who has the longer list of scientists!

            Project Steve pokes fun at this practice and, because “Steves” are only about 1% of scientists, it also makes the point that tens of thousands of scientists support evolution. And it honors the late Stephen Jay Gould, evolutionary biologist, NCSE supporter, and friend.

            We’d like to think that after Project Steve, we’ll have seen the last of bogus “scientists doubting evolution” lists, but it’s probably too much to ask. We hope that when such lists are proposed, reporters and other citizens will ask, “How many Steves are on your list!?”

            The statement:

            Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to “intelligent design,” to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation’s public schools.”

            Please take careful note of the words “there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence”. Punctuated equilibrium is one of those “patterns and processes” of evolution, not a dispute about evolution as an explanation for life’s diversity and complexity. Claims that “Without gradualism, Darwinian evolution has no mechanism”, or gradual vs. rapid diversification are “fundamental issues” are just plain false. I recommend UC Berkeley’s article Competing Hypothesis About the Page of Evolution to clear up your misunderstanding.

            So if scientists can’t even agree on how life diversified, how can you reasonably conclude that they know how it happened without mind?

            They would answer as French scientist Pierre-Simon Laplace answered Napolean’s question why Laplace’s work on celestial mechanics made no mention of a creator: “I had no need of that hypothesis”. Scientists can reasonably conclude it happened without a mind because it has never been needed to explain it. Proponents of so-called “Intelligent Design”, which attempts to demonstrate the necessity of a higher mind behind life, have failed misiberably to support their hypothesis. Even theistic scientists such as Kenneth Miller dismiss their work. (Miller also echoes something you may have heard before: “The lack of a detailed current explanation for a structure, organ, or process does not mean that science will never come up with one.”)

            In any case, please clarify for me your position: do you accept the theory of evolution as explaining the diversity and complexity of life on earth? Or do you accept some non-scientific variant of it, such as theistic evolution, or intelligent design? Or are you a creationist who holds that a deity created all life forms that ever existed in the forms we found them? Or do you accept some other hypothesis?

            What is your evidence that “a mind” is behind life’s diversity and complexity, Mr. proprietor of “godevidence.org”? By what mechanism(s) did it produce this life? Where and when did it intercede, or was it guiding the entire diversification-of-life process from start to finish? Why did it utilize such a cumbersome and wasteful process? Indeed, why did it create any life, much less human life, at all? You say theism has answers – well, here’s your opportunity to provide them.

            Richard, if the biological branch of the scientific establishment (which is full of materialists/naturalists) has such compelling evidence against God, why are they afraid of creationists? And why do they need to hold secret meetings to discuss laying a foundation for “post-Darwinian research”? And why can’t they agree on such basic fundamental issues as whether life diversified gradually or rapidly?

            Steve, ignoring your irrelevant ad hominems, as well as the mischaracterization of the Margulis/Mazur discussion, it’s clear you don’t understand what the Altenberg conference was about. Far from attempting to demonstrate the “deteriorating scientific basis” of evolution, the conference was intended to “discuss the current status of evolutionary theory, and in particular a series of exciting empirical and conceptual advances that have marked the field in recent times” according to a signed statement of participants. The statement further went on to note that “By incorporating these new results and insights into our understanding of evolution, we believe that the explanatory power of evolutionary theory is greatly expanded within biology and beyond. As is the nature of science, some of the new ideas will stand the test of time, while others will be significantly modified. Nonetheless, there is much justified excitement in evolutionary biology these days. This is a propitious time to engage the scientific community in a vast interdisciplinary effort to further our understanding of how life evolves.”

            I do not cite these examples [of scientific fallibility] to mock science, but rather to demonstrate that scientific consensus alone is not worth much with regards to ultimate questions such as whether mind or matter is fundamental.

            I never claimed that science is an error-free method for determining the nature of existence, only that it is the best, most reliable method, far better than philosophy or theology, whose errors could fill 100 times more volumes than science’s errors. The puzzle is why people continue to cling to such failed “answers” for the ultimate questions. Emotion and faith are in my opinion the likely culprits.

            And, as I mentioned before, but which you have not responded to, even if Darwinian evolution were indisputably 100% correct, this would do nothing to explain away God.

            It would do nothing to explain away millions of other hypothetical entities or processes too. The importance of evolution is that it shows increasing order and information complexity can develop absent some kind of disembodied “mind” directing it. At one time, there was no conceivable means other than a “mind” to explain them. Now, there is another means, a roundly evidenced, non-intelligent one – and science discovered it. Not philosophy. Not theology. Science.

            You ask where the “software” that guides such a non-intelligent process comes from. As I said, science is working on that question, but we do know they’re based on simpler algorithms. Your insistent answer is a hypothesis that has been consistently debunked. The rational approach is thus to reject your hypothesis and proportion one’s belief to the evidence, as the atheist does. What’s more, there are questions that theists simply cannot answer, such as why a “mind” of limitless intelligence would employ such a wasteful, time-consuming, algorithmic process to produce life. No wonder many of them reject evolution. It makes the great “mind” appear as a bungling tinkerer.

            Well, my computer dictionary does not have a definition for “staticity,” so you will have to rephrase.

            “Staticity” means “the condition of being static” – as a quick Google search would have informed you. What I mean is that your article rejects the notion that information complexity could accrue naturally. To take your example of robots, they have all the information they need to build whatever they’re programmed to build; their informational programming is static. But in evolution, we see something different. The “robots” started extremely simple, then grew more and more complex, building ever more diverse machines – all in a completely natural way that is amply evidenced in scientific articles like the one I cited earlier.

            OK, fine…you want “protobionts,” you got ‘em! Protobionts are a theoretical abstraction. You confuse theoretical abstraction with something that scientists “know” about the origin of life. But even if protobionts were proven observationally or experimentally, what would that prove? Absolutely nothing.

            “Theoretical abstraction”…hehe. You should more carefully review the growing body of research on abiogenesis before further embarassing yourself with such mischaracterizations. One might have thought that exclaiming such an utterly ignorant claim like the scientific community knows absolutely nothing how unintelligent natural processes could have brought about life would have taught you to be a bit more careful.

            The point is, scientists are rapidly understanding the mechanisms of abiogenesis, thus shrinking even further the exclusive province of this “mind” of yours. I know, I know, according to you, they’re just making this stuff up in so they can live a life of godless debauchery, but you even you gotta grant it sounds more plausible than “goddidit”.

            The simple fact is that atheism has no explanation for the source of the “high degree of ordering of the objective world” that does not amount to a just-so explanation. The laws of physics just-are and matter follows physical laws because it just does.

            As I’ve said before, atheism is not in the business of providing explanations or answers. It’s simply a rejection of the god hypothesis due to insufficient evidence, as well as the hypothesis’s repeated failure in explaining other phenomenon.

            In any case, I did provide what scientists like Daniel Dennett believe is the mechanism for the order we experience.

            But let me ask you, from whence the “mind” you allege to be the source of objective ordering? It is the case that it just is? Is that supposed to be a substantive answer? What about answers to my other questions? How does the alleged mind “direct” matter? What is “the mind” doing at the probalistic quantum level? Is it leaving energy alone? How does it convert energy to matter and vice-versa? When you bounce your basketball, is “the mind” directing it to go “up”? Or is it creating and dissolving local gravity fields around the ball? How do we determine the truth of your answers without indulging just-so storytelling?

            You quote Christian apologist, non-scientist Lee Strobel, who wrote:

            And this kind of information is invariably the result of mind—not chance, not natural selection, and not self-organizational processes.

            Citing Mr. Strobel is a fallacious appeal to authority. What’s more, what he says is simply false. Non-intelligent evolutionary mechanisms do produce information and “specified complexity”. The mechanisms are well-documented. What theists have failed miserably to do is document how the “mind” is supposed to be creating the “specified complexity”. I asked how before and you’ve simply ignored my questions.

            And when you ask, “What about molecular compounds, like sugar, or even more complex ones like amino acids or nucleotides?,” you gloss over the fact that these compounds do not in any way involve the coding, storage, or decoding of information…as does DNA. Seriously, how could you think that sugar contains a set of codified instructions? Remarkable.

            Not surprisingly, you ignored the question that embodied my point: “Where does simple matter leave off and ‘symbolic representation’ begin?” Is it “DNA”? Why not RNA? Or nucleotides?

            And by the way, sugar is a major component of DNA, in the form of deoxyribose. Does that word ring a bell? It should.

            You assert that there are varieties of theism that “regard blind faith” as a virtue. Please specify what these varieties of theism are and why their existence (if you can specify them) would have any bearing whatsoever on the branches of theism that don’t hold such a virtue.

            Certainly. Please look up fideism, which is broadly defined as “reliance on faith alone rather than scientific reasoning or philosophy in questions of religion.” The relevance is to prove your claim that “Atheism relies much more on faith than does theism” is unfounded. I know of no type of atheism that relies on “faith alone”, whereas the history of fideism in religions like Christianity is very deep.

            Well, Robert, I have provided large amounts of evidence.

            Scott, here we have a fundamental disagreement. In my view, your “evidence” consists mostly of “god of the gaps” arguments, i.e., “We don’t have an explanation for X, therefore God must be the cause”, and I’ve pointed out multiple times where you commit it. The fine-tuning argument is essentially an argument from ignorance. To quote from the article on the subject from Iron Chariots:

            “The argument presupposes that there is no natural process of creating universes, or that if there is it isn’t going to create a universe with our values of the constants. This is, again, just not something we know scientifically. There still isn’t a well established scientific theory on how universes are naturally created, so we cannot say that it is unlikely for our universe to have been created naturally (indeed, many of the current hypotheses indicate that our universe was created naturally; but they are not yet proved). Nor are we in the situation where science has established that there is no natural way for a universe to be created. We just don’t know enough about universes for this presupposition to be accepted.

            In this respect, this is an argument from ignorance. Saying that it is impossible for our universe to have been created naturally in this way is just like saying that the ordered shape of the hexagonal basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway could not have been created naturally. That is, of course, false. One can understand that the basalt columns are natural when one understand enough about how basalt is created and formed naturally. One cannot rule out a natural explanation until one has an understanding of the subject matter’s natural behavior. Similarly, since we don’t know how universes are created we just don’t know enough to determine that the values of the constants in our universe are indicative of an unnatural process.”

            Robert, you gloss over the fact that scientists already have arrived at an understanding for why matter and energy behave as they do. It is because matter is derived from consciousness because consciousness is fundamental.

            It reflects the abject poverty of your argument that you have to go back nearly a century to find scientists who support your views. Believe it or not, our cosmological understanding has advanced considerably over the past 100 years–and much to the detriment of the theistic hypothesis. Perhaps that’s “Why (Almost All) Cosmologists are Atheists“, as argued by CalTech professor of theoretical physics and Astrophysics Sean Carroll. His statements are echoed in this video, “Debunking the Kalam Cosmological Argument of William Lane Craig“, which includes interviews with a number of present-day cosmologists. Yes, scientists are arriving at an understanding for why matter and energy behave as they do, but they’re not finding “conciousness” behind it.

            Asking how a mind directs matter is like asking how the mind of a composer such as Beethoven composes a symphony. Once again, this is not just-so storytelling because consciousness is the ultimate reality.

            Hehehe…in other words, “We have no idea how the mind does it, it just does“. This is clear-cut just-so storytelling. You have absolutely no clue how the “mind” directs matter at all, just as you have no clue how it produced conciousness, or how it created matter. There is a list of “just does’s” to your theism that far exceeds anything most atheists believe. If I were to follow your example, I would start a site called “nogodevidence.org” and point to the silence on these questions as “evidence” for atheism.

            But what capacity to direct matter does the ultimate reality that atheism proposes (matter itself) have?

            I’m no cosmologist, but from my understanding, they would likely disagree that “the ultimate reality” somehow directs matter and energy. Instead, they might say the properties of energy and matter themselves govern their behavior. In contrast to the “mind”, these properties can be observed, tested, and utilized for predictions.

            What logical necessity would a “mind of pure energy” serve? If mind is the fundamental and is irreducible, why would it need to be comprised of something, such as energy? The reason that atoms are no longer viewed as the fundamental unit of matter is because it is now known that they are reducible to smaller units of matter (quarks, electrons, etc.).

            These questions are irrelevant. It can be asserted that a “mind of pure energy” is merely “the ultimate reality” – the just is, or the brute fact. Perhaps it’s comprised of the theoretical strings as posited in string theory. The point is, there is no particular reason why your understanding of the “mind” is the necessary one. There could be many “minds” as well.

            I am not surprised that you don’t see it as a problem considering that you believe that nothing can cause something to exist, which is a clear violation of the law of causation.

            Where did I state this was my belief?

            And yet there is a known mechanism. Consciousness—God’s consciousness—which is the ultimate reality

            .

            No, this is a hypothetical mechanism, not a known one. You’re begging the question.

            Robert, have you been paying any attention at all?! Theism doesn’t say that consciousness, intelligence and personhood were produced. Rather, it says that consciousness (God’s consciousness), which implies intelligence and personhood, is the ultimate reality that has always been.

            Er… I’m asking how they were produced in beings such as humans. So, back to my questions: What is the mechanism your theism says produced consciousness, intelligence, or personhood [in living things, including humans]? A snap of the fingers? Powerful magical incantations? How do we determine the truth of your answers without indulging just-so storytelling?

            Atheism says that mindless matter is the ultimate reality that has always been, and then relies on just-so storytelling to explain how consciousness, personhood, and intelligence emerged from mindless matter.

            If you want to believe this even after I twice linked to hundreds of articles on the science of conciousness, that’s your prerogative, but it’s obvious your claim has no basis in fact.

            Once again, you very embarrassingly express a philosophical view that science is superior to philosophy.

            Not a “philosophical view” at all, but an empirical one. It doesn’t take a scientific experiment to appreciate the astounding and superior success science has had in apprehending and explaining the nature of existence. How many diseases has philosophy cured? How many propes has it launched into outer space? How many accurate predictions has it made?

            How does “what is happening when we dream” have any bearing on whether the brain produces or receives consciousness? If the brain is the receiver of consciousness, why would it emit waves? We don’t lose consciousness when our brains die. You merely assume this because we must lose consciousness when we die for materialism/naturalism to be true.

            Dreams are said to come from the subconcious mind, so I’m curious to know what the “mind” is doing at that level. In general, though, what kind of waves are being emitted by the “mind” and how can we detect them, absent, of course, your “just-does” it storytelling? Your article When I die, Is That It? presents no evidence at all that conciousness survives past brain death; this is merely an assumption on your part. In any case, We’re not quite dead yet when we experience “Near death experiences”, are we? An article at National Geographic explains what actual scientists are saying about them. Pay particular note to the end of the article,

            “The main alternative is that near-death experiences are ‘evidence of consciousness becoming separated from the physical substrate of the brain, possibly even a glimpse of an afterlife,’ the University of London’s French noted.

            But for him, at least, ‘the latest results argue strongly against such a hypothesis.'”

            I didn’t cite Lennox regarding consciousness. I cited him regarding the mechanism behind evolution.

            well, ok. Still remain to be answered is how the “mind” produced conciousness and personhood in humans. Did it zap humans with conciousness at a certain point in their evolution? Or did it set up evolution, knowing that it would produce consciousness eventually? And why did it choose the wasteful, time-consuming, algorithmic process of evolution to produce human beings anyway?

            Atheism’s reliance on “brute facts” is one of my central points. Saying that something is a “brute fact” is just another way of saying “it just is.” Declaring something to be a “brute fact” amounts to encouraging people to cease rational enquiry because that something cannot be explained.

            As I stated, this may or may not be Dennett’s view. or Dennett may consider his algorithm as a “brute fact” in the sense that it must simply be accepted without explanation until scientific understanding advances to such a state as to be able answer it.

            Mind is not a “brute fact” under monotheism. Rather, it is the fundamental…the ultimate reality.

            Rubbish. Of course the “mind” is a brute fact under monotheism. You merely accept it as a given, a fact for which no further explanation is necessary or can be given.

            What’s more, as my litany of questions show, the list of “brute facts” your theism asserts is far more extensive than science’s, which is continually narrowing them. This sort of theism is the true the killer of rational inquiry. Imagine the world now if we continued to believe that disease or abnormal behavior was the work of supernatural spirits, as theism used to assert (and still occassionally does).

            Now THAT, sir, is the logical fallacy of argument from authority. You have cited authority opinion without citing the rational basis behind that authority opinion.

            Sorry, Sir, you have repeatedly failed to substantiate your view that a fallacious argument from authority omits citing the rational basis behind that authority. Such obfuscation is clearly an attempt to avoid confronting the fact of your baseless claims. You’re quite free to read the articles I linked to. Heck, you don’t even need to read the articles (even more of which are here); you can just read the abstracts. But if you prefer, I can copy and paste all the articles, assuming you won’t just dimiss the thousands of scientists who disagree with you and Schwartz as “ideologically driven”.

            OK, fine. Where did the mindless algorithms come from? Are they another just-is appendage to the atheist ultimate reality of mindless matter? Yet another “brute fact”?!

            Perhaps, perhaps not. Is it your claim that these simple algorithms were produced and subsequently unleashed by the “mind” to randomly produce whatever they come up with? Or did the “mind” tinker with the algorithms along the billions of years of their existence to produce our current universe and our microscopic part in it? I eagerly await answers to these and other questions. After all, you said, “Once again, with the theistic model, THERE ARE NO EXPLANATORY GAPS TO BE BRIDGED.”

            You ask, “What similar experience do we have of some non-material mind writing or coding anything?” But the correct question is, “What experience do we have of mindless matter writing or coding anything?” And that is the whole point….mindless matter cannot write or code anything, but mind can. This is a solid reason to infer an intelligent mind behind the coded instructional language of DNA. What reasoning do we have to infer mindless matter is somehow responsible for a coded instructional language such as that of DNA? Meaning and symbolic representation are properties of mind, not of matter or energy.

            Your question was already answered: “Meanwhile, we do know that natural processes working over time can produce what appear to be “coded information”. You’ve already conceded the mindlessness of the mechanism (“OK fine, the mechanism itself is mindless (if you want it to be)…”), but then retreat to wondering what produced the mechanism in the first place, thus ignoring the entire point. We already have a clear-cut case of mindless mechanisms producing coded information, which destroys your inference. And since that is the case, it is not unreasonable at all to maintain that other mindless antecedents exist as well.

            Well, describing where life originated does nothing to explain how it originated. You ask, “Why would the ‘the mind’ plant pre-life forms on comets and meteors?” I don’t know because I am not suggesting that this happened, you are. What evidence is there that life came from outer space?

            If you bothered to visit the site I provided, exploringorigins.org, you’d have read that:

            “According to the RNA World Hypothesis, RNA was a key molecule that was utilized by the earliest life on Earth to store genetic information and to catalyze chemical reactions. This raises the question, however, of how RNA formed under prebiotic conditions on the early Earth. In fact, the issue of the complete synthesis of RNA nucleotides has been a major stumbling block for the RNA World Hypothesis. The sugar found in the backbone of both DNA and RNA, ribose, has been particularly problematic, as the most prebiotically plausible chemical reaction schemes have typically yielded only a small amount of ribose mixed with a diverse assortment of other sugar molecules.

            These difficulties have led some scientists to hypothesize that RNA was preceded by other RNA-like molecules that were more stable and readily synthesized under prebiotic conditions. Based on analyses of meteorites, such as the Murchison meteorite, other scientists contest that some components of RNA may have formed in space and arrived on Earth rather than being formed de novo on the Earth.

            Recent research has shown, however, that RNA nucleotides can be formed without the need for pure ribose. Importantly, the starting materials for the reaction can utilize starting materials that are considered prebiotically plausible, and provide high yields of RNA nucleotides. These results have greatly bolstered the argument that RNA nucleotides may have been found in abundance on the early Earth.”

            Do you agree with the hypothesis proposed by prominent atheists such as Dawkins, Crick, and Orgel that life was created by aliens in their laboratory and then brought to earth in their spaceship?

            I know Crick and Orgel proposed something like this, known as “directed panspermia”. But I can’t find where Dawkins endorses the view. You reference his interview with Ben Stein, but it’s obvious Dawkins wasn’t endorsing directed panspermia, as he was forced to remind everyone later.

            “‘The mind’ zapping a cell into existence on earth and starting its evolution to produce us” is your crude caricature of the theistic model. Caricature does not constitute rational argument. Rather, it substitutes for rational argument where rational argument is lacking.

            In your article, Why life could not have emerged without God, you made much of the amazing complexity of the cell, and quoted MIT physicist Gerald Schroeder as saying:

            “…and then there is the uncontested reality that life started immediately on just-cooled earth and not after billions of years as had been once posited. Elso Barghoorn, while at Harvard University, discovered this fact that changed the entire emphasis in origin of life studies. Barghoorn discovered that the oldest rocks that can bear fossils already have fully formed fossils of one-celled life. And most amazingly, and yet by necessity, those first forms of life already had the ability to reproduce. Reproduction is not something that can gradually evolve. The first cell to survive had to have all the mechanisms for mitosis the first time around since all the attempts at life that came before (if there were other attempts) died without leaving any heritage simply because there was no succeeding generation prior to reproduction.”

            Your argument is clear: cells were the first life-forms, and they could not have evolved. And because DNA contained within them is only the product of the “mind”, it cannot naturally evolve either.

            So please, tell me, how is anything I originally said a caricature of your argument? If the “mind” didn’t zap a cell into existence, then where did it come from, given that a cell could not have evolved naturally, as Schroeder states? And if the first cell didn’t contain all the DNA information necessary to produce the diversity of all life that ever existed, then how and when was the DNA information added?


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              Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 32 ) says:

              I’m still waiting for any support of this notion besides your say-so. Does one need faith to believe the sun will come up tomorrow? Does one need faith to believe the lunch you intend to eat won’t kill you? No one speaks of their faith in sunrises or poison-free meals – well, except masters of equivocation like theistic apologists.

              No, it doesn’t take much faith to believe that the sun will come up tomorrow morning. But it does take a huge amount of faith to believe that mindless matter can somehow create conscious intelligent beings. What is the mechanism by which it does so? The laws of physics? OK, fine. Where did the laws of physics come from? What is it that causes matter to so consistently follow such laws? Atheism is stuck with answering the above questions with, “they just are” and “it just does,” respectively. Mindless matter does not have any mechanism for bringing increasing order to the universe. But if mind is the fundamental or the “ultimate reality,” (and the entire universe is therefore a manifestation of consciousness), there is no mystery as to where this increasing order comes from.

              Science has a long and well-established track record of demonstrating purely natural causes for phenomena once believed to be “clearly” of supernatural origin. And unless you still believe, for example, that seizures are the work of demons, as theists of old did (Mark 9:14-29), then you too acknowledge this fact.
              It doesn’t take any faith whatsoever to believe that science will continue to do so. On the contrary, it takes faith to maintain belief in supernatural causes in the face of the excellent scientific track record debunking them.

              Robert, you can have as many natural causes as you want. But the fact remains, you are going to have to answer the question of where these natural causes came from. There is nothing inconsistent with theism in believing that “natural causes” are the source of such things as the diversification of life. You yourself have mentioned Christian theists who believe in Darwinian evolution.

              By citing “natural causes” and science, you are just delaying the ultimate metascientific or ontological question of what the source of the ordering of the universe is. I will grant you absolutely whatever scientific theory you want. Darwinian evolution? You want it, you’ve got it.
              Life that originated when aliens created it in their laboratory and then brought it to earth in their spaceship? You want it, you’ve got it.

              What you are doing here is conflating science and naturalism/materialism. Your fundamental assumption is that mindless matter can, in some unexplained way, become more ordered. You admit that you do not know the source of the “high degree of ordering of the objective world,” that Einstein marvelled at. All that citing “natural causes” does is delay, rather than answer, this fundamental metascientific / ontological question.

              “Heated debates within academia”, eh?
              I quote from the National Center for Science Education’s Project Steve:
              “NCSE’s “Project Steve” is a tongue-in-cheek parody of a long-standing creationist tradition of amassing lists of “scientists who doubt evolution” or “scientists who dissent from Darwinism.”
              Creationists draw up these lists to try to convince the public that evolution is somehow being rejected by scientists, that it is a “theory in crisis.” Not everyone realizes that this claim is unfounded. NCSE has been asked numerous times to compile a list of thousands of scientists affirming the validity of the theory of evolution. Although we easily could have done so, we have resisted. We did not wish to mislead the public into thinking that scientific issues are decided by who has the longer list of scientists!
              Project Steve pokes fun at this practice and, because “Steves” are only about 1% of scientists, it also makes the point that tens of thousands of scientists support evolution. And it honors the late Stephen Jay Gould, evolutionary biologist, NCSE supporter, and friend.
              We’d like to think that after Project Steve, we’ll have seen the last of bogus “scientists doubting evolution” lists, but it’s probably too much to ask. We hope that when such lists are proposed, reporters and other citizens will ask, “How many Steves are on your list!?”
              The statement:
              Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to “intelligent design,” to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation’s public schools.”
              Please take careful note of the words “there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence”. Punctuated equilibrium is one of those “patterns and processes” of evolution, not a dispute about evolution as an explanation for life’s diversity and complexity. Claims that “Without gradualism, Darwinian evolution has no mechanism”, or gradual vs. rapid diversification are “fundamental issues” are just plain false. I recommend UC Berkeley’s article Competing Hypothesis About the Page of Evolution to clear up your misunderstanding.

              OK, fine. Darwinian evolution? You want it, you’ve got it. This is a natural mechanism that then needs an explanation, as I demonstrate in Why Evolution Cannot Be Used to Rationalize Atheism. You have yourself pointed out that there are Christian theists who believe in Darwinian evolution. What is the source of the Darwinian mechanism? More to the point, what is the source of the “high degree of ordering of the objective world” that Einstein marvelled at? You admit that you do not have an answer.

              By the way, if we had run a “project Steve” on the view that light waves travel through a substance known as “ether” 120 years ago, we would have gotten a similar result. The same goes for the view that disease was caused by “bad blood” and that therefore, bloodletting is a good cure for many diseases. This view was virtually unanimous in the scientific community for nearly 2000 years. Just 200 years ago, you would be hard pressed to find any “Steve” that disagreed with the idea that bloodletting is a good cure for diseases.

              The same with phrenology (which purported to determine character, personality traits, and criminality on the basis of the shape of the head). Run a “project Steve” for phrenology just 150 years ago, and you would have gotten a similar result.

              What you are doing is failing to recognize the provisional nature of scientific knowledge. Lynn Margulis (a Professor of Biology from Oxford and the University of Massachusetts, who won the U.S. Presidential Medal for Science) puts it well in her book What Is Life?

              “…science is asymptotic. It never arrives at but only approaches the tantalizing goal of final knowledge. Astrology gives way to astronomy; alchemy evolves into chemistry. The science of one age becomes the mythology of the next.”

              You see, science by itself cannot answer ultimate questions such as “What is the source of the high degree of ordering of the objective world.” It can assist in answering such ultimate ontological questions, but ontological reasoning must be used to reach ontological conclusions.

              For example, take the statement, “The only kind of knowledge that we can have is scientific knowledge” (which you seem to believe). This is a self-defeating statement. Philosopher Mikael Stenmark comments in his book Scientism: Science, Ethics and Religion:

              The problem is that the scientistic [not to be confused with “scientific”] belief that we can only know what science can tell us seems to be something that science cannot tell us. How can one set up a scientific experiment to demonstrate the truth of T1 [“T1” is Stenmark’s symbol for the premise, “The only kind of knowledge that we can have is scientific knowledge.”] What methods in, for instance, biology or physics are suitable for such a task? Well, hardly those methods that make it possible for scientists to discover and explain electrons, protons, genes, survival mechanisms and natural selection. Furthermore, it is not because the content of this belief is too small, too distant, or too far in the past for science to determine its truth-value (or probability). Rather it is that beliefs of this sort are not subject to scientific inquiry. We cannot come to know T1 by appeal to science alone. T1 is rather a view in the theory of knowledge and is, therefore, a piece of philosophy and not a piece of science. But if this is the case, then T1 is self-refuting. If T1 is true, then it is false. T1 falsifies itself.

              And the same is true with such statements as, “Science alone can answer our existential questions and explain as well as replace traditional religion.” Such a statement is self-refuting because it is not a scientific statement. Perhaps that is why Einstein said, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

              Further, your citation of “project Steve” is an absolutely textbook example of the logical fallacy of argument from authority. You seem to essentially be saying, “There are more smart scientists who endorse my views than endorse yours, therefore my view must be true.” But there are enormous problems with this line of reasoning. First of all, there is the provisional nature of scientific theories and paradigms. Any scientific theory that is currently the agreed upon paradigm within the scientific community started as a minority view. Even the “round Earth” view started as a minority view. Darwinism itself was very much a fringe theory for many years after 1859, when Darwin published On the Origin of Species. So how does one determine at what point in time it is appropriate to run a “project Steve” so as to use the currently reigning scientific paradigm as a launching pad for sweeping ontological conclusions…. without the assistance of philosophical reasoning?

              How about when “telegony” (which says that offspring can inherit the characteristics of a previous mate of the female parent; thus the child of a widowed or remarried woman might partake of traits of a previous husband) was a widely accepted scientific theory? (click here) Would running a “project Steve” when telegony was all the rage among scientists allowed us to draw any ontological conclusions?

              You seem to think that an agreed upon theoretical framework (or paradigm) can provide a final answer to a fundamental metascientific / ontological question. But it clearly cannot. If you are to believe that a natural mechanism such as random mutation and natural selection is responsible for the diversification of life, then you are stuck with the question of where this mechanism came from. Natural mechanisms provide possible answers to questions of intermediate causation, but not to questions of ultimate causation.

              Questions of ultimate causation are the realm of philosophy (and, more specifically, the branch of philosophy known as ontology). So, I will ask you again: What is your answer to the question of where the “high degree of ordering of the objective world” comes from? You clearly believe that it is not mind that is the source of this ordering. But then you fail to provide any sort of alternate explanation more substantive than…this ordering just is. We know through personal experience that consciousness exists (otherwise how could we know anything?) and we know that consciousness is fundamentally imbued with the ability to create and bring about ordering. Mindless matter is NOT imbued with these properties.

              Just so we are clear, let’s break this down:

              1) Scientific theory:

              “A mechanism known as random mutation and natural selection is responsible for the diversification of life from a common ancestor.”

              2) Shoddy, over-reaching and logically unsupportable philosophical (and specifically, ontological) conclusion derived from this scientific theory:

              “The lack of clearly apparent intelligence involved in this mechanism for the diversification of life can be used to extrapolate a lack of intelligence involved anywhere in the phenomenon of life…or even in the high degree of ordering present anywhere else in the objective world. Even the source of this mechanism, and the source for the origin of life itself, are mechanistic and mindless. The high degree of ordering of the objective world is not the result of mind, but rather, just is. We can know all of these things because this mechanism for the diversification of life (from an immensely complex putative common ancestor) does not itself display any clearly apparent intelligence. ”

              Whenever you cite a philosophical conclusion drawn by scientific experts, without also citing the philosophical reasoning to support that philosophical conclusion, we have no choice but to assume that you are doing so in order to protect that philosophical reasoning from logical scrutiny….logical scrutiny that you are aware that your philosophical conclusion cannot withstand.

              This is because the philosophical conclusion drawn by these experts is ideologically based, as opposed to logically based.

              They would answer as French scientist Pierre-Simon Laplace answered Napolean’s question why Laplace’s work on celestial mechanics made no mention of a creator: “I had no need of that hypothesis”. Scientists can reasonably conclude it happened without a mind because it has never been needed to explain it. Proponents of so-called “Intelligent Design”, which attempts to demonstrate the necessity of a higher mind behind life, have failed misiberably to support their hypothesis. Even theistic scientists such as Kenneth Miller dismiss their work. (Miller also echoes something you may have heard before: “The lack of a detailed current explanation for a structure, organ, or process does not mean that science will never come up with one.”)

              OK, fine. Science will one day come up with an answer for “a structure, organ, or process.” But, once again, you are discussing matters of intermediate causation, which are scientific. You again conflate science and naturalism. Matters of ultimate causation are metascientific / ontological.

              If an atheist like Laplace wants to say that he is in no need of a creator, that is fine. But what atheists clearly ARE in need of is an alternate explanation for the high degree of ordering of the objective world. And this is exactly what atheists such as Laplace fail to provide. Laplace is essentially saying, “I have no need for a creator as the source of ordering of the objective world, nor do I have the need of an alternate explanation either. This ordering just is.”

              In any case, please clarify for me your position: do you accept the theory of evolution as explaining the diversity and complexity of life on earth? Or do you accept some non-scientific variant of it, such as theistic evolution, or intelligent design? Or are you a creationist who holds that a deity created all life forms that ever existed in the forms we found them? Or do you accept some other hypothesis?

              I think that the theory of evolution is the currently reigning paradigm (or theoretical framework) that science has embraced. And I see no problem with this. Science cannot proceed without an agreed upon theoretical framework because scientists need such a framework as a foundation for scientific research. Darwinian evolution is (like all other scientific theories) provisional and provides only a piece of the puzzle.

              But using the currently agreed upon theoretical framework (“life diversified as the result of a natural mechanism known as random mutation and natural selection”) as a launchpad for bold ontological / meta-scientific conclusions (“this natural mechanism does away with any need to explain for the high degree of ordering of the objective world”) is not science. Rather, it is a shoddy philosophical add-on to science. Statements such as, “The universe as we know it is the result of blind, unintelligent mechanisms that are themselves the result of blind mindlessness,” are extra-scientific, and therefore, philosophical statements. Think about it…how could a statement such as the preceding one be tested by the methods of science? By placing such a statement under a bunsen burner and seeing if it evaporates? By placing such a statement in a centrifuge and seeing if it disintegrates when exposed to high gravitational forces?

              Proposed natural mechanisms only provide possible answers to questions of intermediate causation, not ultimate causation. Natural mechanisms require a cause just like any other contingent cause. Only an ultimate cause (which is not contingent, but fundamental) does not itself require a cause. The theistic ultimate cause is mind (God’s mind). The atheistic ultimate cause is mindless matter…mindless matter that creates things and causes a high degree of ordering in the objective world because it just does even though mindless matter is neither creative nor ordering.

              What is your evidence that “a mind” is behind life’s diversity and complexity, Mr. proprietor of “godevidence.org”? By what mechanism(s) did it produce this life? Where and when did it intercede, or was it guiding the entire diversification-of-life process from start to finish? Why did it utilize such a cumbersome and wasteful process? Indeed, why did it create any life, much less human life, at all? You say theism has answers – well, here’s your opportunity to provide them.

              What evidence is there that a mind is behind life’s diversity and complexity? The evidence presented in my essay titled Why Life Could Not Have Emerged Without God. And even without this essay, the simple fact remains that we know that mind exists (because we know that our minds exist) and we know that mind is imbued with the capacity to order and create (because our minds are able to order and create). If the entire universe is a manifestation of consciousness (as modern physics declares), then this ordering is also a manifestation of consciousness.

              What capacity to order and create does mindless matter have? None whatsoever? So how did this “high degree of ordering of the objective world” that Einstein marveled at come to pass if mindless matter is the fundamental of existence (the ultimate reality)? As the result of mindless yet creative natural mechanisms that just are?!

              Actually, I prefer the title, “His Most Honorable Excellency and President For Life Proprietor of GodEvidence.com” (just kidding). By what mechanism does God’s mind produce life? By what mechanism did Beethoven’s mind produce his 9th symphony? Mind is by its very nature creative and ordering. Mindless matter is not. Mindless matter as the ultimate reality needs all sorts of “it just is” add-ons to explain the creativity and ordering present in the objective world.

              Questions such as, “By what mechanism(s) did it produce this life?” and, “Where and when did it intercede?” are questions of intermediate causation, rather than ultimate causation, and therefore are not relevant to the theme of this website.

              As to why God created human life, please consult my essay titled If God is There, Why Doesn’t He Show Himself? Summary: God wants to be in relationships.

              Steve, ignoring your irrelevant ad hominems, as well as the mischaracterization of the Margulis/Mazur discussion, it’s clear you don’t understand what the Altenberg conference was about. Far from attempting to demonstrate the “deteriorating scientific basis” of evolution, the conference was intended to “discuss the current status of evolutionary theory, and in particular a series of exciting empirical and conceptual advances that have marked the field in recent times” according to a signed statement of participants. The statement further went on to note that “By incorporating these new results and insights into our understanding of evolution, we believe that the explanatory power of evolutionary theory is greatly expanded within biology and beyond. As is the nature of science, some of the new ideas will stand the test of time, while others will be significantly modified. Nonetheless, there is much justified excitement in evolutionary biology these days. This is a propitious time to engage the scientific community in a vast interdisciplinary effort to further our understanding of how life evolves.”

              Robert, you are missing the whole point. OF COURSE biologists are going to make statements such as this. That is the whole point of my essay titled If the Evidence for God Is So Strong, Why Are So Many Smart People Unconvinced? There is an intense ideological bias against God in biological circles because biologists are in the business of providing explanations for the phenomenon of life. There should be no surprize whatsoever that biologists find the idea that there are areas of the phenomenon of life which are beyond the access of human reason to be…“repugnant.” A statement such as, “A majority of biologists see no good reason to endorse the role of intelligence in the phenomenon of life” is about as meaningful as the statement, “A majority of Ford salesmen find no reason to endorse Chevrolet products as reliable and economical alternatives to Ford products.” It is this intense ideological bias that causes highly prominent biologists such as Richard Dawkins and Francis Crick, etc. to endorse the aliens-brought-life-to-earth-in-their-spaceship explanation for the origin of life….or the piggyback-ride-on-crystals explanation for the origin of life provided by prominent atheist biologists Michael Ruse…or the life-came-to-earth-from-space-without-aliens explanation several prominent atheists endorse (and that you seem to endorse).

              And, notably, you again commit the logical fallacy of argument from authority because you do not even mention the reasoning which atheistic biologists use to go from biology to atheism. Please cite for me exactly which scientific theory (scientific theories, again, are highly provisional) these biologists use to reach sweeping ontological conclusions without even referencing philosophy.

              Lastly, how does the text you provide above in any way change what Margulis said about neo-Darwinism in the citation from the book that I provided? Was she joking? Did I take her out of context? If so, please re-insert the citation that I provided into what you feel is the correct context. Guess what…you can’t because her statements were categorical.

              I never claimed that science is an error-free method for determining the nature of existence, only that it is the best, most reliable method, far better than philosophy or theology, whose errors could fill 100 times more volumes than science’s errors. The puzzle is why people continue to cling to such failed “answers” for the ultimate questions. Emotion and faith are in my opinion the likely culprits.

              Here, yet again, you embarrass yourself by using philosophical reasoning to belittle philosophy. Are you not even able to perceive the self-refuting nature of your arguments?! If “science is better than philosophy” is a scientific conclusion (rather than philosophical), please cite for me which branch of science and which scientific experiments allowed you to draw such a conclusion. Perhaps it was a chemistry experiment in which science and philosophy were both placed into a centrifuge, and in which only science survived the gravitational forces subjected to it by the centrifuge.

              Remarkably, you still seem to believe that science can reach ontological conclusions without the assistance of philosophy…even though ontology is a branch of philosophy.

              It would do nothing to explain away millions of other hypothetical entities or processes too. The importance of evolution is that it shows increasing order and information complexity can develop absent some kind of disembodied “mind” directing it. At one time, there was no conceivable means other than a “mind” to explain them. Now, there is another means, a roundly evidenced, non-intelligent one – and science discovered it. Not philosophy. Not theology. Science.

              OK, fine. Evolution shows that “increasing order and information complexity can develop absent some kind of disembodied mind,” if you wish. But where did the mechanism come from that allows this “mindless” ordering? Robots are mindless and cause ordering, but robots are not themselves the product of mindlessness. Rather, they are the product of human minds.

              In my post titled Why Evolution Cannot Be Used To Rationalize Atheism, I mention the example of the automobile factory where all of the manufacturing is accomplished by robots. Does the mindlessness with which the robots manufacture the cars allow us to extrapolate and assume that there is no intelligence involved anywhere in the manufacturing process? Of course not… this would be a ridiculous over-extrapolation because it is obvious that there was intelligence involved in the creating of the robots, as well as the software that guides the robots, and the factory itself.

              Your extrapolation from an (at least apparently) mindless process, to a mindless source for the entire universe, is equally (if not more) ridiculous. You could mitigate this ridiculousness by proposing some alternate source for the “high degree of ordering of the objective world,” but instead of doing so, you and other atheists resort to what amounts to the intellectual equivalent of a promissory note: “We don’t know what the source of this ordering is, but we will figure it out someday.” This, again, is what the eminent philosopher of science Karl Popper mockingly referred to as “promissory materialism.”

              You ask where the “software” that guides such a non-intelligent process comes from. As I said, science is working on that question, but we do know they’re based on simpler algorithms. Your insistent answer is a hypothesis that has been consistently debunked. The rational approach is thus to reject your hypothesis and proportion one’s belief to the evidence, as the atheist does.

              There you go again with the promissory materialism, Robert. No matter how much research is conducted, science will never be able to find a way for mindless matter to be creative or ordering…as is mind. Just as science will never find a way for squares to actually be round, science will never be able to find a way for mindless matter to bring about “the high degree of ordering of the objective world” that Einstein marvelled at.

              Can you argue with this? Perhaps you could propose a hypothesis for how mindless matter could bring about this ordering all by itself. Who knows, maybe you could impress me. Could you come up with such a hypothesis without resorting to just-so appendages to mindless matter…such as physical laws that just are, without a lawgiver?

              You say that atheists “proportion their beliefs to the evidence.” And yet again, you do not provide any evidence to support your view that mindless matter can be creative or ordering. No amount of future scientific research will be able to show that mindless matter is actually creative and ordering, just as no amount of future scientific research will be able to demonstrate that squares are actually round.

              What’s more, there are questions that theists simply cannot answer, such as why a “mind” of limitless intelligence would employ such a wasteful, time-consuming, algorithmic process to produce life. No wonder many of them reject evolution. It makes the great “mind” appear as a bungling tinkerer.

              Actually, there are a lot of things I don’t know about a lot of different minds. For example, why do some people drive slow in the fast lane when they could pull over to the right?

              Further, how could I be so arrogant as to think that I could know everything about the mind of God?

              Also, a “wasteful, time-consuming” process is entirely consistent with the biblical concept of a “fallen world.”

              “Staticity” means “the condition of being static” – as a quick Google search would have informed you. What I mean is that your article rejects the notion that information complexity could accrue naturally. To take your example of robots, they have all the information they need to build whatever they’re programmed to build; their informational programming is static. But in evolution, we see something different. The “robots” started extremely simple, then grew more and more complex, building ever more diverse machines – all in a completely natural way that is amply evidenced in scientific articles like the one I cited earlier.

              OK, fine. How did this natural process that allowed for the increase in the complexity of the “robots” come about? This increase in complexity of a natural process would then be a component of the “high degree of ordering of the objective world” that Einstein marvelled at. Would it be the case that this increase in complexity of a natural mechanism just is, as atheism so often asserts?

              You are here using sleight-of-hand to trying to avoid answering a fundamental ontological / meta-scientific question that atheism cannot answer. You keep citing intermediate causes for this ordering in order to dodge the question of what is the ultimate cause for this ordering.

              “Theoretical abstraction”…hehe. You should more carefully review the growing body of research on abiogenesis before further embarassing yourself with such mischaracterizations. One might have thought that exclaiming such an utterly ignorant claim like the scientific community knows absolutely nothing how unintelligent natural processes could have brought about life would have taught you to be a bit more careful.
              The point is, scientists are rapidly understanding the mechanisms of abiogenesis, thus shrinking even further the exclusive province of this “mind” of yours. I know, I know, according to you, they’re just making this stuff up in so they can live a life of godless debauchery, but you even you gotta grant it sounds more plausible than “goddidit”.

              Hehe….Why don’t you present the “growing body of research on abiogenesis.” Would it be the research supporting the aliens-brought-life-to-earth-in-their-spaceship hypothesis supported by prominent atheists such as Dawkins, Crick, and Orgel? Or would it be the research supporting the piggyback-ride-on-crystals hypothesis for the origin of life that is a “popular theory” according to the prominent atheist biologist Michael Ruse. Or would it be the life-came-to-earth-from-space-by-itself-without-aliens hypothesis supported by prominent atheists such as Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickaramsinghe (and which you seem to support)? (Please read my post titled Why Life Could Not Have Emerged Without God to learn more about these entertaining hypotheses). Or do you have a novel hypothesis to share with us?

              I AM VERY, VERY CURIOUS TO HEAR ABOUT THIS RESEARCH, ROBERT!!

              Further, even if “scientists are rapidly understanding the mechanisms of abiogenesis,” we would then be left with the need for an explanation as to where these mechanisms came from. Maybe it was the mechanisms that came from space aliens! Or maybe these mechanisms of abiogenesis just are. Maybe they are “brute fact” mechanisms.

              As I’ve said before, atheism is not in the business of providing explanations or answers. It’s simply a rejection of the god hypothesis due to insufficient evidence, as well as the hypothesis’s repeated failure in explaining other phenomenon.
              In any case, I did provide what scientists like Daniel Dennett believe is the mechanism for the order we experience.
              But let me ask you, from whence the “mind” you allege to be the source of objective ordering? It is the case that it just is? Is that supposed to be a substantive answer? What about answers to my other questions? How does the alleged mind “direct” matter? What is “the mind” doing at the probalistic quantum level? Is it leaving energy alone? How does it convert energy to matter and vice-versa? When you bounce your basketball, is “the mind” directing it to go “up”? Or is it creating and dissolving local gravity fields around the ball? How do we determine the truth of your answers without indulging just-so storytelling?

              Robert, we have been over this before. Both atheism and theism tend to agree on the need for an “ultimate reality” (or a “something-that-has-always-existed”)…in other words ONE “just is.” But logical necessity suggests that there can only be ONE ultimate reality, or one irreducible. If there were more than one ultimate reality, none of them would really be ultimate or irreducible.

              The theist “ultimate reality” is mind. And mind is imbued with the capacity to order and create. The atheist “ultimate reality” is mindless matter. Mindless matter is NOT imbued with the ability to order and create. Therefore, mindless matter needs natural mechanisms that “just are” so that it can order and create. What is the logical basis for assuming the existence of natural mechanisms that “just are” and serve as appendages to the ultimate reality? Only a non-contingent cause (or an ultimate reality) does not require a cause because a non-contingent cause has always been and therefore does not itself need a cause. But all contingent causes (such as natural mechanisms) are themselves in need of a cause.

              Atheism and theism agree on the logical necessity for an “ultimate reality” that “just is.” But what is the logical necessity of these “just so” mechanisms (that are appendages to the atheist ultimate reality of mindless matter)? We know that consciousness (mind) exists, or else we wouldn’t be having this debate. So what is the logical necessity of putting the cart before the horse by arguing that mindless matter produces consciousness? What is your philosophical rebuttal to the citations I provide in this essay to the philosopher Keith Ward? Specifically, I am referring to the classical philosophical axiom that “for a truly explanatory cause to be intelligible, it must contain its effects potentially in itself. As the classical philosophers put it, the cause must contain more reality than its effects.”

              Are you going to try to respond to a philosophical axiom by citing science? Recall that science alone cannot come to any philosophical conclusions because the mechanisms of science are not equipped to do so.

              You quote Christian apologist, non-scientist Lee Strobel, who wrote:

              “And this kind of information is invariably the result of mind—not chance, not natural selection, and not self-organizational processes.”

              Citing Mr. Strobel is a fallacious appeal to authority. What’s more, what he says is simply false. Non-intelligent evolutionary mechanisms do produce information and “specified complexity”. The mechanisms are well-documented. What theists have failed miserably to do is document how the “mind” is supposed to be creating the “specified complexity”. I asked how before and you’ve simply ignored my questions.

              How was the mind of Beethoven able to produce his 9th symphony? Consciousness involves ordering and creating, and if the entire universe is a manifestation of consciousness, we should expect to witness this ordering and creating.

              The book is authored by Lee Strobel but the arguments come from an interview with Stephen Meyer, who holds a Ph.D. in the History and Philosophy of Science from Cambridge University for a dissertation on the history of origin of life biology and the methodology of the historical sciences.

              You cite mechanisms that produce information and specified complexity. OK, fine. Where did these mechanisms come from? Is it the case that they just are? Once again the pertinent question is not about intermediate causes, which are scientific. Rather the pertinent question is about ultimate causes, which are meta-scientific / ontological.

              Not surprisingly, you ignored the question that embodied my point: “Where does simple matter leave off and ‘symbolic representation’ begin?” Is it “DNA”? Why not RNA? Or nucleotides?
              And by the way, sugar is a major component of DNA, in the form of deoxyribose. Does that word ring a bell? It should.

              DNA uses the the genetic code comprised of the letters AGCT to mediate information between the two languages of life, proteins and nucleic acids.

              ACGT stands for the four nucleic acid bases that serve as the alphabet (symbols) of DNA. The “A” stands for Adenine and pairs with the “T”, which stands for Thymine. The “C” stands for Cytosine and pairs with the “G”, Guanine. These four nucleic acids make up a creature’s genetic code, or DNA.

              This is symbolic representation. DNA contains the instructional information for the development of an organism. Simple non-living matter does not contain any codified instructional information because there is nothing to instruct simple non-living matter to do. In other words, simple non-living matter does not grow and develop (from a zygote into a human, for example) and so it does not need to contain any codified, instructional information. Sperm and egg cells contain huge amounts of codified information (symbolic representation using the AGCT alphabet) that determine how a zygote will grow and develop. What codified information, what alphabet, is present in simple matter?

              Can you make a case for codified information (symbolic representation) present in RNA or nucleotides? If so, what would that accomplish?

              Certainly. Please look up fideism, which is broadly defined as “reliance on faith alone rather than scientific reasoning or philosophy in questions of religion.” The relevance is to prove your claim that “Atheism relies much more on faith than does theism” is unfounded. I know of no type of atheism that relies on “faith alone”, whereas the history of fideism in religions like Christianity is very deep.

              I know of a type of atheism that relies on faith: The type of atheism that relies on hopefully-someday-to-be-discovered materialist ontological explanations for the high degree of ordering of the objective world. Your atheism, in other words.

              What is there, other than faith, in the view that, “We don’t know the [ontological] source of the high degree of ordering of the objective world, but we will figure it out someday”?!

              Scott, here we have a fundamental disagreement. In my view, your “evidence” consists mostly of “god of the gaps” arguments, i.e., “We don’t have an explanation for X, therefore God must be the cause”, and I’ve pointed out multiple times where you commit it. The fine-tuning argument is essentially an argument from ignorance. To quote from the article on the subject from Iron Chariots:
              “The argument presupposes that there is no natural process of creating universes, or that if there is it isn’t going to create a universe with our values of the constants. This is, again, just not something we know scientifically. There still isn’t a well established scientific theory on how universes are naturally created, so we cannot say that it is unlikely for our universe to have been created naturally (indeed, many of the current hypotheses indicate that our universe was created naturally; but they are not yet proved). Nor are we in the situation where science has established that there is no natural way for a universe to be created. We just don’t know enough about universes for this presupposition to be accepted.
              In this respect, this is an argument from ignorance. Saying that it is impossible for our universe to have been created naturally in this way is just like saying that the ordered shape of the hexagonal basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway could not have been created naturally. That is, of course, false. One can understand that the basalt columns are natural when one understand enough about how basalt is created and formed naturally. One cannot rule out a natural explanation until one has an understanding of the subject matter’s natural behavior. Similarly, since we don’t know how universes are created we just don’t know enough to determine that the values of the constants in our universe are indicative of an unnatural process.”

              Here, yet again, you (as well as the author of the above article) fail to make the distinction between matters of intermediate and ultimate causation. Suppose that tomorrow a “natural process of creating universes” was discovered. We would then be left with a need to explain where this natural process came from. Matters of intermediate causation are scientific, whereas matters of ultimate causation are ontological / metascientific.

              IT IS THIS CONFLATION OF SCIENTIFIC AND ONTOLOGICAL QUESTIONS THAT ATHEISM RELIES UPON IN ORDER TO AVOID ONTOLOGICAL QUESTIONS THAT IT CAN NEVER ANSWER! What specific ontological question am I referring to? You guessed it: “What is the source of the high degree of ordering of the objective world?”

              It reflects the abject poverty of your argument that you have to go back nearly a century to find scientists who support your views. Believe it or not, our cosmological understanding has advanced considerably over the past 100 years–and much to the detriment of the theistic hypothesis. Perhaps that’s “Why (Almost All) Cosmologists are Atheists“, as argued by CalTech professor of theoretical physics and Astrophysics Sean Carroll. His statements are echoed in this video, “Debunking the Kalam Cosmological Argument of William Lane Craig“, which includes interviews with a number of present-day cosmologists. Yes, scientists are arriving at an understanding for why matter and energy behave as they do, but they’re not finding “conciousness” behind it.

              Robert, you confuse referring to an argument with actually presenting an argument. You have provided links to an article and to a nearly half hour long video. Please paraphrase for us in your own language what the argument is that you are presenting.

              Suppose I said, “Here are some links to some articles and videos produced by people who support my Christian views. There are some really good Christian arguments somewhere in these articles and videos that are the result of science that is much more recent than yours. Please spend your time sorting through them and finding arguments to support MY views.” How would you respond to such a request?! Not well! You would insist that I would at least summarize the arguments that I am referencing.

              Please present for us what this alternative “understanding for why matter and energy behave as they do” rather than just referring to it. Referring to a supposed argument rather than actually presenting it is a method for preventing your arguments from being subjected to logical scrutiny….logical scrutiny that your arguments cannot withstand.

              And, by the way, the arguments I present by cosmologists (such as the cosmologists that I cite in Is There A God?: (What Is the Chance That Our World Is the Result of Chance)) are in many cases CURRENT DAY cosmologists. This would include Allan Sandage, who is widely regarded to be the greatest living cosmologist. Sandage says:

              “I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing.”

              This essay presents the anthropic fine tuning argument for the existence of God.

              Hehehe…in other words, “We have no idea how the mind does it, it just does“. This is clear-cut just-so storytelling. You have absolutely no clue how the “mind” directs matter at all, just as you have no clue how it produced conciousness, or how it created matter. There is a list of “just does’s” to your theism that far exceeds anything most atheists believe. If I were to follow your example, I would start a site called “nogodevidence.org” and point to the silence on these questions as “evidence” for atheism.

              Do you have any idea how it is that your mind directed you to write your above comments? Mind is fundamentally imbued with creativity and the capacity to bring about increasing order. Order and creativity are merely manifestations of mind. Saying that mind has the capacity to create and to order is not just-so storytelling because we know through personal experience that OUR minds are able to create and to order. But the idea that mindless matter can create and order is CONTRADICTED by our personal experience.

              All knowledge is ultimately rooted in experience. “One plus one equals two” is a mathematical axiom that is rooted in repeated human experience and therefore does not require further explanation and is therefore not just-so storytelling. But “mindless matter can create and order” is an axiom that contradicts experience and therefore is rooted in just-so storytelling rather than personal experience.

              I’m no cosmologist, but from my understanding, they would likely disagree that “the ultimate reality” somehow directs matter and energy. Instead, they might say the properties of energy and matter themselves govern their behavior. In contrast to the “mind”, these properties can be observed, tested, and utilized for predictions.

              OK, fine. “The properties of energy and matter themselves govern” the behavior of matter and energy…if you wish. But where these properties came from then needs an explanation. You are conflating science and ontology in order to avoid an ontological question that atheism cannot answer: “What is the source of this high degree of ordering of the objective world?”

              These questions are irrelevant. It can be asserted that a “mind of pure energy” is merely “the ultimate reality” – the just is, or the brute fact. Perhaps it’s comprised of the theoretical strings as posited in string theory. The point is, there is no particular reason why your understanding of the “mind” is the necessary one. There could be many “minds” as well.

              Congratulations, Robert…you just became a theist (of sorts). The logical necessity that this mind be composed of energy or “comprised of the theoretical strings posited in string theory” is not clear to me, but a mind that is “the ultimate reality” is theism in a nutshell.

              The reason that my understanding of “mind” does not include it being comprised of energy or “theoretical strings” is that there is no logical necessity to do so.

              Where did I state this was my belief? [That nothing can cause something to exist.]

              You stated your belief in something coming from nothing without cause when you referenced the atheist physicist Lawrence Krauss’ book A Universe From Nothing. I am still wondering why we can reasonably expect a universe to emerge from nothing, but cannot reasonably expect an exotic Italian sports car to emerge from nothing in my garage. I am hoping that there is no reason to not expect the latter if we can expect the former.

              No, this is a hypothetical mechanism, not a known one. You’re begging the question.

              Of what use is a hypothetical mechanism in answering fundamental ontological questions?

              Er… I’m asking how they were produced in beings such as humans. So, back to my questions: What is the mechanism your theism says produced consciousness, intelligence, or personhood [in living things, including humans]? A snap of the fingers? Powerful magical incantations? How do we determine the truth of your answers without indulging just-so storytelling?

              Did Beethoven need to snap his fingers or use a magical incantation to create his 9th symphony? No…we know from personal experience that mind is imbued with the capacity to create and order. Mindless matter is not. Mind does not need just-so appendages for it to order and create because we know from personal experience that it is fundamentally imbued with these properties. Mindless matter does need these just-so appendages.

              If you want to believe this even after I twice linked to hundreds of articles on the science of consciousness, that’s your prerogative, but it’s obvious your claim has no basis in fact.

              Robert, I have no doubt whatsoever that there are hundreds of articles that support this view…just like there were hundreds of articles supporting the theory that light waves travel through a substance known as “ether” 150 years ago. Again, an agreed upon theoretical framework can not be cited by itself as evidence to support an ontological conclusion. Such a theoretical framework (“paradigm”) must be bolstered with ontological arguments in order to reach an ontological conclusion.

              You cite “hundreds of articles” in order to prevent your ontological reasoning from being subjected to scrutiny…because you are fully aware that your ontological reasoning cannot withstand scrutiny. These articles discuss matters of intermediate causation, which are scientific, not issues of ultimate causation, which are ontological.

              I have no doubt whatsoever that materialist explanations for consciousness are all the rage in the scientific community. But, because science by itself cannot reach any ontological conclusions, there is no reason to take the statement, “More scientists support materialist explanations for consciousness than any other explanation,” any more seriously than the statement, “More major league baseball players prefer Colgate toothpaste than any other brand.” Materialism is the reigning cultural context within much of academia…no doubt about it. (I discuss this in my essay titled If the Evidence for God Is So Strong, Why Are So Many Smart People Unconvinced?) But materialism is a philosophical (specifically ontological) stance, not a scientific one. Therefore, widespread support for an ontological stance by scientists should be taken no more seriously than widespread support for an ontological stance by major league baseball players.

              Citing consensus behind an ontological stance is a method for preventing the reasoning behind that ontological stance from being subjected to logical scrutiny….logical scrutiny that it cannot withstand.

              Not a “philosophical view” at all, but an empirical one. It doesn’t take a scientific experiment to appreciate the astounding and superior success science has had in apprehending and explaining the nature of existence. How many diseases has philosophy cured? How many propes has it launched into outer space? How many accurate predictions has it made?

              Here, again, Robert, you embarrass yourself by using philosophical reasoning to support the philosophical stance that science is better than philosophy. Can you not perceive the absurdly self-refuting nature of your argument?! What scientific methodology could be used to verify the statement, “Science is better than philosophy”? Like I mentioned above, maybe you could conduct a chemistry experiment where both science and philosophy are inserted into a centrifuge so as to determine which of the two better withstands gravitational forces.

              Dreams are said to come from the subconcious mind, so I’m curious to know what the “mind” is doing at that level. In general, though, what kind of waves are being emitted by the “mind” and how can we detect them, absent, of course, your “just-does” it storytelling? Your article When I die, Is That It? presents no evidence at all that conciousness survives past brain death; this is merely an assumption on your part. In any case, We’re not quite dead yet when we experience “Near death experiences”, are we? An article at National Geographic explains what actual scientists are saying about them. Pay particular note to the end of the article,
              “The main alternative is that near-death experiences are ‘evidence of consciousness becoming separated from the physical substrate of the brain, possibly even a glimpse of an afterlife,’ the University of London’s French noted.
              But for him, at least, ‘the latest results argue strongly against such a hypothesis.’”

              Here, again, you bring up issues of intermediate causation. These matters are irrelevant to the theme of this website.

              The essay When I Die, Is That It? presents cases where consciousness continues after the complete cessation of brain activity. Such cases are presented in the BBC documentary The Day I Died, which I link to in that essay. But I will provide a textual depiction of one of the examples cited in that essay (copied and pasted from my essay Has Anyone Met God and Returned to Tell About It?):

              “In 1991, [NDE experiencer Pam] Reynolds was found to have a basilar artery aneurysm in the brain that could not be operated on with conventional neurosurgical methods without imminent risk of death. She was taken to the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix where the neurologist Robert Spetzler had pioneered a new type of surgery called hypothermic cardiac arrest, nicknamed ‘Standstill.’ What the patient first had to undergo included clinical death, which would mean that the brain EEG would come to a stop (no cerebral cortex activity), there would be no response from the brainstem (hence no brain function), and bloodflow to the brain would cease. Reynold’s body temperature was brought down to 60 degrees, her heartbeat and breathing stopped, her brainwaves flattened with no electrical activity in the brain, and the blood drained from her head. Just when she was brought to this state and before the surgery commenced, Reynolds felt herself ‘pop’ out of her body. She gave remarkably accurate descriptions of the unusual instruments used in the surgery, as well as the activities taking place in the operating room. This was followed by her encounter with her deceased relatives.”

              Once again, your reference to scientists who support your ontological view (that mindless matter can create and order) is a method to prevent this ontological view from being subjected to logical scrutiny. Science can assist in reaching ontological conclusions, but ultimately ontological conclusions require ontological reasoning. So what is your ontological reasoning that mindless matter can produce mind? Will you present it to us so that we can see if it survives logical scrutiny? I bet not (yes that is a challenge).

              well, ok. Still remain to be answered is how the “mind” produced conciousness and personhood in humans. Did it zap humans with conciousness at a certain point in their evolution? Or did it set up evolution, knowing that it would produce consciousness eventually? And why did it choose the wasteful, time-consuming, algorithmic process of evolution to produce human beings anyway?

              Again…a question of intermediate causation which is not relevant to the theme of this website.

              As I stated, this may or may not be Dennett’s view. or Dennett may consider his algorithm as a “brute fact” in the sense that it must simply be accepted without explanation until scientific understanding advances to such a state as to be able answer it.

              Algorithms are descriptive, not creative or ordering. An algorithm is a process or set of rules to be followed in performing a calculation. In other words, an “algorithm” is descriptive of a mathematical rule. Where did this mathematical rule originate? A brute fact?

              No advances in scientific understanding will be able to answer fundamental ontological questions. Advances in scientific understanding will only be able to produce more intermediate causes, as opposed to ultimate causes. Science can only produce scientific conclusions, not ontological conclusions.

              This is your habitual conflation of science with ontology.

              Rubbish. Of course the “mind” is a brute fact under monotheism. You merely accept it as a given, a fact for which no further explanation is necessary or can be given.
              What’s more, as my litany of questions show, the list of “brute facts” your theism asserts is far more extensive than science’s, which is continually narrowing them. This sort of theism is the true the killer of rational inquiry. Imagine the world now if we continued to believe that disease or abnormal behavior was the work of supernatural spirits, as theism used to assert (and still occassionally does).

              We have been over this before, Robert. Both theism and atheism tend to agree on the logical necessity for ONE “brute fact,” or ultimate reality. The logical necessity of an “ultimate reality” is that, if ever there was nothing, there would STILL be nothing because nothingness cannot cause anything to exist or to happen. What is the logical necessity for the just-so or brute fact appendages the atheist ultimate reality of mindless matter? There is none whatsoever. There is only ideological necessity.

              The ontological question which atheism cannot answer is this: If mindless matter is the ultimate reality, then how does the “high degree of ordering of the objective world” come to pass? As a result of some as-yet-to-be-discovered natural process? OK, fine…where did that natural process come from? From mindless matter? How did mindless matter produce a natural process? How does mindless matter produce anything, let alone a sophisticated natural process?

              Sorry, Sir, you have repeatedly failed to substantiate your view that a fallacious argument from authority omits citing the rational basis behind that authority. Such obfuscation is clearly an attempt to avoid confronting the fact of your baseless claims. You’re quite free to read the articles I linked to. Heck, you don’t even need to read the articles (even more of which are here); you can just read the abstracts. But if you prefer, I can copy and paste all the articles, assuming you won’t just dimiss the thousands of scientists who disagree with you and Schwartz as “ideologically driven”.

              Well that’s a lot of pompous rhetoric, Robert, but here is the breakdown:

              1) Logical fallacy of argument from authority: “Such-and-such is likely to be true because so-and-so experts say so.”

              2) NOT the logical fallacy of argument from authority: “Such-and-such view is likely to be true for such-and-such reasons presented by so-and-so expert:”

              Whenever you cite an ontological conclusion drawn by scientific experts, without also citing the ontological reasoning to support that ontological conclusion, we have no choice but to assume that you are doing so in order to protect that ontological reasoning from logical scrutiny….logical scrutiny which you are aware that your ontological reasoning cannot withstand.

              Perhaps, perhaps not. Is it your claim that these simple algorithms were produced and subsequently unleashed by the “mind” to randomly produce whatever they come up with? Or did the “mind” tinker with the algorithms along the billions of years of their existence to produce our current universe and our microscopic part in it? I eagerly await answers to these and other questions. After all, you said, “Once again, with the theistic model, THERE ARE NO EXPLANATORY GAPS TO BE BRIDGED.”

              Robert, if the entire universe is a manifestation of consciousness, as modern physics declares (and as I present in What It All Boils Down To), what is the point about bickering where certain algorithms came from? If everything is a manifestation of consciousness, “everything” would include algorithms.

              Your question was already answered: “Meanwhile, we do know that natural processes working over time can produce what appear to be “coded information”. You’ve already conceded the mindlessness of the mechanism (“OK fine, the mechanism itself is mindless (if you want it to be)…”), but then retreat to wondering what produced the mechanism in the first place, thus ignoring the entire point. We already have a clear-cut case of mindless mechanisms producing coded information, which destroys your inference. And since that is the case, it is not unreasonable at all to maintain that other mindless antecedents exist as well.

              Robert, you can have as many “mindless antecedents” as you want. Would you like a million of them? You’ve got ‘em.

              An infinite number of mindless antecedents? You want ‘em, you’ve got ‘em.

              Citing a mindless antecedent, that produced another mindless antecedent, which produced another mindless antecedent, (ad infinitum) does nothing to answer the core question: How can something that is mindless produce anything? What, for example, causes mindless antecedent # 355 to be more complex than mindless antecedent # 354? What is the mechanism by which mindlessness produces this increasing order that we see manifested in the objective world?

              If the entire universe is a manifestation of consciousness, as modern physics declares (and as I describe in What It All Boils Down To), then it is clear where this order comes from…this order is part-and-parcel of consciousness itself. But if the entire universe is a manifestation of mindless matter, where does this ordering come from?

              Robert, I tried to respond to the remainder of your above comments, but the software kept cutting me off because this comment thread has apparently gotten too long. And this brigs us to a fundamental point that I have:

              You use quantity of argument as a tactic to disguise the lack of quality of your argument. Why is is necessary for you to write such a HUGE comment? If your logical arguments are so persuasive, why can’t you summarize them in a few nutshell paragraphs?

              From this point forward, I am limiting your replies to 50 lines per day. I have had to do this once in the past with another atheist who tried to spam me out and consume all of my time by writing huge, rambling replies instead of concise, point-by-point logical arguments.


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    Robert says:

    Hi, just a few comments from an atheist :)

    Atheism relies much more on faith than does theism, and it is atheism that is utterly illogical.

    You seem to be saying here that faith is a bad thing, and that it is illogical. Is that a correct interpretation?

    As I described in my essay titled “What It All Boils Down To”, atheists and theists tend to agree that there is an ultimate reality, or a “something-that-has-always-existed.”

    I don’t think this is true. Physicist Laurence Krauss, for example, has written a best-selling book that explains how something comes from nothing.

    So, perhaps it could be said that the theism/atheism debate can be distilled to the question of, “Did mind (or ‘consciousness’) come from matter, or did matter come from mind?”

    Well, it seems energy is the properly basic substance, not matter.

    In any case, your formulation of the question is a bit odd since you say that human minds are the product of a pre-existing mind. So, your question is better expressed as “Did mind (or ‘consciousness’) come from matter, or did mind come mind?”

    Formulated this way, a difficulty becomes clear. If a mind comes from a mind, where did the God-mind come from?

    Because of the undercurrent of deeply entrenched materialist assumptions that prevail in modern secular culture, the idea of a preexistent mind without a body may seem foreign, even alien, to many people initially. And to atheists, the idea is downright superstitious and naively make-believe. But common sense impressions cannot be relied upon because they are formed, in part, by one’s cultural environment and psychological makeup.

    Huh? The idea of a pre-existing mind has been the reigning paradigm for millenia.

    Consciousness cannot be simply the result of meat (the brain) because, no matter how complex of a meat one has, consciousness is a property entirely separate from matter.

    How did you arrive at this conclusion? Certainly not from the quote of Professor Schwartz you cited, who said how matter generates mind is a mystery. In fact, according to the Nour Foundation’s Human Conciousness Project, “Today, most scientists have adopted a traditionally monist view of the mind-brain problem, arguing that the human mind, consciousness, and self are no more than by-products of electrochemical activity within the brain, notwithstanding the lack of any scientific evidence or even a plausible biological explanation as to how the brain would lead to the development of mind and consciousness.”

    Simply put, the materialist/naturalist (matter comes first) view struggles mightily to explain such things as the existence of consciousness and personhood because consciousness and personhood are entirely different phenomena than matter.

    The “struggles mightily” part is correct, but the claim that “consciousness and personhood are entirely different phenomena than matter” is hasty at best, unfounded at worst. In any case, you’re tredding into “god of the gaps” territory.

    To this objection, you state,

    But this reasoning is a classic example of what philosophers call a “category mistake” because questions regarding the relationship between such phenomena as matter, consciousness, and the personal are not scientific questions.

    Because you say so? A whole host of scientists would appear to disagree. Why are they not scientific questions? And why did you quote at length from a scientist in the first place if these matters (no pun intended) are not within the domain of science?

    But how much faith does it require to believe that conscious, personal, intelligent beings such as ourselves (as well as the material world) exist because our source is conscious, personal, and intelligent? Much, much less.

    It used to be claimed that the complexity and diversity of life required an ultimate creator, but we now know that a natural process called evolution can produce such complexity and diversity. So it takes really no faith at all to believe consciousness developed from energy and matter in a similar way too. What takes faith is to believe in a being concocted from various schools of philosophy, whose arguments have varioiusly been proven false by science.


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      Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 32 ) says:

      Robert:

      I will copy and paste your comments and then insert my replies in bold after.

      You seem to be saying here that faith is a bad thing, and that it is illogical. Is that a correct interpretation?

      No, I am saying that atheism requires much more blind faith than does theism. And faith should not be blind, rather it should be scrutinized like everything else, and the atheist faith does not withstand scrutiny. For example, in this essay, I ask the question of how it can be that matter so consistently follows physical laws (such as the laws of physics). Theism answers that matter follows such laws because the same mind that creates matter also directs it. What answer does atheism provide? Matter follows physical laws because “it just does.” This answer does not provide any explanatory power whatsoever and therefore is logically unsupportable. Can you provide a better answer? Guess what…you can’t (yes, that is a challenge).

      I don’t think this is true. Physicist Laurence Krauss, for example, has written a best-selling book that explains how something comes from nothing.

      I really like this article from the New York Times about Lawrence Krauss. Below is a copy and paste of what I consider to be an important excerpt from that article. Regarding the claim that “something comes from nothing” the author writes:

      “Well, let’s see. There are lots of different sorts of conversations one might want to have about a claim like that: conversations, say, about what it is to explain something, and about what it is to be a law of nature, and about what it is to be a physical thing. But since the space I have is limited, let me put those niceties aside and try to be quick, and crude, and concrete.”

      “Where, for starters, are the laws of quantum mechanics themselves supposed to have come from? Krauss is more or less upfront, as it turns out, about not having a clue about that. He acknowledges (albeit in a parenthesis, and just a few pages before the end of the book) that every­thing he has been talking about simply takes the basic principles of quantum mechanics for granted. “I have no idea if this notion can be usefully dispensed with,” he writes, “or at least I don’t know of any productive work in this regard.” And what if he did know of some productive work in that regard? What if he were in a position to announce, for instance, that the truth of the quantum-mechanical laws can be traced back to the fact that the world has some other, deeper property X? Wouldn’t we still be in a position to ask why X rather than Y? And is there a last such question? Is there some point at which the possibility of asking any further such questions somehow definitively comes to an end? How would that work? What would that be like?”

      Please read my essay titled Who Is Playing Make Believe? (Atheists or Theists) to learn more about the egregious philosophical errors that atheistic physicists like Krauss must make to come to such conclusions as “something comes from nothing.”

      Simply put, Richard, Lawrence Krauss is another perfect example of what Albert Einstein meant when he said, “the man of science is a poor philosopher.” I’m sure Krauss is really good at physics, but any eighth grader can see how flawed his philosophy is. When Krauss says that “something comes from nothing,” his “nothing” actually refers to the laws of physics. So his “nothing” is actually something. This is an open-and-shut equivocation.

      Well, it seems energy is the properly basic substance, not matter.

      OK, fine, have it your way, “energy is the properly basic substance.” How does energy being the basic substance change anything? If you would have read my essay titled God is real…Why modern physics has discredited atheism, upon which this essay is based, you would recall that I cited Stephen Meyer, who holds a PhD in the history and philosophy of science from Cambridge University. He writes:

      “The opposite view [from theism] holds that the physical universe or nature is the ultimate reality. In this view, either matter or energy (or both) are the things from which everything else comes. They are self-existent and do not need to be created or shaped by mind….In this view matter comes first, and conscious mind arrives on the scene much later and only then as a by-product of material processes and undirected evolutionary change. This worldview is called naturalism or materialism.”

      In any case, your formulation of the question is a bit odd since you say that human minds are the product of a pre-existing mind. So, your question is better expressed as “Did mind (or ‘consciousness’) come from matter, or did mind come mind?”

      Sure, I don’t have any problem with formulating it like that…”did mind come from mind?” The question is really “did matter and mind (and everything else) come from mind or did it come from matter?” How does you rephrasing of the question change anything?

      Formulated this way, a difficulty becomes clear. If a mind comes from a mind, where did the God-mind come from?

      Did you really read the essay?! Consciousness (God’s mind) is the ultimate reality. Atheism and theism agree that there is an ultimate reality (or a “something-that-has-always-been”). They just differ on what this ultimate reality is.

      Huh? The idea of a pre-existing mind has been the reigning paradigm for millenia.

      Please elaborate on where you are going with this. It is not clear.

      “Today, most scientists have adopted a traditionally monist view of the mind-brain problem, arguing that the human mind, consciousness, and self are no more than by-products of electrochemical activity within the brain, notwithstanding the lack of any scientific evidence or even a plausible biological explanation as to how the brain would lead to the development of mind and consciousness.”

      Yes, Richard, most scientists do adopt this view. But citing scientific consensus by itself is a clear-cut case of the logical fallacy of “argument from authority.” The reasoning behind the scientific consensus must be subjected to scrutiny because scientific consensus has been shown to provide inadequate explanatons innumerable times before, as this post describes. For example, scientists used to almost unanimously believe that light waves traveled through “ether.”

      I explain the philosophical flaws in the “reductive materialism” view (which the “traditionally monist view of the mind-brain problem” is). It is your responsibility to respond to these philosophical objections, not to merely cite scientific consensus.

      Further, I detail in my essay titled If the evidence for God is so strong, why are so many people unconvinced? why materialist explanations dominate current day science. It isn’t for logical reasons. Rather, it is for ideological reasons. READ THE ESSAY.

      The “struggles mightily” part is correct, but the claim that “consciousness and personhood are entirely different phenomena than matter” is hasty at best, unfounded at worst. In any case, you’re tredding into “god of the gaps” territory.

      Oh, OK. Then you think that consciousness and personhood are the same as matter? Do I have that right? Is matter conscious? Is the chair that I am sitting in conscious? What do you suppose that my chair is thinking right now? The point of the essay is that it is not a “God of the gaps,” but rather, a “God of the whole show.” When you refer to “God of the gaps,” you are going right back to the assumption that matter is the “ultimate reality” and that therefore, there is a gap that can be bridged between matter and mind. If mind is the “ultimate reality,” THERE IS NO GAP TO BRIDGE. It is only if matter is the ultimate reality that there is a gap to bridge.

      Because you say so? A whole host of scientists would appear to disagree [that these are philosophical rather than scientific questions]. Why are they not scientific questions?

      Richard, here is the Oxford Dictionary definition of science: “The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” And here is the Oxford Dictionary definition of philosophy: “The study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, esp. when considered as an academic discipline.”

      The ideas that consciousness is really just matter (reductive materialism) or that it just “emerges” when matter becomes complex (non-reductive or emergent materialism) are not ideas that can be demonstrated by “observation and experiment.” Can you locate some consciousness under a microscope? Matter can be spotted under a microscope but consciousness cannot. Can you isolate some consciousness in a test tube? The mechanisms of science cannot demonstrate such absurd philosophical stances because such stances cannot be subjected to scientific experiment. Reductive materialism and non-reductive or emergent materialism are neither scientifically nor philosophically supportable.

      Do you not like the Oxford Dictionary definitions of science and philosophy? Would you like to provide some other definitions?

      And why did you quote at length from a scientist in the first place if these matters (no pun intended) are not within the domain of science?

      I am not saying that scientists cannot embark in philosophy. Rather, I am saying that this philosophy must be scrutinized just like everything else.

      It used to be claimed that the complexity and diversity of life required an ultimate creator, but we now know that a natural process called evolution can produce such complexity and diversity. So it takes really no faith at all to believe consciousness developed from energy and matter in a similar way too. What takes faith is to believe in a being concocted from various schools of philosophy, whose arguments have varioiusly been proven false by science.

      Darwinian evolution starts with the simplest living thing (which is dizzyingly complex). It does not start with lifeless matter. In my essay titled Why Life Could Not Have Emerged Without God, I detail how miserably atheists have done at explaining the origin of life from lifeless matter. For example (as I detail in this essay), prominent atheist biologists such as Francis Crick and Richard Dawkins have resorted to transparently desperate explanations such as INTERVENTION FROM SPACE ALIENS to explain the origin of life. Do you agree with your fellow atheists on this one? If so, what planet do you think the aliens came from? Further, how did alien life get started? Do you think the idea that life started when it was created in a laboratory by space aliens does not require faith?

      Even further, if a natural process called evolution can produce complexity and diversity, what enables it to do so? Please read my post titled Why Evolution Cannot be Used to Rationalize Atheism. How did this natural mechanism originate? Would it be the case, as the atheist faith suggests, that it just is?

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