Class Warfare Blog

November 13, 2018

#10 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

A week and a half or so back I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #10!

  1. Purpose and Meaning. For anything to have purpose and meaning, God must exist. If Hawking is right in that the universe is all there is and there is nothing else, nothing, including his research, has any meaning or value. Meaning, value, and purpose are found only because God exists.

Now this is an argument! Step 1: Include your conclusion in your first premise. Ta da! “For anything to have purpose and meaning, God must exist.” I suggest that these people are making the fundamental error in their belief that purpose and meaning for their lives comes from without. If that is true then when someone dies, their purpose and meaning live on! How that happens is beyond me. Purpose and meaning are things that are created by humans. My argument? If humans were to disappear instantaneously, what would happen to all of our meaning and purpose? Would alien archeologists coming to investigate the remains of our civilization be able to determine what they were? (Basically I think they would conclude that city dwellers would have been obsessed with collecting dog shit in little plastic bags that they preserved in large plastic, wheeled tubs for some religious purpose as there seems to be no practical purpose for that.)

As a counter argument I offer the following from Jonathan Gamer:

The Existential Argument Against God’s Existence
(Jonathan Garner)

  1. It is a known fact that many people find their life and journey to be meaningless, purposeless, and many humans/animals find life not worth living/continuing.
    2. Premise 1 is very surprising on the hypothesis of classical theism, but not surprising on the hypothesis of indifference.
    3. The intrinsic probability of indifference is much greater than that of classical theism.
    4. Therefore, other evidence held equal, classical theism is very probably false.
    Clarification
    It is important to notice that Premise 1 isn’t so much concerned with objective values. In other words, perhaps every life really does have intrinsic value and purpose. Nevertheless, some people don’t see this.

And To Conclude …
The list’s author makes the truly astounding comment that:

“I could certainly list other reasons to believe in God’s existence. But these will suffice for now. (Stephen) Hawking was a man of great intellect. Yet, despite his great mental prowess, it is quite odd that he could never quite see the evidence for God. While he could see, he was quite blind. Hawking said that ‘religion is a fairy tale for those afraid of the dark.’ I believe John Lennox provided a stronger claim by noting that ‘atheism is a fairy tale for those afraid of the light.’”

These are not serious claims, of course, but opinions. And the comment “Yet, despite his great mental prowess (Hawking’s), it is quite odd that he could never quite see the evidence for God.” is just priceless considering the offering of the wimpy intellectual arguments of this list. The arguments were almost juvenile and certainly lacking in development even compared to the arguments available from the current crop of apologists. That a genius couldn’t see what a simpleton could, doesn’t bring the genius’s comments into dispute.

 

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November 12, 2018

#9 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

A week or so back I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #9!

  1. Near-Death Experiences and Consciousness. This is a fascinating area of study. Gary Habermas has noted that there are over 100 medically confirmed cases of near-death experiences where people have died and reported events that happened on this side of eternity which could be corroborated by others. The events described along with experiences of meeting God and the feelings of peace add to the case for God’s existence. Most certainly near-death experiences prove that materialism is a dead philosophy.

This one is a little confusing as I do not see what “and Consciousness” serves in the header. The comments are only about near death experiences, so I will address those only.

Again, this is a matter of interpretation. I grant all such experiences are “real” in the fashion that they represent mental states that the experiencers can describe. I have problem with the interpretations, of course.

To detail just one example, Air Force pilots often undergo centrifuge experiences as part of their training. These centrifuges set the pilots up in a cockpit like environment on one end of a beam with a counterweight at the other. Then the beam is spun at high rpm to simulate the g forces that one can encounter in high speed/acceleration fighter planes. The purpose of the training is to acquaint the pilots with the symptoms of g forces so they can control their aircraft so as to not cause themselves to black out while piloting.

I have been told that when pilots in training undergo their first such training experience they are not told what they will feel as almost every single person who experiences those g forces wants to “do it again” right away. Part of the experience involves the g forces causing blood to move toward the head more slowly causing significant disorientation. This process, if carried through, results in not a “fade to black” as the term “blacked out” infers but a fade to white as the ability to process the nerve signals coming from the eyes diminishes. There is also a feeling of tremendous well being that accompanies this which explains the “I want to do it again” attitude of all of the newbies. (The brain cannot process pain signals either as it becomes starved of its energy supply.) So, vision diminishes down to white light and a feeling of peace and happiness occurs because the brain is deprived of the blood it needs to function.

As one is dying, mental functions diminish in a like fashion and one can end up seeing a “white light” and having a feeling of peace and contentment. All of this having reasonable physiological reasons for it. But people who experience these sensations and report them because they came back from their near death experience describe these as “seeing god” or “seeing heaven” or “feeling the presence of god.” All of these interpretations are just that, interpreting sensations that occurred in a way that matches the beliefs and expectations of the experiencer. (How often is it reinforced for believers that they will meet god when they die?) And, of course, people from different religious cultures have different interpretations.

So, what do these “near death experiences” prove? Well, they cannot prove anything, unless the claimants that these are proof for the belief in a god establish the process by which one enters into heaven and experiences their god. What if they find out, as many have claimed, that there is a three day waiting period before one can enter Heaven? What if their god never greets people personally but has an entire cadre of heavenly greeters who do that task for it?

Where are the details believers? How can you say these near death experiences match your beliefs when your beliefs are wishy-washy and vague in the extreme? Is there a list of 10 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife?

November 7, 2018

Sometimes You Don’t Have to Even Read the Book! Part 2

Filed under: Philosophy,Science — Steve Ruis @ 11:05 am
Tags: , , ,

Another Amazon.com posting supplies all we need to know about a book without reading it. The book is: An End to Upside Down Thinking: Dispelling the Myth That the Brain Produces Consciousness, and the Implications for Everyday Life by Mark Grober. Here’s the blurb.

Consciousness creates all material reality. Biological processes do not create consciousness. This conceptual breakthrough turns traditional scientific thinking upside down. In An End to Upside Down Thinking, Mark Gober traces his journey – he explores compelling scientific evidence from a diverse set of disciplines, ranging from psychic phenomena, to near-death experiences, to quantum physics. With cutting-edge thinkers like two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Dr. Ervin Laszlo, Chief Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences Dr. Dean Radin, and New York Times bestselling author Larry Dossey, MD supporting this thesis, this book will rock the scientific community and mainstream generalists interested in understanding the true nature of reality. Today’s disarray around the globe can be linked, at its core, to a fundamental misunderstanding of our reality.

This book aims to shift our collective outlook, reshaping our view of human potential and how we treat one another. The book’s implications encourage much-needed revisions in science, technology, and medicine. General readers will find comfort in the implied worldview, which will impact their happiness and everyday decisions related to business, health and politics. Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time meets Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.

Mark Gober is an author whose worldview was turned upside down in late 2016 when he was exposed to world-changing science. After researching extensively, he wrote An End to Upside Down Thinking to introduce the general public to these cutting-edge ideas – all in an effort to encourage a much-needed global shift in scientific and existential thinking. Mark is a senior member of Sherpa Technology Group, a firm that advises businesses on mergers & acquisitions and strategy. He previously worked as an investment banking analyst in New York. Mark has been quoted for his opinions on business and technology matters in Bloomberg Businessweek and elsewhere, and he has authored internationally published business articles. He graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University, where he was captain of the tennis team.

The last paragraph supplies the author’s credentials for writing a book on human consciousness. He is a neuroscientist … uh, no … he is a philosopher … uh, no. He is a business strategist! And he was captain of the tennis team! They do not state what his degree was but a short Internet search turned up “psychology, focusing on behavioral economics” as the topic. Apparently that makes sense in the context of his career choices but it didn’t seem to focus on the problem of consciousness.

So, credentials smedentials, who needs ‘em. I have opinions on all kinds of things. But I wonder how it is that this guy stumbled upon a discovery whose “implications encourage much-needed revisions in science, technology, and medicine” uncovering the “true nature of reality.” Wow!

Well, I am a bit suspicious, especially with regard to people who argue that consciousness may not be localized to the brain. Currently we have no evidence whatsoever that this is true. In fact, we do not even have a solid definition of what consciousness is. But there are myriad people lined up making this claim and they are universally religious, because if this claim is not true then there is no “spiritual realm” nothing “existing outside of space and time” and neither are there any of the other cool fantasies cooked up to save religious ideas.

In any case, the author argues that consciousness precedes the material world, so our brains don’t create consciousness, our consciousness creates our brains! Uh, so when did consciousness emerge? If we link it to humans, then we are talking about just several million years ago. So, was there a material world before that? Apparently not if consciousness is necessary to create a material world, so this is firm evidence against the hypothesis he puts forward. Oh, you say God is a consciousness which has been there since the beginning of all matter … oh, I thought so.

November 6, 2018

#6 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

A few days back I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #6!

  1. Science and Mathematics. Ironically, the scientific method and mathematics appeal to God’s existence. Scientists hold that the universe operates according to certain laws on a regular basis. The ability to do science itself means that human beings have been given cognitive abilities to observe the universe and, interestingly, have been placed in a position where the universe is observable. One must inadvertently appeal to the divine to even do science and mathematics. To add to this point, the beauty one finds in nature would have no real aesthetic value unless God exists.

This is several “arguments” in one. Basically, it is “we must thank God for the gifts of beauty, science, math, and the brains to perceive them.”

This is a stupid argument.

Basically this is a list of things we are in awe of and claiming a source for them all. But what about all of the other things available to us? Do we thank god for all of the ugly, nasty things? How about the diseases he created, like the Black Plague, smallpox, cancer, diabetes, syphilis, etc. And then there are those terrible predators and poisonous insects and reptiles. (Oh, my!) Must we thank “Him” for those too.

Basically, this is a hold over from Plato and his theory of absolutes and forms. We have only one teeny tiny corner of the universe to observe and these idiots want to claim that it is the best that could possibly be, so it must have been created by a god. Well, how many solar systems, galaxies, and universes have these people examined? What if we find out after all of these years that we have been relegated to a low rent slum of a planet and other gods have created far cooler planets for their believers. Argh!

This is not even an argument. There is no connection between the premises and the conclusion. The premises are, also, cherry picked.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

And this further supports the position that these people have no real connection with their god. If they did, a lame ass excuse for an argument to believe, like this one, wouldn’t rate #6 on a top ten list. A god should be able to supply much better reasons.

And, really, couldn’t the author have looked up a reasonable statement of the argument from beauty? I presume he did but he is clearly trying to wrap these arguments in modern garb to not display the fact they have been around, and been refuted, for centuries, so all of the other claptrap was needed.

Here is an actual version:

The Argument From Beauty

1. There are many beautiful things all over the world.
2. Only a god who is beautiful and unchangeable could have made these beautiful things.
3. Therefore, God exists.

Here it is refuted.

The Evolutionary Argument for Beauty

1. There are many beautiful things all over the world.
2. There once were humans who did not see the beauty in such things and they were so depressed that they didn’t live long enough to pass on their genes.
3. Therefore, only people who can see beauty still exist.
4. Therefore, a god is unnecessary as a creator of beauty.

 

 

 

November 4, 2018

#5 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

A few days back I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #5!

  1. Explanation for Data (Information Argument). Why is there anything at all? Even though the quantum world is a strange place, it still behaves according to certain laws. Why are there quantum particles? Quantum fields? Why do physical processes and procedures exist? One explanation: God. For any data to exist, a programmer must exist. That Programmer must be God himself.

Again, this is an old argument wrapped up in new science. (Quantum, My Precious, we hasss quantum.) This argument is based upon the question “Why is there something rather than nothing? People have been discussing this for millenia, so it is not any newer than most of the other items on this list.

Rather than delve into the specifics one can discuss around this question, such as the question can only exist in universe in which there is something, allow me to address the structure of this argument, and really many of the others.

A logical argument has the following structure:

Premises (premise 1, premise 2, etc.)
Applied logic/argumentation
Conclusion

This argument has the following structure:

Premises (premise 1, premise 2, etc.)
Opinion
Conclusion

So, the premises are stated:
1. Quantum particles exist
2. Quantum field exist
3. Even these strange particles obey “laws” or rules of behavior
4. physical processes and procedures exist

Then the opinion comes: there can be only one explanation, God

Then the argument follows, out of place in the form of a conclusion: “for any data to exist, there needs to be a programmer,” which is not in any way connected to the premises.

Obviously, “God” means the Abrahamic god, but there is nothing in the argument that says why this god is indicated (There is a hidden premise here “We all know there is but one god.”), so it could be Visnu or the Flying Spaghetti Monster for all we know.

Clearly this “argument” is completely distorted by the presupposed opinion of the arguer. I am reminded of Bertrand Russell’s opinion of Thomas Aquinas as a philosopher (in part):

“He does not, like the Platonic Socrates, set out to follow wherever the argument may lead. He is not engaged in an inquiry, the result of which it is impossible to know in advance. Before he begins to philosophize, he already knows the truth; it is declared in the Catholic faith. If he can find apparently rational arguments for some parts of the faith, so much the better; if he cannot, he need only fall back on revelation. The finding of arguments for a conclusion given in advance is not philosophy, but special pleading.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 2, 2018

#4 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

A few days back I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #4!

  1. Necessary Being (Ontological Argument). In the end, one only has two options. Either an eternal nothingness (meaning again, “no-thing,” not even quantum particles) brought forth something from absolute nothingness, or an eternal Being brought everything that exists into being. The latter makes far more sense and actually adheres more to the scientific method than the former.

This argument is just utter nonsense. There are almost no occasions in which there are just two possibilities, for one. There is even an old Jewish saying (or so I was told) which states: “Whenever presented with a choice of two options, always take the third.” This was presented to me with the story of an elderly woman shopping for vegetables. She asks the greengrocer “How much are the tomatoes?” He replies “Two for 79 cents.” She asks “How much for just one?” He replies “40 cents.” She says “I’ll take the other one.”

To show the utter vacuity of this argument, allow me to rephrase it slightly:

  1. Unnecessary Being (Ontological Argument). In the end, one only has two options. Either an eternal nothingness (meaning again, “no-thing,” not even quantum particles) brought forth something from absolute nothingness, or an eternal Being brought everything that exists into being. The former makes far more sense and actually adheres more to the scientific method than the latter.

Ta da. Just changes two words and now it makes far more sense.

How is the formulation of an utterly fantastic and totally unique magical entity better than “we do not know,” because in truth we do not yet know how the universe came into being? From that point of beginning onward, the universe seems to be self-organizing along the lines of a small set of simple rules, thus requiring no angels or other imaginary beings keeping it going, which was part of the total scheme along with creation by a god. Most of those original claims (pillars of the earth, animating angels, heavenly spheres, etc.) have been abandoned as science has whittled away the basis for believe such things to exist. We are down to the final surly knot that is quite resistant to whittling but will succumb eventually and then we will be free of gods and superstition, if we so choose.

 

October 30, 2018

#2 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

Yesterday I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #2!

  1. Designed Creation (Teleological Argument). Hugh Ross has argued that there are over 180 cosmological constants in the universe so finely tuned that if they were to be changed by the nth degree, life and the universe itself would not exist. Even the theoretical multiverse would need to be designed to such a degree that it would require a designer. I believe wholeheartedly that physicists will eventually find design attributes and constants in the quantum realm if they haven’t already. Design argues for a Designer.

Once again, this is not a new argument, variants of it having been made by Plato and Aristotle and even earlier philosophers. The scientific window dressing is new and also incorrect. (Hugh Ross* was wrong! Gasp!) For one, there are not 180 “cosmological constants.” What are being referred to is a much smaller set of fundamental physical constants. When this “fine tuning” argument was first made, it inspired a number of physicists to investigate if it were true (the criticism of the conjecture and criticism of science). It turns out that a fair amount of variation in several of the parameters is not at all destructive. We also don’t know if these parameters are fundamentally linked somehow that they all influence the others to make them what they are.

The fundamental flaw in the argument is, again, the powers and identity of any claimed designer are not inferable from the design. Arguments like “God must look like us because we were made in His image” are, of course, circular. So, again, our universe could have been created by a powerful alien, like the character Q in the Star Trek franchise, for example. The creation and the design are not necessarily from the same source, either. (Outside of space and time, there may be pre-packaged “Acme Universe Creation Kits” for all we know.)

All of that aside, there is something fundamentally wrong with this argument. The argument for “the existence of God from the evidence of order, and hence design, in nature” mistakes order for design. In fact, the “intelligent design” crowd has never been able to come up with a coherent definition of “intelligent design.”

Clearly patterns abound in nature. Many mineral substances create highly ordered crystals that can be found lying around on or in the ground. Ordinary table salt (sea salt, NaCl, etc.) forms crystals shaped like little cubes. With some encouragement, those crystals can grow to be large, clear, and quite beautiful. The reason those crystals appear and grow as they do is that they are made of sodium and chloride ions (Na+ and Cl–) arranged in alternating fashion in all three cardinal directions. Well, who organizes them this way? They organize themselves by the simple attraction and repulsion of their electrical charges. Each ion has six ions of the opposite charge above and below, to the left and right, and front and back, there is another set of ions that are repulsive because they are of the same charge, but they are 40% farther away and the rule of attraction is an inverse square law, with the distance being the thing both inverse and square, so the repulsions are fully twice as weak as the attractions. If you continue to study chemistry and biology, you will quickly see that nature is self-organizing, no Organizer™ needed. The organizing principles are simple physical behaviors described by simple physical laws. Complexities arise naturally when large numbers of different atoms and molecules get involved.

So, nature is literally steeped in patterns, and along we come. Our brains are clearly designed (by evolution) to see patterns. We see patterns when they are not even there (many optical illusions are based upon this). Why? Because our survival as individuals and, hence, as a species is enhanced by this ability.

So, patterns, patterns, everywhere is the structure of our environment. But patterns and designs are two different things. The touters of the teleological argument claim that all reasonably complex patterns are actually designs. They have established no criteria for how one can tell this, basically they are claiming this “because God.” (Note that the author claims that “physicists will eventually find design attributes.” Why? Because they have not yet been found. So, if “design argues for a designer” and there are no designs yet found, what would you conclude?)  Again, they have a presupposed solution and generate a problem to fit it. If you pick up an ordinary rock, does it look “designed”? If you pick up an extraordinary natural crystal, like a gemstone, does it look designed?

The theory of evolution, on the other hand, shows over and over and over how these patterns form in living things. It also points out flaws in the patterns from nature’s use of already developed genetic instructions that were easily modified and cause what happened, but resulted in actually hazardous designs. The argument from design has no such process other than “God did it.”

* “Hugh’s unshakable confidence that God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture and nature do not, will not, and cannot contradict became his unique message. Communicating that message as broadly and clearly as possible became his mission. He scouts the frontiers of origins research to share with scientists and nonscientists alike the thrilling news of what’s being discovered and how it connects with biblical theology.” (Source: A “Just Right Universe” by Hugh Ross, Ph.D.)

It seems Dr. Ross has a bias (“do not, will not, and cannot” aren’t scientific attitudes) he is willing to share.

October 29, 2018

Oh, This is Going to Be Fun

I ran across an op-ed piece in the Voices column of The Christian Post with the alluring title of “10 Reasons to Believe God Exists” by a gentleman of the name Brian G. Chilton who is a pastor and theologian and has degrees from various seminaries amongst other credentials.

I will address each of these hoary old “arguments” one at a time. Each of these really could be seen as a “reason” to believe, so I am oh, so grateful he didn’t use the more forceful term “proof” instead. He begins with:

  1. Necessity of a First Cause (Cosmological Argument). Physicists Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin discovered a mathematical theorem which dictates that all physical universes, including the theoretical multiverse, must have a required starting point. There was a time when physics (even quantum physics), time, and matter did not exist. How did it come to be? Atheists will argue that it just is. However, the data seems to suggest that an eternal, metaphysical (beyond the physical realm), Mind brought everything to be. That Mind would need to be omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. That Mind is who we know to be God.

As in all of these “reasons,” factual statements are made, followed by completely unreasonable conclusions. In this case, let me parse “However, the data seems to suggest that an eternal, metaphysical (beyond the physical realm), Mind brought everything to be. That Mind would need to be omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. That Mind is who we know to be God”

“The data seems to suggest” (It should be “the data seem” as data is plural, but I make mistakes all of the time, so we glide past this one.) So, the data … uh, which data are these? The lead in to the conclusion talks about a theoretical conclusion, that may or may not be correct, not a statement of fact. There are no data referred to here. The use of the word “data” is apparently being used to make the author’s point seem more scientific. The correct term would be “theoretical conjecture,” not data, and the sentence should start “If the theoretical conjecture is correct, then …” But that doesn’t sound very conclusive now does it.

This argument has been around for a long, long time. Plato and Aristotle offered variants of this argument two thousand plus years ago. So, the wrapping of the “reason” in the science of the here and now is an attempt to freshen up a stale, old argument.

In what way does the “data” (all physical universes, including the theoretical multiverse, must have a required starting point) suggest that a Mind (not just a mind, mind you) is involved? And how is it required that this Mind is eternal? Could not each universe have its own Mind? Could not the life cycle of such Minds be that once they fulfill their destiny by creating their universe, that they die, like a salmon that has spawned?

Such a universe creator would need to be quite powerful, but why omnipotent? Why not a being who is a really powerful alien like Q from the Star Trek franchise? There certainly is absolutely no need for such a being to be omnipresent. They would need to be somewhere at the beginning of their universe, but once they created it, the universes seem to perk along all by themselves, so why does the creator need to be everywhere simultaneously? The necessity of having an angel present to move each celestial body so it doesn’t fall out of the sky has been discredited for quite some time.

And why omniscient? What possible need would a universe creator have for such a power? How would it help? Nothing is offered here.

As we shall see as we proceed through this wonderful set of obfuscations of rational thought that the structure of each of these “reasons” has a starting point (varies from argument to argument) and an ending point (the theologians conception of his god) and a tortured line linking the two. (In this argument, if we were to substitute “Flying Spaghetti Monster” for “God” would the argument be changed at all?)

The assertion that the being must be metaphysical is without substance (no pun intended). If it were to be such a thing, some argument must be made as to how something “beyond the physical realm” can have any effect whatsoever on things inside a physical realm. It is a little like saying a being on Mars could have a direct personal effect on a person on Earth, but is really closer to claiming a person in another galaxy, rather than a person on Mars, can have such an effect. How would this effect occur? What is the nature of existence outside of “the physical realm”? (Enquiring minds want to know!)

And incredible amount of hand waving going on here and this is the #1 reason on the list!

These arguments are made for true believers, people who have already reached the same conclusion as the person making the argument and who are just looking for a little reinforcement for their position. My hope is that the author of this piece is just plain ignorant or stupid and not doing this for reasons political.

(For those who argue that an author with a Master’s degree and working on a Ph.D. can’t possibly be ignorant or stupid, please realize that the topic is theology. A great deal of intellectual horsepower has never been required for its study, albeit a number of theologians historically have been brilliant people, it was never a requirement.)

September 15, 2018

Ethics and Morality without God

In a recent post on Daily Kos I read the following:

“I once said to a Native American friend that I thought that the Golden Rule was a perfect expression of social ethics, and before I could put the period on my sentence, he shot back, ‘No, it’s not … because if you’re a misanthrope who hates people and just wants to be left alone, you can behave that way in clear conscience. In my tribe, I have responsibilities to widows, orphans, and the ill. I have to hunt for those who can’t. That’s mutuality.’” (sfzendog)

This attitude toward the collective responsibility we all have, as well as individual responsibility, might be summed up in “love thy neighbor as thyself” but it isn’t made at all explicit in Christian ethics/morality.

Many people do not know that the “tithe” which has morphed into a fundraiser to support the church building fund and minister’s and staff’s salaries, was originally a tax. The Jews had a theocracy. Even when outsiders came in and established a new ruling structure, the Temple kept its own governing structure and the tithe/tax was a way to support widows, orphans, and the afflicted. That is what it was for, explicitly. The Jews had a structure in place regarding the collective responsibility of all to support those in need.

Christian ethics/morality on the other hand stops at “love they neighbor” and “turn the other cheek,” with little parsing of those instructions. There are clear signs that early Christians were communal (that means communists, Comrade). As Christianity was rewritten by pagans, that collectivism was written out. The Republicans are doing their damndest to wipe out collectivism in the U.S. right now, so this “battle” is quite longstanding.

We still haven’t answered the question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” We are still trying to address mutuality.

Many studies on democratic socialist states show that as they collectively (through government) care for those less fortunate or less capable and just ordinary citizens, the less the need for religion in their population. It therefore seems that religion has a vested interest in opposing government providing basic support for their people. The widespread evangelical support for the current administration therefore is less perplexing looked at in this light.

June 21, 2018

Will Science Ever Solve the Mysteries of Consciousness, Free Will, and God?

The above title is that of an article in Scientific American (July 2018) by no one less than the inestimable Michael Shermer. The subtitle is “Are consciousness, free will and God insoluble mysteries?”

Even more fascinating is Mr. Schermer’s answer: yes!

Actually, this answer is quite puzzling. In his piece Mr. Shermer quotes British biologist and Nobel laureate Sir Peter Medawar who wrote: “Good scientists study the most important problems they think they can solve. It is, after all, their professional business to solve problems, not merely to grapple with them.” This, I think is correct. The scientific ego is boosted by actual results and so scientists shy away from problems deemed intractable, unsolvable. But, until one tries to solve a problem, how does one know whether it is beyond them? And, even if it is beyond us now, how can we know it will be beyond us forever?

I am of the camp that we will understand all three and, in fact, have good starts on all three questions. The problem is not the issues themselves completely (labeled as “final mysteries” by Shermer), but involves the attitudes of the audiences receiving the conclusions.

For example, if you came up with an ironclad proof that the Christian/Jewish/Muslim god did not exist, how many people would say “Well, dang, and all along I though God was real. Foolish of me, don’t you think?” And how many would say “I don’t not believe such secular nonsense!” (Go ahead, guess; I dare you!)

The audience here has a different standard of proof than scientists have. If you accept something as proven only when it reaches the standard of a mathematical proof, no scientific proofs could be had at all, but if you establish the level of proof to be as good as “the sun will come up tomorrow,” then the Christian, etc. god is proven to not exist already (in short, the claimed supernatural powers are in conflict with one another). This level of proof is good enough for scientists who use no divine mysteries in their works, even though they may still participate in their local church communities (which may have absolutely nothing to do with the existence of any god or gods).

Similarly, the general public will never accept the idea of a deterministic universe as they feel, that is feel in the first person, that they are “free” to make their own decisions. The idea that we are not free to do just that undermines all religions, social justice structures, etc. so do not expect the general public to accept that there is no such thing as free will. (I do not accept the deterministic arguments at this juncture as there are any number of problems with the current deterministic interpretations, including a signal-to-noise problem of immense size.)

It is rare that I find myself in disagreement with Michael Shermer, but one of the rock bottom principles in science is that authority has no place. So, in this case, our opinions differ.

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