March 4, 2005

200 YEARS OF JUNK SCIENCE AND A COUPLE HUNDRED MILLION MURDERS IS ENOUGH! (via The Other Brother):

Science, 'frauds' trigger a decline in atheism (Uwe Siemon-Netto, 3/03/05, UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL)

Godlessness is in trouble, according to a growing consensus among philosophers, intellectuals and scholars.

"Atheism as a theoretical position is in decline worldwide," Munich theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg said in an interview.

His Oxford colleague Alister McGrath agrees.

Atheism's "future seems increasingly to lie in the private beliefs of individuals rather than in the great public domain it once regarded as its habitat," Mr. McGrath wrote in the U.S. magazine, Christianity Today.

Two developments are plaguing atheism these days. One is that it appears to be losing its scientific underpinnings.

The other is the historical experience of hundreds of millions of people worldwide that atheists are in no position to claim the moral high ground.


Two quotes from Richard Dawkins make it clear enough what happened:

"Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Charles Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist."

and

"I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world."

Unlike sciences that arose from reason, observation and experimentation, Darwinism simply filled the God shaped hole in the secular soul. To his credit, even Mr. Dawkins has lately come to recognize that his is a faith, not a physical science.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 4, 2005 8:43 AM
Comments

So let me ask again. You are opposed to the philosophy of Darwinism but not the science of evolution? Please clarify.

Posted by: daniel duffy at March 4, 2005 8:51 AM

Evolution is simply the idea that things change from one form to another. Even every creation myth agrees with that notion.

Darwinism proposes that species arise and change into other species and that significant morphological change occurs via Natural Selection. That's nonsense.

Posted by: oj at March 4, 2005 9:14 AM

OJ closed the last two threads on Faith v Reason, so I never got the chance to offer my humble conclusion...

Orrin’s argument is that Faith is superior to Reason because Reason ‘rests’ on some fundamental assumptions which cannot be proven by reason, and therefore the whole system collapses, since it is built upon various ‘leaps of faith.’

These assumptions or faiths include such things as “I exist to do the reasoning”, “objective reality exists for me to do the reasoning in” and so on.

While he’s right that some things apparently cannot be positively proven (Descartes thought he could with cogito ergo sum, but all he really ‘proved’ was that ‘a thought currently exists’, while Spinoza also had an unsuccessful bash at it) Orrin’s mistake is to claim that if reason cannot prove something, it must be irrational to believe it.

This is because he makes the deeper mistake of presenting Reason as a kind of enormous structure resting on wobbly foundations which he can bring crashing down, when actually it’s a way of looking at things. You can wear Reason spectacles, or Faith spectacles.

Take the fundamental assumption: “I exist in an objective reality, which is real, and I’m not a brain in a vat being fed fake images of this computer, table etc”.

If I can’t positively prove it true, is it therefore irrational to believe it, as Orrin claims?

Not at all. I don’t have a particular reason to believe objective reality is fake – there’s no ‘evidence’ – and without making the basic assumption that I and it do exist, there’s not much point in me getting out of bed, eating, going to work etc. There’s also Occam’s Razor – the simplest explanation for my belief in and the appearance of objective reality, is that it does actually exist.

The rational thing to do – the thing that Reason tells you to do – is to believe in objective reality and get on with your life.

To see this clearly, consider the converse. Suppose I were to believe instead that I AM just a brain in a vat, or plugged into the Matrix with Keanu Reeves. Now that would require Faith, as I have no evidence or reason to believe it.

Reason spectacles tell you to make certain assumptions. Faith spectacles allow you to believe literally anything, as there is no method for preferring one idea over another.


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

Elsewhere, in a different kind of attack on Reason, Orrin claims that we don’t use reason very often at all in real life, but instead rely on a ‘faith’ that what has happened in the past with our experience, will happen again.

For example, if I think a heavier thing will be lower in a working set of scales than a lighter one, it’s only because I’ve seen it happen before at an earlier time. Or suppose I’m planning to jump off the Eiffel Tower. The only reason I think I’ll die is that I’ve seen other things get hurt when falling from great heights, and I assume (have faith) that the same will happen to me.

Orrin calls the process not reasoning but faith.

But it is reasoning, it’s inductive reasoning. OJ mentions Hume, who pointed out that the problem with inductive reasoning is that even if something has happened 100 times in succession exactly the same, this cannot prove that it will happen the same on the 101st attempt.

True enough, but that doesn’t make inductive reasoning irrational. It is flawed as a way of absolutely proving something, but it is still rational to believe that you’ll be injured when jumping off the Eiffel Tower, even if that belief is based on experience, not mathematical calculation.

Again, its easy to see this when we contrast it with the alternative. Not jumping because you think you’ll die I’d call Reason. Jumping in the belief that you’ll fly, despite having seen many other things get hurt when falling from great heights, now THAT’s what I’d call Faith.

Posted by: Brit at March 4, 2005 9:15 AM

Brit:

If Reason includes the things you believe even though you can't arrive at them rationally and the things you take on authority, then you're right, there's nothing but Reason. Unfortunately the word at that point has been deprived of any meaning beyond: everything we think.

Posted by: oj at March 4, 2005 9:27 AM

OJ,

So where do new species come from? And hasn't speciation been observed in the lab?

Even St.Augustine noticed that species change over time (though he didn't have the fossil record to backup this observation). This is one of the many reasons why the RCC has no problem with evolution.

Posted by: daniel duffy at March 4, 2005 9:41 AM

OJ:

No, the key point, as I hope I've made perfectly clear above, is that, contra your argument, you can arrive at things rationally without necessarily having to prove them.

Not everything is rational, eg. thinking you'll fly off the Eiffel Tower. That would be irrational and based entirely on Faith.

So there is a clear difference between Reason and Faith, and the word has all of its original meaning.

Posted by: Brit at March 4, 2005 9:43 AM

Except that belief in existence itself isn't even rational.

Posted by: oj at March 4, 2005 9:52 AM

daniel:

no, it hasn't.

Posted by: oj at March 4, 2005 9:53 AM

OJ:

The opposite is the case. Its the only rational belief.

Posted by: Brit at March 4, 2005 10:02 AM

OJ, so where do you think new species come from?

Posted by: daniel duffy at March 4, 2005 10:15 AM

daniel:

Some kind of catastrophic intervention from without the biosphere, whether intelligent or natural or both we don't yet know.

Posted by: oj at March 4, 2005 10:27 AM

Brit:

"rational belief" -- Case closed.

Posted by: oj at March 4, 2005 10:28 AM

Please provide an example of one such catastrophic intervention with a detailed explanation of how exactly it resulted in the cration of brand new species.

Posted by: daniel duffy at March 4, 2005 10:36 AM

daniel:

How? We've never observed speciation and there's no evidence for how it occurs.

Posted by: oj at March 4, 2005 10:40 AM

That's not an argument Orrin. Of course there are rational beliefs (you'll die if you jump) and irrational beliefs (you'll fly if you jump).

You haven't attempted to address my argument. Because you can't.

Case closed.

Posted by: Brit at March 4, 2005 10:42 AM

I agree with your argument. Rational and irrational are both just beliefs.

Posted by: oj at March 4, 2005 10:50 AM

OJ, so what then are you basing your theory of catastrophic intervention on? What evidence can you provide to support your assertion?

If you have no evidence for speciation caused a "catastrophic intervention" your statement is equivalent to "the tooth fairy did it".

Posted by: daniel duffy at March 4, 2005 10:51 AM

daniel:

Yes, it is. However, the failure of anything to ever speciate in human history and the fact that changes in the fossil and paleontological record appear to be sudden rather than gradual suggests that change does not come from within the system and happens in large steps.

Posted by: oj at March 4, 2005 10:57 AM

This article is a fraud.

What is the "science fraud" they are talking about?

British philosopher Anthony Flew, once as hard-nosed a humanist as any, has turned his back on atheism, saying it is impossible for evolution to account for the fact that one single cell can carry more data than all the volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Flew is one dissenter from the Darwinian viewpoint, and an unconvincing one at that. There is no tectonic shift underway in Darwinism, they are trying to build a paradigm shift on the back of one high profile defection. It is ridiculous.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at March 4, 2005 11:15 AM

OJ, so you're a proponent of Guould's "punctuated equilibrium"?

Posted by: daniel duffy at March 4, 2005 11:20 AM

here's somethings to think about:

1. when all the dinosaurs died out, including the aquatic ones, why didn't the sharks and reptiles die off too ?

2. why didn't chimps and apes evolve in the same way and at the same time as humans, if they were all being acted on by the same forces ?

finally, i learn oj's full take on evolution! and i find it emminently reasonable. existing species make incremental changes, completely new species arrive in bunches due to a huge environmental event.

anyone see the parallels in today's events ? would the middle east be striking off their chains *now* if it weren't for gwb ? would syria or any of these other tyrannies evolved into a democracy on their own volition ?

one more thing, the entire design of dna based organisms is to resist change, to make perfect copies. i think the true missing link is going to be found to be viral in nature, hence no fossilized record.

Posted by: cjm at March 4, 2005 11:28 AM

Robert:

All of it. The ever more frantic protestations from you guys suggests a losing side.

Posted by: oj at March 4, 2005 11:47 AM

daniel:

Not entirely. He at times expressed the hope that it was merely Natural. But he's certainly closest amongst that crowd.

Posted by: oj at March 4, 2005 11:49 AM

It's surreal, this place.

CJM says: "finally, i learn oj's full take on evolution! and i find it emminently reasonable. existing species make incremental changes, completely new species arrive in bunches due to a huge environmental event."

Ahem. Replace "huge environmental event" with "speciation event" (they don't necessari lyhave to be huge catastrophies, though huge catastrophies would sure do it - just result in a population being reproductively split - could be something dull like a river flooding) and, so long as you don't insist it must have been God wot dunnit, you've got Darwinism (or Modern Synthesis).

Which would make a Orrin a textbook darwinist who believes in both natural selection-based gradualism and allopatric speciation.

What's odd is that Orrin insists that we darwinists are convinced that gradualism alone must produce speciation. We don't.

Posted by: Brit at March 4, 2005 11:50 AM

cjm:

No, nothing environmental. Something extra-environmental.

Posted by: oj at March 4, 2005 11:55 AM

Brit:

That's quite wrong, of course:

http://www.brothersjudd.com/blog/archives/009588.html

Posted by: oj at March 4, 2005 12:04 PM

Oh, where to start...

In the beginning...

People of faith believe that there are two paths to knowledge: through perception and through faith. I know that there is a computer on my desk. I know that G-d exists. Materialists believe that the only path to true knowledge is through perception, and that the existence of my computer is a fact because I directly perceive it, while G-d's existence is not a fact because faith is not a legitimate path to knowledge. To people of faith, this attempt to give to perception a privileged position unattainable by faith is startling. It is as if a deaf man insisted that sound did not exist because he could not see it, or a blind man insisted that color did not exist because he could not smell it.

In practice, of course, no one insists that only those things that are directly perceived can be known. If enough people say that they have gone to Yellowstone and have seen hot water shooting out of the ground every hour or so, we accept that as a fact, despite not having perceived it, or anything like it, ourselves. The blind and the deaf accept that sight and hearing exist, because so many others tell them so, and much that they do perceive is otherwise inexplicable.

And yet the materialist, living amidst billions who claim to have perceived Truth through faith, living next to the sometimes quite concrete testimony of dead billions more, and living with the otherwise inexplicable mystery of the Beginning of material existence, insist that only their senses count and that if they cannot perceive access faith, it cannot exist. There are none so blind as those who will not see.

Yet, that is not entirely their fault.

Once a fact is known -- that G-d exists, or that He created the Earth, or that fossils have been found of animals that do not currently exist -- all we have with which to deal with that fact is our reason. Here is the tricky part even for those who accept faith as a means of cognition: what role does faith play in the manipulation of facts, regardless of how they are known. The answers to this question are all over the lot. Some believe the Bible to be the inerrent Word of G-d, accepting six days, Eve from Adam's rib, a great flood and the loaves and the fishes as a report of what would have been directly perceived, if they had been present to witness events. Others see G-d as starter, setting the race in motion but otherwise uninvolved. The majority take the most difficult route to justify, as we pick and choose between faith and perception. If a blind man heard such disparate reports of a sunset, he too might doubt sight, although he would be equally wrong.

Here we sit, then, with each side by now too wedded to its conclusions to allow for constructive reasoned discourse. Is there a path out of the morass? Probably not, but I'm willing to give it a (necessarily solipsistic) try.

There are certain things that both faith and reason tell me. I exist. Existence had a beginning. Reason can tell me nothing about conditions prior to the beginning of existence. My faith, perception, knowledge and reasoning are limited and imperfect.

What, then, can I conclude from these truths. First, that I can conclude nothing with certainty. The fact of my existence is the only certain fact available to me. Second, that both faith and reason push me to conclude (by which I can only mean "act as if") all the rest of you are sentient beings such as I am (though logic, of course, pushes the other way). Third, that both faith and reason push us to conclude (see above) that the physical world exists as we perceive it (though logic, again, pushes the other way). Fourth, that we can know is only a vague shadow of true existence; that all knowledge is but a metaphor that helps us navigate the unseen depths.

Each of us carries in our brain a model of the world. When we drive somewhere, or give directions, we are navigating our own model of the world. When we act in a particular way in order to cause another to respond as desired, we are navigating our own model of the world. When we add 2 to 2, we are navigating our own model of the world. When we plan for the future, we are navigating our own model of the world. When we worship or research, we are navigating our own model of the world. Every decision we make, every action we take, is made or taken -- not in the real world -- but in our model world. New knowledge comes only when the reality and our model diverge, at which point the model should change, but often doesn't.

Each of us has a model, and each model diverges from every other model to a greater or lesser extent. Models tend to be more alike within families, tribes or nations than between those groups. Some are more rigid than others, some more supple. But each model perceives reality though a slightly different lens. Different models can thus give us different insights into the nature of reality.

Perception and reason are inherently limited and flawed. They can see only part of the truth, and thus faith need not justify itself to reason. But, humans being humans, faith and knowledge are also limited. Each can give only part of the picture or, rather, a different picture of true existence. The one great advantage of faith, though, is that is requies acceptance that Truth exists outside of reality. To use Godel's model, faith is the statement that knows that it cannot be proved. Reason is "2+2=4", which believes itself to be true beyond proof. Reason denies its own model.

This is the rock on which the materialist falters. The materialist demands that only those things that can be perceived exist, but reason does not go so far. Reason also insists that atoms, say, existed before they could be perceived. The materialist must, therefore accept that those things exist that are capable of being perceived under the proper conditions, regardless of whether they are actually perceived. In other words, the materialist must punt on existence, substituting his model for perception -- exactly the crime of which he accuses the faithful.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 4, 2005 12:12 PM

Brit, I enjoyed your disquisition above.

Very convincing except for

Reason spectacles tell you to make certain assumptions. Faith spectacles allow you to believe literally anything, as there is no method for preferring one idea over another.

which could be read as implying "people who have faith are suckers who can be made to believe anything."

Instead, as you perhaps will agree, faith does not deal with the same things that we approach through scientific inquiry. One sphere is closed off to the one approach, another sphere is closed off to the other.

Posted by: Eugene S. at March 4, 2005 12:40 PM

Eugene:

As Brit says, there's just one sphere.

Posted by: oj at March 4, 2005 12:49 PM

Orrin, and you base your contention on...?

Posted by: Eugene S. at March 4, 2005 12:52 PM

David,

That was an excellent dissertation. I agree with much of what you say, but disagree on some key points.

Your analogy to the deaf man is flawed. The deaf man can see people communicating in a way that he cannot, he has visual confirmation of people interacting using a medium that he cannot perceive, but whose effects he can perceive. Now, he can form two possible explanations to explain his observations of hearing people:

1. This medium called sound really exists just as described by hearing people.

2. There is no sound, and hearing people are no different than he, but are playing an elaborate trick on him.

If his observations are consistent over time with 1, and he has found no evidence of 2, then 1 is a reasonable leap of faith for him to take.

But how many people claim to have actually perceived god? In this example, are you one of the "hearing", who claims to have perceived god directly, or are you one of the faithful who accepts the testimony of those who claim such?

In the case of the deaf man, he is in the minority, he is surrounded by the hearing. In the case of faith, the majority are the non-perceivers, who are putting their faith in a small minority of "perceivers", with claims of direct contact with god.

You make a strong claim that it is unreasonable to doubt such "perceivers", but you must yourself, as a Jew, take this very position with respect to Christians. How do you explain the documented evidence of Jesus' resurrection and at the same time reject it? On what basis do you reject the evidence of god's spoken word to Joseph Smith? On what basis do you reject J.Z. Knight's witnessing to her communion with Ramtha?

It is very easy to understand the materialist. Just examine in your own mind how you reject the claims of other perceivers of the supernatural, and just imagine yourself extending that skepticism to all claims of the supernatural.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at March 4, 2005 12:55 PM

i don't think there is really that much distance between anyone's here position, just some semantic hair splitting.

i say "environmental event" and brit thinks i mean only something on the scale of an asteroid strike. i meant it in as general a way as possible. any event that causes speciation is by definition a "speciation event"; once an argument forms a circle, its done :)

i say "environmental event" and oj says "extra-environmental". by definition there can not be anything super-natural; the maker and the made exist together.

Posted by: cjm at March 4, 2005 1:02 PM

Robert: I do say that it is not entirely the materialist's fault.

However, you are still preferring sensory perception to faith. If one is gifted with faith, than one accepts knowledge through faith just as one gifted with sight accepts knowledge through sight. "Perception", in the sense you seem to be using it, is neither here nor there. It is like the blind man insisting on smelling color.

One can doubt the knowledge received through faith and faith leads different people to different beliefs. But the same is true of knowledge received through perception, because we can be sure of almost nothing.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 4, 2005 1:08 PM

This is the rock on which the materialist falters. The materialist demands that only those things that can be perceived exist, but reason does not go so far. Reason also insists that atoms, say, existed before they could be perceived. The materialist must, therefore accept that those things exist that are capable of being perceived under the proper conditions, regardless of whether they are actually perceived. In other words, the materialist must punt on existence, substituting his model for perception -- exactly the crime of which he accuses the faithful.

You are misrepresenting the materialist. The materialist does not demand that only that which can be perceived exists. He only demands that we can only affirm the existence of those things that we can perceive, or that produce effects that we can perceive.

You are pulling a fast one with your discussion of atoms. We don't perceive atoms as such, we perceive material stuff. We perceive dirt, air, water, wood, fire, flesh. We don't need to understand how stuff is composed at its most granular level to perceive matter, and therefore to affirm existence. Our knowledge of atoms began as a theory, which underwent changes as the experimental evidence gave us more clues to the nature of matter at the smallest scales, until we had enough data to confirm their existence. But confirming the existence of atoms was never a prerequisite for confirming the existence of existence.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at March 4, 2005 1:08 PM

"But how many people claim to have actually perceived god?"

Robert, have you ever perceived matter as such, that is matter that is not something (a rock or a table or a chair, etc)?

If not, doesn't the same reasoning that denies the existence of God also preclude the existence of matter?

Posted by: carl at March 4, 2005 1:14 PM

Robert: You are mistaking the metaphor for reality, which is my point.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 4, 2005 1:17 PM

cjm:

Does the scientist live in the maze with the rats?

Posted by: oj at March 4, 2005 1:23 PM

Eugene:

Reason.

Posted by: oj at March 4, 2005 1:25 PM

Very convincing except for

Reason spectacles tell you to make certain assumptions. Faith spectacles allow you to believe literally anything, as there is no method for preferring one idea over another.

which could be read as implying "people who have faith are suckers who can be made to believe anything."

Instead, as you perhaps will agree, faith does not deal with the same things that we approach through scientific inquiry. One sphere is closed off to the one approach, another sphere is closed off to the other.

Okay Eugene, what criteria do you apply in the faith sphere to prevent you from believing anything and everything? If you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, but JZ Knight is a fraud, and Mohammad is a false prophet, on what basis do you make these distinctions?

You are telling us that we should be open to faith in things not seen. Things not seen is an infinite category. What are your guidelines for discerning those things not seen which are worthy of faith?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at March 4, 2005 1:45 PM

Robert, have you ever perceived matter as such, that is matter that is not something (a rock or a table or a chair, etc)?

If not, doesn't the same reasoning that denies the existence of God also preclude the existence of matter?

Does the same reasoning that denies the existence of Ramtha also preclude the existence of matter?

Does the same reasoning that denies the existence of Zeus and the pantheon of Greek gods ruling Earth from their perch on Olympus also preclude the existence of matter?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at March 4, 2005 1:50 PM

Robert:

Yes.

Posted by: oj at March 4, 2005 1:53 PM

This would be more interesting if there really were a new HIV virus. Most likely what we have seen is not a new virus but the old virus in patients who are addicted to a drug that was not popular in homosexual circles until recently.

=====

Research with cats found meth can accelerate infection, Saturday, February 26, 2005, Mike Lafferty, THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Doctors discovered a drug-resistant strain of HIV two months ago in a New York man. Ohio State University researchers were onto the case three years ago. Ohio State found that methamphetamines caused feline HIV to mutate and spread from cell to cell in brain tissue. The research also indicated the drug might speed up development of the infection.

The New York case is no surprise to Larry Mathes, an OSU immunologist and principal investigator in the study. "It suggests our observations may have real meaning," he said. . .

The discovery of a case of drug-resistant HIV that spreads rapidly set off alarms in New York, San Francisco, Miami and other large cities. Health officials want to know more about the connection between a drug that reduces inhibitions and the virus, which now could be more deadly.

Methamphetamine use is on the rise in metropolitan areas nationwide. A recent survey found that gay men who use methamphetamines and have more than one partner were twice as likely to contract HIV. The study of 4,000 men found the methamphetamine connection apparently boosted infection independent of other risks.

. . . some men also are mixing methamphetamines with Viagra.

"The prolonged ability to have sex combined with the increased desire produced by the drug are a dangerous combination," Coleman said.

In the study, cats were infected with feline HIV and then given methamphetamines to see how the drugs affect the progression of the disease in the brain.

Michael Podell, the original investigator, became the target of hundreds of angry e-mails, letters and telephone calls, including what he called death threats. Podell left the university in 2002 and entered private veterinary practice in the Chicago area. He did not return calls yesterday.

Podell "showed the combination of the virus and the drugs changed the behavior of the virus," said Tom Rosol, senior associate vice president for research at Ohio State. Rosol said when the drug and the virus reacted, the virus became more virulent. While Podell used live cats for his research, Mathes used cell cultures.

And while Podell’s research indicated a connection, Mathes found that the virus quickly moves from immune-system cells to brain cells and that methamphetamines boost the rate. Mathes said the drug apparently stimulates one of the receptors on a cell surface to make more receptors, which allows more virus particles to stick to them. Mathes said HIV also mutates frequently and the mutation usually occurs immediately after a cell has been invaded.

After establishing a connection, OSU scientists now want to explain why methamphetamine use and HIV are an especially deadly combination.

http://www.dispatch.com/news-story.php?story=dispatch/2005/02/26/20050226-A1-02.html&chck=t

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at March 4, 2005 2:02 PM

Robert,

If I may rephrase your question as, "The other guy believes different from me, how do I know that I am right and he is wrong?"

In reply to which I would quote Frederick the Great (1712-1786), who invited the Huguenots to settle in Prussia: "Ein jeder soll nach seiner Façon selig werden" (Let each one find happiness in his own way."

Posted by: Eugene S. at March 4, 2005 2:14 PM

oj: the scientist and the maze are connected as elements in a common system, they exist together. and in a real way the person observing the rat/maze is "in the maze" too.

Posted by: cjm at March 4, 2005 2:15 PM

David, let me explain to you my faith of things not seen, and you can decide if I am a materialist or not.

I believe that the universe that we perceive does not include all of existence. I believe that our universe is "embedded" within a larger, Transcendent "Realm" of Existence (TME). We know that an infinite regression in time is impossible, so the dimension of time that we experience is a property of our local universe, and not of the TME. Reality as we know it breaks down at the edge that divides our universe and the TME. (Actually, from the "viewpoint" of the transcendent realm, there is no boundary, our universe is but a seamless "part" of the TME).

I also believe that there are no words that can describe the TME, and that words such as "embedded", "Realm", viewpoint" and "part" are metaphors, artifacts of our universe that have no meaning in the TME. I believe that all projections of local universe concepts, images, words, or qualities into the TME are meaningless. The TME transcends these concepts, that's why it is called Transcendent.

God is a projection of a local universe concept, that of "person", into the TME. The concept of person is meaningless at the level of the TME. The TME transcends time, 3 dimensional space, matter and energy. Person represents an artifact of time, 3 dimensional space, matter and energy. Person is a material concept. God is a material concept. You cannot speak of the immaterial realm using material words or concepts. You cannot meaningfully talk about the TME at all. It is transcendent, remember?

My biggest problem with God is not that it is unbelievable, per se, but that it is too believable. It is too familiar. It isn't strange enough. The TME cannot be so. It is unintelligible. It must be infinitely strange. It is unknowable.

So who is the real materialist?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at March 4, 2005 2:18 PM

cjm:

So, no.

Posted by: oj at March 4, 2005 2:22 PM

Robert:

You cannot speak of the immaterial realm using material words or concepts. You cannot meaningfully talk about the TME at all.

You just did.

Posted by: oj at March 4, 2005 2:24 PM

Robert:

Even more interesting though is to unwind your theory a bit and recognize that your faith in this universe is just a personalization of your own perceived thoughts.

"I think" is just as transcendental as your TME>

Posted by: oj at March 4, 2005 2:29 PM

Yes I did, but not meaningfully.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at March 4, 2005 2:32 PM

Robert:

As meaningfully as anything else.

Posted by: oj at March 4, 2005 2:37 PM

So who is the real materialist?

Not you.

I'm not sure that I agree that the problem with an omniscient, omnipotent being existing eternally outside of time and able to comprehend all of existence, from beginning to end, entirely and as a single fact, is that It is too believable. But if you want to call G-d TME (T-E?), then I have no objection.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 4, 2005 2:57 PM

Sorry to butt into your fun, OJ, but I've posted a time-sensitive referral on your Terri Schiavo thread that you might want to check out. Not at all off-thread here, come to think of it.

Posted by: ghostcat at March 4, 2005 2:57 PM

David,
The believable (or more accurately, familiar) part is that this being has a human personality. Which is what the term God as traditionally understood asserts. That is the projection of a material concept onto the immaterial that I spoke of.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at March 4, 2005 3:27 PM

Robert: Not in Judaism, though it is the essential miracle of Christianity.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 4, 2005 3:36 PM

As C. S. Lewis said, to say that we can say nothing meaningful about God is to say quite a deal. Rephrased in Greek, Robert, your remarks about the TME would not be foreign to the apophatic theology of the Eastern church.

Posted by: Pontius at March 4, 2005 5:18 PM

C.S. Lewis was continually astonished at the Incarnation. He made it a central theme in his Space Trilogy

He believed (as all Christians do at some level) in something like Robert's TME. One that -- for reasons that are still unfathomable to us -- elected for some unknown reason to temporarily become a person 2000 years ago in order to close the infinite gap. A gap which cannot be crossed in this finite universe. All just to demonstrate in the most audacious way possible that He loves us, as a parent loves his children. I don't get it, I know I do not deserve it, I don't understand it. But I accept it with the humilty that there is a transcendent level of Grace given to me undeservedly that I will never understand in this lifetime.

Posted by: Gideon at March 4, 2005 5:37 PM

David:

God doesn't have a human personality in the OT?

Posted by: oj at March 4, 2005 5:58 PM

No, He's pretty much ineffable, although the ease with which He deals with the constraint of communicating with us can be misleading.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 4, 2005 6:36 PM

A God you can laugh at with impunity is awfully personal:

Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent.
10 And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. Rom. 9.9 And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.
11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord 1 Pet. 3.6 being old also?
13 And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?
14 Is any thing too hard for the LORD? Lk. 1.37 At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.
15 Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.

Posted by: oj at March 4, 2005 6:46 PM

Well, there is a Hasidic tradition that posits that Abraham and G-d were friends. Everything else is just Him keeping an eye on His friend's kids even though, as so often happens, He finds His friend's kids a bit of a trial.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 5, 2005 7:56 AM

And we've bargained with Him, rebuked Him, entered into Covenants, etc.

That's even before you get to the Christian belief that we killed Him....

Posted by: oj at March 5, 2005 8:04 AM

My mistake, the acronym should be TRE, not TME.

OJ, we had this conversation before, and you quite emphatically stated that God was NOT personal. Why the flip-flop?

David, Pontius,

What is interesting, though, is that these ancient religionists thought of God as an impersonal entity, but in their religious behavior acted as if he were personal. What is prayer if not a conversation between two personal beings? To pray is to believe that your prayers are understood by God at a personal level.

I stopped praying when I realized that I was just talking to myself. All religion requires a belief in the personal nature of the other. I think Judaism has a split personality in this regard. At one level it looks at God as ineffable, but at another it requires the believer to carry on a conversation with God.

Take Job, for instance. Throughout his trial of God, he brings accusations against a personal being who has obligations to help him as any father has obligations to help his child. God's verdict is that Job has no right to expect such obligations of God. God's will is not understandable in any such human sense, the relationship of man to God cannot be construed as any such human relationship, human norms of love, justice or obligation mean nothing to God.

But once Job accepts this painful distance between himself and God, and gives up any claim of mutual obligation between two personal beings with regard to God, then his prior expectations of just treatment are fulfilled, and more. The message seems to be that in order to have a personal relationship with God, you must give up any hope of a relationship with God. It is a paradox.

Such a schizophrenic attitude is hard to maintain. It is unstable. You are better off going one way or another, personal or impersonal, theist or atheist. Most people would rather go personal, and deal with the Jobian unfairness of God, rather than the random unfairness of an impersonal universe. Which is why Christianity has been so successful and Judaism hasn't. Christianity re-personalized the Jewish God.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at March 6, 2005 11:09 AM

My mistake, the acronym should be TRE, not TME.

OJ, we had this conversation before, and you quite emphatically stated that God was NOT personal. Why the flip-flop?

David, Pontius,

What is interesting, though, is that these ancient religionists thought of God as an impersonal entity, but in their religious behavior acted as if he were personal. What is prayer if not a conversation between two personal beings? To pray is to believe that your prayers are understood by God at a personal level.

I stopped praying when I realized that I was just talking to myself. All religion requires a belief in the personal nature of the other. I think Judaism has a split personality in this regard. At one level it looks at God as ineffable, but at another it requires the believer to carry on a conversation with God.

Take Job, for instance. Throughout his trial of God, he brings accusations against a personal being who has obligations to help him as any father has obligations to help his child. God's verdict is that Job has no right to expect such obligations of God. God's will is not understandable in any such human sense, the relationship of man to God cannot be construed as any such human relationship, human norms of love, justice or obligation mean nothing to God.

But once Job accepts this painful distance between himself and God, and gives up any claim of mutual obligation between two personal beings with regard to God, then his prior expectations of just treatment are fulfilled, and more. The message seems to be that in order to have a personal relationship with God, you must give up any hope of a relationship with God. It is a paradox.

Such a schizophrenic attitude is hard to maintain. It is unstable. You are better off going one way or another, personal or impersonal, theist or atheist. Most people would rather go personal, and deal with the Jobian unfairness of God, rather than the random unfairness of an impersonal universe. Which is why Christianity has been so successful and Judaism hasn't. Christianity re-personalized the Jewish God.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at March 6, 2005 11:17 AM

Robert:

God is not personal to me. I've no personal experience of Him.

Posted by: oj at March 6, 2005 12:33 PM

Just chiming in @ the end here to thank you all for the "food for thought" as I plan an after Easter sermon series.

Posted by: Dave W. at March 6, 2005 10:57 PM
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