Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Is Atheism an Opinion or a Religion?



Bertrand Russell, icon of atheism

If atheism merely meant the lack of belief in the monotheistic God of the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and the Koran, then truly atheism would not be a religion any more than not believing in the tooth fairy is a religion. Atheism would just be an opinion about one particular question and seemingly there should not even be a special word for it. There is after all no “atoothfairyism”.

However, in the sense that the word “atheism” is generally used in modern times, which is as a synonym for naturalism, determinism and materialism, atheism is a metaphysical belief system or, simply, a religion. It is a religion that denies the existence of the supernatural, however it is a religion nonetheless.

Atheists themselves almost invariably are upset by this analysis; I think this is basically for a couple of reasons:

- Being a religion means that they have to prove the truth of a long list of beliefs, just like all other religions must.
- Being a religion means that all atheists are accountable for the behavior of their coreligionists. Considering the fact that many of the worst criminals in history have been atheists, this is a problem.

Well, I’m sorry to make them uncomfortable, however they are a religion.

I would say that someone who is indifferent to religion or agnostic could be considered as “non-religious”. He is taking a “don’t know” or “no opinion” position.

148 comments:

avrum68 said...

Religion or not, atheists are an angry lot. And it would seem their anger is rooted in painful childhood experiences. This is true of every atheist, colleague and friend, that I know.

"Rich Perkins" said...

Webster's website gives the definition of "religion" as follows:

1 a : the state of a religious (a nun in her 20th year of religion) b (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
2 : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
3 archaic : scrupulous conformity : CONSCIENTIOUSNESS
4 : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith
- re·li·gion·less adjective

it would seem to me that atheism would fit into defnitions 2 &4.

However, i don't really see why it matters at all if it is an opinion or a religion as you ask. it is just a matter of splitting hair and whether you use a specific definition or coloquial usage.

Hayduke said...

Atheism is not a religion, as there is no set of doctrine that unifies atheists. There is simply lack of belief.

A-theism means lack of a deity of any kind. It does not mean: "I believe there is no god." It means: "There are no gods." Full stop.

Attempting to discredit atheists by drawing them into the religionist camp is dishonest. Just accept the fact there are people, such as me, who do not believe. People who do not require supernatural entities to explain the Universe.

It's very simple.

jewish philosopher said...

Rich, the main point is that if atheism is merely an opinion, then one atheist has almost nothing in common with other atheists. However if atheism is a religion, then atheists may be assumed to have a lot in common with each other.

For example, if I am pro-gun control and it so happens that, let’s say, most pro-gun control people happen to be child molesters; that doesn’t reflect badly on me. I just happen to have one small opinion in common with all those criminals. However let’s say I’m a Catholic and let’s say, most Catholics happen to be child molesters. That could be more of a problem. Is it a sign that Catholicism encourages child molestation? How can I explain this? Do I have the same problem?

Hayduke, by the same token I could say Judaism is not a religion either. I just believe that God wrote the Torah, that’s all. Why call that a religion?

Joebaum said...

JP you didn't point out what makes atheism a religion.
Here is one from me:
the atheists are only understanding some thinks what their leaders are saying, the rest of it they might just believe in fanatically, now THATS a religion.

beepbeepitsme said...

My understanding is that a religion would require an explicitly stated set of beliefs.

There are no explicitly stated set of beliefs for someone who calls themselves an atheist. And no, the Tu Quoque fallacy as it is a fallacy, will not apply.

However, if someone calls themselves a 1. materialist 2. naturalist 3. existentialist 4. humanist 5. secular humanist - it could be argued that these philosophies display an explicit set of beliefs.

Would the evidence of explicitly stated beliefs mean that these philosphies were a religion?

For that you would need to be able to demonstrate how a philosophy differs from a religion, or more pertinently, how it doesn't differ.

Off the top of my head, I would suggest that a philosophy involves itself with arguments primarily based in reason and that a religion involves itself in arguments primarily based in faith.

Faith, in this context means that regardless of the argumentation or the processes used, that the argument will not under any circumstance change the position of the person of faith.

Faith, in this sense, is an unwavering belief, which is not ameliorated or mitigated in the light of new or contradictory evidence or information.

Secular humanists, materialists, naturalists or philosphers do not have "faith" of this nature. They may endorse a variety of beliefs, but those beliefs are open to review and to change in light of evidence to the contrary.

beepbeepitsme said...

And to add to that last thought -

A person of faith may believe that it is impossible for evidence to exist which contradicts or is contrary to their faith.

jewish philosopher said...

Jews base their lives solely on reason not faith. The Exodus and the Revelation at Mt. Sinai are objective evidence, not faith.

beepbeepitsme said...

Jews base their lives on laws, but it is faith that those laws are given to them by G_d.

jewish philosopher said...

The laws are based on fact, not faith.

Spike said...

The laws are based on Fact? You what? Having read the link, I have to ask: Have you never heard of emergent properties? Also, thousands, if not millions of people were prepared to state that the world was flat. Does this make that true?

From the top: One example of spontaneous generation of a machine, and I assume that you are including Biological machines in this: Nylon-eating flavobacterium (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nylonase)

The idea of the anti-conspiracy principle is flawed, see the remarkable longevity of the Flat Earthers.

Finally, that the events supposedly witnessed in exodus are simply exciting fabrications agreed upon to provide excuses for later actions. An example of this might be the widespread villification of Richard III.

You may have faith that your laws are based in fact, but that doesn't mean they are.

jewish philosopher said...

As I understand it, enzymes are three dimensional structures, however they are not “a complex mechanism with many parts all working efficiently for a certain purpose”, similar to a watch or an organelle. Enzymes are more like a tool, let's say a screw driver or a knife. Therefore I don’t believe the development of Nylon-eating flavobacteria falsifies my argument, but it’s a good try.

Regarding the flat earth, many people make mistakes. Look at evolutionists for example. However a perfect conspiracy which involves thousands of knowing liars and no leakers is implausible.

badrabbi said...

Ok, let's see: I believe that there are 3 Gods, called the sun God, the moon God, and the star God. I beleive that these Gods have set up the 12 angels, called zodiacs, who rule people according to their dates of birth. I believe that the angels personally intervene in our lives and act as intermediaries to the three Gods. My religion is called Trinitism.

All of you who don't beleive in my religion are thus atheists. And, remember that your atheism is itself a religion. JP and Avrum are thus members of the atheist tribe!

avrum68 said...

"Also, thousands, if not millions of people were prepared to state that the world was flat. Does this make that true? "

I believe the quote is: Nothing dies harder than a bad idea.

As well, did millions of people survey the earth, using instruments, etc., and decide, en masse, that this was the case.

If the Biblical story is correct, than 600,000 or so folks witnessed the event. Your flat earth example falls, well, flat.

"Finally, that the events supposedly witnessed in exodus are simply exciting fabrications agreed upon to provide excuses for later actions."

Now that's very possible, and I've discussed this myself. Though JP's provided more than enough source material to poke holes through my arguements.

Spike said...

I don't quite get your anti-conspiracy point. At one point many people would swear that the earth was flat. Some people still do. How is this any different from the exodus position? The suppression of information contrary to your position is easy if you have complete control over the longterm storage of information

Again, I also present the argument that King Richard III has been widely villified, and remains so to this day, despite most of the misdeeds attributed to his name being inventions of his enemies. This is not some wide and successful conspiracy, but it has remained widely believed.

Regarding the enzyme, the bacteria has not only evolved the molecule itself, but a method of creating it. The analogue is more like making a machine for making knives, or screwdrivers.

nschuster said...

According to a recent article in scientific American Magazine, (If memory serves correctly, nov 2006) certain bacteria have genes that are prediposed to mutate in a certain when exposed to stuff in the environment. It is not random, or even anything new. It is the result of a preexisting condition. That seems to be the case here by the nylon eating bacteria. It is a series of very specific mutations that shift where the translation starts. It doesn't appear random at all. Moreover the bacteria merely modifying a preexsiting mechanism. It is not creatin anything from scratch. I teach biology for a living. My textbook has a chapter on cell theory. This states that life does not happen outside of a cell. The simplest cell consists of some 2000 porteins enzymes, coenzymes, nucleic acids, etc that have to be arrainged in a very specific order. Moreover they have to be in the right proportions. That is the chapter on homeostasis. Proteins consist of hundreds or even thousands of amino acids that have to arrainge themselves in a specific order, then they have to fold into a very specific shape. I am still waiting for a convincing explanation for how a bunch of simple molecules could get together, line up and make a cell. If there is no cell, there is no life.

nschuster said...

I would venture to add trhat if a person spends time blogging on the internet,trying to convinvce people of the correctness of their opinions, then their atheism can be considered a religion. Why not just go out and do something useful like visit a nursing home? They believe that ulitmately what people believe doesn't matter.

Spike said...

in response to nschuster, taken directly from the wiki page:

Scientists were able to induce another species of bacteria, Pseudomonas, to evolve the capability to break down the same nylon byproducts in a laboratory by forcing them to live in an environment with no other source of nutrients. The Pseudomonas strain did not seem to use the same enzymes that had been utilized by the original Flavobacterium strain. [2] Other scientists were able to get the ability to generate the enzymes to transfer from the Flavobacterium strain to a strain of E.Coli bacteria via a plasmid transfer. [3] Genetic analysis of the plasmid led some scientists to the conclusion that the genes to produce one of the enzymes had most likely resulted from the combination of a gene duplication event with a frame shift mutation. [4] Further analysis has led to speculation that the fact that the frame shift was able to produce a functioning enzyme was related to the absence of stop codons in the duplicate gene.[5] Research has continued in the hope of better understanding the mechanisms involved in the evolution of new enzymes, and because of the possible value of bacteria that can metabolize man made molecules to toxic waste cleanup.

So, a very specific shift that is different in two different species of bacteria and creates two different enzymes?

beepbeepitsme said...

To believe that a god exists, you need faith.

beepbeepitsme said...

RE: "I would venture to add trhat if a person spends time blogging on the internet,trying to convinvce people of the correctness of their opinions, then their atheism can be considered a religion."

Because talking about something a lot does not determine its status as a religion or as not a religion.

Economics and politics are also discussed fervently, and with at least the same amount of time - does that make politics or economics a "religion."?

I don't think so. If everything that is discussed often is a religion, then what value does the word have?

I agree that certain activities can be done "religiously." For example: I "religiously" have a cup of hot coffee each morning. That doesn't make coffee drinking a religion. It makes coffee drinking something I make a habit of doing.

beepbeepitsme said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
beepbeepitsme said...

And to add to the last thought. Surely you are not suggesting that a religion is little more than a habit.

jewish philosopher said...

You see, I think in order to falsify the Watchmaker Principle, you must find a machine which we know and we have witnessed was created from simple pieces by random, spontaneous, natural forces. This would be like a tornado hitting a pile of junk and creating a windup toy car. The creation of new enzymes by bacteria is more like the creation of a new tool by a bird. It’s interesting, but it doesn’t quite fulfill the requirements.

There is I think an obvious difference between a lot of people being mistaken about something and a lot of people knowingly lying about something. If successful, large scale conspiracies are easy to create and common place then how do we know that astronauts really went to the moon or that George Washington actually existed? I think most of us agree that such conspiracies are implausible. Likewise, a conspiracy to falsify Jewish history is implausible.

Spike said...

But by the same view, the conspiracy to falsify British history is implausable, and yet it happened. At the time, deliberate lies about the actions of King Richard III were crafted, and the truth suppressed. Later generations have only the lies to refer to, and so the conspiracy goes on. If you have control of the long-term storage of information, and the power to suppress opposing points of view, making a lasting conspiracy is not difficult.

beepbeepitsme said...

No nation's history is evidence of one god or many gods. History is evidence of the belief in a god or gods.

It is not evidence of the existence of these gods.

jewish philosopher said...

Spike "deliberate lies about the actions of King Richard III were crafted" how many people were involved in the crafting of these lie? Thousands? And no one broke the conspiracy?


Beep, we could just as well say "No nation's history is evidence of a landing on the moon. History is evidence of the belief in a landing on the moon."

beepbeepitsme said...

jewish

History can evidence the material world. It can evidence that man walked on the moon because this occurs in a material or natural world.

History cannot evidence the existence of the supernatural. It can only evidence the belief in it.

jewish philosopher said...

"History cannot evidence the existence of the supernatural."

Why not?

Spike said...

Yes, there may well have been thousands of people involved in lying about King Richard III, and, more importantly, by suppressing alternative information, ensured that later generations didn't know there was a conspiracy. This lead to King Richard being widely reviled, making the assumptions that the lies were true more believable. The need for a conspiracy is removed after a couple of generations, as there is no information around to contradict the "official" story, then there is no need for a conspiracy. It is only later, after the idea that sources should be critically examined on the basis of possible bias on the part of the author arose, that suspicions about the "official" story began to be raised.

King Richard was deposed by the Tudor family, and it was therefore greatly in the interests of writers after this to paint Richard in as bad a light as possible, to legitimise the new King. How much more tempting to a writer to create a story about being the Beloved of God?

jewish philosopher said...

I think it's obvious that few people knew Richard personally during his 33 years of life and after his death a few influentual enemies were able to damage his reputation.

If there would have been no War of the Roses and someone fabricated it and everyone in England participated in the lie, that would be remarkable.

beepbeepitsme said...

History cannot evidence the existence of invisible flying smurfs from alpha centari either. What it may be able to evidence is a belief in them.

If writing about something, or talking about something is evidence of its existence, then all the egyptian gods, all the sumerian gods, and all the gods mentioned before the jewish god, also exist.

It also means that a special "Cat in a Hat" exists that is capable of:
1. speaking
2. speaks english
3. speaks in rhyme

This also means that at an indeterminate time in the future, that people who see the film "King Kong" and will assert that a giant ape existed which climbed the Empire State Building."

avrum68 said...

beep...

Read some of JP's entries on the Kuzari principle. You won't agree with them, but they'll describe why you analogies are false.

beepbeepitsme said...

avrum:

No they won't. If the history of a culture makes the god true, then all gods in all cultures are equally true. Those who have chosen a religion, know that they do not accept that all the other gods exist, just their own.

jewish philosopher said...

Beep, you don't see any difference between the belief which the Jewish people have in the revelation at Mt. Sinai and the belief which Europeans have in Jesus? Think for a few minutes.

Europeans believe in Jesus because the four authors of the gospels claim he "fulfilled" the prophesies of the Old Testament. So four people lied. Jews believe in Mt. Sinai because all their ancestors claim to have received this tradition from their ancestors. Did tens of thousands lie, without anyone leaking the truth? And if so, then how do you the War of the Roses happened?

Does God being invisible bother you? Have you seen electricity? Do you believe in it?

Cameron said...

JP: If atheism merely meant the lack of belief in the monotheistic God of the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and the Koran, then truly atheism would not be a religion any more than not believing in the tooth fairy is a religion.

CH: Correct! You stop right here.

JP: Atheism would just be an opinion about one particular question and seemingly there should not even be a special word for it. There is after all no “atoothfairyism”.

CH: Funny you should mention tooth fairys, afterall, they have exactly the same evidence for existence as God.

JP: However, in the sense that the word “atheism” is generally used in modern times, which is as a synonym for naturalism, determinism and materialism, atheism is a metaphysical belief system or, simply, a religion. It is a religion that denies the existence of the supernatural, however it is a religion nonetheless.

CH: Nice move! You first correctly point out the actual definition of atheism (no belief in gods), and snap-crackle-pop you waive your hands and 'poof' it's a religion!

JP: Atheists themselves almost invariably are upset by this analysis;

CH: Mostly because it is massively, boneheadedly, wrong, but also because describing the 'lack of belief' as 'belief' makes our heads spin uncomfortably. We prefer not to get run over at zebra crossings because we can't tell the difference between black and white.


JP: I think this is basically for a couple of reasons:

- Being a religion means that they have to prove the truth of a long list of beliefs, just like all other religions must.'

CH: Hardly. Atheists don't have to agree on anything. A buddhist is an atheist but she and I will have little other than our mutual lack of belief in skygods in common. That includes your list of 'isms'.


JP: - Being a religion means that all atheists are accountable for the behavior of their coreligionists.

CH: Again, simply false. I am no more responsible for the moral failings of other atheists than I am for the moral failings of Catholics, Protestants or Zoroastrians. I am only responsible for MY moral failings.

JP: Considering the fact that many of the worst criminals in history have been atheists, this is a problem.

CH: Not at all, compare and contrast the morality of the (predominantly atheist) Czech Republic with (predominantly atheist) China. They couldn't be more different - but yet these nations both agree on atheism!

JP: Well, I’m sorry to make them uncomfortable, however they are a religion.

CH: Again, simply false. By definition.

Avrum68: Religion or not, atheists are an angry lot. And it would seem their anger is rooted in painful childhood experiences.

CH: None of what I've expressed above is 'angry'. Just to be clear, I think Jacob is wrong, but I'm not here to insult him (at least no more than necessary to point out where he is wrong), or demean his faith. I also think attributing emotions or other characteristics to a philosophy (or faith) is a slur (i.e. Mormons are greedy, Jews are heavy drinkers, atheists are way too sexy , etc.).

JP: Beep, you don't see any difference between the belief which the Jewish people have in the revelation at Mt. Sinai and the belief which Europeans have in Jesus?

CH: I won't speak for 'beepbeepitsme', but that is exactly correct. There is no difference between believing the Jewish faith to be true, believing the Zorastrian faith to be true, or believing the toothfairy to be true (and in the case of the toothfairy, I'd argue we have superior evidence of its existence).

JP: Europeans believe in Jesus because the four authors of the gospels claim he "fulfilled" the prophesies of the Old Testament.

CH: My understanding is that the New Testament authors likely numbered much greater than four.

JP: Jews believe in Mt. Sinai because all their ancestors claim to have received this tradition from their ancestors. Did tens of thousands lie, without anyone leaking the truth? And if so, then how do you the War of the Roses happened?

CH: I suspect that this too is false. I suspect that Jews believe in Mt Sinai more because they were born into their faith and its component parts, than because of any argument from historicity, or the Karzai principle or what have you. Indeed, your explanation strikes me as a post-hoc rationalization for how something as absurd as the specifics of religious practice.

JP: Does God being invisible bother you? Have you seen electricity? Do you believe in it?

CH: Claims about invisible things don't bother me (a Schrodinger wave function isn't 'visible' in any meaningful way), but claims about invisible, intangible, omnipresent, ineffable, omni-powerful and omni-benevolent beings make me question the sanity of the person who makes these claims.

beepbeepitsme said...

JP:

All religions require faith that the supernatural exists - that is why the history of any tribe, community or nation is not evidence of the existence of RA anymore than it is evidence of the existence of Allah.

avrum68 said...

Cameron, I'm curious. You question the "the sanity of the person who makes these claims", yet you seem to spend an inordinate amount of time (yeah, I know, I know...it takes you 30 secs to draft a response) responding to "insanity". I'm wondering if you do the same thing on schizophrenia and bipolar boards? Y'know, debate patients about their delusions, hallucinations, etc.

And my anecdotal "slur" stands. My roommates, friends and ex-lovers who embraced atheism, were a truly unhappy lot. Perhaps many atheists, like many Jews, are "born into their faith and its component parts". On this point we'd agree.

Spike said...

I can say that the Wars of the Roses are likely to have happened based on the massive amounts of evidence (books, paintings, CASTLES!) presented. This evidence all fits within a consistent frame (some guys tried to kill some other guys over who got to be in charge. How unlikely!) and very little conflicts with current evidence. All of the events could be repeated. All of the actions are possible, as we understand the laws of physics. Now, on a finer level, my confidence that certain famous events of these Wars (the princes in the tower, for example) are not falsifications is lower, but that the overarching story is broadly true is quite likely.

Now we turn to exodus. We have a source telling us that a group of people moved from one place to another. Fine. They also say that this particular group of people were guided and helped in spectacular ways by an omnipotent deity. Harder to believe. Where is the modern equivalent to these events? Has the world changed so much that the deity will no longer intervene? Why don't we see miracles on the same scale anymore? Why doesn't the deity help anybody else? Why is there no collaborating evidence from sources other than the "chosen" people that the deity assisted them?

avrum68 said...

"Where is the modern equivalent to these events? Has the world changed so much that the deity will no longer intervene? Why don't we see miracles on the same scale anymore? Why doesn't the deity help anybody else?"

IMHO, the above questions - impossible to answers (traditional answers always sound defensive, apologetic) - provide fertile soil for doubt.

avrum68 said...

Although Spike, I can't help but notice that the world does change, and quite rapidly, within a decade or two. Tell a teenager in 2007 about how relationships worked in 1889 and s/he'll scoff. Things have changed so rapidly...our relationships, importance of art, technology...so on the other hand, God could be sending us signs everyday (Heschel used to say the sun rising was one of 'em), but our heads are so busy...so busy, that we need to pop effexor and prozac just to get by. Hmm.

Spike said...

The world does change, but the basic principles behind it's operation remain the same. The destruction of a mountain can be achieved much faster now, but it still requires the same amount of energy as 100 years ago. Yes, the average information content of your day is much higher now, but much the same could have been achieved before, although with much greater effort. I have to ask, what has changed between exodus and now that these interventions no longer occur?

jewish philosopher said...

Cameron, I must disagree with you. First of all, I don’t think that Buddhists are considered by anyone to be atheists. Secondly, I think that if a very high percentage of members of a certain religion engage in a certain type of crime, then that does cast suspicion on that religion. This is a problem which atheists must deal with and not just claim, “Well, I’ve not nothing in common with Stalin. Atheism is not a religion.”

Beep “All religions require faith that the supernatural exists” - except Judaism. We’ve got proof.

Spike, the Exodus is not that hard to believe at all. Once we have realized, due to the Watchmaker Principle, that God created us, it seems perfectly expectable that He would at least once tell us why. As soon as there existed a large group of people willing to listen to Him, He did. See Exodus 20.

jewish philosopher said...

"Why is there no collaborating evidence from sources other than the 'chosen' people that the deity assisted them?"

Because there are really no other sources from that era, as I've pointed out elsewhere.

Cameron said...

Avrum68: Cameron, I'm curious. You question the "the sanity of the person who makes these claims", yet you seem to spend an inordinate amount of time (yeah, I know, I know...it takes you 30 secs to draft a response) responding to "insanity".

CH: I'm the Don Quixote of my age.

Avrum68: I'm wondering if you do the same thing on schizophrenia and bipolar boards? Y'know, debate patients about their delusions, hallucinations, etc.

CH: My interests lie more in defending atheism than in mental illness. As a result sometimes I defend atheism from mental illness.

Avrum68: And my anecdotal "slur" stands. My roommates, friends and ex-lovers who embraced atheism, were a truly unhappy lot. Perhaps many atheists, like many Jews, are "born into their faith and its component parts". On this point we'd agree.

CH: On the latter point we do agree, I suspect that many atheists are 'born into it'. I'd go further and suggest that all people are born atheists. Hence the religious insistence on educating kids before their critical faculties are full developed.

JP: Cameron, I must disagree with you. First of all, I don’t think that Buddhists are considered by anyone to be atheists.

CH: Having seen the Dalai Lama speak on just this issue, I can confidently say you are dead wrong here. Buddhism is a complex philosophy, but it is not a religion in the sense that it has supernatural beings or forces as part of its mythology (the Dalai Lama is big booster of science and neuroscience in general).

JP: Secondly, I think that if a very high percentage of members of a certain religion engage in a certain type of crime, then that does cast suspicion on that religion. This is a problem which atheists must deal with and not just claim, “Well, I’ve not nothing in common with Stalin. Atheism is not a religion.”

CH: You recongize the problem yourself, my beliefs have literally nothing in common with Stalin aside from our agreement about the lack of supernatural beings in the universe! So how can that be the case unless - gasp - my atheism has absolutely nothing to do with Stalinism?

JP: Beep “All religions require faith that the supernatural exists” - except Judaism. We’ve got proof.

CH: Right, a magic book. Coincidentally, the Mormons feel exactly the same way as their magic book is all the proof they need that God is Mormon. I sure am glad atheists don't have any magic books.

avrum68 said...

"CH:As a result sometimes I defend "CH: I'd go further and suggest that all people are born atheists."

Links? Research? Anything to back that up? Because I've spent a good portion of my life working with children, and they exhibit an incredible capacity for awe and wonder. Of course, what adults do to their "awe" and "wonder" is another matter all together.

"CH: Having seen the Dalai Lama speak on just this issue, I can confidently say you are dead wrong here. Buddhism is a complex philosophy, but it is not a religion in the sense that it has supernatural beings "

No, huh? How about all their rambling about about "gods"?

http://www.buddhistinformation.com/buddhist_attitude_to_god.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_in_Buddhism

"CH: I sure am glad atheists don't have any magic books."

The way you folks defend Dawkins, one can only wonder what will become of The God Dellusion in 10-15 years.

Spike said...

Problems with the watchmaker principle:
1)Infinite regression. Every complex thing must have a creator. So what about god? Complex? Yup. Creator? Quick, dodge the question!
2)Machines, excluding biological machines, don't tend to reproduce. The reproducing thing is important. It allows all sorts of crazy stuff to happen, over and over again.
3)Successes of genetic algorithms. See http://ic.arc.nasa.gov/projects/esg/research/antenna.htm. There have been many other projects to test the ability of simple stuff to evolve.
See http://www.eioba.com/a1291/the_argument_from_design_and_anthropic_principle_are_worthless for a more comprehensive response.

Secondly, why pick the god of the Torah? Why not Odin? Or the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Even if we accept the possibility that life is designed (and, just to be absolutely clear on this, I don't) why pick one god out of any of the possibilities around? An individuals religion is strongly correlated with their parents. Guessing religious adherence based on the place of birth is remarkably effective, why is this? Did each god get to claim a certain patch? Why choose one book over another? You say you have proof, but using a source to verify itself seems somehow overly circular and devoid of external tests to really constitute proof.

Also, saying that if a high percentage of adherents to a certain religion commit crimes then suspicion falls on all members of that religion is one thing, but then saying that Stalin is a high percentage of all atheists all by himself seems like a curious argument. If you would like to expand further on why we should consider one man a high percentage of any group, I would be very grateful.(sarcasm) Otherwise, I shall just have to assume that all Jews are babykillers like King Herod. After all, he is a high percentage of all Jews, and they should have to explain their association with him (/sarcasm). I would like to make completely clear at this point that I don't believe that all Jews are babykillers, and that the stereotyping of people based upon their ancestry and other factors beyond their control is stupid and wrong. However the point remains that Stalin did not kill people for atheism, but to ensure his own personal power. The Russian churches, by forming an alternative power structure, presented a threat to his own control of the country, and were so eliminated. One may as well say that both Stalin and Hitler had facial hair, and so any man with facial hair must explain his association with these villains.


Apologies for the length of the post, but these arguments cannot always be settled with pithy one-liners. To sum up: Even if we accept the watchmaker principle, why choose the god of the Torah over any of the others?

avrum68 said...

"An individuals religion is strongly correlated with their parents. "

As is atheism. What's your point? Actually, if you hang around Jerusalem...say at Aish, you'll bump into a whack of ex-atheists who found their parent's lack of belief to be quite empty. I met tons of 'em.

"You say you have proof"
"why choose the god of the Torah?"

Spike READ the rest of the blog. I may not agree with everything JP writes, but he's answered this question, over, and over, and over again.

"Apologies for the length of the post"
Like most atheists, your apology should be related to your insults:
"is stupid "
not your lack of brevity.

You want proof that God exists? How about JP's incredible tollerance for answering the same questions over and over and over again. Only a God fearing man could have the patience of a saint.

Spike said...

I am curious as to why calling the stereotyping of people based upon factors beyond their control stupid is an insult.

Again I point out, using evidence to prove itself is not a real proof. You can prove that the evidence is self-consistent, but you cannot prove that it is true.

jewish philosopher said...

I think the question “If God created us, where did God come from” is pretty much answered here.

We know about God’s identity because God identified Himself at Mt. Sinai.

I think atheists must attempt to answer the question “If atheists are just as moral and ethical as religious people, if not more so, then why has every officially atheistic government in history been extremely brutal?"

It has been argued that it was Communism, not atheism, which caused these murders, however I would beg to differ. Communism in itself does not encourage murder; on the contrary, it encourages the greatest concern for human happiness. Marx wrote in the Communist Manifesto “In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.” I would argue that in spite of Communism, atheistic governments have been so brutal. Atheists do not believe in God, a soul or an afterlife and therefore killing people means nothing to them.

I would argue that the worst believing Jew is morally superior to the best atheist.

jewish philosopher said...

Cameron, if I find a magic book, the first thing I will do is make all atheists disappear. Where will you be then?

avrum68 said...

"Cameron, if I find a magic book, the first thing I will do is make all atheists disappear. Where will you be then?"

You're nuts JP, but in a high quality nut kinda way ;)

Spike said...

You are still using evidence to prove itself. If the only way you can provide evidence for god is from the torah, and you only take the torah as a true record because it claims to have been insipered by god, you have proved nothing, except the self-consistency of the torah. If you believe that the universe was created, why not believe it to be some other god?

The A.I.G. page severly misrepresents both Thermodynamics and quantum theory, in particular pair production and quantum fluctuations. In addition, If time began with the universe, talking about a "before" makes no sense.

Also, Sweden has no official religion (The Church of Sweden having split from the state), and has not been involved in a war for nearly 200 years. Yup. Extremely brutal.

Again I ask, what has changed since the time of Exodus to cause god to no longer intervene?

jewish philosopher said...

My beliefs, as I've made clear, are based on a) the evidence of design in nature and b) the uniqueness of Jewish tradition. What's the problem with that?

Sweden's official religion is not, however, atheism.

The Exodus was a unique appearance of God in this world. It only needed to happen once.

For example, in my company, they gave me a book of company rules once, not again and again every day.

avrum68 said...

"For example, in my company, they gave me a book of company rules once, not again and again every day."

Hmm, interesting. However you do see your boss every now and again. Spike's asking a good question, why is it that the only people speaking/seeing God are prescribed Olanzapine?

avrum68 said...

" you have proved nothing"

Can you prove love exists? If you can, it'll probably be anecdotal. Or you may be a radical materialist who believes love nothing more than dopamine with a chaser of serotonin.

If I'm correct, it seems that the things we humans hold dear...the things we're willing to die and sacrafice our lives over...are not easily measured with scientific tools and/or explained via scientific explanations.

Cameron said...

Avrum68: No, huh? How about all their rambling about about "gods"?

CH: You helpfully provided a link, and midway through the page I found this;

"But Buddhism goes beyond most of these other religions in that it is positively anti-theistic because the very notion of God conflicts with some principles which are fundamental to the Buddhist view of the world and the role of humans in it (see section "The God-Concept and Buddhist Principles" below)."

CH: Looks to me like you didn't even read the evidence you posted to make your point, because if you did, you'd notice you were actually making it for me.

JP: Cameron, if I find a magic book, the first thing I will do is make all atheists disappear. Where will you be then?

CH: And avrum68 thinks that I sound angry!

More seriously for a moment, but there is an underlying point that should be made more clearly than it has been so far. What you incorrectly insist on describing as 'atheism' simply isn't, it's more properly 'modernity' that you are criticizing.

Atheism, as I and others repeatedly insist on pointing out is a mere philosophical position, one that carries no ancillary beliefs, political baggage, or particular moral code. You can be an atheist;

- Nihlist
- Conservative
- Liberal
- Communist
- Totalitarian
- Socialist (ala Russell)

...etc. And some of the more clever of you will note that the above list contains ideologies that are not mutually compatible (i.e. there are few if any socialist/nihlists). What should be clear is that while these are all political or personal philosophies, and they are all consonant with atheism, none of them are the fault of atheism.

There are no specific; set of beliefs, doctrines, dogma, books, fables, stories, or paradigms that must be observed, obeyed, worshipped or otherwise ingested.

However, in your description of atheism, you put it into a much larger context (incorrectly, but you do), and that context is quite clearly 'modernity' - that is, the current state of philosophy that has rejected the pre-enlightenment faiths as epistemologically revelatory, and moved on to using science as the primary (and secondary) means of exploring the world.

Your distaste for atheism, is in fact actually a misplaced disgust with the (agnostic) modern world and how it operates outside and without the religious framework that informs your world view. In short, you've mistaken the tree of atheism for the forest of modernity.

Unfortunately, your disgust with modernity also leads you to attack its foundations in a completely ineffective way - teleology.

Design arguments were rendered defunct before Francis Bacon, and they haven't improved since (despite the improvement in PR and marketing provided by the Discovery Institute), and the result is;

"We must be on our guard against giving interpretations which are hazardous or opposed to science, and so exposing the word of God to the ridicule of unbelievers. --Saint Augustine"

So when you make your teleogical arguments, this is exactly the position you place yourself in - opposition to science, and open to ridicule.

I respect the intent of this blog as a means of bringing those lapsed from the Jewish faith back into the fold, and as a way of convincing those who are thinking of leaving that they should stay, but you do a vast disservice to your faith by mangling the position of your foes (that would be me, the atheist) and by holding your faith up in opposition to science and reason.

Misunderstanding atheists will continue to be a problem for you because if you fail to see atheists for what we really are (and for what our position really is - and let's be clear, as exciting as it is to accuse us of this, we simply are not 'Pro-Stalin'), you can't hope to convince us that your faith is worth considering, or those who are on the fence about their faith, that atheism is the evil you suggest.

A person who has lapsed from the faith rarely does so for a single reason, and while escaping the constraints of an archaic moral code can be a prod for leaving the faith, it is rarely the only one.

Most often it is a recognition that the intellectual foundations of the faith run counter to common sense or reality, and it is that cognitive dissonance leads the faithful to question their faith more deliberately.

And when they question their faith, they are not doing so because they seek a life of hedonism and self-absorption, but because they find that what they read and are taught runs counter to what they feel and know.

When you suggest you would 'dissapear' the atheists if you could, you highlight exactly why people find the morality of your faith (or rather, its lack thereof) unappealing, and I personally find it ironic that you would laud the morality of your faith in one comment, and then proudly call for executions in the next.

Cameron said...

CH: I'd go further and suggest that all people are born atheists."

avrum68: Links? Research? Anything to back that up?

CH: Common sense Avrum - people aren't born with their religious convictions. If they were we'd see examples of Mormon children born to Jewish parents, and wouldn't that be a kick?

Avrum68: Because I've spent a good portion of my life working with children, and they exhibit an incredible capacity for awe and wonder. Of course, what adults do to their "awe" and "wonder" is another matter all together.

CH: Indeed it is. I for one am always saddened when that joy at the worlds natural marvels is sublimated by explanations that are little more than fairy tales. The world is full of awe and wonder - its just not supernaturally generated.

avrum68 said...

"CH: Looks to me like you didn't even read the evidence you posted to make your point, because if you did, you'd notice you were actually making it for me. "

Cameron...posting selected quotes is dishonest. The article discusses gods and all other sorts of supernatural hooey gooey. And anyway, you're wrong:

"Now Buddhism, although it certainly denies the existence of an anthropomorphic and personal God, yet does not reject spirituality as an attribute of the Primordial Essence. On the contrary, a Divine Intelligence is acknowledged, but at the same time is not held to have any direct control over individual destiny, which is entirely subject to the laws of Cause and Effect, or to use a technical term, to the "Karma" (balance of merit and demerit) of the individual monad which follows and controls the state, condition or form of his re-births.

Does this denial of a personal God necessarily constitute Atheism ? It is hardly fair to assume that it does; for the rejection of a personal God need not imply the denial of any God at all."
http://www.theosophical.ca/IsTheBuddhistAnAtheist.html

avrum68 said...

"Most often it is a recognition that the intellectual foundations of the faith run counter to common sense or reality"

Not according to this book:
http://www.offthederech.com/
You'd have to read the book and research. To sum up, the vast majority of folks who left observant Judaism did so due to psychological reasons. The authors were actually surprised that so few respondents mentioned "faith" or "science" as the cause of their "off the derech".

jewish philosopher said...

I think that when asked their religion many people do in fact say "atheist", which is not the same as "no religion".

jewish philosopher said...

Regarding prophesy, God stopped talking to us when we stopped listening to him. Jeremiah for example was beaten up and thrown in jail.

If every time my boss would come over and speak to me, I would tell him to f*** off, he would stop coming.

avrum68 said...

"If every time my boss would come over and speak to me, I would tell him to f*** off, he would stop coming."

Huh? But there ARE people asking...everyday, in Mea Shearim...New York...Outremont...on and on. Are there less Yids asking now then, say, during the Exodux. I'm not so sure. It sounded like a lot of Hebrews whined their ass off.

Spike said...

Problems: 1) What evidence for design in nature? If nature was designed, how would you distinguish between the designed parts and the non-designed parts? 2) Many cultures have creator myths. What makes the jewish one so extra very special that it must be the truth? Having a self-referential book is ok, but not unique. When exactly did god decide that enough is enough, and stop dropping by? Why? If he is not coming back, why go on with the worshipping?



As regards love, it is an emergent property of a complex system. This system is not currently well understood, but I see no reason for this state of affairs to continue. After all, they have just succeeded in modelling a mouse brain. And, yes, certain chemicals do affect peoples modes of thought.

jewish philosopher said...

Avrum, of course there are righteous people in each generation. And when enough Jews truly want to listen to God, He will talk to us again. This should happen quickly and in our lifetimes!

Henry said...

Cameron - I have been trying to find the original of the anamorphic skull in your icon. I thought at first it was the one in The Ambassadors by Holbein but it is not.

Spike said...

How many Jews does one need to get god to talk to you? I mean, if he spoke to Adam surely only one is needed... Or is it a proportion of total population? If so, what proportion?

beepbeepitsme said...

Revelation, if it exists, is only so for the person to whom the supposed info is revealed.

After that, revelation is heresay; a game of chinese whispers where the finished product bears little or no resemblance to the original whisper.

Aparts from that problem, and the problem of heresay, one is required to believe each account in the chinese whisper's chain - even those which conflict with another.

jewish philosopher said...

Spike, I guess that's up to God. He doesn't talk to everybody. After all, how often has the President of the United States phoned you lately?

Beep, even if the tradition is not perfect, should we just throw up our hands and ignore it?

avrum68 said...

"Beep, even if the tradition is not perfect, should we just throw up our hands and ignore it?"

Perhaps not. But the danger of "not perfect" becomes "well, why not". For example, I ride my bike on Shabbat. And though none of my Orthodox will follow, they also don't see that action as "such a big deal". Although many of my Orthodox friends will have relationships before they marry, spill tons o' seed, and see nothing wrong with it because "we're not having intercourse".

And that's why I agree with Dawkins visavis his description of most religious folks as preaching something they don't practice. I see it everyday. And if cosmic punishments is so willy nilly, I guess most of us, by our actions, agree that "tradition is not perfect" and decide, based on pleasure, pain and guilt, what we'll do and what we'll obey.

Spike said...

Well, the president is just a guy. God is supposed to be well, all powerful and stuff. I mean, can create the earth and everything on it, but can't seem to make his presence well known enough that everybody isn't a dick. Hum. Not very powerful then. Also, if we are designed, it is crappy. This whole universe shows evidence of crappy design. Take particle physics, for example. Thousands of particles, quantum foam with stuff just popping in and out of existence, none of it needed. Just irritating, really. Unless god was a cruel and uncaring god. In which case it makes perfect sense.

jewish philosopher said...

Avrum, regarding errors in our tradition, I’m referring to trivial things like the exact manner of blowing the shofar. Since we aren’t sure, we do it a few different ways. Doctors also aren’t perfect, however if a doctor told you that a certain chemical is poisonous, what would you do? Try it anyway?


Spike, of course God could force us to believe in Him, however then we would deserve no reward for our belief. Therefore we have free choice and unfortunately many choose poorly.

I’m sure that a simply person from New Guinea visiting Manhattan would find a lot of crappy design. Let’s tear down the skyscrapers and do something useful with the real estate like plant yams. How do you distinguish between poor design and design too advanced for you to understand?

Spike said...

Surely the consideration of a reward must be considered as a form of coercion. If we must believe or miss out we are being forced to believe. No choice is free, all are constrained by some requirements. Is god implying that there is not enough salvation to go around, and so he must only choose those who really deserve it?

We can explain to the New Guinean why cities develop, and, if he were given the right impetus, he could work it out for himself. How do you distinguish between design too advanced to understand and randomness? Why create designs involving so much suffering?

jewish philosopher said...

A reward which is unearned would be an imperfect reward. God wants to bestow on man a perfect reward. You have to break your butt a little bit.

The suffering we have caused ourselves. Read the Bible. To begin with, man in was in Eden. It was great. Adam blew it. Later generations keep blowing it. The Flood. The Dispersion. The Golden Calf. The Destruction of the Temple. Etc. Etc. So here we are now.

Spike said...

Right. Back to the magic book. Also, if god is perfect, and god created Adam, then Adam must have been perfect. Otherwise, god must have made a non-perfect move, which would make him not perfect. And if Adam is Perfect, why did he eat the apple?

The Flood? What about the flood? have you any evidence for the flood?

jewish philosopher said...

"Behold, this only have I found, that God made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions." Ecclesiastes 7:29.

What kind of evidence do you expect to find of a flood that took place in 2105 BCE?

Spike said...

Well, I don't know, excitingly carved valleys, mysterious channels, funny landscapes, stuff like that. I mean, all the earth was covered in water, that should leave some sort of evidence. Although where the water went, and where it came from are also interesting questions.

jewish philosopher said...

Spike, who says there aren't? No one knows how the Grand Canyon formed for example.

badrabbi said...

Spike:

Jeez, I was beginning to think that I was the only one with some sanity here. Your posts or comments (whatever these things are called) are so refreshing that I actually rejoice at reading them. You make sense. Keep to good work.

Spike said...

Whilst the exact mechanism for the Grand Canyon is unknown, there is no physical evidence that it was caused by a worldwide flood 4000 years ago. There is, however, plenty of evidence that make a world-wide flood 4000 years ago incrediably unlikely. The concept of the flood has no explanatory power, even requiring torturous justifications as to why the landscapes around us are so very different to what would be expected if a flood had occured. Again, Where did the water come from? Where did it go? How come all the plants survived? Why didn't the salt/fresh water fish die? The only thing a flood hypothesis brings is more questions, and no answers.

badrabbi said...

No one has dealt with Spike's comment: Let's say that the watchmaker principle actually proves God. Does it prove that Hashem is the said God? Does it prove that there is one God?

The question is How do you know that your God, the God that you fervantly pray to, is the go to man (person, thing, whatever)?

jewish philosopher said...

Spike, the flood was a miracle. It wasn't just some bad weather.

Bad, the Kuzari principle does that.

avrum68 said...

"The question is How do you know that your God, the God that you fervantly pray to, is the go to man (person, thing, whatever)?"

How do you know that your wife/husband is your true love...hell, it could be anybody? So either you're a liar, you're in denial, or we humans have FAITH that our choice is the correct one. And our FAITH is comprised of past knowledge, life experience, history, science, art, etc.

Spike said...

Fine. It was a miracle. So why make the world so consistant with the idea that the miracle never happened, and was a story made up by some guy? You have your miracle, and then god mysteriously set the earth back to the way it was before the miracle? God removed every trace of the miracle to make us believe in him? What?


The Kuzari principle says that stuff witnessed by a lot (not quantified exactly how many, but a lot) of people must be true. So, what about the other religions? Lots of people saw Odin doing stuff. Some people are even descended from him. Lots of people saw Allah kicking back and making merry. Why not him? Zeus hung around with some crazy cats, why not him?

jewish philosopher said...

And is that exactly what the Kuzari principle says? Sources please?

Spike said...

Kuzari principle:

Let E be a possible event which, had it really occurred, would have left behind enormous, easily available evidence of its occurrence. If the evidence does not exist, people will not believe that E occurred. (Rabbi Dr. Dovid Gottlieb, Living up to the Truth, Chapter 6.)

Unfortunately, in the cases where you try to apply it, the easily available evidence isn't, so you are reduced to saying that the people believed because there was evidence, but that evidence is now gone. This furthur reduces to: If lots of people believe stuff, then it must have happened.

jewish philosopher said...

I put it a little differently.

avrum68 said...

"If lots of people believe stuff, then it must have happened."

We agree. But first...

The Kuzari is a horribly written book. Almost comical. A few of us tried to get through it over a few months on shabbos afternoon. Our overall feeling was that anybody who spoke with such cocky attitude to a king would've had his head lopped off and fed to lions.

Second:
The arguement is flawed for a number of reasons. Here's one: I have no doubt that certain conditions: lack of scientific knowledge, a leader struggling with bipolar illness, a continent of people who believe that lightening, thunder and earthquakes are msgs from gods...all these things could have produced the Sinai event.

However JP through a wrench into my arguement by mentionoing that certain natural events which occured at Sinai i.e. volcano, could not have occured at the location of the event. An interesting point.

Spike said...

In your own words:"If a large group of people, for example 10,000 or more, unanimously claim to have had a certain experience, they must be telling the truth." I don't believe I have misrepresented you here. If I have, I apologise.

However, again, specifically in this point, we can't ask a large group of people, we can only ask those who writings survived. And all these people are priests.

Henry said...

Spike - there is a lot of evidence of a significant rise in sea level in the past, probably at the end of the Ice Age. The water came from the melting of ice. Things like antlers are often fished up from the North Sea. There are also the stone man-made structures on Malta and Gozo which extend underwater.

badrabbi said...

The Kuzari principle is based on the medieval works of the Jewish philosopher Rabbi Yehuda Halevi. It purports to ‘prove’ that events of the Jewish exodus from Egypt are plausible and reasonable. The proofs offered are actually simple and are outlined as follows…

The Kuzari Principle: Let us say that one or more significant events occur over a short period of time. These events can be the parting of a sea, or the descent of God to the top of a mountain and the giving of a holy document. These events, because of their enormity would have left a lot of easily identifiable evidence. As one internet site framed it, paraphrasing from Dr. Dovid Gottlieb’s book: Let E be a possible event which, had it really occurred, would have left behind enormous, easily available evidence of its occurrence. If the evidence does not exist, people will not believe that E occurred.

Now let E be the Sinai revelation; since it is claimed that 3 million Jews saw the revelation, and since the 3 million Jews raised no objection once this claim was made, then necessarily the fact of revelation did occur. If Moses falsely claimed that he parted the sea, if he claimed that 3 million people crossed the Sea of Reeds, well, then the 3 million people would have said to Moses “no, you did no such thing. We don’t remember crossing a parted sea – you are a liar!” But since the Jewish people of the time did no such thing and believe the revelation and the desert story, then the story is plausible, even probable.


I do hope that I have done some justice to the Kuzari Principle. If I have not, I do apologize. Please correct me if I am not understanding this principle.

But here is my issue with the principle: All of the events that the Jews have witnessed are chronicled in the 5 books of the Torah. The parting of the sea, the revelation at Sinai, Manna from heavan, miracles, etc., are all in the 5 books. These 5 books were written by Moses according to orthodox Jews. The 5 books describe events from creation up to the death of Moses. At the earliest, the 5 books of the Torah had to have been completed at the time of the death of Moses.

Thus, at the earliest, Torah’s claims would have been presented to the Jewish people - the so-called 3 million witnesses - shortly after the death of Moses. At that time, the Jews would have already crossed the Jordon River, being led by Joshua, preparing for the battles for the land of Israel. Joshua, or a priest would have shown the newly finished 5 books to the Jewish people. Now, note that according to the Torah tradition, all of the people who originally left Egypt, some 3 million people, died in the desert. No one, except for Joshua and Caleb who crossed the parted sea actually made it to the Jordon River. They died of plagues, battles, God’s wrath, purges etc. Not even Aaron nor Moses made it to the land of Israel. Those who made it to the Jordon River were the second generation of the exodus. Again, if I am wrong about this, please tell me.

Now, when the Torah is presented to the second generation, and the various miracles etc are mentioned, the people would have no way of verifying the veracity of the claims since THEY WERE NOT THERE! As you know, the Torah was given 49 days after the exodus. All the people who witnessed the revelation at Sinai would have been dead by the time the Torah was completed 40 years later! Of course Caleb and Joshua are exceptions to this.

Note, then, that the Kuzari Principle is no longer valid in the case of Jewish exodus. The only witnesses to Torah’s claims were Joshua and Caleb. There are only 2 witnesses to a purported event. I will not go into the obvious interest of these two to support the claims of the bible. I will only mention that there were not 3 million witnesses, nor 10,000. Rather, there are only 2 witnesses to the multitude of miraculous events that Jews say occurred.

To summarize, at the time when the Torah made its supernatural claims, there were only 2 witnesses available to verify such claims. These claims, then, are no different from claims of other religions. The veracity of the Torah is no more witnessed than that of Mohammad’s Quran or Smith’s Mormon Bible.

jewish philosopher said...

The point is that the Torah's claims in the first half of the book of Exodus are no more or less historically valid than any other historic event. How do you know Neil Armstrong walked on the moon? Just because he said so - one person's claim? How do you know the American Civil War happened? Was anyone alive today there? We believe these things because it is implausible that thousands of people could have conspired together to deceive everyone else. By the same token, it is implausible that at some point in Jewish history, whether in the time of Joshua, Samuel, Josiah or Ezra, the entire Jewish people would have agreed unanimously to lie to their children and claim "We have received a tradition from our parents that these miracles occurred."

That is the crucial difference. A lot of people may be foolishly mistaken about something. That happens all the time. (The idea that we are descended from apes is a perfect example.) However a lot of people will not conspire together to deliberately lie, without at least a significant number of informants disclosing the truth.

And by the way, Spike, I think you are in luck. I believe that I have posts about science and about science vs. religion which brilliantly answer all your questions and refute all of your objections. You're welcome.

Spike said...

I see where you are coming from now:

# ARGUMENT FROM HISTORY
(1) The Bible is true.
(2) Therefore, the Bible is historical fact.
(3) Therefore, God exists.

The bible has very little reliability. It is inconsistant, has multiple unnamed authors, and no supporting evidence. Other events have more evidence, such as reports from named authors, physical evidence and multiple independant records.

As to the claim that the jews must all have been telling the truth all the time, imagine a situation where questioning the veracity of the stories told by the local rulers gets you forbidden to marry, expelled from the tribe, or even killed. Now imagine that these rulers have total control over the recording and preserving of information. They are obviously going to record all the information that questions their authority, and never exaggerate their own importance. Saying that these people have unanimously agreed to tell the complete truth to their children is a remarkable claim. Additionally, if people were to question these claims, they would probably leave or be forced to leave the group, and so saying that nobody in the group questions the claim means nothing. It is, in fact, a clear case of the Texas Sharpshooter.


I am very impressed with this line: "A lot of people may be foolishly mistaken about something. That happens all the time. (The idea that we are descended from apes is a perfect example.)" Of course, what they should say is that humans and apes share a common ancestor. As regards your other posts on evolution, you do realise that most of the evidence for punctuated evolution was a artifact of the way paleantology was divided into seperate fields, right?

As regards a lot of people being totally mistaken, well, obviously that has nothing to say about the Kurari Principle, especially when you have only a few sources telling you about the views of all these people.

As regards to your view of science, it has obviously brought nothing but trouble, and we should scrap it to return to the days of living the calm bucolic life, when men were men and women were property. But, as you point out, scientists shouldn't talk about religion. Perhaps religious people also shouldn't talk about science. After all, their special training doesn't provide them with any particular insight regarding science. Even worse, these scientists are telling us that they don't have all the answers yet! And they aren't even sure about the answers they do have! How dare they talk about stuff when they can't answer completely unrelated questions! Anyone would think that they still had to do research!

avrum68 said...

"The bible has very little reliability."

Actually, many of it's predictions visavis Jewish history are bang-on. However I'm not sure the Bible was ever meant to perform like a Honda.

"has multiple unnamed authors"

Spike, this is not a fact, it's a theory. And a shoddy one at that. Like I've previously stated, when learning the DH theory at McGill, I remarked to the prof: "It takes the same degree of faith to believe the Bible is divine as it does to believe it has multiple authors."

"Now imagine that these rulers have total control over the recording and preserving of information."

Can you point me to a Biblical passage where this occured? It's odd because the Bible is full of doubting and sinning figures, why wouldn't the "authors" mention threats and coercion?

"But, as you point out, scientists shouldn't talk about religion. Perhaps religious people also shouldn't talk about science. "

Unless said religous person had a background in science. What boggles my mind is how atheists, who've never given prayer, worship or belief in God a 2nd thought, have tons of opinions about how/why this stuff doesn't work.

jewish philosopher said...

OK, Spike, I see your theory. Jews believed in the Exodus because they were forced to on pain of death. Any shred evidence to back that up, or should I just accept that based on your word alone?

I think scientists take turns saying "Man is descended from apes." "Apes and man have a common ancestor." and "Man is an ape." Take your choice. Sometimes my five year old daughter does remind me a little of a monkey.

Spike said...

How do we know it's predictions are bang on? Why, it told us so! Hooray for the circular logic. Or are these predictions like the one about hares chewing the cud?

The bible is full of doubting and sinning figures, who all get their come-uppance, thereby serving as moral lessons for everybody else. Where are the stories about conniving unbelievers who die having lead long, happy and successful lives? As for the specific passage, wasn't Moses supposed to have written part of it? Wasn't he the one who lead them hither and thither, telling them what they were and weren't allowed to do? Sounds like the ruler had control of the information there!

Oh look! A religious guy with a background in science! He must be an expert in Science! But the opposite, a scientific guy with a background in religion, no, that could never happen. Not if he disagrees with me.

Spike said...

Also, I have just come across this. Looks like it applies here:

ARGUMENT FROM SHAME
(1) The Bible showed a group of people performing embarassing actions.
(2) It must be true if the book describes negative events.
(3) The Bible is describing historical events.
(4) Therefore, God exists.

Spike said...

No, I said that there is no reason to believe that people who didn't claim to believe in exodus would have their stories recorded with the same exacting care as the "official" story. Additionaly, would the people who did express doubt about the existance of god still be called jews?

From your own blog: "With this in mind, we can begin to understand how great the sin of apostasy is: the Jew who, although raised in a home where he was taught all the fundamental principles of Judaism yet afterwards rejects God, denies him and rebels against Him. There cannot be any crime more heinous than this. Rather than deny God, a Jew must give up his life, as many indeed have. It is preferable to be dead rather than to go on living after having committed such an act, even insincerely, even one time.

According to Maimonides (Laws of Murderer and Protection of Soul, 4:10-11):

Heretics, that is, Jews who do not believe in the Torah or in prophecy -- it is a commandment to kill them. If one can kill them with a sword in public he should, and if not -- he should act against them with cunning until he causes them to be killed. How? If he sees one of them fallen into a well and there is a ladder in the well, first he should remove the ladder and say, 'I must take my son down off the roof, I'll bring it back' or something like that."

So yes, they were compelled on pain of death to keep believing.

Again, are you saying that evolution of biological creatures is impossible?

avrum68 said...

"The bible is full of doubting and sinning figures, who all get their come-uppance"

My friend, you don't know your Bible (think Abraham, Moses, etc). But I'm not surprised, the atheists I know wouldn't know prayer from raquet ball, but are pretty confident that prayer doesn't work.

"How do we know it's predictions are bang on? Why, it told us so! "

If the Bible claims that the Jews will forever be a small group, with a huge influence, that will be persectued...I'd say the Bible's pretty close to describing the past 4000 years.

"But the opposite, a scientific guy with a background in religion, no, that could never happen. Not if he disagrees with me."

That's right, because a background in religion is like having a background in Art...it means shit if you ain't DOING it. A PhD in music means shit if you've never composed a song, strummed a guitar, etc. I bet you can count on one hand the # of atheists who rejected a healthy, warm religious upbringing. Rather most are either raised atheists, were abused by a pastor, or had very unhappy childhoods. Like I said, if you didn't recieve love growing up, you surely can't believe in a caring and loving God.

jewish philosopher said...

Spike, let’s cut to the chase. In your judgment, the concept of the Torah being of divine origin is so preposterous that no conceivable evidence would be able to convince you of it. If that’s the case, then I guess there isn’t really much to discuss, is there?

badrabbi said...

Some things that would convince me that the Torah is of divine origin:

1. If God were to descend, do amazing things in front of a bunch of people, maybe pick the Empire State building by its root, twirl it around a couple times, and say in His (his?) thunderous voice: ‘The Torah is my true word…”
2. If the actual 10 commandments that were gifted to Moses were found and displayed. Here, the commandments floating in mid air, shimmering, precious stones all around them, anyone touching them instantly dying. This would be impressive
3. If some of the miracles of the old were repeated. I often wonder, if following the commands of the Torah are so important, what would diminish from God if he were to come, even for 5 minutes, and repeat or re-demonstrate some of his miracles. Then there would not be so many heretics
4. If the Torah did not have so many inconsistencies that many smart people would go to very long lengths to apologize for

badrabbi said...

Spike:

You ask an interesting question regarding predictions that the Torah makes. One prediction that the Torah does make is as follows:

Exodus 22:22 "Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. 23 If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. 24 My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless

This passage is very clear. It makes the following predictions:

If a widow or orphan is wronged and they complain, then:
1. God would hear their cries for sure and,
2. God would come down from wherever he is and,
3. Kill the wrongdoer – the method of the murder would be by sword!

The passage, of course applies only to men as gleaned from the last part of that sentence. So, Spike, you can set-up the following experiment:

When you see that a widow or orphan are wronged, then place a camera next to offender and film God’s appearance and subsequent murder. Then, when God shows up and the murder is filmed, the heretics would certainly shut their mouths. The only question is what would happen when God does not show up!

As far as I am concerned, when a widow is wronged, and the offender is not shortly killed by a sword, then the Torah is no longer inerrant.

Spike said...

No, there is plenty of possible evidence that could convince me that the torah is of divine origin. A giant sign in the sky saying "Spike, the torah is of divine providence" that followed me around would be fairly convincing.
Badrabbi's list is also good. What is the evidence that would convince you that the torah is not the word of god?

More importantly, why do you keep insisting that the torah must be of divine origin. I have shown you how your stated principles are flawed, so why cling to them? Or is there additional evidence that you can't tell me? In particular, why should I discard evolution on the basis of it not agreeing with genesis?

jewish philosopher said...

Bad and Spike, I honestly doubt that any of those things you mention would convince you. You would explain them away as being either caused by natural forces "which science will someday explain" or as hallucinations. If the miracles of design evident in life and the unique history of the Jewish people have not persuaded you, I don’t know why any unusual aerial displays should be any more convincing.

And Bad, let’s say someone who afflicted a widow met a violent death, what would you say then? “Well, it was just a coincidence.” That’s how you brush off the Holocaust after all.

Spike, evolution is simply baseless.

Spike said...

Right, so, you think because not all the transitional forms are evident, or, perhaps ever will be evident, evolution is baseless.

What about, for example, the evolution of the nylon digesting bacteria, or resistance to antibiotics? Or is it only evolution into different "kinds" that you consider impossible? You claim that the evolutionists lack evidence, but you have presented no credible evidence of your own position. Or are you still claiming the torah is credible?

Also, you might want to read this: http://www2.ncseweb.org/kvd/exhibits/Padian/Padian_transcript.html
If you stopped reading the stories produced by the liars of the ID movement, you might have a better understanding of reality.

This widow test seems fairly comprehensive to me. If the abuser of the widow was killed WITH A SWORD, not just any violent death, and this happened every time a widow was abused, then you would have a case. If not, well, no case.

jewish philosopher said...

Spike, about the widows, why can't I play your game "Biblical studies has not yet found an answer for that question, however, just like many Biblical issues have been resolved in the past, this one surely will be eventually resolved by the rabbis as well." Or does that type of apologetic only work for atheism?

Spike said...

Do you believe that it is only impossible for new species to evolve, or is all evolution impossible?

Revealed truths are, by necessity, immutable. Science is an iterative process. You cannot claim that the bible is the inerrant word of god, and then turn around and say that it is wrong. Again, why should I consider the bible to have any credibility?

jewish philosopher said...

I don't think animals naturally, gradually develop new limbs and organs.

The study of God's wisdom is ongoing and endless. As we learn more, we find more answers, just like science.

Spike said...

But you do accept that bacteria can evolve resistances to drugs? And that the genetic structure of creatures can change over time?

Why should I take the torah literally? Why should I not consider it to be another charming myth, like the Greek and Roman Gods? Why is Jehovah special?

jewish philosopher said...

Spike, just take a look up! Isn't that a giant sign in the sky saying "Spike, the torah is of divine providence"?

Spike said...

No, no it isn't. The torah was clearly written by a group of wandering tribesmen to justify how special they thought they were. Unless you have some secret and increadiably credible evidence for the truth of it's claims?

Again, do you accept that bacteria can evolve resistances to drugs, and that the genetic structure of creatures can change over time?

jewish philosopher said...

Spike it's there! Don't you see it!

I don't believe in major morphological happening spontaneously - like fish growing legs, monkeys becoming humans, etc. That's nonsense. It doesn't happen in real life or in fossils.

avrum68 said...

"The torah was clearly written by a group of wandering tribesmen to justify how special they thought they were."

Clearly? Really? That's like saying that a spouse, who states that she's the luckiest gal in the world to have found her true love, is clearly doing so to justify her shoddy marriage. I mean, it's so clear, right?

Spike, if the Hebrews thought they were so special, their editor should be shot and then hung. He forgot to delete all the parts about how violent, narccistic, emotionaly damaged, insecure, selfish, etc., etc., they were. Oh wait, let's not forget about all the passages whereby these special people expressed doubt and defiance in front of a revealed God. Special? No. Nuts? Maybe.

Spike said...

But you do believe in small changes, such as the evolution of resistance to drugs?


Oh, yes, the bible includes nasty stuff. Of course it is the inerrant word of god! The Argument From Shame strikes again! Do you have any evidence, actual evidence as opposed to pointless platitudes that the bible is true? Corroborating sources would be nice. After all, the communists did lots of nasty stuff, and wrote about it. They must be right as well!

badrabbi said...

“And Bad, let’s say someone who afflicted a widow met a violent death, what would you say then? “Well, it was just a coincidence.””

Ok, before I reply to this, let me review the Torah passage: Exodus 22:22 says that when widows and Orphans are wronged, God would descend and kill the transgressor by a sword. It does not say that God would come down ONCE IN A WHILE or when he feels like it. It says “surely” he would hear the laments of the wronged ones, and come down with his sword and kill.

Now JP, if someone who afflicted a widow met a violent death, what I would say is that, yes, it was probably a coincidence. For the Torah passage to be true, the afflicter must a) be killed shortly after he wrongs a widow, b) be killed by a sword, c) be killed by God himself, and d)afflicters must be killed EACH AND EVERY TIME they abuse the widows and orphans.

You know as well as I do that occasionally bad people meet with violent deaths. You must also know that occasionally good people are killed violently as well. By itself this does not constitute anything. Coincidence may in fact be the best way to explain these events.

The thing that really surprises me is that JP, who I know is very intelligent, knows all this. This is elementary logic. He knows the difference between a coincidence and cause and effect. I should not have to point out that when God says he will come down each and every time to kill the afflicter with a sword, this does not mean that an occasional violent event qualifies as the same thing! I think, again, in his haste to defend the Torah, JP tends to suspend logic.

jewish philosopher said...

Bad, let me ask you a question. Deuteronomy 5:16 states "Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God commanded thee; that thy days may be long, and that it may go well with thee, upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee."

Now let's say a guy made his father a cup of coffee. He honored his father. He is now promised long life. Then, five years later, he cheats a widow and she complains to God. This creates a dillema, doesn't it? On one hand, God has promised him long life. On the other hand God has promised to kill him by the sword. What to do now?

The answer is that God continually weighs our good and bad deeds and reaches conclusions regarding exactly how and where each consequence should take effect - whether now or later, in this life or a future life, etc. Ultimately everything is settled fairly.

badrabbi said...

Yes, JP, you make a good point. Deuteronomy 5:16 promises a long life to people who honor their parents. Elsewhere in the Torah, long life is also promised to the person who sends a mother bird away before he takes her eggs. So you are right in that long life is promised.

Now what happens if the same guy who is nice to birds and honors his parents turns out also to be a sadist, torturing little orphans?

Here, a dilemma is met. No matter what happens, God’s word is challenged. If God gives this person a long life, He would have reneged on his promise to kill the afflicter of orphans. If he kills the torturer, then he reneges on the promise to give long life! What to do?

You see, JP, this is a problem that God has set up for himself. He has, in effect, boxed Himself in a corner. No matter what He does, His justice would be lacking. Not matter what course of action He takes His majesty would diminish. Now, I ask you JP, when God finds himself into this bit of a pickle, is this MY fault?

Is not the fact that Exodus 22:22 and Deuteronomy 5:16 can be pitted against one another so that they become mutually exclusive, evidence of an imperfect justice of God? In effect, JP, with your post, you supply more ammunition for what I am saying – that the Torah is probably not an inerrant word of God.

Spike said...

Do you believe that bacteria can evolve resistance to drugs?

badrabbi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
badrabbi said...

Spike bacterial resistance to antibiotics does not constitute speciation. E. Coli resistant to penicillin are the same species as E. Coli sensitive to penicillin. I beleive in the theory of evolution, but bacterial resistance to antibiotics does not constitute convincing evidence for the theory of apeciation by evolution.

Spike said...

I am trying to make the point that if you can accept small changes over short times, then why are large changes over long periods of time impossible?

Spike said...

Species is an artificial (and somewhat arbitrary) label we brand upon organisms in order to classify them. All organisms are distantly (or not so distantly) related to each other. Take any two individuals (of different species) and you can trace each one's ancestry back through a (long) list of "begats" of gradually changing forms until you reach the common ancestor. But where did the species shift occur? Nowhere (from that perspective, there is no such thing as "species") and everywhere (we are all transitional forms). The fact that most people don't understand that is an indictment of our educational system.

jewish philosopher said...

Bad, there is no problem at all with God both punishing people for sins and rewarding them for good deeds, because there is no deadline. People often live a long time. In addition, there is an after life. There will be a resurrection of the dead. There may be additional reincarnations before that. God has plenty of options. Ultimately, every action, word and thought will be fairly recompensed down to the last detail and nuance.

Spike, little changes happening does not prove that big changes can happen. A pole-vaulter may be able to increase his altitude, but he will never be able to vault to the moon. Bacteria may randomly develop mutated proteins but will never become oak trees or elephants.

badrabbi said...

Spike, I appreciate your comments. I do understand large changes over long period of time result in speciation. I understand that the term species is rather arbitrary. I am convinced that evolution by natural selection is the reason for variability amongst life.

I think what JP is asking for, though, is a demonstration of speciation. He wants an evolutionist to show him how organism A can evolve into organism B, such that A and B are phenotypically sufficiently different and that they are not able to breed with one another. This is a difficult thing to show, since evolution occurs in long term sequences. In effect, JP is asking us to show the evolutionary equivalent of continent formation by tectonic plate shifts within a lifetime.

The closest approximation that I can give JP to show how natural selection is able to affect animals is breeding. By breeding methods, we can see a variety of ‘dogs’. It amazes me how different dogs are from each other these days. To think that a poodle can breed with a St. Bernard’s is inconceivable. I would not be surprised that in a few years dogs will be bred to produce such different breeds that for all practical purposes, they would be different species. This would be an example of speciation that JP is asking for. Of course, there, we would have speciation by artificial not natural selection, but the point is made.

jewish philosopher said...

Let's put it this way. For scientists in a laboratory to genetically engineer a chimp zygote to grow to become a human would be impossible with present technology. The idea that this happened gradually and spontaneously in nature is absurd. If the fossil evidence would be overwhelming, that would be one thing, but it isn't. So what are we left with? "Where else did we come from if not apes?"

I have different suggestions.

Spike said...

Why would the fossil evidence be overwhelming? Why is the actual fossil evidence not enough? What is the point of the pole-vaulter analogy? If I can design a device that would allow polevaulting to the moon, would that make evolution a better model of reality?

Why is the gradual and spontaneous change in an organism over time absurd? Why is this any more absurd than relying on a single discredited source?

You may have different suggestions, but you have not put forward a credible argument towards believing the torah to be the literal word of god. Basing your other arguments on this is building on thin air.

The arguments against evolution from Information theory have been advanced here.

jewish philosopher said...

Spike, why don't we try this. Why don't you prove to me that the Torah is not written by God. After all, if there were a 1% chance that hamburger contained arsenic, you surely would not eat it. By the same token, if there is even a 1% chance that I will go to hell for eating a non-kosher hamburger, I cannot eat it. So you must prove that Judaism is at least 99.999% chance false before it would make sense to be non-observant.

Spike said...

Pascal's wager is crap. There you are. There are an infinite number of possible gods, so the chances of any specified one existing tend towards zero. Just because you have a cultural tradition towards a certain book doesn't make the god described within any more likely.

Why don't you prove to me that the Flying Spaghetti Monster didn't create the Gospels of the Flying Spahetti Monster? After all, you must prove that Pastafarianism is at least 99.999% probably false before it would make sense to be non-observant.

jewish philosopher said...

Pascal's Wager refers to Christian beliefs. I am refering to Jewish practices. Two different things.

If you have another religion more likely to be true than Judaism, that might be interesting.

Spike said...

Yup, I recommend looking at the Pastafarians. More convincing than Judaism.

Pascal's Wager is, as I understand it, a generic argument in favour of the god of the person making the argument. You will find your most recent argument for following the torah to be exactly the same argument as Pascal used to defend his belief in Christianity. You have not put forth a convincing argument as to why we should pick jehovah out of the infinate number of possible gods to worship. In fact, as jehovah is a jealous god, you woud probably be better off picking some of the gods that let you worship more than one god, to maximise your return on investment.

Mark said...

Spike;

Your arguments are magnificent. I could not agree more. Imagine that the actual God turns out to be Allah, a different God than Hashem. Well, Allah has said that cheeseburgers are ok, but wrath upon whoever drinks alcohol. Imagine all the Muslims, cheeseburgers in hand, laughing at all the Jews awaiting the fires of hell because they had Friday night wine!

jewish philosopher said...

Doesn't it make sense to choose whichever religion is most likely to be true, rather than just say "Well, I'm not bothering with the whole thing"? How exactly do you justify that?

Spike said...

Because they are all equally unlikely. Do you honestly consider the possible implications of failing to believe in the Intellect Toads From Space every morning?

Why not start from a basic set of principles: Tomorrow will be like today, do as you would be done by, and then work up from there. Why throw out a reasonable set of ethics for a religion that treats women as property? Why add to the possible complications in the world around you? Do not needlessly multiply entities.

Just because all religions are equally likely doesn't mean that one religion must be true. Additionally, religions involving interventionist gods are more likely to be false, as shown by the logic twisting you have to go through to try to justify the bible.

badrabbi said...

"why don't we try this. Why don't you prove to me that the Torah is not written by God"

I hereby acknowledge that I can not prove that the Torah was not written by God! I also want to inform you that I (nor you, nor anybody) can not prove ANY NEGATIVE.

You can not prove that I am not God! Nor can you prove that God’s residence is not a hot spot in the planet Jupiter. Think about it… what negative are you really capable of proving?

Can you prove that the Torah was not written by Ra? Can you prove that Zeus, before taking up with the Greeks, did not adopt the Hebrews and write the Torah for them?

And for my personal favorite, can you prove that there are not 3 different Gods, named Adonai, Ye-va, and Eloheem, who took turns weaving a writing of the Torah? Does this not explain the various discrepancies that we see in the one author theory of the Torah?

And exactly how do you propose that we go about trying to disprove God’s authorship of the Torah? Finding errancy, demonstrating poor provenance, and pointing to injustices in the Torah are evidently not enough.

No JP, you cling to the “Kuzari Principle”, a principle that you define so broadly and to which you ascribe such broad power that I am worried you will soon credit the theory of gravity! And you resort to slipperiness. Just when Spike was making sufficient progress in clarifying the nature of evolutionary principals, you shifted tactics, demanding that it be proven “that the Torah is not written by God”. JP stay on topic for a while longer. The question that was asked of you by Spike was whether you can accept slow changes within a given species over time. If slow changes can occur over small periods of time, can you accept that larger changes can occur over long period of time?

jewish philosopher said...

Why not just stick to the Watchmaker Principle. Show me a machine which had no designer. And the Kuzari principle. Show me a large scale, successful conspiracy.

Both you guys haven't been able to falsify either principle, but instead just keep repeating like a mantra "Yahweh is no different than Jupiter."

Spike said...

You cannot base a successful Kuzari principle using the self-selected group of people who believe in the theory under discussion. If I designate biologists as people who believe in evolution, then the Kuzari principle states that evolution is true. After all, Steve agrees that it is, and unless they are all lying, well, there you are. If you selected a random large group of people, and asked them, then you might have a case. But you haven't. Ever. Instead, we have this confirmation bias.

You say that everything has to have a designer, then who designed god? Why can't natural processes act as a designing influence? DO SMALL CHANGES IN A POPULATION EVOLVE OVER TIME?

badrabbi said...

JP, we went from Spike asking you whether you accept samll changes in animals over time, to your demand that we prove that the Torah was not written by god. When we addressed that and said that the Kuzari has problems, you said, stick to the watchmaker principle!

Again, stay on the topic for just a minute. What is your opinion on micorevolution - the idea that animals can change slightly over a short period of time?

badrabbi said...

Regarding the watchmaker principle, if you really want to address it, let me deal with it for a minute:

The premise of the “watchmaker principle” is that anything complex must have a maker or designer. Examples that would support your argument are as follows:
• A computer is certainly complex and its existence was certainly designed by one or more entities. Many people labored to design and manufacture a desktop.
• A watch is certainly complex and must therefore have been designed by one or more watchmakers.
• A car is a complex machine, and must thus have had a team of designers.

However, I can readily think of things that are also complex, and yet have no conscious designers:
• Any given rock, such as marble, has an amazing and complex shape, with facets that are as complex as they are beautiful. No two rocks are the same. A rock certainly has no conscious designer!
• The course along the banks of the Colorado River, with jagged coastlines and rugged scenery. Now it is true that the Grand Canyon has been in effect ‘designed’ by the Colorado River. But you must admit, that here, the ‘design’ is unconscious. Slow carving of rocks along the coast over a very long time, much like evolution, result in the ‘design’ of the Canyon.

Thus, as you can see, there are many examples of complex structures and phenomena that do not have ‘conscious’ designs. Evolution is one such process, the result of which leads to ever more complex and diverse organisms.

But, forget all the above examples. Let us say that your ‘watchmaker principle’ is correct. Let’s say that there is indeed a watchmaker that has designed and made the universe. Once again, the question is, how do you know that the designer is God? Why not 2 gods? Why not Yahweh, Eloheem, and Adonaii, three Gods separating the tasks of creation? Why not a race of supernatural super smart aliens who have devised the universe?

What makes you think that the watchmaker is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?

Finally, it goes without saying that a complex God himself, by the wathcmaker principle, should also have a maker. This of course begs the whole watchmaker principle.

jewish philosopher said...

First of all, Bad and Spike, I want to thank you for all your comments. This is the first post, after over a year of blogging, where I have gotten over 100 comments, so it’s a milestone.

The only problem is I’m afraid this is getting very repetitive.

Atheists propose that given a very long time mud will gradually turn into men, spontaneously, without any intelligent designer involved. You wish to support this proposal by pointing out that bacteria do develop drug immunities spontaneously and the Colorado River dug the Grand Canyon spontaneously.

I however believe that those analogies are not strong enough to support your thesis. Rather you must show an actually machine, like a watch for example, which includes many parts all working efficiently for a specific purpose, and which has come about spontaneously, in order to begin to prove your “mud to man” theory.

Secondly, you discredit Jewish tradition by claiming that many other communities have false traditions – ancient Greeks, modern Christians and Muslims, and so on. Therefore there is nothing uniquely convincing about Jewish tradition.

I however contend that there is. As I have pointed out at length, for Jewish tradition to have been falsified, there would seemingly have to been some period in Jewish history when all Jews knowingly and unanimously lied to their children. This would seem to be implausible.

Spike said...

Look, you classify jews as people who follow the torah, right? And the torah calls for the killing of apostates, right? So, you have selected the group of people who all share a belief, and are claiming that this verifies that belief! The circle goes round and round, but it never makes the Kurazi principle valid.

Do you believe that small changes in a population can evolve over time? A simple yes or no will suffice.

Are self replicating chemicals so hard to imagine? Your happy straw man of evolutionary theory is all well and good, but it is wrong. There is no inevitability that man will evolve. Mutations are random, true, but natural selection is not. Stating that life is improbable is one thing, stating that it is impossible is another. things can evolve into more simple as well as more complicated forms. I recommend that you read Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker for a critique of the watchmaker principle.

jewish philosopher said...

Sure, Jews may have killed a heretic here or there, but that has no revelence to the validity of Jewish tradition. The English crown has killed a few traitors too; does that mean the Norman invasion never happened?

I've got "The Blind Watchmaker" here on my desk. I've read it years ago. Here are some relevent remarks.

badrabbi said...

JP, congratulations on your milstone. May you have blogs with thousands of comments. I do agree that this is getting somewhat repetitive. Let me see if I can summarize our points of disagreement:

1. You believe in 2 principles that you have based all (or almost all) of your faith in Judaism:
a. Watchmaker principle: You believe that wherever there are complex things that there must be maker of the things. We pointed out that this is not always the case, and in any case, the watchmaker principle runs into the difficulty of a designer for God. To my knowledge, you have not supplied any answer for this.
b. Kuzari Principle: You say that since all Jews believe in the revelation at Sinai, then the revelation at Sinai must be true. We say that no, mass belief in something does not in and of itself make that something true. Additionally, in a comment I showed you that only Caleb and Joshua can rightly be called ‘witnesses’, not the entire Jewish nation. The Kuzari principle thus breaks down. To my knowledge, you never addressed my comment.

2. We disagree on the theory of evolution: Spike and I continue to try to show you that the theory of Evolution is at least plausible. There are at least10 posts where Spike has asked you a simple question, namely whether you can accept that small changes can occur to organisms over the course of time. You have, to your credit, consistently avoided this simple question, weaving instead from one topic to another. You put up one straw man after another, always not really addressing the issue at hand. You say things like “mud to man”, knowing fully well that Evolution Theory does not say that man came from mud (as you know, Evolutionary Theory is silent on the origin of life). In short, you rather muddy (pardon the pun) the issue rather than objectively get at the truth.

Incidentally, I consider myself a strong Jew who is happy to be counted within the ranks of the Jews. But this does not mean that I have to hang my brain at the door every time I enter the House of Judah. JP, you consider yourself a philosopher, which means, hopefully, that you like to think about things. Do not adjust your thinking in order to get at a conclusion that you want to end up with. Consider things objectively, and see where they lead.

Spike said...

OK. Here is the problem. You are selecting the people who agree with you, on the basis that they agree with you, and then are saying that because they agree with you, then it must be true. Teh logic, it is teh circular! Oh Noes, It must be teh Truth!

Also, I haven't yet got my yes or no. Why not? Too difficult a question? Why is evolution impossible?

jewish philosopher said...

I have written several posts refuting evolution [1] [2] [3] [4] and several more refuting the Documentary Hypothesis [1] [2] [3] [4]. I don't have much to add to that right now.

Spike said...

Ah ha! Now we get back into the game! Fuck the Documentary Hypothesis. I am arguing against the Kurazi Principle. Trying to equate the two just when things are getting tricky so as to swoop from one set of arguments to another is sneaky, but dishonest. You have said yourself that your argument rests on the Kurazi principle, but have offered no real defence of it.


As regards evolution, I found this comment of yours particularly enlightening: "...evolution first of all contradicts the first chapter of the Bible, which states that species were created not evolved. Second of all it invalidates the teleological argument for God's existence. Richard Dawkins, for example has pointed out "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist." I agree.

Therefore to many theists, including this author, evolution is anathema." Friday, December 01, 2006 10:15:00 AM, jewish philosopher. There are none so blind as those that will not see. If nothing can change your mind, why not just say so, instead of weaselling around.

badrabbi said...

I find it particulary exacerbating that I write a long comment, exaplaining that the issues of disagreement are watchmaker, Kuzari, and Evolution. In his reply, JP writes replies to 'documentary hypothesis'. I never talked about that!

Weaving and dodging is no way to be a philosopher.

FACTSANDFACTS said...

The problem with belief systems, is that they inhibit. If one was exposed to the complete truth, then would have to step back and look off to the side to be able to then look at a belief, since a belief is an exposure to less than complete truth.

Therefore, if complete truth was presented to a religious believer, the religious person would immediately reject the truth and in doing so classify it as a lie or pain nonsense.

Respond to this web site as an example. http://www.outersecrets.com/real/biblecode2.htm

FACTSANDFACTS said...

By the way, the reason that I say that the truth will be rejected, is because as I stated, truth is beyond the limited scope of belief, thus TRUTH is BEYOND BELIEF !

BEAST FCD said...

Actually, Bertrand Russell is an agnostic, not an atheist.

But he is still very much respected by most atheists, including myself.

His work, "Why I am not A Christian", was a huge influence to me, as I dropped my faith not long after I completed reading his book.

Regards
Beast FCD