Sunday, 27 May 2012

20 Questions Atheists Have Answered

This blog is in reply to a blog entitled Twenty questions atheists struggle to answer by Dr Peter Saunders, CEO Christian Medical Fellowship. Dr Saunders claims in his blog:
I am not, in posting these, saying that atheists have no answers to them, only that as yet in over forty years of discussion with them I am yet to hear any good ones.
Of course, neither I nor Dr Saunders is the final arbiter of whether an argument is good or not, so presumably we should interpret that claim as that he has not accepted these answers. He has an opportunity to explain why not here, rather than merely waving them away as 'not good'.

I have addressed these answers personally to Dr Saunders but please feel free to answer them if you think Dr Saunders is right, or that the answers are unsatisfactory.

Twenty questions atheists struggle to answer

1.What caused the universe to exist?

We do not know exactly what happened in the first 1*10-43 seconds of the life of the universe. This is the Planck length of time, in other words, the smallest unit of time which can exists so it is, in effect, unexaminable by science. Stephen Hawking, in The Grand Design goes into this question at some length and concludes unequivocally that gravity alone is sufficient to explain it and that there is no evidence for a supernatural involvement.

Given that, at the quantum level, there is no such thing as nothing and everything is subject to unbounded fluctuation, this initial Planck length of time probably does not need to be explained in terms other than an unbounded quantum fluctuation. At the moment of it's nascences, the universe was already 10-43 seconds old and this time is sufficient for gravity to separate from the other three forms of energy, so allowing a hyperinflation in which energy can be created with reduced entropy so obeying the Laws of Thermodynamics. Science has developed very accurate mathematical models of the Big Bang following this initial 10-43 seconds and observation has confirmed these models to a remarkably high degree of accuracy.

Lawrence M Krauss also goes into this question in some detail in A Universe from Nothing as does Victor J. Stenger in God the Failed Hypothesis.

So, three questions for Dr Saunders here:
1. Were you unaware of the work of Hawking, Krauss and Stenger?
2. If not unaware, in what way are their explanations unsatisfactory?
3. In the absence of a scientific answer to this question, how exactly do you conclude that the only alternative is that the Christian god caused the universe to exist?

2.What explains the fine tuning of the universe?

The universe is not fine tuned as Victor J. Stenger has shown in The Fallacy of Fine Tuning

So, again three questions for Dr Saunders.
1. Were you unaware of Stenger's work debunking the 'fine tuning' fallacy?
2. If not, in what way exactly is Stenger wrong?
3. Why is there no possible natural explanation for the 'fine tuned' parameters to which you alludes?

3.Why is the universe rational?

In the alleged 40 years of asking this question one might have expected you to have formulated it in such a way as to make it look more like a question designed to elicit truth rather than to score points. Never-the-less, I'll try to answer what I think you mean although you could equally have asked why water is wet.

The universe appears amenable to reason to humans because the human brain has evolved to be good at pattern recognition, so we look for explanation in terms of cause and effect because that's what experience tells us is the best way to explain things. In pursuit of this aim we have developed science which is a methodology for examining evidence and seeking to explain it in understandable ways by developing theories then testing those theories against observation and experiments designed to show which of several competing theories is the best explanation. Hence, the universe appears rational because we have rationalized it.

Three questions:
1. Would you expect the universe to be irrational?
2. If so, why?
3. If not, why did you ask this question? In what way does it address the existence of gods?

4.How did DNA and amino acids arise?

The basic principles of chemical reactions have been known for some considerable time. There is no mystery in the molecular structure of DNA or amino acids and no reason to invoke magic in any explanation of how inter-atomic bonds occur. Any intermediate level text book on organic chemistry will contain detailed explanations of the various types of chemical bonds which are involved in molecule formation.

Questions:
1. As a medical practitioner, are we really to believe that organic chemistry is a mystery to you?
2. If not, what was the purpose of this question other than to falsely create a gap in which to sit your favourite god?
3. If the answer to this question was truly unknown, in what way does it support the hypothesis that the Christian god is the only way to explain it?

5.Where did the genetic code come from?

An evolutionary process, which is the inevitable result of imperfect replication in a selective environment. The first replicators are unknown but various theories exist to explain them. We may never know for certain which is the correct explanation simply because it is impossible to create all possible environments under laboratory conditions. This seems to be a major worry for religions but it matters not one jot to science. We know a replicator of some sort arose because we can see it's descendants. The precise nature of it is merely of academic interest. It's rather like not being convinced that raindrops started higher up because we can't say for certain precisely where.

Whether the first replicators were autocatalytic RNA molecules or inorganic molecules such as silicates is a matter for speculation but RNA probably became involved at an early stage. Quite simply, as a basic understanding of evolution should tell you, replicators better able to exploit the resources in their environment in order to produce more copies than their rivals will be more successful and will come to predominate. Quite simply, the 'genetic code', which is possibly the only code possible, evolved.

Questions:
1. Why would you expect the genetic code to not exist?
2. How would the inability of science to answer this question with complete certainty at present support the hypothesis that the Christian god is the only possible cause of the genetic code?
3. What medical advances can you think of which were produced by scientists looking at an unanswered question and concluding the a god must have done it?

6.How do irreducibly complex enzyme chains evolve?

By co-option of pre-existing enzymes from other processes.

The Talkorigins website has very many articles dealing with this subject under the general heading Irreducible Complexity Demystified.

Questions:
1. Were you really unaware of the many on-line articles dealing with this topic and answering your question, of which the above is just one?
2. If not, in what way exactly do the answers given not answer the question?
3. Why did you not ask for an explanation of the evolution of a specific process in a given species?
4. How do you account for variations of these processes and of less complex chains producing the same or similar outputs in other species if the chains are really irreducibly complex?
5. Why would an intelligent designer design so many different ways to achieve the same result and why would it create analogous systems in species which, when arranged in order of degree of difference, look like they evolved from a common, more primitive ancestor?
6. How do you account for redundancy in organisms and evidence of inefficient, stupid design, such as the recurrent pharyngeal nerve and a broken ascorbic acid manufacturing process in many primates?

7.How do we account for the origin of 116 distinct language families?

As a quick search on Google would have shown you, Merritt Ruhlen has written several books dealing with this subject.

Questions:
1. Were you aware of the work of various authors on this subject of which the above is one example?
2. If so, why do you think your question has not been answered?
3. If this had been unknown to science, in what way precisely does it undermine the Atheist position that there is no evidential reason to believe in any god?

8.Why did cities suddenly appear all over the world between 3,000 and 1,000BC?

'Suddenly' as in spaced over some 2,000 years, i.e the time between the height of the Roman Empire and today? Perhaps we are using different meanings of the word 'suddenly'

In fact, the earliest communities tended to be in river valleys such as the Nile, the Hwang Ho, the Ganges and Indus, and the Tigris/Euphrates. Cities did not 'suddenly appear' and were not 'all over the world' as your question falsely implies.

Cities became possible when humans had developed agriculture and so labour could be divided between those who produced food (farmers) and those who produced goods (potters, weavers, etc). In many areas of the world where there were suitable crops which could be farmed, and animals which could be domesticated, humans established settled communities. Those communities which could produce larger populations came to dominate and ideas and methods which worked better would have been copied by neighbouring communities. Ideas spread by being copied as well as by movement of people.

In many parts of the world people remained hunter-gatherers of course and nomadic pastoralism was a major way of life in Central Asia until very recent times, hence the frequent incursions of Asiatic peoples into Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and into China.

Questions:
1. Were you unaware that many areas of the world never developed cities or urban life-styles?
2. How do you account for the continued existence of subsistence agriculture, hunter-gatherer peoples and nomadic pastoralism if, as you claim, there were cities all over the world?
3. How does the existence of cities support the notion of the existence of the Christian god?
4. If cities were somehow facilitated by your favourite god, why did it wait until 3000 years ago and why did it not give them to everyone?

9.How is independent thought possible in a world ruled by chance and necessity?

Another question which looks designed to be unanswerable rather than to elicit truth through scientific reasoning. I could with equal disingenuousness ask you how prayer is possible in a world dominated by the motor car and television. But I won't do that. I'll ask you a few specific questions so you can justify your question and give it a semblance of intellectual credibility.

Question:
1. Why would you expect it not to be?
2. Why do you believe thought is independent? Independent of what, exactly?
3. Why do you believe the world is 'ruled by chance and necessity'?
4. In what way is this question a problem for the Atheist position that there is no evidential reason to believe in any gods?

10.How do we account for self-awareness?

This blog deals with that very subject: An Evolving Sense Of Self.

Daniel Dennett's book Consciousness Explained deals with this subject in great detail.

Susan Blackmore also deals with it in The Meme Machine

Questions:
1. Were you unaware of these latter two works, which are just two of a number of books and on-line articles which answer your question?
2. If not, precisely how do they not answer your question?
3. If science had been unable to offer an explanation of self-awareness, how would that gap undermine the Atheist position that there is no evidential reason to not be an Atheist?
4. How do you account for very evident self-awareness in other species?

11.How is free will possible in a material universe?

Again, a question in which your premise is merely assumed and which appears to be unrelated to the second clause. Several authors have questioned the idea of 'Free Will', including Sam Harris in Free Will. As a medical practitioner I would expect you to be aware of the research of Daniel Wegner and Benjamin Libet which calls the idea of free will into question, so your basic premise is far from established. I'd frankly be astonished if you were unaware of this.

Questions:
1. Were you really unaware that there is no scientific consensus that there is such a thing as free will?
2. Why would you expect a material universe to have any impact on that debate and why, as your question implies, would you expect it to render it impossible?
3. How can free will exist in the presence of an eternal, omniscient and inerrant god?
4. How does the existence or otherwise of free will impinge upon the Atheist view that there is no evidential reason to believe in a god?

12.How do we account for conscience?

As an evolving, intelligent, social ape, the ability to work together as a team was essential. Those groups which evolved a memetic basis for behaviour towards one another and who cared for one another would have been the more successful groups and so would have succeeded where others failed.

Religion: An Abdication Of Moral Responsibility, Xeno's Religious Paradox and The Evolution of God all address this question.

As a physician, I would be astounded if you were unaware of the concept of empathy and, as a Christian, I would be astonished if you unaware of the idea of treating others as you would wish to be treated, which probably marks more than most the influence of Humanism on an otherwise inhumane and brutal tribal law of the Middle Eastern nomadic goat-herders who codified their laws in Leviticus and Deuteronomy in the book of Hebrew origin myths called the Old Testament.

Questions:
1. Why would you expect an evolving, intelligent, social ape not to evolve a set of memes by which to work together as a co-operative society?
2. How do you distinguish between someone who doesn't know right from wrong and needs to look them up in a book and a psychopath?
3. How do you account for the differences and similarities between different human cultures and societies if they all get their moral codes from the same supernatural source?
4. How do you account for the fact that a society like Sweden with it high Atheist population is more peaceful and has far less crime than a highly religious, predominantly Christian society, like the USA?
5. How do you account for the statistics in this blog - Not Good With God?
6. If you believe you can only tell right from wrong by reference to the Christian Bible, how do you know it was written by a moral god and not an evil one trying to mislead you? In other words, how do you know Satan didn't write the Bible?

13.On what basis can we make moral judgements?

This is, of course a repeat of question 12.

14.Why does suffering matter?

This is also a restatement of question 12.

Why does suffering matter to whom or what? Suffering matters to those suffering and to those who can, or would like to, do something about it. It matters not one jot to the universe. The suffering of it's prey matters not a bit to a predator. The evolution of altruism is fully explained by genetic evolution.

Questions:
1. Why does suffering not matter to so many species in a universe you believe to have been created by a caring and compassionate god?
2. Why does pain persist when it has ceased to fill any useful survival purpose?
3. Why would you expect an evolving, intelligent, social ape to not be compassionate and care about its fellows when this produces a better, more co-operative, and more trusting society.
4. Why has Christianity so frequently and readily used deliberately brutal methods of torture and execution for those with whom it disagrees, as shown here and here?

15.Why do human beings matter?

See the answers to questions 12, 13, 14 and 16.

Questions:
1. Why do humans not matter to non-humans if, as you believe, the universe was created for them by a caring and compassionate god?
2. Why does it look as though morality evolved in humans by a process of memetic evolution similar to the process of genetic evolution?
3. How do you account for parasites in a universe created by a caring and compassionate god?
4. If there is a caring and compassionate creator god why does it look as though he hates Africans, and especially the children?
5. How can this photograph exist in the presence of a caring and compassionate god?

16.Why care about justice?

Once again a restatement of Question 12.

It's becoming rather tedious to explain that this is exactly what we would expect if humans are an evolved, intelligent, social ape. I'm wondering if you have so many questions because you have refused to learn this stuff incase it sets up too much cognitive dissonance. I am assuming, of course, that your apparent ignorance of these subjects and appreciation of how well they answer your questions is genuine.

Questions:
1. Are you really unaware of the idea of memetic evolution (have I asked that before? I'm beginning to lose track) and how well it answers so many of your questions?
2. If not, what precisely do you find inadequate about the answers it provides?
3. How would failure to explain human cultural evolution as a natural process undermine the Atheism idea that there is no evidential reason to believe in any god?

17.How do we account for the almost universal belief in the supernatural?

By the almost universal tendency in humans to settle for easy answers and by childhood gullibility, the evolution of which can be readily explained, as in The Evolution of Gullibility.

Questions:
1. How do you account for a falling belief in supernatural explanations as science makes more and more discovereies, and by a lower belief in the supernatural by the more scientifically literate?
2. Why did the supply of prophets and miracles appear to reduce markedly as we became more and more knowledgeable and our understanding of the universe increased?
3. Why is 'magic' a more satisfactory answer to mysteries than saying "we don't yet know but we're working on it"?

18.How do we know the supernatural does not exist?

We don't. By definition nothing supernatural can be detected or measured since it cannot interact with the natural world, so it is beyond investigation.

As a man of science (presumably as a physician you do acknowledge the value of science) aren't you ashamed at needing to try to divest yourself of the burden of proof? If, as you imply, you believe there is a supernatural, the burden of proof lies with you. What evidence can you present that a supernatural exists and how did you go about examining something which, by definition, would be beyond the reach of natural processes?

Questions:
1. I normally take an attempt to divest oneself of the burden of proof as evidence of an awareness that the idea being presented is false and of the intellectual dishonesty and moral ambivalence of the perpetrator. Why should I not do so in this case?
2. If your god is supernatural, so by definition cannot interact with the natural universe, how does it influence anything?
3. If it can influence anything it is not supernatural so should be detectable by science. Has your god been so detected? if so, where may the evidence be seen?

19.How can we know if there is conscious existence after death?

We can't.

But why would we expect the brain to function when the rest of the body's physiology has stopped, especially given our knowledge of the importance of oxygen and nutrients to a functioning brain and its sensitivity to any compromise in their supply? Would you expect the kidneys or muscles to continue to function after clinical death?

If your belief is that there is conscious existence after clinical death the burden of proof lies with you. Do you have any evidence for it's continuation?

20.What accounts for the empty tomb, resurrection appearances and growth of the church?

Wow! How to wrap three completely different questions up into one.

The first two of course can be easily answered. We don't need to account for them; you do. Again there is the attempt to shift the burden which has started to become almost a signature technique and which raises serious questions of sincerity in my mind.

Given that the diverse accounts of the 'empty tomb' and the 'resurrection' in your only source are almost hilariously muddled and contradictory I suspect I understand your motive for trying to divest yourself of the burden of proof. There can surely be little doubt that the entire thing is mythical and was not witnessed by those who purported to be reporting it, as this blog shows: Jesus Is Risen - And Pigs Can Fly!

Which just leaves the growth of the church to deal with:

Quite simply, it was luck. Had Emperor Constantine chosen Mithraism from amongst the various competing superstitions as the official state religion in his declining empire in culture-shock at the barbarian hoards over-running it from the north, you would doubtless now be defending the myth of Mithra and demanding we answer your questions in terms of Mithraic mythology.

Had the Gnostics or Cathars become predominant early on you would now be portraying Jesus as a messenger come to tell us how to avoid the physical world Satan had created and join the true god in a spiritual realm by observance of secret rites and rituals with 'the knowledge' and you would be quoting scripture to support your case.

Had the Germanic tribes who invaded the collapsing Roman Empire remained pagan you would now be exhorting us to worship Wotan, Thor and the Norse Pantheon with doubtless equal certainty and dogmatism and religious apologists would have constructed fanciful theological arguments conclusively 'proving' the existence of these gods.

Had you been born in Japan you would doubtless be extolling the virtues of Shintoism and worship of the Sun Emperor. Born in India you would be pushing Lord Rama or Ganash or Khali on us. If born in Mecca you would have no doubt at all that Mohammed was the Prophet of Allah and that women should only appear in public covered head to toe, should be beaten for driving a car and stoned to death if raped. And you would be affronted that people question Mohammed's probity and would probably be urging Jehad on the infidels.

The Christian Church grew and diversified in Europe because it was given a flying start with Constantine's 'official' conversion - though he hedged his bets. It was given a further boost when the Gothic tribes, in an attempt to make Aleric look like a Roman Emperor, adopted it. Having captured the power-bases it was able to suppress many of the alternatives, and the alternative sects which early Christianity had already spawned, and so, in the West, Rome was able to predominate. It was not so in the East, where other forms of Christianity such as Orthodox, Maronite, Coptic, Armenian and other sects had grown up in the major regional centres of the old Roman Empire and each went their separate ways, only to be swept aside by advancing Islam when the vast majority of the people were so unconvinced, even in Jerusalem, that they converted to Islam en masse. Presumably, one dogmatic superstition was pretty much like another. There was work for an ambitious young lad in the army spreading the love of Allah and the Mosques gave out food!

There is no mystery in the growth of the Christian churches. What is mysterious is why there are so many of them, especially given the story in the Christian Bible of Jesus prophesying that his church (singular) would be built on the rock of Peter and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. The mystery is why we have so many, almost like grains of sand with some 30,000 different Christian sects throughout the world. Was Jesus a false prophet and a poor judge of character in choosing Peter or was he just a foolish man who built his house on sand? Whatever, clearly here is a biblical prophesy which monumentally failed.

By the way, Christianity is not, and has never been, a majority religion on a world-wide scale. Like all other religions, is was, until recent history, a local, regional religion. It just got lucky. It is still a minority and regional religion which depends for its continuing existence on capturing its members when young, gullible, and not having any say in the matter.

I'm willing to lay a small bet that you have the same version of the same religion as your parents. If so, you might like to ponder on the significance of that.

There just remains one final point: throughout these questions there is an implicit assumption that, if there is something science can't explain, the only possible alternative explanation is the Christian god. Exactly the same false dichotomy fallacy is used by supporters of other gods and other religions.

Do you not feel embarrassed at needing to use this intellectually dishonest tactic which is no more an argument for your god than it is for any other and which relies entirely on the parochial ignorance of its targets to work? Why have you not presented a single scrap of evidence for your preferred god and explained why it can only be used in support of your god?

Do you not have any?

You might like to accept my challenge at Why Should I Not Be An Atheist?

31-May-2012 07:50
As of this time, the only response from Dr Saunders has been this exchange on Twitter. Remember, his original claim, and the specific one that this blog addresses, was:
I am not, in posting these, saying that atheists have no answers to them, only that as yet in over forty years of discussion with them I am yet to hear any good ones.
Readers might like to speculate on the sincerity of that claim if this is how Dr Saunders waves aside detailed answers.

[Update] Dr peter Saunders is now pimping this blog as a relpy.

The actual author is anonymous and there is no right to reply. Dr Saunders has not, either on this blog, or on the blog to which this blog is a reply, mentioned this reply.

Readers might like to speculate on the integrity of someone who includes ad hominem attacks in a blog but fails to inform the victim of those attacks or allow them the right to reply.

So, a two further questions now for Dr Saunders:
1. Do you endorse the views expressed in the blog entitled Questions That One Atheist Could Not Answer and, if so, should I take this as your definitive reply to by my blog?
2. If not, when do you intend to produce you own reply?


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77 comments :

  1. Simply brilliant. To have so many good, clear responses in one concise package is much more than the word "helpful" can convey. Combined with your previous "Why Should I Not Be an Atheist" this makes for sufficient responses to these questions (although I doubt that Dr. Saunders or others of his ilk are listening). Thank you!

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  2. Interesting. I am not sure how all of these questions are particularly relevant to the atheist/theist debate - for example, "Why did cities suddenly appear all over the world between 3,000 and 1,000BC?"

    I am also once again concerned by some of your definitions. For example, you state that "[a supernatural God] by definition cannot interact with the natural universe." Why? Again, I refer you to the dictionary - http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/supernatural.

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  3. >"[a supernatural God] by definition cannot interact with the natural universe." Why?<

    Because it's (allegedly) supernatural. If it could interact with the natural universe it would be natural. Sorry you have such an idiotically unusable definition for a god but I'm afraid you're stuck with it.

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  4. How are you defining "natural" and "supernatural"?

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    1. The way normal English-speaking people do when they aren't desperately trying to change the meaning of words to get themselves out of a hole they've just stupidly blundered into.

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    2. I'm not trying to change the meaning of anything. I was merely trying to understand your statement that "[a supernatural God] by definition cannot interact with the natural universe."

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    3. It's really very simple. If your god is supernatural it is not part of nature and so cannot interact with it, by definition. If it can interact with the natural world it is not supernatural and so must be detectable by science.

      So which is it? Is your god incapable of doing anything or can we detect it?

      A straightforward, honest, answer would be appreciated, rather than the usual evasive response and attempt at diversion.

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    4. "If your god is supernatural it is not part of nature and so cannot interact with it, by definition."

      You have repeated the same statement a couple of times now, but you have yet to explain *why* something supernatural cannot interact with the natural world. Perhaps you would do well to take note of your own desire for straight answers. (NB - you say "by definition," but I have yet to see a definition of supernatural which rules out such interaction. I'm sure, if it's really that simple, you can easily point me to a dictionary or some other point of reference).

      "Is your god incapable of doing anything or can we detect it?"

      The straight answer? Yes, we can detect God. For example, plenty of people would say that they have had answers to prayer or otherwise seen God at work in their life. As I have said elsewhere, "God" is not always the *only* way to explain such things, but these experiences fit with what we would expect of the Christian God.

      When asking this sort of question, it is also important to realise that God is not an entity in the same way that - for example - a teacup is an entity. God is not another object in the universe that we may or may not be able to detect, and may or may not impact our worldview. God is the creator of the universe and the source of all the objects within it.

      This is why "do you believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster?" is not the same question as "do you believe in God?" The Flying Spaghetti Monster is just another object within the universe, whose existence (or lack thereof) has no real bearing on the bigger picture.

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    5. Indeed. I will continue to use the words 'supernatural' and 'natural' with their correct meaning and have no intention of bending them to accommodate your cognitive dissonance problem.

      But, since you claim to be able to detect your god perhaps you could substantiate that claim now by suggesting a scientific experiment capable of showing that it is what you claim and to be the only such god.

      You will then be entitled to the fame and fortune which awaits the first person to have proved any god scientifically.

      Will it take you long?

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    6. "I will continue to use the words 'supernatural' and 'natural' with their correct meaning"

      For the avoidance of all doubt, please can you tell me what you think the "correct" meaning is. As I have suggested above, it shouldn't be too hard for you to reference the dictionary or other such source you are using if you would like to.

      Until you do so, I will continue to assert that I have not seen a definition of "supernatural" which says that something supernatural cannot - as you claim - interact with the natural.

      Moving on to your second point, I have never stated that God can be proven scientifically. Perhaps you can explain why you think it is rational to equate "God is detectable" exactly with "God can be proven scientifically."

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    7. Rather than give you another opportunity to divert the discussion, I will leave you to educate yourself. Do you have a dictionary? They are quite easy to use, usually being arranged alphabetically to aid quick searching.

      Can you now suggest that scientific experiment to detect your claimed detectable god, please, or are we to be treated to yet more attempted diversions and prevarication?

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    9. "Rather than give you another opportunity to divert the discussion, I will leave you to educate yourself. Do you have a dictionary? They are quite easy to use, usually being arranged alphabetically to aid quick searching."

      If you actually read my previous points, you will clearly see a link to the dictionary I am referencing. The onus is on you to back up your statement "[a supernatural God] by definition cannot interact with the natural universe."

      I have asked repeatedly for a reference to the definition you are using and the fact that all you can do is come back with condescending comments does little for your credibility.

      I remind you - again - that God currently cannot be proven scientifically, but that equally this does not mean that he does not exist (where is your scientific proof that he doesn't?).

      However, if you did want to experiment for yourself, why don't you pray? What have you got to lose? There are all sorts of things you might pray for but if you're stuck, perhaps you could consider genuinely asking God to reveal himself to you.

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    10. No. The onus is on you to substantiate your claim that you have a detectable god.

      Can you suggest a scientific experiment to detect it and verify that it is as you claim, please, or are we to be treated to yet more desperate prevarication to try to cover the fact that you made another false claim for your imaginary friend?

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    12. "No. The onus is on you to substantiate your claim that you have a detectable god."

      The claim you made ("[a supernatural God] by definition cannot interact with the natural universe") and the claim made about God being detectable can be investigated at the same time. So I ask that rather than diverting all your attention to the latter you produce the definition to back up your claim. After all, I am attempting to engage in open-minded and rational dialogue and if you want to show me that I am wrong then I am happy to learn.

      Meanwhile, whereas we have already gone over the fact that God cannot (currently) be proven or disproven scientifically I have suggested a way in which you might investigate the claim that God can be detected. The ball is in your court...

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    13. And still we have the prevarication and quibbling instead of the substantiation requested and implicitly available in your claim to have a god which is detectable. Since you make that claim it is reasonable to assume, if you were being honest in the claim, that you have detected this god, so requesting you to explain how you did so is also reasonable.

      Why are you having so much trouble explaining your methodology? Were you not being honest?

      Is this constant prevarication intended to throw people off the fact that you have made an explicit claim, which should be simple to substantiate, and yet you are unable to substantiate it?

      Did you maybe come here merely to demonstrate your skill at bearing false witness and then trying to cover your tracks when the ploy fails? If not, you need to review your tactics because that is exactly what you are achieving.

      Can I suggest once again that you try honesty and intellectual integrity? This means that you either substantiate your claim to have a detectable, and therefore examinable, god, or you admit you made a dishonest claim and were attempting to mislead people by deception. You have had ample opportunity to own up to a mistake by now, so I think we can rule that out as an option.

      This is known as digging a hole for yourself. It's a frequent consequence of dishonest debate and attempted deception.

      BTW, your attempt to shift the burden of proof onto me confirms that you are engaged in deceit and that you know your claim is false.

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    14. "If you were being honest in the claim, that you have detected this god, so requesting you to explain how you did so is also reasonable."

      Indeed, it is reasonable. The suggestion I put forwards was prayer; basically I have prayed in my life and I have seen those prayers answered. I am not alone in this.

      Additionally, you may also wish to refer to the evidence for Jesus and the claims he made. I've suggested some relevant links before, but here is another one - http://www.bethinking.org/bible-jesus/advanced/god-questions-4-questions-about-jesus.htm.

      "your attempt to shift the burden of proof onto me"

      I'm not attempting to shift any burden of proof. I asked you to substantiate your claim. You asked me to substantiate my (different, but related) claim. I have pointed out that such claims can be investigated separately and have just responded to your queries about my claim to have detected God.

      So now, it's over to you. From where did you get a definition of "supernatural" which rules out interaction with the natural world?

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    15. So when will you be suggesting the scientific experiments by which we can detect and examine your god and so verify that it is what you claim and is indeed the only one?

      Or are you just going to continue to pretend you could do so if you wished and hope someone is stupid enough to be fooled by your boast?

      After you have explained how we can detect and examine your god we can proceed to discussing how it evolved and from what, what it is made from and how the necessary material arose with which to make it.

      I'm surprised you are so reluctant to claim the undoubted fame, fortune and almost certain sainthood which would result from such an experiment.

      Or is there still a yawning chasm between what you claim and what is true?

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    16. After reading this very entertaining back-and-forth, I cannot find RosaRubicondor's answer to the question:

      "From where did you get a definition of "supernatural" which rules out interaction with the natural world?"

      I would argue that qualification is needed to make the statement: "[a supernatural God] by definition cannot interact with the natural universe," since having a supernatural quality (of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe; from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/supernatural) doesn't necessarily imply disconnection from a natural (existing in or formed by nature; from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/natural?s=t) universe.

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    17. What about the word 'dictionary' is puzzling you most?

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    18. Nothing. The problem is that neither definition logically explains what you claim.\

      Need me to cite? From Dictionary.com:

      Supernatural = su·per·nat·u·ral [soo-per-nach-er-uhl, -nach-ruhl], adjective: "of, pertaining to, or being above or beyond what is natural; unexplainable by natural law or phenomena; abnormal."

      Natural = nat·u·ral [nach-er-uhl, nach-ruhl], adjective: "existing in or formed by nature."


      You still have yet to qualify the statement: "[a supernatural God] by definition cannot interact with the natural universe."

      Why do you keep avoiding an answer?

      Which dictionary did you use? When was it published?

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    19. I'm sorry about your difficulty with comprehension. Even your definition places supernature outside nature.

      Is it genuine or feigned as part of your process of self-delusion or are you as embarrassed as JP obviously is about claiming to have a supernatural god which is therefore unable to interact with the natural world whilst claiming it interacts with the natural world, in other words, to have been shown to be holding two mutually contradictory views simultaneously as part of your evident god delusion?

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    20. "I'm sorry about your difficulty with comprehension"

      You'd be better apologizing for your own difficulty with comprehension-I never claimed anything about a supernatural god which is unable to interact with the natural world.

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    21. Except, of course, that you claimed to have a detectable god and have since been doing anything and everything except answer my challenge to explain how it can be detected so we can examine it to see if it's what you claim.

      Keep up this display of dishonest doublethink. You're one of the most practised in the art of self-delusion that I've had on here for many weeks.

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    22. More to the point, you've been doing anything and everything to avoid paying attention to and engaging with my rationale for my claim to have detected God. You can continue to put your fingers in your ear and scream "dishonesty" all you like but it doesn't make me dishonest and it doesn't dismiss the answers presented.

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    23. OK, back to basics. For the theists to answer: Can a supernatural god interact with the natural world?

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    24. Rosa Rubincondior, you passion is amazing. Please dont waste your precious time by answering their stupid questions. while they are claiming supernatural than how can supnatural can interact with natural. it is self contradictory itself. nothing to be discussed further. even a junior school kid can understand this.

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  5. Robin Collins has dealt with Stengers fine-tuning fallacy quite devastatingly here - http://home.messiah.edu/~rcollins/Fine-tuning/Stenger-fallacy.pdf

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    1. You appear to imagine that one theory devastates another if you agree with it or want it to be true.

      I'm afraid that's not how grown-up science works, but no serious scientist is going to give much credence to a 'paper' paid for by the John Templeton Foundation and Messiah College and written by one of their Creationist hirelings.

      Have you anything not bought and paid for by Creationist front organisations with close links to extremist right-wing political organizations or maybe written by a scientist with a doctorate in the subject upon which he is writing rather than a theological doctorate?

      Do you know if Collins has taken the Creationist Oath to never reach a scientific conclusion which doesn't support the Biblical Genesis myth? This is a normal requirement to receive funding from Creationist organizations. You can read about how Creationist 'scientists' prostitute themselves for money here: Creationists Promise To Lie For Money

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    2. I would also expect "grown-up scientists" (for want of a better term) to be able to explain why the contents of a paper are wrong rather than simply resorting to belittling the author. Over to you, Rosa...

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    3. Robin Collins is not a scientist but a philosopher, well known for his work on theories of the Atonement.
      The Templeton Foundation is not a creationist organisation as such.
      Collins has been linked with the Discovery Institute but has had profound disagreements with its basic vision.
      Collins is also not a creationist, holding to something like theistic evolution as an answer to the question of origins of life.
      The paper quoted above is not a scientific argument but a philosophical one. It is presented as a "dialogue" with Stenger but in reality it takes portions of Stenger's argument and offers an alternative explanation more sympathetic to "fine-tuning".
      This particular paper does not support the Genesis myth. It does not even touch on it.
      The arguments advanced in favour of "fine-tuning" are persuasive but not "devastating" of Stenger's arguments.
      The big problem with the whole debate is that the universe as we currently understand gives the appearance of having been "fine-tuned" to give rise to life in a specific form that could evolve consciousness and so on.
      Whether it really is fine tuned or just looks that way is not likely to yield to scientific analysis any time soon.
      Even if "fine-tuning" does exist it does not necessarily follow that there is an intelligent tuner, much less any of the gods proposed by the various religions.

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    4. Since the blog deals with the specific charge that these questions have not been answered, the onus is on you to show that this is true. I have merely pointed the claimant to sources where his question has been fully answered and so shown his claim to be demonstrably false.

      I'm sorry if that disturbs you but that's the problem with desperately trying to hang on to an untenable superstition with so much evidence stacked against you.

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    5. You considered the question "What explains the fine tuning of the universe?" but did not answer the question per se. You merely challenged the assumptions behind the question by stating that "the universe is not finely tuned" and then on that basis decided that the question was irrelevant.

      It is fair enough to consider a question irrelevant if you think that the assumptions on which it is based are either false or also irrelevant, but you are stretching things a bit to then claim that "the question has been fully answered."

      I was quite intrigued to see that you may have been wrong in the assumptions you made about Collins. But enough about the author. Please can you explain to me why you think he is wrong? A straightforward, honest, answer would be appreciated, rather than the usual evasive response and attempt at diversion.

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    6. I haven't said that Collins is wrong as readers of this blog can see for themselves.

      I appreciate that you now need to divert the conversation away from your claim to have a detectable god but implicitly lying about my comments simply draws attention to your difficulties and confirms the impression of a dishonest advocate who readily bears false witness when stuck.

      You may find honesty gives a better result if you should ever try it.

      BTW, your scientific validation of your claim that your god is detectable and therefore not supernatural, is still awaited. Will it be much longer?

      When you have proved your claim we can move on to discussing how such a god could have evolved and from what.

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    7. "I haven't said that Collins is wrong as readers of this blog can see for themselves"

      Are you therefore saying that Collins is right?

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    8. JP, I'm not sure if you're addressing me or Rosa or both of us but I'll reply on my behalf.
      As I read this post Rosa is responding to Dr Saunders' assertion that there are (at least) twenty questions to which atheists have no answer. This is a common assertion in creationist literature and relies on the fact that most of the readers are already convinced and are looking for something to add to their conviction or ammunition to throw at those who disagree. It also supposes that most of the readers will not access the scientific literature in search of the answers. One of the crudest examples of the tactic is the cartoon tract "Big Daddy" by Jack Chick.
      Rosa has shown that there are answers in science to all of these questions. Her list of references is not exhaustive but it shoots down the image of the perplexed atheist conjured up by Dr Saunders. I think it is Saunders' claim that Rosa describes as "demonstrably false".
      On the question of fine tuning, Rosa cited Stenger. Dan Rodgers linked to Collins' paper calling it a devastating attack on Stenger's "fallacy".
      I brought up Robin Collins'background to try and show that I was not engaging in an ad hominem attack. I take philosophers like Collins and scientists like John Polkinghorne very seriously. I have not said that Collins is wrong. Calling theories "right" or "wrong" is a creationist tactic. Collins has identified some genuine weaknesses in Stenger's paper. He does not fall into the usual creationist trap of asserting that because a particular combination of physical "laws" is hugely improbable it will never happen without an intelligent agent. The only event that cannot happen is one with a probability of zero.
      The paper's conclusion does not follow from the argument. Collins successfully establishes that the universe has all the appearance of having been fine tuned for life but fails to rule out the "sentient puddle" analogy. The puddle is shaped to fit the hole not the hole to fit the puddle.
      Collins' conclusion is a leap of faith from appearance to fact to agent.
      It's cleverly done but it's a leap too far. It relies too heavily on the idea that there are too many coincidences, as if coincidence were somehow a finite quantity. A weakness in one argument is not necessarily evidence in favour of another.

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    9. Thanks, Michael for a very interesting and informative response. I do appreciate it.

      It is good to see that you take the likes of Collins & Polkinghorne seriously, even if you do not agree with everything you have to say. From the other side of the fence, it's an approach I try and take myself - for many reasons, but it is certainly fair to say that it makes life more interesting.

      Picking up on the idea that "calling theories "right" or "wrong" is a creationist tactic" - I think that you probably have a fair point, although I don't have that much to do with fundamentalist creationists myself. It does beg the interesting philosophical question as to whether one can ever regard a theory as "right" or "wrong" - at one level, I like to think that we can (for example, I would say that the flat Earth theory is wrong) but is that only when we have 'new' information?

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    10. Incidentally, I also agree wholeheartedly with the idea that "a weakness in one argument is not necessarily evidence in favour of another." On the other hand, I think that we are sometimes in danger of falling in to the trap along the lines of thinking that a lack of evidence for one argument justifies a weakness in the other - or at least allows us to get sidetracked...

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    11. JP, I agree that absence of evidence is not always evidence or absence and I'm sometimes appalled by the way even debates between professionals get sidetracked into fights over who has to provide the evidence and what the evidence ought to be.
      As to "wrong" theories, a theory may be falsified so convincingly that it is of no use as a descriptor or predictor of reality. Possibly you can call it "wrong" then, but I prefer, conservative scientist that I am, to say, "falsified".
      In the case of flat earth the idea is so out of touch with reality as to be useless to anyone except Terry Pratchett (whose stories I love). It's akin to my insisting that my rectangular study window is actually a circle.

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  8. Ms. Rubicondior, let me start by saying I have no belief in the Christian "God" whatsoever. Let me also say that the premise of "I wished for it and it came true" is any sort of answer to the question of how does one "detect God" to be laughable, and to cause the promulgator of such an argument to lose any credibility whatsoever.

    Given that, however, I must take exception to the definition of "supernatural" that you appear to be using. I say "appear to be using" because you have not explicitly stated what definition you are using.

    The way I understand the word "supernatural" is that it describes something that cannot be explained using the laws of nature as we understand them. To describe something as "supernatural" does not mean it is "not part of nature," at least not as I have ever heard it used. It means, "We can't explain how it happened, using the laws of nature as we understand them." In my view, choosing the definition you seem to be working from instead of the one I offer weakens your argument, and gives room for pseudo intellectuals such as JP to cast aspersions on your conclusions. Saying instead, "What you call supernatural is either something that exists that we haven't explained yet, or something whose existence is unproven," reaches the same conclusion on much firmer ground.

    Again, I must say that the assertion "I prayed for it and it happened" is ludicrous on so many levels that I can only laugh in the face of anyone who offers it as support of anything, much less something as profound as "Thus there must be a CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE!"

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    1. The definition of 'supernatural' has nothing to do with our understanding of the 'laws' of nature, otherwise it's meaning would vary dependent on the person using it and their level of education and/or intellectual ability.

      Super-nature is, by definition, outside nature and thus can not be part of it, as an ability to interact with it would mean.

      Either a god is supernatural, and so cannot interact with the natural world, or is is natural and so can interact with it. It will thus be detectable by scientific investigation.

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    2. As Razorgear notes, Rosa, you have still not explicitly stated what definition you are using. Continuing to repeat your statement without referencing the definition does not make it any more convincing, and I quote from your little mandate below:

      "If possible, please provide a citation for any substantive claims or at least give a cogent reason why you accept it as factual" and "whilst you are entitled to your opinion, you are not entitled to have it regarded as established fact needing no supporting evidence or justification. Don't be surprised if you are called on an unsubstantiated claim."

      So, please, Rosa, what definition of "supernatural" are you using to support your claim? I have been more than happy to discuss some of the other points you have raised and I'd appreciate it if you didn't avoid this particular question now.

      If you are unable to provide me with a definition to substantiate your claim, it might help for you to read the above discussion with Michael. Specifically, I draw your attention to the notion that "a weakness in one argument is not necessarily evidence in favour of another." In other words, I am not going to infer from the lack of evidence for your claim that I therefore *must* be right on this occasion to be a Christian, and it's not the end of the world if you have to admit that you were perhaps a bit strong in your assertions. After all, that's a natural part of good open-minded discussion, and we wouldn't ever learn anything if it wasn't.

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    3. Don't you think you've made it clear enough that you know you made a false claim when you claimed your god was detectable? I have given you every opportunity to explain that you made a mistake so we can rule that possibility out now with complete confidence.

      So, that just leaves us with a wilful and deliberate attempt to mislead.

      I don't suppose it's even worth asking you to explain how you know you need to try deception and dishonesty to promote your repugnant cult and what you are hoping to gain by tricking gullible people into believing something you obviously know to be false.

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    4. "Don't you think you've made it clear enough that you know you made a false claim when you claimed your god was detectable? I have given you every opportunity to explain that you made a mistake so we can rule that possibility out now with complete confidence."

      I stand by my claim, and the fact that I have suggested ways in which you might investigate it if you feel so inclined. I am sorry if there has been some confusion between "detectable" and "scientifically detectable" but I never claimed the latter.

      I am interested to note that rather than sticking by the guidelines you yourself have set for this blog you have continued to avoid the question I asked, preferring instead to attempt discredit me with your waffle about deception and dishonesty.

      Other readers of this blog can decide for themselves whether or not I have any credibility. Meanwhile, I will give you one more chance to uphold your own credibility and to meet your own standards set out here.

      I would like to refer solely to your claim that "[a supernatural God] by definition cannot interact with the natural universe." Please can you tell me where you got this definition from? It's a very simple question and I would be grateful for a straight answer.

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  9. I`m going to start by saying that I love the term "pseudo intellectual." Clearly it is not the most positive of descriptions, but it does sound quite trendy.

    Anyway - back to the matters being discussed. I would like to clarify that I never claimed that God can be scientifically proven, or - indeed - detected scientifically. Rosa appears to have embellished my claims, although I should apologise for any ambiguity on my part. Let`s be honest, if science could prove God, we probably wouldn`t be having this discussion now.

    The fact that I can`t conceive a way of detecting God scientifically however does not invalidate my claim to have detected God. Lots of things cannot be tested scientifically but we still accept them as true (for example, the existence of someone such as Julius Caesar).

    My claim about prayer could be viewed as an observation that my experiences fit with what we might expect of the Christian God. I am well aware that claims about answered prayer often have other satisfactory explanations - if they didn`t, there would be lots if people quite rightly asking questions. Nonetheless, I would say that there is a correlation between prayer and "coincidences" or inconceivable situations. (NB - as an aside, I don't see prayer as simply coming to God with a shopping list. Whether you are a believer or not, the theology of prayer is quite interesting...).

    I would also add that it is often the case that when it comes to God at work (for example with answered prayer) the sequence of events does not have to be extra-ordinary or otherwise without some explanation. To illustrate this, I'll tell the story of the man whose house was in an area which was flooding (I saw it on a birthday card...). A guy in a boat offered him assistance and he turned it down saying "my God will save me." Then the waters rose and he took shelter on the 1st floor. Another boat passed and another offer of help was declined. Then the waters rose and he clambered up on to the roof. The rescue helicopter passed and the man turned it down saying "my God will save me." The man drowned and was very indignant with God when arriving in heaven. "I sent two boats and a helicopter," said God, "- what more did you want?"

    This is why I generally disagree with Christians who decline medical care on the basis that they are praying for healing - I believe that God has given us the ability to develop a medical system.

    I can understand your cynicism. Yet my own experiences continue to fit with the notion that the Christian God exists; I go back to my earlier comment to Rosa and ask what you have got to lose by praying for yourself.

    In terms of "detecting" God, I also refer you to my earlier comment - you may also wish to refer to the evidence for Jesus and the claims he made. I've suggested some relevant links before, but here is another one - http://www.bethinking.org/bible-jesus/advanced/god-questions-4-questions-about-jesus.htm.

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    1. >I would like to clarify that I never claimed that God can be scientifically proven, or - indeed - detected scientifically.<


      Me > Is your god incapable of doing anything or can we detect it?<

      You (29-May-2012 10:21) >The straight answer? Yes, we can detect God. <

      I hope that helps.

      Will you ever risk using honesty in your debates?

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    2. You realise, JP, that data from people's personal accounts of something are not evidence of anything. Any time that prayer has been tested, the people who are prayed for don't do any better than a control group.

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  10. The key word, of course, is "scientifically."

    I answered honestly the question which you actually asked. Had your question read "can we detect [God] *scientifically*?" then my answer would have been different.

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    1. Perhaps you could explain how detecting anything is not scientific?

      Or are we now to go into another protracted attempt by you to re-define an every-day word so it looks like another dishonest claim was not just another failed attempt at deception?

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    2. BTW, I see you have still not managed to explain how your god can be detected.

      Don't you think it's time to admitted what's plainly obvious to any normal person; that your claim was just another falsehood intended to deceive?

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  11. What you are saying, JP, is God can't be detected scientifically, but you personally can detect her by supernatural means, as in the Chamber's definition:
    'supernatural adj 1 belonging or relating to or being phenomena that cannot be explained by the laws of nature or physics. 2 (the supernatural) the world of unexplained phenomena.'

    So why all the sciencey questions when you won't you accept the scientific answers atheists, agnostics and others including Christians give you?
    KayTKayTKayT

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    1. What I am saying is that I have had experiences in my own life which are consistent with a God who relates to us and answers prayer and who fits with the Biblical portrayal. I have also suggested that the life of Jesus Christ, and the historical evidence which points to this also fits. I am not alone in this, and many such experiences are not necessarily "supernatural."

      It is my understanding that for something to be investigated scientifically it should be possible to test for it in a controlled manner and it is not possible to analyse life's experiences in such a way. For example, if I were to set out to prove that an occurence was an answer to prayer, the ideal would be to compare the same situation, at the same time in my life in the instance when I did pray and in the instance when I didn't.

      It is on this basis that I stand by the claim that I can see God in life, but that I cannot prove it scientifically. For the avoidance of any doubt I am not claiming to be in some way special or different from anyone else.

      "So why all the sciencey questions when you won't you accept the scientific answers atheists, agnostics and others including Christians give you?"

      I am not sure where you are coming from with this question. Can you please expand and explain what scientific answers you think I have rejected?

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    2. "if I were to set out to prove that an occurence was an answer to prayer, the ideal would be to compare the same situation, at the same time in my life in the instance when I did pray and in the instance when I didn't."

      That's true of drugs too. So, we use many people to test on and have control groups and double blind trials.

      Prayer can be tested in exactly that way, and when it has been, the group that are prayed for do no better than those who are not prayed for.

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  12. OK, I'd like to respond to the natural/supernatural interaction debate.
    nat•u•ral adj.
    1. Present in or produced by nature
    2. Of, relating to, or concerning nature
    3. Concerning to the usual or ordinary course of nature

    su•per•nat•u•ral adj.
    1. Of or relating to existence outside of the natural world
    2. Attributed to a power that seems to violate or go beyond natural forces
    3. Of or relating to a deity
    4. Of or relating to the immediate exercise of divine power; miraculous
    5. Of or relating to the miraculous

    So therefore definition 1. excludes that which is not present or produced in nature, therefore non-natural events are excluded from nature, therefore supernatural events are excluded from nature, since by their nature, they are non-natural.

    Definitions 2. & 3. of natural defines it as relating to nature. To say that supernatural relates to nature appears to contradict definition 1. of supernatural, which describes it as being outside of nature, therefore not being inside. As nature cannot be outside of itself, any relationship between the natural and the supernatural could only be at it's border(s?), which would be impossible to prove if the universe is unbounded, or if we can't find a way to look beyond the Big Bang, or, looking inwards, in undetectable dimensions beyond our current measuring equipment.

    c. Definition 2. of supernatural describes it as violating or beyond natural. Let's explore the definitions of violate and beyond.

    vi•o•late verb. break or fail to comply with (a rule or formal agreement).

    So a broken or failed condition.

    be•yond prep.
    1. On the far side of; past
    2. Later than; after
    3. To a degree that is past the understanding, reach or scope of
    4. To a degree or amount greater than
    5. In addition to

    I submit that these definitions indicate that the preposition beyond relates to it's noun only to the degree that it describes a condition that is not the
    noun.

    e. Describes supernatural to be of gods or miracles.

    So I agree with Rosa's definition that the supernatural does not interact with the natural world.

    Or to frame my argument in terms that may be more suitable to people of faith who read this blog, once the supernatural becomes part of the natural world, it's no longer f***ing supernatural.

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    1. Thanks.

      Of course the insistence that natural and supernatural are the same thing, which would be implied in any ability to interact, is an example of how religions require their sufferers to hold two or more mutually contradictory views simultaneously.

      This doublethink allows JP and others to simultaneously claim that their god is both supernatural and so beyond the reach of science, whilst also being able to interact with the universe, which, for any other force or entity, they would have no doubt places it in the natural realm.

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    2. "Of course the insistence that natural and supernatural are the same thing which would be implied in any ability to interact..."

      In line with the ethos you set out for this blog, please would you substantiate this. I think think you will find it hard to back up anything about my apparent insistence that "supernatural" and "natural" are the same thing (I never said anything of the sort) but I would like to know why any ability to interact implies that.

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    3. I have referred you to a dictionary before. Is there an adult there who can help you work out how to use one, or are we to be treated to several days more of you trying to wriggle round the absurd claim that you have a detectable god which, it turns out, can't be detected?

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    4. "I have referred you to a dictionary before"
      The irony is, of the people who have referenced a dictionary in this thread, you are not one of them. The reason this thread is so big is because you repeatedly failed to reference a dictionary - or other suitable source - when the basis for your claim was questioned.

      "Is there an adult there who can help you work out how to use one, or are we to be treated to several days more of you trying to wriggle round the absurd claim that you have a detectable god which, it turns out, can't be detected?"

      Are you not adult enough yourself to help me? Is that why you have not demonstrated the maturity in discussion I might have hoped for? Rather than wasting everyone's time accusing me of wriggling around a claim, why not engage with the answers I have actually given you? If you struggle with the anecdotal side of things re: prayer, or don't want to try prayer for yourself (but really, what have you got to lose?) then I provided various links about the person of Jesus Christ. If you want to engage rationally with such material then please, be my guest.

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    5. The reason this thread is so big is because it has exposed the necessity of religious people to hold two mutually contradictory views simultaneously in order to delude themselves that their imaginary god can influence things but remains undetected and is undetectable, as was hilariously highlighted by your blunder of claiming to have a detectable god, then needing to spend weeks trying to wriggle out of explaining how it can be detected - an explanation which is still awaited, by the way.

      Of course, to defend the god delusion, you and others have no option but to continue in your state of denial so you have no option but to try to hide behind a smokescreen of semantic quibbles and desperate attempts to change the meaning of words rather than admit to yourself that your superstition has been exposed as bogus and based on impossible, mutually contradictory, assertions and for which self-delusional psychological processes are needed.

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    6. I refer you to the explanations I have given throughout this thread for my position. The problem is not that I have avoided answering but that you have a blinkered view that anyone who entertains the possibility of theism is deluded and therefore not worth listening to.

      The anonymous commentator below is correct in the observation that you appear closed-minded, and I am disappointed that you seem unwilling to engage rationally with the points I have raised.

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  13. Thank you for stepping up to the mark and presenting an argument for Rosa's statement.

    I do, however, disagree the conclusion you have come to. Firstly, I'd like to look at the definitions of "supernatural."

    "1. Of or relating to existence outside of the natural world."
    - there is nothing here which excludes simultaneous existance within the natural world.

    "2. Attributed to a power that seems to violate or go beyond natural forces."
    - you have then (helpfully, I may add) provided some insight in to the terms "violate" and "beyond." Again, neither of them exclude existence within the natural world - there is nothing to say that existence within the natural and the supernatural are mutually exclusive (and indeed if you use "in addition to" it would strongly imply the opposite).

    Secondly, I'd like to consider the definition of natural.

    "Present in or produced by nature"

    You have reversed this and implied that anything "present in or produced by nature" is (purely) natural. I am not sure that follows.

    Finally, if your statement "once the supernatural becomes part of the natural world, it's no longer f***ing supernatural" were to be true I wonder why we need an adjective for "supernatural" in the first place. Surely, for us to describe something as "supernatural" we would have to be able to conceive of it, at which point it would become part of the natural world.

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    1. So you're still demanding we use your private, self-contradictory, definitions so you don't need to justify your claim that you have a detectable god which can't be detected.

      This is, of course, an example of holding onto two mutually contradictory views simultaneously which is characteristic of the compartmentalized thinking needed to retain the God Delusion.

      Thank you for a good example of the damage the parasitic religion memeplex does to the human mind.

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    2. >I wonder why we need an adjective for "supernatural" in the first place.<

      To provide superstitious people like you with somewhere to place your imaginary entities like gods, spirits, magic, ghosts, souls, angels, etc, to get around the fact that there is no evidence for their existence.

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  14. Judging from what you say below, no reply I could give would be accepted anyway. You are closed minded and not open to any evidence therefore your blog is totally pointless.

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    1. I'm sorry you couldn't think of a better, more grown-up excuse.

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  15. "This is why I generally disagree with Christians who decline medical care on the basis that they are praying for healing - I believe that God has given us the ability to develop a medical system"
    Interesting that He favoured the global North/West in allowing them to develop their medical systems faster than the poorer South.

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    1. There are two separate issues here. The first is the point I made, that an answer to prayer does not have to be apparently supernatural.

      The second is how much control God has over the decisions we make and the actions we take; is God to blame for the imbalance in the world?

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  16. So let me get this straight. If people ask by praying for good things (like good health), God is responsible for this - not supernaturally but through the actions of humans developing said healthcare system over a period of time. But if the development is uneven or has downsides,or is lacking, that's down to humanity's own decisions and actions?

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    1. To clarify, I am not saying that its as simple as if it's good we should thank God and if it's bad we should blame humankind.

      I do, however, think that we need to be aware that we do have free-will and with that comes responsibility. Going back to the example of praying and shunning the health service, I wouldn't say that it was God's fault if someone willfully ignored that which was available to them.

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    2. JP 8 June 2012 11:11: "we do have free-will"

      "If possible, please provide a citation for any substantive claims or at least give a cogent reason why you accept it as factual. A quote from a book held to be holy by a minority of the world's people is not a scientific argument."

      ...cue more weeks of trolling to justify this unsupported assertion.

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  17. I see your point, I'm just questioning the underlying assumption that it was God who made it available to them. But thanks for the responses anyway. I find the bigger discussion on this blog really interesting but feel a bit too out of my depth to form an opinion on whether a supernatural force could/n't interact with nature.

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  18. In my view , many answers are satisfactory, but only because I want to know more about them.

    For example, in (5) : I'd really like to know more about how DNA formed, and earlier replicators, just as I want to know more about (1) how the universe formed.

    Isn't consensus dangerous in that case ? : If we start 'believing' something because there is consensus about it, we risk not investigating it further.

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    1. Thankfully, these are very busy areas of research. Abiogensis is an interesting topic.

      We know of certain bacteria which use a slightly different genetic code (yes, EVERYTHING within living creatures evolves). We also know of self-replicating proteins (prions). Amino acids and the four bases in RNA can be created by throwing basic molecules together and zapping them with lightning; there's something similar with fatty acid formation (used in cell membranes).

      There is a gap in our understanding between there and a loose soup where RNA molecules self-reproduce and proteins self-reproduce. There is a further gap in our knowledge between there and the formation of RNA which codes for protein (transfer RNA + ribosomes). There is one more gap between there and the creation of cell membranes encapsulating this stuff; without those we don't exactly have organisms.

      There is a final and very important gap in our knowledge, in that we don't yet know exactly how chemosynthesis (the predecessor to photosynthesis) got started: without that, there's a lack of energy input to allow reproduction.

      After that, you have bacteria and we're off to the races with evolution.

      Now, here's the interesting part. Some biochemists have worked out, statistically, how long it would take, starting with the "primordial soup" with the various amino acids and so forth created by lightning, in the amounts which we think were present, to generate all of these bits necessary for reproduction of organisms, all in one place, by pure chance. It's a humungous, unimaginable number of years.

      ...but it's something like half the actual numbers of years between the geological appearance of "priomordial soup" conditions, and the first appearance in the fossil record of bacteria. So it's possible that these gaps were filled by pure chance -- enough chemicals in the ocean for long enough, some of them have to get lucky.

      Sorry about the absence of citation, I lost it. But if you learn the chemistry, you can run the numbers yourself. (That's the scientific way, always reproduce the work.)

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  19. Great work. At first I thought I'd use this as my one response to all christians who keep asking these questions while claiming no one ever answered them. But then I remembered they would never read a response that would prove them wrong. They like their life of lies.

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