Thursday, August 30, 2007

OK, I rose to the bait

Recently challenged to acknowledge that I had considered that "maybe there is no God" and to provide a single shred of evidence that God existed I feel obliged to respond.



Firstly lets us agree that if there were proof absolute either that God did or did not exist I would not be writing this post. Secondly, let us agree that evidence should not be limited to scientific laboratory evidence. Science is able to confirm that certain things are testable and repeatable, that is, empirically verifiable in the present. A belief in the intangible is clearly an inappropriate subject for scientific investigation.

I would say that “maybe there is no God, on the other hand maybe there is” is the only valid starting point – note both sides of the coin. Indeed that has been the starting point for my theism. As such it meant I had to acknowledge and consider the existence of God as a possibility. This position is impossible for those who believe that there is no God (i.e. not the “I have no opinion” atheists whose commitment to their position is similar to mine on Barack Obama’s ability to make cheesecake).

When confronted with the question of miracles for instance, I had to approach with an open mind rather than “there is no God therefore there are no miracles”. In fact I thought that if one could establish with some confidence that miracles did occur then that would be a measure of evidence that God existed. If there was absolutely no evidence then it seriously questioned any interaction between God (at the time “God” undefined in my mind) and this world – a serious blow for the Abrahamic religions’ concept of God.

I won’t bore you with the detail of my research but as you may know, in order to be recognised as a saint in the Catholic Church the person should have at least two miracles attributed to their intercession – there are special cases such as for martyrs. The miracles are subject to considerable scrutiny with the appointment a “Devil’s Advocate” to challenge the evidence. As an illustration of the miracles try the healing in response to request for intercession by a priest that is one of the miracles attributed to St Faustian’s intercession.

http://www.catholicprogress.com/livingproof.htm

The key point is that a panel of doctors declared the healing could not be explained by medical science (that includes ‘yeah this sometimes happens and we don’t know why). Included on the panel were two eminent (world renowned?) cardiologists; Dr. Valentin Fuster's from Mount Sinai's School of Medicine in New York City and Dr. Nicholas Fortuin, from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.

Now this is one of many examples, and I leave it to you to verify that this is not an isolated case. That it is not an isolated case is of course important. If all the doctors had established was that there was isolated unexplained event, no big deal but:

  • There is causality and
  • A pattern with other similar events

So now the choice is yours, as there is no proof absolute, either …

1) Blind faith atheist disbelief – it did not happen, conspiracy theory, ‘lies all lies’, whatever – it just is not true.

2) Preconceived atheist disbelief. It was a spontaneous recovery, mind over matter, whatever – it happens, we don’t understand it, but we don’t believe in God so it was not a miracle.

3) It was a miracle. The medically unexplained nature of the healing, the nature of the event itself, the evidence and the level of correlation and causality leads you to a rational conclusion based on the evidence – it was a miracle. That was the finding of those who examined the case in detail – plus it aligns with other similar cases.

39 comments:

Larro said...

Crapolla! In error I posted a comment a few posts back that I meant to post here...mmm...

I will return, like I said: it's getting late. Have a good one.

Techskeptic said...

I'm sorry akaki,

This truly doesnt cut it.

Here read through this to understand why enormous claims (an all powerful omniscient entity capable of manipulating every electron in the universe, but is outside that universe, unmeasurable and unknowable) require enormous evidence.

http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/Dragon.htm

Next, your link is a nice story but as far as evidence it is quite weak. There is no description of the heart condition before this supposed miracle healing. No X-Rays for all to see and examine, no medical records, no nothing.

Third, even if there were before and after shots or other concrete evidence, why is this a miracle? Doctors are wrong all the time. People smoke well into their 90's without dying. Brain cancer goes into remission without warning. People wake up out of comas. Its rare but it happens. It happens without the presence of a religious person and without the presence of someone who will be a saint.

What about the converse of this? Are these miracles also. When a young person suffers a stroke, was that a miracle? Or lung cancer in someone who doesnt smoke? Brain aneurysm? These people drop dead with no explanation. Why aren't these just as unexplainable and attributed as a miracle? Why are outlier medical incidences miracles only when they are beneficial?

this anecdotal evidence may be good enough for you, but it sure isnt good enough to sway even the most remotely skeptical mind. for that you need something as big as the theory you are trying to promote.

As I have said before, I would take god hand coming down and moving a massive object like a mountain or the empire state building. The hand must be tattooed with his (or her) name so I know which god to start believing in (won't you be pissed if its actually Shakti, or Odin).

If he truly wants to save everyone and bring us all into his fold, the he knows what to do. There is a good reason he doesnt do it.

He isnt there.

Nice talking with you. Good luck.

akakiwibear said...

Hi techskeptic, so it does not cut it?

Lets review your responses
1) Interesting you refer to Carl Sagan’s dragon. Reaction #1 above you imply the event never happened and was fabricated. On what basis do you do that. There were first hand witnesses, the whole process was documented and subject to outsider review. The ‘Lies all lies’ response simply does not cut it.

2) “Nice story but evidence is weak” no detail etc. It is available in the Vatican library if you want to see it first hand. The process of review of evidence for canonisation is an open one. Again you imply the event did not occur - again this is reaction #1. Perhaps you are effectively questioning the credibility of the medical experts who examined him before and after and studied his medical records. What basis do you have to question their integrity or objectivity? If your comment has any foundation, let’s see it! In other words “put up or shut up”.

3) “Third, even if there were before and after shots or other concrete evidence, why is this a miracle? Doctors are wrong all the time. People smoke well into their 90's without dying. Brain cancer goes into remission without warning.” Yes there are random unexplained events and it would be nonsense to attribute them all (good or bad) to God. Some might be God, but no claim is being made for those events – there is not the causal (cause & effect) evidence. To claim God’s hand in the multitude of unexplained events would be an example of the fallacy of argumentum ad ignorantiam or a simplistic “God of the gaps” explanation. But this is not a random event. There is established causality. Steps were taken to get a specific outcome and the outcome was obtained – an outcome way beyond probabilistic expectations. The arguments against “God of the gaps” cannot be applied where there is causality and correlation with similar events (but you knew that because you did not raise it).
Your response here is classic #2. “why is it a miracle”, why not? Causality and correlation – treating it as a random event does not cut it.

You said “this anecdotal evidence may be good enough for you, but it sure isnt good enough to sway even the most remotely skeptical mind.” This is not “anecdotal” which “describes information that is not based on facts or careful study”. It certainly is not “story in the pub” anecdotal. It has been fully documented, carefully studied and critically reviewed. It is what is called empirical evidence that is “based on what is experienced or seen rather than on theory”. Yes it is good enough for me.

You said “I would take god hand coming down and moving a massive object like a mountain or the empire state building. The hand must be tattooed with his (or her) name so I know which god to start believing in”. I wonder why it has to be a big object? If that is your standard I am not surprised you remain unconvinced.

Techskeptic said...

I've explained why the evidence must be so big. Its because the claim (dsiembodied immeasurable entity that lives outside of our space and time but is able to control every electron in the universe) is soooo gigantic.

To be clear (I hope)...I didn't call "lies". I am quite sure that these people fully believe that this happened (BTW...when did catholicism become polytheistic? I absolutely grant that these two event occurred. All I said was that big claims require big evidence. That takes care of your #1 and #2.

Let me ask you this.... how many people visit that tomb every day or every year?

I'm going to guess and say a million a year. Every year. Is this too high? I truly dont know. Even if its as low as 50,000 it doesnt matter.

In all those people who are suffering from one ailment or another, we have seen two so-called miracles? Meanwhile this exact same sort of 'miracle' is seen in hospitals around the world every single day. These two 'healings' out of the millions that have been there almost define what a "random event" is.

How can you possibly attribute this to some great god (or what is apparently not in fact the doing of god, but a sub-deity)? Its totally normal for this to happen once in a while.

Get a million sick people in a big room. Do you really think that 2 of them wont get better after being told that the air in this room has been shown to make them better? How is this miraculous? Its not even close to what even placebo can do.

This is clearly not causality. If every single person who visited that tomb was healed, you would have causality and I would grant you that you have a real sign of god (see? he doesn't actually have to move a mountain). Hey, if that girl from the first miracle grew her leg back....THAT would be a miracle.

However, I must say, it is nice to talk with a theist who seems to be quite rational about his beliefs rather than indoctrinated.

A breath of fresh air. Thanks.

akakiwibear said...

Techskeptic, thanks for the compliment. I am not sure what you mean by “big” evidence. If you are saying that the more important the judgement the more convincing the evidence should be then I agree – English law differentiates between ‘balance’ of probabilities’ in civil cases and ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ in criminal cases. I can understand that you think I have not yet made it to “beyond reasonable doubt”.

You raise a reasonable sceptical doubt, two in fact. (1) Some people get better anyway and considering the number of people praying (2) could this be just statistical probability at work (BTW visiting the tomb is not at issue, the second miracle occurred in Baltimore).

Yes, it is likely that some of the people praying to a particular saint for intercession for healing will recover in the natural course of events. Less likely, but still possible is that some people with incurable conditions will experience the spontaneous remission type cures experienced with those diseases when praying. If these cases were the sorts of recoveries that occur in hospital all over the world it would be naive to present them as miracles and scepticism would be more than appropriate.

However, when we get to conditions which are not know for spontaneous reversal then we are outside the realm of probabilistic expectation . That is what these cases are examples of.

The church expects its canonisation miracles to be challenged, hence the Devil’s Advocate who is there to fully anticipate any challenge and why they prefer the doctors on the panel to be non-Catholics. Among the criteria that the church considers is the likelihood that the event could have occurred “at random”. As I have said elsewhere on this blog, when you look at a question, you find the Church has been there already – that said I don’t always agree with their conclusions, but they have addressed the issue of probability.

More tricky is the question of causality. My initial reaction to the healing criteria was “well there is always a first time – OK it is freaky that it had never happened before but …”

BUT the Church also insists on two other criteria; the healings must be instantaneous and permanent . It is the instantaneous bit that works for me although the permanent criteria is good because it rules out temporary remission which is common with some conditions.

So to conclude, you start with conditions that are not known to spontaneously reverse and then it do, instantaneously at the time of the prayer. Now that drops off the probability scale for me and establishes causality “beyond reasonable doubt”.

This is not the same as saying some of the people be it 50,000 or a million who visit a place (or pray) are likely to get better anyway – this is much more specific and causality is established.

Techskeptic said...

Hey akaki,

ok, on paragraph 1. english law, American law, or catholic law, or Ethiopian law is not really relevant. what we are looking for is something to disprove "God didnt do it".

when we get to conditions which are not know for spontaneous reversal then we are outside the realm of probabilistic expectation

How is this outside the realm of probabilistic expectation? Is there a formula for that? This is almost the definition of a statistical outlier, 2 out of a million. I would expect there to be more healings than just two. Even instantaneous ones.

Do you know how many people visit that place to get healed? I do not. If its anything like any of the other shrines I have visited that people have pilgrimages to, then it truly is in the millions (cumulative over the years).

I realize this is good enough evidence for you. but it is not big enough for me. and by big, remember the claim: an omniscient, omnipresent, all powerful being that is invisible to any form of measurements but who can manipulate every single electron in the universe. That is a huge dragon to prove the existence of, it requires a huge piece of evidence.

As I said, if the leg grew back (something that has NEVER happened before), or everyone was healed (something that has NEVER happened before), then I would be with you. But two people getting healed inexplicably out of millions, that has happened before, and will again, many times.

Now, when did catholicism become polytheistic?

akakiwibear said...

Your points from the top.
First.
I agree any event can be described by a probability of occurrence, but you missed the crux of the point which is that the particular healings relate to conditions that are not know for spontaneous reversals – yes still on the scale of probabilities, but speaking colloquially, “off the scale”.

Consider the probabilities involved since you seem to relate so well to the math. There are of course two probabilities to deal with. Two events that have to be coincident – occur at the same time.

A medical condition that is not know for reversal. A previously unknown medical reversal has what probability of occurring 1 in ????. Plus the event occurs "instantaneously” and coincidently with the prayer. Come on ... if the probability was anything like what you imply and the events were driven purely by statistical probability then yes “I would expect there to more healings than just two”, but you don't.

As an analogy, perhaps we have an event with similar probability to being hit by a meteorite. Like the previously unknow medical reversal it is not know to happen much. To complete the analogy it should happen when the person is singing the national anthem. If it happened once, WOW bad luck, but if there were a pattern with a fair number similar equally improbable (ultra low probability) events that occurred when people were singing the national anthem – would you maybe start singing it less often?

AND It would be good science to draw a correlation between singing the anthem and an extremely unlikely event occurring during the singing. Plus the healings have a dimension that the meteorite and anthem do not – an intended causal relationship.

Though seriously how many people get hit by meteorites while singing the national anthem - however a fair number get healed while praying .
These are not two isolated healing incidents, the records of canonisation of saints is filled with them.

Second
The number of people visiting the tomb is irrelevant. The healings do not require a visit to the tomb.

Third. You want a bigger event – size matters to you. Not just a miracle but a bigger one. Back to my analogy of people being struck by meteorites the equivalent is happening every day – you get a quantity of what most people would regard as pretty damn big events. Legs growing back, maybe, my research is by no means complete.

Everyone being healed – irrational if you think about it. Not all prayer is answered in the form asked for – Christian teaching plus it would be nonsense if they were (skydivers not needing parachutes etc).

Fourth. ”when did catholicism become polytheistic”. I don’t see why you asked. Maybe you are not familiar with the concept of intersessionary prayer, or the Catholic concept of praying through a third party – in this case a saint? Personally I go for the concept of God being a collective consciousness with common purpose.

Techskeptic said...

Yeah religion really cracks me up. I see, its no longer that the actual saint has powers (but that seems weird since they were sainted only because of special miraculous powers in the first place), now its actually receiving the magic of god through some saint or fairy. That is why religion cracks me up, it keep up making up shit to explain away the fact that the bible is just a bunchy of stories written by men mistranslated and miscopied over the centuries. I love the trinity the best. Talk about trying to sew something together that doesnt fit.

Anyway, the fact that the miracles didnt even happen at the shrine simply makes the room even more populous. Seriously, do you really think that if I had a magic purple pill.. like this one...

http://www.lifetechnology.org/teslashield.htm

and gave it to a million people with varying degrees of sickness, that two of them wouldnt be cured? even of something that was not supposed to be curable. It IS important to have an idea of how many people try to get healed by this saint.

Come on! there are tons of reasons that could have happened. Misdiagnosis is the obvious biggest one. something being treatable/healable previously thought impossible (syphillus is one of tons of ailment thought not to be curable, many people used to think you can't heal from lobotomy, but there are TONS of people who function afterwards every day, I'm not a doctor, but I am damn sure a real doctor could give you a list of tons of ailments that are actually self curable)

No, the required evidence must be something that we think to be impossible, not improbable. A remote statistical chance is just that, remote.

The odds of winning the mega millions lottery is only 1 in 175 million. This is extremely improbable, but people win it all the time.

Growing a leg back is impossible
Changing skin color to green in a second is impossible.
Heat going from a cold object to a hot object passively is impossible
A ball rolling uphill against gravity passively is impossible.

The list of things I would take as evidence is huge. None of these are 'huge', they are just impossible. Improbable just doesnt cut it.

As for polytheism, the caltholic church tries very hard to say it isnt polytheistic, but it is. It tries to get around the basic polytheism by formulating an obtuse reality to make jesus and god actually into one god. Then you got all the arch angels, then the angels themselves! Then there are these saints.

Its rather funny.


(p.s. for some reason the first shot at the word verification always fails)

akakiwibear said...

techskeptic, your argument seems to have lost its fine edge of reasoning. You now mock that which you don't understand, like intersessionary prayer.

That said theology and in particular Catholic theology is a developing field of study and perhaps one day they might revise the trinity model. But then they don't claim to have THE ANSWER, only an answer. A more enlightened view than many others.

But let us get back to the starting point your comment "there is no God until there is evidence of a God". I offered you a set of choices as to how to respond to the evidence. By and large you have chosen the denial option.

The miracle - what happened has stood up to rigorous scrutiny by those better qualified than (or I expect you)to do so. How you respond remains up to you.

I draw your attention to the quote at the header of this blog ""An unflinching determination to take the whole evidence into account is the only method of preservation against the fluctuating extremes of fashionable opinion”

Neil Turton said...

Hi akakiwibear,

I think there's some mis-handling of statistics here.

You wrote:
AND It would be good science to draw a correlation between singing the anthem and an extremely unlikely event occurring during the singing.

No it wouldn't. It would be good science to test for a correlation and find explanations for a correlation if there was one.

One possible explanation is that most people sing the anthem anyway. In that case, you would expect someone who got struck by a meteorite to be singing the anthem.

Similarly, if most people pray then you would expect the people who are cured to be people who pray. That's not because praying causes people to be cured but rather because pray is a common activity.

Another possibility is that there's no causal link between the anthem and the meteorite. It might be just a coincidence. This is properly handled by examining the statistics to determine if the correlation is significant. It is impossible to do this with a one-off event. The events examined need to include people who sing the anthem and people who don't, people who are struck by meteorites and those who aren't. The events also need to be selected in a way which doesn't bias the outcome.

Similarly, a prayer study needs to include people who pray, people who don't pray (or don't pray in the right God or a valid saint), people who are healed and people who don't get healed. Just selecting someone who got healed, pointing out that they prayed and proclaiming it to be a miracle is bad methodology.

Another possibility is that the anthem and the meteorite were caused by some other event. For example the people might sing the anthem because some aliens declared war on them. The meteorites might be caused by the aliens diverting the meteorites from their natural orbits. In this case, the anthem precedes the meteorites but does not cause them. The aliens declaring war causes both events.

Similarly, illness might cause prayer for recovery and it might also cause the recovery itself. The point is that it's impossible to recover without being ill in the first place and it takes a lot of guts not to pray when ill. People have a tendency to think that it might help and it can't do any harm. As a result, there will be a false correlation between pray and recovery from illness.

I really think the Catholic Church should apply for the James Randi's Million Dollar Challenge on this one. Any established miracle would certainly qualify. They could give the prize money to charity and do lots of good with it.

The panel concluded last November that there was no medical explanation for Fr. Ron's healing.

This is an argumentum ad ignorantiam fallacy. The panel established that we don't understand what happened and so it must have been a miracle.

There is established causality. Steps were taken to get a specific outcome and the outcome was obtained

That doesn't establish causality. Intent is irrelevant to whether the events are causally related. The tribe performed a rain dance and the rain came. That doesn't establish causality either. It doesn't even do any good to say that the rain often came after the tribe had done a rain dance. To establish causality you need to show that the stimulus has an effect.

Conversely, events can be causally related without any intent. The boy tried to fly and ended up falling over and hurting himself. It wasn't the boy's intent to fall over, but the action of attempting to fly caused him to fall over.

To establish causality you need to show that applying the stimulus with no other change gives rise to the effect when not applying the stimulus would not give rise to the effect. It's impossible to establish causality in a one-off event or many carefully selected one-off events.

What we really need is a prayer experiment. We could have people pray for one group of patients to get better but not pray for another group. We wouldn't tell the patients if they are being prayed for or not and we would expect the ones prayed for to get better quicker. What do you think?

Peace, Neil.

Neil Turton said...

Hi akakiwibear,

You wrote:
This is not “anecdotal” which “describes information that is not based on facts or careful study”.

There are two potential problems with anecdotal evidence. One is that it might be informal in nature and therefore potentially inaccurate. I don't think that's what's happening in this case (although I can't speak for techskeptic).

The other is that using it might lead to a hasty generalization or post hoc fallacy. These fallacies might be relevant here. How do you think they can be avoided in this case?

One thing to note is that we don't know the exact time at which Father Pytel's heart was healed. We might know when he venerated the relic and collapsed but the healing (if it occurred) might have happened before that or after that. We can only know that he was healed after the previous examination and before the next examination. I don't know when those examinations were so I don't know how surprising the timing is.

Peace, Neil.

akakiwibear said...

Neil, fair comments. Once again though we have to accept "no proof absolute" either way. But I did not start out with that in mind.

I don't accept your "God of the gaps" on this one - it is too easy a criticism to level.

While the causality may not be established by proof absolute there is a case to made for it - it thus lays claim to to a predesignated stimulus and does not rely on 'oops it must have been God'. Rather it presents the hypothesis that there is causality and on the strength of the evidence, coupled with no viable alternative explanation, the hypothesis stands.

For me, open to the explanation of a miracle it works as it adds to a body of similar empirical evidence which taken together is convincing, ... but for someone else ...

Neil Turton said...

Hi Akakiwibear,

You wrote:
Once again though we have to accept "no proof absolute" either way. But I did not start out with that in mind.

I think "no proof absolute" is a bit of a red herring. I wasn't asking for proof absolute. I'd just like some strong evidence.

While the causality may not be established by proof absolute there is a case to made for it - it thus lays claim to to a predesignated stimulus and does not rely on 'oops it must have been God'.

I'm afraid I don't see what the predesignated stimulus has to do with it when people pray for healing all the time and often with no result. In one case we find that prayer was followed by the desired result. However, most of the time that the stimulus is applied, nothing surprising happens.

Rather it presents the hypothesis that there is causality and on the strength of the evidence, coupled with no viable alternative explanation, the hypothesis stands.

Let's get the silly one over with. Perhaps the flying spaghetti monster stretched out his noodley appendage and healed him. We all know that the flying spaghetti monster isn't picky about who prayers are addressed to, so no doubt he heard Father Pytel's prayer as a cry for help. I don't accept that as an explanation, however, because there's no evidence that that sort of thing happens. Similarly, I've seen no evidence that other miracles are the sort of things which happen and so that doesn't seem to be a valid explanation either. Like I said above, we need a statistical study to establish that miracles do happen before we start applying that as the explanation in a particular case.

There are more serious explanations though. How about mis-diagnosis? That's a viable explanation isn't it? Perhaps something turned up on one of the echocardiograms which looked like serious damage to the left ventricle but was actually something benign.

Perhaps there's some undiscovered scientific phenomenon going on. Maybe this sort of damage just heals itself really quickly in 1 in a million cases and Father Pytel happened to be the lucky one.

Maybe he started doing more exercise and healed himself.

Perhaps there was some confusion in the clinic and some of Father Pytel's records got confused with someone else's.

I suppose you just want me to accept the word of an eminent cardiologist and leave it at that. However, I don't know what his brief was with regard to eliminating pure chance, I don't know what methods he used to reach is conclusion and I don't accept the word of authority on contentious issues. I'd like to see the details of evidence.

For me, open to the explanation of a miracle it works as it adds to a body of similar empirical evidence which taken together is convincing, ... but for someone else ...

I thought you were trying to show that miracles happen in order to demonstrate evidence that there is a God. I can understand you concluding that this is a miracle on the assumption that God exists and the miracles happen, but that's no good for someone who's thinking "maybe there is no God" and "perhaps miracles don't happen". For them, there are plenty of other explanations which fit the observations.

Peace, Neil.

akakiwibear said...

Neil, I fully respect your personal choice as to how you treat the evidence. Being sceptical is good, but it should not be confused with stubborn refusal.
At some point one makes the choice to believe one way or the other.

My invitation to you is to research the many other well documented canonisation miracles and while the cases are robust and thoroughly reviewed they are not proof absolute - so you can choose to never be completely satisfied

The testing question is why you make that choice. Is it because you have approached the question with a "closed" mind, a preconceived position that rules out the possibility of a miracle (because there is no God - response 2 in the post), or because the case is genuinely weak. I chose an “open” position on the question of God. The scrutinised miracles are a part of how I became a theist, not the other way round.

These canonisation cases are not fundamentally flawed, but they are not perfect either – logically they could not be, as you point out time elapses between the healing and seeing the doctor etc.

"I suppose you just want me to accept the word of an eminent cardiologist and leave it at that." Actually at least 2 eminent cardiologists .. but that is not my point. The questions you ask are valid, should be asked and have all been asked – the Devil’s Advocate role is real and its primary purpose is to discredit a claim.

A cynic may see his role as not wanting to embarrass the Church by allowing through a case with a flaw – they know the cases will be subject to intense scrutiny by sceptics – interesting that I have not found a single evidence based claim the St Faustina miracles are frauds – have you?

The factual basis of the evidence has prevailed (including the original diagnosis), all that is disputed by sceptics outside the Church is what caused the healings … and other than ‘just happened’ no medical alternatives have been put.

It is a classic standoff – sceptic vs believer – no conclusive proof either way on this individual case, which leads to your other point.

As to quantity substituting for quality, when quality = proof absolute, accept you won't get. So abandon the question or decide how to treat the imperfect evidence that exists. I suggest that if there where only one piece of such evidence you should treat it differently to a preponderance of evidence.

The St Faustina miracles are not an isolated case!

Try this, if only one of many the scrutinised miracles is genuine then miracles (and by implication God) exist. Alternatively all cases are in error. I have limited my point to the scrutinised cases, but the same reasoning holds for all possible accounts of interaction with the spiritual realm – only one has to be true for a spiritual realm to exist, or all are false.

Yes there are the frauds, charlatans, con artists etc, that is why I have stuck to the scrutinised cases, scrutinised by the Church and by sceptics eager to discredit the theist position.

I may trust the Church to have got it right, why should you? You can trust your fellow sceptics who studied the case throughly to have tried their best, I do!

Neil Turton said...

Hi akakiwibear,

You wrote:
Actually at least 2 eminent cardiologists

It turns out that 5 doctors were on the panel and one of them voted against... Things are turning out to be not quite as clear-cut as the article made out.

The testing question is why you make that choice. Is it because you have approached the question with a "closed" mind, a preconceived position that rules out the possibility of a miracle

No. I'm just trying to protect myself from believing contradictory things.

The questions you ask are valid, should be asked and have all been asked – the Devil’s Advocate role is real and its primary purpose is to discredit a claim.

Okay. Where can I look to verify that my points have been addressed? They weren't addressed in the article.

I have not found a single evidence based claim the St Faustina miracles are frauds

I'm not suggesting they are frauds. I'm suggesting that the results might not be statistically significant or the conclusions might stem from logical fallacies (as outlined above).

As to quantity substituting for quality, when quality = proof absolute, accept you won't get.

I've never had any proof absolute and I've never asked for proof absolute. That's just a red herring.

Try this, if only one of many the scrutinised miracles is genuine then miracles (and by implication God) exist. Alternatively all cases are in error. I have limited my point to the scrutinised cases, but the same reasoning holds for all possible accounts of interaction with the spiritual realm – only one has to be true for a spiritual realm to exist, or all are false.

Yes, that's true. Well it's true if by "miracle" you mean "miracle caused by God". However, if there's something wrong with the methodology, then it's quite plausible that all of them will turn out to be wrong for exactly the same reason. The sheer number of them means nothing if the methodology is wrong. I must admit that I don't know anything about the methodology, but if you point me at it I will take a look.

Peace, Neil.

akakiwibear said...

Hi Neil,
The 4 out of 5 split highlights the issue of proof absolute.
”I've never asked for proof absolute. That's just a red herring.”
I think the question of proof absolute is a key point not a red herring.

Let me put it this way. If we start with the position that there is no proof absolute either way then to accept either side of the case requires a judgement call. Each of us will require a different level of confidence = proximity to proof absolute to make the call. If the case presented is against our predisposition then it is natural that we will require a case that closer approaches proof absolute than if the case is aligned with our predisposition.

What I am getting at is that we all make a choice – what is/not enough for us to accept/reject evidence. It is a very personal thing with no absolute standard. I look at all the cases of miracles and interaction between this world and a spiritual realm and it convinces me that there is something to it – it does not convince me that everything I have heard about Christianity or religion in general is true – it gets me to the point of theism. In fact it actually gets me to believe in a spiritual realm – theism is for me a logical next step.

I have just thought of this – let me try it. Suppose we draw a parallel to events that may be easier to relate to.

If 4 out 5 of engineers reviewing a bridge design said it was safe/unsafe – would you cross?
If 4 out 5 tax auditors said you owed tax would you not pay and contest it in court?
If 4 out 5 stockbrokers said “buy” would you?
If 4 out 5 other people present agree that you all saw a very rare endanger species on a walk through the forest, would you doubt that you did? … even if 4 out of 5 scientists (not present) said it was impossible?
If 4 out 5 doctors said you had a treatable but otherwise fatal condition would you seek treatment?

It is all a matter of choice. It would be nice if one had a personal experience that was conclusive, but even that could be coloured by our preconceptions and the pressures of those around us.

God bless you.

Neil Turton said...

Hi Akakiwibear,

You wrote:
"If the case presented is against our predisposition then it is natural that we will require a case that closer approaches proof absolute than if the case is aligned with our predisposition."

That is true. However, it is in our best interests to try to be objective, to be aware of our predispositions and to try to eliminate them. I'd like nothing better than to believe that miracles happen. I'd like to believe that if I have a problem, I can pray or touch a relic and be healed. I'd like to believe that there's an afterlife. However, that doesn't stop me from trying to be objective and examine the issues in the cold light of day.

It seems that there are potential problems with the interpretation of the heals as miracles. I've outlined a number of them above, but you don't seem to have taken any of them seriously. You just brushed them away, saying that someone else had looked into those issues already. Do you have any evidence for that? I'm particularly interested in the issue of new science. Who was it who knows enough about the undiscovered laws science who said that they couldn't account for the events which took place?

The miracle interpretation also has other problems. A significant one is the question of Why God doesn't heal amputees. Has God got something against amputees? Another issue is that reported miracles seem indiscriminate. One person prays and gets healed, but another prays and doesn't get healed. There seems to be no reason for one being healed rather than the other... unless it's blind chance, of course.

"What I am getting at is that we all make a choice – what is/not enough for us to accept/reject evidence."

I don't reject the evidence. I just think that there are probably better interpretations than the miracle interpretation.

"It is a very personal thing with no absolute standard."

Indeed, no absolute standard. There are various guidelines for being objective though. Of course there's nothing absolute about it. It helps to be aware of your own personal biases and to try to eliminate them. It helps to be skeptical because tested knowledge is secure knowledge. It helps to look for the warning signs of bias, such as an event only being reported by one group or different groups disagreeing about the issue. It helps to look for contradictions between different sources of knowledge and to work out which source of knowledge is strongest. It helps to look for alternative explanations for the observations available to you.

"If 4 out 5 of engineers reviewing a bridge design said it was safe/unsafe – would you cross?"

An excellent question. I wouldn't cross because the 1 engineer might have spotted a flaw in the structure which the others had missed. I'd like to hear what the other 4 engineers had to say about what the 1 engineer had found. It's just the same with the doctors. Did that 1 doctor find a scientific explanation where the others had failed? I don't know. It's a possibility.

"If 4 out 5 tax auditors said you owed tax would you not pay and contest it in court?"

If it was a small amount, I'd pay. If it was large, I'd contest. I'd be more inclined to pay because if 4 out of 5 auditors are unconvinced, I'd probably not be able to convince a court.

"If 4 out 5 stockbrokers said “buy” would you?"

I might well buy. I wouldn't put all my eggs in one basket though.

"If 4 out 5 other people present agree that you all saw a very rare endanger species on a walk through the forest, would you doubt that you did? … even if 4 out of 5 scientists (not present) said it was impossible?"

I'd guess that they were mistaken. I'd still go for a walk in the forest though because I might see something unusual and it's good to stretch the legs.

"If 4 out 5 doctors said you had a treatable but otherwise fatal condition would you seek treatment?"

Yes, especially if the treatment was low risk.

"It is all a matter of choice. It would be nice if one had a personal experience that was conclusive, but even that could be coloured by our preconceptions and the pressures of those around us."

Even that would be anecdotal. It would be far too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that I was special to God in some way or that it must have been that prayer that I said had worked. That somehow, my prayer had made it through while millions of others got the engaged tone. Conclusive proof would be nice, but it would have to come some other way.

Peace, Neil.

akakiwibear said...

Hi Neil,

I am not trying to avoid your objections or be dismissive of them. Yes I have adopted a position that says others have looked at the evidence etc, because I don’t have the personal expertise to examine the cases so I rely on others.

Have they done a good/objective job? Can’t say for certain, but they knew that they would be subject to extreme scrutiny and scepticism so I would expect them to have done enough of a job that they could defend themselves – in their position I think that is a realistic assumption. If they had not I would have expected to have read the volumes that ripped them to bits.

Yes there are problems with the miracles thing – healing amputees is one. Would a newly grown limb be any less the subject of scepticism though than a repaired heart valve? Both lack the basis of scientific explanation.

Yes we need to be objective – of course. What is the line between totally objective and just stubborn? Now I am not saying that you are being stubborn but I ask as a way of emphasising the issue of personal choice. Is this where faith, a belief in that which is not certain, steps in? The strong atheist and theist both take that step, only the agnostic and weak atheist stand aloof. I certainly respect the hesitancy of taking the step and know from personal experience that once taken it is not a Rubicon which cannot be re-crossed or re-visited, perhaps to some extent most of us spend a lot of time very near where you are.

I certainly can’t fully explain the unanswered prayer question. I have the easy answers, its not a magic wand etc, but deep down it is still a puzzle for me.

Peace be with you too

Techskeptic said...

Sorry, been away.... look slike neil picked up the ball.

Some comments:
Neil your prayer study HAS been done (it was praying to God for healing a heart patient, not praying to a middle man). here it is . Comically, prayer makes things worse. I'll remember that next time i'm in the hospital and a reverend comes and asks if he should pray for me.

Akakiwibear,

to neil, and in similar wording to me too:
Being sceptical is good, but it should not be confused with stubborn refusal.

Its starting to sound like if we don't believe that the catholic church found a real miracle then we are simply in denial. This is after Neil presented a far better elocution of why this evidence is plainly weak. I'm wondering who is really in denial.

what is/not enough for us to accept/reject evidence. It is a very personal thing with no absolute standard.

Actually there is a standard, a very old (but my no means an absolute one) one by which evidence can be judged. The scientific method has done this for centuries. Its a very old method, and the best method we know of to understand the world around us. It also is the reason that huge claims require huge evidence. But you already know this, so why do you resort to calling us denialists when it comes to miracles? We simply can think of a large number of more rational explanations for what happened.

I was thinking of you while driving the other day. I thought of this way to describe why we think two occurances (even 10 or more!) out of millions is simply too banal to be a miracle.

Lets think of a graph. The x-axis of the graph is "change in health", the origin of the x-axis would mean "no change", left is "got worse", and right is "got better".

The y axis is the number of poeple who got a described change in health.

So, we would totally expect the maximum of the curve to be at zero. Most people who are sick and pray (to whoever), or are prayed for (by whoever) , do not receive any health benefit. some number less will receive some small positive improvement, and about the same amount will receive some negative result.

What we expect to see is a gaussian curve. But at the very far far right end, there are two outliers in this case you are talking about. Those are folks who had a miracle "as a result of praying" (large positive increase in health).

we also expect some outliers at the far far left. those are folks who miraculously died "as a result of praying".

Now how many people did the church find that miraculously died as a result of praying?

Did they even look? You see, this is called confirmation bias. You only take the data you wish. So when you take the outliers at the one end and refuse to look at the ones at the other end, you have cherry picked you miracle.

BTW, my guess is that this is not a truly normal gaussian. My guess is that it is rather lopsided with many more 'miraculous' deaths.

I think you dismiss the idea of God of the Gaps too readily.

A god given miracle must be something that can not be explained by any other mechanism, it is NOT something than defaults to god simply because we can't explain it or dont have enough data for it.

As I mentioned before there are a number of miracles that truly could happen (but dont). Things that really couldn't be explained by anything but god, but strangely we dont see any of those miracles, do we?

Although science is getting close to performing one of these miracles, isn't it?
here and
here


One more thing at the end
I have the easy answers, its not a magic wand etc, but deep down it is still a puzzle for me.

I wish I could make you feel the freedom of atheism. The clarity by which you recognize that we are the way we ONLY because we evolved that way. THe happiness and sadness that I feel is real, but is also a product of how we became the most successful organism on the planet (besides bacteria). Knowing this help you get through the hard times much easier, it helps you enjoy the easy times.

The morals we have can be summed up in a single sentence and it too is the product of millions of years of evolution:

Make your actions and reactions work to reduce suffering and increase happiness while maintaining free will.

I know you dont disagree with this, and I know you are not locked into the 10-600 mostly ridiculous commandments.

I also know it is as impossible to make someone of faith, lose his faith (because it does not require evidence) as it is to make an atheist religious (because it requires HUGE evidence).


Be well and good luck

akakiwibear said...

Hi Tech – pleased to see you again.
Prayer studies – plenty of them, both ways – these are peer reviewed:
http://www.reproductivemedicine.com
/Features/2001/2001Sep.htm
http://www.iwriteiam.nl
/D960916-prayer.html
http://archinte.ama-assn.org
/cgi/content/abstract/159/19/2273
Of course all the studies (for & against) have their detractors.

Sceptical vs stubborn refusal – perhaps a bit harsh of me, but valid as a general observation none the less. My point is again the extent to which one has to be presented with contrary evidence to change ones mind. With no proof absolute it is a matter of choice and once one has decided, it is then belief without absolute proof which in my mind is akin to faith.

There is never harm in checking things you thought you knew – thanks for the link to the scientific method. From that I see three elements key to the method and when I look at the reviewed miracle I find that all three elements have been applied. So I stand corrected, perhaps the scientific method has been applied to the Faustina miracle and come up with a “justified true belief”.
1) Empirical evidence – got that.
2) Rationalisation – causality etc, got that
3) Sceptical review – was done.

”Now how many people did the church find that miraculously died as a result of praying? Would you have believed the results if you saw them, or would you query them as you do these? But I concede a good point.

Why don’t I join the ‘dark side’?
a) I started my search there, but when I looked deeper into the atheist position I found it simply did not make sense
- I found too much plain garbage in the form of arguments based on the flawed platform of an inerrant literal bible.
- I found too many cases of dismissed evidence - dismissed only because the only rational explanation was metaphysical (note not God).
- The test that atheism failed for me was how often it had to back away its position of “no evidence” by crying “OK evidence, but not enough”. The atheist position seems to be that there is absolutely no evidence that there is a God. This is an absolute position that atheists have to work very hard(and often irrationally) to defend. Understandable because only one piece of evidence is need to undermine the absolute position. Note I do not claim that there is a God because there is absolute evidence in favour, only that there is a preponderance of evidence, each piece inconclusive, but taken together convincing.

b) My initial position was one of belief in a metaphysical realm, adding God to that realm seemed logical, but did not require that I adopted the atheist stereotypical God.

c) Recognising that there is a metaphysical realm enabled me to accept and understand the personal experiences of people for whom I have the utmost respect and high regard for their personal integrity – many of them not religious and many of their experiences not apparently religious in nature. I also accept that the lack of independent validation renders these experiences irrelevant to you. But my ball lightning example illustrate the dilemma: while living many years ago, in a community that has no prior experience of ball lightning you are walking through unpopulated hills and observe ball lightning. Excited you tell your community. They don’t believe you and set out prove the truth or otherwise of your claim. They adopt the scientific method and walk up and down the same path a number of times to try to confirm your sighting. The study fails to encounter what you encountered. At that point would admit you were wrong?

Finally, while I am comfortable not having all the answers, or being unable to explain every thing (atheists can explain it all, at least if they don’t actually know, they believe it wasn’t God) I would be very uncomfortable with what I see as a flawed position. Now I accept the weak atheist is on a journey to an answer, as I was – my problem lies with strong atheism as the end point. My understanding of theism is a far more rational and logical position
– it was A. N Whitehead’s "An unflinching determination to take the whole evidence into account is the only method of preservation against the fluctuating extremes of fashionable opinion” that gave me the most inspiration.

Neil Turton said...

Hi akakiwibear,

You wrote:
"1) Empirical evidence – got that."

Yes, I accept that someone has the evidence.

"2) Rationalisation – causality etc, got that"

Oops. I think you mean rationalism. My dictionary defines rationalisation as "a defense mechanism by which your true motivation is concealed by explaining your actions and feelings in a way that is not threatening". That's quite the opposite of what's needed.

"3) Sceptical review – was done."

This is the bit which I'm sceptical about. You say that there's been sceptical review, but how do we know that? I'm prepared to accept that a panel of doctors was appointed and given a brief and that in this case they voted 4 to 1 for accepting that brief. Yes, there was at least a low level of scepticism there. However, doctors are medical practitioners rather than researchers, so they aren't required to be sceptical in their work. More importantly, I don't know what the brief was, so I can't assess the level of scepticism employed. Do you know any more than me about this?

"I found too much plain garbage in the form of arguments based on the flawed platform of an inerrant literal bible."

Okay, so these atheists are vocal against the evangelicals. That doesn't mean that they don't have good reasons for rejecting more liberal beliefs.

"I found too many cases of dismissed evidence - dismissed only because the only rational explanation was metaphysical (note not God)."

Can you give me an example? Not the case of Father Ron Pytel, I assume, because I've provided some other possible rational explanations for that.

"The atheist position seems to be that there is absolutely no evidence that there is a God. This is an absolute position that atheists have to work very hard(and often irrationally) to defend."

It would be wrong to base a belief on the behaviour of a group of individuals. Some atheists argue irrationally and that shows that there is a God? That doesn't make sense. I must have misunderstood you.

"Note I do not claim that there is a God because there is absolute evidence in favour, only that there is a preponderance of evidence, each piece inconclusive, but taken together convincing."

Now I'm confused. You said that there were cases where the metaphysical was the only rational explanation. Wouldn't that be as close to absolute evidence as we can get?

"They adopt the scientific method and walk up and down the same path a number of times to try to confirm your sighting. The study fails to encounter what you encountered. At that point would admit you were wrong?"

I'd admit the possibility. I might have been having an epileptic fit or something like that. I'd certainly read up on the subject to determine if it was an accepted phenomenon. It looks like we don't understand what ball lightning is or what causes it, so saying that it was ball lightning isn't really an explanation. It's just a name for an experience which we don't otherwise understand.

I get the impression that it's the same with the metaphysical. You say that the metaphysical can be a rational explanation for something, but I don't think we understand the metaphysical enough for it to be a rational explanation for anything. The biggest question is this: Can we predict how metaphysical things will behave? If we can't do that with any certainty then we can't claim to understand the metaphysical and so we can't use it as a rational explanation. We can only use it as a name for things which we don't otherwise understand.

But I digress. My response above has nothing to do with what the community says to me. I wouldn't expect them to believe me even if my experience was real. That would be the most rational course of action for them.

"it was A. N Whitehead’s "An unflinching determination to take the whole evidence into account is the only method of preservation against the fluctuating extremes of fashionable opinion" that gave me the most inspiration.

That's a laudable aim. The evidence needs to be interpreted using reliable methods though.

Peace, Neil.

Techskeptic said...

well akaki,

This pretty much explains everything
b) My initial position was one of belief in a metaphysical realm, adding God to that realm seemed logical, but did not require that I adopted the atheist stereotypical God.

I have no idea what a "metaphysical realm" is.Do you mean some other form of existence for which we also have no evidence is actually there? Are there trees there? Of course if you are prone to believe that a place such as this exists adding God to it should truly be no big deal. Why not add a purple, six legged, dinosaur who makes really good tea also?

If that is your initial position, then you are once again accepting something without evidence.

Perhaps you mean something different than I am implying here. I am not sure.


I had a ball lightning experience. I was walking my dog past this building that they are renovating. They painted up one of the exterior columns to look antiqued. It was pretty nice and I figured that they would do all of them. The next day I walked by the same place. They had painted over 1/2 of the column with primer like they were going to start again.

When I asked them why they didnt like it in the first place and were starting over, they looked at me really strangely. The column had never been fully pained to the top, it had been 1/2 done yesterday when I saw it even though I was sure the whole thing had be completed.

Is it more likely that I am right, or that they are, the ones who actually did the painting.

This is the whole reason behind the scientific method, including verification, personal experiences are very prone to errors due to perception and person assumption. Its why I want my medicine to be trialled through double blind studies and not woowoo holistic nonsense that only works for 30% of the people who actually believe it will work.

The atheist position seems to be that there is absolutely no evidence that there is a God. This is an absolute position that atheists have to work very hard(and often irrationally) to defend.

This is about right, but it doesnt say: there absolutely is no god.

this is how many people interpret what an atheist means. buyt why start believing in things that there is no evidence for.

If there is evidence, and verification it must be public. no, trusting authority is not good enough. Just becuase Hwuang said he cloned human cells doesnt mean it happened (it didnt). Just becuase Bush says there are WMD doesnt mean there are. The Vatican saying that the miracles were sceptically analyzed and verified doesnt mean it was.

Big claims require big evidence and that evidence must be made public. Appeals to authority, i.e. "they know better" have put us in the wrong direction too many times.

and finally
atheists can explain it all, at least if they don’t actually know, they believe it wasn’t God)

That is 100% wrong. atheists are completely happy to not know things. They are completely unwilling to default to "Godidit". That is the difference. We are still looking for the event that only Goddidit can explain. I've given you many examples of the type of thing needed. It can't be "we dont understand how this happened therefore god did it"..it must be "we understand the mechanism fully here and this doesn't behave that way" That is why it has to be limb regeneration, transient displacement of mountains or anything else that is clearly not within the realm of science. Getting better from something that may have been misdiagnosed, is barely even close.

Only science provides miracles (so far).

Techskeptic said...

on ball lightning:

Like almost anything else, when there are enough documented cases of it, we can theroize how it works and then test those theories.

We can then prove the existence of something. Like ball lightning

Now, what experiment would you propose could be done to prove there is an all powerful, all knowing entity out there who knows all of the past and can predict all of the future? Or even an experiment for a metaphysical realm?

Neil Turton said...

Hi akakiwibear and Techskeptic,

Techskeptic wrote:
"We can then prove the existence of something. Like ball lightning"

Based on this, I'll change my view on the likelihood of experiencing ball lightning. Now that I know that someone has proposed a mechanism for what's happening and tested it experimentally, my doubt about my personal experience would be significantly less.

One thing I forgot to say is that even without the research, my interpretation of a ball lightning experience would depend on whether the ball lightning left any physical evidence behind. If it did then that would indicate that the effect was physical rather than psychological.

Peace, Neil.

akakiwibear said...

Techskeptic, ball lightning example continues. Suppose after you first experience you accept, reluctantly, that it was all in your mind but you then hear of a similar experience from a far away village.

Within your community and your life time science is unlikely to progress to deliver a conclusive answer on ball lightning. Should you again give in to the pressure that says you imagined it and encourage your community to continue in ignorance because you can't prove it?

Or should one be like Orbell and believe in the Takahe?

Peace be with you

akakiwibear said...

Neil, Techsceptic, I will do your longer comments more justice when life is a little less pressured.

Techskeptic said...

Yeah, that is why I brought up the Dragon in the garage in the beginning. the God hypothesis is such a huge claim it needs gigantic evidence.

Ball lightning is not a huge claim. We have seen many many things that are similar to it. Plasma generators, welding debris, etc etc. It doesnt require huge evidence when someone says a bolt of lightning came out of the sky and then I saw a little floating thing for a few seconds.

So we hypothesize and we design an experiment to try to destroy the hypothesis. Lo and behold, we are able to show that ball lightning does in fact exist and we understand the exact mechanism for it.

What is the god experiment? What is it that we can test?

We tried prayer studies, it doesnt work
We tried gathering correlating data about morals and religion, and it doesnt correlate
We tried correlating health and religion, it doesnt correlate

There is no benefit to beleive in something that there is no evidence for. It is bad for a society since it reinforces a low standard by which to evaluate information. But the churches and religious people feel this need to conjure up the magic man, so then God lives outside of space and time, so we can't measure him. How convenient.

akakiwibear said...

Hi Techskeptic, back at last. It is quite refreshing to return to a discussion and get it all back in perspective. I detect that at the heart of this discussion lies a misunderstanding – perhaps you expect me to prove conclusively that there is God. I have never claimed to be able to do that

You wrote There is no benefit to believe in something that there is no evidence for. I agree and endorse a sceptical position. What this thread has actually been about is the concept of no evidence. Your position is absolute no evidence, mine is less dogmatic. I argue that there is sufficient evidence to doubt that there is no God. My faith in the ‘no God’ position is clearly weaker than yours, I feel obliged to recognise that there is a body of non-conclusive evidence that challenges the ‘no God’ position.

Now you argue that the evidence presented is worthless, in fact that it is equivalent to “no evidence”. I have long agreed that the evidence is not conclusive. But it seems to me that for evidence to be accepted by you it has to be conclusive and massive. Now while that is a convenient position for you to take it is I think difficult to justify. Your requirement for the evidence to be recognised is that it be conclusive, yet we have agreed that there is no conclusive evidence – so an irrational requirement. If I were to adopt the same position about evidence to support the ‘no God’ position I would indeed conclude that there is none.

You have made much of the need for huge evidence to support a huge claim. I have followed your reasoning and accept it in regard to confirming an absolute position (there is a God) but I don’t see the relevance to this discussion. Your position is that there is no evidence - is the absolute position. Any evidence to the contrary, no matter how small undermines that position. So you have to dismiss any apparent evidence as “non evidence”, by setting the criteria of it being conclusive.

I did not respond to a challenge to prove conclusively and in a big way that there is a God, I responded to a challenge that I could not show a shred of evidence that there is a God … at which point we get back to what constitutes evidence … and we are clearly not about to agree. But is there not even a tiny doubt in your mind, might just one of those miracles be real.

Techskeptic said...

Speaking of evidence... here is something that would turn me from athiest to Theist in a second, if I saw it happen in nature (I would then have to go about figuring out which religion is right, if any of them are).

Clearly its possible. God has all the tools he needs.


As for your response: "no God" is not the assertion I or most atheists make (don't bother quoting the dictionary for Atheist and Agnostic, I've heard that one already).

The assertion we make, is that without strong evidence or proof of a god or gods, there is no reason to live our lives, or build our societies, or make rules on the assertion that there is a god.

Proving god is as impossible as proving there is not one. The "No god" assertion is a strawman (however I do admit some folks, like Douglas adams and Bill Pullman, do make this very assertion). you can't prove either way, so why live in a way that there is one?

Again, don't bother with Pascal's wager, that has been thoroughly debunked, because you can't be sure you have the correct god, no matter which religion you choose you are in the minority. If you are just a theist, it still doesn't work, because God could in fact be Zeus, and we are all screwed.

We, as human beings and a society, are best off governing and living as if we just have to look out for each other. If the Gods decide one day to present themselves, we can change our minds.

Acting without evidence is exactly what gets us into useless wars.

akakiwibear said...

tech, you said We, as human beings and a society, are best off governing and living as if we just have to look out for each other. YES YES YES!!!! We avoid our responsibilities when we blame God/religion for man's inhumanity to man.

OK, we both accept that there is no proof either way. But you also seek "huge proof" that there is a God although you are happy to live your life as though there were no God without a similar level of proof. Isn't that a bit inconsistent?

If I understand the underlying teaching of most theist belief systems the message of the deity is to encourage people to live a worthwhile life. It is the added human content of religion that gets rather prescriptive and causes the problems.

Personally I think working on living a good life (your definition above works for me) is what is really important - religious affiliation is secondary. Everyone knows that trying to live a genuinely worthwhile life is not easy and that may be where spiritual help comes in - not looking for a God to relieve the world's suffering – looking for a source of strength to do our bit.

Peace

Techskeptic said...

OK, we both accept that there is no proof either way. But you also seek "huge proof" that there is a God although you are happy to live your life as though there were no God without a similar level of proof. Isn't that a bit inconsistent?

eh? not at all. I live my life regarding evidence that comes before me. Why would I live my life regarding a lack of evidence. should I live as if leprechauns exist too? Abominible Snowmen are scary, should I worry about them, despite the fact that there is no evidence they exist? If I am going to worry about things that dont have evidence for them, I am going end up mired worrying about the easter bunny, santa claus, and the tooth fairy. It doesnt make sense to give regard to things that have no evidence for them, only things that have evidence for them.

religious affiliation is secondary.

Thats great, and that is why you arent a scary theist. Sadly, your insistence that the bible is some form of useful text and that an imaginary guy in the sky exists just prods idiots like this to continue to schpiel hatred and intolerance. The same disregard for evidence leads our politicians to do stupid things like take us to war for literally no reason and pray for rain.

akakiwibear said...

Hi tech, thanks for the links - I enjoyed the rant.

Intolerance and division are long favourites targets of mine. I knock it wherever I find it religious nutters (theist and atheist alike) provide so much fuel for criticism.

Do you sometimes see parallel between the rantings of the new atheist evangelists and the fundamentalist christian (small "c" in recognition of the guy on your on link) variety.

Hamba khale - peace

Techskeptic said...

The only connection I see is their passion and balls. I have the passion, but not the balls to speak in front of people on these sorts of topic. I obviously don't mind a controlled atmosphere like blogs. But I'll let people with better skills, sharper wit, and more credentials do the public speaking.

Besides passion and balls, I dont see any more similarities. One chooses to proselytize from a made up, unsubstantiated POV, the other chooses to look for evidence around them to support their arguments.

akakiwibear said...

Hi Tech, you're right about the passion and the balls but with
One chooses to proselytize from a made up, unsubstantiated POV
I take it you mean Harris et al, but I have to disagree. The wako christian in the rant is just as deluded and working from an unsubstantiated POV.

The parallel holds.

hamba kahle - peace

Techskeptic said...

BTW, the northern lights used to be considered a strong religious experience.

And now?


One less gap...

akakiwibear said...

northern lights were at the most seen as a sign from God - I guess when there was little correlation with actual events or an inability to interpret the sign the idea was abandoned.

It is almost science in microcosm open to the idea - challenge it - modify it - move on.

I have seen the lights - I hope to one day!!

Peace

Neil Turton said...

Hi Akakiwibear,

You wrote:
"We avoid our responsibilities when we blame God/religion for man's inhumanity to man."

I certainly agree with that. I think there's also a flip side. We're dishonest if we ascribe our successes and lucky circumstances to God if they didn't actually come from God, whether it's passing an exam, finding a parking space, avoiding hitting a child while driving or having a nice sunny day for the village fĂȘte. I get quite annoyed when someone says "thank God" for someone's life being saved when it was actually the paramedic who saved them.

"northern lights were at the most seen as a sign from God - I guess when there was little correlation with actual events or an inability to interpret the sign the idea was abandoned."

Some people still haven't moved on...

From http://www.bible-codes.org/letters-darkness-China-Nov_11-2004-mene-bible-code.htm
"I would add that on Nov. 7, 2004 I observed the most spectacular northern lights in the sky that I have ever witnessed by far. It was the result of a solar flare two days before that. The local news said that people were turning off major highways to observe it. See a year ago and the solar flares then, and their timing. Sometimes you just know that God is saying something, though you may not be able to grasp it all. These are heavenly signs, I believe. Just because they can be explained by science does not make them the less a sign. It is their timing, and what God speaks to His servants just before they happen that gives them meaning, but is hid from the rest of the world. "For God hides these things from the wise and the prudent but reveals them unto babes," said Jesus."

You wrote:
"I have seen the lights - I hope to one day!!"

I recommend making the effort. They are worth it.

Peace, Neil.

Neil Turton said...

Hi Akakiwibear,

I forgot to say something about Dean (the northern lights guy) in my previous comment. The reason he's got the wrong end of the stick about the northern lights is that he has failed to apply Occam's razor. He admits that science explains the lights but goes on to propose a more complicated explanation: science plus intervention by God. Yet his explanation doesn't have any greater explanatory power than science alone and so, according to Occam's razor, it is less likely to be true.

Peace, Neil.

akakiwibear said...

I still hope to one day see the lights. Yeah, Dean may be confused, but at one level I can his point, but perhaps the appeal is more eastern in that we should take the time to contemplate the beauty that surrounds us - it may bring us to a closer awareness of the spiritual side of our nature.

Sala kahle