Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Making it Easy on You.

Don't be stupid. Question things:

1. How are humans different from other animals?
We're smarter.

2. What evidence is there that a god/gods exists?
There really isn't any strong evidence. Chances are if you disagree with me it is because of one of 4 things that you think constitute strong evidence... 1. some medical miracle is evidence, 2. some freaky experience you had is evidence (usually near-death or out-of-body), 3. the bible has plenty of evidence (or the bible is evidence itself) or 4. "I feel all warm and fuzzy when I talk to god, which leads me to believe that he/she/it exists." If you believe 1, 2, 3 or 4 is true, don't fret, I just think you're believing based on weak evidence.

3. Is the way we are living as a society the best way to live?
Not even close. I mean... we're still using oil to run our cars. So why don't we change? Because most people don't care. Plus we're all lazy.

4. Is it possible that there's more than one "good" way to live?
Of course. But then why does our government continually interfere in people's lives? Who are they to say what the best way to live is?

5. Should marijuana be illegal?
No. It has fewer negative effects than alcohol and tobacco.

50 Comments:

Anonymous chief said...

humans, god, society, and marijuana....thats a pretty good start.


im ready to start fleshing out what needs to be done to help people (including myself) out of our laziness besides managing a blog (which i am not good at). so whether you want to start with understanding what it means to be human (http://blogs.salon.com/0002007/2006/02/14.html#a1437), how to build a society in which we can live with real freedom in small self sufficient communities (http://geocities.com/collectivebook/) or find a way to understand the rich diversity in spiritual/religious beliefs (http://dmoz.org/Society/Religion_and_Spirituality/) well....... im on board captain.

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

how can you be so self centered as to think there is not a god? and how can you so self-righteously deny that Jesus Christ is not with you in your life, guiding you. you are at one of the most beautiful institutions in the world, surrounded by people who all know and love Jesus and yet not only do you deny Him, but that a God even exists?

10:35 PM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

Yay, i'm really glad somebody posted (seriously)... so, before we decide that i'm close-minded... let's talk this out.

"how can you be so self centered as to think there is not a god?"

First, I never said that I believe there is no God. I just said there is no solid evidence of His (sic) existence.

"and how can you so self-righteously deny that Jesus Christ is not with you in your life, guiding you."

Why is it self-righteous to say that there isn't any good evidence to support the existence of a God? I'm stating the facts. You should be more concerned with this than I am... considering you're the one that worships Him (sic). It seems that a better argument in this arena would be for you to attempt to fight logic with logic and prove me wrong by supporting your (obviously) passionate belief in a God with solid evidence.

It's not an easy argument for you to make... but there's no harm in trying... good luck.

-JP

3:11 AM  
Anonymous former roomate said...

You think other people are unintelligent because they have a different point of view than you(religion)? That's pretty narrow minded and makes you unintelligent yourself. But by your logic, more than half of the world is unintelligent due to one belief. Of course you could agree with me that many people who are not religious are stupid too. For instance, everybody who doesn't ask those questions you listed. So I may go out on a limb here and suppose that maybe, at most 1-1.5% of the world has asked themselves all of these exact questions. So you pride yourself on being the top 1-1.5% of intelligent beings on this planet. Damn, thats pretty good, I should have voted for you for President. This logic of yours is awful elitest, maybe you should ask yourself a question. "Why do I feel good by putting others down, and boosting myself to the top?"

8:48 AM  
Anonymous calipornia love said...

Alright so I read every once in awhile, and I'm usually too lazy to post and attempt to rebut. But for once I feel that the laziness can be counteracted by my personal feelings against what you have written.

"2. What evidence is there that a god/gods exists? There isn't any. Chances are if you disagree with me it is because of one of 4 excuses that you tell yourself...either 1. some medical miracle is evidence, 2. some freaky experience you had is evidence (usually near-death or out-of-body), 3. the bible has plenty of evidence (or the bible is evidence itself) or 4. "I feel all warm and fuzzy when I talk to god.. and that's good enough evidence for me!" If you believe 1,2,3, or 4 is true, then you lack intelligence....but don't worry...you're not alone."

Alright let's break this down. A) What evidence do you personally have to discount the fact that god or gods exist? If you are truly going to argue that gods don't exist I want a proof breaking down the fact that you know for sure you that there is no higher being. This to me personally is the plain and simple fact: Nothing can exist in life without being created. That is a simple truth that no matter who you are is a fact. Pure and simple fact. Be your beliefs evolutionism or creationism no matter what every single thing on this earth has a creator. If there is a speck of dust on this earth it has been created, otherwise Where did it come from?

Whether or not you believe in God, Buddah, Muhammad, Allah, Darwin, whatever I don't think anyone can deny that under no circumstances can your basis of life be....."Well one day this speck of dust just appeared?" Someone had to have made it.

Which brings me to the fact that, yes although there is no physical evidence. Absolutely none. There is no one person who can say: I have proven physical evidence that god exists. If there was we would all be a part of their religion and this life would be the easiest thing to live. Which says to me, going on the fact that nothing has appeared from thin air, that there is some sort of higher being in this world. I don't care who it is, what it is, how it is, something out there that is on a plane of existence none of us know about said: "Hey I think these things should come to pass: Now here's earth." I mean if you think aliens created us that's cool too. Because in some may you have verified in your mind: This is how I got here.

Which brings me to religion: The view of religion in so many peoples minds have become skewed. Whether it be by personal experiences, or "prophets" before who had messages of following one creed to the T and nothing else being right. Religion is this plain and simply: A way to explain why we have come to be on this earth. No one person can deny this, at least to me. Religion says to each person in whatever light that "Hey you have come to exist on this earth for this reason". It's not a say all do all. It's not set in stone. Which is why we've had an umpteen number of religions. Nothing is right in religion because it's all theory.

So I guess in short I'm just sharing with you my belief: There's is something higher than us in life, in some other plane of existance. And every person, whoever they are, needs to find what that is for them. I'm not going to be one to preach you over to this religion or that religion because I don't know. And what would it be like if I said: Hey buddy come be a christian. Then we both die in a car accident the next day. Get up to heaven and we're sitting there at the pearly gates then out comes buddah? Now I've screwed you out of eternal happiness. So find your own, just don't deny that for some reason we exist on this earth.

Now is that a show of laziness as to why gods exist?

10:04 AM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

Ben,
I'm not saying that people that believe in God are unintelligent... I'm just saying that if you believe that one of those 4 instances equates to solid evidence then you're an idiot... because it doesn't equate to that.

You don't have to ask yourself these exact questions to not be an idiot... but... what I have noticed about the people that i'm surrounded by is this: the people at this "beautiful institution" have made a habit of following blindly... whether it be following their religion, president or tradition. I believe that following anything blindly is idiotic or, at best, simple-minded.

This ill of ignorantly following is what I'm speaking out against... not religion or christianity... and i don't think it is elitist to do so.

-jp

12:11 PM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

Calipornia,

"A) What evidence do you personally have to discount the fact that god or gods exist?"

I don't have any... which is why I don't argue that god doesn't exist. I, from an agnostic viewpoint, simply hold that there isn't enough evidence to say one way or the other. Just as there is no solid evidence of Big Foot's existence (or non-existence).

As for the rest of what you have written-- I don't have a problem with you believing those things. I don't have a problem with anyone believing anything as long as their beliefs don't effect me... which is what annoys me most about many Christians I come in contact with. Think about it for a second... since it is impossible to know whether one is right or wrong about the existence of God, it seems ridiculous for anyone to be so sure about their beliefs that they would desire to change other peoples' beliefs or, even worse, force everyone to go along with their beliefs through legislation. Since, you stated that you don't support doing those things, I don't have a problem with you believing what you believe.

With that said, there are some logical problems with your beliefs that keep me from agreeing with you completely:

"Nothing can exist in life without being created. That is a simple truth that no matter who you are is a fact."

A simple retort: If everything must be created then what created God?

The reason you gave for believing in a god is that things don't just pop into existence... but, since nobody believes that our universe just popped into existence, the real problem you have appears to be with infinitude. You feel that the universe could not have existed forever... thus, there must be a beginning to the universe... and you believe that something had to willfully start the universe... and you believe this primary mover is God. You hold that everything must have a cause (or as you call it a "creator") and following from this it doesn't appear that your solution agrees since, given what you believe, God appears to simply pop into existence without a cause. People often try to avoid this problem by saying God doesn't follow the same rules as we do... and you even used the phrase "other plane of existence"-- but, these phrases are basically meaningless placeholders that you are substituting as explanations to fit with an already predetermined belief structure (because, really, what are "other planes of existence" and how do you know they exist?).

Basically what it boils down to is that the problem you're attempting to solve isn't solved at all by your solution. It's a problem that can't be solved that easily. It seems the major problem is caused by the inability for humans to comprehend infinitude. And since both positions that can be taken (theism and atheism) create a world beyond human understanding how can we be expected to come up with a satisfactory explanation? With theism there is a god that has existed forever... and with atheism there is the universe that has existed forever. So either god has existed forever or the universe having existed forever... and neither of those are comprehendible.

However, at first thought it seems as though a God existing forever is easier to comprehend than the alternative. Why is this? I think the reason it's easier to put God in that position is that we have all these omni-'s (omnipotence, omniscience & omnibenevolence) that we attach to our idea of God and even though we have absolutely no comprehension of what it would be like for there to be this kind of a omni-being... it seems more likely for this magical figure that we call God to have the seemingly impossible characteristic of infinitude. But that really has no bearing on the truth of the issue; Just because it's easier for us to imagine a powerful cartoon character as the starter of the universe doesn't make it more likely. However, if there is one thing you can be sure of (for both athiests and believers) is that the possibility always exists that what you believe is wrong.

Luckily, with agnosticism, I know I'm right. I simply stick with the facts and come to the only solid conclusion one can come to... right now, I can't know whether or not a God exists... just as I cannot know whether the Loch Ness Monster exists (for even if Loch Ness was drained, people could still argue that the monster left before it was drained or that the monster, perhaps, lives in some other plane of existence).

Since there is no way to know whether God exists or not-- it seems that the best thing a believer can do is admit that it is possible that what they believe is wrong-- and from there the believer is not bound by logic. They can simply choose what they want to believe based on whatever criteria they desire. Realize, though, with admitting you could be wrong comes admitting that everyone else could be right... and, then, all doors are open (and these doors should not be shut by belief-fueled legislation).

-JP

7:30 PM  
Anonymous former roomie said...

Good, glad to hear the rest of it. I don't blame you for thinking people who follow blindly are idiots. It is not a good life to live, I think both of us can appreciate that.

9:02 PM  
Anonymous cali said...

At this point it basically comes to a point of your beliefs don't match my beliefs. Personal belief: Nothing can exist without being created. In other words there is a higher being in my personal viewpoint. The belief is that there's something out there that doesn't follow the simple rules of reality. It's a "higher" being. It's something that we can't explain why it does what it does, and it doesn't follow the "rules".

As I said: Religion whichever way you believe is a reason to explain why we are here. For me this works because it makes sense to me. No matter what anyone says it makes sense to me: A) A being that evades all science of our thought B) Something that is a "faith" based belief that isn't a true science. That's religion: "faith". By believing in a religion you have "faith" that what you believe in is right. It's not something that per the religious standards is going to show itself to you. Because, pending your beliefs, a) it doesn't exist or b) "God doesn't want to show himself to you because you're supposed to believe". It's broken down into a way to explain why you exist.

I'm just saying that to me there's no such thing as: "Well hey guys we exist just because". There has to be a plan and purpose for why we are here. And I don't care what that is. If you feel your purpose is to be here to mine the souls of monkeys and later on take them to the mothership that's completely fine. In actuality it's all about finding something that makes you happy and by the end of the day doesn't make you crazy. Whatever it is it has to make sense to you.

I will concede that yes the known fact of "Nothing can exist without a creator" is flawed in a higher being. It's unexplainable. Thus: faith. It's the simple basis of religion. If you're faith is in infinitude that's fine. Because at the end of the day it keeps you happy. Because in reality that's what everyone is using when it comes to their belief structure. It's faith in the fact that what you know is "right".

The end basically agrees with everything I believe. Ther isn't a way to know whether God exists. Choose which one you believe. I'm not going to force my opinions and beliefs on someone else because there is no way to know they are right. In the end it's what keeps you going. I was basically saying: I believe that a simple fact in my life is everything has a creator. You have shown that your belief is in infinitude. And if that's what keeps you going by the end of the day I'm completely okay with that. You have explained your reason for living, and I have no right to say to you, "Your wrong, even if infinitude is possible I have a better way." There's no humanity in that. It's basically taking away your right to think. No one person can say with definitive evidence that what they believe is right, it's just personal beliefs that they hold to be true.

2:08 PM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

First let me start by saying that I wish all Christians were more like you.

Second, to clarify, I never said I believed in the infinitude of the Universe. I see the existence of god as simply an unanswerable issue... which is why I've come to have an agnostic view on it. But, either way one has to believe in infinitude-- whether it's an infinite god or an infinite universe... and my belief lies in neither-- because there's no way of knowing... and they both sound plausible. I just see no reason to take sides on an issue that has no answer: it's like saying "this world record will stand forever"... yes, it is possible that it will stand forever and it's also possible that it won't... but why is it even necessary to make a claim like that?

I guess if you believe you'll be burning in hell if you don't then the choice is easy. If you would like to read my thoughts about God sending people to hell... then refer down (about 2/3 the way down) to a post I made entitled "A Problem I have with Christianity". The gist is, that I'm fairly certain only a really horrible or arrogant god would punish non-believers the way the bible says god punishes them... it just doesn't make sense.

Also, i personally never bought into the faith argument because it sounds too much like a cop-out. If something can't be proven and I'm told to just have faith in it... I really feel like I'm being duped. To me "Faith" feels like a word that was created as a fancy replacement for the phrase "believing without any evidence"... and the way my mind works "believing without any evidence" is rarely ever a good thing to do.

OK i'm done beating a dead horse-- i just wanted to clarify on where we differ-- keep being cool cali, i hope you have a good summer, i had a lot of fun in history class with Mrs. Rosepick, i hope you make cheerleader next year, i can't believe we're going to be 9th graders! But seriously i'm glad you're open-minded... please try to get some of your other christian friends to join you in that.

-JP

6:08 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Hey Jeff,

Long time no chat. I'm glad to see you're still going strong with the blog. It's good to be discussing these things, as long as everyone is really trying to figure things out.

Just wanted you to look at this. I'm not saying it proves you wrong, but I think you should revise this. The first quote was taken from the comments to this section, the second was taken from your most recent post.

"Luckily, with agnosticism, I know I'm right."

"Since both sides have the common ground on why they believe their religions, the natural & peaceful solution is to understand the commonality and celebrate it. Instead of polarizing ourselves by using "know" statements, by using "believe" statements we can work together (by sharing experiences and evidence) as people with similar goals to understand that we aren't all that different."

You have some inconsistencies here, and I'm not saying that you are disproving yourself, but you need to reword it at least.

I say this because Agnosticism is still a belief system. You have to have faith (because if you ever really knew it all, then the world's problems would all be solved easily; in fact, there is very little, even in the material sciences, that is actually known; we have many theories and approximations, and we assume based on reason and evidence that we can have faith that they are right), so you have to have faith that agnosticism is right at the end of the day, and I think if you say you truly just can't know, then that is a sort of cop-out, possibly more of a cop-out than faith. Because you can't prove that we can't know. Maybe that we can't fully know, but again, you can't fully know a lot of things, so should we just give up on them? I would say no.

I think, in fact, we can come very close to knowledge that God exists, though of course we can never understand God in His fullness (this point you will probably have issue with, but consider this example: just because we cannot fully grasp infinity does not mean we cannot understand what we mean by infinity; therefore, we can reach an understanding of who God is without ever fully grasping Him. Does that make sense? If not we can discuss it more.) But I think that if there were a God who would not let us understand Him to some extent, then He wouldn't be much of God, or we would have to be deists I guess. Fortunately, I think that God does want us to know Him and that we can make reasonable approximations to Him using logic and reason (I think faith and reason can and do coexist; if they don't, then there is a problem with that religion). And you're right, people should ask themselves these questions and more, because if you are just going along with it, then what do you really believe? But again, I don't think that faith and reason contradict each other. However, I do not believe that one should have to prove God's existence to be able to know it is true. We should, however, seek evidence and rational approximations (as we would in calculus and other sciences) to God, and if we cannot find any, then there is a huge problem. I think that we can, though, and so I do not have a problem with a belief in God. I apologize if I'm repeating myself.

And I think we should encourage everyone to pursue the truth, to really find out what is behind everything we know and believe. While this may be a large task, if everyone were really seeking, and looking out for the betterment of the whole human race, then what would we have to lose? I agree with you that we should not get so into "knowing" what we "know." But, I offer you this: if I felt I had discovered something that really made sense, and I mean really made sense, should I not try to share that with others, and let them know what I have discovered? And if they disagree, they disagree, but I have tried. I think that the open-mindedness thing makes sense. We should open our minds because if we do then we discover that we can come to know what we really should know, whatever that truth is. For instance, I am Catholic (and with good reason), but if someone could demonstrate considerable evidence for their claims and against mine, then I would either have to search harder to justify my position, or concede. Either way, I should be okay because I will discover what is true. And what is true is better than what is false. And I will have been done some good by the person who has forced me to consider new information. So either way it is better to be open-minded, but I think we can know (in the sense of having faith that they are right, as we do in most of our "knowledge") some things, and should strive to really figure out what they are. That is why I am Catholic. But I am not Catholic just cuz...I think I have found something amazing here, and I want to share that. But I do have reasons to back it up, and if I can't back it up, then I want to figure out how to do so, or reevaluate. Does that make sense?

Basically, I agree that we should all be open-minded. But being open-minded doesn't mean that we can't discover what is true and good. I think if you look at science, we have to be open-minded to new discoveries, discoveries that shake/change the beliefs we previously held. If we just held on to those understandings in science even in light of better evidence to the contrary, we wouldn't be much of a scientist. And if this can happen within the very structure of the natural world as we know it, why can't it happen with other parts of our experience of the world?

Oh, and the other thing: I remember you saying at one point that you realize there are some things that can't be proven (i.e. that a girlfriend actually loves you or cares for you). There is no deductive proof (which is what I take by you saying prove) for this occurrence nor for many others. We have to take converging inductive "proofs" as the best we can get, but this doesn't mean we can't understand these things to be true. We just have to trust/have faith that they are to the best of our reason/"proofs" true, and if something seems to "disprove" these converging truths, then we reject them and look for something else.

Okay, I hope I didn't ramble too much. I'm a little tired, but I think this is a good discussion. I think this could lead to a lot of good, and I appreciate you sharing your thoughts for others to consider and for being willing to discuss new thoughts with others. It's a good thing. I think a lot of our problems today would be solved if we could just talk with people like people and stop being so demeaning toward each other. God bless!

10:03 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Note: When I said, "I think, in fact, we can come very close to knowledge that God exists, though of course we can never understand God in His fullness," I meant to say that we can know with certainty that God exists, though we can never understand Him in His fullness."

We can know that God exists, that is my assertion. But knowing that He exists and proving it deductively are two different things.

10:56 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

Note: When I said, "I think, in fact, we can come very close to knowledge that God exists, though of course we can never understand God in His fullness" I meant to say that "We can know with certainty that God exists."

We can know He exists without having to give a deductive proof for His existence.

10:57 AM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

I know that I don't know whether God exists or not... I also know that I don't know how to play the piano. More importantly, in my knowledge statement there is not the opposite "i know that you are wrong".

I'll touch on the other things you said at a later time.

12:04 PM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

To add one more thing about my agnosticism... My agnostic "beliefs" are hardly beliefs-- the fact is that I don't know whether God exists or not. I know I'm right because I'm not making a claim to any belief... "agnostic" is just the word I use to label myself as somebody that doesn't claim to know. I plead ignorance which takes no faith at all (as you have suggested)... I just know that right now (whether the world exists as I perceive it or not) I haven't seen strong evidence to make a claim either way.

You said:
"we can know with certainty that God exists, though we can never understand Him (sic) in His (sic) fullness."

AGAIN, You are using the word "know" when you should be using "believe strongly"-- even if you believe you know that Jesus is the son of God (and God at the same time? I never understood the trinity)-- people of other religions, based on evidence, believe just as sincerely as you do... and by saying that you "know" you can't open your mind (as you have stated is good to do) because you've already closed it. Perhaps you wouldn't say that you "know" Jesus is the son of God-- but simply that you know God exists... but again, to make what may seem like a trivial point, it could be that you are being lead to believe that you know God exists by some uber-computer. It sounds silly... but so does saying you KNOW God exists.

"We can know He exists without having to give a deductive proof for His existence."

This is completely untrue. You can have sufficient evidence to believe that God exists... but this doesn't equate to knowledge. To say you "know" you must have undeniable proof... and undeniable proof doesn't exist except in a priori truths (truths by definition). It may sound like trivial semantics-- but this "know" mindset is causing major problems in the world.

I never stated that we are unjustified in believing things we don't have proof for... but simply that we are just not justified in saying that we KNOW these things. I don't know my girfriend loves me or that the ground exists... but I do believe these things.

I agree completely that the dialogue between people of different beliefs should be based on a comparison of evidence and experiences. The purpose of the current post is not to say that there isn't any solid evidence-- but more to show that what many people hold as solid evidence isn't really solid evidence at all. So, yes, I understand your "pursuit of truth" paragraph-- and I'm not saying anything contrary to that (in fact what you say in that paragraph is pretty much just a restatement of what I was arguing in my prior post).

I'm more than willing to listen to any evidence. Actually, in one of my much earlier posts we were having a similar discussion about evidence of God--and you have, as of yet, not given me any solid evidence as to why you believe what you believe. So instead of trying to convince me or anybody that you know-- it would be much more beneficial to share your evidence and let everyone make their own decisions.

7:13 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

First of all, I would like to make this comment: you provide no logical assertions for how any of 1, 2, 3,or 4 could not be evidence; you just claim that they are not (though I can see possibly how 4 is not evidence). But the first 3 can be perfectly good evidence. I would like you to explain how they are not. If you mean they are not deductive, then you are right; but they provide very good inductive evidence.

I will treat each of them one at a time in what I hope to be an effective manner:

1 - Miracles are real. The world is full of miracle stories. And many of them are more powerful than just, "I woke up just in time for my math test, otherwise I would have failed the class and had to spend an extra year in college. Must be God!" Though that could really be the case. But I would ask you to check out this site: http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/mir/lanciano.html.

Also, the claim against the existence of miracles generally goes something like this: people who believe in miracles are just more gullible/less educated than the people who don't; how do I know they are more gullible/less educated? --because they believe in miracles. The argument is essentially circular, and therefore unfounded. OR someone may argue that we just haven't made the scientific discovery that explains what actually happened and so people just explain it away as a miracle. There are certain miracles, however, that science could never explain (like the one in the link listed above).

Also, to claim that there are no miracles is made against the evidence in favor of them from an essentially dogmatic point of view; one can only assert that they do not exist because he believes that they don't. Because truly, the evidence is in favor of them. In a court room it would go like this, "Sir, are you mentally ill, do you have a history of lying, or are you using any drugs?" asks the lawyer. "No to all, and I have family and friends to testify to the truth of this on my behalf." "And yet you claim, along with medical evidence, that you were completely blind, and you approached a priest and asked him to heal you in Jesus' name and it worked?" "Yes it did. Right then, my eyesight came back to me after a feeling of warmth went from his hands to my eyes." "What did the doctors say?" "They said it was impossible." Now someone who claims that miracles are impossible gets up there and says "Miracles don't exist." "Then how do you explain this man's situation?" asks the lawyer. "He must be gullible, because they don't exist." I mean, what can really be said to someone who has this kind of evidence for the occurrence of a miracle? And I assure you there are many stories out there like this today, not just in the Bible, if that is an issue. And are all these people really just exaggerating? Are they just making it all up? Why would they do that? What motivation would they have? Exaggerating could be possible, but making it all up? And if there are witnesses (scientific ones as well), as there are in many circumstances (consider the Miracle of Lanciano), then how could they be over-exaggerating?

Besides, when I hear about someone going to a healing Mass, and approaching the Priest with a grave condition (leg requiring amputation due to dying skin cells in the leg) that a doctor has dubbed incurable, asks to be healed in the name of Jesus, and then goes to an appointment the next day and the doctor says that things have completely turned around and rebounded in defiance of all typical medical predictions (which really did happen to a friend's dad), I have trouble believing that is just coincidence; especially since I have heard similar stories of recoveries that completely defy the medical textbooks, as it were.

Now I am not claiming this is deductive proof. But you cannot say this is not evidence.

2 - If I had an out-of-body experience, I would definitely wonder what had happened. I can't say that this is as good of evidence, but something that appears inexplicable due to modern science should have some explanation (due to the principle of sufficient reason). Again, not saying this is exactly as good of evidence as miracles are (especially the Miracle of Lanciano), but it could be considered in light of other occurrences to add to other evidence.

3- The Bible has existed for more than 2000 years, if you consider when the Old Testament (or Tanakh as it is called in the Jewish Hebrew form) books were written. The Bible in its entirety has been around for about 1700 years. And for all that time, no one has been able to disprove it. And besides, you have to have the authority of the institution who assembled it in order to understand what is going on, just as one must have the authority of the government to interpret the constitution. Without the authority (i.e. the Catholic Church), of course the Bible is going to seem like it doesn't make any sense. But there is more to reading the Bible than simply reading the words. One must understand when the books were written, in what context, who they were written to, what message they were meant to convey, translation issues, the history of the time from other relevant historical sources, and a host of other issues before one can make any real claims against the Bible. And the Catholic Church has all of those answers chronicled from the duration of its 2000 year existence. And it also makes them readily available to whomever would come to seek it.

4 - This is a sheer mockery of a very real experience people may have (which I assure you is much more powerful than just warm fuzzies) and does not suffice for philosophical discourse. Experiencing something of this nature does not make one unintelligent anymore than knowing/believing that someone really cares for me from a truly powerful feeling of love. This does not offer deductive proof, but it is a real thing, though it may not be in some circumstances. I guess that's the tricky part of it. But I guess what I have a problem with here is that you are merely making a mockery of something and not trying to understand it or even demonstrate anything about it logically. If you had a problem with it, make some sort of logical assertions that lead to a conclusion as to why it is unintelligent, which people can then actually assess and determine the veracity of.

----

And again I would like to reiterate that there are many things, even the things we claim to know, that we cannot in fact ever fully know. But I think to say that we cannot reasonably approximate to an understanding of them would leave us in a world that makes no sense at all. Besides, if you want to talk about lack of evidence, the possibility of living in a dreamworld has less evidence than anything I have stated. See G.K. Chesterton's book Orthodoxy and his chapter called "The Suicide of Thought." I think if someone is going to give up on knowing anything because a movie put a really cool spin on Plato's allegory of the cave, then there is not really much worth discussing (besides, that movie had more Christian imagery than anything in there, other than perhaps Plato's allegory). Because if you can't know anything (though to assert such would require enough knowledge to know this to be the case, entailing a contradiction which is absurd) then you can't discuss anything. Now I realize that you are not asserting that we cannot know anything at all, but I think we know more of what we "know" from a posteriori knowledge than from a priori knowledge. If you want to say "believe with certainty" then I will accept that, because I "believe with certainty" that the electron cloud model is the best model, until we find something that approximates more closely. But it remains still, only a model or theory. But should we abandon it because we cannot prove it? I would say not. Anyways, I think that's about all I can say here.

Peace.

In Christ,
Paul

P.S. - What do you mean by (sic)? I think I understand, but I want to understand that you are using it the way I think you are before I state what I think.

10:25 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Note: apparently you still have to copy the link into your browser.

10:26 PM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

First, this post that we are commenting on is not what I care most about... I care much more about my most recent post "living the best life".

Second, I've been meaning to apologize for my hostility in this post-- it was influenced by my anger for the sheep mentality that is prevalent on A&M's campus... I should have been more tactful. I really plan on changing the way I approach these types of discussions. If you believe those things to be evidence... I don't think that you are unintelligent. To continue the with this post I should rephrase: every time that I say "evidence" I should have said "good" or "strong evidence". I understand how somebody could look at some of these things as evidence... but I personally don't see them as good or strong evidence. The following are my reasons for rejecting the common reasons given by people that believe in God that I listed in my post:

1. Your defense of miracles wasn't necessary in this context; I simply stated that medical miracles aren't strong evidence... not that miracles aren't. Medical miracles aren't good evidence because there is so much we don't know about the human mind/body and it's ability to heal itself. I realize that it's very easy to have an amazing recovery and then say it was the healing power of God. There's no way of knowing... just as we don't know why positive thinking, pleasing music and physical contact tend to help people recover more quickly. This seems to be the greatest logical downfall of many believers that I have met... when they come across something they don't understand they have the tendency to automatically attribute it to God. Throughout history people have had attributed things they didn't understand to gods as well: they believed that certain gods caused the tides to come in and out, or caused the sun to rise and set, or held the earth up on their shoulders... Thus, attributing things that we don't understand to God appears to be the easy way out and historically hasn't lead us to the truth.

2. Again, out of body experiences are something that we don't fully understand... and just because we don't understand them, doesn't mean that they have to be caused by God.

3. I realize that the Bible has never been proven wrong... but I read many books that have never been proven wrong (most philosophers I've studied). The fact it has never been proven wrong seems like credit that should be given to the editor... I know if I were to compile the books of the bible I'd make sure that they didn't create contradictions or contain anything that could be proven wrong... but that doesn't say anything about the actual truth of its contents or the existence of God. Also, I realize the bible is old... but that has no bearing on whether God exists or not.

4. I understand that deep feelings can come from prayer or meditation... but this isn't good evidence by any means. I've heard of children that have real & deep feelings for imaginary friends-- and that certainly isn't good evidence to their existence. Even I have felt these deep & intense feelings when I was a believer. I think, for me, it was more or less the joy & love of feeling like somebody was always there for me... something greater than myself. Since the mind has the ability to create any number of emotions it seems very possible that these deep feelings that we've felt are simply created by the mind.

As I said, these are just my grounds for rejecting these common reasons given for believing. If they're good enough for you... that's fine.

<<<<<>>>>>

Back to the discussion of knowledge... you said there are many things that we claim to know... but I'm saying even those things we don't know. As I said I don't know that anything exists except for myself and doubt... the only other things we can know are truths by definition. We should keep our minds open to the possibility that everything we believe is wrong. There is absolutely nothing gained by saying that you know something.

You also said that if we know nothing than we can't discuss anything-- that's just not true. All we need are beliefs based on evidence... we can discuss evidence, agree on beliefs, test these beliefs and we can build on our current beliefs. I'm not saying not to believe things... I'm just saying that, especially with more abstract beliefs like religion, we need to keep our minds open to the possibility that what we believe is wrong. We all desire to live the best lives we can... so we should develop more of a community feel in discussing and deciding what the best beliefs are... obviously you think that Catholicism is the best... but it's arrogant and rude to say that you know Catholicism is the right way to live... though certainly you can believe that as deeply and as passionately as you want... but it never amounts to knowledge.

I don't see why you need to grasp on to knowing... what I'm saying is not an attack on any belief... it's just a simple change in mindset that could help the world get along. I really think you should reread the most recent post... I think if you look more closely you'll see that it doesn't conflict with anything you currently believe. Really it sounds as trivial as simple semantics... but the inherent close-mindedness and arrogance that accompanies saying "I know I'm right" fuels so many of the problems we have in our world.

By looking at the world with the possibility that you could be wrong about what you believe... allows you to see that the reasons you believe what you believe are very similar to the reasons that other people believe what they believe. We all want to live the best life possible so we should all work together to figure it out. I know you think Catholocism is the best... and you're justified in telling other people why you chose Catholocism... and they can listen to your reasons and accept or reject them... and you can similarly listen to their reasons... but if you say you know Catholocism is right then you are shutting the door and not allowing other people the ability to share why they have chosen what they believe to be the best way to live their lives. This "knowing" is what is causing most of the problems between the US and extremist Muslims... they know they're right and we know we're right... so we need to take the first step and admit that we don't know.

I just don't see any reason why a person would argue against or reject this.

5:16 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

That makes better sense. I can see what you're saying now. And I definitely appreciate you actually explaining things in a non-hostile way. It allows for further discussion...which I don't have time for right now. But I did want to thank you for breaking it down so I can actually see where you are coming from. Alrighty, I'll catch you later.

In Christ,
Paul

1:17 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Oh, but one thing: That is partly why I brought up other miracles, because I understand that sometimes the body can just bounce back...and we really don't know a whole lot about why. I don't think that this proves that medical miracles don't happen, because some recoveries are so astounding and occur only after the constant prayer of the believer in utter defiance of the medical predictions of multiple doctors (recent example of this with a friend's dad and terminal cancer). But again, you are right in that we should be careful to attribute things that we don't fully understand to the "god of the gaps," as they say. But that is why I introduced a defense of miracles, which I think is necessary here to demonstrate that there are other more powerful things happening than medical miracles, things that seem to attest directly to the belief in a at least a God, if not a particular religion. That's where I find evidence in miracles to be especially strong. Because honestly, I would like to hear an explanation for the miracle which I gave a link for the description of (the miracle of Lanciano). And I'm not trying to be belligerent. I'm just saying that I haven't been able to think of a reasonable explanation other than God. So I thought it would be appropriate to introduce the fact that there are miracles that are not just based in an area where we don't fully understand how it could happen (like in the body). Some miracles happen that really are saying, "This is God talking, listen up." I think that these are very strong evidence for His existence.

1:30 PM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

I don't know what happened in that little church 1300 years ago... but I do have serious doubts as to the truth of that miracle.

I don't doubt that the scientists are correct in identifying the blood and the flesh to be actual blood and flesh... but I wouldn't put it past a crazed priest to create the illusion of a miracle (as proof if you will) so that there would be no further doubting as to the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Plus it seems like God would have bigger things on his plate-- whether people understand "this is my body" & "this is my blood" figuratively or literally seems trivial (except maybe for some stubborn & crazy priest with a knife & a corpse).

I just need evidence that some crazy person didn't cut up a body and pawn it off as a miracle.

You must understand that for me to believe something that seems impossible... it's going to take something close to scientific proof. Perhaps if there had been a large group of scientists that had the wafer and looked at it under a microscope before and after-- and they eliminated the possibility that it was switched... then I would have to believe that a miracle had taken place.

6:29 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

I will propose some things here for your consideration in response to those objections that you stated.

First, it would take more than a single "crazed priest" to make this miracle possible if it were indeed a staged event or illusion for a simple reason: you can see the flesh and blood as they are to this very day. This didn't just happen once and then disappear only to be kept alive in the annals of history; rather, the event occurred and endures to this day for anyone to see. So then it would require a 1300-year conspiracy of priests constantly finding pieces of hearts and some coagulated blood and placing them in the display (this of course would have to be the case since flesh and blood gradually decay, which I will discuss in a minute). So even if a conspiracy of such magnitude and duration could be considered feasible (which I find highly doubtful in light of reason), then how would it go unnoticed by the public (for 1300 years) and where would one find such a continuous supply of pieces of heart? One would have to continually find pieces of heart and obtain dried blood that were AB-blood type (or at least do this after the time the scientific investigations started in the 1970s, which would seem more unlikely given the surveilance and scientific rigor we have today). Also investigations of the event began in 1574, meaning that someone would have to be especially sneaky to keep up the event. I say all this must happen because the flesh and blood have been tested for preserving agents, and none have been found, yet they resist decomposition despite the normal forces of nature. This has been the case for the last 1300 years. So even if you didn't believe that the bread actually changed to a heart, you would still have to explain where these AB-type blood heart and blood specimens continue to come from even in the present day. Basically, I am not sure how to explain this as anything other than miraculous. It is the best explanation...or else we simply don't understand why some things can defy the common order found in the scientific world (natural decomposition of dead material) and others cannot.

Second, what bigger things does God have on His plate? I mean, I want to know what you think are the bigger things.

I have some questions and thoughts here to consider on this topic:

- Assuming Gos is omnipotent, is anything really bigger or lesser in terms of difficulty or importance to Him? I mean this in the way you seem to be asking. I think there are some things that are more important, which brings me to my next point....
- If people understanding that "this is my body" and "this is my blood" is expedient/required to bringing more people closer to Him and, ideally, to their eternal salvation, what would be more important? For if it is determined to be the literal body and blood of Christ, meaning that it is truly Him, and if He is our salvation, then it seems that it would be INCREDIBLY important to get that right, one could say eternally important. So I don't see how that is trivial at all. I mean, if it is literal, that is no trivial detail.

Third, I already addressed this, but I think it would be incredibly difficult (nay impossible) to pawn this off as a miracle based on the evidence given earlier. And I would like to make this clear: I would stop believing in this miracle if there were strong evidence to the contrary. I, however, see only incredibly strong evidence in its favor, and thus my belief in it. I am not just trying to blindly follow whatever seems to be reinforcing to my faith. This actually has scientific credibility and reason in support of it. As the website I pointed you to says: "In conclusion, it may be said that Science, when called upon to testify, has given a certain and thorough response as regards the authenticity of the Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano." Now if that claim were false, then they sure have a lot of guts putting it out on the internet for anyone to test and prove them wrong. But no one has found strong evidence to the contrary, but rather much strong evidence in favor of it.

Fourth, I think the fact that it persists today without any preserving agents, and has been known to exist since the 8th century excludes the possiblity of it being switched. Follow my logic: If it was switched, then it would have to be switched constantly and surreptitiously for 1300 years or the priest who switched it would have to have known of and used a preserving agent that could not be detected by modern science 1300 years prior to modern science. I think that neither of these two are likely or reasonable, and therefore, by modus tollens, it could not have been switched, and must therefore be a true miracle.

I apologize for any redundancy or repetition. I just wanted to be absolutely clear.

Another thing: here is another example of a medical miracle that defies explanation. A young child had down syndrome, which caused him to erupt in furious outbursts at times, often in public places. A priest was present at one of these outburts that happened in a mall where many people saw the event, and the parents could do nothing to contain the child. The priest approached the parents, asking if he could pray over the child. They agreed, and the priest did so. The child immediately calmed down.

Now, before you think this calming is the miracle, I want you to know that the parents then took the child to the doctor the next day or so (within the week if I remember correctly), and the doctor reported that the child no longer had the deficiency that causes Down Syndrome, namely, the extra 21st Chromosome. The child had been completely cured. And as far as I know, the body has never been observed to spontaneously heal itself of an extra chromosome. A first hand account of this miracle can be found in "Let the Fire Fall" by Fr. Scanlon. Just some more food for thought, because of course, this is based more on testimony than scientific observation, but then, I think that if you could reach Fr. Scanlon, he would point you to the family of the child, who could point you to their friends and doctor, all of which could verify the original case of Down Syndrome and its subsequent disappearance. I mean, to deny all miracles would be to assume that everyone is simply making them up to force belief and prevent doubt.

You do not have to respond to this last miracle now if you do not wish. My interest really lies with the Miracle of Lanciano, but I remembered reading about this miracle, and I wanted to offer it as a sort of counter-example to the idea that medical miracles are void as evidence of God because we do not fully understand our bodies. I think we know fairly well that chromosomes don't just disappear, and yet this occurred. (Another modus tollens argument.) Please get back to me about the Miracle of Lanciano before you respond to this part. Thanks.

11:10 AM  
Anonymous natie_pie said...

there is no way to substantiate these miracles.

if i am given an apple and told that it was once an orange, i have no way of demonstrating that the transformation actually occured. the only way it can be substantiated is by personal observation (and even then one must assess the potential causes that could have arranged the given effect) or it can be falsified by constant observation of the apple in its native state up until its presentation.

miracles that are not corroborated in this way are thus flimsy evidence.

in addition, no miracle provides evidence that a particular deity exists even if it can be corroborated. even if something defies the usual laws by which our universe seems to be governed, it does not indicate the existence of a god or even the existence of your particular god. it could be the case that a matrioshka brain sent a swarm of nano machines to do its bidding. it could be the case that invisible fairies play wicked little hijinks. it could be the case that any sort of spiritual nature can tap into latent psychic powers and thus effect causality. these are just some of the many possible scenarios that could end in the occurrence of a miracle. hubris leads us to identify the causes of phenomena which are statistical anomalies. why should any explanation, which is as unverifiable as any other possible explanation, be chosen as the 'correct' explanation of a phenomenon? this is where the bias of belief causes us to commit errors.

agnosticism provides us an escape from these blind assertions. we simply do not assign an explantion to phenomena unless there exist significant correlations between certain causes and the production of the phenomena. until then, we say that we don't know... and even after that, we say that we just have a good guess.

absolute beliefs are not necessary to function in this world.

1:41 PM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

At first I thought the miracle was just that the bread was turned into the body and blood of Christ... I now realize that the miracle includes the fact that Jesus' blood and body haven't decayed.

So i guess the only thing missing is carbon dating on the tissue that was tested to prove that the tissue came from the 700s... but it doesn't look like that test was done. Also, it would be nice to have proof that the sample that the "most illustrious scientist" Odoardo Linoli tested was actually from the miracle eucharist. The scientist that was supposed to have varified Linoli's scientific findings stated:

"Prof. Odoardo Linoli... has submitted to my evaluation a series of histological preparations obtained from a fragment collected by the same Prof. Linoli, according to his formal declaration, from a piece of a Holy Particle preserved in a church of Lanciano."

It seems strange that the varifying scientist can't even varify that the tested piece actually came from Lanciano eucharist... I guess, if we're being very generous, we could just believing Linoli's formal declaration... but I'm not feeling that generous today.

As I said, I don't know what happened in Lanciano... but, I can come up with plenty of explanations that aren't miracles... and I don't think it would take a huge conspiracy either... just a crooked scientist or a crooked priest or both (I have seen much more evidence of the existence of crooked priests and scientists than I have of miracles).

I've always wondered how and why God would perform miracles. By saying something like "God answered my prayers" that statement seems to attribute some kind of free-will to God... but if God is a perfect God then he would have no free will because he would be obligated to always do the most perfect thing. The whole idea of prayer seems egocentric to me-- it's like when somebody prays they're pleading with God to make his plan the way that they desire... and as I said, I can't see how a perfect being can have free will. I'm curious as to what you think happens when you pray.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Nate:

Looking at the evidence, we take the best explanation. Those other explanations, while possible, seem unlikely. Besides, I feel that agnosticism doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Just because we can't "know" per se the truth of a matter (as we can in a priori truths) does not mean that we cannot make reasonable assertions about that matter given a good amount of evidence and without the instance of a better explanation; in fact, we do this all the time in the sciences through scientific theories (which are constantly being revised and updated in light of better evidence), but I rarely hear anyone saying that this is wrong or unhelpful. We just use the best explanation we have until a better one presents itself. To do otherwise is to forsake the capabilities of a reasoning brain which, though it cannot know perfectly the order and happenings of all in the universe, can make reasonable conjectures in light of strong evidence and assume those to be true until proven false.

Besides, I also find a bit of difficulty with your last statement: "absolute beliefs are not necessary to function in this world."

This statement is in fact an absolute belief of yours. You are believing that absolutely there is no need for absolute beliefs. This is a contradiction, and therefore, following from a reductio ad absurdum argument, we can conclude that this is not true.

Jeff, I will respond to your post in the near future, but for now I have a lot to do with school. But I would like to hear some of your explanations that aren't miracles. You just state that you can come up with plenty of them, but I would like to hear both what your specific thoughts are on them, and also those involving a "crooked scientist or a crooked priest." One may extrapolate what you mean by this, but I want to hear specifically what you mean or in what ways YOU think that they could play a part in the faking of a miracle. Then I will respond to that and your last statement of God answering prayers. Because I do not wish to move to some too different before we are finished treating the issue at hand.

8:56 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

Jeff,

I'll definitely be thinking about your last question though. Just so you know.

8:59 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

Nate,

I do want to say that I can see what you are saying about them all be unverifiable. But I guess the question we have to ask is why would something happen that would seem to corroborate Catholicism in particular? Why would fairies bring this effect about? Or why would nanobots perform this? (And neither of these have been corroborated by any evidence that I have seen; Jesus Christ, however, did exist and said certain things about Himself and Who God is, and these make me think that there may be something more here than anywhere else). I dunno, I guess I want to believe something that seems to have some support (and I would say good support) in its favor rather than merely speculate on the infinite number of fantastical/unrealistic possibilities that are out there. And I would say that some are more verifiable than others.

9:04 AM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

I think it is possible that the blood and tissue the scientist did the experiment on was not from the 8th century. Seems easy enough for a scientist to take some samples from the miracle eucharist... discard those and use specific human samples (which would not be so hard for a scientist to get) that matched the miracle story... and simply experiment on those samples.

I think it is possible that the information about their being no preservation agent is just not true or the miracle eucharist tissue is not actual human tissue. Even if it was miraculous tissue... I would think that it'd still deteriorate... especially since the scientist said that it's real human tissue: he didn't say it was super-human tissue.

I think it is possible that this whole thing is just an account that Catholics invented to prove their point and then later it was verified using bogus science.

I know for a fact that the website you sent me to is biased... and everything else that I can find about the miracle seems to refer to or cite that same website. So it'd be nice to have an unbiased account of what happened... or at least something more reliable than a website devoted to proving the truth of that miracle.

As I said... it would take an overwhelming amount of unbiased, verifiable evidence to get me to believe that the impossible is possible. It seems to me that the most reasonable thing to do when confronted with a possible miracle is to come up with explanations that don't require something that can't even be proven to exist (i.e. miracles)... I know it's possible for scientists and priests to be crooked... I know it's possible for people to lie... I know it's possible for evidence to be forged... and I know it's possible for websites to mislead... so each of these explanations is going to have a lot more weight than the explanation that states "I believe there is no natural explanation for what happened; thus, it must be a miracle from God."

Agnosticism is the best choice for me because the evidence seems to point nowhere. I haven't seen any strong evidence for the existence of God... and since God is said to exist in some immaterial way it'd be impossible to have evidence against him/her.

So I agree that going with the evidence is what is best... I just think miracles are weak evidence.

1:34 PM  
Anonymous natie_pie said...

given an arrangement of evidence, we may accept or reject a set of hypotheses based on the observations. however, we may also deem the amount of evidence to be insufficient with regards to our measure of significance. this is often done in statistics -- how many people should be polled in order to get the margin of error below 3% with 99% confidence? in cases where sufficient sampling has not occurred, or has not occurred with experimental rigor as a priority, ethical researchers do not make inferences about hypotheses based on the evidence accrued. they begin a new study and collect the required data in the proper manner.

induction is implemented to make scientific claims. if some cause always preceeds an effect, then a causal relationship is established until it can be demonstrated that the cause can occur without producing the effect. induction states that if an experiment has always yielded a particular outcome on ALL of the previous attempts, then it will yeild the same outcome on the next trial.

contrast this with the verification of miracles. miracles are not consistently occurring and (according to some) unobtainable in the presence of scientific inquiry. hence, we cannot verify them via induction.

i still maintain that it is bias alone that draws out explanations of the miraculous. take for instance

http://edition.cnn.com/2006/HEALTH/03/30/prayer.study.ap/

many christians have been ripping this study to shreds, but what if the results had been positive? i have little doubt that the study would then be championed in the christian community and very few christians would rise in complaint.

N: absolute beliefs are not necessary to function in this world.

in response:

P: This statement is in fact an absolute belief of yours. You are believing that absolutely there is no need for absolute beliefs.

i rescind my statement, as it is incorrect as it stands. in addition, i don't wish to conflate the issue by amending it. it was poorly posed and extraneous.

nevertheless, no matter how strongly you feel about the particular explanation, there is only flimsy credibility that can be bestowed upon it. you are inherently biased towards your religion in this matter. you do not even consider the miracles claimed by other faiths -- jewish, islamic, hindu, and even miracles that occur within protestant denominations. you are using miracles as leverage to demonstrate the accuracy of your beliefs, so you present only catholic miracles. you could cast aspersions on these other miracles, or you could claim that they are all representative of your god's power. in the first case, your bias is blatant unless you can come up with substantial evidence against every single miracle arising from these groups. in the second case, you annihilate your ability to differentiate between deities. perhaps there is a third choice.

5:22 PM  
Anonymous jimbo, courtly said...

I attempted to read this thread in its entirety and failed. Partly because I found it tedious; mostly because I don't see the point. There are a number of bright people in this debate, so I won’t be surprised if this issue has previously been raised. But miracles (no matter how well documented and verified by countless irreproachable experts) are not evidence for God or any religious structure. When things happen which we do not expect to happen (blind men regaining their eyesight, the sun rising in the West, ect.) we call them miracles, and we do so with alacrity. But being surprised by the phenomena only attests to the fact that we thought we'd pretty much nailed down how the universe worked. We only attest such knowledge of nature from experience; either personal or testimonial. When confronted with evidence that doesn't conform to our models, instead of concluding that nature has broken its own rules (by the will of God or otherwise), a more likely explanation is that our models are incomplete. If a volume of William Wordsworth fell off my bookshelf and landed on the ceiling rather than the floor, we should collectively surmise that there are a couple things we don't understand about gravity, rather than assuming God wished to read "The World Is Too Much With Us". I'm not the first one to propose this method to understanding nature, the philosophy of science is based upon it. Accordingly, "miracles" are no evidence of any kind of religion, no matter how well tested and researched. There is no "supernatural", just events we don't understand yet. I will not deny in any degree that strange things happen, things that were unpredicted by all the theories of science and seem thoroughly impossible (that is not what I'm arguing against); but I will not admit that these are proof of God's active hand. Candidly, science expects abnormal occurrences to happen, because it does not deal in truths, only in probabilities. Science never comes to any final conclusions, only the best explanation for the data at hand; and since these explanations are never truly complete, we fully expect for some things to deviate from them. Again, if this point has already been made, inform me and I'll get Jeff to remove my post and we can all agree to forget I ever wrote it.

1:15 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

And just to stimulate further debate, 2 things for Nate.

Nate, if you have some miracles from those other denominations/religions, point me to one or paste it here. I have heard very little of other miracles, and so I guess I can be biased in the sense that I have not heard much from the other side at all.

Also, my argument about the statement of yours about absolute beliefs is not simply that it is just poorly formulated; I think it's impossible to say. I know this is going into a different topic, so respond to it if you will, but the problem with saying anything about a lack of belief in absolutes is that you can't say it without using absolutes, refuting the entire claim itself. That is my argument. It seems that any statement you could make about the use of absolute beliefs would have to be an absolute itself (I've been trying to think of an alternate way to approach it, and I can't. If you can, I would be interested to see, but I simply cannot.) Therein lies the difficulty. That is why I say you can reject that statement and believe in the opposite, namely, that absolute beliefs are necessary (at least sometimes), because that is the conclusion that follows from assuming your original denial of absolute beliefs and following a reductio ad absurdum argument form. And that is a valid conclusion.

Okay, that's it. Peace.

6:52 PM  
Anonymous natie pie said...

hannukah. a supposed illiterate muhammed was given the intensely poetic qur'an by the angel gabriel. joseph smith makes a similar claim about the book of mormon. the hindu milk miracle, the sole survival of a mosque in Bandar Aceh which was afflicted by the recent tsunami, the Festivus miracles proclaimed by Kramer :P, the spontaneous and sustained emission of multicolored light from a buddhist temple, etc. muhammad's numerous miracles involving food, water, animals, and nature.

you may also be biased in the fact that you have not attempted to gather information for yourself -- especially with an open mind. for example, instead of going to look for miracles of other religions, you have asked me to supply you with examples -- surely so you may attempt to invalidate them and thus strengthen your position. in doing this, you have missed my point. even if any of these events occured previously, there is no way to indicate why they occured or what entity impelled them to occur. they are merely flashes in the pan and we are the ones that associate rhyme and reason with them.

i'm not a stone. i can be convinced that miracles occur. however, i need sufficient evidence -- more than just a website and pictures and 'eye witness' corroboration. i will believe in miracles as soon as jesus gets down here and fixes the broken world that he left behind. and i'm not talking about some lame rapture. i'd gladly burn in hell if god really plans on letting an apocalypse occur. there is no way that i would want to spend eternity in heaven with that demon-god -- acquiescing to his ignorant and vicious whims. on the other hand, if jesus gets down here and starts taking care of business -- starvation, disease, war, all that stupid, needless shit -- i'll be in church every sunday morning from now on and i will sing his praises. if your god can't pull this off, i'm not interested in his other miniscule offerings.

'absolute beliefs are not necessary to function in this world.' obviously, you don't need to believe in this statement to function in this world. there are certain beliefs that, when accepted as true in a particular time frame, help us continue to thrive. on the other hand, is there a single absolute belief that is necessary to function in this world? the only one that i can imagine is the belief that one SHOULD function and thrive in this world. this is almost a tautology, so i apologize for this elementary statement -- the only absolute belief required to function in this world is that one ought to function in this world (or maybe that one should not go out of one's way to somehow stop functioning properly, since we can more or less function without putting in too much effort) the remaining absolute beliefs are then superfluous to attaining this end -- now we may argue the semantics of 'function', and i find this to be synonymous with 'thrive in harmony' (i know this is some really gay hippie shit, but there it is). maybe someone can throw up a better definition. in any case, any absolute belief -- aside from the belief that one should function in the world (or just not go against the functional flow) -- is not necessary to the continued functioning of a person in this world. so, the statement is true as long as we impose this restriction. as i said, it was poorly formulated. some self-contradictory statements can be fixed by just making a single exception to the rule -- and this was the case here.

11:25 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Nate,

I think that with the miracles, you are operating from some of your own biases, and not actually digging into the miracles, as you stated I should do with other religion's miracles. I have yet to begin that search, but you are doing the same thing you advised me not to do. You are merely knocking down what I line up, without going beyond what I present. That is my thought on that. I too will begin my search shortly.

One quick thing about miracles: people who disbelieve them generally do so on the basis of their own belief that miracles do not occur, and yet they claim that they are acting from an empirical/scientific basis. This is false, however, since they are not actually acting from an empirical basis. If they were actually doing so, they would seek out claims for miracles, and then look into the circumstances to determine it's veracity. Someone levitating while praying (as is documented in the case of the lives of many saints, for example St. Thomas Aquinas), bleeding in the same places as Christ's wounds, a.k.a. the stigmata, without causing harm to one's self, having a deaf person recover their hearing after asking for prayer for someone (immediately after): these are all things that are documented and that people testify to. This is not to mention the many, many incorruptible bodies of saints (no decomposition of skin without preserving agents) that have been discovered so in the course of moving their graves. That can be looked up, and the Catholic Church stands behind those claims, and I've seen at least 5 of them. Basically, if the Church is willing to stand behind that many miracles, it is either very sure of itself or very stupid. All it would take is disproving a few of them to start to remove the Church's credibility, and that has not been done. Research it yourself, but it's all out there for the viewing. But when it comes down to it, you can decide, on the basis of belief, that things did not occur as you heard/seen that they did. It's your choice.

As for absolute statements, you said:

"the only absolute belief required to function in this world is that one ought to function in this world"

The problem here lies in the fact that this statement here is also an absolute belief. So we have two absolute beliefs, but you said the ONLY one required is that "one ought to function in this world." There is a contradiction, and this statement can be rejected as false.

As for your idea that you can just impose a restriction, that is not true, because then the statement about the restriction has to fit, and so does the statement about that statement and then so does that statement, continuing to infinity. We are left with infinite absolute beliefs just as before you attempted to limit it. This is a contradiction, and this belief may be rejected. To demonstrate:

"any absolute belief -- aside from the belief that one should function in the world (or just not go against the functional flow) -- is not necessary to the continued functioning of a person in this world"

The following must also fit in here:
"And aside from this absolute belief as well (the one just stated), and this one describing it, and this one qualifying the previous one...etc.

That is the problem. Absolute statements that attempt to limit absolute statements are impossible.

Those are my thoughts. Now, if you want to believe that "one ought to function in this world" is a good absolute belief and maybe the best to follow (both of which are more absolute beliefs), that's fine. But you cannot say that it is the only one or attempt to impose an exception without creating a contradiction or infinite absolute beliefs that one must adhere to.

In Christ,
Paul

10:27 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

It is interesting that when it comes to the issue of Christianity, people of a supposed open mind often seem completely closed to the possibility that it might be true. I have an open mind, and it lead me here. To believe in a faith is not to be blind. I will research more about other religions, however, as I have already started with Islam. But if I find that there is little substantial matter there (or significantly less than what I have found after years of research on my faith), dismissing it does not mean I have a closed mind. One does not have to accept everything as true or nothing as true to have an open mind.

And Nate, I'm not trying to take this out on you. I'm using our discussion as a spring board to air some frustrations of mine. People need to realize that there is Truth, and that if you find it, adhering to it does not make one close-minded. I'm tired of this relativity crap. And we can discuss that next if you wish.

10:34 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Oh, and for Jimbo:

You said:
'There is no "supernatural", just events we don't understand yet.'

I will remind you that that is a belief of yours. And mine is as well. If I have stated that miracles prove God's existence, I apologize as that is false, but I do think they can provide reasonable evidence for Him. I say reasonable because, if someone levitates in prayer, and breaks nature's laws, I would say that's a little extraordinary. But I will remind you that you must have a supernatural mind indeed if you know certainly that there is no supernatural. You are acting on the basis of dogmatic belief that there are no miracles, just things we haven't explained yet. That is not scientific, that is belief. It may be a reasonable one, but so is my belief that miracles happen. Besides, even if we explain how, scientifically, the event occurs, some sort of quantum fluctuation perhaps, will it show why it happened? And if it does, will it only prove God's existence more, or less? I believe that we could find a scientific explanation for how miracles occur and determine that they are no less miracles. But that is a belief of mine.

Just some food for thought.

10:42 PM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

A Buddhist miracle written by Sogyal Rinpoche:

"I remember a middle-aged American woman who came to see Dudjom Rinpoche in New York in 1976. She had no particular interest in Buddhism, but had heard that there was a great master in town. She was extremely sick, and in her desperation she was willing to try anything, even to see a Tibetan master! At that time I was his translator.

She came into the room and sat in front of Dudjom Rinpoche. She was so moved by her own condition and his presence that she broke down into tears. She blurted out, "My doctor has given me only a few months to live. Can you help me? I am dying."

To her surprise, in a gentle yet compassionate way, Dudjom Rinpoche began to chuckle. Then he said quietly: "You see, we are all dying. It's only a matter of time. Some of us just die sooner than others." With these few words, he helped her to see the universality of death, and that her impending death was not unique. This eased her anxiety. Then he talked about dying, and the acceptance of death. And he spoke about the hope there is in death. At the end he gave her a healing practice, which she followed enthusiastically.

Not only did she come to accept death; but by following the practice with complete dedication, she was healed."

4:42 PM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

"I believe that we could find a scientific explanation for how miracles occur and determine that they are no less miracles."

This seems nonsensical.

4:04 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

You need to read the lines above it:

"Besides, even if we explain how, scientifically, the event occurs, some sort of quantum fluctuation perhaps, will it show why it happened? And if it does, will it only prove God's existence more, or less? I believe that we could find a scientific explanation for how miracles occur and determine that they are no less miracles."

I don't think there's anything nonsensical about it. But if you would like clarification, I am merely trying to say that science cannot determine why science occurs. Science answers how the earth revolves around the sun, but not why either are there in the first place. That is the realm of Metaphysics, not physics. People who put so much stock in science forget that it cannot prove itself.

One could in similar fashion show what happens in a miracle at a scientific level without being able to determine why it happens (except that one said, "by the power of Christ, rise and walk"). So one might see that the quantum vibrations change slightly at the occurance of the miracle, which allows for the microparticles to realign properly, eliciting a complete healing. But why did that quantum flux occur at the moment someone spoke the name of Christ?

Just some speculation.

Oh, and thanks for the other miracle story.

Oh, and I think this deserves reposting:
"It is interesting that when it comes to the issue of Christianity, people of a supposed open mind often seem completely closed to the possibility that it might be true. I have an open mind, and it lead me here. To believe in a faith is not to be blind. I will research more about other religions, however, as I have already started with Islam. But if I find that there is little substantial matter there (or significantly less than what I have found after years of research on my faith), dismissing it does not mean I have a closed mind. One does not have to accept everything as true or nothing as true to have an open mind."



What happened to Nate and Jimbo?

4:29 PM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

Why I was confused:

for purposes of clarification "Miracle" = A supernatural act of God.

Your sentence revised:
"I believe that we could find a scientific explanation for how supernatural acts of God occur and determine that they are no less supernatural acts of God."

The above sentence begs the question--

-- but I understand what you're saying... we could have a scientific explanation of a phenomena (something you believe to be a miracle) and still have no understanding as to the cause of that phenomena (which you would still believe to be a miracle). I agree when stated as such & gravity is a perfect example of this-- we have a scientific explanation of it but we still don't know why it exists-- is it a supernatural act of God? We may never know... but it certainly is miraculous.

1:55 AM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

I think Nate and Jimbo lost interest.

1:57 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

More like an argument.

5:25 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Hey, I understand why you were confused. I think you kind of got what I was trying to say though. Not in the sense that they are proven to be supernatural acts of God (so as not to beg the question), but just that we could see what's happening scientifically without being able to explain how/why it occurred in the first place.

5:27 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

But to go back to the point, miracles are reasonable evidence for the existence of God.

God bless!

12:34 PM  
Blogger Help People said...

You're begging the question again-- It would be more accurate to say that you see unexplained phenomena as reasonable evidence of God. Which is fine... i guess. But, really all you're saying is that you believe that some unexplainable occurances are miracles (acts of God)-- and I think to expand that belief into being reasonable evidence for God is circular and weak.

As for me, I personally don't see that unexplainable occurances amount to good evidence of anything beyond humans not having a God-like understanding of the world-- which is obvious.

2:46 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

But it's not just unexplained phenomena--it's phenomena that seem to be from God (so as not to beg the question), based however on some cause and effect relations, that are obviously not 1 to 1, but exhibit some of the same characteristics. For instance, someone's spine regrows in an area where it had worn away (quite a bit) while a group of Christians pray over the person in the name of Jesus. It happens in this instance as a cause and effect. Now it may not happen this way again later with another person, but then it does happen with someone else. So it's not a perfect correlation, but then it doesn't just seem to happen adventitiously on any other occassion. If it happens, it seems to the person to be in prayer to Christ. So there are some of the characteristics of cause and effect. (Some miraculous events occur in other religions I understand, but I, and others, will argue that more miracles occur or are at least even claimed to occur in Christianity than anywhere else...it would make sense that this is the case if you've ever read the Gospels too.)

So then miracles (defined as events or phenomena that seem to be from God based on somewhat cause and effect situations) can be good evidence for God.

It also helps to either have experienced it (as healer or healed or present witness) or to know someone who has been one of these. Until then, however, it's hard to speak with any authority on what's happening there. I mean, I don't try to make claims about the reasonability of theories of the mating patterns of marsupials when I haven't even put myself in a place to find out more about them.

God bless!

10:12 PM  
Blogger Help People said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:20 PM  
Blogger Help People said...

Your reasoning still seems circular-- You're saying you have good reason to believe in God because unexplained phenomena seem come from God (of whom you already have an established idea of).

If you don't think the above reasoning is circular-- then try reading through the following analogous (though, admittedly more ridiculous) situation:

John has the belief that there is an invisible guardian fairy in his back that causes him to have severe back pain when John does something that the fairy thinks is wrong.

Every time John goes over to Bill's house to do something that John knows is wrong his back starts hurting. John had a team of doctors check out his back and they all could find nothing in his back that would cause the pain.

The fact that his back pain correlates to his bad behavior-- even in the face of no other explanations-- seems to be very weak evidence that the invisible guardian fairy really exists.

Similarly, I don't think that because some unexplainable phenomena seem to correlate with your previously established beliefs that this correlation is strong evidence that your beliefs are correct.

3:26 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

To avoid any potential circularity: One can come at it from the standpoint of a non-believer seeing these things happening and asking, "What could possibly be the cause of this? I've never seen anything like this before." Then that person would try to find answers to those questions and could come to believe on the basis of these signs. Then if they started to think that it fit the beliefs of the Catholic Church more properly than elsewhere, the only way to figure out if that is right would be to place one in the environment and see if their speculations fit by "testing" them in the environment.

Just like with any science really: Someone observes something that they've never seen before and asks questions. They then form what seems a reasonable hypothesis to explain the situation, and then they check to see if the conditions fit their hypothesis based on "experiments." Afterwards they check and interpret their results and re-evaluate their hypothesis to see if it fits. That's the scientific method right there.

And OBVIOUSLY this isn't going to be perfectly replicable in a religious situation, but the general thought process can be applied in a similar way. (I really want you to understand that I know you can't perform experiments per se on religion. But I do think one can approach faith with reason. Google the Catholic Document Fides et Ratio, Latin for Faith and Reason--we are supposed to use our reason in approaching and evaluating faith.)

The other problem with your analogy is that, while I understand what you're trying to say, is that it doesn't hold up precisely because miracles aren't the only form of evidence for God. If that were it, I could see where you might say I'm begging the question, arguing in circles (How do you know these instances are miracles? Because God exists. How do you know He exists? Because of miracles...duh.), etc. I am saying that based on some level of logical reasoning regarding miracles, as well as other evidence for God, we can obtain a basis for belief in Him and why miracles can be good evidence. And if you HAVE ever been around a miraculous situation...other than gravity, I suppose, ha...you would know that something unbelievable is going on, something that demands an explanation beyond a random occurrence. God doesn't work in small ways, but He works in His own particular ways, and that's why it can't be a completely scientific venture (please do not focus just on this last point, though, as I want to address the other issues first).

I hope you know I enjoy this conversation immensely, and I am glad we can discuss these things.

God bless!

8:57 PM  
Blogger Help People said...

I understand what you're saying-- and I think we see where we ultimately differ:

I don't see unexplained phenomena to be evidence of God, nor do I think that unexplained phenomena are best explained by a specific religion.

It appears that we view the world differently (yay for diversity in perspective!)

12:00 AM  
Blogger Help People said...

Paul, i desire your help.

Here's the deal:

I went to a Polyphonic Spree concert thursday and being around them and singing with them made me so extremely happy. I really want to feel that way as often as I can... and I want other people to feel that way also. I think the world would be so much better if people could frequently be that happy!

But as we have established in the free will portion of our dialogue-- as humans, we don't have complete free will-- and often, due to things outside of our control, we find ourselves not being as happy as we want. Personally, I find myself getting angry with people from time to time... even though it's a totally stupid way for me to feel. Humans are all unique, rational maximizers of their own utility and I should be fascinated by the differences that exist in this amazing world... I should not be angered. So I want to try to train myself to avoid these negative ruts that I often find myself in. But how do I do this? I have found that simply wanting to be more happy isn't very effective. For whatever reason, becoming happy is not something that is easiest done alone. The easiest way that I have found to be happy is to simply be around, and participate in, happy things with happy people.

So that's where my dream has arisen from. My dream is to have a place where people can go and celebrate.

I know you personally have church to go to and celebrate your beliefs-- but I think you can agree that, even though you and I have very different beliefs, we certainly have similar reasons to celebrate life.

It may seem like i'm trying to start a new religion... but that's not the case. My dream is to have a place where people with different individual beliefs can come together and celebrate their differences (and their similarities).

So I want your help making a list of meaningful statements &/or beliefs that you and I think would be almost universally accepted by rational persons.

A few that I have come up with:

Being happy is better than being unhappy.
Love is better than hate.

1:45 AM  

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