Random Reality – An Open Letter to Tildeb

Random Reality An Open Letter to Tildeb

This letter is in response to your comment from October 4 2015 https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2015/09/21/eating-habits-excerpt-from-teh-forthcoming-the-bible-trial/#comment-24325

Let me begin by thanking you again for posting your comments on this blog. It is my firm belief that an open discussion in which both sides articulate their understanding of truth will bring us all closer to the truth.

Design denotes designer. We do not find complex functionality without intelligence that created the sophistication. This would then bring us to understand that the complex functionality of the natural world has been designed by intelligence.

Evolutionists argue that this premise is false. The theory of evolution proposes that random changes filtered by natural selection can produce design and they can produce design blindly, without intelligence. Many experiments and observations seem to have confirmed the theory of evolution so why would anyone stick to the argument of intelligent design? Your conclusion seems to be that anyone who still believes in intelligent design after the scientific discoveries have decisively confirmed evolutionary theory must be ignoring reality.

But let us examine reality as the scientists report to us.

There are several components to the theory of evolution. The theory proposes that living beings can change over a span of generations (in other words; heritable change). The theory proposes that these changes can occur randomly, without any direction. And the theory proposes that the process of natural selection will ensure that those changes that enhance the survival of the organism will outlast those that have not made those changes.

These are three different components to the theory and it is only on the basis of the second component that we can say that the premise of intelligent design has been undermined. If the first and third components of evolutionary theory are true but the second one is not, then the premise of intelligent design is not affected. In other words, if living beings can change and those changes are filtered by natural selection but those changes are not random, then the original assumption that functionality indicates intelligence is firmly in place. If these living beings changes by some other process, a process which is not random, then the functionality of the original living being is actually higher and more complex than if it would not be able to change. A car that can adapt itself and change according to its surroundings is far more complex than a car that cannot do make these changes.

All the evidence to the theory of evolution that has accumulated over the last 150 years have established that living beings can and do change and that these changes are filtered through the process of natural selection but they have not established that these changes are random. The fact that 150 years of research did not turn up evidence of the randomness of evolution is a powerful piece of evidence against that aspect of the theory of evolution. Those who use evolution to “disprove” the premise of intelligent design are ignoring this reality.

I realize that you believe that science has proven the random basis of evolutionary change and I will show you why your belief is not rooted in reality, but first, for the benefit of the readers, allow me to articulate and establish my position. Let us examine some of the more popular science experiments that have established the theory of evolution.

The peppered moths of England seem to serve as an example for evolution. These moths used to be light colored. When the industrial revolution increased pollution, the environment of the moths changed. Trees that used to be light were now blackened and dark. The peppered moth population changed colors and became dark. As the government began regulating pollutants the environment of the moth changed again and with time the moths became light again.

Here we see how a living organism has changed over time and how natural selection controlled that change. It would seem that this is a classic example of evolution in action.

But no one ever claimed that new moths were developed. The light colored and dark variants of the peppered moths always existed side by side. There is always a majority of one type and a minority of the other. What changed was the preponderance of one over the other. And this was achieved through natural selection. As the environment darkened, the chances of the light colored moths to escape from their predators decreased and the chances of the dark colored moths were enhanced. This caused the dark colored moths to increase and take over the population. This process was reversed with the changes to the environment brought about by the lessening of pollutants.

This experiment proves the third of the three premises of the theory of evolution, the premise of natural selection. But this experiment does not establish the premise that living beings could change or that the changes are random.

Another observation that has been used to establish the theory of evolution involves finches. Charles Darwin observed that the finches on the Galapagos Islands are different than finches found elsewhere in the world. Darwin theorized that these differences arose through evolution. In other words, the ancestors of these Galapagos finches were plain old finches and with time they changed and evolved into the particular finches that they are.

This theory was confirmed with an experiment conducted on Southeast Island in the Pacific Ocean. In 1967, 100 finches were brought from Laysan Island to a small group of islands about three hundred miles northeast of Laysan. These finches were examined 20 years later and it was discovered that they had developed different bill shapes from their ancestors.

Here we have evidence to two of the three premises that make up the theory of evolution. We have seen that the population of the species can change and that the change is filtered by natural selection but there is no evidence to the premise that this change was random. The fact that the beneficial changes were developed so quickly indicates that the changes were not random (http://www.researchgate.net/publication/22628078_Beyond_neo-Darwinism__an_epigenetic_approach_to_evolution._J_Theor_Biol ).

But what about bacteria? Various experiments done with bacteria would indicate that bacteria could change and that those changes could be random and that natural selection will filter those changes.

One such experiment showed how a particular bacterium which could only subsist on one type of sugar developed a change in its genetic makeup that enabled it to subsist on a different type of sugar. These changes were progressive. In other words, in each subsequent mutation, the bacterias ability to subsist on the new type of sugar was qualitatively enhanced.

But upon closer examination (http://www.msg.ucsf.edu/agard/Publications/26-Agard-Nature-89.pdf ) it is revealed that these changes are not a random acquisition of complexity. In order to believe that random changes can build up to create new and diversified life forms we must posit that the genetic code of the organism acquired new information that was not present in the original genetic code. But at each stage of this experiment the bacteria lost or repressed genetic information in order to adapt to its environment.

Another observation that would seem to support the theory of random evolution is the hypermutation of the B-cell. Certain sections of the DNA of the B-cell (which is a part of the immune system) mutate at a relatively rapid rate. These mutations add information to the genetic code and they seem to be random.

So here we have it. All three elements of the theory of evolution have been established.

But this is not so. These random mutations only occur in a specific section of the B-cell’s genome (string of genetic information). These random mutations enhance the B-cells functionality. In other words the immune system works better with these random mutations taking place in this particular spot in the B-cell’s genome. This is not random. This is like a computer which is programed to make random combinations for a specific purpose and function (http://www.trueorigin.org/spetner2.php ).

Did I forget to mention Lenski’s experiments with the e-coli bacteria? The e-coli bacteria cannot process citrate. But with time, some of the e-coli bacteria in Richard Lenski’s laboratory developed the ability to subsist on citrate. Again, we have change, and this change was random (it took more than 30,000 generations of e-coli to come up with this ability) and the change was filtered by natural selection (the citrate processing e-coli dominated the population once they developed their specialized ability).

But here too, the e-coli bacteria did not become more complex, it actually became more simple. Normal e-coli bacterium possesses a repressor which stands in the way of the bacteria from processing citrate. What happened in Lenski’s laboratory was that some of the bacteria mutated in a way that the repressor was disabled. Such mutations, which simplify the organism, cannot be the source of producing complexity.

Let us go back to the peppered moths for a moment. The Kettlewell experiment has been touted as THE proof for evolution for decades. Generations of college students have been fed the story and it has shaped the thinking of many people. But recent studies call the entire experiment into question ( http://amcbt.indstate.edu/volume_19/v19-3p3-9.pdf ). Will the problems with Kettlewell’s experiment get the same widespread coverage as did his faulty conclusions? How many students will continue to be misled into thinking that Kettlewell’s moths decisively establish the verity of every aspect of evolutionary theory when in fact it is questionable if his study even provides a basis for one component of evolution?

The scientific community has set itself up as the sole distributer of reality. After all, since science is the study of reality, where else would we expect to find reality? But the history of Kettlewell’s experiment demonstrates that the scientific community is plagued by an unhealthy affinity to comfortable falsehoods as is everybody else. The scientific community suffers from the same vices that afflict the religious community; an attitude of self-righteousness, moral elitism and an aversion for uncomfortable facts.

Tildeb, you have stated that you want your worldview to be shaped by reality and by nothing else. I applaud this method and I admire it. I too strive for this ideal. I urge you (as I urge myself) to stick to the ideal and not allow anyone or anything to shape your thinking, but your own ability to think and the raw facts.

May God be with you on your journey.

Acknowledgment: I obtained most of the scientific information contained in this article from Dr. Lee Spetner’s book; “Not by Chance” (Judaica Press 1998) and from a subsequent correspondence with Dr. Spetner.

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Thank You

Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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204 Responses to Random Reality – An Open Letter to Tildeb

  1. Dina says:

    I would be interested to hear a refutation. So far none of the atheists have offered a refutation to your posts about archaeology; I’m curious to see if the same will hold true here.

  2. tildeb says:

    In its most basic form, a scientific theory is an offered explanation for all known data. As more data becomes available, and something doesn’t fit, then the theory must change. In a nutshell, everything you’ve offered here still fits the theory of evolution. Nothing stands outside of it. If it did, the theory would have to change. That’s how science works.

    I’ve written this to demonstrate two problems with your post.

    The first is to understand that all data must be accounted for in a theory, which when you think about it is a rather daunting requirement, and that these offerings from your post do not present any contrary evidence. To be generous, what they really show is that science continues to question and probe and maintain the very strict standard even of long-held explanations and all of these have been widely addressed in biology. This self-examining process is not similar to any religious doctrine I know that “suffers from the same vices that afflict the religious community; an attitude of self-righteousness, moral elitism and an aversion for uncomfortable facts.” And speaking of facts, anyone who did come up with data contrary to evolution and thus force a change in its very highly esteemed status of ‘theory’ would be richly rewarded by the scientific community… not least of which would be fame and fortune and a name captured for all of history. Again, we don’t see anything equivalent coming from the religious community… especially anything similar offered to those who reveal some data that doesn’t fit with a religious doctrine (where’s the evidence for an Exodus?) and to pretend equivalency between these methods of inquiry – the scientific and the ‘spiritual’ – is nothing more than imaginary thinking.

    The second problem far too many people fail to grasp is the use of what I call ‘nit-pickery’ against evolution (with targeted criticisms that have already been examined and rejected on scientific merit by the biological sciences but recycled by those with some other agenda than establishing scientific merit who haven’t done their research and assume these always-present quibbles remain systemically problematic when they aren’t). Nit-pickery is used to try to create some level of doubt… as if the scientific community didn’t already expose all kinds of hypotheses to this standard of rigorous examination that is part and parcel of all good science (nit-pickery a very common negative tactic used by those trying to get around compelling evidence and scientific understanding by creating a false narrative of doubt clothed as some imaginary scientific question … the same tactic used by the tobacco industry, by the fossil fuel industry, by the naturopathic industry, and by a veritable host of those who seek to deny scientific evidence and explanations). The object is to try to create what appears to be doubt in order to substitute some (what I call) ‘wing-nuttery’ alternative that is then held by fiat to be immune from exactly the same high standard!

    In this case, of trying to create artificial doubt about the theory of evolution (and today’s understanding we call the Modern Synthesis), what is being proposed – some version of creationism that I call ‘POOF!ism’ – doesn’t even try to ‘explain’ any contrary data… such as why the human genome possesses the necessary ‘information’ (for lack of a better simplified genetic term) for making yolk, nipples on men, the bizarre laryngeal nerve, the absurd routing of the vas deferens. the damaged genes all humans carry from an ancient simian virus, and so on. In every field of study related to biology, we find data that makes absolutely no sense from a ‘design’ standpoint. When we broaden our search, we find data of distribution and migration that makes no sense from either a design or creation explanation (unless there were many multiples of ‘creation events’ where slightly different ‘designs’ were used to mimic evolutionary change). None of this contrary data seems to matter at all to those busy trying to create doubt about an explanation that works, namely, evolution (but not any other scientific theory less supported by compelling evidence from reality… such as ‘gravity’ or ‘germs’.

    This raises the just how many fallacies must be employed by critics of evolutionary theory to avoid meeting the scientific requirements evolutionary theory has had to undergo: the false dilemma, whereby one tries to promote an idea by attempting to cause doubt in a presumed alternative idea. argument from incredulity, the incomplete and inconsistent comparison to try to create a false equivalency, and so on. What’s lacking from the cdesign proponentsists crowd is any good science upon which to even begin to build a suitable alternative theory.

    The final nail in the design/creationist coffin rests before us all: evolution as an explanation is supported by all avenues of inquiry AND all applications, therapies, and technologies that work for everyone everywhere all the time directly derived from that theory (from pharmaceuticals to the mining industry)… not from some assumed “attitude of self-righteousness, moral elitism and an aversion for uncomfortable facts” but from disparate kinds of inquiry and the profitable knowledge and products they produce.

    To dismantle evolution theory requires just one piece of data that doesn’t fit. The uncomfortable fact of the matter is that, so far, such data has yet to be found. Anywhere. Ever.

    You know and I know and every reader of this blog knows that no religious doctrine is willing to be held to this same exacting standard. No religion could withstand the requirement. And that’s why you can sometimes have a religion without some version of the design/creationism trope but you can never have design/creationism without religion. That’s the source – religion… not knowledge, not seeking what’s true, not respecting what reality has to say in the matter – that is the sole employer, the driver, who pays for these merchants of evolutionary doubt. And that’s the clue about the truth value that these merchants of doubt bring to the table to ‘discuss’ evolutionary theory and other well established scientific understanding of how reality actually works.

    • Dina says:

      Tilde, you attacked the idea that religious people “nitpick” without directly refuting the evidence that Rabbi B. presented. It would be much more interesting and fruitful to see an explanation why the points Rabbi B. presented along with his supporting evidence don’t stand up to scrutiny.

      • tildeb says:

        What has been created by these examples is a narrative to fit the three formats that supposedly ‘define’ evolution. This has been done to fit a need other than good science. But this is not evolution per se and it isn’t the theory of evolution.

        Evolution is a theory to explain how life changes over time. It involves all kinds of related components, including how life inherits these changes (1). But it also explains (it doesn’t ‘propose’; that would a hypothesis) what naturally occurring unguided mechanisms accomplish these changes. These mechanisms are many and natural selection (which means unguided and naturally occurring chemical and mechanistic processes) by fitness is beyond dispute…. as probably the primary mechanism. But there are others, some of which are more probable than others.

        What I’m pointing out is that the theory is not somehow questionable by arguing about ‘design’ or ‘guidance’. These are not a scientific concern because there is exactly zero evidence for its hypothesis and nothing but evidence against it. If that pops anyone’s religious beliefs about a creator bubble then that’s a problem between the believer holding a religious belief unsupported by positive evidence and incompatible with the overwhelming evidence from the reality we share. That’s not a problem of evolutionary theory, nor a problem for those of us who understand why it’s true. It’s a problem for the believer.

        None of the examples brings into question how life changes over time and by what naturally occurring unguided mechanisms. All they do is quibble about minor points that have already been examined and treated by evolutionary biologists. That religious people who want to believe in creationism keep drawing from the same well about ‘randomness’ – which is not really part of evolutionary theory at all – demonstrates a lack of understanding of how selection occurs genetically. The mutation is random and occurs every day not just to billions of us in the human population but throughout all life forms.

        Just to be clear, who has what gene mutated and by what mechanism is what is termed ‘random’. That’s the only randomness going on in evolution. After a gene mutates, it may or may not affect all kinds of things. Once the change occurs (and it happens all the time with each and every one of us multiplied by the number of life forms there are here on Earth), various natural mechanisms are in play. For example, a single mutation in one of our ancestors (whose DNA had been damaged by a simian virus) fused two chromosomes that (eventually and through many, many slight inherited combinations) led to humans while in the chimp line did not. We have about 98% genetic similarity with chimps including long strands identical in every way but a specific change (evolution) at a specific genetic location can (and did) lead eventually to profound differences we label ‘speciation’. The mutation was random; the inheritance was not and neither was its expression. Inheritance is a rather exacting science with no species-wide randomness somehow at play as if usually presented by the creationist cohort. Nor is there any presumption of direction to complexity, which may explain the extraordinary length of a particular pine tree (Pinus taeda) with 23 billion base pairs compared to humans with a ‘mere’ 3 billion.

        Again, creationists tend to think of evolution as a pyramid with humans at the pinnacle (that’s the effect of religious teaching and not biology as it really is); a more accurate description is something analogous to a braided river with many tributaries and branching streams, some of which even return to the main river. Complexity properly understood is not a goal or a design feature but a product of inheritance interacting with different environments; the same is true for emergent properties that can also be very complex and give the appearance of design.

        Don’t be fooled by appearances and don’t buy into what the merchants of doubt are trying to fool you into buying. Evolutionary theory is certainly one of the greatest achievements of humanity and offers us a springboard into understanding how life operates. Its knowledge yield has been unparalleled. Every single advancement of human knowledge regarding life and how it operates rests on this central pillar of biology. Genetics simply seals the deal. To doubt this and be intellectually honest is to doubt all human knowledge based on scientific understanding and be agnostic towards all the basic understanding of all applications, therapies, and technologies today based on them that just so happen to work for everyone everywhere all the time. Moreover, it then fall to such ‘agnostics’ to come up with an alternative explanation that isn’t just equivalent in theory and knowledge yield but superior in practical applications… to not only explain why everything seems to work the way it does but by what other mechanisms heretofore unknown.

        And, at the risk of sounding offensive, that’s not going to happen by those who wave a hand towards some unknown agency of Oogity Boogity exercising some designing version of POOF!ism.

        • shields3 says:

          tildeb All I can say is brilliant. We can all definitely learn from your explanation of evolution.

          • LarryB says:

            “The theory of Evolution that evolutionists are really promoting, and which creationists oppose, is the idea that particles turned into people over time, without any need for an intelligent Designer.” This is where I get stuck and evolutionist poo poo. After that the information theory needs to be discussed. All these cells had to be programmed somehow and I cannot find anything on this. I have heard a lot of bad things though.

          • tildeb says:

            LarryB, I’m sorry you seem determined to take these issues personally. It’s not. It’s basic biology and your lack of understanding is not a reflection of either it’s explanatory power or its applicable value and for those of us who try to reveal why evolution is true is not intended as a personal attack. Saying such intentionally misrepresented things as ‘evolutionists’ rather than ‘scientists’, ‘particles to people’ rather than how life changes over time (as if you ridicule the notion that you are made up of particles) demonstrates your reluctance to even try to pry open a mind you’ve decided already knows by religious fiat.

            Change the assumptions you make about constitutes knowing, change the world you think you inhabit. The only question now is whether or not you can summon the intellectual courage and fortitude to learn and change accordingly. And that is your job as well as a reflection of the quality of your character. Your failure to even try is not my responsibility; you own your own ignorance as I own mine. The difference between us seems to be that you presume yours is a virtue whereas I think of my own as a vice.

          • shields3 says:

            larryb, I am by no means as well educated or as articulate as tildeb or many others on here, however I ask you to take time to ponder on the 4.5 billions of years the planet earth has been in existance because I think many people cannot easily envisage this amount of time. Earth has had the ability to support life for what we believe has been about 3.8 billion years due to where we are in relationship to the sun and the abundance on earth among many others of the most common organic or biological elements Oxygen, Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Sulphur that are essential for life.

            It is believed that Heterotrophic Bacteria was the first signs of life on Earth, however origin of life theories are serious scientific discussion. The chemistry is far more complicated than anything else, however as with all the previous mysteries of life that we thought were impossible to understand, there is no doubt it will eventually be explained by scientific process.

            Regardless if life started from a pool of water as bacteria or planet earth was seeded by alien visitors or rocks from space the scientists will reveal the real “intelligent designer” you seek without biblical assistance.

          • shields3 A remarkable statement of faith

          • Dina says:

            Indeed! Why is it more plausible that aliens seeded the planet than that God got the ball rolling?

          • tildeb says:

            A remarkable statement of faith?

            I’m disappointed.

            In the context shields3 wrote about having complete confidence in science to eventually produce explanations that can be demonstrated regarding abiogenesis here on Earth, I see no religious overtones of the kind of faith you imply he is exercising (in order to make a false equivalency).

            Because the term ‘faith’ has two very distinct definitions –

            1. complete trust or confidence in someone or something (shields3).

            2. strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof (both ypf and Dina)

            – we see this tactic used all the time by those who wish to imply that confidence in science and its ability to produce knowledge is equivalent to the wishful thinking and hope some people want to maintain in the existence of some divine causal agency… favourable, of course, to the one they hold (and not in any of the tens of thousands of incompatible divine agencies proposed).

            Obviously, these meanings are not the same and it’s a cheap if not dishonest attempt to pretend they are… presumably in order to score what at first blush only looks to be a gotcha point. It’s not a gotcha point at all; it’s a demonstration that the believer is not above using a bit of dishonesty to attempt to improve the inherent weakness of their religious claims.

          • tildeb Having confidence that science will find results after searching and studying is reasonable – but having confidence and “knowing” what those results will be is not – shields3 “knows” that there is no outside of nature agency involved in the origin of life – that is faith (type 2) not science And by the way – I believe in the teachings of Judaism because of reasonable proof – not because of spiritual apprehension

          • tildeb says:

            Fair enough on the former, a faith-based claim on the latter I think!

          • tildeb I sincerely respect and applaud your ability to concede this minor irrelevant point – in this world of falsehood your affinity to truth is a rare commodity. As for the second point – I will eventually try to explain – fully expecting to come under your withering critique – which I believe will bring all of us closer to the truth

          • tildeb says:

            Fair enough, that is, if shields3 claimed to ‘know’. He didn’t. What he said was, “there is no doubt it (the chemistry for abiogenesis) will eventually be explained by scientific process.” Furthermore, he said in this context “scientists will reveal the real “intelligent designer” you seek without biblical assistance.” The point he is raising is not about a claim similar to a religious faith-based claim but to emphasize that these explanations have not, do not, and will not come from studying the Torah.

          • tildeb Fair enough – My point was that shields3 seemed to be limiting the possibilities of the question of origin of life to a alien seeding or bacteria a pool of water. The act that scientists will find it without the Torah – agreed – scientists study science and there are many paths to truth with science being one of the more important ones

          • tildeb says:

            Thanks. Now if only I could say as much in fewer words!

          • larryb says:

            ouch. Makes me think of the movie elephant man. You got to give us low performing electrical impulses a shot.

          • Concerned Reader says:

            Also shields, we found liquid water on Mars, so there is that too. Something we used to think was exclusive to earth is not anymore.

          • shields3 says:

            I agree CR, the amazing details we are learning about the solar system and diversity of the planets will divulge even more information involving not just alien life but possibly major aspects of life on earth.

          • larryb says:

            For the record I do not take this personal. Also I use the word creationist along with evolutionist.
            I never said I did not believe in evolution. Life can evolve / change. AS for the rest of your comments about me, I will ignore because I do not take this nearly as personal as you. The quote I posted there is where I believe is the big “sticking point” when you remove
            all the banter back and forth about where life began and is there a god or not. It always comes up and has here to the point that people get really nasty about it. Earlier in a post I stated this
            is the first time I ever really considered your point of view about where life began I believe
            I had mentioned it to Ark.
            I bet we are going to find water in the cosmos abundantly. You might like this video.
            its the first video
            I was watching the morning talk show one day and they were showing a video being broadcast from the shuttle up there doing what shuttles do. Then as clear a daylight an object came into view, clearly visable and fairly large. Then a minute or so later what appeared to be a rocket
            was shot from the earth right at it and it skedaddled pronto. There is alot we do not know.

          • shields3 says:

            larryb I completely agree that there are a lot of things we do not know on earth or in space, however there is also a lot we do know due to modern science. We have eliminated many of the traditional superstitions and the existence of various mysteries that includes all the religions and gods developed by man from previous centuries.

            I can easily believe that there are other life forms because we have so much to learn about our own solar system and the universe. Real atheists are usually realists, very few wander from this ideal because I believe that finding out about new discoveries in any scientific field are seen as some of the most exciting events to happen within our own lifetime.

          • LarryB says:

            Full Definition of FAITH
            a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty
            b (1) : fidelity to one’s promises (2) : sincerity of intentions
            a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion
            b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust
            : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs
            — on faith
            : without question
            See faith defined for English-language learners
            “Regardless if life started from a pool of water as bacteria or planet earth was seeded by alien visitors or rocks from space the scientists will reveal the real “intelligent designer” you seek without biblical assistance.”
            That’s faith!

          • tildeb says:

            …and note the difference: faith of the religious kind requires no ‘proof’ or ‘evidence’ whereas trust and confidence in the vernacular does. More importantly, only the religious kind will brook no questioning…. otherwise the quality of the faith is reduced.

            Also, I used the OED definition as I do for all my writing.

          • Dina says:

            Tilde, Judaism encourages questioning. I suspect your point of reference is Christianity. I went to a traditional Jewish school, and from the early grades I remember that the best and brightest pupils, the ones who got the most praise, were the ones who found the most problems in Scripture.

            The teachers asked us to look for difficulties such as contradictions, misspellings, a switch from singular to plural or vice versa, etc., and then we had to read the classical commentaries to see if these difficulties had already been resolved and how. I know you think this is all piffle, I’m just telling you this to show you that we do not shy away from questioning and we do not expect blind faith from our co-religionists. We do not believe “the quality of the faith is reduced” if you have questions and doubts. Any thinking person will have those. And Judaism expects us to think. After all, we had to be smart to survive in a world that repeatedly tried to get rid of us, eh? 

          • tildeb says:

            There is no question that some religions are worse than others when it comes to questioning and believing, but all religions require some level of faith-based beliefs for their central tenets to be accepted first – and not adduced from reality itself but imposed on it by doctrine – and Judaism is no different in this regard. And yes, serious questioning of all kinds of parts of the faith is usually shown to be a part of attaining a deeper belief – but this is a sales job in that it is unidirectional… towards the faith is perfectly acceptable but never away from it. In other words, it’s okay to question… as long as it leads to the goal, which is obedience and submission self-imposed! At least, I’ve never heard of a family celebration of a family member who leaves the faith of one’s family once and for all. I am ready to be corrected.

          • tildeb The study of Talmud is an exercise which hones a person’s capability of finding truth and the line of questioning in Talmud study is not toward or against the faith – they are simply testing the proposed Talmudic theory against the accepted reality – In any case – all questions are accepted in the ideal setting of Torah study – even those which lead away from the faith. You ask if there was ever a celebration of a person leaving the faith of his family. If someone leaves his/her faith on the basis of honest questions (such as those who left on the basis of the holocaust) – there is no celebration – but their abandonment of faith is generally accepted and understood. Once we are on the subject – have you ever seen an atheist family rejoice when one of their members joins a religious group on the basis of honest questions?

          • tildeb says:

            Yes I have: several times, in fact when young people went through a confirmation or were married into a religious family. (But the circumstances are quite different in that there is no ‘doctrine’ so to speak for people to ‘leave’ a family that has no religious traditions. Religious belief of the usual kind doesn’t alter any of the previous relationships)

            Non belief I think is the default all of us share and then many people enter into accepting some kind of religious belief.

            Regarding the family celebrations, there is usually a very great deal of concern if the person is being swayed for reasons towards a faith-based way of looking at the world other than a convincing doctrine – and it’s almost always to gain access to sex. Even non-believers understand that allure! But I suspect of all the religions I have encountered, liberalized Judaism is probably the closest to being equivalent to the average non believer’s family… many of whom are populated by many religious believers I must hasten to add. But like many religions, this is the more acceptable end versus the other end that highlights fundamental beliefs. And Judaism has its share of these goat-horn blowing, spitting-on-school-girls, and demanding-their-blatant-gender-discrimination-be-respected-and-accommodated in the public domain fellows.

    • tildeb Thanks again for your comment – I take your words seriously and I will attempt to articulate a response. It will take me some time so do not take my interim silence as a lack of appreciation for what you wrote.

  3. shields3 says:

    yourphariseefriend Actually I have full confidence that scientists will find all the answers to everything given enough time and in fact I will go a step further and say “ I know” that they will not find a manmade god as the creator.

    Dina and ypf I actually thought that comment would be taken out of context by someone. It just shows how you have to latch onto a simple comment to try and justify science as faith. As tildeb pointed out to you, faith to me does not mean the same as it does to you.

    You ask “Why is it more plausible that aliens seeded the planet than that God got the ball rolling?”

    Religions and gods on this planet have “been and gone” over many thousands of years since the cave man and all have been investigated, scrutinised, tested, debated, dissected, divided, analysed, studied, reinvented thousands of times and written about by thousands of authors and all reveal the same results. Alien life is regarded as a real possibility, not an invention by man. Need I say any more? Thanks for your questions.

    • tildeb says:

      Hence the reason why religious study is considered a subject without an object… and very handy for an endless pursuit from which one can receive equivalent levels of academic ‘expertise’, from a Master’s degree (as if a Master of divinity means anything!) to various kinds of doctorates! It’s not like some god is on the panel to tell seeking student who got what correct and where someone goes off the rails of reality and switches to the track towards Crazytown. There is no means to tell the difference. Under religious study, all theses are permissible… as long as each holds to the correct academic form properly annotated… even if it is completely empty of objective substance. Why any university grants accreditation to anything other than comparative theology demonstrates the unbelievable special exemptions and privileges awarded to religion and those who ‘study’ its various, contrary, and even incompatible doctrines about the divine.

    • shileds3 How do you know that there is no God that is not manmade?

      • shields3 says:

        “ shileds3 How do you know that there is no God that is not manmade?”
        I must warn you that I am no expert on anything regarding religious history, however this quote is from a webpage that I have no reason to not believe.

        “By the end of the Babylonian exile (6th century BC), the very existence of foreign gods was denied, and Yahweh was proclaimed as the creator of the cosmos and the true god of all the world.”

        Seriously, if you can believe any 6th century community was clearly superior to any other with their social, political and scientific knowledge so advanced above the rest of the world and everything they claimed was analysed and based on rationality and made above the primitive mystical, spiritual and supernatural world prevalent in those days I could really believe he was a true god.

        It becomes even more unbelievable when you check out how Yahweh got to be in the number one position. Evidently he was a son of El who was the original god of Israel. Yahweh is a warrior and a storm-god typical of ancient Near Eastern myths and all cultures have anthropomorphized their gods into humanoid form and the Jews were no exception.

        I also discovered that “Yahweh” is an abbreviation of the longer name, “Yahweh Sabaoth.” It means, “He who musters armies.” Therefore, Yahweh’s name identifies the god primarily as the military leader of the tribe.

        Now I surely do not need to indicate to you how much credibility this offers and when you consider how many gods there have been over many thousands of years Yahweh can only be considered another man made god. Sure many do not have such a modern history as Yahweh’s, however some gods were around a whole lot longer and some still are . Hope this answers your question.

        • shields3 You don’t need to put yourself down – I appreciate your input but you didn’t answer my question. Many people believe in a God that is outside of the laws of nature. they come to this belief from various philosophical arguments – not least of which is the theory proposed to explain the mysterious origin of life – How can you know that this theory is false?

          • shields3 says:

            ypf I am sure I answered your question as far as I do not believe there is any god that is not man made. Philosophical arguments are not good enough on their own to convince me or any true atheist that any god exists. The theory as you call it that follows to explain origin of life such as intelligent design or creationism does not obtain the theoretical standard in scientific terms due to the lack of evidence to support it and because evolution is the recognised theory with the evidence and support of about 97% of scientists. I conclude that the so called theory you speak of is false.

            It is all very well to chew the fat on the issues regarding a god that exists outside the laws of nature, however anything that cannot be identified as real or factual cannot be taken seriously because human comprehension says we live in real time on a real planet, and anything else you may identify exists only inside your head.

          • shields3
            Evolution does NOT explain the origin of life – that study is called abiogenesis and remains a complete mystery to science. All I said is that God is a theory to explain this mystery – a theory as yet unproven let us say – perhaps the term to use is hypothesis or suggestion. But how can you “know” that this suggestion is not the correct answer for this mystery?

          • Yedidiah says:

            You were correct below to state that “Evolution does NOT explain the origin of life – that study is called abiogenesis …”. You were also correct to mention that the origin of life remains a mystery to science (evolution is mainly about the origin of species or the diversity of life). The commentor was a bit “off base” in stating that he “knows” what no one else knows. And the hypotheses (and not a very reasonable one) that life on earth originated elsewhere in the universe would not explain the origin of life in this universe (or any other universe). That other origin would not be explained, nor would that speculation, if proven true, “disprove God” or any other supernatural being or “force”. By definition, the supernatural can’t be disproven by natural means or by study-science, yet God can be “proven” “non-scientifically”. There are a number of different “cosmological arguments for the existence of God or a god” out there, but none truly convincing enough to convince most “non-believers”. There are atheists, because no theists have made a convincing argument to them for God. Few “real atheists” will make a claim that there is no god or that God (of the Jews or the God of Christians) does not exist. If they make that claim, then the burden of proof to show that God does not exist is up to them. So they cannot “know”- but neither can anyone else know. You made an interesting statement, “All I said is that God is a theory to explain this mystery – a theory as yet unproven…” The “mockers” may show where you make logical fallacies, but likewise, you can show where their logic is fallacious at times. Christian theologies have certain weaknesses & are vulnerable to disproof (largely because they rely so heavily on the idea of a natural man doing supernatural things supposedly, but with no real facts nor no credible witnesses – none for plus an unexplained absence of any against). But Judaism had a little different veiwpoint of reality & a different environment with Torah studies & the Talmud; it has been around a long time questioning, seeking, learning from mistakes, adapting, yet maintaining a tradition where there was no good reason to change.

          • shields3 says:

            Yedidiah. Evolutionary principles are far closer to explaining the origins of life than creationism and intelligent design based on God. The gap is huge because cosmological or supernatural arguments are based on faith and fairy tales.
            God you correctly state cannot be “proven non-scientifically” but you wrongly state:
            “Few “real atheists” will make a claim that there is no god or that God (of the Jews or the God of Christians) does not exist. If they make that claim, then the burden of proof to show that God does not exist is up to them.”
            Really? It may come as a surprise to you that real atheists do not believe in any gods of any religion, from anytime past or present or anywhere on the planet. Now which one have I left out?
            The burden of proof does not lie with atheists because we never invented any gods in the first place. Atheism is the default because we are not born religious only atheist. Christians are not targeted by fundamentalists or extremists for indoctrination into atheism. And before you ask atheism is not and cannot be classed as a religion or even a belief system because atheists do not follow a set of rules, a leader or any specific systems.
            We also do not claim any divine guidance or morals from an unseen deity like religions always do, nor do we condemn religious people to an unseen hell just as Christians always do, but we have been waiting for the evidence of these claims for a “hell” of a long time.
            Faith, cosmological arguments and theologies are pure supernatural speculation and will never come near to the natural evidence and facts of the scientific processes. Indoctrinated faith is what prevents many people from the real life they could and should be living.

          • shileds3 Evolutionary principles do not explain the origin of life at all – creationism and/or intelligent design are at least a plausible hypothesis to explain this mystery. So I disagree with your opening statement. To declare a hypothesis untrue – you need evidence. I also disagree with Yedidiah’s statement about the impossibility of proving a supernatural force from science – I believe that it is theoretically possible I do agree with your closing statement – that indoctrinated faith prevent people from living the life they should be living. The beauty of humanity lies in our ability to think and question and if this is denied to a person they miss out on the most important and meaningful adventure in life

          • Yedidiah says:

            How much money & time is spent on college & professional baseball, football, and other games when the value, purpose, and goals are only ‘man-made’ and only “exist inside our head”? The values & the accomplishments of video games are only “inside one’s head” and we may think what a big waste of time, money, talent, etc. I know someone in the music & the film industry; his music & some of his films may not be “real”, but his documentary films are about real things, real people, real social and political events or problems. I’ve studied computer programming, systems modeling, and simulations, because I imagined building “man-made” solutions to real world problems, but I also have plans to write a few novels; made-up (or disguised) stuff which are just as much about reality & truth as my non-fiction projects. I never seen a real conflict between the science of reality and the art of exploring, understanding, & explaining reality.

            Some people made up something called “The American Dream”; I’ve seen people strive for it and a few die for it. The very pragmatic & legalistic Constitution of the US starts out with & is structured & designed by the very radical, revolutionary, idealistic, utopian Preamble. This country would collapse into unreal chaos, if no one thought the ideals & the imaginary things “inside our head” weren’t real or wasn’t reasonable enough to believe.

  4. Pingback: Mountains and Molehills – an open letter to tildeb | 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources

  5. Fred says:

    The problem with “proving God scientifically”, at least in the sense of miracles, is that God does not work on our schedule or at our whim. God does not wait for a camera to be set up to do His work. That is not to say that there have not been witnessed events take place that defy natural explanation and in fact appear to contradict natural processes, such as, a speeding car approaching a pedestrian, the man disappearing for a second as the car approached and then reappearing in the same spot after the car passed. The only question is whether you believe the man and the witnesses who saw this take place. And the real question is whether one is WILLING to believe such report or not, since that directly equates to whether one does. Committed Atheists do not accept supernatural phenomena because according to their worldview, it CAN’T happen (even if they experienced it themselves). There MUST be an explanation that does not include the supernatural, even though they have no clue what that might be. So rather than believe the report, they shrug it off, believing the man and the witnesses are all either mistaken as to what they saw, are all liars or are all deluded.

    • tildeb says:

      This is an excellent example of the mental gymnastics and intellectual dishonesty required to continue to believe in the unbelievable.

      You are willing to believe that our understanding of how reality operates is, in fact wrong (conveniently ignoring all evidence to the contrary), that the laws of how this reality operates can be (not might be) and is suspended just long enough for some heretofore unknowable interventionist agency to act in causal way that is witnessed correctly… and that just so happens to align with your preferred supernatural agency. How very convenient. And not one whit of this causal agency making the slightest ripple in any independent means to capture this extraordinary yet apparently reasonable intervention. Again, how convenient.

      This is in spite of us already knowing just how unreliable interpreted witnessed testimony can be. You weight this possibility of unreliability as low. How convenient.

      You are willing to grant greater trust to the interpretive ability of a witness of a supernatural event than, say, atomic clocks that register no time differential, greater trust int he interpretive witness than, say, all the available evidence that demonstrates the forces we know are in constant operation for everyone everywhere all the time. Not good enough for you. No sir. You suggest that it is our understanding and reliance on reality as we understand it to be is actually the questionable factor here, whereas the supernatural interpretation of a witnessed event is correct.

      This in spite of thousands upon thousands of demonstrations daily that these forces are so consistent that you are not only willing to bet your life on it but do every day. You weight this possibility of reality being different than it demonstrates itself to be as high.

      You then switch responsibility for this perverted weighting on those who point out how skewed this version really is and you then claim they do so not because of reasonable merit but because they are philosophically unwilling to consider your perversion of appropriate evidence-based weighting of probability as equivalently meritorious. Wow. The convenience is remarkable.

      There is nothing anyone can say or do based on evidence adduced from reality to overturn the decision you have made to render any contrary evidence from reality as useless, as part of some scientific plot to deny the Lord Your God. Again, the convenience is astounding.

      This is faith-based belief in action. It is not reasonable. It is not subject to reality’s arbitration of it. It is a way to avoid reality’s unfavourable arbitration of your beliefs. And it is a cheap and dishonest tactic that then tries to sell your unreasonable garrison mentality (rendering any competing and contrary and incompatible evidence adduced from reality as part of some grand conspiracy) as a problem created by non believers to undermine whatever woo you want to believe in and then try to sell to the credulous and gullible as equivalently ‘reasonable’.

      Well, it’s not reasonable according to reality. It is a belief that fits the very definition of unreasonable: a rejection of reason because it is supported by compelling evidence you don’t like and are unwilling to incorporate into the level of confidence you want to place on your religious beliefs. There’s a medical term for this kind of maintained viewpoint… and it’s not ‘convenient’.

    • Yedidiah says:

      The best time to believe something is when there is evidence to believe something. Extraordinary claims requires extraordinary evidence. Witnesses may claim that “aliens from outer space exist, because they seen them”. It would not be “shrugging them off” to ask for more evidence. How does the “witness” know the things were “aliens from outer space”, instead of pilots secretly testing out stealth fighter jets? Why would you reject the idea that some people do lie, or that some are people crooked con artists, or that some people imagine things, or some hallucinate for unknown reasons, or some forget details, or some people confuse things and are mistaken, some eye witnesses change “their story” several times and have been proven to be unreliable? Why accept as truth what others only speculate might be the truth? In a law court, the accused is innocent until proven guilty. Most people who believe in God required “evidence” sufficient for them to believe. Look around, how many people believe in things or ideas or leaders there is absolutely no way you could believe those things (such as terrorist bombers, weird cult leaders, etc, who believe in the “supernatural”)

      • Fred says:

        I reject the idea of “guilt by association” when it comes to miracles and supernatural events. I think Jews ( and atheists) need to accept that these things happen, and they happen to people other than Jews. I get that atheists cannot accept them. Heck, I had a an atheistic friend who was miraculously healed of an injury and he “believed” for a while. But when his atheistic tendencies kicked back in over a few months, he changed his view of his own experience to : “the power of my own mind did the healing”. However, he was never able to “miraculously heal himself” ever again. You see, even after rejecting the supernatural explanation, he did not reject that something unprecedented occurred. he just found a way to “explain” it in a way that allowed for his world view to remain unchallenged.

        I add ( with no offense meant) that Tildeb’s “reality” is very limited, mostly by his own mind and skepticism. No doubt a very comfortable place to be. But there is a greater reality that far exceeds that one dimensional, purely natural and stale reality. But it is arrogant, I suppose, to say that because your reality is so limited that anyone else who experiences a greater reality must be delusional or a liar, and that their word cannot be trusted simply because one’s limited version of “reality” does not allow for their report of the experience without “concrete evidence” ( which would be rejected anyway).

        Because of what I have experienced, I can believe without a doubt that God can part the Red Sea and cause hail to fall as fire on the ground. I do not have to be one of those confused people who sit in Shul wearing a Tallis with Tzittzit while disbelieving that they were even commanded ( then why are you wearing them?). I am definitely blessed to not be lowered to a stale and boring reality of “I don’t believe anything anyone says if it does not fit my narrow view of what is acceptably real”.

        Heck, that would make me no different than the “flat earth” people of yesteryear who thought one could fall off the edge of the earth, and would not change their minds unless someone actually sailed around the globe and came back from the other direction.

        If you prefer a “scientifically-reproducible” reality, then more power to you. I enjoy experiencing God in my life, and He has been very good to me in that respect. That reality is so much greater. I cannot even fathom being like Tildeb. It would be like having my eyes put out….and claiming it improved my vision.
        Shalom! 🙂

        • Dina says:

          Sorry, Fred, I’m with Tilde on this one. Eyewitness testimony is often unreliable and what appears to be a supernatural phenomenon is usually easily explained (like ghostly apparitions appearing in photographs). It’s good to be open-minded but it’s also healthy to be skeptical. It’s wrong to base your faith on reported miracles and/or spiritual experiences.

          • Fred says:

            “Eyewitness testimony is often unreliable and what appears to be a supernatural phenomenon is usually easily explained (like ghostly apparitions appearing in photographs).”

            So let me ask you, Dina. Do you believe God split the Red Sea? Why? Could it be that it was a mass delusion and that the so-called eyewitnesses are “unreliable”? Or maybe as Ark said, it never happened and is just a myth. Do you believe the prophets? How can a person know what is going to happen hundreds of years into the future? Why do you accept the prophets, when there is not a shred of scientific proof to back them up? Where is your “healthy skepticism”?

            I dare say your own faith is based on reported miracles and spiritual experiences. Am I wrong? I also say Tildeb’s faith is the same, but is based on trust in atheistic scientists and their theories.

            Or is it possible that Christianity has had a bigger effect on the current views of Jews than Torah has? You know, that because Christians claim supernatural events take place, then as Jews we are morally obligated to say that they can’t?

            Again, I am glad I am not so cynical.

          • Fred and Dina When I originally wrote that it is theoretically possible to discover God through science I was not thinking about miracles – I was thinking more in the line of proving the impossibility of the complexity of life being the product of a natural unguided process. When it comes to miracles atheists point to the unreliability of eyewitnesses which is only relevant in an event that happened quickly – where there is nothing to go by but eyewitnesses and the eyewitnesses need to interpret the events that happened very quickly – but how about events that take time – such as the splitting of the Red Sea – are eyewitnesses unreliable there as well? Or how about a healing that is not explainable through any known natural method – you don’t need eyewitnesses for that one you would have medical records. How about the miracles during the first Gulf-War that took place when Israel was hit by 39 Scud attacks? that is not a matter of relying on eyewitnesses – those are clearly documented events. In that situation even the atheistic anti-religious Israeli papers used words like miracles. But I still wouldn’t use miracles in a discussion with an atheist because it is so foreign to their frame of reference. But I do think that when a person sees the hand of God in their own life – they do not need to brush it under the rug of illusion or delusion – however – I wouldn’t expect other people to change their own life on the basis of my experience.

          • Dina says:

            Rabbi B., you often say what I mean but much better :). This is a balanced view.

          • tildeb says:

            See, Fred, there you go again intentionally abusing the meaning of ‘faith’ to make a false equivalency. You very intentionally say “I dare say your own faith is based on reported miracles and spiritual experiences. Am I wrong? I also say Tildeb’s faith is the same, but is based on trust in atheistic scientists and their theories.”

            That’s NOT the same kind of faith at all, and you know that perfectly well. I don;t trust cell phones because I believe they operate on a miraculous basis; I trust cell phones because they work according to our understanding of how reality operates. They operate REGARDLESS of claims of woo I try to impose on their operation. Your religious claims do not and so you must have faith of the religious kind to maintain them. There’s your difference.

            Yes, I have a very great deal of confidence in the scientific method… and so do you. But it is NOT because you have a religious kind of faith-based confidence in in atheistic</i. scientists, is it? In fact, you know perfectly well that good science is good science is good science regardless of whatever religious faith the practitioner may hold. But you misrepresent what’s true to cast aspersions on the kind of trust both you and I have in, say, aerodynamics… enough to get on an airplane, risk our lives on the understanding that has gone into these machines, and have a very high degree of confidence that the wings will work according to the scientific understanding – and not this weird and distorted version of atheistic science you claim is out there somewhere. Using the term ‘atheistic’ in this pejorative sense as you do demonstrates not just the dismissal you exercise on faith-based grounds of its ability to work for everyone everywhere all the time but the very disconnect you rely on (from allowing reality’s arbitration of claims made about it) to maintain your religious beliefs.

            When your position requires this kind of hypocrisy, misrepresentation, and false accusations, then you know there is something terribly wrong ion your reasoning. The real question is, what are going to do about it and how does whatever decision you make reflect how much or little respect you want others to have for your intellectual integrity? That’s up to you but I think exchanging integrity for piety is always a poor exchange.

  6. Yedidiah says:

    To shields3, at 7:06 , 25 Oct 15.
    I usually don’t like address individuals, because it can be taken personally the wrong way and because it is about arguments and not about the ones making the arguments. But I want to address each of your points in the particular post above. In particular, your views of claims, assertions, or burden of proof.

    Please prove that “Evolutionary principles are far closer to explaining the origins of life…” Sounds like it would take more than a hour .

    Please prove that “the gap is huge because cosmological or supernatural arguments are based on … fairy tales”.

You incorrectly stated that I stated that God “cannot be “proven non-scientifically” . Prove “scientically” that God can be proven to not exist.

    It is true and I did not wrongly state that, 
“Few “real atheists” will make a claim that there is no god or that God, etc”. Whoever makes a claim or an assertion has the burden of proof. Many atheists will therefore take the position (at least public discussions or debates) of “weak atheism” instead of “strong atheism”. I encourage you to look up the definitions. If you want you can call into a weekly hour long Internet call-in show called “The Atheist Experience” based in Austin Texas. I have listened to many dozens of their shows (they used to be on a local public access show streamed on the internet & they also have a bi-monthly 1 & 1/2 radio show), so little of what they believe comes as a surprise to me. Don’t assume my ignorance “Atheism” or most “Athiests” without justification.

    Again, when anyone asserts a positive claim, the burden of proof lies them. It doesn’t matter if you or “we never invented any gods in the first place”. Prove that their God was “invented” or else you may not want to assert such a statement as a truth instead of as an opinion. State a credible, scientific reference that “Atheism is the default because we are not born religious only atheist”. Logically it would seem that one cannot have a dis-belief, unless they first encounter a belief. One is not born with many things. Unless perhaps you can show that there is an “atheist” gene, but then the vast majority of Americans come to reject the validity of their atheism once these babies grow up to be rational & critical thinkers. Now, I am not saying that the majority are rational thinkers, just that the opinion that “atheism is the default” is not supported by evidence.

    You seem a bit biased or prejudiced. I would not ask & I would never state that atheism is a religion. But one can have a belief, without being part of a “belief system”. Even some religious people do not follow a set of rules, a leader or any specific system. I have heard pastors, even of big churches, say they are “not religious” and they hate religion because religion is “from man” and “not God”. They believe in Jesus and God, not “man made religion”. So are these Christians “atheists” as well?

    It appears you have a bias or is it just ignorance again? Quite a few “religious people” don’t believe in a hell, much less think non-believers will be sent their. Jews don’t, Christians of certain denominations don’t, etc. It is wise not to make such fallacious generalizations (maybe you can do a bit more studying of beliefs of those you attack, if you want to be persuasive & convincing).

    Again, “pure” “supernatural speculation” is not subject to the laws of “natural evidence and facts of the scientific processes”. You may want to study about logical fallacies. You may also want to study some debates between well known Atheists & Theists and see what arguments work and which ones show your bias or ignorance. I don’t think you are ready to prove that your assertions and speculations about “supernatural speculations” are convincing.

    • shields3 says:

      I do not take these things personally. Explaining evolutionary principles are better left to the web pages to explain and for evolution to occur life must have begun, therefore what is informative is to see how science is advancing towards finding out exactly how the first life formed on earth so check out these sites.
      If you have no basic knowledge of evolution or the science as an adult (that I assume you are) you will not have any real interest in this subject or the scientific theories because your religion will dictate how this event occurred and I am just wasting your time.
      The science available today has advanced so far it has unintentionally gone a long way in providing evidence that a god creator of everything is extremely unlikely to exist. Granted the evidence is not quite 100% conclusive just yet but it is an inevitable result. This is why I say the gap between scientific knowledge and any cosmological or supernatural arguments is huge, and in fact getting wider every decade.
      Atheist is defined as non-belief. I use the term “real atheists” and my definition of this must be a strong atheism. I understand what you say about different levels of atheism.
      You claim – “when anyone asserts a positive claim, the burden of proof lies them” So does this mean you will not positively claim God is real? As I have said the science is far more advanced in the disproving any gods exist as against any existing and science will eventually put it beyond all doubt.
      You say– “state a credible, scientific reference that “Atheism is the default because we are not born religious only atheist”. I have applied some logic that may not be yours, but it appears logical that all children are born non-believing atheists because they cannot be indoctrinated in the womb (unless there is a system I do not know) and I cannot see why this is difficult to understand.
      It is also nonsense to suggest -“Logically it would seem that one cannot have a dis-belief, unless they first encounter a belief.” Or “show that there is an “atheist” gene,” as an argument against beginning life as a non-believer.
      You ask- “I have heard pastors, even of big churches, say they are “not religious” and they hate religion because religion is “from man” and “not God”. They believe in Jesus and God, not “man made religion”. So are these Christians “atheists” as well?” You are quite mixed up in your definition of atheism as I have said, please read it again and you will answer your own question.
      The heaven and hell concept is a common Christian belief and I used hell as an example of a common event when blogging with them, so keep your hair on.
      Fine if you want to get personal with your ignorance accusations, however if it helps you to feel you have a good argument who am I to burst your bubble.
      You say I should study logical fallacies, well the definition is: “A flaw in the structure of a deductive argument which renders the argument invalid.” Well my argument is squarely in the scientific camp where the flaws are being eliminated by the scientists, because that is what they do best, so how are your flaw’s being addressed? Oh that’s right faith tells you there is none.

      • Dina says:

        Judaism also has a heaven-and-hell concept, but as with so many words that Christians use, like Satan, the same words in Judaism describe a very different idea. The Jewish idea of the afterlife is worlds apart from the Christian one just as the Christian idea of Satan is worlds apart from the Jewish one and just as the Christian idea of monotheism is worlds apart from the Jewish one. Not very relevant to this discussion and not at all interesting to atheists but I just wanted to clarify this tiny detail.

        • shields3 says:

          Thanks Dina for this comment, I always thought Judaism and Christianity viewed heaven and hell exactly the same way.

          • Dina says:

            You’re welcome, Shields! Christianity and Judaism use the same vocabulary but have very different meanings–we don’t even mean the same thing when we say “God.” 🙂

      • shileds3 Science has not been “advancing towards finding out exactly how life formed” Science has been searching for the answer for this question – but no progress has been made for about 100 years now – so it is inaccurate to say “advancing”. To assume that religious people have no interest in this subject or in scientific theory is primitive prejudice. To say that science has gone a long way in proving that a creator is unlikely to exist is an unsubstantiated statement – if anything science has consistently learned more and more about the sophistication and complexity of nature making more and more unlikely that a rational person could deny that a supernatural designer exists. I understand where you are coming from that the default is atheism because we are born without any belief but this is not so simple from a philosophical standpoint – but philosophy aside – intelligent design is a completely natural argument so again – it is inaccurate to say that the default of thinking human beings is atheism. One more thing – religion does not have a monopoly on controlling people’s minds – atheists are pretty good at this as well. all of us need to be free to think without intimidation and an open respectful discussion is one of the best tools to promote such thinking

        • shields3 says:

          ypf -You claim: “Science has not been “advancing towards finding out exactly how life formed” Science has been searching for the answer for this question – but no progress has been made for about 100 years now.” Do you not bother to use the internet to check the facts on reputable sites before you categorically claim anything?
          The earth is made up of elements and many have come to earth from meteorites and comets for over billions of years? New minerals have been found within a meteorite that fell to earth over 40 years ago, of course it does not answer the beginning of life but it is the sort of step to understanding the origins of the solar system and ultimately the beginning of life. The point I want to make is that this is a good example of how easily alien life or the elements required to form life within Earth’s environment could have travelled from a destination unknown somewhere within the universe.
          Scientists at the European Space Agency sent a spacecraft called Rosetta is and used a lander, named Philae that made contact with a comet on Nov. 12, 2014. Scientists hoped the mission would have provided a key to many questions about the origins of the solar system and, perhaps, life on Earth, but unfortunately Philae was unable to send much data because it landed in a shaded area and the solar batteries ran out of power.
          We now have a lot of interest in Mars with both NASA and European Space Agency planning on sending landers to mars in the near future and this will definitely answer many question and may take us closer to what we want to know.
          “Now scientists have developed an experiment demonstrating how the very first self-replicating molecules may have formed about 4 billion years ago when the Earth was like any other lifeless planet that had yet to experience the radical transformation of living, breathing creatures.” I quoted this passage from this address below, check it out yourself.
          here is another on the same subject.

          • shields3 I am not a scientist but I try to read and educate myself on these subjects because I have an interest in them. back in 1924 a Russian scientist – Alexander Oparin studied abiogenesis and proposed a theoretical model but he had no clue about the complexity of the simplest living organism – science has made great advancement in that field (discovering the complexity of mature) and Oparin’s theories have been left behind. Since then certain models have been proposed (such as Miller 1953) that could perhaps explain how some of the amino acids could have developed but this still doesn’t touch the question of information – where did the information contained in the DNA of the simplest living organism come from – as far as I am aware no one has progressed in this field – I will read the articles you referenced – but as of yet I see no reason to justify the statement that science has progressed in this field

          • tildeb says:

            ypf, I know you say you have an interest in this area and that might even be true, but how one approaches and exercises an interest is vital to the results. If we begin by without recognizing our biases and prejudices then the results will be very skewed and this is exactly what we find in various ‘denialist’ camps… from anti-vaccine ‘proponents’ to anti-climate change ‘proponents’. The interest has collected only that information which seems to support a bias. And this is certainly the case for anyone interested in research into how life began.

            For example, during a summer internship back in the early 80s I was part of a team working with ice core samples from the Antarctic. Part of the impetus for the research was trying to figure out how in such a pristine environment sunlight on surface ice regularly produced green and blue algae. Where was this ‘life’ coming from and how did it appear seemingly out of nothing? Well, it turns out that microscopic pollen, frozen and inert for tens of thousands of years, was likely the primary seed, so to speak. And this is typical of much research into abiogenesis: ruling out many hypotheses, paring down the possibilities. And much paring has been done.

            So far, there is no smoking gun, but many biologists will tell you that we are fast approaching the understanding how life could have begun given certain conditions and many wager with confidence earned from this on going research that such new ‘life’ will be created in the lab in the near rather than distant future. We are close.

            Your return to to the well of ‘information’ reveals just such a bias because you presume that the instructions for chemical operations must be supplied first. But when we look very carefully at the most basic units of chemistry involved in life – biochemistry – we arrive at the conclusion that the only necessary instruction is the force of gravity operating on the most basic levels of elements. There the mother lode for all resulting ‘information’: local units obeying local rules. That’s it. That process multiplied over time by googals of interactions produces astounding biological complexity and emergent properties that only appear to be ‘designed’. So, again, don’t let appearances fool you. If you really are interested in how basic physical forces operating on basic chemical units can produce life, the dive into biochemistry. That – not religious belief – will yield remarkable knowledge about and deepen your appreciation for the ‘miracle’ that is life.

          • tildeb I appreciate my bias and I will be the first to acknowledge it – although I have never formally studied science (beyond high school) I try to keep up to date on new scientific discoveries through friends of mine who have studied science and are still studying science. That being said – I will repeat that I am familiar with strategies and tactics of persuasion and I try to identify and call them out when I see them – perhaps my bias has me calling them out in the wrong places – but perhaps your bias is having you defend them inappropriately? One of the best ways of getting to the truth beyond our personal biases is through open and respectful discussion.

      • Yedidiah says:

        When one argues it is usually best to either know a bit about the person you are arguing or debating with or else one might be wise to keep their comments general and non-personal, as if one were giving a lecture to some random or unknown audience that you were trying to convince. Some people get defensive when they are insulted and they won’t hear what you say. Depending who your audience is or who you are debating, that may be a tactic/strategy.
        I mentioned a few things that may have seemed irrelevant, but were not. When one assumes, as the cliche goes – you are most likely to be wrong & the egg might only be your face. That is why I mentioned that you should be mindful of bias and prejudice. Maybe I have BS degrees in Animal Science, in Plant Science, & Computer Science & a Masters in Environmental Science. Or, maybe not. Maybe, for decades I was an Atheist or I am an Atheist. Maybe or maybe not. Maybe you read things that I wrote before; depends on what you have read. What I was or what I am matters little on some of the points that I have made or will make. Don’t write as if you know something when you don’t know that something. So that I don’t mislead you to commit other errors, I was not born or raised as a Jew, nor did I convert to Judaism.

        So, don’t assume that I am not a scientist. Btw, don’t assume Christians or Jews can’t be world renown & respected scientists or “evolutionists”. Ask them how they reconcile their faith with science; it might surprise you that their beliefs might be better grounded in science than your belief are.

        Don’t think that I just playing a game with semantics, but words have meanings and I try to use words to say what I mean (sometimes I use them incorrectly or I don’t edit my comments well). So when I wrote dis-belief (or disbelief), I meant “the inability or refusal to believe or to accept something as true”. You can’t “dis- something if something is not already there. The word “atheism” did not exist before the word “theism” existed (that is why some or perhaps many “atheists”, most notably recently Sam Harris, don’t like to use that term for themselves). What is belief? People can believe many things/ideas that have absolutely nothing to do with “God” or “gods” or “supernatural, etc. So how do you get “non-belief”? Is one able to think without engaging in “belief” of some type? An infant has very little knowledge and is ignorant about “our reality”. So, (I assume you are not, but…) are you saying that that “state of ignorance of reality” (both of religion AND of science) is the “state of atheism”? Is the fetus a scientist & if so, which type; neuroscientist, physicist, mathematician, Christian Scientist, etc? When did the infant get “indoctrinated” into science (Yes, philosophically & linguistically, science is also a doctrine, a “special kind”. We could say that scientific doctrine is “a shared set of beliefs held by members of the scientific community concerning the validity and utility of the scientific method.”). Do you only rely on logic & not science when you assert your belief that the “default is atheism”? Is your assertion falsifiable? Your assertion is not too difficult for me to understand, but I can still ask you for a science reference for your claim. And is there a weakness or vulnerability of this “atheism” to indoctrination away from atheism as the child is corrupted by “the world”? Some theists likewise assert that the default of the fetus & the infant is a “pure & innocent & godly nature” that is only corrupted, as the child grows up, by “the world” and by satan. You assert, they assert.

        It was not really a claim, but I offered some “proof” by way of an example or by copy-pasting from a dictionary, when I wrote “when anyone asserts a positive claim, the burden of proof lies them”. You asked, “So does this mean you will not positively claim God is real?”, but I will make no claim right here. I could say that I don’t know. But then again, I could say I might know.

        Yes, I mentioned pastors saying that “they are not ‘religious'” and that “they hate ‘religion’ because it is ‘man-made'”. And you asked,
        “So are these Christians “atheists” as well?” Well, about 2000 years ago some Romans & Greeks (leaders, theist, or philosophers) called religious Jews “atheists” because Jews had a disbelief or a “non-belief” in gods (those worshipped or accepted by Romans, Greeks, or others). These Jews rejected the “theism”, they were without “theism”, so one would call them “atheists”. Christians theists reject or have a non-belief in all gods, but 1. As some modern atheists may say to some theists (mainly Christians) “I am like you, I only believe in 1 less god”. But all of that was not my point. Apparently, my sarcasm about a few statements or tired cliches or prejudices of your’s, like ‘man-made” religion, etc., escaped you. Likewise, I was confused when you wrote, “You are quite mixed up in your definition of atheism … please read it again and you will answer your own question.” I don’t recall giving my definition of atheism, at least not the one that I copied from my phone app “Skeptics Dictionary”. BTW, I used the term “real atheists” deliberately, despite that I was committing the “no true Scotsman fallacy”. I really doubt that I was mixed up. So, I also don’t know what you mean by “keep your hair on”, “your ignorant accusations”, “who am I to burst your bubble”, “how are your flaws being addressed”, “oh that’s right faith tells you there is none”, etc. I could interpret these phrases of yours as “childish insult”, “ignorant accusations”, “I wasn’t chewing any bubble gum”, “my flaws were not once addressed by you”, “faith, if I have any, didn’t tell me that I had no flaws and reason tells me you have many flaws in reasoning “, etc.

        • Yedidiah says:

          Because it is difficult to see which reply is to whom & when or to where, my last reply dated “Oct 26, 2015, 10:56pm” was a reply mainly to “shields3″s comments on “Oct 26, 2015, 08:20am”.

        • tildeb says:

          I think shield3 is rather put off by such a pedantic style of ‘correction’ you keep using. The point raised, for example, about the default position of non belief in children that has to then be intentionally altered by specific teaching to become a believer in any religious doctrine shield3 raises isn’t ‘corrected’ by explaining that one must first require a belief before one can then not believe it. And it’s simply wrong to suggest that any of the four horsemen of New Atheism might have a problem with using the self-identifier of ‘atheist’ in such a discussion is really reaching. In the context of the preceding commentary, this meaning of ‘atheist’ for children who start off not believing in a particular religious doctrine is as obvious as it is unquestionably true. That you wish to head off into philosophical minutia about requiring a belief before one can self-identify as a non believer is incredibly pedantic and quite out of place. That you feel yourself justified to offer such commentary I think evokes exactly the kind of dismissive tonal response shield3 then uses, and delving once again into a ‘correction’ mode isn’t going to improve the quality of the conversation about where the burden of proof lies to justify claims of knowing but bog it down into a philosophical and linguistic morass. Is this your intent?

          In the same way that Dawkins and Hitchens admit to being agnostic about religious claims to ‘knowing’, you know perfectly well that the emphasis of their involvement is about justifiable rejection in these claims. That rejection of knowledge claims through religious belief is what they write and talk about. They don’t ‘believe’ any of these claims, which by definition, makes them non believers and so, in the vernacular, anyone who doesn’t assume these claims are true are similarly identified not as non believers but ‘atheist’. See how we have crossed the knowledge/belief boundary effortlessly?

          Non believers are typically called ‘atheists’ and as you say, many people are labeled as such… including Christians in ancient Rome. But that’s not very helpful responding to the shield3’s claim you actually criticize about not believing as a the default. Yet that is the obvious meaning shield3 is using and the commentary used once again plainly demonstrates this in contrast to claims based on a starting position that people must first have a belief before rejecting it and becoming a non believer.

          So, my question is: is this true?

          Well I sincerely doubt anyone reading this commentary must first consider the merits of believing in, say, Chalchiutotolin to not believe that diseases are caused by a particular divine agency. The default all of us share is non belief in such a claim. All of us would need to be convinced that there is compelling evidence to assign causal agency to such a critter or we will continue not believing. Notably, none of us must first examine the ‘knowledge’ claim first as you suggest we must do to admit our ‘atheism’ in this context and not believe in Chalchiutotolin.

          This cross-over is absolutely typical. That’s why there is almost always a cross-over between the subjects of knowledge (claims to know) and subjects of faith (claims of belief) in such discussions as we are having here. But the point I wish to raise for your own consideration is that it is obvious that you do not take other commentators to task for this same typical cross-over but save your supposed ‘teaching’ for shield3’s elucidation, which can understandably be taken as dismissive arrogance deserving of the same.

          • Yedidiah says:

            tilde: Critique & correction plays an important part in a discussion. I will apologize to shields if I personally upset him and he was “put off”. He has not indicated that to me and his comments were similar in tone to those he had made to others. In fact it was his comments to others that encouraged me to first comment. I responded to him first after he had posted several comments that appeared not to helpful. I stated that he should not take my comments personally. He replied, “I do not take these things personally”. I apologize if I did not make my comments, meant to be helpful, better misunderstood or to be misconstrued to be arrogance.

            If I feel that I need to, I might take an approach that may be mistaken that I am being pedantic or that I am lecturing. The word “pedantic” may be defined as a “pretentious show to impress others” or as “overly concerned with detail or formalism”. I reject that the first applies to me, but others may disagree when they are ignorant of my intent or of my personal beliefs. Of course, when you are commenting you most often intend to impress, with facts, reason, sympathy, etc. The 1st time commenting, with an intent to correct someone on their biases or prejudices, unreasonable assertion, or what may be perceived as their anger and arrogance, I may confront them with examples or words that hint to them, hopefully, to be cautious and to seek self-correction. To help the discussion, perhaps I should summarize my main points, in order to be better understood. If they don’t the hint, then less subtle words may be required and if they persist in their ways, then stronger words might be needed for some, and they might appear to be a show. But as you see, I was not being “overly concerned about details or formalism”. I prefer to give short, clear comments, but often I am forced to elaborate with a “wall of text” that often isn’t read at all or is read carelessly.

            My comment that included Sam Harris was not a criticism of him, but an attempt to show examples that differences of opinion exists between Atheists, and that fact cannot, on the one hand be exploited (saying they are “free thinkers” & don’t all think alike) and on the other hand ignored or denied. It is commendable to say that “Dawkins and Hitchens admitted to being agnostic…” (even if that “agnosticism” is 6.9 on a scale of 1 to 7). I was prompted to invoke Harris’ name when I was reminded of a u-tube clip of one of his speeches that I seen months ago, where he was discussing the issue of or the hope of “retiring the word atheist”. Although he thought it was “too early” for that now, atheists should work toward that goal as well as to “take back some other words that Christians took”, such as “spiritually”. You most likely are aware of the controversy within the “atheist community” of his take on “spirituality”. You probably heard about atheists who wanted to be called “brights” or other identifiers. Quite a few people know of atheists who will not be identified in any way with the term atheist or atheism. Some only identify themselves (for several different reasons) as Humanists or free-thinkers or non-religious or some other term. Do not deny diversity. Some new (& long-time) atheists desire to have an “atheist church” and some atheists attend and may be members of a Unitarian-Universalist Church. Robert M. Price calls himself a “Christian Atheist” and a few other theologians openly say they are atheists (& by the definition of Atheism, they are who they say they are). Some atheists in America will recite “Humanist prayers” at their next Thanksgiving Dinner. Some Jews call themselves Jewish Atheists, because they love & want to keep the “Jewish culture” they were raised in.

            I also mentioned Harris because a quote he made in an interview about 10 years ago supports some of my earlier arguments. He stated that “We don’t have a word for not believing in Zeus, which is to say we are all atheists in respect to Zeus.” In that same interview he also stated we must “… achieve a level of intellectual honesty where we are no longer going to pretend to be certain about things we are not certain about”. Of course, he stated it mainly about theists, but why shouldn’t it apply to any “non-believer”, “free-thinker”, or atheist? The “rules of reason” and critical thinking apply to all people.

            Whoa, now. Where did I assert or imply or even suggest that one must “become a believer in any religious doctrine” or “that one must first require a belief before one can then not believe it”? Where oh where did I make “claims based on a starting position that people must first have a belief before rejecting it and becoming a non believer”. You insult me greatly by believing & stating that I would commit such a huge logical fallacy, but now, I can dismiss it as a simple misreading on your part. So, in one case, I used the word “encounter”, which does not mean either “accept” or “become”. I used a word whose root means “do the opposite of” or “apart” or “away from”. I have heard the sayings of “think before you act” or “Philosophy precedes Technology,” but what and/or where is this “‘philosophical minutia” “requiring a belief before one can self-identify as a non believer is incredibly pedantic and quite out of place”. I know I didn’t assert or even suggest “requiring a belief”. And I disagree that logic is “minutia” or “out of place” or that using reason is somehow “pedantic”.

            Don’t become guilty, as some atheists appear to have, of “hero worship” of the “four horsemen”. Of course, a lot of Christians believe that they are “The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse”, the “beast & abomination, etc.”, of their book of the Revelation of John. What set of rules or doctrine or whatever differentiates “New Atheism” from just regular Atheism? Or, was “New Atheism” a term Christians invented & atheists accepted? It seems you may have been making a “strawman” argument with your “Chalchiutotolin”, before once again rehashing a few more times, of what I did not assert or suggest when shields made an assertion that he could not justify with evidence. Making a claim about Chalchiutotolin would be a brand new claim in a social & cultural environment where previous theistic claims already existed for generations and several thousand years and where those claims are “deeply” held and believed.

            I am sorry that one feels that the “dismissive tonal response” that I had to initially respond to by suggesting caution with their tone to others, or self-correction about prejudices, or about making assertions and where burden of proof lies. The response normally expected would be “thanks” and not a somewhat arrogant dismissal. Now it is a false claim that I did not reply to others with a note of caution or correction (to YPF and to Fred, while others were responding to the others sufficiently). After I responded to Fred, I then seen your long and withering response to him. Your response to him was far more egregious then anything I have ever written. So it appears very hypocritical of you to lecture me. But I feel no offense, despite your attack on me being far less conducive to a good discussion.

        • shields3 says:

          Yedidiah, As far as our conversation was going I am not offended by anything you wrote. As tildeb pointed out your comments were pedantic or more to the point desperate and not allowing further sensible discussion. As for your beliefs, you have never exactly said what you are, however you have been arguing from the theist point of view so it is only logical that I assumed you are religious. What religion? I do not know and it is besides the point regarding the discussions we have had. I am an atheist as you know by now and the definition is that atheists do not believe in a god or any gods and that is why the non-religious pastors you mention who still believe in a god do not qualify as atheists. I think you have also gone off in a bit of a tangent with some comments especially about a foetus and infants so I will pass without commenting on this. BTW “keep your hair on” is another way of saying don’t get to excited and scathing with your comment.

          • Yedidiah says:

            Mr Shields, it is good to see that you were not offended although someone else perceived that you were at least “put off”, which sounds like he thought that you were offended to some degree. Perhaps you were, since you imagine that I was somehow “desperate”. Perhaps because I had to more forcefully attempt to show you where you had made some unfounded assumptions or made an assertion that it seemed you were unwilling to show any proof for. I doubt that I was any more pedantic then you (or tilde or some others) were at times. I try to imagine how others might personally feel or respond to my comments and I feel that it is helpful to suggest to you that you also consider how others feel about what you write. Suggesting that one should be more of a critical thinker, especially when you are addressing an individual or an audience that disagrees with you and that you are trying to persuade by your arguments, is not being pedantic.

  7. larryb says:

    One of the things that have always bothered me about the 2 articles you gave links to is their headlines.
    Title article 1
    -Found: the origin of life-
    -Scientists solve the mystery of how the Earth was transformed:-
    We haven’t yet made the RNA molecule itself but we’ve made two of the
    four sub-units or building blocks. It “suggests” that making the molecule is possible.
    Title article 2
    -Researchers may have solved origin-of-life conundrum:-
    Although the new work does not prove that this is how life started, it “may eventually help explain”
    one of the deepest mysteries in modern science.
    Running test is not progress. I bet this will end up in conversation that scientist have found the origins of life.

    • tildeb says:

      I agree that headlines often are very bad science and they bother me, too. The point is that research that can affect our understanding of abiogenesis is very much ongoing and very much advancing. It’s easy to give up this difficult and very challenging field of study by substituting a non-answer such as “God POOF!ed it into existence.”

      Problems and difficulties and stupid headlines with the former in no way, shape, or fashion advances merit in the latter. Yet that is what ypf is implying.

      • tildeb I said nothing about the stupid headlines – and I have no problem with science advancing with their understanding of the matter – science always advances even when an avenue of research turns out to be a dead end – that is a true advancement for human knowledge because we now know that it is a dead end – what bothers me is shields3 implication that science is advancing toward a specific answer But I see how my words are misleading So I hereby retract my original assertion that science is not advancing – and modify it to read that no one theory of abiogenesis has proven through scientific research to be better than any other as of yet

        • tildeb says:

          Well, I’m glad to hear you recognize what’s true, that there has been significant advancement in research. But the evidence needed to favour a greater likelihood of certain hypotheses over others is also advancing. It is not, as you say, a case of all being relatively equal. In fact, the evidence for interstellar seeding is growing. Consider the following (emphasis mine):

          “This apart the space crafts Giotto and Vega which flew by Comet Halley glimpsed carbon rich molecules while space based observations revealed the presence of Ethane and Methane in Comets Hyakutake and Hale Bopp (Cottin 2001). Space dust reveals organic carbon. Interestingly some thirty tons of such carbon is brought down to the earth each day by the interstellar dust. Meteorites have shown nucleo basis, ketones, quinines, carboxylic acids, amines and amides (Folsome et al. 1973; Hayatsu et al. 1975; Stoks and Schwartz, 1979, Van der Velden and Schwartz, 1977). In fact as many as eight of the twenty amino acids involved in life processes have been identified besides some sixty others. This August, NASA announced that an analysis of data from its Stardust mission revealed, for the first time the presence of the amino acid glycine in an icy comet.”

          That we find the building blocks for life in interstellar dust is enticing.

          “Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences have confirmed the possibility of abiogenous synthesis of complex organic compounds (monomeric units of nucleic acids) on the surface of comets, asteroids, meteorites and space dust particles in outer space (Kuzicheva 2007).”

          “The presence of sugar related compounds and other complex molecules in meteoritic and cometary objects support the abiogenic theory of dual origins. Some of these molecules, possibly proteins or amino acids—but not yet living organisms—are very likely to have been transported to Earth, and further biochemical reactions would have taken place thereby giving life to non-life. Such a hybrid view for the origin of life is consistent with observations and experiments.” (source)

          You see what’s happening here? We have a bunch of hypotheses and then test them against reality. Some emerge stronger while others meet significant problems. The ones that are successful continue to move forward, undergoing more and more testing. Again, those that may have seemed favourable but meet significant problems are discarded, and so on. This winnowing down of hypotheses is exactly the scientific method in action. You make it sound as if this process doesn;t mean very much if a conclusion hasn’t been reached.) Au contraire, mon ami) This process of painstaking winnowing to what appears to be most likely is what scientists call ‘proof’ in the vernacular, which really means increased likelihood. The greater the likelihood, the more we know some hypothesis has been successfully tested by reality and found in accordance with the evidence. Interstellar chemical seeding, for example, continues to gain likelihood because these are chemical compounds we find in ’empty’ space and we know the delivery method, and we know just how close these compounds are to the biochemistry (and even the same predominance of left and right-handed molecular formations found in comet tails) that actually exists here on earth. In other words, the hypothesis continues to gain likelihood.

          Gaining knowledge is a process, a method, and not a conclusion. Knowledge is the basis upon which we then apply outwards to produce stuff. If that stuff works, and works consistently and reliably for everyone everywhere all the time, then we have a link between the ‘theory’ and why it seems to be the case. In the vernacular once again, we call this ‘knowledge’.

          This is not equivalent in any way to any religious belief or the process by which religious claims are justified. Religious belief is a conclusion about reality (justified by testimony, revelation, and scriptural authority); science is a method of inquiry into it. When the two produce claims about reality but are in conflict, it is the job of religious apologists to somehow square their religious belief to fit in the round hole of reality. We cannot alter reality to fit these beliefs. That’s delusional thinking. We align our religious beliefs to be in accordance with science.

          What religion consistently fails to do – because it isn’t equipped to do so – is produce any new knowledge that is then transported to applications, therapies, and technologies that work. All it can do is pretend to be a conduit between people and some transcendental divine agency without any means to link the two. It is therefore equivalent in all ways with imaginary and magical thinking. And that is diametrically opposite to what science as an inquiry method is. All hypotheses – religious or not – are not equivalent.

          • tildeb Science and religion are two different things altogether – they are not opposing sides of an argument (although in history it has been played out that way – particularly with Christianity) Science is one particular process of discovering truth – (a very effective one) and religion is a claim to possession of truth – contrasting science over and against religion is like contrasting the study of mathematics over and against the claim that a particular number is the proper answer for a given equation. Many religious claims cannot be tested by the scientific method (or by any other method) because they deal with that which is beyond nature – the followers of the religion have no way of truly knowing if these claims are true only to the degree that they trust the testimony of the given religion (and the reasons to trust the testimony of a given religion range far and wide from the reasonable to the absurd) but other claims of religion deal with things that go on in this world – and I am speaking here of Judaism. The collective testimony/tradition of Judaism gives us an understanding of how human beings operate – I am talking about the drives and forces that make us act the way we do – and this map of reality has worked for us every time all the time in many different cultures for a very long time Is this evidence to divine revelation? perhaps not – perhaps it is just a product of human observation – but to say that it has no connection to reality and that it cannot be tested is inaccurate.

          • tildeb says:

            Science and religion would be different things altogether if religion would stop making claims about reality. Both make claims (so to speak) about reality, what it contains, how it came to be, what agencies it possesses, and so on. If religions didn’t cross this boundary all the time and make up explanations that not only contradict each other but are incompatible with scientific explanations that can be demonstrated to work all the time for everyone everywhere, then we wouldn’t be having this discussion. It is because you question the validity of evolution, for example – not because it isn’t true but because it conflicts with a religious belief you’ve been taught to hold in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary – that raises the significant difference between using religious belief to inquire into reality and the scientific method. Take away the religious belief that empowers creationism and we’re left with the best supported scientific theory ever adduced by humanity. Pretending the two methods are equivalently respectable is patently false because religious belief does not produce knowledge about reality but imposes doctrine on it that fails to respect what reality has to say in the matter. That’s why you continue to maintain a creationist belief and search diligently for quibbles about evolution as if this in some magical way improves the creationist scientific claim about how life has come to be… through an agency of Oogity Boogity! exercising POOF!ism (most recently called Intelligent Design) and asserting that this is an equivalently substantiated scientific claim that is as likely to be the case as unguided natural selection. This hypothesis is indisputably wrong, yet you will not give it up just because there is overwhelming contrary evidence for which it cannot account. If it were respectful of the scientific method, it would be discarded for this reason alone. But you;re using scientific methodology to empower it: you’re relying on your religious belief alone and will not give that up just because reality arbitrates it to not be the case.

          • Dina says:

            Tilde, if you are interested in how some Jews reconcile science with religion, then may I recommend a book, Genesis and the Big Bang, by Gerald Schroeder. He is an Orthodox Jew and he is also a physicist, so you might find it interesting even if you disagree vehemently with everything he says. I can’t argue the science with you because I’m missing that part of the brain, a strange defect I was born with :).

          • tildeb says:


            Good thing you can build the circuitry you need!

          • tildeb I thank you again for commenting – I hope to respond to this comment in the near future

          • tildeb On second thought let me address at least one bombastic statement of yours right now – you claim that evolution is “the best supported scientific theory ever adduced by humanity” – First let me distinguish between the evolution that I believe in and the evolution that you believe in. I believe that various living organisms change in a way that helps them deal with their environment – this is a limited process that is far from random. You believe in a theory which posits that all life randomly came from one common ancestor – let us call this the theory of common descent so tell me tildeb – which practical invention do we have today because scientists thought of this theory? Name me just one. On what basis do you say that this theory works for everyone all the time? Are you trying to say that every piece of circumstantial evidence points to the truth of this theory? But that would be false – you know that there are many challenges against this theory? And how many challenges are there against the theories that gave us the usage of electricity? How can you say that the theory of common descent is better supported than the theories that go into the working of machines that we all use? Another question tildeb – why do so many educated people think that evolution also explains the origin of life when it does NOTHING of the sort? Are you denying that there is a bias in some circles that favors evolution? And another question – if the original formation of life is such a likely occurrence – then why don’t you subscribe to the theory that several life forms happened into existence and began several paths of evolution – after all – the excuse of “convergent evolution” posits that highly complex systems coincidentally evolved in the same way in completely different branches of the “tree” – so why can’t this hold true for the tree in its entirety?

            And to remind you of a question I asked you previously – which observation or experiment confirmed the randomness of evolution – how many of these experiments or observations do you have since the inception of the theory 150 years ago? It is very easy for you to dismiss me and my questions by saying that my motives for asking these questions are not honest – I find it interesting that Christians throw this same accusation at me. I find that this does nothing to contribute to an educational discussion. Please put the bombast aside and put your suspicions about my motives aside and lets talk facts

          • shields3 says:

            yourphariseefriend I have to agree with this statement from the livescience website:
            “Evolution by natural selection is one of the best substantiated theories in the history of science, supported by evidence from a wide variety of scientific disciplines, including palaeontology, geology, genetics and developmental biology.”
            I understand Darwin’s evolutionary theory also provides thought about the framework for human behaviour and psychology. Evolutionary psychology is a growing field and involves all aspects of the way we view ourselves and our behaviour.
            The evidence is so overwhelming for evolution even the Pope agrees.

          • shields3 the one field of science that I have deeply studied is psychology – and from what I have seen the theory that men are really advanced monkeys is a serious impediment in understanding human nature – this is reality as I see it But in any case to say that it is THE best theory that mankind has adduced is nothing more than propaganda – and it depreciates true scientific advances which deserve so much more respect. I want you to realize that there is an element of propaganda at play over here – and we can see through it with an honest open discussion in which we are all willing to be educated from each other – and I am the first to say that I appreciate any new facts that anyone will bring to the table. But bombastic statements do not further our understanding of truth they hamper it

          • tildeb says:

            I started my comments on this post with an explanation of what a scientific theory means and how nothing you have raised provides anything contrary to it. I suggest you go back and read it and answer your own questions. I said “evolution as an explanation is supported by all avenues of inquiry AND all applications, therapies, and technologies that work for everyone everywhere all the time directly derived from that theory (from pharmaceuticals to the mining industry).” That’s why I said evolution is “the best supported scientific theory ever adduced by humanity.” You call that ‘bombastic’. Fine. That adjective doesn’t alter the fact that evolution as I understand it is true and that your understanding of it is not. I wish this weren’t so, but…

          • tildeb
            I am more than willing to be educated – can you please give me ONE example of a technology that we would not have had it not been for the theory of random common descent. Again – I am not saying this sarcastically – I want to learn.

          • tildeb says:

            See what I mean? You use this nonsense phrase “random common descent’! What on earth are you talking about? Natural selection is anything but random. The ONLY random feature in evolutionary theory is mutations. What happens after a mutation is no more random than you reading from left to right. It is your misunderstanding of what evolution is that I think is the source of your ongoing problems. Not me. Not my ‘bombastic’ assertions. And certainly not evolutionary theory. As for applications derived from this understanding, I’ve already linked you to this site for just these kinds of questions you have. Ask them.

          • tildeb I understand that the only random part of evolutionary theory is in the mutation aspect – the reason I used the words “random common descent” is in order to differentiate it from the evolution that has actually been proven to be true by observation and experimentation which is neither random nor common descent. I’ve been to the site you mention several times over the past few weeks and I thank you for the reference but I found that the answers provided in the archives are inadequate for the questions that I have. (I’ve also read some of the works of one of the apostles of New Atheism (Richard Dawkins) and I found them as intellectually dishonest as Christian missionary propaganda – the website “true origins” is much more honest and therefore much more educational) I could send you to Lee Spetner’s two books, “Not By Chance” and “The Evolution Revolution” in which he answers all of the questions you brought up here about creation and he corrects the misconceptions you have about what has been substantiated about evolution and what has not. Fact is – that scientific minds that are greater than either of us have taken opposing stances on this issue – perhaps you want to dismiss one side because of the numbers on the other side or because of establishment thinking – but this is not science. I repeat my proposal that we tackle the issue between the two of us – one question at a time – otherwise why are we writing these comments to each other?

          • tildeb says:

            “I found that the answers provided in the archives are inadequate for the questions that I have.”

            Now that’s interesting if absolutely expected.

            One of remarkable and lasting changes to my way of thinking I ever encountered was at university where our weekly assignment was to read something dense and then submit an important question with an explanation why that question was important. We then gathered in groups of about one to two dozen students and had to present our questions for group discussion. It became painfully obvious very quickly which questions were good ones and which were poor, who had a good understanding of the text and who did the internet search to appear informed.

            Like every other student trained to produce answers, I found this exercise very difficult to wrap my head around but, after practicing it for two years, it was by far the most effective way to cut to the heart of some matter. Of course, one had to first read the work and comprehend what it was actually saying before one could form an intelligent and perceptive question that was important. Hence the difficulty. And work.

            So now I read things differently. I don’t extract only that information or idea or whatever that suits my purposes; I try my best to first understand what the author is trying to say first before applying critical reasoning to it. What you’re trying to say is that we should doubt evolution. But the only way the reasoning becomes critical is if it correctly identifies and then formulates something that is itself an important insight into the subject itself. Personal bias just doesn’t make the cut.

            I have found that creationists of all stripes and levels of academic achievement regularly fail to accomplish the first part of their criticism about evolution: comprehending it accurately. Sure, many people can answer questions about this bit or that but none in my experience really grasp the essential feature that makes it a scientific theory: the role of the known mechanisms that indisputably link overwhelming evidence with the explanation the theory models. What I find from creationists are the internet search variety: surface quibbles and nitpicking about slight aspects of the explanation then pointed backwards at some particular example that seems to cause a problem. Rather than delve into possibilities and likelihoods that fit the evolutionary model, creationists then think themselves fully justified to question the validity of the theory… as if they have undergone the rigor of science and have ‘arrived’ at doubt. This is the northern product of a south-facing bovine.

            And creationists would know this if they exercised critical rather than religious thinking. Imagine me calling Einstein intellectually dishonest because I found other physicists willing to quibble about the exact extent of spacetime bending Einstein demonstrated. I would expect to be ridiculed.

            This is what you’re doing criticizing Dawkins, a world renowned geneticist who advanced the entire field with his work on the selfish gene, and thinking yourself justified because you found some people who are willing to quibble. This is not critical thinking in action but nitpickery once again… relying on material that seems to do what you’re looking to promote – doubt – rather than first understanding what evolutionary theory actually is. Your constant misrepresentations of it are evidence for this tendency and demonstrate why your ill-formed questions are finding few answers that satisfy you: they lack any importance because they are ill-formed. They are ill-formed because you do not understand. And you do not understand because the real understanding is in direct conflict with your creationist religious beliefs! You seek to blame everyone and everything for this problem except where it truly belongs… with you and your presupposition that evolutionary theory must be wrong because your creationist beliefs ARE correct.

            So sure, great sites that explain all kinds of features about evolution are judged by you and most creationists to be insufficient to answer your questions adequately. That’s not surprising. But I suspect you don’t even consider for a moment that the problem here lies with the quality of your questions and not with the quality of the explanations to important questions these sites do provide.

            Thinking yourself justified to question the validity of evolutionary theory with nothing more than a cursory understanding heavily polluted by contrary religious bias is not a good place to start. In fact, it will probably hinder you (it certainly has so far) from attaining what you say you wish to attain: real answers to important questions about evolution. They’re there. Start asking the right questions.

          • tildeb I have been studying the process of critical thinking for quite some time now but I still appreciate your words on this subject. While I don’t agree with much of what you’ve said but I acknowledge that I can grow and advance in this area. I will correct you on one point though – I wrote that Dawkin’s work was intellectually dishonest without focusing on the question if he is right or wrong – I read his book as a student of the dynamic of human debate – a study that am quite familiar with – Even if he is right – the persuasion tactics he uses in say “The God Delusion” are very similar to the tactics used by Christian missionaries – he uses intimidation (primarily through mockery) instead of using the truth and he doesn’t bother to tie up the loose ends of his arguments. if he would be arguing for creationism using these tactics I would say the same thing and I have said the same thing about people who argue for positions that I believe to be true – if you want to change the way the world thinks about this subject you could educate instead of intimidating

            Now I am going to ask you for a favor – but before I do that let me put this request in context by articulating what I try to do on this blog. I try to explain why I believe Judaism is true and Christianity is wrong and I try to explain this to Christians. I am sure you realize that the very thought that Judaism is true and Christianity is wrong is a very foreign to the Christian mind – but I try to engage the Christian one point at a time – listening to their responses and trying to identify one small component of their understanding that I can help them see in a different light. I try to illuminate the issue from different angles. I appreciate that it is a very tedious exercise because they are approaching the issue from such a different angle – but through an open and respectful discussion we all move closer to the truth – one slow step at a time.

            I believe that your appraisal of my lack of understanding of evolution is inaccurate – but I also recognize that I could be mistaken – so here is the favor I am asking of you – Instead of making sweeping statements about science vs religion and instead of prejudging my thinking process and my motives – pick one question or concept that you think I don’t understand and try to explain it to me – the process will be tedious but there are many benefits to be gained – my worldview is worlds apart from yours and we can both gain deeper insight into the other’s thinking process and the truths that they are sure to contain

          • tildeb says:

            If I could wave a magic wand to effect, I would have you understand the primary importance of the epistemology we use to inform our opinions and beliefs – to understand and appreciate why epistemology determines ontology (this is really what ‘education’ means: the ability to apply critical skills to various thinking processes or, as one of my valedictorians said, what you have left after you’ve forgotten everything you learned).

            Having you armed with this essential understanding of method over product, I would then have you clear the decks of your mind and apply a good epistemology to how we come to know anything about the reality we share through modelling. In this way, I would have full confidence that you would come to understand what evolution means and see for yourself why the model we call ‘evolution’ is indisputably the very best explanatory model ever devised to explain anything.

            This would be the magical part: having had your inquiring processes critically prepared, you would then use it to read about various theological explanatory models and then fairly compare and contrast them with the evolutionary model. It would be deeply satisfying for me to watch you see for yourself just how devoid of knowledge but full of incompatible claims about reality – specifically, about human life – these religious models really are, and how insidious creationist belief in particular infects and pollutes the very ability to inquire fairly and reasonably and forces the believer into astounding feats of mental gymnastics and intellectual incoherence we call ‘religious apologetics’. Together, we would be equally astounded and alarmed at how much power and influence such tremendous and intentional ignorance continues to have in the world we share and see how much unnecessary harm and suffering is enabled by its pernicious influence.

          • tildeb I find it interesting that you take this approach – first determining how we know things to be true and only then approaching the different conclusions we’ve arrived at because the differences on our conclusions are usually if not always rooted in the differences in the method we use at arriving at them. I take a similar approach in my debate with Christianity – instead of quibbling over the meaning of a given verse I ask them to go back and examine the faith structure – how it is that they know the Bible is true and what method did the writers of the Bible subscribe to when they expected their audience to accept it as truth. I realize that you don’t accept the Bible as truth but you can see the similarity of approach.

            Now I don’t believe you need a magic wand over here – we can have a discussion about how we arrive at the conclusion that something is true. I’ll put forth my understanding of the matter one step at a time and you tell me where you differ and why – here goes.

            I would say that we use the words “I know” for many different categories of knowledge – some we truly “know” and others which we don’t really know at all just that we decided to behave as if that concept is true because we suspect it might be true – and many categories in between.

            I would venture to say that the knowledge that we most truly know is the knowledge of our own existence – the philosophical discussion as to how we can be sure of our existence is to me a semantic game – because the word “existence” is the word we use to describe whatever it is that we (or whoever) are experiencing – but at the same time this question helps us recognize that our own existence is not an intrinsic existence in the sense that it cannot be questioned – in other words we sense that there is a type of existence (at least theoretically) that cannot be questioned and that we are not that.

            Since knowledge is a statement about the human thought process – the closer the concept is to the human the more clearly the person can know it is true – and when I say closer I mean the closer the given concept is to human experience – for example the fact that fire is hot when we have directly experienced this truth is much clearer to us than a concept that requires a chain of interpretations.

            I realize that I can go on and on over here – so perhaps let me pause and listen to you – what are your thoughts on the methods of acquiring knowledge? And do you have any comment or disagreement with what I’ve written?

          • tildeb says:

            Right off the bat, rather than tackle every meaning of the verb ‘to know’, let me say that in the context in which I have responded with commentary on this site is about the goal regarding claims made about how reality works (knowledge). Knowledge in this context is to figure out how reality works and not to figure out what’s ‘true’ per se, which often is interpreted to mean ‘certain’. Nothing in science is certain (sorry shields3) but obviously some explanations are far better in a variety of means testing than others. The metric used for establishing what is ‘true’ is a very high degree of likelihood. How do we establish likelihood? Well, I’ll get into that in moment but for now we can describe the goal to be one that figures out how reality actually works. And the way we do this is to create models that can then be tested using reality to arbitrate these claims.

            I approach every claim made about reality with two (related) questions. The first: Is this claim actually the case? This is followed immediately with the question: how do we know? So there are four things here to be considered.

            The first is to clarify the meaning of the term ‘know’, which in this context is the first OED definition: “Facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.” This is not what many religious people mean when they use the term, which is usually the philosophical definition about ‘justified true beliefs’. They assume (incorrectly) that a boundary between philosophy (metaphysics) and the natural world can be effortlessly crossed to use a philosophical method that tries to accurately describe reality, but we have very compelling evidence from history itself that this method doesn’t work if any of the premises used doesn’t directly and accurately and succinctly describe the ‘fact’ presumed to be the case and used as a premise. Yet this is exactly what we find with, and the essential point that is fatal to, such philosophical approaches used (especially by Thomists) for the ontological, cosmological, teleological, and moral arguments. What’s lost, of course, is any practical value to these models, which goes a very long way explaining why they utterly fail to ‘explain’ anything other than the thought process used and, therefore, are not a means to know – using the OED definition – anything about reality; these are still beliefs repackaged as logical beliefs that are therefore justified on this basis (the correct logical form) and still quite separated from reality’s arbitration of them. They float about like bubbles that are constantly having to be popped by reality seemingly unnoticed by those who rely on them out of necessity.

            The second element involves how we can find out if something is actually the case. So we have to see if the claim stands on its own, on its own merit (regardless of who or what is making the claim) or figure out if there is some intermediary interpreting a belief – even a logical deduced one – and presenting it as if a fact, as if correct and accurate information, or based on skill in some reality-based subject expertise. The former is much stronger than the later and nothing is stronger than a direct link to reality’s demonstration that the explanation works as well as using it as a springboard to further new avenues of inquiry based on it… new avenues that they themselves produce new knowledge that works. This is the case with explanatory model we call evolution. It is the most robust in this case, to say the least.

            Once we know what kind of claim is being made philosophical or reality-based,, we then have the third element to consider::is this an explanatory model that works, that links the claim to how it is demonstrated in reality? We can claim to know something if it can be demonstrated to be the case independent of our beliefs about it. We call this ‘testing’ and we allow reality to be the judge. That’s as impartial as we can get. And this is where religious belief utterly fails as a means to know about reality: no matter how it is tested, no matter what the results may be, the belief continues unabated. Reality plays no role. Maintaining the belief is very often considered a virtue when, in all other fields of human endeavor, such a maintenance would be considered the worst vice imaginable! This is why ID is creationism; there is no means to test it, no way to demonstrate it. It s a theory devoid of scientific merit, produces no new knowledge, and cannot stand on its own merit (there are better explanations that do) and it must be believed in order to have any merit at all… utterly dependent on the fallacy of incredulity. Yet without this means testing, the belief remains just that: a belief that may or may not be the case. But no creationist I know of is willing to grant even this.

            Now I arrive at the fourth and final point about conclusions and the tentative nature of them. This is based on a metric of likelihood, of probability, of preponderance of evidence that is explanatory, that leads to new avenues of inquiry that themselves work, that is directly testable and useful, and that produces all kinds of related stuff that works. All of these raise or lower the likelihood that a claim really is the case. This describes our understanding of gravity, for example… but a far weaker case than evolutionary theory because we really don’t know how matter and energy relate (a case of what is eloquently described as ‘spooky action at a distance). We can still make it work for us and we use it to describe various related theories but we have large gaps in our knowledge about it that then influence the likelihood of the related theories. Again, this is not the case with evolution that has a rock solid connection accurately describing how life operates at a very basic level that over time demonstrably leads to large and complex changes with the appearance of design.

            If a claim is factually based and produces correct information that can be successfully applied in a variety of ways, the the likelihood of the explanatory model as accurate increases. When certain models achieve this level, we call it ‘knowledge’. Evolution, for example, meets all requirements. It is a fact. It is testable and demonstrable. It is informative and produces reams of new knowledge and insights into reality that can be and are successfully applied in dozens and dozens of fields of study all the time everywhere for everyone. No other explanatory model comes even close. And with the arbitration of reality of the model by means of genetics, we know evolution is as ‘true’ as anything else we can know.

          • tildeb Thank you for sharing this – I agree to almost everything you wrote here in the sense of what constitutes knowledge – the problem is that you tied your conclusions (about evolution) and prejudices (about religious beliefs) in together with your statements on the abstract subject.

            Let me recap what you are saying in my own words and we’ll see if we are on the same page.

            Before I start – I will point out that you jumped ahead to discuss how we could know the truth of complex concepts before you built up your structure about how we can know anything – the building blocks that make up our understanding of a concept

            Your first statement is that concepts that deal with reality in the natural world through observation and direct experience are knowable while philosophical musings that are just built on what seem to be logical arguments with no root in the practical world are not – I agree with this one. If anyone wants to claim real knowledge – there needs to be an anchor in the real world (I think it was Kant that articulated this one)

            Your second statement – the belief needs to stand on its own merit – not on “authority” and your third statement that the belief needs to be testable in the real world. – agreed

            Your fourth statement is that the claim or “explanatory model” needs to be considered in the terms of likelihood, probability, preponderance of explanatory evidence, does it lead to new avenues of inquiry that in and of themselves are testable in the real world and pass the tests of likelihood, probability and preponderance of evidence – agreed

            here is the issue – evolution is an explanatory model as you put it – an explanatory model that attempts to explain and account for a vast range of facts – and by and large it accurately does so although not as perfectly as its proponents would like – but I will be the first to admit that it is pretty good.

            As far as an explanatory model goes it is pretty cumbersome with many cogs and gears – and its proponents generally judge the model as a whole and see evidence (testability, workability) for one aspect or several aspects of the model as evidence to the whole. But the fact is that one cog in the wheel of the larger model has not be tested or proven in the world of objective reality. I am not proposing an abandonment of the model – but an adjustment

            To demonstrate – I quote from the Talk Origins website who quote R.C. Lowentin as saying “It is time for students of the evolutionary process, especially those who have been misquoted and used by the creationists, to state clearly that evolution is a fact, not theory, and that what is at issue within biology are questions of details of the process and the relative importance of different mechanisms of evolution. It is a fact that the earth with liquid water, is more than 3.6 billion years old. It is a fact that cellular life has been around for at least half of that period and that organized multicellular life is at least 800 million years old. It is a fact that major life forms now on earth were not at all represented in the past. There were no birds or mammals 250 million years ago. It is a fact that major life forms of the past are no longer living. There used to be dinosaurs and Pithecanthropus, and there are none now. It is a fact that all living forms come from previous living forms. Therefore, all present forms of life arose from ancestral forms that were different. Birds arose from nonbirds and humans from nonhumans. No person who pretends to any understanding of the natural world can deny these facts any more than she or he can deny that the earth is round, rotates on its axis, and revolves around the sun.

            But one second – If it is a fact that all living forms came from previous living forms then how did the process start? Abiogenesis proposes the very opposite of what Lowentin is stating as a fact. Lowentin is saying in essence that living forms do not just “poof’ into existence – how does he know that? and why not? – I happen to agree with Lowentin – life can only come from life – but Lowentin is in disagreement with his own fact.

            When we talk of evidence you bring up the words “likelihood and probability” – I imagine that you mean (and please correct me if I am wrong) that when we see the fossils arranged in a certain order – it is unlikely that they just so happened to be arranged that way in other words it is unlikely that it is just coincidence that certain fossils were found in certain types of rock and in certain locations while others were found in different rocks and in different geographical location – a coincidence that repeats itself so many times is no longer a coincidence – but what is the mathematical likelihood of the fossils randomly arranging themselves in the order that they did? (Not that I believe that they did – I don’t believe that random provides complexity) – and we have to contrast that with the theory being proposed to explain the facts – and the theory relies on mathematical improbabilities that make the coincidence of fossil arrangement look like a joke in comparison.

            The cog in the model that needs adjustment is the concept that it is random mutations that provide the creative material for natural selection to work on – it is mathematically more probable that all of the evidence for evolution is just lucky coincidence than for random mutations to have done what you credit them with doing

          • tildeb says:

            To exercise critical thinking, one must remain disciplined in one’s method of thinking (again, the importance of epistemology). Claims are ontology… the what portion that is under discussion. This means understanding what is being discussed.

            I know you grow weary of me claiming that you continue to demonstrate that you do not understand what is being discussed and you do not think you are guilty of this. But you demonstrate exactly this yet again.

            You start off so well in this comment with referencing Talk Origins regarding evolution presented as a fact and why this is so. But you then apply a different method of thinking to try to link what is being discussed – evolution as a fact – with a faith-based assumption about the origin of life. You have lost your discipline because evolution as an explanatory model does not address abiogenesis. In evolutionary theory, it remains a fact that life comes from life. When you introduce abiogenesis, you are no longer addressing evolutionary theory. Period. End of sentence.

            When you offer a criticism of evolution by introducing a topic outside of evolution, you are not thinking critically, with discipline. You are, in the vernacular, misrepresenting evolution. I have put the blame on a misunderstanding you have of what evolution is – a fact – and alerted you to this many times. But still, you go back to this well repeatedly. This is a thinking mistake. No matter what issues you may have and insights you may offer into abiogenesis, this has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with evolution. Do you understand?

            In order for the mechanisms of evolution to occur, there has to be life on which it may now operate. Without life, we have no subject how it changes and by what mechanisms and so it should be obvious that when armed with this basic understanding of evolutionary theory, one does not travel outside of it and introduce a topic over which the theory does not apply.

            Abiogenesis is a different topic altogether and we come at understanding how this might have occurred using basic chemistry. Can inert chemicals combine in such a way as to produce self-replication? It seems to be the case not just theoretically but more and more likely as we investigate other related areas – such as prebiotic conditions. Were all the elements in place? Yes. Do we still require these elements? Yes. Do we have evidence that certain basic combinations of these elements could self-replicate? Yes. We have been able to duplicate this in the lab but with various degrees of intervention. Have we been able to duplicate this in the lab without intervention? No. Does this mean it cannot happen? No. Many people with a great deal of recognized expertise in this area and working on exactly this seem very optimistic and offer detailed explanations why they think their optimism is well founded. I’ll leave them to their business and say quite honestly, when asked how life started, “I don’t know.”

            You also include what, to me, is a rather remarkable assumption belied by obvious contrary evidence all around you: ” I don’t believe that random provides complexity.”

            Have you ever noticed that children are not duplicates of their parents? Why is this? If reproduction was a matter of embedded ‘information’ like a computer program, we should expect to find offspring that cloned half of the male and half of the female genetic contributions. Other than first appreciating how dominant or recessive inheritance works, we should find that children are basically two cloned halves of the parents. So how is it that children are in fact slightly different, that they have somehow altered the embedded information? Well, because how a gene expresses itself is not a matter of input/output but includes minute alterations based on what we call ‘mutations’… departures from the parent type in one or more heritable characteristics. This is a genetic understanding, and genes express themselves differently and ‘randomly’ all the time! In fact you yourself have altered your genetic ‘programming’ in exactly this way. Are you not complex? Is not a human adult a wee bit more complex than the fertilized egg? Complexity from ‘randomness’ in the sense of genetic mutations is ordinary! Yet you seem to have missed this basic biological understanding altogether in your repeated returns to this well of creationist- inspired nonsense about ‘randomness’. What you think of as significant problems in the evolutionary model aren’t. They are fully addressed already and have been for quite some time and you would know this if you first understood what the model is and why it is a pillar of modern biology (genetics itself is a product of evolutionary theory and it fits seamlessly with it in every case all the time for everyone everywhere.)

            Put another way, genetics didn’t have to reveal only support for the evolutionary model; it could have revealed that we do in fact descend from a single couple, that we as a species have been around busy populating the Earth for about 6000 – 12000 years old, that we originate somewhere in the Middle East, that Jews today do descend from 12 genetically different tribes leading back to 12 founding ancestors, and so on. But it doesn’t reveal any of this but stands contrary to them, and so previous models – like religious ones that insist on a creation event for our species generally and Jewish tribes particularly – are factually wrong not because some people believe this/that-or-the-other-thing but because YOUR DNA doesn’t fit the explanatory model you want to believe is the case. It’s not the case according to reality and so it falls to you to either change your factually incorrect creationist beliefs or deny science as a trustworthy method of inquiry. But outside of religious belief, science as a method is pretty darn effective. So go ahead and insist that your ontology and not reality should inform your epistemology, that your beliefs should dictate how reality must operate. But we really do have a medical term for this, one that Dawkins pointed out in the title of book you claim is too intimidating with mockery “instead of using the truth.” Well, if you believe your beliefs that are contrary to reality are already the truth, then of course you will attribute to all other conflicting sources that the real problem lies everywhere but with you.

          • tildeb Thanks again for your comments You missed the point of my criticism of Lowentin. The statement that life comes from life – implying that it doesn’t come from anything else is a statement that Lowentin threw into the equation of evolution – not I. The reason that Lowentin needed to say this is not because of the positive – that life produces life but because of the negative – that non-life does not produce life – he is excluding what you call “poof”ism and rightly so. Abiogenesis is intertwined with evolution simply because evolution is based on the implausibility of complex life just arising with no known mechanisms to explain for it – if that wouldn’t be true there is no reason to assume that one form of life descended from another – we could posit that each one poofed into existence – the reason no one believes that is because complexity doesn’t come from random just like that – it hasn’t been observed in all of recorded history

            When the genes of parents combine and the randomness determines the final product – the randomness is not creating complexity. there is a complex system in place in which randomness plays a role in determining the final outcome – but the randomness is not producing the complexity – the child is no more complex than his or her parent. And the complexity of the adult doesn’t randomly arise from the simplicity of the fertilized egg – there is a complex process in place which the egg follows in order to arrive at the adult – with a place given to randomness to determine the final product – but the randomness does not produce or generate the complexity as Lowentin so eloquently stated

          • tildeb says:

            Three things here: you say “The statement that life comes from life – implying that it doesn’t come from anything else is a statement that Lowentin threw into the equation of evolution – not I.

            No, Lowentin didn’t just ‘throw’ this into the paragraph you quote. it has to be understood by the critical thinker in context. The first sentence – this is called the topic sentence’ – states “It is time for students of the evolutionary process, especially those who have been misquoted and used by the creationists, to state clearly that evolution is a fact, not theory, and that what is at issue within biology are questions of details of the process and the relative importance of different mechanisms of evolution.

            This is the context for the quote you are mining: life comes from life. Quote mining biologists is a favourite pastime of creationists who seek such snippets as if it backs up their claim that evolution is somehow recognized by biologists as a doubtful explanatory model. This not true. Abiogenesis as understood by biologists is not a part of this topic about what evolution means and so you can’t quote mine that this biologist says life comes from life as if that’s a contradiction to the notion of abiogenesis without taking it OUT of context. And this is exac tly what you’ve done: taken it out of context.

            You also state, “Abiogenesis is intertwined with evolution simply because evolution is based on the implausibility of complex life just arising with no known mechanisms to explain for it.” This is not the case. Abiogenesis – for the umpteenth time – is not any part of the explanatory model we call evolution. You are and remain incorrect in this repeated assertion you make and your contrary belief to what is the case does not justify you maintaining it. The mechanisms for complexity are well documented in the explanatory model. Your contrary belief does not mitigate this knowledge but reveals a lack of it. Again, your assertion is made and continues to be held out of ignorance.

            Also, you seem to keep on asserting that science assumes or proposes that ‘randomness’ causes complexity. This is not the case and is equivalent to the critical thinker as just making stuff up. And in the same cavalier way that you insert your contrary beliefs in place of knowledge, there is an important difference between what you seem to want to ignore – a gene’s potential (commonly but inappropriately presented as if some kind of ‘information’ or information packet) – and its evolutionary expression. This is a fascinating subject and one that the Kitzmiller vs Dover case highlighted with the flagellum used by ID advocates as an example of designed complexity as if it could not have evolved. Yet every part of the flagellum was clearly demonstrated by real biologists with real world evidence as having unrelated biological functions that came together over time to be expressed as the flagellum. This dismantling of ID’s central thesis and shown to be empty of knowledge value but full to the brim of misplaced belief was a central feature of ID’s classification by the court as being just another form of creationism and not science. You maintain belief in this thesis because you have no understanding of why it is not science and that’s why I think you continue to think that complexity is somehow unrelated to naturally occurring and unguided evolution.

          • tildeb Thanks again for your comments – but I must say that I am seriously disappointed. You started this part of our discussion by insisting on setting the parameters for our discussion – you insist that our knowledge (or explanatory model) be based on reality – and I agreed with you one thousand percent – but in order to make a point in this argument you quote speculation as to how something (flagellum) COULD have evolved? Is that reality? last time I checked an imaginary hypothesis does not qualify as reality.

            I asked you in the past and I ask you again – on the basis of your legitimate and entirely appropriate insistence that we stick to reality as the arbitrator – please give me a list of experiments and observations from the real world that demonstrate that random mutations have produced life-building complexity. I already dealt with the few experiments that would on the surface seem to point in this direction but which upon closer examination do not.

            Again – reality is the arbitrator.

            (I generally do not se the need to defend what I said just because I said it – but perhaps this will help you understand my position. I was not “mine-quoting” Lowentin. I was just pointing out that the concept of complexity not arising randomly is an integral part of evolutionary theory. If not for this concept – why can we not assume that lightning hit a pile of mud and produced a frog – why do we need a theory to explain how the frog got here? – Obviously everyone subscribes to the theory that complexity doesn’t just happen – the question that stands between us is that you believe that the complexity of life can be broken down into component parts – each of which is not complex – and therefore could arise randomly – and then complexity is built from these parts – this belief of yours has no support in the real world.)

          • tildeb says:

            And I pointed out that mutations occur all the time, that the interaction of mutation and genetic expression occurs all the time, that what aids fitness is reality’s arbitration of its success. Here’s a quick summary of how such mutation can disperse within a population and why it is difficult to isolate singe mutation events that cause evolutionary change. That they happen is not in any scientific dispute; at what rate they disperse is. So what? You want some laboratory list of research papers so… go find them. Your copy and paste ‘criticism’ of Lenski’s experiment fails to do the very task you think it does: somehow bring into question how mutation causes evolution by means of natural selection. Lenski’s brilliant experiment does exactly this. That you think it doesn’t matters not one whit because you don;t understand why it does. Again, the problem isn’t with the experiment: it’s with you.

            Look, you are starting with a creationist conclusion and working backwards. This is classic confirmation bias at work. I highly recommend that you go and read this short article in order to understand why your approach (your epistemology) here is leading you astray. You are not unusual in this regard but you fail to guard against it. You exercise exactly the kind of belief, quote mining, cherry picking, copy and paste argumentation and topic jumping that it produces. Every time I respond specifically to something you present and address your concerns, you misunderstand what it means, switch focus, and seek a new one. In this way you never have to face up to the fact that your incompatible beliefs are no substitute for knowledge… knowledge that is readily available to all. Your tactic here is to avoid incorporating this knowledge into what is an incompatible belief structure you feel you must maintain for religious reasons. But you’ve given up the flat earth, the orbit of the sun around the earth, and so on without the sky falling. So, too, can you maintain a deistic belief and incorporate evolution rather than creationism.

            The fact of the matter is that there is exactly zero evidence from reality for creationism, for a creationist event, for any of the mechanisms that supposedly cause it. There is ample opportunity for evidence to be present if this were the case, that should be present throughout reality in all kinds of evidence if such an event ever occurred, but you wave away this abject failure of creationism to find any support from reality and try to create doubt about a fundamental understanding of how life changes over time through natural selection for which there is nothing but compelling.evidence everywhere we look. This is a serious problem. The problem here isn’t with reality and it isn’t with our understanding of it (demonstrated by all the applications, therapies, and technologies derived from this explanatory model that work for everyone everywhere all the time that you want to doubt that). The problem is you and your incompatible religious beliefs.

          • tildeb
            You are no longer arguing from reality – I am. I never disputed that mutations occur or that they disperse through the population – the fact that you bring this point up which was never part of our dispute – shows a lack of critical thinking on your part.
            The criticism of Lenski’s experiment is not mine but that of a highly acclaimed and accredited scientist – but who cares – you yourself established that authority is not an arbitrator – reality is.
            If random mutations could produce life building complexity – it would be evident in the real world – and it is not

            Listen – I am the first to acknowledge that I come to this dispute with preconceived notions – all of us do. That is why it is important to have a respectful and open discussion so that we can help each other see through our biases. You explained that it is important to understand what the author is trying to say before discussing his work – so I ask you – did you understand Spetner’s critique of Lenski’s experiment? (to remind you – he did not critique the experiment per se which is obviously wrong – Lenski’s experiment is certainly an important one – just pointed out how it did not demonstrate that random mutations produce new complexity of the type that could potentially build a two celled organism from a one-celled bacteria

            So here is my proposition – explain why Spetner’s critique of Lenski’s experiment is wrong – and/or show me other experiments that establish that random mutations can produce life building complexity – please

          • tildeb says:

            That’s not quite right, ypf: the argument Lenski’s experiment puts to bed is that organisms cannot create new ‘information’. Yes, they can. And they do. All the time.

            You are trying to establish that mutations themselves lead to complexity. Mutations work in both directions, which is why I described the process more of a braided river where genetic expressions change over time. Look no further than lactose tolerance, a slightly modified expression of a mutation. In all seriousness, if you want to find similar examples, there are all around you. Local units obeying locals rules really does produce what appears to be a highly complex system… but this system is a result and not a cause. Do you understand the difference?

            You state as if true that If random mutations could produce life building complexity – it would be evident in the real world – and it is not. Yes, it is. And it’s common. Slight mutations in starlings, for example, produce flocking behaviour that looks incredibly complex… what appears to be a complex system. But complexity is a word we use to describe this appearance as if it were a ‘thing’ – the flock – when in fact it is simply an emergent property of local units obeying local rules. The same notion can be extended to your hundreds of billions of cells that make you appear to be one complex ‘thing’ with emergent properties derived from this expression. The flock is no more a discrete ‘thing’ than is your language; both only appear to be independent things whereas they are utterly dependent on the local units obeying local rules. Slight mutations in these units are the only difference between you with your linguistic ability and a bonobo. Almost every gene contrasted between the two of you is the same. The difference IS the mutations and so to insist that mutations cannot be the building blocks of the complex expression of them is a remarkable assertion. If not the mutated differences that we know leads to such alterations that Lenki’s experiment demonstrates, then what? A divine critter poofing bonobos into existence to be of one ‘kind’ and then borrowing almost all of the genetic material with just a few ‘tuned’ changes that look identical to how we know mutations appear in order to create humans… throwing in the genetic material for humans to produce yolk and body hair that has to be grown in utero before being shed in utero? And you think denying the power of mutation over time is reasonable? You honestly think there’s nothing inherently dishonest denying a well know mechanism for change demonstrated throughout the biosphere at the genetic level that we can see and manipulate to effect in order to make room for your creator god because it’s a religious necessity? And you think doing so, rejecting the power of biochemical mutations to drive different expressions of complexity isn’t the case here but is the case for the very medication that can save your life and provide you the food you must eat to remain so? And you think this cherry picking shows that you are respectful of science as a method?

            Good grief. The mental gymnastics you must exercise to keep firmly to your creationist beliefs are, to be kind and polite, impressive in their dexterity. But I certainly wouldn’t call them respecting anything reality has to say in the matter.

          • tildeb
            You are raising two separate points here. On the one hand you are insisting that Lenski’s experiment demonstrated that information could be added to an organism through random mutation. Insisting that something is so doesn’t make it so. Did you understand Spetner’s critique of this conclusion of Lenski’s experiment? Which is the same critique about the conclusion drawn from the observation of developing lactose tolerance. If you understood it – what is your response?

            Your second argument is that we see complex structures arising out of local units obeying local rules such as a flock of starlings – each starling obeying its own instincts but combining with the rest of the flock to produce complexity, the same can be said of a colony of ants or a beehive, or an ecosystem and to you this proves that complexity needs no designer. But this is no argument – you have to prove that these local rules are random before you could say that complexity can happen randomly

            I am currently trying to find critiques of Spetner’s works (I found at least one coming from an Orthdox Jewish publication) and see what that contributes to my understanding

            Let me just tell you one thing about my bias – technically I could say that religion and science address different spheres of life as some of my coreligionists have done if all I needed was to maintain my beliefs. But I have a serious problem believing that random produces complexity – I have no doubt that my religious upbringing plays a role in this “problem” – but I am not going to be silenced by intimidation. This is not to say that you don’t have very good questions (about the human genes containing the information for yolk etc.) – but that doesn’t mean that I need to accept your answer

          • tildeb says:

            you have to prove that these local rules are random before you could say that complexity can happen randomly

            I have to say this is getting a bit frustrating: again, and again, the only ‘randomness’ going on in evolution is mutations. That’s it. A mutation occurs. Case closed. End of story for randomness. Leave the term alone here. It’s done. Finished.

            Now let’s move on into genetic expressions. If something has changed, it may or may not be expressed. If it is expressed it may or may not be a fitness benefit. If it’s not, it doesn’t affect evolution directly but may have some effect indirectly. If it is of benefit to fitness, it will be passed on and spread by natural selection. Multiply this by the number of times the string of events works to benefit selection and you now have yet another split: the effect may increase or decrease complexity. You see how this works? There is no randomness at play and no evolutionary biologist I ever encountered insists that ‘randomness’ drives complexity. Yet you are stuck on maintaining this perspective that always includes ‘randomness’. Now that you understand what it is in biological terms for evolution, why keep trying to link it directly as a causal agent of complexity? I’m sorry if you find such a question intimidating but your insistence to repeat the same misunderstanding about what constitutes randomness and what causes it in evolutionary theory leads me to wonder what other purpose you have for trying so hard and so long to maintain this misrepresentation that you must have a motive other than trying to understand it.

          • tildeb about the randomness – like I said I want to study some of the critiques of Spetner’s work that I have found and I will continue if and when I have new insight or articulation – thanks again for your comments

          • tildeb One more point – you ask for evidence for creation? It is all over the place – the complexity and functionality of life and of other physical laws – the burden of proof rests upon the shoulders of the one who says that random events could produce this complexity (yes – I know that you were given a box to put me into when I use such an argument – but I ask you to think for yourself and not let others do your thinking for you) – and so far the proof has not been produced – I recommend that you read Lee Spetner’s two books – “Not by Chance” and “The Evolution Revolution” and don’t close your mind to ways of thinking that don’t fit with your world view

          • Dina says:

            Tilde, this is a straw man. No one here argued that “interstellar dust” didn’t contribute to life on earth. We thought that the suggestion that maybe aliens (i.e. ET’s) were the “delivery system” is at least as implausible as the idea of God. Nothing you wrote here about the science of the origin of life contradicts anything I believe religiously.

          • tildeb says:

            Contribute? How on earth would it contribute if some god POOF!ed us and the world and the universe into being? The point is when or if we establish a means for dust to self organize into life then we have a mechanism that requires no intervening creative agency. And I suspect that really does have something to say about the truth value of certain creationist claims. So it’s not a straw man whatsoever… especially when I used it to substantiate shield3’s claim that alien seeding of life on earth is a reasonable hypothesis. Claiming some god is involved isn’t a reasonable hypothesis but a pseudo-answer based on nothing, indicative of nothing, that explains exactly nothing. That’s not an equivalent hypothesis but a synonym to “I don’t know but I’m going to pretend I do and I’m quite happy to stay this way.”

          • Dina says:

            There is nothing about us coming from star dust that contradicts any of my beliefs, at any rate. But the idea of extra terrestrials–for which there is as yet zero evidence–seeding the planet is as implausible to me as God is to you not least because it also begs the question: where did these beings come from?

            Your argument was a straw man because you were arguing as if seeding the planet was our contention when it was the idea of aliens doing it that was our contention. It would have been better to address that and explain why it is so plausible to you.

          • tildeb says:

            Not quite, Dina: the assumption of aliens is the central plank needed for people like ypf who insist that life must be intelligently designed… if not by some designing god then by some designing alien life form. My entire commentary is to show why this is not the case… including the idea of interstellar dust – and not intelligent dust – seeding life on Earth. This is not a straw man but a direct response to the thesis ypf keeps putting forward as if it is necessary that we must have some guided intelligence to design life.

  8. Fred says:

    Yedidiah, when you speak of Tildeb’s “egregious” tone toward me, it is no skin off my nose. What do I care if a blind man doubts what I see because it flies in the face of what he thinks? Its is his choice to believe or not.

    Tildeb, my equivalency stands regardless of the fact that you do not like it. You are a man of faith. You accept things you read without ever finding those evidences yourself. If someone writes an article or a thesis that supports your view, you accept it because you trust the source and his methods. If an article does not support your worldview, you reject it and deny the soundness of the evidence or the methods. If I am wrong on that, then show me where you have ever accepted any evidence, thesis or article put forth by a scientist who came from the angle of Intelligent Design. Post a link to the pro-ID evidence or argument you accepted so I can read it myself ( I am a bit skeptical ya know 🙂 ) I will then apologize to you for having you all wrong. 🙂

    • tildeb says:

      Oh, that’s easy, Fred if we focus on my intellectual integrity to change my mind if better information warrants it; I did not think human activity could be shown to be the main driver in climate change and argued as much way back when on Open Parachute. I was wrong. Once I better understood the role of rate and frequency to link human activity directly to AGW climate change, I had better information. So, I changed my mind and – somewhat surprisingly – the wordl did not end. (See the commentary with Cedric to demonstrate this change.) Faith of the religious kind didn’t then, and doesn’t now, play any part in my understanding that informs what I consider my reasonable opinions.

      Now, I can be fairly accused of exercising a faith equivalent to religion when it comes to my favourite team in the NFL. In spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary and one of the longest and deepest losing records in all of professional sports globally, I continue to magically believe my team shall prevail. But I recognize this unreasonable and disconnected-from-reality hope, trust, and confidence I exercise as the benign delusion it really is.

  9. Fred says:

    You say “That’s easy”, but did not respond to the challenge of telling me which ID theory , evidence or article you have accepted. That was a cop-out and a skirting of the question. Human activity having an effect on climate change or not is not in any way related to the topic of Intelligent Design regarding the origins of the cosmos, and is not related to this discussion in any way.

    I have seen every creationist here agree in part, and on several points, with scientists who teach and believe differently than themselves. I have not seen that from any of the antitheist visitors who have posted in this blog with regard to scientists who teach Intelligent Design. I have not seen them accept a single point, or even entertain a different point of view regarding a single point. Based on that I conclude that you exercise a faith and fundamentalist mentality equivalent to the Jehovah’s Witness who will not read anything but Watchtower propaganda.

    That is my final word on that, and you can do what you wish with it. I am only attempting to open your eyes to the fact that you , like the people you despise, rely on interpretational biases and personal convictions ( or even fears) for what you accept or reject as true. I do not buy for a moment that you or anyone else is purely “scientific” in their thinking. That would make you a machine, not a human being.

    • tildeb says:

      Fred, did you know this the tenth anniversary of the Kitzmillervs Dover decision? The main ruling in that case was that ID is religiously inspired. There is nothing scientific about ID.

      I guess my ‘faith’ is widely shared…. even by a Christian evangelical Bush-appointed Judge. Go figure.

      Why you expect me to or any scientifically literate person to accept some part of this religious belief is really a rather bizarre expectation. There is no ‘science’ about Intelligent Design. It’s pure religious belief.

      And I don’t despise creationists… approximately 80% of the US population. I think a whole lot of folk are badly misguided and ill-educated so I do what I can to help rectify this deplorable situation..

  10. shields3 says:

    ypc -Your statement from October 28, 2015 at 9:29 am addressed to me. “from what I have seen the theory that men are really advanced monkeys is a serious impediment in understanding human nature”
    I do not know where you get these ideas from because animal and human psychology cannot be incompatible or an impediment in any way because it is an absolute fact that we are all animals and many of these non-human animals are more like us than we ever thought, like it or not. It is a remarkable statement from someone who has studied this subject, however it is your prerogative if you want to believe something entirely different.
    I think the serious impediment to your understanding of reality is your religious faith. Unless you drop your veil of religious rightness that is protecting your pride as much as your faith and your life as a devoted follower you will never be able to come to terms with anything that has alternative views to your indoctrinated religious beliefs.

    • shields3 I find it amazing that you “know” why I believe certain things – even if I tell you that I believe them from my observations. I have counseled many people and I am sharing my observations – you want me to dismiss what I observe in real life because of what people have taught you to think – this is not science – this is the very opposite of science

      • shields3 says:

        ypf -you deliberately made a statement about psychology that is obviously distinctive without explanation. Therefore, considering you have shown to struggle with the evolutionary concepts that you have been provided with so far it would not be obscure that your statement about psychology has something to do with your underlying religious doctrine. For a start you use the word “monkeys” and that is a common term to indicate that you are not even concerned about the most basic points about evolution, otherwise you would have checked the internet and used a more appropriate term regarding our closest relatives such as bonobos or chimpanzees that are apes and different to monkeys where most of them have the obvious difference of a tail.
        For your information we humans share 99% of our DNA with bonobos and chimpanzees and some small differences in the genomes of the 3 species that may explain why we do not look or act the same.

        • shields3 Let me be clear – I am no scientist by any stretch of the imagination – I respect the work that scientists do and continue to do. However, in the area of psychology I find that the field is severely hampered – I have seen people who have been to the establishment therapy and have not been helped (or worse) – but with a focus on the person’s yearning for meaning and purpose in life – foundational improvements were almost immediately evident. Had the establishment therapists recognized that the yearnings that man shares with animals do NOT define the person – but realized that the yearnings and drives which set man apart from animals (yearning for truth, understanding and knowledge, yearning for meaning and purpose, a desire for moral progress and growth) is what defines the person and are his true identity – these people could have been helped long ago. My understanding is that the theory of common descent is what prevented these otherwise brilliant people from seeing the obvious

          • shields3 says:

            Ypf, I also am not a scientist, however one can become more knowledgeable through the internet. I have tried finding what you mention as “establishment therapy” and turned up empty.
            Is this a teaching method of some kind and are you saying they (the students) were hampered in finding a meaning and purpose in life because the therapists did not realise that the yearnings man shares with animals do not define the man?
            I should imagine that the yearnings for man and animal such as basic survival from the environment and in some cases the affection and care of the young would be very similar in some cases, however it is understandable that because man has the biggest brain they would therefore show far more complex emotions than other animals. Having said that, some animals raised or long term captivity have shown many human-like emotive traits.
            I would have thought the yearning for truth, meaning and morality etc. exactly shows what man evolved into from his primitive primate relatives and of course helped put him at the top of the food chain. For example, animals have social skills and this is learnt from birth and is likely a part of the reason they survive and mostly do not eat each other, however man goes a step further because he is intelligent enough to know this is not enough to live a safe and prosperous life, therefore, how man defines the intricacies of life with the decisions and actions he takes must be what defines the type of person but it does make it difficult to understand how these students become confused.

          • shields3 When I say that am not a scientist – I mean that I have never studied science in a formal way (beyond high school) but I too enjoy learning about it – I read books and I have friends who are scientists that explain various scientific concepts to me.

            When I said “establishment therapy” – I made that word up myself – what I meant (and thought was clear) is the type of therapy that is generally available by accredited doctors in hospitals and clinics – I find that the general attitude is to deemphasize the yearnings that man does not share with animals and from reading books on the subject it seems that this lack of emphasis is rooted in the world-view that deemphasizes man’s differences from animals – that’s all I said – I am sharing an observation

            And before I sign off – I want to thank you for your comments – I believe that honest respectful and open discussion is always a positive in human society – at the very least it will help us understand each other

          • tildeb says:

            My understanding is that the theory of common descent is what prevented these otherwise brilliant people from seeing the obvious.

            My understanding is that germ theory is what prevented these otherwise brilliant people from seeing the obvious.

            My understanding is that the theory of gravity is what prevented these otherwise brilliant people from seeing the obvious.

            Look, we go forth and obtain meaning and purpose. We don’t have them bestowed on us. Sure, many religious folk say they gain meaning and purpose through their religious beliefs. Well, so do many people who dress up as Star Wars figures and go to conventions. Neither makes the case that the later bestowed meaning and purpose. Suggesting that a specific scientific theory blocks this obtainment is ridiculous.

            In my hospice work, our unit does statistics all the time – a component to justify and gain public funding. One of the measured components is what is called ‘complex grief’ that falls outside our purview. Of those who experience this, over 90% are religious and over 75% very religious. Their beliefs when confronted by a conflicting reality very often produce significant mental and emotional dysfunction. But you never read that ‘obvious’ risk factor on the religious prescription web sites.

            Reality shows us that humans are no more special in their treatment by nature than anything else. Suffering is ubiquitous. If we really did receive meaning and purpose from some exterior agency, then we would expect to find special treatment. We don’t. If this agency could do what many believers claim it can do, then the indifference we face by nature not tempered by this agency is not just less moral than either you or I, but criminally so and should be held to account for this unpardonable neglect rather than worshiped.

          • tildeb
            Thanks again for your comments and for your patience.
            At no point did I argue for the idea that religion provides meaning and purpose – what I did say was that in my observations the human yearning for meaning and purpose (and similar desires and yearnings) does not receive the focus it deserves. From reading current literature on the subject it would seem that the theory of common descent is influencing this attitude.
            The first is an observation in practical life – it could be argued that my observations are statistically meaningless, it could be argued that my observations are far from conclusive – I recognize that in order for a concept to be a accepted as truth – many different tests need to be done from different directions and I do not claim to have done that.
            The second point I am making is not an observation of reality but a conclusion which I think is logical. You are more than entitled to dispute it.
            It is science to doubt what I said, to demand documentation, to present conflicting arguments or evidence – but it is not science to try to silence my voice

          • tildeb
            On a different note – you mentioned the suffering of people whose beliefs have been shaken – I encounter this in my work as well (when people recognize that Christianity is not what they thought it was) – I dedicated a section of my blog to address such confusion called “Faith Crisis Guidance” – here is one of the articles – https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/anchor/

          • tildeb says:

            The reason why I brought it up is that there is good evidence that strong religious belief is correlated to increasing the likelihood of complex grief rather than the oft-advertised notion that such belief grants ‘comfort’.

            The second is that life experience tends to reveal an indifferent natural world. To impose on this indifferent state the idea of a loving god that is both real and interactive indicates a god of – at best – an inept moral compass and – at worst – a god that is much closer by deed to malevolence than benevolence.

          • tildeb about religion increasing the likelihood of complex grief – there is no question that a religion rooted in falsehood should increase such likelihood and it is no credit to the religion if it provides false comfort – I would also agree that exalting falsehood could be criminal and all the more if it claims to be holy

            I will not comment on your second comment simply because it will take too much time – perhaps I will address this issue in a blog post – but I do believe that the book of Job is providing guidance to this question – in fact, the book seems to articulate the question without giving a clear answer

          • tildeb says:

            there is no question that a religion rooted in falsehood…

            Oh, I agree… and as a secular organization we find this trend across all religious boundaries. This raises the question about falsehood and I immediately ask, how could you know? Religious beliefs celebrates the fact that none requires any means test, any verification process. I shouldn’t have to point out the obvious: there is no way, no means, to know if the religious belief is rooted in falseness. Using another person’s suffering as an indication about believing in the wrong religion is as brutal as it is arrogant, wouldn’t you say? It’s another way of separating the suffering of others from one’s self as if the sufferer has victimized him- or herself by believing in the wrong thing but having no way to know if the wrong thing until the suffering occurs! And the book of Job highlights exactly this lack of divine morality through the whim of god-approved brutality, arrogance, and hubris that offers nothing but suffering in return. After all, there’s a reason God can’t give a straight answer to Job’s justified questions: there isn’t one that makes any sense without undermining God’s moral authority..

          • tildeb
            what I meant by “rooted in falsehood” was that a religion that is rooted in the human tendency for falsehood – if a person was always following his/her inner moral code and they were following that code simply because it is right to follow that – and they find out that they were lied to and misled – I would suspect that they could handle the trauma – and part of our sense of honesty tells us that as humans we could always be mistaken and all we can do is take our best shot at any given time
            also – I never used suffering as a proof to my belief system – certainly not the fact that other people suffer
            as for your statements about religions “celebrating” the fact that they don’t require testing – I never heard that Judaism should “celebrate” such a thing – and Judaism is rooted in a credible testimony which we are encouraged to question and probe – Judaism also provides a map of our inner being which could be experienced in the real world

  11. peterusa123 says:

    ​ Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.


    Deuteronomy Chapter 5:15 Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God commanded thee; that thy days may be long, and that it may go well with thee, upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

    Deuteronomy 6:5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

    Anything or anyone taking this place is equivalent to being G-d in our lives and by contrast, Yeshua is making the point that you must love Him more than your own life, because He wants all of us, not a token part or a portion….HE WANTS ALL OF YOU even as it is written LOVE WITH ALL OF YOUR HEART, SOUL AND MIGHT AGAIN FILTHY PAGAN WHORE WHO IS THIS BASTARD yeshua. THE VERSE IS CLEAR YOU CANNOT DENY IT FILTHY LYING CHOICH WHORE IT SAYS TO HATE YOUR FATHER, MOTHER, WIFE AND CHILDREN, BROTHERS AND SISTERS YOU CANNOT DENY THE CLEAR VERSE BY LYING FOR YOUR BASTARD PAGAN ROMAN MAN god ON A STICK.


    Deuteronomy Chapter 5:15 Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God commanded thee; that thy days may be long, and that it may go well with thee, upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

    If you keep the Word of G-d, the Word of G-d will keep you. שוֹש7154

    • Concerned Reader says:

      “I will not comment on your second comment simply because it will take too much time – perhaps I will address this issue in a blog post – but I do believe that the book of Job is providing guidance to this question – in fact, the book seems to articulate the question without giving a clear answer”

      Rabbi, with all respect, this response to Tildeb’s second question (regarding the problem of evil,) is why a Scientist cannot accept creationism as a theory, but merely as a hypothesis. A theory is an explanatory model that fits the data. It has explanatory power that produces results.

      Evolution is plasible and likely over design for several reasons based on data.

      1. Humans and animals have vestigeal organs and bones that appear to have once served a purpose, but no longer do, or maybe never did. A designer would not be so inefficient.

      2. Cancer and other harmful diseases needlessly kill innocent people by the millions. Notice that Job is rewarded by G-d with a new family (that doesnt fix the problem of his loss, it compounds it and has ethical issues of its own.)

      The evolutuonary process of mutation and hetedity by contrast explains the presence of suffering and vestigial systems as a byproduct of the evolutionary process. Okam’s Razor. It is the simplest explanation.

      3. When humans at large believed in design, they did not understand basic truths (such as where disease comes from,) until science (which broke with religious dogmas at great risk) learned how our bodies actually functioned.

      A creator should enlighten people with basics like washing hands before delivering a baby. Washing with hot and not cold water.

      Inagine the following scenario

      An atheist and a polytheist are on a dune. Suddenly, the sand slips out from under the atheist’s feet. He is caught in quicksand. The theist tells the atheist,

      “you are stuck inside of the hourglass of the deity responsible for time. Pray hard, and hold still, the god will stop the sand from falling in the glass, you will cease sinking.”

      The atheist complies by holding still. He does not pray, but he holds still, requesting that the theist pull him free.

      The theist is puzzled as to why the atheist doesnt pray to the god of time to free him, but helps his friend nontheless, pulling him free.

      The theist says, “you will fall in again one day, you didnt pray.” The atheist says “what sense is there to an hour glass? Doesn’t the god of time have a rolex?

      • Dina says:

        Connie, I have enough sense to stay out of a discussion which involves science, a topic that is over my head. But I do understand common sense and logic. And common sense tells me that something can’t come from nothing. (I’m oversimplifying the argument because I don’t have time today to review it.)

        One can arrive at belief in God on rational grounds without science, just using reason.

        • Concerned Reader says:

          Dina, something comes from nothing does not prove the deity of the Bible (Tanakh or New Testament,) or the deity of the Quran, neither does it prove Hinduism’s deities, or any deity. Its an argument that says “some 1st cause started what we know of as existence.”

          Nobody has any way of knowing based on this argument whether it was a rational agent, or an impersonal force that “caused,” if Cause is even the right word in the context of the 1st of existence. The use of “mover” or “cause” implies motion/time time and space are contingent on each other IE there was no “before” the big bang, as time did not yet exist, nor did space.

          Rabbi, lack of understanding does not pose the same problems for the atheist that it does for a theist. Atheists have never claimed to know everything, in fact, I think the claim of absolute knowledge has proved to be the Pandora’s box of religions. If science is wrong about vestigial organs, it will ultimately adapt.

          In the case of Occam’s razor’s applicability, it is not an inappropriate use in this case precisely because, evolutionary theory builds around results and phenomena that are known and testable. IE there are inherently fewer assumptions in evolutionary theory because things like heredity and selection are observable.

          Even Ken Ham (creator of the creation Museum) admits that variation and heredity are easily observable, and these observable phenomenon are what Evolution is built on.

          • RT says:

            “Rabbi, lack of understanding does not pose the same problems for the atheist that it does for a theist.”

            It’s the other way round… I know many theist try to prove their god/God by that but you are right, it does not work. If we look at the entropy, the first protein would have never come to be, even less a living thing. Even if the atheist are not trying to prove anything, still the foundation of their theory does not make sense. Theist should not have to prove G-d, this is not possible. I can just say that some explanation given by the evolutionist does not make sense if we look at it from a logical point of view. I would not say it is wise to say that it proves G-d. The who or what that did it or even the how it happen can be debated, but it cannot be random!

          • Dina says:

            Right, Con, calling it a first cause is a good place to start. We don’t have to argue what kind of deity just yet.

          • LarryB says:

            “I think the claim of absolute knowledge has proved to be the Pandora’s box of religions. ”
            Please explain how religions, in general, not all, claim absolute knowledge. Absolute knowledge of what?

      • Concerned Reader The argument from vestigial organs proves my point – the list of vestigial organs gets smaller every generation – proving that scientists often equate their lack of understanding with understanding the lack – and there is enough data that doesn’t fit with common descent that the application of “Okam’s razor” is innapropriate 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

  12. Concerned Reader says:

    LarryB, absolute knowledge of what? Religions claim to uniquely posses extra sensory revelation, which makes them believe that they are uniquely qualified to pass judgement on several issues of real world import that they have no earned qualifications to judge. They claim to posses knowledge that they did not earn by the conventional methods of learning. In this sense, religions claim an all encompassing knowledge.

    The Church (and the Synagogue to a lesser degree,) felt it was their G-d given duty to burn books that they disagreed with, (or books that disagreed with their philosophy) because they claim the authority.There were many rabbis who wanted the books of Maimonides to be burned because of his reliance on Philosophy.

    RT “its not a theist’s job to prove G-d” I very much beg to differ with that statement. If it is not your job, (the one who makes the claim that G-d exists,) then whose job is it?

    “If we look at the entropy, the first protein would have never come to be, even less a living thing.”

    RT, NOBODY has any way of making the judgement as to what was possible before space-time. The question of Abiogenesis is not at issue in this discussion.

    • LarryB says:

      Thanks for replying, unfortunately your confusing me more,
      “Religions claim to uniquely posses extra sensory revelation, which makes them believe that they are uniquely qualified to pass judgement on several issues of real world import that they have no earned qualifications to judge.”
      Can you show an example of this extra sensory revelation”

    • Dina says:


      Abiogenesis (origin of life) is the issue in any discussion about God.

      • LarryB says:

        I agree. I posted this once before and will do again.
        ““The theory of Evolution that evolutionists are really promoting, and which creationists oppose, is the idea that particles turned into people over time, without any need for an intelligent Designer.” i forget who wrote this.

        • tildeb says:

          No, that’s not what’s being ‘promoted’, LarryB. This interpretation you quote and agree with is by religiously motivated people that is incidental to the theory if true.

          BTW, to call people who accept the preponderance of evidence for the evolutionary model ‘evolutionists’ is to call those who accept the preponderance of evidence for the gravity model ‘gravitationalists’ It’s just another example of religiously inspired silliness misrepresenting words to apply a negative connotation that only exists in the minds of those who practice this ongoing deceit in the name of incompatible piety. We call people who use the evolutionary model to practical effect ‘scientists’ and ‘biologists’ and ‘educated’ people.

          • LarryB says:

            I did not present them in a negative way and creationist and evolutionists are used all the time, by scientist themselves.

          • tildeb says:

            Well, perhaps by devout scientists who work in areas they can compartmentalize from evolution. But seriously, calling people ‘evolutionists’ is very silly because it indicates the speaker thinks such a description is reasonable without grasping that they are slapping themselves in the face.

          • Dina says:

            Hey, Tilly, did you ever hear of the saying, you catch more flies with honey? Sneering and mocking religious people for their views are certain to shut their ears to what you are trying to educate them about.

            What I most don’t understand about atheists is their intolerance and religious bigotry and inability to be civil. Why not live and let live?

          • tildeb says:

            Because you equate legitimate criticism of poor beliefs uninformed by reality and contrary to our best understanding of how it operates as ‘sneering and mocking’, I’m afraid in your mind I shall continue to do so. But what I’m saying remains true regardless of the Tone Police, and, for anyone actually concerned about what is true, then my words are like honey. And deconvertees tell me all the time that my challenges and criticisms are central to raising the very questioning that has led them to undertaking the arduous path to religious deconversion.

            But, to be honest, I don’t really care what people believe as along as they don’t try to fob off Just So stories as if equivalent to what is shown to be likely. In other words, claim whatever you want about your religious beliefs, but don’t for one second think you can then turn around and present them as if they comported to a reality we share and expect no criticism or correction from those of us who respect reality more than the incompatible superstitious beliefs some people hold about it.

            Case in point, the fabricated Exodus story, the fabricated founding couple, the fabricated 40 years in exile, and so on. These are not historical, not validated by reality, but religious in origin and religious in maintenance. That historical rather than religious presentation deserves criticism for being without compelling evidence from reality and maintained in spite of contrary evidence yet still presented as if evidence adduced from reality for the religious belief rather than what is actually the case: a religious belief imposed on reality. I don’t think that kind of intentional misrepresentation deserves coddling. It deserves blunt correction.

      • tildeb says:

        the issue, Dina? Don’t you mean a story? After all, you have absolutely no information to go by… other than information you have already dismissed as incompatible with your creationist beliefs.

      • Concerned Reader says:

        Ok, but Abiogenesis has NOTHING TO DO with Evolution. Evolution deals with genetics, heredity, change, etc. between organisms. IE a process that took place after the bang.

        • Dina says:

          Con, I know, it’s a different subject. And I’m saying it’s essential in a discussion about God. I’m saying evolution is not the issue. I don’t think accepting evolution is incompatible with belief in God.

        • LarryB says:

          I agree. I posted this once before and will do again.
          ““The theory of Evolution that evolutionists are really promoting, and which creationists oppose, is the idea that particles turned into people over time, without any need for an intelligent Designer.”

  13. Conxerned Reader says:

    What I most don’t understand about atheists is their intolerance

    Atheist intolerance? Religious people are the ones trying to discredit a theory accepted by 99% of the scientific community. To make matters worse, Christians (in American public education) want creationism to be given equal weight in educational material taught to children. They want a doctrine that is clearly faith based to be given equal weight to something SEEN BY EVERYONE occuring in reality.

    If atheists and secular humanists are so bad and intolerant, why did men like Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin champion freedom of religion, whilst insisting on Church state seperation?

    This Larry is what I mean by the dangers of absolute or relevation derived knowledge.

    • Dina says:

      Conx, I can’t believe you don’t see the anti-religious bigotry of the New Atheists. I’m not saying that all religious people are tolerant, what I’m saying is you’d think atheists would be more. But they’re less.

      Why can’t they live and let live? I’m willing to live and let live.

      By the way, you can believe in evolution and God. The question is not evolution. It’s origin of life. Important distinction.

      For the record, I believe that there are good and bad atheists and I believe there are good and bad religious people. Unfortunately, the New Atheists who have descended on this blog about a year ago demonstrated the highest level of anti-religious bigotry I’ve ever seen. So I will amend what I said.

      If you want to use the Founding Fathers as evidence, George Washington believed that a secular government such as the one our Constitution sets up will only work if the society it governs is religious. So there.

      If you’re open to reading a good book on the subject, I recommend Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused World of Modern Atheism. After you read this book, I’d love to get your thoughts.


    • Dina says:

      Oh, and Conxie? One more thing. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Just because some religious people are intolerant, that doesn’t justify Tilly’s bigotry.

      This kind of argument is a distraction called “whataboutism.” Mr. A. says: “Hey, this is wrong.” And Mr. B. counters with, “Yeah? Well, what about the wrongness of the other side?” Mr. B. didn’t answer the argument, he diverted it.

      • tildeb says:

        Bigotry (OED): A person who is intolerant towards those holding different opinions.

        I am not intolerant of people holding different opinions. That’s why I comment. I am disdainful of bad ideas like creationism. There is no evidence from reality for it.

        My contribution is to explain why they are bad ideas and to recognize what it is people are doing who try to pass these bad ideas along as if they have adduced them from reality (a falsehood) rather than imposed them on it (for reasons of faith) and yet who still try to demand respect for opinions about reality disrespectful of the very reality they are attempting to dishonestly describe.

        • Dina says:

          Tilly, okay, I can see what you’re saying and it makes sense from your perspective. Please know that we are not trying to “fob” off our ideas on anyone. Jews do not seek converts. We just want to be left alone in peace. That’s all religious Jews have ever yearned for for thousands of years. What’s wrong with live and let live?

          • tildeb says:

            Nothing. That’s why I only comment on posts that cross this boundary. That’s what New Atheists have been tasked to do, to publicly criticize religious beliefs when it tries to influence the public domain.

            When MPF posted about the powerful evidence supporting the central tenets of Judaism and referenced tenets that were not supported by reality, I commented because it is a promotion of religious beliefs misrepresented to be from rather than imposed on reality. I commented because it was a misrepresentation of reality – presented as if historically valid (and therefore independent of the religious belief supposedly inspired by it) with compelling evidence from reality for it, which is not true – rather than a post about the faith-based opinion/belief they really are. If it had been posted as such, I wouldn’t say ‘Boo’ about it because I think people can believe whatever they want. That’s fine. But I don’t think it’s fine to present in a public way and under false pretenses that the central tenets of Judaism were adduced from compelling evidence from reality.

            Part of that post referred to a founding couple and creationism which resulted in the conversation we had, in which he then referenced this one. The attempt MPF and other readers undertook to discredit and distrust and sew doubt about evolution is not done because there is any scientific merit to this religiously-inspired ‘skepticism’ but rather a blatant attempt to continue the deceit by another means… that it’s the science that is wrong and not the belief unsupported by reality.

            This is simply not the case.

            So if readers don’t criticize this religiously inspired anti-scientific ‘skepticism’ (oh, but only for evolution, of course), then who will stand up for reality? Not the believer who likes to hear that reality supports their particular partisan beliefs but people who have little skin in the game, so to speak. That’s me. I don’t criticize because I am trying to promote a different religious model; I criticize because the method here undermines the best tool we have for figuring out how reality operates and by what mechanisms.

            Wouldn’t it be great if there was compelling evidence of a founding couple? It could have turned out this way. Wouldn’t it be great if different creatures had vastly different genetic codes and humans the most unique? It could have turned out this way. Wouldn’t it be great if there was compelling evidence of a mass migration from Egypt by the Jews? It could have turned out this way. But the fact of the matter is that these tenets of belief are not adduced from such compelling evidence as MPF has suggested, and I think believers need to be reminded to respect what’s true independent of their personal partisan beliefs in order to understand the beliefs they hold are a personal domain choices. That would help tremendously in getting people to better understand that difference of religious beliefs so many people have with others rest with the believers themselves and are not adduced from reality, are not reflective of partisan insight into the reality we share… we, including those who do not believe in gods or a god. We all share the same reality even if we don’t share the same personal beliefs about it. Wouldn’t it be great if people recognized their shared humanity first and thought of different religious beliefs as personal benign quirks?

          • Dina says:

            Yes, Tilly, and it would also be great if people didn’t hector others for their beliefs, even if patently wrong.

            The only reason this website exists is to defend Judaism from aggressive Christian proselytizing, did you know that? If they left us alone, you would never have heard of Your Pharisee Friend, because he would be happily minding his business studying his Talmud.

            Jews don’t go out to atheists to shove their beliefs down their throats, surely you knew that?

          • tildeb says:

            It may be surprising to you that I do in fact know this. I love my Jewish friends but, to be honest, most are secular Jews! I get along just fine with those who are much more observant and have never had to thwart attempts at conversion.

            I will also freely admit that I do not get along the Hasidic ones because they constantly try to get the world to make specialized accommodations – and expect this to happen – for their blatant misogyny, which is contrary to our Charter rights and I think deeply harmful to the children – both male and female – they raise.

            That being said, if I were to post something contrary to reality, I would have no issue if a Jew took me to task for it. I wouldn’t let the person’s religious beliefs shade the legitimacy of the criticism but let the criticisms be considered on merit.

          • Dina says:

            Fair enough!

    • LarryB says:

      This was your original post, “Religions claim to uniquely posses extra sensory revelation, which makes them believe that they are uniquely qualified to pass judgement on several issues of real world import”………
      You have now changed it .. I hate to ask you one more time but….

  14. Concerned Reader says:

    “Religions claim to uniquely posses extra sensory revelation,”

    Religions like Judaism believe and claim that a deity uniquely intervened in nature via prophecy to teach them otherworldly knowledge that everyone else on earth doesn’t know from reality itself. (IE G-d did not appear plainly and clearly to all humans in the way we know about say, Gravity.)

    “which makes them believe that they are uniquely qualified to pass judgement on several issues of real world import”

    Religious people believe (because of their Bibles and religious traditions) that they posses unique knowledge about the world, they believe that other people should therefore listen to them, and they further try to influence fields of study (like biology) and other people’s personal lives that have nothing to do with their Bible or private religious beliefs.

    Religious people don’t want other people in society (who don’t share their beliefs) to be gay, they don’t want people to teach evolution, etc. They want to legislate what people can or can’t do with their own reproductive system and life, all because they believe they posses secret prophetic wisdom from a book.

    Other religions believe they also have the same special knowledge, but Judaism would not grant validity to those other religions. An atheist views Judaism as false in the same way that Judaism views every other religion besides itself as false.

    When an Atheist hears “why can’t an atheist just live and let live,” you have to realize how asinine this sounds to them. Religions have spent literally centuries killing people or going to war simply for holding the wrong beliefs, and controlling all aspects of the daily life of their adherents, and even those people who didn’t agree with them (such as Native Americans.)

    Sects have battled it out, people suffered, all because they didn’t hold the “correct” beliefs. No theist should ever say “why can’t they just live and let live,” unless they truly ponder the fact that RELIGION HAS NOT EVER TAKEN THAT PIECE OF ADVICE FOR ITSELF, BUT SUDDENLY WANTS OTHERS TO!

    Its ironic that religion is finally in the hot seat, (on the defensive,) after literally being king of the hill uncontested until very recently in the grand scheme of history.

    • Dina says:

      Con, I agree that the history of religious coercion isn’t pretty. But we have to live in the present, not in the past. We live in a society (speaking specifically of the USA where I live) that is founded on religious liberty, which is the opposite of what you’re describing. It is the freedom to worship or not worship according to your conscience. The religious among us and the atheists among us need to agree to live and let live in order for our society to continue to thrive on the great principles upon which it was founded.

      Also, as a Jew who belongs to a people that in the last 2000 years has kept to itself and only wished to be left alone but was persecuted by the religious and the atheist alike, I have more right than others to plead for tolerance.

      Finally, there is no need to shout. My hearing is as good as it ever was.

    • LarryB says:

      Let’s see…..
      “They want to legislate what people can or can’t do with their own reproductive system and life, all because they believe they posses secret prophetic wisdom from a book.”
      Throw the bible out on this one.
      Question, do you think grown men should be able to use their reproductive organs to urinate in front of young girls in a woman’s bathroom? Why not?

      • Dina says:

        OMG, I was thinking the same thing, Larry! Especially in light of Chris Cuomo’s tweet that implies that if a 12-year-old girl objects, she needs to be taught to be tolerant. Not too long ago, this was called indecent exposure and was prosecuted. Now, we need to teach our children to be tolerant. A good question for Con is, why is it okay for these kinds of values to be coerced on the public, and not the value of, say, not killing babies? Which, by the way, for the last few decades, tax-payer funded killing of babies was forced upon the public, and religious people object to their tax dollars being used for these purposes.

        And don’t tell me it isn’t, Connie. I have five children. I heard their heartbeat before they were born and watched them waving their tiny hands and feet on the ultrasound. These are tiny humans who have their own completely separate DNA. I don’t want to pay for people to kill these helpless, defenseless beings, but I don’t have a choice, do I?

        • LarryB says:

          and with the same breath they will tell you they want to protect the chlidren.

          • Dina says:

            I read somewhere a statement from a liberal feminist who had been the victim of sexual abuse opposing the new bathroom and locker policies, saying it re-opens trauma of sexual abuse victims who now feel more vulnerable than ever. When I find it I’ll post it.

          • Dina says:

            Argh, I can’t find it, but apparently a lot of feminists are opposed to the new transgender bathroom policies, such as this one:


            For example, abuses have already occurred at several Target stores (after Target announced its new policy of allowing people to use the fitting rooms and bathrooms of their choice, not their biological gender).

      • Dina says:

        By the way, you don’t have to believe in God to recoil from abortion. You don’t have to believe in God to think it makes no moral sense that it should be okay to kill a baby five minutes before it’s born and to call it murder five minutes after it’s born. There are plenty of atheists who agree with me on this one (like Charles C.W. Cooke and George Will, prominent atheist conservatives, or Charles Krauthammer, another prominent conservative who is almost atheist).

        Peter Singer argues that parents should have the right to kill their newborns if they are severely disabled. This is not abortion, but after birth. Do you agree Con, and if not, why not? Here’s his reasoning:

        “Newborn human babies have no sense of their own existence over time. So killing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person, that is, a being who wants to go on living. That doesn’t mean that it is not almost always a terrible thing to do. It is, but that is because most infants are loved and cherished by their parents, and to kill an infant is usually to do a great wrong to its parents.

        “Sometimes, perhaps because the baby has a serious disability, parents think it better that their newborn infant should die. Many doctors will accept their wishes, to the extent of not giving the baby life-supporting medical treatment. That will often ensure that the baby dies. My view is different from this, only to the extent that if a decision is taken, by the parents and doctors, that it is better that a baby should die, I believe it should be possible to carry out that decision, not only by withholding or withdrawing life support — which can lead to the baby dying slowly from dehydration or from an infection — but also by taking active steps to end the baby’s life swiftly and humanely.”

        He also said this: “I don’t want my health insurance premiums to be higher so that infants who can experience zero quality of life can have expensive treatments.”

        What’s wrong with his reasoning?

      • Concerned Reader says:

        This is the problem that I am talking about. You guys are all picking one grain of sand out of a mountain of material that I just wrote. CHOICE V BIRTH WASN’T EVEN MENTIONED!

        You automatically jumped from “They want to legislate what people can or can’t do with their own reproductive system and life,” and immediately ASSUMED I was talking about only pro choice vs pro birth issues.

        The reproductive system that religions try to legislate also includes issues of circumcision, female genital mutilation, a woman’s time of the month, etc. Men do not know what a woman goes through in lived out experience, we are men. We can only have a hypothesis of what a woman actually experiences.

        But, the Bible says that we (as men) are THE ONLY ONES allowed to make rulings on issues that we have no practical experience with?

        The Bible also says (I’m not sure where its actually stated outright if it is,) that women can’t be rabbis, so women can’t even decide cases based on their own experience of their own anatomy, something they, and not we men, have direct experience with!

        Dina is uniquely qualified to speak about birth for example, because she has given birth to children. However, the Bible has MEN decide the rules about how to handle menstruation , Birth, etc.

        “Question, do you think grown men should be able to use their reproductive organs to urinate in front of young girls in a woman’s bathroom? Why not?”

        LarryB, do you think a person needs to believe in G-d in order to know that it is wrong to do this?

        Would you do this if you didn’t believe in G-d or the Bible?

        Or do you mean this phenomenon in the sense of gender identity issues that the US has faced recently?

        In the case of someone who is transgender, do you have statistics that state emphatically that these are bad people who are harming children? Do you have direct observable proof?

        We do have direct observable proof of clergy harming children in this way, and these are people who in fact believe all moral agency comes from G-d, good and bad.

        Better yet, if you believe a rational agent is responsible for creating the earth, and this agent tells you in scripture that HE PURPOSEFULLY TESTS PEOPLE’S FAITH WITH GOOD OR EVIL, (such as allowing for false prophets, testing with inclinations, etc.) who is it that put these certain inclinations into people’s hearts?

        Did knowledge of the Torah (or its mitzvot) prevent many American Jews and Christians from voting for a man who openly bragged about sexual assault with married women? Ethics and scripture are not synonymous.

        The religious among us and the atheists among us need to agree to live and let live in order for our society to continue to thrive on the great principles upon which it was founded.

        I agree, which is why I believe (to get back to the original subject of science v religion,) it is wrong to try and pass off faith as if it has a scientific basis. A person has freedom of religion, and freedom from it.

        • Dina says:

          Con, you being a man yourself and being somewhat ignorant of the laws of family purity, should allow Orthodox women to speak for themselves on how they feel about it.

          I and all my friends deeply appreciate these laws. They respect our space and our bodies and maintain a level of freshness and an aspect of rejuvenation in the physical relationship between us and our husbands. If you ask an Orthodox woman what she loves most about Orthodox Judaism, her first answer will be Shabbos. And her second answer will be the laws of family purity.

          By the way, these laws restrict men’s access to their women, which shows that they were formulated with a great deal of selflessness.

          I know women who sometimes wish they didn’t have to cover their hair, but no one who would ever want to do away with the family purity laws.

        • Dina says:

          Also Con, it is disingenuous for you to pretend that it’s unreasonable for us to assume you meant abortion when you talked about reproductive rights. It was a perfectly normal response given the current political atmosphere. If you wanted us not to guess, you should have been more specific.

          And since Judaism is the topic under discussion, most of what you wrote is irrelevant.

          Finally, I’m saying you can have a rational basis for belief and not a scientific basis, based on reason and common sense.

          I’m also saying, you don’t have to believe in God to believe that what I believe is immoral, as I wrote to you yesterday.

        • LarryB says:

          I knew you were liberal but you have surprised me now.

    • LarryB says:

      “Religions like Judaism believe and claim that a deity uniquely intervened in nature via prophecy.”
      Your talking pre Torah, where can I find this?

  15. Eleazar says:

    >>>>>Eleazar, where did you get the idea that the Torah condones abortion?<<<<

    You just twisted my words, Dina. You're better than that.

    • Dina says:

      Maybe I didn’t twist your words. Maybe you were not being clear. Would you care to clarify what you meant by modern science replacing Torah on abortion?

  16. Concerned Reader says:

    The point Dina, is that many of you jumped to the Abortion discussion, I did not. The point being, its not your fault you jumped to that. Religions in fact encourage you to jump to a given stance on issues, because they teach that you already know things whether or not you have 1st hand experience with them or not. That was the point of my criticism of religions criticizing science.

    In the context of religions attacking scientific theory, (established by observable evidence,) it is irrelevant if Judaism isn’t guilty of the particular sins that other religions are to the same degree, because these many religions (including Judaism) use the same exact arguments to prove G-d exists, and use the same arguments to try to discredit science. They also claim authority over things they do not know.

    You say that faith in G-d can be based on reason and common sense. I agree that you can make a cogent argument based on common sense, but Science has taught us that common sense isn’t always correct. That’s a huge point.

    Common sense tells us that the earth is stationary and fixed. (that’s not the case.)
    Common sense tells us that the sun moves around our stationary planet. (not the case.) If our planet were stationary, we would all fly off into space, but we would be dead in a fiery mess way before that if the earth were not moving.

    I do not take issue with you as a religious woman enjoying, observing, and respecting, the laws of family purity, but the fact still remains that it is men (who will never experience what you do 1st hand,) who are the only ones allowed to pass laws governing something which these men have not actually experienced for themselves 1st hand, even one day of their lives.

    I’m not debating merit or demerit of family purity laws, I’m just noting that MEN HAVE ZERO BASIS IN THE EXPERIENCE OF LIVED REALITY on which to base rulings. In fact, this is the whole problem.

    Religion allows people to legislate things that they have no business legislating, based simply on the fact that they have no practical experience on a given issue.

    Religion is making a priori judgements.

    • Dina says:

      Con, I don’t have time to respond to everything here. So quickly. You are being unfair, and that is surprising to me. I didn’t jump to abortion because of my religion. I jumped to it because that is the hot button issue discussed on the news these days.

      Also, your accusation that we try to discredit science is also unfair. There are certain elements of the theory of evolution that have yet to be proven. I don’t want to get into this because I’m not on my turf. But that’s not discrediting science in a general sense. In fact, Jews have a healthy respect for science. I also keep saying that the discussion should be about origins of life, not evolution. Won’t you read the book I recommended?

      The thing that most surprised me in your comment here, though, is that you confuse common sense with observation. Observation tells us the earth is stationary, not common sense.

      • Concerned Reader says:

        Dina, I was not talking about abortion. You guys tried to dismantle a valid point I made with things I did not bring up, that is the definition of unfair.

        “There are certain elements of the theory of evolution that have yet to be proven.”

        Many religious people who say they doubt evolution already must accept that variation within a species occurs due to genetics and heredity. Artificial selection has demonstrated that unbelievable diversity can arise from a common pair based on environment and various other factors. That is the mechanism of natural selection at work. IE it cant be doubted, because it is something we see.

        Religious people cannot say “some aspects of evolution don’t make sense,” because natural selection IE evolution is the MECHANISM that we all already agree exists, and has benefited our species.

        It is discrediting science Dina. The same method by which we know gravity, is the method by which we know natural selection.

        • Dina says:

          Like I said, I’m on shaky ground here. Have no idea if what you’re saying is right or not right. But I think you will appreciate the book I recommended.

    • Dina says:

      Con, the Torah itself does not state that only men can rule on matters of halacha or that women can’t be rabbis. This has been, however, part of our religious tradition for thousands of years.

      You have the right to object as much as you please. That’s you exercising your freedom of speech. And we have the right to keep practicing our religion according to our conscience. That’s us exercising our religious liberty. As long as we are not hurting anyone, imposing our way of life on you, or violating the laws of this country, this is our right.

      However, by hectoring us, you are showing that you don’t believe in live and let live.

      And Con, as a student of history, you of all people should be aware of the historical pattern of what happens to all Jews who veer off the path of traditional Judaism. The Pharisaic tradition, known today as Orthodox Judaism, has proven to be the only viable form of Judaism. Modern factions such as Reform Judaism who have indeed liberalized Judaism the way you would like are assimilating at a rate of 80% compared with 3% for Orthodox Jews.

      Please be aware, when you make these kinds of harshly critical statements (from the outside looking in), you are unintentionally advocating an end to the Jewish people. That sounds pretty brutal, but if you take a few moments to think about it you will see what I mean.

      • Concerned Reader says:

        Dina, I may be generalizing the position slightly, but as I said, I do that because religions generally use the same arguments to dismantle Evolution and other scientific theories. Its not about theology really, (its not just Judaism that argues this way,) but about the question of how we come by the knowledge we have about the world.

        My point was not to be critical of the laws of family purity per se, or to say that you should not observe them. My point was not to hector. My point was, (by and large,) a criticism, not of your practice, but of how any religion sees its relationships of authority vis the acquisition and application of various forms of knowledge. A criticism of how religion sees this authority as being possible without direct experience of a given subject.

        My point was, in Judaism, (as in Christianity and Islam,) it is men who are legislating things about ladies that they couldn’t possibly have any idea about from their own experience, just as a matter of never having lived as a woman, ever.

        It is not a criticism of your practices, but a criticism of how exactly religion claims to “know” what it “knows”, and how it knows it, and then how it tries to exercise authority over a subject it knows nothing about, in ways that effect people within and outside of the fold.

        When religious people try to dismantle a scientific theory like evolution that we see working in the world, that attempt to dismantle has an impact on people who do not share your beliefs.

        For example, some of rabbi B’s arguments can be traced to arguments by Christian fundamentalists who want design taught in public school. Attacking evolution is attacking the methods by which we derived the knowledge.

        If I have never flown a plane in my life, but I get a book that tells me I am now a qualified pilot, (despite a complete lack of experience as a pilot on my part,) it would be wrong and maybe irresponsible for me to then go and judge a qualified pilot.

        Do you see that it is not family purity laws that I have an issue with? I was merely using family purity as an example of a claimed knowledge and authority on a subject by religious men, that it is impossible for any man to truly KNOW FOR HIMSELF.

        If you choose to live an Orthodox life, and it just so happens that only men historically have made the judgements, that’s fine.

        My point was, that when you accept a man’s judgement about a given aspect of your unique role as a lady in halacha, that halachic judgement cannot be based on the man’s shared experience with you, but just a matter of religious authority.

        It doesn’t make sense for example, that a man would actually know anything about the time of the month by experience. And yet, a man is allowed to make judgements about what he can’t know? Its this aspect (making judgements on things without experience) that irks me in the religious assault on evolutionary theory.

        • CP says:

          Concerned Reader,
          I believe your premise to be true, however not the conclusion. The problem is not “Authority” but rather ‘Respect’. One required to exercise authority can easily delegate responsibilities to those who know better than himself. As Yeshua taught; a true leader serves those he has authority over. This isn’t a matter of authority, it is a matter of respecting others. When Science and Religion disrespect each other by declaring sole authority, it causes division and warfare. There are those who seek common ground and peace through mutual respect but are generally drowned out by the loud mouth extremists. We are being robbed of synergistic results in Religion vs Science, Patriarchy vs Modern Feminism and here in this very place Judaism vs Christianity by the heavy and often dishonest hands of a few.

          • tildeb says:

            When we face diametrically opposed contradictory claims between science and religion, you assume that there really, really, really is a middle ground, that those who say the claims under review are either/or are now suddenly ‘extremists’! Not satisfied with this lonely vilification, you go on to say such people are heavy handed and dishonest to boot because they lack respect!

            Good grief.

            A causal claim is either true or it is not. The delusion is presuming that there is a middle ground where hypothetically both can be true and not true at the same magical time! To then build on this delusion with a vilification of those who understand the either/or causal claim is or is not true and contains no middle ground is hardly respectful, CP. In fact, what you’re doing inserting your magical middle ground kingdom where none exists is itself highly disrespectful because it based on both assumption and projection that are fictional, that are imaginary, that are magical. The important point here is that the ‘division and warfare’ you bemoan because it is caused by others in your opinion are actually being promoted here by you, by your assumptions and your projections based as they are on a fiction you’ve created and elevated to status, a delusion you seem comfortable owning, a counter-factual belief that you hold, that you then project on to others. This is, admittedly, a great way of avoiding responsibility for any havoc caused by anyone who shares your delusion and tries to impose it on others.

          • CP says:

            Thank for your response, it truly illustrates the saying; ‘No thing is good for nothing, it is always good for a bad example’

            You assume middle ground is imaginary because you’ve excluded mutual respect as middle ground. For example had the Church respected the Science view, allowing the possibility of a round earth, as opposed to flat, expounding to its own; this belief has no bearing on Scriptural doctrine aside from interpretations, we all could of moved forward together. However your definition of middle ground asserts both camps adhere to a elongated sphere is an admittedly ridiculous straw man arguement.

            If you have no respect for the possiblity of intelligent design then your proclaimed agnosticism is merely feigned.

          • tildeb says:

            What you conveniently call the ‘possibility’ has in reality zero evidence for supporting it where much evidence could have been available and no current evidence that is a ‘thing’ that sometimes happens. So the likelihood and or probability to support the ‘possibility’ you think is deserving of equal respect is approaching zero.

            To put it another way, you are trying to argue that there is a middle ground worthy of respect believed by some people who wish to claim that an object has the ‘possibility’ of staying in place and immune from gravity when released in a gravitational field, that those people who say an object will be acted upon in all likelihood and probability by gravity are ‘extremists’ if they don’t ‘respect’ the claim. It’s a ludicrous ‘possibility’ when the claim has zero evidence to support it. What is really being asked is for the most ludicrous claims to be granted automatic respect simply on the basis that some people want to believe it might be the case.

            No. There is no reason to respect such claims because the claim itself has already dismissed reality in favour of entertaining wishful thinking as equivalent.

            It’s not equivalent. It’s a claim not worthy of respect because the claim attempts to describe reality but in turn refuses to respect reality’s arbitration of it. You want your cake and you want to eat it, too.

            The same is true for believers who wish to claim in some kind of magical ‘Poof!ism for life in general and human life in particular, that such an evidence-lacking idea is reasonable, is ‘possible’, is equivalent to explanations arbitrated by reality to have merit, when every scrap of evidence we have from reality indicates it has not been the case, is not the case, will never be the case. This is an evidence-adduced belief in action… right up until the time contrary evidence becomes available. That evidence is not available. It is lacking. But in the meantime, it’s a vacuous belief and not a reasonable proposition whatsoever when balanced against the evidence we have about natural unguided mechanisms in action combined with the lack of evidence that should be available if the ‘possibility’ had equivalent merit but is lacking.

            As soon as Intelligent Design proponents and creationists begin to respect reality enough to allow it – and not their incompatible religious beliefs – to arbitrate beliefs they wish to hold held about it, I will then begin to offer the same respect I would to any ‘possibility’ claim that has reasonable evidence to support it.

          • CP says:

            Thank you, your comment further enlightened me to your position. You place a higher value on progress and achievement rather than peace and unity. That’s okay, but what’s not okay is to insist on one at the expense of the other. This is extremism.

            In other words; If you were at the last minute invited out to a nice dinner with friends and your girl friend had only one pair of pants which currently fit, asked you if if they made her butt look big. The smart thing is to put peace and unity before explaining the benefits of smart eating practices and exercise.

            tilbed, you have no respect for religion and it shows. Your attitude seeks to divide religion and science. It is an expansionist position looking to conquer.

          • tildeb says:

            Two things, CP. First, you say, ” You place a higher value on progress and achievement rather than peace and unity.” I have no clue from anything I said here how you came to this conclusion. Secondly, the methods of thinking that inform science and religion are themselves antithetical.

            The method of science is an inquiry into reality and how it operates by testing various explanatory models and ideas and seeing what reality has to say in the matter. Beliefs drawn from this method – post facto – are based on a preponderance of evidence to produce a level of confidence in beliefs held about it. It is a self-correcting method and beliefs can change due to this shifting level of confidence from accumulated evidence that is better explained by this model than that. A model that successfully incorporates all the evidence is called a ‘theory’ and deserves our highest levels of confidence because of this arduous testing process over time.

            The method of religion is opposite to this. It assembles a set of tenets and imposes it – a priori – on reality. The explanatory model does not allow reality to arbitrate it but demands reality to comport to it. What doesn’t fit is usually vilified/ignored, apologized for, dismissed. Belief in the model is demanded first not by evidence but by fiat and this is called ‘faith’. It must be offered first and this step makes the method incompatible with science… unless the two do not compete. Just look at what happens when both methods make contrary claims: all of a sudden there is a dividing line and the direction of insight is always – ALWAYS – from science to religion. Religious belief has utterly failed to produce any knowledge – real insight – about reality. The method is guaranteed to make people either credulous or gullible or have to compartmentalize how they think about certain topics to try to avoid this obvious incompatibility. Beliefs using the religious method are brittle, set in permanence (called dogma) that is not insightful into reality but imposed on it as if true first, not testable once reality is disallowed to arbitrate religious claims made about it. The explanatory model is falsely advertised as if true and entire apologetic schools of thought are created and sustained to try to combat conflict between the model and what reality has to say in the matter. This is why faith of the religious kind is considered the highest virtue in religious thinking but is the worst vice in any other field of inquiry.

            These two methods are in direct conflict even though people have spent millennia trying to comport the two. It is a mug’s game where science becomes ubiquitous and used by all…. except when it comes to religious belief and other forms of it that attempt to ignore reality’s role in arbitrating beliefs about it (AGW climate denialism. alternative medicine, anti-vaccination parents, anti-fluoridation groups, and so on) And that’s a clue that I think more people should recognize as indicative of just how insightful religious and other forms of faith-based belief really is obvious to anyone about the usefulness of religious thinking: not at all and often very foolish to the point of unnecessary harm to others.

          • tildeb I am not defending CP – his judgment of you is completely inappropriate – it is not for him (or anyone) to judge you (or anyone else) and besides – his judgment is off – I am not saying this to flatter you but I find your attitude inspiring I do think that your picture of reality is inaccurate. You label religious belief as a type of knowledge that is not built on reality – that is inaccurate at least as it relates to Judaism – perhaps you could argue that my interpretation of reality is off the mark – but it is an interpretation of reality. When people you trust tell you something about their own experience – and you believe them – that is a belief that is based on reality – human behavior has a certain consistency to it and a person who is honest and has displayed an affinity to truth is someone who is unlikely to lie – it would be a wacky quirk of human behavior. Let me give an example – many people comment on this blog – you are one of the only ones that has had the honesty to admit being corrected on a detail – If I believe that you are quoting a source accurately on the basis of my observation of your behavior – that would be a belief based on reality The way I see things – the Jewish nation is testifying about events that they claim they experienced – I read the writings of the Jewish people and I see how they valued truth – I see the value of truth in the society that they have cultivated – and it is difficult for me to believe that they are lying – This is a belief based on my observation of reality The study of archeology is not a hard science like the study of mathematics (and I am not saying that my understanding of human behavior is a hard science either) – archaeologists were convinced that Sodom and Gomorrah never existed but they now admit that they did – same goes for King David and Solomon or the Hittite kingdom – these are areas where insight came from the testimony of our nation before they were confirmed by more modern methods of reading the past The insight that the world had an origin was ridiculed for many centuries by people who rejected our testimony and only accepted the method of examining the reality of what we see – another foundational area where insight moved in the opposite direction of what you claim is a one way street Furthermore – not all of the facts from the real world line up with the model that you propose – it would be much better for your position if the phylogenetic tree built on similarities of anatomy would conform to a tree built on similarity of genes – and they do not, It would be better for the model you are proposing if the problem of abiogenesis would have been solved instead of becoming more pronounced, It would be better for your model if homology of anatomy would conform to a developmental pattern and it doesn’t at all You ask what we have produced in the real world on the basis of our belief? We produced a society that has a completely different set of statistics in many areas – plus that our belief has produced many great moral people In the past you argued that the connection between our belief and these results may not be a case of direct “cause and effect” – my observation of reality tells me that these results are the direct effect of causes – they happen too many times and too consistently to be dismissed as coincidence There is more to what I have to say – but I’ll close here by thanking you for commenting

            1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • tildeb says:

            I’m a big fan of Thomas Jefferson and how he thought about stuff. Specifically, he thought about how disparate and distinctive groups of people could be brought together and united under a single purpose… in his case, to unite against what he saw as a common oppressor and denier of individual autonomy. That’s the key word – an enlightenment term: autonomy.

            He very much wanted to elevate each person (male) against the law of primogeniture – inheritance to the eldest male – which he identified as the means by which colonists were self-regulated against their best interests, which he saw as directly undermining personal autonomy and freedom to act in one’s best interests.

            But what does all this have to do with Judaism and its fundamental tenets?

            Bear with me.

            How he thought about this issue of creating unity (all men are born equal) where little existed was quite astute: he saw that this form of inheritance and all the laws that supported it was a cause of huge strife that divided not just people within single families but expressed outwards into a pillar that maintained a class structure (imported from England and imposed on people born in the colonies)… again, a self-regulated practice that.ensured social division to favour the privilege of some at the expense of others, to privilege the nation of Great Britain at the expense of its colonies. To maintain this class structure (and trade protectionism) required authority to be imposed from above on everyone involved. This was the role of the Crown… operating and exercising authority while claiming its own derived straight from God.

            How handy.

            It was the Crown that had the autonomy – in all its forms – to do whatever it wished and impose whatever laws suited it at the expense of those so ruled. And this was obvious to him by the way Virginia had dealings with the Crown and the Crown’s ongoing support by the most privileged class in Virginia (and other upper class colonists). He wanted to change this (because conflicts were becoming ever more common).

            In order to change this imperial structure, he saw the the key was understanding the source of political power. Those who supported the Crown and its class-based authority did not have the autonomy to do so! Autonomy rested with the Crown and was bequeathed in drips and drabs depending on what best suited the interests of the Crown. In stark and enlightened contrast (a heavy reader of the Scottish enlightenment) he saw each man as perfectly capable of being individually responsible for his actions and so should be recognized in law as being the source of his own autonomy – in all its forms. The law should respect the individual first and foremost so that each person could be treated fairly – not treated by class and position of birth order or by which family he had been born into – and not subject to its privilege for some through its coercive and punitive power over others.

            This idea that legal autonomy rested with the individual who then loaned it to government (consent of the governed) and only then legitimately became subject to it for unified action through the electoral process, was utterly revolutionary… a bottom up model based on reasoned virtue rather than top down authority based on god-sanctioned privilege.

            But here’s where it gets really interesting in regards to why I insist that religious belief – to be legitimate – must respect reality’s arbitration of its claims about it matters.

            How does one get unity and support from all kinds of different people found throughout the colonies, some of whom are privileged and some of whom are not… from trappers to ship builders to fishermen to plantation owners… all with different religions, different ethnicity, different cultural practices, from different families of wealth and position and so on, all of whom have been raised with the idea that authority for autonomy comes from above rather than from within?

            You make a fictional people.

            This is exactly what he did.

            He studied how people organize into a single identity, organized into a single political unit. Judaism was a key example for him as were indigenous tribes, as were the European states. What formed these units were common units of language, culture… and religion. This triad formed the basis of a cohesive and unifying narrative. Of the three, religion was identical to very problem he was trying to avoid: a top down authority that distributed various levels of autonomy to create privilege for some at the expense of others. (This friction remains constant today between people who assume a top down authority is fine if it’s from some god – not because it may or may not be historically literal but because it bequeaths good values – and those who understand each of us possesses individual autonomy from birth.) So he created a narrative about a fictitious people called ‘Americans’. The narrative was new and it was all about inheriting shared fundamental values. These values would be owned by each citizen at birth who would then self regulate their autonomy in the name of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (happiness in the classical sense). On this basis alone, people would legitimize any government by their consent. Without such consent no government is legitimate, no matter how many people point to the sky and insist some god bequeaths autonomy based on some other metric.

            Does the narrative have to be literally true and infused with some external authority to play this unifying role?

            No. Of course not. Nor does the Jewish narrative have to historically true to play this role. In fact, it’s not And this is widely recognized even by Jewish scholars and archaeologists. The fundamental tenets are not historically valid.

            “The Chief Archaeologist at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum, Professor Magen Broshi, has explained: “Archaeologists simply do not take the trouble of bringing their discoveries to public attention.” So solid is the consensus, and so definitive the evidence supporting it, that in 1998, the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), the primary American professional body for archaeologists working in the Middle East, changed the name of its professional publication from Biblical Archaeologist to Near Eastern Archaeology simply because the bible had been determined to be (beyond all doubt) an entirely unreliable historical source to direct research into the early Jews, pre-Babylonian captivity. Indeed, in that same year, even Christianity Today’s Kevin D. Miller conceded: “The fact is that not one shred of direct archaeological evidence has been found for Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob or the 400-plus years the children of Israel sojourned in Egypt. The same is true for their miraculous exodus from slavery.”

            “These are just the facts. They are not a secret. The information has been in the public domain for decades, and today even the majority of Jewish rabbi’s openly concede their origin narrative is a work of fiction cast as a family unity tale: Isaac in the north (Israel), Jacob in the south (Edom), and Abraham, the father, right in the middle in Hebron (Judah) uniting them all. Imagined in the 8th and 7th century BCE, the story was designed to place Judah at the centre of the Jewish world so as to capitalise on a weakened Mamlekhet Yisra’el (whose name is derived from El, the father of the Canaanite pantheon, not the Judean Yhwh) after its sacking in 722 BCE. Coincidentally, the 8th/7th century was precisely when the high priest, Hilkiah, miraculously rediscovered the supposedly “long-lost” scroll of the law, the Sefer Torah, hidden in a wall, telling this fantastic tale how his kingdom, Judah, was in fact the center of the Jewish world.(Source)

            It’s not important if the narrative is literally true. What’s important is that the unifying values of personal autonomy – including respecting reality to arbitrate claims made about it – are held in common. Without that common inheritance of respecting the Other’s autonomy, no unifying narrative can do the job in today’s world.

          • tildeb
            I appreciate this respectful, lengthy and thought out comment. I hope to be able to respond in kind in the near future.

          • tildeb I too am a fan of Thomas Jefferson and the founding fathers of the United States. I think that the Declaration of Independence is one of the most noble documents ever written. The idea that civil rights derive from the individual by virtue of the individual’s existence is a foundational motif of the Jewish Bible – Job 31:13-15 so the concept is not revolutionary. Although Jefferson himself did not respect the Bible much (an understatement) but the people he was working with did. And the declaration was not written in a vacuum – it was written according to the understanding of the signers who agreed with Jefferson and shared much of his world view. Also – Jefferson did not invent the American “experience” out of whole cloth – he reshaped the way people looked at existing circumstances and he certainly didn’t convince anyone that their ancestors had been telling them of certain concrete experiences for generations. As for your quotations from archaeologists that the Bible is a myth – you know as well as I do that I can dredge up quotes from archaeologists that will argue that the underlying story of the Bible is not a myth. That the authors of the Bible knew too much about Egyptiology for their times (if they lived 7th century b.c.e.). There are pieces of archaeological evidence such as the influx of a new people into Canaan at about the time of Joshua, architectural evidence that these people were also in Egypt, Joshua’s altar at Mt. Ebal, Shishak’s conquest of Jerusalem, the Mesha stella etc. So the statement “there is not a shred of evidence” is obviously inaccurate. But I would draw your attention to another serious problem with your theory (7th century b.c.e. dating for the Bible). The Bible goes beyond the books of Moses. The Psalms of David are written in older Hebrew and are attributed to David. were these authors so sophisticated as to recognize the nuances in the evolving of Hebrew through the centuries? That they wrote some books (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Psalms) in older Hebrew and other books (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Kings, Isaiah) in a more developed Hebrew with shades of nuance between the books? Were they that sophisticated? And how did they foresee that the Jewish people would be exiled but survive as an identifiable national entity with the Torah not forgotten from them? And how did they get the Samaritan community – who doesn’t see David and Judea as the center of the universe to accept the five books of Moses? These are observations of reality that cannot be brushed under the rug. I do agree with your conclusion – that one cannot expect the other to accept their understanding of life without satisfying that other’s personal sense of justice and honesty – and that each individual’s sense of honesty and justice is just as deserving of respect as is mine – and that everyone’s sense of justice and honesty dictates that reality should arbitrate and dictate our understanding of life.

            1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • CP Your comments to tildeb are as obnoxious as the ones you post to Dina – please try to be civ

          • KAVI says:

            I am curious what you think about the reality of evil?

            –or, possibly you deny that evil exists?


          • tildeb says:

            Kavi, it’s a loaded term that I have found isn’t very useful. When referring to certain actions and/or effects, I tend to substitute the term ‘causing harm’ or ‘causing suffering’. Those causal links can be demonstrated. But evil? Well, the term tends to mean very different things, so to say something like ‘the reality of evil’ almost certainly denotes something much more specific and probably much more accurate that can be linked to its cause.

          • Conxerned Reader says:

            Well said, Tildeb

  17. Concerned Reader says:

    “like I said, I’m on shaky ground here. Have no idea if what you’re saying is right or not right.”

    You don’t need to believe what I say, you can literally SEE the evidence of what I am saying.

    Ken Ham (who runs the creation Museum) had a debate with Bil Nye about evolution. You can youtube this debate if you want. In the debate, Ken Ham acknowledges that there is “variation within a kind” IE there are variations of dog, variations of cat, variations of fish, variations of bird, etc.” you don’t need to have faith to SEE that. Evolution in action is visible.

    What most theists doubt is that this variation produces distinct species that are so distinct as to be a different animal or plant that cannot breed with the initial stock. They doubt that the vast number of species on earth can be the result of common descent. The issue I have with this is that we can see examples of animals that are clearly very distantly related, but if they mate, they will produce sterile offspring, or they are incapable of breeding.

    Horses and Donkeys must have a common ancestor. We know this because If they did not, they could not make babies.

    If a horse and donkey do breed, a mule or Hinny is produced. However, Mules and Hinny’s are sterile, and they cannot make babies if you breed them. That is evidence of evolution in action, it doesn’t require faith.


    There are numerous examples of speciation among insects, but religious people generally don’t like this evidence because “its just bugs.” We can see speciation in insects because insects have lifespans of days or hours instead of years. Many of the world’s large flightless birds (emu Cassuary, Ostrich, etc.) wont breed with each other unless forced in a lab. The offspring are also often sterile.

    So, the basic mechanism of evolution literally is visible to us. That’s why 99% of scientists agree with it. Its not an argument about origin of life at all.

    • Dina says:

      Con, do you think it’s possible you’re misrepresenting the position? I think it’s more fair to say that a lot of religious people have no problem with the theory of natural selection and resultant variations within a species; they are more likely to be skeptical of the idea that natural selection leads to completely new species (just making up an example, say, frogs turning into humans).

      My point that you are completely not getting is that evolution mostly does not pose a problem for believers, many of whom believe in God-directed evolution. Origin of life, on the other hand, presents a bigger problem for atheists. That’s why I think the discussion of evolution is irrelevant in a discussion about God and that the issue to focus on is origin of life.

    • Dina says:

      Con, will you read the book? For me? 🙂

  18. Eleazar says:

    Short interruption:
    Rav B, I am wondering why you don’t end sentences with a period, and often use no punctuation at all to differentiate between sentences.

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