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AgriculturalAtheist's Avatar Comment 1 by AgriculturalAtheist

Not I!

But wait - though I may delude myself that I am sophisticated, I am certainly not a theologian, or even a theist! Still, for what it is worth, here is the first post of agreement from "the choir."

My only worry is that the excerpt might be seen as waving a taunting red flag at believers. If the tone were not (albeit, justifiably so) sarcastic, the perception of "baiting" or "trolling" might be avoided. However, I predict either full major chord choral agreement on this, or (much rarer, at least here) debate and resentment.

Thu, 26 Jul 2012 16:04:59 UTC | #950107

bluebird's Avatar Comment 2 by bluebird

Behe, bah.

If memory serves me correctly, he was made a fool of at the 'Dover' trial.

Thu, 26 Jul 2012 16:14:03 UTC | #950109

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 3 by Steve Zara

I love the argument from complexity, I honestly do. I'm not being ironic, I really do find it the most fascinating argument for gods that there is, because it's actually the only argument that has ever made any kind of sense - although in retrospect, it never did. Here is something so strange, so detailed, so complex, that it could never have just turned up by itself. It had to be made, and being made means there must be a maker. It feels like a good argument. It is a pretty good argument generally, but it fails in one critical situation, which is when we are trying to explain ultimate origins.

Complexity seems to have a cost of explanation which needs to be funded by a creator. But it doesn't. Even if we put aside natural selection, complexity still doesn't need funding. Thanks to the work of the mathematical physicist Ludwig Boltzmann we know that complexity may only need time:

Take one universe. Add particles of various sorts. Mix thoroughly. Put into a sealed heat-proof container, and simmer. Wait. Eventually anything and everything will appear. You get complexity for free.

This isn't magic. The second law of thermodynamics, that everything falls apart, isn't actually a law. It's more of a guideline. It isn't a guideline for the world, it's a guideline for our understanding, written by us. Given enough time the second law just gives up and walks away.

This is seriously important for cosmology. It means that if you have a vast dull nearly-empty universe, you will eventually get a Big Bang. If quantum gravity exists, then this is pretty much inevitable. It needs no explanation, just time. We get a new universe, in fact an endless number of them, for free.

Now lets add in the work of Darwin. Darwin showed how complexity can appear quickly, by a form of dodgy gambling. You fund your bet with the complexity of a genome, make countless small bets through mutation, and Natural Selection will pay you back handsomely. Well, apart from when the casino of life is burnt to the ground by an asteroid. So we get complexity for free anyway. It's not just natural, it's guaranteed.

That's not good enough for many believers, as they want there to be a creator. A creator messes things up, though, because what is wanted is a heavenly self-portrait of the believer, a creator who shares the same loves, the same hates, the same morals. Portraits are hard to paint. They are full of detail. And so, a creator is necessarily complex, even if the picture is crude. A creator is also fearfully self-defeating as a kind of beginning of everything. If we want to explain the origin of human attributes through a creator, then we have to explain where those complex attributes came from:

If they came from a complex creator, then we haven't explained anything; we are just facsimiles of that being.

If the creator is not complex then the creator can't be the source of the complexity, it has to be added somehow, so adding a creator doesn't help.

There is also the problem, and it is a huge one, of how the creator created. Unless we know what happened, we can't say who did it. We have to let off any being suspected of the crime of creation because of lack of method and opportunity. We have to say reasonable doubt.

So-called irreducible complexity is never an argument for a creator, because a creator isn't the kind of thing that helps us understand ultimate origins. It's not just wrong, it's irrelevant.

Thu, 26 Jul 2012 16:42:58 UTC | #950112

Kubrick's Avatar Comment 4 by Kubrick

Grayling is quite right.

Richard, I seem to recall you claiming that, before Darwin, Intelligent Design was a defensible position. (I hope I'm not distorting your view here; I'm thinking of the passage in "The Blind Watchmaker" in which you suggest that Darwin made it possible to be "an intellectually fulfilled atheist.")

I'm sympathetic to this view--after all, Darwin did provide a breathtakingly parsimonious and empirically sound argument for natural selection as the the cause of the illusion of design. Still, I'm tempted to say that even before Darwin, there was a fatal flaw in ID arguments, precisely the one that Grayling foregrounds here. Saying "God did it" does not solve the problem--it merely replaces the original problem with a new (and more insoluble) one. Perhaps this means that we should be careful not to overstate the link between Darwinism and atheism. In other words, even if there weren't a shred of evidence for Darwinian evolution, wouldn't ID remain an illogical and unsatisfying position?

Thu, 26 Jul 2012 17:15:36 UTC | #950114

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 5 by Premiseless

The fundamental residue we tend to get infected with in childhood then preserve like gems thereafter is one of emotional geocentrism, so that even when our rational scientific position is materially corrected, the emotion gatecrashes the lesson, law courts and every corridor of humanity with its memeotions.

"Do you even realise how that makes me feel? I can't stop thinking about it!"

Thu, 26 Jul 2012 18:26:48 UTC | #950116

Maariya's Avatar Comment 6 by Maariya

You can't really pose a cheap shot at all classical arguments for the existence of God with 'Fred'. And yes fair enough even in the eys of a theist the classical arguments aren't exactly the best ones taking into consideration that they do not in anyway want a disbeliever to believe in God. So criticising them is a waste of time.

Thu, 26 Jul 2012 18:59:25 UTC | #950117

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 7 by Alan4discussion

Comment 6 by Maariya

You can't really pose a cheap shot at all classical arguments for the existence of God with 'Fred'.

I don't see why not! They are just as unevidenced! Fred! leprechauns, fairies, wizards, or any of these :- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_deities

And yes fair enough even in the eyes of a theist the classical arguments aren't exactly the best ones taking into consideration that they do not in anyway want a disbeliever to believe in God.

Are you suggesting evangelists do not try to convert unbelievers using biblical texts?

So criticising them is a waste of time.

It is true, that it is a waste of time to try to present evidenced rational criticism for every known deity or superstition, but that does not preclude specific examples which arise.

In the case of Michael J Behe, he has persistently tried to pervert science teaching to school children, and for this he deserves all the criticism and mockery he gets for his "authoritative posturing" to give credibility to dishonest infantile anti-science claims.

Thu, 26 Jul 2012 20:01:32 UTC | #950119

Maariya's Avatar Comment 8 by Maariya

If you set out to disprove something that is what you will do, if you set out to prove something that is what you will do. Now whether how credible, valid, reliable that proof is, is a whole different topic.

Thu, 26 Jul 2012 20:15:16 UTC | #950120

blitz442's Avatar Comment 9 by blitz442

Comment 8 by Maariya

If you set out to disprove something that is what you will do, if you set out to prove something that is what you will do

You should read more science. John Clauser was a pioneer in developing experiments to actually observe quantum entanglement. He confessed in a recent documentary that one of his motivations for developing such a test was to try to DISPROVE quantum mechanics - he had originally been highly skeptical of it.

Thu, 26 Jul 2012 20:29:55 UTC | #950121

Maariya's Avatar Comment 10 by Maariya

Comment 9 by blitz442

So you're talking about the falsification principle, I don’t see how that applies to religion. That principle was sought out by 'philosophers' who were more bothered about science then they were about religion/God. So obviously it would 'disprove' God.

Thu, 26 Jul 2012 20:56:42 UTC | #950122

blitz442's Avatar Comment 11 by blitz442

Comment 10 by Maariya

I don’t see how that applies to religion

Plenty of religious claims have been falsified; YEC, demonic possession, efficacy of prayer, faith-healing...

That principle was sought out by 'philosophers' who were more bothered about science then they were about religion/God

Why the scare quotes around philosophers? What are you implying - that true philosophers should never take religion seriously enough to critically examine its claims?

So obviously it would 'disprove' God.

I'm not sure if falsification is the same as complete and permanent disproof, which may be impossible. But if we never find God where believers say we should find him, then that is close enough to disproof for me.

Thu, 26 Jul 2012 21:09:13 UTC | #950123

Maariya's Avatar Comment 12 by Maariya

What are you implying - that true philosophers should never take religion seriously enough to critically examine its claims?

If one took something so seriously then they wouldnt attempt to critically examine it, because its religion not science.

Religion has always been a closed belief system, however if you criticise a certain part of it I'm sure that religion will have an acceptable comeback. Science however is an open belief system i guess thats what makes it so rational and open to criticisms, then again it has to be an open system as it is still learning things already known by religion.

Thu, 26 Jul 2012 21:21:25 UTC | #950124

blitz442's Avatar Comment 13 by blitz442

Comment 12 by Maariya

If one took something so seriously then they wouldnt attempt to critically examine it, because its religion not science.

Please do not fall into the trap that religious claims = claims that get a free pass from examination. The major religions make very specific claims about reality, and are not averse to using scientific evidence when they think it is in their favor. It is only when evidence goes against those claims that the tired arguments about religion being completely separate from evidence, reason, and critical analysis get wheeled out.

Religion has always been a closed belief system, however if you criticise a certain part of it I'm sure that religion will have an acceptable comeback

How can a comeback be acceptable if it comes from a closed system that admits no contradicting evidence?

as it is still learning things already known by religion.

What is science still learning that religion already knew? Do tell.

Thu, 26 Jul 2012 21:30:01 UTC | #950125

crucialfictionofjesus's Avatar Comment 14 by crucialfictionofjesus

"things already known by religion"

What?? Religion'knows' precisely nothing.

Thu, 26 Jul 2012 21:41:24 UTC | #950126

blitz442's Avatar Comment 15 by blitz442

Comment 14 by godzacon

"things already known by religion"

I would also add that implicit in this claim is the notion that there must be a category of religious knowledge that the methods of science can speak to, which contradicts the belief that religion and science do not overlap.

Thu, 26 Jul 2012 21:46:14 UTC | #950127

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 16 by ZenDruid

I feel sorry for the gods. First, they were evicted from the mountaintops, then from the clouds, then the Moon, then the outer planets. There's no haven for the Ineffable Sacred when science is on the move.

Religion is a closed system, eh? What does the Second Law say about closed systems, eh?

Thu, 26 Jul 2012 21:49:41 UTC | #950128

blitz442's Avatar Comment 17 by blitz442

Comment 16 by ZenDruid

God was last seen hiding in the quanta.

Thu, 26 Jul 2012 22:01:27 UTC | #950129

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 18 by ZenDruid

God was last seen hiding in the quanta.

Thus, Quantum Theology! Do Craig and Plantinga know about this?

Thu, 26 Jul 2012 22:21:10 UTC | #950130

cynicaloptimistrealist's Avatar Comment 19 by cynicaloptimistrealist

Will any "sophisticated theologian" dissent?

I feel that in the question lies the oxymoron. Theologians are more excited by what humanity has not yet discovered and with every scientific discovery their iceberg melts a little more. Their arguments remind me of the logic my cat uses when faced with her reflection in the mirror "What's that cat doing here?", approaches slowly and attempts to attack reflection, realises the offending cat is behind the mirror, checks, no cat, moves to front of mirror and looks at me as if to say "See, there it is!".

I am not sure if you are in Japan for a conference or speaking engagements, if it's the latter and you have time please address one of the most irritating examples of pseudoscience that I encountered in Japan, eastern China and Taiwan - the blood group personality beliefs. It's particularly strong in Japan, if you speak to some people for a time, someone will suddenly ask "Are you type AB? You seem like an AB person!". It's basically astrology applied to blood groups, but when you dig deeper it has it's origins in the three "evils" of eugenics, social Darwinism and neo confucianism, it is basically a throwback from Imperial Japan's flirtation and collaboration with Nazi ideology.

Fri, 27 Jul 2012 00:03:07 UTC | #950132

aspindog's Avatar Comment 20 by aspindog

Grayling is clearly a blasphemer. Cloud shapes were designed by Bob, not Fred.

Fri, 27 Jul 2012 00:04:24 UTC | #950133

MilitantNonStampCollector's Avatar Comment 21 by MilitantNonStampCollector

There is complexity therefore god - ha ha, checkmate atheists. But not only that, I know which god did it: my god (sigh!) How do creationists live with such mental knots?

Fri, 27 Jul 2012 01:07:59 UTC | #950137

HowieHam's Avatar Comment 22 by HowieHam

Any argument for supernatural influence deduced from the concept of 'irreducible complexity', is completely tainted by relativism; the ignorant and ultimately arrogant assumption that if I (or we, or humans) can't understand something, then it's simply not possible to understand it. What a great way to kill curiosity!

The more we know, the less we god.

Fri, 27 Jul 2012 02:42:15 UTC | #950139

mmurray's Avatar Comment 23 by mmurray

Comment 12 by Maariya :

Science however is an open belief system i guess thats what makes it so rational and open to criticisms, then again it has to be an open system as it is still learning things already known by religion.

Could we have some examples of such things ?

Thanks Michael

Fri, 27 Jul 2012 07:46:21 UTC | #950140

Mark Ribbands's Avatar Comment 24 by Mark Ribbands

Comment 16 by ZenDruid
I feel sorry for the gods. First, they were evicted from the mountaintops, then from the clouds, then the Moon, then the outer planets. There's no haven for the Ineffable Sacred when science is on the move.

Comment 17 by blitz442
God was last seen hiding in the quanta.

Comment 18 by ZenDruid
Thus, Quantum Theology!

Great exchange, thanks for brightening my morning!

This God bloke does indeed appear to be emulating The Incredible Shrinking Man

Comment 20 by aspindog
Grayling is clearly a blasphemer. Cloud shapes were designed by Bob, not Fred.

Foul Heretic! Aspindog: you will burn forever. As all true believers know, Kevindidit.

And beware the Followers of Fred who may hunt you down and kill you for your disbelief - because Fred, although omnipotent, for some odd reason doesn’t appear able to do it himself.

Fri, 27 Jul 2012 08:24:00 UTC | #950141

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 25 by Ignorant Amos

Comment 12 by Maariya

Religion has always been a closed belief system, however if you criticise a certain part of it I'm sure that religion will have an acceptable comeback.

Arse.....ya just have to look at Christianity for goodness sake. 38,000 flavours and counting. Even by modern standards, Christian cults have sub-cults. I'm thinking Mormonism specifically, but even the more benign flavours like the Amish are at loggerheads. It seems that any individual that doesn't fancy a certain piece of dogma, is at liberty to just amend and start their own flavour...with a charge to those gullible that wish to follow of course. Comeback? Yes, as always. Acceptable? To who? Not the rational among us that's for sure.

Don't even get me started on the history of the veneration of Mary throughout the the past two millennia in order to get the yarn to fit. Acceptable comeback? In line with science? What bollocks that stuff is. There is an excuse for gullible ignorant people sucking up the bilge, but when there is a Pope in the 20th century, try reading the 'Munificentissimus Deus'.

"By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory"

Do you think that is an acceptable comeback by religion in line with science? Just asking. Anyway, there is a lot of talk about gods, which one and an agreed definition is required before we can move forward with any worthwhile meaning to the subject.

Fri, 27 Jul 2012 09:12:54 UTC | #950143

suriyan's Avatar Comment 26 by suriyan

Human is a combined combination of ions, which seemed to like all other oaganisms and species, there is no superficial human in the form of god, the only superficial thing is the mind which belives and can creat an non-exixstance. humans are not designed, we may origined with some special combined extra structural organism which fakes other organisms to belive superiority.

Fri, 27 Jul 2012 09:17:30 UTC | #950144

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 27 by Alan4discussion

Comment 12 by Maariya

What are you implying - that true philosophers should never take religion seriously enough to critically examine its claims?

If one took something so seriously then they wouldnt attempt to critically examine it, because its religion not science.

When we take anything seriously (like electricity, heat, sunlight) we try to use it and take note of its effects. This in it's self is a test of its existence.

Clearly the claims of many religions simply do not work, but science can take the psychology behind these forms of thinking seriously.

Religion has always been a closed belief system, however if you criticise a certain part of it I'm sure that religion will have an acceptable comeback.

It will only be an acceptable comeback in the biased blinkered views of its followers. The obvious question is "acceptable to whom"?

Science however is an open belief system i guess that's what makes it so rational and open to criticisms,

That is the validity of the scientific method - that evidence still stands after repeated critical testing by people with deep understanding and expertise.

then again it has to be an open system as it is still learning things already known by religion.

What? The things "known to religion" are either common knowledge, or false unevidenced claims.

Perhaps (as others have requested) you could some examples of non-fiction things known to (a specified) religion, which are not known to science.

Comment 10 by Maariya

Comment 9 by blitz442

So you're talking about the falsification principle, I don’t see how that applies to religion.

It applies to the reality of the universe and everything in it!

That principle was sought out by 'philosophers' who were more bothered about science then they were about religion/God.

There is no evidence or reason to assume gods exist, let alone that any particular god exists. Falsification can discredit some specific religious claims.

There is evidence that the notion of gods originates in the spiritual feelings of the brain, and "gods" have zero properties in the absence of believers.

So obviously it would 'disprove' God.

Proving a negative is always difficult. The absence of evidence or clear descriptions, is good evidence that even followers making claims of deities, usually do not know what they are talking about.

Fri, 27 Jul 2012 10:21:05 UTC | #950148

Roedy's Avatar Comment 28 by Roedy

There are two kinds of anti-god argument: ones that atheists find convincing and ones that Christians find troubling.

I think the prime argument for believing in a god is the god will torment you in eternity if you dismiss it as a crock. It is an "expected value" argument. Even though the probability of the god existing may be vanishingly small, the negative payoff is unacceptable if it does.

I notice the the Muslims ratchet this argument up an order of magnitude from the Christians. It is quite effective.

To free someone of the notion of Jehovah, you need an extreme level of convincing to overcome that argument. 99% sure god does not exist is not good enough.

The primary focus then has to be freeing people of fear of the god-monster Jehovah.

How? Transfer fear from god to clergy. Do "dangerous" things and taunt Jehovah to harm you, and show it does not happen. Arguments why a rational god would not behave so badly. I think people would prefer to believe in a kind god.

Fri, 27 Jul 2012 10:26:21 UTC | #950149

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 29 by Alan4discussion

Comment 8 by Maariya

If you set out to disprove something that is what you will do, if you set out to prove something that is what you will do. Now whether how credible, valid, reliable that proof is, is a whole different topic.

There are scientific methods and logical reasoning methods of proving or disproving claims.

There is no reason to believe all claims are equally valid, or that claimants objectives of proof will be achieved.

Many claims are utterly whimsical and easily refuted, while established scientific theories will have been extensively tested and confirmed.

Fri, 27 Jul 2012 10:28:28 UTC | #950150

Jumped Up Chimpanzee's Avatar Comment 30 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee

Listening to Richard Dawkins talking about Fred is like listening to someone claiming to be an expert on biology when all they have read is the Book of British Birds.

Dawkins' understanding of Fred bears no resemblence to the understanding of Fred built up over centuries by sophisticated Fredologians. Fred is not some bloke who designs clouds, as Dawkins seems to imagine with his limited intellect. Fred is clouds. Fred is also "other", transcendent and unknowable (except, of course, by sophisicated Fredologians). It takes years of hard work, dedication and commitment, reciting Cumulonimbus, Cirrostratus, Cirrostratus, Altostratus, etc over and over again in order to go completely bananas...I mean in order to attain the transcendent state that allows the faithful a brief glimpse of Fred.

Fri, 27 Jul 2012 10:52:26 UTC | #950152