@Puck_Mendelssohn Attributes of the heart such as humility, compassion, wonder, etc etc do actually make a big difference on how you see the world and related to others and yourself. And given, as some people are pointing out here, that we do not have direct evidence of God or direct proof of atheism, it seems to me like looking inward at what the human heart can lead to is at least a worthwhile exploration.
Could you provide a description of the methodology used when one “looks inward at what the human heart can lead to” in an effort to determine whether a particular concrete entity exists in this world?
Sure, but if you think I am dismissing the meaningfulness of human feeling, you have missed the point. One of the principal problems with human feeling, when we approach a question of fact, is that our feelings are liable to prejudice us in the matter. Here, when we have an objective question like “which of the gods are real, and what are they like,” feelings are a problem to be overcome, not an aid to inquiry. Whether the gods are real or not, and what they are like, has nothing to do with how we feel about it, any more than our feeling, as we fall off a cliff, that we’d rather not hit the ground has anything to do with whether we will, in fact, continue to fall till we hit something.
I have Mormon friends whose “hearts” tell them one thing, and Muslim friends whose “hearts” tell them something very different. My “heart” is used principally to circulate blood and is silent on the matter. Neither the disparate tales told by the wordy hearts, nor the silence of the more conventional heart, has anything to tell us on which we can in any way rely.
That of course does not deny the value of human feeling in its own realm. Our lives would not be what they are without it. And there are all manner of questions involving taste, caprice, joy, et cetera, on which human feeling may bear. A robot, charged with making the apple pie this morning, wouldn’t have said, “oh, heck. Just a bit more nutmeg” as I did.
But human feeling, while it may provide texture to our lives, is not a mode of inquiry into facts about anything other than human feeling itself. And it is a grave error, which can only lead to greater error, to suppose that it is.
I would mention in reply to this topic the book “The Return of the God Hypothesis”, by Steven Meyer, where he examines three scientific areas that point to God: “The three main lines of reasoning are (1) evidence for the creation of the universe, (2) evidence for the fine-tuning of the universe for life, and (3) evidence for the creation of genetic code in the cells of all life.” (Amazon review)
That’s a seriously dreadful book, with some real howlers, like:
“Although the Cambrian explosion of animals is especially striking, it is far from the only ‘explosion’ of new living forms. The first winged insects, birds, flowering plants, mammals, and many other groups also appear abruptly in the fossil record, with no apparent connection to putative ancestors in the lower, older layers of fossil‐bearing sedimentary rock.”
That someone can say things like that and still be regarded as a serious thinker says something about those who so regard him. This is the best the ID Creationist movement has to offer, and it ain’t much.
My review is at: Intelligent Design Creationism meets its Maker, Again
Except that the “scientific areas” themselves do not “point to God” – it is only Apologists (mis)interpretations of these areas that does the pointing.
I can state with absolute certainty that no scientific paper of the Big Bang has stated that it is “evidence for the creation of the universe”.
In the case of Fine Tuning, all we have is arguments not evidence.
In the case of genetic code, what we have is assumption not evidence – in this case the (much repeated by ID-advocates, but repeatedly-debunked) assumption that information cannot arise through natural processes.
A rerasonably good summary of the shortcomings of Meyer’s book can be found here:
(There are others, and may well be better ones, but this is the best I could find on a short search.)
And I would recommend that @Audrey avoid like the plague anything by Stephen Meyers or any of the other shysters and grifters from the Discovery Institute. There are plenty of books about God from people who are honest and informed, so no need to bother with the DI.
I think @Puck_Mendelssohn’s point was that those are attributes of the brain, not attributes of the heart.
The lack of effect of heart transplants on patients’ characters should have excised such claims even if the centuries of prior anatomical discoveries didn’t.
@Audrey great question!
Regarding your friends who suggest now you have to explain God, I call that an “internet atheist” argument. You notice no one here raised that. Basically existence itself needs an explanation. What you would expect is that nothing exists and no one knows that. The God possibility adds the property of intentionality to the other properties of existence, and could explain some of the features we do see better than “it just is.”
I would summarize with a thumbnail of several categories as follows:
The Big Bang requires an infinite, eternal, immaterial cause. If the property of “intentionality” exists for humans, it must have been there at the beginning. So either something governed by natural laws alone kicked off the Big Bang (a multiverse), or there is an intentional (implies “thinking”) cause. The science currently implies a beginning and is compatible with either explanation.
The fine tuning of the universe that allows life like us has been mentioned. We certainly only have one sample universe, which makes it difficult to assess. Although some physicists have modeled other universes, we can’t test them. At this time, it appears to be a cosmic lottery that we won somehow, but we don’t know for sure.
The fine tuning of a planet that allows life like us. Ward and Brownlee in Rare Earth were the first I know of to point this out. Our planet may be the only one in the universe that can support life like us. The number of necessary parameters is significant and growing. Another lottery win for us?
Natural origins of life. There would have been a paucity of useful materials available, massive life-defeating contamination by all the other materials that would also be present, and non-overlapping conditions are needed to produce complex biomolecules and complex interacting systems. This is based on what we do know about biomolecules and the early earth. I consider this the best argument from science for divine intervention at this time.
Whether evolution needed help. Evolution as a set of natural processes is a fact, but there is no scientific proof that the processes we know about by themselves produced the all complexity we see. So the grand Evolution Narrative (“yes, we know how it all happened”) is a story. There is no “Drake equation” equivalent for dealing with this, but all complexity in life needed to happen within about 10 ^ 40 ish mutations. I don’t have faith in that as adequate on its own.
The emergence of modern humans. Humans are an astonishing species. Scientists talk about our use of symbols with symbolic communication, and our recursive theory of mind. No other species even has discussions about an afterlife or a divine being (as we are). There are many other issues, some debated more recently above. The interpretation of these as arising from evolution or having independent existence (in a divine being) cannot be determined from the data. There MUST be brain function, but science is totally lame in being able to tell us anything beyond that. However, our brains in support of these features seems like yet another lottery win.
There are plenty of confirming scientific studies around the Bible where it touches history. Leaving out the interpretive aspects of the text, it is very reliable.
As a disclaimer, these points are argued for and against by various people. Some on this thread probably disagree with all of them. However, I would suggest that this may be a comprehensive list of the areas where scientific data and arguments are marshalled to suggest a creator as an active external participant in history.
There are three primary groupings of what Christians hold to: Young Earth, Progressive, and Evolutionary Creationist views. I don’t at all agree with Ken Ham either in content or style, but he argues the “Young Earth” view, that his seven 24 hour day interpretation of the Bible trumps all modern science. Reasons to Believe (reasons.org) is a “Progressive Creationist” resource for arguments from science to belief in a God, with an emphasis on how we can accept both science and the Bible (disclaimer: I volunteer for this group). Biologos.org is an “Evolutionary Creationist” site which has a stronger emphasis on accepting evolution and faith together, and has a diversity of materials. These are the three explicitly Christian groups.
Discovery Institute materials are used by both Christians and Muslims to argue for the existence of God within their own faiths. While there are valid arguments against some of their arguments, they are typically presented with aggressive ad hominem attacks against the authors.
ID is by no means dead. This entire discussion is about whether the evidence lends toward a creator or not. It’s ID vs materialism in the interpretation of the data.
Hope that helps!
You left out the Ignostic argument that you cannot have a meaningful discussion about God until we have a sufficient definition to discuss. The Ignostic then goes on with over more useful activity.
That’s a part of my point, but even if I set aside the fact that the use of the “heart” as a metaphor for feelings has always seemed downright weird to me, the issue basically is that none of those attributes have any use in determining what is actually true, as opposed to just prejudicing one’s judgment.
I recall a long, long while ago a time when I was still hanging on to some vaguely pantheistic notions, and I couldn’t get myself to really let go. Why? Because I wanted not to disappear when I die, and so the idea of disposing of mind/body dualism entirely seemed, well, depressing. The “heart,” if mine were any good for forming feelings, said there must be some essence of the self outside the body, because it’d be too sad if there weren’t. But then I came to truly understand a basic fact about reality: that whether I wish something to be so has absolutely no influence or bearing upon whether it is so.
Now, as to gods, I am happy for there to be any number of them: seventy, or seventy thousand, one, or zero. What I care about is the project of ascertaining, so nearly as I can, if there are any, how many there are, and what those are like. I don’t even think about what the implications for me personally might be – you can’t even bother with stuff like currying favor with the gods prior to establishing which ones really exist, and what those ones are like, and consequently whether there’s any favor to curry.
Now, when I see this sort of thing:
I always wonder: why are our minds deemed finite, while our “humility and faith,” surely characteristics not useful for inquiry into specific factual questions, are not characterized as being finite. They surely are not only finite, but in this case quite unfit for purpose. And so I can only conclude that this is a case of not understanding that basic truth, without which prejudice will always undermine one’s ability to scrutinize facts and claims: that when the question is a question of fact, it does not matter what one wishes the answer to be.
In defense of the “Ignostic,” I certainly have observed that if one does NOT ask the proponent of the gods to define what the gods in question are and how they may be expected to behave, what happens is that one gets The Incredible Shrinking God in response – as scrutiny is applied to the question, scrutability is withdrawn, until the god in question has become undetectable by any craft we possess and irrelevant to everyone and everything. And so while a lot of skeptics do not rush out front and demand a definition for “gods” before we will respond, we often wish we had. Most people believe in scrutable gods, until scrutiny is applied, whereupon the gods become inscrutable. Then, when the discussion is over, the gods become scrutable again, mighty, omnipresent and all-pervading. I guess the one thing these gods are is adaptable. And like a teenager who doesn’t want to be in any photos, they dodge behind a bush whenever they fear being viewed.
2 posts were merged into an existing topic: The Argument Clinic
Marty, your post is SOOO helpful!! Thank you so much!! This is exactly the information I was looking for when I started this thread. I have already gotten a couple of excellent book suggestions. By chance, do you have any favorites along the lines of your post?
Do you (or anyone) know of any good documentaries on this topic? I would like to make one someday.
Hi @Faizal_Ali that is a great question. I believe that it’s more about removing obstacles than it is about a positive methodology. Since I do believe in God, my assumption is that we each have a relationship with God–even atheists do, in my view. It can be a distant or severed relationship. But all of us have some relationship with God, in my understanding. We must remove the obstacles and distance in our relationship with God–or even repair it entirely. Humility removes the obstacle of pride. The pride in each of us tell us we are smarter, better, or more superior to others than we are; that we know more than we do; and pride is delusional and also repugnant to God. So we each must work to remove this obstacle within. Assume that, before God, each of us is like an ant in comparison, when it comes to our understanding.
Given that we all have some sense of morality, I think searching within to see our shortcomings, failures, and sins would also help remove the obstacles within us to perceiving God. Finding someone to make a confession of sins to. I find confession with my priest to be very healing and cleansing.
Desiring to know God and the meaning of everything more than anything else. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Making amends with those we have hurt. Forgiving others. Helping people in need to foster more compassion.
Doing all of these above things shows us we each have a rich inner life that can have very good things in it or very bad things; that we are always moving in either a good direction or a not-good one; that our relationships with others are real; and that we are answerable to someone other than ourselves. We are not just physical beings who are accidents; rather, we are people who matter, and our relationships with others, and with God, are real. Of course, I believe in what is called the soul, where our inner lives reside (also commonly called the “heart,” per the discussion that is going on).
The idea that truth is found intellectually in the mind only, apart from one’s character and virtues, is a very modern idea, and we know how modern enlightenment thinking turned out… It didn’t work to see truth as primarily a set of intellectual propositions that can be entirely objective.
If we are primarily relational beings, created for relationships of love and harmony (as the fields of psychology and neuroscience are showing; see Daniel Siegal’s “The Developing Mind”), then I think it can make sense that our rational minds are finite but that our ability to love another person can be unlimited, perhaps?
You would need to show that this is the case first. Can one really love every single person in the world with the same intensity that they love their significant other, for example? If it’s not possible, and I’m not sure that it is (nor am I sure how this could be demonstrated in principle), then the argument doesn’t hold.
I think I would not take that as a literal proposition; “unlimited love” seems more like a goal and statement of worldview than something that can be shown or measured.
Well, I don’t know what “unlimited” in that context means, and I’m assuming you’re using it metaphorically, in which case, well, sure. But that doesn’t transform those feelings into a useful mode of inquiry into objective fact. Again, I get the sense that you’re reading me as dismissing human feeling as unimportant, when I am not; I am just saying that feelings aren’t a method of identifying and evaluating evidence.