14 Apr 2013

Not a Shred of Evidence for God?

Religious 70 Comments

One of the things that amuses me in “science vs. religion” debates (in quotation marks because I think that’s a false dichotomy, like have a debate between Superman and pizza) is the overblown rhetoric coming from the supposedly objective, rational, empirical side. (I’m sure the theists do it too, but they’re supposed to be the emotional hotheads, so it’s not as ironic.)

For example, in discussing evolutionary biology and Intelligent Design, you will hear things like, “the Darwinian theory of common descent is as well-established as the law of gravity,” which is insane.

Another typical example goes like this: “I do not reject the existence of God out of hand, and in that weak sense I’m an agnostic, not an atheist. I can’t prove there is no God. But if he does exist, why isn’t there a shred of evidence?”

On this blog, I’ve brought up things like the fine-tuning argument, the unexpected beauty of mathematics, my own personal experiences (which I realize shouldn’t convince any of you guys much, but they were certainly evidence to me), as well as the whole legacy of a guy named Jesus thing. But how about these two recent items instead?

==> An account from a neurosurgeon who had an out-of-body experience while in a coma. An excerpt:

As a neurosurgeon, I did not believe in the phenomenon of near-death experiences. I grew up in a scientific world, the son of a neurosurgeon…I understand what happens to the brain when people are near death, and I had always believed there were good scientific explanations for the heavenly out-of-body journeys described by those who narrowly escaped death.

Although I considered myself a faithful Christian, I was so more in name than in actual belief. I didn’t begrudge those who wanted to believe that Jesus was more than simply a good man who had suffered at the hands of the world. I sympathized deeply with those who wanted to believe that there was a God somewhere out there who loved us unconditionally. In fact, I envied such people the security that those beliefs no doubt provided. But as a scientist, I simply knew better than to believe them myself.

In the fall of 2008, however, after seven days in a coma during which the human part of my brain, the neocortex, was inactivated, I experienced something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death.

I’m not the first person to have discovered evidence that consciousness exists beyond the body. Brief, wonderful glimpses of this realm are as old as human history. But as far as I know, no one before me has ever traveled to this dimension (a) while their cortex was completely shut down, and (b) while their body was under minute medical observation, as mine was for the full seven days of my coma.
[Bold added.]

===> But that’s just another anecdote, from a self-professed believer, right? So how about this NPR interview with the scientist who studied many such reports?

This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. What happens when we die – wouldn’t we all like to know? We can’t bring people back from the dead to tell us but in some cases, we almost can. Resuscitation medicine is now sometimes capable of reviving people after their hearts have stopped beating and their brains have flat lined. And some of those people report being conscious during the period after their heart stopped, before they’ve been restarted.

These experiences are popularly known as near-death experiences. But my guest, Dr. Sam Parnia, prefers to call them after-death experiences. He’s a critical-care doctor who is the director of resuscitation research at the Stony Brook University School of Medicine. He’s conducting research into optimal cardiac arrest care, and into the experiences some cardiac arrest patients report they have brought back from the other side of death.

[PARNIA:] Now, what we study is not people who are near death. We study people who have objectively died. These people have been dead for tens, sometimes hours – tens of minutes and sometimes hours of time. And therefore, what we’ve understood is that the experience that these people have of going beyond the threshold of death, entering the period after death for the first few minutes, tens of minutes or hours of time, provides us with an indication of what we’re all likely to experience when we go through death.

And that’s why I call these an actual death experience, because the physiology and the biology of the human brain is very well-studied, it’s very well-understood, and it’s standardized, which means that we can study it in a scientific fashion.

And what I find most fascinating about the experiences are the cases where people have come back and described to their physicians, with astonishing detail, of what had been going on. And they described watching things, and described hearing conversations – and recalling them incredibly accurately.

GROSS: When you say what had been going on, you mean going on in the hospital room after the patient’s heart had stopped, while doctors were trying to resuscitate them?

PARNIA: Absolutely. So they may describe events that were going on while they were being resuscitated. They may describe events that were going on outside their room, family members’ conversations that were going on that were not even in the room they were in, but things that have been verified.

And although a lot of people had traditionally tended to discard these experiences – and possibly for the right reasons because we didn’t have a science to explain it. But if you look at it scientifically, there are now millions and millions of people around the world who have had these experiences, sometimes children less than 3 years old, who have had very accurate descriptions of what was going on that were similar to what adults have described. And therefore, it’s important for scientists like ourselves to bring them into the mainstream and study these objectively.

The general trend of what they describe, aside from the sensation of being very peaceful, is seeing a bright light; sometimes a very warm, welcoming, loving being that they describe as being full of compassion, that guides them through their lives. They often describe having a review of their lives, everything that they had done from early childhood to that point. And interestingly, the way they describe their review is very much like they experience, sometimes, everything that they had done. So for instance, if they had hurt somebody’s feelings, even inadvertently, without purpose, they feel the pain that they had given somebody else. And therefore, they judge themselves, in effect, and their actions. And that’s why when they come back, many of them are motivated to lead their lives in a completely different way. I remember one person who said that, I particularly wanted to make sure that I don’t fail again; and I want to make sure that I at least end up with a C, when I get back there again. [Bold added.]

I submit that there is far more objective, “scientific” evidence of an afterlife than there is of many things that atheists believe in without hesitation. And for that last part I put in bold, let’s recall what I said about such matters on this very blog, when I wrote:

Suppose for the sake of argument then when you die, there is indeed an afterlife. You are still conscious. However, you suddenly have access to all of history; you can contemplate, in one fell swoop, every event in the universe, from the moment of its creation to its destruction.

Now, from that newfound perspective–which is so far beyond our current abilities that we can barely even talk about it, let alone really imagine what it would feel like–you become acutely aware of the ramifications of people’s free choices. There are obvious things, of course, like seeing the effect of Karl Marx putting his views down on paper, when history might have unfolded very differently if he had written commercial jingles instead.

But there’s more. You realize, to your absolute horror and astonishment, how much extra misery YOU brought into the world. Even if you thought you were a “good person,” the effects of your relative slips were that much more severe. You see that when you were in a bad mood one morning, and honked on your horn unnecessarily when a lady cut you off in traffic, that set in motion a chain of events that ultimately led to a bicyclist getting paralyzed 8 minutes later.

Can we admit that that was a pretty good guess that I had? I had never heard of that from others; that was “my” idea (in quotation marks because I actually thought it was inspired at the time the notion occurred to me, and I really do mean that it “felt different” from how I come up with thoughts about overlapping generation models or Say’s Law).

Finally: I hardly expect this blog post to change anyone’s mind on the ultimate question of whether there is God or an afterlife. But can we at least stop saying, “There’s no evidence for your irrational beliefs.”? There’s a bunch of evidence, it’s just that many atheists apparently can’t even see it.

70 Responses to “Not a Shred of Evidence for God?”

  1. Z says:

    I’m personally an agnostic, I don’t really know if there is a god or not, but what amuses me about atheists self-labeling themselves ‘rationalists’ all the time is that most atheists never really take their views to their end logical conclusions. Without a god, there is no real reason to believe in free will. Nobody really leaves the door open to computers having free will, so what’s the reason for man having free will when we’re made of the same basic elements? Sure, there could be a free will, but that is all conjecture. There could also be a flying spaghetti monster. And therefore, no reason to believe in morality as we know it either, as free choice is an essential part of our conception of morals.

  2. DesolationJones says:

    “Can we admit that that was a pretty good guess that I had? I had never heard of that from others; that was “my” idea”

    Seriously? It was a guess? Not only is not original, it’s actually pretty cliche. There must be countless of tv shows, books, and movies that have played around with this idea. You must have have seen at least one of them.

    Suddenly becoming “all knowing” when you die must be an idea every single person in the world must have played around with in their head.

  3. James says:

    Bob, here’s the trouble. Yes, there is evidence for God in a very strict sense. For example, humans are capable of thinking about God. Uncontroversially, P(People can think about God|Christianity) = 1 and P(People can think about God) < 1, so any rational person must admit the fact that we can think about God would move a perfectly rational Bayesian updater to increase P(Christianity).

    But the position atheists seem to actually hold, despite their frequent hyperbole, is that even after considering everything that could truly be considered evidence for Christianity, it is still impossible to arrive at P(Christianity) being very far from zero.

    Here's an idea for a post: What probability did you assign to the claim that the God of the Bible exists before you were aware of any of the evidence that brought you to where you are now? What probability do you now assign to the claim that the God of the Bible exists? Then itemize out how your degree of belief changed for each piece of evidence. Here's my guess. If you show your work, you will find that your change in P(the God of the Bible exists) is far larger than is actually warranted by whatever evidence might have moved you.

  4. Ivan Jankovic says:

    So, let’s assume there is evidence that human spirit or soul, or mind, may survive physical death in some shape. What does that have to do with “God”? Or even worse with four Gospels? Or with Koran? Or with Shiva and Wishna? The problem of consciousness is the problem for science which does not understand this phenomena fully yet, as well as it does not understand many other phenomena beyond consciousness.

    You are simply making a heroic, gigantic non sequitur here,, from “there is consciousness after death” to “there is an all-powerful loving God who died on the cross for our sins”. Non Sequitur.

    • guest says:

      Soul/free-will is an external force affecting an otherwise closed system.

      The closed system consisting of nothing other than that which is scientifically deterministic, the soul, having at some point begun to exist, would require a source of creation that is also outside of the closed system.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        Assertions? Ok. Free will is in the closed system consisting of free will and determinism. It does not require creation from “outside” the system.

        • guest says:

          Determinism and free will are mutually exclusive in the sense that something can’t have both aspects (for lack of a better word).

          If you are free to do one thing or another, then your decisions aren’t pre-determined by cause and effect.

          Determinism is the closed system, so free will is the outside force.

          • guest says:

            “Mutually exclusive” = dualism, btw.

            The body is deterministic, the soul is not. The soul controls the body.

  5. Major_Freedom says:

    If I am hit over the head, and I see stars, does that make me an interstellar astronaut?

    • integral says:

      No, you realize you were an interstellar astronaut all along. ( Travelling the universe on starship earth. Boldly going where noone has ever gone before, or likely will again. )
      So basically, we’re all as cool as Buzz Aldrin.

  6. Ivan Jankovic says:

    guest,
    what you call “soul” might be just a different and more complicated kind of matter, that could be analyzed scientifically just as good as “physical” matter you can touch. The fact that quarks or leptons or fermions cannot be touched or smelt, does not mean they are not a part of the physical world. The religiously inspired preconceptions such as “free will”, “soul” and similar nonsense (from a scientific point of view) do not help us in understanding the world at all. Of course, they may help us to feel better in moral sense or to develop interesting philosophical or theological constructions but don’t contribute much to the understanding what is going on ‘out there’.

    • guest says:

      You can’t do science without the freedom to analyze data.

      If everything you do is a consequence of cause and effect, then you have no such freedom.

  7. Andrew says:

    Did religions describe the after life to be consistent with near death experiences or are near death experiences consistent with religious descriptions?

    • ABT says:

      Well here are a few excerpts from the Quran that describe a similar after-life experience:

      “On that Day will men proceed in groups sorted out, to be shown the deeds that they had done. Then shall anyone who has done an atom’s weight of good, see it! And anyone who has done an atom’s weight of evil shall see it” (Qur’an 99:6–8)

      Or Surah 84: verses 7-12

      Or Surah 69 (aptly named “The Reality” or “The Apparent Truth”) verses 19-31

      and just as a final example although there are a few more Surah 17: verses 13-14
      “Every man’s fate We have fastened on his own neck: On the Day of Judgment We shall bring out for him a scroll, which he will see spread open. (It will be said to him:) “Read thine (own) record: Sufficient is thy soul this day to make out an account against thee.”

      The accounts of these folks (mainly Christian I’m assuming) who have died and seen their lives flash before their eyes seem to jive with the Quranic description of being shown ones own deeds and that all has been recorded and your soul will reflect the beauty or ugliness of your deeds.

      Just as a reference the Quran was revealed in the 600′s and Islam claims to be the completion of the Abrahamic faiths not a new religion.
      Hope that helps clarify the religion or the egg problem.

      • drigan says:

        Out of curiosity, what was an “atom” in Muhammed’s day? Does it mean “an indivisible amount” or is that an anachronism?

  8. joe says:

    Of course there is evidence. The fact that a billion people hold a belief is evidence,. Maybe they mean there is no convincing evidence which is merely another way to say they are an atheist and nothing more than their opinion. But it is certainly absurd to say “no evidence.”

  9. Daniel Kuehn says:

    You seem to be treating “there is something that happens to you after death” with “evidence of God”. God is a pretty darned specific “something”, and most atheists/agnostics are challenged with a much more specific idea of what that God is.

    It may be that our souls exist in other dimensional realities that our bodies don’t, and that they persist. Alleged alien interviews commonly turn up this theme of the body being a vessel and the reincarnation of souls (this is why a lot of people with interest in aliens are also so interested in Atlantis and the distant human past). It could also be evidence of God, of course.

    But it’s notable that in your shreds of evidence of God in this post there… well there’s no other way of saying… isn’t a shred of evidence of God?

    If the God of the Bible is real (and he may be), I’m guessing he’s probably an ancient alien visitor. I think we have less to worry about when it comes to heaven or hell, but sure – maybe there’s something to the persistence of consciousness after death.

    • Cody S says:

      I often get the impression that there are a whole subset of people who could die, arrive at a portal to the afterlife guarded by St. Peter, and conclude that they had been correct in their atheism because the gate into heaven is wrought iron instead of pearl.

      Just a note on that opening sentence of the last paragraph: are you sure you want to hazard so much at once, DK? If the God of the Bible is real, he is probably an ancient alien? What reading of the Bible allows God to not be a person who visited Earth (or at least multiple Mediterranean countries) from elsewhere in ancient times?

      I will do you one better: if the God of the Bible is real, he is probably fairly intelligent.

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        1. The sort of atheist you describe will find out pretty soon they were wrong, I imagine.

        2. That just seems the most likely. I don’t think a human traveling from another part of the Earth would be impressive enough to have a book like that written about him. If it’s not just a story, it was obviously something or someone that really made an impression on ancient peoples.

        3. I don’t see how that’s doing me one better, but I can certainly agree with it.

      • Bob Murphy says:

        Cody S. wrote:

        I often get the impression that there are a whole subset of people who could die, arrive at a portal to the afterlife guarded by St. Peter, and conclude that they had been correct in their atheism because the gate into heaven is wrought iron instead of pearl.

        Cody wins the Internet today.

  10. Thomas L. Knapp says:

    I have had a dream in which I fly. My understanding, based on reading various accounts, is that lots of others have a very similar dream.

    Does the ubiquity of that dream constitute evidence that people can fly?

    • oolalaa says:

      To Dr Murphy, yes it does, and it’s genuinely sad.

      • drigan says:

        You forgot the part about ‘when they woke up they knew things that could not have reasonably been percieved by their senses while they were unconscious.’

        How do you exclude 90% of an argument and consider yourself to have addressed it?

    • Herman B. Neece says:

      Mr. Knapp,

      I venture to say that the experiences described in the after death accounts cannot be compared accurately to a dream. As when you are dreaming you are still in a state of consciousness albeit a subconsciousness state. The events described here are when one has been clinically dead without any brain function for a considerable period of time. Personally I have never had a “dream” of entering into a state of ultimate peacefulness, while having my entire life laid out before me, and hearing conversations beyond my area of of existence at the particular time. Also to be able to see a glowing light and feel it’s warmth is far beyond any dream I have ever had.

  11. Cody S says:

    Thomas,

    Your underlying premise is about a century out of date. There are more than 100,000 people flying the skies above us right now.

    Just saying.

    • Thomas L. Knapp says:

      Cody,

      I didn’t dream that there was a machine that flew, and that I could get in that machine.

      I dreamt that I flew.

      There’s a difference.

      Now, as it happens, I am not an atheist.

      But that doesn’t mean I consider “near-death experiences,” etc. to be “evidence for god.” They might be, or they just might be some kind of dream equivalent that has common content for the same reason that many dreams have common content across people, whatever that reason might be.

      I have a pretty high standard for considering something “evidence” of a particular thing.

  12. RPLong says:

    If I am legally dead for a few minutes and then come back to life with a tale of the afterlife, I am simply making a claim that may or may not be true. If a mere claim constitutes evidence, then there is evidence for everything the human mind is able to conceive.

    • Daniel Kuehn says:

      A claim is evidence – the question is how good the evidence is.

      What you consider “evidence” is just the claims of many more people. But it’s still a claim made by people.

      • RPLong says:

        No, I don’t agree with that. Evidence is a fact or a set of data that buttresses a claim.

        All a claim is is a thesis statement.

        • Daniel Kuehn says:

          But facts are just things that people see and claim to see.

          If I see a rock on the ground and if lots of people see the rock on the ground and certify the “fact” that there is a rock on the ground, as far as I can tell the only difference is in the number of people that have affirmed it.

          After-death experiences, alien abductions, visions of God, etc. are evidence, they just suffer from limited observation (which also leads to potential misinterpretation).

          Put it this way – what would it take to make alien visitation a “fact” by your definition? When would it cross that threshold?

          It would become a fact when a lot of people see the same thing. When an alien lands on the White House lawn, walks out, shakes the president’s hand, and skeptics can come over and tap him on the shoulder.

          Then it’s a fact.

          When one person does that alone on a country road the only difference is in the number of people there to affirm, right?

          • RPLong says:

            I completely disagree with this. I think facts are independent of claims. By your argument, the Earth was flat up until the point that sufficiently many people claimed otherwise.

            • Daniel Kuehn says:

              What something “is” and what we call facts are two different things, right?

              Presumably there are a lot of “facts” that we call “facts” right now that aren’t how things “really are”.

              Facts are contingent on social understandings of how the world works. That’s how we use that word.

              If you want to call “facts” the set of descriptions of “how things really are” – if you want to use that word in that way – then I’d submit that we should stop using the word “fact” in a lot of the ways we use it today.

              • RPLong says:

                Your blog is called “Facts and Other Stubborn Things.”

                Do you mean to suggest that your blog is really just about the “stubbornness” of whatever is accepted by the majority? I thought economists and scientists were supposed to cut through all the common misconceptions and arrive at the truth.

                Unless you’re suggesting that a fact is independent of the truth, which would be a surprising claim indeed.

              • Daniel Kuehn says:

                “Independent” is too strong a word. “Mediated” is probably better. “Truth” is largely unintelligible, but it’s a nice word to use every once in a while because people have such warm feelings about it.

                I’m very much with Pontius Pilate on truth.

            • Daniel Kuehn says:

              Just think about it RPLong – think of what you consider “facts”.

              Does it have anything to do with the world how it really is? No, because we have no unmediated access to it.

              What makes your facts “facts”? It’s that lots of people agree about it and have affirmed the trustworthiness of evidence for it, right?

              • RPLong says:

                No, sorry. I just don’t agree. You seem to be more of a “perception is reality” guy, whereas I’m more of a “A=A” guy.

              • Daniel Kuehn says:

                Hmmm… “perception is reality” is pretty damn near the exact opposite of what I’m saying!

                A indeed equals A.

        • Daniel Kuehn says:

          I’m not saying the ability to affirm is trivial by any means. I’m just point out that it’s that robustness to multiple observations that we care about. It’s not that there’s anything particularly different about the observations. When one person pokes the alien it’s the same sort of poke as when 100 biologists and astronomers poke the alien.

          We care about the number of people who can make and affirm the observation, but it’s the same sort of poke.

          • oolalaa says:

            Obviously the “number of people” who “make and “affirm” an observation is wholly irrelevant. Just about every human being alive 5000 years ago “affirmed” that the Earth was flat. Were they right?

            And what about mainstream economics today? Keynesians outnumber Austrians by a truly ridiculous order of magnitude. Does that give credence to their fallacious claims and beliefs? of course not.

            • Daniel Kuehn says:

              You are confused on at least two fronts:

              1. First, you confuse “facts” and “truth”

              2. Second, you confuse being convinced about the validity of a theory and affirmation of an observation

            • martin says:

              Just about every human being alive 5000 years ago “affirmed” that the Earth was flat.

              Probably not: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_Earth_mythology

  13. Smiling Dave says:

    Well, Bob, you will certainly regret your not admitting I was right.

    As well as your unsuccessful attempt in your update to pretend your first article was about people working 20 hours a day to use up all the resources, when you wrote explicitly in your first article that its about recessions.

    Repent now, while you have the chance. You will feel so good when the time comes if you do.

  14. Bob Robertson says:

    I’m perfectly open to the idea that there may be a god the same way I’m perfectly open to the idea that there might be an elephant in the back seat of my car.

    I’ll know it when I see it. Until then, there is no god.

    • Z says:

      Very interesting, but will you apply the same reasoning to free will? Until you see evidence of it (and there is none), will you believe there is no such thing as free will and therefore morality?

      • RPLong says:

        This is a remarkably fallacious assertion. There is absolutely no necessary link between free will and theism. They are two different concepts. You can’t just repeatedly insist “If one, then the other” and hope to catch atheists in a contradiction that only exists for you, personally.

        • Z says:

          True, no absolutely necessary link, but if one is going to base one’s beliefs on evidence then there is one. There is no evidence to suggest that there is anything different about the matter or other material that makes up a human being as opposed to a computer, and I’m willing to bet that you don’t think your computer has free will. And there is no neuroscience evidence that there is free will. So what makes you leave the door open to free will for yourself and not for a computer?

          • RPLong says:

            Let me rephrase: Changing the topic to something you think you can argue more effectively than the existence of god does not actually cast any doubt on atheism.

            So, you can stop trying to win an unrelated argument. :)

            • Z says:

              I’m not even a theist. I’m arguing that people who call themselves ‘rationalists’ all the time are indeed not.

  15. oolalaa says:

    Ironically there is little difference between a socialist, or even a Keynesian, and a ‘born again christian.’ Both believe irrational claims because they WANT to believe those irrational claims. It really is that simple. And the sad thing is, both would dismiss this as nonsense, as Robert Murphy essentially just did in his blog post. There is “evidence” for GOD and an afterlife? Since when would the anthropic principle and mystical anecdotes be considered “evidence” if someone was objectively and rationally and honestly trying to understand the truth of a claim? It’s akin to Keynesians claiming ALL spending is equal.

    This is the immense pull and influence that religion in particular has on a persons psyche. It turns someone as intelligent, and rational, and honest, as Robert P Murphy is, into a bumbling, irrational, and disingenuous, apologist (and that is how I do see you, Dr Murphy, in these Sunday posts. You come across just like Krugman does when he’s spouting his nonsense on his own blog….that you ironically and rightly trash on a daily basis – a bumbling weasel) for the “objective truths” within literature that was written more than 2000 years ago….when the prevailing wisdom was that the earth was flat….and that the Earth was the center of the universe….and that disease and famine was caused by a vengeful sky-being.

    The promise of an afterlife is overwhelmingly alluring to some. It’s a shame that Dr Murphy is letting his desire for ever-lasting “happiness” or “contentment” surpress his rationale, just like socialists surpress their rationale in order to appease their own overwhelming collectivist/altruist yearnings. There is as much evidence for the existence of GOD or an afterlife as there is that a fully Socialist society will “work”, and lead to prosperous, sustainable growth. In fact, that’s not right, there’s FAR less.

    • K.P. says:

      Where exactly would Bob be with an “usupressed” rationale – without his religious beliefs – aside from higher in your eyes?

  16. oolalaa says:

    And I don’t mean to be too harsh. After all, you are not a professional theologian. I love almost everything you write. Its just maddening that someone as smart as you cannot see the stark similarities between the irrational claims and beliefs by those statists on the left and those who are deeply religious.

    • ABT says:

      why are you getting so worked up?
      Statists impose their beliefs
      Murphys just state their beliefs
      and
      oolalaas do not see the difference

  17. joeftansey says:

    When atheists say: “no evidence”, they don’t mean literally that there’s no data points that are well explained by God. What they mean is that there’s no reasonable interpretation of the evidence that leads you directly to God.

    But yeah some neurosurgeon thinks there’s an afterlife and can tell some anecdotes about it. What were the statistics for medical malpractice again? You know, the thing they’re *supposed* to be good at? Pretty damn high? Okay so now what do you think the average neurosurgeon’s proficiency at metaphysics is?

    pfft.

  18. JdL says:

    Well, Mr. Murphy, it’s your call what you publish in columns, but from my own personal selfish standpoint, you’ve gone from writing interesting and informative works on economics to dull, pointless, faith-based tracts on, of all things, God.

    Like a light switch turning off, I’ve gone from eager anticipation for each new column you write to resigned boredom at each new pointless screed.

    RPM, RIP.

  19. Gamble says:

    Nobody has died and lived to talk about it…

    • drigan says:

      Interesting assertion considering that was the exact point, backed by some small amount of evidence, that was discussed in the article. Why don’t you provide some evidence, rather than an assertion, and we can weigh the two?

  20. Anarchist Chossid says:

    Anyone who says that we understand the physiology of brain very well doesn’t know what he’s talking about or is lying.

  21. knoxharrington says:

    Even if it is assumed that there is one shred of evidence for a god, there is not one shred of evidence it is the God of the Bible.

    It is a long journey from positing a being which spun the universe into existence to arriving at the Bible as the story of that being spinning the universe into existence.

    • K.P. says:

      If one is willing to make that assumption, why not just go further?

      • knoxharrington says:

        Of course, I’m not willing to make that assumption. The idea that we can move from a God that created the universe to the “God” that appeared in Bronze Age Palestine is just a bridge too far. The Bible is so internally inconsistent and historically inaccurate to be the work of a deity with powers to create the universe – whether we chalk up the writing to divine inspiration or not. It is too haphazard and replete with error to be taken seriously as the basis for belief in God.

  22. Terry Hulsey says:

    From its own premises, the Christian version of an afterlife is impossible:
    http://www.chineseimperium.com/essaysPending/Heaven_CarefulWhatYouWishFor.htm

    Notwithstanding, I believe in the beauty and value of the one holy apostolic Catholic Church of Rome for those who cannot help themselves in their belief:
    http://www.chineseimperium.com/essaysPending/CatholicArchitectonics.htm

    • John Fairfull says:

      Man is a tri-part being: body, soul and spirit. The spirit is what lives on after death. Christians who die enter heaven as a spirit and wait for the day of the resurrection.

      A Christian’s resurrected body will be exactly like Christ’s body. After the resurrection, Jesus spoke and reasoned with His disciples, ate with them and generally was very much like He was before, except with a new body that could no longer die, get sick or age. God doesn’t need to preserve your brain somehow to resurrect you. He’s got the blueprint on file. Making a trillion human bodies out of nothing is not a hard task for God.

      When Christians are resurrected at the second coming, we will be set up as governors of the world. We will live for a thousand years on earth. The world will be returned to a type of Eden. The enmity of nature will be removed and children will play with lions and poisonous snakes without being harmed.

      The Bible gives many glimpses of heaven. I do not believe we will have our intellect or conscience removed. We will know each other. We will instead be made like Adam: free to choose God, but this time unwilling to ever sin. God will never force us not to sin though. He didn’t force Adam one way or the other. Adam chose for himself. Why would you ever choose to leave a God that has done so much for you? What’s the alternative? We will finally have the opportunity to investigate the mysteries of the universe and worship God freely. We will still be men. Nothing in the Bible ever says that we’ll be somehow merged together into some non-corporeal, automated consciousness.

    • Drigan says:

      I think you have a misunderstanding about Catholic teaching on Purgatory. It’s not a place, nor does it take time, but it is easiest to describe it as such, because those are concepts with which we are familiar. Purgatory can most accurately be described as a process. The process of purgation of our weaknesses changes us, just as training changes us, and both can be painful. After the change, we are better equipped to participate in God’s plan, which includes heaven.

      In heaven, you are *not* bereft of free will, but rather, through a greater understanding of your actions, choosing evil becomes unthinkable to you. I don’t mean that in the literalistic sense of “you *can’t* think of it,” but rather you wouldn’t entertain the thought. Similarly, intentionally slicing open a toddler to hear their screams is unthinkable to most people. In heaven, all evil would be similarly horrifying, thus no one *would* commit evil.

      Your view of language seems a little odd to me. You are assuming that a lack of evidence for a language is problematic, but I don’t really understand where that comes from. Often things that are not discussed are avoided precisely because they are assumed to be true and understood.

    • Drigan says:

      Ok, I just read your bit on Catholicism . . . it’s rife with reasonable misunderstandings. I think you’re trying to understand what Catholicism teaches, but some things need cleaned up.

      First off, the Bible is authoritative. Why? Because the Church is authoritative, they compiled it, and signed off on it. (Guided by the Holy Spirit, to ensure that they didn’t screw anything up.) But the only ones who can authoritatively interpret the Bible are the princes of the Church, the successors of the Apostles themselves: the Bishops. (See 1 Peter 1:20) This said, Bishops can go rogue, so it’s only when a Bishop teaches in union with the Bishop of Rome that they are authoritative. Why Rome? It’s where Peter was Bishop, and Jesus gave Peter the Position “Holder of the Keys.” The position of Steward of the Keys is then passed from one Bishop of Rome to the next.

      *sigh* ok, I’m sorry, but I don’t really have time to cover everything here, but i think it’s worth mentioning that the Church actually *does* solve most of the problems that you point out. The ones it doesn’t (like Jesus being 100% God and 100% Man) it slaps on the label of “mystery.” So your characterization of the Church as not being overly concerned with apparent contradictions is reasonably fair, but many of your specific contradictions are inaccurate.

  23. martin says:

    Arguments like the fine-tuning argument, the unexpected beauty of mathematics, or the watchmaker analogy for that matter are all variants of: we see X, so the universe must be created by a conscious creator.

    The implicit assumption in this is that only universes created by conscious creators have X, or stated differently: that universes not created by conscious creators don’t (or wouldn’t) have X. Unfortunately we cannot prove or disprove the validity of that assumption because we have only one universe to work with, and whether that’s created by a conscious creator is the very thing that’s under dispute.

    It’s like saying: “of course the universe was created by god, look at the fine-tuning! Do you know any universes with such fine-tuning that weren’t created by god?”

    Well actually we may be looking at one.

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