Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Four Horseman

OK, which one of these guys came up with that name? Next they'll be "the four horsemen - men in tights"

Anyway, I couldn't help posting this mainly because of two new YouTube features - one - the colored border and - two - the HD button - you can watch it in high definition! Vimeo is cool but I knew YouTube wouldn't be that far behind.

Within the first two minutes of this video I was reminded that the UN is considering a resolution banning blasphemy. Talk about the religious folks playing the "hurt feelings card." Now it will be illegal in the eyes of the UN to question any religion's authority anywhere in the world.

8 comments:

Green Ninja said...

Quick thought on the usage of the word blasphemy... Interpreting the qualifiers for blasphemy will be entirely dependent on the "god" or "religion" in context or perhaps more importantly what one deems to be "sacred." For many, "truth" and reason are sacred and therefore many aspects of religion can be considered blasphemous.

Hercules Mulligan said...

I don't think much of the views of these "Four Horsemen." I don't think that Tom Paine -- deist though he was -- would think much of their views either.

"It has been the error of the schools to teach astronomy, and all the other sciences and subjects of natural philosophy, as accomplishments only; whereas they should be taught theologically, or with reference to the Being who is the author of them: for all the principles of science are of Divine origin. Man cannot make, or invent, or contrive principles. He can only discover them; and he ought to look through the discovery to the Author. ...

"The evil that has resulted from the error of the schools in teaching natural philosophy as an accomplishment only has been that of generating in the pupils a species of atheism. Instead of looking through the works of the creation to the Creator himself, they stop short, and employ the knowledge they acquire to create doubts of His existence. They labor with studied ingenuity to ascribe everything they behold to innate properties of matter; and jump over all the rest, by saying that matter is eternal."

-- Thomas Paine
"The Existence of God: A Discourse at the Society of Theophilanthropists, Paris"

Paine knew that there had to be an intelligent and powerful Mind behind the incomprehensible order, harmony, complexity, and design that we see in nature. Logic -- common sense itself -- tells us that these things do not arise by themselves. Nor is matter eternal (see the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, "the law of entropy"). Therefore, if there is any reason to believe that there is a divine Creator, is because of creation. This is just as rational as believing in a builder's existence -- even though you don't see him or know him -- because of the building in front of you.

Life does not arise spontaneously out of non-living matter. And yet this is the first tenet of evolution, which attempts to explain the ORIGINS of life. And yet at its base is the claim (spontaneous generation) that was proven to false by Robert Boyle, nearly two centuries before the theory was postulated by Darwin!

Tom Paine's Ghost said...

Hello Hercules Mulligan!

Welcome to Tom Paine's Ghost.
I have read much of Paine's writings though admittedly have not combed through them all. Your presented quotes will provide much fresh reading for me. Thank you!

I would like to address your apparent distaste for these philosophers in segments.

When Thomas Paine writes words like "divine" and "god" he is talking about words with definitions distant to modern American Christians. Reading the "Age of Reason" gives a more clear picture of Paine's nuanced personal definitions. He is speaking of nature itself not an anthropomorphic sky father.

When he writes "Man Cannot make, or invent, or contrive principles. He can only discover them..." He Echos the world views of Johannes Kepler and Issac Newton. These men lived the ideals that all scientists should strive toward. They used their minds to apply theoretical models to the natural world until they found models that fit (for all intensive purposes) until the age of Einstein came along. I agree with this. New and better means of observations constantly lead to new models and new fits, the gaps are all the time filling in.

I find it interesting that Paine chooses to phrase that non theological teaching of science breeds a "species of atheism." And I think this is also correct. but I would argue that studying moral virtue while pursuing science objectively leads to a balanced and fair secular citizenry that do not need superstitious explanations of any aspect of their origins or existence.

"by saying that matter is eternal"

OK this quote was written in 1797. Germ theory had not even surfaced, bloodletting was still rampant. though the Renaissance did much to free the minds of men the emancipation was no where near completion and is ongoing still. The beauty of a scientific world view is that it changes as new testable hypotheses trickle in. As better theories come about a beter understanding and more sufficient utlization of technology for sustained survival ensues.

"more sufficient utlization of technology for sustained survival ensues." And this is ultimately what an understanding of evolution provides humanity. staying ahead of an evolving virus and being able to genetically screen embryos for terminal genetic diseases give humanity a real opportunity to reduce human suffering and maintain life in a sustainable way.

This brings me to my last point. I want to be clear and thank you for engaging in some healthy interchange here, but I have to say that your understanding of what the study of evolution entails is elementary. It sounds like the arguments my fundementalist baptist art teacher preached to me in public shcool as a teenager.

The most important thing you are missing is that the first tenet of evolution is NOT I repeat NOT the "origin of life."

The full title of Darwin's master work published 150 years ago this year is "The Origin of SPECIES: By Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of the Favored Races in the Struggle for Life"

If you think of every species as being immutable since the beginning of time you are a creationist. If you can understand that over eons of geologic time life (regardless of how it originated) is capable of massive morphological changes rooted in the mutagenic events in the DNA that are passed down from generation to generation - or more simply descent with modification" then you can grasp the theory of evolution.

Some very reputable scientists who grasp and have added to the understanding of evolution do not agree on the origin of life in fact. Francis Crick has proposed the theory of "directed panspermia" this postulates that the chemical building blocks of life first came to earth from some other celestial body somewhere in the first billion years of earths existence. Lynn Margulis is another example of a scientist who does not think life arose spontaneously.

Again thank you for the opportunity to engage in some civil discourse in this free information age. I thought you might appreciate Hitchens and his championing of universal free speech. But I understand your stance. I hope we both learned something from this.
Cheers,
Kris

Hercules Mulligan said...

Hello Kris. Thanks for your thoughtful response. I think that discussion like this is educational, so thanks for taking the time.

As for supplying the Paine quote, you are very welcome. I'm glad it gave you more material.

Since I would like to discuss all the points you made in your comment, I will probably have to answer in two parts. Here is part 1:

You said:
When Thomas Paine writes words like "divine" and "god" he is talking about words with definitions distant to modern American Christians. Reading the "Age of Reason" gives a more clear picture of Paine's nuanced personal definitions. He is speaking of nature itself not an anthropomorphic sky father.

I think your statement ignores the context. Re-read the first paragraph of the quote: he is saying that it is the ERROR of schools to teach science in the schools without seeking to discover the nature of GOD -- the "DIVINE BEING" -- who created it all. That's what it means to study science with a "theological" view. He was not saying that nature was divine, or that it created itself, because that statement is not only illogical in of itself, but it is also contrary to deism, which Tom Paine professed. Deism believes that a Divine Being created the world, created nature, and set its laws in order. Deists attempt to learn about God and learn about His standards of right and wrong through the study of nature (i. e. science).

It's interesting that you should mention Kepler, Newton, and Einstein. They were all great scientific minds, definitely. They were also believers in God, and it was because of that belief in the creator. How is that so? Because they knew that just as their rational and intelligent minds had to figure out how the order of nature worked, so an intelligent mind had figured out how to put it all together in the first place.

Isaac Newton said:
"Atheism is so senseless and odious to mankind, that it never had many professors. Can it be by accident that all birds, beasts, and men have their right side and left side alike shaped (except in their bowels,) and just two eyes, and no more, on either side of the face; and just two ears on either side the head, and a nose with two holes; and either two fore-legs, or two wings, or two arms on the shoulders, and two legs on the hips, and no more?

"Whence arises this uniformity in all their outward shapes but from the counsel and contrivance of an Author? ... Did blind chance know that there was light, and what was its refraction, and fit the eyes of all creatures, after the most curious manner to make use of it? These, and suchlike considerations, always have, and ever will prevail with mankind, to believe that there is a Being who made all things, and has all things in his power, and who is therefore to be feared."
Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton, by David Brewster, volume II, pp. 347-348

If people today were as reasonable as Newton, perhaps they would not think atheism rational. Indeed, is it more rational to believe that order and irreducible complexity are the result of intelligence (just as we observe in the world around us), or to believe that slight accidental modifications created it all?

And here are Kepler's words:

Since we astronomers are priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature, it benefits us to be thoughtful, not of the glory of our minds, but rather, above all else, of the glory of God… [by] thinking God's thoughts after Him.
http://www.cambridgestudycenter.com/quotesScience.html

You also stated:
I find it interesting that Paine chooses to phrase that non theological teaching of science breeds a "species of atheism." And I think this is also correct. but I would argue that studying moral virtue while pursuing science objectively leads to a balanced and fair secular citizenry that do not need superstitious explanations of any aspect of their origins or existence.

I cannot agree with this statement. And it's not just because I have a different worldview, but because it doesn't make any sense (please know that I do not intend to offend you, or to be rude). Science is the study of nature. Such a study may teach us what is BENEFICIAL, but it will not always teach us what is right and wrong, in a perfect respect. Moreover, study and investigation is a rational thing, but man does not conduct his life based upon what he knows to be rational. For the most part, he does what he feels like doing.

Let me prove my point. Everybody knows its wrong to lie, right? But how many people can say that they don't lie -- or, that they don't lie reguarly? Everybody KNOWS its wrong to covet or be greedy for more things, right? But doesn't everybody do it? You see, it's one thing to know what is right and wrong. It's another thing to do it consistently.

Another thing. When people study the same piece of evidence, particularly on touchy subjects like MORALITY, they usually come up with different conclusions. Who is to say who is right and who is wrong, if there is no omniscient (all-knowing) God to decide? I'm not saying that belief in God makes you a stupid, deluded, mind-numed robot who doesn't have to think. Strong believers like Newton apparently owed their genious to their belief in God.

Your statement here also does not make sense in light of history. Man is not an inherently good being, and the nations of the infamous Communist regimes are good examples of why such scientific experiments on morals not working. Research the propaganda of Lenin, Marx, etc. It may be an unpleasant surprise. Even Paine called it an "EVIL," knowing (from his study of history) how dangerous such a belief is.

Someone actually made a similar argument to me, and I wrote a post in response. If you would like to know where I am coming from, you may read it here.

Hercules Mulligan said...

OK, here is the second part of my response, to the remainder of what you said.

You mentioned the Renaissance. Do you know the history of it? Did you know that the minds of men were freed because Protestant Christians rebelled against the edicts of the Roman Catholic empire (which was not Christian) by getting the Bible translated into the language of the common people? Did you know that men like Galileo were believers in God?

You speak of a scientific worldview. The biblical worldview is scientific. There is a difference between a worldview that says, "Nature and matter is all there is; they are eternal, and there is no God," and the scientific worldview that logically declares, "To every effect, there is sufficient cause." And according to the greatest scientific minds (which you have already mentioned), they believed positively that God was the only sufficient cause of the order of nature.

You also speak of the germ theory and bloodletting. First of all, these facts have nothing to do with proving that matter is eternal. Second, if people had just heeded the medical and scientific facts found in the Bible (starting by following some of the procedures in the Law of Moses), people would have rejected bloodletting, and more successful practices of quarantine, etc. would have been put into practice. Why? The Bible states in Leviticus 17:11 "For the life of the flesh is in the blood." Ray Comfort's booklet, "Scientific Facts in the Bible" contains pages of Scripture passages which contain medical and scientific facts, some of which have been discovered to be literally true only over the past century.

You said,

"'more sufficient utilization of technology for sustained survival ensues.' And this is ultimately what an understanding of evolution provides humanity. staying ahead of an evolving virus and being able to genetically screen embryos for terminal genetic diseases give humanity a real opportunity to reduce human suffering and maintain life in a sustainable way."

If only this were true. The mass murders caused by the eugenics movement (founded by Darwin's evolutionist cousin Francis Galton), Planned Parenthood (founded by evolutionist racist Margaret Sanger), the murders of the Australian aborigines (perpetrated by European evolutionists who believed the aborigines were ape-men -- the Smithsonian Institute has the skulls of murdered aborigines), etc. would not have happened. If evolution's way of preserving life is done by killing those whom people think are unfit to pass their genes down, that's not what I call "reducing human suffering" and "maintaining life."

Also, by developing means to "stay ahead of evolving viruses," um, we are not doing so by evolution. Evolution is the blind force of nature, and the basic meaning of the term evolution is "change over time" (obviously, something that changes must exist). It has no creative power. Also, these viruses may be changing, but they are not EVOLVING, because they are not changing from one species to another. And yet this is what evolution teaches. I don't disagree that creatures within species experience genetic changes, and drastically change from one form to another. But based on the work of Carolus Linnaeus (another great scientific mind and believer in God), transitions from one species to another is scientifically impossible.

You say that the first tenet of evolution is NOT the origin of life, but rather, according to the full title of Darwin's book (the last portion of which, never usually published, demonstrates his racist mindset), it is the origin of SPECIES. I answer, how is the origin of species different from the origin of life? You can't have life without having species, unless you assume that evolution is true from the onset (and that's circular reasoning).

You also say, "If you think of every species as being immutable since the beginning of time, you are a creationist." WRONG. If you believe that God created nature and created life, you are a creationist. Many creationists believe that species do experience modifications (this is called MICRO-evolution). This does not contradict the biblical account. In fact, put together with the account of life being saved aboard Noah's Ark during the Great Flood (to this day there is scientific and archaeological evidence for the Flood), it makes a lot of sense. What we creationists reject is the theory of MACRO-evolution, which states that all species have a common ancestor, and that one species changed into the other, through slight genetic modifications over a long period of time. Macro-evolution, the theory of evolution which Darwin advocated, is unscientific. Not only does it fail to fit the qualifications of a scientific fact (must be observable, testable, and repeatable, according to Francis Bacon, the "father of the scientific method," and another theist), but the more we discover about DNA, genetics, etc., the more we find that it is impossible that one species changed into another.

You mention the different theories on the origins of life among evolutionists. I noticed the keywords in your statements: "theory," "postulates," "somewhere in the first billions of years of earth's existence" -- yes, a long time ago, and from very, very far away, where no man nor man craft has ever ventured and most likely never will. And yet because a professional says it, that makes it science, at least until another professional makes another guess, and another. Two hundred years from Darwin -- and we're still GUESSING!

This is NOT science, which observes known FACTS and physical EVIDENCE. This is playing guessing-games, trying to avoid the conclusion that GOD might be at the root of life's origins. If origin of life is NOT what evolution is all about, then how come it has been used as the tool by which God is reasoned into non-existence? All you have to do is read Darwin's book and Darwin's writings to know that he wasn't just talking about how species developed, but how life originated.

Now why would they want to do something like that? Sir Julian Huxley, grandson of "Darwin's bulldog" Thomas Huxley, was once interviewed on television, and he was asked the question, "Why do you think evolution caught on so quickly?" Instead of offering evidence or logic, his response was one of shocking honesty:

"I suppose the reason we all jumped at The Origin was because ... the idea of God interfered with our sexual mores."

His brother Aldous Huxley made a strikingly similar statement:
"I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently [I] assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficutly to find satisfying reasons for this assumptions. This philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem with pure metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most advantageous to themselves. ... For myself, as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom; we objected to the political and economic system because it was unjust." (quoting Huxley's book "Ends and Means, page 273)
SOURCE: Aldous Huxley Annal, by the Aldous Huxley Society, Jerome Meckier, and Bernfried Nugel, page 119

YUCK!! This is NOT SCIENCE! This is about power and licentiousness! I guess the theory of evolution is very convenient for those who believe that they are more "fit to survive"! If the theory has this kind of a motive from the beginning, than I think it's high time we tossed it, especially if we are firm believers in science. Science tests theories, and proves the ones lacking sufficient evidence. But it seems that the informed leaders in this controversy have personal prejudices. They know it doesn't have enough evidence; they don't really care.

It seems to be that this is the reason why so many atheists are against public Christian displays -- the "Ten Commandments" for example, which state such "sexually and politically restrictive" commands like, "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not commit adultery," "Do not falsely accuse your brother," and "Honor your father and mother". GASP!

When it comes right down to it, why should atheists care? If there is no God, then these commands are not really His. And if we superstitious Christians think that society would be better if it kept these rules, how is that SO dangerous and SO bad? Why not display and consider these things just for the rules themselves? If this is the standard of Christianity, then why do the "Four Horsemen" find Christianity so dangerous?

I'm not necessarily accusing you personally of these things. But I am saying that for these reasons, and the logical reasons I previously listed, I don't find the position of evolution or of atheism very reasonable.

If you've taken the time to read my very long response, thank you. I appreciate it. I've carefully considered what you've written, and I think you are right in saying that this is a very important subject. I hope you'll take to heart what I've said, and think about it.

Best regards,
"Hercules Mulligan"

Tom Paine's Ghost said...

"If you've taken the time to read my very long response, thank you."
I did and I will respond. Please allow me some time to properly formulate and synthesize.

Thank you for your input!

Before I let these few points fade from my mind I'd like to get them out and then I will put them down in a more coherent context.

Aldus Huxley was NOT a scientist but rather an author of fiction novels. I great positor of ideas but not a real contributor to the process of "discovery" to which science is dedicated.

Your characterization of science as only the "observation of facts" leaves out the key aspect of the scientific method that allows it to be the emergent discovery process that it is. The aspect you leave out is the hypothesis formation. This is in essence speculation. yes science does involve "guessing" though you seem to have a problem with guessing. Making testable guesses is what science is all about. That is why we are still "guessing" on a lot of things because that is how science works and will always work. There is always something new to discover.
Carl Sagan sums it up better than me. speaking for the scientifically inclined...

"We wish to pursue the truth no matter where it leads, but to find the truth we need imagination and skepticism both. We will not be afraid to speculate but we will be careful to distinguish speculation from fact. The cosmos is full beyond measure with exquisite relationships of the awesome machine of nature.”

Okay and the last flash of insight that came to me when reading your latest comment was about your caricaturization of atheists. I do not like to lump all Christians together but rather discuss nature with people as individuals. When you speak of atheists not wanting to believe in God because then they can feel free to do what they want it is like you can't comprehend what it might be like to be skeptical. I fear you are so CERTAIN of your beliefs that it might get in the way o this conversation. I hope it doesn't and that we might continue.
Sincerely,
Kris

PersonalFailure said...

Okay, so that was a lot of reading, but I do have to say this, "Einstein believed in god, why don't you" isn't logic, sound reasoning, or a particularly winning argument.

I may as well say "Ghandi worshipped Shiva, why don't you?" (I have no idea who Ghandi chose to worship, but I know it wasn't Yhwh or Horus.)

This is called an Appeal to Authority, and it is a logical fallacy. For good reason.

Hercules Mulligan said...

"Personal Failure" -- thanks for taking the time to read all of that, and respond.

You are right; simply saying "Einstein believed in God, so why don't you" in order to convince an atheist out of his atheism is not a winning argument, nor is it entirely logical. But if you would look at my argument as a whole, and not just take out bits and pieces, I think you'll realize that that is not the argument I am making.

My argument is:

(1) the view that science and Christianity (or, just a belief in a divine Creator) are NOT incompatible, or contradictory. Science does not disprove the existence of God. My mention of the theistic convictions of Einstein, and also Newton, Kepler, and Galileo, was only one fact in support of that argument;

(2) If brilliant scientific minds were so certain that the order they perceived, discovered, and explored so convinced them that there was a God, then there was probably a good reason for it. Their belief in of itself does not absolutely PROVE the existence of God, but it is something to make you think. So, in light of that, it's not really the same as saying "Gandhi worshiped such-and-such a god, so why don't you?"

Kris -- thank you also for reading and considering my argument.

If I may reply to some specific points in your argument:

You said:
Your characterization of science as only the "observation of facts" leaves out the key aspect of the scientific method that allows it to be the emergent discovery process that it is. The aspect you leave out is the hypothesis formation. This is in essence speculation. yes science does involve "guessing" though you seem to have a problem with guessing. Making testable guesses is what science is all about.

I don't think I entirely left out the hypothesis formation aspect of science, at least not when I mentioned the "scientific method" -- that an hypothesis must be observable, testable, and repeatable. You are right when you say that making testable guesses is what science is all about; but Francis Crick's pure speculation about our alien ancestry is NOT science. Herein lies the difference between pure (I might add desperate) speculation, and hypothesizing that tries to explain already known evidence. Crick does not KNOW that aliens do or ever did exist. He has no evidence. Crick has no evidence that the earth is billions of years old. He is hoping that his wild speculation is correct.

That is why we are still "guessing" on a lot of things because that is how science works and will always work. There is always something new to discover.

Then why don't we scrap the theory of evolution (i. e., "macro-evolution" -- one species evolving into another)? Sure, we have modified it (like Crick has), but it still doesn't change the scientific facts that we are discovering: one species does not change into another. But instead, we seem to be assuming that Darwin's theory is essential true, instead of being really scientific, and just following where the evidence leads.

And as for the quote by Carl Sagan, he should follow his own advice.

You said:
Okay and the last flash of insight that came to me when reading your latest comment was about your caricaturization of atheists. I do not like to lump all Christians together but rather discuss nature with people as individuals. When you speak of atheists not wanting to believe in God because then they can feel free to do what they want it is like you can't comprehend what it might be like to be skeptical. I fear you are so CERTAIN of your beliefs that it might get in the way o this conversation. I hope it doesn't and that we might continue.

OK. First of all, I am not trying to caricaturize atheists based on what several people have said. What I was trying to say was that the main supporters behind the theory of evolution (Huxley may not have been a scientist, but he was in a family of those highly interested in it) have made it clear that they have had alterior motives. That is one of the theory's red flags.

While I have never been a skeptic myself, I have known several skeptics, including relatives -- many of my family members are former skeptics, and I have argued with skeptics, and tried to think from and understand the skeptics' viewpoint. I am certain of my beliefs, but I am certain because I have critically examined the evidence to the best of my ability. I don't find any problem with being so certain of truth. But I am open to more evidence, and I am open to more discovery. If it would ease your mind, I believe that debate is about discovering truth, and being open to evidence. I am ready to say in good conscience that I am open.

If God exists, and He created the world and life, then He would make some kind of effort to communicate with the intelligent and inquiring human beings that He created. If one is open to the possibility of His existence, and seeks Him out of sincerity, not only will he find that belief in God's existence is totally rational, but he will meet God personally. Nothing can be better personal proof of His existence than knowing Him and hearing His voice. If you want to know why I am so certain that He exists, then that is why.

If I am ever to doubt that the still small voice I hear is Him, then I have plenty of external evidence. I have the evidence, for instance, that the Bible, which claims to be His revelation, fits the criteria.

Do some research on the inspiration of the Bible, and tell me what you come up with. I highly recommend Josh McDowell's The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Ray Comfort's Scientific Facts in the Bible, and W. E. Filmer's God Counts. There is evidence, and these books bring out so much of it.

Sincerely,
Hercules Mulligan