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REPLY #25e TO
"RELIGION"



Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

This is the last of a five-part reply.



(R) Because you can't solely claim science to be on your side, as much as you try. Science makes no statements on the existence of God. You're on your own on that.
(MB) How can I not claim that science is on my side when my evidence comes from the knowledge afforded us by science? Science is not out to prove or disprove the existence of God. That conclusion derives from the naturalistic explanations for the universe that science does provide.


If that was so, you would understand the scientific method of inquiry and would be more familiar with basic concepts.
(R) I understand the scientific method perfectly well.
(MB) Not if you argue that any unsupported position is valid or is anything other than meaningless.


You also seem to define a "valid" scientific theory solely on the basis of whether or not it agrees with your belief in God.
(R) There are no scientific theories which disagree with my belief in God. Name one.
(MB) Any of the various theories which postulate the mechanics for what is sometimes called "Creation ex Nihilo" -- creation without God. Quantum theory, in particular. Your beliefs say that there are no effects without causes. Quantum theory shows us otherwise.


You've said that you don't support Creationism, but you've certainly sounded like a Creationist.
(R) Are we talking about creation science here? Or do you view everyone who believes God created the universe to be a "Creationist." If so, then yes, I am a Creationist
(MB) There are different flavors of theistic Creationism. You would seem to fall into the category of "Old Earth Creationism". It's not so much the beliefs themselves as the arguments and tactics used to support them or to denigrate opposing views.


Despite your protestations that my statements only reflect the views of a small minority of religious individuals, those protests aren't supported by facts.
(R) Oh yes they are. As I've said before, 85 percent of Americans are Christians, which broken down, reveals 18 percent to be Conservative, 47 percent Moderate, and 17 percent Liberal.
(MB) Those numbers don't add up. Also, the categories seem extremely arbitrary and are all undefined. What, for example, differentiates the views of "conservative", "moderate", and "liberal" Christians?


(R) Only the members of the Conservative group are likely to adhere to the narrow-minded views on such things as Bible inerrancy, the creation stories, tolerance for other beliefs, etc., which you've attempted to paste on all Christians, and by association, all religious believers.
(MB) Can show me an example of any major church or denomination that teaches that the Bible is errant or is not the inspired Word of God, that the creation stories are conflicting, erroneous and non-scientific, or which would willingly accept other Gods and beliefs (or non-belief) within their congregations? If not, then you have no evidence with which to dispute my statements.
    Also, you need to explain why views on Biblical inerrancy or any other specific Christian dogma would extend "by association" to any other religion(s).



(R) For example, here's some statistics on the subject of Bible inerrancy: In a poll (in 1987) of 10,000 American clergy, who were asked whether they believed the Scriptures were inerrant, the following percentages said no:
                                Church Membership
95% of Episcopalians               2.5 (million)
87% of Methodists,                14
82% of Presbyterians,              4.1
77% of American Lutherans, and     8.3
67% of American Baptists          36

(MB) How was the poll question phrased? If it was simply "is the Bible inerrant", the only honest answer is "no". That makes it astounding that *any* percentage of educated clergy could say otherwise. If the question was more along the lines of asking whether or not any potential errors in the Bible have any effect upon Christian teachings, it is hardly surprising and far more likely that the answer from the clergy will be "no". Also, one must consider that Christian clergy might not have too many problems with errors in the Old Testament while the New Testament (especially the Gospels) would be more staunchly defended. Therefore, any admission of errors might only apply to the Old Testament.


(R) Considering that it is unlikely the laity of any sect would be more conservative than the clergy on this issue, and averaging the percentages (with appropriate weight given to the larger congregations) the overall percentage of Christians who do not believe in Bible inerrancy is calculated as 89 percent.
(MB) Interesting rationale. First, it should be fairly obvious that the clergy of a "liberal" Christian sect would be more liberal than the laymen of a conservative sect. Therefore, you cannot claim that it would be unlikely that the laity of any sect would be more conservative than "the clergy" -- which includes all sects.
    Second, there are some bogus mathematics and slippery definitions being employed here. If we accept your definition of "conservative" and the percentages you listed earlier for the Christian population of this country *and* if we further accept the dubious notion that exactly *0* percent of "moderate" and "liberal" Christians believe in Biblical inerrancy, then your 89 percent figure listed above is impossible to justify. Discounting the clergy entirely, the number could be no higher than 83%. Including the clergy reduces the number to below 80%. And this number is likely to be *far* too high if we understand that "moderate" and "liberal" involve much more than a simple belief or disbelief in Biblical inerrancy. The percentage goes down even more dramatically if, as you seem to argue in the next paragraph, Catholics are not included among "American Christians".



(R) It would be interesting to know what percentage of the 60 million Catholics in American don't believe the Bible is inerrant -- I doubt it would be any lower than in these mainstream Protestants sects.
(MB) There's likely to be a higher percentage of Catholics who believe in Biblical inerrancy if the evidence provided by their Biblical study guides and the indoctrination of Catholic schools are any indication.


(R) I am led to conclude that only about 10 percent of American Christians are the "bible-thumpers" you've tried to portray us all as.
(MB) Do the math properly instead of rationalizing arbitrary terms and you'll come to a much different figure.


In 1991, a Gallup survey found that 87 percent of Americans believe that God is responsible for the creation of Man. However, 99 percent of scientists surveyed believe that Man evolved via the naturalistic processes I have been mentioning. There is no other issue where educated people are so overwhelmingly at odds with the general public.
(R) You're comparing apples and oranges.
(MB) Am I? I am comparing those who believe in the special creation of Man by a theistic God to those who do not believe in such a thing. What's the problem?


(R) What percentage of the general public believe that the method God used to create man was these naturalistic processes?
(MB) Apparently, no more than 13% (100% - 87%). "Special creation" is not a naturalistic process.


(R) What percentage of scientists believe these naturalistic processes are directed by a higher intelligence (i.e. what percent believe in God.)
(MB) That's a different question. There are scientists who still believe in a God of some form without believing that Man was the special creation of that God. Also, "higher intelligence" does not necessarily mean the theistic God that you support.


(R) Unless you can demonstrate a significant deviation between the percent of people in the general population who believe in God and the percent of scientists who believe in God, you can not say the two groups are at odds.
(MB) That's not the point that I raised. Disbelief in special creation is not the same thing as atheism. It is the rejection of one tenet of theism.


(R) You may think all scientists are atheists, but the following quotes certainly don't seem to indicate any such thing:
(MB) First, I have never said that all scientists are atheists. Such a statement would not only be incorrect, but it would also be foolish.
    Second, if you are going to base a major argument upon quotations, it would be proper for you to cite the source of the quotations so that those sources can be examined. It is common practice to pull quotes out of context or even to misattribute quotations. The only way to clear up any doubts is to provide proper citations for such quotes. For example, your quotation from Paul Davies shows indications of potential misuse.



(R) Paul Davies (Professor of Theoretical Physics & author):
"Every thing and every event in the physical universe must depend for its explanation on something outside itself. When a phenomenon is explained, it is explained in terms of something else. But if the phenomenon is all of existence the entire physical universe then clearly there is nothing physical outside the universe (by definition) to explain it. So any explanation must be in terms of something non-physical and supernatural. That something is God. The universe is the way it is because God has chosen it to be that way. Science, which by definition deals only with the physical universe, might successfully explain one thing in terms of another, and that in terms of another and so on, but the totality of physical things demands an explanation from without."

(MB) This quotation cries out for a proper citation. In Davies' 1992 book, The Mind of God, he clearly and specifically makes statements in his preface to the effect that he is not a member of any religion and that, to him, "God" is not the same thing as the theistic God of Christianity. The title "The Mind of God", as used by Davies, was drawn from Stephen Hawking's use of the same phrase in "A Brief History of Time" and applies as a euphemism for the orderly workings of the universe in the same way that one might refer to "Mother Nature" when marveling at the wonders here on Earth. This is a common usage among scientists.


(R) George Greenstein (American astronomer):
"As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency or, rather, Agency must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?"

(MB) Greenstein presupposes that the only explanation for what we see is to be found in the supernatural. There is no evidence to support such a claim.


(R) P. A. M. Dirac (physicist and mathematician): On why the universe is constructed the way it is:
"One could perhaps describe the situation by saying that God is a mathematician of a very high order, and He used very advanced mathematics in constructing the universe. Our feeble attempts at mathematics enable us to understand a bit of the universe, and as we proceed to develop higher and higher mathematics we can hope to understand the universe better."

(MB) Dirac is not stating a belief that God exists. He speculates only about how one "could perhaps" describe the nature of the universe. He also states that improved levels of mathematics will allow us to better understand the universe. While correct, this is also fairly obvious.


(R) Steven Weinberg (physicist, Nobel Prize winner, author):
"It seems to me that if the word "God" is to be of any use, it should be taken to mean an interested God, a creator and lawgiver who has established not only laws of nature and the universe but also standards of good and evil, some personality that is concerned with our actions, something in short that it is appropriate for us to worship. This is the God that has mattered to men and women throughout history."

(MB) Weinberg is not stating a belief that God exists. Rather he appears to be musing about the qualities that a theistic God should possess. Without a proper citation and context, it is impossible to say what elicited this quote.


(R) Owen Gingerich (eminent science historian):
"The Big Bang makes a thrilling scenario... of everything springing forth from that blinding flash, [which] bears a striking resonance with [the] words of Genesis 1:3: "And God said, Let there be light." Who could have guessed... a hundred years ago... a thousand years ago that a scientific picture would emerge with electromagnetic radiation as the starting point of creation!"

(MB) There are several omissions in this quotation. Without a proper citation, it is not possible to evaluate what might have been left out and how that might affect the real meaning of his statement. As to the last sentence, "Let there be light" was the only "scientific" theory around until real science emerged. Since life on Earth is made possible by the light of the Sun, why not surmise that the universe itself was made possible by a blazing flash of light?


(R) Arthur Eddington (British physicist):
"...Religion first became possible for a reasonable scientific man about the year 1927.... (because of)....the final overthrow of strict causality by Heisenberg, Bohr, Born and others."

(MB) Here's another quote that requires a proper context before it can be properly evaluated. In any case, it would seem to be contradictory to the tenets of religion. The overthrow of strict causality robs religion of a major argument supporting divine creation of the universe, i.e., that the Big Bang event must have had a cause and that cause must have come from God.


(R) Freeman J. Dyson (physicist for the Institute of Advance Study):
"What philosophical conclusions should we draw from the abstract style of the superstring theory? We might conclude, as Sir James Jeans concluded long ago, that the Great Architect of the Universe now begins to appear as a Pure Mathematician, and that if we work hard enough at mathematics we shall be able to read His mind."

(MB) Here's another use of the "Mind of God" euphemism applied from a more Deistic perspective. Also, it seems that there is more to this quote that was left out. Surely, Dyson's thoughts don't begin and end with his rehashing of Sir James Jeans.


(R) And my favorite:
Max Planck (the father of modern physics):
"That God existed before there were human beings on Earth, that he holds the entire world, believers and non-believers, in his omnipotent hand for eternity, and that he will remain enthroned on a level inaccessible to human comprehension long after the Earth and everything that is on it has gone to ruins. Those who profess this faith and who, inspired by it, in veneration and complete confidence, feel secure from the dangers of life under protection of the Almighty, only those may number themselves among the truly religious."

(MB) Planck is not saying that he believes in God. He is only stating the nature of such a belief. Once again, without a proper citation, it is impossible to determine the context of this quote. I'm sure that Planck was making a larger argument from which this quote was drawn.


(R) Notice that many of these eminent scientists support a number of the notions I've postulated during this discussion, such as the concept of God as the Great Scientist, or the idea that the physical laws of the universe work because God designed them to.
(MB) On the contrary, the quotes only state that such notions exist. They do not state that they are adhered to by those men themselves. In the case of Davies, his book flatly contradicts what you are trying to attribute to him. Doing a quick count shows that of the 8 quotes you presented that supposedly depict scientists who are believers in your theistic God, 4 clearly state no such belief, 1 appears to believe but presents a dubious argument, and the other 3 are open questions for lack of proper context and supporting material. Since I must assume that these quotations were carefully selected to make a point, it would seem that the point has not been made successfully.
    I'm curious about your source for those quotes as they seem to be drawn from a single compendium. What was it? I'd like to examine it for myself. In the future, please provide proper citations either for the works being referenced or for the source of the quotations. As examples, consider the following:


"Clearly the person who accepts the Church as an infallible guide will believe whatever the Church teaches."
-- St. Thomas Aquinas, "Summa Theologica"


"In dark ages people are best guided by religion, as in a pitch-black night a blind man is the best guide; he knows the roads and paths better than a man who can see. When daylight comes, however, it is foolish to use the blind, old men as guides."
-- Heinrich Heine, "Gedanken und Einfalle"


"The world would be astonished if it knew how great a proportion of its brightest ornaments, of those most distinguished even in popular estimation for wisdom and virtue, are complete skeptics in religion."
-- John Stuart Mill, from: Cardiff, "What Great Men Think of Religion"


"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."
-- Blaise Pascal, "Pensees"


I do not believe that if there is a God of this vast universe that such a God would create a hell to torment to all eternity helpless and innocent human beings. I defend the God of the religionists against the libels of his own believers."
-- Joseph Lewis, "Answer to Preacher Jack Coe"


"Man is certanly stark mad. He cannot make a flea, and yet he will be making gods by the dozen."
-- Michel de Montaigne, "Essays"


"What is it: is man only a blunder of God, or God only a blunder of man?"
-- Neitzsche, "The Twilight of the Gods"


It should be said that quotations, in and of themselves, prove nothing except what the speaker might think. Their appeal lies in the beauty of the well-turned phrase.



(R) Until you can produce data to suggest that the majority of scientists are atheists, the insinuation you made above, that 99 percent of educated people don't believe in God, remains merely the latest in your long series of failed efforts to discredit such beliefs.
(MB) Your failed attempt to distort this statistic is the latest in your long series of futile arguments in support of your own beliefs.



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