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  #11  
Unread December 9th, 2004, 09:29 AM
ToddStark ToddStark is offline
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Cool Re: The Devil and the odds of chance?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
Todd, you say that asking what the odds are that the universe and we are here by chance is a “strenuously abstract question.” The physicist/mathematician Roger Penrose apparently didn’t think so, and backs it up with science and math.

Regarding the three implications that you suggest:
1. Regarding the “lot of universes” idea, there’s not much evidence, string theory notwithstanding, and it lacks elegance; I doubt Occam would approve.
2. Regarding “more things out there,” again, we have to work with the available evidence & science, and pay Occam his due.
3. Which leaves us with your “intention or plan.” I think Occam would concur.
And there’s really no need to “decide whether spirit exists”—as Penrose, who I think has indicated in times past that he’s a materialist, notes, we still don’t even know what matter (waves and/or particles?) is.
Hi Fred,

Thanks for your concern for my soul, or my sanity, whichever motivates you to want me to believe and would consider it a gift.

Let's say that my allelle for religiosity more fully expresses itself next week and I verbally acknowledge the God of Spinoza and Einstein (the one that doesn't play dice and without whom science is blind).

Let's say He is something slightly more ethnic than the one revered by the cult of Pythagoras and Penrose (it's all in the math!) ... but not quite a robed Father who listens to and answers prayers individually.

Let's say he is also not quite the one who gives up His Son for His beloved job creating and redeeming mortal souls, since that one is not even part of my Jewish upbringing and has never seemed any sort of an option for me given the free choice of belief.

I don't quite see why this apparent change would make a difference to you, do you think it would change the way I act toward or think about other people?

Let's say my religiosity allele then fully expresses itself a year later, and I recognize that God listens to our prayers and sometimes answers them. I now not only pray with my children for their comfort, and with my wife for the harmony of our home life, but now also in private. In what other way have I changed as a result? Have I suddenly become more compassionate? Wiser? More reliable friend, husband, father? Have I "grown up" spiritually? Is that what you are looking for or expecting here?

Would you think I'd come to my senses in that case, or would my atheist friends think I've begun the descent into senility? Perhaps both.

I'm not a militant atheist, in fact those folks sometimes give me the creeps nearly as much as militant evangelicals. I'm just someone for whom that sort of belief has thankfully never become a "live option." My strong belief in Jeffersonian secularism does put me in conflict with activist evangelicals who oppose it, but that has little to do with the mathematics or the Spinoza-Einstein deity. As Jim said, it's a different computation entirely. Were I born in the 18th century under similar favorable circumstances to my current life, I suspect I almost certainly would have been Deist rather than atheist or evangelical.

As for the three options, I don't know of any way to distinguish them empirically, although my own bent gene is similar to Jim's in that I find something like Kauffman's theory the most persuasive, leading me to believe in the likelihood of option 2 even though evidence of multiple similar evolutionary outcomes in all the universe or universes is obviously not available.

Joyous Christmas to you anyway ...

Todd
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  #12  
Unread December 9th, 2004, 12:10 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: there’re more things out there

Todd, you indicate that you’re led to believe in the likelihood of option 2—“that there might be more things similar to ourselves out there than we generally imagine.” Ahhh, yeah, sure Todd, whatever . . . don’t think I’d necessarily disagree that there’re more things out there….

Anyway, great question isn’t it—what are the odds that the universe and we are here by chance? Seems to be something of a stumbling block for those professing atheism.

Nevertheless Todd, as we’ve already determined, and as documented in my August 22, 2004 post in your Evolution of Ernst thread, once we get thru all your bluster, “you’re actually agnostic, or somewhere between agnostic and atheist, which is still agnostic.” Therefore I’m not concerned for your soul; and for your sanity we have drugs—yes Todd, my Christmas will indeed be joyous. You too have a blessed holiday, and ponder the odds.
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  #13  
Unread December 9th, 2004, 10:14 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Famous Atheist renounces atheism

JimB and Todd, the breaking story from abcnews.com, Associated Press, below, is probably somewhat distressing for those professing atheism. Do y’all think this guy’s “bent gene” underwent a random mutation, or is this just one of them there “emergent outcomes?”


Quote:
Famous Atheist Now Believes in God

NEW YORK Dec 9, 2004 — A British philosophy professor who has been a leading champion of atheism for more than a half-century has changed his mind. He now believes in God more or less based on scientific evidence, and says so on a video released Thursday.

At age 81, after decades of insisting belief is a mistake, Antony Flew has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Flew said in a telephone interview from England.

Flew said he's best labeled a deist like Thomas Jefferson, whose God was not actively involved in people's lives.

"I'm thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins," he said. "It could be a person in the sense of a being that has intelligence and a purpose, I suppose."

Flew first made his mark with the 1950 article "Theology and Falsification," based on a paper for the Socratic Club, a weekly Oxford religious forum led by writer and Christian thinker C.S. Lewis.

Over the years, Flew proclaimed the lack of evidence for God while teaching at Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele, and Reading universities in Britain, in visits to numerous U.S. and Canadian campuses and in books, articles, lectures and debates.

There was no one moment of change but a gradual conclusion over recent months for Flew, a spry man who still does not believe in an afterlife.

Yet biologists' investigation of DNA "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved," Flew says in the new video, "Has Science Discovered God?"

The video draws from a New York discussion last May organized by author Roy Abraham Varghese's Institute for Metascientific Research in Garland, Texas. Participants were Flew; Varghese; Israeli physicist Gerald Schroeder, an Orthodox Jew; and Roman Catholic philosopher John Haldane of Scotland's University of St. Andrews.

The first hint of Flew's turn was a letter to the August-September issue of Britain's Philosophy Now magazine. "It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism," he wrote.

The letter commended arguments in Schroeder's "The Hidden Face of God" and "The Wonder of the World" by Varghese, an Eastern Rite Catholic layman.

This week, Flew finished writing the first formal account of his new outlook for the introduction to a new edition of his "God and Philosophy," scheduled for release next year by Prometheus Press.

Prometheus specializes in skeptical thought, but if his belief upsets people, well "that's too bad," Flew said. "My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato's Socrates: Follow the evidence, wherever it leads."

Last week, Richard Carrier, a writer and Columbia University graduate student, posted new material based on correspondence with Flew on the atheistic www.infidels.org Web page. Carrier assured atheists that Flew accepts only a "minimal God" and believes in no afterlife.

Flew's "name and stature are big. Whenever you hear people talk about atheists, Flew always comes up," Carrier said. Still, when it comes to Flew's reversal, "apart from curiosity, I don't think it's like a big deal."

Flew told The Associated Press his current ideas have some similarity with American "intelligent design" theorists, who see evidence for a guiding force in the construction of the universe. He accepts Darwinian evolution but doubts it can explain the ultimate origins of life.

A Methodist minister's son, Flew became an atheist at 15.

Early in his career, he argued that no conceivable events could constitute proof against God for believers, so skeptics were right to wonder whether the concept of God meant anything at all.

Another landmark was his 1984 "The Presumption of Atheism," playing off the presumption of innocence in criminal law. Flew said the debate over God must begin by presuming atheism, putting the burden of proof on those arguing that God exists.
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  #14  
Unread December 10th, 2004, 01:41 PM
ToddStark ToddStark is offline
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Cool Flew flies the militant atheist chicken coop?

Very interesting. He crossed the very line that we keep arguing over, from atheism to deism. I admire him for it, it must be making his most dedicated fan base very uncomfortable.

It's a little like Sharon giving up the Gaza strip!

Todd
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  #15  
Unread December 10th, 2004, 01:56 PM
ToddStark ToddStark is offline
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Talking Re: Richard's Daughter, Juliet: Review of A Devil's Chaplain

Also, be sure to let us know when Dawkins is caught by the National Inquirer praying the rosary and Dennett does an ad for Scientology ... it's bound to happen eventually now, you know how these things tend to snowball once you make a small concession to the enemy ...
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  #16  
Unread December 10th, 2004, 02:52 PM
ToddStark ToddStark is offline
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Post More on Flew's "deism," and his own words.

Flew's actual comments reveal an additional twist, that he considers the response of both theists and atheists to recent scientific developments to be rational. This seems to allude to something like the underdetermination thesis where the same evidence can rationally lead to different conclusions. I tend to agree with this.

Here is an article where Flew responds to all the buzz over his apparent "conversion" to some sort of deism.

First, it seems I was wrong about him previously being what I could call a militant atheist (though he is one of their favorite sources), he says he was always only a "negative atheist" in the sense of claiming that deity can never be verified or disconfirmed. I certainly go that far as well. He also makes the comment that theism is a rational response to scientific developments given the assumptions of believers, just as it is rational for "positive atheists" to deny any such conclusion.

He apparently doesn't consider his recent comments to represent a conversion of any sort, just an elaboration of his continuing "negative atheism" (deity can neither be verified nor disconfirmed) plus his acknowledgement of the persistent mystery of things like the origin of the first reproducing organism.

I agree with him that it is not that much of a stretch from "negative atheism" to a Spinozan pantheistic deity. I feel pretty much the same way, simply in the sense that the origin of something like "autopoeisis" and the existence of extraordinary natural systems are a much harder problem than the things Darwinian adaptation directly deals with, for example. They do merit a different order of explanation than natural selection alone. I'm not sure they require "intelligence," depending on what that really means, but surely more than "positive atheists" (as fans of thoroughgoing simplification to known natural processes) are comfortable admitting to. My willingness to consider Peter Corning's "synergism" as a scientific hypothesis, for example, seems to be something that seems outside of science by many people.

It largely comes down (for the technical explanatory aspect) to the sorts of explanations we are willing to allow for apparent mysteries.

kind regards,

Todd

Here are Flew's own words ...

Quote:
Richard C. Carrier, current Editor in Chief of the Secular Web, tells me that "the internet has now become awash with rumors" that I "have converted to Christianity, or am at least no longer an atheist." Perhaps because I was born too soon to be involved in the internet world I had heard nothing of this rumour. So Mr. Carrier asks me to explain myself in cyberspace. This, with the help of the Internet Infidels, I now attempt.

Those rumours speak false. I remain still what I have been now for over fifty years, a negative atheist. By this I mean that I construe the initial letter in the word 'atheist' in the way in which everyone construes the same initial letter in such words as 'atypical' and 'amoral'. For I still believe that it is impossible either to verify or to falsify - to show to be false - what David Hume in his Dialogues concerning Natural Religion happily described as "the religious hypothesis." The more I contemplate the eschatological teachings of Christianity and Islam the more I wish I could demonstrate their falsity.

I first argued the impossibility in 'Theology and Falsification', a short paper originally published in 1950 and since reprinted over forty times in different places, including translations into German, Italian, Spanish, Danish, Welsh, Finnish and Slovak. The most recent reprint was as part of 'A Golden Jubilee Celebration' in the October/November 2001 issue of the semi-popular British journal Philosophy Now, which the editors of that periodical have graciously allowed the Internet Infidels to publish online: see "Theology & Falsification."

I can suggest only one possible source of the rumours. Several weeks ago I submitted to the Editor of Philo (The Journal of the Society of Humanist Philosophers) a short paper making two points which might well disturb atheists of the more positive kind. The point more relevant here was that it can be entirely rational for believers and negative atheists to respond in quite different ways to the same scientific developments.

We negative atheists are bound to see the Big Bang cosmology as requiring a physical explanation; and that one which, in the nature of the case, may nevertheless be forever inaccessible to human beings. But believers may, equally reasonably, welcome the Big Bang cosmology as tending to confirm their prior belief that "in the beginning" the Universe was created by God.

Again, negative atheists meeting the argument that the fundamental constants of physics would seem to have been 'fine tuned' to make the emergence of mankind possible will first object to the application of either the frequency or the propensity theory of probability 'outside' the Universe, and then go on to ask why omnipotence should have been satisfied to produce a Universe in which the origin and rise of the human race was merely possible rather than absolutely inevitable. But believers are equally bound and, on their opposite assumptions, equally justified in seeing the Fine Tuning Argument as providing impressive confirmation of a fundamental belief shared by all the three great systems of revealed theistic religion - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. For all three are agreed that we human beings are members of a special kind of creatures, made in the image of God and for a purpose intended by God.

In short, I recognize that developments in physics coming on the last twenty or thirty years can reasonably be seen as in some degree confirmatory of a previously faith-based belief in god, even though they still provide no sufficient reason for unbelievers to change their minds. They certainly have not persuaded me.
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  #17  
Unread December 10th, 2004, 06:24 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Flew’s schizophrenia

Flew indicates that he’s still a “negative atheist,” but that he is best labeled a deist like Jefferson, and that he now also believes that intelligence was involved in producing life. Hmmm, he sounds schizophrenic too.

Difficult to let go of old beliefs, to admit that you’ve been so wrong about so much. Kind of how I felt when Clinton revealed that BJs aren’t sex.

And Todd, don’t look at this as a “small concession to the enemy,” rather think of it as the twilight of atheism, and perhaps a returning to the fold.
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  #18  
Unread December 10th, 2004, 10:51 PM
ToddStark ToddStark is offline
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Wink Flew: courageous, big deal over nothing, or schizophrenic?

Quote:
And Todd, don’t look at this as a “small concession to the enemy,” rather think of it as the twilight of atheism, and perhaps a returning to the fold.
Could be. Hopefully not also the twilight of naturalism and science as I think of it, but who knows. A shift of strict atheists to secularist deism as in the case of Flew wouldn't bother me at all, but the end of secularism would be catastrophic for what I think of as the intellectual tradition many of us have enjoyed and benefitted from greatly for its insights and clarity.

And as an aside, I don't think of Sharon's efforts as a small concession to the enemy, I think of it as a big risk of compassion and an act of good faith almost unprecedented in the history of the struggles in that area.

If Flew really "converted" from a strict atheism to a secularist deism as some are claiming lately, I view that as not a concession but a remarkable act of courage to acknowledge it.

On the other hand, I don't know what the universe having "intelligence" means to an atheist, so I can't really be sure that it isn't some minor form of schizophrenia.
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  #19  
Unread December 11th, 2004, 01:42 AM
Mike Phillips Mike Phillips is offline
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Wink Re: Wrong approach!

Hello, Gentlemen

Science ("repeatable" proven experiments) is the wrong test to prove the existence of a Creator.

The proper approach is a method lawyers use. A historical legal evidence or documented proof.

Since, scientifically you cannot prove what you ate for breakfast last Tuesday ( you could most likely produce a few witness's to testify to the fact of what & where you ate your breakfast and the actual time.) or the last thought that passed through your mind (unless spoken to someone else). The date you were born (other than the proof of your own existence and documentation).

Or, that George Washington lived and breathed or Socrates; we cannot give scientific facts or produce scientific evidence. What we do have is historical evidence and proof. That these two men in history walked on this earth, the actions and philosopies of their legacys' and documented accounts, remain to this day as proof of their existence.

We have more proof of the existence of Christ, and His life on this planet has done more to change the course of history and the lives of men to this very moment in history, than any character of our human existence througthout mankinds history.

It narrows down to what Jesus said of Himself "If you have seen Me; you have seen the Father ( God ) " " My Father and I are one" ( God / Creator ). HHHHMMMM???

So now it rests on what does one believe about the claims of Christ and how they relate to the existence of God ( His Father in Heaven ). From His life and His testimony, not excluding the apostles, other believers or the historical accounts of non-believers.

What really tics off atheists, perplexes skeptics & stumps evolutionists; about whether there is a God or not? Is Jesus the Messiah is the only emperical / historical proof God gave us, and the evidence is irrefutible.

Freewill is not an allusion.

Merry Christmas,
Mike

ps I voted for "W" as well. Go figure, it must have been something about the moral / ethical issues. Oh Yeah!, that "Lurch" would sell us out to enemy, would have had anything to do with it?
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  #20  
Unread December 12th, 2004, 12:50 PM
ToddStark ToddStark is offline
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Thumbs up Law and Theology vs. Scientific Inquiry

Hi Mike,

Thanks very much for your reply! I agree with you. A shared goal of theology and law is to build the best possible case for a particular pre-determined interpretation of particular historical events. I agree that the legal model is more suitable to theology than is scientific inquiry.

For a Christian theologian to interpret historical evidence to falsify the divinity of Christ would be like a lawyer arguing the case to convict his client. They would appear insane or incompetent. It's just not their job.

A scientist or philosopher who argues a completely different position from previously confuses us at first because it seems contrary to human nature, but unlike the theolgian or lawyer, they are eventually applauded for their integrity if they manage to make their case well.

The goal of scientific inquiry is indeed different from both law and theology, the goal is explaining the natural world better, not proving or disproving God or convicting or exhonerating a client.

kind regards,

Todd
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