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Old 28th January 2019, 08:14 PM   #601
GDon
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
Here is what IanS said:
Thanks for that. Not really "God of the gaps", just the strawman version. I've actually come across only two examples: one by Isaac Newton, who thought the reason that planets circling the Sun didn't interfere with each others' orbits was God acting on the planets; and I forget the second one (though it is also from 500 years ago IIRC). But it would be unfair to IanS and you to argue through proxy so lets leave it there.

Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
You miss all kinds of good stuff when you put people on your sh** ignore list.
True.

Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
Have to take your word on the differences here. Generally though I think it can be accepted as proven that higher education generally means lesser religiosity.
Yes, I have no problem with that. But the question then is, WHY? If higher education means less religiosity, then why do hard sciences have less believers than soft sciences (which IIRC is the case)? Both are examples of higher education, both are about teaching and utilizing research methods, neither are about investigating the questions of the existence of God.

This is not a question of tribalism. I'm not trying to support "my side (theists) is smarter!" "my side is more educated!", because I accept that that isn't true as a general statement. I'm genuinely asking why higher education results in less religiosity, when that higher education isn't about questioning religiosity.

If it is because the sciences teach critical thinking somehow has an effect, then why the difference between the hard sciences and the soft sciences? Do the hard sciences teach more critical thinking, and how does that manifest itself? (I'm not expecting anyone here to have the answer to this, just wondering what people think.)

Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
I think you are drawing a long bow in suggesting those preachers way back then, were doing this sort of thing rather than telling literal stories. No way to prove it one way or the other though I suppose.
Again: they probably were taught as things that literally happened. But the reason they were preached was to highlight some theological, philosophical or moral point. Their *value* in the sermon was in their symbolism, not their historicity.

Last edited by GDon; 28th January 2019 at 08:25 PM.
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Old 28th January 2019, 08:48 PM   #602
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Re: the god of the gaps, I'd say:
1) Over the last 50 years, a lot of progress has been made in explaining our moral instincts from an evolutionary POV
2) the debunking of the "irreducible complexity" argument for ID
3) intercessory prayer research
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Old 29th January 2019, 12:36 AM   #603
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
If it is because the sciences teach critical thinking somehow has an effect, then why the difference between the hard sciences and the soft sciences? Do the hard sciences teach more critical thinking, and how does that manifest itself? (I'm not expecting anyone here to have the answer to this, just wondering what people think.)
Maybe it's just that the less satisfied people tend to be with supernatural answers to the big questions the more likely they are to seek out education and careers in the harder sciences. That initial tendency might be more influenced by nature than nurture.
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Old 29th January 2019, 12:39 AM   #604
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
Re: the god of the gaps, I'd say:
1) Over the last 50 years, a lot of progress has been made in explaining our moral instincts from an evolutionary POV
2) the debunking of the "irreducible complexity" argument for ID
3) intercessory prayer research
I'd add the progress in neuroscience in showing how the brain generates mind, making the idea of separate minds/souls (and their afterlife) less and less plausible.
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Old 29th January 2019, 12:40 AM   #605
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
Re: the god of the gaps, I'd say:
1) Over the last 50 years, a lot of progress has been made in explaining our moral instincts from an evolutionary POV
2) the debunking of the "irreducible complexity" argument for ID
3) intercessory prayer research
Interesting examples, but I wouldn't really call these "God of the gaps" arguments. According to Wiki:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_of_the_gaps
"God of the gaps" is a theological perspective in which gaps in scientific knowledge are taken to be evidence or proof of God's existence.
1) I don't think that morals themselves were ever thought to be evidence for God. Absolute moral values have been proposed to only have value if there is a God, but IIUC no-one doubts that morals exist and no-one has claimed that their existence in themselves is evidence for God. A GotG argument might be "moral instincts exist and only God explains their existence."

(2) & (3) are not examples of gaps in scientific knowledge that was thought to be evidence for God, but ideas that have been debunked. E.g. a 6000 year old Earth created by God has been debunked, but that was never really a 'GotG' argument because it was never part of established scientific knowledge. For there to be a GotG argument, you need a gap that has been established by science but not yet explained.

Irreducible complexity has never been part of established scientific knowledge so there are no gaps to be explained through the existence of God (if I am using the term 'GotG' correctly). GotG arguments might be "science can't explain why there is Irreducible complexity and only God explains it" or "science can't explain why praying really works in healing people and only God explains it."

But perhaps I'm wrong. How would you define GotG? How would you phrase your examples such that they are GotG examples?

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Old 29th January 2019, 12:54 AM   #606
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
But to be clear: I wasn't saying that the stories told from the pulpit weren't presented as non-literal, but that they weren't told as part of a history or science lesson. They were told to highlight whatever theological, philosophical or moral point that the pastor was wanting to point out.
For example, a pastor wouldn't say "Today we will learn about whales. According to the Bible, people can live in whales for 3 days." Instead, it would be something like "A whale swallowed Jonah for 3 days, symbolizing Jesus being in Hades for 3 days after death." Your average believer throughout history would then go home and promptly not worry about it.
Fundamentalism is not trying to give scientific courses with the Bible. But it says that the facts described in the Bible were real. They don't pretend given lessons about whales, but they say that if the Bible says that a man lived three days in the stomach of a whale there was a man that lived three days in the stomach of a whale. It is amazing, then it is a miracle. But it happened as the Bible said that it happened.

Of course, the fact of Jonas living three days into the whale was a prophetic fact. God made with Jonah a prophetic advance of Jesus' death and resurrection on the third day. But it is the symbolic contents of facts. No fundamentalist opposes this. And this is very different of the symbolic content of the words of the Sacred Book.

This fundamentalism was the official doctrine of the Church for centuries. The total symbolization of the Bible, defended by Origen of Alexandria, was condemned in the third century CE. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas also defended de literal reading of the Bible. And so things were until the Enlightenment came to remove them.

As I said in another comment I was told twenty times the story of Jonah and nobody told me that it was a myth.

Originally Posted by GDon View Post
Again: they probably were taught as things that literally happened. But the reason they were preached was to highlight some theological, philosophical or moral point. Their *value* in the sermon was in their symbolism, not their historicity.
This is other discussion. Now it's about moral or philosophical (sic) value . But this is not the symbolic. That the Bible is a source of moral and theological teachings is not denied by any fundamentalist.

What are we discussing? I believed that the belief that what the Bible narrates is real.

What distinguishes a fundamentalist from a symbolist is that the former thinks that the facts narrated in the Bible are significant and the latter says that biblical legends are significant.

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Old 29th January 2019, 01:53 AM   #607
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Originally Posted by Pixel42 View Post
Maybe it's just that the less satisfied people tend to be with supernatural answers to the big questions the more likely they are to seek out education and careers in the harder sciences. That initial tendency might be more influenced by nature than nurture.
Yes, it might be something along those lines.

(ETA) I've been looking at some stats, and found the Pew Research Center poll of scientists in 2009. Interestingly enough, it showed more scientists (51%) believed in a higher power than not (41%).


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Old 29th January 2019, 02:15 AM   #608
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
But perhaps I'm wrong. How would you define GotG? How would you phrase your examples such that they are GotG examples?
The three gaps in scientific understanding identified by kellyb are:

1. why are people often instinctively altruistic when it would seem to be to their advantage to be selfish?
2. how can certain complex organic mechanisms evolve when there are apparently no useful intermediate steps?
3. why are prayers answered more often than would be expected by chance?

(1) and (2) were things that science couldn't explain, therefore God filled that gap, but for which scientific explanations are now available; (3) was shown to be false, so no gap to fill

The example I added was like kellyb's first two examples: "science can't explain minds therefore they must come from God" -> "actually it looks like science can explain minds".
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Old 29th January 2019, 02:49 AM   #609
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Pixel42, I guess I would actually have to see some religious group making the argument that "God is the explanation" for some phenomenon unexplained by science. Bill O'Reilly famously argued with American Atheist president David Silverman that "the tide goes in, the tide goes out, you can't explain it." (I love the expression on Silverman's face at 2 mins!) That is technically a modern "God of the Gaps" argument, but the question of tides has not been an unexplained phenomenon for 500 years. The view of one ignorant man like O'Reilly isn't a GotG argument as generally used IIUC (though if it becomes defined as such then of course I'm wrong and it is a GotG argument.)

In any case, I followed the Intelligent Design argument fairly closely, and the point was made clearly that the explanation didn't have to be God, at least by proponents like Michael Behe; though it was pretty clear Creationists were pushing it for their own agenda. From Wiki:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Behe
"… 'designer' is often seen as a not-too-subtle code word for God, both by those who like the implications and by those who don't. …Like it or not, a raft of important distinctions intervene between a conclusion of design and identification of a designer. … The designer need not necessarily even be a truly 'supernatural' being.

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Old 29th January 2019, 03:25 AM   #610
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Sorry GDan, but it seems to me that you're being a bit disingenuous. Every time a believer in the supernatural declares that "science can't explain X" the conclusion the listener is expected to draw could not be more obvious. They rarely spell it out, probably because they think the listener will be more likely to give it credence if they reach it unaided, but we all know what they themselves have concluded from it.
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Old 29th January 2019, 04:08 AM   #611
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Originally Posted by Pixel42 View Post
Sorry GDan, but it seems to me that you're being a bit disingenuous. Every time a believer in the supernatural declares that "science can't explain X" the conclusion the listener is expected to draw could not be more obvious. They rarely spell it out, probably because they think the listener will be more likely to give it credence if they reach it unaided, but we all know what they themselves have concluded from it.
Fair point.
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Old 29th January 2019, 08:11 AM   #612
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post

If it is because the sciences teach critical thinking somehow has an effect, then why the difference between the hard sciences and the soft sciences? Do the hard sciences teach more critical thinking, and how does that manifest itself? (I'm not expecting anyone here to have the answer to this, just wondering what people think.)

I have no idea why I should be on your ignore list. I don't recall ever having any serious altercations with you. I can only imagine it must have been something in the Historical Jesus threads, where quite a few people were deliberately being confrontational and personalising things in rude or abusive ways, though I was certainly never doing that … the only people here that I've ever responded to in anything remotely approaching even a fraction of that sort of attitude is with 3 or 4 regular posters who had already been constantly posting in that way for page after page before I might have eventually asked them to stop it and stick to polite constructive discussion.

However, as far as "hard science" is concerned, where I assume you mean what I would call "core science", ie physics, chemistry, biology, maths + some direct offshoots, such as astronomy, then the answer is “yes”. Yes, core science research does have higher more rigorous standards – it's much more difficult and demanding if you want to publish research in the top physics and chemistry journals (such as Phys. Rev. and JACS) than it is to get papers published in areas like psychology or engineering etc.

But note that if you do a BSc degree, or even a PhD in physics or chemistry, you are not actually taught so-called “critical thinking” (or at least you were not taught that when I was doing all that stuff). Instead it was just the case that the subjects themselves forced you to think logically and present really solid well researched evidence with truly convincing explanations, otherwise you'd never get anything passed for publication.

But that's all getting away from the subject of this thread. In which respect – if you are not aware of the different research standards in something like quantum cosmological physics vs. (say) psychology studies of “consciousness”, then you may be falling into the trap which I've noticed many times here before from theists (and some philosophers), who seem to think that research in core science has no more authority or validity than the personal opinions of ordinary people who argue such things as “evidence for the existence of God”, or evidence from “personal experience and anecdotes” etc.
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Old 29th January 2019, 02:13 PM   #613
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
Thanks for that. Not really "God of the gaps", just the strawman version. I've actually come across only two examples: one by Isaac Newton, who thought the reason that planets circling the Sun didn't interfere with each others' orbits was God acting on the planets; and I forget the second one (though it is also from 500 years ago IIRC). But it would be unfair to IanS and you to argue through proxy so lets leave it there.

Yes Isaac Newton was a good example of a good mind screwed up by religion. It was just about compulsory to be religious back in those days so I guess it's understandable. Newton was into alchemy I read as well so his intellectual rigour was not uniform.

Quote:
Yes, I have no problem with that. But the question then is, WHY? If higher education means less religiosity, then why do hard sciences have less believers than soft sciences (which IIRC is the case)? Both are examples of higher education, both are about teaching and utilizing research methods, neither are about investigating the questions of the existence of God.

This is not a question of tribalism. I'm not trying to support "my side (theists) is smarter!" "my side is more educated!", because I accept that that isn't true as a general statement. I'm genuinely asking why higher education results in less religiosity, when that higher education isn't about questioning religiosity.

If it is because the sciences teach critical thinking somehow has an effect, then why the difference between the hard sciences and the soft sciences? Do the hard sciences teach more critical thinking, and how does that manifest itself? (I'm not expecting anyone here to have the answer to this, just wondering what people think.)


Again: they probably were taught as things that literally happened. But the reason they were preached was to highlight some theological, philosophical or moral point. Their *value* in the sermon was in their symbolism, not their historicity.

Don't know why you are persistent with this. I would think it quite self evident, that if what you studied was in direct conflict with scriptural nonsense, then it would impact on your faith more than if what you studied did not.
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Old 29th January 2019, 02:25 PM   #614
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
Yes, it might be something along those lines.

(ETA) I've been looking at some stats, and found the Pew Research Center poll of scientists in 2009. Interestingly enough, it showed more scientists (51%) believed in a higher power than not (41%).

http://assets.pewresearch.org/wp-con...d-Belief-3.gif

Two things should be noted about these figures given that they are about USA scientists.

1. Religion is fed to infants along with the teat to a large extent in the USA, so residual bias towards it and inclination to not be in conflict with family, are factors to be considered.

2. Scientific funding is often in the control of non scientists who must not be aggravated.
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Old 29th January 2019, 09:11 PM   #615
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
Yes Isaac Newton was a good example of a good mind screwed up by religion. It was just about compulsory to be religious back in those days so I guess it's understandable. Newton was into alchemy I read as well so his intellectual rigour was not uniform.
My understanding is that alchemy was a completely reasonable thing to explore before the basics of chemistry were figured out. Alchemy just kinda morphed into chemistry over time, actually.
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Old 29th January 2019, 09:15 PM   #616
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
Interesting examples, but I wouldn't really call these "God of the gaps" arguments. According to Wiki:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_of_the_gaps
"God of the gaps" is a theological perspective in which gaps in scientific knowledge are taken to be evidence or proof of God's existence.
1) I don't think that morals themselves were ever thought to be evidence for God. Absolute moral values have been proposed to only have value if there is a God, but IIUC no-one doubts that morals exist and no-one has claimed that their existence in themselves is evidence for God. A GotG argument might be "moral instincts exist and only God explains their existence."

(2) & (3) are not examples of gaps in scientific knowledge that was thought to be evidence for God, but ideas that have been debunked. E.g. a 6000 year old Earth created by God has been debunked, but that was never really a 'GotG' argument because it was never part of established scientific knowledge. For there to be a GotG argument, you need a gap that has been established by science but not yet explained.

Irreducible complexity has never been part of established scientific knowledge so there are no gaps to be explained through the existence of God (if I am using the term 'GotG' correctly). GotG arguments might be "science can't explain why there is Irreducible complexity and only God explains it" or "science can't explain why praying really works in healing people and only God explains it."

But perhaps I'm wrong. How would you define GotG? How would you phrase your examples such that they are GotG examples?
1) Yes, they were. It was one of the key arguments in CS Lewis' "Mere Christianity", which he wrote to be "a gospel for the skeptics". His argument actually was "moral instincts exist and only God explains their existence."

2-3) "Irreducible complexity" was a name the theists came up with for what they saw as gaps in proposed evolutionary development.
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Old 29th January 2019, 09:48 PM   #617
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Here's Lewis using the existence of morals as "proof" of god, a very classic "god of the gaps" argument:

https://www.dacc.edu/assets/pdfs/PCM...anitylewis.pdf

Quote:
The laws of nature, as applied to stones or trees, may only mean "what Nature, in fact, does." But if you turn to the Law of Human Nature, the Law of Decent Behaviour, it is a different matter. That law certainly does not mean "what human beings, in fact, do"; for as I said before, many of them do not obey this law at all, and none of them obey it completely. The law of gravity tells you what stones do if you drop them; but the Law of Human Nature tells you what human beings ought to do and do not.

In other words, when you are dealing with humans, something else comes in above and beyond the actual facts. You have the facts (how men do behave) and you also have something else (how they ought to behave). In the rest of the universe there need not be anything but the facts. Electrons and molecules behave in a certain way, and certain results follow, and that may be the whole story. (*) But men behave in a certain way and that is not the whole story, for all the time you know that they ought to behave differently

Quote:
Men ought to be unselfish, ought to be fair. Not that men are unselfish,
nor that they like being unselfish, but that they ought to be. The Moral Law, or Law of Human Nature, is not simply a fact about human behaviour in the same way as the Law of Gravitation is, or may be, simply a fact about how heavy objects behave.
Quote:
4. What Lies Behind The Law
Let us sum up what we have reached so far. In the case of stones and trees and things of that sort, what we call the Laws of Nature may not be anything except a way of speaking. When you say that nature is governed by certain laws, this may only mean that nature does, in fact, behave in a certain way. The socalled laws may not be anything real—anything above and beyond the actual facts which we observe.
But in the case of Man, we saw that this will not do. The Law of Human Nature, or of Right and Wrong, must be something above and beyond the actual facts of human behaviour. In this case, besides the actual facts, you have something else—a real law which we did not invent and which we know we ought to obey.
Quote:
The position of the question, then, is like this. We want to know whether the universe simply happens to be what it is for no reason or whether there is a power behind it that makes it what it is. Since that power, if it exists, would be not one of the observed facts but a reality which makes them, no mere observation of the facts can find it.
There is only one case in which we can know whether there is anything more, namely our own case. And in that one case we find there is. Or put it the other way round. If there was a controlling power outside the universe, it could not show itself to us as one of the facts inside the universe— no more than the architect of a house could actually be a wall or staircase or fireplace in that house. The only way in which we could expect it to show itself would be inside ourselves as an influence or a command trying to get us to behave in a certain way. And that is just what we do find inside ourselves.
Surely this ought to arouse our suspicions?
Quote:
The only packet I am allowed to open is Man. When I do, especially when I open that particular man called Myself, I find that I do not exist on my own, that I am under a law; that somebody or something wants me to behave in a certain way.
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Old 29th January 2019, 10:10 PM   #618
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
Don't know why you are persistent with this. I would think it quite self evident, that if what you studied was in direct conflict with scriptural nonsense, then it would impact on your faith more than if what you studied did not.
I persist in this because I find the question interesting. Look at the figures for Chemistry above -- 55% believe in a higher power, 39% don't. How much do studies in chemistry directly conflict with scriptural nonsense, and does that explain the score? We don't have enough data to even have a guess, but I'd love to see a study investigating this.

Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
Two things should be noted about these figures given that they are about USA scientists.

1. Religion is fed to infants along with the teat to a large extent in the USA, so residual bias towards it and inclination to not be in conflict with family, are factors to be considered.

2. Scientific funding is often in the control of non scientists who must not be aggravated.
Sure, those reasons also probably contribute to the figures.
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Old 29th January 2019, 10:31 PM   #619
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
1) Yes, they were. It was one of the key arguments in CS Lewis' "Mere Christianity", which he wrote to be "a gospel for the skeptics". His argument actually was "moral instincts exist and only God explains their existence."
No, his argument was that only God explains why morals have value, that gives a difference between an 'is' and an 'ought'.

I agree it is an argument for God, but it isn't a GotG argument as far as I can see. At least as how I define the term, as I describe below.

Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
Here's Lewis using the existence of morals as "proof" of god, a very classic "god of the gaps" argument:

https://www.dacc.edu/assets/pdfs/PCM...anitylewis.pdf
I might be wrong, but I define a "God of the gaps" argument as the following:
1. A gap is identified in scientific knowledge, where the science of that time can't explain some phenomenon that has been observed.
2. Someone declares that the gap is evidence for God.

I take Pixel42's earlier point that a theist simply pointing to a gap can imply that God is the cause, even if they don't explicitly say that. So I agree that there is a grey area there that I should keep in mind. Still, I don't think that this makes Lewis's argument a GotG one. But if you have a different definition for GotG, then it may be more prudent to agree to disagree on this.

The reason I don't see it as a GotG argument (as I define it) is first we need to see what phenomenon that science is claiming has been validated without being able to explain. Has science validated "The Law of Human Nature, or of Right and Wrong"? Does scientific literature validate "a real law which we did not invent and which we know we ought to obey"? Not that I know of. There is no gap in science on the question because science does not address the question.

Again, if your definition of GotG differs from mine, you might validly disagree.

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Old 30th January 2019, 12:10 AM   #620
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
Here's Lewis using the existence of morals as "proof" of god, a very classic "god of the gaps" argument:

https://www.dacc.edu/assets/pdfs/PCM...anitylewis.pdf
The problem with God as explanation of anything is twofold: a) God doesn't explain anything and b) God doesn't exist.

First: To explain is to reduce the unknown to the known. But when you ask how is God, the ultimate answer is always the same: "a mystery". God is not like that and so on. God is not good, in the human sense of the word, because he is the creator of evil. God is not intelligent, because his rationality is not argumentative. God knows all but all is not determined... and so on. Do you know the "negative theology" or "the silence of God"? Exactly. God doesn't fulfil any gap. He is void in himself.

Second: To postulate the existence of God to resolve the problem of Absolute Values is to believe that Absolute Values are an Absolute Fact. If you deny that Absolute Values are facts the existence of God is superfluous. You can explain the existence of human values by human reality.

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Old 30th January 2019, 12:26 AM   #621
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
No, his argument was that only God explains why morals have value, that gives a difference between an 'is' and an 'ought'.

I agree it is an argument for God, but it isn't a GotG argument as far as I can see. At least as how I define the term, as I describe below.


I might be wrong, but I define a "God of the gaps" argument as the following:
1. A gap is identified in scientific knowledge, where the science of that time can't explain some phenomenon that has been observed.
2. Someone declares that the gap is evidence for God.

I take Pixel42's earlier point that a theist simply pointing to a gap can imply that God is the cause, even if they don't explicitly say that. So I agree that there is a grey area there that I should keep in mind. Still, I don't think that this makes Lewis's argument a GotG one. But if you have a different definition for GotG, then it may be more prudent to agree to disagree on this.

The reason I don't see it as a GotG argument (as I define it) is first we need to see what phenomenon that science is claiming has been validated without being able to explain. Has science validated "The Law of Human Nature, or of Right and Wrong"? Does scientific literature validate "a real law which we did not invent and which we know we ought to obey"? Not that I know of. There is no gap in science on the question because science does not address the question.

Again, if your definition of GotG differs from mine, you might validly disagree.
The "god of the gaps" is anything significantly mysterious enough and seemingly important enough to where someone somewhere feels a motivation to see it as only explainable as being the work of god. It can be anything from Lewis's idea of "The Law of Human Nature, or of Right and Wrong", to people seeing Jesus in a grilled cheese sandwich, to the question of what sparked the big bang.

I was actually taught about the "god of the gaps" in Christian school, to warn against thinking of god like that, or looking at anything mysterious as proof of god, because "the god which causes mysterious phenomena" had been in retreat for centuries, getting ever smaller with each discovery made.

Wiki is correct here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_of_the_gaps
Quote:
Origins of the term
The concept, although not the exact wording, goes back to Henry Drummond, a 19th-century evangelist lecturer, from his Lowell Lectures on The Ascent of Man. He chastises those Christians who point to the things that science can not yet explain—"gaps which they will fill up with God"—and urges them to embrace all nature as God's, as the work of "an immanent God, which is the God of Evolution, is infinitely grander than the occasional wonder-worker, who is the God of an old theology."[3][4]

In 1933, Ernest Barnes, the Bishop of Birmingham, used the phrase in a discussion of general relativity's implication of a Big Bang:

Must we then postulate Divine intervention? Are we to bring in God to create the first current of Laplace's nebula or to let off the cosmic firework of Lemaître's imagination? I confess an unwillingness to bring God in this way upon the scene. The circumstances with thus seem to demand his presence are too remote and too obscure to afford me any true satisfaction. Men have thought to find God at the special creation of their own species, or active when mind or life first appeared on earth. They have made him God of the gaps in human knowledge. To me the God of the trigger is as little satisfying as the God of the gaps. It is because throughout the physical Universe I find thought and plan and power that behind it I see God as the creator.[5]
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Old 30th January 2019, 03:31 AM   #622
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
I persist in this because I find the question interesting. Look at the figures for Chemistry above -- 55% believe in a higher power, 39% don't. How much do studies in chemistry directly conflict with scriptural nonsense, and does that explain the score? We don't have enough data to even have a guess, but I'd love to see a study investigating this.


Sure, those reasons also probably contribute to the figures.

That seems to be a poll strictly amongst people in the USA who are members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, so it's reflecting religious tendencies specifically in the USA. But afaik the USA is a huge exception amongst educated democracies when it comes to religious belief, where for example in most of Europe (especially outside the more Catholic countries ... Italy, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Spain) religious belief is nowhere near as predominant as it in the USA … the USA is a bit an exception/outlier in this.

But also in those figures, where you drew attention to Chemists, I wonder what different branches of chemistry and different more fringe offshoots from Chemistry are being lumped together under their heading of “Chemistry”? There's a pretty big difference for example, between people doing research in solid-state and instrumental/spectroscopy chemistry (which is more mathematical, deals more with atomic and subatomic interactions, and gets closer to solid-state physics) vs. others doing things like Surface Chemistry, Industrial Chemistry, Polymer & Plastics Sciences etc. The figures can conceal a great deal like that, not necessarily intentionally, but it would be a very broad-brush approach to the survey.

However, even then (despite all the above), what that survey concludes, to quote it, is “Nearly half of all scientists in the 2009 Pew Research Center poll (48%) say they have no religious affiliation (meaning they describe themselves as atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular), compared with only 17% of the public. Thus, it follows that most faith traditions are represented in smaller numbers in the scientific community than in the public as a whole.”

... their conclusion from that poll is that there is big disparity between US scientists vs US general public when it comes to belief in a God.
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Old 30th January 2019, 03:48 AM   #623
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
The "god of the gaps" is anything significantly mysterious enough and seemingly important enough to where someone somewhere feels a motivation to see it as only explainable as being the work of god. It can be anything from Lewis's idea of "The Law of Human Nature, or of Right and Wrong", to people seeing Jesus in a grilled cheese sandwich, to the question of what sparked the big bang.
Sure, if you use that definition, then I agree. Usually though I see it framed as "as science grows, the gaps that God can be found in diminish", so to me it involves settled science rather than mysteries. 'Right and Wrong' isn't a question of science at this time, or even a mystery that needs to be solved by science, so under my definition I don't see it as being part of a GotG argument. But I'm happy to agree to disagree on the definition, and I understand that it is a GotG argument under your definition.

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Old 30th January 2019, 06:42 AM   #624
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
Re: the god of the gaps, I'd say:
1) Over the last 50 years, a lot of progress has been made in explaining our moral instincts from an evolutionary POV
2) the debunking of the "irreducible complexity" argument for ID
3) intercessory prayer research

I'm always surprised that so many people think the discovery of evolution is not much of an argument against God. I think it's an absolutely killer argument against God. And afaik that's precisely why Darwins book of 1859 met with so much hostility & ridicule.

That is - afaik, unless theists have shifted their position away from what was originally written and believed about God in the bible, the whole point of saying a God existed at all was to say he created Mankind ... the heavens and the Earth were created simply to provide the perfect environment for Man ... but after Darwin, it slowly became obvious that humans were certainly not created by any God. To me that seems to be a completely lethal blow to very basis of God belief.

Of course that has not stopped recent Archbishops of Canterbury and recent Popes slowly and quite begrudgingly arriving at a position of trying to wave that discovery away by saying that God's chosen method of creating Man was to create a universe in which he somehow also deliberately produced evolution in order to produce humans.

But of course, apart from the fact that it ought to be obvious that such claims are a crude and quite disingenuous fudge, it's not at all believable that any such God would go to the trouble of first causing a Big Bang, then waiting 13.8 billion years for trillions of other distant galaxies stars and planets to form, and then instead of forming humans he spends 3 billion years creating millions of other more primitive species & allowing almost all of those to go extinct, before finally arriving by sheer chance at the first humans (afaik that was actually chance - ie it could just as easily have been the case that evolution amongst our earliest ancestors produced various other ape species that did not lead to homo sapiens).
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Old 30th January 2019, 08:41 AM   #625
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Originally Posted by IanS View Post
But of course, apart from the fact that it ought to be obvious that such claims are a crude and quite disingenuous fudge, it's not at all believable that any such God would go to the trouble of first causing a Big Bang, then waiting 13.8 billion years for trillions of other distant galaxies stars and planets to form, and then instead of forming humans he spends 3 billion years creating millions of other more primitive species & allowing almost all of those to go extinct, before finally arriving by sheer chance at the first humans (afaik that was actually chance - ie it could just as easily have been the case that evolution amongst our earliest ancestors produced various other ape species that did not lead to homo sapiens).

Here is an amusing essay on the subject:


https://todayinsci.com/T/Twain_Mark/...MadeForMan.htm
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Old 30th January 2019, 09:09 AM   #626
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
Sure, if you use that definition, then I agree. Usually though I see it framed as "as science grows, the gaps that God can be found in diminish", so to me it involves settled science rather than mysteries. 'Right and Wrong' isn't a question of science at this time, or even a mystery that needs to be solved by science, so under my definition I don't see it as being part of a GotG argument. But I'm happy to agree to disagree on the definition, and I understand that it is a GotG argument under your definition.
Lewis wasn't wondering what is right and what is wrong, but wondering where the internal sense of moral vs immoral comes from, and seeing it as only possibly the result of God within us.

He said:

Quote:
You will probably feel two desires—one a desire to give help (due to your herd instinct), the other a desire to keep out of danger (due to the instinct for self-preservation). But you will find inside you, in addition to these two impulses, a third thing which tells you that you ought to follow the impulse to
help, and suppress the impulse to run away. Now this thing that judges between two instincts, that decides which should be encouraged, cannot itself be either of them. You might as well say that the sheet of music which tells you, at a given moment, to play one note on the piano and not another, is
itself one of the notes on the keyboard. The Moral Law tells us the tune we have to play: our instincts are merely the keys.
What he's calling "moral law" and seeing as proof of god is just cognition, and the intersection of conflicting instincts falls under cognitive science, psychology and evolutionary psychology.
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Old 30th January 2019, 09:18 AM   #627
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Originally Posted by IanS View Post
But of course, apart from the fact that it ought to be obvious that such claims are a crude and quite disingenuous fudge, it's not at all believable that any such God would go to the trouble of first causing a Big Bang, then waiting 13.8 billion years for trillions of other distant galaxies stars and planets to form, and then instead of forming humans he spends 3 billion years creating millions of other more primitive species & allowing almost all of those to go extinct, before finally arriving by sheer chance at the first humans (afaik that was actually chance - ie it could just as easily have been the case that evolution amongst our earliest ancestors produced various other ape species that did not lead to homo sapiens).
If I were a theist, I'd just say that sparking a big bang and forming the galaxies might be a lot of fun for an immortal being which can exist outside of time and for whom 13 billion years can seem like a day, and that the eventual sprouting of humankind out of primitive life on Earth was definitely not chance.
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Old 30th January 2019, 03:23 PM   #628
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
What he's calling "moral law" and seeing as proof of god is just cognition, and the intersection of conflicting instincts falls under cognitive science, psychology and evolutionary psychology.
For me, I'd say that it is an argument for God, but not a GotG argument. According to how I view the term, science would need to establish the validity of the phenomenon called 'moral law' while scratching its head over explanations on how how the phenomenon exists, and then someone like Lewis would need to point to that lack of explanation and say "See! Evidence of God!"

It would be like if I claimed to have encountered a talking burning bush. I could say that "science can't explain it!" but I don't think that science would be bothered.

I hate personifying 'science' in that way but I wanted to make it clear that, for me, a 'gap' argument requires an actual gap, and if I understand the concept correctly, the 'gap' in a GotG argument is a gap in established science at that particular moment in time. Anyway, no worries if you disagree with the definition. I'll leave it at that.
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Old 30th January 2019, 08:21 PM   #629
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
For me, I'd say that it is an argument for God, but not a GotG argument. According to how I view the term, science would need to establish the validity of the phenomenon called 'moral law' while scratching its head over explanations on how how the phenomenon exists, and then someone like Lewis would need to point to that lack of explanation and say "See! Evidence of God!"
You're the only person I've ever heard of who used that particular definition, but that's your right.
Here's the original usage:
https://archive.org/stream/lowelllec...miala_djvu.txt

Originally Posted by HENRY DRUMMOND, The Ascent of Man, 1894
There are reverent minds who ceaselessly scan the fields of Nature and the books of Science in search of gaps—gaps which they will fill up with God. As if God lived in gaps? What view of Nature or of Truth is theirs whose interest in Science is not in what it can explain but in what it cannot, whose quest is ignorance not knowledge, whose daily dread is that the cloud may lift, and who, as darkness melts from this field or from that, begin to tremble for the place of His abode?
In 1944:
https://afterall.net/quotes/dietrich...as-a-stop-gap/
Quote:
how wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don't know.

The concept is still primarily (almost exclusively) a Christian, theological one, taught by pastors to congregants to help Christians avoid putting their faith in a God who might shrink in light of new knowledge or a better, more clear perspective.

The only reason it's discussed on skeptics boards and in atheism circles is because so many skeptics are former Christians and still find the concept interesting and relevant.
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Old 31st January 2019, 02:03 AM   #630
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
You're the only person I've ever heard of who used that particular definition, but that's your right.
I still believe my definition is the standard one. If you look at the quotes you gave, you can see that it relates to gaps in established science and established knowledge:
"There are reverent minds who ceaselessly scan the fields of Nature and the books of Science in search of gaps—gaps which they will fill up with God. As if God lived in gaps? What view of Nature or of Truth is theirs whose interest in Science is not in what it can explain but in what it cannot"
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Old 31st January 2019, 03:57 AM   #631
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
I still believe my definition is the standard one. If you look at the quotes you gave, you can see that it relates to gaps in established science and established knowledge:
"There are reverent minds who ceaselessly scan the fields of Nature and the books of Science in search of gaps—gaps which they will fill up with God. As if God lived in gaps? What view of Nature or of Truth is theirs whose interest in Science is not in what it can explain but in what it cannot"
"The fields of Nature" implies basic observation of the natural world (which would include the inner workings of one's own mind), and the "gaps" are anything that's not already nailed down as thoroughly explainable via science or "common sense".

This is a standard Christian take on it here:
https://www.theopedia.com/god-of-the-gaps
Quote:
Theologians and religious scientists have used God of the Gaps arguments at least since the thirteenth century, revising them in response to developments in science.

Thomas Aquinas argued that because there is order and predictability in inanimate objects, which clearly cannot create order for themselves, there must be an intelligent being ordering them:

Quote:
We see that things which lack knowledge, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that they achieve their end, not fortuitously, but designedly. Now whatever lacks knowledge cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is directed by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God
.
There wasn't any "established science" in the 13th century. "Science" hadn't established anything then. "Science" was still in the process of coming into existence, and the most "thinkie types" were still basically stuck with pure math and philosophy, for the most part. It was the era of "natural philosophy".

In the 14th century you can see the philosophers trying to become what we thing of as scientists, saying things like this:
http://blogs.ub-filosofie.ro/jalobea...grant-2011.pdf
Quote:
There are several ways of understanding the word natural. The first [is] when we oppose it to supernatural (and the supernatural effect is what we call a miracle).... And it is clear that the meteorological effects are natural effects, as they are produced naturally, and not miraculously.... The philosophers, consequently, explain them by the appropriate natural causes; but common folk, not knowing of causes, believe that these phenomena are produced by a miracle of God, which is usually not true....
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Old 31st January 2019, 04:21 AM   #632
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
If I were a theist, I'd just say that sparking a big bang and forming the galaxies might be a lot of fun for an immortal being which can exist outside of time and for whom 13 billion years can seem like a day, and that the eventual sprouting of humankind out of primitive life on Earth was definitely not chance.

Sure, but that's not an answer which should convince any honest educated person, is it?

Sure, you could say things like that. And I know many Christians, perhaps even most Christians, do try some version of that. But how plausible is that? Or even, how honest is it of them to try that?

E.g., what does it mean to say that an intelligent living creature, ie a human-like God (he's supposed to have made humans in his own image) could “exist outside of time”? What could that possibly ever mean? Where is there such a place as “outside of time”? If they mean prior to the Big Bang, then how is it possible for a living human-like creature to live/exist under such conditions?

Or trying to claim that when in the bible it says he took 6 days, that really meant 13.8 billion years (why a mistake as enormous as that in a holy book?) - if 13.8 billion human years is only 6 days to God, then so far humans have only lived for what to God would be an instant so fleeting that he could never have noticed it at all … and that's supposed to be his deliberate plan to make humans that he wants to observe and watch over, such that he can deal with them on a daily basis by answering their daily prayers and performing daily (hourly) miracles etc?

If Christians are going to make claims like that, then really it would be far easier for them, and actually more honest of them, just to deny science altogether and say they don't believe evolution is true.
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Old 31st January 2019, 05:00 AM   #633
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Here's another Christian take on it:

https://partiallyexaminedlife.com/20...d-of-the-gaps/

Quote:
"God of the gaps" is a general name for any theological argument that argues for the necessary existence of God as an explanation for some particular phenomenon that challenges the limits of human understanding.
I think CS Lewis's musings about how everyone has a moral compass, and his claim that it must be the work of god and a sign from god, is about as quintessential as that gets.

Then the author goes on to argue that "god of the gaps" type thinking is not a threat to a believer's faith, because the more we learn, the more we discover how little we know in the grand scheme of things, so the "gaps" aren't actually even shrinking, and thus "our" perception of god does not diminish.

Another Christian talking about it:
https://spectrummagazine.org/article...08/24/god-gaps
Quote:
The expression “God of the Gaps” is one used in modern philosophy to describe the use of “God” to explain things we either don’t have enough information to explain, or for which we believe we may never have enough information to explain.
I could find many more examples of how Christians hold the concept, and how it's meaningful to them as it pertains to their own faith.

BUT - there is another use of the term, I guess, which is more like what you're describing.

A good example of that would probably be the cosmological fine-tuning debate. There actually are some real, actual physicists who look at the nature of the universe and think it comes down to having to be either designed by some intelligent designer, or we live in one of a great many multiverses.

Popular skeptic physicist guy concludes:
https://www.skeptic.com/reading_room...he-multiverse/
Quote:
As my discussion illustrates, the explanations for apparent fine-tuning are technical and require adequate training to understand. A proper analysis finds there is no evidence that the universe is finetuned for life; all we have is yet another God-of-the-gaps argument that is doomed to failure by its implicit assumption that some phenomena exist that science will never be able to explain without introducing God into the explanation
That's a somewhat different use of the phrase "god of the gaps" from the one the Christians use when thinking, talking, and writing about their own faith. I doubt many Christians out there are hitching their faith wagon to a multiverse never being proven to exist.
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Old 31st January 2019, 05:10 AM   #634
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Originally Posted by IanS View Post
Sure, but that's not an answer which should convince any honest educated person, is it?

Sure, you could say things like that. And I know many Christians, perhaps even most Christians, do try some version of that. But how plausible is that? Or even, how honest is it of them to try that?
Towards the end of my journey with theism, I felt like trying to keep my faith going was requiring intellectual dishonesty, but obviously most active Christians aren't aware of their mental gymnastics being forms of self-deception.

Quote:
E.g., what does it mean to say that an intelligent living creature, ie a human-like God (he's supposed to have made humans in his own image) could “exist outside of time”? What could that possibly ever mean? Where is there such a place as “outside of time”? If they mean prior to the Big Bang, then how is it possible for a living human-like creature to live/exist under such conditions?
The "proper" theist answer is something like "Our tiny little human minds are just too small to make sense of something as grand as God and His existence."

Yeah, I know.

Quote:
Or trying to claim that when in the bible it says he took 6 days, that really meant 13.8 billion years (why a mistake as enormous as that in a holy book?) -
"The ancient Hebrew word for "day" just meant "a set period of time", not necessarily a literal day, yada yada yada"...

Quote:
if 13.8 billion human years is only 6 days to God, then so far humans have only lived for what to God would be an instant so fleeting that he could never have noticed it at all...
"God's perception of time is whatever God wants it to be. God probably slows it down to whatever He wants in ways we can't imagine whenever He deems it fit to do so..."

Quote:
and that's supposed to be his deliberate plan to make humans that he wants to observe and watch over, such that he can deal with them on a daily basis by answering their daily prayers and performing daily (hourly) miracles etc?
"Yes."

Quote:
If Christians are going to make claims like that, then really it would be far easier for them, and actually more honest of them, just to deny science altogether and say they don't believe evolution is true.
Meh. lol People put mental square pegs into cognitive round holes all the time. Whatcha' gonna do?
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Old 31st January 2019, 07:01 AM   #635
IanS
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
Towards the end of my journey with theism, I felt like trying to keep my faith going was requiring intellectual dishonesty, but obviously most active Christians aren't aware of their mental gymnastics being forms of self-deception.


The "proper" theist answer is something like "Our tiny little human minds are just too small to make sense of something as grand as God and His existence."

Yeah, I know.


"The ancient Hebrew word for "day" just meant "a set period of time", not necessarily a literal day, yada yada yada"...


"God's perception of time is whatever God wants it to be. God probably slows it down to whatever He wants in ways we can't imagine whenever He deems it fit to do so..."


"Yes."


Meh. lol People put mental square pegs into cognitive round holes all the time. Whatcha' gonna do?

Yep, sure on all of that. But in that case I think that all comes down to the admission you made in your first sentence when you said "towards the end of my journey with theism, I felt like trying to keep my faith going was requiring intellectual dishonesty,..." ... I think that's what all those above Christian responses really boil down to. I.e., they are just not being honest with themselves about the evidence.

And when they try to persuade others (inc. for example their own children) towards believing the same faith arguments, they are then also being intellectually dishonest with countless other people too.

That was not always the case of course. Because until we had the explanations from modern science, much of what people believed about gods, devils, miracles, heaven and hell etc. probably did seem perfectly reasonable. And that might still be a valid excuse in many parts of the world where people don't have access to a decent education. However that really should no longer be an acceptable excuse in modern western democracies like the USA, UK, all of the EU etc.

But with all of that said; the more I see of theists arguments on the internet (e.g. the Atheist Experience on YouTube is a bit of an eye-opener), the more it becomes obvious that many theists actually do not understand why science has proved itself so unarguably convincing on all of this. I.e., many of them really need a far better science education. Though for others (for many perhaps) its' obvious that they feel seriously challenged by the discoveries of science, and they are simply choosing to dismiss all the parts that disagree with their faith.

It also seems that many of them thereby end up having to argue that established science has no more validity than any other subject, as if everything is all merely a matter of equally valid personal opinion … but as I say, that surely just gets us back again to the point of Christians/others being intellectually dishonest when they still try to argue that way in the 21st century.
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Old 31st January 2019, 10:05 AM   #636
IanS
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
I still believe my definition is the standard one. If you look at the quotes you gave, you can see that it relates to gaps in established science and established knowledge:
"There are reverent minds who ceaselessly scan the fields of Nature and the books of Science in search of gaps—gaps which they will fill up with God. As if God lived in gaps? What view of Nature or of Truth is theirs whose interest in Science is not in what it can explain but in what it cannot"

On forums like this and in general discussion, what I think people mean by God-of-the-Gaps, is that before about 1600 and the beginnings of modern science with people like Galileo, almost all so-called "natural" phenomena were universally believed to have been created by, controlled by, & operated by God ... when there was a gap in mankinds knowledge about (say) earthquakes, thunder & lightening, famine and disease etc., it was quickly filled with God as the explanation … that was an ancient age when the world had no scientific explanation/evidence to the contrary.

But as science progressed from those slow beginnings where almost everyone was deeply religious, passing through the time of Newton, to Dalton, then Darwin, and then into the 20th century, the advances in science began to show that whenever science investigated any of those thousands of godly creations, every last one of them turned out to have a natural explanation that was, and is, really unarguable. All those gaps that were once filled with God as the answer, slowly became filled instead with scientific explanations as the right answer.

Now the only two gaps that seem to be left for any real debate at all are (as I said earlier), (1) exactly how what we call "life" first began on this Earth, and (2) exactly what happened to produce the Big Bang. And as I pointed out before, (a) we do now have some reasonably plausible answers (hypotheses) to both those questions, and (b) we actually do know in fantastic detail 99.9% of the explanation for both life on Earth (it's evolution) and for the existence of our planet and what we see in the night sky, i.e. what people could experience as any of that in biblical times when the God explanation was first proposed (explanation is Big Bang and 13.8 billion years of complex, but now well understood, physics).

Christians nevertheless still believe God is hiding in those two gaps. We cannot see him there. In fact we cannot detect (using all sorts of detection methods) any honest trace of him being in either gap at all (he's “hiding”.) But that's what 21st century theists are reduced to claiming - he's “hiding” in those two gaps.

Last edited by IanS; 31st January 2019 at 11:11 AM.
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Old 1st February 2019, 12:35 AM   #637
David Mo
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
T
The "proper" theist answer is something like "Our tiny little human minds are just too small to make sense of something as grand as God and His existence."
This is the point.

This is the ultimate answer of a theistic intellectualist facing the inevitable contradictions of his belief. In reality, "God" means nothing. A foggy word.

It would be useful to begin discussions with the theist on this point if it were not for him always try to disguise his ignorance. He always starts with different definitions that he has to change as they fail. Finally, it always ends in the "mystery" of the "inaccessible" God.

Last edited by David Mo; 1st February 2019 at 01:02 AM.
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