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Comments

James

(sorry about the typos. Writing quickly).

Andrew Lilico

[email protected]:30

Indeed, spirits appear all over the Bible. But angels, demons, and so on are quite a different nature of thing from disembodied-but-living-on human beings. The orthodox Christian doctrine is that of the resurrection of the body, and that in the meantime we are either rotting corpses (the standard Protestant view) or dwelling in Heaven, Hell or Purgatory (a perhaps-non-orthodox-but-certainly-common Catholic view). There is no place for ghosts, as usually conceived, in Christianity.

Tony Makara

James, what this thread shows is the futility of trying to debate faith, if we 'believe' in something rather than think we 'know' something as empirical fact we find it impossible to prove it in empirical terms. So faith can only be understood in terms of the faith it generates. I'm sure the Druids are as steadfast in their faith as Christians or Muslims, faith is faith, it is belief in what cannot be demonstrated. We can never be sure that we 'know' something as fact anyway. I think the problem here is that many who hold such great reverence for science are quick to dismiss those who live by faith because faith and the issues related to it cannot be demonstrated emprically. We are using science to measure something that cannot be measured by science. Therein lies the problem.

Jon Gale

Andrew,

"Now would you share my suspicion that many - probably most - MPs believe in ghosts?"

Probably many do, yes. But most MPs are Labour!

"Isn't the only difference between them and the Intelligent Design crew that the ghost-believers tend only to share their nutty views after a pint or two at the pub whilst the Intelligent Design crew are forever urging their confusions upon the rest of us?"

Mostly yes, ghost-believers are probably the most harmless, and they dont try and change school curriculums. But I would still be disapointed/worried if David Cameron or David Davis said they seriously believed in ghosts (do they?), and I would stop supporting them if they advocated seances/ouija boards as a means of gaining useful information!

By the way, does anyone know what happened to the Natural Law Party?

Jon Gale

sorry for italics

did that stop it

Jon Gale

test test test test

spagbob

you know it is possible to believe in creationism and most of (empirical) science. For instance, all Christians, whether creationist or not, believe in micro-evolution - thats the idea that in organisms of the same species different characteristics emerge because of genetics and adaptation to differing natural environments. Many Christians, like myself, accept that the universe began with the big bang and the world is 4.5. billion years old, just as modern science says. I also believe genesis chapter 1 to be literal (apart from the 24 hour periods because the hebrew word used can be translated age, which fits with the evidence better). If you look at genesis chapter 1 and compare it to the process science says the earth took to get to where we are, there are amazing similarities from the fact it was originally in a gaseous state, plate tectonics, the clearing of the atmosphere, the creation of dinosaurs e.t.c. yes that is all in genesis 1 and other creation accounts in the bible.

Despite this, i am with huckabee on the subject of macro-evolution (that different species have evolved into others). there is little to no evidence to support this idea (very few "tranisitional" fossils have been found - any that have could easily just be another species that died out). Also science cannot explain how life originated, or how the Cambrian explosion of 540 million years ago happened (when many species appeared suddenly with all the complex organs e.t.c. in place like the eye, the respiratory system, the digestive system e.t.c. On top of this, the fossil evidence seems to show that once an animal appears on the scene, it stays the same until its extinction with little or no change. Therefore, based on this evidence, and my belief in Christianity, I believe that God has been working throughout history (from big bang till now) to create the earth ready for human life, not by evolution as such but by creating first life, then each new species (which have adapted e.t.c. to provide the great differences within species we see now), and finally man in his own image. I can believe this, and still take the genesis chapter 1 literally (i admit it does become problematic from genesis 2 - 11), as well as all empirical science. Micro evolution is science, macro is just a theory with little evidence to support it. however, if you don't believe in a creator, you have to believe in macro-evolution or there is no explanation for life. Creationism and science don't have to disagree - if both sides give up their extremes of macro-evolution, and young earth creation - there can be a way forward that is not liberal (in the religious sense) or purely secular. The Church has always believed in the rationality of the human creature because they are made in the image of God, and it was thanks to scientists' belief in a rational creator that they believed the world was created in a rational way with rules. I am an evangelical Christian, and i reject evolution in favour of intelligent design (or at least God deliberately guiding history towards his ultimate purpose), but i also believe in science. I don't know if mike Huckabee would agree with me on all of this, but as far as I am concerned, he is entitled to his beliefs and that should not stop him from holding office. don't forget, America is a democracy and they will ultimately vote for the person they think will do the best for the country. He/ She will then have to convince the rest of the government of their plans before anything can go forward. Have faith in the people.

Tony Makara

Andrew Lilico, I am not a theologian so I can't claim to be an authority of the bible or interpretations of the bible. I was brought up in the orange tradition and do find certain peculiarities in catholicism, which of itself is more given to cults and a halfway house religious philosophy, with divisional concepts of post-life 'existence'.

James

Tony - you might like this:

"If I were not an atheist, I think I would have to be a Catholic because if it wasn't the forces of natural selection that designed fish, It must have been an Italian."
Douglas Adams 1991

Tony Makara

James, interesting! There is something very cultish about Catholicism, it lends so much emphasis to ceremony, has so many rituals and produces bizarre self-debasing sects like Opus Dei. A catholic told me once that its great being a catholic because they can sin freely and then wash away all the guilt at confession. I'm not anti-catholic but catholicism does have many pathways into esoteric corners.

MumboJumbo

James,

You view on why people choose God appears to be:

"Now ponder how all this came about. The trouble is, you ponder it with a brain that evolved to work out how to reach that bit of fruit on the high branches, and whether that leapord is looking a bit too close for comfort. You (and all of us) struggle to comprehend the sheer mind-boggling complexity of what little we can observe of the universe around us, and we struggle to make sense of it.

So we duck it. We fudge the questions we don't understand. We stick our fingers in our ears and say "God Made It". Problem solved. No need to wonder at theoretical particle physics or the human genome. God did it all, so that's all right. What's for tea?"

Surley if humans brains are this poor, what makes you think that the evolutionary view, which is a man made theory (and theory is the correct term as it has never been proved)is right then?

And if you say "science" I suggest you check the creationist science, evaluate it and then form a view. Our is your brain not up to this?

James

Mumbojumbo

I didn't say that our brains are poor. On the contrary, they are superbly adapted to our ecological niche. I simply pointed out that it isn't surprising they are not well equiped to deal with some of the staggeringly complex concepts that modern physics etc seeks to address. Try to picture 1000 miles. Now try to picture 1,000,000 miles. Now try to picture 1 x 10 to the 999 miles. I don't know about you, but I have pretty much the same picture in my head. One of a long way. We don't have the mental tools to picture infinity, or 15 billion years.

I agree - evolution is simply a theory. We can never be sure of anything. We used to think the earth was flat because that matched our observational data (we could see it looked flat, and we coudl walk on it). We used to think nothing heavier than a bird could ever fly through the air because we'd never seen anything else fly, and all our attempts to do so had failed.

But the point behind a scientific theory, as opposed to a faith based belief, is that a theory is simply the best idea we have to explain our observational (and experimental, which is a form of observation) evidence. We seek an answer which is consistent with what we can observe, matches the evidence to hand, and then we try to disprove it. We look for holes in the argument. The more it matches our observation, and the more it remains consistent with our experimental results etc, the higher our confidence in that theory becomes.

So when the Greek fellow, I don't remember his name, noticed that ships on the horizon vanished from sight from the bottom up until just the sails were visible, he theorised that the earth was curved. Much new observational evidence later, and the theory that the Earth is flat has ceased to hold anyone's confidence, and the theory that it is round gains in confidence.

The theory of evolution is arguably a collection of theories around micro-evolution and macro-evolution that point to a picture of species development etc. It is a theory in which our confidence is high (I use 'our' here to mean mainstream scientific thought, which I'm sure you'll agree is generally on the side of evolution, with exceptions I accept) because it is the theory that best fits the observational evidence available. That evidence includes the fossil record, and it includes chemical and biological evidence of micro-evolution at work in the laboratory. It also fits evidence from computer based modelling, and from all of the current scientific tools at our disposal. We don't always understand the processes, and there are large gaps in our knowledge and understanding, but as an overall theory for the process, our confidence is high.

Is is a clear cut, proven scientific fact? No. Practically nothing is. That's not how science works.

As for creationist science, I am fascinated by it. I read about it often. See my earlier post at 1053 to Mark and you'll see I asked him what websites he was referring to s I coudl check them out for myself.

Sadly, I have yet to read any 'creationist science' that holds water. They often raise interesting question, and I have actually engaged a Jehovah Witness on my doorstep to a debate on Creationism until HE was the one who made his excuse and left. But does Creationist science provide a theory, a picture of the world, that objectively best fits in with the observational data and evidence? No, I'm afraid it doesn't.

Andrew Lilico says that science can't really be applied to faith based questions. I'm afraid I see faith as a form of superstition. To believe something for no reason, when there is no evidence for it, is in my mind irrational. As irrational as consulting the entrails of a goat, or flicking a light switch on and off ten times whenever you enter a room.

Still. Debates like this keep us occupied on a Wednesday when we should be working!!

James

Mumbojumbo

I didn't say that our brains are poor. On the contrary, they are superbly adapted to our ecological niche. I simply pointed out that it isn't surprising they are not well equiped to deal with some of the staggeringly complex concepts that modern physics etc seeks to address. Try to picture 1000 miles. Now try to picture 1,000,000 miles. Now try to picture 1 x 10 to the 999 miles. I don't know about you, but I have pretty much the same picture in my head. One of a long way. We don't have the mental tools to picture infinity, or 15 billion years.

I agree - evolution is simply a theory. We can never be sure of anything. We used to think the earth was flat because that matched our observational data (we could see it looked flat, and we coudl walk on it). We used to think nothing heavier than a bird could ever fly through the air because we'd never seen anything else fly, and all our attempts to do so had failed.

But the point behind a scientific theory, as opposed to a faith based belief, is that a theory is simply the best idea we have to explain our observational (and experimental, which is a form of observation) evidence. We seek an answer which is consistent with what we can observe, matches the evidence to hand, and then we try to disprove it. We look for holes in the argument. The more it matches our observation, and the more it remains consistent with our experimental results etc, the higher our confidence in that theory becomes.

So when the Greek fellow, I don't remember his name, noticed that ships on the horizon vanished from sight from the bottom up until just the sails were visible, he theorised that the earth was curved. Much new observational evidence later, and the theory that the Earth is flat has ceased to hold anyone's confidence, and the theory that it is round gains in confidence.

(cont...)

James

(continued...)

The theory of evolution is arguably a collection of theories around micro-evolution and macro-evolution that point to a picture of species development etc. It is a theory in which our confidence is high (I use 'our' here to mean mainstream scientific thought, which I'm sure you'll agree is generally on the side of evolution, with exceptions I accept) because it is the theory that best fits the observational evidence available. That evidence includes the fossil record, and it includes chemical and biological evidence of micro-evolution at work in the laboratory. It also fits evidence from computer based modelling, and from all of the current scientific tools at our disposal. We don't always understand the processes, and there are large gaps in our knowledge and understanding, but as an overall theory for the process, our confidence is high.

Is is a clear cut, proven scientific fact? No. Practically nothing is. That's not how science works.

As for creationist science, I am fascinated by it. I read about it often. See my earlier post at 1053 to Mark and you'll see I asked him what websites he was referring to s I coudl check them out for myself.

Sadly, I have yet to read any 'creationist science' that holds water. They often raise interesting question, and I have actually engaged a Jehovah Witness on my doorstep to a debate on Creationism until HE was the one who made his excuse and left. But does Creationist science provide a theory, a picture of the world, that objectively best fits in with the observational data and evidence? No, I'm afraid it doesn't.

Andrew Lilico says that science can't really be applied to faith based questions. I'm afraid I see faith as a form of superstition. To believe something for no reason, when there is no evidence for it, is in my mind irrational. As irrational as consulting the entrails of a goat, or flicking a light switch on and off ten times whenever you enter a room.

Still. Debates like this keep us occupied on a Wednesday when we should be working!!

Peter Franklin

Graeme (10.32 am) – I would agree with you if Huckabee were proposing to impose creationism on the teaching of science. But from what I understand he is not.

I certainly agree with you on the horrors of academic post-modernism (funny how few people on the secular Left object to that) – one of the reasons I chose to study a science rather than a humanity.

Iain Murray

First, let's remember that science is a tool, not a belief system. People who are trying to elevate it into a belief system are damaging that tool. That includes the twisting of it in the name of intelligent design, which attempts to use science in the hope of proving something beyond science. The tool is completely inappropriate. We have tools for comprehending the divine, so we should continue to use them instead.

As to the point about competence and odd beliefs, let's remember that WE Gladstone was a firm believer in Atlantis, going so far as to send the navy out to find it. Now we may as Tories have our disagreements with Gladstone's policies, but I don't think anyone would doubt that he was a competent Prime Minister.

Talking of Gladstone, I believe Disraeli once said something about evolution...

Andrew Lilico

[email protected]:44 >Andrew Lilico says that science can't really be applied to faith based questions.<

I didn't say that. That was Tony, not me.

>I'm afraid I see faith as a form of superstition.<

Really? So you have no faith in your wife - e.g. that she will keep her promise to pick you up at a certain place at a certain time, or that she won't poison your tea - or if you do you regard it as a regrettable superstitution that you haven't entirely eliminated? You have no faith in David Cameron to address our relationship with the European Union or to seek to keep taxes low? Faith - entrusting ourselves to others who might let us down - is a central part of human existence, and makes society possible. Without faith, humanity would have achieved almost nothing.

>

As it is to mine. But that's not what faith is. Faith is about trusting other people to deal with us well, to be consistent, and to know more about certain topics than we do.

Andrew Lilico

Something funny happened at the end of the last message. Before my last paragraph should have been:

>To believe something for no reason, when there is no evidence for it, is in my mind irrational.<

James

Hi Andrew

My apologies for mixing you up with Tony.

Interesting, your comments on faith.

mmm...

I'm not convinced that having faith in my wife not to put poison in my tea (which might not be based on physical evidence, but is based on past experience at least) is the same as religious faith (which is usually defined as believing something without the requirement for physical evidence.

Some Christians even argue that it would be wrong for God to reveal himself, or to provide clear proof of his existence, because that would undermine the requirement for believers to 'have faith'.

oxymoron

This topic has reinforced my belief - in the importance of checks and balances!

Andrew Lilico

[email protected]:06

What you are (rightly) criticizing is not orthodox/mainstream Christianity, but rather the "fideist" doctrines of Pascal and Kierkegaard. Orthodox/mainstream Christianity does not claim that its doctrines should be accepted in the face of (or despite the lack of) evidence or logic. Quite the reverse. Christian doctrines relies extensively on evidence and rational reasoning.

As to Christian faith, that is very much like faith in your wife - it is a matter of entrusting oneself to a person.

One more thing about faith is this: sometimes having faith is itself a component in justifying that faith. For example, think about a bad teenage boy who has been involved in crime and drugs. Sometimes part of the process whereby he is rehabilitated is that people show faith in him - trust him with things that past experience suggests he cannot be trusted with. We gamble in this way because of a more general faith in the goodness of things (e.g. of human nature), but that is as much a matter of perspective as it is of evidence. In the same way, part of religious faith is a matter of how we want things to be. Thus I may have faith in God's claim that I can change or be changed so as not to do things I find highly ingrained (laziness, say), even when my past experience might suggest this is not possible.

More generally, and back to the topic, I think that a potentially positive feature about having a religious person as a political leader would be if he were someone of faith and aspiration, who believed in our ability as a society to make more of ourselves than past experience might, alone, suggest possible. I would see that as every bit as relevant as - probably more so than - what his views are about the history of biology.

James

Thanks Andrew.

Interesting topic, this one.

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