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Power User
Posts: 6481

« Reply #50 on: February 09, 2011, 08:04:01 PM »

Just teasin' a little for fun.  I am very appreciative of fact corrections (as well as other opinions).  I remember a pass around email about Oliver North in the 1980s needing security because of threat from Osama bin Laden that was false and I hated that I had retold that false story.  This format is great for the opportunity to get a quick correction before we get headed too far in the wrong direction.  Crafty's story stands fine on its own as a story without the name drop at the end.

Regarding the Science v.God question, if God as a concept is a being far beyond our intelligence or comprehension, why do both sides keep claiming knowledge or definition.  To the most intelligent of the disbelieving scientists I would like to hand them a bucket or basket of molecules and say make me a mammal or a reptile or an ecosystem if it's so easy. 

Science at any point IMO is a very, very primitive human attempt to understand very, very little about God's creation.  But our curiosity and intelligence came from our Creator so we keep on trying.
Power User
Posts: 12451

« Reply #51 on: February 09, 2011, 08:10:21 PM »

The Lakota word for god is (from memory) "Wakan wiskasa", meaning "The great sacred mystery".
Power User
Posts: 33321

« Reply #52 on: February 09, 2011, 09:06:18 PM »

God is a dsylexic's dog.
Power User
Posts: 33321

« Reply #53 on: June 21, 2012, 09:25:41 PM »

Humans need a belief in something higher.  If there is no belief in a Creator, then the higher being tends to be some variant of State worship.  So, Religion is in a tough spot.  As Richard Feynman has written “The Meaning of It All”:

“(T)he great accumulation of understanding as to how the physical world behaves only convinces one that this behavior has a kind meaninglessness about it. , , ,

“I would like to emphasize three aspects (of religion).

“The  first is that it tells us what things are and where they came from and what man is and what God is and what properties God has and so on.  I’d like, for the purposes of this discussion, to call those the metaphysical aspects of religion.

“And then it says how to behave.   I don’t mean in terms of ceremonies or rituals or things like that, but I mean how to behave in general, in a moral way.  This we could call the ethical aspect of religion.

“And finally, people are weak.  It takes more than the right conscience to produce right behavior. , , , One of the most powerful aspects of religion is its inspirational aspects.  Religion gives inspiration to act well. , , ,

“It usually goes something like this: moral values are the word of God.  Being the word of God connects the ethical and metaphysical aspects of religion..  And finally, that also inspires the inspiration, because if you are working for God and obeying God’s will, you in some way are connected to the universe, your actions have a meaning in the greater world, and that is a very inspiring aspect.  So these three aspects are very well integrated and interconnected.  The difficulty is that science occasionally conflicts with the first two categories, that is with the ethical and the metaphysical aspects of religion.”

Power User
Posts: 33321

« Reply #54 on: June 22, 2012, 08:00:16 PM »

The interview with physics professor Krauss by Colbert beginning at 13:25 is something special.

Power User
Posts: 33321

« Reply #55 on: July 10, 2012, 03:22:35 PM »

The "God-Particle" and God
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
They found the "God-Particle."

That was the headline in many of America's news media. It turns out that the name actually derives from substituting "God-particle" for "goddamn particle," the original name some scientists had given the elusive particle. But the media adopted the former nomenclature.


Because otherwise, the bulk of humanity would not pay attention. Physicists went nuts. And no one can blame them. For decades, they have searched for the particle that may explain why there is any mass in the universe. And ten billion dollars were spent on the machine that probably proved its existence.

It is therefore not meant in any disrespectful way to the enormous intellectual achievement of these scientists when I say that I identify with the mass of humanity that doesn't really care about the existence of the Higgs boson.

Those scientists and science writers who have likened this discovery to the discovery of DNA are wrong. If significance means relevance to the human condition, the discovery of DNA merited a ten out of ten and the Higgs boson might merit a two.

This does not mean that the search was either a waste of time or money. Both the time and money invested were necessary because satiating human curiosity about the natural world is one of the noblest ambitions of the human race.

But scientific discovery and meaning are not necessarily related. As one of the leading physicists of our time, Steven Weinberg, has written, "The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless."

And pointlessness is the point. The discovery of the Higgs boson brings us no closer to understanding why there is a universe, not to mention whether life has meaning. In fact, no scientific discovery that will ever be made will explain why there is existence, render good and evil anything more than subjective opinion, or explain why human beings have consciousness or anything else that truly matters.

The only thing that can explain existence and answer these other questions is God or some other similar metaphysical belief. This angers those scientists and others who are emotionally as well as intellectually committed to atheism. But many honest atheists recognize that a godless world means a meaningless one, and admit that science can only explain what, not why.

In a recent interview in the Wall Street Journal, Woody Allen, an honest atheist, made this point in his inimitable way. Allen told the interviewer that, being a big sports fan, and especially a New York Knicks fan, he is often asked whether it's important if the Knicks beat the Celtics. His answer is, "Well, it's just as important as human existence." If there is no God, Allen is right.

One must have a great deal of respect for the atheist who recognizes the consequences of atheism: no meaning, no purpose, no good and evil beyond subjective opinion, and recognition of the limits of what science can explain.

But the atheist -- scientist, philosophy professor, or your brother-in-law who sells insurance -- who denies the consequences of atheism is as worthy of the same intellectual respect atheists have for those who believe in a six thousand-year-old universe.

Not only is science incapable of discovering why there is existence but scientists also confront the equally frustrating fact that the more they discover about the universe, the more they realize they do not know.

I happen to think that this was God's built-in way of limiting man's hubris and compelling humans to acknowledge His existence. Admittedly, however, this doesn't always have these two effects on scientists and especially on those who believe that science will explain everything.

So, sincere congratulations to the physicists and other scientists who discovered the Higgs boson. We now think we have uncovered the force or the matter that gives us the four percent of the universe that we can observe (96 percent of the universe consists of "dark matter," about which scientists know almost nothing).

Ironic as it may seem to many of these physicists, however, only if there is a God does their discovery matter. Otherwise, it is no more important than whether the Knicks beat the Celtics.

Power User
Posts: 2168

« Reply #56 on: September 06, 2012, 01:17:43 PM »

Scientists in the United States have announced they have developed the world's first synthetic living cell.
Led by Dr Craig Venter, the Maryland-based research team says it is the first time synthetic DNA has been in complete control of a cell.
Venter says the first self-replicating synthetic bacterial cell could unlock countless possibilities to produce new fuels or vaccines.
"Wouldn't it be nice to have something that actually blocked common colds or more importantly HIV, where the virus evolves so quickly the vaccines that are made today can't keep up with those evolutionary changes," he says.
The creation of the synthetic cell began on a computer. Venter says his team assembled it and transplanted it into a recipient cell and converted that to a new species.
"We built the DNA chromosome from scratch from four bottles of chemicals, chromosomes over 1 million letters long. We did the final assembly in yeast that people are familiar with [from] making beer and bread," he says.
Venter says the new bacteria replicated over 1 billion times and researchers say the cells cannot survive independently.
Multiple uses
Maryland biophysicist Dr David Thirumalai says it could be used to create synthetic cells to heal particular parts of the body or to create synthetics bugs to clean up an oil spill.
"Let's use it in an oil spill for example. You could create synthetic bugs that will just consume this oil at a rapid rate."
Venter's institute is already talking to pharmaceutical companies about designing new vaccines, but ethicists and critics of genetic engineering warn the risks are unparalleled.
The researchers acknowledge the technology could be used by bioterrorists to make dangerous new pathogens.
In awe
Thirumalai says it is impossible to predict all the consequences, but he is also in awe of what the Venter team has achieved.
"It is a marriage of minds, imagination and God's creation of life itself," he says.
Venter says this was only a proof-of-concept cell; the next stage is to create synthetic algae.
And he is not shying away from the philosophical debates this also unlocks.
His research team inserted watermarks in the synthetic DNA to be decoded, including a James Joyce quotation: "To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life."
Power User
Posts: 33321

« Reply #57 on: November 21, 2012, 03:40:27 PM »

Politics: The stupid, very dumb 'how old is the Earth' idiocy

Published by: Dan Calabrese on Wednesday November 21st, 2012
By DAN CALABRESE - God is smart. Idiots are dumb.
I know my Bible. While I write for a political site, my devotion is much more to God than to whatever it is that we talk about here. So most of the theological debates that find their way into politics make my skin crawl, because much of the time the conservatives are misapplying Scripture to suit their partisan purposes, and liberals who treat all expressions of faith as absurd by definition merely use these issues as traps for conservative politicians.
That's why this business about Marco Rubio, and his answer to GQ about how old the Earth is, represent such extreme idiocy all around.
First of all, Rubio's actual answer to the stupid question was not so bad. Here it is in full:
"I'm not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that's a dispute among theologians and I think it has nothing to do with gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I'm not a scientist. I don't think I'm qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the earth was created in seven days, or 7 actual eras, I'm not sure we'll ever be able to answer that. It's one of the great mysteries."
Right up front, by mentioning its irrelevance to anything a U.S. senator actually deals with, he essentially says, "Why are you asking me such a stupid question?"
As to his actual answer, he doesn't claim the Earth is only 10,000 years old. He doesn't even outwardly say he believes the account of Genesis, although he seems to imply that he does, and he leaves open the question of just what the seven days of creation might have encompassed in terms of the passage of time as we understand it.
But here's why this whole thing is so stupid. First of all, it's a left-wing fiction that Bible-believing Christians everywhere believe the Earth is only 10,000 years old, and are obsessed with perpetuating this belief. I'm sure there are those who believe it and teach it, but the notion that this doctrine is a key tenet of American Christianity can only be believed by those who have never spent much time in churches. In my lifetime, I have been a member of Catholic, Baptist (two of them), non-denominational and Pentecostal Christian churches. I've never heard the age-of-the-Earth doctrine taught anywhere. Not a single time.
Genesis, sure. We believe the creation account of Genesis. But the 10,000-year notion is the calculation of a few people who apparently added up the years associated with biblical geneaologies and came up with an age-of-the-Earth theory. To them, if you think they're wrong, you deny everything up to and including the Genesis account and therefore the very Word of God, and you are a heretic.
Here's the problem with that. First, let's take a look at Genesis 1:1-2:
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
Let me ask you a question. How much time passes between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2? Study the text carefully. Look for evidence to support your answer. OK, now go ahead and answer. How much time?
You don't know. You can't. It doesn't say. It could be an instant. It could be billions of years. You have no idea and neither do I. Neither does anyone. The way the narrative is written might cause you to infer the transition was instantaneous, but it doesn't say that. Now let's move on to Genesis 1:3-5:
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
This is where we start getting into the passage of days. The cycle of light/day and darkness/night certainly seems to suggest that these were literal 24-hour days, and there's no reason to think God couldn't have done everything Genesis describes in six 24-hour periods (remember, He rested on the seventh day), because God can do whatever He wants.
Now, you ask, if God did all this in six days, then what's with the evidence that the process took billions of years? There are any number of ways to square the two, if you accept the supernatural powers of God. (If you don't, we really don't have anything to talk about so you might as well start tweeting about how Herman Cain has crazy people working for him.) It is not God's typical modus operandi to snap His fingers and perpetrate disruptions of nature. Rather, He uses nature to achieve what he wants to achieve. Genesis 1:11-13:
11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.
Seed-bearing plants and trees need roots, right? Vegetation grows from soil. Seed has to develop within fruit. If God did all this in one day, it stands to reason that He created the plants and the trees roots and all. That He tilled the soil. It could be that He just snapped His fingers and it was all there, in an instant. But given the way God usually deals with nature, my guess would be that He actually planted the seeds and let them grow. If they grew to maturity - to the point where they actually bore fruit - in a single day, then it would stand to reason that God sped up the process dramatically, sort of like time-lapse photography, and that he did the same with everything from rock formations to the development of continents and oceans.
Anyone examining the evidence would certainly find scientific backing to support the notion that they are billions of years old, and it's very likely that anything or anyone on Earth at the time (remember, mankind was not created until the sixth day) would have experienced it as if it was a passage of billions of years.
Am I arguing for the young-Earth theory? Not really. We know from 2 Peter 3:8:

"With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day."

However long the passage of time was for anyone or anything on Earth, what matters is that it was a seven-day expanse of time as God experienced it.
Christian fundamentalists who get this wrong simply make too many assumptions about the passages of time described in Genesis, and forget the lesson of 2 Peter 3:8. The creation story is written from God's perspective, not from ours. It doesn't matter how long it took for us to live through it. God can create a billions-years-old planet in a day if He wants to. God can speed up time for us while slowing it down for Himself.
That's why this argument is so stupid. It's stupid for theologians because we don't need to explain all these details to have faith in God's Word. His power transcends the limits of the natural world so it's no problem at all to accept all scientific evidence and understand that it merely gives us insight into how God did what we know He did. And it's incredibly stupid for politicians because, unless they are biblical scholars, they have no idea what they're talking about and they're dealing with an issue that is completely irrelevant to their jobs.
But I suppose the dumbest people in all this are the Christians who demand politicians accept their ill-conceived young-Earth doctrine. (After all, a government full of young-Earth believers will facilitate the accomplishment of . . . what, exactly?) And the most loathesome people in all this are the secular leftists - especially those in the media - who scorn all notions of faith, and simply use these dumb questions as a trap to take down anyone they can.
Question: "How old is the Earth, Senator?"
Answer: "That's a stupid, irrelevant question."
Memorize it.
Power User
Posts: 33321

« Reply #58 on: December 07, 2012, 10:47:16 AM »

A pair of world-renowned quantum scientists say they can prove the existence of the soul.

American Dr Stuart Hameroff and British physicist Sir Roger Penrose developed a quantum theory of consciousness asserting that our souls are contained inside structures called microtubules which live within our brain cells.

Their idea stems from the notion of the brain as a biological computer, "with 100 billion neurons and their axonal firings and synaptic connections acting as information networks".

Dr Hameroff, Professor Emeritus at the Departments of Anesthesiology and Psychology and Director of the Centre of Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona, and Sir Roger have been working on the theory since 1996.

They argue that our experience of consciousness is the result of quantum gravity effects inside these microtubules - a process they call orchestrated objective reduction (Orch-OR).

In a near-death experience the microtubules lose their quantum state but the information within them is not destroyed. Or in layman's terms, the soul does not die but returns to the universe.

Dr Hameroff explained the theory at length in the Morgan Freeman-narrated documentary Through the Wormhole, which was recently aired in the US by the Science Channel.

The quantum soul theory is now trending worldwide, thanks to stories published this week by The Huffington Post and the Daily Mail, which have generated thousands of readers comments and social media shares.

"Let's say the heart stops beating, the blood stops flowing, the microtubules lose their quantum state," Dr Hameroff said.

"The quantum information within the microtubules is not destroyed, it can't be destroyed, it just distributes and dissipates to the universe at large.

"If the patient is resuscitated, revived, this quantum information can go back into the microtubules and the patient says 'I had a near death experience'."

In the event of the patient's death, it was "possible that this quantum information can exist outside the body indefinitely - as a soul".

Dr Hameroff believes new findings about the role quantum physics plays in biological processes, such as the navigation of birds, adds weight to the theory.
Power User
Posts: 33321

« Reply #59 on: December 24, 2012, 09:03:44 PM »

The Moral Animal
Published: December 23, 2012 105 Comments

IT is the religious time of the year. Step into any city in America or Britain and you will see the night sky lit by religious symbols, Christmas decorations certainly and probably also a giant menorah. Religion in the West seems alive and well.

But is it really? Or have these symbols been emptied of content, no more than a glittering backdrop to the West’s newest faith, consumerism, and its secular cathedrals, shopping malls?

At first glance, religion is in decline. In Britain, the results of the 2011 national census have just been published. They show that a quarter of the population claims to have no religion, almost double the figure 10 years ago. And though the United States remains the most religious country in the West, 20 percent declare themselves without religious affiliation — double the number a generation ago.

Looked at another way, though, the figures tell a different story. Since the 18th century, many Western intellectuals have predicted religion’s imminent demise. Yet after a series of withering attacks, most recently by the new atheists, including Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens, still in Britain three in four people, and in America four in five, declare allegiance to a religious faith. That, in an age of science, is what is truly surprising.

The irony is that many of the new atheists are followers of Charles Darwin. We are what we are, they say, because it has allowed us to survive and pass on our genes to the next generation. Our biological and cultural makeup constitutes our “adaptive fitness.” Yet religion is the greatest survivor of them all. Superpowers tend to last a century; the great faiths last millenniums. The question is why.

Darwin himself suggested what is almost certainly the correct answer. He was puzzled by a phenomenon that seemed to contradict his most basic thesis, that natural selection should favor the ruthless. Altruists, who risk their lives for others, should therefore usually die before passing on their genes to the next generation. Yet all societies value altruism, and something similar can be found among social animals, from chimpanzees to dolphins to leafcutter ants.

Neuroscientists have shown how this works. We have mirror neurons that lead us to feel pain when we see others suffering. We are hard-wired for empathy. We are moral animals.

The precise implications of Darwin’s answer are still being debated by his disciples — Harvard’s E. O. Wilson in one corner, Oxford’s Richard Dawkins in the other. To put it at its simplest, we hand on our genes as individuals but we survive as members of groups, and groups can exist only when individuals act not solely for their own advantage but for the sake of the group as a whole. Our unique advantage is that we form larger and more complex groups than any other life-form.

A result is that we have two patterns of reaction in the brain, one focusing on potential danger to us as individuals, the other, located in the prefrontal cortex, taking a more considered view of the consequences of our actions for us and others. The first is immediate, instinctive and emotive. The second is reflective and rational. We are caught, in the psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s phrase, between thinking fast and slow.

The fast track helps us survive, but it can also lead us to acts that are impulsive and destructive. The slow track leads us to more considered behavior, but it is often overridden in the heat of the moment. We are sinners and saints, egotists and altruists, exactly as the prophets and philosophers have long maintained.

If this is so, we are in a position to understand why religion helped us survive in the past — and why we will need it in the future. It strengthens and speeds up the slow track. It reconfigures our neural pathways, turning altruism into instinct, through the rituals we perform, the texts we read and the prayers we pray. It remains the most powerful community builder the world has known. Religion binds individuals into groups through habits of altruism, creating relationships of trust strong enough to defeat destructive emotions. Far from refuting religion, the Neo-Darwinists have helped us understand why it matters.

No one has shown this more elegantly than the political scientist Robert D. Putnam. In the 1990s he became famous for the phrase “bowling alone”: more people were going bowling, but fewer were joining bowling teams. Individualism was slowly destroying our capacity to form groups. A decade later, in his book “American Grace,” he showed that there was one place where social capital could still be found: religious communities.

Mr. Putnam’s research showed that frequent church- or synagogue-goers were more likely to give money to charity, do volunteer work, help the homeless, donate blood, help a neighbor with housework, spend time with someone who was feeling depressed, offer a seat to a stranger or help someone find a job. Religiosity as measured by church or synagogue attendance is, he found, a better predictor of altruism than education, age, income, gender or race.

Religion is the best antidote to the individualism of the consumer age. The idea that society can do without it flies in the face of history and, now, evolutionary biology. This may go to show that God has a sense of humor. It certainly shows that the free societies of the West must never lose their sense of God.

Jonathan Sacks is the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth and a member of the House of Lords.
Power User
Posts: 33321

« Reply #60 on: January 29, 2013, 07:13:35 AM »

Exposing scientism
John G. West | 29 January 2013


More than a half century ago, the British literary critic and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis warned that science could be twisted in order to attack religion, undermine ethics, and limit human freedom. In a recent collection of essays, The Magician's Twin: C.S. Lewis and the Case Against Scientism, a number of scholars explore Lewis's prophetic warnings about the abuse of science. MercatorNet interviewed its editor, John G. West.
MercatorNet: “The Magician’s Twin” is an unusual title. How is science related to magic? Magic seems like a demented cousin, not a twin.
John G. West: The title comes from a comment made by Lewis himself in his book The Abolition of Man. There Lewis claimed that “the serious magical endeavor and the serious scientific endeavor are twins.” I think Lewis may have been trying to be intentionally provocative, because you are right that at first glance the idea that magic and science are twins would appear to be rather odd. After all, science is supposed to be the realm of the rational, the skeptical, and the objective. Magic, on the other hand, brings up connotations of superstition, credulity, and dogmatism.
But if we think about it some more, I think we can see that Lewis was very perceptive in drawing the link. First, Lewis saw that science, like magic, can function almost like a religion for some people. We certainly see this today. Take biologist Richard Dawkins’s comment that “Darwin made it possible to be anintellectually fulfilled atheist,” or the annual celebrations of Darwin’s birthday as if it were a sacred holiday. Second, Lewis saw that science, like magic, can dull the general public’s critical faculties when they begin to accept any claim if it is made in the name of science.
Finally, Lewis saw that science, like magic, can be a quest for power over nature and our fellow human beings. Many times that power will be used for good, but if modern science is cut off from traditional ethical norms, its power may be increasingly misused. During Lewis’s own lifetime, he saw the horrific results of the misuse of science in the eugenics movement and its effort to breed a master race by applying the principles of Darwinian biology.
MercatorNet: Tell us a bit about the book and its main themes.
West: The Magician’s Twin uses the writings of C.S. Lewis to explore how science, a very good thing, can be misused, and how this misuse of science can have serious consequences for every area of our culture: ethics, religion, medicine, politics, education, and science itself. In the process of exploring this main theme, the book delves into such issues as genetic engineering, eugenics, the misuse of science to debunk religion and traditional ethics, the misuse of science to curtail personal freedom, reductionist views of personal responsibility, the education of our children, and the debate over unguided Darwinian evolution and intelligent design.
MercatorNet: Lewis was a literary scholar and a Christian apologist who died in 1963. How relevant are his ideas about science in 2013?
West: Although Lewis was a literary scholar, he was intrigued by the impact of science on culture from his days as an atheist. And so he thought deeply about the interactions between science and the rest of society, and many of the issues he explored we are still dealing with today in various forms. Science is still misused by some to debunk religion (think of all the so-called “New Atheists”). Science is, if anything, still used as a trump card in public policy debates (think of the current debates over climate change).
Scientific reductionism is still used to debunk traditional ethics and personal responsibility. And modern genetics has opened the door to the resurrection of eugenics. So I’d say that Lewis’s ideas are very relevant. Indeed, I’d argue that he was prophetic in warning about some of the things we are experiencing today.
MercatorNet: You and your fellow authors are strong critics of scientism. Does that mean that you are anti-science and anti-progress?
West: I actually regard myself as pro-science. Scientism is the abuse of science by claiming that science is the only way we can know the truth about anything. By extension, it’s also the claim that scientists should have the right to rule over society by virtue of their superior technical expertise. Just like being a critic of theocracy doesn’t make one anti-religious, being a critic of scientism doesn’t make one anti-science. If anything, it’s those who are trying to challenge scientism who are the defenders of science, because they are trying to rescue science from being applied outside its proper boundaries.
As for progress, no, I’m not against “progress” either. But, as Lewis liked to point out, progress by definition is progress towards some goal, and I think we need to make sure that the goal we are progressing towards is a worthy one. Debunking traditional ethics or restricting personal liberties in the name of science would not be “progress” in my view.
MercatorNet: His novel That Hideous Strength, in which scientists have the reins of power and culture, is one of the great dystopian novels. What was the point he was making?
West: That Hideous Strength was Lewis’s searing indictment of what he sometimes called technocracy or even scientocracy, rule by experts claiming to speak in the name of science. As Lewis’s novel shows, handing over unchecked power to unelected experts who promise to create a heaven on earth is a recipe for creating hell on earth. Lewis thought technocracy was one of the gravest threats to a free society in the modern world.
Readers who want a short distillation of Lewis’s views here should read an essay he wrote in the 1950s titled “Is Progress Possible? Willing Slaves of the Welfare State.” In that essay, Lewis explains why scientific expertise may be helpful for public policy, but it is hardly sufficient. Good public policy requires a lot more than simply technical expertise. As Lewis points out, “government involves questions about the good for man, and justice, and what things are worth having at what price; and on these a scientific training gives a man’s opinion no added value.”
MercatorNet: I’ve always been amused by the fact that the evil scientists in the novel work in NICE – the National Institute for Co-ordinated Experiments – and that the acronym for British government’s healthcare advisory body is also NICE. Is scientism alive and well today? 
West: Unfortunately, it’s hard to keep up with all of the manifestations of scientism in our own era. Just a few days ago there was an article in The New Scientisttitled “Time for science to seize political power.”  A few days later, celebrated wildlife documentary-maker Sir David Attenborough was invoking science to claim that human beings “are a plague on the Earth” and therefore worldwide population control is required. In America, meanwhile, New York City has banned the sale of large sugary drinks the name of science, and the administration of President Obama is trying to compel religious employers to pay for contraceptives and abortion drugs in the name of science.
Now, my wife and I don’t let our children drink lots of sugary drinks, but banning certain kinds of soda pop in the name of science is going down the path of being micromanaged by a bunch of busy-bodies. Similarly, I’m not against contraception, but the idea that government in the name of science should trample the rights of conscience of religious believers is truly offensive. Then there is the whole debate about climate change and what should be done about it. Whatever one thinks about climate change and its causes, I would hope that all thoughtful people would be concerned when certain scientists claim that we need to suspend democracy in order to impose the public policies they want.
MercatorNet: C.S. Lewis claimed that science has made us more gullible. But how can this happen if science is based on empirical facts?
West: Lewis observed that many non-scientists simply checked their critical faculties at the door when they heard claims made in the name of science. People who didn’t think we could know anything with confidence about historical figures like Julius Caesar or Napoleon because they lived such a long time ago had no problem accepting the most outlandish claims made about “pre-historic” man, because the latter claims were dressed up as science. Lewis was concerned that this kind of blind deference to scientific authority opened the door to tyranny. That’s one of the reasons it’s so concerning today when people are routinely attacked as “anti-science” just for raising thoughtful questions about claims made in the name of science. If we want to avoid the abuse of science, we need to encourage that kind of questioning, not suppress it.
MercatorNet: I suppose that you would describe a writer like Richard Dawkins as a proponent of scientism. But are there prominent scientists who would support your critique and acknowledge that scientists can oversell their expertise?
West: There are a few. Biologist Austin Hughes recently wrote a perceptive article on “The Folly of Scientism” for The New Atlantis. The late Phil Skell, a member of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States, was a persistent critic of some of the overstated claims of Darwinian theory. But it can be hard for scientists to criticize the limits of their own disciplines when so much research funding and prestige is at stake.
Scientists have a powerful incentive to oversell their expertise in the public arena. Embryonic stem cell research is a tragic example. Ethics aside, the real scandal of embryonic stem cell research is that so many scientists hyped the usefulness of the research based on paltry evidence. As a result, we’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars on research that thus far has proved to be a massive failure.
Not only were those funds wasted, but they prevented adequate funding for adult stem cell research, which has shown much greater promise without the ethical baggage of embryonic stem cells. Ironically, those who raised questions about all the funds being steered toward embryonic stem cell research were branded “anti-science.” But if we had followed their advice, we would have been further along in developing adult stem cell therapies that actually work.
John G. West co-edited the award-winning C.S. Lewis Readers’ Encyclopedia and is the author of several other books, including Darwin Day in America and The Politics of Revelation and Reason.
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« Reply #61 on: April 02, 2013, 01:32:28 PM »
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« Reply #62 on: May 05, 2013, 08:35:45 PM »

An atheist was seated next to a little girl on an airplane and he turned
to her and said, "Do you want to talk? Flights go quicker if you strike
up a conversation with your fellow passenger."

The little girl, who had just started to read her book, replied to the total
stranger, "What would you want to talk about?"

"Oh, I don't know," said the atheist. "How about why there is no God,
or no Heaven or Hell, or no life after death?" as he smiled smugly.

"Okay," she said. "Those could be interesting topics but let me ask
you a question first. A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat the same
stuff - grass. Yet a deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns
out a flat patty, but a horse produces clumps. Why do you suppose that is?"

The atheist, visibly surprised by the little girl's intelligence,
thinks about it and says, "Hmmm, I have no idea." To which
the little girl replies, "Do you really feel qualified to discuss
God, Heaven and Hell, or life after death, when you don't know shit?"

And then she went back to reading her book.
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« Reply #63 on: August 25, 2013, 04:09:16 PM »

I just finished reading Robert Wright's "The Evolution of God".

This is the third book by him I have read.  The prior two are "The Moral Animal" (an evolutionary explanation of the development of morality) and "Non-Zero Sum: the logic of human destiny".   

Though he is a bit of a Democrat, this book, like the others, is an excellent read and I recommend it highly.

It's final chapters take on the Science vs. God question in a deep and serious way.
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« Reply #64 on: August 30, 2013, 12:06:00 PM »
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« Reply #65 on: September 01, 2013, 01:27:03 PM »

Age of the Universe

How old is the world? Ancient commentators propose that the world may be simultaneously young and old.

by Dr. Gerald Schroeder

One of the most obvious perceived contradictions between Torah and science is the age of the universe. Is it billions of years old, like scientific data, or is it thousands of years, like Biblical data? When we add up the generations of the Bible, we come to 5700-plus years. Whereas, data from the Hubble telescope or from the land based telescopes in Hawaii, indicate the age at about 15 billion years.
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« Reply #66 on: October 02, 2013, 07:29:27 AM »

A Response to Richard Dawkins
Tuesday, October 01, 2013

This past Friday CNN conducted an interview with Richard Dawkins, the British biologist most widely known for his polemics against religion and on behalf of atheism.

Asked "whether an absence of religion would leave us without a moral compass," Dawkins responded: "The very idea that we get a moral compass from religion is horrible."

This is the crux of the issue for Dawkins and other anti-religion activists -- that not only do we not need religion or God for morality, but we would have a considerably more moral world without them.  This argument is so wrong -- both rationally and empirically - that its appeal can only be explained by a) a desire to believe it and b) an ignorance of history.

First, the rational argument.

If there is no God, the labels "good" and "evil" are merely opinions. They are substitutes for "I like it" and "I don't like it." They are not objective realities.  Every atheist philosopher I have debated has acknowledged this. For example, at Oxford University I debated Professor Jonathan Glover, the British philosopher and ethicist, who said: "Dennis started by saying that I hadn't denied his central contention that if there isn't a God, there is only subjective morality. And that's absolutely true."  And the eminent Princeton philosopher Richard Rorty admitted that for secular liberals such as himself, "there is no answer to the question, 'Why not be cruel?'"

Atheists like Dawkins who refuse to acknowledge that without God there are only opinions about good and evil are not being intellectually honest.

None of this means that only believers in God can be good or that atheists cannot be good. There are bad believers and there are good atheists. But this fact is irrelevant to whether good and evil are real.

To put this as clearly as possible: If there is no God who says, "Do not murder," murder is not wrong. Many people or societies may agree that it is wrong. But so what? Morality does not derive from the opinion of the masses. If it did, then apartheid was right; murdering Jews in Nazi Germany was right; the history of slavery throughout the world was right; and clitoridectomies and honor killings are right in various Muslims societies.

So, then, without God, why is murder wrong?

Is it, as Dawkins argues, because reason says so?

My reason says murder is wrong, just as Dawkins's reason does. But, again, so what? The pre-Christian Germanic tribes of Europe regarded the Church's teaching that murder was wrong as preposterous. They reasoned that killing innocent people was acceptable and normal because the strong should do whatever they wanted.

In addition, reason alone without God is pretty weak in leading to moral behavior. When self-interest and reason collide, reason usually loses. That's why we have the word "rationalize" -- to use reason to argue for what is wrong.  What would reason argue to a non-Jew asked by Jews to hide them when the penalty for hiding a Jew was death? It would argue not to hide those Jews.

In that regard, let's go to the empirical argument.

Years ago, I interviewed Pearl and Sam Oliner, two professors of sociology at California State University at Humboldt and the authors of one of the most highly-regarded works on altruism, The Altruistic Personality. The book was the product of the Oliners' lifetime of study of non-Jewish rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust.

The Oliners, it should be noted, are secular, not religious, Jews; they had no religious agenda.       

I asked Samuel Oliner, "Knowing all you now know about who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, if you had to return as a Jew to Poland and you could knock on the door of only one person in the hope that they would rescue you, would you knock on the door of a Polish lawyer, a Polish doctor, a Polish artist or a Polish priest?"

Without hesitation, he said, "a Polish priest." And his wife immediately added, "I would prefer a Polish nun."

That alone should be enough to negate the pernicious nonsense that God is not only unnecessary for a moral world, but is detrimental to one.

But if that isn't enough, how about the record of the godless 20th century, the cruelest, bloodiest, most murderous century on record? Every genocide of the last century -- except for the Turkish mass murder of the Armenians and the Pakistani mass murder of Hindus in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was committed by a secular anti-Jewish and anti-Christian regime. And as the two exceptions were Muslim, they are not relevant to my argument. I am arguing for the God and Bible of Judeo-Christian religions.

Perhaps the most powerful proof of the moral decay that follows the death of God is the Western university and its secular intellectuals. Their moral record has been loathsome. Nowhere were Stalin and Mao as venerated as they were at the most anti-religious and secular institutions in Western society, the universities. Nowhere in the West today is anti-Americanism and Israel-hatred as widespread as it is at universities. And Princeton University awarded its first tenured professorship in bioethics to Peter Singer, an atheist who has argued, among other things, that that "the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog or a chimpanzee" and that bestiality is not immoral.

Dawkins and his supporters have a right to their atheism. They do not have a right to intellectual dishonesty about atheism.

I have debated the best known atheists, including the late Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Lawrence Krauss ("A Universe from Nothing") and Daniel Dennett. Only Richard Dawkins has refused to come on my radio show.

Dennis Prager's latest book, "Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph," was published April 24 by HarperCollins. He is a nationally syndicated radio show host and creator of PragerUniversity.Com.

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« Reply #67 on: February 06, 2014, 02:01:17 PM »
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« Reply #68 on: February 25, 2014, 10:44:18 AM »

A Guide for the Perplexed
Britain's chief rabbi believes that the rhetorical war between "science" and "religion" is not just unnecessary but foolish.

"Rabbi Sacks draws an avowedly too-tidy contrast between "Greek" culture—science and philosophy—and "Hebraic" culture: religion, narrative and so on. In the Jewish tradition, Maimonides was the great synthesizer of these two, and Rabbi Sacks cites him frequently, though he presents the distinction in more contemporary terms: those of brain science. God, we are told, "lives in the right hemisphere of the brain, in empathy and interpersonal understanding, in relationships etched with the charisma of grace." Religious faith is not susceptible to definitive proof. It must be sought with a humble, listening ear and a willingness to live with ambiguity and doubt. The potential gains, however, are great: "The meaning of life," he writes, "is the realisation that you are held in the arms of a vast presence; that you are not abandoned; that you are here because you were meant to be." Proven or not, Rabbi Sacks is gripped by this realization—and what an enviable realization to rest in."
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« Reply #69 on: March 02, 2014, 11:08:40 PM »
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« Reply #70 on: June 30, 2014, 01:55:46 PM »
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« Reply #71 on: July 16, 2014, 10:25:48 PM »

In memoriam Eyal, Gilad and Naftali
This past Shabbat we read the parsha of Chukkat with its almost incomprehensible commandment of the red heifer whose mixed with "living water" purified those who had been in contact with death so that they could enter the Mishkan, symbolic home of the glory of God. Almost incomprehensible but not entirely so.

The mitzvah of the parah adumah, the red heifer, was a protest against the religions of the ancient world that glorified death. Death for the Egyptians was the realm of the spirits and the gods. The pyramids were places where, it was believed, the spirit of the dead Pharaoh ascended to heaven and joined the immortals.

The single most striking thing about the Torah and Tanakh in general is its almost total silence on life after death. We believe in it profoundly. We believe in olam haba (the world to come), Gan Eden (paradise), and techiyat hametim (the resurrection of the dead). Yet Tanakh speaks about these things only sparingly and by allusion. Why so?

Because too intense a focus on heaven is capable of justifying every kind of evil on earth. There was a time when Jews were burned at the stake, so their murderers said, in order to save their immortal souls. Every injustice on earth, every act of violence, even suicide bombings, can be theoretically defended on the grounds that true justice is reserved for life after death.

Against this Judaism protests with every sinew of its soul, every fibre of its faith. Life is sacred. Death defiles. God is the God of life to be found only by consecrating life. Even King David was told by God that he would not be permitted to build the Temple because dam larov shafachta, “you have shed much blood.”

Judaism is supremely a religion of life. That is the logic of the Torah’s principle that those who have had even the slightest contact with death need purification before they may enter sacred space. The parah adumah, the rite of the red heifer, delivered this message in the most dramatic possible way. It said, in effect, that everything that lives – even a heifer that never bore the yoke, even red, the colour of blood which is the symbol of life – may one day turn to ash, but that ash must be dissolved in the waters of life. God lives in life. God must never be associated with death.

Eyal, Gilad and Naftali were killed by people who believed in death. Too often in the past Jews were victims of people who practised hate in the name of the God of love, cruelty in the name of the God of compassion, and murder in the name of the God of life. It is shocking to the very depths of humanity that this still continues to this day.

Never was there a more pointed contrast than, on the one hand, these young men who dedicated their lives to study and to peace, and on the other the revelation that other young men, even from Europe, have become radicalised into violence in the name of God and are now committing murder in His name. That is the difference between a culture of life and one of death, and this has become the battle of our time, not only in Israel but in Syria, in Iraq, in Nigeria and elsewhere. Whole societies are being torn to shreds by people practising violence in the name of God.

Against this we must never forget the simple truth that those who begin by practising violence against their enemies end by committing it against their fellow believers. The verdict of history is that cultures that worship death, die, while those that sanctify life, live on. That is why Judaism survives while the great empires that sought its destruction were themselves destroyed.

Our tears go out to the families of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali. We are with them in grief. We will neither forget the young victims nor what they lived for: the right that everyone on earth should enjoy, to live a life of faith without fear.

Bila hamavet lanetzach: “May He destroy death forever, and may the Lord God wipe away the tears from all faces.” May the God of life, in whose image we are, teach all humanity to serve Him by sanctifying life.

Copyright © 2014 The Office of Rabbi Sacks
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« Reply #72 on: December 27, 2014, 12:23:03 AM »

Eric Metaxas
 Dec. 25, 2014 4:56 p.m. ET

In 1966 Time magazine ran a cover story asking: Is God Dead? Many have accepted the cultural narrative that he’s obsolete—that as science progresses, there is less need for a “God” to explain the universe. Yet it turns out that the rumors of God’s death were premature. More amazing is that the relatively recent case for his existence comes from a surprising place—science itself.

Here’s the story: The same year Time featured the now-famous headline, the astronomer Carl Sagan announced that there were two important criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star, and a planet the right distance from that star. Given the roughly octillion—1 followed by 24 zeros—planets in the universe, there should have been about septillion—1 followed by 21 zeros—planets capable of supporting life.
With such spectacular odds, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a large, expensive collection of private and publicly funded projects launched in the 1960s, was sure to turn up something soon. Scientists listened with a vast radio telescopic network for signals that resembled coded intelligence and were not merely random. But as years passed, the silence from the rest of the universe was deafening. Congress defunded SETI in 1993, but the search continues with private funds. As of 2014, researches have discovered precisely bubkis—0 followed by nothing.

What happened? As our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear that there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan supposed. His two parameters grew to 10 and then 20 and then 50, and so the number of potentially life-supporting planets decreased accordingly. The number dropped to a few thousand planets and kept on plummeting.
Even SETI proponents acknowledged the problem. Peter Schenkel wrote in a 2006 piece for Skeptical Inquirer magazine: “In light of new findings and insights, it seems appropriate to put excessive euphoria to rest . . . . We should quietly admit that the early estimates . . . may no longer be tenable.”
As factors continued to be discovered, the number of possible planets hit zero, and kept going. In other words, the odds turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one. Probability said that even we shouldn’t be here.
Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing.

Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about existing. What can account for it? Can every one of those many parameters have been perfect by accident? At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?
There’s more. The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces—gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces—were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction—by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000—then no stars could have ever formed at all. Feel free to gulp.
Multiply that single parameter by all the other necessary conditions, and the odds against the universe existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all “just happened” defies common sense. It would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row. Really?
Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term “big bang,” said that his atheism was “greatly shaken” at these developments. He later wrote that “a common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology . . . . The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”
Theoretical physicist Paul Davies has said that “the appearance of design is overwhelming” and Oxford professor Dr. John Lennox has said “the more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator . . . gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here.”
The greatest miracle of all time, without any close seconds, is the universe. It is the miracle of all miracles, one that ineluctably points with the combined brightness of every star to something—or Someone—beyond itself.
Mr. Metaxas is the author, most recently, of “Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life” ( Dutton Adult, 2014).
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« Reply #73 on: January 10, 2015, 10:52:46 AM »
prentice crawford
« Reply #74 on: January 19, 2015, 07:24:50 AM »

I found this vid to be interesting. Now note, that he is not saying this is "proof" that all religions are correct in everything they espouse; he's simply saying the basic definition of God as creator can be compatible with natural forces at the beginning of our universe.

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« Reply #75 on: March 20, 2015, 02:31:10 PM »

Proselytizers of atheism seem to have concluded that if they’re big enough jerks,
they will seduce the faithful into abandoning God. It’s sort of like asking Don
Rickles to run your customer-service desk. Christopher Hitchens was a friend, but
when he talked about religion, he could be -- to use a technical term -- a Grade-A
Schmuck. Likewise, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and the other champions of a
soulless, antiseptic world have all the charm of a toothache when they lecture
people to kick the habit of the opiate of the masses. And then there are their shock
troops. When pastor Rick Warren’s depressed son committed suicide recently, an army
of the unfaithful took to Twitter to assure the grief-stricken father that there was
no heaven, God was a myth, and his son was gone forever. When USA Today wrote about
the mind-bogglingly hateful attacks, one commenter on that article counseled that
Warren should “abandon primitive superstitions and accept the universe for what it
is -- a place that is utterly indifferent to us.”

One reason the atheistic horde has grown so aggressive and nasty is that they feel
the wind at their backs. The pews are emptying and science is declaring, more and
more loudly, that it has Figured Everything Out. Another reason is that
conservatives, mostly conservative Christians, have been pretty much the only ones
fighting back.

Perhaps just in time, some allies seem to be walking onto the field. Thomas Nagel --
no Christian conservative -- recently published Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist
Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. It generated an
enormous controversy because the (once) respected philosopher has come to the
conclusion that boiling all life, all existence, down to a bunch of atoms and
molecules bumping around doesn’t make much sense. He doesn’t come right out and
embrace God or anything wacky like that. But he says there’s just got to be
something more to things than what the materialists can measure and quantify.
Predictably, the discrediting has begun. Expect Nagel to be paraded around in a
dunce cap any day now.

Another quasi ally is Jonathan Haidt, the psychologist who studies, among other
things, how political attitudes are formed and who has come to the apparently
controversial conclusion that conservatives are not crazy. Indeed, Haidt argues that
conservatives tend to be more morally sophisticated than liberals, in part because
we are better at understanding the liberals’ position than liberals are at
understanding ours.

The latest entrant to the fray, and probably an unwitting one, is Frans de Waal, the
world’s foremost primatologist and a heavyweight in the neo-Darwinist camp. A big
chunk of his new book, The Bonobo and the Atheist: The Search for Humanism Among the
Primates, is aimed at telling the atheists to chill out.

“What good,” de Waal asks, “could possibly come from insulting the many people who
find value in religion?” While a nonbeliever himself, he respects people of faith
and is quite simply bored by efforts to disprove the existence of God. (Imagine how
bored God is.) He rejects the importance of the question posed by Nietzsche, “Is man
only a blunder of God? Or is God only a blunder of man?” If forced to choose, de
Waal would answer yes to the latter. But he thinks little will be gained by forcing
everyone to accept that God is dead.

The way to cut through the knot, according to de Waal, is to accept that morality
originates from within. De Waal persuasively argues that morality is part of our
factory-installed software. In the chicken-or-egg argument about which comes first,
morality or religion, de Waal argues it is morality by a mile. It entered our
genetic software “at least a hundred millennia” before anything recognizable as
modern religion manifested itself (though I’m not sure how he knows what religion
looked like 100,000 years ago). He believes his findings refute what he calls
“veneer theory” -- the idea that morality is simply a thin overlay of words and laws
that we need to keep us from doing terrible things. As Ivan Karamazov says, “If
there is no God, everything is permitted.”

And here we have something of a problem, and I think it would be helpful for
conservatives and perhaps our newfound allies to flesh it out a bit . . .
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